Tag Archives: Vertical Entertainment

Into the Grizzly Maze (2014, David Hackl)

Should Into the Grizzly Maze be any good? It’s the story of two bickering brothers who have to hunt a giant killer bear. In Alaska. With the deaf wife of one brother–the cop–and the ex-girlfriend of the other brother. And the other brother is an ex-con. Their father’s former bear hunting protege also figures into the mix.

It sounds like a really lame soap opera, not a movie about a giant monster bear. And when you consider the actors–Thomas Jane as the cop, James Marsden as the ex-con, Piper Perabo as the deaf wife, Billy Bob Thornton as the protege (and, yes, TV supporting player Michaela McManus as the ex-girlfriend). These actors used to be movie stars. If they’re going to be in a movie about a killer grizzly bear, shouldn’t it be somehow awesome?

Yes, it should. But director Hackl’s atrocious. He can’t make Maze scary, can’t do the gore–and he wastes a few really good gore possibilities because the whole thing has awful CG in awful day for night digital shooting. Occasionally, it seems like James Liston’s photography is good, but then it’s obvious he just knows how to give that impression. It’s still better than anything Hackl does.

The whole reason Perabo is deaf is so she can be hunted and the audience can know what’s coming (and maybe to pay her less) and Hackl can’t even sell that moment.

Bad acting. Bad movie. Except Scott Glenn, of course.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by David Hackl; screenplay by Guy Moshe and J.R. Reher, based on a story by Reher; director of photography, James Liston; edited by Andrew Coutts, Michael N. Knue and Sara Mineo; music by Marcus Trumpp; production designer, Tink; produced by Paul Schiff, Tai Duncan and Hadeel Reda; released by Vertical Entertainment.

Starring James Marsden (Rowan), Thomas Jane (Beckett), Piper Perabo (Michelle), Billy Bob Thornton (Douglass), Scott Glenn (Sully), Michaela McManus (Kaley), Kelly Curran (Amber) and Adam Beach (Johnny Cadillac).

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Anna (2013, Jorge Dorado)

Anna is an exceptionally stupid movie. Apparently, no one involved with the film has seen films like Inception or The Sixth Sense because Anna apes big reveals from both of them rather obviously. It’s not a matter of guessing the twist ending, it’s a matter of trying to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing instead of guessing the twist ending.

One possibility for the filmmakers going with the incompetency of Guy Holmes’s script is Mark Strong. As the lead, Strong seems compassionate and authoritative, but it turns out he’s a moron too. Some of the problem might be how poorly the film establishes its reality, where mind detectives consult and go into people’s memories for supplemental evidence in court cases. But these mind trips have no bearing in court… like I said, it’s a dumb movie.

But it’s really well-acted from the leads. Strong’s character is doing his job for the money so maybe Strong was just doing the role for the money. He’s excellent, Taissa Farmiga is fantastic as the titular Anna. They’re both able to transcend the script. Because besides having an unimaginative approach to setting, it’s a good looking film. Dorado’s decent with composition and Óscar Faura’s cinematography is breathtaking.

The supporting cast–who are all suspects–don’t do as well as the leads. Brian Cox cashes a paycheck, Saskia Reeves looks lost, Richard Dillane isn’t bad. Indira Varma’s not good, however; a combination of mediocre accent and terrible writing.

Anna isn’t entirely worthless, just extremely close.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Jorge Dorado; screenplay by Guy Holmes, based on a story by Guy Holmes and Martha Holmes; director of photography, Óscar Faura; edited by Jaime Valdueza; music by Lucas Vidal; production designer, Alain Bainée; produced by Jaume Collet-Serra, Peter Safran, Juan Sola and Mercedes Gamero; released by Vertical Entertainment.

Starring Mark Strong (John Washington), Taissa Farmiga (Anna Greene), Saskia Reeves (Michelle Greene), Richard Dillane (Robert Greene), Indira Varma (Judith), Noah Taylor (Peter Lundgren), Alberto Ammann (Tom Ortega) and Brian Cox (Sebastian).


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From Above (2013, Norry Niven)

When talking about films, I sometimes say “sincerity helps.” I got it from the Leonard Maltin review of Superman IV. I never say it ironically, I never say it as a joke. After From Above, I’m not sure sincerity helps at all.

