Archive for the Action Category

Pacific Rim Review

Posted in 4 Stars, Action, Anime, New Movie, Review, Sci-Fi with tags , , , , , , , , on July 16, 2013 by russellsreviews

There are a lot of genre’s in film. Spy, romantic comedy, adventure, horror, super hero, drama, science fiction, and martial arts just to name a few. Genre’s sometimes slowly fade, but never fully go away and sometimes make huge comebacks like what we have seen with westerns and the musicals lately. That cannot be said about the monster genre. No, I’m not counting those really awful movies on the Sci-Fi channel like Sharknado. I’m not even talking about Frankenstein or wolfman. I”m talking about the giant city stomping monster movies like King Kong and Godzilla. The last one ever made was in Gamera the Brave in Japan in 2006 and the last anyone in the west would remember is the remake of King Kong by Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame just the year before. Pacific Rim is director Guillermo Del Toro and Legendary Pictures attempt to bring back this beloved idea to a newer generation. If Guillermo Del Toro stopped there he would have already been my hero. Del Toro then tries to infuse some elements of mecha anime that have never been attempted in live action before. The very thought of this mix is enough to make my head explode of excitement.  Does Pacific Rim deliver on my high expectations and more importantly is it accessible for the mainstream to sell without loosing it’s purpose?

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Pacific Rim twists the formula for giant monster movie. The world has been thrown into terror being constantly attacked by giant monsters called Kaiju. Instead of scientists scrambling to make some ray gun or bomb to stop them, or having the planet’s own kaiju take it down which we have seen over and over, humanity fights back by building towering robots to defend themselves. This theme has been used over and over in anime, but has never been attempted in live action for whatever reason. I imagine the cost of making a story like this believable and digestible for the American public would be a master undertaking and a huge gamble. I can not give anymore props to Del Toro and Legendary pictures for taking on this project. The world is fully realized and the giant almost human looking robots called Jaegers are sight to behold. You will scream with joy in your head every time one launches or lands. Each evil Kaiju has a unique look to them and fighting abilities making every battle different and a surprise. Sparks, metal, buildings, and even pilots will get tossed around in the warfare. This is the reason why you see this film.

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The human characters are just as varied and over the top. The characters of the film will be where most people will start to distance themselves from the film however. All of the side characters are played to their part times 10. This was done on purpose and each character is a common trope in the mecha genre. The scientist who is a little more interesting in the enemy than he should be, the mysterious cool general,  overly bully co-worker that gives no respect, and a girl with a troubled past. If you are unfamiliar with these archetypes these characters might come off a little ridiculous and off putting. They all still fair better than the lead character Raleigh Becket. I don’t know if they were trying to have a normal center in all the madness, but instead he comes off too safe and quite frankly very boring. I cared more about the funny scientist dying in the middle of the film than I did about Becket in final fight scene which isn’t a good thing. I don’t really blame the actor fully because I just think there wasn’t much room for him to perform. Then again neither did Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost the leader of the Jaeger team and he still was fierce and more memorable so maybe I can. Idris Elba is a beast of an actor and needs to be in more movies. Charlie Day as the quirky Dr. Newton Geiszler was my favorite character for how he reacted to everything was probably the same way I see myself reacting to a world where their are freaking giant robots and world destroying monsters duking it out.

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The main gripes of Pacific Rim is that dialogue of the characters let down the film for achieving true greatness and might keep more people from seeing how ground breaking this film is. The concept was high, the world was brilliant, art design was perfect, and the ideas were smart, but somewhere some of the lines just failed to elevate it. The dialogue was not stupid like in transformers it’s just sometimes wooden. I give it credit for adding in anime elements, but I wish Del Toro took it a little farther with the weapons and really show of how dark and creative anime can get. Speed Racer did a much better job translating anime into the big screen and wished it used that movies techniques of story telling between the fight scenes. This review sounds like I’m bashing the film, but I”m not. Pacific Rim is awesome for what it is and I strongly recommend it, but I’m afraid some people might only see the flaws and not notice the nuances of what’s going on. I just wanted them to take it to that next level so bad.

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I loved Pacific Rim. I loved the action and the chances it takes. I”m so happy it was made and Guillermo Del Toro deserves big praise and more fans. He just made me a fan. I just wish they took a little more chances on the story and main character. It’s a fun ride. Just sadly don’t expect anything more than beautifully choreographed Kaiju vs Jaeger action. It’s a summer film not based on a old TV series, video game, a remake, or comic book. Pacific Rim is original and deserves to be applauded. If you have any itch to see it please do. This might be your one and last chance to experience this genre.

