Tag Archives: Liev Schreiber

The 5th Wave (2016)

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The young adult dystopian future series adaptations just keep coming. Our latest entry is The 5th Wave, based on the well-received book of the same name by Rick Yancey. And yes, it’s not very good.

Starring Chloe Grace Moretz, The 5th Wave tells the story of an alien invasion that has been happening for a while now (in “waves” of attacks), which I suppose is a little more interesting than a film that begins at the beginning (though we do get flashbacks to fill us in). There’s a body snatchers situation going on here where our heroes don’t really know who they can trust, and of course a love story (kind of a semi-triangle thing) going on as well. Honestly, it all feels very familiar and it’s nothing we haven’t already seen before. I mean, come on, the aliens are called “The Others”.

With a budget under US$40 million, the special effects aren’t as good as they need to be, and there’s just not a lot of excitement or thrilling action. Despite solid performances from a talented cast that also includes Mario Bello, Ron Livingston, Liev Schreiber, Maika Monroe (It Follows), Nick Robinson (the elder brother from Jurassic World) and Alex Roe, the film plods along and never offers anything to make it stand out from the crowded pack of young adult adaptations.

I wouldn’t say I was bored, just indifferent to the fate of the characters or their world. Sometimes I think such films might actually be better if they were more melodramatic or outrageous, because at least they would be a little more memorable. With The 5th Wave, I felt like I was simply being carried along by the current without any sense of urgency or satisfaction.

Moretz, a really underrated actress, does her best as young heroine Cassie, infusing the role with her usual sass and vulnerability. It’s just a shame the movie doesn’t make her character much more interesting than your typical teen protagonist. My main problem with the movie, however, still lies with the plot, which makes less sense with each twist and turn. I know they’re aliens, but their methodology for taking over the Earth is simply ridiculous.

In the hierarchy of young adult book adaptations, The 5th Wave is clearly several notches below the frontrunner, The Hunger Games, though to be fair it is also significantly better than the cellar-dweller, The Host (God that trash was awful). I’d probably put it in the somewhere below the Divergent series (which has gotten worse with each subsequent film), roughly around The Mortal Instruments. Perhaps the series could redeem itself if given the opportunity to make a sequel, though this is still up in the air given the poor critic ratings and uninspiring box office earnings (albeit it still made money overall). I’m not holding my breath.

2.5 stars out of 5

Recent Movie Reviews: Part VIII

Movies reviewed: 2 Guns, Red 2, Paranoia, The Last Days on Mars

2 Guns (2013)

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It really does help improve a movie experience when you know absolutely nothing about it when you step inside the cinema. Such was the case when I saw 2 Guns, which on its face looked like just another guns-blazing crime/buddy action comedy starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, with Paula Patton as the obligatory eye candy. Maybe it’s because of this, I found 2 Guns to be surprisingly entertaining and likable, though at the end of the day my assumptions about it proved to be largely correct and I doubt I’ll remember much about it in a couple of years.

Denzel and Marky Mark play two criminals involved in the drug trade with more to them than meets the eye. It has a twisting and turning plot complete with crooked cops, backstabbing and double-crossing, but it’s executed well and in a light and humorous tone. The action itself is nothing special, and the jokes are passable, but the film stays afloat thanks to the banter between the two charismatic leads, who provide different styles that somehow mesh together rather effectively.

Paula Patton made headlines when she apparently demanded nude scenes with Denzel, but apart from that she doesn’t get to do a whole lot. She should not be confused with Bill Paxton, who plays the nasty villain with some personality but ultimately not enough to make him a memorable one.

In the end, 2 Guns is adequately good; a fun time with two bankable stars who appeared to be enjoying themselves, but no effort was made to go that extra mile to elevate itself from the other movies of this type you see every year.

3.25 stars out of 5

Red 2 (2013)

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The 2010 predecessor, Red, was a rollicking ride with cool old people. I wasn’t as high on it as some others, but it was fresh, funny, and different. As expected, the success of that film led to Red 2, which is essentially more of the same — except this time the act gets, pardon the pun, a little old.

Inspired by the comic book series of the same name, Red 2 is about a bunch of ex-CIA operatives who are “Retired, Extremely Dangerous”, and for some reason people want to kill them. The all-star cast is again headed by Bruce Willis (with Mary-Louis Parker as his girlfriend), John Malkovich, Helen Mirren and Brian Cox, and this time they’ve added Catherine Zeta-Jones, Anthony Hopkins and Korean star Byung-hun Lee (from GI Joe).

Red 2 is still loud, explosive, crazy, and routinely tongue-in-cheek, but this time around it lacked the charm of the original. The idea was good, but evidently only for one film, and rehashing the same formula failed to deliver the same result. I didn’t really care much about where the plot was heading and the narrative felt like it was all over the place, and the character quirks evolved from affable and sweet to mildly irritating. The occasional amusing one-liner would pop up every now and then, but for most of its excessive 116-minute running time Red 2 was just going through the motions.

A mixed bag, I’m afraid, with probably more bad than good. And of course, a third film is already in the works.

