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Action

Unstoppable (2004) – Review

2 Stars

Wesley Snipes’ first foray into the world of straight-to-DVD is an un-magnanimous affair. It’s not fair to say this is Snipes’ first B-movie, most of his filmography could be considered such, but those movies had a style and technical proficiency that is for the most part missing. Nicely lensed by veteran cinematographer Ward Russell, Unstoppable looks great but is overly plodding for a movie with such a simple plot-line. The headliner looks bored and goes through the motions delivering a few kicks and punches while phoning-in the more dramatic parts of the anemic script.
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Firewalker (1986) – Review

1/2 Star

Firewalker is grade Z, bottom of the barrel trash from Cannon films and their top work-horse Chuck Norris. This flimsy ripoff apes Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Romancing the Stone, while lacking any charm or technical proficiency to match anything in those previously mentioned titles. Firewalker has more in common with King Soloman’s Mine, another Cannon films release which this film recycles sets from. The film was advertised as Norris’ first comedy although audiences will be hard pressed to find anything remotely amusing.
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Ulterior Motives (1993) – Review

2 Stars

Thomas Ian Griffith’s bid to overtake the mantle of 1990′s action-star/sex-symbol continues with Ulterior Motives, a private eye thriller with a bit of martial arts fighting thrown in for genre fans. The cover art on the DVD showcases Griffith in a Karate gi, holding a samurai sword in a battle posture. That leads potential viewers to believe that Motives is an action flick, in reality it’s a drama about industrial espionage and secret identities. Griffith is a pleasing screen presence, even if he’d rather talk it out with a bad guy instead of kicking him in the face.
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A View to a Kill (1985) – Review

2 Stars

A View to a Kill wheezes and lumbers through the motions, while trying to conceal the advanced age of its ‘action-hero’ star. By 1985 Roger Moore had claimed full title to the role, but he truly should have been replaced by Timothy Dalton at this point. Not that View would have been a good Bond installment with a younger lead, but at least it wouldn’t have been creaky and creepy. This swan song for Moore is a major letdown, since it is filled with beautiful women, a dastardly villain, and a worthy nemesis in May Day (Grace Jones).
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Cyber-Tracker 2 (1995) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson came up through the ranks of Roger Corman productions. Launched into the mix of Oliver Gruner, Thomas Ian Griffith and a host of other actor/athletes who producers and profiteers hoped would breakout and become the next Seagal or Van Damme type success. While Wilson was unquestionably gifted in the ring performing actual combat, his movies rarely lived up to his fighting prowess. Wilson became the ‘face’ of Corman’s martial arts series Bloodfist, and it’s rumored that since Wilson was still fighting, Corman actually once insured Don’s face for $10 million with Lloyd’s of London. Yet, it’s Wilson’s pictures under PM Entertainment that are the real treats in his spotty filmography.
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Rocky (1976) – Review

4 Stars

Rocky is a study of isolation and despair, love and triumph and many other facets of the human condition. That the film is wrapped in a Cinderella story of a down on his luck pugilist given a million to one shot at the Heavyweight title, and features one of the screen’s greatest characters of all time, is just icing on the proverbial cake. Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is a broke down fighter, past his prime and never much good anyhow, these days he works as a part-time leg-breaker/collector for a local mob figure. The problem is Rocky is too compassionate for the job, when he’s ordered to break a guy’s thumb for late payment, Balboa instead tells the man “he should have planned ahead”. He walks the cold and desolate Philadelphia streets alone, bouncing a rubber ball like an over-grown child and wearing a floppy fedora, that gives the character a Chaplin-esque quality.
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Rocky II (1979) – Review

3 1/2 Stars

Rocky II is the most delicate entry in the long-running series. Set directly after the events in the first film, Balboa and his opponent Apollo Creed find themselves laid up in the same hospital for over-night observation. Unable to sleep and temporarily bound to a wheelchair, Rocky (Stallone) quietly opens the door to Creed’s room and asks the champ, “Did you give me your best?”. Small moments like these are sprinkled throughout the movie and it’s a richer experience for it. Stallone has taken over directing duties from OSCAR winner John G. Avildsen, and it is remarkable how consistent the two films are in tone and visual quality. The deserted Philly streets of the first picture, which were symbolic of the isolation and despair felt by its characters, have been replaced by a Philadelphia that feels lived in but alive. People on the streets recognize the slugger and with Balboa’s new-found popularity comes the responsibilities of public life.
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The Warriors (1979) – Review

