Thursday, 29 August 2013
If that wasn't enough there's V. Diesel's 'other' franchise as 'Riddick' is about to come out the dark and illuminate our screens. With a smaller, darker budget, Diesel's taken an actors minimum wage (still better than most peoples decades) to get the maximum output possible and it looks as great as it does gory. If that wasn't enough-the man who's having just as big a year as his 'Fast' franchise friend and solo/TGT singer and writer Tyrese-has been linked with Marvel more times than Chris Evans. Not only has he been linked with having the villain 'vision' for a grunting nemesis for the eagerly anticipated Avengers sequel, he's also got enough bark in that gruff voice to play a tree in the 'Guardians Of The Galaxy'. He even has another trick up his new suits sleeve, having the shaved head and skill set to take the lollipop of bald, iconic detective Kojak. Which could result in another forceful franchise. He's rewriting the critics ink now. The petrol-head's favourite has even driven himself onto the Hollywood Walk of Fame...now that's accredited certification. You can find the post script pile receiving actor at the top of the A-list now. "This 'aint nothing new."
It all started up again with Tokyo, 'Tokyo Drift' to be exact. In the third, but chronologically last instalment in the 'Fast and the Furious' franchise. The cars, music, Sung Kang, Japan and that girl from the Bruno Mars video did a good job of keeping the series running on fumes, but still it was missing something. In the final scene of the movie our lead is challenged to one more race. As he pulls up to the starting line a beautiful, classic American muscle car flexes into view. Could it be? As we see the dome of the driver and we pan round and there he is in a fresh white tee in the driving seat, it's Dominic Toretto or should we say Vin Diesel, the biggest star of 'The Fast and the Furious' torque, adrenaline fuelled blockbuster. Even in this 30 second or so cameo we are reminded of the charisma and charm of this character and actor that had been missed since the great, but not the same feeling '2 Fast 2 Furious'.
Then came the big moment. The 'new model, original parts' ensemble that became the fourth 'Fast' movie that took everything back to the original so much that the similar title ('Fast & Furious') is still bound to cause confusion when ordered on DVD today. Diesel refuelled the franchise along with old friends Paul Walker, Jordan Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez for a thrilling ride that engine gunned this franchise into a formidable 'Fast Five' sequel. A movie so hot and cool it was filmed in the Rio De Janeiro in Brazil and featured more old friends in the form of the franchise favourites Tyrese, Ludacris and Sung Kang and a brilliant, new baddie to wrestle with in the form of Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson. 'Five' has become so famous with it's thrills, spills, action and visual entertainment that it's widely considered as the best in the series...so far. Still with all this 'Italian Job' meets 'Oceans Eleven' film has to offer it's the lead that brings everything together in this ensemble piece, that motored on to a sixth gear. It's clear to see that Vin Diesel is back in the driving seat with his career nowhere near the rear-view.
The Hollywood hard-man age seems to have died with the ageing of the 'expendable' Stallone's, Segal's and Van Damme's (even though they still make great movies) but there's just something about Mark Sinclair Vincent. Something that goes beyond his Brooklyn bouncer to actor, director, producer, screenwriter success. Something that goes beyond his forever young, 46 years of age and something that goes beyond his millions of inspired Facebook followers who are moved by his motivating and inspiring posts that could only be rivalled by 'Fast' co-star Tyrese's influential Tweets. It goes beyond social networking or Hollywood status. This charismatic character is today's leading movie tough guy, but with added smarts.
He anchors two major franchises in the 'Fast & Furious' and 'Riddick' and he was irreplaceable in the 'xXx' one (maybe it's time somebody made a call). His heavy star weight is so big that excitement is already buzzing for his next drive and flagship position fist-fight with fellow strongman 'The Rock' in 'Fast Seven' due 2014 in a series that doesn't seem to be running out of runway. Out of this world Vin's currently promoting the new sci-fi smash 'Riddick' movie for a franchise that featured the dark, classic 'Pitch Black' and the exciting 'Chronicles of Riddick'. Right now the only other man who leads two huge, box-office franchises still current is Robert Downey Jnr (with 'Iron Man' and 'Sherlock Holmes') arguably the most charismatic and popular figure in Hollywood right now, two characteristics that help Vin to not be far off.
