Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Review Lucifer Season 1 (2015 - ): Lucifer has improved considerably especially compared to earlier episodes but it still has a long way to go!

genre: crime, fantasy, comic book adaptation

The pilot was not as impressive as it could have been. Since it did a terrible job of introducing Lucifer to us. He is the exact opposite of how we perceive the devil. Partly this can be explained since this version is based on the character from the DC Comics. Apparently he is a little less menacing and powerful and more into debauchery and embracing passion. In this case being the owner of a nightclub zipping martini's and having sex with many women and men. Yep, not the devil you know. 

One thing that bugs me about adaptations in general is how they often downplay the supernatural powers of comic book characters.  This of course could be due to having a strict budget or that they feel they have to keep it relatable. And that does not make sense to me since most of the appeal for comics about super heroes and supernatural creatures are the extraordinary powers. Another issue I have is the fact that some of these shows feel the need to incorporate cop drama elements. Lucifer suffers from both these issues initially. Luckily the show has improved considerably. It's less about solving the crime of the week and more about Lucifer finding his way back to his father, God. The Lucifer based story lines are so much better than the done to death criminal cases. But mostly because Tom Ellis makes it more interesting. He adds charm, wit and sophistication to Lucifer. I dare to say that if it weren't for him this show would have not worked. Ellis has great chemistry with the majority of the cast but especially with Lauren German and D.B. Woodside. Their interactions provide the most fun. Although Ellis does a good job of stealing every scene he is in. Despite this you will have to endure some painfully average crime solving which they will let go of gradually when they starting to focus on who Lucifer actually is. It does take a while for Lucifer to shows glimpses of true self but for me was worth the wait. 

The last few episodes of this season were much more to my liking and if they keep on like this we could have the show people have been wanting in the first place. Still they will need to up the ante a little more and show us much more about Lucifer's past and who he truly is. How about some flashbacks? Or Lucifer as angel. Or him doing his thing in hell. And for god sake make him a little more powerful because seriously this has to be the weakest devil ever. (This makes me miss shows like Brimstone and Reaper where the devil was an omnipotent being letting his minions do his bidding.) But for now I am looking forward to season 2.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Review Eddie the Eagle (2016): One of the best feel good movies ever! If this doesn't inspire you then nothing will!

genre:  comedy, drama. sports, feel good

Ever since I heard about this film and how it was being compared to Cool Runnings I wanted to watch it. So when it hit the theaters I went to the first showing available. Which is some weeks ago but only now got the chance to write the review. But trust me if I say that I wanted to spread the word as soon as I came out of the cinema.

Eddie the Eagle is a truly beautiful film that shows us how far you can go with will and determination. No matter how many people say to you it can't happen or you don't have what it takes. Never give up! And in large part I agree with this. If you have a dream you should do whatever is in your power to achieve it. At least try. Always try. Main character Eddie Edwards (played by Taron Egerton who you might know from Kingsman: The Secret Service) does exactly this despite the odds that were against him. What is even more incredible that Eddie isn't a fictional character. Although his real name is Michael Edwards. Fun fact: While the real Eddie is a fan of the film, he said that "only about 5%" of Eddie the Eagle is a true story. -BBC News. More about the differences between movie and real story in following article: The real Eddie the Eagle.

Even if only 5 percent of the story is true it doesn't detract from the viewing experience one bit. Had this story been fully fictional I still would have felt inspired by it. Because the message of the film will strike you right in the heart. And of course Taron's acting has a lot to do with that. If I have not said in the review of Kingsman then I will say it now. Taron Egerton is one hell of an actor. He has shown us with this role that he basically can play anything he like. So keep it coming Taron. He also had some great chemistry with Hugh Jackman. But let's face it who wouldn't? Hugh is always good. But I will also have to mention the direction. Dexter Fletcher has managed to mix up drama and comedy very effectively without it ever getting too heavy. That is quite remarkable because it is very easy to go over the top and yet Eddie the Eagle tries very hard to avoid being melodramatic. And yet you will laugh and cry since there is no escaping the power of the beautiful message. Does it really matter that this story has been told many times already? That you can predict every step in the film? No! Since this is a story I never get tired off. And it is told exquisitely. 

Eddie the Eagle is a compelling watch through and through and is one of the most fun and entertaining films I have seen in a while. You owe it to yourself to watch this one and I will promise you that you will feel very good at the end and long after. (Just writing this review weeks later makes me feel good and makes me want to watch the film again.)

