Category Archives: Adventure

National Treasure (2004) Review

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National Treasure

Time: 131 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] contains low level violence
Cast:
Nicolas Cage as Benjamin Franklin Gates
Sean Bean as Ian Howe
Diane Kruger as Dr. Abigail Chase
Justin Bartha as Riley Poole
Jon Voight as Patrick Henry Gates
Harvey Keitel as Agent Peter Sadusky
Christopher Plummer as John Adams Gates
Director: Jon Turteltaub

Modern treasure hunters, led by archaeologist Ben Gates, search for a chest of riches rumored to have been stashed away by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin during the Revolutionary War. The chest’s whereabouts may lie in secret clues embedded in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, and Gates is in a race to find the gold before his enemies do.

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I remember watching National Treasure for the first time, I was quite young at the time, and it was the first film I saw that had Nicolas Cage in it. I enjoyed it but wondered how it would be on rewatch, and whether it would still hold up over a decade and a half later. Thankfully, I think I can say that it does. While its not great, National Treasure is still a lot of fun to watch.

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The story is a fairly interesting and fun adventure with a lot of excitement throughout, helped by the fast pace. You’re right there with the main characters as they make discoveries and solve puzzles in order to unravel the central mystery. As far as adventure movies go, it occasionally meets its aspirations, but could’ve been better. As it is, it’s a solid riff on much better action adventure movies. Its not just limited to the main characters exploring tombs, there’s also a conspiracy aspect, as well as a heist aspect. The history and science are definitely messy and aren’t realistic, but it is an absurd movie overall. One of the things most known about this movie is that a key part involves Nicolas Cage having to steal the Declaration of Independence, and that is gloriously silly as that sounds. Even some of the logic of the plot can be hilarious. Nicolas Cage and Sean Bean start off hunting treasure together, but they separate when Bean wants to steal the Declaration of Independence and Cage doesn’t want to. So when Bean decides to go get it himself, Cage decides to go and steal it first. Thankfully, National Treasure has the right tone, not taking itself too seriously, but not going too overboard and risking becoming a self parody.

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The cast are quite enjoyable. Nicolas Cage made for a charismatic, likable and entertaining lead as Ben Gates. Its definitely not one of his craziest performances in some of his other movies like Face/Off, but he gave his character a lot of energy, and is fun to watch. Diane Kruger is also good, and Justin Bartha is solid as the comic relief with some great comedic timing. There are also other great actors who have parts to play in this, including Jon Voight, Harvey Keitel and Christopher Plummer. Sean Bean is the villain and while the writing for him is nothing special, he does deliver on his part as an antagonist.

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If there’s an aspect of National Treasure that I wished was better, it was the direction. Jon Turteltaub’s work is decent, but it needed something more. The action is relatively fun, there are some good environments sets and designs, and the score from Trevor Rabin is good (especially the catchy main theme). Its just that there’s nothing distinct about this movie on a directing or style level that separates it from other similar movies.

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National Treasure is comparable to The Mummy movies starring Brendan Fraser, not the best action-adventure movies (i.e. not on the level of Indiana Jones), but nonetheless very entertaining for what it is. It’s a fun ride that doesn’t take itself too seriously, helped by the solid cast led by Nicolas Cage. If you haven’t seen it already, I think its worth checking out.

The Expendables 2 (2012) Review

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The Expendables 2

Time: 103 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] contains Violence
Cast:
Sylvester Stallone as Barney Ross
Jason Statham as Lee Christmas
Jet Li as Yin Yang
Dolph Lundgren as Gunner Jensen
Chuck Norris as Booker
Terry Crews as Hale Caesar
Randy Couture as Toll Road
Liam Hemsworth as Billy the Kid
Scott Adkins as Hector
Yu Nan as Maggie
Jean-Claude Van Damme as Vilain
Bruce Willis as Church
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Trench
Director: Simon West

All hell breaks loose when Barney, along with his band of old-school mercenaries, sets out on a path of carnage after one of their comrades gets killed during a simple task assigned by Mr Church.

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I rewatched the first Expendables and while I enjoyed it, it was worse than I remembered it being. Afterwards, I wanted to watch the sequel again because I remember it being much better. That proved to be very much the case, The Expendables 2 is a noticeable and immense improvement over the previous movie, and was fun in itself.

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The plot isn’t the best, its very standard for an action movie and doesn’t really matter that much. However, the straightforward nature of the plot was for the best, and it helps that it’s at least coherent and paced well, with never a dull moment. Like its predecessor, The Expendables 2 continues to be a homage to the action movies of the past, and embraces much of its tropes. That being said, the sequel seems to serve better as that. Part of that has to do with the tone, which is way more consistent throughout. Despite many of the ridiculous moments, the first Expendables movie took itself too seriously. It would go from a goofy airplane action scene to a well written and performed but nonetheless out of place emotional monologue from Mickey Rourke. In contrast, The Expendables 2 leans more toward being an over the top blockbuster, and not taking itself too seriously. That’s not to say that there aren’t any dramatic moments, but it works with the rest of the movie much better. Much of the dialogue and humour came across as being very forced in the first movie, this again is improved in the sequel. There are some good one liners and enjoyable references. It does unfortunately has the odd situation where it can overdo it with the meta jokes. There’s particularly an exchange between Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Chuck Norris which make 3 meta jokes in the span of 20 seconds, and in those cases they could’ve dialled it done. Otherwise, it was just on the right level for me.

