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Artemis Fowl (2020)
The making of "Artemis Fowl" on its own deserves a motion picture.
Who do you think you are?
I'm the next criminal mastermind.
I'm afraid you need to be as intelligent as "Artemis Fowl" to understand and keep up with this movie. What a confusing chaos this was. I get it that they are looking for a sort of Harry Potter successor and already started drooling while thinking of the box-office with every new sequel. But they should have spread this single movie over a number of sequels because now you cannot make heads or tails of it. Let me remind you that I don't know the book series written by Eoin Colfer, on which this film is based. Let alone read one of them. A kind of introduction of the characters would have been helpful for the uninitiated viewers. And that's a big difference when you compare (and there will be a lot of comparisons) this Disney film with the Harry Potter films. Even if you hadn't read one of the Harry Potter books, you were sucked into the wonderful story about this mini wizard from the start. All the leading protagonists were carefully introduced and gradually you got to know them, appreciate them, and quickly one of the leading characters became your favorite. With "Artemis Fowl" you better keep focused because before you know it you have missed a whole storyline and a number of important characters. The amount of facts and things of importance is so immense that it'll make you dizzy.
It also took an awful lot of effort before the film could be released. The film rights were bought in 2001 by Miramax Films (in the middle of the fantasy film period when Potter and Frodo ruled). Next Disney announced in 2013 that they were going to make the film in partnership with The Weinstein Company. The creation of this feature film was very different from what had been expected. First of all, you had the disappearing trick of some directors. Then there was the Weinstein affair with Harvey waving his wand too much apparently. Next came the disgruntled fans and last but not least the Coronavirus. In the end, it was decided to stream the film on the Disney + platform instead of screening in the cinema. For sure this was the best decision they could have ever made. No one would be inclined to watch it in the cinema after reading a few reviews. Unfortunately, the revenue from Disney + platform subscriptions is not enough to bear the price tag of a sloppy $ 125 million.
What else went wrong besides the fact it's a very confusing story? Well, to be honest, I wasn't really charmed by the characters themselves. Artemis Fowl Jr. (Ferdia Shaw) is an annoying kid without any charisma and totally insensitive (A kind of MIB version of Richie Rich). A deadly serious little brat with an attitude. Admittedly, his intelligence is lightyears beyond normal and he obtained a series of diplomas at a very young age. Plus he comes from a wealthy family and probably took everything for granted during his young life. The magic of a film doesn't only depend on the magic of the story itself, but also how amiable the main characters come across. No one could resist the charms of Harry Potter (I know. There's the comparison again.): that poor little fellow living under the stairs, with his roguish smile and lightning bolt on his forehead. I really didn't find Artemis that charming. And even the more famous actors made little impression. Colin Farrell had a depressed and sulky expression throughout the film as if he already saw the potential for disaster. Judi Dench was actually the only one to stand out in her green leather fairy outfit. But that was more because of the charismatic nature of her character Commandant Root. And Lara McDonell looked adorable as the brave fairy Holly Short. You also had a centaur who could join Milli Vanilli. The dwarf Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad), who also took on the role of narrator at the same time, who's actually not a dwarf and resembles Rubeus Hagrid. And there was even the suggestion David Bowie was an elf (Talking bout humor). That's about it what I can remember from all personages. In general, however, the performances were not impressive or grand.
There's also something to be said about the footage. They've put a lot of energy into it (maybe a little too much) and the film is packed with generally good-looking CGI. But a film about fairies, trolls, and dwarfs, who live in an underground hidden world, must look fairy-like and enchanting to me. They've decided to create a futuristic-looking fairy world full of flashy vehicles and modern buildings. And stuffed with a bunch of extras, busy decors, and an infinite number of props that you'll need an extra pair of eyes to take in all the wonders. But don't panic. This magical place is soon abandoned. Most of the film is set in the residence of the Fowl family. And there you can expect even more CGI (slightly less well developed). Perhaps it was quite an exaggeration when you consider the number of special effects. The only thing that impressed me was the jaw joints of Mulch Diggums.
No, I'm not a new fan of "Artemis Fowl" and I don't feel the urge to discover the books. All in all, I found this movie version confusing and chaotic. I sometimes had the feeling that I was watching a new episode of "Kingsman" for young viewers. I didn't fully understand the principle of the time bubble and was amazed bout how Artemis could unravel everything so quickly (But yes, extremely intelligent. Right?). Maybe me being a grownup has something to do with it. I guess youngsters will like it. Although, I think my two kids, who aren't real book readers and never heard of Artemis Fowl, will be lost after 20 minutes. A re-watch might help better understanding the whole thing. I imagine fans of the books were very curious how Fowl's world would look like on the silver screen. Anyway. I won't wait for the sequels of this vague film. To put it mildly, I think the movie "Artemis Fowl" is a perfect fit for the current summer vacation that has become a disaster due to COVID-19.
A Good Woman Is Hard to Find (2019)
A harsh and realistic revenge-flick.
Just let sleeping dogs lie.
The moment you see Sarah (Sarah "The Lazarus Effect" Bolger) turning the house upside down while looking for batteries for her non-working vibrator and hear her say "Thank you Jesus" a little later with visible relief, it seems as if she's a completely different character than the woman who came into the picture at the beginning of the film. Admittedly, a woman who still mourns her recently deceased husband. But then without blood splashes in her face and on her body. After seeing "Becky" only recently, "A good woman is hard to find" is yet another revenge film in which a desperate woman takes a thorough revenge on those who made her life a living hell. Not that she suffered physical injuries. But the murder of her husband and the way in which she is treated by society makes sure that it's best your not going to stand in Sarah's way. Those who do will experience the painful consequences.
The only thing I found a bit unrealistic was the constant apathy and misogyny displayed here. Never thought there were so many rude, insensitive and tactless people in the UK. A shop assistant who treats Sarah like a utensil and makes use of a fairly sexist language. A psychologist who shows a lack of tact. But especially the way the police treated her was totally implausible to me. Even if the activities of the deceased husband were not too kosher, that doesn't mean that this widow should be treated in such a low-minded, condescending way. And while the drug gang is notorious in this district who don't treat annoying individuals in a gentle way, it seems as if they are unknown to the local police.
In any case, "A good woman is hard to find" has a more realistic character than, say, a film like "Becky". The bleak and hopeless situation Sarah finds herself in. The gray slums in Belfast, Ireland, where drug trafficking is rampant. Lawlessness seems to be a standard in this social neighborhood. And the revenge actions can also be called quite brutal. And at the same time more plausible than in other films. When Sarah goes to the local hardware store and starts purchasing a whole arsenal of working tools, you can expect nauseating scenes. Not that it's explicitly portrayed. But the background noise and slow-motion images leave nothing to the imagination. Immediately I was thinking about "American Psycho".
Although "A good woman is hard to find" is a fairly conventional thriller that doesn't deviate from the standard rules of the genre, there are still some elements that make the film rise above average. There's the admirable acting of Sarah Bolger. A woman who has to deal with the loss of her husband on the one hand and then realizes that he actually lived a different life. The impetus for the rising violence can be traced back to petty thief Tito (Andrew Simpson). Stealing a load of drugs, belonging to the local drug lord Leo Miller (Edward Hogg), and using Sarah's house as an alternative storage place, he forces Sarah to defend herself as a determined lioness. Also, those two roles (Tito and Leo) are played properly. And finally there's the film technical aspect. Solid image quality. "A good woman is hard to find" is in all respects a dark and depressing film that shows the harsh reality of life in a hard and realistic way. An intense trip, as it were.
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You liked "The Lighthouse"? I guess you'll like this one too.
Okay, as far as I can see it, this...
this is payback!
For having to live the rest of my life with his face etched into my brain.
Every now and then I come across a completely unknown film I don't really expect much from, despite the presence of a well-known sounding name, but which nevertheless pleasantly surprises me. "The Vanishing" is a thriller pur sang. A fictional story about a true event, namely the disappearance of three lighthouse keepers in 1900 who stayed on one of the Flannan islands on the west coast of Scotland. The three men James Ducat (Gerard Butler), Thomas Marshall (Peter Mullan), and Donald MacArthur (Connor Swindells) have never been found. Nobody had a real explanation and soon several speculations circulated. From a giant sea snake to giant seagulls. Or maybe they went up in smoke to start a new life. Kidnapping by spies was also an option. Even an alien kidnapping. This film aims to give a more plausible explanation. But it nevertheless remains an unproven and therefore fictional story.
Don't expect any supernatural apparition. First of all, "The Vanishing" is a realistic look at the life of a lighthouse keeper at the beginning of the 20th century. The rugged sailor life in which these seasoned sea dogs brave the briny deep unflinchingly as they make their way to that boulder in the middle of the ocean. Something rookie Donald clearly isn't used to, so he experiences the trip while hanging over the railing. Largest part of the film you see how these men dutifully perform their tasks on the island. Not that there's really a lot to do. The main task is to ensure that the beacon of the lighthouse is working properly and that the glass surrounding it looks optima forma. They spend the rest of their time singing, cooking, sleeping, and strolling around the island. Not really madly exciting.
Until newcomer Donald finds a splintered boat, a lifeless drowned man, and a locked wooden box between the rocks. And when the content of the mysterious box is being revealed, the time has come for tensions to rise. From that moment on, mistrust and greed play a major role. There is such an ominous mood in the air. You get the feeling that every moment the situation will explode and one of the three keepers will erupt into violent anger. But ultimately the three don't pose a threat to each other, but third parties play a greater role. I won't reveal too much, but expect a serious escalation of the situation at some point.
"The Vanishing" was a relief after seeing so many mediocre and forgettable nonsensical feature films. Not only the footage turns this film into a gem. The acting is also phenomenally beautiful. Not only the oppressive, claustrophobic atmosphere is impressive. There are also some melodramatic moments in which hidden distress comes to the surface, resulting in conversations full of meaningful silences and heavy words. You'll also witness some lurid scenes such as the cleaning up of dead gulls after a heavy storm ("You may have to break the wings to get 'em in."). But for me, Gerard Butler was a real eye-opener. He usually appears in one of those a dime a dozen action films (with the exception of a single film like "A family man"). But here he also shows that he knows how to act. Never thought a movie about lighthouse keepers would be worth watching. Well, apparently it is. And that's also a reason to finally check out "The Lighthouse"! Lights out, lighthouse spotlight on.
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Penance Lane (2020)
Captivating begin. Disappointing ending.
I'm gonna get us out of this.
We're gonna be okay.
