Archives for posts with tag: guns

Grade A-

From the “fake” trailer that was in the “Grindhouse” double feature movie, “Machete” is the fully realized version, starring the incomparable Danny Trejo as an ex-Federale who winds up as a day laborer in the U.S.  Picked by a man to assassinate a Donald Trump type politician (played by Robert De Niro), Trejo takes the job and before he can fire a shot, he is double crossed and set up to take the fall for De Niro’s attempted assassination.  Wounded and on the run from the police and De Niro’s henchmen, Trejo is helped by an underground network of Mexican immigrants to get his revenge on those who wronged him.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Machete” is the scene when Trejo goes to the house of De Niro’s main henchman.  Holding garden tools, Trejo tells the bodyguards that he is the new gardener.  The bodyguards let Trejo pass; and one of the bodyguards says something like “You ever notice how we let a Mexican inside our homes just because he’s carrying garden tools?”  It’s the funniest line in the movie.

“Machete” is a hyper-violent, often silly, fast paced, action/comedy that revels in its absurdity and glorifies the 1970s cheesy action/revenge flicks.   Obviously not meant to be taken seriously, this movie is best viewed with friends as you munch on unhealthy snacks and drink unhealthy beverages.  As a bonus to viewers, “Machete” has a surprisingly complicated plot for a movie that focuses on outrageous, bloody violence.

— M

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Grade B-

If you set aside the fact that our military cannot be duped so easily as to believe that the enemy on the radio is a U.S. soldier, you may find this movie very entertaining.

“The Wall” is about a sniper team (Aaron Taylor-Johnson as the spotter, and John Cena as the shooter) who are sent in to investigate the killings of a pipeline crew and their security force by a possible sniper.  Having watched the area for almost one full day, Cena decides the enemy is long gone, and takes a walk toward the killzone.  Cena is soon shot in the stomach, Johnson tries a rescue and gets shot himself; and Johnson takes cover behind one crumbling wall.  With Cena a possible KIA and Johnson’s radio broken from being shot, Johnson is stuck where he is.  If he makes a run for it, the sniper will kill him.  If Johnson stays put, he’ll either bleed out from his wound or die of thirst.  Making matters worse is that the enemy sniper is on the same frequency as Johnson’s and Cena’s radio headsets, setting up a tense, psych warfare that will test Johnson’s will to keep fighting.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Wall” is the final scene that reveals what happened to the enemy sniper.

“The Wall” is a decent suspense/thriller that is undermined by the writer and director who chose to ignore realism in order to move forward with the story they wanted to tell.  But as I wrote earlier, if you choose to ease up on your critical thinking of the story, “The Wall” will be worthy of your time.

— M

Grade B

Set in 1973, a “monster hunter” played by John Goodman scams the U.S. Government into funding an expedition into an island to supposedly look for valuable resources; but what Goodman really seeks is validation into his theory that monsters live within the earth, and at some point they will all come out and eat us like chicken nuggets.  With a tracker (played by Tom Hiddleston) by his side and a unit of the Army’s Assault Helicopter Company led by Samuel L. Jackson as an escort, Goodman and his fellow scientists begin their exploration of the island in a violent way…and they are all met with violence by the island’s largest and most fearsome monster, King Kong.

Their helicopters destroyed, the human survivors have a small chance of escaping the island and getting back to their ship.  But Kong and the island monsters aren’t the only ones the humans must fear.  Jackson, in his quest to avenge his men who were killed by Kong, turns into Capt. Ahab and risks everything and everyone to exact his pound of gorilla flesh.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Kong: Skull Island” is the scene when King Kong fights the big, underground lizard thing.   King monster against king monster; and a monsterfest is what this movie is all about.

“Kong: Skull Island” suffers from numerous shenanigans, such as Vietnam veteran helicopter pilots staying too close to Kong, with the result of being swatted and crushed by the giant ape.   Then there’s Hiddleston’s character who never loses his cool no matter how many giant, ugly creatures are trying to eat him — I’ve seen people show more emotion while playing video games.  Enough of the negatives.  What this movie has going for it are: 1) a fast paced, dynamic direction by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, giving this flick a tremendous amount of fun energy; and 2) monsters, monsters, and more monsters.  I’ve been a fan of Japanese monster movies from the 1950s/1960s…they are silly, and generally make no sense; but they are fun to watch.  Well, “Kong: Skull Island” is like that.

— M

Grade B +

1945, Germany.  The Americans are pushing hard toward Berlin.   Hitler has mobilized every German he could get his hands on (old men, women, children) to try to stop the American advance.  At the front lines is a Sherman tank crew headed by a tough Sergeant played by Brad Pitt.  Short one crewman who was killed in action, Pitt receives a completely green, teenaged soldier (played by Logan Lerman) who specializes in typing and never had one minute of training in a tank.

Knowing that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, Pitt forces Lerman to grow up much faster than the kid is able to.  With a huge push deeper into enemy territory coming up fast, Pitt’s crew must work together as one, cohesive unit if they are to have even a small chance of staying alive.

My most memorable, movie moment on “Fury” is the scene when Pitt’s platoon of tanks line up side by side and fire at a treeline ahead of them where German soldiers have taken a defensive position.  With all guns firing (main cannons, .50 Browning heavy machine-guns, .30 machine-guns) the Germans are slaughtered within seconds, with many bodies blown to pieces.

The outer shell of “Fury” is a vicious, gruesome tale of WW II combat.  Within this shell is the story of Pitt, a veteran warrior who is near his breaking point, and is further burdened with a boy he must teach to be a hardened soldier; and in doing so, risks further dehumanizing himself as well as the boy.

“Fury” is one of the best war movies made in the last 20 years; and had it not been for the slight — I’m being kind here — unbelievable nature of the final battle, “Fury” would have been destined to become a classic.

— M

Grade B +

Manny’s Movie Musings: One of the best animated movies of the 1990s, “Ghost In The Shell” has secret agent/cyborg Motoko searching for a hacker nicknamed Puppet Master who can hack into a cyborg’s “ghost,” or human essence.  Her investigation — often culminating in violence — will have her looking into her own government and make her ask questions about the definition of life and the basic principles of what makes a creature a human being.  My most memorable, movie moment of “Ghost In The Shell” (1995) is the scene when Motoko, armed with a submachine-gun and a few grenades, takes on a tank as she pursues the Puppet Master.  Every anime fan is aware of this movie and loves it; and that love is well deserved.  Watch the movie and you’ll see and hear for yourself.

— M

Grade A

 Expertly directed by Angelina Jolie, “Unbroken” is the true story of U.S. soldier Louis Zamperini (played by Jack O’Connell) who survived weeks in a raft in the ocean after a plane crash, then is taken prisoner by Japanese soldiers and brutalized by the commander of the P.O.W. camp.

A dangerous bombing run, an attack by Japanese Zeros, a search and rescue operation that turns into a disaster, the agonizing weeks of starvation and thirst in a life raft, flashbacks of Zamperini’s troubled childhood and redemption, and the never ending days of torment in two Japanese P.O.W. camps give the audience insight to who this amazing person is and how he was able to survive the hardships during World War II.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Unbroken” is the scene when O’Connell is in the life raft with two of his friends who also survived the plane crash; there is a wicked storm and each wave is as big as a three-story house.  O’Connell grips tightly on the ropes attached to the raft, praying to God to help him make it through this horror.

“Unbroken” is a story made more powerful because it is true.  Both the beauty and ugliness of the human spirit are shown, with the “better angels of our nature” winning.

