Friday, April 27, 2012

The Raid: Redemption Review

What is up, Internet?  I have been waiting a very long time to see The Raid.  I first heard about it well over a year ago when it was first making the festival circuit.  Everyone was raving about this film.  Its a very simple premise: an elite SWAT team must enter and clear an apartment complex owned and ruled by a drug lord.  Its a fairly straightforward and seemingly dull plot.  Luckily The Raid is so much more than that.  Be warned: I'm going to spoil the crap out of this film.

***Spoiler warning is in effect***

What sounds so simple on paper turns out to be much, much more complicated.  The team (of about 24) police descend upon the building in two squads, with their chief along for the ride.  As they clear the building floor by floor they meet relatively little resistance.  Until their presence is blown by a child lookout.  Who gets his brains blow out by the chief.  Yeah, this film gets insanely gory.  What ensues is essentially an hour-and-a-half action scene that blows you away (yes, pun intended) scene after scene.  The squad has to fight their way up the building, but is being pursued from top and bottom by legions of thugs - some wielding automatic weapons, with others using only machetes.  I cannot begin to convey the level of insanity that The Raid reaches at times.  There are too many amazing action set pieces for me to break them all down and describe them.

For me, the one absolute stand-out scene involves one of the squad, Rama, alone in a hallway.  He has no rifle or sidearm (more on that later).  Only his baton (or tonfa for those martial artists out there) and a knife.  And he kills/maims/injures probably close to twenty thugs that try to stop him.  And its effing insane.  There isn't much more I can say about it.  Oh wait, after he kills all those dudes he drops his weapons.  Which leads me into the few complaints I have about this film...

The logic of these men just doesn't make sense for most of the film.  In one scene in particular, the few surviving men hole up in an apartment and long story short, they blow up some bad guys.  In the aftermath of the explosion they're all waking up and groggy.  One of the men goes to pick up his rifle and his squadmate silently tells him not to.  More bad guys are coming and they're all being really quiet so the baddies don't hear them.  Picking up their rifles off the floor wouldn't make that much noise.  AND THEY WOULD HAVE A WEAPON TO FIGHT WITH.  Now cut to the aforementioned crazy action scene with a knife and baton.  That's because he didn't pick up his rifle in that apartment.  But that still doesn't explain why he doesn't keep that knife and baton.  Or maybe pick up some weapons off of the dead thugs.  I just couldn't get past it.  If I was in their shoes, I would've done anything in my power to stay alive and hold onto my weapon.

My only other complaint is with the action scenes.  I know, I know, I said that they're incredible.  And they freaking are.  But I can't help but feel that towards the end of the film they were just too long and dragged out.  I know that these are professional SWAT members that we're dealing with, but its very hard for me to believe that they can have multiple fistfights like they do during the course of the film without passing out from exhaustion.  Again, don't get me wrong, The Raid features some of the best and most inspired fight choreography I've ever seen on screen...but they went for just a bit too long at times.

A quick note on the acting of the film:  for the most part I felt the performances of the main cast were solid.  Its always tough really gauging a performance when its in a language other than English.  Your eyes are naturally locked onto the subtitles rather than the actor's acting.

The Raid: Redemption is an incredible action film and truly must be seen to be believed.  My words cannot in the least capture the incredisanity (just coined by me) on display here.  There are distinct moments burned into my brain that make me want to see this film again and again.  If you even enjoy action films in the least bit please, please track down this film and see it.  Its worth any and all trouble you have to go through to find it.

The Raid: Redemption is one of the best pure action films I've ever seen, but isn't immune to flaws.

The Bearded Bullet is out.

Lockout Trimmed Review

Hello, Internet!  I had relatively high hopes for Lockout.  Produced by Luc Besson, starring Guy Pearce (who's always underrated in my opinion) and Maggie Grace (Lost, Taken) in a crazy action film set on board a prison orbiting Earth, where Pearce's Snow has to save the President's daughter, Emilie (played by Grace) during a prisoner riot.  The trailer did its job in that it looked pretty cool.  And Guy Pearce as an action star?!  Sign me up!!  Right?..Right?  Wrong.

