Archive for the 'Movie Reviews' Category

Ghost In The Shell – Movie Review

Saturday, April 15th, 2017

movie reviewBefore watching the film I checked out some of the concept art various artists did for the film. It did have a very unique feel and look and so I decided to see this one on the big screen. Although I did not expect too much from the story. Some movies are just there for the eye candy. I saw the original animated film a couple of years ago and found its themes and look rather interesting. Another reason to give this live action version a shot.

The story is quickly told and unfortunately not too complex. We mainly follow Major (Scarlett Johansson) on her quest to learn more about her past. She is a cyborg with only her brain being organic. She was part of an experiment that’s supposed to bring cybernetic enhancements to a new level. The world she lives in is completely absorbed by media. You can’t look anywhere without being bombarded by ads and information. Cybernetic enhancements are a norm and nothing unusual. Major is part of a special police unit and through her and her colleagues we are introduced to how these technological enhancements work and what they can do. Throughout the film we follow Major down a rabbit hole of discoveries that clear up her past and how she became what she is. Together with her team she tries to track down a hacker who can become a real danger to the technology that almost completely consumed mankind at this point.

While asking interesting questions about where mankind might be headed, it only asks these questions on a shallow level. Instead they focus on a plot we have seen in similar shape or form many times before. Which is disappointing to a degree. While watching the film I was not really able to connect to the character of Major. Instead I connected more to her partner Batou (Pilou Asbaek). He was interesting in the fact that he looks like a bulldozer but they never used him that way. He was restrained and pretty tame compared to what other films would have done with a character like him. Beside him we have the wonderful Juliette Binoche playing Dr. Ouelet. She is sort of a mother figure for Major and oversees her medical treatment and the experiment Major was part of.

I feel all the folks we see on screen did their best to get the most out of their parts but to me it mostly felt flat. The film has a runtime of 107 minutes and in an age where most big productions go for 2 hours and more… it’s rather short. To me it felt longer than its 107 minutes. Which makes me feel weird since a film like this should be completely in my wheelhouse. Visually it certainly is. The world is fascinating and I would love to make a trip there for a week. More than a week though… no, I guess the constant bombardment with information would drive me crazy. The film’s problem is the storytelling and its characters. Like mentioned earlier, we have already seen this story so many times. In the beginning of the film is a cut that jumps 1 year ahead. Which brings me to the characters and the fact that, if I had seen what Major had to go through in that one year, I may have been able to connect better with her. The characters in general could have been deeper. They missed a big chance there. Especially with Juliette Binoche but also Takeshi Kitano. It’s so weird how they handle his character Aramaki. He just appears on screen without any big introduction or back story. Even at the end of the film we don’t know much more about him. Yet Kitano plays Aramaki as if he’s having the best story to tell from all the characters in the film. I want to know more about him and his role/part in this world. More character moments again would have extended the runtime. So who knows, maybe the film would have slipped into ‘completely boring’ territory.

Director Rupert Sanders doesn’t have too many things on his resume and maybe it wasn’t the smartest move to hand out a quite heady scifi piece to someone without proper experience. On the other hand you simply cannot expect Blade Runner like quality here. While visually it does come close to a benchmark look, much like Blade Runner in 1982. But it lacks spiritual depth and glosses over the actually interesting philosophical topics. To handle the heady stuff it would have really required a very experienced director though.

As for the whitewashing controversy… I don’t care. It would not have changed or influenced the quality of the film in any way shape or form. It’s a Hollywood production, do you really expect them to go for actors that match the ethnicity of the original characters? Not gonna happen.

So is this film worth a recommendation? It’s not the usual two hours of loud explosions and action setpieces which is definitely a positive. It is visually inspiring and very interesting. You can literally get lost in all the stuff that’s going on in that futuristic version of Hong Kong. Storywise it’s unfortunately nothing new and misses chances with its characters.

If I recommend it then solely for the visuals.

6.4/10

Ghost In The Shell on IMDb

Kong: Skull Island – Movie Review

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

movie reviewI’m tempted to start this one with “this ain’t your daddy’s King Kong” but I won’t. Even though indirectly I did. Which immediately brings up the problem with this film. It just wants to do too many different things. But first things first! What is it about?

The movie is a continuation of what the 2014 Godzilla (directed by Garath Edwards) began. Skull Island (directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts) can be seen as a prequel to the 2014 movie. At least in certain parts. We learn a little bit more about the Monarch project and what it does. The movie starts with Bill Randa (John Goodman) and Corey Hawkins (Houston Brooks) meeting with a higher up politician in Washington. They want to ask for funds to finance an expedition to a newly discovered island in the Pacific. We learn that Monarch is on the verge of shutting down because the government wants to cut their funds. But they get that one last shot with the expedition. The year is 1973 and the movie uses every chance to slam it down your throat that the film plays in the 70s. We get some nice 60s and 70s music… even though you hear some of these songs in every damn 70s film. Especially war related films. Next we meet Lt. Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) who is in charge of a helicopter squadron stationed in Vietnam. The US troops are preparing to leave the country and everyone is happy to go home. Packard gets called to take this one more mission escorting scientists to an unknown island and he gladly agrees. We learn, right from the get-go, that he’s a military man. But we also learn that there is mutual respect and love between him and his soldiers. In the mean time Randa and Hawkins track down former british agent James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston). He’s an survival expert and knows his ways how to behave in a potential dangerous jungle environment. Last but not least Photojournalist (or “Anti-War Photographer” – probably the stupidest line in the film) Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) gets wind of the expedition and manages to go along with them.

All members of the crew collected, the film finally moves towards the island. Once the mission starts and they approach the island with their squad of helicopters, they have to cross or dive into a dense cloud formation that surrounds the island like a shield. A nice sequence that reminded me of the dust/sandstorm sequence in Mad Max: Fury Road. Although not nearly as competently shot and very chaotic. They pass the clouds and approach the island. The Monarch guys immediately start to map the island and use special bombs with seismic charges to measure out the consistency of the island’s surface. Kong shows up and goes “ape shit”. He picks the helicopters from the sky like flies and a battle sequence starts. Clearly our team has no chance but they still decide to go for it and open fire at Kong. While Kong does get hurt a little it definitely does not end well for our team. A lot of soldiers die and the rest is scattered in the area. Lt. Col. Packard immediately wants revenge. Of course. And I thought the film turns into Moby Dick now and it kinda does. Packard wants to bring his soldiers back together and wants to find everyone missing. Conrad wants to cross the island to reach a rendesvous point where within 3 days they’re supposed to refuel the helicopters. Their only chance to get off the island since all of their helicopters are destroyed. So Packard and Conrad split up with Packard going on with his soldiers and Conrad with the scientists and civilians.

