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Sean Hill Reviews SICARIO

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When Arizona FBI agent and kidnap-response-team leader Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) uncovers a Mexican cartel’s house littered with dead bodies, it leads to profound consequences on both a personal and global level. Kate is recruited to join a covert black-ops mission headed by a mysterious Colombian operative known only as Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) along with special agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin). Even as Kate tries to convince herself she’s on a hunt for justice, she is thrust into the dark heart of a secret battleground that has swept up ruthless cartels, kill-crazy assassins, clandestine American spies and thousands of innocents. SICARIO explores the journey of an intelligence operation that pushes the rules to engage with those who don’t play by any.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier REVIEW

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I am not a comic book geek. That statement is in no way in disrespect for those who label themselves as such. It takes a certain level of dedication to know every nuance and minutia of their favorite superhero. I say this in an effort of full disclosure as my review is based solely on the film alone and not based on any prior knowledge of preconceived notions. My first deep exposure to Captain America was not in the first CAPTAIN AMERICA film but THE AVENGERS. Yes I know blasphemy to some but I just never had an interest in seeing the film. Even in THE AVENGERS I found him to be a pretty bland character. I attributed that to a combination of his role in the film as and the actor who portrays him Chris Evans. And hold on to your hats geeks, I only saw CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER until a day or so before I saw the sequel. I did not find that film all that enjoyable. In fact I thought it was somewhat cheesy. I did not have very high hopes for the sequel and despite the early good buzz for the sequel I was not expecting to like the film very much. I was wrong.

The film takes place two years after “the event in New York” and finds Steve Rogers AKA Captain America still working for S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division) and trying to find his place in a world that has literally passed him by. This is an interesting aspect of the character but the film barely  devotes anytime delving into this. There is a brief sequence in which he visits The Smithsonian and sees an exhibit of Captain America’s history. The main purpose of this sequence is to set up events that will occur later in film. That is about all the time the film has for character development. The film is more concerned with action and intrigue and it delivers on both.

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The first action set piece is very well made. He and fellow agent Natasha Romanoff AKA The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) are assigned to a rescue mission to a save a S.H.I.E.L.D. vessel from pirates. This sequence shows both Rogers’ and Romanoff’s fighting skills and the whole sequence is very well staged. I also noticed a lack of CGI in this sequence. The next big action sequence is one of the film’s best. It involves and ambush and assault on Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson) while he is enroute to a rendezvous. The sequence involves a high speed car chase, a shootout, and high-tech battering ram. The effects are done in camera and it at least to my eye was not aided by CGI. It is all very realistic and grounds the film in reality. The sequence ends with not only the best vehicle flip since the truck in THE DARK KNIGHT but also introduces the film’s villain, The Winter Soldier.

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There is a great deal going on in the film plot wise. It is more a spy thriller/action film rather than  a superhero movie. The plot is bit talky and complicated but I was able to follow it. However the film seems to be more  concerned with advancing the Marvel Cinematic Universe than being a complete stand-alone film. That is not to say that is not good entertainment. The definite strength of the film is the villain. As with all action pictures they are only as good as their bad guy and this film has a winner with The Winter Soldier who may remind some viewers of The Terminator. He is virtual no talk all business and seems to possess the same strengths as Captain America. Though they are fundamentally opposite they are physical equals. Another of the film’s strength is the limited use of CGI in the films action set pieces which are mostly car crashes/chases and shootouts. Similar to THE DARK KNIGHT the action sequences are shot on real city streets and aids in giving those set pieces a realistic look. These are some of the best action sequences I have seen a quite a while. The film’s biggest weakness.enough Winter Soldier. I have a theory as to why there is a lack of screen time for the villain. His identity is supposed to be a surprise to the character and I believe the audience. Well at least a surprise to a novice like me. He is not one of those “talky” villains as he speaks thru his actions. Like The Terminator he has very little dialogue in the film. Another weakness is the film is overstuffed with characters that may or may not play future roles in future Marvel movies. Will Rogers’ new found friend Sam AKA Falcon (Anthony Mackie) join him for future adventures? I certainly hope so. Then there are the characters played by film legend Robert Redford and television star Emily VanCamp. Sometimes you need a flow chart to keep it all straight. Sometimes Rogers feels like a supporting character in his own film but the action sequences make up for the time that spent on exposition.

Overall this is a really good film. The action sequences are first rate though I would have like to have seen a little more insight into the Steve Rogers/Captain America character. I would also liked to have seen more of the villain do his thing as well. The film is not very “super” which is an aspect that I liked. Fans of course will eat this film up though there is lot for non-fans to enjoy here as well. Though you might want to brush up on your Marvel knowledge before seeing this. I am sure I missed a few in-jokes and references but hey as I said I am not a comic book geek. Any film that has a sequence that has a montage set the Marvin Gaye’s TROUBLE MAN will always get a Thumbs Up in my book! As the end credits say “CAPTAIN AMERICA Will Return in THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON. In the meantime can we get a Black Widow movie? Please!

