Babylon A.D. review

Cast:
Vin Diesel
Michelle Yeoh
Mélanie Thierry

Vin Diesel is back, it’s just a shame his latest picture doesn’t make much sense.

In this sci-fi flick, Diesel plays Toorop, a battle-hardened mercenary who is hired to protect a young woman who’s traveling across the world from Russia to the United States.

What makes this incredibly difficult for the heroes, though, is that the world is in a poor state. The planet appears to be mostly slums because of overpopulation and constant wars.

The premise of “Babylon” could have worked just fine had it been more streamlined. Diesel playing an experienced warrior helping somebody get from point A to point B safely in a not-quite post apocalyptic world could be an exciting sci-fi action picture.

However, the issue is that the movie both takes itself way too seriously and also provides a convoluted plot. Story points about a cult and a messiah along with poorly explained powers and a sloppy ending make for a movie that’s extremely hard to follow without any sort of heart.

Another issue is how it handles Diesel’s character. In other films, such as “The Fast and the Furious” and “xXx,” Diesel doesn’t provide great performances, per se, but he does have a great bit of charm and those films played with that by having his characters have some wit and cleverness along with his toughness.

In “Babylon,” Diesel’s character is terribly bland and overly serious. The writing for his character feels so constrictive and Diesel is unable to deliver some charisma. Another problem was the woman he protects, played by Mélanie Thierry, seems under developed and the two performers have little chemistry.

Also rather dull here was the action. Despite being a sci-fi, the film doesn’t offer anything really innovative, settling instead for fairly typical combat sequences. The nicest part of the picture is that it includes some well designed city settings.

Sadly, “Babylon A.D.” is a largely forgettable picture. The characters are poor, the acting is bland, the action is lame and the story lacks sense. 1 out of 5.

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Death Race review

Cast:
Jason Statham
Joan Allen
Ian McShane
Tyrese Gibson
Natalie Martinez

Cars that shoot other cars. How could you go wrong?

“Death Race” is mainly centered on the character Jensen Ames, a blue collar factory worker trying to support his family in a depression after getting famous as a NASCAR racer. He is framed for murdering his wife, though, and sent to a prison to compete in Death Race.

The event is a wild tournament where prisoners are sanctioned to use weaponized cars in a race. If the prisoners win enough times, they get to go free. Jensen is hesitant at first but decides to take the opportunity to get out.

“Death Race” is classic exploitation cinema. Similar to last year’s “Grindhouse” double feature which included “Death Proof” and “Planet Terror,” “Death Race” opts to sell itself on extreme violence, over the top action and some campy acting. Fortunately for audiences, the filmmakers nailed their attempt.

The movie simply delivers a barrel of fun, with the car chases being fast, furious, gritty and exciting. The movie manages to up the stakes in the races, too, for example adding a weaponized semi truck later in the picture.

The acting in “Death Race” is also serviceable. It’s nothing masterful, but there’s a hammyness in the delivery that actually works here. Statham, for example is the grizzled wrongly accused prisoner who’s tough but still has a good heart, and he gets the role right.

Joan Allen, meanwhile, has a lot of fun with her role as the civil but nefarious warden who helped frame Statham’s character. Who really helps the movie out, though, is Ian McShane, who is perfect as the movie’s experienced mentor to Statham’s character.

A bit forgettable, though, was Tyrese Gibson. His character ranged from loud and brash to quiet and cold and Gibson couldn’t seem to find a balance.

Additionally, the plot is paper thin, providing nothing but a string to connect each race. The rest of the cast is below average, too.

The film isn’t by technical terms, a good movie, but it is a fun picture that one can enjoy for its action sequences. Very high 3 out of 5.

Righteous Kill review

Righteous Kill
Cast:
Al Pacino
Robert De Niro
50 Cent

Two of Hollywood’s best star in a movie that’s unfortunately quite mediocre.

Both Pacino and De Niro play New York City Police Detectives who’ve gained plenty of experience in their jobs.

A new case comes up that challenges the officers, though, in a serial killer who’s murdering other criminals in the Big Apple. After some research, the two conclude that the suspect must be a cop, and the result is some friction with the force.

“Righteous Kill” is an average at best cop drama held up only by its two leading stars. The movie delivers hardly any substance or style, with both the story and visuals lacking in any sort of depth. It’s just the prototypical murder mystery in a city setting that offers no flare.

Along with rather weak writing, the picture features a mystery that’s all to easy to solve. By the end of the first act, the picture produces enough easy to spot clues that can lead a person to figure out who the culprit is.

With all that said, though, it’s still great to see De Niro and Pacino on screen together. As previously stated, these two are the glue holding this together and they show that they still have some solid acting talent. The chemistry between the two makes for a believable cop partnership, too.

Unfortunately, the rest of the cast doesn’t particularly deliver. The rapper 50 Cent for example, is horribly miscast.

“Kill” is your average crime drama and offers nothing particularly new to the genre. If not for its two lead stars, this would have been bargain bin material. 2 out of 5.

Eagle Eye review

Cast:
Shia LaBeouf
Michelle Monaghan
Rosario Dawson
Billy Bob Thornton

“Eagle Eye,” also known as Big Brother is watching you.

This spy-like thriller follows the character Jerry Shaw (LaBeouf), an everyman whose brother happens to work in the military.

Because of his connection, Jerry ends up getting sucked into a violent, dangerous mission by a government operative to stop some type of attack.

