Ric Roman Waugh Discusses a Grounded SNITCH Starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

(From Collider.com)

(From Collider.com)

I am willing to bet that if you approached the casual movie-goer and asked them who Ric Roman Waugh is all you will get is a blank stare or shrug.  Waugh spent a good fifteen years as a stunt coordinator until 2001 when he broadened his resume to include writing and directing.  Even though his writing/directing credits are limited right not, I truly believe this guy will be name of the future.

Last summer I posted a review on Waugh’s last directorial effort, Felon.  To put it simply Felon is a powerhouse of a small film.  I won’t spend much time discussing the plot for that you could click here for the full piece.  But I will emphasize is that the film features some strong authenticity.  What I mean by that is that it rarely feels exaggerated but instead grounded.  The characters feel like everyday people that go through emotions of those in the prison and how life outside the prison is impacted by their imprisonment.  If you have not seen it, do yourself a favor and watch it you will not regret it.

The word “authenticity” is a word that Waugh used to describe his filmmaking process especially with his latest film Snitch.  Most of you at this point have most likely seen the TV spots for Snitch but if it is not ringing a bell, it the one with Dwayne Johnson going undercover to prove his son’s innocence in an underground drug ring.  Naturally after reading that one line synopsis I just gave you are thinking of Johnson flexing his muscles toting a large automatic firing weapon but really it could not be a more different action/thriller.

In an interview with Collider.com and Drax Largo on YouTube Waugh mentions how this will be a very different Dwayne Johnson role and movie (click on source’s name for the interviews with Waugh).  Waugh specifically says that if you were involved in the real life drug world that your stature would not make you any safer.  Whether you a six-foot-five-inch brick wall like Johnson or a five-foot-nothing twig, a bullet or explosion will stop you in your tracks just the same.  We are all used to seeing Johnson in the “larger than life” sort of action flicks like Fast Five, Faster, and The Rundown where the man’s skin might as well be armor not flesh.  But what Waugh wants to do with Snitch is show Johnson as a regular guy that is vulnerable both emotionally and physically as a man diving into a foreign business world to clear his innocent son.

This is not to say the explosions and other action elements will be played down because let’s be honest how fun would that be?  Again this is about the characters and being true to that drug world.  Waugh describes the emotional drive behind the film as willing to move heaven and earth to protect our children by whatever means necessary.  But there is also the emotion on the law enforcement side one people who are so close to a bust but yet so close to ignited the powder keg that is the war on drugs.

Waugh does a better job explaining it than I do but what I am getting at is Snitch’s authentic/grounded approach to an action/thriller should create a more rounded experience than those larger than life movies as proven in Felon.  They have the necessary amount of gun fire and explosions to excite audiences combined with immense suspense from unimaginable situations that these everyday characters are experiencing.

What are your thoughts?  Do you want to see the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson take one more grounded action thrillers like Waugh’s Snitch or would you prefer he stuck to the over-the-top larger than life action movies he has done in the past?  I recognize this is tough to answer know being that Snitch has not hit theater yet but what is your gut or initial feelings?

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Christian Bale and Tom Hardy to Star in Separate “EVEREST” Movies

christian_bale_tom_hardy_everest_movieNew broke earlier today that Christian Bale has opted out of the cape and utility belt for a down coat and crampons.  Bale is to star in director Balstasar Kormakur latest survival drama/thriller about the infamous expedition in 1996 than would spawn John Krakauer’s Into Thin Air.  But earlier reports say that it will not be an adaptation of his novel but a mix between Krakauer’s telling of the events with other survivors.  The cliff notes version of the drama that unfolded in 1996 is (1) conflicting takes on what exactly happen from the survivors after unpredictable conditions rolled in and (2) that the expedition’s guide, Rob Hall, felt obligated to get one particular un-fit member to the summit after two previous expeditions that failed.

Now around 1996 commercialization of Everest was at its peak.  What that means is anyone with enough money in the bank to write a $10,000 check (give or take – remember 1996) can join an expedition to attempt to reach Everest’s summit.  No matter your fitness level that check is what matters.  Needless to say a majority of those expeditions do not reach the top but it’s the thrill and experience of trying.

