Getaway (2013)

GetawayReleased: August 30, 2013. Directed by: Courtney Solomon. Starring: Ethan Hawke, Selena Gomez, Jon Voight. Runtime: 90 min.

I like a good action movie as much as the next movie critic. But that’s the key word: good. A good action film, “Getaway” is not.

After former race car driver Brent Magna (Ethan Hawke) comes home to find his wife missing, he gets a phone call from a mysterious villain who informs him to go to a parking garage to retrieve a fast car.

From there, the Voice gives him random orders, to wreak havoc on the streets, so man on the other end would know he is willing to do just about anything to get his wife back. The orders are rather ludicrous, “smash into whatever you can,” “drive on the skating rink.” At one of the stops, a young girl attempts to steal the car, and she turns out to be the owner of it. She is portrayed by Selena Gomez, the film’s appeal for teenage girls.

Getaway1The Mysterious Villain’s motivation is, of course, personal gain, because, what else would it be? He states in his bad European accent that there is something at a bank and he “needs it.” Apparently, kidnapping someone and sending their loved one on a crazy mission to retrieve them is all the craze in Europe these days. This specific setting is a town called Sofia, Bulgaria; I think. The storytelling is kind enough to flash the name of the town two or three times, but that’s still not enough to make it memorable without research.

Ethan Hawke, as the former race-car driver, is sent on a set of missions; only about 40 per cent of which feel like they have purpose, or advance the story in any way. Many are random, only there to keep the action going. At least the “Fast and Furious” franchise has the courtesy to step out of the driver’s seat, throw around amusing banter between the characters, and have some character and plot development. Those movies are lots of fun, this one just steals from better films – and doesn’t try to put a spin on them. This just rarely stops for a single minute to try create a wholly coherent story, or have good character development. Selena Gomez plays a character who is billed as The Kid. She doesn’t even have a character’s name! Hawke’s character is likable enough for the viewer to care that he gets his wife back, because he’s an okay guy placed in a crappy situation; but every viewer already knows how it ends… So how does that make the film suspenseful?

Gomez and Hawke carry the film, but only with adequate performances; so that’s saying, they’re not particularly memorable. Nor is the film as a whole. Everything about this is lacklustre. Jon Voight literally phones in his performance as the villain, sporting a bad European accent. His character is The Voice.

That is compelling character development, right there. When an actioner is this generic and uninteresting, there is little fun to be had. Sure, it never stops. Sure, it’s never mind-numbingly boring, because something is always happening. But when the action is so repetitive, the experience isn’t compelling or notable.

When a movie can make me derisively laugh at its lame dialogue, I can’t take it seriously. There is a point where Brent is driving (as usual), and he’s saying something along the lines of, “I want to see my wife!” And the villain asks, “You want to see your wife again, right? Then do what I say!” Naw, man, that’s not why he just said “Let me see my wife” about three times in a row. (This is a scene from the movie, but I know I didn’t get it word for word. I’ll have to start bringing a notepad to screenings.)

If you are an audience member who is attending this film for a pulse-pounding, full-throttle, pedal to the metal, non-stop actioner, you shouldn’t be disappointed. But, with unoriginal fast-paced actioners like this; I like it to be fun, and not just the conventional mess this turns out to be. It’s a 90-minute chase movie, where cops chase Magna, Selena Gomez whines and begs to be let go, more cops chase Magna, cops crash because Magna’s just too fast and he has mad skills. The filmmakers put that on a loop, and pray audience members aren’t intelligent enough to notice. This time, they couldn’t getaway with it.

Score: 38/100

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Recap of June’s Theatrical Releases

I saw six out of the nine major theatrical releases of June. I still plan on seeing the following from the month of June, in alphabetical order: “Berberian Sound Studio”, “The Bling Ring”, “Byzantium”, “The Internship”, “Maniac”, “Much Ado About Nothing”, “Song for Marion”, “Syrup” (because I love Brittany Snow), “Violet & Daisy”, White House Down”. Considering that the lowest score of June’s new releases was 50 out of 100 (surprisingly “awarded” to “Man of Steel”), it was hardly a bad month for movies. Here’s the ranking of the June’s releases from best to worst, with a blurb from each of my reviews.

