War Ready For Action. Needs Repairs For A Story

Pacific Rim Uprising


Giant Robots or Giant Monsters, which of the two titans is the better combatant for the silver screen?  That question has continued to test audience members discussion boards as behemoths like King Kong and Godzilla try to usurp the title from Optimus Prime and Megatron.  Tonight’s movie though, doesn’t make you choose, because it combines the two in an epic throw down that will hopefully please both sides of the spectrum.  Pacific Rim Uprising rears back to make some noise this weekend, and yours truly is here to report his findings on the latest silver screen smash to guide your viewing needs.  Let’s get started!



Special Effects:  Most will be tired of the CGI haven these movies have become, but yours truly appreciates the work that went into unleashing the havoc.  The design of the new robots gets a round of applause, with sleek angular designs, some new tricks, and a fluid movement that fit well with the Japanese monster movie feel.  Monster wise, the Kaijou aren’t as prominent as the first film, but once breached, the monsters have got their own unique design that is odd, but again fitting in theme, with movements that again work with the pace of the movie.  And of course, all the lights, punches, and collapsing buildings are beautifully brought to life in all their dazzling, speaker rustling greatness. 


The Story:  While certainly not the best to grace the screen, the movie’s predictable plot has a few twists and spins on the mix to keep things interesting.  In a movie where smashing and fights are the key, you don’t always get the deepest tale, but it works in explaining what happened in the ten years and the whole grand design of the plot.  Unlike its predecessor, the movie managed to cut off a lot of fat to present this in a neat, less than 2-hour, package.  As such, you have all the elements to put a reason behind the fighting and keep as many characters as involved.


The Acting:  Believe it or not, the acting is a step up from other films in this genre.  The main stars of John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, and Cailee Spaeny all work in that dysfunctional family united by challenging times way.  Still, they all manage to bring some power to otherwise simple characters that are semi-engaging to watch.  Of all of them… I think Boyega gets my vote for having the best acting of all, being pushed across all realms to make a balanced character.  As for Charlie Day and Burn Gorman, they are the comedic relief and do it well, but also manage to have some involvement in the story (nice directing) and not trying to sell themselves anyway. 


The Action:  I’ve gone through all the stuff you might care about, but let’s face it, this series is more known for its action and that’s what you want.  Well, for this reviewer it a step up compared to the first installment.  Timing the movie, about 70% of the film involved some type of action, a majority involving the metallic behemoths fighting one giant obstruction after another.  The battles have more variety than part 1, managing to help one differentiate one battle from another.  What makes me even happier to report, is that the team listened to reviews and actually utilized their other robots more, instead of dropping them out in five minutes flat.  While still not the greatest utilization of secondary robots, it was miles better for me in the long run, making the last 30 minutes of the movie, an action-packed climax to close the story out.




The Comedy at Times:  The movie is ridiculous, I get it, but the comedy sometimes is a little too ridiculous and distracting from the overall tone of the movie.  A random aside here and there works, but when over utilized as it is in this film, well…then it gets rusty and breaks down.  In addition, there are some asides that felt awkward at the moment they chose to unleash it, jumping in amidst the action scenes when they would have fit in other realms.  These culminations weren’t my favorite use of comedic relief, as I think it crossed into corniness a few times.


Shallow Character Development:  Monster movies are seldom about our main characters growing a lot, but we’ve had previous installments capable of achieving this balance.  Pacific Rim Uprising is not one of these movies.  While Boyega’s Jake has a little more complexity in terms of everyone knowing him, the rest of the cast have less depth to them past a few traumatic backstories to garnish them up.  This is highly evidenced in the other pilots outside the main crew who after getting named are reduced to the shadows given the grand complexity of the film.  Uprising proves too busy to invest in its characters, but most may not care as long as they get a good smashing.  Still better than the last few transformers though. 


Obsidian Fury:  As cool as the name and design, I had hoped the new bot would have more point to it, but this is again where the movie fails on at least a story level.  The antagonizing robot brings a pretty epic fist fight, but plot wise it felt out of place, a tangent leading down a path that was as cold as the artic frontier it somewhat takes place in.  Yes, there are some purposes it serves, but as the movie’s plot progresses, its relevance became less and less for me, until it was just a convenient distraction.


Trailer Syndrome:  One thing this day of advertising is famous for, is revealing too much in shorter movies like this.  Pacific Rim Uprising’s biggest spoiler is that much of that awesome last battle has already been shown in the trailers.  Catch all three of the trailers and you pretty much have pieced 75% of that sequence, with the other 25% feeling very nostalgic/overdramatic.  I had hoped for some more dynamic moments to bypass that syndrome, or less advertising, but I didn’t get my wish again.  So, avoid the trailers and you’ll be okay.



