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.


Independence Day: Resurgence on IMDb

Captain America: Civil War – Movie Review

Monday, May 30th, 2016

movie reviewAfter seeing the second Captain America movie “The Winter Soldier” not too long ago, I was rather stoked for “Civil War”. The second movie was quite an interesting mix and almost an espionage thriller to a certain degree. Really enjoyed it. So I was excited to see where “Cap” will go in his third movie. Now I’m very tempted to call “Civil War” a version 2.5 “Avengers” movie. And I think most of you who have seen it will likely agree. It even does a lot of things better then Avengers 2. This review might contain mild spoilers.

After the fall of Shield, at the end of the second movie, our group of heroes decided to take things in their own hands and formed the “Avengers Initiative”. Which is basically a club where all these super heroes hang out and fight crime together. Since the third Iron Man movie we see how all these adventures take their toll on certain members and especially Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). He’s having problems with the responsibility that comes with the power and struggles with all of it. This peaks in the second Avengers movie where his plan to make the world more safe backfires and ruins a complete city, along with a lot of collateral damage and lost lives. So he is backing a plan to bind the Avengers Initiative to the United Nations. Cap (Chris Evans) on the other hand wants the Avengers to be independent. Both of them have their own motivations and it is very hard to choose sides. Since it’s a Captain America movie they want to make us lean towards Cap of course. Then we also have the Bucky Barnes plotline continue. Plus a revenge plotline that connects to the destroyed city from Avangers 2 with this third Captain America movie.

Marvel movies often seem to fall into the trap wanting to explore too many things in one single film. And this trap strikes here now too. The reason why the The Winter Soldier was so good was because it was a straight forward story without straying away into other topics too much. In this third installment you have a political plot, a revenge plot and a personal plotline for Cap and Tony Stark. Plus the fact that they have tons of characters that demand room and space for introduction. So yes, there is a lot going on and it not always works so well. Not a lot of room to explore all the topics that, for themselfes, are rather interesting. But ultimately feel a little rushed in this film. We still talk about a 2 1/2h movie again.

Another trap this movie falls into is the superhero action scenes. Again very repetetive and too long. Granted, the airport standoff and main fight sequence was quite fun. They still manage to include surprises but how long will that work for them? Well, it did here. While the fight sequences do get boring after a while, I still have to admit that they are well executed and follow a certain choreography. It’s not just senseless facepunching. It follows a plan and I can appreciate that. It is cool to really see teamwork play a big part in these fights. All of the characters work hand in hand. Still, after a while you become numb and want it to be over. The quiet scenes are much more interesting character moments. But they often feel more like transition scenes to more action setpieces. Why not turn that method around? Why not condense the action a little bit and not flood the audience with it. That would make the action scenes much more awesome and impactful.

What can be said about the cast that isn’t already said or well documented. Most of the characters we meet here are already known from the previous movies. And all of the returning cast does a fine enough job. We also get new characters for this movie. And all of them are introduced really well. No one falls short and everyone gets their time. Especially the introduction of Peter Parker (Tom Holland) worked nicely. They completely skipped the origin story for Spiderman and thank god for that. Then we also get introduced to ‘Black Panther’ (Chadwick Boseman). Another new character that will soon get his own movie. Civil War definitely benefits from the fact that there were so many more movies before it. It doesn’t have to bother about laying ground work and can jump right into its own story. Something the recent BatmanVSuperman movie did not have and ultimately fell flat on its nose.

When it comes to the locations of the film and me living in Germany it was of course rather cool to see that large parts of the movie play in Germany. But there are a couple of edits that make not much sense when it comes to locations. Bucky Barnes has a hideout/appartment in Bucharest where he is confronted by Cap. Soon they’re ambushed by a police force that has clearly written the german word Polizei on their gear. So it was confusing. Where are we now? Still in Bucharest or in Germany? Which again makes no sense since the confrontation scene pretty much immediately happened after the movie told us we’re in Bucharest. However… maybe it’s a little nitpicky. Literally no one will notice this detail except for a couple of german folks. We also have Daniel Brühl in this movie! Which is amazing since I really enjoy his work and find it fantastic that he gets his shot at bigger productions as well. Fantastic actor and luckily has a part in this film where he can show his skills. He elevated this film for sure. Since he is playing a bad guy that is, for once, not another superherokindofbeing and just a guy out for revenge. I liked that.

Civil War might actually be the better ‘Avengers’ movie when compared to Avengers 2. The cast and the interaction between the characters kind of fell rather flat in Avengers 2. Except in that one party scene and later at Hawkeye’s home. In Civil War we have some more serious undertones and topics that demand our characters to be more focussed (for lack of a better word). It’s not just “let’s have some fun and beat up some bad guys”. This time it’s not really clear who the bad guys are and they may be your best friends. Even though I think that they could have played with that more by reducing these unnecessarily long fight sequences.

would that movie work without the groundwork that’s been done in all these previous movies? Absolutely not. Do you need to see the previous movies? Unfortunately yes. You can skip the Thor, Hulk and Guardians Of The Galaxy movies but the rest… you should have seen to understand what is at stake in Civil War. Is Civil War better than Winter Soldies? In my opinion no. But it’s very solid in its ways moving the story ahead.


