Movie review: Safe

•May 13, 2012 • 1 Comment

Going to see a Jason Statham movie is like enjoying a nice bowl of soup – sure, it’s not as revelatory as experiencing a lush dinner from a five-star restaurant, but at the end, you still feel warm and satiated.

After the D.O.A. box office from “Safe,” I went in thinking perhaps this wasn’t going to be a vintage Statham performance, but that is far from the case. “Safe” is one of Statham’s best films, a propulsive, violent, crunching jolt of action that makes up for its sheer implausibility by rarely giving you a second to think about it before someone else is getting beat up or shot.

This movie would have fit right in back in 1985; there’s no subtlety about what’s happening on screen. This is Statham’s show and he delivers the goods with extreme prejudice.

Luke Evans (Statham) is a down-on-his-luck cage fighter who angers the Russian mob when he doesn’t throw a fight, leading to the cold-blooded execution of his wife and vow by the Russians that they will kill anyone whom Luke gets close to, forcing our guy to become homeless and hopeless.

On a parallel track, we are also introduced to Mei (Catherine Chan), a precious young Chinese girl whose genius-like math tendencies make her an easy target for the mafia, who capture her and force her to memorize payment schedules and secret codes.

When Luke and Mei cross paths, as she is being pursued by the Russians, Chinese and a horde of dirty cops, he decides to ditch his loner ways and protect this kid at all costs – so yes, this is Statham’s version of “Mercury Rising,” with much less Alec Baldwin. Continue reading ‘Movie review: Safe’

Movie review: The Cabin in the Woods

•April 17, 2012 • 1 Comment

It’s practically impossible to discuss “The Cabin in the Woods” without spoiling many of the film’s sly secrets, but don’t be fooled at all by the movie’s bait-and-switch marketing campaign. From the opening frames, “Cabin” is quick to signify that it’s not your typical horror flick.

Of course, it’s also impossible to talk about the movie without delving into the protracted issues surrounding its release some three years after it was filmed, held up in an ill-fated attempt to convert the movie to 3-D and MGM’s bankruptcy issues.

But this geek’s dream, co-written by fanboy faves Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, lives up to the hype and the wait, taking the traditional horror setup and turning it on its ear with a dry wit and a out-there hook. This is a movie that any horror fanatic HAS to see, and one that has enough twists, turns and laughs to entertain the average film fan.  Continue reading ‘Movie review: The Cabin in the Woods’

Movie review: American Reunion

•April 11, 2012 • Leave a Comment

We have reached a point of near-instant nostalgia, where things hardly have time to be forgotten before being re-introduced, rebooted or repurposed by movie studios that assume we are constantly craving some comfort food of our past.

How else to explain the sudden appearance of “American Reunion,” the third official sequel to a franchise that Universal has strip-mined for the last few years, releasing tangentially related (and extremely profitable) straight-to-DVD films?

Were we really clamoring for another adventure from the East Great Falls crew? The concept and execution are so haphazard, the movie can’t even get the actual reunion part of the film right, since the first “American Pie” was released in 1999.

Characters have to off-handedly explain that “someone forgot to do a 10-year reunion,” which doesn’t make sense on a number of levels. Why would droves of people come out to a 13-year reunion? I can’t tell you how much this bothered me. Universal HAD to get this out now? They couldn’t wait two years until this made sense? Or simply accelerated the timeline of the movie to make it a 15-year anniversary?

Another problem with the “Pie” movies is that they’ve never had the courage of their tawdry convictions, which is ever clearer in this day and age, when a party film like “Project X” or over-the-top comedy like “The Hangover” ramp up the raunch and titillation to levels that make “Reunion” seem quaint.

Essentially, “American Reunion” is what you expect it will be – a perfectly fine diversion that follows the template of the first three films without offering much in the way of depth or re-interpretation. If the notion of Stifler taking a shit in a cooler made you chuckle 13 years ago, then you will not be disappointed.  Continue reading ‘Movie review: American Reunion’

Movie review: The Raid – Redemption

•April 3, 2012 • Leave a Comment

“The Raid: Redemption” is a balls-to-the-wall ballet of brutal violence, bombarding the screen with a barrage of blood, bullets and beatdowns that leave you breathlessly awaiting the next battle royal.

