A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, Hysterical

 

Definitely a man flick A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas follows up on the other two outings with a lot of eye candy and sex, but the gals will get an eye full too. You do not have to have seen the other two flicks, but I bet you will go rent them after seeing this wild comedy; it’s as good at The Hangover.

 

Their signature full circle crazy night out takes full swing when Harold’s (John Cho) father-in-law Mr. Perez (Danny Trio) comes to visit their daughter’s new home for the holiday bringing his own homegrown Christmas tree.  In order to impress him Harold volunteers to trim the tree while his new wife Maria (Paula Garces) and the rest of the Perez clan go out shopping.

 

Todd (Lennon). Harold (Cho), Kumar (Penn) and Adrian (Blumenfeld)

Kumar (Kal Penn) in the meantime receives a package at his apartment addressed to Harold so he brings it over to his house.  Upon opening the box they find a marijuana cigarette.  When Kumar lights it up and Harold throws it out the window it flies back in burning down the Christmas tree. So starts the journey to find a replacement tree and the kind of trouble only these two misfits can get into.

 

The film is a laugh a minute with so many funny sight gags, impossible situations, wild parties…well if you have seen the other two films you will know what I mean.  Penn and Cho are amazing together much like Cheech and Chong a couple of decades ago.  Cho always plays the straight man that seems to get himself into harm’s way with Penn entering the situation making it absurd.  The two make the perfect team for their style of comedy that hardly ever gets matched on the screen.

 

Harold, Neil Patrick Harris and Kumar perform the Nutcracker

In this episode there’s a lot of crudeness with Wall Street protesters throwing eggs, dog fecies and other stuff that pushes the yuck factor. There’s even swinging parties with sex going on in bedrooms and trouble from the Russian Mafia caused by Kumar’s friend Adrian (Amir Blumenfeld). But most of the wickedness comes with the drug use.  When the Christmas tree burns down Harold calls his new best friend Todd played by Tom Lennon who has his young daughter in tow.  With smoke from joints blowing in her face and cocaine snowing down on her it adds to the silliness that feeds the laughter throughout the film.

 

The 3D adds a lot of fun to the film and it’s done amazingly well with a lot of eye popping elements that crash through the screen, float through the air and fill the theater with things like snow flakes, marijuana smoke, cocaine dust, parts of a car, and too many more to mention.  It’s an excellent use of the special effect in most scenes making the film extremely fun to watch.

 

This is the G rated version

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas is rated R for strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence.  Oh, be warned that if you have ever watched the film A Christmas Story then you know the scene where the boy has his tongue frozen to the flagpole. Well in this film Harold and Kumar do their own take on the unfortunate situation.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: It’s a laugh riot for males and a blush for the ladies. (A)

 

THE THING, THRILLER FOR NEWBIES

 

Fans of the film The Thing (1982) beware; even though the movie takes you back to the Norwegian outpost providing a beginning to John Carpenter’s film with the same title, this one may as well have been a remake.  Those that have never seen Carpenter’s masterpiece however, will get all the chills and thrills of the original.  For fun, why not rent the 1982 horror flick AFTER you see this release for a comparison of alien shape shifting.

 

A Norwegian snow tractor falls into an abyss in Antarctica and the crew discover an alien frozen in the ice.  The mining team moves the creature to their outpost where an American Paleontologist, Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has been flown in to identify their find. A specimen is taken from the now thawing alien and Kate discovers that its cells are replicating those of a human.  When members of the mining team start getting attacked, the horror begins.

 

Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Sander (Ulrich Thomsen) dissect something very disturbing

The 2011 script delivers some new experiences; how the alien may have arrived on Earth, its original form and a way to identify humans from alien made replicas.  Beyond that there’s nothing more than the same violence, similar shape changes, firefights and ghastly results of vicious attacks.

 

First time director Matthijs Van Heijningen does his best to make his film better than the classic, but fails miserably.  For those that know the extremely suspenseful 1982 iconic scare fest, this one will not have that gripping expectation. Of course due to some extra special computer graphics that weren’t available back in the day, we do get treated to an even more ghastly experience.  It’s hard to remake a classic, but even though the filmmakers will call it a prequel, no dice.

 

That said, I do recommend the film highly for those who have not seen the original as this shock flick has some nicely placed scare scenes.  The mixture of human and alien bodies dart about, shoot out spiked tentacles, have huge teeth…well you get the idea.  Guys it’s a great flick to take a date, but make sure she doesn’t have long finger nails or you’ll have to wear long sleeves for a week.

 

The Thing is rated R for strong creature violence and gore, disturbing images, and language.  If your X-Box playing pre-teen has already been playing M rated alien infested games, he should be grabbing at your arm to take him to see the film, but it’s not suggested he attend alone.

