Tag Archives: 2014 movies

Rampage: Capital Punishment (2014) Review

Time: 93 Minutes
Cast:
Brendan Fletcher as Bill Williamson
Lochlyn Munro as Chip Parker
Mike Dopud as Marc
Michaela Mann as Marlene
Director: Uwe Boll

Violent anti-hero Bill Williamson (Brendan Fletcher) has a plan to change the world by exacting vengeance on the rich, and ripping Washington apart. He holds a number of people hostage and uses his captives as his political platform to spread his message and awaken humanity. It’s time to destroy the system, and change won’t happen peacefully.

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For some of those who saw Rampage, it was a surprise considering Uwe Boll’s other work, which seemed to be almost all bad. Rampage was a simple, yet effective movie which seemed to get most of its necessary aspects right. It wasn’t great by any means but it was okay for what it set out to do. I also seemed to like the sequel, titled Capital Punishment (the movie I’m currently reviewing) when I first saw it. Thinking back to both movies, it dawned on me that they really weren’t that good, especially the second. No doubt, Uwe Boll is actually trying with the Rampage movies but it’s not really done that well. Some of the elements are praiseworthy, especially Brendan Fletcher’s performance. However overall it ultimately now just feels like a ham fisted speakerphone where Uwe Boll could unload all of his political thoughts, and as a movie it’s really not that good.

Instead of main character Bill Williamson going on a killing spree, Bill now decides to take people hostage. It’s more like a contained thriller in one location than an absolute shoot em up. One of the stand out parts about Capital Punishment is that this movie is incredibly preachy, with tons of monologues by Bill and some of the most blatant political commentary I’ve ever seen in a movie. There is no subtlety whatsoever, it’s a little worryingly the way it’s done. It’s not the actual concept that is wrong, it seems like it could be something controversial but interesting. It’s that the execution is really ham fisted with really no thought put into it, like Uwe Boll recorded all of his drunken rants and ramblings and decided to put it into this movie. While there’s clearly some truth to Bill’s words, the film never takes into account the horrible things he does. We don’t need some guy telling us that what he’s doing is wrong, but there’s something troublesome about how the film perceives him. Having a character like this is very difficult to pull off, you have to show some of his positive aspects, while not trying to glorify his actions. Uwe Boll does not do a good job with that. The ending is also just so convenient and lazy, obviously setting up for another instalment in the series.

Brendan Fletcher as Bill Williamson is once again is the best part of the movie. I really hope he gets a lot of great work, because if there’s anything that the Rampage movies have done, it is that it showed off his talent. All the ham fisted monologues that he has to do, Brendan Fletcher elevates with his performance, which is honestly saying a lot. He is very believable and intense in this role and does very well at it. I can’t remember how the other actors did in their roles but I recall that they didn’t particularly stick out. There’s one person who did feel a little out of place, and that person is Uwe Boll. He does have a small cameo in the movie and he didn’t really fit in with the whole experience. He wasn’t terrible but he was a bit of a distraction, even if it was for a brief moment. It doesn’t help that during one monologue by Fletcher’s character, Boll comments that “he’s right”, shameless to say the least, considering that he wrote the movie. It also just makes the movie unsettling as to how Bill and ‘his’ (totally not Uwe Boll’s) messages are seen, and far from a good way.

One improvement over the previous film is that it does have a smoother direction without too much shaky camera. It does use a ton of slow mo, especially when Bill is shooting people, there are times when someone gets hit and it goes into slow mo, seemingly even more gratatious than the first movie. The production design and the general look of the movie is not much better than the first movie, it does have a very amateurish vibe from it. The music is basic as well.

Whereas the first Rampage at least seemed to be balanced, Capital Punishment increases the monologues written personally by Uwe Boll and becomes a preachfest and it becomes really annoying and self indulgent. There’s pretty much no reason to watch Capital Punishment outside of Brendan Fletcher, who really does deserve better than Uwe Boll. I’m not looking forward to reviewing the third and final Rampage movie but I’ll be glad that it’ll be over.

Left Behind (2014) Review

Time: 110 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Nicolas Cage as Rayford Steele
Chad Michael Murray as Cameron “Buck” Williams
Cassi Thomson as Chloe Steele
Nicky Whelan as Hattie Durham
Jordin Sparks as Shasta Carvell
Lea Thompson as Irene Steele
Director: Vic Armstrong

The entire planet is thrown into mayhem when millions of people disappear without a trace — all that remains are their clothes and belongings. Unmanned vehicles crash and planes fall from the sky, overwhelming emergency forces and causing massive gridlock, riots and chaos. Airline pilot Ray Steele (Nicolas Cage) struggles to save the lives of the passengers who remain on his flight, while his daughter (Cassi Thomson) races to find her brother and mother (Lea Thompson), both of whom have disappeared.

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I’ll be honest, I went into Left Behind knowing full well it wasn’t going to be good. It’s a remake of an apparently already awful movie with Kirk Cameron of the same name, which is a religious apocalyptic movie surrounding The Rapture. And somehow this remake got Nicolas Cage attached to it. However I admit I had a bit of morbid curiosity going into it. It was even worse than I thought it would be, but not in a good way. While it’s not cringe inducingly horrendous, it is painfully dull and incompetently made.

