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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The bear niche project, March 27, 2015
This review is from: Backcountry (Amazon Video)
Based on a true story, "Backcountry" follows a couple very much acquainted with city life going for a camping trip in the woods. Alex (Jeff Roop) has something very special in mind for his girlfriend Jenn (Missy Peregrym); The Blackfoot Trail is something Alex insists Jenn has to experience. The couple continues towards their destination without a map or a cell phone even though it's the end of the season and getting caught in the area could lead to a hefty fine. Unfortunately for them, Alex accidentally leads himself and Jenn into the clutches of a very angry bear that is also extremely territorial. A romantic getaway becomes a desperate battle of survival.

Alex and Jenn are seriously one of the most annoying film couples ever. Alex is a bit of a conceited douche as he constantly harasses his girlfriend and lets his macho demeanor call all of the shots, which he eventually regrets. Meanwhile Jenn is mostly superficial and clueless. She invites a complete stranger to dinner without even considering how awkward it might be. An Irish tour guide named Brad (Eric Balfour) seems to play a character similar to Ralph in the first two "Friday the 13th" films; Brad is really creepy, awkward, and weird but his eccentricity never leads to anything and his little introduction is mostly meaningless.

The film's big moments are widely predictable as you can clearly see where not having a map, refusing a guide, and not having a means of communication is headed long before it's eventually revealed. Alex seems to frown on any sort of preparation as he groans at the sight of bear mace and a road flare in Jenn's bag. Wanting the trip to be authentic is one thing, but throwing away your first aid kit or purposely leaving your phone in the car is like walking a tightrope without a safety net; there's a chance you won't fall and your moment of grace will be immortalized with the greats, but you'll be thanking the heavens when that net saves you from becoming a chunky puddle on the asphalt.

One of the best moments of the film is when the bear is sniffing around the couple's tent undetected while they sleep. Hearing the bear and seeing it press its nose into the fabric of the tent is far more terrifying than the silly bloodied shaky bear head you see later. The other completely satisfying moment is Alex's gruesome encounter with the bear. The camera work is deliberately shaky for "realism" and everything becomes so out of focus that it begins to make you nauseous. The dramatic thriller seems to leave itself wide open for riffing, as well; especially after you see where the bear has been sleeping.

"Backcountry" has long stretches of dialogue that highlights arguing between Alex and Jenn, which results in writer/director Adam MacDonald feeling like he attempted to go for a "Wolf Creek" kind of formula for the film with three fourths of the film being devoted to character development and the horror mostly taking place in the last half hour. This method backfires and immediately makes the film feel tiresome. Monotonous and foreseeable with spastic choreography, "Backcountry" is horrific for all of the wrong reasons.

White Haired Witch [Blu-ray]
White Haired Witch [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Huang Xiaoming
Offered by The DealNerd
Price: $13.79
23 used & new from $6.04

11 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Fatigued by romantic boredom, March 14, 2015
"White Haired Witch" is a title that is seriously misleading. The film is loosely based on a novel by Liang Yusheng, which was serialized in the late 1950s. This is more of a romantic journey with fantasy elements and a miniscule amount of action than a martial arts spectacle. Visually, the film sometimes features impressive special effects that are both optically pleasing and engaging like the opening credits which contain colored dye in water that’s almost smoke-like and goldfish composed completely of CGI that swirl together to form a yin yang. However these moments almost feel like they're accidentally stumbled upon. Most of the time, green screen effects are extremely noticeable and hokey since the terrain is obviously quite fake or backgrounds are obviously painted on some sort of canvas to substitute a beautiful mountain top. The computer generated effects are so polished and extravagant that they look even more out of place than they should in comparison to everything else around them.

