Killing Gunther – ★ ★ ★ Review

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This may have been the quirkiest film I’ve seen in quite a while. It wasn’t exactly as advertised, but it paid off in the end.

Gunther is the world’s greatest assassin, so to make a name for themselves, a group of assassins sets out to assassinate him, but their plans turn into a series of bungled encounters as Gunther seems to always be one step ahead.  The story is told as a mockumentary, which wasn’t exactly what I expected, but the format helped to cleverly mask the low budget of the film.

Killing Gunther was funny enough, and there was enough light action to carry the story but it didn’t really get going until Gunther (Schwarzenegger) made his eventual appearance.  This is the value a true star can bring to your film.  He wasn’t wasted, and his performance did elevate that of the entire cast, but it took a bit too long to get to him.  I liked Schwarzenegger in this one because it seemed like he was there to have fun, and just make a fun little film…with assassinations.  Unfortunately the shooting style can turn off some, and the fact that Arnold isn’t seen until the last third of the movie makes the wait a little tedious at times.

Bottom Line:  As long as you don’t go into this thinking it’s a Schwarzenegger film, you should be okay.  Don’t have super high expectations and you can enjoy a quirky little bit of cinema.

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7 Sisters – ★ ★ ★ ★ Review

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I love Noomi Rapace, and will watch anything with her in it.  When I heard about 7 Sisters, it immediately piqued my interest.


7 Sisters was very good, but immediately comparisons were made to Orphan Black, simply because you have one actress playing multiple roles. In Orphan Black, Tatiana Maslany played more than 10 different characters/clones over the show’s run, in 7 Sisters, Noomi Rapace plays septuplets in a mild dystopian future. The planet was getting overpopulated, so a one child policy was put in place.  When anyone has more than one child, the extra siblings are taken by the government and put into a deep sleep until a time that the planet can sustain the population.  When his daughter dies giving birth to septuplets, Terrence Settman (Willem Dafoe) hides the children in his apartment, constructing hidden rooms and false walls to conceal the girls in case of government searches.  When they are old enough, he allows the girls to go outside, one day a week.  Though they are all registered under the name of Karen Settman, they each are named after a different day of the week, and that is the day they can go out, and live the life of “Karen”.  All goes well until of course one day “Monday” doesn’t come home from work.  Now the sisters have to work together to find their sister while avoiding detection…


Rapace makes the film with her multiple performances, but everyone shone.  Willem DaFoe who was shown mostly in flashbacks was a treat and gave the film an extra sense of validation.  Glenn Close played the government official who instituted the one child policy and ran the department that dealt with “extra” children.  She was deliciously evil as the antagonist because she didn’t think what she was doing was evil. As I said though, Noomi Rapace was the best part of this film. Each sister had a very distinct personality and it was fun to watch her bring each “day” to life.


This was an exciting, thrilling film. There was lots of action; with fights and chases mixed in throughout the film all while the sisters got closer and closer to Monday.  I really enjoyed the movie, mostly because of the cast, but also because the story was an excellent little taste of sci-fi.  The only thing that disappointed me was that the Blu Ray didn’t have any special features.  I thought that a film as ambitious as this; having one actress play seven characters, often sharing screen time; would have had some very interesting “behind the scenes” story, and I wanted more once the film was done.


Bottom Line: If you’re as big a fan of Noomie Rapace as I am, may I also highly recommend the original Girl With The Dragon Tattoo films and  Unlocked?  Also, the original title for 7 Sisters was What Happened to Monday.  While I like the sound of that title a lot more, I guess it could be a little spoiler-ish, so I can see why they changed it.

The Foreigner – ★ ★ ★ ★ Review

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An excellent action-thriller that hit all the right notes.


Jackie Chan plays Quan, a father whose daughter is killed in an terrorist explosion in London.  A faction of the IRA is claiming responsibility, but the authorities are having no luck tracking them down.  When Chan learns that the Northern Ireland deputy First Minister, Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), had past ties to the IRA and might know how to catch the bombers, he presses the man relentlessly for information about the killers, information he insists he doesn’t have.  Quan doesn’t believe him, and for good reason.  Hennessy is busy tracking down the bombers himself because he doesn’t just have past ties to the IRA, he has active ties too that actually didn’t seem to have anything to do with this particular bombing.


