Monday, February 28, 2011

Vanishing on 7th Street: "A Deplorable, Perplexing Calamity that Frustrates & Needs to Vanish"

By: Da’Mon Guy
      Vanishing on 7th Street is a dismal, befuddling calamity that becomes increasingly more frustrating the longer you watch it. This tragic raping of your time unsuccessfully attempts to masks itself as a horror film. The proprietors of this baffling debacle are Hayden Christensen (Takers), Thandie Newton (2012), John Leguzamo (Gamer), and Jacob Latimore.

      When a massive power outage plunges the city of Detroit into total darkness, a disparate group of individuals find themselves alone. The entire city's population has vanished into thin air, leaving behind heaps of empty clothing, abandoned cars and lengthening shadows. Soon the daylight begins to disappear completely, and as the survivors gather in an abandoned tavern, they realize the darkness is out to get them, and only their rapidly diminishing light sources can keep them safe. (

     There are a number of shortcomings of this perplexing tale of suspense, however, the biggest problem with Vanishing on 7th Street is the film offers no clear reason why anything in this appalling travesty occurs, other than that it does. It begins with a power outage. Everything goes dark and when the lights come back on, nearly everyone has vanished, leaving only their clothes in their place. This event is worldwide, causing nearly everyone to disappear. The film never gives any valid justification for the occurrence. After the initial disappearance, some “demon like” spirits in the dark are shown to be responsible and if you don’t have a source of light then you vanish. The story is quickly progressed 72 hours where the four central characters are suddenly thrown together. Everything in the film just happens. People vanish, the darkness begins to consume everything even making the days shorter, the power drain even extends to things that power light sources like batteries, and the list goes on. The darkness that is consuming everything is filled with shadows and voices. The “darkness” or “shadows” supposedly has some since of intelligence as it can produce light and confuse the would be victims so that you leave your light, enabling it to envelope you. This film is just a ambiguous wreck that doesn’t garner the time it takes to watch it not the energy you waste trying to figure it out.

     The second setback of this boorish atrocity is the manner in which each of the characters are introduced. The characters in the film are just thrown into the story. Each of the four characters just pop into the story. This baffling debacle does try to piece together some background on each of them after they all meet but by then its way too late as the film has exchanged any level of interest for a level of exasperation.

     The film’s inadequacies are not because of the actors efforts. Hayden Christensen, Thadie Newton, John Leguzamo, and Jacob Latimore all do their best to breathe some life into this perplexing misfortune but it’s the shortcomings of the script and not their performances that make this a deplorable, frustrating travesty. The characters motivated by searching for a loved one which adds to the ease of the deception of the attempts made by the "shadows" to persuade them to come out of the light.

     Vanishing on 7th Street has one lone redeeming quality. This mind numbing farce does a good job to establish a state of suspense but it’s mishandling of the story does nothing to use the level of anticipation and tension that it stirs. The opening of the film does a decent effort in raising the amount of tension. It creates an effective level of suspense but quickly hurries through the details of the story to what is supposed some scene where it tries to induce a level of horror. The scenes never work because the level of confusion that it has caused is too great to allow your mind to be scared. Some of the more suspenseful scenes were effective but the lack of clarity with the story causes them to lose entertainment value.
    Vanishing on 7th Street is easily one of the most unfulfilling films of 2011. This absurdity is a confusing, pointless charade that is too ambiguous then completely misuses the actors. This is a perplexing tale of suspense with no satisfaction and very little redeeming qualities that warrant its viewing and production. The film's climax was even more perplexing and absurd than the anti-climatic ending. No aspect of this movie offers the viewer any satisfaction. The film is supposed to be a horror/suspense film but it does very little to scare the audience. The only thing scary about this tragedy is the fact that it lasts as long as it did.

The Fighter: "An Engaging Story of Truimph"

By: Da’Mon Guy

     The Fighter is an engaging, performance driven biopic that depicts a portion of the life of World Light Welterweight champion, “Irish” Mickey Ward. The film is about boxing on the surface but deeply intertwined in the love of this brutal sport is a brotherly bond that is interconnected by a passion for the sport. The film is a testament about love, perseverance, and the loyalty to one’s family. The movie stars Mark Wahlberg, (The Other Guys), Christian Bale, (The Dark Knight), Amy Adams (Doubt), Melissa Leo (Everybody‘s Fine), Mickey O’Keefe, and Jack McGee (21).

     A boxer in the twilight of his boxing career overcomes the various setbacks and distractions from his uncivil family to find love and a level of success. As Mickey has begun his boxing career, he is heavily influenced by a dysfunctional family that glorifies Dickey’s singular moment to glory and burdens Mickey with the guilt of growing up in his brother’s shadow.

