Tag Archives: Action

Movie Review: Train to Busan (2016)

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Rating: B+/ Train to Busan delivers on it’s initial promise of being an exhilarating thrill ride and breathing new life into the zombie genre, but it also succeeds at that what you’d least expect- having a surprisingly touching human element. In this South Korean import, Seok-Woo (Gong Yoo,) a workaholic and absentee father, goes on a train journey with his young daughter Soo-an (Kim Su-An) to take her to her mother’s house for her birthday. Continue reading Movie Review: Train to Busan (2016)

Movie Review- Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2014)

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Rating: C+/ The best thing you can say about Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead is that it makes the best out of a relatively small budget and is not nearly as bad as it could have been. That might seem like faint praise indeed, but in the annals of low-budget zombie horror, it is easy to offer this movie more leeway than it deserves. Yes, the sets, the costumes, and the action sequences are not nearly as cringe-worthy as other films of it’s kind and it is actually an entertaining, if not indispensable, watch for the first forty-five minutes or so, before it gets increasingly silly and crashes and burns at it’s blood-splattered finale. Continue reading Movie Review- Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2014)

Movie Review: Deadpool (2016)

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Rating: C-/ Loud, crass, self-indulgent, and with more dick and blow job jokes than a stand-up comedy hour commandeered entirely by drunken frat boys, Deadpool is an over-rated, interminable mess. You can practically hear the jokes fall flat at delivery, which is kind of sad, because you can tell it really really wants to be funny, but somehow it just keeps coming up short of charm and laughs. Continue reading Movie Review: Deadpool (2016)

Movie Review: The Hateful Eight (2015)

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Rating: C+/ Well, you certainly can’t accuse Quentin Tarantino of false advertising. These eight characters are, in fact, hateful. And then some. Let me just preface this review by saying I love Tarantino’s movies. Usually. But his latest effort, The Hateful Eight, stands as one of his weakest so far. Usually, we can follow Tarantino into the craziest plots, the nuttiest situations that he conjures up before us. His movies are self-indulgent as fuck, films derived from films derived from other films, but that matters to us not one whit. The man has a gift; for dialogue, for characters, for pitch-black, twisted humor that is as prevalent in his films as the ubiquitous big twist in a M. Night Shyamalan flick. Continue reading Movie Review: The Hateful Eight (2015)

Movie Review: Watchmen (2009)

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Rating: C/ How do I hate Rorschach’s Batman voice? Let me count the ways. Set in an alternate timeline where Richard Nixon tries to shut down a group of masked vigilantes, the premise of Watchmen is admittedly original. I really liked the opening montage, where director Zack Snyder recreates famous moments from the 60’s and 70’s with a superhero twist. But Watchmen also proves to be both over-baked and overblown, attempting to portray the relentless ugliness of human nature with a stylized superhero movie format and falling short of greatness. Continue reading Movie Review: Watchmen (2009)

Movie Review: Jurassic Park (1993)

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Rating: A-/ Jurassic Park is an unmitigated delight , a big, riotous, cheesy blockbuster that nonetheless has an element of believability that Jurassic World lacked . Among all the creature-feature action and dinosaur carnage is a surprisingly careful attention to characters and relationships which along with the for-it’s-time astonishing special effects makes the film a bona fide crowdpleaser.The dinosaurs are, of course, the main attraction, but the characters are also well-developed for this kind of movie, and as far as films about dinosaurs in modern settings go Jurassic Park is only about 1/10 as stupid as you might expect. Continue reading Movie Review: Jurassic Park (1993)

Movie Review: Jurassic World (2015)

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Rating: C+/ The dinosaurs are in fact bigger, brassier, and toothier, and the CGI has been never better, but much of the credibility and heart of the original Jurassic Park is lost in this retread. It might seem strange to talk about credibility in a series that features living,  breathing dinosaurs resurrected in a modern setting, but somehow the original film made you believe in an outlandish scenario and breathed life into the characters involved in the chaos in a way this follow-up only dreams of. Okay, it’s not a bad movie, but it’s not the classic we were hoping for- or that this franchise deserves. Continue reading Movie Review: Jurassic World (2015)

