Sunday, June 29, 2014

2 Guns

Starring: Denzel Washington & Mark Wahlberg
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

...and the surprise winner of the year goes to 2 Guns! The only reason I decided to watch this film is because I am a huge Denzel Washington fan, however my expectations for it were extremely low. It's rare, but occasionally, a preview can harm the reputation of a film, and that's what happened here. The previews make this film out to be nothing for than a big gun fight with the occasional cheesy line, but it's so much more than that. In a unique twist, two undercover agents, from two separate agencies, wind up going after the same man. Looking for a way into his organization, they find each other and assume the other works for the bad guy. Both Washington and Mark Wahlberg create characters and put on a good show for the other, having no idea that they're actually working towards the same goal. What really makes this film work is the chemistry between Wahlberg and Washington. Denzel is plays his usual level headed, super intense character, while Wahlberg's playing a laid back, reckless guy, who actually does have some pretty funny lines, that they weren't about to show in the previews. Together they go through on an amazing adventure, full of good guys and bad guy crossing and double-crossing each other. There are at least a half dozen factions tied to this evil man, in different ways for different reasons, and each representative is more unique than the other, leading to some amazing interactions. 2 Guns is the story of 2 agents caught in the middle of a huge conspiracy, that seemingly involves every one. While that may be confusing to some, I found it refreshing, because the truth is you never knew what would happen next. When one side struck, it could have been anyone, for any reason. The unique story and large supporting cast, paired with the terrific chemistry between the two stars, made for an absolute classic that fell under most peoples radars. If you're looking for a good movie, that will have you on the edge of your seat, then you should check out 2 Guns! I can't recommend it enough.

Reasonable Doubt (2014)

Starring: Dominic Cooper, Samuel L. Jackson, & Gloria Reuben
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

District Attorney, Mitch Brockden (Dominic Cooper), goes out one night to celebrate a big victory, and fearing for the safety of his car, in a bad neighborhood, decides to drive home drunk. On the way, he hits a kills a man, running across the street. Another man, Clinton Davis (Samuel L. Jackson) is charged with the crime and it's Brockden's job to prosecute the man accused of committing his crime. Not wanting to convict an innocent man, Brockden blows the case, but afterwards finds out that the wounds on the man he hit, were not consistent with being hit by a car, and match the wounds of seven unsolved homicide victims. Now Brockden must find out if he mistakenly let a serial killer go free. Reasonable Doubt, unlike many similar films, actually had a unique and original story. Both Dominic Cooper and Samuel L. Jackson were terrific, and the film really could have been the hidden gem of the year, but only got 3.5 stars. The reason is simple, while it was a great story, it was far too predictable to be what it could have been. I really it hate when the Writers assume that the audience is too dumb to figure out what's going on. That's what happens here, while the story is tremendous, everything is laid out in such a way, that even a child would know what would happen next. Aside from that, the great story and terrific cast make for an exciting film, that was quite enjoyable, but it was just predictable to a fault.

3 Days To Kill

Starring: Kevin Costner, Amber Heard, & Hailee Steinfeld
Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5 stars

3 Days To Kill was promoted in a very misleading way. The previews, the description, even the cover of the DVD make it sound like an exciting thriller. They even manipulated the name of the film, to make it seem like one thing, when it really meant another. The story centers around Ethan Renner, (Kevin Costner) a man who has spent his entire life killing people for the CIA. Renner has found that he only has a short time to live and wants to spend his remaining time with the family he's largely abandoned. His retirement is short lived however, as his old bosses at the CIA promise to help with his medical care if he'll do one last job, a job he doesn't want his family to know about. 3 Days To Kill was made to look like the dying agent had 3 Days To Kill his target, but that's not true at all. The title refers to him spending 3 days with the daughter he hasn't seen in 10 years. Like everyone else, I was fooled by the films promotion and decided to see it, even though Kevin Costner stars. I forgot the fact that Costner hasn't made a decent film in about fifteen years, and assumed that 3 Days To Kill would lead him away from romantic films and be a return to what made him a star, but it wasn't. The action and intensity of a CIA thriller is a back story, to a film about a dying man reconnecting with his family. It wasn't as boring or depressing as a full on drama, following a similar storyline, but it wasn't far off. Much of the hunt for his target was used as comedy to break up the monotony of watching Renner teaching his daughter to dance and ride a bicycle. To be honest, the film really is just a whole mix of things, none of which work. The cast is dreadful, the story is all over the place, and the film is just ridiculous. 3 Days To Kill was a horrible experience, and not only did I hate this film, I feel like I was tricked into watching it, by some clever marketing people, who knew the film was shit. You can decide for yourself, but if you could use an extra two hours to do something you've been putting off, I'd skip this movie and get it done.

