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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

[9.00/10] Aftershock (2010)


Aftershock (2010)

Feng Xiaogang’s disaster drama "Aftershock" is based on the 1976 Tangshan earthquake that claimed the lives of at least 240,000 people, making the tragedy the largest earthquake of the 20th century by death toll. It deals with the heartbreaking fallout between a mother, played by Fan Xu, and her quake-surviving daughter, played by Jingchu Zhang, and their eventual reconciliation. "Aftershock"'s plot is multi-layered and complex with all the small sub-plots introduced during the developement of the story, but the film is so perfectly-paced and the setting is so picturesque, it's super-gripping and enormously entertaining. Director Feng Xiaogang doesn't deliver an ordinary disaster film that relies on heavy CGIs and the earthquake itself, but one that touches deeply the essence of our heart and soul, by affecting some truly important themes of personal human drama such as sacrifice, loss, sorrow, hope, survival, love. The entire cast deliver stellar performances. Zhang Jingchu's acting is remarkable. Her performance is very believable and touching, without being overly melodramatic. Chen Daoming is just as incredible, as the caring father of Zhang. Xu Fan, who is Feng Xiaogang’s wife in real life, delivers a sensational, emotionally-charged performance as the mother, who expresses sincere grief at the loss of her daughter to perfection! The earthquake sequence is so impressively-handled and so terrifying, it's more frightening and chilling than any other scary scene in horror movie this year. It's sad and shocking, yet breathtaking to watch. Feng Xiaogang's direction is fascinatingly elaborated and truly top-notch, and the script is precisely and smartly written, paying great attention to all the characters in the film and interactions between them. The cinematography is rich in details, striking and truly arresting, capturing the period incredibly well. Aside from the predictable melodramatic climax, "Aftershock" is a masterfully-crafted, visually-spectacular and emotionally-powerful disaster drama, that perfectly combines fiction with actual historical events. A triumph of style AND substance!

  • My Rating: 9.00/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes: N/A
  • IMDb: 7.5/10

[4.50/10] Get Him to the Greek (2010)


Get Him to the Greek (2010)

A spin-off of Nicholas Stoller's sharp and extremely funny previous film, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall", "Get Him to the Greek" comes up short in many ways, and is unfortunately a mild disappointment. The story follows Aaron Green as he attempts to escort Aldous Snow to his long overdue comeback gig but struggles to keep the dishevelled rock star away from drink, drugs and desperate women. It sounds like the perfect recipe for a comedy but as a content, "Get Him to the Greek" is just another blur of pointlessly cyclical jokes, cussing, sex, drugs and drinking. Мainly the latter two. The rude sex scenes, in particular, are totally unnecessary, and yet again are a constant theme throughout the movie and add nothing to the actual storyline. Russell Brand as Aldous Snow brings very little acting ability, and he's rather annoying most of the time. While Jonah Hill has some comedic timing he just doesn't feel right as a lead. Both lead's characters are transparently thin and truly unlikable and try to entertain with gross out humor and ridiculous actions. Russell and Jonah are completely outshined by P. Diddy, who delivers a hilarious performance and offers a fair amount of true laughs in the film. Elizabeth Moss is really cute and refreshing, and just as Diddy, she's funnier than the two leads. The interactions between her and Brand's character could be considered as the highlight of the movie. Technically, the film is so unmpressive, I can't even comment on this aspect. Occasionally amusing and ultimately forgettable, "Get Him to the Greek" isn't nearly as good, funny and entertaining as its predecessor.

  • My Rating: 4.50/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 73% (6.3/10)
  • IMDb: 6.9/10

[3.50/10] Rovdyr a.k.a. Manhunt (2008)


Rovdyr

a.k.a.

Manhunt (2008)

After some surprisingly good Norwegian horror flicks I've seen in the past couple of years, like "Cold Prey" and its sequel, "Dead Snow" and "Detour", I was expecting yet another decent Scandinavian horror. Sadly, with "Manhunt", the case wasn't the same. This slasher was so dull, so completely plot-less, so pathetically pointless and so 'entertaining', it literally put me to sleep. It's set in the 70's and follows a group of friends going camping in the woods. They stop at a remote truck stop and pick up a hitchhiker. S... read morehe is obviously scared and traumatized and this worsens as they head for the woods. Against her warnings, they stop the van and end up kidnapped by some psycho backwoodsmen. They wake up to the sound of a hunting horn and it doesn't take long to realize that they are the prey. Well, this movie was exactly as dumb as its synopsis sounds. The main characters were not only completely undeveloped, but also total morons, as they acted stupidly and illogically in almost every situation, whether is important or not. The acting was sub-par form almost everyone involved. Actually, the only things the actors, mainly females, had to do was running, looking terrified and screaming loudly. So unpredictable! Speaking of predictability, the whole story was very much so - it's been done million times before, and better. "Manhunt" also lacked tension and suspense. What we get is tons of gore and violence, and gruesomely killed innocent people, murdered without any motivation whatsoever. One a positive note, the gore and make-up effects were well-made and very convincing, as they made the death scene seem realistic. Direction was nothing to write home about. All in all, despite the excellent gore effects and well-handled death sequences, "Rovdyr" arguably remains the weakest slasher film Norway has ever delivered. It's unimaginative, poorly-crafted and offers zero entertainment value.

