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 costed 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!

Montag, 21. August 2017


Title: War for the Planet of the Apes
Running Time: 140 min
Director: Matt Reeves
Writer: Mark Bomback, Matt Reeves
Starring: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, Toby Kebbell

Reboots, remakes and prequels of prestigious films often miss the mark. "Star Wars", "The Hobbit", "Total Recall" and most recently "Ben Hur" all failed to really satisfy the general public. The more beloved the original, the harder it gets. Somehow however, 20th Century Fox managed to take the absolute sci-fi classic "Planet of the Apes" and re-imagine its origins in a way that struck a chord with audiences and critics alike. In addition to great story telling, the first two installments enthralled viewers with astonishing visuals. Instead of actors in chimp masks, we got state-of-the-art motion capture technology. Half of the cast was digitally transformed into incredibly realistic looking apes with none other than Andy Serkis, the godfather of motion capture performance, leading the way. The actor who rose to fame through his portrayal of Gollum gave the leading ape Caeser a sense of sincerity and humanity that got everyone invested in this chimpanzee's story-line. Now, the third chapter of this new franchise hits theaters and his journey comes to a final conclusion.
With "War for the Planet of the Apes" this prequel series does not only become one of the greatest of all-time. It also makes it a perfect trilogy with three equally amazing movies that can each stand on their own while simultaneously creating a well-rounded overall story arc. We open with written text recapping the first two installments and filling in the time gap between this film and the last one. It almost has a Star Wars opening crawl feel to it, but with a much darker tint Then, we get images that are heavily inspired by great anti-war classics like "Apocalypse Now" and "Full Metal Jacket", setting the tone for what's to come. When we meet Caeser he is still a strong leader, but you can tell that the struggles of yesteryear have left their mark on him. His mind seems raddled, his body exhausted, and he is haunted by the ghosts of the past. As the film goes on Caeser has to battle his inner demons  and answer the questions of whether he wants or even can be the leader his people need him to be. Despite this very personal perspective the film takes, the larger implications of the events in the franchise are not lost. This still is a series that explores universal themes such as humanity, forgiveness, and what one can sacrifice for the greater good.
Andy Serkis gives one of the best performances of his career. The actor who seems to have the most expressive eyes of any other performer working to date, is so good that he elevates everyone around him. The cast members are at their best when they are able to play off of him.  A recognition of his abilities by the Academy of Motion Pictures is long overdue. Every wrinkle of his face tells you something about his character.
The face, of course, is a computer generated chimpanzee face. But is it really? By now the effects have become so outrageously marvelous that the difference is less than marginal. Especially when the orang-utan Maurice is on screen it is almost impossible to comprehend that what you are watching is not the real-deal. In addition to its outstanding visual effects, the film also has gorgeous cinematography and set design. This really is one of the best looking movies of the year.
Overall, it is also one of these rare films that transcend genre. Its sci-fi, drama, anti-war, thriller, action and post-apocalyptic elements are so well balanced that it is hard to pigeonhole this movie. It is also a reason why this series so great. They even find time for some humor through the addition of Bad Ape (a new character portrayed by a fantastic Steve Zahn).
"War for the Planet of the Apes" really is a perfect conclusion for this mature blockbuster movie franchise that might just be the best trilogy of this decade. If you are a fan of the first two installments, you will absolutely love this film. But even other viewers should definitely check this film out, because it is simply an amazing movie. Hopefully, it will manage to overcome the prejudice against visual effects heavy blockbusters and be a strong contender at next year's Oscars.

For Fans Of:
Planet of the Apes (1968)
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Gandhi (1982)

Click Here To Watch Trailer!

Donnerstag, 17. August 2017

DUNKIRK - Movie Review

Title: Dunkirk
Running Time: 106 min
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Aneurin Barnard, Kenneth Brannagh, Cillian Murphy, Harry Styles, Jack Lowden, Tom Glynn-Carney, Barry Keogahn, James D'Arcy

