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Masterful visual storytelling

Posted : 6 years, 7 months ago on 19 July 2017 04:34 (A review of Dunkirk)

Quick review.

Dunkirk is a visual masterpiece of storytelling, unlike anything you've ever seen in recent years. We've gotten countless of films centered around World War II throughout the years, but what Christopher Nolan have achieved with Dunkirk is outstanding. He's taken a genre that have become rather formulaic over the years and shattered it completely. He breaks the formula and creates a film that should aspire other directors to follow his example.ย 

I see the word "immersive" being tossed around in regards to several other films every now and then, but Dunkirk is one of the few film that I truly believes deserves to be called immersive. It's fully tense experience that doesn't let hold of you until it explodes in an emotionally satisfying climax. This is all achieved with stunning visuals, perfect use of practical effects and a ticking score by Hans Zimmer that seamlessly blends in with the sound design. Dunkirk is so intense that you feel exhausted when it's over. It's a film that truly captures just how horrible and pointless war is, particularly for the people involved and that feeling translates well to the audience.

Dunkirk have opened to critical acclaim from critics, which is well-deserved. Though the film has received some criticism for its lack of character development. This is true. The film doesn't have any character development, nor does it have any stand-out characters. Usually I would agree that this is a flaw, but due to nature of how Dunkirk is and what it essentially is about, I attribute this as one of the film's strengths instead. It's a film that doesn't require characters to sit down and talk about their back stories, motivations and goals for us to be emotionally invested in them. This time around, we get emotionally invested in them because of the situation their in. We care about them simply as humans stuck in a horrible war with death all around them. The tense nature of the film wouldn't have worked if the film were to take its time and properly introduce us to each character. We do follow some characters throughout the film, but they're more like framework in this case, to base the film around them. As of such, there's very little dialogue in this film. There's very little exposition. It's a film about the event itself and the way that Nolan deconstructed the traditional formula to tell this story in a clean and visual way is something that ought to be celebrated.

One important thing to mention is the gorgeous cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema. The film is beautiful to look at and it deserves to be seen on the largest screen possible in order to fully get the scale and spectacle of it, but also the intimacy and claustrophobic feel the film has. Dunkirk is a masterpiece. It's a cleverly structured film that with the help of the highest level of technical craftsmanship goes beyond what you would normally expect from a war film. It's not a film for those who want character driven pieces, but for those of us who want the filmmaking itself to lure us in to an intense and emotionally rich film.

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Posted : 7 years, 1 month ago on 7 January 2017 06:13 (A review of Assassin's Creed)

Quick review.

Even with the track record of poor video game adaptations in mind, the film adaptation of Assassin's Creed is one of my most disappointing film experiences ever. It is also one that frustrated me a lot. Because the film gets a lot of things right and there is much to admire here. Mostly the action scenes in the past. They are just damned cool. Wonderfully choreographed and beautifully shot. The performances themselves are fine and a lot of the themes the film brings up during the present time of the film is interesting enough. There are elements here to make good film, but shamefully the filmmakers have made some poor choices in where to put the focus of the film.

Everyone who knows the Assassin's Creed games knows that the segments that are centered around the present day are the least interesting parts of those games. It's to be able to explore the different eras in history that intrigues us. Which is why it's frustratingly mind boggling to see that the filmmakers have decided to keep the majority of the film during the present time. We spend roughly 70% of the film in boring Abstergo (the "evil" company in the film) landscapes. The film have reduced the scenes in the past to simple action scenes. Besides that, there's nothing. The character's are all essentially just stunt men. We don't get to know any of the characters in 15th century Spain. They're as paper thin as they can possibly be. So while the action is cool, that is unfortunately all it is. The film should have been around 80% in the past. That's where the meat is.

Whatever is happening during present day is fine enough. It's a bit overly plotted and character development and motivation is a bit scarce, but as someone who is really familiar with the games, I followed it closely enough without getting bored. It sets up for a sequel, and I must say that I'm slightly worried about it. Personally, I would think it's wiser to start from scratch and get it right.

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Entertaining and Emotionally Effective

Posted : 8 years, 8 months ago on 30 June 2015 11:32 (A review of Terminator Genisys)

Quick Review

I never imagined that I would end up liking it as much as I did. I thought it was a blast. An entertaining, well-paced, funny and surprisingly emotional action film that cleverly worked its way into the rest of the franchise. This is also the best, coolest and funniest Arnold performance since his comeback.

I'm also surprised by how well they managed to handle the timeline of the whole universe. Considering that it was basically already all over the place, this could have easily turned into a major clusterfuck. But despite a few confusing moments to begin with, everything is tightly balanced. But the most surprising thing is the element of emotional weight it offers. The chemistry and emotional bond between Arnold and Emilia Clarke is very effective. This gives me a connection to the film that many new blockbusters lacks, and it gets me emotionally invested into the action scenes, as opposed to just being indifferent to them.