This is the End (6/12)

This is the End (6/12) [My review]

“This is an insanely funny movie. Ridiculous, yes, but a sure blast if there ever was one. It’s all good old-fashioned, self-aware bliss. This just shows that a comedy about hanging out with one’s best buds could be a real gem to the genre. Adam Sandler could take quite a few pointers from this comedy.” 91/100. This was my fourth most anticipated movie of June, and it exceeded expectations, and it’s currently my favourite movie of the year thus far. 

IMDb Score: 7.9/10Rotten Tomatoes Critics: 7/10RT Audience: 8/10.

Monsters University (6/21)

Monsters University (6/21) [My review]

“I will always cherish this fantastic film. I will always watch this with a big smile on my face. This is an impressive prequel to “Monsters, Inc.”, and an impressive Pixar movie.” 90/100. This was my most anticipated movie of June, and it truly satisfied.

IMDb Score: 7.8/10RTC: 6.7/10; RTA: 8.4/10.

World War Z (6/21)

World War Z (6/21) [My review]

“The story’s a good one, as far as ‘find the cure’ movies go. Since I have not read the book, I cannot comment on any similarities or big differences. All I can say is, it’s a story that plays well on the screen. I like that Drew Goddard has a hand in the screenplay; because he has talent. It’s a traditional, but very enjoyable ‘find the cure’ type of film.” 75/100. This was my tenth most anticipated movie of June, so it really impressed. 

IMDb Score: 7.3/10RTC: 6.2/10RTA: 7.6/10.

The Heat (6/28)

The Heat (6/28) [My review]

“The humour is raunchy as hell, but usually funny as hell. When I wasn’t laughing at the jokes, I was at least smirking a little. When it isn’t being hilarious, the likeable chemistry between Bullock and McCarthy really carries it along. The movie balances out to a fun, predictable, but hysterical time at the movies.” 75/100. This was my seventh most anticipated movie of June, so it did satisfy. 

IMDb Score: 7.1/10RTC: 6.0/10; RTA: 8.0/10.

The Purge (6/7)

The Purge (6/7) [My review]

“The concept helps make this movie memorable. However, this rushed home invasion flick/intriguing social commentary ends up being incredibly average. It’s disappointing, and while it has some worthwhile menacing villains, it’s the latest movie to the Great Concept, Poor Execution category.” 57/100. This was my third most anticipated movie of June, so it was truly disappointing.

IMDb Score: 5.6/10; RTC: 5.1/10; RTA: 6.0/10.

Man of Steel (6/14)

Man of Steel (6/14) [My review]

“I do not appreciate the constant changes in tone throughout the feature. It goes from big, stupid action to character-driven drama that feels real. It becomes bothersome quickly, and it does not make for effective storytelling.” 50/100. This was my second most anticipated movie of June, so it was a big let-down.

IMDb Score: 7.8/10; RTC: 6.3/10RTA: 8.0.

Here are some statistics: 

IMDb Ranking: 1. “This is the End” (7.9), 2. “Man of Steel” (7.8), 2. “Monsters University” (7.8), 4. “World War Z” (7.3), 5. “The Heat” (7.1), 6. “The Purge” (5.6). Average score: 7.25/10. 

RT Critics Ranking: 1. “This is the End” (7.0), 2. “Monsters University” (6.7), 3. “Man of Steel” (6.3), 4. “World War Z” (6.2), 5. “The Heat” (6.0), “The Purge” (5.1). Average score: 6.21/10. 

RT Audience Ranking: 1. “Monsters University” (8.4), 2. “The Heat” (8.0), 2. “Man of Steel” (8.0), 2. “This is the End” (8.0), 5. “World War Z” (7.6), 6. “The Purge” (6.0). Average score: 7.66/10.

My Average score: 73/100. (Adjusted [excluding lowest grade]: 77.6/100.)

What movies did you enjoy out of June’s releases, and which ones did you hate? There were a total six votes in my Most Anticipated Movies of June poll (4 to “Man of Steel”, 1 to “This is the End”, and 1 to “Monsters University”, which was my vote). Did your most anticipated movie satisfy or disappoint the hell out of you? Let me know in the comments!

Also: I’ll be posting my Best of the Year So Far article sometime this weekend or early next week. Stay tuned! 

 

The Purge (2013)

The PurgeRelease Date: June 7, 2013

Director: James DeMonaco

Stars: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder

Runtime: 85 min

Tagline: Survive the Night

The year is 2022. America’s economy is flourishing, the unemployment rate is at 1%, and crime is almost non-existent. Except for one night a year; for twelve hours, all crime, including murder, is legal. The police cannot be called. I guess you could call them, but no one’s going to respond. The Annual Purge lets the American people release their inner beast, or let the tiger out of the cage, if you will.

