Dangerous Ground (1997) – Review

1 Star

I remember reading an interview with actor Ice Cube in which he declared Ghosts of Mars as the worst film of his screen career. Well, Mr. Cube you must have forgotten that you appeared in this terrible action thriller from the late nineties, four years before Mars. The aforementioned plays Vusi, a young man who is exiled from his homeland of Africa for revolutionary acts toward the ruling regime. Already the movie revels its preposterous, to think a twelve-year-old boy is causing such trouble that he is sent abroad rather than killed is pure fantasy in today’s harsh reality.
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Chain of Command (2015) – Review

1 Star

Chain of Command is shockingly amateurish, especially considering it stars Michael Jai White and Steve Austin, two B-Movie action icons typically associated with above-par genre fare. For an advertised action/revenge flick there is a shortage of action, the few sequences that abound in the film’s first thirty minutes are so poorly executed that it drains the picture any shot at achieving guilty pleasure status.
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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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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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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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Vertical Limit (2000) – Review

2 Stars

I initially saw Vertical Limit in the theaters during the winter of 2000. I can’t decide if the movie played better on the big screen, or that it has simply aged very poorly. This is a big-budget adventure picture set in the climbing world, specifically centering on a disastrous trek for a group led by a feuding brother and sister. Arriving after the vastly superior Cliffhanger, Vertical Limit never comes off as anything more than melodrama with some alternately beautiful location photography and blatant use of sets, backgrounds, and CGI techniques.
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X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

I’ve never been able to quite understand the long-lasting appeal of Marvel’s X-Men. There are now seven movies in the series (though not in successive order) and I have long grown tired of the trials and battles between mutants and humans. X-2 is one of the best superhero films ever committed to film, but it is now 11 years and five sequels later and the originality, luster and my own emotional attachment to this world and characters have long faded. Series’ regular Hugh Jackman is once again beefed up and in charge of the show as the Wolverine. Jackman now stands among Moore, Connery, and Stallone as actors who have portrayed the same role in six different movies. He commands the screen as the muscular mutant with iron claws, but Jackman has never been the problem with these flicks. It is the same rudimentary plot devices over and over again, the novelty this time around is the time travel element. This gimmick allows Wolverine to visit an alternate universe that ties the series’ fractured timeline together.
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Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015) – Review

4 Stars

The ageless wonder, Tom Cruise, is back to his high energy antics in his latest slam-bang thrill ride, Mission:Impossible-Rogue Nation. This entry is the strongest ‘spy’ movie since Casino Royale back in 2006. Now, that Bond does more brooding than bashing, Ethan Hunt is back on the job to satisfy that international intrigue itch and send audiences home sedated. This fifth film in the M:I series is an absolute joy to behold, clever and clean in terms of storytelling, editing, and overall execution. Director/writer Christopher McQuarrie does an excellent job behind the camera with assured direction and some brilliant set-pieces.
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Terminator Genisys (2015) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s iconic line “I’ll be back” is starting to become a veiled threat. Terminator Genisys is a crushing disappointment for any fan that can recall the pure cinematic joy of experiencing the James Cameron episodes in theaters. T2 was one of the greatest movie-going experiences of my life. To think that years later the series would be relegated to this shambled, unimaginative bore, is devastating. Lethargic direction, bad casting and confused plotting are issues that bedeviled this blockbuster into submission. Even the usually reliable Schwarzenegger seems to be lost in the ho-hum proceedings.
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