Posts Tagged ‘movies’

Part 4 of My 100 Movies of Summer 2014

The Raid 2 (2014, w & d by Gareth Evans)

Back in 2011, Gareth Evans and Iko Uwais delivered unto us an adrenaline-fueled siege movie called The Raid.  It was a super-charged shot of adrenaline for action junkies who hadn’t seen anything quite like it in some time.  A sequel was ordered and it finally arrived back in March. I was really excited to see it.  But I never did.  I missed out on a certain chance to see it at SXSW.  I waited for a theatrical release.  But it came and went so quickly from a local multiplex, I never had the chance.  I kept an eye out for it to show up on VOD.  It never did.  I knew I’d have to wait for the Blu-ray.  And FINALLY, a few weeks after I bought that Blu-ray, I watched it.  It was worth the wait.

One of the more common criticisms lobbed at the first film was its lack of a real plot.  It was pretty one-dimensional.  Get in a building.  Get the bad guy.  Kick anyone’s ass who gets in your way.  Still, I rather liked it as did many.  As the film ends, Uwais’ Rama is left to an uncertain fate with a few dangling plot threads swinging in the wind.  Here, Evans quickly resolves those issues in rather brutal fashion setting Rama on a new path of dealing with the police corruption that caused the drug den raid to go tits up. He is tasked by an internal affairs officer to infiltrate a criminal organization that works closely with the dirty cops.  He accomplishes this by having himself incarcerated so that he can ingratiate himself to the gang leader’s son who is also serving time.  His stay is a bit longer that was anticipated but once he’s released he’s given a position in the gang because of his service to the son in the prison. So positioned, he begins his task of exposing the corrupt officials who allow the gangs to run rampant.

And, oh yeah, there’s a whole lot of fighting going on.  In the prison.  In bars.  On the streets.  And in cars.  There are a ton of elaborate set pieces where the skilled martial artists are really allowed to stretch their wings in a way that the confines of the previous film’s building setting couldn’t allow.  The fights are perfectly paced as well.  Whereas the first film played like one long extended fight, here they move the plot, throwing it in new directions, all of it leading to a somewhat subdued and more personal ending.

Rama.  The Assassin.  Hammer Girl.  Baseball Bat Man.  All of these characters have their chance in the spotlight.  And all of them shine. But my favorite character might be Prakoso.  He’s portrayed by Yayan Ruhian and while you may not be familiar with the name you’ll most definitely recognize the actor if you’re a fan of the first film.  There, he portrayed Mad Dog who famously faced Rama and his brother in a brutal fight.  He had this crazed monkey style of fighting that was a treat to watch.  If he wasn’t such a son-of-a-bitch, you’d almost be rooting for him.  Here, his appearance has been changed enough to not be distracting but he still fights the same.  His character gives Evans an opportunity to bring some pathos to the proceedings and his story arc is surprisingly moving. It’s an emotional moment in a film that actually has a lot of them.

And I think that might be Evans’ biggest accomplishment with this film.  He’s delivered yet another thrilling movie, filled with action and brutality, but accentuated with an effective and moving crime drama plot that I would put up against any of the Chinese films of that type.  It’s a two-and-half hour movie that leaves you wanting more.

And that right there is a hell of a thing.

The Raid 2 is available on Blu-ray, DVD, Amazon Prime and VOD (Finally!)  If you’ve seen the first, you’ve probably already seen this one.  Watch it again.  You know you want to.  If you haven’t seen the first one, watch that.  Then watch this.  Then wait impatiently for the third one with the rest of us. Man.  I hope there’s going to be a third film.

If you’re at all curious as to what I’ve been watching this summer to reach my 100 movie goal, check out my Letterboxd account.  I’ve already seen 60 movies with 43 days to go.  I think I’ll make it.

Previously in My 100 Movies of Summer 2014:

The best thing I saw that one week in June

The best thing I saw the week after that

The best thing I saw two weeks ago



Posted: February 26, 2014 in Movies, This!, TV
Tags: , , , , ,

File:Veronica Mars Film Poster.jpg

Veronica Mars

A long time ago we used to be friends.  But I hadn’t thought of you lately at all.