     The Fighter is a absorbing testament of love, courage, and determination. This is an engaging showcase that focuses on a the love of a uncharacteristic brotherly bond. The film is a biopic set in the mid 1980’s that is based on the rise to stardom within the ranks of boxing by “Irish” Mickey Ward. Ward was the younger brother to another boxer, Dick “Dickey” Eklund. The Fighter isn’t really a sports film. Boxing serves as a backdrop to the relationship between brothers that grew closer because of a common love of the sport. The film’s boxing sequences are only minimally displayed as this part of Mickey Ward’s life isn’t the focus of the film. The film focuses on the turbulent but enduring relationship between Ward and the man with whom he idolized for much of his life, his brother, Dickey. Dick “Dickey“ Eklund, a man from a small town in Mass., became a success when he shared a boxing match with Sugar Ray Leonard. Going toe to toe with a boxing great was the highlight of Dickey’s life but he is now reduced to constantly replaying the glory of that moment in his head. Shifting the focus of the film from the boxing aspect to the relationship between the brothers allows this film to standout from the overused rags to riches story. This give the movie more substance and allows us to sympathize more with the characters as opposed to this being just another sports film.

     This touching gaze into Ward’s life is comprised of a number of impressive performances. Nearly every role in the film is portrayed well. These first-rate performances are headlined by Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale. Bale, however, is the star of the film as his performance of Dickey Eklund is easily the best of his career. Bale’s masterful, scene stealing portrayal of Eklund is nothing short of Oscar worthy. He portrays the former boxer turned crack addict with a exquisite touch. Simultaneously, allowing the audience a multitude of feelings toward the performance. Bale steals the show from the opening credits and never slows down. He energizes the film, turning this from an average biopic into a unforgettable, enjoyable experience. Wahlberg’s performance is equally entertaining as well. It is just overshadowed by the stunning performance of Bale. Wahlberg’s depiction of Mickey Ward is a convincing treat. Wahlberg’s performance is the opposite of Bale as his is done more with body language and subtlety. Amy Adams and Melissa Leo both give some of their best performances to date. Adams as the strong willed girlfriend and Leo as Ward's overbearing mother. Both give commendable performances to bring this to life.

     The Fighter allows us an enlightening glance into the life of Mickey Ward. The movie does a terrific job at illustrating the various obstacles that Ward overcame on his way to stardom. The film aptly displays the turbulent trials of family and life that Ward rose above to become the champ. The movie is filled with emotion spurring moments as we bear witness to the chaos that surrounded Mickey Ward's rise.  Christian Bale's performance is truly not to be missed as this is easily one of the better films of 2010. This is an inspiring tale that incites as well as entertains.


Toy Story: " An Emotional, Heartwarming Addition that is Easily the Best Movie of 2010"

By: Da’Mon Guy

     Toy Story 3 is an extremely entertaining, heartwarming, stellar animated feature that continues the wonderful adventures of Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the toys. This latest iteration stresses the bonds of family while humorously highlighting the progression of life. This is the third addition to the lovable franchise of films by the collaborative efforts of Disney/ Pixar. This latest emotional journey features most of the returning actors that have added their voices to bring these characters to life. Tom Hanks (Angels & Demons), Tim Allen (Wild Hogs), Joan Cusak (My Sister‘s Keeper), Don Rickles (Toy Story 2), John Ratezberger (Up), Estelle Harris (The Grand), Wallace Shawn (Furry Vengeance), Jodi Benson (Enchanted) and John Morris (Toy Story 1,2, &3) all resume their recurring roles. The film also adds some new voices such as Michael Keaton (The Other Guys) and Ned Beatty (Shooter).
     Toy Story 3 is the enjoyable, heartfelt continuing adventure of Woody (Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Allen) and the rest of the toys that are owned by a Andy. The franchise returns to the big screen after an 11 year absence. This latest iteration shows the progression of the age of Andy, the toys owner. Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the toys feel unwanted and unloved as Andy has progressed to the point where he has outgrown them. Now a teen about to enter college, the toys question if they will have a place in his life as they have only become an afterthought.

     This tear jerking tale features is as good as movie’s get. It as a fine addition to the two great prior films in the series. This one aptly details all of the characters progression since the initial story was introduced many years ago. The film shows the growth of Woody and Buzz’s friendship during the course of the series. This newest addition to the franchise continues to focuses on what made these films great initially while building on the fantastic foundation that was laid by the two prior films.

