Monday, January 31, 2011

Review of Red (2010) Starring Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman

Rottentomatoes.com Rating: 70% Certified Fresh 
Commonsensemedia.org Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars 
IMDB.com: 7.1 Out of 10
Metacritic.com: 73 Out of 100
Domestic Box Office: 90.2 Million 



Starring:
Bruce Willis as Frank Moses
Mary-Louise Parker as Sarah Ross
Morgan Freeman as Joe Matheson
Helen Mirren as Victoria
John Malkovich as Marvin Boggs
Karl Urban as William Cooper
Julian McMahon as Vice President Robert Stanton
Ernest Borgnine as Henry, The Records Keeper
Richard Dreyfuss as Alexander Dunning
Brian Cox as Ivan Simanov
James Remar as Gabriel Singer
Rebecca Pidgeon as Cynthia Wilkes
Directed by Robert Schwentke
Written by John and Eric Hoeber

Jason’s rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Review: RED was one of last fall's most highly anticipated films. (Next to the Social Network) It was so highly anticipated because of its all-star ensemble, which includes Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, and Helen Mirren. The difference between this and the summer flop 'The Expendables' is that the actors in the main cast of Red are all academy award winners or nominees. This is essential to the film's success, because they carry a lot of the weight here. 

Moving aside from the frontrunners underlies the real breakout star of the film: Mary Louise Parker. She absolutely kills when delivering her lines, intending for comic effect. ("I was hoping you had hair" she says to Bruce Willis' character with the perfect amount of disdain) Helen Mirren also produces the main effect, with her usually violent zingers spurring out as fast her bullets. ("I've never seen him this happy. (Tone Changes) If you break his heart, I will kill you. And bury your body in the woods.") 


Bruce Willis and Morgan Freeman weren't as funny as I'd hoped for them to be in this movie.(Of course to be fair, the script doesn't really give them much to work with after dishing out zingers between the rest of the cast.) So, this leaves the weight of the male cast to be carried out by Brian Cox and John Malkovich. John Malkovich has his own moments, (He looks exactly like Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future!) which usually involve government brain washing plots, stuffed pigs carrying machine guns, and being suspicious towards everyone, including himself. (Malkovich: Why are you trying to kill me? Willis: Why would I be trying to kill you? Malkovich: Because the last time we met I tried to kill you. Willis: That was a long time ago. Malkovich: Some people hold onto things like that.) Basically, The Expendables could take a note out of Red's book-Having an amazing ensemble cast is just stupid unless they actually do something cool! Because acting has a great impact on a movie- like 60% of it. (Which, coincidentally, is the amount of points needed for a fresh rating!) 

An actor is nothing without a script. I was so happy when I saw that pretty much every joke in the movie was funny. When you try to make an action comedy, and the comedy fails, the movie flops. So, this was a very big gamble, but it was worth it. I notice that in big-name action movies like this or 'Salt', it's the actor that only gets recognized. That's because the directors are not giving themselves enough credit. I guess it's a good thing that I didn't know Robert Schwentke was directing, (The Time Traveler's Wife, Flightplan) or else I would have waved it off. However, he doesn't try to go out of his way here, (thank goodness!) so it's overall OK. It was, however, pretty cool when he put in some action effects (When the car is making a turn on the road, and Willis just flips open the door, walks out, shoots, and gets back in, all in Slow-mo, or when Malkovich is getting shot with a torpedo, he nails it with a small copper .40) 

Other movies on my list with Red were the Other Guys and Knight and Day. I liked it better than both. It is more similar (a lot) to Knight and Day, but I found everything here to run a lot more smooth and satisfying than it. I liked it better than the Other Guys, because at time, I had to cringe at its graphicness and groan at its stale jokes. I'd definitely put all of those movies on a list of recommended action-comedies, but overall, Red was better. 




It is comparable to great movies such as Casino Royale and The Bourne Identity, but doesn't yet reach that mark. I am hoping immensely for a sequel to happen, because there are some points that it can draw from. Its plot and story are surprisingly complex for this genre, but it seems that they intelligently made a plot first, than fit in the jokes later. THAT is how an action-comedy should be made. 

