Thursday, March 27, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) Review:

In the last half of the 1980s, comic book readers were introduced to the Ninja Turtles created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. As over the top and ludicrous as it sounded, it captivated many people and soon the 1987 cartoon was produced thus spreading the enthusiasm all over the place - soon after making movies about the famous characters in the 1990s and late 2000s. In light of today being the day Mr. Michael Bay releases his reboot trailer of his TMNT franchise, I thought it was a good idea to view the first theatrically released film of the TMNT back in 1990. There's good reason to see it too before the reboot. It's not by any means a highly developed piece of cinema but it definitely has a lot going for it.

High three? 
The story begins with reporter April O'Neil (Judith Hoag) who is covering an important story dealing with the city's crime rate sky rocketing and no one has any idea why. On her way home, some robbers almost mug her, if it weren't for a humanoid ninja turtle quartet. With them, O'Neil also meets Master Splinter, an old humanoid rat who is the trainer and caretaker of the TMNT group. Upon this journey they also make headway with self-proclaimed amateur vigilante named Casey Jones (Elias Koteas). Lastly, the leader behind the enormous crime spree is The Shredder, a mysterious villain who is proficient in martial arts as well.

For all of these characters, their development is even for the most part. The only thing that really had me thinking was how was The Shredder was able to persuade all of the youth in the city to rebel. How did he do this to begin with? Also, what exactly is his motive? What did he plan on doing once everything had been stolen? He obviously wanted to get rid of O'Neil for spreading the word about his operations, and he wanted to take out the ninja turtles but what was his overall intent? It never was expanded upon. Other than that though, the story has flow and doesn't bore.

The first time writers behind this movie created a decent script for the characters. All of the ninja turtles have their respective Italian Renaissance names and their own personality, which gives them a considerable amount of charm. Master Splinter is portrayed as a genuinely father like character with all the traits a good father should have. Casey Jones is probably one of the more underrated characters because of his spontaneity and improvising behavior. Even, O'Neil as a character develops in some ways. Maybe Hoag was a perfect choice to play April, but she has her moments. Even The Shredder is cool to watch in some scenes.

Casey Jones
Perhaps the most interesting element this film has to offer is the action material and practical effects. For 1990, the ninja turtle costumes are done extremely well. The facial expressions are accurate and are fairly consistent with voice and mouth coordination. Also, the use of costumes help make the film feel more realistic, instead of trying to make CGI look real altogether. The action scenes though are by far the most fun to watch. Martial arts are always entertaining, but how do you get the sequences done right with people in bulky costumes? Well I'm not sure, but it looks good. The actors seem to have no trouble moving, hopping, kicking or rolling around in the costumes. Jim Henson's production crew is something else.

Besides The Shredder being a slight bit under developed, there are a couple of other things that could've been tweaked. John Du Prez's music captured all the right emotions for each scene and overall tone, but didn't create a main theme which is kind of silly since it would help viewers identify with what theme it belonged to. Also, the idea of adding music that involves pop dates the movie severely. It does create a nostalgic feeling, but the film itself does that already - music doesn't need to added. Lastly, would be the settings. Much of the setting of the movie is in the city, which is fine, but it seems to be always at nighttime. I'm sure other people wouldn't mind a few day scenes or so. Eh...what can you do?

An old, yet still an enjoyable family action film that has charming characters and remarkable practical effects. Character development isn't too bad either, although some explanations are needed.

Points Earned --> 7:10

Friday, March 21, 2014

G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013) Review:

Stephen Sommers' G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009) was not an amazing film but it was a fun one. With a lighthearted tone, energetic action sequences and different characters, it was a summer movie most people ended up watching. Surprisingly, it took four years for the next chapter of the Joe's to be told. Even if movies don't fair well with critics (like this one did), if it earned enough money, a sequel will most likely be produced. With all this time one would think that the crew had enough time to perfect this project so it connected with its parent well. kind of does....and doesn't.

