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The Expendables 3 (2014)
The best one of the trilogy!
Yeah, did I make you curious? Of course! The most IMDb reviews want to make you believe that this is the worst action movie ever. Well, I didn't think so. I even dare to say it's the best Expendables movie until now. Okay, the action scenes weren't that great. Once you see one man shooting or fighting, you have seen them all (although the motorcycle stunt was hilariously spectacular). But this time this Expendables outing has humor and a heart and that makes a big difference.
Three actors make this movie worth seeing: Wesley Snipes, who gives the first part humor, Antonio Banderas, who does that in the second part, and Mel Gibson, who is actually a great villain. Oh, and before I watched this film I had doubts on the presence of Harrison Ford, whom I didn't see as a gung-ho member of Stallone's macho fight club. Well, actually he isn't. Ford - who's really old in this one - plays Stallone's CIA client that gives him the order to kill Gibson. In the finale he can't resist being part of the action, puts on his helicopter uniform and flies to the scene of the crime.
What I very much liked about part III of The Expendables was the logical presence of the actors involved. I remember Chuck Norris suddenly popping up in part 2. That scene seemed pretty forced, only facilitating the idea that the producer had scored another 80s action star. With the exception of Jet Li, who can be seen at the end, all the actors get enough screen time. Even Dolph Lundgren gets his moment.
I can imagine the actors having a lot of fun filming this movie. And let's be frank: subconsciously you wonder which actors you want to see in part 4 yourself. Pierce Brosnan has shown interest. Who follows?
Ghost Ship (2002)
Could have been great
This is a nice ghost flick with a great cast. Among the leads are the always watchable Gabriel Byrne, Julianna Margulies and a young Karl Urban. The story is about an experienced salvage team that encounters a still floating abandoned Titanic-like ship and wants to bring it home. What they don't know is that the ship is haunted and one by one the crew members lose their lives.
The story starts in great fashion with a shocking massacre on deck but when the crew finally meet the ghosts (and when they start explaining things) it all goes down. What a pity. I liked the movie sets and actors in this story. Some scenes even reminded me of Kubrick's The Shining - and that's a compliment.
About two minutes from the end you think that you have been watching a okay but not classic ghost story but unfortunately the last surprise spoils the whole film. Don't you hate that when that happens?
Grudge Match (2013)
The blew it
You gotta hand it to the producers of Grudge Match. They managed to get both Rocky Balboa and Jake La Motta into one movie. Unfortunately they were so glad with this achievement they forgot to take care of the most important thing in a film: a good script.
The story of two old champions who battle it out to determine who's the best is okay at best, but most of the time you get bored by what happens on screen. The film can't choose between drama and comedy and therefor doesn't hit any target. The only reason you keep watching is the cast: DeNiro and Stallone are okay, but it's nice to see the still beautiful Kim Basinger (who turns 61 this year) and the always brilliant Alan Arkin at work. Kevin Hart as wannabe box promoter is pretty irritating though. On the bright side: at the final fight the movie delivers and as a viewer you can live with the end result. But if the leads weren't played by actors who had a famous movie boxing history like Stallone and DeNiro have, this movie would probably have been quite unwatchable.
Oh yeah, there is a sort of after credits scene in Grudge Match and sadly this one is the funniest scene in the whole movie. I guess that says enough...
The best Marvel movie since Spider-Man 2 and X-Men 2
If you've been watching the internet the last few weeks you may know that most journalists raved about Captain America : The Winter Soldier. And they were all right: the latest Captain America outing isn't only far better than part 1; I even dare to say that it's in the same league as Spider-Man 2 (2004) and X-Men 2 (2003). The Winter Soldier is spectacular in its action scenes and the chemistry between the hero (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is undeniable.
One of the strengths of Captain America part 1 was the atmosphere: I loved the fact that it took place during World War II and therefor had some historical and nostalgic flavor. However, after the events of The Avengers it was clear that the second movie would take place in modern day America. How could the makers maintain the same mood and spirit of The First Avenger?