The wire work in the film is done to a ridiculous extent and is what usually gives wuxia a bad name. People pull off standing backflips without any momentum whatsoever, go head over heels up to six times, and land on horseback like they actually planned such an absurd maneuver. The "white hair" part of the title doesn't even come into play until the last ten minutes of the film. All of the best action is in the last half hour, as well. These action sequences are also the best moments of the film in general. The martial arts choreography is just very old school in execution and presentation with dynamic angles and dramatic stare downs. It's just a shame that first time director Jacob Cheung Chi-Leung decided not to feature more of what made "White Haired Witch" semi-enjoyable for a very short period of time.

The storyline is massively convoluted and has four or five side plots that legitimately don't go anywhere. The romantic relationship between Lian Nishang and Zhuo Yihang seemingly comes out of nowhere. Lian's solitude lies within Fort Luna and when all of Fort Luna falls ill with a plague, Zhuo steps in claiming to know medicine, risks his health for three days, and the next thing you know Zhuo and Lian are having shirtless picnics together. Lian was also raised by wolves and "speaks their language," but that never proves to be useful whatsoever.

Jin Duyi (Zhao Wenzhuo) is the cause of corruption in the film yet his only desire is to be a warrior like his brother who makes his family proud. A man investigating whether or not Zhuo Yihang should be brought into custody or not protects a little girl throughout the film only to leave her alone and then regrets his decision moments later. What makes "White Haired Witch" so unbearable is that the relationship between Zhuo and Lian is milked out so much. The point is slammed into your face over and over again that the two love each other, but nothing ever really comes from their longing for one another.

Love conquering everything seems to be what they're aiming for with "White Haired Witch," but apparently that means overthrowing the laws of physics and logic as well. The last scene of the film sees Zhuo and Lian falling off of a cliff together. They embrace and float off into space. The credits roll after that and fighting the urge to throw your television remote through the wall will ignite you with more passion and desire than anything actually featured in the film. It's bad enough that the White Haired Witch basically plows through stone walls like the Juggernaut and that the entire memory wipe sequence is a complete waste of time, but it's as if the film itself doesn't take itself seriously when it ends on such a ludicrous note.

"White Haired Witch" is a tale of romance and corruption, but it's one that's been told better and more efficiently dozens of times before. The performances are stiff and uninspired, the storyline is complete trite, the awkward special effects stand out like a sore thumb, and everything is just so elongated and redundant that a couple of decent action scenes won't save an hour and a half of complete boredom
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 26, 2015 10:23 PM PDT

Maps to the Stars (Blu-ray + DIGITAL HD)
Maps to the Stars (Blu-ray + DIGITAL HD)
DVD ~ Julianne Moore
Price: $13.49
32 used & new from $2.29

11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rousing performances in a tangled narrative, March 6, 2015
Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg has completely shifted gears from the sci-fi, horror, genre-hopping, practical effects utilizing director we've all come to grow and love in the 80s and 90s. That peculiar and unpredictable quality is still there, but the horror is gone; at least in the traditional and prosthetic sense. Cronenberg is much more interested in being behind the camera for a film showing how scary the average human being can be. The human psyche can be so warped, twisted, and demented over the span of an adult (and sometimes teenage) lifetime that little needs to be done in the form of special effects. All that is required to showcase such horrific individuals is the proper spotlight and David Cronenberg is the man willing to give it to them. After nearly 50 years in the director's chair, this is what Cronenberg has evolved into and these are the monsters he wishes to showcase.

"Maps to the Stars" follows a wide variety of eccentric characters that could be considered monsters by anyone's standards. At the center of it all is Agatha Weiss (Mia Wasikowska), a troubled individual who started a fire when she was much younger. She moved to Florida to get help and has come back to Los Angeles now that she's in the rehabilitation process to make amends with her family. Agatha's 13-year-old brother Benjie (Evan Bird) is currently attempting to stay sober and is the childhood star of the "Bad Babysitter" films. Their father Stafford (John Cusack) is a novelist and therapist and their mother Christina (Olivia Williams) is Benjie's agent. However the Weiss parents seem to be hiding something big they don't want anyone else to know.