This is the story of one family during the unforgettable Annual Purge of the eerily not-so-distant future, 2022. James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) sells security systems for a living, and his family is living the American dream. They settle in for the night, all cozy in an apparently impenetrable fortress. Or so they think. The son, Charlie (Max Burkholder, that kid from Daddy Day Care who says, “I missed!”), still forming his own opinion on the Purge, assists a helpless man outside by letting him into his home. Yeah, things are going to turn out just hunky-dory for you when you do a stupid thing like that.

A small mob of scholarly young folk wearing masks comes to their door, asking for the so-called “grotesque swine” to be delivered to them within the hour, or they’ll come into the house and kill the entire family. Now, the Sandins must make a choice: Keep their morals intact and fight, or give up the stranger and become the monsters from whom they hide.

The Purge has one of the most intriguing horror movie concept in quite some time. The movie just cannot do much with it. It tries to make a point using a successful, horror/thriller formula. The thought-provoking movie challenges one’s inner morals. It isn’t more than that. It’s partly a social commentary of what America might one day never become, and a commentary on the human race’s obsession with violence; and the fact that these people would rather bash in someone’s head to let off steam, instead of hitting a watermelon or a piñata.

It’s also a rushed home invasion horror flick. None of these characters are particularly likeable. The daughter is really just doing her own thing. She’s way out of the loop, she doesn’t know what’s going around the house, which really doesn’t reflect well on the rest of the family. The father, James, is a security system salesman who’s rather unlikeable. He’s the one calling the shots for the family. Mary (Lena Headey) is easily the most likeable character, mostly because she has a strong hold on her morals, and she will frustrate you the least. The most frustrating character of all is Charlie. He is one of the stupidest characters you’ll ever see in a horror movie, and that’s saying something. He is still forming his opinion about The Purge (as he’s supposed to be around 14 years old), and he will frustrate you a countless amount of times, and taint one’s enjoyment. (Oh, if you shine a flashlight all over the room, no one will see the light from underneath the door. Idiot.) His character represents the minority of people, the ones who do not support The Purge. The morals of this family clashes with the apparent norm of this futuristic society, that it’s all right to commit all the crimes one can, because there really isn’t anyone stopping you. And it also brings about class warfare. If you can afford the protection, that’s better for you. It kind-of makes me think this mirrors the two-tier health care system, because the rich are better off. If one can afford the protection, they probably won’t die; if one can’t afford protection, they’re screwed.

The Purge party of scholars led by a character called Polite Leader (Rhys Wakefield sporting an eerie smile) only want their target for their Annual Purge, but now I’m thinking they just want to kill as many people as they can muster. Only seconds after requesting their target, they cut the power to the Sandin home; making it that much harder for the Sandin’s to actually acquire the intruder, whose character name is Bloody Stranger. There are a few other problems with this group… What’s the point of wearing masks if all crimes are legal? They must be trying to be scarier, since they really are only apparently smart hooligans. (See, there might be a point to it – because nerds with machetes really aren’t so terrifying. Right?) These weirdos are also knocking on all the windows, swinging on swings, making threatening motions, staring into the cameras all weird, making menacing faces… Because that isn’t distracting enough when you’re trying to find someone with the power out, right?

The film has a bland, 10-minute introduction; a 40-minute suspenseful build-up; and a meager 25-minute (or so) pay-off. The first ten minutes are bland, at best; mostly because there’s simply a lot of insincere smiling and traditional, “Have a safe night, okay?” There’s a large focus on the social commentary, and a miniature one on the actual home invasion. Movie-goers will be buying tickets to the home invasion aspect; and there’s hardly enough of it. Once one digs underneath its original and intriguing concept, they will find The Strangers set in the year 2022. The masks, the themes, the atmosphere, and some of the scenes are similar. It seems we have received a sequel to The Strangers after all. Beneath the surface, this plays out like every other horror movie. It’s a true disappointment.

