REVIEW: AQUAMAN (2018)

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AQUAMAN (2018)

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DC comics flick is a mixed bag finding our aquatic hero (Jason Momoa) coming up against his half-brother King Orm of Atlantis (Patrick Wilson). The power and conquest hungry Orm wants to take control of all the undersea kingdoms and then use their combined might to lay waste to the surface world. Princess Mera (Amber Heard) of the undersea kingdom of Xebel defies her father (Dolph Lundgren) to warn Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman and inform him that if he retrieves the Trident of Atlan, he will have the power to stop Orm and take his rightful place as king. Standing in his way is a modern day pirate with Atlantean tech and a personal grudge against Aquaman, The Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II).

Superhero flick is directed by James Wan (Insidious, The Conjuring) from a screenplay by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall, based on a story by Wan, Beall and Geoff Johns. The flick is a bit of a mess, that bites off more than it can chew, though it can be a fun mess at times. The negative points are a thin story that gets poor development as the film steamrolls ahead from one set-piece to another. From the flashback meeting of Arthur’s mother Queen Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) and his lighthouse keeper father,Thomas (Temuera Morrison), to Arthur’s first meeting/fight with Orm, to a massive undersea battle, a lot goes on in this flick. Somewhere in between all this, the film stops and goes on a Tomb Raider style quest for the trident…wasn’t that the plot of the latest Pirates of the Caribbean flick?…and then finally back to Aquaman vs Orm, the rematch. It gives the film a choppy feeling for the first hour, or so, before it settles down a bit in the last act. None of the characters get proper development, especially Black Manta, whose sub-plot could have been eliminated completely with no harm done. At least we already met Arthur in Justice League…and, by the way, where were his League pals as this was a global destruction situation. The good points are that some of the action set pieces are quite fun and Wan has a great visual eye, so the film looks sumptuous and spectacular. The undersea kingdoms are amazing, there is a stunning Star Wars-esque underwater battle at it’s climax and the film has a lot of cool creatures. The cast all get the material and play their roles with the right tone and if the story was more involving, this might have been a bit more memorable, which sadly it’s not. A good time was had overall, though it didn’t resonate once the theater lights came up.

Back to the cast, Wan has assembled a top notch one. Momoa has locked it in as Aquaman and the character has never been cooler. His bad-ass surfer boy take works very well as a modern incarnation of the DC hero and Momoa has the charm and sense of humor to overcome the thin script. Amber Heard is beautiful and resourceful as Mera. She is a strong character and is not played as a damsel and Heard makes a solid heroine out of her. Patrick Wilson is a pleasant surprise as the vengeful King Orm. Wilson is usually cast in the straight-laced good guy role and here he chews up the seaweed and scenery with just enough restraint to keep Orm from flipping over into camp. He’s a better villain than Justice’s Steppenwolf and Wonder Woman’s Ares. Rounding out the supporting cast is Nicole Kidman as a noble Queen Atlanna, Willem Dafoe as Vulko, Dolph Lundgren as King Nereus, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as David Kane/Black Manta and Temuera Morrison as Arthur’s dad. All do good work in their roles and help keep this bloated flick from sinking.

So, Aquaman is a bit of a mess and DC still has a way to go to catch up to Marvel and set it’s cinematic universe right. The story here is thin and underdeveloped due to filmmakers being too overeager to do too many things in one film. There’s globe hopping adventure, epic undersea battles, a quest for a mystical object and a superhero battling to save the world and find his destiny. All we needed was a musical number. It has a solid cast, who get the material and a director who knows theatricality and how to make it look gorgeous. In lesser hands this might of been an awful mess, but Wan makes it an entertaining one. Overall, it’s a step back from Wonder Woman, but two steps ahead over the disappointing Justice League and the bloated Batman v Superman.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 tridents.

 

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: WELCOME TO WILLITS (2016)

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WELCOME TO WILLITS (2016)

Ho-hum flick has pot farmer, Brock (Bill Sage) in the backwoods town of Willits, seeing aliens and conspiracy at every turn. When a group of campers invade his turf and some actual aliens drop by, too. Brock doesn’t know who to trust and his paranoia puts everyone in danger, alien and human alike.

