A Winter Game Film Review: Goon: Last of the Enforcers (dir by Jay Baruchel)


Here at the Shattered Lens, Leonard Wilson is our resident hockey expert.  He can tell you all about the in and outs of the game in general and the New York Rangers in specific.

Myself, I know very little about hockey.  Here’s what I do know:

  1. It’s played on the ice and with a puck.
  2. There are a lot of fights.
  3. All of my Canadian friends love it.
  4. It’s a sport that is mentioned many times on Degrassi.
  5. Two hockey players won the 22nd season of The Amazing Race.
  6. Back in 2011, I followed Arleigh’s suggestion and watched a hockey movie called Goon.  Surprisingly, I really, really liked it.

Six years ago, I started my review of Goon by admitting that I didn’t know anything hockey so not much has changed.  However, while I still may not know much about hockey, I am currently obsessed with the Winter Olympics.  And, of course, hockey is a big part of the Winter Games.  Since I’m currently watching movies about winter sports, today seemed like the perfect time to watch 2016’s Goon: The Last of The Enforcers and get caught up on the story of Doug Glatt.

Who is Doug Glatt?  As played by Seann William Scott, Doug Glatt is probably one of the nicest guys that you could ever hope to meet.  He’s not particularly smart.  He’s the type who responds to almost comment with a slightly confused smile.  He tend to take things literally.  But he’s a genuinely sweet guy and it’s impossible not to like him.

Except, of course, when he’s on the ice.  Doug is a semi-pro hockey player, playing for the Halifax Highlanders.  Even his biggest fans will admit that Doug isn’t the best hockey player of all time.  However, no one can throw a punch like he can.  Doug’s an enforcer.  His specialty is beating up the opposing team.  When his coach (Kim Coates) needs to intimidate the other team, he sends Doug out with orders to beat someone up.  Doug has no problem breaking someone’s nose but he usually apologizes afterward.  He’s known as The Thug.

Doug is married to Eva (Allison Pill), who loves hockey but, now that she’s pregnant, she worries about Doug getting seriously injured.  These worries come true when Doug gets into a fight with Anders Cain (Wyatt Russell), a fearsome enforcer on another team.  (Anders just happens to be the son of the owner of the Highlanders.)  Cain not only leaves Doug crumpled up on the ice but he also injures Doug’s right shoulder, making it difficult for Doug to throw a punch with his right hand.  It appears that Doug’s playing days are over.  Doug ends up working in the storage room of an insurance company while the Highlanders continue on without him.  Adding insult to injury, Anders is soon signed by the Highlanders and given Doug’s old position as team captain.

As much as Doug tries to move on, he keeps finding himself drawn back to hockey.  When he runs into a former rival, Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber), who is now making a living as a glorified gladiator, Doug realizes that he can learn how to fight with his left fist.  But with Eva not wanting him to fight anymore, Doug is forced to decide which team he’s going to play for, the Highlanders or his family?

Especially when compared to the first Goon, Goon: Last of the Enforcers is an extremely busy film.  Beyond Doug trying to adjust to life off the ice, the film also deals with Anders Cain’s relationship with his father, the locker room shenanigans of the Highlanders, Ross Rhea’s attempt to make a comeback, and the antics of obnoxious sports reporter Chad Bailey (T.J. Miller).  That’s a lot for one film to deal with and it’s not surprising that the end result is an uneven mishmash of raunchy comedy and sports-themed melodrama.  Whereas the first Goon worked because it kept things simple and sincere, Goon: Last of the Enforcers is way too complicated for its own good.

That said, as played by Seann William Scott, Doug is just as likable as he was in the first film and Scott and Allison Pill still make for an adorable couple.  In fact, the entire cast does a pretty good job, especially Wyatt Russell and Liev Schreiber.  The film doesn’t really work but, for fans of the first film, it’s still enjoyable enough.  If nothing else, it’s nice to see how things work out for Doug Glatt.

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #105: Million Dollar Baby (dir by Clint Eastwood)


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(This review and the Spanish trailer below are dedicated to mi madre, who saw Million Dollar Baby when it was first released and told me that, even though the film had been nominated for lots of Oscars, I shouldn’t watch it until I was in a better and more stable place emotionally.  She was right.)

