Category Archives: 3 Star

Guardians – ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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At the height of the Cold War the Soviet Union developed a top secret program to give them an edge in what they thought would be the future of war; they were tasked with creating superhumans in Project Patriot.  A scientist involved in the project goes rogue and creates a clone army and tries to take over the world, so it’s up to these superhuman operatives to come together and stop him; they are the Guardians.


The bonus features on the DVD told a lot about this movie.  First, comic books (and comic book superheroes) aren’t big in Russia, so this movie was not trying to compete with the Marvels or the DCs of the world, and they weren’t trying to compete with a $300 million movie, they were just trying to make the best movie they could with the budget they had.  As a superhero movie, it was definitely a B, maybe even a C, but justified by those previous statements, they get an A for effort.  The special effects were quite good, there was a lot of CGI in the film for obvious reasons.  The characters were not fleshed out very well, but the powers they gave them and way they used them were quite interesting.  You had Arsus (Anton Pampushnyy), the were-bear with a mini-gun; Khan (Sanjar Madi) with razor sharp sickles, and he was either really fast or could teleport, it was a bit confusing at times… Kseniya (Alina Lanina) has no memory of how she got her powers of invisibility; and Ler (Sebastien Sisak Grigoryan) who seems to be the elder statesman and leader of the team can control rocks.  The whole project is overseen by Mayor Elena Larina (Valeriya Shkirando).  Quite a few of the command staff of Project Patriot seemed to be sexy Russian women….not necessarily a bad thing.


Arsus looked really cool, and would evolve into different degrees of were-bear-ness….  The mini-gun was a fun touch.  I really liked how they used Ler’s powers over rocks (I suppose that would be geokinesis).  At first he just threw them at people and levitated them, but then he started to attract them to his body, making rock armour, giant rock fists like the Thing from the Fantastic Four.  Loved it, that was super original!  Things like that made up for a few of the flubs they made on the script.  At one point the team is walking across a bridge structure and are being shot at by snipers, why not have your girl turn the team invisible before walking out in the open like that?  They already explained that was in Kseniya’s power-set… I think this is where the lack of exposure to these types of stories hurt their film.


I could see this becoming a minor cult classic because it’s quirky, fun, decently made, and they tried.  I can’t stand it when someone tries to force their film into cult-classic status by purposely making a bad movie.  A great number of cult classics may be bad, but they truly intended to make a good movie.  Guardians was a good movie and a fun watch; not the best, but it wasn’t trying to match up to the best.


Bottom Line:  It may not have been a big time super hero movie, but it did adopt the tradition of an after the credits scene.  I’d certainly watch a sequel if they made one.

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Victoria – ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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Victoria was a gimmick film, plain and simple.  It was shot in real time and in one long continuous take, without any cuts, without any re-dos.  On that front it succeeded fairly well.  As a story, it was a little lacking.  Victoria (Laia Costa) is a young Spanish woman living in Berlin, who after a solo night at a club meets up with four guys who describe themselves as “real Berliners” and offer to show her the true city and where to have a good time.  They get some beers and head up on a roof, smoke some cigarettes and eventually split up.  Sonne (Frederick Lau) has really taken a liking to Victoria and takes her back to the cafe she works at that she needs to open in a few hours.  As they flirt and chat one Sonne gets a phone call from one of the guys from earlier in the night called Boxer (Franz Rogowski), he needs Sonne’s help for something, and arrives at the cafe very agitated.  Boxer was in jail before and owes the guy who protected him while he was on the inside.  Now he needs Sonne to help him with some sort of illegal activity to pay back that debt that requires a four man team.  When one of the group is way too drunk to be of any use, Victoria agrees to be their getaway driver.  Crime and punishment come quickly as we creep into the early hours of morning.


From a filmmaking point of view, Victoria was ambitious and I’d have to say a success.  The film was 2 hours and 20 minutes, so they didn’t just try and rush through their “one take” experiment, they grabbed it by the horns and went all out.  Watching it though, I noticed a few clever little tricks they did to get their cast a little bit of rest.  I applaud the effort and the skill involved in making it, the planning, the organization, the timing all were impeccable.  Having a loose outline for the script and improvising a lot of the dialogue really helped make this film happen.  All that said, the film was great, but the movie wasn’t.  If it was filmed as a traditional movie, it would have had a more polished script which would have helped a great deal.  All in all, I’m glad I watched it though.


