Lawrence Gordon

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Hellboy II: The Golden Army Review


Excellent
Get in a discussion about comic-book movies and someone will indubitably bring up this theory: Part one of a comic-book movie anthology is always just OK; the series peaks with part two; and in part three (usually the final chapter) everything falls apart. (Think X-Men, Spider-man, and Superman). Hellboy II only furthers this theory. Part one, though visually sensational, delivered a weak jab in terms of its story, characters, and writing. But its sequel connects with a mighty punch, delivering everything you could possibly want from a summer blockbuster and more.

Hellboy II takes the fantastic make-up artistry, creature creation, and set design that we grew fond of in Pan's Labyrinth and combines all of these elements with mindblowing CGI and stunning choreography. The script this time around is sharp and witty; you'll be laughing for most of this movie (which is good, because Hellboy II would look silly if it took itself too seriously). Most importantly, the movie contains some of the best (i.e., least-fake-looking) action sequences I've ever seen in a comic-book movie, and lots of them, too, which makes it even better than Iron Man, its biggest summer contender next to the upcoming Dark Knight.

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Event Horizon Review


Weak
After Paul W.S. Anderson unleashed the blockbuster Mortal Kombat, he could do no wrong in the eyes of millions of geeks. He was the fanboy's filmmaker, creating a video game movie that was as fun and trashy as the game itself. All the nerds had high, high hopes that Anderson would settle into a career as fandom's new hotshot. Boy were they disappointed. Somewhere along the line, poor Anderson went from the top of the heap to the bottom of the barrel. (Poor bastard's name is rubbed in the mud almost as often as Uwe Boll!) And most fanboys say that Event Horizon was Anderson's fall from grace. A shame really, because the film's better than most science fiction hokum. (And heads above his next pic, Soldier. Not to mention every... other... film.... after... that. Geez, guy just can't catch a break, huh?)

The plot concerns a scientific spaceship - the Event Horizon - that was sent into a black hole with a full crew. The ship, naturally, vanishes and reappears years later, empty and sulking in a space fog. A small rescue crew is sent out to rendezvous with the Event Horizon, comprised of all your traditional stock characters (stoic Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne), Dr. William Weir (Sam Neill), Med Tech Peters (Kathleen Quinlan), and the usual spacefaring grunts). Once onboard the desolate Event Horizon, all manner of bizarre things begin taking place, and it's quite clear from the outset that wherever the Event Horizon was, it didn't come back alone. We're not talking Alien territory here, nothing that tangible, but the residue of some otherworldly hell that has infested the hulk of the ship and imbued it was a hideous life of its own. Or perhaps, it really did go to the hell. It's a bit unclear.

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Predator 2 Review


Weak
Every good monster movie deserves a sequel, and with few exceptions they get a crappy one. Predator 2 is right in line with that legacy, a lackluster (and Schwarzenegger-free) action flick that steals every page it can from the Aliens playbook.

Since Predator took place in the jungle, Hollywood's sense of irony dictates that the sequel should take place in the city: In this case, Los Angeles, where a bloody gang war is underway. But the cops (notably renegade do-gooder Danny Glover) can't quite reconcile the body count, and it isn't long until they start to realize that another force is at work, which might explain the metallic bits that no one can identify and the corpses missing all their vital organs.

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Streets of Fire Review


Grim
A bizarre take on West Side Story, Streets of Fire gives us Paré and Lane as the beast and the beauty in the music scene of "another time, another place" -- a time that manages to muddle the hair styles, attire, and vehicles of the 1930s, 1950s, and 1980s. Needless to say, it's an ugly time, an ugly place. The "rock-and-roll fable" of Streets of Fire doesn't have much to say, culminating in a pick-axe fight between Paré and bad-boy Dafoe, which I think says just about all you need to know.

The Driver Review


Good
No names. Literally. The Driver is one of those films where no character's name is ever given, and its too-cool-for-school sentiment bleeds through the entire production. Ryan O'Neal is the title character, a heist getaway driver with mad skills like you wouldn't believe. (The scene where he proves his merit in a parking garage -- all but demolishing the ride along the way -- is worth the price of admission alone.) Sadly, there's a plot attached to this, with Bruce Dern the cop who's always one frustrating step behind the driver, but this movie excels so greatly during its chase scenes that you'll forget about all that business.

Die Hard Review


Essential
If I were teaching a film class at a college (a shuddering prospect, I know), Die Hard would be studied the way Citizen Kane and Potemkin are. It's a perfect action movie in every detail, the kind of movie that makes your summer memorable.

Unfortunately, star Bruce Willis, director John McTiernan and company couldn't duplicate the heart-pulling thrill of the first one with two increasingly mediocre sequels. Die Hard 2 and Die Hard: With a Vengeance suffered because of stuffing thrills and spills in every crevice, to the point where I expected the Road Runner to make a cameo. Everyone involved seemed to forget that simplicity made the original so riveting. There's one flawed New York City detective trapped in a skyscraper with only his wits and some firearms to stop a band of talented international terrorists.

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Brewster's Millions Review


OK
A guilty pleasure from my childhood, Brewster's Millions is based on an ancient novel. In fact, it's at least the fifth adaptation of the old novel by the same name -- only the spending money is more and more each time.

What money is that? Oh, just $30 million, left to Montgomery Brewster (Richard Pryor) by his sole relative. The catch? The real inheritance is $300 million -- and if Monty wants it, he has to spend the $30 million in 30 days, and at the end of that time he can't have any assets to show for it. Oh, and he can't tell anyone what's going on, either.