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Much of the cast from the first movie return and are even better here, including Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham. Everyone here delivers as you’d expect, though the standout might be Dolph Lundgren. One disappointing aspect of the last movie was that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis were in just one scene (though it was one of the highlights of that movie). However, they actually play more notable parts in the movie, we even get to see them involved in the action in the third act and it was great to see. The new additions are good too; Liam Hemsworth plays a new member of the Expendables and while he feels out of place, he serves his purpose well. Nan Yu is also a good addition to the cast, playing a notable part and is alongside the Expendables for much of the film. Chuck Norris appears in a few times for a fun cameo, and it really is credit to this movie that they somehow make the tired Chuck Norris jokes actually funny here. Another aspect that was improved here was the villain. Eric Roberts was quite forgettable in the first movie, this time they got Jean-Claude Van Damme to play the villain, who’s name is literally Vilain. He feels like a worthy antagonist to the main team, and fits perfectly here.

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Sylvester Stallone’s direction of the first movie was fine, but was ultimately lacking. The second movie is a noticeable improvement it with Con Air director Simon West, who does a much better job. From the opening action sequence, you can already tell the difference in the handling. The action is much better, its well shot, better edited (especially for the fight scenes), and it reduces the shaky cam. It still has the problem with the bad looking CGI blood that messily splatters everywhere, but it does look a little better than in the first movie.

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I’ve been constantly stating this point throughout this whole review, but The Expendables 2 really does improve on the first movie in just about every way, and is everything that its predecessor should’ve been. The action, characters, plot, humour and more are just more finely tuned to deliver on its promise of being a throwback to the action movies of the 80s and 90s, I was consistently entertaining from beginning to end. If you are fan of those movies, The Expendables 2 is well worth checking out. You don’t even need to watch the first Expendables, just jump straight into this one.

The Expendables (2010) Review

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The Expendables

Time: 103 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains Graphic Violence
Cast:
Sylvester Stallone as Barney Ross
Jason Statham as Lee Christmas
Jet Li as Yin Yang
Dolph Lundgren as Gunner Jensen
Eric Roberts as James Munroe
Randy Couture as Toll Road
Steve Austin as Paine
David Zayas as General Garza
Giselle Itié as Sandra
Charisma Carpenter as Lacy
Gary Daniels as The Brit
Terry Crews as Hale Caesar
Mickey Rourke as Tool
Director: Sylvester Stallone

Barney Ross leads a band of highly skilled mercenaries including knife enthusiast Lee Christmas, a martial arts expert, heavy weapons specialist, demolitionist, and a loose-cannon sniper. When the group is commissioned by the mysterious Mr. Church to assassinate the dictator of a small South American island, Barney and Lee visit the remote locale to scout out their opposition and discover the true nature of the conflict engulfing the city.

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While I certainly like the central idea of those films, The Expendables aren’t the best action movies out there. The second movie is actually very enjoyable, but the third was very underwhelming. That being said I don’t remember much about the first Expendables. I watched it nearly a decade ago and I remember the actors involved but that’s it. So I decided to give it another look and can confirm that its not a very good movie, even looking at what it sets out to do. But I still had some fun with it.

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First and foremost, The Expendables is a homage to the blockbusters of the 80s and 90s, paying tribute to the action stars of the past and present. I can certainly say that you feel the passion for that. There are plenty of one liners and testosterone filled dialogue that feels like a parody, over the top plot and action, it has got it all. It also has a lot of the familiar tropes, usually for the worse. The plot is pretty thin, and the story isn’t all that interesting. It feels like it is going through the motions, almost in a lazy way. On one hand you could just say that the plot doesn’t matter, but its not exactly plotless either. So really the problem is that the movie doesn’t really know what to do with its story. On one hand it is a very run of the mill action plot about a group of mercenaries being assigned to assassinate a dictator, and has some really implausible and over the top moments. On the other, there is actually a point to the story as Stallone’s character Barney Ross comes to realisation that he is desensitised by the violence in his job, and his faith in humanity is restored. So it has some depth to a degree, but honestly it feels misplaced in this movie if anything. It is definitely a tonally inconsistent movie. The scene that exemplifies this is a surprising scene where Mickey Rourke delivers a monologue that is played completely serious. It is great, wonderfully performed by Rourke, and even Stallone’s reactions worked, but that scene just felt out of place especially compared to the scenes right beforehand.

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One of the biggest selling points of The Expendables was the ensemble of recognisable action actors. The performances aren’t special, but at the very least have a charm to them, and the cast have a lot of fun. There’s an interesting mix of people with Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren and more. Mickey Rourke is in a small role and has a few scenes but delivers the best performance for the aforementioned out of place powerful monologue scene. The villains are quite generic and paint by numbers, thankfully the next two Expendables movies delivered better on that with Jean-Claude Van Damme and Mel Gibson.

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Sylvester Stallone’s direction is fine but not great. Some of the action sequences are entertaining, plenty of gun fighting, and there’s also a good amount of absurdity that makes it fun. That being said, there’s some shaky cam and quick cuts in the fight scenes that take away from it. The CGI can also look really bad, however it isn’t the explosions that are the worst of it. The gore and blood effects look absolutely terrible, in fact its probably the worst CGI blood I’ve seen in a movie. It looks straight out of a fan film despite being a big blockbuster.