Meanwhile, Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore) is an actress having a difficult time finding work. She's dead set on getting a part in a remake of a film her mother was in even though the part has already been cast. Havana is frequently taunted by her mother, Clarice Taggart (Sarah Gadon), despite Clarice passing away in a fire years ago. Havana, who has the same agent as Benjie and goes to Stafford for therapy, hires Agatha as her assistant. A limo driver named Jerome Fontana (Robert Pattinson) is an aspiring writer and actor that Agatha attaches herself to.

There seems to be this convoluted message that never fully materializes in "Maps to the Stars" that involves fame and popularity. Famous people obsess over what they think will better themselves like their next part, their contract, how much they'll get paid, or throwing a better party than someone they know. The average working individual is infatuated with celebrities in absolutely every way. "Maps to the Stars" claims that those are the only two types of people in this world or those are the only ones that stand out in a sea of regularity.

Both sides of this spectrum are heavily dependent on medication or some sort of multi-level program. This seems to signify that everyone needs something to keep them sane and/or functional. There is also this really ugly side to stardom that involves brutally gossiping about your competition whether they're a friend of yours or not. It's as if the mindset is that there isn't enough room for everyone at the top, so you might as well step on, kick the face of, and stomp through all of them before somebody else beats you to it.

The unsettling and disturbing factor resides in Agatha's worshiping behavior towards movie stars and Havana's weak-willed demeanor which is needed just to cope with her popular status. Havana's therapy with Stafford is weirdly sexual without the two of them ever being naked. There's a sex scene involving a threesome where you get to admire or be sickened by Moore's extremely long nipples and Jonathan Watton's uncircumcised member. These people who are supposed to be beautiful for film are partaking in this sexual act that is neither sensual or attractive in the slightest. "Maps to the Stars" revolves around characters who are attempting to rediscover whatever made them human to begin with because they feel empty inside and have possibly never felt empathy.

The film soon spirals out of control as this world implodes since every player is even more heartless and egotistical than the next. In an unusual way, "Maps to the Stars" feels like a pseudo or indirect sequel to "Cosmopolis." The two films feel like they take place in the same world despite Robert Pattinson switching seats in the limo between the two films. Human desires are typically very selfish and that's the combustible fuel that powers this film.

The unfortunate aspect is that certain things don't add up on a first viewing. There's some sort of connection between Havana's deceased mother, Agatha, and Christina but it's difficult to piece together. The dream Agatha has and her relationship with Benjie are obviously very significant and yet the ending feels a bit too anticlimactic. Something extremely taboo is also a focal point of the Weiss family, but it just comes across as bizarre and weird. Maybe the film will make more sense with repeat viewings. On one hand, it feels like we have another "Southland Tales" on our hands but one viewing of the film leaves you with so many unanswered questions.

"Maps to the Stars" is a very complex piece of work. David Cronenberg has successfully created more challenging cinema for people to attempt to wrap their heads around. The film certainly makes you think as your brain tries to unravel everything this violent and bizarre film has introduced. The characters are intriguing, complicated, and completely tainted in the eyes of society, but this eccentric group is each fighting and clamoring over each other for their fifteen minutes of fame. "Maps to the Stars" may just be a brilliant film that is trying to tackle too much. Its tangled narrative is more convoluted than it should be, but there's just enough there to entice and worship in your own way.

No Title Available

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure undead comedic brilliance, February 27, 2015
What this comedy lacks in budget is more than made up for with its ingenious writing. This is a group of characters consisting of individuals who are completely different from one another. Viago is old fashioned and meticulous, Deacon is rebellious and spontaneous, Vladislav is perverted and out of his element, Petyr is like this prehistoric fossil of the evolution of vampires over the years, and Nick is so overcome with the thrill of becoming a vampire that he lets that shout over reasoning and logic. Everyone is drawn to Stu because he's soft spoken, mild mannered, and easy to get along with. There's also Jackie (Jackie van Beek), Deacon's servant who is persistent about Deacon finally making her immortal.

