Thursday, September 13, 2012

Safe (2012)

JohnnyTwoToes rues why this Jason Statham's actionfest was too safe for the genre

Jason Statham has had a mixed bag over the years since the first Transporter was released. Since then, he has had a hit and miss career as an action star. His latest one word titled action film is Safe in which he plays Luke, a disgraced cage fighter who also is a *surprise!* humiliated ex cop. 

Ain't that the way? Cage fighter AND ex-cop. Because it is just not enough to have one or the other. You have to have him be both. That way when he kicks EVERYONES ass; cops and bad guys who are one in the same in this film, it tends to have more credence to the story. NOT!! 

Safe was directed by Boaz Yakin, a fine writer and director who did such a fine job on Fresh and Remember The Titans. Here he opts for non-stop action to replace any real character development. Catherine Chan is Mei, a Chinese grammar school student who has a knack for math and remembering numbers. She is kidnapped and sent to New York to help the baddies keep an eye on their money. She knows who is short and who is skimming. She knows who is making money and who is losing money. Thus, the enforcers know whose skulls to crack when people are short on cash. 

Luke (Statham) is a wandering homeless man who has been told by the Russian mob to disappear after he would not take a dive in a cage match. What are the odds that Mei and Luke will meet up and Luke will protect Mei? Yawn. Boaz Yakin has an interesting movie somewhere in here but it is so chock full of action I never really was able to get to know Luke or Mei. You have the Russian mob, the Chinese mob and the corrupt NYPD chasing after this little girl because she has the account safe combination that holds 30 million dollars. 

Don't get me wrong. I love action in films as long as it has purpose. Action for actions sake gets boring as it does here. The film jumps for the first 30 minutes all over the world as it arduously sets up how our two leads will meet. When they do it starts the action which is like watching a video game. 

There are some good lines and the action is competent if nothing else. But when you have great character actors like Chris Sarandon and Robert John Burke as the two main bad guys and they have very little screen time, you are left with a mundane thriller. Why not cut these guys loose and have them chew up the screen with Statham? Safe would have been a lot better film if it did not play it safe. Safe-** out of 4.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Repossessed (1990)

An exclusive review from Zombie Actor John Migliore's book 'Cinema Parodyso'

Repossessed is not a sequel to The Exorcist. Who ever said that it was one? Repossessed is a comedy, not a horror flick... right? There's just one little snag in that kind of logic. There are so many similarities between the two movies that Repossessed invites a great deal of comparison to the classic film it is mimicking. At times, the producers of Repossessed seem intent on making a remake of The Exorcist (albeit a comedic one). 

The final result is a film that is neither entirely funny nor the least bit scary. Veteran funnyman, Leslie Nielsen stars as Father Jedediah Mayii, a retired exorcist with a bum ticker. Unfortunately, Nielsen just seems to be going through the motions in this horrific parody. He's done films like this before (Airplane!, The Naked Gun!), but doesn't seem particularly inspired by the material this time around. On the other hand, the movie wouldn't be half as funny without him. 

The real surprise performance comes from Linda Blair who plays Nancy Aglet, the repossessed victim. Blair starred in the first two Exorcist films and was successful in shocking audiences both times around. In Repossessed, she lampoons her previous role with comedic timing and flawless insight. She is able to make her character seem both comical and charming at the same time. 

So where did it all go wrong? Well, I'm not so sure that organized religion is really all that funny. Repossessed takes a cavalier attitude toward its subject matter, which might offend some non-secular people. Don't get me wrong, this movie doesn't have a political agenda, but some people may have trouble seeing the humor in a few of the situations. 

Repossessed does have one saving grace (Get it? I still got it!) and that would be its constant bombardment of jokes and gags. It's hard to be offended when the producers pack a large number of potential laughs into each and every scene. Some of them fall short... some of them are total groaners... but enough of them hit the mark to make this an enjoyable movie. May the Faith be with you! 

Free Video - Stream or Download - Stagevu

Monday, September 10, 2012

Memento (2000)

Decrypting Christopher Nolan's Breakthrough Thriller

Watching Memento is like doing a particularly tough Sunday Times crossword puzzle. It offers an elegantly structured mystery that’s meaty enough to keep you chewing on it for most of its running time. It’s unpredictable, sleek, and gives its characters some nice, punchy lines to throw at each other. But it’s also a relatively heartless film, so caught up in its plot details that its final resolution doesn’t leave much of a mark. It’s a film that leaves you saying “Wow” and “So what?” at the same time. 

