Last Passenger is Not Safe For Work

Last Passenger and Not Safe for Work are both on instant Netflix

Not Safe For Work

 

Not Safe for Work (2014) – Not rated

On his way out of the office, a paralegal witnesses a murder — and realizes he’s now trapped inside the otherwise empty building with the killer.

Not Safe for Work makes good use of its trendy title and low budget by setting almost the entire movie on a single floor of an office building. The script, by horror writers Adam Mason and Simon Boyes, is not only conceptual and economical but also very clever in spots. When have you seen automatic flush toilets used as a plot point? Our protagonist is written way too over the top to start with but things are fine once he is fired.

Director Joe Johnston has made a career of making good movies that could have been better (Captain America, Jurassic Park III, Jumanji) with only The Wolfman being a major misfire. This one is no exception. Johnston keeps things very efficient. The entire movie, including credits, is only an hour and fourteen minutes.

The cast is mostly generic. Max Minghella plays our way-too-idealistic worker. No one in the cast stands out especially but the killer is wryly amusing. Some of the reasoning in the script is specious and this is definitely the most crowded empty office you will ever see.

Overall Not Safe for Work is an enjoyable hour and a bit but you won’t remember the details the next day.

Last Passenger

Last Passenger (2013) – Rated R

A weary single dad boards a train from London with his son and is forced to take dramatic action when a madman seizes control of the speeding train.

Tag – One train. Six passengers. No chance.

Last Passenger is another low-budget thriller that benefits both from a single setting (a train) and a brief run time (an hour and thirty-four minutes). It is director Omid Nooshin’s feature film debut and he is also one of the writers. The story is carefully shaped to keep the action affordable.

Dougray Scott finally gets a starring role after playing third fiddle (or lower) to everyone else, most recently in Taken 3. He is fine as is the rest of the cast. I was thankful that it played out as just some normal passengers in a bad situation, instead of one of the passengers emerging as some sort of superhero.

Unfortunately the feature goes off the rails (so to speak) in the final twenty minutes with some rather terrible plotting. It is as if the writers didn’t know where to go from a certain point and just wrote in anything that popped in their head.

Aside from the head-shakingly disappointing ending (at least two moments in the last twenty minutes will have you saying “that would never happen” to an uncaring television), Last Passenger is a decent albeit somewhat forgettable action thriller.

Captain America

Captain America just became available on instant Netflix.

One-Line Review: An earnest family-friendly superhero adventure that is a little long and a little slow but quite enjoyable.

Captain America (2011) – Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action.

“It is 1942, America has entered World War II, and sickly but determined Steve Rogers is frustrated at being rejected yet again for military service. Everything changes when Dr. Erskine recruits him for the secret Project Rebirth. Proving his extraordinary courage, wits and conscience, Rogers undergoes the experiment and his weak body is suddenly enhanced into the maximum human potential. When Dr. Erskine is then immediately assassinated by an agent of Nazi Germany’s head of its secret HYDRA research department, Johann Schmidt aka the Red Skull, Rogers is left as a unique man who is initially misused as a propaganda mascot. However, when his comrades need him, Rogers goes on a successful adventure that truly makes him Captain America and his war against Schmidt begins. “

I find Joe Johnston to be a very problematic director. His Jurassic Park III was a quick fun romp but it had very little of the majesty that infused the two Spielberg outings. Johnston’s The Wolfman had some very good scenes and actors but was ultimately a mess. On the other hand, way back in 1991, he directed the adorable pre-WWII saga, The Rocketeer and did a very good job of bringing the Dave Stevens graphic novel to the screen.

The Rocketeer would seem to make Johnston the ideal choice for Captain America as the stories are not all that different. A naive but earnest young man discovers a rocket pack/secret formula that allows him to fight Nazis as a masked superhero.

Chris Evans is great as Steve Rogers/ Captain America. I love the visual wizardry used to portray him as the proverbial 98-lb. weakling prior to his transformation. In the after shots, you will be wondering if those abs are real. Evans does a fine job of being earnest and brave and a little naive.

One of the biggest problems I had with Captain America was actually one of the things I had most been looking forward to. Hugo Weaving is a fantastic orator and his creations of Elrond (from the LOTR trilogy) and Mr. Smith (from The Matrix trilogy) are indelibly etched in my mind as is his voice in V for Vendetta. Unfortunately Hugo Weaving appears to have studied his German accent so hard here that his dramatic cadences are lost. His version of The Red Skull is good but just doesn’t quite gel.

