Surrogates Again


bee-strung surrogates Young Bruce Replicant!

It’s been ten years since one of the most clever and intriguing films about Artificial Intelligence in the future came out. Surrogates deserves another look because so little has superseded its message and style.

All the robotic replicants have bee-stung pouts.

This was another in a series of highly intelligent films made by Bruce Willis in the sci-fi mode. It may be the best of the lot.

Set in Boston in 2054, it tells of an era when the Supreme Court has allowed surrogate robots to replace you in daily work and routines while you lounge in a control seat.

You will be a fat slob, aging and ugly, but your surrogate will be a beautiful toy of whatever gender you choose. So, all the day-to-day people in the film are stunning and stiff, wrinkle-removed and smooth skinned. What’s amazing is that Bruce Willis looks like Baby Jane Hudson-young with his blond locks and handsome young physique.

We could not figure out whether he needed more makeup and special effects to be his middle-aged self, or his young replicant self.

He plays an FBI agent who must investigate the murders of surrogates and their masters—but he has to become a true gumshoe and go out on the street as his old self to do it, despite the agony and stress of being out in the “real world”. He constantly surprises his beautiful partner cop (Rahda Mitchell).

The notion that AI will legalize identity replicants is not so far-fetched, and the hilarious satiric barbs at “loaners,” and other modern problems is delightful. Intermeshed here is a murder mystery.

Yes, there is an obligatory and over-the-top car chase through the streets of Boston, though we have no idea how they did it in reality, so we presume it was all faked.

And the climax in which all surrogate replicants must be deactivated is a delight to see as they literally fall in place around Boston. It was a pleasant, summery diversion during an ice storm in Boston.







Death Wish 45 Years Later

DATELINE: Willis Versus Bronson

 death 3

Bruce Willis is every bit as good as Charles Bronson in the remake of the classic Brian Garfield story. But, the movie is less about vigilantes this time and more about revenge.

A new version of Death Wish, 2018, seems like yesterday’s headlines.

If you want to match up Willis versus Bronson, you may be making the wrong comparison. Both are brilliant in the role of Paul Kersey, though Bronson always seemed more dangerous than smarmy.

Taking the law into his own hands, Paul Kersey is back for a new generation, armed with smartphones, video surveillance, and automatic weapons on every city block.

The more things change, the worse it becomes in American society. Indeed, the media chorus in the movie keeps telling us that Chicago is a murderous city. The senseless cruelty seems on a par with fifty years ago.

Gun control is a joke in 1974 and is a punchline now.

The 1970s might seem like a placid time next to today’s weekly shoot’em ups. However, the movie stays with the split-screen approach to story-telling that was the rage in the 1970s. We have a definite throwback movie here.

This time Bruce Willis has a brother (Vincent D’Onofrio) as a foil, but the police exasperation is partly admiration for the Grim Reaper’s work. You know the police will never convict, nor apprehend Paul Kersey, though the 1970s movies better explained why they let him get away.

When Willis shoots the bad guys, you still have the urge to commend the vigilante killer and excuse gun control as a bad idea. This time Kersey is a top-notch big city surgeon, obviously dedicated to life-saving. Bronson’s Kersey was a big business architect.

He has his eyes opened even with his father-in-law (Len Cariou in a delightful cameo) and with the commissioner of police (Stephen McHattie, a long-ago familiar face).

The shoot out is a stand off.

Super Dooper Looper Scooper

DATELINE:  Old Meets New!

like son, like son

Well, if you asked us to watch a futuristic sci-fi adventure about time traveling assassins in the 2040s with an old star teamed up with or against a new star, you might think we would tune in to see the sequel to Blade Runner. Nope, instead we found ourselves in an endless loopy movie.

From the past of 2012, Looper has all the elements you’d expect: the old star is Bruce Willis who has a fairly good track record of finding unusual, if not intriguing science fiction films. The young star is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whose allure remains hypnotic but incomprehensible.

In this particular pastiche of all your favorite movies, Gordon-Levitt underwent hours of makeup each day in order to look like a young version of Bruce Willis, down to the mannerisms.

The result is that Gordon-Levitt looks like something quite odd, but not at all like himself, our favorite young actor. Instead, he turns into Keanu Reeves!

