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Reviews

Jungle Cruise
(2021)

Entertaining Adventure Film for the Whole Family
Colour me surprised! For years, movies have been inspired by witty scripts, intriguing novels or even great video games but this is the first time I know of that a film has been inspired by a riverboat amusement ride. While the idea might sound puzzling on paper, the final result is actually a decent adventure film for the entire family.

Jungle Cruise manages to work for different reasons. First of all, the locations look absolutely astonishing. It's obvious that most of these locations have been produced in a studio but instead of looking fake, they transmit a magical atmosphere recalling fantasy milestones such as Avatar. The special effects in this film would even deserve an Academy Award.

Up next, the story is simple but comes around with a few interesting twists and turns, involving the son of a German emperor, a mysterious indigenous tribe and a horde of undead conquistadores. These elements make the film entertaining from start to finish and provide a pace that will even keep viewers intrigued who have a short attention span.

The acting performances are decent and quite sympathetic as well. Emily Blunt for instance shines as independent, resilient and strong woman who knows exactly what she wants and is willing to take enormous risks to make her ambitions come true. Her brother is played by Jack Whitehall who seems a little bit arrogant, naive and fearful at the beginning but who ends up becoming more complex and profound as he turns out to be courageous, loyal and supportive. Jesse Plemons finds an excellent balance between danger and satire when incarnating the son of a German emperor with megalomaniac eccentricities. Every single actress and actor does a very convincing job and manages to make a good movie great.

Jungle Cruise is an interesting adventure film for the entire family. The movie is intense but not brutal. The story is creative but not too complex. The length is neither too short nor too long. It's the kind of movie that could equally please a grand-father who fondly remembers the Indiana Jones movies, a young mother who has grown up playing Tomb Raider video games and a young daughter who admires acting super star Dwayne Johnson. It might not be the most experimental, groundbreaking or intellectual movie but it offers two hours of welcome escapism to the whole family.

Free Guy
(2021)

Entertaining action-adventure cinema on the pulse of time with valuable life lessons
Free Guy is an imaginative science-fiction adventure movie in the key of Ready Player One that should appeal to kids, teenagers and young adults who enjoy playing video games.

The movie revolves around two parallel stories. In our real world, developers Walter McKey and his estranged partner Millie Rusk try to prove that selfish head developer Antwan Hovachelik has illegally used their source code to create a highly successful open-world video game. In said game, a non-player character named Guy develops an artificial intelligence when encountering a character named Molotov Girl who is actually Millie Rusk's game character. The two characters start working together in the game to find traces of the hidden source code that could benefit Millie Rusk and Walter McKey in real life.

This film convinces on many levels. First of all, the movie has a vibrant mixture of multiple genres such as action, adventure, comedy, drama, romance and science-fiction. The special effects are outstanding and bring a video game to life in an imaginative way with numerous creative details and breathtaking settings. The two story lines are cleverly interwoven and deliver poignant messages against greed and for love. The acting performances are solid and especially Ryan Reynolds manages to give the lead character a sympathetic, quirky and funny personality.

At the end of the day, Free Guy is an entertaining action-adventure movie on the pulse of time that can be enjoyed by children, teenagers and young adults as it teaches valuable life lessons. If you don't appreciate video games or if you were looking for a movie with more thrilling twists, you might however end up finding the movie too modern or too childish. There are also too many similarities between this film and Ready Player One in my opinion. While this film is certainly entertaining and memorable as there aren't too many of its kind yet, the under-appreciated Serenity is even more creative, mature and profound in the same genre.

The Ice Road
(2021)

Burning desire and duels in the ice and snow
The Ice Road is yet another action-thriller starring Liam Neeson in a typecast role he has played over and over again throughout the past two decades and counting. And this is perfectly fine.

In this particular film, Liam Neeson plays a tough, resilient and generous truck driver who accepts the nearly impossible mission to deliver wellheads to a collapsed mine in northern Manitoba where workers are trapped and fighting for their lives. In addition to inclement weather and rapidly melting ice, parts of the mining company intend to sabotage the rescue mission by any means necessary. The truck driver needs to cooperate with his brother suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, a rebellious indigenous woman in constant conflict with the law and his severe but fair boss to save the workers under the most challenging circumstances.

Even though the movie offers nothing new, it has been executed with great care which makes it one of the greatest genre entries in recent memory. It's very positive that an indigenous character is portrayed by an actual actress with indigenous heritage in form of the very convincing youngster Amber Midthunder. The idea to include a character suffering from multiple mental disorders adds a psychological depth that spreads the positive message that even people who are suffering from such illnesses are able to be clever, empathic and reliable heroes. The settings are excellent for this movie as it was shot in Manitoba and actually takes place in the Canadian province itself. Nothing is worse than movies that are shot in Toronto for monetary reasons but make you believe that the plot takes place in New York City. The movie convinces with excellent pace from start to finish without feeling rushed. The special effects are employed with care and feature truck chases, fist fights and explosions among many other elements. The light and sound effects blend in very well and are best enjoyed at your local cinema.

Action-thriller genre fans should certainly appreciate The Ice Road for its characters, pace and settings. The movie is great at what it is without trying to add anything new to the genre. Grab some drinks and snacks, sit down with a few friends and enjoy this entertaining escapism on a slow evening.

Cry Macho
(2021)

Nostalgic drama with creative diversity
Cry Macho is an emotional road movie and western drama that is much better than its lukewarm reception might suggest.

The film revolves around old rodeo star Mike Milo who has lost his family in a terrible accident and had to fight addiction and loneliness in order to stabilize his life on an isolated farm. One day, the man who has given him purpose and supported him throughout the years forces Mike Milo to bring his estranged teenage son from Mexico to the United States of America. However, the job turns out to be much more complicated than initially revealed since the teenage son is a rebellious runaway who has already been in conflict with the law on multiple occasions. Things take an even more complicated turn when it becomes evident that the boy's mother is a selfish femme fatale with ties to criminal organizations who doesn't hesitate to use violence to keep her teenage son under control. Tracked down by the police and hired guns, Mike Milo and the rebellious teenager must put their differences aside to make it to the border.