Leaving the story description there, we are right at the point in the film where it becomes problematic. Like stated in my intro, the film doesn’t find a clear voice. From my description it sounds very action and drama loaded. The problem is that there are so many desperate attempts sprinkling in some humour into this film. A kind of humour that feels tonally completely off. It must be one of the most inconsistent films I’ve ever seen. It is very apparent that they desperately wanted to wipe out the criticisms the 2014 Godzilla got. Which means: lighter tone, more action, more monster battles. The reason why I liked the 2014 Godzilla so much is because they had a consistent ‘less is more’ thing running in it. That made the big moments work. There was a buildup to those big moments that lets you appreciate the big moments when they happen. All that is thrown out the window for Skull Island. The only buildup we have is the beginning of the film when we meet our main cast. And even then there doesn’t really is that certain kind of atmosphere and suspense Godzilla created in the opening sequence with the nuclear plant. Later we meet Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), a fighter pilot from WW2 who crashed on the island and stranded there. That character is another one with unnecessary comedy elements. I admit that I had to smile at some of the movie’s comedic elements. But at the same time it’s the wrong film for stuff like that. It entirely throws off the mood.

This film also has a weird relationship with death. There are so many people dying in this film and some of the deaths are so beyond meaningless that I wonder if there’s a message. Maybe about the Vietnam war and how useless it was and had so many young men die there for nothing? If that’s what they want to say then bravo… your film has some of the most useless character deaths I’ve seen so far. Which brings me to wasted talent. Looking at who is in the cast here it must be a good film! It must have at least some deeper moments that provoke thought! Jackson, Goodman, Hiddleston, Reilly! Great actors! But no, this film manages to give none of them real weight. It’s quite an achievement to be honest.

From what I said so far you could get the impression that it’s a through and through bad film. But no, it’s not. For what it wants to be it has enough to enjoy in it. For everyone who wants big monsters fight… it delivers. The sequences are, as usual, too long for my taste but they are well done. The CG work in these battle sequences is pretty much flawless and I wouldn’t know how to improve them in terms of quality. I also enjoyed the camera work quite a bit. They had some neat creative shots and angles they worked with and it paid off. Storywise we also don’t get too much stuff we already know from previous King Kong movies. Here and there are some strains that remind you of the original but it’s not played out entirely. Skull Island wants to be its own thing and for the most part it succeeds in doing so. Something I would also count as a positive for this film.

I saw the film in 3d and have to say the 3d worked nicely and was used in a fun way. The creature design and look also worked great and I’m sure we’ll see more of that in upcoming films. Throughout the film they threw around that infamous ‘hollow earth’ idea and I’m sure that will come up in the future. And sure, I like that idea and would like to see where they go from there.

I don’t know if the problems Godzilla and this film have stem from the directors. Edwards in 2014 was pretty much a newcomer and Vogt-Roberts is new in the game too. While I do think it’s good to get fresh ideas and voices into it… it could be one reason why the films ended up a little inconsistent. Even though I think Gareth Edwards did a much better job with Godzilla. Maybe it’s not even the directors and it’s more the screenplay that is to be blamed. Imdb has 3 writers for Skull Island. That’s 2 too many.

So ultimately it’s a high budget B-Movie with tons of weak points but some well done, fun moments as well. If you are, like me, a fan of the 2014 Godzilla don’t expect the suspense and buildup we had there. We see Kong pretty much right away along with the action.

6.9/10

Kong: Skull Island on IMDb

Logan – Movie Review

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

movie reviewSo, there is this X-Men franchise that started in 2000 and has like 10 movies or so now? 17 years! It took them 17 years to do a movie that makes a clear point on why mutants in the X-Men universe are so hated in all the other films. While they present enough reasons in previous films, it always felt way too over the top to be taken serious. Now this movie though, feels grounded enough to really bring that point across.

Logan (Hugh Jackman) is the third movie in the, what now can be called, ‘Wolverine Trilogy’. The movie makes quite the jump and plays out its story in a not too distant future. Logan got old, the X-Men don’t exist anymore and mutants in general are in hiding. Instead of being a new step in the evolution of mankind, mutants are pretty much extinct and outlawed. Logan trying to get by with doing a limousine service to collect some money. That money he needs to take care of Professor X (Patrick Stewart) who is in hiding with another friendly mutant. While thinking that there are no more mutants born, Professor X makes telekinetic contact with Laura (Dafne Keen). Laura is a mexican kid on the run from a mysterious company hunting her. Logan, as reluctant as ever, doesn’t have much interest in being the hero and helping Laura. Company goons discover their hideout. Logan, Professor X and Laura have to flee and try to resolve the situation. Laura has coordinates that point to a location that is supposed to be a safe haven for young mutants. While Professor X is willing to give it a shot, Logan isn’t so sure about it. So much for a rather sparse summary of the plot without giving too much away.

This movie takes some risks (as well as some social commentary here and there) and I’m so glad it did! After Deadpool’s success I guess studios woke up and decided to do comic movies for adults now. And man, it feels so good! X-Men in 2000 started the whole comic movie trend. It’s so good to see an adult, more violent and realistic approach to the material. Especially with the Wolverine character. He was always rooted in anger, violence and more an anti-hero. It’s good to see that anger really play out in Logan’s violent outbursts and the aftermath of it. It’s good to see the movie not playing it safe and instead going into its gritty feel right from the start. After the first five minutes we know that this really is a film that shows the brutality that can be ‘Wolverine’. Suddenly you understand that blood adds weight to certain decisions our characters make. All the violence helps to give everything gravity. Even though it’s rather violent it certainly is not a splatter movie. The movie uses violence in well timed doses and doesn’t overplay it. At least for my sensibilities. It’s a serious movie for grown ups! Finally!

Overall I would say it’s a quiet movie. Some parts are even pretty much a roadmovie. Most parts actually. The action scenes are well timed and well placed throughout the film. They are not mind numbingly long like in so many other movies of its kind. A pleasant and welcome surprise in that case. It’s also not a CGI overload and feels very natural and grounded. The future they envision there isn’t over the top and drawn rather realistically. No flying cars or anything. you could almost call it dystopian. It’s not really hopeful, that’s for sure. It kind of reflects our times.

Hugh Jackman started this part in 2000 and played this character since then. It’s safe to say that his interpretation of the character helped comic book movies become what they are now. We can’t thank him enough for that! Logan is probably his final role in this character and I’m so glad they gave him this fantastic material to work with. It seems like it’s the first time we really get to see the pain and struggle this character goes through. All hope gone and his worst fears have come true. Fears and doubts he has since the first movie where he has questioned everything and most importantly Professor X, his plans and his school. Logan is a broken man. He was right from the get go. And knowing that and not being able to have changed that… slowly kills him. The year just started but… Hugh Jackman should get nominated for this performance. It’s fantastic.

