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Saturday, June 30, 2012

CineMarvellous Preview: Action-Packed (Red Band) First Trailer for RZA's "The Man with the Iron Fists"

(Click to enlarge)

Action-Packed (Red Band)
First Trailer for RZA's
The Man with the Iron Fists

Universal finally released the first trailer for Wu-Tang Clan leader RZA's ambitious martial arts project "The Man with the Iron Fists", and oh boy, was it worth the wait! The trailer is absolutely incredible and a dream-come-true for all kung-fu geeks out there. It features frenetic fight scenes, superb cast and some truly stylized visuals - a combination that always excites. Check out the synopsis and trailer below.

Official synopsis: Quentin Tarantino presents "The Man with the Iron Fists", an action-adventure inspired by kung-fu classics as interpreted by his longtime collaborators RZA and Eli Roth. Making his debut as a director and leading man, RZA-alongside a stellar international cast led by Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu-tells the epic story of warriors, assassins and a lone outsider hero in nineteenth-century China who must unite to destroy the clan traitor who would destroy them all.

"The Man with the Iron Fists" hits US theaters this Fall.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

[7.25/10] The Pact (2012)

The Pact (2012)

Brief review: Based on his own short film of the same name, "The Pact" is Nicholas McCarthy's first-ever full-length movie in his career. This low-budget horror won't be every horror movie fan's cup of tea, as it's a bit odd, especially in its first half, but more patient viewers will be pleased with the end result, as it pays off big time towards the end. Don't get mislead by the familiarity of the plot and the seemingly trite premise, because even though the film looks kind of familiar at first sight, it has a lot more to offer then you think, and it's everything but predictable. It may confuse you a bit at some point, but just when you start to think it doesn't know in which direction to go, and it tries to handle too many horror sub-genres at once... BAM!!!...it proves you wrong, as suddenly everything falls into place and starts to make perfect sense. The movie successfully maintains its eerie tone throughout, but it never manages to get truly frightening. Well, not really. In the second half of the movie, there's one particular scene, featuring a truly shocking twist, that turns everything upside down, and unleashes all the scariness. The final 20 minutes of this film are so tense and terrifying, you'll find yourself on the edge of your seat, thinking: "OMG, where did that come from?!". Despite the lack of budget, the "The Pact" looks good, thanks to McCarthy's solid direction, plus, Caity Lotz does a nice job as the troubled Annie.

Overall summary: A slow beginning and some misleading plot cliches aside, "The Pact" is pretty much the perfect example of a low-budget horror movie done right - it's scary, unpredictable, involving, mysterious, and full of twists and shocks you definitely won't see coming.

This review is also featured on TVFilmNews.com

Friday, June 15, 2012

[5.75/10] Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Brief review: After Tarsem Singh's quirky take on Snow White earlier this year, first-time director Rupert Sanders brings us his darker version of the classic fairy tale. But while his "Snow White and the Huntsman" is bigger in budget and way more ambitious than "Mirror Mirror", it also has more flaws. After a rushed beginning, the uneven first hour of the movie continues to disappoint with clumsy storytelling, poor pacing and many incoherent, badly-edited scenes. Having said that, the movie somehow manages to redeem itself in its second half, becoming brisker, neater and way more entertaining. In terms of visuals, the movie is absolutely stunning to watch, but in a grim sort of way. The rich production design impresses with its imaginativeness and the color palette is appropriately murky. Shot on Kodak 65mm & 35mm anamorphic footage, "Snow White and the Huntsman" also has that authentic, old-fashioned feel about it, but that combined with the gloomy cinematography, makes it look a bit too fuzzy. The acting is hit-or-miss. Kristen Stewart's acting abilities have slightly improved, but it's quite obvious that she still can't overcome her awkwardness. Chris Hemsworth is perfectly-cast for the role, plus, he's strong enough as the Huntsman, without overshadowing the rest of the cast. The dwarfs often steal the show, but the real star of the movie is Charlize Theron, who fully inhabits her royally vicious character.

Overall summary: It boldly flaunts first class production values and darkly beautiful visuals, and the majority of the cast does a solid job, but "Snow White and the Huntsman" is let down by the lack of cohesive narrative, steady pacing and any truly memorable moments.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

[3.50/10] Piranha 3DD (2012)

Piranha 3DD (2012)

Brief review: Two years ago, French director Alexandre Aja managed to deliver a campy, funny, enjoyable and over-the-top gory reboot of "Piranha", that hit all the right notes. Now in 2012, "Feast" director John Gulager attempts to take things one step further, but fails miserably on pretty much ever single level. His rather unnecessary sequel promises to double the amount of horror, action and blood, but it's essentially a (much) worse version of 2010's "Piranha 3D", that relies heavily on the success of its well-executed predecessor. From the laughable double D title, to the terribly-written script, total lack of imagination and amateurish acting, everything about "Piranha 3DD" is a disaster, and it should have sent the movie straight out onto the DVD shelves, where it belongs. There's one decent thing about "Piranha 3DD", and this is the end credits, which are funnier than the actual movie. Visually and technically, this sequel also fails to succeed. Gulager's direction is all over the place, the CGIs are cheesy at best, and the piranhas themselves look like badly-made rubber toys. At least gore fans will be pleased, even though the gore itself is unimpressive and unsatisfying compared to the first movie and lacks the 'cool' factor. All the characters are one-dimensional and quite dumb, and Danielle Panabaker aside, not a single person here can act, not to mention David Hasselhoff's laughably bad cameo.