Clint Eastwood's movie convinces on numerous levels. The acting performances are great and especially Clint Eastwood himself convinces as tough, resilient and grumpy man with a sinister past but a true heart of gold. The relationships between the characters are very profound and especially the rebellious teenager portrayed by Eduardo Minett and the widowed restaurant owner played by Natalia Traven are easy to empathize with. The latter character also shows that you can develop a wonderful relationship with a person of a foreign culture whose language you barely understand since emotions break down barriers. Another strength of this film is the settings varying from lush mansions in Mexico City over impoverished villages in the country to isolated farms in Texas. The use of accessories, cars and clothes bring the seventies to life in authentic fashion and add a healthy dose of nostalgic atmosphere. While this movie is first and foremost a very human drama, it also includes thrilling elements such as sinister bullying, realistic car chases and even occasional fights with fists and guns. These brief and efficiently used thrilling moments keep the movie entertaining from start to finish. Let's not forget about the amazing rooster that gives the movie its name and that offers some comic relief in many tongue-in-cheek moments throughout the film.

At the end of the day, Cry Macho is a profound drama in a positively nostalgic road movie meets western style. Its characters are unique, its settings are authentic and the brief moments of thrills make the film entertaining from start to finish. Cry Macho is one of Clint Eastwood's greatest movies in recent memory and would represent an excellent conclusion to his impressive career that has left its mark on three generations and counting.

Premika
(2017)

Thai culture presented in a quirky mixture of atmospheric horror and slapstick comedy elements
Premika, better known as Killer Karaoke in North America, is a Thai movie that mixes atmospheric horror elements with a few slapstick comedy passages.

The movie revolves around a resort in the country that is visited by some celebrities such as musicians and producers for a weekend of concerts, karaoke and parties. Soon enough, strange things start to occur in and around the resort as visitors disappear and are haunted by mysterious appearances. The events seem to be related to the gruesome murder of a female teenager whose dismembered body was found nearby but never identified. Things take a sinister turn as investigators, perpetrators, tourists and victims meet at the sinister resort.

The film can be described as an average flick throughout its exposure, rising action, climax and falling action as it mixes very well shot atmospheric horror elements that are however slowed down by distractingly awkward slapstick comedy elements that just don't blend in. The settings and special effects are employed with care. The acting performances and the plot are however shallow and thin.

What makes the movie stand out is its conclusion in the final twenty minutes as the different characters meet and the background story is revealed. This little twist is emotional and profound and actually deals with a problem that is recurring in Thai culture. The difficult topic is treated with respect and gives viewers some unexpected food for thought. Seventy entertaining but superficial minutes are therefore followed by twenty authentic and poignant minutes that end the movie on a high note.

At the end of the day, Killer Karaoke or Premika is worth to be watched if you are interested in Thai culture and don't mind a combination of atmospheric horror elements with quirky slapstick comedy. This movie is certainly not everybody's cup of tea but it manages to stand out and is quite memorable. The final twenty minutes elevate it above an average flick and offer some welcome food for thought. This might be a creative film to watch on a movie night with some friends on Halloween.

Morgue
(2019)

Classic atmospheric horror trademarks with a fresh spin by Paraguayan youngsters
Morgue is a supernatural horror movie made on a shoestring budget in Paraguay that is much better than its average to abysmal ratings.

The movie revolves around Diego Martinez, a lowly paid security guard who lives in a cheap apartment and drives a decrepit car that is about to fall apart. One night, he hits a man on the road and decides to run and hide. Plagued by guilt, he is relieved to get a call from his employer that informs him that he has a night shift at a hospital that might get him some welcome distraction. However, that shift is everything but a routine job as strange things are going on that will change Diego Martinez' life forever.

This horror movie convinces on numerous levels. The film is short, gets to the point, has excellent pace, entertains from start to finish and never overstays its welcome. The atmosphere is excellent in decrepit apartments, on abandoned roads in dirty suburbs and particularly in the creepy hospital with its terrifying morgue. Pablo Martinez' realistic acting in his very first film carries the movie with few dialogues and a limited number of characters very well. The special effects aren't overused and give the movie an authentic touch that will send shivers down your spine. The light and sound effects as well as the gloomy soundtrack enhance the atmosphere splendidly. Director and writer Hugo Cardozo has been inspired by atmospheric horror movies of the seventies and employs their classic trademarks in a refreshing way as if he were an experienced veteran.

If you are sick and tired of predictable sequels flooding North American cinemas, Paraguay's independent atmospheric horror movie Morgue is a very interesting alternative for a great movie night with friends for Halloween. The film is now available digitally and physically in North America and certainly worth the money and time of curious genre fans.

No Time to Die
(2021)

An appropriate conclusion to Daniel Craig's era
No Time to Die is the twenty-fifth movie in the James Bond series created by Eon Productions. This is also the longest of these movies. It's the fifth and final movie with Daniel Craig and concludes the more emotional and personal sequence of films on a very high note.

This film convinces on several levels. Without revealing too much, this movie brings the person James Bond to life more authentically than most other films except for On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Casino Royale and Skyfall. The movie has a dramatic depth that might make quite a few viewers shed a few tears towards the end.

The movie introduces several interesting side characters. Lashana Lynch convinces as new agent with cool, resilient and tough charisma. Ana de Armas has an impressive cameo as bubbly agent who seems nervous at first contact but focused when put in danger.

