COMING SOON...

COMING SOON...

THE HOT ROCK, CINDERELLA LIBERTY, ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL and DISTANT VOICES STILL LIVES

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

RED : WILLIS RETURNS TO ACTION


I’ve been a fan of Bruce Willis for some time now. From his first major appearance on MOONLIGHTING through the DIE HARD films, I’ve made a point to see his films when they are released. When I heard that he was starring in RED, based on the comic book of the same name, I was anxious to see how it turned out. And while it plays loose with the source material, it ends up being one of my favorite films from last year.

The story revolves around Frank Moses (Willis), a retired “Agency” assassin living a boring life that has become far too routine for him. To pass the time he calls Sarah Ross (Mary Louise Parker), the woman who handles payments to retired employees of a company she only knows as legit with no clue as to his past. Each month he calls to tell her the check didn’t arrive, even though it did, and the two have a conversation. Both are bored and lonely and strike up a phone friendship.

Unfortunately for Frank the “Agency” monitors all of its ex-employees designated RED (Retired Extremely Dangerous) and don’t take kindly to them making consistent phone calls. Rather than assume nothing despicable is going on, they’re more prone to think secrets are being leaked or some other nefarious plot is in the works. So they send a strike team to take out Frank one night. But as his designated retirement status claims, Frank is not someone you should mess with. The team is taken out and Frank is on the run.

His first stop is to find Sarah who he realizes he has accidentally placed in danger. Rescuing her and with her still not quite ready to believe his story, they head out to find other members of his old team. Like conspiracy minded Marvin Boggs who thinks everyone is out to get him played fantastically by John Malkovich. Then Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman) who welcomes the chance to escape his retirement home for some action like the old days. And finally there is Victoria (Helen Mirren), set up in peaceful tranquility…with the exception of taking on the occasional assassination.

Brought back together by circumstances the team is on the move to find out who it was that authorized the hit and why. On their tail is “Agency” man William Cooper (Karl Urban), a top notch agent who could be Frank’s match. If it wasn’t for the fact that Frank taught Cooper’s trainer everything he knew…but not all that Frank knew.

Crosses and double crosses flow throughout the story as the team follows one lead to another in an attempt to find out just who is behind the uproar. Everyone from a weapons manufacturer (Richard Dreyfuss) to the Vice President become suspects but it isn’t until the final moments that we discover just who the culprit is.

Along the way there are plenty of explosions, jokes and hand to hand combat moments that should keep Willis and action fans sitting on the edge of their seats. By the last reel you’ll find yourself wishing that the movie hadn’t ended and that another was on the way. Thank goodness the rumor mill has it that their planning a sequel.

The action is non-stop, the effects are top notch and the acting is some of the best I’ve seen. To me the best acting doesn’t involve the ability to simply say your lines in the most dramatic way possible. Instead, the best acting is when you completely forget the fact that you’re watching a movie, that the person performing is an actor and you totally believe that for two hours they ARE that person. Such are the performances by all involved here.

But best of all with this movie is the fact that for 111 minutes you are entertained. And in the long run isn’t that what it’s all about? No, this film will not find most involved nominated for any Oscars but the truth is that some of the most entertaining films made never do. Instead they find fans who watch the film over and over again. This is one of those movies, a film that I for one feel I could watch more than three times and never be bored with. And that makes it a movie worth watching.

SAW 3D THE FINAL CHAPTER : IS IT REALLY THE END?


3-D has taken the theaters by storm this past year. So much so that everything but the kitchen sink has been tossed at audiences (and I’m not certain that even that hasn’t been thrown). Greek Gods to zombies have found there way to the format so is it any wonder that a horror series jumped on board? SAW 3D THE FINAL CHAPTER supplies that need.

Fans of the film series have loved every gruesome, gory scene offered. But now they had the chance to witness it in 3D in theaters. But with the movie being released on DVD in regular 2D format is it a good movie? Without the comin’ at ya type effects, is it any good? The answer is yes and no.

If you’ve been following the series at all you know that the film began with 2 people chained in a run down old subway type bathroom being provided knowledge of how they had wronged people and given a chance to make a choice, one that would involve some great pain or damage, but that would give them the chance to make write their wrongs.

The series continued in this vein with the main character of Jigsaw, the culprit who was behind the dangerous torture fueled traps that held each person captive, who in reality was John Kramer (Tobin Bell). It seems that John was diagnosed with an inoperable condition and then treated poorly by everyone from insurance agents to police. With nothing to lose, he set out to help people change their lives, giving them an opportunity to become valued members of society or perish in the process. Talk about tough love.

By the time this film opens, John’s last assistant has gone on a rampage and disgraced the original intent that John began with. Sure it was crazy, but Det. Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) has taken it into a whole different direction. As seen in the last film, rather than truly offering people a chance to change, he’s set out on making the traps inescapable. Instead of a chance it is now out and out murder.