Bottom Line:  My biggest complaint was the DVD didn’t have subtitles, and for that I blame Mongrel Media.  Let me clarify though, it was subtitled when the characters were speaking German or Spanish, but there was no subtitle track or closed captioning for the English dialogue.  For a film like Victoria, there were no boom mics to pickup the sound, so a lot of the dialogue wasn’t very clear.  Being able to “cheat” and have the subtitles on would have been a nice option.  Also for such an experimental film, I was very disappointed that the DVD had no bonus features.

The Belko Experiment – ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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From James Gunn, the writer and director of Guardians of the Galaxy (Volumes One and Two!) comes the twisted social experiment known as The Belko Experiment.  Eighty employees of the Belko company arrive for work one morning, and are locked in their office building.  An anonymous voice comes over the PA system telling them that they have to kill thirty of their co-workers in an hour, and if they don’t sixty of them will be killed instead.  Some of the workers try to hide, some try to escape, and some turn violent.  Factions are formed, leaders are chosen, and people die.  When some of the workers try to make contact with the outside world one of their heads is remotely blown up, proving this experiment is not just a game.


The Belko Experiment was graphic, violent, suspenseful but also repetitive. Was it realistic though? Were these the reactions people would have in this admittedly absurd situation?  Yeah, it was probably pretty accurate.  James Gunn apparently came up with the idea for the script in a dream, and if this is what his dreams are made of, I’m worried about the possibilities in his nightmares.  He did a great job on the characters and there were a lot of recognizable actors involved with the project.  You liked some of them and you hated some of them. John C. McGinley was especially rotten in the movie, and it was great to see his character die. Gunn’s brother Sean has a nice little role, as does fellow Guardians of the Galaxy “Reaver”, Michael Rooker.  Tony Goldwyn was the boss in the film, and even though he could have been considered the bad guy, the cleverness of the script makes you wonder, as he was doing everything he did for his own survival.


My only complaint about The Belko Experiment was that it was a little slow because of the great character development.  I would almost have preferred it just went to the crazy action right away. The action when it did happen was pretty crazy, and the effects were quite good for what is clearly an elevated indie film.  The final scene was pretty predictable, from who would be the sole survivor, to how they would deal with their captors.  Still, it was quite entertaining and a nice release.  When I first heard of The Belko Experiment I was told it was going to be like Battle Royale meets Office Space, which I immediately made me think of the movie Operation: Endgame.  In that film a team of spies have to kill each other in their own office building, using whatever they have around them, I was very glad that Belko wasn’t just another film like that.  It was thought out very well, and was a lot more intelligent than you would think.  Dark beyond belief, it won’t be for everyone, but I did enjoy it.


Bottom Line:  I was very surprised to see Belko was put out by Orion Pictures, I had no idea that name was still around!

Lego Batman Movie – ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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I loved The Lego Movie.  This wasn’t The Lego Movie.  The Lego Batman Movie was written for kids, but didn’t have enough “adult humour” to hold my attention like The Lego Movie did.  Sure there were lots (and lots) of references to other Batman properties and a horde of other pop culture sources, but the humour wasn’t very clever in my opinion, in fact I thought it was pretty juvenile.  It didn’t make Batman cool, or funny, I thought it really just made the character look silly at the end of it all.  Sure there was humour, and I did laugh, but this one is definitely more aimed at kids.


It’s funny that I say it’s aimed at kids because there were a lot of inside jokes and nods to the audience that I don’t think kids would get.  Maybe the film is aimed at everyone, but the humour is just for the kids?  I guess I did appreciate a lot of the inside jokes.  You’ve got Billy Dee Williams voicing Two-Face, which is great because he was the original Harvey Dent in the first Michael Keaton/Tim Burton Batman movie back in 1989, and Harvey Dent become Two-Face.  The airplane at the beginning of the movie is the “McGuffin 1138”, referencing both THX-1138 and cleverly mixing in “McGuffin” which of course is the theatrical term for an something which is important to the characters but is actually immaterial to the plot.  They even brought in the “Bat Shark Repellent” from the 1966 Batman movie, and they even show clips of ’66s Adam West Batman.  Early on, The Joker says that his plan is not like the “two boats” plan or “the parade with the Prince music” which refers to The Dark Knight where he hijacks two boats and threatens to blow them up, and to Burton’s Batman, where the Joker has a parade to distract Gotham from his schemes.


