Wrong Turn at Tahoe (2009) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

Wrong Turn at Tahoe is yet another debut about criminal lowlifes written and filmed by wanna-be Tarantinos. Eddie Nickerson’s bracingly entertaining screenplay covers familiar ground in a breezy way. There are some memorable lines, and a couple of darkly funny moments, combine this with solid performances by Ferrer, and Keitel, and you still have a movie that is a prime example of a casting director filling a film with really good actors, to make up for rather weak plotting.
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A Fighting Man (2014) – Review

3 1/2 Stars

Dominic Purcell who portrays the lead in the boxing themed drama A Fighting Man has been stuck in Uwe Boll’s lackluster productions for quite some time now. To the point that I started to under-value the bruiser’s acting abilities. A Fighting Man gives Purcell and his co-stars a great showcase for solid actors delivering understated performances in a movie that is a lot better than the marketing materials suggest.
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Hellion (2014) – Review

3 1/2 Stars

After seeing some print ads and getting a feel for the film, Hellion reminded me of another outsider pic with a similar sounding title, Hesher. Although Hellion drops the dark comedy aspect to become a far more serious affair which has much less to do with heavy metal music. Adapted from her short film by the same name, director Kat Candler proves that indie film-makers are still willing to go to dark places very close to home. The film paces itself well, showing us the lead up to the action, rather than action begetting action as in big budget Hollywood flicks (yes, even dramas). This build up creates an interesting roller-coaster ride that derails (in a good way) in a shocking final act.
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Price of Glory (2000) – Review

3 Stars

Carlos Avila’s feature debut is a boxing drama centered around a Mexican American family living in Arizona. It’s a sports movie that plays like a weighty family epic, something in the vein of Gregory Nava’s Mi Familia only with fisticuffs. Like that film, Price of Glory also stars Jimmy Smits in a remarkable portrayal. This time Smits is cast as a disgruntled and irritable man, with much pride and arrogance, to cover his bitterness at a failed boxing career.
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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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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 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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Blood Money (1999) – Review

1 Star

Michael Ironside is one of the most recognizable faces in movies, having appeared in over 100 films in a career spanning nearly forty years. After having played bit parts or villains in many movies, Ironside wrote himself a lead role and was given the opportunity to direct Blood Money a.k.a. The Arraignment. The actor’s effortless on-screen presence does well for the picture, which is otherwise just so bland that nothing distinguishes the movie from a television episode of Law & Order.
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Twilight (1998) – Review

2 Stars

Paul Newman at 73 years of age strides through the role of private investigator Harry Ross with the ease of man whose stardom dates back nearly four decades. Surrounded by an array of fine supporting players, this melancholy tale of murder, cover-ups, Hollywood sex scandals and adultery would be right at home if it were written and filmed in the 1940’s. The cast can only elevate the material to a certain level before the over-wrought plotting and logical mis-steps dump the movie on its ass, wasting the hard-work from everyone on-screen.
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Noah (2014) – Review

3 1/2 Stars

Throughout his career Russell Crowe has done his most powerful work in period pieces, from Gladiator to Robin Hood, Cinderella Man and now, Noah. His unconventional handsome-ness and melancholy demeanor are prefect fits for these characters that existed in eras long ago. Except for possibly Maximus, no role until now has allowed Crowe to tap so deeply into that steel reservoir of determination. Noah is an ambitious, exciting and beautifully mounted production that contains some truly spectacular images, and the first ‘wow’ at the movies this year.
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Streets of Gold (1986) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

In the wake of Rocky and The Karate Kid comes Streets of Gold, a minor entry into the boxing genre. The film has been directed with little flair by Joe Roth, who shows no conceivable style, motivation or interest in his subject. Perhaps, the most disappointing is that the film features marvelous method-actor Klaus Maria Brandauer, and sports a script from the usually top-notch Richard Price.
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