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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Review Extreme Prejudice (1987): Unpretentious B movie goodness!

genre: action, crime, western

Extreme Prejudice is a modern day western directed by someone more than capable to do it right. Walter Hill knows his stuff (at least until he made Bullet to the Head that is).

This film basically consists of two story lines that at one point get intertwined. One is about Texas Ranger Jack Benteen (Nick Nolte) who has to go against old friend and now crime lord Cash Bailey (Powers Boothe). And the other is about a military group (featuring Michael Ironside, Clancy Brown and William Forsythe) conducting a top secret mission. Now I do have to say that it does feel that there was more to these stories and how they crossed each other. But that a lot had been cut to save time. Wikipedia confirms this hunch and all I can say is that I hope to one day be able to see what Walter Hill's original vision was. Although as it is now is effective enough. Essentially (if I get it right) the idea was to put the people of both story lines together in one explosive finale. This finale while very satisfying did seem a little short compared to the time was taken to set it up. Still it's clear that this finale is a tribute to Sam Peckinpah and his The Wild Bunch. Short but sweet one could say. Extreme Prejudice is not a non stop action film. But whatever action is present is very good. It's gritty and violent. When the good guys die you care for them. This is because enough time is taken to tell the audience what they are about. Of course this in large part should be contributed to the excellent cast. Most actors clearly had fun playing their roles. One point of criticism I should add that this film doesn't seem to care about accurate portrayals and rather wants to stick to stereotypes.

Extreme Prejudice is a lot of fun while watching it but it's also one that is not particularly memorable. I personally was expecting a lot more and while I got my action fix it did feel a little underwhelming. So keep your expectations in check and you will have a blast.

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Review Triple 9 (2016): Waste of talent and potential. Very mediocre film!

genre: crime, action, heist

The first thing you will notice is the cast. There are quite a few big names here. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Casey Affleck, Anthony Mackie, Woody Harrelson, Aaron Paul, Kate Winslet, Gal Gadot and Norman Reedus. On top of this you have John Hillcoat directing the film. The man behind Lawless and The Road. With such talents involved you can't go wrong can you?

As it turns out you can. Big time. There is nothing about Triple 9 that is extraordinary. Everything is just mediocre. Mind you it is not the fault of the cast. Most of the actors bring their A game. But what is the point of that if they are let down by the direction and story. The story plays out like you would expect. Nothing in it is original or fresh. You aren't even made to care for any of the characters since we hardly get to know what they are about. In this case it is incredibly essential since if there is no one in this film you can root for why would I need to invest time in a bunch of characters I have no interest in. If it weren't for the talents involved I would not have given this film a glance let alone take my time and watch it. Even the action sequences are downright average and predictable. The heists certainly are the highlights in the film but like everything else in the film suffered from mediocrity. I truly wished they weren't. But only a few moments during those heists were exciting. I don't get it. Even if you weren't trying you only needed to flesh out the characters a little more to make it more compelling. Take Kate Winslett for example. She plays a crime boss who is beautiful but obviously is a psychopath. It's only because of her acting talent that we know she is. Why aren't we shown more of how cold and calculating she is? 

Triple 9 is a real disappointment. Such a waste of talent and potential. This is one of those titles you best to be enjoyed late at night. But I can't recommend it.

Review Fatal Contact a.k.a. Hak kuen (2006): Wu Jing shines! Too bad that director Dennis Law suffers from delusions of grandeur.

genre: martial arts, action, drama

This is a martial arts movie with a story that for the most part isn't compelling. Only the ending is a bit crude and brutal and come to think of it completely ridiculous. I think the director wanted to add some drama to make this movie more interesting. What the director seems to have forgotten that he doesn't need the drama, because he has Jacky Wu / Wu Jing (known from Tai Chi Boxer). When he does his thing, you are in for a treat. The man has some skill and he shows it whenever he can. The martial arts in this movie is great and that alone is the reason to watch this movie. The pace however is a bit slow. This due to the story. If they really wanted to make a interesting story they should have used "The Captain" more, since he was a great character. Instead we are confronted with some abstract fatalistic love story that does not make any sense. Who is to blame for that? Dennis Law , ladies and gentlemen. If you want more proof of his incompetence then go watch Fatal Move which was meant as a sequel to S.P.L. with Donnie Yen. Director Dennis Law is an example of a film maker who really shouldn't be in the business since he lacks vision and creativity. He basically copies and pastes stories and themes and combines them without adding something fresh or original and then thinks he is finished. Most of the time he is lucky that he is surrounded by competent people who more than once improve the film considerably. But it does beg the question why talented people like Sammo Hung, Simon Yam and Wu Jing would be involved with his productions at all.

