• Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

    Kingsman: The Golden Circle is an energetic roller coaster ride similar to the first instalment three years earlier. It's basically a reinvention of the James Bond franchise for younger generations, especially teenagers and young adults. The mixture of relentless action, British humor, a tiny shot of eroticism, exotic locations, twisted scenarios and spectacular special effects still works very well. What makes the Kingsman franchise special are the young and geeky main character, the connection to contemporary phenomenons such as social media activities and robotics as well as a more extreme mixture between situation comedy to lighten things up and visually explicit images to impress younger generations.

    There are only a few minor elements that are wrong with this sequel which is on the same level as the predecessor. First of all, the movie includes a few continuity mistakes such as car doors getting torn off just to look perfectly intact one shot later. This shows that the filmmaking process was slightly rushed and sloppy. Secondly, the movie overuses the use of stereotypes about the differences between American and British cultures. Especially the song Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver is overused in this film, especially since the movie takes mostly place in Kentucky and not in West Virginia. Thirdly and most importantly, the plot is also somewhat incoherent. It never becomes obvious why Harry suspects Whiskey to be a traitor. The idea that the villain placed antidotes in secret locations all around the world without even one of them being discovered is quite ridiculous as well. The way the Kingsmen finally discover Poppy's hideout in Cambodia doesn't make much sense either.

    In the end, Kingsma: The Golden Circle is an energizing, entertaining and fast-paced spy flick for teenagers and young adults. If you are open to pardon some obvious filmmaking and plot mistakes and just want to switch your brain off, you will certainly enjoy this slightly shallow film for what it is. I really liked the vivid ride but I wouldn't consider this film or the franchise a contemporary classic as many other people seem to do. It's fun but lacking substance to be more than just that.

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  • The Foreigner (2017)

    Jackie Chan is an incredibly skilled actor but he has often chosen rather uninteresting roles that limit him to slapstick comedy and a few fight scenes in exchangeable family movies like Kung Fu Yoga and Chinese Zodiac. His last entirely interesting movie was the historical drama 1911 six years ago but even that movie was flawed due to its propagandistic vibe. 

    And suddenly, Jackie Chan is back with a bang in The Foreigner. Almost nobody saw that coming. And instead of focusing on gags and choreography, this film respects Jackie Chan as a serious actor. He plays a former special forces operator, refugee and family father who loses his single daughter in a terrorist attack and wants to track down the criminals behind this unspeakable act by any means necessary. Jackie Chan manages to find a perfect balance between playing a broken old man, a clever and strategic fighter with an intact moral compass and a pitiless avenger. As a viewer, you sympathize with this authentic and diversified character with authentic flaws and strengths. The Foreigner might actually be the best acting performance in Jackie Chan's incredibly long career.

    In addition to an outstanding Jackie Chan, this movie features other great actors such as the charismatic Pierce Brosnan. His performance as Jackie Chan's determined, influential and manipulative antagonist might be his best since his departure from the James Bond franchise one and a half decades ago. The different supporting characters of mostly Chinese or Irish origin are also quite convincing.

    As if that weren't enough, the story of the movie is so addicting because it's quite authentic. The topic of the Irish Republican Army has been used many times before but only very few films show the corruption, ideology and struggle behind it like this film does. The movie is based upon Stephen Leather's novel The Chinaman and the detailed movie shows that it's quite faithful to the source material.

    The film convinces with a balanced mixture of action, crime and drama elements and equally focuses on developing the main characters, offering diversified action sequences from exploding buildings over hand-to-hand combats to home invasions and perpetually raising the tension of the film until a stunning showdown. Exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution are all cleverly developed.

    The skilled directing by an experienced Martin Campbell who had already collaborated with Pierce Brosnan in the past is the cherry on the cake of a flawless film. The locations are simple but efficient, the lighting techniques add to the respective moods of the scenes and the well-integrated soundtrack always blends in.

    In the end, The Foreigner deserves the attention and praise it already gets and would even deserve more. It's one of the very best movies of the year and a stunning return for Pierce Brosnan, Martin Campbell and especially Jackie Chan.

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  • Baby Driver (2017)

    Baby Driver is an above average action movie but definitely not the perfect blend so many critics seem to see in it.

