Action

Smokin Aces

Year: 2006
Directed By: Joe Carnahan
Written By: Joe Carnahan

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is a movie I like but don’t love. A movie that caught me at the right place at the right time and I thought it was cool. It’s the kind of movie that reminds me of scenarios I acted out with my action figures as a kid. A lot of cool actors were brought in and they had fun making a movie that is a lot of fun to watch.

I’m a big fan of anything that kills off most of the characters it introduces. Such boldness creates a level of unpredictability that makes the whole experience more fun. This movie doesn’t kill off all its characters but a large number of them don’t survive this shoot out. Killed without a second thought are not just the small time actors from TV playing big parts but also bigger guys like Ray Liotta and Ben Affleck. It takes a lot of gusto to pull the trigger on so many characters, it’s what we love about Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. This movie doesn’t necessarily do it as well as those but the balls it took to do it still count for something.

How high Chris Pine has risen since this movie came out. Nevertheless, despite all of his success I still can’t see him in anything without thinking of the scene in the elevator when he licks his finger and touches the bush of the naked girl tattooed on his shoulder. It’s such an obscene gesture from a dirty and obscene character. Captain Kirk, Steve Trevor, Jack Ryan, or anybody else it doesn’t matter what role he is playing, the guy I see is the Tremor brother he played in this one. Not to say he wasn’t good in any of those roles, in fact I thought he was a terrific Captain Kirk in the Star Trek reboot. His memorable role actually came late as he was a replacement for Michael Shannon who was fired after pissing someone off.

My opinion has changed in recent years but I used to be a big time Ben Affleck hater. It was one of the things I loved about this movie back in 2007 because it was evidence that his career was spiraling down. At a time when his buddy Matt Damon was on the high horse Affleck was having trouble getting roles. Here he was in an entourage film not even making it halfway through the movie. In 2006 I found this hilarious and relished in it as a hater. Like I said, I feel differently now. Ben Affleck’s star has risen again and this time much higher than it ever had before. I initially changed my opinion when I saw him in Runner Runner and then again when he showed such promise behind the camera. His rendition of Batman sealed the deal and I look forward to what else he does with that character.

I felt Ryan Reynolds proved dramatic acting capability with this film. That unplugging scene in the end is very intense and well played by Reynolds. I am a fan of Reynolds, even after his many failures prior to the success of DeadpoolHe’s a funny guy but I think in this movie he pulls off serious and angry pretty well. I thought back in 2006 that this was proof he could move beyond Van Wilder and do better things. He has stayed true to being a comedic actor and Deadpool is just the start of more to come.

This movie was the featured film debut of both Common and Alicia Keys. I have never listened to either’s music but I thought they both gave great debut performances. Alicia Keys is cool as the sexy assassin and Common is a bad ass hit man to have at your disposal. I am a big fan of Common from his role on Hell on Wheels. An awesome show that if you haven’t seen then you’ve been missing out, it’s worth binge watching.

Without delving into the rest of the large ensemble cast I’ll simply say I liked the cast overall. It’s a really cool blend of popular TV actors, musicians, and movie stars. I love a big cast and I like it even better when you never know who among them will survive the adventure. I liked that about this movie and I enjoyed watching it again. I think this is a fun movie that is worth your time to see but I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it.

NEXT MOVIE: Snakes on a Plane (2006)

 

Small Soldiers

Year: 1998
Directed By: Joe Dante
Written By: Four different people are credited with the writing of this film.

RYAN’S REVIEW

This is a silly movie that only could have come out of the late 90s when technology was changing faster than the populace could keep up with it. A time when the internet was still young and it was vaguely plausible that the government made chips that could turn toys into tiny terminators. I was 16 when this movie came out and liked it enough despite how silly it was. When it made its way into our collection it did so for one reason. It was one of the last things Phil Hartman did before he died. In fact the movie was released after his death in 1998.

I was a big fan of Phil Hartman both from watching reruns of his time on Saturday Night Live and hearing him regularly as a voice on The Simpsons. He was such a talented comedian with such a fantastic voice. The circumstances of his death were so sudden and tragic. His death was so shocking that it floored the entire Hollywood community. He was shot to death as he slept by his wife, who had a sudden break down and committed suicide before police could take her into custody. Words can’t describe how unfortunate and shocking it was. The world was robbed of an exceptional entertainer for seemingly no reason and I still feel the loss if I watch The Simpsons and catch a Troy McClure episode.

