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Batman Begins (2005)
Simply a great new, dark Batman
So, finally another Batman movie, 8 years after "Batman & Robin" was released. While I liked the old 90s-Batman movies, it was clear that the comicy, humorous Batman shown back then was nothing suited for the new millennium. Luckily for us, Christopher Nolan seems to have known that as well.
"Batman Begins" is the first movie of a trilogy Nolan plans to do and it shows a more realistic, much darker and cooler Batman then ever before. It transforms Batman from a humorous comic action hero to a dark, misunderstood avenger that tries to find his own way to bring justice to a town that sinks deeper and deeper into a pool of crime and violence. That basically sets the tone for the film: Dark, brutal, realistic (as far as a comic adaption can be), and it seems to be exactly the kind of Batman we currently need.
The actors are giving great performances with maybe the exception of Katie Holmes, which isn't so bad since she doesn't appear often enough to ruin the movie (and was eventually replaced in the sequel "The Dark Knight"). Christian Bale is a perfect new Batman, being both a perfect Gentlemen as Bruce Wayne and a real bad-ass as Batman. Alfred, who appears surprisingly often in this movie, is played by Michael Caine who - once more - gives a brilliant performance as the caring, wise butler. Lastly I should mention Cillian Murphy, who looks like a psycho killer anyway (seriously) and seems to fit perfectly for the role of Scarecrow.
The only thing I can hold against "Batman Begins" is - unfortunately - the first quarter of the movie, where Bruce Wayne learns his fighting from an old Samurai in the mountains. What disturbed me about that part is for one, that it takes the mystery of why Batman is such a great fighter away from the viewer. It also seems weird that 50 (or so) Samurai fighters meet in the mountains just to train some guy they don't even know. Lastly, that part of the movie was simply a little boring. I wasn't actually bored, but it was clear that this basically only solved the purpose of explaining why Bruce Wayne is such a great fighter and that made it less interesting. After all, this is only a small thing in an otherwise great movie, "Batman Begins" just gets better from there.
In the end, Batman Begins convinces you with a Batman you have never seen like this before, a Batman you would actually be scared off if you met him in real life. Batman's inner daemons and his motifs for doing what he is doing have never felt more authentic, and the danger for Gotham City was never more understandable for the viewer. This is topped with brilliant performances and great images.
Paranormal Activity (2007)
There is a simple reason why I give Paranormal Activity the maximum rating (which I rarely do): It was the first film in a long time that actually scared me. Horror movies is one of my (if not the) favorite movie genre and there are a lot of good horror movies, but only very few that actually scare me (and by "scare" I don't mean shock, I mean actually frighten).
This fact alone is enough for me to give it 10/10, actually, because the movie is doing exactly what it is supposed to, and it's doing it pretty great. It has kind of an "independent" feeling (and it is, it was made by students) and follows in the footsteps of the "Blair Witch Project" documentary style: All the scenes are supposed to be filmed by the actors of the movie (although the film finds a lot of reasons for the camera to actually be a still camera on a stand).
I think what makes this film such an upsetting experience is that the characters play their roles as "everyday people" really good. The decision to go with a blair-witch kind of style was definitely the right one. You get the actual impression that what happens to that couple could happen to anyone and you actually care for what happens to them. Additionally, it becomes obvious pretty quickly to the viewer that the story will only get more intense from night to night. Finally, what makes this a really great experience as opposed to a lot of "big" Hollywood productions is that you have no idea how the film will turn out. It is completely unclear what happens to the two main characters and if the story will turn out good for them or not. In a lot of movies you can see the ending from far far away, in Paranormal Activity literally everything could happen.
So, what does that leave to say? I know a lot of people find the movie boring. For me, personally, it worked - and great. I saw it in the cinema, with about 15 other people and the atmosphere there was simply the best cinema experience I ever had, which may explain a little of my love for this movie. For everyone who did not see this movie so far: Watch it alone, watch it at night, watch it with good picture and sound quality (5.1 if possible somehow). This is the kind of movie you either love or hate. For me, it scared me and that is all I can ask from a horror movie, but rarely get - which is simply why I love it.
