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Eventually, we’re all going to have to come to terms with the end of the “Liam Neeson avenges a relative after something bad happens to him/her” subgenre of films. As much as we might want to think he can do it forever, the truth is that Neeson will have to stop someday.

But today is not that day.

“Cold Pursuit” – an American adaptation of the 2014 Norwegian film “Kraftidioten” (“In Order of Disappearance”) – is the latest entry into Neeson’s old guy action oeuvre. He’s done planes and trains, so it was only a matter of time before we got to snowplows. Yes, really. It’s the story of a simple man who vows to determine the truth behind the loss of a loved one; his quest leads him to take up arms against a variety of bad guys, even though it might well wind up costing him everything – including his humanity.

Published in Movies
Sunday, 03 February 2019 18:25

‘Miss Bala’ mostly misfires

By now, we’ve grown accustomed to unconventional action movie leads. The past decade-plus has illustrated that action heroes are no longer one-size-fits-all. So I wasn’t all that surprised to see that Gina Rodriguez was getting a swing at heading up her own shoot-em-up.

Sure, Rodriguez is best known as the titular Jane in TV’s “Jane the Virgin,” but she has shown flashes of action aptitude in movies like “Annihilation.” It makes sense that she’d get a shot. It’s just too bad that said shot wildly misses the target.

“Miss Bala” – a remake of the 2011 Mexican film of the same name – is a story of a woman who gets swept up into a fight that she had nothing to with, a battle between cartels and corrupt police and unfeeling governments. Forced into the middle of a war she never wanted to fight, she has no choice but to do whatever it takes to survive.

Unfortunately, while the movie has a striking look and a handful of genuinely engaging sequences, the vast majority of the narrative is confusing and convoluted. Subplots are introduced and discarded at seeming random, with little consistency regarding what should be considered important. It is chaotic and melodramatic, a feature-length telenovela with explosions (not a compliment, though I can see how it might read as one).

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 19 December 2018 13:35

The ‘Mortal Engines’ that couldn’t

Every once in a while, I’ll see a movie that indicates to me that the YA dystopia film adaptation boom is coming to a close. In terms of critical and/or commercial performance – not to mention general quality – it will just cry out rock bottom. And yet, we keep getting more big-budget dart throws as studios desperately grasp for the next “Hunger Games.”

But few of those shots-in-the-dark have failed even close to as spectacularly as “Mortal Engines.” This film – based on the Peter Reeve book series of the same name – was supposed to be a jumping-off point for a new franchise. Instead, it might be the biggest bomb of the year.

It’s a clanking, overwrought piece of stylized junk. The effects work is uneven, the narrative is simplistic and riddled with holes and the performances are indifferent at best and distractingly terrible at worst. This movie traffics in every cliché and overused trope in the YA sphere – and does so while completely lacking awareness. It clanks and crunches and generally disappoints; it is as poorly-oiled a machine as you’re likely to find.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 28 November 2018 14:00

New ‘Robin Hood’ wildly off-target

There are few characters that have had as many different Hollywood love affairs as Robin Hood. The legendary outlaw with the “rob from the rich, give to the poor” ethos has been featured on the big screen since the medium’s beginnings – his first cinematic appearance was in “Robin Hood and His Merry Men” back in 1908. Over the subsequent century-plus, the character has turned up scores of times on screens large and small alike.

Which begs the question: did we NEED another Robin Hood movie?

The answer, if we’re going by the Otto Bathurst-directed, Taron Egerton-starring “Robin Hood,” is a resounding “no.” It’s a clunky, uneven effort at reimagining the character; the narrative defies logic and the action defies physics. Efforts to be edgy feel tryhard and condescending. The end result is a jarring mess of a movie, a joyless slog that feels like nothing else so much as a waste of your time.

Published in Movies

As the end of the year approaches, moviegoers can look forward to a deluge of quality films gracing screens as studios jockey for position in the coming awards season. There are a spate of great films looming just over the horizon.

But as the new submarine action thriller “Hunter Killer” aptly illustrates – we’re not quite there yet.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 19 September 2018 11:21

To catch ‘The Predator’

When Hollywood isn’t rebooting or remaking, it’s sequel-izing – even if the previous entry is years or even decades in the past. The successful efforts are fairly few and far between, but the wave of IP filmmaking doesn’t appear to have crested yet.

