Friday, July 11, 2014

Review: RUSHLIGHTS (2013) *** PASS ***

RUSHLIGHTS (2013) *** PASS ***

RUSHLIGHTS is a thriller directed by from a script by and .  It stars: Beau Bridges, Haley Webb, Josh Henderson & Aidan Quinn.

The story
Two delinquent lovers from Los Angeles, find a dead body that looks exactly like the girl and decide to travel to a small town to try to claim the inheritance, only to find there are problems with the inheritance and a drug dealer from LA has followed them looking for money.

Was it good?

It was okay, which for a mystery/thriller isn't good.  The set-up with the inheritance is okay, but something I've seen before (or at least read before).  The sheriff nosing around, the problems with the inheritance...all of those were okay but they never felt like they meant anything.  The couple didn't seem desperate for money until the drug dealer comes looking for his money and he just wasn't that menacing.  In fact, he seemed more interested in sex than money, which probably would have been a more interesting story -- a girl trying to get away from an abusive drug dealing boyfriend, only to have him follow her and ruin the new life she is trying to build (one that's built on a lie and in danger of falling apart).  Here, there were lots of mysteries and little thrills.  Well acted, especially from Beau Bridges, but a story that was all surface and and no thrills.  It wasn't bad but blah, which honestly in a thriller can be worse than bad.  I wouldn't say it's a horrible waste of time, but there are just too many better things out there to watch.
*** PASS ***
Watch instead: movies I'd go with classics like Body Double, Body Heat, and Dressed to Kill.  Modern I'd go with tv shows like Person of Interest, True Detective, The Bridge and Fargo.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

THE RETURNED (2013) *** WATCH ***

Less a horror movie than a drama/thriller that uses the idea of zombies to nice effect.  Written by .  Directed by .  Starring , , and .

The story: in a world where a zombie outbreak has happened, humans have developed a drug that if given to an infected person soon enough will keep the zombie virus dormant.  However, the supplies are running low and people are beginning to panic.  This is the story of a doctor (Hampshire) whose husband (Holden-Reid) has become infected and is trying to keep the virus dormant long enough for a synthetic solution to be developed.

Was it good?

Yeah.  It wasn't great, but it was solid with a lot of stuff worth watching.  The concept is a great twist on the classic zombie concept that focuses more on the characters than on gore.  The acting is all very good, the directing solid and they do a lot with the concept, having a black market and the shortages and groups of people who are violently anti-zombie.  It's definitely worth watching especially if you are looking for something a bit different than other zombie movies.

So why only a rental?  Well, partially because there is some clumsy plotting toward the end and honestly, while the movie isn't really about zombies the concept is about zombies and there definitely should have been more with them.  This movie took the easy way out in many ways dealing with the zombie infection and could have been much, much more interesting.  The main reason, however, is the story's lack of depth.  While it is more character oriented, there isn't a lot of emotion and while there are some interesting plot-elements with the lack of the antidote, none of them really investigate the characters.  Compare that to, say, CLOVERFIELD, where there is a story about a man trying to save his relationship with the girl he loves and then the monster arrives and now he has to save her from a bigger, external threat.  Or SCREAM which has a teen girl unsure she trusts her boyfriend enough to have sex and then he is accused of being a serial killer and she has to decide to trust him or not.  See these stories set up a parallel that allows them to use the external concept to explore an internal concept.  That's how they are able to get emotion out of their stories.  Here, there just isn't anything.  So while the story is interesting, it also starts to feel a bit flat.

Still, for the strong concept, good acting and clever plotting, I think it's worth a RENTAL.

NO ONE LIVES (2012) *** AVOID ***

A twist on a classic horror film staple -- the bad guys terrorizing an innocent couple off the in boondocks.  Lots of style, lots of gore and a bit of nudity.  Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura and written by David Cohen.  Stars Luke Evans, , Adelaide Clemens, Derek Magyar, America Olivo, Lindsey Shaw, Lee Tergesen, and Brodus Clay.

The story: a group of bad guys kidnap a traveling couple only to find the man is a psychopath who will now terrorize them and kill them all.