3 Stars

Giving us a hellish vision of new York in the near future, a surreal parallel world in which the streets are void of regular people. On these mean streets it’s either gang member or cop, both of whom of members of the Warriors gang are running from. 60,000 of the cities toughest hoods and 20,000 police officers are searching for the nine members that compromise the street hang from Coney Island known as the Warriors.
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The Thomas Crown Affair (1999) – Review

3 Stars

The Thomas Crown Affair is a slick and light-weight caper flick that has been brought to life under the sturdy direction of John McTiernan and anchored by Pierce Brosnan, playing a debonair playboy not far removed from 007. This is a remake of the 1968 film starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway (given a cameo role here), and it is an improvement on the source material. Updating the heist from a bank-job to a high-end Art Museum theft is a nice touch. The chemistry between the leads is good, better than McQueen and Dunaway, and the playful banter is intelligent.
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Delta Force 3: The Killing Game (1991) – Review

1 Star

The Delta Force trilogy comes to a limp conclusion in this tacked-on installment that features a cast of Hollywood siblings including absent series star Chuck Norris’ son, among others. There is no explanation why this movie has been decreed as part of the Norris led Delta Force flicks, other than to capitalize on the internationally recognized brand. This is especially disappointing considering that Delta Force 3 was released by the Cannon films label which had launched the first two installments into globally renowned jingoistic action fantasies. At this point the producers were robbing their own franchises to scrap together a buck for the next project. It may have worked in the short-term, but that Cannon logo that once stood for upper echelon guilty pleasures had been reduced to a warning sign from jilted consumers.
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Fair Game (1995) – Review

2 Stars

Fair Game exist in the world of erotic-action-thrillers that were prominent during the mid 1990s. This list included The Specialist, Jade, Color of Night and numerous other forgettable bombs. The two points of interest in this modestly budgeted flick from prolific producer Joel Silver are, the screen acting debut of super-model Cindy Crawford and the second interpretation of Paula Gosling’s book that was previously filmed as Stallone’s Cobra.
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The Human Shield (1991) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

The producers of the action flick The Human Shield loudly proclaim this B-movie as the first ‘film to deal with the Iraq war!”. That sadly positions this flick as The Deer Hunter or Apocalypse Now of Operation Desert Storm, something which it is most definitely not. The Human Shield is a moderately entertaining action/drama with a typically understated lead performance from the American Ninja Michael Dudikoff. Directed by Ted Post, also responsible for Chuck Norris’ Good Guys Wear Black and Eastwood’s Magnum Force, this very 90s tale is watchable, but not memorable.
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Supergirl (1984) – Review

1/2 Star

Supergirl is from the same producers behind the Superman series, but this second-rate spin-off has none of the magic or charm of that higher profile sister franchise. In fact, Supergirl is hands-down the worst superhero film to ever receive a theatrical distribution. The initial thought was to spawn a secondary franchise that would run concurrently to the other series. After this weak outing all sequel talks were quickly squelched, and the character has laid dormant ever since. Not a single element works in this wretched affair, from the casting to the special effects and particularly the idiotic script, everything that made the Superman movies successful has been pillaged and executed incorrectly.
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Last Man Standing (1996) – Review

3 Stars

Prohibition era Texas stands-in for 1860s Japan in this gangster tinted remake of Aikra Kurowsawa’s samurai classic Yojimbo. The film library of Kurosawa has been raided numerous times before, most notably for Star Wars, and A Fist Full of Dollars. Action maestro Walter Hill has taken the story and given the proceedings a sepia-toned visual scheme, that emphases the history of the narrative and the desuetude of its characters, who are stranded in this desert hell-hole run by two warring chieftains.
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Bloodfist IV: Die Trying (1992) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

Don Wilson has his most dangerous role to date, playing a car repo-man on the deadly streets of Los Angles. Staying true to the crazy logic of the series, Wilson is cast as different lead character in each installment of this wildly popular martial arts saga. Continuing on the upward swing of the last entry, Part IV once again features better than expected direction and a script that is both entertaining (every body Wilson encounters is a kung-fu practitioner) and full of self mockery (see previous parenthetical).
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