Tag Archives: Action

Edinburgh International Film Festival Schedule Released

The Edinburgh International Film Festival has just released their schedule for the 12 day long festival, which starts June 16 and ends June 27.  Tickets for the festival go on sale tomorrow at noon.

You can read through the digital brochure here or go to the film fest’s website here to look through their calendar.

Due to your readership, dear Film Fan, I have secured a Press Pass for the festival. This makes almost all of the screenings free. Without your readership, I would be spending over a 100 pounds trying to cover a fraction of the festival’s events. So thank you.

To honor your support, please look through the festival’s brochure and tell me what films you want reviewed  – or simply if I’ve overlooked a great film at the fest. I cannot promise I will be able to deliver all reviews given time restraints, but I will do my best.

There are an insane number of films being shown, so the following are the main titles I’m looking forward to seeing.

22 Bullets


“Jean Reno gets shot 22 times…and he’s not happy about it.”  Produced by Luc Besson (Unleashed, The Fifth Element) and starring our favorite hit man, this is high on my list.

BAFTA Scotland Interview: Sir Patrick Stewart

Who would pass up a chance to see Captain Picard?


Cigarette Girl


A dystopia in which smokers are separated from the rest of the city, it looks like a fun B-movie.

Get Low

Robert Duvall plays Felix Bush, an old timer who wants to have a funeral party – while he’s still alive.  Throw Bill Murray into this 1930′s period piece and I’m there.

H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror

This will be a “audio horror movie,” using the cinema’s sound system to tell Lovecraft’s tale.

Lucky


Documentary from Jeffrey Blitz (Spellbound, Rocket Science) detailing the lives of lottery winners.  Given the greatness of Rocket Race and an NPR piece I heard discussing the making of the film, it should deliver the goods.

Monsters


After contact with alien life has gone awry, the Mexican/U.S. border becomes “infected” territory.  Monsters received buzz at SXSW and has been compared to District 9.  Probably the film I’m most anticipating at the festival.

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?

Directed by Werner Herzog and produced by David Lynch, that’s enough to watch.  Adding Michael Shannon (a little known actor who was phenomenal in Shotgun Stories), Michael Pena (Crash, The Shield), Chloe Sevigny, and Willem Dafoe is just icing to the cake.

Outcast

Looking forward to this based solely on the reviews, tagging it as a UK horror that throws out the rules.

R


Described by the EIFF as a prison story that makes A Prophet “look like porridge.”

Red Hill


“This Western-style outback thriller is action cinema at its very best.”

Restropo


“The Afghanistan war film that renders all others unnecessary.”  After being embedded for 15 months, the film is supposed to be an unflinching analysis of modern warfare, featuring civilian and military casualties.

The Last Rites of Ransom Pride


It’s 1910 and a young woman is hellbent on returning the body of outlaw Ransom Pride to Texas for a proper burial.  Described as a “dark, violent western” reminiscent of Tarantino, Pekinpah, and Sergio Leone, with cameos from Kris Kristofferson, Dwight Yoakam, Jason Preistly, and a shotgun wielding Peter Dinklage, it sounds like a good ride.

The People vs. George Lucas


I posted a blog piece about this that you can read here.  Super pumped for this one.

Toy Story 3


UK premiere of Pixar’s latest.

World’s Greatest Dad


Starring Robin Williams in a dark comedy/drama directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, it’s sure to be interesting given Williams abilities showcased in One Hour Photo and Death to Smoochy.

Other film of interest include: Act of Dishonour, And Everything is Going Fine, Au Revoir Taipei, Blank City, Boy, Caterpillar, Chase the Slut, Cherry Tree Lane, Crime Fighters, Evil in the Time of Heroes, Fog, Gravity, Henry of Navarre, HIGH School, Hotel Atlantico, Jackboots on Whitehall, Lucky Luke, Ollie Kepler’s Expanding Purple World, Perastroika, Police Adjective, Postales, Privelege, Putty Hill, Skeletons, Snowman’s Land, Son of Babylon, Soul Boy, The Dry Land, The Hunter, The Oath, The Red Machine, The Robber, The Sentimental Engine Slayer, Third Star, Two Eyes Staring, Vacation, and Went the Day Well?

