• This film pretty much passed me by, stayed under my radar. All of sudden it was in theaters everywhere! Now, I'm a pretty big fan of the "Need for Speed" video game and I just had to see if the movie would do that title some justice. We all know how movies based on video games tend to be bad and/or fail; will this one break the "curse"? 
    Just like in the game!
    By day Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) is the respectable owner and mechanic of a car shop. At night he joins local street races. After a race with his old rival, Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) goes horribly wrong; Marshall gets framed for a death he did not cause. After 2 years, Marshall is a free man again. When he gets out of jail he is hellbent on avenging the death of his best friend. The only way to get to Dino is by joining the ”De Leon” an underground race organized by eccentric Internet personality called Monarch (Michael Keaton). With the help of his old crew, Marshall will not stop to clear his name and avenge his friend's death. 
    Tobey and his boys
    Let's get it right of the bat here, this film's biggest weakness is the story and its characters. They are as cliche as it gets. Aaron Paul is the strong silent type, in fact, at one point he even gets called just that! Dominic Purcell is one step away from twirling a mustache and to add insult to injury Scott Mescudi's character Benny is quite literally the token black guy and I'm not trying to be smart or funny either. It is clear they had action set pieces ready on paper and built a story around them. From the obligatory dramatic death scene to the forced romance; It's characters and story by numbers. The tone of the movie shifts rather dramatically as well. In one scene we see Marshall getting chased by Police and it's all “ fun and games”. In the next scene we seen him teary eyed, staring off into the distance.
    First I was like...
    Strangely enough though, director Scott Waugh makes it work. With what little the actors have to work with, Waugh gets the most out of them. You can see the actors had a blast and their enthusiasms and energy can be seen. Think of a Jackie Chan movie. They never have the best acting and stories but the enthusiasm explodes right of the screen. The film makers and actors believe 100 percent in their movie, it's exactly the same with “Need for Speed”. 
    ...but then I was like
    Aaron Paul is a great actor. We've seen what he's capable of (Breaking Bad, Smashed) but has never had to carry a movie. While this is an ensemble cast, he is at the center of it all and pulls it off quite nicely. With better material Aaron Paul could be a serious leading man in action or drama. The stand out performance was that of Micheal Keaton though. If people are wondering if he can step back in the role of “Beetlejuice” need not worry. His performance of wild eyed and loud Internet personality, Monarch convinces me that Keaton is more than ready. He's more than ready to step back into the spotlight. He turns every line, gesture and facial expression to gold. Whenever he's on screen it is just a pure delight.
    It's time for a Keatonaissance!
    Now, I've played some Need for Speed in my day and seeing some of the elements of the games making their way onto the big screen was quite cool to see. From the car chases, maps, vehicles to even the colored lighting of certain “race tracks” were things I recognized from the game.  The most surprising thing is that little to almost no CGI was used for the race and chase scenes. It was all good ol' fashioned stunt driving and it was very spectacular indeed. That last race scene had me sitting on the edge of my seat. It's there where the movie truly delivers on its promise.
    Real stunts and explosions!
    So, yes it is cliched. Yes, the characters are barely even real people but I'll be a son of a motherless goat if I said it wasn't a whole lot of fun. The stunts are breathtaking and the cinematography is gorgeous. Yes, It is an amusing film but for that video game movie “Curse” to be broken it has to do a lot better. Need for speed made some considerable cracks in that wall though. We're almost there. 

