Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

On this best day of the year, Halloween, it seems prudent to talk about a movie that is considered one of the best horror films ever made, 1974's "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre." It's not all the time that I agree with general consensus in terms of "best ever." I'm enough of a curmudgeon to point out oversights or stuff that I thought wasn't as good as everyone says it was. I can be something of a downer that way. But in this case, the general consensus is right. "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" is a masterpiece. And that's no bull.

Everything about this movie is just plain eerie and disturbing. The mood just drips off of the screen with every frame, drawing you into a hot, sweaty, nasty, foul smelling, sticky nightmare that lasts for 84 minutes - from the now-classic foreboding opening narration to the frantic and abrupt slap-in-the-face ending which is just as iconic.

"The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" is from an era where horror films were generally more about lead-in and atmosphere than shock and gore, although to be sure those thing existed. But it was more about the unseen, which for my money is far more effective than showing. And although when it was released, "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" was extremely controversial, and was one of the infamous "Video Nasties," compared to today's standard stock it's pretty tame in terms of what you actually see.

In fact, something I always found interesting was that when you talked to people about "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre," they always remember it as being far gorier than it actually was. To me, that's the mark of a fantastically effective horror film. Oh for sure, there are people getting stuck on meathooks and getting dissected with the titular wood-cutting implement, but it's always kept obscured, which makes it more effective since your brain is capable of coming up with far more disgusting things than what the screen can show you.

Oh, this can't end pleasantly...

The story may be somewhat cliche nowadays, mostly because of the slew of imitators it spawned. The tale of a group of college-aged students running afoul of a bunch of inbred hillbillies is not something that is uncommon in the annals of horror movies. But rarely does a story like that give rise to such a legendary villain, in this case Leatherface - the Ed Gein inspired giant who wears a mask made from the skin of his victim's faces.

The interesting thing about Leatherface is that mentally, he's a child. It's not a stretch to imagine that under other circumstances he probably wouldn't hurt a fly, and would be a quiet, dim-witted, lumbering, friendly giant. But because of the savage upbringing he received, murder and slaughter is second nature to him, like a child being taught the ritual of making their breakfast cereal. And when these people walk into Leatherface's house, it scares him. He does what he's been told and butchers them like cattle, but there's no malice or rage. It's all fear of these strangers, the same as a toddler crying when they meet someone new they're not sure of. Only this time, the toddler is a 6' 7", 275 lb. beast with a chainsaw. And he's coming at you with it.

That's freaking scary, man.

Gunnar Hansen plays Leatherface with a supreme grasp of the physicality required to pull off being scary while having no dialogue besides pig-like squeals and muffled yelps. In preparing for the role, Hansen said he spent a lot of time with specials needs children in order to convincingly portray someone like that, and it really paid off. One of the eeriest scenes of the movie is ironically the only quiet moment Leatherface gets, where he just sits there spacing out, and Hansen has this amazing "thousand yard stare" going on. It's also the only part when you get a good look at his eyes under the mask, and the eyes are where he sells that moment, as you can see what little wheels are up there are turning as best they can.

I'm also a fan of Marilyn Burns, who plays Sally, the "Final Girl" as the trope has it. I can't even imagine the kind of strain and torture and general horribleness that must have gone into the crafting of her performance, but it is extraordinary to watch. The entire last half hour of the film is essentially made up of Sally alternating between running for her life and screaming her head off, and much of the time doing both at once. I can't imagine someone keeping up the level of intensity she has for that long, but she did it.

I know the screaming woman has been done countless times before, but in "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" it's different. When you see it in this movie, it seems legit. It feels absolutely real. And I'm seriously of the opinion that her demented, hysterical laughter right before the credits roll of someone taken right to the edge of their sanity and given a nudge off the cliff before being yanked back wasn't at least partly genuine.

Seriously. I think you're looking at someone who is, at that very moment, legally insane.

I also liked Teri McMinn, who played Pam, and would forever be known afterwards as "The Meathook Girl." Her terror isn't as drawn out as Sally's, but for as long as it lasts, it's just as intense. And while Sally got far more screen time, the image of Pam hanging on a meathook while watching her boyfriend get carved up with a chainsaw on the table in front of her may be the most memorable single image from a movie composed of memorable images. At least it was for me. And man, does she sell that scene. It's horrifying.

Edwin Neal is also a standout as The Hitchhiker, bringing one of the most bizarre, awkward and disturbing introductions to a horror movie that I've seen. Before he appears, the movie had been all about mood and foreboding. The first image we see is a corpse dug up and displayed in a shamanistic fashion on a tombstone. There's a dead armadillo on the road. Pam starts taking about bad juju because Saturn is in retrograde and other hippie stuff. An old man says creepy stuff like "Things happen here they don't tell you about. I see things." They drive by a slaughterhouse. This is all in like five minutes.

We do nothing but hear about all this bad stuff getting ready to happen. Then the Hitchhiker appears and puts a face on this dread and ominous madness. The clearly insane ramblings of this guy give the impression that he could just as well not even be a person. He could just as likely be an avatar of the land itself, made flesh and bone from the sun-baked evil that has permeated the very dirt of this stretch of lonesome, backwoods country. After he enters their van and marks them, there is no escape. The Earth itself may have just as well opened up and swallowed them whole, and Neal makes you believe it all. It's another fantastic performance.

If this guy gets in your van and tells you, "My family's always been in meat," find a way to invent a time machine quickly as possible, and go back and stop yourself from EVER setting foot in Texas. Seriously. Just do it.

On the other hand, I did not care much for Paul Partain, who played Sally's wheelchair bound brother, Franklyn. Obnoxious is too mild a word for this guy, and by the end you're actually looking forward to Leatherface putting him and the audience out of their misery. Evidently this feeling was also shared among the cast, as apparently Partain wasn't much liked on set either, since he was just as obnoxious as his character was. Hansen reportedly was looking forward to the scene when he took him out, since that meant he would be going home. Then again, it did make for some very believable tension between the actors. Can't argue with that, I suppose.

Once Sally is the last one left, the final act of "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" begins. And it is, bar none, one of the most intense and punishing stretches of terror I've ever seen. The dinner scene in particular is filmed in such a unique, uncomfortable way so as to make us feel that it's us strapped to the chair, being served what is undoubtedly our last meal before being butchered by this family of freaks. The extreme, frankly beautiful close ups of Marilyn Burns' eyes just do something to me that puts me on such an edge. I never thought I'd see an eyeball so close up that I could actually see the tears not forming on the lid, but coming out of the duct itself.