This may be a silly movie but even into adulthood I am still a big fan of action figures. As a child I loved nothing more than working my imagination with my toys. Playing out various scenarios I had seen in movies or on TV I could occupy myself for hours with my action figures. I was a big fan He-Man and the Ninja Turtles until I graduated to G.I. Joes before discovering the X-Men toys and never quite growing out of those. To this day it is not unusual for me to display a cool toy I find in my office or around my home. I try to limit these things to my home but now as I sit at my desk at work I have a comic book Negan action figure standing before a mini replica of the Iron Throne right behind me.

So while this movie may be a bit childish I am still inclined to enjoy a film about action figures coming to life to do battle with one another. It’s even more up my alley as the toys in the movies were influenced by some of my favorites. The Gorgonites were heavily influenced by Masters of the Universe and the Commando Elite were obviously influenced by G.I. Joes.

I like the cast of this movie enough to think it noteworthy. Most of these characters didn’t mean much to me at the time but in hindsight it is fun to see younger versions of guys like David Cross and Kevin Dunn. I loved Cross as Tobias Funke on Arrested Development, and though I didn’t like him in this movie I thought Kevin Dunn was hilarious as the dad in the first Transformers film. Even before his awesome series Rescue Me I was a big fan of Denis Leary and I liked him in this film. Kirsten Dunst is nothing more than a typical female teenager in this film but I have always been a fan. Since she gave the fantastic performance as the child vampire in Interview with a Vampire, at some unreasonably young age she was able to stand toe to toe with the likes of Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. It was impressive enough to set a lasting impression on me. There is also a small cameo here from the SNL star Cheri Oteri and I loved her because she always made me laugh.

I think Tommy Lee Jones was an awesome choice for the voice of Major Chip Hazard. The 90’s were the golden days for Jones and his voice lent some credibility to this silly film. Originally Director Joe Dante wanted Arnold Schwarzenegger and the cast of Predator to voice the Commando Elites but sadly that didn’t work out.  So they used Tommy Lee Jones as well as actors from The Dirty Dozen.

Also lending credibility with his voice was Frank Langella as the voice of Archer. The man who once brilliantly brought Skeletor to life in an equally silly movie, Masters of the Universe, is someone I can’t help but get behind. At nearly 80 years of age he is still going strong as an actor and that is impressive all by itself. He started acting in the mid 60s and is closing in on over 100 acting credits during his time.

This movie was directed by Joe Dante whose primary career was in television. He did manage to use this opportunity to drop several Easter Eggs from his most famous film within the movie. There are several references to Gremlins within the movie as Gizmo is both mentioned and seen throughout the film. I wouldn’t say I’m a big fan of Joe Dante but he did helm a movie I sincerely love. Innerspace has been a life long favorite since childhood and I could never disregard something done by the creator of that film.

Before closing this out I think there is one more random fact about the movie that makes it noteworthy. This movie features the Led Zeppelin song Communication Breakdown. It’s noteworthy simply because it is so rare that Zeppelin songs appear in films. I am probably simply forgetting but I can only recall one other film that featured music from Zeppelin. Any Given Sunday had a really cool segment set to Fool in the Rain. If you can remember a movie that featured Zeppelin leave a comment because I would be interested in knowing.

This isn’t a movie I can ever recall recommending to anyone but I still think there is plenty here to make worth wild. If you are a grown up man child like myself who still has an affinity for action figures and toys then you might like this movie. If for no other reason it is worth your time simply to get a taste of a comedian and entertainer the world was robbed of far too soon. This isn’t an exceptional performance from Phil Hartman by any means but it’s what we were left with and that makes it worth it.

NEXT MOVIE: Smoking Aces (2006)

 

 

 

 

 

Saving Private Ryan

Year: 1998
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Written By: Robert Rodat

RYAN’S REVIEW

I saw this movie several times in the theater, but there was one distinct experience watching it that I will never forget. It’s a story that matters little when discussing such a fine film but it mattered a lot to me. As for the movie, it’s a great war movie made by one of the greatest directors of all time and starring one of the best actors of his generation.

