The Raid: Redemption

The Raid (R) - Runtime: 101 minutes
Starring: Iko Uwais, Ananda George, Ray Sahetapy
Director: Gareth Evans

I've heard nothing but extremely positive reviews of when this hit stateside in May. The trailer itself blew me away - which is hard to do with an action movie. I am not a huge fan of action movies, let alone martial arts movies. But after hearing all the great things, I had to give this one a shot. And boy, this movie didn't disappoint. It's really hard to imagine what lasting impact a movie can have, but I guarantee this movie will be talked about and glorified for years to come. It's that good.

The set up is simple - a SWAT team is tasked with taking down a notorious mobster who is holed up in a big ass tower of a building with all sorts of bad thugs. Of course, after a successful breach of the building, the team becomes trapped inside and has to fight their way out in order to survive. This is straight up balls-to-the-walls action. There's never a dull moment - even when there's nothing happening, there's a lot a tension. You know people are going to get their heads bashed in and die, but the way the movie plays out this tension and action is very refreshing. It's not just some dumb action movie with crappy one liners. There's a decent set of characters that all have a history with the mobster and the people in it.

At the heart of the movie is Rama - a somewhat young face on the SWAT team who has a brother living in the building. Their story plays out dramatically while Rama fights for his life and I loved how the story ended. It's not perfect, but I would love to see some sort of sequel that hashes out unresolved issues - plus it's just another excuse to see some great action.

I'm not one to drool over choreography or fight scenes, but man, this is right up there with the hallway scene in Oldboy as far as being memorable. And that's the whole movie. This is strictly action porn. Which is an apt description because there's gangbang scenes, one-on-ones and even a three-way, just in action form. And much like porn, those looking for romance will find this movie lacking. Bros only - I think there's Rama's pregnant wife in the beginning, but there is one other woman (lying sick in bed, of course!) in the rest of the movie. This movie is not going to be breaking any metaphorical glass ceilings (maybe a few real ones, though).

Just multiply this scene by 30 and you have The Raid.

Even if you do not like action movies all that much, this is a testament to great filmmaking, editing and choreography. It's got a good story - you do get behind these characters and every fight scene is memorable. This movie will blow you away and keep coming back for more.

Rating: Own It!


Most Anticipated: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

50. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (PG) - Runtime: 94 minutes
Starring: Zachary Gordon, Robert Capron, Devon Bostick
Director: David Bowers

Yes, this movie was on my most anticipated list. I decided to give this series a shot last year and I really, really enjoyed both movies. Rowley is by far one of the greatest kid characters to ever grace the silver screen. The actor, Robert Capron, does such a great job of creating this sweet, naive and dorky kid that you can't help but smile whenever he's onscreen. Dog Days is another great addition to the series and it's just as good, if not better, than the other two movies.

Whereas the first two movies dealt with Greg's relationship with his best friend Rowley and then with his brother, Rodrick, Dog Days focuses on Greg's father, Frank. Played by one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood, Steve Zahn - Frank Heffley walks a fine line between Homer Simpson-like buffoonery and Ward Cleaver-like wisdom. I liked the story they told and how Greg comes to really enjoy his father's company. The movie never spends too much time indulging in the cheesefest of father-son relationships. This is mostly a comedic film and I found myself laughing hard at times.

There's a lot of different stories/characters happening in the movie so it's hard to remember all the great stuff I enjoyed. But I dug Greg's weekend getaway with Rowley's parents. Rowley's parents border on serial killer status, which I thought was hilarious! There's a scene where they all want to get ice cream and instead of getting 3 separate cones, all three flavor scoops are on one cone, which Rowley and his parents enjoy licking together. It's gross but immensely funny - most of the movie is this way and I applaud the execution.

I found this third movie to be the best because of the aforementioned storyline of Greg connecting to his father. It just felt authentic and real. Plus there's just more funny jokes and Steve Zahn gets more screen time which is always a plus. I've enjoyed every movie in this series and by far this one takes the cake.

It may not be the best coming of age story, but Dog Days is filled with a ton of laughs and it's really, really fun. You can take your mom to see this and you won't have to worry about awkward sex scenes or filthy jokes that only you laugh at while your mom looks on disapprovingly. I highly recommend this one!

Rating: See It!


Most Anticipated: Wrath of the Titans

33. Wrath of the Titans (PG-13) - Runtime: 99 minutes
Starring: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Rosamund Pike
Director: Jonathan Liebesman

I don't think I was as harsh on Clash of the Titans like a lot of other people were (it currently has a 5.8 user rating on IMDb). It was highly entertaining and provided "Release the Kraken" into mainstream culture (that phrase may have jumped the shark, but it's still a pretty good line to use for jokes!). So for all of its flaws, you can't deny it had some good action. And when the movie did major business, it was no surprise that a sequel was in the works. I'm grateful that this sequel tanked at the box office because that means we won't be seeing another unnecessary sequel, but it's not like I didn't have fun with this movie. In fact, I think this movie was superior to the original in a number of ways.

