Archive for the 'Movie Reviews' Category

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.

7.9/10

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.

6.6/10

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.

7.6/10

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!

7.7/10

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.

7.9/10

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!

7.7/10

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.

7.8/10

The Shape Of Water on IMDb

The Cloverfield Paradox – Movie Review

Monday, February 12th, 2018

movie reviewWhat fascinating times we live in. Here we have a movie that was supposed to come out in theaters and suddenly falls into the hands of streaming service Netflix and they release the movie without any big advertisings whatsoever. What does that say about the quality of the film? Was there no confidence it could make some solid boxoffice cash? For the consumer it’s certainly not a bad thing. We got instant access to the film. A film that is the third installment in a series of films that are (kind of) connected. First we got Cloverfield in 2008. A ‘giant monster’ film, that left us with tons of questions. Then, silence for a while. I guess the makers thought about the direction they want to go with it. Cloverfield was quite a success and, despite its handheld point of view/shakycam filming style, a rather good film. Then in 2016 we got Cloverfield Lane. Definitely not what everyone expected. However, it was a very solid film with some very solid performances and direction. The trained eye also managed to find tons of references to the viral marketing campaign that connected both films. Rumors about a third movie spawned rather quickly. This third film now ended up being ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’.

The basic story behind it is pretty simple. In 2028, a multinational crew of scientists on a space station try to find a way to solve the energy crisis, that has hit Earth. On that orbiting station they have a particle-accelerator kind of device that, so they hope, will solve their global energy problems. After two years of tests and closing in on pure desperation, the crew decides to do another test. Of course that is where stuff is going wrong after looking promising at first. The crew finds out that Earth disappeared and soon discoveres that they switched realities. A lot of weird stuff happens along their way to find a solution to all their problems. So much for a quickie unspoiled story description. Kind of basic stuff, right? A story we’ve had before. At least when it comes to the outline of it.

This movie is a mixed bag. On the one hand we have a really solid quality production. Fantastic vfx and production design. You can see that the film was made for a bigger screen. The cast is also worth mentioning. Daniel Brühl, David Oyelowo, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris O’Dowd. Some familiar faces and names! And after seeing the film, it’s safe to say they did the best with what they had. The script itself is problematic and in parts very scifi/horror cliche. To its defense, it balances out these cliches, with some parts that really contain neat twists. But does the creativity in those twists save the film? To a degree yes. At least it never felt boring to me. There are a lot of situations where you question the decisions made by the crew though. However, in horror movies like that, you pretty much always have people make stupid decisions, to create some tension. So yes, the script could have been a lot smarter. Something that Cloverfield Lane did almost perfectly right, with a very solid and smart script behind it. The editing is also a little problematic. There are a couple of parts on Earth that do not connect very well. I at least felt a little irritated here and there. But one thing I absolutely don’t understand is why the chinese character in that film only speaks chinese. Everyone else speaks english! They subtitled her. In the established scientific environment we see in the film, surely as unrealistic as it can be. I guess the answer is ‘Asian markets’.

Camera and vfx work was really nice. Especially in the vfx work you can see that there was some money spent. The design of the station and how it presented itself felt unique. I really enjoyed the exterior shots of it. Bear McCreary did a good job with the score too. As explained earlier, the editing is a little weak… along with the script.

I guess, the success of the film surely depends on expectations. I didn’t have any. I wanted to be entertained and I think the film does a nice job with that. I wouldn’t even say that the film wants to be more than just entertaining. Try not to look for deeper meaning or some philosophical stuff. Most of the science they talk about makes no sense either, which makes me believe the film didn’t even try to be something more than an extended Outer Limits, Twilight Zone or Black Mirror episode. Which is fine to me. Is it a masterpiece? No it isn’t. Of the now three Cloverfield films it’s the weakest.

If you have Netflix and a thing for scifi… check it out on a rainy afternoon or lazy evening.

