Decades Blogathon — Mr. Brooks (2007)

Decades ‘7’ edition rolls on with day three and a more modern release, the Kevin Costner-starring crime thriller Mr. Brooks from 2007. This review is brought to you by Drew of Drew Reviews Movies, a blog I’ve been following for some time now. You should absolutely check it out if you like conversational, fun reviews with a different kind of rating system. (And, as longtime readers of this site are aware, I do appreciate unorthodox rating systems.) Now let me step aside and let Drew take over.


Synopsis

Mr. Brooks (Kevin Costner) is a successful businessman and philanthropist. However, he hides a terrible secret: he is addicted to killing and is the serial murderer known as the Thumbprint Killer. After his latest kill, he is approached by a man calling himself Mr. Smith (Dane Cook) who witnessed the killing and agrees not to go to the police if Mr. Brooks takes him on his next murder.  Meanwhile, Detective Atwood (Demi Moore) is on the search for the Thumbprint Killer.


Review  

Mr. Brooks feels demented in all of the right places. When it comes to Kevin Costner, I have decently high expectations. Or I should say, I can count on him to not give a bad performance.  As the titular Earl Brooks, he doesn’t disappoint.  It is clear that Earl might put on a visage but underneath he is struggling to keep his inner demon in check. Costner easily switches from a calm, cool father and businessman to a serious and broken killer.  However, the star of the movie is William Hurt as Marshall, Earl’s “inner demon,” an imaginary friend of Earl.  Throughout the movie, Marshall is constantly pushing Earl to give into his cravings and kill. Hurt is simply maniacal as Marshall. Every scene of his had me leaning towards the screen, intrigued and caught up in his performance. Stand-up comedian Dane Cook traditionally does comedic roles in movies (surprise, surprise), so Mr. Smith was a different kind of role for him. I’m curious to see how the part would have been different if someone who traditionally acts in thrillers had been in the role, but Cook was good for what it was.

I really liked that Earl’s subconscious was personified as Marshall. This almost gives a scapegoat of sorts to Earl’s actions, almost like it was Marshall who pushes Earl towards killing, despite his reservations. It also creates some interesting questions. How long has Marshall been around? Is he a childhood imaginary friend or was he created when Earl started killing? Was he created to deflect Earl’s actions from himself? The concept isn’t wholly original but the implementation is unique. There is a subplot where Detective Atwood (Demi Moore) is dealing with her divorce that contributes to the plot very little. It could be removed, or at least trimmed down, to keep the focus on Mr. Brooks and Mr. Smith.

I thought Mr. Brooks was GOOD 🙂 Kevin Costner gives a good performance as the two-faced business man but the scene-stealer is William Hurt as his imaginary friend, Marshall.  Some might say that this film goes on for one scene too long (literally one scene) but it leaves Mr. Brooks in a precarious place either way. One thing is for certain, you’ll think twice about who people truly are on the inside despite what you see on the outside.


Trailer  


Cast & Crew  

Bruce A. Evans – Director / Writer

Raynold Gideon – Writer

Ramin Djawadi – Composer

Kevin Costner – Mr. Earl Brooks

Dane Cook – Mr. Smith

Demi Moore – Det. Tracy Atwood

William Hurt – Marshall

Marg Helgenberger – Emma Brooks

Danielle Panabaker – Jane Brooks

Ruben Santiago-Hudson – Det. Hawkins

Aisha Hinds – Nancy Hart

Lindsay Crouse – Captain Lister

Jason Lewis – Jesse Vialo

Reiko Aylesworth – Sheila (Jesse’s Lawyer)

Matt Schulze – Thorton Meeks


Photo credits: http://www.imdb.com 

Hidden Figures

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Release: Friday, January 6, 2017

[Theater]

Written by: Theodore Melfi; Allison Shroeder 

Directed by: Theodore Melfi

‘We go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.’

Former President John F. Kennedy’s speech became a staple of American history the moment those words were uttered. The pep talk was designed to reshape public perception of where the country was headed in terms of its relationship with the Soviets, who in October of 1957 became the first to successfully launch an un-manned satellite into orbit. The above excerpt, taken by itself, has accumulated such weight over the years we recall the event more for the ethos and sense of national pride his words evoked rather than the place in which they were uttered (Rice University football stadium in Houston, Texas, incidentally).