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Sidenote:

As Marvel fans know, stay for the credits. I will say no more.

Need For Speed- Review

NEED FOR SPEED

1 Star

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            I do not conduct a great deal of research before I see a film. I avoid trailers, commercials etc. as I like to go in fresh with as little knowledge as possible to keep things fresh. Imagine my surprise when I walk into the screening and I am given 3D glasses. I had no idea the film was in 3D. As the film begins I see a logo on the screen that says EA Films. Hmm. EA? Isn’t that a video game maker? And then it dawn on me that I was about to watch a film based on video game! This is not going to be pretty.

This is one of the dumbest films I have seen in a long time and remember folks I see a lot of films. It is full of many plot holes and improbable events that it is laughable. At first glance it would appear to be a rip-off of the FAST AND FURIOUS series however it owes more to SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT and VANISHING POINT. It wishes it was as good as those films as the basic premise of the film makes absolutely no sense. Street racer Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) is sent prison after being wrongly accused of causing the death of his friend in a street-racing accident.  A very basic police investigation would have ruled him out a suspect. After being released he participates in an underground race which would require him to get from New York to San Francisco in two days to avenge the death of his friend. How does that avenge the death of his friend? I do not know. This issue is the least of this film's problems. At the start of the film there is a big issue made of Tobey and his band of buddies being manipulated into fixing Tobey’s rival Dino’s (Dominic Cooper) rare Ford Mustang. Typically in films of this type we get a “fixing the car” montage, but no not this film. The next scene the car is fixed, souped up, and on display at an auto show. How long did it take them to fix it? Were there any issues? The film does not bother to tell us. One of the characters Bennie (Kid Cudi) is a pilot and plays lookout from the air for his street racing buddies. How does he afford to maintain a plane? The film never bothers to tell us. Throughout the course of the film Bennie is seen flying three different types of aircrafts as Tobey travels cross country to participate in the underground race. How does he do this? How is he able to land and take off at will? The film never bothers to tell us.  Another of Tobey’s pals has left New York and now lives and works in Detroit in a typical high rise office building. Tobey calls him on his cell and tells him to go to the window and what do you know he goes directly to the correct window that will allow him to see Tobey below. How does he know which window to go to? You get the point.

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            The only asset in the film is the lack of CGI used for the racing sequences. That seems to be a good selling point but with a weak script it negates the sometimes impressive stunts. However this is one crash that is pivotal to the film that seems to be in bad taste as it echoes the death of FAST AND FURIOUS star Paul Walker. While the filmmakers have no obligation to do so they should have been more sensitive to this aspect and figure out a way to edit the sequence so that is not so eerily similar to a real life event. The acting in this film is average at best and the only actor that is able to bring life to the proceedings is Michael Keaton who plays radio host Monarch, who also happens to be the sponsor of the race competition. Keaton has the good fortune to appear in all of his scenes alone so he does not have to interact with the rest of the cast.

This film is flat out stupid. On the bright side the 3D is actually done well but not well enough for me to recommend this film. The plot holes are too numerous and it shows that the filmmakers did not care to actually make a good story. The story is just an excuse to showcase hot cars in action. If that is your thing that by all means see this film. Those that care about plot, characters and plausibility should look elsewhere. You will leave this film with more questions and this is not the type of film in which that should occur. Skip this film and play the video game instead. It probably has a better story than this mess.

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Robocop – Sean Hill’s Review

ROBOCOP
2 STARS

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When I first received confirmation of the decision to remake Paul Verhoeven’s classic 1987 film ROBOCOP, my first thought was, "Why remake a classic that, aside from the special effects, is almost a flawless film?” It is no secret that many popular film franchises that have run their course become fodder for, reboots, remakes and my personal favorite term: the reimagining. Some of the new versions ranged from the good (THE DEPARTED) to the bad (CARRIE) to the downright ugly (FIGHT NIGHT). Since most of these films fail to set the box office world on fire, one has to wonder why these movies keep getting remade. The cynical answer to both questions is simple: they are cheap to make and need very little advertising to get people in to the theater. In most cases they cast unknowns or TV actors in the lead roles, which help in keeping the film’s budgets under control and take shortcuts that make it possible for the studio to make a profit off of these remakes. The problem is that those shortcuts often sacrifice quality and creativity in the process. So as long as people go to see them, rent them or buy them they will continue to be made. While the new ROBOCOP is not a complete failure, it is another unnecessary remake in a long list of other unnecessary remakes.
As with most remakes the film attempts to bring the action in the “modern” world and make it relevant to the current days’ time. The original film dealt with the crime-ridden city of futuristic Detroit and although this film is also set in Detroit the themes are present of a global scale. Robots are being used to fight crime and aid in the war on terrorism. Although successful we are told that the American people would not approve the use of the machines in local law enforcement. OmniCorp, the company that makes the machines, led by CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) comes up with the idea that in order to “sell” the idea there needs to be a human element to the machines. Along with company scientist Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) they decide to incorporate a human being with the technology. Quicker than you can say car explosion cop Alex Murphy is badly injured which gives them the “body” that they need to complete their creation. Before you know it Robocop is born.

