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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Michael Beach

One False Move (1992)

Small towns always need a little excitement.

Ray (Billy Bob Thornton), an immoral thief who always seems to question everyone and everything around him; Fantasia (Cynda Williams), Ray’s girlfriend who doesn’t always seem to take the violent way out, but more than often, doesn’t know what else to do; and Pluto (Michael Beach), an smart, yet, cold and calculated killer who isn’t afraid anyone, are all criminals who have been on the run for quite some time. Together, they’ve taken out friends of Fantasia’s, either to get money, drugs, or a whatever other valuables they can find, not only leaving a huge and disturbingly long trail of blood behind them, but making them public enemy number one, essentially. Eventually, the LAPD gets more and more involved, the more and more bodies start turning up, leaving them to trigger and target Fantasia herself. On the case are two detectives, Dud Cole (Jim Metzler) and John McFeely (Earl Billings), who both travel out into the middle of nowhere in Star City, Arkansas, because it’s where they believe Fantasia will bring her fellow criminals to. While there, they meet the eccentric and sometimes silly police chief Dale “Hurricane” Dixon (Bill Paxton), who has always dreamed of one day becoming a big city cop and seems to finally be getting the chance to do so. However, the case itself may be way too out of his league.

See what I mean?

One False Move starts off with perhaps the most disturbing first 15 minutes of as movie I have seen in quite some time. It’s a family, watching the home videos that they just filmed moments ago on their video-cameras, get a knock at the door, go to see who is at the knock, and slowly, but surely, each member of the family is either stabbed to death or killed, all while these tapes are playing the background. In fact, one person’s lifeless body lies right in front of the TV, while tapes of said person talking about how happy they are continue play. It’s harsh, brutal, unrelenting, and just downright mean, but it’s also the rare case of an indie-thriller really taking itself one step further to get down underneath our skin.

That said, it’s also the darkest and perhaps most ugly One False Move gets, which thankfully, doesn’t keep it away from being a solid flick in its own right. It’s just not nearly as upsetting.

Anyway, director Carl Franklin does a nice job here with the script from Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson, by letting and allowing for everything to play out. Rather than trying too hard to focus on certain details of the story, the case, the murders, or even the characters, he sort of sits idly by and let them tell us themselves. And because of that, we get a lot of interesting material that we don’t often see in thrillers of this nature; we get an slew of interesting, three-dimensional characters, we get a plot that could literally go anywhere, at any time, we have a story that has, at the very least, more of a meaning than just “bad people deserved to be locked-up”, and oh yeah, bloody, surprising violence that matters more because, well, all of these things work and they matter.

It’s important to note what works here, because One False Move could have been a very easy movie to figure out, in terms of where it’s going, or what it’s going to be about. Had it been so easy, the movie would have just been another, typical action-thriller with plot twists and turns that don’t actually matter; instead, it’s a movie with some heart, emotion, crime, violence, and oh yeah, tension. It comes together mostly all perfectly well by the end, showing that in order for a crime-thriller such as this to work, all you really need is extra attention paid to the things that matter most.

“Stop thinking about the pony-tail, baby. It’s what’s in.”

Like, once again, characters, all of whom are played exceptionally well by all involved.

As the three criminals, Thornton, Beach and Williams all do good jobs in helping us get inside the mind of these sometimes cruel and unforgiving characters. While they’re never sympathetic or nice, they still at least show some colors you wouldn’t often get in a movie like this. Like, for instance, rather than seeming like a simple peon who is tired of the whole world stepping on him, is actually more of just a sissy who has a gun and some homicidal tendencies, which mostly has to do with the fact that he’s egged on by those around him. Beach is also impressive as Pluto, who is more detestable and downright evil, but shows signs of reasoning for it all. Meanwhile, Williams is effective as Fantasia, showing that there’s some sadness there, which makes her the most sympathetic out of the three, even if we’re never sure we can trust her.

However, the real standout of the movie has to be Bill Paxton, who on pure sheer charm and excitement, basically steals every scene he’s in. Sure, it helps that Paxton’s working with the most well-drawn character of the bunch, but Paxton shows some true heart, soul, and energy here and brings it to a movie that’s so drab and depressing at times, it’s a wonder if it knows what humor it is. Thankfully, it does and Paxton is the one to bring it, showing a real spirited soul within Dale Dixon and makes you not only see him as a good cop, but a good human being in general, who wants to make the world a better place, and intends to do so, all with a smile on his face and a beer in his hand.

