VIRTUOSITY (1995)

Directed By: Brett Leonard 
Written By: Eric Bernt 
Cinematography: Gale Tattersall 
Editor: Rob Korbin & B.J. Sears 

Cast: Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Kelly Lynch, Stephen Spinella, William Forsythe, Louise Fletcher, William Finchter, Kevin J. O’Connor, Costas Mandylor, Kaley Cuoco, Mari Morrow 

When a virtual reality simulation created using the personalities of multiple serial killers manages to escape into the real world, an ex-cop is tasked with stopping its reign of terror.


The director of THE LAWNMOWER MAN seems to be obsessed with virtual reality as he has made another film based on technology.

That special effects at least makes some kind Of sense though dates the film that is supposed to be futuristic and looks historically dated

This is Russell Crowe’s first big blockbuster film although he is playing the villain and is rather demented and charismatic. He is dressed more as an evil yuppie which at the time seemed to have been the go-to villain archetype. He is memorable throughout as he espouses to be having Fin and comes off more a horror movie villain with a sly sense of humor 

This is a strange film even for a big studio film. It is one of the first to feature Denzel Washington in more of an action setting. Which at the time was why I went to see the film and felt excited. 

Science fiction film that seems dated using technology that was cutting edge then but still seemed on it’s way out 

There is a curious performance by Stephen Spinella playing the inventor of Russell crowe’s character who is just creepy as dramatic for no real reason throughout the film only to lamely come back towards the end of the film

I would talk about action sequences but they are more like continuous chase sequences throughout. That are entertaining but hardly memorable. Where the future is made to look so technical that it feels ridiculous that it is just dressed up in the modern-day. 

The film is Over the top, amped up and hyped by a pounding soundtrack. That never seems to rest. Though the technical elements seem intriguing watching it now. It comes off a little more outdated.

I will admit to going to see this film in theaters and I left with the same questionable conclusion. I was entertained but did I like the film? I recognized it wasn’t good by any means. Though I would watch it again just not enthusiastically. Now I watch the film amazed that it was made as at times it is laughably bad.

Grade: D

AFTER THE SUNSET (2004)

Directed By: Brett Ratner 
Written By: Craig Rosenberg & Paul Zbyszewski 
Story By: Paul Zbyszewski 
Cinematography By: Dante Spinotti 
Editor: Mark Helfrich 
Music By: Lalo Schifrin 

Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek, Woody Harrelson, Naomie Harris, Don Cheadle, Chris Penn, Mykelti Williamson, Troy Garity, Obba Babatunde, Russell Hornsby, Michael Bowen, Jeff Garlin, Lisa Thornhill, Kate Walsh, Tom McGowan, Rachael Harris 


 After a successful last score, a master thief retires to an island paradise. His lifelong nemesis, a crafty FBI agent, washes ashore to ensure he’s making good on his promise. The pair soon enters into a new game of cat-and-mouse.


This is nothing but THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR 2, because this movie plays similarly. Even though there is no Rene Russo and the names have been changed. Rene Russo is replaced by the best thing in this movie Salma Hayek who the producers wisely keep in a barely-there bikini throughout the rest of the movie. This is why the film is set mostly in the tropics.

This film plays more like a comedy than anything else, with a little action thrown in. The only thriller aspect throughout the film is the constant double-crosses and seeking of revenge. As well as plenty of heists. Though you are never scared for the protagonist and if he will get caught or not because there is no real tension in the script and the characters already seem a step ahead.

You pretty much know what’s going to happen the whole film. Even as the premise seems to be what happens after the sunset. What happens after the happily ever after. You get a good life that is new but you might still miss the old one that overpowers you.

Everyone in the film looks relaxed and laid back more like this is a working vacation. So it seems like they are having a good time. Playing almost like a plotted home video with sharp visuals.

Even the reliable Don Cheadle pops in to play a villainous heavy (in paycheck mode. Though seems to be having fun as he is always draped by henchwomen) this is his second time and film working with director Brett Ratner. At least he looks like he is having fun What more can one say about Director Brett Ratner. He is the consummate Hollywood playboy, director. His films are all flash with no depth, rapid Editing. No account for paces. Here and usually it seems like giving a Horny teenager who got through film school without taking a film appreciation course. 