"Penance Lane" is something for the fans of cheaply produced B-horror movies that don't exactly excel when it comes to the storyline. I was actually very curious about this movie after reading the synopsis on IMDb. And the movie poster also looked interesting. So let me say that I started watching the film with a dose of healthy enthusiasm. Unfortunately, that enthusiasm collapsed halfway through the film like a soufflé that has just come out of the oven. It's a pity though, because the first half was of a decent level.
The prologue in itself made me curious enough and confirmed what I expected. A dilapidated house where some gang members hid after committing a robbery. Such a gang of "badasses" with impressive guns and an attitude as if they can handle the whole world. Unfortunately, they are no match for what is harassing them from dark corners and dark places in this creepy house. Why this was actually the most compelling part of the movie, I don't really have an explanation for. Maybe because you don't really know which direction it will go. Is it something demonic or will it be a "Texas Chain Saw Massacre" kind of film?
Time to introduce the protagonist. Crimson Matthews (Tyler Mane) strolls around the town streets. An ex-convict with a rugged appearance. He gets into a fight with the son of the local Police Captain, when it turns out that this son uses his girlfriend (Scout Taylor-Compton) as a punching bag, and then meets the owner (mother of the girl in question) of the local diner. Crimson doesn't waste any time and almost immediately seeks a job as a handyman. And he ends up at the abandoned house, apparently owned by the local priest (John Schneider) who hires him without further ado. From the start, it's clear that our tough hero doesn't intend to demonstrate ingenious handyman-techniques. It's also evident that it's no coincidence he ended up in this house. And that his night's rest would be disturbed by something that wanders through the house like a shadow, was also to be expected. Despite the fact that there's sometimes a bit of too exaggerated acting and toe-curling, clumsy dialogues are being used, the film remained fascinating. Till this point anyway. Because somewhere in the middle of the film, the plot twist presents itself and the tone of the film changes drastically.
If you look at "Penance Lane" in its entirety in terms of storyline and overall look and feel, you could say that it belongs to Rob Zombie's oeuvre (albeit among the less successful creations). Coincidentally, there are a number of actors who also appeared in a Rob Zombie movies before. Like Tyler Mane who played Michael Myers in "Halloween II". Scout Taylor-Compton also played an important role in that film. And then there's Daniel Roebuck (the Police Captain) who got a role in almost every Rob Zombie movie. It may not have affected the creators of this film, but the least you can say is that it's extremely coincidental. I'm not a real Rob Zombie adept but I could appreciate his flick "31".
In the end, "Penance Lane" was a disappointment for me. If the gradation of my enthusiasm were graphed, I'm sure it would resemble any COVID-19 graph. Except that there's no sign of a "flatten the curve" effect. After its peak, the curve goes very fast to a zero point. Maybe my expectations weren't met because the concept changed drastically. In the end, it became a kind of thriller without supernatural apparitions. Rather a crime story in which an insane individual has set up a lucrative business activity. The story made no sense and at some point became downright ridiculous. I have learned the following lesson from this. No matter how good a summary sounds or what a movie poster looks like, it's never a guarantee the movie will be any good. And yet there was, somewhere deeply hidden, an excellent film. Unfortunately, they failed to conjure it.
Complete nonsense but immensely entertaining.
Becky is as strong-willed and vindictive as they come
and you just tortured and killed her only living parent.
Feel like watching a straightforward "home invasion" film with dangerous-looking thugs (impressive body length, coarse facial features, and imposing tattoos on the back of their bald heads) taking an innocent family hostage? Well, in that case, "Becky" is the right movie for you. As with "Bushwick", also directed by Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion, you don't have to wait long for the violence to erupt. First, there's a brief introduction of the main characters Becky (Lulu Wilson) and father Jeff (Joel McHale), who wants to spend a weekend with his girlfriend Kayla (Amanda Brugel) and her son Ty (Isaiah Rockcliffe). Subsequently, you'll see a violent escape from a prisoner transport by Dominick (Kevin James) and his cronies Apex (Robert Maillet), Cole (Ryan McDonald), and Hammond (James McDouglas). And then you can get ready for an hour of unabashed terror and bloody butchery.
Frankly, the film isn't really inventive and will certainly not stand out among other similar creations. But I have to admit I had a lot of fun watching it. It was a moment of relaxation and a relief for me to forget the Corona crap briefly. Perhaps also because of its simplicity and the straightforward approach this film had to offer. You actually know in advance what the outcome will be. As I mentioned in my review about "Eye for an eye". You can be certain that the nasty gang members will get the short end of the stick. The movie "Becky" comes with one condition. You have to ignore the fact that a 13-year-old girl is able to wipe the floor with four grown-up guys. In short, if you don't take this film too seriously, it's digestible. Otherwise, you'll only be annoyed by it.
Most notable appearance is of course Kevin James who makes a huge career switch by portraying a relentless neo-Nazi. It took me a while to realize it was the "Kevin Can Wait" actor. Someone who usually appears in light-hearted television shows and belongs in yet another Sandler film. The transformation from an oh-so-cozy, over-friendly (Santa-ish) guy to a chilly, beastly Third Reich supporter (and member of some Brotherhood that defends the Aryan race) with an imposing, shaggy beard, is impressive. Opposite these behemoths (especially the aforementioned Apex) is this skinny thirteen-year-old girl with her pink backpack, glitter-decorated smartphone, and a similar bear hat as Jack wore in "Room". Not exactly a worthy opponent for these four brutes. But then the aspect of improbability comes into play and the gentlemen realize that they were a bit wrong about this girl.
Yes, "Becky" is a bit of a nonsense movie. The reason why these four idiots terrorize this family also remains a mystery. And what's the relationship between the gang members? Like Dominick and Apex. Do they have family ties? And is the passing of her mother the only reason why Becky resolutely draws the card of revenge? Or does she have a more sinister past? But despite the lack of character development and substantive explanations, I'd say that "Becky" is an entertaining gory thriller. An adult "Home Alone" version where creative assault weapons are manufactured resulting in painful-looking (A hidden metaphor by coincidence) injuries. It's not one of the best revenge movies, but also not one of the worst.
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Gretel & Hansel (2020)
An aesthetically beautiful film.
Tell me the fairy tale again.
It's too scary, you'll start seeing things that aren't there.
In recent years we have been flooded with live-action versions of well-known Disney fairy tales. These usually follow the fairytale story without deviation. Even the appearance and atmosphere are mostly identical to the original. However, this isn't the case with "Gretel & Hansel". Director Osgood Perkins has gone to great lengths to make it an idiosyncratic creation. It largely corresponds to the original story of the Brothers Grimm. But the moral of the story is very different from the original fairy tale. So, no nasty stepmother. No pebbles or bread crumbs. In the original fairy tale, Hans was more inventive. Here he's a helpless little fellow dependent on his bigger sister. But it's mainly the role Gretel plays in this story and how this character evolves. Hence probably also the switching of the names in the film title, which indicates Gretel's part is more important.
The period in which it takes place is comparable to that in "The VVitch" or "Apostle". Most likely at the time of the great famine in the 14th century, when it was difficult for many to survive. Most lived in shabby houses and had no means to meet their daily needs. Similarly, the mother of Gretel and Hans, who chases the children out of the house with unmistakable words (and a dangerous-looking lumberjack ax). First, they are advised by a friendly man to look for work and join a group of lumberjacks and especially not to deviate from the path. Hunger and the discovery of delicious looking mushroom causes the two children to leave the path and discover a black house in the forest.
The mushroom scene can be called amusing and already suggests that this film is certainly not an accessible version of the known fairy tale. It's also not recommended to watch this with your kids as you did with "The Lion King". This film is too dark, gloomy, and perhaps too terrifying for small children. Even though I found the label "horror" a bit exaggerated. "Gretel & Hansel" isn't really creepy. Don't expect the typical elements of a horror. No jump scares. No gory scenes or possessed creepy persons. But certainly, you'll experience an unpleasant and disturbing feeling throughout the whole movie. An intense, eery atmosphere in which you are immersed.
I also fear that due to its artistic character and experimental production, this morbid fairy tale isn't for everyone. Many horror fans will be terribly disappointed and rather portray it as a pretentious movie. Evildoers are of course the lack of tension and the slow pace. But for me, it was the unique atmosphere and the imaginative story that made it an exciting experience. The design of the witch house (without gingerbread walls decorated with all kinds of sweetness) will confuse you. A pitch-black, modernist house built with contemporary materials and styles. Not exactly something you will start nibbling on. On the one hand, the interior is characteristic of that specific time. But on the other hand, there are also style features that belong to the present era. And the richly filled table full of delicious stews and pastries is a feast for the eyes.
What appealed to me the most was the excellent cast. Alice Krige as the terrifying and devilish witch in particular was simply fabulous. And Sophia Lillis also plays the role of Gretel convincingly. A young girl with unexpected future prospects. The beautiful music and sound effects together with the used color palette, provided a special atmosphere. Only the denouement I found a bit unfortunate and not appropriate for the slow tempo of the film. I can certainly enjoy a straightforward version of a fairy tale. But this contrary version managed to surprise me. Definitely a film for those who love aesthetically beautiful films.
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Slick footage. Substandard storyline.
Paging ET, please phone home.
"Proximity" had potential. The film partially redeemed this but then blatantly fails on a completely different level. With a film about alien abduction, there's one particular expectation wherewith the film stands or falls. And that's the look of the spacecraft with which those green men fly around. In many SF movies with the same subject, this is either shown only briefly. Or the design and special effects are so pitifully bad that you wished those alien tourists instantly have an engine problem and crash down with their ugly flying saucer. But when Isaac (Ryan Mason) early in the movie sees the spinning vehicle fly above him, I noticed his approving look. Not because he liked the design, but because his conviction was confirmed in this way. Me on the other hand, probably had an approving look because the spaceship looked really good. Unfortunately, this fact alone could not save the film.
Believe me. Cinematographically, this film looks slick. The used special effects clearly show that director Eric Demeusy is no novice. The experience he gained with "Tron: Legacy" as a 3D animator and other projects clearly paid off. So no blurry images with bad special effects. And no situations where you get the feeling that the spacecraft were hung on a silk threads to move them that way. Even the aliens looked fine and credible. So in terms of imaging, it's okay. And this even during the entire film.
I also found the story promising in the beginning. Nerdy looking Isaac (Ryan Masson) who's convinced aliens exist and looks at computer screens every day to watch bleeps from satellites, almost faints when one day, during a bike ride, a silver flying saucer flies over him. Lucky he has a camera (Betamax model) with him to film the event. He can even capture a "close encounter" with a real Martian. Next, he's beamed up (just like a genuine Enterprise crew member) and awakens somewhere in a field. Unharmed but with a gigantic 3-day hole in his memory. What follows is a chaotic period for Isaac. A period in which he tries to make clear to the world that he was kidnapped by aliens. And then we get a perfect demonstration of how things are in our society today. One day you'll be hailed and adored. The next day you are booed, razed to the ground, and buried under reproaches and incriminating allegations.
