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Tuesday: Haywire

There's a lot of talent involved here, although everything is too scattered to truly bring this action thriller together.

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Looking back over the thriller and action flicks containing agents from the government, I can't help but notice a genre formula that consumes many of these films, with both large and small budgets. Fortunately, there are exceptions to this rule. Is all I generally look for in these films are to be entertained with a set of characters that I actually find interesting. However, the most important rule of an action flick is generally to keep our attention, even if it means resorting to a popcorn flick. Haywire showed a lot of promise through its trailers to be a fun action thriller that will be compelling and embrace such clichés with open arms. While the latter is most certainly true, I found the first portion of that to be lacking quite a bit.

A last-minute mission in Dublin turns deadly for stunning secret operative Mallory Kane when she realizes she's been betrayed and that her own life is no longer safe. Now, to outwit her enemies, she'll simply have to outlast them. Writer Lem Dobbs has written the impressive Dark City, so I held some expectations towards the way that this film would be handled behind the scenes. The film constantly flashes back and forth between the current mission and Mallory's past missions leading up to, and explaining, the hunt for her by those she once worked for. There are a bunch of twists and turns that are thrown into the mix, which don't really feel like big reveals. Viewers with half a brain could predict who double crosses who and what move each character is about to make. The strongest portion of this motion feature is actually during the flashbacks. I found those missions to be quite interesting and some characters met along the way are enjoyable on screen. However, each time it flashed back to the current objective, my interest would become weary. The two most intriguing characters for me are Aaron and Paul, both being other secret operatives aiding Mallory Kane in past missions. While Aaron stands as one of those attempting to kill Mallory, his character is never front and center. Mallory simply isn't as interesting as a character as some of the supporting ones are. She's your stereotypical badass secret operative. Even though there's an attempt to provide a backstory for her, it comes across as flimsy and she isn't somebody I ever wanted to root for. There's a lot of long, unnecessary dialogues and not enough action sequences. For those expecting an action flick from this should be warned that this is primarily a thriller with some action elements. From an action thriller without much action, Haywire disappoints with its attempt at an entertaining and compelling story.

There are times where it feels as if this screenplay was written for Gina Carano to play Mallory Kane. Physically, she most certainly fits the role. However, some people simply shouldn't be actors or actresses. Carano isn't as horrible as she could have been, but she still delivers a rather shaky performance as the secret operative. The supporting cast here contains a lot of big names, such as Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, and Michael Douglas. However, these actors never get his or her chance to shine. Channing Tatum is surprisingly solid in the role of Aaron, whom I would have liked to see receive more screen time here. Michael Douglas has such a tiny role in this, I'm not sure why he even has a spot on the poster or in the trailer. Don't expect to see very much of him or Antonio Banderas. Ewan McGregor delivers as being the unlikable Kenneth. Those who know me shouldn't be surprised to hear me say that Michael Fassbender delivers the finest performance here. Despite the fact that he doesn't have very long in this feature, he still nails the character of Paul. He's convincing and brings that charm that audiences crave from him worldwide. Haywire has a couple performances that are good, although the supporting cast doesn't receive as much time to shine as they deserve.

Even though Haywire is primarily a thriller, there's still some action. What Gina Carano doesn't deliver in the dialogue portions of the movie, she makes up for during the action sequences. She's awesome in these scenes, although the big problem is that there isn't enough of these. The trailer features a strong majority of the action seen in this flick. I expected a lot more violence and action than what's actually here. However, the action that makes itself known isn't your average fighting. It's very stylized and extremely entertaining to watch. Steven Soderbergh is just as incredible behind the camera as one would expect. I still wish that he could have pulled through with some more action and ditched a bunch of the tacky dialogues. I rarely ever say that, but in this case, it's absolutely true.

I'm sure that Haywire has its audience, although I'm simply not it. I found it to be rather dull due to the fact that it embraces the genre clichés, but never does anything with them. I continued to wait to see how things would twist and turn throughout the story, but it consists of the exact same formulaic plots and dialogues that we'd expect here. The screenplay is uninteresting with a protagonist that couldn't hold my attention. While the acting is quite good from the supporting cast, they aren't shown long enough for us to truly appreciate it. Instead, we have an actress who is great during the action sequences, although the film doesn't offer very much action to begin with. This automatically eliminates what makes her a worthwhile casting decision. However, I most certainly enjoyed the stylized action that we do get to see. I was very excited to see Haywire after seeing the trailer, although it ultimately disappointed me. There's a lot of talent involved here, although everything is too scattered to truly bring this action thriller together.

My Rating = Two Stars

Next movie: Mother's Day (2010)

Thursday: Mother's Day (2010)

I suppose Mother's Day has its audience, but I found it to be quite a bit under average. Skip it.