Then let him loose with a budget and a camera that is what watching a Brett Ratner film is like, plus he seems like a director who makes films only to new and be around hot women because his films are stocked with them. I’m not complaining but they are there for no reason, other than of course eye candy. If made by a different director the story might have more stayed on track with fewer distractions. Though at least the film has a kind of charming tongue-in-cheek quality that feels like a well-put-together dance.

He seems to have gotten his career riding the coattails of comedian Chris Tucker at first. That is why he seems to be the ultimate Hollywood director. He does have talent but he seems to go against it every time he makes a movie. You can’t give him credit for originality. He’s not the worst filmmaker out there. He is just so typical. Though one can’t hate him even though there are plenty of critics who do. I believe he has one good movie in him. Most filmmakers do.

John Stockwell was originally slated to direct but dropped out of the production in the summer of 2003. Pierce Brosnan and Brett Ratner were hoping to collaborate on the next James Bond movie, but after that fell through with Bond producers, they decided to maintain their relationship, and do this instead.

The film is your typical, I’m retired but I want to try one last job. Not for the payoff. Just to prove I can do it and the old cop from the past is determined to bust him and the thief’s love interest is all you promised to retire. You do this I’m leaving with plenty of double and triple crosses.

The film is more a fantasy than anything.

GRADE: C

LA LA LAND (2016)

 

Written & Directed By: Damien Chazelle
Cinematography: Linus Sandgren
Editor: Tom Cross
Music By: Justin Hurwitz 

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt, J.K. Simmons, Finn Wittrock, Callie Hernandez, Jessica Rothe, Sonoya Mizuno, Valarie Rae Miller, Tom Everett Scott 

Aspiring actress serves lattes to movie stars in between auditions and jazz musician Sebastian scrapes by playing cocktail-party gigs in dingy bars. But as success mounts, they are faced with decisions that fray the fragile fabric of their love affair, and the dreams they worked so hard to maintain in each other threaten to rip them apart.


This is a big Hollywood epic with an indie sensibility.

The film Might be overpraised by some but doesn’t mean the film is without merits.

There haven’t been really too many musicals lately this one came along and is more the classical with having a more avant garde way of telling the story but in a more mainstream way of advancing story and having an emotional core with the songs. Instead of them being an extravaganza meant to be show stoppers and really just there to dazzle.

Though the movie can easily be written off as trying to tell It’s story in a classic mode that hasn’t been sued in a while and going. For a certain glory. This film feels like it can only be told in this way

As the film Shows a love of the genre as well as playing by the rules and adding a spin of it’s own. As it Also has a kind of successful A STAR IS BORN type story. Only without the heaviness of a tragic ending. Though it does have it’s own tragic ending of sorts.

The ending is tragic in that it offers up some hope at first before letting the wind out of the soaps of the audience. That reminds the audience of the reality vs fantasy sequence in 500 DAYS OF SUMMER. It’s beautifully and so emotional that every note feels like a moment. Though it is meant to pull on your heartstrings and have an emotional reaction yourself which makes it all the more memorable. As the characters and we Review and look back over all the decisions might they have had a chance to go another way. Not to mention a future that could have been.

An homage to musical while being one itself though owing more to European ones which they share the theme of success but tragedy choosing to show the peril Of the relationship that goes with individual success the difference between art and commerce with a kind of ending that fools us with that could have been making the wound hurt more.

Which is where it doesn’t Feel as familiar in the second half the after the happily ever after even if it involves a character who kind of appropriates culture though more to a degree but that is more subjective than anything a romance at least. Though through it all the film Wears it’s influences and even if knowing where it is going leaves surprises or at least attempts them. Which keeps the audience on it’s tied and excited as the film goes along.

This shows A love of film and a great love story that might remind many of theirs or at least a dream one they wish they had. A reminder of CinemaScope and technicolor musicals of all ages. As it is hopeful and energetic but shows struggling and settling then finding fame and success and it’s painful aftermath. That while great for the individual is not healthy for a relationship. As one might have to settle or give up their dreams and drive for the other to prosper.

A story that shows of old Hollywood and jazz, A throwback simpler classy times. There is Nothing vulgar about it. Which is becoming increasingly rare in movies these days. At least when it comes to movies that have a certain pedigree.

