Written by Lana & Lilly Wachowski, and Brian Helgeland
Directed by Richard Donner
I’ve previously mentioned Richard Donner when I reviewed Ladyhawke and discussed how he is a perfect example of a journeyman filmmaker. Assassins is yet another example of this. Here we have a story that is rife for stylish exploitation, but instead, we get a very by the numbers shooting. The cinematography is mostly standard except for a few interesting choices here and there. Donner just simply isn’t anywhere close to being an auteur, and that’s not a bad thing. In the case of this film, it really could have used a filmmaker with a more inventive touch.
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Die Hard With a Vengeance (1995)
Written by Jonathan Hensleigh
Directed by John McTiernan
I saw the first Die Hard movie by accident. My dad went to the video store and rented it without checking the rating. We were a lazy evangelical household in all the least fun ways, one of them being “no movies above a PG-13,” even then, it was fairly strict. I definitely knew kids with crazier parents, but we were still not normal. So, as we watched the film and the first “fuck” was said on screen, we all turned and looked at my dad. That said, we never shut the picture off and watched the whole thing. That is the only Die Hard movie I ever saw until I watched this, the third installment in the series.
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The Jewel of the Nile (1985)
Written by Mark Rosenthal & Lawrence Konner
Directed by Lewis Teague
You don’t hear too many people talk about the 1984 comedy-action film Romancing the Stone. It was the film that set director Robert Zemeckis on his path to helming the Back to the Future series. It was expected to flop and got Zemeckis fired as director of Cocoon, but as we can see, it all turned out in his favor. Romancing the Stone was a box office success, and he proved the studio doubters wrong. Studios want to exploit movies that do well and will always push for a sequel. Romancing the Stone is the type of film that could be a franchise, so on the surface, the idea isn’t bad. However, when all the director has moved on to a more significant project, and the writer dies tragically in a car accident after her career has just begun, it becomes murkier waters.
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Dragonball Evolution (2009)
Written by Ben Ramsey
Directed by James Wong
There are some signs a movie is going to be bad. When it comes to properties being adapted to the screen, one of the biggest red flags is when the picture opens with long-winded narration explaining something that happened two thousand years prior. Dragonball Evolution spends its opening moments moving us through a digital mural of images of our villains and explaining what happened back then. The narration only serves to create more confusion and talks about characters in a way that assumes the whole audience is familiar.
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Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)
Written by Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, and Jeff Pinkner
Directed by Jake Kasdan
The children’s literature of Chris Van Allsburg is mysterious. If you’ve ever read The Stranger, his picture book about a mysterious vagrant whose arrival at a farmhouse signals a pause in the seasons, you’ll know how powerfully haunting his illustrations can be. His work exists on a line between photo-realism and surreality. Faces look real, yet the world around these characters feel as if it emerged from a dream. The original 1995 film adaptation of Jumanji does a reasonably good job of telling its story with those visually softened edges of Van Allsburg’s illustrations but is forced to expand significantly upon the source material. The film would be followed by an animated series by Everett Peck and resembled the look of his work, Duck Man and Rugrats. A little-seen film sequel Zathura would be released in the early 2000s, based on a book that is a spiritual companion to Jumanji more than anything else. This brings us to the current state of Jumanji as a media product.
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Lethal Weapon (1986)
Written by Shane Black
Directed by Richard Donner
I was looking over the films that came out in 1989 to find some 30th-anniversary content and saw Lethal Weapon 2 came out this weekend that many years ago. I realized I’d never seen the first Lethal Weapon and decided to sit down and watch this flick finally. I like both gentlemen involved in the making of this picture. Shane Black is a pretty good screenwriter, and I enjoyed both Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys. Richard Donner is the filmmaker behind The Omen, The Goonies, and one of my all-time favorites Superman the Movie. I am a bit more negative on one of the film’s stars, Mel Gibson for obvious reasons if you have kept up with pop culture for the last twenty years. But I decided to give the picture a shot and see if it made sense there’d be three more movies and television series in this franchise.
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Barely Lethal (2015)
Written by John D’Arco
Directed by Kyle Newman
Agent 83 is the top student of the Prescott Academy, a black ops facility where orphaned girls are turned into skilled killers for the U.S. government. Agent 83’s class are in their late teens, and she is beginning to yearn for a domestic life that was never provided for her. A chance to escape comes during the capture of arms dealer Victoria Knox when Agent 83 is presumed dead. Using her knowledge of teen movies, she passes herself off as a Canadian exchange student for the Larson family in a small American town. 83 goes through a fish out of water period but seems finally to be integrating herself into daily life. But that’s when her rival Agent 84 shows up with plans to ruin 83’s fun.
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Kong: Skull Island (2017)
Written by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly, and John Gatins
Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts
It’s 1973, and the United States is withdrawing from the war in Vietnam. Lt. Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) isn’t happy about what he sees as an admission of defeat and a mark of shame for his helicopter squadron. His crew is assigned as escorts for a science expedition to an uncharted island in the Pacific, led by a government contractor, Bill Randa (John Goodman). British tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) round out the crew. They arrive on the island and immediately being dropping explosive to map out the density and structure beneath, but they awaken something ancient and furious, Kong.
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Power Rangers (2017)
Written by John Gatins
Directed by Dean Israelite
In the Pacific Northwest town of Angel Grove, five disparate teenagers are brought together when multicolored stones are unearthed. These coins imbue them with superhuman powers and lead the quintet to a subterranean alien craft buried millions of years prior. The inhabitants of this vessel, Alpha 5 and Zordon, inform the youths of an impending attack on their planet. The only way to stop this growing force of evil is to somehow unlock the power within their coins and become the Power Rangers, defenders of life.
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Free Fire (2017)
Written by Amy Jump and Ben Wheatley
Directed by Ben Wheatley
It was Boston in 1978, two members of the Irish Republican Army, Chris, and Frank (Cillian Murphy and Michael Smiley, respectively) are making a rendezvous with a South African arms dealer, Vern (Sharlto Copley) in an abandoned factory to purchase weapons for the civil war back home. Their intermediary, Justine (Brie Larson) assures them the deal is right and this is backed up by Vern’s representative, Ord (Armie Hammer). However, as the moment of truth nears closer, money exchanges hands, irregularities about the weapons are addressed, and the various members of each side interact it becomes apparent that something is about to blow.
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