Mother's Day (2010)
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For those that are fans of Troma flicks, the movie Mother's Day from 1980 should ring a bell. While I've seen a bunch of Troma films, I've never been a fan of them. There are a few that standout, which I enjoy, although I have difficulty enjoying the majority of them. Some of these stories do have potential though, despite how crazy and outrageous some of them are. Director Darren Lynn Bousman is most known for directing a few of the Saw sequels. Well, he's now taking a stab at the Troma flick known as Mother's Day. It was originally released in 2010, circling film festivals and reached theaters in some other countries. However, it had difficulty finding a distributor in the United States, so it was just released nationally in a limited amount of theaters and on Blu-ray and DVD. The trailers and reviews got me excited to check it out, due to the fact that it appeared to be a more dark take on the story and less tacky. As displayed, there are so many other issues that come to light.

The new owners of a home pick the wrong day to host a birthday party when their bash is crashed by the house's previous occupants. They are composed of three fugitive bank robber brothers, their sister, and their protective and psychotic mother. A hostage crisis ensues as the mother plots her family's big escape. Those who thought that the story would be similar to the original will find that to be incorrect. This appears to only be loosely based off of the original B-movie. This remake is much more of a home invasion, which just happens to have the old Mother's Day spin on it. Things quickly go down the gutter, although that doesn't stop this movie from running over an hour and forty minutes. It's definitely a bit long for this type of movie. Before anything bad occurs to the partiers, audiences will already hope that some of these partiers are able to make it out. The further into the running time it gets, the film quickly wears out its welcome. Every single one of these partiers are utter morons. Some fans of the film will try to protect this by saying that, "You don't know what you would do in a home invasion type situation." Any human being with common sense wouldn't do any of the stuff that these characters do. Apart from the characters, Mother's Day attempts to be a full-blooded thriller. although it fails at almost everything it tries to be. There isn't any tension here that grabbed me at any point in this feature and the horror aspects of it are ripped to shreds due to the fact that I don't care about any of these characters because of their stupidity, which tears all believability right out of the story. Some may say that I'm being a bit harsh, but this is an inconsistent mess.

With the screenplay being in such a rough state, the acting couldn't be much better, right? Well, you just might be surprised. While there are some familiar faces from some other horror based projects, such as Jaime King (My Bloody Valentine 3D), Deborah Ann Woll (True Blood), Briana Evigan (Sorority Row), and Shawn Ashmore (Frozen), the main star is Rebecca De Mornay. She performs as 'Mother' and is absolutely terrific. She's incredibly creepy and convincing in the role of the psychotic mother. De Mornay is certainly the strongest asset Mother's Day has to offer. However, that isn't to say that the rest of the cast doesn't deliver. The acting here isn't bad by any means, although the characters are so unlikable rooting back to the screenplay that it's difficult to see many of these actors shine. The two runner ups for the strongest performances are Deborah Ann Woll as the sister of the robbers and Shawn Ashmore as George Barnum, one of the partiers. He's definitely the smartest out of the bunch, therefore one of the few characters we're actually rooting for. I found myself a bit surprised here with some solid performances, especially that of Rebecca De Mornay.

As far as the visuals go, I wasn't worried from the beginning. Darren Lynn Bousman provided a strong atmosphere and artistic direction to the Saw entries that he worked on. I had no problems with the atmosphere here, but the gross out gags is where the film shines. The violence isn't quite as constant as Saw, although there are some nice gruesome effects. They include scenes such as burning a human's head alive and bashing somebody's hand in with a pool ball until their hand is broken. It all looks quite real. The audio work is decent, but nothing spectacular. The soundstage is filled with some nice immersive and atmospheric sounds, although there are problems during the climax, to be specific. The gun shots sound far too thin and the bass is sloppy. I believe that Mother's Day could've utilized further.

The attempt at being either a successful horror or thriller film has failed. There isn't very much tension and there are too many 'protagonists' that are irritating to the point of not caring what happens next. I realize that a script re-imagining a B-movie isn't going to be gold, but it should be able to draw me in and hold my attention. Instead, this one hour and forty minutes felt much longer than it should've. There isn't any guarantee that fans of the original Troma flick are going to enjoy this either, as it's a completely different take on the story. The acting is surprisingly decent, especially by Rebecca De Mornay, Shawn Ashmore, and Deborah Ann Woll. The visuals are decent, but the audio leaves us with desiring a better mixed track. To be honest, I can completely understand why not many studios wanted to touch this one. I suppose Mother's Day has its audience, but I found it to be quite a bit under average. Skip it.

My Rating = Two Stars

Next movie: The Grey

Saturday: The Grey

The Grey is an incredibly riveting film that is well-worth seeing.

The Grey
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Liam Neeson has been in a wide variety of different films. However, the more recent of the bunch have been him playing in roles where he's supposed to be reckless and a power that nobody will want to mess with after viewing his brutal force. In The Grey, he plays a similar character, except this time he's in a survival flick. These man vs. nature flicks appear to be rather popular with audiences since I see them being released quite often. Unfortunately, many of them fall flat and aren't able to deliver the true tension or genuine characters in order to make the experience one to recommend. After seeing all of the trailers and TV spots for this film, I wasn't sure what to think. After seeing all of the reviews from both critics and average moviegoers, this was a must-see. Some of the opinions from critics are mixed, although the positive perspectives certainly swayed me to check this out. Hopefully my review will do the same for you.

