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Top Five (2014)
6 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
A few jabs but no knockout punch, Top Five is Chris Rock's directing best...but still could have been better, 15 December 2014

Top Five is a film that should have been ballsier, should have had a stronger voice, and should have delivered a heavier punch. The fact is we have seen this concept before, with the weak Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins and the mediocre Funny People. The entertainer-going-back-to-roots-rediscovery angle has been done a couple times within the past half-decade. So in order for Top Five to stand out, it needs sharper dialogue, more entertaining scenarios, more heart. And who better to do this then one of the best comics in the last 20 years? Yet despite the effort and the clearly talented cast, the movie never truly floats above mediocrity waters. Top Five does enough to slightly entertain, but you really wish that there could have been more.

Chris Rock's stand-up is undeniably one of the best in the history of the art form. He has the observational humor of Jerry Seinfeld mixed with the sharp delivery of Eddie Murphy. His cinematic career however lacks the bite that gives him the unique voice in comedy. When your best performance and best non-animated movie comes from a 20+ year old Wesley Snipes film (well...maybe CB4), there is a major issue. And although this movie isn't autobiographical, it definitely has some nods to Rock's actual career. This time Rock is channeling his inner Woody Allen by writing, directing, and starring in a New York flick.

In terms of acting, Chris Rock does not disappoint. His chemistry with the evocative and beautiful Rosario Dawson (sheer underrated talent) was the highlight of the film by far. They work off each other very well, which makes it all the more surprising that the rest of the cast had such limited material and didn't have their chance to truly mesh with Rock. Even Cedric the Entertainer and his amazing portrayal of a Houston freewheeler didn't contribute much. Chris Rock does indeed have the ability to run a movie, but boy did I wish more from Cedrick, J.B. Smoove, Sherri Shepherd, Gabrielle Union, among others.

All the small roles from talented people would be forgiven if the script had been stronger, and if the film had truly explored the harsh questions. Behind the microphone, Chris Rock is not afraid to take on touchy subjects. In Top Five, lots of concepts are lightly brought up but never explored. The reality star life angle, the difficult comedian life angle, the race angle, the returning-to-roots angle, and even the politics subject was slightly and very dimly brought up, but it never dwelled deeper. We could have had some serious post-viewing discussions on the whos, the whats, and the whys, but the film never ignited the fire.

Similar to About Last Night, another 2014 woulda, coulda, shoulda black ensemble film that didn't dip its feet into the discussion waters, Top Five explores a similar cinematic concept and stays afloat mainly because of lead character chemistry and a few cameos striking comedic gold. Unfortunately this movie lacks the bite of Chris Rock standup (despite the "R" rating giving you full permission to do so), instead meandering into similar territory that mixes Woody Allen with recent Judd Apatow. Dramatic but not dramatic enough, funny but not funny enough, provocative but not provocative enough, There are too many ingredients in the talent soup for the overall flavor to remain slightly lifeless.

I wanted more, anticipated more, and overall it just wasn't enough—despite this being Rock's best directorial and acting work.

7 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
Low-Fat, Low-Carb, Low Sugar Entertainment for the Kiddies, 5 December 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If you are going out of bounds, be fully out of bounds.

If you are going to create a wacky, out-of-control movie devoid of any slowdown moments or sentimental value---keep it that way.

This is what makes Emperor's New Groove such a phenomenal gem, and what made a movie like Shark Tale a jarring confusing drag. The Penguins of Madagascar falls somewhere in the middle, combining wacky ridiculous humor with a slight bit of heart that actually bogs the movie down a few notches. The additional cast of characters joining the penguins also actually brings it down a few notches. And lastly, the extended running time, which especially feels dragging for a movie that moves so fast, prevents this flick from truly excelling.

Nonetheless, just like in all the Madagascar movies, when the penguins are present and behaving zany, this is when the movie shines the brightest and flourishes the most. We had been begging for these characters to get their own movie; as their snarky creative schemes and no Fs attitude contradicted the pace and characterizations of the others involved---minus the lemurs which sadly have no place here. And although our wish came true, it still awkwardly left us yearning to see more from the original Madagascar cast.

