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These days action films are as abundant as horror films with new ones
coming out all the time. Like most there are typically more bad ones
than good, with the biggest thing separating them being the quality of
action. The latest, Gridlocked features a good cast including Dominic
Purcell, Danny Glover, Vinnie Jones, Cody Hackman, Stephen Lang, Trish
Stratus, and Saul Rubinek, but does it pack the punch to make this a
standout action flick or will it run out of ammo during the fight?
Gridlocked follows former SWAT leader David Hendrix and hard-partying movie star Brody Walker who must cut their forced ride-along short when a police training facility is attacked by a team of mercenaries. This appears to be one of those team ups that we have seen time and again but it becomes quickly clear that will not be the case. The first moment we see Purcell on screen you see that he is going to be a force to be reckoned with and he does not disappoint. They spend just enough time setting up the annoyed relationship these two have before thrusting them into the onslaught of mayhem. Once they get them to the place where everything will be going down bullets begin to fly and do not let up until the very end. This is a full on old school action film that showcases a barrage of bullets with pin point accuracy. They keep the story simple and only bother with just enough information and plot twists to keep the story moving forward, but make no mistake the action is the center piece and it works well. Purcell brings the rugged bad ass mentality to the role and carries the action to perfection alongside a great cast who all hold their own as well. The highlight of the film is seeing them take the old school action approach and while thrusting some fun spins on execution didn't try to reinvent the wheel. They took what works and lets it speak for itself while taking it up a notch with the blood and direction.
Story is important, but when you want to deliver an action film it has to work with the story and not feel forced. Here they have crafted an Assault on Precinct 13 style story that while familiar does its own thing in a fun way. They veer away from the cheesy partner actioner and make sure you know that no one is safe and bodies will pile up and they do. The action sticks mostly to the gun play, but the few hand to hand sequences are well choreographed and executed by all involved making it work on just about every level. If you are an action fan then this is a great addition to the genre, that requires little more than strapping in and enjoying the ride through a ballet of bullet ridding mayhem.
When Pitch Black burst into theaters in 2000 and introduced the world
to Riddick and in turn Vin Diesel, it came as no shock that they moved
forward with more adventures. Sadly the bigger budget follow-up
Chronicles of Riddick didn't get the same reception so it seemed we had
seen the last of everyone's favorite Furyan, but thanks to some smart
business decisions and passion for the character Diesel and director
Twohy have delivered an all-new adventure aptly titled Riddick, but
does it return to what made the character great or continue on with the
larger scale cluttered world?
Riddick follows Furyan Riddick who has been betrayed and left for dead on a desolate planet fighting for survival against the deadly predators. But with something more dangerous on the horizon, Riddick sends out a distress beacon in hopes to bring bounty hunters to the planet for his escape, but those seeking a bounty and revenge walks into Riddick's vicious vengeance and become the hunted. With this latest installment they streamlined it back to more like Pitch Black and delivered a film miles above the previous entry. While it isn't quite as good as Pitch Black, it still brings everything you could have wanted from this type of film. The first half of the film is easily the best spending one on one time with Riddick as he struggles to survive. There are a few moments during this time that helps to effectively and simply explain how he got from ruling a planet to being near death on this planet. When the bounty hunters come things shift gears a bit and it feels more like the original film with Riddick somewhat knocked to the back allowing these mercenaries to take center stage. This is where some of the things don't work as much as most of their performances are pretty bad with the exception of Bookem Woodbine, the always badass Katee Sackhoff and beast of a man Dave Bautista. Sackhoff is easily the coolest of the bunch and while not given as much time with the action as she deserves still manages to make sure you know she's not playing around. Bautista is slowly establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with on the big screen with this his last and successful test run before bringing Marvel's Drax to life.
The rest of the mercenaries just don't work all that well but mostly due to performances and cheesy dialogue. Diesel dives right back into the character like he never left showing a true passion he has for the character. Sure there are some cheesy moments from him, but that is part of the fun of the character. Well that and his complete bad ass look and ability to kill everyone and everything around him. The CGI was decent for most of the movie with the only real issue being the dog-like creature that was a central character. At first it was easy to dismiss them, but with one becoming a major player alongside Riddick it needed a little extra time spent to get more realism to the character. That being said with the streamlined budget to the film it is easy to let it go and just enjoy the old school science fiction aspect to the overall film. Sure there are some ridiculous moments and decisions made by some of the characters, but part of that is the charm of it all.
The story here is pretty simple, but they did an interesting job of adding elements to connect this latest addition with both Pitch Black and Chronicles will letting it be its own movie. Diesel risked a lot to get Riddick back on the big screen and looks like it paid off. Returning to the roots of the character and making sure to include both throw away characters as well as badass ones that work made for an entertaining genre film. Hopefully this will be the return to this cool character and we can get more adventures that will hopefully continue to keep them simple as that's what makes the character so cool.
