Category Archives: Action Movies

Fast Five (2011) Movie Review

Fast Five (2011)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Series: The Fast and the Furious #5
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris
Director: Justin Lin
Release Date: 29 April 2011
Language: English
Length: 131 minutes
Movie Rating: PG-13
View Format: DVD
My Ratingimage_thumb84_thumb1

Synopsis:

Former federal agent Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) and ex-con Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) flee to Brazil to escape a long prison sentence.  Desperate for some quick cash, they make a bad call and get involved in stealing a powerful drug lord’s cars.  The theft goes all wrong and three DEA agents are killed during the heist.  Blamed for killing the federal agents and with the most powerful drug lord in Rio (Joaquim de Almeida) on the hunt for the information they stumbled across, Brian and Dom have to find a way to start fresh and elude capture by the best federal agent the US has to send, Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson).

Review:

The Fast and the Furious franchise went through a rocky patch when Vin Diesel bailed after the first movie was over.  I gave up on the series Fast 5after watching the horrible 3rd movie, Tokyo Drift, but decided to pick it back up again after I heard that the original cast was coming back in this one.  I am glad that I did as I was not disappointed!  This movie was fun, action-packed and full of surprises.  I am not what you call a car lover, but the way they filmed this movie made me fall in love with the vehicles that they used in the movies.  I can barely drive a stick shift, but I was lusting after the muscle and race cars that they drive in this film!  The car thefts and chase sequences were really well done and had me on the edge of my seat.  I wish that I saw this movie on the big screen, however, as I am sure that the stunts are even more impressive.

Paul Walker is a handsome boy who is solid in his role, but it is when you pair him with Vin Diesel that he becomes something better than Paul Walker and Vin Dieselaverage.  There is something special about the combination of these two opposites that really works.  Bring in a set of supporting actors including Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Sung Kang and Tego Calderon and you get plenty of laughs with all the boys showing off and acting macho.  Jordana Brewster, Gal Gadot, Elsa Pataky provide plenty of eye candy for the target audience of the movie, but unfortunately are not given very big roles to really show off their acting chops.  While Vin Diesel and Paul Walker get top billing in this movie, Fast Five is an ensemble movie that is at its strongest when the actors are sitting around talking and making fun of each other.

The main problem with this movie is that the lines between the good guys and the bad guys are so blurry that they are practically non-existent.  The crew breaks Dom out of a prison bus in the first scene of Vin Diesel vs. the Rockthe movie and they just continue to break more laws as they go along.  Compared to the drug lord (Joaquim de Almeida) in the movie, Dom’s crew look like angels, but that isn’t saying much.  Dwayne Johnson plays Agent Hobbs, a by-the-rules lawman who has no gray in his vocabulary.  Everything is either black or white and Dom and his crew are definitely in the black.  I was rooting for Dom’s team the whole way, but I had to remind myself that they are not the good guys.  I wish that there was some way for them to redeem themselves and clean the slate, but it is not going to happen in this movie.

If you are looking for a high-octane thriller with plenty of exciting car chases and an overload of testosterone (most of it very attractive), look no further than The Fast and the Furious series.  Now that Vin Diesel is back with the regular gang, I am looking forward to seeing more hot cars in my future!

Content:

This movie contains a lot of violence and death.  Characters are shot, blown up and beaten to death.  The good guys don’t always win.  There are scenes with strong language, sensuality, sexual humor and innuendo, pregnancy out-of-wedlock, and drinking.  The main characters steal cars for a living and do everything they can to avoid the police.  Police corruption in foreign countries and the drug trade is a strong theme in this movie.  Make sure that you talk with your teenagers about what is right and wrong before or after they see this movie.  Recommended for ages 13 and up.

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A Good Day to Die Hard (2013) Movie Review

A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Series: Die Hard #5
Starring: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Yuliya Snigir, Radivoje Bukvic
Director: John Moore
Release Date: 14 February 2013
Language: English
Length: 97 minutes
Movie Rating: R
View Format: Movie Theatre
My Rating: image_thumb84_thumb1_thumb

Synopsis:

When John McClane (Bruce Willis) hears that his son, Jack (Jai Courtney) is in prison in Moscow, Russia, he hurries overseas to try to help out, only to unwittingly foil a CIA plan to rescue scientist Yuri Kamarov (Sebastian Koch) that was three years in the making.  Now it is up to John and Jack to obtain the top-secret file that Yuri hid years ago that will expose the current secretary of defense’s (Radivoje Bukvic) Chernobyl crimes.

Review:

It appears that most of the feedback on the fifth movie in the Die Hard franchise is negative.  I was a bit surprised as I enjoyed the film and have recommended it Bruce Willisto several friends.  I watch a lot of action movies and, after a while, the action all blurs together.  It is the really good and really bad characters that stand out in my mind and the character of John McClane, as played by Bruce Willis is one of my hands-down favorites.  Bruce Willis’s acting takes any movie in the Die Hard series to a higher rating, in my opinion, than most action movies out there.  That said, the plot was a bit convoluted and seemed unnecessarily complicated with double and triple crosses, but forget about it being completely implausible and just enjoy the ride.

