The Short Game (400+)

The Short Game (2013)

“A flag-stick-bang hole-in-one.”

GRADE: A  (5/5 Stars)

by Richard Rey

The kids won’t back down and neither will director Josh Greenbaum in this look into the lives of some of the world’s greatest (and youngest) golfers. We follow eight of the 1,000+ players who compete at the 2012 U.S. Kids Golf World Championship, the most prestigious and widely recognized golf tournament for children eight and under, held annually in Pinehurst, NC. As the culture, education and personality of each contestant widely vary – the boys and girls are from South Africa, France, China, the Philippines and the U.S. respectively – not only are we inclined to cheer them on, but we have the rare privilege of acting as caddy-spectators as we learn about their family and lifestyles mostly on, but at times off the green. Indeed, it is an unexpectedly energetic golf movie that will spark new interest in the sport and which stands unflinchingly honest in its portrayal of the struggles of its players be they pint-sized or of full stature: work ethic, sacrifice, competition, confidence, patience and passion rule a world that makes Pop Warner and Little League seem like, well, like child’s play I suppose.

While the parents caddy, complain and push, these incredibly talented and intensely driven youngsters offer the fun, sophistication and attitude that all youth should assume in the world today. Even when facing adversity, their parents cringing at a missed birdie, or cursing a sandy bunker, these trophy-winning kids never seem to lose sight of the truth that they should “play hard but most importantly have fun.”

As for missing out on fun because of their obsession with the game, Allan Kournikova – younger brother of professional tennis player Anna Kournikova – puts it best, “I don’t feel like I’m giving up my childhood. Golf is my childhood.”

While the socioeconomic background of only one of the player’s is explicitly mentioned – that of world champion Amari “Tigress” Avery of Riverside, CA who stems from a middle-class family – one thing rings true throughout the entire affair: these kids love what they do, be they rich or poor. And because they love it, you’ll love it. Even in the midst of the surprisingly suspenseful climax, I found myself falling more in love with the sport they call golf than I ever have before. Each child is worth rooting for in their own way: be good, be kind, don’t ever get happy when someone played poorly. Sure, it’s idealistic, but these are the golden rules that will lead to a solidified future for generations to come and it’s a pleasant reminder of how we should probably be treating our each other.

Two thumbs up, way up to The Short Game and its energetic sensibility and sophistication in touching a niche of a niche subject matter that, in other, less skillful hands, would have wound up being a dull double-bogey about the lives of some kids who do something we could care less about. A flag-stick-bang hole in one.

MPAA: Rated PG for some language

Runtime: 90 min

Genre: Sports, Documentary

Director: Josh Greenbaum

Starring: Allan Kournikova, Zama “The Dreamer” Nxasana, Kuang Yang, Alexa Pano, Jedy “The Jedi” Dy, Augustin Valery, Sky Sudberry, Amari “Tigress” Avery, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Juan “Chi Chi” Rodriguez, Annika Sorenstam

Theatrical Release Date: September 20, 2013

Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films, Phase 4 Films

R.I.P.D. (400+)

R.I.P.D. (2013)

“Recycled, Men In Black rip-off.”

GRADE: D (2/5)

by Richard Rey

If the target audience of R.I.P.D. is third graders – then job well done. For those of us nine and up, this poorly made cartoony Men In Black rip-off is going to irritate more than entertain; the entire erroneous endeavor feels like a live-action Looney Tunes episode gone wrong – one where we want the anvil to drop on our own heads since a trip to the ER would provide more laughs and a much better story than this unoriginal piece of cliché that the studios thoughtlessly cranked out and then fought so hard to bury. Well, the word is out: not only is your daughter ugly, she’s boring and not funny. I should know – I took her out late last night and endured the 90 minutes of punishment.

