The Action/Adventure Film Thread

I really love a good action film, but I’m very picky. For some people, a good action film mainly needs to have big explosions, great effects or exciting scenes. That’s not me. Here is my list of criteria for a great action/adventure film and the films that best meet these criteria:

  1. Protagonists the audience likes and cares about. I also like to see some interesting twists to the hero is also welcomed, but I can live with formulaic characters, if it’s done well. For example, I really liked Bruce Willis’ John McClain, the rebel, wise-cracking cop. Another favorite is the anti-hero a la Bogart in Casablanca. I can see those type of characters over and over again, as long as they’re done well.
  2. A really great villian. To me, this means some one that provides a formidable challenge to the protagonists. A good villian has to generate a certain level of fear and disdain from the audience, too.
  3. A good story. The characters and action have to take place within a story that is interesting and compelling. Resolutions in the story must be believable and satisfying. Part of a satifying resolution involves freshness versus cliches. For example, I’m totally uninterested in a chase scene at the end of an action film that takes place in a dark building, where the hero and villian shoot at each other and often the final climax occurs over a precipice of some sort. However in terms of the overall story, I don’t mind if a film stays close to a tried-and-true formula as long as they execute. Raiders of the Lost Ark is a good example.
  4. Great action sequences. This includes everything from the way the sequences are shot (One important part of this is shooting a scene so that the audience can clearly see and follow the action.) to the set-up of the sequence and the way the scene fits in with the characters and the overall story. The other part of a great action sequence involves the first three criteria. They’re often more important than good effects or spectacular stunts. Meeting the first three criteria can make or break the scene.
  5. Challenging predicaments for the hero and satisfying solutions to those predicaments. The scenes don’t always have to contain physical action. For example, in Die Hard the scene where John McClain meets Hans on the roof is exciting with much physical action. In general Die Hard has many good examples of interesting predicaments. (This is related to the criterion above, but I thought I would list it separately.)

Having said that, here is my list of all-time favorite action/adventure films that have these qualities:

  1. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  2. Star Wars
  3. The Lord of the Rings Triology
  4. Die Hard
  5. The Matrix
  6. The Empire Strikes Back
  7. Aliens
  8. Ninja Scroll
  9. The Incredibles
  10. The Abyss

Other films: Leon: the Professional, Terminator, Big Trouble in Little China, Tremors, Speed, Lethal Weapon, Midnight Run, The Avenging Eagles, Die Hard 2, Rob Roy, Duel, Jaws, The African Queen, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Titan A.E., Castle of Cagliostro, and Willow.

I’m sure I missed some. I’m always on the look out for a good action film, so please let me know about any films I have not seen.

35 Responses to “The Action/Adventure Film Thread”


  1. Winona

    I agree with you! I usually hate “mindless action” movies. I also don’t like too many long action scenes that you get bored watching endless fighting. Although there are exceptions.
    How about “XXX” with Vin Diesel?
    And you can’t leave out “Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2” one of my fav action movies.
    Your review is very interesting. I would like to read more about your opinions of other movies.

  2. Reid

    Hi Winona,

    Hand-to-hand fighting scenes are very similiar to dance scenes. As long as the steps and moves of the fighthers or dancers are not the same throughout the scene (or the movie), then the scene will be interesting.

    The two Matrix: Revolutions really failed in this. The fight scenes were well-choreographed, but they got pretty boring because there was no variation.

    I have never seen XXX, but I heard really bad reviews about that one.

    As for the Kill Bill films, I should see them again, but I didn’t care for them on my initial viewings. First of all, I thought the films should have been edited and combined into one film. Second, I didn’t care for Uma Thurman in the lead role. She just looked awkward and dorky in some of the fight scenes. Finally, the story and characters of the film are almost secondary to goal of referencing and paying homage to Kung-Fu/Samurai/Action films of the 70s. Tarantino is clever at refering to older films, but it seems pretty empty to me. Still, I should probably see both films back-to-back to make a final judgment.

    As for my other reviews, check out the movie archive and the two threads about recently watched films. I’d love to discuss action films or movies in general.

  3. Mitchell

    Off the top of my head and with only a few minutes to do this:

    1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
    2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
    3. The Empire Strikes Back
    4. The Princess Bride
    5. Raiders of the Lost Ark
    6. Fantastic Voyage
    7. Spiderman 2
    8. If you’re going to count The Lord of the Rings as one, so am I.
    9. Top Gun, although I like it a lot less than I used to
    10. Dirty Harry movies.

