Posts Tagged ‘Action’

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) ***

Dir.: Michael Dougherty; Cast: Kyle Chandler, Vera Famiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Ken Watanabe; USA 2019, 132 min.

Godzilla goes out for walkies for the 35th outing for Godzilla since Japanese director Ishiro Honda created the dinosaur’s debut feature in 1954. Nowadays, Godzilla doesn’t only trample all over global cities, but has morphed into humankind’s helper – luckily still destroying everything in sight.

Michael Dougherty (Krampus) works hard with his co-writers Shields and Borenstein to find a storyline that joins up the intervals between Godzilla’s fights with less human-friendly titans, like the three-headed King Gidorah, but his family-friendly plot is dwarfed by the mammoth action set pieces.

Doctors Mark (Chandler) and Emma Russell (Famiga) have co-invented the Orca sonar device, which enables them (and their employer Monarch, a worldwide technology giant), to synthesize the cries of various titans, so that they can communicate with them. Their teenage daughter Madison (Brown), complains about their parents, still hankering after her older brother, who died in some titan related accident. Her parents are divorced and Madison lives with her mother, a firm believer that the titans should “clean up the world”, so that the planet can heal itself – never mind its denizens, who are after all responsible for the mess!.

This sounds like Thanos from the Avenger, but eco-terrorist Alan Jonah (Dance), wants the same, and it is not quite clear why he has to kidnap mother and daughter. Anyhow, the latter escapes, and via the sound-system of Fenway Park Baseball Stadium in Boston, communicates on her own with the titans, Dad leading a team of international scientists to help Godzilla in his fight against his enemies like Rodan, the dragon and Morah, a larvae, who turns into a luminous super moth.

With Godzilla down and out on the bottom of the ocean, Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Watanabe) takes it on himself, to save humankind, getting Godzilla back to life with a shot of nuclear radiation. Well you might guess where all this is leading…

The family saga not withstanding, this is a great action feature, which has to be seen on a very big screen. The production values are as stunning as the logic of the scientific troupe. And to make everyone happy, we overhear the scientists whispering to another,  “thank heavens, Godzilla is on our side – but for how long?” Might this lead to the return of the bad monster of old in the next instalment?  For everyone reliving their childhood an absolute must! AS


The 12th Man (2017) ***

Dir.: Harald Zwart; Cast: Thomas Gullestad, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Marie Blockhus, Mads Sjograd Pettersen; Norway 2017, 135 min.

Dutch director Harald Zwart, best known for Agent Cody Banks and The Karate Kid, surprises  us with a gritty WWII feature that lionises intrepid Norwegian resistance fighter Jan Baalsrud, who escaped the Nazis in his home country after an ordeal lasting months. Already filmed in 1957 as Nine Lives, Zwart shows how the solidarity of the Norwegian people was key in helping their courageous countryman to survive, against the odds.

Baalsrud (Gullestad) is part of a twelve man commando sent from Great Britain to Norway, to sabotage the airfields of the Nazi occupants. But the Norwegians are caught before having time to use their explosives, and all but Baalsrud are captured, tortured and shot. Even though Baalsrud has been shot in the foot, he escapes into the treacherous mountain landscape where  two brothers in the small town of Manndalen (Troms County) come to his aide, SS Officer Kurt Stage (Meyers) is in hot pursuit. Meyers prides himself in having caught every resistance fighter in his region, but he becomes so obsessed with Baalsrud that his Ego cannot countenance a defeat. After hiding under rocks and in a hut in the mountains, starving and fighting gangrene, Baalsrud finally makes his intrepid way to Sweden.

Very much in the vain of Fred Zinnemann’s The Seventh Cross (1944), based on a novel by Anna Seghers recounting the fate of seven KZ inmates who flee the camp, The 12th Man is all about making the right choices: The men and women of Manndalen risked their lives to help Baalsrud so that he could become a symbol for their resistance against the Nazis. In real life, Stage was executed in 1947, whilst Baalsrud, who died in 1988, is buried next to Aslak Fossvool in Manndalen, played in the film by T.P. Munch, who fed him in his rocky hide-out but died of diphtheria four weeks after Baalsrud’s escape.

