Archive for the 3 Stars Category

Ong Bak 3 review

Posted in 3 Stars, Action, Foreign with tags , , , , , , on October 13, 2010 by russellsreviews

The final chapter in Tony Jaa’s experimental Ong Bak sequels is here. Ong Bak 2 ended in a controversial cliffhanger which might be the first a martial art movie ever to do so in my memory. That film also took a lot of fans back by change of tone, characters, and even time period. It had its problems, but it totally delivered where it counts in these films with tons of brutal creative fights that you can watch over and over. Unfortunately, with Ong Bak 3 I can’t say the same.

Ong Bak 3 starts off with the aftermath of Tien(Tony Jaa) being captured by his family murderer. He is tutored and beaten only to narrowly escape with the help of his childhood love Pim. Tien is now a crippled man and looses all hope. Tien learns from a Buddhist monk that not all is lost and there was a greater meaning to everything that has happened and there is way for him to resurrect to his pure self. An interesting concept for sure, but this rehabilitation takes up a big part of the picture and by the time he has regained himself most people might have already tuned out.

This built up would have been saved by a long fight scene but is only followed up with short but sweet ones. Tony Jaa pulls of some crazy moves, but his fight scenes work best when his fights build upon each other and don’t end quickly. The final fight with the true evil of Tien quest is great and worth repeating and isn’t as short as the other fights but somehow manages to feel less epic that Jaa’s previous films.

You can tell that Tony Jaa is putting 100% on and behind the screen. The film is shot very well and the set pieces are wonderful. Ong Bak 3 just suffers from bad pacing that makes things seem off compared to before.  I’m pretty sure most these problems are caused with Tony Jaa’s much publicized stress on the product and eagerly await his next film now that this whole thing is behind him. However , I think if you are a fan of Tony Jaa you should see this film, but if you just want to see a good martial art flick or have high expectations you are going to come away a little disappointed.

3 STARS

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District 9 Review

Posted in 3 Stars, Action, New Movie, Review, Sci-Fi on August 17, 2009 by russellsreviews

District 9 is a very hyped and stylish marketed Sci-Fi thriller. Much like the movie Cloverfield, the movie had a crazy good viral marketing and with a low budget hopes word of mouth will carry it to huge success. After seeing the film, District 9 will no doubt be a big hit and receive many fans, but does the movie itself really earn any of it?

The movie starts much different than you expect. The history of District 9 is told in the style of a documentary with many interviews filling you in some big secret. This technique was a very good choice as it brought realism to the film, and makes you feel these events are really happening in our world today. Then the film goes back and forth from like you are watching a news show to an episode of COPS. Wikus Van DE Merwe is the smarmy agent who is assigned the difficult task of relocating the aliens, or illegal immigrants, away to a new district farther away and out of sight for mass public. The aliens have become a nuisance to the people and must be evicted. Wikus and his men mock and ridicule the aliens, who are racially called Prawns, almost enjoy torturing the Aliens out of house and home.

During one home eviction Wikus stumbles on some strange fluid and accidentally sprays himself which painfully and slowly starts turning him into the hated Prawn. Being one of them, he finally sees the injustices and crimes the aliens have been victim of. With the help of alien oddly named Christopher Johnson and his son try find this strange liquid that will not only turn him human again, but it also works as fuel to the alien’s spaceship.

The enjoyment of District 9 are based on two things, action and the supposedly deep political message. It try’s to be different and original, but under the interesting premise, its all been done before. The government is really behind everything bad is nothing new. A war crazy solider check. Corrupted political leader check. When critics and the buzz around it was great because of twist and turns, those turns better not be predictable. The twists would only seem surprising to people whose main exposure to Sci-Fi is Halo. Not to mention that the message it tries to send is complete victimization. In one interview in the first part of the film they complain that the prawns commit crimes and just run to humans and steal their cell phones for just no good reason. Later, when Wikus is running from the cops he runs up to a person and steals their cell phone. In a nut shell the movie was trying to say that all crime, acts of theft, or violence are just a product of the environment and the government or the man is the real reason for crimes. I’m sure this might be the case for very few , but for someone who has been around that crowd and being with someone who rose above all that crap find that to be just a simple denial of truth and lack of responsibility for their actions. If you happen to be a person who believes in this you will likely eat this film up. The action does live up to the hype. The weapons are somewhat creative and all pack a punch. The giant robot suit at the end of the film is realistically done and beat any action in Transformers 2. District 9 should get credit for creating the most humanity in the aliens Chris Johnson and his son since E.T.