    A couple of honorable mentions to True Lies and Judge Dread–I really like the wise-cracking side-kick thing, especially the Rob Schneider character in Dread.

  4. Mitchell

    Not to judge anyone else’s list, but…

    I wonder if The Abyss counts as action, as opposed to suspense. Naturally, whenever you try to categorize anything, there are going to be questionable situations, but while The Abyss undoubtedly contains action sequences, aw, what the heck. Sure. Let’s call it action. It’s definitely closer to Die Hard than to Signs, so maybe you’re right.

  5. Reid

    I think The Abyss is a borderline action/adventure film. I don’t feel totally comfortable calling it an “action” film, but I don’t feel comfortable calling it a “suspense” film either. It’s a combination of action, adventure and suspense.

    What about Princess Bride? I think that’s more of a comedy than an action film. The action sequences seem to be a small part of the film. It’s kinda of satire or spoof, too.

    To me, action has to be an essential part of the film; the main drama of the film occurs in the action sequences.

    An adventure film has some aspect of a journey. The characters go from one point to another, usually with some action along the way.

  6. Marc

    Hmmm, you could certainly quibble about things all day couldn’t you? I’ll think about things a little bit but I liked most of the movies that were mentioned. Maybe the one exception for me is that I thought the third Harry Potter movie was better than the first two. More on this later…

  7. Mitchell

    The third Harry Potter movie was better, but not as an action flick.

  8. Mitchell

    …also, a spoof on an action film is still an action film.

    As Roger Ebert has said, you cannot spoof pornography without making pornography; likewise, you can’t spoof action without making action.

    you said:
    “the main drama of the film occurs in the action sequences.”

    which is exactly why I think of the abyss as more of a suspense film–the main drama of the film occurs in suspenseful situations, not action situations.

    by the same measure, the main drama of the empire strikes back is internal, not external. i know we disagree on this, so i regret using this one as an example. this doesn’t mean that empire isn’t an action movie; it merely means that you can’t use the “main drama” argument against the princess bride unless you use it against empire too.

    i totally agree with you about car chases, although a couple of recent ones really impressed me; the mini-cooper chase in the bourne identity, for example.

    i wasn’t a big fan of the car-chase sequence in the matrix, ‘though i know everyone seems to like it.

    i’ll tell you what i like: lots of meaningful, creative explosions. the best explosion i’ve ever seen was in a semi-lousy movie: swordfish. you can tell the producers loved that sequence, because they actually find an excuse to show it twice.

  9. Reid

    I don’t think Princess Bride is a spoof on action films. I think it’s more of a spoof on fairy tales. “Spoof” might not be the best word for what it is either. The film is more of a comedy with action sequences in it.

    As I mentioned earlier, I think you have a point about The Abyss. In a way it’s like a disaster film, too. Are disaster films action films, suspense films or something entirely different? I’m not sure.

    The internal drama in Empire centers on Luke, right? Most of the drama manifests itself in action scenes. The other parts of the film–the attack of the landwalkers, the millenium falcon chase scenes, the destruction of the death star, the light saber battle–are all action scenes, and the drama occurs within this action. Of course, internal and external drama is not mutually exclusive. Indeed, the great action scenes have both elements. But I think people would call Empire an action film more than a drama.

    I’m surprised that you think of the Harry Potter films as action films.

    Re: Car Chase Scenes

    Are you referring to the scene in Italian Job, because that’s the one that had the mini-coopers? If so, I really love that scene, too. It’s one of the best of all-time, imo. Some other good ones I’ve seen fairly recently:

    French Connection–The scene in this one seems rather conventional by today’s standards, but it’s still pretty effective.
    To Live and Die in LA–This film was also directed by William Friedkin, and I heard people say this movie had one of the best car chase scenes, and I agree.
    Empire Strikes Back–Obviously not a “car chase scene”, but a chase scene nonetheless. Let’s just say it’s one of the best “spaceship chase scenes.” I would also include the landspeeder (or whatever it’s called) scene in Jedi or the race in Phanton, although that’s not technically a chase scene.
    Duel–Here’s a movie that’s basically one long chase scene, except the villian is chasing after the good guy.

    Burt Reynold’s films like Smokey and the Bandit (another film that is one long chase scene) and Hooper had some pretty good moments. Actually, there were other films, particularly from the 70’s that you could call “Chase” movies. Here are some off the top of my head:

    Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry
    The Vanishing Point
    Grand Theft Auto

    I’m sure there are others, which I can’t think of.