Having young actors in your film is always tricky. You need someone with charisma and a slight understanding what the character needs. Dafne Keen, who plays Laura, is a perfect mixture. She’s adorable and charismatic at the same time. She has a great look and you immediately know when shit is about to get real by just looking into her eyes. There is this one scene where she comes out of Professor X’s hideout, with a platoon of bad guys waiting outside… almost shaking in fear, while she calmly walks out of the building. It’s a great, tense and powerful moment. She doesn’t have a lot of text during the film and does a lot with her body language and face. Hats off, she did really well!

Is there some bad stuff in the film? Well, I’m constantly thinking “It’s a little long!” but I also immediately think that it needs that time to tell the story right and give every character the needed room. The movie is also well shot and the action parts look very competent. Even though I must say that there’s rarely a shot that made me go ‘wow’. Marco Beltrami did the music for the film but there is hardly any tune I would’ve been able to remember after making the first step out of the theater. But that goes for pretty much every movie nowadays. Almost no memorable music in these films anymore. That really frustrates me to a degree. It all sounds the same. Especially in comic movies. Then we have the theme of ‘family’ that goes sort of kind of through the franchise. It’s still there but not to the degree we have in the other films. It’s a very depressing story and hope is very sparse. It may not be the movie we would need right now (in terms of inspiration)… but it’s nonetheless a nice reflection of our times and mirrors our society really well. The audience should take a closer look and decide for itself how to make the world better instead of letting it decay to the degree we see in the film. It’s not easy, even for people with superpowers… but it’s possible.

So overall I really liked the toned down presentation of the film. When you’re a kid you want the big stuff, large action and themes. The older I become the more I want the more intimate or personal themes. The big stuff becomes more and more numbing. It’s good to see they are still able to do films that are well balanced and maybe even more character studies instead of big action spectacles. Quiet moments have weight and action sequences pay off. That combination works well for the film itself but also the box-office. It was well received and made good money, which gives me hope.

When the film ends it feels like a big and sad goodbye. That very last shot though… heartbreaking and cool at the same time.

7.9/10

Logan on IMDb

Star Wars: Rogue One – Movie Review

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

movie reviewFor the next couple of years, this time of the year will be Star Wars time. Rogue One is the first, of a series of films, that explore the Star Wars universe that exists outside the family saga that we know so far. The goal is to expand the universe and show more variety in locations and characters. In this first spin-off movie we finally learn how the plans, that lead to the destruction of the Deathstar in Episode 4, get into the hands of the Rebels. A mild spoiler warning for this review.

The film starts without the usual text scroll, which immediately sets a different feel right from the beginning. We see a planet and what seems to be an imperial transporter, landing close to some kind of farm. We meet Imperial Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) and Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen). We learn that Galen once worked on a secret project of the Empire and that Krennic wants him back. Of course things spiral out of control when Krennic confronts Galen. Galen’s wife gets killed and his young daughter Jyn manages to hide. Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), a friend of Galen, picks her up. We don’t get to see anything about the relationship between Saw Gerrera and Jyn. How it develops and what difficulties they faced in the years to come. Next thing we know is that Jyn is in her early 20s. She winds up in the hands of the Rebels due to the investigation work of Cassian Andor (Diego Luna). He’s with the Rebels for a long time and when we see him in action for the first time, there is no doubt that the means of the Rebel Alliance aren’t the pure good either. Whatever it takes! They know they have to use questionable tactics to be able to compete with the Empire. The Rebels know that Jyn’s father is a key player in building a new super weapon for the Empire. So they recruit her to find him. Their first step is to visit a planet called Jedha where an independent source claims to have captured Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), an Imperial freighter pilot, that carries critical infos about that super weapon and Galen Erso’s involvement. On Jedha they find Saw Gerrera who captured the pilot. Saw Gerrera once was a key player in the Rebellion but somehow departed and went his own ways. Not much backstory there as well. Before Jyn and Cassian find Saw Gerrera they meet two folks in Jedha City, the blind Cirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) and Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang), who both decide to join the cause. We learn that Jedha City is unter control of the Empire for a while now. Our two new heroes once protected the Jedi temple on that planet and since the Empire arrived there, are pretty much out of work. Together they wind up in Saw Gerrera’s hands and the fact that Jyn has a connection to Saw opens opportunities. Unfortunately the Death Star arrives at Jedha and the Imperial Command decides to do a weapon test before these opportunities can be used by our heroes. Apocalyptic destruction is happening while our team of questionable heroes manages to escape. The former Imperial pilot provides them with a location of Jyn’s father and the hunt for the ultimate truth begins.

This movie has had a ton of reshoots. So many, that lots of material we got to see in the Trailers, where not even in the finished film. I don’t think that was planned. There was talk that Disney wasn’t too happy with the dark material they saw in an earlier cut of the film. So they decided to add more uplifting and alternative material to the film. They fact that there were production problems was kind of noticable in the film. At least to me. Most of the sprinkled in humour fell flat and felt awkwardly timed. In the first 40 minutes of the film we visit tons of locations and meet even more characters. The film is jumping from location to location and back and forth. It’s very irritating. It slows down once we’re on Jedha. But up to that point the editing feels very odd, jumpy and not really organic. However, it is commendable how they ended the film.

Characters moments are what I really missed in this film. And by that I don’t mean action scenes involving a character. I mean stuff that tells us more about the character’s past and how they became who they are. For me to make them work I need more. We get a nice 2 minute (or so) moment from Caspian that worked rather good. But for our main hero Jyn… there is nothing. It felt like there was more material with her and Saw Gerrera. It’s not there. So there is no emotional response when she meets Saw and confronts him about their past. Felicity Jones does a good job in that scene but it’s completely wasted because we have no foundation for her emotions. In the same scene she learns that her father is still alive. And again… yes we saw how the Empire took away her father and killed her mother. But that’s all. Jyn and Saw tell us that the times were difficult but we’re watching a film here. Show it! So again, this nice emotional scene, when Jyn sees her father’s hologram… it just didn’t work and triggered no emotional response from me. But it should! I should feel something for her. But all I got was a mechanic reaction like “oh look at that, she learned her father is alive!”. Maybe… and just maybe… better writing would have kept it a secret from the audience too. Don’t tell us in the first scene of the film what’s exactly happening to him. Let the audience find out along with Jyn. Maybe… then there would have been a stronger reaction from me. It’s stuff like this that is driving me nuts in this film. I’m no screenwriter at all but damn… it can’t be so hard, right? Maybe it is.

I did not expect to see Grand Moff Tarkin in this film. His stand-in is the British actor Guy Henry. He has similar body proportions like Peter Cushing, who played Tarkin in 1977. For Rogue One they created a CGI face of Peter Cushing. This looked amazing! I sat there and couldn’t believe how good that looked. I watched and read some reviews that pointed out that CGI Tarkin did not work for them at all. And it is really weird. While I wouldn’t say it’s flawlessly done, it definitely is very very good. And the same can be said about the rest of the VFX work in this film. There is not a single scene that looked off and everything CGI integrated very well. The (again too long) battle scene in the end had some fantastic moments as well. And the CGI work definitely helped the movie and franchise to expand the universe we know from Star Wars so far. We get to see a number of different planets and locations. A ton of alien creatures (that were fantastic practical effects most of the time). Visually this film is a total eye catcher. No doubt or complaints about that.