I think I had already watched this movie three times when I got a phone call during dinner one night. There was a big Pro Wrestling event in town and two of the stars were currently watching this movie at the local theater that I just happened to spend most of my time in. My brother and I bolted from the table mid dinner for the chance to encounter Diamond Dallas Page and The Giant, or some may know him as The Big Show or some other name I am unfamiliar with. They were just watching this movie and my brother and I were just eager fans waiting to flank them when they were out in the world.

We made it to the theater maybe half way through the film and took a seat on the back row. We were sitting maybe two or three rows back from men we perceived to be legends. In truth I was a fan of neither of these guys but that hardly mattered as we were sitting a merely 10 feet from them in the theater.

They were larger than life men and The Giant had stretch out one leg across the front row with his arm covering two seats next to him, literally blanketing an area usually occupied by several people. His head was so enormous and he had a huge mane of hair. The Giant was a loud viewer who screamed at the screen profanely even calling the Corporal a pussy in the climax when he is too afraid to aid his friend.A few seats over sat Diamond Dallas Page who seemed to glow in the darkness of the theater. I distinctly remember how bright of a man that dude was in all his tanning bed bleach blonde glory. He sat for the majority of the movie with his head in his hands and he cried openly during the movie while his friend screamed at the screen.

There were about 5 other people in the theater all sitting on the front row as if it were assigned to them. The precious wrestlers could not be disturbed during the movie in which one screamed at the screen and the other cried the whole time. The two could not have been more different but my brother and I were just so caught up in the moment.

I have always wished I could go back to that moment, knowing out ultimate goal was fruitless, and have yelled at The Giant. When he was screaming obscenities at the screen. How great it would have been to be the little smartass behind him and yell something like “hey! we’re trying to watch a movie here!” or something like that. What I would give to know how that scenario would have played out.

With about 5 minutes left in the film they got up and quickly left as if to avoid being rushed by the five people at the front of the theater. I followed them out hoping to get an autograph. I remember following Diamond Dallas Page to the front and standing a mere two feet from him as he talked to the manager. The Giant wasn’t looming about anywhere but I’ll never forget how DDP did not even acknowledge me. Even when he was done talking he turned away without so much as a glance in my direction. My brother managed to get a low five from The Giant as he exited the theater, but I got nothing but unacknowledgement.

I did not get an autograph that night but the memory of a lifetime none the less. As I said before I wasn’t really a fan of either of these guys so them being rude just strengthened my resolve. Also, the were both wearing fanny packs, so lame.

As to this movie itself what is there for me to say other than it is great? It begins with one of the most emotionally captivating and exciting battle scene of all time. It finishes with a nearly equal battle where the stakes are so much higher. I may connect this movie with a silly memory but there is so much more to it than that.

Truthfully, after recounting such a long remembered story, I have no interest in delving into this movie review wise. My apologies but the best you will get from me right now is that this movie was great. It’s a fantastic WWII pic and it would be worth your time to see it. This movie has one of the best battle scenes you will ever see and after that it only gets better.

NEXT MOVIE: Saw (2004)

 

The Running Man

Year: 1987
Directed By: Paul Michael Glaser
Written By: Richard Bachman (Stephen King) and Steven E. de Souza (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

I’ve never realized before but this movie is set in 2017. So I first have to question how could they be so wrong? Not only are we not executing our prisoners on network television in 2016 but the world seems to be more PC than ever. At the very least we could be collaring our prisoners with exploding devices to prevent escape. My second question would have to be for myself, and why it’s been so long since I last saw this movie.

It’s been probably as many as 15 years since I have seen this movie. I added it to the collection a few years ago around the time The Hunger Games was coming out. I distinctly remember joking on a regular basis that I wasn’t seeing the movie because “I had seen The Running Man.” While I did eventually see that movie and found it to be OK I still think it was simply a rip off of this movie, and a version with kids can never match up to the one with Schwarzenegger.

This movie is campy and cheesy but I loved it when I was a kid and I love it now. It kind of takes me back a little to those days when I was 15 and still thought Pro Wrestling was cool. This movie is like Pro Wrestling only with killing, and a mob mentality on the outside that rivals the French Revolution. Both the thematic element of the show as well as the reaction by the public are stolen ideas by the Hunger Games books.

