Saturday, November 28, 2015

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. 

Review Insidious (2010): Genuinely creepy and scary movie!

genre: horror

It really has been a while for a horror movie to make me jump. And to be honest the first fifteen minutes did make me wonder if this movie was going to be any good. And yes,it did. In this case the slow build up does benefit the tension. And for once they actually put in characters you like. Not that you learn to know them well. But at least we do care for them which of course is crucial in movies like this.When events start happening it is asked of you to put aside logic which you will be rewarded for. So while Insidious is filled with creepy and scary moments it is not always super scary. But after a while it does get very thrilling and tense and it doesn't let go. To tell more would be a crime. The less I tell the better the experience.  A must watch movie!

Also read:

Review Lost After Dark (2014): Failed attempt in recreating 80's horror flick!

genre: horror, slasher

Normally I would be more forgiving for any movie that pays homage to the Eighties. But then you really have to add something fresh or fun to keep it interesting. 

While Lost After Dark does try to build up tension it somehow fails to recreate the real terror that slashers like Halloween brought us. Far too much attention is paid to the characters without adding red herrings or substance. It takes it's sweet time to expose them as well. I was so bored that I fell asleep. For me that is real rare. Normally if I feel tired I simply don't start a movie or pause it if it would hinder my viewing pleasure. At the beginning of the film I felt real psyched and excited and was full of energy. So it was the movie sucking the life out of me. If a movie with runtime of 85 minutes can do that then you know that something is wrong. And to be honest I can't pin point the exact moments that I thought were bad. However there weren't real moments that were strong or stood out. Apart from one curious surprise there were none. Everything was by the book even the ending. I would have overlooked that if the film managed to do something creative or actually scared me in some way. Even the deaths were unimaginative and forgettable. Maybe Ian Kessner (writer plus director) thought it was enough to make it resemble an Eighties horror film and did not think about adding something of his own. Only then he does forget that most Eighties horror flicks (especially the good ones) had something unique about them. 

I truly wished I could tell you this film was great. I was really rooting for it to be. And even Robert Patrick gave his blessing. He was freaking hilarious. But then they did something that was so pointless that I wonder if it is done on purpose or that Robert Patrick himself requested it. If it was done intentionally then I think Ian Kessner is even more inexperienced than I thought and he really needs to brush up on his qualities as a writer and director. 

Overall I can't recommend this. It will be a waste of your time and I think you will be better watching real Eighties slasher films. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Review Annabelle (2014): Much better than I expected it to be!

genre: horror

At first I was expecting a lot from Annabelle. There is something about creepy looking dolls. Somehow they can unnerve you. And in The Conjuring it did made me wonder why someone would ever get it in their head to buy such a doll. Annabelle explains us why.

Was the explanation satisfactorily? In hindsight I think yes. Could they have gone deeper into it? Of course they could and should have. Is it as good as The Conjuring was? No. But still it was far better than I expected this to be. The doll looks scary as hell and even just looking at it for a few seconds is unsettling. Let alone if the doll comes into action. Now the film does show us a little too much far too quickly. Although because of the audience knowing and the main characters left in the dark about what is going on also adds some serious tension. I do say that some scares are cleverly set up where you think you can predict what is going to happen and then something different occurs. Not too many of those but still enough to keep you on edge for a bit. The pacing is a little off as it moves through certain events quite fast but then lingers on moments where you are wondering why they are doing that since usually nothing noteworthy happens.

One little complaint I could make is the fact that we don't get to see the doll itself get into action much. It is heavily implied which for the most part works well in combination with the explanation of why the doll is so scary. Still I think the tension would have been increased if they showed the doll messing with the main character and the audience both at the same time. Where you could make a case if whatever we think we saw might not be real at all. (That does make me wonder how come if you believe and accept that ghosts and demons exist why they only haunt us at specific times. Is it the fact that they make you doubt and screw with your head for maximum effect? Or can they only act out because they are limited in their movements?)

Annabelle offers a decent watch and certainly not a waste of your time. Just don't expect this to be on par with The Conjuring or Insidious.

Also read:

Review Born to Fight a.k.a.Kerd ma lui: Die Hard in a Thai village!

genre: action, martial arts

Since Ong Bak Thailand has been producing many jaw dropping action films that are on par with what Hong Kong used to offer us in it's glory days. Born to Fight is one of them.

Like those films the plot is trivial and it's the action and stunts that take center stage where you get to see one amazing stunt after another. Does it really matter then that the acting is not that good? Or that the film is a little too nationalistic for it's own good? I say no. Because despite it's flaws it achieves what is set out to do. Most action scenes are exhilarating because enough context is given to them. The villagers get a raw deal when some nasty and ruthless thugs invade their peaceful home. They get terrorized and loved ones are killed in front of their eyes. How much could you take if this would be happening to you? Very rightfully so our main character Deaw (Dan Chupong) tries to motivate and inspire these villagers to take action. And with their national anthem playing on the radio it is just the push they need to execute their anger and rage on these evil villains. One little girl in particular does this really well who has become real bloodthirsty after they killed her father.

They should not have killed her father.
Born to Fight is filled with beautifully choreographed stunts and action sequences. You will get more than the usual fights and gun play. Among the people who fight back there are some who have unique skills and they put it to good use. You have two who are very good in gymnastics. One who is a football player and another one who is good in rugby. (Granted at times it does make you wonder if some of those skills really would be that effective but who cares it looks cool.) The stunt work these people provide is creative and original and on top of all a real feast for the eyes.

Overall this is one of the better Die Hard clones where they manage to do so much with very little. It actually manages to thrill you in places where you expect it not to be good at all. So definitely one I can recommend.