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action

Baby Driver (2017)

DIRECTOR: Edgar Wright

CAST: Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Eiza Gonzalez, Jon Bernthal

REVIEW:

After all the higher-profile, more anticipated movies that have all, to greater or lesser degrees, felt underwhelming and failed to meet their hype (for my $.02, at least), it’s a simple, straightforward action flick that completely succeeds at what it sets out to do.  While their two plots don’t have much in common besides featuring some street chases, Baby Driver might appeal to those who enjoy the likes of Premium Rush; it’s nothing deep or complicated, but it provides a couple hours of breezy, fast-paced escapism and is an eminently engaging and satisfying entry for those seeking some straight-up action with dashes of humor and romance (and a busy soundtrack) thrown into the mix. Continue reading

Collide (2017)

DIRECTOR: Eran Creevy

CAST: Nicholas Hoult, Felicity Jones, Ben Kingsley, Anthony Hopkins

REVIEW:

Filmed in 2014 for an October 2015 release, Collide was delayed by the bankruptcy of Relativity Media until being picked up by Open Road Films and eventually finding its way into a low-key February 2017 theatrical release.  In retrospect, it might as well have stayed on the shelf it had been gathering dust on.  Collide might be an adequately diverting action flick for the bored and undemanding, but it’s generic and disposable, and smacks of direct-to-video fare given a thin veneer of respectability with a slumming cast. Continue reading

The Great Wall (2017)

DIRECTOR: Zhang Yimou

CAST: Matt Damon, Tian Jing, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe, Andy Lau

REVIEW:

The Great Wall was touted as a major collaboration between the Chinese film industry and Hollywood, with the biggest budget in the history of Chinese motion pictures, special effects by Industrial Light & Magic, and a collection of respectable talent including Matt Damon, acclaimed director Zhang Yimou, and writers Tony Gilroy and Edward Zwick, but the end result is lackluster.  The Great Wall might be entertaining for twelve-year-old boys demanding nothing more substantive than some action, special effects, and big battle scenes, but is a waste of time and money for anyone else, including the cast and crew. Continue reading

Assassin’s Creed (2016)

creedDIRECTOR: Justin Kurzel

CAST: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Michael K. Williams, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling

REVIEW:

For whatever reason, Hollywood has had a hard time coming up with a successful video game-to-film adaptation, and unfortunately Assassin’s Creed does not buck the trend.  An obtuse, poorly-edited mishmash of generic action sequences, narrative incoherence, and pseudo-scientific/historical mumbo jumbo that sounds like it’s out of a second-rate Dan Brown novel, one senses the movie would be direct-to-video fare without the presence of a couple of top-flight actors and a hefty budget, and frankly that’s where the quality level lies. Continue reading

London Has Fallen (2016)

London-Has-Fallen-Butler-EckhartDIRECTOR: Babak Najafi

CAST: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Charlotte Riley, Radha Mitchell, Melissa Leo, Robert Forster, Jackie Earle Haley, Alon Aboutboul, Waleed Zuaiter

REVIEW:

2013’s Olympus Has Fallen wasn’t any kind of great movie, but it was a surprisingly enjoyable Die Hard knock-off with enough hardcore action to satisfy fans of the genre.  But while an entertaining enough diversion, it wasn’t a movie that particularly cried out for a sequel, and London Has Fallen has the hallmarks of a sequel that was slapped together because the original did well at the box office, not because the filmmakers (with Antoine Fuqua replaced in the director’s chair by Babak Najafi) had any fresh or innovative ideas.  London Has Fallen is tired and generic with a low energy level.  For undemanding, mindless diversion, it might still be adequate, but those seeking those qualities would be better-served just re-watching the first one (or better yet, the granddaddy of them all, the original Die Hard). Continue reading

Spectre (2015)

spectreDIRECTOR: Sam Mendes

CAST: Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Monica Bellucci, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen

REVIEW:

After taking iconic super spy James Bond back to the nitty, gritty basics in 2006’s Casino Royale and 2008’s Quantum of Solace, the “new” rebooted 007 film series slowly worked familiar Bond ingredients (Q, Moneypenney, the Aston Martin, more liberal use of the Bond theme) back into the mix with 2012’s Skyfalland now with Spectre, director Sam Mendes and star Daniel Craig, reuniting from Skyfall, have brought Craig’s Bond full circle with his most “traditional” outing yet.  Of Craig’s four Bond films, Spectre has the most “classic Bond” feel, but admittedly part of the strength of Casino Royale and Skyfall was that they eschewed the conventional Bond formula, or at least used it with restraint.  Spectre is entertaining, but it lacks the freshness of Casino Royale and the emotional depth of Skyfall.  In resurrecting the shadowy global domination organization Spectre, last seen as a recurring villain in Sean Connery’s Bond films of the ’60s, the “classic Bond” pieces have nearly all clicked into place, but the movie lacks a certain spark.  There’s a by-the-numbers feel here that makes Spectre an entertaining Bond adventure but, unlike Casino Royale and Skyfall, not one that transcends the genre. Continue reading

