Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Jackass 3D - 2010

"Jackass 3D" - 2010
Dir. by Jeff Tremaine - 1 hr. 34 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

Sometimes, familiarity isn't such a bad thing.  There's the whole gang here again, and even though Jackass never concerns itself with things like plot or character development, by now we all know the personalities involved.  You know Bam hates snakes, you know Johnny Knoxville is going to get chased by a large animal that belongs on a dinner plate.  And probably the best thing about this movie is that Steve-O seems to be coherent and mentally present, which makes his stunts come off a lot better.  Honestly, it's a lot funnier to see him dread doing something that he knows is a really bad idea and still going through with it than it is to just see him one-upping himself without that same awareness.

And while the stunts were generally on par with previous installments of the franchise, none of them ever elevated above simple stunts and pratfalls.  What made the first two almost defensible was the first segment of the first movie and the last of the second - the rental car demolition derby and the fake terrorist plot.  Those were longer pieces of anarchic filmmaking, layered and interesting.  Despite the low-brow nature of Jackass, it showed signs of some intellect (and storytelling ability - knowing that Knoxville was going to have to return the rental car in person made every ding and dent from the demolition derby an exercise in building tension), and made the first two movies more than just a highlight reel of people falling down.  There's nothing of that sort in the third, which was a disappointment.  Even though I enjoyed this movie, I can't imagine sitting down and re-watching this one like I have with the first two.

2.5 / 5 - Theatre (standard, not 3D)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Predators - 2010

"Predators" - 2010
Dir. by Nimrod Antal - 1 hr. 47 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

This was a competent movie, but that's about the best thing I can say about it.  The action was fine, the story was okay, the acting was okay.  But if you've seen any of the Predator movies over the years, the cat's sort of out of the bag.  Everyone already knows what the Predators look like and what they're capable of, even if the cast of the movie hasn't figured things out yet.  And, in fact, knowing more than the characters do made me kind of want to root for the Predators to just murder everyone in the most brutal way possible.  The interplay between the humans wasn't anything to take note of, so why root for them?  The way the movie turned out, it was strongly suggested that the humans aren't anything more than replaceable meat anyhow, and in that case, no one is going to root for an ambulatory can of Alpo over their dog.

The predictability of "Predators" really hurt the movie - I know that in action films part of the enjoyment is in hitting those sweet spots along the way, but even the lone twist to the film was pretty predictable.  Even then end battle lifted heavily from the original "Predator."  Unless you're a super-Predator fan (which I'm not), I'd probably skip this one.

2 / 5 - DVD

Friday, December 10, 2010

Due Date - 2010

"Due Date" - 2010
Dir by Todd Phillips - 1 hr. 35 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

With comedies more than any other type of movie, I leave the theatre disappointed.  Maybe disappointed isn't the right word, more like underwhelmed.  Perhaps I'm continually overestimating the funniness of certain actors and directors, or perhaps it's just that no one hits it out of the park every single time at bat.  "Due Date" falls into that category.  Certainly, if someone were to tell you that Todd Phillips was going to direct a mismatched buddy film with Zach Galafinakis and Robert Downey, Jr. (fresh off "The Hangover"), you're likely going to have some expectations.

I keep finding myself having to back off of how bad I make this movie sound.  It's not a bad movie at all, perhaps a little uneven, but not a bad movie.  There are a number of laugh-out-loud scenes, the characters play fairly well off of one another, but it never coalesces into something more than the sum of it's parts.  I'll put it this way, if you see this movie, you'd probably have a good time.  But you're not going to tell people that it's as funny as "Old School" or "The Hangover" was.  Sure, those are pretty lofty goals, but if you've got those two movies under your belt (like Phillips does), pretty much every movie you make for the rest of your life are going to be judged on that scale.

I'm definitely not saying not to watch this.  I enjoyed myself throughout.  My warning is that it's probably not going to be quite as funny as you hope it will be, so lower your expectations and enjoy.