Man, Bill. We miss you already.

Consensus: Dark, intense, and unpredictable, One False Move proves to be an effective thriller, but also gives us great performances and characters to help even things out, too.

8.5 / 10

Small-town cops get no respect.

Photos Courtesy of: AV Club, The Fanboy’s Perspective, Paperblog

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Patriots Day (2016)

We could be heroes, just for a few solid hours.

It’s Monday, April 15, 2013 in Boston and man oh man, what a lovely day. The Boston Marathon is set to happen, with tons and tons of people all involved and excited to run for a good cause. But of course, things don’t go down this way. In the final stretch of the run, bombs start going off, injuring and killing some. This leads the Boston Police Department, as well as the FBI to get involved as best as they can. Eventually, they find out who is responsible and limit their search to two people: Brothers Tamerlan And Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Themo Melikidze and Alex Wolff). Of course, it’s now up to everyone to get together, stand strong and find these guys before they cause even more damage to the city of Boston and put an even greater shadow over what was supposed to be a very lovely, carefree day.

The term “too soon” is normally used with a negative connotation and well, there’s good reason behind it. People, the fragile beings that we are, find it hard to connect or accept tragedy or heartbreak, that talking about it immediately or even a little time after, seems to be too much to handle; nobody can really talk about something sad, because well, that just brings on more sadness. I point this out, not to just ramble on and on for no reason, but to point out why a movie like Patriots Day, while immediate, exciting, tense, and well-done, also feels like it may have been done way too soon.

Marky Mahk thinks he hears something fizzlin'.

Marky Mahk thinks he hears something fizzlin’.

But not in the way you’d expect.

When United 93 came out over a decade ago, it was four years and a few months after the events of 9/11, and considering how emotionally jarring that movie was, it makes sense that people would get up in arms, wondering whether or not this tale needed to be told, so suddenly, so soon, and so in-our-faces. After all, we as a nation still have yet to get over 9/11, 15 years after the fact, so you could only imagine how those in the mid-aughts must have felt when they saw a documentary-like film based on one of the hijacked planes. That said, director Peter Berg approaches the Boston Marathon Bombings with the same sort of tenacity; it’s the kind of movie that takes awhile to get going, but is setting up so many pieces of the story, that just watching and seeing how they connect in the long run is really interesting.

And then the movie does get going and eventually, it becomes something along the lines of a typical action-thriller, except with very real-life circumstances. Just like he showed with Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon, Berg has a knack for telling these fact-based stories where we probably know the ending and certain details, but there’s still a thrill and a certain energy behind it that’s hard not to get compelled by. Even when it seems like he’s manipulating certain elements of the story a bit, there’s still a feeling that Berg is giving it all that he’s got to make us feel as if we are there, while the action is all happening, trying our own hardest to put together this sometimes convoluted and crazy pie.

But then again, there’s that issue of being “too soon” and I think that’s where Patriots Day really runs into problems.

For one, it’s been a little over three years since the attack, meaning, that a lot of old wounds still have yet to heal. Due to that, it seems like there’s not enough appropriate room, space, or time to really think about the hard, thought-provoking questions that need to be asked in order for us, a society, to gather a better understanding of what happened. Sure, Berg does a nice job of sticking straight to the facts and giving us what is, essentially, a play-by-play analysis of what’s happenin’ and shakin’, but for a movie such as this to really resonate and hit hard, it also needs to be more than just that.

At its heart, Patriots Day is definitely a tribute to those who lost their lives and those who worked day and night on that one, fateful afternoon, and there’s nothing wrong with that – these are all stories that deserve to be told and given the type of treatment that Berg is more than happy to give them. At the same time though, there’s not enough introspection that makes us think longer and harder about this event – it’s just sort of the standard, bad guys did something bad, now good guys must go and find them. It is, for lack of a better term, a procedural.

An entertaining one at that, but still, a procedural.

"I told ya, it was paked down by da riva."

“I told ya, it was paked down by da riva.”

