Mini-Reviews: CHIPS, The Belko Experiment & Life

Hey everybody!

Welcome to another edition of Mini-Reviews. So let’s get to it, shall we?


*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*



Director: Dax Shepard

Writer: Dax Shepard

Cast: Dax Shepard, Michael Pena, Vincent D’Onofrio, Rosa Salazar, Jessica McNamee, Kristen Bell, Adam Brody, Richard T. Jones, Jane Kaczmarek, Isiah Whitlock Jr. Justin Chatwin and Maya Rudolph

Synopsis: A rookie officer is teamed with a hardened pro at the California Highway Patrol, though the newbie soon learns his partner is really an undercover Fed investigating a heist that may involve some crooked cops.


Loosely based off the popular show from the late 70s, CHIPS ups the ante on the comedy and raunchiness. Basically taking the Jump Street-like tone and making it fit its overtly over-the-top comedy and a very thin plot. Needless to say, this isn’t your parents’ CHiPs.

The film follows Jon Baker (Dax Shepard), reimagined as an ex-motocross rider who is down on his luck, addicted to pain medication from his injuries and trying to repair his broken marriage with his wife (played by Shepard’s real-life wife Kristen Bell) becomes a California Highway Patrol officer. He is then partnered up with undercover FBI agent Castillo (Michael Pena), renamed Francis Llewellyn Poncherello or “Ponch” who goes undercover when a heist involving potential corrupt cops is pulled off. The two have to find a way to work together as the threat becomes more real for the both of them.

As you can see Shepard not only starred in the film, he also wrote and directed the film. I’ve personally never seen a Shepard-directed film, so this was my first exposure to him as both. The humor is a bit over the top, but exactly what you’d expect in a raunchy R-rated comedy. Some of it works, some of it doesn’t so the humor will be something that you are either on board with or not, and if you’re not then you’re in for a long ride.

However, one of the biggest highlights – and probably the main one – is the chemistry between Shepard and Michael Pena. The two start off bickering at each other non-stop but eventually, of course, find a mutual respect. Although, I’ll admit Shepard’s Baker came off as annoying at the first, while Pena is impatience came out as dick-ish. The rest of the cast don’t really standout too much, but do they best they can do with the material their given.

Vincent D’Onofrio plays the villain, but other than one scene with Pena and Shepard, he’s really just there. Rosa Salazar plays a cop that may or may not be into Shepard’s Baker, Adam Brody plays Ponch/Castillo’s FBI partner who hates him – for a comedic/reasonable reason – while Isiah Whitlock Jr. plays the head of the FBI division Castillo/Ponch belongs to and constantly is yelling at him. Finally, Kirsten Bell doesn’t do too much to make an impact.

All in all, CHIPS is definitely not for everyone. Its best scenes are way too far apart and its humor is all over the place and sometimes outright offensive. While I wasn’t overly impressed, CHIPS is a passable enough comedy that you won’t hate yourself for watching. Maybe.


3 out of 5



The Belko Experiment

Director: Greg McLean

Writer: James Gunn

Cast: John Gallagher Jr., Adria Arjona, Tony Goldwyn, John C. McGinley, Melonie Diaz, Brent Sexton, Owain Yeoman, James Earl, Rusty Schwimmer, Sean Gunn, David Dastmalchian, Michael Rooker and Gregg Henry

Synopsis: In a twisted social experiment, 80 Americans are locked in their high-rise corporate office in Bogota, Columbia and ordered by an unknown voice coming from the company’s intercom system to participate in a deadly game of kill or be killed.


The Belko Experiment is, you can say, loosely based on the cult classic Battle Royale where it forces innocent people by mysterious forces to kill each other. The difference in this film is it takes it to an office space in a foreign country, and has a script by James Gunn. So, of course the question becomes does it do anything to keep itself separated from the herd? Somewhat.

The film follows employees of Belko Industries in Bogota, Columbia who are literally locked and sealed in their complex and told through the intercom that they need to kill their follow employees and friends or they will be killed themselves. To prove their point, they have installed “trackers” into their heads when they took the job which ends up actually being explosives. Of course, at first they think it’s a prank, but eventually they find out its real – and they need to kill 30 people or the voice will kill 60 at random.

