Film Reviews

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Shattered Glass (2003) Review

I generally find cutesy titles distasteful, but I'll let it slide here, because the film itself is actually quite good. Shattered Glass is based on the true story of Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen), a young, hot-shot writer for The New Republic in Washington D.C. He rose to fame quickly over his three years with the publication by partially or completely concocting his stories. Everything goes relatively without a hitch, until another publication starts researching one of Glass' stories. The film covers Glass' desperate attempts to keep from being found out. There's a lot to like here. The writing is rock solid. Billy Ray - who also directed the feature - does an elegant job of misleading the audience and keeping them on the fence as to whether or not Glass actually did fabricate his stories (that is, if you aren't already familiar with the real story). Only once does Ray play dirty, using an "it was all a dream" convention, but, given the character of Glass, it works out. Also, a sufficient amount of the film is dedicated to the journalism process, giving the movie a believable authority and adding quite a bit of depth to the plot as a whole. As a writer, it was also nice to see the bits where writers fought for bylines or asked for criticisms. All in all, the script is highly nuanced....
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Rambo (2008) Review

There's a resurgence of old Hollywood legacies lately and our old Vietnam veteran, Medal of Honor-winner, John Rambo follows suit with the fourth installment of the Rambo series, simply titled Rambo. No gimmicky taglines added this time, at least not in the States, anyway. When last we saw our friend John (Sylvester Stallone), he was rescuing his mentor Colonel Trautman from Afghanistan. In part four, Rambo finds his solace as a boatman and part-time snake handler just beyond the border of war torn Burma. For a guy who's gone Buddhist, he sure likes to stay close to unmitigated conflict. One day, a group of American philanthropic Christians, from Colorado no less, seek out Rambo to ferry them up the river so that they can deliver much needed medical supplies and attention to the hapless villagers suffering at the hands of the local military. Against his better judgment, Rambo allows himself to be persuaded by some faulty logic and brings the group of doctors into Burma. They, of course, get captured and it's up to Rambo to save the day....
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There Will Be Blood (2007) Review

Daniel Day Lewis is one of the finest actors of our time, without a doubt. Watching him play oil prospector cum tycoon Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood is one of any film reviewer's rare pleasures. The character is so ingrained into Lewis' acting it's as near to being as acting can get. This performance will be studied for years to come in acting workshops around the world. Still, there's something to be said about making a movie that's just plain entertaining. There Will Be Blood is not that movie. From the get-go, the movie smacks of pretentiousness. As the screen fades in for the opening scene, we're assaulted by the blaring soundtrack for no apparent reason. Then we're forced to experience the daily toil of an oil prospector in the early 1900's, watching Plainview swing his pick and dynamite walls for uncomfortably too long. Sure, it's interesting to see what an oil prospector went through back in the day, but the interest wears thin when you have to watch it in real time. What's worse is that there is no dialogue - or inner monologue, for that matter - to complement the scenes. There's just silent observation. It's an interesting directorial choice at first, but then becomes silly when there are multiple characters on screen for extended periods, working with each other in complete silence. Even when there's immediate danger, no one yells, "Look out!" or utters, "Uh oh." Nothing. Just sweet, serene silence as someone dies. Style over substance. Style over entertainment, too....
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Hitman (2007) Review

Hitman is yet another example revealing that Hollywood has no idea of what video gamers want out of a film adaptation. It's no secret that movies based on video games are typically hollow and nonsensical, especially with the likes of Uwe Boll running around, but sometimes, it just boggles the mind. I wish directors and producers would take a step back and ask themselves, "If this were just an original movie based on nothing, would it still make sense and would it still be enjoyable?" The answer here is "no." Regrettably, even if you're familiar with the source material, the answer is still "no." Let's forget about the video game for a moment and try to tackle Hitman the movie. The protagonist is a super assassin codenamed Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant). He's part of a mysterious group called the Organization that breeds a bunch of bald-headed super assassins, easily identified by the barcode on the back of their skulls. There appears to be some religious ties as well, but beyond the quick childhood shots in the beginning, we don't get much background on our hero. He gets his orders through his laptop, but why he does what he does or what the motives of his Organization are is a mystery. 47 is pursued by Interpol Agent Mike Whittier (Dougray Scott) who's been chasing him for several years. Everything's going fine for 47 until one of his marks amazingly comes back from the dead and the Organization starts hunting 47....
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Balls of Fury (2007) Review

