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The Best Characters of Summer 2014

September 2, 2014

Hello all. Mark here.

Summer 2014 was loaded with fantastic characters. They proved to be memorable, hilarious and fond of shoes. Nothing went over their heads, they enjoyed naps and slipped on fish. When all is said and done their characters will be cherished and discovered for years to come. Here is the list! Enjoy!

Drax the Destroyer – Guardians of the Galaxy

In a film full of wonderful characters he has the best lines, story and character arc. He drunk dials an army, doesn’t listen and says “Why would I want to put my finger on his throat?” He was the pleasant surprise in a movie that was a pleasant surprise. I can’t wait to see what they do next with his character.

Guardians Drax

Rita Vrataski – Edge of Tomorrow

Emily Blunt was an effortless badass who wasn’t simply a Tom Cruise love interest. Her character wasn’t a plot device and I loved that. She imbued a soul and personality into a character that was stuck in what seems like a very uncomfortable costume. I really hope Edge picks up an audience in the years to come.

emily blunt

She also may have started a yoga craze with all her gratuitous poses meant to spice up the trailers.

Edge of Tomorrow Emily Blunt

Mason – Snowpiercer 

Tilda Swinton  is my hero. Mason is an oddball maniac who is the perfect wing man to a madman who happens to run a dystopian train society. She also says this “I belong to the front. You belong to the tail. When the foot seeks the place of the head, the sacred line is crossed. Know your place. Keep your place. Be a shoe.”

Snowpiercer axe

Mom and Dad – Boyhood

When the award season rolls around I hope Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette get nominated for their amazing work in Boyhood. Their characters are fully fleshed out humans who had believable bumps and bruises. Their commitment to make such a wonderful film needs to be appreciated.

boyhood hawke


Godzilla is not a good film. The human characters were paper-thin and plot was haphazard. However, Gareth Edwards absolutely nailed Godzilla. He is the earth’s grumpy protector who happens to love siestas. The scene where he is swimming with the war ships en route to battle the monsters was badass. He wakes up. Kicks ass. Takes a nap. Swims away. I also loved that he was part bear, dog and eagle. Cool look.


Martin – Chef

John Leguizamo is one of my favorite actors. I love his comedy special Freak and always felt like he has been underused and underappreciated. However, in Chef he is a likable dude who adds a fantastic energy to the proceedings. Chef puts a smile on your face and Leguizamo is a big reason for that.

Chef John Leguizamo

Father James – Calvary

Father James is a good man who came to faith later on in life. He is a widower, former alcoholic and father of a troubled yet loyal daughter.  You can tell he won’t take any sh*t yet is too smart to allow himself to be shaken. He has come from a rough life and that is what makes him so effective as a priest. There isn’t judgement in his eyes. He understands the world yet you can see that it tires him. Give Brendan Gleeson the Oscar now.

Calvary movie poster


Curtis – Snowpiercer

Curtis is a good man. He is haunted by the past yet can still rally everyone around him. He is too smart to be a pawn and too strong to be stopped by axe wielding maniacs.  He is the leader you want to fight next to. He also is the straight man who isn’t overshadowed by a cavalcade of character actors. Between Sunshine and Snowpiercer Chris Evans has proven himself to be a fantastic actor.


Neville Love – Starred Up

Neville Love is a career criminal who has worked his way up to be being second in command in an English prison. He is calm yet explosive and constantly fails at being a parent. Ben Mendelsohn is an amazing actor who stole the show in Killing Them Softly and Animal Kingdom. In Starred Up he is the perfect foil while still being relatable. You can see the dude trying but constantly let down by his immense emotional problems and zero impulse control.

Starred Up Ben

Galgo -Expendables 3

Expendables 3 is not a good film. However, Antonio’s character Galgo adds a much-needed shot of adrenaline. He is a motor mouthed badass who sits in Jason Statham’s chair and flirts with Ronda Rousey while fighting. Many will be annoyed by Galgo but I bought into the character and enjoyed the fun Banderas brought to him. You can tell everyone loved having him around too.

Expendables 3 Banderas

Toothless – How To Train Your Dragon 2

Who wouldn’t want a toothless? The dragon has zero dialogue yet had more personality than 90% of the summer characters. Kudos Dreamworks for creating such a wonderfully realized creature.


The Best Movie Moments of the Summer

August 30, 2014

Hello all. Mark here.

