frank grillo

Movie Review: The Purge: Anarchy

thepurgeanarchy_posterDid someone order a new Punisher reboot? If not then if you’ve been waiting for one you may as well get out there and see THE PURGE: ANARCHY, because that’s pretty much what it is. Before all that though lets talk about THE PURGE, which had a premise that drew me and many others to theaters to see how it all played out. What me and many others ended up seeing was not really what we signed up for. Crime is legal throughout the United States and in all the world the most interesting story James DeMonaco could come up with was a home invasion. There was more to it sure, but with such a high concept premise I really wanted more ambition from what I saw on screen. THE PURGE: ANARCHY delivers on more of that ambition, adds new ideas and plays with a lot of its rules- though still not to the extent I’d like to see- plus did I mention it’s basically just a new Punisher movie.

You know the set up- not so distant future, New Founding Fathers, poverty & crime at an all time low, all crime including murder legal for 12 hours one night a year. This time there are a handful of stories we follow till Purge time- a woman and her daughter, a married couple having marital issues and a lone brooding man armed to the teeth with an agenda. The woman, Eva (Carmen Ejogo) and her daughter, Cali (Zoe Soul), just try to survive by laying low till they are flushed out by a mysterious team in riot gear. The couple, Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez) inexplicably chose to announce their impending separation to a family member and are traveling to deliver the news when their car stops working and are stalked by a group of masked thugs. The brooding man (Frank Grillo) remains unnamed and is out to do some purging of his own when he crosses paths simultaneously with all four aforementioned characters and begrudgingly agrees to protect them up to a certain point.  (more…)

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Movie Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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Life in a comic book world and/or action movie would be pretty damn exciting I imagine. Superheroes running rampant, cool looking explosions and the constant threat of world domination every other week. Of course, there’s a certain lack of realism, but then again, what’s fun about that. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER embraces the slick action and special effects of THE AVENGERS but mixes the raw hand to hand combat of the first CAPTAIN AMERICA to create a more well rounded film experience, while still maintaining the comic book fantasy of it all.

Not that I was expecting some gritty real life superhero epic, but at times CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER loses itself in a bit of melodrama that doesn’t exactly seem to fit in with all the pretty special effects. It’s all in comic book fun, so I can’t get too curmudgeonly about it all, just something to mention. The film picks up after the events of THE AVENGERS (of course) at a time where Nick Fury comes to realize that S.H.I.E.L.D. as a whole might not have the best intentions after all. He confides in Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) to be the die hard soldier that he is to find out what’s happening and stop the threat in its tracks. I think that’s about all one really needs to know to keep a little of the mystery alive. (more…)

Movie Review: Mother’s Day (2011)

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I hate feeling like I’ve somehow missed something when I’m finished watching a movie and these seemingly meaningless questions linger in my head. MOTHER’S DAY is the most recent culprit not once but twice- the one plaguing me the most has to do with the title. MOTHER’S DAY does indeed have a mother and the events take place over the course of a day, but it doesn’t- to my knowledge- have any connection to the universally recognized holiday. Does it hint that the mother owns the day? I digress; the title of the film really isn’t the point because Darren Lynn Bousman’s MOTHER’S DAY is a decent if somewhat forgettable home invasion thriller.

In MOTHER’S DAY a couple decide to host a party at the same time inclement weather threatens to produce a massive tornado. The couple then finds themselves at the mercy of three men on the run from the law that break in to the couple’s recently acquired house because they last knew it to be the house their mother (Rebecca De Mornay) owned. The three fugitives hold the couple and their guests hostage and when their mother shows up to attempt to clean up the mess her sons have created and to reclaim money that she believes has been being sent to her even after the house had been foreclosed.

The second lingering question that doesn’t really affect my overall feelings is why such a big deal was made of the impending tornado? It couldn’t just be a stormy night? I ask only because- Spoiler Alert: there is no tornado. Again though, not really a spoiler because it has absolutely nothing to do with the overall events of the film- it does however create an interesting dynamic and conflict for the characters to deal with throughout. I do wish though that they had done a little more with that plot element though, because it does add a little extra danger into the proceedings and essentially it just becomes little more than a minor nuisance.

The three main fugitives have three unique personalities- ones been shot and is in severe pain and whined throughout, one is a degenerate and borderline psychotic and the third is somewhat levelheaded until pushed and then he turns into a borderline psychotic. Once Mother shows up though they all quiver with fear at her presence, which teased that she’s some kind of overwhelming evil force- which I don’t feel is ever really backed up. To be fair De Mornay has moments of brilliance and has a creepy calmness to her, but overall the performances from the villains ranges from decent to way over-the-top. Cheesy performances in a cheesy movie can make for a delightfully fun watch- the problem though is that Bousman’s MOTHER’S DAY takes this material darkly serious.

Bousman is a veteran if the SAW franchise so the gore and violence is all done very well and the brutality makes the home invasion aspect of the film extremely tense- the score aids in that department as well. The more irritating thing about the film though is a reliance on twists that feel manipulative to an unnecessary extent. The main twist tries to tug at the heartstrings to make you feel pity for the characters and at that point pity wasn’t really an option for a group of characters that really couldn’t meet their maker fast enough.