Boring flick is directed by Trevor Ryan from a script by Tim Ryan and the flick doesn’t know whether it wants to be funny or serious and is successful at neither. It a dull thriller about a paranoid burn-out who sees aliens and conspiracy everywhere, even with his own girlfriend (Sabina Gadecki) and niece (Anastasia Baranova), not to mention some innocent campers. The flick has some decent effects, but there are long dialogue stretches that aren’t interesting or entertaining, as the film switches focus from paranoid Brock to the fish-out-of-water campers who eventually cross his path. Those looking for the credited Dolph Lundgren will be greatly disappointed, as he appears only as a cop on a TV show that Brock is watching during the course of the film…and false Dolph Lundgren advertising is definitely going to loose this flick even more points with this reviewer.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: DON’T KILL IT and DARK FOREST

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DON’T KILL IT (2016)

Horror/comedy follows the exploits of demon hunter Jebediah Woodley (Dolph Lundgren) as he hunts a nasty body hopping demon in a small town. The demon’s murderous activities attracts the attention of the FBI and now Woodley is forced to team with sexy FBI agent Evelyn Pierce (Kristina Klebe from RZ’s Halloween and Tales Of Halloween) to hunt it down…if he can convince her it really exists and he’s not crazy.

Goofy, fun and delightfully over-the-top gory, flick is directed in Sharknado style by Mike Mendez from a script by Dan Berk and Robert Olsen. Sure it’s silly and never scary for a minute, but the cast seem to be having a good time and Mendez brings his energetic and humor filled style to the proceedings such as he did with Gravedancers and Big Ass Spider. Mendez can take the most ridiculous of premises and just run with it and this flick is no different. Lundgren plays it straight, as does Klebe who proves once again she can pull double duty as leading lady and action hero. Goofy, harmless and blood-spattered fun.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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DARK FOREST (2015)

Slasher homage finds four gal pals, Emily (Laurel McArthur), Michelle (Veronica Ternopolski), Francine (Jalin Desloges) and Jolene (Weronika Sokalska) all heading into the woods for a girls camping trip. Unknown to them, they are being followed by Peter (Dennis Scullard), Emily’s psychotic boyfriend who wants revenge for being defied and embarrassed by the four party girls. As our unsuspecting hotties enjoy their trip, Peter cuts a bloody path of pursuit into the woods leaving a trail of bodies behind him.

Flick written and directed in 80s slasher style by Roger Boyer may be a bit amateurish at times, but has it’s bloody heart in the right place. Boyer may not conjure any real scares, but the film does have a strong 80s slasher vibe, including 80s style soundtrack and gives us some abundant gore and an equally abundant cast of hotties, much like the horrors of that era did. Our four leading ladies are actually quite fine in their roles and are very likable characters to root/fear for while Scullard does make a creepy killer. Boyer’s slasher may be short on story, but at 75 minutes, the flick is kept short and sweet and doesn’t wear out it’s welcome. Sure there are some editing weaknesses and the film looks very low budget, but these are things a filmmaker can overcome with experience and low budget horror is where the heart and soul of the genre resides anyway. A nice effort that pays respectful tribute to it’s influences.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: SKIN TRADE, BIG GAME and GRUDGE MATCH

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SKIN TRADE (2014)

Routine action adventure pairs action icon Dolph Lundgren (who also produced and co-wrote) with Thailand action sensation Tony Jaa. Lundgren is Newark, N.J. cop Nick Cassidy who teams with Thailand cop Tony Vitayaku (Jaa) to take down crime lord and human trafficker Viktor Dragovic (Ron Perlman). There is nothing we haven’t seen before in this fast paced and sometimes ludicrous action flick, directed by Thailand director Ekachai Uekrongtham, but, there is a B-Movie entertainment to be had and it’s fun to see Lundgren pair with someone who speaks English far worse than he does. There is also fun in seeing Lundgren and Jaa together and against Ron Perlman, no less. The action itself is routine for the most part, as is the plot, but go in expecting that and it can provide some fun and unintentional chuckles. Also stars Michael Jai White and Peter Weller.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BIG GAME (2014)

Offbeat Finnish action adventure is based on a comic book and tells of young teen Oskari (Onni Tommila) who is sent into the woods, with bow and arrow, as part of a coming of age hunting trip to prove himself a man. At the same time a terrorist (Mehmet Kurtuluş) and a traitorous Secret Service agent (Ray Stevenson) take down Air Force One over those same woods and are on the hunt for the escaped President Of The U.S. (Samuel L. Jackson). Obviosuly, he is found by Oskari first, who vows to prove his manhood by delivering the President to safety, despite being outnumbered and outgunned by his pursuers. Directed by Jalmari Helander and co-written by he and Petri Jokiranta, this is actually a fun little movie despite being preposterous and silly. Jackson and young Onni Tommila get along well and are a fun team. It’s not to be taken too seriously and doesn’t holdup to today’s Hollywood blockbusters, but it has it’s heart in the right place and can be lighthearted, if not forgettable, fun.

