Montag, 6. November 2017

THOR: RAGNAROK - Movie Review

 Title: Thor: Ragnarok
Running Time: 130 min
Director: Taika Waititi
Writer: Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Tessa Thompson, Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, Mark Ruffalo, Idris Elba, Anthony Hopkins,

Although Marvel has never released a truly terrible movie, there have been some missfires in the past. "Thor: The Dark World" was one of them. In fact, with the exception of Captain America, none of the other Marvel solo movies have managed to equal the critical success of their first installment. But with Kiwi director Taika Waititi at the helm and the addition of The Hulk, the trailer for the Norse god's third outing looked promising. So can this sequel deliver?
Yes and no. "Thor: Ragnarok" is a fun and flashy blockbuster that will entertain you for its entire two hour run time. Not more and not less. Taika Waititi surely stirred the ship in a new direction. This Thor is much more comedic and much more colorful than its predecessors. Visually, this movie is closer to the "Guardians of the Galaxy" than to previous films about the god of thunder. And yet it makes sense. Asgard still looks like the fantasy realm we came to know. When Thor accidentally strands on the garbage planet Sakaar however, he has obviously landed in that weird edge region of the galaxy, where Peter Quill and his gang easily could go about their business. But Waititi doesn't rest on the shoulders of what James Gunn already created. Instead he lets out his own unbridled creativity and gives us some awesome set pieces that suck you into this crazy, iridescent world. Despite all the flashiness, Waititi manages to shoot the action sequences in a way that they don't feel agitated, but you can fully enjoy their grand scale. He also seemed to have created a positive atmosphere on set, as all the actors seem to be enjoying themselves. Tessa Thompson is a great new addition as this bad-ass warrior, although her introduction entails that the film completely ignores the existence of Jaimie Alexander's Lady Sif (Is a movie only allowed to have one heroine?). Also, Jeff Goldblum shines as a character that is basically a heighten space-version of himself. The real scene-stealer, however, is Mark Ruffalo. His gentle performance of both, The Hulk and Bruce Banner, elevates the material and it is the scenes when he is on screen that are the movie's best.
As I mentioned before, the humor was also an element that was really amped up in this movie. Unfortunately, this is where it runs into its biggest problem. Although the larger amount of the jokes do work, the immensely unserious tone of the film robs it of carrying any emotional weight. Everything becomes a knee-slapper. Yes, Thor is funnier than ever, but he has also never been so indifferent. The betrayal, the lies and even the deaths of the people around him, seem to effect him not one bit. He keeps his cool no matter what. As if abnegation and minimisation replaced all of his healthy coping mechanisms. When your main character constantly goofs around like that, it's hard to really feel the threat of pending doom that the movie presents. For a film about the complete annihilation of our hero's home, the stakes feel astonishingly low. But not only Thor has become a sitcom-version of himself. Loki, who was first introduced as a maliciously scheming, complex and intelligent villain, has become a walking punchline. The ease with which he can be overpowered is Marvel's latest running gag. He is a character deprived of real personal growth, doomed to run in circles. Inevitably, the two brother's relationship changed as well. Once a tragedy of Shakespearean caliber, it has now transformed into a "Dumb-and-Dumber"-esque routine. Even the resolution of Bruce Banner's personal struggle is played as a joke in the film's finale. "Sharknado 5" had more emotional moments than this (I'm not even kidding).
The other problems with the film (what exactly was Karl Urban's purpose in this movie?) are forgivable, but when everyone becomes the comic relief, there is no tension left to be relieved from.
It is a shame, really, because within the story of "Thor: Ragnarok" lies great dramatic potential and even the possibility to make a statement about postcolonialism (a thanks to B.A. for pointing that out). But it all gets lost in the laughs. The cool new characters and the zany visuals can't help over the fact that this is ultimately a frothy live action cartoon. Artistically great, yet emotionally empty, this film is good for a DVD night with friends in order to have some fun or catch up with the cinematic universe. If you've never had a problem with Marvel's joke quantity or even enjoyed it, you might even love this film. But if, like me, you need at least a little bit of pathos in your superhero movies, this film might disappoint you.

