Trailer: Apostle (Netflix)


Apostle

Gareth Evans is pretty much the director who helped usher in the latest renaissance in action films. His films show that action can be done without reling on quick cuts and fast edits. Gone are the days of Christopher Nolan staged fight scenes that shows no life whatsoever and the nausea-inducing edits by Paul Green grass in his Bourne franchise.

Well-known for his work in Indonesia, especially with the Raid franchise, Gareth Evans is now trying his hand in something a bit different, but still looks to be in his wheelhouse. This time around it’s through the largesse of Netflix that he will be making his next project titled Apostle.

The film has been under the radar throughout much of its production and post-production, but with less than a month remaining til it’s October release, Apostle may have just become one of my most anticipated films of the year.

With a cast headlined by Dan Stevens and Michael Sheen, Apostle looks to combine Evans’ stylistic action with period horror. Will the combination be a balanced mix or will it be too much of a good thing and the whole thing falls apart? We’ll find out on October 12, 2018.

4 Shots From 4 Films: Sabotage, The Raid 2, John Wick, Fury


2014 had it’s share of very good action films and here are four that I was particularly drawn to. While the film themselves were of varying degrees of quality in terms of storytelling. These 4 films all had one thing that I enjoyed despite their films’ flaws. They all had action scenes that I thought were quite excellent.

You have gritty present-day action thriller, an operatic gangster epic, a revenge thriller and a war film. One stars an aging action star back from playing politician. Another a foreign film whose filmmaker and star have set the bar for all action films for years to come. Then there’s the stunt coordinators and 2nd unit directors finally making their mark with their first feature-length film. Lastly, a war film that brings the brutality of World War II tank warfare to the forefront.

4 SHOTS FROM 4 FILMS

Sabotage (dir. by David Ayer)

Sabotage (dir. by David Ayer)

John Wick (dir. by Chad Stahelski & David Leitch)

John Wick (dir. by Chad Stahelski & David Leitch)

Arleigh’s Top 9 Films of 2014 (Front End)


We’re now past the halfway point for the film season of 2014. The year has seen it’s share of hits, bombs and surprises. Many look at the box-office numbers some that these films generate as a sign of their success. Others look at how the critics-at-large have graded these films as a way to determine whether they’ve been successful.

I know some people would list nothing but independent arthouse films as their best. They look at genre and big-budget films as not being worthy of being the best of the year, so far. It’s that sort of thinking that limits one’s appreciation of film, in general.

Does having a 150 million dollar budget mean that a film cannot be one of the best of the year. Past history will suggest that’s not the case. Yet, there are cinephiles out there who will dismiss such films because they consider it as being too Hollywood. The same goes for people who look down upon genre films like horror, scifi, westerns and many others that do not fit their slice-of-life drama study. They’re not existential enough for some.

I’ve come to look at all the films I’ve been fortunate enough to see through the first six months of 2014 and picked 9 of the best (I picked a random odd number since Lisa Marie already does the even numbers thing) no matter their genre, type of film and budget. I’ve picked a couple of scifi films, a documentary, an action-packed blockbuster sequel, a wonderfully made 3-D animated film (itself a sequel), a neo-noir Western, a brutal crime-thriller, an indie horror-thriller and one of the best comedies of the last couple years.

In no special order….

noah-banner222Noah (dir. by Darren Aronofsky)

capawsmovarthc-cvr-a91f8Captain America: The Winter Soldier (dir. by Anthony and Joe Russo)

cold_in_july_ver2_xlgCold in July (dir. by Jim Mickle)

HTTYD2How To Train Your Dragon 2 (dir. by Dean DuBois)

JodorowskysDuneJodorowsky’s Dune (dir. by Frank Pavich)

the-raid-2-berandal01The Raid 2: Berandal (dir. by Gareth Evans)

Snowpiercer (dir. by Bong Joon-ho)

GrandPianoGrand Piano (dir. by Eugenio Mira)

22JumpStreet22 Jump Street (dir. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller)

My honorable mentions: All Cheerleaders Die, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Joe, Edge of Tomorrow, Lego: The Movie, Blue Ruin, Locke, Under the Skin, Only Lovers Left Alive, The Sacrament

The Raid 2: Berandal “Gang War” Deleted Scene


the-raid-2-berandal-teaser-poster

So, just got back from watching The Raid 2: Berandal and I must say that I was left speechless. So, while I gather my thoughts in order to write up a review here’s a clip released by director Gareth Evans of a scene removed from the finished film due to pacing issues.

