Tag Archives: action movies

Movie Review: Ip Man 2

Image result for ip man 2 movie poster free useIp Man 2 takes us to Hong Kong following Ip Man’s escape from China. There, we see Ip Man abandon his reluctance to teach in the hopes of spurring a new generation’s ethics and values as well as passing on the vast amount of knowledge he possesses. Ip Man finds Leung, a loyal student committed to his teachings, who slowly brings more students to Ip Man’s doorstep. Teachers in the area, determined to prevent this newcomer from overtaking their territory, do all they can to make Ip Man’s life difficult, especially Master Hung, the most respected among them.

The original Ip Man carried a tone of a well-respected figure beset by the problems of a vast population, a tone not far-reaching but one that does well to create its own niche. Ip Man 2 is a near replicant of The Karate Kid. Ip Man is entering a foreign land (If you recall, Danny LaRusso moves from New Jersey to California in The Karate Kid) and finds a trusted student, whereas in The Karate Kid, LaRusso finds a noble mentor. In both cases, the dominant school of thought feels threatened and the ensuing conflict is the duo of teacher and student strengthening their bonds as friends, growing as people and beating the bad guys, of course.

In most cases, I am not a fan of repeated story arcs. It’s often lazily attempted and haphazardly executed, and while Ip Man 2 is stealing a few tips from director John Avildsen (who also directed Rocky), it feels foreign (Get it? Because it’s a foreign film?) because of sly if not subtle adjustments by director Wilson Yip. Some creative locations help divert our attention and the focus of the film is not afraid to bounce from character to character, from student to padawan. Ip Man, who admitted to feeling useless at one point in the last chapter of this series, has redefined himself while still carrying that same mantle.

And if that was all we had, this bond between master and pupil, the further adventure that is visiting Ip Man’s character and the inclusion of what is still impressive fight choreography, we’d have a pretty good kung fu movie on our hands. You’ll notice the fight choreography goes at the end because of its importance on the totem pole. It is a dessert, not a main course. Can you eat dessert for dinner? Yes. Should you do it often? No. The same applies to movies who make action first and the rest second. If your dessert/action is really good, exceptionally so, you can pull this off. Otherwise, usually not a recipe for success.

Thus far, none of the Ip Man movies have used this recipe, properly organizing its elements in order of true narrative importance. It’s thematic devices are rather straightforward and ultimately succinct, but never to the point of thoughtlessness or the abandonment of personification, just not to the tier of contemplation one would prefer in a movie reliant on a character of this magnitude.

It stays true to its identity throughout its first half, never backing away from putting its tenacity on a platform and showcasing its performers, but some odd anecdotal choices create fissures in the work. Yip is insistent on keeping recurring characters, two of which are there for the pure sake of recollection.

Where Ip Man 2 really sours for me is when the film divulges itself into a culture war. It had a Karate Kid vibe going, a teacher-student bond, etc and it abandons this for this needless flamboyance of Rocky IV. In what is evidently an epiphany, the teachers decide to stop giving Ip Man a hard time and focus on a boxing match sponsored by the British Empire. This pretty much causes an earthquake in the film’s fabric, disturbing all that has been accomplished and pushing it to the side so we can have a match of Rock’em Sock’em Robots at center stage. It’s a very rough transition that Yip does his best to smooth out but he can’t obscure the splicing of two different stories though and that does hurt this film. Two incomplete movies assembled as one does not make one complete movie.

This embattled eastern culture spinoff isn’t bad, either. It’s a little eccentric and predictable, but probably would have sustained itself over the course of a full run time. We’ll never know though because of this rather sporadic diversion from character story to posturing of Chinese martial arts.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Captain America: Civil WarDeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe Babadook)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Olympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of Tomorrow)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Ip ManKong: Skull IslandThe InvitationHushGhostbusters (2016))

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Doctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (The Great WallRobin HoodUnderworldThe Do-OverX-Men: Apocalypse)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Underworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsportWar, The Ridiculous 6)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Most Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the Apes)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (Avalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe VisitThe Fantastic Four)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for Ip Man 2: 72.

While befuddled by some of the decision-making, I still find Ip Man 2 warrants a watch both as a continuation of a series and as a film all its own. Donnie Yen and a compelling score are here to assist you in your travels.

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Movie Review: Ip Man

Image result for ip man movie poster free useFilm is a transcending medium. In spite of language disparities, film is understood. Sadly, there will always be a small disconnect. Subtitles are an annoyance that can’t be ignored, not to mention that one mistranslated portion can significantly alter a message. With that said, the foreign film industry is one that should be respected and investigated. They have something to offer to film the same as anyone else.

The Asian film market is no different. Perhaps its biggest hit, Toho’s Godzilla is the longest continuously running movie franchise. Godzilla was a key component in creating the monster genre that is now popularized today and also demonstrated what at the time were one-of-a-kind special effects from Eiji Tsuburaya.

Other Asian industries have become known for their superb stunt choreography, especially in martial arts films. The Raid films, which I have sadly not seen yet, are examples of recent memory while Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee and Jet Li became Asian superstars many years ago. While stuntwork has become the staple of the Asian market, they’re capable of more than that. Every country’s theatrics are greater than any one aspect.

And so I introduce you to Ip Man.

Centered on the true story of the Kung Fu master that taught Bruce Lee, Ip Man is as much folklore as dramatic fiction, neither of which is problematic. Ip Man is both a character and a cultural icon, shouldering both the weight of his family and of his city. As the region of Foshan is enveloped by the Japanese during World War II, this struggle becomes heavier and widened. Ip Man is the beacon for a lot of people and through all this turmoil, he knows its his duty to stir hope.

This, sadly, is about as dramatic as our main plot is going to get. Director Wilson Yip doesn’t dive into anything more than that, taking a cautious but thorough route with a beloved figure. I imagine he may have been looking at the long-term possibilities here, knowing that trying to say all there was to say about Ip Man in one feature-length film simply wasn’t feasible.

And look, the plot may not be doing much for me, but I enjoy this movie. I really do. Each time I watch this, I gain more respect for it. There is some dramatization at points that takes away from the legitimate lens the camera is shooting with, but it does not erase the natural quality this movie possesses. It’s a finely crafted film from a visual standpoint. It’s just not an overly substantial one. It’s an interesting story because of what we see, not because of what we hear (in this case, read) or feel, at least most of the time. It’s rather basic storytelling presented with exaggeration at points, leaving us little contextual themes or underlying messages to chew on.

Donnie Yen is a more than competent martial artist and actor but his acting repertoire seems to fall by the wayside in favor of the action sequences. While Ip Man is doing an amazing job balancing his struggles, the pendulum of the film moves only one way: those action portraits.