And you thought Malcom McDowell's eyes got a lot of screen time...

I'm not a big fan of slasher movies, as most who know my tastes in horror can tell you, but I make exception for "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre." It's just so masterfully crafted in its pacing, so effective with its tone, and so smart with its scares that I think it transcends the genre that it helped create. This isn't just a compilation of kills, gore, and T&A, like most slasher films are. It's a grueling endurance test. The last act in particular is so ungodly uncomfortable to watch, and assaults you so completely with the pure cacophony of screams and yelling and chainsaw revving that it is mentally - and borders on physically - exhausting. That's art.

It ain't pleasant, but it's art none the less.

THE BOTTOM LINE - "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" is a fantastic movie. Any person who considers the horror genre something that they even passably enjoy owes it to themselves to see it. Gore-hounds will find it lacking, but people who enjoy their horror more atmospheric and scary rather than simply gross and startling will find plenty to enjoy. If "enjoy" is a word that can be used in conjunction with "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre."

Monday, October 29, 2012

Dark Shadows (2012)

Allow me to begin by saying: "Nerts."

Nerts is all I have to say about Tim Burton. I am so done with him. It's gotten to the point that the thought of another Tim Burton movie coming out causes me to become so irritated that whenever a trailer for a new project of his comes out, I want to punch the person sitting next to me in the theater. Repeatedly. One punch for every time I call who is going to be involved in the movie.

Of course it's got Helena Bonham Carter. Of course it's got Danny Elfman doing the same freaking  musical score that he always does. Of course Christopher Lee is going to have a 30 second cameo. And of freaking course we can't have a Tim Burton movie without Johnny Depp, who will once again be playing Hunter S. Thompson, because that's all his brain can process at this point since he's been playing Hunter S. Thompson for about 10 years.

I'm just so tired of every movie Tim Burton makes having a copy/pasted credit list. And it's not that he hasn't collected a bunch of really great talent, because he has. His casts are always really, really good. But he needs moderation with dipping into this same pool of actors, because at this point it's honestly distracting. I have such a difficult time losing myself in a Tim Burton movie because the mere presence of Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp in really heavy makeup is distracting at this point.

Oh look, it's Johnny Depp in...any one of the 214 movies he's done with Tim Burton...

I challenge Tim Burton to make one film without those people. And have it not be a dark fantasy. Direct a Bond movie or something. And while he's at it, hire Hans Zimmer or James Newton Howard.

Just to show that he can.

Obviously it was not without a great deal of apprehension that I watched "Dark Shadows." Seeing Johnny Depp on the cover, once again doing his best to look weird for no reason other than to look weird for weird's sake didn't help. And of course, the fact that it's a movie about vampires was the salt in the wound, because a good vampire movie is rare nowadays. Plus the reception it got had been pretty bad.

But, and maybe this is merely the result of coming at this from the perspective of someone who has never seen the TV show it was based on, I have to say that "Dark Shadows" was not nearly as bad as I had heard it being. In fact I dare say I enjoyed it for a good portion of the film. Now, were there stupid things in it? Oh you bet there were. But it wasn't enough to ruin anything for me. And that's including Johnny Depp, which is quite the achievement because the charm of Depp is running on fumes for me at this point.

The idea of "Dark Shadows" is that Johnny Depp is playing Barnabas Collins, a rich nobleman who is cursed by a witch to be a vampire, since that's how vampires work in this movie. Kind of. More on that later. The witch is played by Eva Green, who looks lovely as she does her best blonde Anne Hathaway impression. She and Barnabas have a fairly complicated relationship. Long story short, they had a fling, he was honest and said he liked her but wasn't in love with her, so she kills his girlfriend, turns him into a vampire and locks him in a coffin till the end of time.

Fast forward to 200 years later, it's the 1970's, and Barnabas is freed from his prison by unwitting and ill fated construction workers. Making his way back home, he finds that what remains of the Collins family is now rather pathetic and pretty much ruined, with the only thing of value they have being the ancient mansion they live in, which is as dilapidated as their bank accounts. Seeing this, Barnabas decides to return the Collins family to their former glory.

He also has to deal with that little problem of that witch who locked him in a box for 200 years. She's still around.

"Oh don't be so dramatic. It was 198 years."

A lot of fuss was made about "Dark Shadows" being a comedy. Honestly, it really wasn't that overt. Yes, there were silly parts in it, and some admittedly funny lines, but the tone never solidified on "comedy" for me. The whole movie was dark enough to stay a drama, in my opinion. I mean, yes, the scene where Johnny Depp and Eva Green are banging on the ceiling was a bit ridiculous, but to be perfectly honest, it kind of made sense to me. And who am I to say that supernatural beings can't have more unique sex than normal people?

Honestly, the funniest character for me was Carolyn, played by my girl Chloë Grace Moretz. Her job is to be the rebellious teen who listens to rock and hangs out with hippies, and her deadpan, disinterested delivery was oddly 90's in a lot of ways, almost like a proto-hipster. Her lines aren't fall-down funny, in fact none of the jokes in "Dark Shadows" are, but it's the tone of her voice when she says stuff to Barnabas like "You're weird" that gave me a chuckle.

Okay, her line "I'm pretty sure he called me a hooker" was actually pretty damn funny.

Of course, there's a really really stupid part involving her at the end, which I won't spoil, but suffice to say it's pretty much the definition of "right the crap out of nowhere." And it has to be from the show. There's no way it couldn't be. The twist they give her character is so out there and without any lead in whatsoever nor resolution or explanation, that it has got to be referencing the TV show. Otherwise they're literally just screwing with stuff.

Something else that bugged me was that the vampire lore in "Dark Shadows" seems a bit...inconsistent. I'm talking about whether or not Barnabas can make other vampires, because it really goes all over the place. At first it would appear that people he bites just die, then later people he bites eventually, much later, come back to life as vampires, but then later a person can *instantly* become immortal the second he bites them. It was all thoroughly confusing, but I suppose in a movie where vampirism is due to a witch's curse, any kind of established lore is out the window.

Little known fact: Vampires love waffles.

That last thing came into play at the end of the film, which was really the only part of the movie that I legitimately thought wasn't very good. I did not like the ending, not so much because it was bad, but it seemed really rushed and somewhat at odds with the rest of the story, all in an effort to end it on an upbeat. Maybe not every story needs a happy ending.

