AQUAMAN (2018) – Jason Momoa Best Part of Underwhelming Underwater Adventure

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aquaman

It’s no secret that in the battle of big screen superhero movies, Marvel has had the upper hand over DC. The Marvel movies have been nonstop outstanding, while DC has struggled with simple notions like storytelling. As a result, it hasn’t been much of a contest.

With the exception of WONDER WOMAN (2017) the recent crop of DC films has been pretty bad. Before WONDER WOMAN, the last DC superhero movie I really enjoyed was THE DARK KNIGHT (2008).  Been a while.

Now comes AQUAMAN (2018), the origin tale of DC’s underwater superhero, with amiable hunk Jason Momoa playing the lead.

Is AQUAMAN all wet? Or is it as refreshing as a summer shower?

Well, truth be told, it’s somewhere in the middle.  The best part by far is Jason Momoa’s spirited performance as Aquaman.  He’s got all the best lines in the film, and his character is the only guy on-screen who’s all that interesting. At times I thought I was watching two different movies, one written by the folks who wrote all the Aquaman scenes, and another written by someone else.

The result is one very mixed bag of a movie.

After a silly and pointless pre-credit sequence which explains how Aquaman’s parents met, the film jumps into one of its best sequences, showing Aquaman rescuing the crew of a submarine from some pretty nasty pirates. Indeed, this might have been my favorite sequence of the whole film, and that’s because we get to see Aquaman interacting with real people in the here and now, rather than in the underwater fantasy kingdoms, where most of the film takes place.

Not too long after Aquaman saves the day, he’s visited by Mera (Amber Heard) who tells him that he must return to the undersea kingdom of Atlantis because his brother King Orm (Patrick Wilson) is about to wage war on the people who live on land. Aquaman isn’t interested, but when his human father is almost killed in an attack, he changes his tune and agrees to accompany Mera back to Atlantis to stop his brother and become the true king of the underwater world.

Blah. Blah. Blah.

I have to admit.  I’m biased. I’m just not a big fan of fantasy tales, and that’s pretty much what AQUAMAN is. It plays like THOR under water, even having Aquaman deal with his brother King Orm, the way Thor had to deal with his brother Loki.

So, all this story involving Atlantis and the great battle to restore peace and harmony under the sea I simply found a colossal bore.

What was not a bore was Jason Momoa as Aquaman.  He’s phenomenal in the role, and I’d be more than happy to see him play it again in a movie that told a better story.  He obviously looks the part with his sculpted ripped body, and he also gives the character a lively personality with plenty of wise-cracks and moments of playful humor.  Momoa is really good.

I also enjoyed Amber Heard as Mera, although as I said before, it seems she and the rest of the cast didn’t have the same screenwriter as Momoa did.  Her lines are often pretty bad, but when she’s in scenes with Momoa, they work well together and she makes the character at least somewhat interesting.

The rest of the cast doesn’t fare as well.  I thought Patrick Wilson was badly miscast as the main villain, King Orm. I just never really bought him in the role, and scenes where he battles Aquaman, where he’s pitted against the massive bulk of Jason Momoa I thought were laughable because looking at the two of them side by side how can one believe that a guy who looks like Momoa wouldn’t wipe the floor with Wilson in about two seconds? I’ve enjoyed Wilson in nearly every movie I’ve seen him in, especially in the INSIDIOUS and CONJURING movies, but not so much here.

Willem Dafoe doesn’t fare any better as Vulko, an official from Atlantis who remains loyal to Aquaman.  Vulko’s lines were so bad I had a hard time keeping a straight face whenever he spoke.

On the other hand, Dolph Lundgren does fare better as King Nereus, mostly because he looks the part. He looks like a king and also like someone fit enough to tangle with Aquaman.

The talents of Nicole Kidman are largely wasted in a throwaway role as Aquaman’s mother Atlanna.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II makes for the best villain in the movie, Manta. Sadly, he has to play second fiddle to King Orm here, but his scenes going up against Aquaman are some of the better scenes in the movie.

AQUAMAN was directed by acclaimed director James Wan, known mostly for his horror movies, films like SAW (2004), INSIDIOUS (2010), and THE CONJURING (2013). His horror roots are on full display here as there are plenty of giant sea creatures. There are also plenty of sea battles, all of which went on too long for me.

