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Friday, May 16, 2014

Review: The Raid 2

The Raid 2 (2014):

Synopsis – After the events of The Raid: Redemption, Rama must go undercover into one of the criminal organizations that rule the streets. He has to punch and kick a bunch of people, because that’s what Rama does.

I saw this movie. I saw this movie, and it changed me. I have since dedicated my life to martial arts, and have been pursuing the elite in order to challenge them, mano y mano. Alright, that is obviously a lie. The change that has overcome me has to do with action movies. After having seen what was done in The Raid 2, I don’t think any action is going to be able to hold up. And I don’t even really like action movies! The pure hand to hand combat displayed throughout the movie was simply breathtaking, and I found myself grinning ear to ear as Rama beat his way to the top of the game. If you were to look at my review of the first movie, you might think I was an asshole hypocrite that just changes his mind willy-nilly. Well, that may be true, but the problems I had with the first movie were almost all completely resolved in the sequel. We got a movie with great action and a solid story! It can happen after all.

What I Liked:
-Listen, I know the point of most action movies is to get your blood pumping with the action displayed and not worry about the other bits (although you could argue that Michael Bay is very concerned with the cinematography of all his films, and he mostly specialize in action), but I want a story. I WANT A STORY DAMN IT! And this time, I got one. I got one in spades. I have seen many criticisms about the story and its length, but I freaking loved it. I hope the inevitable 3rd movie has just as much.
-Rama (Iko Uwais) was great, but once again my love goes to Yayan Ruhian, who played Mad Dog in the first movie and Prakoso in this one. That man can do some crazy acrobatic stuff. And mad props to Cecef Arif Rahman for his fight against Rama.
-This wasn’t just a great fighting movie, the driving action was also really thrilling.

What I Didn’t Like:
-I had been hyped up to see Hammer Girl and Baseball Boy in action, but in the end I found them both pretty underwhelming. Because of the nature of their weapons most of their stuff had to be CGI’d in.

What I Hated:
-As I said before, I don’t think any action movie is ever going to overcome the amazingness of The Raid 2. At least nothing ever American made.


This is one of the best martial arts/action movies I’ve ever seen. If you don’t mind horrendous amounts of violence and reading (as it is subtitled) you HAVE to see this movie. So freaking good.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Review: Boxcar Bertha

Boxcar Bertha (1972):

Synopsis – In the days of railroads and union busting, Bertha and her rag tag group of heroes move from town to town, fighting for the little guy and tryin’ to make an “honest” buck. But really they just keep getting beaten up and arrested.

The adventure into Scorsese’s library continues! FINALLY! My excuse for waiting so long to dig into this movie can be chalked up to many factors: The title of the film is not exactly encouraging; the movie was produced by Roger Corman, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but can be; a sophomore film is usual a dip in quality for a director, and since I liked his first film so much I didn’t know what to expect; I had already heard that the movie wasn’t that good. So after a walk in the afternoon (in 95 degree weather), and after watching a little of Rob Zombie’s Halloween, we thought better of what we were doing (the we is me and my pal Jose) and started up Boxcar Bertha. And you know what? Not that bad! Even if it was supposed to be a bit of an exploitation film, you still got some very nice Scorsese touches throughout the movie.

What I Liked:
-You certainly see some Scorsese magic in the camera work. Whether it’s a shot of the actors walking toward the camera as it leads them on or a quick edit to show reactions, one after another, Scorsese can be seen all over this, working in as many of his nowadays signature flair throughout. There was even a shot that was so good I had to back up the video and watch it again. I can’t find a clip of it online, but I will try my best to describe it: It was a sort of typical 70’s zoom, but in reverse. Barbara Hershey, David Carradine and at least one other are walking down a long wooden walkway. The shot begins with them slightly in the distance walking towards the camera, and then suddenly the zoom pulls WAAAAAY back, so much so that you can no longer see the actors, only the enormity of the walkway. The camera resumes a more average shot of the actors walking after that, but the moment was so shocking I felt this wave of love for the cinematography wash over me, because I’m a nerd.
-The story was fun most of the time in a Bonnie and Clyde style, feature young-ish bandits fighting “the man”. There is a certain charm to the naivety of the protagonists, although they aren’t much to look at when compared to Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. But really who is?

What I Didn’t Like:
-For a film about young train robbers who are constantly being jailed and shot at, this film was sometimes very boring and seemed overly long despite being under 90 minutes. I was enjoying the camera work in-between story beats enough that the movie held my attention, but I did that thing where you check to see how much of the movie is left and it was only half way done! That’s a bad sign. They had to pack in a lot of scenes of David Carradine mourning his position of no longer being an honest Union worker, because he needed character, I guess? Or perhaps it was so we would continue to be on his side after he beats up so many coppers? They must have been going for shades of Grapes of Wrath or something. And of course being Roger Corman produced, we got a bunch of unnecessary nudity. Lots of gun violence too, but that was ok. SO MUCH RED PAINT.
-The dialog in this movie is pretty bad. Considering the screenwriter was Joyce Hopper Corrington, screenwriter for The Omega Man (a movie I love but even I know it’s pretty bad), I guess I’m not surprised.

What I Hated:
-I was going to criticize a few of the actors for how they were in this movie, but I don’t know if I can really fault them. They were probably getting two directions at a time; a person who wanted to cheese it up and Scorsese who probably wanted the opposite. The attempt to baby-doll up Barbara Hershey was just gross, I’ll say that much.

Negativities aside, I still feel like this movie might be worth a watch for anyone. There were enough nuggets of good in the pile of mediocrity to make me feel like I learned a little more about our pal Marty Scorsese. And if you want to watch something a little racy and cheesy, you could do much worse.

Next up on the list is Mean Streets, which if Roger Ebert is to be trusted, should be very enjoyable. We’ll have to see, I tried watching it before I was any sort of film buff and I didn’t get it.