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kluseba

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Philosophical drama dialogues meet a brutal action-thriller ride, 24 July 2014
8/10

"Wara no Tate" or "Shield of Straw" is a Japanese action-thriller and drama based on a novel by Kiuchi Kazuhiro. This movie convinces with a balanced mixture of brutal and gripping action sequences on one side and philosophical discussions on the other. It tells the intriguing tale of a disgusting psychopath who needs an ambitious police escort to get transported from a rural town to the capital Tokyo where he should be sentenced by a public prosecutor. The grand-father of the psychopath's latest victim, who is terminally ill with a heart disease, wants the man to get killed at all costs. He bribes editors and reporters to announce that the billionaire is willing to offer one billion yen to anyone who would kill the psychopath and then turn her- or himself in to the police and prosecutor to get judged for her or his actions. The vengeful billionaire goes even further and bribes criminals, nurses and even police officers to get the psychopath killed. Five courageous police officers get the dangerous job to get the psychopath to Tokyo via transporters, trains and even cars as they have to face one hundred twenty-five Million potential opponents. Soon, their conscience come into play. Is it worth to risk your lives to save a monster that is probably going to get sentenced to death anyway? Are their accuracy, honour and sense of responsibility strong enough to bring their job to an end? And is there even a traitor within the small group who wants to get the Money and help the billionaire to get his worst enemy killed? "Wara no Tate" is not only an entertaining but also thought-provoking piece of art that works very well despite a few minor lengths during a running time of over two hours. The question the viewer is constantly asking her- or himself is: Would I hand the psychopath over to the prosecutor or would I kill him, get the hefty reward and go to jail? This movie is clearly above average not only due to its balanced mixture of profound dramatic elements and vivid action sequences but also due to many excellent actors. From the honest police officers and the scary psychopath over the sick and grieving old man and many potential headhunters, every single actress and actor does an excellent job no matter if his or her screening time is about two hours or just two minutes. The different characters are profound, diversified and credible and many of them develop in an interesting way throughout the movie. The greatest actresses and actors are the intelligent female cop and single mother portrayed by Matsushima Nanako, the desperate and lonely police officer with a strong will portrayed by Ohsawa Takao and especially the wicked psychopath portrayed by Fujiwara Tatsuya. The psychopath gets more and more evil as the movie progresses and especially the last sequences show us the abyss of the human soul. On my list of the most evil characters in cinema, I would place him third just behind the sinister serial killer Kyung-chul portrayed by Choi Min-sik in the Korean psycho-thriller "I Saw The Devil" and the evil spirit Bob portrayed by Frank Silva in the "Twin Peaks" series and movie.

Apart of the balanced storyline and the acting performances, Japanese cult director Miike Takashi did one of his most memorable works in recent years. The images, setting and special effects are well employed and feel real and spontaneous yet wisely arranged and chosen. There are neither shaky camera passages as in many Hollywood movies nor an overload of predictable and stereotypical visual effects. Miike proves once again that he is one of the best current directors and he took advantage of a decent budget and excellent cinematographers involved in this project.

The only reasons why somebody could not like this movie is because of its mixture of philosophical dialogues and grisly action sequences. Action fans might get bored by the dialogues while fans of more sophisticated dramas might find the movie too repugnant for its violent content. Any open-minded cinephile with a soft spot for Japanese extremes should though watch this high-quality movie that gets easily in my top twenty of the best movies of the year. It's a shame that there were only three people in the cinema when I watched this film as this movie is definitely better than many of the exchangeable Hollywood sequels where you exactly know what to expect.

Prometheus (2012/I)
A good average science-fiction movie that doesn't come close to the Alien films, 22 July 2014
6/10

"Prometheus" is a prequel to the revolutionary "Alien" movies and explains how the bleak creature created by surrealist designer, painter and sculptor H.R. Giger came to life. In addition to this, the film introduces us to the creators of mankind who were eventually planning to extinguish their own creation but failed to do so. You might want to know that the ending of this film has a cliffhanger and leads to a possible second part of this prequel where we could find out why the creators of mankind wanted to destroy their own work and where the new-born Alien creature could evolve to what it might become one day.

To be honest, "Prometheus" doesn't come close to the atmosphere of the first two Alien movies and is maybe on the same level as the fourth Alien movie and slightly better than the rather disappointing third film. There are several reasons why this new movie is only a good average movie at best.