Well, directors John and Anthony Russo both succeed in that. Without giving away too many spoilers you can say that The Winter Soldier uses a lot of the elements that was presented to us in the first movie. Hydra returns for example - and does that in a very big way. Another important character from part 1 comes back to haunt Steve Rogers. There are actually so many things from the first movie that I would recommend you'd watch that one first before you see this new movie.
The story of The Winter Soldier centers on SHIELD. Steve Rogers and Nick Fury discover that the organization is compromised and must find out who's behind all this. In the meantime Rogers meets the mysterious and powerful Winter Soldier, who not only kills one of his colleagues but also seems to have a familiar face. But who is he? Looks like the only one he can trust is Natasha Romanoff. Luckily he also befriends an ex-soldier called Sam Wilson (The Falcon), who turns out to be a big help.
From the first action scene involving a big ship to the last battle between Captain America and the Winter Soldier this movie will hold you in a tight grip. Some of the fight scenes even reminded me of The Raid and yes, that's meant as a compliment. Can I give away one small spoiler or two? Two of the best scenes in the movie are Steve Rogers visiting an exhibition of himself (both funny and moving) and his meeting with his old love, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell with lots of make-up). These scenes give this great action flick a true heart.
I can't wait to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier again! And oh yeah, this time there isn't just one but two after-credits scenes!
Sadly, it's an exact and uninspired copy of Cars
In the past Pixar was known for its great and challenging stories. That reputation will definitely be scarred with Planes, a film that takes place in the Cars world but focuses on... well... planes. The idea is so cheap and uninspired that you have every right to accuse Pixar/Disney of selling out and just wanting to enhance the Cars/Planes merchandise possibilities.
The story is identical to Cars. Like Lightning McQueen our hero Dusty Crophopper (voiced by Dane Cook) wants to be a racer. He dreams of taking part in the greatest race around the world. With the help of his friends and oldtimer-once-warhero Skipper (Stacey Keach in the Paul Newman role) he even achieves that and soon joins the group of likely winners. But to go all the way he has to beat his greatest inner demon: his fear of heights.
In 2006 I saw Cars and actually didn't like it. But at least you could say there were several layers in the story and the characters, maybe too many. Cars looked like a movie for 4-7 year olds but had a story that could only be fully appreciated by adults. Planes is different: what you see is what you get. The adventures of Dusty are so flat and predictable that as an adult you must take a lot of effort not to fall asleep. That doesn't mean Planes is a bad movie, it's "just a kid's film", nothing more. Your 4-8 year old son will probably have a blast with it.
The 3D scenes didn't do it for me, either. And that was strange, because usually 3D + flying is a great combination. I did like the Top Gun scenes that take place in the middle of the movie, though.
To me Planes was not a big disappointment because frankly, my expectations were pretty low anyway. But if you expect another Pixar like Monsters University, Toy Story or even Cars, then you'd better save this one for DVD, blu-ray, VOD or even your local TV channel. Officially this movie is 'only' a Disney film and it doesn't have a Pixar stamp. Maybe that's the thing that makes a big difference.
Battle of the Damned (2013)
Actually quite good - if you're a genre fan
A deserted city, running zombies and a lonesome soldier with a mission. Those are the ingredients of a very cleverly made budget movie that even has more than decent photography and okay special effects. Battle of the Damned is the story of an ex-soldier (Lundgren) who has to save a girl from a quarantined city filled with zombies. Getting out they encounter a bunch of robots that should help them achieving their goal.
I thought Battle of the Damned was a nice movie. I don't know what the budget was, but the deserted city looked very well and convincing. Dolph Lundgren can still carry an action movie like this, although he runs around as if he carries a big turd in his pants. Was he injured during filming?