    One famous chase scene that I think is overrated: Bullitt. I saw that recently, and, unlike the scene in French Connection, I didn’t think this one wore well over time.

    The Matrix scene was not good to me because they didn’t build up the dramatic tension between those two twins and Neo and Morpheus. They just sort of popped up in out of the blue. The other problem for me was the use of the cgi, which looked fake.

  10. Mitchell

    I agree about the problems with The Matrix‘s chase scene. Most CGI looks fake, especially when gravity plays a big factor in the movement of the characters.

    Two other “chase” movies I can think of: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad world and the Cannonball Run movies. Those aren’t bad, actually. I hear they’re doing a remake of Mad, Mad, Mad….

    Maybe I see the Harry Potter movies as action movies because I read and loved the novels upon which they were based. The movies can’t possibly go everywhere the novels go, so it makes sense that it’s mostly the action sequences that make it to film; it’s an action-oriented medium. This heightens my awareness of the action scenes in the movies, making me perceive them more as action films than perhaps others might.

    But they do meet your criteria for a good action flick. Especially the “how do we get out of this predicament?” one.

  11. Reid

    I thought the cgi in Spiderman 2 was a big improvement from the first film (and other action films that use cgi humanoid figures).

    I’ve never seen “Mad, Mad,” but I’ve heard it’s good. It looks kinda silly though. I actually never saw Cannonball Run, not all of it anyway. At least I don’t think so.

    WRT the Harry Potter films, I guess I would think that those films for you are more about the internal drama, rather than external action. I did like the solution to the predicament at the end of the first film (although they left out one of the problems/solutions).

  12. marc

    A few more thoughts, mostly geared at throwing in movies that weren’t mentioned.

    Top two – Raiders of the Lost Ark and Die Hard. It’s too hard for me to rate others in order and I like most of the ones already mentioned.

    I’ll throw in a few martial arts movies- Crouching Tiger/Hidden Dragon and Drunken Master (Jackie Chan).

    In the borderline action/adventure movie category I’d throw in Master and Commander, The Hunt for Red October, Air Force One, Escape from New York, Pirates of the Carribean, Get Shorty, The Untouchables.

    My favorite Bond movie: For Your Eyes only.

    Some Westerns: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Silverado, Tombstone, Pale Rider, The Quick and the Dead (sharon stone version), Shane. The good the bad and the ugly.

    Older movies with good stories/acting but effects that have aged poorly: The Poseidon Adventure, Ben Hur.

    We could turn to action tv shows and I’d start by saying that the first 2 seasons of 24 were outstanding…

  13. burgess

    The Kill Bills are definitely near the top of my list. They’re not just good action movies, they’re good movies. The fight scenes worked for me because of the tribute paid to the samurai/kung fu genre of the seventies. I found it refreshing, probably because I haven’t seen this in a long time.

    Desperado Tremendously weak story, but enough carnage to make up for it.

    Highlander
    Braveheart
    Fight Club

    What about sports films? Any Given Sunday and Shaolin Soccer Nobody kills anybody in these movies, but the action drives these films.

  14. Mitchell

    Man, I frickin’ hate Braveheart, and not because it’s a bad movie–it’s actually pretty good. Just something about it annoys me…like, it got way more attention than it should have. It was good, but it was not that good. And while the battle scenes are good, they got old after a while.

    I tend to put sports movies in a different class than action pics. I probably shouldn’t.

    Nobody’s mentioning the Mission: Impossible movies. What do you guys think of those?

  15. Reid

    I concur with the following picks: Highlander, Master and Commander: the Far Side of the World, and The Untouchables (good one), Drunken Master (almost made my honorable mention list).

    I never saw Air Force One or Pirates of the Carribean. I don’t think Get Shorty should be in there. (I loved Travolta’s “Chili Palmer;” they’re making a sequel.) I wouldn’t include Fight Club because it’s not about fighting, and there aren’t many fight scenes. I also would keep sports films in a separate genre.

    As for Braveheart, I think it’s a good action movie, and the battle scenes are really good, but I didn’t care for it for some reason. It could be that I thought it got more attention than it deserved. I guess, it’s not a movie I would want to see again (not sure why), and that’s probably my reason for not ranking it higher.

    As for Desperado, I prefer El Mariachi, the film that precedes that one. What he did within a low-budget was pretty cool, and that’s why I liked it. When he applied the same low-budget techniques with a bigger budget, the charm was not there. Did you see Once Upon a Time in Mexico? I thought that really sucked.

