Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
ListsAn error has ocurred. Please try again
Return to Me (2000)
Gets Me Every Time
A moving romantic dramedy, Return to Me is an emotional film that deals as much with its humanity as it does with its romance.
David Duchovny and Minnie Driver both give strong lead performances, and Driver really is very likable in almost everything she's in. I've only ever seen Duchovny in The X Files (1993), so it was nice seeing him in a less intense role. The two had great chemistry, and though it was enough to carry the movie, it chose not to coast on their charisma alone.
The story really is interesting. A man's wife's heart is transplanted into someone else after she dies in a car accident, and the man meets the recipient of his late wife's heart and the two fall for each other. The emotional effect that would have on someone is explored, but the film is ultimately how love overcomes, not what it's overcoming. Still, the situations and dramatic scenarios present are handled with care, and people don't act unrealistically. This is not a romantic film that insults the viewer's intelligence. The love story between Duchovny and Driver is charming and moving, and it would've been a worthwhile film without the heart transplant aspect.
I highly recommend this movie. It's one of my favorite romance films, and it has a great jazz song in the opening. A must-see for romance and drama fans, and a great introduction to Driver as an actress.
Dead Poets Society (1989)
A Wonderful Film with a Great Anti-Conformity Message
A thoughtful, moving, uplifting film, Dead Poets Society is about a teacher's relationship with his students, and how he helped them to grow and have a better quality of life through poetry.
The performances were mostly strong all around, with the central characters being surprisingly solid and well-fleshed out for such young actors. The camaraderie between the boys was nice and believable, I thought they portrayed their friendship realistically. Robin Williams steals the show in every scene he's in, and I don't think he ever got his due as a dramatic actor. Sure he's a great comedy actor, but this and Good Will Hunting (1997) cement his obvious dramatic talent for any doubters. He too is believable in his role, and he develops a believable relationship with his students.
Is Peter Weir not one of the greatest directors out there? He has such a good body of work, and his dramatic style and look are ever present here. I can't quite describe the feel of his films, but it's there. If you enjoyed Witness (1985) or Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) of the World, than you'll appreciate this effort from Weir. It may be his best film.
The movie's message and philosophy are admirable, too. The goal of taking every moment and living life instead of letting time slip away is important, and the emotional story surrounding the teacher's relationship with his students and how if affected their relationships is also moving and well-structured. The aspect of people being brought closer together through art and an appreciation of it is also interesting. Some may argue that non-conformity was the message, and that the film's ending goes against that, but I think non-conformity and defending one's own beliefs was displayed in the ending, and non-conformity is only part of the overall point anyway.
I definitely can recommend this, though many have seen it already anyway. It's definitely one of Williams' best performances, and Weir's best films. If you ever needed inspiration to read poetry, this is the best place to start.
Love & Mercy (2014)
An Excellent Musical Biopic
Brian Wilson deserved this movie. This is the kind of quality film that his musical genius demanded. As a fan of one of the greatest bands on all time, I couldn't have asked for a better tribute.
Paul Dano and John Cusack are both great as Brian Wilson. I usually don't think Cusack is anything more than ok, and he actually seems like a drug-addled Brian Wilson. But here though, his demeanor and mannerisms fit the role perfectly. He's actually believable as a washed-up musician close to insanity, and he's complimented very much by Paul Dano, who I think was a perfect casting choice for young Brian Wilson. Paul Giamatti plays his usual role as a horrible turd, but here it's most welcomed, as the person he plays is exactly that, and Eugene Landy is as despicable a person as Giamatti portrays him. Elizabeth Banks is a highlight too, and did a great job as Melinda Ledbetter. I appreciated that she wasn't just a detached love interest for Cusack, but they actually showed Ledbetter intervene in Wilson's life.
I don't think the film deviated much from the true story, and it was very believable and engaging. Wilson's drug issues and musical inspiration are well-depicted, and the other Beach Boys are well fleshed-out too. The studio scenes were particularly fascinating, and I could've watched way more of that.
I can proudly recommend this as one of the best music-related biographical films out there. This is as soulful and empathetic as true story movies get.
The Case for Christ (2017)
A Genuinely Good Christian Film (Hear Me Out)
This is the only non-historical, straightforward Christian movie I can enjoy. Everyone knows about the poor representation of Christianity that many Christian filmmakers have created, and this is one of the first Christian movies I've seen that actually tried to be a good movie and not just preachy snooze-fest.
I, like many other people who watched this, am a Christian, and I, like many other people who watched this, was surprised at how un-awful it was. It's actually a pretty decent biographical film, and an (if only mildly) moving drama.
The fact that this was based on a true story really helps it. It's hard for me to appreciate a Christian drama when it's fictional, because anyone who isn't a Christian, is not going to give the movie a chance, and understandably too. If you're trying to paint a true portrait of how great God is and how Christianity can change your life, why make up a story that didn't actually happen? It's in no way inspiring, and doesn't help the credibility of the worldview it's trying to showcase. That's why this movie is different. Its' based in truth, and you can respect it so much more because of that.
The story really is interesting. It tries to tackle many of the same themes that most other movies of its ilk do, but the difference is that the issues presented here are depicted much more realistically, I think. The main character is a self-described atheist, and his reasons for not believing in God seem rational and logical, and he's not depicted as a bad person, either. His wife slowly begins to convert, and this causes a strain on their marriage, which is another aspect I really appreciated. The trouble that differing religious views can cause a marriage is handled well here, and it's not swept under the carpet or ignored, and the marital strife is given a fair amount of story time. We see the main couple argue, and the pain that's caused, and I respected the movie's unwillingness to water anything down.