If the director wanted to make an early version of the John Wick saga, he cast the actor to rival Reeves.

The notion of the plot has something to do with a younger hired gun (a looper) in the 2040s who must assassinate his old self from the future. Alas, the old fox (Willis) is smarter than the young idiot (Gordon-Levitt), and a merry chase is on.

If anyone thinks a pack of bad guys can stop Bruce Willis, they haven’t seen any Die Hard movies.

Along the way the movie turns into a semi-mixed up film called The Terminator with Willis out to kill the future leader of a crime syndicate who happens to be 10-years old. Of course, said future villain also happens to be an expert in telekinesis, which turns the film into an over-baked film called The Omen.

You can take parts of all kinds of movies and toss them into a Hollywood crock pot, and out comes a crock of a movie.

Yes, to our endless shame, we enjoyed it.

Vice Squad Required




If you have a sense of “been there before” after seeing the first ten minutes of this movie, you would be accurate. It was called Westworld, Jurassic Park, or Fantasy Island, when it was the high rent district. Now the place is called Vice.

You can only tell inmates from paying customers by the little bracelet they wear. It’s a shiny brave new world for dolts. Turn left at The Outer Limits.

Yes, it’s one of those adult fantasy locales where clients can commit turpitude with impunity. This time the greedy owner and manager is Bruce Willis, playing Ricardo Montalban, playing Richard Attenborough. Usually Willis has a nose for selecting good sci-fi scripts, but he seems to have settled for the contempt of familiarity this time on the GPS of script locators.

Unrecognizable in his appearance as a jaded cop investigating the looney fantasy resort is Thomas Jane. He used to be a blond Mickey Mantle type, but in this film with his stringy long black hair he resembles Kurt Russell with toothpick in mouth and rasp in his throat. He misplaced his eyepatch.

It seems one of the androids has had memory bleed and escapes from the self-contained pleasure palace. Since she is a killing machine that doesn’t realize she’s a robot, you have a problem, Houston.

The movie is a glossy, mindless romp of violence, sex, and ersatz moral decline. The women are topless, and the men never take off their pants. It’s heterosexual fantasy time, according to PG standards. The real villains in this movie are the religious fundamentalists who want to close down any place where license is given to licentiousness.

You’d think this movie would be set in a Nevada desert where no one would care—but then you wouldn’t have a movie. For trivia enthusiasts, it’s Mobile, Alabama.

Everyone’s Face Should Be RED 2


Why did anyone want a sequel to the original comic adventure movie about retired CIA agents? We suppose it gave good salaries to its stars—Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovitch, and now in the sequel, to Tim Piggot-Smith, Anthony Hopkins, and Catherine Zeta-Jones, all along for the long in the tooth ride.

Maybe they just wanted to have fun. Well, if your cup of tea is mayhem, and what dizzy funsters those old assassins really can be, this is your movie.

We hate any movie that is like a cartoon. This one revels in it. The opening credits, and the montages between scenes, are actual morphing into cartoon versions of the action and stars. This is DC Comics writ big, but with geriatric superheroes.

We knew that our tolerance level would be pushed to the limit with this little doozy. Usually we do not review films that we know will win our enmity. Perhaps for a few seconds, we thought this little dismal comedy thriller would transcend the materials. Call us wrong.

Perhaps we thought the aging stars would be hilarious in off-the-wall mode. Nope.

How misguided we were to entertain the notion something good would come this way. This movie is putrid for its violence and cavalier dispatching of human life. We don’t find sociopathic killers among our favorite amusements. If that were the case, we’d be rooting for those laugh riot terrorists.

The film has excellent production values, easy to watch performances, and quick plotting. It’s not enough. Trust us when we say that lugubrious movies with ponderous arty plots, like You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet and Kill Your Darlings, may be excruciating in their pseudo-arty approach, but we will take an effort to say something important over an effort to use chaos as comic relief.

Big budget failures are the worst—because the money would have been better spent in a serious (or humorous) little film. Sure, the producers may have to pay for a vocal coach for Daniel Radcliffe, or security for Robert Pattinson, but if the movie has merit, we applaud the expense.

RED 2 should not inspire another RED. We’d rather have our stars go into genuine retirement than reprise these roles ever again.

A Good Day to Kill a Franchise


Good Old Bruce!