If you are going to replace Alex and company, and replace the equally-ridiculous lemur crew (especially King Julien flawlessly voiced by Sacha Baron Cohen), you better have an awesome cast taking the wheel. Unfortunately, this is not the case as we have ho-hum secret agents that serve only as a compliment to a quick-and-easy plot involving an angry John Malkovich-voiced octopus wishing revenge on penguins around the world. Yea, the plot has a 90s children cartoon feel, and that is exactly what we got, even though being a little more straightforward could have severely benefited the entire thing.

In movies that operate in this frantic style, heart, animation, realism, and normal rules of storyframing should take a backseat. When a movie shoots and flies like a bullet, there cannot be anything holding it back. In my ultimate example, The Emperor's New Groove went against the Disney grain and delivered arguably the most Chuck Jones-ish movie since the Looney Tunes and obliterated every animated rule in the book. The fourth wall was non-existent during those 90 minutes. With Penguins however, there were a few slowdown moments and although they can be vital to wholesome family fare like How to Train Your Dragon and Big Hero 6, it does hamper movies that just aim to please and become throwaway popcorn entertainment.

Luckily, there is still plenty of entertainment here, from the quick-paced one-liners to the creatively-done action sequences. I assure you, the potential was indeed here. And to top it off, plenty of penguin espionage keeping the tykes entertained. We just wish that there was more of it. For some odd reason the penguins continuously leave us asking for more, even after getting its own entire movie. It might be that the penguins work best in small doses. It could be that the Madagascar crew actually holds more quality weight than we anticipated. At the end of the day though, this movie becomes entertaining yet unmemorable. Funny yet not fully satisfying. A mission well-done, but very little reward.

King Julien and Mort really should have gone along for the ride.....

5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Interstellar is like the comedian having to explain and dissect the now-magicless joke., 22 November 2014

Interstellar is like trying to consume a 10-inch slice of pizza in your mouth without chewing: we know the pizza is always good, and we know that the more pizza the better, but then after a point it becomes pure overkill. That is what Interstellar is: cinematic overkill that overstays its welcome, overstays its logic, and lingers around long enough for you to notice the rapidly-thinning plot. The technical aspects were indeed spectacular in every sense of the way, which arguably keeps the movie afloat for as long as it possibly can before the third act weighs everything down with its left field conclusion.

What really limits Interstellar more than anything else is the plot and the script. Movies that use a backdrop as vast and expansive as space needs a smaller story to keep the audience and the logic in check. This is what worked for Wall-E, Gravity, and to a lesser extent 2001: A Space Odyssey. With Interstellar however, too much is explained, and the audience is required to make massive leaps of faith that we may not be willing to make---especially after already going through two hours of it. The dialogue is slightly overblown and loses authenticity, and by the climax too much is being discussed and not enough is being shown.

The performances and the technical details keep the dialogue and story from disappointing us too much. Matthew McConaughey carries this film well as he becomes simply a man concerned about the future of his family in the midst of the grand space adventure that takes too many twists and turns that requires a second viewing to fully realize it all. Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, and Michael Caine did a swell job with the minimal material handed to them. They each added a sense of believability to a plot that was quite devoid of them as the movie went on.

The cinematography and special effects were top-notch, although they suffered a few setbacks if you compare them to 2013's Gravity. Interstellar hides its space scope with far too many closeups of the crew in the space station, when there was an entire universe to be explored. The other locales themselves were quite lacking in eyecandy and creativity, leading to us longing for more scenes of outer space.

Also hurting this film was that too much was happening at the same time, not in plot but in presentation. Sometimes the dialogue audio was battling the musical score and sound effects, resulting in a loud mass that made it tough to hear and comprehend the scene. In the case of Gravity and 2001, it was made sure the music was front and center, toning down just slightly when dialogue was needed to be said.

Christopher Nolan is a go-big-or-go-home type of director. Simplicity is not in his resume, he loves his stories and films complex, full of wonder, full of questions, and full of awe-inspiring scenes. However, simplicity is what is definitely lacking in Interstellar. If the film spent more time showing instead of telling, then we would have had a better visual feast ahead of us. A movie of this kind, with so much room to explore, needs to be more like Jurassic Park (simple, yet incredibly thrilling) and less like Contact (psychologically and philosophically inducing).

I truly wanted to enjoy this movie, considering the time, effort, and sheer labor put in to this cinematic space opera. But the entire affair was too bloated, too overdone, and just altogether didn't leave much to the imagination. Each of the pieces were good from the acting to the directing to the cinematography to the special effects. But altogether none of it really meshed, even with a running time of over 160 minutes.

