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''The 5th Wave'' is one of the worst in a series of dystopian
coming-of-age dramas with female lead actresses where quantity beats
quality. This movie stands out negatively because of a plot that lacks
depth and explanations. There is an increasing number of scenes towards
the end of the film that are so unrealistic that they feel like a
misguided genre parody. An overall extremely exchangeable acting
performance makes things even worse. The movie lacks tension and has
noticeable lengths. It tries to be atmospheric at times but overall
lacks consistent intensity as some parts of the film are dominated by
vapid side plots focusing on generic dialogues. The visual special
effects are also surprisingly unspectacular for such an ambitious
production. Since this movie has another ridiculous open ending, I
would urge you not to watch this film because you might feel obliged to
watch future sequels that might be even worse.
Despite all its flaws, this movie has a few positive elements to be fair. First of all, Chloë Grace Moretz is one of the more talented teenage actresses of this generation and she is the only reason why one should even consider watching this film. Her acting performance finds the right mixture between emotionality and maturity to convince related to the story and her age. Even the usual predictable love story between the two lead characters was more credible than I had expected. Another positive element are two twists in the last third of the story which were rather predictable for me but which might take younger audiences by surprise. The few atmospheric scenes that take place in the camp and in the forest were shot efficiently. The middle part of the movie was overall stronger than the lacklustre and overlong introduction and the laughable coda with its disappointing open ending. The middle section is also where the best fighting scenes and special effects take place that accelerate this surprisingly slow-paced movie a little bit.
Still, this movie has more negative than positive elements and is obviously weaker than he comparable ''The Hunger Games'', the ''Divergent'' and ''The Maze Runner'' series. Only faithful fans of Chloë Grace Moretz should give this a try. This movie might be of a good average quality for teenagers who like the genre but is unappropriated for younger audiences and simply boring for older audiences.
Hou Hsiao-hsien's "The Assassin" is a very introspective, metaphorical
and philosophical wuxia movie that requests a lot of patience from its
audience. It's more like a slow-paced historical drama than anything
else. It's comparable to Wong Kar-wai's episodic, mysterious and
sophisticated "Ashes of Time". Both movies received critical acclaim by
intellectual movie critics but were mostly despised by regular
audiences. Since the trailers aren't very helpful, potential viewers
should read a handful of critics and make themselves familiar with
other works of these particular directors in cases like "Ashes of Time"
and "The Assassin" before watching such a film.
There are less than a handful of fighting scenes and only a few secondary murder scenes in the movie despite its title and those scenes are not necessarily spectacularly executed.
The movie doesn't have a lot of continuous dialogues but the few words that are spoken are meaningful and help the audience to understand the twisted story that unfolds slowly but surely. A lot of things are explained through facial expressions, still lives and symbols of nature which aren't always obvious to understand. The movie is so slow yet precise that it requests a lot of attention and maybe even multiple viewing to fully grasp its content.
The acting performances seem restricted and wooden at first sight but turn out being extremely precise and talented since the characters are all very emotional behind a veil of traditional discipline.
The challenging acting performances, the calm camera work, the colourful costumes, the accurate dialogues, the diversified landscapes and the atmospheric soundtrack all add to the guiding line of this unusual film which deals with characters who are restricted in their traditional laws, rules and values but who are longing for emotions, freedom and individual fulfilment. From this point of view, the movie is more than a simple period drama and has a modern message that suggests that individual liberty is a greater good than governmental conventions. It might not come as a surprise to you that this seemingly traditional movie was made by a director who has rather identified himself with Taiwanese culture, history and values. This film seems to offer much more than meets the eye.
If you are willing to look beyond the slow mood in beautiful pictures, you will discover an inspired and profound movie which offers a lot of food for thought. If you are looking for memorable entertainment, you will definitely not like this movie. I admit that this film is hard to digest and I couldn't watch this kind of cinematic art on a regular base but I appreciated the movie's hidden messages or at least my own interpretation of the ambiguous content and its coherent yet unique style. It was the director's goal to make its audience think on its own and while two of my friends who watched this movie found it dull, pointless and pretentious, I accepted, elaborated on and ultimately enjoyed its challenges.
