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Review Logan Lucky: Likeable quirky characters, some clever jokes but unfortunately nothing more that that!

genre: comedy, crime, drama, heist

When Logan Lucky was announced it very much looked like a film that would be right up my alley. I am a sucker for heist films especially if they are filled with good actors and other strong elements. So is Logan Lucky worth your time?

Logan Lucky doesn't waste it's time to show you what it's main strength is. The characters. They are quirky but likeable. You get to learn enough about them to give you some idea what they are about. However if you were hoping for some deep character study then you are really going to be disappointed since most of the characters aren't fleshed out that well and they usually act in service of the plot. The plot revolves around a heist during a Nascar race in North Carolina. But unlike most heist plots they are completely devoid of tension and thrills. Some twist and turns although very poorly implemented because you will hardly notice them since they happen so quick and sudden without rhyme and reason. They are just there to supposedly to give you that big dramatic impact at the end. And in case you can't already tell there is no dramatic impact. It's the good cast that makes you overlook the flawed plot since they are the ones that demand your attention. Albino Daniel Craig as Joe Bang and unrecognisable Seth MacFarlane as Max Chilblain are very good examples of that. Seems to me that Seth really has improved on his acting big time. Daniel Craig always had that though guy look. But as an albino he has never looked more menacing. Therefore it is quite funny to observe that the same character is not nearly as competent as he claims to be. And there was something about Mellie Logan (Riley Keough) but couldn't figure out what exactly until I found out that she is the daughter of Lisa Marie Presley. She is the eldest grandchild of Elvis Presley and has a strong resemblance to him. Adam Driver as the more quiet brother definitely shines far better here than he did in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Channing Tatum is the lead and acts as the straight man since he is the one who introduces us to all the strange characters and then brings them together. He himself is adequate but unremarkable. Katie Holmes has a very pointless and useless role and maybe it's me but she looks so old and bored.

The other good element is some of the comedy. There is a very good joke about Game of Thrones. It's so good in fact that this joke alone almost would have made it worth for me. But there are some nice subtle smaller ones involving the characters forcing you to realize there is more to them than you initially thought. Although they can be easily dismissed under the guise of quirkiness. 

Logan Lucky has two main things going for itself. Likeable quirky characters and some real clever jokes that will make you laugh out loud. Although the number of these jokes is very low so keep that in mind. But that is it. Other than these two things there is nothing else. Is that worth your time? For a one time watch in company or on your own on a rainy Sunday, it can be a decent watch. 

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Review Mayhem (2017): Violent but funny satire featuring Steven Yeun!

genre: action, horror, comedy

A lot of fans of Steven Yeun who played Glenn in The Walking Dead probably are wondering what he is doing now. Well, seems like Steven Yuen is doing quite well with Mayhem, one of the bigger projects he is involved in. He plays Derek Cho who has the worst day of his life when he gets stuck in an office building that has been infected with a virus that makes people act out their wildest impulses. How will he get out of this dire situation?

Mayhem is more a black comedy than horror although it is quite bloody, gory and quite terrifying but not in the way you would expect. The terrifying part comes from the fact that apart from some fantastic elements a lot of the events and the corporate mentality is realistic enough. The way higher ups treat their workers and clients just to make a quick buck and keep making them even if that means they screw over innocent people. But there is a glimmer of hope in all this darkness and that is Derek Cho who is on the verge to battle these higher ups with whatever he can. There is a reason why he managed to rise among the ranks as quickly as he did. He is intelligent, clever and unlike his bosses does have integrity. Steven Yeun is very likeable as Derek Cho even if his soul is a little tainted by corporate greed.  He himself might think he lost his way but he is not downright evil. Yeun shows these two sides to him effortlessly and is exactly the reason why you root for him all the way. But he is not alone in this. The rest of the cast do a good job of making this world believable. 

What is most fun about this film that it doesn't exactly play out you think it does. The title is therefore a little misleading. Don't worry, the mayhem is present but let's say that it's a means to an end and not the focus. Mayhem is incredibly fast paced and quite the ride that will have you fully immersed. Since it does rely on plot a lot I can't and won't reveal any elements of this plot since not knowing anything makes the viewing experience considerably better.

