The 1989 Muay Thai action movie Kickboxer starred a young Jean-Claude Van Damme, who pops up in this rather cheesy remake in the old mentor role. Designed as the launch of a new franchise for martial artist Alain Moussi, this movie just about gets away with being a guilty pleasure romp. Although the predictability of the plot and the corny dialogue make it sometimes feel like a spoof.
Moussi plays Kurt, a fit young guy who travels to Thailand after his big brother Eric (Darren Shahlayi) is killed while fighting the thuggish master Tong Po (David Bautista). Posing as a seeker, he enters Tong Po's training temple and challenges the master to a duo. But of course he's not ready yet. With the help of the very hot young cop Liu (Sara Malakul Lane), who feels guilty because the police neglected to investigate Eric's death, Kurt tracks down Eric's trainer Durand (Van Damme). But can he improve his skills in time for the big showdown? And what is underground fight organiser Marcia (Gina Carano) up to?
The screenwriters assemble this story by numbers, adding in a number of real-life mixed martial-arts champions (their underwritten roles seem added in to distract fans from the simple plot). Director John Stockwell shoots and edits the film like a cheap B-movie, although the exotic locations look terrific. And of course there's a major fight about every five minutes, each with its own specific gimmick (like an instant rainstorm or two handy elephants to climb on). Even so, the fight choreography feels somewhat cursory, more flashy than brutal. But the real problem is that most of the fighters simply aren't up to the acting challenge. Moussi has a charismatic presence and a lithe, muscly physicality, but his scenes only work when he's punching or kicking someone's lights out. Even his interaction with an unusually relaxed Van Damme only works when they're physically sparring.
Continue reading: Kickboxer: Vengeance Review
Vin Diesel and filmmaker David Twohy wrestle their iconic intergalactic character back to his leaner, meaner roots in this bluntly titled thriller. This movie harks back to what made 2000's Pitch Black such a discovery: one misunderstood man fighting idiotic reactions to real danger. Thankfully, the filmmakers have set aside the murky mythologising of the 2004 sequel The Chronicles of Riddick.
There's a brief mention of things like necromongers and the underverse before Riddick (Diesel) is abandoned on a harsh desert planet apparently populated by only two species: stripy, spiky-haired wild dingos and slimy two-legged scorpion-stinging beasts. Riddick gets to grips with both, even domesticating one of the doggies, then sends a distress signal that is answered by two teams of bounty-hunting mercenaries. First up is a motley crew led by Santana (Molla), and they're soon joined by a muscle-head team captained with military precision by the steely Johns (Nable), who has a secret personal reason for being here. But of course Riddick is ready for them.
All of the characters are beefy hotheads, challenging each other's authority with gruffly shouted taunts. Even as they play it straight, the cast members have a lot of fun with this banter. As Johns' first officer, Sackhoff is clearly in her element as the only female in sight, happily giving the men a taste of their own machismo. Even man-mountain Bautista gets into the fun as Santana's brutish thug, calmed down by Danby's true-believer nice guy. Everyone is sure they can capture Riddick easily, of course, but he picks them off one-by-one until they accept his terms. This heightened human interaction gives the movie a kick of energy that holds our attention even as things begin to feel faintly ridiculous.
Continue reading: Riddick Review
Frank Goode (DeNiro) is rattling around his empty house after his wife dies.
His kids are all grown and out on their own, and none of them can be bothered to keep in touch. When they all cancel coming to a family dinner, Frank decides to pay them surprise visits, taking a road trip to see artist David (Lysy) in New York, ad exec Amy (Beckinsale) in Chicago, musician Robert (Rockwell) in Denver and dancer Rosie (Barrymore) in Las Vegas. But none of their lives are quite what he's been led to expect.