The locations have been chosen with care before the madness of the pandemic occurred. The film moves from the snow-covered landscapes of Norway over isolated islands in the Pacific to heated soils of Italy. In this regard, the film certainly offers something for every taste.

The plot is a spy thriller by the numbers which means that those who don't like the genre won't change their minds with this movie while genre enthusiasts get exactly what they could expect which is a relief in troubled times like these.

There are few negative things to mention. Even though Rami Malek is doing a decent job at portraying a tormented villain, his character could have benefitted from some additional background information and further scenes.

Another thing that hasn't impacted the rating but that needs to be pointed out is that the release strategy of this movie has been absolutely dreadful which cannot just be excused by the pandemic. It's great that a movie that was so difficult to make turned out to be so amazing but it should have already been released more than two years ago as I'm writing these lines. I hope that the next entry in the series will come around much faster.

At the end of the day, No Time to Die is in the top section of James Bond movies and a rewarding conclusion to the sequence of films starring Daniel Craig that have featured a more emotional, personal and vulnerable agent. The mixture of action, crime and drama is balanced, captivating and entertaining. So far, in a year that hasn't had many cinematic highlights, No Time to Die qualifies as the greatest movie of the year.

The Many Saints of Newark
(2021)

Clashing emotions in a changing world
The Many Saints of Newark is a crime drama serving as a prequel to the series The Sopranos. Even if you aren't familiar with the series, this film is certainly worth a try for genre fans.

The movie revolves around the childhood and adolescence of Tony Soprano, the child of an American-Italian crime family. He explores betrayal and loyalty, doubts and trust, joy and sorrow, embitterment and reconciliation, life and death among family members and friends.

This film convinces on many levels. First of all, the soundtrack, settings and clothings bring the sixties and seventies back to life in authentic fashion and provide atmospheric depth.

Up next, the different characters are very distinctive and profound. We observe innocent children looking up to their family members, frustrated mobsters who are attempting to gain freedom, influence and reputation and old-fashioned gangsters who don't make any compromises and don't take any prisoners.

The movie features several subplots which add much diversity. It follows the complicated relationship of an Italian immigrant with her violent husband, a mobster who has to go to prison and leave his family behind for four years and a family man who makes many enemies while trying to become the leader of the mobsters.

However, there are also a few elements that could have been improved. Some characters could have been given some additional background information in form of flashbacks.

Up next, the movie mostly focuses on dialogues but a few more explosive scenes might have added some action and tension at appropriate times.

Still, The Many Saints of Newark is a good to very good gangster movie that can compete with other recent releases such as The Irishman. The atmosphere, characters and subplots are certainly the highlights and leave room for potential sequels. Newcomers might be interested in watching the television series as well after discovering this film while fans of the series might think that the movie is at times lacking depth and precision. If you like this kind of movie, let me warmly recommend you the similar Mafia Inc. Released two years ago in Quebec.

The Card Counter
(2021)

Collision course of haunted pasts with promising futures
The Card Counter is a crime drama with significant ups and downs which makes for an overall slightly above average viewing experience.

The story revolves around William Tell, a former private first class, who has spent an eight-year stint in a military prison for his role in torture and prisoner abuse in Iraq. Once out of prison, he is living a lonely life on the road as a gambler who is traveling from one casino to another. He grows closer to an acquaintance from the gambling world named La Linda who is escaping from her own violent past and planning on finding a sponsor for the talented gambler. William Tell meets a young drifter named Cirk Baufort who is in a negative state of mind after years of mental and physical abuse from his father who eventually committed suicide. The trio starts traveling together but just as the three loners feel like they have finally found purpose in life, tragedy puts their relationships to the test.

The Card Counter convinces on several levels. First of all, the three lead characters are intriguing and have much depth. Their background stories share violent similarities but also distinct differences that make each character charismatic and unique. The relationship between these characters is constantly shifting and changing from start to finish.

The movie also has a gripping sinister undertone. This atmosphere is provided by repetitive locations such as anonymous motels, boring highways and soulless casino alleys. It's further supported by dimmed light effects. The moody soundtrack plays in appropriately as well.

The film's final thirty minutes are certainly the highlight as things spin out of control. These scenes will keep you on the edge of your seat and keep viewers guessing how things are going to unfold until the final scene that is both beautiful and tragic.

On the other side, the movie also has several downsides. Its pace is very slow which makes it difficult to get into the film in the first place and keep watching it until the rewarding finale.

The actions and dialogues are as repetitive as the atmosphere and locations. The film shows several overlong gambling segments and the conversations revolve around haunting pasts colliding with potentially brighter futures.

Despite its downsides, The Card Counter has grown on me and is worth a try if you like slow-paced dramas with a violent twist carried by profound characters. The movie needs some time to get started and certainly has several lengths but all those things pay off in the final thirty minutes of this charismatic crime drama.

Malignant
(2021)

Extreme pace and stunning surprises
Malignant is a horror movie by genre veteran James Wan that starts on a slow note but soon accelerates and ends with frantic pace. The story comes along with a few surprises that might be controversially received. While the plot is certainly creative, some elements might be going too far to be even remotely believable.

The story revolves around Madison Lake, a young pregnant woman who is in an abusive relationship with her husband in Seattle and who has alienated from her sister and her mother. One night, after an episode of physical abuse from her husband, an unidentified intruder gets into their home to brutally murder the husband and assault Madison. She wakes up in the hospital, learning that she has lost her baby and her husband as her estranged sister reconnects with her. Soon after, Madison Lake starts having visions of the unknown intruder as the person goes on a killing spree in Seattle. Madison Lake must find out how the different murders are connected to stop the serial killer and end her own mental torment.

Malignant convinces with a slow build-up that soon accelerates the pace and ends with thirty minutes of relentless brutality. These shifts and changes in pace keep the movie dynamic, entertaining and varied from start to finish.