Two months ago, I started Embracing the Melodrama Part II.  At the time, I announced that I would be reviewing 126 cinematic melodramas and I would get it all done in 3 weeks time!  Well, here we are 8 weeks into it and we are just now approaching the finish line.  That’s okay, though.  Even if it’s taken me longer than I thought it would, I’ve still been having fun writing and sharing these reviews.

I’ve been posting these reviews in chronological order.  Though it may be hard to remember, we started with a 1927 silent classic called Sunrise.  From Sunrise, we’ve worked our way through history and we’ve taken a look at films that are both famous and obscure.  And now, 104 reviews later, we finally reach the 2004 best picture winner, Million Dollar Baby.

When I first saw Million Dollar Baby, I had two reactions.  On the one hand, I thought it was a great film.  I thought it was a film that featured great performances and which gave me a chance to experience a world that I did not know much about.  I thought to myself, “This is a film that future directors will cite as an influence.  This is a film that proves that, even if he does sometimes make movies like Hereafter or Jersey Boys, Clint Eastwood still deserves to be known as a great American filmmaker.”  On the other hand, I thought to myself, “This film is so damn depressing that there’s no way I’m ever going to watch it again.”

And really, it is an amazingly sad film.  When the film starts, of course, you don’t think it’s going to be sad.  You think it’s going to be your standard sports film, the one where the underdog beats the odds and becomes a champion.  For one thing, the film is narrated by Morgan Freeman and Morgan’s got that voice that makes you believe that there is some justice to the universe.  Secondly, Hillary Swank is so appealing in the role of Maggie, a waitress who wants to become a boxer, that you just know she deserves a happy ending.  At first, veteran trainer Frankie (Clint Eastwood) refuses to work with her but her determination wins him over.  And soon, Frankie — who, in typical Clint movie fashion, has a strained relationship with his daughter — becomes a father figure for Maggie.

And as you watch Maggie find success as a boxer, you’re so happy for her.  I certainly was, despite the fact that I know next to nothing about boxing beyond the fact that it’s something that I would never want to do.  And when Clint starts to soften up to her, you’re not surprised.  After all, he’s craggly old Clint Eastwood.  He’s scary but we all know he has a heart of gold.  Add to that, Morgan Freeman’s still telling the story and surely the voice of God would not allow anything bad to happen…

And then … tragedy.  By the time that I finally saw Million Dollar Baby, I already knew the story’s big twist.  I knew that, as a result of a brutal fight, Maggie would be left paralyzed.  I knew that she would beg Frankie to euthanize her.  But seriously, imagine what a shock it must have been for audiences when this film first came out.

I mean, everything’s going perfectly and then suddenly, it’s not.

To a certain extent, I was jealous of those who got to see Million Dollar Baby without any advanced knowledge of the tragedy that defines the final third of the film.  When I watched the film, I found myself dreading the thought of enjoying any of Maggie’s triumphs because I knew what was going to happen.  Those who watched the film with know knowledge may have been shocked but at least they got to believe, for a few scenes, that Maggie could find that perfect sports film ending.

Then again, Million Dollar Baby is a great film because it refuses the temptation to give us the ending that we all want and expect.  Instead, it’s a movie that celebrates the people who will be there for you even when thing’s suddenly aren’t perfect.

That’s why Million Dollar Baby works as well as it does.  Unfortunately, it’s also why it’s a film that I could only watch once.

Quick Review: How to Train Your Dragon 2 (dir. by Dean Dublois)


how-to-train-your-dragon-2-poster1-690x1024Ah, Berk. That fictional far away land where Dragons once plagued humans, until a young boy made friends with a Night Fury and changed everything.

How I’ve missed this place.

Fox & Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon 2 brings us back to its dragon riding fun, taking place 5 years after the events of the first film. While the story doesn’t have the same level of depth as say, Kung Fu Panda 2, it still manages to be an enjoyable thrill ride when the dragons are taking flight.

