Friday, January 29, 2016



I am still unsure of whether the invention of found footage films was a decent, creative idea or an absolutely horrible idea. I suppose it's good for the horror genre (one I've never been a fan of), as the shaky cam and angles allow for more mystery and jump-scares. But it's never something I've been a big fan of. It's rare that one will come along that I'm even willing to try to watch. And usually, they don't even fall under the horror genre. 

Cloverfield doesn't exactly fall under the horror genre. It is a monster movie; but I feel like it really is just that. It isn't really a horror film, but it's not really an action/adventure film or sci-fi film either. It's just a monster film about a monster that attacks New York City and causes chaos and destroys a lot of things (as you can tell on the poster alone). 

And really, that's the basis of the plot. Found footage films have never been strong on plot in my experience. The characters of the movie? And their plot? Not much to say there, really. We spend a doggone slow first 20 minutes going through a "going-away" party for some guy named Rob, while he fights with his ex Beth, and some guy named Hud films everything. The monster attack interrupts their little party, and they and some others are caught in the fray as Rob has to go back across town for a trapped Beth while the military wages war with the creature. 

Cloverfield does have its moments. It does have a couple of startles, and the monster itself is certainly an interesting creation. Despite it being found footage, there are actually a couple of cool camera shots. Unfortunately, Cloverfield is victimized by the various found-footage cliches (in my experience): annoying shaky cam, terrible dialogue, lack of overall plot, annoying characters, and well... you get the point. Even if this is on purpose *because* it's intended to look like someone filmed it on their camera, it still doesn't really excuse it. 

One thing that Cloverfield does have going for it is the mystery element. There are various questions that are not answered (and some that are actually raised) such as the origin of the creature. Whether these things will be "answered" or not in the "sequel" 10 Cloverfield Lane will admittedly be interesting to see. (Wait, am I actually interested in a found footage *sequel?*) 

If you're a fan of the genre, Cloverfield will be a thrill ride all the way to the end (except for the first 20 minutes, which no one could actually be "thrilled" during). For everyone else, there's still really no reason to dismiss it other than its found footage nature. I enjoyed watching it once, but I don't know if I'd want to again. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Quantum of Solace


While Daniel Craig's first outing as James Bond in Casino Royale wasn't without its flaws (namely its convoluted poker tournament plot), it was still a pretty darn good and mostly entertaining movie. Craig did very well as Bond and showed a bit of a new side to the character. This film is supposed to follow up directly from where Casino Royale left off, answering the questions about the organization known as Quantum that was ultimately responsible for Vesper's death in the last movie.

It's quite unfortunate that they had to switch directors for this movie. Because while Martin Campbell did a fairly good job with Casino Royale, it's hard to say the same for director Marc Forster in this film. 

If you thought Casino Royale had a convoluted plot at times, get ready... because you have seen nothing yet. Quantum of Solace, which begins*immediately* with a frantic car chase, hurls you quickly into a rather confusing plot concerning the organization Quantum and their intentions to control some big natural resource in South America. For some reason. I kind of feel like a super-secret organization like them would have more important priorities than something random in Bolivia. By the end of the film, we don't know much more about them than we did at the beginning (though I understand more is *supposed* to be revealed in Spectre, which I haven't seen yet). 

James Bond's intentions in the film are even more confusing. One moment it seems as if he is a madman seeking revenge for the death of Vesper, and the next he seems to be quite collected. His supervisor M is almost even worse in that regard; one moment she wants James Bond suspended from field duty, and the next she suddenly completely trusts him again for no apparent reason. 

Probably the worst thing about this film, though, is the unbelievably horrible camera cuts. Most of the  action sequences are so quickly edited, jump-cutting and switching angles every two seconds, that in a couple of cases--namely the opening car chase--I could legitimately not tell at all what was going on. There's another chase where I started being unable to tell Bond and the guy he is pursuing apart, because of how quick the camera cuts are. What's arguably even dumber is a couple of sequences where the camera cuts randomly between the exciting action (such as it is) and a completely unrelated event; one being a horse race (seriously, freaking *why?*) and in the other, an opera. 

Quantum of Solace tries as hard as it can at times to be absolutely horrible, but it is not without merit. Daniel Craig still does very well in his role as James Bond, delivering the grittiness and charm at the same time. Despite the quick editing's attempts to make the action sequences horrible, there are still quite a few good ones; including a fight that goes from rooftops through glass early on, a boat chase, and the whole last 20 minutes or so, which are admittedly pretty thrilling and deliver an explosive finale. The overall plot, though convoluted, isn't boring at least. 

Despite some decent moments, Quantum of Solace is still a fairly weak Bond film, and I ultimately was pretty glad that it was distinctly shorter than Casino Royale (106 minutes compared to 144). Though it doesn't exactly tie the loose ends like one hopes it would, there's still some material that makes up for it somewhat. It's worth watching as part of the Daniel Craig Bond saga, but you probably won't end up wanting to watch it more than once. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

San Andreas


Disaster films. Most people either enjoy them somewhat, or they really hate them. My enjoyment of them tends to be across the board. Some of them are better than others. One thing that a lot of disaster films lately have in common is their use of incredibly unrealistic scenarios. The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 come to mind in that regard. However, San Andreas is the closest one I've seen in a while to representing an actual possible real-life scenario. 

We have the San Andreas fault, which ends up shifting in the film as it often does throughout history. Only now it's shifting stronger than ever--an early earthquake in Los Angeles goes up to 9.1 on the scale. Now, the thing about that is, the San Andreas Fault actually is a threat to southern California. Would the real thing be a 9.1? Probably not. Hopefully not. But there is always the risk of that general area getting a rude awakening of some sort one of these days. 

