Tag Archives: American Beauty

Margin Call: I’m Back to Reviews Everyone!

After a long semester of work, homework, and plain more work, I have come back to the world of review blogs. Thanks to those of you out there who come back to check and look forward to reading the inane and ridiculous things I say. And now it’s time for a little movie review. This one (that I watched wayyyyy back in August) is called Margin Call. Based on the events of the 2008 mortgage crisis, this independent film boasts a

Look at Spock and those well defined eyebrows.

star studded cast that focuses more on the characters and their interactions than it does on the action and big picture scheme. If you are looking for car chases and guns, look elsewhere. This movie gets its bite from the dialogue.

So Zachary Quinto (star of Heroes and that almost unrecognizable role as Spock) plays Peter Sullivan, a low level employee that sees the company he has been striving so hard for begin to unexplainably fall apart around him. His boss, Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci) is fired for no discernible reason, leaving Sullivan with a program he was working on that show what we have come to know as the great 2000’s recession (I just call it that… but not really). After some late night calculations, Sullivan finds that his company is really in a lot of deep feces. I’m talking mounds of excrement with no rain boots.

A role Spacey was born to play… A lot…

So a whole meeting is called as you see the chain of command called in to this banking company. It starts with Paul Bettany’s character (my favorite of the entire movie. He’s one of those unspoken characters that just gets it.) and works itself all the way up to Jeremy Irons as the company’s CEO. I was really surprised that for an independent film such as this that so many good actors would sign on, but for a role like this that portrays life in its true form, I’m not as surprised.

But could I even say anymore about the star studded cast? I already mentioned Quinto, Tucci, Irons, and Bettany. That’s solid right there. But throw in Kevin Spacey? Now we’re just getting American Beauty high class on this one. And he’s just as brutal as a upper class boss in this one as he was in Horrible Bosses. But he does have a heart, mind

A bit of that trading floor drama.

you. You got Simon Baker as the hardass playboy with an ego issue that wants to keep it all under wraps. Demi Moore as the manipulated female staff member. Her unsure performance keys right in to a cutthroat business that leaves no room for the timid. Throw in Aasif Mandvi (without any comedic relief, unfortunately) and you have your top billed cast right there.

And what’s more, there is some really great dialogue and monologues in this movie. First one that comes to my mind is the one done by Stanley Tucci towards the end of the movie. His reevaluation of his entire life up to the point he gets fired is true and heartfelt, even if he is approaching it from the way in which he helped out a town commute from West Virginia to Ohio over a bridge. Gotta give him his props for memorizing all those numbers. And basically any line out of Paul Bettany’s mouth just sounds like privileged few from New York’s best areas. His snarky attitude and calm assessment of the downfall of banks during the crisis was just spot on. You need characters like him in movies to really gain perspective on the overall plot.

A star studded cast of dramatic proportions.

Combine all of these great interactions with greatly portrayed characters and you have yourself a movie that is character-driven. But it’s not just that. How could a movie about the logistics of the mortgage crisis be so interesting? This movie barely talks in actual economical jargon. Well, there is some, but I was enraptured by the characters to notice too much. What this movie effectively does is put real human faces to the upper management devastated by this terrible crisis in our society, and help people realize that not everyone who later benefited from the liquidations and lay-offs were such terrible people. (Sure Jeremy Irons was, but look at Kevin Spacey in comparison. Perfect contrast.)

So I would encourage fans of John Grisham bo0k-to-movie remakes and real life drama films to check this one out. It’s not that well known, but it’s worth checking out if you’re not all about the comedy and action. Real intellectual shizz. Margin Call gets a 8.4 out of 10 from me. Get at me guys, I’m back into reviewing!

Bring it home, Tucci.

 

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Underworld: Awakening

Where’s Michael? Where is Michael Corvin?

You may be wondering that yourself after you see Underworld: Awakening in theaters (if it still is…) The second I saw this movie was in development WITH KATE BECKINSALE, I got really excited. This beautiful English goddess needs no introduction. The face and star of the Underworld series ( I won’t include Rise of the Lycans) comes back with a more violent and sexy force in this movie. And, at 39 years of age, Beckinsale is looking wonderfully sexy and vibrant, despite the whole vampire/death dealer thing.

I would say this tagline of this movie is “Where’s Michael?” because it is the most classic line from the trailer. Yelling in the face of some unfortunate human, Selene just wants to know where her lover is. Is that too much to ask?

Where is Michael?

Apparently it was too much to ask to get Scott Speedman to return in this film. From the first moment you see him, you know something’s up. He seems CGI, and, in fact he is. Shown for an entire 30 seconds of screen time, Michael goes from badass hybrid to invisible hider. The original purpose of the film is to find him, but it becomes complicated.

This scene was sexy.

