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YOLO: Undercover (2023)
Review of AllButOne Productions "YOLO! Undercover"
In 2015 we were introduced to the wholesome duo of Edward and Jacob - Played by Dylan McKay and Ben Anderson - in a romantic comedy that carried a simple, yet valuable lesson to us all: To remember to be ourselves. Flashforward to eight years later and we find the buddies on the cusp of their 20's, grappling with important life choices - when suddenly they are drafted in by the FBI to spy on Jacob's mischievous new boss. From that point on hijinks ensue which leads to the guys having to learn to snowboard, outsmart shady dealers and still find time to go on dates.
With a runtime of 2 hours, this marks McKay's longest film to date, and he knows how to use that time well. In between the humorous interactions, the visual montages, he never forgets to focus on the heart of the film. Which is when the pace slows down and our two main characters breathe and speak their truth. The best comedies have emotion and McKay goes on a home run with his excited yet affectionate performance. Once again I too felt engaged in the lives of these guys and it moved me. Then in the next scene I'll find myself belly laughing. A strong recommendation for a Friday night watch with either your buddies or your loved ones. It's a film that speaks to our world of wanting to escape to our dreams and also to our world of responsible commitments. How do we navigate that as we continue on our journeys? Well, those are questions provoked here with kindness and care. Don't miss this one.
The Flash (2023)
Hero movies are more than just hero movies
I needed that. As I stared at the rolling credits, it was noticeable that the lights were not being put back on. Darkness still surrounded me in an empty cinema. My mind steered away to reflect. Memories flashed before me. How my life was like years ago and how I've shaped as a person since then.
In times of despair, humanity endures. I'm reminded of my peers, my fellow friends, lifting each other up to achieve wonders. Hero movies are more than just hero movies. It's a constant gift. And that gift reminds me of how our imagination is beautiful. We all find our way to steer on our paths. The darkness surrounding me in this cinema did eventually disappear... and the light returned. As it always does... when we believe in each other. When we fight for the beauty of this world. The shadow is a passing cicle. These stories of good are the type that shape us.
Keep fighting the good fight. Continue to be your best selves everyone. Please, continue to create. We can achiece that awe.
Call of the Unseen (2022)
A touching dream turned into film
A touching little tale with themes of artistry and a morale to fight for the expression of your unique voice. The diegesis, or the rules of the world the film is set in were delightfully creative. You can definitely see Stockholm as a location, but through the veil of Henrik Pilerud's eyes. As a director he adds a flare of surrealism. And I love those abstract, fantastical ideas. Why not have a Sweden where Trolls and magical beings exist? I for sure did the DiCaprio pointing thing to the screen many times throughout the watch. So happy to see many performers and places I know get their spotlight. Especially proud for my friend Nathalie portraying the character Mya. After a while I even forgot it was her since I was immersed in the story.
Many diamonds to cherish in this work of art. I'll never forget Mya finding friendship with the Stone Creature. Very touching. I recommend this to anyone who's pursuing to share their own visions to the screen. Perhaps you'll feel inspired to not let that story stay only a dream. Hope to see more independent artists get a chance to share their passion projects like this!
Festival of Blood (2022)
Festival of Blood by Nicholas Pilk - Review
Nicholas Pilk has continued to impress me with his productivity, and willingness to push through the pandemic with various shorts, web-series and feature length films. This Summer he flavored our YouTube screens with two versions of the same film. "Festival of Blood" is available to be seen in both black & white and color. Two distinct viewing experiences, since for my taste the colorless version enhanced the mood and subject matter of the story. With a brisk cold-open featuring another excellent long-take where Pilk himself chews up the scenery - you are instantly in for a movie where the director plays by his own rules. I was intrigued by his unique choices and personal touches to the presentation. Some trademarks are evident like the parking lots, the wide-shots (which I really appreciate), and the violence which often happens right out of frame.
There's an air of early 90's Tarantino mixed with a bold Kevin Smith to this 29 minute short. Foul-mouthed detective characters are searching for a murderer and perhaps it can be one among them? I loved the mix of traditional looking uniforms all the way to Hawaiian shirts. Every character stood out to me. Because there's attention put into minor quirks and details to their behavior and language. It was also pretty surprising at times with the script taking some sudden turns and shifts. Definitely kept me guessing as to how this was gonna end. Sometimes you wanna watch a movie which you can contemplate on by letting it unwind in your mind - and all of a sudden you find your own meaning to what the story is telling you. That's the type of feeling I got by this one. One of the strongest works from Pilk Films and I am excited to see these guys continue to evolve and follow their ambition.
The Iridescent (2021)
The Iridescent - Review
Now it's easy to see why this movie has meant so much for the crew of Fox Way Studios. Since it's the ultimate showcase of everything they've learnt from gorilla filmmaking -- Forming a narrative that has all our favorite ingredients from the films of Antton Nikula (Tony Cole). The opening that directly makes an homage to the classic "Escape from New York" lets us all know that we're in for a special event. It prepares our minds and sharpens our focus, and trust me, you will wanna buckle in. The movie tells the story of some crooks who are able to snatch the ''invaluable'' Iridescent, described to be the most breathtaking object in the world. The post-heist celebration doesn't last long as obstacles reveal themselves, causing the ensemble cast of the FWS Hall of Fame to take part of a race in which the winner gets to keep stolen Iridescent.