As of right now Bale’s role is not yet known but if I had to guess, my money would be on him playing Rob Hall.  Hall was a well respected mountaineer that made summit on Everest on several occasions.  Currently Kormakur’s project is simply titled “Everest” but this is not to be confused with Doug Liman’s project of the same name.

Nearly four month ago word got out director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity and Mr. & Mrs. Smith) would be doing a movie about Sir George Mallory who is to be played by Tom Hardy.  Mallory has a lot of speculation surrounding him and Everest as well (warning S P O I L E R S   to follow).  Mallory was allegedly the first mountaineer to reach Everest’s summit back in the 1920’s.  I say allegedly because it was his third attempt and well he never came back done until climbers found his body in 1999.  So there is disputable proof of whether he made it or not which should be interesting to see what Liman will suggest.

Two separate Everest movies that will most likely be release close to each other staring Bale and Hardy.  Reminds me of when another Bale film about magicians The Prestige came out at the same time as another magical film called the Illusionist.  Funny how that happens in Hollywood sometimes.  This might explain both actors growing those serious beards of theirs.

My question to those reading is which are you more excited to see?  The Kormakur/Bale EVEREST about the disastrous 1996 expedition or the Liman/Hardy EVEREST about Sir George Mallory.  Or maybe both?  I am a big fan of both actors but not all too familiar with the directors.


Christian Bale in EVEREST

Tom Hardy in EVEREST

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Review of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

hansel_and_gretel_witch_hunters_movie_review_posterYou would think with all the action movie success Jeremy Renner has been having with The Avengers, The Town, and Bourne Legacy on top of his more dramatic roles that he may finally get to the point where he did not have to star in an action movie with a ridiculous title.  Guess not.  It sounds like something off the Syfy Channel but despite the primitive title this movie has its share of perks.  Hansel & Gretel:  Witch Hunters mutates the familiar elements of the fairy tale into a bloody adventure.

A brief introduction to the plot of Hansel & Getel:  Witch Hunters is as follows:  After being orphaned at a young age, siblings Hansel and Gretel (Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton respectively) grow to become bounty hunters seeking to avenge their parents by taking out every witch possible.  The brother/sister duo meet their match when the evil witch called Muriel (Famke Janssen) who is collecting children born in different months before the Blood Moon approaches to make witches everywhere immune to Hansel and Gretel’s murderous methods.  Click here for the trailer.

As I stated above, this movie feels very much like a Syfy Channel original… except with a budget.  I say that because it has a really fast pace that tells a decent story but has flat acting and little character development.  But what makes this movie superior to Syfy’s run of the mill films is the quality of the sets, make-up of the creatures/witches, and special effects.  They looked so cool on the big screen and not that cheesy CGI look that filmmakers seem to prefer these days especially when it came the troll character, Edward.  By actually putting an actor underneath the makeup and props it made him feel real.  In addition I appreciate the choreography of the fight scenes.  Again they avoided the easy CGI effects or shaky camera to make the action appear to be happening fast but took advantage of good old fashion choreography and wiring.

Visuals is about the only perks the movie has.  The story is imaginative but at the same time bland and predictable.  Like Hansel’s flaw of being diabetic or in need of a sugar shoot because of poisoned candy that a witch gave him as a kid.  You knew exactly when that would play a role.  Or why it was that they were able to fight the witches successfully where others have failed.  Then because the story was standard the acting suffered.  Renner I think did what he could with Hansel as a know it all and wanna be loner but Arterton was near unlikeable and annoying at times with how she approached the character.  Plus the almost seemed more like a couple than siblings until Hansel found a love interest.  Janssen clearly had a fun time playing the conniving witch because it was fun watching her.

Overall, whether or not you see it in 3D Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters the visuals will impress you or at least it did for me.  It moves along a good pace despite being predictable with boring characters.  I give Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters a 6/10.

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Sliver Linings Playbook Review: Golden Characters & Acting

silver_linings_playbook_review_movie_posterI am definitely late to the party getting to see David O. Russell’s latest film to hit theaters, Silver Linings Playbook.  Russell’s success with The Fighter has shown his ability to draw the best performances possible out of his actors to tell a complex and character driven story.  If after watching The Fighter you thought they had some family issues, wait until you see Silver Linings Playbook.  Even though the family is considerably smaller that does not mean the problems are any less.  What Russell again manages to do is really make these characters relatable even if you would not fin yourself having too much in common with them.  If I had to make a comparison it is like Benny & Joon meets Little Miss Sunshine.