 

 

FINAL ANALYSIS:  Terror at it’s best for THE THING newbie’s (B), veterans (C )


 

 

 

IDES OF MARCH, POLITICAL CHILLS

 

Watching Ides of March gave me déjà vu thinking of some of the past political campaigns that tanked due to indiscretions. Released during a period of the current US presidential primary, the timing helps the effort.  I am not very fond of political films that have an agenda, but this one appeared fair to each side of the aisle.  If you like a good drama that has suspense and a reasonable ending than this film should win your praise.

 

It’s nearing the last few months of the presidential primary with Ohio being the most contested state and the probable nominator. The two opposing candidates Mike Morris (George Clooney) and Senator Pullman are very close in the running and any glitch can be a disaster the race.  Confident in his campaign chairman Paul Zara (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and his press secretary Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) Morris feels he has the nomination in the bag.  Pullman’s campaign manager Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) doesn’t see it that way and still has a few tricks up his sleeve.  When a campaign worker Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood) gets pregnant, a scandal starts to brew.

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Max Minghella, Marisa Tomei and Ryan Gosling in IDES OF MARCH

The Ides of March is an actor’s film and as director George Clooney does a great job of showing off his talent. Putting his actors through their paces he shows the pressure of a presidential primary; the suspense of the behind the scenes deals, raw emotion between political camps and the backstabbing that goes on to win a campaign.  If there is a downside, it’s Clooney’s speed to get to the crux of the plot. His haste lessens the chance to connect better with his characters by omitting a lot of the outside influences that create the suspense and action of the campaign pitfalls.

 

The acting here is extremely good although Clooney really doesn’t have to push the Morris character too much because he normally has an easygoing personality.  But it’s Gosling, Giamatti, Wood and Hoffman that really carry the movie anyway.  Gosling does a great job as the up and coming press secretary who finds he’s putting out fires more often than not.  His character is in the thick of things and Gosling’s up for the task at bringing on the suspense and cunning politics that surround a tight campaign.

 

Evan Rachel Wood with Director George Clooney and Ryan Gosling on the set of IDES OF MARCH

Although Giamatti gives a good performance as the opposing camp’s leader, his character is just a walk in the park for him as he’s played that persona often in films.  Hoffman’s character has to be many faces and here he plays Morris’s campaign chairman cunningly well while finding himself knee deep in a scandal, overcoming secret meetings by his press secretary and taking control of a potential downslide campaign.

 

The Ides of March delves deeply into the bowls of dirty campaign politics with payoffs, false promises and indiscretions much like what I’ve gathered from most films of this ilk.  In many cases the consequences of the ruthless practices don’t show up till after an election. But it’s entertaining to see a ‘what if’ with The Ides of March certainly laying it all on the line.

 

The Ides of March is rated R for pervasive language so be cautious when deciding to bring immature youngsters to the showing.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A political chiller that keenly penetrates the campaign underworld. (C+)


 

 

 

 

 

 

MACHINE GUN PREACHER, TRUE MERCY

 

Director Marc Forster who gave us Quantum of Solace and Monster’s Ball brings Machine Gun Preacher to the screen and drives home a winner.  His production of the true story of the merciless killings in East Africa and one man’s untiring commitment to helping children in the path of civil war provides a chill that’s hard to forget.

 

The story involves Sam Childers (Gerard Butler), a badass biker with a penchant for drugs.  His life is out of control and leads him to prison.  Upon release he goes back to his way of life, but takes notice that his wife Lynn (Michelle Monaghan) has found a religious path over the past years since he’s been gone.  Shirking the notion of church, Sam continues his violent ways. After being knifed on one of his drug flings, he starts to think about his past and what it has done him and his children.  He decides to attend his wife’s church and there he finds the good he has been missing in his life.  When a visiting preacher talks about the strife in Africa, Sam takes notice and builds a church of his own.  Not content with this calling he goes to Africa where he sees the violence being done to the children, taking him on a path to save them in the face of the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

 

Gerard Butler as Sam Childers with freedom defenders in East Africa

It’s a strange role for Butler, but he handles it very well depicting the druggie turned savior.  Forster makes Butler this worthless wreck of a human wallowing in the mire of drugs and violence.  Giving an outstanding performance, Butler brings out the nastiness in Childers and his defiance, even to his family.  Slowly Forster starts to shed Butler’s skin as Childers moves out of the ugly cocoon into a place of moral acceptability.  But it doesn’t end there because Childers is so obsessed with meeting his goal that anyone around him feels the pain, even if it’s his best friend Donnie (superbly played by Michael Shannon) and daughter Page (Madeline Carroll).  When things start to fall into place, however, then finally Butler as Childers can be a man to be valued.