Will Arnett who plays Batman and Michael Cera who voices Robin also played uncle and nephew (respectively) in Arrested Development, and Rosario Dawson voices Barbara Gordon/Batgirl.  I’m not sure why they had Eddie Izzard voice Voldemort when Ralph Fiennes was in the film as Alfred, and he actually played Voldemort in the Harry Potter films.  Why not have Izzard voice Alfred instead of Fiennes?  You can definitely tell that Arnett loves the role as he does put everything he’s got into his Lego Batman performances.  From the bonus features of the Blu Ray, you could see that the other cast members were also excited to be immortalized in 1 ½” of Lego plastic.


At the end of it all the movie was enjoyable, but I don’t think it will become a “classic”.


Bottom Line:  Lego Batman Movie didn’t make me want to play with LEGOs like The Lego Movie did.

Brand New Testament – ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

Brand New Testament


God exists, and he lives in Belgium.  And he’s a bit of a jerk… God also has a family, we know his son (J.C.), but he also has a wife (Yolande Moreau) and a daughter Ea (Pili Groyne).  This story focuses on Ea, who has become increasingly upset with the way her father treats mankind.  God sits in his office making up new rules on his computer (when you get into a bath, the phone will ring; when you’re in line, the other line will move faster) solely to torment the world.  One day when God has fallen asleep on the couch watching the hockey game (is this a Belgian film or a Canadian one?) Ea takes his keys, breaks into his office, and locks him out of his computer, but before she locks it, she releases the predetermined “death dates” to everyone on Earth to frustrate her father.  To avoid her father’s wrath, or I guess to avoid the “Wrath of God” she escapes to Earth from Heaven (which is a rundown apartment) via the spin cycle of their washing machine…

Once on Earth, Ea sets out with a homeless man as her scribe to find six disciples to add to her big brother’s twelve.  With twelve, the disciples were a hockey team (her father’s favourite sport), but now with eighteen, they’re a baseball team which is her mother’s favourite sport.  The scribe will write a Brand New Testament and it will be based on the lives of ordinary people.  Now that everyone knows when they will die, their lives and how they choose to live the rest of them are drastically altered.  Some for better, some for worse.  Some sadly, and some humourously.  Risks that would never be taken are risked, and friendships that would never have been made are made.  Some of them, for life.


Okay, it was good, but it was very French.  If you don’t like films like Amélie then you probably won’t like Brand New Testament.  The camera work, the lighting, the quirkiness of the characters, the cynicism and the absurdity, all ooze off the screen in a very European way.  Along the way we get touching stories about the chosen disciples that go from humourous to darkly sad in a few short frames.  Good performances from everyone with touching moments along the way, but the individual stories weren’t quite long enough for me.  Overall, it was entertaining, but I think it lacked focus and it wasn’t as carefree as I hoped.


Bottom Line: What would you do if you knew exactly how much time you had left to live?

Gridlocked – ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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Since I missed seeing John Wick Chapter 2 in theatres and it was still a while until it came to Blu Ray, I was in the mood for a good action movie.  I saw the trailer for Gridlocked and it looked interesting enough.  Maybe an action packed update of Hollywood Homicide or Showtime where you have a real cop with an actor on a ride along to learn how to be a cop for their upcoming movie.  Well, this was kind of like that.  Cody Hackman plays Brody Walker, an actor who gets in trouble with the law one time too many, and is forced to ride along with a cop (Dominic Purcell) who is rehabbing after being wounded in the line of duty, but eager to rejoin his old SWAT team.  David Hendrix (Purcell) brings Walker to his old, top secret, high security training facility one night, but he picked the night that a team of mercenaries are breaking into the facility to steal seized criminal assets held as evidence.


