Sunday, August 30, 2015

Here are a few photos from yesterday's Waku Waku +NYC festival in Brooklyn, New York.  A Japanese pop culture festival debutting this year.  It continues today.  For more info and tickets visit: 

(Photos courtesy of Anont C.)


Friday, August 28, 2015

No Escape (2015)
Releases August 26th 2015
1 hr 41 mins
Rated R


Director: John Erick Dowdle
Writer: John Erick Dowdle, Drew Dowdle

Owen Wilson as Jack Dwyer
Lake Bell as Annie Dwyer
Pierce Brosnan as Hammond
Sterling Jerins as Lucy Dwyer
Claire Geare as Beeze Dwyer
Spencer Garrett as Recruiter
Karen Gemma Dodgson as Woman #1
Byron Gibson as Hotel Guest #1
Sahajak Boonthanakit as Kenny Roger

Review by Stephen M.

If there is a movie that will have you think twice about visiting a third world country, No Escape is it.  The movie focuses on Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson) and his family as they become expats in an unnamed country that strikingly resembles Thailand (it was filmed there) that is set to explode via a coup.  The militants and its followers are blood thirsty for foreigners who they feel are subjugating its people to poverty.

This is the only drama that I can recall ever seeing Owen Wilson in and I have to say I am very impressed.  Besides Owen, Pierce Bronson is also great as Hammond, a man of mystery that has some skills that resembles a former British agent role he use to play.  What will have you talking about the film though is how realistic the actors portray their characters, especially with the family aspect, and those two scenes on the roof that has your jaw dropping.  Owen Wilson may not be the next action hero, but it's nice to see him at least wet his feet a little in this aspect.

With regards to the overall plot however, there are a few questionable things.  From the restless savages the natives are portrayed to be, to the ridiculous questionable choices by the family in several regards.  Of course, the latter is just to build more tension such as (spoiler - highlight text to read) letting a child wander off on her own in a foreign country to a swimming pool.  And given their circumstances, perhaps the probability of their survival is just a little inflated since it is a movie.

Overall, I would recommend this film, unless you are planning to travel to a third world country soon for the first time.  The film is full of drama and tension that will have your hair rising on your skin.  However it isn't for the squeamish, with the brutality of the militants in indiscriminately mowing down and hacking up anybody that gets in their way.  The ending is also a bit hokey as well, but still a good watch in my opinion.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

LEGO DC Super Heroes: Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom!
Releases on Blu-Ray/DVD August 25th, 2015
1 hr 12 mins
Not Rated


Director: Rick Morales
Writer: Jim Krieg

Mark Hamill as The Trickster and Sinestro
Troy Baker as Batman
Nolan North as Superman
Josh Keaton as Green Lantern
Khary Payton as Cyborg
James Arnold Taylor as The Flash and General Lane
Grey Griffin as Wonder Woman and Lois Lane
John DiMaggio as Lex Luthor and Joker
Kevin Michael Richardson as Captain Cold, Gorilla Grodd and Black Manta
Tom Kenny as Penguin
Cree Summer as Cheetah
Tony Todd as Darkseid
Dee Bradley Baker as Martian Manhunter and Man-Bat

Review by Stephen M.

Going for the record of longest Lego related movie title, LEGO DC Super Heroes: Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom! is the latest and my favorite Lego/DC film out thus far.  The humor in the film will appeal to the kids while the action scenes should satisfied any die hard DC Comics fan.  Lex Luthor along with Black Manta and Sinestro decides to form a team to combat the threat of the united Justice League.  They recruit additional members to form their Legion of Doom with an unknown benefactor known only to Lex Luthor.

One of the things I like about the film that differed from the past Bizarro film was the inclusion of more heroes and villains.  And while most of them only have a short scene or two, they each played a meaningful role or joke as in the case of Giganta.  The focus of the film however can be said to be Cyborg and Martian Manhunter.  Cyborg the youngest of the team shows that he can contribute even if he is considered the "weak" link.  For Martian Manhunter, this is his first appearance and it's an origin story nicely told.  Each of the voice actors with tons of experience playing DC characters if not their actual role in this movie does an excellent job.

