A Good Day to Die Hard is the worst action film I’ve seen in years. John Moore, a filmmaker who hasn’t directed a single good film in a career that spans 23 years, directs the weakest of the Die Hard anthology. The fifth installment is set in Russia and even though poking at Russia hasn’t been “in” since 1985, the film does follow the series’ horrible formula. You see, as the anthology went along, the terrorized area expanded with it.
In the original classic, the threat was concentrated in a building. The second took place in an airport; New York was at risk in the third, and for the fourth film, the threat expanded nationally, putting the United States at risk. Naturally, what’s at stake this time is international in scope. I read somewhere, they’re making a sixth film; maybe rereleasing Armageddon in theaters with a different title would crack the universal extension of hazard. Anyway, the scope expands, and each sequel is worse than the one before. It doesn’t take a genius to do the math and see what they’re doing wrong.
That’s not the only problem. This is a perfect example of product placement completely ruining a picture. Mercedes-Benz is the official sponsor/distraction and they most definitely got their money’s worth, because A Good Day to Die Hard feels like an hour and a half Benz commercial; a very bad Benz commercial at that. Seriously, all the villains ride BMWs and we even get a shot of them all exploding. There’s another shot of the G-Class crushing a Porsche, and in one ridiculous scene the G-Class slams into a tank and drives it off a bridge, when it reality the car would fall apart merely touching it. Anyway, the product placement spans the whole runtime of the film and the Mercedes-Benz logo gets more screen time than Bruce Willis.
Which leads me to another issue I have. Whoever wrote the script should’ve capitalized on the fans love for John McLane. Not only does he share the action with his son, who is played by a horrible actor (I didn’t even bother looking up his name), but he also bores us with cheesy father-son talk in a film that is supposed to be anything but lovey-dovey. Finally, what we loved about John McLane in the past was seeing him all bruised up and barely in shape to save the day. Remember how cool it was in the first one when he walked barefoot on glass? Here, McLane is virtually invisible. He doesn’t get shot once while walking through showers of bullets. As a chopper tries to crash the floor he’s in, he jumps off the window and gives the pilot the finger mid-air for fuck’s sake.
Apparently, McLane has evolved into a dumb character too. I’m serious. He goes to Russia to see his son, but nevertheless keeps saying the horrible catchphrase, “I’m on vacation.” No, dude. You’re not on vacation; you booked the flight to see your son one last time before he gets sent to jail; idiot. Anyway, I kept watching the film hoping I’d at least get my money’s forth in the traditional badass “Yippe-Ki-Yay” scene, and guess what? He utters the line and a freaking Benz saves the moment. It’s a good day to retire this franchise.
Django Unchained is a very good film, but it’s one of Tarantino’s lesser works. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the film quite a bit – just don’t go in expecting 90’s Tarantino. You won’t be blown in the way you were after first experiencing Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, or even the Kill Bill movies, for that matter. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth your while. Django Unchained features great scenes but never quite lives up to its very enjoyable first half.
The Ku Klux Klan scene, for instance, is quite possibly the funniest five minutes of any film this year. In fact, it alone is worth sitting through the three hours of runtime. It encapsulates everything we love about a Tarantino picture. You’re thrown off guard by unpredictable, humorous dialogue and exaggerated violence that feels like an artistic choice, rather than a pointless depiction of gory carnage.
Django Unchained is Tarantino’s third feature in his revenge trilogy, the first being Kill Bill and the second being Inglorious Basterds. Jamie Foxx is Django (“the D is silent”), a slave with a few words who wants to seek revenge against those who abused and separated him from his wife. To do so, he teams up with Dr. King Schultz (Christopher Waltz), a bounty hunter seeking the notorious slave owner Calvin Candy, played brilliantly by Leonardo DiCaprio.
The film is very much an ensemble piece with many great performances, my favorite of which has to be Samuel L. Jackson’s best performance since Pulp Fiction, as a grumpy head of slaves referred to as Stephen. The extended dinner table scene is another great moment in the film. The entire scene plays like a psychological chess game between everyone involved from the guests, the servants, to the landowners.
