Archive for the 'Movie Reviews' Category

Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker – Movie Review

Friday, February 21st, 2020

movie reviewLet’s start with the fact that I really liked what they did with The Force Awakens. I wouldn’t call it too clever but it’s a well made “soft reboot”. The film managed to find the right strings to play and sparked the imagination of all fans. JJ Abrams did a fine enough job. The Last Jedi, the follow up film, written and directed by Rian Johnson was very polarizing to say the least. I guess the task he was given was to cut ties with most of the familiar Star Wars elements and give the franchise a new direction by subverting expectations. I completely understand the motivation for that step and in some parts the movie actually did fine. But other parts got me angry. Especially how they treated the character of Luke Skywalker. It wasn’t so much the place and state of mind he was in. It was the presentation of him and certain actions I would never expect Luke to do. So the ultimate message of that film was to leave everything behind for something new. It did not work too well. Especially that chase plot throughout the film. Nothing really happens in that 2 hour film. Now we have JJ Abrams back with The Rise Of Skywalker. The film to bring all the threads together and find a satisfying end to the most popular scifi series, in the making since 1977.

After the backlash we’ve seen for The Last Jedi it was quite a challenge to please the fans with this last film of a nine movie series. My hope for this film was a longer break in the timeline. The ending of The Last Jedi was very dark. The Rebellion/Resistance was pretty much defeated. So why not start the next film a couple of years later? Leave some room for speculations for the fans. It would also detach this new film a little better from The Last Jedi and what happened there (not too much… but still!). Instead of giving it time we start what seems like almost immediately after the last film.

There will be spoilers in this discussion.

The film starts and not much has changed from where we left off at the end of the last film. The First Order is still wreaking havoc in the galaxy and our heroes lick their wounds and hide on a jungle planet (too familiar? yes!). The Emperor, through his almighty force powers he did let the galaxy know that he’s not dead and preparing a comeback. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) manages to obtain a Sith Wayfinder that leads him to Emperor Palpatine’s (Ian McDiarmid) hideout. It’s well hidden, outside the known regions of the galaxy. When Kylo meets Palpatine we get our first load of “trying to fix what Last Jedi did”. And these fixes are sprinkled in throughout the film. Rey (Daisy Ridley) in the meantime is trained by Leia (Carrie Fisher) to complete her Jedi training. Of course our heroes start their journey soon too. There is a second Wayfinder to be found! We get to see a load of new places and characters. The film leaves no breathing room and jumps from one setpiece to another. It’s all spectacle and no room for character development. There is only one real personal character scene in this film. A confrontation between Kylo and Rey in the middle of the film. This part was executed really well. Only these two characters and their struggles embedded in a nifty lightsaber fight. We get another fight between them later and it’s alright too but by far not as good as the first confrontation. Throughout the film we see our protagonists hunt objects that lead to another object that eventually leads to Palpatines hideout. On that journey we get a lot of scenes that have an Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi vibe. Much like The Force Awakens we have a lot of familiar stuff sprinkled in. It kind of does and doesn’t work at the same time. If there is a second movie like Last Jedi that tries to cut ties and does something new… we should follow that up in the third film. Now it feels as if the second film doesn’t really exists. You could play The Force Awakens and Rise Of Skywalker back to back and you wouldn’t miss the Last Jedi at all. Which leads to the unfortunate conclusion that Disney had no plan at all for these three films. Especially this last one feels very rushed when it comes to its plot. And beside Kylo and Rey all the other characters (that are very likeable throughout the films) fall completely flat. Adam Driver acts the crap out of his Kylo Ren character and for me he’s the only thing holding the films together. Rey is a nice character too but by far not as conflicted as Kylo. The bad guy, as usual, is far more interesting. Ultimately, as a long long long time fan it’s frustrating to see this story unfold. So many wasted oportunities in favour of plain and flat spectacle. Oh, and the final space battle is one of the worst choreographed space battles I’ve ever seen in a scifi film.

After an Indiana Jones like hunt for places and objects we get said final space battle of course. Along with the confrontation of Palpatine. And while most of the things that happened before could be shrugged off, a lot of things start to make seriously no sense anymore in this third act. A lot of “How did he…?” and “How is it possible…?” questions pop up. And there are no answers. And while watching the film you don’t have much time thinking because it moves so fast from one thing to the next thing to the next thing. Almost deliberately. Just don’t make the audience think too much while watching the film! Keep them busy at all costs! And when the credits start to roll it’s almost a waking up moment.

I saw this film relatively late. Went into it without big expectations. Avoided spoilers as much as possible. I admit it, Last Jedi left a mark on me. Immediately after the film was done I felt a hole in my stomach. That waking up moment. “So that’s it now?”, I asked myself. Growing up with all the Extended Universe novels (that are not part of the Star Wars canon anymore), I expected something so much grander. Especially when it comes to how they treated our beloved characters. Now this new trilogy definitely has its moments and a lot of entertainment. And that’s what these films are reduced to, “moments” and “entertainment”. There is almost no depth. It feels shallow. After seeing all three films it seems that The Last Jedi, the movie everyone hated so much, is probably the best one! Because itat least ‘tried’.

