Thursday, January 31, 2013

Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973)


I won’t hold back by stating this is one of the worst entries in the “Godzilla” franchise (damn I feel like I’m saying that a lot lately). It’s definitely no better and perhaps a hair worse than the previous film “Godzilla vs. Gigan” by making many of the same mistakes and some new ones, including my biggest pet peeve… which you guessed it… is FUCKING STOCK FOOTAGE!
An underground race of humans are upset about nuclear testing fucking up their kingdom so they unleash their own monster Megalon to beat the shit out of Japan. Godzilla, still being the full-fledged superhero of the human race he has been degraded to, isn’t happy about it so he teams up with a silly robot named Jet Jagar to stomp his bug ass… but wait, Megalon gets help from Gigan!
The new monster, Megalon, is rather lame. It’s just an embarrassing looking beetle with drills for hands. No wonder they had to bring back Gigan (who seems shoehorned in) to up the ante a bit. The replay of how Megalon spits bombs out its mouth is just rather sad. However Megalon is not as lame as Godzilla’s new ally… Jet Jagar. Slick looking super robots were all the rage in Japan at the time so Toho shamelessly jumped on that bandwagon by introducing a robot that has the amazing ability to fly and grow to 400’ tall in an instant. This cornball character is just so absurd that it has become a cult favorite among many fans, including its ear bleeding end credits song.
Much like “Godzilla vs. Gigan” Toho utilized plenty of stock footage to save some cash and it’s just as haphazardly spliced in. Scenes of Gigan’s hook from the previous film are easily seen when Megalon destroying aircraft. The worst is stock footage of Godzilla; by this time Godzilla finally got a new suit (thankfully as it was falling apart in the last film) and stock footage of him is of the old suit which has a completely different snout. I seriously was embarrassed for Toho while watching this! Much like the flying scene in “Godzilla vs. Hedorah” the filmmakers have Godzilla do an absolute ludicrous stunt of sliding on his tail to drop kick Megalon… not once, but twice.
Ironically “Godzilla vs. Megalon” was one of the Godzilla films I saw as a kid and one of the few that my family actually owned on tape. Maybe if I had the means to see better Big G films as a kid I would have been a bigger fan of the franchise as a whole, but for some damn reason “Godzilla vs. Megalon” had a ton of VHS releases and was easily obtainable. Due to this I blame “Godzilla vs. Megalon” for ruining part of my childhood as I seemingly gave up on the character after suffering through this bad entry. “Godzilla vs. Megalon” is just plain and simple another cheapjack entry into a floundering franchise that is struggling to find its footing again… but thankfully hope was yet to come.

Bonus Rant: Though made in 1973, “Godzilla vs. Megalon” was deemed so bad that it didn’t even get a U.S. release until 1977 and as false advertising the poster artwork was made to mimic 1976 remake of “King Kong” with our two monsters fighting on the world trade center. I remember as a kid loving the artwork but being sorely disappointed that no sequence in the film took place in New York on the world trade centers. Gotta love those distributors and their tricks to get asses in the seats…

Godzilla will return in "Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla"
Written By Eric Reifschneider

Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)


Aka "Godzilla on Monster Island"

Gigan is hands down my favorite monster of the “Godzilla” series but the sad statement is that 2 out of the 3 entries he appeared are the worst in the entire franchise. As you can tell this first entry to feature my favorite monster is hardly an improvement over the previous “Godzilla vs. Hedorah” and is actually a step backwards as the filmmakers decided to utilize a ton of STOCK FOOTAGE and if you read my review for “All Monsters Attack” you’ll know nothing makes me more pissed than when films sloppily utilize tons of stock footage to pass off as a new film.
Some capitalistic pigs decide to build a Godzilla theme park (because nothing says FUN like sliding down a slide from a mock monster known to have killed hundreds of people) but their goal is not to bring recreation to the masses. They are actually an evil race of coach roach aliens that use their cybernetic monster Gigan with the help of King Ghidorah in order to kill Godzilla and take over the world.
Gigan is an interesting monster, definitely one of the strangest in the Godzilla franchise. He’s like a cybernetic bird with hooks for ands and a buzz saw on his chest. His look is perfectly capped off with his single eye which looks like a rad pair of red sunglasses. Ghidorah however has never looked worse. No effort went into his suit as he just looks like stiff flying piece of shit. That brings me to the Godzilla suit, which has been utilized in so many films that the damn thing is wearing out and one can physically see the suit falling apart in many sequences.
All that still isn’t the worst part! I mentioned the usage of stock footage before but I can’t emphasize how haphazardly it’s spliced into the film. First of all no effort was taken to match the new footage with the stock footage and scenes filmed at night are connected with stock footage filmed that takes place during daylight. The second worst aspect of the film is that the filmmakers decided to actually have Godzilla and Anguirus talk… you read that right… actually talk as in talk in English and not the ‘monster language’ previously seen in “Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster”. This laughable aspect is made worse as the audience can’t even understand what the monsters are saying as they mix it over an annoying rewind sound in the background. Apparently in the original Japanese version they even included cartoon talking bubbles coming out of their mouths (?!?!).
Godzilla is falling apart at the seams!
So in final thoughts; Gigan = cool, movie = bad. The overall final product of this film is just cheapjack filmmaking and an embarrassment to Toho studios. This second rate treatment of Godzilla is insulting with its embarrassing suits and sloppily spliced in stock footage. Also whose bright idea was to have the monsters actually speak in this film? Godzilla needs to light an atomic fire under that guy’s ass. Another subpar sequel yet to come….

