John Wick: Chapter 4 picks up where the last one left off with the organization known as “The Tabel” trying to kill John Wick and he trying to hunt down and kill them. His quest takes him around the world while the Tabel’s appointed leader Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård) keeps upping the bounty and sending skilled assassins after him, like the blind Caine (Donnie Yen) and the mysterious Mr. Nobody (Shamier Anderson). John’s only hope is to force Gramont into an old-style one on one duel, but the path to his achieving this is filled with former allies, hired killers and dead friends.
Fourth chapter is again directed by Chad Stahelski from a script by Shay Hatten and Michael Finch and is the best so far in this overall solid franchise. The fast-paced sequel takes us from New York to Morrocco to Osaka to Berlin and comes to a dizzying and bloody conclusion in Paris, France, using all its locations spectacularly. Stahelski is at the top of his game visually as the film looks breathtaking and the action is some of the best yet in this series. The choreography really is amazing, no better example than a fight with multiple assassins in the frantic traffic surrounding the Arc de Triomphe. The film moves like one of Wick’s bullets and one hardly feels the almost three-hour running time. Chapter 4 does wisely give us a few moments to catch our breath before the next blood-spurting, bone-crushing action scene, so they remain effective, and does have some emotional resonance. Reeves and cast all perform well, including series regulars Ian McShane, Lawrence Fishburn, and the late Lance Reddick. All the newcomers impress too, including Clancy Brown as The Harbinger, Hiroyuki Sanada as the noble manager of the Osaka Continental and Rina Sawayama as his daughter/concierge. All in all, the best film in a series that has been getting better and better with each chapter. Watch through the end credits.
Flick has Earth once again invaded by an aggressive alien army. This movie focuses on the city of Los Angeles, in particular the efforts of Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckart) and his platoon of Marines, to hold off the invaders and rescue as many civilians as they can.
Sure Chris Bertolini’s script has all of the combat/invasion flick clichés accounted for, but Director Jonathan Liebesman (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, Wrath of the Titans), takes them and turns them into a first rate, kick-ass action flick, that also has the dramatic impact to back up all the explosions and FX. Those FX are top notch, too, along with a strong cast led by Aaron Eckart and Michelle Rodriguez. Eckart proves his diversity again, by playing an everyman action hero with a performance filled with heart, soul and plenty of two fisted heroics when called for. The supporting cast, including Michael Peña, is also equally up to the challenge and this flick is a first rate example of how talent in front of and behind the camera, can turn a cliché ridden script into an intense thrill-ride. This flick blows the shallow and dated Independence Day right out of the water! Highly recommended!
Computer programmer Miles Lee Harris (Daniel Radcliffe) is having a very bad day. He’s broken up with his comic book artist girlfriend, Nova (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) and picked a fight with the wrong website. Miles decides to have a little fun on the website for Skizm, a live action fight club where they pit various psychopaths against each other in real life battles to the death. When he trolls the site, he finds himself knocked out by a gang of thugs and wakes up the next morning with guns bolted to his hands. The man who runs Skizm, Riktor (Ned Dennehy) informs the mild-mannered Miles that he has 24 hours to kill Skizm’s leading psycho killer Nix (Samara Weaving) or he and the kidnapped Nova will die…all part of Skizm’s latest webisode!
Flick is written and directed by Jason Lei Howden (Deathgasm) and seems more attuned to today’s gaming and web-centric audience. They would probably appreciate more all the gaming nods and references, though it’s still fun as a humor-laced, action/comedy for the pre-Xbox, pre-Youtube set, too. It has plenty of violence, action and bloodshed, as poor wimpy Miles is trying just to stay alive, much less kill his overzealous opponent. He is both cheered and booed by the audience streaming it all, as the online veiwwership takes either the side of the hapless nerd, now nicknamed Guns Akimbo, or the blood-thirsty Nix. Radcliffe is well cast as the nerdy, terrified Miles, as is Samara Weaving who is delightfully over-the-top as the tattooed, weapons loving Nix. She’s become quite the fixture in bonkers flicks like this, Mayhem and Ready or Not that delight in mixing extreme violence with a twisted sense of humor. It’s no spoiler that at some point Nix and Miles will find common ground to take on the bad guys in an amusing blood bath of a finale. Not quite as consistently fun or funny as Howden’s Death Metalheads vs zombies flick Deathgasm, but colorful and blood-spattered enough to amuse for it’s economical 95 minute length.
