Category Archives: Movies

Director Brett Culp Teases #SupermanIsReal

Director Brett Culp is going from Batman to Superman. The director of Legends of the Knight has teased that his next film will tackle the Man of Steel. Look To the Sky will be an “uplifting” documentary focused on the iconic character “to inspire the superhero spirit through charity screenings in communities around the world.”

A trailer will be released in a month with a crowdfunding campaign launching in October to help finish the film.

Much like his previous film this one will tell real-life stories of young people who have shown the spirit of Superman.

#SupermanIsReal

Movie Review: Broken Horses

brokePeople used to watching Indian movies, may be familiar with the name of Vidhu Vinod Chopra, the producer and (one of the) writers behind Bollywood blockbusters such 3 Idiots, PK & the Munna Bhai series. While his directorial work sparring a few films (Mission Kashmir, 1942 A Love Story) have not met the proposed success. They are quite decent on their own. Hence, as a fan of his work I was quite rejoiced to know about his English language debut. Right from the earlier (possibly rumored) casting of Mickey Rouke, I have awaited the release of this film with patience. While, the movie works in bits & pieces on its own, to the Indian film audience, this film comes comes across as nothing more than uncalled for reworking of Vidhu Vinod Chopra‘s very own seminal 1989 crime saga, Parinda starring Nana Patekar, Anil Kapoor, Jackie Shroff and Madhuri Dixit. While Parinda was a path-breaker in 1989, giving the first gritty portrayal of the underworld in Bollywood, his first Hollywood venture is doubtful to make any waves on those well-trodden shores. Particularly as Parinda itself drew comparisons with a classic crime film that preceded it by three decades – Elia Kazan‘s Marlon Brando starrer, On the Waterfront. The similarities between the two films (Broken Horses and Parinda) are so prevalent and irrefutable – motifs, characters, the plot, even scenes – that to a person who has watched Parinda, this film feels the same just with a different cast, and therein lies the biggest glitch with the veteran filmmaker’s Hollywood debut. Basically twenty six years later the film has returned, with Mexico’s dust bowls replacing Mumbai’s mean streets, a ranch on a lake replacing a crucial boat, two brothers joined by love and circumstances now also tied by a slight mental disability, and a lot less blood and a lot more conscious style.

As for a person who hasn’t watched Parinda – and most of Chopra‘s Hollywood audience would fall in that category – this film feels rocky, with certain parts of the story not quite adding up. What could have been acceptable in a 1989 Mumbai, is not quite so on the 2015 Mexico border. Vidhu Vinod Chopra and writer Abhijat Joshi seem to have taken the drafts of Parinda and ran them over the barren landscapes of crime- infested US-Mexico border and to be fair did not make a complete mess out of it. There are enough things to appreciate here. The performances are impressive and so is the cinematography. The movie does not fail due to the want of acting chops or production quality. What it lacks is plain, strong storytelling. The story follows two brothers Buddy (Chris Marquette) and Jacob (Anton Yelchin). Fifteen years ago when their father, Sheriff Heckum (Thomas Jane) is murdered right in front of Buddy, an upcoming local mobster Mr. Hench (Vincent D’Onofrio) seizes the opportunity to utilize young Buddy’s need for revenge. In order to keep his younger brother Jake away from the blood shed, Buddy quits school and joins Hench’s gang in order to provide for his little brother, a musical prodigy. Jump ahead 15 years, and Jacob is engaged to Vittoria (Maria Valverde) and living in New York City as a classical violinist. Buddy (Chris Marquette) entices Jakey to come visit after being away for eight years plus he has a gift waiting for him. Jake isn’t in town very long before he fully understands that Hench, now has a grip on Buddy, who is now a full-fledged hit-man engulfed in the various border gang wars. Here is where the brotherly bond kicks in. Watching it play out against the manipulative power of Hench provides the meatiest conflict within the film. The brothers admit to living on “different planets”, but it’s clear that their traumatic childhood has connected them in a manner that time and distance can’t break, even though one of them more readily identifies “bad men”. Chopra keeps the film short and crisp at around 100 minutes, and its violence precise and clipped, a welcome break from similar films that thrive on their glorious celebration of blood. However, with a wisp of a backstory and an embarrassingly simple front one, its largely solid acting can only get it accolades it for its ambition. It had all the makings of a strong, moody tale with sparse characters and dusty landscapes of a Western. It could have even aimed somewhere between Unforgiven and A History Of Violence but unfortunately ended up way off-the-mark. The tension and mood that Chopra tries to build could have worked so well had it not been for the predictable turn of events and all too familiar tropes of brotherly sagas. It’s not that Vidhu Vinod Chopra has done a bad job but he just hasn’t done enough with the job at hand. What’s there on the screen looks half-baked and incomplete and the movie lacks that punch and tension that you expect from a drama like this.

