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Tom Hardy is barely keeping Venom alive
Spider-Man has been a personal favorite super hero of mine. Despite the debacle with different studios and without having Spider-Man, I personally rooted Venom to succeed. However, the jarring tonal shift, occasional clumsy dialogues and heavy reliance on CGI are eerie reminisces of less sophisticated super hero movie from early 2000. It's disappointing because there are some good set pieces here and Tom Hardy tries his damn hardest.
On a quick glance Venom can be an action thriller, the tone fits perfectly almost in Daredevil crime drama fashion. It almost reaches such darker place but doesn't dare to take the final step, instead it instantly switches to humor. While this new more cynical Venom is not entirely bad, he is such a good character to establish a more intense atmosphere. It does hurt the nuance, toning down on the menacing aura.
Whatever element works on Venom can be credited to Tom Hardy. He displays the reluctant anti-hero so dysfunctionally well. His gesture, slight twitch and banter with the alien invader are a blast. Pacing and script can be problematic, but Tom Hardy just goes all in with sheer tenacity. When it goes to Venom, CGI is inevitable. It's rather unconvincing at times and a more physical choreography would do more wonder than the black suit.
I want to see this as standalone movie, but in the end Venom does need Spider-Man. He could've been a stronger faster version of Spidey and with Tom Hardy as anti hero, that would've made such an interesting clash. Also, if it wants to go for sci-fi thriller route, there's already a recent movie with same premise, Upgrade, which sadly did everything better.
It's not devoid of entertainment, sometimes the humor hits sweet spot, but if you're here for the sentiment of the Venom namesake, this is not the Homecoming you want. It might not be even the Andrew Garfield kind.
Family lesson from space pirates
When the first Guardians of Galaxy ended with high note, specifically with "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", I was thoroughly blown away. Volume 2 is just a tad shy from that magical moment, yet it's an entertaining barrage of visual, music and humor of its own right. This time the space odyssey shines unexpectedly bright from the excellent supporting characters and their openly dysfunctional relationships while keeping the core charm from the original.
The main story follows Quill and his newfound father Ego (Kurt Russell). It's a self-discovery and family ties plot device that for most parts work well enough, but it does feel too safe and follows the same footsteps of other Marvel movies. This tends to veer into the realm of godhood and while it possesses a few twists, the sense of novelty is reduced from the first movie.
Still, it's not by any means a bad showing and luckily, the rest of the crew more than perform beyond their call of duty. Yondu (Michael Rooker) is a rock star of Mary Poppins' caliber. Not only he has one of the best action scenes in Marvel universe with the flying arrow, his character brings scruffy emotional depth as he interacts with Rocket and ultimately Quill.
Nebula (Karen Gillan) has a very intense love-hate relationship with Gamora (Zoe Saldana). The two trades bullets and blows almost every time they meet. Nebula is much darker than the rest of the characters, a contrast the movie doesn't shy away from. The elegant part of this unhinged mentality is how her emotions are seeping through her metallic visage, just barely enough. It's, in an odd way, humanize both sisters exquisitely.
Humor is abundance, tightly woven in even the direst situation. If you come for childish antic your adult self is trying to suppress, this will be nothing less than a gleeful escapade. The use of humor is especially useful in introducing a few more characters while expanding on what already a diverse cast. Nothing charms the audience better than characters that can make them giggle and smile, and in Volume 2 that's practically everyone.
Volume 2 is visually more colorful than the original, taking advantage of the setting as well as robust action sequences. The first tracing shot alone makes it clear that this is smoother experience even in chaotic world the characters often find themselves into. Retro music makes an expected return, production knows the power of the soundtracks, thus trying to fit them into the story. This should never change.
Imagine a moving painting of faraway world, serenaded by song from decades ago, where all the residents are partially broken inside and partially juvenile, yet manage to be so fricking lovable. Add David Hasselhoff and you get Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
The Fate of the Furious (2017)
When a superhero movie is done not with capes, but with cars, it is still an amusing show.
What started as racing franchise has now shifted gear into a mix of old James Bond flick and shade of Marvel blockbuster. It may feel zealously exaggerated, and with high level of adrenaline and testosterone, it is indeed excessive. However, fueled by staggering amount of star power and crowd pleasing scenes, it's undoubtedly s fantastic spectacle.
Story doesn't veer much from the already established formula, another new threat that tries to divide and conquer, giving ample opportunities for the myriad of action heroes to fight, as well as collaborate, with each other. For the better parts, this works in creating a minimal drama even though there's bound to be slight disbelief concerning the plot, or just disregard of simple physic in general.
The script consists of war cries from video games and old school banters from decades ago. It's not without the humor and charm, it might even be distracting if they sound too flamboyant seeing the action is downright the stuff of superhero movie. There's the same amount of fists thrown and flying cars, and any other unbelievable shenanigans in between, in glorious slow motion and less glorious CGI.
