Stunt Granny Movie Review: Brick Mansions

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“Brick Mansions” is a Spike/TNT special. A movie in which if you stumble upon it on a random Sunday afternoon, you’ll stay for the finish. It’s not a good movie. It’s not a well-made movie. It’s a goofy caricature of an action movie. Once you accept that, you’ll realize it’s an enjoyable movie. It’s a Luc Besson film that Liam Neeson and Jason Statham wouldn’t wipe their behinds with. Luckily Paul Walker doesn’t believe on standing on trite movie ceremony – this film is right in his wheelhouse as the likeable, slightly believable action star. He may get flack for being a mediocre actor (I look at him as a man who accepts and embraces his limitations), but compared to the rest of the cast, he might as well be Daniel-Day Lewis. Any film in which RZA is the second best actor by far should tell you the type if film being made. “Brick Mansions”  is a gussied up B movie with a silly plot, parkour, cringe worthy representatives of black people, and in flattering view of Detroit. “Brick Mansions” is basically RoboCop if Donald Sterling directed it and got rid of the robot.

Guess what – I enjoyed it. Within 5 minutes of the film I accepted it for what it was and enjoyed the ride. I accepted that Detroit walled off an entire section of the Detroit projects to reduce crime. I accepted that RZA somehow stole a military transport and was able to attach a neutron dirty bomb to a Russian rocket for ransom. A French parkour expert who never lost his accent despite growing up in Detroit, who defeated armed gunman through brooms and flips? No problem. Paul Walker basically playing the love child of Keanu Reeves and Jackie Chan? I’m all in. Thugs speaking proper stilted English as if it was learned at a French catholic school – damn right. It has no logic besides its own, and follows its own rules. It is a better movie for it. I still remember “Brick Mansions after a week and smile thinking about it…more than I could say for better movies which fall by the wayside. It also reminded me how enjoyable Paul Walker was on film. I would say it’s a shame that his last starring role was this film, but he wouldn’t. So go see it. Definitely turn off the logic and reason and have fun. -Shahid

Shahid’s Blog: Quick Thoughts on The Raid 2

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The Raid: Redemption, released in 2011 by Gareth Evans, was a revelation – an underrated action masterpiece that soon became a cult classic.  It’s premise was simple – a SWAT attempting to escape an apartment building while apprehending a local crime boss.  But the action was unprecedented in its realism and artistic brutality. Along with Dredd 3D, The Raid provided a slick, stripped down, old school action film with no fillers or nonsense.  It actually served of a more polished version of Evans first film, Merantau.  Both films starred Iko Uwais aka Muslim Tony Jaa, and introduced the Indonesian martial art of Pencak Silat to the film universe.  Even though the film only grossed 15 million dollars, it cast a large shadow upon the action genre, and led for plans for both a sequel and an American remake.

I’ll keep this review succinct – if you were a fan of the first film, or just a fan of martial arts and Hong Kong action movies, then do yourself a favor and see The Raid 2 ASAP.  It’s a lot longer and expanded than the original, and definitely has influences from John Woo and similar crime dramas.  Beginning soon after the first film, Iko Ukwais is tasked to go deep undercover to join an Indonesian crime family, with the goal to expose police corruption.  It’s a simple story, but given plenty of time to add emotion and depth to the various characters.  The bottom line is that it serves its purpose of providing the most visceral action I’ve seen on film….ever.  Every punch, kick, stab, gunshot and slam is given the greatest care, and is presented as an elegant ballet of violence.I can’t count how many times I exclaimed, covered my eyes, or just stared in awe at the myriad of set pieces and events, all of which looked painstakingly authentic.  Iko Ukwais has acquired the “baddest man alive” title from Tony Jaa,  and carries the film with a combination of artistic lethality and quiet grace. He’s joined by a wide array of characters, both old (Yayan Ruhian aka Mad Dog from the Raid) and new…lets just say you’ll never look at a baseball bat or a hammer ever again.

I could go on for hours, but there’s no point – go see this movie.  But be forewarned, it will be difficult to be impressed by regular action movies once you attend the Raid 2. -Shahid

Stunt Granny Movie Review: 300: Rise of an Empire

300-rise-of-an-empireReleased in 2007, 300 was an anomaly. An R-rated sword and sandals action film with starring relative unknowns based upon an obscure graphic novel, Zack Snyder and his iconic style was unleashed upon the world. Striking color schemes, slow motion fighting scenes, goofy scenery chewing speeches, super abs, old fashioned xenophobic savagery – 300 answered the eternal question of what would happen if an 18 year old uber nerd was allowed free reign to make a movie. A retelling of the battle of Thermopylae, in which a small group of Spartan soldiers undertake a heroic sacrifice against an overwhelming Persian army, 300 became a global phenomenon which helped launched the careers of director Zack Snyder, along with Gerard Butler, Lena Headey and Michael Fassbender (yes – he is actually in that movie). Any film that makes close to half a billion dollars worldwide will be mined for a sequel….which would be difficult since nearly all of the principal heroes die in the film.  Yet here we are with 300: Rise of an Empire, the sequel/prequel/interquel