Despite many memorable scenes including a living room death match and Candy coldly ordering a slave to be ripped apart by dogs, Django Unchained feels like it was stitched together carelessly. For one thing, it seems like Tarantino wanted to reference too many Westerns in cameos and sacrifices plot to satisfy fans of the genre.
We also end up with an ending that feels rushed, in a cheap way, to tie everything up in a matter of minutes. I don’t know about you, but I felt like I’ve seen all that before. There’s nothing new to see. Tarantino does not break any new ground; he simply walks on soil previously fertilized by his former works.
I wouldn’t go as far and say Tarantino lost it, but I have my doubts if he has anything new to offer to his loyal fan base. In my honest opinion, I think Martin McDonagh, the director of the masterpiece In Bruges, seems to be doing better Tarantino movies than Tarantino himself lately. I enjoyed this year’s Seven Psychopaths a whole lot more than Django Unchained and find myself looking forward to his movies more than I’m looking forward to the next Tarantino flick.
I walked into Life of Pi with extremely high expectations. After all, Ang Lee is a masterful director who helmed two of the greatest modern love stories in film. The trailers assured me that it was a must-see for the visuals alone, and then a dear friend told me that it would transform me to another world through groundbreaking use of cinematography to manipulate the membrane of water. I walked in expecting the greatest use of 3D in film history, I walked out with much more.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain were both films that moved me deeply. Besides providing stories the viewer simply can’t shake off for days after the initial viewing, all of Lee’s films are feasts for the eyes. But perhaps none of his previous works match the visual poetry of his latest stroke of genius.
To say my expectations were met would be an understatement. Life of Pi reaffirmed that there is humanity in cinema. I understand that the film was an international bestseller, but this story was meant to be adapted to the greatest art form of the modern age: cinema. It’s one of those rare cases where words would not do the story justice. It has to be seen to be believed.
The film centers on the son of a zookeeper who, due to unfortunate events, finds his family and himself on a freighter to Canada. All the animals are on board and are to be sold once they arrive. A shipwreck later, he finds himself alone on a lifeboat with a tiger, zebra, monkey and hyena. Throughout the film, he forms a remarkable bond with the most beautifully realistic CGI tiger you could imagine.
This is all told in flashback as the story is being told to a reporter. Our adult protagonist promises that by the end of the tale, the reporter will believe in God. I don’t know how they missed a chance to market this story with the following tagline: “A story that will make you believe in God.” I suppose it doesn’t really matter, Life of Pi has already grossed over $450 million worldwide so far.
I’m glad my review will be published a week after the film’s initial release in Egypt, because it’s a film that invites analysis. Most of you have seen this film by now and this gives me some room to discuss the film’s message. For those of you who still haven’t seen Life of Pi at IMAX, I recommend you stop reading at this point to avoid spoilers and let the above serve as a very positive review.
The minute I walked out the theater, I could already hear groups of people debating endlessly about which version of the story is true. It’s a shame, because this very debate contradicts the message of Life of Pi. It’s up to the viewer to believe in one or the other. Here’s the tricky part. Viewers were using evidence from the mid-section/survival chapter to support their theories, but they were clearly looking at the wrong place. You see; Lee clearly gives enough evidence to support both stories. We are left with only one fact; there was a shipwreck and he survived.
To understand the film’s message, one can’t neglect the existence of the first half of the film. Everything pre-shipwreck shows our main character admiring one religion after the other. He finds faith and God in Jesus, Buddhism and Muslim prayers, but he also believes in science like his father. This is vital to the story, because it holds the key to this wonderful tale’s message. It doesn’t matter what religion you follow, or don’t for that matter. As long as you’re happy and find reason for your existence, it’s absolutely no one’s right to tell you otherwise. If only humans would live and let live, the world will be a better place for everyone.
The same applies for the film’s interpretation. There is no right answer, because it doesn’t matter which is true. Lee tries to let the viewer take a leap of faith and choose to believe in whichever version he/she wants to believe in. I suppose those who back the tiger’s tale are more spiritual and those backing the cook’s tale are governed by reason, science, and probability. Therefore, it’s completely pointless and contradicting to debate for either side, because you would be doing the very thing the film asks you not to do. For that simple reason, I won’t reveal nor back up which version I believe to be true, because that’s entirely up to you. Lee let’s the viewer fill in the blanks.
