Advertisements

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Mark Jeffrey Miller

Death Sentence (2007)

Nazis never back down from a fight. Except when they’re swarmed by the Allied forces and have no way out.

On the way from a hockey game with his son, Nick Hume (Kevin Bacon) decides to stop for gas, because, well, the tank is low and he needs to. However, the station that he’s at gets robbed by a gang of thugs and in the process, Nick’s son gets caught in the crossfire. Obviously, this leaves Nick, as well as the rest of his family as devastated as can be. And while Nick may be just another simpleton, after something as tragic as this, he can’t help but think what’s next for him. Should he just sit around, mope and wallow in his pain and misery? Or, should he go out there and take down said thugs who are causing said pain and misery? Well, Nick being the inspired fella that he is, chooses the later option and is now tracking down and taking out these thugs, one by one. But by doing so, Nick also brings more terror and violence to his family, with the thugs now extracting their own kind of revenge.

Bacon does not like what he sees. And that means a whole lot.

Before facing-off against heartless thugs.

A movie like Death Sentence is a hard one to recommend, because you know full well what it is, but at the same time, you still enjoyed some piece of it. At its heart, Death Sentence is nothing more than a dirty, disgusting and downright mean-spirited revenge tale, made out to be Y2K’s answer to Death Wish, where the good guys go around extracting revenge, baddies get killed and justice is kind of served, without their being any grey area in between. And because of that, the movie is an ugly piece; one that doesn’t try to make any smart messages about life, humanity, justice, death, or violence, but instead, just wants to see people kill one another in bloody, incredibly gory ways.

Can there be some fun in that?

Sure, there can be! Director James Wan, who has now become something of a godsend for horror flicks, actually does a solid job as director here, because he lets a lot of the action speak for itself. He doesn’t get in the way by jilting around the camera, nor does he try to make it “about anything”; with this kind of material, you’d almost wish that Wan at least attempted to make this about something more than just plain and simple blood-stained revenge, but oh well. The fact remains that, when the action is on-screen, it’s quite riveting and exciting to watch.

Take, for instance, a near-20-minute sequence in which Bacon’s character has a chase sequence with the villains of the story. What starts off of as a conventional run through the streets, eventually turns into something intense, unpredictable, and most importantly, exciting. Wan uses a few camera-tricks here and there to make it seem like nothing you’ve ever seen before and well, it works. Because the rest of the movie doesn’t try to get in the way, these small, brief instances of style from Wan are fine enough because they show that he does care to some degree about the material.

However, when the action is gone, dead and off the screen, Wan loses Death Sentence.

There’s no doubting the fact that Death Sentence is just a trashy, gory and downright grueling B-movie, however, at the same time, there’s no denying the fact that it also takes itself very seriously and at least attempts to try and be more meaningful than it is. Wan loves the action and violence and wants to solely focus on that, which is fine, but because there’s an actual story here, it all feels a slight bit uneven. Whereas the story wants to have its say about what’s right, what’s wrong, and what’s sort of “okay” with the world today, Wan just wants to see people get killed for the sake of being killed because, well, their bad people and they probably deserve it anyway. Once again, I’m not trashing on Wan for giving bad people some disturbing deaths, to try and have us feel bad, or at the very least, upset that we’re entertained by watching this, is silly.

During meeting said heartless thugs.

During meeting said heartless thugs.

Wan knows that he wants us to all stand-up, cheer and root for Bacon as he takes out all of his revenge on these thugs, so why not enjoy it while we can? It may be vile and upsetting, but isn’t that sort of the point? Violence isn’t supposed to be this pretty, beautiful thing that’s just around in ordinary life – it’s supposed to be ugly, sad, and scary, regardless of who is involved with the violence. Wan gets the ugliness of the violence right, but when he tries to put the lens on everything else, it seems like he’s confused to which movie he’s making, or just what he’s trying to say.

Then again, he’s got Kevin Bacon to rely on, so he’s not all that left alone.