First things first – if you’re a fan of 300, then you’ll probably enjoy this film.  Even though 7 years have passed between the two films, they share the same sweeping, thematic style.  Although not as groundbreaking as the original, Rise of an Empire is a beautiful film, although more muted than the original.  You’ll get plenty of slow motion spear thrusts, jumping sword slices, and every bead of sweat and blood, this time with the benefit of 3D. In fact, unless you engaged in geek research, you would have no idea that Zack Snyder didn’t direct this film, instead only serving as producer.  Instead, Noam Murro takes the helm – but it doesn’t really matter.  Rise of an Empire’s disadvantage is its status as a follow up film, not only being compared to the original, but also shows such as Spartacus.  The action still holds up, but doesn’t have the jaw dropping impact of the original.

Rise of an Empire takes a peculiar approach in regards to its story, serving as almost a visual appendix of the 300 universe.  Ever wonder what caused the Persians to be pissed at Greece, and what the hell the battle of Marathon was about? Any curiosity pertaining to the origin of Xerxes?  How did Sparta handle the aftermath of the death of Leonidas, besides doing crunches and bragging about death?  You’ll find out all of these things during 102 minutes.  Rise of an Empire solves the problem of following the previous film by telling a parallel story, involving the Athenians battling the Persians for freedom, as well as the aftermath of the Battle of Thermoplyae.  Shifting the focus of the stories from the Spartans to the Athenians helps the movie retain a certain freshness.  Instead of asshole brash killing machines, the Athenians are portrayed as noble flawed, yet skilled warriors, fighting for unity and justice of Greece. It’s also a more grounded movie than the original, with less fantastical elements, and a more adult story. As the leader of the Athenian army, Themistocles’ journey of freedom and redemption has more resonance than Leonidas ranting about DEATH AND GLORY while kicking messengers down pits. Personally, it allows for easier support and investment in the story. The movie spends an inordinate amount of time explaining the backstory and desires of the principal characters.  Some may enjoy the added character development, while others will just bide their time into the next set piece.

Anyone who watches genre movies understands that it takes skill to add believability and soul to an often ridiculous setting.  Gerard Butler was the primary reason for 300’s success, and his shadow looms large throughout the film. The movie makes a wise decision in presenting Themistocles as a more human character.  Played by Sullivan Stapleton of Cinemax’s Strike Back, he’s portrayed as a quiet thoughtful warrior wracked by responsibility and guilt, yet resolute in his dream of a united Greece.  My first impression was that he was a bit dull, until I realized that I was comparing him to Leonidas.  In actuality, he serves as the heart of the film, playing a more difficult character.  Lena Headey aka the chick from Game of Thrones reprises her role as Queen Gorgo, basically serving as the narrator of the film.   From her initial haughty arrogance when rebuffing Athens call for help, to bitterness and sadness from her husband’s death, to her eventual resolute fury when seizing revenge, she plays her role effectively. But the star of the movie by far is Eva Green, as Artemesia, naval commander of the Persians and the primary antagonist.  As a Greek who swears vengeance on her own people, I can’t recall the last movie which starred a terrifying, sexy, powerful, psychotic and charismatic female villain.  Every scene is dominated with her presence, almost to the point of her serving as an anti-hero.  Similar to how 300 was the Gerard Butler show, this film is her personal playground.

Watching a violent yet erotic sex scene in 3D in a crowded film is an experience in itself.  If you need one reason to see this movie, then see it for her.  As for the other characters, they serve as bridges from the first film, as well as plot devices to give weight to the primary characters.  I haven’t mentioned Xerxes as a major character, because quite frankly, he doesn’t earn that role.  But there’s nothing wrong with a towering walking Oscar statue prancing around like a prima donna.

I definitely recommend this film.  It’s not without flaws – there’s less humor than the original.  In addition, although it tells a nobler story, it has less weight of consequence due to its status as a prequel/interquel as well as sequel. And it also has a rather infuriating ending.  However, if you like seeing men with 8 packs fighting on burning ships while riding a horse under water, then go see 300: Rise of an Empire.  And seize your damn glory. -Shahid

Stunt Granny Movie Review: 3 Days to Kill

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What do you get when you take Luc Besson, add some Lifetime Network, and mix it in an American Blender?  You get Three Days to Kill, starring Kevin Costner.  A convoluted, cluttered, yet entertaining film, Three Days to Kill answers the eternal question = what happens when you make an American version of Taken after getting hit in the face with a frying pan?  It’s cluttered, convoluted, ridiculous, yet strangely entertaining.

