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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

These Amazing Shadows: The Movies that Make America

19 Oct

These-Amazing-Shadows

These Amazing Shadows is a straight forward documentary that demonstrates the importance of the National Film Registry and its impact on film preservation. There were several enlightening interviews from some of America’s greatest filmmakers, as well as clips from America’s most memorable films, as well as a list of some not so popular choices that shows off the diversity of the selection committee. Directors Paul Mariano and Kurt Norton guide audience into the vault and reveal some important contributors to film history, especially the often ignored women directors from Old Hollywood. The documentary shares the old and the new, but more importantly the film inspires audiences to revisit  and watch our countries favorite films again.

WORD COUNT: 115

Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: B

Breaking Away does nothing for me

18 Oct

BREAKING-AWAY

Obviously, life was much different in 1979 when Breaking Away was filmed because I was shocked to learn it won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and was nominated for Best Picture.  Even more shocking was that it beat out, Manhattan and All that Jazz. I remember watching it as a kid and not being impressed. Today, it still doesn’t do much for me. The lack of self-worth by the teens is over the top, the Italians cheating was ridiculous, the ambiguous relationship between Dennis Christopher and Robyn Douglass was frustrating, and the prejudice against non-American life is so heavy-handed that you want to change the channel every time Paul Dooley opens his mouth.  However, this film does pave the way for the onslaught of 1980s teen films about social and class differences, but the formula sport story and the performances do not hold up over the test of time.

WORD COUNT: 150

Chuck’s Grade: C

Adam’s Grade: N/A

The Dark Knight is a diabolical masterpiece

29 Aug

THE-DARK-KNIGHT

Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight raises the bar and turns the sequel to Batman Begins into one of the most memorable action films of all time. It exceeded most audience’s expectations because of its complexity, rich story, exhilarating action, and Heath Ledger’s legendary performance as The Joker. No one should ever put on the white make-up again after Ledger’s diabolical performance. Gotham will never be the same and Batman (Christian Bale) had to use everything at his disposal to combat his arch-nemesis.

Even at a running time of over two and a half hours the story and characters have no problem holding audiences’ attention. The visual effects combined with adept sound design/editing elevate the film and become an integral part of the unforgettable masterpiece. The Dark Knight is not only the best superhero film, but one of the most entertaining and satisfying films of all time.

WORD COUNT: 146

Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: A+

Batman Begins an amazing franchise of films

28 Aug

BATMAN-BEGINS

Christopher Nolan’s interpretation of the Batman character has replaced most audiences’ perception of the caped crusader. Thank goodness because I am tired of campy television references and Tim Burton’s expressionist take on the masked vigilante. Nolan’s first installment provides the origin of Batman and Bruce Wayne’s reluctant journey back to Gotham City. Christian Bale is ideal for the part and the film’s antagonists Cillian Murphy (Scarecrow) and Liam Neeson (Henri Ducard) are equally up to the task. The Scarecrow scares audiences with his ghoulish demeanor while Ducard’s cold-blooded crusade are formidable tactics that keep the film from falling into a one-note action flick. Batman is known for his utility belt and Batmobile. Lucious Fox (Morgan Freeman) provides the eye-catching vehicles and gadgets that raise the level of action to new heights for a comic-book film. Nolan creates a realistic superhero with human flaws and weaknesses that audiences can’t get enough of. Batman Begins an amazing franchise of films.

WORD COUNT: 158

Chuck’s Grade: A

Adam’s Grade: A-

Collateral creates a disagreement

6 Aug

Collateral-film

Michael Mann’s Collateral is one of the best modern noir films of the 21st Century, although my partner in crime (Chuck) completely disagrees with this statement.