6.2/10

The Cloverfield Paradox on IMDb

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Movie Review

Tuesday, December 26th, 2017

movie reviewBurn it to the ground! It surely is one of the most complicated tasks of our time, to continue a series of movies that is so beloved (almost religious) by such a crazy amount of people. Yep, Star Wars. So much mythology, so many characters, so many details! Now imagine you want to give it a new spin. You want to try to not only build on what came before but also enhance it by doing new stuff and play around a bit. Subverting expectations is something you could try, to find an entry point for something new. That ‘new spin’ you’re looking for. J.J. Abrams’ ‘The Force Awakens’ (TFA) played it pretty safe. A lot of familiar beats in that film. No question. Still, I enjoyed the film a lot and also noticed the new stuff – the film trying to open up new opportunities for future installments. But the main point it had to fight with was the resemblance to Episode 4 – A New Hope. Still, fans were into it and a lot of fan theories (which I personally couldn’t care less about) showed how invested fans were for the next film. Episode 8 – The Last Jedi (TLJ) tries and goes down an almost entirely own path. It seems the makers of the film listened to their audience. At least to a certain degree. But did the film in itself succeed? Let’s see what a new director (Rian Johnson) can bring to the series and if he is able to build on what we were left off with in the previous film by J.J. Abrams.

The first surprise is that this film starts exactly where we left the previous film. It feels like almost no time has passed between the films. After the desperate but successful attack on Starkiller base, what’s left of the Resistance/Rebels/Alliance (the good guys) evacuates the base they were stationed on in the previous film. All while a New Order fleet (led by General Hux (Domnhall Gleeson) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver)) is trying to block the good guys from jumping into hyperspace and escape. Which brings up a continuity problem (one of many in this film). After some nice space battle action the Rebel fleet escapes. Unfortunately the New Order has a device that makes it possible for them to locate the Rebel fleet. Soon after the Rebel fleet jumps into safety, a New Order fleet shows up right behind them. That includes a super massive flagship. So now it’s Hux, Kylo Ren and Snoke right at their tails. The small rebel fleet (very very small) manages to get out of effective laser range of the New Order. The shields of the rebel fleet hold but their engine energy slowly drains. So a cat and mouse game starts. Which brings up another plot hole. Why doesn’t the New Order just start some of their fighters and long range bombers to catch up to the rebel fleet that outpaces the capital ships of the New Order? As far as I can evaluate the situation in that scenario… the rebel fleet would have been toast… space toast. In a matter of minutes. Not to mention some inconsistencies (story wise) with the shields on that rebel ship. So instead we have this cat and mouse scenario going on for almost 3/4 of the film. It maintains a certain level of suspense but feels odd at the same time.

In the meantime Rey (Daisy Ridley) met up with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and tries to talk him into training her. He refuses. His standpoint now is that the force (as a whole) is the root of all evil. And I’m completely on Luke’s side here. Even if the Luke we’ve seen up to this point doesn’t really represent the Luke Skywalker I grew up with. Rey doesn’t stop trying to convince him to train her and follows Luke across the island. We meet the Porgs and I actually like these guys. They (for me) represent the humour parts that work in the film. And there are too many that do not hit the mark at all. Luke changes his mind and tries to teach Rey at least some basic things. tries to make her understand his standpoint in regards to the force. That’s something we should have seen more of though. I’m very conflicted about the portrayal of Luke in this film. Luke’s character swings back and forth between the Luke we know and some other character. The argument is that we’ve not seen him for so long and people change. Still. Mark Hamill does a fantastic job with what he’s working with though. I liked his performance a lot. He managed to give Luke some depth and here and there we get that version of Luke we learned to love.

While Rey is with Luke and the rebel fleet fleeing from an overwhelming display of force by the New Order, it’s time to start a subplot for Finn (John Boyega) and a new character named Rose (Kelly Marie Tran). Finn wants to get Rey and after some misunderstandings with Rose they ultimately decide to find a way to disable the tracking device that enables the New Order to find and track the rebel fleet. For that they visit a ‘Casino Planet’. This (estimated 45 minute) plotline leads to nothing. It introduces the character of Rose, which I actually enjoyed a lot. She’s a good addition to the set of characters and the chemistry between Finn and Rose works too. But that’s not the actual problem here. Instead we should ask ourselfes why this plotline got included in the film. More screentime for an asian character to make this movie more attractive for asian markets? Sounds cold but plausible, right? I mean, it’s Disney we’re dealing with here. They try to cover up this very weak plotline with some political and social statements about the rich, poor and the face of war. It’s very on the nose and wreaks of poor writing. This whole subplot does. Finn and Rose meet a codecracker named DJ (Benicio Del Toro) who helps them with their task. DJ is a neat character too! But in the conclusion of that subplot he is completely wasted. This Finn and Rose part felt incredibly like the prequel movies. Even down to the overall CGI’y look of the Casino Planet. Very uninspired writing. I’m sure that part already got cut to the shortest possible result. But I feel there are at least another 5 minutes we could lose there.

