Friday, April 10, 2009

Review: JCVD (2008) [Reviewed By Clifford Kiyabu]

Directed by: Mabrouk El Mechri
Written by: Frédéric Benudis (writer) & Mabrouk El Mechri (writer) & Christophe Turpin (writer)
Genre: Comedy / Crime / Drama
MPAA: Rated R for language and some violence.
Released: 4 June 2008
Starring: Jean-Claude van Damme, Francois Damiens, Zinedine Soualem, Karim Belkhadra, Jean-Francois Wolff.

Plot: Between his tax problems and his legal battle with his wife for the custody of his daughter, these are hard times for the action movie star who finds that even Steven Seagal has pinched a role from him! In JCVD, Jean-Claude Van Damme returns to the country of his birth to seek the peace and tranquility he can no longer enjoy in the United States.

Review: 8/10

My Thoughts: Everyone loves a celebrity; people will sit out in the cold rain just to catch a glimpse of that one person they idealize, for some there is no limits they will go, we are after all an obsessive race who wants to feel the jolting thrill of fame even if it doesn’t evolve us directly, so we create ideals to look up to and live through their fame and successes and fantasize of being them, after all, everyone loves a celebrity, but what we love more than their victories is their failures, people love watching their living legends fall from the very mighty mount Olympus we created for them, there is simply no greater pleasure than to watch everything in their lives crumble before us, like I said we are an obsessive race, but when our obsession is over we would like nothing more but to see it all burn down in a blaze of defeat, it’s just who we are.

JCVD Is a fictional film which gives an in depth look at international superstar actor Jean-Claude Van Damme (or simply JCVD) and how his life has taking a turn for the worst, he at one point in time was one of the biggest action superstars the world has ever seen, but just like all those who rise up to the top in such a short time, he falls down harder than anyone could think possible, the film is a balanced mixture between comedy and drama, the film fallows the has been superstar after making his return to his childhood home of Brussels after losing a custody battle with his Ex-wife over their daughter in America, the film shows that he is broke and cannot afford to fight anymore legal battles for his daughter, so he returns to his childhood home where he is still seen as a nationwide icon, after entering a post office which is obviously being robbed, he is suddenly taken hostage, but in an act of confusion the local police as well as the worldwide media thinks he is robbing the post office, which he is now forced on the spot to continue to play the role of the robber if he or anyone for that matter ever plans on leaving the place alive. The film has a very strong plot which allows its viewers to see Van Damme as more than another celebrity, but just another regular guy trying to make it through life’s dangers and trials, in short; the film humanizes him to a point that you empathize with him and his life struggles. Though I must admit the film will have you gasping in laughter in a few areas of the film due to the situation at hand.

The thought of news media’s all over reporting that actor Jean-Claude Van Damme is holding a building full of people hostage and will kill them if his demands are not met is simply hilarious, I almost fell down laughing to that very scene, also the constant digs at director John Woo, and actors Steven Seagal and Chuck Norris which is made throughout makes this film more than worth the money. But aside from being a comedy to laugh at, the film has a very touching story behind it set on the star, which is truly sad, a scene in the film which expresses this, takes the viewers away from the film itself and show the actor not like you’ve seen him before, venerably sitting there looking back at you one on one and delivers a six minute monologue straight to the camera and right into the viewers hearts, he confesses his life failures, admitting his bad relationships to drug habits and being a lousy father, this serous monologue was complete honesty told straight from the heart of the actor to its viewers, and believe me when I say it was truly touching, what Mechri does is allows the verbally challenged action star a moment dignity and respect, and in this moment we are all given a sense of clarity about the actor that is empathetic and beautiful sort of speak. The cinematography was fantastic; it complements the film with its angles in such a perfect way that it in itself was beautiful; the film has a quite little score which also fits the mood of the film and complements it perfectly. Overall, JCVD was a jaw dropping film that kept me interesting the whole way with its uniquely told story which proved to be magnificently original in all forms, I laughed, I cried, I loved this film and highly respect the actor because of it; it is defiantly worth looking into.

The story is about: Movie hero Jean-Claude Van Damme finds himself out of money, fighting for custody of his daughter and losing every good action role to Steven Seagal. In an attempt to escape, the aging star walks away from his shrinking spotlight and returns home to his native Brussels. But when he is thrown into a real-life hostage situation, everyone sees a side of Van Damme they've never seen before as he takes on the police battles the perpetrators and creates a media firestorm that captures the attention of the world.

As for the acting: Jean-Claude Van Damme may be known to people as many things, but a good actor isn’t one of them, however this is not the case in this film where he plays himself, for the first time I can say he does a fantastic job in delivering a performance to be proud of, you could say that this is due to the fact he has something important to say this time around with his film, and he wanted to give more than just his below average acting skills, you can see that he poured his heart into this, after all he is playing the most important role of his life, himself. François Damiens gave a fine performance as the police chief. Zinedine Soualem was fantastic as the unstapled ring leader of the robbers, for a moment you almost don’t see the actor and only the character he plays. Karim Belkhadra was also fantastic, I loved the moment of friendship his character and Van Damme on screen, there was this sense of bond between them that is unexplainable but magnificent. Jean-François Wolff was great, though it’s hard to really judge his character based on the fact he is generally a push over character until the end when his role plays a bigger part, but other than that I guess you can say he was sufficiently adequate in his performance. The rest of the cast did a fine magnificent job, but I don’t feel the need to go into dept on the details, only that they did well and I enjoyed it very much.

