Sunday Short Reviews

Every Sunday, Gill delves into his archive of over 800 movie reviews and randomly selects three for your enjoyment! Here are this week’s…

The first RED movie wasn’t the greatest film ever made, but it was an enjoyable action-comedy that worked because of its great cast. Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Brian Cox and Karl Urban were all clearly having a great time, and the movie was never boring. Unfortunately, the sequel RED 2 quickly becomes convoluted and stumbly shortly after its first act. Bruce Willis is so obviously bored in this movie that you don’t care about his character at all. John Malkovich is fun, but doesn’t have enough cheer-worthy moments, Mary-Louise Parker becomes kind of grating as the movie goes on (her character isn’t give a lot to do, unfortunately), and there’s barely any Helen Mirren, which is just a crime. Anthony Hopkins is an inspired addition to the cast, but Catherine Zeta-Jones is completely pointless. The biggest problem with RED 2, however, is the plot. Whereas the first one had a straightforward plot (retired agents are being killed, so they band together to stop the bad guys), the sequel’s plot is overcomplicated to the point of being nearly impossible to understand. The characters all cross and double-cross each other so many times that you wind up unsure as to who to root for. RED 2 isn’t a terrible movie, but it’s a giant step down from its predecessor.
2.5 out of 5

I honestly don’t have a lot to say about Byzantium, Neil Jordan’s return to the vampire genre over a decade after Interview with the Vampire. Byzantium is gorgeously shot and well cast, but that’s about where the good stuff ends. The characters are cold and distant, and their motivations are often unclear. Johnny Lee Miller’s character is particularly flat, and he’s one of the more moustache-twirly villains I’ve seen in a movie in quite some time. The film is set in the present day, but all the interesting stuff happens in flashbacks, and just when an idea is getting interesting in a flashback, the film cuts back to the boring present-day stuff. It got to the point where I started wishing the movie had been a period piece throughout. Anyway, this movie is nice to look at but hollow and about half an hour too long. Only die-hard vampire fans need apply, but as far as recent vampire movies go, you could certainly do a lot worse.
2 out of 5

After watching Elysium, I came to the realization that Neill Blomkamp has a lot in common with late-80s/early-90s Paul Verhoeven. Both filmmakers enjoy making sci-fi action movies that contain a sprinkling of social commentary but ultimately are all about the badass, gorey shoot-em-up scenes. Elysium takes all the stuff that made the second half of District 9 awesome and cranks it up to 11, and while it may not be as heavy on the socio-political commentary as District 9, Blomkamp really knows how to entertain. Matt Damon is a serviceable leading man (though the character probably should have been played by co-star Diego Luna), and Sharlto Copley is awesome as the Terminator-like psycho Kruger. Jodie Foster’s villainess character is unfortunately forgettable, but it’s a minor quibble. The special effects in this movie are top-notch, and all the spaceships and droids are so real that you’d swear they were right there on the set at all times. I know that I enjoyed this movie a lot more than most, but when it comes to an original big-budget science fiction blockbuster, I got everything I wanted out of Elysium. I can’t wait to watch this movie again.
4 out of 5

See you next Sunday for three more thrilling short reviews!

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