Saturday, January 29, 2011

No Need to Fix The Mechanic

     It's safe to say that now, with the first month of the new decade slowly chilling our bones, one could consider Jason Statham to be among the greater action stars of the past ten years. Whatever film that he appears in--whether that be as a deadly knife expert in The Expendables or an expert car driver in The Transporter (or, let's be honest, an ass-kicking martial artist in every film that he graces his presence with)--there are wonderfully crazy action set pieces and plenty of scenes that display his downright scowl. The Mechanic, a remake of the 1972 film of the same name, throws a few interesting ideas into the Jason-Statham-Action-Movie-Machine, and it mostly succeeds. Statham is as ruthless as ever here, through his character is barely different as any of his others. Look Angry. Become Angry. Say Something Witty. Kill People. Escape With a Death-Defying Stunt. Repeat. Also starring (maybe) my favorite up-and-comer Ben Foster, 2011's The Mechanic is an ultra-violent and entertaining look at a hitman who joins forces with his last target's son to settle some scores.
     "Do you know what a Mechanic is other than the obvious definition?", Statham asks his young trainee. The answer is simple, yet complex. Essentially, the film is about an elite hitman that completes contracts for the company that he works for. Sounds simple enough. Why not just call this movie Jason Statham Action Vehicle Circa 2011? One of the reasons that it is slightly more than that is the two presences in the film other than Statham himself: the previously mentioned Ben Foster and the underused Donald Sutherland. Let's start with the elder. Nobody ever talks about Donald Sutherland; however, one would be hard-pressed to find an older actor that displays sinister charm and witty grumpy-old-man better than him. In this film, he portrays a middle man between the company that contracts the killings and Statham himself. Things do not go as planned once the company surpasses Sutherland's character to give Statham his next contract: killing Sutherland himself, due to a supposed treason that Sutherland recently committed. Ben Foster plays Sutherland's son, and him and Statham eventually team up to try and take down the entire operation.
    I've appreciated Ben Foster's talents far longer than most, starting with his years on one of HBO's best shows ever, Six Feet Under. He continued catching my attention is roles in Alpha Dog (I know...), 3:10 to Yuma, and more recently, the exceptional The Messenger. In my view, there is one simple quality that makes an actor great: you can't take your eyes off of them when they are on the screen. Foster has this quality, and I look forward to seeing him in roles for years to come. In this film, he takes a leap into a new role: action movie star. Whether he is taking on a 6' 7", 300 pound man or three thugs at once or drinking whiskey by the glass, Foster eradicates them with brutal force and emotion. He learns the ropes from Statham's character in the film, and apparently the montage of him shooting assault rifles gave him the ability to be precise and sure with the trigger, because throughout the entire film, he gives the star Staham a run for his money in terms of violent and entertaining killings.
     That's not to say that the film doesn't have it's share of problems and questions to be raised. Such as: why does it seem like in these types of films, there are no police officers rushing to the scenes of massive explosions and shootouts with P-90's and AK-47's? I don't remember seeing one cop throughout the whole movie doing anything to prevent or try and stop the massive cluster fucks that befell the cities and characters. Christ, I don't even remember seeing a police officer in the film at all. I guess that's what critics like to call, "A Suspension of Disbelief". That is, take the ass-kicking as it comes and don't bother asking logical questions. Fortunately, that's just how I enjoy my action movies.    (B)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

2010's Top 10 Films

     Similar to 2009, this year's top ten list has a solid number of major releases with a few independent films tossed in. I didn't see every major release this year, but according to Wikipedia's list of films released in 2010, I witnessed the credits of 50 various moving pictures. These are my favorite 10 of the 50 I watched, and they (yet again) all had one thing in common: they made your life suck less in 2010.

Valhalla Rising


     Valhalla Rising is like the most violent play you have ever watched. It's a meditation on all things involving the human nature of man, including violence, faith and trust. It's scary, intense, and extremely weird. One-Eye, played by Mads Mikkelsen (the villain in Casino Royale), is a fearsome man who defeats everyone in battle. He's caught, caged and shackled, but he draws the attention of a new entity that is spreading the word across the countryside: Christians. They travel to a new land to force their views on unknown savages. Doesn't get much scarier than that. (Available on Netflix Instant Watch.)