A Good Day to Die Hard begins with a killer car chase.  Jack and Yuri are being chased by a bunch of bad guys in some kind of tank-like vehicle that seems virtually indestructible.  John is chasing the bad guys in various vehicles and Welcome to Russia, Dadthese three cars are wreaking havoc on Moscow traffic!  Cars are crushed, driven over, pushed off of overpasses, spun out, crunched in between good and bad guys, knocked about as the vehicles go barreling down narrow streets and there is a lot of damage!  The movie ends with in the truly creepy setting of Chernobyl.  The city is still standing just as it was when 50,000 people were evacuated overnight.  Papers, personal effects Good Day to Die Hard Chernobyland other items are left on desks waiting for workers to return.  There are plenty of hiding places, as well as the threat of radiation to prickle the skin on the back of your neck as you wait to see how John and Jack will take down the bad guys and save the world.  There are some other cool sequences, but I felt that the Moscow location was a bit underutilized and would have liked to see some more iconic locations or get a better feel for the Russian setting.  Luckily, the beginning and end of the movie were strong and left me feeling that the movie was stronger than it really is.

Bruce Willis dominates the movie. The little quirk to his mouth when he is amused and his dead-pan delivery of funny lines in the midst of serious situations make the John McClane character something special.  This movie is better than most of the action movies out there because of the humor.  You feel guilty for laughing in the middle of some pretty intense fight sequences, but you Elevator Sequencejust can’t help it – they are too funny!  Bruce Willis’s character, John McClane, makes constant reference to being on vacation and not understanding anything that is said to him.  There are lots of little funny sequences if you are on the lookout for them.  It starts off with John accidentally asking for a bag of hair on his way to the courthouse as he tries to use his “Idiot’s Travel Guide.”  It peaks in the middle when John McClane (Bruce Willis), his son, Jack (Jai Courtney) and the scientist, Yuri (Sebastian Koch) are riding in an elevator with “The Girl from Ipanema” muzak playing on their way up.  Most of the gags are not really verbal, but quiet moments that will give you a chance to giggle and lighten up on the intense fighting sequences that are happening all of the time.  For me, these moments are what set the Die Hard franchise apart from the other action movies out there.  They don’t appear to take themselves too seriously so I can just relax and enjoy myself as I wait to see how Bruce Willis is going to save the day – again.

I thought the acting was solid, though some of the bad guys were a bit too over-Father and Sonthe-top.  Jai Courtney held his own with Bruce Willis and I felt that these two had good synergy together.  If they are planning on a hand off on the franchise, they could do worse.  John McClane’s daughter, Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), is featured at the beginning and end of the movie in the USA so I am not sure if they are trying to set up both son and daughter taking over for their father or what.  That would be a refreshing change and quite a bit of fun, actually.  Here’s hoping that we will see all three McClanes in the next movie!

If you are looking to be hypercritical of this movie, there is a lot to criticize.  There are the usual impossible-to-escape-that-many-bullets-moments, some Bruce Willis Shootingbadly done CGI and a lot of location jumping with little to link it.  McClane’s character seems a bit like a fish-out-of-water in Russia and I was not quite sure why they took him out of the USA (other than the chance to say “Yippee-ki-yay Mother Russia!”), but I was okay with it.  Also, I had no idea that McClane had a son at all, but then, we just recently learned that he had a daughter in movie #4 (Live Free or Die Hard) so there you go. Coincidences and luck play a large part in this movie, but none of this bothered me at all.  I was not in the movies to see something realistic, I was there to be entertained!  And I was.

Content:

This movie contains violence and death.  Characters are killed in many ways, but mostly shot with guns.  There is a lot of blood and dead bodies.  Explosions, helicopter blades and knives are also used to kill people.  The bad guys use the “f” word a lot and there is some other strong language.  Recommended for ages 18 and up.

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Taken 2 (2012) Movie Review

Taken 2 (2012)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Series: Taken #2
Starring: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Rade Serbedzija, Leland Orser
Director: Olivier Megaton
Release Date: 5 October 2012
Language: English
Length: 92 minutes
Movie Rating: PG-13
View Format: DVD
My Rating: image_thumb83_thumb1_thumb

Synopsis:

Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), retired CIA agent, now works as a security specialist for high-profile clients.  He invites his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen), and his teenage daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), to join him in Istanbul after he finishes up a security job.  Currently separated from her second husband, Lenore and Kim seize the opportunity to go on an exotic vacation, only to have the whole experience turn into a nightmare.  The gang who sold Kim into sexual slavery in Taken have identified and located Bryan and are out for revenge.  Now it is Bryan and Lenore who are taken by the traffickers, leaving Kim the only free member of the family.  But how long will Kim manage to outwit the Albanians?  And will Bryan come up with a plan to save his family?

Review:

Taken 2 is not a great deal different from the first movie, Taken.  I was Bryan Fighting the Gangexpecting the sequel to be just as good, if not better, than the original, but it is not.  Bryan (Liam Neeson) is still able to kick some serious butt against the Albanian gang, but he is handicapped in this movie by having his wife and daughter along.  Now Bryan is vulnerable and has to make some difficult choices about who to rescue and when.  Because of this, the plot didn’t seem to move along as rapidly.  Knowing who the villains are at the beginning of the movie cut down on the suspense and I was definitely not as anxious to see what would happen next.  On the other hand, I was delighted to see Kim (Maggie Grace) showing some more spunk as she is integral to Bryan’s escape plan.

