Quick Takes: The Lego Movie, Machete Kills, Only God Forgives

lego_movie_ver9The Lego Movie (2014)
twohalfstar

Starring Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Charlie Day, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Cobie Smulders, Jadon Sand
Directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller

So pretty much everyone loves this movie, but I just thought it was OK. I also found it ironic that the song Everything is Awesome became so popular among fans of the film, but yet it’s the butt of many jokes about the conformity of the mainstream Lego people in the movie. Whatever. The jokes largely fell flat for me, and while I enjoyed the premise and the imagination on display, it was all too loud and abrasive for my tastes. I did love the little Star Wars cameos and Batman’s hilarious song, though, and I wish the film had more of that kind of comedic brilliance.

machete-kills-new-poster-and-13-new-photos-1Machete Kills (2013)

Starring Danny Trejo, Mel Gibson, Demian Bichir, Amber Heard, Michelle Rodriguez, Sofía Vergara, Charlie Sheen, Lady Gaga, Antonio Banderas, Walton Goggins, Cuba Gooding Jr., Vanessa Hudgens, Alexa Vega, Marko Zaror, Tom Savini, William Sadler
Directed by Robert Rodriguez

This, on the other hand, was pure entertainment for me. Robert Rodriguez makes fun B-Movies, and I love him for it. Machete Kills feels like more of a James Bond spoof than a sequel to Machete, but as long as you like both Machete and Bond (like me), that isn’t an issue. Charlie Sheen is wonderful as the US President, and Mel Gibson definitely makes for a fun asshole villain. The film is somewhat spastic with its ultra-long list of characters, though, which doesn’t allow many of them to get much screen-time. I understand this allows for a long list of celebrities to fill the poster, but quality is usually better than quantity. But this is a B-exploitation flick, so more is better, right?

only_god_forgives_ver6Only God Forgives (2013)
onehalfstar

Starring Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm, Gordon Brown, Yayaying Rhatha Phongam, Tom Burke, Sahajak Boonthanakit, Pitchawat Petchayahon, Charlie Ruedpokanon
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

There are times when I am a film masochist. Despite thinking Refn’s Drive was an overrated, boring mess of staring people, I felt compelled to watch Only God Forgives. I guess being set in Thailand was a big enough draw to pull me in, regardless of my misgivings. Anyway, this one probably has more staring than Drive. There’s even a whole scene where an entire room of people sit and stare, all while a man has his eyes cut out… Refn is clearly preoccupied with all things ocular. Even still, I think I liked this one a hair more than Drive because the exotic, urban Thai locations and the bold uses of color are pretty to look at. It’s also interesting to see what is basically a B-movie all dolled up in artsy clothes, but it’s not something that really works for me. At least in these clothes it doesn’t. For some reason, I still feel compelled to see more of Refn’s work. Like I said, sometimes I’m a film masochist.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

guardians_1Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio Del Toro, Laura Haddock, Sean Gunn, Peter Serafinowicz, Christopher Fairbank

Directed by James Gunn

Expectations: Super, super high. If I don’t like this, I’m going to be crushed.

threehalfstar


Guardians of the Galaxy is easily one of the best Marvel films yet. Other than The Avengers, I don’t think a single film in their line-up comes close to the amount of pure entertainment on display in Guardians. Pinpointing exactly why Guardians is such a successful piece of entertainment isn’t something that needs to be done, but if I want to write more than, “OOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHH GUARDIANS WAS DOPE!” I have to come up with something to talk about, right?

So let’s talk about the characters. While every Marvel movie is generally known to be a hit before it’s even close to a release date, Guardians of the Galaxy was a different story. Where characters like Iron Man and Thor allow most of the audience to bring some knowledge into the theater, most people have never even heard of the Guardians of the Galaxy. I read a lot of Marvel comics growing up and I only had a very limited, passing knowledge of their existence. This was Marvel’s first attempt at a film without the name recognition of a big character, and it was a huge gamble. But the film’s success proves that the public doesn’t specifically care if they know who’s who before entering the theater; they care more about seeing a fun movie, regardless of origin. So if you’re a big shot Hollywood exec reading this, take note! Stop raping our collective childhoods for rebootable franchises! The public will always be hungry for original content! (And yes, Guardians is technically adapted and not original content, but in the eyes of the average moviegoer this is an entirely new thing.)

