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!
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.
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
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.
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.
A gritty and realistic WW2 film that ranks as a solid entry in the genre.
A visual masterpiece and a strong biblical epic!
13. Gone Girl
Another solid and somewhat terrifying David Fincher film.
14. John Wick
15. Guardians of the Galaxy
Thursday, January 1, 2015
Friday, April 4, 2014
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman and Douglas Booth
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.
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.
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
Posted by Chris Hart and Kevin Millward at 5:51 PM
Friday, March 28, 2014
Director: Lawrence Kasdan
Starring: Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Kevin Costner, Danny Glover
Box Office: $32.1 Million (Domestic)
A misfit bunch of friends come together to right the injustices in the town of Silverado.
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.
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
Posted by Chris Hart and Kevin Millward at 11:22 AM
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Director: Ben Ramsey
Starring: Michael Jai White, Julian Sands, Eamonn Walker, Dante Basco and Nona Gaye
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.
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.
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.
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
Posted by Chris Hart and Kevin Millward at 8:02 AM
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Director: Scott Waugh
Starring: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Scott Mescudi
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.
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.
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
Posted by Chris Hart and Kevin Millward at 7:34 AM
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Director: John Carpenter
Starring: Austin Stoker, Darwin Joston, Tony Burton, Laurie Zimmer
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.
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!|
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
Posted by Chris Hart and Kevin Millward at 9:19 AM
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Director: Cory Yuen
Starring: Jason Statham, Qi Shu, Matt Schulze, Francois Berleand, Ric Young
Box Office: $43.9 Million (Worldwide)
Frank Martin is a "Transporter", he delivers peoples packages with no questions asked. He has a set of rules but when he breaks one of those rules many complications arise.
After watching Homefront I decided to go on a little Jason Statham marathon. I realized I had never actually watched that many of his films outside of the Expendables. I decided to start with the film that put him on the map as a viable action star. He had co-starred in films such as Lock,Stock and Two Smoking Barrells, Snatch, The One and Ghosts of Mars but this was his first solo film. The script was penned by Robert Mack Kamen and Luc Besson who was known for films such as Leon: The Professional and The Fifth Element. This film was pretty well received which led to 2 sequels being made and another trilogy being planned.
The film opens with Frank Martin explaining what his job is and his specific rules that he always follows. While he is doing this we get a slick car chase as he helps drive some burglars out of a crime scene. The film definitely has that early 2000's, PG-13 action movie feel similar to The Fast and the Furious and The Bourne Identity. If you enjoyed those films than you probably will enjoy this. After completing his job, Frank Martin returns to his very nice looking French Villa on the sea. While he is on his next job he gets a flat tire and when he changes it he sees the package he is delivering start to move. He decides to break one of his rules by looking in the package and discovers a girl. He delivers the package to a guy nicknamed "Wall Street" played by Matt Schulze (The Fast and the Furious) who realizes that Frank looked in the package. He asks Frank to deliver another package for him which he agrees to but it ends up being a bomb and blows up his car. Frank goes back to the house and kicks some ass and steals a car that the same girl happens to be in.
The girl comes back to his home with him but they are soon attacked by the bad guys goons. The girl tells Frank that they are transporting several hundred Chinese people in storage containers. She convinces him to help free them but he soon discovers that she is the daughter of the guy smuggling the people. Frank ends up getting put in jail and the girl is taken by her father. The cop who has been following him and arrested him allows him to go as he knows there is something else going. It seemed like the cop was too easily convinced to let Frank go, especially since Frank had lied to him about everything in the movie up to that point. Frank sets off in a boat with some guns to go and take down the human trafficking deal. This is where you get all of the cool action scenes. There was one scene in particular that stuck with me as pretty inventive.
The second half of the clip where he covers himself in oil and fights them in a big pool of oil is pretty cool. I never realized how much I actually liked Jason Statham's fighting style. The main issue with this film for me though is that it is definitely an action movie made for kids/teens (its PG-13). Frank Martin always manages to survive ridiculous things without any consequences and there is very little blood in the film.
This might be a good place to start for kids/teens who's parents don't want them to see the more violent/gory films. That being said its not really even the best movie for that as this is pure genre formula. I would recommend watching films like The Bourne Identity instead but this is still a solid film. Overall The Transporter is a pretty mild, early 2000's action film that features some nice fight scenes and is worth a watch for fans of the genre.
3 out of 5
-Chris "Da Franchize" Hart
Posted by Chris Hart and Kevin Millward at 8:44 PM