Sunday, May 28, 2017

Movie Review: Warcraft: The Beginning

Warcraft: The Beginning
Atlas Entertainment, Legendary Entertainment, Blizzard Entertainment, Universal Pictures, China, Canada, Japan, USA, 2016. 

Warcraft III was a great game. Epic fantasy plot with Humans, Elves, Orcs and Undead was both dark and fascinating. The graphics were good for its time, but somehow the characters looked sympathetically blocky, making the action look darkly humorous which was emphasized by hilarious quotes. I have never played World of Warcraft, but it seemed to maintain the visual style of original games. The movie is freely based on the storyline and characters of the original Warcraft: Orcs vs Humans.

The movie came late (WoW has been running since 2004) and it was crushed by Western critics. Still it was big in China, and Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score was positive. So it can't be totally bad, right? 
By the way the chart looks similar to "King Arthur Legend of the Sword" that seems to flop in the USA, but those who have seen it have generally liked it (I haven't so I can't really say my opinion about that):
Just to show that the fans of certain movie genres shouldn't blindly trust reviews, as they will probably see things differently than the critics. Except for "Lord of the Rings" the medieval fantasy adventures are currently not popular in the USA as superhero movies take the profits. But like any movie genre the medieval fantasy genre will come back again: who would have believed "Pirates of the Caribbean" would be a success after box-office failure of "Cutthroat Island" (which wasn't a bad film, just released in the wrong time)?

Orcs and humans have been enemies since forever. The world of the orcs is dying and they need a new home. Ruthless orc shaman Gul'dan (Daniel Wu) sacrifices prisoners to open a portal to peaceful human kingdom of Azeroth. However it is Gul'dan's evil Fel-magic that is killing the world and Orc Warchief Durotan (Toby Kebbell) does not believe that slaughtering innocents is honourable and heroic. So he needs to find allies against Gul'dan.
Durotan and Blackhand
Commander Lothar of the Humans (Travis Fimmel) goes to investigate the attacks on military posts. Guardian Medivh (Ben Foster), who should protect Azeroth, does not play with a full deck. Lothar and his new friends Mage Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer) and half-orc Garona (Paula Patton) join the quest to save the world. King Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper) and Queen Lady Taria (Ruth Negga) hope that everything goes well and that there could be peace between humans and orcs.
Travis Fimmel and Paula Patton
Lothar and Garona
Ruth Negga
Lady Taria
Dominic Cooper
King Llane Wrynn
Political intrigue keeps things complicated and it is not at all clear who will survive to the end. Durotan's family brings sympathetic aspect to the story of orcs. However the story has too many characters introduced in short time so the motives of the human characters are hastily told. The full-packed story has its flaws it is still one of the better video game adaptations.
Ben Schnetzer
Ben Foster
The geek inside finds joy about the relative faithfulness to the games. Most hardcore fans will always find something to complain about, but otherwise the film makes a new job recreating the world of the games and the graphics look amazing. Bird's eye shots nicely show the size of the world, and remind about the real time strategy game roots. Like the campaigns of original games it is not all battles, but bases are being built and resources are gathered also. Orcs are pleasantly bulky and the battles have raw energy. Couple of familiar monster types appear and orcs ride wolves and humans ride gryphons. The costumes and items look as they should. There is also the amusing sheep spell known from the games. The ending leaves everything open for future movies and it would be disappointing if this wouldn't get sequels.

Rating: Good

Starring: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Robert Kazinsky, Clancy Brown, Daniel Wu, Ruth Negga, Anna Galvin, Callum Keith Rennie, Burkely Duffield, Ryan Robbins, Dean Redman, Glenn Ennis, Terry Notary, Elena Wurlitzer, Michael Adamthwaite, Anna Van Hooft, Callan Mulvey, Adrian Glynn McMorran, Kyle Rideout, Michael Antonakos, Elisabeth Rosen, Patrick Sabongui, Kent O'Connor, Wesley MacInnes, Mackenzie Gray, Christian Sloan, Valérie Wiseman, Dan Payne, Eugene Lipinski, Christina Jastrzembska, Travis MacDonald, Frank C. Turner, Tommy Rieder, Dylan Schombing, Donavon Stinson, Meelah Robbins, One Take Charlie
Director: Duncan Jones

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Movie Review: All About the Benjamins

All About the Benjamins a.k.a All About the Money a.k.a Good Boys
Cube Vision, New Line Cinema,  Flipside Entertainment, Linovo Productions GmbH & Co. KG, USA, 2002.

