My Rating : *****
MovieStudio Quote >> “Fantabulous Action Thriller”
D.J. Caruso (TAKING LIVES, DISTURBIA) directs this tale of intrigue that utilizes technology as a character. Jerry Shaw (Shia LaBeouf) is a slacker who works at Copy Cabana–until he returns home after receiving bad news about his brother to find his apartment filled with incriminating packages, and receives a phone call from a mysterious woman advising him to vacate the premises immediately.
Single mom Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan) also finds herself at the mercy of the mystery caller after seeing her young son off on an overnight school trip. Soon, these two strangers find themselves caught in a tangled web, taking directions from the female caller who makes it very clear that if they disobey her, there will be consequences for them and their families.
They have no control over the course that’s been set in motion. But the real question is, who is making these calls and what is their ultimate goal? Filled with explosive action, car crashes, and high-tech hi-jinx, this thriller moves at breakneck speed. Technology is the co-star here: electronic signs relay the next move to Jerry and Rachel, traffic lights change as needed, and strangers’ cell phones ring with directions.
The strong supporting human cast includes Billy Bob Thornton as a hard-nosed FBI agent who is investigating LaBeouf for terrorism, and Michael Chiklis as the Secretary of Defense. Rosario Dawson, Ethan Embry, and Anthony Mackie also star in the film, for which Steven Spielberg served as executive producer. LaBeouf remains an interesting young actor, able to move from action sequences to emotional moments with ease, and Monaghan protects her screen son with a mother’s ferocity.
My Rating: ***
SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO is prolific Japanese cult director Takashi Miike’s samurai tribute to the Spaghetti Western genre. With an irreverent style and an obvious knowledge of the oater canon, Miike sets out to celebrate the factory line artistry of films such as Sergio Leone’s A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS and Sergio Carbucci’s DJANGO, while fully embracing the dazzling, post-modern aesthetic of movies such as KILL BILL and DESPERADO.
And while homage and cinematic genre mash-ups can both be high on genuine artistic vision, it’s clear from the supremely stylized opening prologue–with its transparent set pieces, outrageous kill shots, and cameo from that anointer of cult films himself, Quentin Tarantino–that Miike is out to have fun above all. The story follows a Man With No Name gunfighter brought to a small village in Nevada to protect the townspeople from two rival gangs at war over a treasure hidden in the nearby hills. Themes of honor, tradition, loyalty, and family give the film some dramatic weight, but SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO primarily works as a high-octane action flick, albeit one made by a director with style and smarts.
The samurai sword lust, kung-fu bar brawls, and John Woo-style operatic gun play remain completely gripping regardless of plot. Yet though the basic story has been told by everyone from Dashiell Hammett to the Coen Brothers to Akira Kurosawa, it’s one that has clearly worked its way into the pantheon of contemporary myth and makes for solid dramatic ground on which an entertaining spectacle can unfurl.
My Rating : **.5
From Jason Friedberg and Aaron Setzer (DATE MOVIE, SCARY MOVIE) comes this everything-in-the-kitchen-sink, blender-set-to-grind comedy, which pokes fun at big crowd-pleasers like WILLIE WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, SNAKES ON A PLANE, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, X-MEN, NACHO LIBRE, and THE DA VINCI CODE, among others.
The loose plot involves a gang of teen orphans (including Jayma Mays and Faune A. Chambers) whose trip inside Wonka’s candy factory leads them to a Narnia-style wardrobe adventure. Jennifer Coolidge is the evil White Bitch they have to tangle with in this new land, and Fred Willard plays Aslo, the lion. Scene-stealing Crispin Glover plays the Wonka-be, David Carradine breakdances, and the vivacious Carmen Elektra morphs enticingly in X-MEN-style blue body paint. A bevy of eerie look-alikes pose as Paris Hilton, Anna Paquin, Samuel Jackson, and P Diddy, among others.
Of course there’s raunch a-plenty with humor both scatological and shot-to-the-crotch-ish, to keep the MTV generation of all ages amused. The jokes come so fast that no one need worry if a gag here falls flat: another one is right behind to jump on its back. Best of all, the directors keep a tight ship on the bad language, as befits the PG-13 rating.
My Rating : ***.5
When three Texas University students travel to a Mexican border town on the eve of their graduation, the last thing they expect is to face their own deaths.
Without warning, they fall prey to an ancient blood cult hellbent on finding candidates for human sacrifice.