For Fans Of:
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 (2017)
2 Fast 2 Furious (2005)
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005)
Suicide Squad (2016)

Donnerstag, 26. Oktober 2017

BLADE RUNNER 2049 - Movie Review

 Title: Blade Runner 2049
Running Time: 164 min
Director: Dennis Villeneuve
Writers: Hampton Fancher, Michael Green
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Jared Leto, Robin Wright, Ana de Armas, Dave Bautista, Sylvia Hoecks

Late sequels to old classics are a mixed bag at best. While some film makers manage to reinvigorate a series like Ryan Coogler did with "Creed", too often we get lifeless rehashs that fail to capture the original's spirit (think "Indiana Jones 4", "Die Hard 5" or whatever the hell Ridley Scott is doing with his Alien franchise). 1982's "Blade Runner" was one of the few old gems that had stayed untouched. Then however, a sequel was announced with none other than up-and-coming director Dennis Villeneuve attached. So has the creative mind behind critically acclaimed films like "Sicario", "Prisoners" and "Arrival" managed to give us a worthy continuation of this beloved sci-fi classic?
"Blade Runner 2049" is indeed an excellent piece of film making that can be enjoyed by fans of the original and newbies alike. Although a knowledge of the first movie certainly enhances the experience, Villeneuve managed to create a film that completely stands on its own. Including an omission of Hollywood's bad habit of setting up a possible franchise. Instead, he trusts the material he was given and displays his thorough appreciation for the original. This truly feels like the same dystopian version of 2019 that Harrison Ford wandered through, with the only exception that technology has advanced over the past three decades. But Villeneuve and his team don't only develop the concepts of the original further. They also broaden this world by going beyond the gloomy neo(n)-noir urban core of Los Angeles, and they explore new and never before seen aspects of it. As a result, many different sci-fi ideas, themes and elements are touched upon. Our relationship with technology, the ethics of our scientific evolution and the question of what makes us human.
Guiding us through it all is Ryan Gosling's short-named protagonist "K". Though this Blade Runner is much less cynical than Rick Deckard, he is just as efficient at his job as a detective/assassin. Gosling is perfectly cast, since he has proven time and again that he especially shines when playing ass-kicking introverts. We follow K‘s path as he tries to solve a mystery that leads him deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole. It is a puzzle that seems to get bigger with every piece he finds. It is only at a much later stage that Harrison Ford steps into the picture. And although this might be his best performance in the past decade, the movie is wise to focus mostly on Gosling’s character. Because in true Blade Runner fashion, our protagonist‘s journey is not only a search for the truth, but also a road to self-discovery. 
This series stays ‘the thinking man’s science-fiction‘. And Villeneuve stages it with poetic beauty. Just as he previously did with „Arrival“, he puts you in awe as you marvel at everything that unfolds on screen. His cinematographer Roger Deakins delivers breathtaking shots. Long, wide, and each of them distinctly colored. You could put this movie on mute and it would still be an absolute joy to watch. Then however, you would be missing the grandiose score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch. Reusing the synth sounds from the '80s and adding Zimmer‘s trademark drums creates a soundtrack that goes from meditative to vibrant whenever the story demands it.
Everyone involved is contributing to make this movie the artistically precious blockbuster that it is. The set- and costume designers, the lighting technicians, and of course the stellar supporting cast. Thanks to "House of Cards", Robin Wright has become the go-to actress for strong female leaders and so she seems to be playing her part with the greatest of ease. Ana de Armas shows that she is ready to get her big break in Hollywood, and even former wrestler Dave Bautista gives a performance that is unexpectedly vulnerable.
All this makes "Blade Runner 2049" one of the best movies of the year. Although it has a considerable length of two hours and 45 minutes, the masterful execution makes this film worth while. A magnificent piece of intellectual sci-fi that is as thrilling as it is thought-provoking. Watch it on the largest screen you can get your hands on to be fully engulfed by its elegancy. If (like me) you can't get enough after watching it in theaters the first time, watch it again (seriously, it is criminally underperforming), or fill in the gaps between 2019 and 2049 with the three in-universe short films that Warner Bros. Pictures released on YouTube.

