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Review Manhunt (2017): Old school John Woo? Not quite! But enough for me to have enjoyed it fully!

genre: action, crime, thriller








When I received the news that John Woo was going to direct a modern action thriller I must admit I did get excited a little. But I composed myself since it's been a while and there was a slight possibility he has outgrown the genre. However after just having watched Manhunt I can safely say that John Woo still hasn't lost his touch. 

But before you jump with joy Manhunt is nowhere near any of his older titles. Perhaps on par with his American ones although one could argue that it's slightly better than those since for one thing it doesn't take itself too seriously. In fact it almost seems like John Woo is mocking or parodying himself. For almost an hour Manhunt plays out like a comedy. Zhang Hanyu as Du Qiu and Masaharu Fukuyama as Yamura play each other's adversaries who become friends. Their interactions are downright hilarious since none of these characters behave like they normally do in action thrillers not even in John Woo's own films. Manhunt also presents us with a mystery that barely is one and certainly lacks the gravity you would expect in a serious film. Woo skips very crucial scenes leading to the actual manhunt which made the film seem amateurish and clumsy. Then I realized that he did it on purpose. And I must admit that definitely was an element that made Manhunt a lot of fun. I mean the story itself was hardly compelling or surprising. 

In the second hour though things get a little more serious and you get served some real good action in two big action sequences. For the first time ever in a John Woo film two female assassins are featured who play an important role in these action sequences. One of these assassins is named Dawn who is played by Angeles Woo, yes, the daughter of John Woo. I have never seen her before but she clearly was having fun and Woo has made sure she shines. In the final part though things do tend to go completely over the top. Up until this moment the film had been fairly realistic and plausible. Then a science fiction element slips in and things get too crazy for words. In a fun and exciting way. But still I can imagine that especially the people hoping to see a serious action thriller might feel duped. 

I was bracing myself for the worst but overall I can't complain. Even when John Woo probably was mocking himself he has shown he can make good action films. Question is does he still have the desire to make them? For my sake I really hope so. He should make at least one more with Chow Yun-Fat. In any case I fully enjoyed this one and I can recommend it if you are a John Woo fan. 







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Review Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 5 (Episode 1 - Episode 10): Most preposterous adventure turns into an emotional thrill ride! (SPOILER FREE)

genre: action, adventure, comic book adaptation, super hero








Not in a million years had I expected this season to turn out the way it did. I wasn't a big fan of the ridiculous twist especially after the whole ordeal of Aida and the framework. That already was pushing every character to the extreme. You would think that the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would at least get a chance to take a breather. But somehow the writers outdid themselves and managed to make me emote with almost every character in this season. 

This season starts out very dark and gloomy and stays that way until a certain character who was missing makes his appearance. Finally there was hope and resolve. Still the agents have a lot of obstacles and pain to endure before things starting to look a little better. I really liked how most of the twists and turns in this season have been a mix of the outrageous and most personal. We get to know a little more about the newer agents. But we also get to see characters we already know quite well from a different side. It is so refreshing to see this show taking chances with the characters and the stories and keep things super compelling. This season is filled with moments that make you gasp for air because of the awesomeness and tragedies displayed. 

Not every character was strong. Kasius for example was a stereotypical villain who bored me most of the time. His subordinate Sinara (Florence Faivre) on the other hand was creepy and menacing. She even had her own theme music. At one point it looked like things weren't what they seemed concerning her. That would have been phenomenal. Unfortunately it probably would make things a little too tense and dark. There is only so much one can take. So in hindsight I am glad they chose to keep things a little conventional. Another interesting character was Enoch. At first you don't know quite what to make of him but then soon you will accept what he stands for. Best part is you won't be able to predict at all where he is coming from. 

If for whatever reason you were a little disappointed with the earlier episodes of season 5 then fear not. When a certain character returns the show becomes an emotional thrill ride. As far as I am concerned this show deserves to go on for much longer. And yet it was close to getting cancelled yet again. I really wished people would give this show a chance since the writing has improved considerably since the first season. 






