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Gridlocked (2015)
8/10
Their training exercise turns into a fight for their lives in Gridlocked
11 October 2015
These days action films are as abundant as horror films with new ones coming out all the time. Like most there are typically more bad ones than good, with the biggest thing separating them being the quality of action. The latest, Gridlocked features a good cast including Dominic Purcell, Danny Glover, Vinnie Jones, Cody Hackman, Stephen Lang, Trish Stratus, and Saul Rubinek, but does it pack the punch to make this a standout action flick or will it run out of ammo during the fight?

Gridlocked follows former SWAT leader David Hendrix and hard-partying movie star Brody Walker who must cut their forced ride-along short when a police training facility is attacked by a team of mercenaries. This appears to be one of those team ups that we have seen time and again but it becomes quickly clear that will not be the case. The first moment we see Purcell on screen you see that he is going to be a force to be reckoned with and he does not disappoint. They spend just enough time setting up the annoyed relationship these two have before thrusting them into the onslaught of mayhem. Once they get them to the place where everything will be going down bullets begin to fly and do not let up until the very end. This is a full on old school action film that showcases a barrage of bullets with pin point accuracy. They keep the story simple and only bother with just enough information and plot twists to keep the story moving forward, but make no mistake the action is the center piece and it works well. Purcell brings the rugged bad ass mentality to the role and carries the action to perfection alongside a great cast who all hold their own as well. The highlight of the film is seeing them take the old school action approach and while thrusting some fun spins on execution didn't try to reinvent the wheel. They took what works and lets it speak for itself while taking it up a notch with the blood and direction.

Story is important, but when you want to deliver an action film it has to work with the story and not feel forced. Here they have crafted an Assault on Precinct 13 style story that while familiar does its own thing in a fun way. They veer away from the cheesy partner actioner and make sure you know that no one is safe and bodies will pile up and they do. The action sticks mostly to the gun play, but the few hand to hand sequences are well choreographed and executed by all involved making it work on just about every level. If you are an action fan then this is a great addition to the genre, that requires little more than strapping in and enjoying the ride through a ballet of bullet ridding mayhem.
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Scenic Route (2013)
7/10
The long way around is not always the best in Scenic Route
7 September 2013
There are movies that come along that seem a bit out there, sporting a cast that doesn't make all that much sense and it's usually is a good thing. The stranger the story though, the higher risk you take on getting something that just doesn't work. The latest Scenic Route features Josh Duhamel and Dan Fogler and cover art that looks like something out of the Road Warrior. Could this be one of those surprisingly original films or is it another misleading generic straight to video release?

Scenic Route follows two lifelong friends whose truck breaks down on an isolated desert road during a road trip. As the heat and despair begin to take over they begin to turn on each other, attacking each other's life decisions with unwavering brutality. Going into these kinds of movies you really never know what to expect, but here the movie really delivers. It's not anything breaking boundaries or anything, but just some clever filmmaking and storytelling. The story is pretty simple but manages to deliver a really effective overall tale. Duhamel has done comedy, drama, and action but here is given a chance to do a bit of it all and gives easily one of his best performances to date. His character goes the furthest off the rails of the two and really seems to dive head first into this role. The real surprise comes from Fogler who normally goes for the comedy route and has some funny moments here, but is given the chance to showcase more emotion and talent with this character and also delivers. These two guys worked really well together which was a must for this film since pretty much the entire film is just them at odds.

This is one of those rare gems that works on pretty much every level, but may lose some with the ending. While it works perfectly to the stuff they go through, those expecting more may be put off. Whether you get it or not the journey these characters take and the performances Duhamel and Fogler give make for a great film and worth checking out.
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Riddick (2013)
6/10
Vin Diesel returns to the dark with Riddick
7 September 2013
When Pitch Black burst into theaters in 2000 and introduced the world to Riddick and in turn Vin Diesel, it came as no shock that they moved forward with more adventures. Sadly the bigger budget follow-up Chronicles of Riddick didn't get the same reception so it seemed we had seen the last of everyone's favorite Furyan, but thanks to some smart business decisions and passion for the character Diesel and director Twohy have delivered an all-new adventure aptly titled Riddick, but does it return to what made the character great or continue on with the larger scale cluttered world?

Riddick follows Furyan Riddick who has been betrayed and left for dead on a desolate planet fighting for survival against the deadly predators. But with something more dangerous on the horizon, Riddick sends out a distress beacon in hopes to bring bounty hunters to the planet for his escape, but those seeking a bounty and revenge walks into Riddick's vicious vengeance and become the hunted. With this latest installment they streamlined it back to more like Pitch Black and delivered a film miles above the previous entry. While it isn't quite as good as Pitch Black, it still brings everything you could have wanted from this type of film. The first half of the film is easily the best spending one on one time with Riddick as he struggles to survive. There are a few moments during this time that helps to effectively and simply explain how he got from ruling a planet to being near death on this planet. When the bounty hunters come things shift gears a bit and it feels more like the original film with Riddick somewhat knocked to the back allowing these mercenaries to take center stage. This is where some of the things don't work as much as most of their performances are pretty bad with the exception of Bookem Woodbine, the always badass Katee Sackhoff and beast of a man Dave Bautista. Sackhoff is easily the coolest of the bunch and while not given as much time with the action as she deserves still manages to make sure you know she's not playing around. Bautista is slowly establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with on the big screen with this his last and successful test run before bringing Marvel's Drax to life.