  • To be honest, I've seen Zack Snyder's “300” only twice. Now, that doesn't mean I didn't like the film, it had simply fallen off my radar. Because of this I went in fairly clean into this sequel. Perhaps it was possible to judge this movie on its own merits then. Early into the movie I came to the realization that this was impossible. Let's sharpen our swords and get right into the heat of things.
    Finally! This CGI blood does have a purpose after all. It looks great in 3D!
    Ten years before King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and his 300 Spartans battled the Persians at Thermopylae, a brave young soldier called Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) and the Greek forces fought off the first Persian invasion at the battle of Marathon. This invasion was led by King Darius (Igal Naor) and his young son Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro). The outcome of the  battle was disastrous. While the Greeks decimated the Persian Army, Themistocles, took a once in a life time chance and managed to shoot King Darius with an arrow. Unable to save his father, Xerxes, now taken over by grief and rage swore to avenge his father.
    Destiny awaits...
    While the Greeks were victorious, Themistocles knew that he had made a mistake by killing Darius. He knew that his actions would come back one day to haunt him and his people, he was right. Xerxes, now reborn as a “God-King” invades Greece once more. Fueled by hate and vengeance he won't let anything stop him. While Leonidas and his brave 300 hold off the Persians, Themistocles has to race against the clock. He must find a way to unite the forces of Greece before their country is overtaken by Xerxes and his dark armies.
    ...and so it unfolds
    This film somewhat follows the beats of the first movie, meaning we get a lot of back story at the beginning of this movie, much of it focusing on Xerxes. These flashback scenes are very exciting and move the story forward at a very fast pace. Unfortunately, the movie almost comes to a standstill during its second act. Sure, there are some action scenes but the focus lies more on political maneuvering and Themistocles trying to unite the Greek forces. It is during its third act where we are rewarded. The end battle is nothing short of spectacular. The 3D cinematography does add a little extra to the action and the overall experience. it is truly exhilarating.
    Also pretty in 3D!
    Now, as good as Sullivan Stapleton and his co-stars are, he lacks Butler's natural charisma and the rest don't fare much better. Fortunately much of this emptiness is filled up with a phenomenal performance by Eva Green. Her portrayal of Artemisia, Xerxes' second in command is one for the books. It is so over the top and fun, she might as well have been a James Bond villain. It is an absolute delight and to top it off she and Stapleton have one of the most ridiculous sex scenes I've ever seen. Yes, it is absolutely intentionally over the top. Remember this is not a historical movie, nor does it try to be fully accurate when it comes to the events it portrays on screen. This is based on Frank Miller's still to be released graphic novel called “Xerxes”. This is very much a live action comic book. From the performances to the spectacular and very stylized action scenes. None of it is to be taken too seriously.
    I expect you to die Mr. Bond.
    Zack Snyder handed over the directorial duties to newcomer Noam Murro who is a very competent director and emulates Snyder's style very good but the element of surprise is gone. There is definitely a “been there, done that” vibe all over it. Also, the reason I could not really judge this on its own merits is because “300” and “300 – Rise of an Empire” are very much intertwined. You see, “Rise of an Empire” isn't really a sequel. Most of this story takes place right along side the events of “300”. We just get a different perspective making it more of a companion piece than a true sequel. Is it worse or better than it's predecessor then? Neither. These two movies are on the same level.
    The end battle is absolutely breathtaking!
    Fun performances (especially by Eva Green and Rodrigo Santoro), brilliant action scenes, a surprisingly good music score by Dutch musician/DJ, Junkie XL (Tom Holkenborg) and 3D cinematography that really adds to the visuals and story. This is one to be seen on the big screen and very well worth your time.
  • Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one.
    Inspector Harry Francis "Dirty Harry" Callahan
    The Dead Pool

    You know, apart from my movie reviews; I would also like give my two cents when it comes to the other things having to do with movies. It could be about crazy casting, the state of the comic book movie, the loss of an actor/film maker or simply share my distaste or excitement for an upcoming film. In short, I'm just going to give my opinion; or write an editorial if you will. 

    So, you'll see "That opinion piece" pop in from time to time.

    Until then, keep enjoying the movies! Oh, and read my reviews of course!