There are still some costs to covering the film festival, so if you like the blog and can afford to support my work, donate below.  If you donate $10 or more, I will send you a DVD of my short films. One finds more value in their work when people are willing to pay for it.

Thanks!

Robin Hood

It has been a decade since Russell Crow and director Ridley Scott teamed up for the Spartacus remake, Gladiator and with Crowe’s star status cemented, the two have come together to again mix legend and history in Robin Hood.

In this origin story of the hood Robin, we see the English laying seige to a French castle in 1199.  This is the last stop on their way home after a Crusade that has left some, like Robin Longstride (Russel Crowe), feeling they did the Devil’s work, not God’s.  When King Richard the Lionheart is killed in battle, Longstride and Company take the news to England under the guise of Knights.  When Longstride goes to return a sword to the family of Loxley (whose namesake he has stolen), he assumes Loxley’s position as husband to Marion Loxley (Cate Blanchett) to keep the land from tax collectors (before Robert Loxley left for the Crusade, he failed to have children, and women aren’t allowed to own land at the time).  Cue combative, but gradual romantic interest.

Meanwhile, King John accepts the advice of Godfrey (Mark Strong) who is plotting to divide England in order to weaken the country before a French invasion.  During this time Godfrey is also trying to track down Longstride, who could reveal him as an agent for the French.

The last major foray into Nottingham Forest was helmed by American Kevin Kostner.  It was a fun adventure flick with few British accents and lots of pretty people.  With Ridley Scott, however, no one comes out clean – literally.  Scott’s attention to the messiness of Middle Age living (and Crusade conquering) makes you want to wipe your hands clean of the mud and blood.

This is why a Ridley Scott film differs from other action films of late: you get to experience realistic events without an overabundance of CGI (that you can see, anyway).  The battles are cringe worthy, prompting one to wonder, “How many stuntmen were killed to make this?”  So in this regard, Scott knows how to make a good old fashion action movie.

However, the plot is an over stuffed burrito exploding in the microwave.  Throw in how Robin Hood has something to do with the Magna Carta and you’ll be poking your neighbor asking for a guide-book.

SPOILER ALERT, SKIP PARAGRAPH

And again with the women needing saving (see Iron Man 2 review): Marion goes off to battle in her father’s armor, but when she confronts Godfrey (who killed her father), she has to be saved by Longstride.

Dear Hollywood: quit giving token empowerment to women.  If you’re going to make female characters badasses, then let them do the cool thing at the end before pulling the rug out from under them so the man can make the touchdown instead.

SPOILER ALERT OVER

Largely, the film’s plot is what hurts it the most.  It tries to go back and forth between the conflict on the Royal front and the life Longstride is building with bumbling difficulty.  Further, the only person I was excited to see in the film was William Hurt, who continues to pop up in random supporting roles (A History of Violence, Mr. Brooks) and God love him for it.  Blanchette and Crowe are okay, but Hurt and Mark Strong are the interesting ones (Hurt for his acting, Strong for his hawk head/mean look).

The film is one of those “eh” film experiences; it could have been worse, but it’s not great.  For me, the Disney version of Robin Hood remains great and even Kevin Costner’s version might still be better than Scott’s.

My rental suggestions aside, if you’re trying to select a film to see at the cinema I would direct you to the metal of arms of Tony Stark or even Neil Marshall’s Centurion before telling you to see Robin Hood.  Just because it stars Russell Crowe and is directed by a Brit don’t make it awesome.

PS

For the love of God do not take this film as history lesson.

Go see the “Repo Men”

The trailers for Repo Men hinted at two possible paths for the film: interesting dystopian setting for an unmemorable action flick–or something more special.  I am glad to say it’s the latter.