As for the plot line besides the earthquake, we have a helicopter Air Rescue pilot named Dwayne Johnson--um, excuse me--Ray Gaines--who is divorced from his wife and is trying to keep in touch with his daughter Blake (wait a minute, is this Taken?). When the massive line of earthquakes hits Southern Cali, he goes into action to save his daughter and estranged wife. And that's pretty much it. 

San Andreas does have some pretty spectacular sequences in it. An early scene with an initial earthquake at the Hoover Dam causes some pretty amazing visuals. There's also a pretty stunning sequence inside of a building *during* the earthquake where Gaines' wife tries to stay alive--one of the more realistic disaster scenes I've seen in a while. 

Unfortunately, like some of its other counterparts, San Andreas does manage to succumb to the usual cartoonish antics near the end (i.e.: filmmakers forgetting how long it is humanly possible to breathe underwater), so it should consider itself lucky it has the visuals and special effects to prop itself up. 

Otherwise, there's not particularly much to the film. The script is mostly a bit of a joke, and so is much of the cast; but Dwayne Johnson manages to do quite well, giving one of the better performances of his career, delivering even the cheesy lines well, and showing some acting range during a bit of a "plot twist" of sorts. 

San Andreas is probably one of the better films of its genre, though to be fair, that's not saying much. These type of films really never bring out A-grade material, but hopefully you already knew that. If you go into the film knowing what to expect, you'll actually be fairly entertained (thanks to Dwayne Johnson and the special effects). You could certainly do a lot worse anyway. 

Monday, January 4, 2016



Christopher Nolan is known as one of the best film directors currently in the business. Mostly he's known for the Dark Knight trilogy, all three films of which are brilliant pieces of filmmaking. Unlike some of his other work, though, they're relatively simple films. Not any over-complicated concepts. That's not particularly in the case in his two other recent non-Batman films; Inception and Interstellar. Both of which are mind-bending films. 

Inception takes place in a world where military technology exists that allows people to infiltrate the subconscious of another person through shared dreaming. Dom Cobb is a particular master of the art of "extraction," as it's referred to. He's also trying to get back to his kids, as he's considered a criminal back in the U.S. He is offered an opportunity by a Japanese businessman with connections who can get him his life back; in return for performing "inception" (planting of an idea into a subject's subconscious) on a business rival. 

There's not too much more I can explain about the plot itself of the film without giving away spoilers. There's plenty of complicated concepts, and yet the film does a surprisingly good job of explaining itself (*if* you're paying attention, anyway). It manages to make the "dreams" concepts plausible, thanks to various truth nuggets such as "Dreams feel real when we're in them; it's only when we wake up that we actually realize something's strange." 

Inception overall is a brilliantly made film, loaded with exciting action sequences, an ultimately genius story and plot, well-written dialogue, a fantastic soundtrack from Hans Zimmer, and a strong cast led by Leonardo DiCaprio, who I'm not normally a fan of but does quite well here. The rest of the cast includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, and Michael Caine (a surprisingly minor role for him, but he still does well as usual). 

The nice thing about Inception is that even those who can't quite grasp the concept or plot will find some appeal in the film with its action sequences and brilliant visuals and strong acting. It's a difficult film to straight-up dislike. The film also helped to confirm that Christopher Nolan wasn't a one-trick pony, and that he was here to stay. And even if Interstellar didn't quite reach the same heights of his other films (it was still quite good), that still remains true. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016



There was a time when Liam Neeson wasn't really known as much of an action star. Sure, he could play the role, but he wasn't a go-to guy for it. Probably his most popular role in action film before this film came out was Ra's al Ghul in Batman Begins. And he didn't do a *whole* lot of fighting in it. Not like here. 

Background story. Bryan Mills is a former CIA field operative who retired in order to try and get closer to his teenage daughter Kim (especially seeing as he is divorced). Upon his ex-wife's request, he allows her on a trip to Paris with her best friend and her family. Thanks mostly to her best friend's stupidity, Kim and her friend are... well... taken. Bryan is able to get Kim to leave her phone on before the abduction and get some info on the thief, and issues the famous Liam Neeson threat which has since become popular on the Internet. 

"I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills. ... Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. So if you let my daughter go now, that will be the end of it. I will not look for you. I will not pursue you. But if you don't... I will look for you. I will find you... and I will kill you." 

Thus begins the wild ride that teaches us a lesson: never, never, never, never, *never* kidnap the daughter of an ex-CIA operative. It will be very hazardous to your health. 

The path to finding his daughter, though, is a surprisingly dark one. He ends up uncovering a sex trafficking ring (which they manage to depict without explicitness and still get the point across) in the middle of Europe, and finds he has 96 hours before he loses his daughter for good. He thus obliterates everyone in his path; occasionally using ethically questionable methods (namely non-fatally shooting the completely innocent wife of a corrupt French cop in order to get intel). He can hardly be considered a complete hero; closer to a driven antihero than anything who simply wants to save what he cares about most... at *any* cost. 

Despite that, Taken is a pretty enthralling action thriller with plenty of cool fight scenes and action sequences and surprisingly clever/funny dialogue at times. The film also manages to cast a light on the disturbing trafficking occurring in the area (while keeping its PG-13 rating with ease). While it's not necessarily a classic, it's certainly a good popcorn flick that holds up a little better than perhaps would be expected.