Friday, May 25, 2018



I kind of wish there had been a bit more truth to the title of this movie. Sure, I get what it's technically referencing to. This movie takes place on a plane, and a terrorist situation happens on said plane. And the plane cannot stop... therefore... non-stop. But what I'm referring to is that I kind of wish there had been a bit more non-stop action. Instead, for the most part until the final act, this film attempts going the thriller and suspense route. And mostly fails. 

This is one of four (!) action thriller movies that director Jaume Collet-Serra has done in the 2010's starring Liam Neeson. Evidently, he's been trying to cash in heavily on the recent turn in Neeson's career that started with Taken. Since then he's been getting typecast as gruff current or former cops who is typically pretty good with combat skills. These particular movies never make a ton of money or win over a lot of fans--but just enough to allow studios to keep investing in it, hoping that they'll have the next sleeper action thriller blockbuster that just so happens to star Liam Neeson. 

This particular one takes place almost completely in the air--save for the very beginning and end. That does at least lend it a certain amount of focus. Neeson's character, Bill Marks, is a U.S. Air Marshal, and thus he does a lot of flying. And on this particular flight, he just so happens to get a message from a terrorist who threatens to kill someone on the plane every 20 minutes unless $150 million is transferred to a certain account. Chaos ensues... slowly. 

This movie is actually stunningly tedious for much of the run time. Much of it centers around Marks trying to figure out "whodunit." And things are actually pretty tense at first. But later the results often end up making him look bad instead--and he starts getting framed instead. Ultimately, the whole thing just gets tiring to watch as it goes on for some time. And it doesn't help matters that Marks is not much of a protagonist that we want to root for--the sad thing is, you can't entirely argue with some of the passengers' reasons for suspecting him (even though we know he is not the perpetrator). That is not good. 

Luckily, the film kicks up a bit in the final act, but it's a bit of a bonkers final act at that. Sure, there's more action, but the antagonist's plan really is not that good of one (despite the person's protests otherwise). And when you think about it, the outcome the person hoped for after the occurrence of his plan probably was not going to happen. And also, after not really doing hardly anything to suspend disbelief most of the way through, the final act ends on a bit of a ridiculous note that really should have resulted in a lot of deaths--but doesn't. 

Non-Stop unfortunately is not really a movie that had potential to be much better. It was going in the wrong direction from the start. Going the "let's frame the good guy" route for the majority of the run time is quite tedious. And not nearly enough is done to make the film redeem itself in the end. I often end these more critical reviews lamenting about "what could have been," but it's difficult to see where this film could have gone to make it any dramatically better. 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Eagle Eye


I'm actually at a bit of a loss on where to start with this one. I know what has to be discussed eventually about this movie; but what comes first (and what was actually marketed) is a bit more difficult to find a starting point to go on. With little option, we'll just throw caution to the wind: this is an artificial intelligence action-thriller that is disguised for the first half or so as *just* an action thriller--with maybe some kind of conspiracy involved. And it was marketed as the latter as well--which wasn't entirely a bad idea, but it's rather difficult to review this film without bringing up the second half at all. 

This film starts out with one Jerry Shaw having some weird things happen to him--he gets a crap-ton of money deposited into his account, he comes home to find all kinds of military hardware and ammonium nitrate in his apartment. And then he gets a phone call from a mysterious woman who leads him to escape the authorities and meet up with a woman named Rachel who's also been contacted by this mysterious caller. This strange caller has plans for them--and threatens their lives and family (well, the latter in Rachel's case anyway) if they don't comply. Oh yeah, and this caller seems to have control over basically everything electronic. 

Having mentioned that this is a film involving artificial intelligence, it's not difficult to guess where the film goes from there. Ultimately, what we get is a pretty doggone exciting film that almost never lets up in pace and that also has a point to make--not just about A.I., but about mass surveillance in general. The action scenes are pretty fun--we get two car chase scenes, the latter of which includes a drone (and ends in spectacular fashion), as well as an airport package processing scene which starts out a little silly but ends pretty well too.

While the dialogue/script isn't always the best, the casting often helps make up for it. Shia LeBeouf does quite well here, while Michelle Monaghan is serviceable. Billy Bob Thornton also stands out, delivering his often silly lines properly (although I get the feeling that they intended to cast someone else first). Julianne Moore alternates pretty well between being appropriately monotone and genuinely creepy. Rosario Dawson and Anthony Mackie (Falcon from the Marvel Universe) are also familiar faces. 

This movie isn't without its issues. The film makes a big deal about how the A.I. can control a ton of things--from traffic cams to traffic lights to cell phones. And that all is quite believable. But I do have a hard time believing that it could make a city train come to a screeching halt and go backwards, or somehow take control of power lines in the middle of nowhere and use them to electrocute a man to death. The point is, sometimes this A.I. does things that are straight up impossible. And there are just some other little things that don't make much sense either. Also, there is a key plot point that involves the use of a sonic detonator to set off a bomb that I wasn't really a fan of (not to mention they never tell us where the actual bomb that is to be detonated even is). 

Despite some issues, Eagle Eye is a movie that was actually kind of ahead of its time (though not by much). While it isn't entirely original (the A.I. sometimes brings HAL 9000 to mind), it does have the benefit of being released in a time period where other issues like surveillance can come up (as opposed to years before). Oddly enough, this movie was not well liked when it came out--it was regarded as ridiculous and unbelievable. Maybe the plot felt a little more far-off then, but I'm not so certain that people would take that same attitude five to ten years later. If you're a fan of this particular subgenre, it's definitely worth a spin. 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Commuter


Remember when Liam Neeson wasn't being typecast as gruff ex-cop or maybe current cop types with "very particular sets of skills?" Yeah, me neither. Ever since the Taken trilogy started, Neeson has been getting cast in all kinds of action thrillers -- which typically involve him beating the snot out of random goons despite his age. 