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The Expendables doesn’t fully succeed in it sets out to do. Tonally it’s a bit inconsistent, some of the action can be hit or miss and it doesn’t reach the fullest potential of having all these action stars together in one movie. That being said, I do like it. It’s fun seeing the cast together, there are some enjoyable moments especially with the absurdity and the action, and there is a charm to it. So if you’re a fan of these 80s and 90s action movies, the first Expendables movie might be worth checking out. That being said, The Expendables 2 did this better and you could probably jump straight to that without needing to see the first film.

Thirteen Lives (2022) Review

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Thirteen Lives

Time: 147 Minutes
Cast:
Viggo Mortensen as Richard Stanton
Colin Farrell as John Volanthen
Joel Edgerton as Richard Harris
Tom Bateman as Chris Jewell
Director: Ron Howard

A rescue mission is assembled in Thailand where a group of young boys and their soccer coach are trapped in a system of underground caves that are flooding.

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I remember hearing the story of the rescue of a youth soccer team in a cave in Thailand back in 2018, and its no surprise that a movie would end up being made based on it. That eventually resulted in one such film directed by Ron Howard. I haven’t seen the documentary about the same event called The Rescue which came out a year earlier, but I liked Thirteen Lives.

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Thirteen Lives is well scripted, the story is simple and is told in a straightforward way. I only knew the very basics of the real story, so some of the reveals and directions the story went in did genuinely surprise me, especially with the methods the divers took to rescue the people from the cave. While it is a dramatization and certain moments might’ve been added in just to raise the tension, it keeps any added melodrama to a minimum. The story didn’t need additional work and speaks for itself. Despite knowing the outcome of the story, the stakes felt high and it was compelling watching everyone come together in an effort to try to save all those lives. There isn’t a lot of character development, as a result I do think that it doesn’t quite have the emotional impact that it is aiming for. This is a long movie at 2 hours and 30 minutes long, and while I was invested in what is going on, it does admittedly overstay its welcome a bit, and is a bit too long.

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One of the strongest aspects was the great acting. Colin Farrell and Viggo Mortensen are great as the cave divers from the UK who try to rescue the boys. The rest of the cast are strong from (an especially great) Joel Edgerton, Tom Bateman, and everyone else, down to the actors who play the kids trapped in the cave.

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Ron Howard directs this movie very well and he especially succeeds at making everything feel effectively tense. The cave diving scenes are some of the highlights of the movie, well shot, riveting and claustrophobic. There is some impressive underwater camera work and great sound design that makes you feel like you’re right there with the divers as they navigate the dark and cramped caves. I can’t speak as to how it was in real life, but it certainly felt authentic. Its also helped by the score from a solid score from an ever reliable Benjamin Wallfisch.

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Thirteen Lives is a solid thriller and admirable retelling of the true events. It may be a little too long and the lack of characterisation does take away from the movie somewhat, but on the whole its really good, with the straightforward storytelling, strong performances, and Ron Howard’s direction. Worth checking out.

Broken Arrow (1996) Review

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Broken Arrow

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
John Travolta as U.S.A.F. Major Vic “Deak” Deakins
Christian Slater as U.S.A.F. Captain Riley Hale
Samantha Mathis as U.S. Park Service Park Ranger Terry Carmichael
Delroy Lindo as U.S.A.F. Colonel Max Wilkins
Frank Whaley as Giles Prentice
Bob Gunton as Mr. Pritchett
Howie Long as U.S.A.F Pararescueman Master Sergeant Kelly
Director: John Woo

Major Vic Deakins holds the US government to ransom by stealing a nuclear warhead and threatening to detonate it in a major city. His co-pilot and a park ranger attempt to thwart his plans.

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I remember watching Broken Arrow for the first time many years ago, it was a fun movie and one of the earlier films I saw from John Woo, if not his first. More recently I got a chance to watch it again, and it is even more entertaining than I remembered it being.

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The writing isn’t anything special, but it works well enough for this kind of over-the-top action flick. The plot is very simple, a rogue air force agent played by John Travolta steals two nuclear warheads in the desert, Christian Slater is another air force agent who has to stop him. There’s no complexity to the story, and it works as such. Broken Arrow takes place over one day and there is no downtime as the plot jumps from one action beat to another. It is helped by the lighting fast pacing, meaning that there is never a dull or slow moment throughout. It is definitely a cheesy movie, in fact there is an argument for it being one of the most over the top action movies from the 90s and that is saying a lot.

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The movie really benefits from the charismatic performances from the cast, really making the cheesiness work as well as it does. John Travolta is wonderfully fun to watch, giving one of his craziest performances of his career as the scene chewing villain of Broken Arrow. His character may be generically evil, but the performance does so much to make him memorable, and Travolta is clearly having a blast here. The way he plays this character is perfectly over the top from his line delivery to even the way he holds a cigarette is over the top. Definitely one of the highlights of the film. Christian Slater is also pretty good and likable as the protagonist, unfortunately he doesn’t get to ham it up like Travolta. That’s a shame because that would’ve made the movie even more entertaining especially in the scenes where they are facing off against each other. Still, Slater is still good enough that you’re invested in what is happening. Samantha Mathis plays the third notable character here and she’s decent, getting a lot to do here. Other supporting performances from a cast including Delroy Lindo and Bob Gunton are also enjoyable.

