Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Never has a film angered, inspired, and entertained me like this fact based drama featuring authentic performances and a truly compelling story. Based on the Parent Trigger Law, worth a Google search, if by the end of this film you refuse to see how larger government stifles any real growth whether it is educational or anything else, you are not only drinking from the fountain of denial, you are skinny dipping in it. This is an absolute triumph for director Daniel Barnz who has remarkably few films to his credit, with his most notable flick being the disappointing tween fantasy Beastly. Viola Davis, Aibileen Clark from The Help, delivers another exquisite performance as Nona Alberts, a teacher struggling to reach her students within a failing education system and her own personal family trials. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays a non slutty Erin Brokovich style character that instantly connects with the audience and the remaining players. In fact, the entire cast excels making you feel every moment of this film. As far as the plot, it is engaging and fluid, with a strong message about the evolving irrelevance of unions with their strong arm tactics and agenda driven ideologies which have resulted in their continual self destruction among public opinion. It is sad to note this exceptionally well crafted picture was eclipsed at the box office. This is unquestionably a much needed work for our times. 4 out of 5 Kernels; an unfortunate law of the Hollyweird universe; if you make a movie about truth, don't expect it to make any money at the box office.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Lasse Halstrom, most notably known for such dramatic and romantic fare as Chocolat, The Cider House Rules, What's Eating Gilbert Grape, and An Unfinished Life brings us his envisioning of the latest in a litany of Nicholas Sparks novels brought to the silver screen. However, unlike his other films, he leaves out any passion, imagination, or entertainment, which, however, are in large part staples of Spark's romantic literary goo. So in retrospect, he achieved the goal of capturing the spirit and substance, or lack there of. Josh Duhamel seriously needs to rethink his choice of agents, as he has been cast in a myriad of dribble after his departure from the blockbuster Transformer franchise. Not that those films were of Oscar caliber , but in comparison to his recent run, they may be. His leading lady, Julianne Hough, whose largest credit, is the absolutely horrid, reboot of 1980’s camp classic, Footloose, and has about as much energy and chemistry as an empty test tube. Seriously is there such a large drought of real actresses that we are dipping into this pool? The remaining cast is as one dimensional as a black and white postcard from Utah. The plot is dull and predictable, with many plot devices stolen from such flicks as Sleeping With The Enemy, but they play out as enthralling as a book on tape version of any Software Manual read by Ben Stiller. Even the relatively unexpected twist at the end is ruined by one of the most mediocre reactions by an actor that I have seen on film. 1 out of 5 Kernels: the only Safe Haven was turning this disaster off and watching a rerun of Friends.
I have not read the novels by Lee Child, so I can only base my review off of this one movie adaptation based of his book entitled One Shot. However, the screenwriter turned director, and good friend of star Tom Cruise, Christopher McQuarrie, should be well known for his previous works including screenplays for; The Wolverine, The Usual Suspects, The Tourist, and Valkyrie. This is only his second trip to the director's chair, and that is evident throughout the film. Although the plot line is well written, intriguing, and unpredictable, it is the mediocre acting and cliche'd action sequences that undermine what would have been a thoroughly engaging film. The film tries its best to play like a gritty, crime novel but in the end surrenders to the same over used, silver screen fail safes infamously infecting action-hero fare, which unfortunately, dilutes, the overall product. In addition, Cruise plays Reacher so casually that the character quickly becomes trite and almost boring. Even when the fight scenes erupt, they are mechanical and lackluster, with little energy or excitement. The remaining cast fares no better and it feels more like a poorly acted TV drama than a cinematic experience. Again, the story is original and even sophisticated, but those who were chosen to deliver it, fail quite profoundly. 2 out of 5 Kernels: Story A, Acting D, I think Cruise's star power is finally beginning to dim.
Friday, May 10, 2013
Michael Barnett brings us a unique documentary about those who actually don costumes perceiving themselves as real life superheroes. The collective stories of these individuals start out sad, bordering on pathetic, but end with a surprising inspiration for the most part. Mock their attire and some of their antics, but as their personal histories unfold, you see very distinct patterns of souls who have been grinded down and found a way, through an admittedly strange process, to overcome their pain and discouragement and at the same time, and in some cases, genuinely aid others. They may not have any mutant abilities or super human powers, but what they possess is a commitment and determination to support and protect their fellow man that can not be denied. The message is clear, costume or not, if we all pay a little more attention to the world around us and practice a bit more selflessness on a daily basis, we might be able to truly change the circumstances and society that surrounds us. 2 out of 5 Kernels; as a documentary, structurally, it was just OK, but the stories behind it made an interesting hour and twenty two minutes.