    There are some good action scenes in the Mission Impossible films, but they plots are so contrived, and villians so weak, that I didn’t care for these films. I was surprised to like the motorcycle scene in the second film.

    Speaking of which, John Woo’s name should be mentioned in here. Unfortunately, he’s action is so over-the-top, it’s silly. Burgess, if you like carnage, you should check out Woo films, if you haven’t already.

    Oh, here’s another action/sci-fi that I would recommend: Zeram. The effects may be slightly cheesy, especially the alien in the film, but it’s an entertaining movie. Marc, if you haven’t seen this, check this out if you’re in the mood for an action/sci-fi.

    As for Westerns, I don’t think a lot of the films in your list qualifies for action, although many are films I liked. Man, I didn’t care for Tombstone, although Val Kilmer as Doc Holiday was great! I never saw Quick and the . Would you recommend it to me?

    Oh, if there’s an action that’s a Western, I would choose, The Wild Bunch. I don’t want to talk about the film just in case I take away from it, but I think it’s a good film. I don’t know if I would recommend it to everyone though.

    And finally, I don’t think the effects in the Poseidon Adventure are all that bad. That’s a good movie, but I consider more of a suspense/disaster film. It’s one that holds up pretty well, I think.

  16. Marc

    Recommendations for Reid:

    Air Force One: Highly recommend. Probably the last good movie that Harrison Ford made. Good villain (Gary Oldman).

    Pirates of the Carribean: Recommend. Great performance by Johnny Depp. Pretty good villain. Orlando Bloom wasn’t that great. In fact he hasn’t really been good in anything beside LOTR. Then again, he didn’t speak very much in LOTR but he did a good job of looking like a noble elf.

    Quick and the Dead: Recommend. I was surprised that I liked it when I saw it. The cast is outstanding. Gene Hackman makes the movie as the villain. Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio are great in supporting roles. Sharon Stone was ok.

    I liked Tombstone almost solely because of Val Kilmer. It was also a lot better than the Costner version of Wyatt Earp that came out at around the same time.

    I’ll keep an eye out for “The Wild Bunch” and Zeram. Thanks.

  17. Reid

    Are you sure about those picks, Marc? OK, I’ll look for them. Kurt Russell was totally miscast as Wyatt Earp in Tombstone, imo.

    If you can deal with the slightly cheesy effects factor, I think you will enjoy Zeram. I was kinda surprised at how much I liked it.

    Wild Bunch has good characters and themes, more than action. It’s a movie I considered putting in my top 20 if not top 10 of all time.

  18. Reid

    I thought of some other films:

    • Italian Job (remake). This was a really well-done and entertaining film. It may be in my top 20 of all-time, if not top 10.
    • First Blood and Rambo: First Blood Part II. I don’t know if these hold up very well, but I liked them when they first came out.
    • In the Line of Fire? Or would that be more of a suspense/thriler?
    • Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Like the Rambo films, I don’t know if this one has held up so well over time.
    • The Mad Max films. I never saw the first one, and of the other two, I prefer The Road Warrior.
    • Blade. I think Wesley Snipes as Blade is terrific. If the first film had a better villian, I think it would have been a lot better. I didn’t care for the second film very much, and I hope they don’t mess up the third installment
    • Le Femme Nikita
    • . I liked this film and I would recommend it, although it may have too little action to be considered an action film.

    • The Last Starfighter and Tron, both films had great concepts, and the effects in Tron were pretty cool, too. These films are probably more appropriate categorized as sci-fi than action.
    • Star Trek: Wrath of Khan, Star Trek: Nemesis were pretty good action sci-fi films
    • Superman II. The premise, villians and fight scenes as well as the final resolution are all solid. This could be one of the comic book adapations.

    I never saw the Charlie’s Angels films. How were those?

    People have not really mentioned many Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Van Dame or Seagal films. What about the Brukheimer (i.e. The Rock, Con Air, etc.) or John Woo films (i.e. Hard-Boiled, Face-Off, Broken Arrow, etc.)

  19. Mitchell

    …i forgot to answer your other question, R, but i never saw the italian job. i’m talking about the chase scene in the bourne identity. that was a mini cooper matt damon drove.

  20. Reid

    I didn’t know he was driving a mini-cooper. The car chase scene in that film was OK, but nothing that really stood out for me.

    Here’s another film that should be on the list:

    Run Lola Run (7 out 10)

    It’s an action film with a little European sensibility (read: it’s unconventional in a thoughtful kind of way). It’s definitely original, and satifying overall.

