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Thursday, January 26, 2012

‘Man On A Ledge’ Jumps To Ridiculous Conclusions

Man On A Ledge:  2 ½ out of 5
Nick Cassidy:  Don’t worry, everyone’s looking at me
There is a great film out there that seems to be about one thing, but is actually a lot more like another thing entirely.  It involves a man who must place himself in a precariously high position on a building, with a plan to accomplish a certain task.  Despite having this task in mind however, the film actually plays out by having more in common with a heist movie.  The film I am referring to is Man on Wire, the Oscar-winning documentary about a man who performed a high-wire walk across the Twin Towers in New York during the 70s.  Man on a Ledge is similarly about a man perching himself outside of a building, with a heist-like situation occurring at the same time, but is also vastly inferior.  There is certainly some enjoyment to be had, but not enough to look over the incredible amount of suspension of disbelief involved in taking the central scheme and plotting of this film seriously, let alone recommend the film.

Jack London Would Be Proud Of Neeson’s Fight For Survival In ‘The Grey’

The Grey:  4 ½ out of 5
John Ottway:  Once more into the fray.  Into the last good fight I’ll ever know…
It seems like Liam Neeson has been given quite the upgrade from tall, steadfast lead actor to confident, ass-kicking action start in recent years.  Neeson has certainly been reliable in years past, but since Taken, no one seems to question whether or not Neeson has the capabilities of taking someone down if he has to.  The Grey reunites Neeson with A-Team director Joe Carnahan for a film that is almost an opposite of that ridiculous (ly fun) action flick for a gritty survival story that is every bit as focused on being a study of Neeson’s personal mental anguish as it is an intense journey for he and the other unfortunate souls to survive in the icy cold wilderness, with wolves looming on the horizon.  There may be some backlash from those expecting a more wolf-bashing-focused tale, but I really appreciated the dark level of maturity combined with the visceral nature of the survival effort, along with what I consider a top tier acting performance from Liam Neeson.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Out Now with Aaron and Abe: Episode 41 - Haywire

This week’s episode of Out Now with Aaron and Abe is a bit of a quickie, despite going through all the fun segments and featuring two guests.  Aaron and Abe are joined by (a very much alive) Jordan Grout and HHWLOD’s own Mr. Jim Dietz, as the group discusses the latest from Steven Soderbergh, Haywire.  As mentioned, the gang goes forth with all the regular segments as well, including “Know Everybody”, trailer talk (Expendables 2 and GI JOE: Retaliation), box office results, retro reviews, and the return of games.  The episode is a bit shorter than most, but it still is pretty packed.

So now, if you’ve got an hour to kill…

Swinton Excels, While Talking About ‘Kevin’ Can Be Soul Crushing

We Need To Talk About Kevin:  3 ½ out of 5
Kevin:  Just because you’re used to something doesn’t mean you have to like it.  You’re use to me.
In times past, when it comes to certain horror movies or thrillers, I have noted that the “creepy kid” subgenre is one that usually gets to me pretty easily.  We Need to Talk About Kevin is not quite a horror film or thriller, but more a psychological drama surrounding the mental state of a mother dealing with her son who is, for lack of a better term, a psychopath.  While his actions certainly escalate to creepy, it is the way this plot unfolds and how we see all of the things the mother has to deal with that kept me involved on an incredibly frustrating level regarding Kevin’s growth from a young child onward.  We Need to Talk About Kevin is certainly well acted, but it very much became an unlikely chore for me to not attempt to reach into the screen and slap Kevin.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

‘Red Tails’ Crash Lands

Red Tails:  1 ½ out of 5
Lightning:  How do you like that Mr. Hitler!
Red Tails is like a bad, unironic comic book movie come to life.  It could have been a number of different things, including a thrilling war-time action/adventure or a moving depiction of the turmoil faced by African American pilots during wartime, as they had to prove themselves in the face of segregation.  The film actually plays out as a really bland, by-the-numbers action/war film that is rife with clichés and one-note characters.  There is no real look deeper into its message beyond “racism is bad” and the elaborately designed aerial dogfights feel almost too overproduced to actually have any dramatic weight to them.  All of this and I haven’t even mentioned how dreadful the dialogue is.  One can surely find much more to glean from the HBO movie The Tuskegee Airmen (recently reviewed HERE), let alone a History Channel special, or just watch Star Wars if they have the desire to find something enjoyable, educational, or both; just as long as they avoid Red Tails.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

‘Haywire’ Is Streamlined, Offbeat, And Brutal

Haywire:  3 ½ out of 5
Mallory Kane:  You can tell me right now why you sold me out, or you can tell me in ten minutes, when I have my hands around your throat.
Once again, the month of January has actually managed to deliver some disposable fun, this time in the form of an action thriller from director Steven Soderbergh.  Haywire falls into the director’s category of more mainstream, but it certainly boasts a strong cast and enough offbeat qualities to make it stand out a bit.  Of course, the main thing to take away from this film is that star (and MMA fighter) Gina Carano can kick all of our asses, and look good doing it, which is especially important, given that the story is stripped down to basics and does not rely on having much complexity or originality in the narrative.  Haywire is held together by its cast, authentic and brutal fights, and its style, which feels like a throwback to 70s revenge flicks.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Out Now with Aaron and Abe: Episode 40 – War Horse

This week’s episode of Out Now with Aaron and Abe is the first official “regular” episode of 2012.  Aaron and Abe are joined by Mark Hobin and Mark Johnson to discuss the Steven Spielberg period-family-drama, War Horse, as well as provide some thoughts on the 2012 Golden Globes (the episode was recorded the morning before the ceremony).  Along with the film and the award show talk, the gang goes through the list of regular segments as well, including “Know Everybody”, Trailer Talk (Men In Black 3 and The Hunger Games), Retro Reviews, and other fun stuff.  It is nice to be back to the regular episode format.