Was it good?

No.  No, really, no.  And it's frustrating because there are a lot of good things about the movie.  I like the cast who are much more solid than horror movies usually get.  The directing has lots of style.  And it isn't one of those pg-13 wuss outs -- this is a hard R with lots of violence, gore and some nudity.  The problem is the story just doesn't make any sense, nothing connects, and it becomes as empty as any Z-grade horror schlock made in some guy's backyard.

After some early character stuff, which is fine, we get to the action.  The couple (Evans andRamsey) is hijacked by one of the bad guys.  He plans on torturing them to get their pin number sand bank account, etc.  Instead the girl kills herself on his knife and the guy now sets out to kill them all.  So why did the girl kill herself?  I have no idea.  Clearly the boyfriend is enough of a bad ass he could have taken otu the other guy and probably saved her.  So why do it?  It's these weird lapses that seem to be thrown in just because they are cool but really make no sense at all that make this an AVOID movie.  Which is a shame because it easily could have been a cool little film.

So what other bizarre nonsense is in the film?  The part where the man about to get revenge goes for a skinny dip and starts walking around naked.  (Not a problem since he has clothes a moment later.)  There's the girl who was a hostage who seems to both like and hate the man who took her hostage for some reason, even though it's not explained why he took her hostage or why his girlfriend would be okay with it.  Honestly, I could go on and on, but this is a movie based on what would be cool not what could ever possibly make sense.  So why does the guy have a hostage in his car?  Because it's cool.  Why does the girl take a shower?  Because it's cool. 

And it's a shame a little more thought wasn't put into making this pile of cool-wanna-be actually form a story that makes any sort of sense, because like I said there's a lot of good and this could have been a cool little film.  Instead:

*** AVOID ***

Monday, February 3, 2014

BIG ASS SPIDER (2013) *** WATCH ***

A fun sci-fi horror movie, a throw back to those classic giant animal movies of the 60's.  directed by Mike Mendez.  Written by Gregory Gieras.  Stars: Greg Grunberg, Lin Shaye, Patrick Bauchau, Ray Wise, Clare Kramer, Lombardo Boyar.

The story: A man fights a giant spider.

Was it good?

YES.  Don't get me wrong, this isn't going to win Oscars and won't defeat KING KONG or ALIEN, but for a goofy throw-back sci-fi movie it was the one thing you want most -- FUN.  With a solid screenplay that does what you'd expect and has fun with it, and game performances from some solid actors this movie manages to stay entertaining throughout.  This would be a fun movie to show my niece and nephews if not for some unneeded language.  It's a shame, because as a movie for adults it isn't edgy enough, but as more of a family film it would be great.

Still, for fans of those early 60's sci-fi movies and movies like ARACHNOPHOBIA and EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS, this one is a good one to check out.

*** WATCH ***
A action/thriller where the South is full of hillbillies and meth addicts/dealers.  Nice.  Directed by Gary Fleder.  Screenplay by  Sylvester Stallone, based on a book by Chuck Logan.  Movies stars: Jason Statham, James Franco, Winona Ryder, Kate Bosworth, Rachelle Lefevre, Frank Grillo, Clancy Brown, and Izabela Vidovic.

The story: an undercover DEA man moves to his wife's Southern, rural hometown with his daughter after his wife's death.  There he gets on the wrong side of a local meth dealer who sets out to get rid of him and his daughter.

Was it good?

Almost.  And what I mean by almost is there's a lot of good stuff here and it's worth watching, but it also gives hints of how good it really could have been, so while you are watching it the movie manages to be entertaining and disappointing at the same time.