Godzilla will return in "Godzilla vs. Megalon"
 Written By Eric Reifschneider

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Dragon (2011)

Director: Peter Chan
Notable Cast: Donnie Yen, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Tang Wei, Jimmy Wang
Also Known As: "Wu Xia"

I was anxious to see "Dragon" since it was originally released in 2011, some releases have it under the name "Wu Xia", but lacking US distribution prevented me from experiencing it. Finally, Sony got off their asses to give it a VOD release under the just as generic title "Dragon." Glad they did because this film rocked my socks off. "Dragon" is an odd combination of classic martial arts style mixed with a significant modern film noir twist with a story that isn't all that unlike Cronenberg's "History Of Violence." In the end, its a stellar combination that works on all levels.

When a couple of robbers come to a small peaceful village to rob the local market, Liu Jinxi (Donnie Yen) finds himself in a bad situation. In the scuffle that ensues, he ends up killing the two robbers and ends up a local hero. When a detective (Takeshi Kaneshiro) comes to investigate the circumstances of the robbers' deaths, he starts to see that Liu Jinxi may not be all that he seems to be...that the killing came too easy. In his stern view to uphold justice, he stays to investigate further and uncovers a secret that may have been better left alone.

That's the international hand gesture of "don't fuck with me."
I consider myself rather lucky that I went into "Dragon" knowing very little about the film. I had read a few reviews, but that was it. I'll try not to give too much away in this review (to give you folks the same experience as I did), because the mystery of the film really makes it work. Although the film occurs in a small rural village in 1917 China, director Peter Chan injects a healthy dose of film noir to create an atmosphere of doubt. He does it with relative charm and style focusing on the strong performance of Takeshi Kaneshiro, a clever narration, and a Sherlock Holmes-esque detective story to start the film off. Donnie Yen's matching stellar performance (the guy only gives his best anymore) gives the duel leads great chemistry to work off of one another to really make the mystery of the film thick and intense.

The mystery thickens.
Wait a minute. Did I sign up for a detective drama or did I sign up for a martial arts film? As it turns out, by the time the second half rolls around the film takes a turn into a picture that heavily pulls on the style and feeling of a classic 1960s Shaw Brothers film. The homages are obvious for those schooled in Shaw films (including an appearance by Jimmy Wang as the villain in the finale) and this film could easily cashed in by claiming to be a "re-imagining" of "The One Armed Swordsman" - even if the makers of the film say that it isn't.

By the time this second half is in full effect, the martial arts roots take full hold albeit with a slightly modern and definite Donnie Yen twist. Yen also acts as action choreographer of the film and the impressive fight and stunt work is obvious. He slightly changes his usually gritty and realistic style in for a more Shaw inspired one and it makes for a riveting last half. The finale fully goes into some outrageous territory as both leads have to battle a vicious villain (one with fists and one with mind) and it's a fantastic watch. Martial arts fans will not be disappointed.

Kicking it with Donnie Yen. Oh, I went there.
If you couldn't tell, I was riveted by "Dragon." It might be one of Yen's best films to date as it piles on mystery, charm, and ass kicking in a multitude of ways. Never did I feel the film as all that original (I made the illusion to "History Of Violence" and I stand behind that), but stunning performances and a sleek visual style made for a truly engrossing martial arts film experience. One that comes highly recommended.