Zwart pulls out all the stops in an action drama that really maxes out the Germans’ brutality against their courageous counterparts. DoP Geir Hartly Andreassen triumphs both in close-up and in the spectacular panoramas of the towering mountains, the final escape is a well-choreographed masterpiece. Whilst relying on action and adventure elements, The 12th Man always keeps us questioning which side we would have chosen. AS

The 12th Man in select Cinemas & Digital HD 4th January and on DVD 7th January

Shadow 2018) **** Venice Film Festival 2018

Dir: Zhang Yimou | Action Drama | China | 110’

Two-time winner of the Golden Lion at Venice for The Story Of Qiu Ju, and Not One Less, Chinese supremo Zhang Yimou relinquishes his charisteristic colour spectrum for a magnificent monochrome palette in his latest martial arts extravaganza that melds solemn Singing in the Rain set pieces with eye-popping wuxia credentials in a glorious return to form akin to Hero and House of Flying Daggers.

Grey has never looked so stunning in Yimou’s action scenes inspired by China’s tradition of ink-wash painting and creatively choreographed with the director’s signature style and inventiveness. In place of shields, lethal steel umbrellas cut and thrust in an epic tale set during China’s Three Kingdoms era during the Third century where the land of Pei is ruled by an unhinged maverick king (Zheng Kai). The king’s military commander (Deng Chao) has shown his skill on the battlefield, but running the kingdom is another matter needing political nous and diplomacy to survive. So he has trained a “shadow” (also played by Deng), who can fool the king, as well as Pei’s enemies, when required. Fighting to gain control of the walled city of Jing, the king and the commander join forces to plan a secret strategy. While the real king, a dissipated old warrior, has retreated to his lair to lick his world weary wounds, his wife Madam (Sun Li) has fallen for the younger and stronger double. 

During the extraordinary battle scenes the only contrast from the stunning steel grey, charcoal and white aesthetic is that of human flesh and blood evoking a palpable feeling of pain and suffering and bringing to mind the epics of Akira Kurosawa. This occasionally drawn out but intoxicating game of intrigue and duplicity slowly builds to a coruscating climax as Yimou manages the spectacular combat set pieces with extraordinary ingenuity both on the widescreen and in intimate close-up, the umbrellas bristling with blades as they cascade like gushing rivers of steel raining down on the floating Trojan horse centrepiece.

Aside from the visual mastery of it all Yimou offers dramatic character studies: Deng as a double-crossing demon, the gracefully feisty women Sun Li and Guan Xiaotong giving impressive performances. But it’s Cinematographer Zhao Xiaoding and production designer Ma Kwong Kwai who really set the whole production alight. Another worthwhile and thoroughly enjoyable edition to Yimou’s wuxia wonderland. MT


Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) **

Dir.: J.A. Bayona; Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Daniella Pineda, Justice Smith, Rafe Spall, Toby Jones, Isabella Sermon, James Cromwell, Geraldine Chaplin, James Cromwell; USA/Spain 2018, 128′.

Director J.A. Bayona (A Monster Calls) and his regular, fellow Catalan DoP Oscar Faura have delivered the fifth instalment of the Dino franchise, with Fallen Kingdom being the middle piece of a trilogy. Despite some visually stunning set pieces (and a budget to match), the script by Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly is as weak as their work for Fallen Kingdom’s predecessor Jurassic Park (2015).

This new outing sees the dinosaurs on the Isla Nublar threatened by an erupting volcano. Dino lovers Owen Grady (Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Howard), still lack a convincing chemistry and are called back into a rescue mission with their sidekicks Dr. Zia (Pineda) and Franklin (Smith). Unbeknown to the quartet, back in Lockwood Mansion Sir Benjamin (Cromwell) is dying and his wicked CEO Eli Mills (Spall) has teamed up with Super-Baddie Gunnar Eversol (Jones), to trade the surviving dinosaurs to the highest bidders so they can be genetically altered and used as fighting machines. After Lockwood’s  death, his granddaughter Maise (Sermon) takes over the good fight having lost her last ally, a Mrs. Danvers-like housekeeper (Chaplin). While the auction of the rescued animals is in full swing, Maise is finally joined by the foursome in her fight to thwart the greedy usurpers.  

Shot in CinemaScope (240:1 ratio) with an Arri Alexa 65, digital debutant Faura deftly masters the mix of animatronix and CGI, using older lenses in place of the latest ones – as digital’s lack of depth tends to look hyper real. Having said this, the folio on the island does appear to be a little bit too rubbery….  