Since this is an animated feature, let’s do visuals first. The animation is roughly the same as the original, with a bit of aging here and there for the main characters, but both the colors and the depth of field are a major standout. Cinematographer Roger Deakins (Skyfall) was brought back on board as  a consultant for the lighting, focus and color tones and it definitely shows. If at all possible, this film should be seen in its 3D format. The flight sequences are a joy to behold and when they’re not flying, you shouldn’t find yourself squinting and pinching your nose too much. Chris Sanders wasn’t on hand this time for the writing and directing, although you can still see his designs all over the film.

Additionally, there were a number of technical changes that improved the process. Just as Pixar did with Renderman, Dreamworks ended up creating their own software, Apollo. Apollo uses two tools – Premo, which allowed the animators better control of characters through the use of Wacom tablets. Even more magical is Torch, a lighting system developed with Deakins’ assistance that allowed for more natural setups in animation. One of the best uses of this is when Hiccup is surrounded in a dark room and needs to use his sword to illuminate the area. It’ll be interesting to see how it’s used in other Dreamworks projects.

All of the familiar characters are back – Jay Baruchel’s Hiccup is a little older, and much wiser than in the original, with he and Toothless mapping the lands around Berk during their flights. Hiccup’s flair for gadgetry hasn’t left him, as in this film, the character is introduced almost as a medieval Batman. Between he, his father Stoic (Gerald Butler) and his girlfriend / Dragon Racing Champion Astrid (America Ferrera), they get the bulk of the screen time. His friends, played by Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse,  and Kristen Wiig, felt more like cameos than anything else here. Then again, they really didn’t have that great a part in the first film. Toothless, the Unholy Offspring of fire and darkness itself, is still as cuddly and emotive as ever, despite not being able to actually speak. Through the film, both Toothless and Hiccup find themselves growing up in different ways and their relationship is at the heart of everything here. Hiccup and Stoic still have family issues, this time centering around Hiccup preparation for becoming Chief of the town after Stoic steps down.

When Astrid and Hiccup discover dragon hunters (Lead by Game of Thrones’ Kit Harrington, whose character here still knows nothing), they find a new evil on the horizon in the form of Drago (Guardians of the Galaxy and Blood Diamond’s Djimon Hounsou), who is building a dragon army to do some harm.

Where the movie may stumble is in its last act. It felt abbreviated to me, but as this is meant for children, I suppose it’s not meant to be that long of a film. Clocking in at 102 minutes, it moves fast. For a kid’s film, Dragon 2 rises to some interesting heights that even adults would appreciate. The film doesn’t assume you need to be retold everything you may have missed in the first film, though it does reference some elements of it. The themes of the story are coexistence (between humans & dragons), leadership, friendship and family, and they’re done well.

Robocop 2014


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Boom.

So, I did, in fact, see Robocop 2014. It was suggested that some of our readers might have heard about this one. I will tell you right now that my own take on the film is… largely unbiased. The original Robocop never entrenched itself in my lexicon as an ‘essential’ film. I generally considered it to be a fun film, very watchable, fairly standard 80’s action fare… and, really, with the fingerprints of noted Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven all over it. I definitely remember it fondly, but I’m by no means a Robocop purist. The puzzling direction the series took after the original (Robocop 2, in particular, strikes me as one of the worst films I can recall seeing, and 3 is somehow less memorable. I’m sure that does not mean good things). One thing probably anyone would tell you about the original film is that it was violent. Controversially so. Or perhaps that it is infested with foul language? To the point where the f-bombs seem to become their own point. Well, to start with, 2014’s Robocop went for the path of least creativity, and stuck itself in a PG-13 body that is actually pretty teen-friendly. More on that in a minute. But between the absence of Verhoeven’s style, the infusion of 201X’s powerful visual effects, the over the top violence and language, and the absence of any 80s camp, this film bears very little resemblance to the original.

If you wish to appreciate this film at all, you will be forced to do so on its own merits. Looking at it through the prism of the original film will probably not satisfy you, though I may be mistaken. I suppose it depends on how much you loved the first iteration.