     Toy Story 3 is an entertaining masterpiece as it institutes a multitude of warm underlying themes that are disguised masterfully within the comedy and the appearance of a mere children’s cartoon. The film’s is unquestionably about family and friendship. Each of the Toy Story films have always been. It addresses positive as well as negative themes. The film addresses issues such as abandonment and solidarity. On the more positive aspect, this one is more about progression and how love, loyalty and family must endure all things.

     The dynamic magic of the first two films continues in Toy Story 3 despite an11 year absence. The cast has a magic that is uncanny over the course of a trilogy but has maintained it throughout. Toy Story 3 returns most of the cast from the prior two movies and never misses a beat. All of the are as good if not better than the first two. This is highlighted by the duo of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen. Hanks (Woody) and Allen’s (Buzz) chemistry are at the core of the franchise and is better than ever. The two set the bar for the franchise that continues to entertain. Nearly all of the cast from the prior two films return to this emotional experience. Michael Keaton (Ken) and Ned Beatty (Lotso) add some great voice performances to this third iteration to add to an already stellar cast.
     I love the first two Toy Story films, I really do. And Toy Story 3 has found its way into a place into my heart right next to the first two films. This one may be the most emotionally stirring of the three. The series of films are some of the most emotionally evoking films that you’ll see. Each one of them induces a different type of emotion. The first made you cheer as Buzz‘s saved Woody “This isn‘t flying,” “This is falling with style.”, 2 made you happy as Woody and Buzz welcomed Jesse and Bullseye and this one will bring you to tears of joy. The film will bring you to tears as Andy says good bye to Woody, Buzz and the rest of the Toy Story family of toys. When Andy gives a heartfelt explanation of his affinity for each of his make believe friends you will literally get choked up. The films are about feeling good and a celebration of childhood. These are more than just animated features, they are transcended stories that are universally appealing. Toy Story 3 should have won the best picture of the year academy award as it is a must see film for one and all.

The Lovely Bones: "An Emotionally Charged Testament of Love"

By: Da’Mon Guy

     The Lovely Bones is a tragic, emotionally charged expose that delicately pears into the afterlife. The film is a visual delight that revolves around the senseless murder of a 14-year-old girl. The movie stars Saoirse Ronan (Atonement), Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter), Rachel Weisz (Constantine), Stanley Tucci (Easy A), Susan Sarandon (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps), Rose McIver, Michael Imperoli (My Baby‘s Daddy), and Reece Ritchie (Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time).

     After a young girl is murder, the movie focuses on the effects of her death on her family and the man who killed her as she watches them all from the afterlife.

     The Lovely Bones is an engaging, tragic but muddled story of love. This is a powerful portrayal of a family’s struggle to continue while dealing with the loss of a love one. The film was released in 2009 and is based upon a book written in 2002 by Alice Sebold. This beautifully depressing tale centers on a young girl’s murder and the effects of the loss on everyone around her. She then chooses to watch over all of the central figures in her life including the man who murder her from the afterlife.

      The film delicately handles this tragic subject with a great deal of tact as much of the brutality of this horrible act is unseen. The film provides the audience more than enough to stir multiple charged emotional responses throughout the course of the film. The Lovely Bones is not a murder mystery. It is an interesting look at death, afterlife, and how it affects loved ones. Use enduring the loss

      The Lovely Bones is a really unique story that is slightly mishandled in its delivery as a movie. It is filled with a number of unsatisfying aspects. The film is all about emotion. In particular, Susie (Ronan). The emotional aspects of the film are more less conveyed though the subject matter and through the performance of the actors. The movie does an adaquate job at establishing a relationship between Susie and her father. The film establishes the bond between Susie and her father but it mismanges the connection between her and the other members of her family. The movie shows the level of connectivity that Susie shares with her family. We never really understand the end of the film as Susie's relationship with her mother isn't clearly defined. Most of the more powerful moments are mishandled leaving us without a sense of satisfaction.

     The film is a visual masterpiece filled with terrific imagery. The movie representation of the afterlife is one of the better points of the film. Susie’s time in the plane of existence between heaven and Earth is displayed marvelously. The colors and vivid, bright and enchanting as her time there is used to convey the large gambit of emotions that she is dealing with after her murder. The film uses all kinds of imagery to display the her time here.

     The visuals however great they may be don’t hide the fact that this part of the movie is slightly hard to follow. Susie’s time in the afterlife before Heaven is a very muddled aspect of the film. It’s supposed to convey her emotional state, which it does to a point but there are other aspects that are mishandled. The other victims that appear in the afterlife with Susie was an extremely confusing and disappointing aspect of the film.