Now this movie is a riot of fun. It's telling that every scene is calculated and worked on carefully to accurately represent the vision that Nikula's been developing since he was 11 years old. Shorts like "Made in Jacobtown" and "Nicholson" offered hysterical laughs while "Jack Stone" and "George Whitebrooke" has offered us the exciting action and adventure -- Here you see the best of both worlds meet and it's beautifully balanced. The script is sharp with multi-layered characters across the board. It's tricky to predict who'll make it through until the end, since the stakes are placed on a high level early on. Antton and the friends at Fox Way remind us of the fun we can have and the everlasting memories that can be encapsulated through the world of films. I think we'll be revisiting this one in the future and appreciate newly found details. Highly recommended, The Iridescent is truly to behold!
Dune: Part One (2021)
Memories from a time I thought I'd lost
I felt like I was Paul Atreides - since my memories of watching the original 1984 film flashed before me as a visual guiding force while journeying through the desert planet of Arrakis. As a child, I loved the 80's aesthetic, the practical effects, and the over-the-top science fiction aspects of "Dune" - But I failed to understand the core meaning of the story. I'm thankful for having had an experience with the mythology of this tale before since it helped navigate me through this new re-imagining. Which culminated in a surprisingly emotional and immersive cinema visit.
All the exposition, all the time put into introducing the people and the worlds - It all continues building and building - Until all those elements find themselves holding hands - And your patience is rewarded with a feeling of relating to the potential of Paul's destiny. All of us are searching for what lies beyond that desert. Beyond that fear, a destiny awaits. And as they say in the story: "Fear is the mind-killer". Congratulations to Denis Villeneuve and his team! They nailed it! It made me reminisce on the past fondly, whilst also being in the present with eagerness to continuing striving towards the horizon. A very specific feeling, I know. But that's what the movie did. Plus, re-visiting that image of those iconic Frank Herbet sandworms echoed back souvenirs from a simpler time that I thought I'd lost.
PS: It was a bold choice to only adapt half of the book. Fingers crossed that we aren't left hanging with this cliffhanger. Much grandness is left to be witnessed.
The Suicide Squad (2021)
The movie that brought me back
Not technically a review but, this is the movie that brought me back fully with enthusiasm after the longest, toughest and most challenging year I've ever faced. The way Gunn made me care for these characters, the direction, the cinematography... just heartwarming. There's so much to praise but safe to safe "I do not mind the rain sometimes. That's the only way the roses bloom in mind when I cry."
It's still possible to express such creations to the world that will benefit others today, tomorrow, and beyond infinity. Never be afraid. Even these convicts that the government is using as expendable soldiers showcase that there's some good in their core despite all the bad they've done. They're forced to do this "suicide" mission, and the stakes make them stick to bring their fellow brother or sister out of it alive. Beautiful. The song "So Busted " by Culture Abuse is now on my playlist for motivation.
There Is Nothing Wrong In Sanford - Review
"There Is Nothing Wrong In Sanford" is Nicholas Pilk's eighth feature-length film, and you better be sure you have your seatbelts on because it's a long one. Clocking in at almost 3 hours, this sequel continues the political intrigue and schemes going on in Sanford. It's evident from early scenes that there clearly is ____ wrong there, as the title suggests. We follow an ensemble cast with many character stories that ultimately coincide. There is a strong emphasis on dialogue, with some scenes playing out similarly to a Tarantino film in terms of what beats are hit. The camerawork drifts from documentary-style -- lingering on capturing the town environment or a specific urban feel -- to a traditional wider set-up where Pilk lets scenes breathe. The political thriller genre hasn't been touched upon by the LIF members often, Jacob K. Ebbesen's "Statsminister" trilogy comes to mind as one of the examples. It's not my prefered genre as I often find myself lost in discussions about ideology and politics as a topic. Although as I kept watching this film I found myself intrigued by the mystery of a supernatural or folklore element to the story. Curtis Hubbard portrays Aldo Folcher, a mob type of guy whose appearance has a strong "Peaky Blinders" vibe. There is much more to this character than initially expected and I was interested to find out more about him and this "mythical" presence. It might sound odd, but Pilk manages to make it work with a few twists and turns. Other standouts include Senator Preston Conrad (Blake Roberson) and Thomas Liskeard (Nicholas Pilk) who have a substantial amount of monologues, switching from funny banter to angry rants. It's also surprising how dark the film can get. The violence is handled in a way where the implications are more disturbing than what's on screen. Still shocking whenever a murder scene happens, as the can seemingly happen when you least expect it.
