Action Movie Reviews for 2013 – Part 1

I had one massive blog post here where I had mini-reviews of a ton of movies from this year, but I’m trying to keep the size of these blog posts down to a manageable level. So instead I’ll be breaking out these posts into several smaller ones.

Time to talk about action movies and blowing shit up. Let’s do it..

Olympus Has Fallen – It’s the first of the White-House-gets-destroyed movies this year. I really liked this movie back in 1987 when it was called Die Hard. Die Hard In The White House, uh, I mean Olympus Has Fallen is a good action movie, probably one of the better ones this year so far. But it’s the same stuff we’ve seen a thousand times. Same premise, same characters, same concerned politicians and generals looking concerned at big giant monitors, etc.

Worse, it rips off specific elements from Die Hard to the point where you’re just rolling your eyes. Gerard Butler is a badass and is fun to watch, and he kills those bad guys good, but he’s not the charismatic smartass that Bruce Willis was, so this movie always feels like its missing something.

True story. On the way out of the premiere of this movie, the woman I watched it with said, “I liked that movie, but I think I’ve seen it before.” I answered, “You have.”

G.I Joe: Retaliation – There’s an interesting story behind this movie. It was all ready to go last year, and was about to be released. However, at the last minute studio pulled it, shocking everyone in Hollywood. Toys were already issued, trailers were playing, the whole deal. Rarely has as mainstream movie been pulled that late in the game.

Why did they do it? One reason: Channing Tatum. If you watched the first G.I. Joe movie, you know he was the lead in that film. Since then, he’s become a big star. Regardless, in this movie he was killed off at the beginning. Oh, test audiences didn’t like that. People like Channing Tatum. Guys want to be him and chicks want to do him. On top of that, Channing’s movie Magic Mike was being released at the exact same time. It was just too much.

So they pulled the movie, brought Channing back, and re-shot a ton of it, shoving him back in the film. So now we finally get to see the damn movie.

This movie was fun. I liked the first G.I Joe movie and I liked this one just as much. I love well-done action films that don’t try to make sense. When action films aren’t well done, or when they try to be serious and fail, that’s when action films go bad.

This movie was wall-to-wall action, and good action. Like the first movie, it didn’t try to be serious or have any deep meaning. Just lots of shooting and sword-fighting and explosions and badassery.

Watching The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) fight The Punisher (Ray Stevenson) was awesome. Watching Snake Eyes (Ray Park, aka Darth Maul) fight Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-hun) was awesome. Watching Bruce Willis keep calling the female in the movie “Brenda”, when her name wasn’t Brenda, was awesome. Seeing the Cobra HISS tanks that I recognized from my childhood was awesome.

Cool fun all around. Hollywood, make more dumb-but-cool G.I. Joe movies, please. They’re awesome.

Oblivion – Tom Cruise made this film while getting divorced, but he still stays true to form by making a good movie. He’s not a great actor, but damn, the guy picks very good films. This is mostly a visual movie, made by the same guy behind Tron Legacy (I movie I really liked).

The acting is pretty bland. Olga Kurylenko is one of the leads, which really detracted from the movie for me. She’s utterly unattractive in every possible way, and an extremely boring actress. It baffles me why she gets so many god damn movie roles. Still a good movie though. And it still confuses me how Tom Cruise can look younger than me when he’s over ten years older than I am. I would love to read about exactly what he does to stay so young looking (beyond the basics of daily moisturizer and eating protein and crap like that).

Iron Man 3 – Oh, so much to say about this movie…I’ll try to be brief. Most people aren’t aware that the writer/director of this film is Shane Black, the unknown legend behind many good 80s and 90s action films. This guy created the Lethal Weapon movies, as well as movies like The Long Kiss Goodnight and The Last Boy Scout. He even starred in Predator(!). He was the nerdy guy on the team with the glasses. So he knows action films. As a result, Iron Man 3 is awesome, though with one big flaw I’ll get to in a minute.

Black worked with Robert Downey in the film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (another very good movie), so I can only assume that’s how he got this gig. I’m glad he did. This movie has some great action scenes and very well conveys a flawed hero. One of the main villains is Guy Pierce, one of my favorite Alpha Male actors in movies today. Any time Guy Pierce is in a movie, it almost guarantees I will love the film.

This is a film about being alone. Perhaps this was a reaction to the success of Avengers. It shows the hero alone. It shows the angst of the villains as they are alone. It shows the pain of being alone as well as the realizations one comes to while being alone. It’s surprisingly deep for a superhero movie.