Theodore Melfi’s Oscar-nominated Hidden Figures is nothing if not a potent reminder of the kinds of details that have been buried in the avalanche of time, how our understanding of history is often informed by supposition and omission, not necessarily what actually happened. Melfi’s historical drama tells of the accomplishments of three extraordinary African-American women who worked at Langley Research Center, a Virginia-based division of NASA, and how their gifted intellects and willingness to persevere helped galvanize a nation amidst the chaos of the Space Race.

Amazingly, their stories have never been shared — until now (okay, excluding the non-fiction book upon which this is based). Hidden Figures is set in 1961 and traces the trajectories of mathematicians Katherine Johnson (née Goble), played by Taraji P. Henson and Dorothy Vaughan (Oscar nominee Octavia Spencer), as well as aspiring engineer Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe). Each journey is an inspiration, whether it’s Johnson becoming the first African-American to work in the elite Space Task Group, Vaughan’s promotion to supervisor after taking significant strides in adapting to a rapidly changing technological environment, or Jackson’s acceptance into a traditionally all-white school to obtain her engineering degree.

What develops is a crowd-pleasing dramatization whose hagiographic tendencies are frequently pardoned because the whole thing is just so darn watchable, even when it’s hard to watch. The trio of actresses could not be more winning in their performances and hey, even that guy from The Big Bang Theory is pretty good as the archetypal petulant-child-as-immediate-superior. Kevin Costner tags along as Al Harrison, the director of the Space Task Group whose neck the American government is breathing down as they work to stay competitive with the Russians.

Melfi and Allison Schroeder’s writing paces the events so that the story steadily absorbs and the environments feel real and lived-in. Hidden Figures is brought to life through an exquisite combination of costuming and production design. The actors look the part even though accents aren’t very smooth and the dialogue tends to be clunky. Even still, when the film begins we find ourselves immediately transported. We are in the ’60s, marching along with these pioneers ever closer to that famed Kennedy speech, a speech that takes on new significance as the movie concludes.

Hidden Figures never amounts to the kind of confronting hyper-realism recent years have almost conditioned us to expect out of race-related historical dramas. The film’s complaisant tone doesn’t necessarily help to distinguish the product, yet Melfi’s treatment is an appropriately dignified and emotional account of three pivotal figures in the history of the space program. While a few details are left to be nitpicked, the film’s convictions shall go uncontested.

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4-0Recommendation: Tonally familiar but not offensively so. Loaded with charismatic and touching performances and bolstered by a fascinating and incredible true story, the emotional engine driving Hidden Figures to its expected conclusion ultimately makes this an easy (and strong) recommendation. 

Rated: PG

Running Time: 127 mins.

Quoted: “Here at NASA we all pee the same color.” 

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

'Batman vs Superman - Dawn of Justice' movie poster

Release: Friday, March 25, 2016

[Theater]

Written by: Chris Terrio; David S. Goyer

Directed by: Zack Snyder

I see civil war erupting between the die-hards and the casual-hards (and let me quickly interrupt myself here: casual-hards are people like me who don’t really have a firm grasp on either the mythos or even all of the character trajectories in the source material, we’re just here for the spectacle, that is, the overall product not simply the CGI spectacle). Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is no mould-breaker but it does provide in its last half hour set one of the most intense assaults on the senses that cinema has ever created.

It’s overlong, it’s melodramatic, it’s preachy and more often than not it’s a child kicking its foot in the dirt with hands in pockets because it doesn’t know how to play nice with everyone else and now is forced to spend time alone. Maybe its playing out so scornfully is a function of a super-human sense that no matter what it does, some critics are just going to tear it limb from limb. Similar to how the fanbase is likely to poke holes all through its not-so-textured skin, columnists at large — probably not Lois Lane or Perry White though — are going to have, and have been having this week, a field day trying to convince the rest of the populace why it’s not something you should go and see. Hilarious. That’s like an armor-less Batman going toe-to-toe with a Kryptonian and expecting to emerge the victor.

