Tag Archives: Frank Grillo

[Review] – Zero Dark Thirty

6 Jan

Zero Dark Thirty

Title: Zero Dark Thirty
Year: 2012
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Writer: Mark Boal
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong, Chris Pratt, Kyle Chandler, Mark Duplass, Frank Grillo, Edgar Ramirez, Harold Perrineau, Jennifer Ehle, James Gandolfini
MPAA Rating: R, strong violence including brutal disturbing images, and for language
Runtime: 157 min
IMDb Rating: 7.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Metacritic: 95

Finally I get to watch Zero Dark Thirty. Let me tell you something out front, I don’t intend to get into any of the hot topics that have been surrounding this movie, at least not spend the whole review talking about. I won’t talk about whether it’s pro-Obama, or whether it’s pro-torture, or whether it got improper access to classified information. On the one hand I don’t think I’m really classified to talk about those things with any kind of credibility (though, obviously, that hasn’t stopped most people with an internet connection to do so) and on the other hand I’m here to talk about the merits of Kathryn Bigelow‘s latest as a film. And as a film this is an undeniable masterpiece.

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[Review] – End Of Watch

6 Oct

Title: End of Watch
Year: 2012
Director: David Ayer
Writer: David Ayer
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña, Anna Kendrick, Natalie Martinez, America Ferrera, Frank Grillo, Cody Horn
MPAA Rating: R, strong violence, some disturbing images, pervasive language including sexual references, and some drug use
Runtime: 109 min
IMDb Rating: 8.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Metacritic: 70

If I’m going to be totally honest I didn’t even know about End of Watch until some months ago when the trailer was released and when I posted the trailer here I said “not really expecting this one to be any good, but we’ll have to see”. And I really didn’t, this was a film that used the POV style of filmmaking on a story about cops, written and directed by David Ayer who, sure, had written Training Day, but who’s directing output had consisted of Harsh Times and Street Kings which were both super formulaic cop movies. So yeah, I thought this was a guy who knew his turf with this genre and would provide a predictable, at best slightly better-than-average movie.

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[Trailer] – The Gangster Squad

9 May

Ruben Fleischer followed up his incredible debut Zombieland with last year’s 30 Minutes or Less which was something of a letdown (I gave it a B-). But now he seems to be back in the game with his first foray into a serious drama, The Gangster Squad, a trailer for which you can watch after the cut.

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[Trailer] – End Of Watch

3 May

David Ayer is bringing the found-footage style of cinematography and storytelling to the cop genre, with the HD digital camera style and the POV-intimate shots being all over the trailer for his upcoming film End of Watch, a trailer for which you can watch after the cut.

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The Grey

15 Feb

Title: The Grey
Year: 2012
Director: Joe Carnahan
Writers: Joe Carnahan and Ian MacKenzie Jeffers, based on the short story by Mr. Jeffers
Starring: Liam Neeson, Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney, Dallas Roberts, Joe Anderson, Nonso Anozie, James Badge Dale
MPAA Rating: R, violence/disturbing content including bloody images, and for pervasive language
Runtime: 117 min
IMDb Rating: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 78%
Metacritic: 64

I think it’s very safe to say by now that the career choices Liam Neeson’s made lately to establish himself as a believable mature action hero are all kinds of rad. It all obviously started with the sleeper hit that was Taken which made over $225 million in early 2009, largely in part to how incredibly kick-ass Mr. Neeson was as Bryan Mills, the man who would do anything to get back his kidnapped daughter; you really wouldn’t want to mess with Liam Neeson after seeing that film. After that film’s he’s been Zeus in Clash of the Titans and Hannibal in The A-Team, as well as starred in last year’s Unknown which had a very Taken-ish vibe. Coming up he has sequels to both Clash of the Titans and Taken, as well as a turn in Battleship. So yeah, this guy’s becoming the action man for the over-fifty crowd, and even when the films aren’t great he’s always really awesome in them, so I’m happy about that.

The latest Liam Neeson vehicle to come out is The Grey, directed by Joe Carnahan, and it’s a really gritty tale of survival of a group of people (led by Mr. Neeson’s John Ottway, natch) who are left stranded in the Alaskan wilderness after their plane crashes. Dealing with injuries, as well as the unruly weather and the pack of wolves that surround them, they must find a way to survive. And let me tell you something, this film looks really bloody cold; interviews with the cast members in which they speak of the shooting conditions are awesome to hear because these guys really were in freezing conditions, and it comes through brilliantly on screen, making this whole film look really gritty.

