Archive for the 'Movie Reviews' Category

300: Rise Of An Empire – Movie Review

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

movie reviewFirst of all I have to state that I went into this film without any expectations whatsoever. Except maybe the fact that I really wanted the style of the first 300 movie. I was certain that this new movie would not completely be able to hold up with the first one. That rarely happened in movie history. So how much of the first 300 movie was in this new one?

This movie basically tells the same story we already had in 300. This time though we are following the Greeks and not specifically the Spartans. It’s basically that: some really sexy guys have to hold a certain area from a really sexy lady who is leading a part of the Persian invasion. While the first movie is very condensed on Leonidas, his 300 and the area around the Hot Gates, we now get a look at the bigger picture and everything that’s going on around the happenings in the first movie. The movie is at least trying to give a bigger picture. That would make it more a ‘side-quel’ instead of a ‘sequel’.

Here we are following Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), a Greek army leader, who is pretty much the main guy in the movie. He is also the guy who may be the reason why all this war is raging, because he killed the father of Xerxes in a battle earlier in history. Which then started a chain of events that made Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) the crazy ‘God-King’ of Persia we all know from the first movie. Then we have Artemisia (Eva Green). She’s our lead villain in this movie and is originally from Greece. She had a very troubled and disturbing past, which lead her to Persia, when she was saved bysomeone we know from the first movie and this now famous “THIS IS SPARTA” scene. He decides to adopt her, train and teach her to fight and be a relentless leader. When Xerxes decides to conquer the world, Artemisia leads a significant part of his army to Greece. In the first 300 movie we have a couple of scenes that give a glimpse of how sea battles would look like. In this new movie we basically get one big sea battle. The opposing forces give each other hell until the final battle between Themistokles and Artemisia.

The battle scenes are what elevates this movie a tiny bit above the ‘average’ mark… and Eva Green. She must have really enjoyed playing that over the top, badass, crazy villain character of Artemisia. At one point she even opposes Xerxes and says open to his face what she’s thinking about him. She is also the character with the most depth in the movie. We get quite some backstory to her. And that story completely justifies how she became what she is in the movie. And Eva Green does that in a fantastic way. If (beside the battle scenes) anything saves the movie, then it’s her performance. She’s great in this one.

On the opposite of Eva Green we have Sullivan Stapleton as Themistokles. He falls a little flat and by far doesn’t have the charisma of a Gerard Butler who played Leonidas. There are a couple of heroic speech scenes that just don’t really hit the spark and worked for me. But hey, Leonidas had a red cape, Themistokles has a blue one… so the leader in the next movie is destined to have a green cape! He and Eva Green though had some great chemistry when they both shared the screen. They played well off another (and I don’t reduce that to a really nice sex scene between the two). They had some good lines to fire at each other.

What I found positive was the really hard violence in this movie. They completely follow the path of the first movie and even upped the loss of tons of blood in this one. It’s even too much blood for my taste. Sometimes you’re thinking how no one in these battle scenes even slightly slips on all the liters of blood that should be spilled on the ground they fight on. It’s a little ridiculous. It can be said though that it served the 3d very good. All this slow motion blood flying around was kinda fun to watch.

Between the first 300 movie and today there were quite a lot of movies that tried to copy the look and visual style. I had a feeling that this movie would be a weak copy as well. But no! They managed to get exactly the visual feel and look from the first 300 movie. That’s of course the main reason to watch this movie. Since a lot of the movie’s battles happen on open sea, it’s also a different battlefield and allows for more creative visuals and fights. Even though the 3d worked really nice, there was one detail that kinda bugged me in certain scenes. A lot of flying particles! May it be dust or whatever. The 3d effect was great but it distracted a lot from the actual focus point of the scenes. These particles were mostly used in quiet scenes and I ask myself why. Did they think these scenes were too dull and they needed something to keep the eye busy? I don’t know. Otherwise… no big problems with the 3d.

Forget historic details when you go into this movie. From what I know it’s all over the place with it’s facts and everything. Who cares?! I, for my part, got exactly what I wanted from this movie. And that wasn’t much, except a bloody visual feast for the eye.

7.3/10

300 – Rise Of An Empire on IMDb

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty – Movie Review

Friday, January 17th, 2014

movie reviewI recently watched ‘Greenberg’ from 2010. Another one of these Ben Stiller movies that doesn’t fall into his more known/popular comedy realm. It’s not what I expected but it wasn’t bad either. It was a solid character study with some solid acting by Mr. Stiller. Why I’m pointing that out? Well, simple… I just want more of the serious Ben Stiller. He’s someone who can really pull it off. He’s probably one of the better versatile actors we have today. So when I saw the trailers for ‘Mitty’ I was all for it. It looked great. Promised a story with heart. Promised some good acting. And it’s directed by Ben Stiller himself. The question was not if I’ll see this movie… the question was if I’ll see it on the big screen or wait for Bluray. I’m glad I did go for the big screen and went to the theater.

Ben Stiller plays Walter Mitty. He works at LIFE magazine, which is just making the transition from print magazine to online magazine. Naturally a lot of lose their jobs when this happens so they plan to make their last print issue a masterpiece. What does a good magazine need? A good cover of course. Due to his job Walter plays a big part in getting that cover done. For 16 years his job is taking care of the photo negative archive (you remember? analog photography?), when a new set of photos by very prominent photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) arrives. The message that comes along with it says that negative 25 is the one that should be taken for the last issue’s cover. But that particular negative is missing. In the meanwhile we learn that Walter didn’t really have a very exciting life. Never experienced things that we would normally say represent ‘living life!’. Walter has a crush on a woman who just started working for LIFE magazine and eversince he saw her he wanted to ask her out. Of course he’s a very shy guy and fails to make the right steps. When he is starting to get in trouble, because of the missing photo negative, things fall in place and he gets a chance to talk to Cheryl (Kristen Wiig). She offers him help asking around in the office if someone noticed anything. Walter is developing the negatives he does have and both try to read the pictures and try to find out where these might have been shot to track down Sean O’Connell. A photographer not known to be easily contacted due to constantly being on the road and working with analog equipment to completely focus on the job. Walter and Cheryl manage to get a clue from one of the photos. Walter decides to find Sean since Walter really needs negative 25. The hope is that Sean can either give him the negative or at least let him know where it is.

