Playing Catch-Up With The Films of 2018: The 15:17 To Paris (dir by Clint Eastwood)


As we all know, October is the month when we usually ignore everything but the horror genre here at the Shattered Lens.  However, I’m going to briefly interrupt our horrorthon to say a few words about The 15:17 to Paris.

Directed by Clint Eastwood, The 15:17 to Paris is a film about the 2015 Thalys train attack.  This was when a terrorist named Ayoub El Khazzani opened fire on a train that was heading from Amsterdam to Paris.  He wounded three passengers and probably would have killed countless more (there were over 500 people on the train) if he had not been subdued by three American friends, one British passenger, and a French train driver.  The 15:17 to Paris focuses on the three Americans, Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alex Skarlatos.

When the film was released on February 9th, it got middling reviews and was considered to be a box office disappointment.  Myself, I saw it the first week of March, just a few days before Jeff and I left for a two-week stay in the UK.  I meant to review it when we returned to America but I just never got around to it.  However, about a week ago the film made its cable debut and seeing as how Clint Eastwood has a second film coming out this year that might be the Oscar contender that his first film probably won’t be, I figured now is as good a time as any to defend The 15:17 To Paris.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  The 15:17 to Paris is not a great film by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact, the film’s first line of dialogue — in which Anthony Sadler, in voice over, says that he knows we’re probably wondering why “a brother like me” is hanging out with two white guys — made me cringe so hard that I was worried I might sink into my seat and never be able to escape.  Sadler, Spencer Stone, and Alex Skarlatos all play themselves in the movie and none of them comes across as being a natural actor.  They may be heroes but they aren’t movie stars.

And yet, the fact that none of them are stars is also the film’s greatest strength.  Throughout the film, Eastwood emphasizes how totally and completely average Sadler, Skarlatos, and Stone are.  None of them really get the type of “hero shots” that one normally expects to see in a film like this.  Instead, Eastwood continually reminds us that they’re just three friends who happened to be on the train when the shooting started.  They put their own lives at risk to take the shooter down and they also provided first aid to a man who had been shot.  Whether they have movie star charisma or not, they still saved countless lives.  The film’s point is that you don’t have to be Chris Pratt or Chris Evans to be a hero.  You can just be Chris from across the street.  You just have to be someone willing to do the right thing at the right time.  It’s a sincere and heartfelt message and it’s one that comes across specifically because Eastwood cast three nonprofessionals.

The film starts with a lengthy sequence that depicts the childhoods of the three lifelong friends.  It’s kind of a strange sequence, largely because almost all of the supporting roles are filled by talented actors who are best known for their comedic work on television.  Thomas Lennon plays a high school principal while Tony Hale shows up as a coach.  Even Jaleel White (!) has a role as a teacher who gives the boys advice on self-defense.  When the childhood scenes work, it’s largely due to the performances of Jenna Fischer and Judy Greer, who plays the mothers of Alex and Spencer.  But whenever Fischer and Greer aren’t around, the childhood scenes are a bit too slow and awkward.

However, once Sadler, Skarlatos, and Stone are on that train, the film definitely picks up.  Whatever awkwardness that the three nonprofessionals may have exhibited earlier in the movie disappears as they spring to action and they recreate their responses to the attack on the train.  It’s here that Eastwood’s no-nonsense approach to storytelling definitely pays off, as he recreates the train attack without any of the showy tricks that you might expect from other directors.  Instead, Eastwood allows things to play-out naturally.  Like the passengers on that train, all we can do is watched as the three men rush the gunman.

The 15:17 to Paris may not be one of Eastwood’s best films but it’s hardly the disaster that it was made out to be.  Instead, it’s a sincere and unapologetically old-fashioned celebration of heroism and doing the right thing.

Trailer: Halloween


Halloween 2018

October 19, 2018. Keep that date in mind.

It’s the date for the latest entry to the Halloween franchise. It’s to be a sequel to the original film. It will also discard every other Halloween sequel ever made. So, for those who are so anti-remake/reboot this should alleviate any of those triggers.

David Gordon Green (who co-wrote this sequel with Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley) directs this sequel as a continuation of the events which happened with the original film. A follow-up that’s 40 years in the making, literally.