A brief introduction to the plot of Silver Linings Playbook is as follows:  Against the judgments of the doctors, the court allows Dolores (Jacki Weaver) to take her bipolar son, Pat (Bradley Cooper), back home from a psychological institute much to the surprise of her gambling addicted, obsessive compulsive/superstitious husband Pat Sr. (Robert DeNiro).  Determined to win back his wife who has a restraining order against him due too his emotional and violent outburst that sent him the the institute, Pat read up on her favorite books and reconnect with their friends.  In the process he meets a widowed young, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), and the two develop an unconventional friendship to help the other get to where the other wants to be.  Click here for the trailer.

I cannot praise Russell’s talent for a great narrative and character development enough.  The first half of this movie is heavily devoted to developing the characters to set up the events of the second half of the movie where most of the plot happens.  Not going to lie the first half had me wondering “what have I gotten myself into” because there is just a lot of yelling over other people yelling which nearly gave me a headache but luckily it never reaches that point.  A lot of the characters are headstrong and set in there ways.  Pat Sr. believes in a set order to things to get the best possible outcome, Pat wants to change things about himself to optimize his chancing of getting his wife back, Dolores wants things to be like they used to where everyone she cares about coexisted, and Tiffany wants comfort/positive attention to cope with the loss of her husband.

Being a character driven movie, this movie is only as good as its actors and their performances were flawless.  To this point we all knew the talents of Lawrence, DeNiro, and Weaver so I will not go too into detail about them but I must say Bradley Cooper and Chris Tucker proved a lot in this movie.  Until now I only thought Cooper had a limited range with the in comedies and some action/thrillers but Silver Linings Playbook proved not only that he is a capable leading man but that he can give characters depth with different levels of emotion.  As for Tucker, one I am glad to see him in a movie again and two he took a role we had not seen him play before.  Yes he was a comedic supporting role, which is nothing new, but I thought he did a fantastic job of making his character kind of deceitful yet sincerely kind at the same time.

My only trouble with the movie is how it looks and feels.  The camera work was very unusual.  The close ups were too frequent.  I do not mind when filmmakers do close ups from the neck to the top of people’s heads but I cannot stand chin to eyebrow.  That is way closer than I need to be especially during screaming matches between Pat and Tiffany.  Then the way the camera would move back and forth between bantering characters (even if they were right across the table from each other) felt messy to me and at times disorienting.  This is as oppose to the way Tarantino usually does it of a wide-angle shot and letting the actors work or cut from actor to actor instead of moving the camera side to side.  I know that’s picky but I am not a fan of that sort of camera work.

Overall, Silver Linings Playbook well deserves of all the attention its director and actors are receiving.  It is a roller coaster of feelings so real that you forget you are watching a movie at times.  I give Silver Linings Playbook an 8/10.

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Mama Review: A Movie for Enterprise Rent-A-Car

mama_movie_review_poster_guillermo_del_toroThe marketing for Mama has been heavily dependant on emphasizing Guillermo del Toro’s involvement, which definitely grabs your attention.  Del Toro has a very imaginative approach that creates solid characters and stunning visuals.  With the exception of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark I have liked all of del Toro’s movies that he has written and/or directed.  That said Mama was not written or directed by del Toro but is actually primarily the work of Andres Muschietti who originally made Mama as a short in 2008 and also wrote and directed this feature length version.  Even though del Toro obviously had influence, Mama is the baby of Muschietti.

A brief introduction to Mama is as follows:  After disappearing for five years, two young nieces of Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who has been searching for then since news broke that his twin brother ran off with them.  After living in the woods for five years the two girls are troubled and talk to an “imagined” entity called Mama.  The eldest of the nieces is adjusting better to the new situation but Lucas’ girlfriend, Annabel (Jessica Chastain), is struggling herself to adjusting to having to look over these girls with Lucas once Mama starts to become less imaginative and more real.  Click here for the trailer.