     The Lovely Bones is a very emotionally stimulating movie. The subject matter of the movie makes it a very difficult movie to evaluate. The film causes us to instantly garner an almost immediate level of hate because of the subject of the movie. However, the film really gives no sense of satisfaction. The movie builds a great level of emotion only to never allow the audience to release it. It is filled with dramatic irony as Susie’s murderer is killed but not because of his heinous crimes but through irony. Susie’s wish for his death comes true but not in the manner that she wished for. A good watch to satisfy a boring night at home.

Battle for Tierra: "A Heartfelt, Fresh Perspective to the Alien Invasion Story that Showcases the Best Characteristics of Humanity"

By: Da’Mon Guy

     Battle for Terra is an entertaining, touching, sci-fi animated feature that uses fresh perspective on the usual alien invasion story. This is an thought provoking, insightful film that utilizes a animated sci fi story to convey a multitude of themes. The film features an all star casts that utilizes the voice talents of Evan Rachel Wood (The Wrestler), Luke Wilson (Death at a Funeral), Dennis Quaid (Vantage Point), James Gardner (The Notebook), Amanda Peet (2012), Danny Glover (Death at a Funeral), Rosanna Arquette (American Pie: The Book of Love), Brian Cox (Red), David Cross (Alvin and the Chipmunks: the Squeakquel), Chris Evans (The Losers), Mark Hamill (Star Wars), Ron Pearlman (Hell Boy 1 &2), Justin Long (Youth In Revolt), and Danny Trejo (Machete).

     Battle for Terra is an animated sci fi adventure that uses a unique perspective on the typical alien invasion story. This particular tale does a 180 degree turn on the take and makes the humans the invaders of another planet, Terra. This viewpoint added a fresh touch to the usual redundant alien invasion story.

     This entertaining animated feature premiered in 2007 and is loaded with voice talents by a number of Hollywood stars as well as a good story. Battle for Terra is stockpiled with a multitude of themes that define the nature of man. The movie aptly emphasizes the violent nature of mankind as this animated feature emphasizes how man’s continually destructive nature has now brought the human spices to the point of extinction. Our destructive ways have completely destroyed the earth, Mars, and Venus. As a result, humans have been forced to live in an “Ark” in are looking for another suitable home. The film takes place generations after that catastrophic event as the Ark is now breaking down.

     The film is visually appealing as the colors and richness of the animation are clearly a part of the showcase. The film’s visuals accentuate the story as it is used to help immerse the audience into the culture and environment of this would be home to the potential conquerors, the humans. It also gives a glimpse at the Terrans, a spiritual alien race that float. Most of the characters are not up to the great standard that is now present in most animated features as the humans appear a little odd. This however adds to the sentiment that they are the strangers as compared to the Terrans, who are much more detailed and defined. The colors of Terra and the backgrounds of the planet’s surroundings are magnificently brought to life.

     The film speaks volumes about the nature of mankind. It uses the destruction of Earth to illustrate how destructive we can be. In the same breath however, it uses the Terrans to show what could have been the exact opposite of what mankind has become as the Terrans almost destroyed their planet in there indulgence with violence and conquest. The Terrans are a species that were much like man at one point, vicious and war torn but have given that up in order to offset a dismal fate.

     The film focuses on the relationship between a rebellious Terrean, Mala (Wood) and a stranded pilot, Jim Stanton (Wilson) who forge a friendship out of an unlikely chance meeting between the two. This is very reminiscent of Enemy Mine but not to that degree.

     I enjoyed Battle for Terra. This film turned out to be so much more than I expected. The trailers make it appear to be some animated Star Wars like movie but the movie is so much more than that. The film is a great showcase for thematic expression. This animated feature cleverly disguises a number of themes. The overriding is the one of man’s indulgence with violence and conquest. However, in addition to those, the film masks messages about discrimination, love, sacrifice, friendship, and religion just to name a few. It is a astutely written, well thought story that does more than just entertain. It spurs one to think, feel, and react to this touching tale of friendship and sacrifice. It isn’t the greatest animated film but it is one of the deepest. A good watch with or without the kids.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dinner for Schmucks: "A Moderatley Entertaining Comedic Happenstance that Teeters the Line of Being Hilarous and Being Utterly Deplorable"

By: Da’Mon Guy

     Dinner for Schmucks is a moderately humorous happenstance that blurs the line of being an enjoyable, amusing comedy and an humorless mind-numbing absurdity. This muddled experience is a humorous attempt to ridicule the more oddly eccentric characters within our society. It stars Paul Rudd (I Love You, Man), Steve Carell (Date Night), Stephannie Syzostak (The Devil Wears Prada), Zack Galfinikas (Due Date), and Jermaine Clement (Despicable Me). It also features Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek 2009), Lucy Punch (Hot Fuzz) in lesser supporting roles.

