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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: The Hurt Locker

Rocket Science (2007)

Think of it as the younger-son of The King’s Speech. Minus all of the royalty.

Reece Thompson plays Hal Hefner, a 15-year-old high-school student with a minor yet socially alienating (and painful) disability: He stutters uncontrollably. He soon finds a light at the end of the tunnel with his disability when a brainy female classmate (Anna Kendrick) cons him into being apart of the debate-team. Hal accepts, but finds problems when these two actually hook-up and start to question that maybe there’s something more between them, or maybe not. It’s all confusion in a high-school setting.

Oh, teenagers.

Take with it what you will, I was actually apart of the Debate Club when I was in high-school for a good year or so. Then, I switched schools, and ultimately lost my love and passion of debating. I still do it from time-to-time when people want to have arguments like, “Avatar or Hurt Locker?“, “Social Network or King’s Speech?”, or my favorite, “Artist or not the Artist?” Yep, that’s about the only type of arguments/debates I seem to have nowadays, but I don’t think even mentioning this slice of my life has anything to do with this review or this movie, because this movie is as much about being part of the Debate Club as much as this blog is about food.

Although I do make some references here and there.

Most indies that play out in the same vein like this, all try too hard. They have a certain bit of quirks that they are way too pleased with, love to show off, and never stop reminding us of. It can get quite annoying after awhile and that’s what has usually come to plague such directors like Jared Hess, Wes Anderson, and even Quentin Tarantino so much in the years. The last subject I never have a problem with, but for those first two? Eh, sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. It all depends on the context of the story and what it brings to the table. That’s the problem that writer/director Jeffrey Blitz has here.

Too focused in on trying to hide that boner of his.

Too focused in on trying to hide that boner of his.

Blitz apparently took a lot of the material for this flick, from his own adolescence and it shows, because the movie rings very true to what the high school life is really all about. Granted, this isn’t really a movie that takes place in high school and shows you all of the cliques, relationships, friendships, clubs, teachers, lunch ladies, so on and so forth, but just shows the type of kids that go to it and what they think about, whether they are in class or not. Blitz nails down what it’s like to start growing-up, starting to realize that there is a world out there, larger than you even imagined, and start to question everything that you’ve believed in, prior to your next chapter in life. It’s a lot harder than it sounds, but it’s the type of idea that Blitz captures well.

However, where this movie loses itself in is trying way, way too hard to win you over with it’s crazy and wacky quirks. That’s bad because nobody likes when a person tries to show-off what they can do, how many times, and how well they can do it, but what’s even worse is that this movie was really winning me over. It’s not like I went into this movie, was totally taken aback by all of the quirky-humor and automatically made up my mind that this was going to be shit, but it was the exact opposite. I ultimately fell for it’s quirks and even realized that maybe I could get past it all with a sweet story, and an attention to character. But nope.

The film wanted to have it the other way.

Sometimes it’s clever, sometimes it’s not. But overall, it’s just bothersome to see in a movie like this, especially when you know the movie has so much more promise then what it’s actually giving us. Maybe a bit more drama would have narrowed things down for us, or maybe a teeny, tiny-bit more attention to the plot would have helped, but with a film like this that is so pleased with what it has to say or do, you kind of lose the point. And you can totally tell that this movie was trying to tell an important-fact of stuttering and how a person can get through it with time, patience, and determination, but they even sort of make that a joke by the end. It’s still sweet, but does make fun of the wrong things if you think about it. Okay, enough of this.

Back to the goods, baby.

Evil woman.

The determined eyes of a monster.

Newcomer Reece Thompson is really good as Hal Hefner, and does a magnificent job at keeping up his stutter the whole time. That may sound like a terrible thing to say about a character who has a real problem, that real people have to deal with, but it’s the truth: Keeping a consistent stutter must be a pretty hard job. That’s why it’s so great to see this kid pull it off with flying colors, but he’s not all about losing his train of thought, he’s actually more than that. Hal Hefner is a good character because he reminds all of us, a little bit ourselves. He’s young, rebellious, trying to make sense of the world, falling in-love for the first-time, and will stop at nothing to keep that feeling of love and tranquility in place.

Anna Kendrick is just about a household name by now, but people don’t remember when she was just a young, small girl, in a little indie where she got to not only show off her charm, but her comedic-timing as well. Kendrick is awesome at being able to show us how smart and perky a character like hers can be, but also how sinister underneath it all. You never know whether or not to trust this character and all of the hope that she gives to sweet, little old Hal, but you feel Kendrick’s a presence on-screen, and she keeps you watching the whole time.

Makes sense why she’s the star she is now.

Consensus: Rocket Science is maybe way too pleased with itself at times, but also benefits from smart, funny insights into growing up and high-school life.

7 / 10

Oh yeah, and he's a nerd too. Just adding insult to injury there, kid.

Oh yeah, and he’s a nerd too. Just adding insult to injury there, kid.

Photos Courtesy of: Thecia.Com.Au

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Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Osama’s dead! Now it’s time for Hollywood to take advantage!

The film is a chronicle of the decade-long hunt for the al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden following the September 11 attacks, and his ultimate-death at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs in May 2011.

Unless you have been living under a cave for the past years (sort of like Osama himself), then you’ll probably already know how this story ends. People get on the look-out for Osama, find some tip-offs, locate his living quarters, send a search and destroy team, and basically, destroy him and everybody else that was practically in there.