It's nearly infectious in the delivery, almost looking like collection of scenes deemed to be too absurd and until now was buried in action movie vault yet they are so gleefully pompous, one can't help being dragged around by its pace. The action stars collide in battle royale style, even if one scraps all the other parts of the movie, there's an inevitable hook in the concept of The Rock, Vin Diesel and Jason Statham trading actual and verbal jabs.
It also helps that choreography for fights look convincingly fast and brutal enough to suit each character. The transition between grand locations, or towards another scuffle, is accompanied by good cinematography and equally vibrating soundtracks. While it may screech towards certain parts, the actors contribute in their own way, either it through surprisingly good acting or fitting humor.
There's enough in the production tank to keep the excitement rolling. Sure, it can be campy at times, but there's no denying that it's a high velocity spectacular action entertainment.
Arnold's dive into drama is a welcomed effort, but to be perfectly honest it's still not the level of performance that can capture audience like his more bombastic roles.
There's a luxury earned by a handful of actors which ensures adoration whenever they grace silver screen. After lustrous career for decades, Arnold Schwarzenegger definitely has that privilege, and it's nice to see him translated it into an emotional drama than his usual action flick. However, the pure grinding drama is a tall leap, and it doesn't have any thriller aspect like the previous Maggie and while the movie is presentable, there are a few bumps on the pace.
Story offers the perspectives of two men; Roman (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Jake (Kevin Zegers) as they cope with the incident that ruins their lives in different manners. Both leads give their own take on misery, Roman looks stern although the wear and tear visibly gnaw at him. Arnold has the air of someone who is gentle but with imposing nature one would not easily ignore.
Jake, on the other hand, is more vulnerable. He deals with the tragedy poorly and the actor conveys such fall of grace amiably. Unfortunately, the story moves especially slowly at the mid-point, perhaps to set the somber tone, but it dwells and stretches too much before jumping to third act.
The core story is rather straightforward, so it may feel stagnant and predictable as the pain oozes through. The deliberate slow pace shows on the visual as well. Most of the shots pan out to desolate environment, wintry outdoor or bland interior, which generously complements the bleak nature of the story.
Aftermath is not a bad movie by any means, it's lumbering yet not without its compelling moments. Arnold's dive into drama is a welcomed effort, but to be perfectly honest it's still not the level of performance that can capture audience like his more bombastic roles.
Mature beyond its years and earth-shaterringly good
Among the collection of young heroes and their mentors, what really shines in Judas Contract is the villainous Deathstroke. More than just physical threat, he's brimming with delightfully despicable glow thanks to the writing and impeccable voice acting. New rendition of Terra also shows wide range of character spectrum, not many animations deliver a thin line between tragic heroine and crude villain this provocatively.
The early tone serves as reintroduction for the Titans, then slowly moves towards Terra and her questionable loyalty. Most of the portion goes to Starfire and Nightwing's romantic subplot. They have good chemistry and occasional kinky humor, mostly on Nightwing's expense. Starfire has attractive attribute which she is fully aware of, yet not overly displayed like in few comic interpretations. There's also a hint of her gullible self, a nice nod to the more juvenile side.
Some of the Titans are given more development, especially Beast Boy and Blue Beetle. These are mainly your typical self-acceptance routine, but still a kind exposure for the characters. Beast Boy's pun can be either amusing or rather cringe-worthy at times, a tad more than intended. Raven doesn't get the same amount of spotlight compared to the prequel, but I'm still amazed on how well the voice of Taissa Farmiga fits the character.
The main spotlight goes to new girl Terra, who is equally sympathetic and detestable. Her story is devastating enough yet her action is just short of being worthy of donning hero's cape. She and Deathstroke feed off each other malice, there's even one scene where it's made clear that she has romantic attraction to the much older mentor, inappropriately so. It's even more eerie considering that Terra look so very uncomfortably young. Miguel Ferrer as Deathstroke is simply amazing. The antagonist spews bile insults to any heroes he met in such authoritative nearly calming voice.
Judas Contract shows a lot of relationships and family oriented ties, yet it's the dysfunctional one that really rises above them. Sinister it may be, not every good will can mend broken bond and sometimes a scornful betrayal is a more humane way to bring the best of superheroes.
Ghost in the Shell (2017)
Vibrant futuristic world and basic plot, it's a simple sci-fi wearing skin of Ghost in the Shell, beautiful it may be.
Looking at the highlights of Ghost in the Shell, one can see the spirit of the original series from the quirky scenery and heavy eye candy. Fans and casual audience would appreciate the effort, but Ghost's world is notoriously riddled with complex, even philosophical undertone, and in attempt to make it simpler, the movie became a streamlined sci-fi thriller.
First spotlight falls on the Mayor (Scarlett Johansson). This is a very daunting character to translate to big screen as she has barely shown any emotions across the series, yet there's a sense of guile, charm and slyness within. Conveying underlying emotions while looking stoic, also in runtime of a movie, can be a challenge. Not to mention she has makeover across animation series, so there will be most likely any disagreement regardless of whoever cast.
