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The Debt Movie Review

I love movies where Nazis are brought to justice.  In 1966, three Mossad secret agents, Rachel Singer (Jessica Chastain) Stephan Gold (Marton Csokas) and David Peretz (Sam Worthington) went undercover to East Berlin to hunt down & capture a Nazi war criminal, alive!  The target, Doktor Bernhardt, (Jesper Christensen).  During his tenure under the Third Reich, Bernhardt was a monster armed with a scalpel, an experimental butcher & the mission was to bring him back to stand trail in disgrace of his accusers.

That was the mission, but now it’s over 30 years later, Tel Aviv 1997.  The agents have long since retired, but are called together.  The veteran trio, Rachel (Helen Mirren), Stephan (Tom Wilkinson) & David (Ciarin Hinds) swore to a secret that’s been buried for three generations.  The mission had gone horribly wrong.

“The Debt,” is a very clever suspense thriller that jogs back and forth between 1960’s Germany & the late 90’s.  I like how the agents prepared & trained for their mission.  It gives you a real sense of danger & how these operatives might have actually carried out such a plan. Young Rachel’s (Chastain) role in the mission was by far the toughest & most horrific on her psyche.  You can see onscreen, whatever happened back in Berlin was carried on by Helen Mirren’s mannerisms in her performance. The emotional baggage is right there.  NO SPOILERS HERE. You’ll have to go see it for yourself.

“The Debt” is a solid movie with clever suspense.  Rated R

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Warrior Movie Review

Who’s the toughest guy on the planet?  If you really wanna know, get on a plane & head to Atlantic City.  Check out SPARTA, the world’s most intense Mixed Martial Arts competition between 16 fighters.  Last man standing takes home a staggering purse of $5 million dollars.  This Superbowl of the MMA sets in motion, “Warrior.”

Director, Gavin O’ Connor has created two vastly different worlds that reside in the same movie.   One world shows us Brendan Conlon, (Joel Edgerton) an amazing high school teacher who’s loved by his students.  He’s also going deeper & deeper in debt & mortgaged to the hilt.  He’s got a wife and two daughters & his version of the American Dream is in serious trouble.  So he does what he’s gotta do, make money any way he can. Even if that means booking back alley fights to make some bucks.

Tommy Conlon (Tom Hardy) spent fourteen years in another family, the United States Marine Corps.  He’s seen & done things only a seasoned war veteran could ever comprehend.  Tommy doesn’t talk much.  In fact, Tommy does his talking with his fists and wears his rage on his sleeve.

When Tommy returns to Pittsburgh after 14 years away, he reluctantly teams up with his estranged father, Paddy Conlon. (Nick Nolte)  It ain’t about hugs & love. This father-son reunion is laser focused and about one thing:  Training for SPARTA.   Nolte just shines as a father who’s trying to make up for lost time with his sons. What a performance.

While training for the movie both lead actors took a 10-week training regimen with a strict high protein diet of no less than six meals per day.   Tom Hardy’s routine was based around weightlifting. He actually put on 28-pounds of muscle for the role.  His trainer was quoted as calling his pupil, “carb-depleted, angry & moody.”  It’s that type of dedication that I love & look for in preparation.  When an actor goes through what I call, ‘Pain for Performance,’ it helps suspend disbelief.  I could name a 1/2 dozen so-called top billing actors who’d never ever put this type of effort into a role.

On screen, Hardy & Edgerton managed to perform 85% of their own stunts in an MMA film.  Kudos.  The fight scenes in ‘Warrior’ took six straight weeks of shooting.  O’ Connor ended up shooting over 200 hours of fight footage.  Wanna talk injuries? Tom Hardy racked up a torn ligament, a broken foot and a cracked rib.  Edgerton, against doctor’s orders continued filming with a serious tear to the ACL of his right knee.  Again, playing with pain makes the movie better!

The contrast in the brothers worlds is amazing to watch onscreen.  Brandan’s world, even though financially strapped, is very colorful.  Flowers, his daughters face painting, even Brendan’s schoolteacher wardrobe is somehow uplifting.  They live in a nice house with a very green front yard.  It’s what everyone wants & it’s slipping away.