I admire the ambition of the filmmaking here. The story is quite complex and there's a whole underlying mythology to the Diegesis (the world where the film is set). Unfortunately, the film has some audio issues. It's a common struggle to capture the sound when filming outdoors, lots of wind or background noise can get in the way. Here we have a story that you gotta pay close attention to in order to not feel lost. That's an element I can see being improved with future projects. Thankfully I respect the actors for speaking clearly and articulating their lines throughout the rougher audio scenes. I would also advise for less contrast in some of the imagery and to work on lighting the characters during night scenes. However, I did appreciate Pilk's blocking when working with silhouette shots. Overall, to me, this was an interesting introduction to Pilk Films. I'm excited to see where their ambition takes them as I can tell they are daredevils of filmmaking. Getting out there in COVID times (even letting it be a part of the narrative) and just going for this grand political web of clashing bantering characters.
The Three Wizards (2021)
The Three Wizards - Review
"The Three Wizards" is E&H Company drawing themselves into new territory, meaning a new magical genre. It's the story of Gabriel Morphius Grey who is dueling against Damon Basil Draco to obtain a magical stone (with connections to a certain philosopher?). Right off the bat, I gotta give props to the inventive names which are perfectly fitting for the wizarding world. There is also a mysterious wizard who is hiding behind a red holographic spell from who Draco is taking orders. The setup and execution is simple, but what stands out is the use of magical attacks and spells. There is care put into the visual effects and to find a tone that differentiates from Jacob Ebbesen's other work. Yet there are some trademarks that can't be lost, which are appreciated to see because there's a certain charm when you can see it's an E&H film. The ending teases that another chapter will be told, which is great since I found the ending to be quite sudden. Jacob and Lasse deliver like always and we'll have to wait and see how this magical tale develops further. The genre has much potential, as sorcery opens up the doors for new elements of storytelling. Simple and fun! Check it out!
Shadow in the Dark (2020)
Shadow in the Dark - Review
The latest horror short film from AMP's D-Dowd productions presents a man, Wesley, stuck in a dark room where he hears the voice of a woman say "When it's dark you can't see your shadow". You see old light candles, autumn trees as you walk around the cemetery. Martin Groff's score is chilling with the sound of an organ that echoes in the halls of a church. The classic Halloween mood is on display, which further enhances the traditional approach to the horror genre. Although with a clever little psychological twist. Who is this woman who seems to know Wesley's secret? And what exactly is this dark room that Wesley is stuck in. Charlotte Ferris portrays an Edgar Allan Poe type of character who speaks in a menacing and atmospheric narration.
The short film perfectly feels like an appetizer to get into the vibe of the Halloween season. Although I found myself wanting to continue the exploration of Wesley's confrontation with the mysterious woman. The short ends on a chilling, but abrupt note. So the mood will stick in your mind for some time after watching it. Overall, a fun little novella that will make you want the leaves to soon turn orange again.
The Killer IV: Dark Times (2020)
The Killer IV: Dark Times - Review
E&H Company has decided to expand another one of their series beyond a trilogy. This time it's the character of Jason Lee aka The Killer returning in the entry titled "Dark Times". Last we saw Jason Lane was in 2017 and he had just gotten revenge and was ready to lay low. The main character was always living a lonely life, but in this case the setting around him is more meaningful than one might think at first. The concept of the fourth movie takes us into a post-nuclear future. Which is a different and new approach from E&H. It will make "The Killer" series stand out more and offer new types of storytelling.
In the short film we get to see Jason Lane befriend a scavenger and start a plan to stop a new enemy group called The Brotherhood. The opening credits has a strong "Fallout" type vibe, which set the mood perfectly. The locations and visuals are also enhanced more by the purple-esque color hues. It made me feel like the skies had been scorched during the nuclear war and now the atmosphere was stuck with a warm color. I am interested to see more of Jason Lane's everyday life in this new world and his backstory with The Brotherhood. Does he only earn money being a paid mercenary or does he do other jobs? How are other people living and how deserted are the cities? There's a lot of potential and ground to be explored in a future installment. All thanks to this unique approach to elevate this series into another genre. I commend Jacob Ebbesen, Nicholas Hansen and Lasse Ravn Jacobsen for taking this decision. It's also fun to see Jacob Ebbesen find a new character to play, Lord Hex. A mysterious gunslinger with a western style. That was a welcome surprise considering one of my favorite characters he played in the preview three shorts, Mr. State, was laid to rest.
Although I also wish to see action sequences taken out of the forests and to new settings. It would be nice to see how Jason Lane would operate with gun tactics in environments he's not used to fight in. Also, Lane talks about a time machine. Which creates even more questions in my mind. I'm assuming this is setting-up an eventual time travel story? So I implore E&H Company to continue this route and to not be afraid of spending more time exploring the world and characters. I understand that most of this short is acting as a prelude to something grander, but for that reason I felt it was also holding back a lot. And in my view, I don't want it to hold back. Embrace the science fiction elements. I love the concept and I want to see what more is out there in this killer world!
You'll Leave Wanting to Float on the Water while Sunrays Warm You.