Fortunately, Scar Jo provides more than just the big name allure. For most she carries herself well, there are occasional faint glows of hidden humanity, they are not as pronounced or often yet serendipitously fits the character. Still, content doesn't help much with the usual self-doubt and mundane thriller troupes. That being said, Scar Jo dons the main heroine's suit as effectively and captivatingly as possible.
This futuristic world is not without its charm, a trait the movie showcases with high rise building and holographic ads plastered across the horizon every time it changes location or scene. Thankfully, the angle, little details and cinematography for major set pieces stay true to the original vibe. If anything, the occupants of this world are not fully fleshed out. The villain is lacking in sense of dread and perhaps only a couple of characters aside Mayor get any significant development.
Action might remind audience of The Matrix, rightfully so as the two are inspired by one another. It provides undoubtedly stunning visual, one on the wetland is especially impeccable. The cosmetic, gadgetry and suits offer enhance futuristic world even more. It's appreciated that, at the very least, the studio went to such extend to honor the original source.
The impressive visual trinkets and the cast of Scarlett Johansson help elevate the movie adaptation, one would find something charming in the damp futuristic world. However, with basic plot and crude development, the movie feels like an ordinary sci-fi wearing the skin of Ghost in the Shell.
Power Rangers (2017)
Discount Breakfast Club got superpowers, presented by Krispy Kreme
Join five teenagers as they embark on overly complex origin story, staggering change in directional tone, intense product placement and awkward usage of nostalgia. The hectic mess is not without its charm, the team is, at the very least, likable with more personality than transforming robot movies in recent time had, though it's not a high achievement. The best thing one could say about this reboot is it could've been so much worse.
Origin story isn't the most novel idea, but it has become a necessity as of late, especially for a reboot. The Rangers undergo a series of exposition, mainly taking serious direction from other superhero themed movie Chronicle, but also translating the corny style from its original television show. It tells both the story of apocalypse and also abundance of jokes, and then it veers into the realm of heavy personal issues.
The sudden shift is felt so many times that the movie feels like a robot piloted by several people. However, it's not without charm or humor. The cast might feel bizarrely put together at fight, but they do have their moments. This provides a little bit of bravado and less vanilla than the original show. If anything, they are limited only by the fantasy troupes which may seem predictable or campy, then again this is Power Rangers, not Logan.
It has one edge over other superhero movies; the product placement. The trend has been done for years, but Power Rangers take it to the next level. For action, humanoid and robotic, it mostly stays true to the original source, including poses and jingles. This does feel like an afternoon show with the ad and spark of nostalgia.
Many have complained that superhero movies are too gritty or too corny, Power Rangers is both, often at the same time. This is clearly not an advantage as it would have fared much better sticking to the light humor or heavy personal struggle. Still, for a movie based on 90s children show, it offers mild indulgent and barely avoids being a total disaster.
John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
Love letter for action genre written by bold bloody hallmark, and a pencil.
If there's an equivalent of classical orchestra for untamed unapologetically brutal carnage, there's no doubt it'd be John Wick. Dancing through hail of bullets, horde of assassins straight from video game, oozing noir style from each drop of blood, John Wick: Chapter 2 is nothing short of an artistic spectacle.
John Wick (Keanu Reeves) returns to the killing business begrudgingly as one of his old acquaintances asks for a morbid favor. The cloak-and-dagger scheme soon flies into multiple directions, partially towards the back of few characters and the rest goes straight to the chest. There's an air of familiarity as the movie visits previous characters while introducing an array of new ludicrous ones.
It keeps the formula nearly identical, adding more to its melee and shootout fun. There's everything one loved from the first, now pouring abundantly. Combat is arguably the best action choreography one could possibly ask for. Punches, kicks, submission holds, and even dirty pokes are delivered with sheer primal vexation and the finesse of ballet performance.
Both the anti-hero and his rivals press forward in locomotive of mayhem, any fans of action movies and combat sports will be gleefully entertained. In fact, such simple concept of "one versus many" is ageless and universal, it worked since Bruce Lee's time and now told by razor-sharp spectacular visual, John Wick is the finest action of modern time.
Underworld: Blood Wars (2016)
Decent dance of wit and blade, if not slightly tainted
In the first act alone Blood Wars drops a more diverse cast and flexible subplots than other Underworld titles. The clashing politic is handled mostly well and it's always a boon to have more persistently Gothic characters. However, the production feels fragmented, often speeds up in certain area in expense of these colorful personalities while also hashing out the same outdated slow motion barrage from last decade.
Unlike previous installments which utilized one simple plot line, Blood Wars tries to introduce several ideals with the Lycan and vampires, even discord among each group while Selene is once again caught in the cross fire. The setup offers more in term of content and the characters, while they may be a tad overzealous, work well in intended effect.
There's unfortunately not much range on the characters themselves. Kate Beckinsale is her usual brooding self, down to the monologue delivery, although the jumpsuit look agelessly suits her. Theo James as David serves as the male protagonist, he's sadly still walking in Michael's shadow who died a few episodes ago.