Despite the film suffering once again from gorging on an overabundance of material, the overarching narrative remains simple and simply compelling: this is the episode where the Batman and the man of steel get into a bit of a spat. An older, wiser and ever more embittered Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) fears the powers of the metahuman known as Kal-El/Superman (Henry Cavill) will perpetually go unchecked unless he intervenes. Meanwhile, the other guy doesn’t think much of all the vigilantism in Gotham that has only succeeded in perpetuating the “weed effect,” as a dejected Batman himself puts it — you crush one weed and pull it out only for another to grow in its place. He’s talking, of course, about criminals. The Dark Knight hasn’t done shit in the way of gardening in the last several years when we first swoop in to meet him.

Zack Snyder, putting himself in the crosshairs much like J.J. Abrams did last year, reaffirms that his gritty style challenges the senses, and that your eyes and ears in particular best come prepared in this bombastic epic that pits the stealthy deceptiveness of Batman against the brutal physicality of Superman — a being, it ought to be said, finds himself falling out of favor with much of mankind following the destructive events in Metropolis two years prior. There’s much anticipation for how a modern film could or should handle the DC Universe’s version of the Neo-Agent Smith battle (sans the whole thing about one of them being a total psycho bent on the unequivocal destruction of man), and yet, for all that’s at stake, Snyder impressively manages to contain his excitement, teasing out the relationship patiently . . . perhaps too patiently for some.

That’s why half of the film manifests as a relatively slow meditation on a number of more human concerns: things like aging, losing one’s relevance, sense of purpose and the loss of innocence are all touched, though never harped upon. Some areas could use some expansion, surely. And yes, that would mean sacrificing a bit of the pixelated action sequences later on. But it’s the steady camerawork of Larry Fong that guides us through the seedy streets of a broken Metropolis, as well as a still-despairing Gotham, an observance of how both time and people have moved on. There’s a bittersweetness to the way Affleck carries himself as a 40-ish-year-old man in a cape whom most have forgotten about by now. There’s a longing for a return to the time when Kal-El first thundered his way to earth, an aura of mystery (or is that terror?) swirling about his godly physique and impossible strength.

Dawn of Justice is most powerful when it’s sending up the deific Kal-El; there are some unforgettable shots of the man in the red cape, one in particular of him hovering above a flooded town, a mother reaching out to him from the rooftop of a submerged house recalls Regan’s possessed soul clawing for the form of Pazuzu outside her window, only in this case we’d like to think the reach is one towards heaven and not hell. Then there’s the image of Cavill’s face imploding in the vacuum of space, his body dangling in suspended animation before awakening once again. If you were asking me which figure is done the most justice (e-hem), I favor Cavill’s Superman. As an image, he’s too powerful, too ferocious, too graceful to ignore. And the Brit looks comfortable as ever in the suit.

It’s not for a lack of trying for Affleck. Unfortunately he’s in a similar position as Jared Leto, attempting to put his own spin on an icon that has been so solidified in the most recent Dark Knight trilogy that any steps taken to divorce from that image will inevitably be labeled as at best inferior and at worst unholy. Affleck doesn’t seem to mind the pressure though; he’s convincing as a surlier, lonelier billionaire with a penchant for creating lots of fancy, shiny new toys and Jeremy Irons as Alfred makes for wonderful companionship but it’s just not the same as Christian Bale and Michael Caine. It’s just not. For these most somber of circumstances though, perhaps this is the Dark Knight we deserve.

For all of its visual symbolism and the bravado with which Cavfleck (please let me be the person to coin that one) carries itself throughout, there are some questionable decisions that hold Dawn of Justice back from becoming the classic it is so close to being. I’m not referring to Jesse Eisenberg’s brilliantly unhinged performance as the evil genius Lex Luthor — his nervous, passive-aggressive and awkward countenance isn’t a natural thing to watch at first but the guy builds some serious strength as the movie plods forward and as his position in this universe becomes slightly more clear. I’m also not referring to the limited screen time afforded Gal Gadot’s ass-kicking Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (though this was an aspect that let me down considerably).

No, the concern is more of a financial nature, and how the studio seems to have mishandled the responsibility of allocating resources properly. For a film budgeted at an estimated $250 million (you can make 25 movies for that price tag), it sure doesn’t look like it. Perhaps part of the issue here is inherent in the sprawling ambition of the story. Because we are dealing with so much complexity, one of the battles Snyder and company picked was to close the physical gap between Metropolis and Gotham, such that only the Delaware River separates these two disparate worlds. When human-Krypton-Bat drama eventually reaches critical mass and the ultimate threat is revealed, so much happens in one indeterminate pile of rubble that nothing looks good.

