Monday, July 24, 2017

Chris Reviews Dunkirk

Dunkirk (2017)
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh, Harry Styles, Mark Rylance, James D'Arcy
IMDB: 8.7
RT: 92 (Certified Fresh)
Box Office: $107.4 Million Worldwide (Opening Weekend)


As Hitler's army closes in around the French, Belgians and British Expeditionary force at Dunkirk the men try to evacuate back to England.


While there are countless films in the World War 2 genre there is always another fascinating story to tell. Dunkirk is one of the most significant moments of World War 2 that most Americans are probably not aware of. That is one of the aspects that made me very excited for this film in that we have not seen many interpretations of this story on film in the United States. There was a 1958 film but not many people have seen it. So this film has a leg up on many of its genre brethren in that the story it is telling has not been beaten to death.

Dunkirk not only tells a story that is new to many Americans but it also tells it in a style that is new to the genre as well. This is not your typical historical war film, in fact much of the historical context is only briefly touched on. Dunkirk is truly a film told from the perspective of those on the ground. There are no meetings at the Generals headquarters or huge epic battles. This is simply a story of men trying to survive imminent doom. They are surrounded and must evacuate on boats to escape the German Army. They get bombed on the beaches and their boats get torpedoed by submarines. Dunkirk often reminds more of a disaster or survival film than it does a war movie.

The visuals are fantastic, the cinematography is perfect, the effects are impressive and you truly get the feeling that you are there on the ground. It is a truly immersive experience and best viewed in the theater to fully appreciate the film. Almost the entire film you are completely involved in the story and on the edge of your seat. Nolan masterfully builds tension as he cycles through the three main story lines. The story is spliced together in a non-linear fashion but it slowly comes together by the end. It's something that the more I think about the more I love about the film.

All of these positives being said, I can see where people may have some issues with the film. There is little to no development or focus on the characters beyond the most basic information.  They are mostly just there for us to experience the horrors of the situation but we don't really know anything about them. I think it works fine in this film because it's a film about the experience of war rather than a traditional story. That being said I can see where some may have a hard time relating to the characters since the film is not structured in the traditional war movie format.  The non-linear storytelling may also confuse some audience members as well but again I believe it works because the stories all do come together at points to reach a satisfying conclusion.

Final Thoughts-

Dunkirk is a thoroughly ambitious and powerful war film. It manages the rare feat of being unique in a well trodden and often cliche genre. This is a visually immersive, emotionally draining and action packed film that will linger in audiences minds for a while. As I think about this film more and upon repeat viewings I think my rating will go up but even now I highly recommend the film!


Chris Hart

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Favorite Movies of 2014

Since it is the end of 2014 I must post my obligatory "Favorite Movies of the Year" list. So without further ado here is my favorite films from a surprisingly good year of movies.

1. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes 

This film moved the Planet of the Apes films in front of Star Trek and Alien as my favorite Sci-fi Franchise! An imaginative, well told story that features amazing visual effects and strong performances. This is how you should make a summer blockbuster!

2. Snowpiercer

This is such a bizarre but fascinating and unique film. I loved the wacky premise and it is a film that has strong social statement.

3. Nightcrawler

A film that feels like it is straight out of the 70's and is a great satire on the media of today.

4. The Raid 2

The first film was one of my favorite martial arts films ever and this ups the ante. A much more ambitious crime film that features some stunning fight sequences.


5. Edge of Tomorrow

 A surprisingly fun and well paced sci-fi/action film that is extremely re-watchable.

6. The Grand Budapest Hotel

Probably my favorite Wes Anderson film so far.

7. The Lego Movie

Probably the movie that surprised me the most this year. A very entertaining animated film that audiences of all ages can appreciate.

8. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

A very entertaining political thriller that's set in the Marvel Universe. 

9. X-Men: Days of Future Past

The two generations of X-Men team up in this action packed super hero film.