I really enjoyed the cinematic efforts of summer 2014. The original stories blended well with the remakes, sequels, reboots and prequels to make it all interesting. Some movies were unexpectedly good (Edge of Tomorrow), some understandably tanked (Expendables 3, which I still enjoyed) and others featured talk of black light discoveries in space (Guradians).

The best parts of the cinematic summer were the neat moments that proved to be memorable. They left me laughing, confused and dazed with happiness. I applaud them for their randomness and ability to capture attention in mere seconds.

Without further ado here are my favorite movie moments of the summer. Make sure to check out my Best Characters of Summer 2014 as well!

1. Baby Groot dancing 

The Guardians of the Galaxy was the hit of the summer. How did it do it? Likable characters, heart on its sleeve narrative and a whole lot of offbeat humor. What sealed the deal? An adorable baby Groot dancing.

baby groot dancing

2. Ethan Hawke’s quote from Boyhood “You have to ask them lots of questions, and then you have to listen.”

Boyhood is my favorite film of the summer. Richard Linklater filled it with a plethora of amazing moments. However, the Hawke quote sets the pace for many future interactions.

boyhood hawke

3. Godzilla’s nap

The dude fights two monsters. Takes a nap. Swims away. He is the blue collar hero we need.


4. The Fish scene in Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer is beautifully controlled chaos. The fish scene encompasses the violence, oddness and tone of the film. You kinda have to see it.

Snowpiercer fish

5. Anytime Dolph wears stylish scarves or head wraps in Expendables 3

The Expendables 3 was a fun film that only wanted to blow stuff up. It also allowed Dolph to wear a whole lot of scarves.


6. Watching John Favreau, John Leguizamo and Bobby Cannavale joke around in Chef. 

Can we get a Chef 2: More Kitchen Banter please?

Chef kitchen

7. The first time Tom Cruise hits the beach in Edge of Tomorrow

The first twenty minutes are a miracle of smarm, death and squish noises. Also, Emily Blunt is fantastic as Cruise’s mentor/foil/love interest.

Edge of Tomorrow Tom Cruise

8. Mark Ruffalo discovering Keira Knightley in Begin Again 

It is a simple moment featuring a drunk Ruffalo discovering Keira Knightley while she is bombing at an open mic. The scene shows off their talents and forges a believable bond. I love when you learn about a character via their actions instead of expository dialogue.

begin again New York

9. Anything involving Toothless flying in How to Train your Dragon 2 

Roger Deakins (Skyfall, Prisoners) was the visual consultant on the film and it shows. HTTYD2 is a visual marvel that leaves you breathless.

dragon 2

10. Any moment featuring Brendan Gleeson in Calvary.

If he doesn’t get an Oscar nomination it will hurt my soul.

Calvary movie poster

11. The moment when Channing Tatum finds out that Jonah Hill slept with Ice Cube’s daughter in 22 Jump Street. 

Tatum’s reaction is hilarious and goes on for way too long. The best moment of a funny film.

22 jump street ice cube

12. The moment when Scarjo uses approximately 71.6 of her brain in Lucy. 

Luc Besson is insane (in a good way).

lucy scarjo

What are your favorite moments?


Calvary: Into the Grey

August 28, 2014

Calvary movie poster

Calvary starts with a confessional scene in which the Brendan Gleeson’s character Father James is given a week to live. The camera holds on Gleeson’s face as his potential killer tells him to get his affairs in order. The killer hates the church because of past sexual molestation and wants to take it out on a good man. What follows is a beautifully bleak film that is wholly original and remarkable.

John Michael McDonagh’s follow-up to The Guard is a completely different beast. The Guard was a tour de force of comedy and violence. The one-liners were aplenty and Don Cheadle’s outfits fantastic.

the guard top 10

The Guard featured Gleeson as either “the smartest or dumbest man on the planet.” It played like a distant cousin of In Bruges. In Bruges was directed by Martin McDonagh (John’s brother) and featured crime elements interspersed with a whole lot of bonkers dialogue. The thing I love about Calvary is that it is a change of direction. The dialogue is there yet the material is much weightier. It has a sly fox vibe that mixes well with Gleeson’s inherit likability.

Calvay Sligo

Father James is a good man who came to faith later on in life. He is a widower, former alcoholic and father of a troubled yet loyal daughter.  You can tell he won’t take any sh*t yet is too smart to allow himself to be shaken. He has come from a rough life and that is what makes him so effective as a priest. There isn’t judgement in his eyes. He understands the world yet you can see that it tires him.