In some ways the quasi-headache that the action set piece becomes finds us at the threshold of ridiculousness; our demand for quality superhero cinema shouldn’t rely on CGI orgies to get the job done. But that’s old news since the superhero movie fad took off (thanks Iron Man). The only way it seems possible to hit home how crazy these creations are is to go upwards, in one direction. In keeping with what Holly Hunter’s Senator Finch decrees during one of the inevitable government intervention scenes, unilateral decision making is bad for business. But that still doesn’t really answer the mystery as to why, with all of this money, the CGI renderings in particular stand-out moments look like extracts from films in the late ’90s and early 2000s. It’s bizarre.

What’s not bizarre is the critical derision Dawn of Justice is suffering. This is what happened with Man of Steel, remember? Superman stepped in and parted the red sea of fandom. Dawn of Justice is mind-blowing in some aspects and lacks restraint, thereby quality control and thereby consistency, in others. It’s huge and it’s a few trims shy of a true final cut. But it is at the basic level, entertaining and that’s all this little dude wanted out of a movie of this scale. Maybe I regret not being a fanboy?

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 7.02.01 PM

Recommendation: . . . do I . . . do I have to say something here? Really? Okay. Well, if you’re on the fence about this, the good news is that Ben Affleck isn’t a disaster (he’s also no Christian Bale) and that the film also makes some room for female talent and as macho as the film is, the timing of Wonder Woman is spine-tingly well-judged. She’s reason enough to go see this. So is Jeremy Irons. 

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 153 mins.

Quoted: “The Red Capes are coming! The Red Capes are coming!”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.ernest93.deviantart.com; http://www.imdb.com

McFarland USA

mcfarland-usa-poster

Release: Friday, February 20, 2015

[Theater]

Written by: Christopher Cleveland; Bettina Gilois; Grant Thompson

Directed by: Niki Caro

Is this the part where I openly admit to becoming teary-eyed watching a Disney film? Or is that just way too honest?

. . . . . hello . . . ? Guys . . . . . . ?

Ah well, whatever. Good chance I’m just talking to myself now, but nonetheless it’s nice being reminded of how many ways movies can offer surprises. Family-friendly McFarland USA is the most recent example, transcending mediocrity while still relying on shopworn techniques to construct its story, one that is as wholesome as it is sensational given its drawing upon real life events.

Kevin Costner is a disgraced high school football coach named Jim White who finds himself having to relocate his family to Nowheresville — er, excuse me, that’s McFarland, a tiny Californian town few maps have ever bothered mentioning — as he seeks another coaching job at a high school that’s predominantly Hispanic. Although hired because of his football résumé Jim suggests to the school’s principal, much to the chagrin of Assistant Coach Jenks (Chris Ellis), that McFarland High start up a cross country running team. He sees in several members of the squad some serious talent, but talent that’s more useful off the gridiron. Having no experience coaching track or cross country before Jim’s chances of finding success are pretty apparent from the get-go, but it’s not until he manages to corral seven young boys, including the unstoppable Thomas Valles (Carlos Pratts) that a real opportunity begins to present itself.

McFarland USA begs comparisons to the inferiorly budgeted and marketed Spare Parts, a production featuring George Lopez that shines a light upon four young Latino high school students possessing brilliant minds but lacking the financial and societal support needed for their potential to be fully realized. Trade intellect for athleticism, Arizona for California and a talk-show host for a seasoned action star and you get the latest effort from director Niki Caro. The drama at times mirrors that of the kids of Carl Hayden High, in particular a scene in which Jim White drives his rapidly rising young star athletes to the beach so they can have their first glimpse of the ocean. It should be said that this sequence is handled with much more grace and passion but it’s difficult shaking that feeling of déjà vu if you’ve sat through both films.