Snake Eyes, Roadblock & Joe Colton
Starting off pretty much where the first ended, the Joe's are still among the highest regarded force in the
world. They are also still on red alert for losing Cobra Commander and Zartan (who is now disguised as the American president). Audiences are then brought back to Duke (Channing Tatum) where we see that he is well integrated in the Joe system and has new friends - Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Flint (D.J. Cotrona) and Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki). That's not all though, Cobra Commander has also added a new team member - Firefly (Ray Stevenson). Thus bringing up the first flaw, character continuity. Where is it?

Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick must not know what a sequel script to a movie entails if a story is being continued. Though they have proven they can write; Zombieland (2009) is the prime example. Here, Reese and Wernick return, exclude and eliminate various characters as if they weren't an integral part of what made the first movie work. What happened to Ripcord, Breaker, Scarlett, Baroness and Heavy Duty? A visual appearance isn't even needed, the writers could just have included a verbal cameo about them mentioning what happened to them. Is it too hard to include? It shouldn't be. Also the return of Storm Shadow is questionable. The first movie he was killed, how did he survive? No explanation.

Explaining things seems to be an issue for this movie. Not only for the old but the new. For example, when did Duke meet Roadblock and the rest of his new found buddies? Who is Firefly? Where did he come from and why does he have an obsession with exploding mechanical fireflies? It's frustrating because these characters have respectable personalities but very little of it is looked at. The only new characters that are really given any kind of a back-story are Jaye and Roadblock. But even then, their stories sound unfinished and slim. One thing that surprised me was that a question of mine from the first movie was answered here. Who is the real G.I. Joe? Well I got it - it's Bruce Willis, what a shock. Even Willis' background is brushed over, which fans may feel like they were given the slip.

However, the acting isn't bad. Dwayne Johnson and his Joe counterparts work effectively together. The Cobra Commander is still a faceless enemy (which they actually got the correct look for this movie), but his voice should've been higher pitched and not so deep. Cobra Commander was never supposed to sound demonic, he was kind of like a new age Skeletor. With the commander comes Firefly (Ray Stevenson), a snarky southern man with a nasty scar on his face who can actually hold his own against Dwayne Johnson. Why doesn't Hollywood see the opportunities in this man? Stevenson is about as underrated as his other Punisher counterpart Thomas Jane. Both are immensely capable of action movies and no one bothers to hire them.

Cobra Commander & Firefly (Ray Stevenson)
Directing this sequel is Jon M. Chu who is better known for directing the "Step Up" sequels (which is where Tatum started surprisingly) and the first two Justin Bieber documentaries. Mr. Chu doesn't have a track record with action films and for his first time, he did well. Much of the action sequences were executed professionally. Then again, that could be the work of Jim May and Roger Barton's editing skills. The cinematography is good thanks to Stephen F. Windon. Lastly, Henry Jackman's score was executed nicely too. He had the right emotion and tone set for each scene but what did surprise me is that he didn't include a theme like Alan Silvestri did for the first movie. A franchise like this has to have a main theme. It is still entertaining but it has big loopholes.

It's not bad sequel at all to the first movie, but its continuity is all over the place. Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis with big explosions only goes so far. Without accounting for the new and old parts in plot, the story begins to have a disconnect.

Points Earned --> 6:10

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Transporter (2002) Review:

Jason Statham is popular for obvious reasons. Most audiences enjoy Statham just for his sharp British accent and his athletic action chops. Of course, there is more to that when telling a story in film because that can't be the only thing the plot centers on. It just has to placed in the correct moments for the storyboard to move with flow. For this film, it definitely can be said for sure, that the flow of this movie is even. Yes, there are other things to address but those things will come. This is perhaps one of the few films people can enjoy that deals with consistent movement (like the The Fast and the Furious (2001) franchise in a way).

Transporting is the job (but not like this)
The story is about an ex-military man, Frank Martin (Statham), who is covertly working as a transporter for hire - a man who basically moves things from one place to another. No questions are asked about what he's transporting; that's not apart of his deal. If the deal is broken, so are the rules and that's basically how things unfold. Upon taking what seems to be a routine job of "transporting", Martin discovers there may be more at stake and breaks his code of the deal. Thus ensuing him in a load of trouble. Of course, nothing he couldn't handle though and that's actually the surprising part of this movie.