AQUAMAN is visually striking, as the underwater sea kingdom of Atlantis is colorful and dazzling.  There’s a lot to see, and I can’t fault the way this movie looked. But in terms of story, it didn’t do much for me, nor did its battle sequences, which I found long and after a time unexciting.

The screenplay by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall hits a home run with its depiction of Aquaman but falls flat just about everywhere else.  The main story is a snooze, and the supporting characters okay but not as sharply written as Aquaman himself. I would have liked this one better had its storyline featured Aquaman dealing with events on land and interacting with people above water.

Even the interesting plot point of the underwater kingdoms  wanting to strike back against humanity because of the way we maltreat the oceans, filling them with endless trash, goes nowhere. It’s mentioned but then is buried underneath the infighting between Aquaman and his brother.

You can do a lot worse than AQUAMAN, but you could also do a lot better.  Jason Momoa’s performance is definitely worth checking out, and on the big screen, the visuals here are highly impressive, but you’ll have to sit through an underwhelming plot that is hardly exciting and never compelling, and with a running time of 143 minutes, that’s a long time to sit and be underwhelmed.

—END—

Books by Michael Arruda:

New in 2019! DARK CORNERS, Michael Arruda’s second short story collection, contains ten tales of horror, six reprints and four stories original to this collection.

Dark Corners cover (1)

Waiting for you in Dark Corners are tales of vampires, monsters, werewolves, demonic circus animals, and eternal darkness. Be prepared to be both frightened and entertained. You never know what you will find lurking in dark corners.

Ebook: $3.99. Available at http://www.crossroadspress.com and at Amazon.com.  Print on demand version coming soon!

TIME FRAME,  science fiction novel by Michael Arruda.  

How far would you go to save your family? Would you change the course of time? That’s the decision facing Adam Cabral in this mind-bending science fiction adventure by Michael Arruda.

Ebook version:  $2.99. Available at http://www.crossroadpress.com. Print version:  $18.00. Includes postage! Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, movie review collection by Michael Arruda.

InTheSpooklight_NewText

Michael Arruda reviews horror movies throughout history, from the silent classics of the 1920s, Universal horror from the 1930s-40s, Hammer Films of the 1950s-70s, all the way through the instant classics of today. If you like to read about horror movies, this is the book for you!

 Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.crossroadpress.com.  Print version:  $18.00.  Includes postage. Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, first short story collection by Michael Arruda.  

For_the_love_of_Horror- original cover

Print cover

For the Love of Horror cover (3)

Ebook cover

 

Michael Arruda’s first short story collection, featuring a wraparound story which links all the tales together, asks the question: can you have a relationship when your partner is surrounded by the supernatural? If you thought normal relationships were difficult, wait to you read about what the folks in these stories have to deal with. For the love of horror!

 Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.crossroadpress.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Includes postage. Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.  

 

 

 

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Wonder Woman Leads the Way as Superheroes Save JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017)

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As a kid, I slightly preferred the Marvel superhero comics to DC, but I pretty much enjoyed them both.

But in the past decade, in the movie world, Marvel’s movies have been far superior to what DC has churned out.  The DC films have been largely problematic. That changed a bit earlier this year with the release of WONDER WOMAN (2017),  the best DC film to hit the big screen since THE DARK KNIGHT (2008).

The upward trend continues with the release of JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017), the tale of a group of DC superheroes working together for the first time.  While not as good as Marvel’s AVENGERS movies, JUSTICE LEAGUE is another step forward, helped immensely by the presence of Wonder Woman, played once again by the astonishing Gal Gadot.

When a JUSTICE LEAGUE opens, Superman (Henry Cavill) is dead, but as every superhero fan knows, the Man of Steel is never gone forever.  Movie fans will know as well, as soon as they see Henry Cavill’s name listed prominently in the opening credits.

With Superman gone, the door is open for the powers of darkness to make Earth their own, because frankly, while other superheroes may be tough, it seems only Superman can keep the truly heinous baddies from strutting their stuff.  In this case, it’s Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) who centuries ago was banished by an alliance between the Amazons, the Atlanteans, and the humans.  With Superman dead, Steppenwolf returns to finish the job he set out to do eons before, namely, to destroy the world.

