Category Archives: Action & Adventure

Cold Pursuit (2019) Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

Cold Pursuit Review

A Plowman’s Revenge (Blu-ray Review)

Director: Hans Petter Moland
Writers: Frank Baldwin (screenplay by), Kim Fupz Aakeson (based on the movie ‘Kraftidioten’ written by)
Starring Liam Neeson, Tom Bateman, Emmy Rossum, Tom Jackson, William Forsythe, Laura Dern, Domenick Lombardozzi, Raoul Trujillo, Julia Jones, Benjamin Hollingsworth, Arnold Pinnock, Micheal Richardson.

Liam Neeson has been channeling his inner Bronson for so long that one could be forgiven for assuming Cold Pursuit has him playing yet another one-man wrecking crew. But don’t let the generic title fool you. This is a highly amusing black comedy that just happens to have some great action.

Granted, as Nels Coxman, Neeson does exact a bit of bloody revenge over the death of his son, who was murdered by thugs on orders from smug, psychotic drug lord Trevor “Viking” Calcote (Tom Bateman). And yeah, Nels plans to kill his way to the top of the food chain. But Nels isn’t ex-CIA or a retired super soldier. He’s just a grieving, angry snowplow driver. And even though he dispatches three bad guys in short order, Viking assumes it’s the work of a rival Ute mob run by White Bull (Tom Jackson). Striking back, Viking kills White Bull’s son, which triggers an escalating war.

Since I was unaware of director Hans Petter Moland’s original 2014 Norwegian version, In Order of Disappearance, I guess I was anticipating a snowbound Taken (which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing…Neeson’s an awesome senior-discount asskicker). However, the beauty of Cold Pursuit is how it consistently defies expectations. Neeson’s the star, of course, but the film is more of an ensemble piece loaded with interesting, sometimes quirky characters. Some appear for a scene or two, while others share nearly as much screen time as Neeson himself.

It’s hard to get into specifics without ruining many of the film’s surprises, but while there’s plenty of bullets ‘n’ blood, it’s just-as-often funny as hell, including a couple of priceless running gags related to the escalating body count. The humour is sometimes understated, sometimes broad and occasionally morbid. If Fargo was as an action film, it might resemble something like this. But even without the eclectic characters and copious amounts of dark humour, Cold Pursuit’s plot is interesting enough that it could be presented straight and still remain fairly engaging.

Though it may not be the best film I’ve reviewed so far this year, it’s by-far the most fun. Criminally overlooked in theatres, this one deserves a second life on home video, definitely worth checking-out by both action fans and those whose sense of humour leans toward the dark side.

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Triple Threat (2019) Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

 

Triple Threat Review,

Director: Jesse V. Johnson
Writers: Joey O’Bryan, Fangjin Song (Writer)
Stars: Tony Jaa, Tiger Hu Chen, Iko Uwais

I suppose you could call Triple Threat an all-star, East vs. West clash of titans.

In one corner, you’ve got Asian martial arts superstars Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais and Tiger Chen, none of them strangers to the genre. In the other, there’s Westerners Scott Adkins, Michael Jai White and Michael Bisping. Adkins & White are legends of direct-to-video action, while Bisping is a former UFC champion.

If that collection of names doesn’t excite you, you’re obviously reading the wrong review.

For everyone else, Triple Threat is blood-soaked brawl with a plot thrown in because most movies require them. Fortunately, director Jesse V. Johnson wisely keeps the story simple, lest it intrude too much on the action. For the record, though, Jaa & Uwais play Payu & Long, two mercenaries duped into helping a crew of baddies release their boss, a notorious terrorist named Collins (Adkins), being held in a Thai village. After the mission, they are left-for-dead, as is lone surviving villager, Jaka (Iko Uwais), who now wants to avenge his wife’s murder. The three form an uneasy alliance to track down these killers, whose next target is Tian (Celina Jade), a philanthropist using her wealth to stop organized crime in her country.

Much of the movie is a chase, Payui & Long protecting Tian while Jaka infiltrates Collins’ crew (which includes White and Bisping). Though the film takes an occasional breather for necessary exposition, it’s mostly one elaborate action set-piece after another. There’s martial arts o’ plenty, of course, as well as ample amounts of bullets and blood. And if you’ve ever wondered what being shot point-blank by a grenade launcher looks like, this is the movie for you.