The problem is the way pieces connect and grow.  For instance, I'm not real sure why Statham moves from the city to his wife's hometown.  His wife is dead, she doesn't seem to have any relatives there -- so why move there?  It's almost random.  Then once there, the build to his confrontation with Franco is all odd.  It starts with a confrontation between his daughter and a boy at school that somehow keeps building until it gets to Franco who happens to be a meth dealer.  Of course, his being a meth dealer doesn't really add to the direct conflict (even after Statham finds out he is a meth dealer he isn't trying to get him busted really).  Then Franco pulls in the drug dealers from the beginning of the film, but the father is in jail so it really is just random people that come down to kill Statham and his daughter.  There also is a side note between Statham and a school staffer his daughter likes, but that doesn't really add anything or go anything.  Eventually the conflict between the daughter and boy (and Statham and that family) seems to fall away for these random people from the drug lord. 

The story just lacks the clear focus that a good action movie needs, making it feel muddled and emotionally flat.  That said, there is a lot here that works.  Statham and Franco played their parts very well.  Statham is the stoic tough guy (as always), but seen as a father helps give him more than more of his action movies.  Franco as the meth dealer plays against the tough guy, he is more of a thinker, a plotter and schemer, and it makes the movie much more interesting. 

This is a good movie with some nice acting and pieces, but suffers from a muddled core and lack of compelling direct conflict between the two main characters.  An action movie with some heart (for Statham) and a smart villain (Franco) could have been intriguing.  This was entertaining, but didn't quite get to intriguing.
*** RENTAL ***

Watch also: DIE HARD (a classic), MOMENTO (Christopher Nolan's breakthru), BANK JOB (a very good Statham movie).
This is a thriller (supposedly) directed by  Ridley Scott, from an original screenplay by Cormac McCarthy (All the Pretty Horses, ).  It has an all-star cast with Michael Fassbender (lead), Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz and Brad Pitt.

The story: A lawyer known only as "The Counselor" (Fessbender)gets involved in a drug deal with aruthless Mexican cartel, but when it goes bad the cartel come after him and everyone he loves.

Was it good?

No.  Why?  Because it was SOOOO BOOORING.  The entire first half of the movie is setting up The Counselor getting involved with the drug deal and it going wrong.  For the most part, it's just people sitting around talking in a strange, clipped way that I think is supposed to make them sound deep.  Maybe there's supposed to be a feeling of suspense, but it isn't there.  Also not there is motive.  No one seems to have a need for the money.  It's like all this is just a thing to do.  Also lacking is any real sense to the way The Counselor gets blamed for the deal going wrong.  It's just a strange coincidence.  Now coincidences happen and it can be okay for movies to turn on them, but you usually want them in the first quarter of the movie, not the second half.  From there, there's a feeling of inevitability as the cartel and other close in on The Counselor.  Now in all fairness, McCarthy's novels are incredibly praised in large part for the sort of "deep" sparceness he used in this film.  It just didn't work for me at all here.  It lacked tension, it lacked depth, it lacked emotion.  And the thing with Cameron Diaz uses the car windshield to masturbate herself was just dumb.

*** AVOID ***

See instead: GONE BABY GONE (Ben Affleck's directoral debut), EL MARIACHI (Robert Rodruigez's first feature length film), or RUN LOLA RUN.

Friday, January 24, 2014

ZOMBIE NIGHT (2013) ** AVOID ***

Another zombie movie.  This one directed by John Gulager (Feast 1-3, Piranha 2 - 3DD).  Written by (story), (screenplay).  Stars: (Dead Zone), (Splash, Blade Runner), (Ferris Bueller's Day Off), and (Patridge Family).

The story: The dead are rising!  Two family try to hide out in their homes until morning, when the effect will wear off.  However, things go bad and the families have to decide to help each other or turn on each other.

Was it good?

No.  There's nothing wrong with the basic idea, and I'm a big fan of Hall and have wtached Gulager's work since FEAST.  However, the story is just uninteresting.  There's nothing new here.  It basically is NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, but instead of strangers in one house, it is two families in separate houses.  It's a shame, because zombies are such a good way to explore humanity.  They easily could have made it a look at modern suburbs -- are neighbor's really friends?  Are they stranger?  And there was a relationship between the teens that could have played a part, but really it could have been taken out.

Watch instead: Warm Body (for a more interesting take on zombies), and classics like Night of the Living Dead (original), Return of the Living Dead