The most entertaining scenes in the movie, in my opinion, are the shots of Istanbul.  I have never traveled there before so it was great to see the movie set in an exotic, interesting location.  The streets are crowded and full of sudden twistExotic Istanbuls and turns, the architecture is different and unusual, the clothing and attitudes of the locals are intriguing.  I loved the sounds of Istanbul and almost fancied that I could smell it, as well.  I thought it was very clever of Bryan to track his location after he was taken by counting the seconds in between unique sounds and movements.  I get lost very easily so I am sure it would not have worked for me, but it seemed like a neat trick!  The other parts of the movie that Kim Escapes the BaddiesI enjoyed were the beginning and ending scenes, which take place in California.  Bryan is trying to teach Kim to drive and is very strict about the schedule.   He also is very specific about his instructions to his daughter, Kim.  It is a wonder than any of us get our driver’s license with our parents teaching us how to drive!  I also enjoyed Bryan’s reaction to Kim’s new boyfriend.  Kim doesn’t want Bryan to investigate him or spend much time with him.  Of course, Kim doesn’t know that Bryan has installed a GPS device on her cell phone so the meeting between the two of them is pretty entertaining.

The ending makes it clear that the studio is interested in creating at least one more movie in the Taken series.  Bryan takes on the Albanian gang patriarch, TAKEN 2</p><p>Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) races across Istanbul to save his family.</p><p>Ph: Magali Bragard</p><p>© 2012 EUROPACORP – M6 FILMS - GRIVE PRODUCTIONS.  All rights reserved.  Not for sale or duplication.Murad Krasniqi (Rade Serbedzija) in this movie so, obviously, he dies in the end.  Murad was out for revenge for the death of his son at Bryan’s hands.  Murad has two more sons who will be sure to want Bryan’s head on a platter after Bryan killed their brother and their father.  The most interesting thing about the Albanian gang is that these men are dedicated to their families.  They have mothers, wives, daughters, and granddaughters who are coddled and protected, yet they think nothing of kidnapping other women around the globe and selling them into sexual slavery.  This is brought up once by Bryan to justify the deaths he caused, but Murad doesn’t care and doesn’t believe that his son deserved to die.

If you are looking for an enjoyable action movie, Taken 2 is a solid performer.  Liam Neeson is a fine actor and he makes more out of his role in this movie than your average action star.  I love his voice.  It has a deep, distinctive sound that is Wife at Gunpointvery soothing and believable.  He is a fierce fighter in the Taken series and I love the way he is so attached to his family, even though his wife divorced him and he doesn’t spend much time with Kim.  Famke Janssen is underutilized in this movie, unfortunately.  She looks like beautiful baggage and seems to be in the movie solely to slow Bryan down and stall the action.  Maggie Grace had a much better role in Taken 2.  She is growing up to be a strong young lady and seems to be following in her father’s footsteps.  I loved the car chase scene where Kim is forced to drive through the crazy streets of Istanbul while her father shoots at the bad guys behind them.  Kim cannot even get her driver’s license in the US Kim Driving the Taxiand now she is careening through the serpentine streets in a manual-shift taxi while dodging bullets.  When Kim asks her dad why he can’t drive, he replies “can you shoot a gun?” and that ends that conversation.  There are a couple of scenes and lines like this that I enjoyed, but not enough to elevate the movie beyond standard summer blockbuster fare.

Content:

This movie contains several scenes of intense violence.  There are scenes of hand-to-hand combat, shooting, knife fights, and assault with pipes and sticks or whatever else is lying around.  There are also a couple of torture scenes, including flashbacks from Taken, as well as the gang cutting and scaring Lenore. Human trafficking and selling women to brothels is discussed.  The villains are part of a gang.  This movie has strong language and scenes of drinking and smoking.  Kim and her boyfriend are involved in a heavy petting scene and there are several car crashes.  Recommended for ages 13 and up.

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Twister (1996) Movie Review

Twister (1996)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Cary Elwes, Jami Gertz, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Director: Jan de Bont
Release Date: 10 May 1996
Language: English
Length: 113 minutes
Movie Rating: PG-13
View Format: TV
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis:

“In this dizzying, effects-driven drama, two scientists (Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton) chase tornadoes in their quest to record and study them. Taking a backseat to the wild and visually mesmerizing storms are subplots concerning a failing marriage, childhood trauma and corporate ethics. The film received multiple Academy Awards for its spectacular sound and visual effects (including the famous flying cow).” — Netflix.com

Review:

While most special-effects laden movies show their age after a few years, Twister is holding up remarkably well.  The only way you can really tell the age of this movie is the hairstyles and the clothing on a few of the characters.  Every time I see this movie, I am blown away by the terrific special effects!  The tornadoes and debris flying around them are so well done that they look absolutely real.  This is definitely one of the best big-budget disaster/weather movies that I have seen in quite some time!  While the special effects steal the show, the acting is decent and there are a few interesting subplots to further capture our attention.  Just don’t look for a huge storyline here, as the twisters steal every scene they are in and eat up a lot of screen time.