That’s a lie.  I always remembered Veronica Mars.  How could I forget her?

She came storming back into all our lives with a tantalizing chance at a long promised and rumored return.  And in record time, she pocketed $2 million and that promise became a reality.

And she’s not coming back alone.  Oh no.  She’s bringing her old man Keith with her.  Old friends like Wallace and Mac.  Old boyfriends like Logan and the unfortunately named Piz.  She’s going to her high school reunion.  So all those Neptune schoolmates who ostracized her 10 years ago?  Yeah.  They’re going to be there, too.

And there’s a nasty little murder mystery that’s going to need solving.  It’s been 7 long years, Veronica.  And it seems very little has changed.

C’mon now, honey…bring it on, bring it on!

Pop quiz, hot shots! What do the following movies have in common: Gandhi, Braveheart, The English Patient, Titanic, Crash? They all won the Academy Award for Best Picture. What do these movies have in common: ET The Extra-Terrestrial, Babe, Fargo, LA Confidential, Brokeback Mountain? They’re the movies I wish had won.

The Oscar nominations were announced today and followed shortly thereafter by the usual round of pundit hemming and hawing about surprise nods and shocking omissions. It happens every year. The Twitters blew up with people complaining about this and that not getting recognized or conversely expressing shock that something truly terrible like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close could somehow snag a Best Picture nom. Some stars actually publicly groused, perhaps jokingly but still publicly, that they were not included in the annual Hollywood reach-around (kudos to Misters Patton Oswalt and Albert Brooks.)

Now before you accuse me of being a hypocrite, I will admit that I was right there on my Twitter feed complaining for them and my favorite movie of the year, Drive, which received 1 nomination, the exact same number as Real Steel. I got no problem with Real Steel but Drive was the best movie of the year and at least deserved nominations for Picture, Director and Supporting Actor for the aforementioned Mr. Brooks. Of course, that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.

That’s why I love the Academy Awards. EVERYONE is allowed an opinion and that opinion is usually informed by the content they consumed over the course of that previous year but unless you’re a member of the Academy, that opinion don’t count. I would venture to guess that I’m in the top 5% of people in regards to how many movies, theatrically or otherwise, I watch in a given year. I watch a ton of stuff. Though I may, to date, not have seen them all (or even want to,) I’m familiar with every single movie nominated for best picture and have strong opinions as to their suitability for inclusion in the category.

There’s an even smaller percentage of people (the professional bloggers, reviewers who get paid) who see even more movies who are even more informed and can start listing off an army of flicks and performances more qualified to stand in the place of the unworthy chosen. They’re the ones that will tell you The Independent Spirit Awards are where quality films are recognized, stuff like 50/50, Take Shelter, Martha Marcy May Marlene & We Need To Talk About Kevin. In fact, I believe Drive was nominated for several Spirit Awards. So that’s cool, I guess.

What of the majority of people, the 95% if you will? Well, I’d venture to guess that only a small percentage of them even bothered to look at the list of Best Picture nominations. And upon seeing them, they probably said a variation of the same thing that is said every year, “Hell, I ain’t seen any of them movies. Wait a minute. Moneyball? Is that the baseball one with Brad Pitt? I got that at the Redbox. That was pretty good. Hell, I hope that wins.”

Let’s be honest. The only people who truly care about the Oscar nominations are the studios who stand to make money off them, the stars whose egos are boosted by them, and nerds like me who will never get over the fact that Chariots of Fire beat out Raiders of the Lost Ark.


Yes Major Toht, that pretty much sums up my reaction as well.

For what its worth, I would like to offer up some congratulations to Gary Oldman, nominated for Best Actor for his superb work in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. He’s the best working actor of his generation. Congratulations also to Nick Nolte, justifiably recognized for his supporting work in Warrior (one of last year’s most criminally underrated movies,) and to Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky, the directors of Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, nominated for Best Documentary. I hope they all win. Do I think they will? Probably not. But that’s for another blog.

I  heard somewhere that the average blog entry is viewed by less than 10 people.

