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Review Monster Hunter (2020): I wasn't bored a single second.

genre: video game adaptation, action, adventure, fantasy

Sometimes it's a real blessing not to be hindered by knowledge. I am very aware of the franchise that is Monster Hunter. I kinda have an idea what it's about but I never ever played a game in that franchise. Seems to work in your favour if you don't know that much about the games although I was able to detect little nods to the franchise or let's say I was able to recognize gameplay mechanics used in RPG games. So it's only fair to credit Paul W.S. Anderson for doing that.

Monster Hunter is pretty entertaining especially since events move along in a very fast pace. You aren't really given a chance to think about what is occurring too much. Now that doesn't mean it's without flaws. Actually it's immensely flawed and downright insulting sometimes. For example the fact that Milla Jovovich is playing a character who acts like a white saviour and Mary Sue. She is this super duper marine who ends up in a alien world of people and cultures she knows nothing of and yet manages to be on top of everything and do things none of the people who have been living there their entire life. I mean Tony Jaa's character saves her many times and she still acts like she is better than him. It's Tony Jaa for god sake. He can do things in real life normal people only can dream of. And I am sorry, I like Milla but she can't even do a fraction of what he can do. That being said Tony Jaa still is one of the main reasons why Monster Hunter is fun to watch. I wished Hollywood would let go of their old ideas that you need an established Hollywood start to make a film successful. Tony Jaa is very capable of choreographing good stunts and action scenes. Had they let him do what he is best at we would have been in for a much better treat. Besides it was his involvement that made me decide to check this film out. And I am sure that for most he is the real draw and not Milla.

Monster Hunter is basically a popcorn film that delivers on the action and adventure. Nothing more and nothing less. I was surprised to see some people featured that weren't in the trailer. And not going to lie that helped made the film more fun. It also helps to watch the 4K version of this film since it does enhance the viewing experience when watched on a big 4K screen. 

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Review Daredevil (Season 3): I agree, this truly is the best season of the show!

genre: comic book adaptation, super hero, action, crime, drama

Season 3 continues where The Defenders left off. Everybody believes Matt Murdock / Daredevil has been crushed under the building that collapsed. Naturally Daredevil has survived. And of course he will be back on his feet in no time. Right?

Like with previous entries in the franchise the show deals with doubt. Or the sacrifices people have to make when fighting crime. Honestly at this point it's getting tedious. Sure most of the Marvel heroes are very human and come with a whole set of flaws. But one thing I always admired about them was that despite the bad hand they are dealt sometimes they would still fight the good fight no matter what. It's what makes them heroes. Abilities or not. It takes Matt like two or three episodes to realize what he should do. And two more to put himself back into the game. Far too long for my taste. But this time I endured it because it was made tolerable by the addition of Joanne Whalley as Sister Maggie. And the fact that some events occur that destroy any doubts I had about the show and where it was going. 

Of course I won't spoil. But let's just say that the writers of the show have managed to put in some interesting developments and have been able to demonstrate what some pivotal characters are really about. I mean Wilson Fisk for example is not named Kingpin for the fun of it. And Vincent D'Onofrio might have been the best person to portray him after all. I wasn't entirely sure to be honest. But I guess him being more human and still committing the evil acts makes him even more dangerous.

But what would Daredevil be without the action. In the end the action is sometimes I care for more than any character development. And it's easily on par with previous seasons. Perhaps even better. They certainly are bigger and grander. Especially the one take prison fight is mesmerizing. It looked like something out of an Eighties Hong Kong action flick featuring Jackie Chan or Donnie Yen. And it was one of the main events that got me real excited for the rest of the show. 

Overall season 3 is smaller scale wise but nevertheless more personal and epic. Don't mind the slow parts. Every event in this season is going to be worth your time!

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Review Luke Cage (Season 2): Lots of great moments with a very good ending but very flawed!

genre: comic book adaptation, super hero, action, crime, drama

Mike Colter as Luke Cage definitely has made this show more appealing than if it had solely relied on storytelling. The guy oozes charm even if at times the character is struggling to make his point across. But this time around the storytelling certainly has improved. Problem is that there is only enough for around 8 episodes. 

As with most of the Marvel Netflix shows there are too many episodes. There are just too many scenes that are dragged out or are just filler. I mean I get Harlem's Paradise is the place to be but was it really necessary to play out full songs? I get that often through these songs emotions are expressed. However most of the time nothing really significant was happening with these characters. And to me these often took me out of the show. Actually they motivated me to skip these scenes as it didn't add anything for me. The slow burning also detracted from the momentum and tension built. I don't really get why anyone self respecting filmmaker would allow this to happen. Some of the drama was forced. The problems between Luke and Claire were very stereotypical. In the beginning Claire had a pretty cool outlook on super heroes especially when she started to get more involved with Luke. Her attitude now just sucked. I for one didn't miss her one bit and she wasn't even given a chance to share a scene with him after she had left him. It's quite something to go from a likable character to one you hardly miss. 