Till here, the story was still amusing and interesting. The hassle of uploading the video and the subsequent reactions and comments. The invitation by a television program and the disappointment by Isaac. The fuss that arises on the internet and then Isaac's search for fellow victims and like-minded people. It felt "Goonies" -like and reminiscent of the bygone days when Spielberg scored high with his SF films about "close encounters". There was even an "E.T." joke used by the two nerds in the lab. And then halfway through, the film gets a completely absurd twist. "Men in Black" clones suddenly show up. And the film suddenly takes on Star Wars allures. Together with the beautiful Sara (Highdee Kuan), a fellow girl who has experienced something similar, Isaac flees from a mysterious government agency. Zed (Christian Prentice), the phenomenon in Costa Rica, was the most hilarious part of the movie. This whizzkid owns a treehouse in the middle of the jungle (Yeah really!) where he hacks NASA servers. How he can have a connection with the internet there, is a mystery to me. I sometimes have poor reception in my kitchen here. And I'm certain I'm living in that part of the world that's civilized enough to make sure it's top-notch. In any case, the story becomes increasingly nonsensical by the minute. Not to mention the denouement where the aliens reveal what they are looking for on earth. Completely laughable.
All in all, it's admirable what they've achieved in this low-budget SF. In terms of footage and imagery, the film is simply overwhelming. The special effects look fantastic. There's also little to complain about the acting itself. Masson's acting is almost perfect. Highdee Kuan is a perfect addition. And the character Zed is highly entertaining. But unfortunately, it's especially the storyline that's below par. I suggest Demeusy hires a professional scriptwriter the next time to support his professional-looking visuals.
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Quien a hierro mata (2019)
Excellent Spanish Revenge movie.
One harsh word or lack of respect for my father,
and I come here and raise hell.
Revenge movies. Nothing is more fun than watching a blood-curdling film in which a victim, who has been beaten to a pulp or almost tortured to death, resurrects and ruthlessly and cruelly takes revenge on his or her assailants. Revenge films come in different variations and gradations. The only similarity they have is that those who are the cause of all the misery generally get the short end of the stick (except in "Eden Lake"). Revenge films have been in circulation for a long time and yet form a tasteful subgenre. Who remembers "The Toxic Avenger"? A hilarious and bloody film in which a nerd, constantly being bullied by local kids, mutates into a nasty chemical creature that takes revenge in a violent way. Or the controversial film "I Spit on Your Grave"? "Revenge", "Hard Candy" and "John Wick"? The line is big and always has one outcome: mutilated perpetrator(s) and a victim who leaves the past behind with his/her head held high and determinedly faces a new, carefree future.
In "Quien a Hierro Mata" (aka "Eye For an Eye"), the protagonist Mario (Louis Tosar) cannot completely let go of the past. Images from that period haunt his mind and everything indicates that this nurse at a senior care facility can never settle for the injustice done to his family. The seemingly calm and easy-going caretaker nevertheless has a bright future ahead of him. His wife Julia (María Vázquez) is pregnant with their first child. Nothing seems to get in the way of happiness. Until one day Antonio Padin (Xan Cejudo), the notorious head of a drug cartel, has decided to exchange prison life for a stay in the retirement home where Mario is employed. Antonio Padin suffers from a terminal illness that slowly paralyzes him. And apparently, the relationship between him and his two sons Toño (Ismael Martinez) and Kike (Enric Auquer) is so sour that he opts for the retirement home rather than waiting for his end at home. By coincidence, there's a link between Mario and this deteriorating old man that causes Mario to slowly transform from a good-natured person into an avenging angel with a dark plan.
Let me immediately warn the action movie fetishists. This is not a Hollywood film in which the action scenes follow each other at a shockingly fast pace. The film is a real slow-burner, with some violent scenes here and there in the first half. Just to demonstrate that the Padin family aren't only hard-working entrepreneurs, operating a thriving crab-industry with associated culinary establishments. You'll see that the traps on their fishing boats can also be used for other purposes. And when the two brothers visit their father in the retirement home, just to report to him about their future plans with Chinese customers, they make sure everybody knows that they are untouchable and feared individuals. Kike in particular is an annoying guy with a short fuse who, even without hesitation, questions his father's mental health and treats him disrespectfully.
"Quien a Hierro Mata" is a dark and gripping thriller that excels thanks to its raw realism and the way in which various actors portray it. All credit to Louis Tosar for showing in a solid way how a tragic past (shown through a whole lot of flashbacks) determines how he judges over certain actions. The imposing beard hides every emotion. His character immediately reminded me of Joaquin Phoenix in "You were never really here". The ius talionis principle that he applies here (hence the film title) is what makes this film more unique compared to other revenge films. This vigilante ensures that the perpetrator undergoes the same treatment under the same circumstances. Let's put the make-up department in the spotlight as well. Because, the way Antonio is slowly changing looks terrifying. I was just wondering if Antonio Padin noticed what was happening to him.
I admit it. I've been pleasantly surprised by Spanish-language films several times already. After "Aterrados" and "El Hoyo" I also thought this was a successful film. Certainly not a disappointment, after I started watching it on Netflix without any prior knowledge. First of all, you think this is an average revenge movie with the same known storyline. But this soon changes due to the sudden twist and the shocking denouement. It's wonderful to see how they've managed to change the tone of this film from ordinary to moderately chaotic aggressive. The film shows how deep-seated hatred can change a person. It's not an exceptional film, but it's relentless and definitely worth watching. I was just wondering one thing. How is it that this retirement home didn't simply refuse the admission of a known and feared drug lord?
"Quien a Hierro Mata" is now available on Netflix
The Way Back (2020)
Ben Affleck acts superbly in this not-so-original sports movie.
I'm surprised you could keep him out of the bar
long enough to hold practice.
There are lots of similar sports movies like "The Way Back". Moralistic stories about how a trainer manages to bring a floundering team to unprecedented heights. Preferably, the team consists of a few foul-mouthed hotheads who want to impress the others by acting tough. Usually, they have a talent for the sport they practice, but lack of discipline makes them miss constancy. To the annoyance of the appointed coach at that moment. Of course, they are allergic to any type of authoritarian behavior. Until the new coach comes up. Preferably an old sports star who can look back on a successful sports career and who comes to the rescue by using clever pedagogical techniques. First of all, he gives each of the team members a figurative kick in the butt. Suspends the most rebellious pain in the ass (who of course comes back crawling to ask if he can be re-included in the team because the sport is vital for him). Then the grueling training sessions begin in such a way that this bunch of misfits finally starts winning games and slowly propel them to stardom. You saw it in "Coach Carter", "Slap Shot" and to a lesser extent in "Major League". "The Way Back" follows this same scenario. Only here the coach is also struggling with his personal demons.
I'm not a real Ben Affleck fan. Not that I think he's a bad actor. Maybe the movie choices he made were a bit unfortunate. With "Daredevil" as the most terrible career choice, in my opinion. But here Affleck shows that he does have acting talent. Perhaps personal life experiences are the reason why he was able to empathize with the role of coach Jack easily. A tormented person who lost everything after a tragic event and sought refuge in drinking. Something Affleck has experience with since he has already admired the inside of a rehabilitation center several times. Probably because of this that the scenes during which he carelessly drinks, look so realistic. As well as the way he behaves when he's not in a bar. The manipulation, the sneaking around, and the search for excuses. Typical behavior of an addict trying to hide his weakness. "The Way Back" tries to portray this addiction meticulously. If you see the umpteenth beercan disappear from the fridge while a spare one is already put in the freezer to stay cold, you as a viewer know that Jack is not a social drinker but a problem drinker with a fixed routine.
Like many other film productions, "The Way Back" has been disadvantaged by the Corona pandemic. Had the original release date not been shifted from late 2019 to March this year, the damage would have been limited. Hence Warner Bross's decision to release this movie directly on various platforms such as iTunes and Prime video among others. Now, I myself don't consider it a requirement to watch "The way back" in a cinema. Apart from the admirable acting of Affleck, this film is nothing more than an average film that doesn't impress in terms of originality. It seems as if a pre-printed checklist has been used for this type of film. A group of young people with a wrong attitude and who, as a basketball team, wallows in the role of the underdog. Check! Ex basketball player whose life is in a downward spiral. Check! Miraculous revival of the despised basketball team. Check! Family tragedy that ruined the coach's life. Check! Obviously a relapse happens. Check! Once again a miraculous resurgence leading to a happy ending. Check! It feels like a three-pointer every time a check is placed on this list.
In short. The film won't win a prize in the category of originality. The already well-trodden paths of previously released sports dramas are followed too carefully. But what Ben Affleck demonstrates here (and I know I'm repeating myself) makes that this movie effortlessly exceeds the average. Only the way and period in which he defeated his demons, felt romanticized. And finally, you should not confuse this film with the 2010 film of the same name about a Polish prisoner who could escape from a Russian gulag with some fellow sufferers. The only similarity the Ben Affleck film has with the latter is that the road followed by the group of young people is also full of obstacles. And giving up is also not an option. So if you run into it anywhere on a VOD channel, give it a try. It's not really a waste of time.
Come on, it's just an imaginary friend.
Z likes it dark.
Movies with creepy little boys. With "Z" you also have the feeling you are getting yet another horror in which such a demonic boy is in command. Only recently I saw "The Prodigy" where the son of the house slowly develops a deviating pattern of behavior. That movie was about reincarnation. In "Z" it's about having an imaginary friend. When Joshua Parsons (Jett Klyne) introduces his friend "Z" to his parents, they don't really worry at first. They think it's probably just a phase their kid has to struggle through. They even think it's cute, in a certain way. Until suddenly school friends don't want anything to do with Josh anymore, Elizabeth (Keegan Connor Tracy) becomes aware of strange things and finally, Joshua is also suspended from school because of intolerable behavior. At that moment, Elizabeth starts to realize that this imaginary friend has a tremendous influence on her sweet son.
Until halfway through the film it seems like an ordinary average horror. Including, something terrible happening to one of Joshua's school friends (with or without Z's collaboration) and Joshua revealing a horrible drawing in his bedroom. Believe me. Draw a black top hat on the head of this scary creature and you have the twin brother of "The Babadook" in front of you. Now is the time for Elizabeth to sound the alarm, while dad Kevin (Sean Rogerson) is still in a phase of denial and suffers from utter blindness, and get in touch with psychologist Dr. Seager (Stephen McHattie) to present the problem. The well-known tricks from the horror genre are being used in "Z" of course. So again the shady spots with scary sounds. Toys that come to life. And nocturnal wanderings through the semi-darkness (while every sensible person would turn on the light anyway) with a few jump-scares as a result. Even a creepy bath scene couldn't fail to come.