The action stuff is obviously awesome and it looks great, but what really made The Grey stand out to me was that its characters were fully dimensional and you could actually invest in them, and the result is a film that has just as much philosophical value as it does action stuff. That balance was what really drew me to this film and what made it better than what I expected it to be, because it’s a simple moral fable about being a heroic man, about helping others to survive. And I loved that, I loved that it was a straightforward kind of film that brought forth some really cool existential subjects and tackled them without much fuss and in just the most efficient of ways. And it’s that human stuff that gets you to seriously love this film, the action set pieces are just the icing on the cake

Joe Carnahan directed Liam Neeson on The A-Team, and while that film seemed like it was fun to make for Mr. Neeson, it wasn’t all that good (I gave it a C+). This time around however their collaboration brings forth much better results, and actually shows that Mr. Carnahan is a guy who can deliver the goods. Mr. Neeson’s character is the guy hired by the northern Alaskan oil rigs to shoot at wildlife dangers like wolves who may pose threats to the men working on the fields. The way Mr. Neeson speaks of this work, and of the men that choose to do it, in a voiceover at the beginning of the film, is just great, and the sets the tone for the grim circumstances we’re about to be thrust into. After the plane that was transporting him and many others out of their place of work crashes, many die instantly or shortly thereafter, leaving just Ottway and seven others alive.

Ottway being the experienced one takes charge of the group, leading them towards the paths that would have the better chances of keeping them alive. They are aware they’re being hunted by wolves, the unblinking stares of the beasts glowing in the dark, as the men uses torches to keep them at bay. But this isn’t a men-against-wolves story, not at all, because The Grey then becomes a very meditative sort of film that knows how to be patient, and that allows for the tough guys to actually have conversations, which in turn makes them seven individuals and not just seven bodies being hunted. There are roles among the group, that’s true, from a sensitive father to an ex-con who seems to be ready to tackle anything head-on, but this is far more insightful than what you’d expect.

It’s a really tough film this one, and it doesn’t try to mask the fact that these seven men are in a situation in which the odds are set severely against their survival. So don’t expect a super happy ending of any kind, just expect one that, considering all that’s transpired, will be really satisfying, or at least it was to me, and there’s a post-credits scene that you should stay for. I loved The Grey, I honestly did, much more than I thought I would actually, and a lot of that is because of Liam Neeson; the guy brings such a gravitas to his performances that you’re immediately pulled into his story, the fact that The Grey indeed has quite a lot of substance in its story just makes it that much better.

Grade: B+

Warrior

9 Oct

Title: Warrior
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Gavin O’Connor
Writers: Gavin O’Connor, Anthony Tambakis, Cliff Dorfman, based on a story by Mr. O’Connor and Mr. Dorfman
Starring: 
Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo
MPAA Rating: 
PG-13, sequences of intense mixed martial arts fighting, some language and thematic material
Runtime: 
139 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
8.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 
84%

 

There are some days when I like to watch more than one movie, some days that ends up being a crappy decision, like yesterday when I watched A Good Old Fashioned Orgy (which I gave a D+ to) and Seven Days in Utopia (which I graded a C-), but then there are some days when you watch two films and both of them are amazing and all you want is to watch a third one to follow the streak of great films. Today was one of those days. I saw Contagion earlier in the day, a truly terrific film from Steven Soderbergh and then when deciding what to follow it up with for the night slot I settled for Warrior, the new film from Gavin O’Connor, the director of Miracle. And I was just expecting a good time with Warrior, guessing I would get our typical sports movie full of clichés but more than willing to give it a shot because of Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton in the lead role, even if I wasn’t really expecting all that much from it. And boy was I in for a surprise, because, yes, Warrior does have all those typical clichés but it also has an incredible amount of heart that doesn’t make them feel all that corny, and the fight sequences were just awesomely executed, and, most of all, it had some first-rate performances that really elevated it to great heights.

It’s really something that a movie as corny and clichéd as this one can also be as sincerely exceptional as it was. Seriously, look at the plot: two estranged brothers, one who was a Marine over in Iraq who comes home for reasons not immediately apparent and the other an apparently regular physics professor, as kids they both had to deal with an alcoholic father and as grown-ups they enjoy practicing non-pro mixed martial arts, and, oh coincidence, they both get to be finalists in this huge championship and, well, you probably know how it’s all gonna go. But I mean, it’s just so incredibly well done that it totally transcends all of that inherent corniness it had in it and finds its footing quickly enough and becomes this tremendously gripping film about family relationships. And it’s really all because of the job that Mr. Hardy and Mr. Edgerton do as the brothers, Brendan and Tom, and because of the performance Nick Nolte, in a career-reviving kind of role (not unlike the one Mickey Rourke gave in another fighting film, The Wrestler), gives as the now-sober father, Paddy.