Beside the happenings evolving around Walter we have this background plot about a huge magazine that makes this weird transition from print to digital. Along with it all the bad things for the workers there. Throughout the movie we also have a message of old versus new. The movie is not trying to hammer down an opinion on the viewer but it’s kind of trying to explain how the old stuff can still be good. First of all the whole thing about photo negatives. Only true hardcore photographers are still working with film. I know a few of them and I can totally relate to their reason why they are still on film. It’s a very special look and feel that digital will never ever have. We get told that some things need time and patience to get good results. In our digitized environment nowadays you can get so many things so fast that we sometimes need a reminder… to sit back and enjoy the ‘moment’ for once. Then there is the magazine undergoing the transition from print to digital. Which might be a necessary step for the magazine to survive, but still leaves so many hard working people behind, losing their jobs. I liked this background theme. But thinking about it… it could also be the main theme of the film. That’s up for debate though. I guess everyone can find an own main theme in this movie, depending on what story element you can relate to.

This movie is a journey. It goes a lot of places and if you allow/let the movie take you by the hand you will have quite a fun ride with it. There I am really happy I decided to go see it in the theater. There are some really awesome nature/landscape shots, along with some spectacular lighting, in this movie. Yes, the movie has a some back and forth scenery jumps but I had no problem with it at all. Even though I must admit that it did hurt the storytelling a little bit. On the other hand I don’t have a suggestion on how to make it better. It all works just fine. The movie isn’t all serious as well. There are a lot of funny moments in it. But not stupid funny like in so many Ben Stiller comedy movies. Here we have a lot of heart in them and they serve a purpose. It’s not just funny just to be funny.

The film didn’t receive very good reviews and splits most opinions 50/50. There are the folks who really enjoyed it, are able to relate to the characters and what the movie wants to say. People who don’t like it for the most part seem to have a problem with how the movie tries to get its message accross. They argue that the movie beats the audience over the head with a message hammer by placing all these obvious hints at what it’s all about. And yes there are these obvious moments and I totally recognized them. But I never thought it was just done to make sure the audience really gets what the is movie about. The movie wants to be a message so why should it hide its intentions?

Is it a movie I’ll rewatch any time soon? Probably not. But still, I think it’s a film that you should see at least once. It got something to say and some really beautiful moments.

So YES! Go see it. Support this wonderful movie.

8/10

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty on IMDb

The Hobbit – TDOS – Movie Review

Friday, December 20th, 2013

movie reviewI didn’t know what to expect when I went to see the first part almost exactly one year ago. I guess I was hoping for that Middle-Earth flair that the first trilogy had. When the movie ended I was pretty underwhelmed by what I saw. It surely was Middle-Earth… but not the way I hoped it to be. I blame the HFR (48 frames per second) projection technique Peter Jackson forces on these movies. It really gave me a headache. The 3d was fine though. In hindsight the first movie also had its lenghts and didn’t feel very consistent as a whole. For me it was a weak start for a trilogy and my hopes for the movies to come weren’t high from that point on.

Due to my lowered expectations I did not go to see the second film with any high hopes. My sole reason to see it was basically to give Peter Jackson a second chance. And judging from what I saw in the second movie, he mostly managed to get back on track. There were still parts that feld weird and a little out of place.

The second movie basically starts where the first one ended. Our group of Dwarfs, a Hobbit and Gandalf is continueing the journey towards the mountain. Wherein the former capital of the Dwarfs lies, which is now occupied by the dragon Smaug. The group is still hunted by some Orcs who relentlessly try to catch them. Gandalf has to leave the group to check on some facts and other things that trouble his mind. In more than one scene we get the impression that he knows what evil is plotting and brooding in the darker corners of Middle-Earth. And there we have a similarity to ‘The Two Towers’. There he’s leaving the group as well. In this movie there are a couple of things/similarities happening that reminded me on the first trilogy.

The first bigger setpiece is an enchanted forest where the group gets lost in. This sequence was a lot of fun and for once the HFR and 3d combination managed to play out its strength. The forest is populated by effing huge spiders that, of course, try to get our heroes to eat them. Bilbo is using the Ring to disguise himself and take out the spiders one after another. The Ring also enables him to hear the spiders speak. Which I found a nice touch to it all. I didn’t expect the Ring to have that power. A nice surprise. The scene itself is just amazingly well shot and the crystal clear VFX along with the ugly disgusting giant spiders just looked great. That was the Peter Jackson I want! Of course our heroes manage to get out of the forest alive… rescued by Elves.

Legolas shows up and with him a group of Elven soldiers who drive the remaining spiders away. There we also get the first appearance by Tauriel. Since Elves and Dwarfs aren’t exactly friends, our group isn’t exactly rescued. ‘Captured’ may be the better word. Only Bilbo manages to stay hidden with help of the Ring. Returned to the Elven city our heroes are thrown into prison. Which they managed to escape with help of Bilbo. Now one of the Dwarfs is fond of Tauriel and the two come a little closer. Then we learn that Legolas has a thing for Tauriel as well. Unfortunately the father of Legolas, ruler of the Elven city, doesn’t want him to start anything with Tauriel. I presume her blood isn’t majestic enough or something. Legolas doesn’t care. He likes her and in some scenes we can see his inner conflict in his eyes. So yes, ultimately there is a love triangle going on. Is it necessary? I don’t know. For some reason it’s a nice new perspective I think.

