26 September 2012

Movies: Meeting Evil

Meeting Evil (2012) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1810697/

Thriller

John returns home after being fired from his real estate job. He checks the mail, throws away all the past due bill notices. The house seems empty, so he pours himself a drink. His wife and kids jump out and yell "Surprise!" which scares him into dropping his scotch. He's not in the best of moods so his wife takes the kids to the park. After they leave there's a knock on the door. A man named Richie says his car stalled in front of the house, could John give him a push to get it started?  Nice non-confrontational guy that he is, John gives the car a push, but the backfire from the car starting rips into his leg. Richie offers to drive John to the hospital, but instead takes him on a killing spree.

Stars Luke Wilson and Samuel L. Jackson. I bet you can guess who plays John and who plays Richie.  But that works for this film because you don't have to learn much about their characters to know their characters.
My guess is that production blew their casting wad landing Wilson and Jackson for their roles. It was money well spent.  Luke Wilson plays the everyman as he does so well.
But the icing on the cake is Samuel L. Jackson at his Samuel L. Jacksoniest.

Sure the John character lets himself be put into situations that make you want to slap him for being so stupid as to put himself in to those situations in the first place. A lot of the dialog, especially from the supporting cast, just left me wondering, "who actually talks like that?"  But so what. I enjoyed the film more for the performances and wanting to see how everything works out through to the end. I wanted answers to the questions, especially why the heck did Richie just show up and drag John along on a killing spree. We get those answers. And we even get a great double "Checkov's Gun" from the moment John gets home and takes a look in his backyard.

So yeah, maybe a bit iffy on some dialog and some plot points and casting Wilson and Jackson telegraphs what those characters are about. But at least the plot is consistent through to the end and the performances from Wilson and Jackson make up for the rest.  An entertaining thriller especially if you enjoy watching Samuel L. Jackson make those crazy eye scarey faces and ooze batshitinsansity from every pore of an otherwise calm exterior.

15 September 2012

Movies: The Grey

The Grey (2011) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1601913/

Thriller plus

A contract transport full of returning Alaskan oil workers crashes in the Alaskan (or possibly Canadian) wild. Only a few survive the crash. One survivor is the huntsman that is contracted to protect the oil workers from dangerous wildlife while they work. While the survivors try to get what they can together to survive the elements while awaiting possible rescue things go from bad to worse. A pack of wolves comes to the crash site and start attacking them.

Stars Liam Neeson as the oil worker protector guy, Dermot Mulroney, Frank Grillo, and others you may or may not recognize. Various amounts of beardiness and bits of ice and snow frozen on the faces sort of interferes with cast recognition. I didn't even recognize Dermot Mulroney.

I'm rather split on my opinion of the film. The film trailers did make the film seem more like an adventure thriller than it actually happens to be.
It does have some really good scenes, great locations, good plane crash effects. However other parts of the film just left me wondering what the hell are these guys thinking?
It is a Thriller sort of film, but the "plus" part is a greater existential message being played out in the film above and beyond just watching some guys try to survive the plane crash and then wolves. Not sure how well that's going to go over with the general movie audience. In some ways it works, others, not so much.  It isn't really a hidden message. I just haven't yet decided if it strengthens the film or not.
One part left me groaning at its obviousness. It plays out a very heavy handed allegorical parallel of Alpha supremacy. By heavy handed I mean that sort of in your face in case you just don't get it. Here, look, there's an Alpha fight in the wolf pack, and one in the surviving people pack too. 

Also I think I would not look to this film for lessons in how to survive in the Alaskan wild after a plane crash. Their decisions seemed to go contrary to what would be the logical things to do if you were hoping to be rescued.  Plus there was the solution to overcoming a geographical hazard scene which made no sense to me, especially considering the wolves seemed to have no problem avoiding said hazard. The wolves must've known a much easier, faster and less dangerous route.

So yeah, enjoyable in some ways, other ways, not so much. Probably my fault, allowing my expectations to get in the way. I couldn't help but have expectations. It has Liam Neeson. Ridley and Tony Scott are producers of the film. It was directed by the guy who directed "The A-Team" and "Smokin' Aces". Ah well.