 

Childers outside the church he built in East Africa

Machine Gun Preacher is all about the fight within Childers because that’s where the real story lies.  He’s a man that cannot accept anything that’s not his way, whether beating a drug dealer nearly to death while stealing his drugs or showing no mercy for fallen LRA members who are killing under orders.  Caught up in an impossible war with very few options, he fights even as I write this article against the slaughter of hundreds of kids.  It’s a bitter film that has a two-sided coin where the audience must decide whether it’s righteous or a desire of forgiveness for a life of crime.

Marc Forster directing and Gerard Butler in MACHINE GUN PREACHER

The film shows the inhumanity of man in this seemingly outrageous civil war taking place even today in East Africa.  Foster doesn’t spare any visual proof depicting charred bodies, children being sliced and families destroyed.  In one unforgettable scene, Childers has to decide which twenty of the forty children who are in harm’s way to take to safety in his pick-up truck.  When he returns to get the other twenty…. Well let me just say it’s a jarring illustration of a shameful society.

 

Machine Gun Preacher is rated R for disturbing content including disturbing images, language, some drug use and a scene of sexuality.  The film gets so intense at one point that I winced and turned away.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS:  A disturbing film with a cause. (B)

 

Gerard Butler the actor and the real Sam Childers pose for a photo

 

 

 

 

50/50, STRONG MEANINGFUL STORY

 

When I see Seth Rogen’s name listed in the cast of a film the first thing that comes to my mind is a wild comedy.  But in 50/50 Rogen adjusts his bizarre persona and creates a character that provides the right medicine to a poignant situation.  Although the film gets a little sappy at times, it delivers a strong meaningful story.

 

The film centers on Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) a young guy how has been diagnosed with a malignant tumor in his back.  His therapist Katherine (Anna Kendrick) tries to get Adam to accept his cancer and do his best to live out his dreams. His best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen) goes into shock when he hears the news, but his strong sense of friendship takes over and wants to ‘be there’ for Adam. Never been a womanizer, Adam finds himself doubting his ability to charm the ladies for a chance to have a fling while he still can. When Kyle’s sense of ‘being there’ becomes more bizarre, Adam takes a chance at fate and jumps right in with Kyle’s plan.

 

aDAM (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Kyle (Seth Rogen) in 50/50

The actors chosen for the main characters, Gordon-Levitt and Rogen are perfect for their roles.  They work well together and the chemistry between them exudes a touching bond of friendship.  I have to admit that even with Rogen’s reputation of dominating most of the scene’s he’s in, Gordon-Levitt overcomes this in 50/50 and pulls off the best acting performance of his career.

 

Katherine (Anna Kendrick) tries to get into Adam's mind in 50/50

I liked the Anna Kendrick (Up In The Air) role of Katherine an upcoming therapist who gets assigned Adam as her third case ever.  She adds an important comedic touch that gets the audience through some very emotional scenes.  Also in support, Anjelica Huston (Prizzi’s Honor) does a sterling job as the dotting mother who falls apart when she hears her son has cancer.  Trying to look strong for Adam, she just can’t make him believe it’s love she feels and not sympathy.

 

Direction by Jonathan Levine (The Wackness) is controlling and keen, taking his characters through the good and bad times and wrapping the film in Kleenex tissue.  It’s a hard script to bring to the screen with comedy based on such a killer disease, but he presents it well and comes up a winner.  If you have seen the Showtime cable TV show The Big C with Laura Linney you will probably agree when I say 50/50 comes in equal to that show which treats Cancer with laughter.

Caution, major plot point partially revealed: The inspiration for the movie came from the true experience of writer Will Riser who in real life is friends with Seth Rogen.  But although the story is based mostly on fiction, there are a lot of parts real to Riser.  Actually Rogen’s character is an amalgam of himself and Evan Goldberg.  Both writers for the Ali G Show, it’s where they met Riser. The three were close and when they found out that Riser had cancer, they remained friends through most of the pain and suffering. When Riser pulled through Rogen and Goldberg pushed Riser to write a script for 50/50.

 

50/50 is rated R for language throughout, sexual content and some drug use. Be cautioned that some of the dialog  may be truly tasteless if not taken in the right manner that it was intended.


FINAL ANALYSIS: A very good comedy drama about love, friendship and accepting whatever may come. (B)


 

 

WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER?, Cheesy & Familiar

 

It’s a chick flick, so there you go, I said it right up front.  AND, What’s Your Number? is very predictable, so there you go again.  AND it’s 27 Dresses with a bit more sex and without Katherine Heigl.  Actually, I almost liked the film up until two scenes that show signs of the moral decay of American cinema.

