Extraction (2020): Enjoyable Action That Had Potential to be More

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     “Extraction” was a film that had potential to be good and even great. There are a lot of things that work about this movie. The performances and action are both memorable and fantastic but it is held back by the cinematography, villain and lack of development of some of the minor characters. If you are looking for a fun escape for a bit during the pandemic and enjoy action films chances are you will enjoy this though.

The film was directed by Sam Hargrave and written by Joe Russo.

The story follows Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth) as he works to extract Ovi Mahajan (Rudhraksh Jaiswal) son of an imprisoned Indian Drug-lord out of Dhaka Bangladesh as he is hunted by different factions within the city.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Action – The action for this film is great. There are a lot of kinetic gun and fist fights and great use is made of close corner combats on the streets of Dhaka. We get fights between market vendors and cars and upon layers of apartment complexes. It is really well done with the final fight being a holdout over a bridge.

Betrayals – One of the strongest aspects of the film are betrayals. Ovi was only caught because his father was betrayed as he should have been protected wherever he went. Tyler Rake is betrayed by his old war buddy Gaspar, played by Dave Harbour who has given up on any higher ideals beyond survival. These betrayals add tension to the film as the city is under siege from the Bangladeshi drug lord Amir Asif who had initially kidnapped Ovi and is using all his power to get him back and keep Tyler trapped in the city.

Saju Rav – Saju Rav is Ovi’s father’s enforcer and gives easily one of the best performances and has one of the best arcs in the film. He is doing all he can to protect Ovi as his own family has been threatened by Ovi’s father and if he fails they’ll be killed. He and Tyler are evenly matched and as Tyler shares his own trauma you see how their stories of family motivating them mirror each other. Randeep Hooda does a fantastic job.

Tyler Rake – Hemsworth brings a lot of depth to what would could easily be a blank slate action hero. Thankfully this is not the case as he opens up to Ovi about the loss of his own child and when see why he is a broken character whose team hopes he can keep it together. It is this empathy that he shares that further humanizes him beyond the fact that when we are first introduced to him he is on a bridge badly injured and fighting for his life. Suffice to say, I look forward to “Thor: Love and Thunder” as Hemsworth continues to shine as an action star.

The Cons:

The Cinematography – The cinematography looks like a Michael Bay film and I hate that style of filming. What I mean by the entire film has a sickly yellow sunset sheen to the entire thing and everything feel just out of focus. If a film looks bad the other cons are brought out even further as presentation should catch your eye but in a way that complements the scene, not hurt it.

Lack of Development of the Indian Members of the Team – Khan is the really cool women in charge of the Indian special forces trying to get Ovi out of Bangladesh and besides her worrying about Tyler and going in to rescue him on the bridge I know nothing about her or her motivations. This applies to the rest of the team members too. If even the “Mission Impossible” Franchise can get this write there is no reason that they could have gotten development given we spent way more time with the villain and it did nothing for the script.

The Villain – The Villain Amir Asif is not threatening and not even complex. This is a character who is a controlling bastard with nothing more to him. He is eventually killed by Khan at the end and it felt like an afterthought, which is about how much development he got in this film.

Films that don’t reach good or great is pretty common among the Netflix originals but I’m grateful they are getting made. The potential in these stories give the directors, writers and Netflix the chance to learn and make something better. I wish this film had better taken advantage of where it takes place and developed Khan and her team as they had so much potential. I wish this film had been a collaboration with Bangladeshi or Indian cinema (having a Bangladeshi or Indian writer or director for instance). That I think would have solved the issue of the areas that are underdeveloped (the supporting cast) or not developed at all (the villain). Still, if you are looking for an enjoyable action film, this is a fun escape.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10

The Old Guard (2020): A Solid Concept That Nears Great

The Old Guard (2020) - IMDb

     Greg Rucka is one of my favorite comic book writers and Charlize Theron is one of my favorite actors so this film already had a lot going for me in regards to the existence of the film. Is it one of my favorite films this year? Nope. This film is really good but doesn’t quite rise to greatness due to bland villains and some pacing issues. Besides those two things this is a film I’d highly recommend to anyone looking for a fantastic action film that explores deeper issues.

The film was directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and written by Greg Rucka and adapted from his comic book “The Old Guard.”

The story follows a group of immortals lead by Andy (Charlize Theron) who must seek out a newly formed immortal after they are betrayed they must find out who and why they were betrayed while helping the new immortal Nile (KiKi Layne) find herself in her new identity.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The premise of a group of immortals going on missions to take out bad people is honestly pretty cool. You get why they are so jaded yet trying to make a difference as you come to see how many people they have lost over the years, as well as the fact that their powers don’t last forever. This adds tension and stakes as none of the characters know when the regeneration will stop.

The Action – The action is very “John Wick.” It is brutal, tactical and is really fun to watch. Over the course of the film you get to see each of the immortals in action and from that the weapons that they came to specialize in over the years. You get to see both gun and melee combat depending on the situation and the tactics “The Old Guard” are using to achieve victory. Suffice to say, it is really well done.

