Side Effects Review

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Dir: Steven Soderbergh

Cast: Rooney Mara, Jude Law, Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones

Synopsis: Emily and Martin are a successful New York couple whose world unravels when a new drug prescribed by Emily’s psychiatrist – intended to treat anxiety – has unexpected side effects

 

*Review Note* I’m going to try and review this without giving away too much of the story. So if it feels like I’m not giving you too much to work on there is a reason for it. Also, I wanted to post this sooner but forgot to.

Side Effects has a lot going on, the trailers would make you think one thing but it’s not that entirely, but don’t let that scare you. However, if you’re familiar with Steven Soderbergh’s work (especially his later work like Contagion and even Haywire) you know that’s just the norm. Nonetheless, Soderbergh reunites with Contagion writer Scott Z. Burns to take on pharmacological paranoia and maybe like Contagion is trying to scare the crap out of you to never take a pill again (maybe).

The film is built around Emily Taylor (Mara) who is suffering from severe depression after her husband Martin (Tatum) is released from prison for insider trading. Her depression eventually gets to her and it leads to an event that makes her cross paths with Dr. Jonathan Banks (Law). He eventually puts her in a series of pills that soon turns out to be problematic and leads to some serious problems.

The movie starts off with a nice homage to Hitchcock (Psycho if you need the help), dare I say the whole movie has some Hitchcock elements, and with a very moody score playing throughout it almost sets the mood for at least the first half of the movie.

Rooney Mara once again proves that she can hold her own with the best the Hollywood has to offer and makes feel for Emily as she’s taking all these pills in order to live a normal life again. However, the movie is really about Jude Law’s Jonathan Banks character as his life is turned upside down from what happens after Emily. He almost becomes obsessed himself trying to figure out how all this could have happened to him and to Emily. Catherine Zeta-Jones pops up as Emily’s previous doctor and is really the one that gives Banks the new medication that leads to the whole movie’s outcome.

I think some people will find this movie tough to stick with for the reason that Soderbergh likes to drag some scenes out. But when you see the end result it’s pretty much worth it. The movie has a lot going on and hopefully, if you pay attention to everything, you can get what the hell is and was going on. Stick with the movie and don’t give up.

All in all, Side Effects is filled with great performances and plays with your views on the movie up until the very end

Side Effects

4 out of 5

A Good Day to Die Hard Review

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Dir: John Moore

Cast: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Radivoje Bukvic and Yuliya Snigir

Synopsis: John McClane travels to Russia to help out his seemingly wayward son, Jack, only to discover that Jack is a CIA operative working to prevent a nuclear-weapons heist, causing the father and son to team up against underworld forces.

 

So how do you freshen up a series that some believe is pushing it? Add some new blood. Now sometimes this works (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) and sometimes it doesn’t. With A Good Day to Die Hard, the fifth installment of the Die Hard series, it has its moments were it does work.

The movie starts by following the new blood to the series, Jack McClane (Courtney), killing someone in Russia and gets himself caught to get close to a political prisoner Uri Komarov (Koch) to get a file for the CIA. Of course this gets to his father John McClane, once again played by Bruce Willis, and he flies to Russia to try and save his son that he hasn’t seen in years. Of course once he gets there everything goes crazy and the McClane’s have to team up and as John puts it “kill all the bad guys.”

Now it’s been a while since we’ve had John McClane in our lives and when he gets to Russia we get the fish-out-of-water gags as John’s New York’s tough cop struggles to fit in to Moscow. Once John finally tracks Jack down, it’s not the happy family reunion that you would assume. In fact John is the last person that Jack wants to see in Russia, or pretty much ever.

The movie has some twists and turns that you can probably see coming once it finally develops or kind of don’t care about it. A Good Day also tries to pay some homage to the previous movies and if you’re a die hard Die Hard fan (yeah I know) then you might catch them.

I briefly mentioned Willis return as McClane but the some people will look at Jai Courtney as Jack. Courtney has his moments to shine as the younger McClane but other than that he doesn’t really get past the “I hate my dad” attitude until almost the end of the movie when the two finally set their differences aside and becomes the A-Team wrecking crew.

The action here is not that bad, starting with a long car chase that seems like it takes place all over Moscow. While at times a bit confusing and some cheesy dialogue from Willis it shows how the series has gone from the “real” action experience to the common over the top action that we see a lot now, although at least for me its not all that bad.

All in all, A Good Day to Die Hard might be the weakest of the Die Hard series but it does have its brief moments where it is good. If Courtney is indeed the “future” of the Die Hard series then I think they should bring him in for one more (which I’m pretty sure we’ll get) and flesh out his character a bit.

A Good Day to Die Hard

3 out of 5

Bullet to the Head

Dir: Walter Hill (The Warriors, 48 Hours, Last Man Standing, Undisputed)

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, Sarah Shahi, Jason Momoa, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

Synopsis: After watching their respective partners die, a New Orleans hitman and a Washington D.C. detective form an alliance in order to bring down their common enemy

 

Bullet to the Head tries to be multiple things at once. It has some elements of a buddy crime movie, a revenge movie and a graphic novel adaptation. Why a buddy crime movie? Well Hill is arguably one of the directors responsible for making that genre popular with 48 Hrs. This time we have the pair of the Sly Stallone and Sung Kang (from the last Fast & Furious movies).

