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Killing Gunther – ★ ★ ★ Review

Killing Gunther30

This may have been the quirkiest film I’ve seen in quite a while. It wasn’t exactly as advertised, but it paid off in the end.

Gunther is the world’s greatest assassin, so to make a name for themselves, a group of assassins sets out to assassinate him, but their plans turn into a series of bungled encounters as Gunther seems to always be one step ahead.  The story is told as a mockumentary, which wasn’t exactly what I expected, but the format helped to cleverly mask the low budget of the film.

Killing Gunther was funny enough, and there was enough light action to carry the story but it didn’t really get going until Gunther (Schwarzenegger) made his eventual appearance.  This is the value a true star can bring to your film.  He wasn’t wasted, and his performance did elevate that of the entire cast, but it took a bit too long to get to him.  I liked Schwarzenegger in this one because it seemed like he was there to have fun, and just make a fun little film…with assassinations.  Unfortunately the shooting style can turn off some, and the fact that Arnold isn’t seen until the last third of the movie makes the wait a little tedious at times.

Bottom Line:  As long as you don’t go into this thinking it’s a Schwarzenegger film, you should be okay.  Don’t have super high expectations and you can enjoy a quirky little bit of cinema.


Jack Reacher: Never Go Back – ★ ★ ★ ½ DVD Review

Jack Reacher Never Go Back35

Never go back?  Well, if we didn’t go back we wouldn’t get sequels to movies that we enjoyed, though sometimes the follow-up does diminish the original.  I don’t think that was exactly the case with Jack Reacher Never Go Back (or Jack Reacher 2 if you prefer), but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first film.  That being said, I still believe that Jack Reacher can be a successful action franchise and still put out a few more good films.

Jack Reacher has been on the road, travelling here and there, righting wrongs, bringing criminals to justice and quietly assisting the army.  He’s stricken up a friendship with Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), who has his former job.  Communicating by phone, it seems they will finally meet up in person and have that dinner they’ve discussed but Major Turner is arrested on treason charges.  Reacher thinks the charges are just to keep her out of the way and prevent her from solving the mystery of two soldiers murdered in Afghanistan; soldiers she sent on an investigation; soldiers who were getting too close to the truth; soldiers she still feels responsible for.  Reacher finds the file on Turner, and inside it is a file on him as well, a file that suggests he has a teenage daughter (Danika Yarosh) he never knew about.  Naturally the girl is threatened so Reacher has to bring her along with himself and Major Turner as they cross the United States tracking down clues and beating up bad guys as they get to the bottom of the frame-up.

I liked it, but felt it was turning into a family road trip movie rather than a spy/action thriller.  I signed up for a spy/action thriller.  Fortunately there was enough action to carry it, and it was shared pretty well between Cruise and Smulders.  Cruise as Reacher did have more action scenes, and more important ones, but Smulders’ Major Turner was quite capable on her own (Smulders herself was Deputy Director of SHIELD Maria Hill if you remember).  That was great, but I thought that the addition of their teenage travelling companion really slowed the movie down though.  Danika Yarosh did a good job, but the character herself didn’t seem to fit.  If the premise is that Reacher thinks the bad guys will harm her to get to him, and that Reacher is the best at what he does, does it make good strategic sense to bring her along with you?  Maybe once they’re “safe” call someone to pick her up, or send her off to be watched by someone he trusts?  The lawyer played by Rosamund Pike in the first one perhaps?  His old sniper friend (Robert Duvall) from the first movie?  Wait, he might have died in that one, it’s been a few years and I can’t remember.  Regardless, Reacher has contacts out there that he could call upon to keep the girl safe, which might have allowed for more action, more suspense and the the story to unfold a little better.  Who knows.

I think since we’ve had films like The Transporter and John Wick where the action has been amped up so much that action movies are continually trying to outdo themselves which is getting harder and harder.  Jack Reacher Never Go Back did a very good job with the fights, but I think the original was actually more “action packed”.  I liked the story, and was a little surprised by one of the reveals of the plot.  Not a bad film, but it played the “family” card a bit too heavily I thought.

Bottom Line: I liked Reacher a lot more when he drove a Chevelle SS…this one needed more car chases.

Avengers 2: Age of Ultron – ★ ★ ★ ★ Theatrical Review

Avengers-Age-of-Ultron-IMAX-HR-1  4.0 Stars

It got a lot right, but also left a lot on the table.  Not to say that it got things wrong, but there were a lot of things that they could have done (and quite possibly should have done) but they didn’t.  You probably know the story, Earth’s mightiest heroes, the Avengers are back to fight Ultron (voiced by James Spader) an artificial robot intelligence that is planning to takeover the world by killing all the humans (the way Ultron plans to kill us all off is pretty darn creative I will admit!).  Ultron was accidentally created by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and now he and his team are the only ones who can stop it, but along the way they’ll have to fight the remnants of Hydra (including the fearsome Baron Strucker) and the superpowered twins Wanda (the Scarlet Witch played by Elizabeth Olsen) and Pietro (Quicksilver played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson) as well as legions of killer robots.

