10. Kick-Ass (UK/USA, dir. Matthew Vaughn) [7/10]
-A high school geek (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) takes to the streets as the superhero Kick-Ass to fight crime. While I'm not a fan of these "nerd empowerment"-style of movies, this was quite enjoyable. All the characters are well-handled, the humor works, and the action is competent. Probably needed a little more Nicolas Cage, though.
09. Beneath Hill 60 (Australia, dir. Jeremy Sims) [7/10]
-Surprisingly good, mud-drenched World War I drama about Australian miners digging tunnels underneath no-man's-land. The atmosphere, suspense, and claustrophobia are so well-handled that you don't really notice that there's not really a whole lot of actual action. The only gripe I have is that the lighting could be a tad too dark at times, but that's understandable.
08. Batman: Under the Red Hood (USA, dir. Brandon Vietti) [7/10]
-Quite good animated Batman (Bruce Greenwood) movie. I don't want to give away too much, so just watch it if you're interested. The only major downside was some of the sci-fi-ish touches.
07. The A-Team (USA, dir. Joe Carnahan) [7/10]
-No, it's not as good as the original, masterful T.V. series, but this flick still provides a lot of entertainment. The cartoonishly over-the-top action sequences are at times hurt by the shaky-cam, but the humor is effective and the characters seem to have their respective personalities down well.
06. From Paris with Love (France, dir. Pierre Morel) [7/10]
-High-octane action/comedy with John Travolta, in the role of his career, blowing away thugs across Paris. It starts off kinda creaky, but once Travolta gets introduced, the whole thing takes off. There's lots of fist-pumping shoot-'em-up and a great twist that really makes the movie.
05. Armadillo (Denmark, dir. Janus Metz Pedersen) [7/10]
-A really good combat documentary that covers a group of Danish soldiers in Afghanistan. The footage of the firefights the squad fight themselves in are...well, "intense" is the only word that comes to mind. It really slaps you on the frontlines. The Danish soldiers seem like nice fellows (and they're allowed to have beards!), but even they get into some controversy towards the end. All that being said, the film never gives the audience a sense of the greater picture and some of the footage kinda looks a bit too glossy and polished to be real. Also, it's not really a problem of the filmmakers, but the subtitles are sometimes impossible to read, because they're always white, even when the background is.
04. Restrepo (USA, dir. Tim Hetherington, Sebastian Junger) [8/10]
-Absorbing documentary that follows American soldiers into action in the war in Afghanistan. Stationed in some remote mountain outpost, the troops have to deal with frequent Taliban attacks and communication breakdowns with the local Afghan villagers (in all fairness, these soldiers aren't exactly great diplomats). The whole flick goes by in a flash and contains some intense combat footage.
03. Inception (USA/UK, dir. Christopher Nolan) [8/10]
-Great, mind-bending action/sci-fi/thriller that is much easier to comprehend than I thought it would be. It starts off a bit shaky, chucking the audience into a bunch of dream and dream-inside-of-a-dream stuff, but soon explains everything, putting you on your feet. The whole thing is wonderfully intricate and the special effects are great. The drama is surprisingly powerful, but, with the notable exception of the hotel hallway fights, the action scenes seem pretty low-impact. I also wish they spent more time exploring the surreal aspects of their dreams (like the M.C. Escher staircase) and turning the film into Un Chien Andalou: The Action Movie, but oh, well.
02. The Expendables (USA, dir. Sylvester Stallone) [8/10]
-A macho all-star cast of too many people to name duke it out in this semi-successful ode to '80s action movies. On one hand, the movie is breathlessly paced with tons of excellent action scenes and a massive body count. Unfortunately, a lot of the action is marred by shaky-cam, obviously CGI blood, rapid-fast editing, dim lighting, and that kinda stuff. Most of the characters simply were not fleshed out enough, but the highly explosive finale forgives this to an extent.
01. Machete (USA, dir. Ethan Maniquis, Robert Rodriguez) [8/10]
-Hilarious, intentionally campy Mexploitation action movie about Danny Trejo slicing and dicing anybody who gets in his way. There's tons of cheesy gore and goofy action, but it's Steven Seagal as the villain who dominates the movie. It can be a bit too political at times and the pacing never really gets kicked into overdrive, but it's still one of the funniest and wildest action/comedies ever.
10. Fast Five (USA, dir. Justin Lin) [7/10]
-This is how the series should've been from the beginning. No douchy street-races and minimal hip-hop music. Add lots of lethal gunplay and Dwayne Johnson being as over-the-top badass as possible. Plus, they really outdid themselves with the finale, creating a car chase for the ages.
