"SMOKIN’ ACES"
Blu-ray Review
by Kevin Carr


    MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5 stars)

    Rated R
    Studio: Universal

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
FBI agents and assassins alike are brought together to protect or kill a protected witness to the mob’s innerworkings. As these disparate forces come together to the target’s hotel room in Tahoe, each person learns a different part of the secret that could bring down the FBI.

WHAT I LIKED
Back in 2007, people seemed to either love or hate “Smokin’ Aces.” Not having seen Joe Carnahan’s first film “Narc,” I didn’t let the hype take me away with this movie, so I liked it for what it was. Overall, I had fun with “Smokin’ Aces,” even the second time around on Blu-ray. There was plenty of excellent action and lots of tongue-in-cheek humor.

The best part of this film was the cast, with Ryan Reynolds in a relatively early role showing that he can do both action and drama, and while Jeremy Piven chews his scenery a little too much, his role as the wanted mob connection was pretty enjoyable. Still, the best performances come from Ben Affleck as a short-lived assassin, Alicia Keys sizzling the screen as an assassin in prostitute’s clothing and Jason Bateman as the herpes-infected, porn addicted, cross-dressing lawyer.

The plot tends to be needlessly overwritten and complex, but you really don’t have to think too much about it. Just trust that it goes somewhere, and you’ll get there with very few questions.

I can see why this film had a greater life on home video than in the theaters. It gives a mindless diversion for some fun late-night viewing.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Joe Carnahan was ruined a bit by making such a beloved film like “Narc” early in his career. He wasn’t able to live up to it for the critics with this film, but that didn’t stop him from trying to cram too much into the movie. The plot is a bit overdone, and there are some things that happen in the end that just get silly.

When watching this film for the second time, I had to remind myself that this was a January release and hardly something that needed to be held to a high standard. If you remember that, you won’t complain too much.

BLU-RAY FEATURES
Many of the features on the Blu-ray come from the DVD release, including an alternate ending, 18 minutes of deleted scenes and outtakes. There are two featurettes: “Shoot ‘Em Up: Stunts & Effects” and “The Line-up,” which profiles the assassins of the movie. Additional features include feature commentaries with the filmmakers and cast.

New Blu-ray features include the disc being D-Box motion enabled and access to the BD-Live center. There’s also two nice U-Control features: a feature-length picture-in-picture visual element and the “Assassin Tracker” which uses Google Maps to track the assassins throughout the movie.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Fans of Joe Carnahan and the overindulgent shoot-‘em-up action film.



"SMOKIN’ ACES 2:
ASSASSIN’S BALL"
Blu-ray Review
by Kevin Carr


    MOVIE: ** (out of 5 stars)
    BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)

    Rated R
    Studio: Universal

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
This prequel to the shoot-‘em-up action flick “Smokin’ Aces” follows an aging FBI agent who spent his life behind a desk only to be targeted by a slew of hired guns. The FBI does its best to keep him protected, but the onslaught of wild assassins comes to his door and requires the feds to keep him underground with as much firepower as they can muster.

WHAT I LIKED
There were two things I liked about this movie... the action and Autumn Reeser’s boobs. Of course, you see more of one than the other. I’ll let you guess which was splashed across the screen more.

Like the first film, “Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassin’s Ball” was high on action, and when it was out in the open to see, things were fun. The action wasn’t as good as that of the first film, moreso because this had a fraction of the budget. However, for a direct-to-DVD action flick, it worked.

Then there’s Autumn Reeser, who is the sizzler in this movie the way that Alicia Keys was in the first one. She’s spunky and adorable in a psycho ex-girlfriend sort of way. We get to see her early on in a sexy compromising position, and that’s a lot of fun. It was too bad the effects crew spirit glued her hair to her nipples. But I still enjoyed watching her, as well as the other sexy vixen Martha Higareda.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Once you get past the boobs and blasts, the movie falls apart. The writing is meant to emulate the first film with a oh-so-brilliant twist at the end and a build-up of conspiracies behind the desk jockey being protected. The problem here is that the feds are completely unlikable. The only one I felt anything for was the target, played by Tom Berenger. His young cub taken under his wing just doesn’t cut it, either here or on this season of “24.”

There were also moments of silliness when it came to production value. For example, the director overuses bluescreen, which is sloppy and unnecessary, and it doesn’t even work on a nostalgia factor like Quentin Tarantino’s retro rear-projection feel from “Pulp Fiction.”

BLU-RAY FEATURES
Special features include the featurettes “Confessions of an Assassin,” “The Bunker Mentality: Designing the Set” and “Ready, Aim, Fire: The Weapons of Smokin’ Aces 2.”

There are also basic features like deleted scenes, a gag reel and a feature commentary with Joe Carnahan and director P.J. Pesce. The only problem with this is that Pesce comes across as such an arrogant prick that he ruins the commentary. The same goes for his on-screen presence in “Behind the Scenes with Joe Carnahan” that I learned a new meaning for contempt for an arrogant director who doesn’t seem to realize that he’s making a direct-to-video release.

Other notable features is a look at the comic relief clown element with “Cue the Clown” and the PocketBlu app that allows you to control the movie with your iPhone.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
People who think direct-to-DVD sequels to over-the-top movies are a good thing.




    

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