The rest of the mercenaries just don't work all that well but mostly due to performances and cheesy dialogue. Diesel dives right back into the character like he never left showing a true passion he has for the character. Sure there are some cheesy moments from him, but that is part of the fun of the character. Well that and his complete bad ass look and ability to kill everyone and everything around him. The CGI was decent for most of the movie with the only real issue being the dog-like creature that was a central character. At first it was easy to dismiss them, but with one becoming a major player alongside Riddick it needed a little extra time spent to get more realism to the character. That being said with the streamlined budget to the film it is easy to let it go and just enjoy the old school science fiction aspect to the overall film. Sure there are some ridiculous moments and decisions made by some of the characters, but part of that is the charm of it all.

The story here is pretty simple, but they did an interesting job of adding elements to connect this latest addition with both Pitch Black and Chronicles will letting it be its own movie. Diesel risked a lot to get Riddick back on the big screen and looks like it paid off. Returning to the roots of the character and making sure to include both throw away characters as well as badass ones that work made for an entertaining genre film. Hopefully this will be the return to this cool character and we can get more adventures that will hopefully continue to keep them simple as that's what makes the character so cool.
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The Iceman (2012)
8/10
Michael Shannon brings notorious killer Richard Kuklinski to life in The Iceman
6 September 2013
During the 90s HBO aired a series of documentaries featuring interviews with Mafia contract killer Richard Kuklinski that was a peek inside pure evil and easily some of the best documentaries to date that they aired. While it's a surprise it took this long that a film adaptation of his life would be made, the time has finally come with The Iceman featuring Michael Shannon in the lead role, but does it succeed in bringing the chilling real life story of this man to life?

The Iceman follows the rise of notorious contract killer Richard Kuklinski who goes from working as a porn lab tech to one of the most notorious contract killer in history. But as he tries to keep his family life and mob killing separate, circumstances and his own weaknesses threaten a terrible collision as the consequences of his choices finally catch up to him. If you have ever seen the documentary interviews with Kuklinski then you pretty much already knew the story but seeing it come to life in this film was just chilling. Usually with these types of films it hinges on just the script and performances, but here knowing the truth and hearing him tell the stories made this feel even more real. The always awesome Michael Shannon delivers a brilliant chilling portrayal of Kuklinski carrying this movie perfectly. The story does a good job of telling his story without trying to disguise him as some misunderstood character, but also letting us in on the toll it took on him once he lost the only thing he cared about. The rest of the cast do a great job with near unrecognizable David Schwimmer and Chris Evans playing against normal type and delivering some truly bad characters. Liotta is always great in this kind of role and not surprisingly shines here. Big props go to Stephen Dorff and James Franco for taking on some smaller but important roles to elevate this film. Despite everyone else being so good this never stops being Shannon's show. He embodies Kuklinski about as much as someone who is not insane could and makes you believe that's who he is. He has down his mannerisms and overall persona that takes what could have been a good movie to a great film.

If you have never seen the original interview tapes then this film will most likely not be as effective, but is still a great film. There are roles that people are born to play and while Kuklinski may not be the one you were born to play, Shannon sure makes you believe that. This film captures the time period and keeps it streamlined without a lot of useless information to create the true story of a man who was the embodiment of pure evil if there ever was one.
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An unexpected visit changes two lives forever in Instructions Not Included
30 August 2013
In a world of big budget blockbusters some of the best movies are the smaller independent films from all over the world. The latest Instructions Not Included is a Spanish/American film from writer, director, and star Eugenio Derbez. While he has made appearances in Jack and Jill with Adam Sandler and stole the TV show ROB with Rob Schneider he is already pretty huge in Mexico, this marks his first foray into directing but does he bring his usual comedy chops along with the ability to create a memorable film?

Instructions Not Included follows a resident playboy in Mexico whose life is thrown upside down when a former fling leaves a baby on his door step. He leaves Mexico for Los Angeles in hopes to find the baby's mother, but instead finds a new life as a successful stuntman and raises the girl for over six years. But when her mother returns it risks everything they have built together. This is one of those surprising films that really deliver way more than you may expect. Eugenio Derbez has crafted a great film mixed with plenty of humor blended perfectly with a heart-warming touching story. The film is partly in Spanish and partly in English, but blends both perfectly to create a film that works for not only both markets, but also for all audiences even if they don't like subtitled films. Derbez has everything needed to lead this film with his already established ability with comedy, but carries the emotional aspect needed to bring the rest of this story together effectively. When making a film like this that involves a child actor to be just as integral to the story as the adult lead their performance can make or break the film. Thankfully Loreto Peralta is amazing and is able to hold her own alongside Derbez like a pro, despite this being her first role. Beyond being adorable and having the child innocence, she is able to bring the needed maturity to the role.

This is one of those small films that comes along and will really surprise you. While it has great performances, it lets the story lead the charge and knocks it out of the park. This is a comedy, but be warned this funny man has crafted a film that will not only tickle your funny bone, but also tug at your heart strings.
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4/10
The hunt is on between DeNiro and Travolta in Killing Season
25 August 2013
There are a lot of movies that come straight to video that feature A-list actors, but for some reason they bypass the theater. More often than not it's pretty obvious why, but some of them are actually pretty entertaining for what they are. The latest Killing Season features Robert DeNiro and John Travolta in a revenge action thriller, but could these two aging stars deliver or will it be quickly obvious why the hunt ended on the shelf?

Killing Season follows a reclusive American military veteran and a European tourist who strike up an unlikely friendship deep in the Appalachian mountains. But when the tourist's true intentions come to light, what follows is a tense battle across some of America's most forbidding landscape proving the old adage: the purest form of war is one-on-one. The story here is pretty simple and works fine for what they are going for despite some lacking historical accuracy in its backstory. DeNiro gives a decent enough performance but never really seems to put forth the ability that we all know he has. He seems to phone it in a bit just giving enough to make it work as opposed making it effective. Travolta does fine and has become king of getting visually into character, but despite a valiant effort his accent throughout the film along with the sometimes silly dialogue makes his performance a bit of a distraction. The opening of the film sets a bad tone as it looks like some low budget straight to TV film, but once you get passed the long drawn out slow paced attempt at character development things pick up a bit. If you can let those things go and just focus on the deadly revenge hunt that makes up the second half of the film it's not all that bad. They never step it into unbelievable territory, but instead allow each of them to have their moments making for some pretty fun old school action. At this point in the film these guys seem to wake up a bit and started having a good time.