The action novellas are pretty solid. For example, there’s a scene where Ip Man, armed with a feather duster, beats a man with a sword. These fighting sequences take both the stuntwork to execute and the direction to capture and frame them in a smooth rhythm. This process, for the most part, takes a lot of patience on the editing floor and from the actors themselves and so, whenever I see a practical stunt segment like this, I can only grin from the technique being displayed by the crew.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Captain America: Civil WarDeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe Babadook)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Olympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of Tomorrow)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Kong: Skull IslandThe InvitationHushGhostbusters (2016)Batman)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Doctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (The Great WallRobin HoodUnderworldThe Do-OverX-Men: Apocalypse)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Underworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsportWar, The Ridiculous 6)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Most Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturionPlanet of the Apes)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (Avalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe VisitThe Fantastic Four)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for Ip Man: 76.

Ip Man is a film that shows some of the best of Chinese cinema, but also never hits its full stride, leaving me hopeful for future installments but content with what I have here.

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Movie Review: Hardcore Henry

Hardcore Henry‘s action premise is, at the very least, original. Shot almost entirely on a Go-Pro, Hardcore Henry hopes to make a footprint on the film industry. If it doesn’t make big bucks, it should be able to gauge the interest of audiences and filmmakers for its originality alone.

While some critics have said the first-person action gets old real quick, I was hooked from the beginning. A movie shot like this, especially an action film, is going to have its detractors. If you don’t have a quick eye, chances are your head will start to hurt after a bit as you struggle to keep up. The adrenaline rush is empowering, breathing new life into what at times has become a dormant action genre. The choreography of stunts is an evolving enterprise and the invention and further application of special effects has made the attempts of practical stuntwork all the more difficult for its practitioners. Despite Mad Max: Fury Road‘s pathetic attempt to call itself a story, it showcased some of the best practical stuntwork in the history of film and was properly rewarded with six Oscars. George Miller’s film serves as a visionary for the action dreamers and one can only hope that films will start to model their work after extraordinary efforts like the ones we saw in 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road.

Hardcore Henry platforms a similar intensity to its product with a film technique that is the first of its kind and it’s also dynamic enough to keep a true action aficionado engaged and begging for more. Putting you in the shoes of the protagonist-in this case, literally-leaves the film with a look of a first-person shooter. Our generation loves to be dazzled. Call us entitled if you want; we don’t care. In terms of explosive content, Hardcore Henry is the best of 2016 thus far and when you consider it’s nearly four full months into the year, that’s impressive, especially for an independent film.

That’s right. This beauty is an independent film, removed from any major production studio. There is a stigma among the film industry that independents don’t succeed, the same way that artists without a label must not be relevant. This stigma isn’t without backing. I’ve watched a fair share of independent films and while they often present unique ideas, they falter at the fundamentals of movie-making. It’s also hard to thrill when you’re constricted by a budget.

Despite all the obstacle courses independent films have to jump, crawl, bend, and hurdle through, the independent corridor has its gems. It’s my belief that Hardcore Henry is one of those gems.

While its story is rudimentary, its simplicity allows audiences to focus on the action output of the film. That’s not an excuse, only a comment. Its story leaves much to be desired if the glamour of hand-to-hand combat, shootouts and chase scenes don’t catch your fancy. Director Ilya Naishuller relies on his action and almost avoids writing a story. Through a plot point, our main character, who we can’t see, is left mute. He doesn’t say a word the entire film, which isn’t to say he doesn’t have personality but his range is handicapped. If he was an established character, such as a video game character like Master Chief or Lara Croft, it’s not as much of a problem. We already have a pretty good idea of who’s at the head of our rendezvous. Henry is an unknown and remains that way at the story’s end. He’s a pair of eyeballs for us, an avatar in a sci-fi tale. He is a person though, not a machine and one feels slighted when the film spends so little time with him. Our villain is a pompous drama king who overexaggerates everything with no character parameters. Sharlto Copley’s character is engaging and serves as a talking tutorial for those who choose to watch this, but also feels like a charade by film’s end.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (DeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe BabadookInterstellar)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Olympus Has FallenThe Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of Tomorrow)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (10 Cloverfield LaneCreedScouts Guide to the Zombie ApocalypseCrimson PeakThe Martian)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Batman v Superman: Dawn of JusticePride and Prejudice and ZombiesThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2Beasts of No NationTerminator: Genisys)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (ConstantineRaceEverestHerculesThe Sentinel)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (War, The Ridiculous 6The Lost BoysZombeaversCrank)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (CatwomanThe GunmanThe VisitThe Fantastic FourThe Boy Next Door)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for Hardcore Henry: 64.

At film’s end, you want to rally for Hardcore Henry and applaud the action standard it regularly sets and meets for itself as well as the repertoire of emotions it manages in its set pieces, but I can’t deny another part of me is a bit peeved at the story’s mediocre success.

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Movie Review: War

Two of the best action stars of recent memory, Jason Statham and Jet Li. One would think building a box office hit with these two superstars would be a walk through Central Park. Evidently not, or maybe Hollywood is just that incompetent.

If there’s anything I’ve missed this last month, it’s been my followers and reading my blogging compatriots latest works, which I will be getting back to pronto, but there’s something I’ve missed about this whole blogging thing that I’ve missed even more than that. You know what it is? I just have a craving to watch a bottomless film. I get some sort of cynical satisfaction out of kicking a film when it’s down and very rarely do I pity such productions. Many of these films are begging for derisive commentary, especially when their primary motivation for making this thing and wasting everyone’s time was to make a quick buck.

There are few things I hate more than half-hearted effort. If you’re going to do something, do it right or don’t bother. I’m a perfectionist and always will be. Nothing I do will ever be good enough for me and I don’t think that’ll ever change either, so when I watch a film like War, featuring two great action stars in Statham and Li, and then watch Philip Atwell get the honor of sitting in the director’s chair, well, let’s just say getting on E-Bay and looking for a noose to hang myself with isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

What’s wrong with Philip Atwell? I’m glad you asked. Would you like to know what Atwell has specialized in? Music videos. The only feature film he directed prior to War was a music tour video. He directs rap stars’ music videos and for reasons unknown, this guy was given the keys to a $25 million vehicle with Statham and Li in the back seat. Wow.

A slow clap doesn’t give this boundless fallacy the justice it deserves. That would be like if I was a Nascar owner and gave the keys to my car to my son because he’d had some experience driving a PT Cruiser. That would be like allowing my daughter to cook on the grill because she’d had some experience with an Easy-Bake Oven. The comparisons are endless and I would encourage you to make some of your own in the comments.

The tone of this film from the very beginning is off. Events occur too quickly and suddenly we’ve already had a time jump. As I just mentioned in my last review, time jumps early in films usually aren’t a good sign. That time jump was a precursor to this film’s failings.