Honestly though, it's not really that much to get mad about. I still found "Dark Shadows" to be decently entertaining, despite some annoying stuff like that. A lot of that has to do with the cast, which I found to be quite good. And that's including Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, who I was not expecting to like. There was also Michelle Pfeiffer, and it's nice to see her again. And of course having Chloë Grace Moretz in it was awesome, but I was also jazzed to see Jackie Earl Haley is in it too, and having just those two is frankly enough to make me watch it alone. Oh and Alice Cooper makes an appearance. He plays himself. And yes it is silly.

And no, I don't know why it's the 70's and he looks to be a senior citizen. Don't mind that.

So I guess "Dark Shadows" gets a pass from me. In much the same way as "The Raven" got a pass, I think. It's not that it was necessarily good, but it was so much better than the reception had lead one to believe it to be. Hooray for lowered standards, I guess?

THE BOTTOM LINE - "Dark Shadows" surprised me by being a recent Tim Burton movie I liked, mostly because it really doesn't feel like a Tim Burton movie. While not an outstanding achievement in film making by any stretch, in terms of a drama/comedy it's actually reasonably entertaining. As long as you're not a huge fan of the TV show, I'd expect, considering its reception.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Raven (2012)

Edgar Allen Poe was a 19th century poet and novelist credited with helping to popularize the short story format, inventing the detective story, and being the first writer to attempt making a living off of it. At the end of his life, he was also involved with a "Se7en"-esque serial killer plot that saw several people horribly murdered using methods described in his stories.

What? You didn't know about that last part?

"The Raven" is one of those movies that likes to play it fast, loose and conspiratorial with history. Much like "From Hell" or perhaps "Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies" if you want to get really out there, the story only uses history as tenuously placed support beams to try and hold up the narrative, with varying degrees of success. It's not so much that the historical evidence supports what the movie is trying to say, it's that history never came out and specifically said that President Lincoln didn't kill zombies.

"I'm just saying, if there's no record of zombies in D.C. in the 1860's, someone had to kill them..."

Not that the fact that the story is completely ludicrous is enough to make it bad. Anybody who slams this movie for not being historically accurate is being a total snob barking up several wrong categories and genus of flora. I have a sneaking suspicion that was probably the case with much of the reception that "The Raven" received when it was released earlier this year, because I just remember it getting brutally torn to absolute shreds.

I'm not quite sure what people were expecting when going into a movie that has Edgar Allen Poe chasing down a guy who is going around killing people like he's the Zodiac Killer. Perhaps reality should be checked at the door.

Does that mean I liked "The Raven?" Well, it depends. On a purely subjective level, it was just kind of "meh." It wasn't bad, but it didn't really do a whole lot for me, despite being fairly pretty to look at, and being reasonably engaging in terms of story. I did truly want to know what was going to happen next, and that's not anything to shake a pendulum at. Am I going to remember it in a few weeks time? Probably not. Much of it is already fading, which is the mark of a pretty sub-standard movie.

This is either Cusack being intense or my reaction whenever I watch Dane Cook.

However, when checked against the apocalyptic reception it got from critics and the box office, it's far better than you might expect it to be. Honestly, people, it's not that bad, despite what you may have heard. At least "The Raven" didn't offend me to my core. This isn't the "Total Recall" remake or anything. It was just trying to do something a bit different. And yeah, it didn't succeed that well, but we should be happy to see some originality in movies as opposed to bland PG-13 shlock.

The first thing about "The Raven" that I wasn't so keen on was John Cusack. I know he's got a big fanbase but I've never been a huge fan of his. I think it's because I didn't watch John Hughes-style comedies in the 80's and early 90's. Would you believe I've never seen "Pretty In Pink" or "Real Genius?" For some reason a bunch of those movies just passed me by. And for some reason many of them starred John Cusack. Now I watch movies like that and that nostalgia factor just isn't there for me. I think the Cusack Express has officially passed me by.

I will say that Cusack wasn't horrible as Edgar Allan Poe. At least once the movie got past the first act, that is. When we meet Poe, Cusack is playing him in such an over-the-top obnoxious manner that it's honestly hard to watch. An early scene in a bar where Poe starts begging for a drink by using his fame as credit quickly crosses the line from awkward to uncomfortable and kind of sad. I never thought I'd see John Cusack try to "out-Nicolas Cage" Nicolas Cage, but boy did he try. Cusack wishes he was that awesome.

Seriously, he's one step short of "AAARGH!!!! SOMEONE'S TRYIN' TA KILL ME, MAN!!!!"

As the film progresses Cusack does become more likable once he gets off the whole "half-mad egomaniac" thing. And much of the movie is really about him becoming less pathetic and coming to terms with his inner demons, which is admittedly pretty good stuff as far as character development goes. The big problem, however, is that the genesis of that is a murder mystery with a very lame villain whose motivations literally boil down to a fan being mad that Poe stopped writing.

I know that story has kind of been done before, the prime example I can think of being "Misery," but Kathy Bates wasn't constructing "Saw" level traps and torture devices. She was just a crazy lady who broke James Caan's ankles when he wrote an ending she didn't like. Crazy usually doesn't get that elaborate unless you're a Batman villain. But in "The Raven," the killer is constructing this grand scheme like John Doe from "Se7en" all because he wants more poetry. My, my Grandma, what deep motivations you have.

Also, don't bother trying to figure out who the killer is, because you won't. That's not because it's such a deep mystery. It's because when the killer is unmasked, it's a character who has had maybe two lines and 20 seconds of screen time in the entire film up to that point. They are literally a background character. There's no way to deduce or solve anything beforehand, especially since the ONE CLUE that may have been a hint isn't even shown to us until after the killer has already unmasked themselves.

And at that point you'll still be trying to figure out who the hell this character is anyways.

I would also like to call out the crap talents of one Alice Eve. She plays Poe's love interest, Emily. And well, I'm not sure how to politely say this, so I won't bother with being polite. She is an absolutely dreadful actress. Simply horrendous. She speaks like she's reading her lines off a cue card and is about as believable in her emoting as CGI Yoda. It also doesn't help that when she smiles, it looks like she's inhaled some of The Joker's Smylex Gas.

I think the final straw for me as far as her performance went was a scene were she gets buried alive. As it's happening, she starts pleading with the killer to let her out with the same kind of intensity and fear in her voice as someone bringing back a defective product to the store they bought it from would have: somewhat stern but respectfully polite. Then he tells her to shut up. She meekly says "Okay." It would have been laughable had it been a comedy.

