Sunday, 25 June 2017

Patriots Day

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, J.K. Simmons, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, and Michelle Monaghan

Director: Peter Berg  

133 minutes (15) 2016
Widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Lions Gate blu-ray Region 2
[Released 26th June]

Rating: 8/10
Review by Steven Hampton

Following the director’s docudrama Deepwater Horizon, this crime thriller depicts the events, and the aftermath, of the Boston marathon bombing that shocked America in April 2013. The atrocity occurs while BPD Sergeant Tommy Saunders is on duty at the race's finishing line, and this fictional character, played by Mark Wahlberg, offers the movie’s appealing viewpoint. FBI agent DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) provides the drama with its keen focus and a winning portrayal of an intelligent investigator aware of the varied faults of the slow-moving federal system. And that's especially a problem when facing demands for an immediate resolution to a crisis in urban law enforcement by the city's police Commissioner Davis (John Goodman).

Patriots Day partly concerns acute sensitivity to multiple trauma cases as the core of its human tragedy, while the storyline also notes the likelihood of media manipulation, about conspiracy theories, and the sometimes bitter irony of who really believes such ridiculous stories of US government responsibility or culpability in horrors like the WTC destruction of 2001. With a fairly weak plot that alternates between profoundly moving episodes of individual courage and survival instincts, and somewhat crude sentimentality about community and nationalism that never escapes from a usual mode of expression in speeches and rallying cries, this movie never quite manages to electrify the cinema screen as it ought to have done.  

However, as he proved with The Kingdom (2007), Peter Berg is extraordinarily capable of directing an exciting and expertly choreographed action sequence, or two. Here, that skill is evident in the dramatic tension of the car-jacking scene, but it explodes into view during the ‘wild west’ night when young villains are firebombing cop cars. In action movie terms, the extended shoot-out on a residential street in sleepy Watertown is a masterclass in suburban-thriller filmmaking that’s just as exhilarating for the 21st century as Die Hard was for the 1980s. The small town cops under siege are the heroes of the hour, and for genuine ‘true grit’ in this impressive sequence, look no further than the great J.K. Simmons as Sergeant Pugliese.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Cast: Milla Jovovich, Iain Glen, Ali Larter, Shawn Roberts, Ruby Rose, and Eoin Macken

Director: Paul W.S. Anderson

106 minutes (15) 2016
Widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Sony blu-ray region B

Rating: 8/10
Review by Steven Hampton

Narrated by Alice, the recap montage presents the horror story so far, sketching out 15 years worth of game movie plots and extreme survivalism, from Resident Evil (2002), Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004), Resident Evil: Extinction (2007), and Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010) to Resident Evil: Retribution (2012). Following the above, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016) starts in a devastated Washington D.C. where a troublesome dragonoid is slain by a well-placed claymore mine. The history of Umbrella’s corporate bio-tech evil is a conspiracy of viral corruption that abandons all humanity in favour of archiving their elite for re-populating a replenished Earth long after the infected world ends. The heroine’s mission quest here is to find the secret antivirus and save the planet.

On the road to hell, Alice goes by Hummer, by car, on a motorbike, and, when captured, she’s pulled along behind a mega-tank. Escaping from predators, she meets old friends and forms a new gang to fight against the overwhelming numbers of bad guys and nasty creatures. A tower siege using improved heavy weapons results in demolition mayhem. The only way to escape from a pack of zombie dogs is for everybody to jump off a cliff. This sixth outing returns to the beginning, with the first movie’s location now under the bomb crater in the ruins of Raccoon city. Once inside the Hive bunker complex, there are various puzzles to solve, lethal obstacles to overcome, and nested plot twists that unpack with witty references to Aliens, Blade Runner, and RoboCop to mention just a few of the notable genre franchises that Resident Evil is influenced by. 

Strobe lighting effects and fast editing techniques enhance a busy narrative giving the movie its non-stop action appeal. Despite antagonism for the protagonist, the arrogant chief villain eventually proves t be his own worst enemy. This offers a slick entertainment milieu combining the best of post-apocalyptic zombie-mania, giant monster movie action, comic-book sci-fi scenarios, supporting an iconic super-heroine character franchise. It is a better effort than Underworld saga, if only for the more colourful variety of lighting set-ups that avoid blue-filtered monotony of Beckinsale’s adventures. Fans of the animated series of RE movies can expect a third feature, Resident Evil: Vendetta, due to be released this year.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Ip Man: The Final Fight

Cast: Anthony Wong, Gillian Chung, Jordan Chan, Eric Tsang, and Marvel Chow

Director: Herman Yau

100 minutes (15) 2013
Widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Cine Asia blu-ray region B
[Released 12th June]

Rating: 8/10
Review by Jeff Young

A biographical action drama set in post-war Hong Kong, this chronicles the last chapter in the life of a martial arts grandmaster who became Bruce Lee’s teacher. The famous Wing Chun warrior and scholar, Ip Man here gets an immensely sympathetic portrayal by great British-Chinese actor Anthony Wong with his quiet dignity concealing an indomitable will. Previously played by Donnie Yen in Wilson Yip’s series, Ip Man (2008), Ip Man 2 (2010), and Ip Man 3 (2015), and by Tony Leung in Wong Kar-Wai’s stylish The Grandmaster (2013), Ip Man is certainly something of a genre giant whose fascinating life-story offers a variety of interpretations in movies that range from docudrama to outright fantasy-fu.

This rather melancholy picture favours the realistic, as Ip Man lives under the constraints of poverty, willing to teach disciples and students but wholly reluctant to risk running an academy on business terms. In a pivotal sequence, he fights Master Ng (Eric Tsang) who runs a friendly rival school of kung fu. After that, competitive acrobatics in the lion dance turn into a brawl between gangs with political and criminal ambitions behind the violence and chaos. Following the death of his wife, Ip Man finds comfort in his relationship with a singer, until his son Chun moves from the family’s home in Foshan to live in Hong Kong.

Finally, a typhoon and murderous treachery strike at once, leading to a moral challenge from top villain, kingpin Dragon, who rules a boxing ring in the walled city. Ip Man: The Final Fight offers a tale of loyalty and honour in a crucible of social distress and political turmoil. It focuses upon heroism as a matter of natural survival within a cine-framework that blends cultural asides, nostalgic reverie, and emotional transparency. We see how Ip Man suffered bouts of poor health that are just as important in this drama as the fighting sequences. The movie ends with historical points, as Ip Man is visited by the enthusiastic Bruce Lee, and actor Wong performs Wing Chun on film “for posterity,” followed by a clip from the actual documentary footage.