Bruce Willis has been on a roll for years, making interesting and off beat movies. Now he has returned to the franchise that made him a movie star, Die Hard and its endless sequels.

Unfortunately, with a world of bad guys to pick from, the movie takes the easy way out with non-political drama about Chernobyl (which Willis hilariously compares to Newark, New Jersey).

In terms of plot and character, Willis may as well be playing Molly Goldberg, the mother of the James Bond of Plainville, Jersey. His one-liners are the ultimate chicken soup antidote to the son’s spy problems. He complains repeatedly that he is only on vacation.

As usual, Bruce Willis as McClane has not lost his edge in killing bad guys with dispatch. It’s also hard to tell the bad guys from the worse guys when you’re in Mother Russia. No one knows or cares when you blow up stuff in Chernobyl.

If Willis is long in the tooth, he is making a cottage industry in movies like RED and RED 2 in playing old hard cases. Another hard old case Sylvester Stallone just fired Willis from Expendables 3 for being too greedy.

If you can take the endless noise and pointless shootouts, care chases and crashes, you may enjoy a few Willis bon mots. If this movie is meant to pass the torch to a new generation, let the larks bravely fly away.

Now that this is out of his system, we hope Bruce returns to the quirky stuff with real character and interesting story. We have had it watching 65-year-olds acting like teenagers on steroids.

The movie lost its appeal with overkill for the guy who kills bad guys.



You may enjoy MOVIE MASHUP or MOVIES TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE!  Both are available in softcover and ebook on

Off on a Wild Loop Chase

DATELINE: Movie Mashup

Looper echoes so many movies that one can be forgiven to find more parodies than used to be in twenty minutes of a Mel Brooks comedy.

From Casablanca and Field of Dreams, from North by Northwest to the Omen and dozens of other films, this odd patchwork sci-fi, time travel mob hitman flick probably wowed them in the pitch stage.

Two rather daring actors, Joseph Gordon-Levitz and Bruce Willis, play the same character. A victim is sent back in time to meet his death at the hands of his younger self. The reasons are too preposterous to enumerate.

Gordon-Levitz is almost unrecognizable with his own quirky good looks smothered by makeup that tries to imitate the facial features of Willis. About the only characteristic noteworthy is the smirk that required no prosthetics.

Since the older man thinks he knows what the younger will do and think, he is constantly finding his situation changed when the younger becomes impulsive to alter history.

The men are at odds because one has a life to live, and the other has a past to protect. This brings them into the orbit of a ten-year old boy with a demonic future ahead of him unless he is taken out. Yes, you saw this in the Boys from Brazil.

One character disparagingly states in the opening minutes that Joe is trying to too hard to imitate movies that are imitations of great movies. No truer words were ever said or copied from another movie.


A Second Time with the Expendables


If you want to see Senior Citizens running amok, this is your movie. That wonderful bunch of frat boys from the 1980s is back with a few new additions to the club. The first version charmed the action fans to death.

Thus, they have returned with more old stars. Stallone, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwazenegger, Jean Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, Dolph, Jet Li, and others, seem to be having too much fun, but the by-play and interplay is catnip to aging men who dream of the old days. This movie is funnier than watching the updated Three Stooges.

The only way you can tell the bad guys in this movie is by their anonymous blood spilled like cheap beer at a frat house party.

When the noise dies down to a din, you can enjoy those loveable tough guys bonding and trading insults. It almost makes you yearn for the days when they took these kinds of movies seriously.

Not now. Today it is nostalgic fun to see them still doing it, and it almost makes us want to revel in the moment because tomorrow may never come.

The Expendables are Stallone’s group of mercenaries who seem willing to do this stuff without pay. They take on villains in Third Worlds, usually sadistic drug dealers or tinplate dictators. They may have come together because doing such antics alone may require too much Ben-Gay and too many back braces.

If there is a plot, it fell into a big hole somewhere along the way of blowing up anything in their path. You just sit back with a movie like this and marvel at how the action heroes have aged just enough—and how much cosmetic special effects are needed to keep us guessing how old they really are.

If you are a certain age, you will love this movie without any encouragement. If you are too young to remember these stars in their prime, you need to sit down with your father (or grandfather) and watch the old boy come back to life as the movie unfolds.