Homefront (2013)

Starring: Jason Statham, James Franco, & Winona Ryder
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

When you combine Action with Drama, you had better have a damn good story to go along with the tremendous fight scenes and wild chases, or else you get a film that falls flat. We all know that at this point, Jason Statham is the best Action star you could have, but the jury was out on how effect he could be in a more dramatic role. In Home Front, Statham plays a retired undercover D.E.A. agent, who has recently become a single father. He and his daughter have moved from the big city to the small town, which his late wife called home, in the hopes of building a better life. Everything was going as planned until his daughter, stood up to a bully at school, and embarrassed the son of one the towns most influential families. The simple misunderstanding between children quickly escalates into an all out war, which will force Statham to use everything he learned in the D.E.A. to protect his daughter and his new home. Once again, Jason Statham was terrific in this film. It is mind boggling and seems to be impossible, but every film this man does is better than the one before it. He is on a winning streak, the likes of which I have never seen. Statham was terrific, but oddly, he's paired with an actor who doesn't have much experience playing the bad guy and it showed. James Franco plays Gator Bodine, a small time hood and drug trafficker, who goes after Statham with everything he's got, the only problem is, Bodine really isn't that bad a guy. In fact, when Franco starts cursing and playing all tough, it's almost laughable, not to mention the fact that he doesn't have a tenth of the fighting skills that Statham has. Being that this was a big budget film, Written by Sylvester Stallone (Rocky),  Directed by Gary Fleder (Kiss The Girls, Runaway Jury), and starting the best action star in the game (Jason Statham), it's very peculiar that they would choose a bad guy, who is best known as a comedic actor. While the story was great, Franco simply can not match up with Statham at all. Homefront has almost everything you could want in a Thriller, but the lack of a strong, believable opponent, really calls into question just how believable the film is and makes it somewhat predictable.

Matrix Revolutions

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Ann Moss, & Laurence Fishburne
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The conclusion to the epic Matrix trilogy should have been the best of the three films. Everything was set up perfectly leading into a potentially exciting conclusion, and most of the film went as expected. There was terrific action and science fiction drama, some amazing special effects, and the legend of Neo continued to grow, right up until the conclusion. The end of the film went from extremely predictable to ridiculously strange and confusing. While I'm sure the ending made perfect sense to the Wachowski's, it made no sense to me, an avid science fiction fan and movie critic. This being a review, means I can't go into specifics, but the ending was absolutely horrible and puts the whole series in a different light. The most disheartening part of this whole thing is that until that point, the Matrix has been done to near perfection. The story was solid, the action was out of this world, the special effects were amazing, the casting was flawless, and just when the trilogy should have reached it's apex, it all comes crashing down. Once again the cast is terrific and the story is great, which is why I don't understand how they could give us an ending like that. I thoroughly enjoyed the Matrix trilogy and it will certainly hold it's place in cinematic history, but as a fan I was horribly disappointed by an ending that came out of nowhere and left the audience scratching it's head.

Monday, June 23, 2014


Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Mia Sara, Ron Silver, & Gloria Reuben
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

It's a rare occurrence, but once in a while, a film is made that is way ahead of it's time, too far ahead of it's time, and Timecop is one of those films. Had it been made in the error of CGI, this film would have been so much better. The story is strong, a lot stronger than the performances, and the use of some crazy special effects would have taken it over the top, but those weren't available in 1994. The result is a slightly above average film, with a really cool plot, and not much else. The story follows Max Walker (Jean-Claude Van Damme) whose job is to stop people from using illegal time travel technology, in order to change the past. Changing the past can drastically change the present, and is often abused by criminals trying to get wealth and power. One of those men is U.S. Senator McComb (Ron Silver), who has his eye on the Presidency. Walker must go back in time to stop McComb and expose him, before he can reshape the country in his own image. I love time oriented Science Fiction, as the story can take you on a magical trip all throughout history, like nothing else can. In this film, they didn't travel as much as they should have, and the technology and effects behind time travel were so basic, that it's hard to buy that this could ever work. Jean-Claude Van Damme stars and we all know that I see him as one of these brawn over brains guys, that only get work because of their looks and their fancy movies. Van Damme wasn't bad, but this is a film that had real potential, and simply using an average star, contributes to the overall sentiment of the film. Timecop is a great story, and in my opinion is something that could really work if it is re-made properly. It's not because the film is bad, it's just not a good as it should have been. If you're a Sci-Fi fan, I definitely recommend it, but if it's not your favorite genre, you might want to skip this one.