I think that Helen Hunt does an admirable job of playing a scientist Jo Harding, who is obsessed with tornadoes.  She is determined to find a way to detect tornadoes earlier than the current 3-minute warnings that we have as she knows first hand that people need more time to get prepared.  She saw her own father pulled up into a tornado when she was a young girl and has never forgotten that image.  Helen Hunt manages to balance being tough and independent with a soft, vulnerable side that she struggles to keep everyone from seeing.  Bill Paxton plays her soon-to-be-ex-husband, Bill Harding, who had to let Jo go after realizing that she will never be able to move on from losing her father.  He has found a new woman to love and goes back to see Jo only to get her to sign the divorce papers.  That is pretty much the end of the story right there.  I mean, after that, they start working together again to use their specialized machine to get some additional data on how twisters operate.  They start to fall in love again, foil the bad guys (another team trying to get the data before their team), and come up with tremendous success against all odds while alternately chasing and running away from tornadoes.

The other characters in the film were quirky and fun to get to know.  They added some much needed levity to the film, but you don’t get a lot of opportunities to get to know them.  Cary Elwes is underutilized as the lead scientist of the opposing team.  He mainly skulks around in black and tosses around empty threats, while ignoring good advice.  Jami Gertz was hilarious as Bill’s fiancé.  She is a sex therapist and was constantly pulling out her cell phone to help her clients, while concentrating on not getting a hair out of place.  I swear that her hair is so sprayed down that it wouldn’t move under any circumstances!  She is a prim and proper Southern lady who has no idea what her fiancé is really like and is in for a lot of surprises.  Her reactions to the tornadoes and the life-threatening situations she found herself caught in were funny, but also added a nice dose of reality as we all would have felt the same way!  Philip Seymour Hoffman stole the few scenes he was in as an obsessed, uber-geek who was completely consumed with following tornadoes and getting the information.  He wears traditional geek fare (unbuttoned button-down shirts over a t-shirt with cargo shorts) and his hair is crazy!  The scene where he interacts with Jami Gertz and introduces her to what the team does was one of my favorites!  The rest of the team is just as colorful and fun and I wish that we had gotten to spend more time with all of them, rather than focusing almost exclusively on Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton.

If you haven’t seen this movie yet and enjoy action movies, disaster movies or just movies with good special effects, you won’t want to miss this one!  Sure, it is old, but that doesn’t mean it still isn’t good!  Again, the special effects and all of the weather are top-notch and look just as good today as they did when they were first created.  This is a fun movie to rent and enjoy all over again for the first time.

Content:

This movie contains some intense disaster sequences.  Characters and animals die by being sucked up by tornadoes, stabbed by debris and having homes crash in on them.  The tornadoes do a tremendous amount of damage to the countryside, including destroying homes, other buildings, animals, cars, and pretty much anything else in the path of the twister.  There are some fairly intense sequences, but nothing too gory or scary.  There is some blood and a few graphic sequences, but they flash by pretty quickly.  There are some scenes of drinking, strong language and sensuality.  Recommended for ages 12 and up.

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The Terminator (1984) Movie Review

The Terminator (1984)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton, Paul Winfield, Lance Henriksen
Director: James Cameron
Series: Terminator #1
Release Date: 26 October 1984
Language: English
Length: 108 minutes
Movie Rating: R
View Format: TV
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis:

“In the post-apocalyptic future, reigning tyrannical supercomputers teleport a cyborg assassin known as the “Terminator” (Arnold Schwarzenegger) back to 1984 to snuff Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), whose unborn son is destined to lead insurgents against 21st century mechanical hegemony. Meanwhile, the human-resistance movement dispatches a lone warrior (Michael Biehn) to safeguard Sarah. Can he stop the virtually indestructible killing machine?” — Netflix.com

Review:

I think this is the first time that I have watched The Terminator all the way through.  I have seen bits and pieces through the years, but never its entirety.  It was definitely worth watching!  It is true that this movie is a little dated, but the sci fi elements have stood the test of time.  The styling is classic ’80s in the hair, clothes and makeup.  This was a lot of fun to giggle at and to remember when we all used to look that dorky, but the best part of the movie was the storyline.  This first Terminator movie is one of the forerunners of our modern-day science fiction movies.  Before this time, the sci fi movies were generally B-grade, cheaply made and widely mocked.  Movies such as this one helped turn the tide and bring moviegoers into the theatre to see great science fiction films.

The movie’s storyline is classic: a man comes back from the future to find the woman who will birth the leader of the resistance movement and protect her from the cyborg sent by the machines.  I say classic, but I don’t know how many times the men vs. machines war had been utilized up to this point.  Now, of course, we have a lot of science fiction movies that use this storyline, but this movie still seems pretty classic.  It also begs the question of whether the cyborg & revolutionary caused the events in the future or if, like they said in the movie, it was just the start of many possible futures that could happen.

Along with the great storyline and flashback styling, this movie has some pretty terrific action sequences involving car chases and shootouts.  Arnold Schwarzenegger really was the man back then and, dude, I would not have wanted to get in his way!  He had a great, steely-eyed look and was muscle-packed.  The scene where he, as a cyborg, repaired his arm still looks amazingly current as far as special effects are concerned.  Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), the revolutionary from the future, was a great character, but I wanted him to have a longer life and more opportunities.  I was kind of surprised that he didn’t marvel more at the inert machines, the lush greenery in the country and other things that the future no longer held, but I guess he was pretty focused on his mission.  Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), the woman they both are hunting, was a bit too mousy for my tastes, but at least she listed to most of the advice that they gave her in trying to save her life.  So really, the acting is quite good in this movie and elevated this movie into something special that would kick of a successful franchise, a TV series, and several classic movie lines that are quoted to this day (“I’ll be back.”).