Mayhem is a real blast from start to end and it's very weird that I had not heard about this film at all. It definitely deserves and audience. So do yourself a favour and go watch it!

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Review Deathgasm (2015): The most heavy metal horror movie ever made?

genre: horror, comedy

First of all I am not a heavy metal fan. And according to director Jason Lei Howden this is that one film that could change that forever. Since he is claiming Deathgasm to be the most heavy metal horror movie ever made. While I like his spunk and enthusiasm I think he needs to calm down a little.

Is heavy metal an important theme? Undoubtedly. Will this film make you appreciate it more? Nope. For that this film doesn't go deep enough. It could very well be that references have been made to musicians and songs but they obviously were all lost on me since I don't really care for this kind of music that much. Although I do know enough since other films have tied this kind of music to horror many times before. In that respect Deathgasm is hardly new or original. Horror wise it's surprisingly predictable. Bloody and gory for sure and even a slight build up of dread only not very fresh. Comedy wise it did a lot of things right. There are quite a few scenes that made me laugh out loud. And before you get all worked up and angry I did enjoy this film immensely but to say that it blew me away? Not really. Apart from the death and destruction I did not get scared or terrified nor did I feel heavy metal coursing through my veins. 

While Deathgasm does take some time to build up the events it never really makes good on what it promises. It had quite some intrigue going on that could have been real dark and thrilling. Instead director Jason Lei Howden opts for blood and gore. So much so that it completely neglects the terror. It is very clear that Deathgasm was heavily inspired by Evil Dead. Too bad that Howden has overlooked the fact that next to the blood, gore and comedy it also was scary and creepy. Deathgasm is never scary. Everything looks great visually which is not surprising since Howden has done a lot of work as visual effects artist. But in the storytelling department he still needs to learn a lot more. 

Overall this film has it's heart in the right place. For the most part it is very fun. But if you were hoping for more like I did it will let you down a bit. 


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Review No Retreat, No Surrender 2: Raging Thunder (1987) a.k.a. Karate Tiger 2: An action classic!

genre: action, adventure, martial arts

No Retreat. No Surrender 2 is the sequel to No Retreat. No Surrender but it has no connection to the original story or character wise. Although it was intended for Jean-Cleaude Van Damme and Kurt McKinney to return as different characters. According to wikipedia they didn't show up due to safety concerns regarding filming in the Cambodian jungles. While we only can guess how this film would have been with them returning I think them not being in it might have been the best thing for the film. Since Loren Avedon is a much better fit in these Corey Yuen directed vehicles.

Make no mistake this film might have been intended for the Western market this is a Hong Kong production through and through. Corey Yuen's mark is everywhere which is what makes this sequel so good. The plot may be far fetched and nonsensical it is surprisingly compelling and entertaining. Like in most Hong Kong action films the plot is in service of the action and not the other way around so it's pretty obvious why the story plays out the way it does. You don't really get the chance to think about everything too much since the film moves from one event to another quite fast. The main characters are immensely likeable and therefore you care for them when they get into trouble and it makes you root for them when they fight. Compared to the original the sequel is bigger in scale but also contains far more action. Next to plentiful martial arts scenes you have Ramboesque shoot em up moments where Yuen actually manages to make them thrilling.

Loren Avedon who plays Scott Wylde had some acting experience doing commercials and he had a small role in Ninja Turf. Perhaps not what you would expect for a lead but was more than adequate.  (Read the following review to get more insight who he is and where he comes from.) He is charming and more importantly skilled and given many opportunities to shine. He did such a good job that he returned two more times in the film series. The main villain in this story is played by Matthias Hues. I guess he looked the most like Van Damme and was needed to remain appealing to the Western market. But I personally would have preferred if they had left him out and had made number two named Ty ( Hwang Jang Lee) the main baddie. He at least was well trained in martial arts while Hues was more a body builder who knew some taekwando. He himself admits in this interview that he was nowhere near the level of Loren Avedon and that he had to train real hard with master Hwang Jang Lee (Drunken Master) to at least look good. Acting wise he wasn't too bad but his hard thick German accent made it a little hard to swallow his character was supposed to be Russian. Does it matter much? What he lacks acting and martial arts wise he makes up with his physique. The guy is big and very muscular. He looks strong and has far too much fun throwing his opponents in pits filled with crocodiles so it's something that I can live with. Besides it gave them the opportunity to put Cynthia Rothrock against Hwang Jang Lee which is definitely one of the main highlights in the film.

