A discussion of Red (2010)

RedReleased: October 15, 2010. Director: Robert Schwentke. Stars: Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, Morgan Freeman. Runtime: 111 min. 

I’m joined by Dave over at Dave Examines Movies for a fairly short discussion of the 2010 actioner “Red,” starring Bruce Willis, Mary Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich and Morgan Freeman, to name a few members of the core cast. It seems that, as an effort to appeal to older audiences, many studios have making movies that appeal to the older audience; like “Hope Springs” or “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” But “Red” is no heartwarming dramedy – it’s an exciting action comedy, that came a few months after the release of Sylvester Stallone’s attempt to launch “The Expendables” franchise. Like “The Expendables,” it isn’t great in the story department – but it’s a truly fun experience.

The story follows Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), a former black-ops agent, who, after his life was threatened, has to regroup his old team in a last effort to survive and uncover his assailants.

Now, for the discussion I had with Dave… (Enjoy!)

Daniel: So Dave, how’d you like the movie?

Dave: I thought it was good, funny, and handled rather well for an ensemble comedy. I had some issues with how memorable it was though, how about you?

Daniel: I liked it, as well. Great fun, at least it’s more memorable than the other Willis geriatric actioner, “The Expendables” – so that has to count for something. What was your main issue with it?

Dave: I basically realized that the story in general was rather forgettable. I have seen “Red” once before when it first came out, and for a film that isn’t even five years old, I couldn’t remember what the premise was even about past a bunch of old guys in humorous action sequences, and yes, a lot of fun. To me, that seems to suggest little focus was actually spent on the story. For what it was, it’s exciting and hilarious to watch in the moment, but there are some things that escape your memory as time passes.

Daniel: Now that I think about that, and even though I only watched for the first time about a month ago, I’m only remembering the premise as Willis is a dangerous retiree who has to survive against a bunch of people who are trying to kill him. And I can’t remember what their motivations really were, to kill him. But do comic book adaptations usually have generic stories? It seems so, but like you say, I find it a blast – it certainly has a rewatchability factor.

Dave: It does, I agree. You can rewatch this for the sheer enjoyability of the thing. This is one of the only instances where I say screw the story, it was presented in such a fashion that you can have a blast watching. In some respect, it reminds me of a humorous version of “The Expendables”, but that’s fine, given the fact that I wasn’t a huge fan of “The Expendables.” For Red, you have a great display of chemistry between the characters and a good amount of individual humor shared between them. You might not care about *why* they are doing the things they are doing, but you do care about the characters themselves, and love watching them in action.

Daniel: Definitely! For a movie that doesn’t truly care about the story, I at least don’t have the trouble I do trying to explain the plot of something like that “The Expendables” or, even though they aren’t alike, “Grown Ups“. The characters and the action are what matter, here. The chemistry is on-point. I think the relationship between Willis and Parker is charming. I think Marvin is the best character. Malkovich is so hilarious as that eccentric.

Dave: I just love Malkovich in anything he is a part of. That man is all over the place, and I love it. As for how the movie looks: It set a tone, and it stuck to it. There is never a moment in the film where you feel like something was done out of place. You understand the world the film takes place in, and it remains consistent throughout. Is there anything negative you have to say about it?

Daniel: Agreed, director Robert Schwentke knows what he wants to do with it. Not majorly, no. For an ensemble piece, everyone gets a chance to shine, even if I felt Morgan Freeman wasn’t utilized as well as he could have been. And I was underwhelmed by the antagonists. And, like we discussed, the lack of greatness in the story department. I find when the film doesn’t have the greatest story, it’s more difficult to discuss. Do you feel the need to mention anything about it?

Dave: I would just have to say the lack of a memorable storyline dragged this film to a place it didn’t want to be in. Having that downfall basically made Red a tad forgettable in an area that will hurt them in the end. Years after people watch it, and when it pops up in a conversation, they’ll be saying, “Remember that one funny movie…with the old people…and all the violence?” Well, that could be a number of films. This film is unique in a way, it just doesn’t have the long-term click that makes it fully memorable… Do you have a rating for it?

