Thursday, June 27, 2013

Strictly Business (1991) Review:

I'm not sure if it's because people don't like popular actors' earlier works or if it's just because the movie was released in 1991, which is considered to be old now, but viewers have the tendency to find lesser value in these kinds of films. Yet, there are various actors here that should help make the viewer at least give it a watch for curiosity. Seriously, Samuel L. Jackson, the guy who played Nick Fury from The Avengers (2012) and Mace Windu from the three Star Wars prequels is in this movie acting as a balding grumpy boss at a business firm! It's quite comical to see him in this kind of role.

Samuel L. Jackson & Tommy Davidson
The premise is very basic, a businessman finds the girl of his dreams but can't find a way to meet her. Luckily, he has a friend who can get him inside the world she lives in so he can finally be happy. The businessman who only knows how to be a "business man" and nothing else is Waymon (Joseph C. Phillips). Waymon is the best portrayal of how backward someone's life can be depending on how they're brought up. To show this, Phillips makes Waymon look like a stiff, a guy who can't adapt to something different or new; a book worm. That's very relateable because a lot of people are like that when it comes to trying new things and breaking their comfort shell.

The person who will introduce Waymon to this change is Bobby (Tommy Davidson) who apparently lives in Harlem; in other words, his type of demeanor is quite the opposite of Waymon. This is what makes various scenes funny because of how Bobby acts with his co-workers and Waymon. The girl that Waymon wants to get to know is Natalie, played the ever so popular Halle Berry. May I mention that this is only her second theatrical release where she actually plays a more significant role? But even here, she puts in a nice performance, although it could be said that she's just here for eye-candy (which should be a reason to watch this I would think). The rest of the cast also does a good job in doing their part, so no complaints here.

Joseph C. Phillips (the stiff) & his love (Halle Berry)
Pam Gibson and Nelson George who did the writing have a decent script here as well. I am surprised to how many times the "N" word was spoken; yet I feel now that if it were left out, it would not have felt as authentic. The subplots are also rather typical but it's forgivable because how much charm the main actors give their characters. There are several genuinely funny scenes in this movie as well. Most of these scenes are the exchanges between Waymon and Bobby when Natalie is around.

However, the one thing I found a little unrealistic is how certain characters had connections to important people. I mean, I know it's possible but both characters have to have some kind of status on the corporate latter, not just one, unless it is one of those rare cases. So I was a little confused on how they met. No explanation was given, that could have at least been explained. Lastly, the musical score provided by Michel Colombier didn't have a main theme but it did carry a consistent tone, which pleased me. A lot of the music played carries culture and continually sounds upbeat and energetic. That always helps a movie, especially if its genre is romance/comedy. It's all around a solid movie.

Not only does it contain performances from actors in their earlier days but it also has a good story to go along with it. The character portrayals are also well scripted.

Points Earned --> 9:10

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Hell's Kitchen (1998) Review:

Even famous actors today had to start somewhere. It's not to say that this is their best work or the work that pushed them into the spotlight but not many people come out on top the very first time anyway. For the most part, including myself, this movie caught my interest because within its cast was a very young Angelina Jolie and Johnny Whitworth. I didn't care much of what the story was about; that is until I finally reached the rolling of the end credits. Quite honestly, I don't understand why people can't find the value in this movie. It is certainly not rock solid entertainment, but it hits harder than most low budget dramas.

A young Angelina Jolie
The story may not be about the most common of situations but it is relateable to an extent. A group of friends made a bad decision by trying to pull a robbery and end up causing friendly fire and another friend goes missing. This leaves with one of the friends, Johnny Miles (Mekhi Phifer) being jailed, and the other two, Gloria (Angelina Jolie) and Patty (Johnny Whitworth) to deal with family issues. But it's when five years later that come around, that old wounds will open but will also be cleansed for the final time.

The majority of performances are well done. Whitworth, Phifer, Jolie and even Rosanna Arquette, who plays Jolie's mother, all give real-human performances for the kind of drama these characters have to go through. The only character I didn't find that human was Lou Reilly (William Forsythe). He held the same facial expression through the entire film. Not one smile. And what's with his hair? But I digress. I also liked how Tony Cinciripini wrote how each subplot would tie the loose ends by the end of the film. It was nice to see the end result of the film because it combined everything into one. That's not to say every subplot was well written though.

Johnny Miles (Mekhi Phifer)
When it came to family/friend issues, yes I felt there was a real story being told. But when it came to Miles wanting to box, there wasn't much explained about why he wanted to do boxing and how he met Lou Reilly. Plus, when Miles asked Reilly to be his agent, Reilly refused but by the next scene, he was being trained to box. I don't get it, where's the transition? Why did he change his mind? What made him change his mind? Why, why, why? There was also no recompense for the actions of various characters. There would be scenes of criminal acts or threats and yet no one would get in trouble for it. I find that hard to believe.

