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    Barely Lethal (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on August 4th, 2015

    “Who would ever suspect a kid?”

    When I glanced at the Blu-ray cover for Barely Lethal — with its groan-worthy pun of a title, girl power, and generous splashes of hot pink — I didn’t really expect it to be my thing. (Ok, fine…groan-worthy puns are *totally* my thing.) So while I may not be the intended audience for this independent action/comedy, I have to admit its charms snuck up on me the same way one of the film’s disarming young killers might catch a target by surprise.
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    Absolution (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on July 13th, 2015

    I wanna tell you something. I’ve been a bad man…I’ve been a very bad man most of my life. So, I decided I want to do one thing in my life. One good thing in my life before I die.”

    Those words are spoken by elite contract killer John Alexander at the start of Absolution, a straight-to-DVD offering that is largely cobbled together from the spare parts of other junky action flicks. The film stars Steven Seagal, who was a very bad man on-screen during his early ’90s heyday. John wants to do one good thing before his time is up; coincidentally, all I want is for Seagal to make one action movie that at least comes close to recapturing the spark that made him a star. Absolution is not that film.
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    Tracers (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on May 11th, 2015

    “It’s like being kids again. The streets are our playground.”

    The above quote refers to parkour, the art and discipline of moving through urban spaces that was popularized in France. French practitioners of parkour are called “traceurs,” which gives this totally clichéd, consistently ridiculous, but occasionally breathtaking action flick its title. You’ve seen the plot before (many times), but Tracers still vaults itself above the straight-to-DVD pack thanks to its freewheeling free-running sequences.
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    Taken 3 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on April 29th, 2015

    “You do know the combination, don’t you?”

    It’s a Taken film, and the third one in the series. You should have the ingredients down by now. Let’s run through the checklist, shall we? You’ve got your daring escapes, check. You have some awesome car chases with a lot of mashed-up metal, check. You’ve got some torture, of course. Waterboarding is in these days. You have the standard carnage level, check. And check. It’s all there, but credit the folks behind the franchise for finding ways to deliver every last drop of the expected stuff and still turn the third part of a trilogy on its head enough to make it more interesting than the previous two films.
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    John Doe: Vigilante

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on April 22nd, 2015

    “A vigilante is simply somebody who violates the law in order to punish a criminal for what they believe is right, for what they believe is justice.”

    It’s easy to understand the appeal of big screen vigilante justice. We’ve all gotten tangled up in red tape, which is why it’s so gratifying to watch somebody tear through it. (And often spray some red elsewhere.) John Doe: Vigilante ends up being as ludicrous as any of the 17 Death Wish movies, but it also goes beyond putting the entire blame on “the system.” There are some interesting ideas at play here, including the notion that there’s a little Vigilante in all of us.
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    Diamond Heist

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on March 27th, 2015

    There’s a mile-long list of Hollywood movies that have been re-titled in foreign countries to hilarious effect. I’ve personally had much less experience with foreign productions being re-branded for American audiences, but Diamond Heist seems like one of the more egregious examples you’re likely to find. The DVD cover has professional tough guys/straight-to-DVD MVPs Michael Madsen and Vinnie Jones brandishing weapons while accompanied by a vague explosion and the wonderfully generic tagline, “Payday is only a bullet away.” In other words, there’s nothing here that suggests this Hungarian import is actually an action/comedy about male strippers.
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    L.A. Apocalypse

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on March 25th, 2015

    The recent earthquakes in Los Angeles: facts of life or foreshadowing the big one?”

    I’m not saying the makers of L.A. Apocalypse — a SyFy-level TV movie centered on catastrophic earthquakes in California — timed the release of their low-budget action flick so it premiered well ahead of San Andreas, the would-be summer blockbuster starring Dwayne Johnson about catastrophic earthquakes in California. It’s just funny how things often work out that way. L.A. Apocalypse doesn’t have The Rock (or anyone you’ve likely heard of) and is working with a very small fraction of San Andreas‘ budget. The result is as underwhelming as you’d expect.
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    Halo: Nightfall

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on March 18th, 2015

    It’s been about a decade since Hollywood first tried to make a movie out of Halo, the blockbuster Xbox videogame series. The closest fans came to seeing Master Chief on the big screen was a 2006 adaptation with Peter Jackson serving as executive producer and his then-protégé Neill Blomkamp directing. Unfortunately, development costs started to skyrocket and the duo opted to make District 9 instead. Meanwhile, Halo remained a potentially-lucrative multimedia property. So Microsoft, which owns Xbox, finally decided that if they wanted a Halo movie done, they had to do it themselves.
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    Viktor