Since the turn of the millennium, Christopher Nolan has established himself as one of the most renowned directors of our time. Next to his critically and commercially successful Batman trilogy, he has put audiences in awe with mind-bending and sophisticated movies such as "Memento", "The Prestige", "Inception" and "Interstellar". Nolan movies are an event, and whether they like the film or not, people sure love to discuss and talk about their execution and construction. But what happens when a director that is so well-known for his high-concept fiction tackles an historical drama?
Well, with "Dunkirk" Christopher Nolan has once again created a unique cinematic experience, albeit for different reasons than people have come to expect. This is a true story. There is no big twist, no philosophical exploration of our perception of reality and basically no room for interpretation. But Nolan still sets this film apart from other war movies through the way he chooses to tell the story. First of all, there is no real main character, and instead we follow different people at different points during this historic evacuation.We also don't get any kind of backstory for them. This is mostly due to the fact that (especially in the first half) there is extremely little dialogue. A fact that is especially interesting considering that one of the biggest points of criticism concerning Nolan's past work was his extensive use of expositional dialogue. It does not seem however as if this was a response to critics, but rather a deliberate film making choice. By removing the personal perspective from the film, the event itself gains center stage. Imagine watching just the finale of "Titanic" without having seen Rose and Jack before. It creates an atmosphere with an emotional coldness to it, that at the same gives the film a sense of objective realism. Therefore, the film truly becomes a snapshot in time.
By now I have mostly defined this movie by the things it doesn't have, so let's get into the things it does. Because from a technical standpoint, this film is an absolutely masterful piece of cinema. For one, the areal shots of the beach and the ocean are breathtaking. Nolan captures the landscape in a way that gives this yawning void a bittersweet beauty. As though this gorgeous emptiness was already an in-between state of life and death. At other points, he creates a claustrophobic atmosphere that immediately builds up the tension. He taps right into the human fear of drowning or being trapped. Furthermore, he stages most of the action in camera with practical effects making them real and impactful. It should be noted here that this film works without a bunch of gory scenes and manages to display the horrors of war without spilling a lot of on-screen blood.
Something that is rarely talked about in films, the sound design, is another element that contributes to the total immersion of the audience. When bombs drop you feel it, when shots fire you flinch, and when fighter jets nosedive out of the sky, their screech makes the hair on your neck stand on end. Hans Zimmer underscores this with an oppressive atmospheric soundtrack that refrains from large melodic movement. Lastly, Nolan interconnects the three perspectives of the event in a clever way that at some points cements the feeling of inescapability.
"Dunkirk" is a film that has the capability of completely sucking its audience in. It does however ask you to be emotional invested simply because of what happens, and not because of who it happens to. So if you are a viewer who needs a personal connection with a main character to really get immersed in a story, you might not get the same experience as others. And while Nolan tries to make the film at least a little more personal during the last ten minutes, it does not work 100%. But despite this debatable point concerning the writing, Christopher Nolan has once again proven that he is a masterclass film maker when it comes to directing. An actual Dunkirk veteran was moved to tears during a screening of this movie, because he felt like he was there again. Whether you want to learn more about the events of WWII or about the artistry of cinema itself, "Dunkirk" is worth watching. Worth watching on a big screen. A definite recommendation.

For Fans Of:
The Revenant (2015)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
The Impossible (2012)
Interstellar (2014)

Click Here To Watch Trailer!

PS.: To all the "One Direction" haters, I am sorry to inform you that Harry Styles actually did a good job in this film.

Samstag, 29. Juli 2017

BABY DRIVER - Movie Review

Title: Baby Driver
Running Time: 113 min
Director: Edgar Wright
Writer: Edgar Wright
Starring: Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm,  Jamie Foxx, Eiza González, Jon Bernthal, CJ Jones

There are only a few directors who can leave a fingerprint as unique as Edgar Wright. The creator of "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" and the so-called "Cornetto-Trilogy" (including "Shaun of the Dead", "Hot Fuzz" and "The World's End") has made a name for himself by putting certain trademark elements into almost all of his films. Firstly, he puts everyday normal people into outrageous scenarios. Not only does this create humor, but Wright actually uses these ludicrous events to support his characters' personal growth. Secondly, he has a slick and inventive way of editing as well as framing his scenes. Thus, he can create comedy, excitement and style almost completely independent from the words in his script. And lastly, Wright fills his films with a lot of details, foreshadowing and pop-culture references, so that you can pick up something new every-time you rewatch it.
By now, it has been four years since the director brought his ideas to the big screen. After he left Marvel's "Ant-Man" project very publicly, the world was wondering what this film-maker would come up with next. "Baby Driver" is the answer to that question. And a damn great one too. Although it isn't as distinctly Edgar-Wright-ish as you might expect.
The movie revolves around Baby, a young getaway driver who has had an accident as a child that left him with a tinnitus. To drown out the squeak in his ear, he listens to music, an art-form that has always played a central part in his life. For Wright's standards the basic plot is unconventionally conventional: Boy is in the bad guy business, boy meets girl, boy wants to get out of the bad guy business to drive off into the sunset with girl, boy has to do one last job. So far so simple. It is a classic Hollywood tale. Wright however gives it enough little twists and turns to make it feel like a fresh homage rather than a resort to cliché. But what actually truly elevates this story is the musical element mentioned above:
The soundtrack consists almost exclusively of licensed pieces of music and features fantastic songs from Queen's "Brighton Rock" all the way to a cover version of "Tequila". It is much more than a great listen, though. While in other films the action is simply accompanied by the music, here, it is the other way around. The music dictates the action. Yes, everything that happens in "Baby Driver" is in perfect sync with the songs you hear. The stunts, the driving, the gunshots, even the beeping of ATMs in the background. Whether it is putting down a coffee cup or tapping someone on the shoulder. Everything fits the rhythm. You know these moments you sometimes have, when you walk through the streets with your headphones on, when you imagine this was the soundtrack to your life? That's what this movie is all about. But it's more than just a gimmick. Often times it is subtle enough that it isn't too on the nose (although you never not notice it), and moreover, it serves the purpose of reflecting the protagonists view of the world. When he has to restart a song in the middle of the action, you know that this is not going how he had planned. It's an ingenious character moment.
By itself, this whole element would already make an entertaining motion picture. If you then take a look at the cast, the entire film steps up its game even further. Everyone seems like they had a blast on set. Oscar-Winners Jamie Foxx and Kevin Spacey are excellent (it becomes clear Spacey has perfected his typical arrogant and powerful mastermind by now), but also Jon Hamm gives his character an unexpected depth through his performance. And then of course there is our leading man, Ansel Elgort, who is as charismatic as he ever was. He has to carry most of the film and fulfills his task masterfully. You believe his passion, his coolness and his pain. While I am curious to see what Alden Ehrenreich has to offer, I immediately thought it to be a shame that Elgort didn't get the role of young Han Solo as soon as I saw the first 6 minutes of "Baby Driver".
The whole film is an exhilarating ride that you can appreciate more and more every time you watch it. This movie has action, humor, romance and maybe the greatest car chase sequences of the decade. Edgar Wright proves that he can deliver an endlessly creative product even when he plays around with a classic Hollywood formula. Meticulously crafted, brilliantly edited and perfectly cast, this music-video-motion-picture-hybrid is one of the best films of the summer. Buy the ticket and take your friends. You won't regret it.

