ORBzine - Techno-Thriller 2014 Movie Reviews

TITLE & REVIEW

Surrogates

Surrogates This is set in the near future, where people use lifelike androids as avatars. A bit like a real-life version of Second Life. It is all a bit redundant, in other words. But it is apparently based on a comic, which explains how it is style over substance.

The plot is a standard pseudo-noir whodunnit/conspiracy thriller. Police Detective Bruce Willis investigates a murder, and uncovers a conspiracy. Somehow, someone can kill people by killing their android! Suspects include the inventor of the Avatar androids (James Cromwell - Star Trek: First Contact ) and his opponent, the neo-Luddite Ving Rhames ( Death Race 2 ).

The concept of Avatar Androids falls flat, and as a mystery thriller this is unoriginal. For example, it is nowhere near as good as Will Smith's somewhat similar I, Robot .

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  • Tron: Legacy

    Tron: Legacy After the events of the first film, Jeff Bridges ( True Grit ) got home, bought his company back, and became a Billionaire. Then he disappeared a few years later. His son grew up to be an extreme sports fan. Hero Junior gets a tip from Bruce Boxleitner ( Babylon 5 ) and finds his dad's secret lab. He ends up in a dystopian computer world - in glorious 3-D!

    Our hero, with Olivia Wilde , must re-enact the first film (but with updated 3-D SPFX). Pure style over substance, nothing original here.

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  • Real Steel

    Real Steel Hugh Jackman ( X-Men ) is a loser who tries to earn a living in Robot Boxing matches. He gets custody of his 11-year-old son, and it becomes a heart-warming family drama. They bond as they build up a robot fighter, and put it through several matches.

    The story follows the Rocky mould - No real surprises, it is all predictable enough. Evangeline Lilly is Jackman’s sort-of-love-interest - it is very family-friendly.

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  • Phantom Racer

    Phantom Racer Greg Evigan ( Tek Wars ) and Ian Somerhalder ( Vampire Diaries ) are Nascar drivers. They crash, and a mind-swop occurs.

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  • In Time

    In Time Justin Timberlake lives with his mother ( Olivia Wilde ) in a dystopian future where everyone has a time-clock bio-engineered into your body. Nobody ever ages (like in the Gor books), but when you stop earning time-credits for your body-clock then you just drop dead.

    By sheer chance, Justin gets a treasure-trove of time-money. He tries leading the rich life, and encounters slimy billionaire Mr Weis (Vincent Karthusier - Angel ) and his daughter ( Amanda Seyfried ).

    Justin and Amanda go on a Bonnie and Clyde crime spree together, falling foul of Police detective Cillian Murphy ( Batman Begins, Sunshine ) who prances around in a stylish leather trench-coat and 1970s pursuit car. Yes, in the future everything will be inexplicably Retro.

    The result is a luke-warm crime thriller sent in an unconvincing future that is a metaphor for the vicious US capitalist system.

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  • Lockout

    Lockout Hard-ass CIA Agent Snow (Guy Pearce - LA Confidential) is framed for espionage. Before he can be sent to the orbital Maximum Security Prison, the US President's Daughter ( Maggie Grace ) makes a humanitarian visit. IRA thugs Vincent Regan (Eureka Street) and Joseph Gilgun (Rudy in Misfits ) promptly stage a takeover.

    Like Snake Plissken in Escape from New York , Snow is sent in as a one-man rescue team. Pearce acquits himself well in the role, which would be better suited to an established action star like Vin Diesel. Grace is a feisty heroine, and they make the standard bickering pair (as in Romancing The Stone ). They can even bluff their way through the convicts, an entirely Caucasian bunch - despite being set in a US prison, it was filmed in Europe so the ethnic mix is off. The token ethnic person in the cast is Snow's CIA buddy Lenny James ( Jericho, The Walking Dead ).

    This was based on an Original Idea by Luc Besson . No doubt he had it while watching a marathon of 1980s action films.

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  • Double Team

    Double Team Jean Claude Van Damme ( Time Cop ) is a Government gunman, after villainous Mickey Rourke ( ). But Van Damme messes up his shot, like Nic Cage in Face/Off . So he decides to quit ...

    Ex-spies are imprisoned in The Colony run by Paul Freeman ( Raiders of the Lost Ark ). Van Damme must escape this inescapable prison - a reference to the 1960s TV show The Prisoner . Then he teams up with Dennis Rodman.

    The climax is an OTT grudge match, with real-life boxer Rourke against kickboxer Van Damme.

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  • Total Recall (2012)

    Total Recall (2012) This has been slated by fans of the original, which is one of the best films Arnold Schwarzenegger has ever made. But in all fairness, it steals from a lot of other films as well.

    Doug Quaid (Colin Farrell - Minority Report ) lives in a Dystopia, like in Blade Runner . The whole economy depends on the slum-dwellers who commute through the Earth's core to the other side of the world. They work in a factory to build Cohaagen's army of killer robots (like in I, Robot ). Of course, Cohaagen plans to use his robots to kill and replace the slum-dwellers … Star Wars I: Phantom Menace , anyone?

    The character of Richter does not appear in this version of the film. Instead, he is amalgamated with his wife … This, of course, removes the murderous motivation of the pursuer - but who cares, right? And instead of getting Michael Ironside, who looks like he can take on Arnie, we get a generic action-babe (like in Underworld ).

