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Posts tagged ‘ving rhames’

9
Oct

Piranha 3DD


Piranha 3DD (2012)
★ / ★★★★

After the massacre that happened in Lake Victoria, leaving its nearby towns ravaged and under quarantine, it seemed that the very same species of flesh-eating piranhas, once thought to be extinct, had made their way to Cross Lake. Directly next to the latter lake was a water park scheduled to have its grand opening in two days. Despite warnings by his marine biologist stepdaughter, Maddy (Danielle Panabaker), recently out of graduate school, Chet (David Koechner) was determined to keep the park open and get rich. “Piranha 3DD,” written by Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan, and Joel Soisson, may never be described as smart but it absolutely had scenes that were amusing and entertaining. Since it was obvious that the filmmakers were very aware of how silly the premise of piranhas taking a bite out of people in lakes and swimming pools, no effort was made in getting us to know its characters. And it didn’t need to: it was made abundantly clear that its goals were not high which was perfectly acceptable. As a result, it was able to pay more attention on two things. First, sleazy shots of breasts and buttocks of various sizes were captured and used to full effect. Some toasted under the sun while others bobbled in water. The women who sported skimpy, often translucent, bikinis having just gotten out of the pool were shot in slow motion. There were a handful who appeared completely nude. Who goes skinny dipping in complete daylight… in a public pool? Nobody. But the filmmakers still went for it. Although undeniable that the picture objectified women, it did not feel mean-spirited because there was one or two punches that directly targeted men where it hurt. Secondly, it utilized stereotypes as personality templates for the potential victims. Particularly amusing to watch was Shelby (Katrina Bowden), the virgin, who hoped to finally have sex for the first time with Josh (Jean-Luc Bilodeau), the charmer. There was a running joke about her seeming to have nine lives because she was able to hold onto her “purity,” a nudge to one of the biggest clichés in horror films. Even though I didn’t know much about Maddy and her friends, when the piranha attacks inevitably arrived, I still found myself rooting for them to quickly get out the water if they happened to fall in. The fish bites were hard, fast, and bloody so I couldn’t help but flinch. However, its positive qualities were mostly placed in the first half which required its remaining minutes a lot of effort to sit through. The appearances of David Hasselhoff, playing himself, and Ving Rhames as a survivor from Alexandre Aja’s “Piranha,” were more distractions than cheeky. When they were in front of the camera, the film became more about recycled jokes than the innate fun stupidity of what was unfolding in Cross Lake and the water park. A presence that felt right, however, was Christopher Lloyd playing a scientist who studied the ravenous fish. His character moved the plot forward as opposed to creating a stagnancy that spawned boredom. Lastly, when the aftershock of the piranha attacks have passed and the screenplay continued to wander, it was like watching nothing on screen. “Piranha DD,” directed by John Gulager, was almost saved by its self-awareness but it didn’t offer enough excitement that were consistent enough to continually distract us from its limitations. Like being caught in stop-and-go traffic, we couldn’t be blamed for losing patience with it.

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14
Dec

Mission: Impossible III


Mission: Impossible III (2006)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), while throwing a party with Julia (Michelle Monaghan), a girl he intended on marrying, received a cryptic phone call, a signal that he was to meet with a superior to discuss a possible mission. Musgrave (Billy Crudup) informed Hunt that one of his former students (Keri Russell) in the agency had been kidnapped. Normally, a captured agent would be disavowed but the agency believed that she knew crucial information about Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman), an arms dealer they had been tracking for some time, so her extraction was necessary. Hunt accepted the mission and was assigned a team (Ving Rhames, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Maggie Q) to rescue the kidnapped agent. Directed by J.J. Abrams, “Mission: Impossible III” had a wonderful mix of drama and action. Despite the cool gadgetry and intense physical stunts, it felt believable because what was at stake felt real. The theme of Hunt’s struggle to keep his personal and professional lives separate was at the forefront. It seemed like no matter what he did, there was no stopping the two spheres from colliding. That’s why the heart-pounding first scene worked. We got to observe Ethan helpless at the sight of Davian, a figure of his professional life, putting a gun to his future wife’s head, a symbol of his personal life. Even though we had no idea what the Rabbit’s Foot, an item that Davian was desperate to have, was exactly, it didn’t matter. What mattered was the spectrum of emotions Hunt experienced, which moved from confusion to anger then regret, as Davian counted from one to ten, the point when he was to put a bullet into the innocent woman’s head just because he could and he enjoyed watching people suffer. The action sequences, jumping from one continent to another, were as breathtaking and astute as ever. The warehouse scene in Germany provided the template. It was messy, bullets, glass and fire thrown everywhere, but never incomprehensible unlike most poorly edited action movies. Each team member was given something important to do. While Hunt explored the building, someone was underground, another was in the air, while the other was in charge of scanning the perimeter via body temperature. Each time the camera moved from one team member to another, it was consistently interesting. Their teamwork established a healthy synergy of tension that, when threatened, delivered nail-biting suspense. But that isn’t to say that the film was devoid of humor. The scenes with Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), a bumbling tech expert, prevented the project from being suffocatingly serious. Brassel (Laurence Fishburne), Hunt and Musgrave’s superior, had an intimidating aura but his lines had a certain snappy irony that went beyond the archetype of a tough-as-nails boss. “Mission: Impossible III,” written by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and J.J. Abrams, looked and felt like it was made by people who love to make movies. It’s amazing how much clichés tinged with a microcosm of originality can feel something new.

