REVIEW: DEAD MAN DOWN

CAST

Colin Farrell (Minority report)
Noomi Rapace (Prometheus)
Dominic Cooper (Agent Carter)
Terence Howard (Iron Man)
Isabelle Huppert (Elle)
Armand Assante (Judge Dredd)
F. Murray Abraham (Last Action Hero)
Andrew Stewart-Jones (Gotham)

Victor (Colin Farrell) has infiltrated a criminal empire run by ruthless kingpin Alphonse Hoyt (Terrence Howard). His objective is to make Alphonse pay for the murder of his wife and young daughter (Accalia Quintana) two years earlier. Victor intends to exact revenge on Alphonse through physical and psychological torture before finally killing him.Victor watches and is watched by Beatrice (Noomi Rapace), a mysterious young woman who lives in the apartment across from his. Beatrice begins to contact Victor and show interest in him. On their first date, Beatrice reveals her true motivation: she has a video of Victor killing a man, and will go to the police unless Victor kills the drunk driver who disfigured her face.Meanwhile, Alphonse is receiving threats against his life by Victor. During a shoot-out with Jamaicans whom he believes responsible for the threats, Victor saves his life and thus gains his trust. As the threats intensify, a man within Alphonse’s crew and a friend of Victor’s, Darcy (Dominic Cooper), investigates their source. Victor has also kidnapped the brother of Albanian kingpin Ilir Brozi (James Biberi), who was involved in helping Alphonse dispose of Victor’s family. Victor plans to pool the Albanians and Alphonse’s men together so he can eliminate them all at once.Victor stages a deliberately failed sniper attack on Alphonse from a rooftop in continuing his plans of torture. However, he nearly is caught in the process and manages to escape thanks to Beatrice, who has been following Victor. Ilir’s brother, who was kidnapped by Victor, has been held tied up and blindfolded in an abandoned ship (the S.S. United States, which, although the film is set in New York City, was, during production, and of late 2014 still is, docked in Philadelphia). Victor makes a video in which Ilir’s brother claims that he is being held in the basement of Alphonse’s warehouse, in an effort to frame Alphonse, which would lure the Albanians to the warehouse in retaliation, thereby having them all rounded up in one place. He then kills Ilir’s brother. Beatrice is given the memory card with the video to mail to Ilir in order to make it seem like Alphonse’s crew was responsible for his brother’s kidnapping. Alphonse, now knowing the threats are coming from someone within his crew, becomes suspicious but reluctant to believe that Victor is the traitor due to him previously saving his life. Victor later notifies Beatrice that he didn’t kill the drunk driver so that they can spend more time together, knowing the psychological effect that the murder would have had on her. Victor sets up a trap for the Albanians and Alphonse, but Beatrice reveals through a call that she didn’t mail the memory card because she didn’t want to see Victor die. At that moment, Darcy, who has found Victor’s true intentions while investigating his apartment, subdues Beatrice and informs Victor she is being held captive at Alphonse’s house.As Alphonse and the Albanians gather in the house, Victor crashes into the house with his truck. Victor spares Darcy’s life in the ensuing gunfight and makes his way to the top floor where Beatrice is held by Alphonse and Ilir. Beatrice escapes their watch while they are distracted by Victor’s successful advance, and she begins to play the video on a computer. As Ilir hears the video, he turns his gun on Alphonse who he believes has betrayed him. They both end up shooting each other dead. As Victor escapes with Beatrice, Darcy confronts them with his gun raised. When asked if he spared Darcy because he has a wife and child (“Did you not kill me because I’ve got a wife and a kid?”), Victor replies, “No, because they’ve got you” before dropping his gun. Darcy also lowers his gun and allows the two to leave. Victor and Beatrice travel home on a subway and share a kiss.This is far more about the set up than the act itself. There are action moments of course, especially the final climax, but the focus is more on building up subtle tension rather than plenty of shooting. It’s nicely shot too, not to glamorous not bleak and the story plods at a nice steady pace. Definitely worth a watch and something different to the usual revenge films.

