Review: Kong: Skull Island (2017)

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“We are dealing with a monster from a bygone era.”
– Preston Packard

SYNOPSIS: A team of scientists explore an uncharted island in the Pacific, venturing into the domain of the mighty Kong, and must fight to escape a primal Eden. – via IMDB

I finally got to this, and I must say that I was more impressed than I expected to be. While Kong: Skull Island has some issues, if you don’t overthink it and just go in for what it was made for (pure entertainment), you are bound to have a pretty good time. I quite enjoyed myself throughout.

I had quite a good time with the humour, which was cheesy at times, but every now and again had a good, sharp snap to it. I also absolutely loved the soundtrack, which was totally right up my alley, and worked with this. I think the movie touted quite the impressive cast, though some of them were underused. None of them were actually given a character to really chew on, but they all served their purpose of bringing the story of Kong to life. I thought Hiddleston to be a good ex-military type, Jackson played who and what he always plays, Larson was solid (as is to be expected), and it was a treat to see Reilly here.

I did not enjoy the romance that was squashed into this (I could totally have done without it), and I must acknowledge that the movie had some super dodgy effects at times. Also, just don’t overthink it, because this is a movie to entertain, not to be picked apart like The Godfather or something. Kong was really cool, and I totally enjoyed his scenes. Those icky-ass monsters on the island that Kong protected everyone from served their purpose – to be gross as hell. Ewwww. There were also plenty fight scenes, and all were done quite well – exactly what they needed to be, which is a blockbuster action film. If that’s what you are going in for for Kong, then that is exactly what you are going to get.

Anyway, there isn’t really much to say about Kong: Skull Island other than it is quite a bit of fun and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I had a few laughs, there were some cool fight sequences, a great soundtrack to carry it all, and decent performances from the cast. It’s seriously not a bad movie to while away some time with.

Review: John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

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“You stabbed the devil in the back. To him this isn’t vengeance, this is justice.”
– Winston

SYNOPSIS: After returning to the criminal underworld to repay a debt, John Wick discovers that a large bounty has been put on his life. – via IMDB

I’m pretty sure you all know that I am a pretty huge fan of John Wick, and I have been eagerly anticipating this sequel for quite some time. I trekked off to the cinema opening weekend for this, and I was not disappointed. It is a strong sequel to be sure. This is what most sequels wish they could bring to the table, but fail at more often that not.

Chapter 2 is everything John Wick was, but amplified. Bigger guns, more bullets, more hand to hand combat than you can shake a stick at, just more extravagant everything. It has plenty of throwbacks to John Wick, which is amusing. There is much of the same, but more, if that makes sense. The movie is exciting and the action is engaging, and again it embraces the fact that the story is relatively skinny and rolls with it, and so the viewer is, irresistibly, drawn in all over again. The movie keeps it simple with the story, and indulges with the visuals and the score. I also really enjoyed the humour that was present in Chapter 2 – still my kind of humour. Keanu Reeves dominates as John Wick, and I simply love watching him in character. Ian McShane is, as always, a joy, and Broyles Lance Reddick also brought the goods.

All that being said though, I also had some issues. I felt the movie was a touch long, and while finally getting to see more of this super mysterious, elaborate assassin/criminal underworld, there were some niggles to be had. I am looking here specifically at the end, making it look like every single person in the whole city has ties to this underground organisation. Really? Sometimes the humour also didn’t land quite as quick, fast, and slick and the predecessor.

While Chapter 2 is an entertaining watch that hooks you from the off, I just don’t see how and why it is considered to be the superior of the two films. Totally worth the watch though, and definitely a movie I will be revisiting. It is smooth, well choreographed, exciting, stunning to look at, and is just plain fun. Absolutely recommended.

Review: The Italian Job (2003)

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“You know, the only thing worse than a thief is a coward.”
– Stella Bridger

SYNOPSIS: After being betrayed and left for dead in Italy, Charlie Croker and his team plan an elaborate gold heist against their former ally. – via IMDB

I haven’t actually seen this since it came out, and recently figured I would give it a shot again. Which I did. Let me preface all that is to follow by saying that this movie holds up poorly upon rewatch. Very poorly. Essentially a 110 minute Mini Cooper advert, there is little to gel it all together. I am someone that enjoys a heist movie, really. They are fun, entertaining, and sharp. The Italian Job is not as smart or sassy as it pretends to be, and is nowhere near as witty as it think it is, either.