In space, nobody can hear you. In the movie theater however, every yawn can indeed be heard, now matter how pretty it looked...

Whiplash (2014)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Whiplash is cinematic freeform jazz: unexpected, unpredictable, and quite fulfilling, 22 November 2014

Being an artist, whether writing something, filming something, or playing something, requires a special edge. This special edge is a passion that not everyone can possess, and not everyone can maintain. This special edge can alienate you from the rest of society, can cast you as a black sheep, can drain all your willpower, but at the end of the day if you are good at your craft this is all that matters.

Whiplash is a grandiose work of cinematic bittersweet delight that explores that darkness of said passion and the drawbacks that comes with it. It is required viewing if you ever want to know what it feels like to be a tortured soul determined to be the best. There were only 12 people in the theater when I watched this: we all wound up clapping in the end.

Whiplash thrashes around like bebop jazz: initially inviting, then becomes loud, unexpected, twisted, daring, violent, and entertainingly tedious. On the surface it looks like a simple tale of an aspiring jazz drummer entering a tough course with a nasty instructor becomes something much more. It is about two people that seek perfection in their craft in an art form that can easily hide the blemishes. It is about two people trying to succeed in a type of music that is a far cry from what it used to be. The olden days are referenced aplenty, from style to music to the victim artists within the genre.

On the surface, it may look like a simple film to direct. But Whiplash contains a heavy and hyper dosage of extreme close-ups, long shots, fast alternating cuts, and just a dizzying cinematographic energy that is on par with the best action films. Damien Chazzelle not only writes the strong script that is far from predictable, but also gives the movie a strong flavoring of authenticity from the small details to the music that is ultimately performed in front of our very own eyes.

The acting deserves Oscar nominations all around. Although J.K. Simmons will receive almost all the (well-deserved) attention for a spellbinding and flawless performance as a profanity-laced and dangerous perfectionist teacher that becomes a tyrant once the class starts, Miles Teller also deserves just as much acclaim for bringing his extremely devoted yet sympathetic lead character to life. The jazz action is intense, the blood, sweat and tears are frighteningly real. The tension is heavy in an unlikely Hitchcockian sense, and by the time you get to the climactic scene you will simply be swept away by the musical, emotional, and psychological madness.

It is not an easy movie to stomach, it is a tough pill to swallow. But surviving the intense thrill dramatic ride of passion brings enough catharsis and snarky emotional payoff to have you hooked from beginning to finish. Whiplash is easily one of the best films of 2014 as it all comes together perfectly like a great jazz ensemble.

Being an artist is zealous torture, plain and simple. Whiplash perfectly personifies this fact of life.

And this type of torture is exactly why I am writing this review at 4 in the morning. And whether you understand this aspect of my life or not, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Big Hero 6 (2014)
5 out of 29 people found the following review useful:
The Student is catching up to the Teacher, 11 November 2014

There was an interesting cinematic juxtaposition that occurred on the weekend of November 6th, 2014.

Just as the silently sputtering and problematic Pixar announced yet another sequel, this time a pointless one to a masterpiece of a trilogy that ended perfectly, we see the Walt Disney Animation division deliver yet once again another surprisingly powerful and entertaining film. Continuing a quality streak that began with 2009's Princess and the Frog, Walt Disney Animation Studio has essentially created a second Renaissance that has delivered quality Oscar-winning films (Frozen) as well as a few surprises (Wreck-It Ralph). With Big Hero 6, we see a great animated film devoid of a love story or princesses that is full of humor, heart, action, and overall entertainment.

The Disney formula is alive and kicking in Big Hero 6, as we have the themes of heavy loss, the strong villain, the essential supporting cast that steals the show, and of course minimal surprises that doesn't deviate the movie too far from its main course of entertaining the kids and adults alike. And although the Disney formula prevents Big Hero 6 from reaching the necessary shock in your better comics and comic book inspired movies like The Incredibles, it's still a fun flick that becomes a nice departure from your recent influx of animated and superhero sequels.

