Sunday, July 01, 2007
Movie Reviews: LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD, BLACK SNAKE MOAN & BEHIND THE MASK THE RISE OF LESLIE VE
LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD
John McClane (Bruce Willis) and a wisecracking hacker (Justin Long) fight an "Internet terrorist organization" that threatens to bring down the U.S. government, perhaps with some sort of spam or phishing scheme.
Cast Bruce Willis, Justin Long, Maggie Q, Timothy Olyphant, Jonathan Sadowski, Mary Elizabeth Winstead (more)
Director(s) Len Wiseman
Status In theaters (wide)
Release Date June 27, 2007
Running Time 130 minutes
MPAA Rating PG-13
Len Wiseman does his best Michael Bay impressions with his enjoyable summer fluff Live Free or Die Hard. The action is fast and fierce right for the start and only occasionally lets up so they can explain the nonsensical plot. When this movie works, mostly during the large action set pieces, it really works but when some of those action sequences get so ridiculous that you can't help but be taken out of the experience. Wiseman lacks the visual flair of Michael Bay but he keeps the movie moving quickly and makes the 2 hours plus run time breeze buy. Wiseman achieves this by simply causing as much possible collateral damage as possible with his sometime inventive action sequences. Bruce Willis looks very comfortable back in the role that made him a star and does a good job of delivering some fun lines of dialogue. Justin Long is a good compliment to Willis only occasionally becoming obnoxious, still for the most part he does a good job as the comedic relief. Timothy Olyphant doesn't quiet achieve the necessary mix of charm and villainy that Alan Rickman did in the original but he's decent if not memorable. If I have one issue with the characters in this movie it'd be that they are all cardboard cut out of types, Justin Long computer hacker is Red Bull drinking type who lives in an apartment that looks like it's never seen the light of day and Kevin Smith bit part as a super hacker living in his mother's basement doesn't reek of originality. Still small complaints aside, Live Free or Die Hard is good old fashion "check your brain at the door" summer fun.
BLACK SNAKE MOAN
A has-been blues musician (Samuel L. Jackson) is placed in charge of the rehabilitation of a hopeless nymphomaniac (Christina Ricci).
Cast Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Ricci, Justin Timberlake, John Cothran Jr., S. Epatha Merkerson, David Banner (more)
Director(s) Craig Brewer
Status On DVD
Release Date March 2, 2007
DVD Release Date June 26, 2007
MPAA Rating R - for strong sexual content, language, some violence and drug use.
Black Snake Moan is a lyrical blue song come to life. Craig Brewer infuses the movie with a certain beat and rhythm that permeates throughout the film. Brewer does a wonderful job of shooting this film emphasizing the lush color of the environment. Story wise, once you get past the ludicrous concept along with some very obvious visual metaphors, Rae sleeps in a scarlet blanket ala the Scarlet Letter, and accept the world presented you can't help but be pulled into the emotionally involving story. This is helped immensely by a pair of powerhouse performances from both stars. Sam Jackson delivers his best performance in a long while, avoiding the pitfall of self parody. His stellar portrayal of Lazarus is moving and emotionally complex. He does an excellent job of presenting a flawed man whom is seeking redemption. Christina Ricci match him every step of the way and takes what could have been an extremely clichéd character and turns it into a living breathing person. It's a true joy to watch her and Jackson interact as they build a believable father daughter relationship as the movie progresses. If there is one weak spot, it has to be Justin Timberlake. The entire movie is drenched in dirty grimy sweatiness and to say that Timberlake stands out is a bit of an understatement. His few acting scenes are painfully amateurish while everyone around him is at the top of their game. A minor misstep mainly because he's miscast, regardless Brewer had crafted an excellent film that is enjoyable from start to finish.
BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON
A documentary film crew gets unprecedented access to the next great masked serial killer, Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel) as he prepares for his big slaying debut. Tired of traditional slasher movie conventions, Leslie hopes to take his killing up to a whole new level.
Cast Nathan Baesel, Robert Englund, Zelda Rubinstein, Scott Wilson, Angela Goethals, Scott Glosserman (more)
Director(s) Scott Glosserman
Writer(s) Scott Glosserman, David J. Stieve
Status On DVD
Release Date March 16, 2007
DVD Release Date June 26, 2007
Running Time 92 minutes
MPAA Rating R - Rated R for horror violence, language, some sexual content and brief drug use.
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon possesses a certain charm and works, at least for the first 2 thirds of the film, as a great mocumentary and as a deconstruction of classic 80's horror films. During the film's first act, it has a great This is Spinal Tap feel to it, except of course, you're dealing with a slasher killer here. The tone is light and laughs come naturally as the premise is set up. Writer director Scott Glosserman effectively shoots the first 2 acts of his film like a blend between The Blair Witch Project and Scream. Tongue placed firmly in cheek but never ridiculing the genre. Diehard horror fans will notice lots little things, like a puzzle box from Hellraiser in the background, the van the documentary crew drive looks nearly identical to the one used to in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and plenty more little nods. Also, having Kane Hodder, in a quick cameo, and Robert Englund, as Doc Halloran, just reinforces the notion that the writers love the genre. While the concept is sound, the execution is fairly hit or miss, specifically the acting. Nathan Baesel as the titular character is charming but infuses the part with enough quiet mania that the character is believable as a killer. Sadly, Angela Goethal's reporter isn't nearly as good as Baesel's character. Goethal's acting is mediocre at times and just plain atrocious the rest of the time. The rest of cast performance ranges from passable to laughable at times. Still it's not enough to detract from the excellent first 2 acts. Sadly, when the movie hits it's final act, things get much less rosy. The film from there on in is shot in a traditional style and things get extremely predictable as the film turns into a good old fashion slasher film. Matter are made worse by the fact that Leslie Vernon's get up makes him look like a cross between Charlie Brown and Marilyn Manson in overalls. Overall, this film does enough right in the better part of the movie to overlook some of its more glaring flaws.