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Hacksaw Ridge – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

Hacksaw Ridge40

Hacksaw Ridge is based on the true story of WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield), a pacifist who joined the army and served during the Battle of Okinawa.  Doss refuses to kill people and even refuses to carry a weapon, but he still receives the Medal of Honour without every having fired a shot. Doss thought it was his duty to serve his country, but his religion (he was a Seventh Day Adventist) clearly stated “thou shalt not kill”, so he enrolled as a medic.  Doss suffered through the hardships of basic training where his fellow soldiers hazed him to drum him out of their outfit, a court-marshal hearing because he would not pick up a weapon for any reason (including training), and finally to the battlefield where he witnessed the horrors of war first hand.

This was one of the better looking “war films” that I have seen.  The visuals were graphic, but authentic looking.  The sound was incredible.  The tone of the story and the pace of the action were both exceptional.  I’m not a big fan of Andrew Garfield (I really didn’t like his Spider-Man, or more specifically his Peter Parker), but he did a very good job playing Desmond Doss.  The performance came across as very real and very believable.  Teresa Palmer was very good as his wife Dorothy, as was Hugo Weaving as his father.  A pleasant surprise came in Vince Vaughn as Sgt. Howell who we first met at basic training.  Howell originally seemed to be against Doss, but you could see that he was really just acting out of concern for all the soldiers in his company.  He may not have agreed with Doss’ thoughts or morals but he did always treat Doss fairly, even if he was a little rough.  Eventually he does understand Doss and recognizes the courage inside him.

The film wasn’t perfect of course, there were a few liberties taken.  The film makes it appear as though Doss rescues 75 injured men in a single night, but in actuality this occurred over the course of several weeks and many battles.  I understand making that change, it does make the story flow better.  I though the film looked very authentic, but was disappointed to see that a lot of the battle “blood” appeared to be CGI.  I think for all the trouble they went to of making practical effects for the fighting and the stunts, they would have used old fashioned blood packets too.  Ah well, CGI blood is a lot cheaper than fake blood and squibs, and the film was done on a relatively small $40 million budget.  All in all, it was a very interesting look at a story I didn’t know anything about.

Bottom Line: It’s safe to say that Mel Gibson has had some problems over the last ten years or so, but Hacksaw Ridge shows that he is still one heck of a director.


Kill Me Three Times – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

Kill Me Three Times4.0 Stars

Simon Pegg as a hitman?  Driving a Oldsmobile Toronado?  You bet I’m in.  With time jumps and plot crossovers, Kill Me Three Times really hit the spot.  Charlie Wolfe (Pegg) finds himself in three tales of murder, blackmail and revenge as he takes on a contract killing.  After first determining that Alice (Alice Braga) is cheating on her husband Jack (Callan Mulvey), he’s asked to kill her, unfortunately several other parties have decided to kill Alice today as well.  Lucy (Teresa Palmer) and Nathan (Sullivan Stapleton) Webb; the local dentists; are in debt up to their eyeballs thanks to Nathan’s gambling and have decided to kill Alice and swap her records for Lucy’s so it appears Lucy has died and they can collect the insurance policy.  Alice’s boyfriend Dylan (Luke Hemsworth) wants to kill her abusive husband Jack, so they can run off together, but that doesn’t work if someone kills Alice first….

Kill Me Three Times had a very clever plot, with lots of intriguing motivations for everyone, and I thought it had lots of fun for a semi-serious, very stylish thriller.  Simon Pegg really brought the levity to the film, and perhaps that is why I was pulling for his character all movie long.  He’s this spectre of death, a professional hitman.  Sure he’s a bad guy, but I thought that he was also the only one in the film who was killing for the “right” reasons.  He was paid to do it.  It’s his job, plain and simple and he enjoys it, as you can tell from his “happy music” ring tone that pops up throughout the film.  Everyone else in the film was killing for greed, for revenge, or for control, but he’s doing it because he’s supposed to do it.  Though, for a professional, he’s really having a bad day, as just about every meeting he had came with a little hiccup attached to it.

