Archive for Gina Carano

Deadpool: Lives up to Hype and…Don’t Get Greedy That’s Good Enough

Posted in 8, Action, Comedy, New Releases, Ratings, Reviews, Sci Fi/ Fantasy with tags , , , , , on February 26, 2016 by mducoing

DeadpoolIn the vein of tongue-in-cheek super hero films/spoofs, Deadpool ups the ante as one of those splendid films that lives up to the hype. Imperfect as it is, this is swept quickly beneath the rug in favor of playing along with this self-aware, dark, violent comedy.

Premise: A military operative turned mercenary is subjected to a terrible experiment that leads him to become alter ego Deadpool. Result: A fun spoof on super hero films that is as smart as it is violent (oh and raunchy).

Skeptics need only wonder how many times Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) can deliver the same film before somebody, anybody, could finally stop him. But unlike recent and not so recent catastrophes (Green Lantern, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, where he actually played the same, albeit vastly distinct, character) this film seems retrofitted to Reynolds and his self-deprecating, irreverent, machine gun style humor.

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Fast & Furious 6: Just Keeps Getting Faster and Furious-er!

Posted in 8, Action, Ratings, Reviews, Thriller with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2013 by mducoing

F&F6Director Justin Lin (Fast Five, The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift) has continued the unstoppable momentum of the Fast & Furious series with this latest installment.  Now no longer on the run but working with authorities, the crew faces a more powerful villain than ever before and generate just as much thrilling energy in the process.

Premise: Torreto and team join forces with Hobbs to take down a new, more dangerous villain. Result: An extremely fun and exciting film that keeps the momentum going for the series.

While no one can accuse the Fast & Furious series of breaking the intellectual bank, there is little question that the franchise sets the standard in the fast-paced action genre.  This latest film is no exception, further heightening the thrills and even advancing a story that is perhaps the most sophisticated to date (noticeably better than even Fast Five).

In this latest installment, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) has settled into a comfortable retirement with Elena (Elsa Pataky) while his best friend and (now) friendly rival Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) raises his newborn with Mia (Jordana Brewster).

But it is not long before circumstance interrupts this fairytale end; Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) materializes on Toretto’s porch (quite literally) with a proposition: help him stop a notorious villain and in exchange he and his crew will receive full pardons.  And to sweeten the deal, Hobbs introduces a wildcard – among the villains’ henchmen is Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), long thought a casualty in the series.

Toretto, infamous for his familial loyalty, a theme in the series and certainly in this film, pulls Brian, Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Han (Sung Kang), Gisele (Gal Gadot) and Tej (Ludacris) out of dubious retirement to amass a formidable team.  And an alliance with Hobbs and Riley (Gina Carano), as well as the vast network of police and military personnel, would seem to make this an unstoppable lineup.

Yet the villain in this case is not some two-bit criminal or over-zealous drug czar.  In this case, the villain is Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), an extremely powerful lord of a vast shadow network with ties to everything under the sun.  And with support from super-henchmen like Vegh (Clara Paget), Klaus (Kim Kold), Jah (Johannes Taslim) and Letty, the games, it would appear, have only begun.  And much to Toretto’s chagrin, the odds are finally stacked almost insurmountably against him.

But Toretto and Hobbs are nothing if not fiercely determined.  And it is this determination that makes this film really work on multiple levels.  First, the car chases – a pre-requisite for all Fast films – are better than ever, employing new cars and more absurd stunts than ever before.  Fans will be far from disappointed as the thrills keep mounting.

Further, the plot is actually quite interesting.  There is genuine intrigue brought on by a villain who appears capable of anything.  Shaw is precise, brilliant, and ruthless but with a certain elegance that makes him all the more terrifying.  Combined with the action sequences his ploys require, the on-screen events draw audiences in closer.

Finally, there is the genuine chemistry that this team brings to the screen.  The dialogue is filled with poignant moments as well as genuinely hilarious comedy.  And the two extremes meld perfectly in this film, keeping a genuine balance of both that helps prevent audiences overload.