REVIEW: CHUCK – SEASON 4

 

CAST

Zachary Levi (Heroes Reborn)
Yvonne Strahovski (Batman: Bad Blood)
Adam Baldwin (Firefly)
Joshua Gomez (Invasion)
Sarah Lancaster (Saved By The Bell: The New Class)
Ryan McPartlin (J. Edgar)
Mark Christopher Lawrence (Halloween II)
Scott Krinsky (Transformers 3)
Vik Sahay (eXistenZ)
Bonita Friedericy (Veronica Mars)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Mekenna Melvin (Lie To Me)
Linda Hamilton (The Terminator)
Timothy Dalton (Flash Gordon)
Olivia Munn (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Isaiah Mustafa (The Island)
Stacy Keibler (How I Met Your Mother)
Dolph Lundgren (Masters of The Universe)
Summer Glau (Firefly)
Lauren Cohan (The Walking Dead)
Robin Givens (God’s Not Dead 2)
Ray Wise (Robocop)
Richard Chamberlain (Shogun)
Mini Anden (Tropic Thunder)
Larry Cedar (Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas)
Katie Cleary (Tomorrow’s End)
Harry Dean Stanton (Alien)
Mircea Monroe (The Change-Up)
Lou Ferrigno (The Scorpion King 4)
Bronson Pinchot (Lois & Clark)
Karolina Kurkova (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra)
Nicole Richie (The Simple Life)
Steve Austin (The Expendables)
Armand Assante (Judge Dredd)
Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight)
Dave Bautista (Guardians of The Galaxy)
Joel David Moore (Bones)
Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street)
Morgan Fairchild (Roswell)
Ana Gasteyer (Mean Girls)
Rob Riggle (21 Jump Street)
James Lew (G.I. Joe: Retaliation)
Monet Mazur (Just Married)
Matthew Willig (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
John Larroquette (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre)
Clare Carey (Hercules: TLJ)
Lesley-Ann Brandt (Lucifer)
Lou Diamond Phillips (Stargate Universe)
Mercedes Mason (The Finder)
Francois Chau (Lost)
David H. Lawrence XVII (Heroes)
Gary Cole (Crusade)
Millicent Martin (Grace and Frankie)

Season three of Chuck found the show getting more serious as it found the main character fully embracing his new life as a spy. Season four continued that streak. When we last left our characters, we were watching the Buy More  going up in flames. Meanwhile, Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi) was promising his sister Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) that he would give up the dangerous world of spying.
Chuck
The season four premier picks up several months later. Chuck and his best friend Morgan (Joshua Gomez) are conducting a secret mission of their own. They are attempting to use clues left behind by Chuck’s dad to find Chuck’s mom, a woman who disappeared 20 years ago. When it turns out that Chuck’s former government handers Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski) and John Casey (Adam Baldwin) are on the same hunt, Chuck goes back to work for the CIA. Meanwhile, the CIA rebuilds the Buy More as a continued cover for their Southern California base and giving the old Buy More gang their old jobs back in the process. Morgan begins dating Casey’s daughter. Ellie starts investigating her family history, and she and husband Devon (Ryan McPartlin) announce they are expecting. Plus Chuck and Sarah’s relationship continues to build as they work through various issues.

But that’s nothing compared to what happens when Chuck actually tracks down his mother Mary (recurring guest star Linda Hamilton) who is working for the Russian Alexei Volkoff (recurring guest star Timothy Dalton). Can she be trusted? Or is Chuck about to be hurt worse for having tracked her down? As the season unfolded the twists to the story were interesting, and I spent much of the season wondering exactly which side Mary was really on.

And there are some fun sub-plots to the season. Probably my favorite involves Morgan and Casey. The no-nonsense NSA agent has little patience for Chuck’s bumbling best friend, and the fact that they have to work together on missions is nothing compared to when he realizes that Morgan is dating his daughter. Those moments are priceless. The writers and producers did a good job of developing Chuck and Sarah’s relationship. They have managed to avoid the curse of killing a show when you get the main couple together by developing their relationship and giving them realistic things they need to work on. It’s interesting watching it develop, and I like that.

As always with this show, the acting is top notch. As with last season, the show was originally renewed for 13 episodes and then picked up for a back 11. That means that the first 13 episodes tell their own story with a second story springing off that one in the second half. Even the second half of the season reveals some secrets about the Bartowski family legacy. It also means that this season set includes 24 episodes of the show in original wide screen and full surround. In addition to the gag reel and deleted scenes, there’s a featurette about Zachary Levi stepping behind the camera to direct the Thanksgiving episode as well as a collection of Webisodes featuring Jeff and Lester’s quest for a video game.  The characters are still endearing and the storylines worth watching. If you haven’t caught all of season four, fix that today and prepare for season five.