The bits and pieces of the movie where it seems like Berg really wants to dive in further to this event, is through the portrayals of both Tamerlan And Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Surprisingly, the movie does go the extra mile to try and develop them, show them for what they were, and most importantly, give us a better look into what the hell was going through their heads, which is admirable, on the part of Berg’s. He’s telling the whole story for what it is and considering that a good portion of what happens can only happen from their point-of-view, it makes sense that we get some time spent with them and try whatever we can to understand them for their actions. The movie doesn’t hold back on showing us their terrible actions, but it also doesn’t shy away from showing that, well, they were human beings. As troubled and as ill-conceived as they may be, they are still human beings and sometimes, it’s interesting to see their side of the story, regardless of whether or not you sympathize with them or what they did.

Which is interesting here, because while the movie boasts a big, starry and shiny cast with the likes of Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, J.K. Simmons, Michelle Monaghan, Kevin Bacon, Rachel Brosnahan, and plenty others, really, the movie’s more concerned with Themo Melikidze and Alex Wolff’s portrayals of the brothers. It shows that Berg was at least trying to go somewhere more interesting with this material, but of course, also realized who he was doing this movie for and didn’t want to offend anyone. There’s nothing wrong with that, either, however, it does leave that feeling of wondering maybe it was too soon and maybe something else will come down the pipeline.

Like, I don’t know, say a movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Malsany?

Oh, well there we go.

Consensus: Compelling, thrilling and well-paced, Patriots Day works as an exciting take on the events, as well as a nice tribute to those who lost their lives and responded quickly, even if there’s still some material left to be covered.

7.5 / 10

Marky Mak is da best cop awound dese paks.

Marky Mak is da best cop awound dese paks.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Internal Affairs (1990)

Why can’t cops just be nice guys that do nice things for the sake of humanity? Just why!

A newly minted Internal Affairs officer, Sgt. Raymond Avilla (Andy Garcia), has come upon the fact that his old buddy from the Academy, Van Stretch (William Baldwin), might be in a bit of heat when him and his partner get caught killing a dude in cold blood. His partner, Dennis Peck (Richard Gere), is the one who bailed him out and has been bailing him out for quite some time, whether it be on the force or at home, with his wife and family. Together, they have a buddy-buddy relationship but knowing Peck, and the way that he is, it’s more than just that and Avilla finds this out the hard way.

Cop movies are usually the same thing, time and time again. So rarely do they ever shy-away from being like any other, that it’s almost like when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. The same can be said about this flick, however, there’s something more going on here than just a bad cop vs. an evil cop. It’s more of a game, than it is a movie and coming from director Mike Figgis, I wouldn’t expect anything less compelling or enthralling. And yes, I wouldn’t also expect anything less than sexy, that’s for sure.

What Figgis does well with this material is that he builds it up plenty, without really giving us a clue of what to expect of the plot or the characters. We get a first-hand account that both of these characters are pretty cut and dry; Avilla is a straight-shooter, who does his job, loves his wife, kisses babies on the forehead, whereas Peck is a bit of shady character that not only bends the rules to help out those who are close to him, but gets more and more of a steady income through odd-jobs on the side that actually consist of killing and hookering. Basically, you think you have these characters all figured-out for who they are, what you want them to be and what they’re going to mean to one another, but that all changes once more and more layers are peeled off, and you see who these cats really are.

Wow! Are they gonna kiss?

Are they going to go for it?

Now, that being said and all, the movie is not a sure thing for surprises; a couple of twist happen here and there that will take you by surprise, but overall, it’s a pretty conventional flick in the way things happen, and the way people reveal themselves. What is so surprising about this movie is what each and every character reveals about themselves, and how dark they can actually be. You think you have them all figured-out from being the “baddie”, to the “goodie”, and watching these two duke it out to see who’s the bigger and better man is a whole bunch of fun and what kept this movie going, even when it did get close to the usual conventions of what makes a cop movie, a cop movie.

They don’t get many scenes together, but everytime you see Avilla and Peck together on-screen, you know some bad and crazy shite is going to go down, and you have a feeling that it’s only a matter of time until all hell breaks loose and one of these guys can’t bounce back from it. It’s fun to watch because both Gere and Garcia have a dynamic that’s unbelievably entertaining to watch, but they also bring out more within these characters than you’d ever get from a movie that’s about the good guy trying to overcome evil and defeat the bad guy. It does come down to that eventually, but the movie and the performers keep it more than just that, every chance they get, whether it be a simple conversation, a battle of wits, a threat, or just the usual mind-games that they both stoop-down to playing, once the shit gets hot.