Warrior is unapologetically clichéd though, it wears the conventionalities of its genre proudly on its sleeve, because it’s like it knows that it has the material to use them to its advantage, whether it’s having this trio of alpha male actors portraying the story of a pair of brothers working out their issues with the recovering alcoholic dad or whether it’s just having a film that looks fantastic, shot on-location in Pittsburgh that gives it this terrific naturalistically gritty aesthetic aided by some pretty neat editing, this move just worked on so many levels. So yeah, it’s all about that for this film, embracing it’s standard genre conventions but employing them in a film that’s skillfully made and convincingly acted, that’s what sets this one apart so much, and it’s what makes this one achieve a great deal of well-earned compassion once it reaches its predictably schmaltzy climax.

This is the man-weepfest the likes of which we haven’t seen in quite some time. You have Mr. Hardy playing Tom, who’s now taken on whiskey and arrives at the doorstep of his father’s home, whom he hasn’t seen in fourteen years. If you’ve been watching him then you know Mr. Hardy is an amazing actor, and he’s now finally becoming a star, after rising to prominence in Nicolas Winding Refn’s spectacular Bronson, he got his big break last year in Christopher Nolan’s Inception (which I ranked as the 3rd best film of 2010), with whom he’ll reunite in next year’s hugely anticipated The Dark Knight Rises, Mr. Nolan’s final entry in his Batman trilogy, and this year he has this film and the upcoming Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy which looks great. But yeah, the point I’m trying to make is the guy’s very good, and he’s certainly amazing here, he uses his towering physique (and those who have seen Bronson know how well he can do this) to just embody all this kinds of rage and bitterness towards life, towards his father. Not to mention that it makes him kicking so much ass really believable.

Then there’s Mr. Edgerton as Brendan, and he’s another guy who’s just bound to follow Mr. Hardy’s footsteps and get a huge breakout sooner rather than later, he first came to my attention last year in the stunning Animal Kingdom (which I gave an A to and ranked as the 19th best film of 2010) and is headlining the upcoming prequel to The Thing and taking on the role of Tom Buchanan in Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming adaptation of The Great Gatsby alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan, so yeah, he’ll be big in no time. But anyways, he plays the more functional kind of brother, a teacher and former UFC contender, but he’s still been deeply scarred by his father. His wife, played by Jennifer Morrison, tells him he can’t fight any more, so he tells her he’ll work as a bouncer on some nights to bring in some needed extra cash, but of course he’s fighting, because that’s what pays better.

These two actors are amazing, though it is ironic that these sort of hugely American roles of scarred male egos are played by a Brit and an Aussie. Mr. Hardy is especially riveting, he plays this small boy who has had his life marked by his father but is now trapped in the body of a huge grown man, his is a performance that has to do a lot with physicality and looks and not so much with dialogue, what he does inside the ring does just as much as the few lines of dialogue he also rocks at delivering. And Nick Nolte as the father is stunningly good, whatever Oscar buzz he’s been garnering is well deserved, just a perfectly cast role, Mr. Nolte’s gravelly voice adding a lot to the character, a man who’s truly broken, feeling guilt in every inch of his body and not being able to turn to his alcoholic drink of choice to find solace.

Warrior is a long film, but it makes the most of its running time, really, you have the clichés in the story lines and in the split-screen training scenes but it’s so well-acted that none of it matters. And once the movie enters its second act a lot of it takes place in the tournament and Mr. O’Connor shows us the violence of mixed martial arts in all of its bloody splendor, presented in a vicious way that makes these fights really exciting to watch. And what’s best is that the violence never feels gratuitous, it’s like an extension of what these two brothers are feeling, these fighting scenes are the ones that show the most soul in this film, you really get Tom’s lust for some sort of vengeance and spiritual redemption, you really get Brendan’s desperation for giving his family economic stability, and you get that the ring is the only place where they can really communicate with each other. This was a surprising film to me, it had soul, emotions and a trio of powerhouse performances that will leave you a wreck.

Grade: A-