Daniel: Hahah exactly. I’d give it a 78, because it’s not quite at an 80, lol. And even though I’m not a fan of giving random-ish scores like that any more, I think I have to bend the rules for this one.  What would you give it?

Dave: Close to yours, actually, I gave it a 76, because I see it as better than 75. Thanks for discussing Red with me, and I hope we can do it again sometime soon!

Daniel: Nice! Thanks for the discussion, Dave. I hope so, too! Would you want to discuss the sequel once we both see it?

Dave: I was going to suggest the same thing. Sounds like a plan!

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White House Down (2013)

White House DownRelease Date: June 28, 2013. Director: Roland Emmerich. Stars: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal. Runtime: 131 min.

Apparently infiltrating the White House is so easy, everyone’s doing it! (And they just finished re-building it, too!) All you have to do is rally up a bunch of people who are angry at the government, spend a day planning, synchronize your watches, and go to town. But be careful, there’s going to be a highly-decorated police officer of some kind standing in your way.

John Cale (Channing Tatum) is a Capitol police officer on tour of the White House with his daughter Emily (Joey King). He is also interviewing for a spot on the Secret Service, protecting President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx). On that very day, because the President issued an international Peace Treaty, a paramilitary group invades the White House; now John must save his daughter, the President, and the country.

Whether it be Channing Tatum vs. a 25-person paramilitary group or Gerard Butler vs. North Korea’s entire 300 person army, both action guys are forces to be reckoned with. “Olympus Has Fallen” had to face comparisons to “Die Hard” back in March, so compared to this, it is living on easy street. Now, this has to face comparisons to both “Die Hard” and “Olympus.” Will it stand strong through all of it? Probably not.

“White House Down” is the better movie in some ways – but “Olympus” has the benefit of being released first. The former is superior to the latter in the CGI-effects department, the higher-profile director, and the cast. Even against the likes of Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart and Melissa Leo; once you have Tatum, Foxx and Maggie Gyllenhaal and then add the extra oomph of James Woods, Richard Jenkins and Jason Clarke; there’s no competition. But “Olympus” wins in many other aspects.

“Olympus” embraces its over-the-top brutality and the insane premise of a terrorist group taking down the most heavily protected house on Earth in a matter of minutes. That movie is a lot of fun. This is only mildly fun. It has fun with the premise, but its aspirations of becoming a great buddy action comedy feel forced. This feels too serious at times, which doesn’t work to the film’s benefit with so many frustrating “Okay, that’ll never happen!” moments. Granted, this premise will never happen – but if it does ever happen, we should all hope that the actual John McClane is taking a tour of the White House that day.

The antagonists’ motives are explained well for the most part. Cale’s motivations to stay at the White House to save his daughter are evident as well, even if those motivations are cookie-cutter. But that isn’t bad for this type of movie, because audiences are there for the action. There just isn’t enough of it.

The build-up takes too long, and this type of movie needs to have tension building that doesn’t take forever. There’s a lot of drama there, and we just want the action. And the bits of humour. Thankfully, there’s quite a lot of that, too. One of the members of the paramilitary group (the amusing hacker, Jimmi Simpson) has a lot of charisma, so he is the best antagonist in the movie – even better than the boss man (who I won’t reveal, even if (s)he’ll be blatantly obvious). There’s a prominent buddy comedy aspect, and even if the jokes aren’t so memorable, they provide big laughs at the time.

“White House Down” is familiar and forgettable, but it’s not a horrible way to pass 131 minutes. It just doesn’t bring enough to the table to be noteworthy. Since it’s so familiar, there are few surprises hiding away, and the antagonists are obvious from the get go. Apparently, if you’ve seen one Die Hard in the White House movie; you’ve seen them all.

Score: 58/100

Box Office Predictions: July 19-21

There are four big releases coming out this weekend, so I’ll try to keep my thoughts on each of the movies brief, so this article doesn’t become too tedious. The movies are “The Conjuring”, “Red 2”, “R.I.P.D.” and “Turbo”.

