Edge of Tomorrow (2014) – Review

3 1/2 Stars

Tom Cruise’s remarkable career resiliency over the course of three decades is a staggering achievement, that fortitude and gung-ho temperament are best utilized (as of late) in this darkly funny, and spectacular looking sci-fi action thriller. The most obvious reference point is Groundhog’s Day, but Edge of Tomorrow borrows from Starship Troopers, Aliens, and a number of other well-regarded genre titles to create its tale of a solider reliving his last day, over and over. Edge of Tomorrow sports slick effects, solid acting and a great screenplay from novice scribes John-Henry Butterworth, Jez Butterrworth, with an unmistakable polish from Cruise stalwart Christopher McQuarrie.
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The Crow (1994) – Review

4 Stars

The Crow is a landmark achievement in many regards but the film carries a morose weight given the tragic underpinnings of the behind the scenes death of the late Brandon Lee. However the look, style and energy are so sensational that the film leaps off the screen at times, engulfing the viewer in the filmmaker’s vision of a semi-futuristic and hellish society of psychopaths, impotent authority figures and the stunning charisma of its star.
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Millennium (1989) – Review

1 Star

In today’s current trend of reboots, remakes, re-imagining or any other marketing ‘buzz’ word the studios throw at audiences, Millennium seems an ideal candidate for the process. An airline disaster, time travel and the fate of mankind dictate this heavy-handed film that never takes off. There is a lack of energy or enthusiasm for the project that comes across in the lethargic manner that the story unfolds and the laconic acting from Kristofferson. He seems afloat spouting ridiculous dialogue in a plot that starts at confusing before devolving into near incoherence.
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Starship: Rising (2014) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

What can be said about director Neil Johnson that hasn’t already been said? Revolutionary digital film-maker? Yes. Great storyteller? No. It’s funny that most of the information that comes up in Google appears to be disseminated by Johnson himself, this includes his IMDb bio, accredited to Johnson, which puts it in just the right words. “While not well known in public spheres, he is regarded by a few people as a pioneer in digital film-making.” While I’m always amazed that anyone can get a film finished and released, a feat much harder than most realize, and while I love digital-guerrilla-film-making, I’m not reviewing Johnson’s methods, but the end product. Starship: Rising is a huge undertaking, shot back to back with its sequel Starship: Apocalypse. Unfortunately the story is far too ambitious and becomes impossibly laborious to hold any attention.
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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) – Review

4 Stars

The fifth Spiderman movie in the last 12 years is actually the best since that original back in the summer of 2002. This absolutely smashing sequel does the seemingly impossible (or at least improbable) feat of besting all the other superhero movies of the year, rendering the previous film irrelevant, and creating genuine excitement for the oncoming third installment of this reboot trilogy. Excellent casting and unusually strong writing along with er…amazing direction from one-time indie darling Marc Webb, who has fully established himself as an exciting big budget helmer.
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Predators (2010) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

This reboot/sequel has been 23 years in the waiting and at times the lengthy window between movies helps the film feel fresher, but before too long redundancy and low-brow thinking nearly sink the project. The construction of this admittedly B-Movie is solid and the addition of Alan Silvestri’s original score helps the film tremendously. However, second and third act plotting run the story into the ground making the film alternately confusing and dull.
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Asteroid vs. Earth (2014) – Review

1 Star

Another from the house of quickie genre flicks, Asteroid vs. Earth is an unremarkable disaster movie that introduces a new angle story-wise, while interspersing tons of destruction footage compiled through The Asylum’s vast catalogue of similar titles. The roll call or familiar faces in familiar roles is part of the comfort junk food appeal of The Asylum’s pictures, but Asteroid vs. Earth is a flat film all around.
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Godzilla (2014) – Review

2 Stars

Godzilla is a visually stunning movie that dramatically peaks early and then settles for a routine CGI fest that includes battling monsters against a crumbling city skyline. For those picky fans that thought Roland Emmerich’s 1998 film of the same name was derivative, ungainly, and overlong–the latest rendering falls victim to the same perils. Working from a script that runs out of ideas early, the ‘name’ cast tries (mostly) in vein to add gravitas to this silly parable.
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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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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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The Legend of Hercules (2014) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

The Legend of Hercules isn’t mush fun and lets face it, fun is exactly the tone the producers should have been aiming for. This latest incarnation of the mortal son of the gods has been developed under the same watchful eye as the creators of that ghastly Conan reboot a few years back. That should be the tip-off that loads of money have been spent on a script that doesn’t seem fit for filming, headlined by a star with the right physique and nothing else. The main difference between the two fantasy flicks is that Hercules has been directed by long-time film action ace Renny Harlin, who brings a glossy sheen to the proceedings that without his involvement this dud surely would rank among the genre’s worst.
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2012 (2009) – Review

3 Stars

After flirting with doomsday scenarios in his biggest hits Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, Roland Emmerich goes the full distance in 2012, showcasing nearly 160 minutes of non-stop destruction. The special effects dazzle but as is often the case, the writing is broad enough to fit in every conceivable demographic and appeal to all nationalities.