            Pacific Rim Uprising doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a monster/robot movie.  It gives you the CGI thrills, spills, and chills in terms of design and the sound editing beautifully complements it.  While the story is not the deepest, it works for the most part, allowing plenty of time to cram in the action you oh so wanted to see.  Yet, the movie still has to work on its balance learning to not cram so much into the film and maximize on elements that the movie is going to be known for.  In addition, stop revealing everything in the trailers and it means less elaborate scenes you have to shoot to make up for it.  So, looking for a monster vs. robot’s movie?  Look no further, because this film is a success in terms of the action and big battles that are theater worthy.  As a film as a whole though, the movie still has a lot of repairs to make, before it becomes war ready.  Oh well, we at least have a soundtrack to get you revved up. 


My scores:

Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi:  8.0

Movie Overall:  6.5



When You Wish Upon A Gun

Death Wish


Bruce Willis a legend that will live on in the halls of action movies.  The stoic face, the rugged muscles, and the ability to wield every type of gun are just some of the qualities that make him stand amongst the heroes of the action world.  Tonight, a fellow friend attends the movies with me to help determine what his next film entitled Death Wish holds in store.  Does another rogue cop movie hold bar, or is Willis just spinning our wheels?  Robbie K and friend are here to provide some info.  Let’s get started!




Comedic Timing:  Shocker, you aren’t going to see this movie for comedy, but Death Wish has it anyway.  While not straight up laughing, slapstick or one-liners, Death Wish’s comedy comes more from the pokes at society this movie portrays.  Primarily aimed at the media blowing up articles into the latest entertainment, Death Wish is not afraid to call us out on turning everything into entertainment. In addition, Willis manages to drop some well-timed insults into the mix, often geared toward the unreliability of the law enforcement that plagues our world.  Such small nuances aren’t the wettest humor, but it works given the tone of this movie.


Moral Debates:  Another movie, another means to provide a medium to have ethical debates.  Like so many people these days, people take drastic action to make change happen, and Death Wish is just a series of clips that raise this question.  Gun vigilante may seem extreme, but sadly in this day and age it is not, and it makes one wonder how far you are willing to go to bring about the change.  Is it preachy?  Yes, but that underlying theme acts as the character development in this rather simple plot and works to add a little more meaning to the plot.

Edgy action:  If you’ve seen the trailers, you know the movie is meant to be another example of why Bruce Willis is the man with the exciting plan.  Death Wish fulfills that promise, giving you a movie that has drops flashy stunts and CGI for down and dirty shoot outs.  And while crime shootings are often one dimensional, monotone blowouts, Death Wish manages to add some different angles to the mix that are loaded with a dark tone to really bring out the suspense.  What adds even more thrills, is that Death Wish manages to avoid falling into invincible syndrome, giving some more realistic qualities to our hero so you can relate and potentially get hooked into the suspense. With all this edge, it refreshes the action genre that has gotten stale with their ridiculous antics.


Good pace:  A final nod, outside of a well reflected soundtrack, is the pace of the movie.  A little bit of time is needed at the beginning to get things revved up, but once the first gun blazes, things kick up into gear.  Death Wish is a film that is all about pacing, shedding little time on the irrelevant details so you get as much hunting as you could possibly want. It certainly does not feel slow!



Savage, Dark, Suffering:  My friend doesn’t mind this aspect, and truth is I can handle it too, but for others this movie has a little more graphic torturing than you might be thinking.  Those with weak constitutions, may need to avert their eyes a few times at the bloody fates our extras have in store.  If you can’t handle this blood and cringe worthy tactics, you need to think about watching the movie as it’s not all quick finishes and sunshine.  In fact, some may be depressed seeing the light fade out of the eyes of a few of the reaper’s victims.


Blunt ends:  Death Wish’s writing had plenty of storytelling elements and potential plots contained within, but many of these we felt were bluntly dropped into the mix.  The Ice Cream Man for instance held little difference outside of his scene on the trailers, though you thought he might have had a little more sway.  There are other examples of this, each one starting to build steam or provide a new dynamic for Willis’ character, but sadly they didn’t quite develop all these elements that could have been something more.


Action in the TrailersThis is one of those movies that if you have seen the trailer a lot, or have a good memory, you’re going to unfortunately see a lot of familiar scenes.  Most of the action scenes have been completely shown in the trailer, a testament to how long these scenes are. Therefore, watch the trailer enough time, and you’ve got a little in regards to surprises with the action scenes, and not much from the plot either.  A dilution of story, surprise, and suspense, the movie needed a little tweaking to help out break out of the shell.