After a decade of anger, frustration, sadness, paranoia, and a great deal of questions left unanswered, we, as a country, finally got what we wanted ever since those fateful hours of 9/11: we killed the son-of-a-bitch that was to be blamed for all of it. If you like to look at humanity in the eyes that every person made in God’s eyes are equal and judged the same, but if you look at it from another pair of eyes, you’ll start to realize that this was a piece of shit that deserved to die, deserved to be stuck in-hiding half of his life, and better yet, deserved to be killed the way he was. In my opinions, no matter how brutal or vicious, I feel like the guy got-off a bit easy with a couple of shots to the dome (apparently) and no torture whatsoever, when this is also the same guy that killed over 3,000 innocent people in just one day. Yeah, in case you couldn’t tell by now, I’m rooting for America on this one and I usually don’t get all this “hurrah! hurrah!”, over being a patriot of my country, but there’s just something about the idea of finding the person that was responsible for so many deaths and broken hearts in one day, killing him, and showing him, as well as his followers, what the ‘eff is up with the good, olde U.S. of A. I hate to sound all lame-ass and cliche, but damn, was I proud to be an American after seeing this movie.

No, I did not just spoil the movie's ending with this image.

No, I did not just spoil the movie’s ending with this image.

This also really surprised the hell out of me as well, mainly because I wasn’t expecting feelings like this to pop-up, after expecting this to be Kathryn Bigelow’s big, follow-up to The Hurt Locker, a war movie in which, it seemed like the theme was very much against the war, rather than creating a love-letter to those who fight for our safety and freedom, day-in and day-out. It’s not like Bigelow went full-throttle at the army’s throats and showed them how much of dirty and despicable bastards they can truly-be, but instead, showed them more as a bunch of people that have problems, just like you or me. It was a nice movie, a nice war movie, and a very nice movie with a smart message to-boot, but that’s not the film I’m reviewing here.

The movie I am reviewing instead is this one, Zero Dark Thirty. Up until a couple of days ago where I heard this movie has been destroying film festival award shows, I wasn’t really all that amped-up to see this flick. Yeah, we all know the story about Bin Laden, we all know the cook gets shot, and yes, we all know that people did a lot to figure-out just where, how, and when this guy hid for so long. It was an obvious story that just seemed like it was going to be the more modern, war-version take on a “based on factual events” story like Argo. However, slowly but surely, this movie really started to creep-up and find it’s way into my mind and have me very, very excited to see what was going to go down and after awhile, I got to thinking: I didn’t really know all that much about the whole Bin Laden-killing as it was.

Yeah, I knew how it began and how it ended, which is pretty much enough for some people, but being the type of guy that likes reasons, explanations, and understandings to most of the stories that I find-out to actually be true, I knew there was more than meets-the-eyes and that is exactly what you can expect from this movie. Right from the start, you know you are in for a thrill-ride that is full of suspense, espionage, exposition, clues, hints, interrogations, arguments, conversations, torture, and best of all, action. This movie basically has it all and even though the first 20 minutes seems to go a bit over-the-top with the whole “torture” idea, it soon builds into something that doesn’t need to have things exploding or people being shot to keep you interested and riveted; it just uses conversations, and wonderful conversations at-that.

Seeing how this whole investigation got from Point A, to Point B, is pretty damn interesting, but what’s even more interesting is how much feels like it’s on the line in this flick. When these characters are out searching for Bin Laden, where’s he hiding, and who the hell helped him with terrorist attacks, we feel as if we are there searching with them as well, with just enough terror and suspense as you could imagine. I knew how this was going to turn-out and if you are the biggest-idiot on the face of the Earth and don’t know by now, well then, you do too. It’s a real-life investigation that just so happened to turn-out successful  but getting to that point where everybody is happy, jolly, and feeling victorious, is a real, fucking ride that will take you all-over-the-place in terms of emotions and thoughts. Actually, maybe saying it will fuck with your mind is the wrong-impression to give you, but if you like a thriller where you have no idea what’s going to happen next and like to have your palms sweaty for about 95% of the actual-movie, then this is the type of thriller for you that will stick with you just as much as it did to me.

Even though she could order a team of highly-trained professionals to come and kill me in a matter of seconds with no traces whatsoever, I'd still try my hardest for her heart.

Even though she could order a team of highly-trained professionals to come and kill me in a matter of seconds with no traces whatsoever, I’d still try my hardest for her heart.

And as for the rest of that 5%, well, I sort of left that out, mostly because it seems like more of this flick is about getting the facts straight and telling it like it is, which was all fine and dandy with me for the most part, especially because all of it seemed to be pretty legitimate. As with most of these movies that take on an actual, real-life investigation that had to deal with the U.S. government, there’s always a lot of speculation as to what is real, what is dramatized, and what is fake. For the most-part, after all of the controversies this flick has seem to be dealing with as of-late, I can easily state that most of what you will see and hear here, is in-fact told in the way it went-down. Of course not every scene was filled with as much witty-lines and moments of humor that this movie’s scripts throws in there to great-effect, but the ideas, the hints, the clues, the thoughts, and the actions, all seem to be very reasonable and I never really found myself scratching my head as to how the hell somebody could pull something-off like this, no matter how much leverage she may have had. However, it’s less of a history-lesson and more of a thriller that shows you what went-down, how it went-down, and what exactly was going through the minds of the people behind all of the actions. Some good, some bad, some are just not worth giving a fuck about but at the end of the day, Osama was killed and everybody was happy and joyful together. Yippie-Kay-Yay!