First of all, all actors apart of the talented Noomi Rapace are really weak and exchangeable. This might also be due to an unimaginative script. As viewers, one doesn't really care enough about the fate of the different characters to get an emotional connection to the film and to really get into it. The original movies were much more convincing from that point of view.

This leads me to the second biggest flaw. The story of the movie is predictable and has been used in a similar way many times before. I don't mean the obvious creation of the Alien but the evolution of the different characters and a very predictable twist in the last third of the film. The script really feels as if a young science-fiction fan borrowed bits and pieces from famous genre films and put them together to a new half-hearted movie.

Obviously, the movie also has its strengths and you might already guess what they are. First of all, the special effects are obviously very well done. The universe, the more or less deserted planet and the strange cave system on it are very beautiful to watch. The different humanoid creatures as well as the new Alien should also please to fans of the old movies.

The action sequences of this film are nothing extraordinary but very well done. Especially the last third of the movie sets a higher pace and we get to see many mysterious technical holograms, a couple of gripping fighting scenes and obviously a few earthquakes, explosions and storms here and there. After the slow and almost dull pace of the first two thirds of the film, the last part is probably worth the wait.

As I told before, the movie doesn't quite catch up the original movies but it includes at least a couple of atmospheric settings and scenes. These moments especially happen in the bleak cave system on the planet and involve aggressive humanoid aliens and the Alien prototype. These scenes don't come close to the horror of the original but they build up some kind of tension at least. If the movie had included more of these horror moments, it would have been much more gripping.

As it is now, "Prometheus" is a good average science-fiction movie that convinces with a strong main actress, great special effects and a vivid last third. I recommend you to experience this movie without comparing it to the Alien movies because you will probably end up being disappointed if you do so. In addition to this, you should only watch this movie if you are ready to watch more sequels of this prequel. In my book, it was a solid movie to watch once but in comparison to the Alien series, I wouldn't necessarily watch this movie again. I must also admit that I wouldn't watch a Sequel to this film or a fifth Alien movie either. Enough is enough and one should leave this great series untouched instead of harming its reputation with more exchangeable scripts.

Fear X (2003)
For patient art house cinephiles only, 10 July 2014
5/10

"Fear X" (2003) is a quite weird psycho-thriller by the highly experimental Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn who is known for other controversial art house films like "Valhalla Rising" (2009) and "Only God Forgives" (2013). "Fear X" feels like an unfinished movie that seems to offer a lot of food for thought at first contact but only leads to two possible conclusions after the almost abrupt ending. Many viewers will be disappointed by the lack of a proper conclusion while others may find exactly this aspect very creative. In my opinion, the movie lacks the detailed descriptions and out-thought storytelling qualities of comparable art house directors like David Lynch. If you are not into slow paced art house movies, you are going to waste your time. If you are honestly interested in this genre, there are other classics like "Aguirre, the Wrath of God" (1972), "Lost Highway" (1997), "Audition" (1999), "In the Mood for Love" (2000) and "Memento" (2001) you should have watched and appreciated before you venture into the more liberal territory of "Fear X".

As for the story, I invite you to discover it by yourself and don't want to give any more details than these: A depressed security guard can't forget about the murder of his wife that happened at his workplace some time ago when the young woman was gunned down along with a police officer by an unknown in the parking lot of a shopping mall. The desperate man is still looking for any possible detail to reconstruct the mysterious murder in order to understand why his wife had to die. A mysteriously discovered photograph leads him to a place where his wife and him had been on vacation several months earlier and his arrival will create a lot of nervous tension in town.

As a fan of the art house genre, there are several things I appreciated and disliked about this movie. The first negative aspect is that the movie has a complete absence of crime scenes. The movie would have kicked off in a much more dynamical way if the director had shown us the initial crime that is later shown on blurry surveillance camera footage only. An even bigger problem is the lack of details in the plot that could have delivered some food for thought. Apart of the two main characters, all other appearances remain peripheral even though some of them actually had some potential. Many little scenes don't add anything to the plot at all. These scenes aren't there to confuse us either or to tell us more about the characters, I feel like them being really unnecessary. As I said before, there are two ways to analyze this movie in the end but I don't want to spoil this film for you as you need to experience it on your own to make up your own mind about it. One of these two options would induct a couple of massive plot holes though which would make this film appear quite amateurish.