Part of the requirements of making the ultimate comic book film includes a unique look and feel that distances itself from other works—whether it's the toxic dark Gotham City or mythological-laden Asgard. One of the best aspects of Big Hero 6 is how deep and engaging the world of San Francisokyo is, as the visual range of the city is just as expansive as the environments of recent Disney movies like Frozen, Tangled, and even Wreck-It Ralph. This gives the added visual flair to the chases and action sequences sprinkled throughout the two hours.

Just as spellbindingly good as the animation was, it was the powerful and quick-moving script that propels Big Hero 6 to the next quality level. Although it is based off of a Marvel comic, the adaptation is extremely loose, extremely watered-down, and toned down to appeal to a wider audience---while at the same time giving it a necessary dosage of likability that was absent in the original comic. The trio writing team crafted a screenplay that acts like an origin story but paces like a complete film. There just isn't enough time to give the correct amount of attention to the delightful supporting cast of characters (and its crafty anime-influenced villain) but luckily our well-rounded hero (aptly named Hiro) and his robotic pal have strong personalities, and a strong friendship to propel the movie forward. Beymax has layers of depth that the trailers and commercials could never convey.

Although the tropes and current financial strategies of the Disney company (and suddenly Pixar) prevents Big Hero 6 from truly reaching the stars (Because we all know what happens to successful Disney animated movies), we are still treated to a well-directed wholesome blend of comedy, drama, and action swirled around a cool comic book setting wrapped in a Disney bow. From beginning to end this film will entertain, will move you, will make you laugh, and will make you cry. Even if it's a few feet from reaching 1999-2009 sans-Cars Pixar level (then again, this epic run may not happen again from any film studio), Disney Animation is doing a fantastic job fully recovering from Eisner's attempted murder of the animation studio.

After spending years following in Pixar's footsteps, it looks like the Walt Disney Animation Studio has just about caught up.

2 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Superb thriller from the School of Fincher, Nightcrawler is Gylenhall and Gilroy in top form, 2 November 2014

David Fincher would be absolutely proud.

Nightcrawler is a melancholy subtle thriller that laces fantastic acting with a strong script with plenty to say and wrapped together by tight editing, incredible cinematography, and a moody James Newton Howard (who has been exceptionally busy lately) score that has a very unexpected Ross/Reznor feel. Dan Gilroy's directorial debut is arguably among the best since Shyamalan's Sixth Sense---another impressive debut with the similar under the bubble suspenseful psychological horror that keeps you on edge until the final minutes.

How the writer behind Reel Steel and Two for the Money managed to imitate Fincher I'll never know, but it sure does help to have some Oscar-worthy acting at front and center. Jake Gylenhall as Louis Bloom is easily the strongest aspect of the film, as his character is like a bone-crushing car accident: brutal, uneasy to look at, but you still can't look away. This is Gylenhall's movie easily, as his cold eyes, anti-social demeanor, and psychotic way of life makes his character one of the best you'll see in cinema nowadays.

Similar to how End of Watch (Also…Jake Gylenhall) took a known lifestyle and then displayed the grim dark side of it, Nightcrawler chronicles the late-night lives of people that record and deliver the late-night news—while simultaneously showing the ugly underbelly mannerisms behind what you see on television. Dan Gilroy's script pulls no punches as he not only writes an interesting character in an interesting premise, but also interweaves some clever and biting commentary about the pursuit of success and the murky morality during the rise to the top.

But the movie never appears preachy because it still has a good story to tell, and consistently prevents you from figuring out how far, how deep, and how wicked it goes. Nightcrawler has a slow yet steady pace as it morphs from a glimpse of a lifestyle to a scenario that stems from it. The ascetics enhance the mood as the cinematography transforms Los Angeles into an eerie environment with heinousness creeping out of the dark corners everywhere. What is more surprising than Gilroy's superb directing debut is Howard's score which deviates far from his normal blockbuster orchestral feel and gives us a low-volume high-intensity score that undermines and bubbles under the silent terror of the hunt for grisly footage.

What honestly kills some of Nightcrawler's momentum in the Oscar run and attempt to be the best film of the year is ironically David Fincher and Gone Girl. Gone Girl not only came out first, but also has the biting commentary that oozes out of its script, superb directing, and a phenomenal musical score that ties together a story that has few heroes, and even fewer chances of the audience figuring out its next direction. Gilroy makes a grand entrance, too bad it had to follow up the master of the broody underground cinema scene—similar to how the wonderful David Bowie had to unfortunately follow (and never have a chance to surpass) Queen's legendary performance in Live Aid 1985.

