Tag Archives: ed harris

Movie Review: Enemy at the Gates

Since I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with history. I love it. I’m unsure why it means so much to me aside from the fact that I hope to make some of my own. Regardless of why, it’s always fascinated me. This same fascination has drawn me to war films time and time again. This was simply the next one.

Vasily Zaytsev (Jude Law) is thrown into a desecrated Stalingrad with five bullets and no rifle. This was a thing. The Soviet Union was so sparse on firearms that it had one rifle to every two men and the second was to follow the gunner until he fell and then pick up his rifle. For me, most of the stuff in this film, at least historically, I already knew about. I’m a history buff. However, I did not know about Vasily Zaytsev, one of the greatest snipers of World War II and a hero of the Soviet Union.

I love sniping in video games and have always been a solid shot. There is a dark euphoria to be found in winning a long-range cat-and-mouse contest with deadly consequences. It takes patience and precision, cleverness and reflexes, and picking your shots wisely.

This is one of the reasons American Sniper will be one of my next reviews. I’ve never seen a movie centered on a sniper but I’ve always wanted to experience that.

Enemy at the Gates is a history lesson as much as it is film. In no way am I insinuating that everything in this film is completely accurate because it’s not, but I think few everyday people realize how important the Battle of Stalingrad was nor how desperate it became. The Russians were so frantic that they began throwing bodies at the Germans with shovels and sticks.

Director Jean Jacques-Annaud’s cinematography in its opening stages tries to further this point but never gets as dark and hollow as I feel this history deserved. I find that many directors back away from dark material, as if they are afraid of traumatizing audiences. In my opinion, that shouldn’t be a concern. Saving Private Ryan has remained the greatest war film ever in my opinion for the simple fact that Spielberg feared no consequences. He made a film with no barriers, no limits and pure honesty and while it brought back dark memories for those who served, there’s no denying that Spielberg did justice to them and told it how it was.

That is what I want from my war films: brutal honesty, no sugar-coating or dramatization. Tell it how it is, how it was.

To my immediate recollection, the only films of the last five years that did this were Peter Berg’s Lone Survivor and David Ayer’s Fury. Studios these days can’t get the actors, the reporting and scripting or the budget to give the most telling picture.

Jacques-Annaud’s Enemy at the Gates doesn’t make this list either.

The biggest reason why is that Jacques-Annaud manages to slither his way out of the battle so many times to explore other subplots and outlets that weren’t needed. A cat-and-mouse contest of this magnitude does not require a love story, let alone a love triangle, but I’ll be damned if Jacques-Annaud didn’t spend the entire screenplay smashing this love triangle into a round peg. The idea that love could be found anywhere in such a desolate, dire place is obnoxious and in my opinion, impractical.

The visuals out of the gate were looking good and then, like a baseball announcer commentating on a lady in the stands rather than doing his job and announcing the action on the field, it was taken away. Again, a director decided to make a story something it wasn’t.

There is no need for romance in a story about Russian youth throwing their bodies into German 50 cal’s. Period. There is nothing romantic about that. There is no love on this battlefield or in this crumbling city. There is filth, shattered lives and the snipers that crouch in it, trying to add another body to the trash.

But sure, let’s throw Rachel Weisz in here and have a romance. Whatever.

Let me tell you all something. Of the target audience that gathered to see this war film, NO ONE CARES ABOUT RACHEL WEISZ! Beautiful she may be, but needed SHE IS NOT! Completely irrelevant to what any film-goer wanted, Jacques-Annaud will tell his cinematographers and production crew to talk to the hand while he demonstrates his obsession for Weisz and puts her in front of the camera as much as he can without getting fired by the companies spotting the money for this endeavor.

If I watch one more movie with a needless love story, I’m writing a feature story about it and I’m going to rant about it hardcore because this isn’t fun anymore. It’s getting ridiculous. EVERY MOVIE DOES NOT NEED A LOVE SUBPLOT.

With that mini-rant set aside, the rest of Enemy at the Gates is a solid seven out of ten. The characters are noticeable and acknowledged but not greatly so, the sets and visuals are the greatest achievement of the film and the tension is there at times. Rachel Weisz manages to sabotage the fuel tank though before it could go any further than it did.

This isn’t Rachel Weisz’ fault and I know that. She’s a beautiful actress and I always love seeing her in the Mummy trilogy when it pops up on television. However, because Jacques-Annaud never showed himself on-screen, she was the only person I could project my hate on. I’m sorry, Rachel. It’s not your fault.

The white flag for this film comes at the 45-minute mark when Jacques-Annaud has Jude Law’s Vasily contemplate his life’s meaning, what he’ll be known for and whether he wants to fight anymore at all. This means Ed Harris’ antagonist gets less screen time than he should and even less character development, though the argument could be made that this aspect was intentional. A sniper never knows anything about his adversary nor a soldier his. It’s nothing personal. It’s survival.