There’s nothing wrong with the stereotypical revenge ploy in an action film, but when that becomes the film’s magnet, the primary component of the experience, there’s some evident problems with that.

For one, a revenge film is predicated on the notion that the audience will be rooting for the protagonist and want to see justice served. Very rarely are we going to root for someone because the film told us to. Instead, we want to be given reasons why we should root for him, reasons that aren’t plot-related. We want character background, what that person meant to our protagonist, what loss they felt and naturally an inside look at our hero. When a revenge film doesn’t give any character background, the person is killed off within eight minutes, we’re not privy to how that loss impacted our hero and the only time we ever see our hero is when he’s shouting orders regarding how important it is that we catch his nemesis, you get a movie like War, an artificial action installment that feels like a sad penguin looking up at the sky wondering why his parents didn’t give him wings.

What’s more embarrassing about this is that these are basic questions that should be answered in the drawing board stage. These are entry-level questions and concerns for any movie. A film company and director can’t claim ignorance here. They can claim negligence and unbridled stupidity, but not ignorance.

So you could say I was pretty disgusted with War at the halfway point, especially when I stopped the film and went through Atwell’s “experience” for the 20 seconds it took to go through it.

Statham and Li have few scenes together, which leaves their rivalry far too cool and collected for anyone watching to get emotionally enraged and want to start screaming internally for Li’s demise. With two actors as talented with stunt choreography as these two, you would expect some fight scenes between the two, but minus a four-minute segment, which occurs in the last ten minutes of the film, you won’t find any. Atwell is so out of his element that he doesn’t even know his actors or how to properly utilize them. This type of unpreparedness is unacceptable and I can only guess that’s why Atwell has never been allowed to direct anything since.

A quick sidenote: While I was scrolling through Atwell’s Wikipedia page and his “experience”, would you like to take a guess what the first thing his page had to say was? “Philip G. Atwell (often misspelled Phillip G. Atwell)…”

That’s right. His profile was calling out those who didn’t do their research. Atwell didn’t make his Wikipedia page, I understand that, but does anyone else find it ironic that a man who’s clearly incompetent and grossly negligent in his work has caused others to be negligent with the spelling of his name? I just thought that was funny.

You see, writing reviews about films this bad on occasion can be difficult to me and far more time-consuming then they should be. I’ve been writing this review for two hours now and that’s because I honestly hate talking about it. War is great at causing a war of inner turmoil inside of you and makes you wonder how anyone could possibly mess up an action film with Statham and Li but doesn’t create much of anything else. The stunt pieces are there on occasion but the story is so topsy-turvy and out of sync that it disorients the action sequences the film is able to throw together.

The editing of the film is so lazy that the when characters speak in different languages, there are misspellings in the translation subtitles. That’s how lethargic this crew gets in their work. It’s lackadaisical and I honestly can’t even.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Avengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe BabadookInterstellarChappie)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (CreedScouts Guide to the Zombie ApocalypseCrimson PeakThe MartianBlack Mass)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2Beasts of No NationTerminator: GenisysBlack SheepTwisted)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (EverestHerculesThe SentinelMad Max: Fury RoadBlitz)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (The Ridiculous 6The Lost BoysZombeaversCrankErased)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The GunmanThe VisitThe Fantastic FourThe Boy Next DoorThe Colony)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for War: 41.

I haven’t felt this disappointed at the end of a movie in a while. Just eternal sadness. Statham gets another loss in Winners And Losers (WAL).

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Movie Review: Hercules

It has been such a long time.

Guys, I apologize for that. I’ve been in a writing funk lately, working on sports features and I was at my church camp two weeks ago, which meant I had no access to a computer or a phone for a week.

I’ve still been watching movies and have been saving drafts so I know what I need to get back to, but nothing ready to publish yet. Then I opened up Netflix for the first time in a while and there were a bunch of new releases. There are a bunch of films I’m excited to see on Netflix so aside from what’s on Netflix, what’s in theaters and what I own, don’t expect anything else. It’s time to get back to reviews. That and Breaking Bad.

And so, the first film that caught my eye on Netflix and will be my first review after my hiatus is….Hercules?

I’m as surprised as you but it was the first thing that jumped out to me. It’s been almost four weeks since my last post. I had to start cracking pronto.

I had considered seeing this in theaters but then I saw Brett Ratner and was like, “ha ha ha, NO.”

Even I, someone who’s never been a big fan of the X-Men franchise, understands how bad a movie X-Men: The Last Stand was. It was awful, one of the worst superhero films ever made. However, I find myself believing Ratner might have a resurgence. He directed the Rush Hour franchise and they all entertained at the most basic level. I think Ratner needs to go back to the basics. Make people laugh again and stop taking the dramas and action power plays. Leave those to the big boys.

As expected, Hercules is built on heavy CGI and by heavy I mean noticeable. This film could have been the rebirth or final bullet in Brett Ratner’s career. This was a big deal and we’re starting off with suspect visuals? I’m not saying I’m rooting for the guy but come on, man.

In ways, Hercules is what I expected it to be. It’s mindless action at its most bare which is also one of the biggest problems with it. Hercules is a legend and therefore, his character should be presented as such. Instead, Ratner seems lured to repeat what his successful predecessors have done (big budget action films) and misses out on the film’s greatest asset. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a solid actor and one of the few who did not start as an actor but who can act. Sadly, Johnson is neglected for almost the entire film. He trained for the role for more than half a year and yet is given no character to exemplify. Can you imagine dedicating that much time to something and then you get there and the event’s cancelled?

It’s a huge blight on the film that Ratner dismisses his most valuable piece to the film’s success, putting an unfair amount of responsibility on the supporting cast who is now led by a faceless hero. Hercules, a character that has been immortalized in history for centuries, remains faceless. Quite an achievement, Ratner. Quite an achievement.

Thank God for Ian McShane, as much of the comedy and Hercules‘ most entertaining moments are delivered by him. The rest of the supporting cast doesn’t hold the experience nor the talent required to cover up the “protagonist out to lunch” placard, leaving McShane looking around like, “Guys?”

The characters are weak as is the writing. Only with McShane is there any light at the end of the tunnel. I appreciate the side crew element in action-based films but there isn’t enough quirks or more importantly, dialogue and character establishment, to make me care about these characters. They are there and I’m forced to put up with them.

With Hercules’ character left behind, any plot threads associated with him hold minute value, which sadly are all of them. A few days later, I’m still struggling to understand how you look at this finished product and you think, “Yeah, we did the character of Hercules justice.” They let Johnson walk into the spotlight and then they threw a cloak over him. It’s like throwing a cloak over an easel because the artist didn’t know what to paint, so he tried to sell his clients a covered canvas. Makes no sense, but I guess $100 million budgets allow this these days?