Captain America: Civil War on IMDb

Batman V Superman – Movie Review

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

movie reviewIf this movie does one thing right. Just one thing! Then it’s giving us Ben Affleck as Batman. And the interpretation of Alfred is really interesting! All the rest… is really strange. If there is a movie that should have a sticker on its poster that suggests the audience to turn their brains off for the viewing, it’s this one. Normally I try to write reviews spoiler free but I really don’t care for this one. The whole movie is in the trailers.

So the movie starts with a flashback of how Bruce Wayne’s parents get murdered (again). How many times do we have to see that part actually?! It’s well shot since Zack Snyder knows how to work with camera angles and all. But it’s boring. We know that part already. After that scene we get another flashback to the end of Man Of Steel. Zod and Superman are fighting it out, right in the middle of Metropolis. Destruction porn. Literally. We follow an aged Bruce Wayne who is in the middle of all that destruction, trying to get to a Wayne Enterprises building right in the middle of Metropolis. Now the movie reaches a fascinating level of stupidity. Bruce Wayne can’t reach the building and calls a guy who is in charge of that building and employees to tell him to evacuate. The guy looks like he’s having no idea why, until he looks out the window where an alien spaceship is doing some serious damage. In context with Man Of Steel that spaceship is there for a while now. And this chief of staff guy doesn’t even notice it or orders the evacuation of the building. Meanwhile two godlike beings fight their way through the city, wreaking havoc and death, in the entire area. Evacuation? Why? Is that a statement on capitalism? Wayne Enterprises seems to have a ‘no evacuation’ policy for some reason. The movie would be over in less than two hours if the people working for Wayne Enterprises would have some brains! If I were in a big city and a giant spaceship comes from the sky… fuck that job, I’m gone! This movie makes no sense from minute one. So instead of a good compact less than 2hrs movie, we get another behemoth with 152 minutes. And they already threaten us with a directors cut kind of release on Bluray. And that’s just one stupid thing in this film.

The plot is as simple as it can be. 2 years after the events of Man Of Steel we’ve defeated the aliens and Superman is seen with a very critical eye. Of course, after all the senseless destruction he caused while fighting Zod. There are some heavy religious undertones that would have worked great if the movie was written better. Bruce Wayne doesn’t like Superman because he’s the reason why his building collapsed and killed so many Wayne Enterprises employees. All of a sudden Lex Luthor shows up and without explanation is very interested in all the alien tech that is around now. He stumbles uppon some Kryptonite and plans to use the Kryptonian technology to build a Superkryptonian out of Zod’s remains. Lex gets permission by the goverment to work on all the technology and manages to enter the wreck of Zod’s ship. Said ship, even two years later, is still right in the middle of Metropolis. (Of course!) If I translate the movie right then Lex has a problem with beings that are too godlike. So he creates another godlike being to fight the other godlike being! Simple! Come on movie… sigh.

So now let’s focus on some positive points. And there definitely are good things in this film. The already mentioned performance of Ben Affleck is the most interesting and good part of this film. I would say that 80% of the Batman stuff works. All the other stuff that is sprinkled into this film seems to disrupt the Batman movie that is in this movie. I also liked Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. The character definitely needed some clearly explained motivation for his actions but I kind of enjoyed him. Amy Adams as Lois Lane looked cute, got something more to do and does a nice job with what she is given compared to Man Of Steel. And I want to see a standalone Alfred movie that explains his past and how he got so badass. Jeremy Irons is great in that part and I enjoyed him as much as Ben Affleck.

Back to the bad points again. Throughout the movie there are multiple attempts to introduce more of DC Comic’s character catalogue. Aside of the introduction of The Flash and Wonder Woman these parts fell completely flat. Aquaman looked ridiculous and I really cannot see how they want to make a complete movie out of that guy. I have my doubts about Wonder Woman as well. Gal Gadot is a beautiful woman that looks the part, but she is a bad actress. I also still don’t feel Henry Cavill’s Superman. He’s so bland and we get the impression that he is constantly miserable and unhappy. Lois and Clark are already a couple by the way. The movie completely skips that part. Why put positive emotions or romance into a Superman movie?! (That’s sarcasm.)

Let’s get to the meat of this movie! The Batman/Superman fight sequence. Beside the fact that it’s boring and repetetive (like most of the superhero battles throughout the past 10 years) it is cringe worthy how this clash of the titans ends. Within 30 seconds these two guys, who just beat the crap out of each other, are best friends forever. Man it must have been hell for Ben Affleck to not be able to rewrite parts of this film. He’s a fantastic screenwriter and director. Poor Ben. This film could have benefited from a gifted writer so much. There are so many scenes where you are asking yourself “did he just say that?” or “did he just do that?”. It’s actually a quite amazing mess.