Fan service. It’s always an issue with big popular franchises. People complained about it when The Force Awakens came out. Surprise surprise… no one seems to complain now. And it’s amped to 11 in this film. I won’t spoil it but we meet two bad guys on the streets of Jedha City for a glimpse moment. That’s when it was too much for me. I have no problem if they bring back characters if they’re vital to the story. But some of the stuff they included was pure fan service and felt out of place. In the final space battle they even included unused footage from A New Hope. Really? I’m not saying it wouldn’t make sense. When I saw these images I was taken out of the movie within split seconds and was shaking my head. It felt cheap and totally unnecessary. It was the complete opposite end of what they did with Darth Vader.

Darth Vader was great in this movie! Mainly because he was not used to such a gratuitous amount like these fanservice moments. Vader had a great presence and it felt fantastic seeing this iconic villain in action again, without being a reference to a joke. He kicked some ass and I can say I enjoyed every second with him. Even though I had doubts when I first saw him on screen. They did right with the character. And that is because he, to a degree, was vital to the story of the film. That worked really well.

I can see this film becoming a love/hate thing for me. It’s full of flaws, forgettable characters and draggy action sequences. Its strength is the fact that we finally get so see a world that is not included into the main series of movies. The job the ‘expanded universe’ books had in the past, will now be taken over by films. I have no problem with that in all honesty. For the future I just wish they take more care of the characters they include in the films. Otherwise it really makes no sense casting strong actors like Whitaker, Mikkelsen or Felicity Jones. Actors like these are capable. Give them depth!

7.6/10

Star Wars: Rogue One on IMDb

Arrival – Movie Review

Saturday, December 10th, 2016

movie reviewSmart Scifi is quite a rare thing nowadays. In times where Visual FX can do pretty much anything a creative mind can come up with, we tend to get movies that blow things out of proportion with gratuitous and bombastic thunderstorms of action setpieces. In the past years we have had a ton of movies that left us pretty much numb due to the bombardment of visual noise on screen. So it is remarkable to get a quiet film with seamlessly integrated VFX. VFX that are just there to complement the story and not the other way around. Plus… one of the smartest movies we have gotten in a very long time. It’s a type of movie I always wanted to see and waited a long time for it.

Arrival tells the story of expert linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams). When one morning Mankind discovers that we are not alone in the universe anymore. 12 mysterious ships appear. These ships are positioned around the globe, in places that do not seem to have a connection. Louise meets Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) who is recruiting her for a very special job. He wants her to find a way to communicate with the beings in one of the ships, positioned in Montana. Along with theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) she is tasked to find out why the Aliens are there and what they want. In the meanwhile we get glimpses of how the world reacts. In the time we watch Louise and Ian trying to talk to the Alien beings, we see and learn how differently other nations try to establish communication. A month of research goes by and tension all over the world is rising. Our team makes little breakthroughs and suddenly gets an answer to their question of what the Aliens want. Another team is also getting an answer to that question and it freaks people out. Louise and Ian try their best to explain that the answers they got could be interpreted a lot of different ways. Throughout the experience we see Louise having personal visions, dreams or memories. Of course we immediately think about flashbacks. But there is something else going on with these visions or dreams.

The movie is successfully playing with so many different ideas and concepts about time, space, communication. It’s hard to talk about it without entering spoiler territory. Let’s just say the film offers some nice twists and that said twists even work on multiple levels. But it’s not the kind of movie that ends and leaves you completely wondering what just happened. At least it wasn’t that way for me. I saw multiple clear hints throughout the film that made complete sense at the end of the film.

The story is told from the very personal perspective of Louise. We don’t get to see too much stuff from anywhere else than her immediate surroundings. So it is not a movie that goes for Independence Day kind of eye candy and different locations from all over the world. And that is what works in favour of this film. We keep things in one place and the audience wants to solve the mysteries along with the characters on screen. The film is also shot very personal and intimate. We get a lot of close ups that completely focus on reactions of the characters. I was constantly asking myself how I would react in the situations we face along with the characters in the film. We still get a lot of gorgeous wide open camera shots. The scene when we arrive on location and the camera captures the scene with the Alien ship, right then and there when Louise is seeing it the first time. It’s so well timed and gave me goosebumps. Same thing when they enter the ship for the first time. A lot of credit goes to the musical score in these moments as well. It’s the best original score I’ve heard in a movie in a very long time. A lot of films completely sound the same nowadays. Not this one. It got its own character in pretty much everything. And most importantly… it’s memorable.

Now let’s talk about the Elephant in the room. After I saw the film, I immediately drew similarities to Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. And this general consensus that Nolan is the “thinking man’s Blockbuster director”. Don’t get me wrong, I like Nolan’s films just fine. However! Both films are hardcore Scifi. Interstellar is also a very scientific movie much like Arrival is. In their central core both films are about love and time. When Interstellar was released I heard some folks say stuff like “this film will be remembered!”. I was honestly shaking my head when I heard that. While Interstellar certainly is no bad movie, I felt the love component was so hamfisted and cheesy that it really hurted the overall experience and message. This, on the other hand, is where Arrival shines. Every plot element is so well integrated whithout ever going into cheesy, tearjerking territory. And yes, there surely are emotional scenes in Arrival. Their execution and relationship with what’s going on in the film (storywise and scientifically) is much more sound though. So it all made sense in the end! Something I can’t say about Interstellar. Another thing I can’t say about Interstellar but will do about Arrival is… Arrival will be remembered! It’s a film that asks important questions and manages to give answers to these questions! Answers are another thing I missed getting from Interstellar.

When picking out negative things it is not easy to find some. That, of course, depends on your taste in movies and how you watch them. But there are a couple of things I wished would have gotten a little more attention. While the scientific part does have its place in the film, I wished they would have given it a little more breathing room. It would have been fascinating to see a little more of the process, Louise and Ian have to go through, finding and establishing a way of communication with the Aliens. The audience doesn’t have to wait very long before getting a look at the Aliens (or at least how they generally look like). Maybe it would have been a little more exciting to hide them a tiny bit longer. The Alien design is not amazingly spectacular either. Which, from my perspective is fine. For the job the Aliens have to do, they look completely okay. And that’s all the negative stuff (if you can call it that) I can find about the film.

In the end the title ‘Arrival’ has a number of meanings. Which you will discover when you watch the film close enough. There are many ways you can watch this film. Either as a straight forward first contact film or a very well written character study or a parable about the times we live in… the movie lets the audience decide and is not forcing the audience into a certain direction. That’s quite remarkable and I am very excited to see what the director Denis Villeneuve will do in the future. His next stop… Blade Runner 2049.