And yet the film cleverly changes the mood and shifts the focus from a scary invisible friend to a long-forgotten childhood trauma that set the whole mechanism in motion. And before you realize it, the creepy horror story has given way to a sort of psychological thriller. From here, Joshua is no longer central, but the story focuses on Elizabeth. And frankly, the way Keegan Connor Tracy gives shape to this character was of exceptionally high level. An obviously confused person who slowly but surely sinks further into complete madness as a tormented soul. The father's character contrasts sharply with that of his family members. In the end, I found it a meaningless person and quite implausible as a father figure. On the one hand, he said nothing about the red notes from school that exposed Joshua's misconduct. On the other hand, he's blind with anger when hearing that his son has been prescribed medication without his knowledge. Ah, as always in horror movies, it's usually the fathers who navigate through the story carefree and never notice anything suspicious. It's usually the mother figure who experiences strange sensations and concludes that disaster is imminent.
I can't say the film "Z" was really scary. Maybe deliberately not depicting the phenomenon "Z" explicitly, does cause some tension. A cleverly applied gimmick so the viewer's imagination has to do most of the work (with a terrifying wall drawing as inspiration). Ultimately, it's mainly the mood that's essential in this film. In hindsight, the film covers different topics. Youthful growing pains and parental concerns. Nightmarish phantoms and unresolved trauma. As a parent, you expect your offspring to inherit some of your character traits or personal qualities. However, in "Z" this legacy is not something you'd expect. And even though this delusion isn't excessively visualized here, its presence is clearly felt in every dark, grim scene.
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The Banker (2020)
A film that turns out to be even more topical because of the present situation in the US.
Sometimes you need to take a step back
and enjoy what you've accomplished, baby.
What an amusing movie this was. Such a movie you start watching and before you know it, the end credits roll across your screen. Even though the subject won't get you very excited. The world of real estate and banking. A world populated with stiffs in perfectly fitting suits who prefer to juggle with repayment schedules and capitalization rates while using a jargon that a normal human can't make heads or tails of. I sometimes have my doubts about whether they understand it thoroughly themselves. And the reason why it became an entertaining film is not only due to the packaging but also because of the Holy Trinity Anthony Mackie, Samuel L. Jackson, and Nicholas Hoult. A colorful (pun not intended) cast that effortlessly works through dialogues and plays so naturally that it seems as if they have been working together for years.
In addition to the real estate market as a subject, there's also the issue of racial discrimination that was still visible in the U.S. from the 50s. A black man who wants to settle in a white neighborhood wasn't so obvious. Let alone that he could also take out a loan to buy and sell real estate in such a neighborhood. Hence the idea of Bernard (Anthony Mackie), a Texas-born African-American who is firmly convinced to succeed in his intent to make money from doing business rather than manual labor, to recruit Joe Morris (Samuel L. Jackson) as a business partner and use Matt Steiner (Nicholas Hoult) as a straw man. Well, they aren't exactly ideal partners. The first is a flamboyant bon vivant and blabbermouth who comes across as an untrustworthy slick. And Matt is a hard worker with a good heart. Only he's not really blessed with a top-level brain like Bernard.
The first half of the movie is the more light-hearted part. The start of the Bernard Empire and the process of turning Matt Steiner into a convincing businessman. For me, this was the most hilarious part. The golf lessons where Samuel L. Jackson excels as the extravagant golf teacher and the math part Bernard takes care of. The amusing discussion that Steiner had with a wealthy man while trying to buy his building, was the ultimate climax of this period of training. And when this first chapter is over and the gentlemen are gradually taking over the real estate market in California, the next chapter pops up. The more serious part of the movie.
The first part not only showed how the two gentlemen managed to circumvent the discriminatory way of doing business in a devious way. It also showed how black people were deprived of the right to develop themselves in American society during that period. Loans and property sales were simply forbidden. Bernard's plan to subsequently buy a bank in Texas, where segregation was still very much present, in order to support his black fellow man, is what you see in this tailpiece. Needless to say, this wasn't a smooth operation.
"The Banker" is based on true facts and I believe it truly shows how it went in the U.S. and how people were deprived of decent housing. Perhaps Bernard Garrett intended to act as a benefactor and pave the way for African Americans. Maybe he was doing it out of self-interest, too, simply to prove to himself and his father that you could succeed if you firmly believe in it. Anyway, "The Banker" is a great movie with a serious part and a very entertaining part. But as I mentioned earlier, it's the cast that takes the whole thing to a higher level. A must-see for sure.
The Banker is now available on Apple TV+
PS. I wrote this a week ago. But due to the situation in the U.S. right now, this movie is even more current and confrontational than before.
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Family values and a lot of wine.
Okay, so I want to become a master sommelier.
Is that like a pirate?
No, that's a Somalian.
I don't have a thing for wine. Never had. Even an excellent wine, recommended by connoisseurs, won't appeal to me. I never liked the taste of it. Why the hell would I watch a movie that focuses on the world of wines? Well, it's just a coincidence. I discovered "Uncorked" while browsing Netflix and thought I'd give it a shot. And also because I didn't make the link between the movie title and the whole wine happening. To be honest, I wasn't overly enthusiastic about the part about getting a sommelier diploma. The barbecue restaurant storyline, on the other hand, was mouth-watering. And as the film progressed, my hunger pangs intensified. And that didn't happen since "Chef".
Well, the film doesn't only consist of scenes in which wine bottles are uncorked and someone trying to identify this divine beverage while gurgling and spitting it out. This Netflix drama is also about the inner conflict Elijah (Mamoudou "Underwater" Athie) struggles with. This determined young man from Memphis, whose daily routine consists of helping out in the family business and working in the local wine store, has to make an all-important decision in his life. Either disappoint his father. Either himself. His father Louis (Courtney B. "Ben is back" Vance) is convinced his son will take over the family business in the future. Just like Louis did from his father. And Elijah is increasingly realizing that the profession of a master sommelier is more dear to him than marinating and barbequing spare ribs.
So "Uncorked" brings the well-known theme about a generation gap. On the one hand, Elijah doesn't want to abandon his father. On the other hand, he's still looking for his aim in life. His heart and soul belongs to the sparkling world of wines. A way to mentally travel to other countries ("When I get a wine from someplace like France, someplace like Spain, I just feel like I'm kinda there."), as a compensation for the lack of this in his youth. The problem is that his father doesn't believe anymore in the person Elijah and sees it as yet another insane idea that his son has. And he shows that by acting indifferent and disinterested. Needless to say, there is, of course, Sylvia (Niecy Nash), the concerned and supportive mother figure who properly convinces her husband to let Elijah work it out of his system. She's the missing link between the two poorly communicating vessels, while she herself has to deal with her own health problem.
"Uncorked" is an average movie. A movie that you'd watch while sitting relaxed on your sofa, with or without a glass of wine within reach. A film with a smile and a tear. The humor is not often present but sometimes subtle. For example, the Somalis debacle elicited a brief chuckle. And all this with a soundtrack filled with contemporary hip-hop music that belongs more to the spare ribs house than to the cultured world of wine connoisseurs. It's a movie you love or dislike, just like with wine. Family values and chasing your dreams are the key topics that I'll remember from this movie. But I can't say that the urge for drinking wine got any bigger after watching this Netflix movie.
Uncorked is now available on Netflix
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Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)
Let's bury that devilish game once and for all.
If you touch my boobs, I will murder you!
Too late! That was the first thing I did.
In recent years, the terms "Remake" and "Reboot" have become very popular in Hollywood. Much to my annoyance. In most cases, these knockoffs are just a shadow of the original. Not to say abominably bad and horrible to look at. The biggest example of this (for me personally anyway) is the movie "Ghostbusters" from 2016. If Bill Murray was no longer among the living, he would have turned around in his grave. A needless copy without humor and full of recycled ideas. A few years ago when I was told that a remake was being made of the famous film "Jumanji" (with the unparalleled Robin Williams in a leading role) from 1995, I was shocked. And certainly when it turned out that Dwayne Johnson hijacked the leading role. Yet another redundant and ridiculous attempt to imitate a past milestone.
To my surprise, however, "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" turned out to be an exceptionally successful experiment. And that's because of the unique idea to replace the "Jumanji board game" with an old skool console game where four innocent students are teleported into and where they need to complete a quest while playing a character in this game. It's the only way to escape the game. Not only was it a funny movie (due to the interactions and personality contradictions between the real youngsters and their avatar in the video game). The concept was also original. Adding video game features such as NPCs, cut scenes, and the fact that each character has a limited number of lives, was a masterful move. It's not without reason that the film was a real success in the theaters. And the inevitable happened. The sequel "Jumanji: The next level" is a fact.
Unfortunately, as I feared, this new sequel doesn't take the saga to a new level. To be honest, I thought it was simply an uninspired story that simply tries to take advantage of the previous film's success. An easy solution to squeeze the last dollars out of a milked-out project. The novelties can be counted on a broken abacus. Not many, in this case. The characters are all still the same. This time supplemented with two old grumpy retirees (Danny DeVito and Danny Glover) who used to be business partners when they owned a thriving restaurant. As with every new level in a video game, the environment in which the adventure takes place is different from the previous level. So you'll be presented with a sandy location with associated oases. And also, our friends will encounter a completely different fauna on their path.
The most successful aspect of this sequel is the fact that the different characters were initially mixed. That makes for hilarious moments when you see Dwayne Johnson imitating the characteristics of a Dany DeVito. But besides that, there's nothing innovative to discover in this sequel. It's a well-known story with a new look. It's the same as when a new "FIFA Soccer" version is being released on the game market. Graphically it may look a bit sharper and some new players and options have been added. But otherwise, the look and feel are similar and you have trouble discovering the points of improvement. Well, "Jumanji: The Next Level" was entertaining and packed with sometimes masterful CGI. A good alternative to fill a pleasant movie night. But the source from which creative ideas are created is exhausted. Let's hope they bury the game "Jumanji" in a well-hidden spot once and for all, so nobody can lay their hands on it again. I think we've had enough of this.
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El hoyo (2019)
It's brutal. Confronting. Repugnant. Yet fascinating.
Don't speak to the people below. Why?
Because they're down below.
The people above won't answer you. Why?
Because they're above.