Lara Pulver plays as Semira, a rather Eva Green or Lena Headey type of evil queen. She and Charles Dance, the elder vampire, gives off Game of Thrones aura at least for at a portion of the movie. With more cast, some motivations are unfortunately vague, Tobias Menzies as Marius has the potential to rise above the horde but ultimately he doesn't feel intimidating or intelligent enough for an arch-nemesis.
The action follows almost the exact formula Underworld used, much like the on-screen vampire counterpart who stays unchanged. Expect plenty of slow motion or jarring shots, although there are a few scenes that look crisp though they only occur briefly. It would have benefited a lot from better choreography since there's a limit on how captivating someone turns into a CGI werewolf can be.
There are admittedly deeper aspects at play here, Blood Wars attempts to further the lore and introduce more eccentric characters. Yet with the power of choppy editing these people are given strange motives while unceremoniously thrown in and out from one scene to another. In the end of the night, it's still not that bad of return for Selene and her pack.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016)
A less engaging affair for Jack Reacher
The first Jack Reacher was a fairly effective action thriller because it's the sum of many refreshingly different elements. The crime mystery was decent, characters were engaging, especially the enigmatic villain and it even produced occasional timely humor. On each its own it may not be ranked the absolute best, but combined together they made a good case for Jack Reacher.
Instead of these aspects, Reacher is now poised for semi-father figure role. Apparently action stars would go through this phase, following the footstep of Liam Neeson and the most recent Mel Gibson. This is by no means bad since it portrays him in a more humane way, it's an acceptable direction other than constantly treating him as a legend.
The main issue is it's the same formula of "protect the daughter" seen in many others movies. They would run, fight and hide, then do it all over again. There's no layer of puzzle that's slowly peeled along the way, or at least it's not on par with the case from first movie. The perpetual running can feel dreary at times even though they are passing fine locations.
There are few good spots, but they are far from being the spectacle one would expect from IMAX investment. Furthermore, aside from the few bits of father-daughter gimmick, the characters are stagnant. Tom Cruise, and the overall case for that matter, can do much more. The rest is cobbled together by fisticuffs, random shootings and minor flair in conspiracy.
While it may not be a complete downgrade, this is a step back from a healthy crime thriller of the first.
"Kingsglaive" creates a gateway for fans and audience into its visually fantastic world, yet the muddled plot can be exhausting despite the effort to make it accessible.
There's no denying the graphical barrage "Kingsglaive" constantly throws for nearly two hours is brazenly stunning. The vistas are absolutely marvelous, its characters look eerily lively and the fights are utterly unworldly. With all of these mighty productions, it's still vexed by occasional choppy pace and sporadic hop in screenplay.
The story is delivered in a sci-fi fantasy realm. It's a very politically focused tale and it does try to deliver many subplots and characters, no doubt a foundation for the game's world and its splendor. The problem lies as it often skips from one scene abruptly without giving the audience much sense for the flow of time or the clarity of vital motivation. It's all dramatic in presentation, yet it can feel a bit muddled, more so since it's quite the lengthy showing.
Characters are relatively well done, especially the ones with famous names. Usually the dubbing in English for such production looks jarring, but here Lena Headley's or Aaron Paul's voice is implemented properly. The lip sync is fine and there's a boon on having fantasy oriented voice for the cast. A minor flaw would be the dialogues or sound effect don't convey the sense of urgency at times, but it's mostly understandable.
The visual ramps up as the battles progress. These are very hectic occurrences, the fast cut can leave audience wandering on what transpires on the screen since there are many effects and motions cramped into brief composition of scenes. However, when it retains the focus or follows the action, it is arguably one of the most eye-popping spectacles from animated movie.
The sheer graphical prowess produces an entirely captivating world, even though it stumbles on overly complex narrative or overly fast editing.
Sadako vs. Kayako (2016)
A sporadic mix of surprisingly decent thrill and unintentionally comedic burst.
What may sound like something from internet prank proves to be a better enjoyment than just random sequel or its ridiculously sounding premise. Both franchises are passed their prime with each latest entry performing abysmally. While it does possesses an array of issues, the good timing on some scenes and better characters make "Sadako vs Kayako" a more compelling horror than their own separate haunting.
The movie works by putting two curses simultaneously. Sadako has slightly more portion as the Cursed Video is highlighted more, especially in the beginning. As one curse progresses the Kayako or Haunted Hause is slowly tossed into the mix. Characters from Cursed Video are far more memorable than perhaps its latest two or three entries combined. Yuri as the lead and the two enigmatic exorcists make for an interesting cast.
Suzuka is a more standalone character as she struggles with the Haunted House primarily by herself, the supporting characters from her side are fleeting at best. However, Suzuka still has a good presence, especially when the curses collide. These personalities have a slight edge compared to typical Japanese horror protagonists, ranging from the signature clothes, hairdo o realistic or optimistic nature, which might not seem extraordinary, but this goes a long way on setting the dynamic.
Sadly, the initial corniness happens in several instances. It can be sudden twist on certain scene or choppy progression, either way this might ruin the mood already set by curse development. There are two or three scenes that are might take audience on really dark places, but these are not original by any means, and other than those, the rest are shaky on the horror.