  • Imagine this if you will; you really have a craving for pizza. So, you go all around town and find out that for some reason all you favorite pizza joints are closed. You decide to settle for second best and get yourself a fine Chinese meal, Now, while you are eating it, you never get that satisfaction you would have gotten from the pizza. That's pretty much how I felt after watching Nurse 3D. Now, why is that? Let's find out.
    Utterly insane and yet so lovely.
    Abigail Russel (Paz de la Huerta) has a bit a problem. She hates men that cheat. Married men in particular. So, at night she wears the skimpiest outfits possible and scours the city and the clubs to dish out her own special kind of deadly justice. During the day she's a nurse though. reliable, professional and caring of her patients. When Danni (Katrina Bowden), fresh out of nursing school arrives, Abbey immediately takes a liking to her gentle, soft spoken and somewhat naive ways and decides to take her under her wing.
    This friendship is about to turn into Fatal Attraction on crack!
    After a very wild girls night out, Danni finds her self in bed with Abigail. Embarrassed, hung over and not remembering what she did the night before (take a wild guess) she leaves Abby alone at home. Now, the more Abby tries to connect with Danni the more she gets pushed away. Now feeling betrayed and used, Abby develops an unhealthy obsession for Danni and decides she too must be punished. Anyone that gets in her way will feel her wrath as well.
    About to go on a rampage...
    This was a frustrating experience. While this film hits all the right notes it never fully comes alive. Now, take this in consideration; this is a movie where the standard nurses uniform is a short white skirt, wedges and sexy stockings. This is a film where men walk around without their shirts on (most of the time) and needles to say all of them sport a 6 pack. In other words, this is live action pulp. It is intentionally ridiculous but director Douglas Aarniokoski seems to be struggling. It's as if he couldn't decide whether he wanted to make a serious horror movie or an over the top, comedic and sexy blood fest. This makes the movie feel a bit uneven. He never fully embraces this film's ridiculousness. Much like Robert Rodriquez did with his first Machete movie. It's Aarniokoski's unwillingness or unable to fully commit that hold this film back to be truly a standout horrors/comedy.
    ...and no one...
    I've heard people say that Paz de la Huerta's performance is a truly terrible one. I have to disagree with them. She's seriously the Costello to the rest of the cast's Abbott. While they play it straight, she's the odd one out. When in one scene she does open up and shows real feelings to Katrina Bowden's character; de la Huerta brilliantly plays it like a pouting, sad little girl which ties in perfectly with her backstory. At that point you start to get what she's doing. All her facial gestures, body movements and the way she talks are all artificial. Her daytime nurse persona is a fake one, disconnected from our reality. The empty eyed passionate killer underneath is her real one. It sort of reminded me of Dexter in that way.
    ...is going to stand in her way!
    I can't really say that the story was original or that the 3D really added something to the plot or to the visuals even. Yes, Abigail Russel's backstory is an interesting one but the rest of the film was just too schizophrenic to make any real impact. It hovers just in the middle and never gives us an extreme element of horror or comedy. The performances are solid so no real complaints there. The way the movie leaves certain story lines open and character arcs unfinished just screams for a sequel. Nurse 3D gets a few chuckles and thrills here and there but it never fully embraces it's own trashy sensibilities. It wasn't bad but it wasn't really satisfying either. I got a Chinese meal, nothing wrong with that but I was really craving a delicious pizza. 

  • This time of year is usually a barren one for us cinema-goers. Sure, you always have a couple of standout movies but for the most part; the first months of the year is Hollywood's dumping ground for weak or bad movies. How does a movie like “Non-Stop” hold up then? Let's take a quick look at it!
    Drunk, depressed and overworked.
    Who screens these Air Marshall candidates?!
    Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) is a miserable man. After the death of his child he fell apart and his marriage along with it. His only reason to wake up in the morning is Jim Beam and his work. Speaking of which, he is an Air Marshall with a fear of flying. He's assigned to protect the passengers on a transatlantic flight. Now, I would want a man that unstable and maladjusted to protect me as well. All seems to go well enough when suddenly he gets strange texts on his phone. A passengers on the flight threatens to kill a person every 20 minutes unless the airline transfers 150 million dollars to an offshore account. What follows is a deadly cat and mouse game where Bill must not only find this mysterious attacker but also get the plane and its passengers safely on the ground. A bomb is found and the clock is ticking.
    That ol' bomb buried in blow trick. Works every time!
    First of let me burst that bubble! This is not an action movie. This more thriller and suspense than guns and explosions. Yes, there is an excellent set piece near the end of the film, featuring the latter but “Non-Stop” leans heavily on characters and dialog. Now, while they do build up tension fairly well and do the whole Hitchcock mystery thing, it is neither original or surprising at all. When the “big” reveal does come, most observant viewers would have figured out “the twist” already.
    Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore trying to save the plot of this movie.
    The performances are fine. They never reach excellence though. I don't blame the actors for being on auto-pilot it's the unremarkable screenplay they have to work with. What I found strange though were the supporting actors though. Why put well known performers in throw away roles? I know Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a slave) is an up and coming actress but I think she's already proved what she is capable of. The same goes for Mount Anson (Hell on Wheels). Now, he's hardly a rookie actor. Why were the both of them barely in this movie?
    Where are the doves?
    Don't get me wrong, while I do think this is a mediocre movie, it did what a movie should do; entertain. It has a nice build up of tension, it gets utterly ridiculous at times but at least it never gets boring. When the movie does shift gears into full action mode it is utterly breathtaking. Would I recommend you seeing this at a cinema then? No. This is one of those movies for a rainy Sunday afternoon. It's definitely a rental but a good rental at that!

