A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014): Private investigator Matthew Scudder is hired by a drug kingpin to find out who kidnapped and murdered his wife.
Ok ok ok I know what you're thinking. This is Taken 2.5. Well, it's not. I swear! Whereas the Taken series is an action thriller with no bounds to realism whatsoever, A Walk Among the Tombstones is a nitty gritty good ol' fashion detective film noir piece. A Walk Among the Tombstones is all about the journey to the destination, whereas Taken is all about getting to the destination. To be honest I almost felt that Liam Neeson was miscast for this role. This is not an action hero role. This is a thoughtful detective role. Maybe Benedict Cumberbatch would've filled this role better. Let's be real: Sherlo-I mean Cumberbatch can make any movie better. But in all seriousness I feel like a Bryan Cranston would play this role much better than Neeson could. But that's just me. That said Neeson does do a great job playing Matthew Scudder. There were just points, like when he's on the phone with the killer trying to save someone when all I could think of was, "I don't know who you are...." I think this may be a sign that Neeson is getting too big for his own good. Only time will tell if that's true or not. Anyway, moving on.
What this movie does right: it is a true return to film noir. A Most Wanted Man from last week flirted with noir, but this movie is a true detective whodunit. This movie is a great period piece, making 1999 feel like it was 50 years ago and making me feel REALLY OLD in the process. I'm only 22, but I remember the Y2K hype that is shown all throughout this 113 minute movie like it was yesterday. But you watch it on screen and it looks so different than today's society. It is only slightly jarring. The 90s references do get distracting at points but only at points. Also the movie looks beautiful, with cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr. doing a fantastic job of making New York City look real and believable. Additionally there are some great and unique camera shots throughout the movie, like a top-down camera shot of a mugging in the rain that looked awesome. The child actor of this movie, Brian "Astro" Bradley was outstanding. Easily the best character of the movie, the 18 year old Astro creates this badass kid (with the help of some excellent writing) who Neeson treats the way I love seeing kids treated in movies: like they are adults. Please movies! Please treat the children of your movie like adults it makes them so much cooler I promise! Their interactions and their constant bickering was the comedic relief of the movie, and definitely needed as the rest of the movie is rather dry. Now dry is not a bad thing by any means, especially in the film noir genre, but this will turn off a lot of potential viewers. It's tough to engage young(er) viewers when things aren't blowing up every 3 seconds with plot only a minor afterthought (see Michael Bay) but fortunately Scott Frank and company know this. As a result this movie does make its scenes very gritty and real, earning its R-rating from the very first scene, a very uncomfortable and painful torture scene, to its very gruesome third act.
Here is also where the movie falls apart a bit. I obviously can't talk about the third act without spoiling things, but let's just say the movie does turn into Taken a bit in the last 20-30 minutes, with highly cliché moments all throughout it. If only the very sudden and very noir-ey ending of A Most Wanted Man was also used here, then you would have had one heck of a great movie. But oh well. So a not-so-good third act. Check. The score was sadly underwhelming, with it swelling at inopportune times and being somewhat distracting. Finally, a noir piece is only as good as its story, and the story here is good, but not great. There just weren't that many twists and turns. Really there was only thing I didn't see coming, and it was spoiled in the trailers. It was a good ride, but not one that I have any desire to see again anytime soon because it was a predictable one. Oh well. Let's just go watch Non-Stop again, because Liam Neeson. WHAT ABOUT NON-STOP THOUGH?
The Critique: A good but predictable film noir piece plus Liam Neeson. An engaging ride but that's about it.
The Recommendation: If you like Liam Neeson or film noir, check this out. If not, save your money for the upcoming weeks. Just Netflix this one when the time comes. Oh and if you have kids, please PLEASE don't watch this with them. Ok? Please? Good.
Rewatchability: Moderately Low
The Verdict: 7/10 Good
A Most Wanted Man (2014): A Chechen Muslim illegally immigrates to Hamburg, where he gets caught in the international war on terror.