    In the film In Bruges, Farrell's dim-witted hitman proclaims that in the coming Race-war, I'm fighting for the Blacks! Well, this film actually makes it come true. To American Audiences, the villains are the British Empire and the heroes are the Colonial Separatists - the American Founding Fathers reborn in Australia. However, a deeper exploration of the film shows far more disturbing themes. The UK has been taken over by a US President named Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston - ), a right-wing extremist straight out of the Tea Party. The Al-Qaeda and Taliban have relocated to Australia, where they continue their anti-Imperialist struggle. Hauser (Farrell, with a goatee beard - marking him as an evil twin!) was assigned to kill Matthias Bin Laden (Bill Nighy - Pirates of the Caribbean 2 & 3 ). Instead, he defects - his intent to take out a Pentagon's worth of robots and change the New World Order.

    Melinda ( Jessica Biel ) pops up to help Quaid when things get tough for him, and to act as a compulsory love interest. But other than that she has little or nothing to do.

    The final climax, of course, boils down to Colin Farrell brawling with the dad from Malcolm in the Middle. Seriously.

  • Total Recall (1990)
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  • Nemesis

    Nemesis LAPD assassin Olivier Gruner ( Codename: Eternity ) fights terrorists in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Thanks to director Albert Pyun , every time an inanimate object gets shot it explodes as if it were filled with gasoline. Luckily, even though hero is a cyborg and the villains turn out to be android duplicates, none of them actually hit what they are aiming at with the first shot.

    Gruner tries to resign. However, LAPD goons Tim Thomerson ( Trancers ) and Brion James ( Alien Mine ) force him into a secret mission to Java. He meets some other cast members who are slumming it, in more ways than one. Deborah Shelton from Dallas looks like she has become a weight-lifter, and Thomas Jane ( Deep Blue Sea ) has a small part - no pun intended.

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  • Dredd

    Dredd Mega-City One - a futuristic North America that looks like parts of Johannesburg. Judge Dredd (Karl Urban - Star Trek ) takes rookie psychic Judge Cassandra Anderson ( Olivia Thirlby ) on a test run, to see if she can be a cold-blooded killing machine like him.

    The building is controlled by the drug-dealing Ma-Ma Clan, run by a scar-faced Lena Headey . This is an original character, but she fits in so well she could easily have featured in the comics.

    The plot is simple enough. It is the same as The Raid, which was an Indonesian rip-off of The Rock. Our protagonists enter a building controlled by heavily-armed villains. They have to fight their way towards a climactic confrontation with the arch-villain.

    What makes the film work is its style. It was made in 3-D, and this works really well in the scenes where characters use a drug named Slo-Mo. All in all, this corrects all the mistakes made in the Sylvester Stallone Judge Dredd movie.

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  • Knight and Day

    Knight and Day Tom Cruise is a secret agent and action hero like in the Mission Impossible series. Cameron Diaz is a ditzy blonde, like in virtually every film she has been in. The result is an Action Comedy, a perfect blend of the two genres. If anything, it is disappointing to see Diaz in such a passive role when she played an action heroine in her own right in Charlie's Angels .

    Cruise massacres a horde of CIA goons in order to protect the McGuffin, in this case a battery that acts as an eternal power source. This is to prevent it falling into the hands of a Spanish arms dealer. This ignores the fact that Spain is a NATO country, and thus the USA would be able to buy the battery back at a reasonable price.

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  • Running Man, The

    Running Man Arnold Schwartzenegger ( Predator ) is a cop in a Dystopian future. He defies orders to fire on a food riot, and gets sentanced to die in a televised gladiatorial contest where condemned criminals are hunted and killed live on air. Arnie's fellow convicts (akaRunners) include Maria Conchita Alonso and token black guy Yaphett Koto ( Live and Let Die ).

    This is based on a novel by Stephen King . It works well as a satire on the US TV system - unlike the more recent versions, such as the more shallow Hunger Games .

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  • Argo

    Argo This is based on a true story from the 1970s, painstakingly reconstructed with decent attention to detail. It starts with a History lesson about the Persian Empire We get as far as the late 1970s, when the American-backed dictator was deposed by a violent revolution. The US Embassy was captured by rioters, and the employees there were held hostage. But six employees managed to escape from the riot, and hide in the Canadian Ambassador's house. However, the CIA are then left with the task of getting the Americans out of the country without getting caught!

    CIA exfiltration specialist Ben Affleck ( Daredevil ) and Hollywood insider John Goodman ( ) create a fake scifi movie, glamourising the Iranian Revolution, and propose to scout for locations in Tehran. The escapees will join the film scouts, using fake Canadian identities, and slip out of the country unnoticed.

    This is a drama - the thriller aspects have been amped up a bit to make it artificially exciting. The writers have added lots of last-second escapes and other cliches of the thriller genre. In fact, its non-violent problem-solving makes it a diametric opposite of Zero Dark Thirty, its rival for the Oscars which deals with the same theme (America's real-life relationship with the Islamic world).