Featuring a cast that doesn’t really have any real, blockbuster names to attract an audience to a flick that already seems like it may have a bit of a struggle with making moolah around this time of the year, definitely seems like a risk that Bigelow is willing to take, and a risk I want to watch her take, more and more now, especially after what I saw what she could do with an amazing cast like this. After having what is essentially the greatest year of her freakin’ life so-far (other than that one, beautiful summer where she went to camp and become a woman for the first-time, I don’t know, just guessing that it’s what all girls have memories of), Chastain builds on top of that with a stellar-performance that is probably the best she has given so far, mainly because her character goes through so many changes throughout the whole flick, but yet, they all feel real.

Ahhhh, beautiful Pakistan.

Ahhhh, beautiful Pakistan.

When we first see Chastain as Maya, we see her as soft-spoken, scared, and a bit of wimpy-like girl that can’t handle the sight of so much blood and torture that she sees within the first 20 minutes, but after awhile, she gets used to it and realizes that maybe, just maybe, she, as well as the rest of the CIA, needs to get their shit together and find this summbitch who caused all of this trouble in the first-place. Chastain is strong-as-hell in this role and you can totally tell that as time continues to go-on for her and for this mission, that the look on her face and her eyes, begin to change and get more and more disrupted by the anger and frustration that sort of domes come with the job of being a very-skilled member of the CIA and handling a mission like locating, and taking-out a top-terrorist. Every look she gives another character in this movie feels deserved and she is such a strong female-character that you are able to stand-by, trust, and feel like she is literally a nice human-being that only wants what’s right for her, her own well-being, and her own country that she fights for day on a daily-basis. No surprise whatsoever that this gal is getting so much damn Oscar buzz for this and if she does win (which she just might), I will have no objection or angry-tirade whatsoever. Hell, after all that she did last year, the woman deserves it. But please, somebody just give her my number!

Her co-star from this year’s earlier-release, Lawless, Jason Clarke has the next best role as another member of the CIA, but yet, has a way different job than her. See, Clarke’s character is a guy that has to deal with the torturing and question of their Iranian prisoners and as hard as it may be to watch some of the actual torture that does go-down in the flick (mainly within the first 20 minutes, just to let you know how crazy, wild and disturbing this movie is going to be), it’s even harder to watch a character like this have to suffer from doing something that literally makes him a miserable human-being. Clarke is a guy I never really payed attention-to in the past, mainly because I never thought he really needed to shine in the spotlight, he’s just always been there, but here, every chance the guy gets, he absolutely nails it in showing us how a character that does something so vicious and violent for a living, can actually still stay sane and normal in the outside world around him. If it wasn’t for all of the buzz that has already been surrounding every-other aspect of this damn movie, then I would definitely have to say that Clarke would be up for an Oscar nom., but as for right now, I think I may just have to wait and keep my, Minnesota Fats-like fingers crossed.

"Seriously, since you're night-vision doesn't work, you brought a candle?"

“Seriously, since you’re night-vision doesn’t work, you brought a candle instead? Do you not know what we are here to do!?!?”

Even though Clarke and Chastain may be the real stands-out of the flick, you know, the ones you really remember when all is said and done, they sure as hell aren’t the only ones that give solid performances worth-mentioning. Mark Strong shows up in a couple of scenes, and absolutely hits the high-rising emotions in this flick, and hits them hard, especially with an introduction-scene that is one of the best he has ever done in his entire career. Trust me, just ask the fellas I saw this movie with. They’ll probably tell you I couldn’t stop quoting his damn scene and with good reason: it’s memorable, important, and best of all, perfect. And no, for all of you people out there wondering: Mark Strong does not play Osama Bin Laden, regardless of what his past-decisions for characters may have you think otherwise. Kyle Chandler seems to be having a lot of fun playing, once again, another member of the CIA that seems to always have the right, witty answers to every solution, but yet, still can’t keep an eye on his own shit and even get the chance to cover his own-ass. Chandler’s been doing some real splendid work as of late, and I think this flick is only going to prove that point a whole lot more. James Gandolfini also shows-up in a scene or two as the main, higher-up of the CIA that always has to give final-word to the president and even though it’s not a glamorous-role for the guy, it’s not one that shows how much of a fat-slob he has become, either. He’s just a normal dude, with a very demanding job.

However, these three are the only three I could really think-of off the top of my head and say exactly why I liked them so much here, because everybody else, I kid you not, is as great as they should be. Every tiny, little-role that Bigelow needs filled-up, she fills it up with a great actor/actress that gives their all and might into scene that sometimes doesn’t mean a shit in the long-run, but after it’s over, you are still left remembering it because of how well-acted it truly was. The only bad apple out of this whole cast that really seems like he may have been trying a bit too hard was Chris Pratt as the main, Navy Seal that goes into Bin Laden’s cave. I love Pratt to death and I think he is an absolute riot as Andy Dwyer, but seriously, you can’t go from a character that’s all about being a man-child, who is dumb, big, and slow, in terms of understanding the things around him, and go right to a character that practically slimes his way around and about Bin Laden’s head-quarters. Don’t get me wrong, I love Pratt and he’s not even that bad here, but he just seems like he should be off, doing something more comedic that would use him well.