"The Chase" is a highly entertaining action-comedy b-movie that offers
a fast-paced story inspired by the Stockholm Syndrome. It also exposes
a cynical satire of yellow journalism, the vice of the rich and famous
and disorganized, overtly sensational police work in the United States
of America. This flick surprises with a vivid rock soundtrack, solid
actors and actresses like Charlie Sheen and Ray Wise and a few stunning
cameo appearances by pop culture icons from Anthony Kiedis and Flea of
the Red Hot Chili Peppers to adult movie actor and director Ron Jeremy.
In addition to this, the numerous action sequences and a purposely
over-the-top love scene spice this movie up until the explosive and
All these diverting elements pardon for a few low budget special effects, somewhat superficial dialogues, a couple of laughable plot holes and a predictable story line with ridiculously flat characters apart of the surprisingly convincing leading roles. Even two decades after its original release, this movie is still absolutely entertaining and fully enjoyable despite its obvious flaws if you switch your brains off for ninety minutes of power. In addition to this, the movie perfectly represents the cinematic stereotypes of the nineties such as explosive action sequences hiding vapid plots, charismatic anti-heroes who fight their desperate fates and lots of colourful clothes and haircuts, enthusiastic, juvenile and at times silly rock and pop songs and numerous flashy cars, merchandise articles and television shows that almost evoke nostalgic feelings nowadays.
In the end, you will adore this film if you are looking for a memorable diversified action-comedy flick that represents all the shameful yet entertaining pop culture elements of the nineties. If you are looking for an innovating and profound film, forget it but you will have to admit that the movie is good for what it is.
"Yakuza Apocalypse" is one of last year's most flamboyant movies. It
shouldn't come as a surprise that it's the most recent movie of famous
Japanese director Takashi Miike, a diversified workaholic who shoots
numerous movies each year and who has gained critical acclaim with
psychological horror movies such as "Audition" (1999), gangster movies
like "Family" (2001), experimental flicks like "Gozu" (2003),
historically inspired action movies like "Thirteen Assassins" (2010),
courtroom dramas like "Ace Attorney" (2012) and brutal revenge flicks
like "Shield of Straw" (2013). Obviously, there is a lot of hit and
miss in this director's extensive filmography but I have adored most of
his movies. No matter what genre Takshi Miike touches, his movies are
often direct, intense and surprising and he has a very distinctive
style that some people love and others despise. There are only few
people who would describe Takashi Miike as an average director and his
movies mostly get very positive ratings or extremely negative critics
which is the reason why most of his movies still have balanced
averages. ''Yakuza Apocalypse'' is definitely a controversial movie.
Some people might get lost while watching this film while others will
adore this movie's eclectic style.
It's not easy to describe this unpredictable movie. It's basically a mixture of a gangster movie with a supernatural horror film and an absurd fantasy parody. "Yakuza Apocalypse" works a lot with contrasts. It features a rape scene and a brutal assassination on one side but humorously exaggerated special effects and slapstick fight choreographies on the other. There are profound dialogues but there is also a lot of situation comedy. The mood of the film can switch from brutal to light-hearted, from emotional to superficial and from serious to ridiculous in a few minutes. It's remarkable that the director still doesn't lose the film's guide line and manages not only to tell an intriguing story but also to include some smartly hidden social criticism here and there by ridiculing conservative gangster codes.
"Yakuza Apocalypse" tells the story of a disrespected young Yakuza who wants to avenge the death of his mentor who was assassinated by the mob of an international gangster syndicate. What makes this movie outstanding are the eclectic characters in this potpourri of genres. You will encounter a weird woman whose head is filled with a noisy liquid, a smart Asian gangster who looks and talks like William Shakespeare, an Indonesian martial arts expert, a hyperactive kappa goblin and a giant frog that wants to destroy the world. Expect the unexpected and you will get some very original entertainment.