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Review Transformers: The Last Knight (2017): It's totally insane yet fun!

genre: action, adventure, science fiction







Transformers:The Last Knight is the fifth part in the franchise and not even close to the last one. If at this point you still had hope or expectations this being like the superior cartoons then you are delusional. Michael Bay had the Transformers wrong right from the start. I doubt he actually has seen the cartoons or read the comic books. And he certainly has no clue why kids loved the Transformers so much. Making Transformers side characters in their own adventures is idiotic. Still from all the chaotic messes in the franchise this one seems to be the most ambitious, funniest and believe it or not, the most focused.

The film is divided in two parts. The first part is a comedy as in farce. The second part is the melodramatic adventure he used to make like The Rock and Armageddon. I expected the usually shenanigans where Bay would overwhelm us with action and spectacle so chaotic and confusing that you wouldn't be able to follow what was going on. To my astonishment Michael Bay held back and actually tried to tell a story that made some sense. Mind you the film does suffer from hyperactivity and quick cuts that make your head spin. But for the most part the plot was easy to follow. It's like someone finally was able to convince Bay that less is more. I do think he cut a little too much for my taste. Like the Decepticons having been reduced to glorified cameo's. The Autobots don't exactly fare that much better but at least some of the key figures within the group play vital and essential parts. Especially familiar characters Optimus Prime and Bumblebee shine. The funniest scenes are with Anthony Hopkins and Cogman (robot butler). The banter between these two is hilarious. But Cogman also has a split identity and on occasion has murderous tendencies in particular towards Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg). We don't blame you Cogman most of us do. Speaking of Mark Wahlberg. He was extremely likeable in this part. Even more so than in previous part. Laura Haddock as Vivian Wembley also was a welcome addition to the franchise. A vast improvement on previous actresses Megan Fox and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.

The cast of this part is filled with big names. New and old. It was nice to see and hear them in action if you managed to recognize their voices. But then there were newer characters who we get introduced for the first time and seem to be vital at first to only find out that they barely matter. I would have preferred it has they allowed John Turturro to play a bigger part instead. But must be a money thing.

Then after an hour and a half the comedy ends and events become a whole lot more serious and dramatic. A little bit clumsy in some scenes however still having some dramatic impact if you allow it. Up until this point there weren't that many proper action sequences to speak of. But it was as if Michael Bay's leash got undone and he was allowed to be his old self again. And it was marvellous. As far as I could make out what actually was going on. That is what you get if you don't adapt the original iconic looks. But to be honest I did get big picture of it all and I embraced it.

In general people really seemed to dislike this fifth part. I on the other hand was fully entertained. I did not expect this to be as funny as it was and certainly did not expect Bay to hold back on action until it really mattered. Perhaps because he was aware that this was going to be the last film in the franchise he is going to direct and wanted to make one last solid impression? I am real curious what the future will bring. There is a rumour they are going to reset the franchise. Hopefully we will finally get the Transformers films we wanted all along. Until that day you can enjoy this one.





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Review Avenging Force (1986): Should have been a franchise!

genre: action, drama, thriller







If you are a fan of the American Ninja franchise then very likely you have heard of this title. While director  Sam Firstenberg, writer / actor James Booth (screenplay American Ninja 2), composer George S. Clinton, Michael Dudikoff and Steve James all return in this film it is far removed from the more light hearted and fun spectacle that American Ninja offered. Instead you get served an immensely dark and disturbing tale of a group of extreme right people who for some reason feel threatened by every non white in existence and pro actively want to end the supposedly increasing coloured threat.

They start this enterprise by attempting to take out Larry Richards played by Steve James who is running for senator. Friend. Capt. Matt Hunter (Michael Dudikoff) is there to support him. Matt did not come alone as he is accompanied by his grandpa and little sister. At a Mardi Gras parade the Pentangle make their move but Matt manages to prevent Larry from getting killed. Unfortunately Larry's oldest son is shot and doesn't survive the attack. Sadly this is only the beginning of the tragedy. I won't unfold the events since not knowing will certainly have an impact on you if you are human that is. It is this event and other events that make you root for main character Matt and his war against the Pentangle. A lot of emphasis is put on the dramatic elements which in return make the action sequences more intense and compelling. The action itself is choreographed adequately but it may be less stylish and flashy compared to American Ninja. Considering the serious tone this is not surprising besides not needed since you do feel there is a lot at stake.