The screenwriters behind this movie are Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen. Before this time, Besson was best known for writing Léon: The Professional (1994) and Kamen had written for The Karate Kid (1984). To many, those are extremely well written works. In six years they would write for Liam Neeson's Taken (2008). I guess they're writing slipped a little in quality around this time. That's not to say their writing is bad, it's just predictably cliched. There are only a few areas that stand out. The areas that are cliched are the one's dealing with character development in the protagonists and the knowledge of the antagonists.

Statham playing an ex-militant is pretty much the same as how most ex-militant characters are written. They like working alone, but yet end up finding a love interest. They also have retained their martial arts and survival skills since their retirement, which allows them to fight their opponents with ease. It was actually more interesting in the beginning of the movie because it wasn't all about taking on 5 times as many opponents as it was getting the job of "transporting" done. Before the action finale to the film, Statham played a much slicker character - almost like a cheaper version of a James Bond. It was cool to watch him be clever and evade authorities by his driving skills or name changing license plates.

Accompanying Mr. Martin in his travels is the thing that makes him break his rules; a girl named Lai (Qi Shu). Here, she explains to Martin in her best English about a crate shipment of people that are being given to some wealthy guy. It's actually not clearly stated what is purpose of this. Illegal immigration? Slave labor? What? Matt Schulze plays the wealthy bad guy and he doesn't play badly at it either. In fact, viewers may find his performance a little more energetic than Statham's. Not sure if it was meant to be that way, but Statham pretty much plays it straight faced. I would like to know how Schulze's character was able to track Martin whereever he went though. It's a little preposterous since there was no clear indication on how Martin's place of living was discovered.

Matt Shulze's evil face
When it comes to action sequences however, that's a different matter. Since Statham is well equipped for this type of genre, there is no doubt Statham knows what he's doing, and those scenes filmed will be entertaining. Which leads to a very specific moment that must be pointed out - the oil slick fight. This particular scene isn't something action fans may see every day. It's a very unique action sequence and it's quite baffling to know how it could've been executed. The music provided by Stanley Clarke was an interesting take too. The sound mix contained some orchestra but mostly jazz work tones that actually meshed well with the scenes that were filmed. It surprised me. Overall, it's your standard Statham film. Nothing far from what's already been made.

The Transporter had a good premise and started out with class (thanks to the music). By the end though, it's a standard Jason Statham action movie that has consistent flow and doesn't have bad pacing.

Point Earned --> 6:10

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) Review:

There's something about the title of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and how people think of it. Many just think of it of being about a chain saw wielding killer who stalks people and cuts them up for fun. However, that is just skimming the surface of this particular horror franchise. What some may not realize about this story is that there is more than one could expect to see - and that doesn't include scares. There's another aspect about this movie that first time director Tobe Hooper included that will have the audiences baffled, stunned and amazed. That aspect is the sheer bizarre atmosphere that is this film.

5 friends on the road,...end up meeting
Viewers will follow the path of five friends who are on the road, heading toward a relative's house. On their way, they run low on fuel and look for a place to rest for the night. What they don't know, is that they're not going to see the light of day. Unbeknownst to them, something, a danger so unspeakable is headed their way that quite frankly if anyone ran into, should high tail it out of there. This danger is a family of psychotically deranged cannibals that have no conceivable conscience. But, the most deadly individual is the man (if he is one) known as "Leatherface".

This guy is not to be messed with. He is the towering, chain saw wielding killer and can this beast run! Strangely enough, he and the rest of his cohorts were the ones who were given the most attention to when it came to character development. The audience actually gets to understand his place in the family and how the overall family acts. This is also a major flaw. With the antagonists more developed, this left our main characters on the sidelines and are basically only fodder for Leatherface. Sure, audiences' will understand that they're friends but what else is there to learn? Not much else - or at least from what's given to us. Along with that is a rather underwelming plot. There really isn't much of a plot at all. Friends travel and end up running into the goons. Not much else. There are a few twists but nothing that wasn't too oddball or unpredictable.

However, in place of this is the bizarre aspect that was mentioned earlier, credited to Tobe Hooper. The way of life that takes place with these killers are something to behold. It will make the viewer question to themselves, "Who enjoys this kind of thing?". It's that bizarre. Another element that viewers should enjoy is how the movie pushes the endurance meter. To see how long one can watch the screen without turning away or closing their eyes is a serious plus. Adding to this is how little music is in the running time. It is almost to the point of completely absent, yet when it is heard, it's distinct. Still, it should've been more prevalent because there were areas that could've used the emphasis of terror. With all this, it still amounts to a decent horror film.

