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

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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