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John Carter review

Posted : 5 years, 6 months ago on 5 June 2013 12:06 (A review of John Carter)

John Carter does not disappoint, but it doesn't impress either. Ignoring the source it was based on, let's just focus on the cinematic result. Is it a great film? Not quite. What's its main fault? It is too generic, too standard. The gist is this that John Carter of Earth (Jarsoom) winds up, via an amulet, on Barsoom (Mars). He then ultimately finds love - the princess, no less - and becomes their saviour, and then decides to live on Barsoom for the rest of his life. The story is understandable, the characters are there, but the film either deliberately or unknowingly ignores the little details and doesn't even attempt to make it original or unique. Not to say every film has to be original, but since almost everything that's shown in this film has already been done hundreds of times, John Carter is just another bolt on the machine. Up until the Barsoomian's start speaking, and moving their lips, in English dialect, the film has a certain charm to it, a certain mystic aura. But when everyone starts talking English, it loses its charm and becomes repetition. Carter is given a special drink from which he can understand the dialect of Barsoom. That's understandable. But why do the Barsoomian's lips move in sync to the English words? They clearly don't speak that language. Shouldn't their lips be moving off-sync, as if two films of different language were dubbed over each other? Anyway, whatever the case is, maybe I'm reading it wrong, but like I said, John Carter isn't wildly innovative nor entertaining but it does boast pretty good talent, though.

It was both an annoyance and a relief that Barsoomians act the same way as Jarsoomians do. They have their betrayals, their love stories, their gladiator fights, their racial / tribe segregation, their Mario & Peach vs. Bowser complex, and what not. Is this how our Solar System is? Full of aggression and repetition? All the -sooms are the one and same, except for the skin colour?

From the performances, Taylor Kitsch was indeed quite charismatic, but I guess Disney used him as live bait for their love of good-looking princes and/or leading men. It was a shame really, seeing that Kitsch definitely has some talent to him, but this film is just an excuse to show off his well built body. Same goes for Lynn Collins, the princess of Mars. Although I enjoyed her performance as well, but after finishing the film and sensing their - the crew - aim was to make Tejah Doris, for a lack of a better word, meaty, they should've just called in Samantha Morton - who has a role as Sola. Have you seen the legs on Morton? Perfect for a role like this. Anyway, the rest of the cast were good, too. Ciarin Hinds was quite impressive in his role as Tardos Mors, father of Tejah Doris.

In conclusion, John Carter is a good film, has setbacks, and I think I might be lining up for the sequel - if there is to be one!


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Spider-Man review

Posted : 5 years, 6 months ago on 3 June 2013 07:04 (A review of Spider-Man)

On YouTube one of my earliest, and currently most popular, video is a MTV parody of this film, starring Jack Black as the titular hero. Due to receiving comments on that video on a daily basis, and I'm inclined to reply to most of them, I see that video 3-4 times a day... or at least the first 20-30 seconds of it anyway. At one point, after thousand comments and two-thousand views later, I decided to download the film and watch it once and for all, so that the constant nagging feeling I get every-time I play that video goes away. Five minutes into the film and I realize that I last saw this film at the cinema back in 2002, when I was only 9 yrs. old. I'm now 19, and it has been a full decade since I last saw it. This time nostalgia came in full force, all stop signs removed.

Since this was the first superhero film I'd seen in my life, I have a soft spot for it in my heart, but you can't deny, it is rather silly. This film, unlike most others (especially Nolan's Batman movies) is so self-aware, so fictional. I mean, a normal teenager turns into a superhero, a human spider no less, and every citizen of New York is completely OK with this? Everyone accepts this anomaly as if it's a normal occurrence? Last year we had a mosquito-man and the year before a woman who could turn into a tiger - and now we have Spider-Man. Yea sure, we're all fine with this. Superhero movies, to me, are serious psychology studies, because we're talking about a man and a mask here. One's real and the other's an alter ego. Enough time passes and they both get mixed up. Sure, you might say that Norman Osborne / Green Goblin kinda proves the above point in the film, but you will also notice they don't dwell on it. All they show is a man, already half-mad, descending into further madness. I mean, there's absolutely no psychological aspects to it. The closest we ever get to it is where Spider-Man has to either rescue Mary Jane or a tram car full of children. There's a sense of morality in it, but it's so thinly veiled, and it's further marred by the hilarious comments made by pedestrians - who throw fruits to Green Goblin. This film's great, but there's no wonder why its sequel is so widely appreciated, because there's heavy use of psychological themes in it, a great deal of morality and understanding.