Left Behind is a religious apocalypse movie, and though I don’t really know if there are any decent religious apocalypse based movies, but if they exist this certainly isn’t one of them. I’m not against religious movies or any movies that have religion as a big part of the story, it’s just that Left Behind flat out wasn’t good regardless. It has no subtlety in its themes, especially when it comes to religion. The early scenes of the movie has so much blatant foreshadowing, in the opening minutes it features two of the main characters talking about religion, and establishes their position on religion and all that. Despite all the supposedly horrific things that were happening with people disappearing and chaos happening, you never feel really anything, there’s not a single character or aspect that you grow attached to in any way. You don’t care about any of these characters, they are so two dimensional and boring. The dialogue is also really bad, flat, blatant and again when it comes to the ‘themes’, no subtlety whatsoever. I’m not exactly sure the filmmakers thought through everything about The Rapture, and how exactly it would work. I’ll admit I don’t know a ton about The Rapture, but the film’s interpretation of it is having some people disappear and go to heaven I guess, with their clothes are left and there are like clothes literally just falling everywhere, even falling from the sky as if people were continently falling from the sky before being ‘saved’. On top of that, immediately when people disappear, everything goes to chaos and that’s literally all the characters on land aside from a couple characters do, and people just end up doing things that are really hard to buy. There’s even an ending that tries to set up for a sequel that will never ever happen. I think the worst thing overall though is how boring and dull the movie feels. Like even if some of the themes are hamfisted, or some ideas were executed poorly, if it was something interesting or anything like that then it would’ve been at least something. Even a ham fisted message would’ve at least been something but you don’t really get anything out of it, nothing morally, nothing in entertainment factors, nothing interesting or memorable, I barely remember much from the movie.

This movie has a few known people but none of the cast were good at all. Nicolas Cage, aside from one scene in the third act doesn’t appear to be trying at all. We unfortunately don’t even get a crazy performance from him, it would’ve made the movie at least somewhat enjoyable. There is some sort of attempt at a romance between two characters played by Cassi Thomson and Chad Michael Murray and you just don’t buy it at all, they spend like at most 10 minutes long before CMM goes off on a plane with Nicolas Cage and the film treats it as if the two characters were like a couple. I’m not familiar with most of the actors aside from Nicolas Cage but even if they have talent, they don’t have anything to work with here, so they just end up giving terrible performances.

Left Behind is such a poorly directed film, it felt like a straight to DVD despite apparently being shown in multiple cinemas upon its release. From what I could find out about the director, Vic Armstrong, he was a stunt double for Harrison Ford in the Indiana Jones movies. If he has any directorial talent, he doesn’t show it here. The CGI when it’s there is terrible, they couldn’t make a CGI plane look the slightest bit convincing. The music doesn’t go with the movie, especially with the more intense scenes. It’s either too light for intense scenes or its too intense set to events that aren’t all that intense.

Left Behind is horrendous, the writing is poor, the direction is amateurish, and the acting is very mediocre. However I think the most disappointing and worst part is that this movie isn’t even entertaining or hilarious, it’s just boring. If we had an over the top Nicolas Cage performance or even a well intended message implemented, that might’ve made the movie somewhat enjoyable but that’s not the case. Aside from some bad decisions and scenes which can be laughable, there isn’t really anything enjoyable about Left Behind, even on an ironic or unintentional level. At the same time, I don’t really hate it, it’s just that there’s really nothing that good about it.

Blue Ruin (2014) Review

Time: 90 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic violence & offensive language
Cast:
Macon Blair as Dwight Evans
Devin Ratray as Ben Gaffney
Amy Hargreaves as Sam Evans
Kevin Kolack as Teddy Cleland
Eve Plumb as Kris Cleland
Director: Jeremy Saulnier

A mysterious outsider’s (Macon Blair) quiet life is turned upside down when he returns to his childhood home to carry out an act of vengeance. Proving himself an amateur assassin, he winds up in a brutal fight to protect his estranged family.

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2007’s Murder Party was a decent first feature film from director Jeremy Saulnier, however it was Blue Ruin where he came into his own and started to get some notice as a director. I heard about Blue Ruin a long time ago while ago, I knew it was another thriller from Jeremy Saulnier, the director behind Green Room but hadn’t gotten around to it yet. After seeing it more recently I can say that it is a pretty good movie, although it’s not quite as good as Green Room.

One of the things that makes Blue Ruin unique is its take on a revenge film. Most revenge movies would have the protagonist being usually a Liam Neeson sort of character, with a particular set of skills. The character of Dwight in Blue Ruin however is far from capable at doing what he’s setting out to do. He does feel quite vulnerable, which raises the tension just a little more. Something that was surprising was the humour that was here, it was mostly dark and more to do with how Dwight is not at all suited for the job. It did help lighten up the otherwise bleak and sombre tone and mood throughout the film. I think it’s best not knowing too much about the movie going in, so I’ll try to keep my descriptions of the movie brief. The first third of the movie is slow but effective, building up to a satisfying climax in the end of that first third. The second third is really where the movie was lacking for me, it really slows down quite a bit. As a result, all of the tension is completely defused and you’re just sort of left waiting for things to happen and was all drawn out a little too much. The last third picks up a little bit however, and it ended in probably the only way it could’ve. The movie is 90 minutes long and I can’t imagine it being longer, it was probably the right length all things considered.

Really the most notable actor of all the cast of Blue Ruin is long-time Jeremy Saulnier collaborator Macon Blair as the lead character of Dwight, and he’s great. As I said, his character is more like a normal guy and is rather amateurish, not fit for violence or revenge at all, and he’s really convincing, really grounded. Much of the movie is relying on Blair and is just following him for the entire runtime and thankfully he pulls it off really well. Much of the movie doesn’t even have him necessarily saying a lot of dialogue, especially in the first act, and he conveys so much during these quiet moments. Other members of the cast are good in their roles but don’t really do enough to stand out, however Devin Ratray as Dwight’s friend Ben is also quite good in his screentime.

Jeremy Saulnier’s direction here has vastly improved over his direction in Murder House, and his work here is fantastic. The cinematography is beautiful looking and it’s Saulnier himself who did it, it really added a lot to the film. In the second act the tension is completely defused but otherwise, Saulnier made most of the movie feel really tense, especially in the first and third act. The violence is brutal, bloody and gritty but there’s not a lot of it, there’s probably like a few scenes of violence in the whole film. While I had problems with the lack of tension and all that in some of the movie, I appreciate the restraint by Saulnier not to just make it a bloodbath, because it would’ve be so easy to just fall into doing that.

