Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Grey


  The Grey really isn't for people looking for a simple action/survival movie.  It will almost certainly leave those people with a knot in their stomach.  The movie instead is a much more introspective, emotional handle on the same thing.  At times its incredibly visceral and intense, and at other times its quiet and poetic. If you're not ready for a strong emotional ride that will drag you through the trenches, then don't bother. Because odds are you won't be able to appreciate this amazing movie.

  As you probably gathered from the trailers, a bunch of guys survive a plane crash and must brave artic weather and a pack of vicious monster-like wolves in order to survive.  Theres a scene very early in the movie that sets the entire tone and defines Neeson's character, John Ottway.  I won't spoil it, but its very sad yet strangely calm.  You don't see many scenes like this in movies.  It was a very stunning scene and very unique as well.  I knew right away where this movie was going and that I was going to love it.

  The atmosphere of the movie is very matter-of-factly. Its not styled like a big budget action movie with survival elements, despite being marketed that way. The only think setting it apart from entering that almost documentary shot style is the handheld camera and such. It doesn't feel like we're looking at actors on a movie set, these men genuinely look tired, scared, and on edge.  After so many movies that have tried to do the same thing, I'd become desensitized to feeling the impact. Almost all of them have predictable endings. You can tell by halfway in whether its going to be...
A: Everyone survives - Happy go lucky ending
B: Everyone dies - Horribly pessimistic, yet probably most realistic
or
C: The two handsome lead actors survive but for some reason end up fighting each other in the end. 
  Its predictable... and boring.  Some may consider this a spoiler alert, but I knew vaguely the same thing before I saw it and if anything I adjusted my expectation of the movie accordingly. Which was the best thing that could've happened since I was expecting a big action vehicle.
The ending is practically ambiguous. Its about the push forward, the will to survive, 'the last good fight' as it were. Not about the rescue helicopter swooping in at the perfect moment and saving the day. Do -not- expect that. Its not going to happen.

  This movie is an experience. Its not casual viewing. Not for me at least, its emotionally gripping.  Something to think about after the end credits role. Its thought provoking for sure. Maybe not on a surface intellectual level, but on a deeper emotional level. Maybe I'm just reading into it, and maybe I'm not. But this, for me, is the foremost ideal life, death, and survival movie of the last decade.  And I seem to stumble across most.  The acting is completely convincing, I was immediately drawn in, and totally hooked. The score excellently compliments the acting and the story, infiltrating scenes subtly and augmenting the actors' great performances, heightening the emotions on display.

  The Grey deserves a watch. Its incredibly well made. For those who are interested, and the ending is resolute enough for you, stay after the credits. But I could've easily done without that because the ending is amazingly powerful in its own right. Great flick.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

I Am Legend


  I've seen I Am Legend a few times. Each time hoping I'd like it more than the previous time. However the nhilistic ending, that made little to no sense when put in perspective with the rest of the story, just... made me hate it so much.  Fortunately, I've now had a chance to see the alternate cut, with a different ending.

  Theres alot to look at in this movie. A post apocalyptic New York City grabs your attention right away.  Its visually intriguing in a big way. Its scope is unrivaled. Zoo animals have broken free and roam the streets, prowling around like its their native territory.  In an opening sequence, Dr.Robert Neville (Will Smith) goes hunting for deer. In a sports car. With an assault rifle.  On the untamed streets of NYC. Its strange to see this. But at the same time its fascinating in its matter-of-fact nature.  Its the odd aspects of the day-to-day post apocalyptic life that appeal to me in I Am Legend.

  I actually could care less about the vampires, er... 'Hemocytes' as this 'scientifically correct' tale will tell you, are whats left over of a miracle cancer cure that had unexpected side effects. Obviously.  But its still too self-conscious to call them vampires or zombies. They do seem like a vicious hybrid of both though.  They're also clearly computer generated. And while its definately effective and properly creepy, there is still a disconnect. I know I'm looking at CGI. 

  And rather than using CG to augment a actual person on set standing there in full makeup, from what I can tell these creatures are 100% computer generated.  Its interesting to look at, but... I still have issues with that aspect.  This is completely overshadowed by Will Smith's amazing performance here. Say what you will about the movie, but his acting here was impeccable.  There are strong, powerful scenes, that really call for some deeply convincing emotion, and Smith pulls it off in spades.  Its hard to not feel moved in these scenes.

  Also, the action scenes are incredibly intense. They're staged well, executed well, and are chock full of clever camera tricks and bursting with nearly palpable suspense.  I can't praise their technical execution enough. They really are thrilling to watch.  As a whole the movie is a very unique one, and its one definately worth seeing. The rest of this review however will be dedicated to reviewing the alternate ending. 

