Wednesday, October 19, 2016



Film Review by Fiore 

By every stretch of the imagination, this series should not work.  Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher series is a liberal, anti-gun Brit who writes about an American hero who embodies the fist-thumping, gun-shooting take no prisoners attitudes enveloping this country. So, there is a dichotomy between the character and the author’s personas.   Reacher is described as six foot, six inches, 250 pounds of solid muscle, with blond hair, blue eyes and hair buzzed short in military fashion.  He reads like a fictional account of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, who once, long ago, was considered for the role.  Instead, we have Tom Cruise, who is a great actor, but falls considerably short on Reacher’s description.

When the first Jack Reacher film was released, I moaned about the casting.  The film was solid, though, fit nicely in the action genre, and Cruise pulled off the portrayal.  So, even though the series has two glaring hurdles, it is proving to be a franchise Cruise can ride, much in the vein of MISSION IMPOSSIBLE.  He fills the part of Reacher nicely, even though he is nowhere near the novel’s description.  And, Child continues to impress with his writing on subjects that are not near and dear to his heart; unless, of course he is following Hillary’s method of saying one thing to your audience while thinking a completely different thing when in private conversations.  (Hope he isn’t keeping his emails on an unsecure personal server.)

JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK is the second in the series, and it stands well with the first endeavor.  Director Edward Zwick has fashioned a fast-paced action yarn surrounding illegal gun sales in the Middle East.  It seems there is always a company, or greedy businessman, willing to deal with our enemies if the price is right.  Just ask Bob Barker.

Cruise returns as Reacher, an ex-military nomad who wanders the Earth, staying off the grid, and helping people whenever he can; sort of like Caine, in KUNG FU, if Caine were in modern times and a member of Delta Force.  Cruise plays this role well, always seeming to be in control, regardless of the odds stacked against him.  This contrasts with his portrayal of Ethan Hunt, who frequently looks like John Belushi in ANIMAL HOUSE, when the horse dies of a heart attack.

This time around, Reacher is drawn into a mass conspiracy when one of his military associates, Major Susan Turner, played by Cobie Smulders, is framed for treason.  Reacher launches an all-out assault on the military infections who have suddenly become venture capitalists, headed by General Harkness, played by Robert Knepper.  Reacher’s major (pardon the pun) stumbling block is The Hunter, played by Patrick Heusinger, who is an ex-special ops agent with the impression taking out Reacher could win him the World Heavyweight Championship Belt.

To further complicate the confrontation with The Hunter, there is a subplot about a young girl, Samantha Dayton, played by Danika Yarosh, who may or may not be Reacher’s bastard child.



It is generally not good for a movie adaptation to follow its original medium.  Film is its own visual representation, and should be treated as such, while still honoring the original work.  The Reacher series seems to be the exception to the rule.  Both films have followed the novels they were derived from very closely; yet despite having less time to develop the tale, screenwriter Richard Wenk, with a little help from the director, manages to keep all those who want to see the book on film happy.  No easy feat.

Henry Jackman provides the music.  He is aided by having a portion of the film, including the climax, take place in New Orleans, where he can mix swamp blues, and swing jazz riffs into the melodies.  Oliver Wood is a seasoned vet behind the camera, and he shoots JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK with aplomb, especially on the fight scenes, where you can easily tell what is happening and who is winning, unlike Matt Damon’s horrific action scenes in the JASON BOURNE series. 

A word here about the fight scenes.  They are rather brutal, but effective.  When you watch the film, notice the frequent use of hammer fist attacks.  These are hard strikes designed to incapacitate an opponent quickly.  Much more realistic than the often-stylistic fighting presented in movies.  While some may comment Reacher’s fight scenes seem primary, they are instead basic.  No dancing; no showing off.  Although, they do allow Reacher one sweet leg sweep take down on The Hunter.  There is nothing here that will rival Ben Affleck’s belt fight in THE ACCOUNTANT, but realize if you are in a serious fight to the death, these are the techniques you will use.  They are very reminiscent of the fight choreography used by Jean-Claude Van Damme in NOWHERE TO RUN, which was staged by Kali and Escrima expert Dan Innosanto, who I trained with, back in the day.  But, I digress…

JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK is a most excellent action film.  Like most action films, at times the timeline is ignored.  For example, could Reacher and Turner make it from the airport to the downtown hotel, while a Junkanoo parade is occurring in mere minutes?  Doubtful.  But no action film should ever be slowed down by realistic traffic considerations.

So, timelines aside, you’ll enjoy this second, in what should be a most excellent series.  Decent story, solid acting and plenty of action.  JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK will make a great date night, or even a solid bro night.  Enjoy, this one is highly recommended.


Thursday, October 13, 2016



Film Review by Fiore 

THE ACCOUNTANT, the latest endeavor from Director Gavin O’Connor starring Ben Affleck, is a most excellent thriller, with quality performances and a new lease on life for CPAs and autistic children.  The film contains a marvelous blend of action and humor, sprinkled with just enough drama to make it one of the better Fall releases.

The film’s most notable element is its score.  Mark Isham, who continues to be one of Hollywood’s busiest musicians, has been performing yeoman work his three previous films, but he bursts forth to high pinnacles on THE ACCOUNTANT.  It’s a sweeping and rousing score very reminiscent of the ones that dominated thrillers produced during Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Christian Wolff is an autistic child with a savant aptitude for mathematics.  His father is a military professional and will not accept his son’s disorder as a handicap.  He trains Chris with strict disciplined training, including self-defense techniques and shooting abilities.  His training lands him in jail for a short time, where he befriends Francis Silverberg, played by Jeffrey Tambor.  Silverberg is a master bookkeeper for the syndicate and he teaches Chris all he knows about ‘cooking’ books.  These traits make Chris highly desirable by various government agencies.  