I can’t imagine why this one would be any different.  Nevertheless, I’ve been threatening to do a blog for years and of late I’ve done quite a few things I’ve been threatening to do. Though not everything I’ve been threatening to do.  So, you know, most of you are safe.  For now.

As I will primarily be writing about film here, I can think of nothing better to start with than a breakdown of my top 10 flicks from 2011.  While compiling the list, I determined that I’d limit my selections to films that I saw in 2011 that were also, according to their IMDB entry, released in 2011.  This excluded some gems like Miike’s 13 Assassins, the wonderful Nordic Trollhunter and James Gunn’s sublime Super (you’ll never be able to hear the word ‘gooshy’ the same way again) but rules are rules.  Of course, it also excluded some movies I had/have yet to see including Tree of Life, Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Artist, Take Shelter, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, War Horse, etc.  I do plan on catching all of those at some point.  I will most likely re-evaluate my policy for next year’s list but with my guidelines in place, we begin.

10.  (tie)  Rise of the Planet of the Apes/Mission Impossible:  Ghost Protocol

9.  Captain America:  The First Avenger


Big budget popcorn flicks down right. 

In Apes, Franco is serviceable, Pinto is negligible and Malfoy is all Malfoyish.  Brian Cox (the best Lecter) and John Lithgow, as always, delight albeit in underdeveloped, one-note roles.  However, Andy Serkis, the ace in the hole, delivers the goods anytime he’s being mo-capped on-screen.  A dear friend who is quite difficult to please with modern Hollywood fare who happens to be a huge fan of the original franchise loved this movie as much as he loathed  Burton’s effort.  That’s the only endorsement you need.

MI:GP earns it’s space here because Brad Bird (The Iron Giant ,The Incredibles ) makes me, in his first live action film, forget for 2+ hours just how creepy I think Tom Cruise can be.  The story is pretty typical for this kind of movie and lives only to serve the set pieces but those action sequences are some of the best of their kind in this series or any other.  If you can swing it, view on a true Imax screen.  The Dubai Tower sequence is worth the price of inflated admission. 

I went back and forth on including Cap but ultimately decided that the film was easily the best of the superhero/comic book movies released this past summer and deserved a place on this list.  Granted the competition didn’t amount to much.  Both Thor and Green Lantern were dreadful while X-Men:  First Class suffered from a less than satisfying climax. But, Chris Evans was great casting and the WWII period stuff was spot on.  It was just plain fun and one of the few movies I saw twice in a theater this past year.  I was even able to tolerate the gratuitous, obligatory Sam Jackson cameo necessary to set up Whedon’s Avengers flick.


8.  Young Adult

7.  Cedar Rapids

Young Adult didn’t surprise me at all.  Jason Reitman delivers some of the same dark humor on display in Thank You For Smoking.  Diablo Cody shows the more mature wit she brought to United States of Tara.  Patton Oswalt proves Big Fan was not a one-off fluke.  And Charlize Theron?  I’ve never seen Monster.  I know I need to see it, but here she is crass, unlikable, unapologetic and irredeemable.  And I just want to take her home to momma (well, not my momma) and marry her.  Great role for a great actress…who’s hot.  Just saying.

Cedar Rapids on the other hand came as quite the surprise.  Miguel Arteta directs a fantastic ensemble in a slice of life tale.  It’s a small movie about unremarkable people doing unremarkable things.  You know, people like you and me, just living their lives and it hits all the right notes.  If there were one movie on this list that you probably haven’t seen, I’m guessing that it’s this one.  And I think you should rectify that as soon as possible.

6. Hanna

I’ve never seen Joe Wright’s Atonement or his Pride and Prejudice.  I doubt I ever will.  They seem a bit navel-gazey to me.  Doesn’t mean they’re not good but I ain’t getting paid for this so I don’t gots to watch nothing.  But little Miss Hanna here is good,  or rather bad, or rather quite good at being bad.  Saoirse Ronan in the title role portrays, with a talent beyond her years, a child’s innocence mixed with a borderline sociopathy that is both frightening and fascinating.  Eric Bana’s proud papa character will never win Dad of the Year but good looking out on the raising a homicidal maniac front!