But where Spare Parts had the difficult task of selling audiences on the magnitude of the motivation required for these immigrant youths to compete in something as obscure as an underwater robotics competition, McFarland USA embraces its broader audience appeal by crafting a sense of warm community and fictionalizing a rallying cry behind an upstart sports team. Cross country running makes for an interesting twist on an all-too-eager-to-inspire genre. At the risk of scribbling out yet another cliché, we’ve been beaten over the head more than enough times with the pressures, heartbreaks and pitfalls of football stardom. As an avid sports fan, I say this not because my goal is to mislead anyone but because it’s simply true: football dramas are far too easy to find.

It’s also no secret Disney prefers creating cinema that values community-building rather than the destruction thereof, and McFarland USA continues in that tradition. As the Whites transition from minority status in a town where no one’s a stranger to another, to becoming the reason McFarland begins receiving recognition amongst the more affluent surrounding suburbs there is a surprising amount of satisfaction gained in experiencing the growth, both personal and communal. Jim goes from being jokingly nick-named ‘Blanco’ to being revered as Coach as a series of growing pains galvanizes the group over the fall of 1987.

Added to this, Caro’s ability to homogenize these two cultures cohabiting within the Californian border. We see Jim’s eldest daughter Julie (Morgan Saylor) entering into young womanhood upon her 15th birthday during an extended vignette that serves as a highlight of the film when her father throws her a “quinceañera,” and her burgeoning romance with Thomas (arguably the best runner) furthers the notion that this family is not likely to abandon McFarland, even if Jim may have better job prospects on the horizon given his remarkable achievements. The respect between both groups is something that helps to balance out the film’s fixation on competition during the race day events.

There’s nothing truly original about McFarland USA, and yet the film excels in delivering entertainment and packaging an inspirational true story unlike many mainstream sports dramas have in recent memory. Anchored by wonderful performances from Costner and Bello in tandem and visually enhanced by a vibrant Disney color palette — this is a beautifully shot film, with particular emphasis on the landscapes during the races as well as the costume design — you might find yourself every now and then counting cliches but at the end you shouldn’t be too surprised to find yourself secretly cheering.

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3-0Recommendation: McFarland USA relies on some old-hat filmmaking techniques but that doesn’t distract from the pure enjoyment of watching this town come together. There is so much to like about this one that anything less than a solid recommendation just wouldn’t be fair. Any fan of Kevin Costner shouldn’t pass this one up, either.

Rated: PG

Running Time: 129 mins.

Quoted: “That’s not Danny Diaz. . !”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

Draft Day

draft-day-kevin-costner-movie-poster

Release: Friday, April 11, 2014

[Theater]

“A sports metaphor.”

There, I did it. I’ve gotten that out of my system, and now no one can call me out for not including at least one in a review for a football-related movie. Now, to get down to the x’s and o’s.

Kevin Costner is as amiable as ever as he becomes Sonny Weaver, the general manager of the Cleveland Browns in this odd dramatization of the process through which college players are selected to play in the pros. The film takes place over the course of a single day — I won’t tell you what day that is, because that is a massive spoiler. . . — and it establishes Costner’s character as the conduit through which all of the big day’s events, emotions and energy will flow.

Directed by some guy who busted a bunch of ghosts back in 1984, Draft Day is his opportunity to shed some light upon an area of the sport perhaps even many hardcore football fanatics would like to know more about. Before placing players on the field, some key executive decisions must be made before and during the drafting process which will determine who those will be. It wasn’t necessarily Reitman’s duty to provide us an action-packed football drama. In fact, for every football movie that has had it’s share of crazy plays, Draft Day features an equal number of moments that do not feature them, almost as if announcing to the world that a movie that discusses football rather than uses it as a plot device is actually possible.

The lack of quarterback/runningback heroics should hardly cost Reitman ten yards.

Whereas many films make the mistake of jamming as many action sequences together as possible to make the story feel more exciting; or others use the sport as a means of coping with reality (hence, football as a plot device), Draft Day considers all of these options and dispenses with them, opting to get down to fundamentals. Football, like any number of team activities at the professional level, is a business first and a passion second. For once it’s refreshing to witness sports functioning differently in the movies, even if certain realities can turn ugly. . .like knowing that all this movie is going to do is earn the NFL suits even more money, because this does make the game seem enticing and thrilling at the corporate level. There is plenty of drama to be found, but nothing of the “if I don’t make this play I can’t come home for dinner” variety. What passes for excitement and intensity in a movie like this is the direction in which conversations go and what picks are actually made in the draft in the film’s final act.

