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Autoreiji: Biyondo (2012)
With Outrage, Takeshi Kitano returned to his filmmaking roots and he did not disappoint, bringing to the audience one of his signature yakuza movies. Its follow-up, Outrage Beyond offers more of the same as it focuses on a larger scale conflict this time, a conflict that is the direct result of the events in the first film.
The action here revolves around Takeshi Kitano's Otomo and the way his actions lead to a war between two rival yakuza gangs. We find out that Otomo is alive and well, but still in prison after surviving the aftermath of the bloodbath in the first film. His premature release from prison leads to tensions between the two organizations and the apparent peace between them is disrupted. Thus the fight for power begins and the conflict is spiced up by the involvement of a police detective who has interests of his own, all leading to an explosive finale.
The film does not fail to deliver, although it is not in the same class as some of Takeshi's other yakuza efforts. It represents an improvement on Outrage in terms of storytelling, there is less focus on old school action and more emphasis is put on the conflict between the characters, which is a good thing since it adds more dimension to the story. The characters themselves are well developed and the acting is what you would expect. On the other hand, the film lacks some creativity and some artistic touch in order to be truly great. All the elements of a Kitano film are here, but they do not stand out as much as they should, even his trademark deadpan humor is served in smaller doses. All things aside, the film is good in its own right and the only reason for it not being on par with Takeshi's best efforts is because those films have set such a high standard.
While it does not break any new ground, Outrage Beyond is an entertaining film to watch whether you are a fan of the genre or not and it represents a good addition to Takeshi Kitano's filmography.
There is a reason why some films get a direct to video release. As it is the case here with "Carjacked", this is the kind of film that was destined to fall into mediocrity. It seems that the people behind it never believed that they could come up with something good so they didn't care that much about the final result.
I really wasn't expecting anything groundbreaking with this movie, but I still felt disappointed after seeing it. Not only that the film doesn't bring anything new, but it also incorporates some of the most annoying elements present in kidnapping movies. For an instance, the two main characters are incredibly generic. They really could have been taken out from any similar movie and put in here. On top of that you get the usual clichés of the genre and there are also some cheap thrills along the way to provide the entertainment. The film lacks suspense and can be very predictable at times not to mention the fact that some of the decisions that the characters took along the way really defied logic. Also, the directing really felt amateurish at times, especially towards the end of the movie.
Stephen Dorff is a really good actor and so is Maria Bello, but they alone cannot save this movie. Here, the script and direction doesn't allow them to put their acting skills to good use and the final result doesn't do them justice. They manage to bring some depth into their characters, but overall this is a waste of their acting talents.
In the end, "Carjacked" is not a completely bad film, but it suffers from a lack of originality and some bad directing. A below average film that should be watched with diminished expectations.
My rating: 4,5/10
A Dangerous Method (2011)
Perhaps a little too tame for a Cronenberg movie
"A Dangerous Method" marks the third collaboration between director David Cronenberg and actor Viggo Mortensen and even though the final result is not as good as their previous two efforts, I found the film to be satisfying enough in the end.
In terms of production values the film does not disappoint, but perhaps its main flaw is the storytelling. I really failed to get fully engaged in the story and even though the characters are developed well enough I was expecting more in terms of plot. This is an art-house film and it should be treated as such, but that does not mean that it should lack the entertainment factor. The fact that some of the viewers might fail to get emotionally involved might also have something to do with the film's pacing. Despite the fact that it has a running length of a little over an hour and a half the film moves perhaps a little too slow at times and some may find it to be overlong.
The film probably lacks some of the shock elements that were present in Cronenberg's previous movies and made them unique. It does not have an element that stands out and this is where Cronenberg could have probably done a better job.
There are also a lot of good things about the movie. For an instance, I really liked the great attention to detail when it comes to costumes and settings. On top of that it is beautifully shot and it has a good atmosphere.