If not, why are you still reading?

Though the film is fairly light on characterisation, the performances are good. When they aren’t snapping limbs, the three protagonists are congenially likeable and empathetic. Both Adkins and White look like they’re having a great time tearing things up, relishing their roles as villains. On the other hand, Jade can only do so much with her thankless role as “the woman in jeopardy” (including an eye-rolling scene where she’s hampered by high heels).

While not in the same league as The Raid (what is?), Triple Threat wisely takes the similar path with its story telling: Keep it simple, keep it moving and keep it intense. The film doesn’t necessarily challenge the intellect, but it seldom descends into stupidity, either. Ultimately, this East vs. West showdown is a feast for action lovers.

Replicas (2018) Blu-Ray Review By D.M. Anderson

Replicas Review, A scientist becomes obsessed with bringing back his family members who died in a traffic accidentDirector: Jeffrey Nachmanoff
Writers: Chad St. John (screenplay by), Stephen Hamel (story by)
Starring Keanu Reeves, Alice Eve, Thomas Middleditch, John Ortiz, Emjay Anthony, Emily Alyn Lind, Aria Leabu.

“Cloning Around with Replicas”

Though it eventually takes some narrative wrong turns and is somewhat hampered by the limitations of its star, Replicas isn’t nearly the dumpster fire some critics have suggested. The basic premise is pretty solid and, for awhile anyway, raises some interesting moral questions.

Keanu Reeves plays William Foster, a brilliant researcher on the verge of transferring human memories into an artificial brain, though so far, his subjects have violently rejected their new robotic bodies. Tragedy strikes one night when his wife and three kids are killed in a car accident. Fortunately – and quite conveniently – his colleague, Ed (Thomas Middleditch), has been experimenting with cloning in the same facility. But unfortunately, he only has three cloning pods, meaning William must choose which family members to resurrect. Poor little Zoe loses out. In the film’s most affecting sequence, William is not-only forced to come-to-grips with losing a child, he has to get rid of all evidence she ever existed, which includes erasing her from the memories of his “new” family.

Naturally, there are complications. Despite attempts to cover his tracks, which includes disposing of his family’s old bodies and accounting for their disappearance while the clones are incubating, William is ultimately unable to hide the fact the Fosters are one-kid-short. The dilemma creates some intriguing, occasionally suspenseful scenarios where William’s personal grief clouds his logic. Sure, the viewer is asked to accept some narrative implausibilities, but up to this point, the stage is set for an exploration of the moral – and legal – consequences of his actions. Had Replicas continued down this path, it could have been something special.

Instead, the third act descends into a standard thriller where the Fosters are on the run from those who want to kill them and use William’s scientific breakthrough for more nefarious purposes. The film remains watchable, though grows increasingly far-fetched and predictable…lots of action and a few obligatory twists, but its chosen path is already well-traveled, so the resolution will surprise no one. I also need to take issue with Reeves as the main protagonist. Based on his interviews in the bonus features, Replicas was sort-of a labor of love. While I like Reeves and he certainly isn’t terrible here, I think the emotional desperation required for such a role might be beyond his abilities.

Still, Replicas remains fairly enjoyable, perhaps more so at home, where the viewer is less likely to feel short-changed by the unfortunate decision to dumb things down toward the end. Until then, the film offers-up some interesting ideas, even raising a few moral questions we might feel compelled to ask ourselves if forced to make similar decisions.

The Kid Who Would Be King (2019) Blu-Ray Review By D.M. Anderson

The Kid Who Would Be King Review, A band of kids embark on an epic quest to thwart a medieval menace.

A Curmudgeon’s Guide 

Director: Joe Cornish
Writer: Joe Cornish
Stars: Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Dean Chaumoo, Angus Imrie, Patrick Stewart

I hate using the term, “They don’t make ‘em like this anymore,” a phrase mostly used by grumpy old curmudgeons to express their contempt for anything with mass appeal to generations other than their own. I suppose I am a grumpy old curmudgeon in some ways. Sorry kids, but your music sucks. The latest Metallica album, though? Man, they don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

But while that adage kept popping into my mind while watching The Kid Who Would Be King, it wasn’t out of longing for the good ol’ days. But in point of fact, the film is quite unlike what generally passes for family entertainment these days. It isn’t animated, nor is it based on a book series, comics character, video game or line of toys. There’s no questionable language, scatological gags, overt slapstick or any other pandering attempt to garner giggles. Though it’s often quite funny, the film earns its laughs through the characters’ interactions and the situations the story puts them in.