On the few that actually work, it compresses the classic attraction of the franchises, brief they may be. For a movie originated from a strange concept, "Sadako vs Kayako" has more in store than just internet meme or sensational title, it delivers a better cast and scare than combination of both franchises' latest titles, but it's still marred by hectic and sloppy delivery to be a fully functioning horror.
Jue di tao wang (2016)
Skiptrace is a tour of hectically told story and clumsy action, although there's collective effort from the visual and soundtracks to create a picturesque journey.
The odd buddy cop movie, and partial road trip comedy, is something one would expect from a decade ago, along with "Rundown" or Jackie's own "Rush Hour". It has the apparent goal to deliver action comedy while presenting beautiful location as the backdrop. Unfortunately, the shady plot and awkwardly crafted fight scene along with odd pacing hamper the movie every step of the way.
Bennie (Jackie Chan) is a cop with obsession to capture a drug dealer who kills his partner, but in order to do so he must chase a conman Connor (Johnny Knoxville). This might sound like a cliché cop story, because it is. Furthermore, it's riddled with consistency and logical issues, but nevertheless the movie pushes along since it needs to showcase more tourist locations.
The strongest assets may be the cinematography, it's shot in various stunning places, which is already a boon for any movie. Activity such as the lantern or mud festival is bound to attract viewer, as much as it does to tourist. The problem is stringing these scenes in orderly fashion. It often stumbles due to editing or simply a missed piece in the plot.
Same thing happens with comedy aspect as well. The movie may offer a few chuckles here and there, but too much is spent of the buddy cop relationship that is not particularly appealing. It can be attributed to the clash of multiple languages and the untimely delivery, even looking like the audio is a mismatch.
As for the trademark Jackie's stunts, "Skiptrace" does have them. This once popular gig is now more of niche since most action movies have incorporated wilder style. The addition of poor green screen for obvious large scale scene feels too outdated at this point. Characters involved are rigidly played, ranging from drug lord to Russian mafia, most of them are highly underutilized or simply too stereotypical to be effective.
"Skiptrace" feels more like a promotional tour with mediocre cop story and odd buddy gimmick thrown in as excuse for the travel.
Dead Rising: Endgame (2016)
As shaky as malnourished zombie
The first time Dead Rising transitioned into cinema was not met with critical acclaimed, but at least it has familiarity with the game's brash and quirky nature. This time around, it delves right back into zombie infested world using a lot of action movie settings, but surprisingly slim on action itself. It takes itself seriously with predicaments and characters audience would barely care about.
Story continues along with the group of journalists who stumbles on a government secret. The characters from the first movie are not that memorable and as they are dropped into hot zone straight away, there's no connection with audience, especially since they seem to squabble on every issues. The silly antics from the game are almost buried, which is ironic since that is the main draw, not the conspiracy thriller.
Cinematography looks bland, with occasional cool shots before more dialogues transpire blandly, even then it only looks like ordinary city scenery. It doesn't convey the hectic atmosphere for infected world. Action is thin as well, only occurring about halfway through and not that lengthy or well-choreographed either.
The sequel not only lost its core foundation, it strays too far into thriller with ill-equipped script and characterization.
The Legend of Tarzan (2016)
The new Tarzan looks good on paper or when he's standing still, but as it moves with shallow gimmicks and abundance of CG, it reverts back into bland predictable safari.
The story of Tarzan has been known for decades, the movie tries to capitalize this in expectation that audience will follow its two timelines and many branching subplots. Unfortunately, the admittedly nice view is encumbered by myriad of issues, contrasting tones and shallow social and political showing. It becomes an overly familiar sighting that barely presents the characters above their stereotypical roles.
Tarzan or John (Alexander Skarsgård) returns to Africa after reclaiming his birthright, a conflicting homecoming as he deals with slavery and conspiracy. The story plays after the events of his origin, and the past is retold with several flashbacks. This different path is a welcomed change and surprisingly the little touch on these scenes are effective in setting his character. Alexander Skarsgård also looks the part for the brawny slightly beastly protagonist from his speech and mannerism.
The problem is Tarzan and both his foes and allies are entirely predictable. Christoph Waltz as Leon Rom is almost identical to his other villain roles, down to the creepy table exchanges and only differs in attires. Margot Robbie is the new Jane, an attempt for more spunky and powerful female, but she's trapped in usual pretty damsel in distress role, which ironically the movie points out hoping for the opposite effect.
Samuel L. Jackson performs as the sidekick William, also a vehicle for audience as he's new to the jungle. Expect the same charmingly brash Samuel here. Humor is relatively decent for light adventure, mainly In Samuel's expense, but the delivery is implemented in wrong way, thus it sometimes ruins the supposed intense atmosphere or just misses completely. It wants to have strong characters, social backdrop and occasional light comedy, although it throws them together, even in the same span of five minutes, more often than not it is not effective.
