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The Asian Connection (2016)
An interesting role for Seagal in a different kind of heist flick
The film was pretty good, not great, but an enjoyable watch. It's definitely a low budget endeavor but the backdrop of Thailand along with some solid directing and camera work pick ups some of the slack. It's a well-paced bank heist story with several interesting elements, including an inside man with bad blood for Seagal, and a unique "switching out" of heist partners about 2/3 of the way through. No over-the-top, "every 15 minutes a fight scene" action but instead it's more about suspense and nuggets of conflict where it supports the story.
Seagal has a different kind of role in this film. As the drug lord from who the two protagonists are stealing (several times, in fact), Seagal has mostly a speaking role with little martial arts included from him. He's not out saving the day but instead a bad guy getting jacked by thieves while also being double-crossed by one of his own men. Michael Jai White, on the other hand, has only one scene in the movie, and while he's a powerful presence, it's hardly worth his face on the cover.
Strongest character in my opinion was Niran, the inside man played by Sahajak Boonthanakit (Nicolas Refn's "Only God Forgives"). Very understated but nefarious, and a decent actor. The lead, John Lee Edward, not so much. His girlfriend, Pim Bubear, made up for Edward though with a comfortable, genuine ease to her performance that somewhat balanced out the pair.
Asian Connection offers an interesting blend of action and suspense from a story and characters you wouldn't expect. Definitely worth a watch.
The ABCs of Death (2012)
A bad ending can leave a bad taste
This was a semi-enjoyable collaboration of horror films, about 5 minutes each. Some were very good ("Buddy"), some were so-so, and others we sat through to get to the next Letter (read: crap). Still, guessing the title of the short film you just saw, based on its letter in the alphabet, was fun. And each were on a limited budget, so you have to cut them some slack in that regard.
I won't go into details about the movie, as many other reviewers have given their insight. My review is focused on one letter...
Z ruined the entire endeavor. I gave the overall film 5 stars here on IMDb, to tip my hat to the other filmmakers. I did not sit through the Z film - I turned it off midway - thus don't know who directed it, or care. I can take gross and nonsensical to a point, but additionally this waste of celluloid was so insulting and hateful to America that I could watch no further. Suffice to say that on top of the continuous anti-America rant and visuals throughout, the Twin Towers and a airplane were depicted on a pair of breasts.
It's art, right? I should get over it. If so, is it OK to make an "artsy" film that claims the Holocaust was a hoax? Is it OK to make fun of the plight of slaves in America for the sake of a scare or a laugh? When is it "too soon," or is it ever really okay to laugh at these events? So while The ABC's of Death gets a 5 on IMDb, I gave it a "Hated it" on Netflix and a "don't bother" to anyone who asks. Perhaps I'm not "open-minded" enough; perhaps, that's okay by me. For those of you who have watched this film, you know that I can take a lot, from A to Y. Z was just too vigorously assaulting on my sensibilities as an American.
Too bad, because so many other filmmakers worked so hard to produce their contributions to this film.
Locked Down (2010)
Solid action film with great fight scenes and music
I know this film didn't have a big budget like the ones many are comparing it to, but I judge a film by it's own merits. And to me a formula plot, especially in an action film, means I get what I paid for. The fight scenes were very stylized and music-driven, which added tons of excitement for me. Even with a low budget, the fights were awesome.
Okay, so the lead was a little stiff and needed more dimension, but I saw him as a Dirty Harry-type, or Christian Bale's Batman. Vinnie Jones was great - he stole every scene he was in and he's just a great bad ass. The MMA fighters were intense and provided a better performance than I expected. Plus, I got my dose of T&A in all the right places.
If you want a re-invention of the prison fight film, then perhaps you may not rate Locked Down at the top (though it's still worth a rental if you're a fan of the genre by any stretch). But if you want your blood, action and vengeance served to you without reservations, then Locked Down is your ticket. I thoroughly enjoyed this film.
Fast Girl (2008)
A Family Sports Film With A Lot of Heart
This is a great family film and if you like racing, then it's a MUST! Well written with strong performances, particularly from (and I was surprised) Justin Guarini. Dwier Brown does a great job as Uncle Bill, too, at first standing in Alex's way to success, then helping her get there. And Mircea Monroe as Alex has you rooting for her until the finish line.
