John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

Every time he thinks he’s out, they pull him back in! Keanu Reeves’ action starring vehicle “John Wick” ended up being one of the best films of 2014, and three years later, we’re granted what is essentially “The Empire Strikes Back” of the John Wick saga. When John Wick went in to retirement, violence found him once and he wrought unholy vengeance one last time. Now that he’s been a few years in exile, living alone with his trusty pit bull, his past has returned once again. Italian gangster Santino D’Antonio shows up at John’s door aware of his mission of vengeance and now plans to take advantage of a decades old blood oath he made to him when he was working as an assassin. Handing him a very sacred reminder called a “marker” with John’s own blood in it, he plans to hold him to his oath, despite John’s protests.

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South of 8 (2016) [San Diego Film Week 2017]

In the near future, during the second great depression, an ex-con joins a duo of burgeoning bank thieves as there are no jobs and he needs to survive.  At the same time, a resistance movement grows fast and a group of female criminals is causing mayhem.  As things take a more serious and more violent turn for all involved, the authorities are closing in on them. In writer/director Tony Olmos’ first feature film a few years ago, the story may be a bit exaggerated but it will feel close to what may become reality to some.  The story is set in the San Diego area amid racial and class issues, political problems, and an upswing in crime during the second great depression.

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Ghost in the Shell (1995)

Mamoru Oshii’s “Ghost in the Shell” is the natural successor to “Blade Runner,” it’s an anime masterpiece that works both as an action film and a very evocative and thought provoking science fiction thriller. Through very engaging characters and still incredibly stunning visuals, “Ghost in the Shell” approaches themes like the idea of consciousness and existence, and what living is, and how it’s fairly impossible to prove what sentience is or isn’t. In 2029, law enforcement has been enhanced to the point where human beings can transport their consciousness and memories in to cybernetic shells that grant them amazing abilities used to keep law and order.

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The Demolisher (2015) [Blu-Ray]

Director and co-writer Gabriel Carrer’s vigilante thriller film “The Demolisher” is one of the highlights of my coverage of Fantasia Fest back in 2015. While the plot points here and there are sloppily constructed, “The Demolisher” is an overall very good and strong tale about grief, sadness, and delusion that can stem from ones own guilt, in the end. While Gabriel Carrer’s film struggles to find its pacing and momentum in the first half hour, “The Demolisher” does inevitably pick up steam to build in to one hell of an interesting revenge thriller.

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Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)

homealone2“Home Alone” already stretched the idea of logic and suspension of disbelief already, but when Dreamworks squeezed out a sequel hoping for equal to more success, we instead got “Lost in New York.” Not only did this follow up basically prove that the original’s premise was a tad far-fetched, but something of a flash in the pan. This sequel is just leaps and bounds sillier than even the third “Home Alone” and even presents a ton of misguided morals within its narrative. You can sense the movie is one giant misstep, when it casts the likes of Tim Curry as one of Kevin’s adversaries, and turns Rob Schneider in to a hilariously slimy bellboy, and wastes them in favor of rehashing the same dynamic we saw with Marv and Harry from the first film.

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Holy Hell (2015) [Blood in the Snow 2016]

holy-hellAfter witnessing a troubled family, the Bonners, decimated by a murderous family, the MacFarlanes, Father Bane goes on a rampage punishing those he deems not deserving of forgiveness with his new handgun, The Lord.  As he punishes left and right and protects the only surviving member of the family, he also decides to go after the murderous, incestuous killers. Written and directed by Ryan LaPlante, Holy Hell throws everything possible at the screen, violence, sex, incest, rape, murder, blood, gore, inappropriate jokes, insensitive jokes, bad jokes, and the whole nine in an effort to be shocking or subversive.  This is done with zero good taste and penchant for exaggerated action and ridiculous dialogue.

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American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt (1989) [Blu-Ray]

americanninja3It’s out with Michael Dudikoff and in with David Bradley. After a rumored spat on set with Steve James and the director for “Blood Hunt,” David Bradley was brought on as the new American Ninja. His name is Sean Davidson and he’s not so much an American Ninja, as he is a kung fu fighter who fights ninjas a lot in “Blood Hunt.” Despite Bradley’s best efforts to steal the movie as the new charismatic hero, “Blood Hunt” is boring, confusing, and unnecessarily convoluted. I had such a hard time following the plot, and David Bradley doesn’t quite stack up to Dudikoff. Bradley’s character is a hodge podge of action clichés with a tragic back story that is never quite realized well in the film. He shambles through the movie getting in to battles with ninjas while Steve James returns doing his best to inject some fun in the movie.

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American Ninja 2: Confrontation (1987) [Blu-Ray]

americanninja2Someone must have gotten a whiff of “Lethal Weapon” because while “American Ninja” was about lone wolf Joe Armstrong, “American Ninja 2” is a buddy action film with Joe Armstrong and pal Curtis Armstrong teaming up to kick some ninja ass. Steve James is given a much larger role this time around with Dudikoff also being allowed to speak more often for the role of Joe. If you look closely, he also manages to crack a smile and tell a few jokes here and there. The good thing about “Confrontation” is that James and Dudikoff have great chemistry together with a very “Power Man and Iron Fist” vibe evident throughout this latest action adventure. Their dynamic allows the series to open up more and give Dudikoff a chance to play off of someone while kicking ass.

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