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Archive for July, 2014

3 Days to Kill (2014)

3 days to kill posterCIA agent falls ill on a mission, discovers that he has terminal cancer and goes to spend his last days with his estranged daughter and wife.  While in Paris he is contacted by a CIA handler who wants him to finish his last mission, in exchange for some sort of miracle/experimental drug.  The film then follows Ethan (Kevin Costner) as he attempts to mend his relationship with his daughter while hunting down The Wolf.

Now, when I saw trailers for this film I was given the impression that this was an action movie, some thing along the lines of a retired cop coming back for one last mission, with gun fights, action, explosions, car chases and one liners. This film instead decides to spend more time showing Ethan rebuilding his bond with Zooey, his daughter.  Now while I’m not against this type of drama being in an action film I don’t really want the central part of the film to be eaten up with it, nor did I really need to see Ethan kick a bunch of youths who are about to do unspeakable things to his drugged up daughter only to be told that she didn’t remember what was happening in the toilets.  The film seems to be two distinct parts, the CIA work parts, shooting and violence with some interesting quips along with some wired strip-tease theatre and the family man trying to make up for lost time with his daughter and wife.  Now either part on their own would have been okay and I guess I’m more upset that the film didn’t make it clearer to me that this wasn’t Taken or it could have been an attempt to describe the work life balance that these agents have and the fact that you can’t take this work home with you but it didn’t feel like a cohesive film to me.  It had the feel of two scripts mashed together to make an overly long film with some scenes that felt entirely out of place.

Lets talk about the action, once again the film feels disjointed here with some scenes showing highly efficient and blunt action, men getting shot once, going down and staying down, but then the film, for no reason other than plot reasons, will have characters escape from a situation that should have killed them, or at the very least resulted in them having some injury, being left unscathed.  This breaks immersion for me, I am happy for your characters in a film to be tough enough to hit by squarely by a speeding car, fall of a bridge onto a paved floor and be fine, but only if this is consistent with what I’ve previously seen.  Don’t allow your characters to do this after everyone else is incapacitated by a light punch, it seems cheap and feels it as well.

On the note of cheap, lets mention the product placement that is rampant in this film.  You’d have to be blind not to notice it and it, like the note on violence above, breaks my immersion in the film, it’s okay that no one says, “Peugeot” but you have Ethan drive one of their cars, buy his daughter one of their bikes and stick a giant poster on the walls of the Metro for the scene.  It’s the same as the way that Ethan’s Samsung phone keeps being in shot in a manner that just doesn’t feel natural.  The S4 or S5 is a common phone and it is great but the way it’s being held just looks like an advert which irks me because it doesn’t seem in character.  As Ethan collapses due to his brain cancer he pulls out his phone, and I think uses some voice command to dial his handler.  It just doesn’t seem in character, he could have used the just dialled list as she was the last person to ring him but no they use some ham-fisted move to place in a subtle pump for Samsung.

As we approach the end of this, another issue I had with the film is they dangle death just in front of Ethan simply so he can be persuaded to work for the CIA again. Ethan in one scene is being told he has a few months and will not see Christmas, well that doctor needs to hang his head in shame as some syringe with a mysterious liquid seems to keep Ethan alive, it’s probably stem-cell research combined with babies blood and unicorn saliva, hell it’ll probably let him see another millennia if that’s what the plot required.  The medicine existing is not my reason for being upset, it’s a mcguffin that keeps the story moving and gives Ethan a reason to work for the CIA again, my grievance is that once again it comes off as uninspired, it is used to give this happy ending to a man who should be terminal ill and instead because of this drug he is as healthy as a spring chick.

The scenery was generally good, I mean it’s Paris, the European equivalent of New York it seems, if some thing is going down over in Europe it’s probably going to be in Paris, it looked nice and there was good contrast between Ethan’s apartment and that of his partner, who it seems never got a divorce of had anything going on as she stayed married to this man despite moving across the world, a contrast of basic items and luxury, we didn’t get treated to an extended tour of Paris which is a change but no one used the Louvre as a ramp which is a negative in my mind.

Luc Besson has come a long way and while I often like his films this time I feel it missed it’s mark.  The plot as a whole is disjointed, the action mismatched and the characters for the most part not all that likeable, Ethan does have development but it honestly feels forced and rushed.  The side characters are interesting and provide some light relief, in fact the jokes made by the support cast are quite good, Besson shows his talent when you get moments like the French police being unhelpful and screaming while watching a football match on an old CRT.  These moments though are not enough to carry the film and it ultimately feels like it missed the mark and overstayed its welcome by about half an hour.

As a sub point the director is simply McG, who after looking up is a great producer, but as a director, I think he has room to develop.

 

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Hellraiser (1987)

HellrHellraiser-Posteraiser is the directorial debut for Clive Barker, it focuses on Frank who having found a bunch of BDSM alien/demons decides that being torn to literal pieces isn’t for him so he escapes and gets his ex-lover, who is now living with his brother, to kill people so that their blood will rejuvenate him.  This plan is ruined when the Kirsty (The brothers daughter) finds the cube that opens the gateway between worlds and alerts the Kinky-Pain-Alien-Demons that Frank has escaped and she can lead them to him if they’ll let her go.  The final third of the film is the resolution between Frank, the daughter and the aliens which ended up seeming a little cheesy at the end.

The scope of the film is quite limited, it is just Frank trying to escape his own personal hell and Kirsty trying to not end up in the same place.  Sure some people get killed but the film never veers into telling us that the world is danger or that if Frank isn’t sent back to his “Kinky-Kage” he will cause Earth to be invaded.  This contained plot is refreshing in a world where every film has such grand scope, by focusing on a small group of characters we get a chance see them develop.  Julia for example goes from reluctant helper to willing accomplice, which does earn her some comeuppance near the end of the film, its the kind of growth that is lost in a film with a cast of dozens.

Probably the most notable or memorable part is the special effects, the make-up on the Cenobites (the correct name for the Bondage-alien-things) is fantastic, their deathly pale skin contrasts strongly with the red of their gaping wounds, the make-up on Frank, who spends most of the film as a skinless man is similarly brilliant.  The whole asthetic of the delapidated house and bleak background scenery really does help strengthen the idea that the Cenobites and their pain/pleasure is an escape or release from the mundane and ordinary world.

Near the end of the film Kirsty discovers that the puzzle box can send the Cenobites back to their own world or at the very least away from this plane in what feels like an heavy handed way to have a happy ending, a door lintel falling on one of the antagonists further adds to this feeling which mars the end of the film.  Perhaps I’m overly cynical or just don’t like happy endings, but if Kirsty and her male friend had been taken I’d of been just as happy as if they stayed alive.  The film closing with a scene similar to the opening one however is much appreciated as it allows you to think that the cycle will continue, and seeing as they made several movies it’s safe to say that they did.

I’d suggest watching this if you’re filling in some horror genre blanks or want to see some neat make up effects but the script and acting didn’t stand out as amazing to me, though both served as good enough vehicles to advance the plot.  By not explaining much about the Cenobites or showing them to a great amount we aren’t bored of them by the time the movie ends, instead we are intrigued and want to know more about them, something that modern films could do a little more.