The movie also has its strong points though. The movie doesn't feature too many dialogues and the actors have to work a lot with their facial expressions. This approach is experimental and intriguing and the actors and actresses actually do a very convincing job. The movie's strongest point is its bleak and slightly surreal atmosphere. This point is supported by a minimalist soundtrack by Brian Eno, a clever choice of settings including many dark rooms and the use of the colour red in many scenes and the slow paced acting and storytelling. Even though nothing really happened in some scenes, the movie got me on the edge of my seat like an atmospheric horror movie. Some surreal elements of the film also added a nice psychological suspense that turned somehow out to be the main guiding line of this film.

In the end, this movie pretty much offers as many positive as negative points. I liked to experience this movie once but I guess I wouldn't watch it again or recommend it to many people. I felt that this movie had a lot of potential and especially the first two thirds of the film very actually intriguing but the last third and the hollow ending were a negative surprise in my opinion. This movie is for patient art house cinephiles and fans of the controversially discussed director only.

A sympathetic superhero movie influenced by current Hollywood trends, 8 July 2014
6/10

"City Under Siege" is an entertaining but sometimes strange mixture of a fantasy movie and an action-thriller with romantic elements as well as with slapstick influences and a more serious criticism of modern mass media.

The movie portrays the story of the clumsy orphan Sunny who is working as a clown at his uncle's circus. His deceased father was a knife throwing master but Sunny is a charming loser who gets bullied by his more talented cousins who are also working at the circus. One day, his cousins want to explore a strange cave in the forest, used by the Japanese army when they occupied China. There are rumours of some precious gold hidden in the depths of the cave. Sunny overhears the plan and spies on his cousins but he gets discovered and caught. His cousins force the young adult to be the leader of the pack and look for the gold with them. The group finds several capsules indeed and force Sunny to open them. The first one is filled with gold and the leader of the cousins decides to separate the gold and to kill the unpleasant privy Sunny. He sends one of the cousins to strangle Sunny and push him into the abyss. Meanwhile the greedy leader opens another capsule but this one is filled with a strange gas that everyone present in the cave breathes in. Sunny manages to push his opponent into the abyss who dies there and to flee from his evil cousins. On their way out of the cave Sunny and his cousins get separated but they are mad at each other and bound to meet again. The strange gas soon transforms all of them. Sunny suddenly gets very fat as he runs across newscaster Angel who has a flat tire. They help each other and Sunny gets back to his uncle's warehouse. The next morning, he lost all of his fat and seems to be completely normal again. He soon realizes that he has changed though. All of his senses are sharpened and he soon uses them to save a kidnapped female police officer in front of newscaster Sunny who just got replaced by a younger and more beautiful woman at her agency. Both take advantage of the situation. Sunny becomes a beloved superstar and Angel his ambitious manager. Meanwhile, his evil cousins also transformed but in a different way. They also got sharpened senses but their skin bloated and they look like ugly mutants. Even kidnapped scientists can't heal them and believe that Sunny's metabolism must work differently from theirs. The evil cousins use their sharpened senses to commit crimes like robbing out banks and transporters. They are also jealous of Sunny's popularity and want to get his blood that might or might not be filled with antibodies that could heal the mutants. The police can't mess with them as injuries only seem to make These mutants stronger and more invulnerable. Even two mutant hunters who are supposed to get married soon can only kill one of them. They soon realize that they need the help of Sunny and Angel to set a trap and kill the pitiless mutants. The two men and women join their forces in a risky attempt to save Hongkong from its mutant siege.

This fantasy-action movie has several convincing but also a few negative aspects. Let's start with the shallow aspects to end the review on a positive note. First of all, the mixture of genres in this movie is a little bit weird. The movie is sometimes too humorous to build up true tension. On the other side, some parts of it are too sad to make this a light-hearted film. I feel that the omission of the few slapstick elements would have improved the movie as the final result would have been much more mature. Due to the weird potpourri of genres, the movie undeniably has a few lengths. Some parts are dedicated to some character development but it feels a little bit forced as the different characters are sometimes wooden and stereotypical. They made me think of cheap rip-off versions of American superheroes and supervillains from Marvel for example.

The actresses and actors were of a good average quality overall but as the script focused on fighting scenes and was inspired by several superhero movies they probably did the best they could out of it. Main actor Aaron Kwok incarnated a sympathetic loser who became a hero, the charming Qi Shu really carried the movie as ambitious newscaster with a tender side and Zhang Jingchu was also convincing as emotional and smart female demon hunter. I wish some of the other characters had been a Little bit more profound though.