“The Conjuring” will do superb business this weekend. James Wan’s movies have an average opening of $10.9 million. Supernatural horror movies open at an average $15.26 million, but 2013 horror movies have been outstanding in their opening weekend performances. “Mama” opened to $28.4 million back in January, and “The Purge” opened to $34 million last month. Those movies opened to little to no competition. (“Mama” was up against “Broken City” and “The Last Stand”, two under-performing movies; while “The Purge” was up against the modestly-performing “The Internship”.) This movie opens on a busy weekend, but it is heavily anticipated and it has critics raving. Also, since “The Purge” had such poor word-of-mouth, it plummeted from $16.7 million on the Friday to $10.4 million on the Saturday, a day where movies usually earn more than the Friday. Anyway, horror fanatics haven’t received a horror movie since “The Purge” in June, and they haven’t received a good horror movie since April’s “Evil Dead”. Since it is anticipated, has star power (Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson), and since it looks great, I’m going to go high with my prediction. I also think this will have phenomenal word-of-mouth, so this will go strong all weekend. I’m predicting $37.5 million for its opening.

“Red 2” is the sequel to 2010’s action comedy hit. It brings back the cast and this one looks really fun. I haven’t seen the first movie, so I’ll be watching the first one sometime this week. The first “Red” opened to $21.76 million back in October 2010, against “Jackass 3-D”, that opened to $50.3 million. “Red” has a good following, though, as it has a standing 7.0 IMDb score based on over 140, 000 user ratings. It is also the tenth-best selling DVD of 2011 (sandwiched between “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” and “Despicable Me”). The movie has a great cast including Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins and Mary-Louise Parker (who is also starring in “R.I.P.D.”).With this film’s good following, I think this sequel will beat its predecessor in its opening weekend number by a decent-sized margin; so for the three-day weekend, I’m predicting this at $25 million.

“Turbo” is DreamWorks’ latest production, and I think it’ll do well, as family audiences aren’t yet tired of animated movies. They have emptied their pockets on “Monsters University” and those little yellow minions are still dominating the market, so this could very well suffer from competition of those animated movies, and the other new releases. And families just could wait for “The Smurfs 2”. This seems like DreamWorks’ answer to “Cars” and “Ratatouille” in the way that it’s an underdog story. Kids like racing movies, but are they willing to see a racing movie that has a snail going for gold? Of course, Pixar was able to make a rat appealing in “Ratatouille”, but DreamWorks isn’t nearly as respected as Pixar. (But then again, which animated studio is?) And “Epic” had a snail and a slug as supporting characters, but they were there for comic relief, mostly. Anyway, with a decent-looking underdog story and a good voice cast (Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Ken Jeong), this should do decent business on a busy weekend. For the three-day, I’ll predict $28.8 million; and for the five-day (Wed-Sun), I’m predicting $43 million.

Now that I’ve discussed all the ones I think will do well, this is the one I don’t have a lot of faith in. “R.I.P.D.” looks like fun, but it’s the least appealing out of all of the new releases. The 3D action comedy is adapted from a comic book of the same name, but I don’t see it doing well. Audiences haven’t been showing a lot of enthusiasm for it yet, but I think it’ll still attract a small audience somewhere in the low-teen millions. People like Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds (who’s going to have a busy weekend), but I don’t know if this is on many people’s radars. I think it could do decent business, but it’s going to suffer because of all of the competition. And older action fans will probably just see “Red 2” instead. It’ll break $10 million, I think, but I don’t think it’ll go past the $15 million mark. I’m going to underestimate Bridges and Reynolds’ combined popularity and say an awful $12.8 million.

Here’s how I see the Top 10:
1. The Conjuring: $37, 500, 000
2. Turbo: $28, 800, 000 (5-day: $43M)
3. Red 2: $25, 000, 000
4. Despicable Me 2: $22, 473, 000
5. Pacific Rim: $19, 825, 000
6. Grown Ups 2: $19, 500, 000
7. R.I.P.D.: $12, 800, 000
8. The Heat: $9, 025, 000
9. Monsters University: $6, 000, 000
10. The Lone Ranger: $5, 800, 000

My most anticipated movies of July

Hi everyone, this is my post for the movies I’m most anticipating this month. I’m going to leave out the ones I’m not anticipating (but will be seeing), because who wants to write a paragraph about a movie they’re not particularly passionate about? (I’m talking about you, GROWN UPS 2.) I’ll be writing reviews about those said movies, but that’s for another day – and I love writing reviews. So, that’s good, then. I’ll start with a few thoughts on the movies I can wait for, but I am looking forward to watching.