Pegg was brilliant as always, and so were the rest of the cast really.  I particularly enjoyed Teresa Palmer (who was also very good in Warm Bodies), and felt a bit of sympathy for her character too, as she was initially pulled into all this mayhem by her husband’s gambling losses.  It’s pretty obvious though that she’s the brains of their operation, so she’s definitely not an innocent victim who just happens to get drawn in.  Still, I sympathized with her a bit.  Kudos as well to Australian acting legend Bryan Brown (F/X) who plays the local policeman, who controls the remote Australian town this all takes place in.  Nothing happens without his approval, legal or illegal, and Brown played the role perfectly.

Bottom Line:  As well as being a sucker for attractive blondes, I’m also a sucker for cool cars, and that Toronado was pretty darn cool car.  A cool car that became another character in the film, with the roar of it’s big engine announcing Charlie Wolfe’s arrival and signalling somebody’s death.

Warm Bodies Review or “Sunday can still be zombie night”

Product Details4 Stars (Really more like a 3.75, but an extra ¼ for the extensive special features on the DVD)

You don’t usually go into a zombie movie expecting Shakespeare, well with Warm Bodies that’s actually what you get….read on.

I’m a fan of The Walking Dead, not a huge fan I suppose as I’ve only read the first issue of the comic book series but I’ve loyally followed the show.  Again that was a show I was “late to the party on” and I didn’t watch the first season until just before the second season ended.  As for the comic it came as a free download on the comic book app on my Kindle Fire, good issue, but really it seems someone missed the mark by trying to promote comic books on this brilliant new full colour device with a black and white comic…

The Walking Dead won’t return to television for another few months, but when it was on, Sunday was “zombie night”.  Watching the show and then occasionally discussing everything good, bad, ugly or funny about the night’s episode with a friend were usually what helped rebound my Sundays, so tonight I watched Warm Bodies to try and recapture a bit of undead fun that has been missing from my Sunday nights since the disappointing end of Walking Dead Season 3.

Warm Bodies takes an interesting look at the zombie genre, a lot of zombie films kind of gloss over the whole creation of the zombie hordes.  They exist, just accept it, don’t focus too hard on why they exist.  Usually it’s because of a virus or plague of the MacGuffin variety.  Warm Bodies focuses more on the cure for their condition, a cure brought on by love.  Yup, a little cheesy there, but in Warm Bodies, it actually worked.  A zombie sees a girl (Julie played by Teresa Palmer), and it’s love at first sight.  He thinks she’s hot, so he doesn’t eat her, but brings her back to his zombie lair (a commercial airliner) to hide out from the other zombies.  She slowly sees that he’s not a posing a threat to her, and he is slowly developing dialogue again, something he hasn’t had since he “died” and became a Corpse (Warm Bodies‘ term for zombies, walkers, etc; they also have Skeletons or Boneys who are zombies who are too far gone and have peeled off their skin, leaving them as just walking skeleton zombies).  It’s rather clever how Warm Bodies created a zombie as the leading character and actually made us care for him, and empathize with him as he “grows” and slowly becomes human again.  R (Nicholas Hoult), the zombie whose heart has restarted, starts to “infect” the other Corpses, as they’ve all been given hope by seeing R and Julie simply holding hands.

At its core, Warm Bodies is a romance story, but it can also be thought of as a Romeo & Juliet, Frankenstein mashup.  They even have a balcony scene, and the names R and Julie really spell it out.  It has a fair bit of comedy and enough action to carry things along; and though the Boneys are pretty scary looking, there isn’t a whole lot of horror, but the whole mix together made the film work for me.  I had spoken to a few people last week who said they hated the film, but I’m not sure what they went into the movie expecting.  I had no expectations, and quite enjoyed it.  The idea for Warm Bodies came originally from a short story, which was then expanded into a novel.  Usually I try to read the book before I watch the movie but this time out I probably won’t  bother, as I’ve got far too many things sitting on my “to read” pile.

All the performances were excellent, as Nicholas Hoult plays almost every scene with his expressions.  His eyes, his body movements came across very well for a character who delivered most of his lines as narration.  Teresa Palmer does a good job reacting and carrying the film through her dialogue, which makes up for Hoult’s minimal lines.  The supporting cast was excellent.  John Malkovich plays Julie’s father and a leader of the surviving humans, Analeigh Tipton as Julie’s friend Nora does a nice job bridging the gap between the human world and the Corpses, and as always Rob Corddry was excellent as M, R’s friend who bridges the gap between the Corpse world and the humans.

So my Zombie Sunday may not have been as intense as when The Walking Dead was on, but I did still manage to mindlessly do my laundry.

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