The movie’s suspenseful, but rarely scary. It is billed as a sci-fi horror/thriller flick, not a suspense movie; so that’s a true issue. You’ll jump two or three times, maybe. The concept is scary, because you’d be anxious enough waiting the eight minutes for the cops to appear; and in this situation, they’re not going to show. The masks are creepy, but not nearly as creepy as an insane, well-dressed Polite Leader with a chilling grin. Rhys Wakefield rocks the role, and he’s certainly the most memorable thing about this low-budget horror flick. He seems ecstatic that he might be able to kill a whole family, and not just the party’s target. He’s very menacing. The only other thing that is likely to haunt your dreams is an eerie Chucky-esque doll/camera/radio-controlled car contraption controlled by Charlie. Other than those two things, most of the scary-ish things about this movie left my mind – and I slept like a baby. This hardly leaves a lasting impression, and since I’m a paranoid person; by God, horror movies need to keep me up at night to receive a great grade.

The concept helps make this memorable. The general movie only ends up being incredibly average. The movie also falls victim to countless, frustrating clichés. This will leave a lot of movie-goers disappointed. Rhys Wakefield is the only other thing that makes this worthwhile at all; but this is still the latest movie to be added to the Great Concept, Poor Execution category.

57/100

Celebrity Birthdays: October 29 – November 11

Ben Foster, October 29

Happy 30th birthday to Ben Foster. He often plays eerie roles, like in Hostage or in 30 Days of Night. Foster is a great screen presence and he’s best known for his roles in 3:10 to YumaPandorumThe Messenger, and The Mechanic.

Ben Foster as the haunting Mars Krupcheck in 2005’s Hostage.

My favourite films with Foster in a leading or supporting role: Hostage (2005) — Alpha Dog (2006) — 30 Days of Night (2007).

 

John Candy, October 31

The late John Candy would have been 62 on Halloween. He is a household name because of his charisma, and cheery and exciting screen presence. He is best known for his part on the TV’s SCTV, Spaceballs and Uncle Buck.

Favourite John Candy films: Uncle Buck (1989) — Home Alone (1990). Don’t worry, I’ll make sure to see more!

Sam Rockwell, November 5

Happy 44th birthday to the great Sam Rockwell! Rockwell is best known for his roles in MoonThe Green MileIron Man 2 and Frost/Nixon. You can see him in theatres in the film Seven Psychopaths.

Sam Rockwell as Wild Bill in The Green Mile.

My favourite Sam Rockwell films: The Green Mile (1999) — Seven Psychopaths (2012) — Galaxy Quest (1999) — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005).

 

Emma Stone, November 6

Happy 24th birthday to Emma Stone! Sarcastic, and she’s both awkward and sexy at the same time. What’s not to love about her? She is best known for her roles in The HelpEasy AThe Amazing Spider-Man, and Zombieland.

My favourite Emma Stone flicks: The Help (2011) — Superbad (2007) — Zombieland (2009) — Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011) —  Easy A (2010) — The House Bunny (2008).

Leonardo DiCaprio, November 11

Happy 38th birthday to Leonardo DiCaprio. He has a large filmography that started with a humble beginning, and became greater things. He is best known for his roles in InceptionTitanicThe Departed and Shutter Island.

My favourite Leonardo DiCaprio flicks: Blood Diamond (2006) — Catch Me If You Can (2002) — Titanic (1997) — Inception (2010) — Shutter Island (2010) — What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) — Romeo + Juliet (1996).

Other Birthdays: Oct. 29, Winona Ryder (41); Richard Dreyfuss (65). Oct. 30, Kevin Pollack (55). Oct. 31, Peter Jackson (51). Nov. 5, Tilda Swinton (52); Robert Patrick (54). Nov. 6, Ethan Hawke (42); Sally Field (66); Rebecca Romijn (40). Nov. 10, Josh Peck (26). Nov. 11, Stanley Tucci (52); Demi Moore (50).

Film reviews of films featuring Tilda Swinton: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005); We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011).

Film reviews of films featuring Robert PatrickTrouble with the Curve (2012).

Film reviews of films featuring Ethan HawkeSinister (2012).

Film reviews of films featuring Josh PeckMean Creek (2003); ATM (2012).

Film reviews of films featuring Stanley TucciThe Hunger Games (2012)

Who’s your favourite actor on this list?

 

 

 

 

Sinister (2012) Review

Sinister

Release Date: October 12, 2012

Director: Scott Derrickson

Stars: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, James Ransone

Runtime: 110 min

Tagline: Once you see him, nothing can save you.