The action is solid. Sure, it might have been gritter and more brutal with an R rating, but that doesn't bother me as much as it's clearly bothering other people. It was still entertaining, despite some of them being a bit generic.

Emilia Clarke delivers a solid performance as Sarah Connor, playing out the tough and soft side of her with ease. She's also insanely beautiful in this film. I mean, just woaw. Jai Courtney is a bit meh, but that's how he always is. Jason Clarke is fine, but I would have really preferred it if they had gotten Christian Bale to reprise his role instead. And as stated above, this is the best of what Arnold can do.

So I didn't really have much issues with Terminator Genisys. I thought it was handled cleverly. Entertaining and emotionally effective are the keywords here. I must admit that I'm a bit disheartened to see a film like this, which felt like a genuine effort getting rotten reviews, while something as bland as Jurassic World is getting a lot more slack. Oh well.

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Worst Thing Ever? Absolutely Not

Posted : 9 years ago on 16 February 2015 12:49 (A review of Fifty Shades of Grey)

If you have not heard of Fifty Shades of Grey and the hype (negative or positive) surrounding that cultural phenomenon, you must have been living on the moon for quite some time. Based on the best-selling novels by author E. L. James, Fifty Shades of Grey have been described as being simple mommy-porn, with a target audience of almost strictly women. This is a film that's clearly attempting to sweep over the Twilight crowd, which is unsurprising as the books actually started out as being Twilight fan-fiction. And it looks like they're succeeding with that. It's destroying the box office at the moment. But not without its cost. The film is currently getting a lot of criticism and even hatred. Standing at the moment with a very harsh 3.9/10 rating at IMDb, with almost 50% of the votes being a 1, it's safe to say that people are not reacting positively towards this adaptation. Add that some people are attacking it, claiming that it glorifies domestic abuse and you've got a film with a huge amount of backlash. And what is my statement towards this? What is my reaction on Fifty Shades of Grey? Well. Let's put it this way. The IMDb rating is a joke. That it glorifies abuse towards women is bullshit. And Fifty Shades of Grey is actually a fine film that completely outshines its ludicrous source material. I liked it.

Before I proceed on to talking about the film itself, I really believe that I ought to address the insanity of its IMDb rating. It's as I've said at 3.9 at the moment. Days prior to its release it was as low as 3.2. People, mostly male, went on a rampage, giving it a 1 without having seen the film. Naturally it was countered by some people giving it a 10, but seeing as it went as low as 3.2, there's no doubt about who was the most dominant. This is absolutely ridiculous. If there ever was any doubt about the flaws of these rating systems before, you can absolutely confirm it now. Luckily, it's being changing more rationally now, as people are seeing the film, but that people are bringing this film down without seeing it is pathetic. It's pathetic that people are hating on a film they haven't seen just because of the hype surround it. It's despicable that people are hating on the hard work of others without giving it a chance first. I've previously defended the Twilight films for being a result of people's hatred being overly exaggerated because it's the cool thing to do. Now it looks like it's happening again with Fifty Shades of Grey. It's perfectly fine to dislike a film after seeing it, but going around trashing something just because it's cool (and without seeing it) is ridiculous and it lowers the standard of the human race, and our cultural understanding much more than any of these films. Anyway, there are being made far worse films than this every week, and Fifty Shades of Grey is being judged unfairly because of its hype.

Now, on to the film itself. It's a solid film that's actually quite a lot of fun. Much of it comes from it's own self-awareness. They know that they're adapting a book that's not exactly great literature, and they do have fun with it. I honestly don't think there's any comedic moment in this film that is unintentional. And that the filmmakers have managed to spin the huge flaws from the source material in to a strength is a great feat. I laughed a lot. I found myself, almost, constantly smiling at what was happening on the screen. It's a great romantic comedy. With an extra pressure on the word comedy. There are many great jokes here, and the ridiculousness of some of the scenes just adds an extra layer to it.

But Fifty Shades of Grey is mostly about the sex, and the relationship (or non-relationship) that the two lead characters have. I will say that I did find the sex to be a slightly bit tamer than what I was expecting, and that it wasn't as rough or controversial as one would guess. But I will say that I actually thought most of it was pretty well-handled. There's naturally a lot of nudity here, some spanking, some whips and ropes and a whole lot of kissing and touching. It's not as steamy as one would have hoped for, but instead it feels much more intimate. There's just one that I thought was a bit unsettling, and that was because the plot demanded it to be so, which worked well. So I actually liked most of the sex scenes because of their intimacy and that they were more focused around the character's pleasure and enjoyment as opposed to just showing hardcore BDSM sex. The scenes that are steamy and sexy, if you will, are some of the scenes that doesn't involve them actually having sex.