Blue Ruin is maybe not as good as I’d hope it would be, the pacing is a little too slow and the second act is not on the same level as the rest of the movie. Outside of that, Blue Ruin gets a lot right, with some really tense moments, Macon Blair’s performance and most of all Jeremy Saulnier’s great direction. Definitely worth checking out sometime.

 

The Equalizer (2014) Review

Time: 132 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Violence, sexual themes & offensive language.
Cast:
Denzel Washington as Robert “Bob” McCall
Marton Csokas as Teddy Rensen/Nicolai Itchenko
Chloë Grace Moretz as Alina/Teri
Melissa Leo as Susan Plummer
Bill Pullman as Brian Plummer
Johnny Skourtis as Ralph/”Ralphie”
Haley Bennett as Mandy
David Harbour as Frank Masters
Director: Antoine Fuqua

Robert McCall (Denzel Washington), a man of mysterious origin who believes he has put the past behind him, dedicates himself to creating a quiet new life. However, when he meets Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz), a teenager who has been manhandled by violent Russian mobsters, he simply cannot walk away. With his set of formidable skills, McCall comes out of self-imposed retirement and emerges as an avenging angel, ready to take down anyone who brutalizes the helpless.

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With The Equalizer 2 coming soon, I decided to check out the original movie released in 2014 (it was the second time I saw it). The Equalizer is loosely based on the tv series of the same name. Antoine Fuqua is a director I really like, with Training Day, Southpaw, Olympus Has Fallen and even King Arthur (yes I like it), he’s done a lot of impressive work. He brings his solid direction here to make The Equalizer a brutal yet entertaining action movie, that’s maybe a tad overlong.

The plot is rather straightforward, a particular event compels a likable but dangerous and capable main character to take action. There’s nothing particularly special about the plot, but most of the time it keeps your attention and you are entertained throughout. There aren’t many issues with the movie. If there is a slight ‘problem’ it’s that most of the time, Denzel Washington doesn’t really encounter a lot of problems. Even with the Marton Csokas character, for most of the movie he feels like he’s on top of things. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there’s not really a lot of tension. You only feel like he’s in some form of danger in the climax. Also the Equalizer is about 2 hour and 10 minutes long, which is a tad too long. I think some of the beginning segment was a little too long with the scenes of him being normal and before taking action. The moment he decides to take action though, the movie really picks up. Outside of that there aren’t too many issues.

Denzel Washington is effortlessly good in the role of Robert McCall. He is believable in the role, has his typical Denzel charisma and likability and really works as the main character. Marton Csokas is really good as the main villain, his character is sent in to fix up the situation that Washington causes early on. Csokas is very menacing and commands a whole lot of attention and precense. He also makes up for a lot of the lacklustre villains in the movie, who are mostly cartoonish and one dimensional. Chloe Grace Moretz, despite her character being one of the main motivations for what Washington does, doesn’t appear very often but she’s good in the scenes that she’s in.

Antoine Fuqua’s direction really works here. Like with some of Fuqua’s other action movies, this is a hard R action movie and it is really quite violent. Denzel Washington dispatches many people effortlessly and brutally, and it’s kinda glorious to watch. If you are a squeamish person, The Equalizer is really not for you at all. While the fight and action scenes are entertaining, the climax which takes place in a hardware store was the highlight of the movie. Not only was it creative, but it’s also one of the only times when McCall seems like he’s in danger.

The Equalizer is a very solid action movie, Denzel Washington and Marton Csokas are both good in their roles, Antoine Fuqua’s direction really worked and it was just really entertaining overall. It might’ve been a little long and was sort of predictable and familiar but outside of that it worked very well for what it is. With Denzel Washington and Antoine Fuqua returning for the sequel 4 years later, I’m looking forward to it.

Transcendence (2014) Review

Time: 119 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Johnny Depp as Will Caster
Rebecca Hall as Evelyn Caster
Paul Bettany as Max Waters
Kate Mara as Bree
Cillian Murphy as Donald Buchanan
Cole Hauser as Stevens
Morgan Freeman as Joseph Tagger
Director: Wally Pfister

Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp), the world’s foremost authority on artificial intelligence, is conducting highly controversial experiments to create a sentient machine. When extremists try to kill the doctor, they inadvertently become the catalyst for him to succeed. Will’s wife, Evelyn (Rebecca Hall), and best friend, Max (Paul Bettany), can only watch as his thirst for knowledge evolves to an omnipresent quest for power, and his loved ones soon realize that it may be impossible to stop him.

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I remember looking forward to seeing Transcendence after seeing all the trailers. It had an interesting concept, a very talented cast and was directed by Christopher Nolan’s frequent cinematographer Wally Pfister. It’s just such a shame that all the talent involved never ended up amounting to anything. Transcendence isn’t an awful movie, it has some okay parts to it, it looks good and some of the acting is okay, that’s it. On the whole, it movie is just disappointing and mediocre.

There’s a huge amount of potential with this concept. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really do anything too much with it. It actually takes quite a while to get to the actual transcendence. It doesn’t help that once things get going, there’s a 2 year jump for no reason at all, after that point the movie really took a significant drop in quality. It is worth noting that despite the marketing, Transcendence isn’t a huge sci-fi thriller. That way if you end up watching the movie, you won’t be as disappointed with it. I heard this mentioned before going into it, so I wasn’t expecting the movie that was advertised, I was just going in expecting a movie and even then I was let down. It seems that it was more focused around the lead two characters played by Johnny Depp and Rebecca Hall and their relationship. That’s not a problem, it’s just the relationship and characters aren’t as interesting as it should be, you’re not that invested. There isn’t much character development except for maybe Paul Bettany’s character. The movie really wasn’t as interesting as it should’ve been either. Some aspects of the movie are interesting like the actual transcendence, other aspects just feel like typical sci-fi aspects that were just thrown in. It might have its moments but Transcendence on the whole doesn’t do enough special things to warrant grinding through the whole 2 hour long movie (which feels a lot longer actually watching it).