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on January 20th, 2015

    We can blame thank Liam Neeson — or “Liam Neesons” — for this recent run of action movies about men of a certain age who tear their way through some part of Europe in the name of their missing or dead children. Viktor — a French/Russian production starring Gerard Depardieu and Elizabeth Hurley — is one of these latest Taken take-offs. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the more inert revenge films you’re likely to see.
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    The Expendables 3 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on November 24th, 2014

    Welcome to the 21st century!”

    Sylvester Stallone has dedicated the better part of the last decade to giving moviegoers what they wanted 20 years ago. It started with 2006’s Rocky Balboa, which closed out Stallone’s signature franchise in the satisfying manner fans have been craving since 1990’s Rocky V debacle. We’ve also gotten another Rambo sequel, as well as long-awaited team ups with icons both real (Schwarzenegger in Escape Plan) and cinematic (Grudge Match was “Rocky vs. Raging Bull”). But Stallone’s biggest recent success is the veritable fantasy team of action stars he’s assembled for the Expendables films.
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    Into the Storm (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on November 21st, 2014

    Breaking news: anyone who goes to see movie called Into the Storm is probably more interested in “the Storm than they are in any of the people running away from it. The good news is the film understands this, to an extent, and clocks in at a slender 89 minutes. Of course, the titular Storm doesn’t appear for every one of those 89 minutes. This is very bad news because Into the Storm is populated with characters and storylines that are both forgettable and irritating. It’s basically Twister with somewhat better effects, but much less interesting people.
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    Drive Hard (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on November 11th, 2014

    Personally I’m not a fan of the Fast and Furious franchise, despite the fact that I tend to enjoy films from the genre.  For me, I’ll take the old school films like Vanishing Point, Two-Lane Blacktop, and the original Gone in 60 Seconds over these big budget productions any day.  All I can figure is that these films that I do enjoy are working with budgets that force the directors to be creative and understand most of their elaborate stunts only get one take and are not polished with CGI, but instead whatever the camera captures that is what we see on the big screen. The stunts are simply incredible, and the cars in my humblest opinion were simply cooler back then.
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    The Prince (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on October 28th, 2014

    “That man brings hell with him wherever he goes.”

    The “man” is supposed to be Paul Brennan (Jason Patric), a retired mob enforcer-turned-unassuming auto mechanic who reluctantly returns to his violent ways after his daughter goes missing. But the real culprit might be director Brian A. Miller. With The Prince and this year’s The Outsider, the director has made two consecutive sub-Taken crime dramas that lack the cohesion, refinement or energy to work even as satisfyingly junky action movies.
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    The Last Supper (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on October 21st, 2014

    “Kings are made, not born.”

    It’s a provocative thesis for any story, especially since the same debate about kings has played out over centuries’ worth of world history. Unfortunately, filmmaker Lu Chuan largely decided to take a “tell, don’t show” approach with The Last Supper, which depicts the last gasp of China’s Qin dynasty and the rise of the Han dynasty and its commoner-turned-emperor.
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    Sons of Liberty

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on October 7th, 2014

    By the time the innovative opening credits for Sons of Liberty wrap up, the movie has outlined an expansive backstory that mixes historical fact (the real-life Sons of Liberty form in Boston in 1765) and fiction (Allister Salinger, the head of the mysterious Ordo Mundi, designs the first successful human clone in 1974). It’s surprisingly dense stuff, especially for a jumbled, straight-to-DVD action/thriller that mostly plays out like a particularly violent episode of NCIS.
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    Born to Race: Fast Track (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on September 9th, 2014

    Drag racing is for fast cars. Road racing…that’s for fast drivers.”