3 star rating

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GRUDGE MATCH (2014)

On paper, making a movie about Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone playing two over-the-hill boxing rivals who get together for one more tie-breaking fight, must have sounded like a great idea…and it could have been. But the film takes itself far too seriously, instead of just having a good time with the silly premise and just going with it. Director Peter Segal (who’s made a career out of mediocre and mundane comedies) directs with a leaden hand from the script by Tim Kelleher and Rodney Rothman, a script which makes the mistake of downplaying the humor and tries to make a fairly serious flick out of this nonsense. De Niro and Stallone do the best they can with the weak soap opera-level material, but neither really acts like they are completely onboard with this. It’s a shame, the premise could have been a lot of fun with writers and a director who recognized it’s real potential. Also stars Kevin Hart as the son of a Don King-like fight promoter and Kim Basinger as the girl who got between the two boxers back in the day. Snooze Match is more like it.

2 star rating

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-MonsterZero NJ
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MONSTERZERO NJ’S THANKSGIVING EVE DOUBLE FEATURE: EXPENDABLES 2 and EXPENDABLES 3

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I know I’ve covered both these movies before but, I got my copy of The Expendables 3 in the mail and decided to make an Expendables night out of it!

 

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THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012)

Expendables 2 is a fun follow-up to the 2010 eighties action throwback hit that isn’t quite as engaging in it’s quieter moments as the previous flick but, thankfully there aren’t too many of those. This installment finds the gang being sent by the mysterious Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) after a downed plane in Eastern Europe to recover the contents of an onboard safe. Along for the ride is Maggie (Yu Nan), a tech specialist and new sniper, Billy (Liam Hemsworth). But, they are intercepted by a gang of armed thugs headed by the cold blooded Villain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and henchman, Hector ( Scott Adkins) who take their quarry and kill one of the team. Now it’s personal, as Barney (Stallone) and Co. seek to track down Villain and put him down… for good. Along for the bullet-ridden ride are old rival Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Mr. Church and legendary ‘Lone Wolf’ mercenary, Booker (Chuck Norris). When the action is flying fast and furious, EX2 is a real blast. It’s great to see Arnold, Van Damme and Norris back on screen doing what they do best. Van Damme in particular seems to be having fun chewing up the Eastern European scenery as the lethal bad guy and he doesn’t get enough screen time, sadly, to really establish the character’s full menace. Aside from an overuse of CGI blood, director Simon West gives us some good, old-fashioned rip-roaring action scenes that fit the retro action icon cast perfectly and some good hand to hand combat as well. Although some of those, especially Stallone v.s. Van Damme, could have gone on a bit longer to give them more dramatic impact. And drama is where West stumbles. The scenes between the action, which should be engaging and strong to keep us involved until the bullets fly again, are rather ho-hum. The dramatic scenes, though few, needed some more energy, more “pop”. The camaraderie between the team members that Stallone captured so well in part 1 is weak here and because of that, we are less forgiving of the cheesy dialog and the characters are less engaging as well. Perfect example is Lundgren’s Gunner, who practically stole the flick first time around. He’s nowhere near as fun as in EX1 and the fun Statham/ Stallone relationship is also weaker. The in-between scenes also had a quicker pace under Stallone’s direction last time and thus we were able to overlook the plot holes easier. But, this is an action film and there is plenty of that and who is in action is why we sat in our seat and on that level, Expendables 2 delivers on what we came to see. I am all for Expendables 3 but, find a director that can put some energy in the drama, give the team their team spirit back and a writer who can give them some livelier banter… as well as deliver the carnage.

3 bullets!

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THE EXPENDABLES 3 (2014)

Having grown up in the 80s, I obviously have an appreciation and love for the styles of  movies that came out then. And the 80s action flick is no different. So,no surprise, I am a fan of this series which takes a lot of those 80s action icons and let’s them suit up and shoot it out once more. And maybe I am biased but, I had an absolute blast with the latest installment.

The newest adventure finds Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and crew (Statham, Crews, Lundgren, Couture) rescuing an old Expendable member referred to as Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes) from a moving train incarceration and taking him on a mission in Somalia. There, not only does Barney find former Expendables co-founder turned arch-enemy Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) still alive… after Barney himself thought he killed him… but, one of his team is critically wounded. CIA operative Drummer (Harrison Ford) is not happy with the team’s failure and demands they try again. But, Barney realizes his team has been doing this a long time and the next mission may be their last so, he releases his longtime friends to gather a newer, younger team including the headstrong Smilee (Kellan Lutz) and the sexy and quite lethal Luna (Ronda Rousey). But, Conrad Stonebanks is one step ahead of them again and when he takes Barney’s rookies hostage, Barney realizes his mistake and the old team reunites to go into battle once more… maybe for the last time as Stonebanks has an army and is waiting.