As for music, the composer Joseph Arthur did not provide a theatrical film score, which is understandable for the budget that was provided. But I was actually not so displeased with the turnout. Throughout the film, acoustic songs will be played. There is also a song that is played every now and then, so that could be considered a theme. What I liked about it is that it gave a human characteristic to the story. This made it feel a little more down to earth, so perhaps an orchestral score would have made seem less realistic. Either way, it's a fairly decent film.

The performances carry the right emotion and the music assists in making the drama feel that much more real. Unfortunately, the writing has its weak points and doesn't allow for any explanation.

Points Earned --> 7:10

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Halloween (1978) Review:

If there is one film that director John Carpenter will be best known for, it'll be this slasher film. Taking his inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960), John Carpenter creates a work that is quite honestly, one the most unsettling horror pictures any horror fan should see. And for the budget that it was made on, should amaze viewers even more. This is one of those rare gems that are hard to come by. There is one thing to pick on but it's not the most relevant of things.

Laurie Strode (Curtis) and her school friend
The story starts out about a small boy who is convicted of murder in 1963. Skip 15 years later, he breaks out of the asylum and returns to his hometown on Halloween night to seek more victims. Coming straight into this madman's path is a high school girl who has no rhyme or reason to meet him. It just so happens that fate was behind it. Playing the high school girl, Laurie Strode is now famous actress, Jaime Lee Curtis. Boy does Curtis have some hair in this movie. I'm so used to her having short hair.

But besides that, Curtis does a great job displaying her fear on screen. I think many can agree that anyone would react in the same way if they ran into this killer. Along with her is veteran actor Donald Pleasence who plays the killer's doctor, Dr. Loomis. Pleasence also puts in a good performance because he portrays how serious the situation is. And although he is not credited as Michael Myers and is instead called "The Shape", Nick Castle as the killer is also great at his role. A towering 6-foot giant is not a happy sight if he's carrying a kitchen knife with him and is wearing a white expressionless mask.

Is that NOT creepy?!?!?!
However, one of the more surprising things about this movie is that for gore, it's rather tame. There's only a body count of 5, total, and even the killing scenes are not that gruesome. That's nothing to knock at though. The way John Carpenter really makes this character effective is by making the killer elusive and creepy. When the killer is on screen, he doesn't talk and just stands around like a scarecrow, watching menacingly. Even creepier is how a character will see him one minute and the next he's gone. It's almost like he wasn't there to begin with. That's what's difficult to stomach. Imagine if there was someone like that in your neighborhood? Yeeesh.

However here's where I have to knock the film though. I wanted a little back-story about this killer. Why did he kill at such a young age? Was it intended? Was it out of curiosity? Or is there really a demon inhabiting the boy’s body? Why? And the audience will never have it answered. I wish that at least was explained. But that's it. Finally what topped off this work was John Carpenter's self composed score. There may have not been too many diverse tracks, but he did have a main theme for the franchise and the characters themselves, which made every scene memorable. In most tracks, a piano will play at either a quick or slow pace. But either way, it will get the chills going.

Thanks to John Carpenter's ingenuity, October 31rst will never quite feel the same again. The actors put in great performances, the music is tantalizingly cringe worthy and the killer himself is not to be reckoned with.

Points Earned --> 9:10

The Boondock Saints (1999) Review:

How often does a viewer get a chance to see an Irish character on screen that fights for good? There have been Irish actors who portray other ethnic characters but not Irish characters. It's actually kind of strange too because there are several Irish actors that could have been casted to use their real accents. Instead, two Americans star as the main leads. Whatever, I can deal with it.

The MacManus twins
Anyway, the story is about two fraternal twins, Connor and Murphy MacManus, played by Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus who take it upon themselves to start their own crusade of killing bad guys just because, they're bad guys. It's a cool idea, who doesn't want the evil people off the face of the world? But here's where I get confused. It never is explained to why these boys decide to do this. Was there an event that happened in their past that made them change? Or was it self driven through pure excitement for the sake of killing? I don't know.

I do give credit to Flanery and Reedus though for their acting. Because they're brothers, they will tend to act like brothers. For example, they do things synchronized and they tend to bump heads. That's fine because it allows them to become more believable to the audience. Their accents are also fairly well done for Americans too. But the weird thing is that even after all that, I really didn't care much for the duo. Accompanying them is an unstable Italian called Rocco played by David Della Rocco. Rocco makes his character unstable by giving him emotional spikes of anger and happiness. This is goofy and should create charm but for me, I didn't get attached to him either.

Willem Dafoe as FBI agent Paul Smecker
Following their trail of hits is FBI agent Paul Smecker played by the usually chaotic Willem Dafoe. What people should like about Dafoe's performance is how well he is able to use his deduction skills to show not only his fellow cops but the audience as well to how the MacManus brothers carry out their business. It's really cool how he can figure that kind of stuff out. What was even more interesting was how the scene was setup. First the audience will see the aftermath, then Smecker will go about what he thinks happened and then a flashback will occur showing how the event actually happened. It will keep audiences locked to the screen.