As you see the set-up is rather simple, and the film doesn’t really waste too much time setting everything up, along with some of the characters. Our main leads are Mike (John Gallagher Jr.) and his girlfriend Leandra (Adria Arjona) who are still in the early stages of their relationship. We then have Tony Goldwyn as the COO in that branch, Barry Norris, who eventually becomes our “villain,” and I put villain in quotes, because obviously good and evil are blurred in these kind of situations and that something that Barry comes to terms with, but Mike struggles with even though he’s pushed by Leandra to come to a decision.

The rest of the cast is fine, but they only have small moments and it’s easy to sometimes remember who’s alive and not. John C. McGinley is easily the second villain in the film, and one that you see coming from the beginning, Sean Gunn has a small but somewhat funny comic relief role, Melonie Diaz plays new worker at Belko, Dany Wilkins, who feels like she could play a big role, but doesn’t really. Finally David Dastmalchian and Michael Rooker play technicians who try to find a way out their own way.

A movie like this will always make us, the viewer, decide what we’d do in a situation like this. The film also doesn’t hold back on the violence, because besides the explosives going off that literally blow the back of someone’s head, once the free-for-all starts, it doesn’t let up. It’s a dark, brutal and grizzly outlook of everything. So if gore isn’t your thing, you should probably pass on this.

All in all, The Belko Experiment isn’t anything new to this particular sub-genre. While the cast does fine with what they’re given, we already know that most of these characters are going to die, so we probably hold off on making a strong connection to any of them, which is in some ways a negative aspect for the film. However, if you want to watch a bloodbath in an office, then this is your film.

The Belko Experiment

3 out of 5




Director: Daniel Espinosa

Writers: Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Hiroyuki Sanada, Olga Dihovichnaya, Ariyon Bakare and Ryan Reynolds

Synopsis: A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.


One of the things I dislike about sci-fi space films with something mysterious onboard a spaceship is that it immediately gets compares to Alien. Which I guess is fair, but also not for whatever the film is because you have that thought in your mind and will not judge whatever film that is fairly. So the moment the first trailer for Life came out, everyone said it was Alien ripoff, or if you wanted to believe the crazy fan theory, a secret Venom prequel (it isn’t by the way). While Life is a genre changer, it is a pretty great tension filled thriller that keeps you engaged from start to finish.

The film follows the astronauts on the International Space Station that have discovered organic life from a sample recovered from Mars. The crew includes a CDC representative Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson), doctor and long time inhabitant of the ISS David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal), engineer Rory Adams (Ryan Reynolds), scientist Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare), pilot Sho Murakami (Hiroyuki Sanada) and captain Ekaterina Golovkina (Olga Dihovichnaya). Once they get the organism and study it, they discover that its, as Hugh puts it, “all muscle, all brain” they end up nicknaming Calvin, based off a contest on Earth. Of course, Calvin breaks frees and starts causing chaos on the ship.

Life immediately makes it known how tense this movie will be putting us inside the ship as the crew attempt to grab a probe that has Calvin in it. It never really lets up until right before the last attempt to kill Calvin where characters talk about why they came to space. It’s a good scene, but it takes some of the (no pun intended) air out of the film.

But, what makes Life great is the cast. You can clearly see they all had a great time working together, as they all have great chemistry together and their characters are fleshed out enough to make us care of them once Calvin starts moving around the ISS. Speaking of Calvin, the design of Calvin is pretty interesting and one that I would love to see more of. However, when it comes to his – its? – movement it is pretty scary to imagine that thing coming at you, especially considering how smart it really is.

All in all, Life isn’t a game changer to the subgenre, but it is a tension filled ride from start to finish that has a great cast and a formidable and scary villain.


4 out of 5


‘Jason Bourne’ Review


Director: Paul Greengrass

Writers: Paul Greengrass and Christopher Rouse

Cast: Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Julia Stiles, Ato Essandoh, Scott Shepherd, Riz Ahmed, and Gregg Henry

Synopsis: The most dangerous former operative of the CIA is drawn out of hiding to uncover hidden truths about his past.