What Calvary does is wonderfully original. The dialogue, acting and Irish vistas (I loved my time in Sligo) combine to make a heady tale of modern-day religion. Everyone admits that Father James is a good man yet can’t stop reveling in their sin when they are around him. He is constantly tempted and reminded of the Catholic church’s sordid past. He is a respected punching bag who endures too much.

His final week is full of interactions with the Sligo residents. They all represent something different (young, old, evil, foreign, bitter, troubled) and bring different viewpoints toward religion. The film is packed with an accomplished crew of supporting actors. Chris O’Dowd, Dylan Moran, Kelly Reilly, M. Emmet Walsh, Domhnall Gleeson, Aidan Gillen, Isaach De Bankole and Marie-Josee Croze round out the cast and you can tell they relish every line they get.

Aidan Guillen Calvary

Calvary is an original and moving piece of art. It is a quadruple threat of directing, writing, acting and cinematography. You won’t find many films that are this mature or darkly funny. It tackles religion in a mature manner and in no way makes it all simple. It goes deep into the grey and comes out warranting serious discussion. When the awards season rolls around I hope that it is remembered. Brendan Gleeson gives the finest performance of the year and hopefully it is rewarded.

Calvary is a fine film and stands alongside Boyhood as the best of the year.  I can’t wait to see what McDonagh and Gleeson do next.

Blue Ruin: Tension Perfected

August 27, 2014

Blue Ruin movie poster

Blue Ruin is a force of nature. Told on a micro-budget the revenge thriller is nothing like all the other revenge thrillers you’ve seen. Blue Ruin plays like a massive stress bomb that comes out of nowhere. The lack of polish and adherence to logic help build simmering suspense that keeps you on the edge of your seat.  The story revolves a bearded homeless man seemingly waiting for an unsavory character to leave prison.  When the criminal is released he goes on an unplanned mission that is full of dread, suspense and blood.

Blue Ruin character

The man is out of his league and often unlucky. He isn’t a killer and because of this the suspense is thick. Each explosion of violence is ugly and sometimes darkly comical. The family he is hunting is a legitimately bad crew that won’t go easy. This is bad for him because he has no clue what he is doing. However, the randomness of it all keeps everyone on their toes. I’d compare it to when a pitcher gets brought up from the minor to major leagues. The batters have no tape on him and have no clue how he will pitch. They will catch on eventually but at the moment he is a wildcard.

Blue Ruin beard

I haven’t watched a film this tense in a long time. You sit there with a grimace on your face as the avenger finds himself in a bloody encounter. There are moments when he literally brings a knife to a gunfight. His actions aren’t treated as unintelligent. They are treated as inexperienced, frightened and in no way planned out. He doesn’t know what he is doing and that makes it exciting. The unpredictability of the situations lead to unexpected finales. Also, the lonely Virginia landscape aids in his mission as long stretches of film rest on scarce locations and Macon Blair’s expressive eyes.

Blue Ruin

Blue Ruin is pure cinema at its finest. Told with long shots that allow tension to build, it slowly finds its way to the bloody finale. There is a depth to the characters and you understand why this is all happening. It may be chock-full of blood but it is spilled in non-gratuitous ways. The film feels organic and elegant even as our helpless hero is bleeding heavily.

Blue Ruin is a fantastic film. Check it out on Netflix.

Rogue: The Australian Crocodile Film That Gets it Right

August 26, 2014

Rogue movie poster

You may find it odd that I am writing about a tiny Australian Crocodile film that was released unceremoniously in 2008. It has bothered me for some time that the neat little film was buried by the distributors and doomed to the straight to DVD landscape. So, Rogue will be the first film in my new series covering films that were criminally underappreciated.

I started thinking about Rogue again after I watched the insanely irresponsible Wolf Creek 2. Greg Mclean directed both films and they are characterized by a unique ability to punch above their weight.  Also, the large crocodile film Lake Placid just celebrated its 15th anniversary with a Blu-ray release and seemingly endless cult fanfare.

Lake Placid bluray

Rogue has stuck with me because of the circumstances surrounding my first viewing of it. I had just moved to South Korea for a year of teaching and was stuck inside my apartment during an incredibly rainy night. I had heard talk of a crocodile flick so I decided to rent it sight unseen. What followed was an unexpectedly good movie that was intelligently simple and always entertaining. It is by the no means the Jaws of Crocodile films but certainly is better than most water-based horror cinema. (I’m looking at you Primeval).