However, one character I found the least compelling was Il Duce played by Billy Connolly. There was a tiny back-story about him but it still never explained to how he seemed all too familiar with the MacManus brothers. That also wasn't explained well. Lastly, the music was rather average. Jeff Danna, who isn't a novice to this kind of job mixes rock with electrosynth and opera. In places it works and it others it doesn't which left me feeling indifferent about the film as a whole. The opera part I felt was a little too much. It should satisfy viewers but not to the highest degree of entertainment.

These Irish mercenaries are cool to watch in action along with their detective counterpart played by Dafoe. Just don't expect much explanation for anything when it comes to characters.

Points Earned --> 6:10

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Gingerdead Man (2005) Review:

Gary Busey is known for being odd in general. From his uneven eyes to crazed-looking grin, it shouldn't surprise viewers that he would be cast in such a ridiculous movie. To be honest, this isn't even a feature length movie. Its running time is 70 minutes and 10 of them are end credits so it's more like a TV movie more than a feature film. But I digress, this horror film does show some ingenuity in various places but it also lacks focus at the plot.

Gary Busey being....himself?
The title is self-explanatory. Gary Busey is a psychopath, Millard Findlemeyer. He goes on a rampage and kills the owner of a family business along with his son because they attempted to stop him, leaving the daughter, Sarah (Robin Sydney), wounded. Once Findlemeyer was arrested, he was sent to the electric chair and cremated. A couple years later, Sarah is struggling to keep the business afloat along with a new eatery across the street threatening to close the shop. Little does Sarah realize, Findlemeyer will be back, a gingerbread man. Yeah.

Silly - yes. Preposterous - absolutely. Acceptable - to a point actually. The reason why this concept is acceptable is because voodoo plays apart of the story. It certainly does not play as strong or as creepy but look at Child's Play (1988)...a killer's soul is transferred to some nonliving object. It's not terrible, it's just not original. Here's what does work for this picture - the creature effects, Gary Busey and the music. First, Gary Busey is a fine choice to play this particular psychopath because well, it's Gary Busey. He’s just a strange man playing a strange character, which seems to fit the bill well.

The creature effects were also pleasantly well crafted, for its budget at least. The look of this killer gingerbread man looks like a rejected Muppet but still carries a little charm (thanks to Busey); even if the dough looks a lot like rubber. And to be frank, I'm glad they used a puppet, because using CGI would have made it that less enjoyable knowing I was watching something just pasted on screen instead of actually being filmed. Roger Ballenger's one time musical score wasn't the greatest but it did contain some rather goofy tunes, which I liked. And although it is a horror film, Ballenger's score is appropriate because this movie is goofy. Who can take a talking gingerbread man seriously no matter how deadly?

Gary Busey as his alter ego
But looking at everything else is where this movie just doesn't work. First and foremost, the plot lacks focus. Too many times the direction and point of view will shift between the protagonist (Sarah) and the gingerdead man, but it'll happen way too often. Even more surprising, is how little the villain is actually in this movie. Findlemeyer's screen time is far less than Sarah's. Instead, viewers will have subplots of drunken old ladies and forgotten birthdays thrown at their faces for no reason. These kinds of movies aren't made to be complex, so why bother? Viewers came to see the gingerdead man and that's what they should see. Sarah as the protagonist is okay but she doesn't do much to make herself stand out from any other actor there.

Oh and let's not forget that one dumb person who says they're leaving several times but keeps returning. Ugh. However, the most shocking part of this whole movie is the violence. There is practically no gore at all. There really isn't. I would assume of this because of how little the killer was on screen. Again, I realize that this movie had a tiny budget and only Gary Busey as its star power but there are films out there that became successful with very little. Too bad it doesn't work as well as it should have. Maybe if Busey's character had more screen time, it would have been better.

Gary Busey works as the crazy cookie because he IS a crazy cookie. That's about it though. The practical effects look efficiently used but it's only visible when the villain is on screen, which isn't often.

Points Earned --> 4:10

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Man of Steel (2013) Review:

When it comes to portraying a comic book character like Superman, an icon with high popularity, it's hard not to feel the pressure of millions of fans. Seven years before was Superman Returns (2006) directed by Bryan Singer which didn't gather spectacular reviews by most and before that were the dreaded Superman III (1983) and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987). So it’s no surprise that fans are skeptical on what to expect. But to be honest, even though I found things to knock on, it’s difficult not to enjoy it. I mean, how could you go wrong with Zack Snyder directing and Christopher Nolan producing right behind him?

Henry Cavill as Kal-El
Since this movie is jump-starting the Superman franchise again, its important to understand that the writing will cover the back-story but will also continue with the current story to keep things moving. David S. Goyer's screenplay is written quite skillfully but it does have a flaw I'd like to address and that's the villain's plan. Again, the plan is involving slaying the human race in place for an older race. It reminded me too much of other movies. Most recently that came to mind was Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011). Same concept, to a point.