Actually, at some times, it was almost too hot for these two to be on-screen together as I wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised if they started beating the shit one second, and hooking up with one another the next one. Seriously, it gets pretty damn hot at times and it’s attributed to the fine performances from Gere and Garcia, both of whom have never really done much for me in the past, Gere especially who, as you all know, is not my favorite actor.

Yeah I know; he’s from Philly, he’s been in good movies, and he’s even been in a couple of Best Picture winners, but to me, the guy has only been doing the same act, time and time again, and it’s a real surprise that he didn’t play that same dude here as Dennis Peck. Then again, I think the way that the character is written, Gere didn’t have much of a choice other than to stretch out his acting skills and see what he could come up with because this dude is one, messed-up mofo of a guy. Like I said before, Peck starts off as a reasonable guy that does some odd stuff that may make you think twice about his morality, but once he shows who he really is and what he has the power to do, then Gere really takes over and shows us layers of Peck that you’d never expect to see from a guy who practically saves his buddy’s ass in the first shot of the movie. Peck continues to mess with Avilla’s mind, almost in a way that’s entertaining, as bad as you feel for the dude, and it shows that Gere can have fun with a role, do well with it, and also be able to make us actually care for a character that’s so despicable and immoral. Once we do figure out that this dude is bad news, then the character gets a bit too strange for my taste, but Gere continued to enthrall me and I have to give the dude credit, especially since I’m always hating on him.

No, are they!??!

No, but are they!??!

Not like he cares anyway, because who the hell am I?!?!?

I’ve never really given Andy Garcia much of a bad-rap in the past, mostly because he hasn’t really been in much stuff where he’s liable for scrutiny. He rarely ever is the leading-man in a movie, and even when he does, the movie’s so small that it’s almost too unnoticeable for me to even watch and review. That said, the guy’s very good here as Avilla because he not only plays up the straight-laced, calm and collective act that this character keeps for a good-portion of the movie, but also makes you believe that he may have to cut some corners just to prove justice. It’s that idea that the nicest and most moral character in the movie, the one your supposed to be rooting for, might just be a bit of a bad guy as well, is what makes this character more than just another detective who wants to be promoted, and more of a guy who wants to do his job and get his man, in anyway possible. Garcia keeps us guessing, just like Gere, but the thing is with this character, we don’t know whether or not he’s going to stay the same good guy we saw from the first shot, or if he’s going to get a bit nutso towards the end. You never know with him, and Garcia keeps us guessing.

The supporting cast is pretty solid as well, even if it is apparent that it’s more or less Gere and Garcia’s show than theirs. Nancy Travis is a fine fit as Avilla’s wife who may, or may not be sleeping-around on him and the mystery behind that idea and her character is what keeps her more interesting than just the ordinary character of “the wife that gets pissed because her detective is too busy solving crimes and not at home banging her”. Yeah, you know; that type of chick. Laurie Metclaf is also very good at trying to remind us that she isn’t always playing Roseanne’s sister, and can drop an F-bomb and be bad-ass like any other motha on the face of the Earth. She tries, it works, but it also does get obvious at some points. And of course, there’s Adam Baldwin here playing a fuck-up, who’s addicted to coke, beats his wife, kills people when they are unarmed, and doesn’t know how to keep his cool. Hm? Is it acting? Or is it just being a Baldwin? You be the judge on that one, my friends.

Consensus: Despite falling for some of the same trappings and conventions we have come to know and expect from the cop-genre, Internal Affairs still offers us something slightly new, exciting, and compelling to watch with two amazing performances from the leads, and a plot that spirals out of control, in all of the juiciest ways possible.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Nope, these two definitely are. Yes!

Nope, but these two definitely are. Yes!

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

Just get rid of the haunted house, or the human-being! Problem solved!