It’s a scene that took close to 6 days to set-up and film and quite a bit of money to do so. The fact that it’s a scene so heavy in action that it was still deleted from the film just goes to show just how awesome were the action in the film that this particular one was left on the cutting room floor.

Quick Review: The Raid 2 (dir. by Gareth Huw Evans)


 

the-raid-2-posterI didn’t know much about The Raid 2 (or The Raid: Berandal) prior to it’s release. Yes, I loved The Raid Redemption so much that after my initial viewing, I bought another ticket for the next available showing. I also saw the initial trailer, but other than that, I walked in blind. Truth be told, if the season finale of The Walking Dead wasn’t on the same night I saw this and the trains weren’t so damn slow, I would’ve gone right back in for The Raid 2. I know I’ll go back to it later this week, that’s for sure.

Here’s the short of it: The Raid 2 gives you all of the great martial arts from its predecessor (thanks to Choreographers and stars Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, along with writer/director Gareth Evans). The fight scenes are incredibly fluid and well choreographed, some ramped up way past what the first movie delivered. The film also manages to build a story so big that it almost reaches levels akin to Michael Mann’s Heat.  That story length also threatens to hurt the film. Where Redemption was a tight package, the sequel has a 2 1/2 hour-long running time. It moves like an Opera, and as such, there maybe at least one chapter where you kind of wonder where it’s all going and why it’s moving in the chosen direction. The film does a great job of righting itself afterward and everything syncs up.

It’s an absolute fight to keep myself from going into every fight and saying “Did you catch that part when..?! Omigod, wasn’t that awesome!” No spoilers here, but this is one time where I wish I could. This review’s vague on purpose.

Taking place just hours after the events of Redemption, The Raid 2 finds supercop Rama (Iko Uwais) working undercover between 2 rival mob families and trying to weed out rogue cops. The premise sounds simple, but the movie is pretty layered.  Just how deep can Rama go without exposing himself or losing his humanity? In this sense, a lot of the writing pays homage to movies like Donnie Brasco, The Godfather and The Departed (or Internal Affairs, which The Departed was based on). This is all you really need to know about the plot itself, it’s a crime drama. How it conveys the story on-screen is something else entirely.

The balance between the action and drama is pretty even. Each dramatic moment seems to fit well to the ones before and after it. While there maybe one or two areas that require a huge suspension of belief (a person can bleed profusely and still manage to cause a wave of destruction), but depending on one’s mindset, these can be forgiven…or not. Evans chooses his shots carefully, and in some places it’s downright beautiful – especially in an area that focuses on three assassins with a particular skillset.

The fight scenes are rapid fire moments of hard-hitting shots and bloodshed that may have you wincing or even cheering (like my audience). People are sliced, shot, beaten to a pulp and your jaw may drop at the inventive ways a bat or hammer can be used. In some cases, it takes Close Quarters Combat in as tight as you can possibly get, using camera work that moves above, around and even inside the action when working with multiple fights. The camera isn’t so fast that it suffers from the Bourne Identity/Batman Begins fight blur, but it’s not static either. Remember that free roaming camera technique used in the car ride from Spielberg’s War of the Worlds? There’s a similar usage here that’s beautiful, but in the midst of all that stunt work, one has to wonder if anyone was seriously hurt. The audience lost their minds when Yayan Ruhian appeared, playing a character separate from Mad Dog in Redemption, and our showing ended with a half standing ovation. Not bad for a film focused on fighting.

If you understand that The Raid 2 is hyper-violent, it’s perfectly okay. It’s almost expected, and it works out so very well.

Basically, if you either went to see the The Raid: Redemption and/or enjoyed that film, there’s no reason to avoid The Raid 2. I honestly didn’t think it could get better than the first film and am happily surprised that it has. The film is in a limited release in New York and Los Angeles for now, moving to a wider release on April 11th.

