Taken 3 (2015) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

Oh, how quickly the Taken series has fallen apart. The first Taken was an excellent low-key thriller. It established Liam Neeson as an action-star and spawned a sub-genre of aging stars (not known for action vehicles) trying their hand at cinematic shoot-outs. Taken 2 was a lesser experience but, it still was superior to a lot of the imitators that sprung up in the wake of the original’s vast success. Now, with Taken 3 the series has finally hit its low point, this is a desperate last gasp.
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Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) – Review

3 Stars

Avengers: Age of Ultron grossed over $450 million at the domestic box office this summer. Yet, it somehow feels as if it was lost in the shuffle of Jurassic World, Mission Impossible and Mad Max. The sequel doesn’t manage to hit the creative peaks of The Avengers (2012) but, it is a solid popcorn entertainment piece with occasional flashes of brilliance. Murky plotting and a soggy second act nearly torpedo the fun. Luckily, the superior cast (all fully inhabiting these silly characters with surprising humanity) saves the day.
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The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

It was once a considered a Hollywood scarlet letter to portray a superhero in a big-budget blockbuster. Christopher Reeves suffered a career of low-grossing endeavors only to be constantly associated with his Superman screen iteration. Michael Keaton, once Batman, was nominated for an Oscar playing an actor stuck in a similar predicament. In today’s Hollywood, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Chris Hemmsworth, Chris Evans and now Henry Cavill have all stepped out of the shadows cast by their cinematic alter-egos to headline other films. Cavill takes on a role originally ear-marked for Tom Cruise, who smartly walked away when screenplay issues weren’t being solved to his liking. He should rest easy knowing that those issues still haven’t been worked out.
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Kull the Conqueror (1997) – Review

1 Star

It has long been rumored that the screenplay for what would become Kull the Conqueror was originally drafted as a third chapter to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan series. Apparently, unsatisfied with the writing Arnold turned down the role. The producers were at least deft enough to understand-No Schwarzenegger, No Conan. So, they retooled the main character into another Robert E. Howard literary character Kull of Atlantis, and cast television’s Hercules, Kevin Sorbo, in the lead role. This is important because in order to dissect a disaster, one must acquaint themselves with all the minor mishaps on the path to destruction. In the case of Kull, the screenplay is sophomoric, the swordplay is worse than some of the work in Sorbo’s Hercules series, and the entire movie looks made-for-TV. Director John Nicolella (props for being a creator on Miami Vice) is out of his depth. The direction is non-existent as tone and blocking are at high school film student levels.
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Fantastic Four (2015) – Review

2 Stars

Filmmakers have successfully aped Christopher Nolan’s blueprint for nihilistic, downtrodden superheroes so many times (and with relative ease), it’s tempting to fall into a repetitive trap. So, FOX must have felt assured when they brought in indie darling Josh Trank to essentially ape Bryan Singer’s style and the first X-MEN movie specifically. If they wanted a Bryan Singer movie, why not get Singer to make it? The result is a well-cast group of actors, all dressed up with nothing to do.
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Blackhat (2015) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

2015 has seen established respected filmmakers hitting career lows. Cameron Crowe’s lame Aloha was especially disappointing. Now, Michael Mann joins the list with the goofy techno-thriller Blackhat. This is a film that is desperately trying to be ‘of it’s time’, but continually relies on genre conventions that are at least twenty years old.
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The Unauthorized Full House Story (2015) – Review

2 Stars

The Lifetime Network has recently found great viewership (and critical derision) by delving into ‘unauthorized’ behind the scenes tele-movies based on wildly popular 1980s-1990s television programs. The script here is based on rumors, publicized contract negotiations and creative fluff. Sporting a script that hasn’t been adapted from a memoir, interview or talent themselves, the story is a sometimes amusing but extremely predictable series of events that led to Full House latching onto the national zeitgeist.
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Iron Man 3 (2013) – Review

2 Stars

In 2008, Robert Downey Jr.’s interpretation of Tony Stark was a blast of cinematic freshness. It was a major actor taking a chance on playing loony. Much like Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow, Stark gave a serious thespian an opportunity to become a global movie star. Now, five years removed from that scorching original take on the material, Iron Man 3 feels flat and ponderous. The actor, character and cross-plotting with other MCU properties has become off-putting.
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Aloha (2015) – Review

1 Star

Aloha is unquestionably Cameron Crowe’s weakest film to date. It is unfocused, forced, and lacking any sort of narrative drive. Since the script was written by Crowe (in addition to directing duties) there are occasional glimmers and specks of the talent shinning through but, too often characters become irritating. Another fatal flaw is the blatant misuse of the collective star power of Alec Baldwin, Bill Murray and Danny Mcbride, all wasted in throwaway roles.
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Strange Days (1995) – Review

3 Stars

Kathryn Bigelow’s ambitious, futuristic tale is a rambling opus that features just enough fresh elements to qualify as a recommendation. This is a technically dazzling film that attempts to tell a traditional murder mystery within the framework of a sci-fi thriller. The most surprising aspect of the story is a sub-plot about an assassinated militant rap artist, this creates turmoil in the streets between citizens and law enforcement. All of this takes place on the last days of the millennium as growing concerns mounts and general anarchy is the rule of the day.
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That Awkward Moment (2014) – Review

2 Stars

An engaging set of lead actors and a funny opening act are tossed aside in favor of romantic comedy clich├ęs and formula in That Awkward Moment. This slight movie can’t decide if it’s a bro-mance, gross-out, or serious look at relationships in the post Sex & the City New York. All three elements struggle for domination in a flick that has plotting issues and often loses its identity and purpose.
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