The Dancing is noteworthy. It not phenomenal to show the characters are human and normal. The magic you feel and how strong those emotions or how you wish they would be. The First half feels like a broadway musical almost as it gets closer to reality and more serious less and less musicals

The film Feels like a fair sided testament. The film is infectious and makes you want to watch More as it stays inventive.

The filmmakers previous films all have music or revolve around it. So that you can tell he has a passion for it and in his storytelling here it is goes hand and hand with the story. As This feels more a continuation of GUY AND MADELINE IN THE PARK his first film. WHIPLASH his next film takes place around music and passion but also seemed more dramatic, destructive and dark.

This film Almost feels like a film stitched together from your favorite parts of songs and movies the scenes you fast forward or rewind over and over to get to. Though under a different or new coat. It owes a deep debt definitely to it’s influences like YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT and UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG

Grade: A-

APOLLO 10 1/2: A SPACE AGE CHILDHOOD (2022)

Written & Directed By: Richard Linklater Cinematography: Shane F. Kelly

Editor: Sandra Adair

Cast: Jack Black, Zachary Levi, Glenn Powell, Bill Sage, Milo Coy, Lee Eddy, Josh Wiggins, Natalie L’Amoreaux 

The story of the first moon landing in the summer of 1969 from two interwoven perspectives. It both captures the astronaut and mission control view of the triumphant moment, and the lesser-seen bottom up perspective of what it was like from an excited kid’s perspective, living near NASA but mostly watching it on TV like hundreds of millions of others. It’s ultimately both an exacting re-creation of this special moment in history and a kid’s fantasy about being plucked from his average life in suburbia to secretly train for a covert mission to the moon.


This film feels more like a loving living memory. That is more an autobiographical look back at childhood in 1969. Nothing about the culture, times, and family life of those times.

As obviously this is a project close to writer/director Richard Linklater’s heart. Where the side plot of a kid experiencing space exploration is to give the film more of a center and a kind of big plot to attract audiences.

That eventually makes good on the promise of that story but is treated more as an afterthought. As not only is it more wish fantasy but also is kind of a metaphor for the last days of innocence before getting older and into not only adulthood but young adulthood where responsibilities pile up and things become more concrete. Though it is handled here as just another episode as part of the character’s youth. 

The film uses rotoscoping animation, a technique the director has used before in previous films WAKING LIFE, and his adaptation of A SCANNER DARKLY. Here it is used more personally which gives the film and its characters a more vibrant life and flexibility that might have been harder to create in live-action. Plus it allows for that time to seem more like an otherworldly fantasy. 

Though its use here is not as outlandish and surreal as his previous projects with it. 

The film is impressive but never quite exciting even though it isn’t designed to be. It more feels like the Billy Joel song WE DIDN’T START THE FIRE. With it being a pop song to groove to but also made up of so many historical references you want to look up the ones you don’t know. So in effect a kind of lesson of sorts also of all that has happened since then. A nice memorial to those times.

Grade: B

THE PRINCE OF EGYPT (1998)

Directed By: Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner & Simon Wells

Written By: Philip LaZebnik

Cast: (Voices) Val Kilmer, Ralph Fiennes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sandra Bullock, Jeff Goldblum, Danny Glover, Patrick Stewart, Steve Martin, Martin Short, Helen Mirren, James Avery, Eden Reigel 

Egyptian Prince Moses learns of his identity as a Hebrew and his destiny to become the chosen deliverer of his people.


This movie really takes me back as I remember it being a big release at the time and a big holiday one at that. I was working at a movie theater at the time of my first job and remember the shows staying packed for weeks full. Almost every show. 

I also remember how messy yet warm and sweet-smelling the theaters would be afterward. Not only that but constantly hear the duet by Whitney Houston & Mariah Carey on the song BELIEVE.

This embezzled that song into my head and anytime I hear it now it reminds of this movie and takes me to a happy place. 

Shocked, it took me so long to see this last film. As one never watched it in theaters and can tell that was a lost opportunity. As this definitely works best on a big screen. As the story is epic, so is the film. Even for an animated movie, it feels majestic. 

It tells such a grand story in a short amount of time with plenty of impacts. 

