Movie Review: “Homefront”

Starring
Jason Statham, James Franco, Winona Ryder, Kate Bosworth, Izabela Vidovic
Director
Gary Fleder

Perhaps of all the genres, action fans often feel the most cheated. If you’re yearning for a post-metrosexual, non-superhero kickass character these days, well, your choices are pretty slim. It’s enough to make you wish there were more Westerns, or for the cast of “The Expendables”… before they were eligible for Medicare. So it seems only fitting that director Gary Fleder and Sylvester Stallone set out to craft a clever and engaging action flick with a Western theme starring today’s hottest star of the genre, Jason Statham, in “Homefront.”

Phil Broker (Statham) is an undercover DEA agent tasked with bringing down a major meth operation run by a ruthless biker gang. Posing as one of the bikers, the feds finally seem to have the gang right where they want them. Converging on the bikers’ lair en masse, the agents soon discover that drug lords tend not to go down so easily. The ensuing gun battle is almost at a stalemate when Statham reveals his identity and shifts the tide of the fight. Meanwhile, the gang’s leader, Lewis (Stuart Greer), makes a break for it with his son Jimmy (Marcus Hester). Broker leads the agents in pursuit and the fight leaves Jimmy with more holes than brain cells. Lewis vows revenge and Broker walks off into the distance.

Broker tries to start life over in rural Louisiana with his daughter Maddy (Izabela Vidovic), but while the little girl didn’t inherit daddy’s hairline, she definitely got his butt-kicking gene, as she easily takes down the school bully, Teddy (Austin Craig). Teddy’s mom (Kate Bosworth) enlists her meth-dealing brother (James Franco) to put a scare in Broker, which sets off a series of events filled with revenge, gun battles, meth explosions and an all new reason to avoid Bayou real estate.

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A chat with Jason Statham (“Homefront”)

jason_statham_1

Time really flies when you’re having fun. It seems like yesterday that audiences fell for Jason Statham in Guy Ritchie’s “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.” Of course, it’s been 15 years and Statham’s enthusiasm hasn’t waned one iota. The London native has gone from former model and stuntman to arguably the hottest action star around. The man best known for his sarcastic delivery and closed combat action scenes mixes a bit of tenderness in his new role as Phil Broker in “Homefront,” based on the novels and adapted by his “Expendables” castmate Sylvester Stallone. Jason recently sat down with us to discuss the role, Stallone’s influence and the topic of bullying.

Amazing performance in “Homefront,” Jason. How much of it do you attribute to Sly’s script, which he had originally written for himself?

JASON STATHAM: Yes, totally. You can only have a good shot if you’re doing something of quality. If the writing’s no good, then what are you going to do with it? You’ve got good things to say and the situations are right. It’s all about what’s on the page. It goes back to that every time. More often than not, I can’t get Sly right for me. (Laughs)

You’ve done his work before, but how surprised were you with the quality of the writing?

JASON STATHAM: I look back at “Rocky” and it’s a bit of a masterpiece when you look at the writing. It’s just great. I think people tend to forget just how many films he’s written and what a prolific writer he is. He’s done so many. I think he lost sight as to how good this was and I got in there at the right time. I got a bit lucky there. (Laughs) He’d always been giving me advice, saying, “You really need to do something that shows a different side.” I said, “What side?” And he said, “Have a read of this.” And it was almost advice, but here’s how to do it. (Laughs) I remember that as a great moment, as in, “Thanks for the great advice and for showing me how.” He’s great. He’s been a massive influence on me. I’m grateful. I’ve been on a great film with great actors. I’ve been cast with people who used to be hairdressers. Now, I’m cast with James Franco.

It doesn’t seem fair when you see Statham versus Franco. Do you ever think in that adversarial way when you’re cast?

JASON STATHAM: It’s so much more interesting, because he’s so much more dangerous. He’s totally unpredictable and that psychotic nature is much better than me standing in front of a big musclehead and then me having to chop him down like a big tree. He’s manipulating things which means far more. To have your daughter in jeopardy, it can’t get much worse than that. He’s torturing our pets. (Laughs) It’s pretty sick. Once someone starts messing with your animals, the stakes are higher. You need someone who has this eerie kind of weirdness and that unpredictability. It’s a much better choice than someone that’s going to duke it out with me.

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Movie Review: “This Is the End”

Starring
Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Emma Watson
Director
Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg

It makes sense that “This Is the End” turned out the way it did. If Seth Rogen is going to write a script about the Apocalypse, it’s not going to be subtle, nor should it be. (Come on, how boring would that be?) However, in his attempt to spread the wealth among his six leads, he loses sight of what would work best for the story, and in the process loses nearly all of the momentum he and co-writer Even Goldberg gained with an explosively funny first act.

Jay Baruchel (all of the name actors in this movie are playing themselves) flies to Los Angeles for a weekend of bonding with lifelong friend Seth Rogen. Seth asks Jay if he wants to go to a party at James Franco‘s house, but Jay isn’t crazy about Seth’s new friends, and just as he expected, he winds up bored and angry at Seth. When the two leave to get some cigarettes, the Rapture takes place before their eyes, with people being beamed up to heaven while hell is unleashed on earth. They get back to Franco’s house just before a giant hole swallows up everyone but Seth, Jay, James, Craig Robinson and Jonah Hill. Oh, and Danny McBride, who crashed the party and fell asleep in the bathtub.