This movie is a little dated, but still is very entertaining to watch.  If you have not seen the first movie in the Terminator series, you definitely should.  The special effects still look pretty believable and the action sequences are pretty good, it is the styling and technology that dates it.  Still, I understand now why this movie is considered a classic and had a fun time watching it.

Content:

This movie contains lots of violence, gunshots, car chases, and dead bodies.  The blood and bodies are shown on screen, but not in an overly gruesome way.  There is some strong language, drinking, smoking, references to drug use, and some sensual scenes.  If you catch this movie on TV, it is recommended for ages 13 and up, if you rent this movie on DVD, it is recommended for ages 17 and up.

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Jonah Hex (2010) Movie Review

Jonah Hex (2010)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Megan Fox, Michael Fassbender, Will Arnett
Director: Jimmy Hayward
Release Date: 18 June 2010
Language: English
Length: 80 minutes
Movie Rating: PG-13
View Format: Movie Theatre
My Rating: 3/5 stars

Synopsis:

“Enlisted by a Union soldier (Will Arnett), scarred bounty hunter Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) scours the Wild West in pursuit of Turnbull (John Malkovich), a crazed voodoo master with a scheme to assemble a devastating weapon that will destroy the government and lift the Confederacy. Based on the cult DC Comics hero, this action Western co-stars Michael Shannon as strange circus impresario Doc Cross Williams and Megan Fox as beautiful gunslinger Lilah.” — Netflix.com

Review:

For some reason, I really wanted to see this movie.  I don’t know why, as it was not very well publicized and it would have been easy to miss, but I saw a movie poster and made an effort to get out there to see it.  I guess it is because I love watching the movies made from comic book characters.  This movie about met my expectations – not that good, but not completely awful either.  Jonah Hex was not a character that I was familiar with from the DC Comics collection, but they did a great job introducing him as I am sure I was not alone.  Anyway, Jonah is a Confederate soldier who switched sides to the Union camp in the Civil War and is really not welcome in either.  A vengeful father took everything that mattered to Jonah, leaving him scarred, broken and near death.  When he recovered, he found that he could speak to the dead if he was touching them.  Aside from the supernatural power, I found that this movie had a lot in common with The Outlaw Josey Wales, a top-notch Western that puts this one to shame. Now if Clint Eastwood had been playing Jonah Hex in this movie, that would have been good times!  As it was, this movie was a pale imitation of what it could have been and what it should have been.  Still, it was not a complete loss as there were some bright spots.

The acting was a bit of a mixed bag.  There were only a handful of characters that really captured my interest, and, unfortunately, Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) was not one of them.  You can play taciturn and solitary well if you know how to do it (Clint Eastwood in most of his movies, John Wayne in some of his and a few other classic Western actors), but Josh Brolin didn’t know how to do it or his director didn’t know how to film it.  I felt like I learned everything about Jonah Hex in the opening sequence when they used comic-book style animation to introduce him and just wasn’t that interested in learning more.  It would have been better to leave a bit of mystery to discover as that would have made him a much more complex and intriguing character.  Now, Michael Fassbender, who plays one of Turnbull’s evil henchmen, Burke, was an interesting character.  He wasn’t onscreen for a whole lot of the movie, but he was intriguing and I was interested in learning more about him.  Doesn’t hurt that he was kind of cute and had a delicious Irish accent.  Megan Fox plays Jonah’s love interest, a prostitute with a heart of gold.  She is beautiful, with her black hair and bright blue eyes, and has some suggestive costumes that show off her body to great effect.  And you can tell that she really wants it.  She threw herself into her one-dimensional character and made the most of what she had, which surprised me as she is usually not that good of an actress.  John Malkovich was okay as Turnbull, Hex’s nemesis, but was a bit too stereotypically evil for me.  I like my characters to be more complex and more memorable.  I like them to keep me guessing and to keep the book open for more to come, but this movie didn’t really give me either option.  Aidan Quinn was handsome and distinguished as the President and it was fun to see him onscreen again.  He magnified his part and made it something special and interesting.  It is just too bad that all of the interesting secondary characters could not elevate this movie above Josh Brolin‘s lackluster performance.  That said, it may not be entirely Josh Brolin’s fault as I feel like the writers and director relied too much on the violence and constant fighting to fill the screen time.  This means that the plot is very simplistic and pretty thin.  There was not time devoted to developing characters or creating a memorable story.  Instead, guns are blazing pretty much the entire time.  Ironically, my favorite character in the movie was probably the dog that kind of adopted Jonah Hex about halfway through as he brought a smile to my face a few times with his antics.