This cast is pretty large and talented but most of them don’t really get to do anything that great. Johnny Depp is the lead character who goes through the transcendence and he wasn’t really that great, though this time I don’t think it’s on Depp. It’s not that Johnny Depp going full Jack Sparrow or anything like that. It’s that his character really doesn’t do much, even after the transcendence. He should be really interesting, compelling or something like that, but he’s just boring. Rebecca Hall has even less to do here. As I said, a lot of the movie surrounds Depp’s and Hall’s relationship but the chemistry between them wasn’t great and the relationship isn’t that compelling or interesting, so I felt ultimately nothing in their numerous scenes together. Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy are fine enough but their characters aren’t really anything, so they are pretty much just playing themselves. Kate Mara is decent enough but the only actor in this movie who actually leaves a real strong impression was Paul Bettany, he was legitimately good in his role and his performance does actually add to the movie and make it a little better.

One of the highlights of Transcendence is that it is a good looking movie, this movie is shot very well. However, it’s nothing really that different from any other sci-fi movies that we’ve seen. The problem isn’t the direction. If I saw any scene out of context by itself, I would probably find it decent, but the fact that the movie looks good isn’t enough to carry it with it’s rather flawed story, characters and script.

I will say this about Transcendence, it is one of those movies that should be remade, this concept sounds like it could be something great. I’m completely lost as to why this movie didn’t work at all. I didn’t find it to be a terrible movie but it’s also not really good either. It looks good, it has some story aspects which had potential and the acting is fine enough (though only a couple actors are used to their potential), however the end product really didn’t live up to its potential. I guess there’s not harm in checking it out if you’re curious, but don’t expect anything too great.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014) Review

Time: 102 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence & sex scenes.
Cast
Mickey Rourke as Marv
Jessica Alba as Nancy Callahan
Josh Brolin as Dwight McCarthy
Eva Green as Ava Lord
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Johnny
Rosario Dawson as Gail
Bruce Willis as John Hartigan
Powers Boothe as Senator Roark
Dennis Haysbert as Manute
Ray Liotta as Joey
Stacy Keach as Alarich Wallenquist
Jaime King as Goldie and Wendy
Christopher Lloyd as Kroenig
Jamie Chung as Miho
Jeremy Piven as Bob
Christopher Meloni as Mort
Juno Temple as Sally
Director: Robert Rodriguez

The damaged denizens of Sin City return for another round of stories from the mind of Frank Miller. In “Just Another Saturday Night,” Marv (Mickey Rourke) struggles to recall a nasty run-in with some frat boys. In “A Dame to Kill For,” Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin) forsakes his battle with his inner demons to help Ava Lord (Eva Green), the woman of his dreams and nightmares. In “Nancy’s Last Dance,” Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba), mad with grief and rage over Hartigan’s death, vows revenge.

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I am a big fan of the original Sin City, with its comic booky style and direction. For a while there was talks of a Sin City sequel and it was a little worrying as it took 9 years for it to actually get made, which didn’t look good at all. A Dame to Kill For finally dropped in 2014, to some mixed reception, seemingly disappointing even some of the fans of the original. Despite the mixed reception surrounding the sequel I really liked it. A lot of what made the original to be great is here, from its direction, talented actors and more. It’s not as great as the original, most of it being due to the stories not being quite as great or interesting, but it is still a very solid movie overall.

Like in the first Sin City, the sequel has multiple stories and also like with the original, the stories aren’t necessarily presented in chronological order, if you’ve watched the original Sin City you will be used to it. The stories follow Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Dwight (Josh Brolin) and Nancy (Jessica Chastain), along with a brief storyline for Marv (Mickey Rourke). I overall liked all of the stories but they aren’t as interesting as the original. Out of all the main stories, only Dwight’s story is from a prewritten novel (that being A Dame to Kill For). The Nancy storyline is a continuation from her story from the original, the Johnny storyline is completely new and Marv is here because he’s a fan favourite (although he does make enjoyable appearances in the other stories as well). It’s unfortunate that the weakest storyline is the titular Dame to Kill For storyline, which does receive the most attention. It has its moments and is good enough but I’m not quite sure if I’d call it great enough. Overall though, this movie is quite similar to the original, and I had a great time with it.

Many of the original cast returns, with Mickey Rourke as Marv, Jessica Alba as Nancy, Rosario Dawson as Gail and others. They are all great, with Mickey Rourke’s Marv effortlessly being a standout. A surprising part of the movie is Jessica Alba, she was fine in the first movie as Nancy but here she actually is really good here, as Nancy since the first film has been going through a lot, and it was great seeing the change that she goes through. Powers Boothe was also a stand out here, he was in the original film for like one scene, but here he is a lot more prominent and has such a villous screen presence. Along with returning actors, there are also some talented new actors who are involved. Clive Owen was Dwight in the first Sin City but in this movie Josh Brolin is in his role and he does a very great job. Joseph Gordon Levvitt plays a brand new character named Johnny and he definitely owned his role, perfect casting. Eva Green plays Ava, the ‘Dame to Kill For’. Eva really was the perfect actress for the role. There’s not much complexity in terms of the actual character and is pretty much just a Femme Fatale, but then again the character in the original graphic novel is like that, so I can’t really blame her. All the actors do a good job, even the one scene actors like Ray Liotta and Christopher Lloyd make a solid impression.