I would agree that could have been Jacques-Annaud’s intention if he hadn’t put a set piece in the script that then made it personal, another needless addition. Makes you wonder if this guy ever watched a good war film before.

As I was saying, the 45-minute mark is where the tension and suspense begin to loosen their grasp on the viewer and instead of that, you have a lot of thematic content that’s welcomed but I wish had been delivered in a way other than expositional dialogue to lover, because again, this film doesn’t need love subplots. However, by the 45-min mark, the love story and the cat-and-mouse game reverse roles, with the love story given the spotlight and the war grunge sent to the back. At this point, you have to go with it or shut it off because if you watch it hoping the grunge returns, it doesn’t. A sad fact, but a fact nonetheless.

The love story, despite all of the hate I’ve thrust upon it, does develop into something worthwhile and doesn’t lose my engagement. Rachel Weisz is lovely as always, but the love story also discredits Joseph Fiennes’ character to an absurd proportion, making the love triangle that’s trying to be instituted here seem all the more disparaging.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Avengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe BabadookInterstellarChappie)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Anchorman 2: The Legend ContinuesLeon: The ProfessionalEnemySleeping with the EnemyEquilibrium)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Terminator: GenisysBlack SheepTwistedParkerHouse at the End of the Street)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (HerculesThe SentinelMad Max: Fury RoadBlitzThe Punisher)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (The Lost BoysZombeaversCrankErasedI, Frankenstein)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The Boy Next DoorThe ColonyIn the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege TaleThe GreyX-Men: Days of Future Past)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (CyborgOutcastSabotageGallowwalkersTucker & Dale vs. Evil)

My score for Enemy at the Gates: 72.

A film unsure of its tone or what message it wants to promote, Enemy at the Gates has its flaws, but there’s also no denying its set design and themes. The acting from Jude Law to Ed Harris is satisfactory although not at the level I wanted. We’re talking about one of the best snipers of all-time according to what I’ve read and researched and Jude Law is not an actor with a high enough plateau or large enough filmography to do this hero justice. At a basic level, the film works, but it could and should have gone farther than this.

 

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Movie Review: Run All Night

Ladies and gentleman, let me introduce you to Taken 4.

I’m as surprised as you. I didn’t expect another sequel so soon after they just made Taken 3 in January but I guess we underestimated the work ethic of Hollywood, huh?

This isn’t even a joke, guys. I’m serious. Run All Night is a garbage title anyway. If Taken 4 Run All Night printed their DVD covers and put a duct tape graphic over Run All Night and wrote in red or black sharpie on top of that “Taken 4“, I would buy this movie just for the simple but yet evidently difficult admission that they didn’t try to make an original film.

If you’ve seen Taken 3, Liam Neeson says something to the effect of, “I feared one day my sins would catch up to me.”

If you see Taken 4 Run All Night, Neeson’s opening monologue contains that phrase almost verbatim.

I chuckled to myself and looked over to my mom and she was already angry with me, claiming I wasn’t giving the film a chance. Liam Neeson is her favorite actor, which is why I was in the theater watching this.

I love Liam Neeson. He is one of my favorites as well, but how do I watch an actor deliver a monologue not just from the same cloth or the same script, but the exact line from another film and keep a straight face? Tell me in the comments if I’m being unreasonable.

So, I’ll admit it. It was really hard for me to try to engage myself in director Jaume Collet Serra’s third Neeson experiment. He directed Unknown, which was a miss for Neeson but got back on track with last year’s Non-Stop. Non-Stop wasn’t great and I’ll admit I scored it higher than I should have, but the film had some originality to it and held suspense over me despite the fact that all of the happenings took place on an airplane.

And despite Non-Stop being a decent action flick, I wasn’t all that impressed with Neeson’s part. The character writing was far too rigid to make much of anything out of it, but Neeson tried and I’d probably give him a win for that. Also, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, after this post, I’m going to start my new series called Winners and Losers. There will be an explanation of the series and what to expect from it so you’ll know what I’m talking about then. Until then, I’m leaving you in the dark, which is ironic because that’s what I felt Run All Night did and not because it was shot in the dark, you smarty pants.

I don’t mean left in the dark in the sense that we didn’t know what was going on. Trust me when I say that you will know EVERYTHING that is going on, has happened and will happen later. A map wouldn’t have made this film any easier to navigate through. We already found one in Neeson’s introduction.

What I mean by left in the dark is that the performers, story and production as a whole never grabs us by the shirt collar and tries to bring us into the experience. The light is in the middle of the stage and I’m standing behind the curtain reluctant to go out. This film, if it were a person, gave me a light tug that even a toddler could have held back from and then gave up.