3 / 5 - Theatre

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Janeane Garofalo: If You Will - Live in Seattle - 2010

"Janeane Garofalo: If You Will - Live in Seattle" - 2010
Dir. by Michael Petok - 59 minutes

"Ghosts" - clip

by Clayton Hollifield

Even if you used to have a fearsome crush on Ms. Garofalo like me, this isn't the greatest stand-up special ever made.  I guess it's positives are about the same as the negatives - it's an accurate document of where she's at as a comedian right now.  I'm sure your political bent might have a lot to do with how you view her and her work, but ignoring that, what you've got is a seasoned, funny comedian putting on a good show.  I wasn't blown away here, but I'm a little baffled that it's taken this long to get one of her shows on the market.  In that respect, I'm happy that finally happened.

There's a bit in this show where she talks about her manager being upset that she doesn't have any "internet presence."  It almost feels like this DVD is result of the same complaint - she didn't have any comedy product on the market, and this does at least fill that gap.  But I wouldn't recommend it beyond that - if you haven't seen her perform before, this is sufficient (but not excellent).

3 / 5 - Streaming

A Walk Into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory - 2007

"A Walk Into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory" - 2007
Dir. by Esther Robinson - 1 hr. 15 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

Lately, I've been getting more and more into the Velvet Underground (and Nico, as well), and based on that, Netflix recommended this documentary (and a couple other movies) to me.  It's about Danny Williams, a film editor and lighting technician that worked in Andy Warhol's Factory (several interviewees suggest that Williams was also one of Warhol's lovers, as well).  Visiting his family, he disappeared into the ocean at age 27 with no clues as to what happened.

The filmmaker, Esther Robinson, is a relative of Williams', and ends up painting a somewhat confusing portrait of him.  A few people flat out didn't remember him, some diminish his importance, more than a few thought that Warhol had not done right by Williams.  The film ends on a rather philosophical note by John Cale, who upon being asked what he thought had happened, deflects the question by saying that what is really being asked is how each individual would have disappeared themselves.

In the end, no conclusions are really drawn.  Williams disappeared at a young age, before he was really able to gain any traction with his own film-making.  There are many examples of his experimental films shown, and they're interesting (yet not really groundbreaking).  I enjoyed the film, at the same time it didn't seem to accomplish that much.  It's a hazy photograph of the departed, and I suppose that the attempt to render Williams' work into something to be remembered is an accomplishment of sorts.

3 / 5 - NF Streaming

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Faster - 2010

"Faster" - 2010
Dir. by George Tillman, Jr. - 1 hr. 35 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

If you're going to do an action movie, revenge is a solid motive for the main character.  Often times, that, a cool car and a star who doesn't run like a girl is enough to fill up the run time, and whatever else is there is a bonus.

In this instance, Dwayne Johnson's Driver (that's the only name given for him) is out for revenge, hunting down a group of men that ambushed and killed his brother.  The car is an early 70's Chevelle, by the way.  Driver begins his hunt immediately upon his release from prison, and isn't particularly subtle about it.  This draws the attention of the police, Billy Bob Thornton and Carla Gugino (Cop and Cicero, respectively).  From there, it's a stylish, tense, gritty race to see if Driver will accomplish his mission before the cops figure out what's going on (and there's a third party, a hired killer named "Killer" hot on Driver's tail as well).

While there are a couple of surprises along the way, this story plays out both exactly like you think it will and exactly like it ought to.  But this is a movie about the execution and the acting, as oddly as that sounds.  Dwayne Johnson probably doesn't have a dozen lines in the entire movie, and yet he's on screen for the bulk of the movie.  He doesn't need the lines to explain what's going, he's a physical presence, he commands the viewer's attention.  It's all there in how he carries himself - even before you find out what's happened to him along the way, you know that something's happened to him along the way.  He's offset by Billy Bob Thornton, starting off at the bottom of the barrel, trying to reach the finish line, almost convincing you along the way that he's the one getting piled on.

One after one, you find out what Driver's family and friends have done to him.  One after one, it adds up until you can understand and feel the seething, single-minded focus of Driver.  I'm not going to pretend the culmination of the story is a twist on the level of "The Usual Suspects" or anything like that, but it's more enough to satisfy the journey.

I found myself more than pleasantly surprised by "Faster."  I was happy enough to see Johnson away from children's movies (there's not necessarily anything wrong with them, but where have all my action stars gone?), but this was a benchmark performance in his career, the sort of role that few could pull off.  If you were to compare Johnson in "The Rundown" or "Doom" to "Faster," it's clear that he's getting better.  After this role, I'm eagerly looking forward to whatever comes next.

