Downrange (2017) [Toronto International Film Festival 2017]

A group of students sharing a car to various destinations has a tire blow-out that leaves them stranded.  Soon they discover that this was not an accident and they are now in grave danger.

Written by Joey O’Bryan and Ryûhei Kitamura with the latter also directing, Downrange is a tense, one location thriller that grabs the viewer early on and doesn’t let go until the end credits roll.  For fans of Kitamura, this is a return to sources, to his earlier style of having a story set in one location and making it a tense experience for all involved.  This, here, is very successful and works like a charm in the desolate location on a road in the middle of nowhere.  This setting works really well here and the collection of characters and how they came to be together adds to the tension and mystery.  The film uses the fact that there are many unknowns to work in its favor.  The situation is tense enough on its own but the way the characters interact and are portrayed make it work even better.

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The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017)

“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is the type of middling, mediocre nonsense that you’re likely going to find playing on basic cable in three years. It’s such an unremarkable, silly action comedy going through the motions and capitalizing on two men and what they’re famous for. Stars Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds never break out of their comfort zones, and you can almost sense director Patrick Hughes asked both men to just be who everyone knows them for, and really nothing else. “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is everything you think a movie starring Jackson and Reynolds will be like. Nothing ever really skirts the edges or thinks outside the box, and the violence seems just tacked on to what was probably a bland PG-13 action comedy in development.

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Payback Time – Triple Feature [Blu-Ray]

Mill Creek Entertainment is looking to make your summer as action packed as possible with a three bill economy blu-ray of some pretty nifty action pictures. Allowing a bang for your bucks, “Payback Time Triple Feature” garners action movie essentials that should allow for a great afternoon with popcorn and some beer. First up there’s the very good (and my personal favorite) “Blind Fury,” a solid remake of a classic “Zatoichi” movie starring Rutger Hauer as a blind Vietnam Veteran Nick Parker, who is taught the art of the sword after being rendered disabled.

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Over the Top (1987)

I always respected how Sylvester Stallone tries to make a lot of his big screen action heroes something of blue collared, under appreciated men who are just working to get by. There was “Rocky” that helped boost how interesting boxing can be, and while arm wrestling never took off in the eighties, “Over the Top” is a decent action film about an estranged father and son making amends. “Over the Top” is admittedly a childhood favorite, and a movie I watched over a thousand times as a kid. Stallone is great, Robert Loggia is great, and director Menahem Globan charismatically films every single instance of arm wrestling as an epic moment of pride, and manhood.

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Logan (2017)

Logan, the public’s beloved Wolverine, has aged and isn’t doing so great.  As he holds onto life for some reason and is looking for a reason to be.  His later life is not filled with action, something he seems to have settled into.  That is until a woman comes asking for his help and a chain of events leads to him having to help a young girl in desperate need of guidance and assistance.

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Logan (2017)

Loganis a terrible X-Men movie, but a very good Wolverine movie. I say that because director James Mangold holds about as much contempt for X-Men and its concept as Bryan Singer does. Mangold offers a vision of the team that is none too flattering. Set in an undetermined timeline of the movie series, we’re met with Logan in the distant future where he’s one of the only surviving mutants left on Earth. The dream has died, Professor X is now suffering from a brain disease that has turned him in to a burden, and everything the X-Men strived for has been forgotten and passed off as a joke. Now faced with nothing but a dark ending, he is confronted by a Hispanic woman who pays him to help her. Logan, at the behest of Charles Xavier, is tasked with caring for a small girl named Laura who is much more like Logan than even Charles Xavier realizes.

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Deserted (2016)

After her release from jail for her mother’s murder, Jae goes back home to live with her brother.  As she is highly uncomfortable there, she decides to go with him and some friends to a music festival in the desert.  After encountering mechanical difficulties, they meet a group of guys traveling in an RV and get lost in the desert.  The beautiful location and landscape has them at ease at first until they realize they are lost and at risk of dying from the elements.  Written and directed by Ashley Avis, Deserted is one mellow movie where the lead is looking for herself as much as her way out of the desert.  The film processes in a slow fashion yet does not feel long or boring.  It follows Jae and her brother Robin along with old and new friends.  The dialogue seems genuine for the great majority of the film with a few hiccups that barely feel like such.  The characters don’t have much background from the start and a few bits and pieces are discovered along the way which works with the lead’s search of self.

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Suck it Up (2017) [Slamdance Film Festival 2017]

I’ve always been a fan of movies that examine how deaths can affect the ones we love and how it can create a pretty significant ripple. “Suck It Up” is a bit of “Garden State,” and “Ordinary People” mixed with mumblecore here and there. While I appreciate director Jordan Canning’s efforts to create this drama about how the death of one of the more important people in their lives affected them drastically, the script from Julia Hoff seems to be almost bereft of drama to the point where scenes just stretch out in to nothingness. There are a lot of really drawn out moments where almost nothing happens. In brief scenes where Canning tackles the dynamic between our characters Ronnie and Faye, “Suck It Up” presents only slight glimmers of an emotional character study.

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