"Oh. I'm buried alive. That's disappointing to me..."

You want to hear the best part? She's going to be in "Star Trek Into Darkness." How fun. They've cast the same waste of space that was terrible in one of the worst movies I saw this year in one of the movies I'm looking most forward to next year. Thanks for that.

So a lousy villain and some suspect acting aside, what did "The Raven" have going for it that made it not as bad as everyone was saying it was? I think what it all comes down to is that the story is interesting to watch unfold, because before the disappointing reveal makes us feel like we've wasted our time, there is pretty good tension being held in terms of the "why" question. Honestly it's a cool idea - that being using a horror writer's work to actually kill people, all while challenging them to solve riddles sprung from their own imagination. In a way it's like watching a man do battle with his dark half that somehow emerged and started killing. In fact, if that literally happened, you could make an awesome horror flick with that plot.

That sounds like a way better movie. See, this is why I should be in charge of stuff. It would all be so much better. And Nicolas Cage could be the dark half of Edgar Allan Poe!


It's all coming together.

THE BOTTOM LINE - "The Raven," while not great, it not the horror show train-wreck it was made out to be. Fans of Poe might get some amusement out of the constant references to his body of work and life, but they could just as easily be annoyed by it at the same time. It really depends on how seriously you're taking it. My advice: Don't do that. It also helps to have low expectations, too.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Red Lights (2012)

Let's talk for a minute about movies that have bad endings. Now it's true that a bad ending does not automatically make the whole film bad. If there is entertainment to be found before the ending hits, then you can't call it a complete failure. I am reminded of the ending of "The Golden Compass," which was horribly disappointing because it just ended without any resolution. Then again, it was the first part of a trilogy that had the next two films canceled, so we can't really blame it if the open ended nature of the ending is unsatisfying. Which it was. Especially since that series would have been crazy awesome.

There is, however, a difference between a movie with a bad ending and a movie with a stupid ending. While stupid endings are bad, bad endings aren't necessarily stupid. Let's take a look at the differences between the two.

Bad Ending - An ending which is unsatisfying, not necessarily because of ambiguity, but because it fails to adequately fulfill any promises the rest of the film mat have offered.
Example: "No Country For Old Men" was very interesting up until the last half hour when the main freaking character, Josh Brolin, gets unceremoniously killed off camera and forgotten about, effectively derailing the entire narrative. Then Javier Bardem crashes his car and walks off, Tommy Lee Jones tells us about a dream he had, and the movie just ends. Not like Josh Brolin's story was interesting or anything. No, I want to hear some vague psychoanalysis of dreams. That's riveting.

Stupid Ending - An ending that insults your intelligence by expecting you to have paid no attention to the rest of the movie, or have absolutely no concern about anything making a lick of sense whatsoever.
Example: The ending of "The Book of Eli" expects us to believe that Denzel Washington not only accurately memorized the entire Bible cover to cover, word for word, but was also blind the entire movie. Yet he constantly was pulling off not only devastatingly effective kung-fu, which while highly dubious is possible, but also had him shooting a gun with pinpoint accuracy on many occasions. I'm talking drilling a guy between the eyes at 50 paces accurate here. While blind as Stevie Wonder. I guess we were supposed to believe that God himself was nudging his arm just a bit more to the left and saying "There ya go. That's a headshot right there." Why is God helping Denzel shoot people? What ever happened to "Thou shalt not kill?" I love when religious tripe contradicts itself.

You see the difference in the two? One is just disappointing, the other is enough to get you mad because you feel like you just wasted your time while the movie laughs at you for it. And I would take a bad ending over a stupid ending any day.

But what possible reason could I have for beginning this post with a diatribe about stupid endings? What possible reason indeed...

"This isn't ending well for me, is it?"

"Red Lights" is a mystery about a pair of professors/paranormal investigators, played by Cillian Murphy and Sygourney Weaver, who go around debunking supernatural claims with science and all that good stuff. Robert De Niro is a blind psychic named Simon Silver, who is apparently capable of extraordinary things including spoon bending, mind reading, and being able to make a person's heart stop. That last one is what prompted his retirement years ago, when one of his critics mysteriously dropped dead. But when he makes an unexpected comeback, the team of investigators feel it's a perfect opportunity to see if there really is more to him than gimmicks.

That's all well and good, and it is admittedly interesting to see the tricks that those phonies use to appear magical, despite the fact that most of the time it just boils down to the guy wearing an ear piece that has someone on the other end feeding him information. It's nothing too advanced, but every once in a while there's a neat little trick they expose which can provide something of a "eureka" moment if you've ever wondered how that stuff works.

There is also an emotional lynchpin with Sygourney's character, who has a son who has been in a coma for some 20 years. She's an atheist, and for her that means that she can't bring herself to take her son off of life support, because she doesn't believe there's anything afterwards. If she did believe, and she wishes that she could, she would do it in a second. But for now she'll keep waiting and hoping that he'll come back and experience the only existence he'll ever have.

I hate seeing great actors in mediocre films.

There is some admittedly really gripping and well done drama to be found in "Red Lights." Sygourney's character is full of so much pain, and she is such a dynamite actress, and always has been, that when she's given room to work she'll tear the house down around anyone else in the room. And with a great actor like Cillian Murphy, who actually has very good chemistry with her, there are the makings of some really good stuff here.

As far as De Niro goes, I'll just say what I've said in the past, even though few people share my opinion here - I find him to be just okay. He's never really done that much for me personally as an actor, but I'm not going to say that he's not good. That would be stupid and false. De Niro is a great actor. I'm just not a huge fan of his. And "Red Lights" was pretty much your average De Niro performance. If you like him in other stuff you'll like him in this. One thing he's not is inconsistent.

See that there? Sneering while blind. The guy's a master, I tell you...

So what was it about "Red Lights" that made me start off this entry so? Obviously, it was the ending. Oh my goodness. The ending was rubbish. Pure and simple. If the ending to "Red Lights" was a literal rubbish pile, it would be the finest pile of rubbish one could hope to find. Award winning rubbish, I dare say.

I don't want to get too into what happens, but suffice to say that it approaches Shyamalan-level stupidity. But it's a strange kind of stupid that doesn't really hit you until you do something foolhardy like "think about it for two seconds." Basically what the twist ending adds is a few little things earlier in the film are put into a new context, and a character's motivations are changed, which admittedly makes certain scenes make some additional sense.