There are movies that come along that seem a bit out there, sporting a
cast that doesn't make all that much sense and it's usually is a good
thing. The stranger the story though, the higher risk you take on
getting something that just doesn't work. The latest Scenic Route
features Josh Duhamel and Dan Fogler and cover art that looks like
something out of the Road Warrior. Could this be one of those
surprisingly original films or is it another misleading generic
straight to video release?
Scenic Route follows two lifelong friends whose truck breaks down on an isolated desert road during a road trip. As the heat and despair begin to take over they begin to turn on each other, attacking each other's life decisions with unwavering brutality. Going into these kinds of movies you really never know what to expect, but here the movie really delivers. It's not anything breaking boundaries or anything, but just some clever filmmaking and storytelling. The story is pretty simple but manages to deliver a really effective overall tale. Duhamel has done comedy, drama, and action but here is given a chance to do a bit of it all and gives easily one of his best performances to date. His character goes the furthest off the rails of the two and really seems to dive head first into this role. The real surprise comes from Fogler who normally goes for the comedy route and has some funny moments here, but is given the chance to showcase more emotion and talent with this character and also delivers. These two guys worked really well together which was a must for this film since pretty much the entire film is just them at odds.
This is one of those rare gems that works on pretty much every level, but may lose some with the ending. While it works perfectly to the stuff they go through, those expecting more may be put off. Whether you get it or not the journey these characters take and the performances Duhamel and Fogler give make for a great film and worth checking out.
During the 90s HBO aired a series of documentaries featuring interviews
with Mafia contract killer Richard Kuklinski that was a peek inside
pure evil and easily some of the best documentaries to date that they
aired. While it's a surprise it took this long that a film adaptation
of his life would be made, the time has finally come with The Iceman
featuring Michael Shannon in the lead role, but does it succeed in
bringing the chilling real life story of this man to life?
The Iceman follows the rise of notorious contract killer Richard Kuklinski who goes from working as a porn lab tech to one of the most notorious contract killer in history. But as he tries to keep his family life and mob killing separate, circumstances and his own weaknesses threaten a terrible collision as the consequences of his choices finally catch up to him. If you have ever seen the documentary interviews with Kuklinski then you pretty much already knew the story but seeing it come to life in this film was just chilling. Usually with these types of films it hinges on just the script and performances, but here knowing the truth and hearing him tell the stories made this feel even more real. The always awesome Michael Shannon delivers a brilliant chilling portrayal of Kuklinski carrying this movie perfectly. The story does a good job of telling his story without trying to disguise him as some misunderstood character, but also letting us in on the toll it took on him once he lost the only thing he cared about. The rest of the cast do a great job with near unrecognizable David Schwimmer and Chris Evans playing against normal type and delivering some truly bad characters. Liotta is always great in this kind of role and not surprisingly shines here. Big props go to Stephen Dorff and James Franco for taking on some smaller but important roles to elevate this film. Despite everyone else being so good this never stops being Shannon's show. He embodies Kuklinski about as much as someone who is not insane could and makes you believe that's who he is. He has down his mannerisms and overall persona that takes what could have been a good movie to a great film.
If you have never seen the original interview tapes then this film will most likely not be as effective, but is still a great film. There are roles that people are born to play and while Kuklinski may not be the one you were born to play, Shannon sure makes you believe that. This film captures the time period and keeps it streamlined without a lot of useless information to create the true story of a man who was the embodiment of pure evil if there ever was one.
In a world of big budget blockbusters some of the best movies are the
smaller independent films from all over the world. The latest
Instructions Not Included is a Spanish/American film from writer,
director, and star Eugenio Derbez. While he has made appearances in
Jack and Jill with Adam Sandler and stole the TV show ROB with Rob
Schneider he is already pretty huge in Mexico, this marks his first
foray into directing but does he bring his usual comedy chops along
with the ability to create a memorable film?
Instructions Not Included follows a resident playboy in Mexico whose life is thrown upside down when a former fling leaves a baby on his door step. He leaves Mexico for Los Angeles in hopes to find the baby's mother, but instead finds a new life as a successful stuntman and raises the girl for over six years. But when her mother returns it risks everything they have built together. This is one of those surprising films that really deliver way more than you may expect. Eugenio Derbez has crafted a great film mixed with plenty of humor blended perfectly with a heart-warming touching story. The film is partly in Spanish and partly in English, but blends both perfectly to create a film that works for not only both markets, but also for all audiences even if they don't like subtitled films. Derbez has everything needed to lead this film with his already established ability with comedy, but carries the emotional aspect needed to bring the rest of this story together effectively. When making a film like this that involves a child actor to be just as integral to the story as the adult lead their performance can make or break the film. Thankfully Loreto Peralta is amazing and is able to hold her own alongside Derbez like a pro, despite this being her first role. Beyond being adorable and having the child innocence, she is able to bring the needed maturity to the role.
