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Wrath of Man

CHEER! - (8 stars out of 10)
The stage curtains open ...

It was good to see Jason Statham take on a more serious role again, away from the glitz and glamour of the "Expendables" and "Fast & Furious" movies. "Wrath of Man" is gritty, dark, brutal, and brooding. It is unforgiving at its core, yet satisfactory in its delivery. To me, it was almost like "Reservoir Dogs" meets "Training Day". I honestly feel that it is perhaps the best hard-hitting crime/action film to have come out since "Training Day". I think with repeated viewings, I could come to appreciate it as much, and it may someday become known as one of Statham's best, and a cult classic.

Statham plays the part of "H", a newly hired guard for Fortico, an armored truck company. Barely passing the minimum requirement to get the job, it isn't long before he is put to the test when a truck he is guarding is hit. He pulls out his gun, and minutes later, all of the assailants are dead, leaving everyone to scratch and shake their heads. Who is "H" really? And why is he here? The owner is satisfied with a "job well done", but everyone else knows he must have a hidden agenda. The plot unfolds and the bodies pile up as Statham commands an undeniable kickass presence on the silver screen.

I actually wasn't planning on watching this one tonight, but I'm glad I did. It is a very well made film with an excellent plot, solid acting, memorable action sequences, and tight direction and editing. Yes, it is an extremely violent film, they did not hold back. Brutal and bloody - but with a purpose. This isn't your over-the-top special effects extravaganza. It is very dark and very much in your face with gut wrenching scenes. Even so, I couldn't turn my eyes away.

When it was all said and done, I enjoyed this one. I think it catches Statham (now 53 years old) in fine form, completely believable, and mesmerizing in his role. I would recommend this movie for the fan of a good crime film. It was strong, and as I mentioned before, on its way to perhaps becoming a favorite. But for now, I give it a solid 8 stars out of 10.


STANDING OVATION! - (10 stars out of 10)
The stage curtains open ...

Alfred Hitchcock has had so many good movies, that I'd be hard pressed to identify one as his masterpiece. But, if I had to choose one, "Psycho" would probably have to be it. This is quintessential Hitchcock - without a doubt. I was born 8 years after this film came out, so I didn't have my first experience with "Psycho" until much later. Even though it was an older film by then, and it was in black & white, I can tell you that I was afraid to take a shower after I'd seen it!

Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), a real estate secretary, is tempted to run away and start a new life with her secret lover, Sam Loomis, when $40,000 practically lands in her lap. She succumbs to her temptation, packs her bag, and hits the road. But when a heavy downpour of rain forces her to pull over for the night, she finds herself off the main road and at Bates Motel, a forgotten corner of the world. Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), the motel's owner, befriends her and they share a dinner together in which she learns of his invalid mother, and his frustration of living with her. It causes her to reflect on her own situation. She makes the decision to return the money, but a little too late as it turns out leading to one of the most suspenseful stories ever told.

For the fan of thriller/horror films, this one is a must see. In fact, it is a must own. Everything that made Hitchcock stand out above the rest is present here - his camera work, chilling musical score, strong characters, and a deep plot with an ending you didn't see coming. This is truly a classic that has aged well, and that has spawned three good sequels, and a remake. Norman Bates and his motel have become a cultural icons and have influenced countless writers and filmmakers over the years. This is the cream of the crop.

I saw a reviewer in here rate this movie at 1 star. Really? 1 star? You need to have your head examined. I own this movie and all the sequels and have watched them numerous times over the years. I never tire of watching it, and I never will. This gets the highest possible recommend at a perfect 10 stars out of 10.

Back to the Future Part III

CHEER! - (9 stars out of 10)
The stage curtains open ...

Only six months after "Part II" came out, we got the final entry into the "Back to the Future" trilogy. It helped to kickstart a fun movie summer in 1990. Many have touted "Part III" as the weakest of the three movies. I beg to differ, I felt that it was the 2nd best one with "Part II" being the weakest of the bunch. It was very strong and a great finish to what started back in 1985. I was newly married by this time, and life was good - so, maybe I'm a little bit biased, but I loved this movie.

This one picks right up where the last one left off, with Doc mysteriously disappearing having been struck by lightning while inside the DeLorean. Marty receives documents that had been sealed and saved for him for the past 70 years - and to his amazement, he finds that Doc is alive and well in the old west, in the year 1885. However, when he finds out Doc's demise, he knows he must once more travel through time to save his best friend leading to a climactic finish to our story.

This was such a good movie with delightful performances. It was not only a great nod to western films, but to Clint Eastwood himself. The character of Clara Clayton (played by Mary Steenburgen) was a welcome addition. We also get a nice cameo from the band ZZ Top. This film ties up all the loose ends effectively, and it was a fond farewell to characters we've grown to love over the years. As the final credits began to roll, I felt a tug at my heartstrings. I was going to miss my friends.

I highly recommend, not only this movie, but the entire trilogy. It should be watched back-to-back-to-back (1, 2, 3) ... and enjoyed again and again. When they came out on VHS tape (yes, I am that old), I purchased them and have watched them over and over through the years and loved it just as much with each viewing. Now, they grace my collection on Blu-ray. This gets a very strong 9 stars out of 10.

Back to the Future Part II

CHEER! - (8 stars out of 10)
The stage curtains open ...

