by Dan Fields
First published January 29, 2011 by the California Literary Review
Hyperviolent Marshmallow Fluff
Jason Statham, the icy British actor famous for jacked-up action romps including The Transporter and Crank, returns to bust heads at a more thoughtful pace in The Mechanic, a remake of Michael Winner’s 1972 film of the same name, which starred Charles Bronson.
Arthur Bishop is a special breed of contract killer – a mechanic – who specializes in “clean” assignments, in which a murder is staged either to look like an accident or to frame an innocent third party. Thus he plots his operations intricately from a hip, ultra-modern pad stashed away in the south Louisiana swamps. He has a very neat little operation going on until he gets a contract to kill his long-time mentor and friend, a suitably grizzled Donald Sutherland. Rattled by guilt over the hit and suspicious about its motives, he determines to get to the bottom of it, enlisting the help of his victim’s ne’er-do-well son Steve (Ben Foster of Pandorum) who is unaware of Bishop’s own complicity in the killing. Continue reading →
by Dan Fields
First published January 22, 2011 by the California Literary Review
A Thousand Miles From Nowhere
A great movie seizes the attention instantly and holds it fast. Peter Weir is a fantastic director and has made a number of great movies, but The Way Back falls short of that distinction, despite all the effort and care that clearly went into it. Whether you are most fond of The Last Wave or Gallipoli, Dead Poets Society or The Truman Show, Witness or The Year Of Living Dangerously,** you may be coming to the table with any number of high expectations. Despite the movie’s epic scale, it delivers surprisingly little in the way of adventure. In the absence of any real antagonist – many are implied, yet none really materialize – there is but little room for tension or payoff in the course of the story. If what you want is startlingly beautiful scenery, and lots of it, you will probably consider The Way Back worth the ride. If you want bold insights into the extremes of human endurance, you are bound to feel a bit swindled.
by Dan Fields
First published January 08, 2011 by the California Literary Review
Bored At The Stake
There are many different ways to go when making a film about knights, witches, pestilence, the Middle Ages and so on. Make Witchfinder General, or The Seventh Seal, or Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Do not, however, make a dull, half-assed period adventure disguised by its ad campaign as a horror film.
Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman play two of the most legendary knights of the Crusades (apparently), who nonetheless grow disillusioned and desert the conquest of the Moors. Cage’s epiphany comes after inadvertently slaying a civilian in the heat of battle, which apparently he has never done before despite his unmatched prowess as a warrior. On the way home, they find themselves entangled in a quest to transport a suspected witch to a hidden monastery where she may stand trial for causing a widespread plague… blah blah blah. This is a perfectly good premise for dealing out some cheap scares, maybe a few grim laughs, and plenty of spooky atmosphere. Unfortunately, all three of these are in painfully short supply. For all its delightful B-horror potential, Season Of The Witch is a total snoozer. Continue reading →