From Above is sincere. It’s sincerely about prejudice and marriage and all sorts of things. It’s also bad. Director Niven is very adept at integrating CG into his shots–storms to start, but the whole film is baked in a computer. He never seems to wonder if creating such unrealistic, if lovely, visuals is a good idea or if it’ll just distance the viewer from the actors.

Similarly, he’s got music running all the time. Eric Kaye’s score can find the melodrama in any situation, even when the lead girl–Chelsea Ricketts, who too is sincere in an absurdly written role–is just walking. Niven has definitely got a vision and is committed to it.

But there’s nothing to Above. Watching Danny Glover and Tantoo Cardinal recite Shakespeare lines to each other (she’s dying, he’s taking care of her), it’s effective. It’s cheap, but it’s effective. The good story is probably about Glover and Cardinal as their deal with her impeding death, not how they met. Certainly not how they met in 1972 Arkansas, which is a racist place and all, but nowhere near as racist as, say, Archie Bunker.

Above is sincere, but sincerity doesn’t fix a bad script or cheap direction. It’s painfully trite every minute.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Photographed and directed by Norry Niven; written by James Bird; edited by Peter Tarter; music by Eric Kaye; production designer, Geri Schary; produced by Niven and Loren Basulto; released by Vertical Entertainment.

Starring Danny Glover (William Ward), Graham Greene (Mr. Mountain), Chelsea Ricketts (Venus), Mike Wade (Young William Ward), Ashley Bell (Molly), Tantoo Cardinal (Older Venus), Clarence Gilyard Jr. (Jeremiah Ward), Adriana Mather (Betty), Justin Alston (Ricky), Ezequiel Stremiz (Luca) and Clayton Rohner (Mr. Shelton).


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G.B.F. (2013, Darren Stein)

G.B.F. has a lot of problems. First and foremost, it should probably be called My G.B.F. just because making it a possessive statement would add some depth before starting it. Second, worst makeup in a movie ever. It’s unclear if it’s makeup artist Gage Hubbard’s fault, cinematographer Jonathan Hall’s fault or some combination (it seems more like Hall’s), but a number of the female actors in the film should be very upset.

Speaking of acting, there are a number of terrible performances in the film. Given George Northy’s script is rather excellent, it’s either the actors’ faults or director Stein’s. Most of the film is very impressive–great script from Northy, great performance from lead Michael J. Willett, some rather good supporting performances–but between Stein, Hall and some terrible casting, G.B.F. often has rough spots.

The good parts get it through. Northy’s plot structure is key. He mocks the idea of the traditional John Hughes high school movie while emulating it. If Stein composed decent shot, it might better offset the bad acting.

Real quick, the bad acting. From least bad to worst. Xosha Roquemore, Anthony Garland, Rebecca Gayheart, Evanna Lynch, Joanna ‘JoJo’ Levesque, Molly Tarlov, Natasha Lyonne.

The good acting makes up for them. Willett is fantastic, Paul Iacono is good as his best friend, Sasha Pieterse is good in the surprisingly complex role of Willett’s mean girl bestie, Taylor Frey is awesome. Great Jonathan Silverman appearance.

It’s definitely good. But it should be great; Stein brings nothing.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Darren Stein; written by George Northy; director of photography, Jonathan Hall; edited by Phillip J. Bartell; music by Brian H. Kim; production designer, Michael Fitzgerald; produced by Richard Bever, Stephen Israel, Northy and Stein; released by Vertical Entertainment.

Starring Michael J. Willett (Tanner Daniels), Paul Iacono (Brent Van Camp), Sasha Pieterse (Fawcett), Andrea Bowen (‘Shley), Xosha Roquemore (Caprice), Molly Tarlov (Sophie), Evanna Lynch (McKenzie Price), Joanna ‘JoJo’ Levesque (Soledad), Derek Mio (Glenn), Mia Rose Frampton (Mindie), Taylor Frey (‘Topher), Anthony Garland (Christian), Natasha Lyonne (Ms. Hoegel), Rebecca Gayheart (Shannon), Jonathan Silverman (Mr. Daniels) and Megan Mullally (Mrs. Van Camp).


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