The horror movie also oozes with atmosphere. This is due to an excellent use of light effects, a moody soundtrack and clever locations varying from an abandoned mental asylum over sinister underground passageways to a spooky villa.

The characters are rather interesting for a horror movie. The clueless, desperate and helpless lead character is easy to empathize with. The way her mother and sister are trying to reconnect with her is heartwarming. The two police officers are quite divergent with one being cold and critical while the other one is more emotional and empathic. The villain is very brutal, emotional and mysterious and viewers should care about the character's unique background.

The way the story shifts and changes will be the factor that might make or break the movie for its viewers. Some people might hail the exaggerated creativity while others might feel that the movie turns into sheer absurdity. No matter how you might think about it, the movie's plot is certainly bold, creative and completely out of left field.

To keep it short, Malignant is highly recommend if you want to watch an adventurous horror movie that walks off the beaten path and convinces with extreme pace and stunning surprises in the final thirty minutes.

The Paper Tigers
(2020)

Comic relief, martial arts and serious plot
The Paper Tigers is an intriguing action-comedy movie that convinces with its interesting characters and their dynamic relations. The story revolves around three middle-aged men who were trained by a martial arts master three decades ago. Now that their former master has died under mysterious circumstances, they get together again to find out what has happened.

The film convinces with its intriguing characters. The former master is a generous, knowledgeable and severe man who has been taken advantage of which has led to his tragic demise. Danny has been going through a difficult divorce, is overloaded by his job and progressively alienates from his beloved son. Hing has suffered from a work injury and has trouble moving around despite keeping a positive attitude and inspiring his friends. Jim has continued a career in martial arts but holds a profound grudge against his former friends. The three friends must sort out their challenges, demons and differences in order to avenge their former master.

The Paper Tigers features some energetic martial arts choreography. Some parts are humorous, others are fast and some even have a brutal twist. This mixture keeps the film very entertaining. The final fight can be seen as the movie's climax and greatest accomplishment as it also spreads an inspiring message.

Despite the serious plot, this film includes lots of comic relief. The three main characters are clumsy in hilarious moments offering some excellent situation comedy. Some side characters such as an arrogant former rival and three clueless thugs spice things up as well.

The movie's weakest part is the plot that remains rather superficial. The story is very predictable and the motives of the villain turn out to be quite shallow.

If you plan on watching a martial arts comedy that doesn't invent anything new but that is crafted with genuine passion for the genre, you will be in for a treat with The Paper Tigers. This movie might not be creative, groundbreaking or memorable but it entertains from start to finish and offers some welcome escapism in difficult times. If you like this kind of film, I can also warmly recommend the similar Enter the Fat Dragon.

Shiryô no wana
(1988)

American horror trademarks meet gloomy Japanese cinema
Evil Dead Trap is an influential Japanese horror movie directed by a former adult movie director and featuring some former adult movie actresses who manage to show some of their unexploited talent. The film is influenced by the moody works of Carpenter, Cronenberg and Raimi. Despite these influences, the plot is creative enough to stand its own ground. Some of the special effects have been made on a shoestring budget but the film's atmosphere has aged very well which makes it a genre classic that deserves attention from viewers from all around the world.

The movie revolves around late night television hostess Tsuchiya Nami who receives an anonymous video tape featuring a snuff film with a menacing message. Instead of going to the police, Nami decides to film her investigations for her slightly struggling show. Accompanied by three female and one male colleague, she decides to explore the location where the snuff movie was shot. The abandoned military facility however soon becomes the deadly trap of a murderous psychopath.

Evil Dead Trap first and foremost convinces with its gloomy atmosphere. The enigmatic soundtrack, the abandoned, dirty and sinister locations and the dynamic camera work capturing the emotions of the actresses and actors are the key elements to the movie's success.

The action scenes are tense, fast and brutal. Viewers can witness chases down dark hallways, people suffering on sophisticated instruments of torture and fiery fights in a scary basement with all sorts of disgusting accessories.

The story is rather conventional but takes an interesting turn towards the end. The background story of the psychopath is interesting and the unexpected turn towards supernatural elements is a welcome element of surprise. The controversial ending can certainly be debated in great detail by genre fans.

To keep it short, Evil Dead Trap is a cult horror movie from Japan that was released more than a decade before said genre became popular with movies such as The Ring. Fans of American horror movies by Carpenter, Cronenberg and Raimi should appreciate this movie as much as fans of Asian horror cinema.

Bakjwi
(2009)

Blood, sugar, sex, magic
Thirst is a charismatic horror drama that walks off the beaten path that so many other romantic vampire movies walk. This movie focuses on a gloomy atmosphere from start to finish, features artistically displayed scenes of guts and gore and doesn't hesitate to show male and female nudity in a natural way. In times when societal restrictions are imposed on different forms of art, it's refreshing to see a movie that sticks to its artistic intentions without any compromises.

The movie revolves around a priest who is working at a hospital but trying to find more ways to help people. This is why he volunteers for a secret vaccine development project intended to eradicate a deadly virus. The priest dies during the dangerous procedure but suddenly regains consciousness and seems to be cured. All is not well however, since he now has an insatiable thirst for blood. Seen as a saint who has come back from the dead, the priest develops healing powers that he uses to save a young man suffering from cancer. He is later invited to his modest apartment for weekly games of mahjong. The priest observes that the man that he saved doesn't treat his orphan wife very well and that his mother has established a draconian control over her life. As his vampirism gets worse, the priest realizes that he has fallen for the wife of the man he once saved and must now organize some radical changes in his life.

This movie is best described by being subdivided into four distinct categories inspired by the Red Hot Chili Peppers' crossover masterpiece Blood Sugar Sex Magik.