And as Nick Hume, Bacon is as good as he can be, given the script and material he has to work with. Nick doesn’t have much development beyond “sad, but vengeful daddy-figure”, but Bacon gives it all he’s got, whenever he’s not kicking people’s asses because he’s ticked-off and not going to take it anymore. Garrett Hedlund shows up as one of thug’s older brothers, who basically becomes the arch-rival of Bacon’s and, well, he tries. What’s interesting about Hedlund and his career is that even though he’s been around forever, it’s only just now that it seems like he’s hit his stride and gotten to really show some charm in these movies.

Back in 2007, it appears like Hedlund was confused with every role he took; some relied on him to just be annoying and whiny, whereas others relied on him to be somewhat sinister. It’s an odd mix-and-match that he had to play around with, which is why his performance here can get to be pretty laughable at times. However, it seems as if everything has been looking up for Hedlund and I hope that stays.

For his sake, at least.

Consensus: Wan definitely knows his way around an action scene or two, but Death Sentence also tries to be so much more than just another bloody, gritty revenge tale, which is its biggest problem.

5 / 10

After meeting said heartless thugs.

After meeting said heartless thugs. What a transformation!

Photos Courtesy of: Head in a Vice

Advertisements

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015)

Another YA adaptation down, plenty more to go.

After she was attacked by a brainwashed Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Katnis Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is fed up and ready to take action against President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Meaning, that it’s time for war to get going and it’s going to be Katnis the one spearheading it. And once again, it becomes clear that a lot of what Katnis does or says, is all planned out from the beginning with Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) constantly working behind the scenes, testing and working with every maneuver Katnis takes. Regardless though, there is a war to be fought, which leads Katnis, as well as the rest of her trusted soldiers for the cause, to head straight to District 2 and then the Capitol itself for one last fight to take down Snow and his tyrannical reign. However, as expected, Snow is more than up to the task of taking on this band of soldiers, while also proving that he may be the more powerful force after all. But there’s also something else that’s a bit fishy about this situation and it has less to do with Snow, as much as it may have to do with those that Katnis aligns herself with in the first place.

Will miss him.

Will miss him.

Finally, after three years, four movies, and plenty of money, the Hunger Games film franchise is coming to an end. In ways, it’s kind of bittersweet; while none of the films have ever astounded me, they’ve been plenty better than all those other young adult novel adaptations that come out every few months or so. Granted, considering the company that’s kept in that genre, that may not be saying much, but still, it’s worth noting that each and everyone of these movies have all done some neat, interesting things with a plot and source material that could have easily been the most melodramatic, boring piece of crud since Bella and Edward started hookin’ up in the forest.

Still, what makes the Hunger Games, the franchise, so special, is that it’s the kind of YA adaptation that plenty of people can actually enjoy. Of course, the target audience for this will continue to devour and adore it until the day they die, but so many other people, who may not think that this is “their thing”, may find something to be interested by here. There’s the romance for all the screaming fan-girls in the crowd; there’s the violence for the boyfriends who get dragged to them; there’s the high-production values for the film-fanatics; and most importantly, there’s political messages and ideas for those who still believe that we’re being spied on by the government, at this very second.

They’re not wrong, but still.

And with Mockingjay – Part 2, it really does feel like, not just the end, but the greatest hits of what this story had to offer, but seemed to lose sight of over the past two movies. All of the elements that have made the past films work, are still here, but now, there’s so much more emotion, so much more power, and most of all, so much more feeling that has you realize, “Holy hell. This truly is the last time we may ever see these characters on the screen again.” It’s definitely the same feeling everyone had watching Deathly Hallows – Part 2, as well as most other finales, but here, it feels done just right.

There’s a greater deal of suspense and tension in the air, which definitely helps this movie out. Though I haven’t read any of the books (I actually tried and then I picked up a copy of the Corrections and the rest is, as they say, history), it’s pretty simple and easy to predict just who’s going to survive by the end of the movies, and who is going to bite the dust. Here, however, because this is the last movie, there’s a sense in the air that we don’t know who’s going to live, who’s going to die, and just who’s life is going to be completely ruined forever.