His latest adventure concerns accounting mismanagement with LivingRobotics, a company headed by Lamar Black, played by John Lithgow.  The company makes prosthetics for the handicapped and has myriad government contracts as well.  When key personnel are murdered during his investigation, Chris discovers Lamar is faced with more than a book keeping error.




There are major heavyweights behind the camera for THE ACCOUNTANT.  They include Seamus McGarvey as Cinematographer and Richard Pearson as Film Editor.  McGarvey is best known for his work on PAN and with Gareth Edwards on GODZILLA.  Pearson is currently working on KONG: SKULL ISLAND.  He is best known for his work on DRACULA UNTOLD and MALEFICENT and the James Bond adventure QUANTUM OF SOLACE.

THE ACCOUNTANT is a tad long, running just over two hours.  There are several segments that drag, and one could easily lay the blame at Pearson’s door; however, the scenes do help develop characters and re-emphasize Chris’ condition. 
Screenwriter Bill Dubuque has penned a gripping tale, though the money laundering ploy is rather complicated and while I understood the gist of the scam, I don’t think its ramifications have the proper gravitas.

With these few minor foibles aside, THE ACCOUNTANT will provide a most excellent evening out, with a very buff Affleck for the ladies and action galore in the form of realistic martial arts and .50 caliber firepower.  As Neil Diamond would say:  "Pack up the baby and grab the old lady" and plan date night.  THE ACCOUNTANT fits the bill.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016



Film Review by Fiore 

Godzilla and I share a com-patriotism unlike others.  We both arrived in 1954, and our careers have paralleled each other since.  It is therefore, virtually impossible for me to write poorly about a Godzilla movie.  I even sat through repeated showings of GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER and everyone, even the most die-hard fans, recognize that as a fiasco.

So, I can tell you SHIN GODZILLA, also known as GODZILLA RESURRECTION, is an interesting view, but it is more about Japanese nationalism than it is the monster; and the changes they’ve made to Godzilla are rather uncomfortable.

SHIN GODZILLA assumes 1954 never occurred.  This is the first time Godzilla has ever shown his dorsal fins.  All movies prior to this release are forgotten and ignored.

Godzilla is shown developing.  He goes through the stages of amphibian development, of which we see three.  The tadpole stage is comical, with big googly eyes.  He looks like a giant slug with fins.  There is a transformation to young adult before the creature disappears beneath the waves and leaves viewers with over an hour of political dialogue among key characters.

When Godzilla appears in adult form, he is on screen roughly 10-12 minutes.  He is a slow moving lump of lava skin with useless T-Rex style arms. In PREDATOR mode, this new version now has lower jaw mandibles.  His incomparable fire is replaced by molten vomit which transforms into a laser beam that emits from his mouth, tail and fins.  He lights up like a Ronko Safety Light, good for hundreds of feet of illumination!

I’m not impressed with the changes; in fact, I think they’re silly.  The story further reveals this Godzilla can mutate at will.  It can shrink itself to a small size, or even sprout wings and fly to other continents.  Now there is no need for Godzilla to encounter Mothra, Ghidorah or Rodan; he can simply mutant and be all of them by himself.

Godzilla is actually a co-star in his own film.  Basically, all he wants to do is make his way to the nuclear power plant to eat.  In this respect, the film bears a slight resemblance to GODZILLA REBORN,  though there is no Super X and no prolonged segments with the King of the Monsters. The real story is the promotion of a young generation of Japanese politicians who are strong nationals and desirous of nothing dealing with global ties.

Godzilla films have always had an undercurrent of social commentary; even the childish ones.  In every film there was the theme of the dangers of nuclear power; Godzilla represents the embodiment of nature’s rebellion against man’s attempts to harness the sun.  The environment and recycling was the theme in GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH; GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER was about genetic mutation (he warned about Monsanto years before it was popular); GODZILLA VS GIGAN concerned illegal aliens, as did MONSTER ZERO AND GHIDORAH.  Perhaps Godzilla should have built a wall, and let Mexico pay for it.  One of the better scenes in SHIN GODZILLA is a close-up of the monster’s tail.  It appears to be comprised of the screaming bodies of those who have died in nuclear holocaust.  In this aspect, the movie borrows a theme from GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK, in which Godzilla is a demon, though it is presented better in GMA.

In the two-hour film, Godzilla in all his forms carries about 16 minutes.  The remaining time is establishing a new, young generation of Japanese leaders who want to return Japan to a strong independent country, with no responsibilities or commitments to other countries, especially to America, who they see as an overbearing enemy.

When the tadpole Godzilla emerges from the ocean, one of the government officials claims shock at the amount of destruction the creature caused for only being on land for two hours.  One of the young bucks counters with the claim that in those same two hours, the Japanese government was powerless to destroy the animal because the old vanguard was too busy checking all of Japan’s policies and treaties to ensure they were not offending anyone, nor overstepping their bounds.  This then, becomes the running theme of the film.



SHIN GODZILLA features the same type of photography the original series presented.  Up angle camera shots, close ups of the head and highlights of key body parts.  This Godzilla is stiff and robotic.  You would never see it grappling with Destroyah, or swinging its tail to smash MUTO into a building.

The version of SHIN GODZILLA I saw was the original Japanese version.  Subtitles were placed both on the bottom and top third of the screen.  It was rather challenging, but even slow readers should have enough time to glean the general gist of the story.  If the film is Americanized, I’m certain the story and dialogue will change considerably; American audiences aren’t likely to sit through the Japanese version of a Knut Rockne speech.

For Godzilla fans everywhere, this film is a must-see.  In the scheme of Godzilla films, it is nowhere near the Heisei series nor the Gareth Edwards version.  It will be in my collection, but I guarantee I’ll re-watch only about 12 minutes of the film.