The greatest part of this film is Dakota Johnson. She's a catch. Not only is she absolutely gorgeous, but she plays her character with brilliancy as well. She perfectly manages to capture the awkwardness, insecurity and humour of Anastasia Steele. She's also extremely sexy when she needs to be. Jamie Dornan, on the other hand, is not as great. He's perfectly serviceable, and I can imagine that he will cause a lot of women to faint, but I didn't find him to have that commanding and intimidating presence that his character should have. His chemistry between Dakota Johnson is also a bit off sometimes, while it's great on some occasions. They certainly work best together whenever they're focused on the sex, or talking about it. Whenever they try to delve into Christian Grey's psychology, I think it's a bit more off.

It does of course leave everything open for the sequel, and the film doesn't come with a particular conclusion of its own. But as a simple cliffhanger, I think the ending worked fine enough. And I'm going to see the next one, quite simply because I liked this film. I thought it was funny, intimate, occasionally sexy and I thought Dakota Johnson was outstanding. But above all, it was hugely entertaining. Sure, it's a very flawed film. The sex scenes may be a bit disappointing, Jamie Dornan is a bit weak and the psychology of Christian Grey is a bit poorly handled. But this is a film that knew what it was based on, and it had fun with that. And so did I. And I'll be damned if some stupid hype is going to take that away from me.

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Ambitious and Emotionally Powerful

Posted : 9 years, 3 months ago on 8 November 2014 02:44 (A review of Interstellar)

There are minor spoilers here, so be careful.
It's a film that's really, really hard to talk about without going into major plot points, but I'm going to try my best to keep it at a small, general level.

Christopher Nolan's Interstellar has opened up to a bit of mixed-to-positive reviews from film critics. Which have probably angered and disappointed a lot of fans. The thing is, however, that was inevitable. You can't hit everyone when you're making the arguably most ambitious film in decades, and yes, Interstellar is not a 100% perfect film. There are minor problems to be found here, but seeing as Interstellar aims for the nearly impossible, I'm willing to say that Interstellar is a perfect film for audiences despite it not being perfect. It's actually a masterful piece of cinema.

Interstellar opens up on a dying Earth in the not-too-distant future with dust storms, starvation and diseases steadily causing the extinction of the human race. And it is here we spend the first 30 minutes of the film, which is the set-up for the upcoming spectacle the rest of the film is about. The set-up is mostly build around two things. The first thing, and probably most important thing is the father-daughter relationship between Matthew McConaughey's Cooper and his daughter. It sets up the human connection and emotion that shines throughout the entire film, and is in many ways the basic foundation of Interstellar. The other thing is the scientific exposition that is required for the viewer to have some sort of understanding of what is going on. And then we're up to space.

Nolan have previously been criticized a lot for being too cold, and lacking emotion in his films. A consensus I completely disagree with, as Inception is extremely emotional. But Interstellar takes that level one step further, and it almost feels like Nolan has painted another brush of emotion just as answer to his critics. Interstellar is very emotional. There's an emotional core in this film that's really strong. McConaughey's relationship with his family, and the way that he sets out on this journey in order to save them and the rest of the human race causes for several emotional moments that really pulls my heart strings. The sequence that leads up to McConaughey leaving the Earth, where he have to say goodbye to his daughter is absolutely devastating. So is the scene where he watches video clips that he has gotten from his family while he has been gone. There are naturally many other scenes gives an emotional punch, but I'm not going to mention them all. What I will mention however is that I absolutely love that Nolan goes full circle with it and gives us that powerful moment of emotional catharsis in the end. I also like how it goes beyond the emotion that family dynamics gives us. How love can transcend through time and space, and not to mention how it explores the idea we were never meant to die on Earth. All this combined causes Interstellar to be a very powerful film, that had me shedding some tears.

Someone who deserves a lot of praise for causing the sentimentality and emotion in Interstellar to work so well is Hans Zimmer. While I didn't think it was possible for Zimmer to top what he did with Nolan on Inception, I think he actually managed to outdo himself this time. The score for Interstellar is tremendous. Yes, it's loud and present, and might be too much for some, but it gives every scene that little extra spark for it to stand out even more. He walks the thin line between being too manipulative and perfectly balanced, but manages to stay on the right side.