Ok so let's talk about a movie that basically no one has heard of. See this is a problem. Why? Because Philip Seymour Hoffman. This is his last movie in a starring role, (he died just a few days after finishing his scenes for this) and fortunately the movie knows this and is very aware of it. They go out of their way to ensure that he gets as much screen time as he possibly can, even if it means having awkward camera angles focusing on Hoffman and his reactions instead of the actor actually talking at the moment. It's unusual, and can be slightly distracting at times, but it still works because this movie does truly show off the greatness of Hoffman. It is the sendoff that Hoffman deserved. Nothing fancy or spectacular, but just another reminder of how far Hoffman would go to engross himself in a role. From an incredibly convincing German accent, to adding immense production value by drinking and/or smoking in almost every scene, Hoffman shines here just as he did in every other movie he's starred in. You will be missed, Mr. Hoffman. All the feels.
It's easy to forgot about the rest of the movie as Hoffman engrosses you in his role, but there is a rest of the movie. First off, the rest of the cast alongside Hoffman is an A-list cast for a movie that would probably be placed in an indie category. From Rachel McAdams to William Dafoe to Robin Wright, the supporting cast here is utterly amazing. Actually the supporting cast here is so good that it overshadows the role of Daniel Bruhl in this movie. It is unfortunate that a man with this much talent follows a breakout performance in Rush from last year with a supporting role here that's comparable to Lupita Nyong'o following her performance in 12 Years a Slave with her three whole lines in Non-Stop, (what about Non-Stop though?) but the only difference being that Nyong'o clearly filmed that simultaneously with 12 Years. Daniel Bruhl did not. DANIEL BRUHL WHAT ARE YOU DOING MAN? WHY CAN'T YOU FIND BETTER WORK THAN BEING THAT GUY STARING AT ALL THE COMPUTERS WITH TWO LINES? AND WHAT ABOUT NON-STOP THOUGH? Ok I should stop my plug on Daniel Bruhl cause after all this is my second plug this review. Ok moving on! The movie is beautiful. Absolutely stunning cinematography and scenic pans. The score is cool too, and the dialogue is sharp and meaningful. The production value and direction are all spot-on, too. There really are only a few faults here, guys. Otherwise this movie is on top of its game.
The biggest fault of this movie is that unless if you stay 100% engaged, it is very easy to get lost. Now I was 100% engaged, but even at times the accents were so good I would have trouble fully understanding them, and then guess what? I'd be lost briefly. It's a deep movie! Just be aware of this going into it. It's not a "hey let's hang out and watch a movie" type of movie. It's a "hey let's watch a movie and hang out afterwards" type of movie. Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with this fact mind you, you just have to be prepared to give this movie your full and undivided attention. And it will not disappoint you in doing so. The only other complaint I have with this movie is with the ending. I understand why they ended the movie as such, but even still, it ends so abruptly that it feels very unresolved. Oh well. A relatively minor complaint at the end of the day. This movie is still excellent. Go see it.
The Critique: Philip Seymour Hoffman at his finest. Engrossing, compelling, and gritty, this movie is a great way to kick off the autumn movie season.
The Recommendation: if you are a fan of gritty spy movies, or Philip Seymour Hoffman, put this at the top of your list. Now.
Rewatchability: Moderately High
The Verdict: 8.5/10 Between great and awesome
WHAT ABOUT NON-STOP THOUGH???????
Twister (1996): Bill and Jo Harding, advanced storm chasers on the brink of divorce, must join together to create an advanced weather alert system by putting themselves in the cross-hairs of extremely violent tornadoes.
Like my review of Into the Storm earlier this week? Well, get ready for MORE TORNADOES. Twister was a big budget summer blockbuster from 1996 that still has a loyal following because it achieves in its main task: with 90s special effects, mind you, Twister successfully showcases the power and danger of nature and the awe-inspiring destruction of the tornado. On top of that, two of the top actors of the time played the leads characters, and played them very well. Paxton was overacting at some points, but there is an absolutely fantastic performance from Helen Hunt. However Twister is a tale of two stories. Two extremes, I should say. There is a fantastic and highly believable story here explaining why these storm-chasers are doing what they are doing, however for some stupid reason there is a terribly bad villain figure to offset it with little to no reason or explanation for why he is the way he is or why he hates the other guys so much. There is a great romance here between Hunt and Paxton that is very touching and honestly one of the better romances I've seen in a big summer blockbuster where usually the girl is the damsel in distress, but to offset it there is a horribly written and acted third wheel in the form of Paxton's fiancee. One of the most quintessentially crappy 90s characters that could possibly exist, I wish so much that she isn't in this movie in any way, shape, or form. But we can't have everything we want right? So let's jump in!