Now I would still place this trilogy above the prequel trilogy but the original trilogy still is on top. By far. Should Disney attempt a new movie series (and they will), it needs to be planned out and not be done on a movie by movie basis. The good thing is that they are forced to do something new now. Sure, you can sprinkle in some references here and there I’m sure… but overall it needs a new story and new characters. I’ll be there and watch it. I’m too much of a Star Wars nut to miss it. Did the prequels and the sequels ruin the original trilogy for me? Absolutely not. Still, I expected more heart and depth from these new films.

My conclusion: Star Wars desperately needs a new identity.

A 6.8/10 for me.

Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker on IMDb

1917 – Movie Review

Wednesday, January 29th, 2020

movie reviewIt makes me wonder why this film didn’t come out in 2017. You know, a perfect fit… a round 100 years. That pointless analysis aside, I often wonder why most of us gravitate towards war movies so much. Is it the battles, emotions, horrors? I guess it comes down to reminding us how bleak and hopeless the world can be. While early war movies tended to be more about the spectacle and heroics than the single person and the impact it all has on the soul or how a single person in that war machinery doesn’t make a big difference. In the past 40 years we started to look at this topic with more critical eyes. War is a beast. You can’t tame it. It’s unpredictable. While it brings out the courage in some of us, it turns other human beings into the worst creatures you can think of. That said, WW1 didn’t get much attention on the big screen yet. Paths of Glory (1957), All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) come to mind. Both very strong movies. I hoped for the 100th anniversary of WW1 to get some movies that cover that war a little more closely. Nothing happened. Until now with 1917.

We follow Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay). Ordinary soldiers, just taking a break. Their well deserved break ends soon when they receive the order to cross dangerous territory to the front line and deliver an important order to stop a planned attack on the germans. Thousands will run into a trap if they fail. One of them is Blake’s older brother. So right there Blake has a special motivation to get the job done. We follow them through the trenches and on their journey through the field and the difficulties that the circumstances put on them.

The cinematography makes the audience discover the world along with the characters. They chose a very immersive way of putting us right into this world. By filming everything in the style of a single continuous shot. Of course they used every trick in the book to put in their cuts but it’s all pretty much hidden and invisible. Very long takes that require some fantastic acting and a lot of discipline, which both actors (and everyone else involved) deliver nicely. We get to see the horrors of that war and the immediate reaction of our characters. In fact, stylistically some sequences could actually be straight out of a horror movie. In times where it seems to be the easiest thing to deliver a message it’s a valuable shift of perspective to see how difficult it can be or how difficult is was only 100 years ago.

The film is not trying to be about the big battles with all the familiar noises of a battlefield. It’s not “Saving Private Ryan” and a comparison would be rather unfair I think. It’s a rather quiet film that focusses on the protagonists and how they deal with their task, their reactions, their fight for survival, emotions and how the whole sitation affects them. We follow them to a variety of locations and the camera work makes sure you notice everything they notice. There are a couple of situations and locations that almost make that world feel unreal. Which kind of works since I imagine war itself as a rather unreal experience. An experience I don’t want to make.

The overall experience worked great. The acting, photography, sound and music gel so well that you are right in that world and discover it with the characters in the film. It’s almost necessary to see this film on a big screen with good sound. Especially that one night sequence with it’s lighting, music and composition. Roger Deakins was the perfect director of photography for this film. It is an experience.

A 8.4/10 for me.

1917 on IMDb

Godzilla: King Of Monsters – Movie Review

Sunday, June 23rd, 2019

movie reviewI really liked what Gareth Edwards did with the 2014 Godzilla movie. Keeping the point of view more focussed on humans. Visually and storywise. With a somewhat interesting story and a character that was at least a little bit relatable. For me it worked. For a lot of other folks, it didn’t. They wanted giant monsters fighting. No human drama that stands in the way. The follow up film “Kong” was solid. Even though it didn’t exactly know what it wanted to be in the end. Godzilla 2 now seems to have heard the critics of 2014 and delivers on the monster fights. And it delivers hard. It seems to want to be the exact opposite of the 2014 film. But is it for the benefit of the film?

We find ourselves in a world that tries to deal with the fact that there are giant creatures roaming the Earth. The world tries to find solutions and, of course, often enough opts for the wrong ones. Monarch, the organization that’s monitoring the “Titans”, is on the verge of losing its independent status and become part of the military. The military of course is trying to find ways to weaponize these Titans. Dr. Emma (Vera Farmiga) and Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) lost a child when the 2014 events happened in San Francisco. Both decided to find a way to understand how the Titans communicate. They used their science work as a kind of therapy to overcome the loss of their child. Meanwhile Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown), their daughter, has to watch how the marriage of her parents falls apart. Emma continues to work on that communication device and Mark decides to go his own ways. And that sets up the human drama in this film.

Emma and Mark follow different goals with the project and Madison tries to deal with that situation. Things start to go crazy when another creature is about to be born in one of the Monarch facilities. A perfect chance for Emma to test the machine! As soon as the creature is alive, Emma and Madison are kidnapped by some Eco-fundamentalists. Mark is contacted by Monarch and tries to save them. He is very hesitant since Monarch clearly is pro Titans, while he is still traumatized and wants to see these monsters dead. The story does deliver an arc for Emma and Mark but it feels very thin. Beside them we see how mankind is trying to deal with the Titans situation. Which is something I would have liked to see more of.

