BARE BONES: A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (2013)

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A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (2013)

Decided to take this old review out of mothballs and reprint it here. Was I the only person to have fun with this flick?-MZNJ

A Good Day To Die Hard has a lot of problems. The story is convoluted, the villains are weak and when the action stops there isn’t enough strong drama to keep us interested. Thankfully, the action rarely stops and it is quite amusingly over the top. This entry has John McClane (Bruce Willis) traveling to Moscow to try to see his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney) who has been arrested for murder. But what McClane doesn’t know, is that Jack is a CIA agent and involved in a mission to bust a Russian millionaire (Sebastian Koch), with ties to terrorism, out of jail to get the 411 on his partner…who also has his own plans to bust him out of jail. It’s no secret that McClane gets in the middle of things and once again becomes the fly in the ointment of all this Russian cloak and dagger. The result is the destruction of half of Moscow and what’s left of Chernobyl to boot.

The story by Skip Woods is as much of a mess as it sounds, but I still had a blast watching the father and son duo wreck the former Soviet Union to stop the bad guys. As directed by John Moore, the action scenes are ridiculously over the top and it’s still fun to watch Willis kick butt, even though his one-liners are getting tired and he gives you the impression that so is he of all this nonsense. How many times CAN one man get into so much trouble unintentionally? At least it’s part of James Bond’s job. It’s the stuff between the action that has us looking at our watches, as the dialog is weak and I can’t understand how a guy who is such a kick-ass hero can be hated so much by his kids. If my dad whacked terrorists on a regular basis and constantly blew stuff up, I’d probably think he was pretty cool. The villains never seem threatening enough to make us believe they stand a chance against the McClane family. I still enjoyed seeing them try, only to get their asses handed to them by Willis and Courtney, who could have a future as an action star. If there is a Die Hard 6, I hope they give daughter, Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) a catsuit and a gun to join in the fun. Why not? Go in with moderate expectations and turn off the brain and enjoy the fireworks, because that’s basically what this movie has to offer and on that level it can be a fun matinee, if you just don’t look for another classic like the original installment.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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REVIEW: SUICIDE SQUAD (2016)

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SUICIDE SQUAD (2016)

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DC Comics based flick is an awful and tedious disappointment that makes the flawed Batman v Superman look like a masterpiece in comparison. The mess of a story has a ruthless government official (Viola Davis) planning to put a squad of imprisoned bad guys together as a black ops deterrent to the rising number of meta-humans showing up in the world. This group, including assassin Deadshot (Will Smith), thief Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and the Joker’s (Jared Leto) main squeeze, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), is coerced into action via explosive devices injected in their necks a la Escape From New YorkThey get a chance for action when a powerful witch named Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) revives her equally powerful CGI brother and begins to build a weapon to destroy all mankind. The team reluctantly sets out to save the world that hates them and imprisoned them.

The flick’s mess of a script is written by David Ayer (writer and director of the equally bad Sabotage) who also lifelessly directs what might be one of the dullest superhero flicks in recent memory. The movie resembles the Ghostbusters remake at times with it’s swirling energies and omnipotent villains surrounded by pulsating CGI, but at least that flick had some life to it. Despite source material ripe for a good anti-hero flick, in the spirit of the similar but far superior Deadpool, this dull mess is routine and forgettable in every way. From the dialog, to the ho-hum action to the visual design to the cinematography, there is nothing here that stands out save for Margot Robbie’s short shorts which she looks quite fetching in. Ayer doesn’t generate any suspense, energy or even attitude as the film tries way too hard to be hip by flooding the soundtrack with dozens of pop songs and classic tunes. There were about five in the first two or three minutes. It’s obvious and gets annoying after a while. There really is very little to recommend in this flick with the few effective scenes being those involving Affleck’s Batman and they are not long enough to save this overbearing bomb.

As for the cast, they are completely wasted with only Will Smith showing some gusto in his portrayal of the assassin Deadshot and he has some of the best lines…which isn’t saying much. Despite showing potential in the trailers, Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is only moderately amusing and never really has much to do except for some smart ass lines and a couple of so-so fight scenes with the Enchantress’s avocado-like minions. Jai Courtney gets a scant few laughs as the deranged Captain Boomerang, but like everyone else, he just never is given any truly impressive or impacting moments. This even extends to Jared Leto as the Joker and it’s really disappointing he is never really allowed to cut loose. He’s just an eccentric thug, nothing special. He showed potential, but the material is just not there and at the moment, the late Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson have nothing to worry about…come to think about it, neither does Cesar Romero.

IMO this is the biggest dud of the summer and certainly the most disappointing. It had good source material and a solid cast, but was put in the hands of someone who had no idea what to do with it. It’s dull, lifeless and on an action/FX level completely routine. Add to that the story is a jumbled mess and there is very little to recommend here other than simple curiosity, or to witness a cinematic train wreck in motion. Also stars Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Karen Fukuhara as team members El Diablo, Killer Croc and Katana respectively.