However it is cruel to bring up another movie when the one currently being discussed is still a great work of cinema. Gylenhall, Gilroy, and Howard are Oscar-worthy as their skills blend together to create one of the best films of the year, and a hell of a thriller overall. Even if the ending underwhelms and dissatisfies a little, there is no denying that Nightcrawler will leave an impression on you from the character of Louis to the slick writing and camera-work that perfectly unites him and the midnight environment slums from which he comes from.

Nightcrawler is dark, dark chocolate: satisfying, fulfilling, and with that nice bitter aftertaste.

Gone Girl (2014)
4 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
The Hitchcock is Strong in This One, 8 October 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Gone Girl starts off with in an unsettling fashion, even throwing the opening credits quicker than normal. This makes the audience a little uneasy as the story begins.

And the audience will remain uneasy and struggling to catch up for the remainder of the film.

Gone Girl is polarizing, intense, extremely jaded, and quite manipulating. David Fincher's fingerprints are all over the adaptation of the best-selling novel that alters the tone of the book to adjust better to the cinematic medium. From the direction to the spellbinding and haunting musical score, Gone Girl hits all the right notes, does an excellent job maintaining the tense mystery without becoming predictable, and leads an all-star cast (Even Tyler Perry was bearable) surrounded by talent in the art, cinematography, and production department.

What starts off as a simple tale of a quiet mysterious husband (Ben Affleck) worried about the disappearance of his wife (Rosamund Pike in a pure Give Me My Oscar performance) turns into a darkly stylish thriller with twists, turns, unexpected surprises, intrigue, and slick commentary on American marriage and the American media's mannerisms surrounding the news and the people involved in it. Similar to Social Network, it presents an interesting character and sociological portrayal while mixing in an exhilarating story to propel the movie forward.

And…then we go in a very different direction for the final act.

In a style similar to Hitchcock's also-polarizing Vertigo, Gone Girl consists of two parts: the mystery and the consequences of the mystery once the conclusion has been unveiled. This makes Gone Girl practically two different movies that might be equal in tone but splits into seemingly opposite roads. While the film is 150 minutes long, the climax of the original conflict actually arrives much much sooner than the norm—just like Vertigo. And just like Vertigo, it's slightly tough to appreciate the unveiling of the wild card when there is still so much poker left.

The best way to describe Gone Girl without revealing any of the surprises and revelations is this: Gone Girl's first two acts are like a dark roller coaster you've never ridden before; full of turns and inversions that you will enjoy and consistently anticipate and request more of. The final act of Gone Girl is like a good roller coaster you've ridden before; where you can appreciate the thrills, appreciate the details, but at the same time make you wish you could be surprised more.

And----like Vertigo----if the movie had played out the mystery and the conflict a bit longer then the payoff would have been much grander. The timing of the payoff is extremely important in movies like this, it can make a movie like Fight Club and The Usual Suspects, or it can totally shatter a movie like Lucky Number Slevin (Oh, you don't remember this one? Of course you don't…). Not to say Gone Girl loses too much momentum once the movie takes a jarring shift, but that second roller coaster ends quite abruptly, leaving you with a satisfied feeling with a side of emptiness.

But hey, there is a good chance that Fincher's intention was to never let you find your footing during the grim adventure. There is a good chance that Fincher had spent a good deal preparing a beautiful cinematic present without even considering topping it with a nice bow. Because at the end of the day, whatever timing and tonal shift issues the Gillian Flynn script presented, it was eradicated by the high value of the overall film. It is unique, it is breathtaking, and it will devour your thoughts long after the movie is over—if it wasn't any good, would I even spend so much time trying to figure out how to judge this flick?

Good movies are enjoyable, great movies linger in your consensus. Like the thickest of peanut butter gluing to the roof of your mouth, Gone Girl will meander in your thoughts as you continuously struggle to soak in all the grim, all the insanity, and all the sheer hurricane of subtle tension you had just witnessed.

If only it had less Vertigo….