This is one of those small films that comes along and will really surprise you. While it has great performances, it lets the story lead the charge and knocks it out of the park. This is a comedy, but be warned this funny man has crafted a film that will not only tickle your funny bone, but also tug at your heart strings.
There are a lot of movies that come straight to video that feature
A-list actors, but for some reason they bypass the theater. More often
than not it's pretty obvious why, but some of them are actually pretty
entertaining for what they are. The latest Killing Season features
Robert DeNiro and John Travolta in a revenge action thriller, but could
these two aging stars deliver or will it be quickly obvious why the
hunt ended on the shelf?
Killing Season follows a reclusive American military veteran and a European tourist who strike up an unlikely friendship deep in the Appalachian mountains. But when the tourist's true intentions come to light, what follows is a tense battle across some of America's most forbidding landscape proving the old adage: the purest form of war is one-on-one. The story here is pretty simple and works fine for what they are going for despite some lacking historical accuracy in its backstory. DeNiro gives a decent enough performance but never really seems to put forth the ability that we all know he has. He seems to phone it in a bit just giving enough to make it work as opposed making it effective. Travolta does fine and has become king of getting visually into character, but despite a valiant effort his accent throughout the film along with the sometimes silly dialogue makes his performance a bit of a distraction. The opening of the film sets a bad tone as it looks like some low budget straight to TV film, but once you get passed the long drawn out slow paced attempt at character development things pick up a bit. If you can let those things go and just focus on the deadly revenge hunt that makes up the second half of the film it's not all that bad. They never step it into unbelievable territory, but instead allow each of them to have their moments making for some pretty fun old school action. At this point in the film these guys seem to wake up a bit and started having a good time.
This is far from a perfect film, but for a rental it's really not all that bad. It's a far cry from their past work and hopefully not the end, but it does manage to entertain despite its numerous flaws. The ending is a bit of a disappointment, but attempts to give these characters the redemption they are trying to find, but after everything prior you are wanting so much more. If you like either of these guys and most people do, give this film a chance and just watch it for what it is as opposed to what you hope it to be.
When done right some of the best films that come out are those based on
real life and usually from the most unexpected sources. The latest The
Butler comes from Precious director Lee Daniels who brings along an
amazing cast including Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo,
Terrance Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lenny Kravitz, Robin Williams, John
Cusack, James Marsden, Live Schreiber, Alan Rickman, and Jane Fonda,
but does the film pack the emotional and important punch that the
trailers lead you to believe?
The Butler follows a man's life as he becomes a white house butler and serves eight presidents during his tenure through the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and other major events that not only affect his life, but his family, and American. This movie had everything it needed to deliver a brilliant film and does not disappoint. Forest Whitaker has already more than proved himself as a great actor and once again he delivers an amazing performance with not only the varying emotions he is required to express, or not express, but also with the various stages of this man's age. The rest of the cast while a lot of them are pretty much just glorified, but important cameos may not have much to do, but they still seem to be really getting into their parts to make them effective as though they were the stars. This is something rarely seen and can affect the overall experience, but here is executed perfectly. This is a powerful story that is not just about the racial injustices throughout history, civil rights or history, but also a deeply emotional story of a man and his family as they struggle through these events in their own ways and try to make changes for the better. On one hand you have Whitaker's character trying to make a life for his family and on the other you have his misunderstood son who wants change for the world. Neither understands what the other is standing for, yet both wanting the same thing in the bigger picture.
The story is structured in a way that it feeds you a ton of information but never feels rushed. They could have easily got lost in the history of it all, but intelligently took just enough time with each historical moment and let the importance of how it affected history feature how it affected him personally and those around him. His growth as a character made each of these moments that much more effective and showcased the slow change in both him and his son in conjunction to bring their lives full circle alongside history itself. The other thing that really stood out is the direction of each president. They seemingly tried to portray them accurately to their beliefs and never tried to hide those that stood for or against segregation, but instead just as they played it. These are all important moments in this aspect of history and needs to be heard and understood. Whether you like him or not as a President, the election of Obama was an important moment in this story and kudos for the inclusion in such a way to point that out and bring it all together.