I think I first saw the trailer for The Foreigner in October last year, and was rather upset that it didn’t play in cinemas around my home.  Though this isn’t necessarily one of the huge blockbusters that I usually deem theatre worthy, I really did want to see it and would have gone to see it in theatres.  Several months later it came out on DVD and I watched it (and yes, I know, several more months later I’m actually reviewing it).

Jackie Chan was absolutely excellent.  He played the role very seriously, as did everyone else, but there was no comedy on his part in this performance, which is something he is know for bringing into his films.  Even in the most serious action scene there is usually some funny spot in his films, but this time he played the part of a 65 year old man, who was mourning the loss of his daughter and he wanted to do something about it.  Chan played serious as I said, but he also “acted his age”.  Quan is a seasoned former black-ops type soldier, so he clearly has lethal skills but they aren’t as polished as they once were.  He now fights like a older man, he is not as fast, not as strong, but his training makes him just as effective and I thought made the film more believable.  Yes, Chan still got in a few of his “signature moves”; in most of his movies that I’ve seen when someone attacks him with a knife, he pulls off his jacket or grabs a towel or something and twists and ties up the attacker’s arms, dodging the attack and looking pretty cool at the same time.  He does that in The Foreigner too, but he does it slower, and clumsier than in his other films.  Pierce Brosnan was also excellent and at times just as brutal, taking his own brand of justice into his own hands, on the good guys, on the bad guys, on his friends and even on his own family.  A very clever thriller, and at times a brutally honest revenge film.


Bottom Line: I like the serious Jackie Chan.

Thor Ragnarok – ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ Theatrical Review

Baby Driver  


Wow, I haven’t posted anything since February?  Okay, I get it, I’m really behind in my reviews, and I did see Thor in theatres… back in probably December…  It was great!  I loved it.  There was maybe a bit too much humour to it for some, but I still loved it.


Now, there were lots of trailers, and lots of clips, I have to say that Marvel knows how to put those together.  The trailers left me wanting more and put more questions in my mind as to how things got to where they were, even though the trailer pretty much plays out the same order of events as they happen in the film.


Thor returns to Asgard with the helm/skull of Surtur, a fire demon who according to prophecy will bring about Ragnarok, the Asgardian apocalypse.  With Surtur defeated, Thor sets about finding his father Odin, who Loki hypnotized and left on Earth at the end of Thor 2: The Dark World.   At least that’s what I think happened, I can’t honestly remember, as it’s been quite a while since I saw that one.  All I know is that Loki (Tom Hiddleston) took the throne, impersonating Odin (Anthony Hopkins).  Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has figured this out, and once he publicly unmasks Loki, the two brothers set off to find their father, making a side trip to the Sanctum Sanctorum where Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) sends Thor and Loki to Odin.  Nice bits of comedy here, and nice to see Doctor Strange, but the scene really just seemed like an extension of the “after the credits scene” from his own movie.  The sons of Odin meet up with Odin in Norway one last time, as he surrenders his life force and moves on, freeing his trapped first born child, Hela, the Goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett) who breaks Thor’s hammer (as we saw in the trailers) and sends he and Loki through space via the Bifrost, where they become trapped on a planet run by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum).  Loki arrived several weeks earlier than Thor and has aligned himself with the Grandmaster, leaving  to be captured by a woman known as “Scrapper 142” (Tessa Thompson) to be thrown into the arena to fight for the Grandmaster’s amusement.  Thor’s first opponent is the reigning champion, the incredible… Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).  Fighting and fun, the two heroes eventually bury their differences and escape the planet with Loki and Scrapper 142, who is in fact an Asgardian Valkyrie.  Returning to Asgard to stop Hela who has killed and enslaved much of the population, Thor and his team set out to free their people, but can the Prince of Asgard win without his hammer?


