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160 reviews in total 
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247°F (2011)
39 out of 48 people found the following review useful:
It's difficult to warm to 247°F, 15 October 2012

Four friends gather for a weekend trip that turns into a nightmare when three of them end up stuck inside of a sauna.

There's not much to go on other than that for a synopsis but movies banking on a claustrophobic vibe have tackled even bigger challenges. One only has to think about Buried, featuring Ryan Reynolds all alone and six feet under. A good screenplay featuring rich characters and interesting conflicts could probably have carried 247°F but unfortunately, this wasn't the case here.

247°F features cookie-cutter protagonists who follow the usual formula but without much savvy and no heart. Of course, you've got the prototypical troubled girl as the main character. Her carefree hot female friend. The cynical jock who is the hottie's insensitive boyfriend and of course, the more down to earth dude who may or may not hook up with our heroin.

Georgia is a country that more and more international productions are turning to for cost-effective shooting, so I suppose they might as well turn to making their own movies. This one has the look and production values of a typical American straight-to-video. The problem here is the story, the screenplay. The movie begins by highlighting the past of Jenna, a now quiet girl who survived a car accident but lost her boyfriend. 247°F takes place three years later, as a medicated Jenna still struggles to get past that tragedy. Unfortunately, the screenplay and direction never make this gripping.

One could hope the story would finally take off once the three characters get stuck inside but this is not the case either. There is no character development, not much in the way of interesting conflicts. No smart thinking and not much drama unfolding other than the three of them successively losing their temper or arguing pointlessly. All of this intersecting with a few scenes featuring people on the outside going about their business. Will the three find a way out? Will someone on the outside help them? Those two questions are what 247°F is all about but unfortunately, the screenplay doesn't build much suspense. The audience is simply left waiting with very little sense of anticipation being built up.

Scout Taylor-Compton is adequate as Jenna. The other protagonists are played by standard B-movie actors probably picked because they are nice too look at. The music score is decent. There are no major faults as far as cinematography... but as a whole, this is below average film making with no heart, because such a story demands a much richer screenplay.

It should also be mentioned that despite this being listed in the horror genre, there is very little here that qualifies the movie as such. (I personally did not mind and I did not lower the rating for that, but think it deserves to be mentioned so that others won't be disappointed)

Erased (2012)
56 out of 111 people found the following review useful:
A poor man's Bourne, 25 September 2012

A US expatriate working as a security expert in Belgium finds out one day he is involved in a conspiracy that may jeopardize his life and that of his teenage daughter.

Director Philipp Stölzl, better known for the highly praised "Nordwand", tries his hand here at a pulse-pounding thriller. Unfortunately, he borrows just about every trick in the Bourne trilogy without ever pulling it off and the story written by Amel is incredibly weak.

Aaron Eckhart is an incredibly talented and rather versatile actor but once again, makes a bad choice when choosing a leading role. Eckhart has absolutely nothing to work with and seems wasted here, despite doing his best. You can even sense there is chemistry with Liana Berato, who plays his daughter, but to what avail? Liberato plays the token rebellious daughter who you know will eventually turn around.

Every single person appearing on screen other than these two is a cardboard character reciting lines. This unfortunately includes Olga Kurylenko, playing a possibly corrupt agent who is chasing our hero and seem involved in the conspiracy. Kurylenko usually commands attention on the screen, even in entertaining B movies but here, you barely notice her.

I'm not against knockoffs, certainly not when we're talking about movies as entertaining as the Bourne entries but The Expatriate is a very poor knockoff, unworthy of even a single viewing unless you are a fanatic of this type of action thriller. Even then, expect to be disappointed.

Like Crazy (2011)
2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Genuine, 23 February 2012

In Los Angeles, Jacob falls for Anna, who is a foreign student. The movie follows the hardships of their relationship when Anna experiences visa problems that could keep her home in the UK.

I was intrigued by the mixed reviews this movie was receiving from IMDb "prolific authors" and after watching Like Crazy for myself, I understand better.

