Tag Archives: independent films

Movie Review: Hardcore Henry

Hardcore Henry‘s action premise is, at the very least, original. Shot almost entirely on a Go-Pro, Hardcore Henry hopes to make a footprint on the film industry. If it doesn’t make big bucks, it should be able to gauge the interest of audiences and filmmakers for its originality alone.

While some critics have said the first-person action gets old real quick, I was hooked from the beginning. A movie shot like this, especially an action film, is going to have its detractors. If you don’t have a quick eye, chances are your head will start to hurt after a bit as you struggle to keep up. The adrenaline rush is empowering, breathing new life into what at times has become a dormant action genre. The choreography of stunts is an evolving enterprise and the invention and further application of special effects has made the attempts of practical stuntwork all the more difficult for its practitioners. Despite Mad Max: Fury Road‘s pathetic attempt to call itself a story, it showcased some of the best practical stuntwork in the history of film and was properly rewarded with six Oscars. George Miller’s film serves as a visionary for the action dreamers and one can only hope that films will start to model their work after extraordinary efforts like the ones we saw in 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road.

Hardcore Henry platforms a similar intensity to its product with a film technique that is the first of its kind and it’s also dynamic enough to keep a true action aficionado engaged and begging for more. Putting you in the shoes of the protagonist-in this case, literally-leaves the film with a look of a first-person shooter. Our generation loves to be dazzled. Call us entitled if you want; we don’t care. In terms of explosive content, Hardcore Henry is the best of 2016 thus far and when you consider it’s nearly four full months into the year, that’s impressive, especially for an independent film.

That’s right. This beauty is an independent film, removed from any major production studio. There is a stigma among the film industry that independents don’t succeed, the same way that artists without a label must not be relevant. This stigma isn’t without backing. I’ve watched a fair share of independent films and while they often present unique ideas, they falter at the fundamentals of movie-making. It’s also hard to thrill when you’re constricted by a budget.

Despite all the obstacle courses independent films have to jump, crawl, bend, and hurdle through, the independent corridor has its gems. It’s my belief that Hardcore Henry is one of those gems.

While its story is rudimentary, its simplicity allows audiences to focus on the action output of the film. That’s not an excuse, only a comment. Its story leaves much to be desired if the glamour of hand-to-hand combat, shootouts and chase scenes don’t catch your fancy. Director Ilya Naishuller relies on his action and almost avoids writing a story. Through a plot point, our main character, who we can’t see, is left mute. He doesn’t say a word the entire film, which isn’t to say he doesn’t have personality but his range is handicapped. If he was an established character, such as a video game character like Master Chief or Lara Croft, it’s not as much of a problem. We already have a pretty good idea of who’s at the head of our rendezvous. Henry is an unknown and remains that way at the story’s end. He’s a pair of eyeballs for us, an avatar in a sci-fi tale. He is a person though, not a machine and one feels slighted when the film spends so little time with him. Our villain is a pompous drama king who overexaggerates everything with no character parameters. Sharlto Copley’s character is engaging and serves as a talking tutorial for those who choose to watch this, but also feels like a charade by film’s end.

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. (DeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe BabadookInterstellar)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Olympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of Tomorrow)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (10 Cloverfield LaneCreedScouts Guide to the Zombie ApocalypseCrimson PeakThe Martian)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Batman v Superman: Dawn of JusticePride and Prejudice and ZombiesThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2Beasts of No NationTerminator: Genisys)

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. (ConstantineRaceEverestHerculesThe Sentinel)

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. (War, The Ridiculous 6The Lost BoysZombeaversCrank)

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. (CatwomanThe GunmanThe VisitThe Fantastic FourThe Boy Next Door)

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.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for Hardcore Henry: 64.

At film’s end, you want to rally for Hardcore Henry and applaud the action standard it regularly sets and meets for itself as well as the repertoire of emotions it manages in its set pieces, but I can’t deny another part of me is a bit peeved at the story’s mediocre success.

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Movie Review: Open Grave

My pillow was calling my name and my eyes were so tired after watching the disappointing You’re Next. However, my brain was asking for something more, something that made the evening more eventful than it had been. The last time I had watched two new movies in one night was when I watched Alien (terrible) and Sharknado (terribly…hilarious!!!) and I thought maybe the same thing could happen here if I were to watch a second one. The movie that popped into my head: Open Grave. An indie film, Open Grave’s trailer looked interesting. It left me wondering what had just happened, but similar to You’re Next, got me curious. It looked like a chaotic mess for sure, but I’ve seen movies portray themselves as such but when I actually went to see the movie it came together quite nicely.