The film juggles the documentary aspect, vampire humor, horror homage, and clever comedy quite well. Playing with selecting a victim, draining their blood, hypnotism, and not having reflections is something the film has fine-tuned to perfection. It's even able to take soft jabs at werewolves and zombies in legitimately humorous fashion. The humor is more of a tribute to the source material than a flat out mockery, which is one of the reasons the film is so enjoyable. The "dark bidding" bit may be the crown jewel of "What We Do in the Shadows," but accidentally biting the main artery, a bat fight, and attempting to eat human food are also quite hysterical.

According to most folklore relating to vampires, they cannot be photographed. "What We Do in the Shadows" completely ignores this little detail and allows snapshots of these eccentric characters to be taken at every turn. It doesn't really tie into how entertaining the film is, but it's just an odd detail to alter since so much time is given to absent reflections and how to get ready for a night on the town without one.

The only flaw "What We Do in the Shadows" could possibly have is that it ends prematurely. The characters are so much fun to be around that you could easily spend more than three hours soaking in their wild antics, which saddens you greatly when the film ends after a mere 86 minutes. Superbly written with sharp, on the cuff humor, fantastic characters, and a well-polished story completely in tune with its source material, "What We Do in the Shadows" is an uproarious horror comedy that's every bit as funny as "Shaun of the Dead," "Tucker and Dale vs Evil," and "Zombieland."
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 30, 2015 5:27 PM PDT

Big Hero 6  (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD)
Big Hero 6 (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD)
DVD ~ Ryan Potter
Offered by discountedmediaoutlet
Price: $24.50
70 used & new from $8.77

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fluffy, marshmallowy Terminator, February 24, 2015
The animated short "Feast" that plays before "Big Hero 6" is like an extra helping of dessert before the main course arrives. Directed by Patrick Osborne (animation supervisor on "Paperman" and animator on other Disney films like "Wreck-It Ralph" and "Bolt"), "Feast" is the story of a young Boston Terrier puppy who is discovered on the street by a man. The man feeds the canine dog food, which snowballs into the man just giving this dog the most unhealthy food imaginable like bacon and eggs, spaghetti, and pizza to this dog; usually piled on top of its kibble. Over the years, the dog develops a taste for its master's bad eating habits but the man eventually meets a woman and falls in love.

As their relationship blossoms, the dog's special treats become nonexistent. The dog gets upset and turns its nose up at normal food. The man and woman eventually go their separate ways, which triggers a new era of incredibly unhealthy junk food once again. But the dog realizes how unhappy its master is so it takes matters into its own hands to fix things. "Feast" is adorable and amusing and is one of those genius animated shorts that uses nearly no dialogue.

The hereditary brilliance both Hiro and Tadashi share is almost unbelievable. Why would anyone need to go to college if they were already that intelligent? Their peers are quite the characters, especially Fred who seems to run on nothing but whimsical dreams of becoming a comic book monster. Maybe it's a way to hone a skill they already possess or because it's just something that seems fun and Hiro has all that cash from bot fighting he needs to blow through anyway.

The animated sci-fi adventure has the typical superhero film formula: you're introduced to their family and supporting characters, something tragic happens to somebody close to the protagonist, the hero falls into a funk and relies on his friends to snap him out of it, they discover a masked super villain using the hero's technology, and they must form a superhero team to save the day. "Big Hero 6" embraces those superhero roots and just rolls with it in the best of ways. The film is extremely funny when it needs to be (the fist bump will never be the same), heartbreaking when it's crucial to the storyline, and exciting throughout.

Baymax is the heart and soul of the film. The method in which Hiro is able to teach the robot certain things without it ever questioning its main objective is reminiscent of John Connor teaching The Terminator 90s slang in "Terminator 2." Baymax's drunken-like antics when its battery gets low is sure to get a lot of laughs. The perspectives used while Hiro is riding Baymax as they rocket through the sky is very similar to what was used in "How to Train Your Dragon 2" as Hiccup rode Toothless into battle. These really dynamic camera angles are able to put the audience directly into the action to make them feel like they're riding on the back of a superhero.