Not usually a fan of biblical films but this doesn’t feel preachy. It just feels like a story from history with some supernatural elements. Though still is a story about the strength of character and faith.

Watching the film you might prefer fewer songs that make it feel more like a musical without song and dance numbers but montages and memories instead. 

Which also helps counter and explain its darkness in the second half. 

It allows for more stories to be told in a shorter time. As well as showcase their emotions in the moment and at the time of course most family animated films do have songs to keep kids and some adults from feeling restless though for this film. Not to mention it helps embed the movie into memories through those sing-along songs. This is impressive all-around yet more for adults, there could have been less. 

The animation is impressive and has stood the test of time. 

Even in one of the action scenes such as the final battle scenes and the sandstorm sequences and the miracles/plagues.

Grade: B+

ANTZ (1998)

Directed By: Eric Darnell & Tim Johnson 
Written By: Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz & Todd Alcott 
Editor: Stan Webb

Cast: (voices) Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Sylvester Stallone, Jennifer Lopez, Christopher Walken, Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtain, Anne Bancroft, Danny Glover, John Mahoney, Paul Mazursky, Grant Shaud, Jim Cummings 

Z, the worker-ant strives to reconcile his own individuality with the communal work ethic of the ant colony. Falling in love with the ant-Princess Bala, Z strives to make social inroads, and then ultimately must save the ant colony from the treacherous schemings of the evil General Mandible that threaten to wipe out the entire worker population. Themes of individuality run rampant.


This was one of the first animated films to really have an all-star cast of voices and really put the film out like a blockbuster with real stars. It is a hit most studios thought that that formula would work. It worked for a short period of time until the audience realized the story matters too. 

While the ensemble all-star cast is here some are odd casting choices that reek of Stunt casting at times and are More like picking actors who would never co-star together regularly.

One of the reasons now anytime an animated film comes out that it is successful for the most part is more than it seems as there are no purely live-action kids films. Animated is usually the only form of children’s entertainment that is coming out unless you count fantasy films though those are aimed at the whole family.

Woody Allen perfectly cast this as his comedy film with broad humor and from an outsider viewpoint amongst his peers, again an unbelievably gorgeous female lead he gets to romance. Though essentially it also feels like a Woody Allen Movie. Only with more action and outside of New York and of course for a younger audience. 

This film came out against the similarly themed A BUGS LIFE life from Pixar.  which I will admit is more impressive visually, but I find this film to be more all-around enjoyable. This is more pedestrian and not as impressive in the animation. This is kind of basic. Not made to be so special. Full of more enjoyment.

A BUG’S LIFE seemed to think visuals first story second believing the audience to be so enraptured by the animation they won’t care about the other details as much. The same type of thinking that reminds me of the film AVATAR

Grade: C+

ANTZ (1998)

Directed By: Eric Darnell & Tim Johnson Written By: Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz & Todd Alcott

Editor: Stan Webb

Cast: (voices) Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Sylvester Stallone, Jennifer Lopez, Christopher Walken, Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtain, Anne Bancroft, Danny Glover, John Mahoney, Paul Mazursky, Grant Shaud, Jim Cummings 

Z, the worker-ant strives to reconcile his own individuality with the communal work ethic of the ant colony. Falling in love with the ant-Princess Bala, Z strives to make social inroads, and then ultimately must save the ant colony from the treacherous schemings of the evil General Mandible that threaten to wipe out the entire worker population. Themes of individuality run rampant.


This was one of the first animated films to really have an all-star cast of voices and really put the film out like a blockbuster with real stars. It is a hit most studios thought that that formula would work. It worked for a short period of time until the audience realized the story matters too. 

While the ensemble all-star cast is here some are odd casting choices that reek of Stunt casting at times and are More like picking actors who would never co-star together regularly.

One of the reasons now anytime an animated film comes out that it is successful for the most part is more than it seems as there are no purely live-action kids films. Animated is usually the only form of children’s entertainment that is coming out unless you count fantasy films though those are aimed at the whole family.

Woody Allen perfectly cast this as his comedy film with broad humor and from an outsider viewpoint amongst his peers, again an unbelievably gorgeous female lead he gets to romance. Though essentially it also feels like a Woody Allen Movie. Only with more action and outside of New York and of course for a younger audience. 

