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They Saved Ryan’s Brain!



Starring: Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones, Gal Gadot, and a very brief Ryan Reynolds

Director: Ariel Vromen

Plot: A hardened death row inmate is implanted with the memories of a dead CIA agent to stop a cyber criminal from blowing up things like cities and people.

Rating: R for graphic violence, gunplay, bad language, and yucky brain surgery stuff.

Hello everyone! It’s Tom, your DVD Critics Corner pal!

Sorry I’ve been away for a few months, but I have a very legitimate and totally not made up excuse for my absence.

Something very strange happened to me at the end of March.

The last thing I recall it was opening day of Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. I was exiting the movie theater after seeing the movie, wondering if Jesse Eisenberg’s performance as Lex Luthor was either off-putting, flat out annoying,  or both.

 It’s both by the way. It’s both.

Anyhoo, as I approached my mid sized sedan in the parking lot, a couple of guys wearing suits with dark glasses threw me into a sinister looking van with no license plates and none of those adorable stick figure family decals on the window.

The next thing I know a scientist implants me with the brain patterns and memories of some secret agent man and I’m in a life or death struggle to stop some psycho from stealing a computer program which will enable him to launch nuclear missiles and ruin everyone’s weekend.

Oh wait…That didn’t happen to me! That stuff happens to Kevin Costner in the 2016 spy thriller Criminal!

My bad. So why haven’t I posted in months? Truth be told I forgot the password that unlocks my computer.  I’d rather not talk about it. Let’s review Criminal, shall we?

CIA agent Bill Pope (a pre Daredevil Ryan Reynolds playing it straight) rushes around London with a satchel full of cash, ready to deliver it to some computer hacker called The Dutchman because he’s Dutch. Man.

The Dutchman created a “wormhole” program that can hack into any computer on the planet. He was going to sell it to wealthy lunatic Xavier Heirndahl, but changes his mind because Heirndahl plans on launching a few nukes because he’s a lunatic, and decides to sell his wormhole to the CIA.

But before Pope can deliver the moulah to The Dutchman at a secret safe house he’s ambushed by Heirndahl’s private army of soldiers (the kind all wealthy movie bad guys have at their disposal) and dies without telling Heirndahl the location of the Dutchman.

The top CIA guy in London Quaker Wells (a manic Gary Oldman) is determined to bring The Dutchman in, but since Pope stashed him in a place where only he knew, Wells decides to try an unorthodox way to find The Dutchman and finish Pope’s mission.

Yes, Oldman’s character is named Quaker. Who names their kid Quaker? Parents who want their son to grow up to be a dickhead CIA boss, that’s who!

Wells enlists the help of renowned brain scientist Dr. Franks who has developed a technique that transfers the memories from one brain to another without having to call a Vulcan to do a mind meld.

Dr. Franks is played by Tommy Lee Jones, who looks like he wishes his brain and body was transplanted into a better movie.

Unfortunately the good Doctor’s brainwave transfer will only work on a certain type of brain, and that brain belongs to hardened criminal Jericho Stewart (Kevin Costner) who pretty much hates the world and for some reason growls his words like Christian Bale’s Batman.


“I’m Batman! I mean Kevin!”

Using a couple of drills and a bunch of high tech movie props, Dr. Franks transfers the dead Pope’s brain patterns into Jericho’s live noggin. But when Jericho fails to divulge any of Pope’s secrets or even fire off snarky one liners in Ryan Reynolds’ voice,  an impatient Wells sends the criminal back to prison.

Jericho promptly escapes from the two poor CIA guys guarding him and heads to London to steal things and beat people up (He is a homicidal criminal with zero impulse control you know) but before he begins to wreak real havoc on innocent Londoners he starts to have visions of a bag of money, some library, and a really hot brunette who looks like Wonder Woman. He makes his way to Pope’s house (thanks to Pope’s brainwaves he knows the alarm codes) and meets Jillian Pope (Gal Gadot, who really is Wonder Woman!) and her daughter Emma who are still really sad that Ryan Reynolds only had a ten minute part in this movie. As Pope’s memories begin to take hold, Jericho feels compelled to find the missing money, locate The Dutchman and get Van Wilder out of his head!

Criminal ratchets up the tension when The Dutchman comes out of hiding to try to sell the wormhole to the Russians, the CIA realize that Dr. Franks’ brain transfer worked and try to catch Jericho and Heirndahl starts shooting up London trying to stop Jericho and recover the wormhole program so he can launch a few nukes because those damn nukes aint gonna launch themselves!!

Despite having a top notch cast and an interesting sci-fi premise Criminal has an exciting blockbuster thriller brain that’s been transferred into a direct to DVD movie body.  I give Costner credit for playing an amoral jerk who slowly learns to do the right thing, but he did the same thing in Waterworld.

And we know how well that turned out.


It didn’t.

Good to be back!




I Arrest Dead People!

RIPD R.I.P.D. (2103)  Director: Robert Schwentke Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, Mary Louise Parker, Kevin Bacon Rating: PG-13 for bad language, gunplay, CG violence, and the blatant ripping off Men in Black. 

I don’t know what happens when you die, but I imagine you go to a place where time and space no longer exist and you are stuck in a perpetual limbo that has neither a beginning or an end.

So basically the afterlife is very much like getting your drivers license renewed at the Department of Motor Vehicles. On a weekend.

In movies like R.I.P.D., people don’t die and go to heaven, they hang around among the mortals to fix things, right wrongs,  and appear in buddy cop movies. The last one is for people who have done very very bad things while on earth.

