Tag Archives: Ryan Kwanten

Blunt Force Trauma (2015)

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It’s not hard to see why a seemingly promising film like Blunt Force Trauma, featuring stars such as Mickey Rourke, Freida Pinto and Ryan Kwanten, would end up completely slipping under the radar. It’s a bit rough to call it “garbage”, but it’s not a stretch to say almost nothing about this film worked at all.

The start of the movie does grab your attention. Two dudes wearing bulletproof vests stand face to face across a room, each inside a crudely drawn circle, both holding guns. Like an old Western, they draw at the same time and fire to see who can knock the other person out of their circle first. This kind of showdown is apparently a real banned shooting “game” from South America, and it’s the gimmick that drives Blunt Force Trauma, a thriller written and directed by former Blue Bloods  showrunner Ken Sanzel.

I could see Sanzel’s efforts in trying to create this gritty underground world where people put their lives on the line  — in arguably one of the stupidest ways possible — for some cash and an adrenaline rush. But apart from the initial thrill and intrigue from this “game”, the film is shockingly dull, with weak characters and a weak plot that doesn’t go very far. While the action scenes are decent, they get a little repetitive after a while (I mean, how much can they do with such a simple game), and it seems everyone on screen is taking the movie much more seriously than we are.

Ryan Kwanten is the true protagonist and he does his best to inject a bit of life into the movie, though I had a difficult time buying Freida Pinto’s attempt at reinventing herself as this hardened bad-ass out for revenge. Inconsistent accent aside, she just wasn’t convincing, and it’s almost as though Sanzel recognised this because she was strangely pulled out of the storyline towards the end like she didn’t matter at all.

The big name is of course Mickey Rourke, who doesn’t appear until the final act and doesn’t do much except mumble his way through some lines while looking very Mickey Rourkish. It’s remarkable how much he has beaten himself up with an ugly stick over the past 25 years.

Despite a running time of just 95 minutes, Blunt Force Trauma felt long and uneventful, and more importantly, completely meaningless.

1.75 stars out of 5

PS: Shit ending too.

2014 Movie Blitz: Part IV

7500 (2014)

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It’s never a good sign when a movie’s release is pushed back by more than 2 years, but that’s what exactly happened with 7500, the flight horror directed by Japanese master Takashi Shimizu best known for Ju-On and its American cousin The Grudge. 7500 was supposed to be released in August 2012, but was bumped back to April 2013, then October 2013, and finally October this year.

The film has a pretty decent B-grade cast comprising the likes of Australia’s own Ryan Kwanten and Nicky Whelan, together with Amy Smart, Leslie Bibb, Scout Taylor-Compton and Jamie Chung. The premise is incredibly eerie, though I can’t say why without divulging spoilers. Let’s just say the reason is completely coincidental and much scarier than the movie itself.

Anyone, the film actually started off very well. A bunch of strangers get on trans-Atlantic flight 7500 from LA to Tokyo. Someone dies under suspicious circumstances, putting everyone on edge, and before long, more and more people start dying in typical Japanese-horror fashion. Nothing is really explained until the very end, and even then none of what happened before makes much sense.

It’s the type of film that would have made much more sense about 10 years ago when films like The Grudge and The Ring were first being introduced to Western audiences. Now, having been subjected to the same tactics for a decade, the whole thing just feels underwhelming and not particularly scary.

1.75 stars out of 5

The Immigrant (2014)

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Notwithstanding its unimaginative title, The Immigrant is a beautiful and moving drama about a religious young woman named Ewa (Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard) who flees to New York in the early 1920s to escape war-torn Poland following WWI. With her sister quarantined due to illness and her ex-pat relatives nowhere to be found, Ewa is “rescued” by Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix), who makes her dance at a theater and pimps her out as a prostitute.

The Immigrant was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes last year and it’s not hard to see why. This is a heartbreaking film that probably could have stuck a “true story” label on the poster without anyone questioning its veracity. Combining stunning visuals, believable sets and powerhouse performances from the three leads — Cotillard, Phoenix and Jeremy Renner, who plays Bruno’s cousin Emil — The Immigrant is one of those rare period dramas that grabbed my attention right from the start.

