Don’t answer the door in ‘Knock Knock’

Rating 1/5

This goes for the audience. This is one of those movies where if you like that sort of thing, it will be the sort of thing you like. When I see movies, I usually watch them because they may sound or look interesting, regardless of who is starring in the film. This sounded kind of interesting so I viewed it. There’s about 100 minutes I’ll never get back. It doesn’t seem often that I give a one star rating, but here it is. This film had nothing that made me really care about the characters. I mean I did find myself cheering on the hero Keanu Reeves but it was just to get to the end to stop the agonizing torture I was feeling watching the movie.

Eli Roth directed Knock Knock, which was billed as an erotic thriller. However, it never seemed to be scary, erotic, or have the necessary suspense to carry the film. Knock Knock is apparently a loose remake of 1977’s Death Game where a story is told of Evan, an architect and happily married father of two, who finds himself alone after his wife (Ignacia Allamand) and kids (Dan and Megan Bailey) are off on a weekend trip while he stays behind to get some work done. Things unravel when he answers a knock on the door and invites two young women (Lorenza Izzo, Ana de Armas) from the rain who are apparently lost.

It appears that the two girls have developed a “game” for unsuspecting married men. We learn a little more about these two young women as the film goes on but it is unclear if they are always telling the truth or if it is more a part of their game. I was still trying to figure that out by the end of the film. I am not sure. I might have even missed something while viewing it because of the dulling pain I was enduring for the length of the film.

The performances were nothing great here, except for Reeves. He has come a little ways since his Bill and Ted days. For a period, though, he seemed to have this monotone voice in his performances, which made him sound like he was playing the same type of character over and over. Reeves played Evan with conviction and at the same time it was a quiet performance, which did fall flat at times but it was still better than anything else in the film. It had heart and it was believable on the simplest of levels.

Evan’s wife and kids aren’t in the film too much so for most of the film it was just Evan and the two girls who show up on his doorstep. Izzo and Armas play weak, stereotypical girls with not much depth or feeling. As I mentioned, there was nothing erotic (although there is some nudity and sexual situations, but they just seemed dull or forced) about the film and the same goes for these two characters. It became more annoying than anything else, which I think added to the mind-numbing pain I felt watching the film. So again, by the third act I was just cheering for Evan to either kill or kick those little girls’ asses. That might sound a little violent, but that’s what I was feeling because I believe that’s what Evan was thinking about doing. But he is not a violent man. I was waiting for something like that to happen in order to end my torment (as well as Evan’s) because I really began despising those two annoying female characters.

The story might be plausible. The characters might be engaging. And maybe in another type of film with another type of director, this combination might have actually worked. But as it is (and as I’ve said), it doesn’t quite work well here for me. The characters needed more. The story needed more. The scenes needed more. More what you might ask? Well….just more. More of anything that would lead be to be intrigued by the story and characters. More of that something to be captured by the unfolding action of the plot and situations. Just more.

In the special features there is an alternate ending. The ending shown there (while still unsatisfactory) would have still been more satisfying than the ending they cut for the release of the film. I don’t know what it was about the film that turned me away from it. It wasn’t really the content or the themes, which really seemed to point at the plausibility of men’s infidelity and the reversal of how women can be as dominating as men. I believe it was just the way the two young female characters were portrayed and the overall acting in the film. Again, it became more annoying than anything else, and the film never left me with enough to fully care about the characters.

 

 

 

Another Bourne story unfolds in ‘The Bourne Legacy’

Rating 3/5

Continuing the Bourne story with The Bourne Legacy, we find a new character (as previously mentioned in my previous Bourne trilogy reviews) that is in the secret program Bourne was in (because there was never just one). I wasn’t sure how this story was going to play out when I first heard about the film, because you know, Matt Damon wasn’t in it. As it is, The Bourne Legacy was engaging and entertaining but not quite as thrilling as the original Bourne trilogy.

In this story Jeremy Renner plays Aaron Cross, a participant in the secret government program that enhances the participant’s mental and physical agility, who is still “training” at a secret facility. The events of this film coincide with the events of the last Bourne film (The Bourne Ultimatum). This made the film interesting to watch and at the same time a little confusing keeping the main Cross storyline straight with the Jason Bourne sub-storyline as the hunt was on for his capture.

