Saturday, May 30, 2015

Review Mad Max: Fury Road (2015): One big chase sequence full of spectacle and thrills!

genre: action, adventure, science fiction,

What can I add to say about a title that already has won the majority over. Including me. For the time being I would say that Mad Max: Fury Road is the best blockbuster film of this year. 

Why? Because it manages to do what it is supposed to do. It puts you into another world and immerses you in such a way that you don't want to leave it. From the start it grabs you and never lets up until the credits roll. I read that George Miller had the desire to make a Mad Max movie where everything was told visually with very little to no dialogue and where the whole film was one big action / chase sequence. Back then of course he did not have the options and the budget to do so. That is why it is remarkable and extraordinary that after thirty years he finally has been able to accomplish what he wanted. 

Now while I loved this movie I have to admit that there are some minor points I think were flawed. The action surely was spectacular and stylish but if I compare them to the ones in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior they missed the charm of The Road Warrior. When people died in that film it had much more of an impact it did in Fury Road. More than the previous parts in the franchise it felt like Max was more a side character than a main one. I had hoped that we would get to see more of what made him so mad. Instead it is implied and we have to assume he is. Which is fine if you know the franchise but if you aren't familiar then I do think it's a little weak. Especially since Emperor Furiosa played by Charlize Theron has been given a little more prominence story wise. 

Speaking of Charlize Theron. I have been made aware that Mad Max: Fury Road is seen as feminist propaganda. I truly don't know how to respond to this claim. Since nothing in this film even remotely suggests such a thing. Fury Road shows us a weird and bizarre world where people have made their own religions and way of living. Where the strong prey on the weak and where every individual are trying to survive. This theme has been present in the Mad Max films for 40 years. Stop making this into something political. From all the themes that are touched upon this is what people got? Didn't it bother Christians that the War Boy Warriors praised Immortan Joe and could not wait to get to Walhalla. Or that Immortan Joe oppressed the people by having control over (clean) water? Something greedy corporations are trying to do today as well. Or how very little concern there was for people's lives and their humanity? Honestly! Mad Max: Fury Road is not that deep people. 

For me Mad Max: Fury Road rocked. It was thrilling and spectacular throughout and it almost spoiled my enjoyment for the Avengers: Age of Ultron that I watched after this. I am looking very forward for George Miller and co to continue this franchise and I am sure that the sequel will be just as good or even better. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Review Baby (2015): Has a heavy 24 and Argo vibe, very thrilling and exciting!

genre: espionage, action, thriller

Baby is proof that Bollywood has what it takes to compete with Hollywood as long as they stray away from the Masala concept. No mixing of the genres and no song and dance. Thank god for that. 

While Baby is not a masterpiece by a long shot it does manage to draw you in and keeps you glued to the screen until it's finished. This is mostly because of the cast and the fast pace. The plot is not that special and is very flawed. However because of the tight direction you will hardly be bothered by them. First and foremost this is an action thriller where one has to excuse the emphasis on action and tension raising sequences where there is not much place for logic. Now that being said there were some flaws where I was asking myself if they could not have handled that better. On the other hand all movies in the genre make the same mistakes. These mistakes are functional to advance the plot. Don't get too hung up about them. I did wish though they would have given the characters a little more depth. Akshay Kumar is solid but I could not agree with how they handled his family life. It was a little too convenient and drama free. Although it can be explained that he has a high sense of duty and love for his country. I have yet to see a Hollywood film explain patriotism. So why would a Bollywood be required to do so. 

Baby has a heavy 24 and Argo vibe where one goes from tense event to another and where there is little to no distraction. That is something I would like to see more often in Bollywood films. So yes I can wholeheartedly recommend this. BTW if you liked this then watch Special 26 , also with Akshay Kumar.

Additional Note:
After having read some comments on IMDB I feel compelled to reply. Some people are being incredibly harsh on this film. They claim it's flawed, filled with plot holes and not very original. Well, that does depend to what you compare it to. Bollywood does not make espionage flicks that often. Which does makes this a whole lot more original than what you normally would expect. And for the rest I say that there is not one boring minute in this flick. It is very entertaining throughout and you actually hardly notice that this film has a length of 150 minutes because time flies by. Sometimes that for me is all what it takes. With unpretentious films like these you just have to go with the flow and then you will find yourself enjoying it much more.