After a, sometimes really very much over the top, escape scene our group is free and mobile again. On their way to the mountain they have to cross a huge lake and meet Bard, a guy with a ship big enough ship. Together they land in the wonderful town of Esgaroth. As filthy and dirty as this town looks in the movie… the detail and the whole look of it is just great work. The lighting they used for it, with its blue and orange color palette, looked just great. Dwarfs aren’t exactly welcome in this city as well and hide in the home of Bard. In the meanwhile the Orcs are still following them and so do Legolas and Tauriel.

After some action in Esgaroth, part of the group leaves to go for the mountain. One of the Dwarfs got hit by an poisoned Orc arrow and has to stay behind. Tauriel arrives just in time to do some magic and save him. Of course it’s Dwarf that bonded with her earlier. A few miles away our group finally enters the mountain, after a failed attempt to open the door. That was a weird moment in the scene. The Dwarfs go through all this crazy stuff and when their one attempt to open the magic door fails they just go “F it… we tried and failed, too bad. I’m going now”. Only Bilbo solves the riddle and the journey continues. Now it’s Bilbo’s big moment. The reason why he came along. He has to go into the mountain and find a certain magic stone. Too bad there’s a dragon too.

Much like the first Hobbit movie this one felt like a rollercoaster ride. Story part, action part, story part, action part and so on. For some reason it felt much more consistent though. I don’t know if it was because I knew what to expect, but the HFR didn’t hurt as bad as it did in the first movie. Even though there were plenty of hectic scenes. What I noticed though was that within these fast scenes we had less rapid fire cuts. It all felt more fluidly executed which benefited the HFR. The 3d for the most part was done very well. Especially the earlier mentioned spider scene. And most importantly when Smaug enters the movie. That’s how to use 3d!

Now does it mean I’m getting old when I say that I enjoyed the quiet moments best? The actions setpieces and their execution was well done but the quiet story parts were the ones that brought back a little flair of Middle-Earth. Especially the part when Bilbo is playing hide and seek with Smaug. There you can see where the money went. That dragon looks absolutely fantastic.

When it comes to characters then I must admit that I don’t like Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and somehow really like Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly). Bilbo (Martin Freeman) does a hell of a job saving Thorin’s and his gang’s ass from spiders, Elves and Orcs… and Thorin is still not fond of him. Even after Bilbo entered the mountain Thorin doesn’t have a single bit of confidence into Bilbo. Sorry… Thorin is an A’hole! Now the other Dwarfs get a bit more screentime in this movie and are more likable. Especially Kili (Aidan Turner) who’s kind of falling for Tauriel. Which, I’m sorry to say that, is kind of cute. Tauriel has some nice screentime as well and delivers. While all the other Elves, including Legolas, have their reservations against Drwafs… she has an open mind and looks at things her own way. She has her quiet moments where some good acting is going on. And the action moments show some bad ass fighting. She’s cute and pretty damn lethal to her enemies. Gandalf (Ian McKellen) follows his own plot in this movie after parting from the group early on. Well, what’s to say about Gandalf… it’s Gandalf, you know? We also have a guest appearance from Radagast (Sylvester McCoy) again. I like him show up for a couple of scenes. He has a nice grumpy feel and look to him… as well as birds nesting under his hat. The acting overall was solid but closing in on cheesy.It maintained its level right beneath it. But that’s maybe a taste thing.

Overall I have a feeling that people who liked the first Hobbit movie don’t like the second and vice versa. And also please don’t get me wrong. I still don’t like the HFR technique. While it may have worked 15-20% of the time in the first film… it probably worked 30-40% of the time in this second one. Which is still by far not enough to justify the use of it. There were still plenty of scenes that looked so goofy and fake that it completely took my out of the movie experience.

This movie is as epic as a fantasy movie can get. It got its flaws, and most of them are very visible in the HFR version, but overall it felt like Middle-Earth again. Even though they could have easily trimmed out 20 minutes of this cut. There is some padding here and there.

Go see it in 3d! HFR is not necessary.

A 7.9/10 for me. (HFR & 3D Version)

The Hobbit – The Desolation Of Smaug on IMDb

Thor 2 – Movie Review

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

movie reviewSince we are now in Phase Two of Marvel’s big storyline plans, we left all the origin stories of all the main characters behind us and can now concentrate on their developments. From all the hero introduction movies Thor always felt a little flat in comparison to Ironman or Captain America. The first Thor movie was saved by its nice choice of actors and a nice chemistry between Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). Oh yes… and the introduction of Loki (Tom Hiddleston)! I love that guy. He was my reason to go and spend money to see Thor – The Dark Kingdom on the big screen. Was it worth it?

Time has passed since the events of The Avengers. Asgard is having problems maintaining the kingdom and keeping it stable. Thor and his friends are on mission to restore order. In the mean time Loki is back in Asgard as well. But imprisoned and not having a too nice time. We get a lot of exposition scenes explaining some history and events that happened to Odin’s father. A huge war fought over some strange substance called the ‘Aether’. Now Odin’s father Bor fought a huge war against the Dark Elves and their leader Malekith, who is after the Aether. He who posses it is able to gain a power that could destroy… I don’t know… I guess galaxies. Bor wins the battle, drives Malekith and his horde away and hides the Aether. Thousands of years later it’s found again. Now I understand that you have to follow certain routes to drive your storytelling and what they did in the film to me felt good and bad at the same time. It works how they explain it in context of the story. But I, at the same time, thought that they made it way too easy. Coincidence plays a far too big role. But hey… for movies like this one you kinda have to suspend disbelief. So I had to force myself to shutdown my brain. Long story short, Jane Foster finds the Aether and the weird thing that the Aether is… it melds with Jane. Thor finds out that something is wrong and returns to Earth. He’s still in love with Jane but for the last two years he never came back. So it’s a nice reunion moment. In the meantime Malekith plans his attack on Asgard after Thor brought Jane there to keep her safe and to find out how to remove the Aether from her. That’s the middle part of the movie, where we see all the Asgard stuff we didn’t get (but wanted) from the first film. Soon enough comes the attack from Malekith and we get the action into the movie as well. Yes, Loki is there to play his role too.