Ant-Man (2015)

ant-manDIRECTOR: Peyton Reed

CAST: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Michael Pena, Bobby Cannavale

REVIEW:

Like most of the solo outings of Marvel’s sprawling ensemble of superheroes, especially those coming after the “event” Avengers episodes, Ant-Man feels like filler, a lightweight diversion to pass the time while bored at the multiplexes waiting for the Avengers to assemble again.  The introduction of a superhero who is decidedly not considered among Marvel’s top tier (was anyone really clamoring for an Ant-Man movie?) also suggests Marvel Studios might be starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel in its continual quest to expand its cinematic “universe” and add more characters to its already crowded roster.  To that end, Ant-Man is an adequate diversion, but generic and forgettable.  The Marvel cinematic universe has moved on from this sort of thing.   Continue reading

Terminator: Genisys (2015)

genisysDIRECTOR: Alan Taylor

CAST: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jai Courtney, Emilia Clarke, Jason Clarke, J.K. Simmons, Matt Smith, Byung-hun Lee

REVIEW:

WARNING: THIS REVIEW WILL REVEAL “SPOILERS” OF THE FILM’S PLOT

Much like several other once-mighty film franchises from the 1980s and 1990s, including the Alien and Predator series, the Terminator just doesn’t know when to quit.  1984’s The Terminator was a solid launching pad, and 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, like its predecessor helmed by James Cameron, stands to this day as one of the best sci-fi action thrillers ever made, and represented the franchise at its peak.  Unfortunately, like Alien, everything was downhill after #2.  Cameron’s two installments told a self-contained story with a beginning and end.  Cameron moved on and Hollywood should have too, but as is so often the case, a property is never left well enough alone when studios smell profits to be made from an iconic brand name.   Continue reading

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

vehiclesDIRECTOR: George Miller

CAST: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Riley Keough, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Zoe Kravitz, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton

REVIEW:

In 1979, an Australian doctor-turned-director named George Miller made a low-budget movie called Mad Max that went on to make a star out of a then-unknown Mel Gibson and virtually launch the post-apocalyptic film genre, as well as serve as inspiration for any number of post-apocalyptic and road chase movies in the decades since.  Miller followed up with 1981’s The Road Warrior and 1985’s Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.   In the interim, he directed such far more family-friendly fare as Babe and Happy Feet, but Mad Max was always his baby.  During the hiatus, Miller tried various times starting in 1998 to make the film which would eventually become Fury Road, but after several mis-starts, star Mel Gibson dropped out in 2003, feeling he was too old for the part but giving Miller his blessing to forge ahead without him.  In 2009, after several Australian actors (including the late Heath Ledger) unsuccessfully pursued or were considered for the title role, British actor Tom Hardy, at the time still a virtual unknown on this side of the Atlantic, officially stepped into Max’s boots.  Filming commenced in November 2011 but was forced to move from the Australian Outback (the filming location of every previous installment) when unexpected heavy rains transformed the desert into lush fields of wildflowers inappropriate for the look of the movie, relocating instead to Africa’s Namib Desert.  And now, after an arduous shoot and lengthy post-production, Fury Road has finally brought the long-dormant action franchise roaring back onto the big screen.  For many, the thirty-year gap between Beyond Thunderdome and Fury Road will be worth the wait.  By Miller’s own admission, this is the movie he would have made all along if he’d been able, and it is clear that this long-gestating project has been a labor of love.  Armed with a budget he could once only have dreamed of (reportedly approximately $150 million), Miller has given us a new adventure that is recognizably a Mad Max movie but also does its own thing.  Mad Max has returned with a bang. Continue reading

The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron (2015)

avengers-age-of-ultron-trailer-2DIRECTOR: Joss Whedon

CAST: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Paul Bettany, Don Cheadle, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgard, Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Thomas Kretschmann, James Spader (voice)

REVIEW:

As a second “all hands on deck” assembling of the historic all-star team-up of 2012’s The Avengers, Age of Ultron underwhelms.  While Captain America: The Winter Soldier managed to be a worthy adventure in its own right, other chapters like Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World felt like obligatory filler, something to pass the time in between Avengers films that you could skip without missing much, but unfortunately Age of Ultron lacks the freshness and giddy sense of glee that made the first Avengers such an infectiously enjoyable spectacle.  Seeing Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Hulk, and company all united onscreen isn’t as novel an experience as it was three years ago, and their adventure here feels more obligatory than epic. Continue reading

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