A Dame to Kill For, like for the first Sin City has a unique style and it returns here, Robert Rodriguez directs this film well. The action is beautiful, violent, brutal and entertaining. The colour pallet is similar to the first movie’s, mostly black and white with some objects coloured (like red blood and a blue dress). As I said in my review of the first movie, it is the most accurate adaptation of a graphic novel, it’s whether you’re a fan of that style or not. And yes, like the first film it is gratuitously violent, and the action overall is just as entertaining. I will say that there is occasionally some really fake looking CGI (which didn’t really happen much in the original) but that doesn’t happen too often and doesn’t distract too much from the overall movie.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is a solid follow up to the original Sin City, if not being quite on the same level. It’s pretty much what you would expect from a Sin City movie with its characters, style and structure. Aside from it feeling maybe a little too much like the original and a couple technical aspects, the main thing holding it back from being as good as the original is that the stories aren’t as strong. If you liked the first Sin City I recommend at least giving the sequel a go. If you didn’t like the first Sin City don’t even bother, nothing here is going to change your mind.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) Review

Time: 142 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man
Emma Stone as Gwendolyn “Gwen” Stacy
Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon/Electro
Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn/Green Goblin
Colm Feore as Donald Menken
Felicity Jones as Felicia Hardy
Paul Giamatti as Aleksei Sytsevich/Rhino
Sally Field as Aunt May
Campbell Scott as Richard Parker
Embeth Davidtz as Mary Parker
Marton Csokas as Dr. Kafka
Director: Marc Webb

Confident in his powers as Spiderman, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) embraces his new role as a hero and spends time with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) in between protecting New York from criminals. However, his greatest battle yet is about to begin. With the emergence of Electro (Jamie Foxx), Peter must confront an enemy far more powerful than he is. And when his old friend Harry Osborn (Dane Dehaan) returns, Peter comes to realise that all his enemies have one thing in common: Oscorp.

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I have been re-watching the Spider-Man movies in preparation for Spider-Man Homecoming in July. Over the course of these movies I’ve noticed that I’ve been generally liking the Spider-Man movies, I even consider Spider-Man 3 to be a solid movie despite the amount of hate its been getting. I remember when I first watched The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in theatres, I really liked it. Sure, I knew it had issues but I found it to be a decent and entertaining movie overall. I rewatched it recently for the first time in a few years and… it has far more issues than I picked up before. This movie is okay, and it does have some great elements. But a lot of it is mishandled. This movie is shockingly clunky and messy at times, and we are left with an incredibly frustrating and disappointing – if above average Spider-Man movie.

Not to say that there aren’t some great moments, but I won’t lie, this movie is a bit of a mess. Like Spider-Man 3, there is so much going on, too much going on. We’ve got Peter and Gwen’s romance, Peter discovering what happened with his father and Oscorp, Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) becoming Electro, Harry Osborn (Dane Dehaan) trying to find a cure to his Goblin disease after inheriting it from his father, and it’s also trying to set up for future movies. Despite both Spider-Man 3 and Amazing Spider-Man 2 having a whole lot going on in their movies, all the flaws in 3’s plotlines were clearly caused from Rami being forced to fit them all into one movie, the plotlines themselves were actually pretty good those issues aside. With Amazing Spider-Man 2, calling the plotlines hit or miss would be an understatement. If I had to describe this movie, I’d say it’s almost like Spider-Man 3, but done poorly. I’ll try to break down the issues with some of these plotlines. The plotline about Peter discovering what happened to his father and his ties to Oscorp was unnecessary, it leads to an completely predictable ‘plot twist’ that everyone saw coming, Oscorp is basially bad, which I’m certain everyone has already figured out before the movie even started. There wasn’t really a reason for the movie to have this subplot, it just sort of emerges around the middle of the movie randomly. Removing it from the movie would’ve allowed time to develop other plotlines (the plotline itself is done okay, it’s just feels unnecessary). The future movies setup feels forced and unnecessary. It introduces Felicia Hardy (Felicity Jones) to be Black Cat later in the franchise (which we never got to see) and there’s of course the failed attempt to setup the Sinister Six with Electro, Green Goblin and Rhino. Without giving anything away, there is a scene with Harry Osborn near the end of the movie which is done to set up the Sinister Six and it just sort of comes out of nowhere, there’s no explanation for why the group is being created in the first place. It also doesn’t help that the villains themselves in this movie weren’t given enough development. I’ll go into more depth with the other plotlines involving Peter and Gwen’s Romance, Max Dillon and Harry Osborn when I talk about the performances. But you can probably tell that I had issues with all of them. That’s not to say that these plotlines are all bad, they do have their moments and many of the ideas had a lot of potential. But they could’ve and should’ve been handled a lot better. Another thing worth mentioning is the tone. It’s like this movie didn’t know which tone to go with. At times it’s dark and emotional with these intense and emotional scenes, other times it is a romantic comedy with Peter and Gwen and other times its an incredibly cheesy action movie, with one-liners and over the top performances. And when I’m talking cheesy, I’m meaning like there is literally a random scene involving a generic evil German scientist (played by Marton Csokas), who likes to listen to classical music (this is in a scene with Electro), basically a cartoonish over the top mad scientist. It’s one of the most over the top cliché characters/moments in the film, and that’s saying a lot. Looking back at that scene, I guess it works in a cheesy way (like in the way that Spider-Man 1 was cheesy), but the issue is that other parts of the movie aren’t as cheesy, so it just comes across as stupid when it pops up. Say what you will about the cheesiness in Spider-Man 1 but at least it was consistent. As for the humour, some of it works, some of it really doesn’t. And again, sometimes the humour is out of place, just like other elements of the movie. The last act is incredibly rushed. The two villains are suddenly fighting Spider-Man and each only take up to 3-5 minutes to defeat, they have even less screentime than Venom in Spider-Man 3. There is a sudden dramatic turn in the third act and while it could’ve been handled better, it does partially work (if you’ve seen the movie you know exactly what scene I’m referring to). As for the actual ending of the movie… it was not that great of an ending, it felt forced and rushed. That’s all I’ll say about that.