09. Super 8 (USA, dir. J.J. Abrams) [7/10]
-Set in 1979, a group of small-town kids (Joel Courtney, Riley Griffiths, Zach Mills, Gabriel Basso, Ryan Lee, and Elle Fanning) are trying to make their own zombie movie when a mysterious train crash threatens the well-being of the community. It's a solid, pleasant summer movie that was really on a roll when showing the kids making their movie and when depicting the paranoia and uncertainty in the town after the train crash. The acting by all the kids is really impressive and there's some effective humor. The whole thing probably did get a little too out-of-control in the last quarter or so and there were moments when the film probably could've benefited from being a bit darker, but, overall, I really dug it.
08. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (USA, dir. Rupert Wyatt) [7/10]
-The second best in the series (after the first one, of course) has a scientist (James Franco) who raises an extremely intelligent ape (Andy Serkis) who's taken brain-enhancing chemicals. It's probably the most dramatic of the whole series, with plenty of moving moments. It's got great pacing and a fantastic performance by Serkis, but, on the down side, the action isn't quite as destructive and out-of-control as I would've hoped and the ending (with the exception of the little mid-credits scene) isn't cynical enough for a Planet of the Apes movie finale.
07. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (USA, dir. Brad Bird) [8/10]
-The best of the whole damn series. Just about every scene in the movie has some high-octane action or captivating suspense. The gadgets are fun-as-Hell (love that hallway scene in the Kremlin!), Simon Pegg provides great comic relief, and the violence is some of the most graphic I've seen in a PG-13 movie. There's some minor flaws (the main villain was pretty bland and the finale wasn't quite as good as some of the action that preceded it), but, overall, this flick's riveting and kept my attention every frame of it.
06. The Artist (France/Belgium, dir. Michel Hazanavicius) [8/10]
-An enthusiastic silent film star (Jean Dujardin) loses control of his life when he fails to make the transition to talkies. The cinematography's incredible, the acting from everybody is outstanding, and, despite the fact it's black-and-white and silent, it doesn't feel like an art film. It's a fitting tribute to the silent films of old and it's great to see a modern movie that tries to be both a well-crafted work of art and a crowd-pleaser. It's also a joy to see Ed Lauter in there! However, the abrupt happy ending kinda feels deus-ex-machina-ish and my entertainment value from the film is kinda held back by the fact that I'm not a fan of rom-coms or showbiz dramas.
05. Eyes of the Mothman (USA, dir. Matthew J. Pellowski) [8/10]
-Eye-opening (no pun intended) documentary about the creepy series of seemingly-paranormal encounters in 1966-1967 Point Pleasant, West Virginia (and the surrounding area). During these troublesome times, the residents of the town reported hundreds of sightings of a man-bird creature, UFOs, and Men in Black. Some of the stuff is a bit hard to believe (the stuff about a Native American curse and little aliens aren't convincing), but it is a well-made flick that kept me glued to the screen. It's pretty long (two-and-a-half hours long), but it's worth it and is an interesting look at small-town America in a time of unnerving terror. Naturally, I'm kinda skeptical about many of the movie's claims, but, assuming the majority of what the documentary tells us is true, we can be fairly certain that something very odd was taking place in West Virginia in the mid-'60s.
04. The Raid: Redemption (Indonesia/USA, dir. Gareth Evans) [8/10]
-An Indonesian SWAT team is sent on a deadly mission to clear out an apartment building controlled by a sadistic mob boss (Ray Sahetapy). The vicious action scenes are top-of-the-line and non-stop. Yeah, there's some problems, like the lack of dramatic involvement (well, until the twist about an hour in), the shitty CGI blood that takes the edge off some of the violence, and the fact it fails to deliver another action scene towards the end (the fight with Mad Dog [Yayan Ruhian] kinda felt like the warm-up battle of the climax). Nonetheless, it's still one of the better martial arts movies out there (and Pierre Gruno is the Indonesian Lee Marvin).
03. The Grey (USA, dir. Joe Carnahan) [8/10]
-Uneven, yet thrilling, adventure/drama/thriller movie about a plane full of oil workers (including Liam Neeson) crashing in the middle of the Alaskan tundra and the survivors fighting off savage wolves. Some of the action scenes (the wolf attacks, struggles against weather/terrain, etc.) are ultra-intense (despite shaky-cam) and borderline scary and the characters turn out to be fairly-well fleshed out. Neeson's character is incredibly badass and the emotion and drama are wonderfully handled. The biggest flaw is the infamous, anti-climatic ending, which is kind of frustrating, but the awesomeness of the set-pieces that preceded sorta makes up for it.
02. Conan O'Brien Can't Stop (USA, dir. Rodman Flender) [8/10]
-Great warts-and-all documentary about talk show host Conan O'Brien's comedy tour around the country after losing his job at The Tonight Show. The backstage look at the production really makes the audience feel the exhaustion of Conan and his crew and gives them a look at a different side of O'Brien's personality. There's a fair share of laugh-out-loud moments and it's so fast-paced that it seems to go by in the blink of an eye.