After the Lambert family got their son back from “The Further” everything goes back to normal. The kids are happy and playful, the parents feel safe, and the spooky grand-mom (Barbara Hershey) is done with all of her ghost-talk. It seems like everything’s a bit back to normal, except, Josh (Patrick Wilson) is acting a little weird. Not only does he not seem himself, but his wife (Rose Byrne) notices that he doesn’t remember certain things about their past, like the song she played for him on piano when they first fell in love. Something weird is happening and everybody begins to wonder whether or not it was actually Josh that came back, or something more deep, dark, and sinister? Also, on the side, the ghost busters from the first movie are back and are diving into the history of who this ghost is, where it came from, and how to get it the hell away from Josh’s soul.

While I think I was sort of in the minority for only marginally liking Insidious, I still do have to say that I was looking forward to this one quite a bit. It wasn’t that the story was one I couldn’t wait for them to just develop more and more of, but because James Wan proved himself as a new voice in the horror-genre not too long ago with the Conjuring. And yes, while I did have my many gripes with that movie as well, I still have to give it to the dude and pat him on the back because he gave me a horror movie that amped-up the terror and the tension, in a way to create more scariness, even if I wasn’t all that petrified by the end. So, with that said, I think it’s safe to say that we know what Wan is capable of when it comes to having a meager-budget and a plethora of scares at his disposal, and sadly, this does not rank-up with what we know.

"WHY THE HELL AM I IN THIS?!?!? ACTING BRAIN ABOUT TO EXPLODE!!"

“WHY THE HELL AM I IN THIS?!?!? ACTING BRAIN ABOUT TO EXPLODE!!”

In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that this one is a lot weaker than the original; aka, a movie that I wasn’t too fond of in the beginning. The department that I will give Wan and his pals credit in is that they avoid doing what most sequels do: Tell the same story again. Rather than giving us the same old story of somebody being creeped-out by strange noises in the house, this one actually expands on the first, ties up some loose-ends that may have been left dangling, and explains why certain things happened in that movie, making this one of the rare sequels (a horror one, no less) where it’s almost mandatory that you see the first, just to understand all that every character’s alluding to and what to make sense of all the happenings.

In that regard, yes, Wan deserves credit. He does use some of the same jump-scares that he’s been using for quite some time, but he at least gets his story going to somewhere new, and dare I even say it, improved, almost to the point of where it feels like it’s a sequel that could leave plenty more questions than it answers, and we’d be fine with that. However, this is a horror movie, and it is essential for it to have scares, which, sadly, Wan isn’t able to produce all that often, save for the first 20 minutes or so. And even then, the movie feels like it’s just recycling the same scares from the first, even if they are still somewhat effective. “Somewhat”, is what I said, and somewhat is what I mean.

And when Wan is missing the moments that are supposed to make us shriek for our lives, he’s making us laugh and point at just how ridiculous some of these moments are, which is both a sin and a blessing,. It all depends on what type of viewer you are. When Wan had us travel to “The Further” in the first movie, it was silly, but still a bit cool because of how all of these characters looked like “The Circus Act From Hell”. Yes, it was campy, but it was still cool to see because it showed that Wan used his budget for a reason. However, here, “The Circus Act From Hell” shows up many more times than it should, and everytime we see them, we can’t help but chuckle at how over-the-top they are. Certain lines are said in a way that’s supposed to have us pee our pants in fright, but do so more because of our non-stop laughter. Whether or not this was solely the intention of Wan, has yet to be determined, but if there’s something that’s different from the first movie, it’s that this sequel seems to explore more of the goofiness of its material and does it so in a way that makes it seem like it’s doing it on purpose, but in a very serious matter as well.

That James Wan sure has comedic-timing.

That James Wan sure has comedic-timing.

Basically, what I’m trying to get at is that the movie tries to be scary, but is more funny, both intentionally and unintentionally. There! I said it!

While the cast from the first movie mostly stays the same here, some of the performances are a bit different, for better or worse. The most glaring difference in certain character’s personalities is the one of Josh, played by Patrick Wilson, in what has to be his hammiest performance to date. Since we know that Josh is possessed by a very threatening, powerful spirit of a sort, this time being a serial-killer, we pretty much have to expect him to be all over-the-place in a way that’s nearly uncontrollable, just like the rest of the flick. You’d think that the two aspects of the movie would go together like peanut butter and jelly, but come out more like peanut butter and potato chips. Wilson is the peanut butter in this equation, and he takes over the movie in a way that’s distracting to the story, and upsetting to watch for anybody who has been as big of a fan of this guy, as I am. Wilson tries to go as crazy as can be with this performance, but he just is way too cool and charming for this type of nutty-stuff to fully make it seem like it’s all in a day’s work. They should have just given that role to somebody normal like Rose Byrne. Now that would have been over-the-top and campy, but in a freakin’ fun way! Not with Barbara Hershey, though. I’m afraid she’s already played “creepy and crazy” many times before.

