Action

Wolfenstein

Producer Samuel Hadida announced at the American Film Market that he and Panorama Media have put a plan together to finally bring us a movie version of all those classic Wolfenstein video games. A few years ago Pulp Fiction writer Roger Avary was attached to this project, which was then titled Return to Castle Wolfenstein, but some personal issues derailed the film before it could get off the ground. Well, fret not, because Avary has been brought back to write and direct, and the film, now just titled Castle Wolfenstein, is once again ready to go.

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Fantastic Fest: Cold Steel

Editor’s note: This film was originally featured as part of our Fantasia Fest 2012 coverage, but it’s also playing Fantastic Fest, so we’re bringing it back. Mu, a young hunter with a staggering talent behind the eyepiece of a sniper rifle, saves an American pilot shot down by the Japanese in WWII-era China. When he returns to his village with his wounded new friend, he finds a trio of Chinese soldiers stirring up trouble in the local tea house and insulting the lovely widowed owner; something he cannot abide. His intervening actions land him on a prisoner transport, but when that transport is attacked by Japanese snipers, Mu demonstrates his lethal abilities to get them out of their dangerous predicament. He is immediately given a choice: enlist or be shot. Assigned to an elite sharpshooting corps, Mu becomes a local hero for his valor and the success rate of his team’s missions. This however also lands him in the crosshairs of a ruthless Japanese sniper. Cold Steel, in a rifle shell, is an affable wartime actioner reminiscent of, but certainly not beholden to, Enemy at the Gates. It was directed by long-time editor/John Woo collaborator David Wu, whose similarity in sensibilities hits you right between the eyes…particularly in the action department.

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Scott Adkins

Today, The Expendables 2 comes crashing into movie theaters across the country like a tank. With its Herculean roster of action legends, one name you might not yet recognize on the poster is that of Scott Adkins. We must stress, the “yet.” Adkins is currently fighting his way, literally, up the action cinema food chain. He appeared in such films as Ninja and The Bourne Ultimatum. He wowed many of us with his turn as vicious prisoner brawler Yuri Boyka in the Undisputed franchise. In Undisputed III: Redemption, he held his own with Mirageman himself, Marko Zaror. In addition to The Expendables 2, Adkins will again star alongside Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren in Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, the “fourth” film in the franchise that was just announced as part of the second wave of this year’s Fantastic Fest. Not one to slow down, Adkins also stars in the action movie El Gringo, which is currently available on VOD services such as Amazon Instant Video. We kick around all these subjects with Mr. Adkins and he reveals, among other things, the status of Undisputed 4.

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Man with the Iron Fists

RZA punches someone’s eyeball out of its socket. That should be all you need to know to skip all this drivel and watch the red band trailer for the rapper’s directorial debut, The Man with the Iron Fists. Presented by Quentin Tarantino and co-writer Eli Roth, this kung fu flick looks bloody, ridiculous, and wonderful. It stars Lucy Liu, Russell Crowe, Jamie Chung, Rick Yune, Daniel Wu and a host of others in a plot that seems more like an excuse for constant on-screen melees and an empty weapons rack. Seven warring clans…a shipment of gold…yeah, yeah, yeah. Just keep kicking metric tons of ass and turning your body into bronze. Check it out for yourself (and click to change the setting to HD while you’re at it):

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The first clip from The Expendables 2 is sticking to the formula of rapid squibs, snarky one-liners and people being fine after getting shot because they’re mas macho. In other words, it’s very cool. Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham zipline in the most exposed-to-bullets way possible only to end up surrounded by a small group of well-armed baddies. How do they escape? By stealing a gag from The Losers, of course. Check it out for yourself:

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Michael Bay Transformers

On a gut level, a lower budget seems like it would be the best thing for the next Transformers movie. The franchise has made an absurd amount of money, sure, but the quality of the movies has always been hampered by excess. A little constraint can actually mean a lot of freedom. Of course, the normal laws of physics might not apply to Michael Bay. In an excellent feature by Geoff Boucher at Hero Complex, Bay opens up the new theme park ride alongside someone in a large Bumblebee costume and lays down some notes about the fourth installment (the one which he said he absolutely wouldn’t return for before absolutely returning for it). Among the details, a lower budget by $30m. That would bring Transformers 4 down to the earthly range of $165m or so, counteracting the tide of bloated blockbusters that can’t seem to nail down two hours worth of action without spending at least $200m. It feels strange to praise Paramount and this franchise for being sensible, but credit should go where credit is due. At the same time, Bay said that the action might take place in outer space. “That feels like the way to go, doesn’t it? I want to go a little off but I don’t want to go too sci-fi. I still want to keep it grounded.That’s what works in these movies, that’s what makes it accessible.” Of course, no matter where the action is, the true significant change will be the cast.

