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John Carter is a civil war veteran who awakes to find himself on another planet. But he soon finds out the inhabitants are bracing for war. After saving her life, her falls in love with a princess while trying to stop a deadly conflict.
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins and Willem Dafoe.
Directed by: Andrew Stanton.
Written by Andrew Stanton and Mark Andrews.
Produced by Lindsey Collins, Jim Morris and Colin Wilson.
Genre: Sci-Fi Fantasy Action Thriller.
Schmidt and Jenko are friends and rookie cops who mess up their first arrest. So they are transferred to a special division that sends them back to high school to bust a drug ring. But trying to fit in as students while tracking down the drug source proves more difficult than they imagined.
Starring Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum and Ice Cube.
Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller.
Written by Michael Bacall.
Produced by Stephen J. Cannell and Neal H. Moritz.
Genre: Action Comedy.
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Three underachieving high school seniors decide to throw a party to make a name for themselves. But as word of the event spreads, its starts to get out of control. The three try to salvage their lives while creating a legend.
Starring Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper and Jonathan Daniel Brown.
Directed by Nima Nourizadeh.
Written by Matt Drake and Michael Bacall.
Produced by Todd Phillips.
Genre: Teen Action Comedy Drama.
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US Navy SEALs embark on a covert mission to recover a kidnapped CIA agent. But they quickly discover a larger threat against their country that leads them on a worldwide chase. Risking their own lives, the battle the terrorists in a climactic showdown.
Starring Alex Veadov, Roselyn Sanchez and Nestor Serrano.
Directed by Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh.
Written by Kurt Johnstad.
Produced by Mike McCoy.
Genre: Action Thriller.
Crank: High Voltage steps up the adrenaline generating insanity that made Crank so much fun. Writers/Directors Neveldine and Taylor [who seem to have dropped their first names] have put together ninety minutes of craziness that picks up with Chev Chelios [Jason Statham] hitting the ground after falling thousands of feet from a helicopter – from which point, he is bundled into a van [literally shovelled off the sidewalk – a hint of the nuttiness to come], and finally awakes as his heart is being replaced with a temporary artificial pump to keep him alive until his other organs can be harvested.
To say he doesn’t take kindly to this state of affairs is an understatement. What follows is probably best not viewed by children of any age – especially the antics that follow when Chelios loses the pump’s battery pack and has to resort to several and varied means to generate enough juice to keep the thing working. Let’s just say that the movie’s sub-title, High Voltage, is entirely appropriate.
If there is a cinematic device available, it is used here – wide-angle shots, Dutch angles, hard cuts, jump cuts, dissolves, lap dissolves, even 8-bit Nintendo-type graphics, split screen and psychedelic polarization effects! Just in passing, we get a character with “Full Body Tourettes,” striking porn stars, public sex, self mutilation, and a character right out of Futurama. Then there are the colorful sub-titles that would be right at home in Timur Bekmambetov flick and the most outrageous fight sequences in recent memory.
Crank: High Voltage lives up to its title. It is whirlwind-paced, colorful, baked, twisted and spun out of LSD-laced cotton candy. Compared to Crank: High Voltage, most other action flicks are on Quaaludes. Seriously. If you want a film that is a genuine experience – and you have no problem with sex, violence and totally whacked-out humor, this is the movie that you need to see.
Final Grade: A
The original cast of The Fast and the Furious reunites for this fourth film in the series – and it does exactly what it says on the label. Under the leadership of director Justin Lin, who also directed the Tokyo Drift instalment of the series, we get a car movie that will please fans of the previous movies.
The plot – Paul Walker’s FBI Agent O’Connor and Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretta are after a drug kingpin named Braga for their own reasons – is merely a device to let cars race [and, occasionally crash, smash or blow up]; guys brawl and women to wear skimpy clothing. It’s not Oscar® bait; neither is it indie art. It’s a popcorn movie of the most obvious order.
The races and various other stunts are different enough to feel fresh and get your adrenaline rushing. The stars – Walker, Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster – perform about as woodenly as they ever have, but that doesn’t matter. The villains [John Ortiz’s Campos, and Laz Alonso’s Fenix Rising] get the benefit of being portrayed by able character actors and chew the scenery admirably.