Okay, that was a rather long-winded summary, and I left out a lot of key things.  The story was great fun, and it was full of great comic-book action.  It worked in a lot of great new characters from the comics, and I think it laid some very important groundwork for Avengers Infinity War, and the future of the entire MCU.  The scene after the credits leads directly to the opening scene of Infinity War (I know because I saw it the other day).


As I mentioned earlier, there was a lot of humour in the film.  I personally loved it, but I can see where some fans of comic book movies might be a little put off by it.  Thor Ragnarok still had some rather serious plot points and undertones, but I think director Taika Waititi (What We Do In The Shadows, Flight of the Conchords) balanced the humour and the darkness masterfully.  I think that is something that Marvel does better than DC does in their movies, and that can be very divisive in the comic book and comic book movie fandoms.  I like my heroes to be powerful and fun, not dark and brooding all the time, but that’s just me.  To each their own.  Check it out, it was fun.


Bottom Line: My favourite Marvel movie was the first Thor for the longest time, but then Doctor Strange came out quickly becoming my favourite, but now….Ragnarok may have put Thor back into first place again….at least until there’s a Doctor Strange 2…

Atomic Blonde – ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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I think Atomic Blonde was a little over-hyped, and that was the beginning of its downfall for me.  I thought it was
too stylish, and too concerned with the perfect “cool” shot than advancing the story.  It is entirely possible that I’m a little jaded though.  To me it was built up to be the next great spy film, and the titular Atomic Blonde was to be a “female James Bond”, but it just seemed too artsy to be a great spy film.  It was entertaining, and there were things I enjoyed, but there were things that just frustrated me and kept me from loving this film the way I thought I was told to.


Set in the Cold War against the backdrop of the Berlin Wall, Charlize Theron plays Lorraine Broughton, an undercover MI6 agent sent to investigate the murder of a fellow agent named Gascione and recover a missing list of double agents.  In Berlin she meets up with David Percival (James McAvoy), the lead field agent to try and recover the list of agents, and to discover the mole or double agent (code named “Satchel”) in their midst.  The film is sort of told in reverse, which is a style I don’t really like for these sorts of stories.  We open on Lorraine in London, being brought in for debriefing by MI6 after the mission in Berlin.  After we’re quickly introduced to the principal players, we know that Satchel is going to be A or B, but I did have doubts for a minute that it may have been C….literally “C”, as in Chief “C” played by James Faulkner.  Then we get the debriefing and the main story is told essentially in flashback.  My problem with this style of storytelling for this sort of movie is that we now know Lorraine will not die during the course of the adventure.  Sure, enjoyment can be found in the ride but the element of surprise and suspense is kind of ruined.


For a film that was touted as being a great and revolutionary action film, I didn’t really find it to have that much action.  Sure there were fight scenes and they were fairly realistic; in so much that people got hurt and weren’t invincible; but there were great lulls too and the great action sequences I thought I was promised took far too long to be realized.  There was a “long cut” fight, as those have become really popular all of a sudden, and it was cool, but I couldn’t help but think that it was just there to force the “coolness” and the style of the film.


There were positives and it was entertaining, but there were just too many clichés for me by the time the film ended, like the French spy.  She was way too cliché as the love struck, doe eyed rookie, who’s in over her head. The film did do a decent job with it’s switchero, but it was still a little obvious who Satchel was.  I suppose the worst thing was that the film wasn’t overly original for something that was seemingly being hyped up as a new leader in the genre.  I didn’t really care about Lorraine’s character, partially because she didn’t seem developed or overly interesting, and partially because I knew she’d make to the end of the film.


I don’t know if I’m the only one who does this, but when I get frustrated with a movie I start to look for plot holes and more ways to not the film.  I started to get that way with Atomic Blonde.  My biggest problem was that with this flurry of agents from all sides trying to get the mythical “list” and figure out who Satchel is, they overlook that there are people who know who Satchel is. 
Gascione, Percivale, and Spyglass have all had the list at some point.  Percivale has definitely read it, Spyglass has it memorized, so logically, all three of them know who Satchel is, but none of them call it in?  Anyway, the movie was entertaining, it was actually pretty good, but it wasn’t great like I was led to believe it would have been.


