• Cube (1997)

    Cube is a mysterious science-fiction horror movie made with a meager budget of three hundred fifty thousand dollars that would turn out grossing nine million dollars and lead to two less interesting sequels. The claustrophobic movie revolves around six completely different strangers who wake up in a gigantic cube without knowing how or why they got there. Since they have no access to food or water or any way to communicate with the outside world, they need to find their way through the numerous chambers of the gigantic cube in order to find a way out. The different chambers are however rigged with deadly traps and tension, stress and fear soon arise between the six strangers.

    There are numerous elements that made this low-budget movie a beloved cult film. First of all, the mysterious setting and its origins are truly intriguing. It's unclear who created the gigantic cube and to what purpose which invites viewers to look for clues and come to their own conclusions. Secondly, the story is filled with twists and turns and it remains unpredictable who is going to survive and how until the very last Scene that also leaves room for interpretation. Thirdly, the traps in the cube are deadly, diversified and unpredictable but the greatest dangers are the individuals themselves. This leads to the fourth and strongest element which are the seven characters introduced in the movie. We only briefly meet a nameless old man but the clever prison escapist, the paranoid free clinic doctor, the mathematics student with a difficult past, the socially awkward office worker, the seemingly autistic young man who has trouble communicating but incredible mathematical skills and the divorced police officer with anger management issues are the six characters bound by fate. The relationships between the different characters are fascinating to watch and evolve until the very end.

    In the end, Cube works very well despite a low budget thanks to a creative story with numerous stunning ideas and intriguing characters. The sequels don't reproduce this level of quality because the stories are more predictable and the characters more exchangeable. Even though this movie mixes thriller, mystery and horror elements, it can also been as a stunningly realistic social science study.

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  • Geukhanjikeob / Extreme Job (2019)

    Extreme Job is an entertaining action-comedy movie that has received massive critical acclaim in its home country and certainly deserves international recognition as well. The movie focuses on a team of detectives who have been running out of luck recently and who are trying to redeem themselves by arresting the members of an infamous drug ring. In order to do so, they pose as owners and employees of a run-down chicken restaurant located right across the street of the drug gang's hideout. Things get complicated when internal pressure on them increases on a daily base, when they unexpectedly get involved into drug trafficking themselves and when their revamped restaurant rises to fame and keeps them busy.

    This movie convinces on numerous levels. First of all, the quirky story comes around with all kinds of surprises without losing focus and telling the viewers how events unfold naturally. Secondly, the characters are quite different, sympathetic and unique which makes the viewers care about their fates, reputations and ties. Thirdly, the movie convinces with lots of situation comedy which is balanced with some grittier action scenes in form of martial arts combats, car chases and shootings. Imagine a more profound and refreshingly revamped take on Hong Kong action cinema of the late eighties and early nineties and you know what to expect.

    In the end, Extreme Job is one of the best movies of its kind in recent memory. The acting performances are great, the action scenes are gripping, the characters are intriguing, the story is dynamic and quirky and some tension is added to balance the more vivid elements quite efficiently. If you like this movie, you should check out similar South Korean action-comedy films such as the slightly superior Quick or the surrealistic Save the Green Planet!.

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  • Midsommar (2019)

    Midsommar is a movie that unfolds long after you have actually watched it. Its rich cinematography might grip right from the start but the numerous allegories will make you think days after you have experienced this film.

    This movie is quite an experience indeed. It makes me think of a mixture of The Village and Mandy. It makes me think of the former because this movie is falsely advertised as a horror movie and could rather be described as a tense drama. Both films take place in secluded areas involving traditional societies and their rituals. Both movies have a slow pace and are controversially received. It makes me think of the latter because the visual aspects are quite vivid. Especially the use of colours has psychedelic elements that make viewers think of uneasy drug trips. Both movies slowly intensify and end rather grislily.

    The story is quickly told. Three anthropologist students are invited by their Swedish classmate to assist Midsommar festivities in his secluded hometown but what starts as a fascinating trip soon becomes a horrifying experience.