  21. Tony

    Run Lola Run was a good movie. I saw the director’s other movie, The Princess and the Warrior, first. Even though TPATW was slow as molasses, I find it to be the more enjoyable of the two.

  22. Reid

    I remember you saying you liked that film, Tony, and I know you tried to explain it to me, but I can’t recall what you said. I’d love to read your take on the film and the reasons you liked it so much.

  23. Tony

    (spoiler for TPATW and Run Lola Run)

    The main reason why I liked TPATW was because of its sense of destiny and the interconnectedness of things (much like Amelie). It was enjoyable watching two people’s tragic lives take a turn for the better. And there’s the scene at the gas station near the end that is just great. When I saw RLR later, I was a little surprised at the three tellings of the same story. It was the same idea in terms of how every choice creates its own series of effects. I think I expected more of RLR because I enjoyed TPATW so much.

    Anyone out there see National Treasure?

  24. Reid

    Tony,

    Sorry, I didn’t see your post. Can you describe the gas station scene? I don’t remember it.

    I assume you saw some of the comments for National Treasure in the “Recently Watched Movies” thread.

    Btw, I put a spoiler warning for RLR in your post.

  25. Reid

    Marc,

    I finally saw Air Force One. I’m sorry to say that I couldn’t get into it very much.

    (spoilers)

    There was a lot of action, but I had hard time with the idea that the president (or anyone for that matter) could effectively hide-out in the plane, kill ists, free the hostages, etc. Oldman’s character was much too passive and indifferent to gunshots being fired, his men disappering, etc. I’d send a group of people to investigate fired shots. And if that person didn’t come back, you better believe my number one priority would be finding out what was going on. I certainly send more people to check out what was going on. There were some other problem that I had that I could have overlooked if not for what I consider a major flaw.

    I also thought Oldmam was way over-the-top (which I guess he usually is; if you like him in this, you’ll like him in Leon: the Professional, if you haven’t seen that already). Usually, villians who get easily angered and start shouting are not as scary as villians that stay calm and collected.

    I’d probably give this a 6, possibly a 5.

  26. Marc

    I saw Air Force One on the big screen and that may have helped my appreciation more. I thought Harrison Ford as president was ideal.

    I also recommended Pirates/Carribean and Quick/Dead earlier in the thread and I think you’ll get into those more. I’d probably rate both of those solid 7’s, maybe Pirates a little higher than Quick.

  27. Reid

    A minor problem with Air Force One was the approach to foreign policy by the President in the film. The policy to never negotiate with terrorists is fine, but the part of the film just made me think of our current foreign policy, and how I feel we’re not the clear-cut “good guys” in the real world. Again, that wasn’t a big issue for me.

    I do want to see Pirates and Quick. Hopefully, I’ll get to them soon.

  28. Reid

    Quick and the Dead
    (5 out of 10)

    I really liked the cast in the film and the premise. Raimi’s also seemed to have the right approach in the direction. The problem ultimately lay in the script and one casting choice, namely Sharon Stone.

    (Minor Spoilers)

    Let’s take the script first. Actually, I don’t know if the problem was with the script, but the film was pretty boring on several levels. The drama between the different gunfighters wasn’t as interesting as it could be even with the more important showdowns (DiCaprio, Crowe, Stone and Hackman). Each of the backstory behind each character wasn’t very interesting or well-executed. Let me go over them one by one:

    1. The kid (Dicaprio). He wanted to win his father’s respect, so that’s the reason for entering the contest and challenging his dad. He is overconfident and basically loses. Maybe I’m missing something, but the story is cliched, and the filmmakers don’t bring anything new or special to it. I don’t think the problem was casting as I liked DiCaprio and Hackman in those roles. Perhaps, the filmmakers needed to develop their relationship more.
    2. The preacher (Crowe). My main problem with this is that the filmmakers seemed to totally sweep the preacher’s struggle with under the rug. What makes the preacher finally decide to fight? At first it seems he fights just out of instinct, but what are the consequences (i.e. psychological)? There doesn’t seem to be any. He shoots a guy, and then the problem of non-violence is suddenly gone. This problem and his past made this character interesting, but all of this was basically ignored.
    3. The daughter (Stone). There may be other problems with this sub-plot, but the main one is the casting of Sharon Stone. I’ve never seen her in Basic Instinct and Casino, but I’ve always thought she was a terrible actor. This film only supports my opinion. She’s definitely beautiful, but she can’t act–especially not as a believably tough gunfighter. I like tough females, too (the actor in La Femme Nikita or Julia Ormond in Smila’s Sense of Snow), but Sharon Stone is not a good choice for this role.