Written By Matt Reifschneider 

At this point, "Dragon" is only available via 'on demand' online watching or theaters. I'll post links once they announce a home video release.

Dangerous Liaisons (2012)

Director: Hur Jin-ho
Notable Cast: Jang Dong-gun, Cecilia Cheung, Zhang Ziyi

I'm not normally one to dive into a film like this, let alone feel the need to write a full review on one, but this latest adaption of the French story "Dangerous Liaisons" impressed me. I had read some very good things about this dramatic love story and when the chance to review the beautiful Blu Ray appeared, I grabbed the chance. "Dangerous Liaisons" is a film filled with dramatic endeavors and nuanced performances that relies very much on the talents of its actors and the subtle eye of its director to work. Both of which are impressively crafted in this Chinese adaption. So much so, that I felt inclined to share my thoughts on the film with the world.

Xie Yifan (Jang Dong-gun) is a wealthy business man and self proclaimed play boy. In 1930s Shanghai, he can have any woman he wants. Except one. Mo Jieyu (Cecilia Cheung) is a banking chairwoman and he has fallen for her immensely and will make any reason to be close to her. That's why he agrees to a rather odd bargain. He must bed the reluctant and awkward Du Fenyu (Zhang Ziyi) without falling in love and Mo Jieyu will let him have her. It's a deal he cannot refuse even if he suspects that his partner in crime has something more sinister up her sleeve.

Films with the tag "drama" tend to be overlooked in my household. Nothing against them, but when you are a writer for a cult film site, they tend to fall to the wayside. "Dangerous Liaisons" caught my attention and I'm glad it did. It's a strongly executed film that kept me engrossed in the love lives of 30s Shanghai upper class. This is a concept that holds no merit for me (not being from the 30s, living in Shanghai, or being upper class), but I'll be damned if "Dangerous Liaisons" didn't make these matters of the heart seem like life or death situations.

Scenes like this have malleable tension.
Most of acclaim has to go to the actors/actresses involved. Our main three leads ably devour scenes with subtle and stunning performances (Jang Dong-gun's sly smirk had a thousand interpretations and I'm pretty sure he used them all), while the chemistry between them was so intense and thick that it felt like it could be cut with a knife. The story might be a rather well known one at this point (I'm pretty sure that I've seen at least two other film versions, not including films that intentionally rip on it), but "Dangerous Liaisons" keeps it brisk and moving with its tight script and strong acting so that I never felt bored even if I knew what was going to happen.

It also must be mentioned that setting the film in 1930s Shanghai was an inspired move. The subtext of Japanese occupation that's hinted at through the characters makes for a unique and historical backdrop to place the film in and director Hur Jin-ho beautifully captures the style and look of the time with stunning visuals. The set design, locations, costumes, and look of the film are all brilliantly set as the time and place. Although I wouldn't have minded a bit more context of the period to be played up (it's pretty subtle most of the time), I felt that "Dangerous Liaisons" caught the essence without deterring from the character work and chemistry.

The beautiful sets capture the time with ease.
"Dangerous Liaisons" might not be normal Blood Brothers affair, nor is it of my own, but the film was a dramatic firecracker. It's a beautiful looking picture with its brilliant designs and the flair of its cast outshines it all with a sparkling shimmer that not many films can achieve. It might not be original, but the film ably spins the classic tale in such unique ways that it's hard to ignore for foreign film fans.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

If you feel so inclined to experience "Dangerous Liaisons" in the unique way that this 2012 version does, feel free to use the links below to pick up your copy for its February 12th, 2013 home release from Well Go USA!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (2007)

Director: Uwe Boll
Notable Cast: Jason Statham, Ron Perlman, John Rhys-Davies, Ray Liotta, Burt Reynolds, Matthew Lillard, Leelee Soieski, Claire Forlani, Kristanna Loken

Beyond having the longest title of all time (probably not, but let me exaggerate dammit), "In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale" might also have been the longest film I have ever seen. Not because it truly was all that long, the version I watched clocked in around 2 hours, but it certainly felt that way. It felt excruciatingly long. Like stab your eyes out long. This is because, quite frankly, the movie was not good. I knew this going into the film, much of Uwe Boll's early films are just as poorly concocted, but I was hoping with the scene eating cast that was in it and the general ridiculousness of having a film based on the medieval happenings of relatively popular video game franchise that it might lead to some entertainment. Alas, I was wrong and "In The Name Of The King" falls desperately flat.

