Unfolding almost exactly as you’d expect it to, Non-Stop is typically meatless genre fare at its unmitigated finest. Following presumably grief-stricken air marshal Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) as an anonymous individual promises one death per twenty minutes on a transatlantic flight, a semi-taut narrative unfolds as Agent Marks struggles to wade through bullshit on a path toward justice. Inevitably suffering through a barrage of obstacles on his way to achieving said goal, the marshal must do his best to put his troubled past behind him and prove his innocence, that is if the word itself is something he assuredly possesses.
To be honest, there’s not a whole lot I can lovingly profess about Non-Stop, what with its opening first third illustrating the general public’s cliched perception of airline-centric terrorist plots to little success. Opting to instead exploit the skeleton of a script it feels like it was conceived as, the film plays like a web diagram comprised of average twists and turns, a sense of unpredictability ringing effective if a bit too familiar as events unfold. Even still, Non-Stop confidently employs this familiarity in an appealingly oppressive manner to produce a satisfactory end result.
As passengers and our lead’s sanity are alternately questioned, perceptions of what’s true and what isn’t are predictably debatable, however a notable air of intelligence tends to override foreseeable humanistic naivety in similarly illustrated scenarios. As stand-ins undoubtedly spout their concerns regarding an increasingly disgraced air marshal’s rough-and-tumble actions, the marshal himself and relevant key players – good or sinister – are compelling enough as individuals to carry the production through substandard procedural nonsense.
When you get down to brass tacks, Non-Stop is a lesser counterpart to comparably straightforward action-suspense efforts. Exploiting its powerful lead’s charisma and corresponding character flaws, the film satisfyingly jerks viewers’ predictions around to varying degrees of success. As it remains intelligent enough barring some latter act (and overall) ridiculousness, Non-Stop can at least be held in a higher regard than a vast majority of typically unbearable early-year fare. It goes through the motions, however the proceedings remain agreeably compelling enough to warrant the price of admission as Agent Neeson runs the gamut on his opposition.
Welcome to the first entry into my soon-to-be perpetuated Throwback Thursday series of weekly posts, of which aim to broaden my workload as my desire to write outweighs that of sticking to what one could call “standard programming” here on the blog. Enjoy, and feel free to post your thoughts on the film I choose to review each and every week!
As an out-and-out tongue-in-cheek cult classic, John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China is gleeful, ’80s-style action-comedy absurdity at its finest. Starring one Kurt Russell at his most disarming, the film underwent a meticulous rewrite – one that wholly transformed it from a late 19th century Western into a modernized martial arts affair peppered with ancient Chinese lore. Following the aforementioned leading man as fast-talking if naive and unassuming Jack Burton, the individual in question must aid buddy Wang in reclaiming his kidnapped green-eyed fiance.
Put plainly, everything about the production oozes purposeful self-referential silliness, whether it be in the form of overblown feuds between eternally warring factions or finding immortality in the color of a poor woman’s fatefully-colored eyes. Although vocalized bits of world-building border on gratuitous, there’s no denying the base-level appeal a film this cartoonish in composition possesses. Shot through with likable caricatures of the key narrative players, Jack Burton and the gang are a wonder to listen to and witness as they engage the supernatural, even despite the former’s bitterness over a stolen truck and penchant for womanizing.
As fun as fun can be in the realm of gleefully tacky ’80s cinema, Big Trouble in Little China benefits endlessly from the charm oozing figuratively from its every pore. From a charismatic lead at the height of his game to riotous, martial arts-heavy action set pieces, John Carpenter’s vision is something anyone can enjoy if casual escapism is your cup of tea. All in all, the film knew what it was going to be all along and the reception it aimed to acquire, and in that sense, Big Trouble in Little China embodies assured if unrefined filmmaking at its finest.
It’s tough when you almost immediately feel conflicted about liking an out-and-out remake these days. Barring those who get openly excited for said projects, to openly admire the tarnishing of a previously established cinematic legacy is a hard thing to stand by. In the case of RoboCop, Paul Verhoeven’s singular brand of hyperviolent sci-fi absurdity ran rampant throughout the original film, so much so that nightmares could conceivably spawn from his vision. From Alex Murphy’s graphic death to the literal explosion of a toxic waste-coated lackey, the remake’s PG-13 rating felt intent on pissing on its source inspiration’s legacy from the moment its conception was announced.
In an unnecessary but admirable turn of events, the remake’s attempt to rewrite the titular mostly-robotic protagonist’s inception is something worthy of praise, an explanatory exposition-heavy initial two-thirds bordering on boring as politics are emphasized over the borderline exploitative original film. While obviously similar thematically, the 2014 reboot isn’t nearly as much fun as heavy-handed stabs at believable practical robot applications are frequently tackled. Put plainly, it’s timely in a way that aptly brands the film as a literal update, even if no one in particular was waiting with bated breath for the production in the first place.
Harkening back to the unsettling Detroit-infused grimness smattering Verhoeven’s brainchild, Padilha’s take also scores points for pulling the reins on vulgarity in favor of a considerable amount of violence for its rating and serviceable – if few-and-far-between – action set pieces. Charismatic supporting characters also frequently engage, Keaton and Oldman especially, and it goes without saying that Kinnaman is laudably and surprisingly up to the task of portraying the titular tortured cyborg. In fact, it’s Mrs. Murphy (Abbie Cornish) and her son’s involvement that feels cloying, contrived and half-baked, her involvement ringing more grating than it should be as emotional weight takes a backseat to her whining. In a film that practically shouts “Cyborgs have feelings too!”, it’s easier to sympathize with Detective Murphy over his more family-driven impetuses.
