Tag Archives: Laurence Fishburne

Event Horizon (1997) Movie Retro Review By D.M. Anderson

Event Horizon Review

Revisited: A Tale of Two Bowlers

Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Writer: Philip Eisner
Stars: Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan

After my dad retired, he decided to dedicate much of his spare time to bowling, a game he’s always loved.

In his younger days, he was good enough to participate in regional tournaments throughout the northwest (in fact, I think that’s how he first met my mother). Like a lot of us, though, the game eventually had to take a back seat to bigger responsibilities. His beloved bag & ball sat in the back of his closet most of the time, taken out only on rare occasions when bowling was part of his kids’ birthday plans. But now, comfortably retired with both children out of the house, he’s re-embraced the game with state-of-the-art equipment (including a wrist-brace that looks like a sci-fi weapon) and a serious commitment to improving his skills. And, damn, he’s good. The guy can make the ball hang at the edge of the gutter forever before it hooks to blast through all ten pins like a weed whacker. More often than not, his scores are in the 200s. There was even one time not too long ago when he missed a perfect game by only one strike.

I enjoy bowling too. The difference is I suck. A good game for me means breaking 100 or at least avoiding a gutter ball. I’m clumsy, have no form, can’t put any spin on the ball and often fall on my ass during my release (much to the amusement of those I’m with). Still, there are rare occasions when I accidentally play well enough to convince myself I’m pretty good. There even was one family outing when I threw enough strikes and spares to actually beat my dad (which must have killed him, since everyone knows he’s the best bowler in the family). But honestly, I have no fucking idea what I did to rack up such a score. It was just luck, of course, because Dad got his groove back for the second game that night and slaughtered everyone by over a hundred pins.

I guess you could call my dad the Ridley Scott of the bowling world. Even though he’ll never be Dick Weber, Dad’s skills are obvious to anyone watching. Similarly, Scott’s a very good director, and even though he’s no Spielberg, he’s made enough great movies that when he makes bad ones (like A Good Year, G.I. Jane and Robin Hood) we don’t reassess his abilities. So, if my dad is bowling’s Ridley Scott, that must make me the sport’s Paul W.S. Anderson.

Paul W.S. Anderson is, for the most part, a shitty director who makes shitty movies, a lot of them based on video games. He’s never had an original idea of his own and most of the tricks in his bag he ripped off from better directors. He’s probably most-famous for the Resident Evil franchise, diluted zombie movies for undemanding mallrats. Those movies play like the video games they are based on. In fact, most of Anderson’s movies play like video games. Over the years, he’s shown no growth or improvement as a filmmaker (just like my bowling game). Each new film is no better or worse than his others…except one.

Anderson’s third film, Event Horizon, is his equivalent to my single awesome bowling round, and Citizen-fucking-Kane compared to all of the other movies on his resume. It’s also one of the few that isn’t a remake, video game adaptation or based on a comic book. That’s not saying it’s monumentally original. Event Horizon draws a ton of obvious inspiration from other films, Alien and The Shining in particular. But since when has originality really mattered? After all, nobody cared that Speed was simply Die Hard on a bus.

The year is 2047 and the crew of the rescue ship, Lewis & Clark, are assigned to venture out to Neptune to investigate the sudden reappearance of the Event Horizon, a ship built to create its own black holes in order to travel faster than light, but inexplicably disappeared seven years earlier. Accompanying the crew is the ship’s designer, Martin Weir (Sam Neill), who’s obsessed with finding out where it’s traveled. None of the other crew, especially Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne) care about all that…they just want to rescue any survivors and get the hell back home. There are no survivors, however, and the ship itself, having returned from a dimension beyond anyone’s rational imagination (presumably Hell), now seems to be a living, evil entity that wants to take the Lewis & Clark crew back to where it returned from.

Storywise, Event Horizon is somewhat simplistic, disjointed and ambiguous, but what it sometimes lacks in narrative coherence it more than makes up for in style and tone. This is a deliberately paced, creepy-ass movie that establishes a feeling of dread in the very first scene and maintains it throughout. This is one of the few movies that make space look like a shitty place to be, especially since the crew of the Lewis & Clark have traveled way too far into the outer reaches of our solar system for their own good.