As far as acting goes Keira Knightley is definitely the weak link here, but the two male leads give noteworthy performances. Michael Fassbender is an actor with an incredible range and here he has the opportunity to show his acting abilities once more. As for Viggo Mortensen, I found his performance as Sigmund Freud to be more than satisfying.
In spite of the problems it has, "A Dangerous Method" manages to be a decent addition to David Cronenberg's filmography. It only left me with the impression that it could have been so much better.
My rating: 6,5/10
"Carnage" is the latest film from director Roman Polanski, a film with a minimalistic plot - two sets of parents decide to meet after their sons get into a fight - that relies on a sharp script and actor power in order to tell a story. Although the concept in not entirely new and you might tell from the first minutes how the events are going to unfold, the film has a good pace and provides the viewer with some decent laughs being quite entertaining for a flick that is mostly based on dialogue.
The acting is what you would expect from a movie that features such big names, Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet being particularly good here. "Carnage" reminded me of the times when you only needed some talented actors and a good script in order to make a good movie, there was no need for flashy special effects or over the top action scenes.
If you liked films like "Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf?" or "Glengarry Glen Ross" where the actors and the story are the ones who really matter, you might want to give "Carnage" a try as well. Although it may not reach the standards set by those movies, Polanski's film manages to be enjoyable, well paced and offers a satisfying movie experience.
My rating: 7,5/10
Not very funny, but well made
Will Ferrell stars in "Talladega Nights" as Ricky Bobby, a talented NASCAR driver who manages to win almost all the races he enters, making him the most popular driver in the circuit. His luck changes though when a French Formula One driver (Sacha Baron Cohen) enters the scene and steals all the attention, so Ricky Bobby will have to work hard and use all his talent in order to retain his No.1 status.
The film has the same style as one of Ferrell's other films, "Anchorman", but it somehow doesn't manage to be that funny and hit all the right notes that the previous did. The characters are funny and the film is a good NASCAR parody, but something seems to be missing here. That's probably because sometimes the jokes seem a little absurd and out of place. The movie compensates however with the racing scenes and I found those to be particularly good for a film that doesn't want to be taken too seriously. The acting is exactly what you would expect from a film like this, most of the actors did a decent job in developing their characters and the results are satisfying.
"Talladega Nights" is a film that is entertaining and pleasant to watch, but it is a little too silly at times. It is worth watching though for its great comedy cast and well made racing sequences.
My rating: 6,5/10
Raw Deal (1986)
One of Arnold's weakest films
"Raw Deal" is perhaps one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's least known movies, a film that he made after the success of "The Terminator", marking his transition from B-movie actor to A lister. The film wasn't a box office success and you can easily tell why, because the film never quite manages to deliver.
Now, I definitely wasn't expecting an art-house drama, but even as a no- brain actioner the film somehow fails to be really entertaining. There aren't too many action scenes in the first part of the film and even those seem to be a little rushed and badly edited. The acting is also typical for a low budget movie, most of the supporting actors giving underwhelming performances. As for Arnold, there are films where he proved to everybody that he can really act, but this doesn't happen to be one of them. He isn't particularly good here, but he still has some of his trademark one liners that made him such a beloved actor.
This is a film that could have done with better directing, better acting and a more original story. It doesn't work in the end, but it might be worth seeing if you are among Arnold's fans.
My rating: 4,5/10
"Legionnaire" is one of Jean-Claude Van Damme's more serious movies. Here, he tried to take a break from his usual action packed movies and appear in a picture that focused on story and character development. The result is a film that doesn't really work that well in the end, but it is definitely not that bad either.
The film relies more on drama than on action scenes and in spite of the fact that this represents a pleasant departure for Van Damme from his usual movies, this is also one of the film's main weaknesses. The movie doesn't know exactly what it wants to be. There were times when the film was a little too slow and some of the actors seemed a little uncomfortable in the scenes that demanded some acting abilities. On the other hand, the film makes good use of its setting (desert) and it has a good atmosphere. I also found the ending to be pretty good and thought that Van Damme did a decent job as an actor, an improvement from his previous roles.