The story itself is good enough to keep you interested. A lot of action and suspense was achieved by audio and that really works. Nice example of this is the helicopter scene in the beginning. First you see a small model of a helicopter and after that you only hear the sound of one flying away. Clever. I suspect that they didn't have the money to rent one so they did it this way. I really applaud that.
Battle of the Damned is no Dawn of the Dead or 28 Days Later. But if you like the genre and keep in mind that the movie was made with a micro budget then you'll have a pleasant night. It's still way better than your average SyFy movie.
Man of Steel (2013)
I guess even Superman IV was better than this one
There are 1400+ reviews of this movie already, so there's no point in writing one extra, really. But I'm doing it anyway because I'm mad as hell. This movie is so bad, I felt robbed and deceived at the same time when I left the cinema.
Superman is my hero. I loved what Richard Donner did with the first two movies. Superman III was corny but great fun, Superman IV was a terrible mistake mainly caused by minimizing the budget. Superman Returns had its flaws but at least was a movie with a heart. And it used the original John Williams music (theme) of course. Man of Steel has none of the mentioned things above.
Zack Snyder's movie relies pretty much on the special effects and has an ordinary rumble as a finale. What is this? Rocky in space? In Superman II our hero at least tricked general Zod into a trap and then defeated him.
There's a lot not to be liked in Man of Steel. Krypton looks like it was stolen from Chronicles of Riddick, there's no spark between Clark Kent and Lois Lane and what kind of hologram is the dead Jor-El (Russel Crowe) anyway when Clark meets him? One with all his memories restored and one capable of properly responding to all the actions of Clark Kent? Not realistic. And if this was the only way for Clark to meet his real parents why was his real mother not resurrected like that? Well, at least Russel Crowe doesn't sing in this movie.
People praise Man of Steel for its visuals. The movie costed about 225+ million dollars but somehow they couldn't afford to use a tripod, because most scenes were shot as if they were meant for a documentary. In The Hunger Games the shaky cam at least had a purpose (to suggest violence and avoid a R rating).
The movie ends with a lot of action. These scenes look great, but why are there so many of them? Once you've seen one of them you've seen them all. Ever heard of the expression Less is more? Or did Michael Bay second unit these sequences?
I guess a Christopher Reeve-like new Superman movie would have failed at the box office. So maybe director Zack Snyder did it right by choosing for this dark but realistic approach. The box office success of Man of Steel proves him right. But this is not my Superman. I miss the nerd Clark Kent. I miss the laughs. Why does Superman take itself so seriously? But overall I miss a heart. Watching the movie I didn't care about Clark Kent, Lois Lane or Superman anymore. It made me even long for Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, by far the worst Superman movie ever made.
But let us end on a positive note. Man of Steel was humourless and bad, but it's still way better than a turkey Green Lantern. And I must confess that Henry Cavill's body was really super. But wouldn't it be nice if Zack Snyder skipped Man of Steel 2 and focused on Dawn of the Dead part 2? Because that's a movie I would really like to see!
Monsters University (2013)
Finally and thankfully Pixar does it again!
Of all the Pixar movies Monsters Inc. has always been my absolute favorite. The incredible story of the remarkable friendship between Sully, Mike and Boo made me watch the movie more than 10-15 times already. When it was released on blu-ray I was the first one to buy it. So when Pixar announced another Monsters movie I got concerned. How could Pixar make a better movie than the original? Or even one that equalled it? But having seen the movie last week I can ensure you all: Pixar is back on top. Monsters University is great fun and it's Pixar best since Up!.
Monsters University, a prequel to Monsters Inc., begins with a young and very little Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) still in primary school. After a field trip to Monsters Inc. he has only one dream: to become a scarer. Years later he arrives at Monsters University but soon learns he still has a long way to go. His main problem? Mike isn't scary at all. He befriends his roommate young Randall (Steve Buscemi), who at that time is an unimportant loser (and later gets seduced by the dark side). The first night he makes an enemy out of Sully (John Goodman), a freshman who thinks that his family name (of legendary scarers) is enough to get him through school. A personal vendetta is born.