Synopsis: Retired black-ops agent Frank Morris is RED. Retired and extremely dangerous. He's sitting at home, tearing up checks, an excuse to call a representative he's interested in at the insurance agency. A large group of assassins attempts to kill him, and so he's on the run. He goes to visit Sarah (the representative), like he planned, but has to hide her because the people who are trying to kill him are after her to-he made over 20 phone calls to her in the last month. 

He and Sarah discover a list of names of people who were killed because they were involved in a scandal they weren't supposed to know about. They enlist the help of fellow REDs Victoria, Joe and Marvin.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Review of The Sting



Rottentomatoes.com: 70%
Metacritic.com: 61 Out of 100
Commonsensemedia.org: 4 Out of 5 Stars
IMDB.com: 7.1 Out of 10 Stars




Director: George Roy Hill

Jason's Rating: 4 and 1/3 Out of 5 Stars

OVERVIEW: 1973’s ‘The Sting’ is a Paul Newman classic- it’s one of George Roy Hill’s best films. The Acting is spot- on, the score’s great, the scripts hilarious, but at the same time clever and dramatic. The score is filled with the music that people couldn’t get enough of in the ‘70’s, (Well, actually, it’s pretty much just the same song, ‘The Entertainer’ over and over again, but hey, it’s still awesome) but it simply accents an entertaining movie about two guys, a girl, a game of cards, and the greatest heist in history (Well, at the time).





SYNOPSIS:  Local con man John Hooker (Robert Redford) and his fellow con partner, Luther, manage to con a random guy on the street out of 1,000 dollars one day. After blowing 300 of it at a club, Hooker is tackled by the police out of the 2,000. He discovers from them that it turns out the guy he conned that day was part of the mob, and that they killed Luther. John Hooker has given them fake 2,000 dollar bills, so now he’s on the run from the mob and the police.





It looks like John Hooker won’t last more than two days, doesn’t it? Well, before John has a plan. Before he went to the club, Luther had a discussion with him about going to the big leagues—to leave him behind and make big money. So, he gives him contacts to the greatest con man ever, Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman). The only reason he hasn’t been well known lately is because he blew the money.




After meeting up with him, they formulate a plan (and their acting here is excellent—it really looks like Hooker’s betraying Gondorff, so I got a bit confused—their multiple characters in the story are all portrayed so excellently its hilarious) to con money off Doyle Lonnegan, local mobster, as to get their comeuppance for Luther. Henry plays a game of poker with him on a train ride back home (Both are cheating, and both know each other are cheating—hey, it’s poker). Henry wins.




John goes to Doyle’s compartment and tells him that Henry cheated, and that he wants to make a deal with him. He wants to get revenge on Henry for not dishing out all the money. So, he tells him about his contacts at the horse races—it’ll make him lots of money, and he only wants a small part of it.

From here on, the story starts to twist and turn itself into a mysterious (and sometimes violent) intriguing, and yet, even more hilarious film than ever before. It involves surprising twists on the mob development, astonishing plot twists, and in the end, an ultimately satisfying film. (And the mob here gave me more chills than in The Godfather or Goodfellas)

Part of the fun of The Sting is just how elaborate the schemes can be. The entire point of the movie is basically the last person to outsmart the other wins. It’s hilarity and complexity is wrapped up together in a nice little bow- between the multiple parts of the movie, (Separated with a nice little place card with a title) and Paul Newman’s and Robert Redford’s acting at its best, you have a fun little movie that those smart enough to keep up pace with it will enjoy.

The thing is with this movie, it seems to be more of an unintentional dramedy that it is. It seemed to be more aiming for a serious flick in the beginning, but it decided, hey, this would make a sweet comedy—in the end, that’s what it became. The only problem with this, however, is that in the end, it seems that some moral and ethical values are being raised. I was just about to note that in my head for a review when I realized it was just a joke to raise the stakes and suspense, but in the end, it totally worked.

Basically, it’s a wonderful family comedy that’s got suspense, comedy, fabulous acting, and a sprinkling of drama. Not perfect, but as perfect as a movie like this could be.