Fast & Furious is one of those movies that are just well enough made to work for its target audience. It’s nothing to write home about, but if you’re looking for a car/brawl/explosion movie with skimpily clad women, this is your movie. It probably won’t matter if you forget it mere seconds after you leave the theater.
Final Grade: C+
You think I’d learn. Every time I check out a movie based on a videogame, I’m let down – sometimes to an extreme [like with Max Payne, DOOM and the original Street Fighter movie]; sometimes by the tiniest of margins. Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li is one of the latter.
Here’s a movie that features some of the wittier martial arts choreography to be filmed in the last few years, and there’s a clever – even wistful – parallel father/daughter arc that shows Chun-Li [Kristin Kreuk] to be treasured by her father [Edmund Chen], and Bison’s [Neal McDonough] daughter used solely as a repository for the last of the goodness in his soul.
Unfortunately, the film falls into the usual origin story knee-deep exposition and too little actual martial arts sequences. Performance-wise, the cast is pretty good. Kristin Kreuk is at least adequate as Chun-Li; Robin Shou gives Gen [her mentor] a combination of gravity and humor that works really well; Neal McDonough is suitably psycho as Bison, and the sly chemistry between Interpol agent Nash [Chris Klein] and Bangkok cop Maya [Moon Bloodgood]definitely adds to the mix. Only Michael Clarke Duncan [Balrog, Bison’s number one enforcer] doesn’t fit – more because of the script than Duncan.
Andrzej Bartkowiak’s direction is crisp enough but he simply has too much material to cram into the film’s ninety-six minutes. The result is a movie that does entertain on a basic level, but is missing the kind of pure excitement that it needs to reach the next level.
Final Grade: C+
A retired spy’s daughter is kidnapped to be sold as a sex slave [the slightly skeevey part]. The ex-spy hunts the men who kidnapped her. As premises go, this one is simple, direct and a bit odd to find in a PG-13 film – but we are talking about a Luc Besson production, so maybe it’s not really a surprise.
What is a surprise is that Taken, co-written by Besson [Leon, The Professional and The Fifth Element] and Robert Mark Kamen [The Karate Kid, The Transporter], and directed by Pierre Morel [District B13], is better than the premise suggests. This mostly because it takes a bit of time to establish that our protagonist, Bryan Mills [Liam Neeson] has retired because he wants to reconnect with his daughter, Kim [Maggie Grace]. We believe him because we see how disappointed he is when her mother, Lenore [Famke Janssen] and step-father, Stuart [Xander Berkley] upstage him at her birthday party [he brings her an expensive karaoke machine, but Stuart gives her a horse].
When she and her mother persuade him to sign a waiver allowing Kim to go to Paris, his warnings of danger fall on deaf ears and – sure enough – she and her friend are kidnapped. Then comes the phone conversation we saw in the trailer – followed by Mills taking action. Although Neeson is not a small guy, he does a good job of making himself seem ordinary as he begins tracking down the kidnappers, but once he swings into action, he becomes a force of nature.
Morel keeps the action up front and his pacing builds as Mills works himself up the chain of command – starting with the spotter who set up Kim and her friend. The usual ingredients of a Besson production are here – fights, chases, explosions – but because we buy into Mills as a father, there is a little more gravity, a little more at stake than usual.
Taken is entertaining but, ultimately, reliant on one performance. If you buy Neeson as Mills, then you’ll enjoy the movie. If not, you won’t. I did.
Final Grade: B-
How do you create and write a series like Burn Notice? What influences – from life and classic TV – go into the unique mix that is Burn Notice [USA, Thursdays, 10/9C]? Series creator Matt Nix answers these questions and more…
There was an overwhelming amount of great TV, this year [and, as you’ll see not too much later, an almost equally overwhelming amount of excessively bad TV]. Given the truly amazing amount of quality to be found between the networks and the various cable outlets, I’ve decided to list my favorite fifteen shows of the year.