The Magnificent Seven (2016) – Review

3 1/2 Stars

Antoine Fuqua’s remake of John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven, which itself was a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, is the best traditional big studio-released western in over 20 years. Lately revisionist takes on the genre such as The Revenant, True Grit, Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight have dominated the format. So, it’s refreshing to see a sturdy unabashedly earnest honest-to-goodness ‘cowboy’ movie. This marks the third successful collaboration between director Antoine Fuqua and leading man Denzel Washington. Although, equally captivating are Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, and Vincent D’Onofrio.
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Breakheart Pass (1975) – Review

3 Stars

This Alistair MacLean scripted tale of murder aboard a moving locomotive in the 1870s is basically dinner theater with fine actors. The material may be route but the fully capable cast make this is an entertaining experience, even when director Tom Gries stumbles with spatial form and lackadaisical direction. Lead actor Charles Bronson is again a man of few words, he’s almost silent until the third act when his real identity is revealed, but that works in creating a mysterious aura around his villain character.
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Uppercut Man (1988) – Review

1 Star

Uppercut Man a.k.a. The Opponent is an Italian made cheapie that serves as a lower echelon example of that country’s exploitation era. The B-movie producers in Italy were renowned for their constant sword & sandals rip-offs of Conan the Barbarian or The Beastmaster. So, it should come as no surprise that the Italian’s eventually turned their attention to ripping-off Rocky.
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Elysium (2013) – Review

3 Stars

Elysium isn’t the masterpiece some were expecting following director Neill Blomkamp’s District 9. That film was nominated for ten Academy Awards including Best Picture. That’s a tough act to follow and it proves too much for the talented writer/director. Elysium is a better than average sci-fi tale that presents some intriguing ideas but never ignites they way his previous film did. Matt Damon, leaned out and bald, makes a compelling anti-hero who is forced into the position of rebel due to a series of increasingly dire events.
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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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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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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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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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