Tag Archives: Denzel Washington

[Oscars 2013] – Predicting The Nominations

9 Jan

An actual Oscar statuette to be presented during the 79th Annual Academy Awards sits in a display case in Hollywood

I still have a few 2013 releases to catch up with, and I though I wanted to make my Oscar nominations predictions post having seen all of them, the nods are due early tomorrow morning so I’ll have to post them now.

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[Review] – Flight

10 Nov

Title: Flight
Year: 2012
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writer: John Gatins
Starring: Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, John Goodman, Bruce Greenwood, Melissa Leo, Brian Geraghty
MPAA Rating: R, drug and alcohol abuse, language, sexuality/nudity and an intense action sequence
Runtime: 138 min
IMDb Rating: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 76%
Metacritic: 76

We had heard a lot of things about Flight before actually seeing it. For one thing, it marked the return to live-action filmmaking of Robert Zemeckis, territory that he hadn’t visited since 2000 when he directed Cast Away. Since then he’s been busy tinkering with his beloved motion-capture technology in The Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol. So, getting the guy who had given us not only Cast Away, but Back to the Future and Forrest Gump back to making what he made best was already an event of note.

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[Trailer] – Flight

7 Jun

Watch the first trailer for Flight, the new film starring Denzel Washington, after the cut.

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Safe House

21 Feb

Title: Safe House
Year: 2012
Director: Daniel Espinosa
Writer: David Guggenheim
Starring: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard, Rubén Blades, Nora Arnezeder, Robert Patrick, Liam Cunningham, Joel Kinnaman
MPAA Rating: R, strong violence throughout and some language
Runtime: 115 min
IMDb Rating: 7.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 53%
Metacritic: 52

Denzel Washington is one really cool dude, I think that’s common knowledge by now. He’s a two-time Oscar-winner with a screen presence that’s really tough to rival and that usually makes for seriously solid films in which you leave thoroughly impressed with the man. Just look at some of the stuff he’s done: Glory, Malcolm X, Philadelphia, The Hurricane, Training Day, Antwone Fisher, Man on Fire, Inside Man, American Gangster. Those are all very good films and that have Mr. Washington front and center of them, delivering like crazy.

Safe House sees him partnering up with Ryan Reynolds, and both of them are actually very good in this film. The thing is, as cool as the banter that develops between these two is to witness, and they both really do give strong performances, the film doesn’t live up to the promise presented by that thanks to a seriously weak script and action sequences that don’t really get much going at all. So yeah, the story is absolutely nothing new, and the film goes at it like clockwork with the requisite fights and shoot-outs, but it’s still Denzel Washington as the lead, and the guy’s as infinitely cool as always, and the film is worth a watch for that alone in my opinion. You know what you’re going to get with this guy, and even if the quality of the films may vary, he always brings it.

Mr. Washington plays Tobin Frost in this one, a mysterious former CIA operative who’s been a dangerous renegade on the run for the past decade until he pops back up on the grid, surrenders himself to a US embassy to escape from people who want him dead and is subsequently sent to a CIA safe house in South Africa guarded by Matt Weston, the low-level agent played by Mr. Reynolds. A mercenary who’s after Frost attacks the house though, and only Weston manages to leave with the captured Frost now becoming his ally against a common enemy. With the help of his CIA mentor, played by Brendan Gleeson, and a female operative, played by the lovely Vera Farmiga, we get Weston trying to survive and getting into an intricate puzzle.

The film is always very busy, and director Daniel Espinosa actually manages to keep it all under check, juggling a lot of scenes at the same time but always keeping some sense of narrative and visual coherence even when the film starts shifting locations like crazy; having Richard Pearson, the editor of The Bourne Supremacy and United 93, certainly helped quite a lot to achieve that. But while Safe House is certainly a film that’s very well-made, it just doesn’t count with the script to fall back on, unfortunately, as screenwriter David Guggenheim, who made his feature debut with this screenplay, was certainly trying to give this one some kind of political edge but who ended up giving us stuff we had seen way too many times before and resorted to pretty brutal violence one too many times for my liking.

