The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power (2015) – Review

3 1/2 Stars

Toward the start of The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power — fourth and arguably best in the series that began with The Scorpion King in 2002 — Mathayus (Victor Webster) and his sidekick Drazen (Will Kemp) are orchestrating a plan to enter an unlucky king’s palace and steal a valuable artifact. The journey into the inner workings of the kingdom is difficult and laced with peril. Beefy guards stand watch and booby traps stand in the thieves’ way to their prize. The sequence is a mashing of the openings of both Desperado and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
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Catch Hell (2014) – Review

3 Stars

Imagine Deliverance, Black Snake Moan, and JCVD re-envisioned through the satirical haze of Robert Altman, these are the heavy influences of Ryan Phillippe’s directorial debut. Shot on a small budget and confined to limited actors and locations, Catch Hell is a hell of a lot better than it probably should have turned out. Recently fellow thespian turned first time helmer Ryan Gosling spawned the horrendous Lost River, at least Phillipe’s foray is literate, structured and not out to punish its audience, only its lead character and by extension Phillippe himself.
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Absolution (2015) – Review

3 Stars

Nowadays, Steven Seagal movies are judged not on any sort of artistic merit but rather, if there is any cohesion in the story line. In that respect, Absolution is a notch above some of the recent dreary output from the heavily goateed action icon. Re-teaming with director Keoni Waxman and co-star Byron Mann, Seagal plays yet another mercenary with moral fortitude who gets caught in political webs that will eventually threaten his life.
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Furious 7 (2015) – Review

3 Stars

Furious 7 is so preposterously overblown that you cant help but sit back and grin at the sheer lunacy of it all. These characters who once started out as street racers who stole dvd players to finance their tricked out cars, are now full-blown superheroes, capable of defying gravity, surviving horrendous accidents, and vicious beatings. After scaling new heights in the previous outing, this latest installment is a step backwards. The plot meanders too much and the Statham character isn’t given much to do outside of two fight scenes. This could all be the reactionary effect of having the production halted in November 2013 due to the tragic death of series’ star Paul Walker. Body Doubles and CGI have been expertly used to cover for the late actor, but he is noticeably absent from many scenes, presumably due to a script that was reworked midway through shooting. Still, with all the production difficulties Furious 7 is good popcorn entertainment with a touching send-off to Walker’s character Brian O’Conner.
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Last Knights (2015) – Review

3 Stars

Last Knight isn’t half bad, but its also half the movie it probably could have been. Commander Raiden (Clive Owen) leader of the seventh battalion was once a man prone to drink and the violence that comes with such a darkened state. Now, years removed from his wayward years Raiden is a first knight, and has been appointed heir to the throne of Bartok (Morgan Freeman).”A man should be praised for his rehabilitation, not judged for it.” says the youngest member of Raiden’s ranks. Little does the young man know that darkness is about to descend on Raiden once again.
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The Man with the Iron Fists 2 (2015) – Review

2 Stars

I must (once again) recount that in college, I had a roommate who watched Bruce Lee movies with the sound turned off while blaring hip-hop music at the same time. Through a haze of bong smoke he had convinced himself that the music was timed perfectly to the on-screen action and emotion. The Man with the Iron Fists perfectly encapsulated that experience, now three years later the follow-up has arrived, and it is a lesser film from a more established director.
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Run All Night (2015) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

Liam Neeson continues his late career resurgence as an action hero in the glossy, and violent thriller, Run All Night. We are now seven years removed from the first Taken picture, had this movie been release just a few years ago, instead of on the heels of nearly a dozen similar Neeson outings, maybe then it would seem less like a genre retread. Even the estimable work from venerable screen legend Ed Harris as an unusually thoughtful crime boss, is lost in the heavy-handed and frantic narrative.
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The Factory (2012) – Review

3 Stars

John Cusack has recently found himself stranded in the wasteland of direct-to-DVD fare, and it may be faint praise, but he has consistently chosen the top project in the second tier realm of filmmaking. The Factory has been released as part of the Dark Castle/Warner Bros pact, specializing in genre pictures with recognizable cast members and violent story lines. This is an implausible, yet entertaining police procedural that packs a well-deserved surprise ending.
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Starship Troopers (1997) – Review

4 Stars

Starship Troopers’ middling performance at the box-office in the winter of 1997, is one of the more puzzling failures in the modern era of sci-fi blockbusters. This is a film made with intelligence, wit, a sardonic sense of humor, laced with homage and satire, and equipped with astounding special effects. That is to say there is something for everyone in this extremely engaging futuristic war tale. Rebounding from the debacle of Showgirls, director Paul Verhoeven delivers another classic to the genre, which would also serve as the last good film in a career of varying degrees of success.
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The Cherokee Kid (1996) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

The Cherokee Kid can’t decided if it’s a comedy, satire, or straight-up revenge picture. Sinbad, the comedian popular for a short spell in the 1990s headlines this western that features a predominately african-american cast. He plays the title role of The Cherokee Kid, known as Isiah Turner before he earned the outlaw’s moniker ‘kid’. Featuring a large cast of well-known actors and scripted by writers Tim Kazurinsky & Denise DeClue, the movie never engages the viewer resulting in a seemingly endless 89 minutes running time.
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Chappie (2015) – Review

2 Stars

Chappie is South African director Neill Blomkamp’s third film. It is the most technically impressive work of his young career, but the story, which blatantly borrows from classics of the genre, fails him and renders the movie into a series of redundant scenes and predictable outcomes. By the mid-way point, I was ready for Chappie and his outcast cohorts to go away.
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One Night in Istanbul (2014) – Review

2 Stars

One Night in Istanbul is a sly sports comedy, masquerading as British farce with an overdose of sentimentality and violence mixed in. I thought America had cornered the market on sports themed dopey comedy-drama crime capers but it appears that the foreign market is just as ripe with these duds. It’s somewhat mystifying that this messy script was concocted from a well-regarded screenplay from playwright Nicky Allt. This is an innocuous movie, which is about the last thing you’d expect when dealing with sports fanaticism, and the mafia. Other movies have covered similar material with a higher energy level and sharper sense of wit than what is presented on-screen here.
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