Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Review Spy (2015): I'll be damned, this was actually quite good!

genre: comedy, action

Identity Thief, The Heat and Tammy where all films that featured Melissa McCarthy prominently and in my opinion never delivered the laughs that were promised. Only in St. Vincent where here role was minor she managed to show the comedic timing people like her for. So I was not really expecting a lot from this. But Spy has completely surprised me in a good way.

Granted Melissa McCarthy is not responsible for the LOL moments. That is reserved for Jason Statham who is delightfully hilarious as the macho but clumsy agent and Rose Byrne who plays this bitchy spoiled brat. However McCarthy this time around does play a more sympathetic character that luckily impresses foes, friends and more importantly the audience. Despite the jokes concerning her looks and appearance she manages to outwit and outclass the more experienced spies which I thought was refreshing. Especially since Spy is very much a parody on James Bond and with McCarthy stepping in who is unlike 007 of course the contrast is huge. It automatically becomes entertaining when you see her being competent and able contrary to belief. 

However don't expect non stop hilarity or clever jokes. Most of the comedy is pretty simple and predictable and maybe downright gross. I mean is it really necessary to show someone actually vomiting? Can't they stick to implying? Some jokes like the infestations at headquarters just try to hard to be funny making them ineffective and the opposite of funny. But when McCarthy is put against Jason Statham and Rose Byrne you can't help but to laugh. Statham parodies his previous action roles like only he can and easily steals the show when he does. Peter Serafinowicz as Aldo was also a pleasant surprise in combination with McCarthy. It seems to me that Melissa McCarthy is more effective when she is put against equally competent comedic talents like herself. 

I am not really a fan of Melissa McCarthy. I don't think she is that good of an actress. She seems to always be playing similar roles and that can get tiring real fast. In Spy though they tackled this by making her character efficient and competent which is refreshing and different from the roles she played in previous films. 

So take it from me if I tell you that Spy is an entertaining comedy that surprisingly also contains some good action. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Review Jurassic World (2015): Don't listen to naysayers this is a very fun monster movie!

genre: adventure, action, science fiction

Was there really a need for yet another Jurassic Park movie and how does this fare in the franchise?

Well, when it comes to sequels, remakes and reboots I for the most part would say that they aren't needed unless they add something truly new and unique in the mix. Or they at least upgrade it special effects wise but still manage to stay true to the spirit of the original. However in this case I would say I did not mind this sequel which basically in essence is more a reboot. It's the same story as in the first with the same themes only updated with today's effects. 

Jurassic World takes it time to set up events but when they start happening it is thrilling and all good fun. Still it does take a while to get to those and it is in this part that you find out that there is not much new to the story. But I did like how a lot of the plot was build on the nostalgia factor based on the original. Meaning that if you have seen the original and still can remember it that automatically you would appreciate the scenes that referred to the original. Like I said when things start happening Jurassic World is action packed and incredible fun throughout. Not once did it let me down and even managed to surprise me at times. 

Now I have been reading some reviews and I am astonished that so many people disliked this entry. Most of the complaints are about characters not developing or not being colorful enough. The plot not being original. The action not bloody and gory enough. And that some plot points were never explained fully. Let me reply to these criticisms. Had Jurassic Park truly been more than just a monster movie than maybe I would have understood the outrage. Still Jurassic Park was just that. It was always a movie about man versus beast or sometimes beast versus beast. Ever since King Kong and Godzilla that always had been the main draw. If you can't appreciate this then you have no business watching these kinds of movies let alone critique it.

Jurassic World despite it's slow pace in the first half hour is a very fun monster movie. Very much worth your time.

Review Raising Cain (1992): You will be rooting for the bad guy!

genre: thriller, crime

Raising Cain is one of those movies that looks up the darker side of people in a world where most people seem to be devoid from proper conduct and morals. There is something about his film that makes me think all of  it's not real and all a dream.

It will be hard to take this tale seriously since a lot of the characters in this film are hardly likable. There is not one you could connect to even if you wanted to. And that is because most of them are quite despicable. Maybe they are made that way to make it easier to root for our main character who clearly is suffering from a multiple personality disorder. Whenever I see this in films I am often fascinated and perplexed at the same time. Because I am really wondering if it is ever like it is portrayed in movies. It seems so far fetched and unreal. In films especially thrillers and horrors this is a plot device that often is very effective. Usually it will come unexpected and give a nice twist to events. If they manage to make it acceptable. In this case it's not used as a surprise and it is known right from the start of what is going on. It's the brilliant acting by John Lithgow that still makes it a scary and suspenseful affair. He does a great job in bringing out the different personalities and not knowing when they will pop up is part of the fun. 

But there are some parts that aggravated me like the character Jenny Nix played by Lolita Davidovitch and character Jack (yes just Jack) played by Steven Bauer. They are the most vile of people you can imagine. Especially in one particular flashback scene you will be disgusted with their behaviour. The lack of self reflection on their parts and not feeling any shame whatsoever years after is astounding and repulsive. And then to be so careless to even disregard the consequences of their actions. Especially in relation to Jenni Nix's husband and daughter is outright infuriating. Jenny even makes up all kinds of excuses for her infidelity and who knows maybe those are good reasons to be unhappy or make you have second thoughts. However this is something you should express and discuss with your spouse and if then issues are not solved you should take appropriate actions like divorce. In any case it makes you root for one of the personalities of  Carter Nix to deal with her. 