Bucum (Ice Cube) is a bounty hunter. His boss Martinez (Anthony Giaimo) assigns Bucum to arrest small-time con man Reggie Wright (Mike Epps) who is avoiding the trial. Bucum dreams about big money and so does Reggie. Reggie is slippery as eel so arresting him is hard.
Ice Cube
Mike Epps
Violent robbers Ramose (Roger Guenveur Smith), Ursula (Carmen Chaplin) and Williamson (scar-faced "Sons of Anarchy" actor Tommy Flanagan) have planned a diamond heist. While Bucum chases Reggie, Reggie hides in the robbers' van. So he is the eyewitness and the bad guys want him dead. Reggie and his wife Gina win Lottery, but unfortunately Reggie dropped his walled when he escaped the criminals. So involuntarily Reggie talks Bucum to help him get the lotto ticket back. Bucum does not buy the story, but gets interested in busting the diamond bandits. To keep their manly macho men in reigns, Gina and Bucum's colleague Pam (Valarie Rae Miller) offer some backup.
Roger Guenveur Smith
Tommy Flanagan
Ice, ice, baby
"AATB" is a "Bad Boys" style action comedy but in B-film attitude with more streetwise dialogue (contains language) that wouldn't go through on a bigger budget Hollywood-films. The plot mixes hard-boiled and occasionally quite cruel action and mismatched-pair buddy comedy. Although the beginning is a bit meh, it gets better when the main story gets going. Ice Cube's gangsta style contrasts the hokum-talking swindler character of Mike Epps. Mike Epps' jokes seemed quite forced in the early scenes but the comedy with Cube worked. The soundtrack contains rap and because the story is set in Miami also some easy-going Latino rhythms. It is uneven but still watchable and often hilarious crime comedy but not for anyone's taste.
Valarie Rae Miller and Eva Mendes
Pam and Gina
Rating: Good

Starring: Ice Cube, Mike Epps, Tommy Flanagan, Carmen Chaplin, Eva Mendes, Valarie Rae Miller, Anthony Giaimo, Jeff Chase, Roger Guenveur Smith, Gino Salvano, Tony Ward, Dominic Chianese Jr., Anthony Michael Hall, Antoni Corone, Bob Carter, Evelyn Brooks, Joan Turner, Julianne Beres, Shad Moss (as Lil Bow Wow), Robert MacBeth, Barbara Barron, Oscar Isaac, Jodi Lyn Brockton, Allen Choate, Marianna Astakhova, Kevin Bray
Director: Kevin Bray

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Movie Review: Hard Target 2

Hard Target 2
Universal 1440 Entertainment, Living Films, USA, Thailand, 2016. 