The Relationships and Characters – The relationships and characters are what drive this story and elevate it from being simply enjoyable to really good. I’ll go into a few of those relationships here as they are what really made the story for me beyond the action.

James Copley – Chiwetel Ejiofor plays a CIA agent who betrays the Old Guard to a pharmaceutical company who wants to use their blood to heal people. We see that his desire to help others was the reason for the betrayal and his change of heart when he follows all of their stories and sees how their acts of protecting the innocent lead to millions of lives being saved. I’m glad he survived as he is easily the most complex character in the film.

Joe and Nicky – Joe and Nicky have one of the best written relationships in any film I’ve seen this year. They were on opposite sides of the Crusades and over the course of failing to kill each other fell in love. They have one another’s back to the fullest degree and show us that even in a world where you will outlive everyone you can still find someone you can love so truly and fully. Seriously, this relationship is beautiful. These two men are fantastic.

Andy and Booker – Booker and Andy are the oldest of the immortals and are connected in their pain and loss. Booker knows that Andy broke after her best friend and possible lover Quynh was locked in a metal suit and dropped to the bottom of the ocean. They were never able to find her and Booker after losing everyone gave up on life and betrayed the Old Guard to Copley. In the end after the Company is stopped Booker is exiled for 100 years from the Old Guard.

Andy and Nile – The other great relationship is the one between Andy and Nile. Andy is the mentor figure as Nile is coming to terms with becoming an immortal and having to fall off the map to protect herself and others. It takes her time to accept this and Theron’s Andy is perfect as she is so jaded but it is only because she cares so deeply about those who live and all those she’s lost. Andy’s the oldest of the immortals while Nile is new.

The Cons:

Drags in Parts – There are a few sections in the beginning before the betrayal that film really drags. Part of this is due to how one-dimensional the villains are but the rest is simply pacing. Still, this is one of the few problems the film had.

The Villains – The villains are a pharmaceutical company and just selfish gits. The CEO especially has no redeeming qualities and didn’t feel like a valid threat who could really take on “The Old Guard” once their sights were set on him. This was a shame as a well written villain easily could have elevated this film to great.

As a huge Theron and Rucker fan this is a hard film not to recommend. I have not read a bad comic by Rucka and even in bad films Theron is often times the best actor in the room. The film ends with a cliffhanger as Booker meets Quynh who is back from the hell of being trapped in the cage underwater. What her motives are at this point remain to be explored and this is a time I think a sequel would only help things. This was a really good film and if you are looking for a fantastic action film that explores what one would do with immortality this will probably be your jam.

Final Score: 8.6 / 10

 

Bloodshot (2020): Cliche Elements Make For an Enjoyable Ride

Bloodshot (2020) - New Poster : comicbookmovies

  “Bloodshot” is a film I went into expecting to find as bad. Vin Diesel is pretty one note as an actor and “Bloodshot” is from an era of comics that are all about extremes. Hell when those characters showed up during Grant Morrison’s run on the “Justice League” in a crossover was my least favorite story arc done in that amazing run. So going in, I did not have hope that it’d be good. If anything I’d thought I’d enjoy it by how bad it might be. Suffice to say, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. It is full of stupid cliches but there are some performances that stand out and made it a fun rental.

The film was directed by David S.F. Wilson and written by Jeff Wadlow and David Heisserer.

The story follows Ray (Vin Diesel) who finds himself resurrected by a company called Rising Spirit Tech after a failed operation in Mumbasa. He begins to find his purpose once more as his memories of who he was comes back as he realizes his newfound powers.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Premise – The premise of a soldier with lost memories trying to find out his past is interesting. It gave me “Memento” vibes when the reveal is what is really going on behind the memories which made me appreciate what the story was trying to do all the more. The premise is a solid action movie and how the action scenes are setup is artfully done.

The Action – The action is largely a positive. There is one aspect of the action that isn’t positive that I’ll get into below but once Ray discovers that the person in his recalled memories killed his wife we get some fantastic action sequences. Ray takes down entire squads as the nanites in his blood regenerate him. He’s basically Wolverine.

The Fights – There are a few sequences where we get some really good action as Ray/Bloodshot faces off against other supers. Specifically when he’s facing off against the two military guys who are working for Rising Spirit Tech. The main guy gets a suit that gives him an extra pair of arms in the fight and they neutralize Ray in their first fight against him.

The Supporting Cast – KT and Wigans were the only characters handled completely well in this film. KT is another Super who is being controlled by the organization but rebels and uses Wigans to do it. Wigans is a scientist who invented the code that was used to create Bloodshot. Together they liberate Ray and help take down the Rising Spirit Tech. KT is one of the prime manipulators initially before her change of hearts and Wigans doesn’t want to fight until he is pulled into it. This arc they both have is what really drives the story and I wish they’d been more central. Eiza Gonzalez is awesome as KT (she was fantastic as “Darling” in “Baby Driver”) and Lamorne Morris gives dimension to Wigans who is initially played as a joke. Besides the action they are really what made the film work.