In addition, the movie simply looks scary. In terms of establishing a mood, it may be the best looking sci-fi/horror movie since Alien. The Event Horizon itself is an ominously creepy ship and becomes character in its own right, just like the Overlook Hotel in The Shining.

Sure, there are plenty of the usual horror tricks (false scares, gratuitous gore, and a little too much exposition at the end), but you could place such accusations on most horror movies. My point is Event Horizon may not be a classic, but it is the one movie where Paul W.S. Anderson displayed skills as a true filmmaker to create something dark, moody and foreboding without dumbing things down for the video game crowd. He hasn’t done anything worth a shit since, meaning Event Horizon was either a happy accident or he just stopped giving a damn once the Resident Evil movies inflated his bank account. Personally, I’d like to think it’s the former, because even now, whenever I go bowling, I aspire to reach the same glory as that one time I beat my dad, the game’s Ridley Scott. Who knows…I might still have another great game in me, even if I have no idea how to achieve it.

Maybe Paul W.S. Anderson does too.

Advertisements

Last Flag Flying (2017) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

LAST FLAG FLYING

Director: Richard Linklater
Writers: Richard Linklater (screenplay), Darryl Ponicsan (screenplay)
Stars: Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne, Steve Carell

Last Flag Flying is the latest film by Richard Linklater and is about three old friends who served together in Vietnam, a former Navy Corpsman Larry “Doc” Shepherd (Steve Carell) re-unites with his old buddies, former Marines Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston) and Reverend Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne) to bury his son, a young Marine killed in the Iraq War.

Set in 2003, “Doc” decides against a burial at Arlington Cemetery and, with the help of his old buddies, takes the casket on a bittersweet trip up the East Coast to his home in suburban New Hampshire. The movie is based on the novel by Darryl Ponicsan and is adapted into a screenplay by Linklater who is comfortable in a storyline built on relationships. The film is centred around these three characters throughout the film and what I enjoyed was the personalities that Cranston, Fishburne and Carell brought to the screen.

Steve Carell as “Doc” is brilliant. The actor portrays the role understandably filled with sadness and sorrow. But there is an underlying sweetness and softness to the character who also is the glue the holds the friendship between the three of them for the duration of the movie. I have just recently watched and reviewed Carell in “The Battle of the Sexes” and again I was impressed with the actors range. “Doc” has lost his son in War and tragically lost his wife recently also due to illness but his goal is to give his son the proper send off. Carell’s character throughout the story is unsure how his son died and also has a hard time accepting his son’s choice to enrole in US Services. Thankfully there is some resolve for the character in the movies final moments that put his anxieties and doubts to bed once and for all.

Surprisingly for me the character Reverend Richard Mueller played by Laurence Fishburne has some great moments comedically and its something I felt the actor handled very well. In the thirty years since the Vietnam War, Richard is a changed character clearly being a man of the cloth and appears to be settled and content in his life. The War and his past are exactly that, in the past. Fishburne plays the character much like Carell does with his character at first until Sal Nealon unearths the real Richard Mueller which I will get to shortly. Personally this is a side to Laurence Fishburne’s acting credentials I haven’t seen a lot of and I would certainly like to see more.

Bryan Cranston just continues to impress with his diversity in his choices as an actor. Here he plays former Marines Sal Nealon who now runs a bar and obviously likes a drink into the bargain. His first meeting with “Doc” shows the audience that although a little hazy remembers the War and his friends. Sal is the total opposite of Richard in this sense. He doesn’t forget and doesn’t appear to want to forget his past, but not in a nostalgic way but remembering the friendships during the conflict remains in his mind. Cranston and Fishburne together in every scene is a joy to behold. Both actors play off each other as if they have been friends for a long time and their characters bring out the best and worst in each other. The change in Richard from when we first see him and when Sal gets under his skin is very funny and gives you an idea on how these men would have had to cope in the extreme situation they found themselves in 30 years prior. This is what this movie is about.