For the exotic location, it does showcase some good cinematography. However, it doesn't take off as the focus on CG affects the authenticity. When the movie gives an organic camera angle or rapid motion, it eventually turns in CG fest. There's attempt to mask this with flash editing, not only that it doesn't work this rustic camera cut negates any impact on the action scene.
A fairly nice trek muddled by disjointed narrative and clash in styles. With too much reliance in shallow gimmicks and abundance of CG, the beautiful scenery reverts back into bland predictable safari.
Interesting concept and stylish presentation, but also marred by inconsistency and cheesy narrative.
Time travel is just as unstable premise as it sounds, one which many movies irresistibly always use. There are myriad of nice touches involving the soundtracks and cool cinematography in "Time Renegades", but as it goes along the complexity weighs down on the movie. It also tries to push many elements, like drama and thriller that don't mesh well together, resulting in typical cheesy plot for melancholy effect.
The movie works in two timelines, the present and past, as two different men experience near death experience at respective New Year's Eve. They share a bond with dreams, seeing the events the other goes through in sporadic fashion. This is ultimately explained with average reincarnation gimmick and it does not cover the length and details concerning these dreams, but it can be forgiven to avoid more heavy exposition that it already has.
Visual is divided into two different tints, the warmer tone for the past and blue colder color for present. This is a good way to tell them apart and for some moments, the movie knows exactly what it wants to portray. Its thriller aspect works slightly better since it has an eerie ambiance that contrasts the romantic tone.
However, it could do with more subtle approach, as it often replays the same narrative or excessively points out the obvious quirk. Time travel gig is more enjoyable when these details are less pronounced and not blatantly waves at the screen. There's a severely distracting plot inconsistency when things get heated, it always happens in cause-and-effect mechanic of time travel and the movie is plagued by this at least several times.
Regardless of the rocky flow, the fundamental flaw is the cheesiness as it tries to be romantic. It repeats itself in this soap opera eternal love shtick, which is unfortunately because there's shining light on the presentation and the time travel premise, even the crime investigation, could have been polished more.
Bastille Day (2016)
Bastille Day suffices as a decent thriller with capable actors, but the sleight of hand can't carry its more complex and demanding subplots.
There's an opinion that Idris Elba would make a good James Bond, and although this is different in context, Bastille Day might just be the closest thing. It's a thriller based on espionage set on beautiful city of Paris, offering a few layers of subplots which unfortunately not equal in effectiveness. It does succeeds in a simpler scale where the actors are given more spotlight either it's from action or occasional comedy.
Story mainly follows Michael (Richard Madden), a pickpocket who unluckily stumbles upon a package of bomb meant for terrorist attack. He's then chased by various parties for a crime much worse than he actually committed. Among them is Briar (Idris Elba) who eventually uncovers something amiss which leads him into a much bigger conspiracy.
The main duo has more chemistry than expected. Michael is a skilled pickpocket, although he's younger and seemingly more gullible when faced with more extreme threat. Briar takes the mantle of senior officer with shady track record who has a tendency of going rogue based on his instinct alone. One of the correct things the movie does right is showcasing them in their fields, not in all out brawl.
It also gives a few comedic moments that surprisingly presentable, the addition of Charlotte Le Bon as Zoe, the unintentional accomplice, rounds up the ragtag crew. At latter end, this eclectic party is a good choice for protagonist perspective. However, it often delivers the plot in rather complicated route, shifting between one set piece to another without smooth transition.
There are moments where the characters run or drive around in the city sporadically. If it's to push the plot, then the scene could've been incorporated with better flow. The movie soon treads on terrorism subplot, but it clearly doesn't have the large production to pull off such city wide mayhem. Aside from a few gorgeous use of choreography, the movie mainly plays out in typical apartments or hideouts.
The better parts come from small scale fights and chases. These are better choreographed, it presents more tactical approach, especially in subtle motions that the visual cleverly tell. The action could have less cuts, but it's produced with focus as audience could follow the motion easily.
Ambitious in its deception, the espionage / buddy cop gig works better in modest scope.
Central Intelligence (2016)
The polarizing duo might not have the best chemistry, but each has their own quirky way to entertain
It's quite possible that they cast Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson just to make "Little Hart, Big Johnson" pun. As far as buddy cop goes, this contrasting nature can provide some chuckles, however the espionage them might not hit all the marks. Still, there are significant amount of scenes where laughter is secured by sheer timely body language and jokes alone.
Dwayne Johnson plays as Bob, a CIA agent who tries to reach out to his old friend. This escalates into a chase for secret files and national security. The way Bob is presented relies heavily on juvenile gag and demeanor despite his imposing physique, this is fun at first but it hampers the credibility as an agent. The movie wants to add some bullying subplot which is commendable, although it doesn't have the depth to accommodate it.
Kevin Hart is excellent in creating reactions and gestures. He's surprisingly identifiable with high school nostalgia and occasional self-doubt. Many of the good moments come from his outbursts and babbling. The script has a few nifty pop references and sometimes even witty gags, so the comedy is not just slapstick throughout and undermines the "intelligence" in the title.