This movie takes all the good elements of the first movie and expands on them. That is, for the most part, very well done. Then we have Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) who kind of is a fan darling for some reason. She is a nice character and a good comic relief but they overdid her in this movie from my point of view. There were a couple of moments where I thought “naw, that joke wasn’t needed right there”. Other parts they expanded and did really well were, like mentioned before, the Asgard bits. We got to see much more of the city, this world and how it’s structured. That, along with the design elements, was something that held my interest up throughout the movie. The fight scenes were overall well done too. Shakycam was an issue but it was still tolerable. I never lost sight of what’s going on or who punched or beat who at what moment in the scene.

The costume design is still a little goofy and after two films I still don’t know what to think of it. On a certain level it does work and then there are moments where your brain refuses to shutdown and you see some of the costumes for what they are. Shiny, flashy, rainbow colored kind of kids… costumes. It’s weird. Yes, I know… Asgard is supposed to be that almighty shiny god land but I’m a fan of worn out gritty looks. So yes, the costumes in the movie kind of work and kind of don’t work at the same time. It’s strange. The other design elements looks cool and I enjoyed the look of the worlds they created for the film. As usual pretty good VFX work. There are these one or two slow motion scenes where Natalie Portman melds with the Aether, is in a kind of dream state and floating in the air… these shots were just beautiful to look at.

Overall the film does a great job. The acting is good and the chemistry works. Sometimes the comedic elements take a little overhand but overall it’s also the comedy that makes the movie very entertaining. The 3d, compared to the first one, was much better and some of the battle scenes took nice advantage of the effect. Did I mention that I love Loki?

7.6/10

Thor – The Dark Kingdom on IMDb

Chronicle – Movie Review

Saturday, October 26th, 2013

movie reviewI had Chronicle on my radar for a while now. Heard a lot good things, especially about one of the actors in it. Now I finally came around watching it. The movie certainly does what it’s supposed to do. It’s entertaining and much better than expected.

Over the past couple of years we had a lot of superhero movies from Spiderman to Ironman and Batman. We also had a lot of ‘found footage’ movies like Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity. While the superhero movies overall do a nice job, the quality of the ‘found footage’ ones is quite debatable. Most of the time it’s real crap. Cloverfield does it right though. And so does Chronicle. Even if you could argue about the fact if Chronicle really is a found footage movie. It certainly is, from a technical point of view, treated like one.

The story is about three highschool kids, Andrew (Dane DeHaan), Matt (Alex Russell) and Steve (Michael B. Jordan) who meet on a party. While taking a break and fresh air they discover a hole with tunnel not far away. That tunnel leads to a strange piece of rock. Its appearance is definitely nothing from our world so it’s probably something alien. It’s not further explained and there actually is no need for an explanation. Sure enough something weird happens. Soon enough they discover that suddenly they have sort of telekinetic powers.

The movie most of the time follows Andrew. His home situation is pretty sadand frustrating. His father is lost cause and drinker while his mother is sick and barely living anymore. Andrew is also the character that has an arc in this movie. He starts out as a shy teenager and lone wolf. Through the happenings he finally gets some closer friends who really seem to care. Things happen at home and this new found friendship gets problematic. Andrew’s father really treats him like a piece of dirt, screams at him and makes him down whenever possible. It’s only natural that Andrew gets angry and his whole situation drives him mad. And, to be honest, I felt really sad for the character. Mostly because the movie is pretty realistic in showing how these things happen in certain family situations.

While all kinds of personal things going on, our three friends also discover that their powers are growing stronger. Andrew recognizes that and takes advantage of it. A couple of things happen and when Andrew is trying to find a way to help his sick mother, things get out of control.

Dane Dehaan plays his part phenomenal. From the first minute on you believe his character Andrew. He really nails that teenager feeling of not being one of the cool guys. Andrew is always trying to stay in the background and still gets picked on all the time. Dane Dehaan manages it to give the frustration and pain a real face. He also succeeds in portraying the arc Andrew is going through. Especially in his final scene, which I found very powerful, he’s almost embracing his pain and begging for salvation. Great work by this young actor there.

Despite a couple of plot holes here and there it all works. It’s easy to forgive since some decisions complement the overall plot and its developments. While other ‘found footage’ movies often come up with really stupid solutions to the ‘found footage’ problematic, Chronicle made it right. They found good ways to explain why there are cameras around and how it’s possible. Sometimes you’re wondering though why they insisted on it. I think the movie would have worked either way. The ‘found footage’ fact doesn’t play a big role but also does not hurt the movie. The production costs of 12mio dollars are relatively low but the VFX worked good enough. Nonetheless you can see what VFX parts had more work invested into them than others. But that’s forgivable from my point of view. The overall story of these three kids is more important.

Yes it’s definitely one of the best found footage movies around. I still think it wasn’t a necessary feature but either way it worked fine. The characters are fun and the story really captivating. After seeing it I thought, “yeah… that’s probably a realistic take on the ‘what if I had superpowers’ theme”. It really is a good movie and it stands out. Watch it if you have a chance!

7.6/10

Chronicle on IMDb

Gravity – Movie Review

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

movie reviewFor this one I avoided spoilers as much as possible. I saw the trailers and that’s it. I looked at the critic’s scores for the movie and was very pumped to see this film. The first time I heard about it was probably two years ago. I’m a huge fan of Alfonso Cuarón’s “Children Of Men” and checked him for new projects. “Gravity” was the name of his new project. After reading a little, it was clear that it’s set in space. I found that pretty much awesome since I’m definitely a space fan. Now after a long time waiting, the movie is finally out and I went seeing it.

