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Cherry Pop

'Action 20 Movie Collection'
(Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell, John Travolta,Burt Reynolds, Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx, Steve Seagal, Jean-Claude Van Damm, et al / 6-Disc DVD / NR / 2017 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: The 'Action 20 Movie Collection' is a premium, 20-Movie Collection of licensed films from Columbia Pictures / Sony Pictures now out via Mill Creek Entertainment: S.W.A.T., Basic, Maximum Risk, Stealth, Last Action Hero, Universal Soldier: The Return, The Russian Specialist, Into The Sun, The Stone Killer, Silent Rage, Shamus, The Anderson Tapes, Attack Force, The Point Men, Hunt For Eagle One, Walking Tall: Lone Justice, Pact of Silence (AKA: Le Pacte Du Silence), In The Cut, The Quiet, and Trapped.

DVD Verdict: OK, well, of course I'm not going to review every single one of these incredible movies, but I will review five of my own personal favorites. Also, the 'Last Action Hero' title above is highlighted (which means it has already been reviewed as a "new release" on Blu-ray), so click it and check it out!

First off is the highly under-rated 'Basic' (2003), starring Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, Connie Nielsen, Giovanni Ribisi, and Tim Daly. A DEA agent investigates the disappearance of a legendary Army ranger drill sergeant and several of his cadets during a training exercise gone severely awry.

For most of this fabulous movie the situation is very serious: Dunbar's team mates from Special Forces trainees and their sergeant Nathan West (Samuel L. Jackson) are all missing, presumed dead. The only other survivor aside from Dunbar is Kendall (Giovanni Ribisi), and he is lying in a hospital bed, in critical condition.

There is a big chance Dunbar is guilty but when he says he will only talk to another ranger like him, Osborne's supervisor Styles (Tim Daly) decides to call in a favor from his old friend/ex-Ranger Tom Hardy (John Travolta) - despite her objections. Ergo, 'Basic' is a very strong drama/thriller with a great cast. Now, that's my kind of movie.

Next up is 'Into The Sun' (2005) starring the one, the only Steven Seagal, Matthew Davis, and Takao Osawa. When the governor of Tokyo is killed in his campaign for election, the former CIA agent Travis Hunter (Seagal) is assigned to find the responsible working together with the rookie FBI agent Sean.

Travis was raised in Japan, has great connections with the underworld of the streets and is a master in sword and martial arts, trained by a former member of Yakuza. Travis discloses that there is a war between the old and traditional members of Yakuza and the new generation leaded by the deranged and sick Kuroda, who has associated to the Chinese Tong mobster Chen in a powerful drug dealing business.

'Into The Sun' is a westernized oriental action film with an interesting mingle of suspense, buddy movie, martial arts, ancient ritual with typical code of honor's attached and actual Japanese backdrops. Abundant fists fights as there are also sword struggles (in which arms and body parts are sliced off here and there), and scenes of limbs being slit open - or even, sometimes, blasted apart. So, it's just one of those feelgood movies, I guess!

Then comes an all-time fav of mine, 'Shamus' (1973) starring Burt Reynolds and Dyan Cannon. New York private eye Shamus McCoy (Reynolds) likes girls, drink and gambling, but by the look of his flat business can't be too hot. So an offer of $10,000 to finds some diamonds stolen in a daring raid with a flame-thrower is too good to miss. His investigations soon get pretty complicated and rather too dangerous. At least along the way he does get to meet Alexis (Cannon).

This film is worth viewing just for the pantomime Reynolds does during the opening credits; some really funny stuff. I also liked the fact that an old Twilight Zone alumnus, Buzz Kulick, directed. Reynolds is not a great actor and he knows it. He tends to play the same character in every film he appears in. The one exception is of course the masterpiece 'Deliverence', where he plays the stoic man of action to the hilt. Shamus is a fast breezy piece of work that is fun to watch and it appears that Burt Reynolds had fun making it.

Next up is 'The Anderson Tapes' (1971) starring Sean Connery, Dyan Cannon, Martin Balsam, and Christopher Walken. After Duke Anderson (Connery) is released from prison after ten years for taking the rap for a scion of a Mafia family, he cashes in a debt of honor with the mob to bankroll a caper.

For Sidney Lumet this must have been the dress rehearsal for the more famous 'Dog Day Afternoon'. Most of it is shot in a realistic style. But there is more to it, the absurdity of it all is pushed much further and converts realism into surrealism.

I do not want to give away the whole story. Only this much: The viewer sees people on both sides of the law engaged in heavy duty physical exertion. You can laugh and at the same time feel sorry for the poor fellows. The whole enterprise ends in utter disaster for the burglars. Towards the end of the story there is much police present on the street around the apartment house.

You can observe ambulance personnel relaxed like unfolding bed linen for their stretchers in front of the Guggenheim. Then some of the gangsters try to make a getaway in a car. The engine roars and the car crashes and overturns after a few yards. This is all filmed very undramatically from a distance, in a matter of fact way, without musical soundtrack. It could almost be a documentary. A brilliantly shot and directed documentary at that.

Lastly, my personal choice to what would be 'In The Cut' (2003) starring Meg Ryan, Mark Ruffalo, and Jennifer Jason Leigh. New York writing professor, Frannie Avery, has an affair with a police detective who is investigating the murder of a beautiful young woman in her neighborhood. Meg Ryan gives what may well be the breakthrough performance of her career in 'In the Cut,' a violent, erotic thriller from maverick filmmaker Jane Campion. Ryan plays Frannie, a college English instructor who is instinctively drawn to the seamier side of life. When women in her Manhattan neighborhood start falling victim to a grizzly serial killer, Frannie, as a possible witness, becomes a prime source of interest, both professionally and personally, for a homicide detective named Malloy, who has some troubling sexual proclivities of his own to deal with.

Attracted by his edgy darkness and smoldering sexuality, Frannie succumbs to his advances, fully cognizant of the possible danger he represents. Is the law enforcement official as much of a threat to this young woman as the psychopath going about town decapitating and dismembering the local ladies? It is this kind of moral ambiguity that informs the entire movie. These are both Full Screen/Widescreen Presentations (1.33:1/1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

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