Here’s some context. The war raging on for centuries between the Vampires and Lycans has a new contender. The humans have entered the battle and have learned the weaknesses to decimate both sides. In a terrible twist of fate, Selene and Michael are captured and are being held in a laboratory under cryogenic (?) freezing for over 10 years. (Was it 10? The number was a bit fuzzy…) Upon being released by some unknown third party, Selene awakens to a world she is unfamiliar with. All that remains with her is her ability to kill, and kill well.

After some romp stomp destroying of some lab guards, Selene begins to get her wits about her. Realizing she is not in a position of advantage, she begins her quest in finding Michael. This is complicated by what she perceives to be visions from Michael’s own eyes being projected to her. She follows them and what she finds is a young girl. A hybrid young girl. With things thrown out of whack and nothing as it appears, Selene and the last of the vampires must fight in a world where there enemy is no longer the Lycans, but what would appear to be a lesser subspecies. Us.

Time to lace up.

I gotta hand it to the creators of Underworld. You take a 6 year break from Evolution with Kate and come back just as hard as the original 9 years before this one? You have to know some die hard fans are gonna watch it regardless. Me being one of those die hard fans of Beckinsale and everything Underworld really helped out. The first one becoming a cult classic solidifies any future work on Underworld and makes it all the more interesting when, yes, they suggest a 5th one. Bring it on.

There's some violence for ya.

I really gotta say though, this one hit hard with the violence. There’s really not a big break between action scenes, but some of the action scenes really drive the plot in an unusual way that I haven’t seen in many action movies. Removing the fight scenes from the plot is a way to entertain without bogging down the stylized violence, but this movie said, “Eh, why can’t we have both?” And I agree. There are plenty of successful action movies out there that can balance what the genre promises with a bit of good storyline. And the Underworld series is one of those.

But yes, there are throat slashing scenes, lots of bullet holes through Lycan carcasses, and, really, not a lot of sympathy for the Lycans in general. In a

The last hopes for the Vampires.

series that kind of set up this idea between supernatural being unity, Lycans vs Vampires probably won’t die anytime soon. With hybrids and the humans as the common enemy, I expected some teamwork, but this movie takes it in a direction that makes sense as well without the Vamycans combine. Although, as anyone knows who has seen this series, humans shouldn’t be a threat to these races, but it happens. I guess if Van Helsing can do it… Others can.

I love that suit. And those guns. Everything.

The acting in this movie was fine, but not the main focus/intent of the creators. Kate Beckinsale, instant loveable classic. At her age, looking that good, the mist rolling over her naked body. Chills. Stephen Rea kind of came out of left field for me. One of the most experienced actors in the movie, his villainous nature came as strange. One, because he’s one of those self-absorbed, nerdy villains without the ridiculously gothic quality of say Bill Nighy or Michael Sheen. Two, his son Quint (Kris Holden-Ried) had an English accent in this movie and Stephen Rea as his father, Dr. Jacob Lane, didn’t. Those little nuances can bother a person.

I mean, at some points in the film, there were accents when there didn’t have to be, and others were there should have been (I guess). Beckinsale sounds wonderfully elegant as Selene with her British accent, but with Eve (India Eisley) it came off as awkward. An 18 year old girl portraying a 12 year old girl (it was close) with an English accent, in a city that I feel was in America,

I just have to include this shot. Chills.

seemed out of place. But the girl did her job, despite some of her only experience coming from The Secret Life of the American Teenager (utterly horrid).

That was also something that struck me as odd with Theo James in this film. As with some other British newcomers to the silver screen, David (Theo James) showed a slight potential as a relatively important character in this film. Bringing back the classic whips from the last scene in the original Underworld, he delivered his lines with a British accent, in an altogether unconvincing way. Charles Dance as his father, Thomas, one of the last remaining bastions of the Vampire dynasty, did a fair job, but he wasn’t a Bill Nighy type of character. He made his mark though.

You did okay, Theo.

Before I wrap this up, just wanted to throw a little shout out Wes Bentley’s way. This guys was a simple character who released Selene from her cryogenic sleep and got none of the credit. I’ve admired Wes Bentley ever since American Beauty (…and Ghost Rider) and I feel he is an underrated actor. So I would like to give him a nod in this uncredited role in Underworld, even though he was dropped out a window.

It's about to get heavy.

So, all-in-all, Underworld: Awakening did justice to the Underworld series. There was a great deal of action, although no Michael, and a plot that satisfyingly gave a chance for an Underworld 5. A fabulous twist that I didn’t see coming progressed the overall plot and left me falling in love with Selene all over again. I would agree with IMDB’s rating of this movie of a 7 out of 10, but, as a huge fan, I’d bump it up to a 7.7 out of 10. Nice job.