So really Safe House doesn’t have all that much going for it, but the fact that it has such a great cast makes it seem like so much more than it is, and it made me actually like it a fair bit as well. The screenplay tries to make out Frost as a mysterious man, it wants you to try to figure out how he became what he is now, but if you do it’s all because of Mr. Washington and what he brings to the role, not because of the screenplay, every frame he’s in is immediately much more important than it otherwise would have been. Ditto for Mr. Reynolds, who actually surprised me here; he was poised to become a big A-lister but after his superhero vehicle failed last year it seemed a bit difficult to see how he’d end up, and here he bounces back really nicely though, going toe-to-toe with Mr. Washington every step of the way. Also, having Mr. Gleeson and Ms. Farmiga, two very good actors, playing the guys at the CIA base gives a lot of gravitas to roles that usually would have been inconsequential.

The action sequences, however, just didn’t do it for me, I don’t know why. The editor like I said was the man behind The Bourne Supremacy which had insanely awesome action set pieces, and even the cinematographer, Oliver Wood, was also the guy behind all of the Bourne films (so you know what this film was aspiring to be like), but I didn’t get into the action bits as much as I would have liked. There are a lot them, big ones in big spaces and tight ones in tight spaces shot in close-up, but even if the many switches from scene to scene were visually coherent to me, the same can’t be said about the action sequences.

Go see Safe House though, it’s not an awesome film and the action sequences are over-the-top and not done all that well, but everything else just falls into place. Granted, it’s because you have Denzel Washington anchoring an otherwise rather crappy script and providing a sense of calm in the frantic action sequences, but all that matters is that he made it work, as did the rest of the cast. In a film that’s supposedly all about the action, it was the performances that elevated it to something worth your time and money.

Grade: B

Unstoppable

20 Nov

Title: Unstoppable
Year:
2010
Director:
Tony Scott
Writer:
Mark Bomback
Starring:
Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson, Ethan Suplee, Jessy Schram, Kevin Corrigan
MPAA Rating:
PG-13, sequences of action and peril, and some language
Runtime:
98 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
7.3
Rotten Tomatoes:
85%

 

I really like what comes out of every Denzel Washington-Tony Scott collaboration, the duo had already worked together four times before Unstoppable. The first one was in 1995’s Crimson Tide, they reunited nine years later for Man on Fire, then again in 2006 for Déjà Vu, and finally last year in The Taking of Pelham 123. Those have all been seriously solid films, Man on Fire I thought was particularly good, and shows that the partnership between these two is really consistent, and in my opinion Unstoppable is the best film they’ve made together thus far.

Simply put, this is sheer entertainment, a seriously nicely paced film. It’s fast, it’s thrilling and it’s loud, and if you need a film with those three qualities then Mr. Scott is definitely the man for the job. Reportedly Mr. Washington himself suggested Chris Pine for the other lead role to Mr. Scott, and that was one seriously spot-on recommendation. Mr. Pine came to my attention for all the wrong reasons in 2006, when he starred in that horrible Lindsay Lohan film Just My Luck and had a supporting role in Joe Carnahan’s underwhelming Smokin’ Aces. But then, as we all know, last year he turned it all around when he played Captain Kirk in J.J. Abrams’ spectacular Star Trek reboot which I went gaga for. So yeah, I love Chris Pine now, and considering that the next projects he has lined up are This Means War, alongside Reese Witherspoon and Tom Hardy, and Welcome to People, a potentially awesome film by the writers of Star Trek in which he’ll co-star with Elizabeth Banks, not to mention the eventual Star Trek sequel, I doubt I’ll stop liking the guy any time soon.

But, anyways, back to the film. If you’ve seen the trailers then you’ll know pretty much what it’s all about, which is, basically, an unstoppable train, not in the sense of The Taking of Pelham 123 because the train here is unmanned and there’s no John Travolta, but Mr. Washington is still the one poised to stop it here as he and Mr. Pine race against time to stop the huge freight train from crashing at full speed.

