Of all the actors in the history of Hollywood, Tom Cruise could very well be the only one who has been the star of two ongoing movie franchises. His first franchise is the Mission Impossible movies that started 20 years ago and now consists of 5 movies, the 6th will be coming out sometime next year or in 2018. His next series is Jack Reacher and is about several books written by Lee Child about a retired and highly decorated military officer who is now a drifter. What is rather far fetched is how a drifter can get involved with so many highly dangerous criminals and situations, but then again these books are a work of fiction.
This new movie “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” is mostly a chase movie. There is nothing wrong with a chase movie, as long as it is done right and makes sense. The people being chased around are mostly Jack Reacher and his military friend played by Cobie Smulders and then they are united with a 15-year-old girl, played by Danika Yarosh. Of course, there are fight scenes, several of them, but nothing too different than what we have already seen in the first Jack Reacher movie that came out in 2012.
This movie is on a par with the last Jack Reacher movie and I would think that the continuing franchise of Reacher movies was not hurt by this latest film. This movie has far more chase scenes than the first one, and overall probably less fight scenes. The good parts of this film are the acting and special effects, the bad parts have to do with some of the convoluted logic in the story line and in some of the scenes; including once scene where Reacher and his friend leave a 15-year-old girl alone in a hotel room, downright stupid logic in favor of a dramatic payoff later in the story. From the reviews of this movie, before I saw it today, I was expecting a better film and I found the story telling of adding pieces to different scenes using too many flashbacks as the plot progressed, rather annoying over the course of a two-hour movie. For that main reason, I only give a mild recommendation to Jack Reacher, Never Go Back.
Prior to the year 1988 when the film Die Hard came out, it was almost unheard of that any TV star was ever able to break out of being famous for a TV show – Bruce Willis in Moonlighting, and then transition to being a movie star. Bruce Willis was probably the first actor to ever break out of being a TV star and he definitely did this faster than any actor in history. Around this same time, Tom Hanks did the same thing but in a different way and his transition took much longer than Bruce Willis having started in the TV series Bosom Buddies in 1982.
What was so great about the movie Die Hard is that it was the first “believable action” movie where the main character is a regular person engaging in an impossible situation but the situations that he was in and then survived were not so over the top that they were not believable. The Terrorist attack in the Nakatomi Tower building where John McClane, played by Willis meets his wife was very believable. The action and the acting that followed was also very believable. The fights were awkward and what you would expect a fight to be in real life. McClane gave as well as he got and was hurt himself in many cases, unlike over the top of action films where the lead actor has such an easy time beating up everyone in sight. I cannot remember any movie before or since that had this level of believability within a story that had this many fight scenes and gunplay. For me, the best part of this entire film was the friendship that happened over the phone between McClane and Sgt. Al Powell, played by Reginald VelJohnson and their meeting at the end of the film, which was one the best and emotional of any action movie I have ever seen. The late actor Alan Rickman was also outstanding in his role as the lead terrorists and he played this particular level of evil in this movie better than any actor I have ever seen. Alan Rickman is one actor who will be very sorely missed by everyone.
When Die Hard 2 came out in 2 years later, I thought at the time that in some ways this movie was even better than the first one. What it lacked was believability because the action scenes were not on the level of the first movie where McClane was barely surviving but believable. In this movie, John McClane seemed more like a super-hero than the everyman he was in the first film. Some of the action scenes in this movie were both over the top but very entertaining, including where McClane ejects from a plane to escape being blown up and the scene where he fights several terrorists all who have machine guns and kills them with just a pistol. This scene is another example where the believability factor in the first movie was removed from this scene in favor of extremely entertaining action. Regardless, Die Hard 2 was a very good movie and one of the rare times when a sequel was as good if not better than the first movie.
Unfortunately as always happens with a movie franchise that makes a lot of money, producers only care about making more money and do not care if they have a great script. The 3rd Die Hard came out in 1995 and it was called Die Hard with a Vengence, and it starred Samuel L. Jackson’s as an ordinary citizen named Zeus Carter, who gets involved with McClane in what turned out to be a ridiculous plot of riddles and McClane and Zeus running around New York City. Very surprisingly the 4th movie in the series, Live Free or Die Hard was relatively good, starring Justin Long who gets paired up with Willis in another terrorist plot. This movie was far-fetched but some of the action scenes were the best of the entire series.
Unfortunately, the fifth and hopefully final Die Hard movie “A Good Day to Die Hard” was a very bad movie which probably ruined the franchise for good. This movie came out in 2013 and since that time it seems that Bruce Willis has been making mostly very bad B movies, which shows how harsh the movie industry really is and once you have a huge bomb, you may just never get another chance to revive your career. Why or how a movie this bad, which had such a bad screenplay was ever made is part of the problem of embedded profits because of name recognition over quality. This is a mistake I have seen made many times over the years.
If you have not seen Die Hard or Die Hard 2 you owe it to yourself to see 2 of the best action movies ever made.
There should be a massive study of the film industry in Hollywood. As a screenwriter who has written several screenplays, I knew from day one the extremely low odds of ever breaking into the movie industry as a screenwriter. I also know how difficult it is to write a 100-page quality screenplay that follows the paradigm that film producers want and also follows the exact syntax that screenwriting agents in the movie industry expect. All screenwriters hear about the thousands of screenplays that are written every year and how so many are so quickly rejected and never even read by anyone. There are screenwriting contests where people have a remote chance at winning a screenwriting contest that one would hope to somehow break them into this impossible field. Other than that, its just pure luck or contacts that might give you that 1 in a million miracle opportunity.
Then a movie like “Max Steel” makes it to movie theaters and a major sense of disbelief sets in almost immediately as you sit through this mess of two wasted hours. When you consider the extremely long odds for any script, how could a screenplay this bad ever be greenlighted into a movie? On top of this, how can two well-respected actors like Maria Bello and Andy Garcia be in this terrible film? Was it because of favors they owed? Were they having financial problems? Were they worried that if they don’t work often enough, producers might forget about them? How much were they paid for this embarrassingly bad movie? Perhaps this movie was made because Max Steel is owned by Mattel as some kind of a toy and they thought that it had a ready-made audience, so they just slapped any horrible script together, thinking that it really didn’t make any difference if the story was any good.
Within any movie, there is a story and most especially for a science fiction film technology has to be explained as well as the story or at least make some sort of sense. This movie made no sense. Nothing was explained. There is a young man about 17 who had a genius father who died, who started a technology company that created some sort of liquid energy and then for reasons completely unknown, there are aliens who become involved, or his father is an alien, and then there is this robot bat-like creature who follows the young man around to help him absorb his energy bursts so he doesn’t explode. Believe it or not, this is the plot of this terrible movie. The young man is played by newcomer, Ben Winchell and overall there is nothing wrong with his acting in this horrible movie, but the screenplay is so bad none of this matters. His girlfriend is played by the only bright spot in this film, Ana Villafañe who looks like she might have a very promising career in the movie industry and is currently on Broadway in “On your Feet”, the musical about Gloria Estefan and her husband. Unfortunately, she is on screen only a few times, not nearly enough to rescue this nightmare of 2 hours. One last thing that makes this movie especially bad is that the main character at certain points along with Andy Garcia are able to transform themselves into a metal suit that is a total rip off of the Iron Man franchise. The suit even had a light in the middle of its chest like Iron Man. How they were able to get away with this, who knows.
In my opinion, Max Steel is one of the worst movies of 2016, along with the “The Lobster”, which is also reviewed in this blog. How this movie was even released to anything but a DVD as a B movie is amazing. Someone must have made a mistake somewhere because this movie is at best a low-level B or C movie and should be missed.