  •  The film started off with a bang, and had a nice comic book action fight scene to whet our appetites…then they had an Avengers dinner party at the Tower with heroes galore…  We got Falcon from Captain America: Winter Soldier (Anthony Mackie), War Machine (Don Cheadle) from the Iron Man franchise, Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), and of course the Avengers: Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man, Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and even Stan Lee in his cameo.  This scene really wasn’t necessary.  It may have killed the energy of the opening and made the film fifteen minutes longer than it needed to be, but it did really make the film feel like a classic comic book to me.  The whole party could have been drawn by George Perez and written by Jim Shooter or Roger Stern or John Byrne…  In fact, one probably was.
  • Once the party was out of the way and the evil robots started attacking, things picked up and the pace only slowed down at one point when the Avengers had to go to ground and regroup.  More characters are introduced along the way as Ultron severs the hand of Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) who will likely become Klaw and a Black Panther villain at some point.  Minor Spoiler (but I want to gripe about it so I’m not hiding this one) We also learn that Ultron kills Baron Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann).  I think that was a giant waste.  First, I don’t think they even called him “Baron”, he may have just been “Strucker”.  Second, for being the big bad guy who orchestrated the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. and whatnot, he really wasn’t in the film that long, and he seemed to go out like a chump!  First the Avengers beat him and his goons quite easily, then Ultron kills him.  Ah well, c’est la vie, and such is the life (and death) of an arch villain I suppose.
  • My first disappointment with Avengers 2 was (spoiler again) that while there was a bit of a crossover with the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television show, we didn’t get to see Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) on the big screen and reveal he’s still alive to the team.  Second, we had the setup, but we didn’t get “that” line.  If you’re a comic book fan like me, you know what I’m talking about.  How come we didn’t get Thor, beaten and bruised, confronting Ultron and delivering the classic line “Ultron. We would have words with thee.”
    Come on!  It’s classic.  Why wasn’t it in there?
  • The plot and cast advanced the Marvel Cinematic Universe quite well I thought, and set up the next batch of movies where the “big” stars may not be around.  Robert Downey Jr and Chris Evans (and likely the rest of the cast) signed limited contracts, only three or four films, so they need to start planning things without Iron Man and Captain America and such.

Lots of action, lots of fun, and this time the comic book-esque quips were spread out more evenly in the film, as opposed to the first film, where Iron Man seemed to get all the good lines.  I will say that I enjoyed the sequel more than the first film, as the first Avengers just didn’t live up to the hype for me.

Bottom Line: they suckered me in with this one, and I freely admitted it to the remaining audience members in the theatre.  There was only one “after the credits” scene in this one, but I foolishly stuck around until the very end just in case…Sure, I may know that Zoe Whittaker was the second unit video operator but I also wasted time waiting for a second bonus scene.  Maybe there will be something on the DVD, but if you’re going to the theatre, after the first bonus bit, you can safely leave!

Delivery Man – DVD review 3/5 stars

51CFubLVEuL._AA160_3 Stars

I was a little surprised by Delivery Man after seeing the trailer, it was not a typical Vince Vaughn comedy.  After seeing the commercial I figured it would be an hour and a half I would never get back, but the trailer seemed to show that there was a bit of heart behind it, and thankfully the movie upheld this.

Vince Vaughn plays David Wozniak, a man who donated sperm nearly six hundred times under the anonymous user name “Starbuck” some twenty years ago.  An affable underachiever he finds out there was an error at the clinic and he is the biological father of 533 children.  Now when 142 of them file a class action suit against the clinic and “Starbuck” to learn the donor’s identity, he must decide whether or not to come forward.  Of course he does, but not by revealing himself to be the father.  He begins to play “guardian angel” to some of them, by randomly pulling their bio sheets from the court files he’s been served with.  Slowly he gets to anonymously know his children by becoming a friend and posing as the adoptive father of a handicapped young man who is another of “Starbuck’s children”.  David is not entirely a saint though, as he is $80,000 in debt to some shady characters who threaten him and his family; his on again-off again relationship with his girlfriend Emma (Cobie Smulders) is more off than on, until she learns that she is pregnant and would rather not have the irresponsible David be in her and her child’s life.

The story does become a little predictable as David wants to be a father but she won’t let him; then he discovers he has 533 kids already.  His interactions with the “Starbuck children” make him a better person, and of course responsible enough to be in Emma’s world.  The story certainly wasn’t difficult to follow or predict, but it was still told quite well and was quite amusing at the same time.  Vince Vaughn is quite relaxed and natural as Wozniak, and plays it quite earnestly.

Delivery Man is a remake of the 2011 French-Canadian film Starbuck, and from my quick bit of research wasn’t changed a whole heck of a lot, which makes some sense as both were written and directed by Ken Scott.  Remakes are a tricky thing, I suppose the best thing about this case is that by making Delivery Man a “big” Hollywood film with mainstream stars, it does open the story up to a much wider audience.  That being said, I’m going to search out the original just to see what the story started out as.

Bottom Line: why did he use the name Starbuck?   Did he like the over priced coffee place, or was it a Battlestar Galactica reference? Perhaps the original will tell…

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