Even way after the credits end.

This is all some incredibly grim and bleak stuff that the movie’s dealing with, but it all surprisingly works with the rest of the tone. Everything before Katnis and her fellow soldiers get out onto the war-field, everything’s slow, meandering and plodding, to say the least; in fact, it had me worried that we were just getting left-over scenes from Part 1, which, in and of itself, was already a pretty lame movie, so why would I want to be reminded of it? But after all of the emotions are exchanged, the guns start coming out, explosions start happening, and characters, well-developed or not, believe it or not, start dropping like flies. There’s characters you may expect to perish, whereas there may be some you don’t – either way, it’s hard not to watch when these characters are all getting themselves into more and more dangerous situations as they parade along to find and kill Snow.

Will kind of, sort of, maybe miss him.

Will kind of, sort of, maybe miss him.

It’s all action-packed, of course, but it’s also incredibly compelling that makes you feel something for these characters probably more so than before. Katnis is, as usual, a bad-ass, but here, we really do get a chance to see her true personality, heart and soul shine; so much has been made in the past two movies where Katnis is, basically, just an image and nothing else. However, with her fourth-outing as Katnis, Jennifer Lawrence shows that she’s still able to find some new ways to breath fresh life into this character. Does she seem a bit bored? Yeah.

But I guess that’s what happens when you’re the highest-paid actress in Hollywood.

And everybody else is fine, too. The ensemble here is so stacked by now that, honestly, it feels like a shame they aren’t all given monologues to deliver and run rampant with, but so be it. In any other film, this cast would have absolutely made any movie a near-masterpiece, but because this is a Hunger Games movie, it’s less about them, and more about the spectacle.

Which, like I’ve said before, isn’t a bad thing. These movies, especially this one, have all done great jobs at balancing-out all the different aspects it takes to make this story interesting to watch and think about. The last-half of this movie definitely deals with that in a smart, but nearly shocking way that’s sure to surprise a whole lot of people who don’t know what to expect. But still, it works because the world that this movie has created, right from the very get-go, is one that may look all bright and shiny from the outside, but once you dig a bit deeper, is downright sadistic and disturbing. Such is the case with the real world, too, I guess.

But hey, we’ll miss you Katnis.

*Whistle-salute sound*

Consensus: Surprisingly grim, exciting and most of all, emotional, Mockingjay – Part 2 isn’t just the final installment of the franchise, but also the best one, proving just what sorts of wonders it was able to work, despite the target audience and what’s generally expected of stories such as these.

8 / 10

And, oh yeah. Will totes miss her.

And, oh yeah. Will totes miss her.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Patriot (2000)

Ah. The good old days of when people could actually trust in Mel Gibson to save the day.

During the American Revolution in 1776, Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson), a veteran of the French and Indian War, declares that he will not fight in a war that is not his own. However, his oldest son (Heath Ledger) thinks differently and decides to enlist himself. Though Benjamin is upset with this decision, he knows that it is up to his son to make his own decisions and to be able to live with them, just as he has done with his own. But one fateful night, his son comes back, bloody, beaten-up, battered, and in need of some shelter; Benjamin, obviously, gives it to him, thinking that this will be the last time his son sets out for battle ever again. But Benjamin is proven wrong when, early the next morning, the British come looking for him and want to take his son away. Obviously, Benjamin is against this, as well as the rest of his family, which is when one of his young sons is shot and killed. This is when Benjamin decides that it’s time to quit being a pacifist and to pick up his sword, his gun, and his tomahawk, in order to extract some revenge, the good, old-fashioned way, baby!

Evil.

Evil.

Obviously, seeing as how this is a film from Roland Emmerich, I wasn’t expecting there to be any sort of complexity involved with the occasion. However, what’s different about the Patriot, apart from most of Emmerich’s other movies, is that it seems like he’s actually trying to make this an emotionally-gripping, detailed-story about how one man fought for the love and honor of his family, even when all the odds were stacked-up against him. This, on paper, all sounds heartfelt and kind of sweet, but the way in which it plays out?