Due to the rogue antics of Jason Bourne, the powers that be wanted to shut down the program and eliminate all remaining participants. They try to take out Cross at his training area but were unsuccessful. Scott Glenn, Stacy Keach, Albert Finney, and Edward Norton are in the cast as the leads of the secret program that would be considered the villain of the story, much like Joan Allen and Brian Cox were previously.

After the attempt to eradicate Cross at the facility, he runs to find the doctor he had previous contact with during the program, Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), because apparently she knows how to manufacture the pills he thinks he needs in order to stay at the top of his game. The program offered pills for the participants in order to keep them programmed and “trained” for what is needed of them. So, he needs pills. Dr. Shearing can make them. They travel across the world in order to get them made. That seems to be the main thrust of the story with Cross.

However, like the Bourne trilogy before, it seemed Cross was a step ahead and appeared nearly unstoppable as he was being pursued. I suppose that element has to exist in order for the film to exist, but if Cross was caught too soon then there wouldn’t be much of a film. So the chase scenes continued. Chase after chase, the hero eludes his pursuers and then we’re left with an ending similar to how each of the previous films ended with our hero seemingly bound to live a happy and free life away from the program.

Norton and company played their characters with precision and determination. They were nearly flawless in their actions within the story framework. Renner had conviction with his character that almost matched Damon’s as Bourne, but just a bit under par. Weisz was convincing as an unwitting participating doctor in the program. She had a bit of frailty to her character but also showed a strong will and ferocity when needed.

I think what missed for me was the slow start to the film. For me, it took a little bit for the action to get going and nearly lost me. Once Cross met up with Dr. Shearing, it did pick up but it still wasn’t quite enough to sustain my total interest as the other films did. As a stand alone film, it seemed quite entertaining, but as part of the Bourne universe it lacked some of the Bourne standards. Additionally, Legacy’s chase scenes (nearly a necessity for action films) were a bit much and had the appearance of going on and on like the Energizer Bunny. They didn’t have the same exciting appeal as the original Jason Bourne trilogy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bourne uncovers more truths in ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’

Rating 4/5

This Bourne trilogy might be considered overrated. Some might say the story is inconceivable. Why do you need three films to discover one’s identity? I think the answer is that it really doesn’t matter. As I’ve said of the other two films before this installment, the film’s story and characters are engaging enough to buy in to this world that has been created. The audience is free to cheer on Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne character. It is clear now that Bourne (or whatever his true name really is) does not want to be a part of this secret government program any longer, and it is this inner conflict and the continuing pursuit of his “enemies” that make these compelling characters to watch.

Run, Jason, run. And run some more. The successful techniques and elements used in Identity and Supremacy are prevalent here in this film, which adds to the success of these films. Tony Gilroy returns with writers Scott Z. Burns and George Nolfi to pen the script to create this thrilling world with truly living three-dimensional characters to entertain. Director Paul Greengrass helms this production and brings together the elements almost flawlessly for a well-coordinated piece of film. As with the other films, the camera movements, quick shots, music, cinematography, acting and dialogue come together with seeming ease.

I have said this in my previous review that it almost seems preposterous the kind of situations that arise and Bourne finds himself in. Because I don’t pretend to admit that I know everything there is to know about the government, CIA, and its secret programs and operations. I am aware they exist. But the sequences in these films are so well done that Greengrass skillfully weaves the story into the action of the film to provide enough excitement to again sustain that suspension of disbelief and be fully engaged in the film.

Everything comes together to complete this trilogy. However, it still leaves more. One might think what other circumstances and situations Bourne might find himself in? How do the government officials with all their resources bent on stopping Bourne and not be able to do it? Bourne is someone is has a remarkable set of skills and uses those skills skillfully in order to stay ahead of his enemies and to stay alive.