2014’s incarnation of Robocop is directed by José Padilha, directing his first English language film. He is best known for his work on the Elite Squad films. His background is in action, and his style is not one that we’ve been down that road before with. I suspect that if this film had been helmed by a Michael Bay, it might have been disastrous. Instead, the result is surprisingly gritty at times, especially during an early shootout between Detroit police detectives and a hit squad sent to eliminate them to cut off their investigation of a local gunrunner. Obviously, the film has plenty of antiseptically clean sets, and the sophisticated visual effects involved give us lots of clean lines and gleaming, metallic surfaces… so it was, in a way, grounding to see some sequences in an experienced hand. Sadly, this style does not hold true through the entire picture, which features some predictably infuriating shaky cam work where our ability to understand and process the action is limited by the way in which it is shot. Some would probably argue this is realistic, and that if I were actually in a gun battle, I could only understand a tiny part of it even afterward… but as an action film viewer, it turns me off like few other things do.

The ED-209 has certainly never looked better.

The ED-209 has certainly never looked better.

The plot is a significant variation on the 1987 original, though it does have some pieces of the framework still intact. The year is 2028, and the United States is now projecting its power worldwide through the use of formidable robotic drones provided by Omnicorp (a division, we learn, of the original film’s OCP. Unlike the original film, in which the ED-209 is clearly the shoddy work of a corporation trying to make money by sending to the lowest bidder, it seems that the ED-209 is an extremely efficient and deadly enforcer and peacekeeper. Its primary flaw, that it cannot reason like a human, and does not know right from wrong, is central to the questions that the film posits. To the extent that it posits anything, that is. As with the original 1987 film, 2014 is introduced to us by a nationwide news broadcast… except, this time, instead of a simple evening news program, we’re treated to an extremely high production news opinion show (something like The O’Reilly Factor, perhaps) starring Pat Novak, a highly opinionated right-wing security lobbyist (a well cast Samuel L. Jackson delivers an energetic performance). Pat Novak wants to know why these drones aren’t keeping America’s streets safe, too.

The answer, of course, is that Americans want their protectors to have a soul. The film does make it clear, incidentally, that the United States has not asked other parts of the world if they’d prefer this same consideration… and this is where the film’s satire lies… in pumping up world peacekeeper thinking until it explodes.

With the realization that public opinion has to change or Omnicorp will never be able to deploy its products to the American market, the company’s executives, Marketing Director Tom Pope (Jay Baruchel) and, Legal Department Chair Liz Kline (Jennifer Ehle) and the CEO Raymond Sellers (Michael Keaton) decide to try and create exactly what their market wants: a man inside of a machine. Using the revolutionary cybernetics developed by Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman, in a very wistful, emotional role) they scour the country’s cops debilitated in the line of duty in search of the perfect candidate – an emotionally balanced cop with the reason and the desire to get back in the game.

Enter Alex Murphy (Joel Kinaman, from AMC’s “The Killing”), grievously injured, with wife Clara (Abbie Cornish) and son David (John Paul Ruttan) desperate not to let him go. Using Dr. Norton’s technology, Omnicorp rebuilds him into the ultimate crime fighting machine… where things go from there is, frankly, fairly predictable. Throughout the narrative, Pat Novak’s show continues to break in, stitching the narrative exposition together with both more of Novak’s bluster and with interviews with other major players like CEO Sellers and the Senator who is leading the opposition to Omnicorp’s technology, Hubert Dreyfuss (Zach Grenier). You will no doubt anticipate the conclusion of the film well before it reaches those final moments, and so aside from a couple of exceptionally well crafted sequences, this film does not exactly break new ground.

What does stand out, and I apologize for stuffing those last couple paragraphs full of as many names as possible (and I still missed plenty!), is the casting, and the acting, that are on display in this film. Everyone involved stands more or less head and shoulders above what’s being asked of them. I particularly enjoyed Michael Keaton in the role of the film’s villainous CEO, who gives a very reserved performance. There is very little evil mania from Keaton, who instead comes off exactly as coldly off-putting as I would expect from a sociopath in his position, going from decision to decision with an eye for the company’s financial future. The more scenery chewing villainy is left up to Jackie Earl Haley as Omnicorp’s in-house military QC, Rick Mattox, and from some villains scattered about the mean streets of 2028’s Detroit.