This is an amazing movie that is sure to touch those that allow it too. There are sure to be those that oppose some of the political moments depicted in this film as well as other aspects of the film, but that is just another sign of the ignorance of some people. This isn't what some may call a "black" film, but an important story about how far our country has come in acceptance and a reminder as too how far we still have to go. The brilliance of this film is not in question, but instead how many people will watch it and receive the important message it delivers and allow it to change them. It's already proved a success at the box office, now it's time to place your bets for how many Oscar nominations it will receive.
Over the years disaster movies have found a fan base like you wouldn't
believe. Most of them are a bit cheesy and make little to no sense, but
still manage to attract stars as well as fans. The latest Seattle
Superstorm stars Esai Morales with a title that pretty much speaks for
itself, but is the forecast for disaster worth the time?
Seattle Superstorm follows a NASA scientist and Navy Lieutenant fighting to solve the mystery of strange weather phenomena causing earthquakes, tornados, and lightning storms that's threatening to destroy the entire city. Much like most of these films, this one plays like a Syfy Channel film with all the cheese and ridiculousness as expected. Here though they opted out of going to silly and attempted to keep it somewhat serious and it actually works on some level. The story is simple with a lot of aspects being a bit too convenient but not all that surprising. The effects are the usual low budget effects, but most of them work pretty well. The filmmakers clearly tried to get some tone and sense of urgency to this film that comes across well enough, which is something that is usually lacking in these films. This film deserves credit for really trying to create a good movie, which goes along way despite budget.
Obviously these films are geared towards a specific audience, that loves these low budget cheesy flicks and they are sure to be entertained. There are sure to be those that love it and cannot wait to add it to their collection, but if you don't normally check these kinds of films out you will most likely be disappointed.
There are tons of movies coming straight to video with all-star
ensemble casts these days as opposed to getting theatrical releases.
More often than not it is pretty obvious why, but others are just so
out there they probably wouldn't connect with the average viewer, but
still make for some great entertainment. The latest Pawn Shop
Chronicles plays more like an anthology film that connects together and
features a great cast including Paul Walker, Matt Dillon, Brendan
Fraser, Vincent D'Onofrio, Norman Reedus, Chi McBride, Elijah Wood, DJ
Qualls, Lukas Haas, and Ashlee Simpson, but does it have the structure
needed to bring a film like this together?
Pawn Shop Chronicles follows a wide variety of wild characters including meth addicts, skinheads, a psychopath and an Elvis impersonator all linked together by a missing wedding ring. This movie delivers everything needed for a great anthology all wrapped in a redneck rebel flag with a pinch of Pulp Fiction for good measure. The first standout thing in this film is the characters themselves each more crazy and memorable than the next. Everyone delivers some great and over the top performances that mesh perfectly to bring each of these crazy stories together. Most of the cast play smaller cameo type roles with just a few of them leading the main charge. Each story is cleverly crafted so that they tell their unique story, but intertwine perfectly to bring it all back together at the end. When doing these kinds of films it is imperative to have moments where the stories crossover and here they do it with subtle but obvious to make for an even better overall film. The camera work is great on this film with it being gritty and dirty, as well as using some various styles to add to the finished product. All of the stories here are great, but the real standout involves Matt Dillon and Elijah Wood that not only sports a great story and performances, but some disturbing visuals that step this film up to a new level.
Just as important as the overall story is the way these anthologies come together and here it's done perfectly. Not only does it make for a complete film, but it brings everything full circle in a fun way and ridiculous way. If you are a fan of Tarantino's style and wacked out characters thrust into a meth fueled world of insanity then you will love Pawn Shop Chronicles.
There have been a lot of ensemble comedies as of late with a few
working and others struggling to find their place. The latest Rapture
Palooza brings together a great cast including Anna Kendrick, John
Francis Daley, Ken Jeong, Thomas Lennon, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson,
and Tyler Labine to tackle the biblical end of the world, but does it
have the story and execution to keep it all together or will it feel
like the end of the world trying to get through it?
Rapture Palooza follows a young couple who are forced into a battle with the Antichrist amidst a religious apocalypse with only the help of some pot head teens and an undead neighbor obsessed with mowing his lawn. This movie had everything it needed to work and does entertain for the most part, but somewhere along the way things get a bit cluttered. The first half of the movie is pretty entertaining and fast paced setting up this world, but as it moves forward it goes from clever to almost stupid. Craig Robinson who is normally pretty damn funny seems to be phoning it in at one point and then forcing it the next. He still has some great moments, but just doesn't live up to his normal fun. Anna Kendrick does a great job with her character keeping the goofiness to a minimum while seemingly taking this world seriously. The rest of the cast are hit and miss with a lot of their one-liners somewhat out of place, but a decent amount of them work as well.
This is one of those films that will probably only entertain a select group which is most likely the only people that will check it out anyway. There are some great funny moments and the film does entertain, just not as much as it could have given a little more polish to the script.
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