Saturday, February 26, 2011

Review: Drive Angry 3-D (2011)

Director Patrick Lussier's Drive Angry 3-D, starring Nicolas Cage and his hair, tells the implausible tale of a durable shell of a man that escapes from Hell to avenge the death of his daughter. Milton (Cage) has spent the preceeding years of existence viewing the struggles of his loved ones in a cell of the underworld. The most recent and devastating site he has witnessed is his daughter's conversion to the occult. The fuse that detonated Milton's escape from Hell was sparked by the devlish, devious leader of this cult (Billy Burke, Feast of Love, Fracture)- who murdered his daughter abd kidnapped his granddaughter. Alongside Milton on this high-octane hunt is a waitress (Amber Heard, Pineapple Express) who is providing wheels and good looks I suppose. Hot on Milton's trail of firey wreckage is Satan's right-hand man, The Accountant (William Fichtner, Armageddon, Black Hawk Down) and the local Sherrif's Department. Will Milton and his unrealistically attractive waitress have what it takes to save the child? As most are aware of the infamous Nic Cage's recent debt issue, many moviegoers are well prepared for garbage at showings of recent Cagesploitation films. Occasionally however, Cage and/or Cage's agent will have a short stroke of genius (i.e. Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant- Port of Call- New Orleans). Drive Angry is not one of those occasions. With such a synopsis and such a leading star, I was not expecting a breath-taking cinematic masterpiece, however I was prepared to turn my brain off and enjoy an exploited non-stop, action flick. The problem with Drive Angry is that it takes the "awesomely" out of awesomely bad. Films such as Machete and Black Dynomite succeed because they know their identity- they are over the top films that have no problem making fun of themselves. The only individuals making fun of Drive Angry, however, are the viewers and critics- and not in the good way. A few saving graces of the film were the money spent on special effects, the atmosphere of a Grindhouse Feature, David Morse (though could have used much more of him), and the always impressive- yet underrated- William Fichtner. Fichtner's charm and on-screen charisma redeemed many scenes from mediocrity. The final twenty minutes of the film were much more enjoyable than the preceeding hour and fourteen, however not enough to completely rescue this film from a state of dullness (which is a state that would seem hard to achieve for a film about a Hell escapee avenging his daughter's death). Drive Angry is a mildly enjoyable Redbox candidate, scoring 2 stars.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Review: Unknown (2011)

Director Jaume Collet-Serra's Unknown stars the usually impressive Liam Neeson as Dr. Martin Harris, a man who awakens from a coma after a car accident on a business trip in Germany with his wife Liz (January Jones). Upon awakening Dr. Harris finds that no one knows who he is, including his colleagues and spouse. Another man seems to have taken the place of Martin, playing the role of Dr. Harris the businessman, and Martin the husband. Harris refuses to believe the allegations that he has lost his sanity, and begins to pursue the retrieval of his life- starting with questioning the driver of the car at the dawn of this disorientating predicament. This film was viewed out of stardom of quality released films, and unlike The Mechanic, I was not pleasantly surprised. Unknown is simply a mess of a film. Aside from the fuzzy, made-for-TV movie look, and the detestable sound effects, the film's plot was schizophrenic, uneven, and unpleasant. Additionally, January Jones is significantly overrated. Due to her role in such a series as AMC's Mad Men, viewers such as myself were under the impression that she had talent. After withstanding the punishment of viewing Unknown, I stand corrected. Jones was by far the most two-dimensional, card board cut-out character in the film, and that's saying a lot. For whatever reason, I failed to do my research prior to purchasing a ticket for the film, but if I had I would have realized that the director of the film- Jaume Collet-Serra- is responsible for such cinematic catastrophes as Orphan and the Paris Hilton 2005 remake of House of Wax. To give credit where credit is due, the ending of the film was far better than the preceding scenes- this is not saying much. The distance from Schindler's List to Unknown is a far drop, however, I'm going to refrain from deducting points from Neeson and assume he just needs to fire his agent. Unknown is disappointingly a rarely enjoyable mess of a film, earning it a whopping 1 star.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Review: The Mechanic (2011)

Director Simon West's The Mechanic is a modern adaptation of the 1972 Michael Winner film of the same name, starring Charles Bronson. The film stars Jason Statham as hit man Arthur Bishop. Bishop has recently been ordered to kill his long time mentor- Harry Mckenna (Donald Sutherland). Being a faithful man to his business he carries out the hit. Living with this decision and having the attachment he shared with Harry, Bishop attends his memorial service, which is where he encounters Harry's son, Steve (Ben Foster). Steve, being the troubled young man he is, takes a liking to Bishop and his profession, pleading that he train him to know the things Arthur knows-- the skills taught to arthur by Harry. The Mechanic follows Arthur and his new apprentice Steve Mckenna as they bond and carry out hits, improving Steve's skills as they progress. Will Steve learn of Arthur's significance to his father's death, and if so, when? My expectations were low upon entering the cinema. This film was released in the midst of a storm of terrible, early in the year movies, and it is a remake of a film, that to my knowledge, needed no remake. The Mechanic exceeded my expectations tremendously. I was prepared for non-stop action, sub-par acting, and a two-dimensional plot, and I would have been fine with turning my brain off (Much like Machete or The Expendables). The action was indeed nearly continuous, however, the performances delivered by both Foster and Statham were exceptional-- Foster's being quite exceptional (as his often are). Additionally, it included a sharp, smart script that was at times compelling, and even a bit intentionally humorous. There were action sequences that were surely a bit over the top, but were saved by the solid chemistry this duo shares. The ending was quite satisfactory, though included one implausible maneuver performed by Statham- but what action film doesn't? The Mechanic was a pleasant surprise and is strongly recommended for action fans, earning it 3 stars.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Reviews from the Vault: The Rock (1996)

This time of year being the time of opportunity for the Academy to dump all of its garbage that was denied release at the end of 2010, I have not felt the need to review films that you no doubt have already guessed suck. That being said I miss reviewing films, so I have decided to dig up the one golden nugget spawned by the infamous human explosion-- Michael Bay. Produced and Directed by Bay, The Rock stars Nicolas Cage, Ed Harris, and the devilishly good looking Sean Connery. Feeling that America is in need of an awakening by a true "patriot", General Francis X. Hummel and his crew of soldiers commandeer Alcatraz (The "Rock") the intension of destroying San Francisco Bay and thousands of American citizens with the aid of biological weapons. Summoned to assist with the demise or apprehension of these anarchic warriors are Dr. Stanley Goodspeed (Cage)- a biological warfare specialist, and John Patrick Mason (Connery)- the only individual to ever escape from Alcatraz. With a pregnant wife currently in San Francisco, Goodspeed wants nothing more than to get the job done and return home to his wife. Will this odd partnership have what it takes to save the day? Explosion! Gunshot! Slow motion! Explosion! Welcome to a Michael Bay film. However, The Rock differs from other Bay projects in that it doesn't take itself too seriously. There is nothing worse than laughing at an action scene that intends to simply rock your socks off. In this instance, the audience tends to share the same sense of humor as the director and cast of The Rock. Aside from the awesomely ridiculous thrills and effects, this film actually contains a few three-dimensional characters, top-notch acting, and Connery! Bay certainly has a fascination with the armed forces, but that is okay considering it adds authenticity to the films military mechanics. These days it takes grand diversity for a film to stand on its own (i.e. the good guy dies, the couple doesn't stay together), but sometimes it's okay to give the audience exactly what they want. I would not recommend buckling up for an oscar-winning drama, but I would recommend having a little fun- because that is what The Rock has to offer-- earning a strong 3 stars.