The movie has a recognizable cast, which is a big draw here. That being said, they all play rather flat characters that don’t actually develop at all, people we don’t really care about. The story is simple and straightforward, and not once does anything happen that surprises you. This is both a good and a bad thing in the fact that you can just get right down to things, but on the other hand offers up nothing to remember after the fact. The actors all seem to be having fun, which is a good thing.

The performances were decent and fit t he type of movie this was. The Italian Job was shot really well, and had decent pacing. By no means a thorough story or something you get too invested in, just enough to give you what you need to move on to the movie and the heist. Music fit the movie, but didn’t necessarily stand out in any which way. I don’t actually have much to say about this one.

At the end of the day, there are far better heist movies to occupy yourself with – ones with better stories, infinitely superior humour, and so much smarter. Ocean’s Eleven is a prime example of how a heist film can be done, and it had a much bigger set of characters to work with, and it was fleshed out far better than this. The Italian Job is not the worst movie you can waste your time on, but it pretty bland at the end of the day.

Review: Underworld: Blood Wars (2016)

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“The Vampire and Lycan clans have been at war for centuries, turning our world into a battlefield. For me, the fight is personal. Everyone I’ve ever loved has been hunted down. Now a new war is being waged.”
– Selene

SYNOPSIS: Vampire death dealer, Selene fights to end the eternal war between the Lycan clan and the Vampire faction that betrayed her. – via IMDB

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GRADE 6Hoo-boy, was I ever excited for this! I know there are tons of people that have issues with the Underworld movies, but come on peeps, lighten up! They are fun and entertaining. Don’t overthink it. So when we got Blood Wars in December, I was out in full force to catch up with ass-kicking Death Dealer Selene, and to see what has become of the ever-precious Michael.

Now, right off the bat, I wanted to love the costume design. It is usually pretty good, but then this movie looked like The Hunger Games in terms of outfits. The parallel didn’t stop there. When I saw how the new Death Dealers were being trained, I was a little shocked. Seriously guys, since when are you guys in cages, wearing the same creepy leather vests, and training like you are going to get in the arena? Then the makeup and costumes that were so over the top also made me keep up with that line of thinking. Oh well.

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I was pleased to see David and his father Thomas return, and I particularly enjoyed the story arc involving David’s lineage. Theo James is a welcome addition to the franchise, and works quite well with Kate Beckinsale. The story was again (surprise surprise) lacking here, but again, not a deal breaker for me. There is enough story to keep you mindlessly entertained, with plenty action to glue it all together. I was not pleased with the stupidly weak coup that took place, because really, there was so much more potential there to use than was actually realised. Another major issue I had with Blood Wars is that it felt rushed, and that is such a pity. It came across as a bit clunky.

The movie, as its predecessors, is dark and gloomy and looks good (even if you take that whole Hunger Games vibe and toss it). I appreciate the continuity of these movies, as it is more consistent than most franchises. I found Lara Pulver to be a total nuisance, and hopefully we will not have to suffer through any more of her in future. Bradley James reminds me of a young Mads Mikkelsen, which is pretty cool.

Underworld: Blood Wars is another silly, popcorn entertainment film that should satiate fans of the Underworld franchise, but might not appeal to people who are not familiar with the mythos of the vampire and lycan clans. I suppose it might not even really win over existing fans, but I thought it was alright! SPOILER: I absolutely refuse to accept this crappy premise that Michael is dead. REFUSE, I tell you. Guess we will have to see where it goes from here. Worth a watch, I’d say.

Review: Underworld: Awakening (2012)

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“Do you think I’m foolish enough to take you at your word? No reason to fear a Death Dealer who fell in love with a Lycan, who murdered two of our elders, and who, at every turn, has betrayed her own kind.”
– Thomas

SYNOPSIS: When human forces discover the existence of the Vampire and Lycan clans, a war to eradicate both species commences. The vampire warrior Selene leads the battle against humankind. – via IMDB

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GRADE 6.5While this is not my favourite Underworld film, it has grown on me since I first saw it, which was the only time I saw it. I wasn’t bowled over, it was a bit messy, true, and all over the show, and I was dead set against it because so little Michael just shattered me. But I watched it again and it actually isn’t that bad.