    All in all, it seems like a whitewash of the Carter Administration's mis-management of the situation. Operation Eagle Claw is never mentioned by name, although it is alluded to. And the political nature of its Oscar win (Best Film) is illustrated by the fact that Ben Affleck was never even nominated for the Best Director award!

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  • Red Dawn (2012)

    Red Dawn (2012) This is either a Near Future Sci-Fi piece about the USA being invaded by North Korea, or a modern-day piece about Iraqi insurgents resisting some Korean-American marines from the USMC. Basically, off-duty US Marine Chris Hemsworth ( Thor ) leads fellow MCU alum Adrianne Palicki and some teenagers to a Cabin in the Woods , and they become an elite hit-squad who take on Bond Villain Will Yun Lee ( Die Another Day ). Oh, and the Comedian ( Watchmen ) and his band of expert killers would be useless without the children to help them!

    The script is mostly the same as the original, but the execution is flawed. It lacks the epic feel that John Milius delivered, and there is no moral ambiguity. Instead, the protagonists are flawless and virtually unkillable most of the time. For example, they develop their skills though makeshift training rather than on-the-job learning. No matter how stupid the insurgents' actions are, the heavily-armed and armoured Korean Marines are easy victims.

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  • Wanted

    Wanted This is based on a graphic novel, The original storyline involved supervillains. This was dumbed down to be about assassins who have supernatural powers - there is no other way to describe it, although they try to make it plausible in a mainstream kind of way.

    James McAvoy ( X-Men: First Class ) lives a boring humdrum life - like Neo in The Matrix or Ed Norton in Fight Club . Then he meets beautiful hit-woman Fox ( Angelina Jolie , looking scarily thin compared to her healthier Lara Croft days). She recruits him into a fraternity of assassins run by Sloan (Morgan Freeman - Oblivion ). The assassins' targets are designated by a magical loom, which functions like The Machine in Person Of Interest .

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  • Red Faction: Origins

    Red Faction: Origins This is set a generation after Robert Patrick ( Terminator 2 ) led a socialist insurgency against the Earth's military-industrial complex. Patrick's son, Brian J Smith ( Stargate: Universe ), is the new square-jawed hero of Mars.

    Our hero has to evade the Marauders, led by Kate Vernon . He teams up with Gordon Kennedy ( Robin Hood (2006) ) and his nephew, the poor white trash version of the Magic Negro cliche. Yes, despite lacking skills or weapons they let their hillbilly charm guide them to inexplicable success.

    They end up facing off against Gareth David Lloyd ( Torchwood ) in one of his youngest-looking and most uninspired performances.

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  • Delete

    Delete This is a Syfy channel techno-thriller. But ironically, because it is a 2-part TV mini-series, the quality is much higher than if it had been a movie!

    Fearless girl reporter Erin Karplunk meets a teenage hacker in the hope he can introduce her to a conspiracy of Hacktivists.

    The Hacktivists believe that The Singularity has occurred. This involves the appearance of a self-created Artificial Intelligence on the Internet. Unfortunately, the AI has the Modus Operandi of Skynet in the Terminator series.

    The US military's top brass include such distinguished TV actors as Blu Mankuma ( Robocop: The Series ), Matt Frewer ( Max Headroom ) and Gil Bellows ( Shawshank Redemption ). But there are all flummoxed, as the plot demands.

    The computer tech is very up-to-date, which means it will all date very quickly. The visuals are quite good - the computer chat uses an on-screen texting display like the one used in Cherrybomb. This is mixed in with satellite footage, to add a 24 type feel. The result is the kind of surveillance society that Will Smith faced back in Enemy of the State (1999) ...

    Delete (Part 2)

    The amateurs go on the run, and hide out off the grid with Seth Green ( Buffy ). Seth is actually quite grown-up now, with a beard and a stack of automatic weapons. Unfortunately he thinks he can take on a SWAT team single-handed.

    The NSA run out of ideas in dealing with the Singularity. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs (Blu Mankuma) wants to destroy every networked server it might be using. He decides to unilaterally detonate thermo-nuclear warheads over every city on Earth. Not only will this reduce the human race to the Steam Age, but the PRC's response will reduce everyone to the Stone Age!

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  • Gamer

    Gamer Dexter is a computer super-genius. He has invented tech that allows people to get brain implants, and be used as Avatars by computer-users. This gets used to create hi-tech gladiatorial games for Death Row inmates, a globally-televised urban combat scenario. This is the hi-tech way of being a serial-killer and killing OTHER serial-killers.

    Gerard Butler ( Dracula 2001 ) is the protagonist, the finest warrior in the games so far. Dexter wants him dead, so he sends Terry Crews ( The Expendables ) to kill him. Luckily, a group of Resistance fighters have worked out how to cable-hack the broadcasts - like Eyes Only in Dark Angel .

    Yes, the show is basically an updated version of Running Man . But this falls flat compared to the Schwarzenegger version. If nothing else, the mixture of shaky-cam and the frenzied high-speed editing makes it almost unwatchable.

    Amber Valetta is Butler's wife, who is an Avatar in a less violent (but sexually exploitative) version of the game. Other familiar faces can also be spotted - Sam Witwer ( Smallville: S9 ) as a shrink and Milo Ventrigliari ( Heroes ) as a TV show presenter.