In any case try to ignore the story and focus on the action. It's hard hitting and exhilarating. 

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Review Close Range (2015): Action wise it is stellar, everything else though is poor.

genre: action, crime, martial arts

Close Range is definitely showing what Scott Adkins is capable of and what he can deliver. He is the main draw and only reason this film will be worth your while. I only wished that the film industry would recognize and respect his talent a little better.  I know what you thinking. If the action is that good then why I am not praising this film? Let me explain.

This film doesn't waste time showing us the best which is Scott Adkins kicking ass. All of this done stylishly and with real good pace. Especially the camera work should be mentioned since it moves around to show all of the action in it's splendor. I was like: if the whole film is like this then I am in a for a treat. But after this director Isaac Florentine ventures into territories he knows nothing off and tries to tell a story and dramatize cardboard characters who don't have enough meat to be fleshed out. And honestly I did not care that much. Since all you needed to know was there. You know who you have to root for and who the villains are. Although I would have appreciated if the bad guys had been made more menacing and competent. You could hardly take them seriously. Were these guys to represent Mexican cartel members? Just read the newspapers how deadly they are in reality. Then watch these idiots in action. Some thugs take their sweet time to come into action and apparently they had zero strategy skills. There were enough men to surround the house and overwhelm Scott's character Colton MacReady. But they never do this. Let's wait for jefe to say what we need to do because we can't think on our own. Whatever Isaac was going for it killed the pacing and momentum. The consequence that the action scenes miss context. Very rarely did you feel there was something at stake. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to have this attached to the action. It is what makes you care and be invested. If you had a boss who didn't care and shot everybody on sight it would immediately put tension on everything. Such a simple method and yet so effective. But no. Isaac had to go fancy and he failed.

Close Range is filled with stellar action but everything else brings it down considerably which is a real shame since Scott Adkins is giving his best and he deserves much better treatment. Only watch this film for him doing his thing and ignore the rest.

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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Review The Boss (2016): Gigantic waste of time. Don't bother!

genre: comedy

First two minutes were funny, the rest is not. Not one bit. How is that possible?

Melissa for once doesn't play a completely obnoxious character. Somehow in this one she is still a little likable next to being obnoxious. Her character is a little more serious compared to for example her Tammy. And this presents a problem. Most of the jokes and comedy has to come from her and how is that possible if you play it more seriously than usual. That and the fact that no attempt is made to actually make real clever jokes. The most effective ones were the very few slapstick moments and the bit where Michelle Darnell (Melissa McCarthy) keeps getting returned by foster parents a la Problem Child. See not even that joke is original. The other actors were tolerable but they did not get that much to do. Kristen Bell, Tyler Labine and Peter Dinklage are completely wasted in their roles. And mostly because of the incredible poor writing done by Melissa McCarthy. Everything in this film is also totally predictable. Why not play try to play around with what people are expecting? The Boss is pretty child friendly. Apart from a few curse words and Michelle showing the original The Texas Chainsaw massacre to Rachel daughter of Claire (Kristen Bell). If the crudeness is supposed to be the joke then why not put it on the edge and go over the top. Make her curse and make her act irresponsible all the time. BTW Sacha Baron Cohen is a master in doing this. He goes so far that you can't help but laugh to the absurdity. Melissa fails to do this. Or why not take the story somewhere else? Why not let the outcome be that boss Michelle is a horrible person who is not someone we should feel sorry about. And let her take over the world with her rudeness. Remember Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy? Will Ferrel's character was a totally despicable character through and through and it was hella funny. But no, like I said no attempt was made. From start to finish this film takes it safe and fails. I keep reading how Melissa is supposed to be one of the funniest comedian talents around and she has yet to convince me of that. Maybe it is time that people woke up from their slumber and smelled the coffee. McCarthy is not funny.

Honestly I did not have huge expectations although I had hoped it would be on par with Spy. Sadly this is not the case. The Boss is a terrible comedy and one gigantic waste of your time so don't even bother.

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