Review


In late medieval Japan, Kai (Keanu Reeves) is a half-Japanese, half-English outcast who lives in the Ako domain, which is ruled by the benevolent Lord Asano Naganori. Asano found a young Kai lost in the forest and accepted him into his household. Despite being scorned by the samurai due to his lowborn status and mixed ancestry, Kai and Asano’s daughter, Mika (Kou Shibasaki), fall in love. Before a visit from Shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, Lord Asano is visited by the Shogun’s master of ceremonies, Lord Kira. Kira wants the Ako domain for himself, and recently Witch send a monster to Ako to (unsuccessfully) kill Asano. Kai sees a white fox, with different coloured eyes, watching from the underbrush when the monster is killed. During the Shogun’s visit, Kai sees that one of the visiting concubines has the same two-coloured eyes, but he is dismissed when trying to warn Asano’s principal counselor and samurai, Oishi, that she is a witch. Kira arranges a duel for the entertainment of the Shogun between his best warrior, the giant Lovecraftian Samurai, and one chosen by Asano. When Witch’s witchcraft incapacitates Asano’s combatant, Kai secretly dons his armor and fights, but his disguise is revealed and the Shogun orders him severely beaten as punishment. Later that night, Witch bewitches Asano into believing Kira is raping Mika, causing Asano to attack an unarmed Kira in delirium. Attacking a Shogunate official is an executable offence, though the Shogun allows Asano to die with honor through seppuku. The Shogun then gives the Ako domain and Mika to Lord Kira, and brands Oishi and his men ronin. The Shogun grants Mika one year to mourn the death of her father before her marriage to Kira, and forbids the ronin of Ako from seeking vengeance. To ensure there is no interference, Kira imprisons Oishi in an outdoor pit to break his spirit. Nearly a year later Oishi is released by Kira’s men. He reunites with his family and asks his son Chikara to aid him in reuniting the ronin, knowing now that Kira is guilty of treachery for using Witch’s sorcery to cause Asano’s downfall. Learning that Kai has been sold into slavery, Oishi finds him in the fighting pits of the Dutch colony of Dejima. Oishi and Kai gather the other ronins and sets out for revenge against the Shogun’s order…

“47 Ronin” depicts a fictional account of the forty-seven Ronin, a real-life group of ronin (masterless samurai) in 18th-century Japan who avenged the death of their lord (stories, plays and other dramatic performances of the 47 Ronin story are commonly referred to as Ch?shingura in Japan). Due to studio interference, the film saw several script changes during filming, and a radical re-edit during post-production. Director Carl Rinsch was rumored to have been kicked out of the editing room during post production. And the film was not screened in advance for critics. All of this means in a most cases that the movie is a box office bomb. And trust me “47 Ronin” is no exception. On Rotten Tomatoes the comments about the movie is: “47 Ronin is a surprisingly dull fantasy adventure, one that leaves its talented international cast stranded within one dimensional roles.”Kirsten Acuña of Business Insider believes that the film flopped for three reasons. First, it opened in December when there is over-saturation of films for the Christmas holiday. Second, the film was “too long in the vault” undergoing editing and lost momentum. Third, audiences have not been drawn to Keanu Reeves since the last Matrix film more than 10 years ago. “47 Ronin” suffers first of all from general mistake number one, everybody speaks english (and apparently they did shoot a japanese version, but used the english one) and in this sort of historic and dramatic movie everything simply dies as the movie lose its power without the original language. It also suffers from Keanu Reeves, still the most wooden actor in Hollywood, poor animations at times, silly dialogue, silly acting, silly dramatic structure and a general b-movie feeling. Despite the historic true and intriguing plot line, this just ends up like a pile of visual garbage. Which is a a shame on a good original story. (2 out of 5)

forty_seven_ronin_ver7

Carol ‘Jeff’ Jeffries (Jennifer Gan) is set up by her boyfriend, Rudy (Charlie Davao). Jeff doesn’t realize that Rudy runs a ship-board prostitution, gambling and drug dealing empire. Rudy sees the heat closing in on him and stashes his illegal goods in poor Jeff’s purse. Thrown into a harsh prison, Jeff encounters Alabama (Pam Grier), a sadistic lesbian guard fond of torture. Cellmate Stokes (Roberta Collins) is a heroin addict who agrees to a plot against Jeff that will secure her more heroin. Another cell mate Sandy (Judith M. Brown) also agrees to a plot against Jeff that could secure her own release. Their other cellmate Theresa (Sofia Moran) is Alabama’s girlfriend. Jeff endures a horrible experience made worse by her cellmates as she struggles day to day. Finally realizing her boyfriend is not helping her, Jeff hopes to escape through the jungle. She then learns that local poachers are paid to track and kill escapees, who inevitably become lost in the wilds surrounding the prison. When Theresa falls out of favor with Alabama and loses her privileged position in the cell block, escape becomes an attractive option to her. Theresa reveals that she knows the jungle well and can obtain outside help. Despite the fact that two of her three cellmates had previously agreed to covert plots against Jeff, all three of them accompany her on the escape…

