Tag Archives: Colin Farrell

Solace (2015)

 I like my psychic movies, and hence I was automatically drawn to Solace, a thriller about an old police medium (Anthony Hopkins) forced to come out of retirement to catch a mysterious serial killer. By his side are two good-looking officers played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who seems to be in everything these days, and Australia’s very own Abbie Cornish. Rounding out the star cast are Colin Farrell and Northern Exposure alum Janine Turner (remember her?).

I really wanted to like Solace because of the intriguing premise, though at the end of the day this is very much B-grade, straight-to-DVD stuff. Directed by Brazilian filmmaker Afonso Poyart, the film offers a mix of weird ideas — there appear to be visual influences from TV’s Hannibal — and sentimentality, but never really the nail-biting horror or suspense I had been hoping for, nor does it provide any real insight into what it’s like to be a police psychic or to work with one.

Instead, the film is surprisingly philosophical and goes into this exploration of the morality of death and suffering. That’s fine if it’s what the movie is trying to aim for, except there’s not enough depth or new ideas to keep it interesting. The film just takes itself far too seriously when it only scratches the surface of the issues it is trying to tackle.

To be fair, the film does begin with promise and at least makes an effort to offer something a little different. The actors are also solid — none of them are phoning it in, and there’s even decent chemistry among them, in particular Hopkins and Farrell. However, it doesn’t take long — though it might feel like a long time — before the film starts becoming tedious. Even if you haven’t seen it before you’ll feel like it’s all awfully familiar. There are a couple of little surprises here and there, though by and large it struggled to maintain my interest. And that’s unfortunate, because the potential was there at the beginning to be more than just another average thriller.

Ultimately, Solace is a case of “good effort”, but not much more than that. It’s nothing special, though you could do a lot worse if you’re randomly picking titles to watch on an uneventful evening.

2.75 stars out of 5

2014 Movie Blitz: Part II

The movies just keep coming, I can’t stop them. Here’s another batch of films I saw recently.

The Calling (2014)

calling

This was supposed to be good. Susan Sarandon plays a police detective living in a small Canadian town trying to track down a serial killer with illusions of religious grandeur. The supporting cast isn’t too shabby either, with the likes of Gil Bellows, Ellen Burstyn, Topher Grace and Donald Sutherland. Unfortunately, while it’s not as horrible as some critics have made it out to be, The Calling lacked real suspense, emotion and surprise, and will likely become one of those movies no one remembers in a couple of years.

I initially thought The Calling was going to be a horror in the vein of Seven, but that was expecting way too much. The film started off well, building up Sarandon’s alcoholic character as a troubled but capable detective. Gil Bellows made a good right-hand man, and Topher Grace gave the police station a much-needed spark with his presence, though both of those guys were somewhat under-utilised.

The murders were interesting for a while, but after a while you begin to realise that the story’s not nearly as clever as it wants or needs to be. After a lot of build up in the first half there was a distinct lack of tension or intrigue in the second, as the perpetrator is revealed with very little mystery or conflict. I didn’t have a problem with the story veering towards the supernatural (which most critics tend to hate), but in the end the outcome was predictable and disappointing.

Though it’s one of those films that could have been a lot better, I’m also glad that it wasn’t a lot worse, which it very well could have been.

2.75 stars out of 5

Rage (2014)

tokarev_2014

Seriously, trust those American movie producers to change what was an original and intriguing title like Tokarev to a lame and generic one like Rage. But it is what it is, and it’s still a semi-passable Taken-style movie about a former mobster who will do all that he can to find his abducted daughter — a considerable feat considering it stars none other than Nicholas “I’ll do anything” Cage.

Rage was savaged by the critics as an overly-violent, dull action thriller that belongs in Cage’s movie basement, but I personally thought it was OK. Cage has already been in one Taken rip-off, the blatantly titled Stolen, but this one’s a little different for several reasons I can’t reveal. And Cage, despite the tragic hair, is actually pretty good in it too.

The premise is intriguing — Cage, a former criminal gone straight, goes out for the evening with his lady friend (Rachel Nichols) while his teenage daughter (Aubrey Peeples) hangs out at home with her (boy)friends. A bunch of masked men come in and abduct her, setting Cage off on a rampage to track her down through his old contacts, one of whom he believes has betrayed him to his enemies. The journey takes Cage onto a path he can’t return from as we learn more about his dark past.