"Big Hero 6" seems to combine a ton of elements from some of the greatest sci-fi, action, and superhero films out there into one incredibly fun film suitable for the entire family. Besides "The Terminator," "Iron Man" and "The Avengers" come to mind and the villain has this Doctor Octopus aura about him. "Big Hero 6" is sensational and imaginative animation that will cater to any age.

No Tears for the Dead [Blu-ray]
No Tears for the Dead [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Jang Dong-gun
Price: $13.99
32 used & new from $7.78

1 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mindblowing action in atrocious packaging, February 19, 2015
South Korean filmmaker Lee Jeong-beom is capable of creating gripping and intense action thrillers featuring absolutely breathtaking violence and noteworthy performances. His previous film "The Man From Nowhere" is exceptional for these reasons alone. Maybe it was the four year gap between directorial features or that "No Tears for the Dead" has an absolutely horrendous English language dub, but it seems like Jeong-beom has lost the ability to stand firmly as a competent writer and director of South Korean cinema. It's as if filmmaking is represented by a ship that never slows down and is constantly catching momentum. Jeong-beom no longer has the sea legs to ride said ship and flounders about as he attempts to fight back the urge to leap overboard every chance that he has.

In addition to a dub track that rides on your last nerve, the dialogue is also atrocious. Gon is very cold and dislikes every person he comes into contact with solely because he has mommy issues stemming back to his childhood. He tells someone to "get the f--- out of his face" because they smell like garlic. Mo-gyeong relies on alcohol and prescription drugs to dull her grief and her doctor compares dealing with so many patient's pain to menopause. When asked why Gon is siding with his target he replies that he's just tired. It becomes painfully obvious that the screenplay is just lacking genuine dialogue.

It isn't like "No Tears for the Dead" is this brilliant foreign film that suffers from a poor English dub. The dub track certainly doesn't help matters, but the overused conspiracy storyline is too convoluted for its own good. There is a double cross in the film that makes no impact because the audience never has the chance to care about anything going on. You're too distracted by Mo-gyeong's daughter's awful voice that sounds like a 35-year-old woman trying to be cute and a "touching" scene being utterly annoying because of the irritating way that Mo-gyeong cries. It doesn't help that Gon decides to be the creepiest hitman ever by just lurking around for days and watches Mo-gyeong sob herself into a puddle of momentary comfort.

Besides a rather bloody sequence that opens the film, it takes over an hour for more violence to actually kick in. A glorious 3-minute sequence featuring messy action with exploding heads, severed fingers, sliced Achilles heels, and an endless array of bullets rolls out a blood red carpet and welcomes you to the second hour of the film. The concluding half of the film is pretty much all of the action you could ever want in a film like this. The action itself can be compared to Hong Kong cinema at its best, especially from the 80s and John Woo films in particular. There are moments where the film allows you to catch your breath as a viewer, but then decides that making you wait an hour for the main course is long enough and finishes in brutal fashion. The final scene of the film is a little confusing since that last scene in the elevator seems rather decisive over the fate of a certain character. It's as if this last segment was added just to show that Jang Dong-gun is capable of crying and showing emotion.