In the end, even by Takashi Miike' standards, if he has any, this is one of his weirdest movies along with "Gozu" which is one of my favourite films of all times. This movie here is a little bit less atmospheric and the acting is only of an average quality. Still, this film offers multiple fireworks of creativity and has the potential to become a true cult movie in the future in the key of odd, recent North American films like "The Interview" and "Tusk". This flick has so many incredible genre changes, hilarious details and weird characters that it can be watched a dozen times without getting boring because there will always be something new to rediscover. "Yakuza Apocalypse" offers many flamboyant scenes that should lead to controversial debates with your friends but you can also switch your brain off and enjoy this incredible fun ride on your own. If you're expecting a serious mainstream movie though, you will be disappointed and get the exact opposite. Those who aren't familiar with Takashi Miike's works should maybe try out "Gozu" and other movies before approaching this pleasant oddball.
''Elephant Song'' is a rather unusual drama. Despite a rather
predictable story, an unnecessarily twisted plot development and a few
vapid side stories going nowhere with at best average actors and
actresses, this movie is still recommendable and one of the better
genre flicks of the past years.
This is due to two precise elements. First of all, the movie has a numbing, nostalgic and deject atmosphere that serves as intriguing guide line. The soundtrack, the settings and the most important characters all add to this. This movie has a soul and a universe that is perhaps a little bit antiquated but still emotionally intriguing.
The second and most important reason why this movie works so well is the outstanding acting performance by Xavier Dolan. He plays a fascinating character who tries to be so unpredictable that it becomes predictable, who pretends to be crazy and evil even though he knows that he is very sane and kind at heart and who ends up trying to be rational and honest even though he still is irrationally emotional and cleverly dishonest for one very precise reason. This character and this actor make an otherwise at best average or even slightly below average flick an above average psycho drama. Even though Xavier Dolan is essentially known as a young and promising French-Canadian director, I hope he will focus on his acting career as well since this is where he really shines.
If you are looking for an atmospheric and slow-paced psycho drama with a fascinating main character, this is one of the best films of its kind of the decade. If you are looking for a clever plot and a diversified film, you will though end up being disappointed. With a better script and a more skilled director, Xavier Dolan could be a realistic candidate for an Academy Award for Best Actor in the near future.
''The Forest'' is a British-American supernatural horror movie which
takes place in the infamous Aokigahara, a vast forest below Mount Fuji
that has a historic association with demons in Japanese mythology and
which is a notoriously common suicide site. The film tells the story of
a young American woman who tries to rescue her twin sister who was
working as an English teacher in Tokyo and who disappeared during a
weekend trip to said forest. While local authorities believe that the
troubled young woman committed suicide, her sister believes she is
still alive since she has a special supernatural connection to her. She
travels to Japan on her own and decides to look for her sister despite
several warnings from local guides. She gets help from an Australian
journalist and a Japanese park guide when she starts looking for her
sister. She soon starts to have strange visions, has numerous arguments
with the two men, gets mentally unstable and ultimately lost in the
woods. The young has to fight her own demons of the past first in order
to uncover the mysterious fate of her twin sister and survive after
What I liked about the movie is the inspiring and original settings in Japan. The movie includes a few interesting cultural elements which build up a chilling atmosphere. The introduction of the movie is short and to the point. The background story of the two sisters is a quite good idea but could have been a little bit more detailed and profound. The camera, light and sound techniques are solid and overall there aren't too many low-budget shaky camera sections in this film which is positively exceptional nowadays.
On the other side, this movie would have been much more authentic if it had been made by an entire Japanese film crew even though most Western cinemas might have ignored such a film due to Hollywood's monopoly. I have seen several Japanese horror movies and they usually offer an intense mixture of supernatural horror elements and perfectly inserted bits and pieces of their own rich culture. ''The Forest'' doesn't have the same kind of depth and remains an entertaining yet exchangeable horror movie that could almost take place anywhere around the world. From an atmospheric point of view, there are two or three mysterious scenes and two or three good jump scares but other parts of the movie are rather dull and sometimes we get fifteen to twenty minutes where nothing important happens at all and where the movie loses a lot of momentum. The acting is of an average quality and none of the actors or actresses leaves a positive impression. This is mostly due to a poor script. It might introduce a few promising ideas like the mysterious death of the twins' parents but they aren't much developed and remain mostly superficial.
The conclusion to the film is controversial and in my opinion rather confusing, hectic and absolutely implausible. I'm aware of the fact that a supernatural horror movie isn't supposed to be realistic but this ending is so absurd that it's almost laughable. It's a typical ''deus ex machina'' ending which sadly fits to an overall vapid plot.
