The Heap Reviews: Faster

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s expected return to the action genre hit theaters Wednesday, as he finally escapes the clutches of fluffy Disney scripts. Faster anoints Johnson’s character, only known as Driver, as an arbiter of vengeful fate, as he attempts to avenge the murder of his brother.

The movie begins with Driver in a prison cell, where the audience finds out that he has been in for 1o years. Driver is pacing back and forth like a caged animal, anxious to get out.

What ensues is 90 minutes of moderately packed action with subtle moments of humor. Faster does not try to be anything but what it is advertised as, a revenge rampage. There are no distractions (to the movie at least) by scantily clad women, or unnecessary sex scenes. There is no exasperating attempt to construct a dark, complex character. The plot is very linear, and the line is going downhill. There is no stopping fate, now that Driver has become the deliverer of fate to the murderers of his brother.

That’s not to suggest that the plot does not get a bit complex. Vigilante justice is often met with police resistance, as is the case in this movie. Billy Bob Thornton does a spectacular job doing what he does best- playing a slimeball. It’s a race to see if the police can catch up with Driver before he doles out punishment to all offenders, and who ultimately completes their mission.

There is also an assassin sent to eliminate Driver before he gets to kill all of his brother’s murderers. This wildcard of a figure adds to the overall suspense and thrill as the pursuer is being pursued twofold.

The prevalent themes of the movie were of forgiveness as well as pushing the limits. There are many clues that reveal Driver as a symbolic supernatural force, particularly one of righteous punishment. He’s referred to as a ghost and demon numerous times, not to mention the many times he survives in the movie. He makes quick work of the murderers, often killing them immediately with a shot to the head. He wasn’t interested in suffering, only delivering a death sentence of retribution. Ultimately without spoiling the movie, Driver may not ultimately forgive, but he is able to regain some semblance of  humanity through compassion and reflection.

I particularly enjoyed how the movie parallels the assassin, the Cop (Billy Bob Thornton’s character), and Driver as going through the same ordeal. Cop is addicted to dope, and the movie deals with how much is he willing to do to satiate with addiction. The Assassin is a killer for sport and ego, and his motives are in question as he pushes himself to the limit to see if he can get the job done. And obviously, Driver pushes his need to avenge to the limits of humanity. Like the title implies, when does one reach the limit? Or do you go faster until oblivion?

Overall, I thought the film was awesome. It is enthralling, dark, and entertaining. It is emotionally engaging, and it certainly sparks up one’s imagination for it one were in the same situation. Would you spare the murderers? Or shoot them all in the name of vengeance? I appreciated how tasteful it was. It was not overly grotesque nor saturated in gratuitous “nudie shots.” And of course, any movie that showcases a Chevelle SS and a GTO is ok in my book.

The movie was strictly business, just like Johnson’s character. It got the job done. As long as you don’t go in expecting an Best Film Oscar contender, you should leave feeling satisfied.

7.5 / 10 Bags

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The Heap Reviews: Hot Tub Time Machine

Ah, the concept of time travel. We’ve seen this idea done in so many ways by so many different characters. We’ve seen it in books, TV shows, movies, and even music (I’m looking at you, Cher). H.G. Wells made the concept “mainstream” and well, it is here to stay. We’ve seen time machines in the form of abstract mechanical creations, port-o-potties, and a Delorean. It’s easy to say that we as an audience have always had some sort of magical intrigue with the concept of time control and the possibility to change one’s destiny by altering events.

Hot Tub Time Machine is exactly as advertised- a hot tub endeared with the power (thanks to a Russian energy drink) to create a time travel vortex. It also follows the established plot of most of these movies – go back/forward in time, go on a “life changing” adventure to learn a lesson, and come back an improved person. What sets it apart is how it follows these traditional rules of the “genre,” by offering an crass, yet smartly hilarious (and actually, kind of satirical) interpretation of the time travel story.

John Cusack, Craig Robinson (Darryl from The Office) and Rob Corddry (smaller roles in other notable comedies), when first thought about together, may come across as a rather odd combination for not just a comedy, but a movie in general. You certainly feel this way at the beginning of the movie, where I found myself wondering, “hmm, how is this going to work?” But alas, they mesh together as the movie goes on into quite the cohesive, capable comedic team. (Let’s be honest, think about your group of friends… yeah, sometimes you TOO wonder how/why you’re friends at all, and how such different and weird individuals can come together as a group!)