"El Hoyo" is not just a frightening movie. It's a movie with a moral. A film that makes you think. Could you call it horror? You could have an extensive discussion about this. For some of the detainees who are locked up in the prison portrayed in this film, it's indeed horror. It depends on which floor they end up after a month of extensive eating or a month of terrible hunger. The first thing that came to mind was "Hey, they designed a vertical "Snowpiercer". Be warned though. It's brutal. Confronting. And as I said before, a moral lurks beneath the symbolic surface.
However, the set-up of the film is very simple. Take a sky-high building. A magically moving platform (hence the movie title). A group of convicts who are locked in groups of two on each floor. Finally, you establish a culinary department full of kitchen staff who all master the right culinary skills. And this department ensures that this platform is filled with delicacies every day with the same dose of enthusiasm, dedication, and love for their profession. From roasts, fruit bowls, and enormous chocolate cakes to haute cuisine with langoustines, lobster, and other gastronomically refined food. You can guess the outcome. As the platform sinks, the richly filled table turns into a desolate table full of empty dishes, pots, and smashed dinnerware, where you can't even find a crumb on anymore.
Despite the simple concept and the fact that the entire film is set in one location, the film remains fascinating until the end. The denouement, however, is rather disappointing. That's the only thing that put a damper on this film. Not that everything is very clear in this film. Why this facility has been designed in this way, isn't explained anywhere. Is it to talk a conscience into the viewers? Is it a psychologically justified experiment? Or was there just someone random who came up with this brilliant idea to design this alternative penal institution? Besides, it's not only convicts who were admitted here. Take Goreng (Ivan Massagué). This person will receive a diploma (as a social worker?) after serving a 6-month prison sentence. Is it a form of an internship? Or self-flagellation? Even the mechanism behind the falling platform remained a mystery to me. But I got no problem with these unresolved questions. Unfortunately, the main question of how the system could be beaten is left unanswered. Or was it just the intention to leave everyone in the dark?
It's crystal clear they tried to deliver a socially critical message. It's broadly an allegorical representation of our contemporary society. A society with an unfair distribution of prosperity and richness. And the vast majority of those who own the most wealth in our society, are disinclined to share it with those of the lower classes. And the plea of the less fortunate falls on deaf ears, so they are doomed to rely on less humane practices. And, of course, there are the world improvers among us and people thinking they are a newborn St. Martin, who make frantic efforts to convince others to participate in working on a better world and to call for solidarity. A fairer world. And mocking laughter and derision are usually the results of their efforts. The only difference with real life is that people change in the social ladder from month to month in this prison. Some in a positive, others in a negative way.
"El Hoyo" is a bizarre story that leaves you with an oppressive feeling. As the film progresses you realize how awful it is for some in this gray, grim tower. And these abject conditions are also explicitly shown. Suffocatingly realistic. So expect some bloody and gory images full of excessive violence as well (not suitable for sensitive souls). For some, the sight of men eating food like animals (which reminded me a bit of "La Grande Bouffe"), it will be repugnant already. But otherwise, this original film is easy to digest (just to stay with the subject). And not only because of the splendid acting. It's not without reason that the film is a great success on Netflix. So you can see that this film platform occasionally programs better movies.
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Trauma Center (2019)
No surprise this flick ended up as an "On Demand".
What I want is not on you.
It's in you.
It looks a bit like "Die Hard" in a hospital wing. Only the adamant John McClane has been replaced by the brave waitress Madison Taylor (Nicky Whelan) who has to save her own skin (and admittedly, that skin belongs to a beautiful, well-shaped body) while two mean-looking fellows are chasing her. And yes, the action hero par excellence, Bruce Willis, admired in days gone by for his contributions to action films and of course idolized during that period, is also present. This time, however, he's not competing for the main prize as "Most valuable actor". His contribution is quite limited and in the end you can say it's insignificant. A negligible character who clearly has to drag himself through every scene while running behind the facts.
What's wrong with star actor Bruce Willis? The sympathetic actor of yesteryear, who during his heyday was able to transform every crap film into a blockbuster, is slowly but surely working on destroying his status. In recent years it seems as if he has consciously opted for bland, uninspired B-movies with a flimsy screenplay. When looking at the list of films, with him in a central role, that I've seen in recent years, there's really nothing worthwhile to discover. The films "The Prince", "Vice", "Extraction", "Precious Cargo", "Marauders", "First Kill", "Acts of Violence" and "Reprisal" are all monstrosities of movies that aren't even worth viewing. The only movie I liked was "Once Upon a Time in Venice". It's the only film in which Willis demonstrates an unforced enthusiasm. Apparently, being an actor is precious to Willis. However, I recommend that he makes the honorable decision himself and quietly use his hard-earned dollars to enjoy a well-earned vacation for the rest of his life. And it'll spare most of the film fans a lot of annoyance.
Anyway. So if you forget the lifeless contribution of Bruce Willis, ignore the many improbabilities, won't see the ridiculousness in some situations, and accept the shameless copying of some corresponding situations from "Die Hard", then this movie isn't all that bad. Admittedly, there's no longer a lot of credit left. And no doubt, lead actress Nicky Whelan deserves the remainder of this credit. Although it's sometimes annoying to see how her condition can radically improve from one scene to the next. One moment she stumbles through a room while bleeding profusely. The next moment she seems alive and kicking again. Incidentally, I still don't understand why the bullet wound wasn't treated decently in this hospital immediately. Applying only an emergency bandage and waiting till after the weekend for someone to be present there to close up the wound, doesn't seem a patient-friendly procedure to me.
So as a whole, this isn't a terrible movie, besides the disinterested and sleep-inducing acting of Willis. Can't stress that enough times. The idea of the incriminating buller in Madison's thight is an original idea in itself. The concept of corrupt agents and the one-location idea, where the victim has to fight for her life, can't be called very creative. This (and the resulting storyline) has been used countless times in better movies and television series. Also, the movie isn't really intense or exciting either. Although Texas Battle (heck of an artist name) and Tito Ortiz aren't school examples of actors, due to their impressive appearance and no-nonsense attitude they still provided the necessary entertainment. In short, despite its (limited number of) positive points, "Trauma Center" was already doomed to be offered as an "On Demand" film. If you are an avid Bruce Willis fan then, of course, you should watch this movie. Only I'm afraid he won't rise in many fans their opinion.
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Diversity and Quality. What more do you want from an anthology?
Are you a fan of horror anthology films (such as "Tales from the crypt", "Creepshow", "Tales of Halloween", "XX" or "Tale of Tales")? Well, you might as well like this movie. Provided you are not an avid lover of short films and continuously seek for horror short films on YouTube or other channels. Because then it may well be that you've already seen a few of the films that are used in "A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio". This anthology isn't a collection of newly made short films. It's a collection of pre-existing short films. And these are all connected with each other through a central storyline with DJ Rod Wilson (James Wright) who broadcasts a night program on some local radio station. A program in which he (and also a few nightly callers) tries to delight listeners with some chilling and creepy ghostly stories. It's not Halloween yet, but it would be a suitable movie for that period of the year.
Frankly, I thought the beginning of the film looked very promising and exciting. The first short ("In the Dark Dark Woods", a sort of alternative version of "The Invisible Man") and the introduction of the bearded, radio guy gave me a taste for more. And when the second short story (highlight of the whole movie and my absolute favorite) was over, I was already getting ready for even more of that. "Post Mortem Mary" isn't only fantastic in terms of content. The handling of the camera, the way in which the story was portrayed and the ever-rising suspense in this excruciatingly exciting short story, produced a very successful end result. It's the story of a mother and her young daughter Mary earning their living in Australia in 1840 as post-mortem photographers. The idea is to photograph the corpse as vividly as possible. Something Mary has yet to learn. It's a fantastic short film that was well received at some festivals in 2017 and won some prizes worldwide. An eye-opener for sure (no pun intended).
Unfortunately, none of the subsequent stories reached the same level as the previous short films. Not that they were awfully bad or of a sadly low level. But "Post Mortem Mary" is head and shoulders above the rest. "A little off the Top" is a bit of a sinister story that focuses on the insanity (Or craftiness. It's just how you look at it) of a hairdresser. "Drops" demonstrates how a traumatic experience torments a Spanish young dancer. I thought "The Disappearance of Willie Bingham" was kind of successful. A somewhat different story about how a death penalty is converted into a more alternative punishment. In my view a fairly funny story. "The smiling man" undoubtedly deserves a place behind Mary's story. Concise and terrifying at the same time. Without too much fuss. The final short films "Into the Mud" and "Vicius" were, in my opinion, the weakest ones.
The fact is that by making a selection of existing short films in "A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio", the quality level is very high. None of the stories gives you the feeling as if they were quickly produced, such that the intended playing time of the feature-length film could be reached. Another advantage is that the movie scores well in terms of diversity. There's something for everyone. Only "Into the Mud" (a kind of mythologically oriented fantasy story) feels a little bit like the odd one out here. The only downside was the overarching story of the DJ himself. First of all, I didn't think it was convincing enough. It even felt a bit boring. And the denouement was a bit of an anti-climax. Yet to my surprise, I enjoyed this movie more than I expected. So if you feel like hearing some scary, paranormal stories with a lurid touch, then you'll be fine with this film.
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Bit of action. Lack of tension.
We have about 30 minutes till meltdown.
And, uh, it's gonna blow us into tiny pieces to the surface.
Am I a Kristen Stewart fan? On the contrary. To be honest, I seriously dislike this actress. Not that her acting is so terribly bad. And in a way, she's not a bad looking young woman either. But her attitude and facial expression don't really make her amiable. In the past I've already mentioned that her phlegmatic character equals that of a pancake and it seems as if her face was drenched in starch, because of her emotionless look. "Personal Shopper" and "Equals" were suitable films for this "always-seriously-looking" actress. Unfortunately, "Personal Shopper" was terribly boring and sleep-inducing. So, what convinced me to watch the movie "Underwater"? No idea. Maybe because I heard this spectacle film was kind of a mixture of "Alien" and "The Abyss". In retrospect, this fact was also rather disappointing.
You can compare "Underwater" with a classic dish served in an average brasserie. It smells good and tastes delicious, but it lacks the finesse of a star restaurant. You don't get excited. And you don't look disappointed at your empty plate, hoping that a waiter comes over and asks if you want an extra portion. The only feeling left is that of recognizability. Haven't we seen this before? And didn't it taste the same as the last time?
