Ninety percent of action movies are derivative. Carbon copies of better movies that came before them. They can be enjoyable, but are often forgettable. Then there’s the other ten percent. Those movies are something special. They originate and innovate, and rise about the rest by being different and surprising. However, by definition, even the best of the best employ many of the same beats. Punching, kicking, shooting, and explosions are the building blocks of an action movie. The ninety percent use them in ways we’ve seen before. The rest mix them up in ways we don’t expect. John Wick is among the ten percent.
In the first film by accomplished stunt coordinators Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, Keanu Reeves stars as an unstoppable assassin hell-bent on revenge after thugs steal his car and kill his dog. We’ve seen the assassin revenge story a hundred times, but John Wick feels different because it’s set in a unique, dirty, and lived-in world. Everyone has a reputation. Connections. They know each other. This is a place with a rich history simmering below the surface action of guns, choke holds and car crashes. What makes John Wick a standout action film is that it makes us curious. Read More »
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Posted on Friday, October 24th, 2014 by David Chen
I saw Birdman Wednesday night at an advanced screening in downtown Seattle. I don’t think my audience knew what to make of it. It definitely suffers from many of the issues that Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu’s films typically fall prey to: overwrought dialogue; characters who serve as symbols or ideas nothing more; and a bit too much fixation on misery and regret.
Still, I loved Birdman and can’t stop thinking about it. Hit the jump for my video review, and share your thoughts on the film in the comments below.
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Posted on Friday, October 17th, 2014 by David Chen
David Ayer’s Fury is a solid film. If features great performances all around, the tank battles are legitimately thrilling, and there is some really unsettling imagery that lands the message of how war is hell. But the film, like many of Ayer’s other movies, glorifies the idea of being part of an unflinching brotherhood in the face of unspeakable odds. And that’s simply not the message I took away from watching it.
Hit the jump to see my full video review of Fury.
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I’ve always loved hearing filmmakers discuss movies. We’ve often printed interviews where we ask filmmakers about their favorite films and the /Filmcast has tried to bring on directors to review the latest big screen movies. That hasn’t been as constant of a feature as David Chen and I originally planned, because as it turns out, people in the movie industry generally don’t like to publicly bas other filmmaker’s projects and we generally only got yeses from those directors who had a positive take on the film at hand. But I’ve always enjoyed hearing filmmakers discuss the movies they love and the current state of cinema.
Richard Kelly, writer/director of Donnie Darko, Southland Tales, and The Box, has always made his opinions and himself very accessible (actually, I almost wish he wouldn’t have explained the intentions and meanings behind his films, as they serve better as mysteries with no definitive answer). And this week, like many of us, he saw David Fincher‘s latest film Gone Girl and wrote a bit about it on his blog. Find out more about the Richard Kelly Gone Girl review, after the jump.
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All good films get two things right: pace and tone. You can have the most gorgeous visuals, best performances, incredibly well-written script, but if the director doesn’t keep the movie moving forward with a consistent feel, it can all fall apart. Alexandre Aja‘s Horns is a textbook example of this.
Based on a revered novel by Joe Hill (the son of Stephen King), Horns tells the story of a man named Iggy. Played by Daniel Radcliffe, Ig’s accused of killing his long time girlfriend (Juno Temple). His whole Northwestern hometown is sure he did it and, in his despair, Ig mysteriously begins growing a pair of horns. The horns give him incredible powers, and Ig uses them to try and solve the murder.
Right there, you can tell this is going to be difficult. How do you make a murder mystery with religious overtones, a pop sensibility, humor, and Harry Potter? The truth is there’s no real answer as Aja’s film combines lots of strong elements that never quite come together in a cohesive manner. Read More »
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With Everly, director Joe Lynch answers the age old question, just how much action can you stage in a single room? The answer, not surprising, is a lot. Salma Hayek is the title character, a hooker turned informant who has just been discovered by her employer. Her mission is to stay alive over the next few hours in hopes she can save her family. And over that time, she’ll be forced to stay in the apartment because of the seemingly non-stop barrage of people coming to kill her.
Written by Yale Hannon, from a story by he and Lynch, Everly sounds like a pretty simple movie and it is. It’s also a Christmas movie, giving this one woman vs. the world, in a confined space, film a decidedly and deliberate Die Hard vibe. The film never reaches the heights of that classic, but it keeps us suitably engaged because we never ever know what’s going to come through that door next. Read the rest of our Everly review below. Read More »
Posted on Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014 by Angie Han
From a marketing standpoint, Fox’s Gotham already had the deck stacked heavily in its favor. It’s a gritty superhero origin story, at a time when gritty superhero origin stories are doing massive business. And the superhero in question isn’t some indie-comic third-stringer, but one of the most iconic, most beloved superheroes of all time. Those facts alone would be enough to make Gotham one of the most buzzed-about new shows of the 2014-2015 season, even without a seasoned, capable creator (Bruno Heller, of Rome and The Mentalist) and a thoroughly solid cast (Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, Jada Pinkett-Smith).
But from a creative standpoint, that very same advantage — Gotham‘s familiarity — proves to be a major liability. It’s an antihero crime drama in a pop culture landscape already saturated with antihero crime dramas, and these particular antiheroes are already extremely well known. By the show’s very nature, there’s little question as to where most of its characters will end up, which drastically lowers the dramatic tension. Were Gotham not a Batman prequel, we might be left wondering whether Jim Gordon (McKenzie) could possibly make good on his promise to clean up the city, or whether Bruce Wayne’s traumatic childhood would forge a hero or a villain. As it is, we already know exactly what the answers are.
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I want you to go get a piece or paper or open the Notes program on your phone and write down two words: Tokyo Tribe. You’re going to want tangible proof you knew about one of the craziest, most surprising, surreal fun films of the year well before anyone else.
Tokyo Tribe is directed by Shion Sono, a director whose films (Love Exposure, Cold Fish) are usually pretty brutal. For the most part, this one isn’t. In fact, it’s the opposite. Tokyo Tribe is a hip hop musical about gang wars in Tokyo filled with sex, action, rapping and more rapping. Think Les Miserables if it were populated by The Warriors, who acted like they were in a kung-fu version of Beat Street, with the visual aesthetic of Spring Breakers. Set in an Eighties. That almost describes Tokyo Tribe, a film I loved to no end. Read More »
Kevin Smith‘s Tusk is a prime example of a filmmaker in the midst of reinvention. Ever since the disaster that was Cop Out, Smith has been on a quest to become a new director. First he shunned Hollywood and self-distributed Red State, a welcome departure from his off-the-wall comedies of the past. Now he’s delving deep into horror with Tusk, the story of a man named Howard (Michael Parks) who kidnaps a podcaster named Wallace (Justin Long) and attempts to turn him into a Walrus.
Much like Smith’s up-and-down career path, Tusk has a fascinating trajectory. Everything starts off well with the director slowly but surely building a very specific, intriguing and foreboding tone. Even as the story begins to border on the ridiculous and the gore gets exponentially more intense, we buy it because the film has won us over with its sharp writing, well-timed humor, inventive plot and layered storytelling.
Unfortunately, about two-thirds into the movie, Smith apparently saw some brake lights in front of him because the film comes to a screeching halt. It stops being fun so suddenly and so painfully it’s almost unfathomable. Things never quite recover from that narrative roadblock and, by the end, it all feels arbitrary and amateurish. Read More »