The special effects, fighting scenes and CGI effects are of a good but not excellent quality and can be cited as positive aspects of this film. Especially the villains look really ugly and could also be shown in an American movie. The fighting scenes finally had a more Asian feeling to it with a few influences from classic Easterns. Especially the fighting scenes in the uncle's warehourse, the television studio and in Angel's apartment were well done and can be cited as highlights of the movie.

If you happen to be a fan of diversified superhero movies or more contemporary Hongkong action cinema, you should appreciate the movie for what it is. It's entertaining and some efforts were put into it but neither the effects nor the script offer anything revolutionary after all. All in all, it's a movie inspired by many Hollywood movies that should also please to a larger Western audience while fans of classic Asian action and fantasy cinema might surprisingly not like this film as much.

Godzilla (2014)
2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
A solid comeback for my childhood hero, 21 May 2014
7/10

I have grown up with the classic Japanese Godzilla movies that I first discovered when I was around eight or nine years old. I liked so many things about these movies: the looks of the monsters, the epic battle scenes, the different technical gimmicks, the detailed and handmade special effects, the emotional soundtracks, the diversified side stories and many references to Japanese culture. When I saw the first American "Godzilla" adaption as a child, I was rather disappointed and thought of it as a missed attempt at putting a "Jurassic Park" monster in a metropolis. As a child, I was then asking my parents to find the first original Godzilla movie that I had heard and read about and when my father finally came home with a videotape of it, I preferred this dark, diversified, philosophical movie that explored at least four genres at the same time (being a detailed action movie, a philosophical drama, a bleak horror movie and an innovating science-fiction film) to any movie I had ever seen before. Until today, the original movie from 1954 is one of my all-time favourite films and a classic any cineaste must see.

Until today, I have watched almost all Godzilla movies and while I adore most of them (my favourites being "Godzilla" (1954), "Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster" (1964), "Invasion of Astro-Monster" (1965), "Godzilla versus Mechagodzilla" (1974), "The Return Of Godzilla" (1984), "Godzilla versus King Ghidorah" (1991) and "Godzilla versus Destoroyah" (1995) among others), I thought it was a good idea to end the series with the fiftieth anniversary and a last epic movie called "Godzilla: Final Wars" back in 2004 because the franchise started to run out of ideas. Ten years later, the world's most famous Kaiju is back. As a longtime fan I was excited that my childhood hero was back on screen but on the other side I felt that everything had been said about Godzilla and that the first American movie was of a low average quality at best.

While the new movie is nothing revolutionary and not a far call from many classic Japanese movies without reaching the perfection of the unbeatable original, the new film is much better than the first American Godzilla movie.

I liked the slow start of the movie including a scientific story that is slightly inspired by the original but also by current events as the nuclear disaster in Fukushima. The strongest acting parts of the movie can be seen in the first thirty minutes or so and immediately get you into the story. The idea of two new monsters that would compete with Godzilla took me a little bit by surprise and really goes back to the Japanese classics which is a positive fact for a longtime fan. The final battle scenes in San Francisco are entertaining and visually stunning. Most importantly, the looks of Godzilla are great and feature all trademarks fans like about him from his atomic breath to his unique roars. The king of monsters looks a little bit bigger and heavier than the original but I think it looks extremely beautiful. Maybe Godzilla almost looks too sympathetic which is reminding me of the movies of the sixties and seventies rather than the original film or the last Japanese films. In comparison to the last few movies of the franchise, Godzilla is actually playing a the role of a hero and not a villain again which was another positive surprise to me.

Obviously, there are also a few minor negative elements in here. Apart of the great and touching first thirty minutes or so, the acting in this movie is a little bit wooden and stereotypical. I'm sorry to say this but child actor Carson Bolde is one of the worst of its kind. His character almost doesn't speak, has only one facial expression and looks like he had a severe Down syndrome. While watching the first thirty minutes, I thought it was going to be an extraordinary movie but a few lengths and the lack of high quality acting made the final result a very good film but not an absolute highlight. Another really negative element is that Godzilla almost only plays a secondary role in this movie apart of the last thirty minutes. The king of monsters doesn't have much screening time but once it is there, it really shines. The movie rather focuses on the two other monsters. I don't want to spoil anything but the two new monsters look somewhat artificial and have no unique charisma. The story around these two monsters had some potential but they are mostly unimpressive in the end and among the most boring opponents Godzilla ever had. On a side note, let's add that the soundtrack of this movie is unimpressive and never comes close to the emotional and epic Japanese soundtracks.