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Die Hard 2 Review


Grim
Die Hard had it all: a sympathetic hero, a wonderfully serpentine villain, kick-ass fight scenes and shootouts (which are really hard to make entertaining, in the glut of routine action flicks that overflow our video racks), an enjoyably quirky supporting cast of character actors, and dialogue you could really sink your teeth into. ("I wanted this to be professional. Efficient, adroit, cooperative, not a lot to ask. Alas, your Mr. Takagi did not see it that way, so he won't be joining us for the rest of his life.") This flick was so pervasive, we had to endure a slew of rip-offs: Die Hard at sea, Die Hard on an ocean liner, Die Hard in a friggin' library! OK, so they never did one in a library, but that would be pretty funny, wouldn't it? [Indeed they did do it in a library: Masterminds. -Ed.]

What a pity that Die Hard 2: Die Harder (based on the novel 58 Minutes) falls into the trap of being just another Die Hard in Washington's Dulles Airport. I mean, it's kinda funny that John McClane (Bruce Willis, having a good ol' time) acknowledges his pathetic luck. Not this shit again! He's waiting for his wife's plane to land when terrorists seize control of the airport, crashing a plane just to prove that they'll stop at nothing. Yes, they will stop at nothing! Insert an evil laugh here, and throw in a moustache twirl, why dontcha?

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Field Of Dreams Review


Excellent
Briefly, the plot of Field of Dreams: A thirty-something man hears voices from a Higher Power, abandons his ties to his family, wanders the earth gathering a passel of believers, suffers the mocking laughter of his townspeople but soon redeems himself, and, finally, is reconciled with his father. Say what you want about Kevin Costner, but you can't say he never played Jesus Christ.

In the '90s, Costner's messianic ambitions - his belief that his aw-shucks Everyman demanded an epic canvas to match his bank account - produced some of the worst films ever made. But his attitude works perfectly in 1989's Field of Dreams (based on the book Shoeless Joe) because the setting is appropriately modest; if we could never buy him as a post-apocalyptic savior, he's just fine as a middle-class hero. Costner plays Ray Kinsella, a rat-race refugee who's moved his wife Anni (Amy Madigan) and daughter Karin (Gaby Hoffmann) to a farmhouse in Iowa. One evening, alone amongst the corn, Ray hears a voice tell him, "If you build it, they will come." A vision of a baseball field is presented before him, and he immediately sets to work re-creating it, believing that it might help him better understand his late father, from whom he was long estranged.

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K-PAX Review


OK
It would be an exaggeration to say that there are no original ideas anymore, that every movie fits some formula we've seen before. But, ya know, the claim isn't that far off the mark, and if the shoe fits...

So the genre we're talking about in the case of K-PAX: A crazy man thinks he's an alien (a psychic, a king, etc.). The obvious question: Which is he: crazy, or an alien, or both? (A crazy alien, now that would be a fun twist on the whole genre wouldn't it?)

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Mystery Men Review


Good
"Hey now, you're an all-star, get your game on, go play..." then sit back and watch America's newest superheroes screw up, in this summer's new comedy, Mystery Men. In this Tim Burtonesque film by Kinka Usher, a ragtag band of superheroes set out to rescue Captain Amazing (a Superman comparable played by Greg Kinear) from the evil clutches of the criminal mastermind, Cassanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush).

Mystery Men is one of the funniest films I've seen all year. It combines the hilarious randomness of films like Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, with a satirical twist that today's audiences are sure to appreciate. Now don't get me wrong, Mystery Men is no masterpiece, but it made me laugh (a lot) and that's what the film is about. Mystery Men scores high in all areas. It has an entirely kooky and original plot fueled by crack up dialogue, mesmerizing scenery, (which is reminiscent of the Batman movies) and an awesome cast.

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Lara Croft: Tomb Raider Review


Terrible
The now-classic video game Tomb Raider is a geek boy's dream -- a hot heroine with Barbie-like measurements goes on adventures and kicks ass. The film adaptation, starring the buxom and bored Angelina Jolie, is nobody's dream. It's billed as an action fantasy, but possesses no physical excitement or wonder. OK, maybe some wonder, as in, "I wonder how Paramount actually feels about this film."

Even the teen hormones that live in all us guys are squashed by this one. Jolie, trying to play our heroine Lady Lara Croft as sexy and supercool, just looks mildly amused by the goings-on. I half expected her to check her watch while on camera, searching for lunch or a better project. [Never underestimate crafty film editing. -Ed.]

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Hellboy Review


OK
You can't help but dig Hellboy the character - born a demon, summoned by Nazis, saved by Americans, raised to fight otherworldly evil creatures, and played by Ron Perlman.

What you feel about Hellboy the movie is an altogether different topic.

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The Rocketeer Review


Weak
The poor man's Indiana Jones, complete with Nazi subterfuge and heroine in distress. This paean to the cliffhangers of yore never really finds its footing, unfortunately. It's a rather tired story about a lost jet pack and the daredevil (Bill Campbell -- who hasn't had a starring role since) who finds it, and so on and so forth. Very straightforward, the mystery doesn't go very far and the love story (with Jennifer Connelly) is totally stillborn. The clever use of historical figures like Howard Hughes and W.C. Fields is really the film's only highlight.
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