Throughout the films you will see that some main characters are having dreams so that often you are not sure of what is real and not. Confusing sometimes but actually quite brilliant plot mechanic for misdirection. In fact like I said before makes me think that this whole film might be one big dream sequence. Which is very bold if it were and makes me want to rewatch Raising Cain at least once to see if I could detect proof that supports my theory. 

Raising Cain is an entertaining thriller and might not seem to be logical or even real. But it is so over the top that you just have to go with the flow to see what will happen next. I love these kinds of thrillers since they force you to touch upon your own darkness and because they are a lot of fun. And again Brian De Palma pays homage to master Alfred Hitchcock. So definitely worth your time.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Review The Man with the Iron Fists 2 (2015): Better than the original but still it's like a bad SNL sketch that does not know when to quit!

genre: martial arts, action

The original was a big disappointment. And while this sequel is better it still fails to deliver what it should deliver. Which is good martial arts.

In many elements  this sequel to The Man with the Iron Fists is an improvement. The story is more focused and kept simple. And therefore less pretentious. But like the original this sequel takes itself far too seriously. Which is quite audacious since RZA goes a little too far and puts himself into the role of the ultimate hero. He acts as a saviour and supposedly is a better skilled martial artist than for example Dustin Nguyen (known for 21 Jump Street TV Show but also stars in The Rebel and Once upon a Time in Vietnam) who actually is a martial artist. No matter how much heart RZA has put in this project it is a punch in the face of the viewer. Since mildly put RZA is not credible as an actor or martial artist. He can't act even if his life depended on it let alone to pretend to know Kungfu. I do admire his passion for martial arts films and his ambition making his own. That still does not make them good. 

The action is enjoyable to a degree. But like in the original it is heavily edited, too gory and too stylish for it's own good. And again there is not nearly as much of it as I would have liked. I think there was more compared to the original but still they took far too much time to tell the story in an excruciatingly slow pace. 

One big highlight that adds to enjoying this flick is the music. It's a wonderful mix of Ennio Morricone (his music is sampled) and hip hop. RZA did the same for the Afro Samurai BTW. Be sure to check that anime out.

Overall this is one that I won't be able to recommend however I do think it has some merit if you are a fan of the genre. 

Also read:
Review of The Man with the Iron Fists

Review Kidnapping Mr. Heineken (2015): Not as bad as you are made to believe. Decent but yes it is lacking depth.

genre: crime, drama

Kidnapping Mr. Heineken is an adaptation of a novel written by crime reporter Peter R. de Vries (who you might know from his involvement in investigating the Natalee Holloway case). This novel is based on interviews he had with Willem Holleeder (in the film portrayed by Sam Worthingthon) and Cor van Hout (ringleader of the gang portrayed by Jim Sturgess with a poorly done dye job of his hair.) 

This in itself is an interesting perspective and should at least offer more insight into this kidnapping. However all of the events and characterizations are rushed through. Barely any time is taken to really get to know the main characters or show that there is more to them. At times you would even feel sympathy for them which frankly disgusted me a little since I have read enough about them to know that the real persons are downright nasty and ruthless criminals. Anthony Hopkins as Freddy Heineken was nice but his role was minimal. I would even go so far to say that anyone else could have played the role and it still would not have affected this film in a bad way. It almost felt like a glorified cameo. (If Anthony Hopkins is the reason you are willing to check this film out then do stay clear since you will be very disappointed.) The pace of this film is quite fast and it does not really give you time to notice the flaws and the lack of depth. So believe it or not I actually was not bored once. Kidnapping Mr. Heineken is quite decent to be honest. I was prepared for it to be much worse especially after the mostly negative reception to it. But I think the combination of the likable characters, fast pace and the fact that this was based on a real crime (no matter how poorly adapted) at least offers an entertaining film while it lasts. 

If you ask me you should not get swayed by the negative reviews. However you do need to keep your expectations in check. This is not a documentary and it is not even based on an objective book. I mean how reliable as a source can the original kidnappers be? Wouldn't they make themselves seem more innocent and likable than they in fact were? The story is kept to the basics and a lot of important details and events have been left out . And therefore I do understand the criticism of expecting and wanting more. These days you do have to stand out a little if you want to impress. And Kidnapping Mr. Heineken is too average for that. Still there are enough moments in the film that will keep your interest. 

In my humble opinion it's not a time waster. Perfect for a rainy Sunday.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Review Top Five (2014): Chris Rock goes Birdman: Comedy and drama superbly mixed that is about life and love

genre: comedy, drama

If you read the premise then Top Five seems to appear to be your typical rom com where you more or less can predict where the story is going. However this film is not about how it ends, it's more of how the main character gets there.