Toy Story 3

      Many would like to say that Pixar is for pussies. However, that simply is not the case. Year after year, they consistently produce some of the best films, and in the year 2010 they continue that theme with maybe their best film ever: Toy Story 3. I watched it without even remembering the previous two, and I still got sucked in and cared deeply about a bunch of animated toys that talked. Maybe I'm getting soft in my old age, but a movie about friendship and growing up will resonate with any human that has a heart. *cries softly onto the keyboard*

True Grit

     Just kidding, I wasn't actually crying back there. Though I do shed a tear every now and then when I'm watching an emotional film. The near-end of True Grit could have been one of those moments, had I been alone and the mood was right. Instead, the film as a whole was a joyous experience filled with a snappy screenplay, beautiful cinematography and actors having fun. Better than the recent Burn After Reading and A Serious Man, I think the Coens should stick to what they're best at: studies on retribution and violence involving characters with nothing else to lose.

The Kids Are All Right

     The Kids Are All Right is a great film about a same-sex marriage that isn't a novelty. It's about two women who truly love each other, and the ups and downs they go through just like any relationship. They have two children from a sperm donor, and the plot of the film deals with the children wanting to meet their biological dad. What follows is a comedic and poignant look at a modern family that constantly and consistently keeps getting redefined. This is a 2010 American family, like it or not. And if you don't like it then you're obviously a fucking idiot.



     There are so many shitty comic book/graphic novel adaptations. For every The Dark Knight and Hellboy 2, we have a couple of stinking turds like Catwoman or Daredevil. Fortunately, it seems like studios are setting their eyes on some lesser known works this year, and it is surely to the viewer's benefit. Kick-Ass is extremely violent, extremely vulgar and it has the wonderful Nic Cage shouting incomprehensible things while getting lit on fire. And young girls saying "cunt". Kick-Ass is more than it's name: it's a frolicking good time through a seedy underworld with homegrown superheros without superpowers.



     2010 was a fucking great year for one my favorite genres of film, documentaries. Another wonderful one, Exit Through the Gift Shop, almost made this list. However, only one documentary deserves such a high spot: Restrepo. For one year, two men traveled to Afghanistan and became embedded in one of the most dangerous places in the war to only film and interview. Surreal and filled with an unbelievable amount of anxiety, Restrepo is haunting, disgusting, funny, sad, and above all, unbelievable. It is the best documentary of the year 2010. (Available on Netflix Instant Watch.)

127 Hours


      So full of life, Danny Boyle's films are. I was skeptical at first about him continuing this trend with a story about a guy trapped under a boulder. But yet again, he never ceases to amaze. This incredible story, documented through real life, flashbacks and dehydration hallucinations, throws images and emotions at you more than a stripper at PT's. That analogy doesn't really make any sense, but neither does the fact that Danny Boyle turned a story about a dude trapped under a rock into one of the best of the year. Just accept, and move along.

The Social Network


     Upon watching this film for the second time, I came to a few realizations; one: David Fincher is clearly one of the best directors working today. His filmography all shares at least a little similarity, and they are never anything less than entertaining. I mean, this is the director that made a movie about the founding of Facebook extremely intense. Two: Aaron Sorkin should write more screenplays. Three: this film is one that defines a generation, a film that will only become better with age, when we finally see what Facebook truly becomes. It deserves every award it gets this season.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World


     Believe me when I say it: I was skeptical to say the least. I haven't really liked Michael Cera since Arrested Development, but I never hated him either. The previews for the movie made it look more like a romantic comedy than what it really is: an awesome fucking blend of music and videogames. Upon numerous viewings, I realize now that I should never ever doubt director Edgar Wright (who coincidentally directed my favorite comedy of all time, Shaun of the Dead). If you like videogames, slick directing, and a funny screenplay, then you will love this movie.


     Will he ever disappoint? I'm guessing no. Chris Nolan has made some of the best films of the past 10 years, and he continues with the cum-inducing Inception. I actually heard an older woman inside a movie theater for a different movie say that she "didn't like it, too many special effects". I wanted to slap a bitch. Inception is entertaining, skillfully acted and directed, beautiful, and it constantly surprises you with the direction it heads. Repeat viewings only confirm the fact of its greatness. If you don't think Inception is one of the best films of 2010, then you, my friend, are living in a dream world.