In respect of not sounding too repetitive, there is not much more to say about this film (or the other two in the trilogy) that hasn’t been said or mentioned. This character seems to go on and on. I read another reviewer that mentioned Bourne could feasibly go on for years to come, like James Bond, with other actors portraying this character. As I mentioned in my review of The Bourne Supremacy, Matt Damon is Jason Bourne. I can’t really see anyone else playing this role. But I suppose it could be done since it was done with Bond (Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, and Pierce Brosnan to name a few). Time will tell what is in store for this character and these stories.

There must be a variety of stories that could be taken from the Robert Ludlum novels as it has spawned this trilogy, a fourth film (previously mentioned in another post) with a Bourne-like character and the story unfolding as the events of this third film are playing out. And a fifth film, released last year, in which the Bourne character is back in Jason Bourne. And guess who’s back to portray Bourne? That’s right. Matt Damon returns for a fourth time as Jason Bourne. But how much more of his story is there? We shall see. For now, we can sit back and get caught up in the action and excitement of this world with the Bourne trilogy.

 

 

 

Terror mounts at high altitudes in ‘Snakes on a Plane’

Rating 1.5/5

Well my title might be a little misleading. Because I don’t think the characters in the film were ever really terrified, just maybe slightly alarmed. The danger seemed almost laughable, and still slightly plausible. But the execution of the script never really made be feel for the characters to care what happened to them. Although the film did deliver one of my favorite lines in cinema as only Samuel L. Jackson can deliver it, Snakes on a Plane was filled with a smorgasbord of seemingly repetitive shock effects that the suspense and “terror” is drowned out and does not sustain the film for its nearly 105 minute run time.

The plot is simple and seemingly basic. Jackson plays FBI agent Neville Flynn. He is on a flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles transporting a witness (Nathan Phillips) to testify against a bad man. The bad man is so bad that he manages to load the cargo of the plane with crates of deadly, poisonous snakes. And that’s how the snakes get on the plane. The snakes get loose and begin creating havoc among the passengers of the plane killing several. The survivors then have to deal with the threat of the snakes for the remainder of the flight. The survivors include flight attendants Juliana Margulies, Rachel Blanchard, Lin Shaye and Bruce James; passengers Sunny Mabrey, Flex Alexander, Kenan Thompson, Keith Dallas, and pilot David Koechner (who later meets his demise, but more on that in a bit). There are a few others but they’re hardly worth mentioning. They either die early in the film or they have such a low impact on the story or outcome of the film that they don’t really deserve a mention.

While the survivors scramble to keep alive, Flynn is in contact with his FBI buddies on the ground and gets them to scramble around to find a snake expert to develop anti-venom to treat the ones who have been bit, but still stay alive long enough for the plane to miraculously land. It makes for some mindless entertainment but it is not thrilling enough to keep me totally involved in the story.

Some problems exist with the story. How does the villain of the story know for sure the snakes would get out? (I mean supposedly there is some kind of pheromone or something released which apparently gets the snakes agitated and that’s why they start attacking everyone, but if they don’t get out then what’s the point?) As I said, the pilot survives for a while, even after getting bit in the arm, but then later is killed late in the second act. Now there is no one to fly the plane. So Flynn asks if there is anyone with any kind of flight experience. And guess who has experience – Kenan Thompson. However, his experience comes from a flight simulator. The miraculous landing comes from Thompson taking the controls and Jackson delivering his line about getting these “motherfucking snakes off this motherfucking plane.” His plan is to shoot out a window and watch as the snakes get sucked out of the plane while holding on for dear life. The plane is safely landed in the hands of someone who is just good at a video game, which might be plausible in the world of this film but still seems a bit far-fetched.

What else can be said of Snakes on a Plane? Not much. With its flaws and low-key performances, it does have some credibility, just not much to write home about. Perhaps just enough to write a seemingly scathing review for a blog? Well here it is. This film might be another one of those movies that would be good for some mindless entertainment on a lazy afternoon, but nothing more than that. David R. Ellis’ direction was nothing great here. Maybe in the hands of a more prolific director it might have been something, but as it is it leaves something to be desired. The script, written by John Heffernan and Sebastian Gutierrez, left a lot to be desired and seemed mediocre at best.

So if you’re in the mood for some great acting, a good story, compelling characters, then you might have to check out something else like a Scorsese picture. You won’t find much of that here. But if you want to kick back, have a few laughs, and let your mind wander in the presence of tedious storytelling and senseless action, then pop some popcorn and buckle in.