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John Woo directs this, and you absolutely feel his style throughout. It has plenty of his typical trademarks, including slow motion and plenty of explosions. There’s also this constant energy felt throughout which goes some way towards making it entertaining throughout. There is a lot of action, thankfully all of it is quite good. The set pieces are well crafted and the stuntwork is impressive. A lot of the action is filmed practically so it really holds up surprisingly well today. The bombastic score from Hans Zimmer also really adds to it.

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I wouldn’t say that Broken Arrow is one of John Woo’s best movies by any means. In fact, it feels like a lot of what he did here he would go on to perfect with Face/Off. That being said, it really succeeds as a cheesy 90s action flick. The plot is simple and straightforward enough and is told in a fast manner, John Woo’s direction adds a lot, the action scenes are really entertaining, and the performances are good, especially an incredibly fun to watch John Travolta. I think that it is worth checking out at the very least.

Total Recall (2012) Review

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Total Recall (2012)

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence, offensive language & nudity
Cast:
Colin Farrell as Douglas Quaid
Kate Beckinsale as Agent Lori
Jessica Biel as Melina
Bryan Cranston as Chancellor Vilos Cohaagen
Bokeem Woodbine as Agent Harry
Bill Nighy as Matthias
John Cho as McClane
Director: Len Wiseman

Douglas is frustrated with his frequent dreams where he is a secret agent. He visits Rekall to get a fake memory implanted into his brain, but the procedure goes haywire.

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When it comes to remakes of classics, 2012’s Total Recall seems to be one of the most disliked, at least from the past decade. I remember liking it when I saw it for the first time, but that was quite a while ago. After rewatching the original Total Recall after many years (and loving it even more), I decided to check out the remake again the same night. Perhaps not the best option, as I immediately noticed everything great and good about the original that the remake did not have. That being said, taking the remake aspect out of it, Total Recall (2012) is otherwise a serviceable enough standalone sci-fi film.

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I wouldn’t say the script of Total Recall (2012) is bad, it is competent and functional enough but it really isn’t strong. It does start off pretty well, with a good pace and an intriguing mystery at the centre of the movie. Throughout the movie, there’s some pretty good world building as well. I wasn’t super engaged with the plot partly because I knew what general direction it would be moving towards, and partly because it wasn’t the most interesting. Still, the plot at least had me willing to follow what was happening. After a while though, the plot becomes very generic and by the time it reaches the third act, it almost just gives up. It just concludes in a dragged out, dull and bland action climax. By that point the plot has gotten really convoluted, and I didn’t have enough enthusiasm for the movie to try to regain the thread of what was happening. For what its worth, I watched the Extended Director’s Cut and I heard the theatrical version removes the complexity from the plot. So if you were planning on watching it, I highly recommend checking out the longer version. That was me talking about the remake without comparing it to the original, that ends here. Side by side, the remake really does take away so much of what made the original film so special. Mars doesn’t play a part, there aren’t any mutants, and it takes itself incredibly seriously. Plotwise it’s not exactly similar to the Paul Verhoeven film which I honestly respect. I admire the decision to be a little different to the classic Arnold flick, even if it means having to drop some beloved and iconic aspects. That being said, the movie is still left less memorable and interesting and really lacks a personality. It is worth noting is that there are some out of place callbacks to the original throughout, which are baffling considering the remake’s intention to be somewhat different. There are lines of dialogue which are straight up taken from the 1990 film. There’s even a reference to the three breasted woman from the original film, which will only make sense to people to watched that movie and understands this moment, while the rest of the audience are left confused.

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Total Recall does at the very least have a solid cast going for it. Colin Farrell plays the role of lead role Douglas Quaid, not one of his all-time best performances, but he’s quite good. Arnold Schwarzenegger did admittedly seem out of place for the story of Total Recall (especially when he’s playing a role that is meant to be an everyman), but he fitted the energy of that film appropriately, and his presence really added to the film. With a more conventional and straight-faced Total Recall however, Farrell does a good job in the part. He’s convincing at the action scenes and at conveying his character’s need to know what is going on. Most of the other actors like Bill Nighy do a good job. Meanwhile Jessica Biel is very unconvincing as the love interest. Bryan Cranston plays Cohaagen, the main villain of Total Recall, played in the original by Ronny Cox. With a talent like Cranston as the antagonist, there’s a lot of potential. While he’s decent enough in his scenes, the movie doesn’t utilise him the best. He’s just generically evil, doesn’t leave much of an impression, and isn’t even in the movie a lot. Thankfully, Kate Beckinsale picks up the slack as Quaid’s wife Lori and the secondary villain of the movie. Essentially she plays a combination of Sharon Stone’s Lori and Michael Ironside’s Richter from the original Total Recall, as she relentlessly pursues Quaid throughout the film. Beckinsale’s turn as a villain is very fun to watch, she’s unstoppable and ruthless, and is definitely one of the strongest parts of the movie.

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Len Wiseman is a decent director and overall, his work here is okay. At the very least, the cinematography is stunning with some impressive visual effects. Wiseman has many sweeping shots of the big cities, and he is great at visualising a futuristic world. Although it looks very similar to locations in other sci-fi/futuristic movies, Wiseman clearly has an eye for detail and scale. The action is entertaining and well shot, even if it isn’t always coherent (especially towards the end). There is a ton of CGI and everything from the visuals to the action can seem very video gamey, which is a criticism that I’ve seen a lot from people. That being said, given that the point of Rekall was to give a false reality with the memory implants, it does play into that aspect well, unintentionally or otherwise.

