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"Solo"... the ultimate one-man army!
Here's a movie that knows its place and doesn't kid itself in trying to think it's anything intelligent or well-written. "Solo" simply wants to be a fun action movie, and it succeeds. Looking a lot like 2005's "Stealth," only with lesser special effects, "Solo" (made almost a decade before "Stealth") is a one-man army movie to the extreme. It stars Mario Van Peebles (remember him?) as Solo, an android built by the army that goes renegade and helps a group of farmers save their village. But the army wants their billion dollar project back, and will stop at nothing to get it! I enjoyed "Solo" on the grounds that you don't have to think very hard, and yet it still entertains. Mario Van Peebles does a fine job as the android, and I also noticed Adrien Brody as his programmer. "Solo" was bashed mainly because it was years behind its time. Had it been released the same year as "Rambo," it may have found a wider audience. But if you like action and don't want things like plot or character development to get in the way, see "Solo." It's a good action movie, and a fun 90 minutes.

Super Mario Bros.

An absolutely fun film...
I first saw this film in theaters when I was about 8 years old and a Mario fanatic. It was one of my favorite movies back then. Now, I'm proud owner of the DVD and have watched it numerous times. Even in my twenties, I still love this film and have no complaints about it. It delivers on all counts. Bob Hoskins is the perfect Mario. Dennis Hopper plays Koopa with campy charm. And I even love the two goofy guys who play Spike and Iggy. There is so much in this film that I love. It is a rare film from my youth that hasn't gotten old yet, like the first two "Ninja Turtles" films, or "The Sandlot." "Super Mario Bros." is a great action/sci-fi/comedy for any kid inside all of us. Forget the fact that it's loosely based on a video game. I did when I was 8, and as a result I still love the film today. So many people bash this movie unfairly, and I have yet to see a reasonable argument against it. I like what that guy from "The Washington Post" said, "It's A Blast!" That it is.

Mercenary for Justice

One of the better Seagal films of recent years...
"Mercenary for Justice" has one heck of an opening. It starts on a war-torn battlefield with Seagal and a group of mercenaries fighting a legion of French soldiers after having kidnapped and killed the French ambassador. Director Don E. FauntLeRoy, who did the so-so "Today You Die" with Seagal, proves his worth with this sequence as the action is fluid and crisp and looks like it cost way more than the reported $15 million it actually did. It's clear with this film's opening: Seagal is hearing the fan's pleas for better films, and he's going to start trying better. Another thankful gesture to his loyal fans in this film is Seagal actually does his own fighting, and while the fight scenes are less impressive, at least it's him doing it. The plot is ridiculous and silly and most of it doesn't make a lick of sense, but since when did it have to in a Seagal movie? What matters is that the film looks good and makes Seagal look good. Having been a Seagal fan for a while, I must say I was pleased by this film.

The Foreigner

Note: This is a good movie if you're cool...
Steven Seagal, after making the bombastic "Half Past Dead," turned to the direct-to-video market with the film "The Foreigner," which he made with visionary action director Michael Oblowitz. I realize I'm going to get lynched by saying good things about this film, but hear me out. "The Foreigner" delivers exactly what Seagal's fans want, and more. There is nothing but complete action in this film. The plot is so ludicrous, you have no choice but to ignore it. Just sit back and let the action take you on a ride. "The Foreigner" really brought out the ugliness of Seagal fans, proving that they will never be pleased by him. He tried to do something with a plot and acting in "Fire Down Below" and it backfired. So now he does something with no plot and stylistic action and the same thing happens. Personally, I'm loving every second of "The Foreigner," and while the Seagal-Oblowitz follow-up "Out for a Kill" may have been pushing it a little too much, I even find myself smiling at that one too. No, this isn't a bad movie. It entertains on a level where one can sit back, eat some popcorn, and enjoy an explosion or two. Since when did plot or acting have to be part of that picture? If I have to expect good acting or a plot to be a Steven Seagal fan, count me out. I'll be over here watching "Universal Soldier."

Get Carter

"Get Carter" dies after opening credits
Sylvester Stallone's career took a turn for the worst here with "Get Carter," a dry action film about revenge. Jack Carter returns home to his brother's funeral and decides to solve the mystery surrounding his brother's death. Perhaps the only thing interesting about the film is the friendship made between Jack and his niece, but even this is marred by a plot twist that's handled with such discomfort that it doesn't seem to belong in a movie with the Italian Stallion. Also starring Michael Caine, from the original "Get Carter," and the ever-so-versatile Alan Cumming, I really expected more from this movie. But the film loses its steam after the opening credits.

Cop Land

Stallone's best performance since "First Blood"
James Mangold's "Cop Land" is a surprisingly engaging crime drama about police corruption with a stellar cast headlined by none other than Sylvester Stallone, who at this point was in a downfall in his career. However, Stallone manages to lead an amazing group of actors including Harvey Keitel, Andy Liotta, and Robert De Niro in an intelligent story about one small-town sheriff who took on a town of seasoned NYPD veterans who were covering up a murder and a drug scandal, amongst other things. "Cop Land" was marketed as a high-octane actioner, which is why it receives such flack from critics, but it is, in fact, a well-done drama with swift pacing, great direction, and gripping performances from Keitel, Liotta, and Stallone. "Cop Land" is a must-see.


This movie is like a train wreck...
After the fast-paced "Replicant" and the silly-but-enjoyable "The Order," Jean-Claude Van Damme starred in "Derailed," a movie so boring, you can hardly tell it belongs in the action genre. From his past two movies we got different performances from him (especially "Replicant"), but here he's more wooden than a tree and thus gives us little to root for. The unimportant plot concerns a hijacking of a train in order for the villain to capture a woman whom Van Damme has been assigned to protect. There's kicking, as usual, but it's kept to a minimum, mostly because it's hard to do the splits on a train. The film is totally ludicrous and not worth the price of rental, unless you're the most hardcore Van Damme fan. I give it 2/10


What? No kicking?
This has to be one of the oddest, yet best Van Damme films ever. It's not chop-socky martial arts kickboxing crud, and it isn't mindless sci-fi action... it's a war drama. And a surprisingly good one. Van Damme plays Alain, a boxer who is paid to take a dive, but who instead flees and joins the French Foreign Legion, where he learns about friendship, honor, and fighting to the last. Sound like a normal Van Damme movie? Far from it. Sheldon Lettich's script, while somewhat cliche, is very well put together. The acting is surprisingly top notch, with even Jean-Claude Van Damme himself turning in a good performance. What a shame this movie never made it to theaters. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys an exciting, epic war film. I give it 8/10.

28 Days Later...

Cerebral horror film not for everyone...
If there's one thing that can be said about "28 Days Later," it's that it's not for everyone. People seeking your usual zombie horror fluff will be very disappointed, whereas those seeking something fresh, dark, and intelligent will be greatly pleased.

The film takes place in England where a virus referred to simply as Rage has killed off most of the people, turning them into violent, mindless beings. This serves as a backdrop to the real story, which is about survival during threatening times for man, and how we humans can rely on no one but ourselves to survive.

It's a dark, harrowing film that should hold the interest of anybody looking for something with a different style and scope than is usually found in modern-day horror. It's a very good film that you'll either like a lot or won't get at all.

***1/2 out of ****.

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