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  • The Grizzlies (2018)

    The Grizzlies is a profound drama based upon true events that shows how a young teacher and lacrosse player named Russ Sheppard accepts a job in remote hamlet Kugluktuk in Nunavut which has the highest suicide rate of any community in North America. People suffer from the lack of perspectives, the haunting past of residential schools, drug abuse, domestic violence and alcoholism. Russ Sheppard is motivated to inspire change upon arrival but soon realizes that students disrespect him because of his skin colour, don't hand in their assignments and skip school. He doesn't give up however and wants to start a lacrosse competition which is something the community has never seen before. After initial negative reactions, the young teacher convinces more and more students to train, form teams and participate in challenges and tournaments. The teacher and his students now need to convince the entire community to finance a trip to a national competition in Toronto.

    The culture, history and well-being of Canada's First Nations has always been a very important subject to me and that should be the case for any Canadian or person who identifies with Canadian values. What Canadian governments have done to First Nations is often rightfully described as a genocide and no excuses can heal the wounds of the past. It's a long and painful process for First Nations to embrace their identities again and this struggle can be seen throughout this touching film. The first scene of the movie shows how a teenager chases his dog away and then commits suicide. The new teacher is often about to give up when he gets physically assaulted by a student, learns of another student having committed suicide and witnesses brutal domestic abuse. Despite those realistically gloomy circumstances, this movie shows that the remote community needs something to believe in and that there are great human beings within those desperate souls. The movie perfectly balances depressing and hopeful elements and is a moving tearjerker. It's great to see movies like The Grizzlies or Indian Horse getting critical acclaim and attention and such movies must be selected to represent Canada at international film competitions like the Academy Awards as well.

    If you are Canadian or sympathizing with Canadian values, you must watch this emotional drama that is The Grizzlies. Even nowadays, prejudice, racism and rejection of First Nations is still a problem and this movie helps decreasing such issues and promoting the togetherness of all communities in Canada. The film's noble intentions are amplified by oustanding acting, superb cinematography and a profound story.

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  • Ying / Shadow (2018)

    Many reviewers say that this film is Zhang Yimou's best since House of Flying Daggers. Others claim it might be his best since Hero. Some people even try to convince you it's his greatest effort since To Live released twenty-four years earlier. I believe all these estimations are understatements. Let's stop glorifying nostalgia. Shadow is Zhang Yimou's very best film to date.

    The dark and greyish cinematography inspired by Chinese paintings adds atmosphere, beauty and depth. The sinister yet majestic locations bring traditional China to life in a realistic way. The costumes look beautiful without being glamorously exaggerated. The numerous characters have depth and manage to be more fleshed out in only two hours than some television series that spend eight seasons developing characters. The plot revolves around betrayal, dignity, megalomania, nostalgia and revenge and comes around with numerous unexpected twists and turns from start to finish. Shadow is a gripping drama but also features both elegant and eviscerating martial arts elements. The last third of the film in particular can be seen as a balanced highlight in that regard. The longer the movie lasts, the greater it gets and once this roller coaster ride is over, you just feel like taking it all over again.

    Without revealing any twists and turns, a short introduction to the story might help you imagine and understand this film better. The kingdoms of Pei and Yan have been at war and after the loss of the city of Ying, Pei's king has managed to negotiate a peace treaty. His Commander has been injured in battle and despises his king as he wants to declare war again and win the city of Ying back. He challenges the king of Yan to a duel but as soon as Pei's king hears about this, he downgrades his vengeful Commander to a commoner and proposes to marry his rebellious sister to Yan's prince to calm the situation. The kingdom of Yan has already planned on marrying the prince to another woman and offers to accept the sister as a concubine. After this offensive counter-offer, a new conflict between both kingdoms seems to be inevitable but the different lead figures all have their very own interests at stake.

    In the end, Shadow is one of the greatest wu xia movies ever made and the greatest martial arts epic since Miike Takashi's Blade of the Immortal. This movie finds the perfect balance between drama and martial arts elements. The characters, cinematography, costumes, settings and story are excellent from start to finish. I haven't been so impressed with a movie in a very long time.