Farmer (Statham...and I kid you not his name is Farmer) lives a simple life with his beautiful wife (Forlani) and his son Zeph (Ford). When asked by his neighbor Norrick (Perlman) about joining the king's forces, he says no and continues to farm. When an evil sorcerer (Liotta) decides to overthrow the king (Reynolds), he picks the wrong village to start his rampage on. Now Farmer has a bone to pick and his mysterious past will catch up to make him powerful enough to lead an onslaught against an unstoppable force.

Can Statham do an emotion other than 'grumpy'?
In an obvious attempt to attract the attention (and crowds) that made "The Lord Of The Rings" films so popular, "In The Name Of The King" desperately tries to craft an epic tale worthy of the films it attempts to copy. Unfortunately, it falters at most ends to accomplish this goal. When the charm of the slew of cult actors/actresses that this has in it can't save it, you know you are in for a hell of a ride. The film feels far too long as it forces a ton of characters and sub plots to the surface where they dwell for a brief time. The dialogue is awkward most of the time, the acting seems to be phoned in by all parties involved (including Statham who normally can phone in a performance and it will still be kick ass), and the plot progressions are obvious from the first minute. Half the time things felt drawn out for the sake of making the film seem more epic. The inclusion of the tree dwelling women (lead by Loken) is essentially irrelevant to the main plot and Loken joins the final troupe only to disappear for the finale. It just simply drags.

Random tree dweller...why the hell not?
Even the action sequences, which try to look bigger and badder than they are, take a lot of the film's run time and pull it out. Don't get me wrong, there were some great unintentionally humorous things that happen in these battle sequences (including the appearance of ninja and Statham with the largest and deadliest boomerang known to man), but overall they take too long. I do have to give the film an extra half blood drop for the sake of having a kung fu fight choreographer do much of the hand to hand combat. It doesn't make a lick of sense that a simple farmer is so skilled with swords and aerial combat, but there was some kinda cool stuff going on there.

To be honest, I didn't hate the film. I knew what it was going into it and I focused on having a fun time rather than nitpicking it to death. Yes, it's hard to overlook the massive amount of illogical things that the film does and my rating will show that, but also know that I had some great laughs at the film too. It was awkward in execution, clunky in foundation, and the CGI was borderline silly at times (the flying books of doom!), but dammit that's what a bad movie is for so take it for what it is. Plus it has Jason Statham. Bonus.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

If you so feel the need to, there are links below to purchase "In The Name Of The King" for your home collection.

Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971)


Aka "Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster"

After the shitstorm that called itself “All Monsters Attack”, fans were finally graced with an honest to goodness true Godzilla film where Big G didn’t just exist in a young boys imagination. Was this the return of Godzilla fans were waiting for? Sadly that would be a monstrous HELL NO but in all truthfulness “Godzilla vs. Hedorah” is hands down the strangest and most bizarre entry into the mile long franchise and its peculiarness is what makes the film so damn watchable.
Well in this eleventh entry into the franchise, Godzilla goes green as the filmmakers decide to take an environmental stance… and boy to they lay it on thick! The film opens with a cheesy title song talking about cleaning up the earth and then we are introduced to Hedorah, better known to American audiences as ‘the smog monster’, a goopy creature created by pollution. Can Big G clean up this slick situation before the smog monster lays waste to the world? Will our hero doctor ever leave his bed?
The smog monster is quite a hilarious sight to behold as it takes on various forms with glowing red eyes peeking out of its gooey gray mass. This monster loves to kill people with its sulfuric acid secretions and flinging it’s bodily shit over everything, including a cat! Godzilla seems powerless trying to fight this thing and waves his arms hilariously in the air as if trying to punch something.
Director Yoshimitsu Banno, a new comer to the franchise, decides to change things up a bit to make it uniquely his own and boy did he succeed…. and not in in a very good way. He gives the film a darker look yet he doesn’t match it with a dark tone. He just loads up the film with all sorts of weird concoctions, including short animated scenes to tie the action together. Seriously what the fuck is this? Other oddities include a disco dance scene where a guy imagines everyone having fish heads (which I might add has no relevance to the plot), a building falling with no sound effects, and a sequence filmed in black and white only to change to color when a guy strokes a guitar string. Artistic? Naw… it’s just shit. The film hit’s its bat shit crazy when Big G actually flies through the air backwards with his atomic breath in order to catch the fleeing smog monster.
“Godzilla vs. Hedorah” is a bad Godzilla film no question about it but damn if I can’t say I was entertained. The whole film is a mess but all the artistic pretentiousness left me laughing at its shear kookiness. It may not win any awards from fans but I’ll be damned if director Yoshimitsu Banno didn’t succeed at making a Godzilla movie like none other. Longtime “Godzilla” producer Tomoyuki Tanaka hated the final results, not surprisingly, and guaranteed Banno would never direct another entry again. All this makes “Godzilla vs. Hedorah” worth watching as a curiosity piece alone.