Despite all of this big and bad jibberoo about why the movie works and how, I can only imagine the real question on your mind: what about the whole Bin Laden-shooting? Well, without giving too much away or even letting you know of what fully goes down, I’m just going to state that Bigelow handles it in the most understandable, most respectful, and most perfect way that makes you realize how far everybody has come to this point and in a way, what is to come of us next, not only as a country lead by an army, but as humans living in the country as well. Bigelow handles this last-sequence where all of the Navy Seals find their-ways to Bin Laden as if we are actually there, right next to them, as they make all of the tough shots and calls, and it’s probably the most exciting and suspenseful, piece of 30 minutes at the theaters I have spent in a very, very long-time. And mind you, I am talking about the whole Bin Laden-shooting. Something that I actually have prior knowledge to knowing that it did actually happen!

"What by the term, "Casual Friday", do you not understand?"

“What by the term, “Casual Friday”, do you not understand?”

Yup, it surprised the hell out of me too, but if there is anything that surprised the hell out of me, is how happy and proud I was to be in a country where most humans have the rights to do whatever they want, however they want it, and mainly because we all are humans, no matter what eyes you look through. Now, I’m not saying that it’s right for people to do anything they want, whenever they want because they’re humans (last Frdiay’s shootings come to mind), but for people that can choose between right-and-wrong, and are given a set of ideas as to what is right for the world and everybody else living in it, it’s a beautiful country we live in and it’s one that makes me happy, just knowing that I am being protected by people who are days and days away from me, but yet, still continue to keep me safe at-night, while I sit here, half-naked, drink a Mountain Dew, and talk about a movie that’s all about them. Yes, thank you all for saving my life day-after-day, please don’t stop either, because I really like not having to look over my shoulder every five seconds.

Consensus: Some historical facts and inaccuracies may always be up for discussion here in Zero Dark Thirty, but what cannot be up for discussion is how entertaining, enlightening, smart, provocative, well-acted, and perfectly-performed this flick truly is and I really do see it winning a crap-load of Oscars, come February of 2013.

9/10=Full Price!!

Looks like the perfect cover for a video-game version of the movie.

Looks like the perfect cover for a video-game version of the movie.

Near Dark (1987)

The 80’s weren’t cool, but vampires were. That’s more than I can say about this decade.

A young man named Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) lives in a small midwestern town and becomes involved with a family of nomadic American vampires. Since he’s along for the ride, Caleb has to learn to love, kill, and also stay alive as a vampire.

Whenever you hear people bring-up director Kathryn Bigelow’s name, they usually associate it with The Hurt Locker and the next, Afghan-War-setting movie coming-out, Zero Dark Thirty. Yes, the gal has been keeping her self busy lately and definitely has been impressing everybody out there with what she can do but little do people actually know, is that she’s actually made a crap-load of films, way, way before she even got nominated for an Oscar. Some people probably don’t know this, but Bigelow actually took a chance at making a vampire flick, and it’s something I wish she did today to make us forget about all the Bella’s, Jacob’s, and Edward’s. Although, it doesn’t really matter anyway because they’re gone baby! Woo-hoo!

Taking elements of a western, vampire, road, and horror movie and putting them altogether in one movie, makes it seem a bit like a bad idea but somehow, Bigelow makes it work. Her keen-eye for the beautiful scenery of the American Southwest is definitely something that makes this feel a bit Western-y, but then you add in all of the creepy, horror-elements of these vampires, the things they do to survive, and how they don’t give a shit who or what it is that they kill. I don’t want to sell this film like a scary movie, because it really is not, but what it does work on is tension and being as gruesome to watch as it can possibly be.

"If you think we look bad, you should see what the other guy looks like. Especially his neck."

“If you think we look bad, you should see what the other guy looks like. Especially his neck.”

Bigelow has definitely nailed-down the true essence of how to build suspense in one film, but also in certain-scenes as well and there’s a scene here that seems like the first-instance of it. There’s this really cool scene where the whole family goes into this bar, with the intentions of drinking some people’s blood, and realizing that they have a somewhat packed-house, so all they do is basically have a great time with it, kill people left-and-right, terrorize the shit out of the place, and have a smile on their faces the whole time. It’s probably the best scene in the whole movie, and one that kept me tense the whole time because I never knew what was going to happen next, how, or who was going to be possibly killed-off next. To say that this flick is a horror movie would not be categorizing it in the right way, it’s more of a thriller, that just so happens to have vampires doing normal, vampire-like things like biting people, causing havoc, and sucking people’s blood. You know? The finer things in life when you’re a vampire.

However, this one scene may be the best of the whole film, but also just so happens to be the killer of it as well (pun intended, I guess). See, the problem that I had with this flick that so many other people probably didn’t really pay-attention to because they like fun more than me, is that the movie doesn’t really feel like it has any real-spark driving the film along at steady, understandable-pace. For instance, the movie starts off pretty boring as we watch these two love-birds try and see who can get lucky by the end of the night, only to have the whole vampire twisteroo pop-up, and send things into a weird-spin that should feel like the film’s going to pick-up, but it somehow doesn’t.

"It's a blood-patch. What? It hasn't yet caught-on to humans?"

“It’s called a blood-patch. What? It hasn’t caught-on to human culture, yet?”

With the exception of a couple of scenes, especially the one in the bar that I just mentioned, everything else in this flick is pretty dull to the romance that never shows any signs of actual chemistry, let alone any “love” being involved whatsoever; to the corny, synth score from Tangerine Dream that just so happens to be in here for one reason and one reason only: it’s the 80’s and synths are apparently cool; to the explanation of how you can overcome this vampire disease, that made me think the creators of Daybreakers actually worked with some scientists; and finally, to the family full of nuts that I didn’t quite care about, mainly because they don’t ever seem to share any pure-moments of bonding because all they ever do together is kill, suck, and move. I would have loved this movie like every other fanboy out there in the world, but the film just lacked any sort of emotional, or compelling-drive to honestly reel me in as much as it wanted to.