 

The story follows Ally Darling (Anna Faris) who has tipped the scale in sex partners for a woman’s lifetime according to a national ladies magazine. In fact according to the article, at 20 men her clock has stopped and if Ally doesn’t marry one of the men she already slept with, she’ll end up missing her true love.  Cornered with seeming no way out she decides to look up each of her previous lovers in an attempt to find one with which she could spend the rest of her life.  When Colin (Chris Evans) her across the hall neighbor comes into the picture to help her, the plan starts to get a very murky.

Ally (Anna Faris) gets burned

I’m sure director Mark Mylod (Showtime’s ‘Shameless’) had full reign with his actors and the script.  Faris, who also produced What’s Your Number?, known for her bawdy roles in films like The Hot Chick and House Bunny was easily molded into her character as the promiscuous Ally Darling leaving very little for Mylod to achieve with his actors.  That is except for Evans (Captain America) who took on the role of Colin.  Mylod uses Evans recent success as the super hero to show him off as lady eye candy guaranteeing a strong female word of mouth following for his film.

Ally (Faris) and Colin (Chris Evans) look up old beaus

If there is an upside to the film it’s hard to find as What’s Your Number? gets very predictable, cheesy and familiar.  Much like 27 Dresses the elusive ‘special one’ gets hard to bag, even if he’s right in front of your nose.  I will admit, however that some of the sight gags and toilet humor provided some laughs and some of Ally’s old beaus draw a humorous guffaw now and then.

 

Now I know it’s just a movie, but the shock of seeing 8 year olds swearing at a wedding reception turned me off to the film.  I’m not a prude and throughout even laughed at the extensive use of off color language by adults.  It’s obvious the filmmaker inserted the kiddie’s remarks to ice the chances of getting an R rating because the rest of the film borders on a PG-13.  Even the nudity is from the rear (pardon my pun) and the sex doesn’t show a whole lot of flesh.  My point? These are youngsters using the F word in unison, three males and a female, followed by a final run through using the F word combined with another word for breasts.  If there’s a moral to this film, it’s ‘amoral.’

FINAL ANALYSIS: Not much here that’s NOT been done already. (D)


KILLER ELITE, A THRILLER

 

The film Killer Elite plays out like you are watching a video game, kill an assassin and move up to the next level.  Exciting, power packed and relatively predictable, the film tends to mirror other action movies that have been released this year. The thing that does play better than the rest involves the suspense that comes with trying to decide who really is the bad guy here?

 

The script goes something like this; best friends and fellow assassins Danny (Jason Statham) and Hunter (Robert DeNiro) are finishing up a job in Mexico when Danny gets shot in the leg when he hesitates during his kill shot.  Torn by a near death moment, Danny decides to quit the business and retires to a secluded retreat.

Assassins Danny (Statham) and Hunter (DeNiro) in KILLER ELITE

At least a year goes by with no contact from Hunter until he gets notified from his former mission advisor that Hunter’s been captured and being held by a subversive government. Danny hesitates at first then takes on the challenge of rescuing Hunter.  When the top assassins in the world get mobilized to stop the rescue and Spike (Clive Owen)  a highly trained policeman thinks Danny’s a spy, Danny has to face impossible odds.

 

Danny faces his nemice Spike (Clive Owen)

The film rolls out like an X-Box game with the hero getting several weapons to choose from, endless ammunition and several help stations along his journey to kill assassins and free the girl, except in Killer Elite it’s a DeNiro.  Actually I enjoy a good game and that’s a good thing here. Statham makes a great gamer role model with a lot of muscle and agility to face off against his foes.  Hey if someone’s developing a video game out there called Killer Elite, just remember you heard it here first.

 

Statham works well with Robert DeNiro, especially in the opening sequence where the two have to face off against Mexican government police.  DeNiro looks like his younger self and exhibits the kind of intensity that made him famous.  Good make-up and special CGI may have helped, but who’s caring when the extreme fighting looks real.

 

I am very happy to see Clive Owen in this action packed thriller and it’s he who makes Killer Elite suspenseful.  Thinking he’s got an easy job in tracking down a bungling assassin, especially since his men under him are highly trained, get him into a tight situation when he has to decide who’s the bad guy.

 

The direction by first timer Gary McKendry looks high quality.  He starts his film with a great firefight and doesn’t hold back right up to the blazing ending. He moves the story along at a fast clip and inserts his adversaries in piece meal so as to string out a lot of guts and gore.

 

Killer Elite is rated R for strong violence, language and some sexuality/nudity.  McKendry inserts a lot of realistic killing for shock value so use extra caution when deciding to bring immature children. Although the film has a similar name as the 1975 spy thriller, the story is very different and so are the thrills.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS:  A strong action thriller to end the summer. (B)


STRAW DOGS, DARING REMAKE

 

Here’s a remake that actually makes for better entertainment.  It’s called Straw Dogs and the cunning little tale takes you into the dark side of a dysfunctional town and renders fear.   I was very much blown away by the film from its mellow beginning to a buildup of concern and a final turn of events that made me shudder.  If you like films that have a deep seeded alarming undertone then rush to see Straw Dogs.