1.  If there is a sole reason to watch this film, it’s Kevin Costner.  That name carries a certain baggage, due to films like the Postman and Waterworld, as well a shaky attempt at a British accent. But there is a  reason that he was one of the biggest movie stars in the world at one time – gravitas.  He gives weight and emotion to a flimsy role which could have devolved into farce and fluff. Playing a retired, terminally ill CIA operative on a final mission while reconciling with a teenage daughter, Costner supplies the backbone and soul of the film  He’s equally believable as an aging badass as well as a gruff yet caring father, as well as playing the straight man to an array of absurd characters and situations.  Without him, this movie would fall completely apart, due to its extremely ludicrous plot

2.  A retired CIA operative, who on his previous mission failed to capture The Albino, a henchman to an arms dealer known as The Wolf, is hired for one last mission by a femme fatale agency assassin played by Amber Heard to track down said albino, thus leading him, and hopefully killing his boss.  He’s lured out of a retirement by an experimental drug which “may” combat his terminal brain and lung cancer.  Of course, he’s reluctant to do so, as his primary goal is to somehow reconcile with a forgotten wife and daughter during his final months on Earth.  There’s also a squatter family from Mali involved, as well as shenanigans with a banker employed by the Albino, and an attempted rape…..

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Stunt Granny Audio Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaug-banner-2Jeremy and Kevin have slacked off after a strong start to the year for movie reviews. Lucky for everyone out there that enjoyed those five episodes that they’re back to talk about The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. If one recalls, Kevin is the book expert and Jeremy is the movie expert. This review falls along those lines as Jeremy extols how great the movie was while Kevin is driven nuts by the second movie from Peter Jackson again. What did Jackson and company change from the book that drove Kevin to the brink? Can he distinguish from the good that they added and the bad that they added? Which change in particular really irked him? Can Jeremy even tell the difference despite having not read the book for a long time ago? The dwarves definitely got personalities this movie after being devoid of them in the first movie but can this duo recall their correct names? Did they forget a key part to help flesh out Thorin Oakenshield though? One also gets to meet the history of the dwarves and elves in this movie. Who is Legolas’s father? Which one of the dwarves fathered Gimli from Lord of the Rings? Which of the dwarves are related? How much Gandalf do you see in the movie? Are his scenes in the book? The reveal of Smaug was outstanding but was it the best part of the movie? How many times can Kevin say Smaug just because Jeremy is annoyed by the pronunciation of it? Is there any way that Bilbo Baggins could find the Arkenstone in the vast chamber of gold that Smaug protected? What did Jeremy say when the movie ended? Find out when you click on the spoiler ridden spoiler below!

Jeremy’s One Paragraph Movie Review: World’s Greatest Dad (2009)

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World’s Greatest Dad was Robin Williams transition movie back in to respectable cinema after a far too long period of garbage family movies.  If you didn’t see it that is most likely due to its small release and subject matter. If you watch the preview, well, don’t. In no way does it represent the movie. The trailer is made for mass appeal but once you watch it becomes apparent you got bamboozled. This is yet another Bobcat Golwdwaith film that just kills. It is honest and not predictable. It is easily the best of Bobcat’s movies and probably the most accessible but that isn’t saying much. His films never fail to challenge the audience. You may not like them but you will have a reaction. The movie carries on a near perfect tone of angst and anguish while making you uncomfortable laughing at situations you normally wouldn’t. It was a brave choice for Robin Williams after all of the family fair he churned out. It works though. Everything about this movie is sold and worth the very quick ninety-minute running time. -Jeremy

Jeremy’s One Paragraph Movie Review: Red Dawn (2012)

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Oh god damn this was worse than I expected. Look; the original Red Dawn is just ok. It is looked back on with nostalgic eye with love but it isn’t all that good. The 2013 version of Red Dawn directed by Dan Bradley, tries to be different while having a foot firmly planted in the original. What the makers of this version of Red Dawn clearly didn’t understand about the original was that while it had action it was a film about family. The Wolverines were a group forced to come together as a family and protect to only each other but to defend their land. What you get with the remake is your typical current day PG-13 action movie full of loud explosions, bloodless violence and zero character development. Scenes roll from one to the next with no logic and absolutely no purpose. Yeah The Wolverines attack and defy those pesky North Koreans (Yes North Korea replaces Russia as the threat) and the war progresses. There are convenient excuses built in to keep explain North Korea as a legitimate invader but come on. Nothing matters in this film because nothing makes sense. Anything logical is explained away in simplest of terms or not at all. There is puppy dog love worked in to a war movie that rings hollow and none of the characters change one bit. Sure the two brother final get along at the end but then the movie ends of out the blue Nothing is resolved. Nothing matters at all. It is a total waste of time. -Jeremy

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