Godzilla will return in "Godzilla vs. Gigan"
Written By Eric Reifschneider

All Monsters Attack (1969)


Aka "Godzilla's Revenge"

I will be blunt up front – “All Monsters Attack” fucking sucks. Released in America as “Godzilla’s Revenge”, “All Monsters Attack” was the return of Godzilla after what was supposed to be the final entry into the franchise with “Destroy All Monsters”. It was NOT the glorious return fans were hoping for and instead seems like Toho’s cheap cash-in on the their own character regulating him to a stock footage filled after school special only forgivable to the most hardcore 5 year old boys in the audience.
This dog turd of an entry has a young boy being bullied at school which isn’t helped by a distant relationship with his workaholic dad. In order to escape his depression the boy day-dreams himself onto ‘monster island’, befriending Godzilla’s son “Minilla” (who has the ability to change his size and even talk!) in order to beat his adversary Gabara, a ginger haired knobby skinned version of Godzilla with a cat-like face. In the words of Manilla “My dad says I need to learn to fight my own battles”, can the boy take his lessons from monster island and apply them to the real world after he gets kidnapped by some bankrobbers?
As one can tell this isn’t a ‘true’ Godzilla film by conventional means as all of the footage of Godzilla is only within the boys imagination. To top it off a majority of the footage in the boys day dreams is stock footage from “Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster” and “Son of Godzilla”. I’m talking loads and loads of shameless stock footage and nothing cheapens or angers a film and audience more than fucking STOCK footage. Perhaps the biggest sin this sequel makes is that it’s helmed by Ishiro Honda, the legend that directed the original! How the holy hell can a respectable director like Honda be responsible for this piece of monster shit?!
“All Monsters Attack” is the rotten egg of the entire Godzilla franchise. Some stick up for the film for being a light hearted life lesson tale that just happens to have Godzilla. I don’t buy it. Its Toho’s cheap cash-in on the very franchise they started. The childish life lesson plot and shoed-in stock footage makes this reek of made-for-tv afterschool special for little boys and girls that like Big G. The good news is that the franchise can only go up from here (how could it not?) but the bad news is fans are in store for a string of bad sequels to come .

Godzilla will return in "Godzilla vs. Hedorah"
Written By Eric Reifschneider

Destroy All Monsters (1968)


After two subpar entries into the franchise, Toho decided to end the “Godzilla” franchise and what better way than bring back the guy who created the whole phenomenon to begin with. So director Ishiro Honda returns and he and Toho decide to go all out for what was going to be the final “Godzilla” film by loading the movie to the brim with nearly every monster that had been featured in the “Toho Universe” thus far. The concept of huge monster brawl makes this entry extremely popular among fans but like I assumed the saying too many cooks in the kitchen applies to the final results.
The film takes place in the future year of 1999 and all the world’s monsters are peacefully living on ‘monster island’. All goes well until some evil aliens (imagine that in a Toho film) decide they want to take over the world so they take control and unleash all he monsters onto unsuspecting cities. Whatever will the Japs do?
The plot is very derivative of the alien invasion device previously seen in the entry “Invasion of Astro-Monster” so fans will have serious case of deje vu. The whole concept of having a huge monster brawl is fun but I’m sad to say there are TOO many monsters in the mix. So many in fact that they clog up the film with many of the lesser monsters regulated to small cameos. Of the monsters in the “Toho Universe” to show up are of course the heavy-weights Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan and Ghidorah but also lesser known monsters like Manda (from “Atragon”), Baragon (from “Frankenstein Conquers the World”), Varan (from “Varan the Unbelievable”), and Kumonga (the giant spider from “Son of Godzilla”). I almost forgot but Godzilla’s Pillsbury dough boy son “Manilla” also makes an unwanted appearance.
Even with Ishiro Honda back at the helm the production still suffers from the lower budgets Toho had regulated their films to. The suits and model cities are all subpar compared to the earlier entries into the franchise and are only a step above the previous two lesser sequels (Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster” and “Son of Godzilla”). Perhaps if there were a few less monsters more of the budget could have been dispersed to improve the remaining effects.
I’m sure I won’t win any awards among the fans but I found “Destroy All Monsters” to be just a tad overrated. Don’t get me wrong as I enjoy it as a campy “Godzilla” film but the plot is too derivative of past, better sequels not to mention the lower tier special effects. The ending monster brawl was still a lot of fun, even if the fight was a little unfair due to King Ghidorah having no allies and having to face ALL the monsters. Though “Destroy All Monsters” was to be the final entry into the series all know it wasn’t as it proved to be too profitable to let Big G die off and more sequels were soon to follow.

