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Review Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016): Stylistically a step down but still enjoyable enough to offer a good conclusion!

genre: action, adventure, horror

Look I am not going to pretend that these Resident Evil movies are any good. Of course they aren't. They are very bad films. However they always have been so bad that they were good. They always embraced this to a point where each film topped the previous one in every way they could. For some reason though they took a step down and reduced the stylish action we have come to love and enjoy. 

Now the action is edited in such a way that you hardly can see what's going on. Exactly the opposite of what these films used to show. And this downgrade is something you will have to accept otherwise you won't be able to enjoy this film at all. Despite this questionable editing the film still offers more than enough B movie badness for you to sink your teeth in. You might not get to view everything as you normally would but you still will be able to derive some satisfaction from them. What really is surprising that they actually tried to focus on the plot and giving the franchise a satisfying conclusion. In my opinion they achieved this however not without fault. Very conveniently they left out a lot of events and characters from the previous films almost like they never existed. For example this film does not start where it ended but some time after that and not once it is shown what occurred. The viewer briefly is told the bare minimum at one point where there is no mention of any of the other characters who were alive at the end of the finale of Resident Evil: Retribution. Very curious decision especially since Resident Evil: The Final Chapter seems to mostly latch on the original adaptation that started it all. They way it's done was nice only it does make me wonder if they could not have gone the extra mile to make all of the films connect to this final part. It's not like they had to do that much since like the previous films you have Alice recapping /narrating the story and she could have easily included this huge onslaught that messed up things for her yet again. 

Once word got out that this final part was a downgrade I braced myself to expect the worst. And maybe it was me lowering my expectations even further that enabled me to enjoy this like I did. But honestly I don't think this is the case. Despite the flaws and perhaps laziness (probably because they got tired of making these films and want to move one to better things) there still is a high fun factor present that will allow you to spend your viewing time pleasantly. 

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Review The Great Wall (2016): A visually pleasing action adventure. Nothing more nothing less!

genre: action, adventure, fantasy

The Great Wall is another recent film that got bogged down because of controversy and yet again a film that deserves better treatment. It is important to note that this film is a co production of Hollywood and China. Another thing to point out is that all of the accusations of whitewashing are unfounded. While Matt Damon has a key part he is not presented as the one and only capable hero. He simply is one of many heroes and actually is used in a way to emphasize the grand collective of the Chinese warriors. 

First and foremost The Great Wall is a monster movie that should not be taken seriously at all. It touches upon some real historic facts but in essence is purely fiction. While the story is incredibly simple it serves it's purpose which is to give enough context and motivation to justify the action and spectacle. That is it. However the action and spectacle is glorious. Zhang Yimou most famous for Raise the Red Lantern, Hero and House of Flying Daggers has made sure of that. The man knows how to make every action scene look exciting and compelling. On top of that his use of colour and scenery is a true feast for the eyes throughout. For that alone the film makes up for the simply story and perhaps lacking characterization. But the monsters also are very impressive. Especially in the way they act and fight. All of the monsters are controlled by the queen and therefore are a force to be reckoned with. 

I for one like the fact that more and more Hollywood and China are working together to make films. Jackie Chan also did this with Dragon Blade where John Cusack and Adrien Brody had large and pivotal roles in Asian setting. And why not? Both The Great Wall and Dragon Blade are action fantasies meant to be fun and entertaining. Even if you don't particularly care for the genre you could view it as a beginning to something more significant. Isn't it a good thing that the world is getting smaller and smaller and less xenophobic? Especially if the results are like this film. Sure it might not be a very memorable film but for the duration it's one that is fun and exciting and that is not something I can say about the majority of films I have seen in 2016. The Great Wall is a very well made film that deserves a little more praise and recognition instead of the negative criticism it has been receiving. So definitely one that is worth your time. Do watch it in the cinema if you can though since it's eye candy galore. 