However, at the same time that same character's motivations are now completely backwards and scattered on every other scene in the movie, another character's death is now either impossibly coincidental or impossibly nonsensical, and the life work of one of the main characters is now rendered pointless for no good reason. And the only possible conclusion that we are forced to draw from it all is that that character with the twist is an idiot who likes to sabotage and confuse themselves, which is easy since apparently they also have a bad case of Alzheimers.

 They also drop the most emotionally gripping plot thread, the son in the coma, halfway through the movie. Fantastic. -_-

That's the kind of thing I'm talking about when I say "stupid" ending. And what almost makes it worse is that it's forced. This is not a movie that needed a twist. It would have worked far better if there hadn't been one. In fact, that could have been downright gutsy. What does that say about where we are with movies nowadays when a thriller not having a twist is actually a more shocking twist than having one?

Just...stop trying to be clever, Hollywood. You're not very good at it.

THE BOTTOM LINE - "Red Lights" is passable for the first 3/4's of the movie. The ending is so ludicrously bad that it ruins everything that came before it. Yeah, it's one of those endings. And I hate to say that because Cillain Murphy and Sygourney Weaver are two of my favorites, but this just wastes them. There may be some enjoyment to be found for some, but I'm not sure by who. Maybe De Niro fans who liked "The Village?"

Monday, October 15, 2012

Bait (2012)

Anyone who reads this blog will remember how much I love shark movies. Shark movies are like the herpes of low-budget horror filmmaking - numerous, easily produced, and seldom pleasant to look at. And while it's true that the zombie feature could easily fit that bill as well, at least those don't require filming in the water, a technique so troublesome that often shark movies simply fall back on crappy CGI instead of bothering. Because as we all know, sharks always look convincing when made in a computer.

At least zombies can be made to look realistic using corn syrup, toilet paper and some red food coloring. Sharks are a bit more demanding. Why these film companies continue to make these shark movies for next to nothing when by their nature they require a good amount of money and talent to make them look good is a mystery to me. It just seems like a colossal waste of time.

So it was not without a bit of skepticism that I watched "Bait," a shark movie from Australia. To be honest the only thing that seemed like it would make it any better or at least different from the rest was the concept. In "Bait," a tsunami hits Queensland, flooding a supermarket along with the rest of the city. The people inside the store who survive are then faced with a 12-foot Great White that is swimming among the aisles. I must admit, that's a new one.

I also admittedly loved the tagline: "Cleanup on aisle 7." That's awesomely bad.

Apparently Australia is more serious about their shark movies than we are, because "Bait" is clearly making a heroic effort to make a good film. The sets look fantastic, the CGI is admittedly top notch for the genre, and the sharks actually look good. I can't believe I'm typing that but it's true. This is probably the first shark movie I've ever seen which features CGI sharks that look like they actually belong on this plane of existence. It's clear that the makers of this movie cared, and the studio cared enough to give them the budget. It's a nice change of pace.

"Bait" is a movie that's kind of hard to pin down in terms of the question "Is it good or not." It's probably best to instead ask "Does it do what it set out to do well." In those terms, I'd say "Bait" does just that. As far as killer shark movies go it's a pretty solid flick. And in what has to be a first, the sharks are actually fairly convincing despite being CGI. Trust me, that's a miracle.

Good lord, that actually looks like a shark!

Despite all of that, it's still a killer shark movie. It's not doing anything different from the rest, it's just that this time it's a well produced, well made film. While that gives it an official pass, whether or not it's a success as a movie depends completely on whether or not you're a fan of killer shark movies.

The biggest problem with a movie like this is that the plot does typically devolve into some by-the-numbers drudgery. Despite holding some decently effective tension throughout, it's always pretty clear when another cast member is about to become a serving of sashimi. Pro-tip for anyone watching one of these movies: If a heretofore minor character whose name you don't even know gets a dramatic closeup before doing something, they're about to die. That's the director's way of being nice before killing them off.

It doesn't help when the characters do some questionable things which seem unnecessarily suicidal. It's almost like they simply don't want to survive any longer. I'm just not sure why anyone would ever willingly dangle themselves over the water in these movies. They have to know the shark is going to just jump out of the water and eat them. And were I in that situation, I'd say as much, but then you'd have the one guy yelling back "You have any better suggestions?!" After that everyone would meekly cave in to his terrible idea, and someone else would sit themselves comfortably on the platter and begin seasoning themselves.

I, on the other hand, would bring up neat little factoids such as: "You know we have like a freaking bowie knife attached to a pole, right? That's called a spear, and we haven't used it for anything. We also have that really pointy hunk of metal that we pulled out of that dudes leg. We could make a scythe out of that thing. The shark is right there. Like, right there, slowly swimming around not 5 feet away from us. It's just doing laps. Let's stab it. A lot. With spears. The phrase "fish in a barrel" comes to mind. What's the problem here?"

Oh. Sorry, you're right. Get in the water wearing that. Solid plan. chief.

There's also some fairly useless side stories going on including a robbery gone Category 5 Bad, all of which is exposited on during the unusually lengthy intro. And while I shan't begrudge a film for characterization, it seems a bit strange to give such focus on events that are rendered pretty null and void once that tsunami hits and all the character's priorities switch over to "Don't get eaten." Of course there's still the prerequisite "Who's going in the water so the other person doesn't have to" thing the romantic interests do, but I don't think we need a half hour lead-in to establish a couple as boyfriend/girlfriend.

Again, that's not to say it is done poorly, because it's not. It's just a thing that I found slightly mystifying. Well, on second thought maybe the robbery thing wasn't done that great. I honestly didn't see the point in that at all. I just don't see the use of having a human villain in a killer shark movie. Somehow I'm more threatened by the sharks.

I know this wasn't the most glowing recommendation I've ever given, but in terms of killer shark movies, trust me, when I say that they got something as obviously important but as easily screwed up as "Make sure the sharks look good" right, that's a pretty big endorsement for these kinds of movies. After all, you know what you're going to get with a film of this genre. What matters is how hard they tried.


THE BOTTOM LINE - "Bait" is not a great movie until you compare it to the slew of other shark movies that are terrible. Its best quality is the fact that in a genre that is riddled with horrible crap, it manages to not be bad. Take that for what it's worth. If you like killer shark movies, this one is worth checking out. Recommended for genre fans.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Looper (2012)

It amazes me how much the time travel movie has evolved over the years. Going from the first time travel movie, 1949's "A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court" to all those years later with movies like "Planet of The Apes," "The Terminator," "Star Trek IV," and the "Back to The Future" series, the time travel genre has gotten more and more cerebral and twisty-turny as time has gone on. And while those earlier films were certainly intellectually well done, it wasn't until later that the genre really started having fun with messing with your head.