broken_horses_stillOn the technical front, Tom Stern‘s (long time Clint Eastwood collaborator) cinematography is par excellence, and is among the stronger points of the film – shots of the Mexican countryside are beautifully captured. A scene that particularly stands out is the one where the extraction of orange juice is interspersed with goons being killed. Lost in translation would be an understatement. The original story of Parinda, two brothers in the edgy midst of the underworld, trying to break free from a mercurial Mafia king pin, is intact in its Western retelling. Twenty six years ago, Parinda was a game changer, this one is just a shoddy revisit of that memorable film. Worst part is, it’s left out all the good parts of the original. The ensemble cast does a commendable job, with Vincent D’Onofrio, Chris Marquette, Anton Yelchin, and Maria Valverde all coming across as believable. Nana Patekar‘s psychopathic Anna Seth of Parinda sees a parallel in D’Onofrio‘s Hench, who has an irrational nervous breakdown on seeing a burning candle in a church. Marquette, an actor known mainly for his comic supporting roles, is convincing in his role as Buddy, a man who is somewhat slow, but impeccable with the gun and his fists, and is easily brainwashed. Anton Yelchin is likable as the violinist who needs to dirty his hands to save his brother. Maria Valverde‘s Vittoria deserves admiration for the composure and resolve she displays under trying circumstances, regardless of the minimal screen time she gets.

On the whole, Broken Horses, is nothing but Parinda with western actors and without the same impact. While Parinda was a brilliant gangster movie and way ahead of its time, this one doesn’t impress as much. That isn’t saying Broken Horses is a bad film; it’s more than a decent crime story, and can even be enjoyed to a moderate extent. But the fact that it’s an adaptation of what could easily be considered among Indian cinema’s 10 finest films ever, and the very same Director – an ace filmmaker no less – who helmed that film comes up short in this adaptation; stirs a level of frustration within you, especially for those who loved Parinda. Watch it if you’re keen on seeing what the first Hollywood film written, directed, and produced by an Indian filmmaker is like. Else, just treat yourself by re- watching Parinda all over again. Broken Horses ends up as a job half done but not for the lack of resources at hand. Chopra’s attempt deserves attention, if only he can learn from it and deliver the next time.

Overall Rating: 5.8

Director – Vidhu Vinod Chopra
Starring – Anton Yelchin, Chris Marquette, Vincent D’Onofrio
Rated – R
Run Time – 101 minutes

Movie Review: Southpaw

southpaw_poster_200515_2047x1365In comparison to other sports I think boxing is the most common sport tackled in Hollywood movies, mainly because of its inherent drama & the intensity which brings out the best performances from its leading stars. Films like the Rocky series, Raging Bull, Ali, Cinderella Man, Million Dollar Baby and The Fighter easily come to mind as among the best of them ever made. Rocky made a star out of Stallone, Raging Bull got De Niro the Academy Award, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood scored at the Academy for the Million Dollar Baby, and films like Cinderella Man and Ali were critically acclaimed with standout performances from their leading men.

What’s common is the performances of the actors, who give their heart and soul, with each one outstandingly giving a predictable script the feeling that you have just watched a good piece of theater. As with most sports dramas, this is a film more about the man than the sport. Labelled by many as the ‘modern day Raging Bull‘, I had high hopes from this Antoine Fuqua directed film and thanks to Jake Gyllenhaal, it duly delivered. This is a tale of one man’s path to redemption through boxing. Truth be told, there are better movies out there about boxing and/or redemption. This isn’t Rocky, much less Raging Bull. But, somehow, this film pulls off that weird, difficult trick of being predictable but compelling at the same time. The ending may never be in doubt, but there’s a certain pleasure to be derived from the journey. If all else fails, watch this for Gyllenhaal, who’s currently doing some of the best, most vital work of his career. Its definitely the magic of director Antoine Fuqua (The Equalizer, Olympus Has Fallen, Training Day) which makes the film work, despite its tried & tested predictable formula. Its through Antoine Fuqua‘s sensitive direction, Kurt Sutter‘s punchy dialogue and some excellent performances, The film somehow transcends its own generic limitations. Boxing is always going to be cliched, but that is why we come back to see the same story over and over again.

