“In the Heart of the Sea” – The tragedy of the Essex is the story of men. And a Demon.

These days seeing a movie based on a book is pretty much the norm. In fact, books are being written almost solely to get a movie made about them. So it’s a little refreshing when a film comes out based on a novel written way before film was even a twinkle in Edison’s eye. “In the Heart of the Sea” isn’t exactly based on a novel, however, but rather the story that inspired Herman Melville to write Moby Dick in 1850. Having just finished it I am happy to report that it was quite the tale, and more than I had expected to get.heart_of_sea_1200_1779_81_s

There are a lot of classic novels out there that every grandparent will tell their grandchildren they should read. I was given Moby Dick at a young age but never actually read it, seeing how I didn’t know what at least half of the words were. I’ve seen a few film representations of the story and they’ve definitely been entertaining, but Ron Howard really latched onto something with “In the Heart of the Sea”. Not just the story of the great white whale, but of whaling men, their camaraderie during tested times, and of the courage they had. The story is obviously similar to that of Melville’s great American novel, but it was acted and directed with precision.

Chris Hemsworth leads the cast as First Mate Owen Chase, of the Essex out of Nantucket in 1820. Rounding out the cast is also Cillian Murphy – a personal favorite of mine, Brendan Gleeson, Ben Whishaw, and Tom Holland. Unless you’re me none of these names probably mean anything to you, but I guarantee you’ve seen these faces before. In fact, Tom Holland is the new Spiderman in the MCU, and he is definitely someone to keep an eye on. Many of these actors are already listed as all-around types and can give amazing performances in just about any role, but Hemsworth really pushed some boundaries here to let people see him as someone other than Thor, and he succeeded. I imagine it’s hard, at least nowadays, to get people to care about a movie taking place in the 1800’s that’s about whaling. Today’s crowd wants explosions, slow motion, fast cuts, and spin around hero shots, none of which are present in “In the Heart of the Sea”. But that’s where it’s great; this film is all story and acting.

I found it very difficult to notice any weak points but then again that’s not something Ron Howard is accustomed to. In case the name isn’t familiar he’s the director behind films such as “Apollo 13”, “Cinderella Man”, and “A Beautiful Mind”. All of that amazing filmmaking is present here as well, making us a part of this voyage and putting us to work alongside these seafarers, something very difficult to do. As the story unfolds we see the strife these characters go through and are reminded that this is the actual story of the men of the Essex, not a fabricated tale by some scribe in Hollywood. The effects bring to life the rush of hunting a whale, as well as the fear of being hunted by one. Watching the men cut, clean, and boil the whale blubber was both gruesome and intriguing to watch, especially when young Tom Holland was shoved into the head of a whale to retrieve the spermaceti oil (oil used to lubricate machinery and create candles). Even though I highly doubt a lot of the film was shot on actual open water, the scenes of them flying over the waves and hurling their harpoons at pods of whales really brings the viewer into the experience. Which makes it all the more exciting when the white monstrosity attacks.Screen-Shot-2015-02-04-at-5.34.39-PM-572x271

Terror for scale.

One last thing I’d like to add to this review is the score. Roque Baños (how cool is the name Roque?) really brought this film to life. There were definite moments that edged on tearful thanks to the score, and of course stood out to me as a big proponent of why the film worked.

DIRECTOR’S CUT: Great film retelling what you know of Moby Dick in an entirely new light. Excellent acting and a heart-wrenching score make this THE film on whaling to watch. That’s also a sentence I never expected to write.

SCENE COLLECTED: [SPOILER ALERT] There’s a great yet sad moment after the survivors land upon a deserted island. Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) says his goodbye’s to Matthew Joy (Cillian Murphy), a childhood friend and frequent sailing companion. Joy decides to stay behind on the island while Chase leaves with the others in search of rescue. The music and the chemistry is so palpable that it creates this amazing sadness on the screen.

FLICKCHART RATING: 324/2361

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“Ca$h” – No one can be trusted when it comes to…

I am very surprised at the lack of Sean Bean reviews I have on this site. Seriously, the guy is a great actor and besides “Game of Thrones”, I feel has been a bit short-changed lately. My current string of Netflix movies all star him in some capacity because I felt there was a hole in my heart that only Sean Bean could fill. Sadly, “Ca$h” was not the correct kind of heart-dirt.Ca$h

Everyone knows that if Sean Bean is in a movie, he most likely won’t be showing up in the sequel. Honestly, someone team him up with Liam Neeson because then he’s sure to survive. That’s why I was drawn to “Ca$h” originally, sadly not due to Liam Neeson being in it (he’s not), but because Bean was the lead and all of the IMDB reviews seemed to think it was a great flick. Just goes to show that movie reviewers don’t know anything about good movies.

…wait.

So anyway, onto the movie. “Ca$h” is about Chris Hemsworth and his wife finding a suitcase filled with cash in the middle of Chicago, freaking out about how rich they now are, and then finding out that it actually belongs to Sean Bean’s twin brother who happens to now be in jail. Enter Sean Bean…again. Pyke (Bean) arrives in Chicago to meet with his brother Reese (Bean), who tells him to find the briefcase filled with cash and get it back so they can split it. Pyke realizes this is stupid since all he has to go on is, “It fell on the hood of an old station wagon” in the middle of Chicago…car central of the world. I’ll admit, Emily and I got about 10 minutes into this movie the first go-round before we turned it off for being stupid. I turned it on about a week ago since the reviews were still decent for the movie, and I do love me some Sean Bean. So let’s continue.

1869_7_screenshotNever too much Bean.

Pyke winds up finding Thor and his wife and starts to live with them so that they can slowly pay back how much they spent. After awhile, once the family has nothing left, they resort to bank and convenience store robbing and what do you know, it creates some tension in the household. Not because, you know, they feel guilty for stealing thousands of dollars from innocent people but because the wife starts to like it. There’s also an awkward around-seven minute bit of the movie where the wife drops about 50 F-bombs, most likely because she could and was getting paid for it. This is all a result of holding a gun and stealing money, so kids make sure you go to college.

Yeah, that’s about it. I don’t know that it’s even worth watching for the ending since I really didn’t feel satisfied at that point either. I’ll never give up on Sean Bean unless he’s a guest star on some horrible kid’s show, so for now I’ll just stick with some solid “Goldeneye”.

DIRECTOR’S CUT: This seems to be one of Hemsworth’s movies that was made before “Thor” and “Star Trek”. So stick with those.

FLICKCHART RATING: 1312/1975

“The Cabin in the Woods” – If an old man warns you not to go there…make fun of him.

Joss Whedon is quickly becoming the new film Messiah. For those of you who urged me to watch “Firefly” and “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog” a long time ago and I said no…I apologize. Though he may not have directed “The Cabin in the Woods” he did co-write it…in three days. Like my previous post here this belongs in the Horror/Comedy genre, though leaning a bit closer to the Horror side. Needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed “The Cabin in the Woods” in all it’s gory, fun-poking, well-acted awesomeness.

You’ve seen this movie a million times. Five friends get together for a weekend of sex, drugs, and rock and roll at “my cousin’s abandoned cabin that he got for a really good deal off some guy”, and then terror ensues. That’s where Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard come in. Writing the script in just three days and filming the movie over the course of three months, they have completely turned the horror genre on its head. They almost throw you head first into the underlying plot at the beginning as we follow two government looking co-workers through their morning routine. These two are talking about troubles at home and what their weekend plans are, so it almost makes you think that you’ve got the wrong movie. Without going into too much detail here, it turns out that these two guys play a very large role in the outcome of the film. More to come.

We’re then introduced to our cannon fodder, and they do not disappoint. This crack team of individuals is the old recipe tossed around a little. We have the pretty girl, the pretty but reserved girl, the jock, the new guy, and lastly the stoner. These are the people we get to watch die over the course of the movie. For the most part they were a bunch of no-names in the parts except for Chris Hemsworth as the jock. For anyone who can’t place a name without going to IMDB, he played “Thor” in “The Avengers” and you guessed it, “Thor”. Seems like a strange role for him to play since he’s now one of the biggest actors in the world, but this movie was made in 2009, BEFORE “Thor” was filmed. Ha, “BeThor”. Anyway, these guys get together for a weekend at “the cabin” and of course nothing winds  up working out for them. Soon after discovering a basement full of weird objects, a zombie family wakes up outside and decides that these obnoxious “clearly not in college anymore” college students need to go. Re-enter the two government guys. Back in the random lab they’re in, we watch as they seem to control what’s happening in the cabin and the surrounding woods, such as spraying chemicals into the air to heighten libido’s, add creepy fog to the area, and lock the doors to all of the rooms that the friends have split up to. Of course they are doing all of this with the utmost charm and humor, lightening up the mood for the doomed friends just a tad.

Things are going great.

As with most of my reviews I can’t go into further detail because it would just give too much away, and I give a lot of credit to Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard for what they did with this. Not only did they basically recreate the horror genre while also poking fun at torture-porn films like the “Saw” series, but they had several familiar faces. I won’t go ahead and say cameos because these actors (for the most part) all have significant roles, but when was the last time you saw the bad guy from “Billy Madison” in a movie? Exactly. Before I end this, I just wanted to pop up the other taglines I had to choose from for the title of this post because they are not only very good descriptions of what goes on in the movie (and how it differs/pokes fun of every other horror film), but because they are also hilarious.

Quaint abandoned property…sold.

If something is chasing you…split up.

If you hear a strange sound outside…have sex.

Hats off to you, Whedon and Goddard. Hats off.

DIRECTOR’S CUT: Amazing take on the horror genre, and I absolutely look forward to anything coming from these two guys. Oh, and just to prove how crazy stuff gets in this movie, watch this. Point proven.

FLICKCHART RATING: 117/1943

“The Avengers” – Some Assembly Required

This movie was terribLY AWESOME! (You have to read that sentence as if you’re watching your favorite team score a touchdown, you’ll get it). Seriously though, with the exception of the upcoming “The Dark Knight Rises”, I dare someone to make a better superhero collaboration. At least until “The Avengers 2” comes out.

Ensemble films have always been my favorite types of films because it’s a bunch of great actors trying to outdo one another, whether out of douchebaggery or for the fun of it. The case with “The Avengers” however, is that it’s bunch of characters taking part in the competition of who’s the best. In fact that’s pretty much the premise of the movie. The trailers made it appear that this team has already been assembled and is now being called on to save the world, as if they’re being paid for this. But the actual plot is that Earth is threatened and the heroes must be gathered to become a part of the team. It goes without saying that everyone has a huge ego and is refusing to work with one another for various reasons, but are eventually forced to swallow their pride and take on the problem as one. The actors pull this off EXTREMELY well. I’d like to think that they wanted to be a part of something bigger and for the fans, rather than thinking they were doing this for a paycheck. I have no idea if I’m right but for the sake of argument let’s just say I am.

Joss Whedon was the man for the job when they were looking for a director. He’s been a comic book fanboy his whole life, and probably has some of the first editions of these guys locked away in a safe. It’s sad that Edward Norton wouldn’t reprise his role as the Hulk but sometimes Hollywood’s funny like that. Mark Ruffalo fills the rather large shoes, shirt, and pants and completely killed my skepticism. His story is even a continuation of Norton’s character, trying to repress “the other guy” from coming out by remaining calm and lots of yoga. Downey Jr. picks up right where “Iron Man 2” left off, still trying to get his name in the stars but with somewhat of a humanitarian view now, so I’m interested to see where this will go in “Iron Man 3”. His humor is just as on-point as ever, and he once again solidifies the fact that nobody else could have been Tony Stark. Chris Evans has shown his amazing range of talent with all of his roles, but his impersonation of Captain Steve Rogers is just perfect. Since he’s dealing with waking up 60 years after being a human popsicle he doesn’t have a whole lot going for him. That, and he still has to wear tights and his only weapon is a shield. Sounds like a lose-lose situation there but Evans really gets into the persona and makes the best of it. The movie “Thor” was good but definitely not my favorite of the Marvel heroes, so I was hoping for a bit more from Thor as a character, and Chris Hemsworth delivers. Seeing how the villain hits a little close to home for him he was given a much larger part this time around. He starts off wanting nothing to do with the Avenger Initiative because he wants to deal with the villain himself, but even demi-Gods need to realize that they need help every once in awhile. Rounding out the team are Black Widow and Hawkeye, played by Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner respectively. These two play assassins who have no super powers, they’re just really, really good at killing people. The movie hints at a past between the two but it doesn’t go into it, and sadly I don’t think we’ll be seeing any spin-offs about these two, but we may see them drifting into cameos for the future films. Going back to what I said about outdoing one another, I don’t feel that any of these great actors (and actress) did this at all. They all knew their boundaries as their characters and stayed with what was on the page. It’s really cool to watch Captain America tell Hulk to “Smash”, or Iron Man asking for backup. Just brings a real sense of the “team” to the big screen.

The only problem, and I do mean ONLY, that I had with the film was the lack of background for each character. I don’t know that this is something I can really fault anyone for, because the movie is already a whopping two and a half hours long, so trying to crush individual backstory into anyone’s screen time is just too difficult. Granted they probably ran off the assumption that if you’re seeing this you’ve probably seen all of the other films so you should know the backstory already, but I was hoping for just a little joke, or line here or there to make it that much more personal to each of the Avengers. No worries though, sequels to almost all of the heroes’ films have been greenlit and “The Avengers 2” is already being talked about by the studio heads. I say, keep ’em comin’.

DIRECTOR’S CUT: The movie currently holds the record for highest grossing opening weekend of all time. I kind of feel like that should be one of those “nuff said” moments.

FLICKCHART RATING: 31/1891 (Yeah, you read that right.)