Hydra is the villain organization and they have an army of Nazis with laser rifles. This also doesn’t gel well and comes across as silly in some of the scenes. Thankfully, Toby Jones is great as The Red Skull’s underling, Arnim Zola.

Stanley Tucci is excellent as always as the erstwhile Dr. Erskine but has very little screen time. Tommy Lee Jones is his usual fun craggy self as Colonel Chester Phillips. Hayley Atwell and Sebastian Stan are okay as Rogers’ best gal and pal respectively.

Pacing is a little uneven. I appreciate the logic behind using Captain America to sell war bonds but it sidelines him for too much of the movie and the battle montages will either make you shrug your shoulders or wish that they had included the actual battle. Corporate pressure from Marvel may have had an effect here as Captain America had to be ready and in the present for The Avengers this year – thus limiting his time in World War II.

Joe Johnston does a great job of conveying the feel of the time and characters (without the terrible Hollywood shorthand of sepia-toning everything). There is very little cursing and everyone is so earnest and not snarky.

Marvel fans will have plenty to umm marvel at. We get a look at Tony Stark’s father Howard (Dominic Cooper) in action as well as Dum-Dum Dugan (Neal McDonough) and the requisite appearance of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). There is a great visual joke with Arnim Zola and the plot revolves around the cosmic cube/ tesseract. Don’t forget to stay for the post-credits sequence.

Future Watch: Although Joe Johnston will not be back for it, look for Captain America: Winter Soldier in theaters April 4th, 2014 (Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan and Samuel L. Jackson will be reprising their roles). Joe Johnston is rumored to be working on Jurassic Park IV. Hugo Weaving will once again be seen as Elrond in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey this Christmas.

Jurassic Park III – Size Matters week

In honor of the wonderful present my wife gave me, I am featuring giant things this week. Jurassic Park III is cheating a little bit as these are not giant dinosaurs but dinosaurs are giant. Jurassic Park III is currently available on instant Netflix.

Jurassic Park III

WATCH: Jurassic Park III (2001) – Rated PG-13 for intense sci-fi terror and violence.

“In need of funds for research, Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) accepts a large sum of money to accompany Paul and Amanda Kirby (William H. Macy and Tea Leoni) on an aerial tour of the infamous Isla Sorna. It is not long before all hell breaks loose and the stranded wayfarers must fight for survival as a host of new — and even more deadly — dinosaurs try to make snacks of them. Laura Dern, Michael Jeter, Alessandro Nivola and Trevor Morgan co-star.”

“Reverse Darwinism – Survival of the most idiotic.”

“This is how you make dinosaurs.” – “No this is how you play God.”

Okay I just want to put “WATCHDinosaurs eat people!” so this probably will not be a very objective review. I just love the Jurassic Park series.

The script is completely silly. The reasons for our cast to end up on Isla Sorna are not just ridiculous but actually mind-bogglingly stupid. Thankfully director Joe Johnston does not waste much time at all on this. It would have made far more sense to have simply had an airplane go off-course and crash on Isla Sorna.

Sam Neill is really the only returning cast member. He does a good job even considering the script has him doing things Dr. Grant would not do. Laura Dern has what amounts to a cameo role. William H. Macy seems largely wasted and out of place here as does Tea Leoni but their presence is welcome.

The cast is notable as much for who was not in it as who was. Jeff Goldblum was originally in it but hurt his leg shortly after filming began and dropped out. Three of my favorite character actors (Steve Buscemi, Stellan Skarsgard, and Tony Shalhoub) were all considered for roles.

So what does this Jurassic Park have that the two Spielberg ones do not? One word: Pteranodons! Spinosaurus! Oh wait that is two words.

Joe Johnston should be applauded for cramming everything into an hour and a half. It is not that I like a short movie but I am sure he was pressured to bring the time on this one down. It is just amazing how much he managed to squeeze in.

The first two films were epic in scope and length. Johnston wastes no time in getting straight to the action and after that it is one dinosaur attack after another. It seems almost like a rollercoaster ride.

If I did not love the dinosaur special effects so much, I would probably rate this a pass. As it is WATCH: Dinosaurs eat people!”

People Watch: Bruce A. Young (M.B. Nash) is also Captain Banks from the TV show, The Sentinel. Director Joe Johnston most recently completed The Wolfman which I have yet to see.