The members of the Pentangle are some of the most ruthless and evil villains you will encounter in B movie world. They are having far too much fun killing people. They even constructed a whole game for their blood-lust where they hunt for skilled and worthy opponents somewhere in the Bayou near New Orleans. If this sounds familiar then you are right. This topic has been done a couple of times in several films (The Most Dangerous Game, The Running Man, Surviving the Game). The one that comes the closest in my opinion is John Woo's Hard Target. Anyway it is very satisfying to see the nasty villains get what they had coming. 

Avenging Force clearly was intended as a franchise since it ends with the possibility of a sequel. One that never came. I really don't understand why since Avenging Force does a lot of things right. Yes it might have been a little too dark. However they could have changed the tone somewhat in the sequel and could have made it more in the same vein as the American Ninja films where fun and spectacle were at the foreground. Then again I really would not have minded to see Michael Dudikoff go all Charlie Bronson. The darker the better. Another fun fact is that Avenging Force is a sequel to Invasion U.S. A. with Chuck Norris who plays the Matt Hunter character. I don't really know how to feel about this since Invasion U.S.A. is too silly for words and doesn't really compare to Avenging Force but I guess I have to watch that film again to compare the two.  

Avenging Force is a very underrated film especially since it is filled with tragic events that got to me since the events in this film are closer to reality than ever. And like usual George S. Clinton again delivers a soundtrack that adds to the viewing experience. So if you have missed this one you owe it to yourself to watch it at least once!






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Review Victor Crowley a.k.a. Hatchet IV (2017): Almost on par with the original but this obviously is a low budget affair!

genre: horror, slasher, comedy







Parry Shen, Kane Hodder and writer / director Adam Green return to the Hatchet franchise to give us more Victor Crowley antics. How anyone can get enough of that is beyond me. In a time where special effects are dominated with CGI it is pure joy to have those replaced with practical effects. It really makes the difference. But apart from that slashers like these are a rarity. So if certain people bitch about how this film is outdated and irrelevant it makes my blood boil. Let me state for once and all. Slashers will always be relevant. Just because you think you have outgrown the genre doesn't mean the genre itself has died out.

That being said Victor Crowley doesn't deliver us the usual slasher goodness. The body count is low and the violence is a little toned down. (But don't worry there is enough gore to satisfy your needs.) Very likely because of the low budget. However it won't stand in your way from enjoying the film since the humour is just as great or even greater than in the original. The film isn't afraid to make fun of the franchise and the fans who love the franchise. For example you have a bunch of fans who are set to make a mock trailer (for YouTube) on the Crowley massacre. When they are preparing for their production they get confronted with all kinds of craziness. Like for example their tour guide (Dillon) is also an actor who was willing to guide them in exchange for a role in their film. He then gives some impressions of the usual suspects. The impressions made by Dave Sheridan as Dillon are intentionally bad but a whole lot funnier than the impressions done by Tom Hiddleston for example. It's safe to say that none of them are professionals with very hilarious results. One of these results though  is less hilarious and immensely dangerous. Because it chants the voodoo spell that resurrects Victor Crowley who still is very angry and deadly. Actually more so since they have changed his territory and home into an amusement park.

Unlike in the original and the previous versions most of the characters are highly annoying and selfish. But you tolerate them because of the comedy they provide. Except Sabrina never redeems herself. I liked how she is meant to parody talk show hosts like Wendy Williams, Ellen and Oprah. Everything else about her was not compelling to me. Despite the silliness Adam Green does allow some serious moments to shine through to make you care about what happens to some of the characters. Inept and goofy Dillon turns out to be surprisingly competent and heroic managing to steal every scene he is in. Hatchet veteran Parry Shen for once returns as a character he previously played but does share traits with all the other characters he played. However he seems to have matured and is less of a coward than before.

Victor Crowley ends with a hint of another sequel coming. I personally would welcome that. However I do want them to do a little more with the franchise. Something more fresh and creative. Because if you think about it if Victor Crowley never leaves his home then it would be very easy to avoid him now wouldn't it? Of course you have people stupid enough to look him up but still. Take him out of the swamp. Or put him against Jason Voorhees. What a battle that would be. In any case Victor Crowley is highly entertaining from start to finish. One I can recommend.