The story kicks off when Boston Police Officer Nick (Ryan Reynolds) is murdered by his partner, Hayes (Kevin Bacon), for having a change of heart about some stolen gold the two Beantown coppers should’ve impounded as evidence during their last drug bust.  Time stops, or slows to a near halt, allowing for Nick to walk around and observe his own death and the devastation surrounding him – this being the one and only time the ridiculously pitter-patter pace of the movie gives us time to breathe and drink in the eye candy before us: a barrage of bullets, smoke and debris suspended in mid-air. And then a dark vortex sucks our confused protagonist into the depths of an office in Michael Jordan Space Jam like fashion (the only thing missing are the Warner Bros. “seeing stars” drawn in by the hands of Harman and Ising.) He’s confronted by a refreshingly sarcastic Mary Louise-Parker as the bossy superior who is quick to inform him of his death and the only option for avoiding eternal damnation – joining the Rest In Peace Department. (Apparently Fresca is the beverage of choice in the terrestrial mid-tier Hereafter – I’m sure Sprite is on tap at the pearly gates while 7up product placement decorates the walls and caverns of Hell.)

But the R.I.P.D. isn’t for everyone, no, in fact it’s a Purgatory whose posthumous recruitment system allows only for specially-trained crooked cops like Nick to serve out hundred year terms to redeem their flawed lifestyles had on Earth. Their job? To hunt down and incarcerate Dead-O’s, evil undead souls that manage to outwit Heaven’s judicial system and hide out on Earth in human form to avoid eternal damnation. Their modus operandi? Describing Indian cuisine from a handful of cards and a whole lot of curry to coax the creatures out of their human bodies to reveal their grotesquely disgusting features, all of which look shoddy and far too much like Celebrity Deathmatch claymation for a 3-D summer release in the year 2013.

Nick (the rookie undead cop) is paired with a 19th century veteran lawmen Roycephus “Roy” Pulsifer (Jeff Bridges) who all at once dismisses the former’s prior police work on Earth and belittles the already-defeated Reynolds at every turn. This type of chemistry destroys meth labs – this is no Will Smith/Tommy Lee combination nor is it the Lethal Weapon Mel Gibson/Danny Glover matchup the studio thought it might… maybe… possibly be. Instead we are left with a repellent duo who don’t get along, the younger of which has a look of confusion and repulse on his face throughout the entire idiotically manic space-gun misfire. Bridges’ marble-mouthed cowboy gunslinger isn’t all bad with his True Grit take on Roycephus (at least he looks like he’s having some fun). But with a script this unoriginal and whose best running joke involves the human avatars of both men – one an old Asian man (James Hong) and the other a leggy supermodel (Victoria’s Secret model Marisa Miller) – having daily run ins with earthlings who gawk at the latter, you can’t exactly expect the Oscar-winning actor to save the day.

What you can expect is to expect the expected. If this isn’t the biggest Men In Black rip-off ever, I don’t know what is. Turns out the stolen gold is linked to the Staff of Jericho that will re-open that black vortex from before and send the undead to reign upon the Earth forever and ever. Yes, yet another doomsday apocalyptic ending to save the world.

Trouble with all of this is, if Nick already had a huge change of heart and wanted to do the right thing – why end up in the R.I.P.D. to begin with? Ah, who cares? That seems to be the underlying attitude of the entire film – a half-assed bloated budget monstrosity whose undead creatures seem to poignantly reflect the filmmaker’s own slapdash efforts. With little more than terrible CGI marked by an underdeveloped storyline and stock characters to offer, we are left with an unsatisfying feeling of indifference. Incredibly, the movie can’t even manage to elicit the faintest emotional response from us since like the crew and actors involved, we frankly don’t give a damn; the opposite of love is indifference and the spring of apathy upon which this movie was conceived spills over and floods the silver screen for the duration of its 96 minute runtime. You didn’t care, so why should we? It is green, though, in the sense that it’s very eco-friendly, much like The Conjuring – recycled garbage seems to be this weekend’s box office trend.

