May 2018

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Iron Man [2008]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 94 / 91
Personal = 8.7


In celebration of Avengers: Infinity War, my wife and I decided to start watching all the Marvel Cinematic Universe films beginning with the first one. Even before Marvel went full tilt bozo with investing $13 Billion in the MCU, they knew what they were doing. The characterizations are remarkably apropos, the action is top notch (and watchable), the humor hits the spot every time without being forced and the story is far more than just a superhero adventure film. Great fun!

Criminal Activities [2015]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 48 / 41
Personal = 7.8


4 friends that are forced to kidnap and hold a drug dealer for 24 hours to satisfy a debt owed to a mob boss. The story grabs your attention and hangs on to it quite well. The characters are colorful and and very real, the situations are both compelling and absurd at the same time, and, although they don't play it for laughs, there are some extremely funny moments. The biggest bonus is that, by the time you get to the end of the film, it's completely changed into something totally different from how it started.

Frontier(s) [2007]

aka Frontiere(s)

   
Rotten Tomatoes = 55 / 53
Personal = 8.4


This French torture porn film is basically The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Hostel rolled into one ...without the laughs. You have a group of criminals hiding out in the French countryside at a hostel run by Nazis with a whole lot of inbreeding going on. The characters do some pretty stupid things, and you know how I feel about that, but this film is such an in-your-face assault of brutal bloodshed, vicious violence and disturbing visuals that humanity becomes secondary to the onslaught. Nicely done!

Stranger Within [2013]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = - / 9
Personal = 2.8


After being abducted by a madman for a few days, an actress and her psychologist husband go on a vacation to sort things out. Then a girl shows up and causes problems. This movie was about as contrived and cliche as you can possibly get. All movies are scripted but the trick is to not make it feel that way. In this, every scene was done exactly right and placed in just its proper place making the whole thing terribly unrealistic. And the ending was a complete and total non-surprise. I've seen this one before ...and much better.

The Incredible Hulk [2008]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 67 / 71
Personal = 8.0


Bruce Banner has been on the run for some time after botching a Super Soldier experiment that caused him to turn into a huge and powerful green monster when he's ticked off. A chase movie that focuses primarily on Bruce's psyche and personal relationships ...as well as the psycho psyche of Emil Blonsky who becomes the Abomination. The exciting action looks plausible and realistic and there's some real honest-to-goodness people here. Far better than the 2003 version ...which is not part of the MCU.

The Wasp Woman [1959]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 45 / 23
Personal = 3.1


This was the original version of the remakes The Wasp Woman [1995] and Rejuvenatrix, which I've already reviewed. As flaky as those re-makes were, they pretty much outdid the original. Basically, a woman uses wasp royal jelly to become youthful again but it has the side-effect of changing her into a wasp when she's buzzed off. There are certain givens expected in a Roger Corman film and much can be forgiven as a result but this one is pretty cheesy even by Corman's standards.

Iron Man 2 [2010]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 73 / 72
Personal = 8.2


Iron Man has pretty much managed world peace. Unfortunately, the core of his chest arc reactor is poisoning him and a new adversary known as Whiplash is creating all kinds of havoc. This film didn't quite appeal to me as much as the first one. I think I liked the character dynamics in the first one better. Between Tony Stark being drunk and Justin Hammer being overly obnoxious, I was getting rather irritated at times. Mickey Rourke as Whiplash, however, was sheer genius. Black Widow is awesome!

Shooter [2007]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 47 / 80
Personal = 7.6


Good conspiracy thriller where certain government officials hire the expertise of one of the best snipers in the world to prevent an assassination of the president. As usual with spooky government officials, things don't go as planned. Good action and gun play sequences, the story has a few plot holes but nothing that can't be overcome by keeping tongue firmly in cheek and a nice vengeance ending pretty much sums it up. Good entertainment!

Cold Moon [2016]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 71 / 37
Personal = 4.7


An alcoholic banker is haunted by the ghosts of some people he killed. This wasn't a particularly good movie ...the acting was weak, the dialogue was pretty simplistic, the spooks, although done fairly well and often, seemed more filler than actually adding anything to the story. However, I did find it mildly entertaining and it did keep me interested right up to the end despite it really being nothing more than a very familiar Tell-Tale Heart story with no surprises.

Thor [2011]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 77 / 76
Personal = 8.4


Thor's father, Odin, strips Thor of his power and hammer and exiles him to Earth for an attack that he impetuously committed against the Frost Giants just before he was crowned to be king. This was a fun movie that nicely balanced Thor trying to integrate with earthlings, which was quite humorous at times, and the attempts by his brother Loki to take over the throne on Asgard. Lots of great action, a good deal of humor, great characters, good, complex story, everything you'd expect for an MCU movie.

