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Starting something new for all my friends who enjoy that weekly trip to the good ole’ Redbox. There are a lot of movies that don’t get wide releases so you might not catch them in theaters. So here are a few reviews of some limited release films currently available to own and rent.

The Raid 2

Back in December, I listed this Indonesian martial arts film as one of my most anticipated movies of the year. Anyone who has seen the previous film, The Raid Redemption, completely understands why. It may be the greatest action film ever created. I was fortunately able to catch the sequel in theaters and it didn’t disappoint. Iko Uwais reprises his role as Rama, one of the few surviving officers from the police raid on mob owned slums in the first film. This time around, following the death of a loved one, Rama is forced to go deep undercover in order to infiltrate an even deadlier and more powerful crime syndicate.

Fans of the first might find this one slow at times, but when the action hits, it is as good if not better than the mind blowing sequences of its predecessor. Many of the action sequences, taking place on trains, prison yards, highways, are more vibrant than the ones in Redemption, which all took place in one location. And the new villains, specifically two named “Baseball Bat Man” and “Hammer Girl” (can you guess what they use as weapons), provide some of the most jaw dropping fight scenes you’ll ever see. Bottom line, if you are a fan of action or crime films with actual plot (sorry Expendables), then you won’t find a better watch than The Raid 2. FINAL GRADE: A

The Grand Budapest Hotel

If you’re looking for something quirky but infectiously smart and entertaining, then this movie is definitely for you. It is one of the most beautifully made films of the year from both a story telling and visual aspect. In this story, within a story, within a story, within a story (got all of that?) Ralph Fiennes stars as a Hotel concierge who is framed for murder after his elderly lover leaves her most treasured possession to him. Fiennes was magnificent as Voldermort in the Harry Potter saga and I loved him in the most recent James Bond film. But here, Fiennes is as magnetic as I’ve ever seen him, perfectly matching wit, arrogance, and genuine warmth in the role of Gustave. The brotherly relationship between the character and his new, excessively dedicated lobby boy, Moustafa (relative newcomer Tony Revolori) is what drives the story and gives it its charm.

As mentioned before, the film is shot beautifully, using miniatures to give the movie the look of a children’s book while also using techniques to give it the proper classic feel of a murder mystery. And even through its predominantly comedic tone, it manages to strike the perfect heartwarming and soulful tone at its climax. The numerous cameos (Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Jude Law, Jeff Goldblum, Tilda Swinton… just to name a few) are pretty comical too. FINAL GRADE: A

Under the Skin

This is without a doubt one of the top five most bizarre films I have ever witnessed. The incredibly attractive Scarlett Johannson stars as an incredibly attractive alien in human form who seduces men and leads them back to a creepy black void where their skin is harvested. Sound interesting enough? The beginning of the film, which seems more music and nat sound than dialogue, plays like a documentary which certainly adds to the eerie tone, but also makes the movie incredibly dull for the first hour.

But if you can sit through the same repeated act, the second half of the movie is far more intriguing. Although I certainly wouldn’t blame you if you couldn’t, as I nearly gave up on it. Eventually though, Johannson’s alien character defies her intended purpose and ventures out on her own. By the end of the film, the message should come across powerfully and I unexpectedly found myself appreciating the artistic nature of it all, but there’s still a strong chance you may find it boring and weird even if you persevere through it. FINAL GRADE: B-

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