The graphic novel it’s based on is a French graphic novel by Matz, of the same name that has the same story. A cop is forced to partner with a criminal in order to take down a crime syndicate.

Stallone stars as Jimmy Bobo, an tough as nails New Orleans-based hitman. Bobo doesn’t have any faith in cops (even hates them), and so he does his own form of justice: a bullet to the head. So why does he team up with detective Taylor Kwon (Kang)? Because the two want the justice but of course they want to do it their own way.

The movie starts out with Bobo and his partner Louis (Jon Seda) performing a hit but during it Jimmy lets a witness to the murder live, for a reason I won’t spoil in the review. From that moment on events begin to spiral out of control, and Jimmy realizes he’s being set up. The only person who can help him is a reluctant Kwon. Why is Kwon that way? Kwon has his own reasons for being in New Orleans and can be classified as “by the book” but he also doesn’t agree with Jimmy’s form of justice.

Unlike Arnold with The Last Stand, Sly doesn’t really have any rust when it comes to acting. He’s obviously stayed around after Arnold left but this is from what I can remember his first movie without any heavy hitters like his Expendables cast. However, this doesn’t mean Sly is giving award winning performances but sometimes that doesn’t matter. Sly is pretty intimidating with his physique despite being 66 years old and it’s in full effect when he shows up shirtless at a bath house. But what Sly lacks in acting (sounds means but I don’t mean it in that way) he makes up with humor. There is some back and forth between Jimmy and Kwon although not all of it works.

Kang does pretty good with Kwon and if it were anybody else it would probably been a one-dimensional characters. Shahi who plays Sly’s daughters does okay with her role too but really has nothing to do other than tell Kwon that her fathers isn’t really a bad guy. The criminals are an odd group. Christian Slater has a cameo as a financier who holds vital information but he’s meh. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is the criminal kingpin Morel who has the chance to say some pretty cheesy lines.

Then there his henchman Keegan played Jason Momoa who is the real villain in the movie. His attitude is to fight now and think later. Momoa, despite his appearance in the Conan The Barbarian remake and Game of Thrones, still lacks a bit of the charisma of action stars, such as Arnold, Sly, and Bruce Willis. But, he still holds his own but with the other villains still isn’t enough. He does have his moments when he goes into a bar and takes out a bunch of guys by himself and then fighting Sly with axes.

All in all, Bullet to the Head has some cheesy moments and although it isn’t perfect it does have it’s moments of good action.

Bullet to the Head

3.5 out of 5

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Warm Bodies Review

Dir: Jonathan Levine (The Wackness, 50/50)

Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Rob Corddry, Dave Franco, Analeigh Tipton and John Malkovich

Synopsis: After R (a highly unusual zombie) saves Julie from an attack, the two form a relationship that sets in motion a sequence of events that might transform the entire lifeless world

Over the years Hollywood has been trying to do some new things to “re-mold” zombies movies. From slow zombies, fast zombies, and yes, even pet zombies but Warm Bodies has a take on the genre that’s, at least from I can recall, entirely new: a zombie rom-com told from a zombie’s perspective

Based on the novel of the same name, the story centers on R (Hoult), a zombie who besides have inner monologues is bored with his life, which involves shuffling around an abandoned airport and having grunting conversations with his best friend M (Rob Corddry).

They eventually run into a group of humans, including Nora (Tipton), Julie (Palmer) and her ex-boyfriend Perry (Franco). R soon falls for Julie, saves her, and keeps her in his hideout plane. His love looks to restarts his heart, setting off a change that could affect the whole post-apocalyptic world.

Now, on the surface the movie may seem like another Twilight-esque film about the love between a human and a monster, but to the credit of author Isaac Marion and writer/director Jonathan Levine, the story has much more to it. At its core, Warm Bodies is a teen film, good or bad. It borrows from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, though thankfully, apart from one scene, it doesn’t do so heavy-handily.

As with many films in the zombie genre (or any genre really), Warm Bodies has a touch of social commentary. There’s a funny observation about technology turning us into zombies, how we are more connected yet less personal with each other. The movie also has a clever switch that sees R terrified in the human world, mirroring Julie’s experience in the zombie one when he’s at the airport.

Majority of the humor comes from R’s inner thoughts and some of it when he talks about his zombie appearance. R is a sort of emo teen zombie and Hoult does a great job at being a likable guy (yes even as a zombie). Palmer’s Julie isn’t necessarily the damsel in distress here. She holds her own against the first zombie attack but she also has this very likably quality about her which makes you believe why R’s falls in love with her. Malkovich plays Julie’s father, the tough General Grigio, who leads the remaining human race and doesn’t think twice about killing zombies, his opinion of them is tainted from a previous event that you can’t blame him for.

The one thing Warm Bodies does not bring is the massive gore and blood that we have come to know with the genre. Even with the PG-13 rating, there are a few moments that should make zombie fans happy but nothing huge. However, even with all that the movie does not really need the gore and massive bloodshed. There are some few intense scenes and some thrills with the evil zombies, called ‘the bonies’, who are skeleton-like creatures, and though the CGI on them doesn’t always look good, there are a couple of moments where they’re quite scary.

All in all, Warm Bodies is pretty fun and should be viewed in that manner. If you go into the movie thinking it’s just Twilight, you probably won’t like the product. The movie does do a few interesting things that some will probably be surprised with (if you haven’t read the book that is) but I don’t think it will necessarily change the genre.

Warm Bodies

4 out of 5

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