4 / 5 - Theatre

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Knucklehead - 2010

"Knucklehead" - 2010
Dir. by Michael W. Watkins - 1 hr. 40 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

This is a movie that you'll likely enjoy much more if you don't have any real expectations going in.  And certainly, when you've got a WWE Studios movie, starring a professional wrestler (The Big Show), and it's a comedy, odds are that you're going to get a somewhat low-brow formula movie.  I've seen nearly all the movies that WWE Studios have put out, and it's safe to say that they're not going to reinvent the wheel.  This is a continuation of their track record.

Big Show's Walter Krunk is 35 and living in an orphanage.  A series of events puts him on the road with a sleazy fight promoter and a reformed dancer acting as his chaperon, sort of.  Yes, it's another "save the house" movie (in this case, the orphanage)!  Walter has to learn how to fight on the fly, in a series of dubious pseudo-MMA matches, culminating in a big fight in New Orleans.  One of the things I actually liked about the movie is that it didn't pretend that it was in a low-budget version of the UFC.  I have no idea what the rules of the fights were, and I love the idea that MMA purists will get bent out of shape because some of the fighters were wearing pro wrestling boots and the fighters were throwing wrestling punches instead of strikes - purists of any stripe are generally pretty boring, and should be angered at every opportunity.

The other main pleasure of "Knucklehead" is the Big Show.  He's one funny dude, and threw himself into the acting more than I figured he would.  If you've watched him as a wrestler (or on a talk show, or wherever you might have seen him), you'd expect that was a distinct possibility.  It was a pleasant relief that he managed to carry the lead role just fine, and I'd definitely check out whatever movie he does next.

2.5 / 5 - DVD

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pineapple Express - 2008

"Pineapple Express" - 2008
Dir. by David Gordon Green - 1 hr. 51 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

I know there's a sort of haze around this movie, that it might only be suitable for stoners (or at least a lot funnier if you're in that state of mind), and that might be true (I have no idea how this film would be edited for a network broadcast), but it's still a pretty good movie.  The set-up: Dale Denton (played by Seth Rogan) is a process server, and accidentally witnesses a murder.  He and his dealer, Saul (James Franco), have to go on the lam.  From there, it's largely a buddy movie (although they're under quite a bit of stress).

And you're not likely to see a movie like "Pineapple Express" for the plot or cinematography, so that largely leaves how well it's executed, and the general likeability (or at least interestingness) of the actors.  At this point, you pretty much know what you're going to get from Seth Rogan, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.  But most of what I liked about the movie was James Franco's Saul - it's a very well-rounded and wonderfully acted character.  It was also nice to see him break from more brooding characters and have some fun.

So yeah, this is a funny one.  This was the 2nd time I've watched it, and I still liked it as much as the 1st time.  Check it out if you're so inclined; don't let the weed-related content keep you from watching.  I mean, you can always pretend it's like the "Bill & Ted's" movies - although it was never mentioned on-screen, there's no way they developed those personalities without some herbal intervention.

3.5 / 5 - DVD

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pecker - 1998

"Pecker" - 1998
Dir. by John Waters - 1 hr. 26 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

There's a weird plasticity to John Waters films that I don't often see elsewhere (particularly in his more recent material), sort of an artificial veneer that keeps the viewer at arms length.  I suppose it's a coping mechanism to prevent viewers from truly locking into some of the odder characters in the films.  And it works well if you're dealing with supporting, one-note characters (both Christina Ricci's laundromat-obsessed Shelley and Martha Plimpton's Tina, who tends bar at a gay strip club and calls everyone "Mary," male or female, are great in their roles), where it's more than enough for them to wander through the plot at opportune times, honed into their individual obsessions, making near-non sequitur comments.

But when it comes to the titular main character, played by Edward Furlong, there's just no meat there.  He coasts along through the movie with the same single-minded focus, snapping pictures of literally everything around him.  There's no emotional depth whatsoever, so it makes it difficult to care about him or his family.  A viewer has to be able to invest in a main character one way or another before a story can really take hold, and that never happens at any point.

