Sunday, August 25, 2013

The World’s End – review

The World’s End is a sci-fi comedy by director Edgar Wright. Considered the third of the “Cornetto trilogy” following Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.  The story is very off-the-wall and fitting like a mixture of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  The acting is fun and the movie itself is okay, considering its decent effects and good fight scenes.  Where it loses me is the bizarre ending and the absolutely atrocious writing of the main character.

Gary King, played by Simon Pegg, is a loser who is mentally stuck in the 90’s. His only fond memory is a pub-crawl he and four friends set out to complete in the 90’s.  He lies to his friends to trick them into returning to the small town to reenact the same pub-crawl with the goal of finishing it this time.  Without warning they are attacked by robots.  They then decide to continue the pub-crawl regardless of the robots, which ends at the World’s End pub.

The acting is fun for the most part.  Nick Frost as Andy is very entertaining.  However, the star of the film, Simon Pegg, is painful.  He is obnoxious, annoying, sexist, pathetic, and a terrible hero.  It would have been really helpful if the writers wrote him some redeeming qualities- instead they made him into a total jerk and expect us to care when he reveals he is depressed. His friends are much more charming and funny than he is. This type of character might sound familiar to anyone who saw Hot Tub Time Machine.

The audience seemed to really enjoy this movie and I can agree it has many funny parts. Some of the jokes come off mean spirited and lowbrow, which seems different for this writer. I do think that it is the weakest of the trilogy.  It felt like there were lots of little winks to the audience, which is not necessary for this type of movie.  The ending seemed like it backed the characters into a corner and wanted to wrap things up quickly.   

The World’s End is an okay movie.  The humor is really not as strong as past films and the main character is wildly unlikable. The fun comes from watching the uptight characters cutting loose. The action scenes are good but that’s not enough to make it theater worthy.  I’d recommend it for a rental if you are into British humor or the other titles of the “Cornetto trilogy.”

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Frozen Ground – review

The Frozen Ground is a 2013 thriller set in Alaska, 1983. The film is about the hunt for serial killer Robert Hansen.  It does a really good job following the true crime novel Butcher, Baker.  The acting is really good and it adds to the grim realism of the film that they filmed a great deal of it in Anchorage and other Alaskan locations.  The Frozen Ground pays a lot of attention to detail to make it look like the dirty, gritty, Anchorage of the 1980s.

Cindy Paulson, played by Vanessa Hudgens, escapes Robert Hansen, played by John Cusack, after he raped and nearly killed her.  The police do not help her. Jack Halcombe, played by Nicolas Cage, figures out that her case is tied to a series of missing person cases.  Hansen is taking women, raping them, and then flying them to the middle of nowhere and hunting them with a high-powered rifle game. Halcombe must find a way to bring Hansen to justice before he can kill again. 

The acting for The Frozen Ground is what makes it stand out.  Vanessa Hudgens gives a decent look at her vulnerable side.  Nicolas Cage gives us a lite-version of his performance from 8mm; fun and believable.  The person that really is amazing is John Cusack who is chilling as Hansen.  He is creepy and plays a very realistic psychopath.  The rest of the cast also fills their roles nicely making for a very enjoyable movie.

The story is decent, however it is a by-the-book police procedural.  It doesn’t bring a lot new to the genre. There are also some strange filming choices.  Clearly the filmmakers loved Alaska because there are tons of establishing shots of landscapes.  

Then there are odd scenes added like a shot of Vanessa Hudgens starring at a moose that walks close to her.  At one point I wondered if it just wandered into the shot in mid-town Anchorage and they decided to keep it in the movie.

The Frozen Ground is an interesting movie.  If you are fan of true crime or thrillers it is worth catching. The movie is certainly creepy and has a cold vibe.  If you have been or are from Alaska it is worth seeing since many of the locations are ones you will be familiar with.  I recommend it to anyone wanting to see something a bit different and see Cusack and Hudgens playing a role that is different from their normal roles.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Kick-Ass 2 – review

Kick-Ass 2 is the sequel to the dark comedy about a teenage boy who dresses up as a superhero and finds it is much more complicated than he bargained for.  The movie has most of the cast back and they seem to be enjoying themselves in their heroic or villainous roles.  Kick-Ass 2 is very violent and a decent follow up the last film but there are some strange choices when it comes to subplot.

Dave Lizewski/Kick-Ass, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, puts back on his mask and returns to the streets as Kick-Ass.  Mindy Macready/Hit Girl, played by Chloe Grace Moretz, begins training him in combat techniques. Kick-Ass is approached by some new superheroes to form a team.  Meanwhile, Chris D’Amico, played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, vows to get vengeance for Kick-Ass killing his father with a bazooka in the first film and creates a team of super-villains under the guise of “The Mother Fucker.”

The cast does a good job bringing their characters back for a second round.  The problem is that some of the characters from the first film get written off incredibly fast.  Chris D’Amico’s mother, Kick-Ass’ girlfriend, Katie Deauxma and even Chris’ Uncle just sort of die off, break up, or just become forgotten.  The father gets a much bigger role in this film and even gets a chance to interact more with his son. Jim Carrey seems to be having fun with his role as Colonel Stars and Stripes and John Leguizamo gives the movie some gravitas.

The biggest flaw in this movie is that there is a subplot that is not worthy of the story.  Kick-Ass 2 should be irreverent and witty with its mixture of violence.  Instead we get to watch Hit Girl go to High School and her ups and downs with the popular girls there.  If the movie wanted to tell the audience that Mindy was having difficulty fitting in I could have seen it with a short montage of events instead of a subplot that just seem like scenes that were cut out of the new Carrie.

If you enjoyed the first movie you will likely enjoy this movie.  It’s not nearly the caliber of film as the last movie.  The humor is there but it is not really in the same place.  Much like the comic, which is its source material it is very violent. However, the film is tame in comparison to the comics.  Kick-Ass 2 is certainly an interesting attempt but it falls short in some ways.  All in all it is a good movie, but it would probably be a better rental if you were not already a fan.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Elysium- review

The latest sci-fi movie from director Neil Blokamp, Elysium, gives a wild new vision.  While the story itself borrows from other movies like “Johnny Mnemonic” it makes up for the borrowed material with original characters and dazzling effects.  The dystopian future is really intriguing and the overall message of the film seems relevant with the issues of today.

In the year 2154 the Earth is over-populated, polluted and covered with diseased people.  The rich live in an orbiting satellite called Elysium, which has med-pods that allow people to be cured of all diseases and live nearly forever.  Max, played by Matt Damon, works in a robot factory until one day he is stricken with a lethal dose of radiation.  With 5 days to live he has to get Elysium in order to cure himself.  Can Max get to Elysium in time to save himself?

The only problem I had with the movie is that it really has a lot of unoriginal story elements.  Looking past that it’s a pretty solid action sci-fi adventure.  Matt Damon does a really great job selling the part as a reluctant hero.  However, the person that steals the show for me was Sharlto Copley as Kruger.   He has shown a great range in the parts he has played and this is no exception.  He is chilling as a remorseless killer.  Jodie Foster is pretty good as the icy Jessica Delacourt. 

The effects are fantastic and really bring this world to life.  The ships and the robot guards are seamlessly added to the scenes.  The movie message of the rich only being able to afford the health care is nailed pretty hard at times.  However, it is entertaining so you can excuse a lot. Elysium is very interesting at least but does not bring a lot of new ideas to the table. 

If you are a sci-fi fan you should see this movie. However, if you are not then it’s at least worth a rental.  Matt Damon and the other cast members put on a good show and it’s certainly a fun movie.  The visuals and the action also are enough to at least make it a bold choice for the curious.