Director Richard Linklater again shows his diversity in his film making. I know him best for the comedy starring Jack Black “School of Rock” and the odd but enjoyable animated movie “A Scanner Darkly” so it was interesting to see how he would handle a drama about relationships and keep the audience interested in what is a simple plot. Thankfully character development and putting the story out on the road manages to keep you watching and thanks to a very good script will have you pulled through an emotional wringer. Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne and Steve Carell all perform brilliantly and I’m glad all three of them were cast in their roles. The Cinematography by Shane F. Kelly is also nice as the movie is filmed in and around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the most of the scenery is a nice to look at.

Overall Last Flag Flying is a great relationship drama. I think calling it a “Buddy Movie” would be a disservice to the film as it deals with a rack of emotions and situations that doesn’t appear to be forced at any point. The film flows naturally thanks to Linklater’s direction and the casting helps the characters develop and connect with the audience. The movie appears to have gone under the radar being released in between the big blockbuster releases of The Justice League and The Last Jedi but thankfully is doing the rounds at local Film Festivals. I would recommend giving “Last Flag Flying” a viewing as it is an enjoyable film to watch from a technical point of view, a performance point of view and from a storytelling point of view. Highly Recommend.

Standoff (2016) Movie Review by Darrin Gauthier 

STANDOFF

Director: Adam Alleca
Writer: Adam Alleca
Stars: Thomas Jane, Laurence Fishburne, John Tench

Plot: Carter (Thomas Jane), a troubled veteran, gets a chance at redemption by protecting a 12 year-old girl from an assassin (Laurence Fishburne) after she witnesses a murder.

Running time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Why I watched it: I’m a Thomas Jane fan and it read well.

Random thoughts: I watch a ton of B-Movies, or straight to DVD titles and the reason I do is hoping I catch a hidden gem, now most times I pick the movies I watch on genre and actors, plots are mostly boring so I go with what I like.  Now at first I wasn’t that excited cause Standoff is a boring title, but I will say it does suit the movie, I watched this for Jane and Fishburne.  As I wrote above I’m a Thomas Jane fan and think he’s very underrated, he has done some fine genre work.

What I Liked: This one is a little genre gem, I liked the film a lot and the big reason is Jane and Fishurne don’t phone it in they go at each other, and oddly they aren’t face to face for most of the film, but their dynamic and chemistry is very good here.  Now the film is mostly one setting and it is a true standoff what I liked and didn’t expect was that the film is pretty smartly written, sure there’s stock characters but they’re smart and the little girl is good here to, sure she’s scared but she just doesn’t cry in the corner.  All three characters are fleshed out for this type of film.  The intensity is very good here and you feel the stakes.  The short running time helps here cause even at 1 hour 20 minutes it does drag a wee bit, you have one setting and really one outcome so they didn’t milk it too bad.

What I didn’t like: Not much really, there’s the one sub plot where there’s a cop figuring things out and of course he shows up and if you’re a movie fan you can pretty well see what’s coming, that was a tad lazy but it ends up being effective.  So all and all not to much to complain about.

Final thoughts: A solid genre movie with good performances, I really enjoyed it.

Final rating: 7/10, almost an 8.

Man of Steel (2013) Movie Retro Review by Stephen McLaughlin

MAN OF STEEL

Director: Zack Snyder
Writers: David S. Goyer (screenplay),  David S. Goyer (story)
Stars: Henry Cavill,  Amy Adams,  Michael Shannon, Russel Crowe, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Laurence Fishburne

Back in 2013 the “Man of Steel” opened the DC / Warner Brothers expanded universe doors and with a slight bump in the tracks regarding Batman versus Superman and Suicide Squad although it looks like they are on the right road again with this summer’s release of Wonder Woman directed by Patty Jenkins.