Updating the Arthurian legend with modern kids is a great concept. Writer-director Joe Cornish wisely opts to create a straightforward fantasy-adventure, cleverly acknowledging the more familiar elements of King Arthur’s tale while spinning a fresh story of his own. After drawing Arthur’s sword, Excalibur, from a stone at a construction site, 12-year-old Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis…yeah, Andy’s kid) is tasked to stop Arthur’s evil half-sister, Morgana, from returning to wreak havoc on the world. After Merlin (Angus Imrie) arrives to gravely inform him what’s at stake, Alex must recruit both friends and enemies to aid him in his quest, which will take them across England.

Despite running two full hours, the film is consistently engaging and fun, with believable characters performed by an able young cast. Though Patrick Stewart shows up as an older version of Merlin and Rebecca Ferguson plays Morgana, the rest of the adults are peripheral characters. Even Merlin is primarily presented as a 16-year-old who assists and advises Alex and his “knights” in their quest to thwart Morgana. None of the characters come across as composites or broadly-drawn caricatures. Even the two bullies of the film are pretty well-rounded.

Though the film starts a little slow, once things get rolling and they begin their quest, The Kid Who Would Be King is a rousing adventure with some great action sequences bolstered by imaginative special effects (Morgana’s army of demons is particularly impressive). The climactic battle at the kids’ school is genuinely thrilling and often pretty damn funny. Like all family films, there’s an underlying message, of course, and considering the tumultuous state of the world right now, the one presented here couldn’t be more timely. A lot of adults could stand to be reminded of it, too.

Best of all, there isn’t a cynical moment in the entire film. Despite the title – a play on Kipling’s unrelated novel – this isn’t so-much a kiddie flick as it is an epic adventure that just happens to be suitable for the entire family. It’s a damn shame we live in a world where this tanks at the box office while The Emoji Movie rakes in millions (oops…I’m letting the curmudgeon in me show again). On the other hand, Willy Wonka and The Iron Giant were initially bombs and now everybody loves them. Maybe The Kid Who Would Be King can find the audience it deserves on home video, too, or else they might not make ‘em like this anymore. Highly recommended for everybody.

Guardians (2017) Movie Review By Steven Wilkins

Guardians Review,

Director: Sarik Andreasyan
Writers: Andrey Gavrilov (screenplay), Sarik Andreasyan (story)
Stars: Anton Pampushnyy, Sanjar Madi, Sebastien Sisak

From Russia comes a superhero story from director Sarik Andreasyan starring Alina Lalina, Anton Pampushnyy, Sanjar Madi, Sébastien Sisek, Valeriya Shkirando and Stanislav Shirin.

This movie overall is fun, cringy, very formulaic and cheesy.  The action kicks off pretty much from the start and let’s up only to toss is some character backstory. The action itself is good, not great.  The CGI is actually pretty good as well, aside from one glaring use which comes in the form of one of our heroes.

With that said, our heroes are 4 modified humans given abilities during the Cold War.  Kseniya (Alina Lalina) is gifted within visibility, Ler (Sébastien Sisek) has control over rocks (an Earthbender if you will), Khan (Sanjar Madi) is the most visual treat, given super speed and then there’s Arsus (Anton Pampushnyy) who can turn into a bear which is where the glaring CGI use and absurd continuity issues come into play.  

Each transformation has his tearing through his clothes but upon reverting to human form, said articles of clothing are present again.  Laughable at most but easily forgettable.

Our villain, August Kuratov (Stanislav Shirin), is a steroid jacked being capable of “talking” to tech hell bent on world domination. Again, formulaic, but it all works.

This isn’t a must view, nor does it really have any replay value but it’s a solid view and has a good bit of potential.

There is a bonus scene after the credits…which made not a bit of sense (or it did within the film and I just missed it) but it’s there and I assume pertains to a potential sequel.  Either way, enjoy

Rated: B