I don’t know why but I had no big expectations going into this film. I just wanted some great images and a somewhat interesting story to go along with. What I got was a load lot more than I expected. This movie makes you really appreciate the work astronauts do out there! They do a hell of a job! And astronauts is what this movie is about. We start with Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and a third astronaut. All three of them are in space to repair the Hubble Telescope. Stone is a space first timer while Kowalski is the veteran in the crew and on his last mission. Kowalski is having fun with his jetpack while the repairs go along well, when suddenly a message comes in, that a russian satellite got destroyed. Now the debris of said russian satellite starts to spread and initiates a chain reaction of more and more satellites getting destroyed. With the debris field getting larger and larger our astronaut friends become a target too. They cannot manage to pack things in time and get hit by the field of scrap metal satellite parts. The shuttle gets destroyed, along with its crew, and Stone is spinning away from the crashsite and into the depths of space. She gets rescued by Kowalski and both figure out a plan to get back to earth. First stop… the ISS.

In this day and age it’s very hard to stumble uppon a commercially successful movie that is not only successful but also does everything right that a movie should do right. This is a movie made for the big screen. I don’t think this movie will work as well on a usual home flatscreen as it did on the big theater screen. We also don’t see a lot of cuts. No doubts about that there are cuts… but they are hidden. So that most of the movie looks as if it’s done in a single take. That creates an impressive feeling of being there with the characters of the movie. Especially the opening scene goes almost 20 minutes without a single cut! That’s how you capture your audience! That’s how you suck them into your world! That’s how you establish your world and the atmosphere!

Sandra Bullock is amazing! For me she was just always there and I appreciated her work and skills. But I never saw her really amaze me. She certainly did in this movie. Yeah, Clooney is in it, but he doesn’t play a too big part. Although I must admit that the scenes he had, he did perfectly fine. It’s Sandra Bullock’s work that carries the movie though. She’s the one we root for and she’s the one we want to have a happy ending. From my point of view her character goes through three stages in this movie. In the first one she’s the newbie in space. She doesn’t have much control about what she’s doing. She is fearful and has a hard time keeping everything under control. She is pretty much what all the audience would be in space. Almost helpless. Especially when everything around you goes to hell. Then we come to the second act of the film and we see her character figuring out the problems and fighting to get back home. We also learn some details about the characters past. A past that has some very bitter moments. In the third act we can see her as a reborn being. Someone who grew stronger through the events overcome. Someone who will never ever give up again. I read that Angelina Jolie was first choice for the part and dear lord in heaven I’m glad it became Sandra Bullock! She did an amazing job and certainly deserves an Oscar nomination for that performance! Jolie surely is a fine actress in certain roles. But for this one you needed someone who is also very natural and down to earth. Sandra Bullock was perfect.

If there is one little downside to this movie then it would be the symbolism that is hidden in the images every now and then. But that’s really actually not a complaint and much more a remark. In some parts it feels as if they used a visual sledgehammer and said “get it? get it?”. I did get it. It’s all about Ryan Stone being born again. Leaving all past bad things behind and try to make the best of what’s there now. The last scene with the water and her crawling on the beach is literally a symbol of birth. Or in an earlier scene where she’s floating in a fetus like position, which I guess marks the start of her transformation of seeing and living things differently. Things like this were a little too obvious but in no way hurt the movie at all. It gives the movie a deeper meaning and that’s not a bad thing.

I really hope this movie will make a lot of money. And it fortunately kinda looks like it does. Like I mentioned earlier, this movie lives and breathes with the exceptionally well camera work, done throughout the movie. Everything slow, fluid and almost no cuts. Certainly a very big challenge for the VFX crews working on this movie. A really crazy attention to detail going on in this movie. Especially the simulation of a zero g environment must have been amazingly hard. But they managed to pull it off. It looks and feels realistic in every single frame of this film. Well placed action sequences balance the movie with the quiet parts that bring us closer to the main character and her problems. There we should also have our technical Oscar nominations for camera and VFX. I seriously cannot see a single part to nitpick when it comes to the belivablity of this movie. A benchmak that no other space film will get close to any time soon.

Ultimately… what else to say than GO WATCH THIS MOVIE ON A AS BIG AS POSSIBLE SCREEN! Oh yeah, the 3d in this movie really was good!

Go see it!

8.8/10

Gravity on IMDb

The World’s End – Movie Review

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

movie reviewFor me it took a while before Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz made it for me. When I saw them I found them good and funny. But that was it. After seeing them a couple of times I can honestly say that these films are more than just good. It’s also the technical aspects that really make them stand out. May it be the writing, characters and especially the pacing. So I was excited to see how many of these elements they managed to bring into the third installment of the so called ‘Blood And Ice-Cream Trilogy’.

The movie is about Gary King (Simon Pegg). A guy kind of stuck in the early 1990s. When he and his buddies finished school they decided to go on a drinking marathon. 12 pubs in one night. The last bar being the World’s End. When they first tried the run they couldn’t make it to the last one. And that’s a fact that bothered Gary for the next 20 years. Until he decided to ‘bring the band back together’ and go for another try. Of course a lot of things happened in these 20 years and his friends moved on with their lives. With a lot of shady talking and a couple of lies he manages to bring the group back together. So Gary, Andy (Nick Frost), Steven (Paddy Considine), Oliver (Martin Freeman) and Eddie (Peter Page) and finish what they started 20 years ago. While Gary is still stuck in the past, his friends moved on and that, of course, leads to certain conflicts. But Gary, being a really charming sleazebag, manages to keep the group together and on track. Soon enough they’re in their first bar and start to drink. A couple of brief moments come in where they start conversation about what they are doing now. They haven’t seen each other in years and they try to catch up. After visiting bar number three it all starts to fall apart a bit. The group is getting more and more drunk and they notice the people around them don’t behave like usual people would. Then Gary has to visit the toilet and an epic brawl breaks out. From then on it’s plain crazy and I don’t want to spoil too much. Lets just say a lot of robots and no stop until they reached the World’s End!