The movie is of course strengthened by solid lead performances. Most everyone was at worst ok, and there may have been some weak performances from supporting characters, but I don't remember them. Mike Vogel in particular was a good choice for the lead, and he portrays his character's emotional and internal struggle very well. It's a weird situation because even though the main character is fighting determinedly against the film's religious core, and while he challenges the views of most of the people watching the film, you can't help but empathize and almost root for him. That's pretty good acting if you ask me.
If you, like myself and many other members of the target demographic for Christian films, are disillusioned with Christian films as an industry, then watch this. It will restore your faith (get it?) in Christian art.
The Escape (2016)
Possibly My Favorite Short Film
A cool little short film, The Escape is easily the greatest commercial I've ever seen. Imagine if The Transporter (2002) was way shorter, had less action and no Jason Statham, but did have Clive Owen and Jon Bernthal. BMW should be proud.
Clive Owen does his best Jason Statham, channeling Frank Martin from the Transporter films. This role really suits Owen, and further proves that he would've been a great James Bond had they cast him some years ago. He's a good protagonist, mysterious and intriguing, and is complimented by Jon Bernthal, who is good as the villain. Bernthal plays his usual grizzled tough guy role to a T, and it works. Dakota Fanning and Vera Farmiga are both here, which was surprising. The performances are good overall, especially considering that this is just an extended advertisement. It's a very stacked cast for what seems like such a small production.
There's a bit of cool action, in the form of a long car chase, and there are some slick crashes and explosions. The stunts are tight, and the budget actually looked pretty big for something like this. Neill Blomkamp directed this, which isn't surprising when you see the action scenes. He brought us District 9 (2009), Elysium (2013), and Chappie (2015), and clearly has an eye for action scene structure and execution.
Definitely worth a watch, as it's such a minimal time investment anyway. Can't really be compared to a normal full-length theatrical film, but still great in its own right. This is the only time I've ever actually wanted a car after watching a commercial.
Pik lik foh (1995)
Jackie Chan Does Racing
One of Jackie's most underrated and maligned films, Thunderbolt has always been unfairly bashed, I think. Chan fans disliked it because of the over-edited fight scenes, and Jackie's use of a stunt double, and others thought it boring, and the racing aspect uninteresting. I can understand the criticism, and this definitely isn't for everyone, but it's a fast-paced, enjoyable action movie if you can get passed the faults like I did.
This is one of Jackie's more serious movies, and there's no comedy really. Jackie has broken away from his comedic style and done many serious movies, like The Protector (1985), Jung on zo (1993), Jing cha gu shi 2013 (2013), Xin Su shi jian (2009), and The Foreigner (2017). Most of his serious movies have had varied success, with some being praised and others being more middling or disliked. Thunderbolt gets serious Jackie just right, and is worth watching. Jackie's performance is solid as usual, and he's not unbelievable as a race car driver. Every Chan fan knows about his infamous leg injury during filming for Hung fan kui (1995), and so he needed to use a stunt double during some wide-angle shots in fight scenes here. My vision may be failing, but I didn't notice the double really at all, except for one or two small instances, and I can understand why he used a double anyway. He's done so much to entertain us in the past, can't people cut him a break?
Gordon Chan is a fine director for something like this, though he could improve. He may be the Oliver Megaton of Hong Kong action films, and anyone who has seen his films, mainly Taken 2 (2012) and Taken 3 (2014), will know what I mean. Megaton has a very kinetic style, and he tends to over-edit his fight scenes, and includes many jerky cuts during his action scenes, to the point that they're reminiscent of the Bourne films. I actually don't mind Megaton's style that much, and still enjoy his movies. Gordon Chan does much the same here, greatly editing and cutting his fight scenes, and this was a problem for many people because other HK directors like Stanley Tong and Sammo Hung know how to best utilize Jackie in a fight scene, and they shoot one or two wide-angle shots with very few cuts. Gordon's fight scenes here are more kinetic and more tightly-shot, with more close-ups than is usual for a Jackie movie, and if you're not into this than steer clear. The fights were still enjoyable for me, and Jackie still performed lots of great moves and stunts.
The story's ok, pretty standard 90s stuff. The villain is painfully 90s, and your usual OTT action movie bad guy. The racing element was actually interesting, but I have to say, I don't agree with the statement that this is a premake of The Fast and the Furious (2001). The only things the two have in common are action and cars. But the fact that this came before the biggest car-related action franchise is cool.
There's no shortage of action here. There are three fight scenes, with two being large-scale, memorable ones, and the pachinko hall fight being a highlight. There's a bloody shootout that was tightly-shot and edited, a really nice car chase early on, and an excellent final race/car chase, with some above-average car stunts. Lots of great crashes and explosions occur, and one car flies through a little watchtower. It's actually very well-done, and better than I expected honestly. Jackie's fight are his usual top-notch stuff, and they're only slightly hampered by the directing. Jackie even fights Ken Lo again (remember Jui kuen II (1994)?).
I can recommend this to Chan fans. If jumpy, hyper-kinetic action is ok with you, than you'll enjoy it. The car stunts are worth a look.
Seong lung wui (1992)
Another Underrated Chan Classic
"I told you to hit him, not get hit by him!" - Tarzan (an actual character in the movie)
90s Jackie Chan was just the best. Twin Dragons is easily one the most fun films he's done, for lots of reasons. Jackie is as good as ever, and this time he gets to play two roles, because occasionally, action stars decide to do their "starring with themselves" movie. Van Damme had Double Impact (1991) and Replicant (2001), Arnold had The 6th Day (2000), and Jackie Chan has this.