The excellence of "The Man From Nowhere" will easily trigger interest in Lee Jeong-beom's follow-up feature. What's interesting is that "The Man From Nowhere" is about protecting a little girl and "No Tears for the Dead" is finding retribution for a little girl that was killed. Lee Jeong-beom is more than capable of crafting exquisitely violent action sequences that are completely breathtaking, but all of the bloody violence in the world can't save a muddled story, horrid dubbing, and horrendous dialogue. South Korean actor Jang Dong-gun seems to be doing the best with what he's given, but his awful haircut can't help but help but give the impression that he looks like a South Korean version of Paul Reubens. "No Tears for the Dead" has some of the most satisfying and jaw-dropping action any film could ask for, but the other factors of the film are so weak that they fail to make as much of an impact or any sort of impact at all other than severe irritation.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 3, 2015 4:25 AM PDT

Kingsman: The Secret Service
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Price: $7.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Obscenely and brutally shaken, not stirred, February 13, 2015
"Kingsman: The Secret Service" has done something revolutionary. This is a film that introduces a clothing line to cater toward all of the gentlemen out there, but it does so simultaneously with the film's release. It doesn't have a wave of successful momentum to fall back on. This is banking on financial success and famous faces to sell expensive menswear. It was very unusual seeing a screening kick off with a sponsor for a clothing line for the film we were about to see, but it's likely something we'll see more of in the future.

The opening credits are also a bit different. Everything that pops up on-screen before the "Kingsman: The Secret Service" logo appears is the result of an explosion. The rubble from that explosion bounces off the ground and onto the screen to form the credits. It's a little detail that makes something extremely simple very eye-catching.

The villain of the film is Richmond Valentine, who is played by Samuel L. Jackson. What distinguishes this role from the other memorable characters Jackson has played throughout his career is that not only is he physically repulsed by violence, but Jackson portrays Valentine with this incredible lisp. Valentine is essentially a sociopath with genocide on his mind for his own personal gain and the character is given this ridiculous and amusing twist because of his lisp.

The film itself has the same bite as "Kick-Ass," which was another collaboration between director Matthew Vaughn and comic book writer Mark Millar. At its core, "Kingsman" is about gentlemen stepping up and becoming spies so there's this element of proper behavior, spectacular hygiene, and looking one's absolute best at all times. But then there's that Mark Millar twist to the writing that throws a plethora of vulgarity and raunchy humor to not only make the film hilarious but more human and relatable, as well.

What's interesting is that if you just look at the action sequences without really thinking about it they seem really dynamic and spectacular. They speed up and slow down in a way that allows you to process everything that's occurring much like the action in "300," but it flows in a unique way. If you dig a little deeper, the action sequences seem like a homage to the action in the Timur Bekmambetov directed action film "Wanted," which is also based on a comic Mark Millar wrote. But the "Freebird" church sequence is just exceptional and worth the price of admission alone. Colin Firth reportedly did 80% if his own stunts and his work looks to have really paid off. This is really violent stuff that capitalizes on jaw-dropping moments to stroll from one victim to the next.

This is the feature film debut of Welsh actor Taron Egerton and he handles the role brilliantly. Egerton slides into the role of a punk kid with ease yet makes his uphill struggle sympathetic and interesting. His ability to do parkour results in a pretty great scene in the film, as well. Colin Firth is also just the definition of a gentleman who reels you in with all of the knowledge he's gained as a spy over the years. Even when Firth curses, he seems to do it in a polite way that is laugh out loud funny. Firth is practically a bonafide action star by the end of the film and would give John Wick a run for his money.

"Kingsman: The Secret Service" politely and eloquently clobbers you with undeniable wit, frantic yet unflinching action, and extremely adult but uproarious humor. Experiencing this film is like putting an R-rated spin on your favorite James Bond film or obscenely asking for Grey Poupon while you bash someone's face in.

Brotherhood of Blades [Blu-ray]
Brotherhood of Blades [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Chang Chen
Offered by Stare Media
Price: $9.95
36 used & new from $3.20

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Intense action that lacks satisfaction, February 13, 2015
The moral of "Brotherhood of Blades" seems to be that money is unable to buy happiness. Those powerful and hungry enough to achieve luxurious wealth are the crooked, tainted, and evil individuals who make it impossible for the average working person to climb the corporate ladder. But this film deals with three men who are so desperate to reach that one big goal most would spend their entire life attempting to attain that they'll literally do whatever they possibly can to come to it this instant and that's one of the reasons the film plays out the way that it does.