The editing of the movies wasn’t that good either. The scene placements are frustrating, sometimes they didn’t fit. For example, there is an intense horror-like transformation scene which is immediately followed by a Peter and Gwen romantic scene, which is completely tonally off, such a confusingly out of place editing decision. Other times the editing decisions just straight up makes the movie worse. For example, Harry in one scene asks Spider-Man for his blood to help save his life, and Spider-Man refuses. In a later scene, Peter learns why he couldn’t give his blood to Harry, those two scenes should’ve been swapped around, because otherwise Peter just seems like a terrible friend. I have no idea if it was written that way or if was changed through editing, but either way, the way the film presented these events didn’t work the best. It’s worth noting that many of these scenes are fine if you watch them on their own, but seeing them in the movie itself really decreases their quality. The first Amazing Spider-Man did lack some scenes (which would’ve really made the villain stronger had they been included) but it didn’t feel like a ton of footage was missing. However, with the sequel it is incredibly obvious that tons of scenes were cut. And it’s even more astonishing when you actually see some of the scenes that were cut. Simple scenes that explains aspects of the movie and develops some of the characters a little more, all of this should’ve been included and keep in mind that some of the footage didn’t even make it onto home video, there’s probably even more footage that was cut which would’ve made the movie better. On another note, the alternate ending is a lot better than the original ending. It’s very different and surprising but the original ending feels forced and not really earned (not to mention Paul Giamatti’s Rhino makes the ending even worse). The alternate ending is a lot quieter and emotional, and was overall the more impactful ending. I guess Sony just wanted to set up the Sinister Six and saw that as more important than the actual better ending for the film.

Andrew Garfield returns as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and he is still my favourite Spider-Man. With that said I had some issues with Peter/Spider-Man here, none of which is on Garfield, he absolutely commits to the part. My biggest issue with his Spider-Man is that he’s involved with so many plotlines at once in this movie and none of them worked together well enough for him to have a consistent arc. Spider-Man 3 made that work by tying the black symbiote suit with the storylines of Sandman and Harry, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 doesn’t give Peter a consistent arc however. So Peter did feel like a weak character unfortunately, he was at his best in the Richard Parker/Oscorp storyline, which ironically is one of the subplots that was pointless. Emma Stone is again great as Gwen Stacy. The issue with their romance subplot isn’t the actors, Garfield and Stone are effortlessly watchable and lovable together. The issue is that its jumbled with all these other plotlines that it wasn’t handled the best, so throughout all the other plotlines, it would just randomly cut to the two of them for no reason. Now with that said, there is stuff going on with the two of them, with Gwen moving to England and this affects their relationship, there was a lot of potential for this subplot. However it wasn’t balanced well in the movie. Still, it doesn’t change that fact that Peter and Gwen are one of the best romances in superhero movies, there’s no denying that. Watching the two of them talk and interact is endlessly entertaining, and you do actually care about them, which is why a certain scene with them in the third act really works, despite how out of place it is (no spoilers).

In this movie, we’ve got Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon/Electro and Dane Dehaan as Harry Osborn/Green Goblin as the main villains. First, let’s talk about Jamie Foxx. You have to give Foxx credit, because some of the things he has to do and say is kind of embarrassing, and Jamie threw himself completely into the role. Max Dillon isn’t given enough development and becomes a generic villain after he becomes Electro. I do like the initial idea of his character. Before turning into Electro, Max Dillon is a bit of a loner and an awkward guy, no one really likes him, he doesn’t get any respect. He believes that Spider-Man is his friend after one encounter (however he does play up the role way too much, its like he’s playing a cartoon character). If you’re thinking that it sounds familiar, that’s because that’s pretty much Riddler’s origin in Batman Forever. Cheesy dialogue and familiar scenarios aside, the major reason about why Electro doesn’t work is after the first action scene with Spider-Man. After the fight ends in an embarrassingly simple way, Electro is out of commission until he’s suddenly brought back for the climax for 5 minutes. There is no development of Electro after his villainous turn, so at that point there’s not much to like or care about him except for the nice visuals. So Foxx is wasted and misued in the role. It doesn’t help that his dialogue is cliché and silly with such classic lines like “It’s my birthday, time to blow out my candles” and “Don’t you know, I’m Electro”. That’s not to say that there aren’t some good things about him, the action with him is great, I love his look, and his voice is perfect. Electro isn’t a terrible villain but he’s not that good of a villain either. Now onto Dehaan. Out of the supporting actors he comes out with the best performance. Despite the material he was given, Dane fully commits to his part and really gives a great performance. There wasn’t anything embarrassingly bad about Harry/Goblin, but Dehaan was not given the best writing/material to work with. Harry’s friendship with Peter was fine but wasn’t very strong, not enough time is given to developing that relationship (probably because of all the other plotlines in the movie), so that aspect was just passable at best. As previously mentioned, one plotline focussed on Harry Osborn is that he learns that his father (Norman Osborn) is suffering from a form of Goblin’s disease, and that it’s genetic, so Harry has that disease too. While this plotline does have its strong points and has a lot of potential, it is handled poorly. For example, even though Norman only began to feel the effects of the disease later in his life, Harry is already experiencing it when he’s in his 20s, which is just straight up lazy writing. So how is he as the Green Goblin? In the last act he really only poses as a direct villain to Spider-Man for less than 5 minutes, even Electro got more time. A few minutes isn’t enough time for him to be a villain. Still, a lot of things do really work about him, I actually really liked Dehaan’s version of Green Goblin, but again, he needed a lot more screentime.

Despite the issues that the above supporting actors had, there are other supporting actors who had even worse treatment. Some of them were meant to star in future movies but as Sony cancelled the future movies, they now just seem out of place. Felicity Jones plays Felicia Hardy, who was meant to become Black Cat in the sequel. Jones is a great actress, and she is fine in the movie but she’s like in 2 scenes and doesn’t get to do anything. Whereas Jones is fine but forgettable, Paul Giamatti is memorable but cringeworthy and incredibly over the top. He plays the Rhino, and he was put in this movie to set him up for future movies. He’s a very minor villain (only posing a minor threat at the beginning and end of the movie) but somehow ends up being one of the most embarrassing villains I’ve seen in a blockbuster. Despite them feeling out of place, at least they were meant to return for future movies, Chris Cooper wasn’t so lucky. Cooper plays Norman Osborn and before you get excited, don’t. He’s in one scene and doesn’t return to the movie after that. Such a complete wasted opportunity, Cooper was honestly perfect for the role. I guess the only supporting character who served her purpose without being wasted was Sally Fields as Aunt May.

