Movie Madness

My movie reviews and rants at your fingertips.

Monthly Archives: February 2010

The Crazies

In today’s Hollywood, originality is a rare thing. In the horror genre, it’s almost unheard of. And yet, every once in a while a horror film breaks through the genre’s trappings to be something respected. The Crazies is one of those films.

The film follows Sherriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) as he deals with the shooting of a community member during a baseball game, or it at least starts there. Quickly we are told, not through words alone, that there is an epidemic spreading through the town. The story follows him and his wife (Radha Mitchell) and his deputy (Joe Anderson) as they try to stay alive during the events following the outbreak. In hopes of keeping suspense, I’m not elaborating on the plot further unless to say that it takes place in my homestate of Iowa, which is where most of it was filmed.

The zombie horror genre has seen a renaissance lately, and one I quite enjoy. This film easily fits among the better of the new zombie craze. It has it’s share of one liners and decent kills, but the story is about our small group of survivors. Timothy Olyphant, as always, really embodies his character. You feel like he might be a real sherriff (he’s played one on Deadwood and the upcoming show Justified as well). A veteran of horror movies from early on, this one rests on his shoulders this time, and we couldn’t be happier. If you like horror movies, this will satisfy. And if not, the “money shots” of gore aren’t visible, so the torture porn graphicness is gone. But all in all, 3 out of 5 stars

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Shutter Island

Scorsese is a genius in his own right. But for the first time that I’ve noticed, his films are rich with sly homages and nudges to other films and trademarks of other directors. In Shutter Island, Kubrick and Hitchcock seem to come to mind.

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Edward Daniels, a U.S. Marshall, sent to Shutter Island to investigate the disappearance of a patient. Very quickly, we see that Daniels has ulterior motives for taking this assignment. Daniels and his partner (Mark Ruffalo) are greeted by the Dr. Cawley (the brilliant Ben Kingsley, a scene stealer in this role). Met warmly but somewhat hesitantly, Daniels begins to see a conspiracy. Bit roles by Michelle Williams, Elias Koteas, and Jackie Earle Haley give the film an almost ensemble feel to it.

The film is a film that could have been released in any other decade and found an audience. It’s a classic psychological thriller, but unlike most horror movies and thrillers, the violence and graphic nature is quite tame. Scorsese creates the uneasiness with classic Hitchcockian twists and cryptic dialogue. Like all good films in the thriller genre, we see only what our protagonist sees, leaving us to work with him to uncover the truth. The feeling of Kubrick is reminiscent of the The Shining, in that the environment is as much a character as the actors. I kept listening for The Shining‘s distinctive score to jump in.

The third act is what seals this film in a successful conclusion. Unlike films like A Perfect Getaway, the resolution plays no tricks. Instead, it shows us the truth while confirming that we weren’t cheated by following DiCaprio. The trailer for this film shows almost exactly what you get on the screen, a rare feat today. It’s Scorsese’s horror movie. Or at the least, the closest he’s ever been. 4 out of 5 stars.

The Wolfman

Benicio Del Toro is the kind of actor that can take a thin script and act the hell out of it. Unfortunately, this time around the excellent cast (Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, and Hugo Weaving) can’t aid him in making this film anything but a dead on arrival horror movie.

The film starts off simple enough. Lawrence (Del Toro) has returned home to find out what happen to his brother. Estranged from his father for years, he finds his father not quite the welcoming committee. As Lawrence’s investigation brings him to a gypsy camp, a mysterious creature attacks the gypsies. Lawrence’s attempt to help defend the gypsies leaves him mortally wounded by a mysterious creature. After a long recovery, he finds himself back in fighting condition.

Though it may remind may on the days of Lon Chaney, this movie is nothing like the original. The CGI is visible, but much of it is blended well into the gorgeous setting. I’ll admit though, I was a bit surprised by the gore. The film is rated R for werewolf violence, but having seen New Moon months ago, my idea of werewolf violence was quite timid. The violence and gore are a strong R for sure, but strangely, all the other attributes of most R rated horror movies were absent. Had there been a little less gore, this could have easily been PG-13, allowing the film a fighting chance at recouping its expenses.

Those of you not in the know, this movie’s release date was moved more than once. In Hollywood speak, that’s a death sentence. A move or slight modification (like a change of one week or from Friday to earlier in the week) are common. Studios are wanting to give every movie they release a fighting chance. More than one move is the studio attempting to quiet throw it out there and hope it sticks. This time of year is notorious for being a film dumping ground. Though we get hits every once in a while (300), it’s rare. The Wolfman is definitely not going to be a big hit. Everyone went to Valentine’s Day instead. Of course, from what I heard, you were better off renting than going to a movie this past weekend. The Wolfman 1.5 out of 5 stars.

Crazy Heart

 

Jeff Bridges is notorious for being an actor who can surprise you. A four-time nominee, Bridges effortless lives in the roles he is given. Bad Blake is no exception. Bridges disappears as he plays Blake, an alcoholic washed-up country singer. This movie has many parallels to last year’s The Wrestler, in that a has-been finds new life and a woman helps him turn his life around. The core of the movie is the music. Being raised on country, I can tell you that Bridges singing sounds more like the early country years than today’s country/pop.
The plot of the film is rather simple, but this film is more concerned with the relationships in Blake’s life than the places he’s going. From Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Jean Craddock reporter to Colin Farrell’s Tommy Sweet, the film is ripe with great characters. Especially Colin Farrell, who for some reason has no acknowledgement in either the trailer or the marquees, plays a modern-day country superstar. However, he’s grateful to his mentor Blake and tries to carry him along the celebrity superhighway.
Bridges is a front-runner to win his category next month for Best Actor. Also the song featured prominently, “The Weary Kind” is nominated for best original song. All in all, this is a drama that is borderline musical with all its music, but one show that is worth it, shortcomings and all. 3 out of 5 stars

Edge of Darkness

Mel Gibson has finally returned. Let’s hope that he’s here to stay. Yes, he said some horrible things a few years back, but we all make mistakes. That said, Edge of Darkness fits easily among Mel’s other “action Mel” films(Ransom, We were Soldiers, the Lethal Weapons).

The film plays like a combination of modern noir and a spy thriller. The film follows Tom Craven (Gibson) as he picks up his daughter from the train station. Right away we see a distance between them. As he attempts to reconnect with his daughter Emma, she continually throws up and at one point, tries to tell him why. Unfortunately, she is shot on his front porch on the way to the hospital before she can see. Leaving Craven to uncover what happened himself. Emma being shot comes so quickly that the movie feels like it’ll keep this pace throughout. Wisely though, director Martin Campbell (GoldenEye, Casino Royale) chooses to have the movie slowly come to a boil. 

Though this may turn off those expected fast paced movie fanatics, it works in the films favor. The slow boil makes everything so tense that when the action intermittently comes, we jump out of our seats.  I loved the pacing, it had me looking around every corner trying to see what would happen next, but like all great detective stories, we only know what the protagonist knows. Making a passenger on Tom Craven’s quest to find his daughters killer and uncover why.

I’m a big Mel Gibson fan, so this was a total blast for me. The only hiccups were Ray Winstone’s sub-plot and Gibson’s somewhat inconsistent accent. In fact, Winstone’s character in general. A fascinating character that you can’t tell who side he’s on. But so complex that you feel that something is missing from him. Of course, when you turn a miniseries into a single 2 hr movie, things will be cut. But in its defense, the complexity and the ending and all it’s shortcomings only enrich the film. If you want to see a quality thinking man’s revenge film, this is one to consider. I plan on seeing it again once I’ve thought about it some deal. 3.5 out of 5 stars.