The similarities to that previous film go to state that Mr. Scott knows how to handle speeding trains all too well, and Mr. Washington knows how to deal with this amazing amount of energy and create some seriously believable tension for us sitting in the audience. We have a director who likes to shake things up a bit, literally, and throw as many loud trains or police sirens our way, and the effect it has when done so well like it is in Unstoppable is tremendous.

The stunts here are all pretty cool, and they’re not CGI, which is something that is far too underrated in our digitalized world, and Mr. Scott actually had Mr. Washington and Mr. Pine spend a lot of time atop the moving train. Apparently Mr. Pine did a lot of his own stunts while Mr. Washington only some, as he has a fear of heights, and left the others to very capable stuntmen. Whoever did whatever, the stunts all look seriously wicked on top of that huge train that sounds like a ferocious beast that can’t be controlled.

Mr. Pine’s character, Will, is a new young conductor that hasn’t spent much time assigned to railway, and has been partnered for the day with Mr. Washington’s character, Frank, who’s a veteran engineer. We learn a bit of their personal lives along the way, Will is having some bad marital problems and Frank is learning how to cope with his daughters. And then disaster strikes as the character played by Ethan Suplee, who has become an expert at playing dumb slackers since his days in My Name is Earl, makes a mistake as he thinks he has managed to bring the train to a complete stop, but no one with Mr. Suplee’s slacker demeanor is brought to a film like this to that. And sure enough, the train hasn’t stopped, instead it’s picked up speed and is full of dangerous chemicals and headed straight for a highly populated area.

You’ll obviously think that this happening would be impossible, however the movie sets some guidelines that make this seem plausible, not to mention that the film was inspired by a real-life event that was quite similar, so the groundwork was there and this could actually happen. Obviously this is the exaggerated and primped up version of things to make it all very entertaining, but it’s plausible and that’s all I care for, because the rest is handled remarkably well by the director and his stars.

Mr. Scott makes of his film something very much like the train it focusses on, the first half hour or so it’s on track, setting things up, but the last hour or so is unstoppable, a very thrilling ride with many suspenseful moments. We get to see this from the point of view of Will and Frank, from the point of view of Connie, the Rosario Dawson character, who’s in charge of dispatch and operations, and from the many news choppers Mr. Scott likes so much to have flying around creating cool shots of the action to intercut with the ones in which we’re right there.

I won’t go ahead and tell you guys how the problem is resolved, how Frank and Will, who started out a regular day aboard their train, will end up saving the day. But I will say this, Unstoppable is the best Scott-Washington collaboration to date, and it’s the movie in which Mr. Scott’s set of strengths have been on display the most awesomely, his frantic style of direction, his love of very tense moments in which split-second decisions are made by the dozens. This feels like a huge old-school action movie. And in these final months of the year, in which the majority of the films released are Oscar bait and more a bit more heavy, it feels good to have a plain out entertaining flick, especially one that’s so good.

Grade: A-

Brooklyn's Finest

7 Apr

Title: Brooklyn’s Finest
Year: 2009
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Writer: Michael C. Martin
Starring: Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Ethan Hawke, Wesley Snipes, Vicent D’Onofrio, Ellen Barkin, Lili Taylor
MPAA Rating: R, bloody violence throughout, strong sexuality, nudity, drug content and pervasive language
Runtime: 132 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 7.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 40%

Going into this one Ithought it would be kinda bad, coming out I was thinking to myself that not only was it okay, but it actually could’ve been really good. It could have been good because the performances are really decent and Antoine Fuqua delivers that grim tonality he knows how to achieve so well, it ended up being just okay because the script was too full of clichés and it ended up downgrading the whole film by a whole notch.

Fuqua knows how to paint conflicted officers of the law, and that’s the trio we are presented with here, three cops who aren’t bad guys like Denzel Washington was in Training Day, but who are conflicted and who live in such a dark world that they’ll just do whatever it takes, and they’ll meet each other somewhere along the line to less than stellar results.