I love the look of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. This movie is visually stunning, especially with the colours, Electro’s blue lightning, Spider-Man’s red suit, Green Goblin’s green glowing glider, its just stunning to watch. A lot of the scenes are filmed greatly, like an aforementioned transformation scene. This movie doesn’t have a lot of action but it is really good when it actually happens. The action itself is fast-paced like the first movie. If there’s one problem with the action that I have, its that this movie can feel a little too CGI, like we are watching a video game cutscene as opposed to an action sequence from an actual movie. Spider-Man’s suit design has changed from the first movie, now it’s closer to a comic book Spider-Man costume. It works but it’s not my favourite look. Maybe because he looks a lot more CGI and its kind of distracting. I know people really didn’t like the designs of the villains but I liked most of them. Electro’s design in the comics looks honestly silly and wouldn’t adapt well into live-action. So his design with the blue look was great, no problems there. I also liked the look of Green Goblin, it made sense given his origin, and he looked creepy and scary, no issues with his look either. As for the Rhino… yeah, I don’t really liked what they did with the character and the same goes with the costume. I know some people have criticised the soundtrack but I liked it, the Electro and Goblin themes are my favourites. Though the use of modern pop songs did really annoy me sometimes. I will say something about this movie, a lot of people had said that the Amazing Spider-Man movies were more Sony’s films than Marc Webb’s. While I’ll disagree about the first film, the second film I completely agree. There’s a constant feeling that there’s something off, it feels like a studio created the scenes, it lacks a consistent directional style. Then again, that might have something to do with the editing.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is by far the worst Spider-Man movie yet. The film tries to have so many plotlines and set up so much but most of the time it failed to deliver. All the plotlines have their flaws and some of them feel out of place in the movie. It is really all over the place. With that said, I wouldn’t call it a bad movie, just a very disappointing one. It had a great cast and most of them get their moments, the action sequences are beautiful and entertaining but aren’t shown often enough. It had so much potential but even if some of it resulted in some great moments, most of the potential was wasted. I know a lot of people absolutely hate The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and despite everything that I’ve said, it’s not bad, I still partially like it. It’s okay overall, just very disappointing to watch.

John Wick (2014) Review

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Time: 101 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence & offensive language
Cast:
Keanu Reeves as John Wick
Michael Nyqvist as Viggo Tarasov
Alfie Allen as Iosef Tarasov
Adrianne Palicki as Ms. Perkins
Bridget Moynahan as Helen Wick
Dean Winters as Avi
Ian McShane as Winston
John Leguizamo as Aurelio
Willem Dafoe as Marcus
Director: Chad Stahelski, David Leitch

After the sudden death of his beloved wife, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) receives one last gift from her, a beagle puppy named Daisy, and a note imploring him not to forget how to love. But John’s mourning is interrupted when his 1969 Boss Mustang catches the eye of sadistic thug Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen) who breaks into his house and steals it, beating John unconscious and leaving Daisy dead. Unwittingly, they have just reawakened one of the most brutal assassins the underworld has ever seen.

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With the sequel coming sometime soon, I thought I should give my thoughts on the original John Wick. John Wick was one of the most surprising movies of 2014. It wasn’t just a standard Keanu Reeves action flick, it was actually something special, garnering a strong reception and following. It is an entertaining and thrilling action movie.

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The story really isn’t anything special. It’s a revenge story, just with the main character being a former hitman. It’s the execution of the story that makes this movie work so well. The story is set out well, the pace never feeling too fast or too long. The world of John Wick is one of the stand out parts of the movie (which is saying a lot). The world is absolutely incredible and interesting, laid out well. I can’t wait to see how the sequel explores this world. This movie is engaging and riveting, it really never lost my attention once.

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This is the best Keanu Reeves has ever been in a movie (it’s also probably the best movie that Keanu Reeves has ever been in). He is really is believable in this role, and not just in the action scenes, he does actually act well in this movie, he’s not just playing Keanu Reeves like he has in certain other movies. It really does help that Keanu Reeves does his own stunts, it is much easier to buy him as this character. The supporting performances were also great. Michael Nyqvust was quite effective as the main villain as Iosef’s father (and a mob boss), completely owning every scene he’s in. Also, Willem Dafoe, Alfie Allen, Ian McShane and even John Leguizamo were good in their roles (however I would’ve liked if we saw more of Willem Dafoe).

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The action is absolutely fantastic. It doesn’t have a lot of shaky cam or unnecessary quick cuts like most action movies nowadays have. The stunt work was also fantastic (it helps with both directors being stunt men), the fights are intense and don’t feel fake at all. Another thing I liked was that although John Wick is incredibly good at what he does, he’s still human, he doesn’t always win perfectly against people just because he’s John Wick. That makes the action a lot more riveting, he’s not just Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando or something. In terms of the standout action scene, there’s a sequence that takes place in a nightclub (which reminded me of the nightclub scene in Collateral). In terms of flaws, I guess maybe the last action sequence was slightly underwhelming but that’s probably because everything else in the film was so great that it just paled in comparison.

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John Wick has a fantastic world, solid performances, entertaining action, everything you want from an action movie. As I said, the concept of the story itself is nothing special, it’s the execution that makes this film so excellent. If you haven’t already, definitely see John Wick when you can, especially before seeing the sequel which comes out (or already came out depending where you are in the world).

The Purge: Anarchy (2014) Review

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The Purge Anarchy

Time: 103 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, Offensive Language and Content that May Disturb.
Cast:
Frank Grillo as Sergeant
Carmen Ejogo as Eva Sanchez
Zach Gilford as Shane
Kiele Sanchez as Liz
Michael K. Williams as Carmelo Johns
Director: James DeMonaco

One night per year, the government sanctions a 12-hour period in which citizens can commit any crime they wish — including murder — without fear of punishment or imprisonment. Leo (Frank Grillo), a sergeant who lost his son, plans a vigilante mission of revenge during the mayhem. However, instead of a death-dealing avenger, he becomes the unexpected protector of four innocent strangers who desperately need his help if they are to survive the night.