The big flaw? This movie is all about “Tony Stark outside of the Iron Man suit”. Thus, during pretty much the entire movie, Tony Stark is either without the suit or only wearing pieces of it. Don’t get me wrong; it’s still a fantastic movie and you need to watch it. But if you want to see an Iron Man movie, or even a superhero movie, this really isn’t it. It’s not about Iron Man…it’s about Tony Stark. So although I liked the movie, my inner geek really, really missed seeing Iron Man shooting missiles and blowing shit up. It’s a big flaw, but it’s the films only flaw. Good film otherwise.

Pain and Gain – I really liked this movie, but you probably won’t. I’m serious. The movie shows terrible taste. It’s just too crazy, too gleefully brutal, and the longer it is, the crazier it gets. Michael Bay is purposely trying to direct in a very different style, and you can’t even tell its a Bay movie other than all the cameos using actors in other Bay movies, like Ed Harris (from The Rock), Ken Jeong (from Transformers Dark of the Moon), Peter Stormare (from Armageddon), and others.

This is a movie about three of the dumbest Alpha Males you’ll ever see. Mark Wahlberg, Dwanye Johnson, and Anthony Mackie are three bodybuilders who kidnap an Evil Rich Guy™ (keeping with the Hollywood rule that all rich people must either be assholes or superheroes) to force him to sign over all of his asserts. The most amazing part is that it’s a true story, and as things get really wild and unbelievable, the movie even reminds you with words on-screen saying “This is still a true story”. At the end credits they even show the mugshots of the real-life perpetrators and victims.

I really liked the movie, but as I said, most people will not. It’s too crazy, the violence is too brutal, the main characters too stupid, and the situations too ridiculous. I have to admit, I still really liked it. Moreover, this is the best performance you’ll ever see out of Dwayne Johnson. He actually acts in this movie, as a jacked-up, dim-witted, right-wing Jesus freak and cocaine addict and murderer. Hey, I told you this movie is crazy. If you can handle insane movies like this, do see it. If not, stay away.

Star Trek Into Darkness – This is one of the best movies of the last ten years. I don’t say that lightly. Special effects, action, direction, editing, acting, characters, pacing…it’s very rare that a movie gets all of these things exactly right. This movie does it. The plot is a little muddy, with the usual Hollywood plot holes, but the rest of the movie is so entertaining you don’t care.

In no way is this movie Star Trek, nor the nerdy intellectual stuff Star Trek used to be. And hey, I’m not saying Star Trek is bad. I’m a huge nerd, and I think Star Trek is awesome. Deep Space Nine was the single greatest TV show of the 1990s. (If you’ve you’ve never seen Deep Space Nine, dude, you need to Netflix that shit right now. Skip the first two seasons, which are terrible, and start right in with season three. You won’t regret it.)

I’m just saying this movie isn’t Star Trek. Instead it’s a wild, non-stop, adrenaline rush, sci-fi action film, the quality of which approaches the great sci-fi action films like Terminator or Aliens.

Honorable mention goes to the villains. Just fantastic. Benedict Cumberbatch, is going to be Smaug the dragon in second Hobbit movie, was excellent as the rebooted Khan. Peter Weller, who was Robocop in the 80s, was also a pitch-perfect baddy.

And of course, if you’re a Star Trek nerd like me, you’ll recognize all kinds of Trekkie easter eggs sprinkled throughout the film. Good fun all around. Watch this movie.

Fast & Furious 6 – Holy crap, two great movies in a row. I never gave a shit about the Fast and Furious movies. Nothing against them, I’m just not into cars, and they were car movies. But then in 2011 Fast Five came out, and they had rebooted the formula from racing movies to action movies. Suddenly, a franchise I didn’t give a shit about became very cool. Fast Five was a very fun action film, reminiscent of The Expendables. Fast & Furious 6 is just as good, if not better.

It’s wall-to-wall testosterone Alpha badassery. Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson (we’ve seen a lot of him lately, haven’t we?), Tyrese Gibson, Paul Walker (may he rest in peace), they’re all good. They take on a team of bad guys who are evil versions of themselves, and they’re good too. On top of that you’ve got Elsa Pataky, one of the best looking women on planet Earth, and Gina Carano(!) who is, in my opinion, the only believable female action hero to come out of Hollywood in a very long time. Carano is a former MMA champion and it shows. (The last believable female action hero was Cynthia Rothrock way back in the 80s, who sadly never really made it big.)

Add all this shit up, and it makes for a great action film. Just like G.I. Joe and Star Trek, you have to put your brain on suspend mode a few times in order to enjoy it, but other than that it’s awesome.

Part 2 coming soon.

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