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Review Beast Cops a.k.a. Ye shou xing jing (1998): This is supposed to be one of Hong Kong's best films? Really?

genre: crime, drama, action







Beast Cops has got to be one of the most overrated movies ever made in Hong Kong. There are only a few elements that justify some praise. And that is Anthony Wong and the comedy. 

But an actioner this is not. Sure there are some violent scenes consisting of some sword fighting and occasional gun firing but just not enough to qualify it as hard hitting action, that you can expect from this type of Hong Kong film. And before you condemn me for being superficial or not open minded enough. This is advertised as a brilliant action film. You got to put the money where your mouth is. Plus when a film doesn't offer what is promised I will be the first one to embrace whatever goodness that is delivered.

Except there is none. Even for a triad film Beast Cops doesn't convince. Yes, there are gangsters and the usual betrayal shenanigans. But it hardly shows what the triads do or why they are so feared. Plot wise this seemed such an important factor since these triads were so friendly with the cops. With the lack of story and suspense I at least expected some interesting things to happen. I mean why else would so many praise the hell out of this.. Well, I kept waiting and waiting and it never came.  

And what was Michael Wong doing in this? It seemed he was lost and on his way to the set of another crappy film he is featured in. Honestly, I do like the guy but let's face it he is one of the most boring actors in Hong Kong cinema. He didn't make much sense here. The only thing I could think of was that the director wanted to show some contrast between him and Anthony Wong's character. If that was the idea than he failed miserably. Compared to similar Hong Kong films Beast Cops doesn't add anything new other than humour, which in my book wasn't enough for me to truly enjoy this.

Ignore the fact that Beast Cops has won many awards and that it is praised. It is not deserving of that at all. Avoid!







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Review Friday the 13th Part III (1982): The one where Jason gets his hockey mask!

genre: horror, slasher






Jason finally gets his mask. How does he get it? He takes it from a prankster called Sheldon "Shelly" Finkelstein. Surely this would be one of the most special and epic sequences in the film. right? But in my version I did not get to witness this scene. You can thank the MPAA for that. They made the film makers cut scenes so that it would pass the R rating. A few seconds later Jason shoots a spear through an eye which you can see in all it's glory. Censorship of this kind simply doesn't make sense. Anyway this is just one of many things that are wrong with this film.

While this third part in the Friday the 13th film series seems like it is more of the same it is actually a little bit of a departure from the first two. It can be argued and assumed that the killer in those two movies is human. Sure the second one more than the original played around with the idea that not everything is what it seemed and that perhaps something supernatural was going on. But there was always this ambiguity where the fantastic elements could be logically explained. Well, Part III let's go of this ambiguity and turns Jason into an unstoppable killing machine. It is also the first time that we are shown that Jason seems to really enjoy killing people. Oh what joy!

Like it's predecessor this part opens up with the conclusion of part 2 where we see Ginny survive her nasty ordeal. More important we are shown that Jason is alive and well and not death as assumed. Originally it was planned for Amy Steel to reprise her role as Ginny but she declined to returned so this opening doesn't really fit in this part. Actually the connection between the events of part 2 and Chris (Dana Kimmel) and her friends is a little screwy. Because right after the opening sequence they cut to a scene with a peculiar but random couple who have no ties to any of the characters in previous films or the main characters in this third part. Apparently Jason needs new clothes and like the douchebag he is he rather kills them than paying them. 

The biggest flaw is perhaps the lack of tension and suspense. Director Steve Miner showed a much better understanding of horror 101 in part 2. But for some reason he dropped the ball on this one. However this might not have been entirely his fault. He probably had counted on Ginny returning so that he could continue with his plans to have her admitted in a psychiatric hospital where then Jason would go on a killing spree in order to get her. If this plot sounds familiar then you are right. It's the plot from Halloween 2. Not a particular original idea however in hindsight it could have been far more compelling than what they came up with. I mean this part is so random and messy. For example Shelly and Vera managed to anger some gang members who of course feel compelled to deal with them. And what do you think their evil plan is? They steal gasoline from the van that plays a crucial role later in the film. That is so very gangster of them. Best of all is that one of the gang members named Fox (Gloria Charles  March 3, 1955 -  December 8, 2016) gets all hyper and excited when she sees a barn. If you can't tell whether it was intentional or not there is some comedy to be experienced that tonally feels out of place. 