I think this is one of Jackie's most genuinely funny movies. Unlike the OTT physical comedy that plagues many of his other films, this one doesn't try too hard, and goes for more low-key, situational comedy instead. The hijinks of the twins switching places was pretty funny, and when Jackie ripped off his shirt and dove onto the bed in the bedroom scene, I actually laughed out loud. Jackie should take notes from this film, and do more of his comedy like this. It's a much finer attempt at a humor than some of his other movies, particularly Sing si lip yan (1993).
I like Hark Tsui and Ringo Lam, and they and Jackie Chan were my reasons for watching this. Hark Tsui's films have this manic craziness about them, as with many Honk Kong action films, and Ringo Lam's action direction is great. Tsui and Lam both know to stage action scenes, and their cool cinematography and scene structure really made this seem more clean and polished than it probably is.
This movie is in no way action-heavy, but if you're patient, it really delivers. The opening fight scene is actually pretty large-scale and entertaining, and there's a boat chase early on as well that was well-done. The movie slows down after that, except for the mall fight scene between two dudes, but the movie stops to really develop its characters and story through a series of comedic situations and misunderstandings. The climax though, is 20 minutes or so of glorious action. It's pure, distilled Jackie Chan, just the way you like him. The climax is a shootout on a dock and ship, which leads to a long fight scene in a car shop. The choreography is excellent and top-notch, and Jackie pulls off some really slick stunts and fights.
I recommend this very much to Chan and HK film fans. Chan in a dual role is more than enough to spark interest, and with Hark and Lam behind it, it's a slam-dunk.
The Contract (2006)
Disappointing, But Could've Been Worse
There are flashes and moments of a good movie in The Contract, even a great one. But overall, it's a dumb action thriller movie with lots of tropes and cliches and poor script writing, and it's only elevated by Morgan Freeman and John Cusack.
The premise was good, great actually. It was interesting, and with the two leads being attached, I really wanted to like this more than I did. It's basically a mix of Shoot to Kill (1988) and an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger (1993), but not as fun as that sounds. Unfortunately there are just some poor script choices and plot holes that make the story more unbelievable, but in a more insulting way than a fun way. I also thought the ending sucked and made no sense at all.
This movie only further strengthens my belief that Morgan Freeman elevates whatever movie he's in. Even though this seemed like a paycheck for both him and Cusack (more Cusack), he really made it better, and his performance is easily the best of the cast. He even runs and fights in this movie, which he usually doesn't do. Cusack also has some fight scenes, though he looks a little bored with the proceedings. The group of assassins were actually interesting characters, and the only other believable performances for me.
There were some fun action scenes in this. The transport ambush, cave fight scene, helicopter attack, and the cabin shootout/fight scene. The action was cool and well-done, and tightly edited. There weren't tons of cuts, and the fight between Freeman and Cusack was nice. I appreciated how involved Cusack and Freeman were in the action scenes, and I was so excited to see Freeman in another role where he actually participates in action scenes, as I hadn't seen him do that since Hard Rain (1998). Unfortunately, everything else kind of falls flat.
While the action was fun, the script and weak plot moments made it harder to enjoy the film. The ending seemed to fly in the face of the point of the movie, as well as its morality and character transformation. I can't recommend it, but it's not even close to being the worst direct-to-video action flick out there.
Back in Action (1994)
Whoa. I wonder if it's possible for an action movie to have too much action. If any film comes close, it's Back in Action. This is a trashy B action flick from 1993 that's about the most fun you can have with a direct-to-video movie. It's on the level of Drive (1997) and Rage (1995) in terms of direct-to-video gems, and is a seriously solid action movie.
Billy Blanks and Roddy Piper make for a great team, with Blanks' stoic intensity and persona complimenting Roddy's insanity. Roddy is as OTT as ever, and it almost comes close to a Nic Cage performance. Blanks, while nowhere close to even sniffing any acting awards, makes up for his lack of acting ability with some cool martial arts. He is to Wesley Snipes as Scott Adkins is to Jason Statham. He was the Wesley Snipes of the DTV market, but unlike Snipes, he isn't afraid to actually do a lot of fight scenes. Blanks has good fight scenes, and the dude looks almost psychotic when he's killing people. Piper has a lot of good action scenes too, and boy does he get beaten up in this one. He takes some of the most brutal punishment of his film career here, suffering beatings he hasn't seen the likes of since the alley scene in They Live (1988).
The action is relentless, and though it slows down a bit at the start of the third act, there is quite an abundance of action scenes here. The makers of this film know what we want, and doesn't worry about silly little things like plot and pacing. I counted eleven or twelve action sequences. There are 7-8 fight scenes, 3 shootouts, and a car chase. None of it seems cheap or low budget, and there are some cool explosions. Piper and Blanks both have great fight scenes, and they really give 100%. The fight between Blanks an Piper was very entertaining. The action is brutal and bloody, and this probably the most bloody DTV movie I've seen since Silent Trigger (1996).
I highly recommend this to action fans. It's full of action, while still managing to have a mostly coherent story (even if some things just happen for no reason), and it's definitely worth a look.
The Expendables 3 (2014)
Captures the Franchise's Spirt, and Has an Abundance of Blood-less, But Excessive, Violence
Yes, it's rated PG-13, and yes it's the least-liked of the three, but I for one, thought it was on par with the other two films in the series.
