For the most part, my favorite style of action has been relegated to the direct-to-video market. I’m talking about that genre that was prevalent in the 1970s and 80s, where a solitary badass, sometimes with a sidekick, faces down incredible odds in order to get justice and revenge. This is the genre that gave rise to icons like Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris, Seagal, and Van Damme. While films of this sort are still alive and well on VOD and DTV, you don’t often see them in theaters, unless they star Jason Statham. The ticket buying public wants spectacle and CGI and giant robots roaming the streets. The reigning king of this action underground is, without a doubt, Scott Adkins. Statham may be more of a draw, but as solid a lone wolf as he is, Adkins kicks so much more ass. (Statham is, admittedly, the better overall dramatic actor.)
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Gareth Evans’ The Raid: Redemption pummeled us all about the face and neck, delivering the best martial arts actioner since we all discovered Ong Bak. After blowing our minds, the movie left us asking what he was going to do next, and if it was possible to top the frenetic pace and incredible action. I don’t know if the sequel, The Raid 2: Berendal will exceed the first—that’s a tall order—but this new trailer makes it look like he’s going for it with insane gusto. For the follow up Evans reteamed with star Iko Uwais, and holy shit, Berendal looks gorgeous, epic, and, most importantly, crazy violent. And as intense as this footage is, Edwards assures us that all we see in this trailer is “Act 1 setup.” If this is only the beginning, what the hell are we in for? I can’t wait to find out.
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is lonely. You’ve seen guys like him a thousand times on the bus, he never looks ups from his phone, never interacts with anyone else, and you wonder about the state of his life. Going through a messy divorce, Theodore writes intimate letters for other people; from lover to lover, husband to wife, mother to child. Every attempt to feel something, to connect with another human being, leaves him more and more isolated, until he’s alone in his apartment losing an argument with a foul-mouthed character in a videogame.
You learn right away what you've gotten yourself into with “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Among the first things director Martin Scorsese shows you are a group of rabid, feral stockbrokers, cranked out of their minds on cocaine, testosterone, and adrenaline, throwing dwarves at a target; and Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) doing blow out of a prostitute’s lady parts. And from there the movie gets crazy.
Saturday, December 21, 2013
Since their inception, movies have loved to use holidays as a backdrop to the stories they tell. It makes sense. Celebrated by large swathes of the population, their inclusion lends an air of communality to the proceedings, a sense that the people on screen are not so different from you the viewer. Each holiday comes with its own set of easily recognizable tropes, which go a long way to setting the scene, and many bring with them their own set of complications and problems to add layers to a narrative. How many times have we watched a family gathering set on Thanksgiving, where people not usually in the same room with one another come to blows, real or metaphorical, when forced into close proximity?
Thursday, December 19, 2013
Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is a special kind of asshole. He’ll borrow money from you to pay for your girlfriend’s abortion, your girlfriend that he knocked up. That’s assuming that you are in fact Justin Timberlake and you’re dating Carey Mulligan, but you get the idea. He’s also the protagonist of the Coen Brothers’ latest film, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” and the greatest feat the “True Grit” filmmakers accomplish is making you sympathize with this miserable, miserable prick as they delve deep into his psyche.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
When the “Lord of the Rings” movies dropped, people got crazy pumped for the release of the extended editions. A year from now, when the last of Peter Jackson’s three “Hobbit” movies has come and gone, I’m excited for someone to splice them together, hack out all the superfluous crap, and finally reveal the single good movie that I know is hidden in there somewhere. It should be about three hours long. What we’ve seen thus far, including the latest, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” has been nothing but a disappointment. Overlong, bloated, and tedious, Jackson even did something that I’d have thought impossible, he made a giant, fire-breathing dragon voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch boring as shit.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Actors directing movies is a dicey proposition, at best. For every Ben Affleck or Clint Eastwood, who turn in some of the best work of their career behind the camera, you get Nicolas Cage directing “Sonny,” or Madonna forcing “W.E.” upon the world. So when we heard that Ted “Theodore” Logan himself, Keanu Reeves was going to helm a martial arts actioner, the news left us puzzled. But you know what, his first directorial effort, “Man of Tai Chi,” which just hit Blu-ray and DVD, is a damn good time, and delivers everything you want out of this type of movie.
Sunday, December 8, 2013
More than a report card for AMC’s The WalkingDead, think of this as a one of those progress reports that they sent home in the middle of the term to let your parents know how you were coming along. They tracked your development, noted areas where you lagged, and generally told the world where you needed to pick up the slack. This gives us an open forum to talk about what the show is doing well thus far in season four, areas where there is room for improvement, and things we would like to see the underachieving series accomplish moving into the final eight episodes of the year.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
The last two weeks on AMC’s The WalkingDead have been spent catching up with that nefarious villain from season three, the Governor (David Morrissey). They’ve essentially been two weeks worth of him pretending to change while we build up toward this week’s mid-season finale, “Too Far Gone,” and the inevitable conflict between the Governor and the survivors at the prison. When we left him, the Governor was drawing a bead on Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Hershel (Scott Wilson). How does this situation evolve, where does that go, and who is going to die? Read on to find out the answers to all of these and more.