Richard Gere here plays Eddie, a vet who’ll be retiring soon, he’s conflicted as shit. Don Cheadle is Tango, who’s undercover in the grim drug business of Brooklyn, so deep in fact, that he probably doesn’t know where the line is, and whether he’s crossed it. Ethan Hawke is the final cop, Sal, a narc who has huge trouble at home with a wife pregnant with twins, that will add up to the seven children they already have.

And then there’s the Wesley Snipes character, Chaz, he’s a drug dealer trying to go legit after spending time in the joint. He befriends the undercover cop Cheadle plays and the two tough guys develop a really strong bond. This is Mr. Snipes’ first role in a theatrically released film since Blade: Trinity back in ’04 and he’s quite good.

The acting is actually solid all around, and all four of these guys give tremendous dimension to their characters, Eddie’s trouble with alcohol is nicely acted by Gere even though he’s the weakest out of all characters, the scenes between Snipes and Cheadle are seriously good, and Hawke is spectacular as guy totally devoted to his wife and willing to do anything to give his family the life they deserve, his performances is the one I liked the most out of the bunch.

The level of sheer violence in this film is huge, blood is everywhere and the film doesn’t say sorry even once while it goes on that savage trip, in the ways I’ve described this film could have been just as good as Training Day, which was rather amazing, however, the script lets us down.

The violence is there, the acting is, as well, but what isn’t there is that, unlike Training Day, everything is more obvious, we know how things will most likely turn out, especially in the case of Gere’s character, in Training Day we were so deep into the conflicts of our characters because they were convincing conflicts set up amazingly by the writer, in this one the screenplay is nothing like that, everything is too obvious and the coincidences by which these characters meet don’t seem like fate but rather like necessities.

Grade: C

The Book of Eli

26 Mar

Title: The Book of Eli
Year: 2010
Director: Albert Hughes & Allen Hughes
Writer: Gary Whitta
Starring: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson, Jennifer Beals, Michael Gambon, Tom Waits
MPAA Rating: R, brutal violence and language
Runtime: 118 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 7.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 45%

This is the first film the Hughes brothers have released since From Hell, which was released nine years ago, and even though The Book of Eli is far from perfect, and bites more than it can chew, it is still a really fun movie directed by brothers who know how to inject a shitload of energy into anything they do, and for that reason alone it is worth the price of admission, it is fun, it presents completely ridiculous and impossible moments throughout, one after the other, but many movies do that nowadays, and at least this one makes it fun.

Denzel Washington is Eli, who has been walking the post-apocalyptic Earth for three decades, on his way to the sea. Eli is a lone wanderer in world that, being now left in destruction and ruins, is commanded by different gangs who roam on motorcycles. But alone or not, Eli can kick some serious ass, and the fight scenes are actually pretty awesome, especially when you find out that Mr. Washington actually performed all his hand-to-hand stunts, skills he learned from Dan Inosanto, Bruce Lee’s protegé.

The film looks really great, something we already knew the Hughes brothers could achieve, it was filmed in deserted wastelands, and it looks dry from all the sun that shines upon Eli, and the absent water he seeks throughout the film. Then we meet Carnegie, the villain, the Gary Oldman character, and Gary Oldman can really play the guy. Carnegie is a true sonuvvabitch, he abuses his wife, played by Jennifer Beals, and has his daughter, played by the lovely Mila Kunis, work as a whore in his bar.

The film, especially the final part of it (though not the ending), acts a really cool modern-take on a western, and there’s even a character which continually whistles the Once Upon a Time in America theme, and the film turns out to be a refreshing affair, a film that I don’t think could have been done any better than it was, maybe the only chance of it being better would have been if my future wife Kristen Stewart had landed the Mila Kunis role like she was once rumored to, but still, Kunis does a real fine job and the Hughes brothers create a really good-looking film, sure, the ending sucks big-time, but the ride there is pretty fuckin’ neat.

Grade: B-