Shen is in love with Zhou Miaotong (Liu Shishi), a young woman bound to a brothel and her paying customers. Shen is determined to buy Miaotong her freedom. Lu has been trying to get a promotion to help out his ailing parents yet is told that he doesn't make enough money to bribe the right individuals to get his name in the running. Finally, there's Yichuan, who coughs up blood in his phlegm the entire film. In between falling in love with Zhang Yan (Ye Qing), Yichuan is constantly stalked and mocked by Ding Xiu (Zhou Yiwei), a swordsman who studied under the same master as Yichuan and blackmails him around every turn while claiming to know his terrible secret. Once confronted by the three destitute assassins, Wei offers 400 taels of gold as a means to keep him alive. A desperate situation becomes life threatening after that proposition.

The camera is expertly positioned throughout director Lu Yang's wuxia action film. Not only does the camera seem to capture all of the action taking place, but it makes you feel like you're tagging along with a group of assassins on a dangerous mission or leading the way and looking back at who you're traveling with depending on where the camera is placed. The film's use of slow-motion is rather unnecessary. Everything involving horses or water is shown in slowed down to a crawl without much of a payoff.

The special effects are also completely fruitless. Most of the blood in the film has been digitally added in post production and is very obviously noticeable. The first big action sequence uses this effect so poorly that it almost looks 8-bit and somehow added in with a Nintendo Entertainment System. It gets more tolerable as the film progresses, but it's not a good sign when you find yourself rejoicing when actual red liquid is splattering on the wall an hour and a half in instead of disappearing in mid-air.

If you can get past that, the action is rather fast paced and enjoyable. The wuxia utilized in the film is subtle and similar to how it was used in "Ip Man." You can identify when wires are being used, but people aren't flying around all crazy like an old school Jet Li flick. The storyline gets a bit baffling in the final act and the actions of certain characters are too perplexing for their own good. Miaotong is so unstable and while the film tries to explain why she behaves the way that she does it just doesn't seem very logical. The Ding Xiu character is also kind of bizarre. He begins as this supporting character that seems to be channeling Toshiro Mifune and is very much a villain, but almost completely evolves into the exact opposite by the time we reach the end of his character arc.

The ending almost feels like it's purposely trying to frustrate the viewer. It's cryptic in the sense that everything is completely straightforward one minute and for nearly the entire film and then it just switches gears during the last two minutes. Heaven is either riding horses with your brothers in slow-motion in a field full of flowers or the fate of a certain character is just left entirely up in the air. Shen, Lu, and Yichuan give off this Rain, Thunder, and Lighting from "Big Trouble in Little China" kind of vibe. Whether that's worth rejoicing or not resides solely on how much you enjoyed John Carpenter's cult classic action film from 1986.

"Brotherhood of Blades" shows promise early on. A good conspiracy can always ignite a stagnant story and the action in the film is swift, intense, and impressive. But the feeble special effects really take you out of the action at times and the conclusion is a bloated misfire. Films are so much more simple when they start off good or bad and either escalate or deteriorate from there. They always seem to be more disappointing when they start off promising and snowball to lackluster mediocrity.

Jupiter Ascending (Blu-ray)
Jupiter Ascending (Blu-ray)
DVD ~ Mila Kunis

7 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The fanciful tale of an intergalactic toilet cleaner, February 7, 2015
There's this foreign factor of late 80s/early 90s cheesiness heavily sprinkled throughout "Jupiter Ascending" and it's as awkward as it is impressive. Maybe it's the presence of spasmic and overly colorful visuals, the way Channing Tatum roller blades in the air, or Balem's dragon/dinosaur henchmen that gives the film this "Super Mario Bros." meets "The Last Starfighter" kind of tone, but the Wachowskis delayed sci-fi actioner slips on its visuals like a barrel full of banana peels more often than not.

