The critically-acclaimed and wildly popular foreign film, "The Raid" was a massive success -- critically acclaimed and wildly popular amongst many moviegoers both American or non-American. So why not make a sequel? Who didn't see this coming? You know, I'm surprised to say it myself, but I was not a fan of the first iteration; for a film that was almost 90% action, the fight choreography was not inventive and extremely repetitive. Well, with a sequel now out receiving huge rave once again, I had to give this soon-to-be trilogy a second chance.
Now one would immediately think that before seeing "The Raid 2", they'd have to watch its predecessor. You're absolutely wrong. The only snippet of story the first iteration has is the beginning 10 minutes of the film. The rest is a knuckle-bashing frenzy. So for a film that is positively reviewed despite being a senseless action flick, one would probably think the sequel wouldn't take any risks and emulate the same formula. What ain't broke, don't fix, am I right? But I'm proud to say that "The Raid 2" not only takes a huge gamble to attempt to portray a compelling crime drama coupled with mixed martial arts action, but it succeeds in doing so.
"The Raid 2" is almost a completely different film to its earlier iteration and it's all for the better. For instance, the cinematography -- its gorgeous, done with purpose, and expertly shot. In times of silence and even in times of lightning fast flurries of kicks, elbows, and punches, the film is stunning to look at. Perhaps the greatest change though is how the entire film caters to its core story of deception and violence. Before? Pff, I wouldn't even be able to tell you the story of the first cause there was hardly ever one. Here, the story works which then is followed up with what everyone's looking forward to -- the martial arts action. It truly delivers especially because the story's tension elevates it to such greater heights than its predecessor ever did. Is there as much action as the first? No, but quality is better than quantity, and boy it's like eating a filet mignon here instead of a cheap steak from Denny's. The fighting choreography still remains somewhat the same from the first but because of the narrative and the camerawork, it carries much more weight and better pacing.
"The Raid 2" was world's better than the first. From the arresting story, to the beautiful camerawork, to the action, I thoroughly enjoyed my time. No longer will this soon-to-be trilogy continue on to be a mindless action franchise. It's won me over.
Following the surprisingly interesting "Monsters", Gareth Edwards is back for his second outing with a daunting task -- portraying the classic tale of Godzilla in a fresh way. Does he succeed? He certainly does.
Campy, outrageous, and comical are some words that come to mind when thinking of the absurd amount of Godzilla movies that were made. With Edwards' fresh new take on "Godzilla", the mythical beast has once again become a feared and mysterious force. All this is credit to Edwards' smartly built up tension. Perhaps through 45 minutes of the movie do you even see Godzilla, but it keeps audiences gripped and anxious to finally feast their eyes on the monster. And when you do, wow, what a sight to behold. The special effects are absolutely stunning. And as the movie progresses, it continues to reward audiences with more and more with a fire-breathing finale that is nothing short of crowd-pleasing. Funnily, "The Avengers" suffers because it didn't take the same approach "Godzilla" did; what should've been a jaw-dropping union between a handful of comic book superstars becomes a limp and weak get-together. Kudos Edwards.
However, one of the biggest issues monster films tend to get stuck on are the lackluster human stories. "Cloverfield" was superbly effective because the narrative was completely focused on the human side of a monster attack. This is where "Godzilla" stumbles to an extent. For a film that is trying to portray a much grittier tone, the writing was jarringly campy. However, the brilliantly casted Bryan Cranston lifts what is a lackluster script to supreme levels. Yes, his portrayal as Walter White in the "Breaking Bad" series was excellent, but Cranston does a jaw-droppingly phenomenal job here.
"Godzilla" is a breath of fresh air for what was becoming a very stale movie franchise, but it does have many faults such as the writing and the weak human story, but this a very good step in the right direction for what is an iconic monster.
Spike Lee, dare I say, is the first Hollywood spokesman of black culture, and what do you know, Denzel's involved with another one of his projects, "He Got Game".
"He Got Game" may just seem like just another basketball movie but underneath the hood is a compelling story about tension between a father and son. And for the most part, the story sells itself. Coupled with the great Denzel and even Ray Allen, there's a lot of opportunity. However, because this film was made near the beginning of the permeation of black culture into Hollywood, it fails to develop a true tone that encapsulates what black culture is truly about. Don't get me wrong -- Spike Lee vividly portrays the culture through the narrative, but the writing and the score becomes extremely tacky. Raw and gritty scenes occur throughout which is, at times, shocking but it's all paired with a very "Disney" like music. It's extremely jarring.
In the end, it's all about how effective the movie was. And was it? Absolutely. With the sharp direction from the eyes of Spike Lee, to the superb acting from Denzel, "He Got Game" not only sells itself as a captivating story, but also as a solid film.