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  • Get Out (2017)

    As a horror movie connoisseur, I couldn't get around this movie that has become a surprising box office success, has got positive reviews from critics and fans and has developed a hype that might classify it as future cult movie. Behold! The same was said about It Follows not so long ago, a movie I thought was tedious and overrated. As it turns out, Get Out is another genre movie that doesn't deserve all the praise it gets. Don't get me wrong, it's better than another Paranormal Activity sequel and is overall a slightly above average film but it surely isn't the stunning masterpiece most people make of it. 

    Just to be clear, this film barely classifies as horror movie. I would call it a psychological thriller with some misplaced supernatural scientific elements. The movie had an overall vaguely mysterious atmosphere but it didn't get scary aside of two minor jump scares involving a deer and a servant.

    Let's start with the positives. First of all, the movie has a continuously intriguing mysterious atmosphere. This atmosphere isn't only supported by the gloomy plot but also by calm and precise camera work that offers a more than welcome alternative to cheap shaky camera stylistics in contemporary horror cinema. The movie features a moody soundtrack that blends in without being as eccentric as the Insidious scores. 

    A movie is carried by its main character and British newcomer Daniel Kaluuya is a gifted actor. The character's emotions are portrayed accurately. You can see how the main character starts as calm, grounded and smart person and becomes nervous, hectic and confused. Daniel Kaluuya is a name you should keep on your mind because we might see more stunning movies with him. I could even see him becoming the next incarnation of James Bond.

    Let's talk about the negative parts. First of all, the trailer is basically the entire movie, so don't watch it. I didn't even watch it and it still took me less than five minutes after the main character arrived at the mansion to figure out what was going on and what would happen next. The fact that the movie is so predictable has a negative impact on its otherwise intense atmosphere. The movie fails to offer any surprises to people who are familiar with horror movies. 

    Despite a short running time, the movie feels stretched. When I'm watching a horror movie, I'm not expecting any action and I'm ready to wait until the movie quickens up the pace but some elements in the film are either irrelevant or repetitive. Instead of showing us one scene where specific characters act weirdly, the makers offer three similar scenes until the most feeble-minded viewer has realized what's wrong with these specific characters. A subtle horror movie should take its audience more seriously and offer less redundant clues.

    This leads us to the acting performances. Daniel Kaluuya delivers a stunning performance. Allison Williams offers a solid performance but the two main characters have no chemistry and fail to represent a realistic couple. I could still accept this because that hint might have been intentional. What I can't accept is that every single other actor acts over-the-top, no matter if it suits their roles or not. It starts with the main character's hyperactive friend, goes on with repulsively rude police officers and ends with an entire family and its friends who behave as if they came from a different planet. This acting strategy is repeated to death until the characters have become parodies of specific stereotypes. That doesn't fit to a movie that relies on its gloomy atmosphere and intends to spread a message against stereotypes.

    On the other side, the movie takes itself too seriously. The scene involving a car accident and an encounter with a local police officer is obviously included as an element of foreshadowing announcing the main character's struggle with his mother's death and with white people with debatable stereotypes. However, this scene feels so forced and pseudo-intellectual that it takes away from the movie's atmosphere instead of adding to it. A very similar thing happens at the end, when the writers offer awkward science-fiction elements appropriate for old-fashioned Frankenstein movies but not for a film with such a relevant message when police violence against black people has increased in what is supposed to be the flagship of democracy, equality and liberty. It seems that the movie makers couldn't decide whether they wanted to offer an entirely serious psychological thriller with relevant social critiques or a clever parody playing with stereotypes. In the end, they failed at both attempts. The movie feels directionless.

    My guess is that it got such praise because it portrays an admittedly sympathetic black man struggling with abusive white people. It's funny how a movie that intends to mock stupid stereotypes is itself based upon stereotypes. Would this very same movie have had the same positive reviews if it had portrayed a white main character being abused by black people? I'm quite confident that wouldn't have been the case because people would have called the makers of this movie racist and the film's message debatable. This proves that the reason why this film receives such approval is because of its message that is at the pulse of time and yet simplifies a very important topic too much. If you take away the movie's intentions, what do we have left? We have an average horror movie.

    If you aren't familiar with horror movies and want to get a smooth introduction with a psychological thriller, this film is a good choice. If you are rightfully infuriated by the current rise of stereotypes including racism, you will get some food for thought. If you are looking for a clever or innovating horror movie that justifies its hype, you won't get satisfaction. My final suggestion is to rent this movie instead of spending well-earned money on a cinema ticket.

    Final rating: 60%

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  • Amorphis - An Evening with Friends at Huvila (2017)

    My favorite band is back with a live album recorded in Helsinki last summer that features nine rearranged versions of songs originally recorded over the past two decades. Amorphis invited guest musicians Pekko Käppi who plays an ancient Finnish-Karelian bowed lyre called jouhikko as well as regular collaborator Sakari Kukko on flutes and saxophone as far as I'm informed. The nine songs sound overall calmer and more natural than usual but even more diversified and progressive than the original tracks.

    The mixture of folk and jazz tones in the playful opener ''Enigma'' is one of the highlights on the diversified set list and a surprising improvement on an often overlooked track. One must also point out the new version of ''Sampo'' which manages to add even more soundscapes to the original and make one of the band's most sophisticated songs even richer. An obvious highlight is the last track ''Her Alone'' which is another tune that often passes under the radar. Skilled Dutch singer Anneke van Giersbergen adds her crystal clear vocals to Tomi Joutsen's soothing performance in a song that gets more and more intense and ends on a harmonious climax to finish the set in style. While all nine songs offer a few new twists and turns, there are some tracks that remain overall very similar to the original tunes. However, even these tracks like the intense ''Silver Bride'' or the psychedelic ''Alone'' blend in very well and are actually already perfect in their original forms. That's why small changes such as a short acoustic overture in the case of ''Silver Bride'' and a shorter final section as heard in ''Alone'' are appropriate because they offer minor new elements to discover without taking away from the brilliance of the original compositions. Amorphis proves that it knows its own material very well and manages to improve great songs to excellent tracks while the excellent titles remain on the same high level. 