So, once again, remember October 19th and make sure to check this film out. I have a sneaking suspicion that it’ll be the true sequel to Carpenter’s classic.

Here’s The Trailer for David Gordon Green’s Halloween!


Somewhat under the radar, Texas’s David Gordon Green has had one of the most interesting and varied film careers of any modern filmmaker.  How many other directors would be capable of directing both Your Highness and Joe?

Green’s latest film is a sequel/remake/reboot of the horror classic, Halloween.  The trailer picks up decades after the end of John Carpenter’s film, with Michael Myers again coming for his sister (Jamie Lee Curtis) and, this time, his niece (Judy Greer).  However, Laurie isn’t just passively waiting for the next night that he comes home.  Laurie’s got a gun and she’s not shy about using it.

So, judging from this trailer, all of the original Halloween sequels never happened.  Needless to say, the two Rob Zombie films have been pushed to the side as well.  Whether that’s a good thing or not will depend on how you feel about those films.  I’ll be sorry to lose Halloween II but the one with Busta Rhymes?  Who cares?  Rob Zombie’s first Halloween was good but his second one can ride out of town on a mysterious white horse for all I care.

As for this latest film, the trailer looks good.  I have faith in David Gordon Green.

Playing Catch-Up With 6 Film Reviews: Avengers Grimm, Bad Asses On The Bayou, Hayride 2, Insurgent, Poltergeist, Tomorrowland


Here are 6 films that I saw during the first half of 2015.  Some of them are on Netflix and some of them were major studio releases.  Some of them are worth seeing.  Some of them most definitely are not.

Avengers_Grimm

Avengers Grimm (dir by Jeremy M. Inman)

Obviously made to capitalize on the popularity of Avengers: Age of UltronAvengers Grimm opens with a war in the world of fairy tales.  Evil Rumpelstiltskin (Casper Van Dien) uses Snow White’s (Laura Parkinson) magic mirror to cross over into our world and he takes Snow White with him!  It’s now up to Cinderella (Milynn Sharley), Sleeping Beauty (Marah Fairclough), and Rapunzel (Rileah Vanderbilt) to cross over into our world, save Snow White, and defeat Rumpelstiltskin.  Also sneaking over is rebellious Red Riding Hood (Elizabeth Petersen) who is determined to kill Rumpelstiltskin’s henchman, The Wolf (Kimo Leopoldo).  

Got all that?

Avengers Grimm is another enjoyably insane mockbuster from The Asylum.  The budget’s low, the performances are intentionally melodramatic, and it’s all lot of fun.  Casper Van Dien has a lot of fun playing evil, the women all get to kick ass, and Lou Ferrigno is well-cast as a labor leader named Iron John.

Avengers Grimm is currently available on Netflix.

Bad_Asses_on_the_Bayou

Bad Asses On The Bayou (dir by Craig Moss)

Apparently, this is the third film in which Danny Trejo and Danny Glover have respectively played Frank Vega and Bernie Pope, two old guys who kick ass in between worrying about their prostates.  I haven’t seen the previous two Bad Asses films but I imagine that it really doesn’t matter.

In this film, Trejo and Glover go to Louisiana to attend a friend’s wedding.  When she’s kidnapped, they have to rescue her and impart some important life lessons to her younger brother.  It’s all pretty predictable but then again, it’s also pretty good for a film called Bad Asses On The Bayou.  This is a film that promises two things: Danny Trejo kicking ass and lots of bayou action.  And it delivers on both counts.

In fact, I would say that Bad Asses On The Bayou is a better showcase for Danny Trejo’s unique style than the better known Machete films.  Danny Trejo is a surprisingly adept comedic actor and he gives a performance here that shows his talent goes beyond mere physical presence.

Bad Asses On The Bayou is currently available on Netflix.

hayride-2

Hayride 2 (dir by Terron R. Parsons)

I should admit up front that I haven’t seen the first Hayride film.  Luckily, Hayride 2 picks up directly from the end of the first film and is filled with so many flashbacks and so much conversation about what happened that it probably doesn’t matter.