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Total Recall (2012) is not a good remake, it definitely lacks a lot of what made the first movie great in the first place. I appreciate the efforts to be different and not just a copy of the beloved classic, but the method for doing so seemed to be copying plenty of other sci-fi movies. The end result is a bit generic and despite a promising start, ended up losing me by the end. But I wouldn’t say it’s bad, as a standard sci-fi thriller, it’s okay enough. The visuals are nice to watch, the action is entertaining, and generally the cast are good, especially Colin Farrell and Kate Beckinsale. Not a must see but it’s passable and not a bad watch, preferably if you haven’t watched the original first of course.

Total Recall (1990) Review

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Total Recall (1990)

Time: 156 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence and offensive language
Cast:
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Douglas Quaid
Rachel Ticotin as Melina
Sharon Stone as Lori
Ronny Cox as Vilos Cohaagen
Michael Ironside as Richter
Director: Paul Verhoeven

Douglas Quaid tries to find the reason behind his recurring dream about Mars. He soon learns that a false memory has been planted into his brain and the people responsible for this want him dead.

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I remembered watching the original Total Recall for the first time ago many years ago when I was younger. I remember enjoying it with all the action, over the top violence, and one liners. More recently I decided to revisit it. Watching it again when I’m much older, it’s even better than I was remembered it to be.

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Based on a Phillip K. Dick novel called We Remember It For You Wholesale, Total Recall is well put together and fun to watch. It moves at a fast pace, there’s a decent amount of comedy and has plenty of quotable lines, in fact some of the best from an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. There’s plenty of parts that are silly and over the top, but there is a real self-awareness to the ridiculousness, so it makes it all the more better. I also was consistently entertained by a story which takes its twists and turns and does its world building in such an effective way.  There’s even a psychological aspect with lead character Quaid not knowing what’s real or not, or who he can trust. As a sci-fi action flick it’s really good, but its even more than that. Director Paul Verhoeven brings his trademark satirical approach to this story, like how he did with Robocop. The satire is loud, in your face and quite fitting. As to be expected especially given this is the 80s/90s, the movie takes jabs at capitalism and corporate greed, but also colonialism.

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The cast are also quite good all round. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the main character of Douglas Quaid in one of his best performances. As usual he is good in the action scenes and the cheesy one liners, but also does a good job at being genuine, and this is one of the few times he isn’t playing the typical hardcore action hero. Some have found him to be out of place in the movie and while I can see that especially given that he’s meant to be playing the everyman, I just can’t imagine the movie without him. He somehow just fits in with the tone and vibe that Verhoeven is going for. Other supporting actors like Sharon Stone and Rachael Ticotin are good, and Michael Ironside and Ronny Cox make for enjoyable scene chewing villains.

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Total Recall is directed by Paul Verhoeven, and he brings a lot of his style and energy to this movie. I really like the cinematography and look of the film, I loved the environments and the production design is great. The amount of practical effects on display are amazing, and most of it holds up today. There are even parts that venture into body horror. The special effects can be cheesy in a late 80s and early 90s way, but I feel like that fitted the overall tone of the movie that Verhoeven is going for. I really like the portrayal of the future, some of the technology can be clunky but even that is endearing. The action sequences are energetic, exciting and imaginative. Verhoeven’s trademark over the top and gory violence is on display and it is glorious to watch. Adding on top of all of that is the amazing score by Jerry Goldsmith.

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Total Recall is a wonderfully entertaining and over the top 90s action sci-fi thriller. The cast are good, the writing is fun, satirical and self-aware, and Paul Verhoeven’s direction and style are amazing. It’s even a strong contender for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best movie yet, up there with the first two Terminator films at the very least. If you are a fan of action and/or sci-fi, I highly recommend checking it out.

Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995) Review

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Die Hard With a Vengeance

Time: 128 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Bruce Willis as John McClane
Jeremy Irons as Simon Peter Gruber
Samuel L. Jackson as Zeus Carver
Graham Greene as Joe Lambert
Colleen Camp as Connie Kowalski
Larry Bryggman as Walter Cobb
Anthony Peck as Ricky Walsh
Nick Wyman as Mathias Targo
Sam Phillips as Katya
Director: John McTiernan

John McClane (Bruce Willis) must enlist the help of Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson), a local shop owner, to stop Simon (Jeremy Irons), a former colonel from East Germany, from detonating bombs across New York.

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I remember Die Hard with a Vengeance being one of the best Die Hard movies, my favourite just after the original. I recalled that it was on a much larger scale from the previous two movies, and it had Samuel L. Jackson as well as Jeremy Irons as the villain. On rewatching it I can say that it is the best Die Hard sequel despite a couple of issues.