“Women In Cages” is an early 70s exploitation women in prison flick. This is pretty poor in terms of production values, acting and then there´s the fact that women are abused in all sorts of ways in the movie. We see stabbings, nudity, violence, torture, rape and lesbian love in a mix with uneven and poor editing as the icing on the cake. I reckon classic topics in the genre. The genre itself is “special” to say the least, and it truly feels like something in the past these days. Why did I see “Women In Cages”? The beautiful, underrated, strong and will powered Pam Grier is my answer. Despite the fact that she is “evil” in this one. (2 and a half out of 5)

women_in_cages_xlg

After serving twelve years for murder (for killing a rapist and murderer he caught in the act), Chris (Clive Owen) is released from prison in 1974. His ex-wife, Monica (Marion Cotillard), is a drug-addicted prostitute. She has a son and a daughter. Chris tries to go straight with his new girlfriend Natalie (Mila Kunis) but is betrayed and sabotaged in his pursuit of a legitimate business venture. Returning to his criminal ways puts him in direct conflict with his brother Frank (Billy Crudup) who happens to be a New York City cop. Their sister, Marie (Lili Taylor), and their sick father, Leon (James Caan), want Chris and Frank to just get along with each other. When arresting Anthony Scarfo (Matthias Schoenaerts) at his house Frank happens to meet his ex-girlfriend Vanessa (Zoe Saldana) again. Vanessa is now married to Anthony and has a daughter by him. But Frank and Vanessa get back together again anyway, and she decides to divorce. But in the meantime Frank becomes conflicted over allowing his brother Chris to flee the scene of a felony murder. When Anthony is released from police custody his first act is to seek revenge against Frank for destroying his home life. Chris uncovers the plot and must decide between saving his own skin and stopping Anthony in his tracks…

“Blood Ties” is a historic drama thriller that makes NYC in the 70s coming alive. I reckon with James Gray being involved we see similarities to other movies he has directed, which he didn´t do this time around. I see some similarities to “Carlito´s Way” as well. With that said I think the plot and story is hardly anything special or for that matter that unique. It´s slow paced and a bit too long. But, the fact that family is the focus point here there´s something we all can relate to, and I think everybody involved does a great acting job. I personally think Billy Crudup is a very underrated actor, and I think he´s great here as Frank. Without the great performances “Blood Ties” would´ve been hardly that rememberable. I like that we get to see the great Marion Cotillard and the equally great Matthias Schoenaerts together in yet another movie, even if they don´t have any scenes together. They just add weight to the film like James Caan. “Blood Ties” is not too shabby, but neither a unique one either. (3 and a half out of 5)

blood-ties-poster

In 1879, a communiqué from Lord Chelmsford to the Secretary of State for War in London, details the crushing defeat of a British force at the hands of the Zulus at the Battle of Isandlwana. In the aftermath of the battle, the victorious Zulus walk amongst the scattered bodies of dead British soldiers and gather their rifles. At a mass Zulu marriage ceremony witnessed by missionary Otto Witt (Jack Hawkins) and his daughter (Ulla Jacobsson), Zulu King Cetewayo (Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi) is also informed of the great victory earlier in the day. A company of the British Army’s 24th Regiment of Foot, is using the missionary station of Rorke’s Drift in Natal as a supply depot and hospital for their invasion force across the border in Zululand. Receiving news of Isandhlwana from the Natal Native Contingent Commander Adendorff, who warns that an army of 4,000 Zulu warriors is advancing to the British position, senior officer Lieutenant John Chard (Stanley Baker) of the Royal Engineers assumes command of the small British detachment. Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead (Michael Caine), an infantry officer, is rather put out to find himself subordinate to an engineer due to the latter’s slightly earlier commission. Realising that they cannot outrun the Zulu army with wounded soldiers, Chard decides to fortify the station and make a stand, using wagons, sacks of mealie, and crates of ship’s biscuit to form a defensive perimeter. Witt becomes drunk and demoralises the men with his dire predictions, causing the soldiers of the Natal Native Contingent to desert. Chard orders him to be locked in a supply room. The soldiers begin to feel nervous when they hear a strange beating sound coming towards them. They realise the sound is the Zulu army. Although the army is not yet in sight, they hear the sound of the Zulus beating their shields with spears. Bromhead says ‘it sounds like a train in the distance’. As the impis approach, a contingent of Boer horsemen arrives. They advise Chard that defending the station is hopeless. They retreat in haste, despite Chard’s desperate pleas for them to stay. The Zulu army, having formed a line of attack along the Oscarberg, approach to within 100 yards (91 m) of the station, ominously rattle their spears against their shields, and then charge. The British open fire and manage to kill at least 60, but Adendorff informs them that the Zulus are testing the British firepower. Witt again predicts the soldiers’ inevitable fate, before escaping the battle with his daughter; this causes further demoralization of the defenders. Chard is concerned that the northern perimeter wall is undermanned but realises that the attack will come from all sides. The defenders are surprised when the Zulu warriors open fire on the station with rifles, taken from the British casualties at Isandlwana. Zulu fire inflicts minimal casualties but further affects the morale of the British defenders. Throughout the day and night, wave after wave of Zulu attackers are repelled. The Zulus succeed in setting fire to the hospital, leading to intense fighting between British patients and Zulu warriors as the former try to escape the flames. Private Henry Hook (James Booth) takes charge and successfully leads the patients to safety.The next morning, the Zulus approach to within several hundred yards and begin singing a war chant; the British respond by singing “Men of Harlech”. In the final assault, just as it seems the Zulus will finally overwhelm the tired defenders, the British soldiers fall back to a small redoubt constructed out of mealie bags. With a reserve of soldiers hidden within the redoubt, they form into three firing ranks, and seamlessly pour volley after volley into the waves of attacking warriors, inflicting heavy casualties. Finally the remainder of the Zulu forces withdraw. After sustaining no attacks for three hours, the defenders are still recovering when the Zulus re-form again on the Oscarberg. Resigned to their imminent defeat, the British are astonished when the Zulus instead sing a song to honour the bravery of the defenders before peacefully withdrawing…