There are two major highlights for Mama starting with its writer/director Andres Muschietta.  The atmosphere he creates with the dark grey-ish tones keeps you in this state of uneasiness throughout the whole movie that benefits the spooky events and jump scares.  And trust me there are plenty.  What makes the scares so effective is how well written the story is.  The pace is very well done mainly because there is rarely a lull between the scares and the subtly of the scares.  Recent horror movies try too hard to throw gore at you to make it “scare” you but Mama instead builds suspense with its subtle foreshadowing and the dark atmosphere I mentioned to make you concerned for the characters.

That brings me to the second highlight of Chastain as Annabel and the two nieces.  Chastain could not have done a better job as Annabel who at the start of the movie is very selfish and rude but threw everything that happens she becomes a protagonist that we can really pull for.   Then the two nieces played by Megan Charpentier as Victoria (older) and Isabelle Nelisse as Lilly (younger) were fantastic.  They had good chemistry together but also played very different characters.  Victoria who was about three when the characters went missing can adjust to civilized life easier in the sense that she can communicate and interact even though she is definitely troubled but not to the level of her sister Lilly.  Lilly was so young that she not only cannot communicate but she cannot even walk correctly and Nelisse made it look natural even for being a young actress.

I did have some quarrels with the film though.  Though effective, the jump scares were very repetitive.  How many times could they bring the same ghost-like character out of the dark and into the light only to have them back up into the dark again?  Luckily it was not done too often but at times I thought to myself “did they mean to put the same scare in there again?”  My other quarrel was with the in your face product placement.  If you read my Flight review you probably know I have no problem with it so long as it does not become a focal point for the scene.  That said one of the characters as they are leaving the hospital makes a call on their cell phone as says “I need the number for Enterprise Rent-A-Car.”  He did not say he needed a number for a car rental place near the hospital he flat out said a company that may not have been that close which is inconvenient for someone in need of a car!

Overall, Mama is one of the scarier movies I have seen in theaters since Insidious which was also PG-13.  That should be a hint toward movie-makers that an R rating will make a movie scarier than a PG-13 rated horror movie. Mama had quality scares even if they are repetitive and is very well written story.  I give Mama an 8/10.

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The Last Stand Review: Formulaic Schwarzenegger Fun

You know that saying about teaching an old dog new tricks?  This could not apply more to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to the big screen in The Last Stand.  I mean that in both a good and bad way.  Some of the good include the stoic stare, classic one-liners, and plain action fun.  The bad being the low quality of acting, average to poor dialogue, and predictability factor but somehow all of the bad do not negatively impact the overall action experience.

A brief summary of the plot of The Last Stand is as follows:  Sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) is enjoying his day off on what should be the quietest day of the year when the town of Sommerton Junction’s high school football team travels out of town when suspicious truck drivers arrive.  Suspicions heighten when one of the local farmers does not make a delivery followed by a call from FBI agent John Bannister warns that an escaped drug/mob leader, Gabriel Cortez, has escaped custody and may be heading to Sommerton as a means of evading to the Mexican border in a super charged Corvette.  Click here for the trailer.

Looking at the credits for The Last Stand with its mish-mash of names that I would have never thought would be in the same movie, it should have been a disaster but it kind of works.  Starting with director Jee-woon Kim who is most known for I Saw the Devil (2010), The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008), and A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) making his American film debut with this action/crime/comedy.  Kim has proven that he knows how to shoot action scenes, craft intricate stories, and bring out great emotions from characters.  The latter two do not exactly describe your typical Schwarzenegger flick.  But The Last Stand holds up nice to his credits.  The action was really well done which creates some tense and exciting scenes that are well adapted for an older Schwarzenegger character.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of the few actors/movie stars where no matter what movie he is in I will see it and most likely enjoy it even if his characters are practically the same every movie.  The Last Stand is no different except that the character is older and not as physically dominating.  He still gets in his blows, punchlines, and incredibly accurate when necessary gunfire which makes his return to the big screen a positive addition to Schwarzenegger’s others.