To go even further, Ratner pokes fun at the legend of Hercules, painting it as a fool’s charade rather than a feared fable. Would it have been hard to craft the hero that I so wanted from this film? Of course. Was it within the reach of Ratner? Absolutely but when I see a film struggling as hard as this one is, I truly don’t think Ratner cares anymore what people think of him.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Avengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe BabadookInterstellarChappie)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Anchorman 2: The Legend ContinuesLeon: The ProfessionalEnemySleeping with the EnemyEquilibrium)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Terminator: GenisysBlack SheepTwistedParkerHouse at the End of the Street)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (The SentinelMad Max: Fury RoadBlitzThe PunisherDrive Hard)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (The Lost BoysZombeaversCrankErasedI, Frankenstein)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The Boy Next DoorThe ColonyIn the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege TaleThe GreyX-Men: Days of Future Past)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (CyborgOutcastSabotageGallowwalkersTucker & Dale vs. Evil)

My score for Hercules: 53.

With standard action and a plot line built on a bedrock of plot twists rather than on character, Hercules is the final nail in the coffin for Brett Ratner’s career. In what should have been a big deal for Johnson’s acting career, Ratner manages to make him as irrelevant as a snowball in the Florida summer heat. In closing, goodbye Brett Ratner. I think we all stopped wanting you after X-Men: The Last Stand.

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Movie Review: Terminator: Genisys

Alan Taylor’s Thor: The Dark World was crowned champion as my worst of 2013. With plot holes at an astronomical level, action scenes that were disappointing visually and conceptually, and acting directionless and talentless, Thor: The Dark World is easily the worst film that has come out of Marvel in recent years.

Had I known Alan Taylor directed this, I would have cringed but it would not have deterred me. Terminator Salvation was such a bad sequel, such a u-turn from the franchise’s previous direction, that James Cameron’s creation was begging for a rebirth. Sadly, they gave it to Alan Taylor.

Something else that the Terminator films have been doing lately is spoiling their own films in their trailers. Terminator Salvation had an awful, spoiler-ridden trailer. If you’re reading this review prior to seeing the film, DO NOT WATCH THE TERMINATOR: GENISYS TRAILER 2. Luckily for me, I don’t watch much television so I never saw the second trailer, for if I had, the film would have been spoiled. However, I am one of the lucky ones. There are millions who were not so lucky and had their experience destroyed before they purchased their ticket.

The purpose of marketing is obvious: to market, to sell a product. How do we sell a movie? Well, highlight the main actors, the director, maybe a few minor plot points, and a strong emphasis on visuals. I wrote a piece entitled The Art of the Trailer that you might check out to explore the world of film marketing further.

To sell a film, what should we not do? Well, let’s not divulge any plot twists. Can you imagine how awful The Sixth Sense would have been if Shyamalan had revealed one of the best plot twists of all-time in the trailer? That would be incredibly stupid, wouldn’t it?

Someone on the staff of the marketing department for Terminator: Genisys heard this argument and said, “You know what? I don’t see what’s wrong with that.” I don’t know if this was the boss that decided this and all of his subordinates just decided to play along so as not to incur his wrath or if the whole department was brimming with incompetence, but this was a poor decision from an entertainment and financial standpoint. If you reveal what’s going to happen, why would we pay to watch it?! It is the simplest argument in the world, yet in two consecutive films, the marketing department managed to play dumb and get paid for it. Think about it: some guys got paid, healthily I might add, to spoil a film connected to one of the most well-known franchises in film history. Wow.

So there’s that.

However, as I said, I avoided the stupid and for that I’m thankful.

Yet another stupid however: the marketing department and the script writers collaborated at the beginning of this film.

I had never seen The Terminator, the first film, until last week and that was because I suspected it to be closely tied to this film. I will kid you not, the sets and shots are exactly the same as the first film. Whether this was meant to be an ode to the one that started it all or not, it’s irritating. It went on for at least ten minutes. The intrigue of such a strategy lasts a few minutes, but ten is far too long. No one likes verbatim material. No one.

Once Terminator: Genisys decides to start being its own creation, it’s not awful, but once again, time travel is incorporated, a feature that I think needs to be removed for good from this saga. The franchise is an endless loop: send terminator back, send someone to aid the Connors. Kill terminator. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. There’s only four repeats instead of five because thankfully, Terminator: Salvation avoided that concept. That was one of the only pluses to the movie.

If Skynet can continue to send terminators back and the resistance can continually gain control of a time machine to send someone back themselves, without that sequence of events ever changing, this war will never end, making myself all the more irritable when a character says a variation of, “If we do this, Skynet is done.” No, it is not. No matter what you do, that won’t happen. The Skynet of the future will somehow realize you are trying to destroy its existence in the past and will send one of its killing machines farther back in time to kill Sarah Connor. Then the resistance will send someone to protect John Connor from a young age. Then Skynet will send someone to kill that young John. Then they’ll send someone to kill older John. Then they’ll say, “Screw it” and send someone back to kill a young Sarah. The process is monotonous.

For me, the Terminator franchise is a prime example of why films should avoid the concepts of time travel. With as many variables, equations and results that such a theory carries, it is impossible for everything to be accounted for. The first two installments demonstrated a thorough evaluation but delve any further into it and complications arise. The continual usage of all-too similar story lines is why I believe the franchise is overrated, but that’s a discussion for another time.

The writing is fair but introduces another fatal flaw to yet another Taylor-directed work. James Cameron’s endorsement of this movie strikes me, because Genisys falls not in left field, but in a ballpark on a different continent.

Describe the Terminator franchise. It’s a simple enough task if you’ve watched any of the films: post-apocalyptic, a world covered in grunge and desolation and seemingly hopeless. They are films foreshadowing the end, brewing technology’s deadly capabilities and artificial intelligence’s problem-solving and creativity. Character bonds are built on survival but remain distant from emotion. There is no time for that. This is war. There is violence. There is destruction and chaos. There is termination.

At no point would one say the franchise epitomizes excessive humor, romance, character reversals or feel visually out of its element, but I assure you that Terminator: Genisys has all these characteristics.

Alan Taylor is such a talentless hack, he tries to jump on the coattails of Age of Ultron and the more recent Jurassic World (which I strongly recommend), films that can get away with precisely dispatched humor because the element was never blacklisted from the franchise. Perhaps a handful of one-liners could be gathered from the four films combined, but Taylor is incognizant of the Terminator franchise’s semblance in cinema and decides to make a film comparable to an action-filled sitcom. Did he watch the franchise?

