REVIEW: “In the Heart of the Sea”

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It has been a while since we’ve had a Moby Dick movie. There has been an interesting variety of cinematic iterations (my favorite being John Huston and Gregory Peck’s 1956 version). Now we have Ron Howard’s “In the Heart of the Sea”. Well actually “In the Heart of the Sea” isn’t a Moby Dick movie. It is based on “the true encounter that inspired one of the greatest legends of all time” (aka it’s kind of a Moby Dick movie, but it really isn’t).

The Son of Odin and one time Sexiest Man Alive Chris Hemsworth stars in this nautical thriller which is more directly taken from Nathaniel Philbrick’s nonfiction book of the same name. It chronicles the fate of the whaleship Essex which in 1820 encountered a massive sperm whale in the Pacific Ocean. There is no Captain Ahad driven mad with bloodlust towards a massive underwater leviathan. No, instead this is an open-sea survival story that may end up surprising people with the grim and darker paths it takes.

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The story is told to us through an interview between writer Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) and Thomas Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson). Melville is an ambitious young novelist who needs (both mentally and career-wise) a good story to tell. Nickerson served on the Essex as a young boy and since has been haunted by pent-up memories of survival.

 

Nickerson recalls his story through flashbacks. In them we meet a seasoned whaler named Owen Chase (Hemsworth). Although he had been promised the captaincy of his own ship, instead he is assigned to the Essex to serve as First Mate to an inexperienced and insecure Captain with a prominent last name (Benjamin Walker). The 21-man crew head out on a two and a half year voyage for highly coveted and profitable whale oil.

The crew-favorite First Mate Chase and the jealous Captain Pollard quickly butt heads. Pollard’s arrogant ineptitude nearly has them killed by a violent storm. But the first sighting of whales quickly mends the hostility. While restocking in Ecuador Pollard and Chase are told of an area of Pacific waters that is loaded with whales for the catching. They are also warned of a giant beast bigger than mind can fathom. They dismiss the warning and head towards the fishing grounds hoping to get their oil quota so they can head back home.

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I shouldn’t need to tell you they do encounter this massive sperm whale and the results aren’t good. Soon after the crew find themselves fighting to survive, not so much from the whale, but from starvation, the elements, and at times each other. The story ventures into some pretty dark areas and deals with some fairly complicated moral questions. It never fully dives into its darkness. In skirts around the edges of its PG-13 boundaries and it doesn’t spend as much time exploring the harsh survival aspect as it could have. Still, it definitely gets its points across.

The moments Melville has with Nickerson are fantastic and they have just as much going on dramatically. Gleeson is simply one of the best working actors. With an effortless poetry he allows us to see through the eyes of this scarred and emotionally fragile character. His scenes with Whishaw are fewer, but they are just as compelling as the high seas adventure. They are also inseparable. The story of the Essex is the cathartic release of a damaged psyche and since I bought into Nickerson, the story he was telling was made more important.

 

This is a big film for Hemsworth, an actor who needs a good meaty performance. He needs something to help him be seen as more than ‘Thor from the Marvel movies’. Other than some pretty solid work in “Rush” we haven’t seen it. Forgettable performances in forgettable films like “Red Dawn”, “Snow White and the Huntsman”, and “Blackhat” haven’t helped. Here he gives a much more seasoned and fitting performance. There are moments where he works a bit too hard, but overall he’s good. Hemsworth lost almost 50 pounds of that chiseled Asgardian physique for this one. He certainly went all in.

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Speaking of going all in, so does Ron Howard. “In the Heart” has no shortage a special effects most of which are strikingly effective particularly on the big screen. A lot of my pleasure came from how he and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle (a Danny Boyle favorite) framed many of their shots. There are so many cool angles and unusual perspectives. Some are used to heighten our senses to certain situations while others simply ground us in what’s going on. Some may be just to show off how beautiful a shot is. There is such a high polish to many of the visuals and sometimes that makes the effects a tad too obvious, but as a whole Howard gives us plenty of fantastic things to look at.

People will undoubtedly compare this to “Moby Dick” and that’s unfortunate. In fact walking out of the theater I overheard a guy saying “I like Gregory Peck’s version better.” The trailers have certainly helped to fuel these expectations. But his isn’t a man-versus-whale story. This isn’t “Moby Dick”. There is an entirely different story being told and I found it to be pretty compelling. Popular critical sentiment is that “In the Heart of the Sea” falls short. I’ll admit Ron Howard submits to a pretty firm and unbending structure and perhaps the film doesn’t explore certain themes as deeply as I wanted. But there is so much I appreciate both narratively and visually, and the film is definitely more than high seas eye candy.

