John Wick (2014) – Review

3 Stars

If esteemed director Michael Mann dropped his high fluent act and decided to make a pumped up action picture the result would look a lot like John Wick. Keanu Reeves is back in Matrix fighting shape, he doesn’t look a day aged and appears to be as nimble as before. Instead of the jumbled mythology and long-winded story developments of that earlier franchise, Wick is a straightforward action flick that sets out with a goal and single-mindedness to completely entertain at all costs. This is a story about a dislikable man avenging the murder of his dog, and cleansing himself of the grief over his wife’s untimely death.
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The Book of Eli (2010) – Review

4 Stars

The Book of Eli is the best apocalyptic, futuristic western throwback that I’ve ever seen. Who would have thought Denzel Washington, an Oscar winner and star of ‘important’ movies could conquer the wasteland wander role, too? Directed with loving homage to a variety of films, by one of our countries’ most underrated talents’,Allen & Albert Hughes. The visual aesthetic takes it’s cue’s from George Miller’s Road Warrior mixed with the airy vistas of Eastwood’s Unforgiven. For further proof look for the scene in which Deborah’s theme from Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time in America is whistled.
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Wild Bill (1995) – Review

2 Stars

Walter Hill is a director who has shown a deep seeded fascinated with the western genre throughout his career. By his own admission, he approaches all of his films as if they were part of this almost forgotten genre. Working hard to deliver a Tombstone type experience, Hill is up against a wall with his revisionist take on the legendary gunfighter/lawman ‘Wild’ Bill Hickok. Anchored by an off-beat performance from Jeff Bridges, Hickok never comes off as anything other than a grumpy killer. The movie is slow-paced and the final shootout is poorly executed. However, this is not a total failure, there are enough interesting scenes that I began to grow frustrated that the screenplay moved in episodic segments with undefined linear continuity.
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Goldeneye (1995) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

Pierce Brosnan takes the lead after the franchise was dormant for a record six years, bringing our venerable hero into the modern-age of computer warfare, and shaky post cold-war alliances. Goldeneye the 17th Bond film, is an unwieldy beast that sparkles with touches of spectacular filmmaking, but also lumbers through an unworthy third act. John Barry’s iconic theme has been interpreted by David Arnold, the musical score and title track are both duds. Many aficionados site this entry as the best of the Brosnan bond films, I can’t count myself among that opinion.
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Metro (1997) – Review

3 Stars

Motor mouthed Eddie Murphy is ideally cast as a SFPD hostage negotiator in the action thriller Metro. The typically loquacious movie star plays Scott Roper, a variation on his fast-talking, wise-cracking screen persona. But, instead of being a distraction the energy from Murphy is put to good use by director Thomas Carter. The Bay Area setting and the white/black partnership are purposefully reminiscent of Murphy’s early hit 48hrs.. Metro isn’t in that league, but it is an entertaining picture with a great action set-piece involving a vintage Cadillac and a runaway trolly-car.
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Runaway Train (1985) – Review

4 Stars

Runaway Train is undoubtedly the best ‘film’ ever produced and released under the Cannon Films banner. Directed with remarkable precision by Russian helmer Andrei Konchalovsky, based on a screenplay that originated from the mind of Japanese master filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, this is truly an action-thriller that delivers. Jon Voight and Eric Roberts earned Oscar nominations for their portrayals of two escaped convicts who find themselves in an even worse predicament.
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Jack the Giant Slayer (2013) – Review

3 Stars

Bryan Singer, who most notably helmed The Usual Suspects and X-Men: Days of Future Past, engages his inner Spielberg and has fashioned a new-age fairy tale from an old school story. This visually splendid update comes complete with all the bells and whistles associated with big-budget blockbuster filmmaking, but it also has a whimsical humor, and its entertaining as all get out. The ads suggest a The Lord of the Rings type of adventure, but in actuality the product is more akin to The Princess Bride or Pirates of the Caribbean.
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Terminal Velocity (1994) – Review

3 Stars

Terminal Velocity sprang from the mind of writer David Twohy. Those familiar with the screenwriters’ work will recognize the hallmarks of his writing, quick-witted hero, beautiful and equally tough femme fatale, clich├ęs turned on their ear. This was the second movie of 1994 to feature sky-diving and other extreme sports, which feels reactionary in the surprise and enduring success of the classic movie, Point Break.

Ditch Brody (Charlie Sheen) is a daredevil skydiving instructor, his recent free fall into the city streets of Phoenix, Az. have gotten him a record 12 violations in a month’s time. Grounded for insubordination by his boss, Ditch is allowed to jump again when a sexy, mysterious beauty (Nastassja Kinski) walks into the school requesting a lesson from him personally.

In the air a mishap occurs resulting in the woman plunging to her death. Suddenly, Ditch finds himself the target of a homicide investigation and the focus of the national media. Then evidence appears that the woman may have faked her own death. Brody hurls himself into seeking out the truth to exonerate himself, but his efforts eventually lead him into a nightmare world of deceit and renegade KGB agents.