We all clamored for a sequel to "Back to the Future", and four years after the original film was released, we got one. In fact, we not only got "Part II", but highlights of a "Part III" to come were also shown - which was a smart marketing move, because "Part II" definitely leaves you hanging at the end. By today's standards, it might take a decade to get a sequel made, and we are okay with it. But, back then, if you waited for more than 2 years, you might have waited too long. Fortunately for us, everything that worked in the first film translated to this one without any problems.

This 2nd entry into the trilogy picks right up where the 1st one left off, with Doc telling Marty and Jennifer that he needs their help in the future with their kids. Off they fly, into the future, leaving a couple of fire trails in the sky. Only, Biff witnesses the event and everything changes. In this film, we actually get to travel ahead in time to the future, and we are given a glimpse of what it could look like with outlandish outfits, hairstyles, and face make-up. In correcting one situation, Marty inadvertently creates a new one which alters everything in the past. Now they must return to the pivotal year of 1955 to make it all good again.

Four years had passed since I had seen the first one. I was 16 when I saw it. This sequel was released late in the year in November, so I was already 21 when it came out. A lot had changed for me in that time span ... I was living on my own, engaged to be married, and employed full time. I was hoping they hadn't waited too long - and to my surprise, I really enjoyed this movie. The chemistry was still there, the movie magic was still there, and the overall feel of the first movie was also still there. In fact, to me, the only noticeable change was with Elisabeth Shue replacing Claudia Wells for the role of Marty's girlfriend, Jennifer.

I highly recommend this movie. It is very strong and a fun rollercoaster ride through time. The storyline was fitting and kept you invested. It was a great nod to the original film, and set up the final one perfectly. I left the theater smiling and anticipating "Part III". This is a solid 8 stars out of 10.

Back to the Future

STANDING OVATION! - (10 stars out of 10)
The stage curtains open ...

I was 16 when "Back to the Future" came out. One month after it was released to theaters, "Teen Wolf" also hit the big screen. That was a busy summer for Michael J. Fox, who starred in both films. One of my friends had gone to see them both and then reported that "Teen Wolf" was the best one of the two. So, I did what he did ... I watched them both as a double feature. After I had watched both films, I wondered what he was on, because "Back to the Future" was CLEARLY the best movie. And to this day, it remains one of my all-time favorites.

Marty McFly (Fox) is your average 80's teen who dreams of someday making it big as a rock star, has a hot girlfriend, skateboards his way around town, and who has a close friendship with a bit of a madcap scientist named Emmett Brown (Christopher LLoyd), who he affectionately calls Doc. One night, Doc has Marty meet him at the parking lot of a mall where he unveils his latest project ... a DeLorean he has converted into a time machine. During a mishap, Marty is accidentally sent back to the year 1955 where he runs into his parents when they were his age. Now Marty faces the reality of being erased from existence, unless the 1955 Doc Brown can help him get back to the future.

I absolutely loved this movie when I first saw it, and I still do today. To say that it is a classic would actually be an understatement, though it truly is. It is the essence of movie magic, and helped to influence countless people, having a large impact on future movies and future lives. It is still just as pertinent today as it was back then. The humor is matched only by it's excitement - and both were abundant. The special effects were great for their time, the cast was strong, and the music memorable.

I can't recommend this movie enough. Some people comment on the relationship between Marty and his mother as a teen as being inappropriate - well, if that is all you got out of it, you missed the point completely. "Back to the Future" is viable and entertaining, and has its rightful place in the lore of film legends. This is a perfect 10 stars out of 10. If only they made movies like this today.

Staying Alive

JUST OKAY - (6 stars out of 10)
The stage curtains open ...

After the huge success of 1977's "Saturday Night Fever", it was inevitable that a sequel would be made, and sure enough, we were given this Sylvester Stallone directed film 6 years later. John Travolta returns to once more play the part of Tony Manero, the disco dancing dynamo who had to learn a hard life lesson in the first film.

Manero has moved from Brooklyn and now lives in Manhattan where he is employed as a dance instructor during the day and a waiter at a dance club during the night. Barely making ends meet, he has become skilled as a modern dancer and is looking to score a big break on Broadway. He has the support of Jackie, his on and off again girlfriend, but when a beautiful dancer catches his eye, his old stubborn and immature side emerges, causing friction with Jackie. Manero has another hard life lesson to learn as he finds success on Broadway, wins the respect of his mother, and figures out what true love is.

This really wasn't that bad of a movie, but in comparison to "Saturday Night Fever", it doesn't hold a candle. Travolta had buffed up some for this role and looked like a slim, athletic version of John Rambo dancing across the stage, which is funny since Stallone directed the movie. Whatever edge the first movie had is lost here, though some of the dance scenes were enjoyable. Also enjoyable to watch was Cynthia Rhodes in one of her few film roles, and Finola Hughes early in her career.

I don't necessarily recommend "Staying Alive", but as a sequel and continuation of Tony's story, it is adequate. With the change in the music scene, the movie does well to adapt and hold true to its time. This is one of those films you would watch late at night with all the lights turned off - a guilty pleasure. I give it 6 stars out of 10.

Saturday Night Fever

CHEER! - (8 stars out of 10)
The stage curtains open ...