Vin Diesel is one of your most marketable movie makers because the ladies love him like Cool James and the fellas love the lights, camera and action of his films. Diesel's far from unleaded as he can still roll wit the punches and special effects like he asked someone for what Bruce Willis was having. The hard-worker keeps his frame and creative pictures honed because of his love for his art. He keeps the love for 'Riddick' alive in computer games and animated spin-off features, (where most other actors would pay no mind and still take a cut) while even when critically panned he shows his underrated diversity and underground talent like in the harshly judged and actually good 'Babylon A.D.'.
Still it's the depth of his personality and character that bring out the deeper human aspects of his tough guy characters. Just take a look at another underrated gem of a movie for example in the revenge thriller 'A Man Apart' that stands right next to similar modern greats like Denzel Washington's 'Man On Fire' or Jodie Foster and Terrence Howard's 'The Brave One'. In this movie Diesel plays a man hell bent on revenge after criminals kill the love of his life. Armed with true grit and genuine heart Diesel perfectly shows both sides of a man, battling between love and hate and good and bad.
Tuesday, 27 August 2013
109 Minutes. Starring: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, Wagner Moura & William Fichtner. Director: Neill Blomkamp.
More like 'The Borg Identity' as Matt Damon has more metal and pieces of Meccano strapped to his bald head than Patrick 'Picard' Stewart in 'Star Trek-The Next Generation' here. Speaking of which it's been a comic-book geeks fantasy, science-fiction Summer and year of big blockbusters that has seen 'Star Trek-Into Darkness' lead the way at warp-speed for a formidable season of super and extra-terrestrial plots and budgets. We've seen Men of Steel, Avengers, X-Men, Lone Rangers, zombie wars. In addition to a 'rock 'em sock 'em', Transformer versus Godzilla like battle on the rim of the Pacific and some father Smith and Jaden junior 'After Earth' experiences to go along with Tom Cruise's plunges into the depths of 'Oblivion'. Still as one of Hollywood's best and most marketable stars joins dynamic 'District 9' director Neill Blomkamp, we're about to see a whole new world and science-fiction isolated themes that could even hunt-down Vin Diesel's 'Riddick' or ground the 'Gravity' of the forthcoming George Clooney and Sandra Bullock space vehicle.
Matt Damon is in search of 'Elysium'...and we're not talking about that place Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston found in 'Wanderlust'. Damon's wanderings (inbetween manufacturing the very robots that control him like the modern revision of 'Total Recall') find him in looking for a place after earth in what looks like a blinged out version of that "garage" in 'Deep Space Nine'. 'Elysium' is named after the concept of Greek afterlife reserved for God's and there really is some religious, political and social commentary and satire in this piece from the man who took immigartion and cruel regimes to task in the South African prawn cocktail of'District 9'. The great Blomkamp could be the modern day movie version of Phillip K. Dick. The out of this world habitat of Elysium here is reserved for the rich, while the poor remained downtrodden on Earth wasting away along with its resources. There really is trouble in this paradise. Finally after all these years of rehashed sci-fi concepts of apocalyptic futures, one comes along that is refreshingly tight as it is purely terrifying. On Elysium, anything goes for the blessed "better-off", along with free healing healthcare. It's no wonder Damon and everyone want in...even if they have to break into the most heavily guarded planet to get there. This health-care methaphor takes shots at everything wrong with todays world in it's look at the future and this is why this seperation story is in a class of it's own.
With Ben Affleck taking on Batman's cowl, it's only right we show some love to leading man of the moment, Matt Damon, who truly shines as this films star. Shaving his head and tattooing himself, whilst permanently inking his reputation as a cut above the rest, all-round nice-guy action hero, ready to fight and do anything for the right thing. In another universe this guy would have been the perfect Captain Kirk. After he awoke the late, great author Phillip K. Dick's vision of 'The Adjustment Bureau', Damon switches hats to an action matter that still has mindful themes to go along with the stronghold, no holes barred, pull no punches action-set pieces. With 'True Grit', the fearless cowboy actor who really showed Hollywood something this year with Michael Douglas, tenses through a taught and inspired, independent smash. The humanitarian strikes a bolt into the brain of this hardware generation with a real human issue. It hasn't been this scary since 'Contagion'. That is until you see Jodie Foster, who gives her coldest and most calculated multiplying performance since she killed it with Terrence Howard in 'The Brave One'. Besting Melissa Leo's on-screen performance for this years bitch, battle-axe wielding futuristic power, Foster would have been perfect for 'Oblivion'... although she would have probably shot Tom Cruise out the sky before he got to meet her like that 'hishe' ending.
