Monthly Archives: March 2014

Need For Speed

Movie:  Need For Speed

Rating:  3 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:  Tobey Marshall (Aaron “Yo Bitch” Paul of Breaking Bad fame) is the drag race king of Mt Kisco, NY.  He owns a small shop that specializes in high performance automobiles, but is behind in his loan payments to the bank.  Enter Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) with a sweet offer that will cure Tobey’s money woes; all he has to do is put together a Shelby Mustang GT 500, and test drive it at 230 MPH.  Marshall and his shop crew put the Shelby together, and Marshall cranks it up to 234 MPH, and the car is sold for a hefty price tag of 2 million dollars.  All Marshall has to do is pocket the $500,000 fee coming to him, but Dino pushes him into a sucker bet: put your fee up and I’ll put my 1.5 mil on the line, and winner take all.  Out come 3 Koenigsegg Agera R_2 machines, and off go Dino, Tobey and Marshall’s pal Little Pete careening down a city highway at suicidal speeds.  Somehow, Marshall finds himself in the slammer for two years as a result of that little road race, and the day he gets out he is launching himself into entering into the semi-mystical race, the Deleon.

Only the 6 best racers get invited to the Deleon, and only by a personal invite of the race organizer Monarch.  The mysterious and wealthy Monarch (Michael Keaton) somehow monitors a lengthy cross-country trip by Marshall and Julia Madden (Imogen Poots) in the famous Shelby Mustang, but Tobey has trouble meeting the race deadline because all sorts of badasses are trying to stop Marshall and collect a bounty on him.  But have no fear, Tobey Marshall is not to be denied, and makes it to the starting line of the Deleon.  Then 6 superior automobiles barrel along to the conclusion of this high octane demolition derby of a movie.  The film is pretty run of the mill plot-wise.  It is more or less a combination of Smokey and the Bandit transitioning into a modern version of the chariot race from Ben Hur.

DreamWorks bankrolled this movie, and they spared no expense in providing amazing automobiles to perform hair-raising stunts and high speed smash-ups.  This film will appeal to adrenaline junkies and car aficianados.

Huh?  What The….:  During one chase sequence, the super Shelby Mustang (the one capable of hauling along at 234 MPH) gets caught from behind and rear-ended by a P.O.S. Ford pick-up truck?  Really?

Marshall, in one of the many chase scenes, decides it is time to execute “the Grasshopper” in the incredibly expensive and finely tuned Shelby Mustang, which turned out to be a stunt where he takes the car airborne for about 100 feet (a la The Dukes of Hazard), and drives away with no apparent ill effects to the vehicle.  Yeah, right.

Actor To Watch:  The small but key role from Michael Keaton raised this movie by 1/2 a star.  His manic performance as Monarch with a rapid fire commentary during the Deleon was a pleasure to watch.

Dialogue Nuggets:  Monarch disparaging the police who were pursuing the Deleon racers:  “Racers should race, cops should eat donuts”!

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300: Rise Of An Empire

Movie:  300: Rise Of An Empire

Rating:  1 Star (Out of 5)

Review:  The original movie 300 had something going for it, such as a real plot about a historical event, and an actor like Gerard Butler capable of pulling off the lead role.  Rise of an Empire is a total mishmash that is something of a prequel to the original.  The good guy, Greek warrior chief Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), leads the attack at the shores of Marathon to turn back the larger invading force of Persians.  In the process, Themistokles kills the Persian king, Darius, which annoys the king’s son, Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro).  After that, the movie plot heads south very rapidly.

Xerxes in his grief transforms into some mystical, totally ruthless demi-god.  In the process, he sheds all body hair and grows about a foot.  Somewhere along the way, he chooses Arternisia (Eva Green) as his war fleet admiral and only trusted advisor.  Together, they sic a fleet of a 1000 warships or so against the Greeks to wreak revenge for their last humiliating defeat.  Now we are back in the time period of the other 300 movie, and the 300 Spartans just died heroically.  Themistokles tries to rally all the separate Greek city states, but the politicians dither.  Spartan Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) turns down requests to ally with the other Greeks.  So what follows is a number of sea battles where the fearless Greeks venture out to face the Persian armada, and the evil Arternisia.  Lots of bloody slashing and hacking with swords and spears.  And, that’s about it.  The only suspense is who survives to fight in the inevitable sequel.