The visuals are astonishing. Unlike anything you've ever imagined. This is a film that you have to see at the biggest screen possible. Nolan's perfect use and combination of in-camera effects and CGI makes Interstellar to be a very immersive film. Because you feel that visuals are much more than just pretty pictures. You feel the soul and craftsmanship behind them, which causes them to become more real, which again engages you more into them. But holy shit, Interstellar is a beautiful film too look at. The scenes on Earth are spectacular, but the visuals in space are just damned impressive. Those grand, majestic, sweeping images of planets, wormholes, black holes and the infinity of space are breathtaking. Add to this an outstanding sound-mix (there's no sound in space, works brilliantly!) and excellent production design, and you've got yourself a truly immersive experience in Interstellar.

The action sequences are brilliantly directed. When Nolan started out with major action in Batman Begins there was some sort of clunkiness to it, but Nolan has evolved exceptionally as an action director, and it really shows in Interstellar. He's very good at playing with the aspect of time and space, as well as cross-editing with things that happens at completely different locations. There are several moments in the film that are super intense, that have you at the very edge of your seat.

Matthew McConaughey delivers yet another brilliant performance, which is starting to become normal for him nowadays, and his portrayal of Cooper ranks amongst his absolute finest. Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, McKenzie Foy and the rest of the supporting cast are equally brilliant. Everyone manages to deliver a nuanced performance that oozes of intensity and emotion, as well as being subtly balanced.

Now, I did notice some minor flaws. The exposition in the beginning, while being necessary, does feel a bit clunky. There's something unnatural in the dialogue that's rather hard to put a finger on, and it doesn't really help that my little brain can't understand all the science, physics, relativity talk they go on about. I do also feel that film perhaps could have ended five minutes earlier, as I didn't think that those minutes were really necessary to the overall story and theme of the film. And there are certain plot points that may come across as being a bit too far-fetched.

Interstellar is something rare. It's a film that is just so much of everything. It's full of ideas and thought-provoking themes. It's thrilling and emotionally powerful. It's visually mesmerizing. It's a film that aspires hope and wonder. A film that dares us to look beyond common filmmaking. It's a film that dares to be something extra. It dares to takes risks and grasp over many things at once. Christopher Nolan may not have succeeded with absolutely everything, but the fact that he tried and came incredibly close to perfection, is something that should be celebrated. We're living in days were studios and filmmakers are playing safer and safer for every day, and finally we got a film and a director that took a leap of faith and went out with extremely high ambitions. And almost succeeded 100% with those. Interstellar is not 100% perfect, but it doesn't matter. The positives, the spectacle, the emotion and ambition of Interstellar far outshines every negative point in it. Therefore, Interstellar manages to be perfect nonetheless.

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Let it sleep

Posted : 9 years, 9 months ago on 30 May 2014 10:45 (A review of Maleficent)

Rambling, incoherent mess, that might contain minor spoilers.

Disney's 1958 animated film by the name of Sleeping Beauty is one of cinema's greatest classics when it comes to animation and entertainment for children. It told a sweet and charming story, while introducing us to someone who ended up being one of the most iconic villains ever, and arguably one of Disney's greatest accomplishments. So when the people at Disney decided that they wanted to create a film that focuses on one of their villains, who would be more suiting than the evil, sinister and devil-horned Maleficent? Expectations were high after seeing the excellent atmospheric and moody trailer with Lana Del Rey's haunting cover of "Once Upon a Dream". The possibility of a darker, but family friendly look into Maleficent's rise to evil are definitely intriguing. Unfortunately, that's not what Maleficent brings us, and it might just end up being one of the biggest disappointments of the year.

Quite early on we realize that whatever we learned from Sleeping Beauty is not entirely true, and that the story didn't go exactly as it was told in 1959. During the first minutes we're filled in sweetness and sugar as a young Maleficent, with her devil-horns and eagle-wings, flies around the faerie kingdom of The Moors, being good and kind, and such. Naturally she meets a young human boy, whom she falls madly in love with. Who then, years later, betrays her by cutting of her wings so that he'll be king. Heartbroken, she devotes herself to revenge, and we can see glimpses of the Maleficent we know, as she then later turns up at the castle to curse Aurora, in a similar scene to the one we witnessed in the animated film.

And now, the problems start pouring down one by one. The opening of the film might have been a bit too cutesy for my personal taste, but it did at least offer a perfectly reasonable motivation for Maleficent's fall from grace. So with that out of the way, and Maleficent menacingly curing Aurora, one will be forgiven for thinking that we're going to get the film we expected and waited for. That didn't happen, which caused quite a lot of confusion for me. The film seems fixed on the idea that Maleficent is not an evil witch, but essentially good. Setting her up as some sort of anti-hero as she's constantly saving Aurora from danger, being her "fairy godmother" as Aurora herself calls her. This is confusing because it makes Maleficent's motivations very unclear, which causes me to set up to primary questions. Why is she doing the things she's doing, and what is the point of it all? What's the point of telling a parallel story from the viewpoint of a great villain, if you're going to end up in a completely different place?

