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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Snake Eyes (1998) – Review

3 1/2 Stars

Brian DePalma will forever be remembered for his lasting contributions to film and pop culture with Carrie and Scarface. Yet, it’s his lesser known fare that proves the most satisfying. Among, those titles is Snake Eyes. Featuring a story concocted with prolific screenwriter David Koepp, shot in dazzling fashion by Stephen H. Burum, and laced with an energetic turn from Nicolas Cage, Snake Eyes is DePalma’s unheralded masterpiece.
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The Monuments Men (2014) – Review

2 Stars

George Clooney’s continued fascination with the golden era of cinema and the birth of Americana culture is further explored in his latest directing assignment, The Monuments Men. This, his fifth film behind the camera, is a mixed bag of good scenes tied together in the loosest possible manner. While better than his last two pictures, The Monuments Men isn’t able to reach the creative style or emotional intensity of his debut feature, Good Night, and Good Luck. Packed with a talented cast of thespian Expendables, the story struggles to incorporate each character with enough obstacles to sustain interest, using their literal face value for stereotypical recognition is appreciated otherwise these soldiers would be indistinguishable.
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Gone Girl (2014) – Review

2 Stars

An astute master craftsman’s befuddled love letter to the two directors he loves most: Alfred Hitchcock and David Fincher. The resulting movie, taken from the book by Gillian Flynn and interwoven with the director’s almost trademark nihilism, is watchable for the first 45 minutes or so, until ludicrous plot turns and genuinely unlikable characters cave the story in on itself. It’s tempting to dismiss Gone Girl as topical sensationalism. But Fincher’s film is too meticulously crafted to write off as mere exploitation. Unfortunately, it’s also incredibly boring.
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Rage (2014) – Review

2 Stars

Nicholas Cage has played nearly every type of role onscreen. From cop to convict, addict to dealer, this performer has tackled them all. Now, in the simply titled, Rage, Cage is Paul Maguire, a retired gangster with a renewed blood lust. For a movie with such an aggressive name and a star with a predilection for over-the-top theatrics, the flick is not nearly as violent or action-packed as suggested. Instead we have a revenge-thriller with familiar plot elements, and an on-the-noise denouncement that violence begets violence. The saving grace of the picture is the patently off-kilter line readings from Cage and a late in the game surprise ending that is earned.
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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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