In the end, "Legionnaire" is a nearly good movie, but I had the impression that they could have made it better. Also, if I were to compare it to Van Damme's other effort from 1998, "Knock Off", this is a lot better.
My rating: 5,5/10
The Hangover Part II (2011)
The first one was way better
"The Hangover Part II" is the perfect example of a movie that was specifically made to cash in on the success of its predecessor. Without any new ideas and following a very similar story, it seems that the producers wanted to play it safe and offer the audience more of the same stuff that made "The Hangover" the highest grossing R-rated comedy of all time. What they don't understand is that the first one was successful because it was so original and creative.
I don't think that the film's only problem is the fact that it follows basically the same plot as the first one (other movies have done that and they still managed to be very good "Evil Dead II" comes to mind, a film that is even better than the original). The simple fact is that even if this film had a totally different story it still wouldn't have been as good as "The Hangover" because it is just not as funny as the first film. One thing that made "The Hangover" a good comedy was the relationship between the three main characters. They still manage to be funny here and there are moments that will definitely make you laugh, but those moments are rather rare in a film that relies more on gross-out moments instead of trying to be particularly intelligent. The people who wrote this film simply weren't trying enough because otherwise they would have done a better job.
The acting is quite good, Zach Galifianakis being the one that stands out. His character (Alan) is very funny and his performance alone saves this film and makes it watchable. On the other hand, I found Ken Jeong's Mr. Chow to be really annoying (he was annoying in the first film as well) and the film would have probably been better had it not been for him.
With the success of this film, the cast and crew will probably return for a third one. They probably won't make the same mistake and they will try to bring something different this time around. "The Hangover Part II" is a lazy film that borrows too much from its predecessor and doesn't quite manage to live up to its expectations.
My rating: 5,5/10
The Other Guys (2010)
Overall, an enjoyable movie
"The Other Guys" is a film that perhaps works better as a whole than as a comedy or action flick. It stars Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell as two cops with totally different styles who try to climb their way up the police rankings. When an opportunity to make themselves noticed arrives, the two will have to set their differences aside and collaborate in order to solve the new case.
This film brings nothing new in terms of comedy, but there are surely moments that will make you laugh. The problem is that these moments alternate with some where the story simply stagnates, moments that are not particularly funny. I had the impression that the director envisioned the film in two totally different ways and not knowing which one was better, he decided to mix them together. "The Other Guys" is also an action movie and the action scenes are pretty well made for this kind of film. It is silly, but that's the way it was meant to be and from this perspective the film reaches its objective. Also, when you put the comedy and the action in the balance you will find that the result is actually satisfying. Wahlberg and Ferrell make an OK couple here, their chemistry is not great, but you can't blame them for not trying. As for the other actors, I liked Michael Keaton's role (he is such an underrated actor) and thought that Steve Coogan was good in his part as well.
Despite not being that funny, "The Other Guys" compensates with its good action scenes and above average acting. While it feels that the result could have been better, this is a quite entertaining flick and it is still worth a look.
My rating: 6/10
The Sword in the Stone (1963)
A lot of fun, but not among Disney's best
This is Disney's version of the legend of King Arthur and it represents an adaptation of T.H. White's children's story. Here, Arthur is a young boy who is unaware of his great destiny. He meets and befriends the great wizard Merlin who decides to give him a proper instruction and education in order to prepare him for his future.
The film has some great characters: Merlin the wizard and his intellectually trained owl Archimedes are particularly funny. The animation is very good, but this is Disney after all, so you would expect it to be like that. The film is definitely entertaining, but there are a few drawbacks as well. There are moments when it feels a little too similar to Disney's other animated features from that period. The film also incorporates a lot of plot elements from other Disney movies and the film is very predictable at times. In comparison to another Disney classic, "Sleeping Beauty", this film looks more like a secondary project.
"The Sword in the Stone" is nevertheless a good film and it is superior to many of Disney's modern efforts ("Hercules", "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" or "Pocahontas" to name a few). It is very entertaining and definitely worth watching.
My rating: 7/10