Sofia Coppola is a masterful director. Until now, she has either directed some very good films (“The Virgin Suicides” and “Marie Antoinette”) or absolute masterpieces (“Somewhere” and “Lost in Translation”). Until now. Unfortunately, her latest outing is a disappointingly thin true account of the vapid, celebrity obsessed group of high-school teenagers who repeatedly robbed the homes of Hollywood’s richest stars — stockpiling jewels and designer clothes so they could “live the lifestyle” they so envied.
The film primarily suffers from its subject matter. Neither the teenagers, nor the celebrity victims are particularly sympathetic. None of the characters in the film get the full exploratory treatment. All we are left with are scenes of empty human trash waltzing quietly around lavish homes, trying on Louboutin shoes, Louis Vuitton bags, Chanel dresses and Dior accessories.
It was incumbent upon the director to find an angle that could make audiences care. I think Coppola fails for the first time in her directorial career to find that angle. The film feels narrow and forced. It lacks a grand theme or a central humanity. There is absolutely nothing separating “The Bling Ring” from a cable TV movie. It feels cheap and lightweight.
The cast are all very solid here. Some of them are very early in their acting careers — a couple are even making their feature film debuts. However, they manage to capture the soulless materialism of their characters very well and each deserve a lot of praise. Emma Watson and Israel Broussard seem to get the most screen time and they are both really convincing in their roles.
“The Bling Ring” isn’t a bad movie… simply an irrelevant one. The time passed quickly and there were some entertaining moments. But it all could have been relayed to me in a twenty minute short and I would have had an extra hour of my life to make a sandwich, check my facebook and watch a rerun of “Friends”. Coppola has always been masterful at finding the profundity in small moments. Here, it seems there were no moments to explore. A minimal story with minimal characters resulted in a minimal film.
The film starts with a pretty short breakfast scene. Then BAM!!! Zombies galore for two straight hours. It sacrifices any character development for almost instant action… something that would normally irritate the hell out of me. However, I came into “World War Z” expecting, perhaps demanding, excitement and thrills. That’s exactly what I got. It is a kinetic ride that, although lacking depth or emotion, works on the most surface of levels. Sometimes that is just fine.
Brad Pitt plays United Nations employee, Gerry Lane — a family man who, when caught up in an intensely rabid zombie pandemic, is recalled to hop the globe in search of a cure for the disease. His wife (Mireille Enos) and two young daughters are left behind on a war ship as incentive for him. If he fails his mission, his family lose their safe haven and will be returned to land as non-essential personnel.
The action forces Gerry from South Korea to Israel to Wales… always encountering a few more clues and a whole host of freaky fast zombies with a hankering for flesh. Each time the movie takes time to breathe, the undead find a way to disrupt the peace with a horrifically scary attack. The film is relentless that way.
There are two small quibbles I have. The decision to abandon character development works on an entertainment level, but it does leave the emotional aspect quite inconsequential. I never really cared that much about any of it… and that will render the film slightly forgettable in years to come. Also, the zombies never felt real to me. Their quick spasmodic jerky movement seemed far too cartoonish to be menacing. It looked animated.
“World War Z” is pure popcorn. There is no message. There is no feeling. There is no depth. It is the simplest of films, played out at an extraordinary pace. I forgave its minor sins just enough to give it a good rating. I doubt I will ever return to the movie again. It is a two-hour diversion that works on a primal level. My adrenaline spiked. The edge of my seat was worn down. My fingernails were chewed. But I have already filed it away deep in the recesses of my memory.
The experience of watching “The Frozen Ground” is tantamount to a plane being on autopilot. All you have to do is sit there, in silence, twiddle your thumbs, and wait. It wasn’t an unpleasant experience… some of it was quite relaxing and the time passed pretty quickly. However, I was never engaged. It was a passive ride… One that we have all taken many times before. I am already starting to forget it as I begin writing this review.
Nic Cage plays Jack Halcombe, an Anchorage, Alaska detective who is looking into a possible serial killing in the area. One of the victims is Cindy (Vanessa Hudgens), a stripper and prostitute who managed to escape the clutches of her would-be murderer. The accused man is Robert Hansen (John Cusack), a husband and father who is thought to be of good standing in the local community.
However, the case is not clear cut. Cindy is uncooperative and unreliable, preferring to seek out drugs and turn tricks rather than testify against her abductor. The facts are all circumstantial and Jack can’t seem to convince the district attorney to issue a warrant for the arrest. “The Frozen Ground” then becomes a rather standard police procedural as they look for clues and tighten the noose around the suspect’s neck.