     After an executive is fired, an aspiring financial advisor seeks to assume his position. He quickly convinces his boss to allow him the opportunity to gain the position he covets but with conditions. He must attend a monthly dinner with the rest of the corporate yuppies, however there’s a catch, the dinner is a chance for the yuppies to mock at the less fortunate, more eccentric, characters that attend. They call them idiots.

     Dinner for Schmucks is a mediocre comedy that is a collaboration of humor and senselessness. The film maintains a brief flirtation with being hilarious but it also teeters on being repugnantly simple-minded. It possesses no middle ground in between the two. This comedy within this film will either have you laughing or extremely irritated. This confusing debacle has some abrupt flashes of comedic genius. However, for every good comedic instance within it, it also contains too many dead spots to allow the audience to enjoy the very amusing moments. This movie has some of the more “cricket spurring” comedic occurrences that you will ever witness within a film. The flashes of humor are enjoyable but many of them are used to the extreme. Quickly draining the humor of the moment where it kills the pleasantry of the joke. Some of the more physical, slapstick moments are the best in the film. The scene where Darla comes to visit Tim after Barry mistakenly invites her over via email, the initial brunch that where Tim meets Mueller and Barry brings Darla (Punch) Others such as Barry’s obsession with mice and Kieran (Clement) running around in a goat costume are severely despicable.
     Deeply embedded within this complicated farce is a warm message about truth, love, and friendship. The movie is a great showcase of true friendship and remaining true to oneself. Tim unwittingly learns this though his coincidental meeting that turns into an unsuspecting friendship with Barry. Though his friendship with Barry, Tim begins to recognize aspects about himself as well as other shortcomings within his life. Through the course of the comical change of events, Tim realizes that Barry is a good person and true friend.

     Paul Rudd and Steve Carell make a good comedic tandem. The two play of one another well within this muddled subterfuge of misfortune. Rudd plays Tim, an aspiring executive who is stuck in an existence of unfulfilled opportunities. Rudd as the straight man is an accustomed role that he depicts very well. Rudd’s straightforward portrayal opens the door for a zany over the top performance by Steve Carell. Carell gives a great performance as the dim witted, completely misunderstood but lovable, Barry. Barry’s wonderfully misguided comical bouts with stupidity drive the story and the bond that is formed between he and Tim. The misguided attempts by Barry garner much of the laughs within this duality.
     This dim witted story is a great showcase for some of the most ridiculous characters that you will ever see in a movie. Most of them are just vehicles to advance the story. In addition to Carell’s wonderfully idiotic interpretation of Barry, the movie is filled with a number odd mildy humorous characters. These characters led by Carell’s Barry are just like the rest of the film. Some are extremely funny but others are widely irritating. These characters enhance but also detract from the comic decadance of the film. Darla, Tim’s obsessive stalker, Kieran (Clement), the strange and obsessively horny artist, and Therman (Galfinikas), the mind controlling tax employee all do their part to bring this humorous debauchery to life.
     The highlight of this humorous spoof is the final dinner where all of the “so called” idiots are revealed. The comedy surrounding the dinner follows the same mandate as the rest of this mismanaged farce, it’s hit or miss. Some of it is sheer funny but as with the rest of the film’s comedy, it quickly turns it into something deplorable, almost tortuous, completing ruining the humor that it had just inspired only minutes before. The “idiots” come out in all shapes and forms. Some of the them are mildly amusing such as the Blind Swordsman and Barry. While others such as the Pet Psychic and Thurman are ready made targets for gun practice. Barry and Thurman’s finale showdown was one of the most senseless, irritating, utterly deplorable attempts to entertain you. The only thing funny about was the sheer idiotic nature of it.

     I’ve never seen a movie like Dinner for Schmucks. The film is as funny as it is irritating. I am completely torn as to whether or not to recommend this film to anyone. Some of it is funny as ever but much of it needs to be burned. If you are a Steve Carell fan then you should check this out but if you’re just a casual fan of film then watch this with caution and only if you don’t have anything else that you would like to see first.

