Escape Room (2019): Action / Adventure / Drama

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For a chance to win $10,000 finding their way out of a challenging escape room, six strangers must work together for, ultimately, a chance to save their lives.

Right… So… If you are under 15 y/o: Enjoy the dynamic of the characters, the kind of far-fetched yet enjoyable riddles, and the brilliant production design, art direction, and set decoration.

If you are over 15 y/o: Still watch it if you want to but I would go for something more… extravagant: “Cube” (1997), “The Experiment” (2001), “Identity” (2003), “Exam” (2009), “Triangle” (2009), “The Killing Room” (2009), “Coherence” (2013), “The Belko Experiment” (2016).

And these are just on the top of my head. There are dozens more. Two things about “Escape Room”: On one hand, when the producers imply that there will be more, they shouldn’t be giving away so much information in the end. It destroys the mystery by answering most of the burning questions. On the other hand, if I had to recommend it that would be for… Taylor Russell and Deborah Ann Woll!

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The Raid 2 (2014): Action / Crime / Thriller

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Straight after the raid’s massacre, Rama goes undercover to expose the corruption within the police force, no matter how deep the rabbit hole goes.

There have not been many sequels that were expected to be better than the first installments. Especially, when the ones that spawned the sequels were shockingly good. Well, “The Raid 2” is one of these exceptions with Gareth Evans and Iko Uwais pushing the bar to the limit.

Starting two hours after “The Raid: Redemption” (2011), ending up two years later, “The Raid’s 2” uncut violence almost tripled the body count, got banned by the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia, was censored in the US, got an audience member faint at the Sundance Film Festival world premiere, and mesmerised millions of martial arts fans, and action junkies all over the world.

With the first cut being around three and a half hours long, the final cut is still almost 50 minutes longer than the first “Raid”. 150 minutes of gory deaths, phantasmagoric car chases, extreme martial arts, over 60 types of guns, police corruption, mob hits, Rama going berzerk, and… “Hammer Girl”, “Baseball Bat Man”, and “The Assassin”.

Directing, Editing, DOP, Choreography, Stunt coordination, and all cast and crew deserve a standing ovation. An amazing opening sequence, with a stunning second act, and a grand finale fight scene which took 6 weeks to prepare and 8 days to film. An ABSOLUTE MUST!!!

 

P.S. If you are interested, this is how Gareth Evans shot the “how-the-f@!#-did-they-do-that” car chase scene: (IMDb, 2019)

The Raid: Redemption (2011): Action / Thriller

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When a S.W.A.T. team raids a 30-storey building run by a drug dealer and his army, the tables turn and the hunter becomes the prey.

After “Merantau” (2009), Indonesian-born Iko Uwais collaborates for a second time with Welsh-born Gareth Evans and a low budget action/thriller turns into a high octane, brutal, fast-paced, bloody massacre. The Indonesian, indigenous martial art style Pencak Silat faces numerous other martial arts from all over the world. Combining fists, elbows, knees, kicks, ground techniques, locks, and more, people fly down the stairs and go through doors, walls, and windows. To top it up, they get chopped up by knives, machetes, and swords, and have their brains blown up by pistols, shotguns, machine guns, and grenades in “30 floors of chaos”. Another day in the office…

Highly recommended for the action-packed film lovers and example to follow for the big budget, nonsensical blockbusters. Also, Yayan Ruhian and Joe Taslim will make your jaw hit the floor!

Revenger (2018): Action / Crime / Thriller

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An ex-cop shows up in a prison island, shared by 12 Asian countries, where convicts are left to die, with the sole purpose to find his family’s killer and avenge their death.

This one went totally under the radar. The story doesn’t even remotely resemble something that could have happened in reality so, should you decide to watch it, don’t pay too much attention to the parts that don’t make too much sense. Why would you watch it then?

Bruce Khan! As per IMDb, he is the holder of:

  • A 4th-degree black belt in Hapkido,
  • A 4th dan in Korean Karate,
  • A 5th dan in Korean Kwal Bup,
  • A 4th dan in Korean Kyeoktooki.

And he is a lot more than that as a person. Like Bruce Lee, he had a severe back injury only to come back stronger. Hats off! He possesses agility, accuracy, speed, power… Honestly, I was not aware of the chap but I’m glad I got to know him. Certainly, I would have omitted certain characters and sequences in the film but once you watch it you’ll see why it was worth your while. Enjoy!

Triple Threat (2019): Action / Thriller

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Mercenaries unite in order to protect the daughter of a billionaire who becomes the target of an elite assassins’ group.

“Triple Threat” is NOT, I repeat is NOT to be compared, contrasted, or associated in any way with: “Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior” (2003), the “Undisputed” franchise (2006-2016), “The Raid: Redemption” (2011), “The Raid 2” (2014), “The Night Comes for Us” (2018), or any other film of that level.

It’s a real shame to have names such as Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Tiger Hu Chen, Scott Adkins, Celina Jade, Michael Jai White, and Michael Bisping in one film and get that result. But the film’s duration warned me even before watching it. So, I was pretty sure this was going to be a disappointing one, I just didn’t know how badly disappointing.

In about an hour and a half, we have:

  • Undeveloped characters that no one really cares about.
  • Bad acting / No chemistry between the actors.
  • Obvious difficulty from the non-native English speaking actors to express themselves.
  • Mediocre action / inconsistent fighting skills.
  • And the biggest problem that begets all problems: Horrible writing! I mean… Horrible!!!

