Film Review – UNSTOPPABLE (2010)

UNSTOPPABLE (2010, USA, 98m, 12) ***½
Action, Thriller
dist. Twentieth Century Fox; pr co. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation / Prospect Park / Scott Free Productions / Firm Films / Millbrook Farm Productions; d. Tony Scott; w. Mark Bomback; pr. Eric McLeod, Mimi Rogers, Tony Scott, Julie Yorn, Alex Young; ph. Ben Seresin (DeLuxe | 2.35:1); m. Harry Gregson-Williams; ed. Robert Duffy, Chris Lebenzon; pd. Chris Seagers; ad. Julian Ashby, Drew Boughton, Denise Hudson, Dawn Swiderski.
cast: Denzel Washington (Frank), Chris Pine (Will), Rosario Dawson (Connie), Ethan Suplee (Dewey), Kevin Dunn (Galvin), Kevin Corrigan (Inspector Werner), Kevin Chapman (Bunny), Lew Temple (Ned), T.J. Miller (Gilleece), Jessy Schram (Darcy), David Warshofsky (Judd Stewart), Andy Umberger (Janeway), Elizabeth Mathis (Nicole), Meagan Tandy (Maya), Dylan Bruce (Michael Colson), Jeff Hochendoner (Clark), Ryan Ahern (Ryan Scott), Christopher Lee Philips (Baker), Kevin McClatchy (Hoffman), Toni Saladna (Galvin’s Assistant).
Director Tony Scott delivers one of his best films with this exciting tale of a runaway train. When a huge, unmanned locomotive laden with toxic chemicals speeds out of control, the only hope of bringing it to a safe stop is in the hands of a veteran engineer Washington and a young conductor Pine. Together, they must risk their lives to save those in the runaway’s path. Inspired by true events. Scott’s usual penchant for visual dynamics and tight editing are in evidence here but are less obtrusive than usual. Washington and Pine are excellent in the lead roles, although attempts to flesh out their characters seem superfluous. The main attraction is the train action and the near misses along the way. It is here Scott excels in maintaining a high level of tension with some well-staged action segments. The commentary on corporate politics is a little more clumsily handled but serves to create an inner tension between the workers and the management as they look for a solution. The result is an exciting action movie that may lack depth but has a lot of class and delivers its thrills with aplomb. The film was loosely based on the real-life CSX 8888 incident in the U.S. state of Ohio in 2001. Unfortunately, the film was Scott’s final one before his death in 2012.
AAN: Best Achievement in Sound Editing (Mark P. Stoeckinger)

Film Review – STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (2013)

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (2013, USA, 132m, 12) ***½
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
dist. Paramount Pictures; pr co. Paramount Pictures / Skydance Productions / Bad Robot; d. J.J. Abrams; w. Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof (based on the television series Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry); pr. J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Roberto Orci; ph. Daniel Mindel (DeLuxe | 2.39:1); m. Michael Giacchino; ed. Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey; pd. Scott Chambliss, Amelia Brooke; ad. Ramsey Avery.
cast: Chris Pine (Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Zoe Saldana (Uhura), Karl Urban (Bones), Simon Pegg (Scotty), John Cho (Sulu), Benedict Cumberbatch (Khan), Anton Yelchin (Chekov), Bruce Greenwood (Pike), Peter Weller (Marcus), Alice Eve (Carol Marcus), Noel Clarke (Thomas Harewood), Leonard Nimoy (Spock Prime), Nazneen Contractor (Rima Harewood), Amanda Foreman (Ensign Brackett), Jay Scully (Lieutenant Chapin), Jonathan Dixon (Ensign Froman), Aisha Hinds (Navigation Officer Darwin), Joseph Gatt (Science Officer 0718), Jeremy Raymond (Lead Nibiran).
Action-packed and effects-driven follow-up to 2009’s STAR TREK reboot coasts on the familiar character interaction of the lead cast to overcome its story shortcomings. This time the crew of the Starship Enterprise returns home after an act of terrorism within its own organization destroys most of Starfleet and what it represents, leaving Earth in a state of crisis. With a personal score to settle, Captain James T. Kirk (Pine) leads his people crew on a mission to capture a one-man weapon of mass destruction, thereby propelling all of them into an epic game of life and death. Rehashing elements of 1982’s STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN, this film cannot recreate the tension generated in that earlier model. Abrams tends to go for broke on the visual effects and mass destruction, stifling the story and blunting the characters’ motivations. The cast gives game performances and the visuals are sensational, but the action is too often overblown and lacking in credibility – notably during the protracted climax. There is still much fun to be had though, and this largely comes via the familiar character interactions. Pine, Quinto and Urban have captured the camaraderie seen in the original series characters and their interpretations are spot on. Followed by STAR TREK BEYOND (2016).
AAN: Best Achievement in Visual Effects (Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann, Burt Dalton).