Since it is the 80’s, you know that we have to have a crazy-ass performance from Bill Paxton, and that’s exactly what he delivers here as Severen. Paxton can play crazy, like no otha motha, and he shows that so well here and even steals a couple of the scenes he’s been given permission to take. Yeah, Paxton may be over-the-top, campy, and hamming-it-up like nobody’s business, but at least the guy was fun to watch and kept my attention off of the relatively lame and dull story, that just never seemed to catch-up with this guys energy.

The only instance of this kid's career being "on fire."

The only instance of this kid’s career being “on fire.”

Playing the leader of the group of vampires, is Lance Henriksen that really does have a sinister act and persona to him that makes you shiver, quiver, and feel a bit scared whenever he’s around. The guy’s got a presence that makes me wonder why he isn’t in more stuff, just absolutely scaring the shit out of more and more people, and trust me, with a voice like that, a guy can do damage to some people’s pants. The lovebirds that get stuck in the middle of all of this craziness and horror are played by Jenny Wright and Adrian Pesdar, and as much as they try their hardest to make us feel their love and cook something-up, nothing ever gets hot and heavy between one another and it just seems like another forced romance that’s supposed to move the plot along, despite us not believing in a single-lick of it. I can’t also forget to mention the annoying piece of shit kid-actor known as Joshua John Miller, who I mainly remember annoying the crap out of me in River’s Edge, and you know what? Not much changes here, either, as I still wanted to beat the shit non-stop out of this kid and just hope and pray nobody cares about his movie-career. I highly doubt anybody would care anyway, but still, I just couldn’t help my evil-thoughts at times during this movie.

Consensus: In a day and age where vampires are star-crossed lovers that are torn-apart due to sappy stories that we don’t care about, Near Dark is a fresh change-of-pace for the vampire movie-genre where they were taken more seriously, showed more gore, and most of all, allowed themselves to do the dirty deeds they were invented to do in the first-place: suck blood out of random people’s necks. It’s not perfect, but it’s nice to watch if you want to get over the whole Twilight-craze being over and done with….for now.

7/10=Rental!!

Was that seriously the only light source they had in that area?

Was that seriously the only light source they had in the area?

Halloween Horror Movie Month: 28 Weeks Later (2007)

Sadly, no signs of Cillian Murphy’s dong anywhere to be found here.

After a rage-virus ravaged through all of London, the U.S military attempts to take over and try to repopulate the city. Everything goes all fine and dandy until an outsider is let in, then it’s all back to normal for post-apocalyptic London.

Being as that 28 Days Later is not only one of my favorite horror movies of all-time, but also ranks up there as one of the scariest movies I have ever seen, this sequel definitely had a lot to live-up to in terms of scaring me, what it made me think, and how it made me feel. As many people do know, horror-movie sequels don’t seem to do so well in terms of sticking close to the source material but somehow, this flick does even though it definitely feels different without Jim or Selena anywhere to be found. I hope the virus didn’t get the best of them.

Anywho, instead of having Danny Boyle return to the director’s chair for this second-go around, director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo takes over and does a pretty nice job of keeping things promising in terms of mood and atmosphere. It’s pretty cool to see what actually happens when the rage-virus breaks through an already established city and how Juan Carlos keeps us awaiting for that impending doom to occur is what really kept me on-board. I must admit that this isn’t the first time I saw this flick, but it definitely surprised me with some of the scares and what Juan Carlos could do with a bunch of material that seemed to already be used before. However, instead of just trying his hardest to do a good Boyle-impersonation, Juan Carlos sticks to his guns and uses them to deliver a sense of destruction that made me still feel a little scared for my life.

Even though this film didn’t scare the pants off of me with it’s vision like the first one did, I still felt placed in a realistic, if a bit ambitious idea of the world we live in and what it would look like, especially after a catastrophic-event like a zombie break-out. Juan Carlos probably got the memo that more people wanted action, blood, guts, and gore from the first movie, and delivers on all of those accounts by giving us more, more, and more of that. It doesn’t feel needed for this type of story, but given the type of budget they’re working with here and the type of larger-scale they have to control, it feels deserved and works well rather than feeling cheap. The shaky-cam annoyed the hell out of me, but there isn’t much to see in these action moments other than zombies, people getting eaten alive, and a bunch of bullets and blood flying everywhere. So, after awhile, you get used to it and you pretty much get the gist that people and zombies are both getting off’d.

However, being the huge fan of the original that I am, I still can’t go by this flick without mentioning that this one just does not hold a candle to it, it just does not. I hate to make this “negative part of the review” all about my love for 28 Days and how it’s ten-times better than this movie, but it really is and it’s so hard to get by. The whole time I was watching the movie, I just kept uttering to myself, “Oh, Boyle did that better. See that part? Yeah, looked better with the HD-camera.” Maybe that’s a stingy-way to be with a sequel, but when something is obvious to me, hell, I’m going to point it out.