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  • Overlord (2018)

    When I initially watched Overlord, I was expecting an average horror movie with a few shallow historical references. What I've got however is an atmospheric, gripping and mysterious horror film with appropriate references to the horrors of the Second World War. The story is obviously inspired by experiments Nazi Germany actually conducted on human beings. The story revolves around a group of young American soldiers who are sent behind enemy lines in preparation of the Invasion of Normandy. After their plane is shot down, they must hide in a village where they befriend some French farmers. However, they aren't only willing to escape, hide and survive but also try to destroy a German radio tower located in an old church on a wooden hill. However, the soldiers find something abominable in the basement of said church and are determined to wipe it out without leaving any trace behind.

    The movie convinces on several levels. First of all, the characters have a lot of depth and interest for a horror movie. The American soldiers have different strategies to fight the enemy which makes them quite diversified. It's also easy to sympathize with the French farmers including the resilient love interest of a SS Hauptsturmführer, her joyful little brother and her creepy disfigured aunt who has been abused during an experiment conducted by the invaders.

    The film oozes with atmosphere. We are thrown into the story as the plane of the American soldiers gets shot down and they soon need to fight for survival in the ocean, on the beaches and in the nearby forests. The French village where they decide to hide is a place where fear, hatred and terror reigns. The church tower is dark, eerie and seems to be an endless maze of horrors.

    This flick mixes historical events with fictitious elements. The brutal opening sequence foreshadows the actual Invasion of Normandy. The suffering the French villagers go through also seems realistic. Even the idea that the Germans conducted experiments on human beings isn't pulled out of thin air. On the other side, the true nature of those experiments is the fictitious part that should equally please to cinephiles enjoying action and horror movies.

    In the end, Overlord cleverly mixes action elements inspired by historical events with fictitious horror elements. This dynamic mixture entertains from start to finish thanks to tense atmosphere, strong characters and intriguing locations. The movie manages to portray the horrors of war while also adding an appropriate fictitious touch to it. Many movies have tried to combine war films with horror films and failed but Overlord is one of the most balanced attempts at this gripping mixture. Horror movies usually receive poor critical acclaim but this movie has overall been received rather favourable ratings which actually point out how great this film actually is. Give it a try and you might end up being as positively surprised as I was.

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  • Loudness - Live in Tokyo (2019)

    Loudness is one of the best heavy metal bands on the planet and after the release of its great studio record Rise to Glory about a year ago, Live in Tokyo attempts to capture the band's energetic live shows for international audiences. However, the release has numerous important flaws that prevent this overall just solid release from being a potentially excellent one.

    First of all, the two discs don't feature one single concert but excerpts from several shows which harms the atmosphere, coherence and flow of the album. The album starts without a proper introduction and overture which already leaves a very negative impression. Numerous songs fade in and fade out which is inappropriate for live records. The audience is barely audible. The tracks ''Crazy Doctor'' and ''In the Mirror'' are included twice for no reason whatsoever while the release leaves out any more recent tunes that would have been performed live for the first time on that tour. Those who put the random track list together did a horrible job putting fan favourite ''Crazy Nights'' so soon and a ballad like ''Ares' Lament'' towards the end just to give two specific examples. The additional DVD including a proper show from start to finish does a better job in that regard.

    Not everything is negative here since Loudness remains an incredibly charismatic live band. The crowd interactions during ''Crazy Nights'' are as energetic as they have ever been, band anthem ''Loudness'' is performed with grit and cool backing vocals, ''Ares' Lament'' has a wonderful melancholic and melodic vibe and ''Esper'' convinces as unusually tight closer.

    Still, there are much better live records than Live in Tokyo in Loudness' extended discography. Live Terror 2004 is an excellent release focusing on the band's doom metal side while The Soldiers Just Came Back captures the spirit of the band's reunion shows and offers an extensive greatest hits set list with a few new tunes.

    Final rating: 60%

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