This movie suffered in that the pieces were better than the whole puzzle.  They paid a lot of money for the special effects in this movie, but the regular sets and scenery were not very impressive.  Sure you could feel the dust and the isolation, but the little towns didn’t feel real.  With so many Western sets built and used over the decades that Hollywood has been in business, this was just unforgivable, in my opinion.  There had to be a few of those little street sets still leftover from back in the old days and they would have been a marked improvement to the half-hearted effort seen here.  The special effects were good, but they were a bit jarring as they were not seamlessly integrated with the old Western feel. There are a few dream sequences that felt a bit out of place, too.  I could never really tell if they were aiming for a comic book feel or if they were trying to give you a realistic Western feel.  They kind of straddled the line there and so left me feeling like they failed on both counts.  The soundtrack was quite good in this film and I really enjoyed the music cues and the feel that it added to the movie.  I also really liked the color palette that they chose as some very evocative hues to show the faded-out Confederate uniforms that were almost bleached white from the classic grey; the new navy blue on the Union uniforms showing their successful power grab; the dusty browns and muted colors of the civilians living in the small towns dotted throughout the countryside; the yellow teeth with brownish stains in the creases; the leathery consistency of the skin and the creases around their eyes.  The colors were there, but, for some reason, the feel was not there for me.

It is difficult to say if this movie is worth seeing or not.  I enjoyed it, but was ultimately unsatisfied with the movie as a whole.  I found this movie pretty average and would say that you see it only if you are in the mood for something like this.  I probably should grade it lower, but there were some aspects of the movie that I enjoyed and so I would recommend that you give this movie a chance if you enjoy comic book movies or Western remakes as you might find that you enjoy it more than you anticipated.  My expectations were pretty low so I was not disappointed, but I did notice that the movie theatre was empty with about 7 of us in the place so I think that word is out that this movie is not so hot.  Let me tell you, I have definitely seen worse!  I think it is pretty equivalent to Nicholas Cage’s Ghost Rider, which I rated about the same so hopefully that helps you out.  Anyway, this is only a movie to go see if this is your genre and only if you are in the mood for it.

Content:

This movie contains quite a bit of violence including explosions, being burned alive, gunfights, fisticuffs, a brutal cage-like match, dog mauling, torture, and being branded.  There is a lot of death and dying in this movie (probably too much), as well as some sensual sequences and some strong language.  The main character can speak to the dead so there are scenes were he digs up bodies and brings them back to life and then they go back to being corpses.  Recommended for ages 13 and up.

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Knight and Day (2010) Movie Review

Knight and Day (2010)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard, Paul Dano, Jordi Mollà
Director: James Mangold
Release Date: 23 June 2010
Language: English
Length: 110 minutes
Movie Rating: PG-13
View Format: Movie Theatre
My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Synopsis:

“Perpetually unlucky in love, June (Cameron Diaz) becomes intrigued by a mysterious man (Tom Cruise), who unexpectedly drags her into a whirlwind adventure involving devious enemies, life-threatening confrontations and a major discovery that may alter the future of humankind. Directed by James Mangold, this exhilarating action-comedy also features Peter Sarsgaard, Paul Dano, Maggie Grace and Viola Davis.” — Netflix.com

Review:

Wow.  And I mean wow.  What a great summer blockbuster movie!  This is just what the doctor ordered for an entertaining action thriller.  I enjoyed watching the previews and thought that this movie might be a fun one to watch, but I was not expecting to have such a great time!  I was feeling a little low and needed something to pick up my mood and this was the perfect movie for that.  It started off a little bit slow and I was concerned that it was not going to be such a great show, but I needn’t have worried as the pace picked up about 15 minutes into the movie and then just kept me going the whole time!  The action sequences are well done and pretty classically styled in this movie.  You have a lot of gunfights, car chases and, of course, a killer motorcycle chase.  I mean, come on, when is the last time you saw a Tom Cruise action thriller without a motorcycle chase?  I thought that the action, while relatively unimaginative, was well done and suited the film’s characters.  There are a couple of interesting screen shots, but the cinematography is pretty average, in my opinion.  Still, the director made the car chases and the action on the road memorable and a real thrill to watch!  Make sure to watch your speed on your way home from the theatre or you will find yourself going just a bit too fast, like I was.

The best part of the movie, for me, was the comedy.  I was not expecting to laugh as much as I did during this movie!  There are some great one liners and a lot of funny sequences.  I was really surprised by the chemistry between Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise as I saw them as a pretty odd pairing, but they really made the romance and the witty banter work between them.  I think that the main complaint that most people will have with this movie is that Tom Cruise’s character is indistinguishable from his other spy characters.  I am reminded of a quote by someone saying that John Wayne played one character his whole career: John Wayne.  There is quite a bit of truth to that with Tom Cruise’s action career, as well, but stick with what you do well and you will succeed.  He was the character that I know and love and expected so I was happy with it.  He is a little bit older and his body is a little bit older, but he is still looking pretty good in this movie!  Cameron Diaz was adorable as a regular tomboy who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  She finds a way to be cute, bubbly, slightly awkward, but with great instincts and some inherent spy talents.  I loved her in this movie and now have to reevaluate my opinion of her as an actress.  There are also a few standout supporting actors in this movie, including Celia Weston and Jack O’Connell, who play Tom Cruise’s parents.  They are not in the movie for very much of it, but they are hilarious and I loved the way they chose to close out the movie with them!

