On DVD & Blu-Ray: December 30, 2014

Denzel Washington didn't necessarily need a definitive action character of his own (much less one that he resurrected from an 80's television show) but it wouldn't hurt to try given the success of Liam Neeson in this role as of late and so he gave it a shot and so we have the feature film version of The Equalizer. On that note, this is a movie made in a manner that is extremely content with itself; from the marketing (those horribly plain posters) to the over-used slow motion and standard score (seriously, this soundtrack is pretty awful) and it clearly feels very little need to be more than this because it has Mr. Washington at the center of it and his presence alone garners it all the dignity and solemnity it needs to be taken more seriously than it actually is. Having said all of that, I rather enjoyed myself in this slow paced, but precise thriller that allows Washington to develop a more singular character than he has since maybe Frank Lucas. That isn't to dismiss the work he has done in between (he certainly deserved his nomination for Flight), but we all watch a Denzel Washington movie to see Denzel Washington and while he still plays that card to good effect here he also isn't the typically charismatic, well-rounded human being we are accustomed to seeing him portray. He is a man supposedly cut off from emotion or sentimentality, but who can't help but feel if he has the power to do something right, he should do it. No, The Equalizer isn't a great film, but like so many Liam Neeson and Tom Cruise features it does what it's supposed to do and it does it well enough that we'll take the sequel with open arms. Full review here. C+

There is instinctively something cool and edgy about a movie like Tusk. It is not that the final film is guaranteed to possess those anticipated qualities, but the prospect of the components coming together with the specific style and tone in which it has been composed allowing it to exude an effortless cool factor. A factor that attracts people to become interested in it based purely on the feeling of wanting to be "in" on the conversation. There is somewhat of an exclusivity to the material because it is understood from the outset to be slightly off-kilter and a project only a certain kind of crowd or film fan will "get". With those kinds of expectations in check I walked into the latest horror/comedy mash-up from writer/director Kevin Smith (Clerks, Red State) with cautious optimism. I was excited for the material, it seemed more akin to Smith's talents of writing talkative, funny characters while meshing ridiculously with the horror genre he tried his hand at with his previous feature. While Red State was more a scary movie in the vein of gross-out violence than actual scares it had more style and directorial competency than almost anything Smith had done in the past. In Tusk, he leverages the genre he's experimenting in with the one he knows best and to that effect, he is on to something more interesting. For the first fifty or so minutes I was hooked as the beguiling premise was still allowed a shade of mystery, an air of tension as we waited to see what exactly our antagonist, Howard Howe (Michael Parks looking strangely like Bryan Cranston), planned to do with our main character. It is when Smith is faced with the challenge of delivering on what the premise, trailer and spectacular poster promises that he fumbles toward the finish line. He goes weird, but not strange enough. It is gruesome, but not as detailed or disgusting as it easily could have been (especially given certain set-ups). It could be chocked up to the idea that Smith was trying to be more subtle with his allusions, but as Justin Long's Wallace Bryton likes to brag, his viewers like him real and raunchy and so he tries to be real raunchy. Smith has written by that rule his entire career and so why he would stop now considering he is as much in his element as ever before is a mystery. Full review here. D

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