Dark Skies (2013) – Review

2 Stars

Dark Skies is a solid little chiller for two-thirds of it’s running time. Then the third act torpedoes the story and leaves the viewer scratching their collective heads. Can anyone explain the final scene? Producer Jason Blum knows his way around the genre, which probably explains the on-the-level production vales and casting, even he must have realized the ending is a cop-out not a satisfying conclusion.
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The Maze Runner (2014) – Review

3 Stars

The best of the Hunger Games clones so far, The Maze Runner, give us appealing characters, an intriguing premise and some fine special effects work. Director Wes Ball has moved from helming intimate independent films to crafting this modestly budgeted, but polished production, based on a YA book series. Dylan O’ Brien announces himself as a fresh new face on the scene, who is capable of sustaining a lead role in a blockbuster film.
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Tremors 5: Bloodlines ( 2015) – Review

3 Stars

When I saw Tremors back in 1990, I had no clue that 25 years later the series would produce a fifth entry. To say the concept and point has been stretched to include these low-budgeted sequels, is besides the point. These titles have name recognition and serve as filler for Syfy channel and the like. But I’m pleased to report that Tremors 5 is a funny, often-entertaining direct-to-DVD B-movie with good effects and decent performances considering the genre and audience expectations.
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Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) – Review

3 Stars

Avengers: Age of Ultron grossed over $450 million at the domestic box office this summer. Yet, it somehow feels as if it was lost in the shuffle of Jurassic World, Mission Impossible and Mad Max. The sequel doesn’t manage to hit the creative peaks of The Avengers (2012) but, it is a solid popcorn entertainment piece with occasional flashes of brilliance. Murky plotting and a soggy second act nearly torpedo the fun. Luckily, the superior cast (all fully inhabiting these silly characters with surprising humanity) saves the day.
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Kull the Conqueror (1997) – Review

1 Star

It has long been rumored that the screenplay for what would become Kull the Conqueror was originally drafted as a third chapter to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan series. Apparently, unsatisfied with the writing Arnold turned down the role. The producers were at least deft enough to understand-No Schwarzenegger, No Conan. So, they retooled the main character into another Robert E. Howard literary character Kull of Atlantis, and cast television’s Hercules, Kevin Sorbo, in the lead role. This is important because in order to dissect a disaster, one must acquaint themselves with all the minor mishaps on the path to destruction. In the case of Kull, the screenplay is sophomoric, the swordplay is worse than some of the work in Sorbo’s Hercules series, and the entire movie looks made-for-TV. Director John Nicolella (props for being a creator on Miami Vice) is out of his depth. The direction is non-existent as tone and blocking are at high school film student levels.
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Fantastic Four (2015) – Review

2 Stars

Filmmakers have successfully aped Christopher Nolan’s blueprint for nihilistic, downtrodden superheroes so many times (and with relative ease), it’s tempting to fall into a repetitive trap. So, FOX must have felt assured when they brought in indie darling Josh Trank to essentially ape Bryan Singer’s style and the first X-MEN movie specifically. If they wanted a Bryan Singer movie, why not get Singer to make it? The result is a well-cast group of actors, all dressed up with nothing to do.
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Iron Man 3 (2013) – Review

2 Stars

In 2008, Robert Downey Jr.’s interpretation of Tony Stark was a blast of cinematic freshness. It was a major actor taking a chance on playing loony. Much like Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow, Stark gave a serious thespian an opportunity to become a global movie star. Now, five years removed from that scorching original take on the material, Iron Man 3 feels flat and ponderous. The actor, character and cross-plotting with other MCU properties has become off-putting.
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Strange Days (1995) – Review

3 Stars

Kathryn Bigelow’s ambitious, futuristic tale is a rambling opus that features just enough fresh elements to qualify as a recommendation. This is a technically dazzling film that attempts to tell a traditional murder mystery within the framework of a sci-fi thriller. The most surprising aspect of the story is a sub-plot about an assassinated militant rap artist, this creates turmoil in the streets between citizens and law enforcement. All of this takes place on the last days of the millennium as growing concerns mounts and general anarchy is the rule of the day.
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X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

I’ve never been able to quite understand the long-lasting appeal of Marvel’s X-Men. There are now seven movies in the series (though not in successive order) and I have long grown tired of the trials and battles between mutants and humans. X-2 is one of the best superhero films ever committed to film, but it is now 11 years and five sequels later and the originality, luster and my own emotional attachment to this world and characters have long faded. Series’ regular Hugh Jackman is once again beefed up and in charge of the show as the Wolverine. Jackman now stands among Moore, Connery, and Stallone as actors who have portrayed the same role in six different movies. He commands the screen as the muscular mutant with iron claws, but Jackman has never been the problem with these flicks. It is the same rudimentary plot devices over and over again, the novelty this time around is the time travel element. This gimmick allows Wolverine to visit an alternate universe that ties the series’ fractured timeline together.
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Terminator Genisys (2015) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s iconic line “I’ll be back” is starting to become a veiled threat. Terminator Genisys is a crushing disappointment for any fan that can recall the pure cinematic joy of experiencing the James Cameron episodes in theaters. T2 was one of the greatest movie-going experiences of my life. To think that years later the series would be relegated to this shambled, unimaginative bore, is devastating. Lethargic direction, bad casting and confused plotting are issues that bedeviled this blockbuster into submission. Even the usually reliable Schwarzenegger seems to be lost in the ho-hum proceedings.
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Jupiter Ascending (2015) – Review

1 Star

Jupiter Ascending is one of the year’s big cinematic blunders, a bad movie of the first order. This folly is a mega-budgeted picture with name talent on both sides of the camera, like 47 Ronin or Babylon A.D., nothing works and we are left looking at flashy images on-screen without a vested interest or any character to root for. Maybe after receiving criticism over the complicated narrative developments of their unfairly overlooked epic Cloud Atlas, The Wachowski’s intentionally simplified their story to the barest elements. Or the extended and reportedly difficult post-production process cut sections that presumably, would have made things clearer.
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Ender’s Game (2013) – Review

3 Stars

Longtime fans of Orson Scott Card’s novels have cried foul over the many contentious liberties taken by the filmmakers. One department the creative team has not skimmed is in the visual effects arena. Ender’s Game is a beautifully designed picture with some dazzling imagery and a story that is intriguing before it turns anti-climactic. The final reveal may have been more impactful in novel form. On the screen, the third act events seem perfunctory and unsatisfying. On the whole, Ender’s Game stands amongst the better young adult adaptations in recent years.
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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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Transcendence (2014) – Review

1 Star

Transcendence marks the directing debut of longtime cinematographer and frequent Christopher Nolan collaborator, Wally Pfister. This is of note not because of the promotion given to Pfister, due rather to the close resemblance of style and visual look of Nolan’s work. It looks, talks and moves like a Nolan film but there is a key ingredient missing that ultimately turns the recipe into a bland mixture of heighten techno paranoia and ridiculous plot turns.
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