Lockout is so darn uneven.  There are kernels of an awesome film surrounded by overt mediocrity, mixed with insanely uneven acting and action editing.  Let's get this out of the way: Guy Pearce is the best thing about this film.  He's smarmy, witty, and a badass action hero.  Maggie Grace does what she can with the material, as does Lennie James (The Walking Dead).  On the whole, everyone is overacting or isn't really acting at all.  Peter Stormare is almost unwatchable.  The way he delivers dialogue is just cringe-worthy.  And most of this is to be blamed upon the directors.  This is their first feature film.  And it really shows.  The dialogue is overall pretty terrible, with characters saying things and making decisions that just don't make sense.  And don't get me started on the myriad plot holes: you're telling me that the giant floating police station just beside the prison doesn't have a way to remotely deactivate the prison's defensive gun turrets (that shoot down the police space ships) or to release knock-out gas in case of a prison riot?  Really?  I really don't like to talk so negatively about something that a lot of people worked on for probably a long period of time, but this film just isn't all that great.

Lockout is...a very mixed bag of an action film with hints of greatness that just falls short.

The Bearded Bullet.

American Reunion Trimmed Review

Hello, Internet!  I sort of grew up with the American Pie series of films.  Well, more so the first than the rest.  I actually don't think I've seen any of the sequels..anyway, the first film seemed to capture what that generation was going through and experiencing way back in 1999.  I was a bit younger than the characters in the film, but it was still highly relatable.  Now this film comes along, over a decade after characters have graduated, and puts them all together for their just-over-ten-years-reunion.  And it was perfectly adequate.

In short, I laughed a few times during this film, but not nearly as much as I had anticipated.  Seeing these guys (and girls) in their prime, having crazy times in high school was fun and entertaining.  Now that most of them have families/wives/established lives it just isn't that fun to watch them get into zany antics that could jeopardize their real lives.  I'm not generally a fan of breaking up a couple (that I like) in a film and plenty happened in this film that could've resulted in that.  And I just couldn't shake that feeling.  Yes, Stiffler is still awesome and crude as always...and happens to give us the best gag in the entire film (it involves jet skis and a cooler full of beer - that's all I'll say).  Overall I experienced some nostalgia seeing the crew back together, but at the end of the day it just didn't live up to my comedic expectations.  If you're a fan of the series, there's plenty here for you to enjoy and be all nostalgic about.  It just didn't hit me in that way.

American Reunion is a perfectly adequate adult comedy that just doesn't deliver laughs like it should.

Bullet out.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods Trimmed Review

Greetings and salutations, Internet!  The Cabin in the Woods is finally here!  For those of you who haven't been following the project, it was conceived by the nerdtastic Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard (co-writer of Cloverfield), who wrote the initial screenplay on their own.  MGM financed the picture, but after going bankrupt, the completed film fell into limbo (along with The Hobbit and what is now Skyfall).  Lionsgate picked up distribution and now its here.

I really can't say much about the film - saying much of anything will ruin and spoil everything.  In this case, the less you know the more you'll enjoy it.  If you haven't seen any of the trailers...don't.  What I will say is that a group of five twenty-somethings (including the now-famous Chris Hemsworth and Fran Kranz from the ill-fated Dollhouse) travel to a cabin in the woods.  And that its a horror film, with a good bit of comedy.  Its actually so incredibly inventive and original that I can't say much more about the plot.  It blew any and all expectations that I had well out of the water, and has propelled itself to the top of my list so far this year.

I will also say that the cast is absolutely fantastic.  Richard Jenkins is awesome as always, and the rest of the cast is quite good.  The standout, for me, is the aforementioned Fran Kranz.  He's quite fantastic and laugh-inducing as the typical stoner dude.  There isn't a weak link the group.

If you enjoy horror films at least a tiny bit (I really don't like horror films yet I continue to subject myself to them...) I implore you to stop reading this and go watch it immediately.  Don't watch any trailers or footage, don't read any spoiler-filled reviews.  Just go watch this film.  Perhaps in a few weeks I'll write a bit more, including spoilers, after everyone's had a chance to experience this magnificent film.  I cannot recommend The Cabin in the Woods highly enough.

The Cabin in the Woods is an utterly fantastic and unforgettable modern horror film.

The Bearded Bullet is...going to have nightmares :(