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  • Doom

    Doom A monster attacks a group of scientists in a research station on Mars. A group of Space Marines (led by The Rock - GI Joe 2: Retaliation ) are sent in to do the requisite Bug Hunt. Reaper (Karl Urban - Dredd 3-D ) is the team hard-ass. They get tech support from Dexter Fletcher ( Kick-Ass ) and background info from Doctor Grimm ( Rosamund Pike ). Naturally, the monster starts to pick them off one at a time.

    Lots of cliches start to crop up. The Rock is kill-crazy. The only reason that the hero does not have the female lead as his love interest is that she is his sister. What sets this apart from other monster-movie shoot-‘em-ups like Resident Evil (also based on a computer game) is the references to the original source material. The Rock’s goal is to find and use the B.F.G. (Big Force Gun). There is a brief sequence where the movie’s format becomes first-person shooter, like the game itself.

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  • Girls Kick Ass!

    DOA: Dead Or Alive

    DOA: Dead Or Alive A trio of high-kicking kung-fu babes (Ninja Princess Devon Aoki , Texan wrestler Jamie Pressley and Australian cat-burglar Holly Valance ) are all invited by rollergirl Sarah Carter and suspiciously friendly Eric Roberts ( The Expendables ) to fight in a Mixed Martial-Arts tournament. Like in Mortal Kombat , without all the Otherworld stuff.

    Natassia Malthe is a Ninja sent to kill the Princess for abandoning the clan. The so-called Ninjas use Chinese skills, not Japanese ones, but this is not the kind of film to take seriously.

    The fights are well-shot and expertly choreographed, but it descends to typically OTT wire-fu. This was shot by a Hong Kong director on a Hollywood budget ...

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  • Hanna

    Hanna Hanna ( Saoirse Ronan ) is raised in a snowy wilderness to be an expert warrior - like Conan the Barbarian . Being a girl, however, a better comparison might be to say that she was raised like Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass .

    Eric Bana has been living in secret off the grid, like he did in Hulk . But when Hanna is old enough, he sends her to kill his arch-enemy Cate Blanchett .

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  • Haywire

    Haywire This is a modern 21st Century thriller, but it is closer in tone to the 1970s than the techno-thrillers of today. Mallory ( Gina Carano ) is a female Jason Bourne, on a roaring rampage of revenge, rather than a hi-tech James Bond. She is double-crossed and left for dead, as is typical in these things.

    Can the lead actress cut it? She is a Mixed Martial Arts cage-fighter, not a supermodel or Shakespearean thespian, but the script was written for her strengths. If The Rock can follow in Arnold Schwarzenegger's footsteps, why can a woman not do likewise? A look at the male action stars (Van Damme, Segal, Lundgren, etc) shows a tendency towards athleticism over thespianism.

    Stephen Soderburgh delivers a lot of action, but the cast does not let up in terms of acting ability. Duplicitous characters include Michael Fassbender ( X-Men: First Class ), Ewan McGregor ( Star Wars: TPM ) and Antonio Banderas ( Mark of Zorro ).

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  • Lucy

    Lucy Scarlet Johannson is shanghaied (no pun intended) into delivering a mysterious briefcase to a gangster in Taiwan. Unfortunately, these gangsters have no concept of the word subtlety. They leave a lot of messy corpses all over the place, like a cannibalistic family of hillbillies in a clichéd horror movie.

    The McGuffin is a new drug that unlocks the human brain’s full potential. This was previously covered in the film Limitless , where the drug only increased intelligence. However, in this film the drug also gives the taker telepathy, then telekinesis … and finally turns them into a Star Trek creature of pure energy.

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  • Millennium Trilogy Franchise

    Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The

    Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The The film kicks off with an Uber-stylish credits sequence, like something out of a James Bond film, to a Trent Reznor cover version of a classic rock song. It then proceeds into a pulp 1970s-style revenge thriller that Quentin Tarantino would be proud to have written. Of course, David Fincher gave us slick pieces like Se7en so this is much less gaudy or lurid in delivery.

    Our hero is Crusading Journalist Stieg Larson - oops, I mean Mikhail von Blumberg - who looks like International sex symbol James Bond (Daniel Craig - Casino Royale ). He is in trouble for harassing and slandering a businessman who is supposed to have helped finance the Croatian Militias in the defence of their families during the Serbian genocide of the 1990s. Wow, no political point-scoring here.

    The title character is Lizbo Salamander ( Rooney Mara ) , who has single-handedly invented the Goth-chick look. Wow, how original! She is a ward of the state - ooh, poor victim. Wait a minute, she is a violent sociopath with multiple convictions for violent felonies. If this story had been re-set in the USA, rather than having English-speaking actors pretending to be Swedish, she would be just another ex-convict being hassled by her Parole Officer. Instead we are meant to side with her against the corrupt socialist institutions that the author Larson himself champions!

    The protagonists are hired to investigate a missing persons case. They stumble across a serial killer - more of a Ted Bundy than a John Wayne Gacy, so it is Fem-Jep instead of gay-bashing. The implication is that this is linked to Nazis and anti-Semitism. In reality, Sweden was one of the LEAST fascist European countries in the 1940s - despite having pro-Nazi dictatorships for all their neighbours, and the spectre of invasion by Stalinist Russia, the Swedes remained staunchly neutral (and thus saved thousands of civilians from the Holocaust). Also, not all Nazis were anti-Semitic (and vice versa). But Larson, ever keen to make political attacks on people he disagrees with, ignores the facts.