The Cons:

Slow Down Action Scenes – For all the great action scenes there were some that really sucked. We get a few slow down sequences that make an already long movie feel longer while lending nothing to the narrative action. They could have cut down these slow down scenes and the film would have been better for it.

Pacing – The pacing is really off in this film as the first half is Ray’s mission and ends with him being used as we figure out the truth at that point that he is given artificial memories with a different person as his wife’s killer each time. Due to how drastically the film changes this reveal should have happened in the first third of the film, not halfway through given how much story there is to tell. The reveal of him being used also turns complex characters into one-dimensional villains, which is my final issue with the film.

When Complex Antagonists Lose Dimension – Dr. Emil Harting played by Guy Pearce is first presented as an ally, until you learn he’s been playing Ray the entire time and using him as a weapon. The complexity in the character act he is put on is entirely gone after the reveal. This is awful as the complex mad scientist was so much more interesting than the selfish sociopath. The same thing applies to his minions too as one turns upon the other when he sees a chance to take out Ray. Both characters were deeper initially but just became stock one-dimensional baddies by the end. If they’d been better this could have been a good or even great film.

If you are looking for a fun and dumb action movie you should check this out. It doesn’t reach the levels of good but as someone who went in expecting to hate it, I had an enjoyable time. Vin Diesel is fine even if he doesn’t elevate the role and it is worth it for the minor characters and the scenes they have. This is a film that could have been truly awful. Awful is what I was expecting but there is enough here to elevate the film to fun.

Final Score: 7 / 10 Supporting character performances and some of the action sequences saved it from being a 6.

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) – A Good Sequel That Raises the Stakes

john-wick-2-keanu-reeves-the-sequel-to-john-wick

    “John Wick: Chapter 2” is the best kind of sequel. It raises the stakes, gives greater exploration of the world and further develops the characters. Sadly what keeps it from being on par with the first film is it isn’t nearly as tightly written and the ending could have been handled differently. I wouldn’t call it great because the cons it carries keep it from being that, it is no “Empire Strikes Back” but it is better than “Die Hard 2.”

      The film was directed by Chad Stahelski, written by Derek Kolstad and produced by David Leitch, Basil Iwanyk and Erica Lee.

     The story picks up where the last film left off with Wick taking out Viggo’s brother to get his car back so he can go back into retirement. Sadly his retirement doesn’t last long as Santino calls upon a “Marker” that had been formed between them when he helped John complete his impossible task. When John refuses he destroys his home, forcing John to fulfill the “Marker” and kill his sister, who sits on the Assassin High Table.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Premise – The premise involves John being pulled back into the world of assassins after he finishes back his car as the stakes are raised as he has to kill someone who will put an even bigger bounty on his head. I enjoy the “lose lose” of the situation that John is put into. It forces creativity and thinking outside the box.

The Opening – The opening is fantastic and one of the best action sequences in the whole film. In it we see John get his car back and make peace with Abram (Viggo’s brother) after he kills all his men and gets his car back. It is powerful and we see that John is still honorable even when others are not.

The Action – This film has a lot of action in it and because of it there is a lot of great action. From the fight in the catacombs in Rome, to the Museum fight and the car chase at the beginning…all of these run laps around the Bond films out of recent memory.

 The World – The world is intricate as we learn more about what holds the world of assassins in place. From the Continental having hotels all over the world, the High Council of 12 that runs everything and the Bowery King, and underground information broker in NY who owns the streets.

The Characters – The characters are the best part and there are a lot of great ones, though the villain is once again the least interesting character in the film…much like Viggo’s son in the first film.

Charon – Charon is the man who welcomes people into the Continental and this time he is Wick’s ally as he takes care of his dog and takes him in before the Continental excommunicates him. I hope he’ll be back for the sequel.

Ares – Ares is the deaf assassin that serves Santino. She is a great character and holds off Wick on multiple occasions. I wish we could have learned why she is serving Santino as there was clearly more there. She is the final boss for Wick before he finally ends Santino in the Continental. Ruby Rose does a fantastic job.

Gianna – Gianna is Santino’s sister and one of the members of the High Table. She kills herself rather than letting John kill her and they have a great conversation as we see that she always ended things on her terms. Like Santino she is ruthless though as our first scene with her is her shutting down someone whose land she has taken in her rise to power. We learn that her and John are friends too.

Cassian – Cassian is Gianna’s protector and Common does a great job of showing him to be the honorable assassin. He is respectful of John, even as he is trying to kill him and we see how both of their codes keep them at odds where they would be friends in other circumstances.

Aurelio – Leguizamo is back, though it is only to pick up John’s car and joke around about when it will be fixed. He is a great character though and I hope he is an ally in the next film.