The performances for the most part are decent. Shawn Ashmore appears as one of the hostages at the party and a doctor, but seems way too young to even be friends with this group of people. Frank Grillo, who I loved recently in THE GREY, seemed a bit weak here, though he does have a couple good scenes. De Mornay is obviously the star and she’s decent, but there really isn’t anything special or memorable about her performance or anyone else’s.
Subtract some of the well paced tension from the final act of MOTHER’S DAY and a few select moments of character work then what you’d have here is an average and instantly forgettable thriller. As it is, while a far cry from anything original and unforgettable, it is still a well shot and tense home invasion flick. I couldn’t help but feel that Bousman at some point put his direction on auto-pilot and coaster through several stretches while his hand felt extremely present during the film’s more tense moments and more violent shots. MOTHER’S DAY is a remake that’s better than most, but a bit too unfocused and average at times for it to ever be labeled as a classic. It is however a classic case of a film that’s easily consumed, easy to recommend to genre buffs and stuffed in the back of the memory bank for a rainy day.

Rating: 6/10

Movie Review: The Grey (2012)

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I think it’s about time we just start cloning Liam Neeson and giving one to every man woman and child immediately. Neeson has saved someone or viciously beaten bad guys in nearly every scenario imaginable and everyone should be so lucky to have a jack of all trades by them when the shit hits the fan. On a more serious note it should be said now that the wolf punching shenanigans as depicted in the trailer probably wasn’t the best way to market THE GREY. Before watching the film I expected a brainless survival action flick from the guy that brought us the most recent A-TEAM movie and what I got was a introspective drama thriller that’s brilliantly acted, tense and even beautiful at times.

THE GREY follows an oil drilling team that is largely full of ex- convicts and a selection of other rough around the edges members of society. The team boards a plane which eventually crashes on a mountain with only a handful of survivors. Before long the survivors become aware that they have attracted the attention of a pack of wolves and that they are dangerously close to their den. The group is forced to walk to try and distance themselves from the threat but also have to deal with the bitterly cold weather in order to survive.

When I sat down to watch THE GREY I was poised for a badass survival thriller with dudes owning wolves with bare knuckles and even with broken liquor bottles tied to their fists and to be fair some of that is true, but I got something entirely different from what I was expecting. What I got was a much more restrained survival drama with moments of pure tension and some genuine thrills thrown in the mix from time to time.

It’s not hard to see how someone might feel misled after watching THE GREY. The trailers can’t really push across some of the quieter moments or some of the great scenes of dialogue with characters reminiscing back and forth or bickering back and forth. What it does push across is the insane plane crash, battle with the elements and vicious wolves hunting the group and ending with Neeson preparing to beat down a wolf with glass between is knuckles. That all adds up to a pretty sweet action flick except that even though the movie does have all those things yet they are spaced apart perfectly to add more heart and human drama between them making it less of a passable popcorn flick.

The ensemble cast is phenomenal and I don’t believe any one actor takes away from the performance of another. Liam Neeson is the obvious star power on display but he does well to not overplay the situation and instead he just blends with the rest of the guys until he gets a few scenes to break out the heavy dramatic chops. If I had to single out one actor in particular it would have to be Frank Grillo as Diaz- Grillo has some pretty fantastic scene stealing moments, one being amidst a verbal and physical standoff with Neeson. The whole cast has their moments to shine and I don’t want to downplay anyone specifically but between Neeson and Grillo those two had plenty of moments to take center stage.

Actors are one thing but the set pieces the characters are put into are pretty incredible. The first one is the spectacular set up of the plane crash. The tension builds with each pocket of turbulence until the moment finally comes and the plane descends rapidly and the sound design during that scene just oozes with dread. Two other favorites include a dash where the group is running for the trees with the wolves in hot pursuit and a scene where the surging group attempts to cross a gap with a line of cloth and miscellaneous items tied together. The skill at which the scenes are paced out and executed shows a lot of care and restraint went into the process so we get time to care about the character during the scene rather than hope for a giant spectacular explosion or grand visual effect to keep interest in the scene.

Lastly, the score for THE GREY is fantastic. The central score is quite beautiful and fits within the context of the film perfectly. It’s dramatic yet haunting which describes the film in and of itself. There is always a flare of horror within the drama and the film bleeds a more artistic personality than Carnahan’s previous effort.

Overall THE GREY is a film that caught me completely by surprise. When the blood starts to flow here it actually has an impact and it takes a special movie to mix such brutal elements of violence and emotion. There are a handful of powerful performances and fantastic set pieces and an overall tone of dread that carries through to the end. As harsh and gritty THE GREY is at times it also has a deep and intimate look at accepting death in your final moments by focusing on the beautiful moments in life. All elements combine make for a pretty incredible film that has great emotional depth along with some nail biting moments of action and thrills that create an unforgettable experience.

Note: The ending is likely to be a pretty contentious area for people who love and hate the film. A very brief scene is present when the credits end- which just like this note- is a P.S. to the end of the film.