However, that itself might not necessarily be so bad if the alternative is good. Unfortunately, the alternative we're served here is not very good. Tone issues are a main problem throughout the entire film as it constantly changes from cute, sugary, light-hearted moments to darker, more serious moments. The three fairies are mostly guilty for causing that, as they're a bunch of bumbling idiots, causing more annoyance than laughter. While Aurora struts around with loads of naivety and a huge grin on her face for the most of the time. The prince is even introduced, but serves no other purpose than to bring in more sugar. There's even scenes of Maleficent fooling around, playing tricks on the three fairies for cheap laughs. During these scenes, the tone of the film is so far away from what we get when Maleficent curses Aurora that it feels like two completely different films. Which is also the case whenever it cuts to the king, as he slips more and more into paranoia as he tries to find ways to stop Maleficent. There are many films that struggle in combining light and dark, and Maleficent is yet another example of that. These constant shifts pulls me out of the film. It doesn't help that the film, despite being quite short, feels way too long. The middle drags on way too long, and could very easily have been trimmed. That would also have reduced the tone issue from being giant, too only minor.

Angelina Jolie is perhaps the most suiting person in this world to play Maleficent, with her cheekbones and laughter being perfect attributes to her. And she delivers a damn good performance, particularly the few times she gets to be menacing. Sadly, those moments can be counted on one hand, and Jolie's performance is far more deserving of a better film. It's particularly deserving of a far better written Maleficent. Robber of her villainy, she's just not as interesting, despite their best attempts at turning her into a protagonist. The rest of the cast struggles from poor characterization and none of them comes of as being particularly memorable.

Maleficent is Robert Stromberg first attempt at directing. The man has a background in production design for films like Alice in Wonderland and Oz the Great and Powerful, as well as visual effects, but with Maleficent he takes the director's chair. As the paragraphs above has mentioned, there's clearly some improvements to be made when it comes to directing. He's got a far way to go when it comes to handling characters and tone, as well as structural build up. But when it comes to visuals, the work of him and his team is flawless. Everything looks really good, and it's a wonderful fantasy world he has reimagined. But seeing as there are many films being created today that looks good, it's getting even more important to fill that frame with something beautiful as well. Maleficent does only have a beautiful frame.

It was interesting when Disney announced that they we're going to explore one of their villains, but unfortunately it didn't turn out that well. The visual effects and Angelina Jolie's performance may be enough to satisfy some viewers, but if you're afraid of poor character development, uneven pacing, tonal issues and inconsistency, you're better off leaving Maleficent asleep. Because turning Maleficent good, didn't turn out to be quite good.

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Very entertaining!

Posted : 9 years, 11 months ago on 24 March 2014 10:17 (A review of Non-Stop)

Rambling, incoherent mess approaching!

Upon checking out various reviews or some people's opinion on Jaume Collet-Serra's latest Liam Neeson driven action thriller, Non-Stop, it appears that many people consider the lack of plausibility a major flaw. After now seeing Non-Stop, I feel inclined to ask; why is that? Why do some people crave realism from a film like this? Non-Stop is an action thriller that's only intention is to keep you glued to your seat for 100 minutes. It's a film. It's not supposed to be realistic. It's not supposed to be United 93 or anything like that. So when I see people complaining about the final act of Non-Stop not being entirely believable, I think that that's more of a flaw at those people rather than a flaw at the film. There's a very big difference between what you want, and what the filmmakers intended. And seeing as they never intended Non-Stop to be a realistic portrayal of an air marshal's response to an unknown threat, I think it's wrong to fault it for not being that. If that, on the other hand, was their intention, you would be right to complain about that. But Non-Stop is supposed to be a simple action thriller. And it does that job bloody well.

Non-Stop's greatest asset is naturally Liam Neeson. The 61 year old Oscar-nominated Irishman has previously turned in some great dramatic work in the past, but has now lately turned in to some sort of unlikely action star. And what a terrific action star he is. People who only devote themselves to serious cinema, are likely to to be turned off by his change of career direction, but for those of us who appreciate an entertaining time at the cinema, this is a blessing. Neeson is not only a great actor, but he's a real bad-ass as well. And the fact that he manages to bring the dramatic side of him into his ass-kicking, makes it just even more awesome. He gives these roles a sense of gravitas and melancholy that's rarely seen in these films. Meaning that he's just as capable of handling emotional scenes, as he is at handling action.