Honestly I am not sure what to think of this part. I didn't dislike it. Nor did I like it. It just didn't do it for me. It felt underwhelming. I did care for some of the characters like Vera, Rick and Chris even when they all looked too old to pass off as teenagers.  Some of the kills were creative and memorable though. But compared to the first two this definitely is a step down. 




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Review Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981): Rare case where the sequel outshines the original!

genre: horror, slasher






Friday the 13th Part 2 manages to improve upon it's predecessor significantly. Mind you it still has some flaws and is far from perfect. But if you ever had doubts about the franchise then this is the part that will explain why Friday the 13th film series has been so popular. 

Part 2 opens up with a scene where we see a pair of legs approaching an old house. Nothing to be immediately alarmed about right? But during this we hear the iconic sounds " ki ki ki, ma, ma, ma " warning us it's Jason. They then cut to Alice who is dreaming of the horrific event she has experienced in Part 1. We get to see a large part of the original's conclusion and how she survived it. Well,  to an extent since one of the story elements never gets explained and seems to be a running theme in the film series so you better learn to like or accept it. I personally think it's a real nice touch since it could open up a whole new bag of tricks for the film makers to tap in to. Anyway Alice wakes up from her nightmare and we are witness to a very suspenseful scene where she is being stalked without her realizing. This was cleverly done since we know Jason is on the prowl and could come at her any second. Of course you can guess how this scene ends. 

The title sequence starts and the new adventure begins. We get introduced to the new characters. Still not that much background given on them but you do get a good sense of who they are and what they are about. They seem to be far more serious and mature. At least now I cared for these characters as opposed to the ones in the original. One of them is Ginny who is a more fleshed out character since she is meant to be the designated hero. More on her later. 

One of the problems I had with the original how it wasn't really as suspenseful or scary as it should have been. The lack of tension and dread is a real mood killer. However Director Steve Miner  has remedied that. He has taken a lot more time to set up the murder scenes with tension and even manages to put in some real effective jump scares. There are like three or four. A good example of how to do them properly. But he has done more. Ginny is a much stronger character than Alice and she does something so bold and daring that most people would not even dare to do. Plus it is extremely clever of her. A lot of people would be too shocked and frightened to come up with any thought let alone what Ginny came up with. While perhaps a little ridiculous it is easily one of the freshest and most surprising things to be shown in a horror film. Remember the bag of tricks I mentioned? One of the tricks is the fact that Steve Miner plays around with reality and fantasy. He hints and implies things by being far too subtle and mysterious about the events I am referring to. Once again you are left with an ending where they don't bother to explain a thing. Now I happen to read about it in an article and I know what Steve Miner is implying. At the time they thought that their intended ending would be too ridiculous. So they altered it. Strangely enough by doing so a big sense of mystique was added. It is quite unsettling to be pointed towards something but failing to see what it is. Am I missing something? What am I supposed to see? No matter how you feel about it, it's undeniably effective. 

Overall Friday the 13th Part 2 is superior to the original and delivers all the horror goodness you might crave.





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Review Friday the 13th (1980): The one that started it all.

genre: horror, slasher







The first film in a series that started one of the most popular horror franchises. For that alone Friday the 13th deserves a lot of credit. Unfortunately there is not a whole lot else that makes this horror stand out from the other slasher titles. Actually it's a bit disappointing if you compare it to it's sequel that is far superior to this. I know quite rare.

I suppose that if you watch this for the first time and you have never heard of this franchise before you might appreciate this more. Like in a lot of slasher films they don't reveal the killer's identity until the final part and up to that moment you get to enjoy the delicious bloody murders. Tom Savini was responsible for the special make-up effects and it shows since they look spectacular even today. However it's the lack of tension or dread that prevented me from getting super excited or thrilled. Granted I already have seen this a couple of times and know who the killer is. Although a true horror classic would still manage to captivate me in other ways. For example there are no red herrings. Not knowing the killer is one thing. But what if the killer is one of the camp counselors? Wouldn't that be more thrilling? No real attempt is made to make you doubt any of these counselors or other characters since there aren't that many to begin with. The audience also don't get to know these characters that well. It would have been real helpful if we at least had learned why camp leader and initiator Steve Christy was so adamant of starting up this camp again. Especially considering the fact that quite a few people had died in this camp and it was said that this camp was cursed or jinxed. The only thing we get to know about Steve that he is in a real hurry to finish up the camp, that he fancies Alice and that he likes to be the boss. If for example Steve had been more creepy and weird like Crazy Ralph then you could suspect him of the killings. It would have made the film more suspenseful. 