First of all, we have the element of blood. This film is visually stunning with its stark contrast between damp apartments, abandoned cities in the middle of the night and gloomy bodies of water that clash with visually aesthetic scenes featuring blood and gore. That element is a necessary feature in a vampire story that attempts to stick to its classic trademarks.

Up next, we have the element of sugar. This stands for the relationship between the priest who is slowly losing his ways and his lover who is slowly losing her mind. It starts as a tender feeling of affection, develops into a mutual feeling of romance, becomes a passionate love story before it turns into an abusive relationship of despair, dishonesty and dread.

The element of sex is self-explanatory. The priest who has never had any sexual relationship and is very hesitant to take that step slowly can't resist his urges any longer and is overwhelmed with extreme emotions. The same thing could be said about his partner who is in an abusive relationship with her step-family but initially afraid to try to break free until she can't repress the desire for change any longer. The initial sexual relationships are hesitant and in hiding before they become longer and more passionate until they reach a point when they become intense and extreme. These scenes portray perfectly the character and relationship development.

The final element of magic can be found in the condition of vampirism. The priest is slowly changing mentally and physically. He is forced to live at night and to drink blood to survive but he also has healing powers and incredible strength. While the movie portrays the downsides and upsides of the condition, the film takes a dramatic turn of events leading to a bittersweet ending that will stay with viewers long after they have watched it.

Korean cinema has been the greatest in the world for the past two decades and Thirst features some of its most influential protagonists. The movie is skillfully directed by Park Chan-wook who created masterpieces like the melancholy tale of revenge Old Boy, the romantic supernatural tragicomedy I'm a Cyborg but That's Okay and the sexually charged period drama The Handmaiden. The film's lead actor is Song Kang-ho who has played in masterpieces such as the intense drama Sympathy for Mister Vengeance, the gloomy thriller Memories of Murder and most recently in Academy Award winning family drama Parasite. The movie's lead actress is Kim Ok-bin who has appeared in features such as the high school horror series Whispering Corridors, brutal action revenge flick The Villainess and crime drama The Discloser.

At the end of the day, Thirst is highly recommended to any fan of Korean cinema in general and to fans of vampire stories in particular.

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins
(2021)

Charismatic martial arts action film with stunning choreographies, locations and acting
I'm usually neither fond of superhero movies in general nor of the Marvel franchise in particular but Snake Eyes: G. I. Joe Origins is a very positive exception for me and a movie that is much better than its lukewarm reception might indicate.

First and foremost, this film is a feast of martial arts fans. Back in the seventies, there were four new martial arts films at the cinema every week but these days they are hard to come by. In this film, we see ferocious fist fights but also the use of daggers, pistols and swords and even some elements of magic. The choreography is stunning and the pace is at times breathtaking.

Up next, the locations for this movie have been chosen with care. The film starts with a series of different locations from a cabin in the woods over a shady underground fighting circuit to a port infiltrated with criminals. Most of the movie however takes place in a Japanese ninja dojo that looks absolutely stunning. This starts with the traditional buildings and continues with the surrounding forests, gardens, temples and shrines. The settings are very detailed and ooze with atmosphere.

The acting performances are also very decent. It was a great pleasure to see Iko Uwais on the big screen again but he doesn't play a ferocious martial artist but rather a wise teacher in this film which suits him surprisingly well. The same could be said about Peter Mensah as a blind master whose words are filled with philosophy and wisdom. My personal highlight is however Abe Haruka who appears as an analytical security boss at first but turns out to be an empathic, foresightful and intelligent woman.

The story is also very interesting as it offers many twists and turns and makes viewers ask themselves how they would react under similar circumstances. If I were on a quest to avenge my family but were invited as a friend to a ninja dojo controlled by such a charismatic security boss, I would probably not pursue the path of betrayal.

At the end of the day, Snake Eyes: G. I. Joe Origins is much better than its reputation and turns out to be a charismatic martial arts action film that should appeal to a much larger audience than those who are only interested in superhero movies.

Nou fo
(2021)

Traditional Hong Kong action thriller with a dynamic contemporary twist
Raging Fire is a Hong Kong action thriller directed by Benny Chan, known for genre films such as Who Am I?, New Police Story and The White Storm in his final directorial effort before his untimely death. Starring Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen, the film goes back to the identity of Hong Kong action cinema of the late eighties and early nineties with a dynamic contemporary twist.

The movie revolves around highly respected hardboiled cop Bong who doesn't take any bribes and always speaks the truth which often puts him in dangerous and difficult situations. His former protégé Ngo was forced to go to prison due to to Bong's testimony in a controversial trial. Once out of prison, Ngo has become a different man seeking vengeance upon everyone who had once wronged him. After a streak of violent crimes, Ngo finally faces his former mentor to conclude his quest for revenge.

Raging Fire convinces on many levels. The plot finds the right balance between emotions and energy. The crimes committed in the film and their immediate reactions are sparked by bitter, passionate and tragic feelings.

The characters are truly interesting. Bong is a protagonist who is an outsider but easy to identify with because of his strong beliefs and convictions. Ngo is a tragic antagonist who was once a dedicated and talented officer who has become blinded by frustration and greed. The conflict between these two men carries the entire film in a gripping way through more than two hours of fast-paced entertainment.

The actors and actresses manage to incarnate their characters authentically. Donnie Yen convinces as righteous cop who never seeks for the easy but rather the right way out of trouble. Nicholas Tse goes through significant changes with his character who develops from a promising cop over a tragic victim to a grim avenger. The supporting actors and actresses also manage to become one with their roles and add some depth to the film.

The action sequences are up to the highest contemporary standards. Pitiless martial arts fights meet frantic car chases and brutal shootouts. The different scenes offer much variety and never overstay their welcome. The camera work isn't overtly hectic and the scenes are easy to follow, dynamic and captivating.