Completely unnecessary sequel finds Viet Nam veteran John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) now living on his late father’s ranch…or underneath it, as he prefers to lurk in a series of tunnels he’s built to one of the actual rooms. He lives with his father’s former live-in caretaker Maria (Adriana Barraza) and her hot granddaughter Gabriela (Yvette Monreal) and is on meds for post-traumatic stress disorder. When Gabriela travels to Mexico to find her father, she is kidnapped by a Mexican cartel for sex trafficking. This has Rambo putting down his meds and picking up his weapons to rescue Gabriela and take on vicious cartel lord Hugo Martinez (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) and his army of thugs.
After the last film took the character full circle, there was no need to drag him back into action again, but, here we are. Flick is routinely directed by Adrian Grunberg from a bad script by Stallone and Matthew Cirulnick. Not sure what the intent here was, but the film paints a very unflattering portrayal of both Mexican’s and Mexico itself. Stallone’s script vilifies the country and most of it’s people, one assumes in the hopes that we’ll feel no sympathy when the super soldier brutally and bloodily dispatches an army of cartel members in the booby-trapped maze beneath his ranch. You’d think slimy cartel leaders and their thugs are villainous enough, but aside from Maria and Gabriela, no one from south of the border is portrayed as anything but a lowlife or creep. Even without the hateful tone of the flick, it’s simply a routine and dull movie with generic bad guys and horror flick level gore when Rambo goes all Jigsaw in elimination of his prey. Hopefully the film’s subtitle is true to it’s word and Rambo has finally retired his pointy objects. They should have quit while they were ahead.
John Wick: Chapter 2 is a well-made sequel that returns Keanu Reeves’ “retired” assassin back to action. Here he must honor the marker from Italian crime boss Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) and go to Italy to assassinate D’Antonio’s own rival crime boss of a sister, Gianna (Claudia Gerini). Wick completes the mission but is betrayed by D’Antonio with a contract put on his head for seven million dollars. Now every assassin in the NYC area wants the bounty, including Gianna’s vengeful bodyguard (Common).
Written and directed again by Derek Kolstad and Chad Stahelski, respectively, the duo delivers an action packed and fun sequel to the surprise hit John Wick. The action is slick and rapid fire with a larger body count as now Wick must battle his own kind. The locations are used well between Rome and New York City and Reeves is again solid as the stone-faced assassin, who just wants to retire. It’s an entertaining action flick and a sequel that knows to stick close enough to the formula to not alienate its core audience and yet change’s things just a bit to keep it from being stale. Ian McShane returns as Winston as does John Leguizamo as Aurelio with Lawrence Fishburn appearing as the leader of a guild of homeless street people assassins in NYC.
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Nighthawks is a flick that has some nostalgic importance to me as I saw it at the long gone Rialto Theater in Ridgfield Park, N.J. which, at the time, was a block away from my home. It’s also a pretty good movie with some gritty NYC atmosphere and tackled the subject of terrorism on U.S. soil years before it would become an actual concern.
Story has two loose cannon New York City cops, Deke DaSilva (Sylvester Stallone) and partner Matthew Fox (Billy Dee Williams), being transferred into a new anti-terrorist unit headed by British operative Peter Hartman (Nigel Davenport). Their first objective is to track down a vicious international terrorist, who goes by the name Wulfgar (Rutger Hauer) and who may be headed for the Big Apple for his next strike. Despite not quite seeing eye to eye with Davenport’s methods, DaSilva and Fox have bigger problems to worry about when the merciless Wulfgar indeed shows up in the city and starts his reign of terror. Can the two NYC cops stop this stone cold killer before he brings the world’s greatest city to it’s knees?