One of my favorite parts of the movie is when the elderly lady puts her money on Schwarzenegger getting the next kill despite him being the should be victim and not a stalker. She says “He’s a mean motherfucker!” and coming from that sweet looking old lady that line is just golden. This movie also features an awesome fight scene between Schwarzenegger and his old buddy Jesse “the Body” Ventura. Two men who would both eventually go into politics with great success. Ventura serving as GoverBody in Minnesota and Schwarzenegger serving as the Governator of California. The latter actually used this movie as an inside joke during his campaign, labeling his campaign bus “The Running Man.” I would love to go back to 1987 and catch people coming out of the theater to see there impressions on this possibility in the future.

The Running Man book was written by Richard Bachman, a pseudonym created by Stephen King so he could publish more books. King literally wrote too many books for his publisher and had to create a new author he could publish under the guise of. It was a big deal and a very secret pseudonym for some time. Eventually hardcore fans started figuring it out and Richard Bachman suddenly “died.” However, when the rights to this story were bought it was unknown King was the actual author. I am a big fan of King but have never read this particular book so can’t offer any insight into how it compares.

There is probably a really interesting story in this movie involving Richard Dawson and his part in the film. Unfortunately I don’t know the story and know little of the man who was a popular game show host long before I was born. A real game show host playing an evil game show host in a movie has to have interesting real life comparisons behind the scenes.

This is far from a perfect action movie but it was memorable if nothing else. It has a cheesy screenplay from a guy who specialized in these types of films and it’s based on a story from a legitimate Wordslinger. I have to give it a thumbs up if for no other reason than somebody modified the idea and made millions on it with Jennifer Lawrence. There are better movies out there more worthy of your time but should you spend yours with this one it wouldn’t be completely wasted.

NEXT MOVIE: Saving Private Ryan (1998)

 

Ronin

Year: 1998
Directed By: John Frankenheimer
Written By: J.D. Zeik and David Mamet

RYAN’S REVIEW

I had my entire post for this film nearly finished when I had an unfortunate snafu that erased everything I had done. That is as about as frustrating as an evening with this film has been.

To sum up what I had said before this movie is vague and hard to follow. Literally ten minutes pass in the beginning before you have any idea as to the direction of the movie. The sound quality is all screwed up where the dialogue is hard to hear and the action is explosive on your speakers and ears. This is a cool action movie but not in the Die Hard style I prefer.

This movie made it into the collection for one real reason and that is how awesome the car chase scenes are. The scene in which they steal the mysterious box features one of the greatest car chase scenes I have ever seen. The only other thing worth mentioning is how cool De Niro is as the American badass, Jean Reno as the French badass, and Stellan Skarsgard as the creepy European bad guy.

There is little else I had to say about this movie and I care even less now if this is a well put together post. I am disappointed to have lost my original copy but this was more or less what I had to say. This movie does have its moments but there are certainly better things you can do with your time.

NEXT MOVIE: The Royal Tenebaums (2001)

The Rock

Year: 1996
Directed By: Michael Bay
Written By: David Weisberg, Douglas Cook, and Mark Rosner

RYAN’S REVIEW

I miss the days before the actual War on Terror when the terrorists we saw in action movies were guys like General Hummel. These were the good old days when the bad guy could be a decorated war hero threatening innocent people with chemical warfare and it wasn’t a big deal. Hummel even gets a redeeming moment in the end despite the awful events he put into place. The world was just so much simpler back then.

The action genre in its truest form was peaking when this movie came out. Back when it was all about the guns and the explosions. These days everybody has to be an advanced martial artist of some kind but back in 96 it was little more than a gimmick for guys like Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme. In the 90s the stakes were often higher and the action was simpler but still exciting.

People love to hate on Michael Bay and I totally get that. Nevertheless I think this movie is an obvious go to in his defense. Yeah he goes to over the top far too often and makes really unfortunate decisions as a producer but I have enjoyed several of his films. This is a fun and exciting action movie and when he’s not trying to do too much Michael Bay is really good at making movies like this. Granted I was 12 when I saw this movie, and it was easily the most awesome thing I had ever seen at that point. I think the movie holds up today too, it’s still a good action movie and I enjoy watching it.