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Taken 2

Why would this family go on vacation to Eastern Europe? Why? Why do it? After your daughter was kidnapped, forced to wear a glittery bikini and stood minutes away from being sold into a harem, why would you not bed down in the exact center of the United States (Lebanon, Kansas by the way) and resume life as quietly as possible? The new trailer for Taken 2 raises this important question, but it also continues to prove that Liam Neeson is a badass not to be trifled with. The opening sequence is perfect, taking on the perspective of the sex trade mafia as Bryan Mills has become somewhat of a legend that needs to be taken out. And take him out, they shall. Or at least they’ll try. Check out the trailer for yourself as you ponder why Maggie Grace is pretending to be 14 years old when her character is at least 20.

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Who doesn’t love watching teenagers fight? These days it’s just nice to see them doing something that gets them outside and moving around – not to mention the wonders it does for team building skills and self esteem issues. Compared to them sitting in a moist den somewhere playing Skyrim and housing six servings of Zesty Salsa Combos, youth violence isn’t the worst fate for our nation’s children. Anyhoo – Here are some of the better films that celebrate the time-honored tradition of kids punching each other to pass the time.

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Lena Headey in Dredd

The first trailer for Dredd – starring Karl Urban, Lena Headey and Olivia Thirlby is just a taste of the inevitable slow motion to come. In the story, Headey’s character Ma-Ma controls all the manufacturing for a new drug that makes the user feel like time is going at 1% of its normal speed. Because when you want drugs, you want something that will make your life feel 100 times longer. Instead of launching a bunch of well-made PSAs about the dangers of the drug, Judge Dredd and his rookie Judge infiltrate the highrise where Ma-Ma is operating in order to take her down. It’s Bale’s Batman with a huge helmet on. Enjoy it for yourself:

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The Best Short Films

Why Watch? Yes, there’s some great CGI at work in Clark Baker‘s Vessel, but it’s a movie that also celebrates atmospheric horror greats with its practical creature design. That blend is the bedrock for a solid science fiction trip. It follows a group of passengers on an airplane that come into contact with another ship midair and end up fighting back a group of tentacled baddies who definitely aren’t from around here. “Here” being, you know, our atmosphere. Everything about the short is pro-level. The score and strong performances from leads Brandon Bales and Julie Mintz are among the highlights, but it’s all here. Right on down to the sound design. Baker isn’t afraid to put his creatures front and center, and the design definitely pays off as the giant gooey roach/pig mutants are a thing of terrible beauty. Plus, the  script from Ross and Matt Duffer has just the right amount of chemistry and chaos. Overall, it’s an excellent film with plenty of fear and adrenaline. What will it cost? Only 12 minutes. Skip Work. You’ve Got Time For More Short Films

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On December 7, 1941, the naval base at Pearl Harbor was attacked by 353 Japanese planes. It was a day that lives in infamy, but now director Peter Berg has reconciled the Americans and Japanese (finally!) in the dumbest, broadest, most pointlessly explosive way possible with Battleship. This obnoxious chore of a movie suffers from two cardinal sins. One, it’s probably the smallest-feeling big movie of the past three decades. Two, it steals so much from other, better movies that there’s no doubt Universal‘s legal team spent time considering possible action. Everything from the script to the CGI are low quality, making this $200m tentpole feel like it was made for fifteen bucks and a pack of gum.

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The Best Short Films

Why Watch? Like you’re not watching for the title. Yes, it’s cool as hell, with its tequila-soaked narrator getting as lofty as a 120-degree sun and a mythological monster-battling hero who crosses cultural boundaries. More than that, the production design here is excellent, and this wild, funny flick seems to be the tip of a much larger (possibly feature-length) iceberg. What will it cost? Only 3 minutes. Skip Work. You’ve got Time For More Short Films Hat tip to Kiki for submitting it.

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I’m pretty that question is from an old Zen Koan or Buddhist saying or something. Of course, it might be from Eastbound and Down. According to The Hollywood Reporter, that show’s creator, Jody Hill,  is attached to an untitled Warners action movie that might morph into a reboot of Dukes of Hazzard. Hill also directed Observe and Report and hails from North Carolina with a special connection to southern filmmaking. Yes, the eternal name of Peckinpah was evoked in the piece, but the underlying truth here is that the studio won’t know whether they’re rebooting The Dukes of Hazzard or not until Hill finishes the script. Let that sink in. There’s a magic, confusing moment right now where Hill is either going to write a movie that will be an original piece of southern action, or Hill will write a movie that will be an original piece of southern action that has a 70s sitcom title slapped on it. This is where we’re at creatively. The fear of anything original is palpable, but at Warners? Then again, Danny McBride does have a Tom Wopat feel to him.

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In a New York living room, sometime in the early 1970s, a young boy is sitting in front of his television (possibly watching an episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus) and playing with plastic toy figures of Earth’s mightiest heroes. He smashes The Hulk into Thor, zooms Iron Man around at incredible speed and makes Captain America leap over an H.R. Pufnstuf doll. Because, you know, he’s got one of those too. Forty some odd years later, that same little boy named Joss Whedon got a chance to slam those toys together again, and he achieved something that’s made up equally of the magic of childhood and the craftsmanship of a seasoned filmmaker. It was an impossible dream, a crazy call-out to the far left field bleachers, but The Avengers is the best movie that Marvel has made.

