Tuesday, June 24, 2014

SOME RECENT MOVIES: The Raid 2, 300: Rise of an Empire, Oculus

Here are my reviews of The Raid 2, 300: Rise of an Empire, and Oculus

Written, Edited, & Directed by:  Gareth Evans
Running Time: 150 mins
Budget: $4.5 million
Box Office: $5.2 million


Large-scale, more ambitious, yet as tight & tense as the first one - Berandal is a must-see even for those who aren't into Asian movies. If The Raid hasn't changed your mind, this one will.

This is best seen uncut and subbed. Never watch a foreign movie with English dub.

I really loved The Raid despite the lack of plot & dialogue. I couldn't imagine how Gareth Evans could up the ante and make an equally engaging action movie. Now, obviously trying for complexity & character development, Evans serves us, not only a platter, but a buffet of interesting characters, unending action & gore, and a storyline that's bigger than a dilapidated building with cramped hallways. It may take several minutes into the film to be able to memorize all those names (especially if you're also trying to recall the names in the first film) but hey you know what? It doesn't matter. The minute the action starts, every little detail in your mind melts as you witness an insane amount of bone-crunching, blood-spurting, throat-gashing, jaw-breaking, ball-breaking, hammer-gouging scenes for more than two hours. While that amount of time may usually be a weakness to typical action flicks as they may need some time to cool down, Berandal just keeps on going and going and going with the same intensity as when it started - that is if not more.

Iko Uwais as Rama is better than ever, and the new cast is absolutely charming in a gory way. 

I've read that Berandal was supposed to be a stand alone film but Evans decided to connect The Raid with it to make it a part of the trilogy. Well it shows, because there are times when Rama just disappears from the story and the film focuses on Uco (Arifin Putra), Bejo (Alex Abbad) and their "family" issues, which sometimes makes Rama a supporting character, and not the major driving force to the film's plot. And as much as I love Mad Dog, his sudden appearance seems out of place. It's like he was put there just because he played a vital and unforgettable role in the first film, and even though his scenes were relevant to Berandal's plot, it just felt forced.

I also felt that sometimes the hand-to-hand combat was a bit repetitive but maybe that's me being sleepy & tired. My favorite is Hammer Girl and I would have wanted more scenes with her smashing and puncturing skulls & bones. Even if they seemed a bit too "graphic novel", being there more for style than anything else, she & baseball bat man are scene stealers. I just wonder how kick ass they would be if their enemies have guns. Then again we have to suspend our disbelief (as usual) since guns were rarely used in here.

Still, The Raid 2 is in my list of best action films of all time - The Raid still a notch higher in my book though.

My Rating:  4/5

*     *     *

Directed by:  Noam Murro
Screenplay by:  Zack Snyder, Kurt Johnstad
Music by:  Junkie XL
Cinematography by: Simon Duggan
Edited by:  Wyatt Smith, David Brenner
Running Time:  102 mins
Budget: $110 million
Box Office:  more than $330 million

Wait, haven't I seen this before? Oh yeah that has Gerard Butler in it and this one has ships and a forgettable protagonist as flat as a cardboard that not even Eva Green bouncing up and down his man pole could spark some life in him.

It's not for the lack of trying, because it's evident from the gazillion gallons of blood used in this movie that they truly wanted to make a good film. Too bad that Zack Snyder did all of that in 300. It's nice to see some familiar characters with the addition of Eva Green (though I'm not entirely sold with her character, it's just that she's the only memorable one), because without them, it's like watching shirtless amateur actors with acting worthy of a TV movie. The whole duration of the film I was wondering how the hell did Noam Murro bag this gig and if he really thought that all the non-stop blood-spurting & Eva Green's boobs will ensure positive critical & box office reception? It earned more than 300 million dollars so I guess it worked. LOL.

Oh and by the by, I could suspend my disbelief with almost everything, but I just couldn't force myself to believe that horse will gallop so valiantly in that ship, plank to plank, and run through fire, and jump into the water. Unless he is a Spartan.

