Henry Golding takes center stage in the Snake Eyes Trailer

Ask any kid who ever played with G.I. Joes in the 1980s about their favorites, and it would usually be Snake Eyes, the silent ninja who usually saves the day while being courted by his nemesis, Storm Shadow. It’s only fitting that we get a back story on our mysterious hero. Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians, The Gentleman) plays the lead role, and the movie looks like it’s going to have quite a bit of action. The film also stars Warrior‘s Andrew Koji, The Raid‘s Iko Uwais, and Money Heist‘s Ursula Corbero

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins, directed by Robert Schwentke (Divergent, Insurgent) is set to release on July 23rd.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (dir. by J.J. Abrams) Is the Sequel the Fandom Has Been Waiting For

Star Wars - The Force Awakens

[some minor, very minor spoilers]

When I first began this site on Christmas Eve of 2009 I had to thank the excitement I had for event films after seeing and experiencing James Cameron’s Avatar. It was an experience I hadn’t felt since the days of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and, even earlier than that, the original Star Wars trilogy. These were films that fired up one’s imagination, appreciation and love for film as entertainment and art. Some of these films would linger on longer in one’s mind than others, but that first viewing in their initial release would always imprint their effect on each viewer.

When George Lucas announced that he would be returning to that galaxy, far, far away with a trilogy of prequels almost 15 years since the world last saw Return of the Jedi premiere first the first time, the Star Wars fandom were giddy, excited and hyped beyond belief. The Star Wars films and the many spin-offs (novels, comic books, video games, etc.) which came about because of it only whetted the appetites of long-time Star Wars fans for more films detailing the adventures in the scifi universe created by George Lucas.

Yet, the prequels’ effect on these long-time fans would be the direct opposite of the effect the original trilogy had on the fandom. These three prequels (all directed and written by George Lucas himself) would do more than disappoint the fandom. It would create a schism between those who saw the original trilogy as the gateway to their fandom and those younger generation who never saw the original trilogy and had the prequels become their gateway to the fandom. Even to this day there would be some of the younger generation who truly believe that the prequels trump the original three films which began the franchise.

When news came down that Disney had bought Lucasfilm and everything which George Lucas had built and cultivated there was no chance in hell that there wouldn’t be another series of Star Wars despite the disaster which were the prequels. Lo and behold, it didn’t take long for Disney to greenlight the sequel to Return of the Jedi and have it set decades after the events of that film.

So, it is with Star Wars: The Force Awakens that the Star Wars fandom get to see whether their continued faith in the franchise was worth it or if they have been Charlie Brown’d once again and had the ball taken away at the very last second. It’s easy to say that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was great or it was awful. The true answer to whether this film succeeded in what it intended do was a bit more complicated.

Yet, if one was to look for an easy and simple answer then I’m happy to say that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was great. It had it’s moments of logic gap and plot holes, but as an overall finished product the film succeeded in course-correcting the franchise from the nadir it was at with the culmination of the prequels. It wouldn’t have taken much to surpass the very low bar set by those prequels, but The Force Awakens leapfrogged that bar and went even higher.

The film does begin thirty years after the events of Return of the Jedi and we find out with the now familiar episode intro crawl that Luke Skywalker has disappeared since those events and the galaxy has remained in turmoil with his absence. The Galactic Empire has been defeated, but in its place a new danger in the form of the genocidal First Order has arisen from the Empire’s remains. Opposing the First Order is a sort of galactic force supported in secret by the New Republic and led by General (not Princess) Leia Organa calling themselves the Resistance. It’s the conflict between these two factions and the search for Luke that forms the narrative base for The Force Awakens.

The film doesn’t linger too long in explaining the events which occurred in that 30-year gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. It doesn’t need it as we’re quickly introduced to the series’ new characters in the form of Poe Dameron, the best pilot in the galaxy, who has been sent on a secret mission by Leia to find the clues as to her brother’s whereabouts. Next in line was Kylo Ren who becomes this film’s analogue to the Darth Vader figure of the original trilogy. Yet, the bulk of the film was told through the eyes of Finn and Rey.  The former is First Order stormtrooper who has seen first-hand what the First Order truly stands for and not for the betterment of the galaxy. The latter is a young woman living life on the desert planet Jakku scavenging the graveyard of starship wreckage from a battle thirty year’s prior.