Having said that, "Pecker" is still a fun, quick, breezy film (if you consider lines like "Pubic hair causes crime!" to be fun, which I certainly do.  Underneath the intentional cheesiness and shock tactics, there's a legitimate debate about the role of art in a society (despite the somewhat tired trope of smaller towns being more "authentic") - Waters argues that art can be made by and relate to everyday people instead of solely among an elite, disconnected class, which is a message that would be useful for more people to hear.  This movie is also notable for introducing the term "tea-bagging" into the lexicon, and I have to admit I laughed pretty hard over it (especially the sound effect - a dull thump upon impact).

Generally speaking, I enjoyed the movie, and I imagine I'll watch it again at some point. I'm still working my way through John Waters' movies, no end in sight.

3 / 5 - DVD

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Jonah Hex - 2010

"Jonah Hex" - 2010
Dir. by Jimmy Hayward - 1 hr. 22 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

I'm not sure I've ever seen a movie where literally every choice made is the wrong one before.  I almost don't know where to begin, and before I do, I'll both admit that I've read the Jonah Hex comic book and that I don't care about changes made from the source material.

What we've got here is a Civil War-era movie, and Jonah Hex is a disgraced, disfigured former Confederate soldier.  The plot involves a nemesis who fakes his death for all of about 5 minutes of screen time (John Malkovich's Quentin Turnbull, about a million explosions, and a super weapon that resembles a nuclear orange.  I'm not joking about the explosions, this is literally pornography for pyromaniacs.  There's a heavy-metal soundtrack, which works only in the sense that I would associate heavy music with lots of explosions.  There are an abundance of extended scenes in the middle of the night, and they are frequently too dark to tell what's going on.  And in such dark sequences, and when you've got a character that essentially has a vagina on the side of his face, there are opportunities to reveal that disfigurement to effect.  Instead, it was treated visually as being no more important than Hex's left shoe.  In a year when the comic-book movie backlash finally crested, there's an extended "motion comic" sequence in the first five minutes of the film.  There's an inexplicable pseudo-MMA scene, for no good reason other than MMA is popular now (I even groaned during "Sherlock Holmes'" extensive MMA nonsense - it's apropos of nothing, particularly in period films).  By the end of the film, Jonah seems to have acquired Dr. Doolittle powers, assembling the beginning of an all-animal posse.

Maybe the only good thing I can say about this film is that I've discovered the easiest acting role ever - playing a hooker in a PG-13 film.  Megan Fox really lucked out here, the closest thing to a sexy scene she had to play was a few seconds of her tightly-bound bosom, heaving in fear.  Other than that, she seemed to fight with men more than plying her trade.

Even though the run time is listed at 1 hr. 22 min., the credits rolled at the 73 minute mark.  Now, I don't want anyone to think that I'm asking for more Jonah Hex, but it's clear that something is missing.  I don't really care what the excuse is - a bad movie is a bad movie.

1 / 5 - DVD

Sunday, November 7, 2010

John Pinette: I'm Starvin' - 2006

"John Pinette: I'm Starvin'" - 2006
Dir. by ? - 1 hr. 12 min.

by Clayton Hollifield

The difference between this special and John Caparulo's is that John Pinette has nailed his character, and has worked through more than enough material to fill a special.  I usually find comics that rely heavily on fat jokes pretty rough viewing, and this was no exception, but Pinette is also a very polished, very funny comedian (despite my reservations about the subject matter).  This is funny stuff from a guy who's persona I usually wouldn't care much for.  In lesser hands, I probably would have turned it off.

3 / 5 - NF Streaming

Monday, November 1, 2010

John Caparulo: Meet Cap - 2008

"John Caparulo: Meet Cap" - 2008
Dir. by David Higby - 61 min.

by Clayton Hollifield

I had seen John Caparulo's stand-up before, albeit in shorter lengths.  He's pretty funny in smaller doses, but I didn't really feel like he filled up an entire hour very well.  There were good parts, but I got bored in the middle and started playing with my dog.  If you really like him, give this a go.  But I'd have to admit that I don't feel he had enough material for an hour.  Oh well.

2 / 5 - Streaming

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Slammin' Salmon - 2009

"The Slammin' Salmon" - 2009
Dir. by Kevin Heffernan - 1 hr. 30 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

There's two things to get out of the way before I get to the nut meat of this review.  First, it's way easier to dig into a film that isn't entirely successful, and secondly, I am a fan of the Broken Lizard crew.  So, if it seems like I'm tearing them a new one, that's because there are very specific reasons why this film didn't work for me, and it's nothing personal.  I'm sure that I'll check out whatever they do next without dreading it.