Fruitvale Station (7/12)

Fruitvale Station (7/12)

Plot: The true story of Oscar, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family, and strangers on the last day of 2008.

I like a good bio pic and a good emotional drama, so I’m intrigued by this. It also has critics raving, so I’m hoping it’s good. I thought Michael B. Jordan is great in CHRONICLE, and I like Octavia Spencer in just about anything.

Red 2 (7/19)

Red 2 (7/19)

Plot: Retired black-ops CIA agent Frank Moses reunites his unlikely team of elite operatives for a global quest to track down a missing portable nuclear device.

I can mostly wait for this one because I haven’t seen the first. I own it, so I’ll watch that this week or next or something, and then maybe I’ll be a bit more excited about this one. I love a good crime comedy, and the cast intrigues me.

R.I.P.D. (7/19)

R.I.P.D. (7/19)

Plot: A recently slain cop joins a team of undead police officers working for the Rest in Peace Department and tries to find the man who murdered him.

I don’t know if this will be a box office hit – but it does look very amusing. I love the first and third MIB movies, so I’m pretty intrigued by this. It looks fun, and Jeff Bridges has many great one-liners in the trailer.

The To Do List (J7/26)

The To Do List (7/26)

Plot: Feeling pressured to become more sexually experienced before she goes to college, Brandy Clark makes a list of things to accomplish before hitting campus in the fall.

This looks like a predictable comedy, but it does look very funny. I like EASY A a lot, and this seems to have similar awkward humour. I’m curious to see how Aubrey Plaza will do in her first leading lady role. (I’ve seen a few episodes of TV’s PARKS AND RECREATION and it’s just hilarious.) There are some real laugh-out loud moments in the trailer, especially Clark Gregg’s thoughts on taking the back door.

Turbo (7/17)

Turbo (7/17)

Plot: A freak accident might just help an everyday garden snail achieve his biggest dream: winning the Indy 500.

I like the voice cast and the simple thought of Ken Jeong voicing a little Asian grandma makes me giggle. This looks like DreamWorks Animation’s answer to CARS and FAST & FURIOUS, and maybe even RATATOUILLE (instead of rats and cooking, it’s snails and racing). I think the idea’s just as silly as Stuart Little playing soccer, I mean, this little snail is probably going to get run over. I think I’ll enjoy the movie a lot, regardless.

The Wolverine (7/26)

The Wolverine (7/26)

Plot: Wolverine makes a voyage to modern-day Japan, where he encounters an enemy from his past that will impact on his future.

This looks pretty cool. I’m not huge on superhero movies, but I do enjoy the X-MEN movies. I’ll have to have a marathon soon to pump up for this one a bit more. It looks good, but it could be so much better if Darren Aronofsky really did end up directing it. I guess I’m really just hoping it’s better than X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE.

Now these are the ones I’m really excited for. 

5. Pacific Rim (7/12)

5. Pacific Rim (7/12)

Plot: When an alien attack threatens the Earth’s existence, giant robots piloted by humans are deployed to fight off the menace.

I think this looks awesome. I haven’t seen any GODZILLA movies, but I like a good monster movie. And, this is monsters AND robots. Whoa. It sounds like it could be everything BATTLESHIP and TRANSFORMERS aspired to be. Lots of fun, and well-made. And Del Toro is at the helm! I might have to re-watch CLOVERFIELD and find a GODZILLA movie online this week to get a bit more excited. It seems action-packed, and frankly, I want to see the movie right now, and not just the trailer. But I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of hearing Idris Elba shout, “Today we are cancelling the apocalypse!”