But Non-Stop is certainly not only good because of Liam Neeson. It's good because director Jaume Collet-Serra does a lot of things right. Like two of his previous films, Unknown and Orphan, Collet-Serra shows that he's extremely talented when it comes to building up a mystery and therefore tension. The mystery that he build up in Non-Stop is very exciting, and he keeps the mystery going by having some neat twists and turn placed throughout the entire film. Which also means that the pace is handled well. There's not one single moment in this film that I would say was boring. The mystery in this film lies a lot in who's responsible for everything that's going on. Thankfully, it's not really easy to figure it out. Collet-Serra has placed many suspicious characters in this film, which causes you to go back and forth between who you think is the villain.

It's also very well-shot and the action choreography is nicely done, and it's possible to follow every punch and hit, without being confused or dizzy. This is a very solid feat to accomplish, when you consider the limitations given by just having one small location for almost the entire film. But the setting is used purposefully and the plot is driven to the only climax it could have. When creating a film in this genre, a solution and conclusion like this feels natural. Believable? No, not exactly. But like I've said, I don't need this final act to be believable. As it is, it's a pretty entertaining and satisfying conclusion to a film that managed to be tense and keep me engaged into its mystery, while offering small character moments that hit on a nice emotional level. As an action thriller that's supposed to entertain, Non-Stop works exceptionally well.

If there's one flaw that I feel need to be addressed, it has to be the motivation of the villain. Which I'm naturally not going to spoil here. It's sufficient to say that when the mystery and tension surrounding this person is built this much up, it's rather disappointing to see that his/her motivation feels very out-of-place and forced.

I honestly can't see why anyone at least isn't going to be entertained by Non-Stop. It's certainly not a cinematic masterpiece, but as a genre film, it does what it set out to do very well. It's fast-paced, tense and entertaining. There are plenty of other action thrillers out there that doesn't even reach this one to the knees.

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Posted : 10 years, 2 months ago on 12 December 2013 04:31 (A review of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug)

Warning: This might be more rambling, than an actual coherent review.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is that difficult second film in this trilogy. It's difficult in the sense that it has to improve on what, in many peoples eyes (not mine), was a quite disappointing first feature. But it's also difficult because we're going to go into this film knowing that it doesn't have a proper beginning nor a proper ending. It's that difficult middle chapter. Just like The Two Towers was in the original The Lord of the Rings trilogy. But fear not, where The Two Towers could arguably be considered the weakest instalment in its trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug is better than An Unexpected Journey. Even if it's only slightly better.

From what I can see, people seems to be disappointed by these films because they don't feel and look like what we got ten years ago. It's silly criticism. Like I stated with An Unexpected Journey, The Hobbit is a completely different journey than The Lord of the Rings. The Desolation of Smaug continues that different journey in a very good, and mostly fluent way. It could definitely be argued that three films are unnecessary, as some of the detours in this film (as with An Unexpected Journey) feel slightly clunky. But seeing as I've grown so much in love with Middle-Earth and its characters, I would take those clunky detours before anything else.

That doesn't mean that The Desolation of Smaug doesn't have scenes in it that I absolutely can't get my head around. The opening scene is absolutely dreadful and completely unnecessary. The scene feature Gandalf and Thorin before they went out on the journey to reclaim their homeland from Smaug, and the scene's only function is to give that one person who hasn't seen An Unexpected Journey the reason for why they're out on this adventure. It's incredibly awkward and overlong. I'm also still no fan of Azog. He just looks weird. One that also looks slightly weird is Legolas. There's something with his face and attitude that is slightly off-putting.

But for ever minor flaw, The Desolation of Smaug does twice as many things right. I love how the film really makes me feel like I'm actually on an adventure. Sure, there are a lot of walking and various locations and characters, but for every new magnificent place, I feel just as amazed as the characters. Every place of beauty amazes me. Every place of terror gives me shivers. It's just an easy world to live in too.

It's strung together by many impressive action sequences. It doesn't take long before we're witnessing Bilbo and the dwarves going up against huge spiders, which is in my opinion, one of the most impressive 3D scenes I've ever seen. This is followed by the equally impressive barrel ride and then finally, Smaug. That dragon is quite simply one of the finest creatures to appear in cinema, like ever. With Benedict Cumberbatch delivering awesome voice work (and mocap) Smaug's screen presence is completely unique. Sly, arrogant and fearsome. The scene with Bilbo and Smaug going up against each other is arguably better than the Bilbo and Gollum scene from An Unexpected Journey.

