Tuesday, July 31, 2012

3 Short Paragraphs: Contraband

2012, Baltasar Kormákur -- download

Baltasar Kormákur was the star in the Icelandic movie Reykjavík-Rotterdam.  And now he is the director of American remake.  In the original, we have a small flick about a sailor kicked off his ship after getting caught smuggling.  He lives an unsatisfactory life as a security guard and with the help of a friend, gets back on the boats in order to take one more try at lucrative smuggling.  In the remake, Mark Wahlberg is an ex-smuggler who got out of the business before it ruined his life.  He was a legend in the life and it is his rep that drags him back into it, after his nephew gets in too deep with a nasty thug, played by Giovanni Ribisi.

I am not sure how the star of one movie gets the job to direct a remake of his biggest role and I am even less sure it worked out.  It is a very typical hollywood caper thriller but not as big-style as I think it should have been.  They introduce Wahlberg's Farraday as a legendary retired smuggler.  He was known for creative methods on getting big ticket items past the dock authorities.  But the job we get to see just doesn't seem all that big.  Oh sure, it is big ticket and it has a few twists and turns, but it never really gets to the impress me stage.  I felt let down.

But there was something about the movie, something about the small performances, which may have actually been the charm of the original flick.  I like to think that the original movie was about the small desperate life of a man working on board freighters between Iceland and the Netherlands.  Kormákur gets a great performance out Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster (who I really think is going to be the next Ryan Gosling) and especially Ribisi, who really revels in being the outrageous thug.  There was also the hint of where the movie could have shone more brightly, onboard the ship, captained by the ever wonderful JK Simmons.  It obviously takes an experienced crew to pull off the smuggling jobs that happen on ships that trade through international waters.  This is where the movie should have focused, on the intricacies of small jobs instead of trying for the bigger waters of an american-style caper.  At that, it failed.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

3 Short Paragraphs: A Nightmare on Elm St (2010)

2010, Samuel Bayer -- download

In the last few years, amidst the spate of remake-reboot-everything, a few of the most popular franchises from my childhood have been resurrected.  Halloween done by Rob Zombie was a decent film not only catching the notes of the original but adding some additional background elements.  It was definitely a labor of love on Rob's part.  Texas Chainsaw Massacre played the same tune, remaking for the most part but adding more explanation.  I have not seen the new Friday the 13th.  But why?  Why not new horror material instead of all these reboots?  The reason most of these had such an impact was because they were fresh and new for their time. That doesn't always work as a premise to do a movie now, anymore than you showing your favourite 80s movie to a teenager of today works -- the audience will not be in the same mindset as you were.  They won't get it.

Now, I applaud that the makers of this movie wanted a darker tone.  Freddie Kreuger has become far too much the Saturday Night Live skit version of himself.  He is the joke that he tells his victims in the movies.  Jackie Earle Haley was a brilliant choice as the new Kreuger, a creepy actor (no disrespect meant) capable of sinister dialogue and a dark nature.  They also decided to return to Freddy actually abusing the kids, as opposed to just killing them.  In today's age of murder spree and serial killers on TV every week, a spree killer of kids is just not that horrifying but child abuse still rings a horror bell.  So, they had the basis of a decent reboot.  So what went wrong?

The movie ends up being very by the book, which is disappointing.  It just lacks any of the actual creepiness of the originals, despite a lower comedic quip factor.  It also seemed to be missing something that I did not actually look for in the original.  A why?  Why did Freddy come back as a vengeful spirit?  Normally, following the rules of vengeful spirits, he would have had to have been wronged.  But really, he was just foiled.  Haley's Kreuger just seemed pathetic as the man, without the psychic fortitude to return as a dream controlling evil spirit. They make him very much the evil man, which lifts us one layer above the unexplained boogey man he was in the original. That movie drew upon the urban myth concept of evil men becoming monsters even after they are destroyed.  This one had him just becoming... because.  But even with that ignored, the rest of the story and plot around it was just very very straight forward.  I doubt we have a rebooted franchise here.