This 1981 action flick still feels very 70s as directed by Bruce Malmuth from David Shaber’s script. It does have that gritty, backstreet NYC vibe and that goes a long way in making this enjoyable. It has that 70s style such as a police chief who shouts everything he says (the late, great Joe Spinell), a few disco scenes and a very Serpico-esque hero in the bearded and ear-ringed DaSilva. There are some nice action and chase sequences, though nothing groundbreaking and the film really makes good use of the film’s NYC locations. That and we get a strong villain for our heroes to try to bring down and with that, you have a recipe for a really good thriller. What holds Nighthawks back from being on a higher level, closer to something like French Connection, or at least The Seven-Ups, is a weak script and rumored studio interference that edited out some important character development, such as the relationship with Deke and his estranged wife (Lindsay Wagner), who is hardly in the finished film. Apparently some of the violence was edited down as well, to please an MPAA who was very strict at this time due to some of the slasher film backlash. The result is a film that moves almost too quickly for it’s own good and lacks some real meat in-between the bare bones. DaSilva and Fox track down Wulfgar basically due to a plot convenience and a ‘hunch’ instead of demonstrating the detective skills and street savvy the characters were supposedly chosen for…then you blink and the film is at it’s climactic set piece. Also, after being portrayed as a total badass early on, DaSilva suddenly becomes hesitant when faced with the terrorist in earlier confrontations. Doesn’t quite jell without a bit more backstory. Obviously, production issues effected this film, from the original director (Gary Nelson) being fired, to rumored tension between Stallone and Hauer, to the hatchet editing job by the studio and reportedly by Stallone, too. The result is a fun action flick instead of the well-rounded thriller with a lot more substance that the filmmakers supposedly set out to make. On the plus side, there is some atmospheric cinematography of old NYC by James Contner and a fitting score by ELP’s Keith Emerson to give the film some needed mood.*
The film has a good cast. Stallone is Stallone as DaSilva and it would have been nice to see excised footage that may have made this a meatier role for him. His military record is briefly mentioned, but there are hints it played a larger role with DaSilva’s character. Billy Dee is solid as Fox, but is basically a sidekick and we really don’t get much character development on him, either. Hauer is really effective as Wulfgar and his performance overcomes having some of his character development edited down as well. Davenport is the tough as nails as the director of the A.T.A.C. and he makes a good foil/mentor for Stallone’s rebellious DaSilva. Lindsay Wagner is long suffering/estranged wife, Irene and gets far too little screen time to make an impact, but serves her purpose well enough. Joe Spinell is dead-on as the gruff NYC police chief who seems to be drinking way too much caffeine and Persis Khambatta makes for a suitable cold killer as an associate of Wulfgar’s named Skakka.
I like this flick, but do wish a director’s cut would surface one day, so we could find out if the studio and star re-editing saved or hurt the movie we got. There was also violence removed to satisfy the MPAA which may have hurt some of the flick’s intensity, too. It’s still a fun, nostalgic action movie about a dirty, grimy, crime-ridden NYC, before the city got it’s act together in the 90s, and and features Stallone in a more human role before the success of Rocky III and First Blood would turn him into a larger than life character, for the rest of the 80s. There is also some personal sentimentality attached, but overall it’s a good Saturday night trip back to 80s NYC that is still worth taking.
*(Additional information concerning production details as per Nighthawks‘ Wikipedia page)
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While this flick is 95% action movie…and a bloody one at that…there is a bit of a horror film element that seems to exist to set up an even more interesting sequel/further adventure…and it kinda works.