Good idea badly done
First, let me say that I did NOT watch the film with subtitles, but dubbed.
The film gets a few stars for showing pretty nicely designed trolls that are - from what I've read - pretty accurate to old Norwegian folklore. This is actually a pretty nice idea, but unfortunately the film doesn't make much of it because it is one giant plot hole in itself. The entire film doesn't make the least bit of sense, they just found some stupid reasons to show off trolls and that's it.
So let's get started... . A group of students wants to do a documentary about some guy named Hans, who is supposed to be a bear poacher (what an excellent excuse for another mockumentary. And, as it seems, students have a very hard time holding the camera straight for more than two seconds, even when doing interviews). So anyway, they find Hans and stalk him for a whole day until, at night, they follow him to the woods where they see some flickering light and then Hans comes running at them screaming "Troll!". Freeze frame here for a second: This was the first time I really had to laugh at how stupid the movie was, because Hans runs until he is about half a feet in front of the children, then stands still, screams "TROLL!" and runs off in some camouflage suit. This could have been a slapstick scene actually. The acting of all main characters was pretty bad until that point, but that scene carried it a little too far and actually made me cry in tears from laughter. Anyway, let's carry on. They flee, one of the students (Thomas) gets bitten (guess that's going to be a problem, huh?) but they get away. Hans admits that he is a troll hunter and agrees for the students to go with him. The next day they go troll hunting, find a troll, make him into stone with a giant ultraviolet lamp and crush him. I have to say, the trolls actually were pretty nice. They were well designed and animated and I liked them a lot. This was destroyed though by Hans telling the kids that the trolls can smell a Christian's blood and that, if any of them believed in Jesus, they couldn't come. Let's remind ourselves that this is a mockumentary that starts with the words "A team of experts examined the tapes for a whole year and came to the conclusion that they must be true". Seriously? And you give me "they smell a Christian's blood"? Wow. So, after they kill the troll, Hans reveals that he is actually working for a super secret government agency that makes sure nobody finds out that there actually are trolls. No one of them ever asks WHY they want to keep that a secret. I mean, there is no agency to keep elephants a secret, is there? So why trolls? Hans then continues to say that he wants the students to film his troll hunting, because he gets payed badly and wants the world to know that trolls exist in order to change something. But... if everyone knew about the trolls, there would be no more need for his super secret government agency which pays him badly and doesn't even give him - and I quote here - extra pay for night work, would it? Well, he probably could still protect humans from trolls, so he might not lose his job. Who knows. Anyway, this one guy decides to blow the entire super secret agency and give it all away. Best part is when another guy from the agency arrives ("the bureaucrat") and lays out some fake bear traces to cover up the troll (genius! too bad he switched the left and right fake bear foot which later confuses some hunting experts who examine the bear tracks). He tells the students that he would not let them film their super secret work and then JUST DRIVES OFF and leaves the student with the camera and the tape. What? Wait a second ... what if they make a copy of the tape? Or simply just go away and publish it? Well, I'm having the feeling I'm starting to rant here, so I'll make the rest of the review quick. I guess you got an impression why I said this film is a giant plot hole. The rest of the film is about them hunting trolls with Hans and finding out something about a troll disease which makes them leave their territories, but this really is of no interest to the viewer because by then you don't believe a single thing happening there and are not sucked into the movie at all, because this all is so badly written and acted. I'm not giving away the ending here, but it's pretty lame (subjective opinion!) and weird and makes no sense (objective opinion!).
In the end, I had a few good laughs and was not completely bored, but the film really suffered from it's badly executed mockumentary style. Doing a mockumentary means doing something half believable. Plot holes and bad acting (this film has both!) are even worse in a mockumentary because it makes the whole thing unbelievable and detaches you from the movie. This might have been more decent if it wasn't done as a mockumentary, I can't say for sure. But the way it is done now is definitely the wrong way.