Unrealistic:  Wow, an action movie that leaves the reality and goes to the realm of fiction, not the first time we’ve seen this happen.  However, given the more realistic tone of Death Wish, you would think they would work a little harder to keep this going.  First there are some plot holes my friend picked out, that came out of left field.  Yeah, they worked to transition the scenes, but some of these stretches were farfetched, unable to support the method behind Willis’ hunt. Then comes the lacking brains, skills, or ingenuity that the black-market population follow.  How in the world did guards not be posted every single hit target these supposedly elite thieves had?  How did Willis find these steps to contact the guys, or vice versa?  Small things for some, but for this reviewer that deviation was hard to stomach. Finally, Willis’ character somehow manages to avoid detection with just a hoodie.  Batman is able to mask via technology and a legitimate costume, but in this day of media/sharing/and the internet, how in did he avoid detection for so long.  If I knew I just had to put a sleeve over my head and look down to be invisible, I would have done this in undergrad.  Thus, the realistic action movie loses its realistic edge.





            Despite the limitations, Death Wish is the action movie to liven things up and bring those edges the series needs.  The realistic tone, with character development is the hard-hitting angle the genre needed, and the morale dilemma is a nice added bonus.  If you are looking for that grittier element, this movie is certainly the one for you, lacking restraints to unleash the violence full swing.  Yet, the movie still needs to watch its story writing making sure to avoid blunt, rushed ends and big stretches to have us believe.  Yet, if you suspend this tie to realism, you will certainly enjoy this thrilling ride.  Worth a trip to the theater?  I’d say yes in this case if you are a fan of the legend.


MY scores are:


Action/Crime/Drama:  8.0

Movie Overall:  7.0

Failure of Biblical Proportions



Biblical movies are hot topic films that often don’t get their fair reviews, wedged between two extremes that are unrelenting.  While there have been some amazing films to capture the lessons of the Lord, there are others that fall short of the glory.  This weekend, another attempt to bring the stories to visual splendor this time focusing on the tale of Samson and Delilah.  You may not have seen the trailers, but the teaser did not hold much promise for this film, with a Taylor Lautner look alike taking center screen amidst a lot of extras.  Still, yours truly hits another round of movies to bring you another review.  Does this film succeed or is it just bleeding your pockets dry?  Let’s get started on the analysis, shall we?



Orchestra work:  Not the most unique or creative, but the orchestra work in Samson brings an emotional curb to the scene or sequence it is covering.  The booming cannons, the sharp trumpets blaring honorably, and the deep drums all combine to form a symphony that mirrors the ferocity of Samson’s strength. Without this track, the edge portrayed in the trailer would not be there.


Biblical Look:  Okay, okay I’m drawing straw here, but the setting looked like a decent representation of old world towns, palaces, and shacks.  Samson’s cast have a bountiful environment to work in, from dried up forests, to the open desert plains.  The shots are beautiful, and some of the made-up settings look legitimate, especially the outside shots of the CGI built palaces.  A nice start, but the budget needed to be expanded to really clean up the rougher edges of the setting.


The Biblical Message:  In these types of movies, one strives to learn the Lord’s lessons, perhaps as a means to reconnect with their spiritual side.  Samson manages to do this, using both the narratives and physical prowess scenes to help spread the message of going to God.  The latter in particular are very pronounced prayers, going out of the way to dramatize the kneeling and shut eyes as he communicates with God.  This usually follows with some super hero feats, from bashing a person’s rib cage in with a punch or pushing open a gate that has no chance of opening.  Combined with the music, church goers will love seeing the power of God manifest in Samson’s deeds.



Unpolished Acting/Writing:  One major problem with Samson is that much of the movie feels unfinished, unpolished, and quite weak.  Many of the characters act at one extreme or the other, with many of the performances almost feeling like they were uninterested in the part.  When dramatic moments hit, the prolonged speeches, and acts of passion were on the other end of the spectrum, very melodramatic and a little cheesy.  I can’t pinpoint if this is due to the writing, the direction, or something else, but it didn’t meet the Oscar quality they might have been shooting for.


Rushed Story:  The acting can be stomached, but the story, well that is where things really take a dive.  Samson’s tale is epic, and one would hope to see that legendary story have all the meaning and development it needed.  Sadly, this film failed to bring the story to full light.  All the major points are covered, but much of it is a rushed, diluted mess that lacks suspense, quality, or even satisfactionCharacter deaths happen in the blink of an eye, punishments lack the movie magic to actually make you feel the pain in your heart and given the writing/acting…things don’t feel believable in the performance. Like many movies, they seemed to try and cram everything in to a short run time and it didn’t work for me.