In the pole position is John Cusack, who after Robert Downey Jr’s recent career resurgence must have been after his agent to find him a blockbuster too, cast here as a published science fiction author working odd jobs to make ends meet. His estranged wife and children live in the suburbs with their well-to-do stepfather, a big-time plastic surgeon. Cusack’s character is a likable creation that is played well by the talented actor, often in Emmerich pictures the affability of his leads is an annoying distraction and Cusack manages to avoid the trap.

As the movie begins, scientists in India have discovered the extreme heating of the Earth’s core, which signals an oncoming cataclysmic event. From there an immediate conference with the President ensues and before long plans are in place to construct big Ark like boats to survive the event.

Nearly a dozen characters are brought on-stage only to find themselves the unfortunate victim of gruesome deaths in later scenes. The story is surprisingly light-on-its-feet, particularly for a gargantuan disaster film that runs over two and a half hours. Emmerich’s genre filmmaking is an acquired taste. I find his 1990’s style, comforting and easy to watch. But in reviewing some of his earlier work it is apparent that his inability to maintain narrative momentum has been a hinderance. 2012 is not without similar faults, this is popcorn cinema to be sure, but it is effective blockbuster craftsmanship also.

Director: Roland Emmerich
Stars: John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet

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The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) – Review

2 Stars

The sequel to one of the most beloved films of all-time is an oddly flat and over-all disappointing follow-up that represents the most blatantly commercial cash grab of Spielberg’s long and other-wise distinguished career. To be fair the story is taken directly from Michael Crichton’s cash grab novel of the same name. All parties involved are responsible for this bland and curiously non-involving sequel that feels perfunctory from the opening frame.

Picking up four years after the disastrous events at Jurassic Park, word has surfaced that a nearby island is populated by Dinosaurs roaming free. Now John Hammond’s corporate minded nephew seeks to reinvigorate InGen’s stock by capturing a T-Rex an bringing the dinosaur to San Diego, CA.. An expedition team is recruited and assembled by the wily Hammond to sabotage a mercenary team. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) once again finds himself running from hungry carnivores, though this outing he is also responsible for the well-being of his ten yr. old daughter and free-spirited girlfriend Sara (Juliana Moore).

What starts as a research trip quickly turns into a rescue mission, as the two groups are forced to work together in order to survive the extreme danger lurking around every corner. After many chases and close calls the surviving members of the crew are brought back home. Then horrified to find out that InGen is shipping a sedated T-Rex to the mainland via cargo ship. The ship comes crashing into port with a very angry Dinosaur unleashed, now roaming the suburbs and downtown area of Southern California.

The Lost World has two set-pieces that are on par with the electric fence sequence from the earlier film. The special effects are better this time around and the action comes faster and more frequently. So why isn’t this a more enjoyable experience? The magic and awe of the first movie have been replaced with a sardonic and cynical attitude that is constantly articulated by Goldblum’s increasingly obnoxious Dr. Malcolm.

I do no count myself a fan of the Jeff Goldblum school of acting, but even the…pause…master isn’t as stiff and unlikable as Julian Moore’s Sara, who she chose to play as a cross between Catherine Hepburn and “Hildy” Johnson. A slimmer more energetic looking Vince Vaughn is cast as a cameraman with a background in war zone photography. Bits of that recognizable humor start to creep in during a few of the actor’s line readings and it makes you wish he had been cast in the lead and Spielberg had dumped Goldblum. A wasted trip back to the well that was a big hit in its day but didn’t achieve a lasting impression.

Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Pete Postlethwaite,

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In the Name of the King III (2014) – Review

1 Star

Uwe Boll’s improbable trilogy concludes with this ultra-low budget entry subtitled: The Last Mission. That is a swell promise since this series is now so far removed from the source material that started the franchise it’s embarrassing to even associate the name with this picture. Boll’s latest muse is Australian beefcake Dominic Purcell, this the fourth pairing of director and star and it is by far the weakest collaboration between the two.
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RoboCop (2014) – Review

2 Stars

The self-important and over-long reboot of Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 sci-fi hit is a big letdown. It starts promisingly with a satirical news program showcasing drone technology being applied as a military ground force in Tehran. A group of martyrs attacks the robot army in an attempt to gain attention from the news crew broadcasting live from the hot-zone. This title sequence is so captivating and realistic it feels like it could have escaped from the hands of Paul Greengrass or Neill Blomkamp. Unfortunately it’s all down-hill from there on, as the story takes familiar elements and bits of dialogue while recycling them into an on the nose diatribe about drone warfare and the consequences of taking responsibility out of human hands and putting faith into machines.
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