"Ah, ha, ha, ha, Stayin' Alive, Stayin' Alive!"

There isn't a person alive today who hasn't heard that song. "Saturday Night Fever" helped to define an era when disco ruled the charts, a time when you worked all week just so you could blow your money at the local discothèque every Saturday night. This movie propelled John Travolta to stardom, making him a household name. For what was best about the late 70's, look no further.

Tony Manero (Travolta) is a 19-year-old who still lives in his parents' house, works in a dead-end job at a hardware store, and who is trying hard to get some respect living under the shadow of his older brother who has become a priest. Not finding this respect at home, he finds it on the dance floor at the local discothèque called Odyssey 2000 - where he rules the night. It is a coming of age story set against the backdrop of a dance contest, his brother's decision to leave the faith, and a fateful bridge that would serve to play an important part of his life.

I was about 9 years old when this movie was released to theaters, so I didn't get to see this until much later, but it still had an impact on me. I decided to watch it again just the other night, and I was surprised how well it stood up, even as dated as the music from that time has become. The relationships and dialogue were still very real and a bit raw in places ... just like life. Travolta not only amazes on the dance floor, but off it as well, believably portraying the frustrated teen who is trying to be a man.

I highly recommend this film. You don't even need to be a fan of disco music and it's lifestyle to have an appreciation for it. This is without a doubt one of Travolta's finest performances and it is easy to see what the attraction was all about back in the day. I have enjoyed watching this one over the years, and it still receives a solid 8 stars out of 10 from me.

Wonder Woman 1984

CHEER! - (7 stars out 10)
The stage curtains open ...

Wonder Woman is kind of becoming a staple now having been in a total of 4 DC Comics films, this being the latest one. This one is probably the weakest of her 4 appearances (not counting the first Justice League film since Zack Snyder's is out now), but even so, it was very enjoyable and worth the time spent to watch it.

The film starts with a pre-teen Diana Prince taking part in an athletic event where she learns an important lesson through loss. Flash forward to 1984, where she lives a double life as Diana Prince publicly, and as Wonder Woman secretly, when the occasion calls for it. When a stolen artifact, called the Dreamstone (a stone that has the ability to grants it's holder a wish), falls into the wrong hands, it's new owner wishes to become the Dreamstone, setting in to motion a chain of events that could destroy the very fabric of life.

This superhero flick was a bit off the beaten track, so to speak, with a plot that was very different. It wasn't your clear cut "good versus evil" story - rather it was more of Wonder Woman versus the situation. Kristen Wiig was a bit out of her element here, but I was surprised to see her turn in a good performance in the dual role of Barbara Minerva and The Cheetah. We get to see Steve Trevor again with Chris Pine returning, and Gal Gadot once more embodies Wonder Woman very well, and was fun to watch.

Even though this was one of the weaker superhero films I've seen recently, I still enjoyed it. I felt it was original and fresh with satisfying storytelling, pacing, and special effects. I liked the ending, and overall was happy with the movie experience. Plus, we get a nice cameo from the original Wonder Woman herself, Linda Carter. I would recommend this addition to the Wonder Woman / DC franchise at 7 stars out of 10.

The Little Things

CHEER! - (7 stars out of 10)
The stage curtains open ...

"The Little Things" is one of those rare films where it was better than I thought it was going to be, but one that I also felt could've been even better. The performances were as expected - Denzel was Denzel, Rami Malek was Freddie Mercury .... errr, I mean Rami Malek, and all the supporting actors did an effective job. BUT ... what a performance by Jared Leto! This was his hour, to be sure.

When a Deputy, Joe Deacon (Denzel Washington), is sent to his old stomping grounds to collect evidence for a case, he is inadvertently pulled into another murder while there. The modus operandi matches an unsolved case from his past and he decides to stay and help investigate. He revisits old acquaintances (some friendly, some not), opening old wounds along the way as he tries to get closure on that chapter of his life. Their investigative trail leads them to a likely suspect (played by Jared Leto) which will affect them in more ways than one.

This was an intriguing film with fine performances, especially by Jared Leto, who was nothing short of mesmerizing in my humble opinion. The plot was thick and well wrought, the pacing spot on, and the cinematography was very good. I was captured from the start, and my attention was held until the final play. The ending wasn't what I was expecting, yet, it was satisfactory and did the overall story justice.

I would recommend this film. It was better than I thought it would be, however, I felt it could have been punched up a bit more to be a bit more exciting. Having said that though, I would certainly watch it again, if anything, to watch Jared Leto at work. This comes in at a very solid 7 stars out of 10.


JUST OKAY - (6 stars out of 10)
The stage curtains open ...

The director of "Tenet", Christopher Nolan, was also the screen writer. According to sources, it took him over 5 years to write - that after over ten years of deliberation. And it shows. As I was watching the movie, I became so dislodged and lost, in fact, I became "inverted" to the point where I wondered if even the screenwriter knew what the hell was going on. Because, I sure didn't.

We start the story off with a bang, immediately drawn in to this world with an amazing opening scene that literally involves hundreds of extras that I won't soon forget. A CIA agent, who we come to know as the Protagonist, is hired by a secret organization called Tenet to find the manufacturer of inverted bullets, bullets that can travel backwards through time, and stop a possible paradox that could spell the end of the world. These bullets are being made sometime in the future, which takes the Protagonist on an unprecedented trail of action and intrigue.