The result of all of this cliché and mediocrity is a movie which probably never should have been a movie at all – in my notes I recall suggesting to the studio that they send flops like this straight to videogame rather than DVD or Blu-ray. Is it fun? Not really. Is it decent popcorn entertainment? Not so much. Is it worth a watch? Perhaps on cable or RedBox. Is there anything attractive about it? Not much besides Marisa Miller’s cleavage. Have I seen worse this year? Absolutely. Movie 43, The Host, and Broken City to name a few. Overall, R.I.P.D. is a barren effort that may very well bury the careers of some of the parties involved and isn’t worth your weekend or your ten year old’s allowance.

THE UPSIDE: It doesn’t ever take itself too seriously.

THE DOWNSIDE: It’s halfhearted filmmaking by director Robert Schwentke (RED, The Time Traveler’s Wife) and storyline are proof that this is just another unoriginal Hollywood mega-flop masquerading as something it’s not – Men In Black.

 

MPAA: Rated PG-13 for violence, sci-fi/fantasy action, some sensuality, and language including sex references

Runtime: 96 min

Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime, Sci-Fi

Director: Robert Schwentke

Writers: Matt Manfredi, Phil Hay

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Bacon

Theatrical Release Date: July 19th, 2013

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Despicable Me 2 (400+)

Despicable Me 2 (2013)

“It isn’t Despicable, but it is cute.”

GRADE: C

by Richard Rey

Love is in the air in Despicable Me 2 and that means a whole lot of cute; unfortunately, it also means a whole lot of disappointment for the adults that enjoyed the dark antics of Gru in the original animated feature. The beaky super-villain voiced by Steve Carell is reduced to the role of overprotective father and wifeless loner in this follow-up to the 2001 release – everyone is trying to set him up, even Agnes who has come to realize that life isn’t the same without a mom. Sadly, Gru has already completed his transformation as proud patriarch by the time the movie starts so that the only humor we’re left with is a lot of slapstick involving those affable gibberish-ranting yellow things we’ve come to love. And that spells death to the direction that Dreamworks was initially taking the well-received Despicable franchise. It also means life (and more screen time) for the Minions who, unsurprisingly, will have a release of their own in 2014 (Minions).

Yet, in spite of the fact that the extreme makeover to the Despicable franchise is done with the precision of some of Hollywood’s hottest animated surgeons (directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud) – who still manage to muster up an attractive summer flick – the bottom line is that the identity of the original is lost in translation. It’s almost as if we’ve arrived at the comedic battlegrounds too late to have witnessed the brunt of the laughs – not by hours but by weeks – which is extremely frustrating for fans since the world of Despicable 2 is a rainbow-pink daughterly scheme rather than the black palette of the children-hating baddie that we’ve grown so fond of.

This time around, Gru is recruited by the AVL  (the Anti-Villain League ) – an association dedicated to taking out the world’s worst super-villains – to find out which store owner at the local mall is involved in the creation of a serum that turns normal bunny rabbits into purple bloodthirsty eating machines. Backup comes in the form of a goofy female partner Lucy (Kristen Wiig) who geeks out over the newest spy gizmos at her disposal for solving the case. In the midst of all of the mayhem, we see Gru’s overprotective nature as a father kick in which becomes the best running joke of the film – especially when one of his little girls starts to fall in love with a local “heartbreaker”.

However recycled the plot may be (ex-baddie recruited by FBI/CIA/police/AVL to help solve a case), it still allows for the themes of family and love to be brought, once again, to the silver screen; one scene on an airplane rings particularly true to romance when Gru’s crush realizes she’s fallen for him and starts to see his awkward-looking mug in the very magazine she’s thumbing through.

While this Despicable isn’t really all that despicable, it does make for a fun time, especially for children who will laugh and cheer at the slapstick and clowning on screen – most of the humor is visual. Overall, it’s a much safer, family friendly film that is sure to please diehard fans who will get to revisit the characters they’ve already fallen in love with. Admittedly, it doesn’t stay true to the dark originality of its predecessor but with this much cute going on, most viewers won’t mind at all.