The events of Draft Day are completely fictionalized, but they transpire in a way that is entirely convincing, and to a somewhat lesser degree, emotionally investing.

Sonny is on the hot seat. It’s a seat so hot in fact, he can’t really sit down in it. The city is desperate to get back to a place where a championship title isn’t a pipe dream. With Sonny’s job on the line thanks to the hawk-like watch of team owner Anthony Molina (Frank Langella), he must decide what assets he can afford to ditch and what’s worth keeping of his current line-up in order to take the right steps moving forward. But moving forward won’t be easy when his colleagues and players find out what Sonny is prepared to sacrifice in order to get what everyone thinks they want.

In the opening moments, Sonny is made an offer by Seattle Seahawks’ general manager Tom Michaels (Patrick St. Esprit) to trade their top pick in Wisconsin quarterback Bo Callahan (Josh Pence), who’s considered as this draft’s most sought-after talent, for three of Cleveland’s future top picks. Not one. Not two. Three years in a row. Keep in mind, a number one pick theoretically could change a team’s fortunes just like that. But what if the supposed star player they bargain for doesn’t deliver? What if he doesn’t fit in? Gets injured quickly? What then?

There’s also the little issue of Sonny’s personal affairs inside and away from the office, as he and his colleague and “friend” Ali (Jennifer Garner) struggle with the idea of making their relationship public. Sonny’s father has also recently passed away. Indeed, there is plenty of drama to endure on this day. Though it does border on shameless and is unavoidable, the product placement and brand recognition isn’t as intrusive at it sounds like it would be because, after all, this is what and where the movie is: it’s effectively a dramatization of the business that determines the futures of young men going into the working world. It’s almost possible to view this as a ‘real world’ film reel. Draft Day is an odd movie because it is filmed so in line with reality; it’s almost a special you might see on SportsCenter for a 10,000th Anniversary edition of the show.

And yet, it retains originality in Kevin Costner’s stalwart portrayal of a man in crisis mode, who saves a football team from almost irreparable damage; it is given personality in the fictitious players who are on the verge of elation or heartbreak depending on whether they get picked this year. The Cleveland Browns seem like a strange place for the film to take place in, and yet, no team is without it’s stretches of despair, confusion, even chaos. So at the same time we want to scoff at the notion of the Browns becoming a cinematic entity, why shouldn’t it have been them?

Draft Day is a competent drama that surprisingly appeals more because it spares little attention to the gridiron. Stuffed with sports jargon, it’s clear to see that it’s crafted to fit a somewhat niche audience, but a general interest in football will make this film a pleasant watch also. This is mostly due to Costner’s appeal. How this guy doesn’t wear a diaper for all of the shit he could lose each minute is beyond comprehension, and at times even humorous. These are aspects you begin to appreciate more about the sport after watching.

Keep an eye out for a number of big names including Ray Lewis, Chris Berman, Arian Foster, Deion Sanders, Mel Kiper and Jon Gruden.

DRAFT DAY

3-5Recommendation: You will totally be forgiven for looking at this as the NFL now invading the silver screen, but there’s more to this story than the corporate giants of football and film taking baths in the monetary exchanges. I mean, they probably did do that, but let’s focus on the fact that a film crew has managed to create a fictional account of a complicated process in the football off-season. No matter how you slice this one up, this is not your traditional sports film and could mean several different things to many different attendees. It’s worth a look for Costner fans, as well. His performance is spectacular.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 110 mins.

Quoted: “How is it that the ultimate prize in the most macho sport ever invented is a piece of jewelry?”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com

3 Days to Kill

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Release: Friday, February 21, 2014

[Theater]

Yes, we are indeed struggling through February, aren’t we? Officially in the shadow of Judgment Day, otherwise known as the 86th Academy Awards Ceremony — an event so big its given a whole new name to the day on which it falls. Oscars Sunday has all but ensured that the six-ish weeks leading up to it will be filled with film releases that don’t even bother trying to be good.

