Posts Tagged ‘action movie’

Eight minutes to detonation: A disoriented soldier returns time and again to the past to thwart a terrorist bombing in the intriguing ‘Source Code’

May 21, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
May 21, 2014

A man wakes up on a train. A woman he’s never seen before tells him that she took his advice. She calls him Sean. The man slips into the bathroom. When he looks in the mirror, a stranger’s face stares back at him. The wallet he carries contains an ID card for Sean Fentress.

Minutes later, the train explodes, and the man wakes up in a capsule. A woman’s voice asks him: Did you identify the bomber? No, answers the even-more-baffled man. Concentrate, the uniformed woman on the capsule screen tells him. Shortly afterward, she projects him back into the strange man’s body. He is once again sitting across from a strange woman who tells him that she took his advice. The man has been assigned a mission by the uniformed woman and her superiors: To relive this gruesome scenario until he can locate the crucial intelligence that authorities hope will enable them to prevent further deadly terrorist attacks on the United States.

This, simply put (or about as simply as I can manage!), is the premise of Source Code, a gripping 2011 thriller with a smattering of science-fiction elements written by Ben Ripley and directed by Duncan Jones. This is Jones’s second feature film, a follow up to 2009’s brilliant Moon, and indeed the two movies have a number of things in common. Both are cerebral stories featuring a protagonist who has been isolated by his superiors in circumstances that he doesn’t fully understand. Also, most of the hero’s contact with other people is mediated through some form of machinery.

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Taut-muscled Russell helps John Carpenter break the mold in ‘Escape from New York’

December 10, 2012

In the not-so-distant future (1988), crime in the United States quadruples. The nation builds a 50-foot-high wall around Manhattan Island, mines the bridges and tunnels, and declares the borough the country’s only maximum security prison. There are no guards, and only one rule: Once you go in, you don’t come out.

In the distant future (1997), one day before a crucial wartime summit in Hartford, Conn., a hijacker crashes Air Force One into the prison. The president’s protective pod is located, but when U.S. Police Force troops land nearby, they find it empty.

A bizarre man with a hyena’s laugh walks up to Bob Hauk, the U.S. police commissioner. “You touch me, he dies,” the oddball says. “If you’re not in the air in 30 seconds, he dies. You come back in, he dies.” He reveals a severed finger bearing the president’s signet ring.

Hauk asks what the captors want. The oddball just counts down the seconds. Hauk orders his men back to the helicopters and pulls out.

The secretary of state urges Hauk to storm the island. Hauk refuses, certain that the president will be killed.

Fortunately, he has a plan. As fate would have it, one Snake Plissken, an ex-Special Forces war hero turned bank robber, is about to be imprisoned on Manhattan Island. Read the rest of this entry »

No rest for the unworldly Schwarzenegger in uneven ‘6th Day’

November 19, 2012

Several weeks ago, I watched the 1993 Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle The Last Action Hero for the first time and found it engaging, if somewhat underwhelming. The other night, I watched a more recent Governator flick, The 6th Day; sadly, this 2000 picture is rather more leaden.

The setup is fine. In the near future, a human cloning experiment ended badly, for reasons which aren’t made clear, and the endeavor has been outlawed. Still, black-clad rich guy Michael Drucker is pursuing cloning by a variety of means, some but not all of which are legal. Drucker’s motivations are varied, with his desire to preserve his own empire playing a significant role.

One day, Drucker takes a few hours off for high-altitude snow-boarding. It’s a fateful excursion. After an anti-cloning extremist attacks the party, heroic family guy and helijet pilot Adam Gibson is covertly, illegally and mistakenly cloned by Drucker’s cronies. When he returns to his own house at night, Gibson is astonished to discover an identical version of himself enjoying a surprise birthday party with his wife, daughter and friends.