— M

Grade A

Director Ang Lee has a knack for packing a serious, emotional punch in even the most quiet moments of a movie; and he does that again with “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” a mostly quiet movie that contemplates the craziness of war: started by the rich; fought by the poor and young; the physical and emotional damage it does to the soldiers and their families; the lies that are told to keep the war effort going; the lip service that most civilians give to the soldiers as life goes on as if there is no war happening, etc.

After his heroic actions during the second Iraqi war are captured on video for all of America to see, Joe Alwyn (who plays the title role) and his infantry squad are paraded throughout the U.S. to be used as living propaganda for America’s war against Iraq.  On the last day of their “vacation” in the U.S. before being shipped back to the war, Alwyn’s experiences in Iraq and his first days of coming home are told in flashbacks.  He clearly suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, and he finds a way out of going back into combat duty thanks to his loving and tenacious sister played by Kristen Stewart.  But he must make a tough decision whether to take care of himself and take the way out, or take care of his squadmates and go back into combat with them.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” is the scene when a civilian starts making fun of soldiers during a football game.  One of Alwyn’s squadmates puts the loudmouth in a sleeper hold, silencing his big mouth in seconds.

Ang Lee does a great job with “BLLHW,” focusing on Alwyn and allowing the audience to see what this soldier has seen and what he is thinking.  I especially enjoyed the unpredictable nature of this movie, as it could have gone in so many clichéd routes in the third act under the guidance of untalented directors/producers/writers; but the filmmakers chose to take the road less travelled, and produced a relatively quiet ending that is still emotionally powerful.

— M

Grade B +

Based on a true story — in Hollywood speak, that means about 25% is true (and I’m being very generous here) —  “War Dogs” is about two young guys from Miami who sold weapons to the U.S. military despite having no business doing so.  Going after the smaller contracts that are peanuts to the Pentagon but worth hundreds of thousands to the young dudes (played by Jonah Hill and Miles Teller), their rocky, sometimes hilarious and dangerous foray into gun running bring riches and a feeling of invincibility, a combination that can be lethal.

Greed and more greed puts Hill and Teller into the dirtiest realms of their business, where they will be in the crosshairs of gangsters, the U.S. government, and each other.

My most memorable, movie moment is the scene when Hill is trying to buy weed from a bunch of thugs.  After paying, the thugs pretend not to know what Hill is talking about and refuse to give him his drugs.  Hill laughs, calmly walks to his car, removes a submachine-gun from his trunk, and fires off about a dozen rounds in full auto into the air, sending the thugs scurrying away like cockroaches!

“War Dogs” has the same feel as “Pain & Gain” and “The Wolf Of Wall Street.”  The pacing moderately fast, some of the scenes are over the top and outrageous, the tone constantly changes from comedic to serious to scary…overall it has a somewhat hazy, drug-induced, dream quality to it.  This would be a great movie for guys to watch while high on drugs or alcohol.

— M

Grade B

Director Antoine Fuqua teams up again with Denzel Washington to remake “The Magnificent Seven,” a story of farmers and miners who are being forced out by a rich, vicious gold miner (played by Peter Sarsgaard).  Those who take Sarsgaard’s deal are given the short end of the stick; those who refuse the deal will wish they had taken the deal.   But a handful take an alternative route: hire their own gunmen to fight Sarsgaard and his henchmen.

The townspeople end up with seven hired men: a peace officer extremely fast with a pistol; a sneaky gambler who likes to use magic to get the upper hand on his enemies; a notorious killer; a sharpshooter; an Asian who is fast with guns and knives; a legendary tracker; and a Native American deadly with a longbow.  Seven against a hundred.  But the seven have an edge…they have time to fortify the town and set up their defenses; and they have dozens of civilians at their disposal to train and help in the upcoming fight.  The good guys are confident of their chances to win; unfortunately, Sarsgaard has his own surprise for the seven and the rest of the townsfolk.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Magnificent Seven” is the scene when Sargaard brings out a Gatling Gun (an early machine-gun) to bring hell to those who dared oppose him.  This scene gives a major wow factor, and it also gives its biggest shenanigan.  Why did Sarsgaard wait until his men were getting their asses kicked to bring out his special weapon?  Also, at the range the Gatling Gun was used for in this movie, I wonder how effective the bullets would have been once they reach the town.

The Western movie, as far as I know, is an art form originally created in America.  As long as entertaining movies such as “The Magnificent Seven” keep getting made every few years, this American art form will never die.

— M

Grade B

Two brothers (played by Chris Pine and Ben Foster) rob banks in order to make the payments on the family ranch that is about to be foreclosed by a bank.  They need to come up with a certain amount, and then they’ll be done and will no longer have to worry about money — the family ranch has been found to contain a tremendous amount of oil that would provide an income to the owners of about $50,000 a month.  Using multiple vehicles to do their illegal transfer of wealth, Pine and Foster attack the banks early in the morning to minimize resistance and witnesses.  But Foster, an ex-con, has a wild streak; and he may be the one to provide the mistake that a Texas Ranger (played by Jeff Bridges) is depending on to get an edge on apprehending the brothers.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Hell Or High Water” is the scene when Pine and Foster are being chased by armed civilians after the brothers robbed a bank — this takes place in Texas, by the way.  Sick of running, Foster stops his vehicle, grabs a fully automatic assault rifle, and just lights up the vigilantes.  It is an awesome display of firepower from just one rifle and one man who knows how to use it.

“Hell Or High Water” is a good drama/action/suspense movie that will have some people rooting for the bad guys.  The constant reminders of unemployment, billboards of “easy” loans and debt relief to those desperate for money, and of course, what we know of the government’s and big banks’ roles in the great financial collapse a few years ago…it’s easy to want Pine to get away with what he is attempting.  Foster’s character, on the other hand, is different animal.

**SPOILER ALERT** I would have given this movie higher marks, but the shenanigan of Pine getting away with everything he’s done is just too much to let go.  The story offers a detailed but unsatisfying explanation as to why Pine remains free at the end, and it just does not ring true.  With so much damage done, no way the law would allow this to be swept away and be happy to pin it all on Foster.

— M

Grade B –

With more metahumans coming out of the woodwork, the U.S. government creates a secret, task force made up of metahumans to fight other metahumans who do not have the world’s best interests at heart.  Viola Davis, playing a top government agent who creates this metahuman squad, unwisely chooses villains to fill out the group.  Yes, at first this seems like a ludicrous idea…after all, how can you trust these villains to do your bidding?  And the character of Harley Quinn, played by Margot Robbie…how can this psychopath be expected to follow orders, even under the threat of having her head blown off by implanted, miniature explosives?  The idea of this “Suicide Squad” is so far-fetched, how can the audience blindly accept it and sit back and have fun with the movie?  Well…let me tell you…

The U.S. putting madmen and psychos under payroll and setting them up to acquire a tremendous amount of power is very real, and very common.  Manuel Noriega, Ferdinand Marcos, Osama Bin-Laden, and Saddam Hussein are a few examples.  Soooo…the idea of the U.S. government hiring maniacs to fight other maniacs isn’t that far-fetched after all.

Soon after Davis sets up her squad under threats and/or promises of freedom and extra goodies, a metahuman threat arises.  Ironically, it is a threat that is borne from a squad member!  Will Smith (playing Deadshot) leads the “Suicide Squad” into the fight, and as expected, things do not go smoothly.  How can it?  The squad has never fought as a group before; one is psychotic; another made a promise to himself to not use his powers anymore; two of them just want to escape; and the squad wasn’t given the full story of who they are fighting and how this threat came to be.   Working together and defeating a powerful enemy will take a miracle, and they need that miracle to happen fast because the entire world is about to end.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Suicide Squad” is the scene when Robbie finally puts on her outfit.  ‘Nuff said.