"The Slammin' Salmon" is a "save the house" movie.  We've all seen the basic structure a million times - a ragtag crew has to save something (usually a house) from someone evil (or just a little douchey).  The plot works fine ever since "Animal House," a bunch of slackers are both given the opportunity to be hilarious pointlessly and to rise to the occasion, proving that they have been underestimated by the world at large.  There are certain points that have to be hit in order to do this story - heroes are hilarious and undermotivated, villain wants to end their way of life for profit, and there's usually a girl to impress as well.

The set-up here is that former boxing great Cleon "Slammin'" Salmon (played by Michael Clarke Duncan) owns a seafood restaurant, at which the Broken Lizard crew work.  Salmon loses a bet to a Yakuza member, and needs $20,000 to pay it off immediately, or else.  The "else" largely means new ownership, and Salmon will likely be punching out everyone in sight.

Where this movie fails is in the set-up.  The "save the house" plot doesn't work if there's not a good reason why the protagonists would want to save their environment.  Usually, this means that the protagonists are so weird that they wouldn't fit in anywhere else, and that the "house" is the place that they've finally found that allows them to be themselves.  In that scenario, being thrown into the outside world and having to adapt to it would mean a complete loss of their individuality.  Alternately, the potential punishment can be so egregious that literally anyone would shy away from it (like the "Saw" movies and the potential for dismemberment).  The entire story-type hangs on setting this up effectively - you have to want the underdogs to win (or normal folk to keep all their limbs), otherwise there is no emotional investment in the characters, and then you just have guys doing gags.

"The Slammin' Salmon" fails on both points - the protagonists are not established as underdogs in any meaningful way (nor are they so awful as to command a viewer's curiosity as to what will happen next, as in "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"), and the potential rage of Cleon Salmon isn't sufficient to make me care that the characters don't get beat up.

So what does that leave?  The movie looks good, the humor is decent enough, but without getting the structural components of the story sturdy, it all falls flat.  This same batch of guys nailed this type of story with "Super Troopers," and to a lesser degree "Beerfest," but definitely not here.  That's kind of frustrating as a viewer, but I'll still check out whatever they do next.

2 / 5 - DVD

Saturday, October 30, 2010

David Cross: Bigger & Blackerer - 2010

"David Cross: Bigger & Blackerer" - 2010
Dir. by Lance Bangs - 58 min.

by Clayton Hollifield

This is a stand-up concert video from 2009, and really the only thing I can judge is how good of a performance it is.  David Cross is a very good stand-up comedian, and while his act certainly isn't for everyone, you'll find out pretty quickly if you're going to get offended at his brand of humor.  This is an excellent concert - I was laughing all the way through.  It's not his best video (you could start with one of his albums or "Let America Laugh"), but it captures a damned good comedian giving a damned good performance, which is a pretty good recommendation.

4 / 5 - Streaming

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

When You're Strange - 2009

"When You're Strange" - 2009
Dir. by Tom DiCillo - 1 hr. 24 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

This is a documentary about the short careers of Jim Morrison and the Doors, narrated by Johnny Depp.  The main draw here is some rare archival footage of the subjects.  The great thing about a documentary about a band is that if you're into the band, you know the soundtrack is going to kick ass.  Same thing here, even if the subject matter has been trod before (and kneaded a bit by Oliver Stone), an hour and a half of music that I like is going to go down very easy.

Unfortunately, if you've already seen Oliver Stone's "The Doors," there's not much to this that wasn't really covered.  Seeing as how that movie is nearly 20 years old, it's entirely possible that a lot of people haven't, and being fresh to the material covered in "When You're Strange" would certainly improve your viewing experience.

One funny note - late in the Doors' run, they play a concert at the Isle of Wight in England.  Depp talks about how the "people" felt that the show should be free (and gatecrashed for that reason), contrary to the what the concert organizers thought.  It's proof positive that it's not just the current generation that was trying to steal music - the Boomers were ripping off musicians years before many of us were born!

