Riddick (2013) – Review

2 Stars

Director\Writer David Twohy’s second attempt at recreating the thrilling experience of his 1999 cult classic Pitch Black, is alternately better and worse than 2004s big-budget flop (and guilty pleasure) The Chronicles of Riddick. This latest sequel simply titled Riddick is besieged with an entirely different set of problems than the larger scale second entry into what has now inexplicably become a trilogy. If Chronicles veered into bad Shakespeare territory, Riddick is content borrowing elements from Conan, I am Legend, and Aliens. This makes for a very uneven viewing experience and the movie, while containing some strong individual scenes, never gels as a whole story.
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Jurassic World (2015) – Review

4 Stars

Jurassic World‘s director Colin Trevorrow was hand-picked by Steven Spielberg to continue the series. It’s no wonder then that World closely resembles that first film’s style, and sense of fun. This is a thrill ride tuned to perfection by a team of high function craftsmen and a capable cast that turns the ordinary into extraordinarily good. Plus, its great to hear that excellent theme music from John Williams reinterpreted by Michael Giacchino here, again blaring through theater speakers.
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Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

The fourth installment in the tired Transformers franchise, is a lumbering unwieldy mess. The bloated running time serves as an invitation for elongated CGI sequences that are as visually confused as the script is simple. Losing the original cast and softly rebooting the series is to no avail, this movie peaks early and is then a steady march through the well-established routines set up by three previous pictures. Knockoffs like Hasbro’s own Battleship, are starting to look good-by comparison, a sure sign that the producers should stop now.
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River of Death (1989) – Review

1 Star

River of Death may have been based on the novel by famed writer Alister McLean but, it is actually Cannon Film’s version of Apocalypse Now. Instead of traveling up river to find a crazed U.S. Captain gone AWOL, this movie features a group traveling up a different river to locate and execute a former NAZI war criminal. It is all very Joseph Conrad mixed with The Boys from Brazil.
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The Gunman (2015) – Review

1 Star

There are so many things wrong with Pierre Morel’s The Gunman that it’s a large target for critical dissection. Perhaps, the most telling issue of the jumbled mess on-screen is the co-writer credit for star Sean Penn. No doubt, Penn has made been in front of and behind the camera in some of the most powerful films of the last 35 years. Here, the OSCAR winner is mining Liam Neeson territory with a director that could have used a good coaching by Paul Greengrass before setting out to tell this tale of foreign corporate corruption and international covert warfare.
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World War Z (2013) – Review

4 Stars

World War Z is the surprise of the summer, this is the ‘event’ movie audiences have been waiting for. Moving at a breakneck speed, the (oft-reported) troubled production has resulted in a captivating blockbuster with artistic flare and big scares. I didn’t think there was an ounce of creativity left in the genre, but Pitt and director Marc Foster along with a trio of screenwriters have reinvigorated the over-saturated.
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San Andreas (2015) – Review

3 Stars

San Andreas is the kind of blockbuster that plays better as an air-conditioned reprieve from the hot June weather. There is something both nostalgic and appealing about escaping the summer heat inside the confines of a cool auditorium showing a ‘disaster’ picture like this. This earthquake themed action film would have been right at home in the 1970’s under prolific producer Irwin Allen. There is plenty of mayhem, CGI destruction and engaging action set-pieces to warrant a recommendation. Sequel potential is non-existent unless Dwayne Johnson takes on Tornadoes or Hurricanes next.
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Oblivion (2013) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

There is so much I liked about Tom Cruise’s sci-fi adventure film Oblivion that I’m tempted to recommend it. The film’s first hour is full of beautiful images, sweeping music and shots of Cruise doing his steely eyed determination thing. If the movie had only been these parts it would have been short on plot but big on spectacle, alas the second hour renders the story less interesting as it goes along.
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Death Squad (2015) – Review

1/2 Star

My fellow film critic Trevor Anderson often complains about sci-fi films getting bogged down in their own mythology. Complex backstories meant to add richness to the world on-screen is frequently just confused exposition that overly complicates matters. So it may be refreshing that Death Squad doesn’t rely on these elements for its simple tale, but then the movie is also incomprehensible on a narrative level, visually boring, and features a cast of runaway scenery chewers.
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Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015) – Review

4 Stars

Matthew Vaughn’s violent, humorous, and loving ode to the Bond films of years’ past is the most enjoyable time I’ve had at the movies in 2015, so far. Kingsman takes a routine idea and infuses the concept with wit, fine attention to craftsmanship in all the art and technical departments, and by selecting a capable cast to deliver the goods. I walked into this picture with a certain dread, spy spoofs/homages peaked with Austin Powers, or If Looks Could Kill (depending on your age), but I was almost immediately won over by the selection of music for the title sequence and the mischievous tone established from the start.
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Mega Shark vs. Kolossus (2015) – Review

3 Stars

This is the fourth entry into the unlikely Mega Shark semi franchise for Aslyum pictures. Even though it may not be a direct mock buster, Kolossus bears a striking similarity to a certain, um, Terminator-which just happens to be arriving in theaters a few weeks after this is debuting on television. That is part of the innocuous appeal of the flick that features one-time staunch indie film supporter Illeana Douglas. A filmmaker so anti commercial that she infamously called out Jon Favreau for his escape into studio filmmaking, who now appears in a genre b-movie…go figure.
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Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) – Review

3 1/2 Stars

George Miller’s return voyage into the imaginative nightmare world of Mad Max Rockatansky is one of the year’s most ingeniously constructed films. With virtually no plot and a minimum of dialogue, Miller and his fellow craftsmen have designed a picture of visceral excitement that brims with innovation and spectacular moments. This is a movie that contains not only the year’s most bizarre looking characters but also, machinery that looks otherworldly, and some heartfelt acting from it’s well cast actors and actresses.
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San Andreas Quake (2015) – Review

2 Stars

Young Jessica (Blaire Chandler) is a dedicated geology student, so much so that she sets off an M-80 to study the small crater left behind. This act of late-night studying drives her loving father bonkers. He pleads with his child to stop the experimenting and to let him sleep through the night without incident. Then a tremendous earthquake hits the Northridge area of Los Angeles and the girl’s father is crushed under the debris of their collapsing house. This being an Asylum film, timed for release concurrently with Dwayne Johnson’s similarly themed and titled movie, ranks on the middle rungs of the mockbuster scale.
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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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