3 Short Paragraphs: The Adventures of TinTin

2011, Steven Spielberg (as if...) -- download

(kent's view)

OK, paragraph one starts the reminiscing.  You see, when I was a kid, I lived in a neighbourhood which was often the waystation for international engineers taking a job with the local steel production plant or mining corporation.  They would come to town for a job, buy a house in the new subdivision, bring in their families and work for a few years before moving on to the new job.  Some were from the US, some from Asia and some from the UK.  The kids in those families had the best toys and comics.  One particularly memorable item I was exposed to were european style comics, those large format hard covered books, the primary ones I remember being Asterix & Obelix and Tin Tin.  I loved these books and the adventures within but for some reason, when the kids moved on with their families, so did my fascination.  It probably had to do with lack of access.  So, Tin Tin remains as not so much a developed interest, as more of a memory of a great interest. I remember thinking it was the greatest thing ever.

One thing I came away from my minor exposure to the series was that they were incredible adventure stories written for adolescent and teen boys.  Well, of course girls, but you know demographics from times past -- they knew  girls would read them but they were still focused towards boys.  They were adventure stories set in the early twentieth century which danced from location to location, from exotic situation to exotic situation.  TinTin (who I later learned to pronounce tan-tan, soft n) is a boy reporter without the trappings of family or responsibility (outside his reporting) and gets himself mixed up in crime, treasure hunting and plots to be foiled.  As I write this (out loud) I am taken with how much this is the description of what I loved best as an adolescent -- adventure!  And yet, I guess the intentional blandness of TinTin himself contributed to my not so lasting fondness for the character.

So, here we are, done with the reminiscing.  Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson get together over story telling and CGI technology to tell an adventure story that should be perfectly grand, wonderful and exciting to me.  Yet, here we are months after seeing it, and the bright colors and dashing escapades have faded, much like my memories of exactly why I loved TinTin.  The CG was impecable, cartoony enough to avoid uncanny valley and realistic enough to get lost in the story.  The acting was incredible, especially Andy Serkis as Haddock, the grumpy drunken sailor who I still adore.  And there were some scenes, such as the chase down to the harbor, that are so bright and daring, they stuck with me, but in general the movie faded.  That kind of peeves me!  It shouldn't have!  It should have carried me along on a rollercoaster, reviving my love for adventure, not assisting the fading of the past.  And I cannot put my finger on exactly why it did not quite work.  I wish I had been ill or drunk when watching it, as then I would have an excuse, but really I have to blame Spielberg --- the movie impressed me but just didn't stick with me, and that is a shame.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Super 8

2011, JJ Abrams -- netflix

There's over a month's worth of distance between me and Super 8 right now, which means that the film is hardly fresh in my mind, and I'm having difficulty remembering exactly what I thought of it.  Most of what I'm left with is a vague impression of being underwhelmed.  I like JJ Abrams, I like what he does with genre material, making it big and thoughtful.  The man isn't necessarily a visionary, I don't think he ever truly breaks new ground, but he's just really damn good at what he does.  With Super 8, he attempted to replicate "that Spielberg touch" from the late-'70's through early-'80's, and nailed it right on the head, which may, in fact, be the reason why I was left unimpressed by the picture.

Truth is, I understand how amazing a filmmaker Spielberg is, and yet I'm not all that excited by most of his output.  In recent years, it's been his inability to close out a film without a lengthy, and unnecessary fourth act, but even in most of his older films, I don't really connect with what he's doing.  Spielberg has definite technical proficiency, a prodigal way with the camera, and an understanding of the language of cinema that few other directors do, and for some reason I find the results kind of lackluster.  I understand his language, I just don't get too excited by what he has to say.

So with Abrams replicating the Spielberg formula in this film so precisely (but with more lens flares), I have the same detachment I had (still have) with E.T., Close Encounters, the Indiana Jones films and Jaws (yes, darling, even Jaws), all films Abrams cribbed from for Super 8.  The story seems like a different take on the set-up of another Abram's production, Cloverfield, but taking a completely different turn with the giant monster angle.  In which a group of ambitious teens make their own Super 8 movies, and happen to be filming at the scene of a massive train derailment (immediately stretching the limits of disbelief by having the train miss the kids and their car but decimate everything else around them) which lets loose a (seemingly) malevolent alien life form.

The focus of the film, in true Spielberg-ian style is as much on the characters and their drama as the events happening around them.  The kids have their own romantic and strained friendship drama, while also having tremendous parental drama.  Meanwhile, the town sheriff tries to figure out what's what when the military seems to be all too tight lipped about the situation.  Of course it's up to the kids to figure it all out, and they do, and a hopeful ending for all results.  

