Tag Archives: Thriller

Review: The Fate of the Furious

fate poster
via Coming Soon

The Fate of the Furious (2017)

PG-13 / 136 mins.

Action / Crime / Thriller

Starring: Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson

Director: F. Gary Gray

Things are changing in the world of the Fast and the Furious.

Paul Walker has passed away due to a tragic car accident, meaning his character Brian is not returning in future installments.  The stakes continue to rise as Dom and his crew get their selves wrapped up in global conflict.  Dom has turned on his family!?  Things are certainly changing as the street-racing-turned-blockbuster-action-franchise returns with its eighth installment, The Fate of the Furious.  Even though Fate serves up a delightfully fun and silly experience its beginning to feel like there is an onset of series fatigue.

Of course, this is a natural for a series that has been around for sixteen years.

fate 1
via Universal Pictures

In the franchise’s eighth ride, directed for the first time by F. Gary Gray, Dom (Vin Diesel) is placed under the grasp of an international terrorist who goes by the name of Cipher (Charlize Theron).  She meets up with the former street racer in Cuba and all it takes is a single photograph for Dom to change sides, supposedly betraying his “family” in the process.  This is the narrative hook that has been captivating fans of the series up until its release.  It is an outlandish premise, and at times unbelievable, but the reasons for his “betrayal” are satisfying and make sense.  In fact, this is probably the most coherent plot the series has offered in a while.  What is even more satisfying is the secret plan that Dom formulates while working for the other side and the way in which it all turns out in the end.  It is a ton of fun and there is some fan service that will make any Fast fan giddy with excitement.

Charlize Theron’s Cipher is one of my favorite villains this franchise has seen.  She is equal parts cunning and ruthless.  She does some pretty messed up things during the movie’s run time and you will end up hating her by the end.  Past villains in the series have been hit or miss, but I am confident when I say that Cipher cements herself at the top.  Unfortunately, the worst part about her character is that we do not see enough of her in action.  She spends the lion share of her time in the movie aboard her plane within the confines of her headquarters.  She is rarely on the ground getting her hands dirty and we certainly never see her behind the wheel.  Charlize Theron is an actress who is going to be starring in the action-thriller Atomic Blonde (who’s trailer we see before the movie) so it is quite a shame that she never throws a punch or swings a kick.

fate 2
via The Hollywood Reporter

Despite Dom and Cipher being the centerpiece of this movie’s plot, it is the other characters that make this movie such a delight.  Dwayne Johnson reprises his role as the super-cop Hobbs.  He has a ton of great moments and this movie would not have been the movie it is without his presence.  What is most entertaining is his relationship with Deckard Shaw, played by Jason Statham.  The two despise each other (which is understandable) so when forced to work together, things get interesting.  Jason Statham is one of my favorite parts about this movie.  He is a fusion of humor and seriousness and he plays both parts amazingly.  The fact that the team is totally cool with him despite his murder of Han in cold blood is a little weird, but the movie does a respectable job at making him a redeemable character, especially during a laugh-out-load scene involving a plane gunfight towards the end.  Then there is Roman, Tyrese Gibson’s character.  Did you think there was not enough Roman in previous installments?  If you said yes, then you are in for a treat.  Roman reprises his role as the comic relief and his character is constantly a joy.  Every line he mutters made me laugh.  Just wait for the Barents Sea scene…it is tough to not laugh.

The rest of the cast is fine.  Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is now happily back with Dom.  Tej Parker (Ludacris) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) are still the hackers of the group.  Kurt Russell makes a return as Mr. Nobody, along with series newcomer Scott Eastwood, who plays the “little nobody.”  His character did not do much for me.  I am sure he is going to be in future movies, so good for him.  He has some funny moments but he ultimately seems like a boring stand-in for Paul Walker’s character.

fate 3
via iMDB

The action sequences in Fate come from the same brand of ridiculous that the Fast movies have become famous for, but they pale in comparison to previous movies.  There are only so many things you can do with cars, which is the inevitable problem with a series like this running for so long.  It is hard to top set-piece moments like the aircraft scene in Fast 6 and the skyscraper jumps from Furious 7, but Fate still has its fair share of crazy action moments.  There is a zombie car sequence in New York which is essentially Day Z but with cars and the submarine chase that has been heavily featured in the trailers offers some insane excitement.  Reality is constantly thrown out the window and the approach to some of these situations can be laughable, but that is what makes these movies so special.  I am not here to question the physical plausibility of such scenes.  I am here to eat popcorn, turn off my mind, and enjoy the blockbuster action in front of me.  That is something these movies tackle perfectly.