A 9/10 for me.

Arrival on IMDb

Doctor Strange – Movie Review

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

movie reviewI guess there is no such thing as ‘Superhero Movie Fatigue’? Or Marvel just managed to get the formula down. It is quite impressive how they do it. I think for two years now I’m hearing people moaning about all the comic book movies and how it is just too much. And still, whenever a new Marvel or DC comic movie is released… people go see them and the films keep making tons of money. I’m part of the problem. Well, I haven’t seen all of them on the big screen. But most of them. And one thing can be said… most of these films are good.

After Ant-Man we again have one of the lesser known superheroes to get his debut. Doctor Strange is about Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), an egomaniac, narcissistic neurosurgeon who lives a pretty high society life in New York City. One evening, on the way to a party, he gets into a car accident. He gets out pretty bruised but the worst thing is the fact that his hands are crippled. After multiple operations his hands are at least kind of working again. But getting back into his profession is pretty much a no go. Of course he’s devastated by that and goes into a rage mode that does not really help keeping friendships alive. By accident he learns about a guy who mysteriously managed to overcome being paraplegic. He looks for him and after a brief talk he learns where the guy found the power to fix himself. Stephen embarks on a trip to Kathmandu, Nepal to learn specifics on how he may be able to heal his hands with the same power that helped the other man he saw earlier. In Nepal Stephen finds the Kamar-Taj. Within that temple he meets the Ancien One (Tilda Swinton). He learns techniques that open doors to other dimensions and allow even things like the manipulation of time itself. The visuals we get to see there are really good and definitely worth the additional price for 3d. While all this stuff is happening we also see how Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) is trying to destory three Sanctums that hold up a mystical shield, that covers the Earth and protects it from bad stuff from other dimensions. Kaecilius wants to break that shield and enable an almighty being called Dormammu to enter our dimension in exchange for immortality. Soon Stephen is in the middle of trying to stop Kaecilius. Even if that means to use powers that not all of the warriors, who fight along him, approve.

So much for a kind of sort of plot summary. The movie is paced really well and never feels boring. It’s just under two hours long, which is greatly appreciated. However! It is missing some parts when Stephen is in the temple and learning about all the mystical powers. We just get told he read like 20 books. We are not told how much time he actually spends in that temple. When he’s back in New York it seems like it wasn’t more than two weeks since he went away. The film needed one or two scenes that showed time passing. It would also help to kind of visualize his character transformation. He does not completely lose his arrogance but he learns to take a step back and evaluate things when necessary.

The movie also falls into typical Marvel movie traps. We, once again, don’t have a really strong villain. The villain (Mads Mikkelsen) in this movie sort of kind of just appears right at the start of the film and doesn’t come with too much of a backstory. Mads Mikkelsen nonetheless tries to get the most out of the character. But even an actor of his caliber can’t overplay the fact that it’s just another stand-in character for ‘bad guy’. Considering that these movies are rather long in general I wonder why stuff like Stephen’s time in the temple feels so short. They could have easily added another 5 minutes that show Stephen’s process of changing in character a little better.

If you have seen the trailer then you know that this movie visually is quite a stunner. It’s a rare case where the visuals really make the movie without hurting it. The abstract, kaleidoscopic looking cityscapes, constantly changing look and appearance, are amazing to watch. We got a glimpse of that in Christopher Nolan’s ‘Inception’ movie. Dr. Strange turn up these effects to 11. You almost miss the action sequences themselves while watching the visual stuff that going on around them. It’s on the brink of visual overkill but it also works. Keeping the balance surely wasn’t easy and I have to applaud the skill that went into directing the VFX action sequences. Because of that the film is a rare case that works really well in 3d.

Despite its flaws I was amazed how fast the film was over. Like I said earlier, the film is very well paced and time flies. Benedict Cumberbatch manages it to fit flawlessly into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it’s hinted that he definitely has a place side by side along the characters we already know.

PS: Did anyone else notice some similarities to the Star Trek (the reboot) musical score? I mean, it’s the same composer.

7.8/10

Doctor Strange on IMDb

Spotlight – Movie Review

Sunday, November 20th, 2016

movie reviewIn a time where journalism is reduced to sending out a keyword through the Google machine, it is refreshing to see how true and real journalism is done. And yes, I was tempted to use the term ‘was done’. It’s not completely dead yet. Thank god.

Spotlight is made in the vain of classics like “All The President’s Men” and focusses on a team of journalists that works a special department for the Boston Globe newspaper. The so-called ‘Spotlight’ column. They feature very specific and hard hitting topics that often reveal how crooked the world actually is. Right away we meet our main players Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton), Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matt Carrol (Brian d’Arcy James). They build the team that works on the Spotlight articles. It’s 2001, just before 9/11, and the team is looking for new topics. The newspaper is getting a new editor, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), that stumbles upon an article saying that church ‘higher ups’ knew about an earlier child molestation case and did nothing to stop it. His instincts make him go to the spotlight team and asks them to snoop around a bit. At first the team looks at it a little sceptical but soon understand that there is more to discover. While working the case they uncover tons of people with personal stories about being molested in their past. The deeper they dig the more heartbreaking the truth becomes for everyone involved.

For someone like me it can be a little hard to relate to the material. I’m not a church person. Never was and probably never will be. That doesn’t mean that I don’t respect people who ‘believe’. It’s just that I chose to ‘believe’ my own stuff. To understand this film you have to set yourself into the heads of these people. Boston (or the US in general) is a very church dominated area. In some parts, to say something against church, is a sacrilege. It’s an institution that is defended no matter what. We get that impression in the film numerous times. The movie raises the question why people so viciously defend the church. It doesn’t give a real answer. From what I gathered it’s fear. But from what? The journalists we follow grew up in that environment and become more and more disillusioned with every detail they uncover. These are moments where the choice of actors really shines. Their eyes constantly say “how can all this be true?”. They have to face a hard truth and they accept it. Because there are hard facts covered by the material they uncover. By accepting that sad truth they decide to dig deeper and uncover everything possible. Even if it means to hold the story back until they got everything backed up, verified and ready. Journalism!

On a technical level the movie presents itself rather sober/matter-of-fact. There are no fancy animations or cg work. Its style is almost that of a documentary. From what is in the film the script is really tight. There is no moment where you think “come on… move along already!”. Everything flows well and the storytelling works. Every character also gets their a fair share of screen time and it’s used very well by all of them. We get lots of moments that show how hard actual journalism is and how much dedication it requires. But we also get our quiet moments where the characters contemplate about what they uncovered and how it affects them. Then there are moments where they interview victims. These are heartbreaking and frustrating at the same time. And by frustrating I mean that stuff like this actually happens. Scenes like these create an emotional response and that is one of the goals a movie like this should have. This movie even scores these goals. It works very well in these scenes. It makes you question why ‘Religion’ actually exists and why so many people believe in it when so many others use it to fuck up the people who trust them.

