Sunday, November 29, 2015

Review Terminator Woman a.k.a. Eliminator Woman a.k.a. Backlash (2014): Tong Po directs an average B actioner.

genre: action, martial arts

Michel Qissi (Mohamed Quissi) who also plays the main villain Alex Gatelee directs this action flick. He is best known for his role as Tong Po in Kickboxer (with Jean-Claude van Damme). He was phenomenal in that one.

Here not so much. At least in Kickboxer they were wise enough to not let him speak. He was far more menacing that way. Alex Gatelee who supposedly is the most vicious crime lord in some unknown and unnamed African country hardly makes an impression. Seemed like Qissi was more focused on directing than acting. But forgot to bring the plot to life. Not that there is much of a plot to begin with still it's nice that they had made the effort to write one. We get introduced to two detectives Julie A. Parish (Karen Sheperd) and Jay Handlin (Jerry Trimble) who are there to escort a prisoner and deliver them to the proper authorities so that he can testify in court against Alex Gatelee. Naturally Gatelee tries to prevent this which should have been the showcase for some marvelous action. Both Trimble and Sheperd obviously are very skilled martial artists but unfortunately they aren't really given the opportunity to shine that way. That perplexes me. What is the point of having two great fighters in a film and then not let them show what they do best. Instead we get poorly choreographed action scenes that hardly stand out. Qissi was the fight choreographer in Wrong Bet (with Jean-Claude Van Damme) which is among my favourites of Van Damme flicks since the martial arts is top notch in that one. So why has he failed to make the fights interesting only three years after that?

What is even more mind boggling is the fact that no explanation is given for the title Terminator Woman. Karen Sheperd defeats her opponents alright but is not as deadly as one would expect. And she certainly is no cyborg or something that resembles it. I know that they try to capitalize on using suggestive titles but then at least offer what the title is suggesting otherwise people might feel scammed. 

Terminator Woman is not horrendously bad. It's mostly competent enough only it never stands out or is anyway near remarkable. But for me the most important element which is action is lacking. A few kicks and punches and the enemies go down. None of them put up a real fight and it makes everything so boring. So no I can't recommend this. 

Review The Divine Move a.k.a. Sin-ui Hansu (2014): Good film but a little underwhelming in the thrills department!

genre: drama, action, crime

The Divine Move starts with a bang and promises us a film full of thrills and twists. It's obvious that the game Go (called baduk in South Korea) plays a huge role and you would expect that the rules and strategies also would be applied in the film. But as the film continues it removes itself from the clever set up something that made the film stand out in the beginning. 

Go is a game I am not familiar with but from what is explained in the movie and what I read online that it's a strategy game similar to chess where one has to be many steps and moves ahead to stay on top and win. I think that is as much as you need to know about it. I kept waiting for this amazing strategy and move plot wise and it never occurred. In essence this is a revenge film. Instead of continuing a clever story with twists and turns you get action and violence. It's understandable of course but don't you think that a film with Go so prominently featured would have to play out like that game somewhat. Where the focus would be more on the strategy than the action. At one point we get introduced to some characters who give us some comic relief. I liked this very much but I can't deny that it detracted from the darkness the film started with. 

That being said though the film does deliver on good action and good acting. It is what made me overlook the lack of real surprises. But the pacing is mixed. There are parts that are fast and tense like in the beginning but there are also parts that drag and take away the little suspense that is build up. In hindsight the plot is a little disappointing. It could have gone a million directions that were much more interesting. Ok, maybe that is an exaggeration on my part. But still there were a few plot points that had peaked my interest and would have been a better choice had they been explored.

Overall I do think this is worth your time but do keep the expectations in check. This film is more focused on action and violence than on anything else.  

Review Demonic (2015): Takes a while for it to get interesting but then it never lets up!

genre: horror

Demonic at first hand seems an uninspired, unoriginal and average horror flick. But in fact managed to surprise me in a good way.

You can divide Demonic in two parts. The first part where they set everything up and make you believe that you already know how it is going to end up. And the second part where things start to get exciting and thrilling. Mind you the film does it's best to serve you cliché after cliché. It really makes you think that you can predict of what is coming until the scene starts when one of the characters start to seeing things. Apparently this character has a connection with the house of some sorts. From that moment on things start to get interesting. It is then that you get a few real effective scares but where again you will be misdirected of what actually is going on. I went from not giving a damn to paying attention like my life depended on it. I was hardly looking at the screen and more concerned with the snack I had prepared for myself. I briefly looked up and then bam. No, I did not scream but it did fuel me with adrenaline and I was hooked. But that is to illustrate how effective these scares were. I have to mention that it really helps to have Maria Bello ( Butterfly on a Wheel) and Frank Grillo (The Purge: Anarchy) in the cast. They did give this film the weight it needed. Or at least made me wonder why they were attached to this project. 

Look, films and stories like these have been done to death. But I do think a movie deserves credit for managing to trick and surprise you with some genuine horror goodness. That is what Demonic does. All it requires though is to stomach the first 40 minutes and then you will be rewarded. So do give this flick a chance.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Review 12 Rounds 2: Reloaded (2013): Paramedic gets caught into a deadly game and you won't care about it!

genre: action, thriller

The second entry in the 12 Rounds franchise wants to be real edgy and full of tension. Instead you will get bored out of your mind.