Primeval Gustav

The film was directed by Wolf Creek’s Greg McLean and features Michael Vartan, Radha Mitchell, Sam Worthington, John Jarratt and Mia Wasikowska. it is a well-acted and great looking monster movie that moves along logically. McLean was incredibly dismayed with the treatment the film received yet had this to say about it:

I made exactly the film with Rogue, that I was making for ten years, exactly the way I wanted, with exactly the people I wanted and the film they put out was exactly what I wanted to make. So that’s the plus side. People will catch it on cable or see it playing and go, ‘what is this film?’ Because the quality is so good and they can’t understand how these films just don’t get released properly. So hopefully they’re the sort of things we’ll find

There is no back story or expository dialogue. It is a simple story of a tour boat being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There are no crazy urban legends or hunters/reporters looking to make money off of the giant crocodile. We don’t get an overacting John Voight looking to capture it or a foul-mouthed Betty White feeding it. The one inkling of trouble on the horizon is a large cave painting that is seen on some cliffs. The natives must have been living with the monster for some time in their sacred area and learned to avoid the territorial reptile (who is described as a “steam-train with teeth”).

Rogue crocodile

Eventually, the giant crocodile whacks the boat and the hunt is afoot. The characters are industrious and use what they have in order to not become dinner. They think ahead knowing the tide will come in and flood their little island. So, they devise reasonable plans to escape. The people in the film are not two-dimensional characters who become crocodile fodder. Sam Worthington starts as a local “bro” but quickly proves to be a brave man while helping the tourists.  Michael Vartan is suitably stoic while coming across as a genuinely good dude. Also, it is easy to understand the finale because who wouldn’t want to save Radha Mitchell?

Rogue cast

You get to know the characters via their actions and interactions. Words aren’t wasted and Mclean wisely gives the characters the tools necessary to keep the narrative moving along. The best horror films involve urgency and there is plenty of it in Rogue. There are moments when people act like little punks (silly rope scene). However, what would you do if you were on a tiny island about to be swallowed up by a hungry beast?  Rogue is wonderfully straightforward and simply wants to deliver the goods.

If you are in the mood for a killer crocodile film I totally recommend Rogue. It doesn’t pander to dumb clichés and is told well by a director who knows what he is doing. Rent it. Enjoy it. Don’t enter sacred land that might be home to large river beasts.

Rogue crocodile scene

John’s Horror Corner: The Prowler (1981), a lesser-known slasher film that was the ultra-violent movie of its time.

August 21, 2014

The Prowler poster

MY CALL: This lesser-known slasher film was the ultra-violent movie of its time, brandishing more gore and “visible” kills than others of its era. This will please seasoned admirers of 70s and 80s slashers. MOVIES LIKE The Prowler: Happy Birthday to Me (1981), The Burning (1981), The Funhouse (1981). ALTERNATE TITLE: I believe that this is titled Rosemary’s Killer in the UK and Australia.


The year was 1945; it was a time of war. After receiving a “Dear John” letter from his girlfriend Rosemary, a soldier with a wounded heart returns home and goes on a killing spree. 35 years later, a (perhaps new) killer wearing WWII regalia begins slaughtering youngsters on the weekend of their Graduation Dance before he even changes out of his military greens. And, following in the most typical and dated of horror tropes, once the kids spike the punch bowl and start touching each others’ fun parts prior to saying their “I do’s” the killing can commence.

the prowler killer

The acting is bad and the story runs way too slowly, but after the dragging lulls of plot we are rewarded with satisfying (for the era) death scenes that should please seasoned lovers of the classics but which may leave youngsters who grew up on the Final Destination films wanting quite a bit more out of their kills.

The gore is “simple” by today’s standards, and representative of Tom Savini’s early work. But hey, make no mistake, it was the 80s and before horror ever had much of an effects budget. For its time this was REALLY GORY! And what’s really impressive is that you can see the penetration of the weapon into the victim during the kill scenes instead of a shot of a knife, a shot of a screaming victim, and a shot of blood spraying on the wall.


For those of you who have seen few movies that came out before the 90s, this was really graphic in 1981!

throat slash

At the time of its release this was the equivalent of what we now call “ultra-violent.” The style of the kills in this film predates the commonality of “fun” kills in horror, but there’s still some good diversity including a couple getting collectively stabbed by a pitchfork while making out, someone getting stabbed all the way through the skull and then having it wrenched back out, someone’s head is blown to chunky bits before our eyes, and there’s a delightfully drawn out and gory shower kill.

knife through head

So graphic for 1981!