Realizing that Steppenwolf is a superior foe, Batman (Ben Affleck) assembles a team of heroes, including Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), the Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher).  But even their combined strength isn’t enough to take Steppenwolf down, leading Batman to suggest the outlandish plan of resurrecting Superman from the dead, even if his newfound superfriends warn him against doing so. The young Flash nervously worries that such a plan could lead to Pet Sematary-like results.

I really enjoyed JUSTICE LEAGUE.  The script by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon works mostly because it keeps things simple.  The story is not overly ambitious and therefore avoids being overdone and complicated, as was the case with the recent BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016) which try as it might failed to establish a convincing relationship between Batman and Superman.  You could actually argue that the story here is rather stupid, but in this case, that doesn’t really matter because the strength of JUSTICE LEAGUE is its superhero characters, and the actors playings these roles all acquit themselves rather nicely.

Joss Whedon of course both wrote and directed THE AVENGERS movies, and his influence is apparent in this movie when the superfriends bicker and take jabs at each other.  And while Christ Terrio wrote BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, a movie I didn’t like, he also wrote ARGO (2012), a film I definitely did like.  There is a lot of smart dialogue in this film, which helps lift it above its very standard plot, like when Batman criticizes Wonder Woman for not having ever taking a leadership role.  He correctly points out that Superman has been a beacon for the world, but he had never even heard of Wonder Woman until recently, and he accuses of her hiding in the shadows during the past century.

It’s safe to say that after the success of WONDER WOMAN, one of the biggest draws of JUSTICE LEAGUE is not Batman or Superman, but Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.  Gadot does not disappoint.  She was clearly my favorite part of this movie, and when she is on-screen, the film is at its best.  She possesses such a strong screen presence, she’s astonishingly beautiful, and is completely believable as an unstoppable warrior princess.

But Wonder Woman alone wouldn’t be enough to save a movie called JUSTICE LEAGUE, and thankfully, her superhero counterparts are also quite good.

While I didn’t really like the look of Batman’s cowl and costume, Ben Affleck is quite effective as the caped crusader.  It’s a convincing performance, and I liked Affleck even better here as Batman than in BATMAN V SUPERMAN.  There are also plenty of potshots made by his friends at his lack of super powers.  At one point, he’s asked just what his superpowers are, and he answers, “I’m rich.”

Strangely, when Affleck appears as Bruce Wayne, he seemed a bit fleshy in the face which works against the idea that Batman is a fit fighting machine.  There’s also a neat nod to the Michael Keaton BATMAN movies here, as composer Danny Elfman incorporates his original BATMAN theme from that 1989 flick into some of the Batman scenes.

Likewise, Henry Cavill scores high as Superman.  In fact, it’s probably my favorite Cavill performance as the Man of Steel.  He comes off as sincere and is far less troubled than in previous films with concerns over how the world views him.  It seems death has been a good thing for Superman, as while he was gone, the world seemed to have missed him.

Ezra Miller is fun as the Flash, although at times the humor seemed a bit forced.  I also enjoyed Ray Fisher as Cyborg, and really enjoyed Jason Momoa as Aquaman, who gets some of the better lines in the movie.

The film is also helped by a strong supporting cast, led by Amy Adams as Lois Lane.  Adams isn’t in the movie much, but to have Adams in a cast as a supporting player can only add to a movie, and her few scenes are all nicely done.  Jeremy Irons gets a decent amount of screen time as Alfred, and he makes the most of his scenes.

Diane Lane is effective as Clark Kent’s mother Martha Kent, and Connie Nielson reprises her role from WONDER WOMAN as Queen Hippolyta. J.K. Simmons appears briefly as Commissioner Gordon, and Amber Heard is seen all too fleetingly as one of Aquaman’s associates, Mera.

Director Zack Snyder achieved better results here than he did with both BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE and MAN OF STEEL (2013). One of the ways that JUSTICE LEAGUE is superior is Snyder controlled himself here and didn’t film action scenes that went on for too long.  They are generally quick, efficient, and well done.

I thought the pacing was especially good.  The film runs for just about two hours, but it flew by for me and felt more like 90 minutes.

Like its Marvel counterparts, there are a couple of after credit scenes.  The first one is well worth the wait, but the second at the very end involves a certain villain played by a certain actor who I really don’t want to see again.  Oh well.

