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THE WRATH OF VAJRA

31 Mar

THE-WRATH-OF-VAJRA

The Wrath of Vajra is…different. Anti-Japanese films are nothing new from the Chinese, but this film is about a rogue WWII martial art master that began a cult of warriors that worshiped the God, Hades. His recruits would come from stolen children from around the world to become unstoppable warriors. After WWII, the master is imprisoned and his former students are left to carry out his vision. Escaped student, K-29 returns to fight to the death against his “brothers” in a series of tests that include a battles against a “giant-like” master and “demon-inspired” fighter, until the final show down with the disciple/leader, K-28. The kung fu and action sequences are good, but the story is too outside the octagon for me and has too many predictable plot choices to make it a great film. However, die-hard kung fu fans will appreciate the skill sets of Yu Xing and Sung-jun Yoo. Everyone else pales in comparison.

WORD COUNT: 159

Chuck’s Grade: B-

Adam’s Grade: N/A

I, Frankenstein is going to leave a scar

31 Jan

i-frankenstein

It’s alive! Well, it is happy to be breathing at this point because the newest interpretation of Mary Shelley’s classic character has many noticeable imperfections that are going to leave a scar. At times, the film is entertaining, but then it falls into a familiar sounding story line, “There has been a war…” and basically the Frankenstein monster is going to have to choose a side because his soulless body has the potential to change the face of the conflict. The film is on life support because the acting, directing and story telling falls short of the magic Kevin Grevioux’s created in the Underworld franchise. Aaron Eckhart’s stick wielding becomes repetitive and Yvonne Strahovski’s character is asked to make unrealistic leaps in a short amount of time in order to push the story forward. It just doesn’t work. However, this is NOT the worst Frankenstein film I have seen and maybe Grevioux bring it back to life in a sequel.

WORD COUNT 160:
Chuck’s Grade: C-

Adam’s Grade: N/A

THOR: THE DARK WORLD hammers out an unsatisfactory ending

18 Jan

Thor-The-Dark-World

The sequel, Thor: The Dark World finds the title character tackling the all-to-common villain that wants to destroy the entire universe for some illogical reason that is never fully explained and never full thought out. However, it does not matter because Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Jane (Natalie Portman) are re-united for a meet the parents episode while Loki (Tom Hiddleson) broods in prison for his past offenses. Dark Elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) is a formidable arch-rival for both Thor and Odin who will ultimately need Loki’s help to confront Malekith. The film is entertaining and I prefer it over the original because the characters are able to delve deeper into their relationships with one another. However, like most Marvel products the ending does not do the rest of the film justice because it hammers out an unsatisfactory ending that cannot control the balance between action and comedy.

WORD COUNT: 147
Chuck’s Grade: B-
Adam’s Grade: N/A

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG does not live up to its title

13 Jan

the-desolation-of-smaug

Many people exclaim the second installment is much better than the first film, but I do not think that justifies a favorable review for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. I do not know whose greed is worse, the dwarves trying to steal the Arkenstone, Smaug and his liar of stolen goods, or Hollywood’s penchant for drawing out this modest size story into an unnecessary trilogy length of films. I am angry at Peter Jackson  and this franchise in general. The first film was boring and the second film accomplished absolutely nothing accept ticket sales for Peter Jackson and the addition of characters that do not belong and a storyline that do not exist. I’m serious. I am angry with this irresponsible greed.  However, at this point I feel obligated to see the third film because the first two films have not given me a satisfactory movie to enjoy. The Desolation of Smaug does not live up to its title.

WORD COUNT: 159

Chuck’s Grade: D

Adam’s Grade: B

HANSEL AND GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS

9 Jan

HANSEL-AND-GRETEL-WITCH-HUNTERS

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters was a disappointing interpretation of the Grimm fairytale to say the least. The mixture of humor and horror could not match the coolness factor of Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) as witch hunter siblings hellbent on revenge. There were many great ideas in director/writer Tommy Wirkola’s script, but he could not maintain a consistent voice and look throughout the picture that could convince audiences to believe in his story. I could accept the exploding witches (to an extent) and kind-hearted trolls that seemed to be the only creature that could actually kill humans for some reason, but I could not swallow the anachronistic scenes of witches duking it out with Jeremy Renner, as well as the Van Helsing-like modern weapons used in the film. For me, the film was a complete letdown, but I am sure there will be  a sequel with a lesser known cast in the future.