-MonsterZero NJ

1 and 1/2 anti-heroines who deserved a much better movie.

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REVIEW: TERMINATOR GENISYS (2015)

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TERMINATOR GENISYS (2015)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

31 years after his first appearance in the role that made him a star, Arnold Schwarzenegger returns once again as the T-800 in this new reboot of The Terminator franchise. We do get a new Sarah Conner (Game Of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke), a new Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) and a new timeline to reset things much like Star Trek did successfully in 2009…but, was it as successful as that redo?

The film opens in the war-torn future where we get yet another representation of the Skynet initiated Judgement Day and then the efforts of John Connor’s (Jason Clarke) rebel forces to take back the world from the machines. We see the discovery of the time displacement device and the sending of Kyle Reese back in time to save John’s mother Sarah from an incoming Terminator. At first the events unfold exactly as they did in James Cameron’s 1984 classic but, then we discover that not only is Sarah armed and ready for the Skynet sent cyborg attack but, the arriving Terminator is met by another Terminator (also Arnold) assigned to protect Sarah since she was a little girl. That and the T-1000 (Lee Byung-hun) that appeared in 1991 is already here in 1984. Reese soon finds out that this is a new timeline created by all this time traveling back and forth and the only way to stop Judgement Day now is to go back to the future…without Michael J. Fox! Still with me???

One of the things that really hurts this new attempt to breath life into this tired franchise is obviously, the convoluted plot that simply uses the alternate timeline excuse to rewrite the series lore but, instead of taking it to interesting new places, like J.J. Abrams’ Star Trekit just seems to be making things up as it goes along to reset deadlines and give our characters an excuse to leave the 80s and back into a contemporary setting. There are some other curves the film throws us, too, that actually should negate the whole plot, but, at this point you give up trying to figure it all out. One of the characters actually points this out and the question is blown off. The writers obviously didn’t have an answer either. And all this time travel mumbo jumbo would be fine if director Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World) and writers Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier gave us characters we cared about, a story with some suspense or intensity and one that went some in new directions that were at least fresher than what has come before. New dates and new faces but, it’s the same old song and dance. Taylor directs this very by-the-numbers and with a very moderate pace for a film in which we are supposed to feel like we are under some kind of pressure to avert the end of mankind. We never feel any real urgency and Clarke and Courtney never endear us as Sarah and Reese, so, we really don’t get emotionally invested in their struggle. On the plus side, the action scenes are fun but, the minute they are over, the film slows down and you go back to that emotional void. Schwarzenegger is a lot of fun as the grumpy old terminator and when he is on-screen the film does pick-up. There is also some wonderful recreations and revisions of scenes from the first movie that are a lot of nostalgic fun, but, once we leave the 80s, it becomes just another ho-hum popcorn action movie. It would have been more fun if they had stayed in the 80s and just had a good time playing with our expectations of what we thought we already knew. That was working. Once we are in 2017, it becomes another generic Sci-Fi action flick with humans against a big bad Artificial Intelligence…which we alread got this Summer in Age Of Ultron…and with less confusion.

Cast-wise, Schwarzenegger is obviously having fun and it shows. He plays The Terminator like a grumpy old tin man and it’s fun to watch. He has some fun lines but, nothing as memorable as those he repeats from past films. Emilia Clarke is physically a good match for Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Conner but, is just very cold in the role. She brings none of the fire and emotion Hamilton gave her Sarah or Clarke’s own Daenerys Targaryen on Game Of Thrones, for that matter. She and Jai Courtney also don’t have nearly the chemistry that Hamilton shared with Michael Biehn. As for Courtney, he is also playing it very by-the-numbers and his Reese seems as confused as we are as to what is going on and doesn’t have the edge of a battle-hardened soldier like Biehn. Jason Clarke has a bit more life as John Connor and his Connor does get to share a lot of screen time due to more time travel nonsense/Skyney hi-jinx. The only other person to liven things up like Arnold, is J.K. Simmons as a cop who witnesses The Terminator in the 80s and then re-enters the picture when our heroes show up in 2017. Too bad the character’s only purpose seems to be some comic relief as he really has no bearing on the plot, other than to give Sarah and Reese a temporary ally when they are arrested. Finally, Lee Byung-hun seems lethal enough as the T-1000 but, doesn’t quite have the relentless intensity of Robert Patrick.

Whether this film is still better than the last two attempts is basically a matter of taste and opinion. In mine it’s better than Salvation but, really not much better than Rise Of The Machines, which I feel is criticized a little too harshly at times. On a positive side it has Arnold having a good time and showing it and some really fun re-creations and re-mixes of classic scenes from the original film. There is some nice action at times but, nothing groundbreaking like in T2. On the downside, the film is directed very by-the-numbers and the script is a borderline mess of time travel hocus pocus used to take things in other but, equally stale directions. The re-cast classic characters have none of the life and intensity that made the originals the beloved characters they are and while the new actors are attractive, they share none of the heat and sexual tension either. Stay after the credits and if you didn’t like this, be prepared to groan in anguish.

