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12 Strong (2018)

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This is Afghanistan.
Graveyard of many empires.
Today you are our friend,tomorrow you are our enemy.
It won’t be any different for you.
Soon America will become just another tribe here.
You will be cowards if you leave.
And you will be our enemies if you stay.

I only asked myself one question, after seeing “12 Strong“. Why didn’t the American authorities send 1200 of those well-trained, experienced soldiers instead of this limited group of 12? Then in one fell swoop, they could have wiped out the entire Taliban and the scum that belongs to it. Now after more than 15 years, the American troops are still there and the living conditions and the political situation hasn’t improved much. I can believe that these 12 elite soldiers have made a breakthrough in the fight against the Taliban there. That the entire film is based on true facts, I also want to believe. But I think that the event between dropping these soldiers and their homecoming should be taken with a fat grain of salt. It felt like a superhero movie at certain moments and it’s the textbook example of displaying American patriotism. The latter a bit too much for my taste.

Those Taliban fighters shoot extremely bad.

Any idea how many Taliban fighters these 12 super-elite soldiers had a clear shot at? And how many were eventually sent to the afterlife, where they are awaited for by a harem of virgins, with a well-aimed shot? I lost count after a while. I’m sure that the automatic rifles of the American soldiers were equipped with an auto-aim function because the number of headshots was shockingly high. I suppose the Taliban fighters were equipped with obsolete Soviet arms or weapons from other parts of the world because their shooting skills left much to be desired. Or perhaps they had desert sand in the eyes. Or the American soldiers chose a perfect time to attack. Maybe these Muslim warriors were attacked the moment they rolled out their Persian carpet and knelt down towards Mecca for their prayers. I don’t have another explanation. Either that or they are just extremely bad at shooting.

Fighting against tanks with horses. Now that’s something different.

I did admire these elite soldiers because they had to move on horseback through this country. Nothing special, you might say. But not when you find out only one person has experience in this discipline. It’s surprising no one fell off an Afghan ridge. They also had an additional obstacle. Not only did the local warlords such as Dostum (David Negahban) thoroughly hate the Taliban regime. There was also the mutual rivalry between the various Afghan warlords. Afghans apparently all have a short fuse (stressful for suicide terrorists). However, I don’t understand how they knew at a given moment who they should shoot at, because those Muslim fighters all look identical. “12 Strong” is a war film like so many others. Apart from the fact that they go to battle on horses against a force majeure with a hypermodern weapon arsenal. This gives us impressive but at the same time dubious images. It looked like “The magnificent seven” mixed with “Hacksaw Ridge“.

Nothing will stop the chaos as long as money is involved.

The honor of being the captain of these elite troops was given to Chris Hemsworth, who played it with bravado and conviction. Mitch Nelson is an officer without war experience but with a charisma and intellect that ensures that this impossible operation is fully successful. He manages to convince a general after he interrupted him several times during his briefing (apparently this is not done in the US Army). And he manages to persuade an Afghan warlord in a decisive manner so he forgets a year-long feud for a short time and buries the battle ax briefly. “12 Strong” is certainly exciting, contains a whole series of action-packed scenes and shows in a clear way how chaotic the political situation in that country is. My personal opinion about the whole problem is of a very different nature. And many will disagree with it. Let me put it this way. I am convinced that as long as there is money to be earned from these sad conflicts, with ordinary and innocent people being the victims, these tragic conflicts won’t stop and nothing will change. Viola, my two cents.

My rating 6/10
Links: IMDB

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Bad Boys: Ride Or Die Review – Smith and Lawrence Deliver Explosive Entertainment.

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Bad Boys: Ride or Die [credit: Sony Pictures Releasing]

Hollywood has been struggling as of late and a lot is riding on the success of the fourth installment of this beloved franchise. The directors Adil and Bilall have had a tough time after their last feature Batgirl was shelved, Sony is looking to move on from the Madame Web debacle and Smith is gearing up for his big comeback after the slap. Hollywood history also tells us that there aren’t a lot of franchises that are able to deliver blockbuster business in their fourth installments.

 

I went into this movie cautiously optimistic with Adil and Bilall returning to direct. They also directed the last entry, which turned out not only the highest-grossing movie in this franchise but also the highest-grossing movie of 2020, which are quite the achievements. This franchise is almost 30 years old now, but these two directors found a way to give it a modern touch while staying loyal to the legacy of these characters. In this entry, they take it up a notch and give us some of the most creative camera work and they never seem to run out of ideas throughout this movie.

Bad Boys: Ride or Die [credit: Sony Pictures Releasing]

The main attraction of these movies has always been the chemistry between Smith and Lawrence. Smith brings the style, and Lawrence brings the charm. As always, they are unreal together on screen and the movie is at its strongest when it is focusing on both of them. I was curious to see if the slap would affect Smith’s screen presence or his comic timing, but he seemed cool for the most part. Although, I did sense a hint of nervousness a couple of times. On the other hand, Martin Lawrence was having a blast.

 

Eric Dane is menacing as our main villain here, which is also thanks to the directors’ presentation of his character. Jacob Scipio is awesome in action sequences, while Alexander Ludwig and Vanessa Hudgens are great together. Rhea Seehorn and Ioan Gruffudd are our other new additions to this entry, but both of them seemed nowhere near their best. It was mostly due to the fact that they were portraying unlikeable, cliche, and predictable characters. But the real MVP here is Reggie. He gets his moment and it is awesome. There are also quite a few cameos which are all well-handled.