It's surprising that with uneven character development, lackluster music and a very thin plot, that this movie made the impact it did and will for future viewers. With an atmosphere and characters so bizarre, it's hard not to sit down and wonder how things will turn out.

Points Earned --> 7:10

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

He Said, She Said (1991) Review:

Remembering what happened in a relationship is tough for some people. Majority of the time it comes down to only the guys because most of the time, women remember things better. But it has to be understood that the truth is frequently stretched in both directions to help prove the testifier is in the right. Men and women see things differently on a lot of topics and the most debated about subject are relationships. He said "this" and she said "that". Whose memory or interpretation is more accurate in telling the truth? That's the kind of story audiences’ get here.

Kevin Bacon and Sharon Stone
The plot revolves around a couple Dan Hansen (Kevin Bacon) and Lorie Bryer (Elizabeth Perkins) who see their way of living quite differently. Hansen feels that he wants to live his life as a lone wolf and doesn't want to settle down any time soon. Bryer on the other hand is looking for that guy in her life who is like a wolf but would like to settle down at some point. To think that their eventual meeting would happen so coincidentally was far from their thoughts. When in fact, that's what happened. Unfortunately, the ride is very bumpy and soon there's a point to where they need a break from each other. But to understand why they need this break is where things can get tiresome.

The explanation behind this break is displayed through flashback sequences. The flashbacks are done in two segments. The first segment is told through the eyes of Dan and the second segment is told through the eyes of Lorie. Flashbacks are an ok method of explanation, but the idea that this movie consistently relies on it can get tiresome and feel long, considering that the running time itself is close to two hours total. Plus, with these two segments the viewer will be watching what they saw from the first half of the film again. The feeling will get repetitive and too familiar for the audience to want to see more of almost the exact same scene. The exchanges are varied because of the point of view, but some it isn't as different as one might expect.

Elizabeth Perkins and Nathan Lane
With this, leads to some comical exchanges but not anything that'll have people rolling on the floors. Kevin Bacon has a few good moments as well as Elizabeth Perkins, but the laughs are too few short. Perhaps the one actor who stole each scene he was in was Nathan Lane's. For most, it's because of his voice and how he reminds every viewer that he IS Timon from the Lion King (1994), even though at the time of 1991 no one saw it coming. Along with him, was upcoming star Sharon Stone (who plays Dan Hansen's ex-girlfriend), Stanley Anderson (who later plays in RoboCop 3 (1993)), and veteran actor Phil Leeds (who plays an old tenant  where Dan Hansen lives).

As for anything else, props should still be given to the directors for at least carrying out the concept of this point of view movie. It at least gives insight to how the mechanisms of the male and female minds work. Thus maybe giving us (the viewers) a better idea of what the opposite sex expects from us in a relationship. Adding a little bit to the emotion is Miles Goodman's score to the film. This is also the composer to the popular film Little Shop of Horrors (1986) and a year later, the beloved  Muppet Christmas Carol (1992). It is a slightly above average rom-com.

Its actors are well chosen and the concept is very intellectual but its direction can be long and monotonous, while the comedy is a hit or miss leaving the story itself carrying the emotion.

Points Earned --> 6:10

Monday, March 17, 2014

Terror Toons (2002) Review:

It's one thing to make a bad movie. There's also the concept of creating a movie so bad that it's good. Lastly, there's that movie that accomplishes none of that and ends up just being really bad. When it comes to these movies, it can be hard to say what the determining factor is that threw the production of film off course. As for this movie though, it is blatantly obvious to why it falls completely flat and should not be even bothered to be seen. At points it brings up the idea that it could be a guilty pleasure movie but it all depends on how the viewer sees the situation.