But what I did feel to be very deep about Goyer's writing was the back-story. Viewers will have the experience of understanding the physical and mental pain that Clark Kent (Kal-El) had to endure while growing up. Whether he was 9, 13 or 33. It'll hit viewers hard because we all can relate to what it's like to be rejected by others. To feel like the whole world is looking down at us, it's a scary feeling, especially when one feels like an outcast. But, as explained Jor-El (Russell Crowe), this is why he sent Kal-El to earth, so he could choose his own path. The rest of the children on Krypton were all predestined for a certain job in life and Jor-El didn't want that for Kal-El. That part of the writing was great.

Casting was another great aspect to this movie that played a significant part of the product. Henry Cavill is by far the most accurate embodiment of the Kal-El. His voice is smooth yet powerful. Cavill is also able to convey a lot of emotion in his role because of how bound he is by his upbringing. Isn't it also coincidental that he's also from the UK just like Christian Bale is and he played Batman, another DC comic hero. Amy Adams as Lois Lane was a great choice too, but I am curious to why her hair could not have been colored in slightly darker. Would it have taken up that much more time? Diane Lane and Kevin Costner who play Kal-El's parents also did a great job. When they're on screen it is easy to see that they are the reason why Clark Kent is the way he is.

As for the Kryptonians, Russell Crowe's interpretation of Jor-El had a royal and noble feel to it. Perhaps not as memorable as Marlon Brando's take but inventive all the same. Lastly, General Zod played by Michael Shannon was the most interesting for me. It's not often that I pity a villain but I did. According to the story, General Zod was one of the predestined children, which means he didn't grow up with the choice of what he wanted to be. Which should lead viewers to understand why Zod won't give up. Shannon has ability to instill that into his audience it feels quite real. Zod is not one to be messed with.

Michael Shannon as General Zod
Since we live in an era where technology is much apart of our lives, there's not much to say about the special effects or action. The special effects were well integrated into the movie and nothing stuck out like a sore thumb. And since this is a Superman movie, don't even think that there WON'T be any action. There's plenty. However, depending on viewers’ preferences, some of the camera shots in this movie may annoy people. For example, there were a few scenes that seemed like it was shot with a handheld camera. The camera just didn't stay steady. I don't know if that was to make the picture seem more real (or raw) but it wasn't necessary.

Finally, the component that is needed to make any film compelling, especially a comic book hero adaptation, is the film score. Contributing to this is Hans Zimmer, best known for creating intense, high octane, downbeat pounding music and its no different here. Horns will blare and string instruments will sound. Sadly though, I did not find Zimmer's score to be as powerful when it came to the main theme. There definitely was a theme, which is great but the crescendo of notes never seemed to finish, leaving the theme at somewhat of a cliffhanger. It's important to finish because it conveys that sense of power and presence. Zimmer knows what makes a good score and all this needed was a little more push and it could have knocked this out of the ballpark. But all in all, it's obvious that a lot of effort went into this work.

There are only a few things that were off with the movie but they are so tiny that it’s not much to get upset over. The cast and music drive the story which leave a very enjoyable experience for viewers.

Points Earned --> 9:10

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Blade (1998) Review:

Before this film, it was clear that any Marvel comic adaptation to the big screen was not favored by many. Howard the Duck (1986) impressed very few and The Punisher (1989) did not even get a chance to be released in U.S. theaters. It was difficult to say how Marvel would perform after such mishaps. Thankfully, they came back with one heck of an action-horror film starring one of the most popular actors at the time - Wesley Snipes. And was it a great casting choice; thank you David S. Goyer.

The duo ---> Snipes (Blade) & Whistler (Kristofferson)
To be brief because it was already explained, Wesley Snipes plays a half human, half vampire named Blade who takes it upon himself to slay every vampire that he comes into contact with. Just because, he doesn't like being part vampire himself. Accompanying Blade is his weapons maker called the "Whistler" played by Kris Kristofferson. Both Snipes and Kristofferson show great chemistry on screen will give a real sense that these two guys have been at it for years. Snipes plays his role with a controlled anger and moves with style, while Kristofferson lightens up the air with lines that any old man would say.

Witnessing these two handle their work is a medical examiner Karen (N'Bushe Wright) who also shows off some feminine power when she's given the chance. But just like any other female character in an antihero movie like this, Wright's character will not be a love interest and I am totally fine with that. Same goes for what should be for Marvel's The Punisher, Daredevil and Ghost Rider. Playing the villain, Deacon Frost is Stephen Dorff and he too gives the cold shoulder (pun intended) to many of his enemies, including his own. He doesn't even seem to really care about his partner Quinn (Donal Logue), a fellow vampire. That's selfish man.

N'Bushe Wright as Karen, who unknowingly is
dragged into the world of blade
Along with a set of great characters, comes some fierce stylized action, cool special effects and dark music. The writing is where it gets a little cliche. Because Wesley Snipes holds several degrees in martial arts, it should be no surprise that the action will be stylized to a level that will entertain and not be over top. And because this movie is rated R and is about vampires, there will be blood. In fact, I think it's appropriate to say that this movie was under the "Marvel Knights" logo before it was even introduced with Punisher: War Zone (2008) and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012). The atmosphere is dark and gritty. Which is exactly what fans enjoy and want with comic book characters. Also, the special effects were evenly distributed as well, nothing seemed fake.