The trailer made the action look pretty decent, and it was.  Completely over the top and full of cliches, it was an exciting film, but not overly original or surprising.  The lead criminal is a former SWAT agent himself?  You don’t say.  Hendrix used to be on the same team as the bad guy?  Really?  Someone on the current team is probably in league with the bad guys?  I never would have guessed it.  Oh, wait.  I did guess it.  And I guessed who it was, and I guessed how the good guys got the bonds away from the bad guys.  I guess it wasn’t really that bad, but I just managed to predict everything that happened.  The action and the stunts were fun, the characters were probably a little underdeveloped, and for the most part the acting was good.  I’d definitely call this a B-movie action film, but they still managed to get a decent cast.  Dominic Purcell carried the story as the lead, but it was nice to see Danny Glover who was effectively in an extended cameo role, as well as action staple Vinnie Jones and former WWE wrestler Trish Stratus.


It seems that most of the action movies in recent years have the same style of action, and Gridlocked was no different.  Sure it was exciting, but you knew the fist fights would be MMA inspired, and the shootouts would be what they always have been.  It may have been a fairly simple, fairly mindless popcorn action flick, but it was still entertaining.


Bottom Line:  Danny Glover’s been too old for this shit for thirty years now…That’s right, Lethal Weapon came out in 1987. Let that sink in.

War on Everyone – ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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From the writer and director of The Guard and Calvary, comes War On Everyone, a story about two cops (Alexander Skarsgård and Michael Peña) who are lazy, drunk, disorderly, and corrupt.  They like to take any shortcuts they can, such as using ex-cons to do their work for them, and of course they’re out to make some money on the side all while living under the protection of their badges.  When they learn of a plot to steal a million dollars from a local racetrack, they figure they can swoop in and pickup the spoils of the crime for themselves while making the arrest, but criminals are criminals and someone beats them to the punch taking the money before them.  Really short on cash, the pair are on the trail of the money, but so is the original criminal who wants the money he stole back, and he may be more dangerous than they anticipated.


Watching the trailer, there were some very funny bits that made me really want to see War On Everyone, also I really enjoyed John Michael McDonagh’s previous films, unfortunately the best bits were in the trailer and the film did not live up to McDonagh’s The Guard and Calvary.  It was funny, quite darkly funny, and I did enjoy the humour, but it just didn’t seem to “turn the corner” and deliver what I expected.  There were minor redemption moments for the leads, but not enough to make this a better film, and not enough to really make me care.  The plot was clever at times, but then quickly returned to insult humour rather than continuing to build upon itself.  The action was pretty good, but a little uneven at times drawing on maybe too many tropes of 1970s cop movies and TV shows.  The acting was good, but the characters were quite undeveloped.  We never learn why Skarsgård and Peña‘s Terry Monroe and Bob Bolaño were corrupt or what led them down the paths they’re on.


At the end of it all, there didn’t really seem to be a point which was the biggest disappointment.  I don’t know if the lack of a point itself may have been the point, but I think that hurt the overall film.  I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, but if it interests you, I wouldn’t discourage it either.  There was a fair bit of entertainment value, but it just needed a little bit more to turn it into a really good film.


Bottom Line:  At least the dishonest cops are brutally honest in the film.  They say what they mean and follow through on it.

The Take – ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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Idris Elba stars as Sean Briar, a CIA agent in Paris who pushes the limits and doesn’t “play well with others”.  Michael Mason (Richard Madden) is a professional pickpocket who steals a bag belonging to Zoe (Charlotte Le Bon) and drops it with the garbage in front of a small apartment building after taking anything of value from it only to have the bag blow up moments later.  Now on the run as a suspected terrorist bomber, Mason finds himself being hunted by Briar.  Briar does capture Mason and eventually believes him to be innocent of the bombing, but he uses the thief to help him track down Zoe and the bomb makers who are threatening to detonate more bombs.  As the Mason and Briar inch closer to Zoe and the truth, they discover cover-ups and corruption and the real reasons the French people have been antagonized to riot in their own streets.