Winston – McShane does an amazing job as this character. In this we see he like Cassian is bound by honor and he gives Wick a day before he excommunicates him as well as giving him the “Marker” that Santino had placed him under so he can use it to free himself someday. You see regret from Winston but also hope that Wick will survive.

The Bowery King – Fishburne plays the Bowery King, an information broker who tags pigeons with chips and microphones so he knows what is going on everywhere. He is insane but has respect for Wick for sparing his life. I hope we see him again as he mentions that Wick owes him when he hides, heals and gives Wick the gun to take out Santino.

Okay: Santino – Santino betrays Wick and there is no reason behind it. It is implied they have a history but it is never explored fully. I didn’t hate the character so I won’t put him as a con, but he could have been so much more. I wanted more history and less action and he could have been how to do that.

The Ending – The ending has Wick excommunicated and the High Table raising the bounty internationally on his head as he is running away with his dog but holding the “Marker” which maybe his salvation. I liked it but wish he had found a more creative way to end Santino. I wish he’d still had the Continental. Him having nothing makes his survival much more questionable and if they don’t kill him next film (given he has no allies) it will be difficult to take seriously. He needed some allies.

Cons: When the Action Goes Too Long – There is a ton of action in this film and at times it goes on way too long. I get this is an action movie but what made the first film better is the action had purpose and didn’t overstay it’s welcome. When Alfie Allen is taken out it is quick but here the action sequences are dragged out and it detracted from the amazing narrative that was going on.

    This is a sequel you should check out if you like action films and were a fan of the first film. The world is further developed and the stakes are raised in such a way that they could end this series as a Trilogy easily. After that I hope they don’t do anymore, they can’t raise the stakes and take anymore from John Wick, so I hope they end this series next movie. I really like John Wick and I’d hate for to be “Die Harded.” This film is a solid sequel and is once again a lot of fun in a world Keanu Reeves clearly owns.

Final Score: 8.9 / 10

The “Die Hard” Films – Worst to Best

Die Hard

    Going through the “Die Hard Franchise” was an experience of both the good and bad variety. There are very few Franchises that can boast having 2 of my favorite films in them and also some of the worst films that make the “Star Wars” prequels look good by comparison. When “Die Hard” gets bad it gives us some of the worst films in existence. Maybe they’ll recover after they make the 6th film but given how the last 2 films of the Franchise went I’m not counting on anything. So without further ado, here are the “Die Hard” films from worst to best.

a-good-day-to-die-hard

5th) A Good Day to Die Hard

    Jai Courtney is one of those rare actors who has such a non-presence in most things he’s in that his being there is rarely a pro or con in a film. In this film he’s awful and we get John McClane as a super cop James Bond like character in a story that takes place in Russia (Because his son is a secret agent apparently) where the villain’s plan is so incomprehensible even after reading wikipedia I had no idea what he’d wanted to achieve. McClane isn’t McClane and feels like a cartoon character of what the studious think McClane is and most of the plot is just pointless action, bad CGI and references to the better films in the series which makes this film feel like a scam. There are zero reasons to see this film unless you want to see how not to make an action movie.

0 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2016/10/07/a-good-day-to-die-hard-2013-john-mcclane-is-not-james-bond-and-this-film-is-a-cliched-mess/

live-free-or-die-hard

4th) Live Free or Die Hard

    “Live Free or Die Hard” is really where we first have the metaphorical death of John McClane. He no longer feels like a hardened cop in rough situations and begins to feel like a Super Cop James Bond as we see him get out of situations that are impossible on his own and exist only as catch phrases and references to the other better films. There is no longer McClane working with people it is just McClane being macho and having his cool rub off on other people. This film feels like what the Studio thought the other “Die Hard” films were but misses the point of them entirely. We no longer have a mortal hero who is deeply flawed and improvises his way out of situations, we have an unstoppable cop. The villains are lazy hackers who have no real motivation or threat to them and every guy in this is a sleaze besides McClane. This was a hack film and the only reason to see it is it has echoes of “Die Hard” buried underneath all the crap, which kept it from being a 0 like the film that came after this one. This film really dumbed down the entire Franchise and was the beginning of the end.

3 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2016/10/06/live-free-or-die-hard-2007-the-dumbing-down-of-the-die-hard-franchise/

die-hard-2

3rd) Die Hard 2

   “Die Hard 2” is very much a sequel. It takes place on Christmas, McClane has to fight the local police to get anything done and the villains aren’t all that fleshed out. One thing that the film did that it could have done more with is why the U.S. soldiers joined up with the Dictator who they rescued…he has to be pretty amazing for them to be loyal to him and the fact that he was “Good at killing communists,” is a good place to start. This is a film that had the potential to be great and is still very good in it’s own right. The airport being held hostage with the planes above as the ticking clock to stop the villains is wonderful and McClane feels real and is only able to win at the end due to help from the local police in D.C. who’d been fighting against him. I recommend this film for sure. It is a solid action film and a good sequel.