VERDICT – 4 STARS

4 Stars

REVIEW: “Avengers: Age of Ultron”

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It could be said that the first Avengers movie was in a ‘can’t miss’ position. Sure, with that much ambition comes a degree of risk. But fans had already shown their devotion to the Marvel movies at that point. Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor each had their own films which had earned a ton of box office cash. Bringing them altogether was sure to bring in truckloads of more money. That proved to be true to the tune of over $1.5 billion worldwide. And of course that doesn’t include home-video, merchandising, etc. More importantly, as a movie fan, the first film was fun and very satisfying.

So as is customary in modern Hollywood, a sequel was on the way and we get it in the form of “Avengers: Age of Ultron”. Writer and director Joss Whedon is back this time with a new and unique set of obstacles in front of him. First, it’s always a challenge for a sequel to recapture the magic of a successful first movie while also being distinctly its own film. Also, if Whedon thought expectations were high for the first movie, they are nothing compared to what people will expect from the sequel. And then there is the question of superhero fatigue. Can Whedon and company continue to energize a genre that has a small but growing list of detractors?

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I always give Marvel Studios credit. Their movies aren’t the assembly line sequels that we see each and every year. Certainly some films work better than others, but Marvel is always building upon their bigger cinematic universe and continuity which I enjoy. But for those not thoroughly invested it could be a legitimate stumbling block. “Age of Ultron” is unquestionably an installment – a transition chapter in this enormous franchise. Loose ends are tied up and potential plot holes related to other Marvel films are addressed throughout. Again, these are things that will satisfy fans but probably fuel the indifference of those not on board.

The film starts with our heroes attacking the snowy mountain compound of Baron von Strucker. He was the guy last seen in the mid-credits scene of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”. Strucker has obtained Loki’s scepter and is using its powers for human experiments and other nefarious practices. The results of the conflict leads Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) to fulfill an ultimate peace keeping goal of his – the creation of an ultimate A.I. named Ultron (voiced by James Spader). Ultron becomes self-sustained and self-aware and immediately begins his own plan of global peace which happens to include the distruction of the world. Tony’s mishaps with Ultron and his failure to inform his fellow Avengers of his project creates a festering tension between the team. But they must work together if they have any hope of beating this new threat and once again saving the world.

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That is just a brief set up to what is a movie jam-packed with moving parts. There are so many characters and subplots that are being serviced and it is a testament to Whedon’s writing skills that the film is coherent at all. Wrapped around the central story are countless tie-ins from previous movies and setups for future films. It truly is a miraculous feat, but it’s not a flawless one. There were a handful of things that felt terribly shortchanged occasionally to the point of making no sense at all. During these moments it was as if Whedon was saying “Look, I have so much to cover. I just need you to go with this.” Sometimes I found that a little difficult to do.

But considering the insane amount of moving parts and the hefty ground the film is asked to cover, “Age of Ultron” is an impressive accomplishment. All of the core characters are back and get their moments to shine. In fact the amount of screen time between each hero felt much more balanced than in the previous movie. It also helps to have actors who have become more and more comfortable with their characters. In addition to Downey, Jr., Chris Evans (Captain America), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), and Mark Ruffalo (Hulk) each are a load of fun. We also get a good assortment of past side characters and some very intriguing new characters. The super powers endowed Maximoff Twins, Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) are an interesting addition and there is the appearance of another new character who really got my geek juices flowing.

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“Age of Ultron” is clearly a movie aimed at serving a passionate fan base  which is really good for devotees like me, but maybe not so good for those unfamiliar with or lukewarm to its many intricacies. I ate up the funny banter between each unique superhero personality. I loved the large-scaled action which seemed ripped straight from the pages of a comic book. I was interested in the future movie tablesetting even when the scenes didn’t always play out smoothly. In a nutshell, “Age of Ultron” was a fun and entertaining ride that succeeded as the central cog in Marvel’s constantly moving cinematic universe.

“Age of Ultron” is not a movie devoid of problems and your experience will probably be influenced by the degree of affection you have for these characters and this universe. As a fanboy I loved being back in this world, I laughed at a lot of the humor, and I was thrilled by the big effects and larger than life action sequences. Yet while it scratched nearly all of my itches, it’s hard not to point out the messy patches. Still considering the film’s enormous importance to the Marvel movie universe and the even higher expectations, “Age of Ultron” succeeds where so many movies would have failed. Now I’m ready to start building towards the next installment.