The film also opens with a curious bit featuring Superman, which was enjoyable enough, but I thought at some point in the movie the story would return to this moment, but it never does.

JUSTICE LEAGUE features a straightforward and rather simple if not predictable story, but in this case it seems to be just what these DC films have needed.  The DC films that haven’t worked have been bogged down with plot points that didn’t work and action scenes that went on for far too long.  It truly seemed as if they were struggling to find their identity.

WONDER WOMAN established its identity right away, and while JUSTICE LEAGUE isn’t quite as successful as WONDER WOMAN, it too establishes itself right away.  It sacrifices plot for characterization, using most of the screen time to establish its Justice League personalities, and the film is better for it.

The superheroes here not only save the world, but the movie.

As such, JUSTICE LEAGUE is highly recommended.

—END—

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: 3 DAYS TO KILL (2014)

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3-Days-To-Kill-PosterHere’s my CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT review of 3 DAYS TO KILL (2014) which went up this past weekend at cinemaknifefight.com.  Remember, if you like to read about movies, check out cinemaknifefight.com where you’ll find new movie content posted every day by L.L. Soares, myself, and a very talented staff of writers.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

 

 

 

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  3 DAYS TO KILL (2014)

Review by Michael Arruda

(THE SCENE: Outside the Eiffel Tower in Paris.  MICHAEL ARRUDA sits at a table at an outdoor café.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome everybody to another edition of CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT.  I’m flying solo this week as L.L. SOARES is off on another assignment, which is his loss since I get to visit Paris to review today’s movie 3 DAYS TO KILL (2014), a new action thriller starring Kevin Costner and Amber Heard.  The film takes place in Paris because— well, there really isn’t a good reason, which is only one of the issues I had with this film.

Anyway, let’s get on with the review.

3 DAYS TO KILL opens with a botched attempt by the CIA to eliminate one of their enemies, a villain named The Wolf (Richard Sammel) who works with another man named The Albino (Tomas Lemarquis)— I have to stop here for a moment.  I think I actually laughed out loud when these names were mentioned with straight faces by the main players in this film in its opening moments.  The Wolf?  The Albino?  Seriously?

One of the reasons the attempt goes sour is the main agent on the ground, Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner) is on the phone trying to wish his teenage daughter a happy birthday.  The mission is a disaster, as both The Wolf and The Albino escape, blowing up a hotel in the process, all to the chagrin of the young agent running the operation, Vivi Delay (Amber Heard).

Why Ethan is allowed to keep his job after this bungle I don’t know.  Worse yet, when Vivi decides to continue her manhunt for The Wolf, she again turns to Ethan because he’s the one man who knows what the Wolf looks like, and so he’s the only man who can positively identify him and track him down.  Really?  Ever hear of composite sketches, Vivi?  Get Ethan to give an artist a description and then be done with this bum.  But, alas, there’s no one around who can kill as well as Ethan.  Really?  The guy’s ready for retirement, for crying out loud, and not only this, but he’s dying!  He can barely stand up and he’s the best guy for the job?  Come on!

Yes, Ethan is dying from a rare disease for which there is no cure, and so he visits his estranged wife Christine (Connie Nielsen) and teen daughter Zoey (Hailee Steinfeld) to make amends and spend some time with his daughter in the final months he has to live.  Of course, Zoey wants no part of him, since he abandoned her for most of her childhood.

Meanwhile, Vivi informs Ethan that she has an antidote for his disease, an experimental drug that will prolong his life for years rather than months, but to get it, he has to help her find and kill The Wolf.   Since Ethan seems to be happiest when he’s beating people up, he quickly agrees, and thus we have the set-up for the rest of the movie, as Ethan has to search for The Wolf while trying to manage his daughter who is as rebellious as they come.

(A drop dead gorgeous woman wearing a tight bright red dress approaches MA.)

WOMAN:  I have the antidote.

MA:  Excuse me?

WOMAN:  I have the antidote.  But I’m only giving it to you if you keep your end of the bargain.

MA:  I’m sorry.  You must have me confused with someone else.  I’m here reviewing a movie.

WOMAN:  Don’t you want the antidote?

MA:  Antidote?  For what?  I’m not sick.  (He sneezes.)