  • My Rating: 3.50/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes: N/A
  • IMDb: 5.0/10

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

[4.75/10] 30 Days of Night: Dark Days (2010)


30 Days of Night: Dark Days (2010)

I've never been a fan of the original "30 Days of Night" movie. It was slow-paced, unengaging, and it mostly relied on its nice visuals and flashy special effects. I thought it was mediocre at best and only mildly entertaining. Nevertheless, I decided to give this straight-to-DVD sequel a shot, and while "30 Days of Night: Dark Days" was far from terrible, it was a half step below its predecessor. It tells the story of Stella Olemaun, who after surviving the incidents in Barrow, Alaska, relocates to Los Angeles, where she intentionally attracts the attention of the local vampire population in order to avenge the death of her husband, Eben. The story is ambitious, but very flimsy, and stretched way too thin. The acting from all the actors involved was pretty average. Kiele Sanchez as Stella did an adequate job. Coiro, Baird and Perrineau gace belivable performances as the enthusiastic vampire killers. Troy Ruptash as Agent Norris was good, and looked pretty terrifying when he became a vampire. Mia Kirshner was very unconvicing as Vampire's "Mother Bee", Lilith. I thought her acting was laughably bad and I didn't believe for a moment that she's a Vampire queen. The special effects for a low-budget STV movie were surprisingly well-made, though nothing mind-blowing. The make-up and gore effects were decent as well, and did't look cheap as expected. The action sequnces are well-handled for most part and they're actually entertaining to watch. Although it was refreshing to see a change in the scenery, "Dark Days"' warehouse/tunnels/urban scenery was too simplistic and grim, and it became boring very quickly. The ending really let this film down, since it was very predictable. Actually, with bigger budget, more imaginatie story and more talented director, "Dark Days" could have get a theatrical release. It has its moments and it's visually-adequate, but it just did't provide enough thrills and rousing action sequences.

  • My Rating: 4.75/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 50% (2 Reviews)
  • IMDb: 4.9/10

[6.25/10] Please Give (2010)


Please Give (2010)

"Please Give" revolves around Kate and Alex, a couple living in New York City, along with their daughter Abby, who run a successful store specializing in vintage furniture. They purchase the apartment next door in order to expand their two bedroom Manhattan apartment. Their only problem is the old cranky lady, Andra, living in it, and that they've got to wait for her to die. Andra is cared for by her sweet granddaughter Rebecca who has no life, and is blatantly rejected by her other highly cynical granddaughter, Mary. Waiting for Andra to die becomes complicated when the two families' lives intersect. Arguably, "Please Give" is a movie in which nothing really major happens. However, the characters are complex, multi-dimensional, yet imperfect, and they are those who drive the whole story, and they all do it perfectly. All the performances from the ensemble cast are truly great. Rebecca Hall's character, also named Rebecca, is a genuine, caring and sympathetic, and probably the most likable character of all, although I continue to think that Hall isn't as great actress, as everyone claims she is. Yes, she's good, but she still has a lot to learn. Keener is fantastic as Kate, the generous, compassionate and purehearted wife, and Amanda Peet as Mary, the seductive self-centered granddaughter is excellent in her role and pure eye-candy. Oliver Platt also delivers as Alex. The writing is top-notch and all the dialogues in the film feel very natural. However, the lack of story leaves you wanting more, and the tone of the movie is a bit grim and depressing, which makes it not that easy to watch. Although a bit moody and pretentious, "Please Give" is a well-made and brilliantly-acted character-driven drama that is worth seeing.

  • My Rating: 6.25/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 88% (7.5/10)
  • IMDb: 7.4/10

Monday, September 27, 2010

CineMarvellous Preview: Trailer and Poster for Yuan Hong Bing's "Legend of the Swordsman"


Trailer and Poster for

Yuan Hong Bing's

Legend of the Swordsman


In wuxia comedy "Legend of the Swordsman" (a.k.a. "Legend of Blademaster"), directed by Yuan Hong Bing, starring Shi Xiao Long, He Jie, Law Kar Ying, Leung Kar Yan, who also served as the action director, Li Yu and Qiu Lin, a villager enlists the help of three blademasters to help defend the village against a group of brigands. The director Yuan Hong Bing thinks well of Shi Xiao Long, and intends to cast him in a pure wuxia film that he has been working on for two, three years, and hopes to invite Ching Siu-Tung to be the choreographer. "Legend of the Swordsman" is scheduled for release this November.