The only element one could possibly criticize is that the plot is somewhat predictable and certainly doesn't reinvent Hong Kong action thriller cinema.

At the end of the day, genre fans will appreciate Raging Fire as one of the greatest action thrillers released in recent memory. It can not only compete with the golden age of Hong Kong action cinema three decades ago but also with contemporary Hollywood movies and franchises such as John Wick and The Expendables. Due to its spectacular cinematography in general and its excellent sound and visual effects in particular, you should try to catch this movie on the big screen. Up to this point, I would consider Raging Fire as one of the three greatest movies released this year.

The Protégé
(2021)

Finally a dynamic action thriller with a strong female lead character that convinces from start to finish
The Protégé is a very entertaining action thriller with stunning action scenes, excellent actresses and actors and memorable locations. This kind of movie should appeal to all those who have admired the John Wick franchise as well as the recent Nobody or films such as Atomic Blonde, Peppermint and Red Sparrow.

The movie revolves around Anna Dutton, a Vietnamese orphan who has grown up in the United Kingdom and owns a bookstore selling rarities in her professional life. In her secret life however, she is a high-profile assassin that takes out criminals to make the world a better place. Her personal life comes into play when the man who saved and raised her gets assassinated. Anna Dutton has to travel to Vietnam to revisit her gruesome past and find out who instigated the hit against her father figure.

This film convinces on multiple levels. It has breathtaking pace through almost two hours that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The action scenes involve intense shootings, quick knife fights and a selection of dynamic martial arts elements.

The acting performances are also particularly inspiring. Maggie Q plays one of the greatest roles in her career and fully convinces as intellectual, passionate and resilient heroine who is both believable as bookshop keeper and professional assassin which is quite challenging to achieve. Her father figure is incarnated by charismatic Samuel L. Jackson who plays a character with wit and grit but also a heart of gold. Michael Keaton plays a rival assassin who plays a fascinating game of cat and mouse with the protagonist. He is unpredictable as he is analytical, brutal and cold at one moment just to impress with charm, elocution and intellect in the next scene.

The locations are memorable because they walk off the beaten path. The opening sequences take place in the beautiful countryside of Romania, the movie then shifts to some elegant buildings in the United Kingdom before being transferred to the different facets of Vietnam from isolated highways over downtown buildings of steel and glass to a top-security mansion.

While the story might be somewhat predictable, this movie stands out in a genre that has recently been oversaturated thanks to its excellent execution from start to finish.

If you like dynamic action thrillers with strong female lead characters, you are certainly going to appreciate The Protégé for its stunning action scenes, excellent actresses and actors and memorable locations. Enjoy the movie on the big screen and you will realize that it's much better than its lukewarm reputation.

Candyman
(2021)

Lame remake with forced social statements
Candyman is horror movie remake with forced social commentary that bores from start to finish.

First of all, the plot line isn't particularly intriguing. The story is very predictable, the minor twists and turns are unconvincing and there is a surprising lack of atmospheric and scary passages.

The acting performances remain unconvincing as well. Lead actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is lacking charisma and doesn't manage to make viewers empathize with his character at all.

The forced social commentary is getting more absurd as the movie progresses. The movie tries to be on the pulse of time but feels stiff, stereotypical and conservative in its desperate attempt to appeal to contemporary woke culture. The idea that Candyman eventually becomes a superhero that fights police violence and corruption is certainly bold but completely unfitting with everything that entity has done before in the movie.

At the end of the day, one might give the film a few points for walking off the beaten path with its social commentary but that sociopolitical component makes the film tough to digest. As a horror movie, this film isn't even remotely scary and very few scenes manage to evoke tense atmosphere. I like many works of screenplay writer Jordan Peele such as Get Out and Us but Candyman must be considered a disappointment.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
(2021)

Marvel movie by the numbers with beautiful dragons and charming locations
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is yet another movie inspired by the Marvel universe that has constantly been inspiring the cinematic world for more than a decade now. While the movie follows the usual stereotypes, it manages to stand out with its stunning special effects and locations.

The movie revolves around Shaun, a Chinese immigrant living in the United States of America who is working as a valet with his quirky friend and soulmate Katy. One day, they get attacked by a group of assassins on a bus and only just manage to survive. Shaun immediately understands that the attack must be related to his influential estranged father. Along with Katy, he decides to team up with his tough estranged sister Xialing to find out what's going on.

This film convinces on multiple levels. First of all, the acting performances are quite quirky and convincing. Especially the ladies steal the show. Awkwafina delivers the goods as curious, dynamic and funny woman that anyone would like to have as a friend. Zhang Meng'er on the other side represents a much darker character shaped by dramatic events from the past who is much more difficult to approach with her tough, relentless and independent personality.

The expensive special effects certainly deliver the goods as well. The scenes in a fantasy world, in Ancient China and in contemporary San Francisco are all equally stunning to watch. The fantastic creatures such as dragons look impressive on the big screen.

The story might be predictable but is nevertheless entertaining from start to finish thanks to steady pace and inspired execution. You will truly care about the fates of the different characters as you are watching this film.

However, this film isn't without its occasional flaws. First of all, lead actor Simu Liu simply doesn't have the charisma of the other actresses and actors involved. Casting him was a bold choice but it didn't fully pay off in my opinion.

Up next, the movie desperately tries to connect to other characters in the Marvel Universe. The appearance of Trevor Slattery played by Ben Kingsley is completely random as it only seems to be a pretext to offer some misplaced comic relief. The mid-credit scene starts in an amusing fashion but suddenly involving Bruce Banner and Carol Danvers only seems like a weak attempt to develop a hype for potential sequels. The same goes for yet another scene after the credits that evokes more questions rather than concluding the film appropriately.