For Fans Of:
Blade Runner (1982)
Children of Men (2006)
Inception (2010)
Her (2013)
Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Minority Report (2002)
Ex Machina (2014)
12 Monkeys (1995)
Macbeth (2015)
Arrival (2016)

Click Here To Watch Trailer!

Mittwoch, 18. Oktober 2017

IT - Movie Review

 Title: IT
Running Time: 135 min
Director: Andy Muschietti
Writer: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, Gary Dauberman
Starring: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer, Chosen Jacobs, Wyatt Oleff, Nicholas Hamilton

Stephen King's books have been the source material for many film makers for a long time. Just two month ago, I reviewed the cinematic attempt to bring his "The Dark Tower" novels to the big screen. This time one of his most famous characters, Pennywise the endlessly creepy clown, makes a comeback in this 21st century update of an old horror classic.
2017's "IT" isn't a shot-for-shot remake of the original, but rather approaches the story from a few different angles. Firstly, the story is set in the late 1980's, updating the film for younger audiences and riding on the current nostalgia wave of that particular time-period. Secondly, the adults take a back seat and the movie focusses solely on the kids' perspective.
As a result, the success of the film rests on the shoulders of an incredibly young ensemble. Fortunately, this group of child actors seems to have had a lot of fun on set, because their chemistry translates to the big screen. Additionally, each of them (with maybe the exception of Wyatt Oleff's character) is essential to some part of the film, be it thematically, story-wise or concerning the atmosphere. Finn Wolfhard (hot of "Stranger Things") shines as the comic relief guy, while Jaeden Lieberher and Sophia Lillis carry the more dramatic parts of the film. But also Jeremy Ray Taylor and Jack Dylan Grazer bring a sincere genuinity to the Losers' Club. These guys seem like a real group of friends and at a few points in the film we can see them simply hanging out. It gives the movie a coming-of-age/adventure film vibe.
Don't be fooled, however. "IT" does earn its R-rating for 'violence, bloody images, and language'. On the one hand, the kids cuss and swear, which doesn't only add to the authenticity, but is also good for some laughs. On the other hand, we have, of course, the stuff that every horror fan came for. Because 'It' turns into everything that you fear, and so you get everything from torn-off limbs to waves of blood, plaque-infested hobos, and creepy little kids. It all unfolds in traditional horror movie fashion. And of course, there is the creature's favorite form: The gruesome clown Pennywise, played excellently by Bill Skarsgård. His portrayal is in no way inferior to Tim Curry's. And although some old-school film buffs might enjoy the 90's practical effects over the CGI touch-ups this new version gets at points, there's absolutely no denying that Skarsgård nails the the part when it's just him in make-up. His smile is super creepy, his eyes are insanely big and he barely ever blinks. It's a genius performance. 
Some of the main character's parents also come in as secondary villains, filling up the small town of Derry with threats left and right. Nicholas Hamilton joins in as well as the violent bully Henry. While he already had the most punchable face in the "Captain Fantastic" cast, here it is complemented through a mullet in such a way that it gives Jack "Joffrey" Gleeson a run for his money*.
The only real problem with the film is that it goes on for a little too long. Once the kids have forged out a plan of how to overcome the blood-thirsty antagonist, the viewer gets the idea of how things will play out. The script however throws in a few obstacles and complications here and there, that don't really add to the experience as a whole. Instead of creating extra tension, it makes the finale drag a tiny little bit.
But apart from that, "IT" is a really entertaining ride that proves once again, that horror works best when it is paired with elements of other genres. The fun sequences in which you get to know the gang, make it all the more impactful when the tide turns and their lifes are in danger. Stepping into the territory of an 80's coming-of-age drama and yet being more brutal than its predecessor, 2017's "IT" will leave you curious about what's next. And since the movie hasn't touched on the grown-up portion of the story yet, you can be damn sure that you will find out...