Open Grave…is not one of these films. It’s a chaotic mess at the beginning and it’s still a chaotic mess at the end. The director’s name (Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego) is more complex than this script is. You can’t even get a plot summary of the film on Wikipedia, which is probably because there is none. Sharlto Copley plays John, a man who wakes up in a mass grave and doesn’t have any idea who he is or how he got here. He’s helped out by a mute Asian girl who quickly runs away and then John finds a house with a bunch of people who are all in the same predicament: they have no idea what’s going on. Conveniently, neither does the audience, but most of us aren’t bored yet because the movie just started after all, right? There’s plenty of time for improvement.

So eventually everyone remembers their name, and one guy named Nathan discovers he knows a bunch of different languages but not the language that the mute Asian girl is writing everything in because once again, convenience calls in this situation. So the group walks around and finds a bunch of dead people tied to trees with barbed wire and a bunch of other fun stuff that’s really not all that important at all, just creepy stuff to keep us interested.

Eventually they find some abandoned buildings but none of it really makes sense. At this point, I’m getting a little impatient. When is something relevant going to happen? One of them dies, and then nothing happens again….FOREVER. This movie doesn’t know north from south or which way it wants to go with its story. Nothing they do leads to anything at all. Who are the characters? After about five eternities we find out their occupation but that’s all! These characters are hollow and don’t have a clue what’s going on just like the audience doesn’t have a clue what’s going on. Sharlto Copley has shown me he has talent in District 9 and Elysium so why he would agree to star in this I don’t know.

Memories slowly start to come back to some of the party but once again, not really anything substantial. Just a bunch of stuff that really doesn’t pertain to anything, just more fluff.

They try to bring emotions into it towards the end but it’s like “Really? You guys haven’t known what’s been going on this whole film and now you’re going to start judging each other and turning on the waterworks? Are you kidding me?”

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. (ScroogeThe Secret Life of Walter MittyThe Green MileThe Lord of the Rings: The Two TowersThe Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (PoseidonIron ManLone SurvivorThe Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the RingThe Next Three Days)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (The Usual Suspects21 Jump StreetEscape PlanCaptain America: The First AvengerDawn of the Dead)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Pacific RimThe Long Kiss GoodnightDisaster Movie)

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. (AliensAlien ResurrectionFull Metal JacketThor, You’re Next)

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. (Patriot GamesThe Great GatsbyPitch BlackAlienSerendipity)

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. (The ContractPride and PrejudiceRedemption)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The Sum of All FearsThor: 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.” (Midnight CowboyDark FuryAlien 3)

My score for Open Grave: 10.

This movie is like a giant unopened Christmas present and you unwrap all the paper and scramble through all the unnecessary tissue paper looking for your present and after looking through it for five minutes you come to the realization that there is no present. Open Grave is dreadful, atrocious, deplorable and every other synonym for terrible you can find. No one involved with this visual representation knows what is going on and the fact that this is even categorized as a movie disgusts me. I know some YouTube filmmakers who make better movies than this. This movie needs to be buried because no one wants to see this. (see what I did there?) It is a huge waste of time and if you know what’s good for your well-being, you won’t see it.

*SPOILER ALERT* IF YOU DON’T WANT THE MOVIE SPOILED, STOP READING!!!

*SPOILER’S EDITION*

They eventually, after watching what feels like three hours of your life slow-walk away, reveal that these people are a group of scientists looking for a cure to a disease. John’s the lead scientist and his “cure” knocks the subject out and causes them to lose their memory so it still needs some tinkering. The whole film the group is trying to figure out why the 18th is circled on the calendar and it ends up the military is coming in on the 18th and they’re going to kill everyone, no survivors. So everyone gets killed, not that I could care less or anything like that, except for John and his significant other. I honestly don’t care enough to look at the cast list to find out her name and neither should anyone else so moving on. John and what’s-her-face jump into the mass grave and inject themselves with this memory-loss stuff and John wakes up again after an unknown amount of time and once again, doesn’t know what’s going on, meaning the whole process starts all over again. It’s like the director tried to make the movie come full circle, except that the movie never left the starting point.

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