VERDICT – 4 STARS

REVIEW: “Blackhat”

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Michael Mann is a director that usually catches my attention. The 71-year old Mann has made several films over the years that I deeply love – movies like “The Last of the Mohicans” and “Heat”. It’s my strong affection for his good films that enables me to overlook his bad ones like “Miami Vice” and “The Keep”. The big question for me is which kind of movie is “Blackhat”? Does Mann give us another signature rock-solid thriller, or does this film qualify as a disappointing clunker?

So far it hasn’t been a good ride for “Blackhat”. Very few critics have given the film high marks and it’s already been considered a box office bomb. Unfortunately the criticisms have merit and it doesn’t take long to understand why the film was dumped in the January movie release graveyard. The most disappointing thing is that the film has a very timely and relevant concept. But that concept drowns in vast chasms of monotony and lethargy.

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Chris Hemsworth steps back from his popular Marvel superhero persona to play an incarcerated computer hacker named Nick Hathaway. After a cyberterrorist triggers an explosion at a Chinese nuclear power plant, Hathaway agrees to help the FBI and the Chinese government catch the perpetrator in exchange for having his sentence commuted. After about two lines of political wrangling and negotiations Nick is out of jail and the internet manhunt begins.

Hathaway (who looks like he’s been at a GQ photo shoot instead of a penitentiary) is joined by an old friend and Chinese cyber officer named Chen Dawai (Leehom Wang), FBI Agent Carol Barrett (Viola Davis), and Dawai’s sister Lien (Tang Wei) who out of the blue becomes Hathaway’s lover. The group tracks their target from the United States to China to Malaysia. Mann knows how to shoot locations and some of the film’s best moments involve his camera sweeping over a landscape or tracking down tight alleys. It’s certainly a better alternative than the constant shots of people staring at computer screens.

Speaking of that, we get plenty of scrolling digits and keyboard tapping. Computers obviously play a key role in the story, but it seems like we spend an eternity logging in, logging out, typing in the code, and so on and so on. I’m sure a lot of it is realistic. In fact Wired magazine reported that hackers and security experts both commended the movie for its accurate portrayals. But honestly, after a while I didn’t care. There was just too much of it for me and sometimes it would grind the movie to a halt.

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No such thing could be said about the action. Mann has always had an incredible eye for action sequences and it is no different here. And at times the action scenes actually jolted me back into the movie. Mann’s camera movements, his strategic angles, his intense use of sound and of his surroundings – all of these create some truly spectacular action scenes. Without question, the action is the star of the movie and I wish we had gotten more of it and less of the plodding story.

“Blackhat” is a movie built around a good idea and strengthened by some fantastic pulse-pounding action. But ultimately it sinks due to its tiresome, long-winded story. Even the always likable Chris Hemsworth can’t help the story. He seems completely out of character, he struggles with whatever kind of weird accent he’s going for, and I never felt a charismatic spark from him. His performance will undoubtedly have people questioning his abilities in roles outside of the superhero genre. I don’t know, chances are he was simply bored like I was through a lot of this movie.

VERDICT – 2 STARS

REVIEW: “Rush”

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I’m not a racing fan so the story of Formula One rivals James Hunt and Niki Lauda was new to me. Ron Howard’s biographical sports film “Rush” tells the story of these two men and the rivalry that grew between them. Filmed with flash and gusto, “Rush” mixes common sports movie techniques with its more serious dramatic focus. The result is a film centered around an intriguing relationship between two racers that generally plays out fairly well. Unfortunately there are some kinks and wrinkles which keep the movie from being as smooth as it should have been.

Folks in Europe will be much more familiar with the story of Hunt and Lauda. These two championship racers were as different as night and day. James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) is a talented driver who is more interested in the excesses of alcohol and sex that accompany his fame. He flies by the seat of his pants both on and off the track. Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) has no interest in accolades or fame. He is a by-the-book fellow who takes a cold and calculated approach to everything he does from racing to relationships. According to the movie Hunt and Lauda get off on the wrong foot and their drastically different approaches to racing and life constantly clash.

