20 July 2013

Movies: Dead Man Down

Dead Man Down (2013) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2101341/

Victor, an enforcer for a crime lord, is blackmailed by Beatrice, the woman who lives across from him in the highrise. Beatrice watched, and recorded on video, as Victor murdered someone in his apartment. She meets him under the guise of dating, then drops her real motivations on him. She wants revenge on the drunk driver that hit her and ruined her face and life.
As the story unfolds you find out more about Victor's life and why he works for who he does, and how he handles Beatrice's quest for vengeance.

Stars Colin Farrell as Victor, Noomi Rapace as Beatrice.
Farrell, a solid performer, has been in many films over the years and should be a household name by now. Rapace, recently in "Prometheus", was Lisbeth in the original (and better) "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" series films.  Which reminds me I should update that review to include the remake.

Decent thriller film with some action. Once you see the stories unfold you'll realize they aren't especially new, almost cliche at this point. So I have to look past that. I found the performances to be as good as expected considering the cast, the production values were as expected for a bigger budget film, the story was coherent, nothing seemed shoehorned in or pasted on or added frivolously.

Pretty much a well done drama with light action and a hint at romance for those who enjoy some love-story in with their drama/action thrillers.  Not especially groundbreaking or memorable, but not a bad choice for something to watch either.

Movies: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1428538/

We all know the fairy tale of Hansel & Gretel, abandoned in the woods, gingerbread house, witch, oven, etc. This film follows Hansel & Gretel as adults. They are professional witch hunters now.

Stars Jeremy Renner as Hansel and Gemma Arterton as Gretel. Renner has been in quite a few films these past years, including the newest Borne installment, the Avengers, etc. Arterton I remember most from her role in "The Disappearance of Alice Creed", however she's done fine in Clash of the Titans and Prince of Persia, After her "Alice Creed" roles the latter two seem a waste of her talent, but then again she's gotta be seen to get work. Oh wow - just saw she was in Quantum of Solace. Don't remember offhand seeing her in that, but it's been a while since I've watched it.
A couple other notables in the cast are the always entertaining Peter Stormare ("where is pancakes house?")  and Famke Janssen (X-Men, Taken, The Faculty, Hemlock Grove). Oh yeah, one of the dudes who plays a Predator is in it too, and just as buried in prosthetics so you probably wouldn't even know that.

Anyway, enough about cast.

If you've seen "Brothers Grimm" or "Van Helsing" you probably have an idea how this film is going to look/feel. So just sit back and watch. Action, entertainment, stunts and special effects. Although for as feared witch hunters as they are, Hansel and Gretel  seem rather terrible at it. Perhaps it's the strength of this particular witch. I dunno. There is some retelling of the fairy tale, a little change to and deepening of the explanation as to why their father abandoned them in the woods, basically to shoehorn in some motivation and plot explanations.

So if you're not adverse to just sitting back and watching a film it works. If you're looking for something deeper/darker in the Hansel and Gretel story, this doesn't do it.

Movies: The Loved Ones

The Loved Ones (2009) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1316536/

Horror / Thriller

Lola asks Brent to take her to prom. Brent declines. Lola's daddy only wants her to be happy so he helps Lola have her own prom. Meanwhile Brent went off into the field to listen to some music, but after a surprise headache he finds out the hard way he's attending Lola's prom.
There's actually a little more back story involved that shows that Brent has indirectly encountered Lola and her daddy's special relationship before, the explanation of which is doled out as the film progresses.

I think I heard about this film after reading a list about relatively unheard-of recent horror films. I've seen about half the films on the list, but the description of "The Loved Ones" seemed interesting. I've already watched a few decent films from Australia thanks to the power of Netflix and figured I'd gamble on this one. Glad I did. Granted, there weren't a lot of surprises story-wise, most events and the outcome are pretty standard horror fare, but the film was executed well.

I was pleased to see Robin McLeavy, the actress who plays Lola, again. I first saw her in "Hell on Wheels" where she plays Eva, a distinctly tattooed once-captured-by-Indians-now-turned-camp-whore character. She also played as Abraham Lincoln's mother in "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter".

Like I said, not an especially new horror-story plot, but executed well and entertaining.

20 June 2013

TV Series: Spartacus War of the Damned

TV Series: Spartacus War of the Damned

Spartacus: War of the Damned (2013) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1442449/

Final season and epic conclusion of the Spartacus saga. It started with Spartacus: Blood and Sand, ran a brief prequel in Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, returned with Spartacus: Vengeance, and finally wraps with Spartacus: War of the Damned.

After having watched the series both in chronological broadcast order and in event-chronological order, I think the best way to watch the series for the first time viewer is in event-chronological order. That would be:
Spartacus: Gods of the Arena (S:GotA), then
Spartacus: Blood and Sand (S:BaS), followed by
Spartacus: Vengeance (S:V) then
Spartacus: War of the Damned (S:WotD).

As mentioned in my S:GotA and S:V reviews the original actor playing Spartacus in S:BaS, Andy Whitfield, had to bow out of production for cancer treatment, which, unfortunately, he did not survive. The replacement actor, Liam McIntyre,  did a great job stepping in the sandals and made the role his own, honoring his predecessor. The final credits sequence of the final episode should be watched as the images display all the major memorable characters through the series run, including a final parting shot honoring Whitfield.

So yes, for a series that seemed rather plodding during the first few episodes of S:BaS, it quickly grew legs and ran full-tilt to its historically known inevitable conclusion. The production grew as Spartacus' followers grew. We had villains, heroes, villain to hero transformations, amazing bloody and gory violence special effects. It outgrew its seeming "300 meets Gladiator and Rome" stereotype into its own show.

I'm not going to review the season so much as point out it was as big and at times bigger than I anticipated it would be and did not embarrass its preceding seasons.
Heck, I even grew to accept the new actress playing Naevia, something I had a problem accepting during S:V. By this season she makes that role her own. And, again, props to Manu Bennett (Crixus) for convincingly anchoring all seasons of the Spartacus series and playing the character relationships with cast replacements for Spartacus and Naevia in a convincing, authentic and seamless manner.  Bennett really had to be the cornerstone of the cast for the show to pull off major cast changes like that.

So yes, if you enjoy watching a bloody and violent series sprinkled with treachery and nudity this is a worthy-of-watching series.