Posts Tagged ‘Samuel L. Jackson’

Kong: Skull Island – A Big-Budget Sandbox

Posted 29 Mar 2017 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead 

Kong: Skull Island, USA, 2017

Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Nothing can destroy one’s enjoyment of a new movie like anticipation, and this type of (sometimes) misplaced enthusiasm is never more likely to occur than when it is attached to a new version of a beloved property. As excited as audiences might have been about, say, Jurassic Park in 1993, the anticipation for its sequel a few years later was bound to be even higher, leaving open the road for diminishing returns down which that particular franchise has been barreling ever since. 60 years before that first Jurassic movie, there was a little black-and-white classic without which Spielberg’s masterpiece likely never would have come to exist; that, of course, was the original King Kong, and if you’re not a pretty huge fan of that one, I’m kind of surprised you’re even reading this.

Needless to say, going into Kong: Skull Island, I had mixed feelings of hope and despair, balancing out to a sort of cautious optimism. Kong’s last big-screen outing, at the hands of Peter Jackson and company in 2005, was certainly reverent of the source material and technically impressive overall, if perhaps over-ambitious, and certainly a bit bloated at over three hours. Luckily, Skull Island has all the technical prowess of its predecessor with none of the awkward self-seriousness. It is a wildly entertaining romp from start to finish, and without a doubt my second-favorite Kong movie yet (I’m pretty sure most fans of the 1976 version are really just fans of young Jessica Lange).  Read More

Ezra’s Top 10 Favorite Movies Of 2015

Posted 27 Feb 2016 — by Ezra Stead
Category Animation, Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead 

This is always a difficult thing to do, and this year, just like every other year, I left out plenty of movies I really like, even from the Honorable Mentions. This is a particularly interesting year in that I actually really like all the Oscar nominees that I’ve seen, which is relatively rare for me. Anyway, of the 107 new movies from 2015 I managed to see in time for this list, these are my (completely subjective) favorites.

Mad Max: Fury Road is a movie in the glorious pulp tradition of Robert E. Howard and Heavy Metal magazine, but it never feels derivative, even of its own source material1. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD – it’s always a treat to have really high expectations for a movie and then to see them exceeded. George Miller’s return to the wasteland of his career-defining trilogy is a perfect example of this phenomenon. The first time I saw it, though, Fury Road appeared to only meet my expectations, a rare enough feat in its own right. It was the second viewing that made me realize that this was not only my favorite movie of the year, but also my favorite Mad Max movie, and quite possibly my favorite movie of the last two decades. Then I saw it three more times in the space of about two weeks, and I noticed something new about it every single time. The rich, detailed world-building not only rewards but demands multiple viewings, and it’s a testament to Miller’s craft that the movie doesn’t rely on a lot of expository dialogue and other hand-holding devices to make sure the audience can keep up. Max Rockatansky’s world of “fire and blood” has its own language that is every bit as evocative and original as its eye-popping visuals: War Boys, Blood Bags, Bullet Farms, etc. This is a movie in the glorious pulp tradition of Robert E. Howard and Heavy Metal magazine, but it never feels derivative, even of its own source material (The Road Warrior being the original Mad Max movie it most closely resembles). What seems to be overlooked in all the talk about its incredible visual effects and stuntwork (which makes a better case than any movie I can think of for an Oscar category devoted to the people who risk their lives to make movies awesome) is the quality of the writing and performances. Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult are especially great, but there is also a surprising tenderness and depth to Tom Hardy’s performance as Max, a man of few words and great stoicism, and Melissa Jaffer managed to break my heart with just a few minutes of screen time as the Keeper of the Seeds. Critics and skeptics say this movie is just one long chase scene, which is reductive, but even if that were strictly true, complaining about that misses the point of how amazing it is that a movie this compelling could be made from a single long chase. Others might say it doesn’t belong in the Best Picture Oscar race because it’s not serious and important enough, but its themes of feminism and environmentalism are extremely relevant; they’re just not belabored to the point of didacticism. Fury Road’s vision of the destruction of the Old World, in which water was plentiful and “everyone had a show,” seems all too plausible, despite its over-the-top visual antics, and there’s a funny/scary comparison to be made between the film’s main villain, Immortan Joe, and a certain current Presidential candidate. I have no doubt this movie will ride eternal in Valhalla, shiny and chrome. It is perfect in every way.  Read More

Deep Blue Sea – A Gruesome Death Delivery System

Posted 03 Oct 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

Deep Blue Sea, USA / Australia, 1999

Directed by Renny Harlin

Deep Blue Sea is little more than a delivery system for gruesome death scenes, but at that it succeeds tremendously. I traditionally spend the entire month of October watching as many “scary movies” as possible, whether they be truly frightening psychological thrillers, big campy monster movies or anything with a flair for the occult. You know, Halloween-type movies. With that tradition firmly in place this year (since, unlike this time last year, I have what can be called a permanent address), I’ve decided to devote this month to actually writing about some of these films, whether new discoveries or old favorites I’ve decided to revisit, perhaps for the sake of finally writing about them. I will not, of course, cover every single movie I watch, but rest assured that for the rest of this month, you will see no reviews of stark, sober dramas or films with undeniably redeeming social value. It’s all chills, thrills, blood, guts and campy dark humor from here on out. My first entry is really more of an action movie, truth be told, but it does feature giant, super-intelligent sharks eating people, so I think it fits right in.