The movie follows Perseus once again. This time having forsaken his birthright as a god and deciding to lead a normal human life, Perseus is called into action. When Hades strikes a deal with his titan father Kronos, all hell will literally break loose. And it's up to Perseus to fight for the gods and for humanity. It's a very simple plot with the action driving most of the movie forward. There isn't as many iconic moments like the last film had - no cutting off Medusa's head or Kraken bashing, but what the movie lacks in inspiring action scenes it makes up for in character development.

Yes, you heard me, characters actually have an arc and I really liked how the story was told. Perseus has another journey to go through - one of acceptance of his place in the world and one of being a father. And Zeus and Hades finally come to accept each other as brothers and smoke a peace pipe and sing Kumbayah. It doesn't really get that heavy; after all this is just an action movie, but it was a nice change of pace. Nobody's going to win any acting awards, but everyone did a nice job and Bill Nighy gets to make an appearance and ham it up for twenty or so minutes.

The action was all around solid and I really enjoyed the prison realm of Tartarus. If only the movie had more of these moments I might have enjoyed the film more. Like the first movie, Wrath limps to the finish. There's something anti-climactic about how they've filmed the last battle. It's similar to Clash where Perseus has to ride a Pegasus to confront a giant beast (in this case, Kronos) but the way it's done, I was yawning - just like last time! You're left wondering, "That's it? Hell, I could do Perseus' job for him." When the audience is having these thoughts, maybe it's best you rewrite the ending so at least it seems challenging. In no sense did I really think Perseus as a god - he just stabs things and flies into things. Big deal, I can do that if I had a Pegasus.

The biggest misstep is Andromeda. It's not like her character was unnecessary, but they throw in this romantic angle and at the end Perseus kisses her which comes out of nowhere! Woah Woah Woah, Perseus, you horndog! Just because Miss Andromeda looks good in a suit of armor, does not mean she's asking you for some tongue wrestling. I know us men can read the wrong signals, but chain-mail is not Ancient Greece's answer to the modern day thong. That "romance" scene is completely random and there's really no indication there was some sort of connection between them. Just because there's a good looking woman in the movie doesn't mean she needs to hook up with the lead dude. I was really bummed they decided to go there.

Whatever, this movie was okay. I'm not going to see it ever again, that's for sure. But I had fun watching it. If you at least enjoyed the first movie, you'll end up enjoying this one. It's not a memorable movie, but it's a fun action flick that doesn't wear out its welcome.

Rating: Rent It!

I think I'm taking crazy pills!

Let's just start off by teasing my #4 most anticipated film (formerly known as Kathryn Bigelow's Untitled Osama Bin Laden Movie)

Now before y'all start complaining about how disappointed you are in this trailer, let me remind you this is a teaser. Of course this is only going to just give you a hint of what's to come. Hell, they even got to read classified documents in order to make the movie better. You think the producers are just going to throw all the cool shit into the teaser five months before the movie is out? Hell no! This film only has intensified my curiosity for this movie!

Onto some more somber news: Yet another movie has been pushed back. It's been announced today that The Great Gatsby (AKA Baz Lurhman Messes with an American Classic) has been moved from December 2012 to Summer 2013. Uhhhnnnn, this is the eighth movie to have been pushed back. I don't know why the movie gods have cursed me this year, but thankfully 2012 has been filled with a ton of great movies to fall back on. Seriously, I haven't been this satisfied with the first seven months of the year since 2008 when The Dark Knight and Iron Man stole the summer. I have to use more than two hands to count how many movies I've enjoyed this year - from The Dark Knight Rises to Friends With Kids to 21 Jump Street - it's been a fantastic year so far. And now we're slowly creeping up to Oscar season - the time of year when studios start to really pimp out their quality stuff in front of the Academy much like roosters do in order to get laid. And what better way to celebrate the Oscar mating season than by pimping PT Anderson's new flick, The Master!

Starring: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Pheonix
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Release Date: September 2
I really, really believed that PTA's last movie, There Will Be Blood, was the best movie of 2007. I don't know what it is about that movie, but I was completely enthralled. Maybe Daniel Day-Lewis had something to do with it, but the direction in that movie was flawless along with all that beautiful acting. And although PTA hasn't done a whole lot of movies in his long career, they've all been must-see movies whether you love them or hate them (ask anybody what they think of Magnolia and they'll certainly have an opinion on it!). So I am certainly thrilled to see another PTA production, but the movie's plot was too vague by my tastes (and are still a little bit) for me to warrant a spot on my original list. But now there's a couple of teasers out and the plot seems a little more comprehensible so here were are. Basically Hoffman plays an L. Ron Hubbard (Scientology!) type figure who starts a religion and brings a drifter (Pheonix) under his wing as his second-hand man to help spread his message. It sounds like Anderson might be covering similar territory and themes from There Will Be Blood, but I'm already fascinated to see how he handles these characters that I'm pretty certain I want to see this right away. This is most definitely Oscar bait - but the Academy might have too many active Scientologists to warrant a nomination, so we'll shall see!