Review Better Call Saul (2015 - ): The Bob Odenkirk Show

genre: crime, drama

When the promo's were shown for the spin off for Breaking Bad I was really happy to see that it was going to feature Saul as main character. I was convinced they would make it into a sitcom where we got to see all the crazy people Saul had to deal with. It's safe to say that Better Call Saul is much more serious and has let go of the comedy.

For better or worse Better Call Saul is a continuation of Breaking Bad in a lot of ways despite this being a prequel. And that was something I had to adjust to. My wish was that they would delve into the hilarious adventures of Saul and that we would get to see what he had to go through until we got introduced to him in Breaking Bad. Instead Better Call Saul is a very serious affair. Bob Odenkirk is the saving grace as he brings the finesse that is needed to give his character a lot of depth. It is intriguing to watch him struggle to do good even when the odds are stacked against him. On several occasions we are shown how certain events affect him and it makes you want to root for him to get a break and achieve whatever it is he wants to achieve. Just like Breaking Bad there is a lot of compelling drama. However the pacing is quite slow especially in the beginning. It does improve with each episode and it is a delight to see how Jimmy evolves. But it really would have been so much cooler had they made the show into a sitcom. That would have required more creativity in the writing. And it would have been one of the first spin offs to go into another direction than the original. I guess they might have thought it was very risky to do so.

In any case Better Call Saul redeems itself and is very much worth your time. Will Jimmy become the criminal lawyer we know from Breaking Bad? Let's tune in next season to find that out!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Review Pound of Flesh (2015): Even intoxicated this one is hard to stomach!

genre: action, martial arts

Jean-Claude Van Damme used to be an action star you could depend on even if he starred in real bad movies. I thought I was prepared for how bad Pound of Flesh was going to be. I was wrong. 

Without a doubt this has to be one of the worst he has ever been in. The action is poorly choreographed and edited. And to make it even worse, Jean-Claude uses stand ins for even the simplest moves. When Sylvester Stallone asked him to join The Expendables, Jean-Claude refused that offer. In an interview I saw he made fun of Sylvester Stallone and was incredibly arrogant saying he could do much better on his own. Well, we know how that turned out. However after seeing him in The Expendables 2 I was convinced he was motivated to make better action films like he did in his prime. Or at least attempt to make fun films like he used to. He kept claiming that he had become a much better actor and wants to prove this to the world. It's a real mystery then why Van Damme does not bother to give his best in this film. Pound of Flesh is so bad that it becomes real hard to take anything serious. None of the dialogue was real or believable. Even in the supposedly more dramatic scenes you can't but help to laugh at the delivery of the lines. Which becomes more comical in a sequence where Jean-Claude explains why he has a French accent and his brother an American one. The ending really takes the cake. Don't worry not going to spoil it but let's say it amps up the melodrama with 300 percent and almost made me have a fit. I know that Van Damme wants to be taken more seriously and that he wants to shift to movies outside the action genre. Only advertising a title as action flick and then serve an incompetently made tragedy is low. I feel duped, conned and robbed of some precious 90 minutes.

I was expecting a Taken like approach where Van Damme was going to kick ass like Liam Neeson did. Who cares what the motivation is as long as he dishes out some delightful pain to the crooks. What we get instead is simply too embarrassing for words. It never does what is promised in the trailer. There barely is action at all. 

"I hate to break it to you Jean-Claude. I don't watch your movies because of your acting. Just accept this truth and do what Stallone is doing. Go back to making the old school action movies you used to make while you still can."

I advice you to skip this. Never ever watch this! 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Review Before I Go to Sleep (2014): Decent thriller that features a Memento like element.

genre: thriller, mystery, drama

The premise is that every time when main character Christine wakes up she has forgotten everything. Imagine how life would be like for you. 

Before I Go to Sleep doesn't waste time to get you in the middle of the mystery and is quite suspenseful from the beginning. Mind you it does not have a fast pace but it does not take long for the twist and turns to do their magic. For the most part this film will make you guessing about what is going on. Although at one point it becomes quite obvious which is a shame. Still this movie does compensate the lack of that one awesome twist with drama in an effective way. It does help that very good actors like Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth and Mark Strong are involved. I do think that the film very conveniently ignores to give out some important back ground info on main character Christine. Still it does add to the suspense making the mystery much more interesting so I can't really blame the director for doing so. However I was expecting a few more surprises that I could not see coming. A larger cast would have at least make it hard to predict the outcome.