Godzilla will return in "All Monsters Attack"
Written By Eric Reifschneider

Universal Soldier: Day Of Reckoning (2012)

Director: John Hyams
Notable Cast: Scott Adkins, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Andrei Arlovski

The "Universal Soldier" franchise is perhaps one of the most fucked up franchises out there. Although it seemingly looks to be cohesive on paper (outside of having two made for TV films that no one remembers or acknowledges), the consistency between films is utter insanity. That goes for this latest entry "Day Of Reckoning". Whether you consider it the sixth entry or the fourth, it really doesn't matter because at this point you might as well just throw everything you know, outside of the first film, out the window. However, that doesn't stop this entry from being the franchise's best sequel, even if it's a mind fuck entry into the series.

John (Adkins) has been through hell. The last thing he remembers is his wife and young daughter being ruthlessly slaughtered by a group of men invading his home. When he awakes from his coma (with memory loss in tow), he is told that his family was killed by Luc Deveraux (Van Damme) a rogue militant man. What John discovers upon returning home is a series of clues that seem to be leading him towards a final confrontation with this man...and a mystery that keeps getting stranger and stranger.

Seems like Adkins and Van Damme sure are in a lot of films together...
If Stanley Kubrick mashed together "Memento" and "Universal Soldier: Regeneration", the end product still wouldn't be as strange and brutal as "Day Of Reckoning." I've used the term arthouse action before to mostly describe unique films of the genre, but this one takes it to a whole new level. When John Hyams took the franchise back in a more serious and brutal direction with "Regeneration", it reinvigorated it. Made it modern, gritty, and borderline depressing. Now he takes it even a step further, applying an almost film noir atmosphere to it, cranking the brutality and grit to maximum, and then letting the viewer try to do their best with making it make sense.

On its own, the film is grating. Hyams uses some odd techniques to give the film a disorienting feeling like a ton of strobe light effects, minimal dialogue, and a ton of twists where the film does little to indicate to the audience where it's going. To this end, it's damn effective. I was completely engrossed with John's journey (played to rather impressive effect by a subtle Scott Adkins) and found myself verbally stating "what the fuck" at some of its more ridiculous turn of events. "Day Of Reckoning" does little to build back story for the series or why Luc Deveraux and Andrew Scott (both reoccuring roles) are where they are now since the last film and in ways it was frustrating. That frustration however only came after I finished the film since I was so intent on seeing this mystery unfold on screen.

Dolph's role might be small, but it's quite memorable.
To be honest, I wasn't expecting such an artistic deviation for the franchise. When a film with the "Universal Solider" tag features Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Scott Adkins, and Andrei Arlovski with John Hyams directing...I'm going for the action. Sure as hell, "Day Of Reckoning" doesn't disappoint on this end. While the film really does build an atmosphere of mystery for its first half occasionally punctuating this with some very gritty fight sequences, it's the last half that owns it's action label. Starting with a car chase (that feels more like a gladiator battle than true chase) and a face off in a sporting goods store where Scott Adkins punches a bowling ball into dust, the film kicks into high gear. It makes random twists in plot, but seemingly always chalks up a solid, and very violent, action sequence to fit in. By the time the finale comes around - featuring Adkins fighting Lundgren and Van Damme - the bar was raised so high only the most intense fighting would be acceptable...and it goes there. Oh yes, it goes there.