Things go wrong when Mike and Sully accidentally destroy a sacred item that belongs to the devilish Dean Hardscrabble (a brilliant Helen Mirren). They get expelled from all Scare Classes and will not graduate as a real Scarer. Luckily Mike comes up with a plan, a bet with the dean. If he finds a team to compete in the Scare Games and if he indeed wins, he's allowed to follow the Scare Classes until the end. Dean Hardscrabble approves. Now it's up to Mike, Sully and his team of losers to work as a team and go the distance
In Monsters University the Scare Games are very well done. I can see both kids and adults laughing their socks off when Mike and Sully, in the same team but still enemies, are doing their first race and try not to step on the items that make their body grow. Bizarre, but hilarious! Their next assignment, when they have to steal something in the library, is also a winner. But what really works in Monsters University is that the story is mainly about friendship. We not only see how Mike and Sully turn from big enemies into big friends; they become soul mates for life. To join the Scare Games Mike must find five extra members to form a team and the only ones left are a bunch of nerds that no one pays attention to and a big blue monster that he absolutely hates (Sully). Still Mike succeeds in making it work.
Even when you know that Mike and Sully will win the Scare Games (that isn't a spoiler, is it?), this film isn't predictable at all. It doesn't end with Sully holding up the Scare cup but it takes one more great scene to bring Mike and Sully definitely together. I will not spoil it for you, but it involves a door to the human world and a little green monster that's depressed.
Monsters University is a great film. It's both funny and sentimental in all the right places. Fans of the first movie will see a lot of cameos in this one (Yeti!). The story ends when Monsters Inc. begins. I will even advise the next generation to see Monsters University first and then go on to Monsters Inc.
Yeah, my faith in Pixar is restored. Although I must confess that with Planes coming up, things can change very fast in the wrong direction. But maybe that's because I have never liked the Cars movie.
Iron Man Three (2013)
Entertaining, but don't expect more than that
Ever since I saw the first trailers I was dying to see Iron Man 3. And that's where it all went wrong, I guess. If you expect too much from this film like me - you'll be disappointed for sure. Well, at least a little. Not that Iron Man 3 is a bad movie. It's entertaining alright. But especially the beginning is rather shaky. The motives of both the hero (Tony Stark) and the villain to join the party are not that strong. It's also a 'been there, done that' kinda thing. Except for Iron Man 'using the Force', his panic attacks and his love for Pepper not much has changed. But let's start at the beginning.
After the events of The Avengers in New York Tony Stark is restless. He can't sleep and he gets panic attacks whenever the subject comes up. Enter The Mandarin. In good Middle Eastern terrorist fashion this villain with-the-rather-strange-non-Middle-Eastern accent threatens America with attacks and other misery. This does not affect Tony until The Mandarin puts a dear friend of our billionaire hero in the hospital. And no, the victim is not Pepper (thank god!). Tony wants revenge but makes the mistake of mentioning his home address on national television. The result: the helicopter attack on his estate that can be seen in the trailer (which is pretty spectacular). Of course Tony escapes. Without his lab and with only one Iron Man prototype suit that he could save, Tony begins a quest to find the Mandarin. But very soon he finds out that all tracks lead to someone else, a person he led down several years ago and now wants to get even.
Although The Mandarin shows some serious terrorist actions, the tone of Iron Man 3 is much lighter and more humorous than part 2. Tony has to do some hero stuff without his Iron Man armor and this forces him to work together with 'normal' people (and one crazy fan). At the end he and James Rhodes form a nice team and they ultimately save the day. Overall there's more charm in Iron Man 3. At times part 2 took itself too seriously, I think.
I liked the fact that Tony had to work outside the safety of his lab and use his wits to come up with a plan to defeat the bad guy(s). I liked the character of The Mandarin, very well played by Ben Kingsley. The twist in his story was a nice one. I'm not familiar with the comics, but this one came as a complete surprise.
