Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Good Day to Die Hard

        The fifth installment in a series that should have quit after two. The only thing remaining in the spirit of the original "Die Hard" is Bruce Willis's smirk. The plot (or what passes for a plot) moves the story to Moscow for a ridiculous story linking Russian villains and the Chernobyl disaster from 26 years ago. To most, Mr. Willis will be the only recognizable face in the film, which co-stars Jai Courtney (best know for cable TV's "Spartacus"). 

         Mr Courtney plays Jack McClane, Mr Willis's son, who as it turns out is a CIA operative in Moscow, unbeknownst to Mr. Willis. The fact that Mr. Willis doesn't know this is only the first of a series of poor plot points. Wounds heal miraculously, weapons appear just when they are needed and villains continue to talk (or in this case, dance) instead of shoot when  the heroes are captured.

        Aside from watching an infinite amount of vehicles being destroyed early on and a transport helicopter blown up later on, there's nothing here to hold your attention. Even a good joke about "a vacation" is wasted when repeated constantly. And don't even get me started on the rest of the bad dialogue.

         Yippee Kay Ay, this one dies easy.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Side Effects

      The new thriller from director Steven Soderbergh has a great cast and a very clever plot that I can't discuss without spoilers. While it may take some liberties with drugs and the pharmaceutical companies that make them, the script really takes off in unexpected ways and a film that starts slow ends with quite the payoff.

         Rooney Mara and Channing Tatum are a young married couple with issues. He's been in jail for 4 years on inside trading charges and she suffers from depression. Jude Law plays a psychiatrist who ends up treating Ms. Rooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones plays Ms. Rooney's former doctor. These are the things that are apparent. Everything else is quite fun for the audience as the film follows a very unexpected road.

         Ms. Rooney and Mr. Law are terrific in their respective roles. Mr. Tatum is a bit more restrained than usual (probably due to Mr. Soderbergh's excellent direction) and it's good to see Ms. Zeta-Jones in a clever part. The pace of the film starts slow and never really takes off but rather unfolds at it's own deliberate speed, slowly revealing layers like a good thriller should.

         The first third of the film wasn't really impressing me but by the time it ended, it had completely won me over. It's much more clever than you might suspect and a welcome relief during the traditional winter movie blues.


      Donald Westlake's anti-hero "Parker" has been played in the past by Lee Marvin and Mel Gibson. Now it's Jason Statham's turn and he makes the most of it in this action thriller. The story is fairly simple. Parker is a thief who is double crossed by his crew on a job. Left for dead, he manages to survive and seeks revenge.

       The Florida locations are beautiful and so is co-star Jennifer Lopez, who is surprisingly good as a real estate agent who gets involved with Parker. This is easily her best role since "Out of Sight" with George Clooney.  A nice twist in the plot is that Ms. Lopez is not a love interest but rather becomes a partner of sorts for Parker. The central villain in the film is played convincingly by Michael Chiklis.

        Mr. Statham is known for his fighting skills and action sequences and while "Parker" has fewer of them than most of his films, there are still some exciting moments. A fight sequence in a Miami high-rise is a highlight. By the time you read this, the film has probably left the theaters but its worth your time on video if you are a fan of either Mr. Statham or Ms. Lopez.