In the end of the movie all our heroes team up to fight “Doomsday”, the abomination Lex Luthor has created and unleashed onto Metropolis. Now the character of Doomsday isn’t even a real character. He’s like a walking nuclear bomb. Nothing more. Doesn’t even say a single word. To avoid a disaster finale like in Man Of Steel, the movie goes out of its way to make clear that all the areas are either evacuated or abandoned. Two minutes after the big fight starts, someone in a situation room says that Metropolis has been evacuated. It would take multiple hours to evacuate a city like Metropolis! So this final battle doesn’t do as much damage as the battle in the previous film but it comes close. And you ask yourself how big Metropolis actually is?! It must have three times the size of New York I guess?! Another fascinating part is that Gotham City seems to be a neighborhood of Metropolis. This almost made me laugh. From Metropolis it’s just a look across a river and there is Gotham City. Less than 50 miles away. How convenient! Gotham City is the New Jersey of Metropolis.

Oh well, there is more to talk about but I think the internet pretty much covered that part very well. Let’s just say that I’m very excited for Ben Affleck’s Batman movies. I’m sure he’s able to tickle out some great story from all the comic source material.

I saw this movie in 2D. Thank god. I would have left the screening with a headache, would I have seen this film in 3D. That’s for sure. I cannot even say if this movie is good popcorn entertainment since even the characters in the film constantly looked like they have the most miserable time of their lives. A really weird movie.


Batman V Superman on IMDb

10 Cloverfield Lane – Movie Review

Monday, April 11th, 2016

movie reviewThinking about todays market, how can you make a movie from a really good script, that actually has nothing in it, that makes an audience go “well, I need to see that!”. You create a connection to something else, that previously made people curious! It is very hard to tell if this film originally had a Cloverfield connection or not. Or if it was tacked on, to attract an audience. Because this film would actually work without the name Cloverfield in its title, as a standalone movie. But it’s only fair to assume that it would have probably ended up as a direct to dvd movie instead of a theatrical release.

If you want to know something about the story, without to spoil the movie for you, it’s best to watch the trailer. It’s a seldom case where the trailer was put together really intelligent, without giving too many clues about where the story will go. In the first minutes we follow Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who is leaving her fiance/boyfriend. On her way she’s having a car accident and soon wakes up in a room. There she meets Howard (John Goodman). The first impression we get from him is a little weird. We are with Michelle and ask ourselfes what exactly is going on. Soon we meet Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) and learn that we’re in a bunker, that Howard is a survivalist nut and something happened outside. But we’re never sure what exactly happened.

The movie has a really efficient structure. The buildup works great when it, every couple of minutes, throws something at you to chew on. That goes on for 85% of the movie. It’s a smart move not to overexplain everything and let the audience discover the truth along with the characters of the film. A good way to build the characters and make these connect with the audience. Which brings us to the actors of the film. All three of the main characters, Michelle, Howard and Emmett are thoroughly believable and at no point in the film fall into the usual horrormovie traps of doing stupid shit just to create tension or to move the plot forward. That’s one of the big things to appreciate in this film. No one is doing stupid stuff! A welcome thing in the horror genre these days. Every decision is relatable and smart. And all that can only work well with a strong cast and well written script by Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken and Damien Chazelle. Fantastic work by all of them.

Now I have a little history with Dan Trachtenberg the director of this film. By that I don’t mean ‘personal’. The first time I saw him was on a small online show called “The Totally Rad Show” in 2007. A show about Tv, Games and Movie reviews. Really enjoyed that show. Later he did a shortfilm about the game “Portal”. A very good showcase of his skills as a director and understanding of VFX. And now he made his first feature film. And it’s a really good one! It will definitely be interesting to see what’s next for him.

Even if the Cloverfield title feels a little too much like a marketing thing, I think this could work out nicely. They could do more of these kinds of films, with a loose connection to the original. We’ll see what happens there in the future I guess. In any case it’s better to have movies like these than a neverending string of Paranormal Activity found footage movies.

So if you’re a fan of a smart character driven horror story, then this movie is definitely something to check out for you. Great characters, mood and look… combined in an intelligent script that’s been nicely brought to film. I enjoyed it.


10 Cloverfield Lane on IMDb

The Revenant – Movie Review

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

movie reviewThree times I made the attempt to watch this movie and finally it worked out this week. First it was a timing conflict. Then I became sick literally the day I wanted to go see it. But two days ago I finally made it. Sounds like the odyssey Mr. DiCaprio’s character went through in this film! Well, maybe not exactly.

First of all let’s go into the contents of this film a little. The movie is set in the early 1820s, when brave men embarked onto the conquest of the western (what we now call) United States of America. These men were so called ‘frontiersmen’ or ‘trappers’. People who tried to make a living by exploring the wilderness of a then unknown part of the land. In the case of the movie these men were trading fur and pelts that were quite the commodity back then. The french had a hand in that as well and were a big competitor in that field.