Bottom Line:  The most disgusting part of the movie happens in the very beginning.  Lorraine is soaking her injuries in a bathtub full of ice before going to her debriefing.  She gets out of the tub, pours a drink and adds some icecubes to it before drinking.  THOSE ICECUBES CAME FROM THE DIRTY TUB WATER SHE WAS SOAKING HER BLOODY, DIRTY BRUISES IN!

Wind River – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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Wind River was written and directed by Taylor Sheridan who also wrote Sicario and Hell or High Water and was a very enjoyable movie.  I was about to say it was a good mystery thriller, but it really isn’t a mystery.  True, we don’t know “whodunit” but we’re led there through the course of the investigation step by step.  It was a good crime thriller.  I liked the cast, and I liked the story behind it all.  It had the “fish out of water” idea, the rookie cop, the guy who helps the cops who can act outside the law.  Lots of tropes, but still everything clicked.


I really liked the cast, and that was what initially drew me to Wind River.  I’ve been an Elizabeth Olsen fan for some time now and again was quite impressed.  The story was excellent hitting emotional and suspenseful notes equally well.  Jeremy Renner was also good, and it was interesting to see the two interact with each other while not playing their MCU characters (Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye if you will).


When a young woman is found dead (and probably murdered) on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, young FBI Agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) from the Las Vegas field office is sent to investigate.  Not familiar with the territory or the people she asks Fish and Wildlife Service agent and game tracker Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), who is accepted by the locals, to help her navigate the snowy terrain and the distrust of the locals.  Banner also works closely with the local sheriff Ben (Graham Greene).  The plot unfolds and we learn how the girl met her fate, and that she was best friends with Lambert’s own daughter who also died.  The film shines a light on many of the darker aspects of reservation life, such as rampant violence, drug use, depression and of course the many, many unsolved cases of missing women.  It is a sobering look, and one that draws you into the film at every turn.


I enjoyed the way the film played out, how the case was solved, who did it, and how they paid for their crime.  At first I thought they were going to go a much different way with that payment…. I really thought Lambert was going to leave him to the mountain lion, but the way they did it was definitely satisfying. …A very good film all around, and even though it is full of tragedy it has a satisfying payoff.


Bottom Line: Graham Greene is a great actor, he’s been in such works as Green Mile, Dances With Wolves, and he played Mr. Crabby Tree on The Adventures of Dudley the Dragon

Dark Tower – ★ ★ ★ ½ DVD Review

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It’s January, and I’m behind in my reviews again!  Alright, the next few days I’m going to try and catch up, but they’re going to be short, probably not sweet.


The Dark Tower is based on the series of books by Stephen King, which I have never read.  After seeing the movie however, I’m interested now.  When the film originally went to theatres, I had heard comments that people who had read the books wouldn’t (or didn’t) like the movie, but that people who hadn’t read them would probably like the movie. I fall into that segment. I enjoyed The Dark Tower. I watched the film at home, on Blu Ray which benefits me the bonus features.  In one interview segment, King says that this movie starts the story essentially in the middle of the book series. It was done so intentionally because the filmmakers didn’t want to have it so the audience who hadn’t read the books would feel as though they were “behind” the audiences who had read the books.  They say that they started in middle of series and let things grow from there.  It worked for me, but as I said I haven’t read the books.