We learn that Kylo and Rey seem to have a certain way of connecting through the force. While on the island with Luke, Rey and Kylo talk out some things that ultimately lead to Rey leaving Luke behind. She begs Luke to come with her but he refuses. A decision I can understand at this point in the film. Rey voluntarily meets up with Kylo on Snoke’s flagship. This meetup eventually leads to a confrontation with Snoke. This is probably one of the stronger parts of the film. The back and forth between Snoke and Rey. Kylo’s reactions to what’s going on. You may say whatever you want about the results of that confrontation… but it’s effective. I’m very split about this direction. The scenes between Rey and Kylo are the best though. Both actors do a good job of portraying the conflict between them.

Things on the last remaining ship of the rebel fleet become tense as the fuel levels fall. Luckily they managed to come close enough to a planet that contains an old rebel outpost. They begin to leave the ship while Finn, Rose and DJ are on Snoke’s flag ship and manage to find the tracking device. Unfortunately a betrayal happens. Which almost entirely renders Finn’s and Rose’s subplot useless.

Then one of the most epic scenes in Star Wars history happens.

For a moment it seems like Kylo and Rey team up. Finn and Rose manage to catch up with the rebels that managed to escape to a planet that was their destination right from the beginning. Everything is ready for a final battle. And a battle we get. Along with (again) one of the stupidest character moments. However, I don’t want to go into every little detail and stop the plot discussion here.

After seeing that film I feel that there will be Fans 1.0 and Fans 2.5 (Fans 2.0 would be the folks who grew up with the prequels I guess). The film doesn’t even try to hide the fact that it, almost literally, wants to burn down what came before it. And while I’m not entirely opposed to that… I really feel it could have been done with a little more respect. Not just respect for the previous material but also respect for the fans of that material. There are parts of the story that I felt were useless and could have been avoided. There is this mutiny element on the fleeing rebel ship that could have easily been avoided by the leaders just telling their plans to everyone. Wouldn’t a competent leader do that in a dire situation just to avoid unnecessary complications? There weren’t many people left anyway! Just tell them! No, instead we create some artificial conflict. A conflict that plays out kind of fine in the film but falls apart as soon as you think about it. We need to keep some characters in the dark because otherwise they would have zero character growth in this film. Character growth and how it’s handled is a general issue in this film.

Talking about respect for the material. Give Admiral Ackbar a better death! Some might argue it’s a ‘non-character’. But enough fans have read enough books (of the old, now cancelled, extended universe (thanks Disney)) where he did play a larger role. Let him initiate that wonderful epic scene I mentioned earlier! There is no need to introduce a new character just for that. Well, ok, it’s Disney… they probably want to sell some stuff with that new character. Sometimes it’s too obvious. Or is it just to diversify the cast with more females? I don’t care. All I know is that they had a perfect character for that scene and felt the need to go with someone no one ever heard of.

From a technical point of view there is almost nothing to complain about. Almost. I think it is certainly one of the most beautiful SW films yet. Some great camera angles and well composed shots. John Williams composed a nice score for it. The sound design is pretty much flawless (Dolby Atmos really brought out the best in that department). Only the writing could have been better. It is weird how at the end of the film our characters have undergone a change… but not necessarily grown. Some of them end up where they started. Even after an 2 1/2hr movie where tons of things happen. The Casino part feels staged and too much. Unfortunately the film splits up the characters we had fun with in TFA. Finn and Rey had such a nice chemistry in that first film and they don’t share anything in this film. Rey and Poe seem to meet for the first time ever at the end of this film. Which is completely odd. That said…

…I must say that I did like the film a lot better after a second viewing. It doesn’t change my opinion about it and I still stand with the flaws I pointed out. The casino part still felt misplaced. The humour still fell flat most of the time. Character development still felt weird. However, I was able to see through it a little better and here and there understood what the makers were going for. And it will be interesting to see where they go now. They managed to establish a clean slate. It could have been done more smoothly. It’s not the feared re-hash of Empire Strikes Back and now the third movie can pretty much do what it wants. I can even imagine them doing a time jump of a couple of years. And that’s as far as I am willing to venture into ‘fan theory’ town. Did the film make me jump up and say: “oh! now I really want to know how it continues!”? Absolutely not. The film left me indifferent. Much contrary to TFA… which definitely made me want to see more.