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Review Marvel's Iron Fist Season 1 (2017): On par with the previous entries in the Netflix Marvel Universe and fits right in!

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

Marvel's Iron Fist is met with a lot of negative criticism which is very unwarranted. First of all Iron Fist is an adaptation of an existing Marvel comic. If you have problems with what that comic is about you should take it up with the original creators. But even then people should not take that much offense to it. This whole idea that the lead should be played by an Asian actor doesn't make sense to me even if I understand what the thoughts are behind it. In the original story Danny Rand is white. So why does this need to be changed? Yes, I am aware that many characters who originally were ethnic are portrayed by predominantly white actors. This is a very wrong thing to do let there be no mistake about that. All kinds of excuse are given for this practice and I have yet to find one that isn't racially motivated. Point is that I would prefer to see the original character portrayed as written or that it follows one of those alternative universes that have been established over the years. Now sometimes that is a tall order since people in the film or TV industry can't always translate stories that well to the screen. Because of certain limitations. That is why I don't mind changes as long as they stay true to the spirit of the original character and story. And as far as I can tell Marvel's Iron Fist does exactly that so whoever is bringing in arguments that have nothing to do with the show at all should be ignored and disregarded.

This latest Marvel outing on Netflix fits right in and is very much on par with the previous Marvel shows. Like it or not Iron Fist has a lot in common with Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. Each of them are at the beginning of superherodom and while close have yet to figure out what they are about. I liked Danny Rand since he is the first one to be under the impression already to be a fully fledged champion and hero while it simply is a mask he is wearing to hide his innocence and fear. Deep down Danny Rand still is the child who is the lone survivor of a devastating plane crash where in one blow he lost his whole family. He is taken in by very mysterious monks who trained and prepared him to be a warrior in their battle against The Hand. Funny thing is that I had expected this series to show us more about he became the Iron Fist. But for some reason Marvel avoided this. By doing this a lot of mystery surrounds Danny Rand and this place Eternal K'un-Lun, City of the Immortals and it works in favor of the show. Since I for one wanted to find out more about it and it kept me interested until all kinds of other story lines came into effect. Most of the characters in this show are compelling and very wisely they did not overwhelm you with newer or older characters which allows the show to focus on Danny Rand and the Meachum family. Their dynamics are almost Shakespearean and very tragic. Of course there is some comic relief here and there but for the most part Iron Fist is very serious. Another thing Iron Fist excels in is the action. Now it is obvious that most of the actors aren't martial artists which is a little curious but not uncommon. However they do manage to look like they are martial arts masters and most action scenes are choreographed in a way that it's exciting and a total feast for the eyes. People who love this type of action will get what they want and then some. Isn't that what matters the most? I believed all of the characters and Finn Jones was a very likable and charming lead. His partner in crime Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing was very convincing and she basically kicked ass all the time. So very looking forward to see both Finn and Jessica doing their thing in upcoming The Defenders and later seasons. Again Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) gets involved into events she can't seem to escape from. But she connects all the Netflix Marvel shows in a way that strangely enough feels very natural. Every time you see her you can't help but feel the heroes from other shows might pop up.

Please don't listen to naysayers and all the supposed controversy. There is no valid reason for people to be upset or angry. Marvel's Iron Fist is mostly an action packed show with enough substance to make you care for the characters and events. The show delivers on what it is supposed to do. In case you were wondering, yes this is very much a show worth binge watching. Although do keep in mind that like the previous shows it's slow at first but will pick up speed once certain events are set in motion. Most important to realize that the show is a lot of fun and that to me it never felt like it was dragging.

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Review Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (PS4): A fitting end to the franchise!

genre: action, adventure
year: 2016

A few weeks ago I got this game as a gift and naturally I jumped into this adventure the first moment I could and kept on playing until I was finished with only one or two breaks in between. Like the previous games this title is a good combination of excellent storytelling and gameplay. So what can I add about this game you already don't know?

