Sunday, January 27, 2013


Director Taylor Hackford’s Parker is a fine action/thriller thanks to Jason Statham of the Transporter series.


Like Mel Gibson’s character in Payback, Statham’s Parker is a crook, who just wants what is owed to him and is after the men who stole his share of a robbery and left him for dead. 


I’m a big fan of Statham and was looking forward to this portrayal and am happy to say he didn’t let me down.  I, also, liked the fact John McLaughlin’s script kept a logic to Parker’s travails.

Michael Chiklis is strong as the leader of the team that swindled Parker, Australian newcomer Emma Booth is splendid as Parker’s girlfriend and Patti LuPone is excellent as the mother of Jennifer Lopez’ character. 
As for Jennifer, her performance is up and down, but mostly up in spite of some of the cheesy lines she’s been given. 


For fans of the action/thriller genre, I give Parker a 4; for others, it’s a 3+.

Movie 43

What can be said about Movie 43 other than that it’s a gross-out film that is sometimes hysterical, but, more often, in bad taste.

With 12 Directors, including Brett Ratner (X-Men), Griffin Dunne (An American Werewolf in London) and Peter Farrelly (Dumb & Dumber), 9 Writers and a slew of Producers and Executive Producers, Movie 43 is a baker’s dozen of vignettes loosely strung together as a film pitch by a demented, would-be screenwriter played by Dennis Quaid to a studio executive played by Greg Kinnear.

Some of these vignettes, like the first with Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman, a “commercial” about Machine Kids and Terence Howard as the coach of a basketball team are brilliant.  However, most of the others are either cheesy or downright gross.
My film companion asked, "Why would someone like Halle Berry or Richard Gere agree to be in a film like this?"  I guess the answer is that actors like to act and there were some directors of note involved.  And, of course, there are at least 30 other actors of note that somehow got involved, so, I'm assuming it snowballed.

The one standout performer is Chloë Grace Moretz (Hugo) as a Middleschool Date, who brings dignity into what could have been a really gross vignette.

If you’re between the age of 13 and 30 and have either been drinking or smoking weed, you’ll probably love this film, but, most others may see it as the lowest form of  Hollywood humor.  It doesn’t have the wit that, for instance, Joan Rivers gives to TV’s Fashion Police.

It’s hard to rate this type of film, which varies so much from 0 to 5, so I have to split the difference and give it a 2+.


Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

Writer/Director Tommy Wirkola’s Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is Django with witches instead of rednecks.

 I, for one, enjoy the recreation of fairy tales and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters does an admirable job at that.  But, make no mistake…you will be watching a fairy tale with fire power that belies the era in which viewers are immersed.  However, if you are okay with letting go of logic, you’ll enjoy it.

And, what this film has that Django didn’t is Gemma Arterton (Quantum of Solace), plus a Finish newcomer Pihla Viitala as a bonus: both extremely watchable. 

Adding to the fun, Famke Janssen makes a great, evil witch; Jeremy Renner, a fine Hansel; and Peter Stormare, an enjoyably stupid sheriff.


Some of the production design is cheesy, but forgivable, if you are in that “letting go” mood: ditto for the script, as well.  Given that Will Ferrell is one of the Producers, it all makes sense.  Here, the cheesiness is fun.
I give Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters a 3+ out of 5.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Last Stand

He’s back!  And, I have to say, politics has improved his line reading.  I’m speaking of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Director Jee-woon Kim’s The Last Stand.

Oddly enough, this film turned out to be the best of this weekend’s trio and, certainly, the most enjoyable. 

 Backed by Johnny Knoxville, Luis Guzmán, Jaime Alexander (TV’s Kyle XY)  and bad-guy Peter Stormare, Sheriff Arnold takes on the leader of Mexico’s top cartel, who has been sprung from the convoy transporting him to the prison and is making a break for the border. 

Exciting chases, spectacular fights and comic interludes make this film a charming and fun comeback for the “governator” that drew audience applaud at the end.

I give The Last Stand a 4 out of 5 for action genre fans.


Writer/Director Andrés Muschietti's Mama is a well-produced and entertaining ghost story that was far better than I expected it would be.

Jessica Chastain and two young actresses, Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nélisse, backed by the cinematography of Antonio Riestra and excellent Special Effects and Visual Effects Departments draw the audience into a shivering experience until it becomes a bit confusing and out-of-step with its reality at the end. 

However, if you like ghost stories and, surely, if you’ve experienced the Paranormal Activity quartet, then you’ll appreciate this much higher quality production.

I give Mama a 3 out of 5 for the general audience and a 3+ for the fan base.

Broken City

Director Allen Hughes’ Broken City is a broken movie; a waste of good actors and a waste of your time.

When you start with a weak script like this one by Writer Brian Tucker and add a Sound Department that may have been trying to cover up that fact by producing a fairly muted voice track like this film’s, then even talent the likes of Catherine Zeta-Jones, Russell Crowe, Mark Wahlberg and Jeffrey Wright won’t be able to salvage the effort…as was the case here.

The only thing Broken City has going for itself is the scenes with Catherine Zeta-Jones and those of newcomer Alona Tal, who I look forward to seeing in something worthy of her talents.

I give this poor start to the weekend a 1+ out of 5 with the + being a nod to the two ladies.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Gangster Squad

Director Ruben Fleischer’s Gangster Squad is a fine period (1949) gangster movie about the hunt for real-life mobster Mickey Cohen, who came from New York to take over the prostitution and betting rackets in the city of Los Angeles.

This film is better than I expected for its production values, thanks to Cinematographer Dion Beebe and Production Designer Maher Ahmad, as well as its script by Will Beall from the book by Paul Lieberman.

Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Emma Stone and all the supporting players give their all to make this period action film an exciting experience for those who love this genre.

I give Gangster Squad a 4 for its fan base and 3+ for regular film viewers.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Promised Land

In Promised Land, Director Gus Van Sant and Writers/Actors Matt Damon and John Krasinski harken back to the social consciousness films of the ‘30s and ‘40s as they take on the controversial gas-drilling practice known as “fracking.”

This is an excellently told tale of economic need that creates the struggle between greed and integrity. 

The film moves smoothly and, often, delightfully with superb performances by Matt Damon, John Krasinski, Hal Holbrook, Frances McDormand and Rosemarie DeWitt surrounded by pristine America as the town depicted decides on whether to let fracking take place.

The issue is important and, having sat in on both industry and environmental activist talks, as well as having studied the practice, I can attest to the fact the filmmakers are more than fair in depicting what is taking place in the real world.

Without giving away the plot, the most telling comment is made by a key character, when she says, “It’s just a job.”  It’s the takeaway I had after hearing well-coifed, well-dressed industry types parsing the truth, when fielding questions from concerned citizens.  They were no different from the “good soldiers” at Auschwitz, who turned the gas nozzles because it was “just a job.”

Hopefully, there are enough politicians with sufficient integrity to turn down the payoffs and push for proper regulation of this important, but, currently, environmentally dangerous industry, as well as more enlightened media reporters, who will bring the issue of creating proper rules to the forefront.

As a film entertainment, alone, I give Promised Land a 4 out of 5, but for focusing light on an important American issue, its story deserves a 5.