In the end, the first thirty minutes of the movie are creative and intense while the final battle scenes in the last thirty minutes are entertaining and epic at some points. In between, the weak acting, the lack of screen time for Godzilla and the unimpressive new monsters slow the pace of the movie a little bit down. Fans of the franchise might analyze this film as a good and solid comeback but no extraordinary one. Enjoy and watch it without further hesitation if you are still undecided. After all, the new looks of Godzilla and its unique charisma (yes, a monster can have charisma and it's probably the best "actor" in this movie) left me wanting more by the end of the movie. This is a well done tribute to the classics with convincing settings from the Phillipines over Japan to Hawaii and San Francisco. The special effects are as stunning as you can expect. I would call this movie a solid success after all. I'm in love with my childhood hero again and really hope Godzilla will be back.

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
The Exchangeable Ones, 9 May 2014
6/10

"The Quiet Ones" is another exchangeable modern horror flick that includes a whole lot of stereotypes.

Story based on so-called "actual events"? Check.

Shaky cameras and low budget production (This one looks like a 10,000 Pound sterling movie school production)? Check.

Scary noises and sound effects here and there but one never sees any real superficial manifestation until the very last scenes? Check.

Average actresses and actors almost nobody knew and most of us will never ever hear about again? Check.

Stereotypical characters like a crazy professor, a superficial young woman and a shy intellectual? Check.

A haunted or possessed young woman with a dark secret? Check.

An old and isolated mansion in the countryside as main location? Check.

The appearance of a strange occult sect out of nowhere? Check.

As you can see, this movie offers nothing really new. It basically jumps on a current bandwagon around horror movies with supernatural elements. There are so many of them from intriguing ones like "Insidious" over good average ones as "The Conjuring" or "The Possession" to rather bad stuff in the key of "Devil's Due", "Mama", "Oculus" or "The Devil Inside". "The Quiet Ones" is situated somewhere between the good average and rather bad categories.

These are the positive elements of the movie: The character of experiment subject Jane Harper is well played and has some potential, especially her relationship to the weird college professor and the main actor who is a shy student filming the experiment and who starts to fatally fall in love with the young woman. The ending of the movie has a fair pace and dramatic conclusion. Apart of a few weaker moments in the beginning, the movie's length is just right and keeps you addicted until the end.

The negative points are these: The movie takes too much time to become really gripping. The story line is too predictable ad offers no real surprises. The shaky cameras are annoying and the scenes involving supernatural elements remain superficial. The secondary characters could have had some more development as one doesn't really care about their fate.

Why is this movie called "The Quiet Ones"? It's because there is a random guy at a library at Oxford University yelling something about this at the shy student with the camera. Well, this is not really convincing either.

In the end, horror movie fans may honestly enjoy watching this movie once. It's entertaining and a good choice if you simply feel like changing your mind after a hard day at work. I would not watch it again or purchase the DVD but I definitely didn't regret watching it and had a good time. Don't expect anything extraordinary, this is for genre fans only.

The Raid 2 (2014)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Among the very best modern martial arts movies, 30 April 2014
8/10

"The Raid: Redemption" has been one of the most exciting action movies of the past years and I was eager to watch its follow-up "The Raid 2: Berandal". I took quite a ride to watch this movie in a small cinema in its original language with English subtitles and this movie was definitely worth all the time and money.

To my surprise, this movie was quite different from the first one. "The Raid: Redemption" is a fast-paced and emotionally thrilling action movie in a closed environment with a lot of shooting sequences. "The Raid 2: Berandal" is an epic gangster movie with a more complex story line, a high diversity of settings and much more physical fighting sequences that always surprise. One also follows different characters throughout the movie and not only the main character. These perspective changes keep the movie interesting until the end as it's a quite long film.

On the negative side, it was sometimes quite hard to follow the story because there are a lot of new characters and names to keep on your mind. In the beginning, one doesn't always get who are Bejo, Bunawar, Eka, Prakoso, Reza, Uco and many other supporting characters. Main character Rama is working as an undercover agent inside the Bangun gang under the name Yuda to gain their respect and to investigate and eventually bring down their criminal activities involving other foreign and local gangs as well as the police itself.

