If you’ve ever wandered the aisles at the video store or surfed the DVR pay-per-view options and seen a bunch of movies that you’ve never heard of, chances are John has watched them. Why? He loves movies. All kinds of movies. Good, bad, so-bad-they’re good, even the truly unwatchable ones. He mostly loves horror and science-fiction and drive-in exploitation movies that most upstanding model citizens wouldn’t dare watch. Then he writes up his thoughts so you can decide - watch, don’t watch or avoid at all costs. Sometimes he even gets to talk to the cool folks who make some of your favorite films.
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New Releases for Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Posted Jun 3, 2012 by John Allman
Updated Jun 3, 2012 at 06:08 PM
What’s new in stores and on video shelves this week:
Genre: Survival Thriller
Directed by: Joe Carnathan
Run time: 118 minutes
The Lowdown: There’s a lyrical beauty at play in Joe Carnathan’s sharply surprising, deeply affecting Alaskan wilderness thriller, “The Grey,” that resonates long after the credits – and an unexpected, unbelievably brief but meaningful final frame – have faded to black.
This is not a pulpy, B-grade, Liam Neeson vs. wolves survival flick, as the credits falsely implied.
Carnathan strives for something so much more. He sets his sights on a cerebral dissection of mortality, masculinity, life and death, and he nails the bullseye in a way that stops you cold. This is the guy, after all, who went from the dark, affecting “Narc,” a film that made Tom Cruise try to tap him to direct a “Mission: Impossible” sequel, to the over-the-top, comic book bravado of “Smoking Aces” and “The A-Team.”
Truth be told, Neeson was my least favorite part of “The A-Team,” the one actor who felt somehow off in his portrayal of an iconic 1980s character. But it’s clear with “The Grey,” that Neeson saw the potential within Carnathan’s directorial eye, and he fully commits to a role that is blacker than black, giving his all to his character, a man who has lost the will to live and only finds that spark when faced with certain death.
Watching “The Grey,” you can’t but think about Neeson’s own personal tragedy, the loss of his beloved wife Natasha Richardson, who died in 2009 in a freak skiing accident. And you can’t help but wonder if that is what drew Neeson to this part, playing an oil field sniper who guards the workers, a motley crew of criminals and lost souls, from daily wolf attacks while they work in a frozen tundra of bleak, unforgiving ice and wind and snow.
“The Grey” has moments that are so quiet, so intense, so real that they are almost difficult to watch. The one scene in particular involves Neeson guiding a dying man to the light, and the emotion, the jarring beauty of the moment is poetic and reverent and unlike anything you’ve seen in some time.
There’s an amazing set piece involving a plane crash that is more harrowing than most big-screen midair disasters.
But the real meat, beyond the scary as hell wolves stalking the handful of survivors who have crash landed near their wooded home, is the personal journey of will, the soul searching acceptance of fate and the choice of going out in peace and on one’s own terms that consumes most of the survivors.
This is no mere Bear Grylls survival tale.
This is something so much more, and you should seek it out.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – No.
Nudity – No.
Gore – Yes.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – Mother nature, Natural order and Man’s worst instincts.
Buy/Rent – Buy it.
Blu-Ray Bonus Features – Commentary and deleted scenes.
On the Web – http://thegreythemovie.com/
Chronicle (Fox, 82 minutes, PG-13, Blu-Ray): There are moments in the marvelous superhero origin story that defy explanation.
Director Josh Trank and writer Max Landis, son of director John Landis, not only find a way to exceed the limitations of the “found footage” genre, they concoct some of the best special effects to highlight any movie of recent memory.
“Chronicle” is your basic story of good and evil, the corruption of ultimate power and the sacrifices that have to be made to protect the masses from something they can’t comprehend.
Yet it feels fresh – fresh in a way that marked the wonderful deconstruction of hero archetypes in “Kick #####,” fresh in the way that “Batman Begins” made you forget all about Mr. Freeze and the woeful Batgirl.
“Chronicle” exploits the fact that you aren’t expecting to see something superior. It manipulates the handheld, TV news and surveillance camera footage like a master illusionist demonstrating the greatest sleight of hand ever displayed. It thinks outside the way – way outside the box – when it comes to showcasing how a trio of teenagers might test the limits of their newfound power. Playing catch at 40,000 feet never felt more real.
This is one not to be missed.
Rampart (Millennium, 108 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Woody Harrelson should have been nominated for an Oscar.
Not only that, he should have been a front runner to win the gold.
He owns every scene of “Rampart,” the harrowing, amazingly visceral iteration of the bad cop genre that outshines both “Training Day” and “Bad Lieutenant,” both versions, in terms of the morally corrupt yet personally driven personality on display.
Harrelson brings everything to the role of Dave Brown, whose name is both generic enough to suggest an everyman, lost in the crowd individual, and a fitting play on words for a racist narcissist who hates all minorities equally.
He is a shark who swims the dark streets of Los Angeles, eating, drinking, screwing and shooting anything that gets in his path. The not-so-surprising trick is that Harrelson can’t dial back that undeniably likable quality that he possesses as both a person and an actor, but that just makes Dave Brown that much more shocking when he goes off.
Oren Moverman’s film doesn’t reinvent the wheel. It doesn’t try to make Harrelson so over the top that he tries to out-shock the previous bad cops on display in the afore-mentioned films. He doesn’t defile a nun or snort coke off a hooker’s stomach. He just lives by a very specific code, and he’s armed with the most dangerous of weapons – a self-righteous indignation where he believes everyone else is missing out on the fact that he is doing the job they want done, whether he’s breaking the rules or not.
If anything, Moverman humanizes Dave Brown by showing in small details and quiet, understated conversations that Brown knows he has failed as a father, a husband and a man.
Road Trip – People love “The Hangover,” but had Todd Phillips not helmed this hysterical film first, I predict there would have been no Wolf Pack to celebrate. Full of great sight gags and the only bearable performance by Tom Green on film.
One for the Money – Kathryn Heigel, still searching for a good post-“Knocked Up” role.
Flashpoint: The Complete Fourth Season – Canadian serial about members of an elite hostage negotiation squad.
Albert Nobbs – Imagine “Victor/Victoria” or “Mrs. Doubtfire,” minus the laughs.
Descendants – No, not the George Clooney film. This one has zombies.
Hazel: The Complete Third Season – Hazel’s back, rocking the polyester.
Hell on Wheels: The First Season – I want to know who first thought to cast Common in anything. Then I want to kick them.
The Universe: The Complete Season Six – Our galaxy and beyond, in stunning high definition.
The Walking Tall Trilogy – There are few sheriff’s like Buford Pusser, and few drive-in flicks as testosterone-fueled as “Walking Tall.”
Bringing Down the House and Father of the Bride I and II – Disney unloads a triple helping of Steve Martin. If only they had given us “The Jerk,” “All of Me” and “The Man with Two Brains” instead.