 

 

Television screenwriter David Summer (James Marsden) and his new wife Amy (Kate Bosworth) travel to her hometown in rural Mississippi to stay at her inherited house where her husband plans to write his new script.  Although the house is welcoming, the dysfunctional town doesn’t seem to be as friendly as Amy left it when she graduated high school.  Some of the discontented remnants of her past still linger especially Charlie (Alexander Skarsgard) an old high school flame who did a hitch in the Army.  When tensions start to build due to a deep seeded lust that Charlie has for Amy a bitter conflict starts leading to violence.

Dave (Marsden), Amy (Bosworth) and Charlie (Skarsgard) at local highschool football game

Director Rod Lurie begins his film with a whimsical drive to the southern backcountry setting up a nice dynamic between the couple yet starts to instill injections of dread.  He builds the fear factor with voyeuristic glances by Charlie who becomes obsessed with connecting with Amy again.  The conflict continues throughout the film setting up a cringing attack that Lurie photographs up close adding to the brutality of the movie.

Things get out of control in STRAW DOGS

Filming the movie in the off the beaten path rural town with accompanying woods would be no easy task but it’s handled well under the guidance of Lurie (The Last Castle) who directs his camera crew to film the dark misty woods, beaten down town bars and brutal scenes.  The strength of any terror flick comes in how you show the conflict and Lurie does a very good job with the fear factor.

 

The acting here by Bosworth, Marsden and Skarsgard are admirable, but the real standout performance comes from James Woods as the long hardened ex-high school coach that fears for his teenage daughter in a side story that becomes the catalyst for the violent ending.  Woods has aged well yet a little unrecognizable at first due to weight gain, but as you get to know his character he uses his rugged looks to instill the cruel personality of the coach and drunken rages that cause him to get out of control.  I liked his character and the importance he gives to showing the dysfunction of the people in the town.

 

The setback for this film comes with the word remake, why even the poster in the new one is the same (just the face has changed).  Straw Dogs was made in 1971 and although the setting in the New England small town was far from Southern Mississippi, the violence and panic are much the same.  Dustin Hoffman played the David role with Sam Peckinpah (The Killer Elite) directing his thriller that included much of the same suspense, revenge and retribution.  It’s very hard to follow Peckinpah for the ferocity he lends to his films, but I believe Lurie put forth a very good effort.

 

Straw Dogs is rated R for strong brutal violence including a sexual attack, menace, some sexual content, and pervasive language.  The violence scenes are very horrific and include a rape that gets frightening.


FINAL ANALYSIS: A taught suspense that gets violent. (B)

DRIVE, A HOT TICKET

 

Just to make sure that the trailer for Drive doesn’t give you the wrong idea, NO, this is not a Jason Statham movie in the vein of the adrenaline pumping Transporter series.  Ryan Gosling holds his own in this rough surrealistic drama that inserts all the thrills shown in the preview and more.  If you like looking into the mind of a tough loner who is on a road to a life full of angst, then take a ride to Drive.

 

The story involves stunt driving and getaway wheelman Driver (Ryan Gosling) a loner running from life and heading for trouble.  His mentor Shannon (Bryan Cranston) has never seen a more remarkable stuntman who has no fear and spits in the eye of danger.  Without a care in the world except his next meal and a place to sleep Driver lives from day to day.

Driver (Gosling) and Irene (Mulligan)

At a local grocery store he sees Irene (Carey Mulligan), a young attractive woman with a child in tow.  In a quirk of fate he finds that she has moved into the apartment next-door.  When his mind starts to imagine a life of possibilities with her, shifting gears becomes a risky challenge.

Ryan Gosling plays characters that take on a lot of psychological trauma (Blue Valentine, Fracture, All Good Things) and in Drive he ups the ante.  Playing Driver a very moody person who takes chances getting his kicks by cheating death at every traffic light and stunt car crash without a care.  Helping the mood, director Nicholas Winding Refn uses the camera with long close ups of the brooding man creating a surrealistic mood that projects Driver’s callous nature.  Then as the story turns 180 degrees, Refn’s Driver starts to change his outlook on life and Gosling’s there to create another side of his character.

Ryan Gosling and Director Nicholas Winding Refn on the set of DRIVE

In support both Cranston and Mulligan do a terrific job of being the catalysts to Driver’s actions and reactions.  As the stunt coordinator for Driver, Shannon becomes his pillar saving him from those who take aim.  When Driver finds himself in danger, it’s Cranston’s character that comes through, until it’s too late.

