• Skyfall (2012)

     

    Since Daniel Craig incarnates the role of the most famous spy in the world, the James Bond series have profoundly changed. The movies got away from the image of a slightly arrogant but somewhat charming heart breaker who has superficial sexual relationships with the most exotic women in the world and who faces megalomaniac but vulnerable enemies and beats them with the weirdest gadgets. These movies certainly had a unique charm but when one objectively looks back on these films nowadays, they were often somewhat limited. A big portion of charm, humour and sex has gone and the new special agent has become a more emotionally driven character instead of the unbeatable superhero he has been before. While "Casino Royale" perfectly showed the new face of James Bond and can be considered as a milestone of the series, the direct follow-up "Quantum Of Solace" had its lengths and lacked of consistency.

    "Skyfall" is just in between the quality level of its two predecessors. It features a more emotional agent who has faced death, who gets isolated, who has alcohol problems as well as mental weaknesses and who finds himself in the abyss of his existence. The special agent becomes a quite authentic character who shows us the darker side of his personality one has never known before. One also learns more about his special relationship to his superior and the movie even takes us back to the childhood of the character. The latter part is particularly atmospheric and intriguing and innovates the series fifty years after the cinematic creation of this format.

    The main problem with the new movie is that the personal story of James Bond gets so important that the plot about the new main villain almost gets too secondary even though Javier Bardem does an excellent job and incarnates a smart madman who has many similarities with his opponent. On the other side, the plot has its lengths. The parts turned in China are visually stunning and Bérénice Lim Marlohe convinces as mysterious femme fatale but the whole thing is too long and features too many unnecessary dialogues. The final showdown also has its length and doesn't come along very spectacular. These parts are saved by an authentic and strong acting but anybody who is waiting for breathless action scenes may only be satisfied by the explosive opening. Action fans should rather check out "The Bourne Legacy" that has come to the movie theatres last summer.

    In the end, the series still head for new shores fifty years after "Dr. No". The focus in this film lies on James Bond's personal story and the character development and not on the action scenes, locations or villains. From time to time, this film feels like a drama and not like an action flick. It introduces though a couple of famous characters of the traditional James Bond series again which is quite addicting for old and new fans and makes the wait for the twenty-fourth feature even more exciting. "Skyfall" follows the tendency of its two predecessors but makes a more radical step forward. It's up to each fan to decide if he or she prefers the new face of James Bond or the traditional one or if they happen to be intriguingly complementary which would be my personal description. In the end, I enjoyed the movie despite a few flaws and I would put it in the upper midfield of the table featuring all twenty-three features but it still doesn't come close to my personal favourites that are "From Russia with Love", "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" and "Casino Royale".

     

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  • Freelancers (2012)

     

    This movie is an overall quite entertaining and mostly fast paced action thriller that though lacks of depth. The story simply features too many stereotypes and is therefor sometimes even mildly amusing even if this surely wasn't the intention of the makers of this b-movie.

    The film is about three crooks that get out of prison and get to work in the corrupt New York City Police Department. Soon, they get involved in the local crime scene and must learn how to survive in tough circumstances where nobody's left whom they can trust in. At the same time, the main character portrayed by a weak but not completely bad Curtis James Jackson III wants to resolve the secret of his father's assassination that he witnessed as a child.

    The problem with this movie is that it almost has no clear guiding line and some events happen without any logical reason whatsoever. Sometimes, the characters rapidly change their moods and appear almost schizophrenic which is very odd. Apart of a slightly stronger and even quite entertaining ending, at least three quarters of the movie go straight to nowhere or are highly predictable. Most of the actors and especially the cop roles are simply not credible at all and even happen to be quite ridiculous. Sometimes, the movie just feels like a longer 50 Cent video clip with senseless violence, gratuitous sex, a very minimalistic story line and some cameo appearances by a couple of good actors such as the strong Robert De Niro or the now deceased and surprisingly convincing actor Pedro Armendáriz Junior where one ends up asking oneself why these gifted guys are starring in such a bad movie.

    In the end, there isn't much interest in watching this film. Especially the story is quite random and predictable. The low budget flick features almost more shots of nocturnal New York City every ten minutes that are taken from a plain than gripping action or suspense scenes. The only reason to watch this flick are the solid appearances of Robert De Niro as well as Pedro Armendáriz Junior or if you simply are a big fan of 50 Cent. Objectively seen, his acting is of a rather average quality and lacks of emotion and quality but he surely has a quite cool image and mostly promotes himself and his music in this movie. You can grab this flick at a cheap price for a loan if you have not much else to do and want to switch your brain off for one hour and a half but apart of that there definitely isn't much in this.

     

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  • The Expendables 2 (2012)

     

    If you liked the first part of The Expandables franchise, you will also appreciate this follow-up but if you didn't like the first part, the chances are elevated that you won't adore the second strike, too. The story of the new movie is pretty much comparable to the first one, the action scenes are also quite similar and most of the characters of the first feature are back for good in this sequel.