Movies like "12 Monkeys" and "Donnie Darko" were surreal enough to add a level of perceived complexity to what is not necessarily the most complicated of plots, in which seemed to be a bit of a trend - if you want to make it intellectual, just make it trippy. These movies are enjoyable in a style-over-substance way, however, even if you don't know exactly what's going on. Then again there was "Primer," which I still to this day maintain is literally impossible to follow due to its narrative structure. I also maintain that "Primer" as a film is not very good, but that's another discussion.

And then there's the time travel in "Lost." We'll just leave that at "a big pile of wank" and move on.

What is a bit rare, however, are movies that address very complex time travel without being trippy about it. Most of the time it's either very simplistic or simply crazy enough to the point that it really doesn't matter if you get it or not. I always thought that the movie that did that the best was the Futurama film "Bender's Big Score," but now I'm probably going to have to give the crown to "Looper," because where this movie goes is not only really mind-bendingly complex, but also presented in a straightforward fashion.

Maybe time travel could explain better how in the crap he knew Bruce Wayne was Batman...

There is such much...SO much that I can't tell you about "Looper." And that's not because I don't want to, but because if you haven't seen it, having things explained to you would be a crime. I don't even want to write them with a SPOILER WARNING over top of it, because you still might read it. And that's not cool because if you haven't seen it, you need to. Right now. Seriously, just stop what you're doing and watch it because it's probably making my Top 10 of 2012. It would be shocking if it did not.

I'll tell you about as much as you'd get from the synopsis on any random website. "Looper" is about a man named Joe, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He is a "looper," which is essentially a clean-up man for the mob. But it's not just any mob. No, this is a mob FROM THE FUTURE.

See, in the future, time travel exists, but it's incredibly illegal. It's also apparently near impossible to dispose of a body in the future, so mobsters send people back through time to be killed and disposed of in the past. Loopers just wait at a predetermined place at a predetermined time with a gun, and when the person appears, boom headshot occurs.

I'm pretty sure that's not how one typically plays hide-and-go-seek.

What's interesting is when the loop is closed. What that means is that every Looper is eventually subjected to the same fate, which is that eventually in order to wrap up loose ends, if they are still alive 30 years in the future that Looper is sent back to be killed by their past self. The past self is given a big payment of gold, told to enjoy their remaining 30 years, and retired.

But when Joe's loop is closed, and his future self played by Bruce Willis comes through, he hesitates and his future self gets away in the past. However, keep in mind that Future Joe has lived his life having killed Future Joe when he was Past Joe. So we have Bruce Willis running around in a time line where he has already killed himself.

From there "Looper" goes in a lot of directions. This is a movie that feels like five movies condensed into one, but at the same time, it never feels crowded. The themes, plot, and even the genre switches a few times throughout the film, but at no point does it feel gimmicky or forced. It evolves very organically into one big story with a lot going on in it.

Because of that, "Looper" keeps you on your toes. There's no way to know which direction the plot is going to go in. What starts off like a crime movie involving time travel turns into a manhunt/chase movie, which turns into something like "The Terminator" which turns into something like "X-Men" which turns into something just crazy. And yes, like I said before, none of this feels unnatural. Take that for what it's worth.

While the story of "Looper" is certainly good enough to warrant the price of admission, the cast was also one of the main attractions. Joesph Gordon-Levitt does a really good Bruce Willis impression, and Bruce Willis is as always awesome, but it is hard to not be thinking about "12 Monkeys" while watching him. Emily Blunt shows up about halfway through the film in a nice surprise, because she's also very good, despite being slightly less hot due to hiding her English accent. I was also pleased to see Jeff Daniels pop in to play the mobster from the future running things in the past. He had a bit of an Albert Brooks in "Drive" thing going on, which was quietly intimidating and awesome.

But the real standout in the cast, as odd as it is to say, was young Pierce Gagnon, playing a young boy named Cid, who has something definitely strange about him. I'm dead serious when I say that this kid was, hands down, the absolute best child actor I've ever seen for someone as young as he is. There's no way he can be more than 7 years old, but he destroys in this film. He's laying down napalm in laser-guided 10,000 gallon barrels he's so on fire. Pierce Gagnon is right up there with Kody Smit-McPhee and Chloë Grace Moretz, and he's like half their age. Unbelievable.

I'm calling it here - The kid is going to be a marvel.

I really don't feel right describing much more than that. "Looper" should be viewed without many preconceptions beforehand, as part of the fun of "Looper" is seeing where in the crap it's going next.

"Looper" is notable for many things. It's got a unique take on a somewhat difficult genre to succeed in, it has constant shifting of plot elements which keeps it constantly fresh and exciting, it has a dynamite cast including a phenomenal young talent, and there are plenty of shocking moments including what it possibly one of the most disturbing and gruesome death scenes I've ever seen despite not showing a drop of blood. If you want to talk about a complete package, here it is.

THE BOTTOM LINE - "Looper" is without a doubt in my mind one of the best time travel movies I've ever seen. I can't honestly think of one that was as good since "12 Monkeys" back in '95. I am very excited to see what director Rian Johnson will do after this, because his work is reminiscent of Christopher Nolan. Seriously, there's no chance "Looper" isn't going on my Top Ten of 2012, and you need to see it. Highly Recommended.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Iron Sky (2012)

In the closing moments of WWII, the secret Nazi space program launched the refuges of the Third Reich into space to colonize the dark side of the moon. Now, after building up their power for 70 years, they are primed to invade Earth, and finish what Hitler began.

How can this not be awesome?

"Iron Sky" is a film which absolutely defies you to be a sourpuss about it. Just saying the phrase "Space Nazis from The Moon" is enough to make you sit back and give yourself a reality check in terms of how discerning you're going to be while watching it. Any kind of nitpicks about reality or characters or how seriously the film takes itself in general can be countered with those words: "Space Nazis from The Moon."

Honestly, it's a pretty solid defense. That's like a "1985 Chicago Bears defensive line"-level brick wall. Nothing is penetrating that. Anytime something stupid and ridiculous happens in this film, all you have to do is look at Götz Otto doing his best "Nazi from an Indiana Jones movie" impression, who may as well be Mike Ditka setting up another foolproof plan to drop it in the endzone, while annihilating any argument as to why you should even consider taking this seriously.