Taylor’s lighthearted attitude is the antagonist to a serious action film and contradicts everything that the franchise emboldens. In an age where film now heavily relies on visual effects, Taylor’s visual editing is awful, from major scene transitions that I’ll mention in the spoiler’s edition to fights that don’t have the dominant punch the Terminators are known for. The action is performed, not executed with the element-defining quality that Cameron’s two installments remain famous for and even Rise of the Machines and Salvation attempt to replicate. The action does not hold the gravity that the Terminator franchise has stamped on it.

Alan Taylor, I hate you. Here’s to hoping you never have a managing job again in any field of work, especially cinema.

Thankfully, Arnold Schwarzenegger finally got back on the horse and demonstrated he might have some gas in the tank after all and right when we were pulling into the car dealership to trade him in, too. Jokes aside, I’m happy for Arnold. As an actor, Arnold deserves better performances than The Last Stand and Sabotage, both colossal failures. He owes it not just to his audiences and fans, but to himself. After a laughable governorship and a quite possibly more laughable career re-ignition, I was begging for Arnold’s retirement in Winners And Losers: Round 1 (WAL). Watching athletes and actors struggle with something that was once so natural for them is hard to watch and in some cases, diminishes their legacy and unless I hate you, I don’t wish that for you. So since I’m saying that, Taylor, I take back what I said. Please continue making movies you and only you think are good and continue to dig yourself into a hole of negligence and unending criticism for your inadequacy and continual carelessness.

If Terminator: Genisys has a great thing going for it, it’s Arnold learning how to breathe again in front of the camera. He’s entertaining, his humor works and his stage presence is finally present again. Terminator Salvation missed its leading man badly and the franchise did well to return him. Bravo and welcome back. Try to stay back now and please be cautious of what you choose to star in next.

Why Jai Courtney continues to get roles and especially in big-name productions, I’m unsure, but thankfully, he remains tolerable and develops some chemistry with Emilia Clarke’s Sarah Connor. It’s not mind-blowing or particularly engaging but it’s there and it is what it is.

Arnold’s Terminator plays a father figure to Sarah and the bond that has grown for years that we sadly don’t get to take part in is admirable and at times, touching, if once again misplaced. Jason Clarke as John Connor also plays a substantial role if not the one he should have ever been tasked with. Once again, I’ll touch on that in the spoilers.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Avengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe BabadookInterstellarChappie)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Anchorman 2: The Legend ContinuesLeon: The ProfessionalEnemySleeping with the EnemyEquilibrium)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Black SheepTwistedParkerHouse at the End of the StreetThe Raven)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (The SentinelMad Max: Fury RoadBlitzThe PunisherDrive Hard)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (The Lost BoysZombeaversCrankErasedI, Frankenstein)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The Boy Next DoorThe ColonyIn the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege TaleThe GreyX-Men: Days of Future Past)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (CyborgOutcastSabotageGallowwalkersTucker & Dale vs. Evil)

My score for Terminator: Genisys: 65.

A case of mistaken identity, Terminator: Genisys is nowhere close to what it should have been but Taylor’s best efforts to suck this film dry of life or entertainment are stifled by Arnold’s first true comeback role and Jason Clarke’s portrayal of Connor against the unbeatable odds stacked against him. It is a fun sequel but certainly not a good one. It’s fair and it’s better than Terminator Salvation, but a film this poorly directed has no invitation to compete with Cameron’s imaginations. Perhaps it can compete with Rise of the Machines, but I’ll have to watch the series again before I can decide. My disappointment notwithstanding, please put a much-deserved win on the board for Arnold.

*SPOILER ALERT* IF YOU DON’T WANT THE MOVIE SPOILED, STOP READING!!!

*SPOILER’S EDITION*

The big spoiler that the second trailer highlights is that John Connor has been taken over by the terminators…or decided to destroy the world. One of the two. I don’t really know.

The thing is, in both the movie and the Wikipedia plot summary, it says something to the effect of the terminators captured John and infected him. What he’s infected with I don’t know but he’s now made of nanorobotics. It also seems improbable that John is under mind control because he tells Kyle Reese, Sarah and the Terminator what happened to him and that he’s been tasked with the survival of Genisys.

Regardless of what actually occurs here, the Terminator franchise essentially killed their star hero that has been the focus of all these films from the beginning. Not since Spider-Man 3 has a film taken its main character and disfigured him in such an extreme way. This, I assume, is the biggest reason that Genisys has tanked at the box office and has been mercilessly assaulted by critics. They took the hero, the cornerstone of this franchise’s legacy and they destroyed him and to make matters worse, turned him into the villain to continually remind us of their horrible experiment. It did not ruin the film for me, but it definitely took 15 points off the top and for many fans, much more than that.

Now, to editing. When Kyle and Sarah first time travel to 1984, the Genisys clock says 11 hours. They are transported in the middle of the highway and cause a lot of accidents, are arrested and taken to the police station. When they get to the station, we see the clock says 4 hours. It took 7 hours for the police to arrest them, which happened almost immediately after they got there and to take them to the station…

In a later press conference at Genisys, the clock says 21 hours till initiation. This is one of the most notable, unintentional plot holes I’ve seen in a long time. I have no clue how everyone missed that.

In a scene later in the movie, Connor pulls the ignition out of a school bus Sarah, Kyle and Arnold are in. The bus is driving along the Golden Gate Bridge and is shown flipping front first, vertically, along the bridge, but in the next shot, the bus is shown flipping horizontally, spanning side to side, something that is physically impossible.

Finally, in Sarah’s flashback to when her family is killed, she jumps into a lake and hides under the dock and hears her house explode with her parents inside. Arnold comes walking along the dock and sees her through the boards, picks her up and carries her away from the danger. It is worth noting he is carrying Sarah Connor with one arm and in his other arm? A bazooka. You would think a correlation between an exploding house and a terminator carrying a bazooka could be found, but Sarah never notes any suspicion of that, nor is the flashback mentioned again.

That, my friends, is stupid writing.

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Movie Review: Crank

If I was asked to describe Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor’s Crank in one word, it would be “different”.

Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) wakes up dazed and confused before he sees a left-behind recording and gets a phone call from Ricky Verona (Jose Pablo Cantillo) confirming that Chelios has been poisoned with the Beijing cocktail, which inhibits the flow of adrenaline, slows the heart and eventually kills the victim.

If you’re someone who longs for immediate immersion in your films, you’ll enjoy the way this comes out of the gate. If you have become used to seemingly required backstory at the introduction of films, you may not be as fond of Crank.

I can appreciate both sides of the fence when it’s executed in the right manner. Crank is revving up the engine, which would be impressive if the engine wasn’t a bicycle in first gear, a gear that is great for exercising, not so much for going places.

Opening the door the way it does earns Crank some leeway, however, because Chelios doesn’t know anything either. It provides an audience-character parallel and to a certain point repairs early scars with duct tape. To an extent. This doesn’t forgive a complete lack of introductory outline or audience consideration.