The "who's got the machete" game at the end...we've all played that.
"Universal Solider: Day Of Reckoning" is not for everyone. In fact, it may not even be for fans of the franchise since it deviates so drastically from the style and feel of the previous entries. On the other hand, I felt it was a more dangerous and ballsy product that kicks it to being the most intense and strongest film of the franchise thus far. It has enough thick atmosphere and artistic merit to be unique, yet slays with its brutal and brilliant fight work. "Day Of Reckoning" might not be the "Universal Solider" we know, but that doesn't deter the film from being a fantastic viewing experience.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

This is the kind of film that really needs to be seen to be judged. So you might as well pick up your copy at the links below.

Bourne Legacy, The (2012)

Director: Tony Gilroy
Notable Cast: Jeremy Renner, Edward Norton, Rachel Weisz, Stacy Keach, Louis Ozawa Changchien

When they first announced that they were going to continue the "Bourne" franchise, I was ecstatic. Despite my general distaste for Greengrass' massive tendency know, bounce the camera everywhere...I quite enjoy this series. Even when both Greengrass and Damon stated they wouldn't be returning for the fourth entry, I was eager to see what they could do with the series. This fourth entry, entitled "The Bourne Legacy", might not be quite the intense ride as the previous entries, but it's just as entertaining. As a bonus, you get to see the action now too!

Aaron Cross (Renner) is part of Operation Outcome, a sister program to Treadstone, except instead of training assassins - it trains soldiers for the battlefield. When Bourne goes rogue and the entire system begins to crash, head hauncho Byer (Norton) decides they need to pull the plug on all of the operations including Outcome. This leaves Cross on the run and the target of a slew of assassins. He needs to stay sharp by taking the medications that give him the increased abilities he has...and that just might mean he needs to head right back into the mouth of the monster to get them. 

What's better than one gun...TWO GUNS! Just ask John Woo.
I find the idea of "The Bourne Legacy" fascinating. Instead of these trained and brutal assassins, we have super soldiers trained in a sister program?! Fuck yeah! That sounds awesome! We get to see more about this government conspiracy to be cutting edge in war? Even better! Yet, it's hard not to be somewhat disappointed with the results of this fourth film. Instead of taking the series in a different direction, it tends to want to tread the same path ways that the first three did - despite being a different kind of hero on the run.

Still, "The Bourne Legacy" is a fun and entertaining jaunt into the world of hidden agendas and super soldiers. Director Tony Gilroy (co-writer of the previous films) tends to know what made the first films such a spectacle for audiences and continues the trend here. He essentially only makes one major adjustment by filming it more traditionally without those Shaky McShakerton camera shots. That already makes it more enjoyable than the last two. He also tends to know how to make the films tense and action packed - even if a lot of it feels far too familiar at this point - so that the pacing is high end for a spy film.

In case of a camera shake, please find shelter.
Perhaps the biggest issue I was worried about was Renner in the lead role. Needless to say, I had no issues with him or his character and he made for a very believable and honest hero to root for. While the film strays away from making him more mysterious, it does benefit from making him more relatable by giving him a true goal to accomplish via his back-story of being a simple man by the end of the film. This more human element of the film adds a bit of life to the rather mundane plot progressions we've seen before in the series and makes up for some of the better mystery angles that the previous "Bourne" films could use.

Action wise, the film is pretty awesome. At times the action may not make a lot of sense, including a very realistic drone attack in the beginning that happens to have a very awkward wolf encounter where Renner tackles and wrestles a full grown animal, but that doesn't mean it wasn't damn entertaining. The chase at the end is particularly well shot and perfectly paced. I wish that the villain of the third act (played by Changchien who was the samurai in "Predators") would have been even more deadly, but it is still a great high octane ride.

Renner just drops right into the role.
"The Bourne Legacy" is far from a perfect film. It has plenty of missed opportunities for the concept (I wish they would have gone more action and less spy with the change of hero) and there are definitely some plot holes, but I still had a hoot with this fourth film. I'm definitely excited to see where they go with the franchise from this point...and I hope they resist the urge to bring back Damon and Greengrass before Renner's character has had more time to win us over with his more brutal focused protagonist. "The Bourne Legacy" earns my recommendation!

Written By Matt Reifschneider

You know you need to complete your own "Bourne" legacy by purchasing "The Bourne Legacy". Do it at the links below!