Tommy’s world is dark.  All the colors are washed out into a gravely grey.  Rains, clouds, industrial settings.  Tommy’s wardrobe is so dark, it’s almost Grim Reaper-ish.  You’ll notice these two different worlds are always on a collision course. The sound design is incredible.  You will actually feel the severity of the punches.  The excitement is exhilarating.  When it comes down to two brothers, one fighting for his family & one fighting for his country, you’re right there with a ringside seat.  ‘Warrior’ is hands down the knockout punch I’ve been waiting for at the movies.

‘Warrior’ has everything. It’s a father-son story, it’s got redemption, forgiveness, perseverance, truth, honor, fallen heroes & new ones.  If you don’t get emotional watching ‘Warrior,’ you’re dead inside.  I wouldn’t be surprised if one or all three, Nick Nolte, Joel Edgerton & Tom Hardy receive nominations during award season.

Brendan Conlon is living life on a teacher’s budget.  He saves money on movies with the Film Freak iPhone – iPad App. Just search Film Freak.

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Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

Who better to haunt a house than Guillermo del Toro?  He’s a masterful filmmaker & knows the beats of suspense and horror usually from the perspective of a little girl. Such is the worst case scenario in “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.”  Sally (Bailee Madison, Just Go With It) is uprooted from her life on the west coast with her mother. Now she’s headed back East to live with her father Alex, (Guy Pearce) & his girlfriend, Kim (Katie Holmes.) The kicker:  They’re living in a wicked old house with secret passages & danger at every corner.

Literally, before Sally has a chance to sneak a single episode of ‘Celebrity Rehab,’ the creepy-crawlies begin to wreak havoc.  She starts hearing whispering voices and things start moving on their own. I’d have bailed. But kids are curious & Sally seeks out the voices in the darkest bottom of a 200 year old hidden basement.  Yeah, let’s be friends she thinks.

Of course, adults are always the last ones to know or believe.  So Sally gets in deeper & deeper with the creatures while the grown ups think she’s just a kiddo nutball.  I liked the building suspense and tension.  There’s also a couple of genuine, jump-out-of-your-seat moments.   I was at a midnight show & people were having a good time screaming, then laughing at themselves for screaming.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is rate R, but I don’t really know why.  There’s blood, but not super bloody.  There’s no bad language and no nudity.  In fact, Katie Holmes’ character wears a full on bra to bed under her silk nightie.  If that doesn’t take you out of a movie, nothing will.

Fans of the scare won’t be able to resist Don’t be Afraid of the Dark.  I thought it was a pretty good movie.  Thankfully, the filmmakers only provided us with 2D.  I feel like I should thank someone for not hitting me over the head with the 3D mallet!

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Colombiana Movie Review

As a little 9-year girl, Catelaya (Zoe Saldana) was right there when her parents were murdered.  So sets in motion a story of revenge. It’s the energy that drives Catelaya’s life: The chance to take out the man who ordered the hit on her folks.   Along the way, Catelaya’s path is littered with corpses.  Each mark was done with her style, finesse & total anonymity.

You can only stay invisible for so long.  As Catelaya gets closer to her goal, the heat gets turned way up.  I did like when she went into assassination mode.  There’s something very cool about on-screen killers.  They walk between raindrops and lurk in shadows until they strike.  Plus the fact that she’s smoking hot in those skin tight catsuits.

The story isn’t free of cliches we often see in hitman movies ie; being closed off to any meaningful relationships, secret weapon stashes, high end security cameras, the double semi automatic machine gun bullet spray & my favorite, the manila envelope with a black & white photo of the next target.  Given the fact that “Columbiana” is rated PG-13, no teenage boys can be excluded from the action.

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Conan The Barbarian Movie Review

This new version of Conan the Barbarian will satisfy a lust for blood spilled, but not much else.  From the beginning, the movie borrows heavily from classics we’ve seen before.  Young Conan wants to step up & fight beside his father, (Pon Perlman) His father says he’s too young.  It’s a page straight out of the scroll of ‘Braveheart.’

