From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

From Dusk Til Dawn is a tale of two movies, each battling for screen time. Like Grindhouse, this vampire story could have played out in a double feature. Instead the narrative is split into halves, the first is a hostage picture with strong dialogue, the second a horror movie with little talking and lots of visual mayhem. The former section works better than the latter half. The screenplay from scribe Quentin Tarantino is literate and overly violent, not surprising given the writer’s other works. The film’s main problem is in not providing a main character that is sympathetic or likable, the Gecko brothers are raging psychopaths.
(more…)

The Perfect Storm (2000) – Review

3 Stars

The Perfect Storm is a perfectly fine example of Hollywood craftsmanship. This is a solid tale told with narrative clarity, visual sharpness, and good casting in every role. Wolfgang Peterson, known for his submarine deep-sea thriller Das Boat, rolls his story out slowly over the first forty minutes, before sustained nautical action ratchets up the tension.
(more…)

Fight to the Finish (2016) – Review

2 Stars

Good son, Sean McGill (Shane Warren Jones) is a highly touted amateur fighter in MMA. Having recently won a local tournament and donated the winnings to his financially struggling parents, Sean is eyeing a professional career in the sport. His father was a former champion (although cage fighting didn’t exist before 1993) that won a hellacious battle in 1985. That sequence opens the film and immediately the budgetary limitations and lack of quality fight choreography are evident. If those things are bothersome for fans of the genre then it’s better to move on, neither improve as the film plays out. However, more forgiving audience members who give this b-movie a shot will be rewarded with the likable screen presence of Shane Warren Jones and an easy flowing story that doesn’t stumble on the way to its fight climax.
(more…)

Jarhead 3: The Siege (2016) – Review

3 Stars

Of all the franchise to have sprung from seemingly one-off movies the Jarhead series has to be the most unlikely. Universal has plumaged the depths of their catalogues to produce sequels to Scorpion King, Death Race, and Dragonheart. Now, comes Jarhead 3: The Siege, an extremely entertaining stand-alone film that uses the moniker strictly for monetary value. I was a bit surprised just how humorous and deft this small B-movie proved to be. A major improvement over the last sequel, Jarhead 3 sets it’s self up as very worthy of another follow-up.
(more…)

Aeon Flux (2005) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

Aeon Flux is one of the most absurd movies to come down the pike in a long time. This beautifully designed sci-fi thriller, is a head-scratching adaptation of the nearly incomprehensible animated shorts that ran on MTV. Ranking with Battlefield Earth and Doom as contenders for worst science fiction movie of the aughts, Aeon Flux strips lead actress Charlize Theron of charisma and saddles her with awkward dialogue.
(more…)

Elektra (2005) – Review

2 Stars

Before Marvel reinvented itself with Ironman in 2008, the high-water mark was X2, Elektra has long been thought of as the low-point for the company. I would argue that Ghost Rider or Blade:Trinity holds this unremarkable title, but there is no mistaking that this spin-off of the so-so Daredevil big-screen adventure is a silly romp with little on the agenda outside of the most basic plot elements.
(more…)

Point Break (2015) – Review

2 Stars

Katherine Bigelow’s classic 1991 action film Point Break has been remade nearly 25 years later. This update on the original plays like a cliff notes version for the younger attention deficit crowd. To be fair, The Fast and Furious copied the formula long ago and to better effect than this in name re-telling. Featuring a cast of unremarkable actors that are only modestly invested in the material, Point Break (2015) has to rely on its stunning stunt footage to carry the film. The photography by director/director of photography Ericson Core is top-notch and often distracts from the mundane procedural.
(more…)

Spy Game (2001) – Review

3 1/2 Stars

Spy Game is a carefully plotted and rather ingenious story set over the course of one day. The action takes place inside CIA headquarters located in Langley, Virginia, while also flashing to a Chinese prison where former shadow agent Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt) is awaiting execution in twenty-four hours. When Bishop’s rogue mission goes awry, he’s captured and sentenced to death. With a short deadline, Bishop’s former boss Nathan Muir (Redford) must navigate the political sharks inside the agency while battling enemies abroad in saving his protegĂ©’s life.
(more…)

Creed (2015) – Review

4 Stars

Earlier this year there was much pre-release Oscar buzz for the boxing flick Southpaw. That film and its lead actor Jake Gyllenhaal were being mentioned as possible heavyweights on Academy Awards night, all sight unseen. Then the movie came out and despite a remarkable physique change for Jake Gyllenhaal, Southpaw was instantly forgettable. Now, comes the most unlikeliest of Oscar contenders in Creed. Resurrecting a franchise that has spawned nearly 40 years, writer/director Ryan Coogler (a Bay Area native) does a remarkably nimble job of sculpting a love-letter to the series and for long-time fans of Balboa.
(more…)

Soldier (1998) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

Soldier is never quite able to successfully build a believable world for its characters and story. Sci-Fi classics such as Star Wars, Blade Runner, and Alien have all been able to establish a functioning universe or society that deepens (even if it’s subconsciously) the overall effect of the film. Soldier looks like it was shot on big sound stages with all of the craftsmen doing dutiful but uninspired work.
(more…)

Tomb Raider (2001) – Review

1 Star

Tomb Raider presents Angelina Jolie in full ‘movie star’ mode. Never mind that she had won an OSCAR for Girl, Interrupted, this was the picture that served as her breakout vehicle in the Hollywood machine. The buzz surrounding this mysterious and beautiful actress was in full swing when Tomb Raider premiered. The substantial opening weekend propelled Jolie to the A-list in terms of profitability. So, you’d expect the actual movie to be something special, or at least goofy fun. It is neither.
(more…)

Freejack (1992) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

Raymond Chandler often describe a snub nosed .38 revolver as a ‘Saturday Night Special’. It was meant as a reference to a junk gun, to be used on a troubled night then easily discarded. Freejack is the ‘Saturday Night Special’ of movies. It provides modest entertainment on a slow weekend night, then is instantly forgettable. Taking its visual design (to no avail) from (the superior) Blade Runner and mixing in humor with futuristic action (less successfully than Demolition Man), Freejack is often ludicrous and under-plotted, but never boring.
(more…)

Hudson Hawk (1991) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

Hudson Hawk wears the title ‘madcap comedy’ with pride. That’s about the only successful element in this frantic, unfocused, and forced romp that never finds its rhythm. I’m not sure there could have been a good picture made out of this story. A lurking feeling is that the behind-the-scenes stuff was a lot more intriguing than anything that made it on-screen.
(more…)

Flashpoint (1984) – Review

3 Stars

Long before Cormack McCarthy and the Coen Brothers collaborated on the Oscar-winning classic, No Country for Old Men, a similarly plotted thriller Flashpoint, dealt with the same themes. Released in 1984 to little fanfare both critically and commercially, it now waits to be rediscovered by audiences that may appreciate it’s offbeat script and electronic score from 1980’s staple Tangerine Dream.
(more…)