10. Interstellar

A hugely ambitious Sci-fi film that hits almost every note that I like in movies. Unfortunately its overly long and tries a little too hard to hit the emotional notes. 

 11. Fury

A gritty and realistic WW2 film that ranks as a solid entry in the genre.

12. Noah

A visual masterpiece and a strong biblical epic!

13. Gone Girl

Another solid and somewhat terrifying David Fincher film.

14. John Wick

 The Cult action movie of the year. A cool action film with some solid cinematography and a nice performance by Keanu Reeves.

15. Guardians of the Galaxy

While I was not as enamored with this film as everyone else it is still a very fun film and worthy of a spot in the top 15.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Chris Reviews Noah

Noah (2014)
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman and Douglas Booth
IMDB: 6.7*
RT: 76*
Box Office: $106.4 (Worldwide)*


A man is chosen by the creator to save the innocent creatures of the earth before he destroys the evil of the world with a massive flood.

Review (Spoilers!)-

This was a film that I expected would bring up a lot of controversy and it has. I figured it would challenge people's religious beliefs and in some ways it does. That being said, this is not a film that trashes religion by any stretch. Now before I get too deep into this review I want to state that I am not going to get into any theological discussions here. I am simply going to review it based on its merits as a film with only a few comments about its message. I do this because I do not pretend to have much knowledge of the historical context to the Noah story. I simply came into it wanting to hear a good story.

The film opens with an explanation as to how the world was created. It then goes to Noah (Russell Crowe) as a boy as he sees his father killed by Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone). Noah runs off into the wilderness and it jumps many years later and Noah is an adult with children and they are foraging for food. They see some men kill an animal and try to eat it but Noah stops them. He returns home to his wife (Jennifer Connelly) and tells her his fears that the men from the cities are getting closer and that they may need to leave. That night Noah has a vision that the creator is going to end the world. He realizes that he must try and find his Grandfather Methuselah to figure out what to do. So Noah and his family set out on a journey to find Methuselah. One thing that was apparent from the very beginning of the film was the excellent visual style that director Darren Aronofsky and Director of Photography Matthew Libatique have created. The film has a distinctly stunning look to it that had me hooked right away.

That's a pretty looking sky

Along the way to find Methuselah, Noah's family finds a little girl who has been hurt named Ila (Emma Watson) and they rescue her. After a long and dangerous journey they come to Methuselah's mountain and Noah and his oldest son Shem (Douglas Booth) go to meet him. He realizes that he must build an Ark to save the innocent of the world (the animals) from the coming flood. Methuselah gives Noah a seed from the garden of Eden and Noah plants it in the barren landscape near the mountain. The next day a large Forrest grows that will provide him with the wood he needs to build the ark and the fallen angels called the Watchers decide to help him build it.

Pretty desolate landscapes

The film then jumps ahead a number of years to when the Ark is nearing completion. Many of the animals are starting to arrive at the Ark and some people have noticed this. A large group of men comes to Noah to find out why all of the animals are coming there. These men are led by Tubal-cain, Noah is protected by the Watchers for now but Tubal-cain sets up camp nearby to prepare for an assault on the Ark. Noah and his family make the final preparations for the flood. This is when we also see some internal conflict within Noah's family as his youngest son Ham wants to have a girl like his brother, Ila does not believe she belongs with them because she is barren and Noah begins to believe that not even his family is meant to survive this apocalypse. Eventually the flood begins and Tubal-cain and his army assault the Ark. This is probably the part of the film that most people will take issue with. It essentially turns into a big fantasy film action sequence as the Watchers battle the men in order to protect the Ark. Noah also gets his hands dirty in killing some of these men as well. Eventually the water washes away all people and the Ark is propelled to the top. This was probably the most disturbing part of the film as you see and hear all of the people drowning and Noah refusing to save anyone.
The Ark under construction

The final act of the film involves Noah and his family living on the Ark for an extended period before the end of the flood and some internal conflicts that ensue. I will not go into too much detail here because I don't want to spoil everything in the film. All I will say is that the film does get pretty freaking (this is a movie about an apocalypse).  As the credits rolled it took me quite a bit of time to fully process this film. It was not what I expected but I don't even truly know what I did expect. This is an epic and visually stunning film that separated from religion would be a pretty cool fantasy film. The main issue is that most audience members will not be able to do that.