Consensus: The first movie wasn’t a masterpiece of the horror genre, but at least it had its fair share of scares, character-development, and sense of fun, which Insidious: Chapter 2 seems to have lost most sight of, but instead, replaced all of that with unintentional yucks and chuckles.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Just your average, run-of-the-mill family, with a bunch of weird ghosts and ghouls slumming around the house. But that's besides the point.

Just your average, run-of-the-mill family, with a bunch of weird ghosts and ghouls slumming around the house. But that’s besides the point.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Red Dawn (2012)

Next time, just get actual wolverines to save your asses.

Chris Hemsworth stars Jed Eckert, the leader of a group known as The Wolverines. The Wolverines are a group of young adults/children who run off to the hills after the initial attack from an invasion by North Korea, and then fight off the opposition by using the knowledge of their hometown to their advantage. Same shit as the original, just a whole different decade.

As you all probably saw around last week, I reviewed the original, 1984 cult-classic of this movie and I have to say, it didn’t do anything for me. Yeah, I had a bit of fun going back to the golden-days of when we hated Russia and seeing all of these young teenie-boppers, running around and killing off Ruskies, but overall, was pretty lame and terribly corny. This remake/reboot/whatever the fuck you want to call it, is exactly like that movie, but instead, placed in a time where anybody, I do repeat, ANYBODY could call mommy, daddy, 911, secret service, president, or anybody, just with a click of a button. In case you can’t tell by now, this movie freakin’ blows.

I guess when you have material like this, you’re supposed to leave all rhyme, reason, or all sense of belief at the door and just go into have a fun time watching a bunch of teenagers go gung ho against the North Koreans. In a way, it works, but in other ways, it just doesn’t. Mainly where most of the problem for this film lies in the fact that it does change-up some of the happenings in the original a bit, but it still feels dull and unoriginal. It’s as if every scene in this movie, was meant to just be shown on there, without any real energy or zeal whatsoever and just have people wait-up for the next, big action-sequence that apparently was going to hold you over until the next burst of energy.

The problem is, the burst of energy comes from the hand of this first-time director, Dan Bradley, who just doesn’t seem like he’s fit to hold onto a whole movie, where action doesn’t take place non-stop. With most of the action-scenes, Bradley does an alright job and obviously has a bit of fun playing around with the bigger-budget and present-day setting of this premise, but everything else that doesn’t concern action, things blowing up, people getting killed, or bullets flying, he absolutely, positively chokes on, and chokes on hard. The characters all talk in this macho, deuchy language that does nothing to make us laugh and each and every one, didn’t even seem to have a personality that was worth recognizing or holding onto. I mean, I know it’s a bit of an obvious convention in of these movies to have a joker in the group that lightens everything-up with his comedy, but they didn’t even have that here. It was just straight-up seriousness all-around, and rarely did these kids ever live-it-up because any second, they could have just vanished. Actually, come to think of it now, there’s not even that much character-development here and worse, even though all of these characters are people you’re supposed to be rooting for, care for, and be upset for when something bad happens to them, by the end, you sort of don’t care and it’s surprisingly weird how the other characters sort of seem to feel the same-way.

For instance, a couple members of the group get killed-off during a raid and as sad as it may be, the sadness/melodrama only lasts for about a minute, and then we soon see Hemsworth and Palicki flirting their asses-off by a lake as if nothing ever happened to anybody, let alone to one of their friends that they became close with, just as soon as this terrible event occurred. If my freakin’ good-buddy died in warfare, most likely, no matter how hot the babe was, I would probably not be thinking about getting my “D” wet, especially if we were in a local-war with another country that just so happened to invade my little city. Not only is that bad, but the villains that actually take-over this little city, seem to be more focused on pissing off this group, rather than taking over the U.S., taking over the world, or even, taking over the universe. Nope, they don’t care about world-domination, they just care about getting in the hair of some kids that have AK’s, good looks, and some really, really lame dialogue. Go get em, North Korea!