This films tenacious talent doesnt end in Hollywood however. As the support is as strong as the underrated actors filmographys. 'I Am Legend's' Alice Braga in end of the world scenarios once again shows she's worth fighting for with the maturity beyond her years. Whilst inspired international talent Diego Luna and Wagner Moura can expect to receive some phone-calls and scripts now their talent is exposed to the worlds stage. There's even room for cult, character actor William Fichtner who returns to his 'Dark Knight' and 'Prison Break' slick and sick suited acting self after his great grizzly, vile villain in this Summers criminally underrated 'Lone Ranger' and 'Stargate's' Michael Shanks who makes a shift from the time to space continuum, for a cult fans cameo apperance. It gets even more horrendous, horrible, brutal and bad with the nicest guy Sharlto Copley. Yes, that's right the genuine talent from 'District 9' and 'A-Team's' Murdock aces his faced task of becoming the most despicable villain not named Gru, complete with a 'I just chopped down a Lumberjack' beard. You may have laughed at his accent in 'D9', but wielding a sword and a face that looks like he missed his beard and went for his cheeks with his morning shave, Copley's cold play is no joke here. He more than copes with his task of portraying his darker and more disgusting side after so many light and warm performances. He's so repellent here he's going to attract awards. Even Foster's ice-queen couldn't get this cold. After 'Star Trek's' Benedict Cumberbatch led the way with a villain year that looks to best last years Bond, Loki and Bane, it's clear the greatest of 2013 lies in the future of 2154.
With androids that could give you nightmares of electric sheep and blade work that could leave you running for the Hollywood hills this blockbuster is brutal as it tames all notions of a watered down modern, mainstream movie market. With wonderful 'Minority Report' like, pulsing, power weapons, comical and satirical robot representatives of parole officers this is a calculation of a technological world distancing itself from others. The more impersonal it gets, the more Blomkamp is getting personal with people. Therefore we are given the true nature of science-fiction in all it's essence. The same 'do the right thing before it's too late' themes that 'Star Trek' and 'Star Wars' explored underneath all the sabres, phasers and fun. Those themes of how our past choices can echo into our future and how we can make things right and better in the present as everything connects. Set your faces to stun, because even in the 'Terminator' destruction, unflinching moments, this world warning is truly a gift...and as for the action...'Halo'...I mean hello! These shaky cam, along with first-person shooting, aerial attacks and hand to metal combat show this film has a lot of nuts and bolts beneath it's screwed on vision. This is the future of Sci-Fi movies. Hardwired and inspired, some may put this Blomkamp follow-up below 'District 9' as a sort-of sequel, but it's a whole new world...and even if it's not in the same district as its predecessor it's definitely in the same vicinity. That being out of this world and in a whole other universe and idea that may be closer to home and this reality, than you think. 'Elysium'...you really want to go there? TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Saturday, 17 August 2013
109 Minutes. Starring: Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Paula Patton, Bill Paxton & James Marsden. Director: Baltasar Kormákur.
"Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha' going to do? Whatcha' going to do when they come for you"? Now what do you get when you take two Oscar Academy certified thespians and let them loose on some comic and action set-pieces? You get '2 Guns' starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg. An out of nowhere hit action/comedy that is hallmark 80's/90's, sitting pretty and perfectly between the Summer and fall seasons of big blockbusters. Bold with a bang in it's own right, '2 Guns' is based on Steven Grant's graphic novel, but unlike it's weeks competition, it's more necessarily fun than needlessly graphic...and it still kicks ass. Even Jim Carrey would find trouble discrediting this one. As classic American as the songs playing on the radio and the food served up in the diner they're sitting in, these '2 Guns' hit their target with more bang for your buck. Just make sure you leave a tip.