While obviously unnecessary, RoboCop earns its right to exist as above-average mediocrity permeates the proceedings, the film admirably departing from its 1987 source inspiration to timely if varying degrees of success. It’s well-acted, suitably emotional almost everywhere it counts and intermittently enthralling, however a lot of it tends to fall flat as you’d expect it to. I’ve seen worse in the realm of the reboot trend – I’m looking at you, Total Recall – but the film as a whole is more or less a partial waste of valuable studio assets given the general reception of its existence.
To those who know me personally, a list like this created by yours truly is about as uncommon as cheese on pizza (SPOILER: If you eat cheese-less pizza then, well, you’re doing it wrong). That being said, I’ve become particularly fond of anti-romantic “self-torture” films that astound and depress in equal measure, their protagonists suffering through varying degrees of hardship as it’s typically not triumphed over. From a simple case of love on the rocks to a more sprawling effort with a touched-upon, moreover unifying narrative impetus, I feel that this list is a mildly eclectic one that illustrates the many faces of anti-romantic cinema. Consider it my Valentine’s Day gift to you.
Well, here we are, folks. One full month into 2014 and I’m dealing with a whole lot of promises I’ve made to myself that I probably can’t or won’t keep. As I consciously and consistently try do the opposite though, I figured I’d predictably share my best viewing experiences throughout January – one permeated by a coworker’s lending of several cinematic legacies to me for potential enlightenment’s sake. It was mostly appreciated. Enjoy!
NOTE: Due to repeated preexisting musings and upcoming projects, I’ve decided to convey the list in a purely visual format. Please stick around for what’s to follow!
Other first-time viewings (in alphabetical order):
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Spielberg, ’84)
Rambo (Stallone, ’08)
Rambo: First Blood Part II (Cosmato, ’85)
Rambo III (MacDonald, ’88)
Star Wars (Lucas, ’77)
Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (Marquand, ’83)
Total number of films watched (including re-watches): 11
Hello everyone, and welcome to my not-so-punctual list of the best films that I saw throughout the year 2013! For a second consecutive time, I ventured out to Toronto, Canada for a predictably lauded TIFF experience – once that you folks have likely recognized as one of note given my discussion of many a worthwhile film. As always, the films I saw last year – regardless of a scheduled 2014 theatrical release – are eligible by default for this list’s consideration. So, without further adieu, I now present to the list you’ve been (or haven’t been) waiting for!
NOTE: While everything I’ve reviewed already has been paired with an excerpt from said reviews, let it be known that I still feel the same way about each of these films with the exception of 12 Years of a Slave, of which has grown on me since my initial viewing of it. That being said, click on the images to read my full-length reviews (where applicable)!
An impressively ambitious albeit personal endeavor, Her tells the tale of one Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) as loneliness following a recent divorce fuels an unavoidable desire for companionship. Soon learning of the new artificially-intelligent operating system “OS 1,” Theodore purchases a copy if only to eventually pursue a relationship with his match, Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). Learning the ins and outs of each other through the process of personality-infused trial and error, Theo and Samantha encounter and attempt to endure many a hardship coinciding with the dynamism of such a groundbreaking relationship.
Carrying with it an unrivaled intellectual tinge, Her is far more than simple genre-infused fare as it remains marvelously multifaceted. While addressed romantic longing in cinema is nearly as old as time, Jonze’s handling of this reality is wondrous as convention is sidestepped, the narrative’s relationship-centric commentary and focus coming off as incisive as anything preceding it. Modest in scope but excellently executed, the specifics of Theodore’s rebound-esque but poignant pursuit of Samantha as an uncommon love interest are nothing short of lovely.
As appropriately nuanced and noteworthy performances benchmark the proceedings, Jonze’s script deftly covers all of its bases as Her‘s world-building abilities very sensitively resonate. Interaction between key players – sexual or not – are well thought-out and tasteful, and to say that a majority of the subject matter is hard-hitting would be the understatement of the past twelve months.
A near perfect exercise in cinematic humanism and social commentary, Her is aptly and ceaselessly emotional viewing at its finest. Intelligently conceived and executed as its barely sci-fi trappings never once hinder the story it tells, the film’s inherently evocative nature is intoxicating and borderline overwhelming in the best possible way. Excellent performances further accentuate the already lovely and relatable narrative, Johansson and Phoenix’s regular interplay remaining particularly authentic as the state and true nature of their relationship come into question as you’d expect them to. As its strong suits exist to thoroughly captivate and not once turn viewers off, Her is hands down the best film of the past year and for good reason.
Although 2013 drew to a close nearly two full weeks ago, I’ve been reluctantly but purposefully holding out on compiling and sharing with you with “Best of 2013″ list. Granted, timeliness can prove to be a factor regarding readers’ interests, however I hate depriving myself of presumably valuable and worthwhile viewing experiences. Whether a film didn’t screen near me or I didn’t have the time to see it, I’m sure I’m not the only one that can attest to either unfortunate reality. This in mind, I plan on seeing Her and/or Nebraska this weekend and should have a finalized top ten – along with preceding honorable mentions – ready for tomorrow afternoon.
As for the state of the blog itself in the new year, my plans are to alternately begin and revive several projects I’ve had milling about in my head for quite a while. First and foremost, I’d like to pick up where I left off with my Genre Wiki endeavor, if only because the prospect of completing it excites me (and only me it seems). Two more things are still in the works and will be kept a secret for now, and considering I didn’t have a chance to post a December ’13 post, below are the films I watched and felt stood out.