Overall, I would highly recommend this film.  The Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack comes with an exclusive Trickster Lego figure which you won't be able to get anywhere else.  Besides being highly entertaining, Lego and DC have managed to teach values as well in the film such as using the Flash and Green Lantern's competitive nature as an example.  The film is suitable for adults and young children, pick this up and you won't be disappointed.  The battles between different members of both teams are some of the most entertaining fight scenes involving DC characters I have seen in a long while.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Five Star
Releases on DVD September 1st, 2015
1 hr 23 mins
Not Rated


Director: Keith Miller
Writer: Keith Miller

James 'Primo' Grant as Primo
John Diaz as John
Wanda Nobles Colon as John's Mom
Jasmine Burgos as Jasmin
Richard Bird as Gun Dealer
Larry Bogad as Bar Owner

Review by Stephen M.

Five Star is an emotionally woven tale of two men at different stages in their life, both involved with the gang Bloods in New York City.  For John (John Diaz) it is a coming of age story with a heavy burden with the shadow of his father respected in the streets but killed by supposedly a stray bullet.  For Primo (James 'Primo' Grant), whose real life and fiction intermingles in the movie, is a story of family and respect.  The filmmaker does an excellent job of telling their story together as Primo, a friend or colleague of John's father, mentors John in the business aspect of the gang.

What stand out most for me in the movie are the actors.  It is hard to praise someone playing a role that they lived out in their actual life, their entire life.  But James does an amazing job in his role as essentially himself in front of the camera.  He carries a presence in every scene which is made easier with his large frame.  John Diaz is also great as the conflicted John, from his playful romancing scenes with his girl Jasmine (Jasmine Burgos) to his interaction with his mother (Wanda Nobles Colon) and essentially a father figure in Primo.

The film is entirely driven by the two main characters, which if you are into movies that are more about character development than a gangster action film you are going to be happy.   If you are looking for a gang film in the sense of battles between gangs and such you will be sorely disappointed.  There are elements of the street life that is shown in the movie and even talked about that Primo gives an insight to as a real life "five star" general of the Bloods.  But you won't see any action as far as beat downs, head shots or retaliation shootings.  The focus of the film is strictly on the two characters and their current direction in life with a lot of the messier, violent stuff happening off screen if at all.

Overall, I enjoyed the film despite its somewhat plodding pace.  I was expecting something along the lines of HBO's The Wire, but was still not disappointed despite the lack of action.  The filmmaker does an excellent job in providing a point of view that is rarely seen in gangster films with the character Primo.  The DVD which is the copy that I got to review has bonus interviews on the making of the film which is interesting.  The DVD is out on September 1st but the film is actually available VOD currently.


Friday, August 21, 2015

Hitman: Agent 47
Releases August 21st 2015
1 hr 36 mins
Rated R
Action/Adventure, Suspense/Thriller


Director: Aleksander Bach
Writer: Michael Finch, Skip Woods

Rupert Friend as Agent 47
Hannah Ware as Katia van Dees, Agent 90
Helena Pieske as young Katia
Zachary Quinto as John Smith, CIA
Ciarán Hinds as Dr. Litvenko
Thomas Kretschmann as Le Clerq
Angelababy as Diana
Dan Bakkedahl as Sanders
Emilio Rivera as Fabian
Rolf Kanies as Dr. Delriego/"The Hunter"
Jerry Hoffmann as Franco

Review by Stephen M.

Hitman: Agent 47 based on a video game franchise plays out like a video game with some intense action and indiscriminate head shots.  However a sloppy plot and overuse of CGI makes this film only a must see for the Hitman gaming faithful.  While the film is full of shootouts and close combat fighting that will get your adrenaline pumping, the inconsistency by the filmmakers in their storytelling makes it a frustrating ride.

Rupert Friend transformed into the lead, killing machine Agent 47, so aptly named as he is the 47th iteration of a line of genetically created assassins.  Seeing Rupert in person at the fan event in New York and comparing him to his character is such a night and day in appearance and mannerisms.  Besides Rupert, I was also thoroughly impressed with Hannah Ware's performance as Katia, the damsel in distress.  Zachary Quinto's character John Smith while good was not as memorable as the other two.  Regardless of the different scenes, his expression rarely changes.  

As with the action, I am equally amazed and disappointed at the same time.  Amazed at some of the scenes they put together especially in regards to bodies flying and the realistic physics applied.  Disappointment stemming from the realism in the physics giving way to the obvious CGI employed in the scenes reminding you of the movie's video game roots.  A bit of a blur between a live action movie and a CGI cut scene from a game is the best way to describe it, which is not quite what I was expecting.  