For instance, the underlining political-themes and ideas about the nature of human-beings that ran so rampant in the first-one, are barely anywhere to be found in this. The closest example I could find that connected the first-one to this one in terms of ideas, is the whole idea about how the army can be full of some sickos and I don’t think that really even counts. But for most movies, I can live without a bunch of political-themes and ideas if you give something else to grab-on to, but somehow, this film doesn’t even seem to have that either. All of the characters here really lack any type of development or real heart to them, to really have us root and care for them in the end. And even if we do root for them, it’s only because they’re human-beings and nobody wants to see their own kind get eaten alive by a bunch of rage-infected zombies. That’s the truth, Ruth.

But, when it all comes right down to it, the real-factor as to why this film pales in comparison to the original is that Juan Carlos just doesn’t have the artistic-vision like Boyle does. Boyle has such a real interest and idea for what it takes to make a beautiful scene in such an ugly and grim atmosphere, but it doesn’t really seem like Juan Carlos is all that concerned with that. That’s all fine and dandy, but it does make the picture seem a bit shallow in terms of what it’s trying to offer new and original to the already-tired zombie-genre.

There’s a couple of scenes here and there that sort of reminded me of a “Boyle-look” (that underground safe house scene scared the shit out of me), but nothing else to it. Even though Boyle produced this flick, I highly doubt the guy had a final say in what he thought was best for the final-product and it’s a real shame because this movie could have been filled with so much more brewing underneath the surface, rather than just a bunch of people running away from zombies. In a way, that’s how the zombie-genre is (people running away from zombies and whatnot), but what Boyle offered with 28 Days Later was new, and unlike anything we’ve ever really seen before, whereas this movie, brings the zombie-genre back to where it was taken away from in the first-place. I don’t want to say that I take points away from this movie for not being directed by Boyle, but it definitely goes to show you what a good director can do for your material, if he’s game for another sequel. Please Danny, do 28 Months Later, if it ever happens.

Before I go though, let me not forget to mention the performances in this movie that were all pretty good, except for the fact that some of the characters blew. Out of everybody in this whole cast, Jeremy Renner is the one who really shines as Sgt. Doyle, aka, the same role he would go on to play and get nominated for an Oscar for in The Hurt Locker. Renner just has this utter sense of coolness and warmth to his presence that it’s pretty easy to feel safe when you’re around him in the movie and his character’s motivations feel believable, even if everybody else around him feels like they just watched a Lifetime movie and felt like they wanted to give everybody a hug for no reason.

That’s what brings me around to everybody else in this film, as all of the other characters just don’t really do anything spectacular or show us anything worth really holding onto in the end. Take for instance, Robert Carlyle as Don, one of the guys who escapes a zombie-attack early on in the movie. This guy, from what we see in the beginning, is a rat-bastard who leaves his wife behind to get attacked by the zombies, but then feels sorry for what he did when she turns out to be alive. In all honesty, who the hell cares how this guy feels. There’s no real conviction to him, to the others around him, and when things start to go bad for him, I could care less and even he started to feel a bit shoe-horned in there by the end. Can’t tell you why he does, but the fact is that he does and it got on my nerves, considering Boyle would have never been all about that ish, regardless of if the character was played by Begbie. Oh, now that would have been nice. A good, ‘olde, Trainspotting-reunion in the middle of the zombie apocalypse  Not only do they have to fight-off heroin addiction, but zombies as well. I can already see it now…

Consensus: 28 Weeks Later is definitely one of the better horror movie-sequels out there due to it’s grim atmosphere and mood, but still pales in comparison to what Danny Boyle was able to do with the original and the lasting-effect it’s material it had on you, in terms of horror and emotion. Please come back for one last movie, Danny, please.

7.5/10=Rental!!

The Bourne Legacy (2012)

This guy can diffuse bombs. What can you do, Jason?

Everything that happened to Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), is pretty much all lost now and brought back onto to this new CIA agent, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner). He just so happens to be on the run, and everybody at Treadstone is going wild all over again because of this. Typical.

Many people have been dreading this film ever since the day that Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass both said, “no”, to doing another Bourne flick, let alone, another sequel when they ended it off so well with The Bourne Ultimatum. And as much as I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to this like as much as everybody else on the planet, I still got to give it to this franchise and say that it still has some steam left, even if it’s without the constant “crack-cam”. You heard it here first, people.

Writer/director Tony Gilroy (who worked on the early Bourne films) shows that he wasn’t really going for the same-old formula that somehow worked it’s magic, for three movies, but seem to be a little too tired for a fourth one. Instead, this guy gives us a pretty tense ride that may have you almost forget about Bourne, about half-way through (even though Gilroy brings him up about every 10 minutes, just by flashing his pictorial up on-screen). I will say that it does take it’s good-old time to get started up, but once the adrenaline starts picking-up, and the blood starts to flow, this film doesn’t seem to really want to stop, which I don’t think I ever wanted it to.

Since there is no “crack-cam” in this film, that means we can actually tell what’s going down in the action sequences, whether it be hand-to-hand brawls, knife-fights, guns-a-blasing battles, or the simple car-chase, you can actually see everything that’s going on and I have to say that’s a bit of a big-step up for this franchise, since it seemed like Greengrass used that a bit too much with the last entry. Did I miss some of the elements where we were practically on Damon’s tail as he was flying through ceilings and windows? Yes, but it wasn’t like I was in the corner sobbing over this, because I actually found myself to be having a lot of fun with what Gilroy did with this story and this action. Gilroy is a very talented film-maker and I would have never thought he’d be able to make such an exciting action-picture, let alone, a Bourne one.