If there is a negative thing to say about it then it may be the rather ‘sober’ presentation. It is very down to earth and non-sensational. It’s very quiet. I guess the one thing I wanted was to have that one moment where the movie gets a little louder. A little more ‘in your face’. The movie talks about these horrible things and maintains that low matter-of-fact voice. Maybe that was a stylistic choice. I wanted to scream all the time. “How?!” or “Why?” or “Why is the church tolerating this!?”. The movie asks these questions but doesn’t necessarily answer them. Maybe there is no real answer. Though… I expected something like an answer. At least a hint.

I think it’s a good and important film, that came probably 10 years too late. Will it be a movie I’ll watch a couple of times? Surely not. But it’s a film you should see at one point or another.

7.5/10

Spotlight on IMDb

Star Trek: Beyond – Movie Review

Saturday, August 20th, 2016

movie reviewIn 2013 I was quite disappointed by ‘Into Darkness’ and the lack of ideas in there. Time flies and now we already have the third installment in the ‘Kelvin’ timeline. I really liked how they rebooted the movies in 2009 and thought they were quite clever in how they did it. All that cleverness was missing in ‘Into Darkness’. So my hopes for new ideas were quite high with Star Trek: Beyond.

The movie starts rather slow and introspective. We learn the Enterprise is on a long term mission and listen to Kirk, while he explains what difficulties the crew is facing, when going on a mission like that. It’s not always action and most of the time quite a drag. We get a glimpse into how the daily life of the crew and the relationships between them looks like. I really liked that rather personal part. It’s rare we get that in the Star Trek movies. We get a very nice scene between Bones (Karl Urban) and Kirk (Chris Pine) sharing a drink. It’s Kirk’s birthday and he is thinking about his father and the fact that he is the same age now like his father when he died. We haven’t seen Kirk like that in quite a while and I think it makes him much more human than what we know of him from the last two movies. He’s reflecting back on the decisions he made so far.

The ship is on its way to Yorktown starbase for a well deserved shore leave. Yorktown is eye candy deluxe. I’m rarely blown away by VFX anymore but what they did there is fantastic. I didn’t expect that since I avoided spoilers for this film. We get to see quite a bit of that starbase throughout the film and it’s always eyecatching. The crew splits up and we get some personal moments for all our main guys. Again something missing in the previous two films and very welcome in this one.

While the crew is having fun or deals with personal matters Kirk gets an offer for a promotion. Chris Pine does a nice job there with his character, showing how troubled Kirk is at this point in his life. In the meantime Spock (Zachary Quinto) learns that Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy) died. Which makes him think about things too. Some heady stuff in the first 30 minutes of this film. I liked that! And suddenly the station receives a SOS.

Shore leave is history and the crew on its way to investigate what’s going on with the SOS. The Enterprise captures an escape pod drifting out of a nearby uncharted nebula. The rescued alien tells them that their ship is stranded on Altamid, a planet sitting in the middle of said uncharted nebula. Of course our heroes investigate further and find that planet. Only to be attacked by a swarm of ships. Hundreds of ships that, out of nowhere, attack the Enterprise. Quite the battle breaks out but ultimately the Enterprise is going down. At the same time the crew is evacuating but each pod is captured by the swarm and brought to the surface. This is also the time when we meet Krall (Idris Elba), the villain of this film. After this heavy (and maybe a little long) action part I felt a little shellshocked since there was not too much build up to that scene.

The Enterprise is pretty much destroyed but our heroes made it safely to the surface of Altamid. All of them are scattered and trying to get everyone back together. Some nice writing in that part since we get some more personal moments. Especially the part where Bones and Spock are together. Spock is injured and Bones is taking care of him. Urban and Quinto make these scenes really enjoyable. That’s when you know how much you missed these more quiet moments in the past two films. And that’s all I want to go into the story at this point. Let’s just say that Krall is after something and that there are a couple of twists throughout the film. A clash of ideologies that’s a main theme of this film.

Of the ‘Kelvin’ movies this one definitely felt the most like Star Trek. Simon Pegg and Doug Jung did a great job capturing that old flair while still keeping some heavy action setpieces in there. The dialogue and banter between the characters sounded true to the original material and never felt forced. When the crew is scattered on the planet surface the story splits up too of course. Some of the story strings naturally felt more interesting than others and when the movie cut away from the Bones/Spock part it felt a little draggy here and there. It could be because Krall surely wasn’t the most creative villain. There could have been done a little more to give him a more fleshed out character. I mean, you got Idris Elba… this guy is magic… use that magic! Unfortunately we only get glimpses of his skillset.

Much like in the first two films we have a great balance between the heroes here. Everybody gets something to do and no one is left out. So we do get our Sulu (John Cho), Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) moments too. Especially Chekov gets some more time and I enjoyed watching him do stuff. And that’s the heart breaker in this film. Anton Yelchin is no longer with us and he does such a fantastic job here breathing life into this character. At the end of the film Kirk gives a toast to everyone lost and at exactly the right second they cut to Checkov. Damn man that hit hard. At the same time they manage to pay a very worthy tribute to the original crew/cast. Again without it feeling forced and that’s another testament to some good and solid writing. We also get a new character, Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), Scotty (Simon Pegg) gets to meet when lost on the planet. I really enjoyed her and she gets some great kickass moments as well. She has some great chemistry with all the main characters.

Let’s talk about some of the themes in this film. The most visible one is teamwork. We have this villain that is all about the ‘one man show’ path to get things done. On the other side we have the crew of the Enterprise and their teamwork approach. Overall the film is about how working together gets things done much more efficiently. Our heroes try to work together in every way possible while our villain is pretty much trying to accomplish his goal alone. I’m tempted to say that he’s not doing too badly. Still, the movie promotes teamwork and does it well enough. All the interaction between the various Enterprise crew members plays out fantastically. Beside the teamwork thing we also have a layer of old versus new in here. There are a couple of nice scenes that suggest that we are finally leaving old Star Trek behind and plan to go an own way with future stories. All that is handled respectfully and I applaud the movie for that. Still, from a personal point of view, teamwork is fine and good but often enough too many cooks ruin the show. Every now and then the lone wolf approach is totally justified.

Things that do not work so well are easy to find though. Why does everyone land in the same area of the planet?! They manage to meet up pretty easy. Another thing is the habbit of destroying the Enterprise. Or let’s just say that they are on their way of making it a habbit. They should avoid that in the next film. The Enterprise is the flagship of the Federation and everybody wants to serve on that ship. The way it looks now I would be surprised if anyone would feel happy to get assigned to the Enterprise. It’s like a death sentence! Almost comical. Last but not least the villain isn’t very well written. With all the character things that work so well in this film… the villain was flat. The core of his motivation is different enough to keep him somewhat interesting. Still, with Idris Elba they had something there and missed to use it. The action, for the most part, was fun and well done. The VFX and design work… top notch. Only the face to face fight scenes had too quick cuts and for most of the time I had problems following what’s going on. On a funny comparison Star Trek: Beyond felt more like a worthy ‘Wrath Of Khan’ clone than ‘Into Darkness’ did.