Repo Men, as the title suggests, is about repo man Remy (Jude Law), who reclaims organs from customers who have fallen behind on their payments for artificial livers, spleens, hearts, etc.  Victims (or “clients”) are tased, read their rights while unconscious, and then Remy goes to work collecting. Continue reading

Neil Marshall’s Centurion: Early Review

The last time we saw the Romans in ancient “Britannia” was in The Last Legion or the better known King Arthur.  The Last Legion played with King Arthurian legends, as well as the myth of the 9th legion, which is where Centurion comes in.

Continue reading

A Kick-Ass Review

Now that we’ve hit the ceiling of superhero-film-awesomeness that was The Dark Knight, we can welcome a subsequent crop of self-conscious superhero flicks, starting with Kick-Ass.

Directed by Matthew Vaughn, Kick-Ass is the adaptation of Mark Millar’s comic book of the same name (Millar also wrote the Wanted comic).  The film follows high school nerd, Dave Lizewski, who reveals through heavy narrative exposition that he’s just a normal kid who always wanted to be a superhero. So after being mugged one too many times, he buys a green gimp suit, calls himself Kick-Ass, and begins fighting crime.

He quickly finds out it’s hard to kick any ass without fighting skills. Enter Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and his 11-year-old daughter, Hit-Girl, who are the real superheroes: Big Daddy’s the burly Batman wannabe, and Hit Girl is just someone you don’t want to fuck with, gymnastically taking out goons with knives, bullets, and sheer WTF-ness. Big Daddy and Hit-Girl’s war on crime boss Frank D’Amico makes Kick-Ass a target, bringing the disparate heroes together for some blood-letting.

Right off the bat, this is a fanboy movie, with Batman and Spider-Man references right and left.  Comic book film franchises have built an awareness of the most famous superheroes, and Kick-Ass plays into this audience awareness (keep your eyes peeled for “The Spirit 3″).  Further, the film includes a comic book sequence and a shootout from a first-person POV that videogame players will recognize.  This film is truly for the nerd in your life.

Hit-Girl

Even though the film wades in the waters of comedic self-awareness, the arrival of Hit-Girl as she brutally slaughters a room of drug dealers is a serious shock. Up until this point, Kick-Ass has been beating up guys in the middle of a crime (with little success), but no one has been killed.  Hit-Girl’s merciless slicing and dicing of those who aren’t even an immediate threat is unsettling (both for Kick-Ass and the audience).  This and a couple of other scenes make for some serious tone shifts during the film’s two-hour run.

Other than the aforementioned massacre, the rest of the battles are full of just as much humor as gore.  And as someone who is tired of children being off-limits in cinema (when was the last time you saw a child die on screen?), for me it’s nice to see the best, most vicious, badass superhero, be a small girl.  That’s female empowerment I can get behind.

Kick-Ass is definitely overshadowed by Hit-Girl and Big Daddy, who are the most entertaining aspect of the film, with Cage doing his best Adam West/William Shatner impersonation when masked.  The whole film should be focused on these two, not the silly teenager we’re supposed to identify with.

You’ll also have flashes of deja vu during the film’s musical interludes, as they’ve sampled “In the House-In a Heartbeat” (used in 28 Days Later‘s intense denouement), “Kanada’s Death, Pt. 2 (Adagio In D Minor)” (originally from Sunshine, although you might remember it from the Wolverine trailer), and the opening theme to For a Few Dollars More.

Tarantino said of using music in his films that he aims to use it better than the original film.  For some reason, the theme from For a Few Dollars More fit for a scene in Kick-Ass (for me anyway), but the samplings of 28 Days Later and Sunshine either didn’t fit the scene in which they were used, or just didn’t have the same power as their original placement.  Shame on you Matthew Vaughn; no more sampling for you.