The direction from Neveldine and Taylor emphasizes sharp edits and harsh, rapid cuts, giving visual adrenaline to complement a hurried story.

Shaky cam is a technique that should be used sparingly and viewed like mayonnaise. If you don’t want your serving to audiences to be void of taste, please limit the shaky cam. Shaky cam should be a condiment, not an overdressed salad. Matching the film’s shots to the tempo should not be prioritized over an audience’s ability to watch it, for obvious reasons.

The technicalities of apace film-making flaunted in Crank are oddly charming, however, and after displacing continual missteps from my memory bank, remained entertaining. The unorthodox style intrigues and smacks me in the face at the same time and for some reason, I was okay with that. Not sure why, but from an entertainment perspective, I felt the abrasive approach contributed to what Crank was trying to be…I think.

I’m not sure what Crank was trying to be. The scripting is like an elementary school student who proudly brings home an art project for his parents. He holds it up as he would a championship trophy and while his parents are happy for their son, they don’t have a clue what it’s supposed to be. To them and most everyone else, their son’s masterpiece looks like a mass of muck and pudding.

Which is not to say there isn’t anything worth cherishing in a youngster’s work. Quite the contrary. To continue my metaphor, imagine that same situation but the son is 30. Now you wonder how that guy’s going to make a living.

That’s what I was watching, a shapeless growth with little to no personality being presented as a final project, with no edges or indentations, just a blob of pictures. There’s no form to Crank. It just…is. Crank prioritized being a speedster flick so much, it flew by characters and plot, the pinnacles of story.

Jason Statham, bless his soul, has been struggling of late with the last few films I’ve reviewed, which you’ll see in next week’s round 2 of Winners And Losers (WAL). Crank has many of the same failings: poor story, buried characters and an overall experience that won’t let you breathe.

Crank‘s main failing is its inability to introduce supplementary characters to help Statham, a recurring problem in the Brit’s films. Producers and directors continue to give Statham inadequate material and sometimes even more inadequate actors to play opposite and alongside him, leaving Statham out to dry in the middle of the ocean for the umpteenth time. You would think these producers and directors would watch other Statham films before hiring the guy and think, “man, there’s no one helping Statham here at all. That was actually a pretty bad movie. I think I know how we can avoid that. Let’s get a second good actor for our film. Does anyone else think that’s a good idea? No? Ok, whatever.”

Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it is a common phrase, one that many of Statham’s employers have not paid attention to as they continue to utilize the same inadequate actors and same substandard scripts as the producers and directors before them. People that learn nothing from the past and continue to make the same mistakes as their predecessors are known as morons and have no place in the industry, so yeah, you could say I’m pretty angry with Neveldine and Taylor. Stop leaving my man, Statham, out to dry!!!

Thankfully, I need not bemoan Statham’s role in Crank because he came to play with this one. Crank is not one of Statham’s better films and I’ll never recommend it, but I still consider this a W for Statham off the fact that the guy tries so hard to make this lousy script work. Characters cuss a lot more than they need to and coming from someone like me, that’s saying something because I don’t have the prettiest of mouths. Actually I guess I’m not that pretty to begin with but that’s beside the point. The point is that Statham, for all of this film’s 88-minute run time, is running all cylinders at full speed ahead. He’s got a zinger line here and there to deliver with that rasp of his and he does what he can with unambitious stunt choreography. Once again, Statham does what he’s forced to do on a regular basis: get on his knees, have a film placed on his shoulders and try to stand up and support it by himself. If the film was even halfway articulate, it might have been decent but it misfires too many times to put on a good show.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (InterstellarChappieAmerican BeautyGone GirlMulan)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (EquilibriumDead Snow: Red vs. DeadSnowpiercerThe FamilyWhen the Game Stands Tall)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Black SheepTwistedParkerHouse at the End of the StreetThe Raven)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (BlitzThe PunisherDrive HardRun All NightRage)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (ErasedI, FrankensteinThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesBilly Madison)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The ColonyIn the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege TaleThe GreyX-Men: Days of Future PastThor: The Dark World)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (SabotageGallowwalkersTucker & Dale vs. EvilSafeWatchmen)

My score for Crank: 46.

Disorganized, choppy and needlessly vulgar at points, Crank tries too hard to separate itself from the masses and instead becomes a mass itself. Statham adds one to the win column with his spontaneous protagonist but while Crank exceeds in the visual department at times, it cannot escape Shaky Cam Syndrome, blank acting and an eye-drooping plot.

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Movie Review: Blitz

I watched Jason Statham star in Chaos on Sunday night but don’t remember as much from the film as I would like so I didn’t write a review. To make up for it, I scrolled through my Netflix history for films I watched but didn’t review. I give you the cop-killer film, Blitz, starring Jason Statham yet again.

I’m obsessed with the guy’s accent, the power he can bring to a few lines of dark humor and the burlesque films he continually stars in. If you have no idea what burlesque is, that’s okay. I didn’t either. I’m trying to learn new words lately and expand my vocabulary.

burlesque- an artistic composition, especially literary or dramatic, that, for the sake of laughter, vulgarizes lofty material or treats ordinary material with mock dignity.

Statham’s films have that mocking gumption flavor to them but Blitz plays a stark contrast to Statham’s previous work.

One of Statham’s more memorable introductions is featured in Elliott Lester’s 2011 British crime thriller. I don’t know why but for some reason, this film seems so much older than that. It’s got a 90’s feel to it and perhaps that’s because the script seems so barren, the story so predictable and the acting so devoid of life.

Perhaps that’s being a little harsh but when I first saw Blitz on TV, I hated it. I watched it a second time with my roommate, Jon, during the fall semester and still wasn’t wild about it. I gave it a third try and I’m done with it. It’s just not my cup of tea.

Detective Sergeant Tom Brant has anger management issues, but he’s also really good at his job: getting thugs behind bars. He’s tested when someone starts targeting cops. It’s up to Brant to catch the perp and do it before he finds himself in front of the barrel.

It’s basic enough but not very complicated or intriguing and the cast list doesn’t instill much confidence either which is both this film’s downfall and Statham’s seemingly impassable barrier to becoming a brighter star on the Hollywood strip.

Statham is a hard-working actor that guarantees a genuine attempt at making a film all its own, but he doesn’t have the acting flair required to carry a great film on his shoulders. He’s one of the better action stars of the past decade and some of the stunts this guy pulls off are gravity-defying. It’s when the compass begins to point up and Statham attempts a film out of his genre that the windows fog over.