There are serious undertones of adult life or self-acceptance even though they are not fully fleshed out. Action is pretty light, it's passable without being too demanding. The most important thing is it's enjoyable. Sure, there are a few awkward moments, yet they make the best out of it to present a light humorous spectacle, a better buddy cop gimmick than expected.
The Conjuring 2 (2016)
The captivating magic of horror, intensely terrifying and equally inviting.
With the new cooler scenery and entirely likable victims, The Warrens take on another haunting case in the retro England. This setting serves more than cosmetic, it differentiates itself from previous movie's warmer tone, while also providing a good vehicle to usher the horror. Along with the pristine visual, "Conjuring 2" brings back the veteran demonologists and introduces an oddly charming family, especially the little girl in peril.
James Wan already had a knack for showing eerie camera angles, this time he adds more movement and less cut to the mix. He knows how to attract or distract the audience's attention in a clever way, the more flowing camera offers more focus and in turns allowing the audience to follow these characters closely as they stumble and frantically run.
The family consists of a single mother and her children. From the first five minutes they will appeal to viewers, and it's a significant boon for a horror movie. Madison Wolfe as Janet, the little girl is impressive, she has a good on screen chemistry both with the family and the Warrens. The way she's putting a brave front even though she's exhausted from the abuse, but also creates a bit of skepticism is simply excellent.
Her siblings are easily identifiable and equally sympathetic. They have a casual tone, almost crude yet alarmingly funny as well. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as Ed and Lorraine are visiting a known territory. They just fit in the picture, in rather creepy homecoming kind of way. There are residues from the familiar ambiance yet it's presented in more rainy gloomy tone.
"Conjuring 2" is a pleasant gift for horror. It's frightening, yet it never fails to engage, drawing us to stay in the darkly atmosphere and cleverly crafted spectacle.
Many speedbumps along the way, but the core message is delivered safely.
For a drama thriller "Traffic" has a lot of deviations, mainly because it tries to bring more dramatic moments than it already has. The plot is good, simple and approachable, although it may exaggerate some of its elements. The mix of different worlds is told carefully, while it may be overly colorful it's easily identifiable for audience.
The story is an emotional one, a young man has an accident and on the verge of dying. His heart is compatible with a patient with rare heart condition in the next city and they need to transplant it as soon as possible. There are many perspectives at play here, from the police's, doctors' and the both families' themselves. Each is told in continuous order to fit the progressing timeline.
The structure is nicely done, it may seem complex at first, especially when a couple of them are looking almost like soap opera, but it all pans out relatively well. The protagonists are likable, they are flawed in their own ways, seeking redemption and salvation respectively . Its most jarring setback is occasionally moves towards overly melancholy tone, which it doesn't need to.
At times it also tries to be a thriller, the result is mixed. It might be better if the movie stays on course with more grounded approach. It even veers into action territory at some junctures. These are rather distracting and probably to prolong the journey, even though the core drama is capable on presenting a riveting story on its own.
The heart of the story is presentable, regardless of the few questionable turns for thriller and action.
Not my cup of teabagging
Ever since the days of actual James Bond, there have been numerous spoof of spy genre. Few of them surpassed expectation and are presentably humorous like the recent "Spy". On the other hand, "The Brothers Grimsby" also surpasses such expectation, but in terms of crudeness and unsanitary jokes. It pushes tolerance to the maximum limit and audience would either laugh from the heavy exposure or simply dislike it.
Sacha Baron Cohen and Mark Strong, an unexpected duo to say the least, play the titular brothers who are separated from childhood and now reunited while a plan for world domination is in effect. The plot is ludicrously fitting for a spy flick with a nice touch of flashback as well. However, there's no seriousness here. It's a showing of utterly dirty gags, especially those of sexual nature, all of them are in fully view, unapologetically so.
The production level is not as crude, there's ample action and the cinematography is pretty smooth, almost a legitimate action movie. Several of its backdrops are quite visually engaging. It's when it spews the brash humor that it spirals into rather creepy spectacle, a full blow close up terror at that.
Admittedly, there are a few funny moments, mostly because the shock value, but "The Brothers Grimsby" is meant for those with acquired taste and strong stomach.
Keanu, ironically like Keanu Reeves, may not deliver hits every time, but when it does, it's pretty enjoyable.
Key and Peele have major success in comics and comedy sketches, they might just be the best comedians in recent times. After several seasons of excellence, their transition to the big screen does have the same gravitas but the humor might feel imbalances at times and it tends to dive into predictable escapade. Still, the charm and spark from their skits are still pronounced.
Strangely enough, this is a movie about a kitten, perhaps the most wanted feline in criminal world. Two ordinary guys get caught up in shady dealings trying to win back this cute kitten. It all boils down to identity switch, parody of gangster antics and eventually slow mo shootout with George Michael serenading audience and on screen characters between the sequences.
It may look odd enough at certain parts, and their signature may carry the majority of the movie, but the pacing is uneven. It struts too long on certain aspects, which also become too familiar to old action comedy shtick. Fortunately, the movie's verbal gags are more approachable than its slapstick moments and it's arguably where Key and Peele really shine.