Idris Elba plays Roland, the last Gunslinger, who has been locked in an eternal battle with Walter aka the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey).  The Mna in Black is trying to destroy the Dark Tower, which holds the universe (and I guess some sort of multiverse) together.  Walter has agents working on earth (and presumably other dimensions or planets) to find people who show signs of powers and to kidnap them, and use their abilities to destroy the tower.  Most of the people are children, and it does kill them… (I think, I can’t remember, it’s been a few months since I watched it, but it seems to make sense.)  Roland meets Jake (Tom Taylor), an earth boy who Walter was trying to capture because he has an exceptionally strong set of psychic powers (or “shine”), and the two set off to stop Walter, jumping back and forth from Earth to the Dark Tower dimension…


Okay, it was a pretty decent action film with some sci-fi thrown on top.  I liked the performances of both Elba and McConaughey and thought the story flowed pretty well.  There was humour, great stunts and effects, and the underlying story of good versus evil worked well within this framework.  I’d say it’s worth watching if you’re a fan of either of the leads, or an open minded fan of the source material.


Bottom Line: There were lots of references to other Stephen King works, including It, with a rusting carnival ride labelled Pennywise.

Unlocked – ★ ★ ★ ½ DVD Review

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Alice Racine (Noomi Rapace) is a former CIA interrogator who now works in a London community monitoring potential threats liaisoning between the CIA and MI6.  When a potential terrorist cell and plot are uncovered, she is brought in to interrogate a suspect when the original interrogator dies of a heart attack. Something doesn’t seem right though as she and the suspect are attacked by the agents who brought them both in.  Double crossed by her own people, she contacts her former CIA handler (Michael Douglas) and her MI6 contact (Toni Collette) to sort out the situation.  She escapes and goes off on her own, making it to a safe house where she encounters a former SAS operative (Orlando Bloom) who has turned to burglary.  On the run, Alice reluctantly teams up with him to try and find out who set her up and why before a deadly bio-attack is unleashed.

Unlocked was a rather clever thriller, and even though a few things about it were easy (for me) to guess, it did surprise me with other plot points and did keep me guessing at things. I didn’t really know who was good and who was a traitor, well I knew who one traitor and one good guy were.  I really didn’t know anything about this film going in, which is sometimes for the best as you have no expectations to either fail to meet or surpass.  I was sold basically by the cast.  While it has big names like Douglas, Malkovich, Collette and Bloom, they don’t really have large roles, the film really is all Rapace.  As I really enjoy her, that’s why I decided to watch it.  Her Alice was a very well defined, well developed character and Noomi Rapace delivered a very good performance. The fights, the chases, and the action scenes were all well done, and made for a very enjoyable, very watchable spy/action/thriller with multiple twists.

Bottom Line: There was a scene in an elevator that was very good, and something I hadn’t seen before or expected!

Killing Hasselhoff – ★ ★ ½ DVD Review

Killing Hasselhoff


If you’re a long time reader, you’ll know I run a video store.  How else do you think I get to see all these great (and sometimes not so great) movies?  Over the years we’ve noticed a few things.  First, celebrities die all the time, and second when they die, their movies or albums instantly becomes popular.  We are usually flooded with calls from customers asking if we have anything and everything by the late celeb.  It’s funny because often these customers claim to be the biggest fans but don’t actually own anything by the artist in question…  A number of years ago we realized we had to immediately dedicate display space when an actor died so that customers could find what they were looking for.  One year, we were sitting down, doing a “year in review” meeting and the topic of dead celebrities came up, and that’s when our own Dead Pool began.  If you’re not familiar with the concept, here it is: before a given deadline you make up a list of celebrities you think will die in the coming year.  Each one you guess correctly gets you points.  Yes it is rather morbid, but we do mean it in good fun.  We have rules, and one of them is that you cannot murder any of your chosen celebrities, because that’s cheating, and cheating is wrong.  Murdering a celebrity you’ve chosen in a Dead Pool though is exactly what Killing Hasselhoff is all about.


Chris is the owner of a nightclub but when his club burns down, his fiancé leaves him, his life falls further into shambles when a loan shark he owes money to calls in the debt.  The only way Chris can raise the money is to win the Celebrity Dead Pool that he’s in.  And the only way he can win it is if David Hasselhoff dies. So he sets out to murder the Hoff.