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The story is suspenseful with a brisk and relentless pace, and it never lets up. It’s not the most original of stories for action movies, but it is well executed. The narrative is consistently engaging and really benefits from the central buddy dynamic with the main two characters. The initial plot having the lead characters racing around New York City trying to stop bombs going off was a great way to add tension. It is also quite funny, it’s probably the funniest of the Die Hard movies, mostly because of the dynamic between the two leads. Something about Die Hard with a Vengeance is that it isn’t a carbon copy to the first or second Die Hard movies. It scraps the idea of John McClane stuck in one location with terrorists or robbers running about and expands it to the entirety of New York City. It also abandons the Christmas setting of the first two Die Hard movies for Summer in the city. As a result, it definitely does more than just recycle the first film’s plot. The movie marked the biggest change of the series, for better and for worse. Even within this movie itself, the change does lose some things from the first movie, like it doesn’t feel as claustrophobic. Additionally, the third movie’s more expansive setting and complex plot does rob it of some of the simplicity of the predecessors. However, this change was necessary given that Die Hard 2 was already very similar to the first movie. There are a couple of changes that I wasn’t a fan of, some things were left off from the last two movies, mainly to do with John McClane. They explain what happened with him since Die Hard 2, but its all done in a rush. However, the biggest problem with Die Hard with a Vengeance is that the third act just doesn’t work as well as the previous two acts. It starts to lose steam when the mysterious villain is revealed even before his personal motivation becomes apparent. The ending feels especially rushed and tact on in a “here’s everything resolved now” way. It’s worth knowing that there was an alternative original ending which was much darker. While I usually would gravitate to it, that ending doesn’t work well either and would’ve needed a lot more work on it for it to be satisfying. Despite its issues, the disappointing theatrical ending is still fine and definitely an improvement over the alternate and more sombre ending that they abandoned.

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There are some solid performances from the cast. Bruce Willis is once again ever reliable as John McClane. McClane in this movie is at a low point in his life, his wife left him again, he’s suspended and he’s an alcoholic. These additions are a double edged sword, it does make him more vulnerable and as a result more relatable, and again he’s really put through the wringer. However, there is also a sullenness to McClane here that can be off-putting, especially compared to his appearance in Die Hard 2. Samuel L. Jackson’s character of Zeus Carver is one of Die Hard’s best characters behind McClane, providing some great comic relief with his line deliveries. This movie wouldn’t have worked nearly as well without the chemistry between Willis and Jackson, they are a perfect on-screen duo, bouncing off each other so well. This movie also has the Die Hard movies’ second best villain in Jeremy Irons, who is thoroughly chewing the scenery, even when we don’t see him for most of the movie and only hear his voice. Unfortunately, the writing for Irons just wasn’t that great and the character in retrospect is a little lacklustre, especially when it reveals the character later in the movie. The rest of the villains are forgettable even by Die Hard standards.

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Original Die Hard director John McTiernan’s return to the director chair was more than welcome. As written earlier, Die Hard 3 takes a very different approach and is no longer the claustrophobic thriller the first one was, and I thought that change was handled well partially because of the direction. The action sequences are great as expected. I don’t think they come close to the first Die Hard’s action, but With a Vengeance comes closest to achieving this.

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Die Hard with a Vengeance is a worthy third instalment in the franchise, and the best of the sequels by far. Despite some issues including the third act and some changes from the previous two movies, the fresh new direction in terms of scale and story really helped it. It is energetic, thrilling and entertaining to watch, and strongly benefits from the main duo of Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson.

Interceptor (2022) Review

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Interceptor

Time: 99 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Elsa Pataky as Captain J.J. Collins
Luke Bracey as Alexander Kessel
Director: Matthew Reilly

One Army captain is forced use her years of tactical training and military expertise when a simultaneous coordinated attack threatens the remote missile interceptor station of which she is in command.

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I didn’t go into Interceptor expecting much. I really didn’t know anything about it beforehand, it was an action movie released on Netflix and it seemed very generic and familiar. My expectations turned out to be quite accurate because it was another straight to streaming action movie, and was pretty mediocre.

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The premise of Interceptor is simple, the lead character is stuck in a room while armed people on the outside try to get in. There are also military stakes given that said room is capable of intercepting enemy missiles before they make impact with the United States. It is a very familiar plot and has all the tired tropes that you would expect. The story is predictable and is recycled from countless other action movies. It is very cheesy and over the top, particularly with its dialogue. Now that doesn’t sound bad out of context, in fact it sounds like it could be enjoyable. Indeed, there are many action movies that have repetitive and recycled plots and have ridiculous dialogue, but it sounded like it could be a throwback of action thrillers from the 90s like Under Siege. The problem is that Interceptor takes itself seriously, so it plays the absurd plot straight faced and the goofy dialogue doesn’t have the self-awareness that a Steven Seagal movie might have. There are some themes and topics which are conveyed through dialogue, which would be fine if it wasn’t so heavy handed. They also give the lead character a backstory where without going too into it, she had gone through a lot. At first, I thought that it was just an obligatory backstory they put in for her, but it’s a present aspect throughout. The film spends time showing what happened to her and it feels really out of place in this movie. Not to mention, I just don’t think that this script is good enough to properly handle a story of sexual abuse and harassment. That aside, I just think the script is badly written. The plot isn’t riveting and there are tons of exposition dumps. Even the setup in the opening act is clumsy. The runtime is short at a tight 98 minutes, but somehow it felt a lot longer than that. Any scene that didn’t contain action did drag.

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The acting performances are not that good. For what its worth, Elsa Pataky is decent and tries her best in the lead role. Her character is definitely roughly written, but Pataky does somewhat elevate the movie. The supporting performances aren’t up to par unfortunately, outside of a funny cameo from Chris Hemsworth. The villains are terrible and underwritten, with the main antagonist played by Luke Bracey being cliched and not imposing at all.