But as fun and exciting as Gilroy made this film, there was still a lot of the conventions that we got from those Bourne films that came before this, and I thought since Gilroy seemed to be one-step ahead of the crowd that we wouldn’t get the same shit. Sadly, we did. Franka Potente-like damsel in distress? Check. Lots of undercover CIA dudes yelling at computer-screens? Check. Par-cor on buildings? Check. And my least favorite: top assassin out to kill target? Major check. I don’t know what it is about that last one convention that bothers me so much but it seems like it’s the one that they use in all of these flicks and think that it’s going to make us think differently about the fate of them or their target, but it never changes.

My next real beef with this film is how abruptly it ends, which bothered me more than anything else in this movie because I was having a real ball here. What I liked most about the last 30 minutes of this movie is how it just continued to build-up, and up, and up, until it finally just left me with one big-ass car chase through the streets of Manilla that is sure worth the price of admission alone. It also didn’t occur to me that this was actually, the last 30 minutes of the entire movie because once the story actually seems like it’s getting somewhere with itself, seems like it’s going to get better, and seems like Gilroy is really going to be pulling out all of the stops, that freakin’ song by Moby just kicks in and then we get the credits rolling. I honestly thought that this film would have gone on longer, and even though it’s the longest of the whole franchise with a time-limit of 135 minutes, it didn’t feel like that at all. In fact, it just whizzed right on by, which is not necessarily as much of a negative, as it is a positive, but I think about 20 more minutes would have made things a tad bit better for my taste. Then again, it’s just my taste and I’m a dick-head so don’t listen to me.

One element to this film that has people the most curious is how it will do without the presence of Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. The answer to that is, pretty fine, especially when you have Jeremy Renner playing a bad-ass character, that’s a bit different from Bourne in more ways than I expected. Right from the first couple of scenes, we see that this Aaron Cross guy is actually a bit more content with his line of work that he does, unlike Bourne, and actually remembers his past, unlike Bourne, as well. But he also has a lot of personality where we see him act a bit more talkative and jokey towards other people he meets and encounters, and it gives you a sense that this is a real guy, that is just caught-up in all of the wrong shit but he has no one else to blame but himself. This role is perfect for Renner because he not only gets to show-off, once again, how much of a tough-ass guy he can be, but also show that he can make any generic action-hero, seem a bit more complex just by adding a likable personality onto him. Renner was a great choice for Cross, and I actually look forward to seeing what he can do with this character in the near-future, if they ever give him that chance, that is.

Rachel Weisz is also perfect for the role of the scientist that Cross comes around to sweep her away from danger, Dr. Marta Shearing. Weisz is such a lovable actress that it makes it a lot easier to buy this very generic character that seems to be a staple in these types of thrillers, but the difference here is that this girl actually seems like she has real-feelings and the feelings she may, or may not have for Cross come out perfectly in their chemistry that I would like to see worked on in the future installments. Then again, it all depends my people. Edward Norton is fine as the main dude that is orchestrating this whole hunt for Cross because he does what he can with a guy that seems so two-dimensional, but it’s almost like I expected him to just lash-out at everyone, every chance he got. Maybe it’s just that I think Norton deserves better roles, in better movies sometimes, but I think he could have been used a lot better here and should have gotten just more than one scene to show his true colors. Also, was it me or did anybody else feel terribly distracted when Norton and Stacy Keach were in the same scene? I kept on getting flash-backs to Vineyard just kicking the shit out of Cameron Alexander and I think that’s what Norton’s character here would have benefited from in all honesty. If only Hollywood allowed to polish more scripts.

Consensus: The Bourne Legacy features fine performances from this ensemble, plenty of action that will excite, and offers us a new franchise that will hopefully meet up with it’s old one that came before it, but it’s also very similar to that old one and that déjà vu feeling may be a bit too much for some viewers, as it sort of was for me.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Hell and Back Again (2011)

And you thought ‘Call of Duty’ messed with your head.

In this unvarnished documentary set on the Afghan front line, U.S. Marine Sgt. Nathan Harris is wounded by Taliban machine-gun fire, then returns to his North Carolina home to grapple with the stress of civilian life.

After last year’s ‘Restrepo’ it seems like the Iraqi War has been the big subject for documentaries as of late, but don’t let that comparison fool you. This is still a great documentary in it’s own right but just not as good as that one, but then again, what else is?

Filmed and directed by Danfung Dennis, the film almost doesn’t seem real but sadly, is. The film constantly goes back-and-forth to show us Harris in the present life with his wife and struggling with trauma from the war, but then goes back to the crazy stuff he had to go through on the battlegrounds in the war. It’s almost like a odd mixture of ‘The Hurt Locker’ and an episode ‘True Life’, but it’s not as strange as it may sound. The way Dennis adds the war shots into the present-day, basically drowning out all of Harris’ other thoughts he may or may not be having which puts in this almost dream-like state that Harris himself is going through. It’s one of the very few documentaries that I have seen that really gets into the mind of its subject and it not only shows us the brutality of war in the battle-field but after as well, which isn’t something new or original to show or say but it’s done to great effect.

What’s so amazing about this flick is that the war sequences that Dennis catches are not only tense the whole way through but beautiful in a way that you keep telling yourself it’s all staged, until you finally open your eyes and realize that these guys could actually die at any moment. There’s one scene that sticks out in my mind where all of these soldiers are hiding from these bombs and the sun is going down in a very slow but hazy way, which is all beautiful until we realize that somebody has just been killed. Even though we do get to actually see that dead body it’s not done in a snuffy way by any means because it’s a real death that almost seems like it’s happening in a Terrence Malick flick. I know that may sound a little crazy but even I started to lose my grasp of what was real and what wasn’t.