“Suicide Squad” is a reasonably entertaining, somewhat mindless action flick that has two memorable characters: Deadshot and Harley Quinn.   While Robbie killed it as Quinn, Smith seemed miscast for his role as Deadshot.  Add to this a script that needed more polish and focus, and what could have been a great movie is reduced to one that is just okay.

— M

Grade B +

Manny’s Movie Musings:  Mexicans illegally crossing into the United States are hunted and killed by a sadistic American (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his bloodthirsty dog.   Equipped with a scoped, high-powered rifle, an off-road pickup truck, a well trained dog, and plenty of supplies, Morgan seems to be unstoppable in “Desierto”…until he goes up against two illegals played by Gael Garcia Bernal and Alondra Hidalgo.  Although the movie touches on some current topics in the U.S., “Desierto” is predominantly a story of a psycho taking out mostly innocent people.   My most memorable, movie moment of “Desierto” is **SPOILER ALERT** the scene when Morgan comes upon what Bernal did to his dog.  It was the only time I took pity on Morgan — as evil as Morgan was, he loved his dog; and I know what it’s like to see one’s four-legged friend suffer and die.

— M

Grade A

Based on an incredible, true story that I think most people have never heard of, “Free State Of Jones” is about a Confederate soldier who deserts and creates an army of deserters, runaway slaves, and their families to fight the Confederate Army in Mississippi.

Matthew McConaughey plays Newton Knight, a Southern soldier who has had enough of war, had enough of fighting what he believed was a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight, had enough of Confederate soldiers in his home county of Jones, Mississippi taking almost everything from poor families to supposedly help out with the war effort, and had enough of slavery and all the cruelties that go with one person owning another person.  McConaughey’s insurrection starts off small but dramatic, slowly building up until he and his company are at war with the Confederate States of America.

This movie doesn’t just deal with what happened during the American Civil War, it also delves into the “reconstruction” phase after the war, and the barbaric and ironic aftermath for the former slaves.  Adding further interest and depth to “Free State Of Jones” is the separate story within the movie regarding one of Newton Knight’s descendants (a white man who is part black) who is on trial for marrying a white woman in Mississippi — at the time of the trial, interracial relationships were illegal; and Knight’s descendant, despite looking white, was considered black.   How hypocritical, since white masters often raped their female slaves for hundreds of years while the Southern society turned a blind eye to it.

“Free State Of Jones” is a powerful movie about a small segment of America’s past that should always be remembered.   This story is not just about the evils that men do to one another, it is also a story of hope, love, sacrifice, and redemption.  It deserves to be told.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Free State Of Jones” is the scene when McConaughey, after teaching three little girls and their mother to hold and shoot guns, holds off Confederate soldiers from taking the family’s supplies as “tax” for the war effort.  Now that’s what I call a fine example of the Second Amendment being exercised.

— M

Grade B

Manny’s Movie Musings: Matt Damon returns for the second of the “Bourne” movies in “The Bourne Supremacy.”   Living in India with his girlfriend (played by Franka Potente), Damon’s worst fears comes true when he is pursued by a secret agent (Karl Urban).   Believing it is the CIA out to kill him, Damon takes the fight to them, unaware that Urban works for a rich, Russian businessman who wants Damon dead to tie up loose ends that began in the first movie.  Complicating matters is that Urban has framed Damon for the deaths of a few CIA agents.  With two groups out to kill him, Damon not only has to fight to stay alive, he has to figure out why he is being targeted for termination and by who.  Although “Supremacy” has a new director, the feel of the first movie carries over to this one — in other words, if you liked “Identity,” you will like “Supremacy.”  Fast pacing, frenetic action, a likeable hero, and a new revelation of Damon’s past all lead to a very entertaining movie.   My most memorable, movie moment of “The Bourne Supremacy” is the scene when Damon fights another Treadstone agent.   The fight is raw, brutal, and nasty — something “Bourne” fans have come to expect.

— M

C+

Manny’s Movie Musings: A deaf/mute woman (played by Amanda Adrienne) is kidnapped, tortured, raped, and left for dead by a gang of racist “desertbillies” in New Mexico.  At the point of death, the spirit of an ancient, Apache warrior inhabits her body, giving her the opportunity to exact bloody revenge upon those who defiled her; but she must act quickly, as her body is dead and is quickly rotting.  What could have been a very bad, B movie is saved by the great acting of Adrienne and a lot of action sequences.  My most memorable, movie moment of “Savaged” is the scene when Adrienne’s broken body tries to save her kidnapped boyfriend: the pickup truck of the bad guys take off with her b/f, and she cannot pursue them because of her injuries; she reaches out and screams…and it’s just heartbreaking.

— M

Grade B-

Loosely based on the t.v. show, “The Equalizer” stars Denzel Washington as a quiet man who works in a tool/garden store.  He is very precise in his actions, likes to help those who need it, and his smiles come quickly; but when he is alone, a darkness can be seen in his eyes, hinting at a past that haunts him every day.

Unable to sleep most nights, Washington goes to a diner, drinks tea and reads.  Eventually, he becomes friends with another patron: a young prostitute played by Chloe Grace Moretz.  When Moretz becomes missing for a few days and turns up in the ICU of a hospital after a brutal beating by her pimp, Washington goes on the offensive, resulting in a bloody war between him and the Russian mafia and a few crooked cops.

First place for my memorable, movie moments of “The Equalizer” is the scene when Washington makes the Russian pimp an offer he can’t refuse.  Well, the pimp refused!  Washington locks the door, and in slow motion we see him eyeing the room and the four Russian mobsters within.  Washington calculates how he is going to go about destroying these hoodlums, and in what order.  The carnage that follows is highly gratifying.

Runner-up for my memorable moments of this movie is the scene that has Washington’s co-worker asking how Washington got the cut on his hand (from the scene mentioned above).  Washington’s reply is that he hit it on something stupid.  Nice!

Fans of fast paced, action packed, mindless movies should move on — this movie is not for you.  “The Equalizer” moves at a slower pace, similar to a novel.  It takes the time to develop characters and makes the audience care for what happens to them.  This sets “The Equalizer” apart from the typical, big-budget, Hollywood action flick.  Unfortunately, it also suffers from several shenanigans that plague said typical, big-budget, Hollywood actioners.  The biggest shenanigan is **SPOILER ALERT** the ending of the movie: after killing off most, if not all, of the east coast Russian mob (plus the big boss in Russia), Washington goes back to his daily routine, living in the same neighborhood, the same apartment, taking the same bus, and spending his late nights in the same diner.  What’s the big deal with this, you ask?  The Russian mob found out who Washington was halfway through the movie!  They knew his name, where he lived, where he worked.  How long before some friends or relatives of the mobsters Washington killed fire a rocket into the apartment where Washington lives?  Russian hit men would come out of the woodwork looking to make a name for themselves by trying to kill “The Equalizer.”  Washington’s character makes every effort to minimize collateral damage whenever possible; but by living out in the open, living in the same place, he is risking many lives when the war eventually comes to him again.  But for this big shenanigan, I would’ve given this movie a slightly higher rating.

— M

Grade A

On the anniversary of the September 11, terrorist attacks against the U.S., hundreds of terrorists attack two American installations in Libya.  One installation is a compound that houses a U.S. Ambassador his few, lightly armed guards; the other installation is a “secret” CIA base that has 6 heavily armed contractors — highly trained mercenaries with previous lives in the U.S. military — as the primary defense of the spies who work there.