The movie sets its tone very early on within the first 10 minutes. We meet Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his half-blood son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) tracking down an animal. We immediately understand that these guys know what they’re doing. In the meantime we get a look at their camp of trappers and get introduced to John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson). When out of nowhere an ambush by native americans starts. This scene in particular is shot with very very few (if at all) cuts/edits. While we watch the brutality unfold and chaos break loose, Glass and his son arrive back in the camp, right when the battle is raging. We also get a glimpse of how the character of John Fitzgerald is ticking. Throughout this beautifully executed scene the audience gets an idea of how brutal battles like these must have been. The camp gets overrun while a small group of trappers manages to board a small boat and flee. They took everything they could with them and as soon as they decide to go on land, they hide the furs and pelts, they managed to grab when the ambush happened. There we get a great scene with Fitzgerald that draws out his character a little more. Up to that point we also learned more about the background of Glass and Hawk. The group trusts him and while we don’t get to see how Glass earned their trust, it is very clear that this group of men respects his suggestions and knowledge of the land. Only Fitzgerald seems to question Glass quite a bit. Glass decides to go scout ahead the area since he knows this region of the land very well. Then this (now famous) bear attack sequence happens. This is quite a vicious part. The brutality of nature or the message that nature doesn’t give a damn about who we are and what we do… if it gets the chance, it will destroy us. Glass barely survives the attack and the group decides to take him with them on a makeshift stretcher. Again we see how Fitzgerald is kind of opposing that idea and it’s understandable from his point of view. Glass was barely alive at that point. Captain Henry insists of taking Glass with them. In the meantime we learn that the earlier ambush wasn’t just random. Natives called The Arikara are looking for their Chief’s daughter, that was kidnapped. Which builds a nice dynamic throughout the movie since they’re never far behind of our hero. Even if our group of trappers didn’t actually kidnap that woman. With glass on a stretcher, and the terrain becoming more and more difficult, the group gets to a point where they consider leaving Glass behind. Fitzgerald is all for that and again it’s relatable. The party decides to leave Glass behind. The Captain offers a payment raise for 2 people that are willing to stay with Glass and give him a proper burial, should he die. Fitzgerald and a young man named Jim Bridger (Will Poulter) decide to stay behind with Glass and Hawk. While the main group tries to find a way through the mountains, which turns out difficult without Glass’s guidance. While Fitzgerald and Bridger practically wait for Glass to die. Then some bad stuff happens and the movie turns into one of the finest revenge movies ever made.

Enough about the story and more about the film itself. To make it short, I really enjoyed this movie. It kept me engaged throughout its 2 1/2 hours runtime and I never felt bored. Maybe the Oscars did cloud my judgement a little bit though. Especially in regards to Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance. While I do agree that his performance is really good, and something different from what we know him doing, I’m not with the general hype that he definitely had to get his first Oscar for that. I would have loved seeing him get one for his Django Unchained performance. I found Tom Hardy’s character much more interesting in comparison. He at least got an Oscar nomination for supporting role as well. And while awards are always a thing to argue about, I would have probably nominated him aside DiCaprio for Leading Role. We do see DiCaprio’s character go through hell and what he does makes you really feel for the character. But from an acting standpoint I found Tom Hardy more interesting. Yes, DiCaprio had to do a lot communication through facial expressions alone and he does that great here! But the character of Tom Hardy’s John Fitzgerald had some nice facettes as well. You could argue that he did nothing wrong. He didn’t have the best life and (like he says in the film) just tries to survive in a rather brutal environment. I can’t hold it against him when he’s looking out for himself. Of course the movie has a couple of scenes that clearly position Fitzgerald on the negative side of the spectrum. And that’s good because we certainly need a bad guy. But more often than not it’s the bad guy character that is more interesting than the good guy.

On the technical side of things it is a through and through admirable job they did with this film. The gritty realism gave weight to even the smallest things. A lot of face close ups that make you see a little bit of what’s going on in the characters heads. Great acting through the bench. I really enjoyed Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter too. The camera and reduced use of cuts and edits made this film flow very well. Especially the camera and lighting work is remarkable. Natural lighting all the way. CGI only when there was no other choice. The colorgrading may have been a little too much here and there but that’s a nitpick.

When the movie is over and you had a minute to reflect you might end up asking yourself what the message is. Revenge is the strongest force in the universe? Well, that may be the ultimate take away from this film. And I’m sure you can agree that it’s not really a good message to take away from this film or any film.

So what I did was to watch “A World Unseen”, a 45min documentary about the movie. It was released pretty much at the same time the movie came out. It has some great images too and talks about what ideas and influences fuel the movie. And the film made a little more sense after seeing that. The movie references a lot of things that relate to the world we live in now. It shows how early stages of capitalism started to take its toll on the environment and the people of the time. How greed can transform people into monsters. Even without their own fault. It’s the world we live in that transforms and shapes us. The movie talks about a lot of things that aren’t visible at first glance and that’s something I can only applaud for. We also get some nice interviews with the native american actors from the film and their views on history and what their world has become. “A World Unseen” is very insightful and a clear recommendation to round up the experience from the movie itself.

If you get a chance to see this film on the big screen. Take it. The images alone are worth it.

A clear recommendation.


The Revenant on IMDb

The Big Short – Movie Review

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

movie reviewEvery now and then it’s good to see a movie on the big screen that is not a spectacle event kinda thing. But a movie with a serious topic and something that makes you think. The Big Short is that kind of movie. At the end it makes you wonder about a lot of things. And there is a good chance it makes you angry. Very angry.