Dr. Carnage & Max Assassin
The story is about two sisters who are left by themselves in their house with a duo of goofy terror (as one could only put it). The terror is brought on by packaged DVD called Terror Toons. Upon visiting this film (within this film), the credits read that it was produced by THE Devil, you know, the devil himself. Yet, (if this were to be real) no one pays attention to this and passes it off as minor detail and doesn't consider  the possibility that it could be real. When in fact, this is the exact case. Inside this product are the main antagonists - Dr. Carnage and Max Assassin. The weird thing is, these are the only two toon like characters in existence.

The reasoning behind this is because they are the only characters with exaggerated faces and google eyes. There is a segment at the beginning of the video, which runs like a cartoon, but even the characters that take part in it are a combination of live-action and animated humans. It's not all cartoons as it says it's based upon. It's like a cheap trick, either that or a really bad knock off of a Richard Band production. Adding to the frustration are the poorly developed characters and villains. The Doctor and Max do not say barely a thing. The dialog that was worked out for the actors are not passable either. Much of it is either awkward exchanges or scenes that are supposed to contain emotion and have nothing close to it.

The Devil
Special effects and sounds are another thing. For the budget that this movie had, it does demonstrate some good practical gore effects, but when it comes CGI related scenes, they're just flat, boring and not believable. Even when characters are running it doesn't look real. The feet don't match the pacing - wouldn't it be easier to just film them running instead of moving the character while they're running? What's the point? Along with these bad green screen effects are the horrendous repetitive sound effects. It is appropriate that the characters make cartoon noises but the fact that the sounds are heard every 10 seconds doesn't make it funny. Even the music wasn't helpful, it was appropriately matched to the goofy homicidal cartoons but it didn't increase the entertainment level any bit. Just a poor poor attempt.

With characters that barely look like cartoons, acting that is not good at all, and cheap special effects, the idea of terror only comes to mind when watching this movie because of how terrifyingly bad it truly is.

Points Earned --> 1:10

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Dawn of the Dead (1978) Review:

George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968) was as much a critically successful movie as it was a controversial one. With very few films pushing the boundaries of realistic horror and gore, Romero not only created a universal icon but brought upon a wave of new horror films to come. Who knew he would even make a sequel 10 years down the road from his original masterpiece. Nor is any less of greatness expected. Here is another example of a highly defined sequel that matches its parent very closely. Some may even consider it better than the first.

The group of regular people
This second "dead" sequel  starts a story about a group of strangers who come together under a common roof and try to survive against the ongoing zombie invasion. Upon their travels, they'll come across many obstacles and end up taking refuge in a shopping mall inhabited by zombies. It may not seem like much of a plot, but in fact it still packs in quite a lot of material into the running time - considering the time is now almost up to two and half hours. Out of the four people, two of them are military buddies and the other two are a couple.

Interestingly enough, George A. Romero, who wrote the screenplay did another great job at giving depth to these characters. The more and more these characters spend time with each other, the more of a bond a viewer will begin to see between them. This allows for character development and the ability for the audience to actually feel invested in the story that they are watching. Witnessing how this group of regular people fight to survive the every day occurrence of running into a zombie is a mixed bag of emotions. Why? According to what these characters do, you can still have fun during a zombie apocalypse, you can tease them, you can throw pies in their faces, and you can even run over them with vehicles.

They just don't quit!
The thing is, you'd also learn not to let your guard down. It's all fun and games until someone gets hurt unfortunately. When incidences like these, happen, you (the viewer) will feel the loss of that investment that was put into those believable characters. Helping make these losses feel realistic are the groundbreaking special effects for the gore scenes handled by Tom Savini. It is still not a frequent event but there is plenty of blood and a few disgusting moments. Perhaps the only thing that didn't feel in place was the soundtrack. In various scenes it does work but in others it doesn't at all like the memorable but goofy end credit song to the film. Other than that it’s hard to debate about things that could've been improved because there's not much to not enjoy.

George A. Romero produced a sequel that not only has better production quality but still maintains the ability to capture its audience with a story that compels with such a small cast.

Points Earned --> 9:10

Friday, March 14, 2014

Red Scorpion (1988) Review:

Once Mr. Dolph Lundgren began pursuing an acting career, it wasn't until he played He-Man in The Masters of the Universe (1987) that he began approximately putting out a movie per year. Next in that line up was this action film. It's also probably the last time Dolph Lundgren ever played a Russian character. Good thing too because being typecast as a certain character frequently doesn't give the viewer something more to look forward too. Here, he plays a devoted Russian soldier who is trained and highly skilled in the art of killing. But as the story continues, he realizes maybe he's not seeing the whole picture.