Everybody loves to root for the underdog and everybody loves to see a person fall from grace and then with a hard fought struggle, followed by some training montages, reclaim their dignity through redemption. The story follows Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal), a Light Heavyweight champion at the height of his career and a boxer known for his unique style and impressive fight record. When his wife, Maureen (Rachel McAdams), is shot dead following a scuffle with title contender Miguel Escobar (Miguel Gomez), Billy loses everything: his career, his lifestyle, and his family. both Billy’s career and personal life go in a downward spiral that sees him both lose his boxing license and his daughter, Leila (Oona Laurence), to child protection services. Trapped by grief, depression and his grim circumstances, Billy must fight hard to get back on his feet and recover what he can of his old life. Billy turns to trainer Tick Wills (Forest Whitaker) to help him get his life back on track.

As mentioned before, the film focuses more on the man than the sport however, the film is one of the only boxing dramas I have seen where the sport of boxing actually feels like a character in the film, not just a backdrop for the drama. The film does become a bit predictable and features quite a few cliches, which can’t be helped in this genre, but director Antoine Fuqua does a good job in making sure the film has a bit of a cutting edge to it. This is a hard hitting drama that isn’t scared to throw the hardest of punches at its audience. Director Antoine Fuqua effectively uses all the right emotions out of this story. The storytelling is well-paced and the camera work is compelling. The fight scenes were well-choreographed and executed on screen — very brutal, bloody, all with high tension. The first person point of view during the fights puts you right in the midst of all the action. The boxing scenes were so enthralling, they involved such wall-to-wall burst of punches with spraying blood and Fuqua‘s gutsy camera skills that keep you motivated the whole time. Jake snorting like a mad bull, he surely brought out the horns to each opponent with a raging force, these scenes were just so highly entertaining that they made your heart pumping with such adrenaline. Antoine Fuqua has most certainly brought his charm back into the ring by bringing a fascinating boxing drama to the big screen. Even though it may have a all to familiar plot when it comes to the formulaic boxing aspect, this film really smooths out well with such heavenly storytelling, we are given a accurate accusation of how something can affect someone in the hardest way possible.

The musical score contributes so much to the drama of this film. This is also the last film James Horner scored before his untimely demise in a plane crash recently. We also hear Eminem rap in the soundtrack. It is interesting to note that Eminem was actually the original choice to play Billy Hope (Cant even comprehend how horrifying that would have been). The film is an acting showcase for its lead actor Jake Gyllenhaal. Last year in the film “Nightcrawler”, Gyllenhaal gave us all the creeps with his very realistic portrayal of sociopathic pseudo-video journalist Louis Bloom.

He was overlooked at the Oscars of the Best Actor nomination he clearly deserved. With this meaty role, Gyllenhaal set out to prove that that his trans formative performance last year was not a fluke at all. The transformation would mean absolutely nothing without the performance to match though. His grueling six month training regime certainly makes him look like a boxer but his decision to learn the boxing techniques means he moves like a boxer too, making the performance even more authentic. His performance here as Billy Hope is another triumph of his very serious and committed method acting style. We feel every ache of his weary body as he shuffles in his gait. His speech is already slurred with probable nerve damage. We see and sense the ravages of his vicious sport on him. He captured the character of an impulsive man who was not too savvy in life, and easily driven to violently angry tendencies. As Billy’s world collapses around him, Gyllenhaal brings us all down to his hell with him. We totally see the unraveling of a man until a mere shadow of him remained. Then we would witness how he humbles himself as he tries to bring the shattered pieces of his life back together again. This was in addition to all the pounding he had in the boxing ring itself. The actors in supporting roles all share in Gyllenhaal‘s shine.

Despite her name being so prominent in the poster, Rachel McAdams appeared on screen only for a very short time. In that limited time, we clearly see the effect of her strong yet charming character Maureen on her husband Billy. The little Oona Laurence plays their spirited daughter Leila well. Gyllenhaal and Laurence share some pretty intensely emotional scenes together. Forest Whitaker, as usual, adds a quality to proceedings. It was clever how they even include Whitaker’s left eye into the story. Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson plays Billy’s fair-weather manager Jordan Mains. He really has this sleazy vibe about him with his flashy smile and shiny suits. For a change he is actually likable in a negative role.

On the whole, Southpaw is a compelling, touching and surprisingly truthful effort, despite its flaws. Ignore the predictable script and focus on the memorable performances of the actors and you will come away with a very satisfying experience. While Southpaw isn’t the masterpiece that Raging Bull or Rocky was, it certainly sees Fuqua make his best film since Training Day. Led by another top performance from Gyllenhaal, maybe Southpaw will make the voters this awards season stand up and take notice of his talent, not ignore it like they did with Nightcrawler. Must watch!