For Fans Of:
IT (1990)
Stranger Things (TV Series 2016- )
Stand By Me (1986)
Super 8 (2012)
E.T. (1982)
Gremlins (1984)
Scream (1996)
Krampus (2015)
The Goonies (1985)

Click Here To Watch Trailer!

*Fun Fact: Game of Thrones actor Jack Gleeson and my humble self actually share the same date of birth!

Donnerstag, 12. Oktober 2017

MOTHER! - Movie Review

Title: mother!
Running Time: 122 min
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Writer: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson, Stephen McHattie

Whether you are a fan of his work or not, Darren Aronofsky is an intriguing director at the very least. He has tackled many different topics and genres including surrealism (" π"), sports drama ("The Wrestler"), fantasy ("The Fountain"), psychological thriller ("Black Swan"), biblical epic ("Noah") and more. Nevertheless, he still fills his films with personal trademarks and has made a name for himself for being controversial and disturbing at times. Now, the director dives into the horror genre to get audience's hackles up.
His latest film certainly is a unique cinematic experience, although it really isn't a film for everyone. While the trailers promised a "haunted house vs. home invasion" type movie, you get much more than you bargained for. The story of a couple living alone in a house, that suddenly gets a dubious visitor, seemed simple enough. But "Mother!" is a grande metaphorical horror film, that is as disturbing as it is strange. Getting weirder with every minute, it slowly builds up to a complete escalation in its finale.
Aronofsky proves that he is a master of the craft as he takes you through this mysterious journey. The horror genre is often considered to be cheap, because scaring people is incredibly easy (even your regulare house cat can make you jump every now and then). To frighten someone to the core however, is a wholly different story. Aronofsky for example refrains from using the typical musical cues that notify you of an upcoming scare. In fact, he doesn't use any music at all. Instead, the noises of the house take center stage. Squeaking floorboards, muffled footsteps and rattling furniture. Everything becomes alive to create a truly haunting atmosphere. Additionally, the director follows his protagonist with an extensive use of close-ups and tracking shots, trapping us in her perspective and making the movie all the more claustrophobic.
This is also where Jennifer Lawrence' splendid acting comes in. After kind-of phoning it in in "X-Men: Apocalypse" and "Passengers", she shows once again why she is an Oscar-caliber actress. Her sincere and empathy prompting performance draws you into the movie and makes the things that happen to her all the more uncomfortable.
Because content-wise, this is a really uncomfortable film. The story equals a fever dream, where there seems to be no reason behind the string of events. In nightmarish fashion strange and (towards the finale) very disturbing imagery unravels. Some people will find this unnecessarily harsh and the chaos of this movie appalling. Others might relish this uncensored unraveling of Aronofsky tormented artistic mind. Because within this turmoil of weird incidents, a lot of  themes are touched upon. The metaphorical storytelling allows many different interpretations. Maybe one will stick with you. Maybe you'll have none and only after digging into others people's analyses it will fall like scales from your eyes. And maybe you'll find this film so bloated and pretentious that you just don't care. But Aronofsky surely put a lot of his thoughts and grand questions about human nature and our world in general into this film. Whether you will enjoy this ride certainly depends on your affinity for the Kafkaesque. Either way, it will be unlike anything you have seen in theaters lately.

For Fans Of:
Franz Kafka
Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Only God Forgives (2013)

Click Here To Watch Trailer!

Donnerstag, 21. September 2017

AMERICAN MADE - Movie Review

Title: American Made
Running Time: 115 min
Director: Doug Liman
Writer: Gari Spinelli
Starring: Tom Cruise, Sarah Wright, Domhnall Gleeson, Alejandro Edda, Mauricio Mejía, Caleb Landry Jones