3. Only God Forgives (7/19)

4. Only God Forgives (7/19)

Plot: Julian, a drug-smuggler thriving in Bangkok’s criminal underworld, sees his life get even more complicated when his mother compels him to find and kill whoever is responsible for his brother’s recent death.

I love Ryan Gosling and the director, Nicholas Winding Refn, and DRIVE is one of my favourite movies of 2011. The story intrigues me, as well. While critics haven’t exactly been praising the movie, I think it could be pretty awesome. It might be wavering my expectations ever-so-slightly, but I’m still really looking forward to it.

3. The Conjuring (7/19)

3. The Conjuring (7/19)

Plot: Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse. Forced to confront a powerful entity, the Warrens find themselves caught in the most terrifying case of their lives.

I think James Wan is a fantastic director. I’ll have to watch INSIDIOUS to get a vibe of his atmospheric haunting flicks, though. This looks absolutely terrifying, and while I’ll probably be watching the movie through the my fingers, I can hardly wait. Vera Farmiga is great, too. The trailer creeps the hell out of me, and I love it. The true story edge is even spookier – so, I just want it to be July 19 already. It would be great if this will birth a Warren files franchise.

2. The Way, Way Back (7/5)

2. The Way, Way Back (7/5)

Plot: 14-year-old Duncan’s summer vacation with his mother, her overbearing boyfriend, and his daughter. Having a rough time fitting in, Duncan finds an unexpected friend in Owen, manager of the Water Wizz water park.

I love a good coming-of-age tale. THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER is my second-favourite movie of 2012. And THE DESCENDANTS is one of my favourite movies of 2011. Two of the Oscar-winning writers from that movie (Nat Faxon, supporting actor in most of the Broken Lizard movies, and Jim Rash, the Dean on TV’s COMMUNITY) co-write and direct this one. I love the cast so much. Steve Carrell as a major jerk, Sam Rockwell, Rash in a supporting role, AnnaSophia Robb, and Rob Corddry, Toni Colette and Allison Janney. Suffice to say, it sounds amazing – and I can hardly wait for this to come to my city.

1. Despicable Me 2 (7/3)

1. Despicable Me 2 (7/3)

Plot: Gru is recruited by the Anti-Villain League to help deal with a powerful new super criminal.

I love the original DESPICABLE ME 2. This sequel looks amazing and hilarious. I can hardly wait for it. I love Gru and the minions, and I think this will be a real winner with a lot of heart and some great action. And new villains, of course. This is not only my most anticipated movie of July – but it’s probably my most anticipated movie of the year. (But, I’ll have to make a list to see if that’s true. I might be a bit more excited for KICK-ASS 2.) I can’t wait to have a second helping of the minion madness, though. Anything under a score of 75 will be disappointing. I hope this is in the same league as the first.

Here’s all of the movies opening in July: http://www.imdb.com/movies-coming-soon/2013-07/

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Moonrise Kingdom

Release Date: June 29, 2012

Director: Wes Anderson

Stars: Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Jared Gilman

Runtime: 94 min

Moonrise Kingdom is an intelligent and witty exploration of pre-teen rebellion, young love, and finding oneself. The story follows an orphan boy scout, Sam (Jared Gilman), who just wants to be accepted; but he is a bit too peculiar to be accepted so easily. He meets Suzy (Kara Hayward), who is the black sheep of her family, and she really wishes she didn’t have one.

This contrast of characters is poignant and interesting. Gilman and Hayward truly impress and have some fine chemistry. Their innocent sex scene is so awkward, yet very compelling and beautiful. I love their relationship.

Anderson’s cinematography and style are also something to love. The story is essentially a search-and-rescue story, meets coming-of-age tale. The themes, drama and comedy have a great balance. The plot, characters and the performers are the strongest aspects of the film. Though, it’s all a little boring. That might be because I am not yet accustomed to Wes Anderson’s pace of storytelling. I’ve always heard that his films are an acquired taste; and now I truly know why. Since this is my first Wes Anderson viewing, I don’t love it very much just yet. I’d like to watch all of his other movies; and then revisit this one.