    The morals of the story? Freedom of speech is vital, unless you disagree with Stieg Larson's opinions. Big business is corrupt and should be shut down - by an equally corrupt Socialist regime. Rape is horrible and should not be glamourised or exploited - except in stories like this. All in all, self-righteous hypocritical crap.

  • Girl Who Played With Fire, The
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  • Girl Who Played With Fire, The

    Girl Who Played With Fire, The This is a made-for-TV follow-up to the original film. It is in Swedish, with subtitles.

    A Female Supremacist ( Buffy meets Romper Stomper) takes on the organised sex trade. This is hypocritical, since she pays for lesbian sex herself. A pity that Emma Watson did not get the role for the US remake, because the film would be a great hit if it had Hermione Granger going down on another woman!

    This was written by a journalist with his own political agenda to push, and it shows. His hypocrisy is dreadful. In the book he states that a woman merely experiments with bondage, while he accuses a man who does the same of acting out sick rape fantasies.

  • Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The
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  • Cyborg Franchise

    Cyborg 2

    Cyborg 2 This is set in a Dystopian future. Martial Arts instructor Elias Koteas ( Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ) works for a typically duplicitous Mega corp. He runs off with an android that looks like a teenage Angelina Jolie . They are pursued by B-movie bounty-hunters, including Karen Sheppard and Billy Drago ( Vamp ).

    This owes a lot more to Blade Runner than it does to the original Cyborg film with Jean Claude Van Damme. Jack Palance ( Hawk the Slayer ) steals the show with his supporting role.

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  • Jason Bourne Franchise

    Bourne Legacy

    Bourne Legacy The first act of this film is mostly exposition. Despite plot points being repeatedly explained in precise detail, the audience still seem to be confused.

    The CIA creates a group of super-soldiers, experts in assassination. It then inexplicably uses them as deep cover agents, where they have to blend in and avoid any of the combat situations they were created for. The assassinations are left to teams of normal agents with norrmal weapons and skills.

    Super-soldier Jeremy Renner ( Avengers Assemble ) is targetted for assassination by his own side, so he goes on the run. He is running out of super-soldier-serum so he needs more.

    The only person who can help him is Rachel Weitz , conveniently a beautiful woman (and thus a potential love interest). They go on the run together, as always happens in this kind of thing.

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  • Death Race Franchise

    Death Race

    Death Race In a dystopian future, the biggest form of entertainment is televised death-match car races held in America's super-max prison. Champion convict Frankenstein (David Carradine, in an homage to the the original movie Death Race 2000 ) is indisposed, so Prison Governoress Joan Allen must secretly introduce a replacement. By apparent coincidence, Jason Statham ( Expendables ) is framed for murder and ends up in her prison.

    Murderous mayhem ensues. This is an incredible series of car chases and explosions.

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  • Death Race 2

    Death Race 2 This is a prequel to the Death Race (2010) remake. Luke Goss ( Blade 2 ) is a professional getaway driver for a gang of armed robbers. He is best buddies with gangster Sean Bean ( Game of Thrones ), who gives him a high powered car as a gift. Unfortunately this car is bright orange, and it is a hatchback so the driver has to get out and pull the front seat down so the passengers can climb into the back seats. Naturally our hero ends up in prison.

    Lauren Cohan is a television reporter working for Billionaire Mr Weyland (Ving Rhames - Surrogates ). Weyland has a huge portfolio, including a TV network and the US Prison system. He may even be related to one of the founders of the Mega-Corp from the Alien series. Anyway, Cohan invents the idea of maximizing TV ratings by turning prison riots into a live, televised spectator sport. This is developed into the Death Race, and when Goss ends up in prison he soon becomes the top competitor.

  • Death Race (2010)
  • Death Race 3: Inferno
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  • Death Race 3: Inferno

    Death Race 3: Inferno Billionaire Mr Weyland (Ving Rhames - Surrogates ) is victim of a hostile takeover by Dougray Scott ( Mission: Impossible 2 ). The new owner relocates Frankenstein (Luke Goss - Blade 2 ) and his pit crew to South Africa!

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  • Universal Soldier Franchise

    Universal Soldier: Regeneration

    Universal Soldier: Regeneration Russian extremists, with a freelance scientist who has his own super-soldier, take over Chernobyl.

    The UN sends in US Special Forces and UniSols. Unfortunately everyone (terrorists and Merkins alike) uses crap tactics - the regular forces stand in the open and wait to get shot, while the UniSols split up and wait to get picked off one at a time.

    Meanwhile, Luc Devereux (Jean-Claude Van Damme - Replicant ) is the last of the original Vietnam-era UniSols. He is undergoing therapy, but gets re-activated.

    The villains also have a Dolph Lungren ( View To A Kill ) clone. Lots of fight scenes ensue.

    This is the fifth film in the series - it shows how far the stars have sunk, that they will now do this again.