If you are looking for a great action movie that has plenty of laughs, some good stunt sequences, a delightful romance and just everything you are looking for in a perfect summer movie, look no further than this one!  There is a good chance that you will miss this movie in the theatres as it is sandwiched in between Toy Story 3 and Twilight: Eclipse so take the time to look it up when it comes out on DVD.  This is not only a great action thriller, but it is a funny comedy, a cute romance, and a terrific spy drama.  There really aren’t any surprises here, but the formula is tried and true and they manage to make a memorable, fun movie out of all the pieces.  Don’t miss it!

Content:

This movie involves a lot of violence including gunfights, car chases, motorcycle chases, the running of the bulls, hand-to-hand combat (kicking, punching, karate, boxing, etc.), stabbing, explosions, and being tied up and “questioned” (off screen).  There are also scenes of mild sensuality, some strong language (including the “f” word), drugging people to knock them out, and plenty of double-crossing spy action.  Recommended for ages 13 and up.

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Max Payne (2008) Review

Max Payne (2008)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Beau Bridges, Ludacris, Chris O’Donnell
Director: John Moore
Release Date: 17 October 2008
Language: English
Length: 100 minutes
Movie Rating: PG-13
View Format: DVD
My Rating: 3/5 stars

Synopsis:

Mark Wahlberg stars as title character Max Payne in this gritty noir crime thriller that centers on an undercover New York City DEA agent (Mila Kunis) who teams up with a female assassin to avenge the murder of her family. Filmmaker John Moore directs this big-screen video game adaptation with supporting performances from Beau Bridges, Christopher “Ludacris” Bridges, Chris O’Donnell and Donal Logue.” — Netflix.com

Review:

This movie is loosely based on a video game by the same name.  Unfortunately, that is about all that they have in common.  I probably will never understand why they choose to make movies based on video games if they are not going to improve on them or make them special in some way.  Still, I like Mark Wahlberg and I thought the trailer was mildly interesting so I decided to check this movie out.  I was pleasantly surprised as I thought this movie was going to be perfectly awful, but I do wish that they didn’t mislead me with the official trailer.  I thought that this movie was going to be an action movie with an urban fantasy touch, but all of the cool special effects showing the flying angels and demons are actually drug-induced hallucinations.  This was a disappointment for me as I do love fantasy movies!  The special effects creating these creatures were very good, however, and I thought they added an unworldly touch to this otherwise all-too-real world the rest of the movie takes place in.

Mark Wahlberg is essentially a blank canvas in this movie.  He seems oddly empty of any emotions for someone who has lost his wife and baby in a horrific crime.  I guess that they were trying to go for a man who had lost everything that mattered to him and so he operated in a kind of fog.  I found that the secondary characters were much more “real” and would have liked to spend more time with them.  I especially enjoyed Donal Logue‘s performance as Wahlberg‘s ex-partner who was doggedly pursuing the crime that no one could solve.  Ludacris is in this movie and I thought that he performed his part admirably, if without distinction.  Chris O’Donnell has a small role in this movie as well.  He seemed sad, lumpy and worn out.  You could tell that his role in the murders really was eating at him and he made the most of the small part he was given.  I often wonder what happens to actors like this – where has he been all these years?  Anyway, the supporting actors make this movie better than the lead actors, which is never really a good thing.  The women in the film are tough, beautiful, and deadly.  Gotta love that combination!

The storyline is interesting, if made more complicated than it really needed to be.  There are all kinds of subplots and surprising revelations where you find out that friends are really enemies and enemies are really friends.  I guess I was supposed to be shocked, but these plot twists have been done so many times that I could see some of them coming.  The ones that I didn’t see coming I just kind of accepted as they were presented in a matter-of-fact manner.  The action sequences are what Hollywood loves to call “gritty.”  This to me just means bloody, violent and gory.  The last 20 minutes of the movie or so is all about blood and death.  The movie turns into a first-person-shooter-like game for a time period where you see Wahlberg killing every security guard he comes across in the building.  I can’t help but think that this is a perfect waste as these guys really have no idea what is going on and are just doing their jobs.  There were not a lot of these killing sprees, but these sequences provide the only action that you find in the movie.

Anyway, if you like video game movies, you will want to check this one out, but it is just okay as an action movie.  The set is very dark and grimy.  The color palette is essentially black, gray and white.  There is very little color and almost nothing uplifting or happy about this movie.  It also leaves you hanging a bit at the end.  I think that they were hoping this would turn into a franchise and so they left room for a sequel, but, in the end, this character simply is not interesting enough to continue with.  They could give Max Payne a fresh reboot and try again, with more success, if they are able to make things a bit more interesting.  I enjoyed the movie for what it was and have certainly seen worse so I can tell you that it is decent, but nothing more.

Content:

This movie contains a lot of blood, death, dying, fighting, violence, and drug usage.  There is also torture, some partial nudity, some strong language and dark hallucinations involving angels and demons.  Recommended for ages 16 and up.