Coming together to overcome the tepidity of Middle Age as well as overall reconciliation are the prevalent themes. And of course, you have to sprinkle in some destiny/ changing the present with choices in the past issues as well. It was very comical to see the older characters come back to their heyday and attempt to literally relive their finest (and in some cases, not so fine) moments, since they satirically believe in the “butterfly effect” theory, believing that any difference in their actions may drastically change the course of history. The conclusion is actually a bit of a welcomed curve ball, deviating from the usual “my life is forever changed because of this trippy experience” ending.

"What color is Michael Jackson?" "Uh, Black!"

Overall, Hot Tub Time Machine is entertaining, raunchy, and very funny. Unfortunately, it just isn’t as memorable as other comedies in the past few years. As I mentioned, it offers a smart, satirical telling of a time travel story, and it will deliver laughs and moments of incredulous bewilderment. Definitely a guy movie, but can be enjoyable for most. If you’ve had a long week and just need to sit back and have a laugh or two, I can recommend it.

The Heap awards: 7.5/10 Bags

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The Heap Reviews “Bruno”

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Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest character to make the jump from the famed “Da Ali G Show” to the silver screen is Bruno, a flamboyant homosexual fashion reporter. Cohen’s film Bruno makes it a point to incessantly and shamelessly flaunt the main character’s sexual orientation while trying to create some semblance of a plot.

The previews for the film almost assured a laugh-fest, much like Cohen’s runaway “mockumentary” hit Borat was in 2006. Though admittedly, I must have wondered more than a few times how funny can a movie about a gay fashonista prancing around in revealing clothing be funny. Or perhaps more appropriately, how long could it be funny?

The audience is introduced to Bruno, a successful Austrian fashion reporter as the movie begins. A montage of his ironic, self-imposed social status ensues, as we see situations in which he is able to gain access to the best shows, seats and exclusives with celebrities. Public life was good for Bruno.

And then the “fun” begins. Within the first 15 minutes of the film, Cohen makes it very clear that Bruno will have no problem crossing the lines of public humiliation, interaction, and exploitation that Borat did a few years ago. In fact, in those first 15 minutes, Bruno easily exceeds the level of gross, bodily humor that made Borat so funny. Unfortunately, it was too graphic and shocking, taking away from a semi-decent premise.

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Like its predecessor, Bruno aims to expose American (and even global) portrayal of the homosexual. The audience experiences painfully awkward scenes where the only viable reaction is to laugh or just shout in amazement of what has just occurred. In an ironic twist, when Bruno tries to pitch a celebrity interview show in Hollywood, the board of reviewers asks, “What kind of sick person came up with something like this?” You’ll ask yourself this question numerous times.

Bruno succeeds in addressing the conservative beliefs still held by many Americans today despite the extreme methods in which Cohen chooses to expose these behaviors- assuming that these parts are not scripted. It also examines and exposes social “machismo,” by having Bruno try vigorously to shake his homosexuality by being surrounded by overly straight men. It is much more evident which parts are scripted and which are not in Bruno. There is simply no way Cohen could get away with the stunts he pulled in Bruno without prior scripting and warning. It’s much harder to discern these moments in Borat, as it was much more believable- at least to me anyway.

The primary concern of the film, however, despite strong homosexual overtones, is the caricature of the American celebrity. The audience is given the impression that becoming a celebrity in the US is kind of easy, since Bruno attempts this immediately without a second thought. He seems to be toying with what has become a reality in our society- ANYONE can have a reality TV show or blog and achieve celebrity status by simply being extreme, having some sort of a gimmick, or just mimicking the actions of current celebrities. (Swipes at Perez Hilton anyone?) The adoption of a child from Africa was particularly genius.

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Overall, the movie doesn’t meet expectations. It was more astoundingly shocking that funny. You were almost forced to laugh, just because there wasn’t any other appropriate reactions to what was going on in the movie. The plot is there, but it is mostly just short bits loosely tied together by an attempted storyline. The extreme and graphic depictions of homosexual acts and male genitalia detract from an other wise smart, biting satire of the American celebrity and sexual conservatism. It’s enjoyable, but only a one time view, and it is hard to justify spending 9 or so dollars to go see it.

The Heap gives it 6/10 Bags

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The Heap Reviews “Public Enemies”

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If there’s one thing a majority of the audience will walk away with after seeing Michael Mann’s Public Enemies, it’s that girls love bad, bad boys. They’ll pretend to be weary of taking a liking to a notable criminal. They’ll play hard to get. But before you know it, they’ll be enamored. The cars, the guns, the act of robbery itself becomes nothing but an after thought. This very same criminal becomes a hero in someone’s heart.