I really enjoy these flicks and am certainly cutting them some slack due to the wonderful nostalgia of seeing these icons back in action and this time joined by veterans Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas… who practically stole the movie… and even a cameo by Robert Davi. But, to be honest, aside from some cheesy dialog, some sub-par CGI shots and a few wooden performances, the movie is a lot of fun especially in it’s roller coaster ride of a last act. Stallone’s script with Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt conveys a theme of adding new blood and this carried over to Sly’s choice of Australian director Patrick Hughes (Red Hill) to helm. Hughes directs well and and really brings it during the action scenes such as the exciting opening train assault and the final showdown, which was one of the most exciting extended action scenes I’ve seen since in a while. Hughes gives the film far more dramatic weight then Simon West’s somewhat weaker Expendables 2 but, doesn’t take his material too seriously as to not have a good time with it. The film is never boring at over 2 hrs and while the pace is fairly moderate, it makes the action all the more thrilling when Hughes and his cast crank it up to 11 for the carnage. For those worried about the lesser PG-13 rating, this might have the largest body count yet, so, it’s not a concern. Again, you have to go in knowing this is an old school style action flick and corny dialog and implausibility is to be expected. Sure I didn’t quite buy that Barney would cast away his old team so easily but, you know that’s not going to last and it doesn’t. Along the way there are some corny messages about ‘family’ but, it’s all part of the formula and for me, it works. It’s popcorn action, with a popcorn plot and Stallone and his team delivered the old school smack down once again, in my opinion. Brian Tyler also delivers another exciting score to accent the action and the film is shot well by Peter Menzies Jr.

There is quite a big cast so I will start by saying that Stallone and Expendables regulars Statham, Crews, Lundgren, Couture, Li and Schwarzenegger all give us what we expect from them and seem to be having a really fun time especially, Arnold who hams it up a little more then usual. As for newcomers… Snipes hasn’t lost a beat and it’s great to see him back in action on the big screen. Gibson is simply a great villain and really chews up the scenery in grand style. Antonio Banderas is hilarious and practically steals the show as the screwball Galgo and his scene laying the Latin charm on Ronda Rousey mid-battle was a showstopper. As for Rousey her line delivery is a bit wooden but, it’s her first flick and when she is in action, the girl is poetry in lethal motion. Harrison Ford also seems to really be enjoying himself too and he and Sly seem to actually have a nice camaraderie together. Too bad it took this long to appear in a flick together. Kelsey Grammar gets some nice laughs as Barney’s grizzled recruiter Bonaparte and the also work well together. And rounding out Kellan Lutz, Victor Ortiz and Glen Powell are fine in their parts with Lutz’s Smilee possibly being groomed to take a larger role in future installments. And if there is an Expendables 4… I’m in.

Overall, I really enjoyed this flick. It is definitely better then Expendables 2 and comes close to being an equal to part 1It did take a little time to tell it’s story but, there is no shortage of action and when it comes, it’s fast and furious, especially the all out war of a last act. There were some really enjoyable appearances by action icons absent too long from the screen and the new additions seem like they make a good fit if this series continues. The audience I was with wasn’t full but, cheered louder then any audience I have heard in some time. Everyone seemed to have had a blast with this second sequel and I am definitely one of them. A really fun, action-packed popcorn flick that proves Sly and company still got it. It isn’t Shakespeare… it’s The Expendables!

3 and 1/2 bullets.

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: I COME IN PEACE and STONE COLD

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This week’s double feature pairs together two very underrated B action flicks from director and ex-stuntman Craig R. Baxley. We have the sci-fi themed Dolph Lundgren flick I Come In Peace and ex- Seattle Seahawk Brian Bosworth making his action flick debut as an undercover cop in Stone Cold. Baxley is a sadly underrated and overlooked action director and it’s a shame that his skill behind the camera wasn’t more readily recognized despite the lack of attention his film’s got. These two flicks prove he could deliver some solid B-movie action entertainment… and in these guilty pleasures, he did!

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I COME IN PEACE (1990)

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I Come In Peace (released in foreign territories as Dark Angel) is a really fun 1990 sci-fi/action flick and it fits in quite nicely with other similar themed movies from that era like The Terminator and The Hidden. Maverick cop Jack Caine (Dolph Lundgren) is having a really bad day. While on stakeout to bust drug lord Victor Manning (Day Of The Dead‘s Howard Sherman) he is distracted by a liquor store robbery and it not only costs his undercover partner his life, but allows a third party to come in and steal the heroin that the drug dealers just stole themselves from federal evidence storage. Federal involvement gets Caine a new straight-arrow FBI agent for a partner (Brian Benben) and his investigation has a few too many mysteries for his liking. Worse still, this mysterious thief is using the heroin to kill and as Caine and Agent Smith continue to clash, the evidence starts to point to the possibility that there is something otherworldly going on here. Soon Caine and Smith find that not only are they targeted by Manning’s people, who think Caine has their dope, but they are caught in the middle of a battle between an alien drug dealer (Matthias Hues)…who is here to harvest human endorphins manufactured by injecting folks with the stolen heroin…and an alien cop (Jay Bilas) trying to stop him. Warring aliens, vengeful drug dealers, an uncooperative partner and an angry girlfriend (Betsy Brantley)…is there any way Caine can get out of this alive?