There are a lot of intriguing conspiracies going on in this movie. The whole story made me think a lot of the Korean movie "New World" that came out in 2013, starring Hwang Jung-Min, Lee Jung-Ae and the legendary Choi Min-Sik. With a running time of two hours and a half, "The Raid 2: Berandal" has though a few minor lengths in comparison to the first film but the story is overall more ambitious.

Another minor issue I didn't appreciate was the fact that one could not really connect with the different characters. This was different in the first movie where some young police officers committed some heroic acts of bravery and where the main character had to deal with some very intriguing family issues. Right in the beginning of the sequel, the two other surviving characters of the first movie are out of the story and the main character's brother won't have its comeback either apart of a few unimportant scenes. Instead, one gets introduced to a lot of new and not very profound or sympathetic characters in the organized crime. Some characters feel even slightly ripped off from other movies. The Hammer Girl character for example makes me think of the South Korean masterpiece "Old Boy".

On a side note, it was great to have Yahan "Mad Dog" Ruhian back on board. His initial villain character died in the first film but the actor is back in a new role as a loyal and poor assassin who has a troublesome life on the streets without his family. This character was pretty much the most human and interesting one in the entire movie. This actor simply has a lot of charisma.

The action scenes in this movie are brilliant. They are even far above the quality of the exciting first part. The choreographies are maybe among the best ever done in a martial arts movie. The settings are highly diversified: cars, discotheques, factories, kitchens, prisons, trains and more. The different weapons are also addicting: baseball bats and balls, hammers, knives, sabres, sickles, different guns from sniper rifles to Uzis and off course hand and feet. The fighting scenes are sometimes raw and wild, sometimes aesthetic and virtuous, sometimes fast and ruthless, sometimes brutal and slow. One can see a lot of bones and necks breaking, heads exploding and diverse body parts flying around in bloody rain. The atmosphere of the fighting scenes also changes from desperate over disgusting to elegant. There are even a few macabre and humorous parts that help to digest the pitiless fighting scenes. They are diversified and original. They never get boring. This movie really sets news standards in its genre.

"The Raid 2: Berandal" is definitely one of the very best modern action movies. Few people will argue about this. The action sequences are diversified and always spectacular. The choreographies and the settings as well as the camera work and the sound effects are excellent. The plot needs some time to unfold and has its strong parts but also a few minor lengths. The characters in this movie are of an average quality and mostly less interesting than in the first film. In the end, this will probably be the most exciting action movie of the year so you should definitely not miss it despite its minor flaws. I'm already eager to purchase this movie and get to see another sequel. "The Expandables" and Co. are kindergarten compared to this franchise.

Divergent (2014)
3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A rip-off of a rip-off, 25 April 2014
5/10

Dystopian teenie movies are all the rage these days. In my opinion, "The Hunger Games" and Company can't catch up with classics like "A Clockwork Orange", "Equilibrium", "Fahrenheit 451", "Rollerball", "Soylent Green" and so on. "The Hunger Games" was already almost just a rip-off of the famous Japanese book and movie "Battle Royale". At least, "The Hunger Games" had a few great actors, stunning costumes and settings and loads of action. "Divergent" is now a rip-off of "The Hunger Games" series. My advice for you is to watch the originals instead of what Hollywood wants to be the next blockbusters.

So basically, this is a rip-off of a rip-off. But "Divergent" features less impressive actors and actresses that portray more or less convincing characters. I could not connect with any of them but maybe the target audience of teenage girls would see things differently. The costumes and settings are much duller than those in "The Hunger Games". The action scenes are a lot less urgent. Even the story is rather frustrating in here, feels rather random and is even a little bit hard to follow at some points. The movie's villain has not much charisma either.

The film wants to introduce the female main character Tris as somebody special. She passes a mental test that should indicate one of the five factions she would best fit with. People in dystopian Chicago are either brave, intelligent, peaceful, selfless or truthful in an isolated and precisely structured society after a great war that is not further explained. Tris doesn't fit to any of these factions in particular and is divergent. This is already rather strange. The so-called test lasted for maybe one minute and the main character acted in a completely normal way where I would have taken the same decisions if this test was for real. One doesn't really believe the movie that Tris is so different and special. She is an ordinary looking girl with ordinary skills who is about to go through an ordinary bad meets evil plot and to fall in love with an ordinary good-looking young man. The base of this story is already rather odd.