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If you’ve ready my review of 2013’s The Purge, you know that I wasn’t a big fan of it. It took a potentially fun and unique (if a little far-fetched) concept and tried too hard to make it realistic and serious that it becomes somehow both boring and ridiculous. So naturally I wasn’t looking forward to the sequel. But to my surprise I enjoyed it quite a bit, The Purge Anarchy was everything I wanted the first movie to be. The entertaining action scenes and chaotic nature of the whole film was just fun for me. I’m not sure if I can call this a good movie, but it’s a decent and enjoyable one at the very least, and that’s already a big step forward when compared to the previous film.

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This movies does consist of the main characters going from one place to another and action happening during them. The pacing unlike the previous movie is pretty fast, making the movie much more entertaining. There are thankfully less moments of people telling the audience that The Purge works. The whole concept of The Purge still doesn’t entirely make sense but since the film doesn’t spend much time trying to justify it, I was fine with it. The characterisation of this movie aside from Frank Grillo’s character wasn’t good. It was about as poorly done as the original movie. However this movie is a lot more entertaining and fast paced, so I was able to forgive this movie for that, as the characters weren’t really the main focus. Besides, Grillo’s character was actually quite well written.

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Most of the actors are fine in this movie but as I said the characterisation is quite poor, and so they don’t have much to work with. Honestly they don’t really leave an impression on you, they are just random throwaway characters. The one actor who does shine though is Frank Grillo, who steals this entire movie. It helps that he has the best writing but Frank Grillo does bring something special to this movie and is so committed to his role, I’m so glad he’s returning for the sequel. Without him this movie would not be as enjoyable as it was.

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The action is very fast, bloody, violent and just overall entertaining. Although it does feature many masked killers, the film is much less horror themed than in the previous movie, which was a relief. I do notice that whenever people try to kill the main characters, random civilians come out of nowhere and are killed by said people, probably to make up for the lack of kills. I’m fine with that, but it would probably raise the stakes more if they occasionally killed off some of the main characters.

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With entertaining action scenes, a unique concept being taken advantage of well and a show stealing Frank Grillo, The Purge Anarchy is really fun. If you didn’t like the original Purge, give this one a chance. It’s not a great movie but it’s a lot more self-aware of what it’s supposed to be, and I think that’s the main difference between the two films. With last instalment of The Purge trilogy titled Election Day coming out this year, I just hope that it takes lessons from this movie and knows what direction to go in.

Sabotage (2014) Review

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Sabotage

Time: 109 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic Violence, Drug Use, Offesnive Language and Sexual Material.
Cast:
Arnold Schwarzenegger as John “Breacher” Wharton
Sam Worthington as James “Monster” Murray
Mireille Enos as Lizzy Murray
Olivia Williams as Investigator Caroline Brentwood
Terrence Howard as Julius “Sugar” Edmonds
Joe Manganiello as Joe “Grinder” Phillips
Harold Perrineau as Investigator Darius Jackson
Martin Donovan as Floyd Demel
Max Martini as Tom “Pyro” Roberts
Josh Holloway as Eddie “Neck” Jordan
Director: David Ayer

A DEA special ops unit becomes involved in a large scale bust involving tens of millions of dollars. The bust becomes interesting when the group decides to take 10 million dollars for their own use. Things go sour when the money which was hidden turns out to be missing. The group eventually recovers from an internal investigation with another chance to salvage their reputation. But which organized drug group would forget about 10 million dollars? The bigger mystery is where did that money go?

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David Ayer is a filmmaker known for making great movies with his very realistic style. I was initially curious for Sabotage, it’s an action movie directed by David Ayer and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Unfortunately Sabotage was a tremendous let down. It does have some decent action and Arnold Schwarzenegger does give a great performance, however the writing was pretty bad and didn’t really give much Ayer to work with.

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This film was co-written by Skip Woods who previously wrote Hitman, X-Men Origins Wolverine and A Good Day to Die Hard. I have a feeling that’s the reason for a lot of the flaws in the movie. The plot for Sabotage is quite convoluted and for a large portion it wasn’t moving fast enough and not a lot was happening. Also, according to David Ayer, the film was heavily cut by the studio in favour of having more of an action based film rather than a mystery thriller. The original cut of Sabotage was rumoured to be close to 3 hours. After hearing about that fact, it all makes sense. The only parts of the writing I liked was Arnold’s character and his past. Nearly all of the other characters are completely unlikable and annoying.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger actually gives one of the best performances of his career. He plays a much darker character and it shows that he can actually do quite well in dramas if he’s given the right character to work with. This is more than I can say for the other characters. Aside from Arnold, almost everyone else is completely unlikable, Olivia Williams was the only other person in this film that was likable. On top of that, only Arnold’s character is given any history, nothing is given about the rest of the team. So when a lot of these people are being killed off, I didn’t really feel much sympathy because that’s what I’ve been waiting to happen for a while.

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I liked the action but sometimes the hand held camera really didn’t work for me. This film, like Ayer’s other work (End of Watch and Fury) tries to have a realistic style. Sometimes in the movie it really does that and sometimes that’s effective. But the gruesome and over the top violence really felt out of place. I understand that violence can be bloody and gory but this was at an unbelievable level. There’s one death where a person is found nailed to the ceiling with blood dripping down. It was the cartel who did that and it’s hard to imagine them killing that person and then taking the time to nail him up there. It felt like a completely different movie and it got ridiculous at times.

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Sabotage for the most part is a dragging movie with unlikable characters and a plot that’s impossible to follow. It was Arnold and some of the action scenes that made me give this a slightly higher score than most people would give. Despite Sabotage, I still really excited for David Ayer’s Suicide Squad, especially with the latest trailer out. As for Sabotage, this is David Ayer’s weakest work and it’s disappointing. It’s hard to see how this film with so much talent behind it could’ve ended up like this.