 

MPAA: Rated PG for rude humor and mild action

Run time: 98 min

Genre: Animated, Comedy

Director: Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud

Written By: Ken Daurio (screenplay), Cinco Paul (screenplay)

Starring: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt

Theatrical Release: July 3, 2013

Distributor: Universal Pictures 

The Call (DVD Review/400+)

THE CALL (DVD Review)

MOVIE GRADE: 2/5

DVD GRADE: 4/5

by Richard Rey

 

Call centers are the worst. I remember applying for a job at one in Idaho, nailing the meet and greet and then skipping out on the actual interview once I saw the looks of boredom plastered on the faces of the employees at that particular establishment. Until viewing this movie, I didn’t realize that the most exciting call centers and the most stressed out telemarketers are none other than the operators who answer 9-11 calls day in and day out. What a gig, especially if you’re working for the LAPD like veteran dispatcher Jordan Turner (Halle Berry, Monster’s Ball).

The suspense-thriller takes us into ‘The Hive’ – the area where these poor ‘worker bees’ sit at desks with headsets, taking call after call and deciphering what the hell is going on in order to respond to crimes that range anywhere from petty theft to first-degree murder, or, on occasion, a call dialed by the local schlub for a quick chat. Either way, this is not a job you want to have, but for the self-proclaimed emotionally detached Jordan, it’s all she knows. And, unfortunately for us, this is the most that we’ll get to know of the psychological effects that this sort of high-stress career can have on a person since our attention is diverted to only one of the 188 million emergency calls made annually.

When Jordan responds to a whimpering teenage girl, Leah (Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine), whose been kidnapped by one of those underwritten cliché psychopaths that Hollywood loves to put up on the big screen, her life will never be the same – and the blaringly obvious music tunes us into that. And just like that, rather than being taken down the less predictable path involving the deep desensitization that takes place in Jordan’s life as a responder, we’re dragged along frame by frame for what could be the most predictable wide release all year. Suspense/thriller is an unsuitable genre for this film considering 90% of the action takes place while the victim is in the trunk of a vehicle with the potential savior stuck miles away in a drabby-though-dressed-up office cubicle. So how quickly can things go wrong in a movie with this much bore potential? Quicker than you can dial the three digits upon which the movie is based.

Indeed, the potentially high stakes are thwarted by screenwriter Richard D’Ovidio’s choice to write himself and, in turn, director Brad Anderson into the back of a compact vehicle for far too much of the film’s 94 minute run time –  which, frankly, feels much less generous than it looks on paper. However clever the Ambert Alert tricks and tactics may be, the underlying problem is that you can only film a trunk so many times before it gets old – like really, rusty mildew old. Sparking comparisons to the 2004 release Cellular which holds a similar premise, the former wins the battle of creative edge on atmosphere alone. Between the movie’s predictability and its deeply cornered premise, The Call hardly has a chance to wiggle its way out of its own self-destruction. The lack of chemistry between the two lead ladies should come as little surprise since both were probably saying lines into a cell phone on different days of the shoot. In fact, that’s the big problem – none of this really comes as a surprise. Surprise, surprise.

TECHNICAL ASPECTS: Considering its three month turn-around time since its March theatrical release, this DVD has considerably nice aspects, featuring 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen that’s clean and even for a film that sought a hand-held ground in reality feel. The 5.1 Dolby Digital audio, available in both English and French, provides the somewhat lopsided score a much needed lift for thrills and chills. Subtitles are provided in both aforementioned languages as well as in Spanish and English for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. The title menu includes the following options: Play Movie, Scene Selections, Languages and Special Features.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Previews for upcoming Blu-Ray/DVD Sony releases include Evil Dead, Dead Man Down, Last Exorcism Part II, House of Cards Season One and Magic Magic. Filmmaker and cast commentary features the talented Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, and director Brad Anderson. The featurette Emergency Procedures: Making the Film shows the passion behind the NPR call-center study inspired motion picture and gives voice to the filmmakers and all parties involved.