Snyder's 300, despite my "meh" attitude towards his green screen visuals, is still a solid action-pumped entertainment mainly because of Gerard Butler (and good ol' Fassie!). Now, without Snyder behind the camera and Butler on the screen shouting crazy yet awesome stuff like "Tonight we dine in hell!!", 300: Rise of an Empire crumbles to dust even before managing to actually rise. I was at least expecting some sort of "THIS. IS. SPARTA!", what I get is a half-hearted lame speech about democracy from Mr. Cardboard Man (gosh I don't even know his name). 

Typical of Hollywood, this is just another cheap attempt to cash in on a successful movie, bungling its simple formula, and inadvertently killing (hopefully for eternity) this franchise.

My Rating: 1.5/5

*     *     *

Written, Edited, & Directed by:  Mike Flanagan 
Music by: The Newton Brothers
Cinematography by:  Michael Fimognari
Running Time:  103 mins
Budget:  $5 million
Box Office: more than $34 million
A surprisingly good horror flick that both tickles your mind and chills your spine, which in today's trend (horror genre) is pretty refreshing - and rare.

For the hardcore horror fans who don't flinch at the sight of Sadako's hairy face or accidentally crap their pants while watching The Exorcist, well they may scoff at this movie's lack of scares. But for me, who screams at the sight of my own shadow, Oculus is just the right amount of creepy & thrilling. 

Sometimes it's a bit dragging, but the acting & superb editing keeps you glued and at the edge of your seat. The score which gives you a sense of foreboding also adds to the impending doom that has been masterfully manipulated by the director using a series of flashbacks intertwined with the siblings' present & increasingly is-it-delusion-or-is-it-really-the-mirror dilemma. 

Karen Gillan deserves a mention for an excellent performance as the lead character.

And I'll seriously be on the lookout for Flanagan's future projects.

My Rating:  4.5/5 - It's not the best horror film ever and I doubt if it's gonna be a cult classic, but for the genre it belongs to it surely deserves better recognition.

*Photos/GIFs courtesy of Tumblr.

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  1. I agree COMPLETELY with you about never watching a foreign film that has been dubbed in English. It ruins the experience. That said, I must see "The Raid," and soon! Thanks for the review. Also, it seems many of us are on the same page with 300: Rise of an Empire. I never reviewed it, as I couldn't even get into the review. I will be seeing "Oculus" ASAP, however, as I have read some pretty good reviews on it (4 - 4.5 ratings), and for its genre, that's great. I really liked Flanagan's "Absentia" (2011), even though it wasn't all it could be. I am looking forward to seeing "Oculus" and hoping for more. I feel Flanagan has great potential as a director, and we will be seeing more from him in the near future.

  2. I haven't seen Flanagan's earlier works, but now I'm itching to! I agree, he has great talent and I'm hoping to see more of him in the future! I have never been a fan of Snyder, and seeing this copycat 300 RoaE and a much inferior version, really sucks the patience out of me.

    The Raid Redemption & Berandal are both must-see!

  3. Nice Review. I agree with the new 300 movie. I just wished they really had picked a different actor for the lead role. His screaming and democracy talks are blank and makes you think like,"Huh?" or "Was he talking to me?". Check my review on 300: Rise of an Empire.

    1. thanks Glenn! He is totally a miscast. I can't figure out what the director saw in him that made him 100% sure that he's "the one".

  4. I'm looking forward to The Raid 2. I heard about it earlier this year after it rocked Sundance. It comes out next week in France, I won't miss it :) I grew up with action/martial arts movies so I'm kinda excited about it!

    1. I still prefer The Raid Redemption, but this one is also solid! Oh yeah you shouldn't miss it, though hopefully your cinemas won't chop it down. In here, they cut 10 mins and it was also english dubbed. that's why i waited for the original cut



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