 

Bourne is back in ‘The Bourne Supremacy’

Rating 4/5

Director Paul Greengrass helmed the follow-up to 2002’s The Bourne Identity. Tony Gilroy returns as screenwriter, again adapting the script from Robert Ludlum’s novel. In this installment, there is more of the same from the first film but is taken to another level as we learn more about Bourne and his past as an event forces him out to again go on the run to face the ones who are after him.

The film begins with Bourne living happily with Marie (Franka Potente, from the first film) on a beach in India. Soon they are on the run after Bourne notices a man out of place. From there, things escalate and Bourne is thrust into another adventure with high stakes on the line. The film does not fail in delivering the fights, chases, and fast-paced character driven action that made the first film a success.

This installment brings together the usual thriller components and hurtles from location to location across the world, while never being bogged down with unnecessary action, dialogue, story and character development. Matt Damon returns as Jason Bourne and still brings the energy and intensity he had in the first film. I think what makes these films stand out for me is partly because of Damon’s performance. He brings the right level of energy without being overbearing and still true to the character and story. He wasn’t a flashy, over-the-top character to just exist because he is a character written on a page. He brings life to the character and it is hard to imagine any other actor in this role. Matt Damon is Jason Bourne

Joan Allen joins the cast as Pamela Landy, a CIA agent charged with finding Bourne after evidence emerges that Bourne was involved in a murder of a CIA agent and his criminal contact in Berlin. Brian Cox returns as Ward Abbott, essentially Landy’s boss. And Julia Styles reprises her role from the previous film.

The plausibility of some of the events in the film from ever happening (or happening they way they were portrayed in the film) is borderline preposterous, like similar events in the Taken franchise, but Bourne just does it better. It makes Bourne look like a guy who knows what he’s doing and does it so well. This is in part due to the fact the source material seems to be more credible than the Liam Neeson franchise. What also sets these films apart, as in the first film, is the use of the various locations and music to underscore the developing story. I also like the quick camera cuts and close up shots during the fight scenes. It seems to put the audience in the middle of the frantic action taking place on screen. Some may not like that. I think it adds to the film.

Are these films perfect? Not really. But they are very effective in telling the story while keeping the audience entertained and enthralled and they have just the right amount of movie magic to maintain that suspension of disbelief. Greengrass and company have scored another hit with this franchise. Identity doubled its production costs while Supremacy took in more than half of its production costs as revenue. There doesn’t seem to be anything slowing down the momentum of this engaging trilogy.

Thrills and action prevail in ‘The Bourne Identity’

Rating 4/5

Say what you will about action movies. Say what you will about thrilling thrillers. Say what you will about Jason Bourne, a character portrayed by Matt Damon in the film adaptations of the Robert Ludlum novels. Tony Gilroy and William Blake Herron took Ludlum’s world of the CIA and trained assassins and created a fast-paced, high-energy story about a man whose lost his memory and tries to escape the world in which he was in, all the while running to find a new life for himself.

The Bourne Identity could be considered a skillful action movie in that the action scenes (fights and chases) are done well. Director Doug Liman has put together a highly efficient film where all the film elements seamlessly move together to produce a quite entertaining, enjoyable, well-acted film.

In the film, Jason Bourne (Damon), a CIA operative in a secret program trained as an assassin, is found floating in the sea and awakens with no memory of who he is or his former life. As he fights his way to discover his identity, he realizes the path to his past is much more than he thought. As the story unfolds, pieces of his past are revealed but apparently not enough to fully infiltrate his true self because two more films were warranted for the scope of this character and his past. And not only two more films in this Bourne trilogy, but a separate film (based on a Ludlum novel) with a different character, similar to Bourne (because Bourne wasn’t the only one in the program), and most recently a fifth film entitled Jason Bourne. But I am swaying off the topic just a bit and those reviews will follow in future posts.

