Category: Movie Review

Death Race

Have you ever noticed that when a movie is released that takes place in “the not-too-distant future”, that future is always bleak? Sometimes only marginally worse than things are today, and sometimes cataclysmically awful, but pretty much invariably bad.  Perhaps a huge section of the population has been wiped out by nuclear war or a viral outbreak and the survivors are left to fight over the decaying scraps of society.  Such examples of films in this vein are The Road Warrior and Escape From New York, which remain classics of the genre, a genre that Doomsday utterly failed earlier this year.

Then there are those films that require less of a stretch of the imagination.  In fact, the setting is set up in the first two minutes of Death Race:  “In the year 2012, the economies of the world have collapsed.  Crime rates are at an all-time high, and the prison system is at a breaking point.  Prisons are now controlled by large corporations for profit…” yada yada yada.  Basically, a deadly competition was set up involving the dregs of society, who would challenge each other in a no-holds-barred road-race.  Quite simply, the winner gets his freedom, the losers don’t live to race again.  It’s all overseen by Warden Hennessy (Joan Allen), a tough-as-nails entrepreneur who created the game.  But when her star driver, the masked “Frankenstein” dies after a crash, she looks to former racecar driver Jensen Ames (Jason Statham) to take his place having been sent to prison for murdering his wife (a crime for which he was framed).

Death Race was directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (the Resident Evil series), so I knew going in that I wasn’t going to get Shakespeare.  My hopes weren’t all that high, I have to tell you.  When I saw The Condemned last year, I was intrigued; I expected a Most Dangerous Game kind of story, but I ended up disappointed because it got so puffed up on its message – “we love violence, therefore we all suck” – that it deflated the entire story, which was supposed to be an action movie.  Note to Hollywood:  if you want to send a message, fine, just don’t use Stone Cold Steve Austin to send it.  Please.

Death Race, I am delighted to say, never once tried to be anything that it wasn’t.  It was an adrenaline-filled, testosterone-charged thrill ride with terrific stunts, awesome explosions, and the action never let up for a moment.  They didn’t try to reinvent the wheel; instead, they put Jason Statham behind it, which worked very well for me in the Transporter films.  And I loved every damn minute of it.

Much like The Running Man two decades ago, this was over-the-top, action-for-action’s-sake at its popcorn-gulping best.  I expected violence, profanity, and gore to the nth degree, and it did not disappoint.  At all.  Go see this film, but before you enter the theater, be sure to switch off your brain and shed your preconceptions.  Otherwise, you won’t see the forest for the trees.

4 ½ / 5 stars

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Changeling Movie Review Part 2

While this is going on, a detective named Ybarra (Michael Kelly) follows a lead on another missing-child case, and finds himself involved in a situation almost too ghastly to contemplate.  This situation connects directly to Christine’s missing son, and it was especially good to see that there was one representative of the police force that seemed interested in actually doing his job.

There’s no doubt that Eastwood meant for Changeling to be a story that drives home the point of what happens when any entity, be it a government or something more secular, is given too much power.  As far as the acting went, Jolie does a decent job as Christine Collins.  I have never doubted that she has a fair amount of acting prowess, and I have enjoyed those rare moments when she chooses to showcase it rather than take roles where she is raiding tombs, stealing cars or curving bullets.  However, there are more than a few moments when her character is overwrought, and the tears flow freely, that seem more like a performance than a genuine reaction.  Malkovich, as I said earlier, is terrific, continuing the truism that no matter who he plays, be it a good guy or bad guy, you do not EVER want to be on John Malkovich’s bad side.

Some critics have said that Changeling is Oscar-worthy, while others have said the exact opposite.  

For myself, it’s still a little early to make that call, given the caliber of films coming out in the next few months, but given what I saw, I would honestly be surprised if Eastwood’s latest outing walked off with Academy gold. A decent and entertaining picture, yes, but nowhere near the caliber of previous efforts like Unforgiven or Million Dollar Baby.

3 / 5 stars

What do you think? Did you like the movie? Do you agree with my thoughts?

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Changeling Movie Review

Imagine if you will a society where the police department, the entity pledged to serve and protect the community, is given permission by the chief of police to “clean up the streets”, to brutalize and murder “offenders” without warrants, trials or paperwork; a system as corrupt as the Mafia and just as ruthless, that brooks no dissension, embarrassment or threat to their power.

Now imagine a mother, coming home from her job at AT&T, where she works as a supervisor of telephone operators, to find her nine-year-old son missing.  Frantically, she informs the police, who, after a four-month nationwide search, bring a boy matching her son’s description home to her.  They absolutely insist that the boy IS her son, despite the fact that he looks different and is four inches shorter.  And despite her protests that they made a mistake, the police consider the case closed.

It is hard to imagine that anyone could be so ludicrously brazen as to say that a hysterical mother is not objective enough to know her own son when she sees him, but that is the premise behind the story of Changeling, the latest directorial effort from Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood, and starring Angelina Jolie as Christine Collins, the aforementioned mother desperately trying to find her missing son, Walter.

Despite the insistence of L.A.P.D. captain J.J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan) that they found the right boy, Christine continues to protest that a mistake has been made, and that her son is still out there somewhere.  She eventually finds an ally in Rev. Gustav Briegleb (wonderfully played by John Malkovich), a local pastor who also does regular radio broadcasts vilifying the police force, but not long afterward, Capt. Jones has Christine committed to the psychopathic ward at a local mental hospital, since she’s “obviously lost touch with reality”.

Read the rest of the movie review in the next post! It is already waiting for you!

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