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Bullz-Eye’s 2011 Oscar Recap: Anne Hathaway of making us tingly

We love the Oscars. We just wish that they loved us back. Every year we get excited about the big show, and every year we feel a little sad when they’re over, and not because the show is over, but because they just can’t surprise us anymore. The major categories are all decided weeks before the show, and the non-award pieces, save the brilliant Auto-Tune bit, were pretty flat. At least there weren’t any dancers this year.

Ah, but the show did have its good points, along with some less than good points. Here’s the Bullz-Eye breakdown of the 2011 Academy Awards.

The Good

The show was short

It was over in three hours and 15 minutes, making it the shortest broadcast since 2005. And had Kirk Douglas not done that “You know…” bit over and over, it would have been five minutes shorter. But it’s hard to fault Douglas for that since it was one of the better improv moments of the evening.

Anne Hathaway

US actress Anne Hathaway arrives for the Vanity Fair Academy Awards Party at Sunset Tower in Los Angeles, USA, 27 February 2011. Photo: Hubert Boesl

Did we mention that she’s hot, as in ‘would look good in a suit of armor’ hot? And the bit where she poked fun at her own movie by saying, “You know, it used to be that you get naked, you get an Oscar. Not anymore.” Then, one more time, wistfully, “Not anymore.” Gold. And that last dress she wore…wow. We found it extremely difficult to take our eyes off of her breasts, which was surely the point.

Inception” won more Oscars than we were expecting

We knew the technical awards were a lock, but stealing the Cinematography Oscar from the Deke (that would be Roger Deakins, who shot “True Grit“) was a shocker. And yet, despite winning four Oscars and being nominated for Best Picture and Original Screenplay, the Academy didn’t see fit to nominate Christopher Nolan for Best Director. Ugh.

They weren’t afraid to make fun of Charlie Sheen

Though, as one of our Popdose colleagues observed, the show probably would have been a lot more entertaining had he hosted.

Randy Newman

God love him. Even he knows the score that if you’re on screen, you damn well better be entertaining. “I want to be good television!” The sad thing is that, as we watched him win his second Oscar – in 20 attempts – we had a horrible thought: if he came along today, no major label would even think of signing him.

Trent Reznor is an Oscar winner

And rightfully so, though in a perfect world, he and Atticus Ross would have been dueling it out with Daft Punk (“TRON: Legacy“) for Best Score. The Frenchies was robbed, we tells ya.

The Bad

James Franco

We love James Franco. He turned in our favorite performance of the year in “127 Hours.” But he was, um, off last night, leading some to speculate that he was high. Personally, we think Franco is way too smart to do something so boneheaded; just because he played a friendly stoner in “Pineapple Express” doesn’t mean he is one. Dude’s too busy to get high. But it seemed as though he was playing his character in “Freaks and Geeks,” as if that was at all a good idea.

Cate Blanchett’s dress

Australian actress Cate Blanchett for the 83rd Academy Awards, the Oscars in Los Angeles, USA, 27 February 2011. Photo: Hubert Boesl

Everything else about Cate was stunning. Cute hair, lovely figure, wry smile, ba-boom ba-boom ba-boom. But that dress…what the hell? It looked like a tablecloth, one that had lemon cream pie spilled at the shoulders.

Tom Hooper winning Best Director

There is an argument that there is no bad acting, only bad direction, and by that standard, Tom Hooper did an outstanding job directing “The King’s Speech.” And truth be told, he did do an outstanding job directing that movie. But look at what David Fincher had to put together, the number of moving pieces, and the dialogue that his actors had to get just right. He should have won, plain and simple.

Christian Bale plugging a web site in his acceptance speech

Tacky, and the crowd let him know it.

Celine Dion singing during the “In Memoriam” piece

There wasn’t anyone else you could have found to sing that song? Really? Anne Hathaway is sitting right backstage. She can sing. And she doesn’t look like an alien.

Susanne Bier

The Danish filmmaker just won her first Academy Award for her film “In a Better World,” and here was the reaction from one of our party guests: “She has pit stains!” Ow.

  

Five 2011 Academy Award Upsets We’d Like to See

It should be stated for the record that while the editorial ‘we’ was used for the title of this column, the truth is that these are my picks and solely my picks. Let the first person speak begin.

The Academy Awards have become a bit of a bore in the last few years. There have been next to no surprises in the major categories, except for perhaps Marion Cotillard winning Best Actress in 2008 for “La Vie en Rose” or Alan Arkin winning Best Supporting actor in 2007 for “Little Miss Sunshine.” For the most part, it’s decided pretty early who’s going to win, which totally sucks, if you ask me. Of course, there are categories where there is a performance that clearly stands out above the others, but in many instances, people win their Oscars not because they’ve delivered something otherworldly, but because it’s their time, and they’re due, or other such nonsense. These aren’t lifetime achievement awards, and this isn’t a welfare system. If you give the award to the worthy party the first time around, there will be no need to “pay them back” later (cough, Al Pacino and Denzel Washington).