It's quite formulaic, this movie, but it's Spielberg's formula, as viewed through the lens of JJ Abrams, thus the quality level is damn high.  It's a great looking picture with solid acting, top notch effects, grand score, but truly it feels familiar, almost like I've seen it before.  There's not a lot of surprises as the story unfolds, and, for me at least, not a lot of excitement.  The character drama, which is what should set this apart from the typical summer blockbuster fare, seems if not at odds with the scope of the film, then at least uncomplimentary.

I didn't hate it.  I didn't love it.  I don't dislike it.  I don't really like it either.  Just a mild, tepid, neutral reaction.

Double Feature: Youth In Revolt/Submarine

2009, Miguel Arteta (hey, he also did Cedar Rapids)  -- netflix
2011, Richard Ayoade (hey, Moss from IT Crowd)  -- netflix

The common mistake people who dislike Michael Cera make about Michael Cera is that he has no range.  He has range, narrow range though it is, but range nonetheless.  He has range in the same way Woody Allen-the-actor (not Woody Allen-the-writer/director) has range.  The characters he plays are all some extension of his normal way of being.  To step outside of himself too drastically would more than likely find Cera in awkward, uncomfortable waters.  He's not chameleonic.  He can't stretch the way a Sam Rockwell or Mark Ruffalo can.  If he's going to be an action hero, well, it has to be the whiny, ineffectual Scott Pilgrim.  He won't be seen in spandex, not seriously anyway.  If he's going to be the romantic lead, as he has been numerous times, they're going to be the quasi-bumbling, fumbling, mumbling type he's played since departing the role of George Michael Bluth in Arrested Development.  It's kind of his thing.  It's not his only thing, but he has it down, and if you're paying even the smallest amount of attention you will catch the differences between Juno Michael Cera, Superbad Michael Cera, Nick and Nora's... Michael Cera and here, Youth In Revolt's Michael Cera.

In YinR, Cera plays Nick Twisp, an intelligent yet awkward teen (surprise), hyper-aware of his terrible name, and ever keen to find romance, moreover, sex.  But given his lowly social status, his unconventional appearance, and his never-not-embarrassing mother and stepfather (a well cast Jean Smart and Zach Galifianakis) achieving his objective takes nothing short of leaving for a trailer park on a summer retreat and running headlong into the hyperconfident, hyper-intelligent Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday), daughter of two overbearing Christian parents looking for any means to subvert their control.  Part of which includes manipulating an incredibly game Nick into vying for her affections to ever-alarming degrees.

Youth in Revolt doesn't play out in typical fashion, as it winds over not just a summer but an extended period of time and distance during Nick manufactures a second personae -- the smooth, cool, mustachioed, French-ish Francois -- who acts as the devil on his shoulder, provoking him to further extreme actions in his attempt to be with and woo Sheeni.  The dichotomy between Nick and Francios truly highlights what Cera is capable of as an actor, creating two distinct personalities for the same character that also feel natural as a whole isn't as easy as it seems, but he pulls it off.  The cast is universally excellent, including some great cameos from Steve Buscemi, Fred Willard, and Ray Liotta.  Based on the novel by C.D. Payne, there's a heavy narrative component and an archness that's equally sly and trying too hard.  In the end it's an enjoyable movie, but feels too much like Wes Anderson-lite, weird but not weird enough, and clever but not clever enough.

Compare this with Richard Ayoade's directorial debut, Submarine, and you will see two films that are flip sides of the same coin.  They both are, essentially, telling the same type of story, in a similar genre, in a similar style, but achieving two very different results.

Ayoade's film, like YinR, features a young protagonist, Oliver Tate, not exactly the most popular sort in his class, seeking a romantic relationship but not quite sure how to go about it, until it happens on its own in an organic fashion.  Whereas YinR takes a more fantasy-laden approach to the subject matter, Submarine goes naturalistic, dispensing with most attempts at being clever and achieving a more personal connection to the material.  Oliver's romance has to contend with school beatings, the looming marital troubles of his parents, and his object of desire's mother's brain tumor.  These aren't things played for laughs yet there is a natural spark amidst the darkness of the story that keeps it from getting morose.

There's also less... scriptyness, if I can make up a word, to Submarine's young romance.  Although the narration from Craig Roberts is just as florid and excessively insightful into the inner workings of our protagonist's mind as that of Michael Cera, the story and how it is told feels far more organic, how the characters act and the events that occur seeming more realistic and less a plot device.