Ever since the iconic Sean Connery retired his exploding pen and was replaced by the likes of Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan, I have not been the biggest fan of the ultimate super spy whether he was portrayed as a tongue and cheek womanizer or ultra sophisticated action hero. So, in all fairness and disclosure, I have to admit, I have not watched many Bond films since then but was intrigued by this outing thanks to a well produced and stylish trailer. Sam Mendes, Oscar Winning director of American Beauty, attempts to create a nostalgic feel in his adaptation, mixing in some modern reboots of 007 staples. Unfortunately they get lost among a lackluster script, mundane action sequences and an outright boring cast. Daniel Craig delivers an absolutely stoic and unengaging performance. I don't know if this is an established facet in all of his portrayals, but based on this flick, he has to be the most mechanical of the litany of actors who have taken up this mantle. In fact, the entire cast seems so one dimensional that it makes the story feel long and cumbersome rather than interesting and entertaining. That aside, the plot is just plain convoluted and strange, with a significant plot hole that dismantles the entire premise. Unlike Bond films, of the past where the villains are so over the top that you can't help be fascinated, this version's baddie borders on just downright goofiness, a caricature that resembles something between Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs and John Malkovich. So in the end and despite the slick trailer, this film ends up as yet another disappointing cinematic example of style over substance. 1 out of 5 Kernels: this movie was dryer than one of James’ signature Martinis.
Sunday, May 5, 2013
Oscar Winning Ben Affleck invites us to his own envisioning of the real life events of 1979 during the Iran Hostage crisis. Like most stories based in reality but allowing creative and dramatic liberties, the key challenge is to make something historical and documented into a suspenseful and compelling product for the audience without losing the majority of it's accuracy. Affleck succeeds, for the most part, however, the only real edge of your seat action occurs in the last half hour of the film. The preceding journey is engaging, but a bit dry as the actor's performances are genuine but lackluster. In fact, their portrayals are so two dimensional that they never make a true connection with the viewer therefore, diluting the potency of the total story. Affleck almost floats through his role, playing it entirely too casual for what was required. The script is solid but lessened by the excessive amount of F Bombs that laden the picture to a point of near ridiculousness. Overall, a good flick, just not a great one, but a stark reminder of a truly tragic and uncertain time in our past. 3 out of 5 Kernels: of the current highly populated herd of docudramas out there, this one is the weakest of the pack.
Friday, May 3, 2013
Not since Prometheus have I been so disappointed in an extension of a film franchise. What has become a steadfast rule in Hollywood is that the hype fails to match the final product, never was this truer with this disaster of sequel. Favreau's absence in the director's chair is deeply felt, and Shane Black was the worst possible choice as a replacement. This film fails on multiple levels, and those are difficult to interpret without providing spoilers so I will tread ever so lightly. First, this movie suffers from the same affliction that the final Batman cinematic collapse, the Dark Knight Rises, had in that the crusader moves quickly from heroic warrior to costumed punching bag. Add to that, the lack of screen time of the true reason you go to see an Iron Man film, the armor, at least in whole or truly dynamic form. Second, absent in this movie is all the endearing qualities of the first two; the humor is hit or miss, the relationship between Pepper and Stark no longer makes sense, and the action is so chaotic, especially in the final climactic scene that it is hard to follow with any real detail. Third, we all know, of course, this is a comic book film so physics and actuality can be easily manipulated, disobeyed, or flat out ignored, but the fantasy has to make some semblance of sense. That is not the case here as the plot devices simply do not hold up to any form of scrutiny and the story has so many holes that it is liken to attempting to successfully collect water with a spaghetti strainer. Finally, like so many in Hollywood, the film's core boils down to a blame America first campaign, which I have grown so tired and disgusted with I can not even garner the words to protest with any briefness. Once again proving how out of touch the LA elite are and yet we continue to pay top dollars for their celluloid dribble. As for the cast; Downey, who has defined this character, moves from sophisticated, sharp, and entertaining to downright goofy. Pearce's villain is so over the top that he becomes utterly unbelievable and silly. Even Cheadle's performance is so plastic and clichéd it is a stark reminder of the Robinesque sidekick ala Batman Forever. The only saving grace is the effects, which are epic in scope, but with a script that should have been used as birdcage liner rather than blockbuster become eclipsed. After a massively successful collective for the Marvel Phase 1 project, I hope and pray this is not a harbinger of things to come for Phase 2. Lastly, please don't wait for any cool Easter eggs at the end of the credits which have become a staple of Marvel fair, the one here is rotten. 1 out of 5 Kernels; way to end a franchise Marvel, apparently the only chink in Iron Man's armor was post production.