WHEN I HEAR ABOUT AN ALTERCATION that took place in the city, I shudder when I see the victim was doing something I used to do. And when I say something, it literally refers to nothing unusual; for example, me just walking to my car. There was a period where I would go down into the city to the dance clubs and bars. Now you might think this was strange for me since I did not drink alcohol, but I wanted to dance and watch music videos. Sometimes I would drive, other times I would take public transportation. Depending on how the evening was going I could be dancing at the club until they closed, or I could be there for an hour before making my way home. My point is I might be walking alone to my car at 3 in the morning. I knew to be cautious or at least aware of my surroundings, but I was not fearful. Granted, on side streets I would always walk down the middle of them. Riding public transportation never was a concern for me. Whether I was on a bus or train, I never thought something could go wrong; at least, not to the extent I read and see in the news. MAYBE I WAS LUCKY THAT NOTHING befell me back then; however, there were several times when I was scared. Once while walking down the street in the afternoon a guy came up to me and asked for a cigarette. When I said I didn’t smoke he started yelling and calling me names. I tried to walk away but he kept shoving me. Not until he pushed me into a plate glass window did he take off running. I used to replay that scene over and over in my head, imagining different endings where I would come out victorious. Another time I was walking to my car after dinner and noticed a small group of teenagers walking towards me. I made a quick decision and turned into a building’s walkway, despite not knowing where it would lead. Luckily, I wound up in the alley just as I heard their laughter echoing out from the walkway. Quickly I ran down the alley until I found another walkway through a building that lead me back to the street, where I ran all the way to my car. Again, as I made my way home I fantasized different scenarios where I was a boxer or martial arts expert who quickly subdued my assailants into submission…or unconsciousness. The only difference between me and the main character in this dramatic comedy is I never acted on it. AFTER BEING MUGGED BY A MOTORCYCLE gang Casey, played by Jesse Eisenberg (The End of the Tour, The Social Network), looked for a way to defend himself. He found his answer at a karate school. With Alessandro Nivola (American Hustle, Disobedience) as Sensei, Imogen Poots (Green Room, Frank & Lola) as Anna, Steve Terada (Crank, Memoirs of a Geisha) as Thomas and Phillip Andre Botello (Pledge, Road Wars) as Kenneth; this film festival nominated movie was wickedly dark, violent and funny. At first, I felt Jesse was doing a repeat of some of his previous roles, but he hit the mark as a timid man on the spectrum. At least I took him to be a person on the spectrum. I am a little familiar with Alessandro’s work and I especially admired him in this role as the owner and head of the karate school. Between my laughter and shock there were a few bumps in the road inside the script, where it became predictable. However, I was enjoying the performances too much to let the predictability bother me. Again, I want to stress this was a real dark comedy with blood and violence. Despite it, I did wonder what would have happened to me if I had joined a karate school.
THE PROBLEM WAS they looked alike even though they were different sexes. His mother had a reputation in the neighborhood of not being smart; though the adjectives used to describe her were unkind. People just assumed her son had the same low level of intelligence. Sadly it was a perception, it was not a fact. However this falsehood stayed with him all through school. If he had been a straight A student then the assumption would have quickly died, but he was more of an average grade pupil with grades that went from C to A. The interesting thing about this was he did not care or at least did not show any concern regarding what people thought of him. It turns out he was smart and used this incorrect assumption to his advantage. To make a long story short he became a shrewd business owner who became quite successful. ASSUMPTION BY ASSOCIATION is something people tend to do easily and in my opinion too often. To me I consider it along the same lines as profiling. I have mentioned before my feelings about individuals making rash judgments based on a person’s appearance. After recently being updated on the changes taking place within the labor laws, I know they say one cannot discriminate; however I have seen and been on the receiving end with the misconception that overweight individuals are lazy. Sadly I have heard people’s comments in a variety of settings that were derogatory based on a person’s race, gender, sexuality, religion, etc. I know it is more prevalent than my experiences and I find it pathetic. The idea of someone making a judgment solely based on one’s looks is frankly horrifying. From my school years I have seen how these types of perceptions can scar a child for a long time, possibly their entire life. Imagine what the boy in this animated action adventure had to endure. ALL THE KIDS avoided Lloyd, voiced by Dave Franco (Now You See Me franchise, Neighbors franchise), because of his father Garmadon, voiced by Justin Theroux (The Girl on the Train, The Leftovers-TV). His father just wanted to rule the world. This 3rd film in the LEGO movie franchise started out in a fun way by having the first several minutes being live action with Jackie Chan (Shanghai Noon, Rush Hour franchise) as Mr. Liu and later voicing Master Wu. I liked Jackie in both roles. Including Fred Armisen (Easy A, Saturday Night Live-TV) voicing Cole, Michael Pena (The Martian, End of Watch) voicing Kai and Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick, Fist Fight) voicing Jay; the actors were fine with their characters. The script had several amusing scenes; however, there was little of the laugh out loud or surprise factor compared to the previous pictures. As for the animation it was just as good as before and I especially enjoyed the interjection of the live action character. In fact that was my favorite part. Overall I have to tell you my enthusiasm watching this film was lackluster; there was a sense of tiredness since it pretty much was the same stuff being done as before. I do not know if there is an actual cartoon character for Master Wu; the closest example I could think of was a takeoff on The Karate Kid or an old television show I think called Kung Fu. After playing with the same toy for an extended time one eventually will get tired of it; that is what I believe is going on here. There was one extra scene of outtakes in the middle of the credits.