Another positively surprising film that I had no prior knowledge of. Yet I took the chance and let it play. "Sergio" gives an insight to the real life story of Sergio de Mello, a Brazilian diplomat who travels to Baghdad in 2003. On surface it's easy for movies like this to sideline the cinematic/emotional elements and get occupied to tell you all the information of the real life events. Although this is a case where the UN plot and the human plot nicely complimented each other - To the point where I got invested. While the opening didn't manage to engage me, it did get my interest. With some patience it eventually got my full attention. I loved how it was told non-linearly. Sergio looks back on his life as if he's recollecting his best times. All the while coping with a life threatening situation. The flashes back to the past are intentionally placed to be intrusive. In this case it clicked well with me. Because it places you in his perspective. Drifting from a flashing memory back to reality. The cinematography style is engaged with motivation in the flashbacks, while following a plainer "documentary" approach in present time. Which greatly strengthened the flashes of his life in the past. The ocean next to Rio de Janeiro is a strong recurring element. It represents his home, his freedom and his want to one day solely focus on the people he loves.
Wagner Moura and Ana De Armas pour their hearts into their respective roles. You can see that they live every moment of Sergio and Carolina's happiness. And that feeling of happiness and love transcended through the screen to me. In other words: I bought their depiction of the romance. I have to mention a scene where they both listen to a local woman in East Timor explaining her dreams. It's a beautiful poem that reminds us of how insignificant the material goals seem next to the purity of nature. Sergio is so taken by what he's heard that his response is to simply hug the woman and say "I understand". The whole movie wasn't able to keep this type of momentum up in every scene. Since you'll hit the conventional beats. It wasn't a perfect experience, but the splinters of the human spirit were still felt. Made me want to float on the water and feel the warmth of the Sunrays.
The Roads Not Taken (2020)
Stroke Me to the Core and Gave Peace to some Unhealed Thoughts
You know when you sometimes play a movie without knowing anything about it? Well, that's the chance I took with "The Roads Not Taken" and it was a real surprise movie for me. Some days you are driven by emotions rather than logic. And this is a story that won't give you all the full answers, but will present puzzle pieces that you can connect upon reflection. There are three narratives that the filmmakers intercut between. Leaving it up to the viewer to interpret wether what you are seeing are partly dreams or memories. Javier Bardem plays the main character, and that man never seizes to amaze me. The way he changes the body language, the way he expresses a glimpse of life in his eyes - It's like he is playing three different characters all together in the three narratives. It's a performance that stroke me to the core since it reminded me so much of my grandfather. In some scenes completely mimicking him, which brought so many memories back to me. I understood the dilemma of the film and what it wanted to give a beautiful perspective to - Which almost broke me emotionally at the end.
I've been there next to a person who's wandered off in his mind and returning to be present in fragments. I would find myself asking "Where did you go? Have you been with us all day?". The questions were always left unanswered. Director and writer Sally Potter offers with this film a view into that mind. Perhaps giving you some answers and in earnest, a sense of hope. Also, this is the best acting I've seen from Elle Fanning. She truly impressed me. Her scenes with Bardem brought tears to me eyes. There was a strong connection that was performed beautifully by everyone involved. I'm so glad I took that chance and watched this movie. It gave peace to some unhealed thoughts I had looming in the back of my mind.
Sway around with Harley and her wacky misadventures
After my friend portrayed The Joker in a parody video I've been joking around that we had to go see what his ex was up to. Considering that the last time we saw Harley Quinn was in the 'fondly' remembered "Suicide Squad", neither one of us were that exited to see this. Which is why I'm happy to say that I feel fairly optimistic going out of this once. DC has been doing a lot better in the last year. After "Justice League" wasn't what is was supposed to be the creative team at Warner Brothers was re-arranged. Which turned out 'fantabulous'. Since then we've gotten a lot more creative movies where they let the filmmakers really thrive and do their own thing with stories with different personalities. For example, I never expected to really like "Shazam!". The reason? Well, it had heart.
It was good that the Birds of Prey are going up against a villain operating on a grounded level. To me It always felt weird that Harley was fighting the Enchantress' army with a baseball bat. Roman Sionis (Black Mask) is a crime lord and a psychopath. A perfect threat for Harley and her friends. You also get a good sense of why she's good at fighting. She's got a strong intuition of things and impressive acrobatic skills. All showcased gallantly with the focused fight scenes. That was an awesome surprise! The narrative is at its strongest when it's concentrated on Harley's mindset and perspective. There's an endearing side to her. She's not just completely a villain. There's a limit she won't cross. Her interactions with the kid Cassandra offers us an insight to her emotional side. Maybe there was an innocent youth that was robbed from her? Perhaps due to The Joker? There are times when you need a movie that's fun and plays around with structure or narrative. You can take it as jarring in a few places because the story can jump around. Didn't bother me since it goes well in hand with the unreliable narrator gimmick. The movie kept me locked in. Although some of the supporting characters didn't have enough gravitas for me to get latched on to their stories. Harley is the one who really steals the show. She's the character you'll see the world from the most and therefore care for the most. A solid "Good Time" flick. I was so happy to have been able to enjoy another DC movie with my friends.