It is this type of relationship that Mann successfully develops between infamous Great Depression Era bank robber John Dillinger and the audience through out the course of the film. Dillinger’s public status is alluded too on numerous occasions. At one part of the film, one of Dillinger’s henchmen suggest that the crew could make a little bit more by kidnapping and getting ransom payments. Dillinger’s response is of concern for what his “public” would feel about it. Similarly, when he is apprehended and is going through town n the police car, mobs of people try to catch a glimpse of this “celebrity.” It’s almost like a hero’s parade instead of what should have been a criminal’s condemnation by society.

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The primary goal of Public Enemies is to humanize the crime world figure that was John Dillinger. The film achieves this by blurring the line between the good and bad guys. Ultimately, it results in an inversion of roles. You feel yourself rooting for Dillinger and hoping Melvin Purvis and the FBI fails. You grow to love Dillinger’s charm, witticism, and commitment to his relationships. You grow to hate those hoping to capture him. You cringe when he’s chased, when he’s shot. You melt when it’s revealed to Billie that his last words were of the song to their first dance.

The roles are inverted. Justice becomes inhumane, ruthless, numb and downright animalistic. Dillinger is warm, dedicated, and tender-hearted. He resembles a modern day “Robin Hood-like” figure.

 

The acting is excellent. Johnny Depp demonstrates his versatility again. His natural charisma and slight cockiness bodes well for the part. Though we are used to seeing him playing silly and bogus roles, he pulls off this serious role quite well. It is believable. But like I said, Depp’s persona allows for scenes to be more humorous than anticipated just because of his skill. My favorite scene is where he walks into the CPD “John Dillinger Squad” room, and he looks at all of his pictures. His smirk says it all. He then walks over to the cops and asks the score of the game. on the radio. What a cocky bastard!

Christian Bale and Marion Cotillard play great supporting roles. The inception of the FBI was a nice aside in the film, and it was neat to see figures like J. Edgar Hoover portrayed on the silver screen. Bale’s Marvin Purvis personifies the cold, heartless methodology of the “good” guys to be successful at all costs. Dillinger outsmarted them many a time throughout the movie. I was hoping Bale would slip on the Batman outfit. He may have had a bit more success.

Public Enemies is an example of what Michael Mann tries to with most of his works- create an artistic rendering where it seems there is no possibility for it. He challenges the conventional understanding of the good and bad guys by inverting the roles in a theatrical and emotional illusion. The film is good, but not great, hitting a few laborious points in the 2 hour and 20 minute span. While cinematically, Public Enemies is exceptional, it loses steam and falls a bit flat towards the end. I wasn’t left wishing the movie weren’t over.

The Heap gives it a 7.5/10

 

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The Heap Reviews “Changeling”

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It’s about time I add on to the quite bare reviews page. I’ve seen many movies, heard new albums, and read a book or two since the initial review! I literally have a (running) list of pieces I have been wanting to review. Perhaps I will get to them in due time. Let’s just say reviews will be more prevalent, especially since we have a subscription to Netflix and my mom loves ordering the most random of movies.

Changeling is just another one of Clint Eastwood’s silver screen masterpieces. I guess this goes without saying about much of his work.

Based on a true story, Changeling pits citizen versus a corrupt, higher order in the LAPD. Oh yes, the story occurs in Los Angeles towards the end of the Roaring 20’s. While the movie doesn’t depict demonstrators as violent, it’s fair to say they surely keep the spirit of Los Angelans past and present when it comes to formal riots.

I found the opening minutes of the film to be borderline tolerable. The interactions between mother and son seemed “forced,” so to speak. I didn’t feel the chemistry between Jolie and child star Gattlin Griffith, and found it hard to believe in the deep relationship the film attempts to establish in a relatively short period of time. A bit of “over-acting” takes place, perhaps working to distract the audience from what is occurring.

Despite these minor personal pet peeves, the set-up was executed pretty well. We follow the Collins family through their daily rituals, and allow the film to establish a sense of serene normalcy. Then before you know it, Walter Collins is kidnapped, and the audience is left wondering, How in the world can the next hour and a half be about finding the boy, especially with the beginning of the movie being a bit slow.

Needless to say, the pace picks up immediately. An assured story of a normal life in American Suburbia takes a turn towards a suffocatingly horrific and bizarre tragedy. It’s funny because strangely enough, Jolie becomes believable. Scenes immediately following the kidnapping showing are downright claustrophobic. Her encounters with obstacles and the tribulations she must face are that much more unsettling.