Final Thoughts-

Aronofsky has crafted a pretty solid biblical/fantasy epic. The film features a compelling story, solid acting and some great visuals that make this one of my favorite films of the year. I know that some people will immediately discount it because either they think it deviates too much from their perceptions of the biblical story or because they dislike anything religious. If you feel that way thats fine but you are missing out on a very enjoyable film simply because you can't get past your personal bias. Also there is one sequence in this that makes the entire film worth seeing. Watch out for the sequences when Noah tells his family the story of creation. It does a fantastic job of showing how the ideas of evolution and religion can coexist. I also encourage you to read the directors comments about the film as they are pretty interesting.  If nothing else watch this movie in order to understand your issues with it. I think that if you give it a chance you will find something to enjoy from this film.


4 out of 5

-Chris "Da Franchize" Hart

*Information as of April 4th 2014

Friday, March 28, 2014

Western Movie Reviews: Silverado

Silverado (1985)
Director: Lawrence Kasdan
Starring: Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Kevin Costner, Danny Glover
IMDB: 7.2
RT: 76
Box Office: $32.1 Million (Domestic)


A misfit bunch of friends come together to right the injustices in the town of Silverado.

Review (Spoilers!)-

Having watched quite a few Westerns by now I think I have a firm grasp on most of the genre conventions. I think that's partially why I have gravitated towards the Spaghetti Western's recently because I wanted to explore a different aspect of the genre. That being said every once in a while it's nice to enjoy an old school Hollywood Western like Silverado.

The film opens with Emmett (Scott Glenn) getting attacked in a small shack that he is sleeping in. He fights off the bag guys, takes their horses and rides off. On the way he meets Paden (Kevin Kline) who has been left for dead in the desert. He takes him to the nearest town where Paden finds and kills one of the men who took his things. Paden also runs into his old friend Cobb (Brian Dennehy) who offers him a job but he turns it down. Emmett sets off for Silverado to meet his sister and Paden decides to tag along. On their way they stop in a town where Emmett's brother Jake (Kevin Costner) is set to be hanged by Sheriff Langston (John Cleese). They also meet Mal (Danny Glover) who gets kicked out of town for causing trouble because he is black. Emmet ends up breaking his brother out and they continue on their way to Silverado with the help of Mal. The first act does a perfectly adequate job of setting up all the main plot points and bringing the characters together although the characters are a bit thin.

When they get to Silverado Emmett and Jake meet up with their sister and her family, Mal heads to find his families farm nearby and Paden discovers that his friend Cobb is the Sheriff of the town and owner of the local Saloon. Everything seems fine until each character is presented with a problem. The son of a man Emmett killed is a powerful landowner in the town and wants him and his family dead. Mal discovers that his mother has died and that his father has been run off their land by the powerful landowner. Paden on the other hand gets himself a job working at the Saloon for his friend Cobb but he soon realizes that Cobb is one of the bad guys. Things slowly escalate in the second act until Emmett's sisters house is burned, her husband shot and her son is kidnapped. This leads to a very action packed third act that features one big gun battle and a couple of duels. Each character gets to kill off an individual nemesis and all of the plot lines are tied up neatly.

The plot is fairly by the numbers but effective, the characters while shallow are still entertaining and the camera work is solid. All of these factors come together to make an above average Hollywood Western. It is also pretty fun to watch so many big name actors shooting at each other. We get some fun appearances by Jeff Fahey, Jeff Goldblum and John Cleese to go along with the already big named cast. It also has a pretty enjoyable score that really adds some excitement to the action sequences.