Rage is indeed ultra-violent, but it doesn’t have the oomph of Taken because it’s mostly just a lot of loud shooting and meanness. Rather than being a skilled badass like Liam Neeson, Cage is an angry badass, which isn’t nearly as exciting. At just 98 minutes, however, the short length does mitigate some of the dullness. The film loses steam towards the end, but I quite liked the ending because there is a tinge of morality among all the carnage.

3 stars out of 5

Sabotage (2014)

sabotage

This was supposed to be one of the big movies of the year. A post-politics Arnie back in full swing with Aussie star Sam Worthington by his side, along with a whole host of big names such as Olivia Williams, Terrence Howard, True Blood‘s Joe Manganiello, Lost‘s Harold Perrineau and Josh Holloway, Martin Donovan and Mireille Enos. It’s co-written and directed by David Ayer, best known for penning Training Day and writing and directing End of Watch.

The premise is a good one too — a bunch of corrupt DEA agents, led by Arnie, decide to skim a little off the top of their latest drug bust. But when the money they are supposed to share goes missing and team members start getting killed off one by one in increasingly gruesome ways, it turns the survivors of the once close-knit team on each other.

I knew it was going to be gritty, violent and explosive. And it was. But it also wasn’t anywhere as good as either Training Day or End of Watch. There are plenty of problems to point to, starting from the unnecessary gruesomeness of the whole thing. Sometimes the violence works, sometimes it’s it doesn’t — here it’s just kind of pointless. The other issue I had was with all the characters, none of whom are even remotely likable. It’s hard to watch a movie like this when you think all of them are basically brutish animals and a-holes you won’t mind seeing get whacked.

I wanted to like Sabotage, but there was way too much testosterone to be shared between all the stars, leading to a lot over-the-top swearing, sexism and fake macho stuff that just turned me off the story, which didn’t turn out to be nearly as clever as you initially thought it would be. And it even has this lengthy epilogue that was completely unneeded. Good performances, especially by Arnie, I suppose, but on the whole this is a misstep for Ayer and everyone else involved.

2 stars out of 5

Winter’s Tale (2014)

winters-tale-prize-poster

What the hell is this? I don’t mind the occasional fable, but Winter’s Tale was way too unconvincing and sappy for my liking. It’s based on the 1983 novel of the same name by Mark Helprin, and tells the story of guy (Colin Farrell) who is raised by a demon (Russell Crowe) and later falls in love with a sick girl (Jessica Brown Findlay) while riding around on a flying white horse/guardian angel. So…yeah.

I kind of get that Winter’s Tale wants to be this epic, sweeping love story that transcends time and space and all that, but I found the package difficult to swallow, starting from Russell Crowe’s bizarre, indecipherable accent to the contrived love story between Farrell and Findlay, and the fact that Will Smith plays the Devil. Fantasy or not, it’s just not sensible stuff.

A film like this needed to give audiences strong, likable characters we can root for, but despite the significant 118-minute running time it felt as though not enough time was dedicated to developing them. The story has a lot of on-screen magic in it but you don’t feel any magic while watching it. The action is also stale, and the romance — though I’ve seen much worse — comes across as forced. And my god, what the heck is Russell Crowe saying?

In the end, I have no idea what this fable is trying to say. Like most flicks of this type, there’s beauty, love, the magic and there’s miracles, but none of it helped to make Winter’s Tale a fantasy I could enjoy, let alone immerse myself in. It might have worked for the book, but it didn’t come close to working for the film.

1.5 stars out of 5

2013 Movie Blitz: Part IV

Dead Man Down (2013)

dead man down

Colin Farrell is back as his gritty self in Dead Man Down, a neo-noir thriller that’s not bad but probably at best a good video/DVD rental.

Farrell plays Victor, a seemingly depressed fellow who works for a ruthless drug kingpin, Alphonse, played by Terrence Howard. Alphonse is receiving death threats, and it seems Victor might not be who he really says he is. At the same time, he starts seeing a scarred woman across the road, played by the original girl with the dragon tattoo, Noomi Rapace. It’s all dark and gloomy; people are scheming, and many of them are going to die.