The first attack is against the U.S. Ambassador’s compound.  Despite numerous calls for help from the CIA base, help is not authorized.  The compound is quickly overrun, and the Ambassador’s life is in serious jeopardy as the terrorists burn the building that he and his few guards are in.  Defying orders to stand down, the leader of the mercenaries (played by James Badge Dale) takes his men to rescue the Americans under attack just a few thousand feet from where they are.

By the time Dale and his mercs arrive, it is complete chaos.  Dozens of Libyans are walking/running around, fully armed.  No one knows who is a terrorist, an ally, or just some citizen walking around with a gun for protection.  That the mercenaries didn’t shoot any Libyan they saw with a weapon is a testament to their discipline, courage, and professionalism.  With the Ambassador’s compound destroyed and the Ambassador missing, the mercs leave with whatever survivors they can find and fight their way back to the CIA base.  And the long night has just started.

Throughout the night, the terrorists will attack the CIA base repeatedly, and the 6 American mercenaries/contractors will take the lead in heroically defending their “home” and the dozens of civilians who work there.   But as the fight rages on, ammunition gets low, defenders get wounded, and extreme exhaustion sets in.  CIA personnel desperately make one call after another to U.S. military forces, as well as U.S. allies, but only a handful arrive.  Without more substantial help, the Americans and their few Libyan allies will eventually be overrun and killed.  Why the might of U.S. military power was not brought down to crush the terrorist attacks is still not completely known.  Some reasons are given in this movie, but many questions remain, as they still do today.

One of my memorable moments of “13 Hours” is the scene near the beginning of the movie when Dale and another merc who happens to be a close friend are surrounded by dozens of terrorists.  Dale makes a bluff that a drone is above them, watching everyone and taking pictures of all involved.  If the terrorists attack, the Americans will find the terrorists and their families, and justice and vengeance will quickly follow.  After a few seconds that probably felt like years to the Americans, the terrorists lets them go.  This highly tense scene is a prelude to the rest of the movie, setting the tone and giving the audience a taste of what the next two hours will bring.

My most memorable, movie moment of “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi” is the scene when mercenary Mark “Oz” Geist is badly wounded, his left arm mangled.  He staggers into the building where the CIA civilians are huddled and asks for help for another soldier, instead of for himself.  This man’s courage and selflessness is unreal.

There are many who fault director Michael Bay’s talents.  I was never one of them.  Bay is a master of directing movies to maximize drama, intensity and fast pacing.  His talents once again shows in “13 Hours…”  He wisely chose not to put too much politics in the movie, as that would have bogged down the pacing and steered the focus away from the American fighters who sacrificed so much.

Of course, this is an action film, meant to entertain, first and foremost.  On that front, it succeeds.  Secondly, “13 Hours…” is meant to tell the world of the bravery of the few men who fought, suffered and died saving the lives of dozens of Americans.  On that objective, the movie also succeeds.  I suggest every American watch this movie.  It not only entertains, it teaches about an infamous event that should not have happened.

— M

Grade B

An action-packed, bloody, violent movie that comes closest to a faithful adaptation of the comic book character, but still misses the mark.

The third movie about Marvel Comics’ Punisher character stars Ray Stevenson, who is far and away the better actor for the role than Dolph Lundgren and Thomas Jane ever were.  “Punisher: War Zone” takes place in NYC — or more to the point, what could barely pass for NYC in Canada — where Stevenson and a new, disfigured (thanks to Stevenson) mob boss go head to head for control of the city.  Both men are monsters in their own right: Stevenson is a fearsome monster to the bad guys, a vigilante who kills criminals by the hundreds after his family is killed by gangsters; and Dominic West (playing mob boss Jigsaw) is a homicidal maniac who preys on civilians, cops, and other gangsters to attain more power and money.  With their goals at polar opposites, only one will come out alive.

I like the dark look, the large assortment of guns, and hyper-violence of this adaptation which closely resembles what I remember seeing in my issues of The Punisher comics from the late 80s to early 90s.  At one hour and forty-three minutes long, “Punisher: War Zone” moves along fairly quickly, albeit at the cost of not showing enough of The Punisher’s murdered wife and kids, which prevents the audience from connecting deeper with Stevenson’s character and really getting behind him in his quest for vengeance and justice.

Similar to the two previous Punisher movies, this one also contains shenanigans that really stick out like a floating turd in a swimming pool.  The NYPD cars are the wrong color; the cops who show up at the house of the family of the deceased FBI agent after a tip about a possible break-in and kidnap attempt go into the house as if they’re looking for a lost cat (of course, the stupid cops get killed); and Stevenson walks around Manhattan wearing his full Punisher gear and no one notices!  Yes, it’s night time, but we are talking about Manhattan: a borough that never sleeps, with many people walking around at all hours of the day and night.  Stevenson is a wanted and famous man, and not one person notices this big dude in full body armor carrying numerous guns out in the open!  Get the hell out!

Before my mind explodes from the absurdity of how these shenanigans got through the screenwriting and editing process, let’s discuss my memorable, movie moments of “Punisher: War Zone.”  Third place goes to the scene when we first see Microchip, Punisher’s intel/weapons procurement guy.  Finally, this crucial character from the comic books is given life in the big screen!  Second place goes to the scene when West is having a meeting with Russian gangsters.  After the Russians speak among themselves in their native language, West tells them “You’re not in Transylvania anymore; we don’t talk vampire.”  Ha ha!  First place goes to the scene when Stevenson punches a hole in a gangster’s face, then blows off the face of the gangster’s father!  It was the sudden, back to back, son/father facial destruction that made my jaw drop.

I recommend this movie to any Punisher fan.  I doubt many of you will be very happy with it, but I’m confident many of you will be satisfied with “Punisher: War Zone.”  Repeating what I stated at the end of my previous post, Punisher fans must see “Daredevil” season 2 for the best version of the Punisher character ever.

— M

Grade C-

Dolph Lundgren plays the title role in “The Punisher,” a movie about an ex-police officer who becomes a vigilante after his family is killed by the mafia.  Donning the oh so fashionable, all black outfit that vigilantes prefer, Lundgren kills everyone who was responsible for killing his wife and two girls.  Of course, he doesn’t limit his punishment to those who directly turned his life upside down…all criminals are targets.

For those not in the know, “The Punisher” is based on a Marvel Comics character that I am very much familiar with.  I have to say I am very disappointed in this first movie adaptation of The Punisher character.  I must disclose that when I first saw this movie as a teenager, I thought it was cool…then again, I thought mullets were cool, too.  Gone is the fanboy who was just happy to see a movie about one of his favorite, comic book characters.  Now I can look at this 1989 film with a more critical eye.

The first thing I noticed was the music, and how it reminds me of something that I would hear from an action movie of the week on NBC back in the 80s.  That’s an insult, by the way.  Next thing I noticed were the action sequences that were not choreographed and executed well.  What is caught on film looks like something you would see in rehearsals.  Dolph Lundgren was a karate champion prior to becoming a movie star, but in “The Punisher” he moves like lumbering giant who always looks off balance.  Another big, negative aspect I noticed in this movie is Lundgren’s acting skills, or lack thereof.  This leads me to…

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Punisher” is the scene when Louis Gossett Jr. (playing Lundgren’s ex-partner in the police force) confronts Lundgren in his holding cell.  Lundgren’s sub-par acting ability is more pronounced when it goes up against the fine acting of Gossett Jr.  It’s like a stock, Honda Civic drag racing a Challenger Hellcat.  The difference is so shocking, viewers are forced to tell the weak party, “You have no business being here, dude.”

