Quick Hit: Completely missing some of the qualities that made the first one partially enjoyable, this film sinks to the predictable tunes of a sinking sequel.
I’ll start off by saying the best thing about this movie – Colbie Smulders is in it.
Yup, that’s about all I’ve got for this one. Oh wait – the opening Reacher scene in the diner was at least expectedly enjoyable.
Filled with a baffling side plot involving a daughter that is simply used as a reason for Jack and his new partner in crime to move around, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is not a good movie. The plot bounces around, never really explaining why people are bad besides saying – hey, people like money, so there must be bad people trying to make it. While this is indeed a true statement, it’s tough to base an entire movie around it, which is why I suppose they threw in the whole thing with Reacher’s daughter.
The acting is bad, even with Ms. Smulders and Tom Cruise consistently glaring at everything (seriously – each other, the “daughter”, the camera, the walls, the bad guys). The dialogue is worse, frequently falling into territory that is dangerously close to Troll 2. It’s almost as if this was a lazy sequel or something.
I guess I can find one more thing that I enjoyed about the movie – there is one scene in a kitchen that attempts to capture the spirit of the first movie’s often exciting action scenes (the other scenes in Never Go Back, including a rooftop fight and chase scene, never quite live up to the hand to hand action as well as other times). But, pay attention to the wording there, dear reader. It is an obvious attempt. Here, the punches seem like they’re being pulled at the last second, and any real danger with a meat pounder is consistently put out of mind by constantly allowing it to be smacked to the ground.
Ok, so I’ve avoided actually talking about it long enough – let’s talk about the daughter plot. I’m not spoiling anything, because I don’t actually know what is the case here. Reacher finds out he supposedly has a daughter. Now, based on what we know of him from the first movie, Reacher is a loner that has the investigational skills of a Sherlock Holmes who moves around a lot. This woman is claiming that she had his baby without him knowing. So now there is a teenage girl (they say her age, but based on the actress playing her, it seems indeterminately between 16 and 20) who is “just like Reacher” over and over in the movie. Never once does our incredible detective run any type of test that could actually identify that the girl is his daughter or not. Seems a bit out of character to me.
I didn’t like this one much, and I’m sorry for it, because I think that Jack Reacher is a character that probably has a decent literary following, and I always like to see those succeed. But I couldn’t get past the ineptitude of the plot in this one, and I’m giving it a “D-“.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: Still an exemplary pirate movie, it will forever be a standard to which I hold the swashbuckling genre.
Once upon a time, before there was the Second World War, the world was on edge. You see, there was a little man called Hitler that had riled up an entire country, and then began to rile up the entire world. After WWI, quite a few Americans were looking for a way to “stick their head in the sand” as it were, and did so using American Cinema – early talkies were taking Hollywood by storm, particularly horror and adventure films (one might even call them escapist films).
It was on one of those films that the great Warner Brothers studio took the chance on an unknown Tasmanian named Errol Flynn. He stars as Peter Blood, a doctor who treats the wrong man and is quickly sentenced to exile in the Caribbean for rebelling against the king. There is a young woman, Arabella Bishop (Olivia de Havilland) whose uncle Colonel Bishop runs a slave labor group. She buys Blood, who quickly shows himself intelligent and infinitely charming. Eventually, he becomes a pirate in the greatest way possible.
This film changed the course of Hollywood history, and I still can’t believe how few people have even heard of it to this day. Errol Flynn became the swashbuckling hero for the American people, and then he became an addict – to women, to drugs, and most of all to alcohol. But here, you can see exactly why he became the star he was – charm simply flows off of him, in a way that it does all the great Hollywood stars. Even better, he has infinite chemistry with de Havilland (they went on to be in somewhere between nine and twelve films if I recall), and great chemistry with the other members of the cast as well.
The story is very good as well, and it’s consistently sold by even those whose acting I didn’t particularly enjoy. Many movies from the 30s feature someone like the Governor’s character as comedic relief, but rarely are the used effectively. Here, the silly grins and groans do actually add to the characterization of Blood – you can see it across Flynn’s face.
Along with that, the effects, which were all done in miniaturization or on a studio stage, are magnificent for the 1930s. Warner Brothers spent what was considered a fortune on this film (one million dollars), but were handsomely rewarded. I think my favorite scene lies later in the movie though, in a scene that has very few effects at all, and shows exactly what Flynn was to become in Hollywood – a swashbuckler. When he (P.S. I guess this is spoilers, but I’m not putting a break in for a movie that came out 80 years ago) and the French pirate battle on the beach, it’s a terrific sword fight. It’s easy to see that movies like The Princess Bride drew inspiration when choreographing the Greatest Sword Fight of all time (in fact, if you read the book I suggested in that post, Elwes talks about watching old Errol Flynn films).
All in all, we couldn’t be starting off Pirate Weeks here at DoubleFeaturePreachers with a better film. Captain Blood is a pirate’s life for me, through and through. I’m giving it a solid “A”.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: Never generates the tension it so desperately needs, this thriller consistently lingers on characters incessantly.
Zodiac is a thriller that came out in 2007. I’m not really sure how I missed it the first time around – I actually think I owned the film for a time, and just never got around to watching it. However, when it appeared on Shannon’s portion of the Top 100, it was one that I was equally excited to watch. It stars three actors that I think are incredible, and also very underrated in their non-blockbuster roles – Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, and Jake Gyllenhaal. The film, directed by David Fincher (Fight Club), follows a cartoonist (Gyllenhaal) who becomes obsessed with the Zodiac killer. It’s based on real people and a real killer.
I think this movie was decent, and above average. The performances by the main players are excellent, with Gyllenhaal being the stand-out as the obsessed cartoonist. He continues to show the darkness that was inside of him that is set for future roles (like Nightcrawler and Nocturnal Animals). He also plays the deer in the headlights better than anyone really (see Enemy). Downey Jr. continues to play his manic self to perfection, and Ruffalo is solid as an over-worked homicide detective.
The problem here is that the suspense never feels like it peaks, and instead sends the slow burn out with no real pay-off. In some sense, this works – the paranoia is felt throughout every character’s expression, every person’s movement, and camera movement. The movie also has moments (in a two and half hour film, it’s hard to avoid this) where it simply just explores leads that never pan out. While this happened in real life, in the movies, it feels extraneous and unnecessary.
The setting of the film, which is California, is perfect. Fincher sets up the different areas, from the scene at the lake where the two lovers get killed, to the dark, seedy underbelly of the city that is shown when the taxi driver is killed. It is an easy contrast between the two – one is full of light and yellows (which makes the impending death of the couple that much more horrifying), the other is shrouded in darkness and shadows. You continue to see this in Graysmith’s (the cartoonist) personal life as well. When we first meet him, he is constantly in well-lit areas. As the movie progresses, he frequently finds himself in shadow.
Another issue I had with the film is the fact that it frequently abandons different characters to focus on the others. I thought the film worked best in the beginning, when we were going from character to character. It gave the picture a forward momentum. The film stalls in the middle as we are left only with Ruffalo’s character doing the police work, and Downey falls off the map entirely. It succeeds in salvaging this mishap when the film pivots back to Gyllenhaal, who in turn begins interacting with the other characters once more.
This film is a perfect example of a near miss. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t perfect. I’m going to give it a “B-“.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"