The Tall Man (2012)

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Original Theatrical Release Date: August 1, 2012
Director: Pascal Laugier

In the town of Cold Rock, the children are going missing and locals are blaming it on an entity from an urban legend, known as The Tall Man. A local nurse named Julia Denning (Jessica Biel) has a child of her own, which is taken in the night. As Julia searches for her child, the truth about the disappearances begins to surface and the townsfolk have a lot to say about it.

I’d never even heard of this film but my girlfriend and I picked it up at a local video store called Bull Moose here in Maine. Jessica Biel has never been on my short list of favorite actresses, but it seemed like it could be good so we bought it.

During the opening of the movie and probably through about half of it, it had me hooked. It had great atmosphere, an intriguing villain in the form of The Tall Man – and a cool-sounding, creepy town. I mean, Cold Rock – how much cooler can you get than that? However, the director and/or story aims to trick the viewer and basically lie to them in order to achieve its hidden message/twist ending. This could have been a decent horror flick but instead it turns out to be a benign sort of social commentary about bad parents.

Jessica Biel was just okay as Julia Denning, and unfortunately she was basically the only character we should’ve cared much about but she even failed to make me do that. If I were you, I’d avoid this confusing and misleading film but maybe it’s worth a single watch on a night when you have nothing else on your plate.

JOE Rating: ★★

Movie Trailer For The Tall Man

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Drive (2011)

Drive (2011)

A stunt driver and wheelman-for-hire (Ryan Gosling) finds himself drawn to his neighbor, the damaged and vulnerable Irene (Carey Mulligan). Though he is a loner by nature, he ends up in the middle of way more contact than he bargained for when Irene’s ex-con husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac), returns from behind bars and “Driver” needs to step in to ensure that Irene and her boy are safe from thugs trying to extort money from the newly-freed con. After agreeing to help Standard with a heist, it goes belly-up and Driver finds his own life in danger as he tries to make his way to the source of all the trouble.

First of all, this movie is based on the novel Drive by James Sallis. The film’s plot and the movie’s plot have virtually the same identical plots but many of the book’s characters have been combined to form singular characters in the movie for the sake of film, which for me, works.

Ryan Gosling is hit or miss with me. I have no doubt about his acting chops, but he often seems relegated to the same non-speaking roles aside from a few exceptions. I was looking forward to his role in this film after seeing him in Lars and the Real Girl, which is the complete opposite of his role in this film. The normal charm and boyish innocence were gone in this movie, which was refreshing, and I think he held up great next to the presence of Ron Perlman. It was nice to see Bryan Cranston in something, since he’s so great in Breaking Bad.

The soundtrack was great and the opening scene was intense and made my heart rate go up, which is a nice achievement. The whole film had sort of a 1980’s feel about it, from the movie’s logo writing to the music and dress. It was neat.

The silence of the Driver character played by Gosling worked in the context of this movie but I’d really like him to go for roles with more dialogue so I can get more of a feel for his acting ability, aside from his great use of facial expression. Still, this movie (like the book) was all about the noir feel….and Driver not having much dialogue and being so mysterious obviously works for this.

Aside from a few minor nitpicks, this movie delivered on all levels. Good action reminiscent of driving scenes straight out of The French Connection….good acting….good story.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Kick Ass 2 (2013)

Kick Ass 2 (2013)

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), aka the crime-fighting everyman named Kick-Ass who inspired many people to take arms and assume the role of city protectors is looking to form a superhero team with none other than Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) – the closest thing to a real superhero that Dave has ever seen. However, Hit Girl has her own problems with the “Queen Bee” of the school, Brooke (Claudia Lee), who’s raining on her parade and her new adoptive father-figure Detective Marcus Williams (Morris Chestnut) who forbids her from participating in antics as Hit Girl. This leaves Dave to look elsewhere, which leads him to Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey) and his ragtag group of superhero hopefuls. As Dave tries to continue on his path as defender of the innocent, he must contend with the likes of The Motherfucker (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) – formerly Red Mist, who has gone insane with revenge bloodlust resulting from Kick-Ass killing his crime-kingpin father, Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong)….as well as all of the hired killers that money can buy.

In my opinion, this film was much more enjoyable than Kick-Ass, the previous entry. While I love both movies, this one kept my interest the entire time and it did not waver. The characters, especially Colonel Stars and Stripes and Mother Russia (Olga Kurkulina) really jumped out and distinguished themselves within the context of the film.