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Interestingly neither of these characters are particularly likable. Peter Morgan’s script unveils their strong competitive wills which are inseparably tied to their inflated egos. They just show their haughtiness in different ways. But their rivalry takes a different turn during the 1976 Formula One season after Lauda is involved in a fiery crash. He is severely burned and faced with an excruciating rehabilitation. During this time Hunt is able to take the season points lead and looks to be on track for the championship. But only 42 days after his accident, Lauda attempts a comeback that defies all odds.

“Rush” offers a fascinating and personal story and we get hearty bites of it here and there. But there is a really odd structure to the film as a whole. A big hunk of the movie deals more with their individual rises to Formula One status. Sprinkled in are some brief run-ins they have and of course the races themselves. This does a good job of defining them and their vices but it also takes a lot of shortcuts. For example the two main female characters are shoehorned in and not given much to do at all. Olivia Wilde plays a supermodel who suddenly marries Hunt but later develops an off-screen romance with Richard Burton after being shunned by her husband. It’s a paper-thin side story. Equally underdeveloped is Lauda’s quick marriage to Marlene (Alexandra Maria Lara). The couple do get a few good moments but she is mostly reserved to standing at his races looking terribly concerned.

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Speaking of those races, they are some of the most exhilarating race sequences ever put on screen. Ron Howard’s energetic and pulse-pounding perspectives truly are amazing to watch. Also a ton of credit has to go to the editing team of Daniel Hanley and Mike Hill. Far too often race or car chase sequences are chopped up into pieces making it almost impossible to discern what is going on. Hanley and Hill never make that mistake. Howard’s vigorous touches and technical flare gels perfectly with his editors’ approach to create some truly intense racing action. Howard also has a ton of fun playing in the whole 1970s period whether it’s the hair, the wardrobes, or the atmosphere. It looks great and I loves all of that stuff.

But back to the film’s structure. Lauda’s wreck and attempted recovery (which features prominently in the trailer and in the real life story) feels under-served. It does play an important part in changing the direction of the plot but it felt like there was much more there to explore. There were also several sports movie gimmicks that are frequently used. For example most of the races are shown with the voiceover of a highly dramatic announcer. The amazing visuals reveal to us the immense danger, the sometimes terrible weather conditions, etc. But that doesn’t stop the announcer from ratcheting up ever ounce of drama.

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The real statement of the film comes from Chris Hemsworth. He more known for his role as the musclebound hammer-wielding Thor from the Marvel movies, but here he shows a definite range that may come as a surprise to some people. He jumps headfirst into Hunt’s life of overindulgence and he never oversells it. Brühl clearly is working hard but ultimately I think he is shortchanged by Peter Morgan’s script. He definitely has some strong moments but more often I found him to be a bit dull. It’s hard to put the bulk of the blame on him though.

Overall “Rush” is a sports biopic that doesn’t full utilize the intriguing story it is based on. That’s not to say it’s a bad film. The are some good dramatic moments and the race scenes are things of fuel-injected beauty. But there are some narative hiccups and I just can’t help but think the film could have better used its time. For example, maybe a few less music video-styled sex scenes and more time spent on the two main female characters. I just feel that there is more to this story that could have been told and ultimately that left me wanting.

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REVIEW: “Star Trek” (2009)

Star Trek PosterThe summer movie season is off and running and one of the year’s most talked about releases is due out in a few days. I’m talking about “Star Trek Into Darkness”, the J.J. Abrams sequel to his 2009 reboot of the franchise. With so much hype and anticipation swirling around the new movie I thought it would be a good time to go back and revisit the first installment, a much loved film that I had pretty mixed feelings about. Would a second viewing give me a better appreciation for what Abrams and company were able to accomplish or would it simply reaffirm my initial frustrations with the movie?

First off, attempting to relaunch or reboot the Star Trek franchise is a pretty hefty and gutsy task. Perhaps only Star Wars’ fan base eclipses the passion and devotion of the group affectionately known as “Trekkies”. Tinkering with and altering the beloved universe first created by the late great Gene Roddenberry would be the equivalent to playing with fire and one would assume this was high on the list of the filmmakers’ considerations. Well I’m no Trekkie and I’m not as well versed in Star Trek lore as many, but I have say I’m surprised that more diehard fans didn’t have issues with the liberties and modernizations we see here. More on that later.