The black dude that the Nazis turn white would be "The Refrigerator" Perry, I guess?

Okay, I'm out of Chicago Bears metaphors. I'm not sure where I was going with that anyway.

So yes, "Iron Sky" is most definitely a film which is not meant to be taken seriously at all. In fact, to do so is to miss the point, since it's a full-blown comedy. But in what I can only call a bizarre case of "Didn't see that one coming," as goofy as the concept is, "Iron Sky" would have been not only a better film but a funnier film as well, if only it had taken itself a bit more seriously.

Here's the thing - "Iron Sky" shouldn't have been a comedy. It didn't need comedy in it, because the concept itself would have been hilarious without even trying. Once again, I'm going to bring up the phrase "Space Nazis from The Moon." The blank check is in your mailbox. Enjoy.

And what's even more surprising is that for a movie like this, especially a low budget film, this is a fantastic looking movie. I'm serious, the CGI in "Iron Sky" is very, very good. The battles in space are quite pretty to look at, and the exterior and interiors of the Nazi base on the moon is shockingly convincing. To be honest I found it more believable than "Avatar," but that also has to do with "Iron Sky" being slightly less fantastic in its imagery.

I played bass for "Space Blimp."

The comedy really seemed out of place, to be honest. I was expecting a bad ass Nazi-stomping version of "Independence Day." That would have been amazing. But instead, we basically got "Mars Attacks" with more annoying characters. And doesn't that sound like a fun time?

I knew we were in trouble from the start when I wanted one of the heroes to die a minute and a half into the film. The minute model-turned-half-assed-astronaut James Washington, played by Christopher Kirby opened his mouth, spewing his Marlon Wayans style "Aw, HELL NAW, G! Homey don't play dat!" schtick, I knew I was not going to get what I signed on for.

I hate this character. I hate all characters like him. The unnecessary inclusion of the comic-relief loudmouth who never shuts his stupid pie-hole is enough to take a power sander to my eyelids. Why is he there? Why is there zany comic relief in a comedy about Space Nazis? Do we really need a character to "lighten the tone?" And if you think I'm being too harsh with the Marlon Wayans comparison, remember the black guy the Nazis turn white earlier? Yeah, that's him. There is a direct link to "White Chicks." I rest my case.

As we discover the society of Nazis living on the moon, it's much like it was during WWII. They don't know about anything other than what they have been told by their propaganda machine. For instance, the Charlie Chaplin classic "The Great Dictator" is, to them, a short 10 minute film about how wonderful Hitler was, instead of a 2 hour long scathing mockery of him. And it's interesting seeing the veil being lifted from the eyes of our main character, Renete Richter, a teacher and future Mrs. Führer as she investigates Earth. Julia Dietze plays Renete with an innocent naivety which makes her a likeable enough character, and there's room for some real character development when she discovers the unthinkable fact that the Nazis were kind of jerks.

For a Nazi, though, she's pretty cute. She can blitz my krieg anyday...

And then we get to the American characters in this movie. Ugh.

You know, I'm not going to go all indignant on "Iron Sky" here. I have a sense of humor and some reasonably thick skin about certain things. I'm not mad at the movie for making Americans look like stupid, gun crazy yokels. After all, there is a percentage of the population that is exactly like that. My problem is this:

It's not even shooting fish in a barrel. It's clubbing a dead cod washed up on shore.

Sarah Palin? Really? That's the level of satire we're looking at here, "Iron Sky?" I know the movie never comes out and says her name, but it's obviously supposed to be Sarah Palin. And she's the President. And yes, she is stupid and evil and dumb and "Gee golly!" and totally sucks. And I'm guessing it was just as easy and lazy to write as I'm imagining it was.

Here's the thing about making fun of Sarah Palin: That is a boat that has sailed so long ago that it's no longer visible over the curve of the Earth. It's over because she's over. I think the final death bell tolled for anyone listening to her when she got her own reality TV show, which would have been a far more clever thing to include instead of her just being dense. And here's the part where you can tell this was not a film made in America, because in America we know this already. They must not have gotten the memo, but we don't care about her any more over here.

Oh sure, there will always be idiots who like her over here, but there's also people who like Vaseline on toast. Stupid is not restricted to America, either. And another thing! If you're going to use her as a catch-all analogy as to why the American people are dumb and will elect any chuckle-head to office, you should probably pick someone who didn't lose.

But that's not really the big problem I had here. The big problem I had, and what honestly killed the movie dead for me, was taking this Sarah Palin character and draping Nazi imagery all over her. I'm not quite sure how exactly it happens, because it doesn't make too much sense, but essentially Götz Otto's character, Adler, who is the next in line to be Führer becomes what I can only describe as her VP/Publicist/Script Writer/BFF/I-don't-know-what-the-hell-is-going-on. It's not too long after that the movie has her spewing Hitler style speeches and plastering her face on Naziesque posters and having her wear an armband.

Yeah. Because Sarah Palin is totally a Nazi. She wants to conquer the Earth, wipe clean any impure races and eliminate millions in concentration camps. That's her agenda. That's what she wants to do.

"Iron Sky," I want you to listen to me very carefully. You ready?


First off, that's really insulting to pretty much half of America. And yes, they may deserve it, but do you really think that even the stanchest Republican supporter, as out of touch with reality as they may be, really wants ethnic cleansing? Well, take away the racists and the answer is "Of course not." Even Sarah Palin, despite being dumb as a sack of hammers, isn't a freaking Nazi. That's absurd.

Secondly, that whole thing just cheapens the message that you're trying to convey in the first place. Ever heard of "Godwin's Law?" That's that rule on the Internet that states that the minute someone compares their opposition with the Nazis or Hitler during an online debate automatically loses the argument. The first reason for this is that it's too easy, and secondly, unless you're talking about a neo-Nazi movment or something, 99.9% of the time it's completely absurd.

So why did this taint the movie for me? The reason is because it's pretty front and center. This honestly becomes the main focus of the movie. It's not a cheesy, fun B-movie with a bunch of ridiculous action, although some elements of that appear. No, at the end of the day, it's really a vehicle for making fun of Sarah Palin and stupid Americans who were never stupid enough to vote her into office in real life. And isn't THAT what you were wanting from a movie about Space Nazis from the Moon?

