Beyond Comic

Beyond Skyline (Theaters-2017; Streaming-2017)  Rated: R  Runtime: 105-106 minutes

Genre:  Action-Adventure-Drama-Fantasy-Horror-Science Fiction-ThrillerM Skyline 2017

els – 4.5/10

IMDb – 5.4/10

Amazon – 3.3/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 5.9/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.2/5

Metacritic Metascore – 46/100

Metacritic User Score – 5.6/10

Directed by:  Liam O’Donnell

Written by:  Liam O’Donnell

Music by:  Nathan Whitehead

Cast:  Frank Grillo, Bojana Novakovic, Jonny Weston

Film Locations:   Toronto, Canada; Batam and Yogyakarta, Indonesia; Los Angeles and Marina Del Rey, US

Budget:   ~$15,000,000

Worldwide Box Office:  ~$1,000,000

Mark (Grillo), a washed up LA cop picks up his troublesome and busted son from the police department and is taking him back home when the aliens, or is it alien, attack the city and suck everyone up into their spaceship via a blue light beaming down, and vacuuming up, from the crowded streets below.  The LA folks who are pulled into the spaceship have their brains removed, inserted into cyborg-like machines, and are reprogrammed to do the bidding of the alien(s), all with a blue twinkle in their eyes.  Mark and his son are eventually captured and brought into the craft but he escapes the brain transference process while his son doesn’t. Mark befriends another cyborg that doesn’t like the alien(s) and together they cause the spacecraft to crash into the drug infested jungles of Laos, actually Indonesia, where they seem to have been totally forgotten by the rest of humanity. At this point Mark joins forces with Laotian drug smugglers and they proceed to battle the alien(s) and cyborgs Kung Fu style, setting the stage for Skyline 3.

Beyond Skyline is an ambitious special effects movie hamstrung with a lousy script and even worse direction; both supplied by Liam O’Donnell. This is O’Donnell’s first shot at directing with the only positive being that he has to improve in his next movie, if there is one. The acting and the special effects are all serviceable but the story just loses all control of reality and veers off into an action soaked craze masquerading as a plot. Each scene seems designed to end the confusion from the previous scene, but fails, and you are left with just witnessing some fairly decent action but not really knowing why. In the end you would be forgiven to think that this flick was a comedy, non-stop slapstick if you will, except it wasn’t funny. Blue lights bad, red lights good.  Red light bombs turn blue lights red. In Skyline 3 we will likely to be informed what green lights are all about. Brains for cyborgs, tots for toys; good grief.  Keep your popcorn in the kernel and move along; nothing to see here.

 

Vengeance is Bad Until it is Good

American Assassin  (Theaters-2017; Streaming-2017)  Rated: R  Runtime: 111-112 minutesM Assassin 2017

Genre:  Action-Spy-Thriller

els – 5.5/10

IMDb – 6.2/10

Amazon – 3.6/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 4.7/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.6/5

Metacritic Metascore – 45/100

Metacritic User Score – 6.0/10

Directed by:  Michael Cuesta

Written by:  Stephen Schiff, Michael Finch, Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz

Music by:  Steven Price

Cast:  Dylan O’Brien, Michael Keaton, Sanaa Lathan

Film Locations:   Birmingham and London, England; Rome, Italy; Valletta, Malta; Phuket, Thailand

Budget:   ~$33,000,000

Worldwide Box Office:  $66,000,000+

Mitch Rapp (O’Brien) lost his fiancé, minutes after proposing to her, to mass murdering, middle-eastern terrorists on the beaches of Spain (actually shot in Phuket). Rapp vows revenge for her death and begins training himself to go after and kill all the terrorists involved.  The CIA notices him and monitors his progress, eventually deciding to bring him into the fold and continue his training under the former SEAL, Stan Hurley (Keaton). The plot begins to thicken as Rapp and Hurley investigate a series of terrorist attacks that eventually lead to the realization that middle-eastern elements are trying to acquire a nuclear device and use it to start a world war.

The movie is based on Vince Flynn’s 1994 novel of the same name with plans for making the movie beginning back in 2012, finally leading to actual filming in 2016. The movie is obviously intended as the opening shot for a long running spy-thriller franchise.  It appears that the choice of O’Brien to fill the lead as a 20 something young adult is meant to demonstrate, with time, his progression into a personage with a Bourne or Bond countenance in the subsequent movies. Hopefully it will work.

The professional class of critics have panned this flick with no mercy. The major dig being that the story is stale and has been told a million times before, and usually better. On the other hand the movie paying public likes this movie for the action and the mindless entertainment that it is; nothing more. The filming and cinematography are beautiful with competent acting all around. Yes, the story could have used some sprucing  up, mainly around the convoluted messaging on the morality of revenge, but I’ll reserve judgement until after the sophomore release.  Feet up and pass the popcorn.

Friendship and Vengeance

The Ballad of Lefty Brown  (Theaters-2017; Streaming-2017)  Rated: R  Runtime: 111 minutesM Lefty 2017

Genre: Action-Drama-Mystery-Thriller-Western

els – 7.5/10

IMDb – 6.3/10

Amazon – 4.0/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 6.2/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.6/5

Metacritic Metascore – 63/100

Metacritic User Score – 7.5/10

Directed by: Jared Moshe

Written by: Jared Moshe

Music by: H. Scott Salinas

Cast: Bill Pullman, Peter Fonda, Joe Anderson, Tommy Flanagan

Film Locations:  Montana–cities of: Bannack, Virginia City, Nevada City and Harrison

Budget:  NA

Lefty Brown (Pullman), a hapless cowboy and life long partner and friend to his boss, the newly elected senator from Montana, Edward Johnson (Fonda), are riding the grassy hills, searching for horse thieves, when they are bushwhacked by a group of rascally devils in which Johnson is killed and Lefty is knocked silly but survives. As Lefty regains his senses, what little he ever had, he vows vengeance on the killers of his companion of 40 years. Thus begins the Lefty’s quest across the desolate and open lands of Montana, hunting for the killers of his one true friend; a hunt that tests his fortitude, his courage, and his loyalty, but it is the hunt for the truth that ultimately defines his essence as a man.

In 1955 Gunsmoke premiered on CBS television and ran for 20 years and 635 episodes, during which time it became quintessence of the western genre and likely, the most beloved. The core, twin pillars of the show included the just and honorable, but isolated, Marshall Dillon (James Arness) and his trusty but ornery sidekick: Fetus (Ken Curtis). The Ballad of Lefty Brown is the story of Fetus with Chester’s (Dennis Weaver) limp thrown in for good measure, out to avenge Matt’s death. Pullman plays Fetus aka Lefty to absolute perfection.  It is one of the greatest pieces of acting that I have seen in years. I hope they reserve one of the best actor awards for him. His acting is worth the price of admission, but watch it also for the supporting acting, the fervent story and the grand panoramic cinematography.

Double Time

Sniper: Ultimate Kill  (Theaters-NA; Streaming-2017)  Rated: R  Runtime: 90-93 minutes

Genre: Action-Drama-ThrillerM Sniper 2017

els – 5.5/10

IMDb – 5.6/10

Amazon – 4.0/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – NA/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.2/5

Metacritic Metascore – NA/100

Metacritic User Score – NA/10

Directed by: Claudio Fäh

Written by: Chris Hauty

Music by:  Frederik Wiedmann

Cast:  Chad Michael Collins, Billy Zane, Tom Berenger, Danay Garcia

Film Locations:  Bogota, Columbia

Budget:  NA

The DEA sends marine sniper Brandon Beckett (Collins) to Columbia to assist in capturing the biggest drug lord in all of South America and eliminate his deadly enforcer: “The Devil”.  The Devil, a sniper supplied with special tracking ammo, plays a cat and mouse game with Beckett to prevent the DEA from capturing the drug kingpin.  The bad guys manage to always be one step ahead of the good guys, providing for lots of action and thrills along with the expected and predictable plot twists.

This is the 7th film in the Sniper franchise which began with the 1993 movie: Sniper.  This is Claudio Fah’s second Sniper movie that he has directed, his first being the 2011 Sniper: Reloaded.  His direction produces exactly what this movie should be; an action movie first and foremost with very little time allotted for character development or subtle plot details.  The main actors are the accomplished and capable actors; Berenger, Collins, and Zane, with Sniper: Ultimate Kill being the first movie in the franchise where all 3 have appeared together. The only faulty acting in this movie is by Danay Garcia who just manages to recite her lines without tripping over her tongue and strangling herself.

Sniper: Ultimate Kill is a fun action movie that provides enjoyable viewing if you’re not looking for anything too cerebral or containing profound substance. You have seen this movie a 100 times in various forms, but when they are well done they are worth an hour or two of your time. Turn down the lights and pass the popcorn.

Kill and Die–Order Not Important

24 Hours to Live  (Theaters-2017; Streaming-2017)  Rated: R  Runtime: 92-93 minutesM 24 2017

Genre: Action-Mystery-Thriller

els – 5.5/10

IMDb – 5.8/10

Amazon – 3.6/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 4.2/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.0/5

Metacritic Metascore – 38/100

Metacritic User Score – 5.8/10

Directed by:  Brian Smrz

Written by:  Zach Dean, Jim McClain, Ron Mita

Music by:  Tyler Bates

Cast:  Ethan Hawke, Rutger Hauer, Paul Anderson, Qing Xu

Film Locations:  South Africa, Hong Kong, USA

Budget:  NA

Travis Conrad (Hawke) is an assassin, on sabbatical or as he states, a ‘hiatus’ from Red Mountain, a mercenary and security firm; a fictional representation of the real world Blackwater. He is re-activated by the company for an urgent time-sensitive task. His new mission is to eliminate a former Red Mountain employee who is going to testify against his employer; stating under oath that Red Mountain conducted Mengele-like medical experiments on scores of South African subjects.

The experiments were attempts to bring the dead back to life, and they succeeded, although success was bought with a costly, and gruesome, high body count.  Conrad, while tracking the rogue employee is killed, but is re-animated by the same back-from-the-dead procedures that Red Mountain has pioneered.  The catch is that there are some rather unpleasant side effects and the process is only good for 24 hours at which point he dies again.

This is a fun movie with lots of shooting, bullets, and bloody deaths. No hidden messages except the usual boiler plate of corporate boogeymen and anything for a buck, but that’s really not hidden; it’s full on in your face. This is Brian Smrz’s sophomore attempt at direction and he keeps it coarse with no frills, no long drawn out drama scenes to distract from what this movie is: an action movie.  The story holds together, it’s sparse and the actors give all that it takes to keep this movie going without any cringe worthy line delivers. The only negative is that Rutger Hauer was under utilized.  He could have brought more color to the film’s main sequences but the writers left him in a side story role, which was too bad.

Truthers

Unlocked  (Theaters-2017; Streaming-2017)  Rated: R  Runtime: 98 minutesM Unlocked 2017

Genre: Action-Mystery-Suspense-Thriller

els – 4.5/10

IMDb – 6.2/10

Amazon – 4.1/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 4.3/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.5/5

Metacritic Metascore – 46/100

Metacritic User Score – 6.1/10

Directed by:  Michael Apted

Written by:  Peter O’Brien

Music by:  Stephan Barton

Cast:  Noomi Rapace, Orlando Bloom, Michael Douglas, John Malkovich

Film Locations:  Prague, Czech Republic; London, England

Budget:  NA

A PTSD undercover CIA agent, Alice Racine (Rapace), assigned to a desk job in the immigrant slums of London, unlocks, or extracts information from an Islamic currier that has the potential to bring unfathomable terror to London and the world. The information she obtains is immediately compromised by a mole inside the CIA, and thus, begins a shoot ’em up race to find the mole and stop the terrorists from releasing a deadly biologic agent into the city population.

An all-star cast, along with an accomplished director: Apted, give their all to make something out of an incredibly predictable, misguided and sophomoric screenplay, but in the end it isn’t enough. When Eric Lasch (Douglas) makes an appearance early in the movie, you can get up and leave, the general outline of the movie is writ large and by continuing to watch the show you only gain the details and a headache.

Peter O’Brien is wholly responsible for this mixed up attempt of a spy thriller. If he had written this story without a Hollywood PC twist it may have worked, but instead his fantasy world beliefs make a total and unbelievable mess of the plot. This script makes some sense when you realize that O’Brien’s previous efforts included writing scripts for video games; his greatest credit being for Microsoft’s Halo: Reach.  What doesn’t make sense is how any one paid money to turn this script into a movie. Hopefully after this fiasco he will leave the movie business, and return to the realm of first person shooter games where the story is buried beneath the body count.

Liam’s Choice

Radius  (Theaters-2018; Streaming-2017)  Rated: NR  Runtime: 87-93 minutesM Radius 2017

Genre: Fantasy-Mystery-Science Fiction-Suspense-Thriller

els – 6.0/10

IMDb – 6.2/10

Amazon – 3.7/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 7.8/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.5/5

Metacritic Metascore – NA/100

Metacritic User Score – NA/10

Directed by:  Caroline Labrèche, Steeve Léonard

Written by:  Caroline Labrèche, Steeve Léonard

Music by:  Benoît Charest

Cast:  Diego Klattenhoff, Charlotte Sullivan

Film Location:  Selkirk, Manitoba, Canada

Budget:  NA

The mystery begins as Liam (Klattenhoff) wakes up in a confused state, lying next to an overturned car.  As he stumbles away from the car and walks down a lonely road, an approaching car slows, possibly to pick him up, but instead, appears to try to run him over in slow motion. Liam sidesteps the car, and it coasts off the road and comes to a stop in the ditch.  In a what-the moment, Liam approaches the car, opens the driver’s door, and finds the occupant dead.  Upon calling 911, or whatever the Canadian equivalent is, the operator asks for Liam’s name; stumped by the question he resorts to looking at his driver’s license for the answer. Liam remembers nothing, who he is, what he is, where he is; his existence started at the point of regaining consciousness at the crash site.  The dead driver scene repeats in various forms; people, birds, any living mammal that approach him, or vice versa, dies.  With the bodies piling up, he ultimately realizes that it isn’t a pathogen killing everyone; its him: get too close to Liam, a radius of a few tens of feet, and you die: instantly. Jane (Sullivan), a passenger in Liam’s car at the time of the crash, but unknown to Liam when he woke up at the crash site, tracks Liam down and they discover that his radius of death is inoperative when she is near. Her yin to his yang.

A set of moral dilemmas are introduced with a semi-transparent brush that are easily resolved, but not very satisfying, at least not from an emotional perspective.  Are you responsible for a past life that you can not remember? Are you responsible for a life that your are fully cognizant of, but unable to control?  Jane answers no to both queries. Liam answers yes, at least to the latter. The movie leaves you to decide his answer to the former.

This is Labreche and Leonard’s second low-budget movie they have directed together. Their first movie they directed, Sans Dessein (Without Design), was filmed in Montreal for $15,000 Canadian, and released in French in 2009. The movie received above average reviews from critics and viewers (IMDb 7.0/10).

In Radius the movie production is very good, for a low-budget film, and has met with similar reviews as Sans Dessein. I suspect their efforts in this movie, as writers and directors, will get them noticed by folks with deeper pockets in the near future.

An original story and script, with mostly good acting, certainly not bad. The directors set a pace that’s a tad slow, resulting in the viewer leaping ahead of the story, which in this case, is not necessarily bad.  An entertaining flick with a unsatisfying, but necessary ending.  Hitchcock may not have approved but he would have understood.

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