In the end, faithful horror movie fans and those who like to get exposed to Japanese culture by any means can give this film a try. For anyone else, this movie is nothing more or less than an average supernatural horror flick which isn't really scary after all. If you want to go to the cinema with a couple of friends and get exposed to a handful of jump scares, this movie might be entertaining at some points. If you watch it on your own or are expecting something clever, this film is a letdown. If you are truly interested in profound supernatural horror movies connected to Asian culture, you can find much better films from Asia which are ignored by Western cinemas.
''The Hateful Eight'' is a typical Quentin Tarantino movie. It has a
slow build-up that carefully introduces the eight different characters.
The dialogues are very elaborated and mix crude vocabulary with more
intellectual expressions to create an emotional balance. The tension of
the movie is based on the cold landscapes, the long dialogues, the
restricted setting, the excellent gloomy soundtrack and an overall
simple yet efficient story with a little twist. It takes nearly two
hours before the first main character dies and the killing scenes are
then very graphic, purposely exaggerated and chillingly refreshing in
contrast to the lengthy conversations. Anyone who knows Quentin
Tarantino gets exactly what one can expect from him.
This factor has its advantages and disadvantages. The dialogues are among the very best in modern Hollywood cinema. The camera techniques are epic, the settings add to the atmosphere of the film and the score composed by Ennio Morricone is great. The eight characters are unique and very different from each other. They are incarnated by eight actors who really shine in this movie. All of them do an outstanding job but I would like to point the acting of the only female lead character played by Jennifer Jason Leigh who perfectly portrays a sneaky, sadistic and opportunistic criminal that constantly tries to manipulate people around her. The relations between the different characters are what makes this movie even more outstanding. Unlikely rivalries and alliances come and go during the movie and none of the characters is predictable.
On the negative side, the movie is comparable to several previous movies by Quentin Tarantino. In my opinion, the film has too many similarities with his last western ''Django Unchained'', including the setting, discussions about slavery and the Civil War background. Another negative element is the length of the movie. While the film builds up a lot of atmosphere, some momentum gets lost in the middle of the film before the first character dies. The movie could have been shortened by at least twenty to thirty minutes to assure a more fluid experience. Another element that bothered me a little bit was the perspective change in the movie. Right before the climax, the film introduces an entire chapter set in the early hours of the same day that reveals all the twists in about twenty minutes which decreases the impact of the following climax and interrupts the flow of the movie in an odd way. This background story could have been told differently, quicker and especially at a different moment in the movie.
In the end, ''The Hateful Eight'' might not be Quentin Tarantino's best movie so far but it's a good or slightly above average film by him. The dialogues of the script are worthy of an Academy Award, the camera, light and sound techniques have both a retro style and are up to modern standards and the actors and actresses deliver some of their very best career performances. If you like westerns, the stunning landscapes and the story are two more reasons for you to adore this movie. If you are looking for a more graphic, short-paced and violent movie, ''The Hateful Eight'' might bore you since the film is unusually long and at points hard to sit through, focuses almost only on dialogues and character developments and only gets physically intense in the last sixth of the movie. Personally, this was one of last year's greatest movies in my opinion but you will only admire this movie if you are familiar with other works of Quentin Tarantino, like western stories and settings and adore elaborated dialogues.
''Ashes of Time'' is a unique art film which is loosely bound upon Jin
Yong's wuxia novel ''The Legend of the Condor Heroes''. Despite two
blurry action choreographies, this movie can't be considered as a
martial arts movie at all. Due to its philosophical content, its
numerous metaphors and examples of symbolism and its calm episodic
script, this movie could best be categorized as an art-house drama. The
movie is separated into five fragments according to the four seasons
with the spring season representing both introduction and coda of this
piece of art. The director doesn't offer any conclusion to its vague
story and challenges the audience to make sense of this film on its
The only guiding lines of the movie are the changes of season, the transformation of colourful landscapes and the topic of unrequited love and how to deal with this depressing fate. Each character has faced, currently faces or will face a desperate love relationship and everyone of them tries to find a different solution: one of them simply tries to forget the past, another one seeks refuge in isolation and another one wants to assassinate the one who causes all the emotional and mental suffering. In the end, none of the characters can find a satisfying answer on their quest for redemption. Despite the depressing tone, the beginning of the movie can be interpreted as the origin of a quest for redemption while the coda might be seen as an optimistic attempt at renaissance.