“Eagle Eye” starts off well enough. It has a good set up, the pace is quick and there’s some exciting moments. However, as the film tries to intensify the dangers, it starts to become more and more implausible.

Now, there’s always the option of suspension disbelief, but it has to make sense in the movie’s world. Here, the movie sets itself up as a realistic thriller, but breaks these rules with unreal events, especially the absurd twist that happens in the third act.

The movie’s action is also a bit generic here and there, resulting in the film running out of steam. It’s a real big problem, too, when this action picture runs a full two hours. There’s also the issue of the picture trying to have a satire on today’s surveillance, but this aspect really crashes because of the plot twist.

It’s a shame, too, since the movie features some solid performances from both LaBeouf and Billy Bob Thorton. The supporting cast is pretty good in the movie, too, making for a well rounded film in terms of its acting.

Had the plot twist later in the film not been so ridiculous and with a better script, “Eagle Eye” could have been a more watchable thriller. However, its problems drag it down to a rental level flick. 2 out of 5.

The Express review

Cast:
Rob Brown
Dennis Quaid
Darrin Dewitt Henson
Omar Benson Miller
Nelsan Ellis
Charles S. Dutton

As a major college football fan, I was hoping for a little more to this picture.

“The Express” tells the story of Ernie Davis (Rob Brown), a star running back for Syracuse University who went on to be the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy.

The film follows his youth, recruitment and eventual exploits on the gridiron, in which he also has to deal with racism in some parts of the country.

The unfortunate thing about “The Express” is just how downright formulaic it is. The film is simply cliche ridden from start to finish, for example, the classic harsh coach and the starry eyed dreamer of an athlete are both featured here.

That’s not to say there’s no inspiration or excitement portrayed here. The movie does include some emotional scenes here and there, but there are large portions of this picture that don’t feel as genuine.

The movie also criminally under-develops a major event in the third act that had dire consequences for the story’s protagonist.

At the very least, the movie did feature some OK performances. Dennis Quaid made a natural fit as the grizzled coach and Brown played the optimistic football player well. It just felt like their characters could have been given the depth they had in real life.

Sadly, this great story made into a mediocre film will likely be forgotten rather quickly. 2 out of 5.

The Haunting of Molly Hartley review

Cast:
Haley Bennett
Jake Weber
Chace Crawford
Shannon Marie Woodward

This is the worst movie I’ve seen since I started reviewing by far.

The film follows the titular character, played by Haley Bennet, whose own mother tried to kill her because when she turns 18, she could become evil. The movie picks up with her at age 17 with Molly moving to a town right next to an insane asylum where her mother is at… for some reason.

The film follows both Molly’s experiences as a high school student and her searching for answers into the mystery of why people think she will become evil when she turns 18.

“Haunting,” surprisingly, has little actual haunting in it. Instead, the movie is much more focused on a very poorly explained demon cult plot. Worse than the terrible premise of Satan trying to recruit the main character, though, was the execution of the film’s tone.

The movie, which mixes the cult stuff with heavy doses of high school drama takes itself way too damn seriously. Either they should have lightened the mood, seeing as this is PG-13, or make it an R and just cut the high school drama nonsense.

This likely wouldn’t have helped much, though, since the script was absolutely horrendous. Every line of dialogue that comes out of a teen’s mouth sounds manufactured and unreal.

The acting meanwhile is some of the worst that has been put to film this year. Horror movies aren’t known for having consistently good performances, but sometimes the actors can have some fun with the roles. Not the case here, because the less-than-talented performers are given nothing but over-serious bs to spout off here.

When it comes to horror, though, the main question is always, ‘was it scary?’ This movie certainly wasn’t. If you enjoy constant jump scares, this might be for you. And hey, jump scares can work if there’s a payoff, with something actually causing the jump and the fear continuing because of the atmosphere. That’s not the case here, the jumps are used like cheap tricks with no payoff.

Additionally, the movie’s ending makes little sense and will make a person angry leaving the theater knowing how much time they just wasted.

“The Haunting of Molly Hartley” is a disaster, even worse than “Prom Night,” released earlier this year. This doesn’t even deserve a 1, so it gets a 0.5 out of 5.

Australia review

Cast:
Hugh Jackman
Ray Barrett
Nicole Kidman
Bryan Brown
Tony Barry
Rating: PG-13

Being in the outback for two hours and forty five minutes is a little too long for me.

Named after its setting, “Australia” tells the story of Sarah (Kidman), a woman looking to settle a cattle ranch in a rural area of the country. To do so, she gets the help of Drover (Jackman), a cowboy who assists Sarah in building up her business.

Conflict arises in the outback, though, as World War II is getting started and a romance starts blooming between the two main characters as well.

“Australia” has a major issue, and that is it couldn’t decide on what kind of movie it wanted to be. At some points it was a western adventure, other times a romantic melodrama in a rural romantic setting and finally an all out war movie

This not only made the movie feel disjointed, but it also made it appear a bit forced. It’s as if the movie was trying too hard to be this epic story in a similar vein to “Gone with the Wind.” The result is a film that has some spectacle, but little substance.

This is somewhat true with the acting, too, as they feel rather generic. However, having veteran actors such as Jackman and Kidman in the roles does lend some legitimacy and makes the characters more relatable.

Another strength for “Australia” was its look. The movie has a tremendous scope and captures the rugged land beautifully. This aspect actually can draw an audience in more than the story.

“Australia” is a movie to rent, not one to rush out to the theater to see. It offers some good performances and a gorgeous setting but the story is lacking and the plot is incoherent. 2 out of 5.