I also liked the fact that Dennis doesn’t really try to go for any up-standing political message here. Instead, he just sort of shows us this experience, in the way it happened and it’s aftermath, and just lets the pieces fall from there. It’s nothing ground-breaking or innovative but it’s simple and intelligent film-making like that that gets people really appreciating a good documentary on something that could happen to just about any person in the world who goes off to the war. I hope I never have to experience any of this and I hope nobody else I know does either.

The main reason why this film is so interesting as it is, is mainly because of it’s subject, Sgt. Nathan Harris himself. The guy is genuinely a caring and kind dude that cares for his wife more than anything else in the whole wide world but he also shows a lot here that may make you think otherwise. He is constantly waving a gun around, has it in his hand, and always has it tucked underneath his mattress when he’s going beddy-bye. This guy obviously seems very messed up but it’s not in the way that it’s hard to watch, it’s more in the sympathetic way and that we want him to get better and realize that there is life beyond the war. The film also never exactly tells us whats happened to him or how he’s even doing. This just leaves it up to us to wonder and it’s not only his case that we have to worry about, it’s basically every single person coming back from the war as well.

Consensus: Although Hell and Back Again doesn’t really offer us anything new with its subject, it still gives us a real, harrowing, and sad glimpse into the life of a soldier who just can’t get past the fact that he may never be able to go back to the war again but somehow we find ways to keep on cheering him on hoping that he just gets better.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Restrepo (2010)

Now I’m betting ‘Call of Duty’ doesn’t look like so much fun to all of these teenagers.

Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm, teamed with photographer Tim Hetherington and spent a year embedded with the Second Platoon in Afghanistan, chronicling the hard work, fear and brotherhood that come with repelling a deadly enemy.

Anybody that watches a film about the war goes for a strong story, emotional wallop, cool action, and just pure entertainment. But when happens when you can get all of that in a war film that is not just real but something, this up close and personal.

Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger goes right inside of this terrible war zone where all of these guys’ lives are put at stake just about every second of every day. No matter how good of a film ‘The Hurt Locker’ or ‘Saving Private Ryan’ may be, they still don’t measure anywhere near the truth and this is what that film holds that is greater than any other war flick. Just about anything and everything that the soldiers do, the cameras are right there to capture it and it’s a real testament to how daring Hetherington and Junger were while making this film because there are some situations where they are not only put at risk of death, but they miss some pretty close bullets as well.

Another aspect of this flick that sort of seemed weird at first was how it sort of seems all-over-the-place. One scene we could be watching these guys talking about how they feel in an interview booth, the next scene they’re crying about one of their buddies just dead right in front of them, and then another scene pops up where they could be eating some din-din, messing with the cook’s titties and squeezing them. It may seem a little jumpy at times but there is still a whole lot of realism that puts you inside the lives of the soldiers that have to go through with this shit almost every day for a year and even longer.

Also, bonus points on not actually showing any of the dead peoples’ bodies or actual death footage because that would have probably just made it more like a snuff film and less of an actual documentary on these guys.

For most people, including myself, this is probably the closest I’ll ever get to experiencing being on the front-lines. However, what really got me was that there was just a constant feeling of dread that we could be listing to this guy talk about his loving family, and then the next moment, bullets are flying everywhere and he’s just about dead. The fact that these guys could still sleep knowing that they could be dead at any second really made me wonder just how the hell could they get any sleepy time whatsoever or even go back to the ‘burbs and get on with regular life. It’s like that scene in ‘The Hurt Locker’ where Jeremy Renner is in grocery shopping and he feels like a total alien to everything around him because he’s so used to the adrenaline rush of the war. It’s like that scene however when it comes to who portrays that better, it obviously has to go to this flick.

This film could have easily gone for straight-on politics but instead it’s all about the soldiers who fight for our country everyday, and it really was something else. Throughout the film, we get to know these guys for who they are, how they view death and life, and when they actually start talking about what they have experienced to fight for the country that they love, the sympathy will definitely start to swoon on in. These are real people, just like you and me and it’s really scary considering how much shit these guys have to go through but still at the end of the day be able to crack a smile and a joke. It’s gut-wrenching to watch these guys talk about their buddies that they lost in the field and what’s even worse is just how they are all able to do it with a smile, as if they fully haven’t realized that they just lost another friend, another human-being. Nobody in the whole world could ever relate or know what these guys actually go through, except maybe a vet, but even then, it was still devastating to watch.

In a world where the war is treated as if it was just an excuse for people to blow the heads off a whole bunch of Pakistanis, it was simply refreshing to get a gritty, realistic, and up-close look at the real horror that comes with being in the war. People have these unrealistic views of the war because of the trigger-happy generation we live in, but ‘Restrepo’ is not only a film that takes that whole view away from the general population, it would probably make people re-think. In a world where it seems like the Army is at every door-step trying to get more and more recruits for them, it was great to almost see a flick that shows you what comes with that and what may happen to you, if you decide to join. It’s definitely not the type of propaganda that the U.S. Army tries to go for but it didn’t need that at all. This is not a film you should see, it’s a film that you NEED to see, if you haven’t already done so.

9.5/10=Full Price!!

R.I.P. Tim Hetherington