The cast is excellent, and there’s not much to complain about the aforementioned trio of Farrell, Howard and Rapace. The supporting cast which includes Dominic Cooper, Armand Assante, F Murray Abraham and Isabelle Huppert is also very strong.

I wouldn’t call Dead Man Down boring, but it’s not exactly super exciting either. There are a few moments of tension, but for the most part it’s just a bunch of moody gangsters plotting to kill each other. It’s a dark and serious tale of vengeance, but there’s nothing really helping it stand out from a lot of similar flicks that have been released on the market over the years. There are some interesting plot twists which can be viewed as genius or absurd, depending on your point of view, but at the end of the day it’s just a decent albeit forgettable thriller.

2.75 stars out of 5

Phantom (2013)

phantom

Submarine movies were pretty popular for a while (The Hunt for Red October, K-19, U571), so I was looking forward to seeing Phantom, supposedly based on a classified true story about how Russia and the US came perilously close to coming to blows during the Cold War.

Unfortunately, despite the great cast headed by Ed Harris, Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Shredder (William Fichtner), Phantom turned out to be a strangely dull and unfulfilling film that fails to live up to expectations.

The first thing that should be noted is that the story is told from the Soviet’s perspective and all the aforementioned actors play Russians. But of course, they speak English, which already removes a layer of realism to the narrative.

Putting that aside, Phantom struggles because it’s not exciting. Submarine movies are known for their claustrophobic tension and friction between members when critical life-altering decisions need to be made. Phantom has those elements too, but for some reason the film’s pulse is flat and never projects a genuine sense of the scope of the danger. I thought this was perhaps it’s because we know nothing will happen, though the brilliant Thirteen Days, about the Cuban missile crisis, shared the same problem and was absolutely riveting cinema.

And the whole time I was watching the film I couldn’t stop thinking that I was listening to Fox Mulder because even as a Russian Duchovny can’t seem to get rid of that hypnotic voice.

It also has a really bizarre ending that is completely at odds with the rest of the film.

2.25 stars out of 5

The Numbers Station (2013)

numbes station

Is John Cusack still an A-list star? The Numbers Station suggests that he isn’t one any more.

It’s not a bad film, but it’s not a very good one either. Cusack plays a burned-out CIA operative who is sent to a secret US numbers station in the UK countryside. It’s basically a government information station that transmits secret messages via code, and Cusack has to protect it from attackers along with a female agent played by Malin Ackerman.

Of course, the station comes under attack, and Cusack is told that help will come in four hours. Meanwhile, he is given an order to secure the station by killing those related to the compromise. There’s a bigger plot involved that could effectively change the world, but that’s about as far as I’ll go with the spoilers. To be honest I found it a little too confusing and convoluted to remember anyway.

Cusack and Ackerman are good individually, but they don’t develop any genuine chemistry. The numbers station concept itself I also found very interesting, and some of the shootouts are well-executed, but for some reason it just didn’t give off the vibe of a high quality action-thriller. Was it because they were mostly stuck in one place? Was the plot unnecessarily convoluted? Was it just a lack of freshness in the way the story unfolded? Or a little bit of all of the above?

In any case, I felt The Numbers Station was somewhat of a letdown because it had the potential to be a lot more than what it was — which is passable, but forgettable entertainment.

2.75 stars out of 5

The Lifeguard (2013)

lifeguard

The Lifeguard, produced, written, and directed by Liz W Garcia, is an interesting little indie film about a depressed 29-year-old journalist (Kristen Bell in a daring performance) who leaves her life in New York to head back to her small hometown in Connecticut, where she begins working as a lifeguard at the local pool. There she meets a bunch of local kids and begins a relationship with one of them (David Lambert).

It’s a deeply personal film about life’s disappointments, failed expectations and vulnerability that comes from loneliness and isolation. It’s one of those films where you either connect with it or you don’t, and given the closeness in age between myself and Kristen’s character I could definitely feel her pain and frustration.

As good as Bell is in this film, her thunder was stolen a little bit by Mamie Gummer, a high school assistant principal who is coming to terms with the problems in her own life and marriage. The only thing I had seen Gummer in before was The Good Wife, where she plays a really annoying bitch of a lawyer, but here she is a revelation.