That is basically what I got out of it, and believe me when I say I was paying close attention because I had been warned going in that you needed to. First, the positives. The cinematography, special effects and visuals were simply jaw dropping in parts. There is enough eye candy here to boggle the mind, and that is the strength of this action film. The acting was good as well, with well choreographed fight scenes and action sequences. However, the sound mixing was awful. While I was straining to hear the dialogue, the film's score was too loud or distracting, so I lost out on a lot of the actual plot and had to read about it afterwards to catch up. It was already moving super fast, and they didn't make things any easier.

I honestly cannot justify recommending this film. If all you want is 2 hours of mind blowing visuals, then this is your thing. If you need to be clued in along the way of what is going on, you will be lost and will probably end up feeling as I did - a lost opportunity. I give this a solid 6 stars out of 10. If they make a sequel, I hope they correct this problem.


CHEER! - (9 stars out of 10)
The stage curtains open ...

It takes a lot for me to invest into a foreign film where I have to watch it with subtitles, and I will usually pass unless it is an exceptional film. The last such film I can remember watching was the 2007 Spanish supernatural film, "The Orphanage", which I did feel was exceptionally good. So, when I read the reviews on "Parasite" and seeing that it had won Best Picture, I decided to go ahead and take the plunge ... and I'm so glad I did.

Our story starts with the Kim family, struggling financially and trying to make ends meet when the son, Ki-woo, is given the opportunity to tutor a rich family's teenage daughter. Taking the job, Ki-woo begins to manufacture reasons to trick the privileged family into hiring his father, mother and sister in various capacities, while they pretend to be complete strangers to each other. The scheme is going well, until one of the former house employees returns to the home requesting to be let in because, in her haste to leave, she had left something important behind. When they allow her inside, that is when it all begins to unravel with very unexpected results.

I absolutely loved this twisted film! Despite the subtitles, I was completely sucked in, and found myself grinning with guilty pleasure at the predicaments that this opportunist family was placed into in their efforts to keep their devious plan from being discovered. The outcome was not what I expected, but completely satisfying. The pacing was excellent, the acting above average, and the cinematography solid. The film featured a strong use of lighting and colors that adds to the feel and atmosphere effectively.

This is one of the few foreign films (well, foreign to me, that is) that I would highly recommend, without hesitation. It is well deserving of its praises, and well worth the time invested into it. I have added it to my own collection and am looking forward to watching it again down the road. A high 9 stars out of 10.

The Irishman

CHEER! - (9 stars out of 10)
The stage curtains open ...

Scorsese does it again. After the success of crime films like, "GoodFellas", "Casino", and "The Departed", he brings us another inspirational film in the same vein with "The Irishman". Supporting a solid cast with the likes of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Harvey Keitel, and Joe Pesci (among others), I knew going in that at the very least, I would see some excellent acting. And yes ... I did. But, this movie was so much more than that.

Based on the novel, "I Heard You Paint Houses" by Charles Brandt, which showcases the criminal career of teamster and mafia hitman, Frank Sheeran (De Niro), we follow along as Sheeran goes from truck driver to one of the better known and respected figures in organized crime. It is the story of one possible explanation to the disappearance of noted teamster and national figure, Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino). It is a compelling story with outstanding and memorable performances and completely deserving of all its accolades.

Running at about 3 1/2 hours, I was afraid this film was just going to drag on and would require effort on my part to stay engaged. That was hardly the case. From the opening scene to the last, I was completely pulled in and enamored with the story as it unfolded before my eyes. Everything about this movie works here. Whether this accounting of what may have happened to Jimmy Hoffa is true or not, it certainly is thought provoking and in some circles, controversial. There are even ties to what may have been behind the scenes of the JFK assassination as well.

I highly recommend this movie at a very strong 9 stars out of 10. Martin Scorsese is easily one of my favorite directors, and he just continues to cement his legacy with yet another stellar film here. I am so glad that Pesci came out of retirement for this project, as it wouldn't have been the same without him. It's all here: chemistry, direction, cinematography, music, plot, pacing, and performances. This is a must see.


CHEER! - (7 stars out of 10)
The stage curtains open ...

I'm a fan of Friedkin's work with films like, "The Exorcist", "The Guardian", and "Bug" ... but with "Jade", he takes his turn at the erotic thriller - and it works. Erotic thrillers had found a new life in the early 90's, and taking advantage of that cinema interest, Friedkin delivers this worthy entry into the genre with a strong plot, stimulating visuals, and good performances.

When a prominent businessman is found bludgeoned to death in his home, Detective David Corelli (David Caruso) is called into to head up the investigation. They find revealing photos of the Governor and a prostitute in the deceased's safe. Thinking the two must be related, Corelli follows the lead and discovers that there is much more going on that even he could have anticipated, taking him down a dangerous path to a discovery that hits close to home. And even when he thinks he's solved the mystery, there is still one final twist.

I saw this one back when it came out in 1995. It was one of those movies that I saw sitting on the shelf at the rental store, and nothing new was out, so I snagged it and watched it. I remember liking it, but as the years went by, I had forgotten most of it, so I watched it again a few nights ago. I still liked it. One thing that Friedkin has always been good at is setting the mood ... sometimes disturbing and uneasy. He accomplishes this with good use of visuals, shadows and colors, along with a haunting film score - which "Jade" has.