The Kiss of the Vampire [1963]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 83 / 62
Personal = 5.4


A honeymooning couple get stranded in a hotel in the middle of nowhere. They meet the neighbors ...a family of vampires. This is one of those fun early '60's Hammer films with all the usual props and cliches you'd expect. Not all that much really happens as with many of the Hammer films, far more emphasis is placed on the lurking danger than the actual danger itself so you basically have a long setup with a climax. But they're fun and entertaining.

The Avengers [2012]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 92 / 91
Personal = 9.2


Thor's brother, Loki is now working for Thanos and is back on earth trying to steal the Tesseract and use it to open a portal for a Chitauri army to wipe out Earth. This isn't simply a bunch of heroes getting together and fighting for the world. There's a lot going on here, and many of our heroes really don't like each other much making for some very dynamic and complicated relationships. Action packed, complex story, several humorous moments, wonderful characters all around and you got one exciting film.

Avengers 3: Infinity War [2018]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 84 / 92
Personal = 9.6


Certainly named appropriately as this film is constant warfare, on several fronts, from start to finish. It's got practically every superhero in it, and not just cameos, either. Everyone has a part to play and got respectful screen time. Amid all the chaos, they still managed to put in scenes of basically just dialog that was short, sweet, and to-the-point without feeling rushed. In a nutshell, the film is so well constructed they effectively got about 4 hours of material squeezed into 2 1/2 and you never feel shorted. Fantastic!!

The Apparition [2012]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 3 / 24
Personal = 5.3


Three students test a theory that the belief in ghosts is enough to actually make one appear. What they let into this world is not quite what they expected. This whole idea was really quite unnecessary and only used as a reason for a small group of people to be haunted. It also helps one player to come up with a potential solution which is so absurd, it made me chuckle. Regardless, the film effectively delivered that creepy someone-in-the-house feel, without being overt, and was generally entertaining.

Saints and Soldiers [2003]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 66 / 77
Personal = 3.8


5 soldiers trapped behind enemy lines in the Ardennes must travel 20 miles to a town. 'Based on a true story' only applies to the opening. The rest is religious propaganda. And they did a boring job of it. Mostly walking and long scenes of dialogue about beliefs in God for 3/4 of the film then some unrealistic warfare scenes then an atheist Medic finds God and gives aid to a Nazi soldier he saw slaughter dozens of American prisoners. Seriously? I'm supposed to find that inspirational? I'm sorry. My pragmatism is showing.

Bad Samaritan [2018]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 55 / 84
Personal = 4.4


A house thief finds a woman chained up in a chair and no one will believe him making this film incredibly frustrating. This kid is a thief who gains nothing by going to the police with this story and no one believes him, the FBI dismisses him, his girl friend hates him, any that do believe (absurdly few) don't care. Everyone is stupid in this film but, apparently, the kid is smart enough to find this serial killer, in a few hours, that the FBI has been unable to find for years. Check your brain at the door as this contrived mess makes no sense.

First Men in the Moon [1964]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 75 / 53
Personal = 8.1


A mission to the moon discovers that someone has already planted a flag there ...in 1899. Made in 1964, there wasn't a whole lot of knowledge about space travel or the moon so, the filmmakers wisely stuck to the original Wells story written in the late 1800's. If you're looking for a realistic sci fi, this ain't it. But what it is is a fantasy adventure that's exciting, colorful, fascinating, philosophical, sometimes goofy, and just good fun. A childhood favorite for the senior generation. Note: trailer loaded with spoilers.

Dead Silence [2007]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 21 / 51
Personal = 6.2


A mysterious ventriloquist dummy showing up on a man's doorstep begins a journey into the malevolence of Mary Shaw and her dolls. This was a well put together story, acting was competent, creep factor was pretty good and it had a surprising and genuinely unique ending. But, for whatever reason, it just sort of fell flat for me. I imagine others would really like this film, though. Perhaps I'm not the one who would be the best judge for this project.

Iron Man 3 [2013]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 80 / 78
Personal = 8.1


Plagued with anxiety attacks and attempting to recover from the alien invasion depicted in The Avengers, Tony Stark is forced into battle with the Mandarin, a terrorist that has figured out how to make people explode. A nice aspect of this film is that Tony spends a lot more time out of his suit and shows us that he can be quite resourceful and human without it. Beyond that, it's pretty much what you would expect from an MCU film. Great stuff!