    The other problem was that the actual gunfights were anti-climatic. Raimi draws out the suspense using the town clock, and then, bang!, someone is . That’s it. The idea of a tournament gunfight is really cool, but it’s really not that cool when you see it. The filmmakers would have to add some twist or interesting backstory to make the gunfights interesting. That didn’t happen in this film.

    Even the last gunfight, while a bit different, was pretty uninteresting. Again, part of that had to deal with the casting of Stone. The other part had to do with the way they dealt with Crowe’s character.

  29. Reid

    Here are the action/adventure films/dvds I saw in 2005 (ranked in order of preference/rating):

    Films I Enjoyed

    1. The Flight of the Phoenix (1965) (7/10) More of an adventure film, and probably more accurately described as a “survival” film. There are some flaws in this (I would have handled the ending differently), and the film drags at some points, but there are aspects of the film that really got me excited. The film is not talked about that much, so this is the type of film I’d like to draw attention. That’s why this is listed at the top. It’s not better than some of the films below, and I didn’t necessarily enjoy it more. Here’s one of the reasons the film excited me (and I think it’s OK to say, but if you don’t want to know, just stop reading): I really liked the performances/characters of Jimmy Stewart, Hardy Kruger and Richard Attenborough (worthy of at least an oscar nomination, imo). (Small spoilers)

      The tension and battle between Stewart and Kruger with Attenborough between them was really good. In a way, the resolution wasted this tension.

    2. Serenity (2005)(7/10) This was probably the most entertaining action/adventure film that I saw all year. More people should have watched this; if they had, they would have enjoyed the film, and it may have revitalized the series. (In case you’re wondering, you don’t have to watch the series to appreciate the film, but I would recommend watching the series first–available at the library or from me). Yes, it feels like an episode from the series, but a well-done episode.
    3. Red River(1948) (8/10) A top 10 Western and a must for fans of Westerns–not only because it’s a classic, but it’s a good film. John Wayne’s character and performance is top notch. Montgomery Clift is good in this, too. More of an adventure than an action film, and probably more of a drama than an adventure film, but this is just a good movie so who cares.
    4. Stagecoach (1939) (7/10) Again, another top 10 Western. I love the way this story movies along with the various situations taking the film up another notch. This is an older film (193) that holds up well, imo. John Wayne also stars (his breakout role if I’m not mistaken).
    5. Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005) (6/10) The chemistry and scenes back-and-forth between Pitt and Jolie are really enjoyable.
    6. The Hire (2001) (6/10) This is a series of eight “film-commercials” for BMW. Each film is directed by a different director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, director of Amoros Peros (“Powder Keg”); Guy Ritchie, director of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch (“Star”); Kar Wai Wong, director of In the Mood for Love (“The Follow”); John Woo (“The Hostage”); John Frankeheimer (“Ambush”); Tony Scott (“Beat the Devil”); and Ang Lee (“Chosen”). Each “film” is about 10 minutes long. Supposedly, there is a storyline that connects them together, but I never understood the bigger picture. They’re not all good, but the films have several things going for them: 1.) Clive Owen is in all of them; 2.)All of them have pretty cool scenes with the bm’er. My favorites are the ones directed by John Frankenheimer and Kar-Wai Wong. The latter doesn’t have a lot of action, but it was the film that helped me understand Wong’s aesthetic. The short film is a perfect medium for his approach, too. The films are available at the Hawaii public library. Check it out here

    Mixed Bag–These films were entertaining on some level, but also contain moments that weaken the enjoyment or quality of the film:

    1. Last of the Mohicans(1992) (6/10) This film lands in this category because it is more of romance than an action/adventure film, imo. However, it is a unique and largely successful in combing these two genre. I’d call it an action-adventure “chick flick.” The chemistry between Daniel Day-Lewis and Madeline Stowe is palpable through their passionate glances at each other.
    2. Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith(2005) (6/10) You know I can’t remember too many of the action sequences of this film, but I thought it was better than Episode II. The whole drama from the backstory of Anakin made this film more entertaining than I thought. However, if I recall correctly, the area of interest was equally in the romance between Anakin and Padme then the action sequences.
    3. Rio Bravo(1959) (6/10) The biggest problem with this film is that it’s too long. I also didn’t think highly of it because El Dorado is basically the same film, only shorter and more enjoyable.
    4. On-Bak: Mui-Thai Warrior(2003) (5/10) What you need to know: yes, the fight scenes are good, and, yes, the claim that Tony Jaa is the next Bruce Lee is not so far-fetched. He has that intensity and the fighting skills. The fight choreography was also solid–this is the first martial-arts film where I started thinking the actors were really hitting each other. Mui-Thai incorporates a lot of knee “kicking,” which is both pretty mean and distinctive. Supposedly, the film had no stunt doubles or computer effects, giving it a “Jacki Chan” feel. But like some Jacki Chan films, everything else about the film (the story and plotting, etc.) is pretty lame. If you don’t care about plot and story, and would like a film with good fighting, this is for you.
    5. Reign of Fire(2002) (5/10) In case you don’t remember this is the 2002 film with Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey fighting dragons in a post-apocalyptic world. The concept wasn’t as dumb as it may initially appear, but I had problems with the ending, not because it was stupid, but because it was so abrupt and anti-climatic. It felt like the director didn’t know how to end the film, but usually if this the case, a director chooses a stock ending (i.e. hero and villian chase and shoot at each other in some building).
    6. The Day After Tomorrow (2004) (5/10) Not a good movie, but if you’re in the mood for a blockbuster film, this film is serviceable.

    Did Not Like

    1. Stealth(2005) (4/10) I liked the premise, and the film entertained me for the first half. However, the ending and the romantic sub-plot was stupid; Jamie Foxx was wasted, imo; the “villian” was not developed as well as “he” could have been. I think a good action film could be made with the concept.
    2. The Adventures of Robin Hood(1938) (4/10) Another film that made one or more of the top 100 lists. Again, I don’t think it’s deserving. I didn’t care for Errol Flynn in this or the sword fight sequences. The actors flail the swords around as if they were toys. Wish I could be more specific, but I don’t think this holds up very well.
    3. The Professionals (1966)(4/10) These crackpot team is assembled to rescue a rich man’s wife from a Mexican revolutionary(?). Can’t remember why I didn’t care for it much.
    4. Spartacus(1960) (4/10) I believe this made one of the top 100 lists, but it wouldn’t make mine. Not a very good action/adventure film and not a very good film, period (imo). I didn’t care for Kirk Douglas’ performance. The action elements don’t seem to hold up very well either.
    5. Unleashed(2005) (3/10) Jet Li as a human guard dog. That explains everything doesn’t it? Even Morgan Freeman can’t save this movie. It gets a three because I wasn’t completely bored or uninterested (pretty close though). So why did I see this? A friend said that he really liked it, and thought I might as well.
    6. War of the Worlds(2005) (3/10) The early scenes with the imminent arrival and eventual attack of the aliens is pretty exciting stuff, but after that the film just goes downhill–specifically in terms of an action/adventure sci-fi film. It’s as if Speilberg wants to explore deeper themes–what I have no idea. Then there’s the silly family relations that are common in his films and the stupid ending.
    7. Four Brothers(2005) (2/10) All the negatives of a stupid 70’s revenge flick, with little or none of the positive qualities. (See my review in the Recent Movies: Second Round
  30. Reid

    I saw Sahara (4/10) with Matthew McConaghey and Penelope Cruz. It’s not a good film, but if you want an action film and you’re not expecting much, this is OK (otherwise, it will not be an enjoyable film). First of all the plot is super absurd; it’s almost so absurd that you figure the filmmakers know they’re intentionally making the film over-the-top. (Sometimes you can an enjoy a film more if you know that. The super unbelievable events that occur become a little more palatable. Still, this would probably get a 2 or 3, but I wasn’t expecting much, and I like Steve Zahn.

    So what’s the silly plot? One part of the plot involves a civil war battleship, Ironsides(?) that somehow ends up in the Saharan desert. That should say it all.

  31. Mitchell

    Was the Civil War ship the Constitution or maybe the New Ironsides? I didn’t know there was a historical element to that movie.

  32. Reid

    I can’t remember which ship it is, but I don’t think it’s much of a historical element.

  33. Reid

    Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2003)
    6/10

    This is the Cartoon Network mini (or what they call “micro”) series. Supposedly the storyline occurs between Episode II and III. The animation reminded me of the animation in Samurai Jack or to some extent the new Batman or Justice League. The drawings are simple versus very detail oriented like in some anime. However, the movements in the animation is very good.