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Kelly’s Heroes (1970) Review

Kelly’s Heroes (1970)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Don Rickles, Carroll O’Connor, Donald Sutherland
Director: Brian G. Hutton
Release Date: 23 June 1970
Language: English
Length: 144 minutes
Movie Rating: PG
View Format: TV
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis:

“It’s The Dirty Dozen lusting after gold instead of fighting for clemency. Pvt. Kelly (Clint Eastwood) extracts some interesting intelligence from a captured German colonel: the location of $16 million in gold bullion. Problem is, it’s behind German lines in occupied France. Kelly and crew (Telly Savalas, Don Rickles, and Donald Sutherland) decide to risk everything for a life of luxury – and may defeat the Germans in the process. ” — Netflix.com

Review:

This is a lighthearted look at some serious combat in World War II.  When Kelly discovers that there a fortune in gold behind enemy lines, he gathers together a motley crew of misfits to join him in what could be considered brilliant – or suicide!  Clint Eastwood shines as the tough Private Kelly, busted down from his Lt. rank, a good soldier who has had some tough breaks in the war and decides that, since no one else is looking out for him, he is going to look out for himself.  He looks just as handsome and deadly here as he does in his Western movies and I loved seeing his take-no-prisoners lone cowboy character in Europe where he is forced to work with some other men to attain his goal.  Telly Savalas is Big Joe, Kelly’s superior officer, and he is reluctant to take off on this hair-brained scheme.  He is big on the bluster, but really has the best interests of his men at heart.  Don Rickles is hilarious as a rapacious acquisitions clerk who uses his position to make himself rich with his black market sales.  He is definitely not ready to see any action, but is too greedy to pass up this opportunity.  Donald Sutherland stars as Oddball, a kind of pre-hippie New Age kind of guy.  He is very laid back for a tank commander and is pretty funny to watch interacting with the other, more uptight soldiers.  Carroll O’Connor was my favorite in the film, though, as he was just too funny!  He is the Major General in charge of the area and, when he hears that there is a brave group of men who are determined to charge behind enemy lines no matter the danger, stopping at nothing to achieve their goal, he thinks that the war has finally found the heroes that it needs!  He grabs his box of medals and hustles off to where the action is to reward these brave men and has no idea what is really going on!  Watching his reaction to the radio dispatches was priceless!

The plot is simple, but the acting is great.  I usually struggle to keep the soldiers separate in movies as they all kind of look the same, but the personalities are so individual here that I did not have any trouble keeping everyone straight.  There is plenty of action, too, as the guys really have to take on the Germans to get to the gold.  They have tank battles, crawl through deadly mine fields and have plenty of rifle exchanges.  Of course, this is movie is not even trying to be accurate or give a statement about the war, but it is a fun look at a serious time in history.  I find myself smiling at the antics of the soldiers and empathizing with their wanting to improve their own lot in life as they are out there in the mud and the cold trying to make sense of the war going on around them.  This is a great classic that is well worth your time to catch on TV, especially if you are a Clint Eastwood fan.  Though the historical accuracy isn’t there, this is still a great action/war movie that will appeal to a broad spectrum of viewers.

Content:

This movie contains a lot of battle sequences, dead bodies, violence, some language, some sexual innuendo, crooked dealings, smoking, drinking and fighting.  Recommended for ages 8 and up.

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16 Blocks (2006) Movie Review

16 Blocks (2006)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

 

Starring: Bruce Willis, Mos Def, David Morse, Jenna Stern, Casey Sander
Director: Richard Donner
Release Date: 3 March 2006
Language: English
Length: 105 minutes
Movie Rating: PG-13
View Format: DVD
My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Synopsis:

“Tasked with escorting chatty prosecution witness Eddie Bunker (rapper and seasoned actor Mos Def) from police custody to a nearby courthouse, aging New York City cop Jack Mosley (Bruce Willis) reluctantly gears up for the 16-block trek. But with powerful forces intent on keeping them from reaching their destination, they’ll be lucky to make it there alive. David Morse co-stars in director Richard Donner‘s action thriller.” — Netflix.com

Review:

This is a classic Bruce Willis action thriller movie.  Willis plays a burnt-out cop.  He is a drunk and is the joke of the office.  Of course, he does a great job as he is tailor-made for roles like this one.  This character reminded me a lot of his Die Hard character, the main difference is that in this movie he still has some hair left.  Still, Willis is out there doing what he does best – fighting for the cause against insurmountable odds.  Only this time the villains are cops so he is fighting against the bad guys intermingled with the good guys.  Mos Def plays the punk witness with a long rap sheet who saw a cop kill someone.  His character was likeable, but his voice and mannerisms really bugged me and detracted from my enjoyment of the movie.  He speaks in this really whiny, high-pitched voice and who wants to listen to someone like that for a couple of hours?  David Morse is, of course, a great bad guy.  He really excels at the creepy, friendly threats and was believable in his role as a cop who made some bad choices and felt like he could do anything to justify the results he obtained.

The acting is pretty good and the action is non stop pretty much from the beginning.  You are never quite sure what Willis is going to do next as he is not really the cop that you want on your side in a life-or-death situation.  This movie presents most of the characters as real people.  People who have made some bad choices, but are determined to change their lives anyway.  If you are looking for an crime action movie that is a little bit different, then I think you should give this one a shot.  It is pretty enjoyable and I think it will appeal to almost anyone who likes action movies or just likes to watch Bruce Willis do what he does best.

Content:

This movie features dirty cops, corruption, shooting, explosions, some dead bodies, some strong language and a hostage situation.  Recommended for viewers ages 12 and up.

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