What happens in Submarine is a story that could happen anywhere, but the setting in Swansea gives the background personality.  Many young directors will make films that act as love letters to their hometowns or regions they're particularly fond of, and spend a lot of extra time visually lingering in the surroundings, but Ayoade uses the environments sparingly, keeping the focus on Oliver's emotional core rather than getting distracted by his trappings.  There's a definite sense of familiarity that all the players have with their surroundings, and it's this comfort, rather than any overt tactic on the director's part, that forms a living atmosphere to the picture.

I'm certain I laughed more with Submarine than I did with YinR, and I'm also certain I empathized more with Oliver Tate than Nick Twisp.  Where the flourishes that occur in YinR's story are meant to be entertaining, and they are to a degree, Submarine for me was the more engaging film.  The emotional core of Ayoade's film was far more real, less plot-driven.  Pitting them head to head, I would vouch for Submarine over YinR, and I'm not dismissing the latter for the former as both present a solidly enjoyable product. At the same time, I wouldn't outright comment that either are mandatory viewing.  The genre in which they play is a well worn one, and both present a nice take thereof, still not enough in either propels them to the upper echelon, or beyond.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Marvel's The Avengers

2012, Joss Whedon -- in theatre (twice)

I can't believe it's taken this long for either David or myself to get to writing about The Avengers... but really, for the biggest movie of the year, what is there to say about it (oh, I'm sure lots as I get going)?

I have to admit to going into The Avengers with some trepidation, afterall of the Marvel films from the past half decade, only the first Iron Man really wowed me.  The Captain America and Thor movies both fell flat, as did Iron Man 2, and the Incredible Hulk was pretty much negated as a prequel after Ed Norton pulled out of the ensemble.  All these films were high profile, but none of them quite delivered the comic book experience on screen.  They were either trying too hard, not hard enough, or not at all (in the case of the Incredible Hulk they were attempting to emulate the TV show more than the comics).  But, if there was anyone in Hollywood who could pull the disparate elements of four different cinema franchises together into one film that will both franchise itself and equally require inspiration from the source to succeed, it would be Joss Whedon.

Even still, Joss hasn't fully proven himself as a big feature director (although, for my money, Serenity is hands down the best space opera since the original Star Wars trilogy) and the amount of studio interference as well as being hamstrung with dangling plot threads from a handful of not-quite-prequels made this thing a long-shot to actually satisfying the fanboy that I am.  (Let's not even mention that, in spite of three decades of comic reading, I'm not an Avengers fan at all).

But Whedon got it, and brought it all together beautifully.  While he hasn't made the greatest movie ever, he's come the closest anyone has to approximating the feel of reading a superhero comic book while watching a movie.  Whedon, fanboy that he is, knows these characters, knows them from their roots.  Forget what was done with them in their own movies, he brings Cap, Tony Stark, Black Widow, the Hulk, Hawkeye, Thor, Loki and Nick Fury all back to those roots, still without betraying what was built out of them already.

Perhaps Whedon's greatest skill is his ability to craft an ensemble.  He did it on TV with Buffy, Angel and Firefly, and in comics on Astonishing X-Men, and he does it again here, and surprisingly it's this cast building that not only dominates the picture, but makes it satisfying, far more than any assembly of fight sequences ever could.  The conversations between Tony Stark and Bruce Banner are as exciting as the throw down Iron Man and Thor, if not moreso, because there's an actors craft behind it, more than just CGI cartoons.  Everyone gets a moment or two to shine, and this really turned out to be an actors comic book movie.

But lets not sell the fighting and action short, because it is pretty spectacular.  I amused myself following the film, comparing the massive third-act action sequence to the one in Transformers: Dark of the Moon.  They are, bluntly, the exact same concept.  The heroes need to close down a portal -- opened by some kind of machine atop a very tall building -- having to wade through a morass of bad guys spewing out of the crack in space in order to do so.  The difference between the two pictures is in the characters.  Whereas all the Transformers are, well, virtually indistinguishable from one another, have no clearly defined fighting style or powers, the Avengers really showcases what makes each hero unique in a combat situation.  Whedon takes the time to highlight what each of them can do, and do well, and how their personality affects how they fight.  Transformers 3 may have been an even bigger spectacle, but the Avengers is far more satisfying to watch.