WOMAN: Not sick, eh?

MA:  That was just a random sneeze.  (Sneezes again.)

WOMAN:  Your condition betrays you.

MA:  Condition?  I just sneezed!  What kind of a condition is that?

WOMAN: Keep your end of the bargain, or no antidote!

(She walks away.)

MA:  That was strange.

Anyway, the biggest problem I had with 3 DAYS TO KILL— and I had a lot of problems with this film— is that it suffers from a huge case of the “sillies.”  It gets really silly at times, and this goofiness works against its plot, which I thought was supposed to be an action thriller.

The attempts at comedy generally misfire, mostly because they’re not realistic.  The scene where Ethan opens the trunk to his car and tells the guy he has tied up in there to be quiet because he’s trying to talk to his daughter is supposed to be funny, but it misfires because it seems so fake.  Who says things like that?  A comedian, maybe.

Things get even sillier when Ethan keeps going back to this same guy for information about The Wolf, and these scenes are supposed to be humorous, but they’re not.  The worst scene with these two occurs when they’re having a conversation and they approach Ethan’s car, and I expected the guy to enter the passenger seat, but what does he do?  He actually steps into the trunk voluntarily.  Who does that?

In another scene, Ethan is interrogating a man who happens to be Italian, and in the middle of the interrogation, Ethan’s cell phone rings with his daughter’s ring tone.  This is a running gag in the movie, as it tends to ring at the most inopportune moments–another lame attempt at humor.  His daughter is looking for a spaghetti sauce recipe so she can cook dinner for her boyfriend.  Now, that’s realistic, a high-schooler cooking a gourmet meal for her boyfriend.  Yeah, right.

Ethan says to his prisoner, “You’re Italian.  Do you know how to make spaghetti sauce?”  He forces the guy at gunpoint to give his daughter the spaghetti sauce recipe.  Again, this is supposed to be funny, but it’s not.  It comes off as extremely goofy.

On top of this, the film also suffers from a bigger case of the “cutes.”  Ethan buys a bicycle for his daughter Zoey.  Aw, isn’t that cute?  Ethan teaches his daughter how to dance, and his wife Christine walks in and is so touched by the scene.  Aw, isn’t this even cuter?  Ethan literally picks up and carries his daughter out of harm’s way when she’s nearly assaulted in a nightclub.  Isn’t that the cutest?  Gag me!!!

The plot holes in this one are bigger than the pot holes on the roads in my neighborhood, and some of those pot holes are the size of Rhode Island.  Who is The Wolf? Why is the CIA so interested in killing him?  We don’t really know.  It’s mentioned early on that he funds terrorism or something like that, but that’s it.  You know what would have worked better?  Had we actually seen him do some of the things that make him a wanted man, but in this movie, we see The Wolf do next to nothing.  He’s also a very ineffective villain.  He knows Ethan’s identity throughout the film, and yet he can’t stop him.  He can’t stop one guy?

This movie would have been far more interesting if we knew why Ethan had to kill the Wolf.  What nefarious plot was the Wolf hatching?  I have no idea.  I do know that Ethan bought his daughter a bicycle.

(MA’s cell phone rings.)

Excuse me while I take this.  (Speaks into cell phone.)  Hello?

WOMAN’S VOICE:  You must keep your end of the bargain.  The fate of the free world is in your hands.

MA:  I told you, you have the wrong guy!

WOMAN’S VOICE:  If I have the wrong guy, then why did you answer his cell phone?

MA:  I— I don’t know.

WOMAN’S VOICE:  You have to kill him.  He’s on his way.

MA:  Who is?

WOMAN’S VOICE:  The Bunny!

MA:  You want me to kill someone named the Bunny?  I can’t take any more of this.  (shuts off his cell phone.)

That woman is crazy.  Okay, back to the review.

Why is this movie taking place in Paris?  The only reason it seems to me is so we can see some picturesque shots of the City of Love, and I can’t take that away from the movie.  Paris looks great, but other than the fact that Ethan supposedly transferred there to be close to his estranged family, the location has no relevance.  And isn’t it a happy coincidence that this A-List villain The Wolf who must be killed at all costs just happens to live in Paris as well?