I’ll close this review with an applicable quote by one of cinema’s greatest directors, Stanley Kubrick: “I would not think of quarreling with your interpretation nor offering any other, as I have found it always the best policy to allow the film to speak for itself.”
Calling David O. Russell’s The Silver Linings Playbook the best romantic comedy of the year would be an understatement. I don’t remember the last time I wholly enjoyed watching a generic romance as much as I did here. Mark my words: when the Academy Awards announce their nominations next week, The Silver Linings Playbook will make a very strong appearance in most major categories.
If this film isn’t nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay, I’ll lose my faith in the Oscars. I refuse to call it a chick flick because it’s meant to be enjoyed by both genders. If there’s one film you will see this week, make it this heartwarming tale of love, joy and forgiveness.
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence command the screen with natural chemistry that will leave you wanting more. Time flies when you’re having fun, and this is a solid exemplar of this saying. Clocking at over two hours, The Silver Linings Playbook feels more like thirty minutes. I simply did not want to take my eyes off the characters I so warmly embraced and grew to love. You’ll walk out the theatre in an upbeat mood with a wide grin carving your face for the remainder of your day.
Pat (Bradley Cooper) plays a young man fresh out of a mental institution. During his stint in the hospital, he lost everything, including his wife, job and house. As depressing as this may seem, Pat refuses to give in to depression, for he believes that by staying positive, everything will work out in the end. In comes, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), the girl next door who, like him, isn’t 100% stable either. They come to an agreement to help each other get what they want. In his case, it’s his wife back. As for her, she only needs a partner to enter a dance competition.
There’s a humanity in this film that seems scarce nowadays. The dialogue in this film is phenomenal. It’ll have you laughing out loud one second, and silently wiping tears from your eyes the next. Perfectly timed spurts of dialogue sound genuinely witty, because they seem to come out of character rather than a screenwriter’s sense of humor. Chris Tucker makes a welcome return to the screen as a mental institution escapee who always comes out of nowhere, adding a sense of unpredictability to the movie.
But if there’s one performance that deserves most of the praise, it’s the bittersweet performance of the legendary Robert De Niro. He plays an Eagles fanatic desperately trying to reconnect with his son, Pat. De Niro is, in my opinion, the most talented actor to ever grace this planet. He has acted in more classics than anyone out there and here Bobby D proves his versatility has no boundaries. While his choices of films have been somewhat disappointing as of late, De Niro reminds us that he’s still the master of his domain.
The Silver Linings Playbook follows the same formula of every other romantic comedy out there, but it follows it so well, you’ll understand why it became a formula in the first place. The dialogue is fast, unexpected and honest; the performances are marvelous, and the pace is outstanding. The Silver Linings Playbook is a slapstick comedy that ranks up there with the best of Hollywood’s long-forgotten classics. David O. Russell managed to create one of the best feel-good treasures in a long time.
In 2008, Katheryn Bigelow became the first female director to bag a Best Director Oscar for her Iraq war drama, The Hurt Locker. This year, she’s a strong contender to be the first female director to win two Best Director Academy Awards. Although not as intimate and personal as The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty is a magnificent achievement of epic proportions, and I can’t imagine how this film could’ve turned out any better.
It chronicles around the greatest manhunt in human history, the long search for Osama Bin Laden. The film focuses on the single-minded determination of Maya to locate the terrorist. In that sense, it works both as a character study and a report on the incidents leading to perhaps CIA’s most accomplished mission.
There probably isn’t a single viewer out there who doesn’t know how this film ends, but make no mistake, this is one of the most suspenseful films of the year thanks to Bigelow’s concentrated, intense pacing. There’s always a threat of a characters losing their lives in this long dedicated attempt to bring an end to the world’s most wanted man. Zero Dark Thirty spans a decade from the horrific events of 9/11 to the Navy SEAL raid on Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The scenes of that operation will have you gasping for air. They feel authentic, realistic and accurate.