Martin Freeman is very likeable as Bilbo. He's very subtle in everything he does, and he doesn't ever become annoying or tiresome, unlike Elijah Wood as Frodo in The Lord of the Rings. Sir Ian McKellen is as loveable as always as Gandalf, but it's easy to notice that he's starting to get a bit old. Which is rather sad. The dwarves are still, for the most part, just there. There are some who sticks out, and everyone does mostly get at least one moment in the film. But one doesn't really care for them. There's hint of a potential love triangle between Legolas, Tauriel and Kili. But it's not fleshed out in this film. Luke Evans is solid, and Stephen Fry is just there. The real star of this film is however Benedict Cumberbatch. Not only does he do an awesome Smaug, but he gives an incredibly sinister voice to The Necromancer as well.

I might sound a bit negative in this rambling review. But like seriously, I thought it was very good. I enjoyed it a lot. And if you liked the previous film, I really can't see why you shouldn't like this one as well. It's a continuation of the same film, and I'm eagerly anticipating the next and final film. It's just a magical experience.

(Saw it in HFR 3D. Had no problem with it.)

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Superior sequel

Posted : 10 years, 3 months ago on 20 November 2013 03:04 (A review of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire)

I liked 2012's The Hunger Games. It was an entertaining and well-made film, but it also managed to be thought-provoking with some spot-on social commentary. The sequel, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, is everything the last film was, but improved even more. Which is a significant achievement, considering how good The Hunger Games was and seeing as Catching Fire is an improvement, it makes this film one of the best films from 2013 so far. It's an extremely entertaining, thrilling and thought-provoking blockbuster!

Catching Fire does in many ways follow the same structure as the previous film. There's the lead up to the games and then the games themselves. But thankfully there's been enough change in the story, to avoid the film being a rehash of the last film. Yes, the film has the lead characters sent into yet another deadly game, which can only end with one survivor, but luckily, director Francis Lawrence manages to steer the focus away from creating a simple bloodbath. Because even if the "main attraction" of the series are the actual games and the deaths that occur from those games, Lawrence manages to tone down the violence a bit. It's certainly violent for a film with the audience it has, but not anywhere near as being as violent as the last film. The reason for that is quite simple, but equally genius. Because this film is about the after match of the previous game and how it gave everyone hope. It's definitely darker and more grim, but behind all that, this is a film about the rise of hope. About giving a repressed people one thing to hold on, one thing to fight for. The previous film was about introducing us to everywhere, and showing us of cruel this world is. Catching Fire is still cruel, but it does also show us that shed of light. It's actually quite intriguing, and the actual themes of these films are certainly interesting to discuss.

As I said, the structure is similar to the last film, but there are some minor changes here. The actual games are shortened down and not as graphic as they were in the last film. This time they're actually fighting more against the Capitol rather than the other "contestants". Causing this version of the Hunger Games to be more about the districts vs. the Capitol, rather than district vs. district. It's a much welcome change, and it also fits in nicely with the underlying theme of hope. Some of them are naturally killing each other, but there's not too much of that. But the biggest change lies in what happens before the games start. There are certainly some scenes where they have to train, and do interviews and such. Which is sort of obligatory, but thankfully, there's not a lot of that. They could've easily just done the same thing as they did in the last film and put together a much longer training montage. But seeing as they didn't do that, the film does really tell that it's not about the Hunger Games. It's about its effect on the world. So instead of seeing training sequences, overlong fashion shows and individual interviews for a second time, we get to see things that are actually important. We get to see people standing up against how they're being mistreated. And we get to see the Capitol trying to prevent a rebellion. This makes for a much better viewing experience.

One thing that also makes for a much better viewing experience is the change of visual style. One of my major issues with the last film was the shaking camera. In Catching Fire it's completely gone. Which is a huge relief, because you actually get to see the action that's happening on screen. I do acknowledge that shaky camera may create some intensity, but there shouldn't be any need for that as long as the action is well-directed. Which is the case here. The steady camera manages to produce even more thrilling and suspenseful moments, than what the previous film did. I was on the edge of my seat throughout the entire film.

Francis Lawrence deserves every bit of credit he gets for directing this film, but the true star of this film is Jennifer Lawrence. Despite of everything else in this film being as excellent as it is, it wouldn't be half as compelling or engaging as it is without her. She's quite simply an extraordinary actress, who's capable of pulling me straight into this film with her emotions. I get emotionally engaged in her character and the film because of her acting. I care for her and I do believe every line she delivers. I believe every emotion she send out. The rest of the actors in the film are naturally good as well. Philip Seymour Hoffman being particularly excellent. But this is Jennifer Lawrence's show. I'm actually quite into the tiny love triangle that's going on her. And I'm rooting for Katniss/Peeta. I think they're quite cute together, and Lawrence is just delightful when she's playing cute and warm. She might be my new celebrity crush, if I'm being completely honest.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is an excellent film that surpasses it's predecessor in terms of quality. It's cleverly written, beautifully shot, well-directed, wonderfully acted and tightly edited. It's interesting, thought-provoking, emotionally engaging and very thrilling. It's always refreshing to see a blockbuster that manages to be as entertaining, as it is thoughtful. Catching Fire succeeds in doing so, and is therefore one of the best films of the year. The ending is bound to leave you thrilled for the next chapter in this franchise. Count me there on opening day.