Another complaint I have with the movie is its recycled gags and plot points that it comes to.  Hobbs gives a stern speech in the beginning but it is revealed that he is giving said speech to a girls’ soccer team.  Roman and Tej are still vying for the admiration of Ramsey.  Those are just two examples.  Of course, this is a symptom of series fatigue.  The series’ writers are falling back on the same tricks that they have pulled in past movies, which is a little concerning.  The movie switches things up by placing Dom on the villain’s side, but with two more movies left, the writers are starting to run out of places to go.  The Fate of the Furious is a very familiar feeling movie, but maybe it is starting to become a little too familiar.  This familiarity does not just stop at gags and plot points.  The movie falls into a lot of similar tropes that have been common for the series.  This is not necessarily a terrible thing considering how great the past three movies have been, but this sort of laziness is not going to fly for much longer.

fate 4
via Dark Horizons

Despite inklings of fatigue, The Fate of the Furious still manages to take viewers on a thrill ride, offering a lot of dumb, silly action.  If you are coming into this series fresh without any knowledge of the previous movies, your mileage may vary with this movie but if you have been a ride-or-die fan since day 1, you will find a ton to love with this movie.  With a ninth and tenth installment imminent, I am eager for this franchise’s future.  I am hoping it sets up for a strong finish.

fate score


Review: Jason Bourne

jason bourne poster
via Live for Film

Jason Bourne (2016)

PG-13 / 123 min

Action / Thriller

Starring: Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander

Director: Paul Greengrass

Everyone’s favorite misguided CIA operative is back and he’s looking for more answers.  Jason Bourne has been away from the game for a while now, almost ten years.  The CIA wants him back in the force, but Bourne has other plans.  He’s moved on and he isn’t going to make it easy for the CIA to bring him in.  Director Paul Greengrass brings the dormant hero back to the big screen in his plainly titled summer thriller Jason Bourne, a film that sticks to its guns and packs a punch.

jason bourne 1
via Digital Trends

Matt Damon is back and fits comfortably back into the role of the blank-slate Jason Bourne.  It’s been a while since we’ve seen him in the role.  He’s older now and has a grittier look, but he’s still the same guy, looking for answers.  He’s laying low…keeping a low profile everywhere he goes, but this doesn’t last long when CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) demands that he’s brought back into the light.  Aiding him in the hunt, Dewey enlists the help of fresh-faced and capable hacker Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) who’s pretty confident that she has what it takes to bring in the elusive weapon that is Jason Bourne.  Coincidently the CIA aren’t the only ones interested in Bourne’s whereabouts.  A familiar face to Bourne fans, Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), is also looking to meet up with Bourne with the interest of handing over a bunch of top-secret files that could put the CIA, and its operatives, at odds.

The movie’s central plot is very much a game of cat-and-mouse.  Jason Bourne is on a mission looking for answers in his past while the CIA is constantly on his tail trying to catch him with the upper hand.  The action is very much by the books and should be familiar to anyone who has seen a Bourne film, but that doesn’t take away from the movie’s thrills.  The action sequences are tightly planned out and were very fun to watch come together, especially the bits in Vegas and Germany.  Director Dewey entrusts the help of a certain Asset, played by Vincent Cassel, who has a history with Bourne and wants nothing more than to be the guy that takes him out.  There’s nothing overtly special about Cassel’s rough and tough performance, but he still managed to be one of my favorite parts of the film.

jason bourne 2.jpg

There aren’t too many breaks to be had in the roller coaster ride that is Jason Bourne’s action, but there are some pauses in between the dust that attempt to establish character and dive deeper into more complex issues in today’s modern society.  The character building?  Nothing to really write home about.  We get some backstory behind Bourne’s father, the main drive behind his question-seeking, but it doesn’t really go deeper than what most fans already know.  There’s some new answers brought to the table, but nothing earth-shattering.  On the other hand, Greengrass pokes at ideas like internet privacy and hacking culture, even referencing guys like Snowden, in an attempt to bring relevance to the film.  I admire these ideas, but nothing is really done with them.  They’re constantly brought up but then quickly forgotten about in the presence of guns and bullets.  Jason Bourne wants to say more, but instead lets its self-settle into familiarity, which is a tad disappointing given the presence of such ideas.

As far as performance go, this is Matt Damon’s movie and his only.  There isn’t much to Bourne’s character to begin with, as he’s painted with a blank slate, but Damon still does a bang-up job at portraying the figure.  Although Damon steals the light, Alicia Vikander brings a much welcomed fresh face to the table.  She’s a strong-willed and very intelligent hacker that is working to bring a change to the CIA.  As the film runs deeper, Bourne and Lee’s relationship gets a lot more interesting as the two work together to bring down the CIA’s internalized sinister dealings.

jason bourne 3

Despite it’s by the book plotting and inability to tap deeper into some of the more relevant issues of today, Jason Bourne still manages to provide exhilarating fun.  It was fun seeing Matt Damon slip back into one of his iconic roles, even though nothing has really changed about the character this time around.  I would have liked for Greengrass to have gone deeper than the surface level on things like Snowden and internet privacy, but who knows where that story could have gone.  The movie sticks to what it does best, which works out in the end.

jason bourne score.jpg

Review: Stranger Things

stranger things poster
via Following the Nerd

Stranger Things (2016)

Netflix / TV14

Drama / Horror / Mystery

Starring: Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard

Creators: Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer

Netflix’s Stranger Things just screams 80’s nostalgia.  Literally every single corner of the show is just dripping with love for the era.  The show merges psychological thrills with horror, something that would fit perfectly in the 80s.  There’s even influence from guy like John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg, and Stephen King…in more ways than one.  In its concise eight-episode season, Stranger Things manages to layer on depth with every episode, delivering one of the most intriguing and mysterious stories of the year.

stranger things 1
via Dread Central

Mystery begins upon the disappearance of a boy named Will (Noah Schnapp) after a night of Dungeon and Dragons with his friends.  His friends, Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) are a group of AV-club misfits that gave me strong Goonies vibes.  After the disappearance of her son Will, Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) starts to go mad, calling upon the help of town sheriff Jim Hopper (David Harbour) to help investigate the strange disappearance.  It’s only a matter of time before shady government agencies and supernatural events start to make an appearance, cementing the fact that something deeper and more nefarious is taking ahold of the peaceful town.