With it's incredible box office success, and it's resoundingly positive feedback, there's invariably going to be a backlash against the Avengers for being "not that good".  But the thing about really successful entertainment is not how good it is, but how capable it is of appealing and entertaining to the largest audience possible.  That Whedon managed to do it why staying so true to its comic book roots, not having to pander to the geeks, nor having to dumb it down or "class it up" for the non-geek audience, is the greatest achievement of the film.  Every other comic book movie needs to take note of how it was done.  These comic book properties have amused and entertained millions over the past 80+ years.  Diverging from the source material to make it more "palatable" for the "everyman" is what ultimately makes it less enjoyable.    The Avengers should be the recipe, and hopefully the system understands the ingredients and that substitutions rarely make it taste better.

The Cabin In The Woods

2012, Drew Goddard -- in theatre

(Spoiler heavy discussion below... if you haven't seen the Cabin in the Woods, and still wish to, it's best to avoid any exposure to trailers or reviews beforehand)

I didn't like this movie so much as I was impressed by it, especially in hindsight.  It seems every few years there's an absolutely terrific horror production that just bends the genre on its ear, exploiting all of its warped conventions for both laughs and scares.  Scream wasn't the first to do it, just the most notable for blowing the meta-horror into the mainstream.  Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is another great meta-horror that approaches the genre from an exceptionally nerdy, deconstructionist angle, as if it were more thesis on the nature of slasher movies.

What Scream did was place its characters in a world where slasher films exist, where all the cliches are known by the characters who realize that they're in a scenario much like the movies.  In Behind the Mask, the much more difficult conceit is the documentary angle following a slasher killer, Leslie Vernon, who's just doing his job murdering teenager by the conventions of, well, the trade as it has been plied before him.

What Cabin in the Woods does that neither of these, or any other meta-horror film has done in the past is incorporate the meta as an actual functioning element of the story.  What's so impressive about the film is that the cliches of just about every horror sub-genre are plausible and possible within the context of the story.  The horrific elements are manufactured in a sense, with the a team working deep below the titular cabin setting establishing the entire scenario, and stacking the deck to make sure it happens as planned.

It's actually the crew we're introduced to first, even before we meet the college kids who are going to be the unwitting subjects of this grand guignol.  Goddard and co-writer Joss Whedon cleverly jump back and forth between the puppeteers and the potential victims, which explains a lot right away and still not enough, as the puzzle is continuously pieced together with each additional scene.

The fact that we're aware that strings are being pulled, that the college kids' lives are in a somewhat controlled scenario, at first, early on lowers the tension into a comfort of cleverness.  But as things escalate, and the scheme starts unfolding into something far more nefarious, the actual meat of horror, and not just its casings show, and the excitement ratchets up.

Once the grand scheme is revealed, once the audience is made aware of what's really going on and that the on-screen deaths aren't, in fact, feeding our bloodlust as an audience (not in the story context at least), Goddard and Whedon have developed a fun little conundrum for the audience to process, and blown up the endless potential for other stories to unfold out of this one.  The conceit may not be perfectly crafted, but the "big bad" of the film is a far more etherial one than just a slasher killer, merman, or cenobyte and the glimpse of what is done on a global scale to keep the evil in check sends the mind racing in a thousand delightful directions.

This film underperformed at the box office, but it's one that will live on and on and on in the aftermarket.  It's got so many little easter eggs that it was designed for multiple viewings.  At the same time, I'm sure approaching the film with fresh eyes and repeat viewings alike provide two distinct experiences with the story and the world that was built within.

This is a film built with love for the genre lovers, a meta-horror that embraces its tropes and exploits them without ever looking down on them. 

(now read David's take)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

3 Short Paragraphs: The Hunger Games

2012, Gary Ross

(Sorry for the long absence of reviews folks.  Work has been sapping me of all my mental energies of late.  Hopefully I can clear my docket in short order, as I attempt to write reviews base on fuzzy memories and the remnants of whatever impression the films had on me).