Hayward and Gilman are fantastic. It’s also amazing to see Bruce Willis, Bill Murray and Edward Norton, my favourite actor, share the screen together. It’s cinema magic. I liked it a fair deal, even if I did feel bored during. It’s a seemingly acquired taste; so I’d love to revisit this after making myself accustomed to Anderson’s style. This really is a well-made dramedy.

78/100

Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995) & Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

Die hard with a vengeanceDie Hard with a Vengeance

Release Date: May 19, 1995

Director: John McTiernan

Stars: Bruce Willis, Jeremy Irons, Samuel L. Jackson

Runtime: 131 min

Tagline: Think fast. Look alive. Die hard.

The plot: John McClane and a store owner must play a bomber’s deadly game as they race around New York while trying to stop him.

This is actually a better sequel than the first, but not by that much. This has the ability to be equally intense and still quite funny. McLane has a new sidekick, Samuel L. Jackson who plays a racist shop owner. They make a really good team. I also appreciate the film going back to its “original” roots by bringing in a mastermind like Hans Gruber, his brother Simon (portrayed by Jeremy Irons). I enjoyed all the surprises that were thrown out there, and the one-liners are still stellar.

93/100

Live Free or Die HardLive Free or Die Hard

Release Date: June 27, 2007

Director: Len Wiseman

Stars: Bruce Willis, Justin Long, Timothy Olyphant

Runtime: 128 min

The plot: John McClane takes on an Internet-based terrorist organization who is systematically shutting down the United States.

Currently, this is the weakest of the series (I haven’t seen the fifth), but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. At all. It’s really good and the idea of shutting down the United States is cool.

There’s fun oozing out of this, and there are epic action scenes, even though one might have to accept a lack of realism at times.

Strangely, Justin Long’s character can be a serious and extremely anxious, but you’d expect a comedian to be a bit more hilarious. Not a lot stands out about him in this. I have nothing but love for the guy in most his roles, but this one… It isn’t special. It isn’t the greatest idea on the studio’s behalf to cast a comedian as a character who’s hardly that funny or memorable. In fact, to date, he’s the most forgettable of the sidekicks that McLane has had. Though, Olyphant plays a solid villain.

It’s a pretty stellar movie that’s really fun and flows well, but an R-rating may have made this a little better.

84/100

Die Hard (1988)

die hardReleased: July 15, 1988Director: John McTiernanStars: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie BedeliaRuntime: 131 min.

This is what great action is all about: Bruce Willis as John McLane, terrorists, and Christmas time. It really brings the family together, doesn’t it?

John McClane, officer of the NYPD, tries to save wife Holly Gennaro and several others, taken hostage by German terrorist Hans Gruber during a Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles.
This is seriously one of the greatest action films ever made, and generally a great experience. It has fantastic action sequences, hilarious and iconic one-liners, and some great characters.

John McLane is probably one of my favourite action heroes, and I only saw this for the first time a few weeks ago. He’s clever, macho, and he kicks some serious terrorist ass. Alan Rickman is in one of his best roles (Gruber and Severus Snape of Harry Potter go head to head for me), and his debut film role. It is one of the most impressive debut performances as one of the greatest terrorist masterminds; Gruber is cunning, often funny, and overall pretty intimidating. It is so well done when Gruber just comes on screen and doesn’t even say anything for ten minutes or so. It makes a great mystery out of his character. In this guy’s presence, I wouldn’t challenge him…
There are a few bad characters, though. They’re sort-of important to the film, but they’re just irritating. Paul Gleason’s Dwayne Robinson was absolutely stupid, but Gleason does play a good dumbass. And the FBI agents were just silly. They all do seem necessary for the plot development, though.

The thriller is taut and extremely fresh, and there’s never a dull moment. One really wants John McLane to come out of there alive, but we all want the bullets to fly and explosions to wreak havoc. It’s suspenseful and an eerie thought of being the only person who could save a building of people. Well, McLane does have Sergeant Allen Powell on the outside talking to him. However, it’s nowhere near the same as being in there with those crazy men. This is one of the attributes that makes McLane’s bravery and courage to never give up so damn admirable. This, folks, is what a practically perfect action film looks like.

Score98/100