This is not to say I hated 3 DAYS TO KILL.  There were some parts that I liked.  For example, I really enjoyed the scenes where Kevin Costner’s Ethan was being a bad ass.  In these scenes, the humor works, because it’s not silly or cutesy.  When Ethan can barely stand up due to his illness, and yet he can still single-handedly wipe out a group of assassins, as in one scene where Ethan’s lying there barely alive, and a guy he just shot off the roof falls on the ground behind him with a huge thud, that was funny.

It’s also hard not to laugh when the sound effects for Ethan’s punches when he beats ups his adversaries are so exaggerated I half expected to see the words POW!  and BAM! appear on screen.

The one subplot I did enjoy was the plight of the squatter family inside Ethan’s Paris apartment.  He returns home to find a family living in his apartment and to his chagrin learns that the law protects these folks during the winter months, and so he just is going to have to live with them.  The relationship between Ethan and this family, especially the young boy who looks up to him, is one of the more refreshing and sincere parts of this otherwise convoluted film.

I also liked Kevin Costner’s performance.  It was good to see him back on the screen as a lead character.  He makes a convincing tough guy, and plays Ethan like an aged and very ill Jason Bourne.  However, he’s stuck in the sickly sweet plot of daddy gets to know daughter, which did nothing for me and didn’t do him any favors.

(There is suddenly loud coughing from behind MA.  A man taps MA on the back.

MAN (coughing):  Give me your cell phone.

MA:  My cell phone?

MAN:  It’s mine.  Here’s yours (hands MA his cell phone.)  I switched them when I bumped into you this morning.

MA:  Well, that explains the woman calling me earlier.  Why did you switch them?

MAN:  So The Bunny couldn’t trace my whereabouts.  Give me my phone now.

MA:  Sure, you can have it.

(The Man suddenly has a huge coughing fit and collapses to the ground.  Dead.)

MA:  Hmm.  That’s not good.  (Cell phone rings.)  Hello?

WOMAN’S VOICE:  The Bunny is on his way!  You have to kill him.

MA:  Look, your guy just showed up, the guy who you think I am, but I’m afraid you have a problem.  See, I think he just died on you.

WOMAN’S VOICE:  Dammit!  Then it’s up to you.  You have to kill The Bunny!

MA:  Let me finish with my review first, and then I’ll get back to you.  (Shuts off his cell phone.)  Kill the Bunny!  Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous?

(From afar, comes the operatic voice of Elmer Fudd)

FUDD:  Kill the Rabbit!  Kill the Rabbit!

MA:  That was weird.  I gotta finish this review and get the hell out of here.

Amber Heard as Vivi doesn’t fare as well.  She really isn’t in the film all that much, and to me, that’s all you need to know about what’s wrong with this movie.  You have Amber Heard as a major character, and you choose not to utilize her, instead spending time on Ethan’s family?

As a result, we know little about Vivi’s background, motivations, or goals, and she comes off as a completely one-dimensional character.  She’s as lifeless as a still photo.  She makes a gorgeous still photo, but I’d rather she were a gorgeous three-dimensional character.

Heard’s Vivi is constantly coming on to Costner’s Ethan, and he’s constantly ignoring her— yeah, that’s believable!— telling her that he’s not interested in her.  See, this is supposed to make Ethan admirable, because what he’s saying here without really saying it is that he’s not interested in Vivi because he’s only interested in his estranged wife, but the problem with this is he’s so disinterested in Vivi, that Costner and Heard share no onscreen chemistry at all.  This film completely wastes Amber Heard’s sex appeal.  It also makes Costner’s Ethan seem like a corpse.  Amber Heard is coming on to you, and you have absolutely no reaction?  Are you kidding me?

 

It also doesn’t help that Heard has some of the worst lines in the movie.

Hailee Steinfeld is fine as Ethan’s daughter Zoey, but unfortunately her character is very cliché.  I’m growing tired of these “single father has to handle tough teenage daughter” storylines.  Steinfeld fared much better as Mattie Ross in the remake of TRUE GRIT (2010).

And I liked Connie Nielsen as Ethan’s wife Christine.  There was something very sincere and sensual about her, something that was completely absent from Amber Heard’s character.  I could easily see why Ethan loved her so much.  But what I didn’t like was the way the script handled her.  When we first see her, she seems to hate Ethan, and doesn’t even want to talk to him, let alone see him, but as the movie goes along, she’s ready to fall in love with him all over again.  Really?  I didn’t buy it.