The acting in the film is suitable.  Diesel and Johnson work within the limited confines of fairly rigid characters and Walker does his part to keep his character from fading into complete obscurity.  It is really the interactions between Ludacris and Gibson (and to a lesser extent Kang and Gadot) that really move the pace along.  The comedy they infuse helps to adequately deflate some overly tense scenes with just the right amount of laughter.

Rodriguez, back in a “badass” role brings back everything we hoped for in the complex character, combining dialogue and silence in perfect measure.  Evans, for his part, is chilling and perfect as the ruthless baddie.  There is even a point in the film where he is so evil that audiences will have a visceral response to him, a clear sign of an accomplished performance.

Carano, of course, can’t act her way out of a paper bag (honestly, she can’t even pull of staring); however, she is passable in this film where she plays a more interesting character that allows her true talents to shine: martial arts and acrobatics that are executed with delightful precision.

While there may certainly be moments that seem to defy all forms of physics and logic (bridge scene, driving out of exploding plane scene, etc.) the film is strong enough to let audiences suspend disbelief in favor of the sheer pleasure and excitement the film brings.  It is a genuinely fun and exhilarating movie and a scene in the credits certainly leaves the door open for an even better sequel.

Rating: 8 – An expensive red wine and juicy steak

2012 Empty Cup Awards: The Worst Performances of 2012

Posted in Articles, movieMixology Awards, The Empty Cups Awards with tags , , , , , on March 7, 2013 by mducoing

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Worst Performances of 2012

While there are some films that fail on virtually every level, there are some performances that exist in a world of their own, where they can strike fear in the hearts of Man.  Like a torpedo to the hull, even strong films can be ruined by performances that boggle the mind and call sanity into question. To help us understand such catastrophe, here is a review of the worst performances of 2012:


EmptyCupsIcon - CopyAshley Greene as Kelly (The Apparition)

“…Greene, however, delivers a completely unacceptable performance. Every muffled scream, every forced tear, every crackled plea is worse than the last; while there might not be much to think of in the Twilight series writing, this is just a whole new level of scenery chomping that may be one of the most cringe-inducing performances of the year.” Read Full Review.

The Apparition was already a terrible film, filled with plot holes, absurdity and dialogue that makes skin crawl.  It can hardly be imagined that one of the worst films of the year might actually be drawn further into the depths of oblivion by a catastrophic performance of epic proportions.  Greene is Leviathan in her monstrous, insatiable consumption of scenery and delivers so many poor moments in so many unimaginable ways as to suggest that every choice is deliberate: she and, apparently her director, thought she was actually supposed to act that way!

While this possibility may destabilize some more fragile minds, it is likely: Greene whimpers and shrieks in ways that suggest she was somehow trying.  These were no accidents, these were no novice attempts at bad acting – Greene delivers a stellar, professional performance in The Twilight Zone of Acting, where thespians do the precise opposite of what they should be.  God Speed, Ms. Greene.



Gina Carano as Mallory (Haywire)

“…Carano seems to play two roles in this film: passable, mildly-bad-ass Mallory and completely unwatchable Mallory with all the delivery of a Digiorno. She fades in and out of acceptable across scenes, often succumbing to the poor dialogue she is fed.” Read Full Review.

To say that Carano is unwatchable is to only tell a third of the story: she is painfully, horribly unwatchable. In a star-studded cast, Carano comes off like a babe in the woods: lost, trembling with no coherent thought to save her.  She is an action lead that, despite being in a film littered with errors and poor decisions, still somehow finds ways to distract from the rest of the debacle, focusing steady attention on her own apocalyptic mistakes.  Ultimately, she ruins an already terrible film – a sad distinction.