Devil: "A Unexpectedly Entertaining Story of Suspense with a Great Twist"

By: Da’Mon Guy

     Devil is an suspenseful, compelling tale that entertainingly intertwines horror with religion. The film intricately focuses religion, sin, and forgiveness. The film is the latest, moderately enjoyable thriller from M. Night Shyamalan. The movie is the first decent film in a long series of continually disappointing catastrophes by Shyamalan. The movie features Chris Messina (Julia &Julia), Logan Marshall Green (Brooklyn‘s Finest), Jenny O’Hara (Matchstick Men), Bojana Novakovic (Edge of Darkness), Bokeem Woodbine (Black Dynamite), Jeffery Arned (500 Days of Summer), Jacob Vargas (The Hills Have Eyes 2), and Matt Craven (Public Enemies).

     Four people become trapped in an elevator. As they are killed one by one. The details about each of the participants history slowly begin to surface revealing the truth about them all.

     Devil is multifaceted thriller that uses a religious theme to induce a level of thought provoking fear into its audience. The film begins with allegory from the outset. The film’s cinematography is used as a precursor, showing the buildings and all of the scenes are reversed with the buildings upside down with the sky as the bottom of the screen. This incites two critical points of foreshadowing. It shows the devil’s level of control as the dominant deity within the film as well it is a foreboding of things to come. Devil also utilizes a voice over during the film to facilitate the story as our narrator gives us some insight into the evil series of events that are soon to unfold before the audience.

     The film has a multitude of religious aspects intertwined into its maddening horror. Devil addresses many profound religious aspects such as forgiveness, attrition, sin, and even sacrifice. M. Night Shyamalan superbly embeds these aspects into a clever suspense tale that aptly intermingles aspects of each of the four characters sub stories to help facilitate and accentuate the main story of the plot.

     The film stylishly builds a good level of suspense and anticipation for the terror, however, it loses a great deal of the terror as the constant blackouts which only feature audio. The initial occurrence was able to build the anticipation but the repetition of it became sickening. It successfully raised the level of suspense and tension only to lose it because of the redundancy of the scenes.

     The casts is headlined by mostly unknowns. They do an admirable job in bringing this religious based horror to life. Chris Mussina carries most of the emotional baggage as he is the haunted by the deaths of his family. He conveys his emotion genuinely and believable. Logan Marshall Green also adds a commendable performance as our second protagonist. Green’s performance carries the film as his character’s background is the central focus of film. The other casts members all add to the story but nothing spectacular.

     Finally, a M. Night Shyamalan movie worth going to see. Devil is actually an enjoyable film. After Shyamalan’s last string of constant disappointments, I was extremely leery of going to see another one of his films. I was surprisingly wrong as this is a good movie (for one of his, anyway). Devil gives a glimpse of the magic that Shyamalan had with his first few films such as The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs. This movie actually shows why people continue to allow him to make movies. Devil has a really decent story with an enjoyable ending. Devil is an entertaining film that will be good film to satisfy a dreary night at home.

Death Race 2: "A Moderately Entertaining Prequel that Continues the Auto Carnage that Began in the First Film"

By: Da’Mon Guy

     Death Race 2 is a mildly entertaining, action packed, showcase of car carnag that cleverly attempts to capitalize on the success of the 2008 film, Death Race. The movie is a direct to video release. This prequel stars Luke Goss (Hellboy 2: The Golden Army), Lauren Cohan (Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj), Ving Rhames (The Surrogates), Tanit Phoenix (Lost Boys: the Tribe), Sean Bean (The Hitcher), Fredrick Koehler (Death Race 2008), Robin Shou (Death Race 2008) and Danny Trejo (Machete).

     Death Race 2 is a sequel to the 2008 version of Death Race. This is the third film to bear the “Death Race” name. The first premiered in 1976 under the name of “Death Race 2000.” The second was the the 2008 film was a remake of the 1976 movie and the one that this movie is based upon. This movie is a prequel that establishes the beginnings of the brutal, violent race and the origin of the heralded driver, Frankenstein. Frankenstein was the fabled driver that Jason Statham’s character, Jensen Ames, replaced in the most recent Death Race film. This follow up returns a few of the same cast as it aptly fills in some of the mystery that sounded the rise of the illustrious driver, Frankenstien.

     The film is one of the rare direct to video features that actually does some credit to the motion picture original. The film has the look and some of the feel of the first film. It expands on the story of the first one. Conversely, the story is too rushed as much of the first half of it hastily whisks through the details of it to get the actual Death Race. This muddled action tale does manage to explore some key aspects that were briefly mentioned in the first film.

