Tag Archives: John Travolta

The Punisher (2004) Review

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The Punisher (2004)

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1]
Cast:
Thomas Jane as Frank Castle/Punisher
John Travolta as Howard Saint
Will Patton as Quentin Glass
Rebecca Romijn as Joan
Ben Foster as Spacker Dave
Roy Scheider as Frank Castle Sr.
Director: Jonathan Hensleigh

After his wife and family are murdered by a gang of ruthless criminals, special agent Frank Castle takes it upon himself to hunt down and punish the criminals responsible for his loss.

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The Punisher has had many on-screen adaptations, I was only familiar with the Netflix version starring Jon Bernthal, as well as 2008’s Punisher: War Zone starring Ray Stevenson. There are also two other known adaptations of The Punisher, one in 1989 with Dolph Lundgren, and another in 2004 starring Thomas Jane. I heard mixed things about both, but nonetheless I decided to check out the latter, and I enjoyed it in spite of its flaws.

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The first thing to note about The Punisher is that it was made in the earlier years of comic book movies, and was a Marvel movie before the MCU was a thing. It feels like a movie first, and a comic book movie second. That in itself is something to appreciate especially with the MCU today. If you went into this movie without knowing its comic book source, it would work perfectly fine as an action movie. That being said, one of the big issues is that the tone is all over the place with what its aiming to be, and it is a weird mix overall. A big aspect about The Punisher character is that he’s meant to show the dark side and consequences of being a vigilante, this movie skips that in favour for a revenge fantasy. Not to say that there aren’t attempts at showing depth, the initial tragedy that the protagonist experiences is treated very seriously. However it just doesn’t go deep enough it is clear that it is more focused on the revenge. It is indeed very dark (as were most comic book movies released in the 2000s), but some o the nihilism is played so straight that it become unintentionally funny. At the same time, a lot of the movie feels like its aiming to be throwback to the B-level revenge thrillers of the 70s, the source material seemed to be pulpy, and there’s plenty of moments throughout the film where it goes for that. It also has goofy dialogue and one liners alongside the brutal violence. However, it even suffers as a revenge thriller, especially with how cliched and routine it feels. Another thing holding this movie back is that whatever way you’re reading the movie, the story is a bit dull. The overall length is over 2 hours and it’s a bit too long for this movie. The story and characters aren’t that interesting or given enough depth, so there are moments where you are just waiting for the action to appear again.

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Thomas Jane is the thing most remembered about this movie, as he plays Frank Castle/The Punisher. I still prefer Jon Bernthal’s version of the character, but Jane is good here and one of the highlights of the movie. We see Castle start off fairly light hearted towards the beginning, and then becoming cold and calculating when he becomes the Punisher. That being said, I feel like he doesn’t get much chance to show his Punisher off. The character isn’t that interesting here, and he doesn’t have much personality outside of brooding and seeking revenge. Still, Jane plays his part well. Something that would keep the movie exciting is by having the Punisher go up against an over the top and memorable villain. The main antagonist in this movie is Howard Saint, a mobster who is responsible for the death of Frank Castle’s family, and he is played by John Travolta. However, this character and performance are the most disappointing parts of the whole movie. You’ve seen this type of mobster villain in plenty of other action movies and nothing about this version is remarkable. The idea of Travolta playing him had potential, and had he brought some of his manic energy from his previous on screen villains like in Face/Off or Broken Arrow, it would’ve really made the movie more fun to watch. Weirdly though, Travolta plays things so straight to the point of it being emotionless and dull, and he doesn’t even succeed in being convincingly menacing. There are some other actors who are generally good, including Laura Harring, Ben Foster, Rebecca Romijn and Roy Scheider, with Will Patton as Travolta’s henchman being the standout.

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This is Jonathan Hensleigh’s first movie, and while his directing can be a bit of a mixed bag, it is a decent debut. On a technical level it is solid, if unremarkable. While the editing can be a bit shaky, on the whole there are some good action scenes. This is definitely an R rated movie, and that works to its advantage. This is a very violent Punisher movie, and they definitely deliver on the brutality. In some ways it feels like the R rated action movies of the 90s, and if that’s what they were going for, they succeeded.

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2004’s The Punisher is far from being one of the best comic book movies or one of the best adaptations of the character. The writing is unremarkable, the story is dull, and the tone is confused. However, I still enjoyed it; I appreciated the different tone compared to the comic book movies of today, the action is entertaining, and Thomas Jane is pretty good as The Punisher. It’s an above average action thriller which is mostly forgettable, but I’m glad I saw it.

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.

Gotti (2018) Review

Time: 112 Minutes
Cast:
John Travolta as John Gotti
Kelly Preston as Victoria Gotti
Stacy Keach as Neil Dellacroce
Spencer Lofranco as John Gotti Jr.
Pruitt Taylor Vince as Angelo Ruggiero
William DeMeo as Sammy Gravano
Chris Mulkey as Frank DeCicco
Leo Rossi as Bartholomew Boriello
Chris Kerson as Wilfred Johnson
Victor Gojcaj as Father Murphy
Sal Rendino as Vincent Gigante
Director: Kevin Connolly

Raised on the streets of New York, young John Gotti (John Travolta) found his way into the Gambino crime family, eventually having the boss removed and becoming head of the powerful family. His wife (Kelly Preston) asked only one thing from John: to never expose their children to his profession. But he broke the vow, and John Jr. (Spencer Lofranco) took his place as his father’s Capo.

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I had been feeling the need to watch Gotti for some time, but not for the reason that they wanted. When Gotti got panned by critics, the marketing team for the film went all out on them, saying that critics hated the movie but “audiences loved Gotti”. That actually got some people to see the movie, including me. There’s also a weird connection with Gotti to MoviePass and Rotten Tomatoes but I’m not going to bother talking about that. Watching the movie finally, I can see why it received so much negativity. The writing is bad, the directing is bad, it’s not interesting, it’s boring, and it makes some questionable decisions. It doesn’t have enough redeeming or entertaining qualities to make watching it worthwhile.

If you look at the trailer for Gotti, the story looks straightforward and in chronological order. Unfortunately the movie jumps all over the place in time and I have no idea why. It just comes across as being jumbled for no reason, it really would’ve benefited by actually having the scenes in chronological order. There is no real focus to the story, Gotti is essentially an hour and 50 minutes of John Travolta playing John Gotti in random moments in his life. You just sort of stop trying to follow what’s going on at a point. I didn’t know too much about Gotti going into it and coming out of it I didn’t learn much more about him. Something that’s very apparent is that throughout the entirety of Gotti, it feels like they are trying to take a lot from other gangster movies like Goodfellas and Casino, such as the dialogue and certain directing choices (which I’ll get into later). With the way that it’s executed however, it comes across as very amateurish. It’s really difficult to care about what’s going on. For example, early in the movie, a member of Gotti’s family dies and it fails so incredibly badly at delivering any sort of impact. The most bizarre aspect however is how the filmmakers tried to present Gotti. This movie actually tries to portray Gotti as this likable family man, and it’s… really questionable. Ironically, despite the fact that they are clearly trying to take a lot from Martin Scorsese gangster films, they didn’t seem to pick up the fact that he didn’t try to make them likable or sympathetic, he just portrays them how they are. Maybe initially the lifestyle is presented as being great and glorious at first but by the end its made clear that it’s not a good thing. Kevin Connelly and everyone who worked on the story for Gotti seemed to only get the first half of that. In fact, this movie ends with a montage of Gotti supporters talking about how Gotti was a great guy and all that. The movie ends on a pro-Gotti note, and that is honestly one of the most bizarre endings that I’ve ever seen. The strangest thing is that we don’t really get to learn enough about why so many people liked him so much through the events shown, the film couldn’t even touch upon that aspect at least. I’m not sure how this movie ended up being so disastrous but I found out some things that could somewhat point towards it. This Gotti biopic took eight years to reach fruition, after several directors, cast changes, and script changes. On top of that, this movie has over 50 producers/executive producers, and I have never seen a movie with that astoundingly amount of producers. While there no doubt is a number of things wrong with this movie, these had probably contributed to it.

To their credit, the actors in the movie try to act their best but the writing and the direction really hinders them from being good. John Travolta is probably the best part about Gotti, he definitely puts everything into his performance. It’s not a great performance and he gets very over the top especially when he flips out, and at times it’s funny instead of being dramatic, but I’m almost glad that happened because hammy and over the top Travolta is always fun to watch, and added some entertainment to the movie. Other actors like Kelly Preston, Stacy Keach, Spencer Lofranco and Pruitt Taylor Vince didn’t give particularly good performances either but I don’t blame it on their talent, with the writing that they had, most actors wouldn’t be able to work wonders with it.

I’ve not seen Kevin Connelly’s work as a director, but his direction for Gotti wasn’t that good. Once again it feels like he’s trying to imitate other gangster movies. You have the protagonist narrating (the film opens and closes with John Travolta as Gotti talking directly to the camera), montages of things happening like people getting killed off, and much more like that. Gotti tries to imitate the style of classic A grade gangster movies but can’t pull off it. Pitbull did the score to Gotti (yes, you read it right, Mr Worldwide himself composed the score of a gangster movie) and it really wasn’t that good, he goes from having some synth-like music to trying to sort of imitate the Godfather score. Also, some of his songs made an appearance in the movie, you know, decades before the songs would even exist in real life. A lot of the score and song choices made the movie and scenes hard to take seriously at all. It’s so bizarre and out of place. Also, for a film with a $40 million budget, at times it feels so incredibly basic. One scene is a neighbourhood party and it features a couple shots of fireworks that looks like stock footage instead of actually being shot for the movie. Another aspect that is distracting is that John Travolta as Gotti has some flashforwards to when he is really older and he has a massive amount of makeup on him, but Gotti’s son played by Spencer Lofranco looks the same age in all his scenes, so I’m not sure what happened there. Those are just some examples of directing choices that really stood out as being particularly bad.

Gotti isn’t really worth watching, not even as a so bad it’s good kind of movie. It definitely has some elements that you can make fun of and have fun with, most of the time though it’s just uninteresting. In terms of legitimately good parts, the actors are trying their best and John Travolta at times is fun to watch, but that’s it. It’s not a horrible experience, but you don’t really get anything out of it at the same time. You don’t learn anything about John Gotti, and it’s not so outrageously bad that it’s fun to watch, it’s just the boring kind of bad. I guess the movie is mostly harmless enough but it’s not something to rush out to see as soon as possible, far from it.

Pulp Fiction (1994) Review

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Pulp Fiction

Time: 154 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic Violence and Offensive Language
Cast:
John Travolta as Vincent Vega
Samuel L. Jackson as Jules Winnfield
Uma Thurman as Mia Wallace
Bruce Willis as Butch Coolidge
Harvey Keitel as Winston Wolfe
Tim Roth as “Ringo”/”Pumpkin”
Amanda Plummer as Yolanda/Honey Bunny
Maria de Medeiros as Fabienne
Ving Rhames as Marsellus Wallace
Eric Stoltz as Lance
Christopher Walken as Captain Koons
Director: Quentin Tarantino

Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent Vega (John Travolta) are two hitmen who are out to retrieve a suitcase stolen from their employer, mob boss Marsellus Wallace. Wallace has also asked Vincent to take his wife Mia out a few days later when Wallace himself will be out of town. Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) is an aging boxer who is paid by Wallace to lose his next fight. The lives of these seemingly unrelated people are woven together comprising of a series of funny, bizarre and uncalled-for incidents.

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Pulp Fiction is one of the big cinematic classics that most people have heard of. I remember hearing about this movie for years and when I finally saw this movie I wondered how I could’ve held off this long. Everything is good in this movie with the great acting, filmmaking and the brilliant script created by director Quentin Tarantino, all of these help to make it a cinematic masterpiece.

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Let’s get the obvious out of the way: the script is absolutely fantastic. The structure is interesting, it has three stories, one with Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta, another with John Travolta and Uma Thurman and another with Bruce Willis. These stories aren’t played chronologically instead they are plated during each other, a structure that Sin City would eventually use. All of the stories are great but if I had to pick a favourite, I’d pick the Jackson/Travolta story; the chemistry between those two were just so hilarious. I love dark comedy and it is well done here, it proves that death in movies can in fact be funny (not spoiling anything). The dialogue really shines here, a lot of these characters end up talk about meaningless things but they are interesting, hilarious and overall entertaining to watch. On top of that, all of the characters are well established and a lot of that is done through the dialogue. The pacing is also really good, I didn’t feel bored, the only time it felt a little slow was a scene with Bruce Willis and his girlfriend which felt a little long but that was it.