From the performances, Tobey Maguire won and made the role his own. If you've ever played Spider-Man 2000 for the PS1, then you will notice a lot of similarities between the webhead that appears in that game and the wall-crawler in this film. This is meant as a compliment, as I really enjoyed it. I don't know if the crew did this intentionally. Anyway, I can't imagine anyone else replacing him, and yes I know that he already has been, but only name-wise, not face-or-voice-wise. Kirsten Dunst was attractive and convincing in her role as Mary Jane, but it's clear to see she wasn't polished enough. Neither was James Franco, who plays Harry Osborne. Although the trio were great as first-timers, they all come to their true pace and fully connect to each other and themselves in the sequels; so if either of them seems a little rough on the edges, forgive them, as they get loads better in the second one. Willem Dafoe was instantly grabbing and memorable in his role as Green Goblin. A crazy, scary, megalomaniacal performance that only gets memorable by each passing minute. Although of course he's no match for Alfred Molina in the sequel, it nevertheless was a damn near perfect performance. If there's one qualm I have regarding the character is his costume. He looked like a reject from a 90's Power Rangers TV show. It was so comical, it was an hindrance. A costumed character like that should be blown up 20 times larger and be fighting Godzilla or the Red Ranger, because that's who / what characters like these often fight.

In conclusion, Spider-Man is a great film, and is easily one of the better examples of the genre. If you end up enjoying this film and the semi-silliness it employs, it's only natural; but if you rank the sequel higher, that's perfectly natural, too!


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Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End review

Posted : 5 years, 6 months ago on 2 June 2013 07:36 (A review of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End)

... aaannnddd Geoffrey Rush is back. Honestly, for me the only reason to enjoy the series is Rush. His quite affable character, Hector Barbossa, is the main backbone of the series: maybe that's the reason why I didn't enjoy the second part, but the first one and this one. Also, his crazy, but solidly dignified, performance that outmatches almost everyone. Mind you, I said almost, and the barrier that prevents me from writing "all" is, as you all know, Johnny Depp and his wildly eccentric performance as Jack Sparrow. There's a "captain" there somewhere, but I can't find it. Now this is how a PotC film should be done, fun, exciting, funny, great battle scenes, and one tight story with brilliant script-writing. I kid you not, but this installment actually increased my vocabulary. Belligerent, homunculus and perfidious have all entered my vocabulary. Now I just need the right reason to use them. Also bosun, but I already knew that; this film confirmed the meaning for me.

The directing this time around was mature, the cinematography was apex. The sequence where Sparrow is in Davy Jones' Locker was mesmerizing in its quality, humorous in its sub-story. Those 5 minutes very well could be a short film on its own, a sort of a feature that precedes certain cartoons, like the one in A Bug's Life. Although I was quite disappointed that they didn't show any battle concerning Kraken, I was later on glad they didn't; given the many battles and fights that happen, any Kraken one would've lost its appeal and would've dragged on the already long screen-time. Amidst this, a small hindrance did rise by the usage of tried and tested jokes, but they made up for that by creating a rather formidable villain out of Lord Cutler Beckett and making Elizabeth Swann a warrior woman, a sort of Lucy Lawless of the high seas. Despite the fact that the light was cast more strongly on the love story between the two coffee-faced lovers, the overall effect was less slushy than what I was expecting. Not to say I didn't like it, but it was a good move, it was in league with the rest of the film, although the "do you love me" and the "wedding scene" on the ship near the climax did drag on quite a bit.

Going back to the humour, it waded on dangerous waters (man, I'm using a lot of puns nowadays) when Barbossa places a pair of metal balls in an awkward position that does not go amiss with Sparrow. A short thinly-veiled conversation ensues, which may not be deciphered by kids, but will make a lot aware adults raise their eye-brows. I mean, seriously? Was that really necessary? When will Disney cease its obsession with subliminal messages / themes I do not know.

