Reviews: Safe, The Five-Year Engagement, The Raven

Safe
Safe

Safe

2 stars

Starring Jason Statham, Catherine Chan, Robert John Burke & Anson Mount

One thing I like about Statham is that he has a type of film. He’s found a genre he likes, and he sticks with it- loner action hero. He does it quite well, and I tend to like his films. That’s not to say they’re generally good… but I enjoy them. Safe has some solid action, but is ultimately hindered by a ridiculous plot and sloppy writing.

There was one line in particular that was uttered by two different characters in two different scenes. The characters had no contact during their respective scenes. So in addition to being a well-worn plot, the writers are recycling their own dialogue within their own movie. That was one of the more cringe worthy aspects of the film.

Otherwise, they made the film way more complicated than it really had to be, with plot points being introduced way too late in the game to make them viable to the arc. It’s similar to the problems with The Raid. They hit the third act when they realize they need to a way to tie it all together, and they end up doing so in the laziest way possible.

But credit where credit is due, Statham does a considerable amount of actual acting in this role, playing a broken, world beaten man who does what he has to do out of some sense of redemption. And of course the action is wildly entertaining, it’s what he does best. I just wish he’d pick better vehicles to showcase it. I can’t wait for his return in The Expendables 2. If you absolutely have to see it, I say wait for DVD/Netflix.

The Five-Year Engagement
Jason Segel and Emily Blunt in The Five-Year Engagement

The Five-Year Engagement

3.5 Stars

Starring Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt, Alison Brie

The comedy team of Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller is one of the more productive and hilarious in recent years.  They kicked it off 4 years ago by working on Forgetting Sarah Marshall together, Stoller directed, Segel wrote and starred. They carried that success into getting the prestigious gig of writing  The Muppets last year (which Stoller also directed, and Segel also starred in). Fast forward to this year, and we get their latest offering, which despite a strong cast and solid premise, just isn’t as strong as their previous efforts.

I can’t not like Segel. He’s a very funny guy, and so disarming with it. He’s just a nice guy you’d love to hang out with. Everything he’s in, from How I Met Your Mother to the movies mentioned, he’s just so gosh darn likable. Add into the mix the beautiful and equally charming Emily Blunt, who is always a delight, with Parks & Recreation‘s Chris Pratt and Community‘s Alison Brie, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for comedy gold. But it just goes on too long.

I have no problem with long movies. Some of my favourite movies push the three-hour mark. This one was slightly over 2, and that’s not terrible for a comedy… if they can keep the audience’s interest. Unfortunately the film drags way too much and can’t overcome that fact.

It’s a standard romantic comedy, and you can guess the end of the film with the trailer, but it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey, and they take the long way to get there. During the parts where it drags, there’s also a drought of laughs, which is where I would get lost. It’s right around the middle of the 2nd act, and the 3rd act is slow going. If they would just trim the fat, this would be perfect.

If you’re looking for a good date night movie, this is it, just be warned that it gets a little tedious in the middle.

The Raven
The Raven

The Raven

3 stars

Starring John Cusack, Alice Eve, Luke Evans, Brendan Gleeson

Much like last year’s Anonymous did with Shakespeare, The Raven looks to cast a new light on a famous writer, this time we head to the 19th century and take a look at Edgar Allan Poe. And much like last year’s Anonymous, it’s actually a really good film if you know absolutely nothing about the writer or the times. Having written term papers in college on both men, my enjoyment was a little marred.

This is a sort of departure for Cusack, as he’s not known for doing period piece. I kind of like him as Poe. He really played it straight, with some classic Cusack neuroses thrown in, which was a good choice. I was scared they were going to go over the top gruesome with him, and play him his as more of a caricature than as a man, and I appreciate the restraint.

As someone who didn’t particularly care for V For Vendetta (the message got lost/forgotten), I was quite impressed with director James McTeigue’s vision. Much like Cusack, he played it straight, and just made a really solid thriller. This is the kind of film that if Tim Burton got his hands on it, it would have been a schlocky macabre mess. But McTeigue kept the focus on the cat & mouse between Poe and his adversary (don’t want to spoil it for anyone) and plays out in an almost Holmesian way.

A really solid gothic thriller about the master of horror. It’s not worth full price, see a matinee or a 2nd run theatre.

Stuff That’s Streaming: X-Files, Supernatural, Warehouse 13

This is the maiden voyage of a new weekly feature here on the blog: A weekly suggestion of something cool to check out online. I’m going to start with Netflix, then expand to include Hulu, Vudu and Amazon Prime, to help you with the full online streaming experience.

I’m going to ease into this with a few TV shows that I feel are all kindred spirits (no pun intended), and are solid entries into the sci-fi procedurals. Clicking the images and headlines will take you to the Netflix page for each of the shows.

