I had been quite hyped for this. A period set crime drama starring Edward Norton in his directorial debut as a member of a detective agency investigation the events surrounding his boss’s mysterious death. However despite a constant battle with Tourette’s and OCD, he has a brilliant memory and so makes for a skilled investigator. At the heart of his investigation is a ruthless development commissioner and a gutsy female campaigner.
Norton carries this movie with a convincing portrayal of a man battling with himself, capturing all the nuances of someone with that affliction – which is at times funny, other times heart breaking. It was also good to see him back centre stage like he used to be. However his performance can’t disguise the fact the plot just isn’t that gripping and is overly cryptic even when it’s trying to explain itself. Alec Baldwin is decent as property developer ‘Moses’ as is Willem Dafoe. The 50’s New York setting is fairly well done, but occasionally sits uneasy between absolute realism and exaggerated Hollywood-noir style. There’s also a clear influence of the classic Chinatown here but can’t come close to that movie’s impact.
Almost worth it for Norton alone, but overall this can’t rise above it’s narrative shortcomings. Still, I’d like to see what Norton does next if he chooses to continue as a director.
When Nicole Kidman’s Atlantian queen washes up before a lighthouse, her forbidden love with land-dweller Temuera Morrison produces Arthur a half-breed who grows up to become underwater superhero Aquaman. However despite his reluctance to be the hero he’s destined to become, a war at his home world of Atlantis causes his own kind to come calling.
This colourful, energetic comic book adaption has a potentially star-making central performance from Game of Thrones’ Jason Momoa and delivers a setting that immediately intrigues. It’s a shame then, that an over-use of CGI and green screen means that almost nothing in this looks like it was shot on location, leading to a largely artificial look and feel. Add to this a cliched story I felt I’d already watched with strong resemblances to the Thor films and Black Panther, with predictable revelations and plot twists … and what’s left is a movie that feels like it arrived too late for its own party. Momoa is charismatic and well cast and handles a plethora of fight sequences with genuine skill and showmanship, and the gorgeous Amber Heard is equally enjoyable. Willem Defoe feels kind of miscast and despite often being cast as the villain – should still have been the villain (Patrick Wilson is largely forgettable) and what really, is Dolph Lundgren doing here?
With that all said it’s hard not to be entertained. The action is slick and at times jaw-dropping (a particular roof top chase is heart-in-mouth exciting) and at times it’s really feel good. It re-introduces the character (following Justice League) well and brings with it a fascinating underwater world ripe for sequels. Just a pity it’s all feels so deja-vu.
During the nineties I had a bit of an obsession with Hong Kong action movies, everything from Jackie Chan to the two-handed gun-play of John Woo. Hollywood quickly followed up on this and the action genre became infused with the influence of far eastern cinema, spawning the likes of Face / Off and The Matrix trilogy. There we come to Keanu Reeves, perhaps not the first person you may have thought of to deftly wield guns and kick ass considering he came from Bill & Ted, but this good looking and decidedly cool actor soon garnered a reputation as the go-to guy for such movies.
He’s been fairly quiet for a while so this come-back vehicle seemed perfectly suited. He plays the title character who following the death of his wife, lives out a peaceful existence with his sleek muscle car and pet dog. However an unfortunate brush with a Russian gang causes a break in at his house, his car getting stolen and his dog to get killed. Only thing is, the gang had no idea who they were messing with.
Perhaps an unintentional homage to classic movie franchise Death Wish albeit with ultra-stylish action that borrows (to an extent) from John Woo … this also feels like it’s own beast, and is carried well by Keanu on ice-cool form as a non-stop killing machine. I sometimes think he’d have made a great Terminator. Support comes in the shape of Willem Dafoe’s seasoned veteran as well as a sultry, sexy Adrianne Palicki. On villainous duties is Michael Nyqvist (Ghost Protocol, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) who proves a more than suitable if clichéd mobster. The set-up is simplistic and the characters slight and under-developed … but for this kind of movie where action is king, we get several stylish, well-edited and gripping encounters, all with a little tongue-in-cheek humour thrown in. I also loved the backdrop of the ‘agency’ that looked after Keanu and his kind (featuring a cameo by Ian McShane) … certainly an idea that could be further developed in sequels.
As the directing debut of former stunt co-coordinator Chad Stahelski, this shows promise for a new visionary in the action movie field. Roll on the already announced John Wick 2.
Well, another vampire movie. Even though I’m getting a little tired of the blood suckers these days, this one at least has a rather interesting premise: A mysterious virus turns 90% of the population of the world into vampires, and the remaining humans become an endangered species. Yet these vampires aren’t the monstrous creatures you may be used to but rather civilised, respectable men and women forced to live in a world where the human blood supply is gradually dwindling and as they grow ever more hungry, some begin changing into ravenous creatures, occupying the subways and sewers in their desperate need. Heading an investigation into finding a blood substitute, Haematologist Ethan Hawke refuses to drink human blood, does not agree with how humans are harvested and would prefer to find a cure. That’s when a small band of humans call on him and show him that they’ve found a way to turn a vampire back into a human – and it’s just a matter of convincing the vampires that immortality and a thirst for blood is less desirable than being normal again.
Now this ticks two boxes to my liking straight away … the always reliable acting talents of one Denzel Washington, probably my favourite African-American actor (yeah, even more so than Samuel L, folks), and secondly, the fact this is a Spike Lee joint. Now this director has made plenty of celebrated films, not all of which have I actually bothered to see, but it has to be said, when I do take the time to take a puff on said joint, he impresses. Do The Right Thing is a definite classic, and I also recommend Edward Norton vehicle The 25th Hour for fans of quality, no-holds-barred acting.
Now back to the feature in hand. Lee has long since graduated from being the black-folks voice of a generation, and is now one of the most assured and skillful directors working today, and this very well done thriller is no exception. Step into the breach one Clive Owen, another actor I admire but don’t always manage to see the best of, and here he plays a clever-ass bank robber with an ingenious plan up his sleeve. On his tail is dapperly-dressed NYPD detective Denzel, ready to pitt wits with the criminals and hopefully save the day … but what he hasn’t banked on is just how damn clever this robber’s plan is, and not even a smug, shady government-type (Jodie Foster) can out smart him.
This is gripping, stylish and very well acted, even if a few of the cast-choices seem a little wasted (really, what is Willem Dafoe doing here? And Foster, although beautiful and sophisticated, has handled much meatier roles than this). But the story held my interest – I was eager to see how it all played out, and the timer on the DVD was not looked at once (a habit I fall into when a film looses me somewhere). No fear here, and although the final, drawn-out pay off is a little ‘meh’, this was a solidly entertaining 2hrs.
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