Film Review – HELL OR HIGH WATER (2016)

HELL OR HIGH WATER (2016, USA, 102m, 15) ****
Crime, Drama
dist. Lionsgate (USA), Studio Canal (UK); pr co. CBS Films / Sidney Kimmel Entertainment / MWM Studios / Film 44 / LBI Productions / Oddlot Entertainment; d. David Mackenzie; w. Taylor Sheridan; pr. Peter Berg, Carla Hacken, Sidney Kimmel, Julie Yorn; ph. Giles Nuttgens (Colour | 2.35:1); m. Nick Cave, Warren Ellis; ed. Jake Roberts; pd. Tom Duffield; ad. Steve Cooper.
cast: Jeff Bridges (Marcus Hamilton), Chris Pine (Toby Howard), Ben Foster (Tanner Howard), Gil Birmingham (Alberto Parker), Marin Ireland (Debbie Howard), John-Paul Howard (Justin Howard), Katy Mixon (Jenny Ann), Kevin Rankin (Billy Rayburn), Ivan Brutsche (Buster), Heidi Sulzman (Ranger Margaret), Christopher W. Garcia (Randy Howard (as Christopher Garcia)), William Sterchi (Mr. Clauson), Dale Dickey (Elsie), Buck Taylor (Old Man), Kristin K. Berg (Olney Teller (as Kristin Berg)), Keith Meriweather (Rancher), Jackamoe Buzzell (Archer City Deputy), Amber Midthunder (Vernon Teller), Joe Berryman (Bank Manager), Taylor Sheridan (Cowboy).
Pine is a divorced father trying to make a better life for his son. His brother (Foster) is a hot-headed ex-convict with a loose trigger finger. Together, they plan a series of heists against the bank that’s about to foreclose on their family ranch. Standing in their way is Bridges, a Texas Ranger who’s only weeks away from retirement. As the siblings plot their final robbery, they must also prepare for a showdown with the crafty lawman who’s not ready to ride off into the sunset. The script adds layers of social commentary and character motivation to this otherwise familiar heist movie. Mackenzie’s sympathetic direction and willingness to develop the characters bring out the best in a strong cast. Bridges has fun essaying his long-in-the-tooth Texas Ranger who spars verbal insults at his half-breed sidekick Birmingham. Peppered with witty dialogue, this is a thoughtful and resonant tale.
AAN: Best Motion Picture of the Year (Carla Hacken, Julie Yorn); Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Jeff Bridges); Best Original Screenplay (Taylor Sheridan); Best Achievement in Film Editing (Jake Roberts)

Film Review – STAR TREK (2009)

STAR TREK (2009, USA, 127m, 12) ****
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
dist. Paramount Pictures; pr co. Paramount Pictures / Spyglass Entertainment / Bad Robot / Mavrocine ; d. J.J. Abrams; w. Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman; pr. J.J. Abrams, David Witz; ph. Daniel Mindel (DeLuxe | 2.35:1); m. Michael Giacchino; ed. Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey; pd. Scott Chambliss; ad. Keith P. Cunningham.
cast: Chris Pine (Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Leonard Nimoy (Spock Prime), Eric Bana (Nero), Bruce Greenwood (Pike), Karl Urban (Bones), Zoe Saldana (Uhura), Simon Pegg (Scotty), John Cho (Sulu), Anton Yelchin (Chekov), Ben Cross (Sarek), Winona Ryder (Amanda Grayson), Chris Hemsworth (George Kirk), Jennifer Morrison (Winona Kirk), Rachel Nichols (Gaila), Faran Tahir (Captain Robau), Clifton Collins Jr. (Ayel), Tony Elias (Officer Pitts), Sean Gerace (Tactical Officer), Randy Pausch (Kelvin Crew Member).
A hugely entertaining reworking of the classic 1960s TV series sees the crew of the Enterprise set on a new timeline. The brash and arrogant James T. Kirk is looking to live up to his father’s legacy with Quinto’s Mr Spock keeping him in check. All the favourite characters are back as the crew tackles a vengeful, time-travelling Romulan looking to create black holes to destroy the Federation one planet at a time. Whilst the plot may not stand up to scrutiny, the action set-pieces are thrillingly staged, and the visual effects work is first-class. Abrahams directs with gusto and a strong feel for the characters with the richly humorous interaction between the leads that made the TV series so popular evident again here and only occasionally feeling forced. Followed by STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (2013).
AA: Best Achievement in Makeup (Barney Burman, Mindy Hall, Joel Harlow)
AAN: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing (Anna Behlmer, Andy Nelson, Peter J. Devlin); Best Achievement in Sound Editing (Mark P. Stoeckinger, Alan Rankin); Best Achievement in Visual Effects (Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh, Burt Dalton)