I was in the mood for a good action film, and Idris Elba impressed me so much in the BBC’s Luther, that I gave The Take a chance.  The plot takes place on the days leading up to Bastille Day, which was the film’s European title, I assume they switched it to The Take for North American audiences because they assumed the majority of audiences wouldn’t know what Bastille Day was, kind of like they assumed American Harry Potter audiences wouldn’t know what a Philosopher’s Stone was…  The Take was a fairly low budget and relatively unknown film but I rather liked it.  It started off a little slow and I thought it was going to be quite predictable, but they threw a few original twists and ideas in that I wasn’t expecting.  Those things really paid off in my mind, and allowed me to enjoy what could have been a very formulaic and hum-drum action flick.  The action kept me entertained throughout, and the performances were solid.  The cast had good chemistry together, and the cinematography was top notch.  An enjoyable film that avoided many of the clichés of the genre.


Bottom Line:  Idris Elba wrote and performed (with Fatboy Slim) the song The Road Less Travelled which plays over the closing credits.

The Meddler – ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

The Meddler3.0 Stars


Written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, who also did Seeking a Friend For The End of the World (which I quite enjoyed) comes The Meddler, a story based on her own life.  In the film however we are treated to Susan Sarandon and Rose Byrne in a mother/daughter story that was very very real.  Sarandon plays Marnie who is recently widowed and moves from New York to Los Angeles to be near her screenwriter/director daughter, Lori.  When she can’t fit herself into her daughter’s life, she pushes her way into the lives of her daughter’s friends and other people she meets in L.A., such as the young man working as an Apple genius.  There was a lot of Apple product placement in this film, it almost seemed like a commercial at times when I was told how to zoom in on an iPhone, how much memory to get on my phone or tablet….  Oh well, product placement is what helps finance projects right?   Eventually Marnie does develop a life of her own, but feels guilty for it when her daughter is having a hard time with both her own personal life and while still dealing with the death of her father.


The story was well acted, and well presented, but I felt that there were maybe a few too many storylines going on at once.  I guess that Marnie really is a meddler, she babysits for Lori’s friends, she plans a lesbian wedding, she helps a kid get through his college exams, she dates a retired motorcycle cop named Zipper (J.K. Simmons), she sits in on the set when her daughter’s tv show is being filmed, she tries to set her daughter up with a guy, she meets up with her old New York friends and family….phew, how do you fit the daughter’s story in there too?  Somehow they managed it though, and I think that the skill of the cast is what made it what it was: fairly enjoyable, but not earth shattering.  I think the film (and the performances) were very realistic, maybe a little sensationalized but still grounded in something that we can relate to.


Bottom Line: Hey, this had two of my favourite actors in it; J.K. Simmons and Lucy Punch!

The Bronze – ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

The Bronze3.0 Stars


A very foul mouthed, but still kind of funny comedy, The Bronze was an enjoyable ride, even if it was kind of standard and predictable.   Melissa Rauch definitely sheds her image from The Big Bang Theory as Hope, an Olympic gymnast who rose to fame by winning the bronze medal despite an injury.  Returning to her hometown she’s accepted as a hero, and she lazily tries to coast off her win for the rest of her life.  Expecting free lunches, parking in handicap spots, and treating the townsfolk like subjects is a way of life for Hope, until another up and coming gymnast arrives on the scene.  Maggie (Haley Lu Richardson) is a happy, naive, and potentially more talented gymnast than Hope, and a lot is expected of her.  When Maggie’s coach (who happened to be Hope’s old coach) dies, Hope is approached to take over and guide the next generation of Olympian.  Hope reacts with jealousy and anger as she sees the girl who could unseat her as the town’s favourite daughter.  Eventually though Hope is lured back to coach Maggie with the dangling carrot of a large cash payment.  Along the way she crosses paths with an Olympic gold medallist and former flame (Sebastian Stan) who holds a grudge that Hope’s bronze medal win took the attention away from his wins; her father (Gary Cole) who is struggling to make ends meet and keep his spoiled daughter happy; and with an instructor (Thomas Middleditch) at the local gym that she has belittled, picked on and taken for granted since childhood who has always been in love with her.


Yes, it was a fairly predictable ending as we see Hope fall and rise and fall again only to pick herself up in the final act, but it was still pretty funny at times.  A lot of the jokes were quite rude making this a movie that is “not for everyone”, but with a healthy dose of satire and black comedy, I laughed quite often.


Bottom Line: oh no, there’s graphic nudity in this film!  Sorry folks, if you were hoping to see Melissa Rauch naked those scenes use a body double.

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