“The Punisher” also suffers from so many plot holes that if the movie was a ship, it would sink in two inches of water.  In the movie, people think that Lundgren the cop is dead, killed with his family.  Here’s the plot hole regarding that: Lundgren is a big brute, walking around in an outfit that looks like he bought it from an Army/Navy surplus store; he rides an extremely loud motorcycle; and he doesn’t bother to disguise his looks (doesn’t wear shades, a hat, fake moustache, etc.).  He walks and rides around in the daytime…and no one notices!  Get the hell out!

Want more?  Okay, lets talk about the dialogue.  As an example, look at the torture scene of Lundgren at the hands of the Yakuza.  Lundgren’s lines — and his delivery of them — are so atrocious that I thought it was written by a lobotomized, 14-year-old screenwriter who was high on cocaine.  This scene is so laughably bad it is one of my memorable moments of this movie.

“The Punisher” failed to live up to its potential because too many people didn’t have what it took to make this movie better.  I do find this movie entertaining, but mostly for reasons not intended by the filmmakers.

— M

Clint Eastwood directs another winner with “American Sniper,” based on the true story of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle.  Bradley Cooper plays Kyle, a natural-born soldier and hero who racked up the most confirmed kills of any American sniper.  Cooper fights a war on two fronts: the Middle East where he takes to combat like a fish to water, killing so many of the enemy and saving countless lives of American soldiers that he earned the nickname Legend; and the home front where, in between his four combat tours, most of his problems emerge (PTSD, keeping to himself and shutting out his wife, feelings of guilt because he’s not in the war killing the enemy and saving his fellow soldiers).  In his quest to do more than his part in the war against terror, he alienates his family, and risks losing them for good.  A hard choice has to be made, or it will be made for him.

And now for my choice of my top three memorable moments of “American Sniper”: third place goes to the scene when Cooper is holding his baby while having a fight with his wife, played by Sienna Miller.  The baby is clearly a doll.  This entire dramatic scene is ruined because of this plastic, rug rat.  Once you notice the doll, it’s all you can concentrate on.  Cooper even tries to give life to the doll by using his finger to move the doll’s arm!  Supposedly, both baby actors weren’t available.  Okay, I get that things don’t always go as planned in filmmaking…but why the hell did Eastwood use angles that would clearly show the baby was a doll!  This is clearly a master f*#k up from a master director.

Second place for my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Cooper and a few American soldiers were on a rooftop, and Cooper shoots an enemy sniper over a mile away and kills him.  Unfortunately, this gives away the position of the Americans to the terrorists below, who swarm the building and begin to surround the outnumbered Americans who were quickly running out of ammo.

Taking first place for my memorable, movie moments of “American Sniper” is the scene very early in the movie when we see Cooper providing cover for Marines who are doing a sweep of the enemy.  Through his scope, Cooper sees an Iraqi woman and a boy (maybe seven-years-old) come out into the street.  She hands the boy an explosive device, and the boy takes it and runs toward the Marines.  Cooper reluctantly kills the boy, then kills the woman when she picks up the explosive and runs toward the Marines.   This is probably the most powerful moment of this movie, inviting debate over many subjects.  However you feel about this war or any war, keep in mind that according to Chris Kyle, he never killed a child, nor would he ever.  He did kill that woman, but a child was not with her.  I understand children get killed in war all the time; but assigning the death of a child to Kyle for dramatic effect tarnishes Kyle’s heroism and legacy.

Some viewers would see Chris Kyle as a war monger, a racist who would call Iraqis savages.  Based on my research, the “savage” term was used against the terrorists, and not the civilians who were just trying to live out their lives as peacefully as possible.  Some people who watch this movie would think of Chris Kyle as a coward for killing people from a long distance.  To those people, I say do your research.  In real life, Kyle was out in the streets many times risking his life to help Marines who were pinned down and taking fire from the insurgents.

“American Sniper” is a great movie about a patriotic American who risked his life countless times to protect fellow soldiers, Iraqi and Afghan civilians from insurgents.  I know we all have our views on war and killing; and some disagree strongly with why Chris Kyle did what he did.  Forget all that…no one can deny this man’s numerous acts of valor.  For this, Chris Kyle deserves to be respected and remembered.

— M

In “Taken,” his daughter (Maggie Grace) went missing.  In “Taken 2,” his daughter and wife (Famke Janssen) went missing.  In “Taken 3,” his wife goes missing.   If “Taken 4” gets made, what will be missing…the audience?  This series is getting old, and so is Liam Neeson, the star of the “Taken” movies.  Don’t get me wrong, I like older characters — I have more common with them since I’m no Spring chicken myself.  But Neeson — despite the fancy, quick editing during his fight scenes — sometimes looks slow and tired (and I’m not talking about fight scenes when his character is injured).

Okay, here’s the quickie of the story: Janssen is killed and Neeson is framed for the murder.  Neeson goes on the run, beating the hell out of the LAPD and causing dozens of car crashes as he solves the puzzle of who killed his ex-wife and why.  The audience is sent on a wild ride (made more wild with the overuse of fast cutting and a camera so shaky I wondered if the cameraman had Parkinson’s Disease) as we get closer to the end and the truth, which thankfully had some decent plot twists to keep the movie from becoming too predictable.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Taken 3” is **SPOILER ALERT** the scene near the end when Neeson has proven his innocence and he is having a conversation with Forest Whitaker, who plays a cop in charge of Janssen’s murder investigation.  Whitaker lets Neeson go but asks that he doesn’t leave the city in case he has further questions.  Are you kidding!  Neeson put a lot of cops in the hospital, directly caused high speed car chases that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage and probably dozens injured if not dead — I know he’s a white guy, but come on!  I’m calling shenanigans!

Overall, “Taken 3” is worthy of taking 109 minutes of your time.  For those who have seen the first two movies, you may as well finish the trilogy; Liam Neeson is a likeable actor who plays a likeable character; the movie moves fast and has lots of action to keep you awake; and there is a big gunfight where a bad guy has a big gun but no pants.

— M

 

Sean Penn plays the title role in “The Gunman,” an ex-mercenary getting long in the tooth who is now a target for assassination.  Believing that his past, dirty deeds is now catching up to him, Penn makes uneasy visits with the surviving members of his previous team to get answers to his questions of who is trying to kill him and why.

Complicating matters is the accumulated head trauma from all his previous missions that makes him dizzy and pass out (quite a liability for a gunman); and an ex-girlfriend who is now the wife of a man who may be part of the group trying to kill Penn.

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when we finally see Penn in full action: no longer a merc, he is helping to dig a well in the Congo.  All is fine until three men armed with rifles and machetes come to kill him.  As expected, Penn lays out the bad guys in brutal fashion, a small taste of what he’ll do to dozens more throughout the movie.  The look on Penn’s friend is priceless, as the guy thought Penn was just some ordinary dude trying to bring fresh water to the poor people.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Gunman” is the fight scene between Penn and the main henchman of the main bad guy.  The fight is brutal, bloody, and fast.  No fancy-schmancy martial arts that don’t work in real life — just hard-hitting moves that destroys your opponent in the least amount of time.

Fans of “Taken” should be happy with “The Gunman,” as it runs within that action subgenre.  But let it be known that “The Gunman” doesn’t have as much action scenes as the trailer would have you believe.  I found this to be refreshing because it added more realism to the story.  Seriously, how many times during one day do you expect your hero to get into a gunfight?  Don’t worry, “The Gunman” moves along at a good pace despite the lack of action in most of the first act and the half of the second act.  Plus there’s the mystery of who is trying to kill Penn for the audience to chew on.