If I remember correctly, this was the first of the “Nicolas Cage action trilogy” that immediately followed his reception of the Academy Award for Best Actor. I remember thinking this was a big time action movie for a guy like him. Who did he think he was? Stallone or Schwarzenegger? I didn’t realize quite how things were changing for those guys though. As for Cage I think he was still getting more successful as an actor but it was downhill for him in this genre after this film. Castor Troy was awesome but I really just find Con/Air to be overkill and ridiculous. In this movie he is a great comedic element to all the badassery going on around him, and he is able to rise up and be heroic in his own right. By the time he was done with this venture into action films he was killing people over stuffed bunnies. Nevertheless he wasn’t done as he came back with great dramatic performances such as we saw in Adaptation and The Weather Man. In this movie he is just funny and fun, “glass or plastic?”

More important than Cage in this movie is Sean Connery. Who was practically all but done as an actor after this movie came out. He had a couple of notable appearances after this but this was his last exceptional film as far as I am concerned. He gets all the moments in this movie as a legend to the genre. As the first to ever order his martinis “shaken, not stirred” the original 007, Sean Connery, should have quit after this film and effectively rode out into the sunset. Entrapment was over hyped and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was so bad it made him decide to give up acting altogether. In this film he shows us a steely nature and action know how that reminds us why he was the original James Bond. He also gets his Sergeant Murtaugh moment saying “I’m too old for this [shit].” Most importantly Connery reminded us that he was still a badass. If he wasn’t going to do anymore than he did he should have stopped after this and left his legacy on a high note.

As I mentioned him in my opening I think it’s obvious I like Ed Harris as General Hummel. The problem with being a bad guy when you’re not really a bad guy is eventually you can’t keep up the act. General Hummel becomes a terrorist for the right reasons but struggles to maintain things as the temperature rises. He’s not a bad guy he is just trying to do the right thing, when his bluff is called he is turned on by the actual bad guys he’s joined up with. Ed Harris is a great actor and I have always thought he was great in this. In a movie that isn’t all that complex he is the most complex character.

The supporting cast of this movie is deep. There is an abundance of talent in the background of this movie. In no particular order they consist of John C McGinley, David Morse, Michael Beihn, Bookem Woodbine, Tony Todd, William Forsythe, Xander Berkley, and Raymond Cruz. These guys all bring something special to the movie but special props to my favorite among them, Michael Beihn. The guy should have been an action badass and somehow got relegated to the heroic side character death in a film like this. Michael Bay action movies often assemble a good overall cast and that’s just another thing I like about them.

This movie came out at a time that I consider the peak of the genre I grew up with and truthfully that was the post Die Hard era of action movies. This of course was the Die Hard on Alcatraz version within the genre an I thought it was exceptional. I consider this a film near the end of that particular genre but I don’t know if I’m really right about that. There are no doubt many out there who are really passionate about “Die Hard with Liam Neeson.” From where I’m sitting I may never understand that but I expect there are people out there that could present a compelling argument on its behalf.

This is a cool movie with everything you could want out of an action movie. This is an exciting film that will be well worth your time to see. I think that even after twenty years it is still a movie I can enjoy and that’s what really matters the most. I wouldn’t call it a must see by any means but a movie you couldn’t go wrong spending an afternoon with.

NEXT MOVIE: The Rocketeer (1991)

 

 

 

 

Robocop (2014)

Year: 2014
Directed By: Jose Padiha
Written By: Joshua Zetumer, Edward Zeumeier, and Michael Miner

RYAN’S REVIEW 

This actually turned out to be one of the weirdest reviews I have ever written and when I couldn’t figure out what to do with it I decided to just roll with it. I have broken the review into two pieces to make it easier to understand. So here it is, the post that has been holding me up. I am happy to wash my hands of it and move on.

PART 1

I usually loathe remakes but this is not just an exception to that fact, it’s an exceptional exception to my typical line of thinking. I love the original Robocop, and when I first heard there was a remake coming I was frustrated. Yet, at the same time I kept an open mind. If there is ever a movie to remake it’s a futuristic vision that can be adapted to more modern realities. Not only in the vision of the future Robocop presents but the future as it is with the capabilities we have today to bring things to screen.