First off, the positives. Most of the acting here is terrific, with Helen Hunt putting in one of her better performances for this movie. She is one of the better female actresses of the 90s, and this movie reminds us why. The supporting cast is great as well. Jeremy Davies (Saving Private Ryan) Alan Ruck (Ferris Bueller's Day Off) and Sean Whalen (Men In Black) all show up here for good roles. There is also a gem of a performance from the late and great Philip Seymour Hoffman. He plays one of the many supporting storm chasers, and his character, Dusty, is made great based on his performance alone. In one of his very early performances, a rather young Hoffman goes all out creating a totally crazy persona. It is fun to watch and further reminds you of the greatness of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Most of the writing is great as well. The main plot is fantastic and has some great scenes scattered through out. Additionally, this movie really captures the sheer terror of tornadoes. From the first scene involving an F-5 tornado to the second-to-last tornado of the movie in particular, (which was the inspiration behind the Twister ride at Universal Studios) this movie can be quite scary. And it also ensures that you see the destruction a tornado leaves in its wake. These scenes can leave you breathless if you allow yourself to be swept up in it. Ha! See what I did there? Finally, the tornadoes are filmed beautifully. The effects are honestly just as good as a more recent twister flick, Into the Storm. Which is kind of really sad if you're Into the Storm. After all there's only 18 years separating the two.....
Now while the story is good, there are some corners cut to get from point A to point B. That's fine. Not a big deal to have something like a two-way radio suddenly appear in the new guy's truck so he can talk to the people in other vehicles. (Though seriously where did that radio come from?) But there are two huge huge HUGE flaws in this movie. Both of them are egregious mistakes (I know big word right? Look at me go!) That must be addressed. One is the "villain" of the movie. Played by Cary Elwes, the entire concept of Dr. Jonas Miller makes literally no sense and has no reason to be in this movie. He treats the "good" guys poorly for literally no reason, even though he proceeds to copy everything they do, his origin makes no sense, and his fate is totally out of place in the 113 minute flick. I hate movies that have bad guys simply for having bad guys, and that's exactly what he is. But Twister makes its mistake then sticks to it, featuring him quite a bit. Entirely too much. Additionally, to counteract the wonderful love story is the fiancee of Paxton in the movie, played by Jami Gertz. Horribly acted and horribly written, and just overall awful. A quintessential example of horribly written 90s characters. I say this because her character uses a lot of the big trends of that year, making her character appear dated today. However I didn't buy for a second that Paxton's character would ever get anywhere near her much less ask her to marry him. And she has way too major a role here for me to be happy with it.
See that's the problem. That's why Twister gets docked a lot of points. They don't just have their mistakes show up a little. They show up a lot throughout the movie, and it really does take you out of it quite a bit. Were it not for them this movie would be flirting with the 9 range, but because they are there this movie gets docked to the 6-7 range. Oh well.....everyone makes mistakes. Sigh.....
The Critique: A fascinating story backed by some mind-boggling mistakes makes this movie almost good. Still, if you like tornadoes, you will greatly enjoy this movie.
The Recommendation: If you like tornadoes but you haven't seen this movie at some point in your life, you're doing it wrong.
Rewatchability: Moderately High
The Verdict: 6.5/10 Almost Good
"Like" Enter the Movies on Facebook for the latest and greatest on all things movies! OR ELSE FACE THE CONSEQUENCES OF A KILLER RABBIT. Sorry about this one, guys. Not my decision. He volunteered. And is just absolute dynamite!