WORD COUNT: 155
Chuck’s Grade: D-
Adam’s Grade: N/A

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE heats things up

6 Jan

THE-HUNGER-GAMES-CATCHING-FIRE

I have not read the books, but everyone tells me the first film was water down when it came to the politics. As for the second film, the same people told me the second installment was closer to the book’s true intention. From an objective point of view, the politics come from  the same oppressive position found in most science fiction films. It was suggested in the first through an ideological state apparatus, whereas in the second film it manifests itself into a repressive state apparatus through military force and law enforcement, which makes it easier for audiences to identify. Both films were good, but the second film is entertaining because the antagonists’ intentions are blurred, making a more complex film for audiences to enjoy. Winning is not the only thing that is important in this film, which creates opportunities for Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) to build and explore their characters’ darker side.

WORD COUNT: 158

Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: B

OLD BOY (2013) has some new tricks

1 Jan

OLD-BOY-2013

Spike Lee’s desire to re-interpret the critically acclaimed 2003 South Korean film, Old Boy for domestic audiences was a bold move because of the amount of criticism he would receive from audiences familiar with the original. I was eager to see how he would negotiate certain scenes and particular parts of the story that have made Old Boy a memorable, but uncomfortable film to watch. Technically, everything is in the movie, but done in a way that is more like a jazz musician riffing on a familiar melody than a replay of an old song. Some things worked really well, while others things did not. This version had more of back story, which made it easier for American audiences to understand, but it was too much because those moments of discomfort did not have the same impact. However, I enjoyed this movie and the choice to cast Josh Brolin and Elizabeth Olsen as the principal characters was a strong choice.

WORD COUNT: 158

Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: N/A

47 RONIN are turning over in their graves

30 Dec

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The film’s director, Carl Erik Rinsch is probably kneeling before a room of executives at Universal and offering to perform seppuku for the dismal 47 Ronin starring Keanu Reeves. Everyone knew the film was in trouble long before its eventual Christmas release date, but I (Chuck) am a martial art film junkie and wanted to give the film a fair viewing. Unfortunately, the film lived up to its bad press by putting together a poorly assembled re-interpretation of the legendary story about Japan’s most famous samurai. There was no cohesion from scene to scene because the production is unable to balance the fantasy with the real story. Rinsch tries to honor both ideas, but it simply does not work. The special effects are distracting and predictable. Also, Universal Studios should be ashamed of themselves for thinking a  story about a group a men known for gaining honor through mass suicide would be a successful holiday blockbuster.

WORD COUNT: 154

Chuck’s Grade: D

Adam’s Grade: N/A

DRUG WAR cooks up something new

28 Dec

DRUG-WAR

America is no stranger to films about crystal meth and the dark characters that are associated with the narcotic, however, in mainland China director Johnnie To breaks new ground by cooking up an interesting gangster film that has a snitch willing to say or do anything to save his life with an undercover cop determined to bring a group of gangsters to justice by any means necessary. Police captain Zhang  (Sun Honglei) takes information from Timmy Choi (Louis Koo) and runs with it by impersonating different gangsters while at the same time pumping Choi for more and more information, until it leads him to the major players behind the drug trade. Choi’s integrity and loyalty are being tested while Zhang  battles with his ego and obsession. Both actors give strong performances that lead audiences along to an amazing climax featuring ultra violence from every possible direction. I liked the film, but buying into the cops’ sting was difficult for me.

WORD COUNT: 160

Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: N/A

THE MAN OF TAI CHI is stopped by Keanu Reeves

27 Dec

the-man-of-tai-chi

Keanu Reeves does many things right in his directorial debut. He hires Woo-ping Yuen as his Action Director and he casts Tiger Hu Chen as the lead character, as well as using martial art legend Yu Hai to teach the style’s life lessons. There is some great choreography and variety to the film’s action sequences. Tiger Hu Chen’s adversaries all bring something different to the table. The problem arises when Reeves casts himself as the main antagonist, which was cool to watch him play the villain, however his acting range bleeds into Nicolas Cage territory when he attempts to be menacing. It is almost comical at times and the film would have been served better if he took a back seat and stayed in the director’s chair. Also, his “fighting skills” have diminished since the Matrix Trilogy, although he keeps his signature black outfits.  The Man of Tai Chi has some moves but it cannot evade Keanu’s poor acting.

WORD COUNT: 159

Chuck’s Grade: C+

Adam’s Grade: N/A