This particular Liam Neeson film is actually his fourth collaboration with director Jaume Collet-Serra. Never heard of him? Well, he's been the main guy spitting out these various Liam Neeson action thrillers besides whoever's been doing the Taken trilogy. One of those films was "Unknown," which was basically a Bourne rip-off. The other two were Non-Stop and Run All Night, both of which I have yet to see (although I may give Non-Stop a whirl soon, just for kicks). Then there's this one. When I first saw the TV commercials for it, without watching the full trailer, I immediately thought, "It's just Taken, but with trains." And it was a January release. And pretty much all January releases stink, right? Well, maybe not totally. 

In this one, Liam Neeson's character is an insurance salesman who's... you guessed it... a former cop. At least until he gets fired from his job, anyway--at basically the worst time financially. Oh yeah, and the movie makes this big deal about how this character (Michael MacCauley) rides the same commuter train every day to and from work. So he's down in the dumps. And then he gets approached by some odd woman on the train... who offers him a heavy amount of cash if he can find a certain person on the train. And then suddenly he finds himself an unwitting party to a murder conspiracy. 

One might actually be surprised to find that this film does not involve as many scenes of Neeson beating up thugs as they'd expect. This film focuses more on the thriller end of things. There still is a fair share of them, though -- viewers gotta get their money's worth somehow. There is one particular awesome fight scene that stands out dramatically above anything else in the movie--because it involves Neeson, a thug, and a guitar. You do the math. 

Beyond that, this film is just alright. The pacing is a bit inconsistent--sometimes it moves fast, sometimes it moves slow. Sometimes it gives you surprises (and even a jump scare or two), and a couple of times it seems like they're just stalling, even though this movie is not that long. There is a pretty good climactic act. But there are parts of the attempt to solve the "mystery" that are just kind of annoying and feel a bit drawn-out (identifying the wrong person). 

The biggest problem, however, is that there is not fully proper closure. I mentioned earlier that there was a big murder conspiracy involved here. And while a lot of questions are answered in the final minutes, the biggest one of all is left unanswered: who the heck is this shadowy organization that set up this whole mess? We find out who the villains are, but even they are seemingly answering to something higher up--and we never find out who or what that is. Some TV reports at the end say some things, but they're deliberately blurred together so there's no definite answer. Surely they weren't expecting to make a sequel out of this, were they? That's kind of a massive hole. 

The Commuter isn't a bad film at all. As far as action thrillers go, it's decent enough--and fans of these kinds of films with Liam Neeson in them will probably want to give it a whirl. And while it's certainly tense at times, it doesn't always do enough to stand out from the crowd--and it doesn't help that there's a couple things that are never really explained (or even ones that are, but that just make no sense). The scene with the guitar alone might be worth the rental price. But that rental price is probably about as much as this film is worth--at best. 

Saturday, May 5, 2018



I don't think hardly anybody goes to watch a disaster movie expecting greatness out of it. Sometimes the very nature of the genre depends upon suspending your disbelief, much like sci-fi (hence why the two have crossed over on occasion). What one does hope for out of such a movie like this are great visual effects, and characters/writing that even if they aren't good, have just enough charm to distract you from the often idiotic plot (sometimes good casting can help with that). You also need good pacing to make this work in any way. 

This particular movie centers around a world where natural disasters got so bad that the nations of the world decided they needed to control the weather--by building satellites out in space that can somehow do that. (And don't even bother asking how any of that's possible.) All seems to be going well--until the system of satellites starts getting sabotaged and freak accidents start occurring on the station and down on Earth. Someone is using the system against them--to basically wreak havoc upon the Earth. 

This disaster movie is unfortunately not even that original in its own genre. It's kind of a cross between The Day After Tomorrow, Armageddon, and a little bit of 2012. The latter was the only I didn't actively dislike. The other two suffered from insanely dumb plots, unlikable characters, and bad writing--but worst of all, bad pacing. There wasn't even that much proper action in either of those movies proportionally. Guess what? This movie suffers from basically all of those flaws. 

I actually don't think my suspension of disbelief has ever been stretched so far in a disaster movie. Controlling the weather with satellites? I have to wonder how the director/writers ever came up with that ludicrous idea. The characters are either annoying or just kind of there. Gerard Butler's character is basically the metaphorical punching bag for most of the movie and it gets old fast. And the script is often comically bad. It's not good when unintentional comedy (even though there's not a lot of it) starts to stray into a disaster movie like this--this isn't supposed to be Sharknado. 

And finally, the pacing. This movie is surprisingly slow, and it makes me glad the run length is a lot shorter at 109 minutes than most of its disaster movie peers. One doesn't watch a movie like this that's marketed the way it is to watch people do some detective work--in space. (This is where the Armageddon comparison comes in.) And yet, we're stuck in places other than the action for probably a good two-thirds of the movie. That especially does not work when your characters are unlikable. 

Is there anything salvageable about Geostorm? Very, very little. The visual effects are good, but not groundbreaking. People could perhaps see the film as a "so bad it's good" film and enjoy it that way. I know I was snickering at the idiocy now and then. Perhaps if the film had fully embraced the nonsense that it was instead of actually trying to be dead serious much of the way through, it might have worked better. But in this case... even "working better" probably is not saying much.