There’s nothing really new here: once again we get a reprise of the fight between the good flying dinosaur (Blue, Grady’s lead Dino) and the baddie reptile; and when they eventually fall through yet another glass roof, there’s a maddening sense of déja vu. Fallen Kingdom never makes its mind up if it wants to be a disaster movie or a Bond flic with a great finale. The 128 minutes running time outstays its welcome without any justification for doing, and the ending, prepping us for a planned third outing of the rebooted franchise, is only secured by a mind blowing act of unbelievable wilfulness. AS


Sleeping Dogs (1977) | Bluray release

Dir: Roger Donaldson | Sam Neill, Warren Oates | 107′ | NZ Thriller

Tightly scripted and tense, SLEEPING DOGS is the gritty political action thriller that revolutionised New Zealand filmmaking, kicking off its New Wave movement at a time when the country was not well known for its cinema, at the end of the 1970s. Resonating with audiences at home and abroad with its themes of politics and personal struggle, it also launched the Hollywood careers of Sam Neill (Possession) and director Roger Donaldson (No Way Out). Neill, in his first lead role, plays a mercurial young man escaping his failed marriage and two kids by taking temporary refuge in an island off the Coromandel Peninsula Meanwhile at home, political turmoil and an oil embargo leading to civil war is drawing him slowly but surely back into its claws. Warren Oates is also brought into the conflict as the commander of a US army unit. Together, they fight against the country’s dictatorship, in a narrative based on C K Stead’s novel Smith’s Dream. Amazingly, Donaldson enlists the cooperation of the NZ Air Force in this entertainingly subversive and occasionally surreal action thriller. MT.


The King’s Choice (2017)

Dir: Erik Poppe | Writers: Harald Rosenlow-Eeg, Jan Trygve Royneland | Cast: Jesper Christensen, Anders Baasmo Christiansen, Karl Markovics | History Biopic | Norway | 133′

Royalty makes a stand against Hitler in this solidly-crafted and deeply humanist Oscar hopeful from Norwegian director Erik Poppe.

Norway’s popular King Haakon VII (a dignified Jesper Christensen) is brought to his knees, quite literally, during three dramatic days in 1940 when he is presented with an unimaginable ultimatum from Nazi Germany: surrender or die. The action revolves during a diplomatic crisis that sees Norway suddenly and unexpectedly plunged into hostilities, despite neutrality and previous good relations with its invaders. The German’s approach, via the Fjords, is announced during Radio reports and telephone exchanges that telegraph Norway’s entrance into the Second World War.

Poppe’s film works both as an intimate portrait of a loving family man, who hailed originally from Denmark, and a rousing and visually stunning WWII epic illuminating a little known episode of Norwegian history. We get a glimpse of the ageing king from all aspects – he would go on to live for another 17 years despite declining health – playing with his grandchildren; dealing with matters of state and even engaging with a young soldier (Private Seeberg/Arthur Hakalahti) on the enemy battle lines. The tension quietly mounts as the Royal family are forced to separate. Haakon and his son, Crown Prince Olav are taken under cover of darkness to refuge, where the king makes his solitary final decision in a coruscating showdown with Karl Markovics’s bristling German envoy. THE KING’S CHOICE is a captivating cinematic adventure, despite its lengthy running time, largely due to impressive handheld camerawork, magnificent snowbound set pieces and the rousing human story at its core. MT


War on Everyone (2016)| Berlinale 2016

Director: John Michael McDonagh

Cast: Michael Peña, Alexander Skarsgård, Theo James, Tessa Thompson, Caleb Landry Jones

98min | action drama | UK

John Michael McDonagh’s rip-roaringly irreverent cop buddy movie is largely a vehicle for the combined talents of Alexander Skarsgaard and Michael Pena who play the glib twosome and Glen Campbell who provides the musical hits. Short on laughs but long on cinematic scenery, WAR ON EVERYONE is very much a curate’s egg. Crashing cars and waging war on international crims the duo manage to upset everyone, as the title would suggest, but their bad boy blunders all boil down to boredom in a patchy comedy that exposes the police force as a bunch of warm-hearted racist thugs. But there’s nothing new there. WAR ON EVERYONE works best in its filmic scenes where Glenn Campbell’s iconic hits provide golden moments for the starry Skarsgaard (the camera loves him) and his bouncy love interest who have great fun between the sheets and up against walls. Spectacular widescreen visuals of the desert and snowy Iceland provide the background to the duo’s pursuit of a criminal gang of vicious paedophiles. McDonagh’s loose ‘cops and robbers’ narrative stitches it all together with a script that is gloriously politically incorrect; kicking over the usual hackneyed racial slurs in a formulaic plotline. But hey; there’s plenty to enjoy im this blistering britflick if you just switch your mind to autopilot and enjoy the ride. MT



Momentum (2015)

Director: Stephen S. Campanelli

Cast: Olga Kurylenko, James Purefoy, Morgan Freeman

USA/SA 2015, 96 min.