Bone Tomahawk (2015)

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Rating- B+/ Normally, I’m not the biggest fan of Westerns. I occasionally like to watch one with my dad, but they’re not typically my favorite genre, or my second favorite genre, for that matter. That said, the premise for Bone Tomahawk immediately caught my interest. A western? Pfft. With hill-dwelling cannibals? Huh. With cannibals and a bit of the old ultra-violence? Gentlemen, you had my curiosity. now you have my attention. I just had to watch it.

My level of interest was increased exponentially by the presence of Richard Jenkins, a veteran character actor I’ve loved and admired since my early teen years, when I saw him in Burn After Reading and The Visitor. But really, like any other of the ubiquitous American character actors that blend into small roles in big movies every year, I’d seen him so many times before that. And let me tell you, this movie started out with a bang.

Rather than being a straight-out slow burn, Bone Tomahawk starts out cuckoo and then slows down around the middle to reflect on it’s themes and characters, then becomes balls-out sadistic in it’s final act. Some people think the 2/3 part drags, but I would not be among them. How can a movie drag with such a great cast of actors and characters. If you want to flat-out categorize this as a horror-western, then Bone Tomahawk has something 99.9% of contemporary horror movies lack- it makes you give a damn about it’s protagonists. Which is something in this day and age as rare as Aztec Gold.

Sheriff Hunt (Kurt Russell) is the cool-as-a-cucumber man of the law in a tiny town in the old West ironically dubbed ‘Bright Hope,’ this moniker being ironic because three people have just been abducted from Bright Hope by feral hill people who also happen to be inbred cannibals.  Arthur (Patrick Wilson) is the happily married man and former cowboy whose wife Samantha (Lili Simmons) is abducted by the psychos.

This comes at a particularly bad time for him (not that there’s any particularly good time to have your wife kidnapped by cannibals) because Arthur has recently broken his leg falling off a roof and must decide whether to go after her in his current condition or stand by impotently while the love of his life gets eaten by hill people. Except for Arthur, there’s no deciding about it. He’s going, man.

Arthur and Hunt are accompanied by Brooder (Lost‘s Matthew Fox), an racially biased flirt and Chicory (Richard Jenkins,) a chatty eccentric and Hunt’s right hand man despite his rapidly advancing age. Together they have no idea what they’re getting into, and personalities clash when Brooder’s abrasive nature, lack of compassion, and casual racism butts up against the others’ surprisingly Liberal values. Added to the explosive mix is Arthur’s hotheadedness when it comes to saving his wife his way and his powerlessness when dealing with his broken leg. Not to mention how fast the posses’ horses get stolen by Mexican bandits. How could this situation go wrong? Add conflict, injury, and homicidal cannibal nutcases and stir well. Let simmer.

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Bone Tomahawk is an exceptionally well-written and well-thought out horror movie that happens to have a few scenes that rival the fucking Human Centipede in gore factor. And I’m not talking the surprisingly tame Human Centipede I. I’m talking Human Centipede II, with Martin tearing out peoples’ tendons, baby. Except this movie offers more in the dialogue department than the THC movies. Not that that would be hard.

The conversations the characters have in their blooddrenched journey is fairly idiosyncratic, a little Tarantino-esque, but with a verve of it’s own. Subjects such as flea circuses and reading in the bath might seem a little random and out of context until you realize no, they make more sense than you originally suspected. Slowly, the pieces of the narrative start to fall into place, the good, the gory, and the weird.

And boy, is this movie gory. There was one death in particular (you’ll know it when you see it) that had me squirming in my seat. And I am not a prude. Depending on your threshold for really bloody movies, this might have you cheering or running in the other direction. The violence is really raw and sadistic, definitely not for everybody, or even most people for that matter. But it’s not all about the gore here. The filmmaker, a first-time director named S. Craig Zahler, has more tricks up his sleeve than just wanton brutality.

