16 January 2015

The Obsessive World of Michael Mann


Michael Mann is fascinated by obsessives who work on opposite sides of the law. In fact, when you go over his filmography, it’s filled with them: loners who are hardened by choice and keep others at a constant arm’s-length, indulging in their skills instead. Starting in 1981, Mann made his first feature, Thief, about a professional safe-cracker who finds his way under the thumb of the mob. Frank (James Caan) wants what everyone else has, but can’t have it because his profession effectively keeps him on the outskirts of society.

Mann’s works always tend to lend a sympathetic eye to those perceived as criminals. Sure they break the law, yet they possess a strong value system and always abide by their respective codes. These men don’t waver, circumstances merely fail them and they adapt. It’s what makes them consummate professionals. Sure there is a thrill in watching these protagonists hone their craft, but there is more compulsion than pleasure in these acts.

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15 January 2015

Review: Vice


At this point of his career, Bruce Willis’ choices in parts are a crap shoot. While 50% of the films he makes are legitimately great (Looper and Moonrise Kingdom), the other half go straight to video and die. This latest project is a reminder that along with half-baked horror, the death knell of January is filled to the brim with bad actioners seeking a home.

With a decent cast in Willis and Thomas Jane, Vice might have been able to salvage something worth watching out of this mess, but there is no effort on the screen at all. The blame lays entirely at the feet of writers Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore and director Brian A. Miller, who worked with Willis previously on The Prince and shouldn’t have been given the chance to work again. The premise is the only interesting prospect of the film, but even that is copy and pasted from other works. Vice is two parts Westworld, one part Blade Runner and all parts awful.

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13 January 2015

'Edge of Tomorrow' Entertains Like a Video Game, but Doesn't Hesitate to Eviscerate the Genre


The premise seems familiar enough: it’s the not-too-distant future and Earth is under attack by aliens. The “Mimics” arrived by an errant asteroid and now they have taken over half of continental Europe. To help combat these hyper-intelligent aliens, humans wear armored combat suits fitted with rocket launchers and side-guns. One might even confuse the whole thing for a video game, if it didn’t have Tom Cruise’s face slapped on the poster.

Edge of Tomorrow replicates the experience of jumping into a video game through the eyes of untested combatant Major William Cage (Tom Cruise). Like most video game rookies, Cage is unfamiliar with his weaponry and panicked by the rushing hordes of attackers, he dies within minutes. And when he dies next he wakes up to the shouts of master sergeants (Bill Paxton in R. Lee Ermey mode). With each new life, Cage, mirrors other trepidatious gamers gathering their bearings in a new level, testing weapons in hopes of getting a feel before close quarters combat.

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10 January 2015

Review: Predestination


Walking into Predestination clean is perhaps the best advice to offer any cinephile willing to hunt down this likely future cult classic. It would be easy to just describe Predestination as Looper tossed in a blender with Minority Report, but the Spierig Brothers are going in a very different direction here. A direction that may lose a few viewers along the way.

Ethan Hawke plays a temporal agent, a time-traveling arm of the law that travels all through the ages to prevent killers from committing crimes. His next assignment, should it prove successful, will be the agent’s last. Problem with that is the criminal he is tasked with chasing is the one who has eluded him time after time. In his last tangle with the Fizzle Bomber (yes, the name sounds absurd, but roll with it), the agent momentarily apprehended his man, but the resulting blast left the agent disfigured. Now tasked with recruiting some help (played by Sarah Snook), the agent will be sent to 1975 to prevent the deaths of thousands.
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09 January 2015

Review: Selma


It may surprise many that Martin Luther King Jr. never received the celluloid treatment prior to Selma. Sure he had been mentioned in other historical pieces, but short of documentary footage, King was never given center stage. Quite shocking given the man's legacy and the lingering effect of his efforts still felt today. Several years of production and a director change later, Selma arrives as the film worthy of the man.