A lot of it has to do with Cotillard’s performance. Apart from looking plain but beautiful enough to have men fall for her, she resonates a graceful resiliency that makes Ewa an instantly likable and empathetic protagonist. Joaquin Phoenix is also excellent in a pivotal role that would have caused the film to collapse had he not infused it with a certain charm and tenderness amid Bruno’s violent madness. There are scenes of real emotion in this film that got to me when I did not expect it, and I doubt the effect would have been the same had it not been for the performances and the confident yet subtle direction of James Gray (Two Lovers, We Own the Night), who also co-wrote the script.

Not just a simple character journey and story about overcoming against the odds, The Immigrant also raises many moral questions about the characters’ actions. As Ewa asked her aunt in one of the film’s key scenes, “Is it a sin to want to survive? Is it a sin to want to survive after so many bad deeds?”

I thought the dramatic score was a little overdone at times and the film could be accused of being tonally flat, but apart from that I found The Immigrant to be an engrossing and rewarding experience.

4 stars out of 5

The Signal (2014)

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Low-budget, independent sci-fi films are on the rise, and The Signal has to be one of the better ones. Starring rising Aussie star Brenton Thwaites, an MIT nerd struggling with muscular dystrophy who manages to track down the signal of a hacker who almost got him and his friend expelled from university. Together with his friend (Beau Knapp) and girlfriend (Oliva Cooke, the rising star from Ouija and The Quiet Ones), the three track the hacker to the Nevada desert, where something bizarre happens, after which they awaken in a lab run by Lawrence Fishburne.

I guess you can classify The Signal as a sci-fi thriller or sci-fi horror because there are elements of both. There is a lot of uncertainty and paranoia, with the unshakable feeling that the lab coats are hiding something from our protagonists. The tale gradually veers more and more into pure sci-fi territory, though there is an eeriness about it that comes across as almost surreal. Perhaps the best way I could describe it is that it occasionally resembles a very good episode of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits, where the weirdness and mystery is what ultimately drives the film.

As such, The Signal is not a well-rounded film. There are moments of brilliance and intrigue which will suck you into the story, but other times when the plot and human reactions are so poorly constructed that it becomes frustrating to watch. There are occasions when you can tell that the film is trying to be weird for the sake of being weird — like the creepy old lady — rather than for any meaningful narrative purpose.

Still, I like it when movies do things I’m not used to seeing and keep me wondering what the heck will happen next. In that regard The Signal achieves its purpose. It’s visually impressive considering the US$4 million budget and the performances are solid. Not everyone’s cup of tea and not an exceptional sci-fi by any standard, but for the most part I found it quite interesting and watchable.

3 stars out of 5

The Quiet Ones (2014)

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I was really looking forward to The Quiet Ones after seeing the freaky trailer and hearing that it’s “based” on the parapsychology Philip Experiment conducted in Toronto in 1972. The film is about a Oxford University professor (Jared Harris) who enlists the help of his students (Sam Claflin from The Hunger Games, Erin Richards from TV’s Gotham, and Rory Fleck-Byrne) to conduct an experiment aiming to prove that demonic possession is a psychological rather than supernatural phenomenon.

Their subject that summer is Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke), an attractive young woman who has been abandoned after the strange things that keep happened around her has scared everyone off. The professor keeps her locked in a room most of the time, with loud music playing to prevent her from sleeping in the hope that her agitation will boost paranormal activity. All the stuff is recorded and taped, though thankfully the film is only a semi-found-footage angle.

As expected, the paranormal activity does ramp up as the professor refuses to tone down his abuse, and the students, one of whom develops feelings for Jane, begin to believe that the demonic possession could actually be real and that she could harm them as well as herself. By this point, I realised the film was probably very very loosely based on actual events. I turned out to be right, as it would continue to devolve into a fairly typical possession flick with a fairly typical climax.