As for the music composed by Mark Isham, I found it to be effective because it contained a lot of downbeat tones that helped emulate how dark this movie was. But I also found it lacking because there was no reoccurring theme for the main character and it also wasn't present as often as it should have been. Again, when it was present though, it was effective. As for the writing, what didn't work for me was the whole prophecy concept. That and the "chosen one" line. Even if that phrase were left out, it would not have sounded so cliché. But overall, this is one early Marvel film, no one should miss.

Wesley Snipes does a great job portraying Marvel's first antihero. The action is tight and the score is dark and brooding. The writing even allows for good dialog but its back-story is too cliche.

Points Earned --> 8:10

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Detention (2003) Review:

To most, Dolph Lundgren isn't the best of movie performance material. It also doesn't help when a fairly well known actor goes into hiding by making hit or miss films because of outside problems. What's odd though, is that Dolph Lundgren hasn't had any publicity issues. And if he has, it's been well covered up because there have been no reports about it. You would think that after making popular films like Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991) and Universal Soldier (1992), he would have continued to make big hit screen movies like his other muscle counterparts. Instead Lundgren went into an almost two decade absence on the big screen.

Dolph Lundgren as the super teacher/hero
So, because this movie was released in 2003, this is half way through his absence. At this point he was making Direct-to-Video films and Detention (2003) is one of these. Problem is, it didn't do anything for me. Even worse is that the title only exists because of the setting that its in. The story is about a group of criminals who break into a school to get a vanload of cocaine out of the country. And the only man that will get in their way is a gym/history teacher who's holding a detention after school. His name is Sam Decker (Dolph Lundgren).

This already doesn't sound very promising. Here's what works, which isn't all too much. If you (the viewer) want to see Dolph Lundgren play a role that is in his genre but dressed like he's going to work at a cubical, this is it. It's very interesting to see Lundgren be a character without armor and big weapons. Another notable part of this movie is the supporting cast. Even though they aren't memorable characters, they do carry some charm because of how various individuals act in different situations.

One actor who I found to be putting a lot of effort to make his character stand out was Alex Karzis as the main villain. A lot of the time Karzis would make strange gestures, faces or remarks that made me look at the screen and say (while chuckling) - "What was the point of that?" But hey, it kept my attention. The only other piece that worked in this movie was the music by Amin Bhatia. But even that I don't favor all too much because there was no theme, even if the music sounded average. It did lose me now and then so ehhh.

The overzealous Alex Karzis
Now to the bad. In all honesty, there was a very thin story. The premise is just a setup for Dolph Lundgren to go jumping through windows and shooting handguns. There is a little bit of a flash back that involves post traumatic stress but is only to be given away one more time for a brief moment to reveal a connection. What's even weirder is that even when this movie doesn't have much of a story to go by, it manages to drag itself at various intervals. Which brings me to the last point, the action was very sporadic. It really wasn't present all too much. It felt very diluted, which I think is rare for a Dolph Lundgren movie.

I'm also going to guess that the direction to this movie wasn't great since it was headed by Sidney J. Furie, the director of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987). It's hard to say. I was on the fence for this one. It doesn't please me like most of Lundgren's movies but it doesn't disappoint that badly either. I hope I don't run into anymore Lundgren movies like this.

It offers a few interesting concepts but its concentration is lacking. Its cast also tries to show some charm but its script and minimal action provide little to work with.

Points Earned --> 5:10

Kickboxer (1989) Review:

After Bloodsport (1988) was released, Jean-Claude Van Damme's career began to gain traction as a sport/action star. Even if his acting to many wasn't all that convincing, his physicality and choreographed fight scenes seemed to have a magnetic attraction to audiences. In between this movie and Bloodsport (1988) were two other movies but seemed to have not gone over well with viewers. It is not until this movie that Van Damme returns to what looks as some of his better performances at the beginning of his career.

Mr. Chow and his niece
Like many of his other films to come after or came before, Van Damme plays a character with some kind of a martial arts background. Why - because that's the thing Van Damme had going for him at the time. If you were going to see a Van Damme movie, it was for that reason; his martial arts skills. So in here, it is obvious that he's going to play a kickboxer because that's the title of the film. It's a dead give away. The story is about a trainer (Kurt Sloane), who takes it upon himself to fight for his brother who is permanently injured after challenging an opponent who plays dirty.

Playing the injured brother, Eric Sloane, is Dennis Alexio, a real life kickboxer. To be honest, I didn't find his onscreen chemistry with Van Damme to be very convincing. It is explained to why they don't sound like brothers but it still sounds far-fetched. Making them close stepbrothers I think would have made things much easier and more believable. But as for characters, that's really the only weak link I found for that particular area. For Kurt, he must learn how to fight like the opponent who hurt is brother. The only way he'll be able to do that, is by being trained like the opponent.