The entire story is not much better. The so-called divergents are considered being a danger for the elite and are chased down by governmental forces. Tris joins the brave faction and tries to hide her secret. One day, the intelligent faction tries to overthrow the leading selfless faction with the the help of the mentally manipulated brave faction. Tris and her boyfriend who turns out to be the son of the leader of the selfless faction (what a surprise) will obviously save the world in a few minutes.

Between the initial test and the final battle scenes, this movie is filled with endless mental and physical games and simulations that portray the main characters everyday life among the brave faction. The fighting scenes vary between being visually stunning and being ordinary. The supporting characters in the brave faction are superficial and don't add anything to the plot line. The failed assassination attempt of the main character feels completely random and out-of-place. Basically, the first and maybe the last thirty minutes of this movie are addicting while the rest tries to kick off some character development and dystopian world exploration that is mostly uninteresting because both characters and the dystopian world are rather ordinary.

This all sounds rather negative and it is. So you might ask why I still gave this movie half of the points. The reasons are simple. I'm a big fan of dystopian books and movies and even the worst examples still attract my attention. The special effects are well done and worth to be seen in the cinema. The capture-the-flag game at some point in the movie is my personal highlight set in an interesting atmosphere and location. As I said, the first thirty minutes of the movie are rather entertaining and promising. The final thirty minutes are filled with action and tension. Even though the outcome of the story is highly predictable, the last thirty minutes will get you on the edge of your seats. There are even a few emotional moments in there when some characters need to do some important sacrifices. Not everything is bad in here. Half of the movie is well done, the other half really ordinary.

In the end, it's up to you to decide whether you would like to watch the rip-off ("The Hunger Games") of a rip-off ("Battle Royale"). If you liked the rip-off, you might also appreciate most parts of "Divergent". If you thought the rip-off was of an average quality or below, let me tell you that this movie here is clearly below the rip-off's quality. Don't waste your time on it then. As a fan of the genre, I had a little bit more than two and a half mostly entertaining hours. The movie was made to watch it in the cinemas because of its solid sound and visual effects. On the other side, I would certainly not watch it again and I wouldn't buy or rent this film either. If there was a sequel in a few years, I would probably feel like watching it for the sake of having already watched the first part but I would feel hesitating. Don't get yourself into the same situation. I would rather suggest you to avoid this movie and watch something more original which basically means that you should look for the original dystopian movies.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Nothing more than a good average international conspiracy action-thriller, 28 March 2014
7/10

"The Berlin File" is a South Korean version of action-thrillers with conspiracy and spy elements and twists in the key of "The Bourne Identity". The entire movie takes place in the German capital Berlin which gives the whole thing a more international flair even though some parts were clearly filmed in Latvia's capital Riga which feels a little bit goofy.

The strongest points of the movie are the action scenes and in particular the brutal hand to hand combats. The special effects are also decent. The fast paced fighting sequences, the intriguing locations and the overall rather dark atmosphere of the movie quickly get you hooked.

The acting is of an average quality. While the actors are good, the characters lack depth due to an average script quality. My favourite character is the evil North Korean agent because he really incarnates an unpredictable psycho that has a unique way to act and talk. The two main characters including a loyal North Korean agent and a rather straight South Korean agent are rather faceless on the other side.

The weakest part of the movie is the conspiracy plot. The first thirty minutes of the film are pretty much confusing and introduce us to too many random different characters and stereotypical organizations: snobbish CIA agents, corrupt German politicians, brutal and closed- minded Islamist terrorists, intimidating Mossad agents, emotionless, loyal and silent on one side and loyal and pitiless North Korean agents on the other, bitter anti-communist agents from South Korea, Russian arms dealers and so on. The high amount of characters hides the fact that there isn't all too much going on concerning the story itself. The first half of the movie seems really promising but especially the last forty-five minutes are rather weak and mix overlong chasing and shooting scenes with wooden tearjerker moments.

In the last five minutes, the movie pulls out a twist like a rabbit out of a hat. Usually, I like twisted endings and especially the South Korean cinema has come around with some promising closures in the past. This one here feels pretty much constructed though and only seems to be there to give some room for a possible sequel. I hope South Korea won't go this stretched Hollywood way.