I recommend this movie. Even though it is 25 years since its release, it still holds up pretty well. You move along at a good pace, with little or no lulls in the story. I found the plot to be intriguing, but not over-the-top. I was engaged from start to finish and satisfied with the outcome. This is a solid 7 stars out of 10 - and I'd watch it again, no problem.

Godzilla vs. Kong

CHEER! - (8 stars out of 10)
The stage curtains open ...

"Godzilla vs. Kong" delivers exactly what you watch it for - two titan monsters having it out on the silver screen, causing mayhem wherever their path takes them. I honestly don't know what more you can expect from a monster feature like this - it's all here. However, despite it strengths, it does have a few weaknesses, but thankfully, they aren't enough to take away from the overall experience.

Our story starts on Skull Island where Kong has been placed inside a massive, containment structure in the hopes of protecting him from the outside, most notably Godzilla - who they are sure will seek Kong out simply to establish himself as the alpha titan. However, when a power surge is discovered under the earth's crust, they set Kong on the trail in hopes that he will lead them to it, and what they believe to be the origin and source of the titans. Hot on his trail though, is Godzilla and soon the long anticipated, fated duel between the two becomes imminent.

I really enjoyed this movie. It hits the mark for its intended audience. However, as mentioned before, it comes with its share of problems. I just felt parts of the plot fell together a little too neatly (ie: the time to reach Hollow Earth, as they refer to it, was far too short and easy - Kong knowing sign language who communicates with the little mute girl was just a bit too hokey for me - Mechagodzilla losing control was clearly just a McGuffin to keep the plot moving in the direction they needed it to). And yet, despite these, the film still works.

I highly recommend "Godzilla vs. Kong" at a very strong 8 stars out of 10. I had a lot of fun watching it. The effects and CG work were top notch that made all of the action between our two titans effective and believable. The characters were strong and the acting pretty good. All flaws soon fall by the wayside as this movie certainly appeals to the young imagination and movie magic that still lives inside all of us.


CHEER! - (8 stars out of 10)
The stage curtains open ,..

In the wake of a resurgence of assassin action thrillers such as "John Wick", "Peppermint", "Red Sparrow", and "Atomic Blonde" comes this latest Jessica Chastain entry, "Ava". Chastain plays the title character bringing a modern flair to an old story. What the strength of this film comes down to is not the plot, but the execution of the plot, the acting, and the action sequences. Even though we've seen this story multiple times over the years, "Ava" still manages to deliver a punch (excuse the pun).

It is the tried and true story of an elite assassin who begins to develop a conscience and doubt the validity of their work ... therefore, they have become a liability and must now be taken out - permanently. Ava is our struggling expert in death as she begins to engage her targets in conversation before their untimely demise, asking them what it is they have done to deserve to die. When an assignment in Saudi Arabia is nearly botched and she barely escapes with her life, she decides to return home to Boston after 8 years and finds the home fires are not burning as brightly. But, the heat is turned up when she finds herself the target and now she must kill or be killed.

This film does an effective job of setting up the plot and then moving you forward with excellent pacing and action. Jessica Chastain is very good in her role, especially with those she interfaces with - her sister, mother, and her one and only confidant and friend in the business, Duke (played by John Malkovich). The soundtrack sports an industrial, dance vibe that is fitting to the overall atmosphere and feel of the film. The cinematography is very good, and the use of colors, shadows, and lighting is spot on.

I would recommend this film to both the action fan and fans of Jessica Chastain. Even though her supporting actors have put in rather plain performances, especially on the part of our film's villain, Colin Farrell, Jessica Chastain gives us a strong turn that is invested and engaging. I enjoyed this one and hope they will give us a sequel, which is strongly implied by film's end. A solid 8 stars out of 10.

Europe, the Final Countdown 30th Anniversary Show: Live at the Roundhouse

CHEER! - (8 stars out of 10)
The stage curtains open ...

In the 80's, I was a teenager who was big on the rock scene, and Europe had their rightful place in my own collection. Fueled by its huge, anthemic hit, "The Final Countdown", Europe's 1986 album by the same name featured a solid 10 song list including other hits, "Rock The Night", "Carrie", and "Cherokee". But truthfully, every single song on this album was solid and memorable. I was a fan of the band.

Thirty years later, after numerous changes with record labels, band members, and 10 studio albums under their belt, Europe released this video showcasing two of their albums in their entirety: "War Of Kings", and of course, "The Final Countdown". The video starts off with "War Of Kings" and right off the bat, you can see that they are still tight and sounding great. Joey Tempest has lost a bit of his bite, but hey, for a man in his 50's, he still sounds pretty good. After their "War Of Kings" set, Europe went into "The Final Countdown" and brought the house down.

I loved every single minute of this concert footage. The band is still viable and full of energy and exhibit an obvious love for their music and the fans they play it for. Yes, they've noticeably aged, but they can still bring it. The thing that struck me as I was watching this concert was that the majority of the concert goers were young - a true testament to how far reaching the impact of their music is.