The movie tells the story of a couple of men who invested (or bet) a lot of money against the banking establishment and their common practices. We all know what happened in 2007 when the housing bubble collapsed and sent the whole world into a financial crisis we still have not recovered from. And how things look now this crisis in 2007 may have just been the indicator to much more troubled times that lie ahead of us. But that’s speculation on my part. The thing is that we all know that something bad happened back then, but only a few people really understood the why. For most of us it was enough to know that greed driven banks and bankers caused this collapse, that made a lot of already poor people poorer and even homeless. The Big Short is now trying to explain the background to the ‘why’ this all happened. And it does a fairly good job.

The first one to discover that there was something fishy going on was a fonds manager named Michael Burry (Christian Bale). He’s someone that has a great eye for numbers and calculations. He recognizes that banks handle certain housing businesses in a very suspicious way. He soon understood that this construct will not hold forever and that a lot of money will vanish into nothing. Except if you invest money (it’s crazy that this is even possible) into the logic consequence that this crash will eventually happen – no matter what. It’s basically a bet against the house (or the banks). So Michael sees his chance and invests everything he can on his prediction that the housing market will collapse. He goes around visiting other banks and tells them what he’s going to do and gets laughed at for his foresight. This is the time when other folks get wind of his idea and start to investigate. That’s when Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) finds out about it and also tries to find people to bet against the banks along with him. He finds Mark Baum (Steve Carell) and his gang of traders. They are very suspicious at first and start to look into the housing market. It doesn’t take them very long to understand that there is a bubble, full of very thin air, that will eventually collapse in on itself. So they decide to trust Vennett and look for investors as well. In the mean time we learn a lot about how this market works and what all went wrong.

The characters in this movie are for certain no heroes. They are a big part of the problem that is explained in this film. Even if they’re working their whole life in that business, they still cannot believe how fucked up the situation had become, when it was presented to them. All it needed was to take a slightly closer look at the material. Most bankers were too lazy to do that. No interest because… the money was flowing. No one wants to ruin a party, right? So some of our protagonists really struggle with their decisions. And the movie does a good job of explaining why. In the end you could argue that our protagonists are the same breed of assholes that originally created that housing market bubble. Because what kind of human being would set a bet on the fact that a lot of other people will have ruined lives. These guys may be rich now but are they be able to really enjoy the money they made?

The movie is directed by Adam McKay who previously directed the Anchorman movies. The first Anchorman is a comedy classic and the second one was alright (in my opinion) too. So he took a 180° turn with the decision to tackle a movie like The Big Short. I have to applaud him for that. This movie wasn’t an easy task but he certainly made it work. Not only with a serious topic but also entertaining and fresh. The film presents itself with a lot of kinetic energy, quick cuts and jumps, with an almost documentary kind of feel here and there. You need to watch this film with open eyes though. Otherwise I can see how you would end up very confused in a rather short amount of time. The more than 2hrs runtime fly by though. You are bombarded with information and background knowledge about the market and how it all works. I cannot say that I fully understood everything the movie was trying to explain but I was certainly sure how most of it worked by the time the end credits rolled. It was frustrating and leaves you shaking your head. All this ignorance and greed at display there. A harsh reality.

The trading business is like Las Vegas. There is a set of rules for all kinds of different games. But still almost unlimited ways to lose or win money. The sad thing is that no one learned from what happened in 2007. The practices are still the same. And the people who already have nothing, still pay for what the banks do and end up with even more nothing. So the big lesson of the movie seems to be that the system certainly works (in it’s own corrupted and mutated ways). It’s just how we treat that system that makes it counterproductive for all the people who are not in that business. And that’s a lot of people.

If you have a chance… go see this film. The film does get criticized for its appearance. Yes, it’s loud and shiny and in your face… but it needs to be. That’s how you get an audience today. It definitely needs more people to know how banks fuck up our world and continue to do so. I was very happy to see lots of poeple showing up to see this film. All of them left entertained and frustrated at the same time. But also a little more understanding.


The Big Short on IMDb

Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Movie Review

Thursday, December 24th, 2015

movie reviewEver since 1977 it was an event when a new Star Wars movie was released. Some things don’t change. It still is an extraordinary event when a new Star Wars movie reaches the big screen. I have the feeling that this time it will be the last time that Star Wars will feel new. Like it’s going off into new uncharted territories. In the next 10+ years we will be bombarded with these movies, much like the Marvel movies. The hope is that they will maintain the quality. Which I honestly have little doubt about. But Disney will milk that cow like crazy. That’s for sure. And that feeling of ‘something new’ will vanish. And this time that feeling is still there. That something ‘magical’ new is going on. This magic is captured by Star Wars Episode VII – “The Force Awakens”. I will completely avoid spoilers even though I bet everyone of you will see this movie anyway. I more want to talk about the movie instead of going too much into the story.