From the performances, all the returning cast were as strong as ever, with Keira Knightley being the most impressive. I loved how she transited from a dependent to an independent woman, but there certainly was interdependence between her and several characters, namely Sparrow and Turner. Speaking of which, Orlando Bloom was actually better in this one than the first two, provided strong shoulders - especially near the end of the film. Bill Nighy once again was impressive, although I felt he was underused. Tom Hollander gave a rather strong performance. His character, Beckett, provided a good mix of a man torn between "business", "revenge" and "pleasure." In an inspiring cameo, Keith Richards dominated his 3 minutes of reel fame. Chow Yun-Fat, too, in his short screen-time was awesome. But a painfully under-developed script and short screen-time made his character, Sao Feng, somewhat unmemorable.

In conclusion, At World's End is an awesome film. The Maelstrom Battle? Arguably one of the greatest battle scenes in all of movie history.


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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest review

Posted : 5 years, 6 months ago on 1 June 2013 12:18 (A review of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest)

With great success comes a great sequel; thus spake Uncle Ben's lesser known younger brother, Uncle Tim. And we've had several examples, ranging from this genre to that. Does Pirates fall under the category? Unfortunately, no! The first film was great, no doubt about it, but this sequel wasn't so much. In the first film they didn't even try to be funny, they just did it naturally and effortlessly, but over here they tried too hard, and limped too badly. Everyone seemed lazy, too tired, too fed up, as if they were all chained to large shackles. Although this sequel does resemble Empire Strikes Back somewhat - Jack Sparrow and Han Solo are captured and the rest of the characters must rescue him; which happens in the third part - it actually shares the same soul as The Matrix trilogy. The first Matrix is legendary: the second a stick in the mud, but quite enjoyable.

I know, they had to expand the story, but couldn't they have done it in an enjoyable way? Seriously, the way everyone was dragging their feet as if stuck in quick-sand made this 2 and a half hour feature feel like a 4 hour epic. Also, it was unnecessarily dark and dwelled quite a bit too much into religion for my taste. What's the harm in keeping it children friendly? Why is it that whenever someone, anyone, everyone gets a free reign, the first thing they do is go dark? or stray terribly off-course? Don't get me wrong, I enjoy dark films, but since Curse was a quite light-hearted, family-friendly entertainment, a dark and violent sequel wasn't called for. I'm currently downloading the third part, and let's see if that's better of the trio or not!

From the performances, Johnny Depp was as usual up to the mark, but the main spotlight was Bill Nighy as Davy Jones. Although initially disappointed that they followed up a comedic villain from the first film - Hector Barbossa - to a nonsensical character, Davy Jones eventually warmed up to me as an excellent successor. The character was dominating, the acting amazing. It felt real, with every twitch a convincing one. Bill Nighy did a brilliant job. The rest of the cast, especially those returning for the second time, were all great once again, albeit a little tired and dazed looking. Newcomer Naomi Harris impressed me by her performance as Dai Lama. It was a fascinating performance, a good blend of both comic and seriousness.

In conclusion, Dead Man's Chest has some very convincing moments regarding Davy Jones but is too silly in almost every other part. The one where Will and the band of miscreants tumble down the hill in a ball of bones - seriously, no broken bones? no deaths? Also, the three way fight between Will, Jack and Norrington on top of the giant wheel. Quite impressive, yes, but it was Indiana Jones and company falling from a plane on a waterbed 12,000 feet to safety on the snow all over again!


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Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl review

Posted : 5 years, 6 months ago on 31 May 2013 08:02 (A review of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl)

Of course, the actual film doesn't start until Johnny Depp appears onscreen. The scenes prior to his introduction are warm-up exercises for the eyes in order to get ready for the real thing. PotC started building itself as a franchise at a time when several more accessible ones were starting up, namely Spider-Man, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and X-Men. Even though PotC had tough competition and employed a rather obscure premise - pirates - it nevertheless became one of the greatest franchises in movie history, securing its place as a "Great" in movies' long history. Imaginative, wildly energetic and lively spirited, Curse fully won me over by its inoffensive humour, great script, and an exciting story + memorable characters. Even though I caught up with this movie 10 years too late, I can't wait to see the sequels, hopefully somewhere within this year. As great and somewhat original it was though, Curse acted as a spiritual successor of The Princess Bride at times, especially at the dueling sequences, most notably during the Will Turner / Jack Sparrow duel in a smithy.