The movie is pretty much done by the same people who did Shaun Of The Dead & Hot Fuzz. And the style, characters and tone tell you right from the beginning. From a technical standpoint you can immediately recognize Edgar Wright’s directing signature. I never disected the other movies and always saw them as what they were trying to be and how these are as a whole. Shaun and Fuzz had moments that dragged a bit, and so does End. But Shaun and Fuzz had also a lot of laugh out loud moments as well as End has. So all of these 3 movies have an overall well balanced feel to them.

The acting I enjoyed a lot. Especially Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Taking a look back at the characters they played in the other two movies, they again play totally different characters in this one. And they do it in a belivable way. Gary (Pegg) being the kind of man-child who is not able to get over the past and Andy (Frost) who managed to move on and being successful in his job. We also learn stuff about their relationship in the past and how Gary managed to disappoint Andy. Which lead to them splitting up and go their own ways. Then there is also a dynamic between Gary and Steven (Paddy Considine) when their old love Sam Chamberlain (Rosamund Pike) shows up. While Gary kind of had a thing for her, it was Steven who actually really loved her. A lot of small character story bits that give this movie a familiar tone. If you ever went to a reunion with old classmates you know what I’m talking about. You start to dig in the past and stories come up and want to be told. That’s what they did here in the movie from time to time.

Appart from the serious elements the movie, of course, has a ton of moments for a good laugh. So the humour of the other two films was definitely in there and worked very well. Some jokes I can even imagine not working if it weren’t the guys from the other movies. That’s when the pacing and timing are very important and again it’s right there with the other two movies. One scene where Sam (Pike) lies on the ground, waiting for Gary to help her back up. And when sleazebag Gary reaches out he’s actually pointing at a pack of cigarettes behind her. That one could have easily fell flat if it wasn’t played as straight as it was. A perfect example where cutting, pacing and acting were just pitch perfect. Which made the joke work and me laugh!

One more thing this movies did right was the camera work and cutting. There are a lot of hectic scenes in this film as well as a couple of brawls. But instead of going the Hollywood route, with a cut every splitsecond and a shakycam that makes you literally sick, they managed to deliver pictures you were able to follow. There was still movement and motion in how they used the camera in the fight sequences. But never to a point where you could not tell anymore what was going on between the characters.

When I came out of the theater I had the impression it wasn’t as good as the other two (Shaun Of The Dead & Hot Fuzz) movies. But for some reason it didn’t took long and I came to the conclusion that it’s not better nor worse than the other two movies. Of course you normally compare these movies and what you always do is to try to find out if the movie was better or worse then the other ones. For me it was just as good as the other two. I guess I would have to see it again to really build myself a more precise opinion. But still, it’s a great movie and definitely worth a watch!

7.8/10

The World’s End on IMDb

Elysium – Movie Review

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

movie reviewWhen District 9 came out I loved it. I thought to myself that this director will surely go somewhere. Neill Blomkamp surely took himself some good time for the next movie. The title ‘Elysium’ early on found its way to the internet. As well as the fact that it’s a scifi movie tackling the same issues District 9 wanted to show. Scifi with a strong message.

In Elysium we follow Max (Matt Damon). He grew up as an orphan and slipped into a not so goodie way of life. Stealing and shady businesses followed him everywhere. And honestly the world he lives in doesn’t leave him much choice. Now grown up he’s on parole and working in an arms factory that builds defence systems for Elysium. One day he has a horrible accident that pretty much renders him useless for the factory and leaves him 5 days to live. The only chance for him to survive is to get to Elysium. Elysium is a completely different world. Only the privileged and rich get there and it’s pretty much paradise compared to a completely overpopulated Earth. On Elysium is medical equipment that can help him to recover from the radiation dose that slowly kills him. So Max meets up with a couple of old contacts. These contacts are an underground operation that tries to hit Elysium wherever they can. They have a plan and Max is like a present at the right time. Because he’s the key to execute that plan. Max agrees because he doesn’t have much of a choice. The plan is to kidnap someone from Elysium. And Max knows the right person. The boss of the defence factory he was working in. From then on things happen and the resulting chain of events leads Max to Elysium. But can he make it in time?

The plot is very ambitious but at the same time very simple. Matt Damon carries the movie very well. I had my doubts seeing pictures of him in that exo-skeleton suite and that little screen nailed to the back of his head. It looked goofy. So I was surprised that it did not take me out of the movie when I watched it. It’s easy to accept and suspend disbelief for that part. It did not hinder Damon to put on some solid acting. Jodie Foster, who plays some sort of minister of defence for Elysium, I guess did what the script told her to do. But nothing more. I wished she had more of a story arc to her but she was just there to be evil. A missed opportunity. I mean… she doesn’t have to turn good all of a sudden but there could have been done more with her character. Then we have Alice Braga, who plays a childhood friend and love interest for Max. She does a great and believable job with her character. She plays Frey, someone Max knows from growing up in the orphanage. They became friends but lost track of each other as life took its course. Frey became a nurse. And while Max seemed to have always wanted the best for her, he seemed to have failed all too often. Last but not least we have Kruger. Now doesn’t that name scream ‘bad guy’? Sure enough Kruger is the lead bad guy. He’s hired by Jodie Foster’s character and a sleeper agent mercenary kind of thing. Whenever there are difficulties in need to be handled on Earth, he’s the go to guy. Kruger is played by Sharlto Copley. His last big parts were the lead in District 9 and playing Murdock in the A-Team movie. But here in Elysium he is playing such a completely different kind of guy. He’s a serious sadistic psychopath and we get that vibe early on. Most of the time he looks like living straight out of a trash can, completely worn out and done. But he’s a threat better taken serious. Sharlto Copley is the biggest surprise in this movie. I haven’t seen such a badass villain in a long time. And he’s damn believable in that role. I really enjoyed that Kruger character.