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Drinking Games

Back when Contraband hit theaters earlier this year, it’s possible that some people tried to smuggle some adult beverages into their theater. Now that it’s on DVD and Blu-ray, there’s no need for an elaborate smuggling plot to enjoy the film with alcohol. Just go get some out of your ‘fridge. Mark Wahlberg may not run around without his shirt on in this film, but he does go down to Panama for some decent action sequences. And if that’s not enough to pique your interest, think of the swirling vortex of white trash creepiness this film offers with both Ben Foster and Giovanni Ribisi in the mix.

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There are few things in life that say ‘Do-Over’ more than killing off almost all of your main cast in the opening moments of your movie. It’s an apology with a thousand rounds of ammo and tactical missiles. The new G.I. Joe: Retaliation trailer wastes no time in wiping the slate clean so that Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis can add some more muscle to the franchise. Of course, it also helps that Jon M. Chu has subbed in for Stephen Sommers and the pair behind Zombieland, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, tagged in as screenwriters. So, yes. The slate is clean. Now it’s time to blow it up. Simply put, this trailer is explosive.

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It’s taken 33 Commentary Commentaries, 33 different movies we’ve heard all kinds of people from directors to actors to whatever was going on with Cannibal: The Musical, but we’ve finally gotten to AH-NOLD. That’s right. This week we’re looking into Total Recall, that mind-melting actioner from 1990 wherein Arnold Schwarzenegger uses a completely innocent bystander as a human shield, loses his memory, and saves just about every mutant living on Mars. He doesn’t save the girl with three breasts, though. That probably deserves a spoiler alert. But it’s time to hear what Schwarzenegger and director Paul Verhoeven have to say about the whole experience. With the remake headed our way this Summer, we felt it was time to find out everything we could about this modern classic. Maybe this time next year we’ll have a Total Recall 2012 commentary from Colin Farrell and Len Wiseman. Wiseman has already offered a commentary for his film’s trailer, but there’s no way in the world it’s going to be as entertaining as listening to Verhoeven and Schwarzenegger. No way. Let’s get our asses to Mars, shall we?

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ActionFest

If you haven’t heard of ActionFest, let this piece stand as your introduction. ActionFest is a young film festival held annually in April in beautiful Asheville, North Carolina celebrating, predictably, the best in badass action cinema. The fest is currently in its third year and is presided over by the likes of Magnolia founder and CEO Bill Banowsky, former Magnolia and current Weinstein Company acquisitions guru Tom Quinn, and Aaron Norris brother of Chuck. Colin Geddes, who programs the prestigious Midnight Madness slate at the Toronto International Film Festival, is in charge of programming and serves as Festival Director. These guys know action films and they’ve put together a scrappy if relatively small fest that’s a ton of of fun to attend. I happened to be in North Carolina in April of last year and decided to come up to Asheville for two days jam-packed with ActionFest films. Upon my return to Austin, I could feel Junkfood Cinema kingpin Brian Salisbury’s seething jealousy. I could literally feel it since we happen to be roommates and he spent time breathing down my neck about going to the next iteration of the fest. This is how I found myself pulling out of our driveway on Wednesday around 11:30pm, Salisbury at my side, a bag full of chips and Red Bull in the backseat and a 20 hour drive across the country ahead of us.

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After fighting kidnapping pimps involved in the sex trade, after fighting wolves, after fighting Nazis in black and white, Liam Neeson is in talks to fight terrorists on a plane. According to Variety, Warners wants him for Non-Stop, and it’s easy to see why. The story is focused on an Air Marshall (who Neeson would play) that gets hip to a terrorism plot on an international flight (one that apparently doesn’t have any transfers or scheduled refueling sessions). He then, most likely, kicks a bunch of ass and tells people to get off his plane. The script was written by John Richardson and Chris Roach – both of whom are newcomers to the writing game – and will be directed by Jeff Wadlow (Cry_Wolf). The poster is going to be great. Neeson looking stony with a cut or two on his face, a plane looming in the background, the tag “The Flight is Non-Stop. So Is He.” Goosebumps.

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After 16 years of bad blood between Roland Emmerich and the building at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the man and the large inanimate object might be reconciling their differences. Emmerich famously blew the White House up in Independence Day, but he’s looking to protect it at all costs for White House Down. According to Deadline, the action drama which was sold as Die Hard-like to Sony was written by James Vanderbilt (Zodiac, The Losers, The Amazing Spider-Man, Total Recall). The story focuses on a paramilitary take down of the Presidential residence and workspace, which seems exactly as high concept as Emmerich can stand. Although since it seems like the action would be confined to a singular space, wouldn’t The Raid‘s Gareth Evans be a much cooler choice here? The big question here is where this fits in his directing timeline. Granted, he hasn’t signed on yet, but there are theoretically two Independence Day  sequels in the works as well as the Asteroids adaptation. It seems likely that with the $3m Sony paid for this spec, and with the money that Emmerich can command, it seems clear that the studio is making a big move here so have some popcorn ready.

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published: 04.18.2014
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published: 04.18.2014
B+
published: 04.17.2014
B-
published: 04.17.2014
D+

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