Unlike many people, I don't need my action movies to be sadistic and bloody to enjoy them. I don't need people to be blown up, I don't need to see severed limbs and fountains of blood. I just don't need graphic violence. Sure it can be entertaining, in a morbid way, and sure it's an important ingredient in an action film. But action movies don't need that to still work and be fun. There are many great examples of PG-13 action films that excelled with little strong violence. Taken (2008), any of the post-The Living Daylights (1987) Bond films, the Bourne films, and Live Free or Die Hard (2007), to name a few. Granted, the old-school hardcore 80s and 90s violent action vibe was an attraction of this series, but it's still there. The set-pieces are just as big, the action is almost as brutal and just as entertaining, and the performances are still strong. A movie doesn't need to be a gritty hard R to be fun.
Everyone is back from the first film, well, most everyone, with mostly solid performances from the regulars, and some ok performances from the young newcomers. Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Statham, Crews, Couture, and Lundgren are all good as usual. Jet Li has more screen time than he did in the previous film, but he doesn't have very much time to show off his martial arts skills. Schwarzenegger has almost as much to do as the previous film, and he still kills bad guys and makes fun of himself well, even saying "get to da choppa" at one point. Part of the novelty of the series are the new cast members every movie, and this one doesn't disappoint. We have Wesley Snipes and Antonio Banderas, who steal most of the scenes they're in, and it was really cool to see Snipes in action again, and Banderas too. Harrison Ford replaces Bruce Willis as the team's CIA liaison, and is brings a certain level of class to the film. Mel Gibson, though, totally steals the show as the psychotic and memorable villain, and he may be the best of the series' antagonists. The young new members are ok, though they're not nearly as interesting as the older guys, and Rhonda Rousey is actually the most memorable of the new recruits.
Patrick Hughes, a no-name up-and-comer in the directorial department, actually proves his mettle, crafting some great action sequences. The opening train scene was entertaining, the Somali car chase/shootout was crazy, and the final battle is pretty much about 30 minutes of non-stop, crazy action, with lots of fighting, explosions, and gunfire, and a crazy motorcycle stunt. Seriously the final sequence is great. It's pretty much The Expendables vs. a small army, and there are even tanks here. The final fight is brutal and visceral, and very entertaining, though it probably could have gone on for longer. Hughes is definitely a keeper, going on to do The Hitman's Bodyguard (2017), another favorite of mine. He's the closest thing we have to the new Michael Bay.
If you can appreciate a fun PG-13 action flick, than this is for you. The scale of the acton is still there, and the movie does manage to maintain a little of the franchise's grit. Star charisma and creative vision completely drive this thing, and it's quite a spectacle.
Actors I'd like to see in the fourth film: Kurt Russell, Steven Seagal, Jackie Chan
The Expendables 2 (2012)
As Good as the First, and an Incredible Action Flick
Though it's difficult for me to pick a favorite, I'd say that this is the best film in the series. The Expendables 2 rocks.
Opening on a bombastic note, The Expendables 2 hits the ground running and never really stops.
I think Simon West, while a bit of a risk, ended up being a great directorial choice. He knows action (the dude did Con Air (1997)) and he is great with action scenes and movie structure. It's sad that his career kind of fizzled out, as he obviously has the gift.
The main cast is back, this time with more people you love. Stallone is great as usual, as are Statham, Crews, and Lundgren. Couture is ok, but once again not given enough to do, which I'm ok with, as the other stars are more interesting. Arnold and Bruce Willis are back, and both get a good amount of screen time and actually get do participate in the action. Unfortunately, Jet Li is only present in the opening, and ducks out after that (apparently there were scheduling conflicts with another movie he was doing). The movie's biggest aces in its sleeve though, are Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Chuck Norris. Jean-Claude is a great villain, and a vast improvement over the villain from the first film. He's obviously having fun with the role. Chuck Norris gets a bit of screen time and is hilarious, since it's the meme version of Chuck Norris. He even makes a Chuck Norris joke, in case you wondering how seriously the movie takes itself (warning, it doesn't). Liam Hemsworth is here too. That's cool, I guess.
The action is explosive, violent, and abundant. The opening battle scene is long and joyous. Vehicles crash and explode, people are shredded by bullets, there's a boat chase and battle that actually felt almost like an homage to From Russia with Love, just on a much larger scale. There are many shootouts and battles throughout the movie, and Jason Statham kills a bunch of dudes with knives in a church, and that's awesome. The airport shootout is a fist-pumping moment, and a highlight for sure. Seeing all of the protagonists onscreen together killing bad guys was great, and seeing Sly, Arnie, and Willis shooting people side-by-side almost made me wet my pants. The final fight is brutal and great, and pretty well-choreographed too.
As bloodily, almost sadistically violent, loud, and fun as the first, arguably more so, The Expendables 2 is as good a time with an action movie as you can have.
The Expendables (2010)
A Love Letter to the Action Genre
This is the OG The Avengers (2012). Marvel can suck it.
This movie gets way too much hate. I guess it's hard to appreciate a great creative vision. This is an action movie, for action movie fans.
Of course the cast is gonna be great. Sly Stallone is as good as ever, and still a charismatic leading man even if he's obviously older. Jet Li and Jason Statham were great inclusions, and both demonstrate some of their better acting abilities, as well as their martial arts. Dolph Lundgren is great too, playing himself, as you'd expect. In fact, everyone in this movie are playing themselves. Randy Couture wasn't given a ton of screen time, but had some great moments, including a great fight with Steve Austin, who was the perfect henchman. Terry Crews also should've been given more screen time, but he's great. Arnold and Bruce Willis are here in one smile-inducing scene, and both make you happy watching them together. Probably the strangest cast member here is Mickey Rourke, who is an action star, sure, but he doesn't participate in any of the action. Instead, he's given a great monologue where he actually acts well.
