The main insult I’ve seen thrown at Unknown in the reviews I managed to read before heading into the theater to see it for myself was that the film is implausible. Unknown does require a very heavy suspension of disbelief but I don’t think that the plotline is anymore ludicrous than any other entry in the genre. Maybe those who find fault with the composition have the same qualms with Taken, although that film seems to enjoy a level of love that shoots that theory right out of the water. I don’t have a problem with Unknown, other than the fact that because of the level of absurdity in the plot the finale seems deflated and without a real sense of closure because the tone shift once the big reveal happens is so severe that any previous assumptions about how things would wrap up are tossed out the window.
I give Unknown major credit for keeping me guessing. The one thing that would have sunk this film entirely would be if I had been able to figure it out before the characters did. The twist is rather unexpected and therein lies a bit of the problem for some of the viewers who feel like the explaination to Mr. Neeson’s problems comes off as being from out of left field. I do agree that there was nothing previously indicated, no clue left that would point the viewer in this direction but the way it plays out is no less valid than whatever the viewer may have anticipated.
The only real problems I have with the film is the style of the action beats which are mostly obscured and dizzying. The phenomenon of the skakey-cam needs to go away sooner rather than later. I could tell that there was some decent car chase and fight choreography but that work was lost in the frenetic editing of the scenes. It doesn’t torpedo the movie entirely but it does take the viewer out of the action as they try to figure out what the hell is going on at certain points.
In the end, it’s not the mess some people make it out to be but neither is it the worthy successor to Taken that others hoped it would be.
Ben Affleck isn’t what everybody had made him into following the disaster that was Gigli. Sure he’d been in some pretty bad movies, but he’s always been a talented actor and back when he made Gone Baby Gone, it reminded everyone that he had some real credibility when it came to filmmaking. The guy won an Academy Award for writing with Matt Damon for Good Will Hunting and that wasn’t a fluke. His work on The Town proves that he does have a solid eye for putting together a good film.
In a way, The Town is like a less obtrusive companion piece to The Departed. Where Scorcese played to his image and rode the tropes that made him a powerhouse in the crime genre, Affleck paints a rougher and less refined portrait of Boston crime. The Town is a film that borrows from many great films before it, most notably from Michael Mann’s Heat, as you can see an easy influence of his heist and shootout style imprinted on Affleck’s gang of crooks, but at the same time, he never apes the style in a way that makes it seem like a carbon copy or a ripoff.
Affleck is smart enough to know that it’s the characters that make movies like this work. Well staged heist sequences alone aren’t going to make the film stand out. So here we get Affleck turning in his best acting work in ten years while Jeremy Renner revels in playing a character that in the seventies would have gone to a young Joe Pesci. He’s a violent hot-head with no sense of conscience. He has his own moral code, but societal values mean nothing to him and Renner plays it with a level of authenticity that will earn him more than a fair share of accolades to pile on top of his praise for The Hurt Locker. Jon Hamm does a good job with what he’s given, though he really doesn’t get enough time to develop into a well rounded character. We don’t really see what motivates him to be the kind of cop that he plays, but this isn’t his story, so it’s not that big a gripe. Blake Lively scores some major points for pulling off the trashy ex-girlfriend character and it’s obvious she’s trying to distance herself from Gossip Girl here, but she’s also a victim of not enough screen time syndrome.
All in all, this is still one of the best fims of the year. I imagine it’s really the first great movie of the fall season, and we’ll see how the rest of the Oscar bait stacks up in the coming weeks.
I remember seeing the original Piranha film years ago when I was entering my early teens. I saw it on Showtime or something in a back to back feature with Orca which is also a must-see film for many many reasons. I mean, it’s basically the Punisher starring a whale with the villain being a batshit crazy Richard Harris. Yes, that Richard Harris. The original Piranha didn’t stay with me the way Orca did. Or even any of the shitty Jaws sequels. I mean, I love me some Jaws 3. One of my regrets in life is that I’ve never been able to see it in true 3D. That slow-mo crash into the glass at the end must have been epic in three dimensions.
