After a post-apocalyptic dystopia (The Road) and Prohibition-era America (Lawless), Australian director John Hillcoat brings his edgy Wild West sensibilities to this gritty present-day heist thriller. The film is fierce and stylish, and utterly gripping even though there's the nagging sensation that nothing is happening under the surface. Thankfully, the actors add plenty of terrific texture to their characters.
It's set in Atlanta, where Terrell (Chiwetel Ejiofor) leads his crew of thugs (Anthony Mackie, Clifton Collins Jr., Aaron Paul and Norman Reedus) through a riotously dangerous bank robbery. They're working for the cold-hearted Russian mobster Irina (Kate Winslet), who demands an even bigger heist before she'll pay them. Terrell has a child with Irina, so feels like he has little choice in the matter, but his team is made up of unstable hotheads and corrupt cops who have their own opinions. One of the cops also has a new partner in Chris (Casey Affleck), a tenacious good guy who's the nephew of a cynical detective (Woody Harrelson) who's just beginning to crack this case. So the gang decides to distract the city's police force with a triple 9, code for a downed officer, while they carry out their next elaborate robbery. The question is who will take the bullet.
Matt Cook's script is a bundle of mad twists and turns, usually the result of impulsive gang members who act without thinking. The tension is very high, as each person's morality is warped at every turn. All while Chris tries to remain upright in the middle of a storm he doesn't quite understand. Each character is up against a wall, ready to do whatever it takes to survive in a situation that is getting increasingly out of control. And without more subtext, or at least a sense of these people's back-stories, no one on-screen is very likeable.
Continue reading: Triple 9 Review
Clifton Collins Jr. - Pacific Rim star, Clifton Collins Jr. departs Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in camouflage trousers - Los Angeles, California, United States - Thursday 23rd October 2014
Far too slow-paced to work as a thriller and too shallow to properly challenge us as science fiction, this film is unlikely to please many audience members. That isn't to say that it's unwatchable: it looks terrific, and features a strong cast who are solid in thinly written roles. But the material promises far more than the film delivers.
At the centre is Will (Johnny Depp), an artificial intelligence expert who is attacked by an anti-technology terrorist group. With only weeks to live, his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and his colleague Max (Paul Bettany) upload his consciousness into his computer system, so after he dies he is able to transcend his humanity to solve far-advanced problems. He directs Evelyn to create a vast secret hideout to further develop the work, which progresses for two years until the terrorists, led by Bree (Kate Mara), find them. And now Will's old colleague Joseph (Morgan Freeman) and an FBI agent (Cillian Murphy) have to choose which side they're on.
This is precisely where the script fails: the sides are far too clear from the start. What should be a story packed with moral ambiguity is instead shaped into a straightforward good versus evil drama that betrays screenwriter Jack Paglen's mistrust of technology. And since everything is slanted so sharply, there's nowhere for the story or characters to go. First-time director Wally Pfister (the Oscar-winning Dark Knight cinematographer) makes sure everything look terrific, but everything moves so hesitantly that we feel like we're watching the movie in slow motion. It's as if the film is always on the verge of saying something important, but can never quite get the words out.
Continue reading: Transcendence Review
Computer genius Will Caster is involved in a technological program exploring the world-changing possibilities of artificial intelligence. Their goal is to create a machine that will have knowledge beyond the minds of human beings collectively, while also being able to reach Transcendence; a state in which this artificial mind can begin to feel human emotion. After a particularly enlightening seminar in which the goals of the project in terms of medicine are highlighted, he is shot suddenly. At first it appears that he is going to survive as the bullet didn't hit any major organs, but doctors quickly realise that the attack was much more insidious as it has been laced with radioactive matter. With only weeks to live as research labs across the country are being targeted by a radical anti-technology activist group called RIFT, Caster must find a way to live. When his wife Evelyn manages to upload his consciousness, it seems his project has been fulfilled - but it soon becomes clear that the power he is about to wield will put the world at risk.
Continue: Transcendence - Alternative Trailer
Will Caster is a computer scientist researching technology into the possibilities of artificial intelligence. After a gripping seminar where he described his desire to create a machine with not only an intelligence that exceeds human beings collectively, but also experience emotion - a state in which he refers to as Transcendence - he is gunned down by a radical activist who is part of anti-technology group RIFT. With the bullet not penetrating any major organs, the main damage the organization seems to have done is virtually attack research computers in all the main labs of the country, but when it turns out that that bullet was laced with radioactive material, Caster is given just weeks to live. Determined not to die, Caster and his wife Evelyn work out a way to upload his consciousness so that he can communicate even beyond the grave. However, not everybody is so sure of what has happened; a concern which becomes more and more warranted as Carter's mind begins to evolve.
