Tag Archives: Werner Herzog

[Review] – Jack Reacher

5 Jan

Jack Reacher

Title: Jack Reacher
Year: 2012
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Writer: Christopher McQuarrie, based on the novel by Lee Child
Starring: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, Werner Herzog, David Oyelowo, Robert Duvall, Jai Courtney
MPAA Rating: PG-13, violence, language and some drug material
Runtime: 130 min
IMDb Rating: 7.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 61%
Metacritic: 49

Tom Cruise is staging a comeback as of late. Sure, he’s never really been away for that long, but it seems now that he’s just seriously trying to retake the title of world’s biggest action star that once so certainly belonged to him. That started, of course, with last year’s stellar Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, the fourth entry in that franchise and also the best one in the series which I ranked as the 21st best film of 2011. He was then seen in the disappointing Rock of Ages this year, but that wasn’t his movie so I don’t count that towards his comeback track record.

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[Trailer] – Jack Reacher

17 Oct

Watch the new trailer for the upcoming December release Jack Reacher below.

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[Trailer] – Jack Reacher

3 Jul

The trailer for Jack Reacher, the December offering starring Tom Cruise, has just been released and you can watch it after the cut.

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Into the Abyss

17 Dec

Title: Into the Abyss
Year: 2011
Director: Werner Herzog
Writer: Werner Herzog
Starring: Michael Perry, Jason Burkett, Werner Herzog
MPAA Rating: PG-13, mature thematic material and some disturbing images
Runtime: 106 min
IMDb Rating: 7.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Metacritic: 74

One of the big regrets I know I’ll have regarding the 2011 year in film is that I didn’t get to see Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams, the director’s foray into 3D technology with a look into caves in France that are really hard to get into and that house some of the most ancient visual art in the world. That film was supposedly a really engaging experience, a 3D documentary that really immersed you into a world and full of Mr. Herzog’s typical fascination with the subjects he brings forth to the screen. I didn’t get to see it because a 3D documentary about cave paintings is not something my local theater will usually show, and I only considered seeing it in 3D to see how Mr. Herzog used the technology. As such, I made a point to extra sure that I would see his other documentary offer of the year, Into the Abyss.

So I did see Into the Abyss, and I was pretty blown away by it. I still think Cave of Forgotten Dreams probably was a much more interesting experience, but this is classic Werner Herzog, a documentary about a very interesting subject that the director provides a really deep and insightful look at. This time that subject is the American prison system, focusing on a triple murder case that went down in Texas to probe into the mind of humans and the mind of the administration that judges them. And the result is amazing, with interviews to the family of the victims, the people on death row, the executioner, the pastor, it makes this a really captivating film as he “takes a gaze into the abyss of the human soul”.

This really is a wonderful piece of filmmaking, the likes of which you probably won’t be able to forget, a truly heartbreaking look at the American crime system that never once plays politics or tries to assign blame or innocence one way or another, it’s just Mr. Herzog passionately showing us the way around a really engaging subject. It’s just a really masterful filmmaker speaking about violent death, whether it’s in the shape of a crime or a state-mandated execution, and how it can so profoundly alter the life of those surrounding it, and just how much capacity for suffering life itself has. And it’s really disarming how this film can feel both really humane by inserting us into these really intimate moments of people we don’t usually get to see, but also feel really bleak, as we see how ultimately those people are just names and faces to the system.

That’s what makes Into the Abyss really work like gangbusters, that it makes something like the death penalty look kind of casual, you don’t have to get up in arms about it in any shape or form. And even if you do have a particular stance on the subject, no matter what that stance is you’ll be shaken to bits by what Mr. Herzog gives us in this film, the sadness and the loss is really heartbreaking to watch with such sincerity, but there’s also a glimpse of some kind of spiritual elation that really gets to you too, as you see just how much your beliefs can help you feel redeemed.

When we see Reverend Richard Lopez weeping at the start of Into the Abyss while thinking about the lives of those he can’t save, we know we’ve walked into a Werner Herzog movie, we have a really particular character suddenly shaken and explaining something that’s quite simple and yet is also unnervingly deep. The two guys the film focuses on committed a horrible triple homicide pretty much because they wanted to get to drive a Camaro, one of them, Michael Perry, was on Death Row, with Mr. Herzog conducting interviews with him with only eight days to go before his execution. His accomplice, Jason Burkett, is serving a 40-year sentence. They both say the other did the crime without their involvement, but Mr. Herzog isn’t really interested about their claims of justice, he doesn’t go into statistical analysis of death sentences, he’s interested in the emotional toll they take, the huge amount of really intense feelings that take over the victim’s families and friends, and the guys that are convicted of the murders.

Into the Abyss is a great example of how fantastic a filmmaker Mr. Herzog is. Even though this one doesn’t have his usual articulate voiceovers, and his role is limited to the interviews he conducts, you can still feel his personality in every frame. And his is a fascinating personality that really pulls you into the film, the interviews he gets here are incredibly startling in their honesty, and the fact that the got them all in the single day he actually got with his interviewees is really amazing. He obviously has a stance on the subject, he believes that while the crimes committed are unforgivable, he also believes that no one should be put to death because of them, but the questions he asks are more of the curious-minded than of the political, and he’s only interested in taking a look into the soul of these men, of figuring in out how exactly this all makes them feel.

This is a really brilliant documentary by one of the directors that really knows how to make them great and get his own voice through. When we meet officer Fred Allen, a guy who’s helped carry out executions for years, we get what I think was the film’s most definitive statement about capital punishment. He starts talking like an expert that Mr. Herzog interviews, but as he suddenly gets swept by the emotions of the memories of the over one hundred executions he helped out on we get a really stunning look at what it’s like for a man like him. One day he left his job out of the blue because he realized he was opposed to death penalty, and the stuff he tells us make a damn good point for which to support that notion, as we realize that marks are left not only in the victims and perpetrators. This is a director that usually shares freely his ideas and philosophy but that in this film just sits back and dutifully observes, observes an abyss full of darkness but where things really aren’t all black or white.

Grade: A-