I highly recommend this video. I had a great time singing along, remembering the days of my own youth when music was such an important part of my formative years. Europe had a part in that. At the end of the concert, the words "Thank You" were up on the screens. I return that sentiment to the band. Thank YOU for 30 wonderful years!

Aspen Extreme

CHEER! - (8 stars out of 10)
The stage curtains open ...

"I stopped dating Ski Instructors when I was 16."

When "Aspen Extreme" came out, I kind of went into it blind ... not really knowing who was in it, or what it was about. But, as the opening credits began to roll, I did recognize a couple of names: Peter Berg and Teri Polo. Peter Berg was already on my radar because of his role in the Wes Craven movie, "Shocker", and Teri Polo also because of her role in, of all things, "Mystery Date" in which Ethan Hawke co-starred. So, I had a little of that warm and fuzzy going in, but not much. However, it didn't take me long to settle right in and enjoy this film.

Aspiring writer and ski bum, T. J. Burke (Paul Gross), convinces his friend Dexter Rutecki (Berg) to join him on a spur-of-the-moment whim to pack up and leave Detroit in search of a new life in Aspen, Colorado and try out as ski instructors. After securing jobs with the Aspen Ski School, the two life long friends find that becoming a local isn't as easy as they thought, until Robin Hand (Polo), a radio DJ, helps them get settled in. The two friends soon find themselves going down completely separate paths which leads to a heavy decision that could change their lives forever.

This was released in 1993, but had a totally 80's feel to it. It was billed as "Top Gun on the Ski Slopes", and though I don't necessarily agree with that assessment, the music was there, the feel was there, the tragedy was there, and a reconciled love is there. And yes, the action was there. The ski stunts and scenes were amazing in this film. Not really a skier myself, I was still drawn in. It was a strong balance between the story and the attraction to the snowy slopes of Aspen.

I highly recommend "Aspen Extreme". It was engaging with good pacing and decent character development. It appeals to the young and old alike, though it is a bit overdramatized in parts ... nothing that is distracting, however. I have enjoyed watching this one more than once over the years since it came out, and I will watch it again down the road. A personal favorite of mine at 8 stars out of 10.

The Cheap Detective

CHEER! - (8 stars out of 10)
The stage curtains open ...

Peckinpaugh: "How do you live with yourself?" - Pepe: "It isn't easy."

I saw this one years ago as a teenager, and thought it was mildly amusing. I decided to revisit it again after all these years to see if my viewpoint on it had changed, and it did somewhat. I can honestly say that I liked it much better at this age than I did as a teen. It kept me smiling and laughing from start to finish. Even though some of the gags are familiar and silly, it still felt fresh and funny and was well worth the time I invested to watch it.

"The Cheap Detective" is a comical turn of various scenes that were used in both "Casablanca" and "The Maltese Falcon" featuring Peter Falk as Lou Peckinpaugh, our bumbling, yet earnest detective. Peckinpaugh is suspect #1 in the murder of his lover's husband, and to clear his name, he follows a trail to recover a treasure that leads him to a past love. Old flames are rekindled and secrets are uncovered in this romp through fog laden San Francisco with a wide array of colorful and diverse characters. One hijinks leads to another taking us to the final reveal of this "whodunnit".

I really had a good time watching this movie again after all this time. It is shameless, tongue-in-cheek humor that is delivered with expert timing and only as these select actors could do. It was also a bittersweet film to watch since most of these familiar faces have passed on now, and those still alive are in their 70's, 80's or older. It also served to remind me of my own age ... but we don't need to get into that - LOL. As a comedy, I felt it still held up pretty well, even by today's standards.

I highly recommend this movie to anyone who likes a good chuckle. The only weakness I noticed here is that the humor fell off a bit as the ending drew nearer. Even so, it was a satisfactory ending, and left me with a smile on my face. Overall, I give this one a solid 8 stars out of 10. It isn't a favorite of mine, but it is a classic - one that deserves to be seen more than once.

Born on the Fourth of July

JUST OKAY - (6 stars out of 10)
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I missed this one back when it came out over 30 years ago, and for whatever reason, I was never able to watch it ... until now. I was aware of all the accolades it has received going in, so I was hoping for, and expecting, a movie that measured up. After finally watching this Oliver Stone film, I agree that the acting was top notch, but as a project overall, I felt that it fell a little flat.

"Born on the Fourth of July" is based on the true life account of Vietnam veteran, Ron Kovic (played by Tom Cruise), who was left paralyzed after being critically injured during a firefight - a fight that also saw him accidentally shoot and kill a fellow Marine named Wilson. We follow along as he returns home to deal with his resulting physical, mental, and emotional condition. Not only has he changed, but everything that seemed warm and dear to him before he left for the war has changed as well. This film is Kovic's journey to finding his own inner strength as he evolves into an anti-war activist and published author.

I am a fan of Oliver Stone's work, but this isn't one of my favorites by him. Even though Tom Cruise delivers a fantastic performance, I got the distinct feeling that Kovic hadn't revealed the entire truth of what happened out there on the battlefield, electing instead to vindicate himself as we wallow along with him in his self-pity. I think it is admirable that he rose above it all, and if this story is 100% accurate, then kudos to him for turning it all around. But, that is the danger with becoming involved in a project centered around an autobiography ... you just have to take him at his word.