The story is nothing to sneeze at. It very well could be written by either Sid Meier - in the epic moments - or by Tim Schafer - in the funny moments - and in the case of the latter, it's not even surprising since the franchise was inspired by the Monkey Island series, one of the many games in which Schafer was involved one way or another. The overall effect is a guilt-free fun and exciting ride.

From the performances, Johnny Depp made the role his own. A classic mixture of serio-comic and drunken demeanor, Capt. Jack Sparrow is easily one of the greatest eccentric personalities ever to grace the silver screen. A bumbling group of rag-tag miscreants they may be, but Sparrow's loyal followers are among the best likable and quite charming characters ever, and almost every actor nailed their part, making their respective characters interesting instead of annoying. Keira Knightley truly is a delectable English rose, and now after watching her as Elizabeth Swann, all lingering doubts have been swiftly removed. Although not a major fan of his work, Orlando Bloom was decent enough to carry portions on his shoulders but not strong enough to carry it all the way. I mean, back in the day he was still an inexperienced actor, and it shows very well in many scenes. Thankfully, skilled actors were at hand to help him, and to prevent us from getting up from our seats too soon. Geoffrey Rush was simply the tops as Hector Barbossa, the charismatic and wildly entertaining antagonist. Man, if there's one reason to watch this film, it has to be Rush, as no other actor - bar Depp - who puts a lot of skill and fun in his character.Zoe Saldana, in her short role as Anamaria, was absolutely delicious. When she first appeared, I was really hoping for her to take the centre stage, but was quickly resigned to the fact that she's just a minor side character, nothing more. Shame, really... and too bad she doesn't appear in the sequels!

In conclusion, Curse of the Black Pearl is a solidly entertaining film that is surprisingly guilt-free. None of the cringes, no offensive material, but certainly a lot of laughter and duels!


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The Lion King review

Posted : 5 years, 6 months ago on 28 May 2013 07:36 (A review of The Lion King)

Arguably one of the greatest achievements in animation history, The Lion King is an epic on several levels. Disney was a mammoth in the 90's, churning out classics one after the other that are still enjoyed to this day. Sadly, from the 2000's to present day, Disney hasn't quite created an epic cartoon like Tarzan or Mulan yet, and that's a shame really, seeing as how Disney was the childhood to millions worldwide. Some might say that Pixar is now the new kid on the block, but you can't deny the fact that even Pixar is quickly losing its touch, although they indeed have created classics - Wall-E, Toy Story and Monsters, Inc. - that will be remembered for a long time but nowadays they're all about quantity and not quality.

Although the animation certainly was beautiful - the point is clearly made when very early in the movie a small montage of the Pridelands is shown - and was indeed enchanting in its colourful moments such as the "I Can't Wait To Be King" number and haunting in its monotonous, less-lively scenes such as the elephant graveyard and what becomes of the Pridelands under Scar's rule. Despite that, it still felt a little restrained. Also, the characters, while appearing onscreen, would slide in, as if being pushed from the behind and the side from where they're entering the screen from, left, right, or anywhere. Although it's just a minor thing, the fact that it was released in 1994 should not account for justifying this setback. Many cartoons, both of its time and before, were much more realistic, like 77's Rescuers or 89's Little Mermaid.

From the voice-overs, Matthew Broderick as the voice of Simba was instantly winning over, he bought a lot of, er, lionity? to his role. I can't think of any other voice replacing him. James Earle Jones was another strong actor in the film, voicing Mufasa. A strong, dominating voice that stays with you long after it has finished. Basically, no voice-over was bad, every v.o. was alive, energetic, convincing, and thoroughly winning over. A great achievement in both fields - animation and voice-over!

In conclusion, The Lion King is arguably one of Disney's strongest films. Too bad the sequels weren't as good as the original.


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The Karate Kid (1984) review

Posted : 5 years, 6 months ago on 26 May 2013 07:13 (A review of The Karate Kid (1984))

Let it be known that The Karate Kid is one of my absolute favourite movies of all time. An instantly likable flick, it has a great cast, a story suitable for all ages, and one of the best relationships in movie history; not just between the the two main characters, but between the viewer and the film, too. There's no denying that, among others, magic and triumph-in-the-air movies were the most produced in the 80's. They had/have a timeless charm that was unique. Seriously, anyone tired of watching Back to the Future or the original Terminator?

