Friday, June 30, 2023

Back to Extract: Extraction 2 (2023) Review

Director: Sam Hargrave

Notable Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Golshifteh Farahani, Adam Bessa, Tornike Gogrichiani, Tornike Bziava, Tinatin Dalakishvili, Andro Japaridze, Justin Howell, Idris Elba, Olga Kurylenko, Daniel Bernhardt


Netflix is making some entertaining films, but I feel like there is a problem. 


Extraction 2 recently dropped on Netflix instead of theaters, green-lit after whatever imaginary numbers that Netflix made up for the viewership of the first film. Like many sequels, Extraction 2 suffers from a bit of sequel-itis as it attempts to go bigger, badder, and broader with what fans loved in the first one and, like many sequels, it tends to lose some of its grip on the ground in doing so. Those who loved that its predecessor was a gritty old-school action hero thrust into exponentially rising action with exponential chances of failure will appreciate the larger scope of this one and Hemsworth’s stone-cold performance. Those fans who loved the militaristic and earthy realism of the original may find themselves lost in the sillier action formulas that Extraction 2 starts to dabble in. 


To say it simply, Extraction 2 is more of a mixed bag, but it is the kind of throwback action flick that’s meant to be seen on the most giant screen possible. It's loud and proud of itself, but seeing it at home takes away some of the fun of it. And it feels as though its hero and his plight in Georgia (the country, thanks) deserve more than just decaying in the Netflix Graveyard where streaming films go to die. 


Monday, June 12, 2023

The Ultimate Sakra-fice: Sakra (2023) Review

Directors: Donnie Yen, Kam Ka-Wai

Notable Cast: Donnie Yen, Yukee Chen, Liu Yase, Kara Hui, Wu Yue, Eddie Cheung, Grace Wong, Do Yuming, Ray Lui, Tsui Siu-Ming, Cai Xiangyu, Michelle Hu, Zhao Huawei, Yu Kang, Xu Xiangdong, Yuen Cheung-Yan, Cheung Siu Fai, Cya Liu, Kara Wai, Kenji Tanigaki, Hua Yan


Donnie Yen has solidified himself as one of the biggest action stars in the work in the last 15 years. For those who follow Hong Kong and Chinese cinema, we’ve known that for much, much longer than that - but the international success of the Ip Man films along with stints in Hollywood blockbusters like John Wick: Chapter 4 have made sure that his name was synonymous with action godhood for the entire world. 


How does he decide to cash his blank check of this fame for his first directorial effort in almost 20 years? He decided to do an adaption of the wuxia novel Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils. It’s not the most obvious choice, mainly since his brand of action has been reasonably modern, gritty, and grounded even when doing classic kung fu flicks like the Ip Man series. Yet, as a star and director, Yen tackles big-scale wire-fu, chi powers, and classic heroic tropes for Sakra


Sunday, June 4, 2023

Hopper Boy Reborn: Shin Kamen Rider (2023) Review

Director: Hideaki Anno

Notable Cast: Sosuke Ikematsu, Minami Hamabe, Tasuku Emoto, Shinya Tsukamoto, Toru Tezuka, Suzuki Matsuo, Nanase Nishino, Mirai Moriyama, Masami Nagasawa, Nao Omori, Takumi Saitoh, Kanata Hongo, Tori Matsuzaka


Hideaki Anno’s “shin universe” continues to be one of the most fascinating series in cinema. Shin Godzilla was a distinctively Japanese recreation of the iconic kaiju that works as a perfect counterweight to the American Monsterverse series and Shin Ultraman (released in the US earlier this year) was a love letter to the monster-fighting hero that weirdly managed to pack in some thematic heft while balancing silly monster fights with existential questions.


For his third film in this universe, Anno tackles another tokusatsu legend by bringing a “new” version of Kamen Rider to the silver screen. Naturally titled Shin Kamen Rider, this film serves - like the other two Shin films - as both a reboot and a love letter to the character's previous incarnations. Although both Shin Godzilla and Shin Ultraman managed to find a better balance in their respective reinventions, it’s hard not to love what this is pulling off here too. 


Shin Kamen Rider is outlandishly silly and takes each level of craziness with a stone face while leaning into the aesthetic of the original series with a modern CGI element. It is the best kind of insane, even when it leaves its audience feeling like they have to sprint to keep up.