Throughout the film we see characters from the 2014 movie and it’s good to see them back. They build a neat bridge. Instead of showing a straightforward journey, this film decides to jump all over the place and ultimately there hardly was any character that I was able to relate to. The film also goes out of its way to hammer down some environmental messages down our throat. It’s very obvious and could have been done in a more subtle and clever way. But no, we have to show monsters fight at least every 5 minutes. It’s overkill. Quite literally. The film is 132 minutes long and it feels like at least 100 minutes were monsters fighting. Now don’t get me wrong. The fight scenes were quite awesome. The vfx and sound design are amazing. The sound on Dolby Atmos is a feast! At some point though, you grow a little numb to all the spectacle. I’m more the fan of building up to a spectacular fight instead of having one every 10 minutes.

Where the 2014 movie tries to be a little subdued and tries to deliver a relatable perspective (visually and storywise) – we go full hammertime in this film. Even though I felt never bored while watching it, I instantly knew that when I would try to think about this film, it would instantly fall apart. And not because of the GIANT MONSTERS fact. They’re not the issues the film has. The Titans are great, do awesome stuff and look fantastic. It’s cool to see these new interpretations of these classic monsters. I really don’t know how they want to top what they did here. With all the destruction happening in this film, the next target can only be the moon or space in general. The level of destuction and devastion in this film is insane! Shake your head levels of insane. But those are the element this film lives from. So they better do it right! And they did. Like I said, the vfx are superb. And the sound design brings it all together.

Ultimately it feels like it goes a little too far with almost everything it tries to do. It succeeds in moving the story forward though. A lot of mythology stuff is added. It makes this universe feel more rich and interesting. Still, the movie makes its universe feel incredibly small and huge at the same time. The monster fights are epic and obviously beautiful and big. But the human storyline is as small as it can be. Yes, our characters are all over the world but emotionally it feels flat and unrelatable. The acting by all involved works and everyone does a good enough job with the material. As dumb as the story may be. I always like to see Kyle Chandler, Ken Watanabe or Vera Farmiga. Obviously, no matter how hard they tried, their work stands in the shadow of the giant monsters, that clearly steal the show. Now it will be interesting what Godzilla VS Kong brings.

A 6.3/10 for me.

Godzilla 2: King of Monsters on IMDb

Bohemian Rhapsody – Movie Review

Saturday, December 1st, 2018

movie reviewYou cannot make a movie about Queen with just making it about Freddie Mercury. But you could make a movie about Freddie Mercury without going into too much Queen stuff. Now Bohemian Rhapsody is a film about Queen. Yes, its central figure is (of course) Freddie Mercury. But its also about the band. So, from what I gathered, a lot of critics decided to say that it’s not a good film because the film decides to go for the more fun aspects of the bands history. While watching the film I already knew that ‘critics’ will not like the fact that Freddie’s story isn’t treated as personal as it could have. And yes, even as someone not too familiar with the personal life of Freddie Mercury, I understand that there would have been a lot more room to explore. But do we really need that in this film? Freddie’s struggles are covered enough I think. And again, it’s not a movie solely about him. It’s about the band.

The film starts with Freddie’s family and him struggling to handle the situation he lives in. He’s clearly not happy but you can see in his eyes that he’s got some plans he wants to execute. We can also notice an uncertainty that he is not exactly sure how to move on. As pretty much always destiny strikes when Freddie (Rami Malek) meets Brian (Gwilym Lee) and Roger (Ben Hardy). Brian and Roger’s band just fell apart and Freddie seizes the opportunity, talks to Brian and Roger and manages to convince them to try it with him as a singer. Brian and Roger are reluctant but blown away by the power and performance Freddie is able to bring up and they don’t think twice. The band still neds a bass player and finds one with John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello). The band soon is on track to produce some of the most iconic pieces of Rock music in history. While all that is going on and the development of the band in their early years is shown, we also focus on Freddie a little more again. His personal life and his conflicting feelings in regards to his sexuality. In these parts you could argue that the film could have taken a slower approach to show a more buanced picture of who was Freddie Mercury and what he had to deal with. That’s pretty much the only criticism I have for this film. But for this film, that is as equally about the band as it is about Freddie, I’m fine with it. What follows is the history of the band up to Queen’s legendary 1986 Live Aid performance. We see the band struggling with the corporate side of the music business and with artistic decisions. And in the end even get a very valuable hint for artists in any field. And that is the fact that you always need critical people around you. You need people who reign you in when you go overboard. Freddie always wanted the most freedom possible. And when he got it he was as depressed and uninspired as never before in his life. So, this movie even has some lessons for the audience.

The technical aspects of the film are fine. Here and there we have some very obvious green screen scenes that could have been executed a little better. The acting from all involved works really good and the actors who play Queen have a good chemistry. The protrayal of the 70s and 80s looks authentic and the historic scenes (especially the Live aid part) were done as accurate as possible. It’s a film that needs to be seen with a good sound system. The music mix was fantastic in Dolby Atmos and really gave the movie some extra punch.

Will the film win any awards? Probably not. But it’s a really fun ride throug the history of one of the best bands we ever had. I’m sure we will eventually get a more personal biopic about the person that was Freddie Mercury. This movie is not that movie. It’s more about fun than drama. And the fun moments have a great impact and really are a lot of fun.