I am not a fan of the humans knowing about the clans, and the wars that have popped up because of that. I don’t know, I like the vampires and the lycans moving in secrecy, fitting in. This was a spin that I wasn’t keen on, and as the movie progressed, I thought things got even more bizarre. For instance, the humans are hunting them, etc. but the further on it goes, the less the movie even focuses on humans, which is just silly. It becomes just about the lycans (building a super breed) and the vampires. The humans just disappeared. Hello, where?

A child in a film pretty much always grates on me, and this was no exception. I was not a fan. I understood the arc, but didn’t much care for it. At least the kid wasn’t around the whole time. I would just not deal. Aside from her, I actually appreciated some of the new characters, like Detective Sebastian, David and his father, Thomas. I was interested to see how David and his father didn’t always see eye to eye, both having different ideals and how to go about them. Then there was Sebastian, a human, but very much on their side.

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The one thing I really didn’t dig about this movie? The effects. They were beyond dodgy… looked like a bunch of first year graphic design students were given this movie and told to have a good time. I don’t know, it just wan’t okay all the time, and the other movies usually looked pretty good. Another thing? The story to this was, again, pretty thin. That being said, I suppose their is plenty action that is supposed to distract you from that, and the movie is shot pretty well and looks all dark and gloomy.

So while Underworld: Awakening has issues, it was still a light, fun watch. Definitely not as bad as I remember it, but it could definitely do with more Michael and Selene (yes, I will ship this for life man).

Review: Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009)

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“I have no wish to remove one shackle from around your necks, only to replace them with one of my own. You’ll have a choice: you can run and hide, or you can stay and fight. Any man who fights with me shall have his freedom and, if he wishes it; immortality.”
– Lucian

SYNOPSIS: An origins story centered on the centuries-old feud between the race of aristocratic vampires and their onetime slaves, the Lycans. – via IMDB

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GRADE 8This movie was so good. Since the first movie I have wanted a more in depth history of the lycan origins. I mean heck, Lucian said in Underworld: “We were slaves once. The daylight guardians of the vampires. I was born into servitude. Yet I harbored them no ill will.” You just know there is so much more to the story. Rise of the Lycans totally delivered on all fronts.

The sets were back up to par in this one, and the movie was once again dark, dreary, and depressing, which totally captured the mood. I also think that the lycans still look absolutley awesome, and the costume design was good. Going back centuries to the origin of this blood feud was something I have been waiting for for ages. Again, the consistency in the storytelling is great, and the lore sticks to what they have give us so far, so credit where credit is due. The more you see of Viktor, the more reprehensible a character he becomes, no doubt about this.

This movie also did a good job in showing you the differences between the thoroughbred werewolves, and the stranger crossbreed of lycans. It was also difficult to watch how these lycans came about, and how they were treated. Their eventual uprising and fighting back was something I greatly admired, and I thought it looked fantastic. I mean come on, there was a castle siege. You all know how I get about sieges!

Lucian is such a great character, and exploring him more in depth was super rewarding, and I really liked seeing him and Sonja together, though I knew they were doomed. Even knowing what the outcome will be,  it does not change the fact that you wish it would work out differently. Man, not cool!

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Rise of the Lycans is a solid addition to the Underworld franchise, and gives us more history to chew on, and details about this ancient lycan/vampire feud. It looks good, sounds good, and is incredibly entertaining. I highly recommend this for a watch! Excellent prequel.

Review: Underworld: Evolution (2006)

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“For six centuries I was a loyal soldier to the vampire clan. But I was betrayed. The war was not as it had seemed. In one night, the lies that had united our kind had been exposed.”
– Selene

SYNOPSIS: Vampire warrior Selene and the half werewolf Michael hunt for clues to reveal the history of their races and the war between them. – via IMDB

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GRADE 7So this film had some issues, for reals, but it was still not a waste of a film. For one, I really liked getting more history on the original players, because history is always interesting, and it just goes to show how consistent these movies are about what they are giving us. It is well thought out, so there aren’t tons of holes. I also liked how this picked up straight after the last one. The story is quite messy at times, to be honest, and just doesn’t come together as well as you would hope. There are so many issues at play here. I just wanted more bite (har har), and it didn’t quite deliver on that front.