The Godfather

Starring: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, & James Caan
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I'd never seen the Godfather prior to this weekend. A friend of mine asked how I can consider myself a movie reviewer, when I haven't even seen the film that is widely considered to be the best of all-time. He had a point, so I decided to rent it and my verdict is it. While the Godfather is a tremendous epic drama, I really don't see how it is considered to be the best film ever made. It's a great story, with a superstar cast, which set the genre for all the mafia films that followed, but that in and of itself means the film is going to have problems. As with other mafia films, it's difficult to keep track of who's who in the large cast. It also moves rather quickly and viewers like myself are going to have a very difficult time of trying to follow the erratic timeline of the film. Some parts move at a snails pace, while other just fly by, and what is with the music? The soundtrack is almost as acclaimed as the film, but honestly if I had to hear that song one more time, during this three hour epic, I may have gone out and killed someone myself. For those unfamiliar with the story, it follows the evolution of the Corleone family, as they transition from one leader to the next. The story is fantastic and is the furthest thing from predictable that you will ever find. It is filed with classic scenes and renowned performance from Marlon Brando and Al Pacino, but I really have a hard time calling such a complicated story with that much violence, the best of all-time. The Godfather is a terrific movie, and I'm glad that I finally got to see it, but in a word, the film is overrated.

The Matrix Reloaded

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, & Laurence Fishburne
Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Contrary to everything we know about trilogies, the sequel to the Matrix is considered to be the best of the three films. The reason is simple, as this is where we get into the heart of the story. The first film was equivalent to the pilot episode of a TV show, where we are introduced to the characters, terms, and locations. In the second installment of the Matrix we are introduced to the real struggle and get a look inside the legendary underground city of Zion. The humans there have learned of a plan by the machines to tunnel through into the city and want to come up with a way to stop them. While Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) believes that Neo (Keanu Reeves) is the key to stopping the whole thing, most of the other are skeptical. In Reloaded, Agent Smith doesn't play as large a role as in the first film, for that matter, neither does the Matrix itself, which makes it almost like a stand alone rather than a sequel. Reloaded isn't just a great Sci-Fi story as it features one of the best action sequences and chase scenes I have ever seen, following the groups interaction with the Merovingian. While the film was great and does top the original, the Directors once again tried to use never before seen special effects. While it worked well in the first film, it doesn't help the second. Many of the fight scenes with the agents become so computerized, that at points they actually seem to be animated, and those scenes hurt the film. Other than that minor inconvenience, I can't find anything wrong with this film. It is Science Fiction at it's best, featuring an perfectly cast group of actors, some edge of your seat intensity, and of course a very unique story. All that makes the Matrix Reloaded one of our must see movies!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Devil's Knot

Starring: Colin Firth & Reese Witherspoon
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

The story portrayed in Devil's Knot is the story of the West Memphis 3, a story I am very familiar with. Due to the heinous nature of the crime and the complete incompetence of the local police, the story garnered national attention and has been featured on every news show you can think of. There have also been a ton of documentaries made, all of which I've seen, and all of which call into question who might have really committed these acts. 1993, West Memphis Arkansas, three 8 year old boys go missing in the woods. A huge search party spends 3 days looking for them, before finding them in a popular fishing hole known as the Devil's Knot. There is a big list of suspects, but all the police can see is a group of Satan worshiping teenagers, who have long been a thorn in their sides. Through some very questionable tactics, and a sham of a trial, these teenagers were convicted and sent to prison. From the beginning, there involvement in the crime was called into question, even by the victims families, who saw the injustice of the whole procedure first hand. With my knowledge of the story, I was really interested to see how a film would handle the overwhelming amount of information associated with this case. To my surprise, they didn't do the typical thing and just focus on one aspect of the story, they made the case for the guilt of each of the suspects, and they showed how the police blindly and incompetently when after these three teenagers. As the film goes, they hit the nail right on the head, but when you have all these suspects, and so much back story, squeezed into an hour and a half, it can become extremely confusing for audiences unfamiliar with the case. The film is further harmed by all the interviews and investigation which really slow the pace down. The story of the West Memphis 3 is a tragic one that has led to the freedom of a killer, who did horrible things to three little boys. Devil's Knot is a primary example of police misconduct and the lack of justice available to the less fortunate. If you have an interest, I highly recommend you look into the story and decide for yourself, and a non-bias film covering the events is a great place to start.

