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action thriller

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

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

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)

CD10002_JackRyan_ShadowRecruit.jpgDIRECTOR: Kenneth Branagh

CAST: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh

REVIEW:

Has any film character, apart from the continually recast James Bond, been rebooted as many times as Jack Ryan?  Originating in Tom Clancy’s Cold War international espionage novels and then played onscreen first by Alec Baldwin, then Harrison Ford, the CIA operative was rebooted as a fledgling new recruit—and transported into the present day—with 2002’s The Sum of All Fears, where he was played by Ben Affleck, and now he’s been rebooted all over again, with Shadow Recruit doing what Casino Royale did for James Bond and starting the character completely fresh with no connection to the previous films.  Clearly Kenneth Branagh and the studio is hoping for Shadow Recruit to be more successful at kickstarting a new Jack Ryan franchise than the previous attempt at a reboot, The Sum of All Fears, which spawned no sequels, but only time will tell.  Clancy fans might grumble about Ryan being removed from his Cold War origins, but taken on its own terms, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a smoothly diverting action thriller that represents a worthy fresh start for the long-running character. Continue reading

Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

originalDIRECTOR: Antoine Fuqua

CAST: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Rick Yune, Dylan McDermott, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo, Radha Mitchell, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Cole Hauser, Finley Jacobsen, Ashley Judd

REVIEW:

Olympus Has Fallen isn’t up to the level of the original Die Hard, but together with Air Force One, it’s one of the better “Die Hard-style” action movies that have come out over the years.  In fact, it’s a better pseudo Die Hard movie than the fourth Die Hard.  Kinetic action sequences and a high violence quotient set this one above the lesser wannabes.  It’s not great filmmaking, but it’s serviceable high-stakes hardcore action that serves up a couple hours of diverting entertainment. Continue reading

Elysium (2013)

elysiumDIRECTOR: Neill Blomkamp

CAST: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, Wagner Moura, William Fichtner, Faran Tahir

REVIEW:

Elysium is a tense, engaging sci-fi action thriller with an intriguing premise that’s good for almost two hours of entertaining escapism, but it’s also a film that wets the appetite while leaving us wanting more. Continue reading

World War Z (2013)

world-war-z-poster-bannerDIRECTOR: Marc Forster

CAST: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, David Andrews, Fana Mokoena, Ludi Boeken, Pierfrancesco Favino, Peter Capaldi, David Morse

REVIEW:

Fans of Max Brooks’ book of the same name, a pseudo-documentary collecting accounts of survivors from a worldwide zombie apocalypse, are not likely to be impressed with Marc Forster’s screen adaptation, which owes little more to the written source than the title, basic premise, and some plot ideas. Taken as a standalone film, World War Z is still flawed but fares better. Its scattershot focus gives it a fragmented, episodic feel, but it’s entertaining and boasts some impressive set pieces and tense sequences. Continue reading

Skyfall (2012)

DIRECTOR: Sam Mendes

CAST:

Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Berenice Marlohe, Albert Finney, Rory Kinnear, Helen McCrory, Ola Rapace

REVIEW:

WARNING: THIS REVIEW WILL DISCUSS SPECIFICS OF THE FILM’S PLOT

While Martin Campbell started the process in 2006’s Casino Royale, with Skyfall, Sam Mendes has truly finished what Casino Royale started—rebooting James Bond as Christopher Nolan did with Batman and J.J. Abrams did with Star Trek, taking the series back to the starting gate as if the previous films never happened. Casino Royale, star Daniel Craig’s debut—which was well-received—took 007 back to the basics, whittled down to the bare bones, with no gadgets, no Moneypenny, no Q, the quipping and sexcapades kept to a restrained minimum, and 2008’s Quantum of Solace—which was generally regarded as a disappointing follow-up—continued in this vein, but Skyfall truly completes the circle of the old and the new, keeping the “new” series’ restraint and seriousness (by Bond standards, at least), while adding a few familiar ingredients that were MIA in its two predecessors back into the mix. Most notably, Skyfall can stand on its own as an individual film. Familiarity with the events of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace is not necessary. Continue reading

Looper (2012)

looperDIRECTOR: Rian Johnson

CAST: Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano, Piper Perabo, Noah Segan, Garret Dillahunt, Summer Qing, Pierce Gagnon

REVIEW:

Time travel is commonplace in sci-fi stories, sometimes used effectively, sometimes as a flimsy plot device.  With Looper, writer-director Rian Johnson finds a way to embrace the inherent paradoxes and incorporate them into a hard-hitting sci-fi thriller in ways that are intelligent and unpredictable.  Looper is not just a generic action flick with time travel as a plot device; it’s a smart movie that works on different levels as an action thriller, a sci-fi story, and even a morality play, and stimulates the adrenaline, the brain, and the heart.  It’s not a perfect film, but its narrative is engaging, involving, and thoughtful, and doesn’t shy away from a tragic vein. Continue reading

Terminator: Salvation (2009)

DIRECTOR: McG

CAST:

Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin, Bryce Dallas Howard, Moon Bloodgood, Common, Michael Ironside, Jane Alexander, Helena Bonham Carter

REVIEW:

Terminator Salvation, the fourth entry in the ‘just when you thought it was over’ Terminator series, returns to the bleaker, grittier feel of the earlier installments, but like its immediate predecessor, lacks the depth of the first and second films despite working on the most epic canvas of any of them. Continue reading

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