The film’s brilliance is  how all of the components come together- setting, camerawork, and perhaps even script/acting- to create a false sense of security. Then, as the child is taken away, so is the peace of mind, so is the comfort. Collins and the audience are cast into a world of constant rain and darkness. Most of the time, the brightest and most vivid object on the screen were Jolie’s vibrant red lips. If you pay attention throughout the movie, it appears the shade of lipstick may coincide with her relative “hope” level.

Eastwood clearly has a knack for storytelling, no matter if it be Western, post-modern, or a movie about old farts in space. In Changeling, Eastwood addresses the emergence of the American woman in the post WWI era. To me, it was amazing how he was able to add such a deep, complex layer to what could have been just a simple retelling of a true story. Instead, he chooses to empower. Jolie’s character is the first female supervisor at the telephone company she works at. She’s a single parent. Yet in public forum, she is easily dismissed by official (men in power), discredited and forced into an insane asylum for questioning the status-quo set by the man’s world.

So of course, now you have your double-entendre for hope: Finding her boy and the continued advancement of women in society. Ironically, she needs the help of John Malkovich’s character, a Presbyterian pastor who constantly exposes government and police officials in cover ups and demands accountability. Malkovich’s interpretation is wonderful, with the character echoing of the voices of many Rights activists of the past.

Changeling was nominated for three Oscars. One was for Jolie as leading actress. the other two were for Cinematography and Art Direction. The film is extremely visual. Eastwood employs colors, angles, and setting quite skillfully. I’ll have to see it again to be able to really delve down into the deeper meanings! Overall a wonderful movie and an unexpected thriller.

9

9/10 Bags.

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So You’re Sayin’ There’s a Chance!

Sometime it’s this quote from the movie Dumb and Dumber that gives hope to the long shots, especially when it comes to a really, really attractive girl.

Rumor on the street is that Megan Fox broke off her engagement to some now insignificant dude (Brian Austin Green, whoever that is!). So I hear she’s single and ready to mingle.

celebrity photo gallery main image - Miss any of the hot celebrity stories from last week? Get caught up with the Week In Photos.

So you’re saying there’s- uh, no. There is no chance. But at least we can oogle.

Well, at least I have Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen to look forward to! I don’t think many of us have forgotten her signature scene in the first one, where she fixes up Shia’s broken down hoopty.

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Absurd. I remember seeing this downtown at Channelside. Let’s just say the reaction was a collective “Wow, OMG” from the guys in the theatre. I don’t think you can blame anyone there.

Actress Megan Fox attends the premiere of the motion picture thriller "Eagle Eye", at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles on September 16, 2008.   (UPI Photo/Jim Ruymen)

And just one more random pic. I don’t even know what to write. Uh, nice rocks? Oh and by the way, you’re hot. Though I don’t know if I’m diggin’ the forearm bracelets. But I’ll let it slide.

I leave you with this hilarious video I found on Youtube when I was searching for Megan Fox clips. Instead I found a very tabloidish update by a video blogger named Philip DeFranco. Hilarious stuff. He apparently makes a new video M-F by 5pm on the latest going on in the world. The piece on Megan Fox as well as the ball crusher are great.

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Bond, James Bond

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I have anticipated this movie for MONTHS I tell you. Truth be told, I never was into the Bond movies. The only one I really liked was Goldeneye, and I can tell you that it mas mostly due to the sheer awesomeness of the videogame for Nintendo 64. A classic. After Goldeneye, I really feel that the Pierce Brosnan portrayal began to miss the mark by becoming more and more preposterously absurd. I can appreciate how the written versions (were they novels?) function, but towards the end of the previous set of movies, debonaire was being trumped by extreme stretches in plot, and the believable was compromised by ridiculous stunts and effects.

The franchise needed a break, a new perspective, and a new Bond. Speculation surrounding the Bond vacancy mounted, and the biggest of Bond geeks pondered who would fill the role.

Daniel Craig was introduced as the new Bond a few years back, which was met by seemingly unanimous disapproval. The biggest concern of the public’s outcry? Craig had the accent down, as he is, of course, a native Englishman.

The looks? Not so much.

He’s much more rugged than the previous castings. Many people’s opinions were downright brutal. In their eyes, Craig was just plain unattractive.