Not learning enough about the characters also makes it hard to care for them. I did not find any of them particularly annoying but I wasn't really scared for them. You might recognize Kevin Bacon but you will hardly be impressed by his performance since he is not given that much to do. Even Alice who is the main character doesn't have much dialogue or is given background on. We learn that she wants to leave the camp but it is never fully explained why that is. She admits to Steve that it's not him but something personal. But should we take her word for it? Especially after the way she looks at him when he has convinced her to stay on for another week. None of these characters have deep or meaningful conversations with each other. They are in the middle of nowhere with very little to do. Am I supposed to believe that all they care for is superficiality and sex? On top of that there was very little to no build-up to the murder scenes. Some murders just happen and none of them are scary. They are gory for sure but not to the point that you get shocked by them. However some of them are filmed in a way that make them interesting and therefore slightly effective. 

Then the ending. Yes, the ending is quite remarkable since it contains two WTF moments. No explanations are given but who cares? They were awesome! Enough for the film to redeem itself? Not this part. It did in part 2 though. But more on that in the review for Friday the 13th Part 2. 

The original Friday the 13th might have started it all. But it will be very disappointing for the ones who are craving that special horror goodness. You would think that the first would be the best in the entire franchise. This is not the case. 




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All the Friday the 13th reviews (1980 - 2009)




Two days ago it was Friday the 13th. And since Halloween is approaching the horror bug is in full force. Therefore I have tasked myself to watch and review the entire franchise (skipping the ones I already have written reviews for). Since there are quite a few movies to watch, it will take some time. So consider this a work in progress. When the reviews are done you will be able to click the posters to read them. So do revisit this post in case you are interested. And after I have watched all of the films I will share my overall thoughts on this iconic franchise.












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Review Overdrive (2017): Mind numbingly boring Fast and Furious clone!

genre: action, crime, heist






There is no doubt in my mind that the people involved thought they had a winner on their hands. Or at least something that comes close. Unfortunately more than ever this will make you appreciate how good the Fast and Furious franchise actually is.

Beautiful cars, incredible vistas's and locations, good looking people and some nice stunt work here and there. Most of the ingredients that make the Fast and Furious enjoyable are present. Except for star power and adrenaline. Overdrive should actually be called Slow and Tame. Granted Overdrive tries to be clever and focus a little more on the heist elements than the action. However it fails to add real surprises. It is quite clear that something is coming and once it's there you will ask yourself: " Is that it? " To be fair Overdrive starts out competent but then soon after descends into nothingness. It is almost incredible how little there is going on in this film you won't predict. Only if you never have seen a crime or heist film then maybe. But for everyone else you will be bored out of your mind. There are only a few action scenes and only two or three sequences can count as decent. Everything else is average or edited in a way that you can hardly enjoy the action. Even as car porn this fails since you hardly get to enjoy the beauties. Director Antonio Negret is completely out of his league as he has not directed films of this magnitude before. Producer Pierre Morel most famous for Taken at least knows how to make good action films. So why wasn't he more hands on with this film? Story wise he might not have done much different but at least the action would have been exciting and enjoyable. And let's be honest here. That is the main reason why most people want to watch this film. Scott Eastwood is a likeable character and he looks a lot like his father but he doesn't offer anything special. Freddie Thorp is adequate enough but has even less of a personality than Scott does. Why were they paired up? And why weren't they made more colourful? They had no chemistry whatsoever. And then the villains. Every action on their part can be predicted to a tee. Overdrive was screaming for an over the top villain to spice things up. Instead you get served flavourless bad guys. 

I already wasted more words than I wanted to. But this ninety minute film is extremely slow and mind numbingly boring. So avoid!




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Review What We Do in the Shadows (2014): Funny to hilarious but little uneven!

genre: comedy, horror







What We Do in the Shadows is a mockumentary written and directed by Jemaine Clement amd Taika Waititi. Especially the last name is important since he is also the director of Thor: Ragnarok. If you aren't familiar with him then you really ought to check out The Hunt for the Wilderpeople. It will give you a very good sense what he is capable. of. Actually that film is the main reason why I wanted to watch this film and I am happy I did. 