Gibson is standing by himself on his own front porch, still trying to process this unnerving sight, when a man and woman walk up. In a matter of seconds, the pair attempt to murder Gibson. This being a Schwarzenegger film, he escapes. A car chase and gun battle ensue, during which two of Gibson’s four pursuers are killed.

Ultimately, Gibson infiltrates Drucker’s corporate headquarters not once but twice. Before all is said and done, he achieves a sort of reconciliation with his identical twin. Guns are fired, goons are killed (some more than once), morality is debated, expensive-looking sets are wrecked and justice is served.

What surprised me about The 6th Day (a reference to Genesis, when God created man and woman, and the awesome power that some humans threaten to usurp) was that the movie’s nods to philosophy are more convincing and intriguing than its action sequences. Read the rest of this entry »

Double-Oh-Seven hits the mark — again — in Daniel Craig’s third Bond outing

November 17, 2012

Director Sam Mendes’ new feature, Skyfallis a solid-verging-on-spectacular outing by everyone’s favorite 50-year-old British spy.

Actor Daniel Craig returns for his third outing as James Bond. Just as importantly, so does the writing duo of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who co-authored the scripts for the excellent Casino Royale (2006) and the fun but not quite as good Quantum of Solace (2008), Craig’s first two go-arounds as secret agent 007. The third member of Skyfall’s screenwriting triumvirate is John Logan, replacing Paul Haggis, who co-wrote the previous two Bond films.

The cinematography and the stunts are spectacular, the cast is easy on the eyes but fully capable of conveying human emotions when called upon to do so, and the plot is hard-driving. The overall tone remains hard-nosed, but there’s room for a few touches of humor as well as vulnerability on the part of both Bond and his unsentimental spymaster. Judi Dench reprises her role as M, the MI6 head, in what may be one of her last appearances due to her advanced age and uncertain health.

Javier Bardem makes a relatively late entrance as the requisite super-villain, a slightly campy but nonetheless menacing character with bleached-blond hair and unfortunate dental issues named Silva. The top-notch cast also features Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory, a government official whose oversight M and Bond both quickly come to loathe; Naomie Harris as a spy whose ability, looks and style rival Bond’s; Albert Finney as Kincade, an old acquaintance of Bond’s; and Ben Whishaw as the young, new, quirky and occasionally impertinent quartermaster, Q.

The players also include Bérénice Lim Marlohe as a Bond girl (although this new trio of Bond pictures has manipulated that archetype in interesting ways); Rory Kinnear as M’s aide de camp, Tanner; and Bill Buckhurst in a short but moving cameo as a Bond compatriot.

The action takes place in Istanbul, Shanghai, Macao and the United Kingdom, all of which appear absolutely gorgeous as lensed by Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins. (I watched the film on an IMAX screen, and everything looked wonderful.)

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‘Last Action Hero’ needn’t be at the top of your list

October 1, 2012

Arnold Schwarzenegger has played the lead in any number of action films. Of the ones I’ve seen, Last Action Hero, the 1993 feature helmed by John McTiernan, is probably the least impressive.

Which isn’t to say that Last Action Hero is bad. It’s not. There’s just nothing that really stands out about the film, despite an interesting premise and some humorous touches.

This is an offbeat buddy movie in which Schwarzenegger, as Los Angeles supercop Jack Slater, provides the brawn. The brains are mostly supplied by his pint-sized sidekick, Danny Madigan, played by Austin O’Brien. The two normally wouldn’t join forces to investigate either the killing of Slater’s favorite second cousin or a bloody war between Southern California drug gangs. But this is, of course, a movie.

And that’s the running joke of this film: Most of the action occurs in Jack Slater IV, a movie within a movie, after Madigan uses a magical ticket to insert himself into the action during an advance screening.

After surviving a pursuit through the streets of suburban and industrial Los Angeles — as well as what I believe is the flood control system featured in Terminator 2 and many other movies — the pair drop by the swank (movie) headquarters of the Los Angeles police department. Read the rest of this entry »

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