The biggest gripe I have with the film is the twists and turns the filmmakers try to utilize but with the effect of twisting the story into a mangled mess.  For example, whether Agent 47 and John Smith are trying to save Katia or kill her.  Another is the villain Le Clerq's reasoning for wanting the creator of Agent 47 to create an army of unstoppable assassins, when they already have shown that they are capable of creating inhumanly fast, strong and bullet proof assassins themselves.

Overall, I would recommend the film if you're a fan of the Hitman game or you are a fan of violent movies.  Agent 47's brutality in dispatching his opponents makes this for adults only for me.  If they continue with a sequel which is quite possible given the ending, then hopefully the script is a bit sharper the second time around.  I would have loved more background info on the organization behind Agent 47 whose liaison was Diana played by Hong Kong star Angelababy.  What did you think of the film?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Releases August 21st 2015 (Limited)
1 hr 20 mins
Not Rated


Director: Pat Mills
Writer: Pat Mills

Pat Mills as David Gold
Zahra Bentham as Jabrielle
Tracey Hoyt as Brenda
Don Allison as Doctor
Alexandria Benoit as Lisa
Alastair Forbes as Glen
Jen Goodhue as Mrs. Schlitz
Kevin Hanchard as Principal Newman
Alex Harrouch as John
Allison Hossack as Ginny
Becky Johnson as Waiter
Michael Kaplan as Teen Boy #2
Robert B. Kennedy as Ginnys husband
Michael Koras as Police Officer
Jee-Yun Lee as Reporter
Ian Matthews as Mr. Schlitz
Claire Mazerolle as Meaghan
Laytrel McMullen as Nisha
Jane Moffat as Ms. Simms
Alex Ozerov as Brent ('Ghost')

Review by Stephen M.

Guidance is one of those under the radar type indie films that you need to watch at least once.  A dark comedy, written, directed and starring Pat Mills, who plays David Gold a washed up childhood actor that decides to become a guidance counselor one day on a whim.  And why not, because as an actor you can become anyone and the consequences are pretty darn funny.  Throw in the fact that he's an alcoholic, dying of skin cancer, and has the maturity of a child, he makes the perfect the choice for shaping the lives of our youths!

Most of the humor in the movie stems from the absurdity and naive nature of David's character.  His ability to tune those around him out, and yet still get by with his demented wit will have you laughing.  Such as giving a black student, bandaids painted to match her skin color, is hilarious even if he means well which he surprisingly often does.  It is not only his interaction with the students but the rest of the faculty and those are him like his landlord that showcases such an incredible cast and on point comedic writing by Pat Mills.  There's little to fault about the film other than it at times drag a bit here and there, and as well I wish the ending while funny would have been different.

Overall, I would highly recommend this dark comedy from Canada.  Pat Mills is hilarious as the lead character.  His character David Gold, reminds me of characters like Mr. Bean, where you don't expect things to go right for him, but it does anyway, despite his bumbling naive outlook.  It also helps that the film has a great supporting cast, including the students in the movie.  I would not recommend the movie for young teens given some of the questionable advice that David gives as a counselor as hilarious as they may be looking in from the outside.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Fantastic Four (2015)
Released August 7th, 2015
1 hr 40 mins
Rated PG-13
Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy


Director: Josh Trank
Writer: Jeremy Slater, Simon Kinberg, Josh Trank

Miles Teller as Reed Richards / Mr. Fantastic
Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm / Human Torch
Kate Mara as Susan "Sue" Storm / Invisible Woman
Jamie Bell as Ben Grimm / Thing
Toby Kebbell as Victor von Doom / Doctor Doom
Reg E. Cathey as Dr. Franklin Storm
Tim Blake Nelson as Dr. Harvey Allen

Review by Stephen M.

Quite possibly the best Fantastic Four movie released this year, I won't go into detail as far as how bad the many critics and movie goers have made it out to be.  This version of the movie follows the comic book series Ultimate Fantastic Four which features a totally different origin story.  From there however, the comic book and movie completely diverges with little character development and chemistry and ridiculously CGI heavy, short epic battle scene that you lets you down as much as Dr. Doom does.