But don’t let my film score hang-ups make you avoid this film.  This is not a bad movie.  Yes, in addition to the aforementioned grievances, you also have to deal with the usual melodrama clichés and romantic sub-plot drivel.  But overall the film is fun and it has balls, which I can’t say of a lot of mainstream films.

So go in knowing that it will be ridiculous and have a good time with it.

Director of Shaun of the Dead has new film

Director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) has a new film coming out this year called, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.  Michael Cera (Arrested Development, Juno) stars as a guy who falls in love with a girl, but has to defeat  her 7 ex-partners via Mortal Kombat style confrontations:

The whole cast for the film is a hodge-podge of actors from the quirky ends of the film universe:

-Mae Whitman is in the trailer, the actress who played Ann Veal in Arrested Development (playing Michael Cera’s character’s girlfriend)

-Anna Kendrick, who is now famous for Up In the Air, but will always remain to me for her part in Rocket Science

-Jason Schwartzman (every Wes Anderson film)

With the sound effects and whatnot it immediately made me think of Super Smash Bros.  Hopefully this will be just as fun.

Coming This Summer: Lots of Losers

After seeing the trailer for The Losers, it reminded me of the trailer I saw for The A-Team and then Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables: All ridiculous action films featuring losers and mercenaries for hire.

The Losers

The A-Team

*no official trailer for The Expendables is available yet; it’s a project by Stallone that he describes as a throwback to the 80′s and 90′s action films that he and many others were a part of.  The long list of fellow cast mates includes Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren,

Though all of these look like films you’d watch with your buddies with bourbon (extra class points if it’s in a plastic bottle and the guy sitting next to you in the cinema can smell it), I’m most excited about Kick Ass:

Red Band Trailer

It will be nice to see Nicolas Cage back in some zany stuff after films like Bangkok Dangerous.

Official Release: Hank vs Ninjas, Nazis and a Chupacabra

The following is my short film, Hank vs Ninjas, Nazis and a Chupacabra.  This was put together from the Fall of 2008 to the Spring of 2009.  I waited to release it online to try to make some money from the DVD sales to cover various costs.  All profits were split equally among the 20+ cast and crew.

So now I offer this to you, online, free.  However, I have also included a Paypal “Donate” button.

This is what I ask: If you like what you saw, please donate $2.

If you really liked what you saw, you can by this on ebay for $3, which includes my first short, Neighborhood Watch.  Both films run about 20 minutes. Buy it here.

All donations will go towards the cost of my current slate of films:

Dawn of the Living (post-production): my first real foray into the dramatic aspects of horror

How Do We Die? (pre-production): five minute documentary on gravediggers and how they think of death

So here it is: Hank vs Ninjas, Nazis and a Chupacabra


US Donations UK Donations   

Thanks for all your support.

The Book of Eli

Most New Year films are like the $5 DVD bins you find at Walmart: Old and crappy, but would cost more to store in a warehouse than it would to sell for the cost of a footlong sub. However, the release of films like The Book of Eli and Daybreakers, before the blockbuster juggernauts awake from their 8 month hibernation, is changing  regularly scheduled programming.  After reading my review of Daybreakers, you know it’s not the best vampire film ever, but it’s a lot of fun. The Book of Eli is playing at the same kid’s table.

Like so many post-apocalyptic flicks these days, The Book of Eli takes place on the road, as Eli (Denzel Washington) walks the blacktop of the southwestern U.S., foiling traps by Mad Max extras (sans vehicles) and revealing his zen and the art of kicking ass. Eli stops at a town to charge a battery, more goons hassle him, and they promptly receiving more kicking of the rear end.  When the Mayor, Carnegie (Gary Oldman), looks down at the bar and sees Eli in a pile of former thugs, Carnegie pulls out the charm to persuade Eli into staying as security detail.  Eli declines, saying he has business out West.  When Carnegie finds out Eli can not only read, but is carrying the book he’s been killing to locate, further kicking of the ass ensues.