Huh?  What The….:  That bit where Themistokles shoots an arrow that kills King Darius?  Don’t think it was possible to shoot an arrow that far, not even if he had one of those English long bows from the 14th century, which he didn’t.

And what is up with that eye mascara Eva Green had?  It made her look like a raccoon.   The love scene she had with Sullivan Stapleton looked more like a WWA Texas Death Match.

Dialogue Nugget:  Greek rallying cry before a battle:  “Better to die on our feet than live on our knees!”

 

 

Three Days To Kill

Movie:  Three Days To Kill

Rating:  3 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   You have to be very good at your job to survive very long as a CIA operative in the field, and Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner) has been one of the very best for a long time.  Clearly well into middle age, he still manages to neutralize (i.e. snuff out) five bad guys in a hotel room before we are barely into our bag of popcorn.  Then he is part of a CIA team dispatched to take out some terrorists code named Albino and the Wolf, and things go terribly wrong.  Renner is trying to be a good dad and call his teenage daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld) because he is on a different continent on her birthday, but his telephone call is interrupted by a major gun battle.  Give Renner his props, as he managed to get through a quickie version of the Happy Birthday song despite the bullets flying around him.  He almost saved the day, but he collapses in the midst of a hot pursuit of the terrorists, and obviously is in dire need of medical assistance.

In fact, Renner is about to cash in his chips, but fortunately his skill in the “wet ops” biz gets him a slim chance to recover from his fatal malady which leaves him weak and bleeding from the nose.  All he has to do is go on one last mission to get that pesky Wolf.  Plus he has to do the bidding of his new CIA case officer, Vivi Delay (Amber Heard), who is at least as ruthless as the terrorists she is pursuing.  And it doesn’t hurt that she’s drop dead gorgeous, no pun intended.  As Ms Delay is putting her recruitment proposal to Renner (“You have nothing to lose; kill or die”), he is not that interested in killing more bad guys, and tells her “You’re not my type”.  To which the very hot Ms Delay replies, “I’m everybody’s type”.  (She is.  Just saying….)  To make a long story short, Renner wants more time on this earth to win back the affections of his estranged 16 year old daughter, and maybe even reconcile with his ex-wife Christine (Connie Nielsen).  Accepting the mission, Renner gets his first hypodermic filled with an experimental drug to prolong his life.  So it’s on to Paris to kill the big bad Wolf.

There are twists and turns to the inevitable showdown with the terrorists.  There is a terrific fight scene in a Paris deli that is gritty and very realistic.  The best parts of the movie that raises it a cut above the usual action flick is Costner, the old pro.  He exudes a believable scruffy world weariness that is tempered by his driving motivation to be with his family.  Which leads to some unusual and sometimes humorous moments such as Costner having to deal with a family that has legally taken up squatting in his Paris apartment, and then an interrogation interrupted by a family situation leading Costner to stuff a somewhat likeable baddie into the trunk of his car for safekeeping.  As Costner is about to shut the trunk on him, the baddie pleads, “I need to pick up my daughter by 4:30”!  Costner replies, “I can’t promise, but I’ll make an effort”.  Just two fathers trying to make their jobs and family life work as best they can.

Amber Heard’s character is rather one dimensional; she is all about taking care of business, and her business is killing terrorists.  It would help if she showed some normal human emotions.  To be fair, she does redeem herself at the very end of the movie… sort of.

Action fans should enjoy this movie for the shootouts, car chases, and fight scenes.  The more discerning movie fans should appreciate some pretty good dialogue and acting from a better than average cast.

Huh?  What the….:   Sometimes a movie stretches a coincidence way too far to make the plot work.  Guess who Zoey’s boyfriend’s father turns out to be….

Actress to Watch:  The camera loves Hailee Steinfeld!  This teenage actress nominated for an Oscar at age 14 for True Grit is the real deal.  Every scene she has with Costner is pure gold in this movie.  Keep your eye on Hailee for the future.

Dialogue Nugget:  There were a number of snappy lines in this movie.  When Ethan Renner wants to know why he wasn’t given the experimental drug at an earlier date, Vivi Delay informs him, “You weren’t worth the cost of treatment”.  To which Ethan Renner retorts, “Gee, you make me feel so special”.

Post Credits Stuff:  Zip.