12
Dec

Mission: Impossible


Mission: Impossible (1996)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Phelps (Jon Voight) and his American spies (Tom Cruise, Emmanuelle Béart, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ingeborga Dapkunaite, Emilio Estevez) were assigned in Prague to intercept a disk from a terrorist before a trade was made. The disk contained the aliases of undercover agents in Europe. If coupled with another disk, bearing the real of names of the IMF agents, important long-term missions would be compromised. But something went wrong in Prague. Phelps and his agents ended up dead with the exception of Ethan Hunt (Cruise). Kittridge (Henry Czerny), an IMF operative, was suspicious and believed that Hunt was a double agent. Like a pest inside a controlled system, he was to be captured and exterminated. Based on a television series by Bruce Geller, “Mission: Impossible,” directed by Brian De Palma, was a tense and atmospheric spy film but it wasn’t afraid to jump into cheekiness when it came to the dialogue and physically demanding stunts. As a result, coupled with a handful of creative twists and turns, it was very entertaining to watch. The best scene involved Hunt breaking into the CIA vault with the help of disavowed agents (Ving Rhames, Jean Reno). The way the trio handled complicated hurdles in order to prevent triggering the pesky alarm was suspenseful because it turned the viewers’ expectations upside down then turning it right back up just when we think we had it all figured out. I was particularly impressed with the small details. Hunt and Krieger had to crawl in the vents before getting into the room of interest. When Hunt slowly descended in the room, his arms were actually covered with dust and grime throughout the entire relentless, breathless, soundless mission. Even though there was something silly about the way it all unfolded, like the CIA analyst (Rolf Saxon) having to go in and out of the restroom while Hunt and his team extracted information from a computer, that level of attention to detail was a small but important reminder that the filmmakers respected the project as well as their audiences. Another scene that stood out, for a different reason, was the train sequence. The way the score was piled on top of one another as danger increased then capping them off with the movie’s main theme as the tension reached a peak was executed elegantly. It’s impossible not to feel roused when that classic theme blasts through the speakers. The film’s main criticism was it got confusing due to a combination of its tech talk, spy vocabulary, and plot twists. If a person takes a bathroom break while the movie runs, he ends up having no idea what’s happening when he returns. But that’s what I loved about it because it opted to challenge instead of allowing us to passively sit and fall asleep. Sitting through it was like examining a detailed chain and to understand the big picture required a bit of autonomy, to think and weigh the possibilities that maybe the person we trusted initially was a dire mistake. Since it was involving not merely on a superficial level, we could still feel the endorphins working even after the big explosions.

24
Aug

Piranha


Piranha (2010)
★★ / ★★★★

Lake Victoria was the place where college students gathered to spend their Spring Break. But when an earthquake caused a rift on the lake floor, a subterranean lake was revealed which happened to house the original piranhas once thought to be extinct, it was up to Sheriff Julie Forester (Elisabeth Shue), Deputy Fallon (Ving Rhames), and a seismologist (Adam Scott) to warn the party-goers to get out of the water before they became fish food. Alexandre Aja’s “Piranha,” an out and proud B-movie, is difficult not enjoy because it embraced bad horror movie elements with open arms while paying genuine homage to movies like Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” and Joe Dante’s original “Piranha.” I was particularly impressed with the film’s climax involving a school of piranhas attacking hundreds of barely clothed college students. When panic finally set in, I enjoyed that human error (or desperation) was taken into account. Like the piranhas that ate each other for millions of years to ensure the survival of the species, if a person was desperate enough to live, he wouldn’t think twice of putting someone else in harm’s way. It’s instinctual. The film’s self-awareness worked to its advantage; it knew it wanted to attract mostly heterosexual males so it delivered big breasts and long legs. It even had an extended scene of naked women making out underwater. As I watched with incredulity, I couldn’t help but laugh at what I was seeing. It was like watching two seals making love on Discovery Channel. More amusing was the fact that all the guys were far from attractive. Just when I thought it had no more surprises under its sleeve, a male organ was bitten off. Moreover, its over-the-top nature was enjoyable due to its exaggeration of how college kids spend their Spring Break. (When probably only about 5% celebrated this way.) Enter Jake (Steven R. McQueen), the sheriff’s son, who was somewhat of a social outcast because he listened to music like The Ramones and The Pixies. According to the movie’s logic, people who listen to that type of music were just not cool. But Jake wanted to belong. He wanted to party at the lake, drink alcohol, and maybe even win over a girl (Jessica Szohr) he was obviously attracted to. Instead, he was stuck babysitting his younger brother and sister. Perhaps the lesson Jake learned at the end of the day was underage drinking led to death. At least there’s some truth in that. “Piranha” had some suspenseful moments but I wish the writers, Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg, had spent less time making fun of college culture and more time on the science behind the piranhas’ survival mechanisms. And was it too much to ask to have at least one smart and resourceful teenager? Jake had potential but he didn’t primarily think with his brain.