REVIEW: CHUCK – SEASON 3

CAST
Zachary Levi (Heroes Reborn)
Yvonne Strahovski (Batman: Bad Blood)
Adam Baldwin (Firefly)
Joshua Gomez (Invasion)
Sarah Lancaster (Saved By The Bell: The New Class)
Ryan McPartlin (J. Edgar)
Mark Christopher Lawrence (Halloween II)
Scott Krinsky (Transformers 3)
Vik Sahay (eXistenZ)
RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS
Bonita Friedericy (Veronica Mars)
Brandon Routh (Legends of Tomorrow)
Scott Holroyd (That 70s Show)
Kristin Kreuk (Smallville)
Scott Bakula (Star Trek: Enterprise)
Mekenna Melvin (Lie To Me)
Mark Sheppard (Supernatural)
Mini Andén (The Proposal)
Julia Ling (Undoing)
Tony Hale (Yoga Hosers)
Vinnie Jones (Arrow)
Armand Assante (NCIS)
Andrew Connolly (Heroes)
Angie Harmon (Law & Order)
Josie Davis (Dirty Teacher)
Steve Austin (The Expendables)
Leslie-Anne Duff (The Vampire Diaries)
Henri Lubatti (Angel)
Swoosie Kurtz (Mike & Molly)
Jim Piddock (The Prestige)
Johnny Messner (Running Scared)
Louis Lombardi (The Usual Suspects)
Diedrich Bader (Bones)
Robert Patrick (Terminator 2)
Clare Carey (Hercules: TLJ)
Roger R. Cross (First Wave)
Fred Willard (Anchorman)
Udo Kier (Blade)
Fahim Anwar (Lie To Me)
Tony Sirico (The Sopranos)
Cedric Yarbrough (The Boss)
Carlos Lacamara (Heroes Reborn)
Jack Guzman (Power Rangers: Wild Force)
Christopher Lloyd (Back To The Future)
Kaliko Kauahi (Superstore)
Peter Jason (They Live)
David Burke (The Tick)

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The third season actually picks up a few months after the conclusion of season two. Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi) has just returned to Burbank after some training that will help him use the enhanced features he got by downloading the intersect 2.0 into his brain. Now, instead of just flashing on information, he can also flash on skills needed like hand to hand fighting or laser avoiding. However, his emotions make these new upgrades glitchy, so his skills can come and go at the most inopportune times. Meanwhile, his CIA handler Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski) is back in town to rejoin the team despite the fact that Chuck broke her heart. NSA handler John Casey (Adam Baldwin) is thrilled that with each new mission, Chuck seems to be becoming a better spy. Sarah, on the other hand, is watching the man she fell in love with slip away behind the new spy Chuck.

And on the home front? Chuck’s best friend Morgan (Joshua Gomez) and Chuck become roommates. Chuck’s sister Ellie (Sarah Lancaster) gets a fellowship she wants while Ellie’s husband Devon, aka Captain Awesome, (Ryan McPartlin) tries to figure out a way to get Ellie out of the dangerous world that Chuck inhabits. The gang at the Buy More is still there to provide some comedy. And we finally learn something that Captain Awesome isn’t awesome at.

Underneath all this is a new group out to get the Intersect and steal all the secrets locked away in Chuck’s mind. Can the group bring them down while keeping Chuck’s true identity a secret?

This show finds the right balance between comedy and drama. The show takes itself seriously enough that we care for the characters and are concerned when they are in danger. But the characters are just as likely to get out of danger by some crazy coincidence as they are by some great bit of action. It’s that unpredictability and humor that keep me loving every minute.
This is such an amazing season well worth watching, if you haven’t seen the first two seasons then I strongly recommend watching them first.

REVIEW: JUDGE DREDD (1995)