Making matters more interesting, the boys stumble upon a peculiar girl, simply named Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), who seems to be the answer to everything that has been occurring.  She’s scared and keeps to herself, but her powers go beyond all understanding.  Her background is something of an enigma.  Over the course of the show we get flashbacks to her past which involves a lot of lab experiments and a dark past.

stranger things 2
via IGN

The best part about Stranger Things is the layered story that it piles on every step of the way.  The premiere episode is crazy by itself, but things take a plunge with each episode, whether it’s a new reveal or element key to the events taking place.  The show goes places, for better or worse.  Overall, the show does a good job at delivering a thrilling story but some of the supernatural elements are left out to dry with little explanation.  The various characters give some convoluted clarifications towards the latter half of the story, but they don’t always feel satisfying.  When I say the show goes places, it goes places.  Sometimes you just have to suspend disbelief in order to fully enjoy the story.  Despite this, the events wrap up brilliantly, yielding a satisfying conclusion, albeit a little predictable.

Winona Ryder is by far the stand out performance here.  She plays a distressed mom that is crazy about finding her lost son.  She starts off just like any other worried mom but as time goes on she plunges down a dark road of hysteria that involves talking to Christmas lights and putting holes through walls.  It’s not a good look, but Ryder does a fantastic job at portraying all of these emotions.  There’s also David Harbour’s performance as Sheriff Hopper.  At first I wasn’t sold as he seemed like he didn’t really want to apart of what was happening, but when we discover his backstory, things start to fall into place his performance gets better with time.  Even the child actors did a good job with their roles.  With child actors, their performances can be hit or miss, but Bobby Brown, Wolfhard, Matarazzo, McLaughlin, and even Schnapp did really well.  It’s also worth mentioning that Mike’s sister Nancy (Natalia Dyer), her boyfriend Steve (Joe Keery), and Will’s brother Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) all did fine jobs as well.

stranger things 3
via Dread Central

The presentation elements of the show are what make Stranger Things so appealing.  As I mentioned before, there’s a lot of nostalgia elements that give the show 80’s flair.  The title screen is an obvious callback to Steven King’s novels, mimicking the same font and look of any of his titles.  Jaws movie posters adorn the walls and songs like Toto’s “Africa” play in the background.  Speaking of music, the show’s soundtrack is on point, all the time.  The music is super synthy and the unnerving audio cues amp up the thrills.  Stranger Things is an example of perfect sound design.  Even the visual effects feel like they’re fresh out of the 80’s, which is good and bad.  The monster animations are cheesy and strobe lights apparently mask some of the effects-heavy scenes.  Perhaps it adds to the show’s character, but the effects feel out of place and kind of lazy in 2016.

What we have with Stranger Things is a love letter to shows of its ilk.  The 80’s influence is real and ever present.  The Duffer Brothers, directors of the show, have a great piece of television on their hands.  There’s already been a lot of talk surrounding the show, which makes a second season a good possibility.  I’m all for another trip back into Stranger Things but I don’t want the show to carry on past three seasons at most.  There’s value to shorter and more concise TV shows that tell one-off stories.  Stranger Things, which might be my favorite show of the year so far, has me dying to see more.

stranger things score

Review: Nightcrawler

nightcrawler poster
via Fat Movie Guy

Nightcrawler (2014)

R / 117 min

Crime / Drama / Thriller

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton

Director: Dan Gilroy

There’s something slightly unsettling about Nightcrawler, director Dan Gilroy’s exploration into the world of L.A. crime journalism.  Until watching this movie, I didn’t even know this sort of industry even existed.  Essentially, the act of “nightcrawling” involves racing around the streets of L.A. during the twilight hours to capture b-roll footage of all the crimes that take place during the night.  This footage is then shopped around to news agencies, ripe and ready to be broadcasted during the morning news cycle.  It’s a ruthless business, one that requires you to stay ahead of the curve if you want to succeed.  Nightcrawler is the story of Louis Bloom, a rookie to the business who takes his entrepreneurial abilities a little too far.

nightcrawler 1
via Moustache Magazine

Jake Gyllenhaal takes the lead role of Louis Bloom, a grungy greased-up entrepreneur.  He’s a hustler, persistent to the point of annoyance and willing to do anything he has to in order to put his foot ahead of the rest.  His search for a job comes to an end when he drives past a car accident on his way home.  He gets out of his car and before he even has the chance to take a couple of steps, a van comes to a halting stop next the accident, with two video journalists hopping out to capture the footage.  Ideas start brewing in Louis’ head and before we know it, he is dipping his toes into this somewhat sleazy business.