Thankfully Luke Cage has some really good interaction with other people. I couldn't stop smiling. Especially with the cameo appearance of Danny Rand. I would not have minded for him to be part of this season more than one episode. They were awesome together. His interactions with Misty Knight also are funny. She has her own problems to deal with but is not forgetting Luke is taken and won't even let him crash at her place. Although if they are just best buddies why wouldn't she. Unless she knows she won't be able to resist. I liked how Luke Cage went from being the reluctant hero to someone who wants to do everything he can or even go beyond even if that means he will upset some people. 

It was fun to see Luke Cage have an enemy who is just as strong or even stronger making him question his abilities but more so his pride. Up until he encounters Bushmaster he never really had to put effort into defeating his enemies. Bushmaster made him see he could be just as vulnerable as others if he wasn't careful. I wished that they would have seized the opportunity to have Luke train or at least give us a demonstration how powerful Luke Cage truly is. I can't help but feel that this might be due to budget constraints or just because they want the live action heroes to be more human. Bushmaster is a good complex villain but his accent and that of others were awful. They kept talking like they were in some parody of some sorts. 

Naturally I won't spoil the ending but even if it was a bit rushed it makes sense to me. And actually makes everything pretty compelling. Shame that the show is canceled and not coming back or at least not on Netflix. He might on Disney plus. One can only hope. I would like to see more of Luke Cage and his new position in Harlem. 

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Review Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2019): Cowabunga dude!

genre: animation, super hero, comic book adaptation, action

Never expected to see the day that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would cross over to the Batman universe. I mean sure The Turtles aren't new to a more serious and darker depiction. But to be featured in the same world where Batman resides is something that would require a lot of explaining to make it work. 

And while at first it does seem a bit weird tonally this animated film does manage to stay true to both Batman and The Turtles. It helps that Batman is very experienced in dealing with raging teenagers who have trouble remaining calm and composed. Even he is not very welcoming to their presence in his city. But let's face it, when is Batman actually welcoming to strangers without having reservations? He warms up to them eventually mostly due to their charm and spirit. Besides he can't deny they are extremely skilled and could be better warriors if they wouldn't be impulsive and followed orders. Then Raphael teaches him that working as a team / family is always better than doing things alone. Something that other partners have told him over and over again. I don't know Batman can be immense stubborn.

The roster of villains is huge. And therefore there is quite a lot of action to be enjoyed. But what made things more fun for me was the comedic relief done by Michelangelo. His youthful enthusiasm is catchy, funny and incredibly entertaining.  I also liked the soundtrack. Haven't watched a Turtles cartoons in years but yet somehow a lot of the background tracks seemed familiar to me. They also enhance the fights since it truly gives you the feeling something epic is going on. Even when it's not. Most likely the dread has been toned down due to making the film more child friendly. 

Overall this is a very solid entry in franchise and wouldn't mind to have The Turtles return. 

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Review The Punisher Season 2: mmm....I liked it but got to say that this would have been a stronger season had it been cut with 5 episodes!

genre: comic book adaptation, super hero, action, crime

Like with the other Marvel shows that have been released on Netflix there are plenty of good moments and there are many slow moments. One could argue that this is done to build up suspense and momentum. But let us all be real here. That of course is not the real reason. For some reason Netflix was determined for the seasons to be consisting of 13 episodes and in my opinion detracts from the viewing experience considerably.

So how was it to see Frank Castle return on the screen? Well, it looks like he is far more comfortable being The Punisher and has very little qualms to continue the path he is on. What I really liked about this second season is that returning characters from the first season basically have come to terms with who Frank Castle truly is. A good man who has a very definitive way of dealing justice. It's a real joy to see Frank being deadly. Naturally it's very cathartic and therapeutic. 

However there also were plenty of elements I wasn't too fond of. While The Pilgrim seemed like a formidable antagonist I found his arc to be a little underwhelming. Not bad but just falls short of what they had been building up to. Then there is the return of Ben Barnes as Jigsaw. On paper he should have been a real threat to Castle. However he rarely manages to have a true impact on events. Compared to The Pilgrim his arc was incredibly disappointing. First of all this version of Jigsaw looks nothing like the ones from Punisher Warzone or the comic books. Even with the cuts he is far from disfigured. He probably would even be more attractive to some women because of his kinda bad boy look. But does he look dangerous? Not by a long shot. Does this mean he shouldn't be underestimated? Seeing how he knows Castle pretty well and is a skilled soldier himself he easily could have beaten Castle. Except he is too busy finding out why Frank turned on him. When he finds out he does very little with it. He doesn't show an ounce of remorse. Had he done so and still felt compelled to kill his brother in arms that would have been interesting. Now he is just too big of a distraction as if they were aware there wasn't enough plot to propel Frank into Punisher mode.