Warmhearted balance between moving and uplifting
"Lollipopping" is a 5 min short film directed by Adam Nightingale. It's the story of Malcolm who works as a crossing guard. We get follow his routine and see a few mundane situations in his life. What makes the film so enjoyable to watch is the combination of the character and directing style. Nightingale decides to shoot the film as it was a mini documentary. Even though it's all scripted everything feels very genuine. The structure of the narrative is simple yet enough to get you engaged in Malcolm's life. You get a good idea of how passionate he is about making sure people cross the road safely. It's a big responsibility to hold the sign. That's what's so humble about the short. It's about the everyday man - About those who contribute to the world with small gestures. They don't always get the recognition they deserve, which is why the short conveys a kind message. The humour is natural and never out of place. It's one aspect that worked very well, especially because it feels like you are seeing a slice of real life. The documentary style cinematography is crisp, never succoming into a shaky cam territory. Nightingale and his crew also nicely captured the sound clearly. Which can be especially difficult when making it appear as a documentary. It can't sound too clean outside because you may risk it sounding too planned/prepared. But some wind noises during the outdoor scenes helps make it appear all the more as its capturing an unplanned event. Ben Fuller's finds a warmhearted balance between moving and uplifting in his performance as Malcolm. Adam Nightingale and his crew should be proud of the brilliant way they handled this short film. I hope more people check it out as it's sure to put more smiles out there in the world.
Doctor Sleep (2019)
Surprisingly a neat little companion piece to the classic! That doesn't just rely on nostalgia to tell their story
What a surprise... That wasn't so bad actually! Now, hear me out. When I first saw the previews for this I felt disappointed by the visual look of the film, as it was all too green-tinted and lacked the Kubrick-esque framing I want from a film like this (it being a sequel to "The Shining" after all). Remember, I care too much about the visual aesthetics of these things sometimes. Especially when it was clearly supposed to connect right to the iconic classic. The green tint stays throughout the film, much to my displeasure. Worked great in "Joker" though. But once I got what the story was and paid attention I realized I was getting invested. This is a different type of film while still remembering to pay huge amounts of respect to the legacy of the original. Once you do get to the elements that carry over from Kubrick's film it felt well earned. Interestingly enough they kind of blend well together too eventually. We delve into the supernatural aspects of what Stephen King was going after in his book, and that's completely fine. I don't mind a chilling spookie once in a while. Recently I've felt done with most of the modern day horror film tropes, so it's such a shock for me to say that I had a good time with "Doctor Sleep".
The progression of where Danny Torrance's character goes to is a natural right step. They go for the 'father like son' kind of thing, and I was completely onboard with it. The ghost of Jack Nicholson's presence looms strongly over the story too, with Danny fearing not to follow his father's footsteps. The new story elements were able to grab my attention as well. Again, as soon as it clicked what type of plot/movie this was, then it worked. It's its own thing, and that's great. No "Shining" remake - except for some re-created imagery (handled with nice respect) - But most importantly: The story and characters moved forwards. Loved what they did with the character Rose the Hat. What a sinister yet oddly charming antagonist portrayed hypnotically by Rebecca Ferguson. Hope she gets the deserved credit. Ewan McGregor will always be Obi-Wan to me, but he was a fantastic choice to play Danny. He can convincingly make me believe that he's got the 'shine'. It surprises me how positive I feel about the movie! It's a neat little companion piece to the classic. Again, big props for them to go for their own thing. This is no "Force Awakens", if you know what I mean. You'll walk though memory lane here for sure. The difference is that it doesn't rely on the nostalgia to tell their story. It actually stands on its own. I'll say that if you're a big fan of the original, then it's worth taking a looksie
Agent 07: Never and Always (2019)
I reminder as to why we love the Spy Genre!
Philip Krieg aka Agent 07 returns after a six year hiatus in a new short film from AMPCorp's GK Productions branch. With a runtime under 20 min, it manages to give the viewer an understanding of what Krieg has been feeling during his absence. Krieg can't outrun his past as he gets tangled into a mystery which sets up an intriguing storyline. The directing and writing trio, Martin Groff, Peter Groff and Philip Krieg all deliver quotable dialogue and classic spy action sequences. "Means to and End" and "Safe House" were some of the shorts they made during the "Agent 07" hiatus. And it seems the experience of the continued exploration of the the action genre is part of the reason "Never and Always" works so well. The trio have successfully paced the high-stakes thrills and the complexity of the narrative as well as the emotional weight with Krieg's history into one entertaining short.
The location of the remote cabin house adds a sense of isolation for the characters. Symbolically it also works, since the focus is on one smaller story that is part of a larger puzzle piece. The further the breadcrumbs lead you, the more you can see the expanding picture of the story. The conflict between Krieg and Bronson also benefits from being set in a smaller scale environment due to it further enhancing that the battle is personal. What I always look forward to in a GK Productions movie is the use of practical effects and the props on display. With that aspect they don't disappoint. I love stuff like the smoke/dust in the air as wooden planks fall from the ceiling, or Krieg hiding behind a moving tractor as Bronson fires at him. These kind of details add believability to the action, and with that you can feel the stakes rise. As a relaunch of a series it hits the targets. The important characters are re-established and the action feels realistic with admirable stunt work. I think the sound mixing during the dialogue scenes can be improved as it was tricky to hear it well on a TV. Although when using headphones it was a lot better. With that in mind I hope that nobody will miss any clever lines from future installments. Other than that I'm happy for GK Productions. A short and sweet accomplishment that reminds us why we love this genre. They showed us the door with new potential, and I look forward to seeing Philip Krieg walking through that door.