Even though the film has been criticized for promoting torture as a method of interrogation, I beg to differ. In fact, if anything the film shows that torture was not the primary force that led to Bin Laden’s death, but rather careful monitoring and a deep understanding of how Al Qaeda’s network works.
The film benefits from a strong cast lead by the great Jessica Chastain. Chastain is a remarkable actress who seems to have come out of nowhere to take Hollywood by storm with her sudden workaholic-like attitude towards acting. Last year alone she gave six powerful performances in films that gained much critical acclaim. Two of those films ended up battling against one another at the Oscars, and this year Zero Dark Thirty is an even bigger threat to the big prize than anything she’s did last year.
The young actress was discovered and handpicked by Al Pacino for a reason. Chastain already has a second shot at Oscar glory since her momentous breakthrough last year. It’s great to see female actresses and, particularly, directors being taken seriously in Hollywood. Here, Bigelow shows the world that her directorial effort in The Hurt Locker was not a one hit wonder and Chastain carries a rather heavy film effortlessly on her shoulders.
I don’t know how much of Zero Dark Thirty is fact or fiction, what I do know is that it’s most definitely one of the year’s best films. Even if it’s not a great historic retrospective piece, it’s hard to argue against this being a great movie. The long quest to end the reign of Osama Bin Laden is brought to life in horrific detail; at the film’s most climatic scene, you’ll forget you’re even watching a movie.
Robert Zemeckis is no stranger to filming horrific air disasters. His last-live action film, Cast Awayfeatured a memorable plane crash and this makes him the perfect man for the job. He ups the ante in Flight by opening his film with the longest plane crash I’ve ever seen. I personally think the crash in this year’s earlier release, The Grey was much more realistic and therefore more terrifying, but it’s not nearly as epic and cinematic as the one portrayed here.
Denzel Washington delivers one of the year’s strongest performances as Whip Whitaker, a pilot struggling with alcohol addiction. The film takes off with Whitaker drinking the night before (and the morning of) a flight that goes horribly wrong due to problems with the engine. We also see him drinking during the flight itself. Technically though, Whitaker evens things out by snorting cocaine. He knows exactly what he’s doing.
In other words, he single handedly redefined the definition of being high by literally flying 30,000 feet off-ground and, figuratively speaking, being in a whole other state of mind. The things people do on coke, I tell you; one minute you’re sniffing white powder, the next you’re intentionally flipping a JR-88 full of passengers upside down. That’s right, Whitaker purposely inverts the plane to break a free-fall and his miraculous feat saves almost everyone onboard.
A few days later, Whitaker attempts to quit everything. He pours alcohol down the sink and flushes a bag of weed down the toilet (a shot many will find every bit as shocking as the actual plane crash). Anyway, the rest of the film plays more like a character study of an alcoholic. I think the point wasn’t to show an impressive plane crash, but rather symbolically portray the psychological journey of an alcoholic.
Alcoholics often seek help after they’ve done something terribly wrong, be it cheating on a loved one, saying something extremely inappropriate, or luckily escaping death. Flight is an allegory for that journey, the crash is a metaphor for the disaster that often serves as a wake-up call, and everything that follows is more or less about finding the courage to take responsibility for your actions.
The film always seems to dwell on the question of whether Whitaker deserves to be hailed a hero, or should be set as an example never to pilot a plane while intoxicated. On the one hand, you have a lawyer and the survivors fighting for him. On the other, there’s the aircraft manufacturer desperately trying to push the blame on someone other than itself.
Whitaker did save a lot of lives, but he also deserves to be charged. Should he really face life in prison for risking the lives of over a hundred souls the moment he sat in that cockpit both drunk and high? Or should he be given a medal for accomplishing something that no other pilot has achieved successfully in flight simulation?
What’s really going to burst your bubble is, would he have the balls to pull of this crazy stunt if he wasn’t high on cocaine? Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying hitting at least four lines of coke should be a piloting prerequisite, I’m merely saying that if, God-forbid, I was on a plane that was going nose-down, I want my pilot to be as high as a freaking kite.