From the beginning of the film you can appreciate what the filmmakers are trying to do especially if you're a fan of Ultimate Fantastic Four.  But aside from the chemistry between Reed and Ben early on, all of this is pretty much thrown out the window along with any other idea of building up the family chemistry that we know and love of any iteration of Fantastic Four teams.  Case in point, we don't see the friendly rivalry between Johnny and Ben until perhaps the last 5 minutes of the movie for about a 1 minute dialogue.  

Overall, I would only recommend this film as a case study for future filmmakers on how to ruin a Marvel film.  Taking Dr. Doom for example, while I know that the Ultimate version is not quite the same as the regular Marvel Universe (616)'s Dr. Doom, you can't help but shake your head and say what the heck as he is revealed.  Again with little in terms of character developments instead to say 1 year later do we see that the group of four would be heroes are able to come together in a foreign universe that is now apparently breathable to take on Doom with God-like powers.  Hey, they had to finish the film in a hurry, to get the piece of poop out, so let's not bother with explanations.  Let's hope that the sequel in 2017 will start off with Jessica Alba as the Invisible Woman waking up to a bad dream that was 2015.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Releases August 14, 2015
1 hr 20 min
Language: Dutch with English Subtitles
Not Rated


Written and Directed by: Sam de Jong

Oussama Addi as Oussama
Elsie de Brauw as Saskia
Ayoub Elasri as Ayoub
Olivia Lonsdale as Demi
chraf Meziani as Achraf
Jorik Scholten as Franky
Sigrid ten Napel as Laura

Review by The Secret Screener

In this visually thrilling coming-of-age tale, seventeen-year-old Ayoub (Ayoub Elasri) has a lot on his plate: his father is a junkie, his mother is a lonely divorcé, and his sister is falling in with the wrong crowd. Haunted by his father's terrible reputation, Ayoub can't get the attention of Laura, the most beautiful girl in the neighborhood. He does, however, gain the attention of Kalpa, an eccentric, purple Lamborghini-driving, psychotically violent local criminal. Falling in with Kalpa, Ayoub tries to enlarge his status (and his wallet) enough to win Laura over, but soon finds that his new life is far more than he bargained for.

This was a interesting film in the aspect that you see everything happening in a week for Ayoub. Honestly I walked in to this film knowing nothing. I walked out scratching my head going "What the hell did I just watch?" 

If you are in to art house fare, this is for you. If you want a film with a clear story and definitive ending don't bother with "Prince" Out of 5 stars I give it one. Ok watch, If I knew what I was getting in to I would have passed.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Releases August 14th 2015
1 hr 56 mins
Rated PG-13


Director: Guy Ritchie
Writers: Guy Ritchie, Lionel Wigram

Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo
Armie Hammer as Illya Kuryakin
Alicia Vikander as Gaby Teller
Elizabeth Debicki as Victoria Vinciguerra
Jared Harris as Saunders
Hugh Grant as Alexander Waverly
Luca Calvani as Alexander
Simona Caparrini as Contessa

Review by Stephen M.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. based on the TV series in the 1960s of the same name shows us style over substance can still make for an entertaining film.  Set during John F. Kennedy's administration where tension between the U.S. and Russia are at a high point.  Danger to both super powers creates an unlikely pairing to save the world brings us action and humor all while stylishly dressed.

Henry Cavill plays Napoleon Solo, the CIA operative forced to work with Armie Hammer as Illya Kuryakin, the KGB operative when a scientist goes missing and is forced to work for a mysterious group building them a portable nuclear bomb.  Of the two, I enjoyed Henry's performance more as Arnie's felt a bit more forced.  I did enjoy his scenes with Alicia Vikander who plays Gabby Teller, daughter of the missing scientist.  The particular scene I enjoyed the most is the drunken dancing scene in which Alicia really shines.

The biggest problem I had with the movie is the overall concept and execution of the film.  At no point in the movie did I feel an overwhelming sense of dread for the make believe world of The Man from U.N.C.L.E..  Nor do the villains of the movie give out a particular sense of dread or doom. With Guy Ritchie's style of action shots, I cannot say I am a particular fan at least in this film.  I really don't see the point of six panels of non-meaningful shots of agents running around all in the same screen.

Overall, I would recommend the film for a fun action packed summer flick.  The film could have been polished a bit more and further developed in certain areas to make the story and characters more meaningful.  I felt I was watching a mixture of spy/cop movies like Red Heat mixed with any of the pre-Daniel Craig James Bond films.  Did you enjoy the film?