The original Robocop had a kind of wry humour to it that is entirely absent this reproduction. Curiously, the film is also almost entirely without meaningful visual violence, and almost totally absent of profanity (the traditional single use of ‘fuck’ for a PG-13 film is, in fact, bleeped, since it’s delivered by Pat Novak on his live TV show), and instead feels more like playing a modern Call of Duty or Battlefield video game in its depiction of Robocop battling his foes. This film coasts by absolutely safely at a PG-13 level (seriously, this is not the film you need to be worried about protecting your kids from).

While elements of the film are certainly a visual feast, these sumptuous visuals are actually mostly confined to the laboratory in which Robocop is built and maintained, and in the sophisticated battle armor that the titular supercop wears. The sequences on the ground, so to speak, feel a little more real. I suppose it’s the same faint sense of grittiness that the director’s hand gives this movie, which only rarely becomes a victim of its own visual effects. This is largely a good thing, as I think we’ve all developed a little bit of special effects fatigue over several heaping courses of Michael Bay’s “Transformers”, “Star Wars” prequel films, and other overblown projects. This film struck a fair balance, I felt, between taking advantage of the visual effects available, and trying to substitute them for any kind of substance. There is something going on at the core of this film. Unfortunately, I ultimately felt that it was not enough to satisfy, but plenty to entertain. Your own mileage will, of course, vary.

For those purists out there who are decrying the necessity of this remake (there was none) and the wisdom of doing so anyway… in perfect honesty, this is a film that simply wouldn’t have been made this way in 1987. In saying that, please, let’s admit that the 1987 film would also never have been made that way today. People’s outlook has changed. They look for, fear, and hope for, different things out of the world. Robocop 2014 is by no means a perfect – or even great – film… but it is a much better film for the post 9/11 world than the original one is. It fits its era. Between that, and a slew of excellent performances, you may just find this film to be above your expectations. It certainly surpassed my own.

Teasers & Trailers: Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon 2


It’s been 3 years since Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon was released. Though Chris Sanders has moved on to The Croods and that sequel, his animation style is in good hands. It looks like How to Train Your Dragon 2 has Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), Toothless and all of Berk adjusting very well. All appears to be well, but you wouldn’t have a story without a new threat, and maybe some new revelations. Part of me thinks that the setup for this story may also be similar to what could happen for Kung Fu Panda 3 (if done), with regards to family reunions.

Below are both the teaser, which has Hiccup and Toothless showing off a few improvements, and the trailer, which showcases more of the story.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 comes out June of 2014.

Trailer: How to Train Your Dragon 2 (Teaser)


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Dreamworks Animation’s How to Train Your Dragon was one of those films for 2010 that caught me completely off-guard. I had dismissed it as another Dreamworks attempt to try and take the crown from Pixar. So, it was quite a surprise when I finally saw it and realized that Dreamworks had out-Pixared Pixar with this latest offering.

The film did great in the box-office and made the names Hiccup and Toothless names to remember fondly. So, it was a given that a sequel was going to be made and now it is 2013 and we finally have the first teaser trailer for How to Train Your Dragon 2 which will splash across all big-screen theaters around 2014.

To say that this teaser trailer evoked all the fun of the original would be an understatement. I would say that this simple teaser showing Toothless just flying around with Hiccup gave a better sense of the joy of flying than this year’s Man of Steel.

Trailer: This Is the End (Red Band)


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This Is the End looks to put a comedic touch on the end of the world genre as fictional versions of the cast as themselves try to survive all sort of disasters (from the trailer it looks like it may involve everything from volcanoes, lava, aliens and maybe raptors) while partying over at James Franco’s house.

I know for a fact that at least one person at this site will be seeing this because it has a certain Franco in it.

Looks like Emma Watson has definitely doing everything she can to prove to all Potter fans that she is now all grown up.

This Is the End is set for a June 12, 2013 release date.