This film was released on August 22, 2014. 14 Blades takes place at the beginning of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and concerns special secret agent Qinglong (Donnie Yen) who was selected as a child for training. While sent on a mission for the Emperor, Qinglong is betrayed by his fellow agents. His mission changes when he meets Qiao Hua (Wei Zhao) and her father who runs an armed security escort company facing bankruptcy.
The 14 blades referred to in the title are swords meant to represent honor and used to dispense justice. The acting was very good as well as the directing. The story line, whether historically accurate or not, was action packed with lots of blood (no gore or beheadings shown). The only thing that tended to distract from the story was the individual fight scenes which resorted to using the “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” flying fight technique.
The film flowed along very nicely and there was hardly a dull moment in it. The film was in Chinese with English subtitles, which I could deal with. Except for the mixing of regular fighting styles and flying styles, this was a good film. I give it 4 stars out of 5.
The final installment of the Spy Kids 4-D was released on August 19, 2011. Marissa Cortez-Wilson (Jessica Alba), the niece of Carmen Cortez, is married to a famous reporter (Joel McHale) and has retired from the OSS in order to take care of her baby, who is a regular farting machine, and two stepchildren, Rebecca (Rowan Blanchard) and Cecil (Mason Cook) who is hearing-disabled. Carmen and Juni have grown up and Juni has left the OSS while Carmen stayed.
Carmen and Juni (who only appears in the last 30 minutes of the film) are the only two characters from the previous films. Jeremy Piven plays the bad guy, The Timekeeper. His aim is to erase time from the world since he feels that people waste time for frivolous activities instead with their families. The CGI in this film is decent and the acting is good. I especially enjoyed the Wilson’s robotic dog which was voiced by Ricky Gervais. Like the other films in this series, there are lessons being taught to younger audiences about family, teamwork, etc. This story was a bit muddled at the beginning due to new characters.
Once I got the relationships worked out, I enjoyed the movie. It had its usual action and humor. Its ironic that I complained about Stallone playing four characters in the third installment while I was surprised by Piven’s portrayal of three characters. I give this 4 stars out of 5.
This third installment of Spy Kids 3-D was released on July 25, 2003. The subtitle of this film is Game Over which is a reference to a new popular video game. The OSS has information that the game is made by an evil genius called The Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone). Carmen Cortez has entered the game in order to catch The Toymaker but is trapped in the game. Juni is called upon to rescue his sister.
According to the rules of the game, a player can bring in a helper. In this case, Juni calls in his grandfather (Ricardo Montalban) who was crippled by The Toymaker. Most of the film takes place within the game. Juni meets some beta-testers who end up helping Juni. The story is good and the subject of video games, which were gaining popularity at this time, was appealing to the target audience. The actors were good except for Stallone’s portrayal of The Toymaker. His performance didn’t exactly thrill me. I don’t know if it was because he played four different characters which did little to move the story.
What I think was one of the strong points of this installment was an emphasis on the usefulness of handicapped people. There were no negative stereotypes presented about Grandfather’s condition. The mediocre acting by Stallone was, however, a negative point. I give this installment 3.5 stars out of 5.
The followup film Spy Kids 2 has the same cast as the original film and was released on August 7, 2002. In this film, Carmen and Juni are faced with competition from the Giggles brother/sister team of spy kids. When the Giggles kids father is put in charge of the Junior division of the OSS instead of Gregorio Cortez (Antonio Banderas), things get crazy.
Carmen and Juni undercut the Giggles team on a major assignment in order to find an invisible island. The kids manage to find the island, but also discover a scientist (Steve Buscemi) who has created hybrid monsters on the island. The CGI on this film is decent for the time that this film was made. Steve Buscemi is excellent as the eccentric scientist. This film also presents the Cortez’ kids grandparents (Ricardo Montalban and Holland Taylor). There is plenty of action and humor within the film.
I must say that I think I liked this film more than the first one. The humor was more self-deprecating and, at the same time, more visual. Once again I think this film will appeal to a preteen audience. I give it 4.5 stars out of 5.
The film Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was released on November 16, 2018. After the chaos created in New York City from the first movie, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is forbidden from leaving the country. With some secret help from Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), he manages to get to France hoping to recapture Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) who has escaped from prison.
If you are a fan of Ms. Rowling’s other novel series then you may be disappointed that Harry Potter isn’t in this. Dumbledore and Hogwarts are the only crossovers. There is enough magical action to keep the audience satisfied and the characters are all very good. The CGI is impressive and the story line is good. There are a couple of humorous scenes, but over all the film is decent for this genre.
I can’t say that there were a lot of things wrong with this film. I wasn’t as engaged with this part as I was with the first film. Basically it is a mixture of fantasy, espionage, and a commentary on Mankind’s tendencies towards war. I probably wouldn’t buy it, but I will give it 4 stars out of 5.