“Zulu” is one of those epic lavish costume dramas from the 60´s and it´s nicely shot with beautiful sceneries and strong performances from the actors including a young Michael Caine. Michael Caine, who at this early stage in his career was primarily playing bit parts, was originally up for the role of Private Henry Hook, which went to James Booth. According to Caine, he was extremely nervous during his screen test for the part of Bromhead, and director Cy Endfield told him that it was the worst screen test he had ever seen, but they were casting Caine in the part anyway because the production was leaving for South Africa shortly and they had not found anyone else for the role. And despite the fact that the director took some creative freedom with the true story, this is yet a powerful piece with historic roots. Most of the characters in the film were based on actual participants of the battle, but their behaviour is mostly fictional – something that has provoked disapproval: in an interview on the DVD, the descendants of Private Hook objected to his portrayal as a thief and malingerer (although his character acts bravely near the end of the film during some desperate fighting). Indeed, Hook’s elderly daughters walked out of the film’s 1964 London premiere. My only objection to “Zulu” is the quite “theatrical” battle scenes that hardly convince anyone in 2014. (4 out of 5)

zulu-1964-film-images-ace6032e-83c4-4f18-8c31-c1f0db81f83

Set in the future, youth gang violence is so high that the areas around some schools have become “free fire zones”, into which not even the Police will venture. When Dr. Miles Langford (Malcolm McDowell), the Principal of Kennedy High School in Seattle, decides to take his school back from the gangs, Megatech robotics specialist Dr. Robert Forrest (Stacy Keach) provides “tactical education units”, consisting of Mr. Bryles (Patrick Kilpatrick), Ms. Connors (Pam Grier), and Mr. Hardin (John Ryan) for a new pilot enforcement agency called the Department of Educational Defense (D.E.D.). These humanoids have been programmed to teach and are supplied with weapons to discipline trouble-makers. The androids soon overstep their authority, causing the students to fight back…

“Class of 1999” is a 1990 American science fiction film directed by Mark L. Lester and the follow-up to his 1982 cult classic “Class of 1984”. Not sure why this was made as this follow up to the great “Class of 1984” is not even close to the original. This is just a spot on b-action vehicle with some ok names in it, but with mostly crappy acting, crappy effects and a storyline that´s partly ripping off the platform from John Carpenter´s “Escape from New York”. The only real enjoyment for me was the beautiful Pam Grier. (2 out of 5)

affiche-class-of-1999-1990-2

High-schooler Lane Myer (John Cusack), whose girlfriend Beth (Amanda Wyss) dumps him for the arrogant and bullying captain of the high school ski team, Roy Stalin (Aaron Dozier). Lane cannot get past this rejection and decides that death is the only way out of his misery. His half-hearted attempts at suicide, however, always fail, with comic consequences. Lane’s family is odd: his mother, Jenny (Kim Darby) is a sort of deranged Stepford wife and perhaps the world’s worst cook; his genius little brother, Badger (Scooter Stevens), never speaks but can build lasers and attract trashy women; and his father, Al (David Ogden Stiers) is convinced Lane is using drugs. As Lane attempts to either end his life or win back his ex-girlfriend, he gradually gets to know a new girl: a French foreign-exchange student named Monique (Diane Franklin). She is staying with Lane’s neighbors (Laura Waterbury and Daniel Schneider) across the street, who are so annoying that she pretends she cannot speak English. Monique turns out to be a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers (as she calls them) and is a tough, confident soul. She helps Lane fix up his 1967 Camaro and rekindles Lane’s confidence and his will to live through “language lessons” in the international language of love…