The Night Crew has four hardened bounty hunters, Wade (Luke Blade 2 Goss), Ronnie (Paul Sloan), Crenshaw (Bokeem Woodbine) and Rose (Luciana Faulhaber) going deep inside Mexico to recover fugitive Mae (Chasty Girlhouse Ballesteros) and bring her back to the states for a big payoff. Unknown to them, Mae is also wanted by a powerful drug cartel and the four and their quarry find themselves surrounded by an army of vicious killers who want the girl back and them all dead. Adding to the already desperate situation, is that Mae is more than she appears…as is the drug lord (Danny Trejo) who hunts her.
Low budget action flick is actually a very satisfying bullet and blood-fest with an interesting supernatural twist thrown in by writer and star Paul Sloan and co-writer/director Christian Sesma. This ‘element’ not only adds something a little different to the story, but sets up an even more interesting direction if there is a sequel…and hopefully there is. The movie is competently directed by Sesma and while some of the elements are very traditional to testosterone fueled flicks like this, they are stylishly presented and Sesma does serve up a lot of intense and bloody action on his moderate budget. Add in some very pretty ladies in Faulhaber and Ballesteros and you have a fun and entertaining B-movie action flick with a touch of horror movie thrown in. The movie is not perfect. There are some plot holes and lapses in logic, but you watch a flick like this for the action and on a low budget level it delivers. The horror movie elements not only add something interesting to the characters involved, but Sesma and Sloan work it so it sets up a potentially more interesting and entertaining direction as well, if we see more of some of these characters. It’s just enough of a twist to give the more traditional action elements an off-beat angle and an air of mystery and that helps give this enough of a boost to lift it out of the routine. Sometimes entertainment is all you are craving and this flick does serve some up without trying to be more than it is.
The cast all work well in the context of the material. The underrated Goss is solid, as usual, as is his hard-nosed team of Sloan, Woodbine and sexy Luciana Faulhaber. The beautiful and exotic looking Ballesteros gives Mae the mystery and sensuality the character needs and she can be a badass, too, when she needs to be. The villains are appropriately slimy and vicious and Danny Trejo is…well, Danny Trejo…as the cartel king with an even darker aspect to his personality. There is also an amusing cameo by Jason Mews as a security guard who gets caught in the middle of a bullet-riddled bloodbath.
Is The Night Crew a classic…no. Is it an entertaining B-Movie with an intriguing horror element thrown in?…for sure! I liked this flick. It gives us a lot of intense action and spattering blood on a small budget. We get some tough guy anti-heroes and vicious villains and a couple of gorgeous ladies who can kick-ass, too. It won’t win any awards, but it will entertain you on a B-movie level and director Christian Sesma knows his material and delivers it in a no-nonsense way, yet not without a bit of style. A solid B-movie action flick made for a night on the couch and a few of your favorite brews. Also stars Don Swayze and there might be an uncredited cameo by cult favorite director Robert Rodriguez, but the camera never focused on the familiar looking bartender to tell for sure!
Everly is an uneven, but still very entertaining action flick with a truly badass turn by Salma Hayek. Everly (Hayek) is a woman who has been imprisoned in the same apartment for four years as the personal sex slave/toy of powerful Yakuza lord, Taiko (Hiroyuki Watanabe). One day she gets tired of being passed around by his men and kills them all in a fit of rage. Now Everly has little time, as she must warn her mother (Laura Cepeda) and young daughter (Aisha Ayamah) to get to safety as Taiko will be coming to kill her in retribution and her family, too. But Everly is not going down without a fight and fight is what Taiko and his soldiers are going to get plenty of.