  • Universal Soldier
  • Universal Soldier 2: Brothers In Arms
  • Universal Soldier 3: Unfinished Business
  • Universal Soldier: The Return
  • Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning
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  • Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning

    Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning Luc Devereux (Jean-Claude Van Damme - Replicant ) has become a Colonel Kurtz figure, like in Apocalypse Now . With Dolph Lungren ( View To A Kill ) as his High Priest, he runs a cult of UniSols. Unfortunately this male-only environment, filled with genetically enhanced testosterone, is very unhealthy and overly competitive. Well, in a world where women go to college and men go to prison this is going to be the status quo rather than the exception.

    However, an Agency of the US Federal Government is sending assassins after the UniSols. Since only a super-powered soldier can take on the UniSols, the Government hit-men are basically the next generation of cloned Unisols.

  • Universal Soldier
  • Universal Soldier 2: Brothers In Arms
  • Universal Soldier 3: Unfinished Business
  • Universal Soldier: The Return
  • Universal Soldier: Regeneration
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  • Expendables Franchise

    Expendables, The

    Expendables, The A bunch of elite Special Forces types go for revenge against a rogue CIA goon. There have been two other films this year with exactly the same plot, and there is at least one other on the way! This one stars and is directed by Sylvester Stallone ( Demolition Man ).

    Stallone leads a rag-tag mix of mercenaries, from fellow 1980s star Dolph Lundgren ( Universal Soldier ) to more recent action heroes Jason Statham ( Ghosts of Mars ), Jet Li ( The One ) and token black guy Terry Crews. When not hanging out in the tattoo parlour of Mickey Rourke ( Iron Man 2 ) they kill Somali fishermen on behalf of a MegaCorp.

    CIA goon Bruce Willis ( Surrogates ) hires the Mercs to assassinate a Latin American dictator (the Cuban cop in Dexter). The real target is the dictator's backer, drug baron Eric Roberts ( Dr Who TV Movie ). In order to defeat the villains and save the predictable damsel in distress, the unstoppable crew must kill every man in the town between the ages of 15 and 50. No problems there.

    Among other things, this completely fails the Bechdel test. The only other proper female character is Charisma Carpenter , who is Statham's love interest long enough to give him an excuse to beat up a wife-beater.

    Basically, the film staggers from one unbelievably OTT action scene to the next one. There is no suspense, we know EXACTLY what is going to happen at every step. That said, nobody really cares. If you liked the most recent Rambo film, you will love this!

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  • Expendables 2, The

    Expendables 2, The To say that this is a cliched action-fest is an understatement. It lacks the relative complexities of the first film, and that is saying something. The team is sent on a mission, which turns them against bloodthirsty villain Jean-Claude Van Damme ( Universal Soldier ). This is not really about a plot device, it is a revenge mission for the guys.

    The roster gets a shake-up this time. Stallone and Statham are still in charge, supported by Lungren, Couture and Crews. Jet Li and Liam Hemsworth both get a look-in, while the team also gets a token girl. Strangely, she is the only one who is a newcomer - an irony that while the men are all aged over fifty (except Hemsworth), the girl is in her twenties.

    One thing that is remarkable is the lack of swearing. Apparently the film was meant to be a PG-12, so it was dumbed down for family audiences. The word is that thanks to a backlash by fans, Stallone was forced to put in extra scenes of ultra-violence. However, despite the on-screen decapitations the dialogue is still child-friendly so Yanks can take their kiddies to see it.

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  • Expendables 3, The

    Expendables 3, The The movie starts with a massive action sequence, where the team use a helicopter to attack an armoured train and free Wesley Snipes ( Blade ) from imprisonment for tax evasion. Then they go on a CIA mission to snatch an arms dealer. It turns out that the CIA’s info was incomplete, and the team end up in a shootout with another 1980s bad-ass – Mel Gibson ( Braveheart ). As an inciting incident, someone gets hospitalised. Is it one of the Token Black Guys? What do you think?

    Stallone retires his old team, even though they did great work in the previous two movies. The second act of the film is Stallone recruiting a new team (with help from Kelsey Grammer – Transformers 4 ). This includes relative newcomer Kellan Lutz ( Legend of Hercules ) and the first woman Expendable – Ronda Rousey (a slightly younger version of Gina Carano ). They are more hi-tech than the old mob, using 21st Century hacking techniques to bring this up-to-date with modern techno-thrillers. Of course, it all goes wrong so there is a cliffhanger at the end of the Second Act.

    Finally, the climactic third act features Stallone pulling his old buddies out of retirement. This is just as well for Statham, because Charisma Carpenter is nowhere in sight this time. The CIA get directly involved again, with Bruce Willis’ replacement (a foul-mouthed Harrison Ford – Ender’s Game ) arriving with more goons – Arnie Schwartzenegger and Jet Li!

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  • Escape Plan

    Escape Plan Stallone ( Demolition Man ) is an escape expert, who has broken out of fourteen Supermax facilities in the previous eight years. His backup team includes Curtis Jackson (AKA 50 Cent) and Vincent D'Onfrio ( Men in Black ). Then he gets roped into a job to test the ultimate prison. Of course, things go wrong and he ends up trapped.

    The place is run by Jim Caviezel ( Passion of the Christ ), a vicious SOB who has used Stallone's textbook to construct an apparently escape-proof prison. The head guard is Vinny Jones ( Swordfish ), while the Medical officer is Sam Neill ( Alcatraz ). Yes, Christ and Damien Thorne are on the same side for once!