I used to say that Tom Cruise has never made a bad film. Since this year's "The Mummy" I might have to asterisk that. Still, the actor whose full name is Thomas Cruise Mapother IV, is one of the last true movie stars. He manages to get people into theaters and deliver great performances, in spite of his more than controversial private life (Mel Gibson probably really wants to know his secret). For his latest film, Tom takes on the role of Barry Seal. A talented pilot who has worked not only for the CIA and the DEA, but also for the infamous Medillin cartel. The later of which has become particularly populare in mainstream media through Netflix's "Narcos". Surely, the film makers hoped to wanted into that.
"American Made" is biographical crime film that chooses fun action over personal drama. And even though it would have benefited from doing both, it surely is an entertaining ride. The story alone puts you in awe. You'll be rubbing your eyes in disbelief when you see what this real-life person got himself into and out-of, how the government took part in all this and how much money was involved in all of these operations.
Tom Cruise sells it all. Though better looking than the real man, he is the perfect guy to make you believe that he could actually pull these things of. He also gives Barry all of his charm, making you forget that this is a man who helped one of the most dangerous drug cartels gain power. Director Doug Liman has worked with Cruise on "Edge of Tomorrow" before - an immensely entertaining sci-fi action film - and he proves once again that these two are a great duo. His quick and restless directing style matches perfectly with Cruise's high energy. The movie never really slows down, and even during dialogue scenes, the camera never stays in a still shot for long. Ironically so, this fast-pace makes the film feels a little longer than it is. Not because it's boring, but because so much happens that you can't help but wonder how much longer this guy actually could get away with it. An actual problem of the movie's tempo however is that it never takes the time to really explore the personal drama of Barry Seal's story. The elements concerning his family life seem more like sprinkles across the film rather than actual side-plots. As a result, the film doesn't have the emotional depth it could have.
Nonetheless, "American Made" is a clever and cool-looking bio-pic with a strong leading performance by Tom Cruise. With its fresh directing style, as well as a talented supporting cast (including underrated chameleon Domhnall Gleeson and a convincing Mauricio Mejía who took on the role of Escobar for the third time), it is as enjoyable as it is intriguing. Surely a good time!

For Fans Of:
Lord of War (2005)
The Infiltrator (2016)
Blow (2001)
American Gangster (2007)
Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
The Iceman (2012)

Click Here To Watch Trailer!

Sonntag, 3. September 2017

ATOMIC BLONDE - Movie Review

Title: Atomic Blonde
Running Time: 115 min
Director: David Leitch
Writers: Kurt Johnstad
Starring: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Toby Jones, Sofia Boutella

In the last couple of years, Hollywood has taken a few large steps towards gender equality when it comes to prominent blockbuster roles. After "The Hunger Games", we got two female-led Star Wars movies, Scarlett Johansson as an ass-kicking cyborg and "Wonder Women" topped the box office. Now, Charlize Theron, who has proven her affinity for action (and cars?) with "Mad Max: Fury Road" and  "Fate of the Furious", gets her shot at a bad-ass leading lady. She's paired with stuntman-turned-director David Leitch, who is heavily involved in the "John Wick" franchise.
Surprisingly so, "Atomic Blonde" is not as action focused as the ad campaigns might have made you believe. Instead, it really goes into spy film territory, with shady characters, different agencies interfering with each other and multiple double crosses. Unfortunately, this part of the story isn't the movie's strong suit. Although the premise seems simple (once more the plot revolves around a list containing agents' identities - as previously seen in "Skyfall", "Mission Impossible" and many others), Kurt Johnstad's script sometimes gets convoluted. There is a lot happening between the different parties involved. And while it is not that hard to follow their actions, their motivations stay unclear. Thus, the conversations between the different players don't hold as much weight as they need to keep you fully engaged. To me, it was hard to put a finger on the screenplay's exact problem. Maybe it just tried to be too clever for its own good. But too often I found myself hoping for the conversations to wrap up, so that another action set-piece could kick off. Because when the action hits, it is absolutely fantastic.
David Leitch sure knows how to stage, choreograph and shoot fight scenes. Every time our main character goes into combat mode, it is a complete blast. Especially during the finale of the film, the film makers present you a fight sequence that puts you in awe. In an incredible long-take, Charlize Theron takes on group of hitmen that she beats, kicks and shoots through an entire building. Not only is most of the action in frame, but it is rough, blunt and realistic. No punches are pulled, and there were audible gasps in the audience during the scene. It might be one of my favorite fist fights in American cinema.
Additionally, the film has a great visual style. With its bright green, pink and blue lighting, it often has a very cool neon look. Also, it uses rousing tunes of the German new wave and other music of the time, to really give you that late 80's Berlin vibe. The editing is on point as well. This film simply looks damn awesome.
However, all this makes it just all the more upsetting, that the story itself can't completely grab you. The movie could have easily been 20 minutes shorter. I really hope the film makers get to make a sequel, where they can shift the focus to the action. Because this movie actually had the potential to be absolutely dope. It's still worth watching on a movie night with your friends though, be it just for the fight scenes.