2.5 stars out of 5

Paranoia (2013)

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Every year there is a star vehicle film that appears to have some strong elements but ends up being a real turd. This year’s leading candidate is Paranoia, which could actually end up having the opposite of the intended effect on the career of Liam Hemsworth, brother of Thor and ex of Miley Cyrus. It’s not that horrible, in all fairness, but in context, considering the director (Aussie Robert Luketic, whose credits include Legally Blonde and 21) and the cast (Gary Oldman, Harrison Ford, Amber Heard, Richard Dreyfuss, Embeth Davidtz, Julian McMahon and Josh Holloway — Sawyer from Lost), Paranoia is an awfully unconvincingly, bland and actually rather boring film about corporate espionage.

Hemsworth works as a low-level employee for a giant corporation run by Oldman. One day, he pisses off his boss and instead of destroying his career is given an opportunity to infiltrate the company of Oldman’s competitor and former mentor (Ford). He accepts, of course, and is seduced by the perks of being a well-paid executive, but as you guessed the rosiness doesn’t last very long. By the way, Dreyfuss is Hemsworth’s dad, Heard is the love interest, and Sawyer is an investigator.

One of the biggest problems with Paranoia is that Hemsworth, as big and hunky as he is, has very little charisma. I don’t put all the blame on him, however, as the pedestrian script probably sapped whatever charisma he had anyway. The other problem is that the plot itself offers no excitement or thrills, and you can basically see all the plot points being ticked off, one by one, as it progresses towards a painfully predictable and cliched ending where the absence of an obligatory twist would have been more of a surprise.

In other words, Paranoia is this year’s Abduction, the Taylor Lautner star vehicle from 2011. That was laughably bad as well, but at least it had some guilty pleasures as we watched Lautner run from place to place while kicking ass. Paranoia, on the other hand, was just stuck in the same place for nearly 2 hours.

1.5 stars out of 5

The Last Days on Mars (2013)

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I love me some Liev Schreiber, the man with the best narration voice in Hollywood (sorry, Morgan Freeman). And even though I couldn’t get into Ray Donovan, I can’t deny that Liev infuses the screen with his icy masculine presence whenever he is around.

All of that has little to do with The Last Days or Mars, essentially a zombie movie set on the red planet. The trailer looked pretty promising so I decided to check it out, but unfortunately, after a strong, atmospheric start, the film fizzles out in the second half and ends up wasting what was a great idea.

Liev leads a crew of astronauts who are about to leave Mars after a half-year post. Less than a day before they are scheduled to depart, one of the crew members discovers potential evidence of life and decides to check it out. Big mistake. That’s right, you guessed it. The discovery unleashes a virus that turns humans into ultra-aggressive zombies!

You can see that it’s an intriguing premise and offers a lot of potential for either fun or serious scares. Sadly, The Last Days on Mars delivers neither. Irish director Ruairí Robinson opted for the straightforward horror route, which is how I preferred it, but fails to deliver freshness or the abundance of thrills that a film like this required. There was too much seriousness and long slabs of lame dialogue, too much contemplation and not enough hardcore zombie interaction. A considered zombie film is not a bad thing, but only if all the drama can add to the effectiveness of the horror or bring out something in the characters for us to root for. In this case, all it does is slow things down. Even the likes of Liev, Romala Garai, Olivia Williams and Elias Koteas could not salvage their respective characters.

That said, I did enjoy the early moments of the film, which I found to be quite creepy. But once the zombies appeared, the film went straight for the contrived plot devices we see too often in such films, including a sudden and complete deprivation of common sense. Considering that it doesn’t ever turn farcical and that it’s running time is a suitable 98 minutes, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that The Last Days on Mars sucked, only that it’s weak and disappointing.

2 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Salt (2010)

It’s hard to know where to start with a film like Salt.  Directed by Aussie Phillip Noyce (The Saint, Patriot Games, The Bone Collector, Rabbit-Proof Fence) and starring Angelina Jolie, Salt looks like it will be a female version of the Jason Bourne series, except even more unbelievable and, if this film is anything to go by, more exciting.  It’s a pure adrenaline rush.

Jolie plays the titular character, Evelyn Salt, who works for the CIA.  That’s about all you need to know, because Salt has an insane plot full of twists and turns, and accordingly, the less you know the more enjoyable it will be.  Just know that after a short set-up, the majority of the film speeds through at break-neck pace, and has Salt doing all types of crazy stunts, stuff even Jason Bourne, Jack Bauer and 007 wouldn’t even dream of doing.  Absolutely preposterous?  For sure.  Lots of fun?  Definitely!

Salt features a stellar cast including Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor and August Diehl (talk about a hard-to-spell cast!), but there’s no doubt the film belongs to Angelina Jolie, who seems simply perfect for the role.  To be honest I can’t think of another Hollywood actress that could have pulled it off.

I can see why some people would dismiss Salt for being too ridiculous (there are so many holes everywhere), but if you can suspend disbelief for 100 minutes and just enjoy it for what it is, I’m sure you’ll have a cracking time.  Can’t wait for the sequels.

4 stars out of 5!