This film can be interpreted in at least two ways. One possibility is that the main location in form of a bare cabin in the desert is a meeting point for solitary souls who feel outcast from society and who are absorbed by their mental problems. The main character listens to their different stories and often manages to find solutions for them but he is still unable to solve his own problems. Another possibility is that this movie is only about the main character and that the side characters only exist on his confused mind and represent different sides of his shattered soul looking for salvation.
Despite its colourful journey, inspiring philosophical content and revolutionary visual component, this courageous piece of art is not appropriate for mainstream audiences and might even be hard to digest for passionate cineasts. The movie's pace is extremely slow and it contains several noticeable lengths towards the middle. While the few fight choreographies could have spiced things up a little bit, they happen to be rather redundant, slow and unspectacular.
In the end, you should absolutely watch this if you have an open mind for philosophical art-house experiments that request your intellectual participation in the movie. You should avoid it if you are expecting a vivid wuxia movie or a tense martial arts film because your expectations won't be met and you will end up being disappointed.
Tsui Hark movies are always a mixed bag for me. The Vietnamese New Wave
director created visually stunning, profoundly philosophical and mostly
historically inspired movies like the ''A Chinese Ghost Story'' and
''Once Upon a Time in China'' movie series in his early years that any
movie fan should know. In recent years, he rather focused on
commercially entertaining, effect-ridden and overall meaningless films
such as ''Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame'' and
''The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate''. The latter movies weren't
entirely bad but they weren't on the same artistic, authentic and
intellectual level as his early classics. ''The Taking of Tiger
Mountain'' is situated somewhere in between both categories but
probably closer to the second group than to the first.
On the positive side, the movie is partially historically inspired even though the film isn't devoid of a certain propagandistic approach that presents the People's Liberation Army in a much too positive way. The movie basically tells the story of a small group within this army that needs to outsmart a large group of bandits that are raiding villages in the northern parts of the fragile country. The settings of the movie are truly spectacular. The costumes, the villages and even the way the actors speak are truly accurate and trace your way back seventy years in time. Most of the story is set in elegant winter landscapes and one gets to see breathtaking valleys and mountains, simple but charming skiing exercises and even a couple of animals such as the tiger that attacks the protagonist halfway through the movie. In comparison with Tsui Hark's other recent movies, especially the first half of the film feels refreshingly authentic, natural and realistic and only a few effects are used in an efficient way. Towards the climax of the story, more and more special effects are used but they somehow add to the action and tension of the film and don't feel randomly inserted as in many of his other recent films. The action choreographies are stunning and the best example for these intense passages is the battle in the raided village which takes place towards the last third of the movie. While the acting itself is not outstanding, it definitely has more depth than characters in Tsui Hark's more recent films and one can feel some empathy with the smart and mysterious protagonist, the emotional and lonely child or the optimistic female combat medic.
On the negative side, the main villain remains superficial and even ridiculous at certain moments. The short moments of humour when he speaks nonsense or exaggeration when he gestures in theatrical manner feel out of place and unnecessarily decrease the intensity of the movie. The special effects get a little bit exaggerated in the final twenty minutes or so of the movie and contrast the initially authentic magic of the movie that turns into something which isn't a far call from a meaningless Hollywood action flick. The story itself is also a little bit too simple, predictable and one-sided. Another element which I disliked is how the movie was forcedly connected to some random Chinese emigrant living in New York City who can't let go of his culture, family and past instead of trying to become accurately integrated in a foreign country. I feel that this connection to our contemporary world didn't add anything at all to the movie even if the director probably intended to prove that the value of this story based on Qu Bo's novel of the same name from 1957 has been firmly planted in the Chinese national consciousness for more than half a century.
In the end, the numerous positive elements are much more impressive and present than the few negative facts which can be seen as secondary. Tsui Hark somewhat redeems himself after a series of rather shallow flicks that were only aiming for commercial success, modern special effects and simple entertainment. This movie has more depth concerning the characters, magic settings and at least some kind of moral at certain points in the story. This movie still isn't on the same level as Tsui Hark's earliest successes but fans of historically inspired contemporary Chinese action movies can't go wrong with this movie and should therefore give this film a chance.