8.2 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2016/10/05/die-hard-2-1990-a-good-sequel-that-could-have-been-more/

Die Hard

2nd) Die Hard

    You might be wondering why “Die Hard” isn’t number one on the list given that it is a classic, it started everything and it is one of my all time favorite films. The reason it isn’t higher is so much of what is done is done by McClane alone so we aren’t given the chance to really get to know the people he relates to. Hans Gruber is an amazing villain and I like that he presents himself as a idealist terrorist but is really just a thief. Sadly we don’t get to find out what he wants to do with the money though and that is one of the few issues I have with the film that keep it from being perfect. The focus on McClane works but it also means other characters don’t get explored (like his wife) and Hans’s motivation was a missed opportunity to give an already amazing villain more depth. I still highly recommend this film and it is a favorite and easily one of the best action movies of all time. R.I.P. Alan Rickman, you played one of my favorite characters in cinema.

9.6 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/12/26/die-hard-1988-an-amazing-and-classic-christmas-action-film/

hans-gruber

die-hard-with-a-vengeance

1st) Die Hard With a Vengeance

    “Die Hard With a Vengeance” is the perfect action film. The villain is amazing in how he’s able to manipulate situations and his motivations are fully explored. He wants money because it gives him sovereignty and power so that he and his men no longer have to answer to anyone. Jeremy Irons owns this role and has created an iconic villain in Simon Peter Gruber, a character just memorable as his brother, Rickman’s Hans Gruber. Samuel L. Jackson is fantastic as Zeus too and helps McClane pull his life together as we see “Die Hard” pull of the Buddy Cop film as well. Every character gets explored and the action and twists are amazing! I seriously recommend this film as it is the perfect action film, it takes everything that worked about the first film and does more as well as doing some things the first film was unable to achieve and gives us a fully developed cast of characters and an unforgettable action story.

10 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2016/10/06/die-hard-with-a-vengeance-1995-the-perfect-die-hard-film/

simon-gruber

Die Hard 2 (1990): A Good Sequel That Could Have Been More

die-hard-2

       With how successful the first “Die Hard” was it was inevitable that it would get a sequel. Like most films that start out strong they don’t really need a great Sequel to be promised a Franchise and this is very true of “Die Hard 2” as it is good but lacks a lot of what film does and repeats some things from the first film that weren’t what made the first film great in the first place. I’ll get into more of what I mean later in the review.

        The film was directed by Renny Harlin, written by Steven E. de Souza and Doug Richardson and produced by Charles and Lawrence Gordon as well as Joel Silver.

      The story involves John McClane (Bruce Willis) going to meet his wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) at the Washington D.C. airport on Christmas Eve when former U.S. military special forces soldier Colonel Stuart (William Sadler) takes control of the airport in order to rescue a dictator General Ramon (Franco Nero) who is being brought in for crimes of drug trafficking. From here McClane must stop them before the circling planes above run out of fuel.

The Pros: The Premise –  The premise of an airport being under siege is really cool. There are so many areas that can be explored and planes as a threat and what need to be rescued are a good ticking time bomb for the hero forcing the action to always be moving.

The Action – The action is solid, but I’d expect nothing less from a “Die Hard” film. There are a lot of great fist fights, gun fights and great use of the different areas of the airport from fighting on a plane to in the baggage area.

Ed Trudeau – Thompson did a good job in this role as you see his main deal is trying to get the planes to land and you see how in over his head he is. He isn’t an enemy to McClane but he isn’t exactly an ally either. He is all about the big picture and when the big picture is falling apart around him he doesn’t know how to react.

Sergeant Al Powell – Reginald VelJohnson makes a cameo in this! It is thanks to him helping McClane that he is able to find out that the military guys he saw are supposed to be dead and that they have something planned. It is small but I liked that bit of humanity and friendship we see between him and McClane.

John McClane – John McClane is really the heart of the film as the entire premise of the guy is a cop in over his head who has to think and improvise his way out of situations. This is fully on display here as he could care less about the politics around him and just wants to save his wife and the planes that are circling above.

The Ticking Clock – The ticking clock is that the planes will run out of fuel with the power shut down at the airport leading them all to crash. It is a powerful ticking clock too and shows the military guys at least thought that part of the operation through. It adds tension to all the events that happen after.

The Final Fight – The final fight takes place on a jet about to take off and it is pretty awesome! McClane takes on a few of the military guys, defeating one and using the other to break open the fuel so that he can blow them up from the jet engine fuel that was spraying from the engine. One of the best action sequences I’ve watched in any film like this.

Okay/Con: The Villains – I never understood the villain motivations…why were a bunch of U.S. soldiers so attached to a South American Dictator. They say it was because he was good at killing communists but we never get their plan after he is rescued. Did they plan to reconquer his country? Him being a drug trafficker is never shown to be a motivation, which would have shown them to be lying about the communist thing…so in end they are a mixture of okay and con. All the actors do a good job with what they are given but every good villain needs clear, fully explored motivations.