While on a sea voyage, it was like a scene plucked out of any of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.  I almost thought I saw Captain Jack Sparrow flying across the deck.   Conan is a simple story of revenge.  At one point, I thought we was going to utter  the phrase, “Hello.  My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” (That’s from ‘The Princes Bride” for anyone wondering.)

To really earn the R rating, besides the brutality, there are babes!  We learn that newly freed slaves girls just wanna have fun, topless!  There’s also a primal sex scene between Conan(Jason Momoa) and Tamara (Rachel Nichols).  Conan was a Bone-nan.

Things get a little weird with the evil sorceress Marique (Rose McGowan) & her father Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang).  They are out for ‘under’-world domination, but Marique seems to want to please daddy in a sexual manner.  A bit freaky & that’s just the way Rose wanted to play it.  As Ferris Bueller’s principal Ed Rooney said, “So that’s how it is in their family.”

Moving onto the finale, I really must give credit to Steven Spielberg.  The set was a straight ripoff of ‘Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom.’  Beat for beat, it was all there.  The contraption that holds & lowers the human sacrifice.  The hot molten lava below.  The steady drumbeats & chants just like the Thugee cult.  In Temple, the evil priest Mola Ram wore a ceremonial headdress that cradled his jawline.  Same exact thing Khalar Zym in Conan.

If you’re into heads to getting lopped off, Conan is cool.  If you’re looking for originality, please refer to the following, ‘Braveheart,’ ‘The Princess Bride,’ ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl,’ or ‘Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom.’  By the way, Conan The Barbarian will play just fine in 2D. Save your cash for popcorn & soda.

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Fright Night 3D Movie Review

When it comes to breaking down a movie like,  “Fright Night,” the last thing anyone needs is an intellectual film critic know-it-all.   Horror purists will balk at the idea of this remake or re-visioning of “Fright Night.” Who even cares!?!  First & foremost, this vampire movie plays by the bloodsucker rulebook.  Unlike the undead in “Twilight,” who walk triumphantly in the the blistering sun, the filmmakers paid attention to the Do’s & Don’ts of the genre.  I appreciate the crosses, garlic, holy water, wooden stakes & finding the hidden masters’ lair.

What’s cool about “Fright Night” is its sexiness.  Jerry (Colin Farrell) is hands down the horniest vampire.  His female take downs are legendary! Strippers, MiLFs & high school hotties. Jerry’s favorite blood type is O….M.G.  Farrell is perfect for the role with his eyes always peering, cautiously sniffing scents & scratching things during his scenes.   On the other hand, Charlie (Anton Yelchin) is the clumsy & pasty kid tasked with doing away with a very tactical, 400 year old vampire.

The acting is solid.  The cast also includes Toni Collette & a good performance from David Tennant, who plays a Las Vegas based occult-heavy magician, Peter Vincent.  Ramin Djawadi’s musical score was just excellent.  It just added a terrific layer of tension.  Also, there’s the 3D factor. I have to say, this time around, the 3D plays really well.  I hope you don’t mind having 3D blood spurting into your face.

The Vampire movie genre is alive and well.  All I can say is, “Fright Night” was the bloodsucking torpedo that sank the USS Twilight for ‘2011’s Coolest Vampire Flick.’  Sorry Twi-hards.

“Fright Night” is Rated R for bloody violence & F Bombs.

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Leo, What Should I Go See? 8.12.11

Here are my thoughts & recommendations  on weekend’s new movie releases.

  • 30 Seconds or Less
  • Final Destination 5
  • The Help

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30 Minutes Or Less Movie Review

Jesse Eisenberg is Nick.   A guy who hates his job, his boss & probably his life.   What does he do for a living?  He delivers pizzas like a NASCAR Ninja in just 30 Minutes or Less.   Nick’s last delivery is gonna be a doozy.  Two second rate losers (Danny McBride & Nick Swardson) hatch a plan to make quick money.  Instead of robbing a bank themselves, they’ll strap a homemade bomb on a stranger & make him do it.

As you’ve seen in the trailer, once the bomb has been planted on Nick, he seeks help from his best friend Chet (Aziz Ansari).  Armed with only knowledge of 80’s action flicks, these two idiots rob the local bank to the tune of 100,00 bucks.