The Karate Kid is a feelgood, loosely energetic, and highly entertaining film about a bullied kid who wants to learn karate as a means to defend himself. His caretaker in his new home, Mr. Miyagi proves more than a friendly person, more than a just a caretaker: he becomes an uncle-figure of sorts to young Daniel and ultimately becomes his karate master and helps him win the tournament. Although the film opens on a decent note, the first 15-20 minutes will leave you with mixed feelings, as the film doesn't come to its true pace. After when it crosses that mark, Karate Kid finds its pace, and without becoming too much of Rocky, continues peacefully in its own manner, almost like an original work. Although, yes, the film does become cheesy in the end - crane kick with a broken leg? Sure! - but that's all right, because it's an 80's flick, and cheesiness is all part of it. Watch Commando and you will understand!

Ralph Macchio plays Daniel, the protagonist. Macchio may be a name lost among young teenagers nowadays, me included (I only know him from this film and My Cousin Vinny), he nevertheless gave arguably one of the greatest performances in young adults history. He captured and expressed the smallest nuances of a hero whose soul has been dampened but never defeated. His nervous twitches, body language, muttering under the breath, everything was perfect, realistic. Check out the part when he and Mr. Miyagi are trying to catch a fly using chopsticks. I bet he forgot there were cameras on him. Noriyuki "Pat" Morita is another name lost among us but since Mr. Miyagi is a widely appreciated character and since his name often pops up in "great movie characters" list, Morita receives silent, dignified recognition from those who have time to give it. He easily gave a classic performance, making Mr. Miyagi an accessible and beloved character of modern times, and possibly of all times. Remember, when Mr. Miyagi speaks, we all listen. Elizabeth Shue was quite tasty in her role as Ali Mills but felt too one-dimensional, at least for a majority of the film. Another performance I enjoyed was by William Zabka as Johnny, the film's main antagonist. He gave a convincing performance without stressing too hard. Although never appearing onscreen without sporting a Draco Malfoy-esque smirk first and never having more than 5 lines in a row, he was one of the realistically written characters. The only qualm I have is of Randee Heller's character, Lucille - Daniel's mother. Her performance, although electric in the short screen-time she gets, was terribly underused. I would've loved to see more of her. Her character, unfortunately, doesn't rise up against the others, and was the most under-developed character that almost too quickly disappears into obscurity the more the film progresses.

In conclusion, The Karate Kid is a great film, a must watch for all ages. It is a timeless classic!


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Kung Fu Panda review

Posted : 5 years, 7 months ago on 19 May 2013 11:08 (A review of Kung Fu Panda)

4 years later, Panda is still an excellent achievement and still hilarious as on the first viewing. In an age where cartoons and thinly-veiled pop-culture references and predictable stereotypes go hand in hand, Panda was - and still is - a pleasant, welcome surprise. The opening short sequence is rich in animation and story-telling, borrowing heavily from Samurai Jack. A unique blend of humour and martial arts, Jack Black's winning voice-over makes you think that, seeing the success this film enjoyed and Brutal Legend, Black should collaborate again with Tim Schafer on a game based on this film. Seeing Schafer's past repertoire, I'm sure it will be of great success.

Both like and unlike others, Panda has a lot of charm, a host of incredibly likable and strong characters, amazing voice overs, and a great setup. The animation, particularly, won me over. It was energetic, every living thing felt alive, every inanimate object wonderful. Besides charm and humour, the other thing it showcases is the brilliant martial arts / fight sequences. For a cartoon, they're arguably the best, and rival some of the real film ones. And it's not surprising to see why as Jackie Chan was also featured in the cartoon - as the voice-over for Monkey, one of the Furious Five. Even though the action scenes were very fast and quite blurry, the overall effect was awesome!

In conclusion, I loved every bit of the cartoon. Kung Fu Panda, although didn't bring anything unique to the table, was freshly original and as bit hilarious as whatever your mind associates with that word. If it's pooping on each other and calling each other vulgar words, then no, Panda is not that. You need therapy!