The acting is one of the strongest parts of the film. Cage doesn’t “lose his shit” or go “nucking futs” in this movie. Instead, he delivers one of his more restrained performances in recent years. Cusack is viciously cold as the “based-on-true-events” killer. He continues to try and distance himself from the typically Cusack-like roles that he became typecast in for so many years. Vanessa Hudgens stars in another impressive role for her in 2013, after her effort in the masterful, “Spring Breakers”. She is turning into a daring and interesting young actress… something I wouldn’t have predicted during the “High School Musical” era. Even 50 Cent shows up in this film as an eighties-style pimp. It is quite a decent ensemble.
Unfortunately, first time director, Scott Walker, doesn’t ever elevate the material beyond its seedy and morose subject matter. Films about serial killers are awkward for directors… they do not lend themselves to artistic flare or cinematic originality. “The Frozen Ground” is not much more than a glorified episode of “CSI”. It is mildly interesting and nothing more.
Addendum: This is not a spoiler. I also want to point out something during the final credits. There is a dedication of the film to the victims of Robert Hansen, followed by a photo roll-call of those victims. I found this to be uncomfortable and disturbing. I could understand something like this in a documentary, but not in a feature film masquerading as entertainment. It felt out of place, exploitative and highly unnecessary. A simple mention along the lines of “In Memory Of…” would have been a better decision.
After School releases their latest video for their new single, “Heaven”.
Jungah, Uee, Jooyeon, Nana, Raina, Lizzy, E-Young and Kaeun are the eight gorgeous girls in the KPOP supergroup, “After School”. Their newest video is another in a long line of catchy tunes and sexy vids that make them one of the most popular bands in the world right now.
Each and every one of them is a candidate for the 2013 Most Beautiful Faces List!
Enjoy…Continue Reading... Post a comment (0)
I am torn on this one. The trailer looks impressive. The cast in intriguing. The subject is fascinating. But there is a HUGE red flag in the director’s chair!!!
Paul W.S. Anderson has an atrocious track record. Movies like “Resident Evil”, “Death Race”, “The Three Musketeers (2011)” and “Alien vs Predator” are littered throughout his filmography. The man is quite simply one of the challengers to Michael Bay’s crown as the shittiest director in Hollywood.
Nevertheless, I am curious as to how this film turns out. It explodes into theaters in February 2014.Continue Reading... Post a comment (0)
Hitting screens in March of 2014 is “Divergent”, an exciting looking futuristic thriller that seems to combine “The Hunger Games” and “Equilibrium”. The film stars Kate Winslet, Shailene Woodley, Ashley Judd and Maggie Q.
The director is Neil Burger, who was at the helm for really good movies like “Limitless” and “The Illusionist”.
Winslet is a legend. Woodley is a burgeoning star. The subject matter is cool. The director is reliable. What’s not to love?Continue Reading... Post a comment (0)
I loved the 2010 original, directed by Gareth Edwards and starring Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able. An entirely new cast and crew take over the sequel… a fact that usually does not bode well.
However, if they manage to maintain the perfect balance of the original masterpiece, then this will be a must watch movie.
Fingers crossed!!! It opens in 2014.Continue Reading... Post a comment (0)
In every film, there really ought to be someone to care about… or root for… or sympathize with… or just plain like. Sometimes, an otherwise fine film comes along and leaves you emotionally cold because the aforementioned doesn’t exist. “A Single Shot” is crafted with care and acted with precision, but it never generates even a momentary shred of empathy or compassion. It is despairingly bleak and relentlessly morose.
If you remember the similarly themed 1998 masterpiece, “A Simple Plan”, you will be acutely aware how such a story of “found money” can be a thrilling cinematic construct. That film blistered your eyeballs with unbearable tension. It featured multiple characters, some good, some very bad… and it built to a crescendo with unforeseeable plot twists and turns.
“A Single Shot” delivers much the same premise. John Moon, played by the brilliant Sam Rockwell, is out hunting a deer in the dense forest. When he catches a glimpse… he fires. The animal runs. He fires quickly again. No luck. Silence falls upon his surroundings… until he hears the muffled coughs of his victim — a beautiful young woman gasping her final breaths in her campsite. He hopelessly tries to keep her alive. When she finally passes, panic sets in and he hides the body in an abandoned truck trailer. While snooping around her campsite, John finds a lock-box stuffed with hundred dollar bills. It doesn’t look like a legal stack of cash, so he decides to keep it.
The frustration with this movie comes primarily because the premise is so damned exciting. I love this kind of idea. I was hoping for a riveting roller-coaster of emotions. Instead, the film meanders and mopes around like a depressed teenager, never really exploring the myriad possibilities. In addition, the lead character is a miserable sack of crap who is dumber than a bag of hammers. I certainly wasn’t sympathetic with his dilemma at any point. And while there were some secondary characters whose lives may have been of interest and could have generated a flutter of caring, the film doesn’t take the time to explore them enough.