The Action:  Okay, seeing a Hebrew take on corrupt, pigheaded soldiers, is always satisfying given the portrayal of bad guys in Hollywood.  However, Samson’s strength falters not in terms of power, but in terms of quality in the fight scenes itself.  Much of the movie is just the well-toned body of Taylor James being framed in a close up, with him performing the same, habitual punch/bash over and over again.  Oh yeah, they have a little mix up, but it’s nothing impressive as it resorts back to the usual bashing before seeing a shot of a poor extra pretending to die.  Sword play is lacking, suspense again is gone, and even the main bad guys feel weak in terms of epic villainy and thrilling fights.  Like much of this movie, they cut corners on this aspect and it didn’t pay off.



            The legendary story of Samson is an epic one about the power of God and filled with morals about trusting the Almighty one with your life.  Sadly, this film was not able to glorify it the way it needed to be.  Whether it is due to a limited budget, a short time limit, or rookie status, the movie cut too many corners as they tried to cram everything they could into a short time frame.  Mediocre acting, rushed story, and lackluster action more than overshadow the visuals and message in this movie, setting another example of how Hollywood doesn’t necessarily mean quality.  So, while the spiritual power is good, Robbie recommends skipping this installment at least until RedBox that is… and I can only marginally recommend this. 


My scores are:

Action/Drama:  4.5

Movie Overall: 4.0

The Panther King

Black panther


Another Marvelous weekend is here and it holds another Disney branded film to be released into the local theaters.  The superhero theme of the weekend strays from the normal leads you’ve seen in the last few years, one who has more ferocity than the usual crew, maybe outside of the Hulk.  Yes, I’m talking about Black Panther, and after much anticipation it is here and ready to unleash the cat within.  Does this highly awaited film meet expectations?  Robbie K is here to help out, with yet another movie review.  Sit back, relax, and read on as I help out with your movie going pleasures.




The Cinematography:  A good hero movie requires good visuals to bring it to life, and Black Panther reigns supreme on this level.  After some unique storytelling art at the beginning, the movie resorts to beautiful blends of real-life, breathtaking shots and impressive visuals.  The movie drops you into what feels like a technologically advanced city, complete with James Bond like gadgets that feel super in themselves.  Black Panther’s camerawork is also very dynamic, energetic enough to increase the action, but contained enough to not leaving you nauseous or confused.


The Acting:  Marvel movies sometimes tank in this section, but again Black Panther raises the bar on this levelChadwick Boseman retains the regality of T’Challa from Civil War but adds more conflict and growth to the character as he struggles with the mantle of king. Michael B. Jordan comes back with a fire, once again showing that he earns his spot in Hollywood with an emotionally charged performance that seethes with that raw edge. Lupita Nyong’o brings the balance to the movie, portraying a character that acts as a solid bridge between all parties, keeping her dynamic performance balanced at the same time, while Danai Gurira grounds the characters down with her strong will and fantastic stage combat skills.  Letitia Wright is the comedy of the film who has a fantastic delivery of the well-written lines this movie has.  Almost all parties involved nailed their roles, with the chemistry between everyone favorably mixing to create what felt like a tribe.  Fantastic job casting director.


The Comedy: Marvel is all about making you laugh, sometimes making that the focus of the film and other times as a nice add-on.  Black Panther took the latter for me and was tastefully done to perhaps be one of the best executions of the Marvel Universe.  In this darker movie, there is a lot of tension and raw nerves exposed in the Savannah drama, with many negative emotions running rampant like the predators of the plains.  Yet, intermixed in this intensity is comedic gold, or vibranium in this case, well-placed to maximize laughs and clever to avoid the usual slapstick staleness that plagues most movies.  This style of comedy didn’t detract from the movie but added another layer to help reset the tension and keep you engaged in the movie from start to finish.  Plus, you’ve got a nice combination of styles in store as well, so two thumbs up for that.


The Emotion in the Story:  The movie does not have the most unique story, something hard to accomplish in this age of saturation. Yet this Marvel version of the Lion King is packed with so many moments to send one into an emotional fervor, sending you on a roller coaster ride of feelings.  Black Panther will be inspiring to many, bringing approving claps and motivation to change the world.  It’s a moral filled tale that brings out the dynamic use of technology, the importance of family, and the dilemmas of a new king having to face.  While I’m not the biggest supporter of dramas, Black Panther manages to make the drama feel less soap opera like that many movies fail to avoid. 