Bad Boys: Ride or Die [credit: Sony Pictures Releasing]

BAD BOYS: RIDE OR DIE

The story is easily the weakest part here with not a lot of character development, especially for the supporting cast. The plot is thin and doesn’t have too many layers to it and even the twists mostly fail to surprise. But that doesn’t mean that the adventure that our characters are on isn’t fun. One can clearly see that the focus in the structuring of this movie was to make it as fun as possible. There are also some questionable editing choices, but the pacing of the narrative is really good.

 

Bad Boys: Ride Or Die delivers an explosively entertaining ride in one of the franchise’s best entries. It embraces its outrageousness and gives some wild action sequences. Smith and Lawrence’s chemistry is unreal, while Adil and Bilall bring their A-game. Audiences will eat up this hilarious ride that will surely be one of the best movie-going experiences of the year. A treat for fans of the franchise. Hopefully, we get more of these.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRFY_Fesa9Q&pp=ygUSYmFkIGJveXMgNCB0cmFpbGVy

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Bad Boys: Ride or Die | Official Trailer – Sony Pictures Entertainment

Miami’s finest end up on the run.

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Genre:

Action, Adventure, Comedy

Release Date:

2024

Director:

Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah

Cast:

Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens

Plot Summary:

Miami’s finest end up on the run

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Kung Fu Panda 4 Review: Po and Co are Back to Pack Hilarious Punches.

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I’ve seen too many great animation franchises deliver diminishing returns with more and more sequels. To name some recent examples one could include How to Train Your Dragon, Despicable Me, Cars, etc. Kung Fu Panda is another franchise that unfortunately falls in this category. The threequel that released in 2016, was most people’s choice for the weakest entry in the beloved franchise. So that made me pretty skeptical whether the world was ready for this franchise to return and gave us good cause not to have expectations set too high, especially given the weak marketing campaign and smaller production budget. To make things worse, it was being reported that the furious five would not be a part of the story.

So I went in with my expectations in check but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s been 8 years since the last Kung Fu Panda movie, but the characters are somehow still fresh and fun. One of the best things that the makers are able to do is remind the viewers what makes Po such a darling and why we love him so much. Jack Black is such a natural fit for his voice and makes this character special with his wit and wisdom in this latest entry. 

This entry is notably structured in a very different way from the other 3 entries. This one focuses on Po’s search for a successor and his ascension to the Master of Peace. The main characters are split up pretty early in the movie and are sent on separate adventures in a sort of buddy-cop-style scenario. On one side we have Po and Awkwafina’s Zhen, and on the other, we have Bryan Cranston and James Hong as Po’s dads. These two duos are a lot of fun in their own ways.

(from left) Po (Jack Black) and Zhen (Awkwafina) in Kung Fu Panda 4 directed by Mike Mitchell.

Po and Xen have more of a good boy-bad boy dynamic, while the dads have more of a light-hearted brotherhood between them. Both pairs of misfits deliver a string of humorously entertaining sequences that will have you laughing your heart out. The humor here works for most parts apart from one or two instances and the dialogue in particular is very smartly written. The story, on the other hand, is where the movie is at its weakest.

The structuring is pretty generic with a very cliche twist at the beginning of the second half and the script mostly fails to provide significantly fresh plot points. But credit to it for executing the successor plotline better than a lot of movies that have tried it, especially Cars 3. The writers make sure to put their entire focus on humor and entertainment value, but they do come up with a couple of charming moments and some subplots that come full circle.

The animation here is surprisingly really good, especially given the significantly lower budget. The trailers didn’t get too many people encouraged about the quality of animation, but I can tell you that even though it’s not DreamWorks’ best, it’s still really well done. The background score also hits the right spot where it’s able to compliment the scene and lift it at the same time. The voice work here is also pretty solid. Jack Black is amazing as always and Awkwafina Ke Huy Quan are welcome additions.

(Center) Chameleon (Viola Davis) in Kung Fu Panda 4 directed by Mike Mitchell.

Apart from Po, the best part of the movie is Li and Ping. They are the heart of this movie. The two of them have incredible chemistry and Mike Mitchell finds a way to bring out the best from the both of them. They play off of each other in the most silly, but whimsical manner which is just a joy to watch. We could do with a spin-off of them. Ian McShane’s return as Tai Lung is another highlight here. He is nicely integrated and fits well into the story being told. On the other hand, Viola Davis’ Chameleon is somewhat of a disappointment. For a villain that has the powers of all the previous villains, she was a rather tame antagonist.

Overall, Kung Fu Panda 4 is a return to form for the beloved franchise. It has a lot of elements that made the franchise successful and is a much-needed reminder of how much we love these characters and in particular, Po. Jack Black knocks it out of the park with Bryan Cranston and James Hong emerging as surprise standouts. It lacks the emotional depth of the first two entries and has a disappointingly tame villain. But it is a major improvement from the last entry and unsurprisingly very very entertaining.

Kung Fu Panda 4 releases in cinemas on March 8.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_inKs4eeHiI&pp=ygUXa3VuZyBmdSBwYW5kYSA0IHRyYWlsZXI%3D

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