Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Crazies

All I see is Seth Bullock whenever Timothy Olyphant is onscreen. Sure, The Crazies is an offshoot of the zombie blueprint but all that matters is Bullock is sheriff again. In fact all movies and television that include a starring role for a sheriff need to be populated by Olyphant. Oh yeah, the movie was actually pretty good.

Although The Crazies did not break any new ground, it nailed all the stuff that you would expect to see in this genre. The initial stages of infection were handled well, the baseball scene, the infected standing still in the town jail, the emptiness of Main Street, and all the way up to the sudden arrival of the military. Of course you could call out whenever it was time for a scare but these moments were not overused. The best of these scenes was the infected waiting in the corner of the baby’s room. This was made better because it also included the baddestass kill in the whole movie. Just really well done zombie flick basics.

So … Timothy Olyphant. I just believe him when he is the guy in charge. And I believe that he is willing to kill anyone that gets in his way but that could be me bringing Deadwood baggage with me into the rest of his roles. The dialogue between him and his deputy, Joe Anderson, were some of the best little moments in the movie. It doesn’t matter that you were just counting down the minutes until the deputy was going to have to be put down like a rabid dog, they worked well together. Radha Mitchell was well cast as the sheriff's wife even if she was just playing the usual screaming victim role. And PIERCE! Secret Service Agent Pierce popped up for two minutes just to make my day.

The Crazies is a movie that I knew I wanted to see way back in the fall after seeing the first trailer. It was a really good trailer with slick song playing over it. Better yet the movie actually delivered. I'm looking at this as a sign that Justified will be the next great FX show and I will get to enjoy Timothy Olyphant as a badass sheriff every week.

7 out of 10

Shutter Island

The scheduling of Shutter Island left me uneasy, I don’t like movies moving from the fall into the first quarter. Usually that’s were movies are dumped in the hopes that they don’t lose too much money, but this is Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio how can it be horrible?

Its unclear whether the Shutter Island storyline will hold up to repeated viewings but the first time through it held me in suspense all the way till the end. There was the perfect mixture of expected and unexpected twists. Until the climatic scene played out, I was not expecting the ending that was delivered. It was nice to get swerved like that while still being able to look back and realize I should have seen it coming. And it was definitely a positive that Scorsese was able to achieve this without resorting to the usual gore and scare tactics that these types of movies are filled with. The tension was built using dialogue, camera angles, and score. Scorsese never let you feel comfortable watching this story. It was escalating tension from the opening scene.

This is the fourth collaboration between Scorsese and DiCaprio and once again the pairing delivers. Shutter Island is completely dependent on DiCaprio; the entire movie is seen through his eyes. So as Teddy starts to lose his mind, DiCaprio gets to play more and more unhinged. His performance was key in order for the final scenes to work. There was a laundry list of talent filling out the rest of the cast. Mark Ruffalo was a solid choice as Teddy’s partner. Ben Kingsley got to play another version of the Ben Kingsley role as the slightly untrustworthy lead doctor. Max Von Sydow was perfect as the former German doctor that Teddy instantly clashes with. The two main crazy people were played by Jackie Earle Haley and Elias Koteas who are both great at those characters. Running out of room so applause to Michelle Williams as the dead wife, Patricia Clarkson as the doctor in the cave, Ted Levine as the menacing warden, and anyone else that I’ve forgotten.

I wonder why Shutter Island was delayed from October to February. Its not like psychological thriller is more at home in the winter than in the fall. Was there a worry that Scorsese had made a bad movie this time? If so, they were quite wrong.

9 out of 10

The Wolfman

The remake of The Wolfman has been in production for what seems like the last 5 years. It’s lucky enough that the final product is at all watchable. What was lost in the convoluted production was held together by the skills of Benicio del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, and Hugo Weaving.

It was clear from the outset that The Wolfman was going to be an old-fashioned monster movie. Very little CGI; instead the werewolves will be done using make-up and guys in suits. This made it feel different from recent movies where everything has been shunted off to the computer folk. It also left it up to the cast to make the werewolves work on camera and thankfully they succeeded. The plot wasn’t anything special; it was all in service of getting del Toro, Hopkins, and Weaving into position. There were no shocking twists. The werewolf was introduced and you followed del Toro as he dealt with his condition and tracked down the source. Along the way, there were lots of strewn body parts and disembowelings. Lots and lots of diembowelings.

Everything good about The Wolfman was dependent on how serious everyone was taking their roles. Benicio del Toro was willing to go wherever needed. He went from clean-cut stage performer to bloodstained rags and made each step believable. It was his emotions that shone through the makeup and effects during the transformations. The overacter of the trio was Anthony Hopkins. Usually that would be a negative but it worked here. He was supposed to be flamboyant and slightly crazed. Hopkins pulled that off with room to spare. And Agent Smith was Agent Smith just in the nineteenth century and slightly less evil. But much better facial hair.

The Wolfman could have been great. You have an A-list cast and you fricking werewolves taken seriously but instead there was a weak story barely holding the movie together. It was still fun to watch.

7 out of 10

Edge of Darkness

I don’t give a shit what type of insanity Mel Gibson has been up to over the last ten years; I love watching him beat the hell out of people in a search for justice. Edge of Darkness is exactly the movie I will always enjoy no matter how many variations of it that I see.

