Sketchley's Translations Main Index
By AARON SKETCHLEY (aaronsketch@HOTdelete_thisMAIL.com) Ver 1.10 2022.04.28

Action Film Reviews


Charlie's Angels

Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle

Enter the Dragon

Free Guy

Lethal Weapon

Lethal Weapon 2

Lethal Weapon 3

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Mask Of Zorro

The Matrix

The Matrix Reloaded

The Matrix Revolutions

The Animatrix

Minority Report
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
True Lies

Charlie's Angels

2 stars

Release date: 2000
Written by: Ryan Rowe, Ed Solomon, John August
Directed by: McG
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.04.24
Natalie Cook, Dylan Sanders, and Alex Munday are secret agents working for Charlie, a rich millionaire funding an elite crime fighting team of private investigators. After foiling the bombing of an airline in a rather over the top, high risk—but extremely high adrenaline sequence—that leaves the fate of the rest of the passengers on the plane in doubt, the Angels are assigned to investigate the kidnapping of a computer programmer. Natalie's hunch on who is behind the kidnapping ultimately proves correct, but the film doesn't dwell on that at all.

In a word it is a fun, but ultimately inconsequential film. There is a moment at the start of the film where it hints that it'll be about something more—perhaps satirizing other movies based on old TV shows—but almost instantly, the film turns the action up to 11, and doesn't let off the gas for pretty much the rest of its run time. The plot is barely enough to string along the action scenes, as there are a couple of points where there's not even enough of that, and things just jump ahead.

The highlight of the film is the music (is it any surprise that the director is a former music video director?) Whatever your opinion on it, the film got me tapping my feet along to music that I don't like nor ordinarily listen to. That says something, doesn't it? Nevertheless, this film has most of the reasons why we go to the theatre: action, beautiful people living larger than life, and well choreographed sequences—ranging from fights to dance numbers. Turn off your critical thinking, sit back, and go!

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Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle

1.5 stars

Release date: 2003
Written by: John August, Cormac Wibberley, Marianne Wibberley
Directed by: McG
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.05.11
Someone is after the pair of special rings that can display the people in the US Justice Department's witness protection program. Natalie Cook, Dylan Sanders, and Alex Munday—the titular Charlie's Angels—are dispatched to retrieve the rings. The complication is that Dylan is also in that protection program, and the mysterious thief has released her ex-boyfriend Seamus O'Grady, who has vowed to get revenge on Dylan for putting him in jail.

It'd be easy to sum up this film as 'more of the same'. However, unlike the first film, Full Throttle isn't as clearly plotted, has scenes with wildly different pacing, and has a couple of illogical jumps where it's not clear how the characters wound up where they are at the end of the preceeding sequence. On the other hand, when the performers are cut loose from the wires, there is an intensity in the fight scenes that we haven't really seen in Hollywood movies since the 80's.

The film brings back the more memorable characters from the first film—while the Thin Man is underused, it's great fun learning his origins. Bearnie Mac, as Bosley, is a great addition, but his brand of comedy can't really compete with the rest of the film, and it makes Bill Murrey's departure from the series more obvious. The film's saving grace is the expressions of pure joy on the 3 stars—they had A LOT of fun making this film, and it shows.

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Enter the Dragon

stars

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Free Guy

2.5 stars

Release date: 2021
Written by: Matt Lieberman, Zak Penn
Directed by: Shawn Levy
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2022.04.28
Guy is an NPC in Free City, an online video game released by Soonami Studio that is a cross between Fortnite and Grand Theft Auto V. The game's players are distinguished from NPCs by the sunglasses that they wear. Unaware that they live in a video game, Guy and the other NPCs are practically oblivious to the chaos caused by players as they live their scripted lives. Guy works as a bank teller with his best friend, security guard Buddy. Game developers Millie Rusk and Walter McKey had created a game with a unique AI technique for its NPCs. The game was bought by Soonami. Now unemployed, Millie is spending her time playing Free City hoping to find evidence that the Soonami CEO Antwan Hovachelik stole her game's source code and developed Free City off of it. Walter is sympathetic, but as he now works for Soonami, he cannot help her because of an NDA. After Millie's avatar Molotov Girl catches Guys attention by singing his favourite song, he begins deviating from his programming, shocking Buddy when he stands up to a player robbing their bank, and leaves, taking the player's sunglasses with him. Now able to access the players' view of the game, Guy tracks down Molotov Girl. Thinking that Guy is a novice player, she advises him to level up. Guy rapidly progresses by benevolently completing missions, soon standing out to other players and becoming a worldwide sensation referred to as "Blue Shirt Guy". Concurrently, Walter discovers what Guy really is—not only proof of Antwan's theft, but that he may be the first sentient AI—and starts helping Millie. However, Guy has also attracted the attention of Antwan, who wants to boot Guy out of his game, by any means necessary!