    On the positive side, the action sequences of the movie are vivid, spectacular and diversified. They also look rather realistic and don't overuse CGI technology. The last third of the movie has a great balance between an overall gloomy atmosphere and few more hopeful scenes between the characters. CJ Jones and Lily James played really likable and profound characters one could easily identify with. Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm played two quirky gangsters with their very own styles. It was also great to see Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers as a side character in this film.

    On the other side, the backstory isn't very original. The stereotype of a tough guy with a soft core because of a rough childhood is simply overused in Hollywood. The underlying message that he is still a nice guy and didn't have any choice to become a criminal is also very dangerous. Some of the characters' decisions are plain unrealistic, especially the typical Hollywood ending is filled with laughable stereotypes. Another issue is that every second Hollywood movie uses rock music of the seventies these days. While I like this type of music, it's simply wrong to praise this movie for its original style that isn't that original after all. I also thought that the middle section of the film dragged on for too long. The main character was introduced as a cool character that doesn't speak or think much but the middle section suddenly tried to give the character a more intellectual and profound touch which was completely misplaced.

    In the end, Baby Driver is without a doubt an overall entertaining, fast-paced and stylish action movie that you should enjoy at your local movie theatres. But it simply isn't anything more than that. It's the kind of movie you will enjoy while you're watching it but you probably won't remember much of it after a few months or years.

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  • Samurai Cop (1991)

    Samurai Cop is a movie that is bad on so many levels that it's difficult to know where to begin. First of all, the acting performances are below average and lead actor Mathew Karedas seems to only have one facial expression. The plot is everything but clever, extremely predictable and could be described as almost childish. The dialogues are thin, unconvincing and often performed in poor English because the script was written by Iranian director Amir Shervan who didn't have much experience. The female characters in this movie are all stupidly obsessed with sex and the male characters try to look cool on purpose which makes them look like complete idiots. The camera techniques are often terrible because characters who are talking are sometimes out of frame or picture. Technicians are sometimes visible in the reflections of sunglasses or as shadows in a small room. There are numerous continuity mistakes with people wearing sunglasses in one cut and not wearing them in the next cut four seconds later, hospital rooms being filled with people that have mysteriously vanished five seconds later and people being asked to come from New York City to Los Angeles who are suddenly present a few minutes later as if they had taken a rocket ride. The locations of this film are also boring and mostly consist of exchangeable alleys, random intersections and cheap restaurants. The worst part about the movie is that the director forgot to shoot some important scenes and asked the different actors to come together again to finish the film about four months after it had already been finished. The problem here is that our static lead actor Mathew Karedas cut his long hair after the movie had been completed and had to wear a wig to avoid continuity errors. The problem is that this wig looks extremely fake and is even pulled off his head in a fight Scene if you watch closely which is the cherry on the cake of this goofy b-movie.

    You might wonder why this film still deserved a generous five out of ten points. The answer is quite obvious. This film is so bad that it's almost good again. It's quite amusing to catch all the obvious mistakes. The film is unpredictable in its goofy weirdness. A nice drinking game invented by two German comedians specifically for this movie consists of drinking a shot of alcohol each time the main character's wig is visible.

    To be fair though, it's a quite entertaining movie with a lot of car chases and fight scenes with bare hands, pistols, swords and improvised weapons. The movie also includes several soft porn scenes and a shallow love story that gives us a break from all the action. I was never bored by this movie because of its vivid flow. Most action movies these days either bore with complicated background stories, endless dialogues and take themselves way too serious or are filled with exchangeable CGI effects and enormous plot holes in unnecessary sequels. From that point of view, Samurai Cop is almost refreshingly grounded and unpretentious.

    Fans of old-school action b-movies could be very well entertained by Samurai Cop and can give this film a shot if they are open to have some fun. My advice would be to invite some friends over while watching this film. Despite its numerous obvious flaws, Samurai Cop is still overall an average movie and not among the worst films I have ever watched like so many other people claim.

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  • Kong: Skull Island (2017)

    *** This review may contain spoilers ***

    Los Angeles, California. The world's capital of steel, plastic and glass. Including locations and people. After drinking too much booze in a shady strip club, two representatives of Warner Brothers Pictures are talking about the company's next blockbuster after a series of less popular movies in times when cinema can't compete with the growing streaming media industry. 

    "Let's make another blockbuster – any ideas?"

