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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: Planet of the Apes

Tim Burton is an odd fellow who makes peculiar films. We all know this. Burton does not make everyday movies. He’s a creative fellow, I don’t argue that, but Tim Burton makes one kind of film and one kind of film only: a Tim Burton film. When Burton doesn’t have a strong hand in the creative process, the story goes down the tubes and that’s what you see here. A film that was begging for a serious undertone, the producers for this Planet of the Apes remake picked this guy as the director. I’m sorry but does he look like a serious fellow to you?

There’s only one correct answer here: no, plain and simple. Now, he’s behind the camera so he doesn’t have to look serious, I know that, but the guy’s work says, “Why so serious?” all over it and not with the Joker saying it. It has a mysterious, puzzling touch and that’s just what Burton’s good at. There’s nothing wrong with that, but this is not the guy you want to direct a Star Trek film, a Die Hard film or any action film that you want audiences to watch with a straight face.

That’s one of the biggest blunders of this film and the sad thing is that it happened before the film even started. This film wasn’t asking for a creative mastermind like Burton. It was asking for someone who knew how to direct some action sequences and how to make a story flow with some originality but not be overly complicated or utterly boring. Something in the middle of the road would do. Instead we get Burton and an extreme option: unnecessarily complicated AND utterly boring.

Adding insult to injury, Mark Wahlberg was brought in for our lead role. As I’ve mentioned countless times, Wahlberg is low on my acting totem pole. However, I don’t think it would have mattered who they got to play the role of Captain Leo Davidson. There’s no character development and the characters are so poorly written. What should have been an all-star cast of Tim Roth, Michael Clarke Duncan and the Burton must-have Helena Bonham Carter ends up to be a list of wasted talent. Pondering with how to make useless characters useful, our trio gives it the old college try but can’t cover the amount of mistakes in this script with any of the weapons in their arsenal. It’s an impossible task and part of me feels like they all knew their efforts were feeble compared to the size of the problem. The characters are trite and succeed only at leaving grins of pathetic sympathy on the faces of its viewers. Tim Roth’s General Slade, our antagonist, is especially dreadful, with grunts and shrieks being his most meaningful lines of dialogue. No development at all.

Character development should not even be a topic in this review. It shouldn’t play a major role in my enjoyment of the film either, but it does because there’s nothing else to look at. It’s a barren landscape with only one moving figure. The environment is devoid of life and has no attention-grabbing elements aside from this moving figure. This moving figure is our film and this moving figure has the physical capability of a snail. Drooling across the sands in front of me, I’m thinking about almost anything but this visual bewilderment. I’m thinking about why they made this, why they made the decisions they made in the production of this film, why no one could foresee the disjointed material in front of their own eyes.

Our human role players have blank grimaces on their faces the whole movie and act like cavemen rather than futuristic homo-sapiens. They look totally clueless and oblivious and I don’t know why this is the case. They should have a basic idea of what is going on, some comprehension, something. Estella Warren’s mouth-breathing face is chiefly mind-numbing and of no benefit to this film or anything else.

The action is incredibly disappointing and displays special effects and green screen of the lowest platitude. Wahlberg is thrown twenty feet in the air by a swing of ONE arm more than once but gets up with no injuries and that’s not even mentioning the fact that such a thing is physically impossible.

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. (Transformers: Age of ExtinctionJack ReacherGodzilla, SecretariatPrisoners)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Tears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2Young GunsCloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too.(Battle: Los AngelesSkyfallCloudy with a Chance of Meatballs300Flyboys)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (SpeedGodzilla(1998)The Incredible HulkDisaster MovieDodgeball: A True Underdog Story)

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. (The Starving GamesYou’re NextThorFull Metal JacketAlien Resurrection)

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. (Billy MadisonA Haunted House300: Rise of an EmpireCowboys and AliensSerendipity)

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. (StonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice, The Contract)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (X-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.” (A Haunted House 2Open GraveAlien 3Dark FuryMidnight Cowboy)

My score for Planet of the Apes: 36.

A predetermined fate that should have drawn audiences away from the get-go, Burton’s Planet of the Apes is lackluster in so many ways that it’s not hard to see why so many people were disgusted with this film and why so many are excited for the reboot because it’ll be hard to get much worse than this.

 

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Movie Review: The Incredible Hulk

I haven’t been writing a lot recently and when I saw this was coming up next on FX, I decided I’d give it a go. By the way, I don’t know if it was disappointing superhero movie day or something, but FX played Green Lantern, this and Ghost Rider: The Spirit of Vengeance back-to-back-to-back.

I believe I may have seen parts of this before but I can’t remember any of it. I just remember I wasn’t all that wild about it, but as I said that was a long time ago.

Louis Leterrier takes his spot in the director’s chair for this one. I enjoyed the first two Transporter installments as well as last year’s Now You See Me. They’re by no means perfect, but Leterrier is an entertainer, someone who’s not the best director but knows how to take a story and have some fun with it.