4 STARS

Star Trek: Into the Darkness Review

Posted in 4 Stars, Action, New Movie, Review, Sci-Fi with tags , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2013 by russellsreviews

In 2009 J. J. Abrams breathed new life in the Star Trek series. He managed to update it to make it more exciting for a newer generation while at the same time keeping everything in place to appease the long time trekkies. The film was not just smart science fiction, but just plain fun to watch for anyone. J.J. tries to keep the momentum going with it’s long awaited sequel Star Trek: Into the Darkness.

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Star Trek: Into the Darkness faces a new set of challenges that might be harder to deal with that the original reboot. Now that the new Star Trek universe has been set how can you top the first? If you push for more action and please the new fan based you run the risk of disappointing your very loyal fan base. Do you take the chance of a more traditional route building on what you made and greatly encouraging the trekkies that the reboot was more than a one hit wonder, but then loose the mainstream push you gathered? J.J. Abrams once again decides to take the same approach as his first and tries to get both.

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Trying to accomplish both in this sequel the film starts off with a high concept adventure movie and then about half way through throws  a twist bringing back a famous story from the original show. Just like before the movie does a great job of explaining how this event could happen before it did in the show and fits very well being something new as well making it feel like it fits into Star Trek lore perfectly. That being said it does bring about the only negative I can see in the film. If you are a long time Star Trek fan you will probably guess who this person/twist is and even though the writers flip the roles you will know how it ends. It’s still exciting seeing it all play out, but it does lower the score of the film in my eyes.

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I can not finish this review without talking about the break out performance of actor Benedict Cumberbatch playing John Harrison. You might recognized him since he played Sherlock Holmes in the perfect British TV mini series Sherlock and if you don’t you will remember him now. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto reprise their roles so well that the fact that he even stood out above them only testify how great he really is. He out does the original character and bring not just charisma, but true superiority. (Hint, hint)

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Star Trek: Into the Darkness is just as smart and entertaining as the first reboot. All of the crew members you know and love get their time to shine and perhaps even more so. Did I forget to mention Klingons? Yup, the fan favorite race finally makes an appearance and with a unique interesting take, but don’t worry they keep the essentials of what makes them so popular. This new Star Trek doesn’t surpass the original only because it looses some steam because it retreads some old ground, but everything else is done so well its only as good as the first. Sometimes when a film tries to better its former sometimes it can get a little ridiculous and loose its heart. Being only just as good as the awesome first film isn’t a bad thing. In this reviewer’s eyes that’s a huge compliment. When this film ends you will be ready to go on a five year voyage of the Starship Enterprise. To boldly go where no man as gone before.

4 STARS

Captain America: The First Avenger Review

Posted in 4 Stars, Action, New Movie, Review, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on August 14, 2011 by russellsreviews

Captain America: the First Avenger isn’t the patriotic hero first adaptation to live action. He has been in several TV series and even already has his time on the big screen. Unfortunately, all of which have been embarrassing failures for the character. Following all of the successful marvel movies of late marvel feels like its a ripe time to try again. Captain America is a integral part of the upcoming ground breaking Avengers movie and must get it right this time. Does Captain America make you feel proud to be an American or leaves you walking out shaking your head?

Steve Rogers is a very patriotic young man who just simply wants to do his part in helping America fight the axis powers during world war two. Only problem is he is a small meek boy with asthma that no military division would accept him.  Dr. Abraham Erskine manages to see past that weak body and sees the greatness within and gives him a chance to be a part of the experimental super solider program. Rogers’ body is reborn and gets power any other man would dream of. He slowly becomes a ray of hope for America and inspires the country to do the necessary sacrifices that it takes to beat the greatest evil the world has ever known.

What’s odd in this film for comic book fans is that Chris Evans the actor who play Steve Rogers has played a famous marvel character before, the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four. Not only that but he mostly plays cocky wish cracking characters and fans have been really nervous how he would played such a strong reserved character. The film quickly puts that to bed and he actually carries most of the film. Chris Evans is a lot better actor than people give him credit for and it shows in Captain America. Along side of him are perfectly cast actors who all help elevated the film which did its part making people take this story seriously. Tommy Lee Jones is great as a military sergeant and the always good Hugo Weaving plays the Red Skull with the perfect amount of crazy. The always great Stanley Tucci plays another stand out role as the Dr. Erskine. The one that stands out the most for me is Hayley Atwell who plays the British agent Peggy Carter. She shines in every scene and mostly because of her we get to have one of the best romantic relationship in any comic movie.