Essentially, Pitchfork (Wayne Dean) is a murderous urban legend who turns out to be real.  He killed a lot of people in the first film and he stalks those that escaped throughout the 2nd film.  Like all good slasher villains, Pitchfork is a relentless killer.  He’s also an unrepentant racist, which leads to a genuinely unpleasant scene where he attacks a black detective (Corlandos Scott).  Say whatever else you will about the film, Hayride 2 deserves some credit for being on the side of the victims.  No attempt is made to turn Pitchfork into an anti-hero and the movie is relentlessly grim.

Hayride 2 is an odd film.  The film’s low-budget is obvious in every single scene.  The pacing is abysmal and the performances are amateurish.  And yet, when taken on its own meager terms, it has a dream-like intensity to it that I appreciated.  Then again, I always have had a weakness for low-budget, regional horror films.

Hayride 2 is available on Netflix.

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Insurgent (dir by Robert Schwentke)

Insurgent is both the sequel to Divergent and was also 2015’s first YA dystopia film.  Shailene Woodley is as good as ever and I guess it’s good that she has a commercially successful franchise, which will hopefully inspire audiences to track down better Shailene Woodley films like The Spectacular Now.  

All that said, Insurgent often felt even more pointless than Divergent.  For a two-hour film featuring performers like Woodley, Kate Winslet, Octavia Spencer, Ansel Elgort, and Miles Teller, Insurgent has no excuse for being as forgettable and boring as it actually was.  The next installment in The Hunger Games can not get here soon enough.

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Poltergeist (dir by Gil Kenan)

When a family (led by Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt) move into a new house, they discover that everything is not what it seems.  For one thing, they come across a bunch of creepy clown dolls.  They also hear a lot of scary sounds.  They discover that the house was built on an old cemetery.  Their youngest daughter vanishes.  And finally, someone says, “Isn’t this like that old movie that was on TCM last night?”

Okay, they don’t actually say that.  However, as everyone knows, the 2015 Poltergeist is a remake of the 1982 Poltergeist.  Since the 1982 Poltergeist still holds up fairly well, the 2015 Poltergeist feels incredibly unnecessary.  It has a few good jump scenes and it’s always good to see Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt in lead roles but ultimately, who cares?  It’s just all so pointless.

Watch the wall-dancing original.  Ignore the remake.

Tomorrowland_poster

Tomorrowland (dir by Brad Bird)

Welcome to the world of tomorrow!  Wow, is it ever boring!

Actually, I feel a little bit bad about just how much I disliked Tomorrowland because this is a film that really did have the best intentions.  Watching the film, you get the sinking feeling that the people involved actually did think that they were going to make the world a better place.  Unfortunately, their idea of a better world is boring and almost oppressively optimistic.  There is no room for cynicism in Tomorrowland.  Bleh.  What fun is that?

Anyway, the film basically steals its general idea from the Atlas Shrugged trilogy.  Tomorrowland is a secret place that is inhabited by inventors, dreamers, and iconoclasts.  Years ago, Frank (George Clooney) was banished from Tomorrowland because, after learning that the Earth was destined to end, he lost “hope” in mankind’s future.  Fortunately, he meets Casey (Britt Robertson), who is full of hope and through her, he gets to return.  They also get a chance to save the world and battle a cartoonish super villain played by Hugh Laurie.  (Why is he a villain?  Because he’s played by Hugh Laurie, of course!)

After all the hype and build-up, Tomorrowland turned out to be dull and predictable.  What a shame.  The Atlas Shrugged trilogy was at least fun because it annoyed the hipsters at the AV Club.  Tomorrowland is just forgettable.

Jurassic World Adds To The Summer Action


JurassicWorld

Was there ever a need for a fourth film in the Jurassic Park franchise? For years many have tried to answer that and projects to get it up and running stalled for need of a director willing to sign on to a franchise that has been passed up by the superhero action tsunami that has hit pop culture.

It is now 2015 and we’re just months away from finally seeing the fruits of over a decade’s worth of labor to bring a fourth Jurassic Park film to the big screen. While it may still have Steven Spielberg attached as executive producer there’s no Joe Johnston anywhere near this fourth film. We have Carl Trevorrow taking the director’s chair with Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard taking on the lead roles.

Jurassic World is set to open it’s doors to the world on June 12, 2015 (took them long enough).