The Cons: The Reporter – This guy was annoying. He could have been shown to be a 3 Dimensional guy trying to get the story out of the terrorists holding up the airport but instead he creeps on women, purposely makes people panic and panics himself in the end. This man served no purpose but to cause panic in the airport. Honestly the role of the press played could have been so much more.

The D.C. Cops – The D.C. cops only hamper McClane until he saves them at the end and after he rallies them to fight the military guys. They are just there to be against McClane and later soldiers and the transition isn’t handled very well.

Holly – She is there to be rescued…that is it…simple damsel and she deserved better if they were going to have her appear again. At least Al Powell was able to get info. to McClane to help stop the terrorists.

Repeating the First Film – It takes place on Christmas Eve, outsider who no one is helping, ticking clock and things get resolved with wife once more at the end. Switching any of these up or doing something creative with it would have elevated this film to great.

    This is a good action movie that is worth checking out, but if you are only ever going to watch one “Die Hard” film just stick with the first one. This one repeats a lot of unnecessary things from the first film and the villains aren’t nearly as interesting. What makes it good though are the action sequences and John McClane is still very much a compelling everyman that keeps makes the action mean something and adds heart to a film that could have had no heart with a different star.

Final Score: 8.2 / 10

Upcoming “Die Hard Franchise” Reviews

Die Hard

      It has been a while since I’ve done a Franchise review on the blog and after talking to one of my friends at work I decided to do something that is a little unfamiliar to me…the “Die Hard” Franchise. This is a Franchise where I didn’t see the first film until last year but it is a Franchise that helped define the modern action drama as well as the modern action hero that isn’t a large beefcake muscle man…as that was what was common at the time and there really wasn’t the every man action movie, unlike today where you have “The Equalizer,” “John Wick” and countless others that could really be traced back to this Franchise as giving popularity to the working man action hero just trying to make the most of a bad situation.

    Here is my review to the first “Die Hard” film that I reviewed around Christmas time as it was a request for a Christmas Film the last time I did some special reviews related to Christmas Films.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/12/26/die-hard-1988-an-amazing-and-classic-christmas-action-film/

I hope you enjoy the ride and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these films as well. After I review them all I’ll be rating them from worst to best to finish off this segment.

Brick Mansions (2014): A Decent Action Film Remake That Calls for Revolution

Brick Mansions poster

  “Brick Mansions” is a film that manages to beat the film it’s based on (“District 13”) in some ways, while failing in others. It manages to bring the feel and call for revolution that I never got in the original and it also humanizes one of the antagonists, and it is handled, fairly well. This was one of Paul Walker’s last films too, before his tragic death. It also stars David Belle, who was one of the main protagonists in the original French film.

    The film was directed by Camille Delamarre and written by Luc Besson while being produced by Claude Leger and Jonathan Vanger.

    The film takes place in Dystopian Detroit where Brick Mansions is a walled off zone from the city. When a bomb is captured by the Kingpin Tremain (Rza) it is up to undercover cop Damien (Paul Walker) to stop him. He must depend on ex-convict Leno (David Belle) to help him though as Leno knows the city and is trying to save his girlfriend from the Kingpin.

The Pros: Dystopian Detroit – Dystopian Detroit was a great location to choose, especially how the city is growing to that point now with so many industries having moved out and no new ones coming in. The location feels real for this reason.

Tremaine – This Kingpin does a lot of things the original does (kidnap Lola who is Leno’s gf and has the bomb). The difference in this one is he figures out he was being used and realizes that shooting the city isn’t going to solve anything, it will just make the city hate them. He ends up winning and in the end is able to run for Mayor of Detroit after the corrupt one is revealed for trying to destroy Brick Mansions. Rza is awesome.

Leno – Leno is great, just like in “District 13.” He’s a character who is smart on his feet and quick and is evenly matched with Damien as well as being a man trying to make up for the career in crime he lead before. i wish we’d gotten more but David Belle gives him good characterization at least.

Damien – Paul Walker is a good actor is what this film showed me. He has charisma and can play the tough guy as well as someone who can show sensitivity and awareness. Seeing him in action as Damien the cop was great as well his turnaround when he realizes the Kingpin and Leno are right and he is being used by the mayor.

Call for Revolution – The call for revolution is powerful as the film calls out recognition of those who have nothing as the people from Brick Mansions raid City Hall and reveal the Mayor as a fraud, it’s powerful with Tremaine running for mayor showing that change and revolution can happen.

Calling Attention to Social Ills – District 13 and Brick Mansions (the locations) call locations to racism and classism and how certain groups (usually of African Descent) are put into areas where there is no education that is granted

The Cons: The Mayor – He’s a weasel who gets zero development. What was his motivation beyond racism and classism?

Tremain’s Second – She’s the one who takes on a lot of the creepyness the Kingpin does in “District 13” as she is the one tries to rape Lola and imprisons her to the rocket and is her constant abuser. She ever turns against Tremaine at one point. She is antagonistic and has no depth beyond that. I wish her motivations had been explored.