But of course, his looks only coincided with the new brand of Bond as the franchise continued with Casino Royale in 2006. I myself was skeptical. I wasn’t too big of a Bond fan at the time, and only went because my dad had wanted to see it. I can only say that Craig absolutely nailed the part, as he succeeds in his portrayal of a darker, more ruthless Bond.

Craig’s second Bond film, Quantum of Solace, comes out this Friday, November 14. It has already been released in other world markets, and the reviews have been stellar. I’m trying not too read too much because I really don’t want to ruin anything!

What also caught my attention today was an article I read regarding an interview with former Bond actor Roger Moore. His comments about the new direction of Bond are interesting, and I can certainly see where he is coming from, but I don’t agree. This is like the 23rd Bond film, and most of them follow the same formula. It was about time the character was invigorated with some old fashioned over the top (in a good way) action. It was about time that the only thing that didn’t motivate James Bond was “little Bond.”

Believe me, I get it. James Bond can get any woman out of their clothes with his sweet talk and whatever. Good for him. I’m sure it would get old after a while. Now we have an emotional, more human Bond (he even looks more human, because of his “numerous” flaws according to critics!) that appeals to more of the audience. Before, Bond was an ideal- the super suave, rich, masculine, and government employed super spy (I’m sure his government work comes with a nice pension).

Anywho, here’s the article. Read it. What do you think? While it’s obvious that Moore is concerned with the integrity of the Bond character regarding possible Hollywood corruption, the tone comes across as a bit condescending!

As Chaz, the heap’s movie expert said, “He wasn’t even a good Bond! He was second worst!”

Roger Moore dislikes the more violent James Bond
Tuesday November 11 12:45 PM ET

Movie audiences nowadays expect scenes of graphic violence in James Bond movies, unlike when Roger Moore played the super spy with a tongue-in-cheek humor, the actor believes.

“I am happy to have done it, but I’m sad that it has turned so violent,” Moore said before “Quantum of Solace,” starring Daniel Craig as a darker Agent 007, opens in North America on Friday.

“That’s keeping up with the times, it’s what cinema-goers seem to want and it’s proved by the box-office figures,” Moore told Reuters in an interview about his memoir, “My Word is My Bond.”

The new Bond film opened in London on Oct 31, breaking the British weekend box-office record with a gross of $25 million. It has taken in more than $106 million worldwide so far.

Moore, 81, recalled being appalled at the violence in “A View to a Kill,” the 1985 movie which was the last of the seven in which he played Bond. “That wasn’t Bond,” he said.

In his book, Moore writes of his distaste for guns, ever since he was shot in the leg by a friend with a BB gun as a teenager.

While making “The Man With the Golden Gun,” director Guy Hamilton wanted Bond to be tougher and had him threaten to break Maud Adams‘ character‘s arm to get information, he writes. “That sort of characterization didn’t sit well with me, but Guy was keen to make my Bond a little more ruthless.

“I suggested my Bond would have charmed the information out of her by bedding her first. My Bond was a lover and a giggler, but I went along with Guy,” the British actor wrote.

Moore has not yet seen “Quantum of Solace,” but based on Craig’s first Bond film, “Casino Royale,” believes it will be a success in North America too.

“Daniel has done one Bond and he was in ‘Munich‘ and … he’s done a lot of stuff, but his face, after one Bond film, that’s all he needs. He is Bond.”

Asked about his own legacy as an actor known mostly for playing Bond and in TV series such as “The Saint,” and “The Persuaders,” with Tony Curtis, Moore said: “I would love to be remembered as one of the greatest Lears or Hamlets. But as that’s not going to happen I’m quite happy I did Bond.”

His memoir is full of anecdotes about Hollywood and the stars he worked with such as Vivien Leigh, Mae West and Lana Turner. He also tells of his bust-up with Grace Jones during the filming of “A View to a Kill,” when he forcibly pulled the plug on her stereo and flung a chair against the wall because she was playing loud rock music.

The only child of a south London policeman, Moore also writes about growing up before and during World War Two, of evacuation to the country and air raids and getting — and being fired from — his first job with a cartoon film company.

By the time he was called up, the war was over, but he served as an officer in Allied occupied Germany, where he ended up in the Army’s entertainment regiment.

That was his entree into show business, along with his marriage to British singer Dorothy Squires.

“You’re not that good, so smile a lot when you come on!” his first repertory theater manager told him. His first wife, who was a professional ice skater, was no less encouraging: “You’ll never be an actor, your face is too weak, your jaw is too big and your mouth’s too small.”

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