Overall summary: Unfunny, poorly-crafted and ridiculously copycat-ish, John Gulager's "Piranha 3DD" dares to compare itself with Aja's version, claiming it doubles the action, the terror, the gore and the nudity, but the only thing it doubles, no triples, successfully is the stupidity.

Monday, June 11, 2012

[5.50/10] Safe House (2012)

Safe House (2012)

Brief review: Swedish director Daniel Espinosa's latest feature film is basically a cat and mouse game, between a former CIA agent accused for betrayal and a young CIA agent, who wants to prove himself and get a promotion. "Safe House" is your typical spy action thriller, that you will certainly enjoy while watching, but forget as soon as it's over. The film ends up being that forgettable, because of its mediocre script, which tries to cover up its complete lack of originality and fresh ideas with an unnecessarily complex narrative and Espinosa's over-direction. On the top of that, it's twenty minutes too long, and it often feels like it's never going to end. Not everything's wrong with "Safe House" though. It's a technically well-made film that boasts some flashy visuals, brisk editing, excitingly frantic action scenes and tense car chases, that will surely give you a big adrenaline rush. However, it's the talky, slow-paced parts that makes it quite difficult to watch, at times even boring. Set in Cape Town, Africa, the movie takes full advantage of its fantastic location, providing the viewer with good amount of variety, and the vivid cinematography makes it even more visually appealing. It's kind of refreshing to see Denzel Washington playing the 'bad guy' in the movie. He should play villains more often, because he's actually good at that. Who knew? Ryan Reynolds acts passionately as usual, and the role suits him well.

Overall summary: Washington and Reynolds hardly disappoint, the hyper-saturated cinematography dazzles the eye, and the action scenes are sharp, edgy and well-executed, but Espinosa's "Safe House" plays it a bit too safe, and has far more weaknesses than strengths.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

[4.50/10] Project X (2012)

Project X (2012)

Brief review: Produced by "The Hangover I & II" creator, Todd Phillips, "Project X" is British-Iranian director Nima Nourizadeh's debut feature film, which follows three high school friends, who plan a huge birthday party in order to increase their popularity, but things go out of control. Since it's about arranging a fancy party, the party itself and nothing else, "Project X" is completely plotless. Worse than that, it's also laughless, which is definitely a bad thing for a movie labeled as comedy. It has one or two mildly amusing moments, but overall, it fails to deliver genuine laughter, and its crude and raunchy, yet silly, humor mostly falls flat. The characters involved are a bunch of shallow teenagers, who think and talk only about sex, parties, drugs and alcohol. But hey, isn't that the reality? It certainly is, therefore, as ridiculous as it may sound, "Project X" wins points for credibility. Since the POV style narrative is not usual for the comedy genre, director Nima Nourizadeh deserves credit for his creative approach. The movie is presented as a home video from multiple points of view and that works most of the time - some of the party scenes feel like a well-shot music video, and the joyous atmosphere is so inviting, it makes you wanna join the party. For better or worse, the young cast, selected through open casting call, act in front of the camera the exact same way they act in real life - like morons, yet kind of naturally.

Overall summary: The untypical for the comedy genre POV shooting style creates a joyful atmosphere and makes it all the more real, but sadly, in spite of its cheerful nature, "Project X" is nothing more than a stupid party movie about stupid teenagers doing stupid stuff.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

[9.25/10] Prometheus [3D] (2012) / [WE] (2017)

Prometheus [3D] (2012)
Update April 22, 2020: Prometheus [WE] (2017) - 9.25/10

Brief review: Scott's most talked-about movie in years, "Prometheus", can be considered a prequel to "Alien" as it's similar in style and has a last-minute connection with it, but it also works as a standalone piece, that deals with a completely different subject about discovering the origin of mankind. Even though "Prometheus" leaves more questions than it provides answers, it's still a constantly intriguing and quietly absorbing sci-fi horror with a taut, thoughtful and intelligent story, that grabs your interest and never lets go. There are some truly intense and frightening moments in it too, with the 'surgery' and 'engineer vs creature' scenes deserving a special mention. Even from the stunning opening sequence you could tell that "Prometheus" will be yet another strikingly-looking movie from Ridley Scott, who once again demonstrates his unique visual style and attention to detail. There's a certain sophistication about his direction, that makes the film gorgeous to look at, but in a subtle sort of way - the set design is imaginative, the cinematography is atmospheric, and the use of 3D is impressive. The cast is absolutely stellar. Noomi Rapace delivers an engaging performance as the clever and daring, yet fragile scientist, Elizabeth, Idris Elba is superb as the spaceship captain, Fassbender is perfectly-cast as the insensible android, and Ms. Theron draws the viewers' attention every time she shows up on screen.