Another character in the movie is the look. And that look works great. The effort put into the worldbuilding for this film surely paid off. What we see from Earth is depressing. It’s basically a desert flooded with shanty towns and screaming from overpopulation. That’s where the movie visually connects to District 9. The factory max works in has a nice design and screams ‘dangerous environment to work in and we don’t care about our workers’. What we see from Elysium is just plain beautiful. It truly does look like Paradise compared to Earth. I don’t know exactly how much Syd Mead was involved in the Concept stage of the production, but I saw his influence numerous times. The whole look and visual feel of the movie felt fluid. Nothing felt out of place. It’s also remarkable how good the VFX in general looked. I mean the aerial shots of Elysium looked pretty much photorealistic. And to get something like that right is quite a task! In one word: Believable.

There are a couple of weak spots in the movie though. The first one is when Max becomes radiated. The argument would be: “hey, why don’t they send a robot into the chamber?”. And yes, why don’t they? This felt like a little forced plot device to move forward and give Max a true reason to get to Elysium. It’s there to show that Elysium people are plain evil. And that’s a strange message to begin with. The movie pretty much conveys that all rich people are bad and have to be dealt with. There seems to be no one on Elysium who cares about Earth anymore. And I find that a little drastic. Especially since our heroes in the movie are pretty much terrorists. There are one or two scenes where people under the command of Jodie Foster seem to have doubts about her orders. I would have loved to see more of the inner conflicts of Elysium itself. But there’s nothing about that in the movie except two or three smaller scenes. Because seriously… I doubt everyone on Elysium really is a bad person. Then we have the whole story with Frey where at one point Max is leading the bad guys directly to her. Another thing is the ‘over the head’ message the movie wants to deliver. The parting of rich and poor and how it could end. It feels very forced and the movie ending is a little bit too schmaltzy. The thing that almost took me out of the movie was the permanent shakycam. Even in moments where it was completely unnecessary. This movie has so many really good camera moments and used the camera well. But it all is brought down by the constant use of shakycam in scenes where it was completely unnecessary. It almost gave me a headache.

As a whole this movie is worth seeing. The performances are good and the visuals stunning and beautiful. If you are a Scifi artist like me, this movie will give you tons of inspiration!

A solid 7.7/10 for me.

Elysium on IMDb

Pacific Rim – Movie Review

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

movie reviewThe reason why I wanted to see this film was simple. In this sea of remakes, prequels, sequels and ‘based of’ movies, I wanted to give this one my money simply to show respect and be thankful… because this movie is based on an original story. And nowadays such big movies are always played safe by the big studios. It’s sad that such projects don’t happen more often. But maybe, if this movies does good enough at the box office, we will have more original ideas in the future. *Fingers crossed* Now how was the actual movie?

The story is fairly simple. Earth gets attacked by giant monsters. But not from space! No! They are coming from the bottom of the ocean. Through a mysterious portal with unknown origins. When the first monsters ruin complete citFies all over the Earth, it’s time for resistance! Governments of the Earth unite and start a program to build giant robot machines, so called Jaegers, to fight these huge gigantic monsters. But the monsters seem to learn and adjust to Earth’s defence tactics. Soon enough the monsters become larger and much more dangerous. Things look grim and plans to solve the mystery and attacks are rare. But still! There is one plan that might work! So the battle begins.

We follow a young Jaeger pilot who has lost his brother when they were both fighting one of these giant monsters. The Jaeger robots need two pilots to fully expand their abilities. Both pilots must be synched up through some sort of brainlink. Naturally brothers are perfect pilots for these robots. Something goes wrong though and our hero loses his brother and decides to quit the job. Sure enough he gets reactivated for the last chance of getting rid of that portal. So he comes back and learns that the Jaeger program will soon be stopped. So the team decides to go for that one plan that might help to end this war.

The plot is more than simple and the characters almost a cliché with and no depth to them. But still, I came to the conclusion that I found it all very refreshing. I cannot exactly tell why it worked in this movie and doesn’t in others. Maybe the answer is simple… maybe it’s just because everything felt as if it’s just right for this story and what this movie wants to be. It’s by far not a movie that will win any prizes for intelligence. The heroes are the robots and the monsters. Even though it might be a little unfair. Since the movie gives us a lot of character (even though they feel a little flat) moments as well. It’s surely no desaster porn crapfest like so many other movies of its kind.

Pacific Rim takes its time when needed. That goes for the character moments as well as the fight scenes. It succeeds more in the fight scenes though. For a long time I was finally able to see again what was actually going on in the fights. So many movies today are just quick cut, shaky cam clusterf*ck diashows. You can barely see who is beating who and who is hurt where. Pacific Rim made it right! For the first time in a long while I was actually captured by these fight sequences. Yes they were loud, shiny and bombastic like the other stuff you usually get to see. But here we can actually see the movements and the consequences of a big hit. You were able to see the weight of the robots when they started to swing a huge punch at one of the monsters. They nailed the physics extremely well. Stuff like that is not easy to get done well. And that massive attention to detail really helped to make the fight scenes as capturing as they were. I enjoyed them a lot and they never actually felt too long.