This is far from a perfect film, but for a rental it's really not all that bad. It's a far cry from their past work and hopefully not the end, but it does manage to entertain despite its numerous flaws. The ending is a bit of a disappointment, but attempts to give these characters the redemption they are trying to find, but after everything prior you are wanting so much more. If you like either of these guys and most people do, give this film a chance and just watch it for what it is as opposed to what you hope it to be.
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10/10
The Butler serves up an inside view of civil rights history
25 August 2013
When done right some of the best films that come out are those based on real life and usually from the most unexpected sources. The latest The Butler comes from Precious director Lee Daniels who brings along an amazing cast including Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo, Terrance Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lenny Kravitz, Robin Williams, John Cusack, James Marsden, Live Schreiber, Alan Rickman, and Jane Fonda, but does the film pack the emotional and important punch that the trailers lead you to believe?

The Butler follows a man's life as he becomes a white house butler and serves eight presidents during his tenure through the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and other major events that not only affect his life, but his family, and American. This movie had everything it needed to deliver a brilliant film and does not disappoint. Forest Whitaker has already more than proved himself as a great actor and once again he delivers an amazing performance with not only the varying emotions he is required to express, or not express, but also with the various stages of this man's age. The rest of the cast while a lot of them are pretty much just glorified, but important cameos may not have much to do, but they still seem to be really getting into their parts to make them effective as though they were the stars. This is something rarely seen and can affect the overall experience, but here is executed perfectly. This is a powerful story that is not just about the racial injustices throughout history, civil rights or history, but also a deeply emotional story of a man and his family as they struggle through these events in their own ways and try to make changes for the better. On one hand you have Whitaker's character trying to make a life for his family and on the other you have his misunderstood son who wants change for the world. Neither understands what the other is standing for, yet both wanting the same thing in the bigger picture.

The story is structured in a way that it feeds you a ton of information but never feels rushed. They could have easily got lost in the history of it all, but intelligently took just enough time with each historical moment and let the importance of how it affected history feature how it affected him personally and those around him. His growth as a character made each of these moments that much more effective and showcased the slow change in both him and his son in conjunction to bring their lives full circle alongside history itself. The other thing that really stood out is the direction of each president. They seemingly tried to portray them accurately to their beliefs and never tried to hide those that stood for or against segregation, but instead just as they played it. These are all important moments in this aspect of history and needs to be heard and understood. Whether you like him or not as a President, the election of Obama was an important moment in this story and kudos for the inclusion in such a way to point that out and bring it all together.

This is an amazing movie that is sure to touch those that allow it too. There are sure to be those that oppose some of the political moments depicted in this film as well as other aspects of the film, but that is just another sign of the ignorance of some people. This isn't what some may call a "black" film, but an important story about how far our country has come in acceptance and a reminder as too how far we still have to go. The brilliance of this film is not in question, but instead how many people will watch it and receive the important message it delivers and allow it to change them. It's already proved a success at the box office, now it's time to place your bets for how many Oscar nominations it will receive.
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Seattle Superstorm (2012 TV Movie)
3/10
There is a storm coming like never before in Seattle Superstorm
25 August 2013
Over the years disaster movies have found a fan base like you wouldn't believe. Most of them are a bit cheesy and make little to no sense, but still manage to attract stars as well as fans. The latest Seattle Superstorm stars Esai Morales with a title that pretty much speaks for itself, but is the forecast for disaster worth the time?

Seattle Superstorm follows a NASA scientist and Navy Lieutenant fighting to solve the mystery of strange weather phenomena causing earthquakes, tornados, and lightning storms that's threatening to destroy the entire city. Much like most of these films, this one plays like a Syfy Channel film with all the cheese and ridiculousness as expected. Here though they opted out of going to silly and attempted to keep it somewhat serious and it actually works on some level. The story is simple with a lot of aspects being a bit too convenient but not all that surprising. The effects are the usual low budget effects, but most of them work pretty well. The filmmakers clearly tried to get some tone and sense of urgency to this film that comes across well enough, which is something that is usually lacking in these films. This film deserves credit for really trying to create a good movie, which goes along way despite budget.

Obviously these films are geared towards a specific audience, that loves these low budget cheesy flicks and they are sure to be entertained. There are sure to be those that love it and cannot wait to add it to their collection, but if you don't normally check these kinds of films out you will most likely be disappointed.
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4/10
The end of the world is here with Rapture Palooza
25 August 2013
There have been a lot of ensemble comedies as of late with a few working and others struggling to find their place. The latest Rapture Palooza brings together a great cast including Anna Kendrick, John Francis Daley, Ken Jeong, Thomas Lennon, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, and Tyler Labine to tackle the biblical end of the world, but does it have the story and execution to keep it all together or will it feel like the end of the world trying to get through it?

Rapture Palooza follows a young couple who are forced into a battle with the Antichrist amidst a religious apocalypse with only the help of some pot head teens and an undead neighbor obsessed with mowing his lawn. This movie had everything it needed to work and does entertain for the most part, but somewhere along the way things get a bit cluttered. The first half of the movie is pretty entertaining and fast paced setting up this world, but as it moves forward it goes from clever to almost stupid. Craig Robinson who is normally pretty damn funny seems to be phoning it in at one point and then forcing it the next. He still has some great moments, but just doesn't live up to his normal fun. Anna Kendrick does a great job with her character keeping the goofiness to a minimum while seemingly taking this world seriously. The rest of the cast are hit and miss with a lot of their one-liners somewhat out of place, but a decent amount of them work as well.

