Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s GRAND RETURN edition of Friday’s Fast Five Film Reviews, where every Friday (that we remember to do it) we here at the Vortex Effect try our best to be piffy and put up quick reviews of five mostly random movies we’ve watched in the past week. This week we have a mix of some very good, and really only one kind of “meh” film here in the mix.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
I am not a comic book guy, or a comic book movie guy by extension. I was only mildly interested in the genre at its peak, and now that it is on the downswing, I am even less so. That said, Guardians of the Galaxy was for me, the equivalent of American Hustle, if said movie happened in a crazy Wild West version of outer space. This movie is just insane amounts of fun. The soundtrack of course is a huge part of that, as it was with American Hustle, but the characters are the main reason to see this movie. Dave Bautista was a hoot as Drax the Destroyer. He had perfect delivery for every line. Bradley Cooper was equally amusing as an animal version of Han Solo, and Chris Pratt turned out to be a great choice for the leading man. Zoe Saldana is beautiful in any color (green this time around) and even Merle from the Walking Dead pops up in a great outlaw role. Never mind the space western plot, which is tired, but good mind you, the reason to see this is for the refreshing irreverence and the great attention to detail. While it most likely will become a franchise, this movie seemed the farthest thing possible from “corporate comic book film”, it had life, vibrancy, and edginess. And did I mention the soundtrack is really, really awesome?
4 1/2 stars out of 5
The Guest (2014)
I cannot improve upon what fellow reviewer Tara Brady wrote about The Guest as far as a description for casual film viewers. “Picture Commando as a psychological thriller. Imagine Halloween as a theme park ride. Think Drive as a comedy.” I read these words before going into this film trying to wrap my mind about how any one of those statements could be true, and left understanding all three of them to be accurate. The story borrows from elements of Rambo, Universal Soldier, and as mentioned above Halloween. It is also part coming of age movie, with a little Stand by Me thrown in the mix. It’s just a damn strange film, okay? And that’s perfectly fine. David (Dan Stevens) is a veteran who was a friend of the late son of the family he befriends in this movie. At first everyone in the family takes to him like a long lost son, and he proves to be quite helpful to all four members of the family which include his fallen comrade’s younger brother, sister, as well as his parents. But of course, as in all movies, especially this one, things are not what they seem.
3 ½ stars out of 5
The Drop (2014)
This was James Gandolfini’s final movie, which is both sad and fitting, for the same reason. It is fitting because this is the kind of movie you very much expect to see him in, and which he excels at, but sad in a way because it is the type of genre film he most wanted to escape after many years spent as a typecast character actor. This is a movie about low level (very low level) ex-gangsters (or associates of gangsters) in New York. As said in another review, Tony Soprano would have whacked out the character he plays here, a desperate bar owner named Marv who wishes to regain control of his bar from the foreign gangsters that have invaded his territory. The main character in the movie is Marv’s cousin and bartender Bob, an affable straight forward and (seemingly) meek character. I don’t want to spoil to much rather than to say Bob meets a girl, and a dog and takes quite a liking to both in a very sweet story, but both the dog and the girl wind up being threatened by a series of strange violent events, well, maybe not so strange considering the neighborhood that is. This is a very easy to watch sort of movie. It is kind of a blending of romantic (dark) comedy and a traditional urban crime film, but it is in no way a chick flick or a movie solely for guys who like gangster movies either, and the story and the characters both deliver a ton of interesting surprises along the way. A very enjoyable movie for its genre.
3 1/2 stars out of 5
Lone Survivor (2013)
There’s two ways to look at this movie. On the one hand it is very much a very “Rah, Rah, Go Team America!” piece of patriotic fluff, which the same could be said for American Sniper, which I also recently reviewed. On the other hand it is a very well made, tense and gripping war story. For those who are turned off by the first point, the movie makes it very clear what it is going to be from the outset so I really cannot knock any points off for that. This movie was crafted as a big budget Hollywood tribute to real life heroes who died in a horrific battle. Of course scores of Afghans are also mowed down by Mark Wahlberg and company, but other than the lead Big Bad we don’t really learn much about their story here. The story is basically just a straight two hour gun battle between four stranded American soldiers in the Mountains of Afghanistan against what seems to be a couple hundred Taliban fighters. I must confess my favorite moment during this film was watching it with my wife, who cannot bear to see harm come to any character she likes in a film, when she asked with more than a little panic in her voice, “Do you think some of those guys are going to be killed?” to which I (more snarky than I really should have) pointed out the title of the movie.
3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Ride Along (2014)
Ice Cube has been steadily growing on me in his new type casting as the tough black cop. I found him quite awesome in both 21 Jump Street and the even better 22 Jump Street. He does the same shtick here, and since he’s the star of this movie, does it for a much longer running time, and while it is endearing and at times amusing, it’s not enough to carry an entire movie. The problem here isn’t Mr. Cube though, but Mr. Hart. Kevin Hart is to funny what former WWE champion Yokozuna was to skinny. Imagine an annoying poodle humping your leg franticly for an hour and a half. Now take away all of the endearing fluffiness and general personality that makes people like and put up with said poodle humping and you have Kevin Hart in this movie. The script here is straight out of the recycled cliché bin. It’s not a total disaster, but if you’re gonna rent this one, make sure and double it up with a better movie, or better yet, just watch a better movie.
2 out of 5 stars.