At the end of the day, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is an entertaining fantasy action film of the Marvel Universe that should appeal to faithful and occasional fans alike. It's one of the better films in the franchise but perhaps Marvel should focus on quality over quantity instead of becoming a monstrous capitalistic machine that is scarier than any gigantic dragon shown in the film.

Reminiscence
(2021)

Imaginative dystopian science-fiction movie with diversified depth
Reminiscence is a dystopian science-fiction thriller with romantic undertones. The first feature film by Lisa Joy features a very charismatic Hugh Jackman and an intriguingly enigmatic femme fatale played by Rebecca Ferguson.

The story revolves around scientist Nick Bannister who has developed a machine that enables people to relive moments from their past. He is assisted by his faithful colleague Emily Watts Sanders who has strong feelings for her boss who is however completely oblivious to them. One day, a mysterious woman named Mae comes into his office and Nick Bannister experiences love at first sight. Mae represents everything he has always been looking for. She is smart, cultivated and charming and they start to develop a tender romantic relationship. From one day to the other however, Mae disappears and leaves Nick broken, confused and worried. He attempts to find out what might have happened to her and soon uncovers a dangerous web of drugs, lies and murder.

This movie convinces on numerous levels. First of all, the acting performances are credible and touching. Hugh Jackman is believable as the tough outsider who goes far and beyond to save the love of his life. Thandiwe Newton impresses as faithful colleague with some demons of her own who sees through the lies of the mysterious femme fatale. Rebecca Ferguson delivers the goods as enigmatic woman with multiple layers that are uncovered step by step.

Up next, the cinematography of this movie is flawless. The film takes place in a flooded Miami that looks at times depressing but at other moments almost romantic. The machines shown in the film look particularly intriguing. The flashbacks are animated with a nostalgic touch in form of shaded colours and muffled sounds.

The story comes around with a few twists and surprises as it keeps the audience guessing until the very end. The movie meanders from dramatic elements over romantic sections to breathtaking action sequences and offers a balanced genre mixture. The ending is quite unexpected and leaves room for discussions and debates.

Obviously, this movie isn't perfect. It would have been great to get some background information on the dystopian future. The intriguing locations could have been more present in the film as well.

The entire universe is so fascinating that it would perhaps make for an even greater television series than a potential sequel.

At the end of the day, anyone who likes dystopian science-fiction cinema should certainly watch this movie at the cinema. This film will appeal as much to those who are looking for a gripping drama as to those who might rather be looking for a film noir with occasional action sequences. This timeless movie has the potential to stand the test of time and become a genre classic. Experience it on screen as soon as you can to get some welcome escapism in difficult times.

Spiral: From the Book of Saw
(2021)

Famous actors, awkward comedy, summer heat, profane dialogues and gangster rap don't equal innovation
Spiral is the latest and also the weakest instalment in the Saw franchise. The makers behind the movie try to tell you that there is a fresh approach to this film because it involves famous actors, takes place in the summer and includes a few comedic bits and pieces. The famous actors are however unable to shine in their flat roles as Samuel L. Jackson disappoints as exchangeable wise-cracking old man. The fact that the movie takes place in the summer doesn't change the atmosphere at all when the different traps can still be found in subway tunnels and basements. The comedic bits and pieces aren't even remotely funny in my book but that's a matter of taste. The addition of much profanity in the dialogues and gangster rap with an overuse of racist swear words doesn't make much sense either and gives the impression that the movie was imagined by some rebellious high school kids.

The plot is predictable. As soon as the character who would turn out to be the bad guy showed up, I knew right away that it was going to be him. The reason is that the script copies from numerous cop thrillers and horror movies of the nineties and early years of the millennium but doesn't add anything new.

The main reason why this film still got a good final grade is because it's entertaining from start to finish. It has an excellent length with ninety-three minutes. The film starts with a gripping trap scene in the key of its predecessors. The different lead characters are introduced smoothly and swiftly. The movie has great pace with occasional brief flashbacks and location changes. What starts as a dark cop thriller slowly turns into psychological horror movie. The plot thickens at the right moment yet again. Everything leads to an intense finale that doesn't overstay its welcome. The latter however leaves room for yet another sequel.

At the end of the day, Spiral: From the Book of Saw should be interesting for avid fans of the franchise as all the traditional trademarks are kept and told in an efficiently entertaining manner. Those who are expecting fresh ideas however will end up being disappointed. This is the most predictable entry in the franchise so far and that's why the movie only just qualifies as average.

Neruda
(2016)

Only interesting for those who have profound ties with Chilean culture
Neruda is a biographical drama that shows how Chilean poet and communist politician Pablo Neruda escaped the fascist regime of his home country to Argentine and later on to France. Even for those who are interested in Chilean culture and history, Neruda is at times hard to sit through and an average movie at best.

On the positive side, the story includes multiple historic facets and introduces the viewers to an interesting set of side characters. The locations have been chosen with care and especially the mountaineous territories between Argentine and Chile are impressive. The cinematography is calm and precise which makes for a timeless film.

On the negative side, the movie mostly focuses on repetitive dialogues that are at times hard to sit through. It's difficult to empathize with the lead characters as Pablo Neruda comes off as a pretentious intellectual who likes to recite his poems, drink expensive wine and seduce every woman he meets as his actions contradict his political convictions. His opponent Oscar Peluchonneau is a puppet of the fascist regime who has neither family nor friends and seems clueless in his helpless attempts to capture the titular character.

At the end of the day, Neruda is only interesting for those who have profound ties with or interests in Chilean culture. The movie itself drags on for far too long and can only convince with its cinematography, costumes and settings. I would neither watch it again nor recommend it to anyone.

Old
(2021)

Interesting premise but average execution
Old is the most recent mystery thriller by controversial director M. Night Shyamalan. It is loosely based upon a Swiss graphic novel that was offered as a gift by one of his daughters. The story revolves around a group of tourists that rapidly age on an isolated beach they cannot escape.