Directed by Joe Lynch (the fun Knights of Badassdom and Wrong Turn 2: Dead End) and written by Lynch and Yale Hannon, Everly can be a real blast at times in the Tarantino tradition. The only real problem that held this back was that the film’s momentum stops dead, occasionally, for lengthy scenes of exposition, such as when Everly’s mom comes to the apartment where she is holed up and with her daughter. If the dialog was as snappy as Quentin Tarantino’s…whose films this seems to be modeled after…than it would be fine, but it’s not. The warm and fuzzy moments and her conversations with one of Taiko’s dying gang members (Akie Kotabe) just serve to slow the momentum down before the next gunfight. We do need a breather now and then, but the slowing down of the pace does more harm than good. There is still so much to like, though, as when this movie is on, it rocks. The action is fierce and the fact that the film took place all in the same apartment helps, as you were familiar with the surroundings and where things were happening during the furious gunfights. As Taiko’s men fail to take down Everly, the assassins he sends get more colorful…with characters called “The Masochist” and “The Sadist”…and he even places a bounty on her head so she is also attacked by bevy of her fellow prostitutes. It all adds up to a lot of bloody…and this flick gets bloody…fun as Hayek blasts, slashes and blows away her opponents with anything she can get her hands on. In this case, the good parts go far in making up for any flaws or familiarities the film may have. It’s an over-the-top comic book-style action flick and despite a few slow spots, it succeeds in what it sets out to do.
Two words…Salma Hayek. The actress is an absolute stick of dynamite here and her kick-ass performance goes a long way in making this action flick really take off. Aside from being a resourceful, gutsy, bad-guy smashing heroine, she still looks great and at almost 50, has a body that shames girls half her age. She is an ass-kicking machine here, but never loses her humanity or makes us forget she’s just a woman who is trying to protect those she loves, even if it means taking on the world and possibly losing her own life. In support, Laura Cepeda plays a good strong Latino mom as Everly’s mother Edith. Aisha Ayamah is adorable as her little girl Maisey. Masashi Fujimoto and Togo Igawa are effectively disturbing as Masochist and Sadist respectively and Watanabe is serviceable as Taiko, though he could have used a bit more presence/menace considering how ominously he’s spoken of.
This flick is recommended for those that like the Tarantino style of over-the-top action and eccentric characters and goings-on. The pacing was a bit uneven and the film’s momentum sometimes gets slowed down considerably by some of the dialog sequences, but does provide plenty of furious action. The film is a real blast when that action comes and there is an absolutely volcanic performance by leading lady Salam Hayek who can stand her ground with any action star today. Flawed, but still lots of fun.
John Wick is just simply a good, solid, popcorn action flick with no other intentions than to blow away bad guys and entertain…and it does that just fine. Keanu Reeves is really good as former assassin and man-of-few-words, John Wick. He retired as one of the most lethal killers in the business and after the death of his wife (Bridget Moynahan), has resigned himself to a life of solitude. When a Russian mobster’s arrogant idiot of a son (Alfie Allen) makes the mistake of invading Wick’s home, stealing his Mustang muscle car and killing the puppy that was a final gift from his wife, Wick is back in business and the body count piles up quickly and bloodily.
The action is solid and there is some stylish direction by Chad Stahelski from Derek Kolstad’s script. There are some really well-choreographed shoot-outs and fights and the film does what it sets out to do, nothing more. Sure, there are flaws. The whole John Wick problem would have been solved if one of these gangsters actually took a shot at Wick, instead of rushing in close enough for him to get a hold of their guns, but who cares? Reeves kicks ass and it’s fun to watch him do it. An entertaining and stylish action flick. Also stars, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Willem Dafoe as a fellow assassin/friend of Wick’s and sexy Adrianne Palicki as a female contract killer looking to collect the $2 Million bounty Russian mobster, Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyquist) puts on Wick’s head. Fun and action-packed!
SINBAD: THE FIFTH VOYAGE (2014)
I’m a big fan of the Ray Harryhausen Sinbad films of yesteryear and so was looking forward to this homage from producer/director/co-writer and star, Shahin Sean Solimon. Despite being a one-man production company and having numerous stop-motion animated critters, Solimon’s 90-minute fantasy is a mess of poor SPFX, bad writing, lame directing and awful editing. The barely cohesive story has Sinbad’s beloved Princess Parisa (Danielle Duvale) kidnaped for some sinister purpose by the evil sorcerer, The Deev (Said Faraj). Sinbad and crew set out to find her and after some pointless adventures that barely follow a structured storyline, and equally pointless flashbacks, a plot convenience leads Sinbad to his love for a final showdown with the sinister magician.