    The characters in the film are quite intriguing. Lead actress Florence Pugh plays an insecure young woman suffering from panic attacks who has to cope with the grisly fact that her bipolar sister killed their parents before committing suicide. Her boyfriend played by Jack Reynor has a hard time dealing with his girlfriend's negative moods but doesn't want to let her down and actually invites her to the trip to Sweden to help her change her mind. Another loud-mouthed student played by Will Poulter resents her coming with them and feels that she has a negative impact on her boyfriend and is spoiling everyone's anticipation. The third student played by William Jackson Harper keeps a lower profile and is the more intellectual type who gets into a heated conflict with the young woman's boyfriend because he wants to steal the idea for his thesis. Finally, there is the Swedish student played by Vilhelm Blomgren who seems to be very calm, compassionate and friendly but actually has a love interest in the young woman and feels that her boyfriend doesn't treat her correctly. All those underlying conflicts surface as the characters face extreme situations in Sweden.

    Revealing you anything more about the movie would spoil its mezmerizing enjoyment. There are a few negative elements to point out however. The movie has a very slow pace and slightly overstays its welcome which might be frustrating for less patient viewers. The plot is relatively simple and predictable even though many critics try to interpret too much into the movie to forcedly fill the void. Let's mention that the movie features some gore and nudity and shouldn't be watched by anyone who isn't eighteen years old.

    In the end, Midsommar is a unique experience that deserves to be watched on multiple occasions and discussed with friends in order to be fully appreciated. The unique atmosphere, intriguing characters and stylish cinematography make up for some lengths and an at times simplistic plot. As someone else has pointed out, this movie might give a blow to the Swedish tourism industry as grisly horrors unfold in bright daylight which is once again quite unique for such a drama.

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  • Crawl (2019)

    Alexandre Aja's Crawl certainly is no spectacular movie but it's entertaining and gets to the point.

    At the very beginning, I wasn't too sure about that. The viewers get introduced to a young competitive swimmer who has a slightly strained relationship with her sister. She also has taken some distance from her father after her parents' divorce. We are also introduced to a police officer who seems to know her sister and her rather well. None of these plot elements are significantly going to be picked up again and only serve to quickly introduce the charactets and the plot in less than ten minutes.

    What follows is a fight for survival as the competitive swimmer tries to save her father from the basement of their family home as a hurricane intensifies and alligators roam the area.

    The special effects are surprisingly solid, the pace keeps going until the very last minute and the action scenes are rather realistic. Classifying this movie as a horror film would be inappropriate since there are only very few scary scenes. This is a fast-paced survival action flick.

    The movie also made me think about the Sunshine State and why anyone would live there. Florida is regularly hit by natural catastrophes, dangerous animals roam the state, there are numerous serial killer cases, there are thousands of noisy tourists around all year long and the state voted for Donald Trump during the last Presidential election.

    To keep it short, Crawl is an entertaining survival action film that grips you while it lasts but ultimately fails to leave a deeper impression. It's a good movie to watch at the cinema on a lazy night.

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  • Zhan lang / Wolf Warrior (2015)

    It's a mystery to me why Wolf Warrior became one of the most successful cinematic franchises in the People's Republic of China.

    The acting performances are cringe-worthy at times and especially lead actor Wu Jing has stiff body language yet overacts whenever he expresses himself verbally which makes for an unbalanced contrast. The special effects look as if they had been made by a company specialized on video games in the mid-nineties and the movie constantly exposes these flaws. The two worst offenders are the bullet fired in slow-motion in the beginning of the movie that had me laughing out loud and the pack of wolves that doesn't even look remotely close to real wolves. The story is also forgettable and unimaginative. The locations are equally bland and mostly limited to some exchangeable fields and forests. The movie also includes an unhealthy dose of Chinese propaganda but that often comes along with military action films.

    Still, after a weak start, the movie still manages to end up being solid. The action scenes are intense and will keep the audience on the edge of its seat towards the end. The lead character who can be described as a resilient non-conformist with a soft core is easy to empathize with and his tough but tender female sidekick is also sympathetic. The film doesn't overstay its welcone with a concise length around ninety minutes which can be considered a strength these days.

    In the end, fans of military action movies can give this solid average film a try and will get exactly what they can expect. The movie is comparable to franchises like Rambo and might sit well with a larger audience. In the end, the movie however fails to be innovative enough to stand out. Before revisting this film, I would rather watch some old Chuck Norris movies again. These films have more charm and less fake animations.

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