This is one of those films that will probably only entertain a select group which is most likely the only people that will check it out anyway. There are some great funny moments and the film does entertain, just not as much as it could have given a little more polish to the script.
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5/10
A Missing ring sets off a crazy chain of events in Pawn Shop Chronicles
25 August 2013
There are tons of movies coming straight to video with all-star ensemble casts these days as opposed to getting theatrical releases. More often than not it is pretty obvious why, but others are just so out there they probably wouldn't connect with the average viewer, but still make for some great entertainment. The latest Pawn Shop Chronicles plays more like an anthology film that connects together and features a great cast including Paul Walker, Matt Dillon, Brendan Fraser, Vincent D'Onofrio, Norman Reedus, Chi McBride, Elijah Wood, DJ Qualls, Lukas Haas, and Ashlee Simpson, but does it have the structure needed to bring a film like this together?

Pawn Shop Chronicles follows a wide variety of wild characters including meth addicts, skinheads, a psychopath and an Elvis impersonator all linked together by a missing wedding ring. This movie delivers everything needed for a great anthology all wrapped in a redneck rebel flag with a pinch of Pulp Fiction for good measure. The first standout thing in this film is the characters themselves each more crazy and memorable than the next. Everyone delivers some great and over the top performances that mesh perfectly to bring each of these crazy stories together. Most of the cast play smaller cameo type roles with just a few of them leading the main charge. Each story is cleverly crafted so that they tell their unique story, but intertwine perfectly to bring it all back together at the end. When doing these kinds of films it is imperative to have moments where the stories crossover and here they do it with subtle but obvious to make for an even better overall film. The camera work is great on this film with it being gritty and dirty, as well as using some various styles to add to the finished product. All of the stories here are great, but the real standout involves Matt Dillon and Elijah Wood that not only sports a great story and performances, but some disturbing visuals that step this film up to a new level.

Just as important as the overall story is the way these anthologies come together and here it's done perfectly. Not only does it make for a complete film, but it brings everything full circle in a fun way and ridiculous way. If you are a fan of Tarantino's style and wacked out characters thrust into a meth fueled world of insanity then you will love Pawn Shop Chronicles.
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10/10
Prepare to take on the yellow mile and aliens in The World's End
23 August 2013
After Shaun of the Dead took the world by storm with its brilliant comedic take on the zombie genre Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost became instant house hold names and have been making their mark on the industry ever since. After Shaun of the Dead they teamed up again for their action comedy Hot Fuzz to bring their own unique vision of action and proved that they were a force to be reckoned with. Now they are back together once back again for the final chapter of their "Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy" with the alien action comedy The World's End, but will it pack the punch needed to stand up against the previous films and continue their dominance in the industry?

The World's End follows five childhood friends who reunite when one of them becomes hell bent on trying the drinking marathon again in an attempt to reach the fabled pub, The World's End. As they attempt to reconcile the past and present, they realize the real struggle is for the future, not just theirs but humankind's. As we all know Shaun of the Dead and Hott Fuzz are great fun, but this film steps things up big time. The storyline is simple, but allows the actors to take on some of the most in depth characters they have gotten to play in these films to date. In addition they have switched up some of their normal personas to deliver something fresh and new. Everyone is great in this film and they all play off of each other perfectly to create all of the needed comedy, friendship, anger and emotion that bring these relationships to life and evolve in the direction needed for this film to work. There is plenty of action here and it top notch with each fight getting better and better. We all know they are no stranger to action, but Frost and Pegg deliver all their own fight scenes that are perfectly executed and to the level of something you would see in a Jackie Chan movie, which is no surprise since the man behind them is from his stunt team. The effects and direction of the second half of the film delivers a simplistic yet brilliant approach meshes perfectly with the science fiction aspect.

This film keeps all the humor and fun that fans have come to expect from these guys, but delivers probably the most complete film to date, really showcasing their growth as filmmakers. Beyond the fun action, comedy and excitement of this film, make sure to not forget and see if you can find the Cornetto reference somewhere in the film, but you have to pay attention. They have mentioned that this is the end of the trilogy, but let's home it is just another stepping stone to more greatness from these guys and we will see them together yet again.
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You're Next (2011)
7/10
There are some uninvited guests coming to this dinner party in You're Next
23 August 2013
The horror genre has continued to struggle over the years with only a few really standing out. For the most part they seem to be just rehashing the same stories or remaking stuff left and right as opposed to delivering something original. The latest You're Next has been sitting on the shelf for a couple of years, but is finally getting it's chance to slash its way onto the big screen, but does it live up to the wait and all the hype it received when originally screened at the film festivals?

You're Next follows a family getting together for the first time in a long while, but the struggling family event is cut short when a gang of masked ax and crossbow-wielding murderers descend upon them, but as they fight to stay alive against these ruthless killer they soon realize one of their guests proves to be the most talented killer of all. This is easily one of the best horror slasher types flicks to come along in some time. Sure there are some weak performances here and there, but nothing that hinders the overall film. The story is paced well and actually takes some time to let you get to know the characters a bit without ever thrusting too much unnecessary information. The first bit of the film does move a bit slow, but it helps to set the tone of things to come and when they start it's a bloody home run. There are some great gore moments and creative fun kills that are sure to not only please the usual gore hounds, but also use the slow build to the more entertaining ones as the film progresses. The film works perfectly making sure to build the tension slowly and speeding things up when needed. They have crafted a brilliant score here that has a 70s horror vibe that sets the tone for every seen and making them that much more effective. For these movies you always have to have a great memorable killer and while they kept it simple, those animal masks are effective and creepy creating a great tone to their presence.