Mr. Red Scorpion
With a screenplay written by first timer Arne Olsen, it isn't great nor is it terrible. The story does contain some meaningful moments, but most of them are frequently overshadowed by scenes that are predictable enough that regular viewers could see it coming a mile away. There are also some points in the film that would make the viewer question "How does this pertain to the development of the character?". It can be far fetched at times. Like how is learning the way of a hunter open one’s eyes to reality? Is it really that powerful of a activity?

That's not to say the actors perform badly though. Dolph Lundgren portraying a Russian is accurate. He’s a blonde, large, hulking mass of muscle and can speak with the basic accent. Al White plays an African  rebel leader who is also legitimate in his role. M. Emmet Walsh plays a an American reporter who accompanies Al White's character. My question is though, how did an American reporter get caught in the middle of this? Lastly, Brion James makes an appearance too, who would play the British character, Requin in Tango & Cash (1989) a year later. It's an alright cast for this movie.

However, the way the action is executed reminds me of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Commando (1985). There's lots of explosions and plenty of shootings. Just like Schwarzenegger, Lundgren runs around in war paint firing his machine gun without getting a scratch. But perhaps what helped this movie to excel further than Commando (1985) was the human aspect of it. Al White's character leads a bunch of poor followers who seek freedom from the Russian oppression. And when the audience sees them fall, it's hard to watch. Assisting those particular segments was Jay Chattaway's music to the film. In some places it worked but the rest didn't. It was an average listening experience.

M. Emmet Walsh & Al White
At least, the film was directed by a competent person. Joseph Zito, the man behind Chuck Norris' Missing in Action (1984), Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984) and The Prowler (1981) knew what he was doing. Also accompanying him is cinematographer João Fernandes who has also worked with Zito in the past. Fernandes was able to get nice shots of the arid terrain, which at least allows the audience to believe the place Lundgren was set in wasn't forgiving. In the end, it's not great or terrible. It's just average film making.

As Dolph Lundgren's last film to play a Russian character, it comes off as a better rip-off of Commando (1985) but doesn't take the story in any direction that hasn't been explored. Just average on the whole.

Points Earned --> 5:10

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Killer Elite (2011) Review:

Jason Statham and Robert De Niro both have their respective fan bases. They both have made films that have defined their career. Did anyone ever expect to see these two pair up in an action spy thriller? Mmmmm, hard to say. It's also hard to say what convinced both of these actors to even consider playing a role in this story. It's questionable to what really works in this film. There are pluses but in the end, it doesn't satisfy like the trailer originally promoted.

Jason Statham and Robert De Niro
The story is based off of a book written by Ranulph Fiennes - claiming about a secret agency of highly trained killers set out to right the wrong of someone else's trouble. At least, that's what could be understood, and this is where the movie just doesn't work. The story is very messy, convoluted and long. Both writing and directing positions were given to first timers. Matt Sherring's screenplay of the book is very disoriented. For the first quarter of the film, the setting consistently changes from country to country no more than a minute each. The audience will feel like there isn't a real footing in where the story takes place.  Adding to that is Gary McKendry's direction which follows Sherring's hopscotch writing.

Along with that comes some weak character development. Stathom and De Niro play a duo who have a history together in the business of killing others but not enough information is truly given on either character. De Niro's character states he has a family and children but is never explained to how his family deals with what he does. Same goes for Statham - his wife, girlfriend (she was never labeled), originally there was friction between them about not being fully open about one’s life but then by the 3/4 mark, the topic was just dropped. Ummm, ok. Also, there really wasn't much chemistry between the actors. A big reason for this was that De Niro was barely on screen. His presence was only about a fifth of the running time.

Also Statham's character has other connections that he uses throughout the plot which aren't given much of a background either. It's kind of strange that advertising it as a De Niro and Statham film, you'd expect to see them quite frequently. But no. What was interesting to watch in this film was the overall area that the story finally took place in as the plot finally settled. This movie comes off more as a British made film than American. Kind of like Stand-Off (2013) where the majority of actors were Irish. For here, the majority of actors are British. It's a different listening experience, especially when various American words are replaced with British jargon. It gives the audience something to pay attention too.