It’s through Rey and Finn that the audience learns through their adventures upon meeting up with each other on Jakku what has transpired since the Rebellion destroyed the second Death Star and killed Emperor Palpatine. To these two characters, the events from the original trilogy seem to have passed beyond the realm of history and become more like legends and myths to the younger generation. Through a combination of fear and awe, Ren and Finn get introduced to some of the original trilogies main characters (Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca and even Admiral Ackbar). These are the stories they’ve been told of growing up come to life right in front of their eyes and their reaction mirrors those of the audience who haven’t seen these characters in anything new and relevant since the end of Return of the Jedi. The reaction alone to seeing Han Solo and Chewbacca alone seemed like the fandom’s collective cheer for the good that has been missing with the franchise for over 30 years now.

The Force Awakens is not a perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Like mentioned earlier, the film does suffer from some gaps in story logic and plot holes. As with most J.J. Abrams directed films he had a hand in writing the script and one could see where he sacrificed coherent storytelling beats for something that just pushed the story along the path he wanted the film to take. For those who have been steeped in Star Wars lore and backstory, this would be easily explained as the Force nudging, guiding and, if all else fails, pushing the characters onto the right path, but for the casual viewers it would come off as story beats of convenience.

As a story to bring back the faithful and lure in those still uninitiated to the franchise The Force Awakens straddles the line between nostalgia and trying to bring in something new to the proceedings.

Let’s begin with the former and just say it now that The Force Awakens does follow some major story beats directly from A New Hope (to a smaller effect from Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi). One could almost say that this film was a sort of soft reboot of the original trilogy with how it lifted ideas from them and through some writing and directing recombination come up with something new, but still very familiar for hardcore and non-fans alike.

Does this decision to lean heavily on the original trilogy for ideas hurt the film? For some it might be a bit too distracting to recognize too many callbacks to those earlier films, but for most it’s a reminder of what the prequels lacked and that’s the sense of adventure and fun. There was never anything fun about the prequels. The Force Awakens brings it all back and for most viewers this is the course-correction the series has needed since the last images from Revenge of the Sith faded away from the silver-screen.

Even the new characters introduced in this latest film were an amalgamation of the main characters from the original trilogy. Where Abrams and Kasdan changed this up a bit was to go beyond just creating new analogues for the classic characters of Leia, Han, Luke, Chewie and R2D2. They opted to take all the qualities fans loved about those characters and mixed them all up to be used in the roles of Rey, Finn, Poe, Kylo Ren and BB8.

As the standout character in the film, Rey (played by find of the year Daisy Ridley) would bring back memories of not just the young and hopeful Luke from the original trilogy, but also some personal traits of Leia and Han. The same goes for Finn who at times reminded us of Han’s roguish charm to Luke’s naivete of his role in the larger world he has finally witnessed for the very first time. For the half-empty crowd this might look as lazy character development, but those who see the film with the half-full mindset would easily latch onto these new characters. Characters who now take on the responsibility of moving the franchise beyond the nostalgia of the original trilogy and erasure of the disappointment of the prequels to new adventures with the next two films.

So, is Star Wars: The Force Awakens worth returning back to the franchise after the prequels or is it too much of a rehash of the original three films? The answer to that is a definite yes despite some of it’s flaws. For some the very flaws some have pointed out (too many callbacks, sort of a reboot, etc.) was what made the film a fun time to be had. It’s a return to the comfort zone the fandom missed with the prequels.

Will the next two films in this new trilogy follow suit and just rely too much on nostalgia to continue trying to satisfy it’s massive audience? Or will Rian Johnson and Colin Trevorrow (director of Episode VIII and Episode IX, respectively) move into new territory with minimal callbacks to those earlier films? We as an audience will have to wait til 2017 and 2019 to find out. Until then enjoy what Abrams and Lucasfilm has accomplished with The Force Awakens. A film which has reinvigorated a film franchise that has seem some major lows, but one which also happens to be one hell of a fun ride from start to finish on it’s own merits.

P.S.: Some controversy has arisen since the film’s release concerning the character played by Daisy Ridley. Some have been very vocal about calling her Rey character as a sort of knee-jerk reaction to the accusation that the Star Wars films have lacked for a strong female lead. An argument that’s as misguided and misinformed as that of the films being whitewashed. The films in the franchise have always had strong female characters. The accusation that Rey as a character in The Force Awakens is such a “Mary Sue” (a female character written and created to be the best at everything, no flaws) ignore the details in the character’s development.