Source: wu-jing

Friday, September 24, 2010

[6.50/10] Resident Evil: Afterlife [3D] (2010)


Resident Evil: Afterlife [3D] (2010)

With a new villain and anew location, "Resident Evil: Afterlife" sees Alice trying to find Arcadia, the so-called last safe haven for survivors of the T-virus. She finds her old ally Claire from the previous installment, who has lost her memory, and together they meet up with a new group of survivors trying to get to Arcadia. Easier said than done when they're all surrounded by the undead. While I equally enjoyed the previous "Resident Evil" films, I found "Afterlife" to be the most spectacular of all four, in terms of action and special effects. Paul W.S. Anderson's direction is rather impressive this time, offering some creative camera angles and inventive camera movements. The 3D Fusion Camera System is used perfectly, and the end result is effective and at times impressive. I even dare to say, the 3D effects in "Resident Evil: Afterlife" are the best since James Cameron's "Avatar". It's that good! The stunning, obviously Matrix-inspired, action sequences are hugely entertaining to watch, alternating slow-motion shots with fast cuts. Sadly, aside from the visuals, everything else is still rather formulaic. The script is sub-par, and of course there are more characters to kill off, none of whom you would ever develop a connection with, with the exception of Alice, of course. Milla Jovovich is a total badass chick and born to play Alice. Luckily, she also can act, as she does a great job as the feminine gun totting action hero. Milla is what sells this film, because she's a natural when it comes to action films because of her on-screen presence. The other characters are really just there for Alice to have someone to interact with and for the zombies to have someone to kill. Ali Larter does well with the physically demanding parts of her role and just as good with her performance. Wesker, as the villain, speaks and moves just like Agent Smith, and that's not the only clear Matrix reference. "Prison Break"'s Wentworth Miller does just alright as Claire's brother Chris. The other supporting actors are mediocre at best. Formulaic and predictable, yet visually-arresting, "Resident Evil: Afterlife" offers eye-popping 3D effects and amazing kick-ass action sequences, that should please any action fan. Arguably, the best of the series!

  • My Rating: 6.50/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 21% (4.0/10)
  • IMDb: 6.6/10

[4.25/10] MacGruber (2010)


MacGruber (2010)

Short review: In the 10 years since his fiancee was killed, special op MacGruber has sworn off a life of fighting crime with his bare hands. But when he learns that his country needs him to find a nuclear warhead that’s been stolen by his sworn enemy, Dieter Von Cunth, MacGruber figures he’s the only one tough enough for the job. This movie isn't much different from other super sleuth comedies - there's nothing creative or unique here, same old story. It's lame, predictable and the dialogue is just pain stupid. There are no really big action sequences, or chases, just some stock warehouse shootouts. All of the special effects budget seems to have been spent on throat-ripping and bullet-wound effects. The acting is very arch and knowing and over-the-top, and while that may work in an occasional late night 1 minute sketch, it gets really wearing really quickly. MacGruber character himself is a cocky arrogant idiot, who acts illogically, and worst of all, takes himself way too seriously. The supporting cast is just okay - Phillippe plays it save and a bit stiff, while Wiig plays it cute and quiet. She is actually the funniest character in this movie. All the jokes and humor is moronic, and the sex scenes are just to gross to talk about. All in all, "MacGruber" is yet another example of why action comedy is my least favorite genre. It's outrageously stupid, at times amusing, but often embarrassing to watch.

  • My Rating: 4.25/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 48% (5.2/10)
  • IMDb: 5.7/10

[2.50/10] The Wild Hunt (2010)


The Wild Hunt (2010)

Short review: "The Wild Hunt" tells the story of Erik Magnusson, a young man who decides to follow his estranged girlfriend into a medieval re-enactment game when he discovers that she has been seduced by one of the players. As the down-to-earth Erik treks deeper into the game in search of his love, he inadvertently disrupts the delicate balance of the make-believe fantasyland. Rules are broken and the good-hearted game turns into a tragedy. While it sounds pretty interesting on paper, "The Wild Hunt" is lacking in execution. The plot is laughably bad, often confusing and completely nonsensical. The first 20 minutes of this film are so unwatchable, it's hard to sit through. Then the action arrives and, sadly, things get even worse. The film itself doesn't know in what genre it belongs to - drama? thriller? horror? It doesn't succeed in any of these. And because it suffers from identity crisis, it fails miserably in its attempt to be all-at-once. Technically, "The Wild Hunt" is a nightmare! The direction is poor and uninspired, the editing is so awful, it makes your eyes hurt. So does the horrendous lightning and boring forest scenery. Acting-wise, the film is just as bad. Not a single good performance from the actors involved. Cold as the country it comes from, "The Wild Hunt" is awfully-crafted, dull and boring modern medieval story, that is quite joyless and difficult to watch. Easily, one of year's worst films!

