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In this column we will feature thumbnail reviews by Wayne Case, a veteran of Hollywood's Big Machine who currently works for an independent film company in Los Angeles. Wayne ranks the films on a scale of 1 (bad) to 10 (good). The following are Wayne’s rankings of films for 2012.


CHRONICLE Rated: 4
I’m very surprised that this silly trifle has received an abundance of favorable reviews and just can’t understand why. Of course, I’ve never bought into the whole “found footage” gimmick that started with THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999) so keep that in mind as you read this.

For me, it’s always about the story first. There is very little story here…and CHRONICLE ends without even an attempt to explain what caused the guys to get their awesome powers from just dropping into a hole. As for me, I wish somebody had just dropped the cameras that (shakily) shot this thing into that hole and quickly covered it with cement.

Question: Since it is established early that the lead characters can fly, will somebody please explain why they would choose to drive a car to get to another location when time is of the essence. DUMB.

FRIENDS WITH KIDS Rated: 3 1/2
I hated every frame of this alleged comedy and squirmed through the whole thing.
The rhythm as set by director Jennifer Westfeldt totally annoyed me.

To be fair, it has received generally favorable reviews so you just might disagree with me.

I don’t blame the cast. They all did as told and looked good doing so. And, it was especially nice to see Edward Burns cleaned-up and playing an educated, likable character. Somehow, he hasn’t reached his potential in my opinion, but this is a step back in the right direction.

FRIENDS WITH KIDS just didn’t work for me. Next.

HAYWIRE Rated: 8 1/2
HAYWIRE is the first 2012 release that will find its way into my top 20 or so best/favorite films of this year.
I’m disappointed and surprised that HAYWIRE has not found the audience it deserves.
For anybody that likes action films, I highly recommend that you look for it on DVD.
Leading lady, Gina Carano is a real life MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) champ and uses those skills expertly here. And, she is beautiful. And she is comfortable in front of the camera.

The male leads are three of my current favorites. Each gets ample but limited time to register strongly. Plus, I’m happy to report that all three are cleaned-up, looking fit and well photographed. Therefore, HAYWIRE is a must see for any fan of Channing Tatum (DEAR JOHN - 2010), Ewan McGregor (THE GHOST WRITER - 2010) and/or Michael Fassbinder (SHAME - 2011).

Edited down to a taunt 93 minutes, there is not one bit of fat to mar the flow and every frame counts. This is my idea of what an action film should be.
The plot is not really the point here…and it is a bit difficult to follow. Not to worry. Enough is explained by the end and I stayed engaged throughout.

I never know what to expect from Director Steven Soderbergh. I suspect that most would agree with me that TRAFFIC (2000) & ERIN BROCKOVICH (2000) are his two best films. I find it strange that even on paper, only CONTAGION (2011) had the elements to rival those two for overall impact. While successful and entertaining CONTAGION falls a bit short of his best two and I rank HAYWIRE side-by-side with it. Sex, lies, and video tape(1989) is his third best film and in a class by itself. I certainly don’t begrudge Soderbergh earning his big paychecks for OCEAN’S ELEVEN (2001), OCEAN’S TWELVE (2004) & OCEAN’S THIRTEEN (2007), nobody is going to confuse them with serious cinema. I like KING OF THE HILL (1993), THE UNDERNEATH (1995), & OUT OF SIGHT (1998). On the other hand, I hated THE GOOD GERMAN (2006) & THE INFORMANT! (2009) and am unimpressed with the several other entries in his oeuvre.

Further, I am totally enthusiastic about his three upcoming projects: MAGIC MIKE (2012), BEHIND THE CANDELABRA (2013) & THE BITTER PILL (2013). Each of these has elements that could make them favorites.

ONE FOR THE MONEY Rated: 2 1/2
ONE FOR THE MONEY is awful in every possible way. It is sure Razzie bait & a strong contender to lead my list as worst film of 2012 and we’re still in January.

Generally, I like Katherine Heigl but she is woefully miscast and so poorly directed that she seems to have wandered onto the wrong set and has no idea of just what kind of movie she is making. And she looks terrible, and is poorly photographed …and THAT HAIR! For reasons unknown, the director regularly calls attention to said hair. This is the first time I’ve been aware of Jason O’Mara and feel he has still untapped potential. He is a likely candidate for parts also suited to Gerard Butler or Clive Owen. Other cast members seem to posture as instructed and should suffer no permanent career damage since the resulting mess is not their fault.

Director Julie Ann Robinson has some decent television directing credits which surprises me based on the evidence here. I hated the musical scoring blamed on Deborah Lurie. There are eight credited producers. They should all be ashamed of themselves for allowing this piece of crap to escape into movie theatres. BLECH.

SAFE HOUSE Rated: 8
Right off, I’ll confess to being confused through much of the film although I never lost interest. Complicated it is, but in/at the end, enough is made clear to bring satisfaction.

Oscar Winner Denzel Washington (MAN ON FIRE - 2004) is in full charismatic mode here and it’s clear he is having a good time. That proves to be infectious. I have mixed feelings about co-star Ryan Reynolds (THE PROPOSAL - 2009) but his performance here erases most of the memory of how much I hated him in THE CHANGE-UP (2011).

The best news is the emergence/breakthrough of a really good new action director named Daniel Espinosa. Swedish born to a Swedish mother and Chilean father, I’m expecting him to become a top choice for many upcoming action projects. With the right script, movie magic would be the likely outcome.

THE VOW Rated: 8
This is an excellent movie. If you have any interest in the romantic drama genre, this one is for you.
Stars Rachel McAdams (THE NOTEBOOK - 2004) and Channing Tatum (DEAR JOHN - 2010) are as likable as they are attractive and neither has ever been more effective than here. They are two of my favorite newer stars and these performances illustrate why. And, the chemistry between them is exceptional.
THE VOW is well directed by Michael Sucsy and it’s very easy on the eyes and the ears.

As always, music by Rachel Portman (THE CIDER HOUSE RULES - 1999) is lovely and a big plus.

...more to come!



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