Louis’ operation escalates pretty quickly as he starts to learn the ins and outs of the business.  He purchases his own equipment, learns the police radio codes, and even hires an assistant (played by Riz Ahmed).  Unlike the other video journalists, Louis takes his craft to the next level and begins to blur the lines of morality.  His first video package that he prepares for a local TV station gets a little nosey as he “breaks” into a house to get the “perfect shot” of a crime scene.  His primary contact at the TV station, TV veteran Nina Romina (Rene Russo), loves this up-close-and-personal footage and decides to air Louis’ work, despite some hesitation from her peers at the station.

nightcrawler 2
via Business Insider

Things only get more intense as Louis tests the waters of moral ambiguity.  Gyllenhaal does a perfect job at portraying the young entrepreneur.  He’s cut-throat in his doings and he’s a little bit insane.  Gyllenhaal takes you down the character’s rabbit hole that he gets himself into as he tries to get “the perfect shot.”  The film ramps up in intensity, especially during a murder scene at a suburban mansion.  It’s the film’s peak, the moment that begins Louis’ decent.  Rene Russo’s Nina also takes part in this decent, although to a lesser extent.  The performances are great all around, but I would have liked to see more from Riz Ahmed’s character.  His relationship with Louis was a toxic one, one that I thought could have been explored a little more than it was.

Nightcrawler shouldn’t really be looked at as an accurate representation of the business, but more as a satire.  However, the film does raise questions about the moral ramifications that stem from such a sordid, yet lucrative job.  Morality is one of the primary driving themes behind the story, one that is handled pretty well.  Like I said in the very beginning of this review, there is something deeply unsettling about the act of nightcrawling.  It’s not the most glamourous of occupations, and this film does a great job at portraying this.

nightcrawler 3
via Reel Brief

Events build up as the movie rolls along but the final scene felt a little bit anticlimactic, and almost unnecessary. Things came to a close in such a jarring way that I was not expecting.  The ending wasn’t really effective at all and didn’t really put the nicest cap on an otherwise very well-made film.  The movie could have been extended or shortened by a scene to wrap things up better.  It would have made a big difference.

There’s a dose of grittiness and darkness that covers Nightcrawler, an unnerving look into the seedy world of crime journalism.  Gyllenhaal gives an outstanding performance of a man who takes things a little too far.  The film documents the steady decline of his character as he does some dirty things to get ahead of his peers.  It’s a fascinating film that’s full of great performances and thrills.  It’s just a shame it wasn’t brought to a conclusion in better fashion.

nightcrawler score.jpg

Review: The Babadook

the babadook poster
via Rotten Tomatoes

The Babadook (2014)

NR / 93 mins

Drama / Horror / Thriller

Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall

Director: Jennifer Kent

Everybody remembers the classic ritual of bedtime stories.  As kids we would brush our teeth, put on our pajamas, and then climb into bed excitedly as we would wait for night’s fairytale or children’s story.  At least that’s how I remember it.  The Babadook, an indie horror flick directed by Jennifer Kent, is an example of bad parenting.

the babadook 1
via Cine-Nerd

The movie stars troubled mother Amelia (Essie Davis) and her delinquent son Sam, played by child actor Noah Wiseman.  Through the use of flashbacks, we discover that the two are grieving the death of their father.  Things are not easy and over the course of the movie we watch as the two spiral down a dark path.  Sam is a problem child, throwing frequent tantrums that begin to turn violent.  He’s fascinated with the idea of fighting and protecting his mother from monsters.  This soon leads to a mysterious book, called “The Babadook,” which Sam asks his mom to read.

This is where the bad parenting comes in.  The book is introduced around halfway through the movie and by that point Amelia should have noticed that her son wasn’t doing well.  The decision to read her son a (rather frightening) book about a dark monster who lives in the dark side of the bedroom is probably not the best.  As one would expect, this drives Sam’s mental state into a deeper downward spiral and things start to go pretty bad very quickly when the demonic book starts to haunt their house, and everything in it.

the babadook 2
via Joblo

I’m normally not a huge fan of horror movies; not because they are dumb but because the premise behind most of them are stupid and often times predictable.  The concept behind The Babadook is not entirely new, but it provides enough dumb fun to make it enjoyable.  A lot of the scenes, especially the ones dealing with the storybook, are kind of silly and stupid, but they aren’t bad enough to make the movie unwatchable.  I found myself snickering a lot more than getting scared, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Speaking of getting scared, the movie is generally tame when it comes to the spooks.  Although, there are some disturbing scenes and imagery that will make anyone cringe.  One of the best parts about the movie is its reliance on disturbing imagery, rather than jump scares, to frighten viewers.  It made the movie feel less cheap and gives the movie a more authentic quality.  The imagery used during the storybook sequences are really well done and the pages literally come to life on screen, which was really fun to watch.

the babadook 3
via TVQC

Performance wise, you can take it or leave it.  The movie primarily focuses on Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman, with some supporting cast here and there.  Their acting isn’t necessarily the best, but it is good enough to be passable.  In the end, I didn’t really care because when all’s said and done, The Badadook is a B-movie affair.  The acting took a backseat for me, as I was too caught up in the fun that was happening on screen.