3 / 5 - Streaming

Monday, October 25, 2010

Date Night - 2010

"Date Night" - 2010
Dir. by Shawn Levy - 1 hr. 28 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

Only you know whether or not seeing Steve Carell and Tina Fey starring together in a movie sounds like a really good idea.  To me, yeah, that's a pretty easy sell.  Even when the scenario is pretty stock (TM Lars Ulrich) - fish-out-of-water?  Bickering couple?  Who question their relationship, but eventually re-affirm it?  You know literally every plot point before you've even started watching, but the beauty of comedies is that it really is about the journey, and not the destination.  Every once in a while, you get a comedy that really transcends (like "Groundhog Day," for instance), but most comedians' careers are built upon movies like this one, movies that put your favorite stars in familiar situations and let them do their thing.  On that account, this one is not a home-run, it's a ground rule double.  If you like Carell and Fey, you're going to enjoy this one.  "Date Night" is not likely to be a career highlight, but if I was bored and it came on TV, I probably wouldn't change the channel.

3 / 5 - DVD

Blue Velvet - 1986

"Blue Velvet" - 1986
Dir. by David Lynch - 2 hrs.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

It's difficult watching movies that come with reputations.  Particularly one like this - I've seen a couple of other David Lynch movies ("Dune," "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me"), so I had an idea going in the level of weirdness that might be achieved.  And since a large amount of the reputation of this movie had to do with the weirdness within, the big question was how bad things were going to get.

What I came away with was a movie that part absolute genius (partially due to written material, but also the absolute commitment from Dennis Hopper and Isabella Rossellini), and a much less successful attempt to juxtapose the, I suppose you'd call it, perversity with a white-picket fence world (the fence is actually shown at the beginning of the film, I'm not just stereotyping).  The night world, drug-fueled and unpredictable, is such strong material (still bold and shocking in it's vividness and sexual tension nearly 25 years later) that it makes the plastic artificiality of the moral world outside of Rossellini's Dorothy Vallens' apartment fall flat.

Reviews of this film range from pegging it as an absolute classic to Roger Ebert's 1-star review - I fall somewhere in the middle.  I think it's a must see, particularly if you're into any kind of surrealist film-making, but the stratospheric, exhilarating highs of the film don't exactly make up for how little I was able to buy into the side of the film represented by Laura Dern's character.  It's almost necessary to see Dennis Hopper rampage, to see Dean Stockwell's laconic detachment playing off of Hopper's aggression and coarseness, to see Isabella Rossellini portrayal of a nearly frightening female sexuality, but I felt the dichotomy between unrestrained indulgence and the picture-perfect American life was done better in "Twin Peaks."  This is a noteworthy movie, but it's not the masterpiece I was hoping for.  I almost wish I had seen it not knowing anything about it going it.  I don't think the American dream scenes would have played any better, but maybe I wouldn't have expected them to, either.

3.5 / 5 - Streaming

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Red - 2010

"Red" - 2010
Dir. by Robert Schwentke - 1 hr. 51 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

"Red" probably benefits from a year that's completely lowered the expectations for comic book movies, but that also assumes that anyone's aware that the source material is a comic book by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner.  I'd definitely say that the movie is superior to the comic (it was a very short series - more of the outline of a story than a fully-fleshed out story), but considering that the comic wasn't a particularly big hit, it's almost irrelevant.

Bruce Willis and company coast by between action sequences with an easy charm and camaraderie that's often the make or break with this sort of movie; watching people complain about aging is a lot less easy to swallow if it's hard to believe that their on-screen circle of friends care about one another, or if they're just generally unpleasant.  The action sequences are nearly a given - if you go see a movie where things are blowing up in the trailer, there's a baseline level of competence in any movie expected.  So barring any ground-breaking technique, the entire thing rests on hitting the required plot points and how the actors work together.  It's not unexpected, but when you assemble Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, and Mary-Louise Parker, it turns out that it's a lot of fun to watch.

It seems almost a shame to single anyone out for a particularly good job, but John Malkovich's character had me laughing out loud through the entire film, and was a good foil for Bruce Willis' legendary scowl.  I had a great time watching "Red;" it's not the best movie ever made, but sometimes finding a movie that's an enjoyable ride is more than enough.

3.5 / 5 - Theatre