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It was my intent to review this film without comparing it the original but I have found that to be an impossible task. This remake makes many changes from the original material most notably the rating. The original was an ultra-violent film and that worked to its advantage. The criminals were extremely violent therefore Robocop had to be even more violent. The current film has watered it down so much to achieve its PG-13 rating that it has morphed into a bloodless video game. There are many shoot-outs and people getting shot but there is not a single drop of blood spilled. Another major change that derails the film is the lack of Robocop’s journey of self-discovery that is present in the first film. That was an important theme in the original as Murphy begins to rediscover who he is/was. The current film does not kill off Murphy so he is aware of who is and his past at all times. The original had a man trapped inside a robot and that dynamic is missing here. Fans of the original who remember the last line of that film will be disappointed. The film is also missing the satirical wit of the original as well. However, the filmmakers attempt to use the classic line “I’d buy that for a dollar” but it seems forced and it does not work.
Is this film better than the original? The answer is a resounding no. The original is considered a classic and still holds up to viewing today. The only difference is that the original should not be viewed by younger viewers. It is quite possible that the target audience have not even heard of the Robocop character and they actually could be confused as presented he is a somewhat reminiscent of Ironman. This film should not have been made and although it's well made technically and good performances from the supporting cast, it simply does not live up to the original. It does not improve on it only makes it different. While different is okay better is, well better. If the original did not exist I would only slightly recommend it.

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********************Side Note****************************

As you are probably aware from the ads Samuel L. Jackson is in this film. Quite frankly it is time for Sam to start saying no to some projects. His role in this film can only be seen as a cash grab from a guy that should not need the cash. He is not required to act in anyway and is literally being “Sam Jackson” here. In his role television host Pat Novak all of scenes with the exception of one is him talking directly to the camera and is eerily identical to the current credit card commercial. I was honestly expecting him to say “what’s in your wallet?” at any given time. It would not surprise me one bit if his scenes were filmed in a two days max. I never thought I would ever say that Jackson brings nothing to a film, but sadly he has earned that sentiment.

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3 Days To Kill – REVIEW

3 DAYS TO KILL
1 Star

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Despite not being a very good actor in my opinion Kevin Costner became an extremely successful actor in the late 80’s. After co-starring in several films he received his first starring role in 1987’s THE UNTOUCHABLES and a few months later starred in BULL DURHAM. Both films were box success and in 1989 he struck box office gold again with FIELD OF DREAMS. As with most film stars it is hard to continue to be successful with every film and this proved true for him with the dismal film REVENGE, also released in 1989. He would redeem himself with his next film DANCES WITH WOLVES, which would win multiple Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director for Costner. After that film Costner would steadily work but his films were not as successful as his previous work. However, he has not had a starring role since 2009 although he has appeared recently in MAN OF STEEL and JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT in supporting roles. Now Costner is back in a starring role in 3 DAYS TO KILL which might be his worst film since REVENGE.

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Costner stars as CIA agent Ethan Renner who at the start of the film is on the trail of The Albino and The Wolf with members of his team. While he is on surveillance he takes the time to call his daughter for her birthday. Why he could not do it before or after the operation is over is a question that remains. Despite suffering from what he thinks is a cold he is quite effective at his job but of course the plan does not go as planned and members of his team are killed. In a very good action sequence The Albino sets off an explosion that allows him to escape but the ailing Renner is in pursuit. Renner is able to shoot The Albino in the leg before he passes out due to his illness. Turns out that Renner does not have a cold but has brain cancer that has spread to his lungs and he is given 3 to 5 months to live. In an effort to put his affairs in order he decides to try to repair his relationship with his estranged wife and daughter. Oh and his also recruited for “one last job” by the mysterious Vivi to help capture, who else, The Albino and The Wolf. In exchange for his services he is offered and experimental drug that could extend his life.

