I am a big fan of the movie Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and consider it one of the career highlights of Robert Downey Jr. The same could also be said for Shane Black, who penned the script to Lethal Weapon amongst other accolades and also directed said Downey Jr vehicle. So coming to this latest written and directed effort from Black, you could say my expectations were dialled on the high side. We won’t mention Iron Man 3 (oops).
With a very similar vibe to Bang Bang, this sort-of homage to 70’s detective shows has somewhat amateur detectives Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling on the trail of a missing girl who is somehow mixed up in the shady world of the porn industry and the death of a famous starlet. Immediately this is Shane Black on blistering form; at least dialogue-wise, which leaps off the screen and is delivered with no end of personality and charm by the principle leads. This has many very funny lines and even funnier situations (that rotating car display) as our bumbling duo go from one crazy encounter to the next, topped off with some surprisingly thrilling moments. Along for the ride is Gosling’s character’s daughter who it seems understands how to be a detective ten times better than her adult counterparts do and you could call her the Inspector Gadget’s niece of the trio. Also we have a not-ageing-gracefully Kim Basinger as some department of justice bigwig sporting Botox or plastic surgery, but fails to really bring anything but familiarity to the party.
The plot takes a step back to Black’s flair for dialogue and moments and it shows, as what it all ends up being about is rather ‘meh’ and well, just what was all that with Misty Mountains? The movie also threatens to spiral out of control with a bit too much slapstick and occasionally really stupid humour … but is held together by a likeable trio of performances and a great sense of time and place. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang suffered similarly but again that didn’t detract from what was otherwise solid entertainment – and the same can be said here. One to check out.
It would seem in the advent of the latest Jason Bourne movie hitting cinemas, some would like to forget this little off-shoot of the franchise that doesn’t star Matt Damson but rather has Hurt Locker’s Jeremy Renner as agent Aaron Kross and therefore offers up an alternative viewpoint to the events depicted in the original trilogy. Renner finds himself on the run after fellow agents start getting bumped off as a fall out from Jason Bourne’s actions and the shady government organisation responsible trying to cover everything up. Edward Norton is on hand as the government guy trying to sort everything out, and Renner is perfect as a tough agent in the middle of a training exercise forced to question who he works for whilst teaming up with a female scientist played by Rachel Weisz.
I think this would have been a hard sell to anyone not very familiar with the other movies, but as I had not that long sat through the last three movies, I found this still interesting and familiar with several nods and references to the Matt Damon escapades and for the most part it’s quite well done and compliments the franchise nicely. The action, important in these movies is also top notch and with more assured, lesser rapidly-edited direction from Tony Gilroy it’s all a lot easier to follow too. Helps that there is a superb bike chase towards the end that is every bit up there with the best of the series. I also found myself wanting a smack down between Renner’s character and Matt Damon…but that’s probably a movie we’ll never see.
I can see why this was mostly ignored in the series. There’s little here that warrants the movie really needing to exist and serves more as an entertaining spin off aimed at Bourne fans rather than the general movie going audience. Shame then as as it stands this was thrilling, competently acted and well directed, if largely unnecessary.
The Blu-ray is very pleasing with above average image quality and punchy sound that really rocks a 5.1. system. Extras-wise we get several featurettes and behind the scenes footage and also a commentary from the director.
Remakes will always be a tough sell, and we’ve had to endure some shite in the past. I noticed that the critical reception for this latest effort has been rather mixed. I never saw the original movie and probably never ill. So I’m probably in the best position to take this one in with a fairly open mind. Denzel Washington is a bounty hunter / marshal who comes to the aid of a recently widowed woman who’s town has been taken over by a ruthless businessman out to plunder the mines for any gold he can find. Washington agrees to help the woman seek revenge but first must rally a group of cowboys and what not to his aid. Along for the ride is a card hustler (Chris Pratt), a sharp shooter (Ethan Hawk) and an assassin (Byung-hun Lee).