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Shot of adrenaline that lit up the film world of the 90s., 25 September 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Read this loud and clear: Pulp Fiction will never ever happen again. The impact, the delivery, the timing, and the overall stamp it has placed in cinema history can never be duplicated. See, there are bad movies, good movies, great movies, and trailblazers. The trailblazers are films that jump-start a movement, revolutionize the industry, change the landscape of motion pictures, and delivers an impact whether immediate (Star Wars) or down the road (Fight Club) that never exits the general consensus.

Wizard of Oz, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Psycho, Jaws, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Graduate, and Goodfellas are all examples of films that are trailblazers. None of these films have any contemporaries, they are their own category and all films of similar genres become compared to them. Pulp Fiction is a 90s indie trailblazer that absolutely altered the entire culture of movies by crafting what at the time was easily one of the most jarring, unexpected, stylish, and wholesome cinematic experiences ever witnessed.

Pulp Fiction was a low-budget flick with such high aspirations that 1994 didn't know how to handle it. The soundtrack (among the best in film history), the unexpected blend of violence, drugs, and realistic dialogue, the surprises, the utter lack of chronological order, the style, the tone, and the overall look of Pulp Fiction made it stand out not just among the films of the 90s, but everything preceding it. It talks like a Scorsese movie, moves like a 1950s Italian neorealism flick, paces like a spaghetti western, and breathes like an underground comic book come to life. Pulp Fiction is tasty cinematic soup.

Pulp Fiction knew it was cool before the viewer did. Pulp Fiction knew that its audience was going to put up with the 150 minutes of dialogue because the characters were so strong, the story lines were unique, and there were so many details (explained and unexplained) that it required multiple viewings to catch it all, and jump-started urban legends and mysteries that remain unsolved to this day. It was a movie that created its own culture and fanbase that would follow madman Quinten Tarantino for the entirety of his career---through the "bad" (Death Proof) and the good (Django Unchained).

Everything in this movie works. The cast was downright phenomenal and nearly miraculous considering the budget (Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, AND Christopher Walken in one movie??!!). The dialogue was sharp, witty, brutal, and breathes life into each character you see within the pulp-influenced saga. The directing by Tarantino was practically flawless as he makes transforms the camera into a curious witness by mixing in a barrage of close-ups, long shots, and spastic movement that never feels like its framing a shot but more so just following the story along where ever the action was going.

This movie literally has it all: sex, violence, drugs, rock n' roll, dancing, singing, crime, morality issues, romance, revenge, monologues, potential miracles, shootouts, dark humor, dozens of film references, and even a couple glimpses of the California underworld that most people would rather not know about. And all this was accomplished without a Hollywood budget. There was a slight sense of amateurism that gave the movie an edge, like a black sheep in the meadows of the film industry. This would inspire an entire wave of budding, ambitious, and hopeful filmmakers that also had their stories to tell and didn't want to cater to the typical Hollywood output or abide by its rules. Pulp Fiction is a B-Movie setup executed like an underground masterpiece from the dialogue-heavy start to the sudden finish.

You can't duplicate this. I couldn't duplicate this. Tarantino could never duplicate this. Pulp Fiction is one of the greatest films ever made, and a perfect storm of innovative filmmaking that lifted 1994 into one of the best years of film that has ever existed---and launched an entire era of indie filmmaking that still has its effects on the industry today. Pulp Fiction is as absolutely cool as its gets.

Bullets. Bodies. Explosions. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Enjoy., 18 September 2014

We can start the review by stating one fact about this movie: the body count is 307. That is over two bodies a minute.

To sum it up, this action film is pound for pound, inch for inch one of the biggest, baddest, most intense, and most insane action movies in the entire spectrum of cinema----not just China but the entire planet. This movie nearly immediately starts off with a bang (Well, a medley of bangs) and then interweaves action sequences with a plot full of betrayal, undercover work and slight double-crossing (Yea, technically there is a plot) before leading up to a finale that ranks up there as among the best you'll ever see.

Hard Boiled is 90s action cinema plain and simple: takes no prisoners, the plot comes second, and its main focus is to satisfy the audience by any means necessary. But the biggest difference between this bloody gem and your old-school 90s Michael Bay and James Cameron is that Hard Boiled was far, far riskier in terms of stuntwork and far, far less restricted with rules, regulations, and insurance companies. Not to knock the safe techniques of Hollywood, but the extremely dedicated staff behind this dangerously destructive movie paved the way more stunts, explosions, and utter mayhem that just wouldn't be humanely possible in a film made in the American borders.