Mixed Martial Artist Wes 'The Jailor' Baylor (Scott Adkins) wins a match against  his best friend Johnny 'Solid Gold' Sutherland. Unfortunately Wes beats him so that Johnny dies. Depressed Wes goes to Bangkok to drink, funding his new hobby with fights in underground matches. Talent-seeker Jonah Aldrich (Robert Knepper) notices Wes' skills. He offers $500000 for a single match in Myanmar. And Wes has nothing better to do so why not.
Scott Adkins
Wes 'The Jailor' Baylor
Robert Knepper
In Myanmar Wes meets bullfighter Esparto (Adam Saunders), redneck father & son Jacob and Tobias (Peter Hardy and Sean Keenan), Sofia who has daddy-issues (Rhona Mitra), geek Landon (Jamie Timony) and hunter Maduka (Gigi Velicitat). And of course Aldrich and bulky Madden (Temuera Morrison) A bit odd roster for a fighting tournament so where's the beef? Wes is the beef! The others will hunt Wes and if he survives he gets the money. If he doesn't his head will probably be placed above someone's fireplace. 
Rhona Mitra
Robert Knepper, Adam Saunders, Jamie Timony and Temuera Morrison
Aldrich, Esparto, Landon and Madden
The sadistic creeps underestimate Wes, he is a trained champion of close combat after all. Wes does not need to try to survive alone as he meets local girl Tha (Ann Truong) who has her own grudge against Aldrich's hunting club.
Ann Truong
The original "Hard Target" was one of Jean-Claude Van Damme's better movies and also one of the better John Woo's American era directions. White pigeons an slowmotions remind about John Woo's style. The sequel moves the story from urban location to jungle, otherwise the story goes quite similarly so fans of the original movie should feel entertained. Scott Adkins is in great kicking condition and he even does Van Damme-style split-kick. Also Ann Truong shows her martial arts skills. Robert Knepper has gone the Lance Henriksen acting school, Temuera Morrison plays the style of heavy he usually plays, and Rhona Mitra and Adam Saunders are the most interesting of the hunters. The cinematography looks great for a direct-to-video movie, and the story has a nice 1990s style action movie vibe.

Rating: Good

Starring: Scott Adkins, Amarin Cholvibul, Thira Chutikul, Robert Knepper, Geoffrey Giuliano, Rhona Mitra, Temuera Morrison, David Asavanond, Adam Saunders, Troy Honeysett, Jamie Timony, Katrina Grey, Byron Gibson, Cullet Eric, Komkrib 'Krib' Wongwirot, Suthipongse Phukaokaew, Sahajak Boonthanakit, Peter Hardy, Sean Keenan, Gigi Velicitat, Ann Truong, Chanthathanisa Vismitananda, Chiv Patrick Tang, Supoj Khaowwong, Eoin O'Brien, Khiri Lowenstein, Anteo Quintavalle, JeeJa Yanin
Director: Roel Reiné

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Movie Review: Battle of Warsaw 1920

Battle of Warsaw 1920 (1920 Bitwa Warszawska)
Zodiak Jerzy Hoffman Film Production Sp. z o.o., Forum Films, Bank Zachodni, Polish Film Institute, HBO, Poland, 2011.
Battle of Warsaw 1920

Poland has been over hundred years been divided to Prussia, Russia and Austria. World War I weakened the three countries so it is now time for Poland to gain independence. Lenin (Viktor Balabanov) and the Communists plan to spread Communism to the whole Europe, but patriotic Poland stands on the way. (As a side note: Finland had declared Independence few years earlier in 1917 when Russia was in turmoil. There was a bloody civil war in 1918 when General Mannerheim and the Whites fought against Russian supported Red Guard). 

