Friday, February 24, 2012

Review: The Grey (Joe Carnahan, 2012)

We’re about two months into 2012 but let’s chalk this up to surprise of the year. Director Joe Carnahan, coming off a terrible A-Team adaptation and before that, a disappointing Smokin’ Aces has stunned me with The Grey starring Liam Neeson. I was already deeply invested in the coolness that is Liam Neeson as of late. After all, he’s Qui-gon Jinn, Ra’s Al Ghul, Zeus, Admiral Shane, Bryan-the-kickass-dude-from-Taken and turns out he also has a sense of humor. The roles he has selected have been from a perspective of power, leadership and knowledge and he has continued this trend as John-the-kickass-dude-from-the-Grey.

John is a wolf hunter; He is hired by an Alaskan oil company to rid the area of wolves that feel threatened by the human presence. It’s noted early that John is depressed and attempts suicide by pointing the rifle in his mouth. He hears the cry of a wolf in the distance which stops him. John then boards a plane to presumably return home with the rest of the oil team but the plane crashes in a snowstorm. John awakes in the snow (in a very Lost-like sequence) with a few survive crew members. It’s not long before John is giving orders, telling the survivors to search for fire wood and keep watch from threatening wolves and trying to figure out a way to survive the cold and the wolves

The tension is felt immediately from the start of the movie even during the predictable plane crash. The violence is brutal enough without trending too close to a horror sub-genre, which would not have been necessarily a bad thing, but it works better as a psychological thriller. An example of this would be a scene where the survivors are huddled around a fire in the in the middle of the night. Cries from wolves lead the survivors to believe they are surrounded- there is an act of defiance from the survivors before the Alpha Male of the wolf pack lets out a bellowing ominous howl. From the perspective of the survivors, they see darkness… and at the top of the hill, they see only the breath from the Alpha Male with what little light is emitted from the fire. Well done Carnahan.

A lot of the terror is implied like in the example above, and not show on screen and I give credit to Carnahan for being able to portray this dramatically. The Grey feels like a different director from his prior work. The movie projects urgency to fight off the wolves as well as battling the elements of an Alaskan winter. There are also several other internal fights the survivors must face to escape their nightmare. The Grey is an exhilarating satisfying experience, not to be missed if you’re a Nesson fan; Be sure to stay after the credits for one final scene.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Review: Hard Candy (David Slade, 2005)

Hard Candy: A movie I should have watched years ago. I remember the acclaim behind it when it was first released which should have been a reason to watch it then, but even years later as my love for Ellen Page platituded with her performances in Inception, Super and Juno, I should have watched it on general Ellen Page fanboysim. I’m glad to have spent time with Hard Candy over the weekend as it might be Page’s best performance; so early in her career too.

Hayley Stark (Page) gains the attention of Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson, also best known in Insidious and Saw) from an online chat room. It is quickly brought to attention that Hayley is 14 years old and Jeff is over 30 and later we find out Hayley is gaining the attention of Jeff because she beliefs he is a pedophile. She gains access to his home and for the next 70 minutes, viewers will be stricken with a convincing performance from Page and some chilling (and shocking) revelations.

The shock factor and adrenalin rush is what made the movie so enjoyable, but it was not filmed-to-shock like other movies like the Human Centipede or Hostel. Those movies were specifically created for the sole purpose of gratuitous shock values. In Hostel, there’s a scene where there is torture being performed on a young girl and when the torturer turns around the camera specifically focuses on the violence. Hard Candy shocks from mostly dialog and what isn’t shown on screen. But what makes it so believable is Ellen Page’s on screen presence, her brutality, maturity but yet still holding on to a teenage innocence. She was 18 when Hard Candy was filmed (maybe 17) but her maturity as an actress shines through.

It’s unknown what multiple viewings will do to my appreciation of this movie; there are a few twists and turns that would draw away from a second viewing. But one thing is certain, Hard Candy with a cast of 5, is among some of the best dialog driven thrillers I have ever seen.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What I'm Currently Obsessed With (February 2012 Edition)

I appear to be falling out of the music scene. As the months go by, very little new music interests me. I don’t follow my go-to bands anymore from the 90s. Rancid, Incubus, Drop Kick Murphys, 311, Bad Religion, Social D, Hed Pe, Pantera. Remember Fear Factory? And when I mean I don’t follow them I don’t anticipate new their new music like I used to.

I listen to my Google Music collection, and stream SiriusXM and nothing feels as great as it used to. I can’t stand terrestrial radio. The commercials alone are worth me paying for satellite. Pandora can mix things up for you but you run out of minutes and I’d rather pay for a service with Howard Stern than one that doesn’t have him. But I’ve essentially given up actively searching for new music. Until great music crosses my path, I will have never known it existed. And this is exactly what happened as I watching the movie Drive (which btw is equally awesome) . Two songs I am utterly obsessed with right now, had to download them on my phone, on my PC and anywhere else a speaker exists. For your listening pleasure, I give you Kavinsky – Nightcall and College feat Electric Youth – A Real Hero.