Bohemian Rhapsody on IMDb

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – Movie Review

Thursday, July 26th, 2018

movie reviewSo far I’ve seen every Jurassic Park (JP) film in theaters. I have some very personal memories with the 1993 film. So, of course, I went and saw the latest release as well. After the first Jurassic World (2015) film my expectations weren’t too high. Jurassic World (JW) being a soft reboot of the series, they recycled pretty much all elements from the very first JP film. As if they worked with a checklist (again). I’m quite certain they did. Now with this second JW film I was interested if they would come up with something original, or if they used a checklist as well. It seems they did. Right at the start the trained movie fan eye can spot a couple of scenes that very obviously address the main critiques they got for the first JW film. And while the first JW film appeared to be rather consistent with its plot, this film feels as if it suffers schizophrenia. It really does not know what it wants to be. A straight JP film with the typical elements (like the first JW film) or something entirely different.

The film starts with an official hearing of experts regarding how to treat the dinosaurs that are still left on Isla Nublar. Of course the Jurassic World park went out of business after what happened in the first JW movie. Now the question is if we let the dinos live or if we ‘retire’ (to use a Blade Runner term) them. We see a glorious Jeff Goldblum reprising his role as Ian Malcolm. “Life will find a way”. And it certainly does in this film. Next we get to Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) who was one of the higher ups, managing the Jurassic World park when went down in the last film. After what happened to her you could argue that she’s seen and had enough of dinosaurs and now probably needs psychological help to find sleep at night again. But no, she wants to save the dinos that are left on the island. For that she leads an organisation pleading to politicians to keep the dinos alive. She loves the creatures that, multiple times, almost killed her. Which is the first, of a number, of highly unrealistic things in this film.

The situation on Isla Nublar is criticial. Suddenly there is a volcano (we previously never heard of I think?) that threatens the wildlife and the dinosaurs. So there needs to be a decision fast. What to do with the creatures living on the island? Rescue them or let them go extinct a second time? Claire gets contacted by Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) who proposes to resettle the dinos onto another island. One that is perfectly shaped to keep the dinos in and the humans out. So Claire and two of her colleagues from that ‘save dinos organisation’ team up with a group of mercenaries and hunters to go the the island and rescue some of the creatures. But not without Claire contacting Owen Grady (Chris Pratt). Now Owen did get to the right conclusions, after what happened to them in the first JW movie. He’s seen enough of dinosaurs and wants his peace. He doesn’t care if they go down on that island or not. Only his connection and love (kinda?!) for Claire makes him join the trip. Then there’s Blue, one of the Velociraptors Owen trained in the first film. And Blue is also the creature our group of mercenaries is really after.

And here we are in full effect for the first half of the film. On the island. We get to see the park again, or what’s left of it after what happened last time. Constantly under pressure because of a volcano. This is the part that really feels like a Jurassic Park film. It’s the part I personally enjoyed the most. Some really nice landscape shots and the VFX are outstanding. Unfortunately the spectacle is slightly overshadowed by recycled plot elements of The Lost World (the second Jurassic Park film from 1997). And that goes through the whole film. The recycled parts are not as super obvious as in the first JW film but still very well recognizable. They tried their best to bring in variation/hide it. And in some parts they even succeed.

When the mercs got their dinos, as well as Blue, they immediately leave the island. Still leaving behind tons of creatures now doomed to die. Transitioning into the second half of the film. Which almost completely plays out in a big rich man’s mansion where the movie turns into a horror film. Again similar to the ending of The Lost World. Although they (like I mentioned earlier) tried to divorce it as much as possible from the crystal clear influence. And that is all I want to say about the story.

Throughout the film we see our characters thrown into different kinds of situations they have to deal with. It’s fun to watch them trying to solve these situations and most of the time the chemistry between the actors works as well. You could argue that Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt don’t have much chemistry going on or there is a coldness between them. But for some reason it works for me. The two characters they play had a failed relationship and they learned that it doesn’t work. Yet they feel drawn to each other. That reluctancy toward each other works since both characters kind of know that, if they come back together, it will probably end in tears and hurting them both once again. We also have Rafe Spall, James Cromwell, Toby Jones and Geraldine Chaplin in this film. Faces I always love to see appear in a movie. And they do a fine job. Even though Toby Jones is a little overacting at times here. Still liked what he added to the film.

Technically the film leaves a better impression than the first JW film. Camera, angles, composition all that works pretty much flawless in this film. We get some very nice shots and inspired camera movements throughout the film. The VFX are top notch and overall it’s a very pretty film to look at. No doubt. The director J.A. Bayona did the best he could. If only the script would have been better! Same goes for the score. What’s going on Hollywood?! Is Hans Zimmer the only one left who gets enough freedom to compose something memorable? The score in this film is so generic. First when the credits start to roll and the original Jurassic Park theme by John Williams plays… well… it shouldn’t have been at the end but at the very front of the film. It’s timeless and a masterpiece. John Williams is the man! Composer Michael Giacchino is not a bad guy for scores either – the contrary. Not sure what happened but for this film it was as unmemorable as it can be. A shame.