I've heard a lot of trash talk surrounding The Hunger Games (most of it stemming from various participants on Doug Loves Movies, so take that for what you will), however most of the complaints I've been hearing - not gory enough, too many close-ups, slow pacing - I found to be actual strengths of the film.  Gary Ross hasn't a wealth of directorial experience, but his past works, Pleasantville specifically, had a very strong sense of style that directly impacted the feel and tone of the story.  It's the same here with The Hunger Games where he shows contrasting worlds of the rural poor districts in grimy, grainy greys and browns, and the wealthy cities clad in obscenely ridiculous wardrobes, hairstyles, accessories and the likes amidst a cityscape of neon that would make Vegas look modest in comparison.  Ross also seems to be a fan of the 70's style of "futurism", with the (and I may get this wrong) Reapers who collect the children for the Games wearing a monochromatic track suit-sneakers-helmet combination that recalls Fahrenheit 451, Rollerball, Logans Run and THX-1138 the same.  There's a decided retro-aesthetic that Ross was gunning for and largely succeeded in achieving.

Ross' frequent use of the extreme close-up, meanwhile, I found an almost essential requirement in order to invest in the characters, especially at the onset where we need to really understand how they feel about their situation.  Without any real score to carry the emotional cues forward, Ross truly relied on the emoting of his actors to carry it all across.  Jennifer Lawrence is as exotically alluring as she is captivating an actress.  We're slowly accumulating a stockpile of strong, powerful female action heroes and Lawrence sells every minute of it.  Whatever you think of the name, Katniss Everdeen is a role model for young women, and a reminder to young men how capable the fairer sex is.

The film is not without its faltering points, but overall, it's a meticulously paced story, and well- developed environment for the characters to reside in.   Ross managed to make what became an "event movie" feel like an intimate, independent production.  It doesn't pull punches and reign it in too far to be a kiddie movie.  No, it isn't gory, but what you don't see actually has a bigger impact. It stacks up well against others in the "hunted for sports-entertainment" genre, with a lot more maturity than the Running Man, and a lot less extreme than Battle Royale.  I still prefer Series 7: The Contenders, but this has it's many charms too.  A second and third chapter aren't wholly necessary, but at this point they'll be welcome (unless they get too... Hollywood).

Monday, July 2, 2012

3 Short Paragraphs: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

2011, Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor (Crank, Gamer) -- download

OK, the duo nymed as Neveldine/Taylor definitely have a style and it was a style I incorrectly dubbed as a euro-style as I watched Spirit of Vengeance.  I hadn't remembered that these guys were the pair responsible for the ever-so-popular, ever-so-terrible Crank movies.  I should have recognized the pop-eyed camera-at-the-end-of-his-nose motif that they like so much.  And they definitely like the idea of characters who are always on the edge of ... something.  And in this not-quite-sequel to the original Nick Cage as Johnny Blaze, Nick is his I-am-not-quite-sure-he's-acting crazy that he carries off so well these days.  But I am not sure I like the idea of Zarathos being off his rocker instead of an embodiment of rage & retribution. But Nick does it so well, and you can assume the character would be a little unhinged, spending most of his nights pushing a demon down deep in his boots, with a little help from booze and drugs.

In this episode, we find Johnny hiding out in eastern Europe.  Why? Running away to another continent might help but I cannot think why.  It also explains why he has a new motorcyle, as shipping the old one overseas would have been a bitch.  Introduce Idris Elba as Moreau, an also rather-unhinged servant of a higher power on a motorcycle wearing worn leather.  This one serves God; I gather he is a freelancer who works for bizarre monkish orders, providing his well worn street skills, in times of trouble.  He is just spectacular, the fake golden contacts he is wearing almost made me think he might have a bit of an angel in him.  His calm yet manic bravado works well beside Blaze's manic instability.  Moreau is trying to protect the son of the particular incarnation of the Devil that chained up Johnny and Zarathos.  Moreau makes use of the Rider's desire to be free to drag Johnny into the fight.

The movie is not particularly terrible but neither is it particularly good.  Things happen just so we can have big booms of fire and even bigger crowds of mooks for the Rider to burn to ash with his chains.  We get a few brief moments of him forcing the bad guys to face their sins, but it was almost as if the CGI of the effect was missing, because he just sort of scowled (as well as a skeleton head can scowl) at them and hissed, but no soul sucking was performed.  We do get a new bad boss guy soooo much better than the bad boy band of the last movie, a risen revenant with the ability to force decay with his touch.  But honestly, if I was to compare Nick Cage's other movie about a hell-connected protagonist (Drive Angry), I would much prefer that one.