 But before I delve into that, I will say this for any newcomers, don't bother with the theatrical cut. The alternate or "unrated" cut is the only version I can truly recommend. The movie is flawed enough without the odd and unfit ending of the theatrical cut, which was my biggest complaint about the movie. This cut fixes all that.

  Throughout the movie it was consistently hinted that the hemocytes were actually capable of intelligent thought and emotion. But that subplot was abruptly dropped in the final act of the theatrical cut. However not only does this cut (spoilers?) fix the needlessly nhilistic original ending and leaves on a much different tone. The well developed hemocyte subplot is now fully realized and comes to a satisfying close, however this does sacrifice the plot-line of Neville's cure. But despite that, this ending is my preferred resolution to the movie. It feels much better and well thought out. And is preferably optimistic.

  Some may say the upbeat ending diminishes the tone and impact of the movie, but I beg to differ.  An ending which needlessly propels the core protagonist into martyrdom and manages to leave you cold and unsatisfied is the ending which does the real diminishing. 

  Only the alternate cut is worth my time now.  Its way more cohesive and nicely optimistic.
And in such a bleak situation would a little optimism really hurt?

I Saw the Devil


  Very few movies can go this far, get this raw, and not end up labeled torture porn. What this has in spades beyond any movie that's set up simply for the gore, is emotion.  The writing and the excellent acting compliment each other very well. We can relate to and connect to the main character right away. He feels like a real character. Its set up incredibly well.  The story is strong yet simple, and it packs one hell of an emotional gut punch.

  When a secret agent's fiancee is brutally murdered, he drops everything to hunt down the serial killer, and in the process blurs the lines between good and evil.  Its a very simple set up, but its effective like you'd never believe.  Once the movie hits its stride, it raises some very thought-provoking questions that'll stick in your head long after the credits roll.  Its a very intense movie, and one thats hard to take your eyes off of. The violence is never cut away from, it relates the pain and brutality perfectly. In a way that not even your typical horror/slasher film can do. 

  I Saw The Devil generates tension and suspense in really clever ways, using a fantastic score and lots of camera tricks to pull this off. And it does. Of course all this would be rather flat if the actors didn't turn in fantastic performances. Each one of them embody their characters with passion. From the tragic protagonist, Kim Soo-hyeon, played by Byung-hun Lee, to the scary and haunting villain Kyung-chul played by Min-sik Choi, every member of the cast is perfect and their acting is outstanding.

  The movie is however, NOT for anyone with a weak stomach. There is heavy violence towards women, young women, even young enough to be considered children. There's an attempted rape and many brutally graphic scenes of bloody violence. Nothing is sugar coated and nothing is kept from sight. This doesn't ever come off as gratuitous. It gives the movie a strong edge, by not playing around with its audience. You could say its an honest movie. Brutally honest. Its a standard format revenge flick, but its made with brilliant skill. Its a gorgeous looking movie as well, making every scene interesting to look at. I wouldn't say it goes out of its way to force style down your throat, but theres never a dull looking scene.

  Its a chilling movie, that will mess with your perception of right and wrong, and will put the protagonist into very dark places.  I recommend you see this movie if you can handle it, and only when you're emotionally stable. The movie is an emotional roller coaster as it is. It will drag you through a range of emotions, from deep sadness, to the brink of tears, and then to accute and unbridled anger. Its an incredibly potent and extremely well made movie. But clearly not for everyone.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Immortals


  If the trailers hadn't grabbed your attention, than you most likely won't find much cause elsewhere to see it.  The trailers showcase the action scenes and the visuals. Which is pretty much all this movie has to offer.  So if you're looking for anything else, you'll be sorely disappointed.

 On a very obvious front, Immortals sets out to deliver on a specific front: action.  In-your-face, brutal, gory, action. It goes far enough to one-up 300 and any other contender.  If you're in this for a greco-roman gorefest of epic proportions, then you'll be pretty happy.  But the Immortals fails on many fronts.
The story is gibberish. Its so backwards and sideways, pretty soon you just start to not care. All you end up needing to know is this guy is bad, this guy is good, and one is gonna die. Despite lots of backstory and plentiful setup, we're still scratching our heads far too often. It gets to be pretentious and practically headache inducing.

  However, the film is visually stunning. Not a single frame isn't dripping with visual flair and style.  Its definately a feast of eye candy.  And like I've said, if you're a gore hound who digs the brutally realistic and over the top battles that you'd expect from an R rated epic the trailers have made this out to be, then you will definately not feel gyped on that front. However, I feel like the movie didn't have enough in it overall to warrant a lengthy review.  Like theres not much to even say about it. Let alone find good things to say. Its hollow and plodding. It falls like a big heavy rock into a shallow pond.  Don't get me wrong, it can be entertaining. Its visually thrilling and stylish to a fault, its fast paced, action packed, and has young good looking actors delivering fine performances, basically its a silly popcorn movie.