And so we get another “Predator” movie.

“The Predator” is the fourth standalone film in the franchise, following “Predator” (1987), “Predator 2” (1990) and “Predators” (2010) – please note that we’re not including the two crossover films with the “Alien” universe. Shane Black – who is not only one of the best action screenwriters of the past 25 years and a heck of a director, but actually played a small part in “Predator” back in 1987 – is the ideal man to bring this franchise back, someone with a clear affection for and understanding of the source material. Black directs from a script he co-wrote with Fred Dekker.

Set in the present day, it’s the story of a soldier whose chance encounter with an alien in the jungle leads to a fight to save himself and everyone he cares about from a gruesome (and I do mean GRUESOME) death. It is packed with gags and gore, a throwback sort of action movie that feels like it would fit right into the heyday of the original. It’s a flawed film, to be sure, but action fans will have a hell of a time.

Published in Movies

We’re still not used to female action stars.

Even as the gates are gradually opening and allowing women to take the lead in action movies, there’s still a degree of novelty to it. It’s unfortunate that that’s the case, although it is slowly getting better. Still, woman-driven action is still a relative rarity.

So when you see something like “Peppermint” come along, a revenge thriller featuring Jennifer Garner as a mother who lost everything and is willing to do anything and everything necessary to make those responsible pay dearly. It isn’t a shining example of the genre – it’s formulaic and lacks much in the way of perspective and/or visceral thrills. It head fakes toward a few message-type issues – feminism, class, the legal system – but never really strays from its fundamental potboiler-ness. And yet, it is extremely watchable, thanks mostly to a strong and believable performance from Garner and a frankly-impressive body count.

Published in Movies

Come with me, won’t you? Come with me to a simpler time. To 1996, when sequels were considered mildly profitable punchlines and the idea of constructing massive cinematic franchises was largely contained to the Spielbergs and Lucases of the world.

That was the year we got “Mission: Impossible,” an adaptation of the 1960s television show of the same name. It was a Tom Cruise action vehicle that did well both commercially and critically and that could have been that. A pair of sequels that caught top-tier directorial talents either after their prime (John Woo for MI2 in 2000) or before it (J.J. Abrams for MI3 in 2006) made it seem like maybe we should stop.

Instead, the franchise has carried forward with three of the best action movies of the past decade. This unlikely wellspring has given us “Ghost Protocol,” “Rogue Nation” and the latest installment “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” … which might be the best one we’ve seen so far. It once again relies on coherent, well-executed action set pieces, a few moments of winking dialogue and – most importantly - Cruise’s complete willingness to hurl himself headlong into harm’s way if it might allow him to win our love.

Published in Movies

There’s something comforting about known quantities when it comes to the cinema. Going to the movies with a confident understanding of precisely the experience you’re going to have can be kind of nice.

So it is with summer CGI-explosion fest “Skyscraper,” a simplistically-titled vehicle for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (who by The Maine Edge fiat will continue to be called The Rock and there’s nothing any of you can do to stop me) that is formulaic and predictable and jam-packed with action clichés both general and Rock-specific.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s not a good movie, mind you, but if your expectations are tempered by the knowledge of both the film’s star and its title, you will almost certainly have a good time.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 11 July 2018 12:13

‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ comes up big

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has become one of the primary driving forces in the world of movies over the past decade. Each of these films makes hundreds of millions at the box office and continues the ever-evolving and unfolding story, moving toward massive paradigm shifts and crossover events.

But here’s the thing – operating on global and cosmic scales presents some issues. Namely – you can’t just keep raising the stakes; narrative stakes can only be raised so many times before things begin to lose their impact and feel forced. To avoid reaching that point, some sort of reset is necessary. With the 20th film in the MCU, the powers that be have chosen to cleanse our palates after the cataclysmic consequences of “Avengers: Infinity War.”

“Ant-Man and the Wasp” brings the MCU back down to Earth, choosing to tell a smaller, largely self-contained story. Taking place before the events of “IW,” the film doesn’t deal with fate-of-the-universe-level consequences. Instead, its impact is primarily on a more individual plane. It exists mostly independent of the other films, without the numerous cameos and tangential MacGuffins that often riddle MCU offerings. That freedom allows “AM&TW” to be lighter and funnier while still providing the superpowered set pieces audiences have come to expect.

Published in Movies
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