Mulligan plays Irene the one beautiful flower in Driver’s dark life.  Her ability to project innocence in the midst of her own life turmoil shows big on the screen.  With her son Benicio (Kaden Leos) she tries to show Driver that there’s more to life, even when things seem impossible. Refn turns Leos and Mulligan into the jewels that Driver wants even if he has to give them up so they can find happiness.

Talented comedian Albert Brooks puts on his dramatic face playing Bernie Rose a Jewish Drug contractor who puts danger in Driver’s way.  A brutal role for a ‘funny’ man, but he handles it with little difficulty.

There is a negative here but it’s a double edge sword.  Refn spools out his story slowly taking a lot of liberty with the camera in close-ups that made my mind wander at times, long shots that seem to take forever to complete and dialogue delivery with multi-beat hesitation in conversations. Those filmgoers, however, that like the mystery, psychological value and suspense that this sometimes brings, with accept it as part of the story.

The film is rated R for strong brutal bloody violence, language and some nudity.  This is a film that should only be seen by the mature as the violent beating gets so unbearable I even turned away at times.

FINAL ANALYSIS: An excellent drama with a sharp edge. (B+)

A GOOD OLD FASHION ORGY, WILD AND WEIRD

This summer has hatched a lot of comedies and that’s a good thing.  Keeping the laughter coming, A Good Old Fashioned Orgy does it’s level best to entertain and it does.  For one thing it’s got a great cast of comedic actors working with a weird little script that delivers.  It may sound like a lot of hooey but A Good Old Fashioned Orgy is worth a look.

 

The screwy film goes something like this; Eric (Jason Sudeikis) has been hosting themed super parties at his father’s vacation home since High School and this season’s shindig was way over the top.  Just when he’s totally satisfied with himself and his closest friends are still celebrating with him, his father drops by to tell him he’s selling the place.  Totally distraught, he decides to have one last unforgettable party for himself and seven of his closest friends.

Eric (Sudeikis) and McCrudden (Labine) doing research
Eric (Sudeikis) and McCrudden (Labine) doing research

 

After a lot of thought Eric decides the theme should be an orgy party. Although not everyone is initially hot about it, each of the friends start coming on board for his or her own personal reasons.

 

Why this script works are the cast and the reasons for participating.  Although some jump in because of the sexual theme others have other things on their minds. The chemistry between the paired off couples works well and the characters they portray are believable enough to just go with it.

Eric (Sudeikis) and Kelly (Leslie Bibb)

I do not envy the job of directors Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck who have to make the film live up to its title.  Although working with a cast that has had their share of working together in an adult themed television show doesn’t hurt, such as Leslie Bibb as Kelly (The League), Lake Bell as Alison (The League), Martin Star as Duquez (The League) and Nick Kroll as Adam (The League).  That seemed to work to their advantage here as the cast looked very comfortable in their roles.  Throw in the fact that the two helms worked together on King of the Hill and The Letterman Show.

 

Getting the audience to believe that the orgy would really take place is a bit of a stretch, but when you throw in the reasons why the women jumped in it does make sense.  Add to this the research that Eric and McCrudden (Tyler Labine) had to do for the party makes their final love-in look tame.

 

The film is rated R for pervasive strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language. It’s a wild and raunchy time, just the ticket for a man-group get together.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A howling good time. (B)

THE DEBT, A SIZZLER THAT FIZZLES

A fairly good drama with a lot of intrigue bows at local movie theatres starring a fine cast.  Although the actors do an excellent job of portraying the interesting characters, the story gets muddled a bit with questions of reality.  If you like films geared to getting you incensed about Nazi war crimes then The Debt is worth a look.

 

The film centers on Stephan and David, two Israeli Nazi war criminal hunters who get an assignment to track down a Dr. Vogel in Russian occupied East Berlin during the 60’s wall era.  Stephen and David have Vogel ready for capture but they need someone to be the patient in their plan.  Rachel, a retired agent accepts the assignment and meets up with Stephen and David in the dangerous occupied zone.  Although the capture takes a turn for the worse, the three find themselves heroes.  Years later, a horrible secret comes to a head.

Jessica Chastain and Sam Worthington in THE DEBT

Intrigue saves The Debt from an early downfall in this fictional account of the capture of a Nazi war criminal.  Stellar acting helps the drama unfold nicely as the story skips from one era to another and back again.  I enjoyed the determination showed by the actors to make their characters real and fallible, but the story in my estimation gets implausible.

 

The twist here is not how they perceive the hunt and capture to work, but that no matter how intricate the caper the consequences would have been accepted, especially if you are an Israeli secret agent and true to the cause.  This bothered me and no matter how I played it in my mind I could not come up accepting the outcome of the film. I would be interested in finding out if any of my readers come up with the same conclusion.

 

John Madden does a good job of separating the past and present in The Debt.  Weaving the crime to the injustice, and then infusing the final justice, Madden keeps his audience on edge till the final twist of fate.  Although he did his job, the failed script becomes the loser here.

