Monday, February 4, 2013

Bullet to the Head (2013) **1/2

Director: Walter Hill
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, Jason Mamoa, Christian Slater, Sarah Shahi
MPAA Rating: R Running Time: 91 mins.

Jimmy Bonomo is a hitman. When someone makes the mistake of betraying him there will be hell to pay and he will take down anyone who gets in his way.

Stallone's first solo effort since "Rambo," aka Rambo 4, is a mixed bag. It is a much better film than Schwarzenegger's "The Last Stand" which opened less than a month ago. Despite being in his 60s Stallone still holds his own in a fight scene. Unfortunately you have to wait until the end to get to the highlight of the film. This has more in common with "Cobra" or "The Specialist." I found it rather interesting that this film feels more like something Steven Seagal might have done earlier in his career. Walter Hill really keeps this film from failing. He keeps it moving along a good pace despite the countless cliches that populate the film. Many of Stallone's one-liners fall flat but he still exudes a presence that this is not some guy you wanna mess with. You get on board and what to see him dispense his brand of justice. There are some humorous moments here and there and a some what effective turn by Mamoa as the villain. Overall it's nothing special but is still mildly entertaining no-brainer entertainment.

Across the Universe (2007) **

Director: Julie Taymor
Cast: Jim Sturgess, Evan Rachael Wood, Joe Anderson, Dana Fuchs
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Running Time: 133 mins

In the midst of the Vietnam War, a lad from Liverpool arrives in the states and falls for an upper-class American girl. Their romance grows during a tumultuous period in American history.

I don't know exactly what it was. Usually I can really get into a movie like this. "Moulin Rouge" excellent. "Rock of Ages" wasn't bad. However for some reason this one didn't resonate with me. Kind of odd since I am a Beatles fan. Like the two films I mentioned the music of the Beatles is used to either propel the story or underscore what is going on at the time. I suppose it really came down to I just didn't connect with anyone in the movie. Now that I think of it, I felt the same way after seeing "Rent" the movie but that wasn't populated by covers.

There were times where the songs were used effectively but others where it just got a little too cute or telegraphed. Taymor is usually a striking visionary but here she is just average. Look at films like "Titus" or "The Tempest", the look of this film can't compare. I really don't know what can be done to improve the experience. Afterwards I found myself really wanting to watch "A Hard Days Night." It's rather unfair to compare that musical masterpiece with this failed experiment. Oh, well. I guess I'll just have to let it be...sorry had to go there.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978) **1/2

DIR: Robert Zemeckis
CAST: Nancy Allen, Bobby DiCicco, Susan Kendall Newman, Theresa Saldana, Wendie Jo Sperber
MPAA Rating: PG Running Time: 104 mins.

January 1964. The Beatles are about to appear on the Ed Sullivan show which is taped in New York City. A group of friends from New Jersey make their way to the Big Apple and go to great lengths to see the Fab Four any way possible.

Robert Zemeckis' first feature film is a fairly entertaining little comedy that finds itself a bit off the mark from time to time. The humor comes off as a bit hackneyed probably because this sort of comedy has been done so many times since. There are moments that simply weren't that funny because the characters were just too annoying or irritating that I really couldn't enjoy myself. Whenever they appeared, the movie stopped for me. However the parts that do work are very enjoyable, namely Nancy Allen, Theresa Saldana and Marc McClure. For me these three were the heart of the film and I would have enjoyed it more if it just focused on them. Their story arcs felt more genuine and not too sitcom like.

I know the point of the film was meant for the viewer to just have a fun nostalgic time but instead I found myself longing to watch other films like "A Hard Days Night" instead.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Repulsion (1965) *****

DIR: Roman Polanski
CAST: Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, Yvonne Furneaux
Rating: UNRATED Running Time: 105 mins.

To her friends and family Carol seems aloof and distracted. Some think she may just be ill. Some think it's relationship problems. Others just brush it aside thinking it's nothing more than just the way she behaves. When her sister leaves her home alone for an extended period, Carol begins to descend into something far more disturbing with shocking consequences.

This is one outstanding thriller. Well written, tautly directed and brilliantly acted. What I truly loved most was that they didn't dumb down the premise by feeling the need to provide exposition to help the viewer understand what's going on. There isn't a therapist scene, there wasn't some throw away scene alluding to what may or may not be affecting our heroine. It trusts and respects the audience enough to be able to keep up.

There are countless moments that stick with you. However the one thing you will never forget is Catherine Deneuve. She deserved a nomination for her performance but alas wasn't. She effectively conveys Carol's fragile state that you not only sympathize for her but fear her as well. She underlays that look of innocence and beauty with a hint that there is something bubbling just beneath the surface.

There's not much more to say other than go see

Trek Nation (2010) **1/2

DIR: Scott Colthorp
Running Time: 88 mins.

In 1991 at the young age of 17, Eugene Roddenberry lost his father, Gene Roddenberry, to a heart attack. Young Gene knew his father created "Star Trek" but as the years passed he began to realize he never knew a lot about his father and his creation. He sets out to speak with the people who knew him, the fans and others who can help him understand just who his father was and what he meant to so many.

This well intentioned documentary features some interesting interviews with countless luminaries from not only Trek but other franchises and brands as well. For fans of the series, much of what is said is pretty well documented so about the only thing this doc really has going for it is its premise which is a son seeking to know his father after he has died. The best sequences feature interviews with Stan Lee, George Lucas and J.J. Abrams.

In the end does he find the answers he was seeking? I'm not really sure, at the risk of sounding insensitive many of the emotional moments felt like they were being played for the camera and Rod's narration throughout is always at the same level so I suppose the answer is "I hope so."

If you don't know who Gene Roddenberry was then this will be an enlightening viewing. As for fans, it's hit or miss.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Hobo with a Shotgun (2011) **

DIR: Jason Eisener
CAST: Rutger Hauer, Molly Dunsworth, Brian Downey, Nick Bateman, Drew O'Hara
RUNNING TIME: 86 mins.

After witnessing too much violence and filth, a homeless drifter snaps and takes the law into his own hands. Armed with a shotgun he begins to clean up the streets one criminal at a time.

This homage to '70s exploitation films works for the most part. There are some entertaining bits here and there but the core of the film, and the only thing worth seeing in it, is Rutger Hauer. Chewing up the scenery and clearing having a blast, he kinda elevates the film. However, when he's not on screen the film screeches to a halt.

When looking back at the films they seek to emulate, one significant problem they all share is pacing. If they aren't entertaining they really start to drag. Obviously these films can't be taken seriously so hopefully they'll be amusing in some way, intentional or not. Based on a faux trailer, the thin thread of an idea wears off pretty quickly and you are left wading through plenty of dull spots interspersed between the good ones. This would be better as a highlight reel.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Raw Force (1982) **

DIR: Edward Murphy

CAST: Cameron Mitchell, Jillian Kessner, John Dresden, Jennifer Holmes


A group of martial arts students on a cruise to a mysterious island soon find themselves facing a Hitler look-a-like, cannibalistic monks, pirates and martial arts zombies.

Well what more can be said except this is just pure unadulterated B exploitation. Gratuitous nudity, nonsensical plot, plenty of gunfights, hand-to-hand combat and zombies for good measure.

As a movie this was pretty bad. The acting was terrible, direction non-existent, don't even get me started on how outrageous the plot was. However as a "So bad but good" movie it does fill that bill despite the fact it does get a bit dull from time-to-time. So if you are going to sit down and watch this as a feature be warned but if you're going to watch it for the fun of it then it could be an entertaining 90 minutes.