The X- Files

The X-Files
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny

I know, I know… “DUH! You don’t have to tell me to watch that. I already saw it back when it first aired!” So did I. I grew up on the show, as did many nerds of my generation. But I don’t think I’ve watched a single episode since it went off the air back in 2002. Not that I’ve been avoiding it, and I may have caught a random episode here or there over the years in the wee small hours the morning during local programming. But I’ve yet to fully revisit one of my all time favourite shows. And that’s what I’m in the process of doing right now (as well as another personally formative show I’ll discuss next week).

I’m a little over halfway through the first season (I only recently started this endeavour), the exploratory season. You can definitely tell that Chris Carter, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are finding their footing on this groundbreaking series. It was a unique program to join the line-up of the then 6-year-old FOX Network, which was still trying to stake a claim in prime-time, and had already found some success with Married… With Children, 21 Jump Street, Beverly Hills 90210 and, of course, The Simpsons. But that’s always been the fascinating thing about FOX, they’ve always been just a step ahead, and quite bold with their programming choices. A prime-time animated sitcom which led to a whole block of animated program. Roseanne got the glory, but Married… with Children beat it to the punch on blue-collar dysfunction. Even into the 2000s, if it wasn’t for both The X-Files and later 24, we probably wouldn’t have seen Lost. But I digress, back to The X-Files

As long as there’s been TV, there’s been cop shows, Dragnet started all the way back in 1951. The X-Files took that long tradition of solving cases and threw aliens, ghosts, monsters and demons at it, but rarely strayed into the truly ridiculous. OK… there were a few episodes (mostly in the admittedly uneven 1st season) that got a little off topic, but once you push through the muck and WTF moments, the show really hits its stride.

What always kept my interest was the balance between “Monster-Of-The-Week” episodes, the stand alone stories, and the ones that fell under the purview of the running narrative arc – Mulder’s quest for the truth, specifically as it pertains to his sister’s disappearance, and the alien cover up conspiracy. The addition of the  fantastic Mitch Pileggi in the second season gave Mulder and Scully an authority figure to both clash and commiserate with. Skinner was both friend and foe, but not out of inconsistent writing, but out of the intricacies of the character. His arrival was when the show really started to pick up, and just a year after that, Vince Gilligan joined the writing staff, and he would go on to create Breaking Bad, one of the best TV shows of the past decade.

Say what you will about the first season, and there’s a lot to be said about it, but it’s a landmark show and I’m thoroughly enjoying the trip down memory lane. All 9 seasons are available for streaming on Netflix by clicking here. Run through the whole series, or just catch up on your favourite episodes.

Warehouse 13

Warehouse 13
Saul Rubinek, Joanne Kelly and Eddie McClintock

I spent a lot of time talking about The X-Files, so I promise to keep the next two relatively short. I was first introduced to Warehouse 13 by my dear friend Joel. I believe his exact words were “Dude, you gotta check out Warehouse 13.” It had just started, so the first few episodes were there for my viewing pleasure on Hulu. I marathoned them all and became an instant fan. I remember discussing the show a few days later and referring to it as “X-Files: The Next Generation.” Federal agents in a sci-fi show tracking down the weird and unexplained… I think it’s an apt description. It’s a little heavier on the comedy than The X-Files was, but it works.

I was attracted to this show because of its pop culture references. Not pop culture references the way Community and Psych (both great shows, Psych is on Netflix, Community is on HuluPlus) make Star Wars jokes. Pop culture references like… Victorian era authors. Centuries old world leaders. The show really hit the ground running, and I think benefits from the shortened seasons of cable. It’s definitely worth a watch, with seasons 1 & 2 on Netflix which you can watch here, season 3 will be released soon, and season 4 starts this summer. Also worth a watch: their sister show, Eureka, which is coming back this summer for its 5th and final season. All 4 seasons are on Netflix.

Supernatural

Supernatural
Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki

Admittedly, I initially dismissed this show as “Great… another Buffy retread featuring guys who are way too good-looking, and it’s on the CW, so whatevs. GIRL SHOW!” But then I started hearing really positive things about it. From people whose opinions I trusted, and I wouldn’t have normally pegged to have enjoyed my perception of what kind of show Supernatural was. Then the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon kicked into high gear, and I started seeing it recommended on Netflix, on Hulu, I saw it mentioned a lot on Reddit, Facebook and Twitter, it even showed up in Fark. So I said, “FINE! I’ll give it a shot!”

Holy shit! I totally should have been watching this from the beginning. It’s a damn good sci-fi/fantasy/horror show that very much follows the mold of The X-Files in that it does the aforementioned “Monster-Of-The-Week,” but also balances it with an overall arc. Since I’m watching this one in tandem with The X-Files, I’m still only on the first season with this one, as well. Though there are a few later season episodes I’m looking forward to, including the S5 finale set in Stull, KS, which as any good Kansan (like myself) will tell you, is allegedly one of the gates to hell. And there’s a S6 episode that gets really meta, which I’m looking forward to watching.

Mostly I’m disappointed I ignored this one for so long. It’s a really good show and if you aren’t watching it, catch all 6 seasons on Netflix here, and it’s currently in its 7th.

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