Drake Doremus opts for a stripped down, naturalistic style for this love story that works quite well. A simple structure was built and the actors were allowed to improvised a good part of the dialog. In interviews, the director mentions how he and co-writer Ben York Jones were inspired by their own experiences with long distance relationships and this shows. Doremus captures in many ways the essence of love, the good and the bad of it.

Most reviews, positive or negative have noted the quality acting by the leads, which should tell you something. Yelchin is reliable as usual while Felicity Jones will gain new fans on this side of the Atlantic with a performance showing passion and vulnerability.

If there is something that will divide viewers, it is on the pacing of the story. In around 90 minutes, Doremus packs many, many scenes and events and we see these characters evolve, not only their love lives but their careers. There is a brevity to most scenes which reminds of the structure of a biopic where a lot of material must be covered. You never feel lost through it all but some viewers will probably regret the absence of longer, better structured and scenes that really hit you.

This has been compared to 500 days of summer (probably for its bittersweet take on love) and Blue Valentine (probably for its documentary-style of movie-making) but I was personally reminded of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, as a film resting squarely on two actors and their chemistry. Unlike Linklater's works however, the script of Like Crazy never really allows us to completely lose ourselves inside this universe and those two characters. It's nonetheless a moving film and very worthwhile.

8 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
A polarizing mixed bag of horror and comedy, 21 December 2011

A gang of criminal teenagers team up with a nurse they previously robbed to fight off alien creatures.

Attack the Block takes place mostly in in a UK's council estate (basically, a building apartment that serves as public housing). The movie plays out like a mix between Assault on Precinct 13th (for making their last stand in a building) and Pitch Black (a bickering crew fighting off savage alien critters). And much like those two movies, the protagonists here are not exactly squeaky clean "heroes". In fact, the members of the South London gang are very much portrayed as teenage criminals and the very first thing we see is their entire group robbing a nurse and threatening her with a knife.

Teenage criminality has been a very, very hot topic in the UK lately and it is not surprising that this movie has polarized viewers just for featuring such gang members as "good guys by default". Joe Cornish does tease the audience a bit by first exposing them as harsh criminal but then showing more dimensions to them. The young gang leader, 15-year old Moses somewhat goes through a transformation during the movie, which may be called a redemption by some viewers while stretching credibility for others.

The movie itself plays very much like an 80s creature feature with an extra dose of humor. The aliens are quite silly. And Cornish alternates between gory scenes, comedic elements and at times a little bit of drama. I must say I did not find this blend worked very well but at least, Cornish does try to keep the movie fresh despite the avalanche of clichés on display.

In the end, I thought it was an interesting experiment but not as well done as it could have been.

Taken (2008/I)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Entertaining, 20 December 2011

When his daughter is kidnapped abroad, a former CIA operative follows the trail of a sex trade ring and stops at nothing to find her.

Taken walks the fine line between "true action movie" entertainment and a a grim thriller. The formula works although there are times when you wish director Morel had made a clear choice between the two.

The movie starts well, establishing ex-CIA operative Bryan Mills as a flawed father with the best of intentions. And once his daughter is kidnapped (during a brilliant iconic scene involving a call between Mills and his daughter) the tension rises considerably. The action sequences impress early on and some people have compared them to the Bourne franchise.

However, the body count starts to pile up at rate that is hard to swallow when the feel and tone of the movie seems like a thriller or procedural flick. This is not Die Hard or Lethal Weapon where you expect a fun romp filled with humor and extravagant scenes and yet, the movie cannot be viewed in a serious tone as Mills leave a huge trail of killing and destruction behind him.

Likewise, the sex slave ring angle gives a grim tone to the entire movie but Taken never fully explores that aspect, keeping the movie fast and furious. The second half of the flick stretches the confine of realism but without ever becoming tongue-in-cheek. Liam Neeson is perfect as Mills but the rest of the cast sleepwalks through the film. Casting Maggie Grace (25 year old during filming) as Mills' 17 year old daughter is very questionable to me. So this is really a Neeson one-man show.

All in all, this is packaged as a tense thriller but is really just a good old action movie where the plot does not make much sense. There is nothing wrong with that but, with a tighter plot and an extra 15 minutes of character development, it could have been an even better movie.