Final Say: JCVD was a very enjoyable film, though it won’t see a new light on life nor will it make you a better person, it will however make you see the actor in a whole new light and even respect him just a little afterwards. I highly recommend it!

Copyright 2009
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Review: Sex Drive (2008) [Reviewed By Clifford Kiyabu]

Directed by: Sean Anders
Written by: Sean Anders (screenplay) & John Morris (screenplay) Andy Behrens (book "All the Way")
Genre: Comedy
MPAA: Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, nudity, language, some drug and alcohol use - all involving teens.
Released: 17 October 2008 (USA)
Starring: Josh Zuckerman, Amanda Crew, Clark Duke, James Marsden, Seth Green, Katrina Bowden, Charlie McDermott, Mark L. Young,

Plot: A high school senior drives cross-country with his best friends to hook up with a babe he met online.

Review: 6/10

My Thoughts: Based on the 2006 novel “All the Way” written by Andy Behrens, Sex Drive is a comedy about one man’s pursuit of getting lead and finding true love in the process. The film is yet another notch in the bed post of the ever so growing raunchy genre.

Yet while this film may look like another typical comedy, it really isn’t quite like the rest of the flock. It has a fairly decent story about a 17 year old boy named Ian (Josh Zuckerman) that’s simply tired of people hassling him for being a virgin, so after sweet talking a hot girl he met online he finally convinces her to meet up and go all the way with him. Only one problem; she’s expecting a football jock who drives a 69 GTO Judge and can bench-press 300lb, and the problem here is he’s, well, the embodiment of every single person who lies on their online profiles. Still though, even if he decides to do it, the girl lives half way across the country. But after his good buddy/the resident sexpert, Lance (Clark Duke) convinces him that if they make the journey there he’ll help him close the deal with the girl, so he steals his brother’s car and set off to getting lead which seems all too much easy, until their other friend, Felicia (Amanda Crew) joins them in the cross-country journey, which sets off nonstop problems and side journeys for the three of them, they’ll come by rednecks, Amish folk, cops, and being car jacked. The film, has a decent enough pace to go on, not movithough very entertaining and hilarious at times has its high points and sadly some seriously low points which makes it more or less somewhat of a mix bag.

On the high points, the film is outrageously funny mostly throughout the film, and can be as crude as they come in the raunchy genre; and aside from the comedy it also has a little heart, that give the story a little meaning, because upon their journey they also find themselves in the process, you can’t help but enjoy the ride as theses young teens go through the motions of sex, it’s defiantly the new “Road Trip” in my opinion. However though, as much as I liked the high points of this film, the movie really does have some seriously bad low points that can’t go ignored, first off; the characters in this film are not really that loveable, the main character Ian comes off as a sad and pitiful boy who’s simply too afraid to do anything, and takes shit by anyone and everyone, he has no real self-worth to himself. His best bud Lance is very bad depiction of a ladies’ man, he’s too much of Nerd to be one simple as that (I should know, takes a nerd to know one, we can sense our own. [Laughs]) Felicia was a blend between the average rocker chick and you’re typical Emo, Ian’s brother Rex come off too stereotyped as a typical ass, and isn’t really coming off all that believable if you ask me, but the most worst of all would have had been the two annoying characters Andy and Randy, who I can’t stress enough pissed me off, it’s nothing against the actors, far from it, in fact the actors did a pretty good job for the most part, but the characters they played were very much buzz killers, just seeing them on screen made the moment just a little less funny for me and believe me I tried hard to see pass the annoyance but it just wasn’t happening. , on a good note though, despite my major dislike of the characters, I found the film to be very enjoyable and all that made me hate the film was overwhelmed by some pretty decent sex jokes and some unbelievably hilarious moments

The Story is about: Eighteen year old Ian finally gets the opportunity to lose his virginity when a woman he meets on-line offers to have sex with him if he drives to Knoxville to meet her. Accompanied by friends Lance and Felicia, whom Ian has a thing for, but she in turn has a thing for Lance, take off on a road trip in Ian's brother, Rex's beloved 1969 GTO -- without permission of course.

As for the acting: Josh Zuckerman did an okay performance, though I felt that during the film he lacked in many places and I feel he only did a performance that was deemed fair and not great. Amanda Crew gave a mild entertaining performance, she’s a cute girl there’s no doubt about it, but I felt that her performance could have been better than it was, but still she has a fairly decent talent within her that may still have a chance to shine. Clark Duke was horrible, he proved to be nothing more than a mere cheep carbon copy of all the slightly husky nerds you see in today’s films who just so happens to be a ladies’ man at that too, which was the most unoriginal thing I have seen yet. Charlie McDermott and Mark L. Young were… well, you ever say someone who was so mind numbingly stupid that it made your head hurt? Well that’s what I got from their performance as Andy and Randy, they did not seem to contribute anything to the film but dimwittedness which for the life of me was not needed in any way, and in fact every scene they appeared in was a total buzz kill for me. It’s disappointing for me to say this, but James Marsden was unforgivably bad, how does one go from being an up and rising star in the business to playing a second string act? He would have been smart if he left this role alone to someone else who’d have fit the role better. Seth Green was probably the only real talent in this film, but this is because he knows funny, and playing the part of Ezekiel, a wise ass Amish auto mechanic is hilarious as heck, the only problem was I wished they’d have used him more in the film, and maybe the movie would have been much better than it turned out to be.