I wouldn't necessarily recommend this to anyone, however, it does show that Tom Cruise is more than just a golden boy - he has some acting chops, and for that, it is worth the time you'll spend to watch it. Just be sure to take this with a grain of salt. This is Kovic's story, whether you believe it or not. "Just Okay" at 6 stars out of 10, mainly for the direction and acting.

The Relic

CHEER! - (7 stars out of 10)
The stage curtains open ...

"The Relic", starring Penelope Ann Miller and Tom Sizemore, is a good combination of monster movies from yesteryear and what was considered to be modern day horror in the 90's. When this film came out, I was fresh out of a divorce, so I was just a little bit bitter on life back then. However, I found this movie to be a nice and entertaining distraction from real life for 2 hours, and as a result, it became sort of a sentimental comfort blanket for me over the years.

When a deadly fungus finds its way from South America to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, it begins to manifest in the form of a hideous monster with an extraordinary growth rate. The police officer (Sizemore) working a multi-murder case on board a merchant ship, follows his investigation to the museum fearing the worst. When he wants to shut down the museum until they can apprehend the murderer he feels is still at large, he meets resistance from the museum's director and the mayor himself because of an important exhibition which could mean survival for the museum. He teams up with local biologist, Margo Green (Miller), to stop his worst fears from coming true.

This truly was a fun film with decent acting, solid characters, and good monster and special effects. It has a measure of tension, action, and enough gore to keep even the hardest core horror fan happy. I felt the plot and characters were developed well, with some witty banter and dialogue. Penelope Ann Miller and Tom Sizemore were cast perfectly for their respective roles. The pacing was well done here - you are never lost, and you are never bored. Darker in overtone, but effective.

I would recommend this movie without hesitation. It may have aged a bit, but it is still a solid contribution to its genre. I give it a healthy 7 stars out of 10. As I mentioned before, it is a sentimental favorite, and for good reason, so maybe I'm being just a bit biased. Even so, I think if you like a good horror film with monsters, this would be right up your alley.

Justice League

JUST OKAY - (5 stars out of 10)
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With the advent of the release of Zack Snyder's Justice League, this film, unfortunately, is suffering from the effects of a much better, more developed, and comprehensive director's version available to us. When this came out 4 years ago, I was on board with it and was entertained and probably would have rated it at 7 stars out of 10. However, with the new one out now, this pales in comparison and is really nothing better than a throwaway film.

Superman has died, and in his effort to keep a promise to the Man of Steel, Batman is obsessed with assembling a league of superheroes to help defend life on earth as we know it - to keep the peace, to keep the balance from going out of whack. He enlists the help of Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, and the Flash - and just in time too, since an evil force has awakened and begins to wreak havoc in his search for three artifacts that, when combined, will give him ultimate power. Perhaps, if they play their cards right, they can bring Superman himself back as well.

After I watched Zack Snyder's Justice League, I decided to watch this one again too, since it has been 4 years since I last saw it. My jaw dropped at just how different the two were. With very little, scant similarities, this original theatrical version felt choppy and watered down. In fact, at the conclusion of the movie, I realized that I had no desire to ever watch it again. The only reason I would keep it is for comparison points. This version is more colorful, plotted completely different, and definitely had a PG-13 feel to it. In fact, it was just silly in parts.

I have lowered my rating from 7 stars down to a ho-hum rating of 5 stars out of 10. It is still just "okay" with a few amusing scenes that you won't find in the newer version (ie: the race between the Flash and Superman at the end). But, I cannot recommend you see this one. My recommend is that you watch Zack Snyder's version, since it is obvious that any forthcoming sequels will be based on that instead. Like I said, this theatrical cut is basically obscure now.

Zack Snyder's Justice League

CHEER! - (9 stars out of 10)
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When I first heard that this was coming out, I have to admit that I shrugged it off with indifference. Then I saw that it was 4 hours long, twice as long as the theatrical release, and that got my attention. I knew that this wasn't just a director's cut with a few snippets of missing footage here and there. This wasn't even going to be the same movie. It was going to be completely different.

The effects of Superman's death sent shock waves around the globe, in fact, throughout the universe, impacting everyone in one way or another. In the wake of his death, sinister forces were awakened and the threat of human extinction hung over everyone on the planet. Our story starts with Batman recruiting warriors for a special team, a league to thwart the impending attack. Joining the team are Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman, Cyborg ... and maybe even the Man of Steel himself. Six against overwhelming odds. Six ... with room for more.

Zach Snyder's Justice League is darker, grittier and better developed. The plot is completely different from the theatrical release with additional characters and pivotal points. Even Steppenwolf's face in this version is different, more evil and sinister looking. Each character is given a comprehensive backstory that explains so much more, and adds very nicely to the overall story. The flow and pacing of this film is seamless and smooth, not choppy like the first one. You go into nothing blind - even at 4 hours long, it is just as it should be.

This comes at a high recommend. Even if you haven't seen the first one, this is a must-see, can't-miss movie. It rivals, in my opinion, the final two Avengers movies and it leaves the gate wide open for a sequel. I have the seen the first film, and this one tops it, hands down. This gets a very strong 9 stars out of 10 from me with the hope that a sequel is soon in coming.