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Fails to deliver

Posted : 10 years, 4 months ago on 7 October 2013 10:51 (A review of Bikini Girls on Ice)

Well, what can you actually expect from a title with the name of Bikini Girls on Ice? It's not really a film you put on if you want to see top-notch quality. But is it a crime to put on a film like this, in hope for it to be entertaining? No, it's not. Bikini Girls on Ice is exactly what it sounds like in one way, and it's far from what one would expect in another, more crucial way. It's what you would expect in that the title delivers exactly what it says. Girls walking around in bikinis, only to be put on ice later. Unfortunately, the film doesn't deliver where it should deliver. It fails to fulfil the number one rule of slasher films. It's not entertaining.

When you seek out films like this, there's only two things you need in order to be entertained. Some well-placed nudity (these are films for guys after all) and some cheap, imaginative and gory kills. This is supposed to be cheap entertainment in almost a "so bad it's good" way. If those two things are delivered, it's very easy to forgive things as atrocious actors portraying not particularly likeable characters and an idiotic plot. But when the film fails to deliver those two things, you're left with a real turd.

It's really hard to see what the director of this film was actually thinking? What creative reason did he have for choosing the decision that ruined the little hope this film had to come off as passable entertainment? You see, instead of filming stupid, hot and naked teenagers getting brutally murdered in the most unthinkable ways, writer/director Geoff Klein decided for a completely different approach to the material. He decided to have every kill offscreen. Instead of seeing people getting unmercifully maimed, Klein decided to show blood sprouting over the wall or the killer's face instead. Aside from one kill (who is painfully generic), every kill in this film is happening offscreen. It's beyond my belief how a 2009 film ended up by doing that.

It doesn't even have that many kills in it. We're early in the film introduced to a bus load of bikini clothed females, but after some minutes of tame, supposedly erotic, car washing, half of the females just walks(!) away. We're cheated for four-five more kills in the most illogical and stupid manner possible. So Klein obviously thinks that seeing a few girls getting murdered offscreen in their bikins is enough to entertain. It's not. It's not nearly enough.

It's quite simply a film that doesn't manage to compensate for it's awful script and acting. The film delivers girls dressed in bikins as the title promises, but it doesn't deliver any of the actual good things one would expect from a title like that. We're shown one set of boobs and actually shown one kill. The rest is offscreen, and that makes for really bad film.

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Posted: 6 years, 2 months ago at Dec 24 14:08
Thanks so much for all of your votes this year. Merry Christmas for 2017, Bml!
Posted: 6 years, 2 months ago at Dec 19 11:52
Thanks for the image vote, Bml! Have a great day. :)
Posted: 6 years, 2 months ago at Dec 10 6:58
Thanks for the list vote, Bml93!
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Thanks for the picture and list votes, Bml93!
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Thanks for the list vote!
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Thanks for your picture votes!
Posted: 6 years, 4 months ago at Oct 7 11:54
Thanks for the list vote, bml! Have a great weekend. :)
Posted: 6 years, 5 months ago at Sep 23 19:17
Thanks for the votes!
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Thank you for the list vote :)
Posted: 6 years, 5 months ago at Sep 9 17:16
Thanks again, bml! Have a wonderful weekend. :)
Posted: 6 years, 6 months ago at Aug 2 18:54
Thanks again, Bml! Hope you're having an awesome week. :)
Posted: 6 years, 6 months ago at Aug 2 12:09
Thanks for the picture votes, Bml93!
Posted: 6 years, 7 months ago at Jul 16 10:06
Thanks for the latest votes, Bml! Have a super Sunday. :)
Posted: 6 years, 7 months ago at Jul 16 2:01
Thanks for participating in my I Can't Decide! list poll. I've added your new suggestions, but do you think you could add a "not" suggestion to balance things out?
Posted: 6 years, 7 months ago at Jul 15 23:59
Thanks for the vote!
Posted: 6 years, 7 months ago at Jul 14 19:45
Thanks for you vote and comment.

I blame Sony for the spoiler-y trailer of Spider-Man. It's an awesome, though.
Posted: 6 years, 7 months ago at Jul 13 0:06
Thanks for the list vote!
Posted: 6 years, 7 months ago at Jul 11 21:32
Thanks again, Bml! Have a fantastic week. :)