Crime thrillers are built on a story’s suspension, its ability to remain aloft and out of reach but still appeal to our sense of intrigue while it plays puppeteer upstairs. Thrillers are meant to toy with our minds and thrill us, hence the term thriller. Thrillers are meant to be manipulative. If you watch a thriller and aren’t thinking about it a few minutes after watching it, then the thrill wasn’t there, the thriller didn’t thrill and the film failed at its primary purpose.

Lester seems decided on exploring a variety of topics in his film but runs away from them as soon as he opens the envelope like a kid jumping in and out of puddles or an artist trying to dab his paintbrush in all the colors on his palette. We’ve got drugs, alcoholism and police brutality and rather than have a few minutes to decide how the audience feels about all these things, we’re swung through a drive-thru of cinema and they’re onto the next customer before they served the first one.

For example, there’s a scene where Brant goes to visit one of the new inspectors, Sergeant Porter Nash (Paddy Considine) and confides to him that he’s losing it, that he’s blacking out. Nash tells a personal tale and Brant falls asleep during it for comedy reasons. The discussion of Brant’s “losing it” and “blacking out” is never brought up again. Why’s it in there then?

Blitz teases audiences with relevant material but then, like a bratty sixth-grader, laughs in our face for believing him and instead hands us some more toothless dialogue and unrelated subplots.

Statham’s never given the chance to flex or demonstrate his forte: action sequences. Aside from a long chase scene where Statham shows us he can run and do a little parkour, Statham’s experience as a stuntmaster is never utilized. The stunts are sometimes the only entertainment you can get from a Statham film and Lester finds a way to steal that enjoyment from us, too.

Statham’s got some fun quips and jabs here and there to throw around but there’s no diversity to his character.

The subplots are a waste of time and our villain, played by Aidan Gillen, is a punk. The concept of a character not giving a crap works but the execution here is porous. Gillen is not a talented enough actor to pull this off.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (InterstellarChappieAmerican BeautyGone GirlMulan)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (EquilibriumDead Snow: Red vs. DeadSnowpiercerThe FamilyWhen the Game Stands Tall)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Black SheepTwistedParkerHouse at the End of the StreetThe Raven)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (The PunisherDrive HardRun All NightRageZoolander)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (ErasedI, FrankensteinThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesBilly Madison)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The ColonyIn the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege TaleThe GreyX-Men: Days of Future PastThor: The Dark World)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (SabotageGallowwalkersTucker & Dale vs. EvilSafeWatchmen)

My score for Blitz: 57.

It might say crime thriller on the cover, but Blitz never gets to the point of thrilling anyone. The acting aside from Statham struggles, the villain is out of his league and undercut, the film fails to take advantage of Statham’s stunt aptitude, the subplots are excessively horrid, especially the acting from Zawe Ashton, and there was a need for a stronger costar to stand alongside Statham. Luke Evans was present but given an off-the-street role. Basically, this review is short because I’m tired of devoting any more of my time to this.

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Movie Review: Run All Night

Ladies and gentleman, let me introduce you to Taken 4.

I’m as surprised as you. I didn’t expect another sequel so soon after they just made Taken 3 in January but I guess we underestimated the work ethic of Hollywood, huh?

This isn’t even a joke, guys. I’m serious. Run All Night is a garbage title anyway. If Taken 4 Run All Night printed their DVD covers and put a duct tape graphic over Run All Night and wrote in red or black sharpie on top of that “Taken 4“, I would buy this movie just for the simple but yet evidently difficult admission that they didn’t try to make an original film.

If you’ve seen Taken 3, Liam Neeson says something to the effect of, “I feared one day my sins would catch up to me.”

If you see Taken 4 Run All Night, Neeson’s opening monologue contains that phrase almost verbatim.

I chuckled to myself and looked over to my mom and she was already angry with me, claiming I wasn’t giving the film a chance. Liam Neeson is her favorite actor, which is why I was in the theater watching this.

I love Liam Neeson. He is one of my favorites as well, but how do I watch an actor deliver a monologue not just from the same cloth or the same script, but the exact line from another film and keep a straight face? Tell me in the comments if I’m being unreasonable.

So, I’ll admit it. It was really hard for me to try to engage myself in director Jaume Collet Serra’s third Neeson experiment. He directed Unknown, which was a miss for Neeson but got back on track with last year’s Non-Stop. Non-Stop wasn’t great and I’ll admit I scored it higher than I should have, but the film had some originality to it and held suspense over me despite the fact that all of the happenings took place on an airplane.

And despite Non-Stop being a decent action flick, I wasn’t all that impressed with Neeson’s part. The character writing was far too rigid to make much of anything out of it, but Neeson tried and I’d probably give him a win for that. Also, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, after this post, I’m going to start my new series called Winners and Losers. There will be an explanation of the series and what to expect from it so you’ll know what I’m talking about then. Until then, I’m leaving you in the dark, which is ironic because that’s what I felt Run All Night did and not because it was shot in the dark, you smarty pants.

I don’t mean left in the dark in the sense that we didn’t know what was going on. Trust me when I say that you will know EVERYTHING that is going on, has happened and will happen later. A map wouldn’t have made this film any easier to navigate through. We already found one in Neeson’s introduction.

What I mean by left in the dark is that the performers, story and production as a whole never grabs us by the shirt collar and tries to bring us into the experience. The light is in the middle of the stage and I’m standing behind the curtain reluctant to go out. This film, if it were a person, gave me a light tug that even a toddler could have held back from and then gave up.

I can not recall a film that gave such a fetal effort to involve me in its story. It was truly pitiful.

What made it worse is that Run All Night didn’t just copy off of Taken. It stole the script from Road to Perdition, which I wrote a review on.

The story of Road to Perdition, if you find yourself a little too lazy to read the review, is the original Run All Night.

Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) is a gangster hitman but his sons don’t know that. Stuff happens, Sullivan’s wife and youngest son are killed by the mob boss he works for after his eldest son, Michael Jr. witnesses a mafia murder. Sullivan and his son rob the banks that have the mob money and Sullivan kills a bunch of people, but he won’t let his son do any of the killing because he wants his son to live a good, clean life. Sullivan is convinced he’s going to hell, but he believes that there’s hope for Michael and that belief is what drives Sullivan the entire movie.

Run All Night is almost the same thing aside from a few minor stipends.

Jimmy Conlon (Liam Neeson) is a hitman whose life is pretty much over. He’s still a part of the gang but he’s getting old, his wife’s dead and his only son, Michael (Joel Kinnaman) won’t talk to him because of the things he knows his father did.

Conlon’s best friend and boss, Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris), are the best of buds and served in the military together. When Maguire’s son, Danny (Boyd Holbrook) goes off the deep end and murders two heroin dealers, Michael, a limousine driver, witnesses them and runs back home, so now Danny feels he has to kill Michael. Conlon saves the day but takes the life of Maguire’s son and even though Maguire admits his son “went wrong”, still feels the need to claim revenge and kill Michael himself.