Perhaps the big takeaway from The Babadook is that you shouldn’t read your young kids a dark storybook about the monsters that make noises in the night.  C’mon, that’s a disaster waiting to happen, as evidenced by the movie.  There are a plethora of better horror films out there, but this one holds its own as being a dumb fun kind of movie that you can just give a mindless watch.

the babadook score

Review: Breaking Bad Season 4

via Meet in the Lobby
via Meet in the Lobby

Breaking Bad (Season 4) (2011)


Crime / Drama / Thriller

Starring: Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn

Creator: Vince Gilligan

With season four of Breaking Bad, we’re starting to see a changed Walter White.  He has had numerous close calls, successes, and hardships that have grown to shape the person he is by the credits of the season’s finale.  We have a much different Walt than the one we had back in the show’s first season…and boy have we come along way.  Season four has probably been my favorite season of Breaking Bad so far…and I still have the final season to get through.

via Pop Screen
via Pop Screen

I should probably start off by talking about the one blemish in an almost perfect season.  The previous season had a great ending with some tense episodes leading up to the finale, which included a pivotal moment for Jesse (Aaron Paul).  Because of the season’s finale, the beginning portion of season four was a bit slow, tying up loose ends that were not taken care of in the previous season.  These first couple of episodes were absolutely necessary to the story, but they would have fit better in a longer season three.  I know things like this are not really possible, but they should have thought about that going into the third season.

It’s around episode four when season four of Breaking Bad technically begins and it keeps rolling all the way till the finale.  Things pick up quickly as Hank (Dean Norris) starts a brand new investigation after the wake of his big accident.  The “blue” just can’t leave his mind and he starts to look into the events that took place at the end of season three.  He believes that Gus (Giancarlo Esposito), the supposed charitable owner of the Los Pollos chain of restaurants, is the brain behind the operation.  As one would expect, this makes way for a lot of problems.  Walt (Bryan Cranston) has to desperately pick up any crumbs that he might have left.  The same goes with Gus, who noticeably looks a lot more concerned as time goes on.  That isn’t normal for the guy that always maintained a somewhat unbreakable facade.

via AMC TV Blog
via AMC TV Blog

Skylar (Anna Gunn) also plays a big role this season when she starts to dip her toes full force into the mess that Walt has gotten himself into.  She begins to take over the operation of a local car wash, the fuel to their money laundering schemes.  Out of nowhere however comes her old boss, who presents her with more problems that could potentially lead to trouble down the road with Walt’s operation.  Because of this, she has to cover her tracks as well.  With all of these people covering their tracks, it’s only a matter of time before someone forgets a crumb.  As one would expect, the finale was the end of the road for one important character and it was a spectacular end.  They went out with a sort of comedic bang…in a messed up sort of way.

What made this season stand out the most however was the stockpile of great moments that kept flying in left and right.  Walt had some touching moments with Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte), Mike (Jonathan Banks) and Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) continued to have great scenes, the flashback to Gus’s older days was fascinating to watch, and Jesse had an amazing monologue at his group therapy session.  Let’s also not forget Walt’s powerful speech about how “he’s the guy that knocks people off.”  It was a chilling chain of words that left even Skylar speechless.

breaking bad s4 3

This brings up the point of Walt’s changed persona.  So far, Walt has been levelheaded and cautious, always aiming to please.  He was always careful to get on everybody’s good side.  With season four, Walt takes a turn down to the dark side.  His speech to Skylar was just a starting point.  The act of killing someone starts to not faze him as much as it used to.  He starts to pack heat in order to protect himself.  He frequently gives the bird to the cameras that are scattered throughout the meth lab.  He even brings a bomb into a children’s hospital.  How evil do you have to be to bring a bomb into a place full of children?  Even Jesse realizes that’s a certain level of messed up.

Walt’s taking a journey down a dark road, and the fact that season four ended with little to no loose ties makes the prospect of the final season even more enticing.  What decisions is Walt going to make in the future.  How is he going to alienate his family who he is growing detached from more and more?  What is Jesse going to do in all of this madness?  He seems to be the wild card at the moment.  Say what you will about the slow nature of the season’s beginning or perhaps the comical ending, but season four felt like a complete package full of tense and memorable moments.  How come I have the feeling that there’s going to be exponentially more great moments in the final season?

breaking bad s4 4

Review: The Transporter Refueled

via Rama Screen
via Rama Screen

The Transporter Refueled (2015)

PG-13 / 96 min.

Action / Crime / Thriller

Starring: Ed Skrein, Loan Chabanol, Ray Stevenson

Director: Camille Delamarre

Being a Transporter requires you to follow a simple code when it comes down to conducting business.  First, once the deal is made, the deal doesn’t change.  Everything is final.  Secondly, no names are to be given.  Finally, the contents of the package that will be transported are to remain unknown to the driver.  It’s a relatively simple code, one that series protagonist Frank Martin has been upholding for a while.  The Transporter series has had its ups and downs but through it all it has been a relatively fun and sometimes ridiculous action franchise.  After a long break, director Camille Delamarre returns to the franchise with The Transporter Refueled.  Much to the movie’s detriment, literally everything that made the original films so special is thrown right out the window of Frank Martin’s Audi.

via Cinergetica
via Cinergetica

What made the Transporter movies what they are is perhaps the casting of Jason Statham as driver-for-hire Frank Martin.  He brought suave stoicism and uncanny wit to the role that gave the films a lot of charm.  After offering Statham minimal pay for Refueled, the actor refused to reprise his role.  This left a vacancy for the role, which was later filled by British actor Ed Skrein.  Skrein does an alright job as Frank Martin, but it’s hard to fill the shoes of Jason Statham.  Skrein captures the suave nature of the character, but everything else about Frank Martin was nowhere to be found.  It’s a shame, because Skrein is a generally likable guy.  He just doesn’t have the chops to carry a franchise under his arm.