This is an excellent addition to the horror genre that not only follows all of the old school horror rules, but also just gives you the feel of those same films with its execution. There are a few predictable moments later in the film, but they still manage to deliver that fun you are looking for. Sure if this one is successful there is no doubt someone will try to figure out a way to make another, but this one leaves itself with somewhat of an ending that hopefully they will let it just end on the brilliantly gory and fun high note that it is. In addition the during credits sequence showcasing the actors from the film is pretty damn awesome as well.
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Evidence (2013)
5/10
Murder is an art form in Evidence
21 August 2013
Found footage films have been done to death, but it seems that there are a few filmmakers are still finding some unique ways to make them work. The latest Evidence uses found footage mixed with traditional filmmaking together to tell a story, but does this mix work well together or is it just another in a long line of an overdone genre?

Evidence follows a detective on the hunt for a killer, but all they have to go by is video footage shot by the victims during the massacre. At first this film struggles a bit to find its way and is a bit hard to really get into with the footage bouncing back and forth from the found footage to the standard format, but eventually it finds its footing. For this structure it would have worked a bit better to not have such long breaks between the scenes with the detectives watching the footage as you get sucked in which is great, but then pulls you out and you are forced to readjust your focus which was a bit distracting. Once it gets going and things really start to happen it churns out a pretty intriguing who-dun it killer flick. It would have been a bit more effective if the kills weren't so hard to see with the found footage, but they took some interesting chances that for the most part worked. There isn't really all that much gore, but the kills you do get to see well are pretty entertaining. The performances were decent enough with no one really standing out, but executing the needed performances well enough for the film to be effective.

While for the most part this film is pretty average and even predictable on some level, it does a good job melding these two film styles together, it just takes a bit to get used to it. What makes the overall film really come together is the cleverly crafted ending that may not be breaking in molds in the genre, but it did make for an interesting direction and fun finale.
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Emperor (2012)
6/10
Emperor takes you inside the investigation of Japanese war crimes of WWII
21 August 2013
Historical dramas are a tricky genre as most of the history itself is interesting, but the stuff leading up to it is not. Depending on how the film is crafted and those involve really determine how well the film works overall. The latest Emperor brings Tommy Lee Jones playing the legendary General Douglas MacArthur along with Matthew Fox as General Bonner Fellers, but do they have the story to bring this historical story to life?

Emperor follows the end of World War II following the surrender of the Japanese as General MacArthur takes on the role of defacto ruler of Japan as General Fellers sets out on an investigation to determine if the Emperor of Japan should be tried and hanged as a war criminal. This is a well shot and acted film with all the visuals that are needed to bring this time period and story to life. While Jones seemed to get the forefront of the promotions, this is a Matthew Fox movie. Here you follow his work as investigates the Emperor with him only meeting with Jones' MacArthur from time to time. His few moments in the film are great as usual and he brings the needed leadership and confidence that was needed to bring this icon of war to life. Fox does a great job with this role bringing the inquisitive nature and honesty this character needed for the task at hand and to make him believable. There are some elements of a love story of Fox's character and while may be factual really drug the story down at times and just felt a bit out of place. This already included one of the most important moments in history between Japan and America so would have been nice to see more a direct focus there and a deeper look at both sides. The movie plays well, but is slow paced due to the content and may not be able to pull the average viewer in.

This is a really important, well-acted, and excellent movie, but isn't for everyone. This is a thinking movie that requires you to pay attention to what is going on and the importance of these events to really understand not only the journey but how the ending affected history.
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On the Road (2012)
5/10
Experience a life of exploration and experience in On the Road
20 August 2013
There are movies that come along that that feature an interesting cast and looks to be trying something original on screen. On the Road adapted from the novel by Jack Kerouac features a great cast including Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Amy Adams, Tom Surridge, Alice Braga, Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen, Steve Buscemi, and Terrance Howard, but does it pack the punch to bring this iconic book to life?

On the Road follows a struggling writer who sets out on the road in hopes for inspiration. During his travels he is befriended by a charismatic, free-spirited man and his young wife whom he travels the southwest with in a world of sex, drugs, and jazz that will change their lives forever. This is one of those movies that works fine, but really goes nowhere. The performances are excellent across the board with the majority of the cast showing up for short but memorable cameos, but are cluttered in a film that really does nothing. That is not to say this isn't a great film because it is, but just seems to be missing a point. Everyone is delivering their A-game including Kristen Stewart who gives easily her best performance to date. While most road trip movies feel like a journey that has an ending but here it feels like they keep returning to the road and never find that ending it needs. There is a story of the evolution of these people's relationships and the outcomes of where their trip took them, but it just seemed like it was missing something. This film is worth checking out for the performances alone which is really what it seems to be offering as it is a character study and focuses on the dialogue and actors to bring it to life as opposed to the usual big budget effects and over the top story lines. This is a simple yet complex road journey that works for what they are trying to deliver despite it feeling void of a real ending.

This film is about the journey and does come full circle but it is the issue comes with really getting the effective passion and experience to really come through. Those that have read the book will be the true judge to see if it gets the same message across. If you are a fan of the book or just great acting, then this is a film you should check out, but just understand that this film is about the journey and not the destination.
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Super Eruption (2011 TV Movie)
This volcano is like nothing they have ever seen in Super Eruption
20 August 2013
Over the years for some reason disaster movies have found a fan base like you wouldn't believe. Most of them are a bit cheesy and make little to no sense, but still manage to attract stars as well as fans. The latest Super Eruption stars Richard Burgi with a title that pretty much speaks for itself, but does it explode with enough force to please the hardcore fans of this genre?