In Warsaw new trends come and go and young people are enjoying their life after World War 1. Artist and Officer Jan Krynicki (Borys Szyc) proposes nightclub singer Ola Raniewska (Natasza Urbanska). Captain Kostrzewa (Jerzy Bonczak, who appeared as obnoxious Czaplinsky in "With Fire and Sword") is also Ola's fan and a jerk (also in this film!). As Jan intervenes, some drinks are spilled on the lecherous Captain. But pure Vodka does not tarn uniform or honour, so Jan goes unpunished.
Natasza Urbanska
Ola Raniewska
Borys Szyc
Jan Krynicki
Jerzy Bonczak
Captain Kostrzewa
Immediately after the wedding Jan goes to war in Ukraine to free Kiev from Communist sphere of influence. The war is short and Poland is victorious. But the Soviets are already preparing an attack on Poland. Jan mockingly reads aloud propaganda flyers. A humorous moment turns serious when Jan is court martialed for distributing Communist propaganda. Before Jan ends up before firing squad, Bolshevik's attack and Jan is captured. As Chekist Bukowski (Adam Ferency, Turkish Khan in "With Fire and Sword") needs someone to be used as a propaganda tool so he saves Jan's life. Bukowski is a barbaric rapist and so are his men. Jan does not want to enjoy Bukowski's hospitality for long and manages to escape.
Military wedding
Adam Ferency
Although historically the relations with Poland have been difficult, the Cossacks help Jan to return to his troops. The Communists must be stopped before Warsaw or the whole Europe is threatened. As the patriotic wave sweeps over Poland, the peasants and the intellectuals must use their skills against common enemy. Ola goes to serve her country as a nurse, but she can handle also machine gun. Marshal Józef Pilsudski (Daniel Olbrychski) hatches a genius plan to destroy the Soviet attackers and the following battle is later called the Miracle on the Vistula. But Soviet Marshal Tukhachevsky (Aleksandr Goshabayev) does everything he can to foil the plan. (Ironically master strategist Tukhachevsky himself was later executed in Stalin's purges).
Daniel Olbrychski
Marshal Józef Pilsudski
Red Guard on rampage
Aleksandr Goshabayev
Marshal Tukhachevsky
Nearly 80-year old Jerzy Hoffman directs the movie with steady professionalism. He uses the regular cast in his films. Hey, it is Aleksandr Domogarov (Bohun from "With Fire and Sword") as Kryshkin. Also Michal Zebrowski (Jan Skrzetuski from "With Fire and Sword") has a role as Prime Minister Wladyslaw Grabski. Daniel Olbrychski (from "Army of Valhalla" has the role of First Marshal of Poland Józef Pilsudski. 
Michal Zebrowski
Wladyslaw Grabski
Aleksandr Domogarov
Viktor Balabanov
The film makers are seldom interested in European history between the World Wars. Still at the end of the WW1 great tensions were building up and the peace was only a prelude to the events leading to WW2. The script has good mixture of politics, warfare and some romance. David and Goliath setting contrasts the religious Polish mindset against the godlessness of the Bolsheviks. Tragically the following years had Poland first falling under Nazi occupation and then under Soviet occupation.

The colours of the film are slightly off having green tint, and it is because the film was originally filmed on 3D (first Polish film in 3D). Couple of the quick scenes feel like flirting with 3D but it is totally watchable without 3D. Visceral trench warfare feels apocalyptic, with horsemen putting a fight against machine guns and cannons. The costumes and old assault vehicles should satisfy history and militaria buffs. Those who have played "World of Tanks" may recognize FT17.
Polish FT17 covering infantry
Rating: Very good

Starring: Daniel Olbrychski, Natasza Urbanska, Borys Szyc, Jerzy Bonczak, Adam Ferency, Boguslaw Linda, Ewa Wisniewska, Aleksandr Domogarov, Olga Kabo, Adam Strzelecki, Michal Zebrowski, Rafal Cieszynski, Lukasz Garlicki, Piotr Glowacki, Wojciech Solarz, Viktor Balabanov, Jaroslaw Boberek, Stanislawa Celinska, Aleksandr Goshabayev, Krzesimir Debski, Krzysztof Dracz, Marian Dziedziel, Igor Guzun, Ryszard Jablonski, Dariusz Kordek, Jacek Poniedzialek, Janusz Sieniawski, Magdalena Smalara, Zdzislaw Szymborski, Grazyna Szapolowska, Ewa Wencel, Krzysztof Globisz, Elzbieta Romanowska, Georgij Angielow, Mateusz Banasiuk, Dariusz Biskupski, Jerzy Braszka, Marta Dabrowska, Tomasz Drabek, Mateusz Gasiewski, Andrzej Golejewski, Jaroslaw Gruda, Slawomir Holland, Bartosz Kopec, Andrzej Kopiczynski, Marek Kossakowski, Miroslaw Krawczyk, Bogdan Krzywicki, Antoni Królikowski, Ilona Kucinska, Szymon Kusmider, Eugeniusz Malinowski, Grzegorz Milczarczyk, Zbiegniew Modej, Grzegorz Mostowicz-Gerszt, Marek Nowakowski, Bartlomiej Nowosielski ,Wojciech Olszanski, Artur Owczarek, Tadeusz Paradowicz, Tomasz Pawlak, Aleksander Pociej, Jerzy Rogalski, Grzegorz Rutkiewicz, Anna Sasiadek, Andrzej Skolik, Igor Stepanov, Andrzej Szopa, Adam Szyszkowski, Mariusz Tarnozek, Maria Turos, Grzegorz Wolf, Ilja Zmiejew
Director: Jerzy Hoffman