“A Single Shot” left me as frozen as the dead girl John ends up stuffing in his freezer. I wasn’t invested in the outcome at all. The movie simply ran its course and came to a meaningless end that thinks it is more profound than it actually is. The actors all deliver fine work… most notably Sam Rockwell, Kelly Reilly and Ophelia Lovibond. Even William H. Macy finds a small underdeveloped role that could have been really interesting. No, the blame is not with the cast. This film stumbles badly because the writer and director could not create a central character that audiences can care about.
Two belly laughs, 5 or 6 chuckles and a mountain of half-hearted smirks… It just doesn’t add up to enough to make this a successful comedy. When the biggest risks and the biggest laughs take place in the outtakes and bloopers section of the end credits, you know something went wrong with the production. It feels like the studio chickened out at the last minute and went for broad comedy, rather than edgy, bold craziness.
Jason Sudekis plays a drug dealer. You can tell he’s a drug dealer because he is unshaven and wears a hoodie.
Jennifer Aniston plays a down-on-her-luck stripper. You can tell she’s a stripper because she almost takes off her clothes… twice.
Emma Roberts plays a homeless punk. You can tell she’s a homeless punk because she has a nose ring and is angry all the time.
Will Poulter plays a dork whose mother has abandoned him. You can tell he’s a dork because of his stupid face.
Together, they pretend to be the Miller family, so that they can rent an RV and smuggle a vast quantity of weed across the border from Mexico without arousing suspicion. Ed Helms plays the drug kingpin who will pay hundreds of thousands to get his hands on the merchandise.
“We’re the Millers” wants to have the wacky tone of films like “The Hangover” and “Bridesmaids”. It so desperately wants to be be daring… but only ever hints at it. It is a strip club with no tits. It is marijuana, not cocaine. It is rated R, but it is really a PG-13. Somewhere along the way, it blurred the lines without crossing them.
It is a shame. The actors are all very good, despite a few odd casting choices. Sudekis is a random selection to be a drug dealer… but his comedic talents are enough to distract you from the decision. Ed Helms belongs in another film. He just seems completely out of place here. Jennifer Aniston has evidently been doing pilates — she looks amazing as she delivers her routinely competent variation of Rachel from “Friends”. Emma Roberts and Will Poulter both find some amusing moments as the children in this dysfunctional family.
As the final credits rolled, I found myself thinking about the lost opportunity here. I wanted this film to break some rules and start some fights. Instead, I sat through something I had seen a million times before. It’s not a horrible film… merely a way to waste 90 minutes of your pathetic little lives with an endless batch of semi-amused nods.
Review by Mike Horne – contributing film critic.
It is the year 2022, the day of “The Purge”, The annual festival of legal carnage introduced by the “New Founding Fathers” of America. This one night of the year has allowed crime rates to drop to staggeringly low figures, sending the economy and jobs to new heights. The human animal has an insatiable appetite for destruction, and The Purge allows everyday Americans to release the beast and feed upon their darker desires, making America a safer and more wholesome place to live. All thanks to 12 hours of unrelenting bloodshed… God Bless America!
Ethan Hawke (“Training Day”) and Lena Headey (“Game of Thrones”) play James and Mary Sandin. We see them enjoying dinner with their children, Charlie and Zoey, in their large suburban home. Suddenly an air raid like alarm sounds off, signalling the beginning of The Purge. James sells home protection solely used for this night, something that has made him very rich, so he jumps to, turning on monitors and alarms, locking down their expensive home with metal shutters. All safe and sound then. Well, apparently not, due to a rash decision later made by his son Charlie, the only one in the family who seems to be unsure of the night and its implications.
At its core, “The Purge” is a horror movie, filled with all the blood and shocks that a fan of the genre could desire. We even have people wearing creepy masks, carrying ridiculously long blades. In true fashion, our heroes continue to make unbelievably stupid decisions and force us to shout at the screen. For the love of all that is Holy, pick up the guns and look behind you!
I enjoyed the pace of the first half of the movie, as it took its time introducing us to its characters. By the time the proverbial shit hits the fan, I actually cared about them as a family. Sadly, the rest of the movie relies too heavily on tried and tested horror thrills, and the only perk we get is Rhys Wakefield, who plays the Polite Leader of a group of rich kids, eager to exercise their right to purge. He is wonderfully menacing and perfectly over the top in this role, proving once again that the bad guy gets to have more fun. There are a few unexpected twists, but nothing that will truly blow your mind.
Where “The Purge” shines is in group discussion. To truly enjoy it, you and your friends have to ask a few simple questions. What would you do if you were the Sandins? Is The Purge a good idea? Do the needs of the many forgo the few? Would you purge yourself?
Some of these questions might reveal who you should eagerly avoid, should The Purge or Zombie Apocalypse become a reality. And if it does, just remember to look behind you every now and then… And pick up the frickin’ guns, for Pete’s sake!