 

The film is rated R for some violence and language, but be aware that there are some very brutal scenes.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: The production flaw here is in the script. (C )


POINT BLANK, adrenaline pumping thriller

 

Thrilling, Intriguing and vicious Point Blank keeps the adrenaline pumping with excitement at every turn.  A fine cast ably directed by Fred Cavaye puts the film in a league with The Departed.  If you like a lot of action with a harrowing storyline then go and see Point Blank.

 

Samuel (Gilles Lellouche) is a male nurse working at a hospital when his pregnant wife Nadia (Elana Anaya) gets kidnapped before his very eyes. Knocked unconscious, he comes to and discovers that a dangerous criminal named Sartet (Roschdy Zem) is responsible, and if he’s ever to see his wife again, he must do Sartet’s bidding. Samuel quickly finds himself pitted against rival gangsters and trigger-happy police in a deadly race to save the lives of his wife and unborn child.

Gilles Lellouche as Samuel in POINT BLANK

Acting by Gilles Lellouche, Elana Anaya and Roschdy Zem can only be described with words like realistic, stunning and gripping.  The three take on the major roles and with the fine direction of Fred Cavaye put on a great show.  I especially like Lellouche’s energy as Samuel who finds himself in some crazy dangerous situations while trying to free his pregnant wife.  Never wavering, his character pushes forward not knowing what his next test may be.

Samuel (Lallouche) and Nadia (Elana Anaya) in Point Blank

Anaya’s performance as the pregnant wife who has to face a brutal kidnapper with only a month left to her due date.  Her acting gets so realistic that you can feel her fright, exasperation and stamina as Nadia fights to keep her and her unborn baby alive. If she could be nominated for an Oscar, she certainly should be for the realism she put in her anguished character.

 

The cinematography by Alain Duplantier is outstanding getting shots that set the tone for the incredible chases, brutal attacks and punishing reprisals.  Duplantier’s next photography project is just a month away and pits Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert DeNiro against some nasty assassins in Killer Elite. I can’t wait to see the production, if the camera work’s anything like Point Blank it’s sure to be a winner.

 

Point Blank is rated R for strong violence and some language.  The film also contains scenes of brutality and a disturbing image. The film is presented in French with English Subtitles.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A must see for the story and performances. (A)


 

 

 

 

DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, A KILLER CHILLER

The summer has been running out of gas and tries to get a boost from several remakes including another horror film called Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.  It’s a tale of things that go bump in the night.  In this case it’s little monsters that have a plan.  I like a good horror flick now and then and I found this film a winner in the crowded market.  My only question; why it isn’t being released during the Halloween season, a perfect opportunity missed.

 

The story finds Sally (Bailee Madison) a demure youngster moving in with her father (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes) in a huge 19th century manor where they are renovating it for a quick sale.  Being easily bored Sally explores the huge old mansion in wonderment.  At one point she discovers the house has a secret lower level that has not been entered for almost a hundred years. While exploring a little too much she accidentally opens a doorway that contains creatures intent on destroying everyone in the household.

Bailee Madison as Sally in DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK

The whole cast does a very good job of showing off their skills as a family in distress.  I liked Holmes in the roll of the ‘surrogate mommy’ who has to try to win Sally over.  She does an excellent job showing her frustration of not being able to soothe Sally’s feelings that she was cast off by her mother to live with her father.  When things start getting heated up in the horror department, Kim’s the one who has to deal with the worst blow.

Madison and Troy Nixey on the set of DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK

The star of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark however is Bailee Madison who makes her character believably startled yet curious, then strong in the face of the beast.  Her bewitching eyes, inquisitive mind and captivating smile get turned into a frightful horror that imbues a state of incredible terror. Controlling the circumstances and enabling the plot to spool out slowly not showing his beasts until well into the film, director Troy Nixey does a good job with his young actor keeping her intent with finding out just what she’s up against.

 

What adds to a good horror flick is the camera work and in this film, there are a lot of excellent shots including a scene in the cellar that will blow your mind.  Aided by some very good CGI, cinematographer Oliver Stapleton (Unthinkable) puts the audience into a very brutal and scary arena filled with ugly creatures that tear, slice and scratch.  His shots of the exterior mansion and the grounds keep the film chilling and cold, while his interiors are a playground for horror.

 

The film is rated R for violence and terror.  There are some scenes of brutality and gore that are very realistic and should only be viewed by mature adults.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A killer of a chiller  (B).


OUR IDIOT BROTHER, A LOSER

 

If you are looking for a comedy that has a lot of laughs and surprising situations, Our Idiot Brother fails to deliver.  Opening late in the summer wasn’t a good idea since the film comes on the heels of a fairly good year for human humor.  A lot of ‘seen that’ and ‘not too original’ puts this film on a fast track to a low box office.  If you haven’t seen a comedy this year, then maybe it’s worth a watch.