It wouldn't be a stretch to say that Free Guy is a PG-13 cross between Deadpool and Wreck It Ralph. Ryan Renolds is both mesmerizingly funny as well as extremely sympathetic as a man attempting to break free of his limits, but also highly constrained by the world he lives in. It has shades of The Truman Show, but lacks that film's emotional impact as Free Guy is more focused on the comedy and counter-intuitive nature of multiplayer video games. This film speaks volumes when it cuts between a player's avatar and the person actually playing the game. In some ways, the film is a critique of how badly people behave in those kinds of games.

The main problem with Free Guy is that it is rather too niche. Unlike other films with protagonists caught in an artificial world—such as The Truman Show, or The Matrix—if the viewer isn't aware of what goes on in multiplayer games, some of the concepts and many of the references to in-game phenomenon may be lost. That said, if you are up to speed, this film is a fun, thrilling ride. It is also extremely well done, with great acting and top-notch visual effects. Alas, the story suffers from tending to get lost in tangents, as well as being too close to thematically similar films, such as The Truman Show. That said, the highlight is Taika Waititi's scenery chewing as Antwan. His mercurial CEO with the power to fire people on the spot adds greatly to the unpredictability once his character shows up. Is it just me, or does his fashion sense mimic that of the character skins in games like Fortnite?

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Lethal Weapon

stars

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Lethal Weapon 2

stars

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Lethal Weapon 3

stars

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Mad Max: Fury Road

4 stars

Release date: 2015
Written by: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nico Lathouris
Directed by: George Miller
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.01.11 (revised: 2021.10.12)
Max Rockatansky is captured by Immortan Joe's militia, imprisoned, and used as a "blood bag" for Nux, one of Joe's sick soldiers. Concurrently, Imperator Furiosa, one of Joe's drivers, is sent on a supply run to pick up gasoline from a neighbouring settlement in the wastelands of the Mad Max world. However, she diverts course and heads out into the desert. Joe realizes that his five wives are missing and that Furiosa has them. He rapidly assembles his forces—including Nux with Max strapped to Nux's car—and leads his army in pursuit to recapture his five wives. The chase is on!

The action in this movie literally starts from the very first scene, and—aside from a handful of very short interludes in the middle—doesn't let up until the very end. Pretty much everything takes place on heavily modified vehicles racing through sun blasted, dry and dusty desert wasteland. The movie doesn't even take its foot off the accelerator for dialogue, and what we slowly glean about the origins and motivations of the characters comes during one intense sequence after another.

Despite the film being set in cars and trucks racing through the desert either attacking or fending off attacks, the film is neither monotonous nor repetitive. Each vehicle, each driver, and each battle is unique, with subsequent stunts and sequences topping the preceding ones. Nevertheless, despite the limited dialogue, the film has a lot to say about a bunch of issues. In the process, it highlights a range of issues and shows the potential outcomes of each, but leaves it up to the viewer to fill in the rest.

This is one of those rare films that sucks you into its reality, and its intensity keeps you glued to the screen for the next 2 hours. If you haven't seen it yet, you are in for a real treat of an action movie. However, take note that it's unrelenting intensity makes it the kind of film that Roger Ebert would have dubbed a 'Bruised Forearm' movie!

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The Mask Of Zorro

4 stars

Release date: 1998
Written by: John Eskow, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Directed by: Martin Campbell
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2016.05.15 (revised 2021.04.04)
Alejandro Murietta, his brother Joaquin, and Three-Fingered Jack successfully pull off a robbery, but are stopped by Captain Harrison Love—who captures Jack and kills Joaquin. Alejandro, who had saved Zorro's life with his brother when they were children, is drinking away his grief and plotting vengeance against Harrison when he encounters Don Diego de la Vega, the original Zorro. Diego prevents Alejandro from making an attempt on Harrison's life, as he is drunk out of his mind at the time. Alejandro agrees to accept Diego's training to be able to take revenge without dying in the process. However, Diego himself is out for vengeance against Don Rafael Montero—the man who killed Diego's wife, took his baby daughter Elena with him back to Spain, and left Diego to rot in a California jail. Rafael is also Harrison's boss, and is plotting to steal what is now California back from General Santa Anna, who captured it from Spain 20 years earlier.