7 out of 10

Die Hard (1988)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A masterpiece in the action genre, 20 December 2011

In Los Angeles, a well-organized group of criminals crash a corporate Christmas party taking place in a high rise building and take everyone hostage, except for one down-on-his luck New-York cop. A bloody cat and mouse game between NYPD officer John McClane and the so-called terrorists ensues.

It's been over two decades since Die Hard was released and having just watched it again, I am amazed at how well it has stood the test of time as a fun action flick. Die Hard created new standards in the action genre that have rarely been achieved this well since then. It all starts with the protagonist John McClane. The character being portrayed as a flawed cop with his own set of problems makes it easy for the audience to relate to his struggles. Director John McTiernan wisely decided to cast Bruce Willis, who was up to that point mostly considered a comedy actor on TV, rather than a big established action star. Willis grabbed this opportunity and turned John McClane into an iconic character in the genre thanks to mixing humor and toughness while still showing the character as fallible. The audience suffers with McClane as the character accumulate bruises and bumps and has to deal not only with the criminals but also with the incompetent authorities.

Another element that explains the movie's success is the vast number of secondary characters who are surprisingly well fleshed out considering the very limited screen time most of them get. Of course, Alan Rickman as the evil mastermind Hans Gruber is perfect. But it is really in the small details given to other characters that we find many great lines.

Die Hard's biggest achievement is probably in how it successfully mixes gritty action while injecting humor at just the right moments. After establishing the scenery in the first 15 minutes, Die Hard begins to gain more and more momentum, seemingly never letting the foot off the gas pedal. But despite that, McTiernan never takes the movie too seriously and we get several memorable lines and humorous moments.

Setting the whole movie inside of a building creates a great sense of claustrophobia for the viewers. The action scenes are brilliant, we wonder how McClane will prevail against a bunch criminals armed with automatic weapons and worse. We share McClane's frustration when the police proves to be clueless, we laugh at the jokes. Technically, the movie is well shot, with few frills and the special effects take a backseat to good old action scenes.

All in all, Die Hard is a brilliant genre movie which will appeal to all action fans but is brilliant enough to entertain viewers who do not usually enjoy this type of film.

A classic.

Anguish (1987)
4 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
A clever idea, poorly executed..., 19 December 2011

The core concept of this film is watching a slasher movie about people in a theater... who are watching a slasher movie themselves. The main idea certainly has merits and a lot of potential but alas, writer and director Bigas Luna never achieves it.

The first slasher (the movie within the movie) has occult and psychedelic overtones but is rather silly. It does feature the only two actors worthy of the title in Lerner and Rubinstein. The second film is uninspired at best and features awful acting all around. Both suffer from drawn out scenes that go absolutely nowhere.

The most excitement regarding Anguish is when you first discover you are watching a movie within a movie and then, you wait for something clever to happen... except it never does. Poorly written, shot, acted and edited, Anguish will mostly be remembered as a cool idea that may have been ahead of its time.

Thesis (1996)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Interesting thriller and commentary, 17 December 2011

While working on her Thesis regarding the fascination for violence in the media and entertainment, a student uncovers a snuff movie and suspects the people involved in its making may have ties to her university.

Despite its gruesome subject, this film plays very much like an 80s whodunnit classic. In fact, the camera work in several sequences reminded me of the early thrillers directed by Brian DePalma.

What makes this film is interesting is that for its release time (1996) the film in a way foreshadows what was to come as far as violence and how it is portrayed and promoted in the wave of filmmakers. Amenábar wisely elects to keep most of the violence off screen. Sometimes, it's almost as if you were watching a torture porn film while covering your eyes with your hand during the torture scenes.

The social commentary is great but unfortunately takes a backseat to the whodunnit mystery. We do understand that Angela, the student, is quite conflicted when it comes to violence. She is both fascinated and repulsed by displays of violence and other morbid topics. Two other characters help form a triangle of sort. Angela befriends, Chema an amateur of questionable movies who fully acknowledges his own attraction to violence. Chema is very much a typical, socially awkward person but as the movie progresses, it is nice to see the relationship between him and Angela evolve. The third character is Bosco, played admirably by Eduardo Noriega. Angela suspects Bosco may be involved in the production of snuff movies yet falls for his charming ways.