Under the guidance of former stunt coordinator and stuntman Craig R. Baxley, getting the answer to that question is a lot of fun. I Come In Peace is a very fast paced flick with numerous action scenes that are well staged and shot, nothing groundbreaking, but very effective and energetic. The science fiction aspects of the story are kept fairly grounded, so the flick never gets too fantastic as to lose our suspension of disbelief. And one of the reasons we go along with it is that Baxley takes the subject matter just serious enough to not make a joke out of it, but the tone is light enough so we have some fun…and he serves up enough of the action to keep us from thinking about things too much, just in case.

He gets good work out of his cast. This is still one of Lundgren’s best and most relaxed roles. He seems to be having a good time and works well with Brian Benben as they clash and then slowly learn to trust each other and bond. David Ackroyd is appropriately slimy as Smith’s double crossing FBI boss Switzer and Betsy Brantley is cute and feisty as Caine’s coroner girlfriend. As the aliens, Matthius Hues is quite formidable and has a dangerous presence as the drug dealer who seems to say very little but the title phrase and Jay Bilas is equally formidable, yet in his brief dialog scene comes across as an honorable alien lawman.

Both aliens wisely have minimal make-up, so their personalities come through without being buried in prosthetics. The Houston locations give the film a unique look as most flicks like this are set in L.A. or NYC and the FX, stunts and overall production value look good on a modest budget, especially when presenting the carnage caused by the various alien weaponry. And the film is refreshingly CGI free.

I Come In Peace has a cult following and it deserves it. It may not have gotten as much attention as some other similar flicks from the 80s…and while the movie was released in 1990 it is still so 80s with the hair, clothes and Jan Hammers electronic score…but it is a really entertaining, fast moving, action-packed flick that is just a good 90 minutes of escapist entertainment.  Sure it has it’s flaws, but it doesn’t try to be anything more then it is and is very efficient at what it does. Baxley followed this up with the equally entertaining action flick Stone Cold with Brian Bosworth and Lance Henriksen. I Come In Peace would make a nice third feature along with a viewing of The Terminator and The Hidden!

I Come In Peace is available now under it’s Dark Angel title in a beautifully transfered blu-ray from the awesome folks at Scream Factory. A must have if you are a fan of this flick!

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STONE COLD (1991)

Stone Cold is a really fun B action movie that sadly was not appreciated when it first opened but, now seems to have garnered a very well deserved cult following. The film was the action flick debut of ex-football player, the notorious Brian Bosworth and had it been better received, might have led to a more prolific action flick career for the former Seahawk in other B movie epics like it.

The story focuses on maverick Alabama cop Joe Huff (Bosworth) whose loose cannon tactics and current suspension catches the eye of the FBI. They want Joe to go deep undercover in a vicious biker gang named The Brotherhood. The Brotherhood and it’s leader Chains (an awesome Lance Henrikson) are not only expanding their criminal operations, but have targeted District Attorney Brent “The Whip” Whipperton (David Tress) for assassination as he runs for governor of Mississippi and has his own sights set on taking the gang down. Huff becomes outlaw biker John Stone and infiltrates the gang with the hopes of bringing them to justice and halting their murderous plans, but the suspicions of Chains’ sergeant-at-arms Ice (William Forsythe) and getting too close to his ‘old lady’ Nancy (Arabella Holzbog) could jeopardize Huff’s mission and make John Stone the gang’s next target.

Stone Cold is written by Walter Doniger and directed by former stuntman Craig R. Baxley, who also directed the cult classic I Come In Peace with Dolph Lundgren. Baxley gives the film a fast pace and delivers some really energetic action scenes, just like he did with I Come In Peaceand the film is populated with some fairly colorful characters. The plot is certainly no worse then anything starring Norris, Seagal or Van Damme at this point in time and the film delightfully still has that 80s action movie feel which hasn’t been shed yet at this stage of the early 90s. The flick is really a fun time and maybe at this point, people were just tired of action fantasies with larger than life, over the top heroes or perhaps people had had enough of Bosworth after his over-hyped and incredibly disappointing and brief NFL career, so it bombed. Who knows? Over twenty years later the film can be viewed with lots of nostalgia and is a real blast and I personally have always enjoyed it for the over the top action fun it is. Baxley also continued his style of using untraditional locations. While most flicks tend to use LA or NYC as settings for flicks like this, Baxley gives us some refreshingly different Mississippi set action that gives the film a more unique look. There’s some crisp and well framed shots courtesy of cinematographer Alexander Gruszynski and a cool action score by Sylvester Levay who also scored Stallone’s similar Cobra. As far as this type of action flick goes, Baxley delivers the goods and with a few brews, this movie rocks!