Eriq Ebouaney is excellent in a small role as Jules, the father of the squatter family inside Ethan’s home.  He may have given the best performance in the entire movie.  The rest of the cast is largely forgettable, especially the villains.

3 DAYS TO KILL can’t make up its mind whether it’s a comedy or a thriller.  It should have stuck with being a thriller, because the comedy doesn’t work. It reminded me a lot of a similar muddled film, the Robert De Niro drama/comedy THE FAMILY (2013), which comes as no surprise because screenwriter Luc Besson wrote both movies.  After seeing both of these films, I think Besson needs to work on his comedic skills.  Besson is an experienced writer with lots of credits, however, so maybe he’s just in a mini-slump or something.  After all, he wrote the Liam Neeson hit TAKEN (2008).  Then again, he wrote its disastrous sequel TAKEN 2 (2012) as well.

3 DAYS TO KILL was directed by McG.  I’m sorry, but he sounds like a McDonald’s burger. McG also directed TERMINATOR SALVATION (2009) a film I liked much better than this one.  In 3 DAYS TO KILL, McG does capture some picturesque shots of Paris, and he does handle the Kevin Costner action scenes very well, but the trouble is there aren’t enough of them as the movie spends far too much time on the “getting to know his daughter” plot.  3 DAYS TO KILL would have been much better had it jettisoned its teenage daughter subplot, built up the Amber Heard character, and given the villains something to do.

Kevin Costner acquits himself well as the aging assassin/CIA agent, and Amber Heard in spite of playing a poorly written character is still Amber Heard.

I give it two knives.

(Screaming erupts from all around MA.)

VOICE:  It’s the Bunny!

(MA turns to see people fleeing from a person in a fluffy white Bunny costume.)

MA:  You have got to be kidding me.

(BUNNY pulls out a sharp carrot and starts waving it at people.)

MA:  Hey!  Hey, you, Bunny!  What’s your problem?

(BUNNY stops and points to himself.)

MA:  Yeah, you.  Do you see any other Bunnies around?  What the hell are you doing?  Knock it off!

(BUNNY stares down MA.)

MA:  I’m about to be attacked by a Bunny.  I’ll never live this down.

(Cell phone rings.)  Hello?  Yeah, he’s standing right here.  Any ideas?  Okay, that’ll work.  She wants to talk to you.  (Hands cell phone to the Bunny.)

(The BUNNY puts the phone to its ear.  There is a huge explosion, and the Bunny is blown to bits.)

MA:  Well, we were due for an explosive ending.  See you all next week when L.L. Soares returns, and he and I review another new movie.

(MA exits café as BUNNY body parts fall from the sky.)

—END—

PARANOIA (2013) Wastes Fine Cast With Poorly Executed Story

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PARANOIA-PosterMovie Review:  PARANOIA (2013)

by

Michael Arruda

 

A better title for PARANOIA (2013), the new thriller starring young hunk Liam Hemsworth and old favorites Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman, might be POTENTIAL, or perhaps PERIPHERAL.

That’s because there’s a lot of potential here but the story never gets to the heart of the matter, instead choosing to remain on the sidelines where things are never as interesting.  It’s a movie where the sum of its parts is better than the whole.

PARANOIA tells the story of twenty-something Adam Cassidy (Liam Hemsworth) who’s trying to make it in the world but is disillusioned by the trend of the past decade, where it seems the older generation is holding all the cards and his generation just can’t seem to catch a break.  Not only is Adam struggling to take care of himself, but he’s also caring for his retired dad Frank (Richard Dreyfuss) who’s suffering from emphysema and needs in-home medical care.  Matters are made more complicated when their health insurance cuts their coverage.

Adam works for a high tech software company, and his “break” comes when his employer, the unscrupulous Nicholas Wyatt (Gary Oldman) catches him spending company money on a very expensive night on the town.  Rather than press charges, Wyatt offers Adam a deal.  He wants Adam to infiltrate and spy on his former mentor and chief competitor, Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford) so they can steal his trade secrets.  Adam knows this is illegal, but he’s driven by his need to pay his dad’s medical bills and his desire get ahead, and so he says yes to the deal.  Of course, it beats going to jail, so he doesn’t really have much of a choice, does he?