Of added benefit to the female and gay audience is the numerous times Penn’s ripped physique is shown.  Is it excessive (the amount of times his body is shown, not the body itself)?  Of course; but when you’re in your mid fifties and you can still look like that, you want to show it off.  So I say good for Penn…show off all that hard work, bro.

— M

America has been remade into a country that allows crime to be legal during one night of each year (certain people, such as high-ranking politicians, are not allowed as targets — no surprise there).   Supposedly this is to give people a chance to purge their evil ways for one night, and then go back to being good, law abiding citizens for the rest of the year, making for a happier, lower crime America.  “The Purge: Anarchy” shows us what happens to a few people whose lives intersect during one of these Purge nights.

Frank Grillo plays a man who is out for vengeance, but we don’t know against whom and for what reason…until the end of the movie.  Armed with enough firepower to destroy a small town, he drives his armored, Dodge Charger through the dangerous streets and comes upon a mother and daughter who are about to become victims of The Purge.  Reluctantly, Grillo saves the two women and manages to be burdened with two more would-be victims.  The small group of five decide to stick together to give them all a better chance of surviving The Purge, although Grillo — clearly an expert in the art of killing and evading — would rather dump his burden and go off to find whoever he is looking for.

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when an old, sick man sells his life to be a victim of The Purge to a bunch of rich folks too lazy to go out and hunt for victims.   The old man does this in order to relieve his daughter and granddaughter of the burden of caring for him, and to provide enough money for his family so that they won’t have to struggle financially anymore.   Sitting stoically, the old man is surrounded by well-dressed men and women who pray before they begin their purge.  Then the machetes come out.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Purge: Anarchy” is the scene when a neighbor invades the apartment of the mother and daughter who are mentioned above.   For a long time he has wanted the mother, and since the daughter is there too, he says he’s going to get a 2 for 1 special.   Dirty and sweaty and drunk and carrying a shotgun, he goes on a rant about how the mother doesn’t show him any attention and treats him like he’s nothing and now he’s going to show her!  Well, based on his actions, she had good reason to!   Ah, criminals and their twisted logic.

“The Purge: Anarchy” is the sequel to “The Purge.”  Is it better than the first?  In some ways, such as more action, a higher body count, and the introduction of a growing movement of poor people who are ready to fight the government and the “national holiday” of The Purge.  The sequel also makes overtly clear the true nature of The Purge, which is to control the population of the poor, whereas the first movie just hinted at it.  But overall, I believe the original is superior to the sequel.  The original has more shock value simply because it is the first movie with that premise; Ethan Hawke is a better leading man than Frank Grillo; and the level of tension and suspense is much higher in “The Purge.”

Both movies do have their share of shenanigans.  For example, in “Anarchy,” we see a couple driving around the city, far from their home, less than two hours from the start of The Purge.  Are you kidding?  I’d be home hugging my weapons 1 day prior to the start of The Purge!  For some characters, it does make sense for them to still not be at home a few hours away from the start of the carnage.  The mother I keep mentioning of is poor and she needs every cent she can get from her crappy job, so that I can understand.  But the Yuppie couple?  Stupid.  Maybe it’s better if they get killed so that they won’t infect the rest of the world with their stupid genes.   Hmmm…perhaps a Purge holiday isn’t such a bad idea.

— M

A recent widower is given the present of a puppy by his deceased wife who made the arrangements prior to her death.  An empty, dark life now has a chance for comfort and purpose…until three thugs invade the widower’s home, beat him to unconsciousness, kill his dog and steal his car.  Unhinged, “John Wick,” played by Keanu Reeves, reverts back to what he was prior to his marriage (the most feared hit man); and sets his sights on the thugs who took from him everything that gave his life meaning.

Things won’t come easy for Reeves’ payback, as the thug who killed his dog is the son of a powerful gangster Reeves used to work for (played by Michael Nyqvist, famous for “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” trilogy).  Realizing that Reeves will not stop until he kills the boss’ son, Nyqvist throws everything at Reeves; and what we get is a dark, brutal, action-packed movie that has a very high body count.

Reeves kills mostly using a handgun, and he does it very well with lightning speed.  Martial arts are also used heavily within the gun play, giving us action sequences that will make you yell, “Oh, s#@t!” many times.

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Reeves is driving his classic Mustang on an airport runway, constantly speeding toward parked trucks, veering off at the last moment, resetting, and heading for the trucks again.   Clearly, he wants to kill himself, but changes his mind at the last possible moment.  Could the puppy be stopping him?   She is, after all, a final gift from his beloved wife.  Who would take care of the puppy if Reeves was gone?

My most memorable, movie moment of “John Wick” would be the home invasion scene.  The puppy running for her life and being caught, and her life violently ended…that hurt to watch.  And it makes us, the audience, quickly and madly take that revenge ride along with Reeves, wherever it may take us.

As much as I liked “John Wick,” it does have its faults.  One would be the fault that most movies in this genre suffer from: lack of reality.  With all the bodies piling up and vehicles exploding and automatic gunfire in the streets (despite the use of “cleaning crews”), the police aren’t alerted to a war being waged in their city?  But it was easy for me to suspend my disbelief because many elements of “John Wick” worked so well.  This is a movie I would buy to own; and for those in the know, that is high praise from me.

— M

In the future, cyborgs are increasing in number, and some people think they are bad and will take over the world.  These people have taken action and started to kill cyborgs; and a government agency is tasked with finding and killing these people who have been labeled terrorists.  One government agent, who is “the best” at his job (of course he is!), is played by Olivier Gruner — and the character is a cyborg!  Huh?  What?  Hey, what can I tell you?  It’s a B movie, has a less than mediocre script, lots of action, lots of guns, and lots of bad acting that would make a 4th grade play look like a Shakespearean production.

The main storyline of “Nemesis” is that Gruner is forced by his former employers to seek a former co-worker who is now working with the terrorists.  Being a cyborg himself, Gruner wonders if he is still human;  he also starts to ponder if the terrorists who want to rid the world of cyborgs have a valid reason for doing so.  I’m surprised I got that much out of the movie, because my brain partially shut down due to an overload of bad acting and an unfocused script.

My most memorable, movie moment is the scene when a government agent bad guy is roughing up an extremely old lady for information.  Frustrated that she doesn’t know anything, he lets her go and turns his back toward her.  The old lady pulls out a handgun from her bag and shoots the agent in the back multiple times!  Then she says something like, “That’ll teach you to fuck with me.”

Second place in my list of memorable moments of “Nemesis” is the scene that showed a naked character played by Deborah Shelton, who at the time was built like a fitness competitor (back in the 1970s, fitness competitors would’ve been labeled as bodybuilders).   Most men would be repelled or intimidated by Shelton’s body, but I think she looked great.  I like all types of women, and I’m not intimidated by tall or physically strong women.  Bring it!

Well, Maximus, I was somewhat entertained by “Nemesis”; but mostly I was bored and watching the clock to see how long I had to sit through this movie.  Should you watch “Nemesis?”  If you love action movies and need something to watch while vacuuming and dusting your living room, I guess this movie will do.

— M

I’ve said it before and I say it again here: if you’re going to remake a movie, make it better or at least as good as the original.  “Robocop” (2014) does neither.  So while it is a failure in regard to my definition of what a remake should be, “Robocop” (2014) is a mild success if viewed without regard to its pedigree.