Take Tilda Swinton, for example. Do you know why she won the Academy Award for Supporting Actress? It’s because the voters knew that “Michael Clayton” was going to be shut out in every other category, so they threw Swinton a bone just so the movie walked away with at least one award. What the hell kind of logic is that? Did she really give the best performance or not? She was perfectly fine in the movie, but there was nothing extraordinary about it, certainly not compared to her hilariously stone-hearted harpy in “Burn After Reading.” Needless to say, the Academy’s predictability of late has led me to rebel, which is why on Sunday, I’d love nothing more than to hear the following five names be read instead of what we will probably hear.

Best Original Screenplay: Christopher Nolan, “Inception

Current Frontrunner: David Seidler, “The King’s Speech”

“The King’s Speech” is a wonderful little film. It was #7 on my list of top movies of 2010. But that story has been done many, many times before, while “Inception” was so layered that it took 10 years for Christopher Nolan to finish it. Small stories are good stories, but when someone dares to, pardon the pun, dream like Nolan did here – and better yet, pull it off, which he does in spades – that should be rewarded. It would also serve as a warning shot across the bows of every action movie director that story matters, damn it, and to get rid of the jive-talking robots.

Best Supporting Actor: Geoffrey Rush, “The King’s Speech

Current Frontrunner: Christian Bale, “The Fighter

We called it three years ago: Christian Bale will win an Oscar before it’s said and done, and more likely sooner than later. Now it’s about to happen, and strangely, I wish it weren’t.

First off, credit where credit is due. Bale positively disappeared into the role of Dicky Eklund, shedding a bunch of weight to resemble the body type of a crack addict and sounding like an authentic born-and-raised Southie. It was flashy without being gimmicky, and that is the key to Oscar glory. There is just one teensy problem; his character doesn’t support the story – he’s a distraction to it, and every time the movie becomes Dicky-centric, it loses momentum. Which brings us to Rush, the heart and soul of “The King’s Speech” and without whom, as Roger Ebert astutely observed, “the movie is unthinkable.” “The Fighter” could survive without Dicky; “The King’s Speech” is dead in the water without Lionel.

Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo, “The Fighter”

Current Frontrunner: Hailee Steinfeld, “True Grit

Now, here is the supporting performance that drives “The Fighter.” Like Bale, Melissa Leo also disappears into the character of Alice Ward, but unlike Bale, there isn’t that sense of watching someone act. Instead, it was more like watching someone be, something Leo is remarkably good at. She also seems to have a fondness for getting ugly on screen, if this and “Conviction” are any indication.

Of course, the general consensus is that Leo and Amy Adams will split the “Fighter” vote, opening the door for Steinfeld to become the latest child to win an Oscar…but she’s not really in a supporting role, is she? Nope, the academy rigged the vote so she wouldn’t have to go up against Annette Bening and Natalie Portman. Don’t you think that, should Steinfeld win, it would feel a little hollow that they bent the rules for her? Just sayin’.

Best Actor: James Franco, “127 Hours

Current Frontrunner: Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”
Colin Firth was humbled and regal. Jesse Eisenberg fired Aaron Sorkin’s one-liners like a sharpshooter. James Franco, meanwhile, carried his movie from start to finish. It was a one-man show, and better yet, thanks to the savvy editing, it didn’t feel like a one-man show. I think Franco’s biggest problem is that a lot of people refused to see the movie on principle once they realized they would have to watch someone (pretend to) cut his arm off, and I get that; I didn’t want to see it either, but was positively blown away by the movie, and Franco’s performance, once I did.

Firth has the buzz because he’s well liked and has carved out a nice, well regarded filmography for himself. But the race to an Oscar isn’t a marathon; it’s a sprint. And from here, Franco was running faster than everyone else.

Best Picture: “The Social Network

Current Frontrunner: “The King’s Speech”

In the interest of full disclosure, my #1 movie of 2010 was “Black Swan.” For the sake of the awards, though, I’m changing my tune.

What we’re looking at is something akin to when “Forrest Gump” beat “Pulp Fiction” and “The Shawshank Redemption” for Best Picture in 1995 (though if we’re honest, few of us knew how truly great “Shawshank” was until it was released on video a few months after the Oscars). The Academy has a chance to award a movie that will transcend time – there is a reason many people speak of “The Social Network” as a movie that will define a generation – but they won’t, and I’m not exactly sure why. Perhaps the elder members of the academy can relate to “The King’s Speech” better than they can to a movie about a group of kids haggling in court over Internet money, so they’re choosing what makes them comfortable. That makes sense, I suppose. But here’s the thing – odds are, someone is going to make a movie a lot like “The King’s Speech” in the next 12 to 18 months. You won’t see another movie like “The Social Network,” however, for a long, long time.

Oh, and I’d also love to see “Exit Through the Gift Shop” win Best Documentary. The movie rules.

  

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