produced by: Martina Durac and Vanessa Gildea
directed by Se’ Merry Doyle
rating: not rated
runtime: 92 min.
DVD/Blu-ray release date: March 24, 2015
There are certain documentaries that, no matter the subject, feel like “real films,” and others – no matter how personal they are to their makers – feel like comfort food for those who share their inclinations. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this, but it makes the experience, if you are along for the ride, one of passing time pleasantly, rather than truly engaging. Such is the end result of Se’ Merry Doyle’s “John Ford: Dreaming the Quiet Man”. The film itself is entertaining enough as a trip down memory lane about John Ford’s classic film. It explores Ford’s desire to make the film, as the son of Irish immigrants, making the film, and the cottage industry that has sprung up around the film in Ireland.
written by: Don MacPherson & Pete Travis, based on the novel “The Prone Gunman” by Jean-Patrick Manchette
produced by: Joel Silver, Andrew Rona, & Sean Penn
directed by: Pierre Morel
rating: R (for strong violence, language & some sexuality)
runtime: 115 min.
U.S. release date: March 20, 2015
“Yeah, you’d better go get a shower.”
Passion projects are often considered as such for a reason: Nobody beyond one or two people wants to make them. More often than not, they turn out to be disastrous miscalculations on the part of the person lobbying tirelessly for the film to be made, and forever become synonymous with that person’s greatest failure. For examples of this see – or rather, don’t – John Travolta & “Battlefield Earth”, Barry Levinson & “Toys”, and virtually everything George Lucas has done that’s not “Star Wars” & “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. “The Gunman” is perhaps the most surprising passion project imaginable for Sean Penn, an actor known more for his thoughtful, introspective work and his outspoken liberalism than for beefcake shoot ‘em ups. Yet here we are, staring down the barrel of Penn’s passion project, and not knowing if it’s going to blow us away or simply make a lot of noise with no actual impact.
written by: Brad Ingelsby
produced by: Roy Lee, Michael Tadross and Brooklyn Weaver
directed by: Juame Collet-Serra
rating: R (for strong violence, language including sexual references and some drug use)
runtime: 114 min.
U.S. release date: March 13, 2015
“Run All Night” is the third action flick teaming Liam Neeson with Spanish director Juame Collet-Serra after the absurd “Unknown” and the mid-air thriller “Non-Stop”. Both of those movies were looked at as “Yet Another Liam Neeson Action Movie”, a perception moviegoers have understandably adopted ever since “Taken”. His late career move to the action genre, has kind of written off Neeson as that guy who shows up with “a very special set of skills” – but last year’s “A Walk Among the Tombstones” showed that the characters he plays in the movies he headlines aren’t interchangeable. So, fans of Neeson can rest easy, he’s not on his way to becoming the next Steven Seagal.
written by: Hal E. Chester & Fred Freiberger
produced by: Frank Bevis & Hal E. Chester
directed by: Val Guest
rating: Not Rated
runtime: 77 min.
U.S. release date: May 17, 1957
DVD/Blu-ray release date: January 20, 2015
“He’s alright, just a touch of concussion.”
It’s hardly fair to compare the pre-exploitation exploitation flick “The Weapon” to the other films released in 1957, but a year that gave us such films as “The Bridge on the River Kwai”, “Paths of Glory”, “Witness for the Prosecution”, “12 Angry Men”, and “Nights of Cabiria”—to name but a few—but it helps me to remember that not all films from the waning days of the Hays Code-era were awful. Though the film is credited to Val Guest, who would go on to be a staple of Hammer Studios in the 60s and 70s, “The Weapon” is most assuredly a product of its producer and co-writer, Hal E. Chester. Chester reveled in schlock like the seemingly endless Joe Palooka series, at a time when some of the best films noir were being made. Some ten years on, he was still trying to dress up his pulpy premises in the guise of much better films than he was capable of making, and so it is with “The Weapon”.
written by: Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell
produced by: Simon Kinberg
directed by: Neill Blomkamp
rating: R (for violence, language & brief nudity)
runtime: 120 min.
U.S. release date: March 6, 2015
Neill Blomkamp’s third feature film “Chappie” finds the director returning to the near-future Johannesburg setting of his previous two films, the creative “District 9” (an Academy Award for Best Picture nominee) and the clunky “Elysium”. Gone are the prominent social-political messages of those two films and instead Blomkamp, who re-teams with his wife and co-writing partner, Terri Tatchell, amps up the action even more with a heavy lean on gang-related crime and graphic violence. As much as sci-fi fans may want Blomkamp’s return to the genre to be a successful one, “Chappie” is another slip down his spiraling filmography. The audience is unfortunately given a protagonist with stock characterization in a movie with laughable acting (intentional or not) and a repetitive and predictable storyline that is tedious to sit through.
written by: Steven Conrad
produced by: Jason Blumenthal, Arnon Milchan, Todd Black, Anthony Katagas, Steve Tisch
directed by: Ken Scott
rating: R (for some strong risqué sexual content/graphic nudity, and for language and drug use)
runtime: 91 min.
U.S. release date: March 6, 2015
“How about you, young buck, are you starshippin’ with us?”
In 2001’s “Made”, Vince Vaughn showed that he was an absolute master of the riff. In the pre-Judd Apatow era, Vaughn dominated films like “Made” and “Swingers” with his affability and almost preternatural sense of comedic timing that made him reminiscent of a young Chevy Chase. As sad as it is, it’s almost remarkable how much his entire career has begun to resemble Chase’s career, particularly those dark days in the 90s when Chase began headlining films like “Nothing But Trouble”, “Man of the House”, and “Cops & Robbersons”. Even Vaughn’s attempts to re-team with Jon Favreau have yielded colossally mediocre films like “Couples Retreat”, and Vaughn’s mid-aughts attempt to reinvent himself as the “Christmas movie guy” calls the Chase comparison into even sharper focus.
produced by: Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky
directed by: Laura Poitras
rating: R (for language)
runtime: 114 min.
U.S. release date: October 24, 2014
I didn’t grow up in the 1970s, but the paranoia thrillers that were so popular that decade resonates deeply. I’ve become increasingly riddled with a bubbling technophobia, a skepticism and caution around cell phones and laptops and the intrusive role they’ve taken. Studies tell us it is an addiction. That may be so, but the fear comes from something deeper. As didactic science-fiction has been writing for a century, technology will rule. It has gone from the elite to a normalized commodity for all society, a reliance that will permeate and take a strong hold. For 2015, and for the last expanse of years, there is no question.
The great sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick, responsible for the stories that birthed amazing cinema like “Blade Runner” and “Minority Report” (let’s get an “Eternal Sunshine” memory wipe for John Woo’s Dick adaptation “Paycheck”), has adeptly captured the master-slave relationship between people and tech. When millions compulsively check Facebook every hour and slip out the smartphone to spot new texts, snaps, tweets, instagram posts, tinder alerts, and emails, often in the place of conversation and observation of their surroundings, who’s controlling which?