It appeared that he was facing death at the hands of John’s wife (Betsy Russell) in the last film, but he escaped and is now searching for her as well as setting up a whole new game for Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flannery). It seems that Dagen claimed to be on of Jigsaw’s victims, profiting from writing a book about his experience and going on to creating self help groups for other victims as well as a DVD of their meetings.

Now Bobby must face Jigsaw for real in the form of Hoffman. And with each new trap we are witness to another form of torture that has the potential to end gruesomely and with much blood spilled. While not quite out and out torture porn, as this genre has been named, the film does have the viewer bear witness to some truly gut wrenching deaths. Perhaps not if you’ve seen the other films, but anyone just now jumping on may turn their head more often than once.

As Hoffman pursues John’s wife and sets in motion Bobby’s trial by fire, the police are hot on his trail. Tracking him through the clues left behind, they narrow it down. But will the get there in time to prevent another death forever linked to Jigsaw?

One thing the movie does offer is the chance for it to truly end. And the surprise ending here was one that caught me off guard and was actually quite satisfying. But it did offer the slightest chance for the series to continue. One can only hope that the makers of this series let it go out on a high note rather than milk it for one last dollar. I mean does anyone really feel the need to pull out JASON GOES TO MANHATTAN? Six films in a series that has only one (in my opinion) truly bad film is something to take pride in.

So if you’re a fan you’ll love this one. If you’ve come and gone, you’ll get a decent solution to the story. The lose ends are tied up nicely by the last minute. The series has a beginning, middle and an end. And the ending offered is satisfactory.

THE SOCIAL NETWORK : FACEBOOK ME

Critics around the world have hailed THE SOCIAL NETWORK as the best film of the year. It won the Golden Globe for best picture, director, score, screenplay, actor and supporting actor and has been nominated for best picture at the Oscars. So is it really a good movie? Fortunately the answer is yes.

The movie tells the story of Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), a computer geek at Harvard with practically no skills whatsoever when it comes to interacting with actual people. Dumped by his girlfriend as the movie opens, he returns to his dorm room, drinks heavily and begins blogging about her in the worst way possible. At the same time he hacks into various dorm data banks for pictures of girls across campus and then with a little help from his friends creates a web site that offers people the chance to rate each one against another. One can only imagine how well THAT goes over.

Chastised by the administration, Mark is then sought out by a prestigious pair of twin students, the Winklevoss brothers, in the hopes that he will assist then in creating an information site that will provide personal information between students at Harvard. He accepts but places their needs on the back burner while working on his own site, The Facebook. Unfortunately the whole idea behind The Facebook is similar to what they’ve asked him to create.

Using none of the computer code they used on their site, Mark creates Facebook and it becomes popular with the student at Harvard. With the help of his best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), he gets the financing to make the site even bigger. But as it grows so do the problems that come with something this big.

Mark views the world differently than most. His inability to communicate with people on a one to one basis is less about his not caring and more about the fact that he is more comfortable with writing code than having a simple date. And while he may be a genius when it comes to computers, his desire for a higher social status interferes with many of the decisions he makes throughout the film.

As the site becomes more popular, Mark and Eduardo expand their horizons making it available to universities other than Harvard. This of course doesn’t set well with the Winklevoss brothers. But more problems are on the horizon as Eduardo insists that they begin posting ads on the site to create a flow of income. For Mark the site has nothing to do with making money. It’s about the creation of the site and his being able to take credit for it, to elevate his status on both the campus and in the world.

As the site expands to Stanford, it draws the attention of Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), the creator of Napster, who has a nose for business as well as trouble. He entices Mark to take the site over the top and make it the biggest most profitable web site around. As Eduardo attempts to gain funds via advertising and more in New York, Parker involves himself with Mark and gets funding set up in California. The rivalry between the two over the fortunes derived from Mark’s creation is a parallel storyline as both Eduardo and the Winklevoss brothers are both suing Mark for millions.

A film about computer geeks that’s interesting? No action, no explosions, gunplay involved? The answer is yes, the film is quite interesting and yes it does offer one of the best stories told on screen. The wordplay is fast and furious and Aaron Sorkin deserves every nomination he receives.

The acting is once more top notch with you feeling as if everyone involved truly is their character. Eisenberg is a master at fast paced conversation in every film I’ve seen him in and he takes it to a whole new level here. Even Timberlake, who many would want to toss off as just a boy band singer, does a great job here as a character who is both charming and slithery at the same time.

Most of us online know that Facebook exists and many of us use it. But my belief is that few know the story behind its creation or the turmoil that came between friends over its success. As with most movies my guess is that there is a certain amount of one sided story being told here but it still offers one hell of a story.