Monster Hunter

CHEER! - (7 stars out of 10)
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"Monster Hunter" pulls no punches - it is an in-your-face action adventure that starts fast, moves fast, and ends fast. This is the perfect film for an 8 to 12-year-old boy to go "goo goo gah gah" over and then after seeing it, meet up with his friends out in the backyard and re-enact scenes from the movie. That is probably why I enjoyed watching this one. It appealed to my younger side, the boy still inside of me.

Based on the video game of the same name (which I've never seen, much less played), we follow along as a team of U.S. Army Rangers, led by Captain Artemis (played by Milla Jovovich), is inexplicably transported through time to a future world that is ruled by sand monsters the size of buildings. What began as a search and rescue operation suddenly becomes a game of survival as all of their skills are put to the test. After becoming separated from her team, Artemis teams up with a local, a hunter, who is wise to the land and the creatures that live within. Together, they forge a friendship as she tries to return to her own time.

I knew immediately from the cookie-cutter plot and cheesy dialogue what I was in for, and hoped that the CG and special effects would be enough to carry the movie - and for the most part, it was. This movie does exactly what it sets out to do, "Wow" you with over-the-top action sequences featuring "cool" looking monsters and dragons, warriors flying through the sky with blades raised high and battle cries sounding, explosions and plenty of machismo. It really is a comic book, or video game come to life.

I had fun watching this. It is exactly what it was billed to be, and worth the time it takes to view it. Milla Jovovich and Ron Perlman are completely in their element here, soaking in their roles with reckless abandon, playing it to the hilt. Nothing is taken seriously and delivered with a punch. If you are looking for a great plot with deep characters, you won't find it here. This is a recommend at 7 stars out of 10. To enjoy it, you'll have to set your inner child free.

Mother's Boys

CHEER! - (7 stars out of 10)
The stage curtains open ...

"Mother's Boys" is a good example of thriller films that were prevalent back in the 1990's. Jamie Lee Curtis had newfound fame in cinema behind films like, "A Fish Called Wanda", "Blue Steel" and "My Girl" and rode that right into this movie. A year after this one, she would star in "True Lies" with Arnold Schwarzenegger. So, this was arguably at the height of her popularity - and she delivers a fun performance here.

Curtis plays the role of Jude, a woman displaying sociopathic behaviors, who has returned home after an unexplained 3 year absence, in an effort to reunite with her estranged husband and three sons. When she gets back however, she finds that he wants more than a divorce, he is also planning to marry his new love, Callie (played by Joanne Whalley). Jude formulates a very clever plan to try and seduce her husband, win over her boys, and eliminate what she perceives as a threat in Callie, once and for all. She will go to any lengths to get her way, but when things get out of control, everything spirals down to a climactic finish.

This was a solid film with a very good performance by Jamie Lee Curtis. The whole film hinges on this, as the supporting acting was cursory. What makes this film work is Curtis. She sold me on being a sociopath - that, coupled with some nifty camera work made it very effective. Most especially during some scenes where the camera focuses in on her eyes - you can almost see what is going on behind them. The story was plausible, along with the explanation of what made her this way. The pacing is good as the movie keeps thing moving right along.

I enjoyed the movie when it first came out, and again all these years later. I recommend "Mother's Boys" at a very solid 7 stars out of 10. It was disturbing when it had to be, throwing in a couple of jump scares to keep you awake. The plot and characters were developed well enough to keep you invested. I would certainly watch this one again, and if you enjoy a good thriller, then you should watch it too.


CHEER! - (9 stars out of 10)
The stage curtains open ...

With COVID dominating our lives right now, I'm not too sure that an "end of the world" disaster movie was such a good idea, but I was wrong - "Greenland" delivers the goods on every level. When I saw the trailer for the movie, I was hoping I hadn't just seen everything good about it. So, last night, I decided to give it a chance, and I'm really glad that I did.

John Garrity (Gerard Butler), a structural engineer living in Atlanta, joins his estranged wife, Allison (Morena Baccarin), and his 7-year-old son for a weekend to watch as a comet, dubbed as Clarke, passes by Earth - so close in fact, that they will be able to see it with the naked eye. However, when some of the debris in the comet's tail makes it through Earth's atmosphere and begins to impact the surface, shock waves are sent around the globe that would change everyone's lives. An extremely large piece of the comet on a direct course for Europe, labeled as a "planet killer", gives them precious little time. Despite the overwhelming odds, John sets out to save his family from becoming extinct in this exceptional story of survival and love.

Some have been quick to dismiss this film as just another "Geostorm". They couldn't be more wrong. This movie is not a glamourized action feature. In fact, the special effects were not over-the-top, but they served their purpose. The real strength of this film was its human factor. As this family strives to stay together, it is a poignant reminder of the lengths some will go to just to survive. There is plenty of tension, acts of desperation, and an appreciation for the loved ones we surround ourselves with.

I absolutely loved this movie. It is a bit of a slow start, but once the debris starts pelting the earth, it moves along at a very rapid pace and doesn't let you go. I give it a very favorable 9 stars out of 10, and deservedly so. In the movie, certain families were "selected", presumably based on their occupations/vocations, to ensure survival of the human race. It got me to thinking, and I had the sudden realization that if this were to happen in my lifetime, I wouldn't have been one of those chosen. Perhaps it's time to consider a job change.

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