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The direction from Matthew Reilly is competent, yet average. The production value isn’t the best, as you would expect from a straight to streaming movie. The CGI when its there is terrible, especially when it comes to the missiles and explosions. That being said, the action scenes are some of the best parts of the movie. It’s not great but they are enjoyable to watch, you can see clearly what’s going on and there’s good stunt work. There are even some memorable and creative kills straight from an over the top 90s action flick.

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Interceptor is an average straight to streaming action flick. It’s not one of the worst action movies ever but not good either. The action scenes are decently filmed, and Elsa Pataky does pretty well with what she is given. However, the script really lets the movie done quite some way, and had it been somewhat self-aware and leaned into that 90s throwback aspect, it might’ve been fun to watch in a cheesy way. As it is however, it is hard to enjoy watching.

Thor: Love and Thunder (2022) Review

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Thor Love and Thunder

Time: 119 minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Chris Hemsworth as Thor
Christian Bale as Gorr the God Butcher
Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie
Jaimie Alexander as Sif
Taika Waititi as Korg
Russell Crowe as Zeus
Natalie Portman as Jane Foster/Mighty Thor
Director: Taika Waititi

Thor embarks on a journey unlike anything he’s ever faced — a quest for inner peace. However, his retirement gets interrupted by Gorr the God Butcher, a galactic killer who seeks the extinction of the gods.

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With the MCU I find myself in a weird position. I seem to like all the movies while having some real criticisms for the MCU, both individually and on the whole. It doesn’t help that it has gotten into ‘Marvel fatigue’ as they don’t seem to have plans for where to take it outside of sustaining the machine and prolonging its existence. Still, I was going into the Marvel movies fairly open minded, including Thor: Love and Thunder. I rewatched Thor: Ragnarok leading up to its release, I still like it but I wasn’t loving it like other people, and Taika Waititi has certainly made much better movies outside of the MCU. The trailers didn’t look the best to me, but I was mildly interested. I expected Waititi to deliver another Ragnarok, and I was okay with that idea. Having seen it I have a lot of questions, starting with one: what happened?

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The weirdest part of the movie is that Taika Waititi doesn’t have a writing credit for Ragnarok, but he has sole writing credit for Love and Thunder. So unless there is evidence of studio interference, what happened with this new film is all on him. The film really takes no risks at all; in spite of Taika’s style, this has to be one of the safest and autopilot MCU movies I’ve seen. There’s just something about this movie that feels so manufactured and generic. Early in the movie it shows the Guardians of the Galaxy with Thor, and their inclusion felt like an obligation and just a way of dealing with the fact that they joined at the end of Endgame. Even treating the movie by itself, the storytelling and exposition really is lazy. Thor and co. find out about the new villain Gorr the God Butcher not by seeing him butcher gods, but by going online and learning from there. Then there’s the narration from Taika Waititi’s Korg in which he tells a story. It’s done with a comedic tone for sure but that can’t disguise how utterly lazy it is, and just there to fill in the gaps. The first time he did it I could tolerate it, but after that point it got annoying. The pacing is also messy, sometimes it jumps from one location to another really quickly, and at other point it lingers in some places for too long. The segment involving Zeus is an example of making it feel like its wasting your time. Taika was apparently going for a romantic comedy, and while there are some rom-com aspects in Love and Thunder, I think it did a terrible job. If they had lowered the stakes, remove the main villain, gave Jane more screentime and focussed more on her and Thor, it would’ve worked. But that’s not the case. There’s enough at play to make for a 2.5-hour long movie had things been expanded on more. However, at around 2 hours it feels rushed.

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Some argue that people shouldn’t take Thor: Love and Thunder, or even suggest that we should “turn our brains off” going into it. The funny thing is that a lot of Love and Thunder’s own flaws can be shown by comparing it to Ragnarok. The humour is often one of my biggest issues in the MCU, its very hit or miss and often deflates a lot of the dramatic moments. Obviously, having a lot of comedy isn’t inherently bad. Taika Waititi included a lot of humor int Thor: Ragnarok, and I found it very hit or miss. At the very least, it kept the plot the focus and was serious when it needed to be. Even when it came to all the shenanigans, I was able to buy into the events that were happening. Love and Thunder was like this too, only there were many more misses than hits. The jokes are just so predictable and unfunny, even the staging and presentation of the jokes alongside what’s happening felt like out of a sketch comedy instead of a movie. So much of the movie feels like a parody of Thor; an example of this is when it shows New Asgard, and there is a Thanos Infinity Gauntlet on the front of an ice cream shop. Keep in mind that at the beginning of Infinity War, Thanos killed half of the Asgardians as they were fleeing the destruction of Asgard. It’s a brief scene, but its moments like these that make it really hard to care about what’s going on with the story and characters, or take it seriously in any way. The first half is ridiculously goofy and silly and not in a good way. The second half makes attempts at emotion and it does pick up at this point, but its too late. Even in the third act I just wasn’t invested. That’s not to say that being a parody is inherently bad, but maybe it would’ve worked if it wasn’t paired alongside actual serious drama. Jane Foster becomes Thor while having cancer and while there was certainly potential there, I found the execution to be a mixed bag. Some of the emotional moments are okay but the subplot wasn’t handled with the seriousness it needed. Also the way the resolution of it wasn’t satisfying at all. Ultimately, Jane’s inclusion felt like it was just there to serve Thor’s story. Then there’s Gorr the God Butcher, who was just too dark of a character to have in this movie this silly; he just doesn’t fit tonally alongside whatever Taika was going for.