The action sequences suffer from a similar issue. As soon as the film triggers interest with something exciting the scenes immediately become too busy and have too much going on to process properly. Everything is so flashy yet unimpressive because of it. Imagine if George Lucas remastered and made a special edition of the "G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero" animated series from the late 80s like he did with the original "Star Wars" trilogy and you can visualize just how disappointing this is given the Wachowskis back catalog. One chase sequence in particular lasts around seven minutes and took seven months to shoot, but feels like it tries to cram too much into a short time period and ends up being extremely messy visually.

The acting is completely inconsistent, as well. Channing Tatum is even more one-dimensional than expected and seems like he's just there to be eye candy. On the other end of the spectrum is Eddie Redmayne who either barely speaks above a whisper or screams at the top of his lungs without warning or reason for doing so. In between the two is Mila Kunis who is nothing more than a sarcastic twit who makes bad decisions over and over again. Lastly, there's Sean Bean whose performance isn't exactly memorable but is noteworthy for the fact that it seems to break a long gestating curse regarding the fate of the characters he usually chooses to play.

"Jupiter Ascending" can be visually engaging at times and bends and warps the boundaries of space quite efficiently, but its storyline is very familiar, its special effects are more cluttered than Michael Bay's "Transformers" films, and is massively inconsistent as far as performances go. The film is so overloaded with "holy crap," glow in the dark regenerative goo, flying lizard henchmen, an out of place "Wayne's World 2" wedding, and a female who chooses to clean toilets over everything else that you hardly have the chance to enjoy the little things this sloppy sci-fi film has to offer; like Terry Gilliam's brief cameo. "Jupiter Ascending" is more of a motivational video for janitors and housemaids everywhere than a satisfying piece of entertainment.

Two Days, One Night [UK import, region 2 PAL format]
Two Days, One Night [UK import, region 2 PAL format]
DVD ~ Marion Cotillard
6 used & new from $16.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Marion Cotillard illustrates her emotional prowess, February 7, 2015
"Two Days, One Night" is a very fascinating and genuine drama. It allows the audience to take a neutral standpoint and see the big picture from both the point of view of a mother who will face financial hardship without a job and the other employees who are relying on a new bonus to support their families. As Sandra makes her route door to door, the viewer gets to feel the compassion, the anger, the utter confusion, and whatever other emotions boil to the surface solely because Sandra is standing on their doorstep and asking for another chance.

You gain access into Sandra's life and see how this experience is beginning to eat at her existence. The entire incident makes Sandra weak and fragile as she slowly swan dives back into her sickness. Her time of need has her relying on medication more than the average person and it comes to a head at a pivotal scene later on in the film. Even though a good portion of the individuals need the bonus just to make ends meet, Sandra's journey is somewhat enlightening as it reveals just who her friends really are.

This film has a story that revolves around how actions not only affect you but everyone else around you. While it seems completely inhuman for a company to force employees to choose between such things, the truth is that this is what the world has evolved into as far as keeping your job is concerned for some people. Facing economic hardship is something that affects everyone; no matter what part of the world you live in.

Seeing how it affects Sandra and hearing how her relationship with Manu is struggling makes the entire experience all the more relatable. Depression is something just about everyone can sympathize with and as you witness Sandra continue to climb out of the cynical pit her life has thrown her into you also observe the obstacles in life that knock her back down, she even slips on occasion, and loses the desire to keep trying. But the important thing is she continues to get back up even when the odds are stacked against her.

"Two Days, One Night" is an incredibly powerful film. Jean-Dardenne and Luc Dardenne have birthed this overwhelming hour and a half overflowing with raw, human emotion. Marion Cotillard has taken on one of the most challenging roles of her career and has delivered a performance that is extremely rewarding. Sometimes it's not about conquering that unsurpassable mountain of depression and cynicism. Sometimes discovering who you can count on to help push you to that next goal you need in life is enough to overcome such hardships. That mindset of uncertainty yet continuing to endure is captured beautifully in "Two Days, One Night."

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