However I do have to make clear that I am not a huge fan of mockumentaries especially of this size. I think these kinds of films work the best as shorts. But the longer you make them the harder it gets to remain sharp, witty and consistent. The same thing occurs in this film as the lack of a main narrative or story results in a film that is a little uneven. It's not a non stop laugh riot. There are some scenes that aren't particularly funny and outstay their welcome long before they are over. But and this is a big but (no pun intended) there are some scenes that are so incredibly hilarious you will die laughing. I liked how they decided to stay true to the conventional myths and legends of vampires, werewolves and other monsters. It is therefore required you are familiar with these. I can't fathom who wouldn't be. Although I can imagine that current generation might have the wrong ideas because of travesties like Twilight. Or you could be one of those few people that never watch horror. Even typing this hurts. How can you not like horror? I mean what is wrong with you? Anyway they managed to make fun of the vampires by randomly showing you what life is like for them. Funny, tragic and even heart-warming at times. I have to confess I watched this in parts and that way I was enjoying quite nicely. I tried watching it normally but found myself to be bored of the concept. I am aware that the mockumentary style is what makes this unique and funny. How often will vampires lend themselves to be filmed. Actually is it even possible to film vampires? 

Overall What We Do in the Shadows is funny and clever. While I might not like the style chosen I do think it is exactly what made it work as satire. Although the lack of real story will make it hard for some to watch the entire film as it basically is a compilation of short scenes that can be hit and miss comedy wise. 





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Review Watch Dogs 2 (PS4): You will feel like a god!

genre: open world, action, adventure, stealth
year: 2016






Once upon a time there was a game called Watch Dogs and everybody with an interest in videogaming was psyched for it. Then the game came upon us and people were disappointed. It did not deliver the next gen elements that were promised. Instead we got a downgrade and what seemed to be a straightforward GTA clone. 

At least this was the sentiment of many. But not me. I loved the game. It offered all kinds of extra features to gameplay that was familiar. The PS3 version looked quite good. Naturally the difference between the demo and the actual game was significant but fortunately for me I don't care that much about graphics. For me it is the gameplay that counts and that was solid as a rock. So I for one was very much looking forward to Watch Dogs 2. And once I got my hands on the game I had been playing it until I was finished meaning finishing all side missions, collecting large number of money and whatever else that I could get my hands on and the main missions of course. I went through these missions quite fast. Or perhaps it seemed that way since I was having immense fun.

In reality I had been playing the games for weeks with some breaks here and there, hacking whatever I could hack. It was already a lot of fun in the original. Now even more so since you have some special tools like the remote controlled car and drone. Making life a lot easier. If upgraded fully you could technically only use these tools to reach most of the objectives. This was so cool and helpful that I was missing these devices in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided I played after. Now like in the original you have the option to play as you see fit but of course it is recommended to play as stealthy as possible since that way you will avoid a lot of enemies and heartache. However main character Marcus is no Aiden Pearce and is less skilled when it comes to gun play. He is easily overwhelmed and his melee weapon, a jojo of some kind takes far too long to deal with an enemy, His main weapon is a stun gun with unlimited ammo. Sounds good right? Well, it would have been if not for two issues. It takes quite some time to be reloaded in between shots and it only is effective for a limited time. Stunned enemies wake up pretty quickly and then they will alert the others raising hell on you. Especially in the beginning it was so frustrating to deal with enemies that I always opted to use the remote controlled devices or I forsake the non lethal approach and went full lethal with silenced pistol and other effective weapons. Although I made it a priority to unlock as many skills I could to unleash hell onto those poor security guards and gang members. The chaos and destruction that ensued was beautiful and terrifying at the same time. For brief moments you feel like a god. But you are required to stay vigilant and look out not be caught or you are finished before you know it. 