In the end, I expected a much more original and twisted conspiracy thriller from a country that has come around with the world's most innovating movies in the past fifteen years. "The Berlin File" is though only a good average to good action-thriller that can't mess with the status of the James Bond or Jason Bourne series. The clash between North and South Korean agents has been portrayed in more detailed and convincing ways in movies such as "Shiri", "Joint Security Area" and "Typhoon" for example. These three films are all above the quality of this one. I would still recommend this movie to faithful fans of international action-thrillers but this film had the potential to be much more than just easy entertainment. My final rating would be situated somewhere between six and seven points.

This movie focuses on its weaknesses rather than on its strengths, 11 March 2014
7/10

"2009: Lost Memories" is a science-fiction-thriller inspired by the famous novel "Looking For An Epitaph" by Bok Geo-Il in 1987 even though the author didn't want to have anything to do with this adaption. One must keep in mind that the novel is more than twenty-five years and that the movie is already twelve years old as well because some things predicted in the plot are mildly amusing nowadays such as the potential reunification of North and South Korea in 2008. Many people argue that this film is too patriotic and that Koreans didn't get over the things the Japanese did to them during their invasion. Obviously, the film depicts Japanese as greedy megalomaniacs that have no respect for Korean culture. It would have been pleasant to see a few more sympathetic Japanese in this flick to give the movie a more open-minded approach. On one side, I can perfectly understand the greed many Asian peoples still feel towards the Japanese. On the other side, Korean and Japanese actors collaborate in this movie and show us that these nations can appreciate each other and perfectly work together nowadays. The reality is obviously not as dark as some government officials want to suggest us and it's a far call from this dystopian movie as well. I don't see this film as a propaganda movie or a political statement and one shouldn't analyze it all too much. It simply is a dystopian film settled in an alternate history where the failed assassination of a Japanese governor leads to a dramatic turn of events where the Japanese would win World War II and still occupy the Korean peninsula in the present.

The plot is obviously nothing really new but fans of dystopian science- fiction movies like "1984", "A Clockwork Orange", "Fahrenheit 451", "Soylent Green", "Rollerball", "Battle Royale", "Equilibrium", "V For Vendetta" and even "The Hunger Games" or "Divergent" should like some parts of this movie. In this film, a mysterious Korean resistance group called "Hureisenjin" steals museum artifacts to open a portal that should help them to travel back in time and change the course of Korean history back to normal. This radical group that is ready to sacrifice itself and the life of others to fight for Korean independence faces an institution called the Japanese Bureau of Investigation where two friends, a Korean and a Japanese cop, try to arrest them. The Korean cop denies and even despises his Korean culture as his father was a cop that betrayed the JBI and abandoned his family to help the "Hureisenjin". The investigation has personal issues for this cop and he soon starts to lose his tempers and his neutrality. When he is about to discover the fact that he is living a big lie in an alternative timeline and that the Japanese manipulated history to control the Korean peninsula, his Japanese superiors suspend him from the case. The Korean cop though continues his investigations that lead him to important historical events that took place in China and Russia. As he gets closer to the secret and is about to change his mind about his origins, he gets attacked by an assailant in his apartment. When his mentor gets killed instead and the cop survives, he gets blamed for the murder by his superiors and realizes that he is the victim of an incredible conspiracy. The cop seeks the help of the "Hureisenjin" and ends up being a key element in their quest to change history back to normal.

The story is intriguing enough to carry this movie but the acting is only of a good average quality. Some characters could have been depicted in a more profound way such as the Japanese cop and his wife or the mysterious female leader of the resistance group. I think that the movie should have focused on the difficult friendship between the Japanese and the Korean cop because this is by far the movie's strongest element. The weird visions and the strange connection between the main character and the female leader of the "Hureisenjin" are rather stereotypical, wooden and ultimately a letdown. Some parts of the movie are a little bit too melodramatic as well such as the slow motion scenes where a young boy gets killed during an assault. It seems to me that the movie focuses more on the predictable and supposedly tear-jerking elements instead of using its true strengths. I must also admit that the atmospheric first half of the movie around the investigation case is much more original and tense than the predictable and lengthy second half where all secrets are quickly revealed. It would have been more interesting to make an out-thought mini-series of this plot than a movie where the intriguing elements are cut off to focus on annoying mainstream passages.

Fans of dystopian movies and all those who are interested in Japanese and Korean cinema will still like many parts of this movie. It's not the masterpiece it could have been but still watchable enough to get entertained rather well. The promising elements in the first half of the plot definitely made me want to read the original novel in the end.


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