Killing Salazar (2016) – Review

3 Stars

The long fall from grace for action icon Steven Seagal has been a burden to his many fans. Since 2003, Seagal has appeared in almost 30 straight-to-DVD movies. That’s two dozen more than the 10 pictures from 1988-2002 that were global box-office sensations. In the last decade things have grown even more dire as Seagal has become a supporting player in his own movies. That’s the case, once again, in Killing Salazar. Even though Seagal and UFC legend Georges St-Pierre are featured prominently on the cover art, neither man has more than 3 minutes combined screen-time in the film’s first 30 minutes. This type of bait-and-switch is usually the kiss of doom for Seagal enthusiasts. However, Killing Salazar stands on its own quirky merits and distances itself from the rest of the pack (Seagal has 6 movies coming in the next 12 months).
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Hard Target 2 (2016) – Review

3 1/2 Stars

For all wall-to-wall action and martial arts mayhem you’d be hard pressed to beat Hard Target 2. Once again reinvigorating a discarded franchise is director Roel Reiné, the Paul Greengrass of the straight-to-DVD world. Like Greengrass, Reiné should be off crafting important works of cinema instead of toiling away in the action genre, but as a fan I appreciate him for lending his skills and craftsmanship to silly tales of ‘one-man army’ heroics. Twenty-three years after Van Damme tore through the Bayou with Lance Henriksen in pursuit, B-movie action icon Scott Adkins headlines the Van Damme-less sequel that supplants the action from the swamps of Louisiana to the jungles of Miramar.
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Suicide Squad (2016) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

Summer 2016 will go down as a season of cinematic mediocrity. Just a decade ago the span from May 2nd – August 31st produced memorable if not classic films, this year’s offerings have been so forgettable that movie-going has turned into a semi-chore for this reviewer. Promising to inject life into the dreary hot weathered months is Suicide Squad, the latest building block in the DC universe. Arriving with a vibrant neon advertising campaign and featuring (arguably) the king of summer blockbusters Will Smith, Suicide Squad is not the masterpiece fanboys are stumping for nor is it the vile incompetent trash that the nation’s critics have implied. Frankly, the film sits right in the middle of both arguments.
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Ghostbusters (2016) – Review

2 Stars

The rebooted Ghostbusters film has arrived in theaters riding a wave of negativity. The internet has been ablaze for months over the casting, the poorly received first trailer, and the idea that the 1984 original is a masterpiece. So, let me state that the 2016 movie is better than I expected but it’s clumsiness and anti-male sentiment gives the film an off-beat vibe. Ranking the new Ghostbusters as not much of an improvement over the cynical cash-grab sequel from 1989. This is a faithful homage/re-imagining that manages to blend its special effects with sporadic laughs for a spirited and entertaining, but disjointed movie-going experience.
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Eraser (1996) – Review

3 Stars

Eraser is a latter-day entry into the Schwarzenegger summer box-office blockbuster bonanzas. It lacks the style, charm, and sophistication of predecessors like True Lies or Total Recall, but Eraser has small pleasures that add up to an entertaining experience with the big man totting bigger guns and throwing-out outrageous one-liners.
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Central Intelligence (2016) – Review

3 Stars

Box office Heavyweights Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart make an amusing screen coupling in the light-weight action-comedy Central Intelligence. This is a comedy that’s more ‘fun’ than funny. The appeal of each headliner individually and as a screen duo is rare these days. Both men have already shown themselves to be fond of appearing in sequels, and if I have to choose between another Ride Along, G.I. Joe or a follow-up to this–I’d choose this pairing again.
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Barb Wire (1996) – Review

2 Stars

It was inevitable that starlet Pamela Anderson would eventually top line a studio-backed big-screen feature film. Anderson’s international fame from the television show Baywatch made her one of the most famous actresses on the planet, even if she wasn’t much of an actress. The public’s focus was squarely on her ‘assets’ and not her acting. Anderson’s ample bosom is on display early and often in Barb Wire, a sci-fi comic-book adaptation that is aimed directly at pre-teen boys and their fathers’.
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We Are Your Friends (2015) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

The sheer charisma of the cast nearly offsets the banality of the plotting in We Are Your Friends. Obviously inspired by Trainspotting (visually), Boogie Nights (storyline), and Saturday Night Fever (introducing a musical phenomenon to the masses)–the energy level is kept high and the film doesn’t over stay its welcome, but the predictability of the script makes this one feel like it’ stuck on repeat. First-time feature Director Max Joseph shows promise with a clear understanding of visual language, smart editing choices, and interesting artistic flourishes.
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Independence Day (1996) – Review

3 1/2 Stars

The mother of all Alien invasion movies and a star making vehicle for Will Smith, Independence Day is still the best movie from German director Roland Emmerich and his producing partner/co-writer Dean Devlin. Riding in on a wave of ingenious marketing, ID-4 would become a cultural phenomenon. It was the biggest hit of 1996, and the highest grossing science-fiction film since Return of the Jedi.
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Fathers’ Day (1997) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

Father’s Day is a fairly abysmal comedy starring two of the previous decades’ highest regarded comedians. It’s arguably Director Ivan Reitman’s worst, although Junior will always hold that place for me, and it features way too much of Mark McGrath and Sugar Ray. This ‘High-Concept’ comedy was based on a very successful French film, Les Compères,but something surely got lost in translation. Producer Joel Silver, who has no previous experience with comedies, is the man responsible for pooling all the on-screen talent in an unsuccessful attempt at re-creating the magic all have shown in better films.
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Sheena (1984) – Review

1 Star

Sheena: Queen of the Jungle reminds me a lot of another blonde comics hero that also made its way to the screen in 1984, Supergirl. Tonya Roberts and Helen Slater each had their opportunity to start a female driven action franchise and both of the resulting films are laughably bad. Roberts is the big-screen incarnation of Will Eisner’s comic-strip heroine Sheena. Aiming for a target audience of Conan, Beastmaster, and Indiana Jones fans–Sheena is perhaps the most sexually explicit PG rated film I’ve ever seen. It’s no wonder that 1984 was the year the MPAA invented the PG-13 rating.
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The Shallows (2016) – Review

3 Stars

Oceanic adventure films have always possessed a voyeuristic under-current. Going back to the opening shot of Jaws, to Jacqueline Bisset’s wet t-shirt in The Deep, Jessica Alba’s closely observed rear in Into the Blue, and now Blake Lively’s bikini-clad beach body. It’s an unspoken appeal of the genre, it is undoubtably used to market and sell the film to young men, while providing visual pleasure even if the films aren’t quite as marvelous as their semi-nude stars.
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X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) – Review

2 Stars

X-Men: Apocalypse is neither the best nor the worst in the franchise, It’s simply the newest. After eight movies in sixteen years, this series is notable for retaining its creative forces, but everything has become one episodic tale that would be impenetrable for newbies. At this point X-Men is the longest running of the superhero tales invading theaters. Sure, Superman and Batman have been matinée idols since their reinvention in the 70’s and 80’s, but those roles been recast numerous times, different directors have given their take, and audience reaction has varied drastically from film-to-film. At least the X-Men series gets credit for rebooting whiling also finding ways to still integrate the original stars.
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