Sly's direction is good, and while there were some fast cuts at times, most of the action is visible and visceral. He of course knows how to action scenes, which makes sense since he's one of the biggest action stars ever.
The story is alright, typical action flick stuff, but who is here for story. We're here for the action, which I thought was stupidly fun. The opening boat scene, that fight with Sly, Statham, and a bunch of bad guys by a truck, the plane/docks scene, the car chase and garage fight scene, the basketball court fight scene, and the massive final battle. The final sequence is very flashy and entertaining, and there are also a lot of great fight scenes. Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren fight each other twice, Sly fights Steve Austin, Li and Statham fight Gary Daniels, and Randy Couture fights Steve Austin. The violence is brutal and bloody, and suitably vicious for this kind of movie.
I can proudly recommend this to action fans, especially fans of the actors. It's full of action, gritty violence, good one-liners, and nostalgia.
Sing si lip yan (1993)
Not One of Jackie's Better Films at All
Oh my gosh, this was interminable.
I have not seen the anime that this is based on, since I'm not a manga/anime fan, but I get that it's an adaptation of an anime. As a live action anime, it succeeded, almost too well. It's like an anime and a music video had a kid, and Die Hard (1988) threw up on it.
Jackie Chan is the only person who could've played this role. Unfortunately his character is annoying and unlikable, and manages to be the hero of the story while being perpetually degraded in almost intentionally unfunny scenes. We see flashes of something better with his character once he's thrown into the Die Hard-esque scenario, but it's kinda lame overall.
All of the supporting characters are underdeveloped and lame, and many people are just there for no reason. Gary Daniels is in this, playing one of the lamest henchmen in anything, ever, and he has two fights with Jackie, which should be awesome. One of them is really cool, and the other his marred by that infamous Street Fighter sequence. I would've been fine if Jackie had fought a normal bad guy in Street Fighter cosplay, but when he's fighting Gary Daniels, just let them do their thing. Seriously.
The comedy falls flat 90% of the time, and some parts were almost so stupid that I had to avert my eyes. There's one very gross and uncomfortable gay joke that I won't spoil. I'd rather let you be horrified on your own. There's also a 10 minute (give or take) long dance scene that is straight out of a music video, and Jackie's not even there during it. The dubbing was almost a saving grace in its hilarity, and the moments where Jackie poses and the theme briefly plays were legitimately funny.
There are some cool action scenes, like the theatre fight scene, some weird shootouts, and the first Gary Daniels fight scene. I honestly thought the final fight was a little too slapstick. There was also a cool skateboard chase that was really well done, even if Jackie's stunt double is visible at times. There was a surprising amount of violence here for such a lighthearted film, and it really clashed tonally. I do like Wong Jing as a director though, after seeing Shu dan long wei (1995), and he packs on his usual flash and abundance of explosions. He's such a schlock-y director. Schlock-y, but good.
Overall, it was annoying, unfunny, mildly boring, and never quite satisfying action comedy. I don't recommend it, and Jackie Chan fans may be disappointed, as will action fans.
Also, City Hunter is actually the name of Jackie's character. I thought that was just gonna the movie's title, but no, it's his legit name, and people call him that throughout the movie.
Silent Trigger (1996)
A Weird Movie For Dolph, But Entirely Entertaining
Silent Trigger is weird. It's one of the strangest, darkest, most grim and violent movies I've watched this year. It's probably one of Dolph Ludngren's best films, as well as Russell Mulcahy's.
Russel Mulcahy has made a name for himself as a director. He brought us Highlander (1986) and its first sequel, Ricochet (1991), The Shadow (1994), and several other less memorable films, and he is very good at what he does. I think Silent Trigger should be essential viewing for up-and-coming directors looking to improve their skills. This movie is so well-shot and atmospheric, and it's so much more than just a trashy B-action movie. Or maybe that's all it is. It may not be as smart as it thinks it is, or it may in fact be very clever, but it's just so different that I can't tell. Mulcahy takes an almost arthouse approach here, opting out of big action scenes in exchange for more contemplative themes and strange imagery. He does have a knack for directing action scenes, though.
This role seems tailor-made for Dolph Lundgren, who plays the stoic, stone-faced killer to a T, bringing some of his charisma to the part without letting his larger-than-life stigma and personality dilute role's the lack of emotion. He delivers one of his best performances, and almost brings to life to the archetypal world-weary, repentant government assassin we see in so many films. This is not a role for say, Steven Seagal, who would much rather shoot and punch people than allow himself to be humanized and reflective. Lundgren's character is by no means a good person, but he's the best we can hope for in the hero department, and he is redeemed, at least, to a point. This almost seems like an Eastwood character from one of his westerns. Lundgren is almost a specter here, a mythical figure with a mysterious past, and indeed this does almost feel like a modern western, in terms of the themes concerned and the questions it raises, as well as the character transformation.
Gina Bellman is actually really good, co-starring alongside Dolph, and brings a more human aspect to the her paring him. She's not annoying, and is actually a pretty good actress. We also have one of the strangest, and most vile villains I've seen in a movie, in Christopher Heyerdahl. He's suitably psychotic, and though he really has no reason to be involved in the story, he adds a great villainous presence as the drug-addled lunatic.