In his quest for his identity, he enlists the help of a woman Marie (Franka Potente) he met a bank and learning he has a particular set of skills he doesn’t seem to remember how he obtained those skills. He offers Marie $10,000 to drive him to Paris. Along the way, he discovers clues about his past while evading numerous agents out to kill him because the government officials heading up the secret program believe he is a rogue operative and needs to be stopped because he seems to be a threat to the government.

In most stories of good guys and bad guys, the good guy (hero) is someone the audience is supposed to feel for. They should be cheering him on and developing a connection with him (or her) so that when the hero triumphs there is a satisfaction and a relief felt by the audience. In a story such as this, the hero is a trained assassin who goes on missions in order to save American lives, but that may not always be the case because he may not always be told the whole truth (for the sake of the mission and to protect the government and have deniable plausibility. But there might be a connection here with this particular character because as he is learning who he was, and it becomes clear he doesn’t want to do that anymore. He wants to be left alone and live a different life away from the government. This is a character driven story in that Bourne drives the action. He runs. He fights. He rests. Confronts some of his enemy. Repeat. This is a standard formula in most action films of this genre.

The action sequences are well choreographed where Bourne seems to be a one-man army taking on several assailants at once and appearing to be thinking one step ahead of his enemy at all times, which include Chris Cooper, Brian Cox, and Clive Owen. The performances were outstanding. Damon brings a sincere, energized look and feel to the character and all the actors brought something to their individual characters, which made them distinct, interesting, and entertaining and moved the story and action along. There were wonderful locations and the cinematography just added to the film and never seemed to lack in keeping it from being dull.

One might view The Bourne Identity as mindless entertainment. It might have some flaws, but I believe they would be miniscule compared to the story and action of the film. It was an entertaining, character-driven thrill ride, unlike the Taken films. Bourne just seems to do it better.

 

 

 

 

‘Going in Style’ needs just a little more style

Rating 2.5/5

The recent release of Going in Style was a remake of a 1979 film of the same name starring George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg. It would be interesting and fun to see those actors in that film and I will have to check that out. So that will be on my list for a future post. Not having seen the prior film, I cannot comment on it so I’ll have to rely on what I saw as I viewed this 2017 version.

This 2017 remake stars Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin, and was written by Theodore Melfi and Edward Cannon. At the helm of this production is director Zach Braff. The trailer leads us to believe the film is a laugh out comedy. I believe it was written as a comedy (or at least meant to be a comedy) but it is not what it appears. Of course there were comedic moments in the film, but they were few and far between and those moments did not sustain the film as a comedy. However, I believe this version seemed to be more of a social commentary on big corporations keeping the working-man down and the importance of family. But even those elements did not seem to hold up the film. With all that being said, the filmmakers were more than likely looking at the big names (Caine, Freeman, and Arkin) in the cast to really sell this movie. The film also starred Ann-Margret, Christopher Lloyd, and Joey King.

Even with its flaws, the film was enjoyable. It was probably not as enjoyable as it could have been, but still watchable. One of the main problems with this film, though, is that it plays on and on, seemingly taking forever to really get going. The plot is pretty basic, as the three main characters have been screwed by big banks and a shady corporate deal that robs them of their pensions. So they decide to rob a bank (the same bank that holds the mortgage for one of them). All the planning, family issues, and social issues that are shown through half of the film come together for the actual event of the heist, which remarkably takes only a few minutes of the film. Most of the time for the film is spent looking into the lives of these characters and their reaction to the world around them.

The performances were adequate here for the film, but nearly bordered on low-key performances and almost seemed wasteful of the talents from these three film actors. There have been other films where it seems to have low energy or a lot of excitement infused in the action of the film and I mostly despise those films. I’ve compared those films to seeing a live theatrical play where the energy from the actors is low and the play just seems to drag. That’s almost how this film felt at times, but even so there was a quiet charm to the film. It had just enough to keep me into the film and engaged with the characters and story to see it through, despite its quiet, slow action and soft characters.

If you’re looking for a fun time, laugh out loud comedy, then this film is probably not for you. If you might be looking for stellar performances from three iconic actors, you might look somewhere else. But even with its slow-moving action, low-key performances, it might be good for some simple entertainment for a lazy afternoon. As it did with me, it might just keep your interest just enough to be watchable and enjoyable on some level.