I think it should be noted right now that this film wasn’t supposed to be released on Thanksgiving during the year 2012. Apparently, this was supposed to come-out back in 2009 but MGM went bankrupt, and apparently pushed this film’s release-date and it’s existence back to a latter-date. Sadly, the latter-date had to be now in the movie theaters, and not now, something I would have bought for $5 at Walmart during Black Friday. But this whole project being shelved for over three-years, definitely shows in a way that makes you realize that these editors, writers, and producers were just very, very rampant in getting this out there that the film comes off like a blubbering mess. I am no lover of the original movie, but at least that had some fun-spirit in it and felt like it was a movie, rather than just a couple of cool action scenes strung together by a huge-deal of melodrama. This one, doesn’t even have that and the whole-time, I was just bored, uninspired, and feeling less and less patriotic as it went along. Hell, in a way, I started to root for the North Koreans because nobody in this group had my sympathy of my feelings.

Actually, let me scratch that, because there was one guy who did happen to have my feelings and remorse for him and that guy is non-other than Chris Hemsworth. Hemsworth, as we have seen time and time again, has a huge-deal of charisma that cannot be overlooked and it’s such a shame that he was given such a shit-role like this as Jed Eckert. And even though the dude does try and in a way, makes us forget about the shitty script-job he’s forced to work with, you still can’t help but remember that this was filmed before he hit it big as Thor and made us all realize that he is one, cool mofo that will have you at hello. Okay, maybe I went a little too overboard with my man-crushness right there, but you get my drift. The guy’s got a heck of a lot of charm to-boot and it’s just sad to see him stoop right on down to this level of crap.

Playing his brother that has little to no resemblance to Hemsworth, is Josh Peck and as terrible as he is here, he isn’t the worst-aspect of this casting. I don’t know if any of you know this out there, but Hemsworth does have a little-brother, that acts, does well in movies, and even looks like Chris. His name is Liam Hemsworth and if you look at that link, you’ll see that the two share an incredible resemblance that would have made a lot more sense, had he been cast instead of skinny and unfunny Josh Peck. But away from the overall casting, Josh Peck still sucks major-ass here and made me laugh every time he opened-up his mouth cause he can’t be serious, he can’t be cool, he can’t be heroic, and he most of all, can’t be the starting-quarterback for his high school football team. Josh, just go back to eating so you can be funny and talented again. Please.

You have to wonder why Josh Peck was given a larger-role over a guy like Josh Hutcherson who has proven us, time and time again that he can actually handle big-roles, despite not having movies all about him. Here, he’s nailed-down to a role that makes him the dope of the group that can’t seem to do anything right and falls for all of the dumbest-pranks set by the group itself. It’s a pretty lame-role for a guy that seems like he’ll be taking over the teen-world very soon once Catching Fire hits the big-screen. And lastly, the only guy who really shows up here and makes us realize that he can take a shit-movie and script, and at least inject some fun into it is Jeffrey Dean Morgan as a U.S. Soldier who sneaks behind enemy lines. The guy’s good, funny, energetic, and also feels like he could and will, kill anyone that stands in his way. Pretty much the guy’s a bad-ass but the question still remains: Who would win in a fight? Thor or The Comedian? Still, waiting on that movie and hopefully they don’t decide to let MGM help finance it either, or it’s another 3 years we’ll be waiting.

Consensus: Red Dawn didn’t really have to do much to make itself better than the original, but it didn’t have to suck this much to make us realize how good that one was either. With choppy-editing, terrible-dialogue, and plot inconsistencies that will have you writing things down for days, you’re most likely just going to want and skip-out on this and see if you can find the original on Netflix and pay The Swayze some love and respect.

2.5/10=Crapola!!

Sparkle (2012)

Where’s Kevin Costner when you need him?

Set in the 1960’s, three sisters form a Motown singing group, but fame has a heavy price, and Sparkle (Jordin Sparks) is seeing her family fall apart right before her eyes. While Sparkle is writing her songs, it’s her sister, named Sister (Carmen Ejogo), who has center stage.  The other two sisters are backup for her, but she is a troubled soul and could make all their hopes and dreams come crashing down.

