Monday, January 17, 2011

Review - Smokin' Aces (2006)

“To what? Incinerate? Hugo there isn't a fuckin laundry detergent or dry cleaning product known to man that will get that clean. Some shit, suffice it to say, just don't wash out.”

Director: Joe Carnahan
Starring: Jeremy Piven, Ryan Reynolds and Ray Liotta
Screenplay: Joe Carnahan

Smokin Aces is an exercise in frustration and this is coming from a guy who really likes this movie. High stakes premise. Check. Crazy characters. Check. Crazy action. Um well the trailer made it seem that there would be. Maybe I’m doing the movie a disservice by saying it doesn’t have action, because it does but it just seems to fizzle out and doesn’t really satisfy. I almost feel that the A-Team was what this movie was supposed to be. I still like this movie, there is a charm to it that Joe Carnahan seems to imbue all his movies with but I watch it and I wish there was more. No I don’t want that stupid ass direct to DVD crap.

Where did it all go wrong? It’s certainly not the acting. Everyone here is on form and having a lot of fun. Ben Affleck seems to want to almost wink to the audience. Ray Liotta is just solid as the older wiser FBI agent. Jason Bateman drops in for a funny cameo. Just wall to wall great acting. Jeremy Piven as Buddy ‘Aces’ Israel is the star of the show. His turn as the man who everyone wants dead is just a study in sleaze and yet there is something in his eye, a sorrow in his voice that does generate audience sympathy. Ryan Reynolds is also on top form and this was the first movie that made me a believer in his acting ability. I’m sure as he gets older he will move into films that are a little more Oscar worthy and at least nab a nomination. The scene between him and Andy Garcia is just tense and somewhat emotional and what more Reynolds doesn’t just keep up the pace with Garcia, but dare I stay wins that acting round.

Okay so acting isn’t the problem, what about the visual? Well yet again it’s pretty good. Joe knows how to get some good shots, when to be artistic and when to just get down to the nitty gritty. He really does have a kinetic sensibility, and while I hate this age of MTV style editing I have to admit he’s the type of director who knows how to use it. Also due to the wide variety of characters there is an attempt to really differentiate the look of each character. Each seems to have that signature thing that helps them stand out.

So what the problem comes down is the story and character development. While the premise is good, and the characters seem rather unique, the arc each character goes through just doesn’t seem developed enough. The story also seems intent on getting to a big emotional scene at the end which I don’t think it really deserved. What more the crazy action which seems to be the main promise of the movie kind of fizzles to me. Sure there is action but we aren’t given long enough to soak in the action as we are quickly moved to the next scene because the characters are all over the place. Also there seems to be a focus on Buddy ‘Aces’ Israel which I think is a mistake. While the back story is appreciated I do think the two FBI agents (Liotta & Reynolds) should have been the characters that were given the brunt of the time, as they are the ones that the audience’s sympathies will lie with (unless the audience is full of disturbed people). It’s weird to say this about an action movie as you normally want things to be wham bam thankyou mam, but some extra length would have been appreciated.

Overall I dig Smokin Aces as it’s that type of action movie that I adore. Crazy action mixed in with a cast of colourful characters. It’s easy to see why Mr Carnahan moved onto The A-Team after this. But Smokin Aces could have been so much more if it was given a little more time with a little more focus. I would recommend this to anyone who’s looking for a decent action movie with a little more style over the rest.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Disgruntled Monkey's 2011 Movies He Wants To See.

Hello readers. It’s time to put out my list of movies I’m looking forward to this year. Of course I’m sure there will be plenty of movies that sneak out of the wood work later on. But for various reasons these just seem to be the ones that have already got me anxious to see.

I've tried to link any trailers that may be out there for these movies. Just click on the titles.

Drive Angry – Nic Cage in an action movie that looks glorious in its cheesy light. Cars meets demons meets revenge flick.

Battle Los Angeles – This alien invasion story just looks awesome. The fact that Mr Aaron Eckhart is on board just gets me more excited. I believe in Harvey Dent.

Sucker Punch – Zack Snyder is making his first original movie. All you need to know is it has a scene where a school girl with a katana, attacks a giant robot samurai with a Gatling gun.
Source Code – Moon has to be one of my favourite movies. Now Duncan Jones is back with another Science Fiction movie and a bigger budget.

Your Highness – Stoner Fantasy movie. Do I need to go on?

Priest – Non Twilight vampires, post apocalyptic world, vampire hunting priest and Karl Urban just being plain awesome. You had me at non twilight vampires.
The Tree of Life – This just looks like a beautiful film and I get the same buzz watching the trailer as I did with The Fountain which is on my top ten films.

Cowboys & Aliens – Now if you scoff at the title I need you to take a deep breathe for me. Cowboys are awesome, Aliens are cool. Together you have a movie that will just kick ass.

Sherlock Holmes 2 – Two words. Stephen Fry. Three more words. As Mycroft Holmes. This has sold a ticket for me.
Fast 5 – You know what. I like this series of movies. Sure they aren’t the best thing ever but I can dig them. This one introduces us to The Rock. Rock vs Vin Diesel is the PPV I’ve been waiting for.