The director also gets good work from his cast. As for Bosworth, sure his bleached blonde mullet is ridiculous and he is a little too much of a clean-cut pretty boy to be believable as an outlaw biker, but he’s actually fine in the role of Huff/Stone and is no more wooden then Norris or Seagal in their earlier features. He received a Razzie for his performance, but as these flicks go, I think he would have been a suitable B level action hero had this film been more successful and he got more work. The real star, in my opinion, in this flick is Lance Henrikson, who is at his serpentine best as bad guy, Chains…a brutal, psychotic yet charismatic leader that would fit right in on Sons Of Anarchy. It’s one of my favorite Lance Henrikson characters, a Hell’s Angels style Jim Jones and Lance is having a blast with it. William Forsythe is right behind him as his brutal enforcer, Ice. Forsythe exudes menace and it’s disappointing his character didn’t have a more epic showdown with Bosworth’s undercover cop. Holzbog is not only pretty, but gives Nancy a bit of a heart and soul under the seasoned biker momma exterior. She conveys a quiet strength and is another character that is underused in the film. Rounding out is Sam McMurray as Huff/Stone’s nerdy FBI partner and Rocky V’s Richard Gant as the FBI head who recruits Huff and you have a B movie action flick that is filled with some good character actors giving weight to some cliche’ characters.

Well, what can I say…this is among my favorite B-Movie action guilty pleasures. Sure it has faults, but it makes up for the plot holes, lapses in logic and sheer implausibilities by being a blast of a good time. We get an overstuffed hero going up against some fiendishly cartoonish biker villains and surrounded by constant and well orchestrated action sequences. I also liked the less tradition settings and Lance Henrikson gives one of his all time best villains. Another film finally getting the love and respect it deserves after initially being all but ignored.

3 and 1/2 bullets.

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After watching the trailer for Stone Cold, it’s no wonder it didn’t find an audience. Whose idea was this?

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REVIEW: THE EXPENDABLES III (2014)

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THE EXPENDABLES III (2014)

Having grown up in the 80s, I obviously have an appreciation and love for the styles of  movies that came out then. And the 80s action flick is no different. So,no surprise, I am a fan of this series which takes a lot of those 80s action icons and let’s them suit up and shoot it out once more. And maybe I am biased but, I had an absolute blast with the latest installment.

The newest adventure finds Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and crew (Statham, Crews, Lundgren, Couture) rescuing an old Expendable member referred to as Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes) from a moving train incarceration and taking him on a mission in Somalia. There, not only does Barney find former Expendables co-founder turned arch-enemy Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) still alive… after Barney himself thought he killed him… but, one of his team is critically wounded. CIA operative Drummer (Harrison Ford) is not happy with the team’s failure and demands they try again. But, Barney realizes his team has been doing this a long time and the next mission may be their last so, he releases his longtime friends to gather a newer, younger team including the headstrong Smilee (Kellan Lutz) and the sexy and quite lethal Luna (Ronda Rousey). But, Conrad Stonebanks is one step ahead of them again and when he takes Barney’s rookies hostage, Barney realizes his mistake and the old team reunites to go into battle once more… maybe for the last time as Stonebanks has an army and is waiting.

I really enjoy these flicks and am certainly cutting them some slack due to the wonderful nostalgia of seeing these icons back in action and this time joined by veterans Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas… who practically stole the movie… and even a cameo by Robert Davi. But, to be honest, aside from some cheesy dialog, some sub-par CGI shots and a few wooden performances, the movie is a lot of fun especially in it’s roller coaster ride of a last act. Stallone’s script with Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt conveys a theme of adding new blood and this carried over to Sly’s choice of Australian director Patrick Hughes (Red Hill) to helm. Hughes directs well and and really brings it during the action scenes such as the exciting opening train assault and the final showdown, which was one of the most exciting extended action scenes I’ve seen since in a while. Hughes gives the film far more dramatic weight then Simon West’s somewhat weaker Expendables 2 but, doesn’t take his material too seriously as to not have a good time with it. The film is never boring at over 2 hrs and while the pace is fairly moderate, it makes the action all the more thrilling when Hughes and his cast crank it up to 11 for the carnage. For those worried about the lesser PG-13 rating, this might have the largest body count yet, so, it’s not a concern. Again, you have to go in knowing this is an old school style action flick and corny dialog and implausibility is to be expected. Sure I didn’t quite buy that Barney would cast away his old team so easily but, you know that’s not going to last and it doesn’t. Along the way there are some corny messages about ‘family’ but, it’s all part of the formula and for me, it works. It’s popcorn action, with a popcorn plot and Stallone and his team delivered the old school smack down once again, in my opinion. Brian Tyler also delivers another exciting score to accent the action and the film is shot well by Peter Menzies Jr.