The Ending:  Many f Marvel’s movies often fail to find that satisfying ending to conclude the awesome tale.  Black Panther, manages to keep everything going from start to finish and brings all the building tension to full boil with an exciting climax.  All the characters are brought into the mix, having some involvement in the conflict at hand, as they fight in impressive choreographed battles.  And while our combatants dance in the virtual field, the story continues to progress and the characters develop with each swing of the weapon.  It utilizes all the elements that they had developed during the movie, which goes to show story telling is still alive.




Impressionable Hate:  More of a warning, the main villain is not only skilled and deadly, but has a surprising amount of hate contained in his chiseled body.  Killmonger is a character that has a lot of issues, and his plot to change the world is something that can motivate impressionable minds down the wrong avenue.  Be careful when taking friends and younger audience members to the film who have difficulty understanding character flaws.


Martin Freeman:  The movie did an okay job with the former hobbit, but I expected a lot more from Freeman’s character.  Though there is some comic relief, and a little action with his character, Freeman really didn’t feel that pertinent to the story until near the very end.  Such a legendary actor deserved some more relevance to the plot, some extra comedy, or at least some better development to justify the price tag that comes with him.  Not the weakest character mind you, but not what I expected.


More Action:  No surprise, Robbie want’s more action in his Marvel movie.  With Black Panther, I had worried that most of the excitement was ruined in the trailers, especially with a huge gap between those action-packed sequences.  Had it not been for the ending, I would have been disappointed in this quality, but still I wanted more to be unleashed in this movie to put T’Challa’s skills to the test.




            Black Panther is by far one of the better Marvel films to grace the theaters and shows promise for the future of the series.  The tale has fantastic visuals to bring the world to life, alongside amazing writing and acting to further bring Wakanda to the playing field. It keeps its characters engaged and fills the 2-hour 15-minute run time with an emotional fervor to keep you integrated into every aspect until that incredible ending sequence.  However, the movie still has a few limitations including needing a little more action, a dab more of Martin Freeman’s relevance, and a slight decrease in predictability to make this a perfect film in the Marvel universe.  Still, the film gets massive props for reviving the Marvel movement this year.  So definitely get out there and see Black Panther and unleash the beast that dwells within all us comic book fans. 


My scores are:


Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi:  9.0

Movie Overall: 8.0

A Cure To Extra Movies Telling The Story!

Death Cure


Books, once the primary medium for telling stories, has now become the newest screenplay source for Hollywood.  The big wigs are back this weekend with another dystopian novel coming up to the big screen in hopes of concluding the tale with that justice fans demand.  As these series are a mixed bag (Hunger games vs. Divergent), one may wonder how this book will fair, especially with the mixed response the first two have had.  Robbie K here, hoping to help you out with another movie weekend and hopefully save you some time and money.  Let’s go!




Strong Opening:  You always like your movie to grab your attention from the start, and the Death Cure is happy to accommodate.  The movie takes little time to get the excitement going, pumping into an action scene and kicking the pace off to 4th gear.  Even after the scene finishes, the movie sets things up quickly, to keep the pace and tension going, a plus given the long run time. I myself enjoyed the opening act of the film and how it was able to establish all three-story fronts and run them in tandem, accomplishing the balance of concise and complete.


Acting: To make these classics come to life, one must get the cast just right to bring these characters off the page.  Well the squad who was cast long ago, continues their strong work of capturing Thomas and his band of merry men.  Dylan O’Brien is the leading man again, getting the rebellious, battle hardened leader role down.  Stoic and heroic are his leading qualities, but handling that emotional vulnerability that comes with the role was a challenge well accomplished by this actor.  Ki Hong Lee, while not quite the champion he was in the first two installments, still keeps his calm in his role, securing the suffering portrayal and for once not sounding sexual when a character screams.  Kaya Scodelario as Theresa was a little dry and mundane at times, but starts to redeem herself and get her complexities down at the climax of the movie. And my favorite of the characters, Newt played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster who got all the emotions right, played the transition roles to point, and delivered some of the best speeches I’ve heard in a character. 


The Suspense: What I liked about this movie the most though, is how well they captured the suspense and tension of the film.  Unlike the earlier installments that hit those dead moments, the third installment manages to keep things always moving and on the edge.  With suspense and thrills packed in, it’s hard not to get lost in all the action on board and its nail biting, cleverness.  Loaded into this excitement though, is a bounty of emotions that rope you into the character’s struggles and tether the chaos to the story.  Riding this roller coaster was very satisfying, and personally, I loved how engged these characters were into the film as the epic conclusion started to arise.


