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Thursday, March 22, 2007

/* They killed my dog ! */ - Shooter is maximum action and Hello nurse !

Director Antoine Fuqua unleashes hell in Shooter.

This is not 300 - this is 1.

All the carnage from Antoine Fuqua's King Arthur is amplified to the max in Mark Wahlberg's version of a wronger done wrong. [P.S. Do not confuse Shooter with Wesley Snipe's The Shooter.]
Fuqua has a way with soldiers, guns and drama after his touches with Bruce Willis in Tears of the Sun [which was supposed to be the basis for Die Hard 4] and the Oscar for Denzel in Training Day. Morality is a slippery slope in Shooter but issues are painted in black and white.

"They killed my dog !" and thusly abandoned ex-army marksman shootist Bob Lee Swagger who can hit a can of Dinty Moore's beef stew from a mile away and framed for a presidential assassination is on a one man rampage - don't get mad get even and more. This is not 300 - this is 1.

He does have a little help from a wronged FBI Agent Nick Memphis played by Michael Peña. This action thriller has everything for the ladies replete with Mark Wahlberg's well muscled torso on display as after he has been shot twice and races to Kentucky where he is nursed back to health [ hello nurse ! ] by his army buddy's young grieving girlfriend Sarah Fenn [ Kate Mara ] who is more than the eye candy for the movie - she is the distraction and unwittingly becomes more of Fuqua's bait. A cast of near A-list names with Danny Glover as a highly decorated army colonel who waves flag and country to recruit Wahlberg for his expertise in sniping to prevent the assassination of the President of the United States, and Ned Beatty along for the ride as a United Stated Senator gives the movie some credibility to a movie that is more Bourne Identity than Bourne Identity at times mixed with elements well familiar from 24 with this season's Rade Serbedzija [who is Day 6's Dmitri Gredenko] mixed up with Glover and Beatty. A couple of name Canadian actors are given prominence [considering that the film is shot in BC masquerading as the US Kentucky and Tennessee with all the mountains and forest] - especially Elias Koteas as a particular nasty.

What the hell is going on ? asks FBI agent The O.C.'s Tate Donovan at one point after the trail of bloody bodies and fingerprints leads back to FBI complicity with the shooter they are looking for - and one is often left to wonder that. But all lulls on screen are soon filled with maximum rock and roll shooting as Swagger shows off his skills as a deadly marksman and survivalist. Be careful the next time you see him at your local hardware store.

Shooter has all the feel of Blood Diamond - lots of action, and the perquisite slow motion in front of explosion and chase with little emotional impact [save once again for nurse Kate Mara who becomes entwined in the plot].

By the end Shooter is way overkill and barring the nebulous politics is great theatre fodder

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Smokin' Aces -bring me the head of Andy Garcia

It speaks volumes that the cool factor of the movie Smokin' Aces is the presence of Andy Garcia. After eminent roles in Things to Do In Denver When You're Dead and The Godfather III along with Ocean's Eleven Twelve and Thirteen to boot his determination as director Stanley Locke running his crew of top FBI agents races to bring in Buddy "Aces" Israel before a motley crew of punk rock Tremors, two black chick hitmen, and another deadly assassin adept at torture and disguise and the three amigos bondsmen get to Buddy and his entourage first. [ Entourage? Yes, this is Jeremy Piven as Buddy Israel who is fronting half of the Cosa Nostra vying against the elderly boss Primo Sparazza ] and is about to turn state's evidence in exchange for a deal for immunity and turning over his entourage.

Buddy lives the high life literally - coke and hookers and has ingratiated himself into the Cosa Nostra a la Chairman of the Board Frank Sinatra himself.

Smokin' Aces becomes a high action romp that tries to be cooler than cool with many cameo style appearances from name names trying to break the mould - Ben Affleck as a bail bondman who provides the narrative background up to a point - Jason Bateman who clad in underwear is definitely unconventional in a non Arrested Development role, Martin Henderson [ seen in Bride and Prejudice ] as a member of the crazed Tremors who are out of control and attack with high powered chainsaws. Then you have the Alicia Keys as one of the two black female assassins for hire and rapper Common as the ever loyal Sir Ivy, the head of security of Buddy's entourage. The star power is Ray Liotta as the grizzled cop on stakeout with fledgling Ryan Reynolds who is so badly out of place due to his conscience.

Now Buddy is in a bind and being squeezed to inform on his entourage to stay out of the big pen. Word has gotten out about the million dollar bounty on Buddy's head [ and heart ] and now all this high powered killing power and others want in on the action to get Buddy Aces Israel. More blood and violence ensues that brings on the high style of Domino to a degree.

What brings everybody into the fold of Smokin' Aces has to do with director and writer Joe Carnahan who brought out the dark and clever Narc that probably revived Ray Liotta's career. Smokin' Aces entrenches Carnahan in the cop thriller, but next time keep it lighter on the mayhem.

/* Let's ride */ - with great power comes great responsibility - Ghost Rider

A 30 year old story Ghost Rider finally comes to screen in a fun personable movie driven by the dour and conflicted Nicholas Cage who breathes life into his role as daredevil stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze.

The ghost rider is born of the stuff of legends. A long time ago there was one rider who had a contract to bring back the 1000 souls of a town - a contract so powerful that the rider defied the Devil and outran him.