  • “Was that it?” My immediate response after I've seen this RoboCop remake. One must ask the question, why remake a movie that did everything right? Why even dare to improve on a modern classic? See, the whole reason to redo something is to add or improve on something that was missing or badly done. So, how does this movie fare then? Let's take a closer look.

    Alex Murphy is a headstrong detective at Detroit P.D. While hot on the trail of arms dealer Antoine Vallon (Patrick Garrow), his partner Jack Lewis (Michael K. Williams) gets shot and hospitalized. Meanwhile, Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton); CEO of Omni Consumer Products, tries to get an anti-robot bill dropped in congress. If dropped, it would allow his drones and robotic peace keepers to survey and protect the streets and the citizens of America. Seeing how much controversy it sparked up by their use of this in the Middle-East, everyone is against this. Sellars, is looking for a way to make his robots more likable, more “human”.
    ED-209! Hasn't much to do in this movie
    At home, Alex tries to spend some time with his son and wife, Clara (Abbie Cornish) but he's distant and regrets his actions which got his partner Lewis almost killed. Also, he suspects that some men of his department are on the take and involved with the arms dealer. When they feel he gets too close, they deal with Murphy and he gets critically wounded by a car bomb. Now, after an extensive search for his cyborg project, Sellars finds in Murphy a suitable candidate. Brilliant scientist, Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) and his team, realize a half-man, half-machine called RoboCop with Murphy at the center of it all.
    OCP fixes all
    After RoboCop has been deployed on the streets of Detroit, he's a resounding success. crime on the streets is being dealt with. Being linked to the city's CCTV Network and Detroit PD Criminal File database, Murphy stumbles onto the case of his own murder and decides to investigate. He quickly finds out different parties don't want him to find the truth and try to thwart him every step of the way. He uncovers a Viper's nest and finds out the venom is going all the way to the top. Murphy will do everything though, to bring his killers to justice.
    A lot of explosions and shaky-cam and still it wasn't all that exciting
    So, does this remake has something new to tell us? I don't think so. Where Verhoeven's 1987 original was not only a terrific action movie it was also wonderfully layered. A satire on American consumerism, media, corporatism and it still holds up very well. So, what does this film has to say then? Well, not a lot really. Sure, it tries to comment on the drones situation going on today but it doesn't seem to be all that interested in doing so. The commercials and news items are now replaced with “The Novak Element”, an actuality show with Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackon) as its anchor and clearly taking its cue from the likes of The O' Reilly Factor and Fox News. These segments are a lot of fun but far and few between. It almost seems that the so called message they are trying to give us is more of an afterthought. So, if they aren't really focusing on satire or social commentary is it full of action scenes then? No.
    Even here Sam Jackson gets to yell and shout! It's hilarious!
    for an action movie, there is almost no action scenes in it. That is what The original is known for, its action and its comical, over the top violence. Here we get a cleaned up PG-13 RoboCop, actually tazing creeps instead of blowing them to bits. At times it even reminded me of that very kid-friendly RoboCop cartoon and even that was more violent! It is quite ridiculous actually. Okay, so they focus on character development then? Yes.
    No substitution for the '87 warehouse scene
    Joel Kinnaman is getting quite some time to flesh out the character of Alex Murphy. He's fine as the hard boiled policeman and brooding husband. His portrayal of RoboCop is something else though and this is where I think the writers missed the mark. The whole theme of the original RoboCop was resurrection and machine becoming “man”. Kinnaman's RoboCop does not go through this transition. He is Murphy the whole time. Even when he's in the suit. There is a variation of him being the emotionless cyborg but it is glossed over, like they had to do it because it was in the original instead of it really serving the story. That is the problem of this movie; it glosses over many things, like it goes over the bucket-list making sure it respects the original. Kinnaman lacks a commanding presence. He doesn't really do anything with the role.
    During better times
    The rest of the cast is good. Michael Keaton is a lot of fun as overzealous business mogul. Abbie Cornish gets to flesh out Clara Murphy a bit but the heart of the film is Gary Oldman. He makes the most of what little he has to work with. It's a very warm performance, comparable to his James Gordon from the Dark Knight trilogy. It's an absolute delight seeing Samuel L. Jackson hamming it up as Novak and provides the film's lighter moments. One of the biggest flaw of this film are the villains. They are barely in it. Patrick Garrow is unremarkable as arms dealer Vallon and Jackie Earle Haly as Mattox is the only one that comes close to being as colorful as the villains of the original. He just gets too little to do.
    Not exactly Clarence Boddicker
    I can't put all blame on director José Padilha though. He's a very, very good director. He knows what he's doing and is no stranger when it comes to social commentary. His Tropa de Elite movies stand testament to that. During the early days of production there were reports of Padilha saying that producers and other studio bigwigs were interfering with his vision for this film. It shows. The script is sloppy. A clear case of too many fingers in the pie. Too many ideas and too little time to execute. I do like the fact they used Basil Poledouris iconic RoboCop theme in the movie. It is used too little in the movie and at the wrong times. There is a scene in the movie where RoboCop trains against drones in a warehouse. It's comparable to the warehouse scene of the original. This would have been the perfect time to use the Robocop theme. Instead they chose to play rock music over the scene. Another lost opportunity. Pedro Bromfman's music score is pretty forgettable. Nothing special there.
    A sequel? Your move creep...
    Is RoboCop a disaster then? Surprisingly enough, no. It's a fine film actually. The only problem is that it's never outstanding. The problem is that it's already been done. Superbly I might add. It was clear they could not add anything, could not do something better than what they did back in the original. Yes, the visual effects have gotten a considerable upgrade and look fantastic but can't cover up the fact that the writers just mixed up the puzzle pieces and made something completely new and yet so familiar. So yes, it's a fine film it could have been much worse but it's also frustratingly mediocre. The movie never comes to life, boring at times and it ends in such a way that will leave you in your seat, watching the end-credits saying to yourself...”Was that it?”