Ellison Oswalt is a struggling writer whose last big hit was ten years ago. He and his family move into a house, in order for him to pursue a book idea. He’s moved them into a house a few doors down from a crime scene before, but he didn’t do that this time – he moved them into the house the actual crime scene took place. He finds a box of Super 8 films in the attic, that help him learn how and why the people who owned the house before them were murdered. This puts them in the path of a dangerous children soul-eating Ancient Pagan God by the name of Bughuul.

I’d like to say first that I’m not used to supernatural horror, because it just scares the hell out of me. Even for lovers of supernatural horror, this is a terrifying feature.

The film is flawed in terms of the latter segment of the film, it suffers from a few horror clichés, and at times I had trouble believing some of the stuff that was going on. Despite its flaws, there is a lot to love about it.

Sinister is deeply dark, wickedly atmospheric, and inventive. It’s so twisted and convulted, that you just may ask yourselves, “Okay, which Stephen King book is this based on?” It relies more on its pretty great story, and its atmosphere, rather than those lame ass uneffective pop-out scares you see in traditional horror. There is a fair share of pop-out scares, but they’re very effective thanks to the great score and the sounds that go bump in the night.

I know everyone would, or should be if they’re in a right state of mind, be terrified of moving into a possibly haunted house. I know I would.

Jennifer Lawrence, in the horror film House at the End of the Street that was released in September, fell victim to that typical horrid dumb blonde in horror movies cliché, and while Ethan Hawke isn’t as stupid as her character in this, he does have his own fair show of falling victim to those old-as-Santa-Claus horror cinema clichés. Seriously, one would think that the great Ethan Hawke would have the common sense to turn on a freaking light. When I hear the slightest noise in the night, I get out of bed with a light saber, ready to chop Darth Maul in half, if that’s what is needed. This guy, he just seems to take a swig of whiskey and go right to the noise with shocked curiosity. I wonder if Jessica Chastain in next year’s Mama is going to fall victim to these lame ass clichés? Probably.

Okay, okay. At least he got a baseball bat at one point in the feature.

One thing that I just had the hardest time believing, is how the family isn’t hearing any of the crap that’s going on in the house. They must be heavy sleepers. Like, heavier sleepers than corpses. Ellison might as well just be the only character in the film in most scenes.

Ellison’s insistence to stay in the house can get a little drastic. He thinks he’s helping his wife by not telling her, but he really isn’t. I know I would have when all this supernatural stuff starts to happen. Ellison is just so bent on having another bestseller, that he sort of just feels distant from his family. Greed really begins to consume him.* This film really shows that writers can have stressful lives. Ellison is always cracking open his bottle of whisky, hardly sleeping at all, and he practically only has the one wardrobe. At least when he’s being scared half the death, he’ll have a comfy sweater on.

*If you’re a kid, Bogghul will consume you, too.

The film is generally dark. Both thematically and that the dimly lit scenery. It isn’t very easy on the eyes, but it’s ultimately effective. This is a piece of impressive filmmaking with great direction, and some Super 8 films that are both graphic and chilling, and they add in to the great horror crime mystery, and really make this one stand out. It is combined well with the general cinematography. The tie-in of crime is really something nice, and the mythology is pretty interesting, too.

With some horror films, you may have the tendency to get scared when that big old sun, that often brings a sense of security to the viewer, go down. Since, of course, you know that the evening is the best setting for scares to occur. With this one, man, I was terrified. There was sweat on my palms by the end of it all.

Often, once a year, we should expect at least one great horror gem. For me, 2011’s was Scream 4. And this year, so far, The Cabin in the Woods is the gem. Sinister is a close second, and easily the scariest film of 2012. And, possibly, one of the scariest films I’ve ever seen.

There’s this one really cool, but chillingly terrifying sequence, that has impressive cinematography, nice slow motion action and is quite original. I won’t say anymore about that scene, because it really is cool to watch play out.

The great thing about this film is its wicked atmosphere. The tone was set right from the get go, with the opening graphic scene.
Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, James Ransone, Michael Hall D’Addario, Clare Foley, and Fred Dalton Thompson star.

Sinister has some fine direction, and a nice story, but it still suffers from clichés, a poor could-have-been-so-much-better latter half of the film. Its atmosphere is something that one could easily love, or just as easily loathe. Sinister may not be the finest horror film of 2012, but it certainly is the most frightening.

80/100