Based on true events, Borderland tells a story which blends the raw fear of Texas Chainsaw Massacre with the stark reality of In Cold Blood, evoking a world soaked in paranoia, fear, and dread.
My Rating : *****
MovieSrudio Rocky Quote >> “One hell of a Rocky VI !”.
ROCKY BALBOA, the sixth installment of the long-running film franchise, should amount to nothing more than a lame punch line to a TONIGHT SHOW monologue joke. However, just as his longtime corner man Paulie describes the Italian Stallion himself, this movie is all heart. Thirty years after Sylvester Stallone first introduced the underdog backroom brawler from Philadelphia in the Oscar-winning ROCKY, Rocky Balboa returns for one last dance. Speculation as to whether Balboa, in his prime, would have been able to defeat lackluster champ Mason “The Line” Dixon spurs Dixon’s management to set up an exhibition fight between the two. That Balboa is in his 50s in the film and wouldn’t be sanctioned to fight anyone, let alone a man 30 years his junior and in the prime of life, must be left up to the viewer’s ability to suspend disbelief. To its credit, however, the movie addresses at every turn the insanity of a man approaching 60 getting back into a boxing ring, and Balboa’s impassioned explanation of his motivations is just believable enough to give all other improbabilities a free pass.
Though it may sound like faint praise, this is the best ROCKY movie since the original. It’s very much a love letter to Philadelphia, and Stallone, who wrote and directed the movie, shoots everything with an unflinching eye that humanizes the mean streets of the City of Brotherly Love and evokes the gritty dignity of the original film. And while Burt Young’s cantankerous Paulie and Tony Burton’s Duke both return, Talia Shire, sadly, does not reprise her role as the beloved Adrian. It’s revealed early in the film that Adrian has died of cancer, and it’s the pain of that tragedy that ultimately fuels Rocky.
Boxing as a metaphor for life is certainly nothing new, but Stallone makes a legitimate contribution to the tradition with ROCKY BALBOA. Life hits harder than any man can, and one’s ability to keep getting up until the final bell rings is the true measure of self. Corny? Perhaps.
But when Bill Conti’s legendary score kicks in and Rocky starts pounding the heavy bag, the metaphor feels truly profound.
My Rating :*****
MovieStudio Quote for Traitor >> Politically Thrilling, Dramatically Challenging. Kingdom Part II!
TRAITOR is writer/director Jeffrey Nachmanoff’s powerful rumination on post-9/11 foreign affairs wrapped up into a taut contemporary spy thriller. Balancing the film’s sometimes conflicted ideological heft is Don Cheadle, who turns in a smartly even-keeled performance as Samir Horn, a Sudanese-born, Chicago-raised former U.S. Army Special Forces operative. The action begins with a jarring prologue set in Sudan in 1978, where the young Samir witnesses the murder of his father by car bombing. Jumping swiftly to present day Yemen, Samir, in a dramatically ironic twist, is revealed as a mercenary selling explosives to Muslim extremists.
But what is never completely clear throughout TRAITOR’s numerous plot-twists is just where Horn’s allegiances truly lie: is he an American spy infiltrating a Jihadist plot or a devout Muslim who has traded his sympathies with the West? When an arms sale runs afoul, Samir is jailed in a Yemeni prison where he befriends Omar (Said Taghmaoui), a ringleader of a terrorist organization that is being watched by the F.B.I.
A bold prison break is hatched and the pair begins collaborating on a series of bombings throughout Europe. As Samir becomes embroiled in ever-escalating terror plots, it becomes clear that he is duplicitously playing both sides at growing danger to himself and the lives of innocent people. Cut with a breathless, war reportage-styled pace, TRAITOR is an action-packed, suspense-filled thriller whose seemingly equivocal ideological veneer can be summed up as: “In war, there are no winners.”
My Rating : **.5
Director Robert Rodriguez (SIN CITY) pays homage to his favorite B-movies with PLANET TERROR, an old-fashioned zombie film that’s infused with enough gore and giggles to please even Peter Jackson (BAD TASTE). Rose McGowan (CHARMED) plays Cherry, a go-go dancer whose night is interrupted by a vicious zombie attack that leaves her missing a leg.
Her ex-boyfriend, Wray (Freddy Rodriguez, SIX FEET UNDER), takes charge, fashioning her a new leg from a machine gun and killing zombies along the way. PLANET TERROR plays as a pleasing ode to the horror and exploitation films that once played in grimy grindhouses across the country.