The premise of the movie with its intriguing story is quite promising and will keep you watching until the very end. This film doesn't leave any questions unanswered. The atmosphere of the film is tense and gripping. The cinematography is great as Shyamalan can experiment with interesting camera angles and rotations.

However, the story itself is rather predictable and the twist in this story isn't a surprising one. The acting performances are at times wooden as this is especially the case for Abbey Lee and Aaron Pierre. Some dialogues are grammatically incorrect and would have requested some proof-reading.

At the end of the day, Old is worth to be watched once at your local cinema but it's overall an average film that will soon be forgotten. It's neither among Shyamalan's greatest nor his worst movies. I would neither watch it again nor recommend this film.

A Quiet Place Part II
(2020)

Establishing one of the greatest contemporary science-fiction and horror movie franchises
A Quiet Place Part II is obviously the sequel to the successful science-fiction horror movie that became a blockbuster three years ago. This film is on the exact same level as its predecessor and should please fans of the original movie while not being able to introduce any new ideas and attract possible new fans.

The synopsis shall be kept as briefly as possible to avoid even minor spoilers. The film introduces the origins of the dystopian world presented in the first movie in the opening sequence before continuing right where the first movie ended. The surviving family members of the first film are looking for other survivors and meet a reclusive former friend who is hiding in an abandoned steel foundry. The group of survivors discover a radio station signal that might indicate that another group of survivors is hiding on an island. The reclusive man and the stubborn daughter go on an epic journey to find out more information about that island while the mother and her two sons stay behind and protect their hideout in the foundry.

This movie convinces on numerous levels. First of all, dialogues are scarcely used and employed with care, meaning and precision. Up next, the movie oozes with atmosphere due to excellent sound effects. The locations in this film are more diversified than in its predecessor and it's a wonderful visual experience to follow the recluse and the daughter on their journey to the island. The special effects are employed with care as they aren't overused which make the monsters even more mysterious. The acting performances are quite convincing and especially deaf teenage actress Millicent Simmonds is absolutely authentic and one of the greatest teenage actresses to be around.

There are very few elements that could be interpreted as minor flaws. The movie fails to summarize the events from the first film as it takes some time for viewers to remember what exactly happened. The scenes between the opening sequence and the meeting at the steel foundry might slightly overstay their welcome. This sequel leaves several questions unanswered which means that there is probably going to be at least a third movie in the near future.

At the end of the day, this movie is as great as its predecessor which means that A Quiet Place is one of the best contemporary science-fiction and horror franchises. This movie convinces with authentic acting performances, gripping atmosphere and an epic story that entertains from start to finish. My suggestion would be to watch the first movie right before discovering its sequel which would make for an eventful movie night with a few friends.

Godzilla vs. Kong
(2021)

Welcome escapism in difficult times
Godzilla vs. Kong is the greatest giant monster movie since Godzilla that was released seven years ago. One couldn't exactly see that coming since its immediate predecessor was filled with melodramatic subplots and the preceding spin-off was filled with extremely shallow characters. This movie however does everything right by focusing on the giant monsters and reducing the human characters to sidekicks.

Genre fans will certainly get everything they could ask for. The locations are creative, diversified and spectacular. The visual and sound effects are at their very best and should be enjoyed at a local movie theatre. The numerous fight scenes between the giant monsters are dynamic, epic and gripping from start to finish. The film has excellent pace and entertains smoothly with a perfect running time just below two hours. This movie should be the convincing finale to a franchise that has been built up through the past seven years instead of attempting to continue milking the cow. I'm however curious to discover the next Japanese movie featuring Godzilla in the future.

At the end of the day, don't expect any charismatic actresses and actors, don't look for a creative plot with twists and turns and don't pretend that this movie might be considered a future classic that will stand the test of time. What you get here however is one simple on paper but perfectly executed science-fiction action blockbuster that offers some welcome escapism in difficult times.

Nobody
(2021)

Entertaining John Wick copycat case
Nobody is an action movie in the key of the John Wick franchise directed by Ilya Naishuller, who had his breakthrough with Hardcore Henry six years earlier. The movie revolves around a former assassin who has become a husband, father of two children and company worker who has kept a low profile for two decades. Things start turning sour after a case of break and enter when he decides to not assault the two masked criminals and lets them go which disappoints his son. The protagonist can't turn the page on those events since he is being ridiculed by everyone around him. He decides to track down the two criminals to teach them a lesson and get the stolen goods back. Just as the protagonist is ready to go back to his ordinary life, he encounters a group of intoxicated thugs who get on his bus to wreak havoc. The protagonist intervenes and severely injures his opponents. The problem is that one of the victims is the brother of a Russian crime lord who decides to go after the protagonist.

This movie convinces on several levels. First of all, the action scenes have excellent choreography as they offer much entertainment. Secondly, lead actor Bob Odenkirk is playing way out of his comfort zone and delivering a surprisingly convincing job. The film convinces with solid pace and a perfect length of roughly an hour and a half.

One the negative side, the movie clearly jumps the bandwagon and copies recent success stories such as the John Wick franchise. There is no creativity to be found in the dull plot. The opening thirty minutes overstay their welcome to introduce the different characters. The movie has an overall exaggerated tone intertwined with more serious passages which makes it somewhat unbalanced. Even after having watched the entire movie, one can't be sure whether this is supposed to be a serious action film, a parody or an awkward mixture between those extremes.

Nobody is an overall entertaining and fast-paced action film that is best enjoyed with a couple of friends when you just feel like switching off your brain for one hour and a half. However, this type of movie has been done on numerous occasions in the recent past and can't compete with the greatest genre entries such as the John Wick franchise. This movie is therefore slightly overrated but nevertheless a welcome gem if you're craving for some light entertainment with lots of violence.

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