A Hard Day [2014]

aka Kkeut-kka-ji-gan-da

   
Rotten Tomatoes = 79 / 77
Personal = 9.1


Internal affairs is raiding the desk of a corrupt cop as he's going to his mother's funeral. On the way, he hits and kills someone and decides the thing to do is to put the body in the trunk. Things go downhill from there. This South Korean gem is the most fun I've had watching a movie lately without it being a Marvel film. The story is intricately woven into a bizarre series of events that range from the outlandish to the deadly serious with so many sudden shifts, you can barely keep up. Pure enjoyment!

Leviathan [1989]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 17 / 26
Personal = 5.2


While mining silver 3 miles deep in the ocean, a crew runs across a shipwreck called the Leviathan ...and it's still carrying something. This is a pretty typical '80's monster movie that isn't too bad ...it's just made badly. The crew are unprofessional idiots. The constantly changing mutant creature is filmed in extreme closeups, flash cuts and bad lighting so we never really got a good look at it. And, apparently, they think the audience will buy that it takes just a couple minutes to go up 3 miles without proper decompression.

The Bourne Identity [2002]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 83 / 93
Personal = 8.6


After being found floating in the ocean with two bullet wounds by a fishing boat, a man wakes up to find he has no memory or identity and his only possession is an account number in a Swiss bank. Arguably the best cat and mouse spy game ever put on film, Matt Damon IS Jason Bourne. I simply can't see anyone else playing this role. If you haven't seen it, I would greatly encourage it ...along with the sequels. This is not a ride to be missed.

The Panama Deception [1992]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = - / 73
Personal = 7.0


A documentary about the real reasons we invaded Panama in 1989. Some of the comments I've read from the naysayers labeling this as pure propaganda seem to nit pick details about silly things that don't matter and completely miss the point. The point is unmistakably clear. With the full collaboration of the press, we invaded a country in full violation of World Law, killing thousands of civilians to "restore democracy" (that they never had in the first place) solely to eliminate their military and regain control.

Thor 2: The Dark World [2013]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 66 / 77
Personal = 8.4


As Thor deals with trying to rid the 9 realms of the Marauders, the Convergence is near and Melekith, leader of the dark elves, has re-appeared in an attempt to destroy the universe. Great story and characters, as usual. You don't see a movie with at least a half dozen worlds as various setting very often and jumping around immediately from one to another was rather fun to watch. Another Marvel masterpiece that fits right into the universe. Good humor, as well.

Eyes Without a Face [1960]

aka Les yeux sans visage

   
Rotten Tomatoes = 98 / 87
Personal = 4.3


A doctor scalps the faces off of women in hopes of successfully grafting the face onto his daughter who lost hers in an auto accident. Artfully stylistic and phenomenally dull pretty much sums this one up. I know people go crazy for these art films and, yes ...they are interesting from a artistic point of view. But watching a car pull into a driveway, driver get out, walk into house, take off hat and coat, dramatic pause, walk up flight of stairs, dramatic pause, walk up another flight of stairs ...to me, that's just padding without purpose.

The Bourne Supremacy [2004]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 81 / 90
Personal = 9.4


Framing Bourne for the assassination of two agents and killing his girlfriend was probably not the wisest things to do. This follow-up to The Bourne Identity is a near perfect film; the story is highly intelligent, complex and tightly woven with everything precisely placed, the performances and dialogue are perfect, the pacing is edge-of-your-seat tense and the action, although a bit shaky to watch at times, is adrenaline inducing mayhem. Awesome!

The Reaping [2007]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 8 / 49
Personal = 6.8


A fallen ordain minister, who now debunks miracles, goes to a small, secluded hamlet in Louisiana called Haven where the river appears to have turned to blood. This was a pretty entertaining "science vs religion" story centering around a creepy little girl. Is she an angel? the devil? or something else? The plagues were effectively presented as well as how you'd expect people in that culture to react. Not particularly scary but well worth a watch with an ending that, although not great, did the job just fine.

Creature [1985]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = - / 12
Personal = 3.2


A crew, made up of incompetent idiots - including acting - are sent to Titan to investigate the disappearance of an equally moronic crew of individuals. You got to love filmmakers who have no shame whatsoever. Basically a remake of Alien, and half a dozen other stories, with no budget, no talent, no imagination, no basis in physics or anything resembling scientific theory, the film simply tries to entertain us by throwing one dumb thing after another at us. And yet, I couldn't turn it off! How does that work?

Grabbers [2012]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 72 / 51
Personal = 7.3


A meteorite, containing tentacled creatures, crashes just off the coast of the small fisherman's community Aran Island, Ireland and it begins to feed. However, it doesn't like alcohol. Let the party begin. This was an highly humorous and entertaining film with some great characters and creature affects that are both incredibly grotesque and, somehow, funny. The hatchlings are a riot. I don't recall any real laugh-out-load moments but overall, great popcorn movie that maintains a great level of humor right up to the 'that's not good' ending.

