Well it’s been quite a while, but the time has come for an absolute slew of rapid fire movie reviews! I’ll be sticking with the current stuff just to keep it topical though.
One of the better surprises in recent memory, this home invasion horror tale with a twist has a dark sense of humor, a terrific sense of self awareness and a very satisfying payoff. It is also extremely well shot with excellent sound work and solid acting. All in all a breath of fresh air after a real glut of disappointing releases in this genre (I’m looking at you The Conjuring!). Amazing that this is the work of first time independents. Keep an eye on these folks!
As is the case with many science fiction tales, this latest Matt Damon action thriller set in a dystopian future can be taken either literally or allegorically. Taken literally it’s a wonderful piece of work. The acting is terrific all around, but particularly Damon and the effects are fantastic. The pace is fast and the action hits hard. Taken is allegory, things are a bit more messy. The story seems to have a definite sociopolitical viewpoint, but it doesn’t make it’s case very well. On the one hand we have the “1%” (entirely Caucasian and Asian both in language and ethnicity) cast as having achieved a level of absolute corruption quite literally out of this world, but then on the other hand we have “the masses” (entirely either Hispanic or Spanish speaking) cast as so utterly pathetic and self destructive that they can’t even manage basic survival without them. For a seemingly progressive bias, its pretty paternalistic. Luckily though the film works so well as straight action sci-fi that it’s possibly confused politics can certainly be forgiven.
Kick Ass 2
I’ll admit straight out that even the trailers for this one made me nervous. I was a big fan of the surprise hit that was the original, but unfortunately the sequel is a straight “more of the same” play. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing as a rule, but in this case it seems they doubled down on all of the worst aspects of the original (the extremely lighthearted take on particularly horrific violence, the creepy near fetishizing of an underaged girl),and downplayed, or misplayed, the best parts (the quirky sense of humor, the originality). While it wasn’t completely horrible, it was cringe worthy at times (the cheerleader tryouts were especially uncomfortable) and overall was predictable and forgettable. Hopefully they let it go at this point, but something tells me they won’t.
Twilight meets Beautiful Creatures meets 1000 other super sexy supernatural teen melodramas. A predictably pretty cast of brooding gothy girls and androgynous boys Mortal Instruments presents a world where no one is ugly including actual monsters and the only thing to real are zombies (why, that is remains a mystery). None of this is necessarily bad though and it does remain interesting and has some compelling visuals. The acting is good enough and Lena Heady (who is literally in everything yet somehow has no money) brings some credibility as super mom. In the end this is really aimed at fans and I suspect they will be good with it. For the detractors, nothing here is likely to win them over.
Percy Jackson: the Sea of Monsters
Much like with Mortal Instruments this is very much targeted at its core audience who, if they enjoyed the first film, are likely to find more to love here. For everyone else, the second film is another reasonably harmless romp through a strange world where somehow the Olympian pantheon is both real and still active and Greek culture is much more pervasive than just the occasional souvlaki joint or local diner. It’s all pretty ridiculous and juvenile, and some of the laughs are as groan worthy as anything from Disney’s Hercules (hello Mr. Frasier, you’re needed on the set!). Probably best left to the tween set.
Trading hugely on the larger than life charisma, and genuine-seeming chemistry of its two extremely talented leads, this sometimes convoluted tale of corrupt government agencies, drug lords and double dealing is largely successful. There are no surprises, but the pacing is great, the action intense at the right moments and the story not too ridiculous. Wahlberg, Denzel and Olmos do a fantastic job and keep the audience engaged even when things get a bit silly and the violence and sex are effective without ever being over the top. Satisfying overall and a definite must see for fans of the leads or anyone looking for a basic summer popcorn movie.
The Worlds End
A bit ironic in many ways, the latest from the Shaun of the Dead guys is almost two films. The first film, which centers on a group of childhood friends anchored by a self destructive, unapologetic Peter Pan (played to perfection by Simon Peg) is absolutely brilliant. The opening narration is quite possibly one of the best opening scenes of any comedy… Ever. Peg is just flawless here. As things progress, though, another film emerges; that being the one that gives the film it’s title. This other film is an apocalyptic tale of seemingly hostile something’s (robots? aliens? alien robots?) and unfortunately isn’t quite as good. Still a great film though with a sly wit and some big, genuine and actually classic laughs. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a smart comedy, a must for fans of Peg.