Well, maybe my initial skepticism. I was under the impression that Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception (PS3) was going to be the last in the franchise and honestly while I immensely enjoyed that game I was getting a little tired of the old formula. There was more emphasis on spectacle and shooting then there was exploring and puzzle solving. And it is not that what was offered wasn't entertaining or bad. But more that the balance seemed off. Or that the gameplay was not diverse enough. I mean after two titles a few changes here and there would have been very welcome. To my surprise Uncharted 4 does this in two distinctive ways. The story while relatively less epic compared to the previous games at least to me was a more compelling and interesting one. Uncharted stood out from similar action adventures because of the dynamics between the characters. In this final part (I assume it is) these dynamics have been taken to the next level in how the characters act during gameplay and in the non interactive cut scenes. The characters have evolved immensely and previous adventures have made an impact on them. It is very rare to see this happen in games and even in the Uncharted series the main characters didn't change as much since most of the stories were just excuses to incorporate the spectacular action sequences. However for the first time Nate actually has stopped and thought about what truly matters in life and how he should continue living it. Or that now he actually thinks twice to jump into dangerous adventures and feels very nostalgic about his old life. No doubt that Uncharted 4 is heavily influenced by Naughty Dog's The Last of Us where a lot of attention is paid to details that make you more involved with the characters. They are now more than just polygons, pixels or canon fodder.

Another element that popped out to me is the stealth. Not as expansive in genuine stealth titles of course but the improvement is considerable. Most levels can be completed without alerting enemies or having to shoot your way out. I can't tell you how overjoyed I was. I love stealth and especially if you can pull it off smoothly. There are even areas where you can hide in bushes or grass to make it easier for you. Nate has never been this efficient. One big plus of having this added means that there are more ways to complete a level and thus the game has more replay value. Very important for a story based title.

From all the games in the franchise this is the first I jumped into immediately after having finished it. Also because once completed you will unlock cheats and modifiers that could enhance your experience even further. I mean next to unlimited ammo and a bullet time mode there is a slow motion mode which you can turn on and off whenever you please. I also loved how the story ended. It's a very good conclusion and doesn't leave a thing open. In my opinion this will be very much worth your time and definitely a title that brings out the best the PS4 can offer. 

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Review Headshot (2016): Apparently these days brutal and gritty violence equals action excellence. Yeah, I don't think so!

genre: action, martial arts

Headshot is yet another Indonesian film starring Iko Uwais that follows the trend set in The Raid 1 and The Raid 2 where the focus lies on brutal, gritty and realistic violence rather than stylish and beautifully choreographed hand to hand combat. And it is safe to say I am not a fan. Not one bit.

It's not that I can appreciate realistic violence. I surely can but for me to accept or embrace it I have to be fully immersed into the experience. This usually is accomplished by good narrative or characterization. There is no such thing in this film. It's your standard plot about a guy with amnesia getting into trouble because of his past. I mean the minute you get introduced to the main character you will have a pretty good idea how it will play out. To be honest that was not something I was that bothered about. What did bother me was the fact how stupid and illogical most people acted in this film. I will give you an example. In the opening scene some prisoners get free and receive weapons from the main baddie so that have a fighting chance against the prison guards. Only a few seconds after both the guards and prisoners find themselves in a Mexican standoff where not a single one of them jump backwards or find cover to adequately and safely dispatch of their enemies. Both groups just stand there and wait for someone to shoot first. When the shooting starts you already know the outcome. You would think professional criminals would have a little more sense than they did here? Had there really been no option for these people to escape and avoid bloodshed I probably could have accepted the scene. But since there was enough time and chance not to get into this predicament this scene makes no sense whatsoever. Now I could have tolerated this scene if this was the only one where they went for the pretentious fatalism. Unfortunately almost every action scene is like this to a point that it got me too angry to suspend disbelief. One of the goons gets caught off guard with a shotgun being pointed at him by our main character and how does he respond? " Good one " and just stays there frozen. Not even an attempt to jump away. One lady goon who supposedly had some sort of love connection with the main character at point shoots at him with her eyes closed and misses. She is so close to him no way she could have missed not even on purpose. He reacts and she ends up dead. I am sorry but that is just too ridiculous. This coming from someone who can appreciate real bad B movies. That should tell you something.