The Matrix

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, & Laurence Fishburne
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

It's been over 10 years since I've seen the Matrix, and to be completely honest with you, back then, I didn't really get it the way I did this time. When the film was made it was a huge risk for the production company, as it was extremely expensive, and featured a first a time Director, using a new kind of computerized effects. 15 years later and the film is considered to be one of the best science fiction movies ever made. For those unfamiliar with the story, it takes place 200 years in the future, a time where machines have taken control of the planet and 99% of humans live in blissful ignorance, as pawns in stasis, living out there lives in a dreamworld called the Matrix. The other 1% know the truth and will do whatever it takes to defeat the machines. The crew of the Nebuchadnezzar leads the charge, following an ancient prophecy, that says they will one day discover a human with extraordinary abilities, that will lead to the destruction of the Matrix. That man is named Neo and is played by Keanu Reeves, in what many consider to be his crowning achievement. Reeves is often put down for being too dark and emotionless in his roles, but that is exactly what the role of Neo calls for, making Reeves the perfect choice to play him. Reeves is paired with veteran actor Laurence Fishburne, who as Morpheus, is like the pope of this new world. He is the one who discovered the prophecy and who risks everything for Neo. The story of the Matrix is one of the most original to come alone in decades, featuring a perfectly cast group of actors, who are aided by special effects, the likes of which had never been seen before. These effects are common place in 2014, but were unheard of in 1999, and really helped cement the reputation of this classic. The Matrix may not be the perfect movie and in fact, a lot of people won't understand it, but it's a film that people will be watching 200 years from now, when the events of the film supposedly take place.


Starring: Josh Lawson, Emma Lung, Ron Perlman, & Edward Furlong
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

What we crave is a better movie! The previews set this thing up to look like a film version of Dexter, but that couldn't be further from the truth. The story follows a crime scene photographer who had enough of the injustice of the world and the horrible things he sees. He fantasizes about become a vigilantly and doing the things the police can't do, but there's a problem. He doesn't have any balls. The story presented in the previews and on the back of the box is just a description of the back story. The actual film centers around a love story, that doesn't exist. Photographer Aiden (Josh Lawson) is having sex with his neighbor Virginia (Emma Lung) who is half his age. Aiden believes he's fallen in love and obsesses over Virginia, but all she sees him as is a friend with benefits. Josh Lawson stars and he was actually pretty good, but what's the point of being good in a film that doesn't make any sense. Lines come out of nowhere and entire scenes occur that leave the audience wondering if it's really happening or just another of Aiden's fantasies. Perhaps, the worst part of this film is the narration. While Lawson does give a good performance, his character narrates his thoughts throughout the film, a jumbled mess of ridiculousness that gets old by the 30 minute mark. While there are a couple of interesting scenes, a solid performance by the lead, and one of my favorite actors, Edward Furlong, Crave is just one big mess of confusion that is most definitely not worth your time.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Carrie (2013)

Starring: Chloe Moretz, Julianna Moore, & Ansel Elgort
Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5 stars

I don't know why I keep watching remakes, because it seems like I am always disappointed. I suppose I feel that with all the new technology to come along in the past 30 years, these films will only get better once they are enhanced and edited, but the truth is that they are always missing something important, and rarely do justice to the original. The remake of Carrie isn't all that different from the original, just modernized, as Carrie is a loser, who with puberty discovers an amazing power. She tries to hide it, but when pushed, ultimately uses it for evil, it's a classic Stephen King story, that most people already know and there in lies part of the problem. Assuming that most people know the story, a lot of information about Carrie is omitted, leaving the film little to go on. They quickly jump into the story and for a long time have nowhere to go with it. Kick-Asses Chloe Moretz stars as Carrie, and while her performance was outstanding, it is wasted in this film. They really played up the religious angel and Carrie's mother, played poorly by Julianna Moore. Yes, it was creepy and that's what they wanted, but it was so over the top and in your face, that it quickly becomes tiresome. The producers of this film had all the tools to recreate this Horror classic, but fail miserably, as their take on the story was abbreviated and way over the top.