Keanu, ironically like Keanu Reeves, may not deliver hits every time, but when it does, it's pretty enjoyable and a decent foray from skit to full fledged movie for the duo.
Wayward Pines: Enemy Lines (2016)
Return to the troubled paradise is less mystifying than the first tour
The first season of Wayward Pines was a sleeper hit, it's a good mix of mystery and sci-fi even though it had a few minor setbacks. It then proceeds with another season and almost entirely new batch of cast, literally so. Admittedly, there's still the atmosphere from the old town but the mystery aspect is lacking and for a series that hinges on mystery and revelation, this does not bode well.
Jason Patric as Dr. Yeldin dons the mantle of the main protagonist. It's rare for series to move on with narrative without the bulk of the original cast. Matt Dillon was integral in the first season as a vehicle for audience, he also pushed the investigation and was a strong protagonist. Unfortunately for Jason Patric, he treads the same exact path without the puzzle element.
It's not entirely awful as audience, now aware of the secret, can have a different perspective while Yeldin discovers the true nature, but this can be a bit repetitive. Wayward Pines has changed its style as well, it abandoned the illusion of happiness and opted for totalitarian regime. The militaristic approach does feel different from small town ambiance, though not necessarily more inviting.
The occupants are mostly new, and for those remaining old characters, only Hope Davis presents tie to the old town. A couple of scenes involving Terrence Howard or Carla Gugino are appreciated, yet too fleeting. Rebel versus authority is currently represented by Ben and the new young first generation, which is not the same caliber of Ethan and Pilcher. Granted, they had more time to clash.
What doesn't change much is the foggy afternoon atmosphere or the dimmed night escapade. The basic cinematography look of Wayward Pines remains the same as anchor to the town's original identity and secret. Still, it's shifted from secluded towards oppressed vibe, only missing some propaganda posters on walls.
There might be shiny days for Wayward Pines in the future, but it requires stronger writing than what we've seen from the first episode, preferably before the town loses its attraction.
Imbalance on several fronts, though the technical finesse and stronger characters carry "Warcraft" to the level of amicable journey.
When the opening scene tells the story of Orcs in grand fashion, the wait for a true great game based movie seems to be over. However, the momentum doesn't translate to the human side, which prances about from one city to the next with heavy jargon and too many pinches of random magic. The hope is not completely gone as some characters still manage to deliver good scenes when given spotlight, but majority of the movie is spent in drab narrative.
The orc side is definitely better, the warring clan is immediately appreciable with incredible use of special effect marvel and simple yet effective motivation. Toby Kebbell as Durotan is a right choice for the leader role, this is a character whose charisma and personality audience would invest in the most.
Human fares much worse. The focus towards complex magic is not an interesting direction, yet the movie spends nearly half of its runtime with characters babbling about prophecies and dark forces. It also, commendably, tries to give political sense to the whole thing, yet it barely establishes anything and those wanting elf or other races might have to content with much less.
Travis Fimmel as Lothar does his best, and to be fair, he exhibits an enigmatic role as Ragnar from Vikings series. Lothar is another case, it's like forcing Jack Sparrow to be ordinary pirate, but Fimmel at least gives a signature poise to it. Paula Patton as the half orc Garona is perhaps the more intriguing female, she has the balance between frailty and a brave front for survival. These two carry the scenes momentarily.
Fortunately, the special effect and fights are done with considerable effort, but its liberal use of blue magic is numbing. There's a few attempts for humor or fantasy troupes, and these often come across as generic or simply distracting. While the emotional weight seems sparse, the world looks dashing enough, at least for cosmetic purpose.
As a portal to Azeroth, "Warcraft" is definitely flawed, although it's sufficiently presentable for a fantasy spectacle. It is, sadly, won't reach the greatness of Lord of the Rings, which it will be inevitably compared to, or the height the fans want.
Nice look onto the malady of the otherworldly kind
Upon looking at Outcast there's an identifiable mix of horror movie and TV show ambiance. It dabbles in possession gig with adequate seriousness, even a gleeful amount of creepy spots, but there's a set up for continuous showing of horror as well. The protagonist is man of little faith and many tribulations, which give a more modest backdrop instead of usual exorcism glamour.
First and foremost, it manages to present terror or at least compelling enough scenes to hook audience. The atmosphere might be quaint and done with nice cinematography, but this actually works as contrast for some of its unsuspecting creepy sequences. Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit) is a man who has experienced abuse, be it may physical or paranormal. He's utterly conflicted, although his wish to help can be appealing.
The set-up might work in different case for each episode, with Reverend Anderson(Philip Glenister) as the unusual side kick. Alas, it could be a case of the week shtick,, but Outcast has a very weighty tone to the production that it resembles horror blockbuster than a series, even though the rural setting is not that grand.
For a weekly dive into horror, Outcast is looking appetizing with brilliantly bleak atmosphere and broken character seeking respite.