  • It's beginning to look a lot like Valentine's Day! Ah, couples holding hands, cuddling up and celebrating each others love! Yes, I hate it. So, it's the perfect time to delve into one of those “love” films. You know, boy meets girl, girl wants to date boy but he rejects her; so girl turns into a murderous psycho. The typical stuff, we've all been there. I am going to keep this short! Let's take a look at the loved ones! 
    Look, when they threaten to nail a man's junk to a chair,
    then I've got no jokes to make!
    Brent (Xavier Samuel) accidentally killed his father in a car accident and now he spends most of his days tuned out and disconnected from the world. Suffering from depression and beat down by guilt, Brent mutes his pain with drugs. The only light in his life is his dedicated girlfriend Holly(Victoria Thain). Prom night is coming up and she wants him to take her to the dance. Another contender is taking her chances though. Shy little wallflower, Lola (Robin McLeavy) musters up all of her courage and ask Brent to be her date for prom night. He gently lets her down and leaves her standing alone in the school hallway. Brent never makes it to the dance though as a stranger drugs and kidnaps him. When he wakes up he finds himself strapped to a chair and at the mercy of Lola and her father! As he suffers unspeakable torture, He must fight to stay alive and find a way to escape before he permanently joins Lola's “collection” of dream dates.
    Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse...
    First of all, Australian horror rocks! After Wolf Creek surprised me, this film downright thrilled me. It gets right down to business and doesn't waste much time to get to the brutal stuff and believe me, this film doesn't shy away from a little blood. There is a subplot that seems to have nothing to do with the main story but the two story lines meet near the end but not in an entirely satisfying way. In fact, the whole third act is a bit too much actually. Had they toned it down slightly and eased us into the madness of the latter part of the movie, it would have been easier to swallow and digest. It's like they turned up the volume from a 5 to 10 in one turn. 
    It gets much, much worse!
    Is that a bad thing then? No, because the performances are so strong that you can forgive little beauty faults in the writing. Xavier Samuel's character Brent goes through an extreme amount of bodily harm. His kidnappers paralyze his vocal cords, so his performance is largely wordless and silent. He has to emote that pain, fear and anger through his eyes, facial expressions and body language and it works. The absolute star of this film is Robin McLeavy though. Her character Lola is utterly and I do mean utterly insane! Everything she says and does is soaked in venom and pure evil. This in stark contrast to her Barbie doll looks. It makes her even more terrifying. And yes, I do mean terrifying as McLeavy isn't playing this for laughs. Her portrayal of Lola is truly phenomenal.
    Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets
    Apart from minor gripes with the story, I don't really have anything negative to say about this film. All the actors are top notch, the director clearly knew what he was doing. The cinematography is excellent and everything is beautifully lit. Best of all, this is truly a horror movie. Yes, it is funny but in a cringing, looking away from the screen kind of way. It's that over the top. This is a movie that delivers and I can't recommended it enough. Be sure to watch it with your significant other. Happy Valentine's day!

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