The Muppets – Jason Segal really does seem like the right person to give us a new Muppet movie. Remember he did give us the Rock Muppet Musical about Dracula in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Cedar Rapids – This looks like one of those indie comedies that many people will fall head over heels for. Thing is it looks like it can back whatever promise this may mean up.
Hanna – Little girl assassin trained by her dad Eric Bana finally starts her mission. This movie has seemed to come from nowhere.

Red State – Okay Kevin Smith your trailer looked pretty interesting. Time to prove to all the critics what you’re capable of; I think you have your big chance with this movie.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Disgruntled Monkey's Top Ten Movies of 2010

So it’s the 1st of January 2011 and the polls have well and truly closed for me to look back and see what my top ten movies of 2010 are. Looking back I must say the year actually turned out to be pretty good with me finding one movie that not only topped last years list but would now be in my personal all time favourites.

With my list I ordered it in what made the biggest impact on me. Therefore there might be some movies here that you would question why they are on a top 10 list, but at the end of the day you can’t really argue with the impact they had on my as that’s a personal measurement. For each movie I will at least try and list the reasons for the impact.

Also before we get down to the nitty gritty there are four movies that came out in 2010 that I missed yet could quite possibly make my list. True Grit, Black Swan and The Fighter are all out in the states however Australia will not be getting them until late January this year. Also there is The Last Exorcism that I just missed at the cinemas and haven’t managed to see it yet on the DVD.

10: Predators – Actually position number 10 was probably the most problematic for me to decide. I really wanted to go with Tron Legacy and while I dug the movie, at the end of the day Predators was just a better polished film. At the end of the day it was just nice to see a favourite movie of mine given a worthwhile sequel.

09: Daybreakers – I love vampire movies. This was a good vampire movie if only because its world building was exceptional. It was really interesting to see the world a Vampire would need to exist in if they became the dominant species. Add to that some pretty decent acting and a return to the savage vampire of old and this was a welcome way to start the year off.

08: Kick Ass – To me Kick Ass was just a nice palate cleanser from all the super hero movies. It was something that we haven’t seen yet and while it was a funny movie it made sure to add a little bit of darkness so the audience didn’t totally think it was junk. I’m also sure this movie rewarded my faith in Nic Cage again. Rock that Adam West voice.

07: Megamind – This was a true surprise for me. It was supposed to be just something funny for the end of year. But the voice acting, the sly nods to comicdom, the majority of humour being derived from the plot; just made me smile. Normally Pixar graces this list but this year Dreamworks is the winner of my animated heart.

06: The Town – Many people thought Ben Affleck was a joke and while I thought he made some bad choices in the movies he did I seemed to be siding with Kevin Smith when it came to the mans talent. I’m so glad he got into directing as he’s now proving to people that he’s very talented. The Town is just an awesome crime drama that I would have no problems comparing to Heat. Just being able to watch a movie that created that same joy I had when I watched Heat for the first time is impressive.

05: The Social Network – I think this will be on many people’s lists this year. Why? Simply put David Fincher took a movie based on Facebook and created a brilliant piece of film making. A movie on Facebook shouldn’t be this gripping. Shouldn’t have such dynamic characters. Shouldn’t have people saying Justin Timberlake deserves an Oscar nomination. But it deserves all the praise and was one of the few movies this year that met the hype I heard about it.

04: Scott Pilgrim vs The World – This movie centres on one of the biggest jerks I’ve ever watched. Scott Pilgrim is a gigantic jack ass of a man who’s left many damaged people in his wake. The fact that this movie is still enjoyable and has me cheering for Scott is a nod to the stellar acting of Cera and the awesome directing of Wright. Visually this movie is a homage to my generations obsession with video games. Oh yeah baby. It’s on like Donkey Kong.

03: Book of Eli – This was the most pleasant surprise of 2010. I thought it looked cool but wasn’t expecting much but everything seemed to gel with me. From acting, to score, to story and the look; I loved it all. I don’t think there is much more I can say about this movie.

02: Shutter Island – Can I admit something to you all? I did not like the Departed one bit. I’m not saying it was a bad movie but I just wondered why it was getting all this praise when it was one of the weaker Scorsese films in my opinion. Just from all the unwarranted love it got I foolishly turned my back on Scorsese. This movie was the slap to my face that I needed. I’m sorry Mr Scorsese you are a talented director and while not every movie you make will be for me, all I need to do is wait and you’ll make something that grabs me by my balls. Shutter Island was just a fantastic mind screw of a film that had an unbalanced character, in an unbalanced setting all the while Scorsese is messing about with editing and sound to throw the audience even further off key. This is why he is a master director.

01: Inception – If you told me that I would have two films with DiCaprio in my top ten I would have said you that you were crazy. But here we are and to top it Nolan grabs my number one spot yet again (Dark Knight was the first time). Nolan can just make these intricate movies that tell a wonderful story and yet are compelling in the action department. Add to that a cast that is just fantastic and you have a movie that appeals to many people for all different reasons. Bold statement time. I think Nolan has to be one of the most important directors alive at the moment.

So that’s the end of my list. Hope you enjoyed reading. Oh hang on I can hear you now you want to know what the worst movie I watched this year was. Well it was a dual winner. Legion and Jonah Hex. There was potential in the ideas of both but they just blew. One was so boring considering the idea behind it, the other was just throwing so much crap at the ideas it lost any thought of consistency. Which is which you ask? I’m not telling. If you really want to know then you’re going to have to watch them. This would be the point that I did an evil laugh. Happy New Years people.