This film is incredibly stupid. All logic thrown out the window. Character decisions very hard to understand. Yet this film is entertaining. You could easily edit 10 minutes out of the last half hour though. That last half hour in general is so packed with stupid decisions that it almost hurts! Still… the film is weirdly fun. I always love to see Chris Pratt. His charisma just works for me. Bryce Dallas Howard is very easy on the eyes and gets some fun moments too. I wished we would have had more time on the island. I don’t really need to see the dinos outside their natural habitat. I want to be transported to a place I don’t see day in day out. But that’s me. Some people like the second half much more since we’ve seen the first half of the film, on the island, so many times now. Hard to argue with that.

Now with the obvious influences checked off the list, it will be interesting to see where they go next. There will be a third film. I have no doubt. I’ll probably see it. And if it’s just for Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt.


Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom on IMDb

Solo: A Star Wars Story – Movie Review

Sunday, June 17th, 2018

movie reviewI have rarely seen a film that the press covered in such detail before it came out. The film did have some serious production issues with the original director duo (The guys who did the Lego Movie) being fired shortly after shooting of the film began. Creative differences they said. They brought Ron Howard on board. A solid director with a solid track record (I love Apollo 13). Then there were constant bad news about the Han Solo actor Alden Ehrenreich. Reports that they gave him an acting coach because his performance seemed not appropriate and good enough. Then the fans that constantly voiced their negative stance on the production as a whole. Tumultuous would be a word to perfectly describe the history of the film so far. Now what’s the result? Is the end product even a movie?

Han Solo. One of the most iconic movie characters ever created. The decision to make a standalone movie about him was seen critical from the get go. Even if it was the logical next step for Disney to do a Han Solo movie. Everyone expected it and a lot of people still complained when it was announced and happening. I was indifferent. What I knew was that the film would at least end up being entertaining. I also knew that we would finally get a different perspective on the SW universe. Not the ever grand perspective of Jedi or Sith… Rebels or Empire… no, we wanted to see something of the every day/every mans life in that universe. This movie kind of delivers on that. And sure, why not? The character of Han Solo needs and demands that backdrop.

The biggest thing of course… who would be casted to play Han Solo? I have seen so many youtube video titles reporting about that… insane. And pretty much all of them complained about the casting of Alden Ehrenreich. These people haven’t even seen the film and base their opinions solely on news that may or may not be true. Who knows? And even if it’s a sacrilege… yes, I thought Alden Ehrenreich did a nice job! Eat it, you crazy SW fans! He did perfectly fine and I’ll stay with that opinion, no matter what. I don’t know what people expect. There’s no young Harrison Ford out there. You simply can’t replicate his performance 1 to 1. Ford even admitted that SW never really was his cup of tea. So even the performance of the original actor probably wasn’t the best. Even if we all loved it, it was just fine for the part, nothing more. So yes, Ehrenreich did a fine enough job too. The only thing I would have loved to see more of would be Han’s more sleazy side. The character of the young Han Solo as portrayed in this film is a little ‘too good’.

We start on Corellia. A SW location long overdue for a visual treatment. Young Han (Alden Ehrenreich) is part of a gang of thieves trying to survive. Together with Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) he dreams of leaving the place and make something of his life. Both soon get a once in a lifetime opportunity. Due to unfortunate events both become separated and are forced to go their own ways. Due to circumstances Han is forced to join the Empire. One of the more interesting parts of the film. Seeing an infantry war from the imperial side. Some good scenes here with dense (similar to WW1) war imagery. We all know that Han has problems with authorities and so the empire isn’t really his thing. During a battle he teams up with Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and his crew. Beckett is using the chaos of the battle to steal stuff from the empire. A desperate Han tries to join them. Before he can… we see how he meets up with Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo). Han and Chewie join Becketts crew. Together they go on a heist mission that goes wrong. They have to justify their failure to a client called Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany). Dryden is a pretty big name criminal and a dangerous enemy to have. Much to Han’s surprise he meets Qi’ra on Dryden’s ship. Quite some time has passed and Qi’ra isn’t exactly the person we know from the beginning of the film anymore. Dryden gives them a second chance with another job and sends Qi’ra with them. In all honesty… I would have been fine with a little less Emilia Clarke in this film. She’s a piece of wood. I don’t really see her appeal as an actress. For said job they need a new ship and find out that a certain Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) loves to gamble a lot. Han joins a game and manages to win Lando’s ship. The Millennium Falcon. Now that the whole gang of small time criminals found together, they start to go for the job. The infamous Kessel Run! In less than 12 parsecs? How can that even work?! Well, they made it possible. That’s the part with the coolest visuals and some solid action pieces. Let’s just say they survive it and leave the synopsis there. Overall it’s a nice and fun plot that changes locations quite a bit. Which is a welcome thing to have as long as it doesn’t get confusing. Which it doesn’t in this film.