Clive Owen
Along with that, leads to Clive Owen, who isn't anymore defined as a character as to Statham or De Niro, yet Owen's character is perhaps more fun to watch because of his stiff upper lip, discolored eyes, bushy mustache and British accent. Owen also gets into multiple scuffles with Statham because, well that's the action oriented part of the movie. To say the action is bad wouldn't be appropriate. The action scenes are well executed and somewhat inventive but since the characters aren't defined well enough, it can be hard for a viewer to really appreciate who the protagonist is fighting. Attempting to help elevate the entertainment is Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek's score to the film. Their music does contain some pieces that are relative to the scene at hand but also contain frequent screeching violins and that may annoy listeners. It's not poorly made but it could use improvement. All of it is just average.

The entire crew to this film tries, from the actors to music department but the inconsistent plot lacks control and focus to what little it had to begin with - making just an average action film.

Points Earned -- > 5:10

Friday, March 7, 2014

Cop Land (1997) Review:

It is rare for people to step out of their comfort bubble. Even actors, for as successful as they are, they too suffer from breaking what they are comfortable at performing in. Here's a film that not every Stallone fan might see everyday - similarly to that of The Truman Show (1998) a year later with Jim Carrey. This particular role is so far in left field for Sylvester Stallone that it almost seems like the wrong choice. When in fact, it proves that Stallone by far can still back a punch even when he's not pulling a trigger every five minutes.

De Niro, Stallone and Keitel
Stallone plays Freddy Heflin, the Sheriff of a small town in New Jersey called Garrison. All seems fine and well with the town and Freddy himself until an incident occurs on the George Washington bridge that connects the New York and New Jersey police departments. After the problems arise, Freddy is challenged on his thoughts and beliefs that he had never considered before. This is where things get interesting and dangerous simultaneously. As time goes on, Heflin begins to dig and as he digs, he discovers that everything is not as he thought.

The writing is something to behold here. Directed and written by James Mangold, the same man behind Walk the Line (2005), 3:10 to Yuma (2007) and most recently The Wolverine (2013), created a screenplay that not only defies the normal typecasts that most actors have, but also adds depth to the main character of Freddy Helfin. If it weren't for any of the background given to Stallone's character, the audience would have no idea about Heflin's past and why he acts the way he is in the movie. When it is revealed though, it's a heartfelt story that contains a lot of emotion. Even more interesting is how little Stallone uses a gun. Not only is Stallone overweight but he barely even raises his voice - which is rare. The character of Heflin is very self contained and covers it up well.

Also playing a role that is out his usual casting role is Ray Liotta. For anyone who's not familiar, Liotta frequently plays scumbags and creeps. A good example of this is from Unlawful Entry (1992) and a bad example is from Turbulence (1997). But what wasn't seen coming was Liotta playing not only a supporting character but also a tactical one. There is one scene where he explains to Stallone's character how he should take on convicted felons and the advice he gives is extremely noteworthy. Liotta, you should be doing this more often my friend. Along with him are Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro, future director Peter Berg, Robert Patrick, Noah Emmerich from The Truman Show (1998) (how coincidental!), and just for laughs Mr. RoboCop 3 (1993) himself, Robert John Burke. All the actors, even the ones not mentioned do a fine job.

Ray Liotta
What also makes this movie a fish out of water role for Sylvester Stallone is how human the story makes him look. This isn't a movie where Stallone mows down villains with a rapid-fire gun without taking any hits. Stallone's character is flawed and limited, humanizing him for the entire running time. That's something serious. Adding to the realism of the story is the cinematography where most scenes take place in the suburbs or along the shore outside the city. Finally what helps complete this feeling is Howard Shore's score to the film. It isn't the strongest of film music but it does contain some very simple themes that help bring out the emotion of various scenes. Overall a very strong drama / thriller.

It's not your regular Stallone shoot 'em up and that's fine. The entire cast in the movie performs great. The music isn't complex but is well supported by a strong cast and character driven story.

Points Earned --> 9:10