The Crew

Final Thoughts-

I had a really good time with this film! Sure it has a few too many story lines going on at once and the characters are rather shallow but its a strong enough film to overcome that. This is a modern Western that doesn't try so hard to break the genre conventions but instead embraces them and makes them enjoyable again. Sure it isn't one of the best Westerns of all time but it is probably a good starting point for people new to the genre.


3.5 out of 5

- Chris "Da Franchize" Hart

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Action Movie Reviews: Blood and Bone (2009)

Blood and Bone (2009)
Director: Ben Ramsey
Starring: Michael Jai White, Julian Sands, Eamonn Walker, Dante Basco and Nona Gaye
IMDB: 6.7
RT: Not Available
Box Office: Not Available


Isaiah Bone gets out of a Los Angeles prison and enters the underground street fighting world in order to fulfill a promise to a dead friend.

Review (Spoilers!)-

I have slowly become a big Michael Jai White fan. He played a small but memorable role in The Dark Knight but his performance as Black Dynamite is what really made me a fan. I really think Black Dynamite is one of the greatest action/comedies of all time! So when I saw a martial arts film starring Michael Jai White on Netflix I knew I had to watch it. While the end result is not a good movie by any stretch, it does do enough to entertain.

The film opens with Bone in prison taking a piss. Some scary looking inmates (including youtube sensation Kimbo Slice!) come to shank him in the bathroom. He goes on to thoroughly kick their asses and the film cuts to the opening title. The opening is quick and to the point and immediately shows off White's impressive martial arts skills.

Bone is released from prison and heads to what seems like the most random place possible to rent a room. He stays in a house where this lady and old man take care of what I assume are foster kids. They live in a pretty rough neighborhood but the lady and the old man try to keep the kids out of it. Bone soon finds the underground fighting venue and watches as the wealthy and sadistic hustler James (Eamonn Walker) brings his scary looking fighter named Hammerman (Bob Sapp) to fight. This dude is a massive and insane man that will pretty much kill anybody he fights. 

Former NFL Player and MMA Fighter Bob Sapp
After Bone watches Hammerman decimate an opponent that was promoted by Pinball (Dante Basco) he convinces the promoter to give him a shot at a fight. Bone proves that he has very impressive fighting skills and Pinball begins to set up some fights for him. Michael Jai White shows he is very skilled and is fun to watch fight. Bone works his way up to get himself a chance to fight Hammerman. He also has his eye on James's girlfriend which seems like it may cause some conflict. Eventually he gets himself a chance to fight Hammerman and he kicks his ass. 

This gets James's attention and he invites Bone to his place to talk some business. James explains how he wants to become more than just a street hustler and that he wants to have an in with the wealthy white guys. So he wants to have Bone fight the worlds best underground street fighter. James tries to convince Bone by letting him take his girl. This is where Bone's true motivations are revealed. We find out that the girl used to be his best friend in prison's wife. James had him killed in prison in order to get this girl and Bone had made a promise to take care of his wife and son when he got out. He checks the girl into a rehab clinic because she has developed a massive drug addiction and we also find out that the reason he was living at that house is because one of the kids is her son. I thought that was a bit of a stretch but at least it explains some things.

The third act sees the plot begin to collapse a bit. The old man in the house is randomly killed by dogs and then its revealed that it was by James for no apparent reason. James gets Bone into the fight with the top street fighter but Bone decides he doesn't want to do it so James freaks out. The plot continues to devolve into chaos and things make less and less sense until it leads to a final fight. Bone shows up at a very wealthy man's house and has to fight the top street fighter. I actually really liked this fight scene!

It's pretty clear this is more of a B or C list action film. The supporting actors are not particularly good and the writing is pretty bland. That being said Michael Jai White does a decent job holding the film together and the production quality is high enough to make this watchable.

Final Thoughts-

I still really like Michael Jai White and will be interested to follow his career. I know that he does have a role in the upcoming Fast and Furious movie so we will see if he can have some more main stream success. This film reminds me a lot of the Jean-Claude Van Damme film Lionheart (which I liked) but with slightly higher production quality. As far as action films go the story is not that bad but I would still only recommend this to hard core action and martial arts film fans.