“Star Trek” is constructed as a completely new franchise launcher. It creates its own world beginning with the origin stories of the popular Star Trek characters Captain Kirk and Spock and telling how they and the crew came together through Starfleet. The film actually begins with a bang. A flashback shows the federation starship USS Kelvin investigating a lightning storm anomaly when it encounters a huge Romulan mining vessel converted to a warship. A battle breaks out forcing the Kelvin’s first officer (Chris Hemsworth) to evacuate everyone from the ship including his pregnant wife. He then manually flies the Kelvin into the mammoth enemy vessel causing a distraction so the escape pods can get away. This hero’s name was George Samuel Kirk.

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The USS Enterprise

The movie then fast-forwards and puts the spotlight on his son James T. Kirk (Chris Pine). He’s grown up to be a rebellious and rambunctious sort who is challenged to enter Starfleet by Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood), the Captain of the USS Enterprise who served with his father. While at the academy he befriends Leonard McCoy (Karl Urban), flirts with Uhuru (Zoe Saldana), and gets off on the wrong foot with Spock (Zachary Quinto). But in a familiar story turn that we’ve seen in everything from “Top Gun” to “Starship Troopers”, the cadets are forced into action when a distress call is made from Spock’s home planet of Vulcan. Through this we’re introduced to other familiar characters including Sulu (John Cho), Scotty (Simon Pegg), and Chekov (Anton Yelchin).

Eric Bana plays the rogue Romulan Nero who we see in the opening and who pops up later to serve as the main antagonist. He has a serious bone to pick with Spock and his revenge-fueled presence poses a major threat. Aside from the normal franchise origin stuff, this tiff between Nero and Spock is a big part of the story. There’s also the story of Jim’s evolution from an immature, self-centered hothead into a responsible, heroic member of Starfleet. All of these strands are woven together pretty nicely and the film moves through them with better pacing than I originally remembered. There are also some fantastic special effects and a cool new Enterprise with an impressive modernized bridge that I thought looked great.

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The USS Enterprise crew

But there were some issues I originally had with “Star Trek” that unfortunately didn’t go away with a fresh viewing. First, I know this is a relaunching of the Star Trek franchise and some of it is aimed at the action-starved audiences of today. But to me there were times where this didn’t feel anything like a Star Trek movie. There were certain scenes that felt so jarringly out of place yet perfectly in tune with the film industries affection for ‘Hollywoodizing’ their big movies. Again, I understand that Abrams and company are showing their new vision but I wish they would have trusted or cared more for the Star Trek formula. But honestly, while it’s still an issue, it didn’t seem to bother me as much during this viewing.

Another issue I still have is with the handling and redefining of some of the characters. I don’t know if it’s just an attempt to force in a fairly underwhelming romance or if it’s simply political correctness, but I wasn’t crazy about Uhuru as a bigger character while McCoy, an important character in the original series, is reserved for comic relief. Maybe it’s because the romance between Uhuru and a certain crew member feels shallow and tacked on. There’s nothing wrong with Saldana’s performance but her role is pretty flimsy. Karl Urban does some great work channelling his best DeForrest Kelley. Even though ‘Bones’ is written almost exclusively for humor, Urban is fantastic and it’s a shame he was given something meatier to work with.

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Eric Bana is Nero

My revisit also verified one thing and clarified another. Zachary Quinto as Spock is by far the best bit of casting in the movie while Chris Pine left a better impression this time around than before. Quinto nicely sells Spock through his tone, mannerisms, and pitch-perfect deliveries. Pine ends much better than he begins. In the first half of the film he’s pretty hard to digest but as his material gets better so does his performance. In fact, overall I found him to be better than I remembered. I can’t really say the same for Pegg’s Scotty or Yelchin’s Chekov, but both of their issues dealt more closely with how their characters were written.

So now the big question. Did my time away from “Star Trek” change my perception of the film? Did this fresh look at the movie provide a better experience? I would have to say yes but only slightly. “Star Trek” is still a film with a handful of flaws. At times it tries to be too hip, too cute, and too modern at the expense of those proven elements that make “Star Trek” great. On the flip side, I did find myself enjoying and embracing more of what Abrams and company were doing. This was a better experience and my anticipation for the next movie has grown. I just hope for a more focused script with less corn and a little better handling of its characters. If that happens “Star Trek Into Darkness” could be a real treat.

VERDICT – 3.5 STARS

REVIEW: “Red Dawn” (2012)

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I have no problem saying I was a big fan of 1984’s Red Dawn. And whether it’s the nostalgia, the good action, the interesting storyline, the movie still holds up for me today. Now I grant you the politics are outdated and the cheese may not appeal to newer audiences as it does for many of us who grew up during those days. But I still find it to be a rousing good time despite its occasional silliness. That appreciation for the original film combined with what I saw from the first trailers had me concerned about the 2012 remake. Hollywood doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to remakes and let me just say that this new Red Dawn will do nothing to change that.