The film Backfire was released in March, 2019. When a robbery goes wrong, two gunrunners find themselves the targets of a South Philly mafia family. One of the victims of the robbery is the son of a mobster, who is supposedly dead. They are enough killing scenes in the film but there are also some script flaws.
This film was rated R for violence, sexual situations, and language. Black Deniro plays Jerome one of the robbers trying to make money to support himself, his girlfriend (Jowhanah Jones) and the girlfriend’s little sister. He also wrote, produced, and directed the movie, which in some cases has had lousy results. Dave Patten, who wrote the screenplay, plays O.T., Jerome’s psychotic sidekick.
The filming was decent while the acting was barely believable. I did not care for the swearing in just about every sentence. When a film is rated R, I do expect some swearing but this was a bit too much. The story line could have been improved on. I don’t know what I was expecting with this film, but it certainly wasn’t this. I rate it 2 stars out of 5.
The film Avengers: Infinity War was released on April 27, 2018. The story revolves around The Avengers and their allies trying to prevent Thanos from collecting all six of the Infinity stones. If Thanos gets them all, he will have complete control of the galaxy.
The story line is fine as is the acting. My main problem consists of the huge cast of superheroes, some of whom I have never heard. This is not a problem if the viewer is a Marvel fanatic (which I am not). I knew the characters from Guardians of the Galaxy and Black Panther as well as Spiderman, Iron Man, and Doctor Strange because I’ve seen the films, but some others I was not familiar with. There are plenty of action scenes which helped move the action forward. The CGI was very good. My favorite character was a teenage Groot who sits around playing a video game.
I suppose the fact that this film brought in over $2 Billion world-wide is impressive, but it did not affect my response to the film. I do not know if I would watch it again or if I would buy it. Just from the sales receipts, I can say that the series has a lot of fans, but as I said, it was clogged with too many superheroes. In spite of this I give it 4 stars out of 5.
This Korean historical film was released on September 21, 2018. The story takes place in 646 AD at Ansi Fortress. The 500,000 man army of Tang Emperor Taizong faces the puny army of 10,000 Koreans led by Yang Man-chun (In-sung Jo). The siege of Ansi Fortress lasted 88 days.
The story line was excellent as well as the acting. The battle scenes, as in most Asian films, were exciting. There was at least one beheading, which almost seems to be a requirement in these films. Not that I’m complaining. The director also did a great job. When it comes to historical films, some directors may use the story as a propaganda tool. The fact that the battle took place in what is now North Korea was ignored.
One scene which may be confusing is when there is a reference to the assassination of Yang Man-chun’s king. Korea, at this time, was basically divided into three kingdoms: Silla, Baekju, and Gorgeoryo. Yang Man-chun is referring to the king of Gorgeoryo. History aside, I enjoyed this movie a lot. I give it 4.5 stars out of 5.
The film Between Worlds was released on December 21, 2018. It is rated R for sexual situations and language. Its a quirky film about a trucker (Nicolas Cage) who finds himself involved with a woman (Franka Potente) who can astroproject from her body. She uses this method to help her daughter (Penelope Mitchell) who was in a coma. Unfortunately, Nicolas Cage’s dead wife takes control of the daughter’s body.
I really wanted to find something positive to say about this movie. I agree the story line is original and the acting was decent. The director, however, was also the writer and one of the producers of the film. This could be detrimental to the overall look and feel of the film. I also could have done with less sex scenes. I think Nicolas Cage would have been better off not having this film on his resume.
I really can’t say that I enjoyed this film. I am sort of interested in the subject of astroprojection, but this was not a very interesting use of this topic. I have seen worse movies, so I will rate this as 2 stars out of 5.
The Korean film The Tiger was released on January 8, 2016. Chun Man-duk lives in the mountains with his wife and son. He makes a living by hunting. When his wife is accidentally shot by him, Chun gives up hunting. Unfortunately, the Japanese government official Maezono is determined to kill the last tiger in Korea and requires Chun’s help.
The story is set in 1925 Japanese-occupied Korea. Chun has a long history with the tiger because, after killing its mother, he lets the tiger cub and its sibling live. I assume tigers have good memories, so Chun and the tiger are linked spiritually.
There is hardly anything in this movie that I can say was bad. The acting, directing, story, and cinematography were all excellent. The only complaint I might have is the length of the movie which was 2 hours and 20 minutes. The hunting scenes were bloody and one scene where wolves are gnawing at the soft parts of Chun’s son’s still conscious body was gory. I don’t know much about how a tiger would react in some situations, but they are smart. I would rate this at 4.5 stars out of 5.