Super Eruption follows two Yellowstone Rangers that are forced to fight to save the day against a super volcano that erupts after thousands of years of being dormant. As with most of these movies the story is a mix of possibility and the absurd in hopes to create an edge of your seat disaster flick, but fails to ever really step out of average. The story throws way too much in too fast that it felt like it was rushing to get to the eruption aspect and then never really delivers anything. The effects are pretty cheap and looked like something off the SyFy channel, but minus the cheesy fun. Bergi is always great and does a fine job here with what he is working with, but the rest of the cast are average at best. As mentioned previously the effects should have been the showcase to make a movie like this work, but they didn't offer too many of the fun moments you expect and when they did it just didn't seem like they really pushed it for that great effect.

Obviously there isn't a great expectation of this film being a major blockbuster and is geared towards a specific audience, but those people look for a certain type of cheese and fun which this film lacks. There are sure to be those that love it and cannot wait to add it to their collection, but if you don't normally check these kinds of films out you will most likely be disappointed.
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Stag (2013)
Prepare for the bachelor party in Stag
19 August 2013
There have been a ton of bachelor party themed movies over the years with The Hangover series and Bachelor Party being the most popular, but more often than not they miss the mark. The latest Stag takes their stab at the genre with Donald Faison leading the charge, but does it manage to deliver the goods?

Stag follows a guy who has always been known as the orchestrator of all the greatest pranks at all of his buddies' stag parties, but now it's his turn. Now he nervously waits his own fate that he is sure his buddies have in store for him, but the payback is more than he could have imagined. While this film is a far cry from the Hangover it does manage to be a fairly entertaining little film. With these kinds of movies there is an important decision to make and that is how far they are going to go. This means a lot to this genre as the more successful ones usually have no rules and push the boundaries in all areas. Here they played it safe for the most part and felt more like aspects of a TV movie as opposed to a real stag party. They were going for a more character ensemble comedy which is fine, but this setting kind of got thrown to the back burner instead of being the focus. Every time things seem to be getting going on the party side some story aspect interrupts it and leaves you hanging. Knowing that, everyone did a fine job with what they were working with, but just never really stepped out of average. There are some funny moments, but there are also some more drama-esque aspects that felt a bit out of place.

This isn't a horrible movie by any means, it is actually pretty entertaining, but there are just a lot of missed opportunities here on both sides of the story. For those expecting a hardcore bachelor party you will be sorely disappointed. There is only one piece of nudity and it is pretty quick and the hijinks are pretty tame, but if you can let that go given the subject matter then you will probably still have some fun.
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6/10
Korea brings a strange tale of love in A Werewolf Boy
19 August 2013
The Asian film market continues to deliver the most diverse films around with more actually working than not. They seem to take a lot more chances with storytelling and visuals than any other market. The latest A Werewolf Boy comes from Korea and offers a unique love story but does it work to tell the strange tale that it hopes too or is it one of those so far out there that it misses the mark and only speaks to certain audiences?

A Werewolf Boy follows an elderly woman called back to a cottage that she used to live in when she was a girl. There she had encountered a young "wolf boy" living in the shed. What started out as a terrifying encounter turned into a love/friendship as she uses dog training tactics to teach the boy how to live in the real world that will change her life forever. This is one of those fantasy stories that sounds a bit boring and probably shouldn't work, but surprisingly delivers. Let's be clear, there are no actual werewolves in this film, but instead more of a feral young boy. The performances are really well done, especially from Joong-ki Song who plays the wolf-boy. He really plays up the dog behaviors making the character that much more believable without making it silly to watch. The film moves at a fairly slow pace with a few moments that could have been chipped to help it flow a bit better, but most of it is necessary for the overall story. There are some aspects that are a bit predictable for where this story is headed, but it never really continues on the standard path.

There is no action or horror here, but instead a heartwarming fantasy story of two people finding their own path in the world. The film begins in the present, before jumping to the past for most of the film, but the finale back in the present offers a tearjerker type ending that is sure to please and makes the film even better than it already was. This isn't a film for everyone as it is character and dialogue based, but works well to tell this beautiful story.
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Stranded (V) (2013)
4/10
This meteor shower left them Stranded, but not alone
19 August 2013
Two genres that seem the hardest to get right are that of horror and sci-fi, but when you mix the two it makes for an even harder task. There have been a few that pulled it off like Alien, but more often than not they are a bust. The latest taking its chance is Stranded with Christian Slater leading the charge. Could this film have the monster horror, suspense and effects needed to pull this off or will it feel like you have actually been stranded?

Stranded follows a lunar base that is hit by a meteor shower that does more than damage the base, it has brought along an unexpected alien spores. When one of the crew is infected the rest of the crew believe she is just delusional, but things quickly when it is unleashed and turns their already dire situation deadly. At first this film felt more like a SyFy original movie with some cheesy effects and performances, but as it moved forward it began to change direction in a positive way. The story takes some darker turns that helps to set the darker tone and give it a bigger feel. Christian Slater who has the ability to be awesome phones it in for the most part, but as it gets to the darker tone his performance actually gets a lot better. The rest of the cast are hit and miss for the most part, but don't hurt the overall finished film. The effects are a bit cheesy during the initial meteor shower action, but when it shifts over to more of the "monster" movie it picks up and the effects work a lot better. While there is no actual monster as you may hope, it does still work decently. While the movie works for the most part, the ending will leave some a bit confused or let down, as it tried to do something clever as opposed to just letting it play out as it wanted to.