This is a surprisingly engaging film. It has an excellent blend of interesting and well depicted characters, fast paced action, and many other hallmarks of Dir. Martin Campbell's films. Namely character growth and development, excellent visual design, and well defined villains and henchmen—the henchmen were all distinct enough that I always knew who I was looking at, and what their motivations are.

The intertwined revenge stories of the old and new Zorros provides a great motivation for the heroes, as well as putting them into deliciously conflicted situations as the film progresses. Most importantly, it helps keep the plot clear and unmuddled for the viewer. It also puts an interesting spin on the title of the movie—the mask being greater than any one man, and is as much a curse as it is a blessing.

Perhaps the greatest thing about the movie is the villains—they are just the right blend of classic movie villain badness, and are the kind that you love to hate. An interesting dimension to them is that their social class (or lack their of) plays a role in their actions, as well as how they treat those around and under them. It's not exactly subtle, but it is easy to overlook. James Horner's music is also another highlight. The score adds quite a bit to the movie, without being intrusive or distracting.

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The Matrix

3.5 stars

Release date: 1999
Written by: The Wachowskis
Directed by: The Wachowskis
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.12.26
Thomas Anderson, aka Neo, is a computer programmer by day, and hacker at night. He is intrigued by online references to "the Matrix". He is contacted by Trinity, who tells him that a man named Morpheus has the answers he's seeking. Agents, who apparently work for the government, are searching for Neo and show up at his workplace. Morpheus contacts Neo and attempts to lead him to safety, but as that involves dangling outside a skyscraper, he decides to surrender himself. The Agents try to coerce Neo into helping them find Morpheus, however Neo refuses. The Agents, on the other hand, take that in stride and 'bug' him in a nightmarish way. Neo wakes up, believing it was just a nightmare. Soon after, Trinity takes Neo to meet Morpheus. En route, she removes the 'bug', proving that the nightmare was real, greatly alarming Neo. Morpheus offers Neo a choice: a red pill that will reveal the truth about the Matrix, or a blue pill to forget everything and return to his former life. Neo takes the red pill, and his reality begins distorting and then is suddenly wrenched away as he finds himself in a truly astounding place.

The Matrix challenges us with the question: "what if what we perceive as reality, isn't?" While the movie's revelation of the true reality is intriguing, it is also not developed sufficiently enough to satisfyingly explain the "why" things became the way they are. Nevertheless, it is the fuel for some great action sequences, and a near-future reality where most people live in virtual reality, and any needed skill can be almost instantly downloaded into your head. The film wisely only paints the broad strokes of how the conflict between people and the machines started and the current state of the world, leaving it up to the viewer's imagination. It also presents a challenging argument on the dangers of AI.

The strength of The Matrix is it's seamless special effects, interpretation of virtual reality, and religio-philosophical undertones—not to mention the film's shots;their compositions, the camera angles and movements, and so on. The weak point, on the other hand, is the thinness of characterization. While we learn about the protagonists and see them grow, the film doesn't really bother with such things as the apparent romantic relationship between Neo and Trinity, or the effects of the loss of everything you've grown up with, and the sudden shock of severing your relationship with everybody that you know. Nevertheless, the highlight is Hugo Weaving's performance as Agent Smith. While the setting and protagonists make movies fun and interesting, it's the villains that tend to make or break these kinds of films. And what a treat of a villain he has given us!

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The Matrix Reloaded

stars

Release date:
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Review by: Aaron Sketchley
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The Matrix Revolutions

stars

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The Animatrix

stars

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Review by: Aaron Sketchley
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Minority Report

stars

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Review by: Aaron Sketchley
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Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

3 stars

Release date: 2003
Written by: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.09.16
Will Turner is an orphaned blacksmith's apprentice in Port Royal. He is in love with Elizabeth Swann, the daughter of Governor Weatherby Swann. She likes Will, however, due to her family's position, she is destined to be betrothed to Norrington, an officer in the Royal Navy. Jack Sparrow comes to Port Royal to steal a boat in his quest to recapture the Black Pearl—his former ship that was lost when it's crew, under the command of Barbossa, mutinied and left Jack for dead on a deserted island. Jack is captured, escapes, and is recaptured in short order. That night, Barbossa and the Black Pearl attack Port Royal and kidnap Elizabeth. Will, frustrated by Norrington's slow response, makes a deal with Jack to rescue Elizabeth. He frees Jack, and together they steal a boat to catch the Black Pearl, with the Royal Navy hot on their heels.