It’s the furthest thing from.

For one, as soon as Gibson’s Benjamin Martin picks up his tomahawk, it’s go time right from there. People are shot, decapitated, split-open, spit-on, bled-out, and all sorts of other lovely actions involved with war. To be honest, I’m not one to back away from a movie that contains an awful lot of violence (especially when the violence is as graphic as it is in a big-budgeted blockbuster such as this), but there’s something here that feels incredibly off about the whole movie, that put a sour taste in my mouth.

Because, to be honest, it doesn’t seem like Emmerich gives much of a hoot about whether or not Benjamin actually feels fulfilled when every Redcoat is dead and gone away with; he cares more about how many people get killed, and in how many ways that make people go, “Aww yeah!”, or “Ooh!”. You can’t hate Emmerich for wanting to please his audience, but you can hate him for trying to pass all of that death and destruction with something resembling a peaceful; it’s just stupid and feels ill-written.

But, if I did have to rate this movie as a summer blockbuster, it’s an okay one.

It sure as hell did not at all need to be nearly three-hours, but considering the huge budget it has to work with, it’s nice to see that, at one time at least, Hollywood was willing to put all of their money into a history epic that featured as much gritty and raw violence as a single season of the Sopranos. Though the violence is oddly thrown in there with an inspirational message about standing up for your rights and taking down those who take what means most to you, it’s still effective; through the many war-sequences, we get a certain feel for just how dangerous and hellish the battlefield was, without any bullshit thrown in there.

It’s literally just blood being shed, lives being lost, and more disturbing memories for the generations to come. If anything, that’s as deep and as far as the Patriot is willing to go with any life-affirming message. For the most part, it is, like I said, concerned with just showing how many people can get killed, in all sorts of graphic ways that may, or may not please people.

Naive.

Naive.

Depends on who you are, I guess.

Though the movie tries to dig deep into Benjamin Martin’s psyche, eventually, it just stops and allows for Mel Gibson to do the leg-work for them. Which was obviously a smart idea, because even though Gibson seems to be, once again, playing another man on the search for getting justice and revenge for the loss of a loved-one (see Braveheart and/or Mad Max), the role still fits him like a glove that it doesn’t matter how old it seems for him to be playing. He has that perfect balance of being just vulnerable enough to make you think that the odds could topple over him, as well as being just mean and vicious enough to make you think he could kill whoever he wanted, how he wanted to, and whenever he saw fit. It’s actually quite scary, but it’s the role Gibson’s worked well for as long as he’s been acting and it’s only gotten more dramatic as he’s gotten older.

A lot of other people show up here and seem to be trying on the same level as Gibson, but they’re sadly tossed-away once the movie decides it doesn’t have time for them to stretch their wings out. The late, great Heath Ledger, Rene Auberjonois, Joely Richardson, and Chris Cooper all seem to have shown up, ready for work, but they don’t have anything worthwhile to do. After all, they’re in a Roland Emmerich movie, and when was the last time when of them was actually about the solid performances on-display?

No seriously – when was that? Cause I sure as hell don’t remember!

And the main reason why I didn’t include the likes of Tom Wilkinson and Jason Isaacs in that last paragraph, is because they are sadly given the roles as “the British” here, which means they play, either, nonsensical idiots, or blood-loving savages. It would make sense why the British would have a problem with this movie to begin with, but it’s made all the worse by the fact that two immensely talented actors like Isaacs and Wilkinson were given roles, so limited in their development and scope, that even they couldn’t save them. Sure, they went through the motions and collected the nice, meaty paychecks, but is it really all that worth it?

Consensus: As a summer blockbuster, the Patriot is more violent and bloodier than you’d expect it to be, but also happens to be a Roland Emmerich movie, which means it’s basically all of that, and hardly any depth beyond.

5 / 10

Heroic.

Heroic.

Photos Courtesy of : Super Marcey, Rob’s Movie Vault, Popcorn for Breakfast