The action was fast-paced, there weren’t a lot of slogging story problems and the special effects were decent. There were a couple of silly elements which almost ruined some of the movie for me, but other than that the only thing I can really complain about is Hit Girl and her dealings with high school students and high school life: Nobody really cares. We spent far too much time dealing with the likes of Brooke, and exposing ourselves to Hit Girl’s vulnerable side…but Hit Girl doesn’t NEED a vulnerable side. I wanted to see more of her, well…hitting stuff.

So, if you liked the first one or other films in this genre (Super, Defendor) then you’re sure to love Kick-Ass 2.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Kick-Ass (2010)

Kick Ass (2010)

Original Theatrical Release: April 16, 2010
Director: Matthew Vaughn

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is a high school kid with lots of problems; Girls, unpopularity and no real talents to call his own. One day, after being robbed by some street thugs, Dave decides he’s had enough and creates the superhero persona of Kick Ass. Despite not having any powers or training, he becomes involved in a web of crime and punishment, teaming up with other ACTUAL vigilante heroes like Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage) and his daughter, Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) to take down evil crime lord Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) and his loyal son, Chris D’Amico/Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse).

Kick Ass is, of course, based on the Marvel/Icon comic written by Mark Millar and drawn by John Romita Jr. of the same name. The comic book differs a lot with major plot points but generally has the same feel, and both can be enjoyed as separate entities. I loved Kick Ass when it first came out, and I hadn’t read the comic before seeing the movie so I didn’t have trouble separating them from each other.

I have been getting a little bit of Nicholas Cage fatigue with all the films he’s been in lately, but this is one of his better roles. He totally nails Big Daddy, and it’s fun to see him on the screen as a cross between The Punisher and Batman. Chloe Grace-Moretz is one of the best characters in the movie as Hit Girl, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Christopher Mintz-Plasse both do a great job as nerdy guys trying to be heroes.

There is lots of action, very gratuitous violence and some great scenes. Kick Ass’ character is very reminiscent of Spider-Man’s early years, so it was fun seeing a “more” realistic take on a boy just buying a costume and putting it on to fight crime.

See this film, read the comic book. Enjoy both. The sequel is coming out soon.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Kick-Ass

The Punisher (2004)

The Punisher (2004)

Original Theatrical Release: April 16, 2004
Director: Jonathan Hensleigh

Frank Castle (Thomas Jane) is an FBI agent who foils a drug deal in which Howard Saint’s (John Travolta) son is killed. Saint is a crime lord of the highest caliber and sets out to punish everyone involved. He discovers that Castle and his family are getting together for a reunion and decides to kill them all. With his wife, son and entire family dead, Castle re-groups and goes on a vengeance-fueled murder rampage against the Saint family in an all out war as the Marvel Comics character, The Punisher.

I was never really sold on Thomas Jane as Frank Castle. I don’t fully know why, but I just wasn’t. I thought Dolph Lundgren looked the part back in The Punisher (1989) but that movie had about as much to do with the actual Punisher franchise as Mickey Mouse. Ray Stevenson, from Punisher: War Zone (2008) was a perfect casting for Castle, in my opinion, but that movie also suffered from severe story problems.

What I wish could have happened was that they took Ray and put him in this movie and then amped up the story and it could have been amazing. Really, it could have!

As it is, we get a glimpse of emotion when Frank’s wife and kid are running from the mobsters but then, after they kill Frank about 80 different ways (beating him senseless, shooting him point blank multiple times and then blowing him up) he is transformed to The Punisher but we don’t really transform with him. He is living in an apartment building with some wacky-yet-lovable neighbors (and also Rebecca Romijn Stamos, because she’s TOTALLY believable as the ‘girl next door’) who are constantly wondering about him.

My favorite parts about this movie were his fight with The Russian and the encounter with the singing assassin, Harry Heck, who sounds and looks a lot like Johnny Cash. Those guys were both taken from story runs that Garth Ennis did in the comic books, so I guess you could say I like the books more than the movie.

Jane’s Punisher is just never quite badass enough, which kind of ruined it for me. Travolta wasn’t too bad, but that’s the problem. We needed more time with Castle’s family so that we cared about them and THEN they should have killed them all off so we wanted to see them avenged. As it was, I just thought they all did incredibly idiotic things while they were being fired at by the mob.

In any case, it’s not the worst Punisher movie I’ve seen and certainly not one of the worst movies I’ve seen in general, but I felt kind of let down. I hope they re-boot this series someday, but I hope they stick with the emotional side of his loss because that’s what’s most effective in the comics and why he’s an enduring character. STORY FIRST, PEOPLE!

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For The Punisher