Being one of the only three white people in a crowd full of black people, I went into this expecting nothing much except for good music, some good times, and also, something that may have not necessarily been targeted towards me. Thankfully, I got both with just a bit more than I expected and yes, it was for me.

I never saw the original Sparkle, and to be honest, I have no plans on doing so since it seems like this one takes that story, adds nothing new, but somehow still makes it work. I think a lot of that credit has to go director Salim Akil who actually generates a lot of nice touches here and there with rich human moments that sometimes ring true, and plenty, and I do repeat, plenty of great music to listen to and even dance along to. The Motown sound is one of the best and this film remembers it all in the best ways with a lot of of fine tracks you may have, or may have not heard before but regardless, you’ll be tapping your toes and fingers. Now maybe if the Motown sound isn’t your bag, then this probably won’t be the best film to jam around too but since it’s mine, I enjoyed that aspect of this movie. Hell, I already listened to the whole soundtrack so you know it got me going!

But once you get past all of the exhilarating and fun musical numbers, you get what is none other than your usual, predictable story of a bunch of gifted singers, trying to make it big but end up falling short due to some terrible occurrences. Yeah, it goes down the road you would expect it to within the first 5 minutes and it’s a shame because this film could have really shown off some real twists and turns that would have gripped me a lot more had they decided to go down the road less traveled with musical flicks. You get wives being beaten, race cards being pulled, felonies committed, and racial politics being discussed, and it just gets to be the usual cliché-ridden tale you would expect from a story about a bunch of singers in the 60’s and 70’s.

But at the end of the day, everything is predictable and obvious but you never once get left out the story. There’s a type of sensitivity that Akil brings to this material where he spends times with these characters, allows us to get to know where they come from, and where their dreams are headed. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that this is a rich character drama that takes time with it’s story and characters, but at least it gives us something to hold onto and make us root behind these people when their lives really seem to go to shit. But it wasn’t just Akil’s direction that made these characters work, a lot of that has to be because of the ensemble cast of characters on-display here that make every one-dimensional character, seem like a hell of a lot more despite what’s on paper.

American Idol hopeful Jordin Sparks does a fine job as Sparkle because as cliché and obvious this character’s motivations can be, she at least makes her appealing and cute to the point of where she’s at least someone we like to watch on-screen, even if everything she says and does is pretty much calculated. Carmen Ejogo kicked ass as her sister, aptly named Sister, who is the obvious Beyoncé of the group who’s live eventually starts to go down-hill once too much fame and drugs come into play. I’ve seen this Ejogo gal before in other stuff before but whatever it was, it doesn’t matter because she did a great job giving a character that is pretty two-dimensional, more of a heart and soul that feels battered (literally) and bruised due to all of her problems with breaking out of normality. Maybe I gave the character more to chew on than this flick actually did but at least she kept me interested and I wouldn’t have minded seeing a whole film about her.

As for the dudes in the cast, they all do fine with a certain somebody, once again, stealing every scene he was in. Mike Epps did a phenomenal job as the hated comedian, Satin Strothers, who just disrespects everybody he comes around and doesn’t do a nice thing throughout the whole movie, but yet, you still want to see more of him. Epps is one of these actors that can use that perfect blend of seriousness and comedy to his advantage, which he does in-fact show here very well, but there’s a type of intensity to him here as well that makes his character so damn scary whenever he’s on-screen. Yeah, the dude is pretty much your essential dickhead that doesn’t do anything pleasant throughout the whole movie, but with Epps playing him, it’s all fine and dandy.

The real shame of this movie was that this was going to be Whitney Houston‘s big comeback and sadly, as everybody knows, she died about three months after completion for it and what a freackin’ tragedy that is man because she does a great job here as the girls’ strict momma. Houston has never been an actress to write home about but at least she gives it her all and this flick as the momma that is never, ever allowing them to make the same mistakes that she did and you can feel her love and emotional support from her the whole movie. It also helps that when Houston belts out one song, she tears down the house, as you would expect from her and it’s just another sign that she could have really came back after all, and tore it down once again. Sadly, that did not happen and it’s a total disappointment.

Consensus: Sparkles features little or no surprises when it comes to its story, but features a great load of nostalgic music that takes us back to the Motown days, some fantastic performances from the cast that actually elevate these characters, and a couple of nice touches here and there of melodrama that work more than they should.

6/10=Rental!!