Every Single Article Written by Russell - All 140
Four years after the release of the stellar District 9, writer/director Neill Blomkamp brings us Elysium, a well-intentioned (albeit clunky) scifi actioner in the same vein. Blomkamp offers up visual spectacle, violent action, and social commentary in roughly equal measure. Elysium, however, lacks the punch of the director’s previous entry.
Fruitvale Station opens with grainy cell phone footage of several young black men lined up against a wall. Police officers hover over them, speaking sharply into their radios. Spectators cry out incoherently. Suddenly, one of the young men begins shouting. The officers throw him to the ground. A struggle ensues. It’s impossible to tell what exactly is happening. The unmistakable sound of a gunshot rings out, and with it, the life of a 22 year old father ends.
Thirteen years ago, director Bryan Singer brought the X-Men to the big screen, and in the span of two movies, he helped to wipe away the stigma that hack filmmaker Joel Schumacher had left upon the superhero genre. Then Singer jumped ship to direct a mediocre Superman movie, and the franchise was left to be mismanaged by a barrage of talentless executives at Twentieth Century Fox. Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class boldly rebooted the flailing property, but The Wolverine marks the first X-Men movie to actually follow the disastrous X-Men: The Last Stand in terms of continuity. The question on everyone’s minds: Can director James Mangold un-fuck the thorough fucking over this franchise received at the hands of mediocre filmmakers and clueless studio execs?
I really liked Only God Forgives. There…I said it. One of the most critically drubbed films of 2013, the latest collaboration between director Nicolas Winding Refn and star Ryan Gosling is easily one of the more ambitious, visceral pictures of the year. It’s also a completely divisive film that leaves the audience with no middle ground—you’re either going to love it or you are going to completely despise it. Most will probably despise it.
So three years ago Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, and Morgan Freeman starred in Red—a movie fueled by the premise that old people can still kick ass, too. It was an enjoyable movie. Bruce Willis beat Karl Urban up a couple of times, John Malkovich played a crazy person, and Morgan Freeman died…I think. To be honest, I can’t remember much about it, and I doubt anyone left theaters clamoring for a sequel. Well, Red received a sequel, and while it’s just as enjoyable, it’s ultimately just as forgettable.
James Wan, who achieved fame and fortune by creating the Saw franchise, must wish to atone for steering the American horror film into the waters of torture porn. That’s the only reason I can come up with for why the talented filmmaker has so abruptly switched course, leaving the violent slasher genre behind and focusing instead on eerie haunted house movies. Compared with the sheer excesses of the Saw franchise, Wan’s previous film—Insidious—and The Conjuring are exercises in restraint and solid, traditional filmmaking. Whatever Mr. Wan’s motivations, I fervently hope he continues in this direction, because The Conjuring just so happens to be one of the better horror films released this year.
Guillermo del Toro knows how to put on a good show. With Pacific Rim he takes the simple concept of giant monsters beating each other senseless, and he mines it for all its worth. The result is a gorgeous, explosive film that also happens to be one of the best action movies of 2013.
Europa Report tells the story of a band of astronauts who set out to discover life on Jupiter’s aquatic moon. Of course they get considerably more than they bargained for in their process. Has there ever been a science fiction movie where an intrepid group of scientists venture out into unknown only to find nothing? Director Sebastian Cordero effectively merges science fiction, horror, and the found footage subgenre into one of the year’s most thoughtful films.
This sequel to Universal’s surprise 2010 hit knows that it’s meant for children and sets out to please only that audience. It works. Bright, colorful, and well-acted, Despicable Me 2 boasts everything necessary to thrill young children. Parents may find themselves checking their cell phones, however. They’ll find none of the depth or heart contained in Pixar’s WALL-E or DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon.
With his adaptation of The Lone Ranger, Gore Verbinski reboots a story no one really asked for, but he manages to accomplish his task with panache. Verbinski—one of the most pop culture literate directors currently working in Hollywood—appears to suffer from attention deficit disorder in the best possible sense. Never content to simply play in one genre, the filmmaker consistently attempts to cram as many influences into one film as he possibly can. It’s as if he believes this is the last movie he will ever make, and therefore, he intends to use this production to film all of the movies he’s ever wanted to make…all at once. The result is a delightfully demented Western that’s equal parts Spaghetti Western, horror movie, and slapstick comedy.