2 ¼ stars
The room had faded floral wallpaper with tired looking edges resembling sleepy eyelids. There was a brightly polished maple table in the middle of the room where a small woman with large glasses stood. She greeted us with a delicate smile. My friends and I arranged to visit her because we were told she had a unique gift. Each of us sat with her separately and when it was my turn I sat down across from her. She asked to see the palm of the hand that I use for writing. Looking at it she began telling me what type of personality I had, emphasizing I had strong teaching skills. Now it was funny, before sitting with her one of my friends whispered in my ear to remember the things that did not make sense. “Strong teaching capabilities” was more of a general statement, though she did not know I was an instructor. She peered closer at my palm and told me that in a former life I was a spy. I was able to go back and forth between opposing sides with no trouble. The reason I became a spy was due to my inner strength and ability to not reveal my true convictions. I evidently had a knack for quickly changing my mindset, able to avoid being captured by anyone. I had not thought about this for many years until I saw this action adventure film. The reason was the main character Rama, played by Iko Uwais (Merantau, The Raid franchise), had to do the very thing I supposedly did another lifetime ago. With the city being divided up into gang territories, police officer Rama agreed to go undercover to work his way into the criminal underground hierarchy. His plan involved getting close to Ucok, played by Arifin Putra (Macabre, Badai di Ujung Negeri), who was the son of a crime lord. This was one of those sequels where you did not have to see the previous film. It was a good thing because my review of the earlier one received only a rating of 1 3/4 stars. Where that one was a poorly done film, this one had more going for it. Iko Uwais’ martial arts skills were killer, pun intended. The fight scenes were the main attraction of this crime thriller and they were pretty amazing. I cannot say much about the acting but at least there was more of a story, a motive and fluidity to this picture. My guess would be this movie would only appeal to those who are fans of the genre. There was extreme violence and bloodshed throughout the film. If you are curious to see incredible fighting feel free to go incognito into the theater. The dialog was Indonesian and Japanese with English subtitles.
2 2/3 stars
During one point of the movie I felt I was watching an extreme episode of the Iron Chef. There was so much slicing and dicing, I almost had to take a motion sickness pill. The story was simple: a small swat team of police officers, on a mission to bring in a ruthless drug lord, got trapped in his compound. Vastly outnumbered, the team had to fight their way through an endless amount of the drug lord’s minions. There was nothing to the story, it only had sparse dialog and practically non-existent acting. The key element here was the action scenes. The main star was Rama, played by Iko Uwais (Merantau). My guess is the studio was hoping to market Iko as the next martial arts superstar. He was a national champion in silat, a traditional Indonesian martial art, which he has been studying since he was 10 years old. The fight scenes were choreographed down to the millisecond. The actors moved so fast I wondered how many real injuries took place while filming. After several battles, they all seemed to be the same to me except for the level of violence. If you play violent video games, you would be okay with this movie. Though I could appreciate the intricate fight scenes, I did not enjoy viewing this movie. Ginzu knives missed a great marketing opportunity here. Warning: extreme violence. Indonesian with English subtitles.
1 3/4 stars