Tag Archives: Movies

Gore Verbinski’s Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is so good it almost gives the first one a run for it’s money in terms of visual effects, imagination, swash and buckle. It does have it’s issues with letting some of the action set pieces run on literally forever (that rolling windmill sword fight tho) until you seriously start to question the limits of cardio in those involved, but director Gore Verbinski has always been an advocate for cheeky excess, so who can complain. In preparing a sequel to Black Pearl, they no doubt had a daunting task in equaling, and if possible outdoing the sheer bliss that came before, and they kind of succeeded and then some. Jack Sparrow, Will Turner, Elizabeth Swann and a whole circus sideshow of others are propelled on a dazzling adventure that spans past the isle of Tortuga, beyond the waters of Port Royal and to the far ends of the Caribbean, not to mention amping up the supernatural aspects of the first to dizzying heights. In Captain Barbossa’s absence (well, almost;), they also had to find a villain to match his adorable theatrics, and Bill Nighy’s moody Davy Jones, a hentai tentacled tyrant cursed by the ocean’s magic, doomed to sail the baroque galleon The Flying Dutchman forever, fits the bill. His crew are a gnarly, barnacled bunch of miscreants adorned in enough wicked cool marine biology and detailed special effects to get an Oscar nomination, which they did. Other new character additions include mopey Stellan Skarsgard’s bedraggled Bootstrap Bill, Naomie Harris’s spooky voodoo babe Tia Dalma, as well as familiar faces like Commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport), who gets a lot more to do here than twiddle the stick up his ass as he does in the first one, Governor Swann (Jonathan Pryce), Gibbs (Kevin R. McNally, deadpan as ever) and the whole motley crew. Depp takes what made Sparrow so charismatic and weird in Black Pearl and soars over the rainbow with it, he really and truly carries these films with his presence and it may just be the best characters created by him. A worthy sequel, kickass adventure and one for the books.

-Nate Hill

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Taika Waititi’s Thor Ragnarok

Taika Waititi’s Thor Ragnarok has got to be the most fun I’ve ever had watching a Marvel film. Trust Hollywood to make a sterling decision once in a blue moon, and hiring a deftly comic, renegade underdog subversive improv genius like Waititi to take the wheel is a smart, bold move. Now before I sing it’s praises to Valhalla, they don’t quite let him (he’s the Kiwi wunderkind behind the newly minted classics Hunt For The Wilderpeople and What We Do In The Shadows) go completely bonkers, which he clearly wants to do, and although he’s kind of bogged down by a generic villain and a recycled point of conflict in plot, a lot of the time he’s allowed to stage a zany, uncharacteristically weird (for the MCU, anyways) pseudo space opera that is a blast and a half. Thor finds himself, after a brief encounter with Benedict Cumberbatch’s Dr. Strange, carted off to a giant garbage planet surrounded by space portals (one of which is referred to with a straight face as ‘The Devil’s Anus’, which sent me into a fit) and lorded over by a certifiably loony Jeff Goldblum as the Grand Master, a demented despot who holds intergalactic gladiator matches for his own entertainment. There Thor is forced to fight his old buddy the Hulk, and somehow find a way to escape Goldblum’s nefarious yet hilarious clutches. He’s got just south of reliable allies in his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and an exiled Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) with an attitude problem, as well as rock-armoured warrior Korg, voiced hilariously by Waititi himself as the film’s most engaging character. Meanwhile back in Asgard, trouble brews when the equally dangerous and sexy Hela (Cate Blanchett, with enough authoritative, husky smoulder to make me weak at the knees) tries to steal Odin’s throne for herself, with the help of defector Skurge (Karl Urban, who gets a mic drop of an action set piece later on). Here’s the thing about Hela: Blanchett is in top form, a commanding, dark presence… but the role is as blandly written as a number of other MCU villains, and one wonders how they’ve managed to flunk out at creating engaging antagonists a few times over now. She’s stuck in a subplot that we’ve all seen before, one that’s stale and at odds with the fresh, humorous and wonderful storyline between Thor and Banner. Their side of things is like buddy comedy crossed with screwball fare and works charming wonders, especially when they’re blundering about in Goldblum’s cluttered trash metropolis, it’s just inspired stuff. Throw in a great 80’s inspired electro pop score and a cool VHS retro vibe (I’m all about the old school) and you’ve got one of the best MCU movies to date, and most importantly one that *tries something new*, which the genre needs more of, even if it doesn’t ultimately fully commit, this is still a gem we have on our hands.

