Mini-Reviews: Colombiana, 30 Minutes Or Less, Fright Night
In an attempt to give readers my feelings on films as I plug away on a number of writing assignments, I’ll provide mini-reviews to give my succinct opinion on films and to give me time to finish my other projects.
Early on, Cataleya is told, “Never forget where you came from.” As you watch Colombiana, a film by Olivier Megaton from the mind of Luc Besson, it’s impossible to forget where this movie came from: it’s squarely in the same Besson genre as The Professional, La Femme Nikita, Transporter, and Taken, among others. The bad news is it’s inferior to all of those films. The good news is that despite not being as good as Besson’s best, it’s not as bad as you’d think it is. It’s very silly and melodramatic and at times completely incomprehensible, but it’s fast-paced and anchored by its star, Zoe Saldana, who refuses to wink at the camera.
As a little girl, Cataleya (Amandia Stenberg) has her parents killed in front of her by the gang of Don Luis (Beto Benites). She escapes, in a parkour sequence that may be the best in the film. She grows up (played by Zoe Saldana) with her Uncle Emiliio (Cliff Curtis) in the states, so that she may become an assassin, and as an assassin, she leaves messages for Don Luis that she’s coming for him… even when killing people totally unrelated to Don Luis. But never mind. The movie starts fabulously over-the-top, with Stenberg very convincing as the young assassin and Curtis doing an awful Scarface impression– who hired this New Zealander who obviously isn’t Colombian to play a Colombian? However, the movie puts on a more serious face for the back half, with intricately plotted assassinations, romantic trysts with Michael Vartan, character development, and a loud finale that has the best toothbrush kung-fu sequence I’ve ever seen. It’s all silly and illogical and derivative, but Saldana can carry a film, and the film efficiently gets from Point A to B in a speedy and relatively enjoyable manner.
30 Minutes or Less:
“Less” is more, earning the title for being one of the longest 75 minutes I’ve spent in a theater. With a cast this hilarious in real life, 30 Minutes Or Less earns several laughs, but they’re sandwiched in between a series of gags that simply don’t work and a script that is needlessly wordy and complicated. A very disappointing effort from Ruben Fleischer, who brought us the outstanding Zombieland, and though he brings some cool camera effects to the table (a car crash where his leads are still in the car sliding towards the camera is a great sight gag), there’s just not enough story or character in the script to care about what happens, and the pacing is downright terrible.
Explaining the plot is pointless, as the first 40 minutes do nothing but explain the plot. Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) has a bomb strapped to his chest by Dwayne (Danny McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson), and with his friend Chet (Aziz Ansari) they scheme to rob a bank to get the money that the bombers want so they can hire an assassin (Michael Pena) to kill the guy so they can get his money to open a tanning salon and prostitution ring… like I said, way too much explanation necessary. McBride and Ansari just play themselves, and Swardson tries to add a little bit of character to his role, but Eisenberg is the biggest disappointment. Here, his character is such a dick, and he’s such a cold actor, that we never really care if he lives outside of our basic human desire to see people live. The only notable performance is by Pena as the assassin named Sugarmilk– he turns in a performance of an actual fleshed-out character who is unpredictable and hilarious. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie is like most pizza delivered to your house: a forgettable whatever only consumed to pass the time.
If Fright Night never had a movie trailer, I likely would have enjoyed this a lot more. Having seen the trailer, I was unimpressed and didn’t think the world needed another vampire film right now, especially a remake. After seeing the movie and being surprisingly impressed by it, I regretted seeing the trailer not just for the spoilers but for setting my expectations so low. This remake of the 1980s film is directed by Craig Gillespie of Lars And The Real Girl fame with far more sophistication and wit than one would expect. Anton Yelchin proved himself a likeable lead (something I’d never seen before), and Colin Farrell steals the show with every shot he’s in as the sexy and hammy vampire named Jerry.
“What kind of vampire name is Jerry?” asked Charley (Yelchin), when told by his friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) that his neighbor (Farrell) is a vampire. When Ed disappears, Charley quickly becomes a believer. The movie has a lot of fun playing with the movie conventions of vampires– an early scene in which Charley won’t invite Jerry in is a perfect blend of suspense and humor (a visual allusion to Twilight made me laugh very hard). The movie takes some sudden turns, and in particular a fight scene with an unexpected character seems out of place, but the actors have fun, the script keeps the jokes coming, and Gillespie pulls off the suspense better than expected. The 3D is horribly obvious– they switch the camera angle suddenly for the rock to be thrown right at you, etc.– but it almost adds to the fun of the film. If only so much of the film hadn’t been spoiled by trailers and advertisements. All the same, it’s a fun popcorn film, especially for vampire fans, absolutely worth Netflixing.