Do I really need to tell you that Cynthia rocks as always? Besides her excellent ass kicking she has some real good chemistry with Max Thayer. Thayer is a complete mystery to me. I only remember him from this film but his performance was that of an actor who could do it in his sleep. Very convincing. It looks like that he is going to be reunited with Rothrock in a movie called Bitchfight. Sounds promising!

Overall Raging Thunder is a sequel that is bigger and better than the original. So if you enjoyed that one but never have seen it make sure you do.

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Review Blade Trinity (2004): Blade versus Dracula???

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

Blade Trinity was a disappointment to say the least. And in general Wesley Snipes got blamed for it since he actively had sabotaged the film by being difficult. Maybe there is some truth to that however that doesn't diminish David Goyer's role and part in this whole affair. It is surprising how little can be found of what Wesley Snipes thought of the whole affair. But from what I have read and seen I will give you my thoughts on this. 

I know that Patton Oswald claims that Wesley Snipes tried to strangle Goyer which you can read about in this interview. It's not something that I would consider professional but seeing how Wesley Snipes got royally screwed regarding this film it might be understandable. The original idea for the third film was scrapped. It was supposed to be about Blade in a post apocalyptic world fighting for the the last bit of humanity that was left. But that was deemed to expensive and they opted for a cheaper solution resulting into setting up Blade against Dracula. To be honest that could have been a great idea however it doesn't make much sense. If a powerful creature like Dracula existed then why would he choose to hide in seclusion instead of roaming free in a world full of people he could feed on. Hannibal King mentions that Dracula was disgusted with the world and therefore retreated. I am sorry but he would lock himself up and starve himself willingly because of that? Come on that is just lunacy. It would be more logical for him to have been defeated and that he had no choice in the matter. You know like most of the Dracula tales. And would his descendants not inherit the same powers and abilities? Especially if he was the perfect being as stated. So in my opinion this whole concept even for the genre was quite preposterous.

More important is the fact that Wesley Snipes also attached as producer was shut out the decision making process. Besides this Goyer also actively made Blade, the main character of the franchise, less prominent. Since Snipes was obligated by contract to stay on naturally he would be defiant. Who wouldn't? Now you could argue that Goyer did this since Snipes was being so difficult that he had no choice but to give Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel more to do. However the whole story of Blade Trinity is revolved around their role as Nightstalkers and how they potentially could replace Blade. Seems like David Goyer always intended to diminish Blade's importance no matter what. He is one of the main reasons people watch the films in the first place so how is that a good idea?

Even with Snipes being defiant he is still the best the film has to offer. Think about this for a minute. Snipes clearly is not in his element but still manages to shine. None of the other character have any impact whatsoever. Dracula is supposed to be the ultimate vampire. They keep reminding you of this fact throughout the film but this is never shown. I don't blame Dominic Purcell. He wouldn't be my first choice but the way his character was written no one would be able to make the most of it. Why is he acting like a henchman? Surely Dracula (now called Drake) would not be following orders from some low level vampires? The battle between Blade and him is a travesty as it is not exciting nor entertaining. It's a very generic fight that doesn't even last that long. It was the one element that could have made the case for David Goyer. But he dropped the ball big time. Action and spectacle wise Blade Trinity is a major downgrade. Very little attention is given to the choreography and the context to make the fights more exhilarating. Both Guillermo del Toro and Stephen Norrington understood this. But not David Goyer. If he had something interesting to add to the mythology of Blade's world then perhaps I could have seen where he was coming from. But that is just the thing. He doesn't give us anything. I wished I could say it's more of the same but it simply is not. I have watched Blade Trinity several times now or should I say tried watching without getting bored or frustrated. With each time you watch it Blade Trinity gets worse and worse. And no it's not the fault of Snipes. It's the fault of bad direction and bad writing and only David Goyer is responsible for that.