A thing I wish for the next movie would be… bring Jaylah back! Sofia Boutella did a great job with this character and since we unfortunately lost Anton Yelchin/Chekov, why not use that newly introduced character? Instead of trying to replace Chekov (which is impossible from my pov) try out that new character! Play around and make the ‘Kelvin Timeline’ its own thing! But that’s my two cents.

So ultimately I would say this film is on par with Star Trek 2009. Except this one has more heart and felt less ‘technical’ if that makes any sense. I enjoyed the character moments and the acting was very well through the bench. They paid a nice tribute to the original actors and the whole thing felt like it was written by someone who understands what Star Trek is about. And all that without missing the mark on the action! For some reason this film did not do so amazingly well with the box office. What’s wrong with you people? Go see it as long as it’s on the big screen!

PS: They managed to bring in Sabotage by the Beastie Boys again. And that in the most awesome way possible! Loved it! And I would have never believed that I would be able to like a Rihanna song but that end credit piece is pretty nice. Even though it feels so random having her name attached to a Star Trek movie. To round this PS up, I feel really angry that so many VFX artists that worked on this film did not get their credit at the end of the film. Shame on you Hollywood. You don’t know what I’m talking about? Well, check here.

7.8/10

Star Trek: Beyond on IMDb

Independence Day 2 – Movie Review

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

movie reviewIn 1996 I was a fanatic for that movie called ‘Independence Day’ (ID4). Even read the book! Which is almost insane for my standards. Granted I was 14 years old at the time. I saw the movie a day before it opened in an early screening together with my mom. A nice memory. This movie was an inspiration on many levels. And it also taught me a valuable lesson. There is rarely a movie (or anything) that can live up to the hype that may come with it. So ultimately the movie was a little bit of a let down back then. I don’t know what I expected. I guess something that wasn’t as campy as the movie ended up being. Something with a more serious tone. Now we are in 2016 and get a sequel to a movie that went on to be one of the most successful blockbusters of all time. This new film… probably 16 years too late I suppose. So in hindsight, what did I take away from ID4 in 1996? Hype rarely matters, I fell in love with R.E.M. and that computers will be the future in movie making.

The new movie starts and it feels like the alien attack from 1996 created a new timeline where Earth developed into a new direction. Mankind made use of the alien technology and we are using it to our own advantage. Throughout the movie there are hints at what happened directly after the alien ships dropped out of the sky and how there were ground fights between humans and surviving aliens. Now wouldn’t that have been a neat little movie? How we fight the remaining alien forces? Instead we jumped straight into the movie’s 2016. It starts with former President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) having a vision/nightmare of the aliens. He wakes up bathed in sweat and in a not so good condition. Pullman does a great job here showing that his character did not have the best time after the events of 1996. At that point (5 minutes into the film) I thought it would be cool to go deeper into that PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) kind of angle our heroes of 96 have to deal with. Unfortunately that’s pretty much dopped and washed away within minutes. Just to come up once in a while when it doesn’t matter anymore. Too bad. That would have been a very interesting angle to the movie as a whole. Now we get to know some new characters. Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth) is a hotshot pilot stuck doing useless missions on a moon base, mankind established for defense purposes. Back on Earth he did a risky move when on a training mission with Dylan Hiller (Jessie T. Usher), that led to Dylan’s jet crashing into a rock wall. Dylan barely makes it out of the plane alive. Both were friends and here we have our character conflict construct. ‘Hiller’ sounds familiar? Sure… Dylan is the son of Will Smith’s character from 1996. Will Smith’s character died a not so heroic death, in the time between the movies, flying a test jet. Which brings me to a point where I had to shake my head hard. Early on in the movie we are in the White House and his son Dylan meets president Lanford (Sela Ward). While he walks into the room we can see a painting on the wall with his father. And I swear to god that it looked like they ran the cheapest filter in Photoshop over it and composited it into the picture frame on the wall. This looked sooooo cheap. Ridiculous! To top it off they used a promo shot that was constantly used back in 1996 for all kinds of press releases. My god, really? Last but not least the last important new character is Whitmore’s daughter Patricia (Maika Monroe). Presidential speech writer and fighter jet pilot (now that’s a combination). Sounds cool and ridiculous at the same time. An achievement in my eyes!

Next we get to the man himself, Jeff Goldblum, giving his all Goldblum! He seems to really know and understand in what kind of movie he’s in here and plays his mannerisms literally to 11 with his David Levinson character. He was fun and always a presence when on screen. Beside Bill Pullman I enjoyed Jeff Goldblum the most. Especially when we follow him to Africa where he wants to get access to a ship that in 1996 landed to drill into the earth. Yes, they contradict a lot of stuff that happened in the first film. I had no problem with that part though. There we learn that the aliens sent an SOS in 1996 and that something big is coming now. Oh and we meet Catherine Marceaux (Charlotte Gainsbourg) who seems to be an old flame of David. Not a single word about David’s ex wife in this movie though. There in Africa we learn that these earlier mentioned visions are a common thing with people who came into closer contact with the aliens.

Soon the aliens arrive and it’s the overkill version of the “make it bigger!” cliche. The alien ship is so big that it has its own gravitational field! What follows after the arrival of that 5000km big ship is hard to watch. See, to have fun with the stuff that’s going on at that point, you would have to ignore everything you learned about physics ever. The movie didn’t manage it to make the audience switch on that ‘I don’t care’ mode though. And so this whole destruction porn sequence feels so idiotic and overkill that it hurts. But hey, don’t get me wrong. What the VFX guys did there is amazing stuff and it looks cool. But it’s so far off in ‘I can’t believe this’ territory that it just doesn’t work for the movie. As a VFX demo reel though, sure! Just the appearance of that gigantic alien would have been an extinction level event. Throwing the moon out of orbit and do whatever to the Earth’s rotation. Mankind would have been done within a matter of hours I guess. But again the movie goes to 11 and makes that alien ship land over the atlantic ocean. Just NO!

Eventually all the different characters meet up in Area 51 (of course). Can you spot the lazy writing? And from there we launch our attack against that 5000km ship. A ship that got its own ecosystem inside it. We even get a 10 minute scene in there. That part was rather interesting! Far too short! And how do our heroes get out of there? By redoing the escape scene from the ID4 finale. Can you spot the lazy writing? From a writing standpoint its fair to compare this movie to Jurassic World. The same formula of “take whatever was awesome in the old movie and translate it into the new one”. I already found that cheap in Jurassic World and it’s the same with this film. However, there are some new things in here as well. I don’t want to spoil it but it’s not many and all of them implemented in the most lazy way possible.