There are several other characters but Amenábar only brushes on the surface of those. What we are left with is a good movie with some tense scenes but unfortunately also a movie that feels a bit dated. If Amenábar had explored the Thesis angle a little more, this might have been a classic. Instead, he focuses on the mystery aspect and a few thrills.

A solid debut by this director who did much better later in his career.

Colombiana (2011)
3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Mildly entertaining but forgettable, 30 November 2011

An assassin goes on a killing spree in order to avenge the brutal murder of her parents which she witnessed as a child.

It is not surprising to see Luc Besson producing a film with such a synopsis, as we are in familiar waters here. Once again employing one of his collaborator as director, Olivier Megaton, the story has elements that we often see with Besson. Pure characters whose innocence is lost at the hand of larger than life villains and hyper competent badasses with a heart of gold are a staple of Besson's filmography. You've seen such motifs in Leon, Kiss of the Dragon, The Transporter, Taken and a few others.

Even though the recipe can be overused, it is such a good one that it usually gives an entertaining result and sometimes, even the worse clichés can make a solid entry, such as 2008's Taken. Unfortunately, with Colombiana, something is missing in the ingredients.

On the surface, Colombiana has a lot going for it. Aesthetically, the movie is nice to look at, although no shot is truly memorable. The editing is tight and on par with a standard action movie. Zoe Saldana gives an OK performance but never truly gives the character any depth. The rest of the cast is adequate but have very little to work with. As great as Cliff Curtis can be, you cannot work from a vacuum. But the biggest culprit is the story, which tries to cram a lot of elements and ends up neglecting most of them. Scenes from the protagonist's childhood add very little emotional investment for viewers as they pass by quickly and stretch believability to the extreme. Scenes featuring her uncle-mentor have very little substance, likewise for scenes featuring her romantic interest. All these characters end up eating screen time without adding much to the story.

But Colombiana's cardinal sin may be the way it handles action scenes. Although there are quite a few, none of them is very memorable or handled particularly well. An action movie with a silly story may be redeemed by action scenes but here it isn't the case. Comparatively, Megaton's debut, La Sirene Rouge, had much less action scenes but those few were handled much better.

Colombiana is a good way to kill time for fans of action movies but offers little to anyone else.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Brothers At War, 29 November 2011

As the conflict between North and South Korea reaches a new high in 1950, two brothers are conscripted and forced to abandon the rest of their family in order to defend their country. The younger, Jin-seok, is the pride of his family, a peaceful, quiet student. His older brother, Jin-tae, has a good heart but a more fiery temper and is willing go to any length to protect Jin-seok and send him on his way home as soon as possible. The trials that this war inflicts on both men will transform each of them in different ways.

This above would be Tae Guk Gi in a nutshell, although the film covers a lot of ground and is quite epic in its scale. Many reviewers have mentioned the influence Saving Private Ryan may have had on this movie and although I this this has been exaggerated, I can understand where they are coming from. The battle scenes do seem to borrow stylistically from SVP. They are quite intense, very big yet intensely up close and personal at times. They plunge the viewers right in the middle of all this chaos and can be quite gruesome. There are quite a few battles throughout the movie, and they unfortunately make less of an impact as time goes by due to some repetitiveness.

Having said that, despite the epic scale and quite a few characters being depicted, the bulk of Tae Guk Gi focuses on the two brothers and how war affects them. It is here that the movie scores its better points but also where it fails at times. The changes they both go through are well depicted but unfortunately, from beginning to end the movie is wrapped in melodramatic overtones that make for an awkward viewing at times. Cheesy dialog, overacting and a downright silly score that accentuates it all are all part of the experience.

The movie is nonetheless an intense experience, features likable if flawed protagonists. The characters surrounding them are also interesting and you wish you got to know some of them a little better. The movie gets props for portraying evils done by both sides during a conflict. Around the midway point of the movie, things start becoming interesting as it becomes evident nothing is black and white in war but unfortunately, the script doesn't make the best of this.

This is a recommended war movie as well as a fine film on blood ties and how they cope when everything is on the line.

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