Like Mann’s previous film Heat, Collateral was shot entirely in Los Angeles and the environment comes through. Tom Cruise uncharacteristically plays an antagonist while Jamie Foxx serves as the hero in this film about a hitman (Cruise) getting into a cab and “asking” the cabbie (Foxx) to bring him to five locations to carry out his “business.” I believe the stars are dynamic together and each give one of the best performances of their career, but my partner feels they are wrong for the parts. Screenwriter Stuart Beattie creates two original characters that help keep the film grounded in a game of cat and mouse. Mann allows the tension to build, which has become a trademark of his thrillers. Collateral has substance, whereas Chuck thinks he is caught up in his style.

WORD COUNT: 158

Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: B-

Sinister just isn’t evil enough

5 Aug

SINISTER-MOVIE

Last week, my buddy told me that he felt that Sinister was scarier and better than The Conjuring. Intrigued I decided to watch it at night with all of the lights off to get the full effect.

Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) and his family move into a house where a horrific crime happened. He hopes it will help him write a new book that will turn his career around. He finds some 8mm home movies and uses it as his source material, but he ends up finding some frightening facts about the films.

Sinister had potential. I was hooked from the beginning and thought for a moment that my friend may be right, but then I found myself losing interest during the second and third acts to the point I was rolling my eyes at the absurd ending. I appreciate Hawke’s effort, but the twists do not work and Sinister just isn’t evil enough.

WORD COUNT: 154:

Adam’s Grade: C

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Forgetting Sarah Marshall is remembered

30 Jul

FORGETTING-SARAH-MARSHALL

I have been a fan of Jason Segel and Judd Apatow since Freaks and Geeks. I was excited to see him take the lead role in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Segel wrote himself the perfect part as the jilted boyfriend trying to overcome a recent break-up with a famous TV star (Kristen Bell), and then the infamous first sighting with her new boyfriend (Russell Brand). Putting this relationship behind him becomes a challenge, even after meeting Rachel (Mila Kunis).

Although, Peter is trying to forget Sarah, audiences remember this romantic comedy as one their favorites because everyone has had at least one break up they have tried to get over. It has a likeable cast, clever humor, and some lighthearted moments that resonate with the hopeless romantics. Like many break ups, the drama can drag out longer than it should, but the story is solid and it propels Segel to another level in his career.

WORD COUNT: 157

Adam’s Grade: B

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

The Descent: What are friends for?

12 Jul

the-descent-film

Most people fear something and The Descent delivers a fright. It is plain scary. Who would have guessed a British horror film would be one of the creepiest films to date. Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) is invited by her friends to explore a cave in the mountains. A rock falls and blocks the spelunkers from leaving. With limited supplies, the tension among the friends rise, but things get much worse when a savage breed of creatures show up.

Neil Marshall has created a movie that dwells on several different fears: claustrophobia, darkness, and the fear of the unknown. The direction and cinematography are executed in a way that captures the fear and reveals the characters going through an array of emotions. Unfortunately, the acting is average and the banal first act prevents it from becoming an all time classic. However, The Descent will scare you and it is great to recommend to one of your unsuspecting friends. What are friends for?

WORD COUNT: 160

Adam’s Grade: B

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Sleepy Hollow is lost in a Grimm-like fairy tale

10 Jul

SLEEPY-HOLLOW

Director Tim Burton’s imagination takes Washington Irving’s remarkable short story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and changes the tale to fit his aesthetic leanings, but that is no surprise because Burton’s career has demonstrated his visual imagination is much stronger than his ability to deliver a narrative story from start to finish. The film is headless like its infamous villain because it is far from complete. The new direction is spooky, but the melodrama becomes too much to bear and Sleepy Hollow is lost in a Grimm-like fairy tale of witches and dark forests. Johnny Depp (Ichabod Crane) and Christina Ricci (Katrina Van Tassel) are the perfect actors for production designer Rick Heinrichs and set decorator Peter Young’s taste for the macabre, but their performances reminded me of porcelain figures stuck in a diorama.

WORD COUNT: 134

Chuck’s Grade: B-

Adam’s Grade: C+