    "There is a monster movie revival. We could reboot the King Kong franchise."

    "But there are already seven different King Kong movies."

    "That doesn't matter. People don't like change, love living in the past and don't want to think too much. Imagine the commercial potential of such a reboot! We could let King Kong fight against Godzilla in a sequel!"

    "Well, there is already a movie where this happens."

    "Great! People are nostalgic and will like it!"

    "Do you have any ideas for a plot?"

    "Let the movie take place in the past. This will only add to its nostalgia. We could put some old rock music in the film. And some vintage vehicles and weapons. It could take place towards the end of the Vietnam War."

    "Why would we chose the Vietnam War?"

    "Even the most uneducated audience has already heard of the Vietnam War. Oh, and let's also include the Second World War in the scenario. Two wars are better than one!"

    "Do you have any ideas for precise locations?"

    "Geography is too complex for our audience. Let's just invent a fictional island. An island where any nonsense could happen. Let's include other monsters. Giant lizards, giant oxes and giant spiders! And dinosaurs! Let's just put plenty of big animals in the movie that make a lot of noise and look scary."

    "Alright, but what about an actual story?"

    "Who needs a story? A couple of people want to discover an island and must fight monsters. King Kong turns out to be nice and helps them. That's it."

    "Do you have any ideas for our characters?"

    "People like simple contrasts. Good and evil. Heroes and villains. Pacifists and warmongers. Let's also include some stereotypes to put everyone in their comfort zones. Some natives that worship King Kong. A crazy recluse who stranded on the island. Stuff like that."

    "We need strong antagonists and protagonists though."

    "Let me think... I got it. An evil military faces a good journalist. The former wants to kill all the monsters while the latter wants to save them."

    "The US military will hate us for this."

    "Awesome, we will get some promotion for free. Everybody will talk about it. And even the intellectuals will come watch our movie because they think it includes some serious pacifist message! Hahaha!"

    "What about the actors and actresses?"

    "Let's make sure to include people from every possible background even if it doesn't make any sense considering the historical background. Multiculturalism matters. Let's include exotic natives, a good black dude and a bad black dude, a crazy white dude and a clever white dude. Let's also put some random Asian chick in the movie that looks cute. We just give her ten lines of dialogue and that's enough. Some people just watch those movies for the action sequences and beautiful people! They are weak and can't get laid in real life, so they want to watch heroes that shoot everything and get all the hot chicks!"

    "Shouldn't we put some more profound emotions into this film?"

    "Profound is a word our target audience doesn't understand. People like simple and positive emotions. Let's make the good black dude fall in love with that Asian chick. Let our protagonist fall in love with the clever white dude. Let the recluse come back to his family. Let all the baddies die. That's the kind of stuff we need."

    "That sounds so shallow it might actually work out. But what kind of actor would participate in such a movie?"

    "Let's hire some unknown rookies that look geeky and trendy and who still dream of a Hollywood career. They will accept to do anything to get rich and famous. Let's also put one or two more famous actors in the movie that will attract older audiences. We will have to overpay them to make sure they participate in this nonsense but it will pay off. Imagine a name like Samuel L. Jackson! People will read his name and just watch the movie because of him! Anyway, we will put the biggest part of our budget in the special effects. We need a lot of crazy monsters, loud explosions and a dream island to sell our product. The talent of the actors doesn't actually matter. They just need to look cool."

    "You're so superficial that it's almost creative! But how can we connect this movie to a potential sequel?"

    "Let's include a scene after the credits. We can throw in the discovery of more monsters from other remote places! What about Godzilla? Or some other Japanese monsters. That three-headed dragon, King Ghidorah! Or the giant butterfly, Mothra! Or some dinosaur, like Rodan!"

    "Isn't that a little bit too exaggerated?"

    "Hell, no! We could make dozens of sequels and reboots with those connections. And more importantly, we will make a shitload of money!"

    "Sounds good to me. One last thing. What kind of title could we use? ''King Kong returns''?"

    "No, it needs to be something cooler to get more kids interested. Let's use the name of the island from the original movie. Skull Island! That sounds badass! There it is: "Kong: Skull Island"."

    "You're a genius. How much time do you need to write the script?"

    "Give me some more drinks and I would say I can write it in two hours. Maximum! Let's start the casting and promotion. We will be heroes! Here we go!"

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