CAST
Sylvester Stallone (Driven)
Armand Assante (American Gangster)
Rob Schneider (The Hot Chick)
Jürgen Prochnow (Ripper)
Max von Sydow (Game of Thrones)
Diane Lane (Man of Steel)
Joanna Miles  (All My Children)
Balthazar Getty (Alias)
Ewen Bremner  (Trainspotting)
Adrienne Barbeau (Swamp Thing)
Mitchell Ryan (Halloween 6)
James Earl Jones (Star Wars)
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By the 2080s, much of Earth has become an uninhabitable wasteland. While some humans manage to survive in the barren “Cursed Earth”, the majority of humanity resides in huge Mega-Cities with populations of tens of millions. To combat crime, the traditional justice system has been replaced by a corps of Judges whose role combines those of police officer, judge, jury, and executioner.
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In Mega-City One, Joseph Dredd (Sylvester Stallone), one of the most dedicated “Street Judges”, assists rookie Judge Hershey (Diane Lane) in ending a block war. Herman “Fergee” Ferguson (Rob Schneider), a hacker recently released from prison, is caught in the firefight and hides inside a food dispensing robot. Dredd arrests Herman for destruction of property, and sentences him to five years’ imprisonment. Rico (Armand Assante), a former Judge, escapes from prison with the help of Judge Griffin (Jürgen Prochnow). He returns to Mega-City One and reclaims his uniform and “Lawgiver” gun. He also finds and reactivates a decommissioned ABC Warrior combat robot. A news reporter (Mitch Ryan) critical of Dredd is murdered, and he becomes the chief suspect. Dredd is taken to a trial before a tribunal of Council Judges including Griffin and Chief Justice Fargo (Max von Sydow), his mentor. Dredd is found guilty as his DNA is found on the bullets used to kill the reporter (A feature of the Lawgiver is imprinting the user’s DNA on each bullet). To save Dredd, Fargo steps down as Chief Justice and, for his last request, asks the Council to spare Dredd’s life. Dredd is sentenced to life imprisonment while Fargo embarks on his “long walk”, in which a retiring Judge ventures into the wasteland “to bring law to the lawless”. Griffin, who freed Rico to frame Dredd for the murder, becomes Chief Justice and instruct Rico to cause chaos in the city.
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Dredd is taken to the Aspen penal colony via airship, where he sits next to Herman. En route, the ship is shot down by the Angel Gang, a family of cannibalistic scavengers. They bring Dredd and Herman back to their cave. A squad of Judges investigate the crashed ship and get to the cave. A battle ensues. Fargo arrives in time to save Dredd’s life, but is mortally wounded by Mean Machine Angel (Chris Adamson). A dying Fargo reveals that Dredd and Rico are the result of the Janus project, an experiment in genetic engineering intended to create the perfect Judge using DNA from Council Judges. Dredd deduces Rico framed him for the reporter’s murder, using their identical DNA. Believing Griffin is trying to reactivate the Janus project, Fargo urges Dredd to stop him. In Mega-City One, Rico terrorize the city and assassinates the Judges. Griffin uses the situation to convince the Council Judges to unlock the Janus files. He plans to create an army of Judges from his DNA. After the Council Judges unlocks the file, Griffin has them killed. Dredd and Herman sneak back into the city and meet with Hershey, who had also discovered the Janus project by herself. They go to the Statue of Liberty where the Janus laboratories are. They encounter the ABC Warrior, which wounds Herman and captures Dredd and Hershey. Rico uses his own DNA as template for the Janus clones, then commands the ABC Warrior to kill Griffin. Herman, despite his wounds, disables the ABC Warrior as Dredd fights Rico, while Hershey fights his assistant. Rico activates his clones prematurely, but they fail to stop Dredd. Dredd pursues Rico to the top of the Statue of Liberty, and a final struggle sends Rico falling to his death.
Central, the city’s controlling supercomputer, has recorded the entire event and broadcasts the information, clearing Dredd’s name. The remaining Judges ask him to become the new Chief Justice, but Dredd refuses and remains a street judge.

Danny Cannon’s Judge Dredd is an entertaining enough sci-fi action flick, but I can’t help wincing whenever I watch it. Cannon claims to be a fan of the original comic strip, which suggests that he didn’t have a great deal of creative control, because plenty of liberties are taken here. I would never have expected the makers of the movie to be 100% faithful to the comic, but some of the changes that were made were superficial and pointless, and that’s what irritates me. For one thing it’s set in the wrong year, the Chief Judge is inexplicably called Chief Justice, Rico is locked up in Aspen rather than Titan, the heroic Chief Judge Griffin is one of the movie’s villains, while in the comic both McGruder and Silver were Chief Judges… and Silver was black!As a movie it’s okay. The dialogue is pretty awful and the acting is adequate. The action scenes also just-about pass muster, although the hover-bike chase fails to convince, and the climactic punch-up in the Statue of Liberty is a bit of a damp squib. In the end though, it’s all fairly entertaining nonsense. It’s just a shame that when the producers decide to bring Dredd to the big screen, they didn’t have the courage to do it properly – as far as I’m concerned not hiring John Wagner or Alan Grant to work on the script was a crime worthy of life in an Iso-Cube.