I was almost convinced back when “Man of Steel was released that it wasn’t originally being set out as the first in this universe. Yes we spotted the LexCorp and Wayne Security Easter eggs planted throughout the movie but probably right up to a month ago I stubbornly refused to believe that DC and Warner Brothers had this planned back then. It convinced me even more this was the case when not until the last couple of years that the studio have gone full pelt on their comic book universe. But I have now been told that I am wrong (and even did a bit of research in secret shhhhh) and that of course “Man of Steel” is DCs what “Iron Man” is to Marvel (enough with the comparisons)

So we Kick Off the movie with Russel Crowe portraying Jor-El (Superman’s father) debating with the Kryptonian Council that he is convinced the planets core is unstable and the planets existence will cease in a matter of weeks. Falling on deaf ears, Jor-El and his wife Lara Lor-Van (Ayelet Zurer) decide to take action of their own and save their child Kal-El (Superman) by sending him to the nearest inhabitable planet for his survival and the survival of the Kryptonian people. The sequence itself is just an updated version of the now legendary scenes starring Marlon Brando as Jor-El and Susannah York as Lara from “Superman: The Movie” from 1978.

I had always enjoyed rewatching the original movie back in my childhood. The John Williams score, the special effects had us believe a man could fly and the awesome casting of Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Ned Beauty, Jackie Cooper and upcoming stars in Margot Kidder and the late great Christopher Reeve who incidentally does not appear in the original movie until a good hour into it. “Man of Steel” on the other hand introduces the main players very quickly and at this point I think it’s only fair to say that I will not be making anymore comparisons between “Man of Steel” and “Superman: The Movie” from now on.

Michael Shannon is fantastic and ruthless as the military leader of Krypton “General Zod” and from that opening 10 minutes we realise how passionate and loyal he is to the people of Krypton in his own mad way. Zod and his Crew are captured and sentenced to the Phantom Zone (a solitary dimension) by the Council.

The scene involving Kal-El’s launch into the unknown is heartbreaking for Jor-El and Lara and you can sense the moral dilemma the father and mother endured to save their child. Kal-El’s arrival on earth is quick and effective that we don’t have to go into any great length or detail into his arrival into the small town of “Smallville” and Snyder’s  direction and Goyer’s writing allows us to focus more on the emotions of the characters throughout the movie without being bogged down with obvious exposition. The planet’s implosion visually is stunning and tragic and baby Kal-El is sent hurtling in space towards his new planet (plotted on some Kryptonian sat nav)

It is at this point we are thrown forward in time to the present and we are introduced to Henry Cavill as Clark Kent (Superman’s disguise) on a ship in his late twenties. The movie jumps back and forth throughout Clark’s younger years but it is done in a way that doesn’t interrupt the flow of the movie nor confuse the audience members. It is also a great way to introduce Clark’s earth parents Martha and Jonathan Kent played by veteran actors Diane Lane and Kevin Costner. Martha and Jonathan’s role throughout the movie cannot be ignored or underestimated as they are essential to the upbringing and moral values that Clark has inherited and defines his character.

Another particular scene that has to be mentioned is Jonathan Kent’s beliefs
and willingness in guiding Clark in his growth as he develops his “special powers” and keeping them at bay for his own good and only using it when the time is right is powerful. For anyone who hasn’t watched this film yet I won’t spoil it but there is a moment during a hurricane sequence that in a brief moment is sad yet poignant to Jonathan’s relationship to Clark. This is storytelling and character development at its best and can never be taken for granted. The look Costner gives Cavill will hit you right in the feels.

Zod’s return is of course predictable and after Krypton’s doom it was inevitable and to be honest pointless sending him and his crew to the Phantom Zone to begin with as once the planet imploded it released them and Zod’s mission was to track down Kal-El and extract components from his DNA to give Krypton a rebirth using planet earth as a base.

Amy Adams as Lois Lane appeared to be a great casting decision and I always saw Lois as an earthy Princess Leia back into day. Headstrong and a leader in every sense. Adams manages to portray this character very quickly and is key to earth’s understanding of how we come to understand Superman and how the human race must trust this one man who is clearly their only chance against the General.

The climatic battle between Superman and Zod is shattering to say the least and if DC / Warner Brothers have one thing over their competitors that is their cinematography. Visually “Man of Steel” is shot uniquely and Zack Snyder’s hands are all over it, in a good way. The imagery is so crisp and precise and the choice of colours throughout the movie depending on the mood of the scene is vivid and stunning.

Overall, “Man of Steel” is a Superman movie in its own right. Yes it does retell the origins story and yes it does rely on a well known villain but Snyder and Goyer take the movie from a different angle and set the tone for the DC / WB cinematic universe going forward. Highly recommendable.