Friday, November 19, 2010

Review: Unstoppable (2010)

Director Tony Scott's Unstoppable tells the tale of an absurd first day on the job for a rookie conductor named Will (Chris Pine). Tutoring Will is an experienced veteran engineer- Frank (Denzel Washington). Will- not looking forward to being hounded as a rookie on his first day by old-timers- and Frank- upset at the fact that the industry continuously brings in new blood to weed out such old-timers as himself- have no idea what kind of high-octane, nerve-racking day is ahead of them. Young, dumb, full of fun engineer Dewey (Ethan Suplee, Remember the Titans, My Name is Earl) lets a twenty-six car locomotive carrying toxic chemicals get away from him going full throttle. At the rate this train of death is traveling, it is likely to run off the tracks in Stanton, PA and has the ability to decimate it from existence. The question is: will the brave/crazy Frank and Will have what it takes to stop it? I'll admit I was skeptical about the second consecutive film by Tony Scott being about issues on a train. However, leaving the theater I was quite pleased to have witnessed Scott returning to his roots by delivering his most exciting, lovable film since Top Gun. It is easy to give an audience non-stop action from start to finish (*cough* Michael Bay *cough*), but to include some exceptional character development and astonishing tension that will keep you in your seat is another thing. A director has something to be proud of when audiences claim that the final fifteen minutes of a film had them on edge, but in Unstoppable's one hour and thirty-eight minute running time the viewer will be on edge for one hour and thirty minutes. The Scott brothers (Tony, and Ridley- Alien, Gladiator), tend to stick with Denzel (i.e. American Gangster, De Ja Vu, Man on Fire), and it works. For the first time together on the big screen, the chemistry between Pine and Washington was that of two long-time friends. This, along with tremendous direction, camera work, and simplistic plot, makes a perfect formula for a marvelous film. Is Unstoppable slightly predictable and been there-done that? Absolutely, but what isn't? This film blasts its way to the top of my list for 2010 faster than the train that carries it, earning it 31/2 stars.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Reviews from the Vault: Tremors (1990)

Director Ron Underwood's Tremors stars Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward as two natives from a tremendously isolated desert valley between mountains and a cliff edge. Valentine (Bacon) and Earl (Ward) often spend there days riding around cutting up on the job. This day, however, isn't filled with as many laughs due to mysterious findings of deceased natives. Puzzled and aghast, the wild country duo frantically fled to a nearby convenience store to warn the locals of these eerie findings. Meanwhile a new set of legs in town, Rhonda (Finn Carter)- a seismologist- is observing some sketchy reads of seismic activity under this isolated valley. Before they know it, the whole gang is gathered on roofs, avoiding monstrous worms that seem to be the reason for the demise of the town people. Tremors is a classic cheesy tale of man vs. beast that honestly gets the job done as far as entertaining goes. Though it is certainly no work of Hitchcock or Spielberg, if Psycho prevented you from showering, and Jaws deterred you from the ocean, Tremors will keep you from resting in the deserts of Nevada. The film delivers both thrills and laughter, earning itself a position in both horror and comedy. The acting may be sub-par, but a film of this caliber does not require Oscar-worthy performances. One phenomenal element of Tremors- much similar to Robert Rodriguez projects and early James Cameron films- is its use of complex puppets, machines, and make-up as its beasts rather than CGI. There is nothing worse than becoming attached to the characters of a film and then being snatched right out of the atmosphere when a monster similar in comparison to a Nintendo 64 character bursts from the ground. Such effects create a state of realism that only adds to the fear and excitement. Though the film is far from perfect, it delivers nothing less than what it promises. Tremors is a fun-filled, thrill ride of a man vs. beast stand off that is nothing less than 96 entertaining minutes, earning it a solid 3 stars.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Review: Due Date (2010)

Director Todd Phillips' Due Date stars Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis as two strangers caught up in a situation that neither could have previously anticipated. An edgy soon to be father-Peter Highman (Downey Jr.)- only desires to promptly arrive home in L.A. to his wife (Michelle Monaghan) in time for their child's birth. Little does Peter know that an individual would soon be placed before him. This man's name is Ethan"Tremblay" (Galifianakis), and though his heart is large, he is a walking disaster. From the moment Peter encountered this gentle cataclysm of a man, Ethan began setting down his large array of speedbumps in their trip to L.A. that they have been forced to share together due to Highman's misplacement of his information. Along the extended road to California, this odd couple is forced to form a relationship- whether or not it involves more love than hate is determined by the upcoming events. Yes, we have seen this film before; it was called Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, with a blend of characteristics from Todd Phillips' other films- such as Road Trip. However, Due Date earns a spot on its own map with credit given to strong, talent-fueled performances from Galifianakis and Downey Jr. Though at times being a sucker to trailers portaying too many funny moments of the film, Due Date still managed to extract chuckles from its audience. The film may have been an overall fun trip, yet it did at times try a bit too hard to change gears- leaving the audience confused as whether to laugh or cry. Had it not been for the talented direction of Phillips alongside a stand-up cast, the script of Due Date would have as likely as not fallen short of a theater release. Thanks to its nearly indestructible talent, Due Date earns a strong 21/2 stars.