The Final Scene: And after all this excitement, comes a finish that was perfect to wrap up the chaos at hand.  While not the most complete in terms of answers, the finale’s combination of epic soundtrack, emotional monologue, and cinematography brought goosebumps to my skin, and no it wasn’t due to a virus.  It’s this final punch that finally shows you can take a book series and end it epically, so stick around ladies and gents to see how trials finish up.




No refresher:  In most of these movies, the writers are able to remind you of the previous events in either dialogue or an opening montage.  Death Cure doesn’t remotely try to attempt to give you a refresher course, and for those who haven’t seen the films or reread the novels, you are on your own for connecting the dots.


The Length: You know there has to be massive entertainment or an engaging twist to keep you hooked into the movie.  And while Death Cure was exciting, I couldn’t justify the movie being past 120 minutes.  Much of the extra length came from drawn out chases and dialogue that were bloated examples of arrogance.  These moments might have held tension, but eventually got too drawn out for me, and had be begging for a conclusion.  Nevertheless, the suspenseful moments of the film sometimes turned into ridiculousness for me, because they seemed to move at half speed to get to the predictable ending.  More editing would have been a plus here.


The Coincidences:  Can’t tell if this was the theme in the book, but did the events really rely on this much serendipity and suspense of belief.  I’m not talking about the dystopia feel, or the zombie like cranks that seemed to be the latest overplayed creature.  No, my beef  comes with how inconsistent or stretching one sees them take with things like bullet proof glass suddenly breaking, convenient structural integrity collapse, and how the creatures somehow don’t attack the outskirts of the last city.  With all of these conveniences, it was hard for me not to laugh at these choices as they became a rather weak wrap up.


Reduction of Characters:  I give these guys props for integrating so many characters, but this film kind of dropped both plot and characters into the background, more than I would have expected.  Some of our heroes from the last movie have barely ten minutes in the film, and other major villains don’t have quite the bite that one would have expected from the trailers.  Even new characters making their appearance were a little drab, not in terms of looks, but again in a leaner story that I thought was more prominent in the book than on the screen.  Why we didn’t see more of these rag tag mercenaries and supporting characters , I don’t know, but again balance is key.




            Maze Runner: Death Cure was a good conclusion to the trilogy for this reviewer.  The cast continues to remain strong, with a strong set of scenes to grip you into the action and lock in the suspense to come over the 120 minute run time.  And the fact they crafted a finale without going into an extra film wins bonus points for me. However, the movie is a bit unnecessarily long for me, failing to impress with exaggerated chase scenes that come to a convenient ending. In addition, the characters they highlight in the trailers, primarily the new antagonists, needed some better balance for me to help bring this final installment to the top.  Still, given all the excitement and special effects, as well as an emotionally packed story, this trilogy’s finale is worth a trip to the theaters.


My scores are:


Action/Sci-Fi/Thriller:  8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0

A Little More Development Would Have Made This 12 Stronger

12 strong.jpg

            The World Trade Center attack, a day that will forever live on in the history of the American society.  From this event, our military launched a new war that targeted terrorism, and the escalating threats that hid in the shadows.  We’ve had plenty of tales about the heroes who acted on that day, uncovered the leads to locating the leaders of the attack, and potential occupations of territories of those who might continue their work.  This weekend, yet another campaign heavy feature comes to theaters entitled 12 strong, the declassified story of the Horsemen who fought back.  What lies in this political drama?  Robbie K here to answer that question in hopes of guiding your viewing pleasures.  Let’s’ move out!




The Pace:  Some military dramas get lost in all the political jargon and build up, but this movie manages to dive through that medium quickly to get to what you want to see. While the opening hour is on the slower side and dialogue heavy, it eventually takes off when the first battles begin to rock out.  From there, the rest of the movie is tense ride, moving at a consistent speed to bring suspense and intensity at what lies in the Middle Eastern range.


The Dialogue:  The story of the horsemen may be action heavy focused, but my buddy and I agreed that the dialogue was well done in this movie.  One component is between the soldiers, a realistic, almost natural, exchange of insults, jabs, and venting that represents the bond the soldiers have.  Well-timed jokes relieve some of the tension, and the comedic punch is subtle but perfect to get a good laugh out of you.  When the action starts up, you’ll get your feel of military jargon, as the soldiers call out strategic maneuvers and call in air strikes utilizing the coordinates.  While not the most creative writing here, it’s a component that helps pull you into the heat of the moment.  The strongest writing though, comes in the philosophical debates between Captain Mitch (Chris Hemsworth) and General Dostum  (Navid Negahban). A contest of wills takes place numerous time between the two leaders, and in it contains Hollywood inspired lines designed to open your minds to bravery, empathy, and what it means to fight.  These moments are the most moving, and in it a great study on the hell war truly is.