Nick (a very bored Ryan Reynolds) is a hotshot Boston cop with a hot French wife (Stephanie Szostak) and a cool partner (Kevin Bacon) who drives a really cool Muscle car because movie cops always drive cool muscle cars.

During a huge drug raid Hayes (Bacon) shows his true jerkiness when he kills Nick because Nick knows about some gold they took from a previous bust.  But before Nick can go towards the light to that big home for prettyboy actors in the sky, he finds himself at the headquarters of the R.I.P.D.,  a Police Department for the afterlife where  Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker), head of the Boston branch and chief of plot exposition tells Nick he has to spend the next 100 years keeping the mortal world safe from “deados,” which are  spirits who remain on earth and hide in humans to cause trouble or something: truth is Mary-Louse looked so bored delivering the backstory of the R.I.P.D. I dozed off for a bit.

I dreamed I was a glove salesman in a world where people have no hands. What the hell does that mean?

Anyhoo, since this is a buddy-cop movie, newbie Nick is paired with grizzled veteran Roy Pusipher (Jeff Bridges in full Rooster Cogburn mode), a 19th century U.S. Marshall who loves shooting deados and hates rookie partners.

As Roy shows Nick the ropes of being afterlife cops they unravel a plan where the deados are rebuilding an ancient golden artifact which will return the dead from the afterlife to earth where they plan on starting home businesses and helping the homeless by building affordable low income housing.

Nah, they want to bring on armageddon. It’s what dead people do.

Can Nick and Roy learn to trade witty banter as a team and stop Kevin Bacon from taking over the world?

Like there’s any one who can stop Kevin Bacon. Have you seen Footloose?

R.I.P.D. has all the parts you need to make a huge blockbuster movie: a handsome leading man, a comic relief sidekick, lots of action, and plenty of CG stuff the kids love..

But just because something has four wheels and an engine doesn’t mean its a Ferarri. And since this flick bombed at the box office earlier this year it was plain to everyone that this movie is no Ferrari.

R.I.P.D. is a 1988 Pontiac Fiero GT.

Trust me. That’s not good.

And this concludes DVD Critics Corner for 2013. Thank you very much for reading. Have a wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year!

See you in 2014. 

Denzel in the House!

SAFE HOUSE (2012) Director: Daniel Espinosa  Starring: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard, Vera Farmiga  Rating: R for violence, language, and espionage type stuff. 

I don’t know much about the Central Intelligence Agency (or CIA) aside from what I’ve learned from years of watching movies. Here’s a few things I’ve picked up:

– CIA headquarters is in Langley, Virginia. I know this because every spy movie has at least one establishing shot of the CIA building with a graphic that reads CIA Headquarters: Langley, Virginia.  Now I would think a top secret outfit would want to keep their location on the down low, but heck what do I know? I wasn’t much for fancy book learnin’.

– The CIA is headed by a veteran character actor (usually with a southern accent) who barks orders to a room full of analysts and other office type people who immediately pick up phones or run out of the room carrying folders.

– The CIA has the coolest cell phones, GPS gizmos, and memory card reader thingees. Yes, “thingee” is an actual CIA term.

– The CIA spends every waking hour trying to recover ultra top secret files that are stolen by bad guys who have no trouble hacking into the supposedly impregnable CIA computer network. Me thinks they should change the computer passwords more often down there at Langley, but heck what do I know? I’m just a simple country doctor.

– Pretty much every CIA agent is a “rogue agent” who is either in league with shady foreign bad guys to steal CIA secrets or conducting his or her own private spy thing under the noses of their bosses. But that’s okay because the CIA bosses are usually in on all of this rogue stuff too.

So when you’re one of the very few upstanding and honest CIA agents like Ryan Reynold’s character in Safe House, the odds are greatly stacked against you that you’ll live to see retirement. Heck, you’ll be lucky to make it to the end of the year holiday party at the Langley Marriott. Which is a shame because I hear their seafood buffet is outstanding.

Matt Weston (Reynolds) is an ambitious rookie CIA agent, but he’s bored to tears working guard duty at a rarely used CIA safe house in Cape Town South Africa. One day as Matt is finishing his millionth soduku puzzle, a team of agents bring in former CIA super spy turned criminal Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) who may have a very important computer file that will royally screw over every intelligence agency in the world.

Before the CIA guys can interrogate Frost, a skilled mercenary team attacks the safe house and kills everyone except Weston and Frost, who escape into the city with killers on their tail and a huge mess left for the CIA housekeeping squad to clean up.

While Weston’s superiors (Sam Shepard, Vera Farmiga) try to figure out what the heck is going on, Weston has his hands full with Frost, a stone cold badass who knows every CIA trick in the book and doesn’t want to be taken down by the guy who couldn’t sell Green Lantern to millions of comic book fans. Can Weston bring the CIA’s most wanted criminal to justice and unravel the vast conspiracy we’ve seen so many times before in these government spy thrillers?

Ryan Reynolds leaves his trademark smarmy wiseass guy at home this time to play an inexperienced man in way over his head. Denzel brings the right amount of Denzelness to his role: it’s not quite Book of Eli Denzelness, but much more Denzelness than that crappy Taking of Pelham 123 remake.

Your scale of Denzelness will differ of course.

To sum up, Safe House is loaded with car chases, gunplay, and that close quarter kung fu fighting that all the action movies have nowadays. But if you’ve seen Matt Damon in any of the Jason Bourne movies, you’ve seen Safe House.

And if you’ve seen Matt Damon in We Bought A Zoo, you’ve seen a level of Hell no one can possibly imagine, and you have my deepest sympathies.

This week DVD Critics Corner celebrates its first anniversary. Thank you very much  for reading, commenting, and subscribing. More reviews coming soon.

 – T. Levier