Another thing that is ripped apart is the steadfast code followed by the Transporter.  Within minutes of the movie’s runtime, the rules explicitly stated by Martin are immediately disobeyed and things start to get pretty rough.  The package he has to deliver involves transporting a group of women…that he clearly sees.  There goes the plausible deniability.  There goes everything that makes a Transporter movie a Transporter movie.

via Manners
via Manners

Sure, the movie is technically a reboot of the franchise, but why even call it a Transporter movie?  The dumb fun of the previous movies came with the situations that Martin gets himself in while sticking to the code of being a Transporter.  His “cargo” also reveals that they kidnapped his father, blackmailing Martin into following their directions to complete their mission.  The deal changes and changes again as the movie goes on, breaking the code even further.  The movie started to devolve from a Transporter movie into a generic summer action movie, real quick.

Refueled started to tread the waters of cohesiveness as Martin’s deal starts to change and change.  I would start to understand what was going on, only to lose the one thread of understanding moments later when a ridiculous plot point was introduced.  This continued to happen again and again all the way to the film’s finale, which relatively didn’t make that much sense.  The storyline was so convoluted at that point that I didn’t really care what was happening.  The movie’s final events played out and I just gave a shrug and left the theater.

via Black Film
via Black Film

There were some moments here and there that stuck out.  The introduction of Ed Skrein’s Frank Martin was fun to watch.  There were also some action sequences that stood out from the rest, including the final scene on the yacht.  These kinds of intense action intermittently popped up here and there but most of the movie was largely forgettable.  The car chases, which the franchise is known for, were dull, uninspired, and…well, boring.

It’s safe to say that The Transporter Refueled was doomed from the start.  The movie gained little promotion and its release this weekend was pretty under the radar.  The absence of Jason Statham was also a big blow that knocked the movie’s momentum right out of it.  There was little to like about Refueled besides the few moments here and there that reminded me of the past Transporter movies, like how much cooler these moments would be with Jason Statham.  Some shoes just can’t be filled, no matter how hard you try.  There’s also rumors that this might not be the last Transporter movie.  With the trajectory that these films have taken, more of these movies might not be the best idea.

transporter refueled score

Review: Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

via Slash Film
via Slash Film

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015)

PG-13 / 131 mins.

Action / Adventure / Thriller

Starring: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Jeremy Renner

Director: Christopher McQuarrie

I continue to be amazed every time I see Tom Cruise doing the things that he does in movies these days.  Cruise, who’s three years over the age of fifty, is insistent that he performs his own stunts, no matter how dangerous or completely insane they are.  Anybody who has seen the trailers for Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation has probably seen the breathtaking scene involving Cruise hanging on for dear life as he gets whisked away on the side of a military cargo plane.  What makes the scene even more breathtaking is the fact that it is Cruise on the side of the plane, not some stunt double or computer magic.  He might have outdone himself this time, but for him, it’s just another day on the job.

via Canyon News
via Canyon News

Rogue Nation is the fifth installment in Cruise’s extremely popular franchise of action blockbusters.  Cruise reprises the role of Ethan Hunt, who is on his next impossible mission to take down the evil organization known as the Syndicate.  The Syndicate is a rogue international organization with the sole purpose of taking down the IMF, the espionage agency that Ethan Hunt belongs to.  However, due to the IMF’s ways in which they carry out their missions, the CIA’s Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) essentially shuts down the IMF and consolidates them into the CIA, relieving members like Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) of their IMF duties.  Its rogue against rogue as the now defunct IMF tries to take down the Syndicate.

Just like any other movie, its Tom Cruise and Simon Pegg that steal the show as the two get to work trying to put a stop to the Syndicate.  Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt still manages to have a pep in his step despite his age, giving us some spectacular sequences of physicality, while Simon Pegg continues to be the lovable tech genius that accompanies Hunt in his ridiculously dangerous missions, giving us comedic relief along the way.  The two really shine together on screen, so much so that I want to see them in HBO’s True Detective as the next duo of detectives for Season 3.  Wouldn’t that be a fantastic show?  I could only imagine.

via Hit Fix
via Hit Fix

It’s not just Cruise and Simon Pegg that manage to hog the spotlight, with newcomer Rebecca Ferguson playing the deceptive and mysterious Ilsa Faust, a former agent of British Intelligence.  She’s the movie’s badass, helping Ethan Hunt with his mission right from the get-go.  What makes her character interesting is her ties with the enemy, giving her a shroud of mystery as you never know which side she is on at a given time.  Her hidden agenda makes her an incredibly unique character.