Antoine (Training Day) Fuqua’s movie is immediately attractive and captures the setting and especially the feel of a western brilliantly. He has a keen eye for iconic shots and delivers in the action, where I’d go as far as to say this has some of the best action of the year for me, complete with excellently choreographed gunfights and traditional (not CGI) stunt work. The plot for what it is, is simple and only serves to bring together a likeable gang of gunslingers that I quickly grew to care about. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before but when it’s got stand-outs from Washington and Pratt as well and plenty of energy and a great score from James Horner – what’s there to grumble about?
If I was to nit-pick it would be to say the movie does revel in it’s clichés such as how it’s filmed, typical western movie imagery and well, several moments that occur are typical of the genre to the point of near-parody. Also characterisation, which with such an ensemble cast isn’t easy could have been a little better. I wanted more backstory to Denzel’s character which would have added weight to a later revelation, and well, we learn pretty much nothing about who Chris Pratt is other than handy with a gun and a deck of cards.
Yet this feels like a celebration not just of the movie it’s based on but westerns as a whole. So in that respect I can forgive it’s familiarity or lack of anything particularly new and just enjoy it for what it is – damn good entertainment.
I was certainly intrigued by this concept. A malevolent spirit that disappears in direct light but is deadly in the dark, who seems to be haunting a small family, that of a single mother and her little boy. When said boy turns to his older, rebellious sister for help after one too many strange goings on, soon an investigation ensues … subsequently causing the family to look into their own past in the process.
Whilst fairly simple in it’s idea I did find this pretty unnerving throughout what with an evil spirit seemingly capable of jumping out from any darkened corner or darkened room. The maker’s had a field-day with this idea and I certainly got a kick out of the various ways the idea was explored, complete with an effective ‘shooting at the ghost’ sequence. However the frights don’t exactly come thick and fast and rely a little too much on loud noises and character reactions more than being scary in their own right … which they are but the other stuff dilutes the experience somewhat. Also I wasn’t keen on the occasional times the spirit spoke … again diluting the scariness by giving it too much character (the remake of ‘Ring’ had a similar misstep).
The casting is pretty decent, although only Maria Bello is recognisable but suitably unhinged as the troubled mother. I also thought the young actor playing the boy was above average. Add to this a complex turn from Teresa Palmer who manages to be more than a typical, moody twenty-something. The final act is also solid and full of action with some novel twists on the concept. But I did hope for a bit more light to be shed on the spirit’s origins, which sadly is ignored in place of a rather ballsy ending. So despite good intentions, this doesn’t quite reinvent the horror movie and is a bit too Hollywood with some of its scares … but regardless this was still a suitably creepy and entertaining experience.
There seems to be a theme of late in these continuing comic book franchises, that of repercussions and casualties of otherwise heroic endeavours. First we had Batman facing off against Superman after the fall out from Superman saving the world from the threat of General Zod, and now we have the Avengers turning against each other when a government initiative tries to Police them. Tony Stark / Iron-Man (Robert Downey Jnr) feels his band of heroes, that he helped put together has caused too any deaths in their bid to save the greater population, but Steve Rogers / Captain America (Chris Evans) doesn’t feel having to await orders from a higher power is the way to go if or when a new threat appears. Then in the midst of their conflicted beliefs, Steve’s old friend, elite brain-washed super assassin The Winter Soldier is supposedly linked to a terrorist bombing.
This complex plot at least on paper is aided immeasurably by a wealth of solid, at times stellar performances and it’s ensemble cast, that also includes Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and even Spider-Man to name but two, never feels bloated or confused. The writing is key here and everyone’s agenda and personality gets time to shine and despite a ton of superbly executed fights, chases and battles the focus on character and agendas is brilliantly done.
However once again rather vague references to the other movies in the series gets a bit mind-blowing at times unless you’ve you have a cast-iron memory for the Marvel movie cannon (including Iron-Man 3 and Avengers 1 & 2). Also, I thought how the villain’s master plan seemed to rely on a rather convenient plot development was a little cheap … but this isn’t a movie that follows a tried and tested route and how things eventually turned out surprised and shocked in equal measure … not something we normally get in these kinds of movies.
I had a great time with this as you’ll probably have figured out and along with the last two movies in the Captain America franchise, you can consider this a hat-trick of quality entertainment. And it delivers the ‘heroes turning against each other’ better than Batman V Superman.