Overall Rating: 8.2

Director – Antoine Fuqua

Starring – Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Oona Laurence

Rated – R

Run Time – 124 minutes

Straight Outta Compton Takes First for the Third Week in a Row

Straight Outta ComptonThe competition was rather week, which had Straight Outta Compton easily sail to keep first place at the weekend box-office. The film has been in first place for three weeks in a row, in what shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. It was a slow weekend though with an estimated $68.8 million earned by the top 12 films, and that’s 22% lower than last year’s $88.2 million, and even that was an off year.

Straight Outta Compton earned an estimated $13.2 million which kept it number one, beating out War Room which earned around $11 million. In third place was another debut, No Escape, which did escape with an estimated $10.3 million. That bumped Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation into fourth.

In comic and geek related movie news, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was in sixth place with an estimated $4.4 million. Hitman: Agent 47 has already been assassinated earning just $3.9 million in its second week. Jurassic World keeps eating dollars adding $3.1 million to its impressive totals. Minions keeps multiplying adding $2.9 million to its domestic total. Ant-Man came in at tenth earning $3.1 million. Fantastic Four continues with a non-fantastic earning, bringing in $1.7 million. The Diary of a Teenage Girl added $425,000 to its total. And finally Terminator: Genisys brought in $190,000.

For the year, Jurassic World reigns supreme domestically having earned $643.1 million. Avengers: Age of Ultron is second with $457.5 million. Furious 7 is third with $351 million. Inside Out is fourth with $344.5 million, and Minions is fifth with $324.8 million.

Worldwide grosses are the same movies, but a different order. Jurassic World rules with $1.6367 billion. Furious 7 is second with $1.5117 billion. Avengers: Age of Ultron is third with $1.4013 billion. Minions has crossed the billion line and stands currently at $1.0189, and  Inside Out is fifth with $702.5 million.

A First Official Look at Michael Fassbender in Assassin’s Creed

Hitting theaters December 21, 2016, Michael Fassbender plays Callum Lynch in the video game turned movie Assassin’s Creed.

Through a revolutionary technology that unlocks genetic memories, Callum Lynch experiences the adventures of his ancestor, Aguilar, in 15th Century Spain. Callum discovers he is descended from a mysterious secret society, the Assassins, and amasses incredible knowledge and skills to take on the oppressive and powerful Templar organization in the present day.

So what do folks think of the costume?

fassbender assassins creed

Movie Review: Hitman: Agent 47

hitman-agent-47-movie-poster-hdI really think Hollywood should accept the fact – movies based on video games just don’t work! I am not a big time gamer, its only on certain occasions I have interacted with a gaming console, a fact which partly disqualifies me as a geek! As a result, when I walk into this kind of movies, my judgements are based on the film itself, not on how the game has translated on screen. Maybe that’s the reason why unlike many others I have enjoyed and supported the Resident Evil movies. Even though years later I did research on how the original game plot line worked and of course checking out the very under rated anime movies helped. The reason (according to me) why the Milla Jovovich starring series works is because they have attempted to stand as independent properties by just borrowing elements rather than going in for complete fan servicing, I guess the same goes for the Silent Hills based films. But in general the most literal and respective term to use for other games based movies would be – ‘They suck!’. Bad films in general!

One of the main reasons the earlier EuropaCorp film starring Timothy Olyphant in the titular role of a chrome-domed, genetically engineered, emotionless contract killer from not so far back in 2007 failed, was that it went right into the fan servicing department, as a result, for 1st time viewers (like me) who had no idea of the rich history of the characters, were left hazed and confused, & gamers being gamers disapproved the film citing their own reasons. I hate to say it but we’re going to have to wait and see how Warcraft turns out to see if a truly great video game movie can be made. Yet despite all that, I had high hopes for this film from the trailer. It looked like a balls to the wall action flick that didn’t hold anything back. The trailer for this film was done very well. It reeked of blood and guts and fast paced action and I was psyched. Unfortunately, hamstrung by a muddled script the film falls back on a uneven pacing and flashy visuals to gloss over the film’s obvious storytelling flaws.

Yes, despite an intriguing first half-hour that teases the characters’ motivations, the rest of the film is unfortunately as straight-forward as it gets in plotting the uninteresting cat & mouse game. Much like the earlier movie, the plot for this film seems more complex than what it should be. Its not hard to follow but there just seems to be so much to it. The one thing this film does better than the first is the representation of Agent 47 himself, it was much better and closer to the game (based on whatever little I know about it).