Here's the first tip...don't write off Denzel Washington. The Academy Award actor may be getting a little grey in the beard but the most consistent Hollywood heavyweight's performances aren't getting old in the gold tooth. Sure critics may try and try to write him off, but he grounded all of that this year with the Oscar nominated 'Flight'...and he's on course for a great year too. Complete with an 'Out Of Time' shirt, 'Inside Man' hat, a 'Training Day' law and disorder degree and 'Man On Fire' gun control, (as well as the engaging emotional breaks that make him such a silent weapon of the all acting action hero) this will sit amongst the actors most enjoyable flicks in those Denzel Washington seasons you see making the rounds on the tube. Still, the greatest actor of our generation is far from done. He's 'Unstoppable' like that train, about to join the hit-girl competition, Chloe Grace-Mortez next year for 'The Equalizer'. The divided critics are subtracted now, add this to his multiplying classic filmography. Oh...and thanks for the love for the name Harvey, Denzel!
The other gun is no sidearm either. From 'Broken City' to 'Pain & Gain' this is Mark Wahlberg's year and with his furry and robotic, 'Ted' and 'Transformers' franchises forthcoming, 2014 looks set to be a marquee. The straight shooter, revealing that 'Contraband' tension, with buddy comedy funny like 'The Other Guys' and 'Shooter' action, gains another shot and notch for his last true action hero's expanding belt (you see the 'Pain' and muscle 'Gain'). Still, complete with a wink, click and gun, the one-line king hasn't had a mouth this smart for years...and you thought his quips 'Departed' the moment he owned and burnt Alec Baldwin, Leo DiCaprio and everyone in Boston for the Scorcese epic. He's still the wise-cracking Chris Tucker, to Washington's Jackie Chan ass kicking in this 'Rush Hour' and don't worry no chickens were harmed in the making of this picture. The buddy-cop genre is back and better than ever, thanks to the connection made by these stars of different films. Now how about 'Another 48 Guns' anyone?
As big and best the two leads are there is more in the clip of these '2 Guns', just like the slick plot to go along with the dry humour. Two bank robbers with two guns turn out to be more than meets the thiefs masks eyes and from there what unravels and weaves is something you need to twist and turn through yourself...but you best believe there's some action relief to go with all the clips and quips too. From off-road car chases to the best use of bulls since 'Knight & Day' or Jordan and Pippen, this is one cops and robbers, seals and kingpins thriller that snipes it's target audience and blows them away right to the Mexican stand-off fantastic finale. If that wasn't enough, Mrs. Robin Thicke, Paula Patton, doesn't blur her lines, showing that 'Ghost Protocol' wasn't her only mission made possible, while 'X-Men's Cyclops, shoots straight as James Marsden swaps the red eyes for a Navy crew cut.
Still it's Bill Paxton's return to screens that really light ups the silver linings of this cinema hit. The all-round nice guy plays it redneck bad and convincingly cold in what's truly this movies greatest threat and hit. Out for blood and his money you won't want to play any games with this man...especially russian roulette. He may only have one gun, but boy does he do a lot with it. Taking a spin and a gamble Paxton gives us his bold and best in years...so much the next time you see him ill in 'Apollo 13' you wont feel sorry for him when he complains that it hurts when he pee's. Because here he gives everyone the runs for his money. Still he's a villain worthy of our two great heroes that take the basic formula of '2 Guns' with their chemistry and make it a potent mix of action physics and buddy-cop bond. The charisma here from the two leads in this old-school movie shows the new generation how it's done. "You fight for the guy thats fighting next to you", and that's how W and W, Wahlberg and Washington get ahead in this 'Expendable' action age. '3 Guns' anyone? Let's spin the barrell again. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Saturday, 10 August 2013
Wild, Wild, Depp.
149 Minutes. Starring: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichtner, Tom Wilkinson, Ruth Wilson, Barry Pepper & Helena Bonham Carter. Director: Gore Verbinski.
OK Kemosabe, forget everything you've heard. So what's supposed to be the biggest flop of 2013 is a terrible movie right? Other critics wrong! With the Summer blockbuster season coming to a close it's only fitting it's given one last wild ride by the man and director, two horseman show that owned the Summer season of cinema for the last decade with the thrilling and buckwild 'Pirates Of The Caribbean' franchise. Johnny Depp and director Gore Verbinski are back in the saddle together to give cinema-goers it's oldest, most traditional favourite American story a modern twist. As we take a look at the man behind 'The Lone Ranger' mask we see a cowboys and indians tale that's worth your watch. Sure this isn't a classic update of a western like 'True Grit', 'Tombstone' or all those Clint Eastwood pictures...but you best believe it's no 'Wild, Wild West'. Take this with a pinch of 'Cowboys & Aliens' as one of the Summers more fun and entertaining pictures, earning it's place next to the darker 'Star Trek', 'Fast & Furious', 'Iron Man', 'Man Of Steel' and 'Wolverine' franchises. Like 'Despicable Me' this ones for the kids and before they go back to school, they get to live the dream of being a cowboy for real on the big screen.