The rest of the film is pretty predictable and I’m not going to go any farther with it. Just know that if you’ve seen Road to Perdition, you’ve seen this movie.

The fact that the son’s name is Michael in both movies only enraged me further. Come on, guys. Really?

Whereas Road to Perdition is more of a drama, which you should expect when you see the name Tom Hanks, Run All Night is more of an action flick, which you should expect when you see the name Liam Neeson.

Collet-Serra’s attempt at action doesn’t interest me though. There were a few segments where I got a little excited but I’d like to emphasize the word “little”. They weren’t overly original including yet another action scene in a bathroom. I don’t even want to go over the scene where Conlon strangles a guy with a paper towel roll and yes, that actually happened. Paper towels are meant to separate when pulled. How hard do you have to pull the paper towels in this world to separate them?! Do you expect me to take this seriously?

A plot synopsis like this only made me that much more thankful to have Liam Neeson in my life because he was the only thing keeping this thing afloat. Neeson has developed a certain talent for livening things up. Similar to Statham sometimes in the roles he chooses, Neeson has the bravado required to shoulder a shoddy film and provide some sort of enjoyment for a disgusted audience. I wish he was more selective with his roles, but Neeson is still one of today’s biggest action stars. Taken, the cult classic that it is, brought a new weapon to Neeson’s repertoire. Neeson’s acting career was on the downturn but after the success Taken had, Neeson suddenly had another coal in the oven to burn before his eventual retirement.

Joel Kinnaman started his career with no coals in his “acting oven” and doesn’t look to be adding any anytime soon. No true connection was to be found in this father-son relationship. Ed Harris was left lifeless with his poor character arc and dialogue.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (InterstellarChappieAmerican BeautyGone GirlMulan)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Dead Snow: Red vs. DeadSnowpiercerThe FamilyWhen the Game Stands TallBlack Hawk Down)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (TwistedParkerHouse at the End of the StreetThe RavenDead Snow)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (RageZoolanderThe Expendables 3HomefrontG.I. Joe: Retaliation)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (ErasedI, FrankensteinThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesBilly Madison)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The ColonyIn the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege TaleThe GreyX-Men: Days of Future PastThor: The Dark World)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (SabotageGallowwalkersTucker & Dale vs. EvilSafeWatchmen)

My score for Run All Night: 53.

Taken 4 meets Road to Perdition in an action flick that I’ll applaud for its scene transitions but little else. Aside from yet another Liam Neeson appearance, it’s a film worth skipping on. Run All Night is one to run away from.

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Movie Review: Transporter 2

The sequel to The Transporter, Jason Statham returns as Frank Martin in Transporter 2. An easy job chauffeuring a kid to school, Martin’s doing the quiet and easy. He’s staying out of trouble and taking it easy for a little bit because his last escapade gave him a run for his money. However, he’s still Frank Martin and you know trouble is bound to knock on his car window sooner or later.

As I highlighted yesterday, The Transporter wasn’t a bad movie but it forced limitations on itself by overreaching its creative boundaries with a story that was more complex than it needed to be but overall was still an entertaining presentation.

Transporter 2 is very similar. Statham still has loads of fun with his action scenes and I feel there is some more development for Frank Martin, although that isn’t a major factor in this film. It’s still a movie filmed in the 2000’s that desperately wants to be set in the 80’s when audiences didn’t care all that much about the characters or any sort of conducive story. It was all about the fun, the smirks and the occasional gasp.

That’s all Transporter 2 is trying to do. It knows its precipice isn’t that high but it knows what it is and isn’t going to try to be something it’s not. It’s going to direct according to the action hero playbook, step by step and that’s that.

Personally, taking the path of those before you is the easy way out and doesn’t ride well with me. However, as I mentioned with The Transporter, you could tell the screenwriters tried to add some flavor to it so the dish didn’t taste so bland and for the most part they did a good job. It’s kinda like going to a new restaurant and ordering chicken noodle soup. No one does that because we already know what we’re getting. Chicken noodle soup is something you eat at home. When I watch a movie, I don’t want chicken noodle soup, you get it? I’d like a grilled salmon with fried mangoes and pineapples on top or a pair of pork chops marinated in a teriyaki sauce. Exotic and tasty, not something I can whip up in a microwave, capisce?

Statham gives us the stern faces, the choreographed fight scenes are always a good bite and the plot line should not be expected to be overly complicated although The Transporter came very close to falling into that sand pit.

Transporter 2 has its own sand pits, such as getting a little too ballistic with its action sequences. A blast to view, realism is thrown out the door on more than a few occasions. Still fun but you can tell the laws of physics and normal stunt choreography were left at the door. There’s one scene in particular involving a fire hose. It’s an entrancing series of shots, but what?

Let me put it to you this way: Transporter 2 makes errors where plenty of action movies make errors. They put something on the screen that’s just a little too preposterous for even the irrational action diehard who will more often than not give the film the benefit of the doubt. It has scenes where even these guys are like, “Uhh, no. Just no.” At the very least, we can say the men behind the pen had a clever idea so it doesn’t deserve too harsh a punishment, but when the genre’s most loyal fans are calling you out on stuff, you know you tipped the kettle a little too far. There were also two specific sequences of terrible CGI, which I was very surprised by because the visuals were pretty good until they threw these two dumb things in. One of them could have easily been eliminated from the script so if they didn’t have a good CGI shot I don’t why they didn’t just do that. Seems like common sense to me but I also hear common sense isn’t all that common anymore either so…

As I said above, acting isn’t this film’s strongest play but at the very least it had a more prominent villain who reminds us there is someone else in this film aside from Jason Statham and the Frenchman. I like Statham as much as his most loyal fans, but if we’re watching a movie with a conflict, I’d like it if the conflict had two faces, one for each side of the coin.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog,  I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.

 90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Transformers: Age of ExtinctionJack ReacherGodzilla, SecretariatPrisoners)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Tears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2Young GunsCloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too.(Battle: Los AngelesSkyfallCloudy with a Chance of Meatballs300Flyboys)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (The TransporterSpeedGodzilla(1998)The Incredible HulkDisaster Movie)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (The Starving GamesYou’re NextThorFull Metal JacketAlien Resurrection)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Billy MadisonA Haunted House300: Rise of an EmpireCowboys and AliensSerendipity)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Planet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice, The Contract)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (X-Men: Days of Future PastThor: The Dark WorldThe Sum of All Fears)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (A Haunted House 2Open GraveAlien 3Dark FuryMidnight Cowboy)

My score for Transporter 2: 70.

It fails to reach the peak of its potential but Transporter 2 learns from the mistakes of the original and convinces audiences that there is more to be had in this series, especially Statham roundhouse kicks and car chases.

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