    This album is physically available as part of the tour edition of the last studio release Under the Red Cloud but can also be purchased digitally without the studio record. On the other side, the band missed an excellent occasion to release this outstanding set with the second set played that night which consisted in a performance of the entire Under the Red Cloud record plus a short encore. This package would have been a very complete release showcasing many of Amorphis' diversified soundscapes. This would have been one of the best live records ever. Still, even this single set with more dominant acoustic, folk and jazz sounds added to Amorphis' progressive melodic metal style is a great addition to anyone who truly loves music.

    Final rating: 97%

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  • The Foreshadowing is undoubtedly the most immersive gothic doom metal band around these days. Since the band's formula works so efficiently, the Italian sextet almost didn't change anything about in on its fourth studio record. One could criticize the band for playing it safe but the band's high-quality consistency is so convincing that it would be difficult and even unreasonable to suggest the group to modify its unique trademark sound and to walk off the beaten path. Despite an overall great effort, this release is slightly less convincing than its three predecessors. This isn't due to a lack of innovation however but related to a weak album closer that represents a fourth of this release's running time. Even though it's the only track that falls off, its running time and position are so important that it has a rather important impact on the entire release. Ironically, the record's most experimental track in terms of running time and structure turns out to be its Achilles' heel.

    Seven Heads Ten Horns is obviously an album that needs to be listened in a calm and isolated atmosphere to unfold its gloomy atmosphere. The nine new tracks also need some time to unfold and request multiple spins before they will be permanently stuck on your mind. This was also the case for the previous records and is typical for this atmospheric genre.

    After numerous spins, two tracks really manage to stand out on an overall convincing effort. ''Two Horizons'' starts with melancholic and mournful guitar melodies before the verses build up a certain speed and energy carried by a superb drum play that is often underestimated in this band. The mixture between a more vivid rhythm section, mid-paced guitar patterns and slow vocals supported by melodramatic keyboard passages that add to the atmopshere instead of taking too much space works very well. The chorus slows things down a little bit and offers an enchanting and hypnotizing approach dominated by careful and thoughtful vocals where every note blends in perfectly with the nearly progressive instrumental work. This mellower refrain turns out to be rather catchy and creates an almost uplifting contrast to the more depressive and sorrowful verses. The track sounds perfectly balanced and represents The Foreshadowing's gothic soundscapes best on this record. Due to the addicting chorus, it's also the song with the greatest hit potential this band has written so far. Another outstanding effort is the quasi title track ''Seventeen'' that hits a very similar vein. The track starts with discordant guitar sounds before a thundering rhythm section sets in. The verses are vivid from an instrumental point of view while the vocals are as mysterious and soothing as ever. The chorus is very efficient once again and has a more epic touch with very melodic lead vocals that won't get out of your mind. The lyrical topic of the apocalypse has rarely sounded as enchanting as in this particularly devilish song. It almost sounds like the musical version of an uneasy yet appeasing opium trip. The Foreshadowing offers sweet pain as drugs for your ears.

    The only slight disappointment on this strong album is the closing epic ''Nimrod'' which is separated into four distinctive parts. While these parts work well enough on their own, they don't quite fit together. This song sounds less coherent and fluid than the other tunes and in the case of a band that mostly relies on an immersive atmosphere, these slight disturbances are enough to get the listener out of the universe this song attempts to create. In the end, the band was probably a little bit overambitious to end this album with a track with a running time above fourteen minutes. Less would have been so much more in this case because the final result feels both stretched yet unfinished and doesn't represent the band's usual efficiency and precision we have gotten used to.

    In the end, Seven Heads Ten Horns is another great gothic doom metal output by The Foreshadowing. It's not an essential album and I personally liked the three predecessors slightly better. However, both gothic and doom metal fans should get this album because even The Foreshadowing's least convincing studio album to date is still far stronger than what similar bands have to offer in general. On the other side, occasional and new fans are recommended to start their journey with one of the group's first three outputs.

    Final rating: 78%

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  • Ladies and gentlemen,

    At this point, I would like to share my predictions for the 2017 Formula One season with you.

    World Drivers' Championsip

    1. Lewis Hamilton 416

    2. Sebastian Vettel 373

    3. Max Verstappen 277

    4. Kimi Raikkonen 225

    5. Valtteri Bottas 197

    6. Daniel Ricciardo 187

    7. Carlos Sainz jr. 92

    8. Sergio Perez 82

    9. Daniel Kvyat 68

    10. Felipe Massa 54

    11. Esteban Ocon 21

    12. Fernando Alonso 12

    13. Romain Grosjean 4

    14. Pascal Wehrlein 3

    14. Marcus Ericsson 3

    14. Nico Hulkenberg 3

    17. Lance Stroll 2

    18. Kevin Magnussen 1

    19. Stoffel Vandoorne 0

    19. Jolyon Palmer 0

    19. Antonio Giovinazzi 0

     World Constructors' Championship

    1. Mercedes 613

    2. Ferrari 598

    3. Red Bull Racing 464

    4. Scuderia Toro Rosso 160

    5. Force India 103

    6. Williams 56

    7. McLaren 12

    8. Sauber 6

    9. Haas F1 Team 5

    10. Renault 3 

    I'm already looking forward to attending the fiftieth Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal in June 2017. I will keep you updated as much as possible and I will post several reports and photos on my blog over the upcoming months.

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