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Review Hatchet (2006): Hilarious, suspenseful and incredibly bloody and gory. I love it!

genre: horror, slasher, comedy







Hatchet might not be entirely original but it does deliver on the horror goodness. Next to that I found myself laughing at the high amount of jokes this film throws at you. And Victor Crowley definitely is a monster who can measure himself with Jason, Freddy and Michael Myers.

It's a long time ago that I have seen this originally but I remember loving it very much. Now after my second viewing I feel the same. In my opinion this is very close to being a classic. But perhaps we need to give a few years more to make sure. In any case Hatchet moves in an incredibly fast pace with just enough attention to the main characters and the monster. Main characters Marcus (Deon Richmond who played Kenny in The Cosby Show) and Ben (Joel David Moore) go out on a night tour and naturally things go horribly wrong. Marcus didn't even want to go but because he is good friend to Ben he joins him. This makes you root for him since he is a good guy. Shawn (Parry Shen) is the tour operator who turns out to have bamboozled his passengers just to earn a quick buck. Despite his dishonesty he is a likeable guy. The same can be said of the other characters since they all have their flaws and good characteristics that make you want to see them get hurt. Of course this is inevitable since they are in Victor Crowley's territory. Crowley is basically a Jason Voorhees clone without the mask and perhaps a whole lot stronger than Jason since he is able to tear people apart like it's nothing. You get to see this tearing in all it's glory and it's beautiful. Writer / director Adam Green does go over the top with the blood and gore however he never neglects to build up suspense and tension so that it never gets tedious or boring. Combined with the humour you will be entertained throughout. However since the emphasis is on the blood and gore it's not a story that has twists or turns story wise. 

Hatchet is a throwback to old school horror in the same vein as the Friday the 13th franchise. If you don't like those movies it is very probable you won't like this either. However if you do, you are in for a real treat. 




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Review Trauma (1993): Underrated Dario Argento film!

genre: giallo, thriller, horror, mystery







Trauma for some reason is not appreciated as much as Argento's works prior to this one. Perhaps fans think it's to slick and Americanised. It's heavily flawed for sure. Still there are plenty trademark Argento elements present to deliver that giallo goodness. For me personally this is a favourite. I will explain why that is.

For starters the first time you watch this it's a very thrilling affair. There are just enough weird characters running around who could be the killer. That is if you watch it properly. Like with Deep Red there is a way to find out who the killer is from very early on. But if you want the best viewing experience I would advise against it. However on multiple viewings it remains solid also because of the elements described underneath.

A very big element is the romance between Aura (Asia Argento) and David Parsons (Christopher Rydell). David falls for the obviously troubled girl who is anorexic most likely because of trauma. Her character is inspired by Asia Argento's half-sister Anna, Daria Nicolodi's daughter from a previous marriage who was suffering from anorexia. Nicolodi was Dario Argento's wife from 1973 to 1985. Her daughter can be seen at the end of the film dancing to a reggae song. Unfortunately Anna died in a car accident a year later after this film was made. It's a good thing that attention is paid to this eating disorder. Aura is strangely loveable because she seems to be innocent and pure. At least that is how Asia portrayed that character. It's no wonder David would fall for her. And he got it real bad because he almost loses his sanity when Aura goes missing again. She tends to do that a lot in the film.  David is also a very likeable character since he tries to help Aura as much as she can. Long before he fell in love with her. The song Ruby Rain composed by Pino Donaggio is what really sells the romance since it is completely enchanting and hauntingly beautiful.



Another thing I liked was the young kid Gabriel who is very observant, determined and decisive. He is the one who doesn't hesitate and saves the day. His involvement seems like a play on Hitchcock's Rear Window and is something I can really appreciate. Everyone should have a neighbour like Gabriel. Because the world would be a much safer place then. James Russo as the cop could and should learn from him since he is completely worthless. He is always too late and comes after the fact instead of preventing the murders form happening. But cops usually are in giallo's so that is to be expected.

Last but not least is the motivation of the killer. You will never guess it. But it's one so shocking and tragic that you can understand where the killer is coming from. This feeling is enhanced by the acting of the actor in question since this person does a good job of showing a complete character who is deeply hurt and damaged. Deranged without a doubt but not cold blooded.

Overall Trauma is a pretty solid giallo and certainly a step up on for example Giallo (2009) with Adrien Brody.







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