Continue reading: Everybody's Fine Review
Gene Hackman and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio go head-to-head as an estranged father and daughter who face off in a high-stakes class action lawsuit. Hackman plays Jedediah Tucker Ward, whose quick wit and dedication to defending the little guy (sometimes to the little guy's peril) has made him a legendary hot-shot attorney. Mastrantonio plays his daughter Maggie, who has never had a good relationship with her father, but who did grow to share his passion for being a lawyer. The one major difference: Jedediah is a man on a mission to topple the world's evil, and Maggie works in defense of that evil. She has just made partner at a flashy firm, and is carrying on an affair with one of her superiors (Colin Friels).
Continue reading: Class Action Review
Bud (Kevin Costner) and Molly Johnson (gifted newcomer Madeline Carroll) assume Hollywood's textbook father-daughter duo: she's the pint-sized "adult" of the trailer they call home, and he's the whiny child. On the eve of a tight presidential race, a mix-up at the polls negates Bud's ballot, which doesn't sound like a big deal until it's determined that the election will come down to a photo finish decided by one vote -- Bud's. If you think that's even remotely possible, by all means, read on. As Bud gets a crash course in democracy from smarty-pants Molly, incumbent president Andrew Boone (Kelsey Grammer) and left-leaning White House hopeful Donald Greenleaf descend on Texico, New Mexico with glad-handlers in tow in hopes of winning the slob's valuable support.
Continue reading: Swing Vote Review
In many ways, it's hard to figure out exactly why. It's not, on the surface, particularly well made. It doesn't feature an exceptional amount of skin. Nor is it even really all that funny. It even has Ted McGinley in it. But it's about nerds, and for better or worse, that's a subculture that doesn't easily let go of its icons. Especially pioneering ones, like this film.
Continue reading: Revenge Of The Nerds Review
At the start of the film, Riddick is being chased on a remote, frozen planet by some bounty hunters, whom he promptly dispatches and steals their ship to ride back to the planet of Helios Prime, where their employer was from. Once there, he finds out the bounty was put on him by one of Pitch Black's other survivors, Imam (Keith David, resplendent in flowing robes and a sharp goatee). Apparently, Imam and Aereon (Judi Dench), an ambassador from a ghost-like race called the Elementals, think that Riddick, being a member of the Furion race, will be able to help the galaxy fight off an onslaught of planet-destroying religious fanatics called Necromongers. The Necromongers are on a galactic jihad to bring about something called "the Underverse" and will convert or kill anybody in their path. But, before any of this can really be figured out, the Necromongers' gigantic armada crashes down on Helios Prime and things get really complicated. There's about ten minutes' worth of action that takes place later in a prison which, even now, after much contemplation, still makes absolutely no sense.
Continue reading: The Chronicles Of Riddick Review
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure was a tremendous hit in 1989 and a sequel was immediately in the works. Where the first film took our stoner heroes through time, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey upped the ante and took them to hell. Literally, the original title of the film was Bill & Ted Go to Hell. The plot is awash in weird humor and outlandish gags as Bill and Ted attempt to defeat two evil robotic versions of themselves, avoid death, save history, and otherwise remain cool.
Continue reading: Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey Review
Mr. Holland is, of all things, a lowly high school band teacher, and the film follows 30 years of his life, from 1965 to the present. Mr. Holland, in his first year of teaching, finds himself turning into that very thing which he detests, a dry and boring instructor who isn't getting through to the kids, so he decides to make a few changes in his teaching style to get the students involved and interested. Using all manner of unorthodox teaching methods, Mr. Holland eventually breaks through and becomes the darling of John F. Kennedy High School, and we see the profound effect he really does have on a number of his students.
Continue reading: Mr. Holland's Opus Review
The story of an ex-G.I. (Cruise) who can't get a job in the Manhattan business world and turns to bartending to make his fortune is as a bartender, pouring with style, jumping on the counter, and spouting poetry. The love story with rich girl Elisabeth Shue is hilarious -- but watch for Kelly Lynch and Gina Gershon, both unknown at the time, in small tryst roles.
Continue reading: Cocktail Review
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