OVERALL: For fans of the film, this DVD/Ultraviolet release will be a welcoming addition to their movie library – especially due to the special features that include Halle Berry’s desire to feel out a character whose profession drew special interest to the Academy Award-winning actress.  However, you may want to invest in the BluRay if you’d like even more bonus material since that includes additional footage and featurettes.

MPAA: Rated R for violence, disturbing content and some language

Run time: 94 min

Genre: Suspense, Thriller

Director: Brad Anderson

Writer: Richard D’Ovidio (screenplay)

Starring: Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Morris Chestnut, Michael Eklund

Theatrical Release: March 15, 2013 (TriStar Pictures)

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Release: June 25, 2013 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

Kid Millions [400+ DVD Review]

Kid Millions (1934)

“A ridiculously right extravaganza”

GRADE: B (4/5 stars)

by Richard Rey

 

Anything goes in this ridiculously right extravaganza starring the bug-eyed fool of fools Eddie Cantor as Eddie Wilson, Jr., son to a rich professor who leaves him $77,000,000 in Egypt. Of course, Junior isn’t the only after the dough, also seeking the inheritance is Eddie’s own mama (Ethel Merman, 19 years old…Eddie is 25) and Col. Harrison Larrabee (Berton Churchill), an old crow who funded Pa Wilson’s Saharan expedition. Featuring the clowning talents and off-the-cuff delivery of the self-rescuing idiot Cantor, the ‘silver-voiced tenor’ delivers in this goofball parody, further chronicling Hollywood’s Depression-era and proving that back then moviegoers just needed to laugh. Co-starring a sheikh (Paul Harvey) that says Gesundheit after a sneeze and his 125 wives, a crooked uncle (Warren Hymer) that’s turned into a dog and an obnoxious group of mumbling, bumbling, fumbling dimwitted idiots make this 90 minutes of vaudeville slapstick worthwhile. With wordplay like ‘And these mummies? Dead. They all died standing up?’ and such one-liners as ‘A wedding is a funeral where you smell your own flowers’, the cheesy dialogue is well-crafted; queso it is but Velveeta it is not.

As a comedy, Kid Millions firmly holds its own and withstands the test of time (it’s nearly 80 years old for crying out loud!), but as a ‘30s musical it’s nothing extraordinary; in fact, many of the musical numbers feel a bit forced and out of place, some, like the opening number, “An earful of Music”,  are there merely to draw more audiences in. There are, however, a few tunes that are especially catchy, and when accompanied by the right talents (such as The Nicholas Brothers who nearly tap themselves into another dimension alongside the 1934 Goldwyn Girls during “Mandy” ), the Broadway glitz and glam bring the elements together with fervent dynamism.

A word of caution to viewers is in order since racism is present, though never prevalent, in the film – the aforementioned tap dancing number, for instance, features a blackface Cantor dancing about as a stereotyped caricature of African-Americans. For me, the movie is not spoiled by such displays, but documents a certain era in American history that is equally educational as it is stirring; however, given that sensibilities are private and unique to the individual, it’s only right that the potentially offensive nature of the material be brought to light.

The movie is, at times, ambitious to a fault in its slapstick routines – some hitting harder than others – yet with writing as clever as this by duo Arthur Sheekman and Nat Perrin, it’s hard not to fall in love with the shenanigans put on by director Roy Del Ruth (Ziegfeld Follies, Broadway Melody of 1936). This black-and-white cinematic circus with a larger than life Technicolor finale is a hilarious over-the-top farce that never ceases to entertain.