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The film is part spy thriller; part domestic drama and it does not do either well. After a very good opening sequence the film all but abandons that plot and its inclusion later seems like an afterthought. The film is more concerned about Renner’s relationship with his daughter which would be fine if it were handled in a manner that is not full of clichés. McG, the director of this mess, shows that he is inept at bring out the drama in the material. There are moments in this film that made me laugh at loud, which I’m sure was not the intent. Example. In an effort to win her over he makes an effort to purchase her a gift for her birthday. The gift. A purple bike. Why purple? Because that was her favorite color as a child. Why a bike? Who knows. His daughter is at least 16 so wouldn’t a car be more appropriate. A running gag in the film is Renner unsuccesful attempts to give her the bike her refusing but the jokes fall flat. The revelation as to why she does not want the bike is that she does not know how to ride a bike. This is met with cheesy sad music on the soundtrack and a montage of Renner teacher her to ride the bike.

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This film is flat out awful and even Costner cannot save the material. Much like Bruce Willis in A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD, Costner seems to be aware that he is in a bad film and seems to be going thru the motions to earn his paycheck. Costner owes his fans more than that. This film is so bad that even the title does not work. One would think that the title would be in reference to the amount of days he has to live and complete his assignment. Nope, it is said by his daughter to Renner when she learns he will be staying with her for three days while her mom is out of town. It is early in the year but as of now I have a contender for one of the worst films of the year.

As of 2/21/14 Kevin Costner films that are streaming on Netflix are:
BULL DURHAM
DANCES WITH WOLVES
THE UNTOUCHABLES

Ride Along – REVIEW

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The modern cop-buddy picture has been around for a while. The genre really started with the release of 1982’s 48 HRS starring Nick Nolte and then film newcomer Eddie Murphy, as mismatched partners that must work together to solve a crime. The film spawned a dismal sequel and countless remakes. It seemed like box office gold; just get two popular stars and pair them together and watch the sparks fly.  The typical plot of a buddy cop film is as follows: Introduction of the crime and and/or bad guy. Intro of the “lead character,” typically the “straight-laced one”; cut to a separate intro of the wilder “loose cannon” character. The two leads discover that have a mutual enemy in the bad guy and discover that they must work together. Usually both are resistant to the idea and think they can do the job alone. They bicker and they fight. Somehow and during the course of the film they discover a mutual respect for each other. They defeat the bad guy and by the time the credits roll they are not only friends, they are ready to return for a sequel. For further proof, take a look at the list of buddy cop films here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddy_cop_film I have basically described the plot of RIDE ALONG the latest in a long line of buddy cop films.

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The late Roger Ebert came up with the term “wunza” as any film using a plot which can be summarized by saying "One's a...."  This film follows the classic buddy cop formula almost to the letter with the only distinction in that one of two is not a cop. Ice Cube plays the cop and Kevin Hart plays a cop wanna be. The plot is as follows Kevin Hart is dating Ice Cube’s sister. Ice Cube does not like Kevin Hart. Kevin Hart wants Ice Cube’s approval. Ice Cube decides that in order for Kevin Hart to prove his worth, Ice Cube will take Kevin Hart on a ride along putting him in tough situations. Notice that I used the actors names rather than the characters names. That is because neither actor is stretching their acting chops but merely doing a variation of what they have done before. It is remarkable just how unremarkable this film is. There is nothing, I mean NOTHING, here that you haven’t seen before. The b-plot is so predictable I would not be surprised if was copied and pasted from another script. There are FOUR screenwriters credited to this film. Four screenwriters could not recognize that their film was riddled with clichés. The only original aspect of the script is that the two leads already know each other once the film begins but having that twist does not work either. Kevin Hart overacts here but the blame cannot all be placed on his shoulders. He is given nothing to do. He has one good scene and it was more than likely improvised. The scene could be seen as a nod to Eddie Murphy’s classic hillbilly bar scene in 48 HOURS but does not even come close to that star making scene. I lost count at how many times he screams, yells, falls down, and slammed into something.

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This film is not very good to say the least but fans of Cube and Hart may find some level of entertainment. It is utterly forgettable and is better suited for the home video rather than the big screen. This is a prime example of inspiration ending at the casting because so little care was taken in the plot that it seems like a mere after thought. Consider this; Ice Cube is looking for a mysterious criminal by the name of Omar. I will not reveal the idenity of the actor that plays him but once you see the opening credits you will instantly know who it is. The only evidence that Omar exists is a picture of him when he was very young. Like 10 or 12 years old young and the picture looks like a publicity photo for the actor when he was that age. Now I am now seasoned investigator but would you attempt to do an age progression analysis of the photo to get an idea of what he looks like today rather than 40 years ago. Maybe he tried that but the film does not bother to tell us. A sequel is already in the works and is expected to start filming soon. I can only hope that they have a better script. I wanted to escape from this ride along.

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