So Wyatt and his staff provide Adam with special training, and when Adam meets Goddard he’s able to impress the tycoon and get a high level position almost immediately.  Along the way, he woos the beautiful and ambitious Emma Jennings (Amber Heard), who also works for Goddard.  In fact, part of the plan is for Adam to steal Emma’s security clearance in the company and use it to get the information Wyatt needs.  Some boyfriend!

Of course, this is a thriller, and Goddard is no fool, and so things don’t go as planned.  Suddenly, Adam finds himself in the middle of a power struggle that could cost him and those he loves their lives.

PARANOIA is done in by a weak story that never goes for the throat nor gives us enough details to make it a winner.  The screenplay by Jason Dean Hall and Barry Levy is based on a novel by Joseph Finder, and I would guess that the novel is better than the movie.  There is a lot going on here, and it’s the kind of story that could be told very easily in novel form.  In a movie, or at least in this movie, it’s all rather rushed and glossed over.

For example, Adam infiltrates Goddard’s empire so easily it’s ridiculous.  One brief meeting followed by a successful proposal and suddenly Adam has the keys to the company.  I didn’t find this believable at all.

The love story between Adam and Emma doesn’t really work either.  While they do share some nice onscreen chemistry, Adam totally uses Emma and really takes advantage of her, and yet later, we’re supposed to believe that she’s still interested in him?  Really?  He stole information from her that he used to rob their boss.  We’re not talking ignoring phone calls here.  I just didn’t buy it.

Harrison Ford’s Jock Goddard and Gary Oldman’s Nicholas Wyatt are both very interesting characters.  I wanted to know more about them and wished the movie had spent more time developing them.  The potential is there for Goddard to be a nasty villain.  Wyatt is developed a little bit more, but ultimately he comes off as a foolish loser rather than the suave genius that he seems to be at the outset.

A thrilling triangle between Goddard, Wyatt, and Adam never really happens, and that’s because the characters aren’t fleshed out to the point where we understand them completely and believe in them.  The characters just go through the motions, and as a result, the story never rises to an exciting level.

PARANOIA does have a strong cast, but they’re stuck in a story that doesn’t do them any favors.  Still, it’s the cast that keeps the movie from being a total turkey.

Liam Hemsworth is actually quite good as Adam and makes for a solid lead.  I bought into his character’s motivations, and I believed them.

I also liked Harrison Ford a lot as Jock Goddard.  Goddard is a decent villain, and I like the fact that Ford is playing roles lately that seem to be outside his comfort zone.  His performance here in PARANOIA follows upon the heels of his excellent work as Branch Rickey in 42 (2013).

Gary Oldman is also watchable as Nicholas Wyatt, although ultimately his character isn’t as smart as he’s first made out to be.  Oldman fared much better in the DARK KNIGHT trilogy as Commissioner Gordon.

Amber Heard, who I remember being the best part of the Nicholas Cage actioner DRIVE ANGRY (2011) is excellent once again here, although she’s stuck in a rather thankless role.  Her Emma Jennings should be up to the task of fending off Hemsworth’s Adam, but instead she’s reduced sadly to being simply the love interest.  She’s stunningly gorgeous, and I hope she gets better roles in the future.

Richard Dreyfuss as Adam’s dad Frank gets to enjoy a couple of fine moments, but Josh Holloway (Sawyer from TV’s LOST) is lost in a throwaway role as FBI agent Gamble.  He’s about as integral to the story as that guy sitting in the background at the dinner table.  A shame.

Director Robert Luketic adds little in the way of cinematic vision with this one.  The story starts out fairly interesting and remains mildly so throughout, but things never get as down and dirty as they should, and as a result it’s not a very effective thriller.  It plays more like a tepid drama.

The title PARANOIA refers to the paranoia of the main players, Wyatt and Goddard, who are supposed to be paranoid out of necessity, in that they can’t trust anyone in order to stay on top, but strangely, this plot point is only touched upon peripherally and is hardly used at all. Very strange considering the movie is called PARANOIA.

PARANOIA has a nice cast, and they all do their jobs well, but it’s not enough to make this one worth your while.

—END—