This film came out against the similarly themed A BUGS LIFE life from Pixar.  which I will admit is more impressive visually, but I find this film to be more all-around enjoyable. This is more pedestrian and not as impressive in the animation. This is kind of basic. Not made to be so special. Full of more enjoyment.

A BUG’S LIFE seemed to think visuals first story second believing the audience to be so enraptured by the animation they won’t care about the other details as much. The same type of thinking that reminds me of the film AVATAR

Grade: C+

BULL (2021)

Cinematography: Ben Chads & Vanessa Whyte

Editor: James Taylor

Written & Directed By: Paul Andrew Williams

Cast: Neil Maskell, David Hayman, Laura McAlpine, Yassine Mkhichen, David Nellist, Tamzin Outhwaite, Kellie Shirley 

Bull mysteriously returns home after a 10-year absence to seek revenge on those who double-crossed him all those years ago.


The film’s opening scene sets up the rest of the movie really with an introduction of the title character that is strong whole also showcases the tough tone of the film.

What is more shocking are the tender moments of the film of which there are a few and a kind of strange twist of fates.

The film plays pretty predictably offering a few twists, but pretty much most of the film is watching the character take his revenge while every so often the film tells us the backstory of what led to this in the first place.

The title character isn’t a saint he was pretty violent beforehand and now has been left off his leash and takes very few prisoners. The only thing that he has a soft spot for before all of this was his son. As he is a pretty good dad, though surrounded by nasty characters who either find themselves into this out of loyalty or money 

While the film is mainly predictable it is strong and keeps you engaged throughout. There is no get on the film as it gets to the point and for the most part, is relentless throughout. 

As the violence is either shown or heavily suggested. So this film isn’t for the faint of heart. One thing that is always fascinating in these films is when the film chooses to more focus on those being hunted down and killed. As you can see those who are used to being hunters react to being prey.

Once you find out the film’s budget was low. It’s even more impressive what was done and how tight the film is.

Grade: B

THE PROTEGE (2021)

Directed By: Martin Campbell

Written By: Richard Wenk

Cinematography: David Tattersall

Editor: Angela M. Catanzaro

Cast: Maggie Q, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Patrick, David Rintoul, Ray Fearon, Patrick Malahide, Ori Pfeffer 

Rescued as a child by the legendary assassin Moody, Anna is the world’s most skilled contract killer. However, when Moody is brutally killed, she vows revenge for the man who taught her everything she knows.


This film is fun as long as you take little of it seriously. As it is under an action espionage blanket. 

The film feels like a smarter THE TRANSPORTER sequel/spin-off/reboot franchise that feels less exploitive. Only under a revenge tale origin 

This is what more action films should feel like taking themselves seriously enough for the story but also knowing they aren’t rewriting a formula. 

The film is plain yet pretty and has enough of a big-name cast of big-name actors in it. Who are in mroe of the film than expected. Not necessarily cameos or brief supporting roles. 

This is clearly mroe of a paycheck job for most. As they are better than the material and their presence seems to be the main draw. I mean where else are you going to see Michael Keaton seduce a woman and be a prime romantic partner for the lead.

It’s nice to see actress Maggie Q, finally catching up to an action career that had been previously laid out it seemed at first with the second adaptation of LA FEMME NIKITA. As a television show. She has been in many types of film roles since then but usually seems to return to action films. Though usually as a villain or sidekick. 

Director Martin Campbell has been Doing These types of action thrillers for a while. That his direction excels with. Making general material all the more thrilling. Just look at what he manages to do with Jackie Chan in the movie the foreigner. Making him less comic releif acrobat and a more dangerous fighting machine out for revenge. 

The story is the motivation for the actors but the film is more thrills, action, intrigue, and a bit of flirtation. Until the third act which is more captivating. Once the cat and mouse angle Presents itself it becomes intriguing.

The fighting sequence is a sex scene. Shows psychopaths in love and a kind of release from all that first-act flirtation. Which showcases strength, enthusiasm, energy, physicality, and consumption.

Though Michael Keaton Almost steals the film with his charm and his impressive fighting skills in the action sequences. Where by the end you are rooting for both His character and hers. 

Grade: C+