There is action, and even though some have said that this isn't very action-packed, that shouldn't deter you despite its truth. There is a fair amount of action, with a cool opening scene, two brutal fight scenes, and a great and long final shootout. Dolph has a good fight scene in particular which was well-done. There are some cool battle scenes seen in flashbacks too. I must comment on the violence. For a B movie, this had some seriously graphic violence. It's very bloody and savage, so be warned.
I recommend this very much to Dolph and action fans, and B-movie enthusiasts. It's very entertaining, and a little thoughtful as well, but it's still more than enough of a violent, bloody action movie to entertain genre fans.A
Jung on zo (1993)
One of Chan's Best
Boy, was this entertaining. A gritty and gripping action thriller, Crime Story is easily one of Jackie Chan's best, and one of his most serious roles. It's violent, gritty, dark at times, and manages to retain that same manic energy and insanity that infuses many Hong Kong action classics, only with a harder edge. This could've easily been a Police Story installment, and probably should've been.
Jackie Chan delivers abundantly in the action and stunt department. He gives 100% in what are some truly great stunts. He's also a great actor, and he flexes his dramatic muscles here in a more down-to-earth role. He's playing himself, in super-cop mode once again, but he's humanized a little. He's more vulnerable (not to the point of annoyance like in San ging chaat goo si (2004)), and he's not superhuman. He gets hurt, often, and bleeds a lot too.
The story is engaging and thoroughly entertaining. The kidnappers aren't over-the-top, and they're evil and repulsive enough. A dirty cop, one of the main antagonists, is a big player. The plot requires a dirty cop as usual, but it makes the classy move of showing you who the rat is immediately, and letting you see the story from their perspective as well, instead of leading you on a mystery that's pretty obvious.
The action is bonkers. One of Jackie's most punishing movies, the action is loud and violent. A street shootout erupts, a great car chase occurs (a dude is hit head-on by a car!), there's a massive shootout/rooftop chase/fight, an airport fight scene, and a grin-inducing final battle. The climax is insane. Jackie wields a gun frequently in this movie, which I contend is interesting, as we don't see him use a gun often in his movies. The stunts are crazy, and that boat scene was just brutal.
Kirk Wong is an action master. I saw his American movie The Big Hit (1998), which I also loved, and both that and this are full of that crazy Hong Kong action. Wong should've done more action movies. Can't believe he didn't do at least one Van Damme vehicle like Hark and Lam.
Highly recommend this bad boy. Full of strong performances, full-throttle action, and tight editing and camerawork, Crime Story is a career highlight for Jackie Chan.
Navy Seals (1990)
A typically mindless action movie and vehicle for its stars, Navy Seals is pure military propaganda. It's basically Top Gun (1986) but on the ground, and it switches the style and likable characters of Top Gun for flashy action scenes. It's an ok action movie, but nothing more.
Like I said, it's a huge Top Gun rip-off. The plot concerns an elite military unit with only the best of the best, personal drama within the lives of the unit members, and some military missions. It literally follows the plot of Top Gun beat for beat, with a few minor differences.
Michael Biehn is a fine lead, and is believable as a soldier. It was annoying to see Charlie Sheen in this as a lead, since he's a turd, and not a great actor either. While he is obviously a tool offscreen, this time, he's a tool onscreen too. He is not likable or charismatic at all, and he's not believable as a hardened soldier. He only demonstrates any charisma in the film's climax. Bill Paxton was good, and Dennis Haysbert was a nice surprise, though neither are given enough to work with in the script department. The film doesn't focus on all the group's members enough, deciding instead to just assume that we like Charlie Sheen and focus on him instead.
Then story is whatever, and gets a little bogged down at times, and honestly the story is just not that interesting. There are some action scenes thrown in periodically to keep your attention, though.
The action scenes are fine, and I literally just watched this for some cool action. There are four mission scenes, only two of which are action-packed. The first mission is slick and looks good, with lots of gunfire and some explosions to satisfy. The final battle is what made me give this 3 stars and not 2 and 1/2. It's 25 minutes of action, with a massive shootout, a car chase, and an interesting water scene. The final set piece elevates this, and I'd really only recommend it for the action scenes.
Oh, I also thought the golf scene was fun. It's not as memorable as the bar scene from Top Gun where everyone sings, but it's fine. This movie does have a pretty great soundtrack too, which includes a cool version of "The Boys Are Back in Town".
If you liked Top Gun, then you might like this. If you're like me and don't care for Charlie Sheen at all, then it's barely worth it. Sheen is no Tom Cruise, although he does jump off of a moving vehicle on a bridge into a river and chase after a moving truck on a bicycle before climbing on it.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)
Serviceable, if Overhyped, Spy Film
I don't get the hype about this movie. I watched it, and it was alright. Pretty much what I was expecting it to be, with Ritchie's usual style, but with less action than I was hoping for.
The performances are good across the board. Henry Cavill, the reason I watched this (I'm a fan) is great as the cool, cocky American spy, and Armie Hammer is every bit his equal as the tough British spy. Alicia Vikander is good too, as the vivacious, scheming sidekick.
Guy Ritchie is definitely good. I really liked his Sherlock Holmes movies, and though I haven't seen his gangster movies that made him big, his skill is prevalent here, in the staging, cinematography, and structure.
There are some cool action scenes, such as the opening chase, the bathroom fight, the factory shootout/boat chase, and the four-wheeler chase. The movie starts off well, but the pacing slowed to a crawl and it was kind of hard for me to stay interested. The action scenes are good though, and that four-wheeler chase was slick.