Two familiar faces are scene stealers with limited screen time. First, the hitman (Michael Peña). Very funny.  Also, from TV’s “Rules of Engagement,” is Bianca Kajlich who plays a local stripper. While dancing on Danny McBride, Bianca goes full blown topless. No special digital effects or enhancements. Man, the one time I want 3D & it’s not even there.

The idea of these two numb nuts getting away with this high profile robbery in Grand Rapids, Michigan is certainly a stretch. You’ll just have to go with it.  It’s a straight up rated R stoner comedy.  If you dug “Pineapple Express,” this is your movie.

There’s nothing worse than having a bomb strapped to your chest.  Can you imagine!?!  On the other hand, there’s nothing better than the Film Freak iPhone – iPad App. It’s the movie app that saves you money on movies. Just search Film Freak

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Final Destination 5 Movie Review

There’s an old saying, ‘Give the people what they want.’  And what they want is yet another dose of ” Final Destination.”  The popular film series flies in the face of everything.  It just doesn’t care. It’s all about scary premonitions & Death’s Design.  The TV spots have given away so much. What the audience wants to see, disturbing as it may seem, is beautiful people getting maimed, twisted & crunched in the most incredulous deaths imaginable.

Instead of being shocked & horrified, the crowd just laughs & cheers!  This time around, a bridge collapses & all but eight people on board escape with their lives.  Well, if you’ve seen the trailer, Creepy Coroner guys says, “Death doesn’t like to be cheated.”  One by one the survivors get picked off in a way sinister manner.  Death’s scenarios have been well documented in every TV spot. There’s the Lasik Eye Exam, the gymnast & the sensual Asian massage parlor & more!

When it comes to Final Destination 5, you best not over think it.  I saw it with a sold out crowd & they ate it up.  They were straight up laughing as the actors delivered their ‘serious’ lines.  Every time someone gets taken out, you can hear the ‘Ohhhhhhh-turn-into-sheer-laughs.’

I must admit, Final Destination 5 was super fun.  It’s rated R for extreme violence, but less nudity than Final Destination 4.  What’s up with that?  Personally speaking, I thought Final 3’s topless girl slow-cooking in the tanning bed death was a high point in the series.

The 3D thing is so played out…in the first 5 minutes!  3D opening credits show slow motion with things coming at you all through shattered glass. Yawn.  A hammer. A prosthetic arm. A skull. A tire. A Metal Rod. Yawn. A brick.  By the start of the movie, the 3D is totally on your nerves.  Save 4-5 bucks by seeing Final 5 in 2D.

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If I ever have a premontion about Death’s Design, you best follow me on Twitter @leoquinones.  Cuz, when I get that eerie vision, I will certainly Tweet about it & quite possibly save your life.

Thank me later,



Rise of the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

If you’re looking to compare 1968’s “Planet of the Apes” with “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” don’t even bother.  The former from 43 years ago is a crowning achievement of the Science Fiction genre.  Astronauts from Earth crash land on a planet ruled by apes.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is set in present day San Francisco.  Will Rodman (James Franco) is a scientist who’s desperately scrambling to discover a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease through genetic therapy.   The experimental drugs are used on chimp apes & gorillas.

People will remember this movie for Ceasar (Andy Serkis).  The motion capture performance by Serkis adds a dimension of reality never before seen in a film.  This chimp shows every emotion from sorrow, happiness, fear & of course rage. Extremely well done special effects by WETA.

The tone of this film is dark & grows darker with each act.  There’s a spotlight on animal cruelty which automatically puts you on the sides of the apes.  The abuse is simply captivity.  These beasts should be in the wild & not locked up in rusty cages.  As the movie progresses, the friction between humans & apes escalates.

As you see in the movie’s trailer, the apes escape, revolt & run rampant through the streets of San Francisco.  The movie is thought-provoking & well made. It is worth seeing.  But for me personally, I prefer the Charlton Heston version.

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To heighten drama, medical advances are catapulted forward at lightning speed.  Crucial steps are missed & experimental drugs fall prey to corporate greed.

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