In this version of “Robocop,” Joel Kinnaman plays a police officer in a future Detroit where crime is out of control.  Hmmm…sounds like present Detroit.  Anyway, Kinnaman’s investigation of a big time, weapons dealer leads to Kinnaman being blown up in a car bomb.  He is barely alive, and should he continue to live, he would be a crippled mess that would barely resemble a human.  Enter a corporation called OCP who offers Kinnaman’s grieving wife an opportunity to transform Kinnaman into a fearsome, cyborg policeman.  Considering the alternative, the wife agrees.

OCP has more than benevolent reasons for providing such an expensive transformation of Kinnaman.  OCP needs a law enforcement product that people in America can support; and if Robocop is successful, OCP will open up a huge market and reap billions of dollars each year.  Unfortunately for OCP, their Robocop is not a robot that they can fully control.  Robocop has a fully functioning human brain, complete with personality, fears, hopes, dreams, and all the unpredictability that is part of human nature.

Of course, OCP and the Detroit PD (both diabolically connected) will do whatever it takes to control Kinnaman…especially as he goes against his programming/orders and investigates who tried to kill him.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Robocop” is the scene when Kinnamon is in the lab, his physical and robot body resting on its stand; and he is shown how much of his body is left.  One by one, the robotic pieces are removed until only his head, lungs and right hand are left. Horrified, Kinnaman asks that his life be terminated.  More on this later.

There are a few things that this movie deals with very well.  The increasing use of robots to do the work of soldiers and law enforcement personnel.  Corporate greed and corporations’ heavy influence on the government.  The way Kinnaman reconnects with his wife and son, the way his family dealt with Kinnaman becoming Robocop… I was happy to see that this movie touched on these subjects, completely the opposite of the original movie that quickly brushed aside the family and had them disappear long before Robocop makes an appearance.  But all this cannot surpass the hyper-violence and satirical views on corporate greed/ media insensitivity that is found in the first “Robocop” movie.

For those who have never seen the 2 “Robocop” movies and plan to do so, I suggest you watch the remake first, then the original.  Save the best for last.

Now, back to Kinnaman’s character wanting to die after seeing how little of himself is left.  At some point in the future, maybe within 50 years, we’ll have this technology, where we can transfer our brains into robotic bodies.  I wonder how many of us will be willing to do so, assuming we can afford it.  Ask yourself: if your body was dying, but your brain — your mind, your soul — was still intact, would you transfer your mind to a robotic body?  I’ve asked myself this question many times over the past decade, and the answer is always yes.  I can always “unplug” should being a cyborg not work out.

— M

In 2005, a four man team of Navy SEALs are sent on a mission in Afghanistan to find and capture or kill high-ranking members of the Taliban. Problems with their communications equipment and encountering 3 Afghan, goat herders compromise the SEALs’ mission, producing a brutal fight that lasts for days.  This is “Lone Survivor,” based on the book by Marcus Luttrell, the only survivor of the four man SEAL team.

The opening of the movie shows real footage of Navy soldiers going through the hell of SEAL training.  It’s a great way to show the audience how tough these soldiers are early in the movie, which ties in well with how hard the team fought when the mission went sour.  It also shows the strong bond these men form early in their training.  When you’ve been through the same crap together in training, and then in combat, you become brothers, risking your life and willing to die so that your brother may live.  There are many instances of that in the second and third acts of “Lone Survivor.”

One example of the SEAL team’s brotherhood and sacrifice is my most memorable, movie moment of “Lone Survivor.”  That would be the scene when Taylor Kitsch (playing team leader Mike Murphy, who was soon to be married at the time) tells Mark Wahlberg (playing Marcus Luttrell) that Kitsch will climb to a higher and open area to make a call for help using a satellite phone while they are under heavy, enemy fire.  Wahlberg, knowing that the chances of Kitsch getting killed by doing this is very high, disagrees with the decision; but Kitsch has already made up his mind, and begins to give the few magazines of ammo he has left to Wahlberg.  Wahlberg says, “Sorry Mike.”  Kitsch replies, “For what?”  Wow.  Just think about that reply for a minute.

Coming in second place for my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when the SEAL team discuss what to do with their 3 goat herder prisoners (a boy, a teenager with hatred in his eyes, and an old man).  Various options were mentioned: let the prisoners go and they’ll probably go back to the Taliban village and rat out the SEALs; tie up the prisoners and the SEALs scrub the mission and go to the extraction point, but the prisoners could freeze to death or get eaten by a wild animal, therefore making the SEALs responsible for civilian deaths; or kill the prisoners and keep going with the mission, but that would violate the rules of engagement, and make the SEALs murderers.  It’s a hell of a discussion, and many of you will probably wonder what decision you would have made.  What the SEALs do decide regarding their prisoners is something they will pay a heavy price for.

Third place for my most memorable, movie moment of “Lone Survivor” is the speech given by a new SEAL member during his hazing ritual.  It is an affirmation of living life to the fullest, going for it balls out, and wanting more.  I admire people like that.  I wish I could say that speech and actually mean it; but I live a hum-drum life and I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon.

As far as action movies go, “Lone Survivor” delivers what you would expect of it.  But it’s more than a movie, it is a testament to the courage, toughness, sacrifice, and bond of these special men of the Navy’s Sea, Air, and Land forces.

–M

There are more subplots to “Transformers 4” than there are submenus on the latest smart phone; and so I will stick to the main plots or else this will be a very long review.

Because of what happened in the previous movie, all Transformers (the good Autobots as well as the evil Decepticons) are hunted down by the U.S. government.   But it’s not as black and white as keeping humans safe.   The government has a secret reason for hunting and destroying the alien robots: to use them as spare parts and for experimentation.   Corporations have partnered with government agencies to reverse-engineer the Transformers in order to gain knowledge of their technology, and ultimately be able to build their own Transformers.

Not wanting to go the way of most Native American nations, the few surviving Transformers hide from the humans.   Enter Mark Wahlberg, who plays a mechanic/failed robot inventor.  Spotting a wrecked truck, he buys it for salvage, and soon finds out that it is the badly damaged body of Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots.  Wahlberg fixes Prime so that he is at least functional — and just in time, too, as the government’s eyes and ears are always watching and listening; and the goon squad arrives at Wahlberg’s house to collect Prime, by any means necessary, including threatening to put a bullet in Wahlberg’s daughter, played by Nicola Peltz.

Wahlberg, Peltz, and Prime are now on the run, seeking help from the Autobots that are still alive.  They’ll need all the help they can get, because it’s not just humans that are after them, there are government-created transformers that are activated to destroy the Autobots; and there is an alien race that have come to collect and punish the Transformers whom they implied were created by the alien race.

One of my memorable, movie moments of “T4” is the scene that shows us the first appearance of the Dinobots.  Dinobots!  Remember them?  If so, then you’re at least as old as I am.  Oh, the memories of watching the “Transformers” cartoons after coming home from school.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Transformers: Age of Extinction” is the scene when Bumblebee (taking the guise of an old Camaro) is in the corporate headquarters of where Transformers are secretly being built.   Bumblebee’s driver looks at a mock-up of a corporate made Transformer, and mentions how good they look compared to the real thing.  Oops.  This guy obviously doesn’t know the Transformer he’s in is sensitive to remarks about the way he looks.  Bumblebee punishes the driver by shoving his steering wheel into his body.  Serves him right!