Rodriguez splashes plenty of blood, guts, and gore across the screen, while also taking the plot into some wonderfully bizarre territory. PLANET TERROR was originally released as part of the GRINDHOUSE double feature with Quentin Tarantino’s DEATH PROOF.
My Rating : ***
Based upon Mark Millar’s explosive graphic novel series and helmed by stunning visualist director Timur Bekmambetov—creator of the most successful Russian film franchise in history, the Night Watch series—Wanted tells the tale of one apathetic nobody’s transformation into an unparalleled enforcer of justice. In 2008, the world will be introduced to a hero for a new generation: Wesley Gibson. 25-year-old Wes (James McAvoy) was the most disaffected, cube-dwelling drone the planet had ever known. His boss chewed him out hourly, his girlfriend ignored him routinely and his life plodded on interminably. Everyone was certain this disengaged slacker would amount to nothing. There was little else for Wes to do but wile away the days and die in his slow, clock-punching rut.
Until he met a woman named Fox (Angelina Jolie). After his estranged father is murdered, the deadly sexy Fox recruits Wes into the Fraternity, a secret society that trains Wes to avenge his dad’s death by unlocking his dormant powers. As she teaches him how to develop lightning-quick reflexes and phenomenal agility, Wes discovers this team lives by an ancient, unbreakable code: carry out the death orders given by fate itself. With wickedly brilliant tutors—including the Fraternity’s enigmatic leader, Sloan (Morgan Freeman)—Wes grows to enjoy all the strength he ever wanted.
But, slowly, he begins to realize there is more to his dangerous associates than meets the eye. And as he wavers between newfound heroism and vengeance, Wes will come to learn what no one could ever teach him: he alone controls his destiny.
My Rating : ****
Set against the action-packed world of Mixed Martial Arts, Never Back Down is the story of Jake Tyler, a tough kid who leads with his fists, and, often, with his heart. Jake Tyler, played by Sean Faris, is the new kid in town with a troubled past. He has recently moved to Orlando, Florida with his family who has relocated to support his younger brother’s shot at a professional tennis career. Jake was a star athlete on the football team at home, but in this new city he is an outsider with a reputation for being a quick tempered brawler.
Making an attempt to fit in, at the invitation of a flirtatious classmate, Baja (Amber Heard) Jake goes to a party where he is unwittingly pulled into a fight with a bully named Ryan McDonald (Cam Gigandet). While he is defeated and humiliated in the fight, a classmate introduces himself to Jake and tells him about the sport known as Mixed Marshall Arts (MMA).
He sees a star in Jake and asks that he meet with his mentor, Jean Roqua, played by Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond, In America). It is immediately apparent to Jake that MMA is not street fighting, but rather an art form he wants to master. Roqua will take Jake under his wing, but it is up to Jake to find the patience, discipline, willingness and reason within him to succeed.
For Jake, there is much more at stake than mere victory. His decision will not just settle a score; it will define who he is.
My Rating : ***.5
Writer/director Neil Marshall earned the respect of horror devotees with his first two features, DOG SOLDIERS and THE DESCENT, refreshing and scary twists on the werewolf and expedition-gone-wrong genres. Where those works exemplified a respect for pure horror, devoid of the tension-spoiling comedy that infects most fright films, DOOMSDAY is Marshall’s love letter to the post-apocalyptic action-exploitation films of the 1980s.
Bubbling over with action, gore, and dark humor, his third film has all the bases covered for a fun, knowingly corny viewing experience. After a deadly plague results in the quarantine of the entire country of Scotland (in a scene reminiscent of I AM LEGEND), a wall is built around the country preventing anyone from going in or out. Thirty years later, the British government believes everyone within the wall to be dead, but when they find signs of life and learn of the possibility of a cure, a team of specially trained agents led by Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra) become the first outsiders to venture inside the country since the epidemic. They discover that there are plenty of survivors who have splintered into fierce, warlike tribes, living in a lawless society where cannibalism and murder are the order of the day. Astute viewers will have a blast playing “spot the influence,” with loving, obvious nods to ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, ALIENS, 28 DAYS LATER, and the MAD MAX films.
At the film’s halfway point, Marshall switches gears, transforming the film from a punk-informed futuristic action film into a medieval-style chase film, utilizing Scotland’s castles and sumptuous green landscapes to the fullest. Mitra is an exciting physical presence as Eden, a female version of NEW YORK’s Snake Plissken, and the great supporting cast includes Bob Hoskins and Malcolm McDowell.