  But its one that has vast stores of unrealized potential. It could've been a truly classic epic worth discussing for a long time if its story had been stronger, and it had some emotional meat to it. Its not nuanced or layered, its one dimensional and simple as all can be. And while that is perfectly passable sometimes for a silly little action movie like Clash of the Titans, a movie like this has such perfect aspects that are truly worth marveling at but its marred by such painful shortcomings that its hard to reccommend it.  The best thing I can say about it, is that once it hits home video formats, it'll be sure to give your HD equipment quite the intense workout.  Visually and otherwise. Its gorgeous looking.
So given everything I've said, I urge you to decide for yourself.

   Its a hollow piece of dreck that manages to look quite stunning, and can even keep your attention for a couple hours. So flip a coin eh? It all depends on what you're expecting from it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night

 
  The only way I even knew that Dylan Dog was a comic book before it was a movie, was an ad on the back cover of an old Star Wars comic I had.  Yep. Thats it folks. Super nerd has never read a Dylan Dog comic. And the best I figured back then, was he fought zombies or something.  Well I can say, if I was a fan, I'd likely be almost offended. First off its a pretty mediocre film. Second I heard it changes alot.  But its not entirely devoid of any redeeming values.

  Its about a private eye who used to be a protector of the supernatural world. Not like another dimension, but vampires who run rave clubs, zombies who work 9 to 5 and go to support groups, and werewolves who own meat packing plants. Yeah. Whole other world right next to ours. Anyway, Dylan and his assistant find their way onto a supernatural case, a werewolf killing, and obviously theres alot more to it than meets the eye. Big apocalyptic deal, end of the world type stuff. However the movie never really lives up to the tall tales it tells

  I haven't too much else to say about it. I summed it up quite well when I posted the following on a forum I frequent:

  "A harmless actioner which is capable of only just keeping your attention.
It has a handful of clever moments and cool scenes, however you have to wade through a muddied plot, some bland acting, painfully standard action scenes and a smudge of hammy dialog.
Having said that, its fun to watch Sam Huntington. He steals the show, leaving a rather 2-dimensional Brandon Routh in the dust. Routh's performance may leave much to be desired, but he fills the shoes of witty action hero quite nicely. At least asthetically if anything.

Its just a simple flick, better than most SyFy movie-of-the-week garbage.
Keep that in mind when you find yourself about to watch "Mongolian Death Worms".
If your expectations are low enough and you've nothing better to do, you might find yourself mildly entertained. Mildly"

  Yup.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Dead Leaves

  I have precisely 102 movies on my Netflix instant queue. And somehow I still find myself painfully bored not in the mood to watch... anything there. Its a frustrating situation. Fortunately, browsing the endless depths of the handy movie browser that rests conveniently on my PS3's XMB... I found quite the potent cure.  Anyone familiar with anime in general might think they know what to expect here, any one who's seen the random and wild stylings of the animated epic, Heavy Metal, you might think you've seen it all. But they'd all be wrong. Incredibly wrong.

  The box art didn't do much to attract me, neither did the description, but I suppose that was it. It was the short runtime of 52 minutes, and the fact that it didn't really jump out at me. I was in the mood for something not-boring. Something new. Different. Something wild. And oh boy. I got that in spades.
The story here barely hangs onto the coattails of the action, which literally never lets up, and very literally starts right away.  These two oddballs, Pandy, and Retro wake up on earth, naked, and no clue how they got there. Pandy's hungry, and Retro, who has a TV for a head, is just gawking at her nude body. But the general consensus ends up being to start a massive random crime spree just for the heck of it. But they don't forget to get something to eat first.

  Despite their awesome skills, insane agility and supernatural strength, they eventually do get captured by the police. And they're immeadiately, and I do mean IMMEADIATELY shipped off to a life sentence in prison. The weirdness has only just begun.  I shant spoil it any further, but its definately a weird thrill ride. Its the kind of ADHD, over-sexed, gross-out, immature, nonsensical, insane, and super fucking weird animation byproduct of the youtubing, 4chan'ing, internet generation that exists only 'because'.  Theres a rhyme to it, but no reason. But thats half the fun.  You're just along for the ride with these two crazy characters. They have a kind of intimate dynamic despite the fact they're practically total strangers.

  Don't get me wrong. This movie has the depth of a shot glass.  Theres no moral center. Theres no lesson. Theres no message. Its just full out bullets, blood, sex, gore, more bullets, loud music, explosions and such. Its just escalates more and more and more. The style gets exceedingly frentic and eccentric as it goes on. And just when you think the movie has hit its stride, found its groove, settled in, it jumps right back in your face again, and escalates even more. Just to push the envelope.
Its impossible to stay bored while watching this. Its a pure shot of entertaining nonsense right into your brain. If that sounds like something you'd like to experience... seek it out. It'll be worth it.