For anyone who doesn’t have a cot set up in back of their local theater, this time period makes no difference, but for those who consider the theater home away from home already know January and February to be the infamously treacherous part of the calendar year. To have so much influence as to cause quality filmmakers to go into hibernating for a couple of months is the kind of influence I’d like to have. That’s power you can’t buy, but that good old Oscar has.

Kevin Costner gives off a similar effect in his latest film 3 Days to Kill, a film that from the outside looks like a terribly lazy afterthought of an action-thriller. Costner lumbers across the screen with a sense of sarcasm and indifference towards the material that just screams he’s getting paid pretty handsomely to be “that guy.” That guy we all wish we were because he effortlessly gets his way with the baddies; that guy we all wish we were because he gets to stand beside Amber Heard in yet another over-the-top provocative role; that guy we all wish we were because he gets the best of both worlds — being the biggest box office draw for the film and being the best thing about it (coincidence, I think not).

But I will not lie to you, I went to see this for Amber Heard. I know, I know, there goes all my credibility. . .

In McG’s latest directorial effort, “that guy” is a dying Secret Service agent named Ethan Renner who is particularly good at his job but not at being a family man. He has spent years away from wife Christine (Connie Nielsen) and has barely known his daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfield) but when he learns he has a terminal cancer, he tries his hardest to get back in contact with them in Paris, where they currently live. But due to a development during a mission shown at the opening of the film, we realize his work life will seemingly never leave him alone. A mysterious and unapologetically attractive agent, Vivi (Heard) tracks him down and offers him an experimental drug that could improve his life span, in exchange for one last job. He is tasked with finding and killing ‘The Wolf,’ a really, really bad man who has done a bunch of bad stuff.

Now Ethan finds himself in between a rock and a hard place trying to reacquaint himself with his own family and keeping them out of danger — which is what he apparently has been doing by being separated from them for years. His guilt over the circumstances is met with cold indifference from Vivi, and his wife and daughter aren’t fans of him at first to say the least. Slowly though, Zoey allows Ethan into her life when mom goes out of town on a business trip, leaving Ethan with the parental responsibilities. This is all while he’s coughing and spluttering like a baby refusing Gerber’s food, an ailment his daughter finds ‘annoying’ but isn’t aware is actually a serious problem.

The sum total of 3 Days to Kill is a surprisingly entertaining movie about mixing business with personal lives. Indeed it’s a release in the dreaded month of February, but watching a Kevin Costner having fun with a considerably underdeveloped story is an experience actually worth having. Even Heard doesn’t take herself too seriously this time around, which has been the issue I’ve had in defending her as a decent actress all this time. She is not great in this one either, but she shares a few moments with Costner that do nothing but slap a goofy grin on the viewer’s face.

There are many moments when the pair aren’t sharing the screen that offer up some good chuckles as well. A scene in which Ethan is extracting cooking advice from one of his hostages and giving it to his daughter on the phone right before he proceeds to presumably torture the poor Italian. . .with duct tape. . .stands out above the rest. Ethan gets to know a man named Mitat (Marc Andréoni) who is a loving husband and father of two “good” girls, but who also suffers from dirty hand syndrome thanks to his shady business dealings with Ethan’s targets. Together they form a mismatched pair of men trying to do the right thing but failing more often than succeeding. Their repeated mistakes are a bit baffling, but in a movie like this trying to wring logic from the film is a little like peeing into the wind.

3 Days to Kill does fall into that ever-broadening category of being dumb, loud entertainment but at this stage in the game, that’s as good as it is going to get prior to the Oscars ceremony. An action-thriller that’s unburdened by standards and expectations, and has no chance of being remembered in two months’ time, McG has had far worse to offer. Surely there are going to be contenders for much more quality-depraved releases this time of year.

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She ain’t talkin’ to nun of ya’s . . .

3-0

Recommendation: A film that is much better than it had any right to be, 3 Days to Kill offers fun and engaging action sequences with an emphasis on family values. At times the two themes conflict in very distracting ways but more often than not the film is harmless fun, especially seeing Kevin Costner all but sleepwalk through the role of an estranged father/husband while getting hit on by a sumptuous Vivi. It’s all ridiculous, but isn’t this why you’re curious about this review in the first place?

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 113 mins.

Quoted: “Hello, I am a Guido.”

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