This movie is very much over the top. And there are things that come with that fact. For one thing it’s that sometimes the dialogue gets a little repetitive. Especially when it’s time for another one of these motivational speeches. Overall the dialogue is very comic’ish and almost a little too filled with lofty words. That’s certainly not everyone’s taste for sure. Some might even say it’s dumb. But again you have to keep in mind what kind of movie this is. They decided to go down that route from minute one of the movie. You can already tell in the first 2 minutes what kind of movie you are going to see. Just the way the voice over delivers the lines for the background story is enough to say, “Hey, this movie wants to have fun! Stay with us and enjoy the ride!”.

The acting in the movie was appropriate. Nothing special to mention. They all seemed to have fun and enjoyed the production. I just wished Idris Elba would get a nice and good movie for himself soon. He’s always leaving an impression, even if he’s just a supporting cast.

From a technical perspective this movie was top notch. The production design, camera work, color palette and VFX work… everything pretty much the best you can get nowadays. Only one thing that I noticed. There wasn’t a single battle at daytime. I wished there would have been at least one. But if you think about, of course they were at night. It’s the best way to hide not so perfect model or texturing details. =D On the flipside that helped to make the battles be readable, because the VFX crew had the chance to keep the camera on the scene, without all these rapid fire quick cuts we all know from movies like Transformers.

Overall it’s a “turn your brain off and have fun” movie. Comparisons to Transformers are not fair though, since the ‘brain off’ factor seems to work with Pacific Rim. Something I just couldn’t do with the Transformers movies.

7.5/10

Pacific Rim on IMDb

Man Of Steel – Movie Review

Monday, July 1st, 2013

movie reviewThis time I really had a problem. Normally I tend to write only about movies that spawn a certain reaction in me. May it be positive or negative. But this time it took me more than two days before I sat down to write a review. Because, in all honesty, this movie left me with nothing. But why is that?

Well, do I have to explain the story behind this movie? I don’t think so. It’s pretty much the same origin story we all already know from Superman. We follow him when he discovers that he’s different. We see how he learns about his powers. We see him struggle with his powers. We see him struggle with the question what kind of man he wants to be. Something that ‘Superman Returns’ did different in 2006. There were glimpses of Superman’s origins and that was enough for me.

I enjoyed the first half of Man Of Steel. But when the first hour of the film is done there come so many stupid things into play that it feels very off. Yes they did the origin story over again and tried to go different ways to present it to the audience. We get a very extended look at Krypton. Surely a Krypton that doesn’t look like I would imagine it. It took me a while to get used to it. It’s a little weird. But if I would have to say what I expected Krypton to look like I would say that Vulcan (from the 2009 Star Trek) was kind of what I expected. On the other hand I expected Vulcan to look like the Krypton we got in Man Of Steel. So yeah, Krypton has the feel of a Volcano/Lava Planet. Which felt a little off. Surely 30 minutes are on Krypton before we get to Earth. And there we get an already grown up Clark Kent, trying to find his way and doing jobs like everyone else. Flashback bring us to places in his childhood. Situations that will define who he becomes. And all that is nicely done. But, yet again, we already kind of know this stuff. The movie starts to go its own route when General Zod arrives on Earth.

As soon as our bad guy General Zod arrives, the movie goes down hill. And by that I don’t mean the acting or technical aspect. It’s the story and how it treats its characters. The movie kind of starts to be an alien invasion movie. Strangely enough there is only an Air Force Colonel and a General who know about it and do something against it. Not a single time we hear or see the US President or a voice from Washington. It’s Superman, Colonel, General and Reporter VS Aliens. Yes Reporter! Because Lois Lane is everywhere! She must have a teleporting device since every normal military operation would not allow her to be where the action is. But she’s always there. It’s a miracle! And stupid.

And now for the ending of the movie. Where I sat in my fluffy theater seat and thought to myself “really?!?!”. Of course you have tons of battles in this movie. First Smallville, then New Yo… erm Metropolis and then THE WORLD! Oh well, I guess THE WORLD comes in the sequel. But yeah, Superman fights some epic battles, wrecks half of his hometown and at the end of the film half of Metropolis. From what we get to see in the film the damage that happens in the city must have been 20 times worse than what happened on 911. I mean half of Metropolis is a wasteland! The Superman I grew up with would have tried to avoid that. No, the Superman of today needs to punch his opponent through 10 skyscrapers, without wasting one thought about the thousands of people IN THE F***ING BUILDING. Wow. Are we so desperate that we betray what the main character actually stands for, just to CG in as much destruction as possible? Is that really necessary? Superman’s first thought should have been “Hey, to fight Zod IN THE CITY might actually not be the first best choice! I have to get him away from the population!”. Not in this movie. It’s ridiculous.

It’s save to say that this movie will make back its budget and spawn a sequel. No doubt about that. Even if the movie itself is stupid and even boring at points. They still don’t understand that loud kaboom every ten minutes is no entertainment. After a certain point you had your dose of explosions and the audience grows numb. The last 40 minutes of that film is a huge CG Kaboom clusterf*ck. It’s tooooo much. What happened to the screenwriters today? Don’t they know how a build up and pay off works? No, they have to bombard the audience with all possible things, right from minute one. It’s a shame and so many wasted opportunities. They could have done something amazing with this film. They failed.

Who do I blame? The writers and producers. And maybe the Studio. Who knows how much interference was going on there. Zack Snyder does what he does best. His visual directing style worked perfect for the movie. Even though, once again, there was far too much shaky cam going on. But overall it’s a very beautiful film to look at. The acting was fine. Not outstanding though. Henry Cavill does a nice job with the material he got. I think a worthy Superman. Michael Shannon does a great Zod as well. Very over the top. All the others… standard I guess.

They wanted to approach the material as realistic as possible. Much like the Christopher Nolan Batman movies. And the same time they go so damn over the top that you sit there shaking your head and ask yourself ‘why’? It just didn’t work.

7.3/10

Man Of Steel on IMDb