     This direct to video feature introduces some new characters into the storyline as well as returning some of the familiar faces from the first one. Luke Goss takes charge of the film as Carl “Frankenstein” Lucas. Goss does a believable job as the talented but doomed driver. Goss's shortcomings in the film are more about the script than his acting. The character of “Lists” (Koehler) returns in this muddled prequel. List was one of the key characters from the 2008 Death Race. He does have a larger role and this version expands on the fondness that Lists had for Frankenstein in the prior film. Katrina Banks (Phoenix) as the vicious but ambitious creator of the races was a good addition to the series. Sean Bean and Ving Rhames also do their respective parts to add to a less than stellar script.

     The action of the film is the highlight of this. The action sequences are moderately impressive as the races were recreated. All of the cars from the prior film make an appearance but nearly all of them are driven by new drivers with the exception of 14k‘s (Shou) car. The creators of the this prequel uses the same sets and cars to tie it back to the original. The races are as entertaining and brutal as the prior.

     The biggest detractor from this is the pace of the it. The film also suffers in the dialogue. Much of it feels cheesy and poorly written. The script is too rushed and tries to tie everything up too quickly. This causes the movie to feel rushed. In addition, the film’s use of slow motion sequences during the action of film were overused and unneeded. They were a clearly a detractor that hindered some really good cinematography.

     Let’s face it. This is a film about action if nothing else. Death Race 2 won’t wow you. This is a direct to video film that will not excite nor will it disappoint you. If you seen the first then you can enjoy this without some preconceived, extremely high expectations. The film does just what it’s about. It gives some mildly enjoyable action, a manageable level of brutality, with some violence thrown in. Nothing more, nothing less. It makes for a satisfactory watch to satisfy a boring night on the couch.

The Expendables: "Easily the Best Pure Action Movie in Years"

By: Da’Mon Guy

     The Expendables is an action packed, star studded collaboration that returns the action movie genre to its glory days of the 80‘s and 90‘s. This commingling of talent features Sylvester Stallone (Rambo films), Jason Statham (Transporter trilogy), Jet Li (The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor), Dolph Lundgren (Rocky IV), Randy Couture (Scorpion King 2), Terry Crews (Friday After Next), Mickey Rourke (Iron Man 2), Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight), and Steve Austin (The Condemned). It also features appearances by Bruce Willis (Die Hard movies) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator movies).

     A team of mercenaries fights to free a small country from a dictator.
     The Expendables is an action oriented, collaborative vision brought to life by its star and director, Sylvester Stallone. The film is an overdue realization for many who fell in love with some of the great action films from the 80’s as it is the dream convergence of three of Hollywood’s greatest action stars of all time. Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Stallone as the star, with Willis and Schwarzenegger making brief cameos, was a delightful realization of every action movie fan of the last few decades. This alliance was a long overdue treat to see on film. The three quickly establishes a level of camaraderie within this brief flirtation of satisfaction. Stallone, Willis, and Schwarzenegger commence a verbal jousting that is extremely brief and somewhat unsatisfying. However, the trio makes the most of the limited minutes they appear in the film.
     The film is a multiparty usage of ammunition that harkens back to the classic time when there were actual action stars and not these pseudo action imitators that have spread throughout modern movies like pestilence. Stallone, Willis, and Schwarzenegger took the characters and the movie they portrayed in and made them iconic. Each of them has at least one iconic action character under their belts. Despite their limited range in the roles of choice (except Willis), each of them truly embraced being an action star first and not as a secondary acting choice. They were “tough guys” and the we believed and loved it. Today’s modern action stars are just the opposite. They use a role here or there and try to pass themselves off in a role that is more unlike them causing the film and the character to lose plausibility. Hollywood does a disservice to the audience and the genre with these catastrophic choices.
     Each of the main characters relive some of their best roles from the 80’s-90’s. Stallone was back to form as our aging protagonist and leader, Barney Ross. The Expendables includes Hollywood’s only modern day action star, Jason Statham. He is equally impressive as Lee Christmas, Ross’s best friend and second in command of the Expendables. Statham’s fighting prowess and charisma are on full display as the crusading mercenary. Stallone and Statham had a excellent level of chemistry as the mismatched duo. The modern action star with the former star dynamic worked well for the film. Mickey Rourke does his scene stealing best as he adds a few moments of excellent entertainment as the retired conscious of the team now turned tattoo artist, Tool. As Gunner, Dolph Lundgren returns to form as the crazy, slightly deranged characters that he is best at. His line of “Warning shot” as he began the first action sequence of the film was an entertaining precursor to the initial battle. Lundgren was a scene stealer within the film. He clearly took advantage of his limited screen time. Jet Li, Terry Crews, and Randy Couture as the other members of the team are more or less “eye candy” used to fluff the story with other action stars who sign on to make the selling point of the film work. Eric Roberts stars as the lead antagonist. He does an admirable job as the potential nemesis to the star studded alliance that opposes him. Roberts was cool, collective, and entertainingly vicious as James Munroe, the now rogue CIA agent. Steve Austin adds a good cameo as Munroe’s muscle.