2.5 out of 5

-Chris "Da Franchize" Hart

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Chris Reviews Need for Speed

Need for Speed (2014)
Director: Scott Waugh
Starring: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Scott Mescudi
IMDB: 7.3*
RT: 23*
Box Office: $126.5 Million (Worldwide)*


Tobey Marshall is small time street racer and car shop owner who gets an offer to make a lot of money. When he is framed for his friends death by a wealthy business associate he is put in prison. 2 years later he gets out and drives across the country trying to get himself to a legendary street race to face off against his rival, while also being chased by the police and other enemies.

Review (SPOILERS!)-

I knew this was going to be a shit movie from the moment I heard they where making it. That being said I still really wanted to see it. I love the Need for Speed games and am a big fan of car movies so I was hoping this would be a fun B-movie that could at least keep me entertained. In some ways it did do that but the film was just a lot worse than I expected.

The film opens with Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) and his crew of friends working at their car shop and then going to the local drive in to get ready for a street race. While they are there Marshall's ex-girlfriend shows up with her boyfriend Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) who is a hot shot professional racer. Tobey and his crew have a pretty good system of how to do street races, Benny (Scott Mescudi) is a pilot who makes sure they have a clear path and Finn (Rami Malek) and Joe Peck (Ramon Rodriguez) are on the ground and Little Pete (Harrison Gilbertson) is like Tobey's little brother and he races too. Tobey pretty easily wins the race and he heads back to his shop to celebrate with his buddies. This is when he receives and offer from Dino to fix up a very expensive car. Tobey accepts the offer despite a distrust of Dino because he needs the money to pay of the loans on the shop. (They have some old high school beef that is never explained)

I'm pretty sure Ford paid for half this damn movie

Tobey and his crew fix up this car and they sell it for $2.7 million but Dino feels threatened by Tobey and challenges him to a race. Tobey and Pete come to Dino's Uncles house and he shows them 3 European Super Cars that they are going to race. At this point I knew exactly what was going to happen because they telegraphed every plot point. Tobey looks like he is going to win the race and Pete is preventing Dino from passing so that his friend can win so Dino flips Pete's car and he dies. Tobey gets arrested and Dino covers his ass and puts all the blame on Tobey and he goes to jail.The first act of the film is not terrible but its not great either. It adequately sets up a preschool level plot, has a few cool action sequences and does not reveal the terrible acting abilities of its cast fully. The second and third act is where the film really shows its hand.

Showing off the Mustang some more

2 years later Tobey gets out of jail. This is one of the first questions I had. Why was he only in jail for 2 years? I understand he only got in trouble for manslaughter, but when he was arrested they also said that the 2 cars they where driving were reported stolen. Wouldn't he have gotten a longer prison sentence for stealing 2 cars worth over a million dollars? Oh well I can live with plot holes like that because at least its a debatable question. After he gets out of jail he immediately goes down to his closed shop, asks the guy who owns the car he sold to let him borrow the car to enter this big race that Michael Keaton's character holds. The guy agrees as long as his assistant Julia (Imogen Poots) comes along. They realize they have to drive to California in less than 46 hours to get to the race in time. After a series of obstacles they get to California and he gets invited to the big race to face off against Dino.

The Final Race

The film really picks up in pace in the second act and we get a cool car chase around Detroit and a really big one with some hillbilly guys in trucks trying to kill Tobey in the southwest U.S. I was pretty impressed with the car chase sequences but that was to be expected as the director is known for his stunt work. The main issue with the film is the cookie cutter characters, especially Tobey's friends. I was also very disappointed in Aaron Paul, he just seemed very awkward in the role. He tried to pull of this brooding, quite street racer character with a raspy voice but I just wanted to laugh whenever I looked at him. It just seemed that the writing was very poor and the director had no feel for how to direct real actors. There were also a number of unresolved and not well fleshed out plot points.