Black Pearl is an interesting twist on the traditional pirate movie. Instead of pirates trying to find treasure, they are trying to return it to lift a curse. Instead of a scary brute gnashing his teeth, the anti-hero is arguably more drunk than sober, and either has the best luck, or is truly skilled and hides it all under a vernier of intoxication. One suspects that the truth is somewhere in the middle. The film is loaded with snappy dialogue and unexpected plot twists—even Jack's fellow characters muse on where his allegiances truly lie—and moves along at a fair clip. However, the sword fighting tends to get old fast, and the further into the film the less we need to see of it. That's not to say that there are a few unexpected surprises in the third act ("Gents, take a walk.") However, the film seems to have used up most of its creativity in the choreography of the very first sword fight between Jack and Will, and what follows is fairly stock in trade.

While we go to these films to see the good (Will) defeat the bad (Barbossa) and get the girl (Elizabeth), the highlight of the film is Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow. He is a heretofore original character, purportedly based on Keith Richards of all people. The character was so great, that it is one of only three to appear in all five Pirates of the Caribbean films (the others being Barbossa and Jack's First Mate Gibbs). In addition to Depp's over-the-top performance, the character remains an enigma throughout the film, with his shifting loyalties and apparently changing goals. In the end we can't help but cheer for this scoundrel who may—or may not—have his heart in the right place.

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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

2.5 stars

Release date: 2006
Written by: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.10.02
Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann's wedding is halted with the arrival of Lord Cutler Beckett, who promptly arrests the pair for assisting Jack Sparrow's escape in the preceding movie. However, Beckett is after bigger things: he promises to free Elizabeth if Will brings him Jack's magical compass. Meanwhile, Jack is on a quest to find a key to a mysterious chest. His crew on the Black Pearl infer that it is treasure, but Jack knows that it is for something far, far more valuable. One night, he is visited by Bootstrap Bill Turner—Will's father, and a crewman on Davy Jones's Flying Dutchman—who informs Jack that his deal with Jones has concluded, and Jack must either join the Flying Dutchman or be taken to Davy Jones' Locker by the Kraken. Fearing both fates, he orders the Black Pearl to the nearest landmass at speed. Concurrently, Elizabeth's father, Governor Swann, helps his daughter escape from prison. Before she can board a ship to England, Beckett's henchmen discovers the plot and captures Governor Swann. However, Elizabeth disappears, with her own plans to find Will and regain their freedom.

This film takes a bit of time to get up to speed, but once it does, it does a pretty decent job of recapturing a lot of the zany energy of the first film. However, it never gets as good as Curse of the Black Pearl. For starters, Jack is far less unpredictable—who he is allied with, what his ultimate goal is, etc.—which takes some of the mystery, fun and anticipation out of the story. The film is overlong: in my opinion, the whole side story with the cannibals could probably have been removed, thereby making the film not only shorter, but stronger. In fact, that sequence comes across more than a tad bit racist against the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean islands. There's also something a little off about Keira Knightley's Elizabeth Swann, too. While characters should evolve and grow from their experiences, it's almost like she has become a fundamentally different person. This and the other problems may be more due to the script being unfinished when they started filming, then the creative choices of the actors.

On the other hand, Bill Nighy's performance as Davy Jones is the highlight of the film. While what we see is arguably entirely computer generated, his performance comes through strongly. Not only that, Nighy gives the character an unexpected wealth of unique characteristics, in addition to a unique Scottish accent that apparently takes into consideration that Davy Jones doesn't have a nose! Also, it's great fun seeing a lot of characters return from the first film—Joshamee Gibbs, Pintel and Ragetti are particularly welcome. However, it's rather disappointing that Jonathan Price's Governor Swann is underused and is effectively little more than a footnote in the film. That said, if you enjoyed Curse of the Black Pearl, you will enjoy this film.