Luckily, I will not have to live with the regret of not seeing Piranha in 3D this year. I think this is one of the best films put into theaters as far as getting your money’s worth. Let’s not lie to each other, if you’re seeing a film like Piranha it’s probably for a particular reason. It’s not something where an unknown x-factor can ruin the film for you. You’re going to see a monster movie about a bunch of pre-historic piranha attacking a spring break beach party. Eli Roth is somehow involved. One of the main characters is portrayed by a well known pornstar. It’s directed by the dude who did The Hills Have Eyes, it’s not like walking into a film expecting an action film and getting a relationship drama. (Something that my friends have dubbed the “Public Enemies effect.”)
The film is 85 minutes of fish ripping people apart in glorious 3D. We get an abundance of female nudity and a lakeful of gore. It’s everything schlock horror is supposed to be. And this isn’t some shitty SyFy property, oh no, the gore and the effects in this film are wild, creative, and damn near perfect. I’m not going to lie, this may be some of Greg Nicotero’s best work. I haven’t heard an audience audibly react to a special effects gore shot the way they did with this one in a while. There are some moments where the audience was genuinely shocked, which is the desired effect with a movie like this. It needs to have that effect to be considered successful.
If you want to see some true b-movie madness, this is a must see. If you have any love for gorefest schlock, you need to buy a ticket ASAP.
Also, the film featured a cameo by Gianna Michaels, who I still have a mad-on for so it was good to see her again. Hooray for pornstars in mainstream film!
I want to come out and say that as far as comics to film translations go, the franchise that seems to have taken the essense of the stories and chracters and adapted them best for the screen has to be the Iron Man series. Every character retains their core in ways that are lost with films like Batman, Superman, and the X-Men films. I think the most telling moment in Iron Man 2 is when Tony Stark is clutching a bottle of champagne, suited up in the armor and scratching the turntables at his birthday party. The film is very comfortable in portraying the character in moments that otherwise would seem awkward. The films embrace the atmosphere that a billionare in a weaponized suit creates. It’s a level of fantasy fulfillment and straightforward production that seems lost in other films. It doesn’t feel very tongue in cheek, it’s just presented at face value and the audience goes with it, because it seems natural.
Which really needs to be the case in a film like Iron Man. It’s like a ride, and you have to be willing to realize that. Iron Man 2 certainly has some setbacks that are evident in most sequels. I however do not see the problem that certain people do, claiming that the film has too many new characters. All the characters introduced in the film do wonders with the time they are given. Sam Rockwell probably does the most with the limited screen time he’s given, making Justin Hammer his own and providing an excellent foil for Tony Stark and the scenes where the two share the screen are absolutely phenomenal. The chemistry between the two actors is amazing. And I think that’s another crux of what makes the film work the way it does; the chemistry that all these actors bring to their roles is as top tier as you can get. Gwenyth Paltrow, who I normally despise, works well with anyone she’s put up against. The same goes for Downey, or Don Cheadle or even Mickey Rourke, who just seethes a sort of dirty despicability. What I like about this film is that it feels like a Marvel book come to life. We get Nick Fury and the Black Widow sharing scenes with Iron Man and War Machine, all these heroes converging on screen in a way we’ve never seen before. In films like The Dark Knight, we got Batman and multiple villains, creating a miniature scale version of this effect, but that was a microcosm while this feels grander in scope.
While some will argue that War Machine and Black Widow don’t get enough time to be fleshed out completely, and therefore giving the producers no reason to use them in the first place, I think the film does a sufficient job in presenting them in such a way that when the inevitable spin-off films happen, they can hit the ground running in ways they previously could not. The origin story is such a boring aspect to most heroes, and most of the time we’re so familiar with them that we get bored when they play out on the screen, or we get angry if they change something in such a way that it betrays the spirit of the source material. I believe that with Iron Man, Marvel is doing an amazing job of world building. They have more room to maneuver than they ever have previously and it’s sad that DC can’t pull off the same feat. I personally would love to see a post-credits scene in Green Lantern where Hal Jordan is tracking a fast moving bogey only to happen upon a red blur that slows down just enough for us to get a glimpse of The Flash. Or maybe he crashes an F-15 into an invisible jet. Who cares, but let us see a larger world.
Like I said, the film is not perfect, and It probably could have used another big action scene to offset the more character driven dialogue pieces. I don’t need action all the time but the first film felt more balanced in this regard. I will admit however that the final set piece in this film trumps the less than stellar Iron Monger fight in the original, even if it is somewhat derivitive of that particular setup.