The person to do that is Xian Chow (Dennis Chan), an old hermit who looks old but still packs quite a punch. To be brought to Chow, Kurt befriends a man named Winston Taylor (Haskell V. Anderson III), an ex-marine from the Vietnam War, now living in what he calls paradise. Anderson's character is partially the reason why this movie deserves to be seen. The early Van Damme films seem to contain the most comical characters. Also let's not forget the obligatory love interest that falls for Kurt Sloane, which doesn't bother me in the least. I understand that these kind of films need one because what would they be without? The love interest is Chow's niece, Mylee, played by Rochelle Ashana.

Tong Po (Michel Qissi)
Let's also not forget the opponent who plays dirty. Tong Po (Michel Qissi) does a good job at making his character look like a jerk. Not only does he get away with several actions that are considered over the top brutal or disgraceful, he also has connections to crime bosses. Hmmm, doesn't sound very good. However this does dilute the character. If you look at Chong Li from Bloodsport (1988), he too was a mean and dirty fighter, but he had no connections. He was just in it for himself. With Tong Po, it's just another cliche - that every antagonist is connected with some crime lord.

There's only one other thing I found to be unnecessary. At one point, Chow gets Kurt drunk and asks him to start dancing. Yeah,...I know there's a point to it in the end of that scene but it really isn't needed. I didn't choose this movie to see Jean-Claude Van Damme dance. No thanks. However, the fight scenes were cool and it was good to see composer Paul Hertzog return to make the score for the film, even if it wasn't as present like his score from Bloodsport (1988). Other than that I was relatively pleased with the outcome of the film.

It is a little more cliche ridden than needed but it still works as a Van Damme sport film. The fight scenes as well as the characters are worth a watch.

Points Earned --> 7:10

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Galaxina (1980) Review:

Everything can be done right, even if the resources needed are not always available. I also can understand that not everything works out as planned but this seems like a stretch. There is potential here but there just isn't enough effort to really call it even a movie. It tries its hardest to be a parody but that can't even be performed thoroughly either. So what's the problem? Practically everything, I only found one thing that was KIND OF funny.

Dorothy Stratten as Galaxina
To get right to the point, the main reason why anyone would want to go see this movie is because it focuses on a character portrayed by a playboy model. That is it. Unless there are hardcore fans of the other unknown actors, there's a good chance there is no other reason. Here's where the main problem is - the writing. William Sachs, who wrote and directed this film, displays that his ability to produce a quality story has a low probability. There is no story here. It is not until a third of the way into the movie will the audience actually here about some kind of an objective; which felt like an eternity.

The story (if that's what one would call it) is about a goofy space police crew who travel through space on a real dumb journey. In charge of the crew are Sgt. Thor (Stephen Macht) and Captain Cornelius Butt (Avery Schreiber), probably some of the worst character names ever made. And along with them is their, I guess pilot, Galaxina played by Dorothy Stratten. Weird thing is, the actual name "Galaxina" is a brand. Apparently every police squad is issued one. doesn't that defeat the purpose of basing this movie off the main character? I thought the name was to represent a specific individual, not a company.

Anything else beyond this point is just cheap effects, bad sound engineering, impossible logic, stolen music and a slew of other lame characters. The cheap effects belong to the silly lazer fights between people or space ships. The bad sound engineering belong to things like screeching tires being used for space ships making U-turns. Come on really? There's too much that belongs to impossible logic because there's way too much to go over. Can you believe this film doesn't even have a designated composer? That's because none of the music is original! If you watch this movie, any of the music being played already belongs to some other famous movie. Lastly, the lamest character in this movie is the villain. Just downright insulting. He sounds like a James Earl Jones’ understudy that didn't make the cut.

The lame villain.....whatever his name is....---___---
Now I know this movie is a sci-fi parody of sorts but nothing works. The small amount of slapstick that is injected does not leave a good impression and the acting isn't memorable either. Just because there's an actor mocking Spock called Mr. Spot, doesn't make it clever. Also having a bunch of space bikers worship a god named "Harlee David Son" is being extremely unoriginal. Even stranger is that there is an actual actor who plays a convincing robot and to be honest, I would have preferred seeing that actor portray Galaxina than Dorothy Stratten, who barely made herself look like a robot at all. This movie should only be seen if you want to waste time.

Not only is this movie an insult to the sci-fi genre but it also creates a bad reputation for the parody genre. This is not even enjoyable on the worst level possible. Don't waste your time.

Points Earned --> 1:10

Monday, June 10, 2013

Pacific Heights (1990) Review:

Along with multiple other stories in film, normal and happy couples just can't seem to cut a break with running into some of the most mentally unbalanced individuals. I pity these people; I really do. Look at The Mean Season (1985), Unlawful Entry (1992) or even The Cable Guy (1996). Each share something in common and that's the unstable intruder who doesn't care what he does or how he does it because their upbringing as a child or young adult was very screwed up.