Dark Phoenix (2019)
Visit the X-Men mansion one last time - It's surprisingly watchable and bittersweet.
"Logan" was the true finale for me, this is more of an afterthought. I wasn't excited about the Jean storyline to be done again. Especially since I was not impressed with her character in "Apocalypse". And I'll be fair to say that Sophie Turner has matured as an actress. The portrayal was definetely more polished. She's still trying to make her way through a script that offers some of the best and worst qualites of the X-Men. There had to have been a good reason for Simon Kinberg to decide to direct his own script. He must have really wanted a second chance at adapting the "Dark Phoenix" story more properly. In full honesty it manages to stay more focused than I thought. But it's super important to note that the movie only holds up due to the history you as an audience member has to the characters. This is a movie that's very directed towards the fans. It won't succeed to anyone who's only vaguely familiar with the series. I was still invested in what was going on with Charles and Eric. McAvoy and Fassbender knock it out of the park once again. Where the script does shine is during their character conversations. Which every other movie in the series has always got right. The scope of the action was scaled back, yet it felt more tense and memorable compared to most of the recent comics book movies. I like how the team gets to display their different powers (the latest two "Avengers" have also nailed this aspect. I'm not forgetting them). I didn't mind it going darker with the violence and killing either. They had to up the stakes somehow. Hans Zimmer does brooding and dark best and his music elevates all the action scenes.
It's mediocre. I'm not in the hate train here. Plenty of aspects in this movie are competent. It didn't go out of its way to become an absolute trainwreck as some were stating before it premiered. Maybe it helped to have no expectations? However, every strike it gets, it also receives some negative hits back. I didn't buy every twist and turn. Villains were too cliche and kind of ridiculous. Developments were rushed with more dignity to be desired. The plot is complex and the runtime felt too short to get all the important beats across. Still, it's no "X-Men Origins". Here you get a musical score with action where the stakes are played up. That is what stole the show. It was bittersweet to visit the good ol' X-Men one last time. After a few min into the movie it did hit me - That I had missed these guys. While not being a great film, it wasn't as bad as I feared. It was fun while it lasted. I did sincerely get a lot more emotion out of this movie than "Captain Marvel". While not much, still more. I found it surprisingly watchable.
The Kaijus save the day from the human characters
Man... So many conflicting feelings on this one. The trailers and posters looked amazing, yet the end result is disjointed. The promise of monster fights and stellar visuals are delivered. What takes the punch is the human story, which fails to be interesting and instead muddled. While I enjoyed what the 2014 film was going for, I was ultimately disappointed in both the execution of the premise and how little of the titular character was even featured. The Kaijus had personalities in the classic Japanese films - especially in the Showa era. Adding Ghidorah, Rodan and Mothra offers plenty of possibilities of monster interactions. Besides, they are the most iconic line-up. Ultimately not enough time is given for all of them to share the screen together. However, the scenes they get are terrific! They all get some fierce action moments which are the biggest highlights of the movie. Didn't care for all of the stupid conveniences and just how the human characters are handled in the plot. The exception is Ken Watanabe as Dr. Serizawa. That character was given respect. I especially liked how you saw some of the legacy from the original film shine through with his arc and how they concluded it by tributing the original Japanese work. It was also nostalgically amazing to hear the real Godzilla themes be used again. Finally!
Right before the movie began two Aussies sitting next to me proclaimed that "Godzilla is rad". They were clearly fans since they picked up on all of the easter eggs and references. Which shows that the filmmakers know the preceding entries well and that they respect it. But at the same time that also baffles me because of some choices they went with. I don't care for all of the Titan talk. It's Kaijus, come on! Godzilla (plus some of the other monsters) were created due to the atom bombings and other nuclear tests. He wasn't a being from ancient times. They got it right Rodan and Mothra though. They shouldn't have changed too much from the already established mythology. You can instead expand it further, but here it's like they wanna simplify it for a wider audience. The human characters already explain too much and honestly I was getting tired of the military stuff. Go for some other perspectives. If you're gonna have the humans be so central, then spend more time with their development. And also, dial down on the jokes. Because that was distracting. The actual Kaijus, Serisawa, the visuals were a spectacle. Those are the aspects that prove that the movie works best on the big screen. If you're unfamiliar with the franchise, then you're gonna be lost. But for fans and admirers, you'll be happy with some of it. Still not quite there. I'm not hyped about the "Godzilla vs. King Kong" remake. If they don't get that one right... Well, then I'll be done with the MonsterVerse.
The Professor (2018)
"Why do we float through this weird thing called life without living?"
Be yourself. Be true to yourself. Don't settle for what you are not. Quotes from this movie resonated with me. My mind has been wandering on lines like: "Why do we float through this weird thing called life without living?". Live life and don't simply exist. Like the Professor says: "You got one shot at this. Don't let a moment of it slip by." A genuine performance by Johnny Depp and the whole cast. I enjoyed the writing. With the emphasis on observations and the thoughts of the mundane, relationships and the honesty of people. It also includes the best acting I've seen from Danny Huston. I full heartedly bought his friendship with Depp's character. The story starts with a slightly quirkier tone, but gets more and more real as you get to the second half. Depp plays the broken man and you can see that pain and regret in his eyes. A very human story that eventually tugged at my heartstrings. Some scenes could have been handled differently during the first half. But the deep thoughts and confessions presented later was able to bring it all home. I do feel better for having been on this little journey of a man and his emotional bender. It's very unfiltered, so it's definitely not for too young minds. You gotta be somewhat ready the face hardships of existence. While not perfect, the director and the whole crew still made one thing very clear: That this one was from the heart.