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Chris Hemsworth plays Thor once again, he’s been going on a transformation from movie to movie. His arc has been messy, but generally I like him in these movies. However, Love and Thunder is by far my least favourite version of Thor, it felt like he devolved so much from his past appearances. Its not that he’s more comedic, Ragnarok did give Thor silly moments, but he was serious when he needed to be. Love and Thunder made Thor outright dumb, and from his first scene, I knew that there was going to be a problem. Even Thor at the beginning of his first film was smarter than this. It is just incredibly frustrating to watch him here. I know a lot of people didn’t like Thor in his first couple of appearances and found him boring; some people as a result prefer comedy Thor following Ragnarok. At this point though, I’m longing for “boring Thor” to make a return. Hemsworth is good at comedy and the film definitely leans into that more, but I didn’t really like this version of the character. One of the most prominent parts of the movie is Natalie Portman returning as Jane Foster, who has cancer and becomes Thor. There is so much potential with this storyline, so it is sad to see her underutilised.  When it comes to the serious scenes with regards to cancer, Portman handles them well. The aspects mainly with humour like when Jane is trying to come up with a catchphrase however… she wasn’t given the best material. For what its worth though, she did the best with what she had. I know that Love and Thunder is meant to be a romantic comedy, but the chemistry between Hemsworth and Portman wasn’t the strongest. It’s not bad, but just fine. Tessa Thompson returns as Valkyrie and while she has a new role as King of Asgard and accompanies Thor and Jane throughout much of the movie, she felt very sidelined and not much is actually done with her. There is dialogue about her looking for a girlfriend but as typical with this being the MCU, its very brief so it makes it easier to remove when being shown in certain other countries. Not that I was expecting some form of substantial LGBT+ representation in a Disney movie, I just wished that it didn’t feel so baity.

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Taika Waititi also returns as Korg, Thor’s rock friend. He made for a good side character in Ragnarok, but there is just too much of him in Love and Thunder and I liked him less here. Part of that is that he felt even more like Waititi’s self-insert which is hard to overlook. The Guardians of the Galaxy show up in the early act and while this is the worst appearance that they’ve had in the MCU, they also manage to be one of the best parts of the movie. When they part ways from Thor and the overall plot I did feel sad, because I would’ve preferred to have followed them than be stuck with himbo Thor for the next 1.5 hours. Russell Crowe plays Zeus with a highly cartoonish and questionable Greek accent. The highlight of the movie was Christian Bale as main villain Gorr the God Butcher (a grand title given that he doesn’t butcher many gods). There were some jokes leading up the release that Bale probably did this as a paycheck role, but he goes all in here, he seems to be one of the only actors not treating it like a joke. Bale plays the role up wonderfully, he’s menacing and creepy and I loved the bizarre and weird nature he brought to it. Unfortunately, like Portman, he was underutilised. While Gorr is given a tragic backstory, his transformation and change is too stark and sudden. It is also yet another case of an MCU villain being in their position because of corruption from an object, like in Shang-Chi and Doctor Strange 2. Bale’s Gorr felt out of place in this movie for sure, but I would’ve liked the movie less without him.

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Taika Waititi returns to direct this, and his work is a considerable downgrade from Ragnarok in just about every single way. Ragnarok had some inconsistent visuals; sometimes there are moments that look absolutely stunning, other times it looked really fake and ugly. Love and Thunder was like that except this time there are only a handful of decent looking shots. Somehow the visuals got considerably worse 5 years later. Love and Thunder is visually bland, its either got terrible CGI or very grey backgrounds, and the colour grading is awful. Even the action is very generic and basic for the most part. That being said, any scene with Gorr looks visually nice. There’s some scenes set in the shadow realm and things are in black and white and those were some of my favourite parts of the movie. I liked the style, visuals and use of colour, and the action in this segment was pretty good. Michael Giacchino’s score was very generic and forgettable, I don’t remember any of the composed music. I can remember a lot of Guns N’ Roses and while I liked it the first time they were played, I’m pretty sure they were played four times in Love and Thunder and I really wished that Taika would’ve tried playing something else too.

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Thor: Love and Thunder is the lowest point of the MCU. Whereas Ragnarok was a movie of hits and misses, Love and Thunder is a movie of mostly misses. Despite the uncooked writing that he’s working with, Christian Bale is a delight as the villain and the film picks up whenever he’s on screen. There are maybe a couple of jokes that work, and the film was mildly entertaining and held my interest. However, I found it so hard to care about so much that was going on. The movie was unfunny, the moments of drama are mishandled, and the visuals are mostly ugly. It’s also a movie that in spite of all its overt quirks, feels incredibly empty. It’s particularly disappointing because I liked Taika Waitti’s past movies and I know he is better than this. One of the end credits hints at a follow up Thor movie and honestly, I am fully content with there never being another Thor movie unless there’s a drastic change in direction. At the very least, I hope someone takes over making the next movies. Otherwise, I’m not expecting anything more than another generic product like Love and Thunder.