'Transcendence' is the unnerving sci-fi directorial debut of Oscar winning cinematographer Wally Pfister ('The Dark Knight Rises', 'The Italian Job', 'Inception'). Initially written by Jack Paglen (who will be writing 'Prometheus 2'), it has been re-written by Pfister, Jordan Goldberg ('Inception: Motion Comics' TV series) and Alex Paraskevas ('Walker Payne') and is set to be released in the UK on April 25th 2014.
Far better made than it has any right to be, this cheesy 70s-style thriller is given a thoroughly engaging kick by veteran filmmaker Hackford working outside his usual dramatic genre. It's predictable and far too long, but Hackford grounds everything in gritty reality, avoiding obnoxious effects work while indulging in entertaining innuendo and riotously nasty action sequences.
None of this is much of a stretch for the cast, and Statham's Parker is essentially the same character he always plays: a ruthlessly efficient, indestructible criminal with a conscience. After a gang of thugs (including Chiklis and Collins) betrays him following a fairgrounds heist, Parker miraculously recovers from his hideous injuries and heads to Florida to get revenge. He uses local estate agent Leslie (Lopez) to find the gang's lair, and she's instantly attracted to the way he fills out his designer suit. Living with her soap-addict mum (LuPone), Leslie is looking for a wealthy man to rescue her. And she's already too involved when she realises that Parker isn't who he seems to be.
There isn't much to the plot, which is packed with contrived twists and turns and never follows through the intriguing possibilities along the way. At least the film avoids the usual action cliches, as Hackford sharply orchestrates each fight sequence to make it both lucid and startlingly brutal. This earthy approach keeps things relatively believable, until Parker emerges with yet another serious injury that doesn't slow him down at all. Meanwhile, Hackford injects plenty of eyebrow-raising flirtation that keeps us smiling. Statham and Lopez may not be stretching themselves as actors, but they clearly have a lot of fun circling around each other like dogs on heat.
Continue reading: Parker Review
Parker is a skilled thief with a very specific moral code; never kill anyone who doesn't deserve it and never steal from those with little money. Other than that, he is brutal, doing anything it takes to seize his target along with his so-called loyal team. However, one day he finds that his accomplices are not the people he thought they were when they stab him in the back and leave him to die. As single-minded as ever, Parker assumes the new name and identity of Texas guy Daniel Parmitt and sets out to destroy his former allies for what they did to him seeking an unusual partnership with Leslie: a local resident of Palm Beach who has inside information on Parker's targets and agrees to help him despite having reservations about his plan to murder every last one of them and take the loot from their latest robbery.
'Parker' is a crime thriller based on the novel 'Flashfire' by Donald E. Westlake. It has been directed by the Oscar winner that is Taylor Hackford ('An Officer and a Gentleman', 'The Devil's Advocate') and written by John J. McLaughlin ('Black Swan', 'Hitchcock') and will be released in cinemas across the UK from March 8th 2013.
Director: Taylor Hackford
Continue: Parker Trailer
In Babel, directed and co-written by Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 Grams, Amores Perros), a clutch of characters from a range of cultures and walks of life attempt to build a towering film of meaning from coincidence and portent; unfortunately, in the end it is the viewer who is punished for the filmmaker's hubris.
Continue reading: Babel Review
How's this for a final exam? Jake Harris (Val Kilmer), a controversial FBI instructor, immerses his students in elaborate, realistic training situations, and he pushes them to their limits for their final test. He flies his students (Christian Slater, Patricia Velasquez, Jonny Lee Miller, Clifton Collins Jr., Kathryn Morris, Eion Bailey, and Will Kemp) to a remote island used for war games practice, which has been deserted for the weekend.
Continue reading: Mindhunters Review
Joel Schumacher, director of some of the worst films in a generation (8MM, Batman & Robin, Batman Forever), redeems himself with his first really good flick since Falling Down in 1993. A tale of army recruits in their final days of training before heading to Vietnam in 1971, Tigerland is an original and modestly powerful anti-war film that never even goes "in country."
Continue reading: Tigerland Review
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