As it is not in my idiosyncrasy to write negative comments just for the fun of it or to attract an audience so, I’ll stop here. Prachya Pinkaew, Gareth Evans, and Timo Tjahjanto have raised the bar to a level that newer directors and even themselves will have to go the extra mile to keep delivering the jaw-dropping action/thriller films they have been delivering so far.

Bumblebee (2018): Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi

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With Cybertron at war, Optimus Prime sends B-127 (Bumblebee) to Earth to establish a base for the Autobots and protect the planet.

Prequel to “Transformers” (2007), Travis Knight’s first live-action film “Bumblebee” takes a more classic look of the original cartoon series. The opening sequence reminded me of my childhood years but my nostalgia faded away upon Bee’s arrival on Earth. Memories were temporarily restored half-way watching again the tunnel from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” (1988) and “Back to the Future II” (1989).

Stereotypical American bimbos meant to be hated, stereotypical American jerks no one could care less about, stereotypically American army being thick as pigshit, and main characters that I would love if it was actually 1987 and I was 5. Did I mention that the storyline was so predictable?

To be fair, Bumblebee’s final battle against Shatter and Dropkick was quite impressive.

 

P.S. OK, it was funny when “Bee” ruined blondie’s car.

P.P.S. Steve Jablonsky where are you???

Triple Frontier (2019): Action / Adventure / Crime

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Five ex-Special Forces soldiers band together one last time to rob the money of a cocaine cartel boss in South America where everything can go wrong.

While watching the opening sequence, I thought to myself “Netflix hit the nail again”!  The moment I started to get to know the characters, I thought to myself “I hope the cliches stop here”. As the story started unfolding, the pit of cliches got full way before half-way.

Really shame. The photography is infallible. Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, and Pedro Pascal are brilliant actors yet none of them gets the opportunity to fully develop their character. J.C. Chandor, an equally brilliant director who was behind the camera of great films such as “Margin Call” (2011), “All is Lost” (2013), and “A Most Violent Year” (2014), delivers a film this time that does not have one memorable shot. Same applies for editing where no sequence has anything unique or something to talk about.

All these are minor though. The main problem is the script. I don’t know how many times I’ve said it before but I know how any I’m gonna say it; countless!

“You can’t fix a bad script after you start shooting. The problems on the page only get bigger as they move to the big screen.” — Howard Hawks

Besides the action’s inconsistencies and the undeveloped characters, the biggest blow is the dialogue. It is extremely poorly written and the shocking part is that the aforementioned A-list actors were OK with it. It is beyond me so, I’m gonna leave it there.

Should you decide to watch it, I hope you enjoy it.

Upgrade (2018): Action / Sci-fi / Thriller

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In a world that technology controls every aspect of life, a technophobe not only finally embraces it but also upgrades himself to solve his wife’s murder.

Producer/Writer/Director Leigh Whannell, who penned the script for “Saw” (2004), and Blumhouse Productions bring to life an action/thriller that mustn’t go unnoticed. Logan Marshall-Green gets into the role and does a brilliant job as an ordinary man who’s going through… an upgrade and comes out extraordinary.

Visual effects that help the story move forward and the story itself easily avoids cliches and gimmicks. A highly recommended, low-budget sci-fi set in an ostensibly utopian future but with a lot more realism than meets the eye.

Wheelman (2017): Action / Crime / Mystery

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A bank robbery goes awry for a getaway driver who tries to figure out who double-crossed him while finding a way to save his and his family’s life.

Frank Grillo at his best. Realistic action hero in a high-octane low budget film. Netflix always hits the nail when they decide to go behind productions like this one where, more or less, everything goes right. Right tempo, right duration, and right balance between action, crime, and mystery. Feature debut for writer/director Jeremy Rush who starts off really strong.

Claustrophobic at times, gripping, edgy, and engaging, “Wheelman” is, thankfully, not your typical Hollywood blockbuster with unnecessary explosions and nonsensical CGI. The best value for money you can get, and highly recommended for the Frank Grillo and action-fueled film fans.

Overlord (2018): Action / Adventure / Horror

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An American airborne unit lands on Nazi-occupied France only to discover a horror beyond the Nazis.

Brutal, savage, and sadistic, “Overlord”, keeps you on the edge of your seat. If there is anything worse than the Nazis, that is the realization of their twisted psychosis. Focusing on “Operation Overlord”, an operation that took place in parallel with “Operation Neptune” (both of them put together became known as D-Day), J.J. Abrams produces Julius Avery’s historical horror where “Band of Brothers” (2001) meets the “Night of the Living Dead” (1968).

Strong first act with an even stronger opening sequence, practical visual effects that beat CGI every single time, and acting that makes its implausibility easy to swallow. Is it flawless? Nope. Is it to be taken seriously? Not really. Does one forget their problems for almost two hours and get sucked in? Hell. Yeah.

A lot of unnecessary negativity surrounds the film but people tend to oversee sometimes why a film could have possibly been made, the purpose it might serve, and the unpredictable outcome an experimental genre mixture may have.

I’ve said this before, I’m saying it again, and I will keep on saying it: I don’t aim at the film but the intentions behind it.