I have to admit the film continues at a blistering pace. Before you realize it, the entire underwater drilling platform collapses and Norah (Kristen Stewart) must hurry through destroyed corridors and debris-filled compartments. A claustrophobic spectacle that takes place seven miles deep at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest known spot in the ocean. At first glance, it appears to be an undersea earthquake that causes Norah and some survivors quickly have to figure out an escape scenario. But when they step along the ocean floor, in heavy, futuristic-looking wetsuits ("Pacific Rim" inspired gear), it soon becomes clear that it's something else that's attacking them. Once again, it's humanity that pushed the boundaries. Like the speleologists in "The Silence", the drilling company most likely is the cause of unearthly creatures surfacing. In short, they have tapped into the wrong source while drilling for raw materials.
I myself had that feeling of breathlessness while watching "Underwater". When you realize that this crew is surrounded by millions of tons of ocean water that presses on them with crushing force, you wouldn't want to trade places with them for any money in the world. A stumbling walk through pitch-black darkness, knowing that you could run out of oxygen anytime, your pressure suit could implode due to a construction fault or a strange underwater monster sucking the life out of you in a fraction of a second. I'd hyperventilate and show panicky behavior for less. "Underwater" is a suitable film for viewers who prefer to watch a movie that is packed with persistent action scenes. So preferably, no character development or a sophisticated storyline that's being built up in a subtle way. In short, for fans of fast food chains and fast microwave meals (Indeed, I am quite culinary-inspired today).
Although you can admire a multitude of fantastic underwater footage (and making underwater images is no easy task), the fact it all takes place underwater (hence the film-title) is a disadvantage to the film. The images aren't really clear and most of the time blurred and hazy. Especially during the vigorous moments when the sea monsters play an important role. Thus, the moments when the crew experienced a life-threatening situation, the footage didn't have the desired impact most of the time. And that was the biggest turnoff for me. The lack of any tension. It's not a completely boring film, but there wasn't really nail-biting suspense. No astonishing plot twists or surprises. In addition, none of the actors really stood out. They were all uninteresting, two-dimensional characters, to say the least. I can't really call "Underwater" impressive. Even Kirsten Stewart's ultra-short bleached haircut didn't have the desired shock effect. And to be honest, it didn't help that she walked around half of the movie in her underwear. If they had chosen Scarlett Johansson instead, it would have made an impression. In that case, the three-dimensional aspect of the character Norah would come across much better! Significantly better!
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The Hunt (2020)
A controversial movie? Not to me!
Why would they do something like that?
Same reason elites do anything...
'cause they think they're better than us.
Can someone please explain why there was so much fuss about the movie "The Hunt". I understand that the release date has been postponed due to the El Paso, Dayton and Gilroy shootings last year. Let's just hope that not every violent film suffers the same fate, as the number of mass murders in the U.S., according to the database of the news agency AP, USA Today and Northeastern University, is shockingly high. In 2019, they counted 41 such massacres. Those are a huge number of incidents that can cause releases to be postponed. I suggest they restrict the release of violent video games, new material from well-known music bands that use a rougher music style and bloody comic strips. Because let's admit it. Every time such an incident happens in the U.S., doomsayers pop up like mushrooms to proclaim that heavy metal (in the past Marilyn Manson was a sitting target) and violent games (such as Counterstrike for example) are the cause of senseless violence with dozens of victims. No sensible person there relates free (and uncontrolled) sale of weapons with all that violence. Even now in this Corona crisis, US citizens are flocking to the arms stores to purchase firearms and ammunition en masse, because they fear that people may react rather strangely to this crisis. Well, here in Europe one can only make victims by throwing tons of toilet paper at someone since that's the most hoarded item here.
In itself, "The Hunt" is just an average violent film with explicit, gory footage. But claiming this film is the superlative of other films in terms of violence, is certainly a bit simplistic and short-sighted. Let's look at films such as "You're next" or "The Purge". These films have an almost similar concept. The concept of hunters and the hunted. Even "The Hunger Games" tends to go in that direction. But apparently, that was commercially permissible. The recent film "Ready or not" is better comparison material. Also, a film in which someone is being hunted like a wild animal and a series of gory, bloody scenes are shown. Though, the denouement in this movie effortlessly exceeds what is to be seen in "The Hunt". On the other hand, the satirical character is more prominently present in "The Hunt". And you still want to watch a movie where blood flows freely? Well, you should try "Revenge" (also a movie that ends with a fight to the death). In short, if you categorize all films that could possibly incite senseless violence, you'd end up with a richly filled list.
What's explicitly emphasized in "The Hunt", is the immense gap that exists between the wealthy and the average people living in the US. Of course, they turn it into a political statement once again (conservatives against liberals). A group of so-called conservatives is being kidnapped by a group of foully and berserkly rich liberals who have too much time on their hands or probably couldn't think of anything else to spend their hard-earned money on. I'm sure there are also rich conservatives and poor liberals living in the US. But that's a completely different discussion. The fact that there's a gap (as big as the Grand Canyon) between rich and poor becomes clear during these Corona times. The poorer inhabitants who cannot afford health insurance massively die a slow and horrible death at this very moment. I suppose many will now consider the fuss about "The Hunt" as being a trivial matter.
Storywise it's really nothing and there's not much beating around the bush so the action-rich part kicks in quite quickly. It takes less than 10 minutes, I think, for the first victim to die with a well-aimed shot through the head. And from then on it's a series of massacres and exploding bodies. Not that the victims are unarmed because the hunters have left behind a huge chest packed with dangerous-looking weaponry. Unfortunately, the hunted ones are not exactly experts in warfare or close-combat techniques. However, the group of sadistic hunters haven't done their homework and checked the background of Crystal (Betty Gilpin). This female McClane has quite a bit of knowledge about combat techniques and weaponry. And that's something the group of rich people hasn't taken into account. Crystal plays the game harder and more fiercely than those vicious elitists and manages to turn the situation to her advantage.
Betty Gilpin is perfectly cast for this role. She's fanatic and grim. A merciless tough lady whose sarcastic and blunt comments made me smile several times. To be honest, I sometimes wondered if she was mentally alright. And yes, she reminded me a bit of Phoebe Buffay. Not only because of the looks. But also by her behavior. A bit of an absent and childlike acting person. Unfortunately, the final confrontation was a bit exaggerated and unrealistic, which accented the slapstick character of the film even more. All in all, "The Hunt" isn't as impressive as I suspected it to be. It's watchable but not more than that. The commotion around this film only had the opposite effect (as usual). A new, short-term hype with an over-the-top reputation. But, as violent and gory as this movie may seem, it's certainly not as controversial as certain tweets from an alleged important person implied.
I thought it was intriguing. I guess I'm one of the few who thinks that.
And far enough.
Just the right distance.
During this Corona crisis, watching a movie was an impossible task for me. Let alone that I could write down a sensible word to form an opinion. But now three weeks later, the urge to watch a movie once again came back. And I could focus on the movie without my mind wandering off to some disaster scenarios. Apparently, my doom thinking disappeared. And hurray. Even the traditional formulation of an opinion was possible again. Only the choice of film was a bit unfortunate. "Vivarium" isn't exactly a movie that'll make you happy. It has many similarities with the situation people in the world are in today. Isolated and tied to one specific living space. No contact with others. And a feeling of powerlessness, fear, and despair. However, it's not a deadly virus why Gemma (Imogen "Green Room" Poots) and Tom (Jesse "The Social Network" Eisenberg) are in this situation.
Let me warn you first. "Vivarium" isn't exactly an everyday film. It's very confusing and probably boring to some. Not only because of the painfully slow pace. But also because of the repetitive character of the film. And mainly, because of the completely surreal and absurd theme of this film. To be honest, from the start I had the feeling that I was looking at a surreal painting by Margritte. Those artificial, unnatural looking perfect clouds against a clear blue sky. The identical row houses in a distasteful green color. Everything looks artificial and unreal. As insignificant and abstract as the name of the neighborhood itself: "Yonder".
Gemma and Tom, a young couple that wants to settle down and are looking for an affordable home, end up at a real estate agency one day. The eerie-sounding and unworldly-reacting real estate agent invites them to visit a house in a suburb that's just been built. At first sight a well-kept neighborhood. But at the same time a frightening neighborhood where all houses and gardens look identical. While Gemma and Tom visit the house, with house number 9, they've actually made a decision already. While viewing the nursery, bright blue and therefore already intended as a boys' room, they suddenly realize that the real estate agent Martin (Jonathan Aris) has vanished into thin air. And after a while they discover that they're not getting out of this maze of identical houses in any way. They have to accept that they are forever trapped in this artificial world.
From then on, "Vivarium" becomes an uncomfortable film. As a viewer, you feel the despair and watch the youthful and lively couple evolve into an apathetic and indifferent duo whose daily routine consists of eating tasteless astronaut food and caring for a bizarre child. They found the boy at their front door in a cardboard box. Raising this child would be an opportunity to escape, as the message reads on the box. Only this toddler creates a conflict between Gemma and Tom. Not only does the boy's behavior create tension. Their relationship with this strange little boy is also different. The little fellow seems to be not of this world, as well. His growth pattern isn't normal. His behavior and way of communicating (he speaks with the voice of Gemma and Tom) are both absurd and annoying. The psychotic shouting until he gets his way would make me go ballistic for sure. And that's how Tom responds. While Gemma, as a kindergarten teacher, creates a stronger bond with the nasty little boy, Tom reacts hostile and turns to digging a bottomless pit. Probably to find a way out.
Don't expect a conclusive explanation at the end of the movie. To be honest, there were as many open questions at the end of the movie as there were at the beginning. The final message was not really clear to me. Is it about the colorless and monotonous, routine life that some of us lead? Is it an indictment of our modernist and materialistic society? Or a satirical view of that society? Or are aliens using humanity to breed their species in an infinite cycle? Like the cuckoo at the beginning. Maybe I expected a little more. But in the end I thought "Vivarium" was an intriguing movie with an exceptional set-up, kind of unusual images and yet some admirable acting. In particular Imogen Poots left a lasting impression. However, I fear that not everyone will share the same opinion.
Guns Akimbo (2019)
A brutally entertaining comic-book-like movie.
I would have shot you in the dick,
if the target wasn't so small.
"Guns Akimbo" is simply too absurd for words. It's absolute nonsense and you shouldn't take it too seriously. It's simply "over the top" pulp and looks as if it's based on some Asian comic strip. But believe me. This film is simply top-notch entertainment. A roller coaster that slowly takes a very steep run-up and then crashes into the depth with a breakneck-speed, shaking you back and forth. And this crazy, hyperkinetic ride lasts until the end. The action scenes with Nix (Samara Weaving) are equivalent to those in "John Wick". Flashy editing. Blood splattering when bullets rip apart human flesh in slow motion. And all this under the guidance of an energetic soundtrack where you will hear amongst other "The Ballroom Blitz" from The Sweet. In short, I greatly enjoyed this film for an hour and a half.