This is what could be called a guilty pleasure movie, from a director who knows how to make them. While he is not consistently as much fun as my personal favorite guilty pleasure director, Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Patriot, 2012), who seems to be intent on destroying the world in nearly every film he makes, Harlin has managed to crank out at least a few enjoyable entertainments, such as Cliffhanger (1993) and The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996). His 1999 film Deep Blue Sea, like the slasher movies it emulates by way of films like Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) and John McTiernan’s Predator (1987), is less a compelling narrative than it is a sort of delivery system for gruesome death scenes. And that’s fine; when a film realizes its goal, however high or low that goal may be, it succeeds. It is in that spirit, then, that I present my loose, irreverent, spoiler-heavy review, in which we shall look at this film in the way it seems to demand: by examining its death scenes. Read More

Mother and Child – A Not So Mellow Drama

Posted 31 Jul 2011 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott Martin

Mother and Child, USA / Spain, 2009

Written and Directed by Rodrigo Garcia Mother and Child is a lovely film. Difficult to take, and "melodramatic", but lovely nonetheless.

I’m always fascinated by multi-narrative character studies, films that take total strangers and loop them together based on a sole coincidence. Be it an unfortunate turn of events, or something mundane yet fortuitous, we’re all connected; that seems to be the mission statement of films like this. Here, the unfortunate events pile onto each other to become something fortuitous. It’s a film that centers its meditation on adoption, but it isn’t preaching; it’s merely telling a story about it. I appreciate that above most things in filmmakers. Focusing its lenses on three women (Annette Bening, Naomi Watts, and Kerry Washington), Mother and Child is the cure for the common Lifetime movie. It’s melodramatic, at times, but I’ve always considered melodrama to be a symptom of a bigger ailment, not the ailment itself. The events in this film are melodramatic, so how could the surrounding elements not be? It wouldn’t flow as a film, and it’s the ebb and flow of Rodrigo Garcia’s films that make them memorable. What I’ve always taken from his work, even if unaffected by his stories, is that he has excellent control over his atmosphere. Read More

The Prestige – Not That Exciting When You Know How It’s Done

Posted 09 Jul 2011 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott Martin

The Prestige, USA / UK, 2006

Directed by Christopher Nolan

The Prestige, we live in the turn, while the pledge is revealed to us in flashbacks, and then the prestige isn't what the prestige is supposed to be, but rather something that cheats and gives an easy out. The prestige is only the third act. At least that’s what we’re told by Cutter (Michael Caine) in his opening monologue. It’s more a set of instructions for the film, we’ll discover, but that’s a later point. Every magic trick comes in three parts: one – the pledge, in which you give the audience something real to hold onto; two – the turn, in which you take that something and turn into something impossible, the part where the magic lies; three – the prestige, in which everything comes back to normal, and the audience (hopefully) cheers. Usually, magic is all about sleight of hand and misdirection. Christopher Nolan is great at that; recall the difficult but astonishing Memento (2000). There’s a pledge, a turn, and a prestige in that, but here, in The Prestige, we live in the turn, while the pledge is revealed to us in flashbacks, and then the prestige isn’t what it’s supposed to be, but rather something that cheats and gives an easy out.

Still, though, the pledge and the turn make the film exciting and the thriller it should be. Don’t be fooled – this film isn’t strictly about magicians. It’s a cat-and-mouse game about two men obsessed with one-upping each other, and who both end up destroying themselves in the process. Read More

Uplift The Race – Three Spike Lee Joints

Posted 12 May 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

Do the Right Thing, USA, 1989

Malcolm X, USA / Japan, 1992

Bamboozled, USA, 2000

Directed by Spike Lee

Spike Lee is one of the most important filmmakers of the late 20th century.

For twenty years now, ever since his debut feature She’s Gotta Have It in 1986, Spike Lee (b. 1957) has been one of the most innovative and provocative directors of his time. As expressed numerous times throughout his many films, Lee’s highest goal is to “wake up” and uplift all oppressed and deluded people, but he has an understandably primary concern for his own people, the African-Americans who have been abused and misrepresented in the United States ever since before it was even called the United States.

Many critics have accused Lee of the same bigotry his films abhor, citing in particular three of his best films – Do The Right Thing, Malcolm X and Bamboozled – as being counterproductive and causing, rather than alleviating, the tensions between various races, but particularly between blacks and whites. Yet all one has to do is view these films to see Lee’s love of all humanity; each one of these films is an eloquent cry of pain at the inhumanity bred by racism in anyone, of any race.  Read More

The Sunset Limited

Posted 08 Mar 2011 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott Martin

The Sunset Limited, USA, 2011

Directed by Tommy Lee Jones

tommy lee jones and samuel jackson talking about raceIt is always a trick to adapt theater to a feature film. Easier to do so for television, though that’s probably a gross overstatement. HBO might be the best place to do it; they harbor independent film. Even trickier is maintaining a swift and watchable pace with only two actors and heavy religious dialogue. Thankfully, Tommy Lee Jones, Samuel L. Jackson, and Cormac McCarthy have no problem with this. The Sunset Limited is engaging, thought-provoking, and sincere.

Of course, being a McCarthy work, there is a sense of boundless eternity that is tinkered with throughout, and the ending is more of a truce than anything else, but this is usually so of his writing. Things happen, we talk about why, and then we go home. It doesn’t matter which side wins, just so long as each side is heard. Read More