Now if you’re unfamiliar with the original story that’s ok. The new version only incorporates the general idea and a few of the names. Most everything else is new but certainly not better. The film starts by introducing Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth), a Marine on leave in his hometown of Spokane Washington. We also meet his brother Matt (Josh Peck), a high school football quarterback who doesn’t have the best relationship with his older brother. The movie also chunks in a few more introductions including Matt’s girlfriend Erica (Isabel Lucas), one of Jed’s old schoolmates Toni (Adrianne Palicki), and the boys’ father Tom Eckert (Brett Cullen). All are awakened one morning by an all out military assault on their town. Now don’t even try to use your brain to figure out how the enemy got that many planes, ground forces, and Humvees in the area undetected. The explaination is laughable. In fact, it’s best just to turn your brain off at the opening scene. I mean it seems like the filmmakers certainly did when they were putting together this crappy concoction of errors.

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This Red Dawn attempts to modernize the politics and the characters while telling the same basic story. Instead of Cuba and Russia from the 1984 film, this time North Korea is the occupying force that attacks the United States with a little help from Russia although how they’re associated is never adequately explained. In fact all we get is news footage during the opening credits which supposedly sets the deteriorating political climate of the world. Aside from that, the invading army is nothing more than a nameless, faceless force showing nothing in terms of motivation or incentive. They just supply our group of young heroes with people to kill. Their arrival causes chaos in the city but Jed, Matt and a few of their friends are able to escape up into the mountains. From there they form into a group of rebels that wages guerrilla war against their occupiers.

I know this sounds silly but the original movie actually did this quite well. It took a small group of scared young people, fleshed them out, and over several seasons turned them into pesky guerrilla fighters mainly focused on survival. This film takes an uninteresting group with practically no personality, zips them into combat, and soon has them carrying out complex missions in the middle of occupied Spokane. No training and very little trial and error. And in this film the North Korean army has to be the worst occupying force ever in the history of cinema. Jed and company are able to waltz right into town at their leisure, detonate C4 explosives wherever the wish, and walk right out of town with their AK47’s tucked under their jackets. And this is just for starters. Throughout the movie you’ll find huge gaps in logic, glaring plot holes, and numerous moments where all you can do is bury your face in your hands.

If I wasted time singling out every stupid moment and ridiculous inconsistency this review would go on forever. Instead let’s just give discredit where discredit is due. Carl Ellsworth and Jeremy Passmore’s script may be one of the worst I’ve ever experienced. NOTHING that they’ve added, from the new character twists to the annoying profanity, is an improvement or even on par with the original Red Dawn. It’s one of the most amateurish and laughably bad scripts you’ll find and that’s unforgivable considering it’s a remake of a movie that I felt was well written and highly entertaining. This mess is anything but that.

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And then there’s the dialogue and the performances. I was astonished at some of the ridiculous lines crossing the lips of the actors in this movie. Several times I just sat there with my jaw dropped trying to figure out how some of these scenes could have made the final cut. Whether it’s the pseudo-toughness of the kids or the rare moments where they’re trying to show emotion, the film is littered with corny and brainless dialogue. The most laughably bad scenes come with the arrival of Jeffrey Dean Morgan and his two fellow Marines. Their embarrassing attempts at macho military talk left me speechless, particularly Matt Gerald. I swear he may have given one of the worst and most cringe-inducing performances I’ve ever seen. You’ll literally root for his character to be killed just to ease the assault on your ears.

Ok, enough of this. I could say so much more about this movie but I’m already sick of talking about it. In summary, Red Dawn is an unmitigated disaster from start to finish. About the only positives I can come up with are the explosions look good and Chris Hemsworth is decent. But even he is eventually buried by his poorly written character and the shallowness of his lines. Red Dawn ends up being another incompetent remake that shouldn’t even exist. It has virtually nothing in common with the original and it shreds everything that the first film did so well. I can’t see anyone who even slightly appreciated the 1984 film to find anything worthwhile in this remake. But then again I can’t see anyone who appreciates good movies to find anything worthwhile either. It’s that bad!

VERDICT – 1 STAR

For a much better version, please check out my review of the original Red Dawn (1984) .