But I did enjoy this a lot and it never felt like a waste of time. Before I Go to Sleep might not be remarkable but it builds up the tension nicely and has a satisfying ending. 

Review Battle of the Year (2013): Feel good dance film that features Sawyer and Black Canary!

genre: music, drama

Movies about music and dancing in my eyes can't be judged like conventional films. Because the target audience rarely watch them for their story. But more for the songs and the moves. Yet Battle of the Year gets treated like it's a Shakespeare play gone awry. 

Of course this is totally unfair especially since Battle of the Year has a different approach from similar dance films like Step Up. It's treated as a feel good sports movie. And it works. Especially because of Josh Holloway giving the story some weight. Who cares if this has been done to death? There are only so many ways you can tell a feel good story. They are basic as they come and very universal. Who doesn't love the underdog getting on top? Exactly! Does it really matter then that you can almost predict how this story goes? No, ladies and gentlemen it does not. Battle of the Year takes you on a little journey and makes you feel good at the end. And next to this you also get to view some amazing dance moves. You can tell that most of the people involved in this production actually can dance. They delivered their lines as best as they could. It never bothered me that some of them weren't particular good actors. Because again people, I don't watch these kinds of movies for the plot or acting. 

If you like the genre then you certainly will love this film. I think it belongs into the top category of dance films as it is one of the few that actually tries to be more than just a dance movie. But of course all of that is of no importance if it is not backed up by some spectacular dancing.  And Battle of the Year is full of that. It also features Caity Lotz who most people will know from her role as Black Canary in Arrow ( I was not aware she was a dancer and practitioner of Parkour, see video of her underneath). So give it a shot.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Review Rigor Mortis a.k.a. Geung si (2013): Return to the hopping vampire genre, sort off!

genre: action, drama, horror

Apparently Rigor Mortis pays tribute to an old genre in Hong Kong Cinema that never did that well in the West. Probably because most of it is based on Chinese mythology and therefore not one to get into easily. But director Juno Mak and producer Takashi Shimizu (creator of The Ju-on series and The Grudge franchise) try to do more. Which I think is very commendable but in the end causes the film to be unnecessarily confusing. 

Rigor Mortis at it's heart seems to be a drama about how people deal with death. In order to convey this message though they resort to incredible gorgeous but creepy visuals that are quite effective. However they are never truly scary. Actually Rigor Mortis is not using the typical scares or building up tension. Instead there is a focus on creating this intense and intriguing atmosphere. This is easily the best Rigor Mortis has to offer. To be honest though it feels quite disjointed from the dramatic tales of the characters that are featured. Not that these stories weren't interesting or compelling. They were very much so. Only it did not feel like it really mattered that much since no real depth was given to these stories. But I must admit that the way this movie was filmed and the slow pace it did make you wonder at times if there was more to what you are exposed to. And I for one wanted to see the director go deeper into these people's lives and show us why it was so hard for them to let go. While I really enjoyed the spectacular action and beautiful visuals I do feel they prevented to do something substantial with the subject that the director is trying to pay attention to. Or maybe there truly is more than meets the eye and Rigor Mortis is filled with all kind of symbolism that sadly will be lost on many. 

So I have very mixed feelings about this film. On the one hand I thought it was visually very impressive. And it was nice to see what the hopping vampire / black magic genre would look like if it were made these days. On the other hand I get tired of inexperienced directors putting too much pretension in their work. I really fail to see why a lot of these film makers seem to think that as long as you keep things abstract that it automatically becomes deep and interesting. Because it does not. You only get away with it if you actually attempt to add substance and are able to touch the viewer despite not telling them everything. And on top of that a twist is added that almost is insulting to the people who are very much into the old Chinese folk tales and the fans who love this genre. Why would you do that? 

But I can't deny that Rigor Mortis is much better than I expected it to be and it does deserve to watched at least once. Still you have to count on a very uneven viewing experience where your patience will be tested one minute and the other you will be wowed by the spectacle.