Category Archives: Reviews

Film Reviews

DVD Review: A Perfect Getaway

A Perfect GetawayDavid Twohy’s A Perfect Getaway floated in and out of area theaters last fall, leaving a slight impression as a clever thriller that spelled out just how clever it thought it was. Despite its imperfections, I enjoyed the twists, turns and Twohy’s dialogue, especially in one showcase scene for Milla Jovovich. And with Timothy Olyphant’s recent, excellent turn as the lead in Breck Eisner’s The Crazies, I was in the mood for more Olyphant. It sounded like a perfect rental.

Olyphant lends a helping hand to honeymooning couple Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich on a treacherous portion of a mountain trail in Kauai, Hawaii. Olyphant is charming and a little dangerous, and Jovovich is all too happy to follow along when he splits off the trail and leads them to his casually naked girlfriend Kiele Sanchez. Her soft Georgia twang and Southern manners compliments Olyphant’s brusque manner and facility with weapons and explosives.

Zahn is a newly-hatched screenwriter and Olyphant gives evidence that he served on a special ops team in the military. They’re made for each other, and all would be peachy-keen, if not for the report of a couple on their honeymoon in Oahu who were brutally murdered. The chief suspects are … (dum, dum, dum!) … another couple!

It’s all more than a bit obvious, so much so that Twohy has fun by having Zahn and Olyphant banter about the conventions of Hollywood thrillers, red herrings (or is it lobsters?) and third act twists.

The arch, post-post-modern dialogue is matched by a pumping musical score and an ever-increasing pace. There’s nothing to really latch onto except the characters. Zahn is completely berserk in a range of guises and Olyphant plays his character, described too plainly as “really hard to kill,” with a healthy grin.

Knowing where the twists are coming makes the experience akin to riding the same rollercoaster multiple times. You anticipate the bends and know when you duck your head and you anticipate the reactions of new victims taking the ride for the first.

Unless rollercoasters make you sick.

DVD Review: The Man From Earth

The Man From Earth

The Man From Earth, directed by Richard Schenkman from an original script by the great Jerome Bixby, begins on an inauspicious note. The dialogue in the opening scene sounds post-dubbed, the visuals look dull, and the lines are delivered in a flat monotone. The always dependable Tony Todd, John Billingsley and William Katt are present, however, helping to maintain interest until the startling premise is revealed: What if a caveman, born 14,000 years ago, somehow survived to the modern day?

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Review: Alice in Wonderland

Tim Burton makes a habit of imbuing his films with a dark, disturbing, yet often child-like sense of wonder, whether they serve as comedy (Pee Wee’s Big Adventure), drama (Ed Wood, Big Fish) or animation (The Corpse Bride).  Only his musical adaptation of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street feels a little too grim for its own good, but when human meat pies are in play, that might be hard to avoid.  And the director has had a rather low percentage of outright failures; while Mars Attacks was simply lacking, Burton’s remake of Planet of the Apes is his only laughably bad film.  Alice in Wonderland, then, poses an interesting puzzle: a somewhat (but not completely) visually arresting film, it falters when trying to convey the tone that has served him so well.  Yet it also displays some of the most embarrassing work by two of his favorite actors, Johnny Depp and wife Helena Bonham-Carter, as well as a shockingly scattered, sideways view of the characters and events in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its follow-up, Through the Looking Glass.

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Review: Brooklyn’s Finest

..because Brooklyn’s Most Overwrought and Conscience-Stricken just didn’t work well with test audiences.

Eddie, Sal and Tango are three New York cops who never meet, and barely cross paths for the duration of director Antoine Fuqua’s (Training Day) new film.  That Fuqua should be able to make three simultaneously dire stories sync up so palpably is to his credit.  Brooklyn’s Finest may suffer from an abundance of tired cop-story scenarios and gimmicks, but you can’t take away from the intensity of its trio of lead performers.

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Review: Cop Out

I’m torn about how to approach a review of Cop Out.  If Kevin Smith directed an intentional throwback to 80’s buddy/cop movies, he certainly got the flavor of it.  The dissenting, loud-mouth cops who are always playing against the rules;  the captain sitting at his desk calling them out for their disruptive behavior on the job;  the cops’ domestic issues encroaching on the case;  the three-note synthesizer score and overly-clichéd song choices…all of these elements are in there, along with a healthy dose of laugh-out-loud humor.   But is that Kevin Smith’s doing?  Much has been written about how this is Smith’s first “director-for-hire” job, filming someone else’s script, and clearly it is a more action-oriented effort than Clerks, Mallrats or Chasing Amy.  But the question remains:  what if it wasn’t intentional?   The kudos simply can’t go to Smith on this one, though most of the blame can.

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Review: The Crazies

George A. Romero’s original version of The Crazies (1973) was alternately exciting and dull, a film about madness in small-town America and the violence that erupts both because of it and in efforts to end it.  Sadly, the film has never been one to gain much notoriety; Romero’s Dead films grabbed the ample spotlight provided the director, but the earlier version bore all the earmarks of his style: low-budget production, scarcely a recognizable actor, a plodding sense of terror, and a social message just under the surface that would likely be ignored.  Romero’s film was solid, but frankly didn’t amount to much.

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