I have infinite respect for the actor Daniel Radcliffe. This guy could have benefited all his life from the "Harry Potter" stamp that they have tattooed on his forehead. It would have been possible to come up with a few sequels without any problems and without hesitation they could have exploited the success formula of the book series and film versions. He could also have demanded to be part of the "Fantastic Beasts and where to find them" franchise. But no. Instead, Radcliffe opted for not so obvious projects such as "Kill your Darlings", "Horns" and "Swiss Army Man". A homosexual-tinted film, full of literary blabbering on the one hand. And on the other hand a film about a friendship between a castaway and a corpse. It's hard to say that these were commercially safe films that suit the fantasy-loving Harry Potter fans. And to avoid any misunderstanding. I was also enchanted by the Potter films (at least the first four anyway).
So no magic formulas, mythological creatures and a Radcliffe with a wizard hat showing a boyish, shy smile. Nope, he's a nobody in this flick. A nobody with a futureless job, who empties one beer bottle after the other while playing violent video games at home. And as a notorious online troll hunter, Miles (Daniel Radcliffe) cannot resist posting derogatory comments on the "Skizm" website and provoking supporters of this obscure platform. "Skizm" is an illegal website that organizes duels in real-live where opponents try to eliminate each other. And this is thrown on the internet and followed by hundreds of thousands of fanatic fans and bettors. Obviously, the first movie that came to mind was "Death Match". The organizer of all this is an ugly tattooed guy called Riktor (Ned Dennehy) who's obviously completely nuts and is accompanied by a gang of weirdos whose muscle mass is noticeably heavier than the weight of their brains. And Riktor isn't happy with the muscular language Miles places on his forum. And before the latter realizes it, he lies in bed with two automatic guns bolted to both his hands. And furthermore, he himself is a candidate for a duel between him and Nix.
With this film, Daniel Radcliffe leaves his comfort zone for the umpteenth time and tries to show that he's more than just Harry Potter. A bushy beard, constantly covered in blood and using a portion of self-mockery and humor, ensure that. Not to mention his clothing: a checkered dressing gown, boxer shorts, and fluffy giant slippers in the shape of tiger claws. For Samara Weaving, this is a little bit an extension of her role in "Ready or Not". The same bloody and over-the-top situations. But here she got more of a Harley Quinn attitude. A disturbed, fearless person who's extremely effective in terms of eliminating opponents. That her insane behavior was caused by an incident in her youth is briefly mentioned, but in fact, has no impact or significance. This mindless action film has only one goal in mind and that's to show chaotic and limitless action. And all this topped with a sauce of humor à la "Deadpool". There are quite a few hilarious moments in this film. The hand-mounted guns that cause problems for Miles to accomplish daily routines. Like for instance opening a door. Or making a phone call. And peeing is even a hazardous thing to do. The Australian-sounding hobo (Rhys Darby) was simply hilarious with his advice on suicide techniques and his Cypress Hill imitation. How he got Miles in that coat, however, remains a mystery to me.
If you can't stand a chaotic storyline and you get annoyed when it's a movie that's plain predictable and that looks more like an exaggerated comic, then I recommend you avoid this one. Or you don't take a too critical attitude and you simply undergo the film. Perhaps then you can appreciate the vibrant pace, the screamy images, the creative camera techniques and the complete insane undertone of this movie with a limited budget. "Guns Akimbo" is certainly not a film for everyone because of the video game-like mood and the raw sense of humor. And for those who want to know what the film title actually means: Akimbo is a combat technique in which two weapons are used, with one in each hand. Well, I had to look it up myself.
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Do you want an action-rich movie? Skip this one.
The thing about getting older is looking back,
it doesn't matter how old you are,
life always feels the same length.
Like both forever and not very long.
You've just seen "Uncut Gems" and you feel the nerves raging through your body after watching this ultra-nervous film? Well, I recommend you to watch the film "Colewell". Believe me. After watching this film, you'll feel completely relaxed again. There are no situations full of agitated behavior. No feverish activity. Everything is calm and peaceful. This cozy and pleasant film progresses at a leisurely pace. Like the gently rippling water in a quiet stream. Just about the pace of someone in old age who performs the same ritual every day and eagerly awaits his well-deserved retirement. Only Nora (Karen Allen) was not yet ready for that well-deserved rest that is now being forced upon her.
Nora is an older lady who runs a local post office in the small village of Colewell, somewhere in Pennsylvania. And trust me on this, when I say you can admire her morning routine several times. A morning where she will check the chicken coop for freshly laid eggs. And every time she checks the state of one of the laying hens because it's upset because of newly added fellow hens and thus refuses to squeeze such a fragile object through her poopybutthole. Then it's time for breakfast (with a firm omelet made with fresh eggs) and a getting dressed ritual before she opens the door of the post office (located at her place) to welcome the villagers. Everything is performed dutifully and meticulously. And I'm sure she did this from day one.
"Colewell" is about aging and the preservation of certain values of life. At the same time, it's also about the fear of losing these certain values. And the rapidly changing world around us. When a decision is made to forget about certain post offices and integrate them into the larger whole, Nora sees those values disappearing like snow in the sun. The day after she's being confronted with this terrible decision at the US Postal Service headquarters, she sinks into an emotional pit and consciously skips her daily rituals. As if it all no longer matters. The choices that were proposed to her are both not adequate solutions for her. Relocating to a larger city to work there at the post office. Or retire. Both are alternatives that Nora disregards.
The post office in Colewell has an additional function. It's the meeting place for the local population. There's gossiping, stockings are knitted, food is exchanged and life stories shared. In short, it's the heart of a community. And the members of this community are heartbroken when they are told that their beloved assembly point is about to disappear. Initiatives are being taken to turn the tide and efforts are being made to safeguard Nora's workplace. But as soon as they realize that this is a futile effort, everyone accepts the situation and the social contacts move to other locations. To the dismay of Nora.
"Colewell" is endearing, serene and melancholic at the same time. A subdued drama about how it feels to grow older and then suddenly realize that your functional role has been played out and two arrogant younger people say this without hesitation in your face. Or you'll be flexible or you pack it up and make room for the future generation. A realistic character study, without frills. But not entirely. The moment Ella (Hannah Gross) shows up at Nora's place, realism turns into vagueness. It's not really clear whether this is Nora's free-spirited daughter or a figment of Nora's imagination representing the younger Nora. Anyway. Do you like action-rich movies that are nervewracking exciting? Well, I suggest skipping this one. The easy-going nature of the film may well get on your nerves.
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The Perfection (2018)
Don't believe the exaggerated statements concerning this film. Just watch it!
All that time with Anton,
the pressure to be perfect.
Whenever I read newsflashes about films that make people suffer from migraine attacks and even make them sick, my curiosity is immediately awakened. The final verdict can go two ways. Or the film indeed has an ingeniously elaborated story and is provided with images the average stomach can't bear. Or it's the umpteenth overrated movie of which you ask yourself afterward "Who on earth made such statements?". Are those people who've never seen a similar film as "The Perfection"? Are they film lovers who limit themselves to innocent rom-coms? Or supporters of superficial films such as "The Sound of Music"? No idea. In any case, I couldn't find any nauseating fragments or rancid footage in this Netflix Original. But that doesn't mean I thought it was a terrible movie. On the contrary. "The Perfection" contains a cleverly put together story, some successful acting, and a surprising denouement. So, highly recommended.
I myself thought that "The Perfection" was nothing more than a psychological thriller with a bit of erotism and a few lurid events. Admittedly, the denouement will look pretty disturbing for some. But I assure you that this film will mislead you from the start. The goal that Charlotte (Allison "Get out" Williams) has in mind and the reasons for this are of a very different nature than you would expect. If you realize what a dark secret the Bachoff Institute is hiding, where Charlotte has taken lessons for years as a gifted cellist, it will give you more chills than the bus ride through rural China. The film fits in perfectly with our modern zeitgeist where there's a "Me too" movement that explicitly tries to draw attention to sexual harassment and sexual assault. How the renowned academy Bachoff can be associated with this is something that you have to discover for yourself in this original film.
It's quite clear that this film is difficult to catalog when it comes to the genre. It's actually a mixed bag of different genres. It's a light-erotic thriller with a dash of horror. For experienced horror enthusiasts, the horror part will be slightly disappointing. You could describe it as an ultra-light version of "I spit on your grave". But without explicit visual material and a wide variety of horrifying revenge actions. And from the beginning of the film till roughly halfway, it's a mild drama where you are introduced to the most important protagonists. Charlotte, a talented cellist who, after years of absence (taking care of her sick mother), seeks contact again with her former music teacher Anton (Steven Weber) and his wife Paloma (Alaina Huffman). But especially the meeting with the new star of the academy, cellist Lizzie (Logan Browning), is causing some stir. First of all, you can feel the competition between the two cellists whose finger-fastness and sensitive handling of the fiddlestick create magical sounds the moment they squeeze a cello between their knees. As these two, not bad-looking classical musicians spend more time together, the sexual tension between them increases. And before they know it, they make use of the skills they use while playing the cello, when they are all over each other when lying naked under the sheets.
Once this introduction took place and the two lovebirds are sitting on a local bus on their way to some small town in China, the film goes in a higher gear. The frivolous atmosphere makes way for exciting situations and horror elements. It feels rather mysterious. Even the rewind moments won't really clarify it. On the one hand, I thought this technique was kind of an original approach. On the other hand, it seemed rather pedantic. Let's say something about acting. There's actually nothing negative to announce. You can safely state that the two main characters almost reach perfection when it's about that. The chemistry between the two girls is realistic. The different moods that they struggle through are convincing. Steven Weber and Alaina Huffman also fit perfectly into their role. An illustrious couple consisting of dark personalities. Perhaps it seems as if they have mixed a number of different genres and it feels as if they didn't know which direction to go. But it never gets boring. No, "The Perfection" is certainly not perfect. But it wasn't very far from perfection.
You can watch "The Perfection" on Netflix now.
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Grand Isle (2019)
A muscular handyman and an insane couple during a hurricane. Stormy story.
Go ahead and take her.
She's all yours.
But I'll tell you this.
She got a dark side... Darker than hell.
I admire the phenomenon called Nicolas Cage enormously. Every film with him (and nowadays it's a lot every year) is a mandatory watch for me. I really can't let a single Cage movie pass by. Even though I know that more than half of them are of a dubious level. And some downright bad. And yet there are sometimes gems in between. Now, "Grand Isle" certainly isn't the pinnacle of his film oeuvre. It's rather mediocre. The run-up is promising. The concept had potential. And Cage is having a blast with his role that fits him like a glove. Add to that a bitter Milf, a young handyman whose hormones are going berzerk and "Frasier" as a biased, god-fearing detective who would prefer to put the suspect on a stake, and you still have enough material to make something out of it. It all looks reasonable. Until halfway somewhere. And then the movie transforms to the level of an average C film. Unfortunately, the presence of such a cult figure as Cage couldn't change that.