I suppose some folks might be reminded of the film "Alive." If you aren't, don't worry, one of the movie characters  brings it up. I just ignored it, though, because this is nothing like "Alive." One film is about the triumph of mankind's will to survive, overcoming nature and the odds after a disastrous plane crash in the freezing mountains, and the other is "The Grey."

I was more reminded of the film "Frozen." I had to chuckle when I realized my reaction was sort of the opposite of my reaction to "Frozen."  I liked "Frozen" more than I thought I would and liked "The Grey" a little less than I thought I would. The only reason I was reminded of "Frozen" was the whole "freezing temperatures, snow, wolves" bit.

So, nutshell. Some ways good, some ways not so much. Enjoyment levels might wholly depend on your mood at the time. Clocks in at almost 2 hours, which is a bit longer than it really needs to be. The story could've been easily told in an hour. I was fatigued at an hour fifteen. 
Also - there is one last bit of film after the credits, in case the ending wasn't satisfactory enough.

11 September 2012

Movies: Carnage

Carnage (2011) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1692486/

Comedy

In the opening sequence we see, from a distance, a group of kids at a park. Apparently some words are exchanged, a little bit of shoving between two boys, and as the boy carrying a stick walks off the other comes after him, only to be smacked across the face with the stick. The rest of the kids back off.
That just sets us up for what follows. Alan and Nancy Cowan, parents of stick wielder Zack, are at the apartment of Michael and Penelope Longstreet, parents of stick-eater Ethan. Together they composed a statement for the insurance companies* about the incident. Alan asks for a word change, Penelope makes the correction. Everyone seems on the same page, but some words said as the Cowans start leaving the apartment bring on a conversation that brings them back in to the Longstreet apartment.

Stars Christoph Waltz as Alan, Kate Winslet as Nancy, John C. Reilly as Michael and Jodie Foster as Penelope.  Waltz was Col. Hans Landa in "Inglourious Basterds", so of course I couldn't help but recall that great scene ending in him yelling "Au revoir, Shosanna!" as she ran across the field.  Everyone who's seen "Titanic" remembers Winslet. One would have to have lived under a rock to not know who Foster is. When I saw that Reilly was the fourth castmember I thought, "odd casting him with them." But as the film unfolds I realize he was perfect casting for that character. All four did great in their roles.

This film is adapted from a stage play, and it shows. Almost the whole film takes place in the apartment between the two sets of parents. The only things that happen outside that apartment, the brief park scenes involving the two boys, bookend the apartment conversation.  They set the events in motion, then show the resolution and, actually, give contrast to the resolution achieved by the parents.

Now, a bit early on in the film as the Cowans are impatiently trying to leave the apartment and close the conversation, I felt their impatience. I was impatient for them to leave too, knowing if they did the film would be over in under half an hour. I don't know if their projected impatience rubbed off on me or what. But just as they stuck it out, so did I. I can understand some viewers consider the film to be boring, but one sort of has to be in the mindset to sit and watch a one room stage play taking place on film.
Technically no complaints. Despite my initial boredom it either actually picks up or I just got used to its pace. Probably a bit of both. And at about an hour and fifteen minutes or so it isn't a long film.
And direction? Directed by Roman Polanski. He may be scum, but he is a good director. I can't think of a film he's directed that I haven't liked. Then again I've only seen maybe six of 'em.

Overall, I liked the film. I found the dialog, the shifting allegiances and, basically, how everything plays out to be amusing and enjoyable. No details brought to our attention are wasted, everything pointed out gets used (Chekov's gun principle, though no gunfire takes place). But, as I mentioned, you sort of have to be in the right mindset. If you don't enjoy bottled up in one room dialogfests I dunno if this film would change your position.

As for re-watchability -- heck if I know if I'd watch it again. I guess I'll find out someday when I'm randomly checking out what's on. Heck, I randomly came across "30 Minutes or Less" the other day and watched it again. Just 'cause.

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* Note: I'm actually not sure if the letter was for their insurance companies or not. I don't actually remember because I wasn't paying close enough attention to catch that detail. I made an assumption. Heck it could have been for the kids's school or something. Whatever- the letter is actually inconsequential except as fodder for the discussions that follow, much like the hamster.