But just who is the Lone Ranger? Behind the mask and the awesome ranger suit you'll find the arm and hammer talent of Armie Hammer. The man who made us see double while playing twins in 'The Social Network' and could have seen an Oscar for his role alongside Leo DiCaprio in the Eastwood directed biopic of 'J. Edgar' and of course who could forget...erm 'Mirror, Mirror'. On reflection here however, Armie is the out for justice, fairest of them all to play the iconic lawman. With the 26 year olds mature and character growing, developing perfomance it's clear to see co-headling his first big picture that this stars future and new franchise are in safe gun-totting hands. Hammer nails it even alongside everyone's favourite sideshow draw turned feature presentation. Who else to play the iconic Tonto but Johnny Depp? The man with many hats yet again helps make up a classic character into his own. You can put this outfitted style into the classic Depp museum alongside the best of the rest. Some have seen this as a 'minstrel show' like performance, but Depp brings the diligent respect as well as the hilarious humour. The king of the one word or visual gag brings more rib-tickles here to this railroad and keeps everything on track. The director/actor combo that brought you Jack Sparrow have done it again. Tonto Unchained!
From the old west train running through the production logo beginning, Disney have started another hit for the Mickey Mouse generation. Verbinski's vision brings us a big picture that is framed like a 90's great (think 'The Mummy' etc, when movies where fun instead of dark). All guns blazing for one wild ride and with some great cinematography from the grand deserts and canyons of Utah to the traditional look, sound and of course score of a classic western like 'The Lone Ranger'. The film opens with a dark uncomplete Golden Gate Bridge in San Fransisco with a balloon floating away from the outstretched arm of a kid riding a ferris wheel with his mother. It's these type of moments that make this film look and feel like it's done the right way. Attach that to some epic, scintillating, puncuated set-pieces from four legs to iron ones and you've got some great action scenes with horses, trains and automatics. This film may be long but, it's thrilling, tense and most of all fun. There's more jokes here to add the light relief to not only this picture but the darkest Summer in Hollywood record. Don't believe me...check the names. As good as the depths of many Hollywood, science-fiction blockbusters and franchises have been this year it's refreshing to have something light and friendly that doesn't take itself too seriously. After all the Summer season is for the children. Critics may be calling time on this and Depp but just like 'The Tourist' they fail to see through the Hollywood blood lust for just darkness. Just like 'The Tourist' is not an action, but a classic crime caper adenture fit for the Cary Grant 50's, 'The Lone Ranger' will one day serve as the perfect Sunday afternoon matinee movie...which there is a big-albeit motherly-market for.
If that isn't enough than the supporting cast reads like the Wanted poster of a Hollywood roll call. From the rising talent of Ruth Wilson to the veteran great Tom Wilkinson. The man who was born for Westerns-or maybe for the Wayne era-Barry Pepper put his spurs back on for a captain role that just clicks, while the usual slick William Fichtner looks truly sick as a disformed disgruntled villain. The man who ignited season 2 of 'Prison Break' and the first couple of minutes of 'The Dark Knight' (what a blunderbuss entrance of a cameo) was just born to play the bad boy. Even Helena Bonham Carter is in a Johnny Depp picture that doesn't have anything to do with Tim Burton. The woman who is having another incredible year from 'Les Mis' to Liz Taylor, steps it up here with a great American accent and an ivory pistol. This is one strong cast and those wishing Johnny Depp would just take off the mask and play "normal characters" (did you not see 'Public Enemies' or 'The Tourist'?), need to see just how deep this platinum chracter actor can take it. And to those calling for Depp's featherd head in playing a Native American may need to check his roots. As the man said he's trying "right the wrongs of the past", and with a respectful and real performance in a film that isn't half as downbeat as those writing it off...it's a start. Today the west has won. TIM DAVID HARVEY.