I found that the effects were a little sketchy in this one, but that is hardly ever a make or break for me. The sets were not as great as Underworld, which is disappointing because I really liked the way that film came together visually. I was a particular fan of the way that William’s tomb/crypt/prison was designed – so intricate! The costume design was not my favourite thing in this one, either, which is a pity. So much more potential!

I was so pleased to see more of Michael and Selene in this one – the two just fit together and work perfectly. Not to mention I think that Scott Speedman and Kate Beckinsale work off of each other fantastically. They don’t have this super soppy romance; it’s edgy and heavy and beautiful, but they aren’t clinging to each other and swearing to die if they are apart. Plus they are quite a hot couple.

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Also, we have tons of action to focus on in this one again. Crazy big fights, some more of Michael and his powers as a hybrid, the love between Michael and Selene, and the never-ending politics of the vampire clans. There have been so many lies there, and now nobody trusts anybody. The story is (too) simple to follow, but the cast performs well, and it is always fun to watch Beckinsale be a kickass Death Dealer. Speedman was super easy on the eyes, too, and Michael is just… yeah.

While consistency is key, Alexander Corvinus having cleaned up after his sons and their offspring was something I was a little confused by. It wasn’t hinted at at all, and here you see this crew constantly cleaning up. Surely the vampires and lycans would have known if there was some special force looking out for them and fixing everything? Anyway. I did like that he gave Selene another gift, because it alters the way that the story could unfold, and the different plot devices at play.

Evolution is, without a doubt, not as good as its predecessor, and while it is a little messy, it is still infinitely better than most. It focuses too heavily on the action sequences and less on story, and for  me, that cost it some points.  That being said, me? Still a fan. Big one. It will take more than that to ruin these for me.

Review: Underworld (2003)

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“Whether you like it or not, you’re in the middle of a war that has been raging for the better part of a thousand years. A blood feud between vampires and lycans. Werewolves.”
– Selene

SYNOPSIS: Selene, a beautiful warrior, is entrenched in a war between the vampire and werewolf races. Although she is aligned with the vampires, she falls in love with Michael, a human who is sought by werewolves for unknown reasons. – via IMDB

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GRADE 8.5Man, oh man, I will never understand the low scores the Underworld movies have garnered online. There is so much to like about them, something that is becoming increasingly rare in the vampire/werewolf genres. Anyway, Underworld is shot really well. It is dark and gloomy every step of the way, so that from the opening you know you are about to get a gritty film. We return to real vampires and lycans – let’s face it, the lycans were terrifying. They weren’t these prissy regular wolves. They were big and menacing and scary, and these creatures still had the lines of a human to them, which made them super creepy. The film actually touts pretty decent effects, too, and an interesting story. From the off, you are interested to hear what Selene has to say about everything – why she loves being a Death Dealer, how her kind is dying off, and of this fascinating age old war that has raged between the two sides.

Speaking of, the politics were expertly handled, and you know I love some good politics. The betrayals ran deep, and the wheeling and dealing was great. I was a fan of the weapons both sides had created to combat each other. The lore was covered extremely well, too, and it was consistent. Selene, too, besides being super gorgeous in this, has an awesome relationship with Michael, and the two of them together just get me. It is so understated, and not in your face. Subtlety always wins out. Scott Speedman and Kate Beckinsale just gel together, and what a super hot couple! I WANT MORE!

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I enjoyed how expertly the storytelling was handled – initially you are anti-lycan, and only the vampires can be right, but as the movie progresses, the lycans change, and you see that everyone has been lied to somewhere, and that both sides have bad apples. The score complements the film every step of the way, too. Okay, as you can tell, I am a bit of a super fan. I love Underworld, and think it is a great example of the right kind of vampire and werewolf film. It manages to introduce you to an array of characters without losing you, giving you great backstories and lore, and has you engrossed in the progress, and the film is visually really pretty. Obviously I highly recommend you check out Underworld if you have not done so already.

