The Raid: Redemption - By David Vicari
The oddly titled The Raid: Redemption is a blood-soaked martial arts action movie from Indonesia that is as dumb and boring as anything to come out of the United States, even especially painful '80s action fare like Bloodsport or Gymkata. The plot here has a special-forces team raiding a 15-story apartment complex inhabited by a drug-dealing gangster and his heavily armed henchmen. It's a good thing, however, that special-forces rookie, Rama (Iko Uwais), is a one-man killing machine. But then again the dealers and addicts in the apartment complex are naturally proficient in martial arts. On the flip side of that, Rama is lucky that they all line up and come at him one at a time instead of ganging up on him. But nothing in this film really makes any sense. Like, what's with that one kindly guy and his sick wife living in the building? Did they think, "Hey, it's a crack den, but it's cheap."? I mean, when they were apartment hunting would it have hurt for them to look at one more place? Sure, The Raid has many well choreographed fight scenes, but nothing to string them on, or even a compelling character to root for. Seriously, the character of Napoleon Wilson, as portrayed by Darwin Joston in John Carpenter's great, original Assault on Precinct 13, has personality. Bruce Willis' John McClane from Die Hard has personality! The hero here is like Steven Seagal on downers. There is no redemption for The Raid.
AMERICAN REUNION - By Fritz Esker
1999's American Pie followed the lead of the previous year's There's Something About Mary in making gross-outs a popular feature of American comedies. However, both films had enough emphasis on character and storytelling that they mostly worked as movies. American Pie spawned two quick sequels, the last of which was 2003's passable American Wedding. Sadly, the cast has returned to the well for the fourth time in the truly awful American Reunion. The film's story, stretched out over an agonizingly bloated 115-minute running time, focuses on the original cast attending their high school reunion and coping with adulthood. Plenty of comedies have succeeded with variations on that premise, but American Reunion misfires badly, trying to insert a gross-out gag into almost every single scene. Instead of spreading out those moments and increasing their impact when they occur, they are awkwardly and forcibly shoved into the majority of the scenes. If fans of American Pie catch commercials for this and are tempted to see it out of nostalgia, they should save their $10 and just re-watch the original. Even simply zoning out for two hours and reflecting on what you were doing in 1999 would be more entertaining.
Wrath of the Titans - By Fritz Esker
One and a half Stars
2010's Clash of the Titans was a mediocre blockbuster, the kind that made a lot of money but was not particularly loved nor reviled by anyone. But since it fared well at the box office, the sequel was inevitable. Unfortunately, Wrath of the Titans feels like a rushed, mailed-in effort.
Zeus (Liam Neeson) has been imprisoned by Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Ares (Edgar Ramirez), who plan to release the titan Cronus from his prison and wipe out humanity. The demigod and hero of the original film, Perseus (Sam Worthington), must again come to the rescue.
The idea of a hero fighting his way through the underworld could make for a fun action movie, but the problem here is very little time is spent actually in the underworld. There's a lot of talk and exposition and some perfunctory action sequences before the heroes finally reach the underworld and then promptly leave it.
Wrath of the Titans is thankfully brief at 99 minutes. In all likelihood, it will exit viewers' memories just as quickly.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen - By David Vicari
The title suggest that this is a stodgy, long winded drama with beautiful scenery. In fact, it's an affable comedy/drama with beautiful scenery. There are offbeat characters and situations, but the main love story is conventional and fairly predictable. A sheikh (Amr Waked) wants to bring fly-fishing to the desert, so consultant Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt) approaches Britain's leading fisheries expert, Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor), about the project. Needless to say, the doctor finds the idea to be completely absurd. Naturally, Harriet and Alfred clash, yet are intrigued by each other. You know where all this is headed, and there are some silly melodramatic moments, but the film coasts on the charm of McGregor's eccentric performance. And Blunt is really cute. The best part of Lasse Hallstrom's movie is the satirical political subplot involving the Prime Minister's fanatical press secretary (Kristin Scott Thomas) and her attempts to mold this "good will" story. Unfortunately, this aspect of the film is undernourished. However, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is still a pleasant movie-going experience.