There is quite a big cast so I will start by saying that Stallone and Expendables regulars Statham, Crews, Lundgren, Couture, Li and Schwarzenegger all give us what we expect from them and seem to be having a really fun time especially, Arnold who hams it up a little more then usual. As for newcomers… Snipes hasn’t lost a beat and it’s great to see him back in action on the big screen. Gibson is simply a great villain and really chews up the scenery in grand style. Antonio Banderas is hilarious and practically steals the show as the screwball Galgo and his scene laying the Latin charm on Ronda Rousey mid-battle was a showstopper. As for Rousey her line delivery is a bit wooden but, it’s her first flick and when she is in action, the girl is poetry in lethal motion. Harrison Ford also seems to really be enjoying himself too and he and Sly seem to actually have a nice camaraderie together. Too bad it took this long to appear in a flick together. Kelsey Grammar gets some nice laughs as Barney’s grizzled recruiter Bonaparte and the also work well together. And rounding out Kellan Lutz, Victor Ortiz and Glen Powell are fine in their parts with Lutz’s Smilee possibly being groomed to take a larger role in future installments. And if there is an Expendables 4… I’m in.

Overall, I really enjoyed this flick. It is definitely better then Expendables 2 and comes close to being an equal to part 1. It did take a little time to tell it’s story but, there is no shortage of action and when it comes, it’s fast and furious, especially the all out war of a last act. There were some really enjoyable appearances by action icons absent too long from the screen and the new additions seem like they make a good fit if this series continues. The audience I was with wasn’t full but, cheered louder then any audience I have heard in some time. Everyone seemed to have had a blast with this second sequel and I am definitely one of them. A really fun, action-packed popcorn flick that proves Sly and company still got it. It isn’t Shakespeare… it’s The Expendables!

3 and 1/2 bullets.

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIES: BRIANA EVIGAN

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BRIANA EVIGAN

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This Halloween Hottie is an actress, singer and dancer as well as a heartbreaker!

This newest installment of Halloween Hotties features an unsung Scream Queen who isn’t immediately recognized for her horror genre work but, has certainly done enough for her to more than qualify… the lovely and multi-talented Briana Evigan! More renown for her appearances in the dance-fueled Step Up flicks, Ms. Evigan is the daughter of actor Greg Evigan and seems to be following in her famous father’s footsteps having already put together quite a prolific resume’ of film, music video and TV work. But, it is her forays into the horror genre that we are focusing on here and Briana has graced quite a few fright fests with her charms, talents and that sexy voice. And this is one feisty final girl we’d like to see return to the genre as soon as possible!

(Click on the highlighted links or on the movie posters to read a review of her horror film’s that I’ve covered here previously. )

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Briana had her first acting role alongside her hard working dad in the 1996 film Spectre aka House Of The Damned, at the young age of 10. This horror had a family moving into an ancestral estate not only to find it haunted but, with a dark past as well. Briana played the couple’s young daughter Aubrey.

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Much like Scream Queen legend Danielle Harris… A precocious 10 year-old, Briana begins her acting career in a horror flick!

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Years later in 2008, a full grown Briana would return to the horror genre in an episode of the TV horror series Fear Itself. Directed by Saw’s Darren Lynn Bousman, the episode, entitled New Years Day, told the spooky tale of Helen (Evigan) a young woman who wakes up on New Years Day with not only a hangover but, in the middle of a full blown zombie outbreak in progress. What a way to start the year!

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As Helen, a woman who has far more to worry about than a hangover.

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Briana followed up her first Step Up movie appearance with the 2009 horror sequel S. Darko. The film was a misguided attempt at sequelizing the cult classic, one-of-a-kind Donnie Darko, not a great flick but, at least Evigan got to shine in the important role of best friend to Samantha Darko, Corey… and as usual, the actress outshines the material.

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As best friend Corey to Daveigh Chase’s Samantha Darko in S. Darko.

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That same year Evigan got the lead part in the slasher remake Sorority Row which cast her as one member of a high profile sorority that is forced to keep a terrible secret when a prank goes awry. As with the 1983 film House On Sorority Row, which this film is a redo of, that secret will come back to haunt them in the form of a vicious and vengeful killer. Briana’s Cassidy proves to be one resourceful and feisty final girl, as well as, one of the more morally sound members of the group!

