Escape From L.A. (1996)

Escape From L.A. (1996)

Original Theatrical Release Date: August 9, 1996
Director: John Carpenter

It’s 2013 and Los Angeles is now an island for undesirables, deported from America by the U.S. Government. Once you go there, you can never get back. The President’s daughter, Utopia (A.J. Langer), steals a doomsday device and heads for the island in order to help free the prisoners there and daddy isn’t happy. He gets Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) to go after her by having him injected with a disease that will end his life in hours and promising him the cure if he’s successful. However, a revolutionary named Cuervo Jones (Georges Corraface) and L.A.’s many dangerous denizens stand in the way.

Sequels are rarely ever able to outshine the originals, and this film is no exception.

The entire movie is a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the entire culture of Los Angeles, and that it probably the most entertaining aspect of the film. It’s an action film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that is fun for the most part but makes for a movie that’s hard to become attached to, unlike the first film Escape From New York.

Kurt Russell really channels his inner Clint Eastwood for this installment, and other actors such as Steve Buscemi and Peter Fonda fall into their roles with seemingly great joy. Who doesn’t want to see Bruce Campbell as the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills?

The movie plays out like an Extreme Sports story, with Kurt Russell taking on extreme forms of basketball, hang gliding and surfing, which is really strange in the context of this film, but made for some entertaining scenes.

The special effects have not held up well over time and some of them, while laughably funny, tend to take you right out of the movie. However, at this point in his career it seemed like John Carpenter was just having some fun, and the fun did shine through and it’s sort of infectious.

Still, for those who weren’t introduced to this series of films back when they originally came out, it might be hard to fully appreciate this sequel by today’s standards, though the original still holds up.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Escape From L.A.

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Reign Of Fire (2002)

Reign Of Fire (2002)

Original Theatrical Release: July 12, 2002
Director: Rob Bowman

Humanity has been decimated by dragons; creatures thought to only have existed in myths and fairy tales. Quinn Abercromby (Christian Bale) and Creedy (Gerard Butler) lead a ragtag group of survivors living in an abandoned castle in the English countryside, trying to survive day by day. When a group of American warriors led by Denton Van Zan (Matthew McConaughey) shows up and claim to be able to slay the dragons once and for all, Quinn has to decide if they can do what they say they can do.

This is one of those movies I always seem to forget about, and I think a lot of other people do, too. I recently re-watched it because my girlfriend had never seen it so I figured what the heck.

The first half of the movie is really interesting and draws you in, but then it seems to lose focus in the later half. I appreciate the dark feel of the film and I think the idea behind the “Archangels” is really great, where specialized shock troops jump out of the helicopter to attack the dragons. (Life expectancy of an Archangel: 17 Seconds) And hooray for the Star Wars reference, as well!

Bale and McConaughey are actually really great in this, playing off one another and bringing their acting chops into this action film, which is always refreshing. Butler is good, too, as well as Izabella Scorupco as Alex Jensen – the pilot of the chopper – though they don’t really get as much screen time as Bale and McConaughey.

For a film that’s around ten years old, the special effects hold up surprisingly well. There are only a few instances where you can tell they were using a green screen, which, in the scheme of things isn’t too shabby. It could’ve been a lot worse! My only other gripe is that one of the characters, toward the end, dies in a really anti-climactic way. My jaw dropped open and I just sat there in disbelief in how lame it was.

This film is a fun option if you’ve been jonesing for a dragon movie, but it has its own particular take on the dragon species and there may be other films out there like How To Train Your Dragon that provides a better dragon experience, especially for the kiddos – because this is definitely not a kid’s flick. (But it is a completely different flavor of movie so I guess it’s like comparing apples to oranges.)

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Reign Of Fire

The Matrix (1999)

The Matrix (1999)

Original Theatrical Release: March 31, 1999
Director: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski (As the Wachowski Brothers)

Neo (Keanu Reeves), a computer hacker, feels a bit out of place in the world. He’s constantly on the search for something he feels is missing in his life and finds it in the form of Trinity (Carrie-Ann Moss) who explains to him that not everything is what he thinks. She leads him to Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), who tells Neo that he may just be the one who can save mankind from their evil machine overlords.

When I first saw this movie in theaters, I don’t remember having any special expectations of it. My uncle and I had just returned from a trip to Boston, where we tried out the Omnitheater; a massive screen that wraps around you and makes you feel like you’re actually there. Still jittery from that experience, we were uncomfortable in the normal theater as The Matrix started, re-living the discomfort we experienced just a day or two before in Boston.

When the movie started, though, and the beautiful images and great story unfolded on the screen, it was all forgotten. From the moment Trinity leaped into the air and froze before kicking the police officer in the chest, I was hooked and my jaw was dropped open in enjoyment and appreciation the entire time.

I hadn’t seen anything like it, up until that time. I don’t really like the sequels as much, but Matrix: Reloaded isn’t bad. (I really disliked Revolutions, but I will get to that in another review)

This movie changed the game in cinema-land and we are still seeing copycats and works inspired by the Matrix even in 2013.

The actors were all great (yeah, even Keanu). The soundtrack was amazing. The cinematography and special effects were astounding. The fight choreography from Yuen Woo Ping was great, and the script by the Wachowski Brothers was tight. The film was just one slick package all around, and I don’t think we’ll have another great spectacle like it for quite a while. (Watch, I bet there will be a re-boot soon).

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For The Matrix