Could it have been a better movie? Yes, it probably could have. I’m of the opinion that they need to give the writers more time to come up with interesting stuff! We don’t need two SW movies per year. It’s ridiculous. The good thing is that we don’t actually see how troubled the production of the film was. It has a good solid flow with some minor pacing issues here and there. The visual presentation was very dark at times. A look I would have wished for in Rogue One… but not really in a Han Solo movie. I’m sure they had their reasons for the dark presentation but more often than not it blocks the opportunities to see the rich detail of the sets and stuff in general. Which is a shame because there definitely is a rich detail going on. After some harsh critique for that… they might fix that for the Bluray release, I hope. Another downside were some cringeworthy fanservice moments. The film also spells out too many things. Seems to not have enough confidence in the brains of the audience. I liked the fact that the film had a rather quiet ending. Not the usual big battle.

To answer the question from earlier, yes it is a movie. It’s not even a bad one! But it’s also nothing more than ‘fine’ for what it wants to be. The film certainly has some glaring weak points. But the overall experience was positive and I’m certain I’ll revisit this first adventure with a younger Han Solo. And Disney… please do not try to re-cast Han Solo. Ehrenreich did a good job and he will most certainly grow into it over time.

No masterpiece but a solid and entertaining piece of film.


Solo: A Star Wars Story on IMDb

Avengers: Infinity War – Movie Review

Monday, May 21st, 2018

movie reviewThe very fact, that this movie even became a reality, can only be applauded at this point. I tip my hat to what Marvel Studios achieved in the past 10 years. They carefully crafted storylines for all these different superheroes to lead into this first part, of a two part (kind of finale), movie. Who would have thought that all these different superheroes would even work for an audience? Back then I was more than skeptical when they announced a Thor movie! Well, the first one wasn’t too amazing but still worked in bringing this universe closer together. The more fantasy and magic based stuff in the Thor storyline enabled a Doctor Strange movie for example. Another character that most people didn’t even know existed. Plus so many characters that didn’t get their own film and were introduced along the way. It very rarely did not work. And that’s fairly amazing. The downside is… you will be completely lost watching this film, without having an idea what else happened throughout the other films. The upside is… they did not need to waste time introducing characters and jumped right into the story.

The bigger weakness of all the past movies were the villains, the bad guys. In this film we finally get a baddy that comes with the full package. Thanos (Josh Brolin) has a compelling backstory and a motivation that is relateable. That instantly makes him much more dangerous because you don’t really know what he’ll do. He’s not a cliche. His set of motivations can lead to different outcomes and his relationship to Gamora (Zoe Zaldana) is almost heart breaking. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) still struggles with PTSD from what happened in the previous Avengers films. And rightfully so. A lot of stuff happened and some deal with it better than others. So there are some real life issues tackled by this film. Which is always a good thing to have, since it allows the audience to connect much better with the material they see now and have seen in the past. Every film made the previous films better. Most of them managed to build on each other and overall made the universe as a whole richer.

The film starts pretty much where we left off with Thor: Ragnarok. Right off the bat we are confronted with Thanos and get a taste of his powers. Thanos is looking for six infinity stones. Each stone has a specific power that would allow him to literally control the universe and what its made of. We follow Thanos collecting these stones. Which actually makes him the main character of this film. The Avengers themselfes often feel like they aren’t actually the main part of the film. The heavier and more meaningful parts always include Thanos. I really enjoyed the depth they gave him. Of course we get to see our heroes do their hero stuff and it’s fantastically choreographed action sequences. I rarely lost oversight of what was going on and the way they shot these sequences works nicely. A lot of ‘tag team’ action where our heroes combine their abilitys and powers. They did that very nicely in the past and continue to do that here in the best possible ways. To get all these characters into one big film is a task. Especially to give them all something to do! Naturally some are more reduced to just being there, while others get larger moments to shine. Captain America (Chris Evans) felt very flat this time. Which he never was in the past. He was always one of the more interesting characters. So looking at the end of the film it can be argued that the old guard will get their moments in the second film. While the newer characters got their action in this first movie to take a step back in the next. Due to all these heroes doing stuff, the film jumps around quite a bit too. Lots of different locations. Which, in other films could have been problematic, but here it kept the whole thing fresh, in regards to the long running time of the film, another accomplishment. The different locations also helped to keep the heroes divided (which normally sucks but was clearly necessary here) into groups. These pairings were thought out very well and enabled some inspired scenes and interactions. They clearly had their fun writing these parts.

I wasn’t super hyped for this film. I still haven’t seen Spiderman: Homecoming and Black Panther. I even contemplated not watching Infinity War before I watched these two. I figured that I haven’t watched all the other films (over 10 years) for nothing and that I really deserved watching Infinity War in big and with superb sound. The theater was almost empty and it was perfect! =D I also thought that the two films I missed did not seem to have a too big story impact on Infinity War. Luckily I was right. This film worked for me.

Are there some negative points to this film? Yes. It is very long. 150 minutes were definitely needed to tell that story but it’s still very long. The ending feels very abrupt. Thanos is entirely CGI and in some parts it does show. Even though they did a very good job for most of the time. Half (if not more) of this film is entirely CGI… why not go full CGI at this point? I ask the same question with the Transformers film every single time. Near the end there is a scene with Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) in the Hulkbuster armour and it looks like shit. Sorry, whoever worked on that part, it looks really really badly integrated. But I digress. I’m still no fan of the music/score in these films. Yes, the Avengers theme is somewhat memorable but the rest is/feels like noise. I don’t like the Avengers theme. It doesn’t feel epic at all. It’s just good enough to serve its purpose. Like pretty much all the music in these Marvel movies. That’s still a shame.