While director Aleksander Bach deserves points for style, and seriously there are some really unique shot scenes and he uses color and stark contrasts to create a unique look, but the plot & the pace lacks where it should not have. This should have felt more like The Transporter and less like a Mission Impossible wannabe. The story follows Agent 47 (Rupert Friend), a genetically engineered assassin that possesses enhanced senses, speed, and intelligence. All of these traits make him an extremely deadly force to be reckoned with. He is in pursuit of a woman named Katia (Hannah Ware), who is looking for her father, the Agent programme’s lead scientist Dr. Litvenko (Ciaran Hinds). She gets into the middle of a conspiracy involving a corporation named Syndicate lead by head honcho Le Clerq (Thomas Kretschmann) who is trying to use her to find the scientist to create more super assassins like Agent 47. Fortunately, Agent 47 doesn’t want there to be any more experiments like him and begins to train Katia to protect herself and find her father. Also in pursuit of them is Syndicate’s very own flawed super soldier John Smith (Zachary Quinto). Anyone who’s ever harbored the dream of seeing Singapore feature prominently in a Hollywood movie will certainly be pleased with this film, which features iconic landmarks such as Gardens by the Bay and Marina South in their full glory. A pivotal supporting character is seen admiring the orchids in the Gardens’ Cloud Forest dome, before taking a stroll along the OCBC Skyway. The headquarters of a sinister group known as the Syndicate Organisation is situated right in the heart of Marina South, against the backdrop of the Marina Bay Financial Centre and Asia Square towers.

The less you think about the plot, the more you are likely to enjoy the visceral pleasures that the film offers. Like I mentioned before, the action here is brutal and pulsating, with heads blown off, bodies sucked into giant jet engines, limbs slashed and blood basically splattering everywhere (and for those who are wondering, much of the bloodletting takes place in interiors rather than exteriors, so don’t get your hopes up about seeing all that happening along our streets). Director Bach choreographs and executes the action with gory flair, and fans of the Interactive game will be glad to know that he makes the effort to retain its aesthetics. The action is brought to us by the same people that gave us John Wick so it’s nice to see some care was put into that part of the movie.Yet no matter how diverting the shootouts or fisticuffs may be, there is no hiding the fact that the characters are under-written.

It’s understandable that the team wanted to create larger than life plot, but the process needs more delicacy than taking and throwing in a bunch of popular gimmicks from Terminator to Minority Report, then hope it would work or audience would suspend their belief. Granted, video games use the same narrative, but then it gets ridiculously over-the-top and even borderline supernatural.

Though Rupert Friend makes for a surprisingly good assassin – and we are not just talking about his looks – the actor best known for his supporting part in ShowtimesHomeland is shortchanged by the script’s reluctance to develop fully the theme of choice versus blind obedience. He is much more emotionless & believable than Timothy Olyphant (the star of the 2007 film). There is no romantic angle which is a very good thing and using the disguises was a great addition to the plot as well. Friend could definitely continue this character very well, provided their is a sequel, which I highly doubt. Hannah Ware is also very good as Katia, the mysterious girl that the Syndicate and 47 want. Ware makes a sufficiently harried female protagonist. She is actually the perfect balance to 47’s serious, emotionless character. Ware also kicks some serious butt and holds her own making her a great hero as well. Zachary Quinto is utterly wasted in a role that doesn’t quite know what to do with him after it is revealed that he is actually working for the Syndicate. For a talented actor like him, this role wasted his potential. Both Thomas Kretschmann and Rolf Kanies should have bigger roles and its hard to say they do good or bad because their roles are so small and yet significant.

On the whole, Hitman: Agent 47 has some very intensely choreographed fight scenes going for it, but yet falls in the same category of failed movies based on video games thanks to its corny script and abysmal plot. Underneath all its pretty looking cinematic effects, the film is sadly a misfire.

Overall Rating: 3.2

Director – Aleksander Bach
Starring – Rupert Friend, Hannah Ware, Zachary Quinto
Rated – R
Run Time – 96 minutes

Disney Posts New Star Wars Teaser

There has been an awakening… #StarWars #TheForceAwakens

A video posted by Star Wars (@starwars) on

We’re counting down the months, and get excited for each new tidbit. Disney today posted a new teaser for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens on Instagram.

Movie Review: No Escape

no-escape-banner As a fan of Owen Wilson‘s humorous roles, how could I miss his dramatic turn in a thriller (judging from the trailers) seemed too intense for a guy like me to handle right after work. Well guess what I was right! But not in the bad way, of course. The movie pushed my limits for intensity, and I’m a none-too-squeamish kind of guy. I certainly didn’t have high hopes for this one going in. The trailers certainly didn’t give us much even though the cast is kinda exciting either. Well, Owen Wilson and Pierce Brosnan aren’t exactly box-office draws anymore. And I’ve never really been a fan of Lake Bell-no fault of her own, just certain things about her annoy me. Anyway, the whole theater audience, myself included, was pleasantly surprised by what we experienced.