The movie wasn’t quite as bad as my rating, or as you would think it would be.  For a comedy it wasn’t very funny, at least not until the last fifteen minutes.  From there, it was very funny, and I laughed quite a bit, but until the, I might have only chuckled once or twice.  Hasselhoff was pretty good, playing just a giant caricature of himself and his celebrity status, and Ken Jeong (who I think is rather underrated as an actor) was good in the lead.  The supporting cast seemed to be a lot of Comedy Central talents, and their roles and lines seemed to be tailor made for them, which may not have been a good thing.  Don’t write a line (or a role, or a script) for a comedian, write a funny line for any actor.  If they happen to be a comedian, your joke should go over even better.  Just my opinion.


Most of the script was vulgar and childish, but if you’re willing to wait for the laughs, or if you’re a big fan of The Hoff, you should be able to find some mild entertainment with it.


Bottom Line:  Fortunately it was only 80 minutes long, because that first hour was really kind of painful.  Also, I’m leading the Dead Pool at work again.  RIP Hugh Hefner.

Mune: Guardian of the Moon – ★ ★ ★ ½ DVD Review

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Mune, was a French cartoon that I had never heard of, but took a chance on and really enjoyed.  It was a wonderful story that was steeped in mythology, beautifully rendered and humourous.  What more could I ask for in an animated feature?


It’s time for the old guardians of the Sun and Moon to retire and have their proteges replace them. Sohone (Rob Lowe) is good looking, strong, cocky and celebrity-esque, he will replace Xolal (Michael Dobson), the ancient Guardian of the Sun. Leeyoon (Christian Slater) is the prim and proper apprentice to Yule (Paul Dobson) the wizened Guardian of the Moon. During the ceremony to formally select and announce the new guardians Sohone is chosen by a ray of sunlight as expected, but the lunar ewe responsible for selecting the Guardian of the Moon instead bypasses Leeyoon and chooses Mune (Joshua J. Ballard) a young faun. Irate over the disrespect, Leeyoon storms off in anger, and is visited by pale snakes who corrupt him and stir up his jealousy and hubris, getting him to pit Sohone against Mune. The snakes were sent by Necross (Davey Grant) the lord of evil in the world who wants chaos so he can steal and destroy the Sun. With Sohone distracted by the actions of an unprepared Mune, Necross sends his imps Mox (Patton Oswalt) and Spleen (Ed Helms) to steal the Sun, plunging the planet into eternal night. With Mune banished by his own people, Leeyoon takes his place as Moon Guardian and causes the Moon to crumble and break.  Now it’s up to Mune and Sohone to try and work together and recover the sun and find a way to restore the Moon. Naturally they don’t get along but when Glim (Nicole Provost) a young candle girl, joins them and sets them on the right path the trio set out to save the world. Eventually they enter the underground and meet Phospho (Jeff Dunham), a former Moon Guardian himself, who has been living on the outskirts of the underworld hiding from his own past cowardice and failure. Phosphoro helps them on their way, leading them to Necross where they realize he was under the influence of the pale snakes too and had been corrupted by envy. Glim manages to find the rapidly diminishing Sun, but when she reignites it, she melts. The sun and moon are returned to the sky by their Guardians and the world returns to normal, and Mune revives and re-sculpts Glim, and the pair set out on the temple of the Moon to travel around the world, as Sohone travels on his temple ahead of them.


As I said, the film was beautifully animated.  The CGI was great, but they switched gears when they entered the dream world section of the film and reverted to a hand drawn, flowing, watercolour style of animation.  I loved the concepts and the originality, the candle people like Glim were incredible!  Being made of wax, if she got too cold she would stiffen up, when it was too hot she could melt, leaving her really only able to move freely in the evening or dawn times, only carefully in the shadows during the daytime and virtually not at all in the night.  Ironic that she and the Moon Guardian fall in love…  The idea that the Sun and Moon are tethered to these gigantic beasts, who slowly march around the world acting as the temples was fantastic and in all likelihood pulled from some mythology was also incredible.  I loved the world this film created.


Bottom Line: Mune may be well under the radar, but is definitely worth checking out especially if you are a fan of animation.

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