Dana Goldberg

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Life Review

Very Good

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective at generating tension and terror. And it helps that an adept cast is on board to give some weight to characters who are rather thinly written. The script, by Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, keeps everything lean and mean, concentrating on the scary stuff while ignoring any thematic depth or topicality. But director Daniel Espinosa (Safe House) keeps it moving briskly.

It's set on board the International Space Station, where a specialised six-person crew is examining new soil samples from Mars. Science officer Hugh (Ariyon Bakare) finds alien life in the dirt, and watches in amazement as the cells grow and cooperate to create an interactive jellyfish-like creature, which schoolchildren on Earth name Calvin. Infectious disease doctors David and Miranda (Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson) are concerned that this life-form remains contained in the lab. So Captain Kat (Olga Dihovichnaya) and technicians Roy and Sho (Ryan Reynolds and Hiroyuki Sanada) set out to lock things down. But of course, this proves trickier than they thought it would be.

What follows is, unsurprisingly, a stalker slasher movie in which the crew members go down one by one. Calvin is a quick learner, and grows into a seriously menacing creature, complete with the silly addition of a kind of evil digital face. It also gets a few corny point of view camera angles. But mainly Espinosa holds his nerve, maintaining a believable sense of the science and the setting as things get increasingly out of control. Each terrifying set piece is followed by a brief moment of silence in which the characters (and audience) catch their breath. This also allows them to add one back story detail per person, in an attempt to stir up some emotional connection. But it doesn't really matter once the violent mayhem kicks into gear again.

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Terminator Genisys Review

Weak

This declining franchise really needed a jolt to the head, but the producers disappointingly opt to play it safe with an unambitious script and child-friendly action. After the OK part 3 (2003's Rise of the Machines) and a weak part 4 (2009's Salvation), this film is unlikely to win new fans or keep the old ones hoping for more. Even though it's made to a high technical standard, the movie feels derivative and safe, avoiding any properly dangerous tension for a series of badly contrived action set-pieces.

It opens in 2029, as plucky rebel John Connor (Jason Clarke) is fighting the world-dominating Skynet machines with the help of his right-hand man Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney). When Skynet sends a Terminator (the young Arnold Schwarzenegger) back to 1984 Los Angeles to kill John's mother Sarah (Emilia Clarke), Kyle follows to rescue her. But he arrives to find the timeline already altered. Sarah had been attacked years earlier, rescued at age 9 and raised by an ageing Terminator she calls Pop (the present-day Arnie). Since everything has changed, Sarah and Kyle decide to jump forward to 2017 San Francisco so they can stop Skynet from taking over the planet with its Genisys operating system. But when they arrive, they realise that there's been even more jiggery-pokery in the timeline.

The way the film wraps in and around the 1984 original is clever, with added intrigue in the fact that Kyle and Sarah haven't yet fallen for each other and conceived John. So when he turns up in San Francisco, there are all sorts of mind-bending possibilities. Alas, the screenwriters can't be bothered to play with them. Instead they structure the film as a series of rambling expository conversations leading to yet another pointless flurry of explosive carnage. Honestly, if Terminators are literally indestructible, why bother trying to defeat them with guns? And yet everyone keeps shooting at them, just making them mad.

Continue reading: Terminator Genisys Review

Jack Reacher Review


Very Good

Tom Cruise may be oddly miscast in this big action movie, but he certainly knows how to make one of these preposterous films connect with an audience. And writer-director McQuarrie adds a driving sense of internal logic that keeps it consistently enjoyable. So even if the hero in Lee Child's series of novels is a 6-foot-5 blond-haired, blue-eyed muscle-man, the cast and crew get away withThe story takes place in Pittsburgh, where a multiple shooting leads Detective Emerson (Oyelowo) and DA Rodin (Jenkins) to a withdrawn gun nut (Sikora). It seems like an open-and-shut case until man of mystery Jack Reache (Cruise) turns up. An off-the-grid ex-Army agent, Jack offers to help defence attorney Helen (Pike) prove her client's innocence. Of course, he instantly solves the case, uncovering a conspiracy and putting himself and Helen in danger from a ruthless Russian (Herzog) and his henchman (Courtenay). Meanwhile, Jack befriends a gun-range owner (Duvall) who has a connection to the case.

There's clearly an attempt here to echo Bourne-style questioning of identity and morality through Jack's hazy history and super-spy methodology. And the plot is also packed with far-fetched details and silly connections (Helen is Rodin's daughter), although McQuarrie does his best to keep things plausible and intelligent enough to hold our attention. There's also a sense of the bigger issue in Jack's life, that he can't cope with the grey-scale relativity in society and prefers right-or-wrong battlefield morality. He also hates modern-day connectivity, refusing to carry a mobile phone. But then he doesn't travel with a vehicle, weapon or change of clothing either; he prefers to "borrow" everything as needed.

Despite being nearly a foot shorter than the literary Jack, Cruise inhabits the role nicely, offering a slightly scrapper, more shadowy version of his Mission: Impossible character. But he's just as sexless, never putting much oomph into his flirtation with the always terrific Pike. On the other hand, he generously lets his costars steal every scene. Duvall is hilariously offhanded, while Herzog adds his own mad genius into his role as a, well, mad genius. And Oyelowo more than holds his own opposite these veteran hams. So even if the film never tries to be anything more than a ripping, mindless thriller, the stylish filmmaking and cool characters make it an enjoyable waste of time.

Continue reading: Jack Reacher Review

The Dukes Of Hazzard Review


Weak
I have no problem admitting that the main reason I wanted to review The Dukes of Hazzard was to see Jessica Simpson strutting her stuff in some ass-cheek-hugging short shorts. Yummy! Much of the film's early buzz has been on Simpson's big screen debut as bombshell Daisy Duke. Yet what's been lost amongst all the discussions of Simpson's rump are the even bigger questions surrounding the reasons for reviving this small, unsubstantial television relic from the '80s that few of us remember.

Now, I know I'm not the only one seeing Hazzard because of Simpson, and quite frankly, she's the film's biggest draw. This is her Crossroads. But let me caution that while you'll come to see Simpson, it's really the zoom-zoom of that little orange 1969 Dodge Charger that will make you stay. When the film is all said and done, I'm guessing that you'll leave the theater wondering what all the fuss over Simpson was about to begin with.

Continue reading: The Dukes Of Hazzard Review

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Dana Goldberg Movies

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

Terminator Genisys Movie Review

Terminator Genisys Movie Review

This declining franchise really needed a jolt to the head, but the producers disappointingly opt...

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Jack Reacher Movie Review

Jack Reacher Movie Review

Tom Cruise may be oddly miscast in this big action movie, but he certainly knows...

The Dukes of Hazzard Movie Review

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I have no problem admitting that the main reason I wanted to review The Dukes...

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