The Beach Bum (2019)
Time to reverb back and forth until you hit the frequency
I felt weird after having seen "The Beach Bum". I walked to my kitchen and began an odd tantrum to my friend about how life is fun and filled with possibilities. Just live it, enjoy it, make the most of it. Unfortunately this movie has not gotten a premiere date in Sweden, so I'll admit that I began to see the leaked version and I just couldn't stop watching. Even if it wasn't the best experience, I was somehow hooked by the aura and philosophy of Moondog. Harmony Korine seems to have a habit of telling stories of those odd people who aren't afraid to be themselves to the fullest. I appreciate that he finds those voices. The voices of those who usually aren't listened to in the mainstream. Before this I had only seen "Spring Breakers" , and I will say that I was more transfixed by this movie. Mostly due to the character really. Matthew McConaughey is Moondog, there is no question about it. He's also surrounded by a parade of magnificent supporting characters, which elevates the trip to the next level. That being said, Moondog's story won't be everyone's cup of tea.
Our main character begins the story as irreverent as he can be. He takes no responsibility. Literary living his life by his own rules. He has become so wealthy due to his poetry that he feels he can do anything. The audience may feel dismay here since Moondog is acting this way around people and showing only but a slight bit of concern. I never tuned out though, as I knew that Moondog would have to find a way to balance his drug fueled habits, his family and his economy. At first you think the character will go through some sort of life altering adventure, but no. It's more of a "accepting of who you are" story. Being aware of ones issues and controlling yourself. Moondog's descriptions of how and why he writes poetry will be engraved in my mind for awhile. Like I said before, I simply felt weird after the movie ended, but in an optimistic way. Moondog hit some slopes and made mistakes. But at the end of the day nobody is truly perfect. You can take great lessons from your mistakes and move forward. It's difficult to rate the "The Beach Bum". I will see it again once it's available in better quality and with a fresh new mindset. In the meantime: Do what you love to do and follow the road to wherever your inspiration takes you.
Giant sea battles, parkour with laser blasts and one "fish-man" caught in the middle
Is Aquaman the savior of DC or merely that fish-boy from the TV? Well, it's not perfect but it's actually better than expected. It seems the character has gotten some justice now with a grand scale movie that's solely about his story. Jason Momoa still goes around with his "surf" attitude but he ends up growing by regretting some mistakes and assuming responsibility. However, there are cliches and storytelling tropes which can't be escaped. Luckily it doesn't bring everything down as the action is fun and the visuals are a feast to the eye. It's a movie that will entertain to the max. An element I was happy to see was the usage of mythology (especially Greek mythology in this case). I've always been endlessly fascinated by what legendary mystic stories could be explored in the profoundness of the sea. And that tone was transmitted nicely to the screen. I loved the depth in the cinematography. You'll see the sunlight reach the corals while the characters swim across. It's vibrant, warm and full of life. So the visuals were big standouts. The story was decent yet formulaic. I could have gone with less explaining and skipped of some of the obvious jokes. But most surprisingly it finds moments where clear human purity is brought out. The tale about Arthur's parents, his training with Willem Dafoe's Vulko, even his relationship with Mera doesn't come across as annoying (considering it's super obvious that they're gonna be together). It somehow works on plain simplicity. It's nothing too much, just clear and simple enough that you can see the sincerity there.
It's bloated given how grand James Wan wants to go with the story. You better stay awake for two hours because this thing moves like sharks chasing their pray. The action is always energetic, except for when they decide to throw a character into a wall. The parkour set-piece was a lot of fun. Partly with how well thought out the shots were and where the next part of the sequence would lead to. And this is coming from someone who thought it looked stupid in the trailers. Loved the look of the bad guys. Manta has been one of my favorites and it's amazing to see him adapted properly on the big screen. I wanted his part in the plot to be even more integral. Ocean Master is OK at best. His costume and helmet are great but the guy's a bit of a Shakespearean villain cliche. I will give him credit for at least having a motivation I understood and agreed with. His solution to his problem however... That's where the villain aspect comes to play. I would also have trimmed out some levity that felt pandering. Some of the characters didn't get enough development to make you undertand their place in the story. I was kind of confused as to who Mera was and what she was up to during the first act. But to be fair, that may have been because she looks so otherworldly it drew me away. Anyway, it is a fun movie and a lot more decent than I thought it would be. Just be ready for some stupid bits here and there, or very convenient plot points. But the visual spectacle delivers with some imaginative underwater worlds and creatures. Better than "Justice League" which doesn't say too much, but I see this being very enjoyable on repeat viewings.