After narrowly surviving a deadly plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness, a band of oil riggers must fend for their lives in the ice and snow. However, they aren't alone, as wolves view their presence as a threat. Without even knowing the fact that there are wolves in this feature, as soon as this plane crashes, the mere fact that they're stuck with such harsh conditions is enough to warrant tension. Soon, wolves are thrown into the mix. Writers Joe Camahan and Ian Mackenzie Jeffers realistically approach why the wolves are hunting them. I can picture most other flicks simply mentioning that there are wolves that want to kill and eat them. In The Grey, we're informed that since wolves are territorial, they believe that these survivors are threats to their land, therefore they attempt to kill them off one by one in order to protect their area. There are moments where this film becomes increasingly intense with plenty of action and moments where you'll find yourself sitting at the edge of your seat. Meanwhile, the pacing slows itself down just enough for us to take a breather from the action and allows us to get to know these characters. They begin to speak about their past and who they're fighting to get home for. By the time the pacing really kicks into high gear, I felt quite a bit for these characters. In fact, there are times where the writing becomes even poetic, especially towards the end. Now that I've said the strong points of the screenplay, the weak points fall more on the director's shoulders.The Grey takes place in some harsh weather conditions and the characters become weak and injured from not only the extreme weather, but from wolf bites and such. Well, they still manage to not have these injuries affect them in the slightest. For example, Ottway suffers a nasty wolf bite on the leg, yet he manages to run at full speed through snow without any issues. Another example is being in water so cold that you could die in a couple minutes, yet Ottway walks out of the water without really shivering much. Such errors stick out and are difficult to simply brush off when trying to be absolutely immersed in the film. I'm not sure why the director didn't instruct the cast to actually appear injured, weak, and freezing. Otherwise, this is a solid script that captivates the audience from start to finish.

Despite the fact that this cast doesn't portray the weather conditions as they should have, this cast does a decent job. Liam Neeson delivers as Ottway and the leader of this pack of survivors. He's convincing in the role and brings this character to life. Neeson is the biggest name to star in The Grey, although that's not to say that this cast isn't able to deliver. The remainder of the actors starring in this survival picture are Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney, Dallas Roberts, Joe Anderson, Nonso Anozie, James Badge Dale, and Ben Bray. The acting remains pretty consistent throughout. With the combination of the writing and the acting, this film has developed some characters that are introduced quite well. While there are some characters we'll find to be unlikable, the majority of the characters are likable, who you'll be rooting for to survive. Fortunately, we have a group of characters who make smart decisions, for the most part, so you won't find yourself yelling at the television at the actions of the roles much. These actors aid in making this a convincing thrill ride.

The Grey takes place in the Alaskan wilderness. The film was shot in Smithers and Vancouver in Canada. The locations are definitely believable. Director Joe Carnahan does a wonderful job behind the camera with the shots. This is surprisingly a brutal film that isn't afraid to show the carnage. This only made the feature more intense. The plane crash in the beginning is perhaps one of the most well-shot plan crashes caught on film, and I'm not exaggerating. However, I have one major complaint about the visuals. While the wolves are captured very well in a bunch of shots, they look horrible in others. There are times where one can easily tell that CG work is being utilized. Those who have seen any of the horrible Twilight movies should know how bad CG wolves can get. While it never reaches that low of a level, there are times where it sticks out like a sore thumb. Once I put this Blu-ray disc in the player, I was hoping for an aggressive track from this. I really got what I wished for. This is a sonic assault of a track, yet remains perfectly clear throughout. The dialogue is prioritized well, so you won't have much trouble understanding what's being said. An immersive environment has been created here. The surround activity is constant from start to finish. Whether it's only the wind or if it's wolves howling around our survivors, they create an incredible atmosphere. The subwoofer is sure to shake your entire room, especially during the plane crash. The Grey features more than a loud track, but the clarity is spot on. This is a reference-quality track provided by Universal Studios.

The wait to see this was definitely worth it. I wanted to see it in theaters, but I never had the time to see it. I would have gladly paid full ticket price to see this. This is a compelling film, relentless in not only its action, but its philosophical ideals as well. The script is well-written and provides a good mix of the action and character development with smooth pacing from start to finish. This isn't your typical man vs. nature survival flick. While there are wolves in this movie a lot, it's more about the survivors and what they're willing to do in order to return home to their loved ones. The ending might strike a home run for all audiences, but I find it to be a very fitting ending to a thrilling feature. Don't forget to stay after the credits, as there's a short scene that provides audiences a more definite ending. The acting is solid and the visuals are great, with the exception of some shots of the CG wolves. The audio is outstanding, so don't be afraid to crank the audio up loud for this one. The Grey is an incredibly riveting film that is well-worth seeing. Go check it out!

My Rating = Four Stars

Next movie: Piranha 3DD