I can not recall a film that gave such a fetal effort to involve me in its story. It was truly pitiful.

What made it worse is that Run All Night didn’t just copy off of Taken. It stole the script from Road to Perdition, which I wrote a review on.

The story of Road to Perdition, if you find yourself a little too lazy to read the review, is the original Run All Night.

Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) is a gangster hitman but his sons don’t know that. Stuff happens, Sullivan’s wife and youngest son are killed by the mob boss he works for after his eldest son, Michael Jr. witnesses a mafia murder. Sullivan and his son rob the banks that have the mob money and Sullivan kills a bunch of people, but he won’t let his son do any of the killing because he wants his son to live a good, clean life. Sullivan is convinced he’s going to hell, but he believes that there’s hope for Michael and that belief is what drives Sullivan the entire movie.

Run All Night is almost the same thing aside from a few minor stipends.

Jimmy Conlon (Liam Neeson) is a hitman whose life is pretty much over. He’s still a part of the gang but he’s getting old, his wife’s dead and his only son, Michael (Joel Kinnaman) won’t talk to him because of the things he knows his father did.

Conlon’s best friend and boss, Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris), are the best of buds and served in the military together. When Maguire’s son, Danny (Boyd Holbrook) goes off the deep end and murders two heroin dealers, Michael, a limousine driver, witnesses them and runs back home, so now Danny feels he has to kill Michael. Conlon saves the day but takes the life of Maguire’s son and even though Maguire admits his son “went wrong”, still feels the need to claim revenge and kill Michael himself.

The rest of the film is pretty predictable and I’m not going to go any farther with it. Just know that if you’ve seen Road to Perdition, you’ve seen this movie.

The fact that the son’s name is Michael in both movies only enraged me further. Come on, guys. Really?

Whereas Road to Perdition is more of a drama, which you should expect when you see the name Tom Hanks, Run All Night is more of an action flick, which you should expect when you see the name Liam Neeson.

Collet-Serra’s attempt at action doesn’t interest me though. There were a few segments where I got a little excited but I’d like to emphasize the word “little”. They weren’t overly original including yet another action scene in a bathroom. I don’t even want to go over the scene where Conlon strangles a guy with a paper towel roll and yes, that actually happened. Paper towels are meant to separate when pulled. How hard do you have to pull the paper towels in this world to separate them?! Do you expect me to take this seriously?

A plot synopsis like this only made me that much more thankful to have Liam Neeson in my life because he was the only thing keeping this thing afloat. Neeson has developed a certain talent for livening things up. Similar to Statham sometimes in the roles he chooses, Neeson has the bravado required to shoulder a shoddy film and provide some sort of enjoyment for a disgusted audience. I wish he was more selective with his roles, but Neeson is still one of today’s biggest action stars. Taken, the cult classic that it is, brought a new weapon to Neeson’s repertoire. Neeson’s acting career was on the downturn but after the success Taken had, Neeson suddenly had another coal in the oven to burn before his eventual retirement.

Joel Kinnaman started his career with no coals in his “acting oven” and doesn’t look to be adding any anytime soon. No true connection was to be found in this father-son relationship. Ed Harris was left lifeless with his poor character arc and dialogue.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (InterstellarChappieAmerican BeautyGone GirlMulan)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Dead Snow: Red vs. DeadSnowpiercerThe FamilyWhen the Game Stands TallBlack Hawk Down)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (TwistedParkerHouse at the End of the StreetThe RavenDead Snow)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (RageZoolanderThe Expendables 3HomefrontG.I. Joe: Retaliation)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (ErasedI, FrankensteinThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesBilly Madison)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The ColonyIn the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege TaleThe GreyX-Men: Days of Future PastThor: The Dark World)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (SabotageGallowwalkersTucker & Dale vs. EvilSafeWatchmen)

My score for Run All Night: 53.

Taken 4 meets Road to Perdition in an action flick that I’ll applaud for its scene transitions but little else. Aside from yet another Liam Neeson appearance, it’s a film worth skipping on. Run All Night is one to run away from.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Movie Review: Snowpiercer

The trailer intrigued. I would have seen this in theaters but due to some production squabbling, Snowpiercer debuted in few cinemas across the country. God Bless Netflix.

First, Chris Evans. The guy could not act to save his life, or at least that’s how it seemed to me, but Evans made do with his second chance, starring as Steve Rogers in Captain America: The First Avenger, an above-average film primarily due to Evans description of the red, white, and blue hero. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was also a huge box office success and confirmed that the Captain can hold his own in a fight.

Snowpiercer proves to be yet another platform for Evans to demonstrate his acting prowess, this time with Curtis, a man in a future society bound on a metal train. Curtis is one of the under-privileged, stuck in the back of the train with the mass populace while the others live the luxurious life afforded to them at the middle and front parts of the life-saving locomotive.