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The Legend of Hercules (2014)

the-legend-of-hercules-posterStarring Kellan Lutz, Gaia Weiss, Scott Adkins, Roxanne McKee, Liam Garrigan, Liam McIntyre, Rade Serbedzija, Johnathon Schaech, Luke Newberry, Kenneth Cranham, Mariah Gale, Sarai Givaty

Directed by Renny Harlin

Expectations: Super low. I just want swords, sandals, and fun.

On the general scale:
onestar

On the B-movie scale:
twohalfstar


The Legend of Hercules has a fairly bad reputation, even for a film that’s only been out for a few months. The score on Rotten Tomatoes score is 3% for God’s sake! So leave it to me to make it something of a priority to watch it, and then to enjoy it thoroughly. Don’t mistake that for me being blind to the film’s bad qualities — oh, did I ever notice them! — but the film entertained in spite of this. It’s really subjective, though, so I don’t recommend hastily running out in your loincloth to rent the film, but know that there is the possibility that you might find something to enjoy here. I guess that makes me part of the 3%, which is in no way related to the American elitist assholes who make up the 1%. I promise.

So in the face of the huge wall of adversity coming at this movie, I thought that if I reviewed it I shouldn’t waste any time on why it’s bad. I’m sure within the 97% there are plenty of critical diatribes describing exactly why The Legend of Hercules is a horrible blight on the world that is so horrendously bad it actually sucks other things into its strange, cinematic black hole. So there’s no point in rehashing these points. I will say that I don’t think the movie is anywhere near bad enough to warrant such hate, but I understand why. Director Renny Harlin has definitely been in better form than aping Zack Snyder’s ugly, unnecessary slo-mo that filled 300, while also trying to appeal to the Twilight crowd with a tender love story and star Kellan Lutz. Did I like these aspects? Of course not, but I knew they would be there and I expected them, so I was able to let them roll off my back as confidently as the film’s actors delivered their historically inaccurate, “Any American movie set in the past is made better by phony English accents” English accents.

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Honour (2014)

honour_4Starring Aiysha Hart, Paddy Considine, Faraz Ayub, Shubham Saraf, Harvey Virdi, Nikesh Patel

Directed by Shan Khan

Expectations: Moderate.

threestar


Honour begins with a quote: “Life is nothing without honour,” and all of the film’s characters are in some way affected or driven by their idea of what is honorable. While using the quote to bring our attention to this could be seen as a somewhat heavy-handed move by a first-time writer/director, I think it works rather well. The quote acts as a bell, ringing in the audience’s mind throughout the picture, allowing us to think on the meaning of the quote and the emotions behind it for the characters.

Due to the structure of the film, giving a basic synopsis has the potential of ruining certain aspects of the story that should not be ruined. What matters is that a 20-something girl returns home hoping for refuge, only to find more hostility there than in the outside world. Honour is a thriller that reveals its story like the layers of an onion, allowing the audience to go deeper and deeper into the tale in a highly engaging, non-linear manner. This type of structure is definitely not new to cinema, but it is used here especially well and with much skill; the tension that builds through the film is excellent.

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The Raid 2 (2014)

raid2_1The Raid 2 [Serbuan maut 2] (2014)
AKA The Raid 2: Berandal, The Raid: Retaliation

Starring Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Oka Antara, Tio Pakusadewo, Julie Estelle, Ryuhei Matsuda, Kenichi Endo, Kazuki Kitamura, Cecep Arif Rahman, Cok Simbara, Yayan Ruhian, Very Tri Yulisman

Directed by Gareth Evans

Expectations: Super high. It’s The Raid 2, c’mon now!

threestar


Nope, not as good as the first. And I wasn’t even as super head-over-heels about The Raid as everyone else seemed to be. I thought it was awesome, don’t get me wrong, but a re-watch just a few days ago confirmed to me that it’s a film I will always appreciate more than love. This relates directly to how brutal and realistic the choreography is — which is also why the film is so notable and unique — so for me The Raid 2 wasn’t as good as the first because it embraces that brutal, realistic choreography and goes even further. Is that the best logic to judge the film on? No, of course not, but my brain just has a hard time extracting the same gleeful joy from this type of martial arts film compared to something with a lighter tone. While The Raid still felt somewhat connected to the martial arts films that inspired it, the action in The Raid 2 feels different.

