Quick Takes: Ride Along, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Afternoon Delight

ride_along_xlgRide Along (2014)
threestar

Starring Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, John Leguizamo, Bruce McGill, Tika Sumpter, Bryan Callen, Laurence Fishburne, Dragos Bucur, Gary Owen, Jacob Latimore, Jay Pharoah, Benjamin Flores Jr.
Directed by Tim Story

Like many action comedies, it would be easy to rip Ride Along for having a dumb plot and sequences where our heroes would never survive if it were real life. But action comedies aren’t real life, so as long as I’m laughing more than I’m not, I’m happy. Ride Along made me happy. Ride Along has gotten fairly dismal reviews from almost everyone, and while I can’t defend it as some great piece of cinema, it’s definitely more fun than the consensus makes it appear. What it comes down to is that I think Kevin Hart is funny, and I also love me some Ice Cube. Together they make a great comedy duo. The action could have been shot better, but this is a small complaint in a quick, fun, entertaining movie. Clear your mind for a night and just ride along with it.

a92058kywgvRise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
threehalfstar

Starring James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo, Tyler Labine, Jamie Harris, Ty Olsson, David Hewlett
Directed by Rupert Wyatt

I love the original Planet of the Apes films, but after seeing Rise of the Planet of the Apes I think it might be hard to go back. I’m shocked how much I enjoyed this one. You really couldn’t ask for a better modern take on the Planet of the Apes saga, although I do wonder if they’ll stick with CG for the more evolved humanoid apes if they continue the series. I suppose they will, but Rick Baker’s makeup from Tim Burton’s 2001 remake was so good I kinda wish they’d do that again. Anyway, if you’ve been on the fence for the last few years, definitely watch this one! By focusing the story on a single ape, we are able to feel for the character, right down to the point of cheering the apes on during the film’s climactic (and awesome) final act. I can’t wait to see the sequel!

afternoon-delight-posterAfternoon Delight (2013)
threestar

Starring Kathryn Hahn, Juno Temple, Josh Radnor, Jane Lynch, Jessica St. Clair, Michaela Watkins, Josh Stamberg, John Kapelos, Keegan Michael Key, Annie Mumolo
Directed by Jill Soloway

Afternoon Delight walks a thin line between drama and dark comedy, delivering both very well and remaining engaging throughout. At least for me. I can imagine this one will split people, as it’s pretty much nothing but spoiled white people problems. They are problems nonetheless, and something as life affecting as being unhappy in a relationship shouldn’t be trivialized. Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) is the unhappy one in question, and her life changes course when she visits a strip club with her husband and another couple. Rachel becomes somewhat obsessed, or at the very least highly interested, in getting to know McKenna (Juno Temple), the stripper she connected with. One thing leads to another and McKenna is living in Rachel’s spare bedroom. What makes Afternoon Delight so interesting to me is how much director Jill Soloway seems to be saying with the film, without actually saying it. There’s so much to dissect about the character relationships, revealing insightful takes on truth, trust and the relationships that shape our lives. Kathryn Hahn is superb as Rachel, giving a raw, emotional performance that deserves acclaim, and Juno Temple is a perfect, confident complement to Hahn’s nervous energy. Very good, but definitely not for everyone.

Cube (1997)

Starring Maurice Dean Wint, David Hewlett, Nicole de Boer, Nicky Guadagni, Andrew Miller, Julian Richings, Wayne Robson

Directed by Vincenzo Natali

Expectations: Low. I don’t remember liking this.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


Like a lot of movies I saw in the late ’90s, I’m finding that revisiting them now is a much better experience than watching them then. Back then, my expectations for Cube were through the roof; it seemed like it was everything I could want rolled into one movie. Things like cool science fiction sets, crazy traps and realistic gore FX. But I simply wasn’t ready to appreciate this movie for what it was, as I was ear-deep in my film snob phase and only the best in cinema would suffice.