Top Five is more about life than love. Love is only one element. One other important one is our main character's career. Andre Allen is tired of being typecast as the funny man and tries to get above it with it latest movie Uprize ( about the Haitian revolution) which the public simply does not want to see him in. They keep asking him when he will do the next Hammy film. To Allen's dismay and discontent. In this aspect it has some similarities with Birdman. But while Birdman embraces the intensities and the dramatics of theater Top Five tries to avoid this as much as possible since it is more aiming for the laughs. However it still remains to be honest and sincere. 

This is not Chris Rock firing jokes every two minutes. It's a more subtle approach where he is reflecting on his life and is wondering if he is heading into the right direction. Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson) asks him questions that forces him to deal with the issues he is struggling with. But by doing so you do get to see some truly funny moments because they do come unexpectedly. Apart from the obvious ones with cameos from famous comedians like Whoopi Goldberg, Adam Sandler and Jerry Seinfeld. 

But if you are not interested in those life questions there is some romancing going on. While I would not put Rosario Dawson opposite Chris Rock I can't deny that they had some great chemistry going on. The way they interact felt like real people having a conversation. Especially Andre Allen is hostile at first since he does not trust journalists and critics. And therefore it was nice to see him warming up to Chelsea Brown. The way their relationship was developing felt natural. The friendship between Allen and Silk felt real as well without needing to get deeper into it.

I truly enjoyed Top Five very much since in many ways it deals with subjects everybody can relate to. On top of this it simply is very funny and charming. It's far from perfect but it is incredibly sincere and I just love that kind of thing in a film.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Review Wolfenstein: The New Order (PS3): For the win, superior to a shooter like Bioshock Infinite!

genre: fps, action, adventure, stealth

First person shooters simply don't do it for me unless an element is added that makes it appealing to me. In this case that is stealth. This Wolfenstein gives you the option to do sneak up on the enemies and take them out silently. Now don't expect a refined stealth mechanism. It is very basic but effective for the most part. And if you use stealthy methods often enough you get perks (skills, abilities) to aid you. There are perks for three playing styles and in my opinion these do make the game so much more fun. When you kill a soldier using a stealth takedown you won't be able to move or pick up a soldier. But as long as you don't do it out of sight the other soldiers will ignore the dead one. Not entirely logical but it makes sense otherwise stealth would not be functional at all. Sometimes though the watch commanders were able to spot me even when I was not really in their sights or was making noise. That was a little annoying at times especially if you are trying to play it as stealthy as possible but while going further into the game I let go of this and went the mayhem road since that was a bunch of fun too. Killing off enemies as silently as possible still is far more satisfying for me then doing it the cowboy way since not getting caught always makes you feel like a boss. 

The New Order surprisingly also has a well done narrative where it shows the horrors of Nazism and where killing of the Nazi's therefore is very therapeutic. Our hero also has been given some depth since his thoughts are vocalized. I really appreciated this since it added to the immersion and you could feel what was at stake. This game surprised me at times in how much time it had taken to depict some of the atrocious behavior on the Nazi's and their morality. In my opinion it is good to show these things so that new generations stay informed about this since we have to be vigilant of something like this not happening ever again.  

The dynamics between other characters also added to the immersion as you are given the choice to get to know them better through little tasks like for example finding toys for a guy named Max, a giant who has been lobotomized and therefore is very childlike. Next to the killing and violence it is nice that a game takes the time to look at the human side of things. 

Normally I don't care that much about collectibles and such unless they are worth looking for. And in this game they do. Most of them do offer you something like health, armor or weapons upgrades and others tell you more about the world you reside in now. Seeing how our hero B.J. has been in a coma for 15 years and is not aware of the full changes of the Nazi's winning the war that is a welcome addition. The New Order is filled with easter eggs here and there with one huge one called Nightmare. In the levels where you are at your hideout you can actually activate this nightmare where you get transported to a level of Wolfenstein 3D which was very nice. BTW sleeping also is rewarding so do it whenever you can. I like it that the game makes it worth your while collecting stuff. Too many games just add them as an afterthought but when done like this it actually adds to the replay value considerably.

Wolfenstein: The New Order also is full of epic moments and they always give you a sense of helplessness at first. Until the moment you are given the chance to overcome the situation. Always a plus and very satisfying. I am not going into these moments since they are best enjoyed not knowing about them. 

This game for me is one of the best first person shooters I have ever played. It sometimes is very relentless and unforgiving and therefore makes it challenging. Which in this case for the most part is a lot of fun. But the game does give you enough equipment, weapons and skills to deal with it as you see fit although some enemies have to dealt with in a certain way. That might seem limiting but it makes sense story wise. Because these enemies do add to the tension. Maybe I can't compare this to Bioshock Infinite but I am going to anyway since I do think that game wasn't nearly as much fun as The New Order was. Infinite was too conscious and too pretentious for it's own good but never backed that up with good gameplay. The New Order has a story that is good, serious and has place for humour. Next to having oddities and immersive gameplay. I simply enjoyed this game from start till finish and Bioshock Infinite I got bored with real quick. (For people wondering why that is. In short: I was not impressed with the story. It's nearly not as clever as everyone thinks it is and then what are you left with. Some average shooter mechanics, big deal. So yeah Wolfenstein: The New Order for the win.