So yes, this movie is the spectacle everyone wanted and even a little more. My surprise is Thanos. I liked him a lot. I know, he’s the bad guy but still, finally a bad guy that has some gravitas. I saw the film in 2D and Dolby Atmos sound… it was perfect. No 3D needed. I’m event interested in the upcoming Captain Marvel and Infinity War 2 now. Another accomplishement!


Avengers: Infinity War on IMDb

Dunkirk – Movie Review

Sunday, May 13th, 2018

movie reviewAfter finally seeing it at home, I kind of regret not having seen it on the big screen, in a theater. Christopher Nolan certainly knows how to put together a film with great images. Images that suck you in and create a dense feel for the atmosphere he intents for his films. Dunkirk has these images as well and creates an almost ghostly feel throughout the entire picture. It’s a film that makes you want to say that it’s a typical Nolan movie. But that’s not entirely right. Now if you would break it all down it would probably point to a lot of ‘Nolanisms’… stuff you can find in every one of his films. But it still feels very different. I was disappointed by Interstellar. I felt he wanted to do too much stuff in there that he’s not exactly the best guy for. Dunkirk was perfect for him.

It’s 1940. British, belgian and french soldiers are trapped and surrounded by the germans on the beaches of Dunkirk. After a failed offensive to free france, almost 400000 soldiers are trapped by a german military at its peak of efficiency. Evacuation moves slowly due to constant bombing runs and submarine attacks. Up to a point where the british don’t want to spare ships anymore and start to requisit and send out civilian vessels to get the soldiers out. History. From what can be found/read, it’s safe to say, the film treated the historical events fairly accurate.

What really sticks out is the ghostly presentation. Especially some of the beach scenes are shot in a way that shows the soldiers more as shadows instead of appearing like real people. Combined with the underplayed, humming music by Hans Zimmer it creates a very special atmosphere. It is no typical war movie with lots of action and explosions. Instead we get a closer look at the soldiers and how they tried to get away from an almost certain death by german forces coming closer and closer to the beach. The constant fear of Luftwaffe attacks and their bombers.

Technically we get 3 movies in one. All three of them different and interesting in their own ways. First we get the soldier story. Here we follow three soldiers on their journey trying to get home. The second piece follows a man, his son and a friend that embark to save some soldiers with their ship. The third part shows two RAF pilots who try to keep ships safe from Luftwaffe bombing runs. Of course all these parts come together at one point. There are time differences in their stories though. I had no problems following the strings but I can imagine this to be a little problematic for an audience that’s not fully ‘there’. All three parts give a nice shift in perspective and the editing to keep everything in a good flow works very good. It surely wasn’t easy to edit all the elements, so the audience doesn’t get confuse. Same goes for the filming. Scenes you experience with the fighter pilots earlier, do come back later, from a different perspective, but you recognize the connection due to behaviour of the planes and their moves. That’s masterfully done.

Due to the different parts and the way they are presented, we end up with some inconsistencies here and there. Especially when it comes to the weather and light situations. Granted… it’s pretty much always stormy weather and so the lighting situations between scenes naturally differ from scene to scene. But in some parts the difference are a little too obvious. That’s just a minor nitpick though. That’s what happens when you film on location and not in a studio.

So ultimately this film comes almost appears like an experimental film. Its appearance for a war movie is very different. There are pretty much no heroes in this film. Except for one character maybe. Don’t expect a super bombastic movie. Nonetheless it’s quite fantastic, relevant and a good watch.


Dunkirk on IMDb

A Quiet Place – Movie Review

Saturday, May 5th, 2018

movie reviewAfter hearing a number of good things about this film, I decided to grab a good friend of mine and have good evening! I did not have this film on my radar too much. Only recently it created a blip on said radar and the film’s runtime, of just 90 minutes, looked very attractive to me. Now if you have seen the trailer you probably understand what the film is about. A world where sound can be your end. Did they manage to create a believable world for that concept and do the performances work? Let’s see.

As far as I understand it’s the second movie by John Krasinski. An actor who made his name by being part of the US version of ‘The Office’. Which I have never seen a single episode of. But I know the British original and the German version. So he’s clearly coming from a comedy angle/background. He recently ventured out and tried himself on other stuff and, from what I can gather, with success. He’s a very charismatic actor and, it seems, very talented director as well. “A quiet place” certainly leaves an impression!

The movie follows family Abott, in a world that’s gone quiet. Evelyn (Emily Blunt), Lee (John Krasinski), Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe) and Beau (Cade Woodward). Throughout the film we get some hints to what happened to this world, and very early on are confronted with the tragedies that are possible in this world. Evelyn and Lee do their best to protect their children from this world. And certainly try to prepare them for a life in this world. Therefore it is very easy to slip into the skin of all the characters and their thought process behind every decision they have to make. The script is also smart enough to show and explain how they manage to survive in this world. The subject matter and the execution of the film is very efficient and only goes into detail where it’s absolutely necessary. It does not talk down to its audience and wants the audience to connect certain things on their own. And no, it’s not a complicated film. It is easy to follow. Still, so many films nowadays find it necessary to explain even the most unimportant details. Not so here. And it’s welcome.