So now, if you’ve got an hour to kill…

Monday, January 16, 2012

Out Now with Aaron & Abe: Bonus Zombie Episode Blow Out

Greetings to the living and undead, boys and girls, burger lovers and brain eaters, this special episode of Out Now with Aaron and Abe is another crossover episode with The Walking Dead TV Podcast (technically making it the 50th Episode of WDTV Podcast) and Aaron and Abe are delighted to be putting on a show for fans of both sets of listeners.  This special episode ties into all things zombie film related, meaning that everything discussed relates to one of the most popular sub-horror genres, the zombie movie.  Joining Aaron and Abe in this discussion are guests Alan Aguilera (Of frequent Out Now guest status) and Jordan from Jersey (One of the hosts of WDTV Podcast and the LOD Podcast).  The gang takes a chronological approach to all of the most notable zombie films (and some that have flown under the radar or are avoidable) and much hope rests on how much everyone can tolerate them.  So keep a cricket bat close and enjoy.

So now, if you’ve got an hour to kill…

Thursday, January 12, 2012

You Can Smuggle A Little Bit Of Fun Out Of ‘Contraband’

Contraband:  3 1/2 out of 5
Chris Farraday:  You think you're the only guy with a gun?
In the 2000 remake of Gone in 60 Seconds, starring Nicolas Cage, actor Giovanni Ribisi played Cage’s younger brother, who was in over his head after losing out on a big heist, while working for an evil gangster.  His big brother, who retired from the life of crime, is forced to come back to the life of crime in an effort to keep his little brother out of danger.  Over a decade later, in Contraband, Ribisi has now grown up into being the evil gangster character, forcing another unfortunate little brother to do his bidding and bringing back the reluctant older brother.  This is all to say that both films are clear examples of a fun enough genre film.  Contraband has a bit of an edge (and not just ratings-wise) however, as I was quite pleased with how the film came together, utilizing every character and minor plot point in an economical sense.  Especially given the early 2012 release date, this is solid escapist fun that doesn’t aspire for anything greater.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

‘A Separation’, A Great Film

A Separation: 4 ½ out of 5
Termeh: Didn't you say it's not serious?
Nader: It got serious.
A Separation is a lot of things, but it can be boiled down to a domestic drama mixed with a courtroom drama.  The film is Iranian and it is the country’s official submission for awards consideration (and it will likely win the Oscar, among other awards).  It has been well regarded all over and was at the top of many Best of 2011 lists.  Knowing all of that going in, I was not really thinking this film had a lot to live up to, nor was I skeptical about how good it could be.  My main concern was how a film like this could be gripping enough to really elicit such a strong response.  With that in mind, coming out of the film, I found myself to be completely transfixed by how gripping this story was.  The different ways more layers involving the characters and themes of the film were revealed over the course of the run-time kept the film engrossing and the strength of the low-key, but precise direction made it all the more effective.  Saying “simplistic” in terms of the style of this film would be a misnomer, because there is a lot going on in this fantastic film.

Out Now with Aaron and Abe: Final 2011 Bonus Episode – The Best Films of 2011

This week’s episode of Out Now with Aaron and Abe is the final bonus episode related to the year of 2011.  It is the much anticipated best films of 2011 where Aaron and Abe count down their top films of the year.  Joining the duo in counting down their favorite films are Mark Hobin, Adam Gentry, and, eventually, Alan Aguilera.  Regardless of the fact that some members of this group had a fundamentally different approach to what “Top 10” list means, everyone gets a chance to speak their peace about what they feel were the best films of 2011.  There is plenty of discussion about these films, as well as some other films that deserved honorable mention, as well as some that fell into certain other categories.  It’s a packed show yet again.

So now, if you’ve got an hour to kill…

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Out Now with Aaron and Abe: Bonus Holiday Episode – The TV of 2011

Once again, Out Now with Aaron and Abe is delivering another bonus episode.  With everyone so busy, yet apparently filled with ideas for episodes, the thought of doing an episode based around the TV shows of 2011 came up.  With Abe sitting this one out, Aaron joins up with guest writer/reporter Jonathan Van Dyke to go over a large batch of notable television series, which were on during the year.  The episode is divided into topics including new shows, shows that got better, shows that got worse, cancelled shows memorial, and best/favorite shows.  It is an incredibly packed episode, which doesn’t even cover all of what Aaron and Jon wanted to talk about.  Still, they guys give it their best shot and talk about a lot of quality TV programs.

So now, if you’ve got an hour to kill…

Monday, January 2, 2012

Melodramatic ‘War Horse’ Is Beautiful And Stirring All The Same

War Horse: 4 out of 5
Albert:  What is it?
Soldier:  It’s a horse they found wandering about in No-Man’s Land
It’s easy to write off sentiment.  Having a sweet-natured sensibility is apparently a negative for films that wear their hearts on their sleeves these days.  I don’t feel this way when the film is both effective and presents more than just these qualities.  Before seeing Spielberg’s beautifully made War Horse, I had recently seen The Help for the first time.  That’s a film that cuts down a significant struggle to simplistic storytelling and plays up the sentiment factor, but it works because of the strong acting present throughout.  Similarly, War Horse does not present an agenda or have the need to delve into true darkness like past Spielberg films set during wartime.  The goal of this film is to simply cover the lifetime of an equestrian protagonist and how he effects those around him, during the film’s various segments.  John Williams’ score may push things a bit over-the-top at times, but the photography and Spielberg’s solid direction in this film presents everything that has made him such an esteemed filmmaker.


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