    Luckily, while on the inside, Stallone is befriended by his co-star from The Expendables series, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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  • Mission: Impossible Franchise

    Mission Impossible

    Mission Impossible This is the first film in the modern IMF Franchise, and has been copied by all its successors. Unfortunately, they copied the bad aspects and the cliches, not the actual bits that make this film work so well. Director Brian Depalma is best known for his Hitchcock -style twists, which in later films are replaced with explosions and shootouts.

    Basically, an undercover mission goes badly wrong. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise - Legend ), sole survivor, is the obvious suspect. He must go on the run, and recruit a new team of expert spies to save the world, without backup. They must break into the CIA's most secure data vault and steal the NOC list - a reliably lo-tech mcguffin more recently used in the James Bond effort Skyfall .

    In a 1990s update to the old cliche, the climax is not aboard the Orient Express but the Eurochunnel train.

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  • Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol

    Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol Does anyone actually remember the original TV series, when the team would have a plan and outsmart the villains? Now we have Mission: Predictable, an endless rehash of the previous films. The title, Ghost Protocol, refers to the entire IMF Agency being disavowed. About goddamn time! The first three films have all featured traitors who had top IMF clearance, it is evidently the training-ground for the world's greatest terrorists!

    Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise - Legend ) and his team of expert spies have to save the world, without backup. Luckily Hunt can rely on:

  • Ethnic supermodel type Paula Patton , who does the Sidney Bristow stuff from Alias
  • Jeremy Renner is the backup man. Just like his character Hawkeye in Marvel Avengers Assemble , the only superhero who did not actually get his own movie. He is like the Marvel Universe's version of Aquaman!
  • Simon Pegg returns as the tech guy - just like Scottie in Star Trek XI , by the same director ( JJ Abrams ).
  • The villain is the bad guy from the Swedish adaptations of the Millennium books. He is no longer a communist who wants to destroy society, he is a Nihilist who wants to destroy the world! His plan is to trick the USA and Russia into starting a nuclear war with each other. Just like the Bond villains of outdated Cold War movies ( The Spy Who Loved Me, You Only live Twice ). Yes, this is an updated version of a 1960s plot.

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  • Mission Impossible 5: Rogue Nation

    Mission Impossible 5: Rogue Nation Now we have Mission: Predictable 5, an endless rehash of the previous films. Even this review owes quite a bit to the reviews of the previous films. Let us look at the storyline of the other films:

    Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise - Legend ) is framed and disavowed, so he cannot use the IMF's infinite resources to save the day. He and his team of expert spies have to save the world, without backup.

    A top spy with world-class IMF-style training has gone rogue, and only Ethan Hunt can stop him. Ethan is still the IMF’s top field agent, despite being only five years younger than Jim Phelps (Jon Voight – Tomb Raider ) was in the first film twenty-ish years ago. Not only has Ethan passed the age of retirement from field duty, he was a trainer and then he actually retired in the third film. What the heck a middle-aged fifty-something man is doing on the front line is never adequately explained.

    A beautiful lady spy helps Ethan, but her loyalties are unclear. This time it is Rebecca Ferguson , a relative unknown who does the Sidney Bristow stuff from Alias . She is the best sight in a thigh-slit dress since Maggie Q a couple of movies ago. She is twenty years younger than Cruise, though she has not aged as well.

  • Benji (Simon Pegg – Paul ) is Ethan’s tech support. He is technically a field agent, and he is good enough to fool the CIA’s best lie detector. However, he is basically doing the job that Barney the Token Black Guy did in the original show. Luckily for the cast’s racial balance they still have Luthor Stickell (Marsellus Wallace – Surrogates ) in a supporting role, as Hawkeye’s tech support.
  • Jeremy Renner is the backup man. Just like his character Hawkeye in Marvel Avengers Assemble , the only superhero who did not actually get his own movie. He is like the Marvel Universe's version of Aquaman!
  • The villain wants something that is locked in an impregnable vault, so Ethan must steal it for him. The villain uses one of Ethan's friends as leverage and gets Ethan to hand it over.

    Those pretty much happen in all the other movies. What do you want to bet that this film has exactly the same story?

    The villain, Solomon Lane (no, not Solomon Kane ) has a creepy English accent. In Hollywood movies this is shorthand for villainous and should not indicate any particular country, but there are only five superpowers (permanent members of the United Nations Security Council) and when you rule out Russia, China, France and the USA then there is only one left. Another clue – the film’s title (MI-5) is also the name of a certain counter-intelligence agency ...

    There are a number of unanswered questions. Why does The Syndicate run around committing acts of global terrorism? Who is funding them, since the goal of their mission is to access a specific supply of funds? After all, this is basically the storyline of Swordfish - which ironically was pulled from cinemas in its final week because of the destruction of the World Trade Centre on 9/11. Where did a government dedicated to financial austerity get thousands of millions of dollars to spare, and how did a relatively small government agency get that money into its off-the-books black-ops budget?

    Finally, the UK Prime Minister is repeatedly referred to as the PM of Great Britain (with no mention of Northern Ireland) ... one would have hoped that a film largely shot in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland would get small details like the name of the country correct!