Other actors worth to mention are William Fichtner, Judd Hirsch and Brent Spiner. The cast list doesn’t read bad to be honest but what they’re given to work with is just so plain stupid. And that Roland Emmerich typical humor, that is so typical for his movies, doesn’t work either. It never does. A rather decent cast that is pretty much wasted. A lot of scenes that feel so evil like green screen that it constantly takes you out of the movie. The VFX, otherwise technically well done, feel so badly directed with so many quick cuts and content cluttered/busy images that there rarely was a point to focus on. When the camera work was quiet I enjoyed it. But the action was too erratic for my taste. And I thought we left that kind of direction behind us now.

For the first 30 minutes or so I was on board and wondered why the reviews were so bad. But as soon as the aliens arrive the complete film falls apart and into levels of stupidity that I couldn’t just have fun with it anymore. You know what? I wonder how a Christopher Nolan version of that movie would have looked like. Or better Steven Soderbergh. With a more grounded storytelling and realistic presentation. We all can dream, right?

In the end this movie feels like lazy fan-fiction. Fan-fiction can be cool if executed well enough but that is not the case here. I have to admit though that, from the outside, it’s the sequel movie I hoped for when walking out of the screening in 1996. I definitely wanted makind to use the crashed alien ships for our own advantage and make a technological leap. That’s the case in this movie but it is not really explored. Oh man, there are so many missed opportunities in this film. It constantly reminds you that there would have been better movies possible with all the ideas they had for this movie. I would love to see the battles with the stranded aliens after we defeated their ships in 1996. A dark gritty us vs them war movie? Sign me up! But no. Maybe an anthology movie would have been cool. Tell different stories by different characters that show the situation right after the events in 1996 from different perspectives. Missed opportunities all over this movie.

As a final verdict I can only say that, if you want to see this film, do it on the big screen in a cinema. There are some neat (but chaotic at times) visuals in this film that might get lost when watching the film on a tv. But that’s all. I saw it in 2D and cannot imagine any advantage with the 3D version other than you walk out of this film with a headache.

5.9/10

Independence Day: Resurgence on IMDb

Rocky 5 – Movie Review

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

movie reviewI guess this is more a re-evaluation than a review. Over the past two weeks I rewatched Rocky 1, 2, 3 and 5. Part 4 I have seen often enough and it’s a fun flick for its own crazy reasons. Part 5 though, I think I have seen only once in the early 90s. I could barely remember anything except a rough plot outline. Now part 5 is universally seen as the rotten tomato of the series. After rewatching it I cannot exactly understand why that is. Is it a good movie? Maybe. Is it as bad as people generally say it is? I think it’s not.

The fifth movie in the Rocky series continues telling the story of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) and his family. I don’t think it’s necessary to explain all the background details of the series since Rocky pretty much is a pop culture icon and everyone knows this character. The movie starts with a flashback to what happened in the fourth film. We see how hard the fight between Rocky and Ivan Drago was and what price Rocky had to pay for winning that fight. So the 5th movie continues right after the fight and connects the 4th with the 5th movie rather well in my opinion. We learn that eveb though Rocky won the fight he did get injured and decides to stop boxing and retire. He wants to take care of his family and I guess we can all agree that he deserves some rest at this point. Out of nowhere shady boxing promoter George Washington Duke (Richard Grant) appears and wants to force Rocky into a new fight. Rocky declines. Rocky’s wife Adrian (Talia Shire) finally got his husband where she wants him and hopes for a peaceful time now with him and their son. Destiny strikes when Paulie (Burt Young) confesses that the family accountant basically wrecked their whole money on a shady real estate deal. Rocky immediately tries to turn Adrian around and wants her to allow him to box again. They need money very bad. Adrian refuses and Rocky respects her decision. Plus the fact that his health status isn’t the best. So the family sells the big house and pretty much all of its contents and moves back into their old neighborhood in Philadelphia. It’s not a good neighborhood and we can see how ashamed Rocky is about that. Even if the people there love and respect him. He managed to get out of the slums and now he’s right back where he startet. I think there is some good acting by Stallone here. He hates it to be there again. But he deals with the situation and decides to reopen Mickey’s old boxing gym. The place where he grew to be the champion he became. In the meanwhile that shady boxing promoter is still on his heels trying to get Rocky to do another fight. Suddenly Tommy Gunn (Tommy Morrison) shows up and wants to train with Rocky and learn from him. Rocky sees the potential in the young man and agrees to train him. They soon have success and Tommy is corrupted by the fame and changes sides to that promoter guy. Last but not least it finals in a confrontation between Rocky and Tommy.

The movie deals with a couple of things that make it much more a drama than the action movies we had in part 3 and 4. It takes a far more personal route and reflects on Rocky’s career. Something that the movie ‘Rocky Balboa’, many years later, continues and does a little better. The character of Tommy Gunn is the son Rocky always wanted and he focusses a lot on him. He sees a lot of himself in him and wants to shape him into a successful fighter. In the meanwhile Rocky misses it to take care of his son when he needs his father the most. And it’s not like Rocky isn’t proud of his son and doesn’t like him. On the contrary, he loves his son and we get moments that prove it. But Rocky is disctracted by his work with Tommy. Rocky always was a rather simple minded character, without having a perspective on the broader spectrum too much. That’s why his wife Adrian and to a certain degree even his brother-in-law Paulie are there to guide him. They see what’s happening and try to bring Rocky back into focus. But his focus is entirely directed at getting his family out of the slums again. And his only chance is making it big and having success with Tommy.

I guess the quality of the film depends on how you watch the film. If you see it as the standalone product that is Rocky 5 then I can agree that it’s not a particularly good movie. A lot of elements feel forced and a little ham-fisted. Especially some of the youth rebellion parts of Rocky’s son (played actually not too bad by Sage Stallone). But I think the movie can (maybe should) also be seen as part of a larger story that brings the character of Rocky to a full circle and kind of closes his arc. When watching all the movies back to back I think this fifth movie works much better. We have seen the character grow and develop. Seen him win and lose. And in the fifth film we get an aftermath of his life. And it has some strong drama moments. Especially one scene where Rocky and Adrian talk something out outside on the open street. That’s a great scene where we again see how much Adrian admires Rocky and wants to help him while he is struggling with his self-doubts. A strong scene played very well by Stallone and Talia Shire.

The focus in this movie is clearly more personal and I guess after Rocky 3 and 4, that were kinda sorta pure showy movies, people wanted or expected more spectacle. But we have a movie that is more like the very first one. Clearly not as good but in the same category of it being more drama than action. It is a good thing that it shows something different instead of repeating the same stuff over and over again. It has good intentions and I also think it has heart. So looking at it with the whole series backing it… it does work for me. Much better than this ridiculous fourth film (even if it’s a lot of fun!).

7.0/10

Rocky 5 on IMDb