Since I love auteur theory, I suppose we can say that if Gareth Evans’ Merantau was a love letter to Hong Kong martial arts films and specifically Jackie Chan’s, The Raid was Evans, Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian finding their own stride based on what worked in Merantau. But to me The Raid 2 seems to be built only on the shoulders of The Raid, so your enjoyment of its action will stem directly from how much enjoyment you got out of the brutal, bone-crunching fights in The Raid. Personally, Merantau remains my favorite of their films, but with that said I can’t deny that The Raid 2 — specifically one fight towards the end — sets a new bar for martial arts film battles. The kitchen fight contains some of the most intense, brutal and incredibly choreographed martial arts ever projected onto the silver screen.

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Video Game Review: Rambo: The Video Game (2014)

rambo-the-video-game-coverDeveloped by Teyon
Published by Reef Entertainment Ltd.

Directed by Piotr Latocha

Platform played on: PC via Steam

Expectations: I haven’t been this pumped to play a game in years.

On the general scale (considering all the “flaws”):
twohalfstar

But in terms of pure enjoyment and the amount of raw action and testosterone per minute:
fourstar


As soon as Rambo: The Video Game was announced, I was ecstatic. The trailer made the game seem like nothing but balls-to-the-walls action recreating all the kick-ass Rambo shit that Rambo did in the Rambo movies. It was seemingly going to be everything I had ever wanted a Rambo game to be, going all the way back to 1988 when I spied the cover of the Rambo NES game and imagined what treasures the game might hold. That game did not live up to my internal hype, but Teyon’s Rambo: The Video Game didn’t just live up to my huge, unrealistic expectations, it shot an explosive arrow directly into their heart and machine-gunned them as they begged for mercy.

I’ve never written a video game review before, but while playing Rambo: The Video Game I felt compelled to. The game has received negative Internet buzz and press since the first trailer dropped, with people deriding the game for its animation, character models, use of quick-time events (QTEs), and even its choice to be an on-rails shooter instead of the more traditional first-person shooter. After the game’s release, this fire only seemed to grow more intense, as did my frustration with the public’s inability to see this game’s greatness.

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About this Movie… Again

tumblr_mz7r3gTo9E1siksceo1_1280About Last Night (ALN) was an extra special treat for my Valentine’s weekend. Not only did I get to look at Kevin Hart and Michael Ealy for two hours, but I loved the soundtrack, AND I laughed my ass off! I wondered how this remake was going to go. I reviewed the 1986 ALN last year for our ’80s Valentine’s Love Fest. This version is so much raunchier, but so was the play Sexual Perversity in Chicago, which both films are adapted from. Well, I am very impressed.

I don’t want to do a compare/contrast review, so I will get it out now. I like that they kept the names and characteristics of best friends Bernie (Kevin Hart) & Danny (Michael Ealy), and best friends/roommates Joan (Regina Hall) & Debbie (Joy Bryant). I also liked the modernizing of the movie. I am an ’80s girl! I usually dislike remakes. But this remake kind of paid homage to the 1986 ALN. The new film kept Danny’s love of softball; they just changed the team to the L.A. Dodgers. I also like the details about Danny’s relationship with bar owner Casey (Christopher McDonald).

About the falling in love…
The movie opened up with a funky song, Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine by James Brown, which was appropriate for the opening dialogue between best friends, Bernie and Danny. They were waiting for the ladies, Debbie and Joan (Bernie’s previous night’s hook up) to show up for drinks. There is simultaneous dialogue happening on the way to the club by the ladies and inside the club (with the guys). I was laughing so hard as Bernie told Danny that he had “whiskey dick” last night. He had drunk so much that it was hard for him to get an erection. I love that the two couples had equal screen time. Bernie and Joan were the wild ones, while Debbie and Danny were calm and laid back, not really interested. They were too busy watching Bernie and Joan getting drunk and acting obnoxious. It wasn’t until Bernie and Joan went to the restroom (to bump and grind) that Debbie and Danny actually spoke each other. It was this conversation that led to a passionate night of making love, but an awkward morning after. The film shows the conflicts that arise when the individuals try to make a one-night stand into a love affair. Both couples struggle to communicate what being in love means to them.

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