Melanie Griffith
Pacific Heights (1990) is the story about a young couple who moved into this specific area and buy a large house to use as an apartment for other tenants. All goes well like they planned until they come in contact with a very slippery and shifty individual who ends up making their lives spiral downward. Odd as it is, I was able to predict what would happen in this kind of situation. I don't know if that's because the writer Daniel Pyne, could not write a more original plot. I say that because like the other films mentioned above, the antagonist relies on and abuses the rights he is given by law to evade the law. This makes the story very formulaic, but I do give credit for the third act because it went in a direction I did not expect.
Playing the young spirited couple are Melanie Griffith as Patty Palmer and Matthew Modine as Drake Goodman. Together they permit the sly dog Carter Hayes (Michael Keaton) into their home as a tenant. To be honest, I found Griffith and Modine to be good at playing an unknown couple but I also don't feel like they made their characters stand out enough either. That's because of how formulaic the screenplay was written.
Michael Keaton as the creepy tenant
As for Keaton, no doubt does he make it look like he has the mental state of a sociopath. He was creepy but I think he could have been creepier. Every now and then he did burst out in anger and that's really what I wanted to see but instead for the most part, the audience will get a controlled anger. However, I also give credit to Keaton for making it look like being a criminal is as easy as one two three. It's unnerving. As for the musical score provided by renowned composer Hans Zimmer, was rather disappointing. It did have a few tunes that got the blood pumping and the muscles tense but there was no theme and there wasn't enough music the emmerse myself into the situations that occurred.
However, the reason why I still give this movie the credit it deserves because of how real these situations can be. And the closer it gets to being in your house, the scarier it gets. Having a killer running around is one thing, having a cop breaking an entering because they lust for the a married couple's partner is another, but having a tenant that stalks you during the day and plans by night, can be really upsetting. I sure wouldn't want to be that couple. Whether its Jim Carrey, Richard Jordan, Ray Liotta, Michael Keaton or any other actor that plays mentally disturbed antagonists, these guys are just downright uncomfortable (in a good way).
Even if the writing is formulaic, the fact that someone can be this unsettling will still creep people out. The music may not be very compelling either but Michael Keaton and his supporting cast do what is possible to keep the audiences' attention.
Points Earned --> 8:10

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Ultraviolet (2006) Review:

Since Resident Evil (2002) came out, Milla Jovovich has gained a reputation for being cast in female action leads. Because of that, it is not much of a surprise to see her as a blade / gun wielding vampire either. I am actually more surprised how audiences and critics alike do not favor this over the Twilight series. Many people consider this, because of that specific franchise, vampires have become an extremely tired genre. But in this movie, it was the exact opposite of what one would expect from a vampire movie. I will admit it is not the strongest in its genre but I'm sure people would favor it now than when it came out.

Nick Chinlund as Daxus.....does anyone see that weird
thing in his nose!?
Jovovich plays Violet, once a human that became a hemophage (a type of vampire) after becoming infected by a contagious virus that got out of control. At the time she was infected, she was also pregnant and ended up having her unborn child die. Since then, she has called it upon herself to kill any human that fights her and the rest of the hemophages that stand behind her. Supplying her with weapons is her friend Garth (William Fichtner). The villain, Ferdinand Daxus, is played by Nick Chinlund and although he doesn't come across as menacing at all, he is rather comical because of his unintentional deadpan acting. However I did not understand that "thing" in his nose. What is the point of that? To prevent him from wearing a face mask?

As listed above, these three actors are really all that is note worthy of a mention. Every other character that has more than 30 seconds on screen are just lambs to the slaughter of Jovovich. The film was written and directed by Kurt Wimmer, a decent advocate of the film industry. He also wrote for Law Abiding Citizen (2009), Salt (2010) and others, which have received positive recognition. So why he couldn't conjure up as great a product here? More than likely it was due to the film being cut back so much in running time and writing and directing is not the easiest thing to do simultaneously; especially film making. The story doesn't go into much depth, which can end up leaving audiences either confused or bored.

Milla Jovovich as Violet
As for everything else, the set design looked cool for a futuristic piece. I was surprised however to see various parts of the movie look like it was completely CGI. I think by 2006, that kind of problem could be fixed easily. As for the rest, I did like the special effects; they seemed to blend in well with their surroundings. What really got points for this movie was the action. Going back to what I said before, Jovovich is action oriented and the way she performs doing her stunts is awesome no matter what else has happened. Lastly, Klaus Badelt's score was uneven. It had more sentimental tracks than it did pertaining to the action scenes. It's not to say it didn't carry any emotion but the action scenes lacked thrills because the music wasn't effective.

Kurt Wimmer's adaptation of this comic book vampire isn't the strongest in its genre but its action pieces are well set up. And although it does not have an all star cast, the actors play their roles the best they can.

Points Earned --> 6:10

Monday, June 3, 2013

Lara Croft - Tomb Raider: The Temple of Life (2003) Review:

In 2001, fan boys and gamers alike were able to get their eye full with Angelina Jolie in the lead role as Lara Croft. It may not have been a success in critics' eyes but it did well at the box office and fans wanted a sequel. So as a follow up, this movie doesn't perform badly at all. But it does lack a few details that keep it from being as good as the first.  The majority of these flaws lie in the writing as well as some character development.