Directed by Albert and Allen Hughes (whose last flick was From Hell 2001), this is an okay film that just misses average expectations.  Though Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman aren’t at their peak in this film, they’re good guys for the job:  Denzel has proven his ability to don “Strong Silent Type” roles since Man on Fire and Oldman has been rocking the bad guy roles since the 90′s with Dracula, The Fifth Element, and Leon: The Professional (highly recommend that one).  Hell, even Mila Kunis as Eli’s companion, Solara, doesn’t do a bad job.

The film’s weaknesses really rest in the directing and the writing.  Ever since Alfonso Cuaron blew us away with Children of Men in 2006, long takes have come into vogue, with McG copying the style in Terminator Salvation (2009) and The Hughes Bros. doing the same in The Book of Eli: A shootout occurs and the camera starts inside the house, goes out to Carnegie and his men firing, then moves back toward the house, through the bullet holes, and beside Solara and Eli.

There were a few scenes like this, which failed as they called attention to themselves.  In Children of Men you forgot that scenes played out in long takes because you were too involved with the story.  In The Book of Eli, however, these scenes (and other slow-motion moments) remind me of a George Carlin comment on playing jazz music: It’s not enough to know what notes need to be played, but why the notes need to be played.  They’re obviously pulling stylistic elements from Cuaron, but they don’t know why Cuaron did it that way, only that it looked cool.  Given the film’s push for dramatic realism, these hyper aesthetic moments undermine the directors’ goal.

And the writing.  What is it with endings these days?  Both The Road and Daybreakers had bad endings that could have been much cleaner given very simple changes.  The Book of Eli gets tossed in the same boat here, but the problems are a more complex: There isn’t merely a little trimming to be performed (The Road) or an extra quick scene or two to leave a realistic vibe (Daybreakers).  What The Book of Eli’s conclusion really needs is to amputate the didactic heavy-handedness that shows up like a drunk uncle at Christmas dinner and spoils the fun.

Finally, the makeup and special effects performed admirably.  My theory of CGI working better in the dark is demonstrated here, as backgrounds of devastated wasteland did not stand out nearly as much as a boat ride in the sunshine.

The little touches in the film were cool, like a hijacker wearing goggles with a bullet hole through one lens (implying the original owner is dead, possibly at the hands of the new owner, and that scavenging is a part of life) and a beat up poster for A Boy and His Dog in the background of Eli’s room while staying in town (Dog was a major influence for Mad Max, and hence, all post-apocalyptic films since).  Finally, the random appearance of Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) as the POSSIBLE, MINOR SPOILER second half of a friendly, elderly cannibal couple was worth a few laughs for sheer randomness.  A whole film should be dedicated to those folks. POSSIBLE SPOILER OVER Keep your eyes peeled for a few other cameos.

In the end, the film is okay, starting strong, but wimping out as the final bell rings.  Daybreakers did a better job maintaining that world’s credibility while having some fun, and The Road is the closest we’ll get to gritty-realism in post-apocalyptic films for a while.  The Book of Eli plays in both courts, the fun and the serious, but doesn’t completely deliver the goods as well as its better cousins.

2 1/2 out of 5

PS

The Book of Eli actually plays out like a Western than the gritty survival  structures of post-apocalypse films: random stranger with badassness floats into town, attracts trouble, kills trouble, leaves town for vague mission.

Recommendations:

Mad Max, A Boy and His Dog, Carriers, The Road, Children of Men, High Noon, any Sergio Leone flick

Daybreakers: I Am Legend II, Even Lengendarier (I mean that in a good way)

Daybreakers teaser poster.

When my friend Jesse and I saw the initial ads for Daybreakers, he commented, “This looks like a sequel to I Am Legend [the book, not the movie].”  There are plenty of reasons for this:  I Am Legend left us with a world of vampire-like beings and a minority of humans–and that’s where Daybreakers picks up.  Society has adapted to serve the needs of the new vampire majority, as cars warn drivers of UV light, coffee/blood stands are in the subways, humans are “farmed” for their blood, and there is even a vampire army. Continue reading