“Better Off Dead” is on one hand a classic 80s high school comedy, but as well surreal and dark. I reckon this is part of the problem with the film. It simply doesn´t know which leg to stand on and thus it becomes neither. I felt as well that several parts/scenes seemed so random and didn´t really connect (clay Hamburgers, animations, two asian brothers who just wants to race, a stalking paperboy..). Logic is not really on the agenda here. John Cusack works as Lane, but at the same time Lane feels just like the same sort of high school character Cusack did in a couple of films back then. According to Savage Steve Holland, Cusack didn’t like the film. Cusack walked out of a screening as both were making “One Crazy Summer”, later confronting Holland saying it “was the worst thing I have ever seen. I will never trust you as a director ever again, so don’t speak to me.” Holland claims that Cusack felt he had been made to look foolish and that his comments “made me not care about movies anymore.” However, in a 2013 Reddit “Ask Me Anything” chat, when asked if he hated filming “Better Off Dead”, Cusack responded “No, I just thought it could have been better, but I think that about almost all my films. I have nothing against the film. . . . Glad people love it still.” (2 and a half out of 5)

1985-better-off-dead-poster1

Two years after the Battle of New York, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) aka Captain America works in Washington D.C. for the espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D. under Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), while adjusting to contemporary society. Rogers and Agent Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) are sent with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s counter-terrorism S.T.R.I.K.E. team, led by Agent Rumlow, to free hostages aboard a S.H.I.E.L.D. vessel from Georges Batroc and his mercenaries. Mid-mission, Rogers discovers Romanoff has another agenda: to extract data from the ship’s computers for Fury. Rogers returns to the Triskelion, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s headquarters to confront Fury and is briefed about Project Insight: three Helicarriers linked to spy satellites, designed to preemptively eliminate threats. Unable to decrypt the data recovered by Romanoff, Fury becomes suspicious about Insight and asks senior S.H.I.E.L.D. official Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) to delay the project. On his way to rendezvous with Maria Hill (Tobie Smulders), Fury is ambushed by assailants led by a mysterious assassin called the Winter Soldier. Fury escapes to Rogers’s apartment, and warns Rogers that S.H.I.E.L.D. is compromised. After handing Rogers a flash drive containing data from the ship, Fury is gunned down by the Winter Soldier. Fury dies in surgery, and Hill recovers the body. The next day, Pierce summons Rogers to the Triskelion. When Rogers withholds Fury’s information, Pierce brands him a fugitive. Hunted by S.T.R.I.K.E., Rogers meets with Romanoff. Using data in the flash drive they discover a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. bunker in New Jersey, where they activate a supercomputer containing the preserved consciousness of Arnim Zola. Zola reveals that ever since S.H.I.E.L.D. was founded after World War II, Hydra has secretly operated within its ranks, sowing global chaos with the goal that humanity would willingly surrender its freedom in exchange for security. The pair narrowly escape death when a S.H.I.E.L.D. missile destroys the bunker and now they need to stop Hydra one more time…

Captain America is back (a personal favourite cartoon character) and this time he takes on the Winter Soldier. Yes, this is yet another bombastic and action filled popcorn Marvel adventure with excellent CGI, but the weakness is without no doubt the storyline and the character development in this second Captain America vehicle. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times said, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is everything a big budget superhero film should be – except inspired.”, which is exactly my opinion as well. Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle said the film “has the usual overlong running time [for the comic book superhero genre], the halfhearted feints in the direction of human feeling and the obligatory action sequences that are big without being either exciting or particularly legible.” And Joe Williams of the St. Louis Post Dispatch felt “On paper this sequel has some promising elements, but on screen it retreats from the very issues that it raises, and on a shelf next to Captain America: The First Avenger, The Winter Soldier is pale.” This simply never gets into second gear (despite some solid action) in my opinion and the bad guy The Winter Soldier is both weak and not interesting as Captain America´s nemesis, the same goes for the introduction of pointless The Falcon. Both Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson should´ve had less screen time as they are just tiring with their trial and error ways on how to look armed and dangerous. Nah, I´m hoping for a better third movie with Captain America. (3 out of 5)

captain_america_the_winter_soldier_ver7_xxlg

Next Page »