Sure, you know it's going to have a happy ending, but the suspense and excitement kept me going right up to the end. It's beautifully shot and directed, and captures that wonderful Americana feel of small town people with big dreams. I particularly enjoyed the film because I'm a car buff, and the writers definitely did their homework. Both my wife and I liked it because we really cared about the characters. And our 14-year old daughter loved it because the lead, Alex, is a strong young woman who goes for her dream... and she thinks Justin is really cute.
This film has a lot of heart... and the racing footage is very well done. Great for the whole family! Pardon the pun, but Fast Girl hits on all cylinders!
Batman Begins (2005)
The Best Batman Since the First One
Christian Bale did a great job translating the darker side of Batman, and the whole history as to how he became Batman was fascinating. Great action, awesome director. A close second to Burton's first Batman.
I thought the love story between Bale and Holmes was pretty solid, too, and sad at the end. The Scarecrow character was wild, but kind of a throw-away villain. And the real villain's evil plan at the end was a little too complex and convoluted to follow - but the action sequence and the way it was directed held my attention from start to finish.
If you're a Christian Bale fan, don't miss this movie. It's amazing how he pumped up for this after scaling down to like, 120, for The Machinist. He is one of the finest actors today.
Curse of Alcatraz (2007)
An Unexpected Psychological Thriller
I thought it would be a typical monster flick, with a bunch of people stuck on The Rock and getting picked off, one-by-one. Turned out to be more thoughtful, suspenseful and interesting than I imagined, and the setting of Alcatraz made it all the more creepy.
You have to pay attention to follow what's happening to these people, and who the killer or killers are. The history about the island is pretty interesting too, which is weaved throughout the film.
It's a low budget movie, so some of the acting is so-so, but there are several stand-outs(like the guy in the wheel chair, the professor, and the girl who played Tiffany.) Not your typical horror film, but definitely with its frightful moments, and the whole "trapped" feeling of Alcatraz (which they actually shot parts of the film on).
A strong message about life choices
Clash is a tightly-knit urban story about how hopelessness and violence can be replaced with redemption... but it can be a long, bloody road. Set against the backdrop of gang violence and police corruption, the movie ultimately leaves the viewer with a positive message of the important choices facing us all, whether its family, love, racism, revenge or forgiveness.
Great performances by Daniel Venegas, Damon Whitaker and Dave Fennoy. The scenes between Venegas and Fennoy, as student/teacher, are particularly powerful and are the basis of a lot of the film's messages. Whitaker is as powerful as his famous relative, and delivers a bad guy performance that makes your skin crawl.
It's a low-budget film, but many of the performances, Zirilli's direction, and some solid writing make it engaging and thought-provoking from beginning to end.
Clever, Cards, Cuties
Hey, it isn't "Rounders" but it's a clever low-budget movie about three girls that scam the underground poker circuit in Southern California, Vegas and finally Rio De Janerio. Naturally, all three are hot, but each has their own role to play in the scam and the dynamics between them is well crafted. One is drawn into the threesome unwillingly, through which the audience learns Texas Hold 'em and the scam. Their challenges with different poker games and the conflicts that arise between the girls keeps you interested from beginning to end.
I'm a poker player (who isn't these days), and the hands are thoughtfully played out and the scam isn't some 'no brainer'. It's more complex than "Shade", that's for sure.
"Aces" is definitely for the cards and the girls, but it's pretty clever, too. I enjoyed it.
The Machinist (2004)
An incredible movie!
Dark, thoughtful, and beautifully shot, this movie and particularly Bale's performance takes you down an alley, beats the hell out of you, and makes you want to come back for more. It's a nightmarish landscape on every level of the soul, with a message of redemption that stays with you for a long time. What Bale did to his body for this movie alone creeps under the audience's skin, and his crisis of guilt and self-loathing create a sub-reality that is inescapable. The terror is rarely on the surface, but always lurking in the sleepless shadows of Bale's mind.
Jennifer Jason Leigh and Michael Ironside also turn in superior performances.
Loved this movie.
worth a rental with some rum and pizza
Sure, this movie was a cheesy horror flick, but what do you expect with a story line about a zombie pirate? There were some pretty good scares, some gore, and the requisite beauties - like Jessie Camacho from Survivor:Africa...holy mackerel! The locations and production value were better than most low budget films; they shot some of it at an old fort in the Caribbean. And, I think this was the last film shot by Neil Fredricks, the talented cameraman that shot The Blair Witch Project. Anybody who gets too riled about it should read the plot more closely on the back cover. If you like pirates, like the undead kind, then it's worth a rental, with some rum and pizza, for a few scares and laughs.