To write that "Jack Reacher" is a mixed bag is an apt but entirely too negative-sounding description. Christopher McQuarries's film, a slow burning mystery with a comic, tone-bending lilt, follows Tom Cruise's ex-army cop (or something) protagonist through a rip roaring, investigative adventure. McQuarrie pumps elements of noir and action into film in which a lack of style in some scenes becomes a style all its own.
Fortunately, this bag of mixed genre elements and energies is thoroughly engrossing and…
Mario Bava leaves horror behind to direct "Rabid Dogs" (aka "Kidnapped"), a chase thriller that starts off briskly but soon bogs down. Opening with a robbery at a pharmaceutical company, the film is well-paced and violent, boasting bright Bava-ian blood. As the film progresses, and the titular dogs kidnap and carjack their way through the Italian countryside, the pace slows; and the film's focus becomes the squabbling between the criminal and the kidnapped. Though marked by refreshing-but-infrequent bursts of personal drama and tension, the film never regains the excitement of its opening sequence. Missing a strong narrative through-line, "Rabid Dogs" stumbles unengrossingly through its runtime.
Observing the life of a freshly-minted college graduate, Lena Dunham's "Tiny Furniture" wanders through the ups and downs of jobs, parents, friends, romance, and everything else the post-student world has to offer. The film is more a slice of life than a narrative derived from conflict, but it is mostly watchable and mildly engrossing. Dunham is charming, and her characters represent recognizable modern archetypes. Overall, "Tiny Furniture" is a modestly enjoyable experience.
A rambling, semi-lurid slice of French cheese, "Les Demoniaques" ("The Demoniacs" on Netflix) or "Curse of the Living Dead" sees the plotline of "I Spit on Your Grave" seasoned with a pinch of pirates and a dash of what might be demons. There are some bizarre moments that are a little fun, but the film is mostly over-acted sleaze with very little redemptive value. It is a very dull, unscary affair.
With "Iron Man 3," Shane Black and company have crafted a fully loaded, supremely entertaining superhero spectacular. Moreover, it is a deconstructionist epic that is not afraid to make statements about its own genre and the world in which its audience lives.
While Shane Black's style of cinematic storytelling is more rollicking and lively than Jon Favreau's, this Iron Man is not necessarily a departure from the first two films. Powered by the charisma of Robert Downey, Jr., the films…
I once imagined an alternate universe where Nicolas Cage was cast as Tony Stark.
"Iron Man 2" was never made.
"Thor" was never made.
"Captain America" was never made.
"The Avengers" was never made.
"Iron Man 3" was never made.
The "Ghost Rider" films were never made either, though nobody bemoans that.
Thankfully, we live in this universe; and, thankfully, Robert Downey, Jr. is a magnificent Tony Stark.
(I have since rewatched "Iron Man 3" and written a more traditional-style review. Feel free to give it a read.)
"This is 40" is a complete surprise. A straight-forward slice of life that follows its protagonists as they cross the great, unseen barrier into their fifth decade, the film is naturally funnier, more poignant, and more engaging than might be expected from the Apatow brand. With laughter coming from the both the banalities of life and its heavier moments, the film rarely sinks into caricature and keeps tone-killing silliness to a minimum.
Heady, though obvious, themes emerge through the film's…
While "The Impossible" offers little new in terms of heart-string-tugging, triumph-of-the-human-spirit dramas, the film is an effective telling of one family's struggle against the odds after the tsunami that devasted parts of Asia in 2004. "The Impossible" is less about the natural disaster itself or sharply defined drama and more about the survival of its core protagonists, so those looking for a film broad in scope may be disappointed. The film is harrowing, inspiring, and well-acted. The cinematography is at times gauzey and, at times, crystal clear. Overall, the film is a servicably made, thematically straightforward experience that can be both gripping and moving.
John Hillcoat's "Lawless," the story of bootleggers in prohibition-era Viginia, is a surprisingly solid and involving piece of work. Sharply defined characters, good looking period design and cinematography, and brisk editing are woven together by Hillcoat to form an engrossing and effective outlaw saga.
While the film's female leads are nearly squandered with narrative threads that do not add up to much and some over-the-top character affectations clash with the subtlty of others, the film does much with what it has. The experience is swift, sometimes brutal, but always watchable.
"End of Watch" is a sturdy, slice of police-life drama that packs both high tension and dog-eared cop movie cliches into its running time. The film trades in a narrative through-line for a found footage gimmick that may give the filom a reason to exist, but becomes entirely superfluous by film's end.
Most aspects about the film are more than solid, and "End of Watch" is very effective when it is following its heroes through their daily duties. The danger…
With "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," director, Rupert Wyatt, and company strike gold, putting together one of the best science fiction, special effects-based films of the decade. Combining a compelling story and tapping into a beloved mythology, the film is narratively engrossing, grown up, and respectful of what came before it.
While existing perfectly well as a stand-alone film, this prequel to 1968's "Planet of the Apes" is exceptionally well made. It boasts exemplary special effects, and the…
Although there are some potentially interesting plot points regarding vampire politics and world religions, "The Shiver of the Vampires" lacks any kind of (wait for it...) bite for a vampire film. An uneven mix of Rocky Horror and Anne Rice, the story, jumping off after a newly wed couple arrives at a castle to discover members of the undead, is dull and free of intrigue. The film boasts some effective imagery (its crumbling castle set is impressive) but not much else.