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  • Purge Franchise

    The Purge

    The Purge The basic premise is that in the near future, the USA has a utopian civilisation with an unpleasant undercurrent. One night a year, all Government services (Police, Fire Dept, Emergency Medical Services) have a 12-hour step-down from 7pm to 7am. During that time, all crime (including murder) is legal.

    Ethan Hawke ( Gattacca ) and Lena Headey live in a nice, remote suburb with their cliched teenage offspring - the sexy schoolgirl daughter and the tech-nerd son. Unfortunately they have a couple of unexpected visitors, and end up being besieged by an updated version of Alex and the Droogs from Clockwork Orange .

    The real gut-wrenching scenes are not the conflict with the Droogs. It is when the veneer of middle-class suburban civilisation is stripped away, and the protagonists try to placate the villains by torturing a homeless man.

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  • The Purge: Anarchy (AKA Purge 2)

    The Purge: Anarchy (AKA Purge 2) This is set in the same universe as the original film, but is not centred around the same characters. Instead, it goes more into the conspiracy theories implied in the original. While the people in poor neighbourhoods go out to Purge their negative emotions, someone else is Purging THEM - using military-grade weapons (a minigun and a SWAT team)!

    The political subtext of the film is an indictment of wealthy people who choose to Purge - even though it benefits poor people. An urban revolutionary (Michael K Williams - Flash Forward ) wants to protect the poor from this murderous system.

    A small group of people band together, trapped on the streets of a city where the inhabitants have gone feral for the night. As well as gang-bangers on the prowl, they also have to escape the conspiracy's SWAT team. Luckily, one of the good guys is a Special Forces soldier with all the necessary combat gear. Of curse, this means he is Purging too ...

    What is most shocking about the concept of the Purge is that when murder is decriminalised, every grudge (including domestic disputes) becomes murderous. Is law (and fear of prosecution) the only thing that prevents everyone from becoming a killer?

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  • The Purge: Election Year (AKA Purge 3)

    The Purge: Election Year (AKA Purge 2) A US Senator ( Elizabeth Mitchell ) is standing for election on an anti-Purge platform. Sergeant Barnes (Frank Grillo - Captain America: Civil War ), a survivor from the second film, is her head of security. However, it is the night of the annual Purge. The Government changes the rules, and takes away the protection that the senior officials (such as Senators) normally have during the Purge. Yes, she is targeted for assassination by a team of killers with SWAT armour and automatic weapons. She and Barnes go on the run, but they have to stay alive until morning.

    Mykelita Williamson ( The Final Destination ) is a shopkeeper in a deprived part of town that is a short walk from the Senator's mansion. He and his employees decide to help the Senator. After all, the murder-squad on her tail are White Supermacists.

    An anti-Purge revolutionary is also in town for Purge night. This character seems to be based on the one played by Michael K Williams ( Flash Forward ) in the original. Presumably Williams was unable to participate in this film because he was too busy appearing in Ghostbusters (2016) .

    The story is a case of white middle-class liberals and the black working class taking on the white aristocracy and white working-class extremists of America. Yes, the politics are very heavy-handed. The Liberal female Senator is obviously a reference to Hillary Clinton, while her religious fundamentalist opponent could be any one of the Republican candidates.

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  • Grindhouse Trailers

    Machete

    Machete This is based on the trailer in the Grindhouse double-movie release by Tarantino & Rodriguez . Machete (Danny Trejo) is a Mexican cop who goes on a crazy vendetta against drug kingpin Steven Segal ( ).

    Years later Machete is in Texas, where Federal Agent Jessica Alba is hassling Michelle Rodriguez for helping illegal immigrants. Corrupt businessman Jeff Fahy ( Lost ) hires Machete to kill an anti-immigration Senator (Robert DeNiro - Mary Shelley's Frankenstein ). However, it is a double-cross. Machete is framed, on the run ...

    Rodriguez's writing can be overly self-indulgent, for example in his third Mariachi film Once Upon A Time In Mexico . But this is deliberately OTT, like Planet Terror . There are lots of deliberate mistakes, and the climax is completely OTT.

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  • Machete Kills!

    Machete Kills! Machete (Danny Trejo - 3-Headed Shark ) is back in business. He is partnered with ICE Agent Jessica Alba . The violence is OTT, and logic need not apply.

    Machete has blundered into a much bigger case. He is hired by the US President - played by a newcomer named Carlos Estevez, who is the spitting image of Martin Sheen in The Dead Zone . POTUS gives Machete a CIA handler ( Amber Heard ), who sends him off to rescue a hooker held prisoner by Sofia Vergara and her sidekick Alexa Vega .

    Just as in the original film, this is a parody that encompasses many cliches of action movies. As such, there is no point in applying logic to the plot.

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  • Hobo With A Shotgun

    Hobo With A Shotgun This is set in America, but was filmed in Canada. The title character (Rutger Hauer from Blade Runner ) ends up in a city run by a sadistic gangster (Stanley from Lexx ) and his twin sons, who cruise around in an armoured DeLorean.

    The result is the Canadian version of Machete , the far superior Robert Rodriguez film that shares its origins as a trailer in Grindhouse .

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