Ant-Man Keeps the Marvel Train Moving Along


Ant-Man

Will Marvel Studios have it’s first misstep when Ant-Man arrives in theaters this July? Or will it surpass many people’s expectations the way Guardians of the Galaxy did when it came out late summer of 2014? These are questions that fans and critics alike have been pondering since the rather underwhelming teaser trailer which was released earlier this year.

Now, with Avengers: Age of Ultron just weeks away from bulldozing over everything in it’s way it looks like Marvel and Disney have turned their attention to getting the Ant-Man hype train up to speed. If any film needs some fueling up it would be this one which has had a more than contentious production. It loses it’s original director in Edgar Wright after he and the heads at Marvel Studios (Kevin Feige) disagreed on how to proceed with the film. The search for a director to replace Wright became a game of which comedic filmmaker would pass on the project next (Peyton Reed finally was the last man standing).

When the teaser finally came out the tone it gave seemed too serious for a film that was being billed as a sort of action-comedy or, at the very least, an action film that included more than the usual comedic beats than past films in the MCU.

Today we see the first official trailer for Ant-Man and gone is the super serious tone of the teaser and in comes a mixture of action and comedy. It’s a trailer that actually gives us an idea of the sort of powers the title character has outside of being just being tiny. Then we get more than just a glimpse of Scott Lang’s main antagonist with Corey Stoll in the role of Darren Cross aka Yellowjacket.

Maybe this film will still end up giving Marvel Studio it’s very first black-eye, but this trailer goes a major way in making sure it doesn’t happen.

Ant-Man is set for a July 17, 2015 release date.

Shattered Politics #78: American Dreamz (dir by Paul Weitz)


Americandreamz

Nothing ages worse than heavy-handed satire and, if you need proof of that, just try watching the 2006 film American Dreamz.  American Dreamz is a satire of two things that are no longer exactly relevant, the presidential administration of George W. Bush and Simon Cowell-era American Idol.

Dennis Quaid plays President George W. Bush Joseph Stanton.  Stanton has just been reelected to a second term.  One morning, he impulsively decides to read a newspaper for the first time in his life and he ends up having a nervous breakdown.  “The world isn’t black-and-white,” he declares, “Instead, it’s gray.”  Sinking into a deep depression, Stanton isolates himself from the American people and his approval rating starts to plunge.  His evil Chief of Staff (William DaFoe, made up to look like Joe Biden but, I’m assuming, meant to be Dick Cheney) comes up with a plan to restore Stanton’s popularity.  President Stanton will serve as a guest judge on his favorite television show, American Idol American Dreamz!

(To be honest, I think Obama would be more likely to show up as a guest judge than Bush.)

The host of American Dreamz is a self-loathing Englishman named Martin Tweed (Hugh Grant).  Tweed hates both the show and himself.  Early on in the film, he’s literally seeing begging for American Dreamz to be canceled.  However, American Dreamz is the number one show in the country and the show must go on.

Along with President Stanton, the latest season of American Dreamz features a group of contestants who all have dramatically compelling backstories.  Sally Kendoo (Mandy Moore) emerges as a favorite, largely do to her ability to manipulate the camera and the fact that her well-meaning but simple-minded boyfriend (Chris Klein) was wounded in Iraq.

Oh wow — reality shows manipulate reality and contestants are rarely as innocent as they seem!?

Tell me more, American Dreamz!

Also competing on American Dreamz is Omer (Sam Golzari), a former jihadist who proved to be too clumsy to take part in the various propaganda videos being shot by his terrorist cell.  Omer was sent to America, where his love for show tunes eventually landed him on American Dreamz.  With the finale rapidly approaching, Omer has been instructed to blow both himself and the President up on national TV.

The satire of American Dreamz really wasn’t all that sharp when the film was first released and now, 9 years later, it feels even weaker.  Quaid and Grant both give good performances but the film’s attempts at humor largely fall flat because they’re all so predictable.  It’s not exactly mind-blowing to say that reality TV is fake or that politics has a lot in common with show business.  The film attempts to add some bite to its message by ending with a surprisingly dark twist but it’s just not enough.  Even a dark ending has to be earned.