Ned (Paul Rudd) with Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) in OUR IDIOT BROTHER

We enter the life of Ned (Paul Rudd) a 30 something loser that sells homegrown vegetables at an open market with his hippie girl friend Janet (Kathryn Hahn).   Being the idiot he is, Ned sells some pot to a uniformed cop in a sting operation. Serving a short time due to good behavior, Ned gets out of jail only to find out Janet has taken over the business is shacking up with a friend and has no need for him.  Ned decides that his only salvation is to take his problem to his mom and three sisters.  When the family starts taking him in one sibling at a time, their lives start turning upside down.

 

Rudd plays his usual lifeless self with deadpan comedy that has become the industry standard for the loner guy.  You’ve probably seen this character before, especially if you follow film stars like Steve Carell (Crazy, Stupid, Love), Jason Bateman (Horrible Bosses), Adam Sandler (Just Go With It), Kevin James (Zookeeper), well you get the idea.  Here however, it’s the script that causes Rudd to crash and burn.  His character is so insipid that you cannot feel sorry for the dumb looser.  And the messes he makes are way too avoidable to be realistic.

Elizabeth Banks,Emily Mortimer and Zooey Deschanel as Ned's sisters

In addition to the uncreative writing, part of the blame must go to director Jesse Peretz who didn’t recognize that his story was hackneyed and needed a good script doctor to ramp it up for better entertainment value.  It wasn’t that he didn’t have a great cast including Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer with which to work.  The three likable ladies were dumbed down so much however; it made Rudd’s character look brilliant.  As for predictability, well lets not go there…enough said.

 

Our Idiot Brother is rated R for sexual content including nudity, and for language throughout.  The nudity is mostly gratuitous and not involving the main female cast, the profanity gets very loose and sometimes embarrassing.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS:  A wreck that started with the script. (D)

 

CONAN THE BARBARIAN, SWEET REMAKE

Hollywood has a way of reinventing things by rejuvenating characters and bringing them up to date with all the bells and whistles necessary to make it ‘fresh and new.’  This is the case of the film Conan the Barbarian where they have remade a classic adding all the CGI bells and whistles then throwing in some topless women for eye candy.  If you love a medieval action adventure that kicks butt, there’s a thrill a minute in the ‘new’ Conan the Barbarian.

 

The story takes place during the Hyborian Age where beastly men look for ways to become Gods.  After being sliced from his dieing mother’s womb, Conan gets raised by Corin (Ron Pearlman) his father a strong man and protector of the village. The villagers arch nemesis a Cimmerian warrior Kahalar Zym (Stephen Lang) pays Corin’s village a visit looking for the last piece of a magical mask that coupled with the blood of a descendent of the Sorcerers of Acheron will turn him into a God.  When Corin resists, Kahalar kills him and finds the last fragment. Filled with revenge Conan (Jason Momoa), now grown, starts his search to destroy the evil one.

Jason Momoa is CONAN THE BARBARIAN

The action is non-stop from the very beginning to its explosive ending.  In between Conan runs into extreme fighting against the protectors of Kahalar, a monster caged in a watery pit, and other devilish adversaries.  But the most incredible fight comes against the sand warriors that attack Conan with relentless energy while he’s protecting the gorgeous sorcerer’s descendent Tamara (Rachel Nichols) from capture.

 

Director Marcus Nispel uses every trick in his bag to make Conan realistic and comes up a winner.  His muscle-laden hero commands the screen with Nispel provided sets and Robert E. Howard’s visceral story.  All of the hideous characters are masterpieces of graphic evil personified.  He offsets the macabre with his grubby slave nymphs and meager villagers making his scenes realistically barbaric.

Conan faces frees slaves

The acting by Jason Momoa is really not bad, unlike Arnold Schwartzinegger at least you can understand what he says.  His muscular body mirrors much of what Arnold brought to the screen, but Momoa gets to add a bare butt for female viewers to buzz about.  Momoa’s Conan shows a lot more agility, expressiveness and realism possibly due to the updated special effects and computer graphics.

 

Nicols gives a steamy performance in one scene that if it was her body for real comes close to a prurient stag show.  She and a bevy of slave girls show some extremely enchanting visual food for mature filmgoers.  Her acting isn’t half bad also making Tamara a strong willed woman that doesn’t back down from a good fight.

 

Conan the Barbarian is rated R for strong bloody violence, some sexuality and nudity.  Trust me when I say this is a HARD R and should only be viewed my very mature. The 3D that some theaters will offer does nothing to enhance the film and my recommendation is save the extra bucks.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS:  An action adventure fit for mature sword and sorcery lovers. (B-)