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Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

1 stars

Release date: 2007
Written by: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.10.22
Lord Cutler Beckett is executing anyone who has associated with pirates—all in an effort to compel the nine pirate lords to convene and hold the Brethren Court so he can wipe them all out in one fell swoop. Because Jack Sparrow is one of the nine lords and he never named his successor, Will Turner, Elizabeth Swann, Hector Barbossa and the survivors of the Black Pearl have to rescue Sparrow from Davy Jones' Locker (a kind of limbo between heaven and hell). They do this by travelling to Singapore to steal a map from Captain Sao Feng that not only leads to Davy Jones' Locker, but also explains how to escape from it once you're in it. However, Feng has made a deal with Beckett to exchange the film's antiheroes for his freedom. Concurrently, Turner is plotting to free his father Bootstrap Bill Turner from the Flying Dutchman, Davy Jones's ship. Swann is out to get revenge for the murder of her father, and Barbossa has his own schemes. Sparrow, as always, is also planning something.

To describe this film as convoluted would be an understatement. While it would have been more than enough to continue and conclude the incomplete plot threads from Dead Man's Chest, this film throws in a slew of new characters and new complications. In many ways, that is to this film's detriment. For example, the wonderful villain Davy Jones is sidelined for most of this film, and only truly reappears in the last act. Instead, we get the entirely despicable Becket and his manservant Theodore Groves. These are not fun villains that you love to hate. On top of that, the Kraken—the monstrous squid-like beast that Davy Jones could summon at will to devour his enemies and was the biggest fear in Dead Man's Chest—is unceremoniously killed-off off screen and its fate revealed in a throwaway line!

Overall, the film is bloated and overlong. A good 30 minutes could be trimmed from it (especially in the "climactic" finale) and make it into a stronger film. Did they, for example, have to shoehorn an impromptu wedding ceremony in the middle of the pitched battle in the finale? We know that Turner and Swann love each other, but did they have to be married before Turner's ultimate fate is revealed? Couldn't that have happened afterwards in one of the film's multiple codas? Nevertheless, the highlight of the film is the surprise appearance of Keith Richards. While it could have been a one shot cameo, the appearance is quite substantial, and not only moves the film forward, but provides an amusingly fun glimpse into Sparrow's background. Interestingly, among all the actors who portray pirates in the film, Richards is the one who nails it.

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True Lies

3 stars

Release date: 1994
Written by: James Cameron
Directed by: James Cameron
Review by: Aaron Sketchley
Reviewed on: 2021.04.19
Harry Tasker is a secret agent in Omega Sector, a top secret US intelligence agency. He is also a family man often away on business trips. The complication is that his wife and daughter know nothing of his real job—as Tasker has been lying and telling them that he is a computer salesman. Harry infiltrates a party in Switzerland where he and his team learn of a terrorist group plotting to smuggle four stolen Russian nuclear warheads into the US, and threaten the destruction of entire cities unless their demands are met. Things are further complicated when Harry learns that his wife is having an affair, and he temporarily diverts the resources of his agency to investigating that!

True Lies is a classic James Cameron/Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie. It has all the things one wants in a James Cameron film—smooth action scenes, thrilling stunts, plenty of explosions, as well as great female characters that are either on par with or greater than their male costars. One of the highlights is how much characterization is imbued into each character, how well the actors fit their roles, and the character growth each one experiences.

However, the drawback is the central act of the film where the protagonist essentially kidnaps and interrogates his wife. While there is an echo of that later in the film—when the wife questions the protagonist while he is under the influence of a truth serum—the questions the film allows her to ask are no where near as intrusive and uncomfortable. In fact, while the film grills the wife about her marital fidelity, it completely ignores that the protagonist may have (and probably has) had to have relations with the opposite sex to complete his missions.

Giving the film the benefit of the doubt, it does try to delve into the complexity of a couple who has been married for long enough to have lost the spark in their relationship and are more-or-less cohabiting. In its own way, it brings up the awkwardness and uncomfortable feelings when a couple reaches that state. Nevertheless, part of the film's fun is seeing Arnold as a jealous husband, and in some ways it is a joy seeing him (and later his wife, too) give the 'other man' his comeuppance. Nevertheless, stay focused on the couple in their final dance number when the camera pulls away—it'll explain why the tango at the beginning of the film was filmed from the waist up!

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