    I imagine that distinction — along with one character scolding another for pulling a “Vin Diesel stunt” — is meant to set this straight-to-DVD racing drama apart from the Fast & Furious franchise. That separation is an interesting choice for a couple of reasons. On one hand, I assume it’s been easier to finance any car-centric flick ever since a certain high-octane film series proved there’s an audience for the genre. Then again, the increasingly staggering success of the Fast movies seems to be directly proportional to how ludicrous they’ve become.
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    Rage (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on August 14th, 2014

    At this point in his alternately mocked and celebrated career, Nicolas Cage starring in a movie called Rage seems redundant. (Especially since “Rage” would be a much more eloquent title for this classic YouTube video.) Yet here he is starring in what looks like a Taken ripoff…until you realize he already starred in a Taken ripoff two years earlier. To its credit, Rage does appear to want to say some interesting things about the way secrets refuse to stay buried and the perils of resorting to violence. Unfortunately, the film often takes the most misguided and clichéd avenues to get there.
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    Need for Speed (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Paul on August 11th, 2014

    Need for Speed is based on a video game. It caters to people who love the experience of speed. There is a huge audience for this sort of thing. To their credit, the writer and director makes every effort to create an actual story and real characters in this presentation. It is easy to compare it to Fast and Furious, but why bother. That gives these sorts of films too much credit. Fast and Furious and Need for Speed are designed to give people a thrill. If anything, Need for Speed takes things more seriously than the Fast and Furious series.
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    Ironclad: Battle for Blood (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on August 7th, 2014

    In the wake of the success of Game of Thrones, many companies are trying to ride on that bandwagon and produce films that will hopefully capture the same audience. Unfortunately, it would seem so few come close to capturing the magic that the HBO series brings to the small screen. To be upfront, I haven’t seen the first Ironclad film, though upon looking it up on IMDB I see that it boasts a solid cast. (And after watching a trailer for the film, it is something I’d like to check out.) Fortunately in the case of Ironclad: Battle For Blood, it is a sequel that stands alone from its predecessor.
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    Sabotage (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on July 22nd, 2014

    – “Are you some kind of big deal?”

    – “Yeah, I’ve been around.”

    The box office has not been kind to Arnold Schwarzenegger ever since he stopped being “The Governator” and started headlining movies again. Not counting his Expendable glorified cameos, Ahnuld’s three movies — The Last Stand, Escape Plan, and Sabotage — are among the lowest domestic grossers of his career. It’s clear that not a lot of people are seeing these movies, which is kind of a shame.
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    Last Action Hero (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on July 20th, 2014

    “Let me know when the governor gets here.”

    Well, he’s in the house, and I’m going to get a lot of razzing for this review of Last Action Hero. The person who thought I should see a shrink for looking forward to the next Saw film is going to be calling for my outright commitment to an institution dedicated to covering walls with nice padding so we won’t hurt ourselves. I know this film is generally considered “bad” by critics and moviegoers alike.
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    300: Rise of an Empire (Blu-ray 3D)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on June 26th, 2014

    It begins as a whisper. A promise. The lightest of breezes dances above the death cries of 300 men…”

    It may have started as a whisper, but 300 quickly became synonymous with roaring, instant-classic declarations after it burst onto the scene in 2007. Zack Snyder’s muscular adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel was an outta-nowhere blockbuster. When a movie achieves that level of success, there’s usually a sequel in the works even as the opening-weekend grosses are still rolling in. Of course, that proved to be a bit trickier given what happens to the heroes at the end of 300.
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    Falling Skies: The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on June 5th, 2014

    “Our planet, our war.”

    Those four words neatly summarize the overriding theme for the third season of Falling Skies, TNT’s earnest alien invasion drama. While the show still takes its broad thematic cues from the American Revolutionary War, this batch of episodes directly references some of the uneasy alliances formed during World War II. So in between the numerous instances of human characters shooting at aliens — and at each other — the show explored the question of whether the enemy of my enemy really is my friend.
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    Kingdom of Conquerors

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on March 20th, 2014

    “So long as my enemies are alive, I will not die.”

    During his lifetime, Genghis Khan reigned over one of the biggest empires the world has ever seen. There are literally dozens of action-packed epics that could be made about his various battles as head of the Mongol Empire, which included portions of China, Russia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. But Kingdom of Conquerors curiously focuses on the one adversary Khan couldn’t vanquish: death.
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    The Outsider (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on March 12th, 2014

    British badass Craig Fairbrass looks more like the henchman in an action movie than the hero. (To be fair, Fairbrass looks like the lead henchman who always gives the hero a little more trouble than you’d expect, but he looks like a henchman nonetheless.) The actor has worked steadily in England and Hollywood, including a role in Cliffhanger where he played one of John Lithgow’s (you guessed it) henchmen. With The Outsider, Fairbrass earns a story credit and the right to play the hero in this junky, bruising, low-budget cross between Taken and The Limey.
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