Don't you worry though. All of the action is top notch and highly enjoyable. So it is worth it to sit through the slower moments since you will get rewarded. But I would have preferred had they cut at least 5 episodes. Since that would have made this a stronger season.

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Review The Transporter (2002) and Review Into the Sun (2005)

genre: action, crime, martial arts

If I am not mistaken this is the first proper action film that established Jason Statham as an action star. It seems like he had done most of his fighting and stunts himself. Although knowing a little about (action) director Corey Yuen that is not that surprising. He is known for pushing actors to go beyond especially when they are capable.

For the most part The Transporter is a simple and enjoyable action flick with very little substance. The premise of a driver with rules who then very quickly breaks those rules is quite interesting. Personally I would have liked him to be stone cold and stick by those rules until someone else had disregarded his rules. I think that would have made The Transporter a far more compelling story. Then again this film needed a motivation for Frank Martin to kick ass so naturally an absolutely gorgeous woman gets thrown into the mix. Shu Qi is the one package he did open which brought him in all kinds of trouble. Now you would think that this would be the start of non stop action. Except this is not the case. It takes a whole hour for that to start. But then when it finally does you can strap yourself for some wonderful choreographed action. Statham apparently is a skilled martial artist and shows off some impressive moves. Up until now he had never demonstrated this. Perhaps he was never give a chance to? In any case he does a good job.

The Transporter is enjoyable but not really a classic. It lacks those ingredients that would make you watch this over and over again. So don't get your hopes up and keep your expectations low.

Supposedly Into the Sun is the last of the good films he Steven Seagal had made. While most fans admit it's far from his best it's leagues better than the crap he is in today. At least that is what is claimed. Naturally that peaked my interest.

Unfortunately I soon found out that all of these fans must have been under the influence because apart from the few short decent action sequences Into the Sun is one big mess. While it has the illusion of being a coherent story nothing that transpires in this film is remotely logical. It's almost like all the parts that are supposed to make sense have been cut. And let me tell you that is rather odd since there are quite a lot of scenes where people just talk. Don't get me wrong if those dialogue scenes were in any way interesting then naturally I would applaud that. However I don't really want people to be talking much in a Steven Seagal action flick. At one point. Pretty late into the film we get introduced to a plot event so unbelievable and far fetched I couldn't stop laughing. While I am against spoiling plot elements even in super bad Steven Seagal films I do think I need to. If only to point out how ridiculous this film is. An absolutely beautiful and young Japanese woman for some reason is heavily in love with Travis (Steven Seagal). Only she never expressed herself about this since she wasn't sure if Travis felt the same. When he states his love for her in the most unromantic way ever she is so happy she cries. A single tear! You know like the Crying Indian meme. Naturally this relationship won't end well. I won't reveal what happens but you probably are able to guess. It's utterly looney tunes. 

But wait a minute? What was the story about before this event? In short, Travis who is a super duper expert about Japan and it's culture is there to put a stop to the newly formed alliance between the Tongs and some Yakuza thugs. In capable hands that would have made a great story if they actually had bothered to flesh out all of the characters involved. Instead we get to witness some of the most useless, boring and stereotypical gangsters ever. They are so predictable in everything they do. Ken Lo is not given that much to do. He doesn't even get to fight Seagal for longer than a minute. It's such a waste of his talent. Also that particular scene demonstrates that Steven is out of shape. 

Overall Into the Sun is like 95 percent dialogue and exposition and around 5 percent action. For an action film that's ridiculously low. So don't make the mistake I made. Never ever watch this since you will only waste your precious time. 

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Review High Risk a.k.a. Meltdown a.k.a. Shu dan long wei (1995): Die Hard with Jet Li!

genre: die hard clone, action, martial arts, crime

Writer / producer / director Wong Jing doesn't like to be tied to one genre. That is why most of his films are mixes of different genres. That doesn't always make sense but often leads to weird and insane results. High Risk is no different. But from all his films this might be the most conventional to a certain degree.

After former cop Jet Li failed to save his family he has become a bodyguard / stunt double for Frankie Lone (played by Jackie Cheung). Frankie Lone dresses up as Bruce Li but it's it's obvious he is supposed to mimic Jackie Chan. Frankie also claims to do all of his stunts while he never does. He seems to be pretty moronic and a womanizer. I am not sure if Wong Jing is just spoofing the icon Jackie to pay tribute to him or that he has some beef with him. In any case Frankie is a pretty annoying character who somewhat redeems himself at the end. Now Wong Jing could have made a whole film about this premise. And I would have been fine with it to some extent. (I read somewhere that he made fun of Jackie Chan because of a falling out with him during City Hunter. If that is true this makes Wong Jing a very petty man.) 