Lola – Lola is a cipher, which is a shame as her character was pretty awesome in “District 13” as she fought everyone around her. Here she fights Tremaine’s second but isn’t given much to do beyond that. We never get her motivations anywhere or why she was with Leno, which was a shame and showed the major lack of character development on the writer’s part.

  This was a solidly good film but not great, much like the original French Film “District 13” there are inklings of greatness there but due to underdevloped villains and characters, the story never quite reaches that final point of great. It is still worth checking out, and as someone who has watched none of the “Fast and Furious” films I appreciate Paul Walker’s acting from this. I’d also like to see Rza and David Belle in other films as well. There is talent in this film it just was never fully utilized.

Final Score: 8 / 10

Deadpool (2016): A Hilarious Satire of Super Hero Films and a Brilliant Action Film, Romance and Comedy

Deadpool poster

   “Deadpool” is hilarious. This is an action, comedy and romance that is self aware (like Deadpool in the comics who is aware he is in a comic) and from this we get a very tighly written story that explores his origin, mission and even gives him a pretty amazing arc. The film lived up to the hype and I would not at all be surprised if it makes my Top 5 of 2016. I haven’t laughed this hard during a film since “Guardians of the Galaxy” two years ago. This was a film that the Comic Book Film Universes needed with Marvel and the other X-Men films bittersweet drama and DC’s grimdark films.

    The film was directed by Tim Miller and written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick while being produced by Simon Kinberg, Ryan Reynolds and Lauren Shuler Donner.

SPOILERS ahead

     The story involves Deadpool’s origin and his quest for revenge against the man who  nearly destroys his life on multiple occasions while he proceeds to break the Fourth Wall and a bunch of other things along the way.

The Pros: The Soundtrack – From George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” to countless other songs with so much personality going on, Best choice of soundtrack in regards to comedy and drama since “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

The Opening Credits – The Opening Credits lampoon every superhero film, but espicially the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the X-Menverse by having examples of people as the villain being “A British Villain” the director being “An Overpaid Tool” the producers being “Asshats” and the writers being “The True Heroes of this Picture.” It’s gold all the way through and the best use of opening credits.

The References – Deadpool references not wanting to be in a green CGI suit (“Green Lantern) there is a Deadpool” action figure from “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (and never in a good context, only to mock) as well as countless other things…from a fight on a dead Helocarrier and Bob being a member of Hydra technically. The show lets loose on all the things it draws inspiration from and lets Deadpool do his take-down from above the Fourth Wall.

Breaking the Fourth Wall – This happens throughout the film as Deadpool talks directly to the audience as he does in the comics. He’s comic relief and more which gives him the freedom to be the storyteller on occasion (this film as an example) which plays up the comedy but still keeps the heart as at the end of the day Deadpool is Wade Wilson.

The Characters – The X-Men cameos are awesome, the main leads are great and the only weak characters a few support characters and the villain…keeping up the the possibly purposeful theme of Marvel having a villain problem, as the story isn’t about them.

Blind Al – Is Deadpool’s roommate and has quite a history as she used to a crack addict and well…lives with Deadpool. She doesn’t put up with his crap though and is blunt to him on multiple occasions which he rewards with a cure for blindness and crack before he goes to his final fight. Leslie Uggams is fantastic.

Colossus – This dude is sincere and wonderful and wants Deadpool to be a good guy and X-Men. His interactions with him are gold as he preaches what it means to be a hero only to have Deadpool continue to walk all over him. He proves himself amazing on countless occasions though as Deadpool can’t hurt him at all and he manages to take out one of the two big bads. Stefan Kapicic did a great job.

Negasonic Teenage Warhead – This character is wonderful and does a good job at not letting Deadpool get under her skin. She even has a grudging respect for the guy by the end because he is honest in his crazy. Brianna Hildebrand is fantastic and really shines in the final battle as she saves Colossus and Deadpool a few times.

Vanessa – Morena Baccarine is awesome as Deadpool’s partner. She needs to be saved at one point but she shows herself to be the mature crazy one throughout the film and helps takeout the big bad. She is clearly one of the folks to come out of “Firefly” clearly making her own path in this genre and owning it as she is amazing “Gotham” and I want to see more Vanessa here. She accepts Deadpool (but is honest about the period she’ll need to accept how his body has been warped) but together they move on. They are both all about sex too as she was a hooker and their time montage is them having sex over a long time through many holidays.

Wade Wilson/Deadpool – Ryan Reynolds was perfect for this role and I’m glad he produced this. After the atrocity of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” it is great seeing that he knows and loves sthis character and was able to put him so perfectly on the screen. From his breaking of the fourth wall, to his tragic backstory, to his growing up while still being insane and unstable…Deadpool is Deadpool, truly do more research on the guy as there is so much you will discover. I could write an essay on the character. This movie captures him so well and gives him all the arc he needs and lets him tell his story.