This movie does something interesting. When the end-credits rolled I had the impression that it completely leaves out the prequels (Episode 1-3). Not a single word about what happened there. And sure, in the timeline there has passed a lot of time since then. Still! Here and there a line about what happened in Episode 4-6. The movie starts, of course, on a desert planet. Where Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is on a secret mission, hunting down a map that is supposed to show the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker. Luke went into hiding when his attempt at rebuilding the Jedi Order failed. Things go a little wrong and Poe gets captured by the ‘First Order’ (which is basically the empire). He manages to slip the map into his robot buddy BB-8 and sends him away. This ‘First Order’ is what is left of the galactic empire. Which is a little mysterious since we never get a clou about how strong they are and if they are still a mighty force that is ruling star systems. So, have the rebels won or not or what the hell is going on?! We’re left in the dark about political developments of the past 20 to 30 years. I’m undecided if I like that. Since I would have liked to know how things went after the second deathstar blew up. Especially how the political situation is now in the new film. We don’t really get that. When Poe gets captured we also meet Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) who is also looking for that map. Kylo is a Sith apprentice and a kinda sorta Darth Vader fanboy. He’s still very young and has problems mastering his temper more than once. But he is also powerful with the force and has some skills. He is an interesting conflicted character that, I hope, will get explored more in the upcoming movies. When captured Poe meets a stormtrooper who is also very conflicted and trying to get out they both decide to team up and flee. Poe calls him Finn and together they manage to flee. They still get shot down and crashland when Finn meets Ren. Ren is a young woman who is trying to survive by scavenging spaceship wreckages. Some very impressive pictures in that part of the film. She stumbles upon BB-8 and they become friends. Not long after they meet Finn, they get attacked by the First Order that is looking for Finn and the robot. Together they flee the planet on a rusty, old piece of junk spaceship. You guessed it… it’s the Falcon. A pretty fantastic chase sequence is going on then. From then on things start to fall into place. We meet old and new characters. A lot of lucky coincidences happen. A tiny bit too many for my taste. But well, things have to connect one way or another. So I’m fine with that.

I hear the term ‘Soft Reboot’ tossed around quite a bit. And I guess you could call the movie that. I would compare it to what the Jurassic World movie did. Where they take elements of previous movies, repackage them and put them into a new movie. While Jurassic World did that much more obvious (at least in my opinion), I think SW:TFA did it in a smarter way. There definitely are similarities to A New Hope and Empire here and there. We also get a lot of ‘fanservice’ moments that make every fans heart grow a little. But without making these moments feel forced. They’re fun little sidenotes that pop up every now and then to help connect the old with the new. The downside of a ‘Soft Reboot’ approach is that it becomes predictable. Since they’re making use of a formula that’s already been used. Granted, they remodel that formula, but at its core it’s still the same. And while the character plotlines in this movie are relatively open, you can still, very early on, see where the movie as a whole will go. So I wished the movie ending, regarding the bad guys, was not as definitive as it was and more open.

While this movie at its core is a little puzzle’ish put together with elements from other Star Wars movies, it’s the new characters that really make it all work for me. They casted some people who are relatively unknown and it really benefits the film. The chemistry between Finn & Poe and later Finn & Rey is very entertaining and brings back that feeling when we saw Luke and Han together for the first time. There is some nice back and forth between them in the dialogue scenes and more than once they sprinkle in some light hearted comedic moment that makes you laught or at least smile. The cast all around feels natural and not as artificial as in the prequels. Only Kylo Ren could have benefited a little with some less cheesy lines.

So yeah, is it a flawless film? No. Is it the first truly good Star Wars movie in 30 years? Yes. Let’s be honest here. The prequels exist but they only scratch the surface of being good movies. They surely are entertaining on certain levels but they miss the point of Star Wars. And it’s fascinating how the initial creator of this beloved universe made these movies and missed the mark so much. And yes, I’m one of these people who blame Lucas. And the fact that there was no one around him who said “NO that’s stupid, try something else”! It’s a well documented fact that he had a lot lot lot of help with the first trilogy. But all the people who helped him back then, were not around for the prequels. That’s visible on screen. So it’s good we have fresh blood going into the new movies. Yes… I feel a bit sorry for that generation of kids that got introduced into Star Wars with the prequel movies. While this new movie should have been their introduction. However… this new movie comes with its own set of holes too. Some characters could have benefitted from a better introduction for example. Or the use of CGI where it wasn’t actually necessary. Yes, they did a lot of practical FX and it shows and works. Still, there are some questionable scenes where the CG work distracts a little. I can forgive that though. They did too many things right.

Yes. This is a real Star Wars movie. I enjoyed it and had a good time. When I left the theater I wanted to know how this story will be continued. The last time I had that feeling was with Lord Of The Rings (Fellowship). It will be interesting where Disney will take us with this. So far, it looks good!


Star Wars – The Force Awakens on IMDb

Movie Review – Monsters: Dark Continent

Monday, December 7th, 2015

movie reviewGareth Edwards, who moved on to do the 2013 Godzilla movie, got this opportunity because of his indie success ‘Monsters’ from 2010. There he explored what humanity means and how little it takes to turn humanity into chaos and destruction. For me it was something different with a nice message at the end of the film. So when I discovered that there was a sequel in the works, I was quite excited. Especially after seeing the trailer.