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Movie Review: With Fire and Sword

With Fire and Sword (Ogniem i Mieczem) 
Agencja Produkcji Filmowej, Kredyt Bank PBI S.A., Okocimskie Zaklady Piwowarskie S.A., Telewizja Polska (TVP), Zodiak Jerzy Hoffman Film Production Sp. z o.o., Poland, 1999. 
With Fire and Sword (Ogniem i Mieczem)

Let's continue with Jerzy Hoffman's movies depicting history of Poland. "With Fire and Sword" is based on the novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz, who also wrote "Quo Vadis." 

It is year 1647 in Polish Commonwealth when the Kingdom has passed its top position and everything is going downhill from now on. The nobles have become corrupt, hedonistic and lazy. Oppressed tribes are rebelling and demanding justice and independency. Mercenaries are roaming the land searching for opportunities for fortune and glory.

Cossack Noble Zenobius Chmielnicki (Bogdan Stupka) is attacked by assassins but he is saved by Polish Hussar Jan Skezetuski (Michal Zebrowski). Jan was just returning from war and did not know that local Lord Czaplinski is hunting Chmielnicki. Czaplinski is not happy about it but Jan throws the pesky Lord out of the tavern. After all it was the actions of Czaplinski that turned Chmielnicki into enemy of Poland. Jan and simple but strong warrior Longinus (Wiktor Zborowski) want to join Prince Jeremi's (Andrzej Seweryn) service. Longinus has sworn celibacy until he can behead three enemies with one swordstroke. Hey, a man has to have his goals!
Bogdan Stupka
Michal Zebrowski
Jan Skezetuski
Wiktor Zborowski
On the road they help Old Princess (Ewa Wisniewska) and her young niece Helena Kurcewiczówna (Izabella Scorupco). Unluckily for Jan Helena already has an unpleasant suitor Cossack Colonel Jurko Bohun (Aleksandr Domogarov). There is still hope as Helena does not like hot-tempered Bohun. Bohun notices the chemistry between the two so Jan gets a dangerous enemy. After proposing her, Jan joins the service of the Prince. He meets also his old friend swordmaster Michal (Zbigniew Zamachowski). 
Izabella Scorupco
Aleksandr Domogarov
The Tatars and Cossacks are restless and joining their forces. Jan and servant Rzedzian (Wojciech Malajkat) go to find out what Chmielnicki and the Tatars are planning. Jan is captured but Chmielnicki buys him free as he owes him his live. Chmielnicki plans a rebellion against nobles to detach Ukraine from the Polish Empire and Bohun has joined their ranks. The rebels win the first battles against Polish Hussars and the Kingdom is threatened.
Cossack army
Andrzej Seweryn
Prince Jeremi
Polish Winged Hussars
Bohun finds out that Helena is betrothed to Jan so he kills Helena's family. Helena escapes with jovial former bar-keeper Zagloba (Krzysztof Kowalewski). Jan goes into desperation as he doesn't know if Helena is killed or captured. The land is in turmoil and from the humble origins mighty warlords rise. The allegiances shift and the outcome of the battles is always uncertain. 
Krzysztof Kowalewski, Zbigniew Zamachowski and Aleksandr Domogarov
Zagloba, Michal and Bohun picking a fight
Wojciech Malajkat
Cossack siege engine
This is a fine historical adventure, with story comparable to "War and Peace." The story has something for everybody, romance, passionate drama, huge battles, political intrigue, Rabelaisian vulgarity and cruel and unusual punishments. The characters are multi-dimensional. Jan is the hero who goes through extreme emotions during the story. Bohun is a tragic devil, anti-hero with heavy dose of Slavic melancholy. Drunkard Zagloba is better fighter than he seems and survives most battles just with his sheer luck. Rzedzian navigates easily between different factions bringing valuable information to the heroes obtaining some treasures on the way, that rascal. Chmielnicki is a freedom fighter whose actions bring death for thousands of innocents. There designers have not been thrifty, the costumes, sets and places look realistic and amazing.