Although the characters’ lack of true shock and horror at the events unfolding rapidly in front of them seems kind of unlikely given the circumstances (they seem disturbingly calm after having someone disemboweled in front of them, not a likely reaction for anyone who isn’t a hardcore psychopath,) this movie is for anyone who’s wanted to see the Western genre done a little differently, but with a deft hand in terms of dialogue and character development.

The miracle of Bone Tomahawk is that it utterly keeps your attention and your investment in it’s characters alive for it’s 2+ hour runtime. That’s no mean feat for a first-time director who allegedly was told my many people prior to filming that this movie couldn’t be done. Maybe they should have spent more time making their own movies and less time arguing that Zahler couldn’t see this project to completion. But as Taylor Swift wisely said, the haters gonna hate, and this film is evidence of their failure to sway the dream of a potential-packed filmmaker with a bright future.

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Aliens (1986)

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There’s something inherently terrifying and grotesque about the creatures in Alien and it’s sequel, Aliens. The way they scuttle across the floor like crabs. The way they latch onto your face and impregnate you with their evil spawn. But nothing has posed quite as epic a threat as the alien queen mother in James Cameron’s 1986 sequel, Aliens. She’s fucking huge, for one thing. She has a vendetta. No wonder, Ellen Ripley, our heroine, abhors her.

Let me just say that Aliens is not a bad movie, by a long shot. It has good production values, effective acting, a solid story, and sympathetic characters. But, frankly, it just didn’t measure up to Ridley Scott’s original in my opinion. I know, right? Let the incredulous comments begin.

The plot of Aliens picks up right where the original left off. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) hops in an escape pod on the doomed spaceship the Nostromo and puts herself in cryo until rescue arrives. hopefully sooner rather than later. Fifty-seven years later (later, definitely later) a large ship picks her up and she soon finds herself at war once again with her mortal enemy, the face-huggers. Engineering her return to the vile creature’s planet is the weasley, manipulative Burke (Paul Reiser,) and she sets forth to save the settlers that have inadvertently arrived on the planet from the original with a bunch of soldiers with huge egos who, in the end, don’t stand a chance.

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The character of Ripley is consistent with the original, but we learn new things about her, like she has a daughter that aged and died while she was in cryo. Ripley’s new daughter figure comes in the form of Newt (Carrie Henn,) a little waif who’s whole family has been killed and who has been living in the ventilation system in the  compound where the face-huggers attacked. This adds an emotional component, as Ripley struggles to protect Newt and the soldiers from a larger-than-life menace and her extra-terrestrial children.

Now on why I think this is a good movie, but not as good as the original film. The first movie in the series was claustrophobic and loaded with atmosphere, whereas this one is more of a standard action flick. Alien incorporated modest practical effects and was done on a fairly low budget, while Aliens has a much larger budget and is much bigger and brassier than the original.

Now for the good. The characters are more sympathetic and more fully developed in this one, from the soldiers played by the likes of Bill Paxton and Michael Biehn to the little girl, Newt. You didn’t care as much about the protagonists in the first movie (other than Ripley,) but the side characters here are given some serious consideration by the writer. Aliens is also much less of a slow-burn, so if you like fast-paced action films that are not so much mood pieces as roller-coaster rides, this is the movie for you. The first was less of a Hollywood film, which was what I liked about it. But this one has more of a character arc, exciting mood, and a sense of mainstream appeal.

I was occasionally not as into Aliens as I probably should have been, I’m not much of a action fan. It gets to the point where I actually get bored by explosions and gunfights no matter how well they’re done for that sort of movie. I very much enjoy more atmospheric/ ‘slow burn’ films, but don’t let that deter you from this action-packed, entertaining movie. Alien and Aliens are very different films, despite being linked by the same heroine and universe, and they’re both worth watching in their own way.