For Fans Of:
Spectre (2015)
Skyfall (2012)
TRON: Legacy (2010)
The Bourne Legacy (2012)
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)
Stereo (2014)
Unknown (2011)

Click Here To Watch Trailer!

Samstag, 26. August 2017

THE DARK TOWER - Movie Review

Title: The Dark Tower
Running Time: 95 min
Director: Nikolaj Arcel
Writers: Nikolaj ArcelAkiva GoldsmanJeff PinknerAnders Thomas Jensen
Starring: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor

Stephen King adaptations are always a mixed bag. "The Green Mile", "The Shawshank Redemption" and "The Shining" are considered to be some of the best movies ever made. "Maximum Overdrive", "Sleepwalker" and "Thinner" ...not so much. It seems that King's enthralling source material is not a guarantor for a good film. So when it was announced that his beloved eight book epic "The Dark Tower" was being adapted for the big screen, people were rather cautious in their excitement. But how exactly does the movie version of this dark sci-fi fantasy action western hold up?
"The Dark Tower" is a cool and fun summer movie that just misses the opportunity to be a great one. There is a lot to like about this film: First of all, it has a slick and stylistic look to it. The color schemes, the visual effects, the set-design, the costumes. They all help establishing this fantastical and mysterious world that you can immediately buy into. As a result, there is no need for too much exposition. Instead, you find out and get curious about this world the same way Tom Taylor's character does. The young actor makes Jake relatable enough to be the audience's way into the story, without making the character too bland. Along side him is Idris Elba who is as brilliant as ever. The 44-year-old Brit has an on-screen presence of a true movie star and it was about time that he got the chance to step further into the spotlight. Hollywood really needs to utilize his talent more, as the actor can sell drama and action with the greatest of ease (check out Luther to see him shine completely). And when he's in action, it looks pretty bad-ass. Re-loading in high-speed, curving bullets, shooting in mid-air. The use of a revolver has rarely looked so cool. It's pretty rad! In addition, the film doesn't only have some great humor placed at points, but it also goes to some pretty dark places too.
Unfortunately however, the film doesn't take enough time with its more dramatic moments and the consequential personal development of its characters. Conversations are cut short and possible inner conflict is resolved too quickly. Therefore the movie sometimes fails to create emotional impact and depth, although not for a lack of opportunities to do so. Furthermore, the movie shies away from getting deep into the very weird parts of its source material and offers a more conventional interpretation of the novels. Establishing the base for a possible franchise within only one-and-a-half hours just might be a little too ambitious, and so the film often feels rushed. The movie's score on Rotten Tomatoes however is by no means justified. While critics treat it like a horrible film, it is actually quite entertaining. It is a shame really. Because the general criticism of "not getting enough" often means that there was a good amount of awesomeness in a film, that made people wish for more. The independent studio that produced this movie, Media Rights Capital (MRC), has a great philosophy when it comes to making films. In order to be able to take risks, they keep their film's budgets at a minimum. "The Dark Tower" for example cost about a quarter of the production of  "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2". Therefore the studio does not need to have huge financial successes. In my opinion, this is an approach that should be rewarded, as it gives us the opportunity to get more original content in between all of those big Hollywood franchises. So if you just want to have a little fun at the movies and tickets are at a discount, go check out this film! I would love to see what they could do in a sequel.

For Fans Of:
Book of Eli (2010)
Solomon Kane (2009)
Wanted (2008)
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

Click Here To Watch Trailer!