I didn't really get the comedy. I understand it's subtle British humor, but the movie seemed full of anti-humor. It was like the comedy was comprised of intentionally awkward scenes and conversations. It feels very much like a Roger Moore Bond film, but less quirky and realized.
Overall, I marginally recommend it to spy fans, and I guess action fans will be pleased if they set their expectations low, as this is not the all-out action fest that it may seem.
Arlington Road (1999)
A Strong Thriller That's Let Down By its Ending
I really didn't enjoy this like a lot of people did. I'm a thriller fan, and I loved it up until the ending. Thriller endings are a crapshoot. Some of them get it right, and many don't. I guess people enjoyed how menacing and tragic the ending was, but I thought it sucked.
In fairness, the movie had me up until that point. Good, well-fleshed out characters, great antagonists in Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack, and a great lead performance from Jeff Bridges. The story was engaging and real tension was established. There were even some cool action scenes, like the shootout, car chase, and a brutal fight.
But then that ending happened. Really? That's it? I'm sorry, but no. I can appreciate a bleak ending if it fits with the movie, and I guess this did, but it also pulls the rug out from under you. The movie has a sense of dread leading up to the climax, but we've stuck with Bridges' character so far and we're rooting for him, and there aren't any hints that he's gonna die. I can handle his death, but its impact is compounded by Robbins winning and successfully detonating his bomb. So I basically watched an hour-and-a-half to two hour movie waiting to see the villain get his, but instead I watch the character I've come to sympathize with and root for die. It's the same problem I had with Fallen, but I liked that movie a lot more.
I don't get why people love bleak and depressing endings. Those people need anti-depressants.
A Fun Heist Movie, Nothing More
"Everybody needs money. That's why they call it money." - Mickey Bergman
A routine heist movie with some great performances, Heist doesn't bring anything new to the table, but it has a good script and some cool scenes.
Gene Hackman and Danny DeVito own their roles, and I need more of villainous Danny DeVito in my life. His performance as the greedy, vile crime boss is really great, and shows his range and gravitas as an actor. Hackman is also excellent as usual, playing his usual old, tough guy self. Hackman and DeVito are the best things in this movie, no question. Oh, and Delroy Lindo was nice a surprise. How underrated is that dude, am I right?
The story is twisty and complicated, and interesting if you can keep up. I'm not a heist movie person, but this was still entertaining. There's a lot of great dialogue, and I appreciated the originality of some of the lines.
There are a handful of pretty cool scenes. The opening heist was well-done, and the airport sequence was cool. There are some brief beatings, and a cool docks shootout, but don't expect an action-heavy movie. This is a heist movie, and really more of a crime thriller than an action film.
The direction is nice and tight, and the movie has a confidence that I appreciated. I found it hard to root for the protagonists, as they're thieves, and therefore technically villains in their own right, but Hackman and Lindo's natural charisma and Hackman's acting experience almost overcame my qualms.
I marginally recommend this to heist movie fans, or fans of Hackman and Daddy DeVito.
Code of Silence (1985)
Possibly My Favorite Chuck Norris Film
Another great Chuck Norris vehicle, Code of Silence may be Norris' best film, although I really enjoyed Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection (1990) and Lone Wolf McQuade (1983). This movie is once again another standard cop action thriller, but it's so standard, so familiar, that it is actually enjoyable. It's greatly helped by Norris, and Andrew Davis' direction.
Andrew Davis is an unsung director, I think. He has such an obvious talent when it comes to film direction, especially when it comes to action scenes. The man made Under Siege (1992) and The Fugitive (1993), and is responsible for The Package (1989), Chain Reaction (1996), and Collateral Damage (2002). He's had more than enough experience directing action movies, and while this is one of his earliest, it's not any worse. Davis paces this well, with great dramatic scenarios and well-staged set-pieces.
Chuck Norris gives his usual stoic, restrained performance. He's ideal for the tough cop role, and he's obviously doing his best Dirty Harry impression. That does make sense, as this totally feels like a Dirty Harry movie. Anyway, Norris is great with what he's given, I think. He has less to do in the martial arts department here, but he has two or three good fights. He also f-bombs, in case you ever wondered what it'd be like to hear Norris drop an f-bomb.
The action sequences, when they happen, are riveting and excellent. The opening shootout is well-done, and the foot chase and train fight are great. Chuck fights a suspect atop a train, and both dive off of it into water. There's also a cool bar fight where Chuck fights lots of dudes, and a great final shootout. Davis deftly handles these scenes with style and flair, and proves that he is indeed a master of his craft.
Again, I find it hard not to award this film the full 5 stars, because like many of Norris' movies, it didn't really wow me at first, but it really grew on me over time. Any Norris or 80s fan will enjoy this one. There's a reason it's hailed as Chuck's best movie.
Lone Wolf McQuade (1983)
A Fun and Memorable Norris Film
Almost a dream-like fairytale, Lone Wolf McQuade is equal parts classic action film and neo-western. Elevated by two great leads, the movie is a classic story presented in a new and interesting way.
I'm a Chuck Norris fan. I mean, it's hard not to be. He is charismatic in his own stoic way, and his seeming lack of energy is endearing, much like Keanu Reeves. His martial arts skill, while obviously not on the level of his Asian contemporaries, is still admirable. He's also a meme, which helps the enjoyment. David Carradine is good as the villain, and he is very much Norris' acting equal, playing pretty much a villainous version of Norris' character.
The story is very much a familiar plot, with Norris as the archetypal renegade cop who does things his own way. He has a new partner who needs guidance, and an arms dealer he's trying to nail. The story is so familiar that it's fun, and you have to remember that this is one of the earlier examples of the rogue cop action movie, having come out in 1983, so that makes it more bearable.