He may be entertaining but he’s taking his good old time with this one. There’s not a lot of anything happening in the first half hour of this movie. A few quick flashbacks play out on the screen before it shows Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) working at a bottling factory in Brazil. I’m guessing he’s in Brazil because he’s a fugitive running from the government, but if you’ve been reading my reviews for a while, you know I hate making assumptions. Enjoy scenes of Banner walking around, working at the factory, and learning to speak Portuguese while nothing substantial is added to the plot or to Banner’s character development. I’m not uninterested, just bored until Leterrier decides to put on his big boy gloves and get to work. Thankfully, Leterrier doesn’t leave his audiences twiddling their thumbs for much longer although there’s little doubt that the majority of this first half hour could have been removed and the story still would have made sense.

I’m not sure if I’ve used this analogy before, but it’s something that writers such as myself like to call “getting in the zone”. Whenever you start writing something, whether it’s an essay, a fictional piece, or a movie review, the first paragraphs on occasion can struggle, tending to be a random fragment of misconstrued thoughts rather than a solid piece of writing. Once you get in the zone, everything starts falling into place perfectly and you need to keep going with it. If someone stops by to say hello while I’m in the zone, I usually ask them to wait till I’m finished. I’m not trying to be rude, but when you’re in that zone and you have the rhythm going, you got to go with the flow until you’ve made all the broad strokes and details as clear-cut as possible. It’s also like if you’re playing hoops with friends. Sometimes you’re just “feeling it” and every shot is swooshing. You want the ball because you want to keep that rhythm going.

I was hoping that was going to be the case with this film when it started dragging early on. At the same time, I was becoming a doubter because filmmakers have the same option that writers have when they struggle in their first paragraphs: edit them out. We don’t need to know you had a tough time getting out of the gate. We just want to see the finished product. Leterrier and his screenwriters decided not to, instead giving audiences a work that looks like a first draft when it comes to its story. It comes across as a half-hearted and unfocused effort, which isn’t fair to audiences who went to the theater and paid to see this. I wasn’t one of those people, but if I was, I wouldn’t have been pleased.

Despite my belittling of this movie, it’s not terrible. When the story gets its wheels turning, Norton is finally gifted with the chance to develop Banner’s character but I feel there aren’t enough opportunities for Norton to do so. I didn’t know a lot about Banner prior to this film, so I was hoping that this film would educate viewers on the character that he is, maybe not in the deepest depths although that would be preferred, but that it would give us something that would allow us to say we know more about him now than we did going in. Aside from learning he had a love interest (which isn’t all that surprising, I mean who doesn’t now a days), I didn’t learn anything. Again, it’s not a slight to Norton. This is on the script writers.

Liv Tyler is our sweetheart in this film and she’s got some talent being shown here and there but not everywhere. Who’s to blame: the script writers, again. She’s got some personality but I don’t know what makes her tick aside from the basics and that she’s obviously got feelings for Banner.

William Hurt plays General Ross, who is all about the military and nothing but. He’s got no compassion, no empathy, no pity, basically nothing that makes people what they are. He’s just an overly ambitious guy whose heart is set on catching Banner, dissecting him, and making his own army of super soldiers. No depth but I hate the guy so something was done right there.

Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth)  is the leader of the SWAT team assigned to capture Banner. I was at least somewhat interested in his character until Ross asks why Blonsky wants to keep looking for Banner and his response was, “I like to fight”. Wow, that’s, just, wow. Absolutely incredible. I never saw that coming. Who would have thought that a soldier could have joined the military because he likes to fight. I mean, really? Is this all I’m getting out of this? Come on people, surely you can do better than this. Where’s the depth, the creativity, the originality, heck, the entertainment?

The action scenes are the only thing that’s not second-rate in this film but there’s certainly not enough of them because even though it’s obvious everything else in this movie is boringly clichéd and struggling to breath, Leterrier keeps going with it anyway instead of following the action detour signs that were all over this film.

There are three ways movies can be done: guns ablazing and not much else, characters talking and not much else or combine the two elements together. The first is an action film, the second a drama, which is very hard to pull off, and the third an all-around picture. It’s obvious the third type is not doable and the second one isn’t happening either, which leaves option one. However, Leterrier stubbornly continues to try to keep all the elements there even though doing so leaves this film dragging in the mud.

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. (Mission Impossible IIISpider-ManSpider-Man 2Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Mr. & Mrs. Smith)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Non-StopDivergentSpider-Man 3Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2Young Guns)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Captain America: The First AvengerDawn of the DeadFlyboys300Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs)

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. (Alien ResurrectionFull Metal JacketThorYou’re NextThe Starving Games)

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. (AlienSerendipityCowboys and Aliens300: Rise of an Empire, A Haunted House)

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 3Open Grave)

My score for The Incredible Hulk: 68.

I feel like I’m watching a remake of the love stories of King Kong and The Beauty and The Beast. One of those is better than this and one is worse. You get the pleasure of figuring out which is which. It’s a superhero movie that has already slipped the minds of most of Marvel fandom and most likely won’t reenter their minds until a remake is made, but only so they can be reminded of how disappointing this was.

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