That’s a real shame, because The Quiet Ones does have some good elements and moments. The big creaky house, the 1970s tones and colour scheme, not to mention the strong cast and their English accents, could have turned it into a superior horror experience. I was hoping for an ambiguous take on supernatural activity in which a lot of questions would be asked but where the answers would be left to the audience, though instead they went down the obvious and commercial route where the demonic stuff is thrown in our faces with the force of a sledgehammer.

The result is a film that has an interesting premise but is watered down by a familiar approach and recycled tactics. It’s certainly watchable and no worse than the majority of horror films released these days, though I feel like The Quiet Ones blew a really good opportunity to be something special.

2.5 stars out of 5

PS: Check out this interesting link (contains spoilers) if you wanna know how much of the film resembles reality.

 

2013 Movie Blitz: Part V

The movie blitz is back, and there are some interesting new entries.

Nurse 3D (2013)

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Riding high from her star turn in Boardwalk Empire, Paz de la Huerta gets cast in Nurse 3D, a campy horror film where she gets to play Abby, a crazy nurse who seduces her “deserving” victims before killing them. If anything, Nurse 3D knows exactly what kind of film it wants to be — sexy, bloody, gory and campy. The kind of film you scream and laugh to, depending on your disposition.

The poor woman who gets her life turned upside down by Abby is Danni, played by 30 Rocks‘ Katrina Bowden. There’s some sex, plenty of nudity, and no shortage of gruesome kills and bloody aftermaths. There is definitely a market for this kind of film, and for me it’s preferably to other trite attempts such as the Piranha 3D franchise.

Paz de la Huerta certainly has a screen presence, but I really don’t know what to make of her. She has a nice figure, I suppose, one she is not afraid to show off, but she has a weird face. As for her acting, I can’t really tell if she is really good at trying to be bad, making her really good, or just bad.

Anyway, I didn’t hate the movie and found it occasionally fun, which is surprising, but I think you have to have a certain type of taste to be able to embrace it.

2.75 stars out of 5

PS: I watched this in 2D, but I can’t really see why this would be a worthwhile 3D film unless you want blood and boobs popping at your face.

Knights of Badassdom (2013)

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Knights of Badassdom is for anyone who enjoyed the live action role-playing scenes in Role Models. It’s basically about a bunch of live action role-playing dudes played by an all-star cast including Aussie Ryan Kwanten (from True Blood), Steve Zahn, Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Summer Glau (Serenity) and Margarita Levieva (recently seen in Revenge) who bite off more than they can chew when an evil demon is unleashed from the underworld during a major event.

There are lots of nerd jokes, great puns and one-liners, but as is usually the case with such films it’s not quite as funny as you think it should be. That said, there are some solid moments that had me giggling and even laughing out loud. The violence, blood and gore are all intentionally fake and silly, but I suppose you can still call it a “horror.” It should come as no surprise that a flick with a name like Knights of Badassdom is not a good movie. It’s is a complete farce and it knows it, but the problem is that it’s not quite bad enough to be a so-bad-it’s-good type of film. So it’s not very good, but it’s not bad enough to be great. Does that make sense?

Nonetheless, consider all the problems the film went through to get released, it could have been much worse. It had a really troubled production because filming began in 2010 and was in post-production in 2012, but took another year before it was given a limited release. My wife gave up on it after about 2 minutes as she mumbled something along the lines of it being the stupidest thing she had ever seen. But I persevered and had a reasonably good time with it. Not a bad party flick, especially if everyone is drunk or stoned.

3 stars out of 5

Enough Said (2013)

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Enough Said is a nice little romantic comedy that I would never have seen in a million years had it not starred Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Elaine from Seinfeld, aka the greatest TV actress of all time) and James Gandolfini in one of his final roles before his tragic passing.

The film’s premise is simple. A freelance masseuse (Louis-Dreyfus) goes to a party and meets a fellow divorced fellow (Gandolfini) and they start a relationship. But there are some wrinkles to this relationship, wrinkles I can’t discuss without giving part of the plot away. For me, it was pretty foreseeable, but for others it might come as a twist.