As for the other actors, they did a fine job supporting the big man’s return.  Lois Guzman, Johnny Knoxville, and Peter Stormare are excellent comic relief.  By the way, I cannot help but feel when casting a villain Peter Stormare must be one of the top choices consistently because he really does come across as sleazy and evil.  Whitaker borderline over acted as an over anxious FBI agent but you cannot penalize him for trying to make up for the lack of acting from other minor supporting actors which have been improved by some better writing because the dialogue was the absolute worst thing about this movie.

Most action movies suffer from poor writing especially most Schwarzenegger movies but The Last Stand may be one of the worst offenders I have come across as of late.  Dialogue is practically thrown out the window to make room for one-liners and to speed through scenes to get to the action which I am okay with most the time but The Last Stand is just so poorly written that I feel sorry that Kim made his American directing debut with it.

Overall, Arnold Schwarzenegger fans will not be let down but The Last Stand since it meets the formula of a lot of his other movies even though it does struggle more than most in the acting and dialogue area than his other movies.  I give The Last Stand a 6/10.

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Movie Review

hobbit_an_unexpected_journey_movie_poster_reviewPeter Jackson returns to tell the story that sets up one of the most loved trilogies in cinema history and ironically enough he prequels it with another trilogy to tell the story of a single book.  Is that necessary?  I guess it is yet to be seen but I will not be able to judge since I am in the minority that never read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

I most likely do not need to go into the plot of this movie since everyone knows it but here it goes:  Set in middle where if it is mythical it probably exist, a monstrous dragon known as Smaug is drawn to the dwarf inhabited mountain of Erebor by all it golden treasures leaving the all the dwarves without a home and a king.  Years later wizard Gandalf the Grey aids to assemble a team of 13 dwarves and a hobbit brave enough to conquer the obstacles that lay in the way of gain the dwarves home back including orcs, goblins, a mysterious evil killing the wildlife, trolls, and more.  Click here for the trailer.

As you can tell I am not a big fan of these Lord of the Rings/middle earth movies.  Do not get me wrong these movies are extremely well done and tell a complex story but to me they just feel silly.  Part of me just thinks that they make up the story as they go and throw in any imaginable creatures for three hours and call it an epic.  I mean if you gave Clash of the Titans and Wrath of the Titans an extra hour each, are they going to in turn be considered epic?  Probably not.  With a movie series that has all these different creatures or species I fail to see its limits?  After watching the first trilogy with walking talking trees I wonder well where are the centaurs or those other things from those Sinbad movies/stories.  Or what are the limits of the wizards’ powers?  Why cannot Gandalf do this when he did that?  I know I am nitpicking this make believe world which is hypocritical of me since most of my favorite movies are action movies that are absolutely ridiculous but fantasy/magical world seems to just not interest me.

Sorry to rant there, I will now get to actually reviewing The Hobbit.  The movie looks great even in the 48fps which I will be honest I could not really tell it was.  Obviously it gives the appearance of the things on screen more definition, vibrant colors, and some people complained that it took their eyes a while to adjust but I would not have known it was 48fps had someone not told me.  Maybe I caught the 24fps showing I do not know.  I will say the 3D was unnecessary as usual to me.  My stance is that if the film is good enough you will feel like you are in that world without the 3D glasses and movies that should have 3D are terrible so they have to be gimmicky by having things pop out at you.

If there was one thing positive I could take away from The Hobbit is the spirit and nature of the dwarves.  You really felt for these dwarves because they were warriors but light hearted.  Also they are all artisans of some sort.  When they showed life before Smaug attacked the mountain all the dwarves were experts of different trades just like a real civilizations would.  This was something that I thought stood out from all the other middle earth films because what the hell do the hobbits do that they had such lavish lifes in their hobbit holes?  Or are all the damn elves wispy haired and natural marksman/woman with a bow – some you cannot tell if they are a man or woman (legitimately if Orlando Bloom didn’t speak I would have thought his character was female – not that it would make a difference either way)?

Sorry again that this review was mainly me bitching about this franchise that everyone seems to like.  I do not hate these films but I just see them as way overrated.  I acknowledge my hypocrisy since I like a lot of ridiculous and unbelievable action movies.  But I cannot discredit how good the movie looked and its good pace.  I give The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey a 7/10.

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