Film marketing groups really need to re-examine their methods, especially when it comes to a film like Balls of Fury. Whole scenes can be constructed around punch lines and it’s a real shame when the marketing side doesn’t have enough faith in the film and reveals those gags to draw audiences. Such is the case here; so anyone who’s seen the previews will feel cheated several times throughout the movie. In Balls of Fury we follow ping pong virtuoso and Olympic hopeful Randy Daytona (Dan Fogler) from his auspicious beginnings to his ignominious downfall and then through his trek toward redemption. This classic Bildungsroman journey is weaved into a screwball spoof of Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon. Randy is recruited by FBI Agent Ernie Rodriguez (George Lopez) to infiltrate the mysterious Feng’s compound and see what bad things he’s up to. Along the way, Randy teams up with ping pong master Wong (James Hong) and his equally talented niece Maggie (Maggie Q)....
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The Sentinel (2006) Review

The Sentinel is your classic frame-up story where the hero is part of some group or elite taskforce and is mistakenly considered a bad guy. The hero must now elude capture by his/her old colleagues in order to clear his/her name. Think The Negotiator or Minority Report or any other film that fits the bill. In this case, we have Pete Garrison (Michael Douglas), an aged Secret Service Agent who took a bullet for President Reagan in his younger years. When we meet him in his current older state, he's still protecting the current President, but the First Lady seems to have added sexual favors to his job description. We find this out, of course, on the heels of hearing Garrison's close friend tell him that he has something important to disclose, but will wait until later. Note to Self: Whenever someone tells you that they "have something important to tell you," make them tell you whatever it is right then and there. Nine times out of ten, that person will end up dead before they can tell it to you. Such is the case here. Alas. Fortunately for Garrison, an informant tips him off to an internal assassination plot on the President by a rogue Secret Service Agent. Things turn for the worse, however, when someone blackmails Garrison into suspicious behavior, using photographs of him and the First Lady as leverage. This causes super-agent David Breckinridge (Kiefer Sutherland) and his new partner (Eva Longoria) to bring Garrison in, who, of course, runs. From there, Garrison must elude authorities, prove his innocence, smoke out the rogue agent and save the President's life all in what's left of the 108 minutes of the movie....
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Beowulf 3-D (2007) Review

First, let me just admit that I didn't read the original epic poem, so I won't make any opinions about how true Beowulf the movie is to the source material. Secondly, I was fortunate enough to catch the 3-D version, so if over-ooh and ahh about the visuals, just know that they were literally popping off the screen for me, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Beowulf is based on the Old English epic poem dating as far back as around the eighth century. In the movie, Beowulf is a monster-killer and he and his stalwart band of fearless Geats arrive in Danish lands to rid a small village of their local monster, Grendel, voiced marvelously by Crispin Glover. Unfortunately, Beowulf (Ray Winstone) must also deal with Grendel's mother, voiced by and modeled after the inimitable Angelina Jolie, and then later fight a dragon. Despite these numerous foes, the real opposition for Beowulf is himself. He must overcome the fallacies of his nature to truly be the hero everyone, including himself, believes he is....
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Dragon Heat (2005) Review

It's hard to know how to review a film from another culture sometimes. Can I really say that any one way of filmmaking is the "right" way? I don't think so. Well, let's just say that I enjoy martial arts films, but also enjoy the economy of scenes in Western films. With that in mind, I can confidently say that I had a good time watching this movie, but it got gratuitous and mired itself down with too much development. As near as I can figure, the plot goes a little something like this: An important witness is being transported under heavy guard so that he can testify safely. A young team of hot shot cops is assembled to protect him during transit. An old team of hot shot bad guys assembles to liberate the witness. The old team beats the young team and they make off with the witness, but not to rescue him. Instead, the witness is used as ransom by the old team bad guys to lure out the witness' brother who happens to be a different bad guy. And the reason they want that bad guy is because he got Michael Biehn's brother killed. Actually, every character on both the good and bad teams has a beef to sort out with someone else on the other side. And that's precisely the reason why the film breaks down....