As soon as the film starts we understand that the environment the Abotts live in will demand sacrifices and we’re waiting for them to happen. We’re with the family until the end and the film fokusses purely on them. So we see how they manage to live their daily life and what obstacles they have to overcome. The characters are believable and the actors get as much out of the script as possible. Which is great acting by all involved since there really isn’t too much dialogue between the characters going on. Emily Blunt and John Krasinski have good chemistry and it’s nice to see Emily Blunt in a horror movie. She can literally do anything. She’s that good. And John Krasinski, with this film, will put himself on a list for not only hip actors but directors as well. I’m certainly interested in where he’s going next.

So yes, it is a good film. There are some small down sides though. Like so many horror movies these days, we get a number of jump scares here as well. Unfortunately most (not all) these jump scares feel very constructed and just being there for the sake of being there. A tiny bit more info about how the world turned into this mess would have been nice too. Maybe one or two lines. Not more. As stated earlier I did welcome the condensed runtime of the film. But 5-8 more minutes to create some more atmosphere would have maybe worked out nice too. But that really is a minor nitpick. The film, at no point, felt rushed.

It certainly was an interesting experience watching such a quiet film in a dark theater. Probably the best way watching this film! So if you can still catch it… try to!


A Quiet Place on IMDb

The Shape Of Water – Movie Review

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

movie reviewAfter “The Shape Of Water” won the Oscar I was very interested to see what it’s all about. I was interested before, but not to a “need to see this on the big screen” level. Now I made some time, had a great evening with some nice company and watched a really nice movie to round out the evening. Does the film live up to the hype? Well, let’s see.

Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is a mute, young woman working as a janitor in a secret government science laboratory facility during the early days of the cold war. We see her every day life and her daily routine. She’s kind of lonely but surrounds herself with some very close and dear friends with which she is quite happy with. One day she and her colleague/friend Zelda (Octavia Spencer) cleaning up a lab room when there is suddenly a transfer happening and a weird container is brought in. Along with the container we meet Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon). Strickland turns out to be some kind of overseer to that new project and he leaves no doubt about what kind of person he is. Dr. Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) is also there, as the lead scientist. The film doesn’t pull any punshes and, along with the characters in the film, we early on see the Amphibian Man (Doug Jones) who is captured in that container/laboratory. Elisa, right from the get go, is very curious and interested in that creature. So it happens that, over the course of the first two acts of the film, she builds a connection and friendship to the Amphibian Man. When Strickland decides to kill the creature, Elisa and her friends along with Hoffstetler, decide to break the Amphibian Man out of the lab to save him. Elisa hides him. A sweet romance starts between them. Strickland is on their heels though and trying get to the creature to kill it. Meanwhile the creature becomes sick and needs to get back into the ocean. Which leads to a nice finale, where everyone plays a part.

I’ve seldomly seen a film that manages to find the right balance between so many different genres. There is literally something for everyone in here. We have romance, character study, tiny parts of history, drama, small doses of horror and comedy in here. Even a small musical number! And it all goes hand in hand. Nothing gets in the way of the other. You could argue that a film, so diverse in the genres it’s moving in, may be too much of everything but not grounded enough in a specific genre. And yes, most of the times that is a point of critique. But I find that Del Toro made it work here. He found the right balance between the genres he wanted to cover. It just flows… like water. The only aspect I can see not working a 100% is the romance part. When you’re not watching closely you might miss a certain hint that kind of explaines why Elisa is drawn to the creature. If you miss that part, the romance elements may feel a little too far-fetched.

Acting wise it’s all perfectly solid work by all involved. There are some great scenes with Michael Shannon as Strickland, that are wonderfully disgusting. Shannon is such a good actor. You can see how he enjoyed being the bad guy in this film. Sally Hawkins, playing the mute woman and our main protagonist, also delivers a superb performance. Especially since she cannot use her voice, all her emotions have to be expressed by her face and body. She makes it work. Then we have Giles, played by Richard Jenkins, who is an out of luck advertising illustrator in his 60s living next to Elisa. Both of them have a strong bond and both of them are lonely… so both support each other. Jenkins also does a very lovely job with his character, making Giles a very relatable person. Then we have Robert Hoffstetler – the lead scientist played by Michael Stuhlbarg. Stuhlbarg manages to appear in pretty much every movie I liked recently. Another very relatable character that is mixed up in a russian spy plot within the film. There is quite some stuff going on in this film and these nice characters/actors hold it all together very well. I never felt lost and always knew what was going on.

Never feeling lost and always knowing what’s going on in a film is certainly a sign of good writing. The film budget was around $20m and it’s remarkable what quality we get. A 20 million budget could nowadays be categorized as a low budget film. At least in Hollywood terms. Technically the film appears pretty much flawless. Camera, Production Design, Presentation, Music, Script, Direction, Acting… it all works. Now the questions is, will it become a classic? It certainly has all the right ingredients. But maybe the romance part between Elisa and the creature is a tiny bit off putting for some audiences? However, I think it’s all presented in a tasteful manner and surely make the movie a little more special. It’s also notable how the films with less of a budget pretty much always turn out to be the good ones. Well, yeah… Blade Runner 2049 was plain magic and amazing with its 200 million budget… but it’s so rare with these high budget films.


The Shape Of Water on IMDb