Final Thoughts-

Despite all of the very negative opinions I have of this movie I still thoroughly enjoyed it and I'm not sure why. The action sequences were solid but unspectacular, the acting was piss poor and the writing was terrible but somehow it's watchable. Will I ever watch it again? Probably not but I'm not mad about having seen it. If your into car movies this might be worth a red-box rental at some point but that's about it. 


2 out of 5

-Chris "Da Franchize" Hart

*Ratings and Box Office info as of March 24th 2014

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Action Movie Reviews: Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)

Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)
Director: John Carpenter
Starring: Austin Stoker, Darwin Joston, Tony Burton, Laurie Zimmer
IMDB: 7.4
RT: 97
Box Office: Not Available


Lieutenant Ethan Bishop is assigned to watch over Precinct 13 during its last night before its shut down. During the night a ruthless gang attacks the Precinct with heavy firepower and its up to Bishop, some of the administrators and two inmates to fend them off.

Review (SPOILERS!)-

This film is often heralded as one of the most unappreciated action films of the 1970's and rightfully so. In only his second feature film John Carpenter shows off his gritty and visceral style that would make him one of the most respected Sci-fi/Horror directors of all time.

The film opens with a bunch of gang members getting killed by police. We then get a radio broadcast describing how this gang has tons of dangerous weapons and then we see four of them making a blood pact. These guys seem pretty hardcore immediately as they quietly cut open their arms and pour their blood into a cup. We then see Ethan Bishop (Austin Stoker) leaving his home to start his first day of work as a Lieutenant on the police force. As he is driving he is told to report to Precinct 13 which is set to close down soon. He arrives and is told that he just needs to watch over the place over night. The first act draws all of the players to this one central location. Bishop is here to watch the precinct over night. Inmates Napoleon Wilson (Darwin Jonson) and Wells (Tony Burton) are on a prison bus transporting them to another prison but the bus has to stop at this precinct due to a sick inmate. The father of a little girl who is shot by the gang runs to the precinct for safety which is what brings the gang to the building. Now that all of the players have reached the central location all hell is about to break loose.

Don't Shoot the Ice Cream Man!
The gang marks them for destruction then unleashes an assault on the precinct. Most of the police officers are killed except for Bishop and two female administrators. In order to survive this siege they let Napoleon and Wells out of their cells and give them guns. They manage to repel the attack after killing dozens of gang members but one of the female administrators is killed. They are trapped inside the precinct and because the phones and electricity are out they cannot call for help. In the second act we get continued character development as the four people try to figure out what to do. Napoleon is a death row inmate who is a throwback to classic western characters. He is not a truly bad guy, he did something bad but he still has a code of honor. Wells is the guy who is a more typical inmate although he is not a terrible guy either just very unlucky. All four of the characters are very realistic and human which helps the audience to relate to them.  The gang on the other hand is more of a mindless, brutal and inhuman threat. John Carpenter has even said that the film was somewhat inspired by George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead as the gang is silent and unrelenting like the zombies in that film.

The survivors attempt to send someone out to get help but it fails and the 3 remaining people have to prepare for the final assault. They have limited ammunition and have to come up with some way to survive. Then the final assault on precinct 13 begins. This film is very reminiscent of an old school western and the story is often compared to Rio Bravo. While it has a very classic story the tone is very different from the action films of the time. Rather than having a major action star like Clint Eastwood be the lead Carpenter chose to have an African American man in the lead which was still somewhat of a big deal. The film is also fairly violent and the scene with the little girl getting shot is still pretty shocking.

Final Thoughts-

I understand why this has become such a big cult film over the years as I enjoyed the hell out of it. It's Carpenter at his best, delivering a dark and gritty film that gets good performances out of lesser known actors. While its not my favorite Carpenter film (The Thing) it is pretty damn close.


4 out of 5

-Chris "Da Franchize" Hart