Velocity starts out at a breakneck pace and never lets up, it’s an exuberant, humorous, and rousing action-adventure. Sheen is well-cast in a role that would have been otherwise occupied by Tom Cruise. Looking back this would be the last straight up action role for the man with tiger’s blood, and he’s damn good in it. I think if Terminal Velocity had been released a year earlier or later, we would regard it as a classic. It was unfairly over-looked by audiences high on the adrenaline rush of Keanu’s Speed and Arnold’s True Lies. In retrospect Velocity holds up just as well, if not better than either of those titles.

Director: Deran Sarafian
Stars: Charlie Sheen, Nastassja Kinski, James Gandolfini

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The Taking of Beverly Hills (1991) – Review

1 Star

The Taking of Beverly Hills is the definition of a cinematic bomb, a movie so inept in every department from technical to artistic that its theatrical release is a bit baffling. The writing is terrible, the direction is clunky, and the acting is so wooden it would make a nice kung-fu practice dummy. Starring the ever-mulleted Ken Wahl, channeling his inner Billy Ray Cyrus, lacks the matinee-idol appeal that makes for a ‘movie star’. He is much better on the television show Wiseguy, on the larger format he is exposed and appears suitably lost.
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A Breed Apart (1986) – Review

1 Star

A Breed Apart is a curious mixture of Rambo, Robinson Crusoe, and Southern Comfort, with an environmental conservation message. The two main characters are driven men, one fights to protect the wilderness, the other is out to capture a rare bald eagle egg for a rich collector. The always watchable Powers Boothe rescues this nature adventure from the ranks of bomb, just from his steely presence. Hauer, on the other hand appears to be recycling his Blade Runner performance in another setting.
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Gotcha! (1985) – Review

3 Stars

Gotcha! is the title of this international comedic-thriller, a gem from the cold war era. Named after a college campus paintball game, and later a Video game, Gotcha! tells the Hitchcockian story of an American teenager caught up in the world of spies, KGB agents, and hostile foreign officials. The serio-comic dialogue is witty and the movie doesn’t take its self seriously, even forgoing naming or placing significance on the McGuffin plot device.
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Lucy (2014) – Review

2 Stars

Luc Besson’s prolific mind has concocted another genre bender with Lucy, a glossy action pic with human evolution on the mind. Lean, violent, sporadically entertaining, and often ridiculous the action comes fast with few breaks for logic, gravity or common reasoning. Even though star Scarlet Johansson doesn’t don a superhero outfit, she might as well be playing one. This is Besson doing the superhero genre in his uniquely off-center way. Morgan Freeman is on hand to continue adding his special brand of quality to B-movies (Transcendence, Chain Reaction, etc.).
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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) – Review

3 1/2 Stars

I present to you reader, with a mix of shame, embarrassment, and bemusement, my whole-hearted endorsement of the Ninja Turtles reboot. I had been putting off viewing this update because of my affinity with the source material. The Turtles were one of my favorite line of toys, cartoons, and movies in my childhood years. I didn’t think of myself as prepared for the retelling, but to my astonishment the creators got everything right, from the small details of behavior, to wardrobe choices. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is as exhilarating and technically sophisticated as the first Transformers movie, given a glossy sheen and sporting top-notch visual effects Turtles is first-rate family entertainment.
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Interview: Michael Jai White

Michael Jai White hails from Brooklyn, NY. Mr White’s teenage years earned him a reputation as one of the toughest and most feared fighters in Bridgeport, Ct. Finding Martial Arts and making money from tournaments and teaching gave the troubled youth a sense of pride. After a three year stint as a junior high school teacher, Mr. White continued to purse a career in the movie industry. Small roles in local theater and commercials eventually lead to his big-break portraying legendary pugilist ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson in the 1995 HBO movie. Mr. White has also portrayed Todd MacFarlane’s comic book anti-hero Spawn, in the first comic book movie to feature an African-American in the lead role. An eclectic career has seen Mr. White anchor roles in Tyler Perry’s movies and co-star with action icons Van Damme and Steven Seagal in genre flicks.

MovieMavs: Your latest film Falcon Rising was shot on location in Brazil, adding a strong atmosphere to the proceedings. Was the location a consideration for you when taking on the project?

Michael Jai White: Oh absolutely, you never want to do what has been done over and over before. Not only that, but Brazil is such an interesting world. Everything is amped up in Brazil just in nature. Any corruption we have here in the States, is nine-fold in Brazil, the stakes are higher to begin with.
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Vampire Academy (2014) – Review

1/2 Star

There was once a mystique about vampires, before they were used as central characters in young adult novels. Gone is any danger, sexiness, or interest in these halflings. Instead, we have smart-mouthed, martial-arts practicing, teen vamps who are merely inconvenienced by their un-natural state. Vampire Academy want so badly to be the hip, irreverent, genre mash-up that made Buffy so popular. But the film’s attempt at coercing laughs or affinity with its heroines is hopeless. The plotting is confused, the never-ending expository sequences are fumbled and the tone veers wildly into odd territory.
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