This Indonesian film was a cult hit in film festivals across the globe for a good reason – it’s a crowd-pleaser that doesn’t let up once it gets started, the kind of movie for which action junkies are always jonesing.

The story is almost quaint in its simplicity – a cadre of rookie cops are led by their superiors into a fortified apartment building ruled by a nefarious drug dealer and his minions, who reside on every floor, ready to pounce.

Our introduction into this story is Rama (Iko Uwais), a noble cop who works out like a madman and has a pregnant wife at home. He knows this appears to be a suicide mission, but that doesn’t stop him from tackling it with aplomb.

And so, this crew plans to go floor-by-floor, working their way from the bottom of the fetid building to the 15th floor, where the big cheese is hiding out. Of course, things don’t go as planned, and before long, the alarm has been sounded and the cavalry has come calling.  Continue reading ‘Movie review: The Raid – Redemption’

Movie review: Goon

•April 3, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Fair or not, every hockey movie ever made gets compared to “Slap Shot,” arguably the definitive film in the sports genre. And while the DNA of that film is clearly present, “Goon” does an admirable job of attempting to stand alone and craft its own wacky world of off-kilter athletes.

Rude, crude and bloody, “Goon” is the punch to the face the sports genre needs, an unapologetically funny glimpse at the lower rungs of minor league hockey and the subset of brawlers that make their living clocking people.

Seann William Scott stars as Doug Glatt, an aimless man drifting through life as a bouncer who finds his calling when he’s invited by the local hockey coach to join his team as an enforcer. Doug’s pugilistic skills are so impressive, he quickly earns a promotion to the top of the minor league rungs with the Halifax Highlanders.

Doug’s job with the Highlanders is simple – protect golden boy winger Xavier Laflamme (Marc-Andre Grondin) by dropping his gloves whenever anyone attempts to ruffle his feathers.  Continue reading ‘Movie review: Goon’

Live on stage: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

•March 29, 2012 • Leave a Comment

As Noel Gallagher finished his surprisingly strong 90-minute set at the Warner Theatre on Wednesday, one oafish man began to boo loudly as the house lights went up.

“What the fuck are you booing for?” an upset attendee said to the man. (OK, it was me.)

“I want him to sing ‘Wonderwall’! ” he shouted before resuming.

And that, in a nutshell, will be the Sisyphean quest that Noel (and his brother Liam) must undertake in the hopes of ever standing apart from what they did together as Oasis.

Noel Gallagher built his reputation as the (somewhat) more stable of the battling brothers, writing and producing most of Oasis’ biggest hits. While Liam was the voice, Noel was the brains of the outfit, which made his commercial prospects minus his brother an iffy proposition.  Continue reading ‘Live on stage: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’

Movie review: The Grey

•January 31, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Liam Neeson’s late-career transformation from mannered Irishman to unrepentant badass is fascinating given that 50-something, Oscar-nominated actors rarely shift gears in such a pronounced fashion.

Neeson’s conversion to tough guy is also unique given that he doesn’t possess the traditional jacked-up figure of our action stars, instead using his sheer bulk to convey he is a physical presence with which not to be trifled.

After battling human traffickers, identity thieves and domestic terrorists, it’s only fitting that Neeson should turn his eye to the wilderness, re-upping with “The A-Team” director Joe Carnahan for “The Grey,” a surprisingly effective man-vs.-wild thriller that certainly plays to Neeson’s strengths as the strong, silent type.

Neeson stars as Ottway, a sharpshooter working for an oil company who uses his skills to protect workers from the wolves roaming around the frozen tundra of the Alaskan wilderness. All is not well, however, with our man – he appears to be on the verge of suicide, seemingly due to some marital issues that don’t get fully explained until much later.  Continue reading ‘Movie review: The Grey’