On the other hand, I don’t think The Lifeguard is ultimately anything special. There are some mildly amusing moments here and there but I think it would be false advertising to add “comedy” to film’s categorization as a drama. This is a serious film that with a melancholic tone, and as such it’s not easy to develop a lot of enthusiasm for the story. And as is usually the case with such films you have a pretty good idea of how it’s going to end.

Still, I quite liked it, though I also recognize that it probably won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Total Recall (2012)

Admit it. Mention “three boobs”, and the first thing that pops into your mind is Total Recall. No, not the 2012 remake with Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel, but the 1990 original with Arnold Schwarzenegger. That’s the kind of classic it was and is, and its many iconic images is a huge reason why it landed at number 10 on my list of the 20 Most Rewatchable Movies of All-Time.

Ultimately the problem with Total Recall 2012 is that it pales in comparison to the memorable 1990 version. While not a horrible sci-fi action flick in its own right, and despite featuring far more attractive actors (no offense to Arnie, Sharon Stone and Rachel Ticotin) and impressive special effects, the film just didn’t feel like it could match the intensity, humour and freshness of the original.

We are told that the 2012 Total Recall is not strictly a “remake” of the 1990 film, but merely another very loose film adaptation of the Philip K Dick short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”. I don’t know if I buy that because based on this Wikipedia entry, the 2012 remake appears much closer to the 1990 film than the short story itself.

The plot of the 2012 film virtually mirrors that of the 1990 film, minus that whole Mars business. Okay, so it’s a little more intricate than that, but all you need to know is that it’s the future and there is an autocratic superpower and a bunch of rebels fighting against them. Colin Farrell is Douglas Quaid, a factory worker who suffers from a recurring nightmare which suggests that he is some kind of secret agent. Like Arnie before him, Quaid heads to this place called Rekall, which can supposedly implant fake memories, but all it does is reveal that perhaps his nightmares are more than just dreams.

The progression of this remake is roughly similar to that of the original but the fact that they remain firmly on Earth instead of heading to Mars means the films have some very significant differences. There are, of course, no mutants now, but instead there are these lame robots. There’s none of the reddish sand of Mars, but rather, a post-apocalytpic, clearly Blade Runner-inspired future that offers a wet, crowded blend of Eastern and Western cultures. The vast improvements in special effects mean prettier landscapes, cooler machines and gadgets.

None of these changes, however, have translated to a better film in substance.

Farrell exhibits more emotional range than Arnie (not hard) and Beckinsale and Biel are sexier femme fatales than Stone and Ticotin, but unlike their predecessors, none of them seem to be having any fun (not even Bryan Cranston!). Save for a few one-liners from Beckinsale, this film is dead serious from beginning to end. The 1990 film was often wry; this one is nearly always bleary.

There are a lot of fast-moving gun fights, explosions and chase scenes (on foot and in vehicles) but few generated genuine excitement for me. Much of it was because I never really cared for the characters or what they stood for, and more importantly, because I never got the sense that they were in any real danger. It was pretty to watch but not gripping from an emotional standpoint.

The film also has a bunch of references to the original (yes, including the three boobs), but it felt like they were there for the sake of being there, rather than as tributes. It begged the question of why a film that is uninspiringly stuck halfway between a remake and re-envisioning was really necessary in the first place.

One of the most interesting things about the 1990 film for me was that, even at the end, you still questioned whether what you were seeing was real or in Quaid’s head. Disappointingly, the 2012 film, through various story-telling devices, makes its answer very obvious early on and left no doubt by the end.

Total Recall 2012 is directed by Len Wiseman, husband of Kate Beckinsale and best known for his work on the Underworld series and the fourth Die Hard instalment. I can’t deny that he has a certain visual flair and I thank him for keeping the smoking Kate Beckinsale around for much longer than Sharon Stone, but I can’t say it was one of his stronger efforts. I am willing to bet that years from now, the mention of “three boobs” will still conjour up memories of the original, and not this film.

2.75 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Fright Night (2D) (2011)

The original 1985 Fright Night was one of the first movies I can remember watching as a child (a disturbing fact in itself).  My uncle had borrowed the video from the local store and ‘forgot’ to return it, and when the video store went bust (because of people like my uncle), Fright Night became part of the family video collection.