5.  The Descendants

I’ve yet to see an Alexander Payne film I didn’t completely enjoy.  I only wish he’d direct more.  George Clooney plays against type as a bit of a schlub.  He’s a dedicated family man but he’s clueless to what’s really happening with that family.  The man can act, he’s proven himself to be a more than capable director, he’s a damn handsome man and always has hot women lined up to date him.  You’d think something would go wrong for him but you kinda hope it doesn’t.  Editorial on the actor aside, Payne tells a pretty simple tale that doesn’t turn out to be quite as simple or as tidy as you thought it might. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait another 7 years for his next effort.

4. Hobo With a Shotgun

3.  Hugo

Strange cinematic bedfellows to be sure but grouped together here for my purposes because they’re both such…visual films.

Hobo started as a fan-made trailer that won a contest promoting Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse double feature.  The response to the fake trailer encouraged studio backing that led to this nightmare-fueled “technicolor” tribute to trash exploitation cinema that succeeds everywhere Tarantino & Rodrgiuez failed.  Is it bloody?  Yes.  Does it feature over the top acting?  Oh yes.  Does it feature Rutger Hauer in as riveting a performance as his Blade Runner masterpiece?  Yes it does.  Is it for everyone?  Hell no.  Is it for me?  Hell yes!

Hugo was another film that surprised me this year because I wasn’t expecting a lot.  I haven’t honestly been impressed with most of Scorsese’s recent output (certainly not Shutter Island.)  The trailers did a good job of drawing me in and piqued my interest but we’ve all been fooled by trailers so I was still dubious going in to the theater.  But, Scorsese delivers a true loving homage to cinematic history.  I couldn’t help but love a movie that loves movies as much as this one.  Mad bonus points for the most effective use of Ben Kingsley since Sexy Beast and the most creative use of the new 3D technology since Cameron’s Avatar.

2.  Super 8

Some might scoff at the lofty position upon which this bit of 80’s nostalgia fluff has perched.  But hey, it’s my list.  You don’t like it, go mix paint.  Or make your own list, I don’t care.  You don’t know me.  JJ Abrams’ film was maudlin, manipulative, a bit lazy in mining the same material as the films to which it pays homage, and almost completely falls apart in the third act.  And I could care less.  The kid actors were great especially Elle Fanning.  Kyle Chandler as a dad we’d all kill to have reminds me why I liked him so much in Friday Night Lights, Early Edition and all the way back to Homefront (yes, I’ve watched way too much television in my life.)  I’m not the most sentimental person in the world but every once in a while something comes around and hits my sweet spot.  Wattareyagunnado?

1.  Drive

At long last, we arrive at my favorite movie of 2011.  At long last for me.  I started this first blog entry like 2 weeks ago.  All but two of you quit reading at, I’m guessing, Hanna, maybe?  Let me just tell you, my adoration for this film knows no bounds.  Nicolas Winding Refn (I don’t know how to pronounce it either) perfectly captures a mood, a feeling, a vibe.  The film wears it influences proudly on its sleeves (Walter Hill’s The Driver, the cult classic The Stuntman,) but forges an identity of its own with subtle supporting performances from wonderful character actors, a soundtrack that perfectly compliments the film, and a revelatory lead performance from Ryan ‘The Goose’ Gosling.  Albert Brooks makes you wonder where he’s been hiding for the last decade and is single-handedly responsible for one of the most…gentle(?) murders I’ve ever seen in a motion picture.  That the film also includes one of the most brutal killings I’ve seen only cements the fact that this is one of those anything could happen flicks to which you can only hitch your wagon and go along for the ride. If you haven’t seen it (and shame on you if you haven’t,) it hits home video on January 31, 2012.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.

All right.  That’s it.  I’m done.  I promise I won’t get this wordy again without good reason but if you’ve made it to the end of this lengthy screed I appreciate it and I hope you found it somewhat enjoyable.  If not, I’ll try harder next time.  Now leave me alone, I gotta go watch a movie.  I hear Haywire is good and that Gina Carano is mighty tasty…