There is very little purpose to anything that goes on here. The story creeps along at a dreadfully slow pace and the stop-motion critters are there just because past films have included them, and none really support the story by appearing. The FX are awful, with the meager creature animation being barely adequate and the sets and acting are as bad as the over-used CGI. Despite good intentions, this is a tedious mess with only a few brief moments that actually amuse. I liked that Solimon resorted to old-fashioned stop-motion to keep tradition, but next time build an actual film around it. How Patrick Stewart got involved to narrate is anybody’s guess.
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After watching Expendables 2and seeing Chuck Norris appear in his extended cameo as “Booker”, I decided to go back and revisit one of his early films, the one from which his Expendables 2character’s name pays homage to…or is he playing the same character decades later?
Good Guys Wear Black may not be Chuck Norris’ first action flick, or his best, but it is the first one I saw (at the now gone Park Lane theater in Palisades Park, N.J.) and it not only started his career as an action movie star, but made me a fan as well. Sure his flicks are low budget and cheesy, for the most part, but as you probably know, if you visit here frequently, that is right up my alley.
The story starts out in 1973 and has a senator (James Franciscus) using the fate of a special CIA black ops team called The Black Tigers as a bargaining chip to appease the Vietnamese during war negotiations to get back US soldiers held as prisoners of war. The deal is simple, the senator arranges for the assassination of the Black Tigers by setting them up on a phony mission and the Vietnamese will agree to release the POWs. But Major John T Booker (Chuck Norris) and some of his men survive the ambush and make their way home. Five years later the surviving members start to turn up dead and Booker must not only must fight to survive, but find out, with the help of a sexy reporter (Anne Archer), who is killing his former team and why.
As directed by Ted Post (Magnum Force), from a story by Joseph Fraley and a script by Bruce Cohn and Mark Medoff, Good Guys Wear Black is a moderately paced movie that is far more thriller than it is action flick. Sure there are scenes that make good use of star Norris’ martial arts skills, but those scenes are few and far between as the film is far more interested in being political thriller which, in turn, forces the karate champ to be more of an actor than an action star at too early a point in his career. The action we do get is routinely staged and being a low budget film, is modest in scale. I can appreciate not wanting to stick Norris in a routine martial arts flick, but putting him in a Three Days Of The Condor type political thriller wasn’t the way to go either. Norris didn’t have the chops and is rather wooden. It doesn’t help that Post doesn’t seem to be able to drum up any real suspense or really draw us into Booker’s story either. Despite being filmed widescreen, the film is shot rather like a TV movie by DOP Robert Steadman and has a fairly unremarkable jazz infused score by Craig Safan whose gone on to do some decent scores.
The cast are all fairly unremarkable with veteran Franciscus being very by-the-numbers in his few scenes and only Anne Archer, giving her side-kick role a little sex appeal, seems to be trying. Norris is likable but wooden as stated and since there is nothing special about the choreography of the action scenes, he really doesn’t get to show us much there either. The film was a big hit anyway, so it gave Norris the opportunity to be in flicks that far better displayed his martial arts skills, such as in The Octagon two years later.
Overall, the flick has some personal nostalgia for me as it was the first Norris flick I saw…and in a theater. Otherwise it’s fairly unremarkable except for being the film that got Norris started as a headlining action star, after initial notice from his legendary on-screen fight to the death with Bruce Lee at the end of Return Of The Dragon (Way Of The Dragon). Norris is now considered an action film icon and I have enjoyed many of his movies, cheesy or not.
So I give this flick a little more credit than it really deserves for being my first Norris flick and the movie that got him started on his way to being an 80s action movie icon. Worth a look if you are curious, but really nothing to recommend other than for the reasons previously stated. Flick also features Chuck’s younger brother Aaron in a small role as one of the Black Tigers. Aaron would go on to direct a number of his older brother’s films a decade later and is an accomplished martial artist as well.