Thor: The Dark World

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, & Tom Hiddleston
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

It's no secret that I've always hated superhero movies. I find them to be cliche, over the top, and so far from reality, that often time the stories are just the lowest form of Science Fiction. The only movies of the superhero genre that I've ever truly enjoyed are the recent Batman trilogy and some of the recent Marvel films. That being said, I hated the first Thor film, because it came directly from a comic book and lacked any kind of background story whatsoever. Thanks in part to the Avengers and the development of the Loki character, that all changes with the second film. The story isn't directly from a comic book, but rather based on one. In this film, the characters are more established and there is a lengthy background story that only enhances the film, and the series. In the second film, Thor is tasked with stopping a deadly weapon, possessed by an all but extinct species. This weapon has the power to destroy the entire universe and as always, the focal point is on Earth. Unable to stop the weapon and save his girlfriend at the same time, Thor turns to an unlikely source for help, his now imprisoned brother, Loki. Given the magnitude of the story and the power of the enemy, I'm a bit surprised that they didn't keep this film to be used as an Avengers sequel, as it has all the makings of an epic sequel. Chris Hemsworth reprises his role as Thor and this time he is beyond terrific. His role in the Avengers really enhanced the popularity of a character that most people were unfamiliar with, and the tremendous start to the film really set the framework for Hemsworth to take Thor to the next level. Even the supporting cast steps it up a notch as Natalie Portman is more used to the idea of a boyfriend from another world and being involved in things she couldn't possibly understand. Finally, Tom Hiddleston tops of the story, with his portrayal of Loki. I may be going out on a limb here, but I thought Hiddleston was even better in The Dark World than he was in The Avengers. Going into the Avengers, next to The Hulk, Thor was the weakest of the introduction films, and the least known and appreciated character. That all changed with the Avengers and in his second film, the Thor character steps up to a level that rivals even Iron Man. If you're not that into the series and have only selectively seen a few of the films, make sure you include the Dark World, as it is essential to fully understanding Thor and his impact in the future of the series.

The Rock

Starring: Sean Connery, Nicholas Cage, & Ed Harris
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Yes, there was a time when Michael Bay made movies that actually had a plot to go with the explosions, and some, like The Rock, were terrific. I had never seen The Rock from beginning to end, having just caught glimpses of it on TV, but watching it in it's entirety proved what I'd long suspected, it was a great film. A Marine General, upset that his lost soldiers never received the compensation they deserved for their secret missions, takes control of Alcatraz island, and aims chemical weapons at San Francisco. The FBI is at a lost as to what to do and decide to go with an unconventional idea to try and stop the general. A team of Navy seals prepare to take the island back, lead by the only man to ever escape from Alcatraz, now in his sixties, and a chemical weapons specialist who has never been in combat. Sean Connery stars and even though he was nearing the end of his illustrious career, he gives a truly great performance, that reminds us of just how great his movies were. Connery was the premiere action star, in a time before special effects had been computerized. He really gives an old school attitude and feeling to the film, which helps The Rock stand out from it's competition. Connery is paired with Nicholas Cage who is always terrific, especially when he's playing some type of law enforcer. Cage adds humor, unintentionally, with his inexperience, and winds up doing some pretty amazing things. While I don't like to mention specific scenes in a film, I'd be remiss not to mention the incredible chase scene Cage has through the streets of San Francisco, in the beginning of the film. It was reminiscent of the great car chases of the Lethal Weapon series, and really stood out to me. The Rock is a terrific story, featuring a cast in which old school and the younger generation collide, and to top it all off, it has that Michael Bay spin and over reliance on special effects. It's a terrific action film which sadly is rarely seen anymore in the world of computer generated effects and muscle headed action stars.