Except he wouldn't be Wong Jing if he wouldn't complicate matters even further. Hence the Die Hard plot. And I got to say. This is when events shift into the fifth gear and the film becomes utterly crazy. Tension and suspense is replaced with high octane action sequences that are quite ludicrous but fun. Next to the usual gun play and martial arts scenes there also is a lot of stunt work involved that nowadays only would be made with CGI. Don' think for one second you will be spared as a viewer since some people really die in horrible ways. For a film that sometimes has a light tone the amount of blood and gore is pretty substantial. Corey Yuen was responsible for the choreography of the action which shows since it does look like almost all of the people (actors and stunt men) got hurt. He is quite demanding and wants his actors to be as hands on as possible. Most of the time this leads to wonderful results especially if the actors involved are capable of what he asks of them. Plot wise High Risk isn't always cohesive. Then again it would only distract from the action.

But you know what, it all works. High Risk is easily one of the better Die Hard Clones that very successfully spoofs the action genre and at the same time is a good action film itself. So definitely one I can recommend.

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Review The Corruptor (1999): Could have been great, but they have dropped the ball!

genre: crime, drama, thriller

The Corruptor is a bit of a odd duck. It looks like they tried real hard to do a Heroic Bloodshed title a la John Woo or Ringo Lam set in the US with a supposedly more intriguing plot. But they failed.

I will tell you why that is. One can applaud the ambition for a more intricate plot. But if you are going that route you better back it up with something substantial. The Corruptor never does this. Instead you get a dime in a dozen plot with actors who deserve a whole lot better. I mean Chow Yut-Fat still manages to be the best thing in this film however I can't help but feel he should and could have done a lot more had he been given the chance. The few times Brian Cox pops up also shows what a truly great actor can achieve with very little. I would have rather seen him tag along with Chow instead of Mark Wahlberg. He is only good in certain roles and if anything The Corruptor points out how limited his range is. Also most Heroic Bloodshed titles never were truly complicated. However they usually did a good job of portraying themes like friendship and betrayal. The Corruptor completely skips the part where Chow and Mark bond. In this film it would have increased the dramatic effects concerning a plot element later. Or why not show theses characters struggle with how they have conducted themselves. Chow did it with his eyes. But Marky Mark? Please, he always has that same surprised look. 

Not going to lie. The action scenes are a whole lot better than I had remembered. I only wished they had stuck to the stylized action sequence from the opening. Chow Yun-Fat shooting guys in slow motion is something I never get tired off. I really don't understand why they had decided to let go of this style and just go for the generic shoot outs you often see in these types of films. I understand that in Hong Kong they take longer to do these action sequences. But it's one of the main reasons why often those actions sequences are so impressive. They should have taken this effort. It would have turned this generic title into a classic film. 

Overall The Corruptor is too average to be memorable. It's a real shame since Chow Yun-Fat proves he can carry a Hollywood film even without speaking. For that alone he should have been rewarded. 

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Review Project Gutenberg a.k.a. Mou seung (2018): A blend of The Usual Suspects, Fight Club and A Better Tomorrow...

genre: action, crime, mystery

When you read my tagline you might get your hopes up. I mean each one of the titles are basically masterpieces. Surely these combined must be close to perfection right? Wrong!

Project Gutenberg is an example of what can happen when someone tries to be too clever by copying twists and plot elements without actually understanding why those worked in the first place. Maybe if you haven't seen the titles you could be surprised. But even then they way events have been built up and told you might get confused. I happen to have seen the films and had a pretty good idea where things were heading and still ended up watching certain scenes over and over again to make sense of them. Not that the concept is complicated. It's really not. But it's the way the story is told. One could argue that that is exactly the point. However both in The Usual Suspects and Fight Club you can deduce the misdirection as it is integral to increase suspense. The suspense in this film is completely lacking. Actually I hard a difficult time liking the characters. I usually love Chow Yun-Fat. But this time it almost felt like he was out of place. Except in the one big action sequence which as far as I am concerned is the only scene worth watching. A return to the Chow's glory days with John Woo.

To be honest I quite liked the counterfeiting story line until it evolved into those twists and supposedly dramatic plot elements. I don't mind them if they truly enhance the viewing experience. In this case though they were just unnecessary. I also didn't like the tone or atmosphere of this film. It took itself far too seriously. There wasn't a single reason given why it does this. A lighter tone might have made the serious moments more effective since then you wouldn't expect them as much. I almost can't believe that writer-director Felix Chong also was responsible for Infernal Affairs. That movie was brilliant. But I guess experienced director Andrew Lau was very good at cutting out the pretension and keep things tight. Maybe Felix Chong shouldn't be directing films and stick to writing. 

Like I said, had the film been purely about the counterfeiting without the twists this film probably would have been real compelling. As it is now I only can tolerate it because of the big action sequence that was a throwback to Chow in his John Woo days.

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