We follow a Michael Parkes (Sam Keeley) from Detroit and his group of close friends. We learn that they signed up for the military and all they want is to get out of Detroit. We learn that Detroit is not a great place to live and grow up in. The once proud and big working class city is nothing but a shadow of its former greatness. In this early stage of the film we get the usual tropes of a guy and his wife getting a kid and the last day party before shipping out into the middle east. Yes, the fact that the world is not populated with huge alien creatures, does not suddenly end all the wars that are going on. While the monsters in the first movie are limited to Mexico and parts of South America, they now spreaded into the Middle-East. Interfering with all the military operations that are going on down there. And that is where our group of friends ends up in. So we see them do their job with the occasional monster showing up here and there. Then they get called for a special mission and of course everything that can go wrong does go wrong.

If my written summary does not sound too promising then you read that right. This movie is a mess. Starting with all this cliche material in the beginning and the platoon leader being almost a caricature of the stereotypical military guy spouting his “shit rolls down hill” speeches. It’s all there and it’s not done very good. I’m not sure if it’s the actors or the script. I’m leaning towards the script since the actors, in some sparse fine moments, do deliver some good work. Which is a shame. Much like that really touching, eyeopening scene at the end of ‘Monsters’, we have similar scenes in this movie. Again one near the end. It’s beautiful, well done and poses the overarching question of who the real monsters are. There are a couple of scenes that ask this question. But they drown in the mess that is this movie. It wastes a lot of time with story elements that shouldn’t be there. Especially when it’s trying to make the audience bond with this group of friends (which did not really work for me at all) and then later feel with them when shit gets real. The movie’s runtime with 2hrs is far too long and several parts of the movie just drag on and on.

So while the first movie successfully focussed on smaller issues, this one tries to go a step further. What sounded rather interesting on paper, did unfortunately not really work on screen. Expanding the universe of that world, where giant creatures roam the the earth, could have been done differently. By expanding the story we get a lot of problems with plot holes that the first movie avoided by keeping the story very compressed. At least the visuals do work and they made it all look pretty good. The monsters do not make a hostile impression and more look like a herd of elephants. Nonetheless we bomb the crap out of them for some reason. Which is probably the more realistic element this movie has. You feel sorry for the creatures that basically just want to be left alone. On the other hand you can understand that there is action against them. But the movie misses to make that point of trying to convey why we fight against these creatures. For some reason this group of friends is also in the same platoon. Sorry, not gonna happen in todays military. They would be scattered all over the place in all kinds of different units. And that’s just two of the more problematic things going on in this film.

Closing words would be to only seek out this film if you really want to know the world of ‘Monsters’ a little better. Unfortunately the movie does not know what it wants to be. A military action movie or a film asking questions about humanity. Writer and Director Tom Green probably wasn’t the right guy for this material. There is a good movie in this one but it’s drowning in a lot of stuff that did not need to be in there. It’s too inconsistent throughout the runtime. But still… there are some great images in this film. Apart from the obvious shakycam syndrome, this movie suffers from, the overall camera work is nice.


Monsters: Dark Continent on IMDb

The Martian – Movie Review

Sunday, October 25th, 2015

movie reviewI’m a long time fan of director Ridley Scott. Even though I haven’t seen Exodus yet. Still, whenever I hear that he’s up to a new project (which he constantly is) I’m excited. I just love how his movies are shot. There’s always something majestic in these pictures he manages to create for his films. And since “The Martian” is a scifi movie I had to see it. No way around it. The movie managed to get some good critics which made it even more interesting.

Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is “The Martian”. Stranded on Mars, when a huge storm hit him and his crewmates, while doing science work on the surface. On the way back to the ship he gets separated and injured. Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) is trying to find him, but ultimately forced to leave him behind, to save the rest of the crew. When Watney wakes up the storm is over, he is injured and alone. He immediately tries to analyse the situation. He finds a way to produce water and food first. Then the next problem is how to make contact with Earth. In the mean time NASA tries to handle the failed mission and declares Watney dead. When checking satellite photos from the evacuated Mars basecamp, they notice that elements of that base changed position. They immediately try to work out a plan, to start a rescue mission while Watney finds a way for communication. Then it’s a battle against time.

This is one of the safest movies I’ve ever seen. There is no villain in this movie. Everyone behaves like a thinking human being. The villain is the problem of bringing Mark Watney back home. How can it be done? Is it even possible? Another thing is the survival aspect Watney has to get managed. The movie walks a fine line of telling the story of Watney’s survival and the NASA trying to find a way of saving him. It goes back and forth but never loses its tight pacing. Which is phenomenal for a 140 minutes movie. It never dragged.

The movie does have some time jumps and one of them is quite a leap. I expected to see a little more of the psychological impact of being alone on an alien planet. On the other hand, adding more stuff to this film, would have probably ruined the pacing. From what I heard they managed to keep it pretty much in line with the book by Andy Weir. Drew Goddard’s screenplay works pretty tight and manages to avoid the usual scifi movie traps. While it does have a serious side to it, there are a lot of parts that are very light and even funny. Again a fine balance that worked out very well.