Ciarán Hinds as the villain
In this story, Croft is set on the quest to find Pandora's Box and keep an evil money mogul from getting his hands on it and causing countless deaths around the world. So to accomplish this task, she once again calls on her friends and companions at home and around the world to assist her. The two important ones that most fans like are Hillary (Chris Barrie) and Bryce (Noah Taylor). I was happy to see them reprise their roles - their presence in the first added comedic relief to various situations, as do they in this installment.

Of course, Jolie as Croft is still a great choice. Her athletic and flexibility abilities are still impressive and are similar if not the same as the moves that Lara Croft does in the video game. And I don't know if it's just me but I found Jolie to be even more attractive in this picture. Her face is different. Playing the evil money mogul is Ciarán Hinds. Hinds also puts in a good performance. He may not be the most sinister of villains but he's no fresh apple either.

Sheridan (Butler) & Croft (Jolie)
Accompanying Croft in her journey across the globe is an ex-boyfriend named Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler) who is good with guns and I agree, he is. I also found him to have a funny sense of humor with his Scottish accent. What upset me about though was that writer Dean Georgaris wrote his character to be untrusted and unpredictable. That caused the character development between Sheridan and Croft to whither. They had good chemistry but they were always up and down. Like a love-hate relationship. Can we just pick a single tone for these two?

I also didn't like how Georgaris did not explain what happened to Alex West (Daniel Craig) from the first movie. Craig's character did not die so why wasn't it at least explained where he was or why he left? Continuity people! But that's really all I have to nit-pick about. I enjoyed the action which felt solid. The director, Jan de Bont, who also directed the megahit Speed (1994) seems to have a good idea what an action movie needs even though his profession lies in cinematography. I also felt that the musical score provided by Alan Silvestri instead of Graeme Revell was an improvement. It expressed action, tension and feeling at the right moments. Although it’s not as great as the first, I still liked it.

Its writing is a little off with character development and continuity but it still holds up strong. The characters are still fun to watch as well as the action and improved musical score.

Points Earned --> 8:10

Saturday, June 1, 2013

xXx (2002) Review:

Although Vin Diesel doesn't have many characters on his acting plate, he never fails at grabbing people to the movies. I'm guessing just because of how low his voice is. Anyway, Mr. Diesel hasn't played any ordinary characters, at least ones that involve a major role. Pitch Black (2000) and The Fast and the Furious (2001) were the films that propelled him to where he is now, but both characters had abilities that allowed them to be almost superhuman. Here, Diesel plays just a very skilled professional.

Xander Cage (Diesel) & Augustus Gibbons (Jackson)
Vin Diesel plays Xander Cage, a popular stunt artist who believes that the majority of the government's laws don't apply to him. It is because of this attitude that he carries, that makes other "civilized" people not so fond of him. However, there is one person who finds Cage to be quite beneficial to the US government. His name is Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) and he's got a proposal for Cage. If Cage can infiltrate an evil Russian crew and obtain important information, Gibbons will make Cage's problems go away. Sweet, so in other words, Cage will become a spy!

So to become a spy he needs a nickname - how about triple X (xXx) because he has three X's on the back of his neck? That works. It's almost like a new name for the spy genre. Instead of 007, its xXx. Is it appropriate to the character - yes. But honestly, will anyone really find this memorable? I guess some would. It depends on your opinion of the character. Rich Wilkes, the writer of this movie does make the character of Xander Cage likable. It's just odd how he writes the story in a fashion that makes it sound like hiring uncivilized people to do civilized jobs are okay. I mean, sure it's okay if every person who doesn't like authority was like Xander Cage. Why? Because Xander Cage does have moments of character development.

Marton Csokas as the leader of the Russian crew
But to honestly think that a plan like that could work? I don't know. Anyway, the acting is good. Vin Diesel puts a good performance for a guy who only knows how to be a spy for literally a week (that's what he says). Jackson also is convincing as Cage's boss. In fact, Diesel and Jackson exchange some funny lines with each other so it works. On the flip side, I wasn't charmed by any of the antagonists. Marton Csokas as the main villain is one the most unlikable characters there. Sure he makes himself a good villain but villains can have charm too. There is no charm with this man. His attitude towards society makes Xander Cage's attitude look like fluffy pillows.

As for action goes, there is a lot of it. But it feels brain dead every now and then, which can get tiresome. Adding to that is the musical soundtrack. Various artists sound themselves through the film but if you're not a fan of heavy metal or at least heavy rock, you as a viewer will have a hard time enjoying the film because it does come up quite a bit. As for the musical score, it does have a main theme and is effective during sentimental moments too. The composer, Randy Edelman is not a novice to this kind of genre so I have no complaints with how he composed his music. However, I do wish it was more frequent in the movie. The actual soundtrack containing various artists seemed more dominant. Other than that, it’s a decent action flick with enough Diesel to fuel your interest. Just expect anything too clever.

Vin Diesel does his best to be the next generation of the spy genre but the movie plays big, loud and stupid at times. Not to mention that the villain has nothing to be liked about. It's not all bad, but it could have been better.

Points Earned --> 7:10