There are some decent gore moments, but nothing that really could have pushed this movie to the next level. It had some great opportunities but for whatever reason couldn't execute, most likely due to budget. For a straight to video release it actually delivers pretty well and makes for a decent rental. Slater has had some decent TV shows recently that just haven't connected with audiences, but has been churning out the straight to video films and if this one was any indication he is making some decent choices.
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Paranoia (I) (2013)
3/10
Ford and Oldman go head to head on Paranoia
18 August 2013
It's been 16 years since Air Force One hit theaters and pitted Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman against each other, but now they are back in the all-new thriller Paranoia. While these two power houses are obvious the draw to see this film, Liam Hemsworth is leading the charge backed up by a great supporting cast including Amber Heard, Josh Halloway, Lucas Till and Richard DFreyfuss, but does it pack the punch needed to bring this thriller to life?

Paranoia follows a young superstar in the tech world who is forced into a world of corporate espionage between two of the most powerful tech billionaires in the world. Seduced by the unlimited wealth and power that comes along with it, he is pulled into this world too deep for them to just let him just walk away. This film had everything it needed to deliver a great thriller, yet it still failed. The story works fine, but there is no sense of urgency to anything that ever happens no matter how much they try. There is also a love story mixed in that bogs down the direction the film is trying to go leaving it disjointed. No one here ever seems to really hold a grudge or become overly concerned with what is happening to them hence loses all the effectiveness. Liam Hemsworth does a fine job with the lead role, but never comes across as much more than a pretty face, which works for what the character needs to be, but doesn't pack the emotional punch that it needs for the rest of the story. Ford and Oldman are great especially in the couple of scenes that they have with each other, but sadly they aren't on the screen all that much to save the overall film.

There are some interesting twists that make this film work a bit better by the time its all over, but still never really accomplishes what it is going for. While it's not a horrible film it felt more like a straight to video release than much else. With a bit more fleshing out and some better choices with music and tone, they could have left this film in the hands of Oldman and Ford and created a way more effective and entertaining film, but instead it ended up being a missed opportunity for these two greats.
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Kick-Ass 2 (2013)
Kick Ass and Hit Girl are back and bringing a new team with them in Kick Ass 2
18 August 2013
When director Matthew Vaughn unleashed Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr's Kick-Ass on audiences in 2010 it changed the superhero genre. This tale of real life superheroes with over the top violence gave the world a different kind of superhero film that it had been waiting for. Now the heroes are back with Kick-Ass 2 but this time Jeff Wadlow at the helm with Vaughn producing. The majority of the cast is back along with new additions including Jim Carrey, Morris Chestnut, Donald Faison, and John Leguizamo but does it kick as much ass as the first film or will this be their last mission?

Kick-Ass 2 follows Kick Ass who is still trying to find himself as a hero, has spawned a whole new wave of self-made crusaders who form a team to fight crime and save the city. In exchange to make him better Hit Girl agrees to train him while also deciding to give up the life in hopes to be a normal girl, but when Red mist returns as the super villain The Mother F%&$*r it will change all of their lives and send them on a collision course to take him down once and for all. The first film had added originality to the genre that was desperately needed, but this one feels just as fresh despite it lacking the build-up that made the original so fun. This is necessary as this film is the evolution to these characters instead of just another adventure. We see Kick Ass trying to become an actual hero while Hit Girl is ready to just move on. There are plenty of fun moments with both characters and there is a noticeable less time of Mortez as Hit Girl, but plenty of story of her character trying to be normal in the only way she can, with often entertaining results. For all intents and purposes Hit Girl and Kick Ass have changed places and both of them bring the needed performances to make it work.

The rest of the cast all deliver with Jim Carrey standing out delivering yet another awesome supporting character. He isn't in the movie near as much as you might hope, but he plays a pivotal role that is effective and fun to watch. Plasse plays up the nerdy wanna be criminal perfectly allowing him to evolve into a full on nut job perfectly with all its ridiculousness. The one other real stand-out if John Leguizamo who while never gets to sport a costume plays an important role to Plasse keeping the grounded nature to the relationship. His moments on film are highly effective and seem the most genuine of all the relationships. Once again the violence is graphic and over the top as expected and works perfectly despite it getting a bit sillier than the first film. There are a couple of moments that are funny but goofy that while work kind of take you out of the overall film, but thanks to some clever story telling works its way back into a later scene thus making more sense.

This is one of those rare sequels that live up to the original in almost every way. Sure the first probably had more of an impact due to it being something different, but here they successfully evolve the story and characters to develop a bigger universe that is fun to be a part of. If you enjoyed the first film you will most likely have a great time here as well, but this is a more acquired taste of the genre and may not be for everyone. Hopefully this one will do at least as good as the original, which it seems to be with opening weekend, in hopes to deliver another chapter as the after credits sequence leaves some things open as well as could be for a good end.
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Jobs (2013)
5/10
Take an inside look at the journey of an icon with Jobs
16 August 2013
Ashton Kutcher has had an interesting and successful career bouncing from That 70s Show to a string of romantic comedies and TV production. He has delivered a few dramatic roles but has yet to find that one that really stands out, but with his latest Jobs could he have finally found that respected role that will step up his game as a respected dramatic actor?

Jobs follow the story of Apple founder Steve Jobs ascension from college dropout into one of the most revered creative entrepreneurs of the 20th century. Movies like this that tell the real life stories of people that had such an impact on the world are awesome when done right. These aren't action driven stories so you have to prepare yourself for a sometime slow paced film which is the case with this one. It moves along fine, but does slow down a bit a times, but always manages to re-find its footing. Ashton Kutcher gives easily the best performance of his career impressively becoming Jobs all the way down to his unique walk. It is obvious that he fell completely into the role and it paid off. The rest of the cast that featured Josh Gad, Dermot Mulroney, Lukas Haas, Matthew Modine, J.K. Simmons, Lesley Ann Warren, and James Woods were great as well with Josh Gad standing out and really embodying Steve Wozniak all the way. The story is obviously iconic, but there are some elements that could have been flushed out a bit better. Clearly they were trying to stick to his rise, fall, and return to Apple, but by doing this there are skips through the timeline that leave out some crucial elements to the story. Not all of them were originally necessary, but they spend some time focusing on them only to skip past some of the more important parts leaving this part of the story a bit empty. As a whole the film works effectively telling this story and getting that insight into the journey of Steve Jobs and the struggles we only heard about in the papers, but there was a missed opportunity to tell and even better story had they not skipped through the timeline and over some crucial times in the history of both Steve Jobs and Apple itself.