District 9 will no doubt gain tons of followers from the action alone, but its not enough to elevate it to the masterpiece others have been calling it. For a movie that is trying to be deep and mature it sure does have immature and shallow way to look at poverty and crime. The movie is well done and has great special effects, but its benefiting a lot from its marketing tactics and the idea of what the movie is going to be when you go in the theater to what the movie really is.

3 STARS

The Sky Crawlers Review

Posted in 3 Stars, Anime, Foreign, New Movie, Review on August 7, 2009 by russellsreviews

The Sky Crawlers is director’s Mamoru Oshii newest film, the man behind one of the most famous animes of all time Ghost in the Shell. Oshii doesn’t really make a lot of movies partly because his movies are so jam packed with ideologies and normally have a deeper meaning on what he thinks is going on with society. The Sky Crawlers attempts to do the same the film,but gets too bog down with slow pacing for you even to care.

The film takes place in an alternate history where young pilots have to defend Japan everyday from bandits and attacks other countries. The film opens in a intense realistic dogfight and it quickly gets you in mood for anther great work from Oshii. However, that’s mostly all the action you are going to get. Which normally in movies like this wouldn’t be a big deal, but the movie takes so long to develop and progress only the fully commended won’t have trouble keeping their eyes open. The characters all of too much subtle movement and the characters design are all bland. None of them stand out or stay with you. The director said he went with this approach to show how mundane and boring their lives have become, which I get, but the problem is that this goes on for too long. There are too many scenes with really no purpose.  There is a crazy unique twist more than half way through, but most will already have checked out. Outside the few dogfights and the bowling ally scene the camera mostly stays stationary. Which, again, normally would OK in a movie like this, however when you are doing a deep intellectual and there is very little dialogue movement or creative camera angles its hard to keep your attention until the reveals.

For people who can make it through there is a unique story. The young pilots turn out to be Kildren, a race of people for some reason who can’t die. The government and companies stages  a war between them in a endless loop to keep them busy, money, to give people something to route for, or simply for entertainment for the masses. All ideas are touched upon but each one so little, it was almost like Oshii was more interested in the world he created rather than the story itself.

The Sky Crawlers has to get some points for trying something ambitious, but it’s plagued with bad overall execution. It has a story worth seeing, I hate to say it,but with better direction could have been just as ground breaking as Ghost in the Shell or Patlabor.

3 STARS

Moon Review

Posted in 3 Stars, Review, Sci-Fi on July 8, 2009 by russellsreviews

Independent Sci-Fi films have been on a roll the last few years. Solaris, Children of Men, and Sunshine were all not only smart and deep, but touched on topics relevant for years to come. This year best chance to continue this is Duncan Jones director debut, Moon. Does Moon keep or break the streak?

Sam Bell has spent under the last 3 years mining a new energy source from the moon.  I guess in order to save the company money, he has spent the whole time alone, only with the help robot servant GERDY voiced by Kevin Spacey for companionship. With only two weeks left in his contract he has a bad accident and suffers bad injuries. When Sam awakens GERDY tells him he has been forbidden by HQ to continue working or go outside and has to wait for a rescue ship before he can finish out his contract. Sam eager to finally get home to his wife and kid tricks GERDY and goes out to the moon surface to investigate the scene of the accident himself. He finds a body at the crash site and much to his surprise its him, another Sam Bell. Is the other Sam kind of impostor like a clone, alien, or something worse? or is he simpling starting to go insane from all the solitude?

Sadly, you don’t get very long to ponder these questions. Not much longer in the film GERDY just flat out tells him/them the mystery between the two Sams. This takes the film from a psychological thriller that you are expecting from the trailer to more of a run of the mill Sci-Fi movie.  As a result Moon looses at lot of its intensity, uniqueness, and intrigue.  Instead of exploring the depths of true loneliness and being away from humanity in cold dark space, the film instead to focus solely on a conspiracy cover up. There are still good moments, but you can’t help but feel Moon lost it’s edge.

Moon is a solid movie, with even better acting from its lead  actor Sam Rockwell, you just have to change what you were expecting to fully enjoy it. Even still, they took the film in the wrong direction and missed a chance for a greater experience.

3 STARS