20
Jun

Bringing Out the Dead


Bringing Out the Dead (1999)
★★ / ★★★★

Based on Joe Connelly’s memoir, “Bringing Out the Dead” was about a paramedic named Frank Pierce (Nicolas Cage) who increasingly became out of touch with reality after several sleepless nights and increasing guilt involving a girl he failed to rescue. I liked the film’s first half but I was very put off by the second half. What I thought the first hour of the picture was strong because it captured the reality of how it was like to be a paramedic in the city. I liked the way Martin Scorsese, the director, highlighted the grittiness and ugliness of city life and putting his characters in the middle of a sea of negative emotions. The way the paramedics dealt with their patients were sometimes very sad, sometimes amusing, and sometimes maddening because the ethical codes were not always followed. The way they numbed themselves by means of making jokes out of serious situations were interesting defense mechanisms to observe. Unfortunately, the second half consisted of way too many scenes in which Cage’s character experienced hallucinations. I understood that he was guilt-ridden but I felt like the hallucinations were very distracting and it took away the picture’s sense of momentum. Maybe Scorsese wanted to contrast those fantastic elements with realism but I did not think it worked to the movie’s advantage. Those scenes went by so slowly and I became very frustrated. I also did not like the romantic angle between Cage and Patricia Arquette. It felt forced because they did not have any sort of chemistry. “Bringing Out the Dead” features a main character who is very flawed and at times unlikable but those are the qualities that made me interested in him. He took his job seriously so he was very hard on himself, which were most prominent when he drove around in an ambulance with another paramedic (John Goodman, Ving Rhames, Tom Sizemore). This film is definitely not for everyone because it doesn’t really have a defined plot. It’s more of a peek on a man’s life and how he swallowed the elements of the job he hated such as the deaths and dying people. Set mostly at night, Cage’s narration while patrolling the streets reminded me of “Taxi Driver.” Unfortunately, “Bring Out the Dead” isn’t as strong and isn’t as focused. At least it had good performances.

12
Feb

The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard


Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard, The (2009)
★ / ★★★★

Jeremy Piven, Kathryn Hahn, Ving Rhames and David Koechner agreed to take on a job offer from a failing auto dealership business. What started off as an edgy, politically incorrect and very funny movie, after its thirty-minute mark, became an incomprehensible pot of tired jokes and poor writing. What I loved about the first thirty minutes was that it didn’t try too hard to be funny. Each character had his or her own sense of humor and they don’t apologize for it. But then when they finally get to the car dealership, Piven’s character became another man with a dirty bag of tricks who falls head over heels for a woman (Jordana Spiro) about to be married to a man in a boy band (Ed Helms). If Neal Brennan, the director, had taken control of the picture and avoided the sidequests and not focused so much on the so-called heart of the movie, this would have worked as a dark comedy through and through. The movie became so unfocused to the point where I thought of the things I could have done instead of trying to finish the film. I also didn’t appreciate the many cameos from actors and comedians because they absolutely had nothing to offer other than to make the movie that much more muddled and unconvincing. But there was one character that never failed to make me laugh, which was played by Hahn, because even though she’s not given a deep character to play, she carried the character with such aggressiveness and I couldn’t stop laughing every time she opened her mouth. I wish the movie had instead made her the lead character because I think a deeply narcissistic character is far more interesting than a man-boy discovering love. I don’t blame the actors because I think all of them are hilarious in other movies. I mostly blame the lazy writing because it rested on typicality when there are so many rich jokes that could have been told about cars, car dealerships, the people that work there and the customers. With a running time of just about ninety minutes, I assumed that it was going to go by quickly. I was wrong. “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard” started off well but it just didn’t have enough goods to keep me entertained.