The strength of the film lies in the performances from two of the greatest TV actors of their generation, or any generation (plus the likes of Catherine Keener and Toni Collette in her original Aussie accent), and an extremely witty script by Nicole Holofcener, who also directed the film. It’s rare to see a drama that involves mainly people conversing with each other being so engaging. It may be just me, but I noticed a ton of Seinfeld references in there, which I loved, of course, but apart from that the hilarious one-liners just kept rolling out along with the sharp dialogue.

Leaving the humour aside, the drama is also surprisingly warm, insightful and poignant, and dare I say, realistic. There’s nothing about the film that really stands out (it’s not a film you’ll likely remember years down the track), but for me it’s a sweet little gem I’d definitely nominate to people looking for a DVD recommendation.

3.75 stars out of 5

About Time (2013)

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The poster for About Time almost put me off watching it. A smiling Rachel McAdams and a gingery British fellow (Domhnall Gleeson, whom I had only previously seen in an episode of the brilliant sci-fi series Black Mirror — if you discount the last couple of Harry Potter flicks) standing in the rain. It looked like a romantic-comedy version of The Notebook.

But, as is almost always the case, I was wrong. About Time, in my humble opinion, is probably the best romantic-comedy of 2013. Not that the field is strong, but at least it’s not the worst.

The premise is that Gleeson’s character, Tim, can time travel, like all the other men in his family, including his father (Bill Nighy). He doesn’t develop this ability or find out about it until he’s 21, but once he does, he tries to take full advantage of it. Everyone has different purposes for time travel, be it money or career, but for Tim it’s all about love. And that’s where Rachel McAdams’s character, Mary, comes in.

The bulk of the film is about their romance, as it should be. I mean, come on, who won’t fall for Rachel McAdams? Tim makes good use of his time travelling to woo Mary, but he also discovers that his ability has certain limitations. .

And no, it’s nothing like that other time travel film Rachel McAdams starred in, The Time Traveler’s WifeAbout Time is written and directed by Tony Curtis, who is responsible for penning the scripts for British romantic-comedy classics such as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and Love Actually (which he directed too), as well as Steven Spielberg’s War Horse. So hopefully that gives you an idea of the feel of the film and the type of comedy in it.

It dragged on towards the end of its 123-minute running time, but for the most part I simply adored this film. Not there there isn’t anything to complain about — the time travel rules, for example, don’t make any sense if you think about it, and Tim and Mary’s relationship is far too smooth and lacking in conflict. But I’m willing to overlook all of that because there is a sweetness and tenderness to the film that just warmed me up inside. And it’s not just the romance, but the moving relationships Tim has with his father and his sister (played by Lydia Wilson) also got to me as well. Very few, if any, romantic-comedies resonate with me (the last one was probably 500 Days of Summer), so I’m glad I was fortunate enough to have given About Time a shot.

4 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Red Hill (2010)

Red Hill is a strange one.  Starring Ryan Kwanten (who rose to stardom with True Blood), it’s an old-fashioned, modern ‘Western’ of sorts set in rural Australia.  It has a very simple (and may I say pretty predictable) plot, a scarred, ‘cliched’ villain, and it’s not particularly action-packed or fast-paced for the most part — and yet, for whatever reason, I really enjoyed it.

Kwanten is Shane Cooper, a big city constable who has just moved to Red Hill for “personal” reasons.  Red Hill is exactly what you would expect from a tiny rural town in Australia, where just about everyone owns a farm and police still get around on horses.  But Cooper is going to have one hell of a first day on the job, because Jimmy Conway (Tom E Lewis), a convicted murderer, just escaped from prison, and he’s heading back to Red Hill to cause havoc.

Written and directed by Patrick Hughes, Red Hill is a slick, well-made thriller that I liked a lot more than I probably should have.  Naturally, being an Aussie film set in the countryside, there are many wide shots of the beautiful landscape, but Red Hill kept me intrigued because of Hughes’s handling of the brewing tension and unsettling mood.

There are lots of weaknesses with this film, which I suppose some may consider boring and silly at times, and despite the unoriginal plot, it felt like I had just seen something a little different, a little more unusual.

3.5 stars out of 5