The clichés abound but…wait a sec, here…as I watch I actually realize that this movie is so old in the history of slasher flicks that at the time things like murderer POV shots, the all-too-cool killer “walking” after his victims who just can’t seem to outrun him because of stumbles and locked doors and dropped keys and jammed doors, the killer suddenly “appears” in places to which he couldn’t possibly have moved in the allowed time and circumstances, and of course (VERY, VERY long) shower scenes weren’t even tired out clichés yet.


So the moral of the story here is, ladies, don’t send any of our troops a “Dear John” letter until your absolutely certain that you’re not in a horror movie! Otherwise, you and the next generation may be in for an unpleasant surprise at your next school dance.


The Expendables 3: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Max World

August 20, 2014

expendables 3 movie poster

The picture below is the reason you should watch The Expendables 3.

Expendables 3 Harrison Ford

Any film in which Harrison Ford seems to be genuinely enjoying himself is cool with me. Ford even goes as far to say “I haven’t had so much fun in years.” You can’t help but love a scene featuring Ford piloting a helicopter whilst Jet Li and Arnold blast countless thugs away with massive guns. Also, this Photoshopped shirt would have never happened if these two legends weren’t in the film.

Arnold Han Shot First

Expendables 3 is bonkers entertainment that has been treated way too cynically. Sure, the film falls flat when introducing the new action stars and sometimes becomes unintentionally hilarious. However, there are enough moments of randomness and awesomeness that keep you hoping for an even more bloated Expendables 4 that leads to publicity photos like this.

Expendables 3

The Expendables 3 is a fun film that was simply meant to entertain and in no way meet our expectations.The plot gets a little out of control as Sly picks up a new crew because one of his old crew was seriously injured by ex-expendable Mel Gibson. Predictably, the new crew gets kidnapped by Mel Gibson and Sly reteams with his old crew to free the new team whilst battling the ex-expendable. Basically, it is an excuse for a massive shoot out finale that is handled well by sophomore director Patrick Hughes. Hughes gives the film a breath of fresh air as he ditches the Mickey Rourke monologues for a more humorous approach. He also does a couple important things right. First and foremost he lets Dolph continue his trend of posing for ridiculous photos.

Expendables 3 Dolph

Second, He lets Antonio Banderas do his thing as a motor mouthed maniac who has some of the best moments. He talks fast, runs fast and he looks awesome shooting people. I had visions of Desperado in my head as he mowed down adversaries whilst wooing Ronda Rousey. He lightens up the odd melodramatic moments and you can tell he was popular on set.

Expendables 3 Banderas

Caption: How did our careers survive Assassins?

The biggest problems with the film are the hand to hand fights. Ronda Rousey should have gotten the Soderbergh Gina Carano Haywire treatment but instead she has chopped up fights that show off 1/10 of her fighting skills. Also, the final fight between Rocky and Mad Max is unnecessarily hurried and ends cheaply. Why bring in boxers, wrestlers and judoka fighters and not let them box, wrestle or use judo? Strengths aren’t used and that leads to some terrible line readings that aren’t helped by the cheesy dialogue. I did like the final exchange between Sly and Rousey though.

Rousey: If you were 30 years younger.

Sly: I would be scared.

The Expendables 3 has enough fun moments to make you forget how much better it could have been. For instance, Mel Gibson is a worthy adversary because he has embraced the villain role. Wesley Snipes talks about tax evasion in a cheeky moment of self-awareness. Dolph wears technology he doesn’t fully understand (“I use it to check the weather”) because it is funny seeing a large Swedish man deal with technological wristwatches.

The new team is a mixed bag of new comers who bring out the best in the old timers. I never thought I would see Jason Statham, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren and Randy Couture featured in a “we are depressed” montage. The four sit around sulking as the young punks are assembled via a fisherman looking Kelsey Grammer. The best usage of the bunch is when Kellan Lutz jumps eight stories on a dirt bike to assist Sly in killing an entire army. It is at that moment when you jump on board with the newbies.

Expendables 3 ronda Rousey kellan lutz

If you’ve watched the first two films you will check out the third. Don’t expect Die Hard meets Seven Samurai. Expect the third entry of a series that simply wants to entertain and sometimes fail to do so. Expect snazzy outfits, Jet Li height jokes and very large guns.

Expendable 3 large guns

I had a very fun time watching The Expendables 3. Was it good? Nope. Will I watch it again? Yep. Is it my favorite of the three? Yep. Do I dream of a fourth film where Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, George Lazenby and Pierce Brosnan team up with the Expendables to battle Sean Connery? Yep!

Sit back, take your brain out. Kick your feet up. Watch stuff explode.





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