TECHNICAL ASPECTS: This seventy-nine year old B&W musical comedy doesn’t suffer the same graininess of this generation of film, and with a finale that is highlighted by a vibrant 3-strip Technicolor sequence, you can’t go wrong with this buy. The one-disc release has not been restored or remastered, yet still has enough pic quality to keep the action moving forward with little or no distraction. The old time 1.37:1 aspect ratio is characteristic of the time, allowing for a full immersion into one of cinema’s greatest periods in history. The monaural Dolby Digital sound is also crisp, no big pops or mixing problems besides the occasional syncing of lips to musical numbers.

SPECIAL FEATURES: As with most aged cinema gems, there are no special features to be had in this release for Cantor fanatics which is the DVD’s biggest setback; the layout is completely skeletal, offering nothing more than a cover-art menu with the option to play the movie.

OVERALL:This DVD release of Kid Millions is definitely worth picking up and adding to your collection in large part due to the clowning comedy antics by Eddie Cantor as the boy whose ship finally comes in and takes him on an adventure you won’t want to miss.

MPAA: N/R

Runtime: 90 min

Genre: Comedy, Musical

Director: Roy Del Ruth

Writers: Arthur Sheekman and Nat Perrin

Starring: Eddie Cantor, Ann Sothern, Ethel Merman

Theatrical Release Date: November 10, 1934 (USA)

DVD Release Date: April 9, 2013 (Warner Archives)

Much Ado About Nothing [400+]

Much Ado About Nothing (2013)

“This whole love-drunk affair is damned near impossible to resist.”

GRADE: 4/5 (B+)

by Richard Rey

 

Joss Whedon’s most recent contribution to cinema comes in the form of a different hero – namely the wordy Bard himself. Shot during a twelve day period at his home in Santa Monica, CA, Much Ado About Nothing is a collaborative labor of love born in the midst of the shooting of the blockbuster hit The Avengers. This black-and-white modernized comedy of errors is more a testament to the director’s profound love of cinema than it is groundbreaking Shakespearean work. The bare boned side project offers barrels of laughs, electric performances from its lead and supporting characters and is lighthearted and fun enough to draw the likes of both adults and teenagers in search of a less educational, more entertaining translation of Shakespeare on the silver screen. Indeed, what begins as a daunting task of adjusting the ear to the rhythms of the world’s greatest poet quickly turns into a hilarious game of gags and guffaws where the actors’ (Whedon’s friends from show and film past, think Buffy, Firefly, Angel, and even Avengers) draw-and-sheathe use of the language is done with such precision and technique that it makes the whole love-drunk affair damned near impossible to resist.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Claudio (Fran Kranz) and Benedick (Alexis Denisof) have just returned victorious from battle to Messina where the governor, Leonato (Clark Gregg), welcomes them to stay for a month. Love struck, Claudio seeks the governor’s daughter, Hero (Jillian Morgese), while Benedick swears he will never marry. Meanwhile Beatrice (Amy Acker), Leonato’s niece, finds Benedick to be repulsive and contemptible, noting his incompetence as a soldier. When each realizes the saucy pride of the other, love becomes a game of words, tricks and quips and is bound to take hold of the merry hearts of all drunken parties involved. This winning adaptation of the four-hundred year old play is a cocktail party you won’t want to miss – replete with hilarious clowning and back and forth gags that give the pic a much needed lift in action to match its prolific language.

It may be said that this American take on Sir William Shakespeare is overly jokey, too literal, and will never match the venerable Kenneth Branaugh’s 1993 film adaptation. To this I respond with the sticking out of my tongue, a couple of cartwheels and the downing of two martinis before falling on the floor in a drunken stupor. Lighten up, Shakespeare hasn’t been this funny in years, and may not be for many more to come! Sure, it’ll piss off the Royal Shakespeare Company, but just remember, Daniel Day-Lewis abandoned that group of squawking old roosters for a career in Hollywood. Just saying…

MPAA: Rated PG-13 for some sexuality and brief drug use

Runtime: 107 min

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Director: Joss Whedon

Writer: William Shakespeare, Joss Whedon (screenplay)

Starring: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Fran Kranz

Theatrical Release: June 21, 2013 (limited)

Distributor: Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions

12 Rounds 2 Reloaded [400+]

12 Rounds 2: Reloaded (2013)

“A small scale action-thriller with an extremely thin story arc.”