For Fans Of:
Hot Fuzz (2007)
RocknRolla (2008)
The Town (2010)
The Italian Job (1969/2003)
Victoria (2015)
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)
Fast Five (2011)

Click Here To Watch Traier!

Donnerstag, 27. Juli 2017


Title: Spider-Man: Homecoming
Running Time: 133 min
Director: Jon Watts
Writers: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers
Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, John Favreau, Jacob Balaton

Cinematically speaking, Spider-Man has had a bit of a rough road for the past decade. After Sam Raimi's first two incarnations of the web-slinger soared at the box office, the series did a huge nosedive with a franchise killing third installment. "Batman & Robin" - Style. But Sony didn't wait long to reboot the series and cranked out two brand-new films, this time with Andrew Garfield in the Spidey suit. The fans however neither liked seeing the all too familiar origin play out the same way again. Nor did they appreciate the convoluted story-line that was very clearly just geared towards fast-tracking an extended universe. So when the films disappointed critics and audiences alike, Sony turned to the mother ship of comic book franchises: Marvel Studios. Yes, the Spider-Man found a new home in the MCU. And although the general public seemed hesitant to get excited about yet another take on the wall-crawler, most people were wooed when they first saw Tom Holland in costume and in action in "Captain America: Civil War". So can "Spider-Man: Homecoming" successfully build on that momentum? Or is the time for Spidey solo movies well and truly over?
It certainly is not! Marvel Studios have proven their sure instinct for their audiences taste once more, because Spider-Man incarnation feels fresher than ever. The film-makers skipped the origin story and  jumped right into Spider-Man's life after the events of "Captain America: Civil War" (awesomely recapped through a "Spidey Blog"). Although the character is send back to high school for the third time in a row, this time the setting is actually part of the story. Instead of having a 30-year-old play a Spider-Man that just happens to also go to school sometimes, Tom Holland really looks the age. Furthermore, Peter Parker actually has to deal with the problems a teenager with superpowers might have. This makes the whole film more personal, something that the comics were always about. Because unlike the Avengers, Spidey is not the one that saves the world from total destruction or fights intergalactic wars. He is a street-level hero. It is not for nothing that they call him the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Marvel Studios understands this, and instead of putting him against some big flashy inherently evil villain, they chose The Vulture: A regular in the comics, that the film-makers made into an equally "small scale" counterpart, with an unexpected connection to Peter. In addition they gave him an origin that does not online tie into the MCU, but also kind of expands it.
But of course we can't talk about the world-famous web-slinger, without also talking about the man who plays him. Because what elevates the film even further is Tom Holland's excellent performance. It is a match made in heaven, as Holland nails both, the Peter Parker and the Spider-Man side of the character. He simply IS the slightly awkward but witty super-hero and to me his casting is almost on a Micheal-J.-Fox-in-Back-To-The-Future-Level kind of perfection. Not only does he hold his own opposite of Robert Downey Jr. (who is much less in this film than I had feared), but he sells every single emotion. He's cocky, fearful, awkward, frustrated, insecure, fascinated, lovestruck, and fully embarks in the roller coaster of feelings that a teenager has. As a long time fan, it was pure joy to finally see a movie version of this character that seems like he jumped right out of a comic-book.
There is an argument that can be made that Sam Raimi's classic version was a more serious movie with a little more gravitas. And it is true that this incarnation is a little lighter. But with its 80's comedy vibe, well-rounded story and absolutely fantastic lead actor, there is no doubt this Spider-Man film is an immensely entertaining motion picture. It knows exactly why its main character is so appealing and utilizes this to its full potential. A blast for every Marvel fan and an definite must-see for every Spider-Man fan.

For Fans Of:
Spider-Man (2002)
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Back to the Future Trilogy (1985-1990)
Chronicle (2012)
Iron-Man (2008)
The Karate Kid (1984)
The Breakfast Club (1985)

Click Here To Watch Traier!