I’ve seen all the Transformers movies, and “T4” would rank last among the four.   That’s not to say it’s a bad movie.  I like “T4,” it’s just my least favorite of the four.   Typical of the other 3 movies, you have large, action sequences, humor, heart, great special effects, and a long running time.  It’s about 165 minutes, and I really felt it.   That’s a sign that something is not working right with the movie.  For example, one of the characters  —  who plays Peltz’s boyfriend — was not engaging.  His character needed more work to get the audience to care about him and root for him.  Then you have Wahlberg’s constant whining about how he just found out his daughter has a boyfriend, and the endless warnings to him about keeping his hands off his kid.  That got annoying very quickly.  But most of the problems of this movie is that some of the action sequences were too long.   It felt like a song that is overdone: you know, when a singer takes 10 seconds to sing one word, trying to show off her range and power.

Bottom line, if you enjoyed the previous Transformers movies, you should watch this one.  It’s not the best, but it’s still a good movie…better if you watch it at home so you can pause it and go to the bathroom and get snacks — you’ll need to do those things with a near 3 hour movie that drags sometimes.

I happen to have watched it at the drive-in, and that in and of itself makes “Transformers: Age of Extinction” more appealing.

— M

My friends and I at the drive-in theater to see "Transformers: Age of Extinction."

My friends and I at the drive-in theater to see “Transformers: Age of Extinction.”

In the future, America will have one night where virtually all crime is legal.  From 7 P.M. to 7 A.M., citizens can roam the streets or break into homes to do whatever violence they please.  The purpose is to give an outlet once a year for the hatred and violence that brews in the hearts and minds of most people, thereby pacifying the people for the rest of the year and lowering the crime rate and the cost of fighting crime.  High ranking, government officials are off the menu, though.  I know!  They just took the fun out of this whole thing!

Ethan Hawke stars in “The Purge” as a successful, security expert who sells “the haves” with anti-home invasion products — as for the “have nots,” well, they’re just s*#t out of luck during the 12 hour purge.   Hawke spends this year’s Purge in the safety of his home with his wife (played by Lena Headey) and bratty daughter and a son who may as well be a second daughter judging by his looks.  The son, by the way, is also piss poor in a fight.  Yeah, I know, he’s just a boy.  But damn it, he put the whole family’s life on the line and now that the s*@t’s hit the fan, girly-boy needs to man the f&#k up and fight harder than what you’ll see him do in the movie!  Plus I don’t like kids anyway, so hell yeah, I’m going to be a tough critic on the little snot factory.  Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself here.  Let me back up.

So, Hawke and family are all set to spend a quiet night at home and wait out the Purge.  But then a homeless man who has been injured comes to the uppity neighborhood of Hawke’s and starts screaming for help, begging to be let in.  Hawke’s son disarms the security system and lets the man in.   Seeing that Hawke isn’t too happy with his presence, the homeless dude disappears within Hawke’s very large house.   So now Hawke and Headey, with guns drawn, search the house to find this stranger and boot him out.   After all, this guy could be a rapist, murderer, or worse…a politician.

To make matters worse, a group of about 8 heavily armed preppies track the homeless guy to Hawke’s house, and now they want Hawke to hand over the homeless guy.  If Hawke doesn’t do it, the preppies will force their way in and kill everyone inside.

“The Purge” is the best, independent movie I’ve seen in many years.  At a cost of about $3 million (I’m assuming Hawke and Headey took a big pay cut in exchange for a bigger back end), this goes to show you that good writing and directing and acting are better than having a big budget with a  mediocre script.  Yes, many of the fight scenes ended the same way (the writing got lazy in those parts), but overall “The Purge” is a must-watch.  The movie deals with many subjects such as: what your neighbors really think of you beneath all those fake smiles and compliments; what morals and values you are willing to compromise to keep yourself alive and safe; how people view and treat those who are poor; and how easy it is to turn your back and ignore the suffering of others as long as it’s not happening to you.

With a run time of under 1 1/2 hours, “The Purge” moves fast, locking in the audience’s attention early in the movie even before the Purge begins.  Hawke’s drive home, Headey preparing dinner and yapping with the neighbors…all these scenes have a lot of tension because of what will begin when the sun goes down.  That is good writing, directing and editing.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Purge” is the scene when Headey makes a decision on what to do with some of her home invaders.  Since this happens near the end of the story, I won’t go into any details.  Depending on who you are and what your views are regarding certain things, you’ll agree and like what she does, or you’ll disagree and tell yourself that it didn’t make any sense.

Whatever you’ll feel about the ending, “The Purge” will stay with you long after it’s over, and you’ll probably ask yourself if you were in that situation, would you go out and participate in the Purge?  If so, who would you go after?  Me: I’d go after that neighbor who always likes to park in front of my house with the ass-end of his big, SUV partly blocking my driveway.

— M

 

 

Tom Hanks plays the title role in “Captain Phillips,” the true story of a cargo ship, the Maersk Alabama, that was boarded and taken over by Somali pirates back in 2009.   Barkhad Abdi plays the leader of the four man, Somali pirate crew that goes after the Maersk for a huge payday; but Hanks and his crew do everything in their power to prevent the complete takeover of the Maersk.  Brains against brawn, and for the most part, the brains win.  Until the pirates kidnap Hanks and escape using the Maersk’s lifeboat, heading for Somalia so the pirates can ransom Hanks.

With the U.S. Navy in pursuit, the order is given to not let Hanks reach Somalia.  Navy SEALs are called in to intervene should a peaceful resolution not materialize.  But how can you rescue a man in an enclosed lifeboat with 4 kidnappers who are armed with automatic rifles, ready to kill their hostage if the negotiations go sour?

“Captain Phillips” is a very good thriller/suspense movie that ramps up the tension quickly in the first act and doesn’t let up until the end of the movie.  The moment when things really start heating up is one of my memorable, movie moments of “Captain Phillips.”  That would be the part when Hanks notices two small blips on his radar screen, rapidly closing in on the Maersk.  The feeling I got from watching this is the same when I watched all those nature shows where predators, hunting in packs, move in on their prey.  The hunted may get away, but you just know the hunters will keep coming.

Another memorable moment of “Captain Phillips” is the scene when one Somali pirate calls Abdi a “skinny rat.”  Huh?  That’s like me calling Michael J. Fox short.  With half the country starving and looking like stick figures, these guys need more creative insults.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Captain Phillips” is the first time we get a good look at the outside of the Maersk’s lifeboat.  The damn thing looks like half of a Twin Pod Cloud Car from “The Empire Strikes Back.”  And from the front, it looks like the head of a T-Rex!  What the hell?

My enjoyment of watching this movie was increased because I saw this on a kick-ass, home theater system owned by my friend, Tony.  The screen is so huge (maybe 150 inches diagonally) that you had to move your head sometimes to see everything.   Good movie, good food, better friends.  Life is good.

So, driving home after hanging out with my friends, I got into a situation that I thought may become my own “Captain Phillips” story.  I was at a stoplight, and this scruffy-looking guy walks across past my car, and then he stops and looks at me and holds up a few dollar bills and starts talking to me.  It’s cold, all the windows are up, I have the radio on…I have no idea what the hell this dude was saying.  I shake my head at him — whatever he wanted from me, my answer was no.  Can I get a ride?  Nope.  Do you want to buy drugs?  Nope.  Do you want a hooker?  Nope.  Can you roll down the window so you can hear me?  Nope.  Well, this guy is still holding up cash and asking me something again.  I wave my hand no at him, ready to mash the throttle of my car and run his creepy ass over if he tried to carjack me.  The guy walks away, and I asked my friend next to me what the hell he wanted.  She said he wanted to know if I had quarters for a dollar.  WTF!  Yeah, like I was going to roll my windows down in this shady neighborhood and let this weirdo exchange his dollar for quarters.  Not in this century.

— M

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