Tag Archives: Jessica Biel

2012 Movie Blitz: Part 10

The Tall Man (2012)

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An interesting thriller about a mysterious figure (the titular “Tall Man”) who has been kidnapping kids from a small mining town. Jessica Biel (whatever happened to her movie career?) plays a widowed nurse whose child is abducted and must do all that she can to track down the perpetrator.

I say interesting because The Tall Man is not as straightforward as it seems, with quite a few twists and turns including a major one that occurs, surprisingly, NOT at the very end. Writer and director Pascal Laugier does a good job of keeping the audience off balance with an eerie atmosphere and an unsettling sense of dread and even a bit of surrealism.

Unfortunately, the tone of film lacks consistency and the plot twists aren’t very coherent if you think about them in any detail. The film also slows down a lot from about the halfway mark once the mysteries start unravelling. That said, it’s still a solid (relatively) small-budget film (US$18.2 million) powered by a solid performance from Biel. Those with children might find it more chilling. Not a bad film for DVD night.

3.5 stars out of 5

Fire with Fire (2012)

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There is a reason why this Josh Duhamel revenge action-thriller went straight to DVD. It’s silly, unoriginal, mundane, and simply not very good. It’s better than the 8% it got on Rotten Tomatoes, but with a star-studded cast that also includes Rosario Dawson, Vincent D’Onofrio, 50 Cent, Vinnie Jones, and of course, the ubiquitous Bruce Willis, you could be forgiven for expecting a lot more.

Duhamel plays a fireman who is at the wrong place at the wrong time and ends up having to go into witness protection. For a bunch of reasons he no longer wants to be protected and actually wants to come out and take on the guys who want him dead. I don’t get it either.

Fire with Fire offers nothing we haven’t seen before, except with more brutal and unnecessarily violence. It just plods along from one implausible encounter to the next without any real sense of danger of excitement. Generic is probably the best way to describe it.

1.75 stars out of 5

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012)

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The first Ghost Rider, otherwise known as “Nicholas Cage with hair plugs”, was an uncomfortable mix of horror action and campy comedy. It wasn’t bad, but just not very good. The inevitable sequel, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, carried much less fanfare and hair from Nicholas Cage, who reverted back to his barely-hanging-on but more natural haircut.

It’s been 8 years since the events from the first film and Cage is still the fiery spirit who feeds on the sins of his victims. He is approached by Idris Elba (The Wire) to save a young boy in exchange for the removal of his demonic curse, setting off a new adventure with a new villain, Blackout (Johnny Whitworth).

The film itself is also more conventional and tonally consistent, but it’s also easy to see that it had a much smaller budget (US$57 million compared to US$110 million) and excepted a lot less from itself. The result? A leaner, more straightforward film that probably would have gone straight to DVD had Cage’s name not been attached to it.

I don’t think it’s as appalling as it has been made out to be (ie, made the first one look like The Dark Knight), but I was kind of bored with it as it felt like the entire film was simply going through the motions so everyone could just collect their paychecks. In a dramatic turn of events, Cage has declared that he won’t star in another Ghost Rider film (yes, there are films that he turns down), meaning the likely end of the franchise. That’s a good thing.

2 stars out of 5

House at the End of the Street (2012)

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Jennifer Lawrence has come a long way since 2010’s Winter’s Bone, having gone on to bigger and better things such as The Hunger Games and winning an Oscar in Silver Linings Playbook. Years from now, House at the End of the Street could very well be the big black mark on her resume.

It’s a commercial slasher thriller with a teenage slant, which immediately places the film at a disadvantage. Plus, it was made in 2010 but not released until September 2012 to take advantage of Lawrence’s surging popularity. Indeed, the film debuted at no. 1 in the US.

Lawrence is good in this as a girl who moves into a new neighbourhood with her mother, played by Elizabeth Shue, and she befriends and enters into a relationship with the local hunk (Max Thieriot, Chloe), the sole survivor of a murdered family. He’s not very popular with the locals because he’s bringing their house prices down (how nice).

There are some interesting ideas in this film but the execution is so bad that there are almost zero frights in what is supposed to be a horror film. How you can have a thriller with no thrills or suspense is beyond me. On top of that, everything else about it just felt like your run-of-the-mill teen slasher flick. Sadly, apart from seeing Jennifer Lawrence in a tight singlet (as emphasized on the posters) there really isn’t much else going for it.

2 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: The A-Team (2010)

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know much about the 80s series The A-Team upon which the new film of the same name was based.  I was familiar with Mr T, and my old boss had once referred to our particular team for a large legal transaction as “the A-Team” (apart from me, there were two other lawyers — one was a sexual deviant and the other was nicknamed “Freakshow” for his horrible BO, saliva spraying, flaky dandruff, and body hairs poking out of missed button holes), but that was the extent of my knowledge.

This new “A-Team” features Liam Neeson (how can you not like a guy who played Oscar Schindler, Qui-Gon Jinn and kicked serious butt in Taken?) as their leader “Hannibal”, rising star Bradley Cooper (The Hangover) as the slick “Face”, Sharlto Copley (District 9) as “Howling Mad” Murdoch, and MMA fighter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson as BA Baracus (the new Mr T).  These four dudes somehow come together and become extremely close (in condensed off-screen time), blowing things up and making wisecracks while they save the world from corrupt government officials and counterfeit money plates.

The A-Team is what it is.  An all-out, over-the-top action movie with a bunch of cool, wacky guys, a few rather tame/lame jokes, a couple of twists and turns in the plot, and lots and lots of explosions.  It starts with a bang and never lets the foot off the pedal.  Fun and exciting?  For the most part.  Engaging and riveting?  Not exactly.  As far as action movies go, I suppose it could have been a lot worse, but this was definitely no classic.  However, if you just want a couple of hours of light entertainment, The A-Team is actually quite up to the task.

Since I don’t know about the original there’s nothing to compare them to, but I think the chemistry is largely there for this crew.  I would say Jackson, not being a career actor and all, was the weakest link of the foursome.  He just looks uncomfortable out there churning out those lines.

To me, it was the villains that stole the show.  Patrick Wilson (super underrated actor) gets a pretty meaty role as a nasty but inept CIA Agent and seems to really enjoy being a douche, whereas Brian Bloom (I’ve seen him in Dollhouse and a bunch of other TV shows) unexpectedly excels as the evil private security dude.

On the other hand, Jessica Biel received a rather thankless role as the helpless agent on the side slash love-interest.  She was looking slim and pretty but that was about it.

Considering the “average” reception of the film at the box office, whether a sequel will be forthcoming remains to be seen.  In some ways The A-Team failed to live up to expectations because of the popularity of the original TV series, but in other ways it exceeded expectations because most people thought it would be complete trash (but it’s not).  Keep your expectations in check and go along for the ride.

3 stars out of 5