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Million Dollar Baby review

Posted : 5 years, 7 months ago on 16 May 2013 02:43 (A review of Million Dollar Baby)

Million Dollar Baby is a boxing film but it's not about the life inside the ring: that means it's not energetic. It's not about the life outside the ring: that means it's not dramatic. It's about journey, the road that connects these two worlds, the fine strip in which one comes alive that's between shadow and light. This film is unique in the respect that we get to see two relationships from two characters' point of view. One, a relationship between two generations and two; the tact passion for their mutual love for boxing. Frankie is a wounded man, a person broken by his past and present that continuously gets damaged by his uncertainty of the future. Maggie is almost Frankie's reflective, but with distinct differences: she's not much about the past or the future, but is focused straight on the present and, unlike others, is a wounded person in becoming. These factors start a solid relationship that may seem indifferent to the third party but is once-and-never for these two. We get to see the rise and fall of this connection through Scrap Dupris's point of view, who is at first a background enigma but becomes the solid voice of the film as time progresses.

Now the boxing: rarely has any other film portrayed a sport as a character in itself. For the characters in the film, boxing is not a sport, but rather a living entity they must visit on a timely basis. We almost never get to see the the boxing. By that I mean we hardly get to see what it represents in the ring, but rather the workings of it - what drives it, the fuel of the game. Approach it correctly and you may be rewarded in more ways than one. Disrespect it and you may lose more than just your reputation. In short, the film is fearless and afraid, simultaneously!

Hilary Swank gave just about the most dedicated, powerhouse performance in her career. She was absolutely stunning in her character, making her both a weak and strong person, an effect although many have achieved, but none so much in the sports genre. It surely is one of the electrifying performances from a female. Clint Eastwood once again was the show-stealer, once again showcasing us his great acting skills as well as superb directing. Morgan Freeman was great in his role, too, giving us another character we all love, and a narration that's difficult to outrank. The rest of the cast were great, too, with Jay Baruchel being the best from the minor. Although the character was very one shaded, Jay a lot of development and likable personality to him that will imprint upon your mind. Not exactly one of the greatest but not exactly forgettable either.

In conclusion, Million Dollar Baby is a much watch. It's much more than what it implies to be. It has personality and definite solid shape to it.


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Four Brothers (2005) review

Posted : 5 years, 7 months ago on 14 May 2013 10:32 (A review of Four Brothers (2005))

Four Brothers is not even 3/10 of the film it calls itself. It was as if they had been saving all the energy - pre-production - to pack some serious wallop or to give a good beating, but during production instead settled down on simple punches and kicks that only do moderate damage. It was supposed to be an angry-revenge film, a no holds barred one, or at least that's the impression they wanted to give, but instead gave us rather unconvincing sympathetic scenes and unnecessary racist moments that had no intention of being there in the first place. The plot is devilishly simple, the characters are standard, generic, and in the first 20-or-so minutes we're under the impression it's gonna be unique, but are quickly betrayed of that thought once it passes the aforementioned mark.

Throughout the film I was rather confused: is it an action film? a drama? a harsh look at urban, gang life? a tragic film? I don't know what the original thought behind the film was but it tried to mix all of the above points... and failed. I mean it's a decently enough made film but I would liken it to Daikatana to others Mortal Kombat. It has the setting, the atmosphere, the characters, and the story of an angry film, but doesn't really have the heart - or soul - to call itself one. After when the film overstays its welcome, it quickly falls into the cliche pit that really disrupted the flow, and it only gets worse later.

The only redeeming qualities in the film were the performances of Mark Wahlberg and Chiwetel Ejiofor. The former plays the main role of Bobby, the anti-hero of the film. Although it's not one of his best roles, it certainly was tough and rage-filled. The latter plays Victor Sweet, the main antagonist of the film, and one of the best acted villains in modern film history. Chiwetel bought an great distinction to his character that somehow managed to shy away from traditional villains and towards more unconventional, underrated ones. The character was somewhat fresh, but I believe he could've gone above the bar had the script been great. The rest was the cast were decent enough in their roles, the chemistry was believable, but almost everyone seemed too detached from himself and his surroundings. I think the main fault was under-development of the characters and lack of personality development.

In conclusion, Four Brothers is one of the least memorable films I've seen this year. It had potential of becoming a rock-steady, power-fist of a film, but instead became just a punch to the gut.


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