Sure it has all the ingredients to make one hell of an action thriller if only it weren't for one thing that kills the tension. The probability and plausibility. It's hard to get into this film since the villain sees, hears and controls everything. He must have one super computer and reach to always be able to talk to main character Nick Malloy (played by Randy Orton). I can't even seem to have a good connection in my bedroom when I try to call from there. My home is small so I should not have that much problems with the connection. But I do. In this film this never occurs. In fact the villain can control almost everything from wherever he is set up his control center. In good action thrillers they show the limitations or at least explain why it is possible and plausible for the villain to have control. The good guy then has options to go against it or at least try to. It is what makes it interesting and adds tension. How are you going to offer surprises if paramedic Nick basically does what he is told. Only very briefly we see him resisting and trying to outwit the bad guy. But apart from those moments he follows the instructions and it is never unnerving or thrilling. I could care less about any of the characters since there is hardly any emotional connection to them. The characters are all very bland and Nick is not that interesting. He is no John McClane.*

In the first 12 Rounds the character played by John Cena had very little time to contemplate anything. Every second counted and while far from a masterpiece it did accomplish to put a sense of urgency in the film. Here that is completely absent. Even when for example the clock on a car bomb only has like a few minutes Nick apparently can take his sweet time to get into discussions, fights and other distractions before he reaches his destination. These fights are hardly exciting or nicely choreographed. I was hoping to have some fun with this flick but there was very little to be had. I could not watch this in one sitting. I tried watching this three times and every time I had trouble getting into it. I really had to force myself into finishing this for once and all. And I could not do this without skipping some bits. 

Overall even if you like the concept of the 12 Rounds films this entry is poorly done. You are better off watching the first and the third. But do skip this one. You will thank me for it.

*While this has some similarities with Die Hard With a Vengeance this still is not a Die Hard clone. I refuse to accept that.

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Review Nothing Like the Holidays (2008): A feel good family movie that anyone can relate to!

genre: comedy, drama

Nothing Like the Holidays is about a Puerto Rican family who come together to celebrate the holidays. We get to see a little glimpse into their lives which is interesting and some of the issues most people will be able to relate to.

Maybe not everyone will have such big feasts where they dine and dance until the day is over. But for the most part I think for most people it is recognizable. Is it realistic for people to discuss all of their issues at the table? Of course not. It's a movie where they cramp in as much drama as one can to keep the audience entertained. Naturally in real life most problems would not be discussed during the holidays. More likely people would eat and drink and rather forget for a while whatever is bothering them. Although I have to say that I like these films for doing this. It almost works therapeutic. 

The cast is top notch and you really believe that the characters are related. I liked it how Debra Messing's character got accepted even if she was not Puerto Rican herself. In some other cultures people would not be. I also enjoyed the warmth and love displayed by these family members. In the short time that we know them you care for them but also curse at them when they are acting stupid. I even yelled at the screen because Edy Rodriguez was pretty stubborn and proud. Although I could understand his reason. 

Nothing Like the Holidays is exactly the kind of film I would watch in the holidays. It makes you really feel super good at the end. So it sure gets my recommendation. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Review Cow aka Dou niu (2009): A must watch!

genre: drama

A Chinese peasant is given the responsibility of protecting his village's special dairy cow during a particularly harsh winter in 1940.

To me this was a very intriguing premise right from the start since I like to watch stories about bonds between animals and people. And it is rare to see a bond being described between a cow and a man. However while this might sound like those Disney type of movies I have to warn you this is very different. There is a lot going on in this film that is confronting and educational. Especially when you learn that the Sino- Japanese war is very much active in this village. Next to some harsh realities and perhaps a little communist propaganda the focus is on friendship and love. The main character and the way he goes to extreme lengths to protect the cow who can be very stubborn is absolutely charming. The fact that he is a little slow and has a huge heart makes it even more captivating. You will admire his drive especially since most people would have given up in the same circumstances. Dou niu is not told chronologically and uses a lot of flashbacks with great effect. By doing so it manages to surprise you and explains how hard it must have been for our main character to go through the events displayed. Especially since some truly shocking and heartbreaking scenes make you realize the despair this character must have been experiencing. To tell you more would ruin too much so I won't. This a beautiful film made with a lot of heart and you can feel that while watching. Please do yourself a favour and go watch this as soon as you can. A must watch! 

Review Absolutely Anything (2015): Not Monty Python brilliant but still made me laugh a lot!

genre: comedy, fantasy, science fiction

Once I read who was involved with this project I got real excited. I mean Simon Pegg, the Monty Python crew, Robin Williams, Eddie Izzard and so many more in one film surely must deliver.

That they do but not entirely in the way I was expecting. From Terry Jones and co I was expecting things to be more absurd and clever. While there are some brilliant moments the whole film does seem to be a little underwhelming. It does make you laugh. Only they never make good on the potential of the concept. Simon Pegg is Neil Clarke who randomly is chosen by a bunch of aliens to prove himself without him realizing. He is awarded magical powers that basically allows him to do everything he want. He just has to wish for it and wave his hand. But like most people he does not think his wishes through and stirs up things in London a little bit which provides many funny scenes. There were many moments that could have gone further then where they were left off. It is like they held back or were forced to held back not to go over the top too much. And that simply kills what could have been truly great. 

Now don't worry though for what is present it still is very enjoyable. Dennis the Dog voiced by Robin Williams was funny and endearing. Kate Beckinsale was looking extra fine in this film but I didn't particularly like how she portrayed her character. She was very rash and judgmental. Dennis the Dog called her the bitch and while he was using his doggy terminology the audience will concur she is just that. Some jokes while simple are effective enough. 

This could have been a return to form from the people who brought us Life of Brian and more Monty Python goodness. However I take what I can get and this was very entertaining even if it is a little forgettable.