The Ending Credits – We get an animated Deadpool playing on the saxophone, making a unicorn jackoff and countless other imagse. It is cute, raunchy and adorable…it’s Deadpool.

The After Credits Scene – Deadpool asks the audience why they are still around but later tells us that Cable will be in the next “Deadpool” film and that he’s really cool before asking us to go again. This entire time he’s in his mask and wearing a pajama robes.

Okay: The Villains – They are both British or Britishesque with one whose name (Francis but trying to get people to call him “Ajax” being a ongoing joke) are okay but not all that memorable…it is a Deadpool film so there is that, but I got the MCU problem even though Fox isn’t a part of the MCU. I would have liked more done with the villains.

  This film is probably going to make my Top 5 at the end of the year. Rarely has a film made me laugh as much as this one did. This is a film that is worth checking out if you are okay with sex and violence (don’t take your kids to see this film if they are young), “Deadpool” knows it’s audience and is a brilliant satire that manages to have a beautiful love story be the core arc of the film. I cared about Wade and Vanessa and hope that wherever their future goes that they can continue to grow together in their crazy amazingness.

Final Score: 9.8 / 10

Die Hard (1988): An Amazing and Classic Christmas Action Film

Die Hard

    I had never watched “Die Hard” until a few days ago. I’m glad I did. This is the movie that hits all the right notes for a great action film and a great film overall. It isn’t complicated but it doesn’t have to be, the characters…largely the main stars of the the hero and villain carry the film as we see them use different strategies to defeat one another. There stakes are always high and it never lets up.

     The film was directed by John McTiernan and written by Steven E. de Souza and produced by Lawrence Gordon and Joel Silver. The screenplay was based off the story “Nothing Lasts Forever” by Roderick Thorp.

     The story involves New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) being trapped in a building where his ex-wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) is when 12 terrorists lead by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) hold the place hostage. It is up to McClane and the LAPD to defeat him.

The Pros: The Premise – The premise is fantastic! The stakes are always high and both Gruber and McClane are racing against time. McClane to get outside help to even the odds and to stop the terrorists, and Gruber to access the cash and hack the system. For this reason the stakes are always high as both are hero and villain have limits and time working against them.

The Action – The action is amazing! From every gunfight with one of Gruber’s minions, to the final battle up on top of the roof and Gruber blowing up the roof and the final scene with our heroes and villain hanging off an edge. It pulls you in and doesn’t let go.

The Soundtrack – Michael Kamen did a great job on this soundtrack. It’s visceral and captures the tension of the different situations John is in really well.

The Minions – The minions are a lot of fun. The ones who stood out the most were the blond German brothers and the tech Theo all who were clearly loving their roles. I actually cared about what happened to them as the team of terrorists were a close knit group and had more distinct personalities than most of the business people in the building they were holding hostage.

Sgt. Al Powell – Reginald VelJohnson does good work as the cop with a history who made the worst mistake one can make (mistook a toy for an actual gun) and is living with the regret. He is the heart and soul of the film who keeps John grounded.

Hans Gruber – Alan Rickman plays one of the best villains in action film. He manipulates everyone perfectly and it is only the x factor of John that makes throws off his plan. Even than he manages to hurt our hero pretty bad and I really liked how much humanity Rickman gives the character, especially when he goes undercover as a hostage to learn about John’s motivations for being there. When he is beaten it is earned and that is what makes him so fantastic outside of his fantastic mind.

John McClane – John is the everyman who adapts to a new dangerous situation and rises to the challenge, managing to eventually get outside help and defeat Gruber. He is a loner and we see a man who is lost and living in the past (his wife has moved on). It is in his conversations with Al his humanity is revealed and we see getting back to his kids is his primary motivation for all he does. We also see his kindness when Gruber goes undercover to set a trap for him and he treats Gruber with kindness when he thinks he’s a hostage. There is a humor to him too and he is like a cowboy.

Okay: Takagi – Owns the business being hostage and is killed by Gruber. He has courage though and we see him stand up to Gruber on multiple occasions and we see his compassion in how he treats McClane and his employees. I wanted to know more about what motivated him though, which is why he isn’t a pro and is just okay.

Holly – She is a damsel a bit too often once Gruber learns that she is John’s ex-wife. She could have been more of a damsel to the writer’s credit so I’m not putting her as a con, she just doesn’t have as distinct of motivations as some of our other characters though.

The Cons: The Business People – Whether it is Holly’s new relationship or the guy working with the terrorists, they were just sleazeballs and were weak as characters.

   Merry Christmas all! This is easily one of the best Christmas films I’ve seen (it all takes place over a Christmas party) and the dynamic between Gruber and McClane creates a visceral and fun action film that I cannot wait to watch again. I understand completely why this film spawned a franchise, it truly is that good of story. Nearly all the characters are in their A Game and the sleazeball business men aren’t enough to bring it down.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10