Breaking In [2018]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 25 / 32
Personal = 7.1


A woman and two children go to a country estate she just inherited to prepare it for sale. The house already has visitors ...some thugs who want $4 million dollars in a safe. Now they have her kids and she's on the outside. This a very well paced thriller in which, to our pleasure, they made the hero mom a lot smarter than the bad guys. Similar to Stash House, this movie has the usual contrivances you'd expect and the story is familiar but they did it well maintaining a solid sense of danger and tension that made it quite fun.

The Bourne Ultimatum [2007]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 93 / 91
Personal = 9.7


In his search for the truth, Bourne comes out of hiding and is, once again, the center of a man hunt. But this time, he's putting an end to it. It's a rare thing to have 3 films that not only make up a single story this eloquently but to also have each film get better. I was glad to see the continuation of the franchise but they could have stopped it here as the story is now complete and the rest is just for fun. Phenomenally well made film that puts all the pieces together into a perfect fit.

The Great Wall [2016]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 35 / 42
Personal = 7.1


The title is misleading as the film is actually about the Chinese at war with an army of alien lizard-like monsters and the Great Wall is really just one of the settings. Be that as it may, this is a highly stylized and surrealistically colorful fantasy full of action, adventure, excitement and awesome warfare that's well worth a bag of popcorn AND a hot dog ...even though there really isn't much of a story to speak of. Just enjoy the ride.

Jessabelle [2014]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 25 / 31
Personal = 3.8


A woman returns to her estranged father's home after an accident and strange things begin to happen. First off, it was terribly slow ...they doled out tiny little bits of information, along with a few scary bits, so they could stretch it out for 90 minutes. Secondly, the sound would whisper so you had to crank the volume all the way up ...just in time for them to slam you with noise that'll blow out your windows. I guess they were afraid you'd fall asleep. In the end, you realize that everything they've had to endure was futile.

Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier [2014]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 89 / 92
Personal = 9.5


The greatest armada of flying battleships is about to be launched to protect the world ...but it may turn out to be controlled by the wrong people. This is one of the good ones! Marvel has become the undisputed masters of crashing things together. The action is just jaw-dropping. The story is complex and well constructed, the characterizations are flawless. My wife and I were on the verge of cheering many times. Great stuff!

Parker [2013]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 40 / 48
Personal = 6.0


A professional thief offers to lead a state fair heist. Once it's over, they ask him to work on another job. When he refuses, they leave him for dead. The should make sure. This was a enjoyable film that I just had a couple problems with. I know the cinema human can sustain far more damage than a real human and still function but this was seriously over-the-top in that respect. Also, I never felt any chemistry between Statham and Lopez ...in fact, the movie probably would have been better if they had just written her out.

Elephant White [2011]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = - / 28
Personal = 5.5


A hit man is hired to start a war between two rival trafficking rings ...I think. That's the problem. For me, it was never really clear what was going on or what the goals were. Rather it was somewhat chaotic with some scenes that turned out to be visions or dreams. Action wise, it was fine with some good shootouts, the pacing was great and I really liked the relationship between the hit man and the girl until the big twist ending which I'm sure that thought would be a big surprise but, for me, a big disappointment. Flawed but fun.

Be Afraid [2017]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 18 / 29
Personal = 3.8


A basic boogeyman story made by masters of dragging things out. Once we've established that people in a town are being haunted by dark spirits (who are never explained) that take their kids away, nothing else much happens until we get to an ambiguous, non-climatic, severely downbeat ending. Yeah, be afraid. Be very afraid of the time you give up watching this snoozer.


The Bourne Legacy [2012]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 56 / 58
Personal = 7.8


Because of Bourne's exposure of covert agencies within our government in Ultimatum, these same agencies decide it's best to shut them all down. Aaron Cross, an agent from the Outcome operation isn't too happy about that. Much more a simple chase film and less an espionage / political subterfuge film, Jeremy Renner does a great job as our star agent and it still works as an exciting international action thriller. In fact, I'd like to see more Aaron Cross but that's probably not going to happen.

Solo: A Star Wars Story [2018]


   
Rotten Tomatoes = 71 / 63
Personal = 6.8


The origins of Han Solo depicts his escape from a slave world and establishing his life as a pirate. Tens of millions of dollars spent to visually create the stunning Star Wars universe we've come to love and appreciate and someone forgot to turn on a light! 80% of this film is just simply dark ...hard to see any details at all. Beyond that, much more character driven (way beyond what's necessary) and far less spectacle. I didn't like the ending, either. The train heist was the high point, the rest was unoriginal and entertainingly ho hum.

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