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Something that Quentin Tarantino can generally do is get the best out of his actors. It definitely helped that Tarantino’s ensemble of actors were well picked for their roles. Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta are great in this movie and as I said before, their chemistry was very strong. Other actors like Uma Thurman and Bruce Willis did very well. It should be noted that this movie revived John Travolta and Bruce Willis’s career, so they have Tarantino to thank. Christopher Walken is only in one scene in the film and it results in one of the funniest scenes in the movie involving a gold watch. Every actor in this movie takes advantage of any scene they’re in.

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Pulp Fiction relies more on its script and acting than it does on special effects but the technical side is done very well. The film is very stylish with the editing, cinematography and overall direction, it was all very Tarantino esque. There are so many locations and moments that are so memorable, even when there’s nothing big going on. The soundtrack was also well picked and all of the songs were edited to the right moments.

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Pulp Fiction is a fantastic movie that should be watched by everyone. The acting is superb, Tarantino’s direction is great, the film is entertaining to watch but it’s the script that really ties everything together. It’s in my opinion Quentin Tarantino’s best movie, everything fits nicely together. If you haven’t seen this classic, check it out as soon as possible. Just know that it’s more of a dialogue driven movie, so you may not love this movie as much as others.

Carrie (1976) Review

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Carrie
Time: 98 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence
Cast:
Sissy Spacek as Carrie White
Piper Laurie as Margaret White
Amy Irving as Sue Snell
William Katt as Tommy Ross
Betty Buckley as Miss Collins
Nancy Allen as Chris Hargensen
John Travolta as Billy Nolan
Director: Brian De Palma

The story of Carrie White (Sissy Spacek), a girl brought up, almost in isolation, by her psychotically religious mother Margaret (Piper Laurie). After an embarrassing incident in the showers causes her fellow pupils to tease Carrie ruthlessly, her teacher Miss Collins (Betty Buckley) disciplines them severely. Determined to have revenge, the other students hatch a plot against Carrie, which turns horribly wrong when Carrie’s strange mental powers are unleashed during the school prom.

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Carrie is based on the Stephen King book of the same name and is often called a horror classic today. Despite this, I don’t understand why everybody loves this film so much. Although I understand why is would be revolutionary in the 70s I don’t really think it’s a great movie today. There are good aspects, the acting by Sissy Spacek and the climax are well done. However I just wasn’t invested in the story that much and I didn’t find any of it scary.

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I have read the Stephen King book and I liked it, however I found most of the film version of Carrie to be quite boring and uninteresting. Scenes go on longer than they needed to and I wasn’t very invested in the story. This is surprising as I read the book and enjoyed it very much, so I don’t know why the scenes weren’t that interesting. The film is 1 hour 30 minutes so I don’t know why I found the film to be slow at times. I also didn’t personally find anything scary about the movie, though maybe it’s because of how dated it is. The last 20 minutes however are the best part of the film and after seeing it, I can understand why that part would be famous. However I don’t think it’s effective enough for the whole movie to be given all this credit.

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Sissy Spacek is great in her role, I really bought her as a girl who really didn’t fit in with other people and school and received abuse from her mother. Apart from her however, a lot of the acting was quite over the top. I don’t really understand why Piper Laurie was nominated for an Oscar. I didn’t find her performance that scary, she is so over the top that it was kind of hilarious (she actually thought she was filming a dark comedy, and I think that explains a lot). I can buy her being insane but there was never a moment where I was scared of her. In a lot of Stephen Kings books there are one dimensional bullies and Carrie is no exception. These bullies were flat characters with no real depth, they just hate Carrie. I found them to be so generic and I wonder how many people can actually take them seriously. To the film’s credit, the actors look like they are having fun playing them. The rest of the cast is serviceable, they aren’t great but they aren’t bad either.

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The cinematography is normal for the most part, nothing really special. However there were times when some of the shots aren’t that well done. There is a dance scene which spins around two people dancing and it goes on for like a minute and it gets quite nauseating. For the most part however, the main focus is on the story, and not on the style.

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If you are a horror fan and you haven’t seen Carrie, I still think it’s worth watching to make up your own mind about the overall film. To me the film was quite dated with some over the top performances and a plot which didn’t keep me engaged all the way through. Still, it’s not bad, it has some good parts (the best being Spacek’s performance) but I don’t see why this film today is so critically acclaimed and I don’t think it’s a horror classic, or a film that holds up very well. Not a bad movie overall, but definitely dated.

So what do you think about Carrie? Do you think it still holds up today or are you like me and think that this film is quite dated and not as effective now? Comment below and let me know what you think.