X-Men (2000) – Review

3 Stars

Marvel’s current cinema domination can be traced back to X-Men, the Bryan Singer directed film that started off the longest running franchise in superhero history. This serious-minded film is ripe with good actors delivering intelligent dialogue, surrounded by captivating production design all while slyly referencing racial,sexual and other forms of discrimination. This inaugural entry into the X-Men cannon is flawed and feels overly expository, but remains entertaining and full of compelling characters to warrant a positive recommendation.
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Heavy Metal (1981) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

Six stories make up the feature-length running time of this maddeningly ambiguous, or pointless depending on your point of view, adult themed sci-fi animated film. The cartoon fantasies are bridged by a narrator relaying evil tales to the frightened daughter of an astronaut. The glowing green orb is referred to as the LOC-NAR and its diverse effect on humankind over the course of time and space is the concurrent through-line in all the stories presented. The feature starts strong with its best story upfront, but unfortunately by mid-way the energy and interesting concepts have been exhausted. Although throughout the strong visual style remains intact.
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Hercules (2014) – Review

3 Stars

Directed with reckless indifference by Brett Ratner from a playful script accredited to a four writers,Hercules is sleek and empty as well as funny and pointless. It feels manufactured, touched by many different hands. A movie made by committee. The pleasant surprise is that both the script, and supporting cast, are funny; the film blends big-budget action and tongue-in-cheek humor in the way that nearly lampoons the entire genre. Johnson, looking both more muscular and younger than he did in his Scorpion King era, and evil Lord John Hurt go after each other amid lots of sword fighting, battles and fire effects. (more…)

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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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