Tuesday, August 30, 2011

PCP on DVD - 4 2011 Thrillers Reviewed

Time for your next hit of PCP.  Today I’ll be talking about 4 films from 2011 that attempt to give us some suspense.  Some succeeded and some failed miserably at building any sort of tension.  These 4 films are now available on DVD and I recently caught them on Netflix:  Limitless, The Adjustment Bureau, Unknown, & The Roommate. 

Limitless – 2011; PG-13.  105 minutes.  Starring:  Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, & Abbie Cornish.  My rating:  6 out of 10.

Limitless has an interesting premise:  what would you become if you could suddenly access all 100% of your brain function and turn your mind into a super computer far more powerful than anything you could imagine.  Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t quite live up to its possibilities.  Bradley Cooper stars as Eddie Mora, a writer with terminal writers block and a personal life that is falling apart.  His longtime girlfriend, Lindy (Abbie Cornish) has just dumped him because she can clearly see that he isn’t going anywhere.  And he isn’t, his life is a waste of time and space.  Everything changes when he runs into an old acquaintance, Vernon, a drug dealer that has a stash of a super-drug called NZT that unlocks the potential trapped within the rest of his brain.  Suddenly after taking the drug Mora is able to turn his life around, making a fortune in the stock market, but also attracting the attention of some people that want to do him major bodily harm.

The film is okay but not great.  From a visual standpoint, the shots of the camera rapidly sweeping through New York City down block after block, to demonstrate the enhanced senses that Mora has after taking the drug, are a rather nifty trick that would probably make you nauseous if you watched it in 3D.  Those shots though, showing Mora’s high, are about the only cool camera trick in the film.  There are not particularly any other shots that stand out.  The dialogue isn’t particularly good either.  The thrills are okay, but nothing to write home about.  Probably the most suspsenseful scene in the film is when Lindy is being chased by a bad guy that wants Mora’s stash for himself.  Since she’s not a total major character, there was some real tension wondering whether or not she’d bite the dust.  Between the lack of suspense and some of the plot holes in the film that you could drive a semi through, this film gets downgraded to only average.  Watch it if you like Bradley Cooper, but pass otherwise.
 Read the other 3 reviews after the jump!

The Adjustment Bureau – 2011; PG-13.  106 minutes.  Starring:  Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, & John Slattery.  My rating:  7 out of 10.

The Adjustment Bureau stars one of my favorite actors, Matt Damon, as a likeable politician in New York, David Morris.  He encounters Emily Blunt’s Elise and sparks immediately fly between the two of them, but then he doesn’t see her again for several years.  When he does encounter her again, there are mysterious forces working to keep the two of them apart, shown primarily by agents Harry (Anthony Mackie) and Richardson (John Slattery).  Morris has to figure out why these mysterious men are trying to keep him and Elise apart, and find a way to fight back against their power.

The powers that Harry and Richardson have are some pretty cool tricks, including the ability to go through a door in one part of New York City and emerge into another building several blocks or miles away.  At one point this leads to a pretty cool chase that goes through major landmarks including Liberty Island and Yankee Stadium.  They also seemingly have some sort of telekinesis ability, able to move objects over great distances. 

The film itself is based on a short story by Phillip K. Dick, a work called Adjustment Team.  Dick was one of the best sci-fi writers out there, and his works have been turned into some rather interesting films including Blade Runner, Minority Report, & Total Recall.  This film deals with questions of fate versus free will and what people will do for love.  It does a good job of raising some metaphysical and spiritual questions, without going overboard towards any one religion, but it definitely seems to be rooted a bit in Judeo-Christian beliefs.  All in all it is an enjoyable ride, and it does a good job of both raising and answering some pretty interesting questions.  Definitely worth checking out.

Unknown – 2011; PG-13.  113 minutes.  Starring:  Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, & January Jones.  My rating:  7 out of 10.

Liam Neeson has decided to reinvent himself as an action star late in his career.  His recent action outing, Taken, is one of my favorite action films of the past couple years.  Here in Unknown, he faces a far more mysterious and convoluted plot than the more linear and straightforward Taken.  In Unknown he stars as Martin Harris, a scientist and husband to January Jones.  He is riding in Diane Kruger’s taxi when she crashes it into the river, and he nearly drowns and spends 4 days in a coma.  When he wakes up he has gaps in his memory, and he finds that an impostor has taken over his life and his wife disavows his existence.  As the viewer, we travel along with Liam Neeson as he tries to piece together his past and figure out what is going on and who he is.

The movie has a few clever twists that I will not spoil here so I cannot describe any more of the plot without giving away what is going on.  I can tell you that I liked Neeson in this role, as his gravitas on screen helps to carry the film through some of its slower moments.  I also liked Diane Kruger as the illegal immigrant Bosnian that Neeson is forced to turn to for help.  Ironically, Kruger is a native German, and fits the ideal Aryan stereotype, but here she plays an illegal immigrant that fled war-torn Bosnia.  One actress I didn’t like in this film is January Jones.  She was very wooden, a complaint that I’ve heard surfaces in many other films she is in.  I have to quote Damon Lindelof, one of the geniuses behind Lost, who tweeted earlier this year about X-Men First Class:  “Emma Frost’s 3 mutant powers:  Telepathy, Transformation to Solid Diamond, and last but not least, Sucking at Acting.”  I have to agree with Lindelof, nothing Jones shows in this film demonstrates that she is a good actress.  Having not really seen her in much else than this (I haven’t watched Mad Men), I have no basis for comparison to her other roles, but here she is definitely a sucky actress.  Thankfully she’s not in enough of the film to totally bog it down.  All in all the film is a good mystery and a fun ride, and worth checking out, especially if you like Liam Neeson.

The Roommate – 2011, PG-13.  91 minutes.  Starring Minka Kelly, Leighton Meester, & Cam Gigandet.  My rating:  4 out of 10.

The Roommate has a story that has been done before.  The last time I saw this movie, it was much better and it was called Single White Female.  This film is such a rip-off of that one that the writers of Single White Female should have been credited as writers of The Roommate.  Leighton Meester, of Gossip Girl, stars as the titular crazed roommate to Minka Kelly.  I will give Meester credit for turning in a creepy performance that is a complete 180 from anything she’s done on Gossip Girl.  Kelly on the other hand doesn’t really stretch her boundaries as an actress.  I couldn’t tell her apart in this from her role on Friday Night Lights, except that on FNL she actually was a great actress.  Here she’s just kind of bland.  Her love interest, Cam Gigandet, isn’t given a whole lot to do either.  The thrills aren’t particularly thrilling, and there isn’t a whole lot of suspense.  If you’ve ever seen any horror movie you can guess the ending of this one based solely on the trailers.  Don’t waste your time watching this one, I’m not going to waste any more time writing its review than I already have.

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