-MonsterZero NJ

  2 and 1/2 terminators.

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BARE BONES: DIVERGENT and BAD WORDS

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DIVERGENT (2014)

Another teen-centric sci-fi movie based on a book series. This one by Veronica Roth has a post-war walled city of Chicago where society is separated into 5 groups referred to as ‘factions’ that each serve a purpose to support the city. If you think this is a thinly-veiled metaphor for the high school class structure, it just shows how obvious it all is. Subjects are tested when they come of age to determine which group they are best suited for but, are ultimately allowed to choose their own faction… which kinda negates the point of the test. Enter Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) who is born into the Abnegation (the good kids) faction but, yearns to be in the Dauntless faction (the rebels, cool kids) who protect the city and maintain law. But, her aptitude test brands her a ‘Divergent’… someone capable of being in any of the five groups… and thus she must try to hide her designation, as being whoever you want to be, is frowned upon in this high school… ah-hem, futuristic society. Throw in her efforts to succeed as a Dauntless, falling for her hunky Dauntless trainer ‘Four’ (Theo James) and saving the city from a coup d’etat and we have all the paper thin messages about being who you are, being whatever you want to be, overcoming adversity and first love that any pimpled teen could want. The saving grace is that director Neil Burger (Limitless) moves everything at a brisk pace, takes this teen angst metaphor seriously and gets good work out of his cast especially leading lady Woodley, who is no Jennifer Lawrence and her ‘Triss’ is no Katniss, but, she is charming and endearing enough and makes a feisty heroine. Overall, it’s actually manages to be somewhat entertaining despite how obvious and derivative the material is. Also stars Kate Winslet, Ashley Judd, Ray Stevenson and Jai Courtney.

3 star rating

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BAD WORDS (2014)

Actor Jason Bateman makes his directorial debut in this deviously funny and delightfully inappropriate comedy about 40 year old grade school drop out Guy Trilby (Bateman) who exploits a loophole in the rules to enter a children’s national spelling bee. Trilby obviously has an agenda, other than embarrassing a bunch of 10 year olds, as he drags a reporter (Kathryn Hahn) along and enters in a friendship/rivalry with a precocious Indian boy (Rohand Chand) who also wants the championship. Andrew Dodge’s script has some blisteringly funny moments, though there are a few sentimental ones too, and director Bateman gives a really hilarious performances as the bitter and angry Trilby, who will stoop to any level to mow down his pre-adolescent competition. Bateman also gets very good work out of his fellow cast members, including young Chand, and crafts a movie that is not afraid to ‘go there’ and present it’s young spelling bee contestants in hysterically inappropriate spots. Suffers slightly from a routine, sentimental climax but, otherwise is a daring and very funny work from first-time director Bateman and writer Dodge. Also, at 88 minutes the movie knows not to wear out it’s welcome.

three and one half stars rating

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REVIEW: A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (2013)

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A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (2013)

A Good Day To Die Hard arrives on blu-ray June 4th so, I thought I’d post my review of the latest adventures of John McClane!

A Good Day To Die Hard has a lot of problems. The story is convoluted, the villains are weak and when the action stops there isn’t enough strong drama to keep us interested but, thankfully, the action rarely stops and it is quite amusingly over the top. This entry has John McClane (Bruce Willis) traveling to Moscow to try to see his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney) who has been arrested for murder. But, what McClane doesn’t know is that Jack is a CIA agent and involved in a mission to bust a Russian millionaire (Sebastian Koch), with ties to terrorism, out of jail to get the 411 on his partner… who also has his own plans to bust him out of jail. It’s no secret that McClane gets in the middle of things and once again becomes the fly in the ointment of all this Russian cloak and dagger. The result is the destruction of half of Moscow and what’s left of Chernobyl to boot. The story is as much of a mess as it sounds but, I still had a blast watching the father and son duo wreck the former Soviet Union to stop the bad guys. The action scenes are ridiculously over the top and it’s still fun to watch Willis kick butt, even though his one liners are getting tired and he gives you the impression that so is he of all this nonsense. How many times CAN one man get into so much trouble unintentionally? At least it’s part of James Bond’s job. It’s the stuff between the action that has us looking at our watches as the dialog is weak and I can’t understand how a guy who is such a kick-ass hero can be hated so much by his kids. Shit! If my dad whacked terrorists on a regular basis and constantly blew stuff up, I’d probably think he was pretty cool. The villains never seem threatening enough to make us believe they stand a chance against the McClane family but, I still enjoyed seeing them try and get their asses handed to them by Willis and Courtney, who could have a future as an action star. If there is a Die Hard 6, I hope they give daughter, Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) a catsuit and a gun to join in the fun. Why not? Go in with moderate expectations and turn off the brain and enjoy the fireworks because, that’s basically what this movie has to offer and on that level it can be a fun matinee if you just don’t look for another classic like the original installment.

A very generous 3 McClanes

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