-Nate Hill

The Lincoln Lawyer

The Lincoln Lawyer was the first film in the revival of Matthew McConaughey’s career after a lengthy slump stretching back to the early 2000’s, and what a banger of a pseudo courtroom drama it turned out to be. Based on the series of novels by Michael Connelly which focus on slick, morally untethered defence attorney Mick Haller (played to perfection by Matt), director Brad Furman whips up an enjoyable, razor sharp yet laid back LA crime saga that’s smart, re-watchable and competently staged, not to mention stuffed to the roof with great actors. Haller is something of a renegade lawyer who operates smoothly from the leather interior of his Lincoln town car, driven by trusty chauffeur Earl (the always awesome Lawrence Mason). Mick is ice cool and seldom bothered by the legal atrocities he commits, until one case follows him home and digs up a tormented conscience he never knew he had. Hired to defend a rich brat (Ryan Phillipe) accused of murdering a call girl, events take a turn for the unpredictable as older crimes are dug up, double crosses are laid bare and everyone’s life starts to unravel. It’s a deliciously constructed story with twists and payoffs galore, as well as one hell of an arc for McConaughey to flesh out in the kind of desperate, lone wolf role that mirrors the dark side of his idealistic lawyer in Joel Schumacher’s A Time To Kill. Let’s talk supporting cast: Marisa Tomei is sexy and easygoing as Mick’s ex wife and rival, Bryan Cranston simmers on low burn as a nasty detective, William H. Macy does a lively turn as his PI buddy, plus excellent work from Frances Fisher, Shea Wigham, John Leguizamo, Bob Gunton, Bob Gunton, Pell James, Katherine Moennig and the great Michael Paré as a resentful cop who proves to be quite useful later on. There’s a dark side to the story too that I appreciated, in the fact that not every wrong is righted, or at least fully, a sad fact that can be seen in an unfortunate character played by Michael Pena, but indicative of life’s brutal realities, something Hollywood sometimes tries to smother. One of the great courtroom films out there, a gem in McConaughey’s career and just a damn fine time at the movies.

-Nate Hill

Danny Cannon’s Phoenix

Phoenix is a half forgotten, neat little Arizona neo-noir noir that isn’t about much altogether, but contains a hell of a lot of heated drama, character study and hard boiled charisma anyways, which in the land of the crime genre, often is an acceptable substitute for a strong plot. Plus, a cast like this could hang around the water cooler for two hours and the results would still be engaging. Ray Liotta is terrific here in a mid-career lead role as an a police detective with a nasty temper, huge gambling problem and just an all round penchant for trouble. He’s joined by his three partners in both crime and crime fighting, Daniel Baldwin, Jeremy Piven and Anthony Lapaglia. There’s no central conflict, no over arching murder subplot and no orchestrated twist or payoff, it’s simply these four sleazy cops just existing out their in the desert on their best, and it’s a lot of sunbaked, emotionally turbulent fun. Liotta vies for the attentions of a weary older woman (Anjelica Huston, excellent) while he’s pursued by her slutty wayward teen daughter (Brittany Murphy) at the same time. He’s also hounded by eccentric loan shark Chicago (Tom Noonan with a ray ally funny lisp) and trying to close countless open cases in his book. Piven and hothead Lapaglia fight over Piven’s foxy wife (Kari Wuhrur) too, and so the subplots go. The supporting cast is a petting zoo of distinctive character acting talent including Glenn Moreshower, Royce D. Applegate, Giovanni Ribisi, Xander Berkeley, Al Sapienza, Giancarlo Esposito and more. I like this constant and obnoxious energy the film has though, like there’s something in that Arizona sun that just drives peoples tempers off the map and causes wanton hostility, a great setting for any flick to belt out its story. Good fun.

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: LA, I Hate You

There’s this odd trend in art films these days to make a haphazard anthology thing with various actors in a string-along parade of vignette cameos, title them with the name of a city followed by the sub header ‘I Love You’, or ‘I hate You’. Examples include ‘Paris, Je T’ame’, ‘New York, I Love You’, and you get the idea.. it’s as weird trend, most of the entries I haven’t seen, but the copycat effect trickled down into direct to video town, and I did catch one called ‘L.A. I Hate You’, a strange and cheaply made noir knockoff that doesn’t have much to offer except a few decent actors in sly parody roles. It’s made in three segments, all set in Hollywood and revolving around the film industry, all three chunks of the story ultimately going nowhere. There’s a down on his luck dude with a paraplegic wife who gets sucked into a violent scheme involving his estranged, dangerous uncle (William Forsythe doing his ultra-sleazy tough guy shtick) and the wife’s morally bankrupt father (Gregory Itzin). A struggling wannabe actor (Paul Sloan) is coaxed into stardom at a high cost by a devilish movie producer (Malcolm McDowell, also in scumbag mode), and attempts are made to make these three seemingly separate narratives intertwine here and there, but neither that script, editing or acting is good enough to make us either believe or care. Oh, there’s also a really unnecessary UFO subplot too, just in case it wasn’t cluttered up with enough nonsense. A cheaply made, half assed turkey.