Stephen Rhea as Dr. Jacob Lane (Underworld: The Awakening)

“…But Rea, for instance, has no excuse: in this film he manages to flub every line, delivering it with such amateurish qualities as to seemingly erase all his previous good work. He is completely unconvincing in his role and worse still, seems unconvinced that he should even be in this film. It’s bad enough to portray a completely tired, over-used villain, stereotype, but worse still to seem to not even be trying!.” Read Full Review

Rhea, from moment one, symbolized all that was wrong with this woefully disappointing sequel.  He is rushed, distracted, and confusing throughout, disconnected completely from the energy and genius that made its predecessors cult classics.  He, instead, offers a sterile and unimaginative performance, which like the film, comes off as amateurish and incompetent.  While by no means the only aspect of the film that drives it over the cliff, his performance is most certainly the worst.



Channing Tatum as Aaron (Haywire)

“…Tatum is also rather flat in this film, but fortunately mediocre was the color of the day so it is hardly noticeable.” Read Full Review.

This may have been regrettable, epic understatement.  Tatum was most certainly flat in this film, and juxtaposed with Carano may actually have appeared passable, but this does not fully describe his role as Aaron.  While Tatum is not necessarily known for delivering stellar performances (e.g., Dear John, G.I. Joe, The Vow, Magic Mike) never has he come so close to be painfully unwatchable.

He delivers his lines in the first scene with Carano as if he doesn’t understand what they mean, as if he doesn’t understand English or inflection or punctuation.  Bela Lugosi and Arnold Schwarzenegger fared better with delivery when they actually didn’t speak English! Like reading off a psychotic teleprompter, Tatum is trapped in a nightmare where he comes nowhere near delivering even the acceptable lines well.  Add to that an obvious lack of interest in the film, and you have Tatum on screen looking bored, impatient, and helpless.    



Jonah Hill as Franklin (The Watch)

“…And then there is Jonah Hill, who is abandoned by Schaffer and the writing staff here completely, left to wander through the film with no rhyme or reason. Who is Franklin? Who knows – maybe a bad boy, maybe a psychopath, a mommas boy? Never clear – what is clear is that Franklin comes off in this film like the character version of a thrift shop: every unlikeable, forgotten article of persona mashed together into a clashing collage of unforgiveable nonsense. Hill seems powerless to get any laughs, literally spewing catch phrases and “almost-jokes” that fall uncomfortable flat at his feet.” Read Full Review.

Jonah Hill has been correctly nominated for an Academy Award and has never come close to making any such “worst” list.  But each year there is a stellar performer that simply falls into a role that turns out to be a career trap.  It ensnares them like some cinematic kryptonite, draining them of all their talents and returning them to mortal form.

We will refer to this as the “Tommy Award”, a category all list own within the annals of the dreadful, named for 2011 recipient Woody Harrelson’s character “Tommy”.  Like Tommy, Hill’s “Franklin” is a cataclysmic aberrant, retaining none of Hill’s usual folksy, geeky charm, and instead coming off like a crazed Norman bates lying in wait. His time on screen stands out among a chorus of mediocrity as unbearable and painful; perhaps even giants may stumble.


And like the dreadful agony of an empty cup, so go these films and performances of 2012.  Enjoy!

Haywire: Was Anyone Even Trying to Make This a Good Movie?? Seriously?

Posted in 3, Action, Reviews, Thriller with tags , , , , , , , , on January 31, 2012 by mducoing

Haywire, the latest film by acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Oceans Eleven), had all the makings of something most audiences would be interested in watching: a proven spy thriller formula with an all-star cast and seasoned director. However, all of these fell to the wayside rather quickly as Haywire spirals completely out of control becoming an unwatchable disaster almost immediately.

Premise: A black ops agent seeks revenge after she is betrayed during a mission. Result: A Choppy, messy, tired film that often delivers the inexplicably grainy, blurry quality of a camcorder from the mid-80s, cheapening an already poor film.

The introduction of this film showed some promise: an intriguing battle between runaway agent Mallory (Gina Carano) and fellow agent Aaron (Channing Tatum) -who had been sent to collect her- provides an interesting and exhilarating few moments for audiences as we are seduced by the destructive power on screen. Moments later, observers will look on in horror as a veritable gab-fest devolves on screen, with Mallory ostensibly chatting with her hostage sounding more akin to a lover’s spat.