As one would imagine, having a character with a hidden agenda with the movie’s enemy’s leads to some ridiculous moments and intriguing plot twists.  In fact, the movie is chock full of sudden twists and turns that feed into the movie’s convoluted nature, making it hard to follow at times.  Ethan Hunt and his team would cook up some complex and intelligent plans to take down the enemy, only to have them transpire into “I have you by the balls” scenarios.  If you can manage to keep all the plot changes straight, it makes for a lot of fun and unexpected scenes.  It was always satisfying to watch the complicated plans come together, especially the scene involving the British Prime Minister in the movie’s third act.

via Amazing Cinema
via Amazing Cinema

To my surprise, the movie started with director Christopher McQuarrie’s money shot involving the cargo plane takeoff.  It was unfortunate that a scene of that caliber did not have anything to do with the movie’s main story, but the rest of the movie still managed to entertain, despite most of the sequences not equaling up to the levels of the first.  The scene, which was also featured in most of the trailers, involving Cruise’s dive into the massive water-cooled chamber was exhilarating and provides some of the tensest moments in the movie.  The scene with Hunt, Isla, and Benji at an outdoor café brought the intensity as well.

It would be a sin not to mention the movie’s main villain Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), another former member of British Intelligence and leader of the Syndicate.  McQuarrie gets right to the point early on in the movie establishing Lane as the stone-cold emotionless bad guy that he is.  He’s smart and intelligent, and doesn’t care what kind of methods his cronies use to carry out his goals.  Harris also does a pretty good job with the voice of Lane, which I can best explain as having a bunch of gravel shoved down his throat.  It doesn’t sound healthy at all, but it makes him sound supremely evil and sinister.

via Hit Fix
via Hit Fix

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is a fun movie that manages to entertain and thrill for the entirety of its run-time.  The plot got a little complicated and tangled at times, making it hard to keep everything straight and coherent, but it still managed to turn out okay in the end.  Tom Cruise and Simon Pegg delight while Rebecca Ferguson gives a performance that deserves a lot of talk and praise.  Don’t forget to strap in your seat belt before watching Rogue Nation, because it gives its viewers one hell of a ride.

rogue nation score

Review: Breaking Bad Season 3

via TV Stock
via TV Stock

Breaking Bad (Season 3) (2010)


Crime / Drama / Thriller

Starring: Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn

Creator: Vince Gilligan

Breaking Bad has come a long way since its inaugural season.  It has been a roller coaster ride of tension, chaos, and emotion.  Up to this point, Walt’s (Bryan Cranston) cancer has come and gone as a threat and he and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) have successfully built themselves some street cred among the drug trade.  The unlikely duo have created a product so top notch that it literally drives people insane.  The road has not been all rosy and clean however, with many crazy potholes along the way.  The funny part is, with the final episode of season three it only seems like craziness just begun.

Season three begins with the fallout of the airplane disaster that was teased heavily in the previous season.  Things have gone south with Walt and Skylar’s (Anna Gunn) relationship as he is forced to move out on his own.  This is a sad moment for Walt, who ended up getting farther away from his family instead of getting closer to them, but it also opens up the opportunity for increased meth production.

via Fan Pop
via Fan Pop

After watching the show’s second season, I started to believe that Walt and Jesse’s production had reached a new high.  They were making tons of product that was netting them a fair share of money.  Their little side project had finally taken off.  Season three makes the duo’s little operation seem like child’s play.  The two now have their own professional-grade lab hidden away in some laundry facility, provided to them by the stoic kingpin Gus (Giancarlo Esposito), who happens to be one of the best actors on the show.  He kills it with every episode that he is featured in.  (On a side note: Jonathan Banks, who plays the beat cop turned hitman and PI Mike, gets a lot of love this season, especially in the final episode.  He’s a bad-ass and quickly became another one of my favorite characters from the series.)

via Fan Pop
via Fan Pop

The season has a lot of highs and lows for both Walt and Jesse, but more specifically Jesse.  Jesse is going through the twelve step program for rehab, which means a ton of improvement from his drug junkie days from previous seasons.  His relationship with Walt still manages to be all over the place and his character dips a little bit towards the end of the season.  The lasting image that the season gives us of Jesse in the final episode is not only special and really moving, but also a good summation of Jesse’s character in general.  We find out that he might just be the thorn in Walt’s side after all, after all this time.

via Fan Pop
via Fan Pop

Another thing that we see is the effect that Walt has on his family and friends.  This has been true of previous seasons, but he is only getting himself deeper and deeper into a mess that will be hard for him to dig his way out of.  Walt’s relationship gets a little better with Sklyar as communication between the two deepens. (This might sound vague but I am trying to keep this as spoiler free as possible)  Hank (Dean Norris) also gets caught in Walt’s mess when the cartel decides to attempt to take him out of the picture.  This situation leads to a fantastic seventh episode which gives us a satisfying jolt to a season that takes some time to ramp up in intensity, which is one of the few complaints I have with the season as a whole.