Is it a spoiler to say that the real villain in this movie is Guy Pearce? Maybe. Fact is that I did not understand his real motives to take a swing at Tony in this movie. Does he want his help? Does he want to destroy Iron Man? Or is he just after the president? Money? Something else? Guy Pearce's character, an inventor/businessman/scientist called Killian, is experimenting with altering DNA in the brain. Somehow he has created this invincible glow-in-the-dark army that can absorb energy, much like Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four. Come to think of it, there's more Marvel déjà vu in Iron Man 3. Lessons from Curt Connors from The Amazing Spider-Man movie for instance. Mutants. And in the end a female character even does a little 'Femke Janssen Phoenix' trick.
One last big letdown: the Air Force One scene, which was destined to be one of the highlights of the movie. In the trailer we learn that there was a hole in the aircraft and several people were sucked outside. Iron Man wants to rescue them but he can only carry four or five persons in the air. And there are at least ten victims out there! Holy macaroni, what will he do? Tony Stark's solution is pretty dumb and unrealistic. It reminded me of the space parts from Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Embarrassing, really. The 3D effects also didn't do it for me. But maybe that was because I saw the movie on a rather small screen. If you see it in IMAX it probably is much better.
No, Iron Man 3 did not live up to my expectations and I was really hoping that it would. But that does not mean that I did not enjoy myself. Robert Downey is almost on automatic with his wisecracking one- liners, but his joking around still works. All the actors do well, except maybe Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan. I think what happens to him is a weak motive for Tony Stark to take on The Mandarin. Therefore, his "This is old fashioned revenge!"-line sounds a bit exaggerated.
Watching the end credits with footage from not only Iron Man 3, but parts 1 and 2 as well you can conclude that even the makers of the saga realize that this should be the final Iron Man movie. What's more to tell? Although I love Robert Downey as Tony Stark I think it's a good idea to call it quits. Let's go for some other Marvel meat and let Tony rest for a while. Maybe there's one more big fight in him in ten or fifteen years' time, when he's passed sixty or so, like The Dark Knight who once returned. Or that boxer from Philadelphia who made one last comeback. But for now I would say that three is enough for now.
7,5 / 10
Koning van Katoren (2012)
Too serious, too realistic... too bad
A few years back Ben Sombogaart directed the film version of my favourite kids book Kruistocht in Spijkerbroek (Crusade in Jeans). He did an excellent job by not only following the events in the book but also adding elements that would make the story stronger and more realistic. My hopes for the movie adoption of my second best kids book, Koning van Katoren (King of Katoren) were therefore very high. Too bad the film disappoints on most levels.
The story is about 17 year old Stach. He wants to be the new king of Katoren and has to complete five missions in order to do so. Along the way he's followed by a beautiful young journalist, Kim, who turns out of having a hidden agenda. Jan Terlouw's original book is a fantasy story with some of little nods to the political climate of the seventies. Director Ben Sombogaart updated the story with the use of smartphones, Wikipedia, big televisions and that is all fine. His use of landscapes and locations is thrilling: Koning van Katoren looks like it costed 40 million euros. The casting of Mingus Dagelet (Stach) and Abbey Hoes as Kim is well done.
It all goes wrong with the storytelling. To break with the (boring?) chronological way of telling the story in the book, director Sombogaart uses short confusing flash forwards and flash backs. The thread of a looming war is illustrated by documentary- like images of war planes, tanks and big war ships that pretty seem out of place in the overall atmosphere of the movie. To make the movie more realistic in some parts of Kartoren other languages are spoken (Italian and German). A European may respect that, but for kids and people who haven't read the book it slows down the action.
Ben Sombogaart is one of the most respected filmmakers of the Netherlands. His desire to also tackle kids literature can be applauded, but in this case it works out the wrong way. Perhaps a more fun and less serious tone would have been a better choice.