*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*


I’ve always been a fan of the Bourne films. There was something about them that made them different from all the other spy films at the time. It helped that Matt Damon completely evolved into the amnesiac CIA operative that went against the people that created him. Also, having a director in Doug Liman and then Paul Greengrass also helped. So when the films decided to go the spinoff route, it was understandable that fans were a little disappointed, but when Damon and Greengrass said they would return fans rejoice and waited for the next chapter of the Jason Bourne series. What we ended up with was a mixed bag of what makes the franchise great, but also a film that could arguably be considered a sequel we didn’t need.

Jason Bourne follows Jason Bourne (Damon) now living off the grid making money but street fighting. However, when former CIA analyst Nicky Parsons (Stiles), who now works for a Wikileaks-type organization, hacks into the CIA and finds a new program called Ironhand, and also finds out Bourne has been connected to the CIA’s deadly programs longer than he thinks, she takes the information hoping to get help from Bourne one more time. The hack doesn’t go as smoothly as she thought because it puts her in the crosshairs of new CIA director Robert Dewey (Jones), and CIA cyber ops head Heather Lee (Vikander). Dewey seemingly thinking Bourne is behind the whole thing sends a new asset (Cassel) to take out Bourne. What follows is Bourne doing this thing of punching, shooting and causing chaos everywhere he goes.


Jason Bourne seems like it has a lot going on, but at the end of it all the film goes for the action rather than the subplot of political themes. The film looks like it is going one place in a post-Snowden world, but instead just puts it in the back burner after the first act of the film. It’s a bit of a shame considering the films have never shied away from tackling political themes in the past. Jason Bourne tries to go there, but instead chooses to elevate the action sequences – which personally I don’t mind, being an action guy – but knowing what this franchise was built on, it is a bummer to see the film go in that direction.

We even see Bourne finally looking like he’s broken down. He’s not hunting down people from Treadstone or Blackbriar, he’s fighting people for a living – easily winning – but when his memories starting to come back, it does look like it’s having a bigger effect on him. Sure we’ve seen Bourne hurt before, but that is all physical pain, and what we see early on in the film is mental. When Nicky finally finds him and brings him into the fold all that is pushed aside.


So while it sounds like I didn’t like Jason Bourne, I actually did. The series did always have great action, but it wasn’t just built on it. This film has arguably a couple more action sequences than the other films. Not that it’s a bad thing since the scenes are great. The riot in front of the Greek parliament building really puts you into the action, and the final act of the film in Vegas is non-stop once the action starts and is topped off with the typical brutal and hard-hitting fight between Bourne and the asset.

The cast is great as always. Damon can play Bourne in his sleep at this point, but he never phones it in. Julia Stiles who returns for the opening of the film is a cool sight to see, but something seemed off about Stiles this time around, maybe it was me, but I don’t know. Tommy Lee Jones, who is known to phone it in a lot, looks like he’s there for the most part. It’s hard to tell, considering he plays the old time agent that knows all about Bourne. Alicia Vikander is a great addition to the series, but it hard to get a read on her character for most of the film until the end when we finally know where she stands.


Vincent Cassel plays the asset aka the hit-man. Cassel’s asset is different from the other assets we’ve seen in the other films like Clive Owen, Karl Urban and Edgar Ramirez. Cassel does have connection to Bourne, and has another aspect to his character that seems rather too convenient, but Cassel is a great actor that it doesn’t almost matter because at least more people will get to know him. Finally, Riz Ahmed plays Aaron Kalloor, who does play a factor into the film, but is forgotten for most of the film, and doesn’t really leave in impact which is a shame because Ahmed is a fantastic actor.

All in all, Jason Bourne could arguably be labeled as an unnecessary sequel, but it’s great to see Damon and Greengrass back in this world, that is may not matter to people. The action is great as always and the cast all hold their own. While the film delves away from its political undertones, Jason Bourne has enough for fans of the franchise to enjoy.

Jason Bourne

3.5 out of 5