Things only get crazier as the episodes start to become much more intense towards the end of the season.  “Fly,” season three’s tenth episode polarizes a lot of people in terms of its place among the other episodes in the season.  It manages to give us a look at the dynamic relationship of Walt and Jesse, while managing to take the story nowhere.  It’s a fun bottle episode that at times felt like a filler episode.  I liked it, but many question its place in the show.

via Deo Veritas
via Deo Veritas

Finally the last two episodes, “Half Measure” and “Full Measure,” are by far the strongest episodes of season three.  Some consider “Half Measure” the real season finale, with “Full Measure” providing the set up for season four, which is an interesting and valid point to make.  Things wrap up and come to a satisfying close in the twelfth episode, capping off another hell of season.  “Full Measure,” the season finale, gives us a peek at how insane things are going to get with Walt and Gus, as well as the future of their drug business.  The episode had a metric-ton of great moments, including the tense final thirty seconds of the season.  I mean, who did not do a quiet fist bump to themselves whenever Walt took one step ahead of everybody else by rattling off the address of his assistant Gale to a dumbstruck Mike and Victor.  It was an amazing moment, among many others.

I feel like I am going to end this review like my previous two reviews of the previous seasons by saying, “well, things are only going to get crazier.”  The truth behind this statement is real.  This is one of the few series that only gets better with time.  Some of the slower episodes in the beginning and in the middle of the season put the third season below the first two in my opinion, but that does not make it any less amazing.  The final couple of episodes, as well as the intensity of the seventh episode, make this season a truly memorable one.  Now, I am just going to sit back and see where the next two seasons take me.  Breaking Bad…what a show.

breaking bad s3 score

Review: San Andreas

via Tribute
via Tribute

San Andreas (2015)

PG-13 / 114 min

Action / Drama / Thriller

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario

Director: Brad Peyton

The San Andreas Fault line is one of the biggest fault lines of its kind, spanning almost the entire state of California.  The line has been dormant and stable for a while now, with no indication of it going off anytime soon.  But what if it did?  What would happen?  What would you do?  These questions pretty much make up the slogan for San Andreas, a disaster movie about what would happen if the entire San Andreas fault where to rumble.  Spoiler: things go bad very, very quickly.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays himself…nope, I meant Ray, a rescue officer from the Los Angeles Fire Department.  He is currently having some marriage troubles as his wife Emma (Carla Gugino) sends divorce papers to his house.  He also has a daughter named Blake (Alexandra Daddario) who he is very protective of, due to a past incident when he lost his other daughter to a rafting accident.  As everybody goes their separate ways, California starts to tremble as the entire state starts to quake.  Ray manages to get to his wife, but his daughter is trapped in the city after Emma’s boyfriend leaves her to fend for herself.  The general plot premise reminds me of another movie series I’ve seen…is this Taken?  Sadly, this is not a Taken movie, but the movie might as well be if you sub out the earthquake and in its place put in kidnappers.

via Clutch Mag
via Clutch Mag

Blake is not alone for long however, as she picks up to friends that help her get out of an early jam.  Brothers Ben and Ollie (Hugo Johnstone-Burt and Art Parkinson) are quick to her aid.  The newly formed trio stick together for the rest of the movie, with the sole mission of finding high ground for Blake’s dad to find them.  Hugo Johnstone-Burt and Art Parkinson were my favorite additions to the cast as they provided the comic relief and charm in a movie full of dire circumstances and terror.

san andreas 2

The movie’s plot falls apart quickly however, almost as fast as San Francisco itself.  (That pun most definitely intended)  The plot holes are bountiful and plenty as director Brad Peyton takes you on a ride through the cement and rebar wasteland of San Francisco.  How Ray is supposed to find his lone daughter in the crumbling city of San Francisco is just as impossible as it sounds.  But why am I talking about the movie’s story?  I guess the story takes the backburner in a movie like this.  The destruction and visually stunning carnage takes the center stage.

This is unfortunate however, as Ray’s backstory and tender family moments get shadowed by the towering destruction around them.  Ray’s past continually stabs at him throughout the movie with the threat of losing another daughter.  The bonding between him and his wife also makes for some nice moments, despite how cheesy some of these moments where.  Everybody makes it out alive in the end (which really is not a spoiler because come on, it’s the Rock we are talking about here) and those family moments to end the film deserved a little more.

via Variety
via Variety

San Andreas is a visual spectacle despite its flaws in storytelling.  San Francisco is laid to waste by the time the credits roll, and watching the city fall apart was thrilling to watch.  Skyscrapers fell down, entire street blocks were decimated, and a gigantic tidal wave provided the cherry on top of all the destruction.  The movie gave us some intermittent rest and peace to catch our breath, but was quick to give us another walloping before we could get comfortable again.  The movie was relentless and kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time.

san andreas 4

I would like to point out that the movie started off with a girl driving down the highway with Taylor Swift’s “Style” blasting through the speakers.  The lyrics “And when we go crashing down, we come back every time” were heard, which sums up San Andreas in a nutshell if you think about it.  Everybody makes it out alive but the movie still managed to lay on the tense moments time and time again.  Dwayne Johnson pretty much played the same exact character that he has played in almost every other movie, but he was still fun to watch nonetheless.  Despite its numerous flaws, the movie still delivered on one of its biggest promises: mass amounts of earthquake carnage.  It’s worth watching to see San Francisco crumble to the ground, but not much else.

san andreas score