Director John Erick Dowdle‘s filmography is primarily made up of tight-budgeted but mildly successful yet entertaining horror films (Quarantine, Devil, As Above So Below), hence it was interesting to see him apply some of the horror film techniques to a real situation film. “Real” in the sense that it could happen. This movies holds onto you and doesn’t let go. When there is a breath of fresh air, you as the viewer best take it, because it’ll get right back into the thick of it. I wonder how well this movie will do financially with the little (to none) marketing that’s going into it. It’s a bit intense, and the squeamish had every right to stand up and leave. Not many did, but I don’t blame them. There were a few instances where it grew a bit too much for me. Summer movies are all about fun and entertainment but this movie provided a very different experience and I’m glad I saw it. Words of caution, this movie is very violent so bringing kids along might not be a good idea. Did I mention the movie preyed upon one of my greatest fears – traveling to third world countries where you don’t speak the native language, a place where English may not even be in the top 5 languages spoken there, can you imagine the daunting experience? Couple that with a political turmoil and it becomes a nightmare.

No-EscapeThe story follows Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson), an engineer who is moving to an unnamed SE Asian country (most likely Thailand) for work with his wife Annie (Lake Bell) and two daughters Lucy (Sterling Jerins) and Beeze (Claire Geare). On the flight, he befriends Hammond (Pierce Brosnan). While staying at a hotel, he notices some things not quite right. The internet connection and the telephones in the hotel are not working. Little does he know, the prime minister of the country is killed in a coup and now the rebels are killing every foreign national . Jack is outside looking for a newspaper when he is caught in a mob violence against the police. When he finds out the motives of the rebels, he has to go back and protect his family. The movie then follows his struggle to keep himself and his family alive and find a way out of the country.  One of the family’s earliest escape sequences involves leaping from one rooftop to another, and all I could think of was how fortunate that this was not a typical middle class family who, shall we say, struggles with the effects of a fast food diet. In addition to the long jump, Owen Wilson takes over the record for best on screen child toss an under-appreciated cinematic category (LOL). The elements I believe worked in favor of this movie was the human story the filmmakers built in the beginning. There was a rapport with the family, and as things started to heat up, I genuinely cared about what happened to the family. I was hoping for a happy ending, but with the film’s gritty nature, I honestly didn’t know how the third act would unfold.

The violence is brutal and real-looking, without being overly gory or disgusting-which means you don’t look away, you don’t close your eyes. And that’s the scariest part of the film-these aren’t people being hunted by a scary creature or trying to escape some natural disaster. They are being hunted by fellow human beings- who in their own minds are just trying to protect their own families and interests (though attacking and killing is not the right way to accomplish that goal). The film gives us great images especially it’s roof scenes and you feel the culture shock. With a rape scene and some pretty intense action scenes, its hard not to squeal. Apparently whoever cut the trailer understood this as we only see events that take place at the hotel in the trailer, and that’s just a fraction of the movie.

The Dowdle brothers and their team can be proud of what they’ve made here. The writers do deserve credit for understanding that Owen and his little family were probably insufficient to hold our attention for the full run, so they threw in a bizarre super agent played by Pierce Brosnan. There do seem to be some conflicting story lines. On one hand the big Western corporation is cast as the villain who cares only to capitalize on the local citizens, yet on the other hand, we as viewers are supposed to root for the cute white family as they run from the rebels. Perhaps this is over-thinking, something the filmmakers won’t be accused of.

no-escape22While the movie is going on, you frequently are questioning “What would I do in this situation?”. Jack is constantly trying to keep “10 steps ahead” as he puts it. I would have liked to see more of the reason behind the turmoil (it is explained very briefly) and then also more of a conclusion. Kudos to the soundtrack which worked wonders. hero. Both Wilson and Bell portray these characters realistically, reacting to situations the way many real people would. Owen Wilson delivers a solid performance in his first dramatic role since 2001’s Behind Enemy Lines. There is no point he looks less than comfortable in this role, drawing upon a reserve of kickass nobody knew existed. He really takes charge when necessary to save his family, but he never comes across as some invincible action star. Lake Bell, who according to me is mostly unlikable in the roles she chooses, is brilliant here, as a supporting wife & a mother stuck in such a situation is hard act to pull, & Bell scores full marks. The young actresses, Sterling Jerins & Claire Geare are excellent as well-which is very important because we have root for this family and believe in their struggle-which we do. Surprisingly, Brosnan is actually the comic relief to a certain degree. In a small role, he does what he does best, remain likable. This is a well put together cast and everyone gives it their all to make us feel just as tense and scared as the characters on screen.

As for the film itself-this is one of the most intense films I’ve ever sat through in a theater. If you have heart problems-you might want to wait for the DVD as the movie just never breaks, it never lets up the suspense for more than a moment. On the whole, No Escape is a thrilling, emotional ride that deserves to be seen. The film is far more effective as a vacation thriller than it should be, mainly because the filmmakers and cast do a better job creating tension and selling the premise than what we normally see in this thriller sub-genre. This is a thrilling, emotional ride that deserves to be seen. Unfortunately, do to a lack of marketing and overall interest from audiences, I feel it will end up finding most of its success on DVD and Digital. If you like being thrilled, scared, or like films about families struggling through peril and danger (if you liked The Impossible, you’re going to love this), then this is the film for you and it is indeed worth the price of admission. Must watch!!

Overall Rating: 8.5

Director – John Erick Dowdle
Starring – Lake Bell, Pierce Brosnan, Owen Wilson
Rated – R
Run Time – 103 minutes

Movie Review: We Are Your Friends

tumblr_static_4nowwyx8nla88cs0gcww00cw4 Walking out of the special screening of this Zac Efron Emily Ratajkowski starring Max Joseph directed film about a DJ, I thought to myself – ‘When was the last time I got this so called goosebumps, a feeling of intense satisfaction and happiness after watching a film which I had expected nothing from? I know, what a surprise! Well I don’t know much about Electronic music or the specialized artists of the field except for famous names such as Armin Van Braun and David Guetta. Judging by the trailers all I had expected this film to be about a bunch people doing drugs and dancing around on loud music, but to my surprise, the film is much more than that! Unlike most film nowadays, the film has soul.

At heart, it’s your-standard underdog story. A young man wants to succeed in a given field, finds a mentor, faces a few obstacles, falls in love with the wrong person, has some hardships along the way, and ultimately triumphs. We’ve seen this happen before a thousand times. But what makes this film work is its delicate balance of irony and earnestness. Yea, its not perfect, the film slows down in the second act with some humor thrown in here & there, plus it knows it’s being corny sometimes, with its underlying message about the power of creativity and authenticity, and it calls itself out for it, and yet it still totally believes in its message. So there might be jokes about hashtags and sound like a douche bag, it doesn’t take anything away from what it really wants to say.

1432068339_emily-ratajkowski-zac-efron-zoomWhich is – it’s hard to find your place in the world, and when you’re young everyone will try to tell you what you should be doing and push you into things you don’t agree with, but ultimately the kind of person you are and the kind of work you create is down to you. I have rarely seen movies based on electronic dance music work well, 2009’s very enjoyable Notorious (even though now I don’t remember much about the film) was probably the only film which came close to the success it aimed for. The few movies that have been made about the electronic dance music scene in the last ten years have come and gone with the wind, in part because of weak plots and sub-plot and bad casting choices but also because techno music (in my humble opinion), like drugs or sex, tends to make for boring on-screen subject matter.

What works mainly in favor for this film is that there is something familiar at the heart of first time director Max Joseph’s film (named after a track by Justice Vs Simian), although we may have seen this story in various different guises over the years, there is enough charm and good humor here for the film to work on it’s own. The story follows Cole Carter (Zac Efron), an aspiring DJ who lives & works with his three child hood friends Mason (Jonny Weston), Ollie (Shiloh Fernandez) & Squirrel (Alex Shaffer). Spending most of their nights hooking up small time DJ jobs by tirelessly promoting college club nights & of course by selling drugs, followed by working for Paige (Jon Bernthal), a shady finance broker. In order to fulfill his dreams Cole befriends the hugely successful DJ Paul Reed (Wes Betley), who takes him under his wing. As Cole and Paul’s friendship strengthens, Cole becomes closer to Reed’s girlfriend/ assistant Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski), an Ivy League dropout. Their romantic triangle is offset by the hustle of Cole and his friends, whether it’s promoting club nights or hustling swamped mortgage holders for a shady finance company. The tale of a man taking a day job he hates in order to make rent is a rather familiar track, as is the story of a group of friends torn apart when someone new comes into the mix. All of this familiarity is saved through the lead character being just charming and engaging enough to keep the audience interested, plus some wonderful scenes where paintings come to life and Cole explains his life through voice over and on screen graphics. The film is a story about growing up and letting go of the dreams that are holding the characters back, as well as fighting for the ones they believe in, while dancing and drinking the night away with pretty people in pretty places. This is a delicate balance done well, and the final moment of redemption is an engaging and touching one, with everything tying up neatly but in a poignant way.

635674833151027402-XXX-WAYF-17271R-3-1-73067458First-time director Max Joseph is best known for holding the camera on MTV‘s Catfish, but here he demonstrates that he’s really got an eye for beauty. This is a seriously good-looking film, and not just because he’s got Zac Efron, Emily Ratajkowski and Wes Bentley in lead roles. The music is strong, the sets and costumes bright and colorful, and the relationship between the three central characters is engaging. Ideas come and go, however, with the stylistic touches being dropped fairly soon into the film; this allows the film to focus on the story being told, even though it feels more generic than it needs to.

For a film of this genre, its hard to expect some good meaningful dialogues – “This is the best part…the moment before it starts” and “Is it ever going to be better than this?” are sure to find themselves some GIFs or Memes online. Performance wise, Zac Efron leads the way! With last year’s Neighbors, Efron proved how far he has come from High School Musical days. He is just in terrific form here. Although the character is slightly generic, he is warm and engaging in the lead role as Cole; he quickly gets audience sympathy on his side and, even though he loses it at times, he quickly gains it back. Wes Bentley finally gets a good role! The talented lad wasted in B grade thriller flicks, is in fine form here. As the alcohol and drug addled success who has got lost in his own myth, he is very believable. Emily Ratajkowski proves she is much more than just a pretty face. Sure her sultry looks are her most prominent plus or an arguable distraction, she plays her part well without coming out on the wrong side. The supporting cast of Jon Bernthal, Shiloh Fernandez, Jonny Weston and Alex Shaffer do a good job.

On the whole, We Are Your Friends, is dramatic and fun enough to be entertaining. With strong performances and excellent music, the film is sure to succeed provided it hits the right kind of audience, mainly if they decide to look past its misjudged notions from the trailer. Honestly  I was one of them! and guess what I may check this out again.

Overall Rating: 7.5

Director – Max Joseph
Starring – Zac Efron, Wes Bentley, Emily Ratajkowski
Rated – R
Run Time – 96 minutes

Straight Outta Compton Stays on Top of the Charts

Straight Outta ComptonFacing weak competition, Straight Outta Compton remained in the top spot at the weekend box-office for the second week in a row. The film earned an estimated $26.76 million to stay in first place. The film’s total domestic gross currently stands at $111.5 million. The film hasn’t earned much of anything overseas, my guess is it hasn’t opened yet, if it will.

Repeating in second place was Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation which added $11.7 million to its total to bring itself to $157.8 million domestically after four weeks. In foreign markets the film has earned $280.8 million to bring its worldwide total to $438.6 million.

Other big debuts this week was Sinister 2 which came in third and earned an estimated $10.6 million, the video game based reboot Hitman: Agent 47 which earned $8.2 million for fourth, and American Ultra which earned $5.5 million to place sixth.

The other major holdover was The Man From U.N.C.L.E. which in its second week came in fifth and earned $7.4 million to bring its domestic total to a meager $26.6 million. The film has earned $26 million in foreign markets so far.

In other comic related movie news, Ant-Man added $4.1 million to its domestic total to come in eighth and bring its domestic earnings to $164.5 million. The film has also earned $196.5 million in foreign markets to bring its total to $361 million. While the film has likely made a profit with a budget of $130 million, it trails other Marvel Cinematic films to be the second worst earner just ahead of The Incredible Hulk. The film has a chance to move past Captain America: The First Avenger before it’s done, but it’ll be close.

Minions continues to rake in the money adding another $3.7 million to its domestic total. The film stands at $319.965 million domestically and is just shy of crossing the billion dollar mark worldwide. It sits at $989.365 million. If it does, it’ll be the fourth film this year to do so.

Fantastic Four continues its spiral into the negative zone (ie how much money it stands to lose when it’s all over). The film added $3.65 million to bring its domestic total to $49.6 million and worldwide total to $130.4 million.

The Diary of a Teenage Girl in its third week continues to expand the number of theaters it’s in. The film is now in 69 theaters and earned $180,000. The film has earned an estimated $425,000 at the domestic box office. It was purchased for $2 million at Sundance.

The yearly box office ranks hasn’t changed from last week. Jurassic World remains in the top spot domestically and has earned $639.568 million. Avengers: Age of Ultron is second with $457.4 million, Furious 7 is third with $351 million, Inside Out is fourth with $342.4 million and Minions is in fifth at $319.965 million.

Worldwide things are similar in rankings with slight differences. Jurassic World is still on top with $1.6229 billion, Furious 7 is second with $1.5117 billion, Age of Ultron is third with $1.4012 billion, Minions is fourth with $989.4 million, and Inside Out is fifth with $689.9 million.

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