What’s sadder is that some of the very people (film critics and writers) who in the past have complained that major films (especially blockbusters) have been lacking in very strong female characters have been the very same who see Rey as a negative and a character too good. This despite the character following in the very same footsteps in how her predecessors have been written (Luke, Han, Anakin). It’s an argument that is sure to bring heated debate among fans and detractors, but one that takes away from the performance of Daisy Ridley who should be one of the many breakout stars to come out of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Japanese Trailer of Star Wars: The Force Awakens Even Better


Just a couple weeks ago saw the release of the first and last official trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It was teasers before that one. The official trailer was suppose to keep the Star Wars fandom sated until December 18 (or earlier for those willing to brave the early advance screenings before midnight). It pushed all the right buttons to keep the fandom happy and wanting more.

Out of the blue, this morning saw Disney release without any fanfare a new trailer but one cut and edited for the Japanese market. It’s a trailer that includes scenes and images already seen in the previous official trailer and two earlier teasers, but also happened to include newer scenes (that still doesn’t spoil what the film will be all about) involving BB-8, Kylo Ren and more Princess Leia and Chewie.

So, it would seem that when Disney said that the trailer released a couple weeks ago would be the one and only trailer for the film it would seem they meant it would be the only domestic trailer. Sneaky, sneaky there Disney.

Plus, I rather prefer the Japanese trailer. Once again proves the Japanese gets the cool things.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Breaks The Internet


It’s not hyperbole when I say that Star Wars: The Force Awakens broke the internet tonight. Fandango announced pre-sale of tickets early by accident which caused the massive Star Wars fandom to rush on-line to be able to buy tickets before they ran out for the early showing on December 17, 2015. Well, this hasn’t gone down well with many who thought the pre-sale orders were going to go up after the trailer debuts during halftime of Monday Night Football.

I was one such out-of-luck individuals, but I remembered my days of youth when pre-ordering tickets to such event films meant going to the theater itself and buying them in person. This I did and I’m blessed to have gotten all the tickets I need.

Thus, despite Star Wars: The Force Awakens breaking the internet it would seem doing things the old-school way still rewards those who still thinks in analog and not just digital.

Now, let’s watch the latest trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens over and over before it premieres on December 18, 2015.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens A Fandom Into A Frenzy


I was at work when this trailer dropped and I can honestly say that I couldn’t wait to go on break so I could watch it and allow myself to react in an honest and proper way. To say that I lost my ever-loving mind once the trailer began playing would be an understatement.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens looks to return to it’s proper space opera roots. Roots as in the first trilogy instead of the much-maligned (deservedly so) prequel trilogy which would end up marking George Lucas’ final work on the franchise he created in 1977. Walt Disney Studios has bought all that is Star Wars and the industry which sprung from it’s creation and are now master of all.

J.J. Abrams now has the tough task of pulling back in the fans that felt disappointed at how the last three films in the franchise turned out. From what this teaser trailer has shown he seems to have come up with a new entry in the franchise that may just delight fans old and new.

Oh yeah, Chewie is back alive and well. No more of that dropping a moon on his head crap.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens set to give the world a fine Christmas 2015.

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)


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)


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.

Trailer: Man of Tai Chi (Official)


I think Keanu Reeves has always had it in him to play a bad guy. I think playing a villain suits him better than playing a hero. The latter requires charisma and presence and that’s something that Keanu will never be mistaken for having. Now as a villain he can go all-out and channel his inner-Nicolas Cage.

Man of Tai Chi will be the test to see if he can pull off being a film’s heel. It helps that this film also comes as his directorial debut. Looking like a much more polished, but even more kick-ass take on the Bloodsport-theme, Man of Tai Chi is one film later this year that I’ve been highly-anticipating. It speaks to my inner martial-artist and it’s been awhile since we’ve had a film where it looks like the fighting is not all about wire work.

The film stars Keanu Reeves as the villain Donaka Mark with the hero role going to his stuntman friend and owner of a badass name, Tiger Chen.

Man of Tai Chi has already premiered at both the Beijing and Cannes Film Festivals and should make it’s North American premiere at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Here’s to hoping it gets a wide release before the end of 2013.

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.