While it's not clear if every aspect of this film is completely accurate as they usually take some liberties to condense the story they surely did not pull any punches in showing both the good and bad of Jobs which made for a more compelling film. If you are not a fan or have doubts about Kutcher this is sure to be the film that will get him more recognition and change some minds about his acting abilities as the entire film is worth just seeing him embody this iconic man in such great performance.
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6/10
Your actions can change more than just your life in the Place Beyond the Pines
14 August 2013
There are a lot of movies that come out to critical acclaim but never really get the release they should have. This often has to do with the chances taken to tell the story, but often it's just a studio issue. The Place Beyond the Pines features a great cast including Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta and Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance at the helm, but does it deliver?

The Place Beyond the Pines follows series of events that interconnect a group of people. When a stunt motorcycle rider discovers he has a child with a former lover he does whatever he can to make things right and provide for them including robbing banks, but when things spiral out of control his encounter with a rookie police officer will change both of their lives forever for years to come. This is a cleverly crafted film that is split into 3 stories, but all a part of a larger story. The first half of the film is a bit slow, but once it was over was actually necessary for the overall film. Everyone in this film give great performances, but Gosling and Cooper really drive it home. The structure to this film is really bold as it is not all that hard to figure out where it is probably heading, but does do some clever misleading from time to time. The motorcycle sequences really set the tone with the bank robberies and turn things up a notch getting the film on track and it stays there. This isn't an action movie, but does sport a bit here and there, but mostly this is a character story and a story of legacy and how actions can affect things through your entire life.

Besides the slow moments there are a few aspects here that seem to be stretched out a bit more than needed and slows the pacing down, but the overall film delivers a great story and great performances. Stick through the slow pacing of the beginning of the film and you are in for a great film.
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4/10
Step onto the court with The Hot Flashes
14 August 2013
There are a lot of movies that get released that sport a cast of known actors but for whatever reason gets shoved straight to video. Sometimes it's obvious why but others end up being really entertaining and make no sense they didn't get a bigger push. The latest The Hot Flashes features Brooke Shields, Daryl Hannah, Wanda Sykes, Andrea Frankle, Camryn Manheim, Virginia Madsen, and Eric Roberts and is sponsored American Cancer Society but does it make for a good film?

The Hot Flashes follows an under-appreciated group of middle-aged women, all former high school champs who challenge the current arrogant high school girls' state champs to a series of games to raise money for breast cancer prevention. This movie is actually pretty entertaining for what it is, but is never really able to step out of feeling like some sort of Lifetime movie. That isn't such a bad thing, but given the cast involved you would kind of expect more. Everyone here delivers some fun performances and seems to be having a great time but the movie itself just seems to struggle to really find its footing. Some of the film is a drama while other aspects are a comedy, but never really commits to either. Most of this film is pretty predictable, but thanks to the cast it entertains in somewhat of an awkward way at times as they try to pull this team together. There are all the clichéd characters for this kind of film and they build up numerous situations, but only some of them are resolved at the end. There are some you just let go or let your imagination fill in the gaps but there are others that have a pretty strong build up and they seem to get lax and rush the resolution.

This is one of those movies that will find a particular audience that will love it and others that will probably skip it all together, but no matter which of these categories you fall in, you are sure to be entertained in this quirky comedy. It plays most things safe, but still tries to craft a story in recognition of some important subject matter and the film deserves its shot for that alone.
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4/10
The half-blood is back with Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters
14 August 2013
After Chris Columbus had launched the Harry Potter film franchise, he moved onto another young adult series in hopes to create a similar hit series with Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. The film didn't capture the popularity of Potter so everyone thought it was the end of Percy Jackson, but the son of Poseidon is back once again with Percy Jackson and the Seas of Monsters. Could this latest entry get the series the recognition it had hoped for to continue or will this be the last adventure of Jackson?

Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters follow Percy and his friends as they set out on a journey to find the Golden Fleece in order to save Camp Half-Blood. The first film worked well enough, but had some slow pacing that kept it from every being the exciting film they were hoping for. With the latest entry, they have upped the action and adventure, but it lacks some of the story. Sure the film flows well enough to tell the story, but it felt rushed and thrown together at times. There are plenty of talented actors here, but sadly most of the performances seemed a bit phoned in. Since the first film Logan Lerman got critical acclaim for Perks of Being a Wallflower, but here seemed to just be going through the paces. Anthony Head of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame takes over for Pierce Brosnan and actually does a better job feeling more like he was meant for this character. Nathan Fillion is only in the film for a small amount of time but delivers his usual funny charm and even manages to throw in a Firefly cancellation reference that is really funny. The action and visuals are a lot of fun despite some of the special effects look like they are from a SyFy Channel film.

This isn't a horrible film by any means, it is actually pretty fun time, but just felt at times that no one's heart was really there. When you see franchise films you want to feel the passion of those involved, but here it just wasn't there. Not sure how well this film did, but doesn't seem to be breaking the box office, but of course the first one didn't either so who knows if there will be another adventure. It would suck for the real fans if not as this one sets up for a new film, but only time will tell.
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