For now, let’s see where this almost clean slate brings us.

A 7.7/10 for me. Yes, it may be a surprising high vote after reading my review. It’s always easier to write about stuff you didn’t like. But there is some good in this film too. This film planted a seed for something entirely new. We may agree or disagree with elements of the film… but the fact that from now on it can really become its own thing is worth honoring. I feel it’s one of these films that need time. And I’m willing to give it that time.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi on IMDb

Thor: Ragnarok – Movie Review

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

movie reviewTo me the Thor movies always felt a little out of place when looking at the overall collection of movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The first one took itself a little too serious. The second film was not able to find a good balance between the more serious tone and the lighthearted stuff it tried to sprinkle in. Then Guardians of the Galaxy appeared on the map. Its whacky sense of humour, paired with some neat scifi elements, showed that audiences don’t always want that it all super gritty, dark and enjoy some more ‘far out’ stuff as well. Then we got Doctor Strange, which is also a property you just cannot take a 100% serious and Marvel understood that by giving Doctor Strange a similar treatment like GotG. Now with the third movie in the Thor series it seems they have found the right balance and tone for this property as well. You just cannot be dead serious all the time when you have gods, magic and all kinds of weirdo things going on in your story. Thor: Ragnarok did that right I think. Minimizing the drama and maximizing the fun.

How do I describe the story to this film? It’s actually rather simple. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) have a sister they don’t know about, Hela. Hela (Cate Blanchett) wants revenge on her/their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) for leaving her behind and being a traitor to their original plans to extend the power of Asgard. Thor and Loki didn’t even know they had a sister. While trying to stop Hela from entering Asgard, Thor and Loki get split up. Thor lands on a strange planet, ruled by a figure called the ‘Grandmaster’ (Jeff Goldblum). He rules that planet by distracting the population with gigantic shows of Gladiator battles. Thor soon finds himself in the ring to fight the most powerful Gladiator this arena has ever seen. The Hulk. (Wouldn’t it have been awesome to not have this spoilered in the trailer? What a fantastic reveal it would have been in the film itself!) A neat brawl ensues. In the meantime Loki, who is also trapped on this planet, sees how Thor is crossing all his plans to make friends with the Grandmaster. Soon they have to work together and find a way off this planet to get back to Asgard and save if from Hela. That’s pretty much the base of the story. Straightforward and simple.

The question, again, is… would this film work without all the other films in the MCU? In this case I actually think it could. Yes, it has plenty of cross-references to the other films (especially regarding Hulk) but still, it’s more than enough its own thing. Especially when it comes to the production design, presentation and music. This film really has its own voice which separates it from the rest of the films in the MCU. It feels more like a comic than most of the other MCU films. Especially with the colour palette they go with, which orientates strongly on the comic source material. They don’t shy away using strong and shiny colours that stand out and create an appealing style throughout the film. The costume design was quite ridiculous even in the first Thor film and therefor felt a little out of place since the tone was a little to serious. In Thor 3 the costumes and their ridiculousness work perfect and completely mesh with what the movie wants to be. Fun and over the top.

With all the FUN in here, is there any room left for some heady stuff? I fear not. Don’t expect anything here that will make you think about this film or a hidden message or something. You may even forget most of it within one hour after seeing the film. It really is just about having a good time and escape this dull and full of bad news world we live in. And for that it works pretty much perfect. The direction (Taika Waititi) works and makes every one of the characters shine, especially in the scenes where they interact with each other. I already said that the art department did a great job. The camera work is good enough. But the music, with its synthi style, elevates the film even more. Most of the other MCU films do not have a really memorable soundtrack. So, while there aren’t too many topics in here that will keep you busy thinking about it… there is enough stuff to satisfy. So it’s kind of the classic cheeseburger of movies. It looks good. It tastes good. You don’t necessarily miss it when you don’t have it. Does that sound a little dismissive? Maybe. Maybe not?

Overall I think the film is a valuable addition to the MCU. It embraces the comic aesthetic more than most of the other films and does well with that. It is a little long (which film isn’t these days?) but I never felt bored. Will I see the film again as soon as it’s on home video? Probably not. But I will watch it a second time, sooner or later. It is a popcorn movie in the purest sense. Maybe a little hollow, forgettable and not all of the gags work… but it’s just a fun time. Also, Cate Blanchett finally gives the MCU a villain with a hint of depth.

7.8/10

Thor: Ragnarok on IMDb