Acting wise it’s ‘almost’ a one-man show. Matt Damon does a nice job. There is not much to complain. A couple of situations could have needed a little more despair. I mean, sure… the character is a trained astronaut and well prepared. Still, it is a very hard situation he is in. A little more desparation wouldn’t have hurt. But that’s a minor nitpick. Jessica Chastain is also very good. Her character, of course, has doubts about leaving Watney behind. And she is fighting with her decision. Jeff Daniels, playing the head of NASA, is also a nice character. He is also fighting with hard decisions. Chewitel Ejiofor plays the head of the Mars mission and fights with hard decisions as well while in the process of preparing a rescue mission. The cast in general is stellar and does a fine job overall. Every character is believable and has its place in the film and story. No one is wasted.

There are voices out there labeling the movie a NASA commercial. But it’s not just about NASA in this movie. It’s about science, space, its dangers and why we have to get out there. And most importantly… that we can make it. The movie makes a scientifically very sound impression and I’m willing to think that nothing in this movie is impossible. Well, ok… here and there are some weird things. But overall, I think it works. so I would rather call it a Space commercial and not a NASA commercial. I would love for mankind to focus more on exploring space instead of all the stupid stuff that’s going on on this planet right now. Maybe things would be dealt with differently once mankind managed to make the next step to interplanetary travel.

Mars never felt closer. Strange and yet familiar. Dangerous and yet inviting. The vfx are flawless. It seems like directors start to learn how to use vfx properly. It’s about time! The 3d felt good but there are some scenes I would have enjoyed more in 2d. At least the 3d looked good and didn’t take me out of the movie.

Go see it. It’s an exciting ride!


The Martian on IMDb

Citizenfour – Movie Review

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

movie reviewIt’s hard to talk about this docu without talking about your own personal stance on what it’s all about. So let me get this straight from the get go. Edward Snowden is a modern time hero. Just because some politicians and age old laws say otherwise… – my heart and (most importantly) my brain tell me that it’s true, this man is a hero. I felt this way before I saw this doc and now feel that way even more. I still find it hard to believe that this documentary got an Oscar. I watched live when they received it and damn… the mood in that room, full of Hollywood’s greatest, suddenly dropped dead. Some faces said “yes, well done!”. But a lot more looked confused and dead serious tried not to show any kind of emotion whatsoever. As if they were afraid of something. To me it was a slightly shocking sight to be honest. That’s my main memory of the 2015 Oscar ceremony.

I admit, I haven’t seen the other nominated docus. But now after seeing Citizenfour, there was only one of them that, at this moment in history, deserved that Oscar. I’m amazed how well the makers planned this. We see a lot of material right from the start and Glenn Greenwald’s first meetings with Edward Snowden. Laura Poitras, who directed this film, was there to capture the material on film. All of the people involved really made an extremely intelligent impression and very carefully thought about how to proceed with the reveals, that Snowdens material included. At first Snowden is trying to explain what’s actually going on in the world. At that point it’s fascinating trying to read the faces of the journalists. It’s one thing to suspect that all Snowden eventually reveals is going on. But hearing a credible source talking about how deep it actually goes… that’s world-view changing material.

That first part of Citizenfour is also the most interesting one. At least for me. It shows stuff we haven’t seen before. We know what happened when the media released the articles, revealing all the different spying operations, that are going on all around the (for the most part) western world. How countries and companies are linked to intelligence agencies. The first half focussed on Edward Snowden. He didn’t come forward without a plan. A very careful plan. He knew what would happen. He knew what to do, how to protect relatives and friends and how to hide. And the most important part for me is that he did not plan to stay undercover. His plan was to show himself. To attract all attention to him and away from people who had nothing to do with it. His family or girlfriend for example. There are a couple of quiet scenes where there is a glimmer of doubt in his eyes. If this really was the right way to go. If it’s all worth it. If you ask me, I couldn’t answer that question. What’s sure though is the fact that if he wouldn’t have come forward… someone else would have.

The second part of the movie goes into the details of the aftermath of the reveals. That’s the stuff we already know. At least when you’re a little bit interested in world politics. It’s slightly less interesting but it gives a good perspective from the people who were actually involved. What it doesn’t show is that over the time 2013 to 2015 nothing has changed. Here in germany it seems like no one wants to investigate anything NSA related. The chancelor’s cellphone got tapped, they found a double-agent working for the BND/NSA and drone strikes executed from german soil. Nothing happened after Snowden released the documents. That is what’s worrying me the most. And Snowden says it himself… the fact that everyone nowadays takes it for granted that ‘someone is always listening’. That’s how the world works, right? I guess so. That doesn’t make it right though. He also briefly talks about the early days of the Internet. How there was a different atmosphere. How it felt like a door to the whole wide world. It was new. There were no bounds. I’m old enough to remember that time and while it may be nostalgia… he’s absolutely right. I’m sorta proud to have experienced that short time-frame, when the Internet was still relatively young in the mid to late 90s.

So yeah. Everyone should see this documentary. It’s not just about the person Edward Snowden. It’s about our time and how the world works. It’s a lesson that needs to be taught. I fear we’re all still students, trying to understand and comprehend how big that machine, that constantly works in the background of our lives, really is.


Citizenfour on IMDb