The Messages:  The dialogue does much of the lifting in this category, but 12 Strong also has enough visual representation on the culture of the battlefield that was the war on terror.  Perhaps there is some studio magic to gloss up things, the movie did a solid job portraying the Arabic cultures and approaches to war on all sides.  Honor and dignity are heavy in the population, and not all factions are as heated as the terrorism associated with it.  Seeing this duality not only supports the dramatic storytelling, but does a solid job at educating the audience that not everyone out there is an enemy.


Action: Okay now the part you really want to know about.  The action of 12 Strong delivers what the trailer promised.  Special effects heavy sequences erupt to life as Hemsworth and company unleash their disciplined fury onto the poor extras that are heavy in this film.  Exciting gunplay is the main theme of the mix, all sharing a similar foundation, but with some tweaks to help each battle stand out.  As many of my fellow reviewers agree, the movie’s final battle is the best of the bunch, packed with emotion, tension, and all out courage and glory that America loves to see as they ride their horses into the fray.  A powerful cinematic score will assist in bringing the whole shebang to life.  Not the strongest of all the movies I’ve seen, but dang strong in its own right.





Too Long:  For a movie that is action packed, you would think that the story could be told in under 2 hours.  Yet, this movie was a little too long at points for me.  It starts with the delayed opening, taking nearly an hour to get to the first battle the movie promised.  Sure, the information is presented in a concise manner, but how much of it was really needed is the question that remains.  In addition, the movie took some tangents to give you the whole journey, admirable in terms of capturing every detail, but not done well enough to be fully pertinent to the movie.  This story takes some unnecessary tangents that didn’t get the time it needed, acting as quick acknowledgements to the soldier’s lives and nothing more.


Hard To Differentiate Soldiers:  Another problem with this movie is how much the soldiers seem to blend together in this movie.  You’ve got Hemsworth who sticks out like a sore thumb, and a couple of other members that have a unique quality to them to help differentiate them.  Much of the cast though are just bearded big men who all have a vendetta to settle with the terrorists.  Sacrificing logical combat gear choices, like helmets and armor, they try to give some visual cues to help each member stand out, but their identities still aren’t really prominent for the audience to grab onto.  They relied on Hemsworth too much to do the lifting, letting his good looks do most of the eye grabbing.  In addition, none of the other soldiers had strong background development, with only the ones with family getting any glimpse of a life.  They try to give a few of them some screen time at parts of the movie by splitting the team, but most of the supporting antics fall to quick sequences that could have been left out.


Army Of One: Exciting as the battles are, 12 strong is more like 1-5 strong in the grand scheme of things.  Hemsworth is the soldier whose perspective you’ll get the most of, despite being the member who has had the least combat experience.  Where other movies do a nice job of integrating all members of the team in some way, but this film sort of glazed over the contributions of the others.  Don’t get me wrong, the other troops have some displays of their skills, but they just don’t have that unique component other military films do.  Even the main villain sometimes get lost to the sea of extras, with only some close ups of sneers to shine the spotlight on.  Again, the movie relies of Hemsworth to do most of the lifting, and it really could have achieved more had the others been more involved.




            When it comes to action films, 12 strong is the leader for the new year at the moment.  While the movie starts out slow, the second act gets things going, primarily thanks to the action sequences that are loaded in this movie. Still, the movie manages to get some good dialogue into the mix that, in tandem with the visual effects, does a nice job delivering the emotional messages about the culture of war.  However, the movie was a little too long, going down too many paths that, while entertaining, did not provide much to the story.  Such a shame, as the other members of the platoon could have used some development to not only add more to the battles, but also help the other cast stand out a little more.  Given all these things though, the movie is the pick of the weekend to go see in theaters, due to the special effects and storytelling at hand.


My Scores:


Action/Drama/History:  7.5

Movie Overall:  6.5


Den Of Deceit: Will This Movie Steal Your Attention

Den of thieves.jpg


Robbing banks, a past time for many characters in Hollywood and often the setting for a very engaging story line.  Early renditions of this movie often added a little comedy to the atmosphere at the preposterous lengths they have to go to score the big score. As tastes have matured though, the crime genre has strapped on a more violent, angst-filled, gun fest where the darker the tale, the more you wail.  Welcome to another Robbie’s movie review and tonight I set my sights on Den of Thieves, a movie with leading man Gerard Butler taking point to get you into the theater.  What’s in store for this semi-advertised movie?  Read on to find out.