Did we just see Taken a year ago? Yes. Does this follow nearly the exact same blueprint? Yes. Do I care? Hecks no. The protagonist is wronged in some unforgivable manner and in return annihilates everything in their path until they are satisfied or dead or both. The violence here wasn’t over the top; there wasn’t any scenes where Mel takes on an entire clan of ninjas just solid one on one fights. Well Mel did take a car on mano y auto and won but that was awesome. In fact most of the violence was sudden and memorable. The climatic scenes included execution after execution all with their own little quirk. It was all very satisfying in a pure adrenaline rush way.

The main thing Edge of Darkness brought to the table was a trio of actors that made every scene worthwhile. Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, and Danny Huston fit perfectly into their characters. Mel as the vengeful dad; Winstone as the government cleaner; and Huston as the shady businessman. I'm still debating if this would have been better if Mel screamed "GIVE ME BACK ME SON er DAUGHTER!" Needless to say I was waiting for it. All of the scenes between Gibson and Winstone had slick dialogue because they played off each other perfectly. And Huston has become the go-to guy when you need a believable villain who portrays a hidden agenda just by the way he speaks.

I can't wait till Edge of Darkness shows up on cable. It will definitely be one of those movies that I watch every single time its on. Hopefully this turns into a return to form for Mel as an actor.

8 out of 10


Now it’s time for a piece a shit. Legion set out to just be a truly awful movie and succeeded with flying colors. I’m so happy I saw it even if I may have been the only one. But come on Tyrese Gibson, Dennis Quaid, Paul Bettany, and Roc … what a group cashing checks at the same time.

Now I guess that was a unique twist on the biblical end of days. Seriously what did we do to piss god off? And why are angels so terrifying? Its like we have been misusing the word “angel” all these years. And I’m not even all the clear about what was infecting people. Were they infected? Angels? Demons? Does it really matter? Should I have been paying closer attention? Actually maybe I should have done something productive with those 2 hours? Who am I kidding; I stopped being productive years ago.

Shouldn’t Paul Bettany being doing better things with his talent? And the voice of JARVIS in Iron Man only counts for a half point. I gave up a long time ago in my hopes that Tyrese would only show up in good movies; I just take what I can get since he constantly amuses me. As for Quaid … I can’t get past his hair. Why that hair? Am I okay that Lucas Black is continuing to work after Tokyo Drift … not really no. And Charles Dutton has been playing the role of Charles Dutton for two decades now.

I guess I could write more about Legion but I'd prefer not to. It was awful and only kept my attention at all because I liked so many of the cast. Can't I get a second Master and Commander for Paul Bettany or Luke Cage for Tyrese? Instead ... Legion.

4 out of 10

Book of Eli

Book of Eli gave me a post-apocalyptic world populated by a badass Denzel Washington. All I can say to that is thank you. The story may not have been groundbreaking but it was done well and had a slick hidden twist at the end. And and and Denzel was chopping off limbs left and right.

Looking back, I can’t even remember the last time that Denzel was a physical badass. Eli was all about the stabbing and decapitating in one versus a dozen confrontations. It was nice to see something new from Denzel after decades of righteous man who consistently uses his words. Sometimes fists and sharp objects work just as well. On the flip side, Book of Eli was a nice reminder of the times when Gary Oldman used to be deranged bad guy in every film. I’m not saying Sirius Black and Commissioner Gordon are wastes of his talent; I love seeing him in those roles but giving me some insanity every few performances is not too much to ask. So you have two of my favorite actors and a female lead portrayed by Mila Kunis … wait what? Now she’s a movie star?

The plot is another variation on the post-apocalypse this time using the bible as the means to something … fix things? I’m not too sure what Eli was trying to accomplish beyond preserving the bible but he felt it was important and Oldman wanting to kill him for it so shut up and watch the movie. Now here is the point where I want to talk about the ending but I’ll be kind and not spoil things. But just to let you know Bruce Willis was dead the entire time. And Malcolm McDowell had really cool hair.

I was very satisfied with The Book of Eli. It had been awhile since The Hughes Brothers had shown up on the radar and to actually give Denzel something new to work with it was definitely worth the price of admission.

8 out of 10


I fully support the vampire renaissance as long as said vampires are actively killing humans. None of this immortal romance; give me monsters. The twist that differentiated Daybreakers is that the vampires have won and they now control the world. It was a strong enough core idea to keep my interest all the way to the end.

Daybreakers created a futuristic world where the vampires were very business-like and wore suits, drove fancy cars, and worked at night. It was all very amusing. The cute vampire commuters taking the subway to work while drinking their coffee mixed with blood. They even had vampire 24-hour news channels discussing the vampire politics of the day. Humans were just an afterthought seen in stasis while their blood was being harvested. This idea of harvesting humanity for their blood seems to be a go-to storyline when vampires are involved. Eventually Daybreakers turned to the usual idea of a ragtag band of humans fighting back but I would have preferred to watch an entire movie in the vampire world. Ah well.

Vampire flicks always allow for some serious overacting and Daybreakers was no different. Ethan Hawke may have kept it under control and played to his strengths of pained and tormented but that just gave Sam Neil and Willem Dafoe more scenery to chew. Neil turned the lead vampire into a crooked politician while Dafoe was some variation of a hillbilly vampire. Both were definitely having fun. Not much else to report from the cast.

There was something to Daybreakers that could have been crafted into a memorable movie. That didn't happen. What we got was a few slick visuals mixed in to a paint by numbers vampire flick. Well what do you expect from something released in the first week of January?

6 out of 10