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Kickboxer: Vengeance Review

OK

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.

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Riddick Review


Very Good

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.

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Revenge Of The Nerds Review


Good
History has been good to Revenge of the Nerds. Uncommonly good, really. Impossibly good.

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.

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The Chronicles Of Riddick Review


Weak
A befuddled attempt to give Vin Diesel his own franchise series - now that he's ditched giving the XXX thing another whirl - The Chronicles of Riddick stomps onto screens with an attitude that's somehow both obtuse and far too simplistic. This sequel of sorts to writer/director David Twohy's Pitch Black takes one of that film's sole survivors, the titular shaven-headed and silver-eyed criminal (Vin Diesel), and drops him into the middle of a byzantine interstellar conflict that's about as easy to parse out as one of Frank Herbert's Dune novels.

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

Cocktail Review


OK
Before there was Coyote Ugly, there was Cocktail.

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.

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