Good Acting: You want angst filled cops and vengeful mercenaries, look no further, because this cast has you covered with their skills.  Gerard Butler still has the candid cop role down, utilizing his gruff and ire of Leonidas, without the abs or honor. It works so well as an entertaining character, one you might enjoy as you watch him unload his full might into the epic crime case at hand.  His supporting cast amplifies the rogue cop team aspect, saying little, but at least providing the looks. Pablo Schreiber has the villain role down pat as well, cut throat and to the point, but also strategic and in control of his emotions.  The culmination is a respectable villain, whose portrayal is so calculating you don’t know what Schreiber went through to capture it.  Finally, O’Shea Jackson Jr. gets props for his role as Donnie, another character that is complex and stuck between two worlds and having to adjust to two situations.  He pulls off the mannerisms and emphasis well crafting the third big character of the film.


The Character Chemistry:  While the acting brings each character to life, it’s the direction and writing that really makes these characters shine for me.  Donnie, Merriman, and Big Nick have that awkward triangle relationship going, trading love and friendship for a crazy game of manhunt and keeping secrets. Much like Catch Me If You Can, Den of Thieves is a darker twist to the crime chasing thriller, with a rivalry that calls for each character to up the ante to go for the score and obtain their goals.  Numerous audience members reacted to the tactics they threw out, often aimed at the other’s personal life to hit them hard.  How low will they go?  You don’t know, but it creates some suspense to keep you on the edge of your seat.


The Multiple Levels: A good crime movie is clever, tricky, and often convoluted to minimize the chances of the plan actually working.  Den of Thieves accomplishes this complexity quite well, with the title acting as a symbol for all the deceit contained in this movie. While certainly vengeful, the strategies of Big Mike and Merrimen are like a massive scale chess game, each move trying to draw their opponents out in an attempt to divert from the real goal at hand. And the identity of that underlying goal is constantly changing, each revelation peeling a layer back until the core is finally revealed at the end. Those fans of crime shows are going to enjoy this, because it is that plot only bigger.


Well Detailed:  This movie accomplishes the crime story telling quite well.  The characters are pretty well developed and they get points for expanding upon the generic roles we have seen in countless media.  However, what I really appreciated, was seeing the dots connected, no stone left unturned in explaining how the entire plan connected.  All the cronies, all the planning, every detail accounted for in this grand scheme.  I like a movie that tells a complete story, and Den Of Thieves accomplished this task.




Language: A minor dislike, the band of thieves and cops fall victim to expletive heavy dialogue once more.  Every ounce of frustration is represented in some curse word, often leaning towards the F-Bomb, but occasionally diverting to another term in the limited glossary.  Happily, most of it is relevant to the dialogue and not too overdone.


Big Nick’s Tangents: When Nick is engaged in the battle of wits, the story moves and things seem relevant.  While I applaud the attempt at expanding his character, Mike’s personal life does not fit well into the whole depth of the movie.  Outside of painting some personal problems he has, these issues don’t get too much in the way of his job.  So why did we dive into these issues?  Is it some personal growth they are trying to set up?  Is it a means to develop a plot device to be utilized later?  No, it seems like it was just some expansion on the run time and a way to chisel away from the rogue cop physique.  Had it been left out, probably would have resulted in about thirty minutes cut out, which would have been good.


More Action: The trailers paint this to be a high velocity crime chase and I had such high hopes for this to be the case.  It showed promise with the opening scene, the firefight that gets the tale started being intense, exciting, and even better… not one sided.  After the adrenaline rush ebbs, you see the suspense building, and at parts it seems things are going to come to full boil.  And then things fizzle out and you are left with more dialogue and drama until the final fifteen-minute bout at the end.  These moments are awesome, but Den Of Thieves could have really used a few more exciting features to keep things on the edge and speed things up. 




            Overall, Den Of Thieves is a more concentrated version of the cable crime shows that fill the mainstream line up.  This dark tale is ready to keep you on your toes, as the tennis match of skill, deceit, and vendetta filled antics makes for an interesting twist on these casual roles.  However, the biggest selling factor is the complexity of the film and tumbling down the rabbit hole.  The things that bring this movie down for me are the need for more action and some useless tangents that don’t add much to the story.  As such, this brings the movie down a peg in terms of excitement and added some unnecessary minutes to an already long movie.  Still, the convoluted tale is enough to be theater worthy and I recommend a visit on this one. 


My scores are:

Action/Crime/Drama:  8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0