Mallory (why is she called Mallory??) then decides to tell her hostage, Scott (Michael Angarano), the full story to that point (for no apparent reason) and the film becomes a series of confusing, globe-trotting flashbacks. First, there is a job to be done in Barcelona for client Rodrigo (Antonio Banderas), where Mallory and her team rescue Jiang and hand him to the appropriate care-takers. Subsequently, we find out that her boss and former lover Kenneth (Ewan McGregor) has a conversation with client Coblenez (Michael Douglas) who requests Mallory (despite the fact that we are in Mallory’s retelling of the story and she was not actually present at this conversation, Soderbergh shows it to us anyway, as another example of the awkward breaking of reality and continuity throughout the film.)

It is here that Mallory is set up on a job in Dublin with supposed British MI-6 agent Paul (Michael Fassbender) who is meant to carry out the Kenneth betrayal and terminate her.  Of course, Mallory turns the tables and we have a chase on our hands.  The remainder of the film is based on Mallory stalking Kenneth and his accomplices. Here the plot itself is not as poor as it is rushed and tired.  All aspects of the story stumble onto the screen clumsily, often laughably, with choppy scene settings and rushed plot devices that question if too much made it on the editing room floor.

The fight scenes themselves, one of the hallmarks of contemporary spy films, are also delivered with an amateurish haze as to take away from their impact almost completely.  Like an Occidental Kung Fu film, the storyline seems only to serve as waiting time in between the numerous battle sequences, each of which is delivered in that same, hackneyed, ungainly style that harkens more to a YouTube video of Jackass imitators.

Then there are simply moments that boggle the mind: Mallory’s chase scene on the beach is laugh-out-loud ridiculous, where her victim is standing on the beach and without warning, she comes running along endlessly like a cartoon character.  And there is a scene with a deer that is so sudden and preposterous as to make audiences with weaker bladders thankful for their latest batch of adult diapers.

Worse still are the cinematography and music.  The former is grainy, blurry, and often distracts from the story.  It casts a solid shadow of doubt on the quality of the film itself; whether intentional or not, the result is a lesson for how not to develop a film.  Then the soundtrack spills onto these already bungled scenes and finishes the task of absolutely ruining anything this film was seriously trying to accomplish.  Like a twisted, carnival version of D-grade porn music, the soundtrack is abhorrent, making each scene into a silly, pointless farce filmgoers will recall not from other trips to the cinema, but the 3am low-budget picture meant as filler in between the faux-Native American jewelry vendors and the woman making salsa with her coveted Magic Bullet®.

The acting in this film does no one any favors. Carano seems to play two roles in this film: passable, mildly-bad-ass Mallory and completely unwatchable Mallory with all the delivery of a Digiorno. She fades in and out of acceptable across scenes, often succumbing to the poor dialogue she is fed. McGregor fares better, but his character is so absurd that interest is lost early on.  Fassbender is good but short-lived; Douglas’ role is dull and seems outside his range; and Banderas’ role could have been replaced by any number of scruffy Latino/Spanish men with equal impact. Tatum is also rather flat in this film, but fortunately mediocre was the color of the day so it is hardly noticeable.

The film’s resolution, which is both predictable and clichéd, is further muted by the disaster that is the rest of the film. This is even more troublesome for an already beleaguered Haywire since the film seems to rest on the resolution as the final essential twist that will leave audiences buzzing; instead, not only was it obvious, but Soderbergh chose to go with the least interesting of all possibilities.  However, in a film like Haywire, even this poor choice was not much of a surprise.

Overall, Haywire misses the mark completely, delivering a sad, unseemly product that reminds us that experiments sometimes go terribly wrong. 

Rating: 3 – Mad Dog 20/20, Government Cheese, and a waste basket for afterwards

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