Memento is built around Guy Pearce’s alert performance as Leonard Shelby, an insurance investigator whose wife was raped and murdered in the couple’s house one night. Leonard received a brutal head injury in the attack, and it’s robbed him of his short-term memory, leaving him incapable of forming a memory of anything that’s happened since the moment of his wife’s death. Unable to understand what he’s doing for more than a few minutes at a time, he’s built his life around the one image that still has any meaning for him: his wife’s lifeless expression. 

He’s determined to find her killer and avenge her murder, but he has to keep in mind all the myriad clues he’s uncovered—a tough nut for someone stuck in the present tense. Nor does it help that he’s surrounded by people whose loyalties keep shifting from moment to moment: the shady and sarcastic Teddy (Joe Pantoliano); Natalie (Carrie-Ann Moss), a jaded bartender whose drug-dealing boyfriend has gone missing; and Burt (Mark Boone, Jr.), the raffish manager of the motel where Leonard lives. Leonard keeps his facts straight the only way he can. He snaps pictures of everyone he has dealings with, and gives each photo a caption indicating the level of trust he should feel for each person. (These captions are subject to heavy revision.) A chronic note-taker, his motel room is strewn with written reminders of everything he must bear in mind. And the most important facts in his life—the things he believes to be certainties about his wife’s assailant—he tattoos onto his body so that he can reacquaint himself with the case on a moment to moment basis. 

Mysteries by nature have a poison pill built into them. The very things that make a good mystery interesting—the inexplicable events, the incongruous clues—have a surrealistic hit that’s almost always undercut when the humdrum explanation comes out. Usually we’re told in a few breathless lines of dialogue near the end that the physical laws of nature have been turned upside down, and the rules of human behavior inverted, all because some money grubber was trying to run a con. 

It’s a letdown when the mysteries of the universe are so easily explained away by a shabby inheritance, a roll of microfilm, a kilo of uncut heroin. How do you satisfactorily explain vanishing footprints, or a body that has India ink in its veins? How do you keep escapist whimsy from falling apart in its last fifteen minutes? 

Nolan knows all this, and he’s done what he can to mitigate the problem. Memento’s kicker is that it reveals Leonard’s story to us in reverse, beginning with the death of a major character and working backwards in time, scene by scene, towards the attack on Leonard and his wife. At the same time, running against the grain of the main narrative, is a flashback told in linear fashion about the target of one of Leonard’s old insurance fraud investigations. This man (Stephen Tobolowsky, who’s making a career of popping up in surprising places) suffers from the same malady as Leonard, and his story revolves around the grief felt by his wife (Harriet Harris, in the film’s best performance) over losing the man she once loved. As Memento moves towards its conclusion, this sub-narrative casts an increasingly longer shadow over Leonard Shelby’s dilemma, until the two stories converge on an unexpected plane. 

Using the reverse narrative displaces the focus from Leonard’s banal quest for vengeance, so that the pedestrian concern of “Who killed Mrs. Shelby?” never overwhelms the movie. It makes room for such commonsensical paradoxes as Natalie’s observation “Even if you get revenge…you’re not even going to know that it happened,” and adds a melancholy, transitory flavor to Leonard’s relationships. (Even the people who don’t like him are distressed when he keeps forgetting who they are.) It also forces us to view the movie’s events through Leonard’s eyes: when a scene opens with him sitting on a toilet with a bottle of booze in his hand, we have no more idea than he does how he came to be there. We’re constantly waiting for the end of the next scene to understand the one that we’re watching, and the movie’s novelty—seeing how Leonard Shelby came by the scars, clothes, and even the haircut that he first appears in—lies in its graphic demonstration of the (reversed) axiom: “If a gun is fired in the first act, then it must appear in the third act.” 

Memento probably merits neither the scorn it’s sure to receive from people turned off by its hype or paper-thin characters, nor the wild praise it’s already receiving for its unconventional narrative. It’s not close to being a Chinatown or The Third Man, but it’s good enough to help tide us over until the next great mystery comes along. That said, if it offers all the pleasures of a tough crossword puzzle, its rewards run not that much deeper. Near the end of its run, “Seinfeld” broadcast a episode that told its story in reverse chronology, and in 23 brilliant minutes seemed to exhaust the device as it (unlike Memento) moved from obscurity to clarity. Absent the bloodletting, and with only George Costanza’s sexual pride at stake, the show revealed the idea for what it is: a lark. Tom Block

Free Video - Stream or Download - VeeHD

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Best of the 80s - Radio Mix 2

Awesome Billboard Hits from the 80s - Series 2 

Even more memorable great hits from the 80s (the second in my series on 8tracks internet radio) including Jimmy Barnes, Peter Godwin, Big Noise and my favs like 'Please be the one' by Karla Bonoff to revisit that golden era !