And so I had mixed feelings when I heard that they were doing a remake, and that it was going to be in “I can’t take anymore” 3D.  One of the reasons I was optimistic was because of the awesome cast — Anton Yelchin (there’s something about this kid that I love) was going to play the teenage protagonist Charley Brewster (previously played by William Ragsdale), Toni Collette was going to play his mother, and Colin Farrell (previously Chris Sarandon) was going to be Jerry, the vampire next door.

But on the other hand, a remake is a remake, and remakes seldom hold a candle to the original.

Fortunately, this particular remake was pretty good, primarily because it does not slavishly follow the original (from what I can remember).  The characters are the same and the plot (a teenager suspects the charming next door neighbour is a vampire) largely follows the same trajectory, but the progression, the minor plot points and the overall feel are rather different.

Like the original, one thing this Fright Night remake does extremely well is finding the right balance between horror and comedy.  The horror bits are genuinely scary without relying on cheap shots and the comedy bits are actually quite funny.  It pays homage to the original (Chris Sarandon even makes a cameo appearance) but director Craig Gillespie (who is going to be at the helm of the upcoming Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) clearly had his own vision for this film.

I’m not sure if it’s because of my affection for the original, Anton Yelchin or the fact that the vampires in this film are the evil bloodsuckers they’re meant to be — nothing like those corny Twilight and True Blood romantics — that I found Fright Night to be one of the more pleasant surprises of 2011.

3.75 stars out of 5!

PS: By the way, I had to make quite a trek to find this film in 2D, as almost all cinemas in my area were showing this film exclusively in 3D.  I’m sure it prevented it from losing a half star from my rating.  Sadly, I think the 3D exclusivity is turning a lot of audiences away from this film, which is why it hasn’t stuck around for very long.  When will these 3D money grabbers learn?

Movie Review: Horrible Bosses (2011)

Horrible Bosses is, in many ways, this year’s Couples Retreat — amazing ensemble cast, clever premise, Jason Bateman, tremendous potential…and disappointing result.  To be fair, it’s a lot funnier than Couples Retreat (not difficult), but Horrible Bosses never reaches the heights it could have soared to.

Anyone who has ever worked for a shitty boss can relate to the premise of this film — Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis (Hall Pass) and Charlie Day (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) are friends with horrible bosses: the tormenting maniac Kevin Spacey, the douchebag Colin Farrell and the harassing nympho Jennifer Aniston.  Their lives are hell and they dream of killing their respective bosses, leading them to procure the services of ex-con Jamie Foxx.  The plot starts off being somewhat cookie cutter but to the writers’ credit it went places I didn’t expect it to.

A friend of mine who saw the movie before me found it funny but had problems with the swearing and crudity.  He’s not alone as there have been reports of senior citizens walking out in the middle of the movie.  Jennifer Aniston in particular tries to shed her good girl image with lots of raunchy dialogue.  Personally, I didn’t have a whole lot of problem with the swearing and crudity — what irritated me more was that it wasn’t particularly funny, or at least not enough of it was.  The scenarios were there, the set ups were there, but the jokes lacked the finishing punch.

It’s a shame, because Horrible Bosses has one of the best comedic line ups of the year.  The three main leads play to their strengths.  Bateman is the regular straight-faced, dead-pan character (which works so well for him), Sudeikis is, like he was in Hall Pass, sleazy and a bit of a sexual deviant, and Day is his usual high-pitched, freaking-out self that we know from It’s Always Sunny.  The bosses are indeed horrible and serve their purpose, but aren’t that funny.  Spacey makes you believe he is real (in fact he reminds me of a few real people), Farrell is physically impressive but just okay, and Aniston is not bad, but may be trying too hard at times.  Foxx is probably the highlight despite limited screen time.

I’m not sure what exactly went wrong with Horrible Bosses.  Don’t get me wrong, I laughed a few times and I enjoyed bits and pieces of it.  Dreaming of killing your boss is a deliciously wicked idea, and watching three bumbling idiots trying to get it done is pretty funny.  But at the end of the film I sat there wondering why I didn’t find it funnier.

2.5 stars out of 5