The character of McQuade is awesome. He's such a typical tough guy cop character, and this is the role Chuck Norris was born to play. This is pretty much a premake of Walker, Texas Ranger.
The action is very entertaining. The bar fight, building raid/car chase, and final battle are all cool, and there are some other good scenes that I'm forgetting. Chuck is great in the action scenes, and the final fight is long, and pretty brutal for its time.
I highly recommend this movie, to fans of Norris or Carradine, and just fans of movies in general. I'm struggling to not give it the full five stars. I mean come on, even the poster is awesome.
An Unusual Film For The Rock
Definitely one of The Rock's most thoughtful films, Snitch is a fast-paced, gritty action thriller, as well as a vicious commentary on US drug laws.
The Rock is great. Can we all just recognize that? A lot of people hate on him, but he's such a fun and charismatic actor. Much like Arnold, he's larger than life. He's a caricature of himself, and he knows who he is, and why people like him. He's great here, showing some dramatic chops, and he humanizes himself in this film, and he's probably in the most down-to-earth role of his career here.
The commentary here is hard to miss. The commentary on the ill-constructed American laws is unforgiving, and it's not unfair. The required familial themes are present, and The Rock's relationship with his family is believable.
This is a more thoughtful, story-driven thriller, but there is some action. There's a tightly-edited and flashy shootout in a garbage dump, a shootout in a house, and a long truck chase that's very well done. The truck chase is definitely the highlight for me, and it's very well-staged and edited. Also, The Rock gets beaten up by some punks early on, which I can't wether or not it's realistic.
I recommend it, especially to fans of The Rock, as this is not his usual superhuman action hero performance. It's a nice PG-13 action movie, and there's nothing objectionable for younger viewers.
Desperate Measures (1998)
Another Solid 90s Action Flick, Made Better by Michael Keaton
It's like Ransom meets Die Hard, with a cool twist. There's enough entertaining action to carry the plot along, but it's also an interesting story on its own, and it's helped by two great lead performances from Michael Keaton and Andy Garcia.
Keaton is lots of fun, and really throws himself into his despicable role. He's mean, nasty, and an excellent villain. I think he's way underrated, and he's one of the better actors out there. Garcia is great, and much more subdued in comparison with Keaton, and he plays the desperate father and determined cop very well.
There's a good amount of action, often in little bursts throughout. There's a brutal escape scene in the hospital, several cool standoffs and brief shootouts, and a car chase. The climax felt too short and muted, but what I enjoyed is that the movie doesn't revel in the action. It's short and gritty, and seemed more realistic. There aren't tons of long, drawn-out, OTT sequences. The movie is more concerned with its story and the action's affect on the characters rather than the action itself, which is refreshing.
I highly recommend it. It's a gritty and entertaining action thriller with a cool vibe and top-shelf performances from Garcia and Keaton.
The Delta Force (1986)
A Serviceable 80s Action Flick, But Not One of Norris' Best
I don't know, I didn't love this one like a lot of people did. I'm a Chuck Norris fan, too. This one is slowly paced, and there's not a lot of action until towards the end. Chuck only has two fight scenes, and though the action scenes were well-staged, I wished for more.
Cannon Films is notorious for making trashy but fun B action movies in the 80s, and this falls into that category. Except for Norris and Lee Marvin, everyone else is unfamiliar, though the villain's performance was pretty good.
I just thought it was a little boring. A lot of time was spent on the plane with the hijackers and passengers, almost too much, especially since none of the action occurs on the plane and it lands toward the end of the second act. I also thought there wasn't enough of a focus on The Delta Force as a group. It felt like a group action movie that wanted to be a Chuck Norris vehicle. They should've either focused on all of the members of the Force, or just had Chuck with a nameless team of fodder.
The action scenes were fun. The car chase, compound raid, and final battle were all good, and when Norris does fight he really kicks butt. Cannon Entertainment's films usually have at least a fair amount of decent action. This one is very 80s, and there are enough explosions and vehicular crashes to entertain.
It was mildly enjoyable at best for me, and it's not even close to being one of my 80s favorites. I much preferred the sequel, honestly. I can marginally recommend this, though.
Yi ge ren de wu lin (2014)
One of Donnie Yen's Best Films
A solid martial arts movie elevated by the lead performances, Kung Fu Jungle (Kung Fu Killer in some areas) boasts some serious fight choreography. Donnie Yen stages some next-level fight scenes while giving a great starring performance at the same time.
Donnie Yen is undoubtedly one of the best kung fu stars out there. He's actually a good actor, and that, coupled with his amazing fighting skills, make him a very bankable action star. His knowledge and skill in martial arts takes center stage, with some incredible fights, many of which showcase different styles of martial arts. Baoqiang Wang is actually really good as the antagonist, managing to appear imposing and intimidating despite his small height. He also displays much skill in martial arts, and he and Yen both do some great stunt work.
The story is ok, and basically just a standard serial killer thriller plot with a kung fu twist, but it's nothing you haven't seen before. It was enjoyable though, and held my attention.
The fight scenes are way cool. The prison fight scene is excellent and very well-staged, and the many fights between Wang and his victims were all really slick. There were also some cool chase scenes that were tightly shot and well-edited. The final fight is a treat for martial arts fans, and Yen and Wang give it their best. Pure kung fu mayhem.
I strongly recommend this to Eastern cinema fans, and kung fu enthusiasts. You get what you came for, which is Yen and Wang, and lots of fighting. Nothing more, nothing less.