  • My Rating: 2.50/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 80% (6.6/10)
  • IMDb: 6.4/10

[5.50/10] Sans laisser de traces a.k.a. Traceless (2010)


Sans laisser de traces

a.k.a.

Traceless (2010)

Short review: This French crime thriller tells the story of Etienne, about to become president of his group, who wants to unburden himself an injustice he committed early in his career. Convinced by a friend of youth, he went to the man he injured at the time to compensate. But things go wrong and the man is killed by his friend. Etienne then attempted to get on with his life, but it gradually turns into a nightmare. Despite its well-constructed and rather clever story, "Traceless" is only mildly engaging, because it just doesn't offer enough thrills and twists. Benoît Magimel reminded me a lot of Sean Penn, well, only physically. He carries the whole film on his back, and gives an excellent performance as the successful and very generous, yet troubled and clouded with anxiousness, Etienne. François-Xavier Demaison as Etieene's friend Chambon, is completely miscast and he lets the film down with his unconvincing performance. Also, the chemistry between these two actors is almost non-existent. Technically, "Sans laisser de traces" is overall well-made, but nothing special in terms of visuals or direction. All in all, "Traceless" promises a lot, but sadly, delivers very little, and it's only fairly entertaining. And this is rather disappointing.

  • My Rating: 5.50/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes: N/A
  • IMDb: 6.4/10

[5.25/10] Princess Ka'iulani (2009)


Princess Ka'iulani (2009)

Short review: "Princess Ka'iulani" is the true story of a Hawaiian princess' attempts to maintain the independence of the island against the threat of American colonization. The film entertains as well as informs, but it feels like a made-for-TV production, due to its average script, mediocre direction and other technical weaknesses. Although most of us are pretty unfamiliar with this story, it's actually strictly by-the-numbers, and sadly, it often doesn't really seem like a true story. Q'Orianka Kilcher's performance is tense and emotional, but her badly-behaved and spoiled princess character doesn't make her very likable, at least for most of time. Shaun Evans as princess' beloved, Clive, is pretty stiff and uninteresting to watch. The supporting cast does a good job overall, but with not any real standouts. The romantic subplot between the princess and Clive is contrived, unnatural and rather unnecessary. Visually, "Princess Ka'iulani" is a marvel! Hawaiian scenery is breathtakingly gorgeous and very fairy tale-like. The scenes from 19th century England are also beautiful to watch, as are the costumes. Overall, "Princess Ka'iulani" is magical at times and very dull at others. It offers decent story and some nice visuals, but nothing much else.

  • My Rating: 5.25/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 21% (4.6/10)
  • IMDb: 5.4/10

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

[6.25/10] The Last Airbender [3D] (2010)


The Last Airbender [3D] (2010)

The fascinating previews and trailers for "The Last Airbender" built up an unbounded amount of anticipation in me. So yesterday I finally had the chance to see it. In 3D. For better or worse. Based on the first of three seasons of the American cartoon, "Avatar: The Last Airbender", it tells the story of four nations - Air, Water, Earth, Fire, tied by destiny, when the Fire Nation launches a brutal war against the others. A century has passed with no hope in sight to change the path of this destruction. Caught between combat and courage, Aang discovers he is the lone Avatar with the power to manipulate all four elements. Aang teams with Katara, a Waterbender, and her brother, Sokka , to restore balance to their war-torn world. Since I'm not a Shyamalan hater, nor a fan of the "Avatar" series, I'm judging the movie for what it was. Although it didn't meet my high expectations, I thought "The Last Airbender" was a visually striking, yet joyless fantasy flick, that offered stunning special effects and jaw-dropping visuals, but rather shallow story. Shayamalan certainly possesses some talent, so his direction didn't bother me. I thought it was decent, even creative at times. The multi-ethnic cast was interesting, but of the actors were totally miscast, the dialog was far too juvenile, the pace felt rushed, as we skipped from point to point, and almost all the characters were completely one-dimensional. The bending sequences were amazing though, and the the martial arts employed to control the four elements was rather impressive. The 3D was tremendously well-done, compared to other poor post-3D effects. "Clash of the Titans" anyone? Aside from the wooden acting and the nearly emotionless plot, "The Last Airbender" is a visually-marvellous and mildly entertaining fantasy flick, that isn't nearly as bad as some other people, mainly critics, claim it is.

  • My Rating: 6.25/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 06% (2.8/10)
  • IMDb: 4.4/10