GRADE: D+ (2/5 stars)

by Richard Rey

 

12 Rounds 2: Reloaded is the perfect example of why movies like it go straight to video – they’re just not very good; it’s not that they’re terrible, it’s just that the studios realize a trip to the big screen would likely result in a squandering of their resources and time. WWE superstar Randy Orton stars as Nick, an average Joe EMT married to a very underwritten blonde (Cindy Busby). When the couple witnesses a terrible traffic accident, Nick’s skill set as a paramedic is put to the test – can he save all of the victims? A year later, a hidden terrorist (Brian Markinson) calling shots behind a set of monitors threatens to kill Nick’s wife if he can’t complete a series of tasks within a very tight timeframe. (Isn’t it astonishing, and entertainingly so, how large the balls of a cyber-bully can grow so long as he’s in his protected lair – more than likely a cave-like blanket-fort in his mother’s basement?)

Apparently this sequel, if you can even call it that (it merely steals the premise of the original 2009 flop 12 Rounds starring WWE wrestler John Cera), is supposed to be a high-octane flick, but what we really have here is a small scale action-thriller (generous) with an extremely thin story arc. To be completely honest, were it not backed by WWE Studios for its lucrative quality – a marketing scheme surrounded by Randy Orton – the film wouldn’t exist; the direction is dull with few exceptions, most of which feel out of place within the movie (a dizzying sex sequence and an even woozier flashback at a club), the cinematography is not satisfying and the writing is retarded by its constant exposition and cheesy comic-book dialogue that, again, doesn’t fit within the framework of the pic. However, since the studios insist on banking on Orton’s performance, let’s make that our primary focus.

It would be unfair to do what every other critic and viewer will likely do, that is, to pit Orton’s performance against Dwayne Johnson’s most recent turns in Pain & Gain (hilarious), Fast & Furious 6 (nothing special) and G.I. Joe Retaliation. For those interested, you need to go back to 2001 and recall The Rock (Johnson) as The Scorpion King, and then build a foundation from there –but even then you’d be comparing apples to oranges considering the difference in genre. For the sake of time, I’ll take a pass on that, thank you. But what I will say is that Orton’s turn here as a conflicted EMT was satisfying enough to fill the needs of screenwriter David Benullo’s (Around the World in 80 Days) hollow script. As to how well he was directed by Dutch filmmaker Roel Reine, my response is simply: I’m not sure.

What I am sure of is that this movie is bland and cliché, taking us round by round through different tasks that are completed fairly easily – when a character has 3 minutes to figure something out or die, how high could the stakes possibly be when we’re in the sixth? Hollywood, unlike the wrestling ring, normally requires that our hero stay alive without tapping out until action’s end (especially in action flicks), which, in this case, would be the twelfth and final round. Whether or not WWE Studios should continue to make quasi-serious movies involving their most popular muscle-heads is an important question, one that some of the major studios answer with a resounding yes. I prefer seeing a sweat-drenched Stone Cold Steve Austin opening up a can of woop-ass on another juiced-up jabroni caught unawares.

The Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital HD features plenty of extras including features like Randy Orton Reloaded, Locations: From Heller’s Lair to the Sugar Factory, The Action of 12 Rounds 2: Reloaded and audio commentary with Director Roel Reine and film editor Radu Ion.  The look is very crisp and the quality of the picture is squeaky clean. Featuring a 1080p High Def widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio, avid fans can’t go wrong with this Twentieth Century Fox pickup.

MPAA: R

Runtime: 94 min

Genre:  Action, Thriller

Director: Roel Reine

Writer: David Benullo

Starring: Randy Orton, Brian Markinson, Cindy Busby

Blu-Ray/DVD Release: June 4, 2013

Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment