The Tower was definitely a title I'd been itching to see since I'd caught a trailer sometime last year. It was originally released in its native country in December of 2012 - where it set box office records - and expanded to several international markets the following year, though I'm unaware of any US releases. Director Kim Ji-hoon was inspired by the classic Hollywood film The Towering Inferno, and imagining what it would be like trapped in a burning skyscraper. He sets his story on Christmas Eve in the fictional "Sky Tower", a 108-story luxury condominium complex built for the enjoyment of the wealthy and privileged. When disaster strikes, leaving hundreds of people trapped on the higher levels, firemen can barely get to the fire to contain it, let alone rescue everybody. The story focuses on a small group of determined survivors as they attempt to escape the deathtrap, though it's safe to say that most won't make it out alive.
|Did I mention he was three days away from retirement?|
|This is really impossible.|
|You might like these people, but you have no idea who they are.|
Ride Along, the surprisingly funny movie starring Ice Cube and current comedian sensation Kevin Hart. For those few who aren't familiar with it (the movie broke box office records as the highest-grossing January domestic release), the story focuses on aspiring policeman Ben (Hart), whose life is going great, with his acceptance to the police academy and the love of Angela, played by Tika Sumpter. But Angela's cop brother James (Cube) isn't impressed, and gets the idea to take Ben on a 'ride along', and see what he does for a living. James hopes that by giving Ben the most insane initiation to police work, he can rid himself of an annoying hanger-on and what he considers an unworthy match with his sister.
So yeah, Ride Along is your formulaic buddy cop story, with the main exception being that one of the pair is not yet an actual police officer. And this is a film that really relies on it's pairing to work, as almost every single joke revolves around how tough James is versus how geeky and physically inadequate Ben is. The side characters serve little purpose other than as narrative tools, prodding the story from outrageous scene to outrageous scene with casual indifference and substandard dialogue. So it's a good thing that Hart and Cube have as much chemistry as they do, overcoming the shoddy story though genuinely funny gags and playing to their strengths as performers. It also helps that director Tim Story is in his element making lighthearted comedies (and NOT blockbuster flicks like Fantastic Four), and the movie benefits from an experienced hand behind the camera, as Story has worked on similar comedic fare such as Taxi and Barbershop.
|...and the production truck just blew up. Keep filming!|
Pompeii, which sees the director of fun popcorn films Mortal Kombat, Death Race and the Resident Evil franchise try his hand at channeling his inner Ridley Scott, and failing miserably. Similar to his unintended attack on literacy in 2011's The Three Musketeers, Anderson actually tries to tackle something that has historical and mythological significance - the destruction of the ancient city of Pompeii thanks to the eruption of nearby Mt. Vesuvius, only to turn in a final product that feels like the cloned baby of Gladiator and Volcano.
The sad thing is that there's actually a talented cast wasted here. Game of Thrones' Kit Harrington continues to pay his dues by appearing in whatever schlock will have him as a gladiator who is also the last surviving member of a Celtic horse tribe (wah wah, irony!), while Emily Browning (Sucker Punch) does her absolute best to hem the wretched dialogue she (and everybody else) is given into something actually presentable in a big-screen motion picture. The support cast is easily strong, with Carrie-Anne Moss, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jessica Lucas and Jared Harris filling their respective - if limited - roles well. And beyond the cast, the special effects are absolutely stunning, as Anderson's abilities working with CGI artistry cannot be understated. Argue if you want about how quickly death comes from Mt. Vesuvius, it looks GREAT. Even Anderson's worst movies are at least visually appealing, and that's absolutely the case here, where one-note characters will get offed in a multitude of imaginative ways (or, at least as imaginative as "death by volcano" gets).
|"You wear nothing, Jon Snow..."|
|You won't sway me with pretty faces and skimpy outfits... THIS time...|
That Awkward Moment. This ribald, adult comedy was just the antidote I needed to the previous film's dour, pointless, cliched drama. The story focuses on three friends, played by up-and-coming actors Zac Efron, Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan, as they live day-to-day in modern-day New York City. Jason (Efron) is a successful ladies man and book cover artist whose single life is upended when he meets Ellie (Imogen Poots), with whom he can connect on an intellectual and emotional level. His coworker and co-Casanova Daniel (Teller) is the single lifestyle's biggest champion, while also developing feelings for the trio's female friend Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis). And Daniel (Jordan), the responsible member of the group, has just been dumped and divorced by his wife and struggles to figure out what went wrong. The movies plays out much like season 6 of Sex and the City, where the show concluded after successfully finding matching romantic partners for each of the four main ladies by season's end.
Don't judge me, it was a great show.
|In New York, the good-looking guys all run in packs.|
|This is kind of what I imagine Zac Efron looks like in his own mind.|
|Nope, never mind. THAT'S what he looks like in his own mind.|
That's it for catching up this week! Anything from 2014 I haven't reviewed on DVD that you want me my opinion on? Let me know and I'll see if it's something I can do. I'll be returning to new releases with the next few reviews, but hopefully soon I'll be able to catch up on all of this year's entries that I've missed, even the truly horrible ones. Hope to see you then!