Name And Number - Big Noise 
Love Train - Holly Johnson 
Feel The Heart - Jean Beauvoir 
Please Be The One - Karla Bonoff 
Too Much Aint Enough Love - Jimmy Barnes 
Don't Say That You're Sorry - Edin Adahl 
Baby's In The Mountains - Peter Godwin 
That's Freedom - Tom Kimmel 

Click HERE to hear these songs on 8tracks or just click the artwork below!


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Best of the 80s - Radio Mix 1

Awesome Billboard Hits from the 80s

Memorable great billboard hits from the 80s (the first in the series) including Eurythmics, Bronski Beat, Don Henley, Pat Benator and more to revisit that golden era ! My favorites include 'Small town boy' and 'Man with a gun' . This 8tracks radio mix has already received over 300+ plays so hear it now and enjoy your Friday!

1. Dirty Laundry - Don Henley 
2. Miracle of Love - Eurythmics 
3. Small Town Boy - Bronski Beat 
4. Drop The Pilot - Joan Armatrading 
5. Tell Me Why - Nick Heyward 
6. Love Is A Battlefield - Pat Benatar 
7. Man With A Gun - Jerry Harrison
8. Daddy's Girl - Peter Cetera

Click HERE to hear this tracks on 8 tracks or just click the artwork below! 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Hunger Games (2012)

JohnnyTwoToes tells you why he loves this dystopian teen actioner

The Hunger Games is the first film based on the trilogy of books by Suzanne Collins. It is about how society has been overrun by the powerful ruling class which runs the government and the people are subjugated to the countrysides to live in districts in squalor and with very little food and not much hope. Each year a competition is created and both a boy and a girl from each district are picked out of a lottery to battle to the death, "To honor those who fell in the uprising and to the future of peace" or words to that effect. 

The dystopian world that is created is a stark one. Panem is the new capitol in this post apocalyptic mess and the contestants are brought there to begin their training once they have been "picked". Katniss Everdean (Jennifer Lawrence) has volunteered saving her younger sister from being slaughtered. Katniss is a hunter and very adept at taking care of herself. She is smart, cunning and strong willed and Jennifer Lawrence is a perfect choice as Katniss. She embodies all of the characteristics that Katniss has and is a worthy opponent in the games. After the kids are trained, they are turned loose in a field of battle and the last one alive is the winner. 

I suppose if you can get past the subject matter of watching kids butcher kids, the The Hunger Games will affect you. It affected me after I accepted the premise that this is a story about the future of humankind not based on any kind of true story. Still, watching kids attacking each other will bother anyone who watches this. But director Gary Ross does not over sell this part. We get it and he credits the audience with enough intelligence to understand that he makes his point. 

The producers were wise to bring in the author of the books, Suzanne Collins to help write the script and it shows. Collins, along with Ross, and Billy Ray have written a thoughtful and intelligent script. The film does not revel in its violence but simply shows characters in a horrible ordeal and how each one reacts differently to it. Of course, there is a love story that is an underlying story, but it is well written and believable and is an important part of the story, as you will see and I can't say more without ruining the film. 

There is an impressive cast assembled for The Hunger Games which includes, Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Banks, Wes Bentley, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Toby Jones, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, and even a cameo by rocker Lenny Kravitz. All of them are excellent and I especially liked Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket, the sponsor of the District 12 contestants as a sort of cross between Cyndi Lauper on crack and the Queen Of Diamonds from Alice In Wonderland

I also enjoyed Woody Harrelson as her trainer, Haymitch Abernathy, a survivor of the previous games and now a heavy drinker that still remembers that severity of what these kids will face in the games. He has the right amount of balance between his humor and moroseness. 

The Hunger Games is a great film because it has been well thought out, planned and written. It is a well acted film and by the film's end I cared what happened to the characters because such time was taken to make a great film. The good news is that there are two more films coming to complete the trilogy and Gary Ross will be back as director of number two, even though at first, he did not want to come back to direct the sequel. The Hunger Games will stick with you long after you watch it, at least it did for me. That is saying something. The Hunger Games -***1/2 out of 4
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