There is also a role playing/strategy game "Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword" where you can select your favourite faction and try to lead them to victory. Despite the interesting setting the game is not my cup of tea, I always get captured by bandits and lose my hard-earned equipment.

Rating: Very good

Starring: Izabella Scorupco, Michal Zebrowski, Aleksandr Domogarov, Krzysztof Kowalewski, Bogdan Stupka, Andrzej Seweryn, Zbigniew Zamachowski, Wiktor Zborowski, Wojciech Malajkat, Ewa Wisniewska, Ruslana Pysanka, Daniel Olbrychski, Marek Kondrat, Gustaw Holoubek, Andrzej Kopiczynski, Maciej Kozlowski, Adam Ferency, Gustaw Lutkiewicz, Dmitri Mirgorodsky, Jerzy Bonczak, Wlodzimierz Brodecki, Joanna Brodzik, Marek Cichucki, Rafal Cieszynski, Jerzy Cnota, Maciej Czapski, Lech Dyblik, Marek Frackowiak, Tadeusz Gloskowski, Krzysztof Gosztyla, Andrzej Graziewicz, Jerzy Karaszkiewicz, Pawel Kleszcz, Szymon Kobylinski, Krzysztof Kolbasiuk, Bernard Ladysz, Anna Majcher, Andrzej Pieczynski, Eugeniusz Priwieziencew, Stefan Szmidt, Przemyslaw Tejkowski, Leszek Teleszynski, Aleksander Wysocki, Janusz Zerbst, Andrzej Zólkiewski, Marek Marcinkowski, Aleksander Pociej, Tomasz Konieczny, Janusz Sieniawski, Michal Chorosinski, Zbigniew Zapasiewicz, Tomasz Abramski, Piotr Bala, Wladyslaw Baranski, T. Bat, Wlodzimierz Bednarski, Wlodzimierz Borysiak, Jerzy Braszka, T. Ciecierski, Jerzy Dukay, Jerzy Frykowski, Krystyna Gierlowska, Dariusz Gnatowski, L. Gurpienko, Andrzej Grabowski, Tomasz Grochoczynski, Andrzej Halinski, Krzysztof Artur Janczar, Ryszard Jablonski, Ryszard Janiak, Mieczyslaw Janowski, Józef Jarosz, Jan Jurewicz, Przemyslaw Kapsa, Adam Karaszewski, Marek Karpowicz, Piotr Komorowski, Michal Konarski, A, Kazimierz Krzaczkowski, Czeslaw Lasota, Karolina Lukaszewicz, K. Luksza, Tadeusz Mieluch, T. Mir, Jerzy Moniak, A. Nowak, Bartosz Obuchowicz, Jacek Radzinski, Radoslaw Rosinski, Przemyslaw Szajewski, Tomasz Szajewski, W. Szczecinski, Andrzej Szczytko, Zdzislaw Szymborski, Budsuren Tumen-Ulzyj, Adam Warchol, Juliusz Krzysztof Warunek, Magdalena Warzecha, Robert Wieckiewicz, P. Zbierski, Jacek Rozenek, Tomasz Bednarek, Wojciech Jakubowski, Olga Milaszewska, Ben Talar 
Director: Jerzy Hoffman

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