And to think that a white fence is the beginning of all the misery for Buddy (Luke Benward). Such an innocent item with far-reaching consequences. The way in which this fence was damaged, on the other hand, is not so innocent. Not difficult when the owner of the house is an ex-marine with a serious drinking problem. Walter (Nicolas Cage) is a bitter, fatalistic persona. A bit of a crazy person who still can't get over the fact that he got wounded in Vietnam in a ridiculous way and returned home while his platoon went on a mission the next day. The disappointment was immense. Even knowing that the entire platoon got eliminated completely a few weeks later, the disappointment about a missed opportunity remains. This pent-up anger in combination with excessive alcohol consumption makes him an unguided projectile. His mood, grumpy reactions, and downright aggressive attitude make him an unpleasant person.
Walter also doesn't treat his other half kindly. She's a mature diva whose body shapes are extremely well preserved and whose libido clearly hasn't disappeared yet. And let that be exactly what Walter fails to deliver. He won't even budge when she shows up in a transparent nightgown with erotic underwear underneath it. A disinterested look and another sip of a glass of whiskey are the only reactions. It's not without reason that this hot woman sets her sights on the young, muscular handyman. A handyman with a sex life on the back burner since his lovely wife gave birth to a cuddly daughter. And just when you think it's going to be about a dangerous triangular relationship where the psychopathic-looking husband wants to initiate a lynch party, the young handyman sits at the police station, face bloodied, trying to prove his innocence in a murder case.
Indeed, Walter is really the kind of character that has Nicolas Cage written all over it. The manic mood. Maniacal laughter. Medium length, greasy hair, and a rough stubble beard. The constant drinking and the half-awake state he's in practically all the time. And it's not the first time Cage played such a person. In short, it feels familiar to see him that way. The most interesting interpretation, however, is that of Kadee Strickland as the voluptuous Fancy. Every time she's in the shot, you simply feel the erotic tension increase. Her sultry voice and sensuous appearance ensure she demands all the attention. Unfortunately, Luke Benward could not compete with these two heavyweights. And although he actually plays the main character, it felt like his part was less important.
As I said before, the format of the film is only half successful. It seemed to be heading in the direction of a "Basic Instinct" -like, erotic thriller. Only the eroticism and the thriller section remains below par. And you get a rather absurd conclusion. Also, the dark secret of this demonic couple is presented so casually that its impact is negligible. And let's not forget about the intervention of the police. You really can call this part quite ridiculous. Furthermore, the movie is peppered with improbabilities. Such as that small detail from the testimony that cannot even be verified immediately. But still, it ensures that the biased inspector makes a 180-degree turn immediately. It's amazing how someone's beliefs can change so quickly. And the end of the film is simply terrible. Apparently even the marine uniform Cage was wearing, was also completely wrong. Again proof that quantity and quality aren't related. If you are an immense Cage fan, you should watch it of course. Unfortunately, "Grand Isle" isn't really grand after all.
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The movie is as boring as any environmental debate of today.
Sam, we have to leave this place.
Sooner or later you'll have to.
"IO" will certainly be an orgasmic experience for global environmentalists and defeatists. Supporters of global protest movements about global warming and the destruction of our balanced eco-system will certainly use this film as an example to reinforce their apocalyptic disaster scenarios. Can you already imagine it? Such a television program where they put a microphone under the nose of such an environmental adept? You can bet that comments such as "You see. Any idea what misery we'll get into if we don't intervene now?" will be flung at the interviewer. In my humble opinion, all this is a storm in a glass of water (And no, global warming didn't cause that storm). I blame it on the natural evolution that our planet is undergoing. An evolution in cycles in which we as humans only speed up the process because of our polluting behavior. Soit. I should stick to just one particular thing I'm good at. And that's to write down a review of the movie in question. Short and concise: the film is as boring as any environmental debate of today.
For those who didn't know yet, "IO" shows us for the umpteenth time a deserted, uninhabitable planet Earth. This concept has been used to a great extent in multiple films with a different cause each time. Either it's because of a zombie outbreak like in "World War Z" and similar zombie movies. Or it's prehistoric creatures like in "The Silence" that cause a global slaughter. And let's not forget aliens? They appear all the time to plunder our blue planet because they themselves are without resources. Viruses, impulses via mobile telephones, an innocent text message, a computer virus or simply a world war. An enormous number of causes have already been used to create chaos with an extinct planet as a result.
Here in "IO", it's toxic fumes that cause the population to die en masse. Choking and blood transforming into a black liquid. Scientists claim the reason is an unexpected change in atmospheric composition. Smart people with common sense realize that it's only Mother Earth who is thoroughly sick and tired of us and tries to get us off this planet with a well-aimed ecological kick in the butt. The result is a massive exodus to IO, a planet floating around somewhere near Jupiter. But that doesn't apply to teenage girl Sam (Margaret Qualley) who stayed behind on Mother Earth, living in a house somewhere on a mountain where the toxic fumes can't reach. When she looks over the valley, this smothering smog hangs like fog in the valley. Even a storm cannot blow these toxic fumes over the ridge. What the storm surely did, was blowing away a bee colony, necessary for the scientific research Sam and her father, who initiated this research and apparently didn't survive the disaster, were doing. Or he went up in smoke. I cannot judge what this scientific research actually meant or if it made sense. That's probably due to my limited intelligence.
All in all, the beginning of the film wasn't bad. Sam wearing an oxygen mask, traveling through the deserted streets of some American city with the help of a quad (equipped with a trailer). Images of a dead city and horribly dark underground corridors where rainwater drips from the ceiling. And the realization that her visiting time is limited to the content of the oxygen bottles. A miscalculation and she falls prey to the toxic fumes. Exciting. Captivating. But at the same time, it's not groundbreaking. Even when Micah (Anthony "Falcon" Mackie) arrives in a Jules Verne-like balloon, it doesn't get much more fascinating. What follows is a conflict between these two main characters. Sam wants to continue her father's life's work and prove that life on Earth could be possible in the future. Micah wants to board the last spaceship that leaves for IO but needs some extra help. When the romantic get-together comes into play, I immediately thought of "Z for Zachariah". A similar film that starts interesting but is characterized by a general dullness and slowness.
The two main characters weren't the problem. Margaret Qualley is a good-looking appearance and shows in a solid way how determined the character Sam is. Only the decisions she made were a bit implausible. Anthony Mackie manages to play the unsympathetic balloonist with a self-control problem effortlessly. The script was too nihilistic for me. The pace was irritatingly low. And the story itself was extremely boring. Many technically perfect still lifes. Lots of musing and breaks full of drama. Even the hopeful ending with a mythological-religious message couldn't raise the level. Well, "IO" was a bit of a disappointment for me. I didn't expect a "Lucas Arts" kind of movie where everything "explodes and blasts and bleeps". But in terms of dullness, this Netflix Original still beats many competitors.
You can watch "IO" on Netflix now!
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Uncut Gems (2019)
Adam Sandler nails it in this nerve-wracking thriller.
That's a million dollar opal you are holding.
Straight from the Ethiopian Jewish tribe.
Are you in the middle of a nasty divorce? Or are you at home on sick leave because of burnout due to your stressful job that demands too much from you? Or are those two revolting teenagers at home, who go through puberty right now, making you so much upset that you almost have no fingernails anymore? Good advice! Ignore this movie and look for another soothing movie. Because "Uncut Gems" will certainly not be ideal for your peace of mind. I'm afraid that after 20 minutes you'll be throwing snacks at the screen out of frustration while pulling your hair out of sheer desperation. Because it's the most stressful film ever. It drives up the tension throughout the whole movie in a merciless way to an extreme level. Believe me, at the end of the film my heart rhythm was proportional to that of the exhilarating rhythm of this tragicomic film.
Not only is it a nerve-wracking film. The pace of the film is also absurdly high. A movie like an out of control high-speed train. It seemed as if everyone is running from pillar to post at an inhuman pace. From the beginning of the film, it looks like you are being thrown into a centrifuge that's spinning at a dizzying speed and where the speed never diminishes. Up to and including the denouement. Then the emergency brake is pulled swiftly and the tumultuous life of jeweler Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) abruptly comes to a halt. And if you are annoyed by the use of the "f" word, I warn you already. There are a few hidden in every dialogue.
I'm not at all an Adam Sandler fan. The few films I saw with him ("Click", "Blended" and "The Cobbler") were disappointing in my eyes. Maybe it's the humor used by Sandler. Maybe it's the person Sandler himself I have a problem with. And to be honest, I always avoid movies with his name on the film poster. It surprised me when I read somewhere that he's the best-paid actor in Hollywood. But after seeing "Uncut Gems" I have to drastically adjust my opinion about the actor Sandler. It's not a real comedy (in a reasonably morbid way you could see some kind of humor in it) although you could say that the character Sandler is playing here, is kind of a caricature. Howard, a Jewish jeweler in the metropolis of New York, tries to get his chaotic life back on track. An Ethiopian opal should take care of that. An uncut diamond that according to Howard could muster a fortune at an auction. A fortune with which he can pay off his debts to pawnbrokers and underworld figures. Debts incurred due to his uncontrollable gambling addiction. Until the famous basketball star Kevin Garnett (Kevin Garnett himself) steps in his diamond shop and asks if he could borrow the precious thing because he feels it exudes a primal power. A power that could bring his performance to an unprecedented height during the upcoming important match.
Well, and when KG doesn't return the precious good to Howard at the agreed time, it's the start of a nerve-racking race. A race in which Howard's life is turned into a hell by nasty people, debt collectors, his wife (Idina Menzel who hates him wholeheartedly and calls him the most annoying person in the world) and his mistress Julia (Julia Fox). Even though Howard is indeed a highly annoying person without scruples or any kind of courtesy, you still feel sorry for this man whose life is collapsing like a house of cards. And even though I got nervous because of the Mr. Bean-like character of the film where Howard screws up every time he makes a decision over and over again, this film still managed to entertain me. I could never have imagined that I would ever say this, but Adam Sandler is simply playing his role in an exceptionally excellent way. This was actually worthy of an Oscar nomination. Hopefully, Sandler developed a taste for serious movies now and will make another attempt with a serious role (in a hopefully less hectic setting) in the future. However, I'm afraid that we'll be seeing a load of comedies (filled with offbeat, childish humor) before that'll happen.
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