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Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

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There’s hardly a moment that’s not brimming with action and excitement in “Mad Max: Fury Road,” a modern continuation of the “Mad Max” series substituting Mel Gibson for Tom Hardy as the lead. I’ve liked Tom Hardy since his role in the weirdo biopic “Bronson,” and although I haven’t seen this film’s precursors (!), I was intrigued by it’s rave reviews and no small amount of unwarranted controversy from feminist critics.

“Mad Max: Fury Road” is not a particularly deep movie; not particularly wise to the intricacies of human nature other than the well-worn assertion that when the apocalypse rolls around, shit will go down. You know what? That’s okay.  Because what this latest installment does have is cool car chases, crazy set pieces, and kick-ass female characters (remind me why this was branded misogynist again?)

You know that a movie with a rock n’ roll gimp playing a flame-throwing guitar on the front of a fortified tank as the baddies ride into battle has got to have some redeeming social value, or at least be cool as hell. In the not-so-distant future, oil and water have become precious commodities and society has broken into factions, each more brutal than the last. Mad Max (Tom Hardy) is mad about stuff, namely the state of civilization and the death of his wife and daughter which have festered in his mind and culminated in crazy hallucinations.

He gets kidnapped by an insane cult led by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne,) who promises his ‘wild boys’ eternal paradise in Valhalla if the live- and die- by his will. Max then gets made into a ‘blood-bag,’ a commodity whose blood is to be used to renew Immortan Joe’s wild boy’s when the time comes. But Max escapes, and with much trepidation joins Joe’s renegade warrior Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and a group of the maniacal leader’s sexual slaves in route, the the ‘green place,’ a Utopian locale based on Furiosa’s distant memory.

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I was pleased and relieved to see that Furiosa and Max’s relationship was not (as I feared it would be) ‘let me get past your hard-as-nails facade and awaken the woman within’ bullcrap. It’s based on mutual respect, certainly more than sex or romance, and I love how he forgoes shooting the gun at a crucial moment to hand it over because she’s just, y’know, a better shot. For someone who was expecting a filmy post-apocalyptic sex scene, maybe with incense and gauze curtains or some such shit, I was pleasantly surprised.

I am not the audience for this movie, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy it. I am the less-than-1% who actually prefers European art films and understated independent films to big-budget multi-million dollar smashes, but the nice thing about “Mad Max: Fury Road” is it doesn’t try to be deep or profound (like Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” trilogy) but just has fun being itself, a big fun goofy action movie of larger-than-life proportions, like playing a particularly epic video game. There’s scarcely a dull moment.

It’s interesting to see how classical mythology (namely Norse) has collided with modern sensibilities, selfishness, and consumerism with Immortan Joe’s boys (one of his warriors, a wet-behind-the-ears kid named Nux (Nicholas Hoult,) describes ‘going to Valhalla to eat a Mcfeast’- a little post-McDonald’s product placement there) 😉 The wild-boy’s ideology reminds me of ISIS and any other cult or hate group worth it’s salt- you get to be an asshole, and you’re rewarded for it tenfold in the afterlife.

Watch it for the guitar gimp. And if not for the guitar gimp, watch it for Tom Hardy. And if not for Tom Hardy, watch it for Charlize Theron as an indomitable heroine and her group of newly liberated wards who must find their own deeply-buried strength. Never to we get the feeling that Theron’s identity as a woman makes her softer or weaker than any of the guys. And we don’t get that gag-worthy prerequisite scene where the warrioress takes off her helmet and tosses her hair around, making the stoic hero’s jaw drop.

This might actually be worth watching in 3-D. So pop your popcorn, put on your 3-D glasses, and put your innate need for deep meaning and intellectual stimulation away, because you’re in for a wild ride. I bet considering this movie’s wild success, Mel Gibson’s kicking himself for turning down the amount of money offered to play in this film. If you discard your initial skepticism (I’m talking to you, art film addicts and hipsters) at seeing a film that actually made loads of money- a remake, no less- I’m sure you will find a lot to love about this film.

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