The film does a great job of keeping it real and yet still giving tons of winks to the comic fans that even the more experienced fans might miss. The progression of his costume is spot on and make even the hardcore purist happy. Keeping things real hurt the film a little however. The fight scenes are good, but nothing stands out or is memorable. He uses his shield enough and its never silly, but nothing really creative that we have seen in the comics. Another aspect of the film that hurt it is the bookends of the story. Captain America opens with people finding his body frozen in ice then flashbacks to how he came to be. I don’t have problem with this kind of story telling, but I think it was handled very wrong. When the climax of the film is pretty much ruined because you know he is going to crash and get frozen even if you had no prior knowledge of the character. The most important scene where he wakes up in modern New York was shot intensely, but when he wakes up and the film has already shown the card that he gets found takes a lot of punch of it. If they would have left that prologue out and tweaked the ending some Captain America good of been more than a good film, but one of the best comic book films ever made.

Captain America is not only fun like Thor or Iron man, but also has tons of moral messages that in my mind make the best comic book films. They’re not as subtle as the Spider-Man films, but you can appreciate them. Even his shield has a meaning to what the USA really stands for. Captain America is special because he represents a time and moral clarity that America has forgotten. A type of hero that can’t be made anymore.

4 STARS

Thor Review

Posted in 3.5 Stars, Action, New Movie, Review with tags , , , , on June 3, 2011 by russellsreviews

The summer of 2011 is filled with comic book movies. Thor, however, has a total different battle than the rest. Even though very important in the Marvel comic universe, Thor is the least known for the casual crowd and has the hardest chance of capturing the viewers acceptance. The previews and hype of the Avengers movie got people to go see it, but does the film have enough to be the next Iron Man or is it a Elektra?

Thor is a son of the most powerful Odin whose sole purpose is to protect all worldly realms from the once mankind greatest evil the frost Giants. Thor is handsome and strong beyond belief and next in line to the throne. His abilities have made him reckless and arrogant so Odin punishes him by stripping his powers and sending him and his legendary hammer to learn humility on our planet Earth.  

My biggest worry for the film was how well they were going to be able to translate the world from where Thor was from, Asgard, to the big screen. I was pleasantly surprised that they toned down the things they needed yet kept what made it so fascinating in the first place. The armor Thor, Odin, and Loki wore wear believable and yet still stylized and other worldly. Asgard was so interesting that you will wish they spent more time in that realm than on Earth.

This movie could have very have been too cheesy and ended up a disaster, but I was impressed how much they pulled it off. Part of that is how well the actors brought so much emotion to something they could have just cashed in and let the special effects do all the work. Actors Anthony Hopkins , Tom Hiddleston, and Chris Hemsworth all did a commendable job. Natlie Portman, who brought her acting skills to a new level in Black Swan, seemed to simply enjoying playing more simple role was the weakest link to the film, but in the end wasn’t that bad.

Although not digging as deep or as good as  the Spiderman,  first two X-men, and Batman films it’s still as entertaining as Iron Man or any other summer movie. Thor even holds well as its own movie rather than just one hyped tie in movie that Iron Man 2 was for the upcoming Avengers movie. Thor isn’t one of the best comic books movies ever made, but its upper middle and with all the things that could have gone wrong I call this movie a nice success.

3.5 STARS

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

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Posted in 5 Stars, Action, Comedy, Drama, New Movie, Review, video games with tags , , , , , , , on August 15, 2010 by russellsreviews

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is  very appropriately named. Just like Scott is fighting for love and the social status quo, so is the film itself fighting against really every other movie ever made. Scott Pilgrim vs the World doesn’t pull any punches or ask itself how can I make this work for the mass audience.  Just watching the trailer for this film a lot of people will just think oh well a geeky flashy film for the “Gamer” generation, but they couldn’t be farther from the actual truth. There is always a balance between style and substance. Scott Pilgrim manages a rare feat. It says you can massive amounts of both.

Scott Pilgrim is your less than normal guy. He doesn’t have that many friends and just enjoys just hanging out, playing video games, and listening to music more than partying. He is socially challenged which more guys can relate to than you know. Scott meets Ramona Flowers, literally the girl of his dreams, at a party and luckily manages to get a date. There is just one problem. Actually seven problems. All of Ramona’s Exes have formed a evil league that dedicate to make her life miserable and kill anyone she dates.