Nowadays my expectations for movies have changed quite a bit, and I’m more than happy to just roll with the punches as long as the movie is of quality enough to entertain. Cube does entertain, and it does so pretty well, but it’s just shy of being everything that it could be thanks to some questionable, over-the-top acting and some equally questionable writing. But that’s OK, this is a début feature so things like that are bound to come up. And besides, look at that fucking cube set! It’s awesome!

Continue reading Cube (1997) →

Scanners II: The New Order (1991)

Starring David Hewlett, Deborah Raffin, Yvan Ponton, Isabelle Mejias, Tom Butler, Raoul Trujillo, Vlasta Vrana, Murray Westgate, Doris Petrie, Dorothée Berryman, Michael Rudder

Directed by Christian Duguay

Expectations: Low. I went back and forth about watching the sequels, as I wasn’t terribly hot on the original.

On the general scale:

On the B-Movie scale:


A rogue scanner enters a video arcade and starts playing Operation Wolf… with his mind! He easily masters the silly game, moving on to play a game of pinball at the same time. But that’s not enough to satisfy his gaming urges, and soon the maniacal lunatic is controlling all the games in the arcade. They explode in a shower of hot, white sparks and the man leaves, seeking refuge in an abandoned warehouse full of mannequins. In Scanners this introductory period was concerned with setting up our hero, but here the focus is on our villain. We don’t know he’s the villain just yet, but anyone with eyes that wild ain’t gonna be talking Grandma’s kitty down from the tree with his telepathic powers.

The villain was the most interesting character in Scanners, and the same is true of Scanners II. This guy doesn’t get near enough screen time, though, which is a real shame. When the film finally gets around to introducing us to David, the hero, we find that once again he’s a boring, average guy that’s just learning to harness his psychic powers. Y’know guys, there is enough room in a movie for two interesting characters, you don’t have to pour everything worthwhile into one. In any case, this everyman is meant to be our shepherd in this updated (to the 90s) urban world of the scanners, which we know is the near future because even the police water coolers are highlighted with blue, glowing neon.

Continue reading Scanners II: The New Order (1991) →

Mini-Review: Splice (2010)

Splice (2010)

Starring Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, Delphine Chanéac, Brandon McGibbon, Simona Maicanescu, David Hewlett, Abigail Chu

Directed by Vincenzo Natali

Expectations: Low.


Splice starts off rather well, peaks about forty minutes in, and then slowly declines until the last fifteen minutes or so. At this point it reaches the cliff of the Grand Canyon and jumps off into oblivion. Despite this bullshit final reel, Splice is actually pretty enjoyable for the most part and is surprisingly shocking at times, even to my depraved mind. Throughout the film the story hinted and teased that it might go down a certain path, but being a studio picture I thought it wouldn’t dare actually do it. They do go there and it’s shocking both visually and morally when they do. When you really think about what you’re witnessing, it’s some twisted shit and I wouldn’t have expected a major Hollywood picture to be this fucked up. It’s a shame that the script wasn’t as good as it could have been, because Splice isn’t too far away from being great, at least in the idea department. The elements are clearly here but the weak, plodding script lacks tension and genuine narrative flow. Even still, Splice is a lot better than I expected it to be.

Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley are both adequate as the genetic research couple, but the star of the show is really Delphine Chanéac as their creation. Without revealing too much, she manages to encompass the questioning nature of her character and the mannerisms associated with her unique situation. The FX are great as well, as director Vincenzo Natali wisely has the masters at KNB providing killer practical FX that get as much screen time as their CG counterparts. The integration between the two is very well done and helps to sell the over-the-top plot to even the most jaded viewer. KNB’s work dominates the majority of close-up FX shots, allowing the intense details of the physical models to inform your mind when the less detailed CG versions take the reigns for the medium-range shots. Natali’s shot selection and framing is also excellent and adds quite a bit of intrigue and interest to the film through clever camerawork and beautiful cinematography.

The final reel is pretty piss-poor though, as it’s pretty clear that they had run out of ideas half an hour earlier. Any goodwill built up over the course of the film is quickly dissipated and the film ends with a telegraphed, bullshit moment that was only inserted so a sequel could be churned out if the film proved successful. Oh well, it was pretty fun while it lasted.

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