My advice is to completely ignore this part and pretend it doesn't exist. If you can get your hands on the whole trilogy  (Blu-Ray or DVD) on sale then don't buy it. Only buy the first two. Unless you are planning to use Trinity as a coaster.

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Review 24 Hours to Live (2017): Ethan goes John WIck, sort of!

genre: action, thriller

Before you get all excited it is important to realize that this film while containing good action is nowhere near as good as John Wick. Apart from a few elements it has very little in common. Instead the focus lies on redemption of main character Travis Conrad played by Ethan Hawke. Was that adequate for me?

In hindsight this is the type of film that can be very enjoyable very late at night when nothing else is on. It has just enough going on for itself to keep your interest. However if you were hoping to get thrilled and surprised then I will have to disappoint you since the plot is as generic as it comes. Every event plays out as you expect it would be and it ruins the immersion a little bit. If not for the fact that the good cast do their best with the generic material and they do manage to make it somewhat worth of your time. Although there were some moments that took their sweet time to get to the point. Obviously these moments were put in as padding since there is very little plot and intrigue to sink your teeth in. These moments got on my nerve big time.

I don't get why they even bothered to put such emphasis on the plot as most of the people just wanted to see Ethan Hawke kick ass. That is the whole point of films like these. Sure you can put in enough of a story to move the film along and give the characters some depth so that the action scenes involving them will be more exciting. Especially Paul Anderson and Xu Qing (Looper, Flash Point) stood out. Rutger Hauer unfortunately is nothing but a glorified cameo and could not even be bothered to do a decent Southern accent. Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones) is on automatic pilot but solid as the head honcho. The acting overall was therefore quite adequate. But the biggest problem is the fact that they dropped the ball making that action and stunts itself exhilarating. It looked like Hawke was very capable to go all John Wick but he is not really given a chance to. I think we can put that blame solely on director Brian Smrz. The only other film he has directed is Hero Wanted. He does have experience as a unit director and stunt coordinator for some notable action films but clearly does not have enough vision to be fresh and creative.

Like I said this is one to watch late at night when nothing else is on otherwise I wouldn't bother. But I hope that Ethan Hawke has developed a taste to do the more hands on action roles like this since it suits him. So was it adequate for me? Yes but only barely. 

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Review Baywatch (2017): I'll be damned I actually liked it!

genre: comedy, crime, action

As someone who isn't real happy with the trend to reboot and remake films of shows of my childhood this one was done quite well. It's very flawed and far from perfect but it knows what it is and embraces it fully.

Another curious aspect of reboots and remakes of older films and shows is the fact that they are being turned into comedies. Baywatch might have been a bizarre phenomenon it was never a comedy. So when they announced it was going to be a comedy with a dime in dozen plot I was very sceptical. And apart from some predictable gross out moments I did find myself spontaneously laughing at the majority of the jokes. It's far from clever but most of them they were referring to the random events the Baywatch lifeguards are involved in. Of course lifeguards don't fight crimes or do half the things they do in this film. But the film reminds you that they are aware and while not laugh out loud funny it did make it comedic. The ones that do make you laugh hard are of the There's Something About Mary variety and of course very sexual and a bit juvenile. Although they could have gone full retard like in Dirty Grandpa but wisely chosen to not go over the top. All of the characters were likeable even if Zac Efron and Dwayne Johnson keep playing the same role over and over again. Somehow they get away with it. Probably because of their charm. Priyanka Chopra was adequate as the villain. I don't think she ever played one before but nothing remarkable. But I am glad to see her having success in Hollywood and Bollywood at the same time. Like in the show most of the characters also serve as eye candy still we have to give the film makers some credit for not having all of them portrayed as bimbo's. Except for Efron. But he probably enjoys it.

The expected cameos were present and I personally would have wished more would have been done with them still they were nice and respectful nods so can't really complain all too much. So yes Baywatch might exactly be the typical crime comedy you expect. Still it was funny and entertaining and isn't that what counts?

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