Scott Pilgrim vs the World is based of a indie comic by Bryan Lee O’Malley and doesn’t hide from that fact. Every comic movie before always asked itself OK how can I make this work in the real world. To director Edgar Wright credit this one doesn’t. He didn’t try to make a movie but hide where its from or who its for. The action is fast and every punch or feeling gets animated with text straight of a comic. They even use parts of the comic for flashbacks. Its not just comics, the film is overloaded with pop culture and video game call backs. The Universal studios title sequence alone got me grinning more than any movie in years. If you pay attention all of the music cues in the film are done with famous 8 bit music from Zelda and Mario.

Scott Pilgrim isn’t just love letter to geeks, it has surprisingly emotional stuff. The romantic elements will have your heart pounding and rooting for someone more than half of romantic movies made nowadays. Scott Pilgrim does a great job of giving people an accurate telling of whats going on in nice guys head when trying to get the girl.  The film also has a great coming of age story for most of its characters and you can see real growth on how to deal with relationships and other people’s feelings. If Scott Pilgrim vs. the World didn’t have all these things going for it it would have just been simply amusing and then quickly faded and forgotten. These issues give the film true staying power.

The movie just hit all the right notes for me. Not just the story, but how everything was cut, transitioned, and brought out with such enthusiasm just made it unbelievably awesome. The movie’s really only flaw is that unless you grew up on going to the comic shop on Wednesdays, staying up late at night on soda playing Nintendo, or experience true rejection pretty much most of the jokes might seem over the top to you. Normally I take things like that into count when I rate the movie, but this movie is so special and unique I have to only look at who it’s trying to reach and accomplish and it did that in spades. Although, even if your not a geek gamer there is still tons of things to love and get. I hope this becomes like the movie Inception and people recognize that there are still fantastic movies being made and go out and see it. The biggest compliment I can give is the Scott Pilgrim vs the World really has just created a new genre that I hope grows and lives on.

5 STARS

Kick Ass Review

Posted in 4 Stars, Action, Comedy, New Movie, Review with tags , , , , , , on April 25, 2010 by russellsreviews

Lets face it, there has been a lot of movies based of comics the past few years. You knew with hits like Wanted, 300, and Iron Man that soon every movie studio under the sun was going to try to take a stab at it. Soon the movie industry was littered with average to just plain awful comic book adaptations. From just looking at the previews people unfamiliar might think Kick Ass is just another average comic book film, however nothing could be farther from the truth. Kick Ass stands on its own and brings something original to the table.

Dave Lizewski is just an average high school student with problems that every nerd, geek, outcast, or loner can relate to. He doesn’t have many friends, most kids make fun of him, and the only thing he is really good at is being invisible to the opposite sex. One day walking home Dave and two friends get robbed while someone just stands there and watches it happen. This event sparks a desire in him that maybe he can be a somebody and make a difference in the world. Dave’s soultion? Yep, become a superhero!

What sets Kick Ass apart from all the other movies is that its actually based in the real world. He doesn’t have super powers or super rich with tons of gadgets. All he is an average Joe who just wants to help people and stand up for them. His first attempt at crime fighting goes horribly wrong with him stopping no one, gets his “ass kicked”, and takes months to recover. Whats also cool is that the movie touches upon what a superhero in this day and age has to deal with being put on you tube or facebook. To help fight crime he creates a facebook page where people can vent there problems or make requests for Kick Ass to right the wrongs. His success won’t last sadly, and it doesn’t take long for the real world to finally catch up to him. The movie shifts enter a new gear and shows you just how messed up you have to be to really commit to fighting crime. Enter the real superheroes Hit Girl and Big Daddy.

Nicolas Cage  as big daddy and Chloe Moretz as Hit Girl steal the show. Especially Chloe Moretz, who after this role might just be considered the best child actor. This is where I feel sorry for Aaron Johnson who plays Dave. Aaron does a great job and prob is the best actor for that role, but Hit Girl and big Daddy are such cool and dynamic characters I think every viewer will wish they got more screen time. All of the terrific fight scenes are through them. I know that no matter you ultimately might feel about the movie you will at least walk away from it loving these two characters. Seriously, they are iconic characters that will be remembered for years to come.

Kick Ass is one of those films that what make it ground breaking and unique to some also make it a little confusing and silly for others. Most comic movies change some things to make more appealing for the masses, not Kick Ass. It doesn’t hold many punches back and its a comic book film for comic fans. Unless you know the pain of being a comic geek some of the humor will fly over you and come off awkward. Even if your not really a comic fan, I still feel the movie is enough of a rush to entertain you anyway. My one complaint is that even though all of that is said,  the movie still didn’t go far enough. For example, Dave ends up getting the girl and they don’t go into as much detail about his father not accepting him. Still, Kick Ass is one great ride that will be in the hearts for some and a fun time for others.

4 STARS