This movie gets props by following in the footsteps of the original by assembling an excellent cast. It horribly failed by copping out for the PG-13 rating with a complete lack of violence but when it comes to the cast it gets props. The action in this movie is fantastic but ultimately lacking when it comes to the graphic violence we saw in the original film. Yet, they have Omar from The Wire, they have that likable awkward funny kid Jay Baruchel in a serious role, they have Gary Oldman who can do just about anything, they have the up and coming Joel Kinnaman, they have Michael Keaton, and if that’s not enough they have Samuel L Motherfucking Jackson.

This movie is adapted to the times while staying to its roots and I find it very impressive. It manages to make its own thing while honoring the original at the same time. I love that they maintained a similar musical score to correlate with the character so many of us grew up with. Robocop was awesome, but due for an upgrade. The internet has been created since the idea was first conceived and it is an important element to be incorporated into the character. This movie doesn’t have the substance of the original but it has the upgrades to make for an interesting retelling.

There are things to like about this movie but overwhelmingly it doesn’t measure up, and having watched both this and the original on the same day I can sum it up simply. It’s all in the lack of bad guys. Michael Keaton is awesome but he simply doesn’t compare to the likes of Dick Jones and Clarence Boddicker. Those two were bad guys for the ages and that element is absent entirely from this film. This movie lacks intensively in the bad guy department.

The way this movie ends made it what is was for me. It’s the same principle George Costanza figured out one time on Seinfeld. Leave them laughing and they remember you fondly. I fell victim to that scenario with this movie. Samuel L. Jackson closed out this movie with an awesome monologue that cleverly covered up his preferred profane dialogue. When I considered the film in hindsight the ending immediately came to mind and I remembered loving that while forgetting a lot about what I didn’t like.

PART 2

I wrote all of the above on the day of. In fact, the first three paragraphs were typed out before the movie had even been on for 15 minutes. I had only seen this movie one time before the review and wrote all of that in anticipation. I had really been looking forward to watching this movie. It had set an impression on me when we watched it the first time and I had waited until it was the movie on deck for the blog before watching it again.

Now this review has held me up for weeks as I considered it. Did I scrap whatever I had written and start from scratch? Did I try to adapt what I had already written to my current thinking despite the drastic difference? I was at a loss because I like to keep moving forward and frankly this one stopped me in my tracks.

Here was a film that I remembered liking an awful lot but on the second take I was so let down. I have considered how this happened and believe I have solved the issue. When I watched this remake for the first time I had incredibly low expectations. I hate remakes on principle but gave this one a chance and it surprised me. I was very taken with the effects and the advancements to the actual title character. I really liked the cast and when the movie closes with Samuel L Jackson doing his Samuel L Jackson thing it left me laughing and I remembered it being better than it actually was.

Fast forward to March 4th 2016 and everything was different. I had been on a roll going through the movies in our collection. So much so that I had a day to myself and decided to tackle two movies back to back. Those two movies were this and the original. That morning I fell in love all over again with Paul Verhoeven’s science fiction classic, and then that night everything that was wrong with the remake was poisoning my eyes.

This movie has a great cast, it has a few select scenes that are memorable and exciting, it echoes the original just enough to get your nostalgic mood brewing, but overwhelming it fails at everything else. The story is all wrong and despite how awesome Michael Keaton is there is just no villain in this film that can compare to those of the first film.

I think Joel Kinneman gave a terrific performance in one scene specifically. The scene in which he sees what is left of him physically for the first time and a tear rolls out of his one real eye as the horror overwhelms him. Very powerful scene that really got me the first time I saw it. I think it is really cool to see Robocop scanning crowds and running. In the first film, Robocop is incredibly slow for technical reasons but in this film he is the way he should be as a robot. I really like the part played by Samuel L Jackson and think he shines as he always does. Other than that there is no other reason to see this movie.

I am almost embarrassed to even have this movie in my collection and can’t figure out what kind of spell I was under when I thought it was good enough for our collection. To think I’ve not only owned it but had it sitting on the shelf next to the true classic it stole its name from seems like a personal travesty. My suggestion would be to not see this movie at all and save your time. There is no way, shape, or form in which this one measures even a tiny bit up to the original film.

NEXT MOVIE: The Rock (1996)