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Cassidy takes charge when a killer targets her sorority sisters.

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Cassidy is one sorority sister who isn’t going down without a fight!

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In 2010, Briana Evigan really got to show us her stuff when she played Kelly in Burning Bright. The story has a greedy stepfather locking Kelly and her autistic brother in a house with a hungry tiger in an effort to collect money on the insurance policies he took out on his stepchildren’s lives. Briana strongly carries the film on her petite shoulders and really impressed us as the resourceful yet, caring young woman who takes on the massive jungle predator to save herself and her little brother. A really underrated thriller which showed that Evigan is leading lady material and then some!
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Trapped in a house with a fierce, hungry predator…

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…but, who is hunting who?

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Also in 2010, Evigan re-teamed with director Bousman for his loose remake of the 1980 cult classic Mother’s Day (review of the original). Briana’a Annette becomes trapped with friends when a psychotic woman, and her equally crazed offspring, invade what is now their former home and make hostages of the current occupants during a party. A horrifying night of torment and violence ensues. Evigan also co-wrote and sang the end credits tune ‘Better Than Yesterday’. Talented young woman!

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Sexy party girl Annette.

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Annette ‘quietly’ ponders her nightmarish situation.

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In 2011 Briana found herself in peril again as the hostage of a psychotic Native American-obsessed nut in the oddball horror/thriller Rites Of Passage. Her role is not a big one but, her feisty attempt to escape her crazed captor is the best sequence in this sadly convoluted flick. No surprise there, that she’s a scene stealer too!

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Poor party girl Penelope catches a ride with the wrong guy!

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Making a daring escape that is clearly the most exciting scene in this otherwise forgettable flick.

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and finally… for now… Briana teamed with Darren Lynn Bousman once again in his twisted vaudevillian short film, The Devil’s Carnival. Here the talented vixen got to play dual roles and sing for us, as both Ms. Merrywood… a young woman whose embrace of the term ‘diamonds are a girl’s best friend’ lands her in this hellish side show… and a devilish mirror of herself when ‘The Twin’ teases Merrywood in her own image. Her ‘Beautiful Stranger’ is the best musical number in the flick.
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As the greedy Ms. Merrywood…

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…and The Twin mocking the doomed woman in her own guise.

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Briana Evigan as her beautiful, playful (it’s so HOT when a pretty girl makes funny faces, isn’t it!) and multi-talented self who we can’t wait to see more of, whether it be in horror, or dancing her heart out in her latest, Step Up All In. She’s filming Devil’s Carnival 2 right now, so, it won’t be long before she’s enchanting us once more in our favorite genre!

PERSONAL NOTE: With some recent talk of the X-Files possibly being revived for TV, I personally think Briana Evigan would be a perfect addition to the cast as a new young agent recruited for the team. I think her buoyant personality and quiet strength would make a good fit and she can play tough as we’ve seen her take on Dolph Lundgren (Stash House) and a Bengal tiger, too. It’s a fanboy dream but, love to see it happen. Hey, as long as we get to see this charming young actress again, soon!

And don’t forget to check out our Halloween Hotties focusing on Melanie PapaliaKatrina BowdenAlexandra DaddarioKatie FeatherstonKatharine IsabelleAmber Heard and Danielle Harris! (just click on their names to go to their pages!)

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BARE BONES: BATTLE OF THE DAMNED

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BATTLE OF THE DAMNED (2013)

Dolph Lundgren battles legions of plague infected zombies in this entertaining guilty pleasure written and directed by Christopher Hatton. Near future tale is set in Southeast Asia where bioengineering has accidentally created a city of vicious flesh eating zombies now quarantined by the world governments. Mercenary Max Gatling is tasked to go in and find the daughter (Melanie Zanetti) of the man whose company is responsible and get her to saftey. Gatling goes in with his team and soon finds himself the last man but, does also find the girl and some survivors. Now they have to find a way out of the quarantined zone and a squad of roaming combat robots… just go with it… might just help Gatling and company get out alive against the legions of the ravenous plague zombies. But, time is running out as a fire bombing is soon to commence to destroy the infected and anyone else in the city. Damned is a fun B-Movie and while it is entertaining, we only wish writer/director Hatton would have really cut loose and had a fun time with his premise. It isn’t nearly as gory as traditional zombie films though, there is plenty of action and bloodshed to keep us occupied. And we only wish a little more Sharknado-like fun was had with a story combining zombies, armed robots and Dolph Lundgren. Sometimes Battle takes itself a little too seriously for it’s own good and with it’s premise, it would have been better served by taking the ball and running with it. Fun… but, not quite as fun as the plot synopsis made us hope.

3 star rating

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