Movie Review: ‘The Gunman’

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Sean Penn is a sniper working for a mercenary group in Africa. He assassinates a government official and must go into hiding, leaving behind his girlfriend (Jasmine Trinca) to be scooped up by fellow merc Javier Bardem. Years later, he’s back in Africa under a different name working for a humanitarian organization when a handful of assassins try to take him down. He investigates the source, meets up with the shady fellows from his past, and tries to reconnect with his former love.

This isn’t anything new – it’s okay action, your standard plot, lots of buffed-up Sean Penn showing he’s a killer who cares, and exotic locations. There’s little humor, not much suspense, a non-sequitur role for Bardem, but there’s also not much of a ham-fisted political message either. Nor is it on the level of director Pierre Morel’s earlier film Taken; it’s a hardy helping of American-cheese slices on semi-stale crackers – not an extravagant hors d’oeuvres, the cheese could be better, even generic sharp cheddar, and the crackers aren’t buttered, but it’s not spray cheese and wafers either. As a light snack before the real action movies arrive in a few months, it’s palatable.

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Danny Trejo Takes Out ‘The Burning Dead’

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Danny Trejo has become a versatile, and well liked action star with the unique ability to seamlessly transition between cheesy B flicks to summer blockbusters without loosing fan loyalty. Trejo is also equally comfortable taking minor or supporting roles as well as lead roles, and the fact that Danny Trejo’s name  receives top billing definitely allows for low budget films gain a wider recognition than they normally would should his name not appear on the box.

Trejo’s latest film project is no exception; the actor plays “Night Wolf” in The Burning Dead. The film centers on a sheriff evacuating a family from a mountain during a volcanic eruption. The slightly unique twist here is; not only have the dead been resurrected by a curse, but the zombies are also filled with lava, which may make killing them quite a challenge.

The Burning Dead U.S. film rights have been acquired by Uncork’d Entertainment. The film is expected to have a 2015 release, although a date has yet to be set.

Movie Review: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ – Nat’s Take

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Guardians of the Galaxy is the summer blockbuster I’ve been waiting for for longer than I can remember.

The usual adjectives of effusive praise are appropriate: funny, clever, touching, and, of course, fun. While Marvel Studios has certainly found the formula for successful films, they’ve been progressively more and more serious and, worse, self-important. Guardians has the good sense to mock itself and its concept, which is likely due in large part to its star, Parks & Recreation‘s Chris Pratt, and writer/director James Gunn (Slither), and perhaps almost as large a part being that it’s relatively free of the Marvel Universe around which every other film it’s made snugly revolves. I doubt we’d see even Tony Stark using a space-rat as a make-believe microphone, especially in the first two minutes.

So Gunn and Pratt bring a delightfully refreshing sense of self deprecation to their film, Pratt playing the somewhat well-known Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star-Lord, intergalactic swashbuckler. The promotional writeups describe him as a mix of Han Solo and Marty McFly, but I think Indiana Jones may be more appropriate, since they’re both adept at getting into and out of particularly sticky situations.

This time Star-Lord has snatched an orb of potentially unimaginable power, which puts him in the sights of nearly everyone across the galaxy, from assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to planetary ravager Ronan (Lee Pace) to Yondu (Michael Rooker), Star-Lord’s kind-of adopted father, to genetically modified raccoon Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and his Ent-ian-ish pal Groot (Vin Diesel). After a three-way battle on the universal capital planet, the four are imprisoned and…blah, blah, blah. They team up, everyone tries to kill them, and so on.

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Movie Review: ‘Brick Mansions’

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For a movie that makes mention, nearly every five minutes or so, that this is Detroit, it seems odd that they would offer almost no evidence beyond cars. The Metropolitan? No, you silly bastards, the paper of Detroit is the Free Press. We drink Vernor’s and wholly expect to get shot exiting to both Joe Louis and Metro.

No mention of 8 Mile? Nothing of Motown? Not a word of Comerica Park. Hell, I don’t even live in Detroit, and — oh, and nothing about the Red Wings, either — and I know to reference all that.

There’s a point to that rant — as Brick Mansions is a movie about not quite getting there. The name, which is iterated an reiterated so many times before the title actually appears that I thought it had already appeared when it finally does, is Detroit 2018…or Arkham City: Detroit, a walled slum that is a world unto itself.

It has its own economy, the nature of which is never elaborated upon, and controlled largely by drug-lord Tremaine Alexander (rapper RZA) — how he became so rich and powerful selling to bums is also not very clear — who is presently engaged in catching the feisty Lino (David Belle), a slippery parkour enthusiast whose job is, apparently, swiping drugs from Tremaine’s operation and disposing of them at inopportune times.

The film opens with an impressive display of Belle’s agility, as he tumbles, glides, wall jumps, belt-lines, and neutralizes Tremaine’s thugs with minimal prejudice throughout his run-down apartment complex. It’s a good set piece, and director Camille Delamarre has a steady enough grasp of geography that you don’t get lost following Lino’s escape, but the camerawork, being yet another lift of Bourne‘s shaky cam, often makes it difficult to see what Belle is actually doing. It doesn’t ruin the sequence, and subsequent set pieces, but they’re innovative and skillfully executed by Belle, they deserve more.

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WonderCon 2014: Fox Presents ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past,’ ‘Maze Runner,’ and More!

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On day two of WonderCon, Fox did its best to take over the convention in Anaheim. The studio showed footage from several of its upcoming films and politely remained mum on Director Bryan Singer’s recent legal troubles.

The clip from X-Men: Days of Future Past, which included a faceoff between Iceman and Sunspot, certainly excited audiences in the Anaheim Convention Center’s Arena. Fox slyly avoided audience questions by saving X-Men to the end of the presentation. In truth, fans had already gotten their fill of footage and Q&A from the other movies’ cast and crew.

Perhaps trying to answer the YA smash hit The Hunger Games, Fox now has its own teen post-apocalyptic movie in The Maze Runner. Director Wes Ball and author James Dashner were both inspired by Ender’s Game, Lord of the Flies and Lost when creating The Maze Runner and it showed in the brief but thrilling preview seen in Anaheim.

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