Overall summary: Compelling, expertly-made and visually-stupendous, Ridley Scott's "Alien" prequel-esque "Prometheus" is an out-of-this-world cinematic experience, that lives up to the hype, thanks to the unlimited creativity and remarkable directing skills of its genius creator.

W.E. (2017): Revealing further key details thanks to the added unseen footage, the Workprint Edition is a further more complex, elaborate, and engrossing version of this prequel that's more than worth a look.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

[6.25/10] Iron Sky (2012)

Iron Sky (2012)

Brief review: This Finnish-German-Australian co-production, titled "Iron Sky", tells the story of Nazi Germans who, after being defeated during WWII back in 1945, escaped to the Moon where they built a space fleet to return in 2018 and conquer the Earth. Featuring bleached-out black man, female US president, tons of sarcastic political jokes, endless irony, amusing overacting and, of course, Nazis on the moon, "Iron Sky" is just as original as it's ludicrous. But it's intentionally ludicrous, in order to be funny, and it is. Well, it is not necessarily laugh-out-loud hilarious, but most of the gags work, and the movie's silliness isn't annoying at all. First-time director Timo Vuorensola deserves some credit for his original approach and spot-on execution. "Iron Sky" cost $7.5 million to make, but it looks at least twice as expensive. The special effects are polished, neat and rich in detail. The Nazi's swastika-shaped secret moon base is stunning to look at, the old-school spaceships are finely-designed, and the color filters used by the cinematographer add stylishness and retro feel to the visuals. Not to mention the impressive battle scenes in the space, which are pure spectacle. Acting-wise, the film is pretty decent as well. Götz Otto is fantastic as the stone-cold evil-minded general, Adler, Julia Dietze is smoking hot as the curious schoolteacher, Renate, and Christopher Kirby delivers as the 'white' black man, Washington.

Overall summary: All the silliness aside, "Iron Sky" is actually a funny, enjoyable, well-made and pretty unique 'Nazi' sci-fi comedy, that proudly boasts some surprisingly cool-looking CGIs and other technical qualities, in spite of its fairly limited budget and inexperienced director.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

[4.50/10] Chernobyl Diaries (2012)

Chernobyl Diaries (2012)

Brief review: Brought by "Paranormal Activity" series' creator, Oren Peli, "Chernobyl Diaries" is yet another failed attempt at horror, that has all the right elements to be potentially good, if not great, but at the end it screams 'missed opportunity'. Its promising concept is totally ruined by a poorly-developed script, tons of pacing issues, and uninspired execution that makes the whole experience incredibly underwhelming. On the top of that, for a film that consider itself a horror, "Chernobyl Diaries" hardly offers any decent scares, and in terms of tensity it doesn't deliver either. The predictability factor is there as well, therefore most viewers will figure out what threatens the characters pretty early in the movie. Luckily, at least the film manages to use its unique setting to its advantage. The abandoned communist-style buildings are spooky as hell, the pitch-black underground tunnels are more fearsome that the 'creatures' themselves, and the uninhabited city of Pripyat has such a sinister atmosphere about it, it will surely give you the creeps. VFX expert Bradley Parker's lack of directing experience is written all over the screen. He struggles to find the right rhythm behind the camera, and as a result, his debut film is dull and dragged out in its first half, and only semi-interesting in its second. The young actors involved are barely familiar, but they still deliver pretty passable performances, most notably the female part of the cast.

Overall summary: It benefits from its effective use ot setting, but the nightmarishly creepy location alone can't save "Chernobyl Diaries" from being a disappointingly sub-par horror with a predictably formulaic script, unimaginative direction and little to no scares and suspense.

Friday, June 1, 2012

[10/10] The Raid: Redemption (2012)

The Raid: Redemption (2012)

Brief review: Gareth Evans' "The Raid" may have a simple premise, but its plot works perfectly, and that combined with the slick execution, leaves a big impact on the viewer. Why? Because "The Raid" is the real deal! It starts off at a frenetic pace and never lets go, quickly turning itself into a shockingly brutal, ultra-violent, tense and thrilling adrenaline rush of a movie, that features some of the best action scenes ever put on film. Just when you think there's no chance for the next fight scene to top the last, it happens, and that proves Evans' out-of-this-world skills as a director and his ability to deliver a progressively mind-blowing action. Considering the movie's low budget, the technical quality of "The Raid" exceeds expectations big time. Evans' truly innovative direction features an impressive variety of camera angles, razor-sharp editing and camera movements so vigorous, they'll spin your head off. The big, old, dark, filthy building is the ideal setting for the hard-edged story, the amazing soundtrack and crisp sound effects match the high-octane intensity of the film, and the bluish, almost violet, tint of the cinematography has a subtle stylishness about it, that takes the film's visuals to another level. Although there's very little character development the main character, Rama, played by Indonesian martial artist Iko Uwais, is so brave, bold, good-hearted and likable, you can't help but fall for his character.

Overall summary: With its masterfully choreographed and executed action sequences, heart-pounding pacing, inventive direction and highly stylized visuals, Evans' "The Raid: Redemption" is sheer brilliance, and the ultimate cinematic ecstasy pill for every true action junkie.