I mean, how do you screw that up?

THE BOTTOM LINE - "Iron Sky" was so disappointing that I can't even describe it. I wanted to like this movie. I really did, but I didn't. It drops the ball so completely on what should have been an awesome film due to its lazy attempts at overdone, simplistic satire. And I didn't even get into how anti-climatic and uninteresting the final battle was. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I think The Asylum could do better. Skip it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Cleanskin (2012)

Ok everybody, I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is that Sean Bean is in today's entry. The bad news is that it's a movie involving suicide bombers. So, yeah don't expect this to be the number one feel-good hit of the summer.

I don't think that I need to go into too much detail as to why movies about terrorists, particularly suicide bombers disturb me and make me uncomfortable. It's a subject that I feel quite strongly about, and even bringing it up makes me mad on a base level, not from a patriotic, chest-thumping, "I'm going to write a racist country song" position but from a position of it disgusting me as a human being.

On the other hand, I get to see Sean Bean kick some butt. I think I can maintain for that.

"Cleanskin" is an action film that takes some liberties with standard action film narratives. The story is mostly told out of order, as we flash forward and backward throughout a period of time of about 3 years, following what led the characters to the point they are at in the present day. However, not everything is always shown, which has the benefit of adding intrigue, which makes "Cleanskin" comes off as something closer to a spy thriller without the spies, but also has the unfortunate side-effect of rendering the plot a tad hard to follow, and making certain character's motivations somewhat hazy and unconvincing.

Sean Bean plays Ewan, a British secret service agent working to take down a ring of terrorists in London. He's a bit of a cold bastard, to put to lightly, and he has absolutely no problems setting someone on fire, as long as he suspects them of being a terrorist. To be fair, he is damaged goods, as his wife was killed in a suicide bombing years ago, so he has little sympathy for them. Still, this is our hero, ladies and gentlemen - A borderline psychopath from the Jack Bauer school of diplomacy.

Here we have Sean asking what time it is.

I call him our hero, yet not our protagonist, as it seems to me that Ash, the law school dropout who turns domestic terrorist, is our main character, at least in terms of who it is we're following most of the movie. A good portion of "Cleanskin" is focused on him, with Sean Bean only showing up every once in a while to beat someone up and then shoot them in the brain. So while Ash is clearly one of the villains, I'd say he's as close to a main character as this movie can get.

Ash is also probably the biggest issue I took with this film. Abhin Galeya, who plays him, can come across and intense and brooding, but I never really discovered the "why" of his character, which is a big point of the film. "Cleanskin" is supposed to be about the exploration of the mindset of a man who is willing to blow himself up, along with dozens of innocents, for a cause they feel is just. And while it does delve into that a little, it's hardly enough to make the character convincing.

The fractured nature of the narrative means that there are big chunks of Ash's life that we don't see. His mentor sends him to Afghanistan to make him tougher, and we assume he does since we're never told that Ash doesn't go, and his girlfriend seems to be quite upset because he left when she sees him again after another flash-forward. But we don't see Ash in Afghanistan, and we never hear about anything that happened while he was there. I guess we're supposed to assume that he became harder and more resolute.

But if you were to ask me, I couldn't spot a single thing about Ash that had changed after he came back. He seemed like the exact same person. If it was supposed to be an underlying, subtle change in him that "Cleanskin" was attempting to convey, boy did they drop the ball there, because I didn't catch any of it. And it was to the point that I actually thought the most pivotal scene of the film, the scene were he finally decides to go through with the suicide bombing, was actually showing him giving up on terrorism and deciding to be with his girlfriend.

And that's not a twist - I just think it's really bad characterization.

"I'm kind of bored. Might as well blow myself up."

What that means is that you have what amounts to a really, really lame villain because there isn't a single point when you believe his motivations, or even understand his motivations. During the climax, when it's a race between him and Sean Bean to see if Ash will manage to get to his target and blow it up, it's inter-spliced with video footage of Ash's confession/martyr note B.S. saying crap like "You have ignored us for too long, now will we make you suffer blah blah blah I'm an asshole" and whatnot. It's supposed to let us inside his head, but since we've never been told what's going on in his head, and we've never seen a good reason why he's so mad, it comes off as exceedingly whiny.

If you're going to have a movie about the mind of a suicide bomber, you'd better do some damn convincing writing. You can't just say "And then he met a militant Islamic preacher who told him to leave his girlfriend and kill a bunch of people and he decided to do just that." I mean, the dude had a good thing going in London. He had a nice life, a smoking hot girlfriend, and was set up to have a successful career in law. But then he met a dude with some anti-Semitic flyers and decided to kill people? Please.

Speaking of his girlfriend, she was one of the more interesting aspects of the film for me, even though she really didn't end up doing much or mattering very much. She's played by Tuppence Middleton, and by Crom is she gorgeous. Seriously. Stone cold beautiful. I just had to throw that out there.

Those eyes could be classified as WMDs.

It's just too bad that nothing ever really comes of her character. I realize that Ash leaving her is supposed to be pivotal to his story, but when his story is so unconvincing anyway it really ended up not mattering very much. So he leaves her. Big deal. It's not like it matters. I know nothing about this guy, so his "heart wrenching" decision to leave her falls pretty flat. And that's too bad because Tuppence Middleton is actually very, very good in this movie. She deserved better.

Overall this is an ugly movie. It's a mean movie. I'm sure that's the point. It's supposed to be hard to look at, but nobody in "Cleanskin" is very likeable, honestly. Tuppence Middleton comes the closest, but she's reduced to a nothing character. Sean Bean is always awesome to watch, but if Sean Bean is the "hero," I don't want to see him beating the hell out of a prostitute to get information from her, and then straight up letting her get murdered after he uses her as bait to catch a terrorist. That's something he should be doing as a villain.

Sean Bean as a villain I love. But if Sean Bean is the hero, which means he actually stands a chance of seeing the end credits alive, then damn it, I want him to be the hero! He doesn't always have to be an asshole, you know. He can do both!

Maybe it's just a mug built for villainy...

THE BOTTOM LINE - There's not much to recommend with "Cleanskin." I love Sean Bean but this isn't one of his better films. There's much better Bean vehicles to watch, like "Black Death." For movies that deal with terrorism better, I'd watch "Unthinkable" with Samuel L. Jackson. Hell watch "Air Force One." That movie actually dealt with the mindset of terrorism far better than "Cleanskin." Skip it.