''Black Coal, Thin Ice'' is a sinister neo-noir movie by renowned
Chinese actor, director and screenwriter Diao Yinan. The film is a
mixture of a slow-paced thriller and a depressing drama. The movie
received wide critical acclaim and won the Golden Bear award at the
Berlin International Film Festival among others.
Sadly, this movie is a good example for the fact that critically acclaimed movies rarely appeal to wider audiences. Things start promisingly in the beginning when body parts are found in different coal factories in the People's Republic of China in 1999. The locations look empty, grey and polluted and show unusually cold-hearted, contemporary and realistic facets of the country. Just about fifteen minutes into the movie, a very weird scene occurs. The cops want to interview a first suspect and the whole event escalates for no apparent reason. The suspect and some of his friends die as well as several cops. We soon get to know that the suspects didn't seem to have anything to do with the murder and the question is why they would immediately panic when they saw the police and try to kill everyone around them. The whole scene was intense and had a shocking effect but it felt exaggerated and almost surreal. The promisingly slow start felt disharmonically interrupted and botched.
This opening massacre is not the only time characters are acting in abnormally weird ways in this movie. The movie surely includes a lot of symbolism and metaphors and tries to portray loneliness and rejection in a directionless and industrialized society but some scenes are out of place and so surreal that they somehow contradict the dark realism of the plot. While the movie has several interesting experimental ideas, other parts are unnecessarily long-winded and the plot itself is not surprising enough to carry over almost two hours. The film feels as if Charles Bukowski met David Lynch in an industrial ghost town to elaborate a script that is missing that certain something. The plot itself is not complex enough to make this a good thriller. The characters are not profound enough to make this an intense drama. The story is not surreal enough to make this an uneasy mystery movie. This film includes elements of all these genres but not enough of everything to fully convince and sometimes feels directionless. What could have been a revolutionary mixture of genres feels headless at certain moments.
The initially interesting characters and solid acting also fail to develop further as the movie goes on. Five years after the first crime and its ensuing massacre, other dismembered body parts are found that all seem to lead to the mysterious widow of the first victim. The two desperate, disgraced and lonesome cops who survived the opening massacre try to find the real murderer behind these gruesome crimes. One has become a drunken security guard who desperately wants to solve the murder case that destroyed his life. He first investigates and stalks the mysterious and quiet widow before he begins a romantic relationship with her. This relationship between two solitary souls could have been an amazing idea. The concept isn't new but movies such as ''Sea of Love'' or ''Basic Instinct'' have shown what you can make with such a plot. Sadly, the two main characters don't connect on any level. Even their common loneliness is lived in different facets and it's challenging if not impossible to feel empathy for any of them. I found that the conclusion of this initially promising relationship felt disjunct. Maybe it was the director's intension to let his sinister piece of art end in a heartless way but it felt too neutral to be either heartless or emotional. Once again, a middle way was chosen that feels somewhat botched.
The closing scenes with the drunk security guard dancing with himself to a horrid pop song and some teenagers starting fireworks at daytime feel extremely pretentious. I'm aware of the fact that the director wanted to show the cop's deliverance from his demons and the start of a new life for him in the former scene and the mixture of mysterious fantasy and depressing realism as guide line through the movie in the latter scene but these parts felt once again forced, out of context and under-developed. The director tried too hard to show how creative he is and that's why these closing scenes are plain unsatisfying. Fans of the movie will probably believe that some viewers didn't get all the allusions but that isn't the problem. The director wanted to achieve too many things at the same time and failed in a nearly arrogant way.
The only positive elements that remain are the thoroughly sinister atmosphere created by grey settings, probably intentionally paralyzed acting skills, chillingly calm camera techniques, a fitting soundtrack and a few good acting parts. Despite a handful of potentially creative, philosophical and even revolutionary ideas from the filmmaker, this movies falls flat because of its own directionless, over-ambitioned and slow-paced pretentiousness. Fans of art-house cinema and philosophical neo-noir movies can give this a try. Those who are looking for a profound drama or engaging thriller should look elsewhere.
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