I am going to be honest with you. While I enjoyed the gameplay immensely I can't hide that I was a bit disappointed with the story. Sure it had some great and cool moments but in the end it was a pretty generic tale of a group of hackers doing whatever they can to protect people from the evil corporations and government. But to be fair the lack of real intrigue and tension is made up with some nice dynamics between the members of DedSec who don't take themselves as serious as Aiden Pearce did. While some people might find them juvenile I had no problems with that. Another plus are the pop culture jokes and references. For example the company Nudle plays an important part in the game. If the name doesn't give it away the game will give you enough on them to make you see the light. Then there is a mission in the game that involves a high tech car that is very similar to Knight Rider. Sometimes Marcus and Wrench will have these nerdy discussions about pop culture like Alien versus Predator. It was funny and nice to have these people in your corner while you are out to do your thing. 

I do feel that there were less side activities than in the original. Especially when it came to the gang hideouts. Those were my favourite since clearing most of them required a lot of time, strategy and stealth. Here stealth was a little broken. Aiden was far stealthier since he could prevent enemies calling reinforcements from the start. Marcus needs to upgrade the hacking abilities before he can do that. But even then he has to deal with more enemies who can call in reinforcements. However Marcus does have some options that Aiden didn't have. Like calling in police arresting assigned targets or calling in rival gang members to kill assigned targets. You could make them do all the dirty work so that you could waltz in without any opposition. Another option is equipping your RC devices with Electro shock bombs and explosives. You can take out enemies once and for all from a safe distance. You can move around cars in any direction. There are no consequences for killing enemies so you are encouraged to experiment. I preferred to be honourable and stealthy. But sometimes they deserved to die horrible deaths.

One thing that stood out for me was the amazing soundtrack. Nothing more enjoyable to drive around and do all the missions while listening to the tracks to enhance the gaming experience. The visuals are also impressive.  Very crisp and colourful. It pays off to take a step back and enjoy the view. Especially at times when you get to climb high buildings and the Golden Gate Bridge. 

Overall a real fun and immensely enjoyable game that makes me look forward to future sequels. 



 




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Review The Vault (2017): James Franco is in this? It's a trap!

genre: horror, thriller






When it comes to horror movies I don't have real high demands. I can be very forgiving as long as it manages to entertain me in some ways and I can tell the people making the film were sincere and had their heart in the right place. If not, the gloves come off. So is that the case here? I honestly have no idea.

The problem is that I can't tell what writer and director Dan Bush (The Signal) was going for. The horror and thriller elements were overshadowed by the poorly told heist film. Not once was the film thrilling or suspenseful. It wasn't super bad or anything but it was clear that the reason why the heist gone wrong was supposed to provide the thrills and surprises. But these surprises were already spoiled in the trailer and you could see them coming from a mile away. Then again a case can be made that the horror elements are just there to enhance the super secret mystery that pops up halfway through the movie. And I have to say that I was very willing to go along with it since it had real potential. Unfortunately this potential is wasted. Not only did the creepy mystery fail to grab my attention. It also did not give me the minimal horror goodness I expect like scares or gory spectacle.

Francesca Eastwood (daughter of Clint Eastwood) was adequate as the lead and she clearly tried hard to make everything believable. Taryn Manning was all over the place and I could not tell whether she was supposed to be unstable or just incredibly frustrated or angry. It doesn't really matter since naturally most people who watch this film will only have one question on their mind. What is James Franco doing in this? It's an even bigger mystery than the one we are asked to pay attention to. It's not like he does anything extraordinary or just is there to have a little fun like he often does. He plays it straight and the film demands you to take events seriously. At one point an idea popped up in my mind that could have changed the whole tone of the film and which probably would have redeemed it. Sadly this was wishful thinking on my part since they went another boring direction that did not even make sense. To make matters worse the film ends in a way most horror films do. Had they gone with what I came up,  a lot of events in the film would have made sense and would very easily fit the genre. If you really want to know what my idea is then ask me in the comment section. Sometimes I just wonder how it is possible that a lot of these films rich with such potential take the easy way out. Especially if it would not have stressed the budget. 

I don't know if this is a case of severe incompetence or the big studios meddling but at the end of the film all I felt cheated of my precious time. Don't fall for the James Franco trap. He is there to trick you into watching this generic film that fails to deliver on what most people would expect. I honestly gave it a chance but I kept waiting and waiting until the credits rolled. I didn't even feel like writing a proper review for this since it doesn't deserve to. Then again I realized that a lot of people would still do so because of big name Franco. So I felt compelled to warn you.


 

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