All I wanted was to enjoy the action and directors Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto did nothing to make that happen. Many of the action scenes just start and end without rhyme and reason whereas in some real rare moments you had buildup of tension only to end our main character putting his fists down and then get beaten up like a chump. It takes away the momentum to get immersed and that should never ever happen in an action film. Worse crime this movie commits is too take itself too seriously. If they wanted me to be dramatically involved they should have come up with a much better story or dynamics to make me care about any of the characters. And I simply didn't. It is therefore very surprising to see so many praising reviews. Only a few are critical and negative which is very suspect if you ask me. Even the best classic films have their fair share of negative reviews. I am very forgiving when it comes to films especially action films but with this I can't be. I wasted very precious time and did not get what I wanted at all. No fun and enjoyment whatsoever. 

So don't bother with this. Seriously. If you were expecting another The Raid then you are going to be so disappointed. Hell, even The Raid 2 was better than this and I absolutely disliked that one. 

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Review xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017): Bad for sure but more fun than given credit for!

genre: action, adventure, espionage

This third entry in the franchise does what it is supposed to do and deliver the same action goodness it always has done. It is therefore mystifying that people were expecting something different. Of course this film was going to be bad. The entire xXx franchise is. 

But that is what gave these films their charm. Return of Xander Cage combines the best of the original and State of Union and added some things of their own. And it looks like that they are aiming to go the Fast and Furious route where they up the ante with each sequel that will follow. I read that a sequel to this part is in the works. If Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa are included then I welcome that very much. While they were underused a little they did showcase what they are about and did give this film that something extra for me. Same goes for Indian actress Deepika Padukone. She was more than window dressing and actually provided some nice dynamics between her and Vin Diesel. Much better than Vin did in the original with Asia Argento. Rory McCann best known for his role as The Hound in Game of Thrones served as comic relief and yes he was brilliant. Perhaps because it was such a contrast to his Hound character. Nina Dobrev as the tech geek also provided some laughs but I wished they had her character tied to Agent Toby Lee Shavers from the first two xXx films. The actor named Michael Roof who portrayed the role unfortunately has committed suicide in 2009 otherwise I am sure they would have included him in this outing if he wanted to do it of course. Mind you I wasn't that fond of the inclusion of some other names who I am not that familiar with but they grew on me. 

Biggest flaw of this film however is the plot. It's very average and messy. What this film needed was a designated villain and there wasn't one. I guess they wanted to surprise you with who the bad guys were without actually backing that up with a decent build up or narrative. With a little effort they could have genuinely surprised the viewer. As it is now you just know how the plot unfolds. Is that such a bad thing? Seeing how all of the xXx films were more about the action and never about the story I don't mind as much. Apparently a lot of people did. And yes if you truly were unaware what this franchise stood for then maybe I can understand that this film will be disappointing. The pacing is uneven and does emphasize how empty the film without the spectacle. But when the action is in full force it's entertaining through and through. On top of this they even managed to add some surprises here and there which is nice especially for the fans of this franchise. 

I would take this over Suicide Squad any day. Actually this is what Suicide Squad should have been like. Now I think about it Return of Xander Cage introduces it's characters with title cards like they did in Suicide Squad. And here you have members delivering on the skills they are marketed on. Almost like they were poking fun at DC. Ladies and gentlemen this film should not be taken seriously. It is supposed to be bad and cheesy. If you don't have the stomach for that kind of thing then avoid this. But if you are like me who once in a while just wants mindless fun then this is definitely for you. 

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