Mortal Engines (2018)
Like-able main duo stuck in chaotic ride
Peter Jackson & company are insanely talented at creating their worlds. What I liked most about "The Mortal Engines" is how the opening scene makes you understand the concept without too much explanation. With a high-paced sequence that very well established where the characters are at and how this world of "cities on wheels" is supposed to work. It felt promising and I got a "Howl's Moving Castle" meets "Mad Max" sort of vibe. If only the execution held up all the way through. Peter Jackson probably should have directed on his own. Instead he let's his pal Christian Rivers take the helm based on Jackson's script and producing duties. I feel there are plenty of missed opportunities and rushed plot ideas thrown your way. Few important moments get the time they need to sink in and it's like they had no patience to get to the stunning set-pieces. Most of the turning points happen so suddenly that it's though for you to stay up to speed with the story. It doesn't help when your villain is super cliche either. The camera work also appeared slightly unfocused. One second there's a beautiful vista, then the next second we're shaking all over the place as people are fighting in claustrophobic rooms. I couldn't tell what was happening during most fights.
I wanna be positive with some aspects. Firstly, I liked the main characters. A very like-able duo played by relatively fresh newcomers. Hester's arc had a good concept. Imagine that the goal of your life has been revenge, and that you have been raised by a robot to show no emotion. So therefore once she meets the funny and lighthearted Tom - who has lived safely without danger - she has no idea how to express compassion. These two had things to learn from each other and that gave the story a nice meaning. It's also funny how this movie mixes genres. It's science fiction, but it's told as a fantasy and I guess there's some steampunk and... dear I say Anime influences to be seen? You get imagery that would lend itself perfectly in a "Nausicaä / Studio Ghibli" type movie or any Anime in general. It has that same level of detailing concepts of worlds beyond ours. The bottom line is that I thought it was a messy/chaotic ride with some fun sprinkled across. Jackson and company can do so much better. Mostly recommended to an audience who love science fiction stories that are really out there. I'm still waiting to see more "Tintin" films.
Creed II (2018)
Run up those stairs and feel the power to fight back
Why do people behave like they're at their own house when they're at the cinema? I don't get it... And I'm already getting sidetracked. But yeah, people chattering for the majority of the movie and even laughing during pivotal drama scenes. Didn't feel like some guys were seeing the same film. A Spanish family were sitting on the row behind me and one of them was translating all the dialogue to Spanish! I mean, I'm glad you're such big fans of "Rocky", but don't go to the cinema if you're gonna have to talk over the whole thing. I'm hearing the dialogue double tracked (since I understand Spanish I couldn't help but to hear most sentences twice). Stuff like that got on my nerves, especially when you've had a long day. You wanna wind down and get some quality movie inspiration at the one place where people should be respectful to the viewing experience. I can forgive reactions such as "Oh, look it's Dolph! He's Swedish", "Apollo was killed in Part IV" or "What happened to Brigitte Nielsen?" etc, etc. It was honestly a distracting theatre visit. Had to get the rant out of the way, sorry.
I enjoyed the movie though. It's formulaic, yet it hits the targets. If you wanna predict the storyline then chances are you likely won't be wrong. Although there are enough layers to the characters which makes the drama worthwhile. We're on the eight film now and you know the legacy of Rocky and Creed so well at this point that I don't mind having a slower moving middle portion in the film. I wasn't as invested as I would have liked, but I was never bored by it. It's a competent drama film. What brings it down is that notion of the familiar turning points. That makes it though for this sequel to stand out more. I'm glad Drago was brought back and not made into a typical villain. That's one of it's greatest strengths, having opponents that you actually can feel a little bad for. Adonis Creed's struggle with his family life and fame at the boxing was the usual. But the actors handle the material so well that it elevates. The ending does hit a home-run and it's sends a powerful tingling down your spine. Now that's the inspirational journey I was looking for. It hit me at the end, so at least it concludes on a high emotional note. Remember, it's also the history of this series that makes the finale as strong as it is. You feel like you've run up to the last step in front of Philly's museum of art. And that's when the humanity comes back to you. You're alive and ready to fight for what you care for.
Umbilical World (2018)
Journey to a world of surreal imagination
David Firth walks trough his animation history. I've always been intrigued by his work as they range from comedic, metaphorical or straight up violently shocking. There's a nice amount of calm cartoon stories too see as well. Not all of it is dark and twisted (even though most of it is). "Umbilical World" takes you on a guided tour and shows you some of his best stories in different vignettes. New animations are added to help the transition between the styles. All of the stories have also been revamped and remastered to look even more pristine. Unsurprisingly it becomes a strange experience. Which is just what it should be. A strange dream, since it appears to follow that dream-like logic.
Firth is a master at creating some utterly haunting imagery and then he'll make you laugh the next minute, or hit you in the head with a thought provoking message. If you have missed out on many of his works then I highly recommend to check out this assembly/retrospective movie. It even gives the viewer the sense that all of his surreal worlds are connected. I'd call this an anthology film in some capacity. Just remember that it's an experimental one. I was happy to see some of my favourite series get their own segments here with the upgraded animation. So if you like the darkness or quirkiness of let say... Someone like Lynch, then check this out as you'll tolerate this feature length nightmare. I'll say that the imagination on display here is a work to behold.