    From my point of view there is no real story of interest. The first disc is virtually one action scene after another.

    (small spoilers)

    I must say they’re pretty good, though–especially since we get to see the other Jedi knights fight. The highlight though is the fight sequence with Mace Windo. The scene gets an 8 for me.

    The second disc has more of a story, but it’s not very interesting, imo. We see Anakin’s last test as a Jedi when he has to confront himself. It’s not that great, imo. Again, the highlight is seeing some of the other Jedi Knights do battle. Also, there is some backstory to General Grevious, which is sorely missing in Episode III.

    So there are some good action sequences, which make the series worth watching, but the storyline and character development is not so hot.

  34. Reid

    Casino Royale

    I used to like the 007 films as a kid, but I’ve hated them recently. This new one with the best Bond–Daniel Craig–has turned things around. The casting (the guy who plays Le Chiffe and the actor who plays Vespa), acting and dialogue are top notch. The action is almost secondary, but this does have the best chase scene on foot that I can think of. It’s pretty thrilling.

    Earlier in the thread we were talking about car chase scenes, there’s one in Taratino’s Death Proof that deserves mention, a good example of how old school approach works better than the new school (read: cgi) one.

    Bushido,

    Did you ever see Zeram?

  35. Reid

    2009 Action/adventure films I liked

    Star Trek 76/100
    As I sat watching this on an IMAX screen, feelings and thoughts of watching Star Wars came to me. The film was flawed, but there was a lot to cheer in the film, too.

    The Hurt Locker 74/100
    Not technically an action film, but close enough.I think almost every idiot will enjoy this to some degree. The only way that wouldn’t happen is if you go in with really big expectations. To my surprise, Jill loved this film.

    9 67/100
    An animated sci-fi film that I think Chris, Marc and Joel would enjoy at least mildly. I know they would think it’s worth renting. Grace would probably like this a lot. The animation and story are solid.

    Mixed bag

    X-Men Origins: Wolverine (60/100)
    My expectations going in were pretty low so that helped. Not a great movie, but enjoyable enough.

    Watchmen (56/100)
    Here’s faithful adaptations of a great (graphic) novel that’s just OK at best. Despite being faithful in many ways, the film fails to capture makes the novel great.

    Did not like

    Avatar 56/100
    The story and characters are so cliched and bland that I want to give this a lower score, but I did find it somewhat entertaining, particularly some of the action sequences.

    Non-2009 films that I liked

    Lucky Number Slevin 73/100
    Underrated crime film. Joel really didn’t care for this, which surprised me, but I’d recommend this to Marc, Penny, Chris and Mitchell. Jill, Larri and Grace would also enjoy this, too.

    Twilight Samurai 73/100
    Mentioning this film is somewhat misleading as there is little action in this film (but the action sequences are well-done). This is a more of drama/romance; in any event, it’s a good film.

    Samurai Rebellion 70/100
    Interesting film with Toshiro Mifune in the lead. Some aspects of the film didn’t work for me, but I liked this.

    Assault on Precinct 13 68/100
    This is the remake with Ethan Hawke and Laurence Fishburne. This is a good B-movie.

    The Hidden Fortress 65/100
    This is the Kurosawa film that inspired the Star Wars story. It’s solid entertainment.

    Mixed Bag

    Tales of Zatoichi 65/100
    This is one of the first original Zatoichi films. It’s well-made, and I can’t remember why I didn’t like it more.

    Pursued 60/100
    Dated Western with Robert Mitchum, but there’s an interesting psychological component to the film (unfortunately, that’s one of dated aspects of the film).

    You Kill Me 59/100
    More of a crime film, but one I wanted to like. I didn’t like the pairing of Kingsley and Tea Leoni in this. I think if you cast two other actors this could have been terrific (although Kingsley has his moments).

    Chinese Ghost Story 58/100
    This is a 1987 film that is a bit of martial arts b-movie. It’s pretty fun, although some of the f/x don’t hold up.

    Films I didn’t like

    Seraphim Falls 53/100
    Recent Western starring Pierce Brosnan and Liam Neeson. The film starts off strong with a Brosnan’s character being hunted by Neeson’s. But then it turns into an art film that felt superficial to me. Maybe Chris would like this.

    Transsiberian 40/100
    This had a good cast (Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer, etc.) and an intriguing idea: an American couple meet another young couple smuggling drugs across Russia. Kingsley places a Russian cop in pursuit. The characters are not that interesting or well-acted, and the story doesn’t go in any interesting directions.

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