01. The Adventures of Tintin (USA/New Zealand, dir. Steven Spielberg) [8/10]
-This adaptation of the classic fictional Belgian reporter Tintin's (Jamie Bell) early adventures is entertaining-as-Hell. The opening credits, which show pulp storytelling at its very best, set the bar pretty high, and the rest of the movie fails to disappoint. The cinematography, especially during the manic action scenes, is dazzling and the pacing is breakneck. The only major problem with the movie is its depiction of Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) as a bumbling, pathetic comic relief character, rather than a humorously-ill-tempered badass. Even though it's animated, it still runs with the best of the action/adventure genre.
10. Taken 2 (France, dir. Olivier Megaton) [7/10]
-Well, I liked it. It's nowhere nearly as good as the first one, which was an action movie masterpiece, but I thought it was good as a piece of rock-'em-sock-'em cinematic junk food. Things are campier this time around (gotta love the grenade scenes) and the action scenes aren't shot as well as the original (not that much shaky-cam, but lots of fast edits and camera angles too close to the action), but I had fun. For a PG-13-rated flick, it is quite vicious at times (the scene where Liam Neeson's ex-wife [Famke Janssen] is tortured is far more brutal than anything in the unrated version of the first one), but the gun violence and sound effects for the hand-to-hand combat scenes do feel neutered. Anyway, it's really fast-paced, Neeson is as badass as ever, and the action, despite the way it's shot/edited, is fairly exciting. I also liked how it acknowledged the fact that the faceless goons in action films have family and friends, although this aspect wasn't exploited to its fullest potential.
09. Argo (USA, dir. Ben Affleck) [7/10]
-Based on a true story, a CIA agent (Ben Affleck) has gotta rescue American citizens trapped in Iran after that country's Islamic revolution in 1979 by pretending to be making a crappy science-fiction movie. This one's really good, with little filler/fat, a good sense of humor (political thriller and movie business dramedy are combined seamlessly), some thrilling set pieces, and genuine suspense. The geopolitical stuff is handled well, but I do think the momentum lags a bit before the climax arrives.
08. The Avengers (USA, dir. Joss Whedon) [7/10]
-Earth's greatest superheroes, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawk-Eye (Jeremy Renner), unite to thwart Loki's (Tom Hiddleston) plot to take over the planet. While it doesn't quite live up to the hype, it's still pretty damn good. Of course, the best part was how well it juggled all the characters and gave each a time to shine (glad to see Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury given plenty to do). As much as I love to grumble and bitch about CGI, I have to admit that the final battle in New York City was handled very well and delivered (almost) all of the goods. While certainly never boring, the first half or so of the movie doesn't really generate a whole lot of tension due the story revolving around a small blue cube. Also, I couldn't help but feel a little overwhelmed with all the superhero and CG whiz-bangery going on.
07. Dredd (UK/USA/India/South Africa, dir. Pete Travis) [7/10]
-This adaptation of the Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) comics lives up to the hype. This movie doesn't dick around, telling you everything you need to know and then letting you watch Urban shoot the Hell outta criminals for an hour and a half. Urban's scowl is great, as are the visuals, the art direction, and the fact that there's two major female characters (Olivia Thirlby and Lena Headey) and neither of them get tied down with a romantic subplot. My only gripe is that the action scenes, while explosive and gory, are kinda generic. I mean, Urban and Thirlby just walk around, casually shooting clowns who never stood a chance.
06. Skyfall (UK/USA, dir. Sam Mendes) [7/10]
-The best James Bond (Daniel Craig in this one) movie yet doesn't quite live up to everything it promises (the stuff about 007's background, while good ideas, aren't fully exploited), but still manages to be one Helluva ride. Javier Bardem is one of the best baddies in the whole franchise and the action scenes are devoid of shaky-cam. The plot is reasonably straight-forward and the decision to set the finale on a smaller, more intimate, and meaningful scale works wonders. Albert Finney's Kincade is also the best character in the whole damn series.
05. Celebration Day (UK, dir. Dick Carruthers) [8/10]
-Turn this one up until your speakers blow. This is the last concert of rock gods Led Zeppelin (with Jason Bonham standing in on the drums for his late father, John) and features them burning down the house in top form. Most of the big hits ("Stairway to Heaven," "Rock and Roll," "Whole Lotta Love," etc.) are covered, but there were several disappointing omissions (like "Achilles Last Stand," "Over the Hills and Far Away," and "Immigrant Song"). Yeah, I know they can't play everything. Still, it's a rockin' experience that had me head-banging and getting totally pumped-up.
04. Safe (USA, dir. Boaz Yakin) [8/10]
-Jason Statham plays a former elite cop who's gotta protect a young girl (Catherine Chan) from mobsters who want to exploit her photographic memory for criminal purposes. This is the Statham vehicle we've all been waiting for, thanks to its fast pace, simple, yet involving, story, and desire to deliver all the goods to fans of the action genre. No romantic subplot, no watered-down violence, and no convoluted plotting. While the camera did shake a tad too much for me during the action scenes, the fights and shootouts are still thrilling (New York City hasn't seen this much warfare since Death Wish 3). I really liked how it had an emotional core to it, which just made the carnage all the more satisfying. Other than the camerawork, the only minor gripe I have is that it didn't end with as big a bang as it could've. Oh, well.
03. FDR: American Badass! (USA, dir. Garrett Brawith) [8/10]
-So, Franklin D. Roosevelt (Barry Bostwick) actually contracted polio from a Nazi werewolf bite, ended Prohibition to prevent tainted alcohol from turning the American populace into monsters, and fought Werewolf Adolf Hitler (Jesse Merlin) on the beach of Normandy in a tricked-out wheelchair. Personally, I loved this ludicrous, low-budget comedy, although anybody with any taste, class, or self-respect whatsoever will probably despise it. Maybe I'm easy to please, but anachronistic swearing and bawdiness never gets old to me. It's wildly irreverent (check out the scene of FDR smoking George Washington's wacky-tobacky with Abraham Lincoln's [Kevin Sorbo] ghost), filthy, tasteless, disrespectful, and hilarious. It does try a bit too hard to be cool at times (mainly at the very beginning) and some scenes may have gone on a bit too long, but I had a blast.
02. The Expendables 2 (USA, dir. Simon West) [8/10]
-The all-star cast is back, this time to stop a group of mercenaries (led by Jean-Claude Van Damme and Scott Adkins) from seizing some weapons-grade plutonium. All sorts of ass gets kicked and, overall, it's a better movie than the first one. I really dug how this one gave the characters a chance to flesh themselves out and show off their personalities a bit more. All the actors are well-utilized and all get their chance to shine. The awesome action scenes are shaky-cam-free (except for stuff like vehicles crashing or whatever) and the pacing is breakneck. Unfortunately, the painfully-obvious CGI blood and gore is back and worse than ever and the whole thing doesn't really build up to a climax very well (it's one of those "oh, this must be the climatic action scene coming up...hmmm...okay"-type movies). Some of the post-modern/self-referential jokes were a bit much and unnecessary, but I still laughed at them. It does take a bit too much pride in its lunkheadedness, but, despite some flaws, I'd still rank it as one of the most entertaining action movies I've seen.
01. The Dark Knight Rises (USA/UK, dir. Christopher Nolan) [9/10]
-The last of Christopher Nolan's Batman films has Batman (Christian Bale) facing a plot by Bane (Tom Hardy) to take over Gotham City through terrorism and mob rule. This is, in my opinion, the best Batman film yet (by far), but it is still a flawed masterpiece with some frustrating aspects. Does the movie pull some punches? Hell yeah, it does, but it went as far as it could go (although I still had that feeling that the film was about to pull itself away from the dark abyss to remain commercially viable at any time). This movie really has a pair and is dark-as-Hell at times, but it does feel a bit weighed down by its need to stay in PG-13 territory and bring in the younger audiences. It's not a neutered movie, but do we really need American flags waving in the breeze, cheering orphans, villains who can't shoot a mob of charging policemen with automatic weapons, and semi-apocalyptic carnage that's almost entirely bloodless? However, the whole thing is epic, fast-paced, thrilling, gripping, and overflowing with awesome action scenes that are shaky-cam-free. The film's atmosphere and tension are brutally downbeat in the best way possible and, despite its long runtime, it goes by in a flash. Yeah, I have plenty of quibbles (Bane feeling kinda pointless in retrospect, weird pseudophilosphical babble, a creaky plot, half-baked political ideas, a cop-out ending, an inappropriate lack of cynicism for such dark subject matter, the lack of noirish/expressionistic touches that made the art direction of Tim Burton's Batman films and the animated series [Batman: The Animated Series that started in 1992] so memorable, etc.), but I still can't help but love it. Also, Bane should've been played by Danny Trejo and Batman should've said "Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb" during the climax.
10. Red 2 (USA/France/Canada, dir. Dean Parisot) [7/10]
-I thought this one was significantly better than the first. The humor's constantly amusing and John Malkovich is a real scene-stealer. Having Mary-Louise Parker tag along actually helps the film, adding unique comedic and dramatic dimensions to it. The action's solid, too. The plot is pretty episodic, but the individual set-pieces are good enough to make up for this.
09. Kick-Ass 2 (USA/UK, dir. Jeff Wadlow) [7/10]
-I thought this was roughly on par with the first one. It's a bit darker, which I appreciated, and develops Hitgirl's (Chloë Grace Moretz) personality more. There's plenty of superheroes and supervillains, and, while it doesn't quite top the original, it is a worthy entry in the superhero genre.
08. Fast & Furious 6 (USA, dir. Justin Lin) [7/10]
-The non-action scenes are pretty uninteresting, but, man, oh, man, are the action scenes rockin'. Seriously, this is some of the very best vehicular mayhem ever filmed. The non-vehicle action is sweet, too, but the stuff involving cars, a tank, and a plane are out-of-this-world. Also, it features the longest runway is the world. I think you could see that thing from the Moon.
07. World War Z (USA/Malta, dir. Marc Forster) [7/10]
-While Brad Pitt isn't the most convincing action hero, I really enjoyed this action-packed zombie apocalypse flick (and, yes, I did watch the unrated version). Some of the action seems incoherent, but it's quite thrilling at other times. The plot probably could've been tightened, but, then again, the film probably would've lost its globe-trotting quality. My only real gripe is that the finale is hardly the most satisfying set-piece in the movie.
06. The Last Stand (USA, dir. Jee-woon Kim) [7/10]
-A drug lord (Eduardo Noriega) busts out of custody and is headed back to Mexico with a small army of thugs helping him. Unfortunately for them, they have to pass through a small town that has Arnold Schwarzenegger as its sheriff. The plot's pretty straightforward (thank God that they didn't include a romantic subplot for Arnie) and the action is competently-handled and deliciously bloody. The comedy, intentional and unintentional, works really well and balances with the serious content very nicely. The characters are all well-fleshed-out and Johnny Knoxville doesn't feel out-of-place at all. My only major gripe is that the climax (with Arnie going mano-a-mano with Noriega) drags on quite a bit and is less exciting than the preceding battle in the town, which is an orgy of gun-fetishism.
05. Snitch (USA/United Arab Emirates, dir. Ric Roman Waugh) [7/10]
-Dwayne Johnson's son (Rafi Gavron) is sent to prison on a drug-trafficking violation, so Johnson decides to free him by helping the feds nab some higher-ranking drug cartel thugs. While it does succumb to traditional action film conventions at times, I was really intrigued by this little drama/thriller. It's kinda hard to feel a lot of sympathy for Johnson's dumbass son, but the rest of the movie's really tight and effective.
04. Gangster Squad (USA, dir. Ruben Fleischer) [7/10]
-Based on a true story, a group of Los Angeles cops in the 1940s (Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, Robert Patrick, and Michael Peña) are assigned to wage war on local mob boss Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn). To my delight, the flick is unapologetically pulpy and has a take-no-prisoners attitude. I mean, this is the kinda flick where a guy (Mackie) impales another man's hand to a wall with a thrown knife and a seasoned, Wild West-style lawman (Patrick) favors using a single-action revolver over submachine guns. There lots of violence and gunplay throughout and the cast has plenty of stars. I do think that Gosling is an unconvincing tough guy and the characters' behavior during the shootouts is overly casual (people stand calmly behind columns being eroded by automatic weapons fire without so much as wincing or acting concerned).
03. Iron Man 3 (USA/China, dir. Shane Black) [7/10]
-I was kinda skeptical with this one at first, with all the faux-angst and CGI-for-the-sake-of-CGI. However, I warmed up to the movie and I think it's the best of the trilogy (although I haven't seen any of the other ones since they were in theaters). I'm a sucker for sky-diving action scenes, so I loved the mid-air rescue scene, of course. I also dig the voice Ben Kingsley used for the Mandarin and the big battle with the Iron Men army at the end.
02. Mililus (USA, dir. Joey Figueroa and Zak Knutson) [8/10]
-Absorbing documentary on renegade filmmaker John Milius. A treasure trove of information on the man, this one is a must-see for fans of Badass Cinema. Tons of big names get interviewed and the pacing never lags.
01. Machete Kills (USA/Russia, dir. Robert Rodriguez) [8/10]
-Now this was as good as the first one, probably even better. It's even more shamelessly silly, with the best use of helicopters in an action movie ever and previews for a ludicrous sequel that's bound to change cinema forever. I do think the movie tries to juggle too much, with the plot just barely keeping together, but, damn, is it hilarious. I won't spoil any details, but this flick really fulfills its promise of being an unchained, campy, out-of-control, did-they-really-just-go-there?, anything-goes experience.
10. Edge or Tomorrow (USA/Canada, dir. Doug Liman) [7/10]
-Groundhog Day meets War of the Worlds meets Saving Private Ryan. It's quite entertaining, but I felt Tom Cruise's character's exhaustion a bit too much. The concept is well-executed and the combat scenes are pretty intense, but it sorta runs outta steam by the time the finale rolls around (an action scene which, to me, at least, had a questionable sense of geography). Oh, yeah, also, they mention Verdun a bunch of times. Woo, I've been to that battlefield, woo.
09. Fury (USA/China/UK, dir. David Ayer) [7/10]
-I liked this tank-based World War II flick, but I felt it was tonally inconsistent. The first half (or so) is a gritty, brutal, Hellish look at war that borders on nihilistic. The finale, though, is a glorious, video gamey shoot-'em-up scene, with a single tank crew wiping out half the Nazi army, with Bible verses being quoted beforehand. It's like God is dead in the first half, but comes back to life in the second part. Some of the blood effects looked pretty bad, too, probably because of CGI. Despite these criticisms, I enjoyed both halves for what they were and appreciated how easy it was to tell the characters apart from one another. The scenes inside the tank gave a pretty good sense of claustrophobia.
08. Guardians of the Galaxy (USA/UK, dir. James Gunn) [7/10]
-This charming flick's real strength is its characters. They're all well-defined and colorful, which adds a lot to the viewing experience. While I enjoyed it thoroughly, it does, at times, kinda feel like just another save-the-universe/world/whatever-type of blockbuster that's really popular right now. It does have more heart, though, than most other movies I've seen in that genre, though.
07. John Wick (USA, dir. Chad Stahelski, David Leitch) [7/10]
-Solid, stylish flick that's basically an orgy of headshots. Keanu Reeves plays a ex-hitman who comes out of retirement to kill a bunch of people. Sometimes Reeves has it a bit too easy, but the action scenes were still very well-executed. Thank God they didn't bog things down with romance. However, I do have a bit of a problem with how the best action sequences (like the home invasion and the nightclub shootout) aren't saved for last.
06. A Walk Among the Tombstones (USA, dir. Scott Frank) [7/10]
-Taken meets The Silence of the Lambs. It might not be an action or a horror movie, but it's still a solid thriller. Sure, it's not the most pleasant film ever made, but I found it quite satisfying and tense. It also renewed my fear of creepy-looking vans. The name "Liam Neeson" apparently means "quality."
05. Kingsman: The Secret Service (UK; dir. Matthew Vaughn) [7/10]
-This tale of Taron Egerton becoming an elite secret agent oozes "cool" from every orifice without being Tarantino-esque (a bad thing in my book) and gives Colin Firth a real opportunity to be a badass action hero. The action scenes are positively manic and the gadgets and technology are almost too much to handle (in a good sort of way). This flick really nails just about everything, from the training scenes to the head-exploding, action-packed finale. Likable/interesting characters all around and Egerton's transformation from street punk to classy tough guy is fist-pump-inducing.
04. The Lego Movie (Australia/USA/Denmark, dir. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller) [7/10]
-A Lego construction worker (Chris Pratt) must join forces with an underground network of Master Builders to save the Lego universe from being glued into place. It combines all sorts of childhood fantasies (pirates, Batman, Star Wars, the Wild West, etc.) under one roof and features stunning visuals. The action is sometimes so manic and chaotic that it's hard to tell what's going on, but it's forgivable. It's really funny, too, with lots of good jokes. The voice-acting (especially Liam Neeson) is top-of-the-line and the satire is surprisingly sharp.
03. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (USA, dir. Anthony Russo, Joe Russo) [7/10]
-Wow, this movie is basically one, big montage of people surviving massive falls with a minimum of damage. Okay, it does push the boundaries of believability a bit, but, hey, it's a comic book movie. There's plenty of well-handled action scenes and the story is really good, too. The pacing never lets up and the finale, where our heroes must eliminate not one, not two, but three flying aircraft carriers is a knock-out.
02. Non-Stop (UK/France/USA, dir. Jaume Collet-Serra) [8/10]
-During a flight, an air marshal (Liam Neeson) receives a text message saying that one person on the plane will die every twenty minutes until $150 million is placed in a bank account. This movie is contrived, preposterous, and I loved it. The suspense is relentless and the action scenes, while few and far between, are hard-hitting and satisfying. Neeson is a total badass and film establishes a great atmosphere.
01. The Expendables 3 (USA/France, dir. Patrick Hughes) [8/10]
-I must be in the minority on this one, because I thought it was awesome. I was skeptical going in, but I think the film proved itself to be almost as good as the first two. While I would've preferred an R-rating, the PG-13-rating doesn't really detract from the quality of the movie. I could've done without the young, new Expendables, but I don't think they steal the show from the old guys. Although the camera frequently seems a bit too close to the combat, the action scenes, despite being sanitized, are pretty spectacular, especially the relentless, all-out battle in the abandoned casino (or whatever the building was supposed to be). Mel Gibson just might be the strongest villain the series has had yet and the pacing is fast enough to make it seem shorter than two hours. All that being said, I would've given Jet Li a hand-to-hand combat scene and the good-guy-versus-bad-guy ratio is definitely off.
10. Avengers: Age of Ultron (USA, dir. Joss Whedon) [7/10]
-Man, this flick is just plain overkill, and not in a particularly good sort of way. It's certainly not a bad movie, but it's just so full of CGI whiz-bangery. Our heroes are simply too invincible, meaning there's not a whole lot of sense of danger, and it's sometimes a tad too kiddie-friendly (although Black Widow's [Scarlett Johansson] backstory was pretty dark). Ultron (James Spader) is a sweet villain, but his motivations could've been less murky. Does he want to annihilate mankind because of their inherently self-destructive nature or because he wants to advance the evolution of "life," or some combination of the two? It should've been easier to root for him, if you know what I mean. The plot lumbers from one over-the-top set-piece to the next. Also, Vision (Paul Bettany). What the Hell was up with that guy? Despite all these criticisms, I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't entertained. The action, while borderline numbing, is pretty dazzling and all the characters get a chance to shine.
09. Spectre (UK/USA, dir. Sam Mendes) [7/10]
-Not brilliant, but I enjoyed it. Does the plot make perfect sense in every regard? Hell if I know, I'm not good at piecing that sort of stuff together. There are a few moments when the pacing comes dangerously close to dragging and there may have been a false endingish moment or two, but the powerful action scenes largely made up for that. The opening shot is truly marvelous and I think Daniel Craig has solidified his position as the best James Bond. Léa Seydoux is a surprisingly strong Bond girl, although having her fall in love with 007 was an unfortunate going-through-the-motions aspect of the film. Does every woman that Bond meets have to fall for him? Some of the humor was appreciated and that torture scene was absolutely brutal! It was probably too long and it can't really compete with Skyfall or Craig's Casino Royale, but I think it was a fairly strong entry into the 007 series.
08. Miracles Out of Nowhere (USA, dir. Charles Randazzo) [7/10]
-This documentary talks about the classic rock band Kansas and their origins through their first five albums. The original lineup, as well as Garth Brooks and Queen's Brian May, all get to weigh in. The stuff that gets covered is good, but I wish it was longer, that they covered more of their later career, and that they went into more detail about some individual songs (the only ditties that they went in-depth on are, of course, "Carry On Wayward Son" and "Dust in the Wind").
07. Run All Night (USA, dir. Jaume Collet-Serra) [7/10]
-This is a solid movie, featuring Liam Neeson doing what he does best. While the dialogue sometimes seems a bit off, the action doesn't always feel completely coherent, and it's not quite as relentless as it could've been, it's still proof that the Neeson name means quality. After a fairly talky start, the film delivers almost non-stop acts of violence and moments of intensity. I definitely liked the atmosphere, too. Maybe there's too much family bullshit, but the movie is just so damn entertaining that that doesn't really matter a whole lot.
06. Spy (USA, dir. Paul Feig) [7/10]
-Quite good action/comedy with Jason Statham effortlessly stealing every scene he's in (although everybody in the cast gets to shine). Unlike The Heat (which I also enjoyed), this is an actual action movie, with a healthy amount of mayhem and pull-no-punches violence. The plot kinda lost me at a couple of points, but the humor mostly works.
05. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (USA/Hong Kong/China, dir. Christopher McQuarrie) [8/10]
-This flick kicks ass. Yeah, the plot was really twisty-turny, possibly excessively so, but, hey, it's a Mission: Impossible movie after all. The action scenes (and Tom Cruise's entrance) are pretty spectacular, even if Cruise seems a bit indestructible. The characters all work and there's some fun gadgets. I do take issue with the film's final action scene not being the movie's best, though, but that's a minor issue. Oh, yeah, there's also Rebecca Ferguson...
04. Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom (UK/Ukraine/USA, dir. Evgeny Afineevsky) [8/10]
-Stirring documentary on the Ukrainian Revolution of 2013-2014, when pro-European protesters took on the country's pro-Russian government. The actual footage of clashes and acts of violence between the two opposing forces is in-your-face and intense. Is it one-sided? You betcha, but this doesn't detract from the film's power. It's an inspiring picture that shows how far people will go for their rights, dignity, and the "European Dream."
03. Mad Max: Fury Road (Australia/USA, dir. George Miller) [8/10]
-Man, this is one intense flick. The heart-pounding and truly manic action scenes are extreme and the imagination that created this sci-fi world is incredible. The non-action scenes kinda left me wishing for more carnage, but, when the mayhem does arrive, it fully satisfies. Definitely my favorite of the Mad Max series.
02. Furious Seven (USA/Japan, dir. James Wan) [8/10]
-Overkill, sweet overkill. This movie is crammed with enough action for two or three flicks. The whole cast knocks it out of the park (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, especially, knows what kind of movie he's in) and the various action scenes are delightfully diverse, hard-hitting, unbelievably kinetic, and exhausting (in a good sort of way). They just keep coming. It's a relentless, furious (pun sorta intended) ride that has a heart, too. Plus, it has Vin Diesel taking a sledgehammer to a cemetery.
01. Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (USA, dir. J.J. Abrams) [10/10]
-This film may be fan fiction, but, goddamn, it's the best fan fiction I've ever encountered. It definitely plays it safe (very safe), but I can't help but have the Hell entertained out of me. There's never a dull moment and the characters are all vibrant. The special effects and visuals are generally top-notch and the action scenes are exquisite. I have some minor quibbles, like the fact that it may have one villain too many, there's not much build-up to the Starkiller Base, and Rey (Daisy Ridley) being dangerously close to being a Mary Sue. The whole thing does make the celebrations at the end of Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi seem less joyous, but I still love it.
06. Donald Trump's The Art of the Deal: The Movie (USA, dir. Jeremy Konner) [7/10]
-Pretty good, fifty-minute comedy that takes a peek behind the scenes of Donald Trump's success and - wait - is that Johnny Depp playing Trump?!? Holy shit. Anyway, some of the satire works, but, even at less than an hour, the joke starts to wear thin after a while. A couple of my friends, not knowing anything about it, watched this on Netflix and had some good laughs and - oh, my God, it's ANDY RICHTER!
05. The Siege of Jadotville (Ireland/South Africa, dir. Richie Smyth) [7/10]
-During the Congolese Civil War of the 1960s, a group of Irish United Nations soldiers are surrounded at their outpost in the break-away province of Katanga by white mercenary-backed rebels. It's an incredible true story, and this movie does an above-average job retelling it. The complex geopolitics behind the incident are generally handled in an easy-to-understand manner and there's plenty of good combat action. Think of it as the Irish version of Zulu or The Siege of Firebase Gloria (okay, it's not as good as those movies, but it's still a worthy war flick).
04. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (USA, dir. Zack Snyder) [7/10]
-Well, I like it. Was it kinda sloppy? Yeah. Kinda messy? Yup. Joyless? Yes. Sorta bizarre at times? Uh-huh. Still, it grabbed me on the basic level of "not being boring." I was engaged by the characters and curiously wondered what would happen next. It was pretty intense and even a tad thought-provoking at times. Perhaps there was a bit too much CGI whiz-bangery towards the end, but, overall, I was very entertained. The relentlessly brutal action scenes are sometimes solid and sometimes terrific (the best ones being the Batman [Ben Affleck here]-oriented ones). It's fantastic to see a Batman who doesn't give a shit about killing evil criminals. Flawed film, but I enjoyed almost all of it. I may be in the minority on this one, but I'm excited to see where the DC Comics films go from here.
03. The Magnificent Seven (USA, dir. Antoine Fuqua) [7/10]
-Not as good as the 1960 original, but still very, very entertaining. This one certainly has a lot more action and mayhem than the original (a good thing), but the 1960 one had better characters (and clearer motivations for them), a better cast, a superior musical score, and an internationalist/Wilsonian edge to it (due to the fact that the heroes are fighting for justice on foreign soil, while the gunslingers of the 2016 remake are in domestic territory). The action scene quality is roughly on par with the original, although the remake has a lot more of them.
02. Hacksaw Ridge (Australia/USA, dir. Mel Gibson) [8/10]
-Holy Hell, now this is a war movie! Just about everything works here. Even the scenes setting up Desmond Doss' (Andrew Garfield) backstory are engaging. Of course, the truly ferocious battle scenes, depicting World War II's Battle of Okinawa, are among the big highlights. They're just about as gory as they come and hard-hitting, chaotic, and biting. Doss' heroism and conviction to his values are undeniably inspiring, giving the film a real emotional core. On the down side, there are a few moments that seem less than realistic (the American soldiers occasionally have great aim when armed with an automatic weapon and dealing with large numbers of charging Japanese troops) and most of the members of Doss' team are completely interchangeable. Still, it's a must-see for war film buffs.
01. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (USA, dir. Gareth Edwards) [10/10]
-In the days leading up to the events in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, the Rebel Alliance finds itself in a desperate position as the Galactic Empire completes its planet-killing Death Star space station. I'm not sure if I consider it canon in my personal head-canon (I don't think it quite lines up perfectly with the original trilogy), but, man, oh, man, is this movie entertaining or what? The moody, somewhat gloomy tone of the movie gives it a gripping edge and all the locations, creatures, etc. feel highly exotic. The action scenes are thrilling and the characters, while perhaps not as well-drawn as the ones from previous Star Wars pictures, keep you emotionally-invested. Some of the fan-service seems a bit unnecessary, but, hey, what are you gonna do?
My IMDb Lists
Last edited by The Hestinator on Mon Dec 19, 2016 8:14 pm, edited 87 times in total.