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: Killing Season

As much as Killing Season has it’s flaws, and would have been better suited to a half hour short film rather than a slightly stretched out feature, it has strong points as well and entertains as best it can as a passable genre flick. Going the rugged survival/revenge route, a low key Robert Deniro plays Ben, decorated veteran who makes his homestead in the remote isolation of the the Smoky Mountains, scarred from battle both physically and mentally, ready to rest. Down time isn’t in his cards just yet, however, as trouble arrives in the shape of John Travolta as Emil, a Serbian/Bosnian warrior with wounds of his own and one big unresolved grudge against Ben. Both skilled hunters and survivalists, the two engage in a deadly geriatric cat and mouse game against a spectacular wilderness backdrop until the pasts and intentions of both are laid bare, and that inevitable climax rolls on in. Their close quarters warfare is quite fun, surprisingly brutal and just cartoonish enough to elicit a dark laugh here and there. Speaking of laughs, Travolta is so oddly characterized here he begs the query “Are you for real?”, sporting a dime-store fake beard and warbling out the most unconvincing Eastern European accent since John Malkovich in Rounders. That aside though, his actual acting isn’t half bad, especially in the final confrontation with Deniro that contains pathos the film never knew it had. The real allure here is the Smoky Mountain scenery, and I would give a shout out to the cinematographer but honestly with a location this good, a six year old and a smartphone could point n’ shoot and it would look like something Deakins wrought. This is by no means a great film, but is it entertaining and engaging? Absolutely, and any of these critics ripping it a new one on all fronts are just bitter, it seems.

-Nate Hill

Satoshi Kon’s Paprika

It’s always fascinating to me how other countries use the animation genre to do much more innovative and imaginative things than the states. Don’t get me wrong, Disney Pixar films and such are brilliant, but the potential in a visually boundless medium like that is somewhat more untapped than those studios realize. Japanese filmmakers, however, have been diving headlong into it for decades now, and Satoshi Kon’s Paprika practically reinvents the genre with it’s extreme brand of surrealistic storytelling and dense, provocative mind games. The film focuses on the R&D of a device called the DC Mini, a dangerous contraption that brings one subconscious mind into another for a dream-melding process that’s supposed to break new frontiers in psychiatry. The technology is soon hijacked by an elusive terrorist though, and used to create all kinds of pseudo-synaptic chaos in which elements from inside the collective unconscious bleed over into the real world and make the line between reality and dreams awful blurry. It’s up to lead scientist Chiba (Megumi Hayashibara), her dream alter ego Paprika, a police detective (Akio Atsua) with his own trippy demons, and the techies at their research firm to stop this dimensional crossover before existence as they know it turns into one big kaleidoscopic nightmare. That’s the over-simplified version though, for director Kon uses the template to go simply wild and ballistic with both the visual and written narrative, for an utterly confusing, hypnotic tapestry of future-shock imagery, primal forces at work and intangible mood-scapes that defy description. Once the dreams invade the conscious plane, a deranged parade of nonsensical beings marches through the film, turning people mad and making the illogical take centre stage, as the film truly manages to capture that ‘other’ set of feelings and impressions we all know of in dreams but can’t quite articulate. It’s one hell of a confusing film though, and multiple viewings are in order before one can unravel every elliptical plot point and reason behind each of the carefully constructed yet audaciously impulsive visuals. Speaking of visuals, rarely has animation been used to this mind blowing extant, a colourful, fierce blast of artistry and storytelling that fires on all cylinders. There’s a disturbing quality to it as well, a subtle doomsday vibe with the subject of technology, the human mind and the unwitting dangers we set loose when we meddle around with forces bigger and badder than us, and as playful as the tone sometimes gets, there’s a cautionary tale hinted at that gives the whole thing a grounded, ‘adult’ feel. Not to mention a haunting, endlessly catchy score by Susumu Hirasawa that adds to the film’s own vibrantly memorable personality. A classic.

-Nate Hill