First time director Campanelli has honed his skill from being camera operator on big productions like Mazerunner and American Sniper: MOMENTUM is an out and out action bonanza where suspension of disbelief is a pre-requisite for watching. But he forgot the need for a good script.

Fleet-footed Olga Kurylenko, already versed in hand-to-hand fighting from Quantum of Solace and Hitman (she showed a more tender side in Terence Malick’s To the Wonder) is the heroine, surviving the whole 96 minutes – more than can be said about her countless opponents. After we learn that Freeman’s American Senator, a redneck, is behind all the machinations, we witness a bank robbery in Cape Town where the four robbers, clad in black leather outfits, identifiable by their blinking headlights (red, green, blue and violet), have difficulties opening the safe – the body of the bank manager is the key to the opening mechanism. The synopsis of this 20 million dollar caper, were all standard ingredients are perfectly executed, should be enough to identify and limit the target audience.

Whilst the standard elements of the genre (car/motorcycle, chases, technology and general mayhem) are perfectly executed, this is a play by numbers actioner whose absurb and untenable plot distances the viewer as much as its unlikeable heroine Alexis (Kurylenko): her arrogance is soul-destroying, and even her acting skills do not enhance her popular appeal. MOMENTUM is a cold, glitzy affair where technical bravado trumps soul and narrative twists to its detriment. AS


Sunset on the Sarbin River (1967) | LKFF 2015

Director: Chung Chang Wha

Cast: Shin Young-Kyun, Kim Hye-Jung, Nam Goong Won, Yoon Il-Bong

12omin  Action Drama  Korea

Filmed in black and white, this ambitious if overlong pro-Korean anti-imperialist action drama blends humour, romance and brutality in the melancholy story of an earnest Korean student, his name japanised as Musumoto, who feels compelled to join the Japanese Imperial Army and do his bit for the War. Doing rather well, he is promoted to officer in charge and transferred to Burma where his platoon is visited by the famous  “teishintai” or ‘comfort’ women. On the way to the front the troops are betrayed to the guerillas of the new independence army by a solitary single mother with whom Musumoto reluctantly falls in love. But when her child is accidently killed during manoeuvres by troops under his command, her guerilla husband swears revenge on the hapless officer who, despite his valiant efforts, remains the miserable and thwarted Korean hero of the piece. Chung Chang Wha crafts an intelligent, emotional and perceptively humorous tribute to Korea’s fierce national pride at being subjected to Japanese Imperialism during the Second World War. MT


2 Guns (2013) DVD/Blu-Ray

Director: Baltasar Kormákur

Script: Blake Masters

Cast: Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Bill Paxton, Paula Patton,

109min    Action/Thriller/Comedy

Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur’s last outing was the Iceland-based documentary The Deep.  Buddy cop caper, 2 Gunscould not be more different.  But hopes of it following in the well-loved footsteps of Midnight Run rapidly fade despite a stellar cast, whipsmart script and superb production values.  Why, when it has all the right ingredients to be an action comedy winner?  I guess it all comes down to the lack of real charm.

Mark Wahlberg is larger than life as Stig Stigman, an undercover agent who goes on the run after a botched attempt to infiltrate a Mexican drug cartel with a side-line in bull farming. Aided and abetted by slick DEA exec Denzel Washington as Bobby Trench, they join forces, each unaware of the other’s uncover status. And they certainly make an impressively butch pair: Wahlberg’s rippling muscles and Washington’s glistening gold tooth adding a touch of macho fun to the proceedings with Kormákur’s slick direction mostly avoiding CGI.

Baltasar_Kormákur_Carlo Reguzzipg copy

Getting off to a cracking start, the film gradually loses interest enmired in gratuitous violence despite the easy chemistry of the leads. A touch of mysogyny is thrown in with a lingerie-clad love-interest (Paula Patton) for Washington that doesn’t quite wash, particularly as she’s supposed to be of the same professional rank. Bill Paxton saves the day, giving a rock solid performance as dodgy CIA agent.

So although not quite up there with Kormákur’s previous indie fare, 2 Guns is a mainstream, respectable but glib gangster movie; well-crafted if slightly underpowered tension-wise, but sure to replenish the coffers for his next arthouse treat. MT




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