     This isn’t by any means a performance driven story. So don’t expcet any Academy award winning acting. Sylvester Stallone is clearly getting better as a director as this is his ninth directorial effort and best to date. Rocky Balboa, Rambo, and now the Expendables are starting to show his skill as a director. He doesn’t focus on the acting nor the plot for this. He cleverly uses the talent that he has and delivers an action filled film that is likable and believable. The man clearly knows how to put together an action flick.

     The plot isn’t the greatest nor is the delivery of the story but that’s not why you go to see this type of film. The Expendables straightforward. It’s about action and The Expendables doesn’t disappoint. It come at you from the outset. The action sequences are bold, fast, and violent. They immediately immerse you into why you came to see The Expendables. None of them disappoint as each is better then the one before. The film is a vehicle for the action and the convergence its this collaboration of stars. And what a good ride it is.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tru Grit: "An Entertaining Return to the Days of Yesteryear"

By: Da’Mon Guy

     Tru Grit is an engaging, extremely entertaining, performance driven drama set in the days of yesteryear about redemption, determination and “True Grit.” The film epitomizes the former love affair that prior generations had with the western genre. It is a showcase for an impressive, breakout performance by 14 year old Haliee Seinfield. The movie also stars Jeff Bridges (Tron: Legacy), Matt Damon (The Bourne series of films), Josh Brolin (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps), and Barry Pepper (Seven Pounds).

     After the murder of her father, a determined young girl seeks the aid of a U.S. Marshall to bring her father’s killer to justice.
   Tru Grit is an exceptional remake of a classic 1969 movie of the same name that featured John Wayne. This latest version characterizes why the western was once the pinnacle of American film making. The movie is an excellent drama that aptly and explicitly compliments the genre. Tru Grit is an incredibly accurate recreation of the days gone by on a multitude of levels. The picture envelopes the audience into the era with the apt usage of broken dialogue as well much of the verbiage in the film are pleasantly used to give the film the richness of the old west. it also displays a brief showing of the prejudice against the American Indians during a hanging scene that adds a great level of realism to the film, instantaneously transporting the audience into the wild west.

     The film is a terrific tale of determination, redemption, and retribution. It revolves around the unwavering determination and indomitable perseverance of young Maggie Ross (Steinfeld). As we follow her pursuit of justice for the senseless murder of her father at the hands of Tom Chaney (Brolin). The theme of the film is consistent with most westerns as this story focuses on family, revenge, and good old cowboys.
     Tru Grit is highlighted by a number of outstanding performances. The are out led by youthful Maggie Ross, who is portrayed exquisitely by fourteen year old Haliee Steinfeld. Steinfeld won an open casting call in which she beat 15,000 other potential young actresses for the role. Steinfeld’s terrific performance is a masterpiece and the best in the film in spite of being cast against some Hollywood’s finest. Her remarkable portrayal is the backbone of the movie. It drives it and epitomizes the title of the film, “Tru Grit.” Steinfeld’s performance isn’t anything short of Oscar worthy.

     The film also features remarkable performances by the other actors that headline the film. Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, and Barry Pepper each make their mark in the stirring retelling of a classic Hollywood film. The quartet unite their talents and intertwine them magnificently with the performance of Haliee Steinfeld to revisit the time of cowboys and Indians. Bridges was exceptional as the mulish Royster Cogburn. Bridges interpretation of the ornery one eyed U.S. Marshall was an entertaining indulgence to behold as his stubbornness was only exceeded by his drinking. He was the classic cowboy stereotype that helps to define the film as it was a terrific offset to the performance of Steinfeld. You can’t have a western without one. Matt Damon’s depiction of the verquashsis Laboeuf, often called Labeef in the film, was one of Damon’s best. He completes the fine trio of performances to bring this modern oddity to life. Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper also make brief but admirable appearances as the antagonist to our mismatched trio of heroes.

     Tru Grit is a high-quality film that whisks you into the wild west. While I have never seen the original, this film offers more than enough to measure up to that picture. The film features a trio of really good performances and a good story that are entertaining enough to satisfy any moviegoer. Fans of the western genre as well as those who aren’t particularly fond of the genre will be exceedingly entertained. The story as well as the breakout performance by Steinfeld makes the movie universally appealing. An enjoyable experience that everyone should see.