John Woo (and Chow Yun-Fat) is at his prime here, cut down by age and Hollywood limits shortly after his peak in 1992. Unlike your rapid-fire editing, extreme close-ups, shaky camera-work, and over-abundance of CGI of your modern, easier-to-make action movies, Hard Boiled was layers of stuntwork, lack of trickery, exquisite long shots of just egregious shootouts---and so much action you might feel like having to clean the television set once the credits start rolling. The final showdown alone takes up about half an hour and has more broken glass than a mirror maze overrun by black cats.

Physics and continuity are stretched to the limit as the gun fu style of action allows for thousands of bullets to fly out of the hundreds of guns at such an intense and entertaining pace you don't realize how impossible the entire sequence is. Picture high-energy martial arts except instead of punches and kicks you'll see bullets fly at each other and hundreds of near-misses from our heroes and some of the enemies. You are going to see years of action, violence, blood and guts compacted into a two-hour chunk of pure exhilaration.

Non-action moviegoers would probably see this as mundane and repetitive, devoid of good dialogue and a deep plot. Action fans will see this as a sweet dream come true as you'll see fights of gunfire in multiple angles, multiple speeds, and plenty of creativity to keep it all engaging--while telling a tale about good cops going up against really bad men. This is John Woo at his best, Chinese cinema at its finest, and a violently beautiful example of what happens when you rely solely on real life stuntwork and good ol' actual explosives. And most impressive that with a $5 million budget it feels like a bigger and better experience than your modern $150-$200 million summer blockbusters.

Loud, uncut, and out of control, Hard Boiled is as tough as nails, and deserves your full attention.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
An Adult Looney Tunes Cartoon that paces like a hyper flipbook, Grand Budapest Hotel is dazzling, unique, and pure absurd entertainment, 8 September 2014

You know you've made your mark in the cinematic world when just a few visual images from a trailer reveals that you are behind the movie. Whether it's the rapid-fire editing of Tony Scott (or his successor, Edgar Wright), pulp house content of Robert Rodriguez (who just isn't the same anymore), or the long-sweeping shots of Steven Spielberg, if you can immediately figure out who made the movie with just an image or a scene alone, it's a very, very good sign.

And now we have Wes Anderson and his whimsical, colorful, adult Dr. Seuss style of storytelling that has potentially reached its peak with the enduring, zany, and unpredictable Grand Budapest Hotel. This cinematic ball of energy looks like a Pollock painting if it ever got organized, runs like a Looney Tunes cartoon, and delivers an adult story in a most unique, childlike wondrous way. Similar to how Woody Allen's career took a second wind as he went overseas, Wes Anderson's movie-making trip to Europe elevates his skills and abilities as a director to brand new heights.

The story is surprisingly dark, as it spans multiple World Wars and covers a mystery involving a woman that may or may not have been murdered. The plot however moves so swiftly, so quickly, and contains so many humorous twists and turns you don't have time to dwell on the grimness. It does help that we have an excellent cast playfully tagging along for the ride, including Ralph Fieness in an Oscar-worthy performance, William Dafoe, and Tony Revolori---while also giving points to Jude Law, F. Murray Abraham, Adrian Brody, and Jeff Goldblum for their small but memorable roles.

Cast is important (Wes always has great casts, Hollywood should take notes), but this is Anderson's work first and foremost, and it's his writing and meticulous attention to detail that has allowed for him to emerge as one of the top directors in the game. Too bad that his light indie style doesn't exactly fit with the norm that usually gets Oscar attention (Similar to Spike Jonze). Don't let the lack of Oscar bait bum you though, the movie is dazzling eye candy with gorgeous shots and even more gorgeous cinematography that warrants multiple viewings to appreciate the backgrounds and foregrounds that blend with the cast and the story being told. The unconventionalism (not a word, I know) of Anderson separates him from not only Hollywood but from the Indie movement as well.

Grand Budapest Hotel is a Wes film plain and simple: great plot, colorful cast of characters, detailed settings, bite-sized dark humor, quirky swirl of comedy and drama, and an energy that you just don't get in many works nowadays. Grand Budapest Hotel is a visual treat from start to finish, so if you can handle his unique flavor and brand, then there is no reason why you would skip this movie. Easily one of the best you'll see this year.

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