Final Say: Sex Drive had the potential to be so much more than it was, and could have been truly a comedy to watch of this era, however this is not the case and instead it came out missing more than hitting, overall I’d still say it’s at least rental fair if you still want to check it out but defiantly not worthy of buying, so rent it, but don’t buy it.

Copyright 2009
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Review: Night For Day (2008) [Reviewed By Clifford Kiyabu]

Directed by: Russ Camarda
Written by: Russ Camarda
Genre: Horror / Thriller
MPAA: Not Rated
Released: 2008
Starring: Russ Camarda, Carolyn Morrison, Vicki Baum, Christopher Robert Smith, Dan Brennan.

Plot: A musician must break free from the secret, occult underworld society of sex, murder, and blood addiction he is tied to and survive the night in order to get to the woman he loves by sunrise.

Review: 7/10

My Thoughts: There has always been an intense fascination for wanting to know the unknown among people. This fascination has embedded itself through all cultures going back hundreds of years in the form of folklore, one of these folklores is none other than vampirism, though not originally called that there is no looking at it any other way that man has been fascinated by the concept of a person or being who is able to live off another living being to survive, and one cannot deny that in most recent times (Particularly the last hundred years) vampires have made a hug impact on our society through all mediums.

Night For Day is a intriguing film about a vampire who has lived a life filled with regret and guilt, and has given up on his old lifestyle to find that one thing missing in his life which is love. Actor Russ Camarda who is the writer and director of Night For Day brings forth a tale which is compassionate as well as empathetic. And oddly enough could be called a 'Twilight' for adults. Of course it has a much much lower budget, and maybe not at all the same as nor alike, except for the film having a few similarities with the concept such as a male vampire who has fallen deeply in love for a human and is trying to break free from his past life for a new one but to do so he must first survive the night so that he can be with his true love at sunrise. The film goes completely against the very mythology of the vampire and does a little rewriting of its own, though I will say that Camarda takes a bold risk in doing this, some may like it and some won’t, however way you view it I highly respect him as a filmmaker for doing that, on a plus note by taking a different route on the mythology the film expresses that even in the vampire world they too have superstitions and wives tales to fear, and though not quite in tuned to its big budget competitors it does manage to come out satisfactory, the plot is indeed a pleasure, it sparked my curiosity and kept me interested most of the time. Filed with a few chills and thrills along the way, this sexy of a vampire flick has some very good qualities to contribute to its viewers while at the same time a few miner cons. unlike being a another typical horror film it has a great plot which is in a way told straight from the heart sort of speak, if you were to strip away the vampire part in the plot you’d get a depressing but compelling movie of revenge and trying to fine closure. The pacing goes quite well, though I do wish that the film was a bit longer because there was some stuff left unanswered which I really wished wasn’t. I also would have liked to see more back story development in the film, either way it’s still a film worth looking into.

The story is about: Vincent a guitar player who is entwined with the underworld society of sex, murder and a blood addiction that has sustained him for more than a lifetime, Vincent meets Laura, a beautiful, young woman, unlike any he has ever met. She doesn't know the reality of his deadly secret life and offers him love for the first time. For once, Vincent realizes he can choose his destiny. Laura's chance at a "normal" life waits for Vincent at daybreak but he will have to survive the twilight to reach the dawn where his true love awaits.

As for the acting: Russ Camarda did a fantastic job as Vincent, as both an actor and director he knows exactly what he wants for the role and does a pretty spot on job doing it. Carolyn Morrison was quite lovely in the role of Laura, she and Camarda has a fairly decent on-camera chemistry going for them which was enjoyable. Vicki Baum who plays the film’s anti-heroine/Villain gave a bold performance, and though many may come to dislike her character, you can’t help but empathize with her on the notion of wanting to avenge someone she loved dearly. Christopher Robert Smith who plays the vampire Derrick gave a somewhat stale performance, it’s not that he wasn’t trying he just tried too hard and ended up coming out outrageously cheesy in the end. Dan Brennan gave a pretty good performance as Jimmy Ward the night club owner who he and Vincent has this love hate friendship going on, he likes the guy as dear friend but hate that he can’t commit to showing up on time for work. The rest of the cast does a fairly good job in the film but I see no real reason to mention any of them due to the fact that the story does not focus on them..

Final Say: Night For Day was a very enjoyable film to see, though I do admit the film had some problems in it I still had a good time with it, director Russ Camarda not only does a great job in making this film a pleasure to enjoy, but he does so in the manner that will have some wanting more. I recommend it!

Copyright 2009
All Rights Reserved