Rapid Review: Jason Bourne (2016)

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“Remembering everything doesn’t mean you know everything.”
– Nicky Parsons

SYNOPSIS: The CIA’s most dangerous former operative is drawn out of hiding to uncover more explosive truths about his past. – via IMDB

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GRADE 7Long have I waited for the new Jason Bourne movie after I heard it was coming. I am sure you all know that I absolutely adore the Bourne franchise. The trailers for this looked promising, and to be sure, I was not let down. Jason Bourne was exactly what you would expect from a Bourne film – it was fast paced, featured great action and solid performances, and keeps you riveted every step of the way. While the story was not as tight for this as it has been for its predecessors, this does not make for a bad watch. I liked the way that this movie covered some of the bigger events that have come to pass since Ultimatum, and it did so effectively. Matt Damon is, of course, Bourne, and he delivered every step of the way here. Greengrass returns for this, and gives us another solid film, but I feel that the shaky cam work here was more hectic than usual, and it has been the one thing I don’t love about these movies. I am not big on shaky cam. It works for this style of film, but sometimes it is just too much, and there were more than a few times I found the camera to just be too shaky in this one, causing me to miss much of the action, etc. I was also not a fan of that death (those of you who have seen this will know what I am talking about). I saw what happened and why, it’s just so sad for me, and so unnecessary, though I knew what she was doing. It was still a shocker. I do, of course, love the consistency of these movies, and to see the right actors/actresses reprise their roles, and the events of the past remembered correctly, that’s something I appreciate. It’s the small things, you know? Jason Bourne gave us another strong female lead with Alicia Vikander helming the role of Heather Lee, though I did find Vikander to be a little stiff, and not just because her character is. I think she was a little off here and out of place, though her character is one of interest. Vincent Cassel is our dangerous Asset, the villain on the ground here, and naturally he nails the role, he is so comfortable as the bad guy. Anyway, while Jason Bourne is not as brilliant as the original trilogy, it is a worthy addition to the franchise and one I will be adding to my collection. It ticks all the boxes for what you want from a Bourne film, and doesn’t stray too far from the formula, but at the same time stays away from being stale and boring. This movie gets more hate than it deserves.

While I know the car chase is considered cliché and all that, I still had a ton of fun with it!

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Rapid Review: Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

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“You know what you get for being a hero? Nothin’. You get shot at. You get a little pat on the back, blah, blah, blah, attaboy. You get divorced. Your wife can’t remember your last name. Your kids don’t want to talk to you. You get to eat a lot of meals by yourself. Trust me, kid, nobody wants to be that guy.”
– John McClane

SYNOPSIS: John McClane and a young hacker join forces to take down master cyber-terrorist Thomas Gabriel in Washington D.C. – via IMDB

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GRADE 7This one was actually much better than I thought it was going to be. It was also smarter than I expected, but it had some immense flaws. However, and I am about to get crucified for this I am sure, this is the best sequel I have seen of the lot. It was quite modern, and Bruce Willis manages to entertain us, even having moved along in the years. I maintain, McClane has the most ungrateful brats, really. I mean I know he must have screwed up and he is a bit cuckoo and all that, but he has always tried to do his best for his family, though it evidently didn’t work well. Though it would seem that is par for course for law enforcement. Anyway, even Justin Long wasn’t too bad here, and I didn’t feel like rolling my eyes whenever he got on screen. Mary Elizabeth Winstead had her moments where you could just tell she was totally McClane’s daughter. Watching everyone panic about the world economy crashing was quite interesting, too, because I cannot think that that would be a fun day ever. Timothy Olyphant’s Thomas Gabriel was also a more interesting villain, but fell short of the mark at times. The story was engaging and the action was exactly what you would expect from a Die Hard film – slightly ludicrous but quite gratifying. One particular scene involving a jet and a truck on the highway was too ridiculous, so I can’t really say I was willing to suspend belief that much, even though the entire plot is quite silly. The scene is question was just over the line for me. I think the biggest thing is turning your brain off when you are watching this, otherwise the nitpicking will completely ruin the viewing experience. Unless you are watching with someone you can rip the plotholes with, I think that could be fantastic. I don’t quite understand why this movie gets so much flak – it is fun, it is entertaining, the story isn’t bad, there are some solid performances here, and it looks good. This is certainly one that I would watch again sometime, though I am certainly in no hurry to do so.