This setting alone is great. In a world at the brisk of human extinction, people are still finding ways to place themselves above others as if they are superior to other people of their own kind. While not economically feasible, socialism is the moral avenue to take. Considering the circumstances of their situation, you would think the need for an economic system let alone the need for social classes would be unnecessary, but you would be wrong. It is human nature that allows for human degrading. I used to refuse to believe this, but after repeated interactions with such people, it has become apparent to me: people just aren’t very nice. That’s not to say I’ve lost faith in humanity. People have the potential for great things and that’s what keeps me going. You never know when you’re going to run into someone who passes the buck.

So this futuristic train setting, while leaving many unanswered questions, not only works, but excels. A modest budget at $39.2 million also correlates well to this film’s lack of scenery changes, yet the environment never feels boring because you never know what’s going to be behind the next gate. Following each gate is the next car, and you never know who and/or what is going to be behind it. There is some anticipation with this South Korean flick though I’m unsure if I’d go so far as to say suspense.

In terms of character writing, the levels are limited. Aside from the idea of class warfare and the figureheads that would partake in such an event, there aren’t any glaring qualities or traits that reside past the film’s conclusion. That’s not to say the acting is poor in form or execution. An overall thumbs-up display for sure, especially from Chris Evans, one of the new generation’s best actors and one of my new favorites.

Another thing that I liked about this film was that you couldn’t tell it was Korean. When you watch a film and you can tell it’s foreign, very rarely is that a good thing because foreign films just cannot match up to the U.S. market. We’ve got too much money and too much talent to compete with.

The United States exports, in order (in my opinion), are weapons, debt to China, U.S. military personnel, natural resources, machinery and vehicles, and movies.

So when something as profitable as U.S. films are happening on a regular basis, you notice when it’s not the high-caliber product you’re used to paying for. It’s a little like Heinz ketchup. If you buy a bottle that says Heinz ketchup on the front, you’ll know if it doesn’t taste right. Or at least I will, because I’m from Pittsburgh, the city of Heinz headquarters.

However, I couldn’t tell and would have never known of Snowpiercer‘s origins had it not been for all of my fellow bloggers’ reviews. The philosophy was there as was the brutal violence that accompanies it. The characters were a little more uniform than I would have liked but it didn’t get in the way of the film’s entertainment or story arc. It was an overall creative piece.

It was the film’s finale that disappointed. After a dramatic and well-done monologue that encompassed the film as a whole, the screenwriters went overboard with their material, adding too many twists and character reveals to make it believable. It left a sour note to an otherwise well-done piece.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Gone GirlMulanGuardians of the GalaxyDawn of the Planet of the ApesTransformers: Age of Extinction)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2Young Guns)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too.(The FamilyWhen the Game Stands TallBlack Hawk DownRed Dawn(2012)Maleficent)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (House at the End of the StreetThe RavenDead SnowRubberHansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (ZoolanderThe Expendables 3HomefrontG.I. Joe: RetaliationVantage Point)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesBilly MadisonA Haunted House300: Rise of an EmpireCowboys and Aliens)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The GreyX-Men: Days of Future PastThor: The Dark WorldThe Sum of All Fears)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (GallowwalkersTucker & Dale vs. EvilSafeWatchmenClash of the Titans)

My score for Snowpiercer: 79.

A solid contribution from Chris Evans once again, Snowpiercer’s sets and societal conclusions make the film a worthwhile experience and while the final third was very aggravating, it only brought this from an 82  to a 79. That isn’t a large drop, which is a testament to Snowpiercer‘s success at its earlier stages.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,
CCY's Movie Reviews

Movies Worth Sharing!

Days Gone

Meeting the insanity that is reality

epileptic moondancer

Imperfection is Perfection.

vinnieh

Movie reviews and anything else that comes to mind

emmakwall (explains it all)

Film & soundtrack reviews, good humour and lists

pickoftheflix

EMPIRE'S 301 GREATEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME REVIEWED - to watch or not to watch?

Shit Jon Gruden Says

"Spider 2 Y Banana Shake?"

kylerehm005

I will show the world( or whoever reads this) my passion for movies, sports, life and Jesus

ramblingsofsam

A place for sharing, fleshing out, and fine-tuning thoughts and ideas

Mr. Movie's Film Blog

Film and Anime Reviews, new and older releases!

Thomas J

My Journey Through Film

Snap Crackle Watch!

A blog dedicated to television and movies

The Cinema Monster

unparalleled film reviews, news, and top 10s

Silver Screen Serenade

Praising the high notes and lamenting the low notes of all things film and television

Cinema Parrot Disco

Musings on Mainly Movies from a Table 9 Mutant

wordsofwistim

For those searching for wistim regarding life, sports, movies and more