Trailer: The Raid 2: Berandal (Official Domestic)


TheRaid2Berandal

The Raid 2: Berandal premiered today at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. We’ve already gotten two previous trailers and teasers. We now have a third one that just adds to the awesomeness of what I will now dub as the best film of 2014.

The Raid 2: Berandal will make it’s wide release in the United States on March 28, 2014.

Trailer: The Raid 2: Berandal (Official Teaser)


TheRaid2Berandal

In 2011, a little action film from Indonesia directed by Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans took the world by storm. The film was called The Raid (The Raid: Redemption in the West). It out-actioned every Hollywood blockbuster action film of that year and still manages to hold its own against other action films since.

So, it’s no surprise that a sequel was already in production by the time that film’s theater run was winding down in the West. Gareth Evans will return as director of The Raid 2: Berandal and so will the survivors of the first film.

With filming all pretty much done and the film moving on to post-production the first official teaser trailer for the sequel has been released and all I can say is…WOW.

The Raid 2: Berandal will be punching people in the face sometime around 2014.

Quick Review: The Raid: Redemption (dir. by Gareth Evans)


I have to admit, Gareth Evans’ “The Raid: Redemption” wasn’t on my collective radar. It was by way of two friends on Twitter that I was even aware of it, but damn was it worth it. I can easily recommend The Raid as the movie to catch this weekend if you can find it playing near you (and if you happen to like action films). It’s been a while since I’ve run to the theatre twice in one week for the same film. It’s not perfect, and won’t win any kind of dramatic awards, but it’ll probably have you coming back for a second dose of the action.

The film has three things going for it:

1.) The action is intense, when it happens. The breaks between action moments are small.

2.) The film is short. At about 100 minutes, you almost won’t even realize when the film’s done.

3.) The music really moves it.

Evans and The Raid’s main star, Iko Uwais worked together back in 2009’s Merantau, which I’m looking to see now. The premise of The Raid: Redemption is a simple one. Rama (Uwais), along with 20 other SWAT team (or SWAT Team like) members perform a raid on a building owned by a criminal lord. Once the team gets in, they find the tables turned on them, with everyone in the building becoming their enemy.  This forces the team to try to stay alive and find a way to either escape, or get the Boss. That’s all it is, and honestly, that’s all The Raid would need to be as an action film. It’s as simple a story as Fist of Fury, Hard Boiled, and quite possibly The Expendables. There’s a side element in the film that I won’t go into detail on, which adds to things a little, but all the audience needs to know is that in The Raid, you’re getting pure action. If you’re walking into this expecting something more thought invoking (and that’s not a detriment to the film), you may want to look elsewhere.

Another high point of the film is its soundtrack, performed by  Mike Shinoda (of Linkin Park) and Joe Trapanese has a number of kinetic tracks in it that help to fuel the battles. It comes together very well, though part of me wishes that the main theme had a larger instrumental piece to it.

The pacing for The Raid is pretty good. Again, the time between fights are minimal, and most of it is used to showcase some of the situations the team and the members that live in the complex are in. While a few of these can be tense, they don’t really relax to the point where you’d hope to see more action.

If The Raid suffers from any drawbacks, it’s that that the fights themselves can end up being a little on the repetitive side. Mind you, this could be just a side effect of having seen the film twice already but you’ll find that by the time you get to the second to last fight, some of the moves seem to be repeated. Still, you won’t see anything better than this if you’re looking for a straight laced action film. An easily recommended pick.

Trailer: The Raid: Redemption (Official and Red Band)


I wasn’t fortunate enough to be able to attend last year’s Toronto International Film Festival. If I was there I have a feeling that a little Indonesian action film would’ve been the highlight of my time at TIFF 2011. The film is The Raid (it will get the Redemption added for it’s American release) and from the look of these two trailers it just speaks the language of awesome.

All I can say is that it should put the Indonesian martial arts style Pencak Silat on Hollywood’s map the way Ong Bak did for Muay Thai a decade ago.