Must See: Run All Night

Thanks to Justin Chang at Variety for this early review of Run All Night, Liam Neeson’s new bad-ass thriller which has been on my radar for some time:

Someday the mobsters, petty thugs and crooked cops of the world will finally get it through their thick skulls that you should never, ever mess with Liam Neeson’s family — not that audiences have reason to complain in the meantime, so long as they keep getting action pictures as straightforward and robustly satisfying as “Run All Night.” In his third and arguably most effective partnership with director Jaume Collet-Serra (after “Unknown” and “Non-Stop”), the 62-year-old Neeson puts his world-weary killer instincts to good use as an aging Brooklyn hit man trying to protect his estranged son — a twist that pushes this tense, elegantly assembled chase thriller into full-on male-weepie territory, so heavy with sins-of-the-fathers anguish that it almost plays out like a latter-day “Road to Perdition.” Yet Collet-Serra keeps things moving so nimbly that the emotions never turn leaden, suggesting that this Warner Bros. programmer could display some much-needed commercial stamina in a season of box office disappointments.

Read the full review here.

Chang’s appreciation for the film, directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and starring Neeson, Joel Kinnaman and Ed Harris, lines up with my hopeful expectations that are usually unrealistically high; especially for a genre that sacrifices its character development and story line for a good chase scene.  Still, I love the cast, especially Kinnaman of The Killing, and Neeson does family shoot-em-ups better than anyone.

So far my only concern is writer Brad Ingelsby who penned Into the Furnace, another eagerly anticipated film that majorly disappointed, but Chang seems to enjoy the script and the film despite its faults, which is always a good sign.

Fingers crossed it lives up to the hype.

: Early rating 7.8 IMDb

Watch List: Elephant Song (2014)

Currently on my radar is Belgian director Charles Binamé’s (The Rocket) new movie Elephant Song, starring Xavier Dolan (in his first English language acting gig), Bruce Greenwood and Catherine Keener.

Adapted by Nicolas Billon from his original play, the movie is a two-hander, cat-and-mouse psychological thriller about an institutionalized man and the information he may have regarding the disappearance of a psychologist.  According to most reports, the acting is excellent, the movie well-paced and the writing superb.  It may not be perfect and as T’Cha Dunlevy of the Montreal Gazette writes

“Binamé’s film has many elements of a gripping psychological thriller, and the verbal jousting between Greenwood and Dolan’s characters is rather entertaining; but by the time all is revealed, the punch doesn’t quite hit its mark.”

Still, I’m excited to see such great performers battle it out with each other.

Gazette Profile

IMDb: 7.0

tomato : Not yet rated

Gravity (2013)

Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
Written by: Alfonso Cuarón and Jonás Cuarón
Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney and Ed Harris

Every once in awhile a movie comes along that reminds you to believe in possibility.  3D film was developed so that visionary filmmakers like Alfonso Cuarón could make movies like Gravity.  Quite simply, it is a groundbreaking, jaw-dropping experience of visual beauty and vicarious terror that leaves you breathless.

What I liked:  This is not the transcendent wonder of Kubrick’s 2001.  This is a physical and visual encounter with cinema.  For the record, I love 3D movies but not for the sake of it.  I enjoy new ideas being translated through a relatively new facet of technology.  Gravity left me feeling as though I knew what it would be like in space and that is no small feat.    Cuarón and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki have given us a visual story that previously was beyond my imaginative scope.  Just brilliant.

What I didn’t like:  As with most ground breaking films, what Cuarón was trying to accomplish cinematically overshadowed character and dialogue.  This is a rare exception where it’s okay with me.  The movie is not about Bullocks’ back story.  The movie is entirely in the moment and succeeds as such.  Bullock and Clooney are commendable and convincing but their familiar faces within this magical moment of experiencing something new in film, for me, was almost distracting – or a disappointing reminder that it was just a movie.

My rating:  Truly magical.

My IMDb Rating:  9/10        tomato: 97%

Get ready: Oldboy (2013)

oldboy2013

Back in January, I expressed my utter disappointment that Hollywood was remaking the South Korean Classic, Oldboy.  There is no way Hollywood could do justice to this art- house oeuvre…unless they found an incredible director…one who might be a little heavy handed with his politics but still creates imaginative films that sit on the periphery of Hollywood mainstream…someone who is internationally well-liked so as not to offend any Oldboy purists…someone like Spike Lee?  That’s right.  Spike Lee directs this horrific tale about a man desperate to understand why he was inexplicably imprisoned for 15 years.  The cast is pretty decent and the trailer is enough to make us understand that it’s different but the same.

Directed by: Spike Lee
Adapted by: Mark Protosevich whose credits at least include The Cell.
Starring: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson, Hannah Simone, James Ransone and Sharlto Copley.

Release date: November 27th, 2013 (USA)

The trailer is barely watchable.  First time I’ve ever seen the red screen.

It’s going on my watchlist.

1. Breaking Bad

breaking bad

Of course it is.  No television drama has been talked about more this summer than Breaking Bad.  Since its August 11th premier, social media has been bombarded with references, quotes, images, theories, opinions and recaps of the show’s fifth and final season.  So much so, that it is the only drama on television that invites celebrities onto a panel to talk about episodes right after they air (Edit note – I was mistaken.  Apparently AMC does this for all their dramas).  From what I can understand, the craziest part of the frenzy is that it is well deserved, with each new episode topping the last and not a second of air time wasted in this crime thriller about a former chemistry teacher who starts a meth lab.  I’m not sure if I’m disappointed with myself that I stopped after the first season or if I’m excited that I have four seasons to catch up on and witness how great television is made.  Guaranteed this series will go down in history.

Rating:  Now it all makes sense.  No other television show has consistently improved over the course of its run.  In fact, most shows dip here and there and have a hard time living up to their first season.  Not so with Breaking Bad.  From its first season ranking of 74%, the drama has consistently climbed to 85%, 89%, 96% to this season’s whopping 99% ranking – nothing comes close on this list.

IMDb:  9.4     metacritic: Season 1, 74%

4. Homeland

homeland

I was hooked on the first three episodes and then wasn’t too keen on the direction I felt the show was taking so stopped.  Clearly, I’m alone; and worse, I’m the jackass at the dinner party that blocks their ears when Season 1 comes up in conversation, pleading with my eyes for the conversation to stop because even with my ears blocked I can hear everything.  I get it;  the show is a must-see.  Why I never got back on board with this superbly cast and well-written spy thriller that has raked up a ton of hardware is beyond me, other than to say please see nos. 5, 7 and 8 – and there are only so many hours in a day.   Expect a review soon.

Rating: Highest we’ve seen so far.  Metacritic has a 91% positive rating for Season 1 and a 96% for Season 2.  What to start first? Walking Dead or Homeland??

IMDb:  8.6      metacritic: Season 1, 91%

6. Walking Dead

walking dead poster

I have no idea how I missed this show.  I heard about it for the first time after Season 3 came to a close in March.  Granted, despite great casting, a fantasy drama about a small group of people clinging to life in a world of zombies is not really my bag, but the ratings are high and everyone I’ve talked to  loves it.  Quite honestly, I’m disappointed with myself.  Look for a Can You Tell A Story review before season 4 gets underway in October.

Rating: This is the second AMC show to reach my top ten.  Metacritic rates season 1 at 82%.  Not bad.

IMDb:  87%      metacritic:  Season 3, 82%