    Let's kick off with the negative aspects about this film first. Honestly said, the movie doesn't come as explosive as the first part as this one is even more predictable than the first feature film because of a quite parallel story line. Second, there are still some humorous moments in the movie but some one liners already start to be quite repetitive and feel a little bit too forced, old fashioned and used and that's why this movie has a lot less laughs than the first film. As a third point I must admit that I miss the aesthetic fights that Jet Li brought to the franchise as he has only a minor role in this movie and the combats are therefor rather limited, repetitive and only focused on brutality, effects and explosions. I might also add that I miss a truly good secondary role as Mickey Rourke was in the first movie.

    On the positive side, I think that the story in here is still slightly more interesting as in the first movie. The locations in this film really exist and are much more intriguing as in the first part in my humble opinion and the makers of the franchise should even expand this concept in the future. Concerning the acting, I was positively surprised by the good work of Jean-Claude van Damme as main villain in this film. Usually, his acting is only focused on action and appears quite mediocre to me but he definitely does one of his best jobs ever in this flick. The fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis play a bigger role in this film is not only a positive thing for the gross, promotion and reputation of the movie but they bring back some good memories of the first part and their characters are as cool, funny and old school as in the first feature. The addition of Chuck Norris to this film also happened to be a good idea. His role is a little bit too short and honestly said filled with stereotypes but that's what people seem to want to see and his appearances turn out to be quite amusing, entertaining and memorable. The new characters in this movie played by the quite charismatic Liam Hemsworth and the tough but charming Yu Nan are interesting but first of all they are introduced in quite a hurry and lack of depth and then, they don't have a lot of screen time to fully convince.

    After all, this movie is pretty much comparable to the first feature film and you simply get more of the same. The biggest plus points in here are the exotic locations and some new actors that appear and do a quite promising job. On the negative side, you have a very predictable story, less diversified fighting scenes and a lot less humour than in the first flick. Fans of the first part should not miss this flick but those who were sceptical about it surely won't get a better approach to this second flick and should simply stay away from it. This movie is maybe a little step down for the franchise but still on a quite comparable level in comparison to what Stallone and his men had put out two years ago.

     

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  • The Expandables (2010)

     

    The Expandables is a action super movie that puts together some of the most famous genre actors of the last decades. The movie exactly delivers what fans might expect. That's why you should not expect profound dialogues, too many romantic moments or a truly original story line. This movie is about cool quotes, many explosive action scenes and a quite fast paced and simple story line. Anybody who doesn't accept this kind of nostalgic and relatively simple genre should just not watch it and stop bashing this movie as you clearly know what you will get.

    There are many cool one liners and funny hints, homages and references to classic vintage movies or characters of the genre. A good example is the scene when Sylverster Stallone meets Arnold Schwarzenegger as well as Bruce Willis in a church. When I went to the cinema, the whole crowd was laughing out loud during this scene and almost anybody understood the quite famous inside jokes in this movie. It was not the only funny moment in this fast paced movie and it was definitely better than many immature and though overambitious comedy flicks from Hollywood. I was even positively surprised by the many amusing moments that created a solid balance to the brutal action scenes without making the whole thing childish or ridiculous. The movie just managed to be humorous and cool at the same time.

    The acting is of course not very deep or challenging but the characters fit very well to the different actors and you really feel that some of them go as far as to personalize their roles. Especially Dolph Lundgren, Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham shine in this movie and even have some sort of depth. The minor roles involving actors like Mickey Rourke or Bruce Willis are more superficial but fit very well and are clearly orientated on similar characters they have played before. These roles are made to appear as cool, experienced and male as possible and that's what you get.

    The fighting and action scenes are varied enough to keep you addicted to this movie until the end. While Jet Li or Jason Statham really show that they are quite flexible and know their martial arts skills, Randy Couture or Dolph Lundgren represent a less aesthetic and more brutal and pitiless fighting style involving different explosives and guns. From time to time, there are even some experimental and original sequences where the characters don't only use their male force but also their brains to find a way out of a difficult situation. Some scenes are on the other side completely overloaded, especially towards the end as every few seconds, one switches from one character to the other and observes a pitiless massacre. Of course, this is neither profound, nor original but in contrast with the humorous parts, the whole thing turns out to work surprisingly well.

    Concerning the story line, it's probably useless to say that the whole movie is pure fiction and quite predictable from the beginning to the end by dealing with the usual stereotypes. Of course, the leader of the wolf pack falls in love with a local beauty. It's quite clear that a traitor appears quite soon in the rows of the heroes that confronts his old friends. It's not surprising that there is some sort of a conspiracy and manipulation story around the main villain. You may quickly realize that the main villain is probably not as bad as it seems and has to face the demons of his past as one of his most important family members tries to fight him. The ending of the story is probably what you've expected from the beginning on. This is clearly the weakest part of the movie but the solid acting, the great actions scenes and especially the cool and humorous moments pardon for these obvious flaws.

    In the end, this movie is recommended to all those that are into the action genre and like at least a couple or even all of the involved main actors. The humorous scenes could please to a larger public, though, for example when the guys bring their girlfriends to the cinema that only expect one hour and a half of raw male brutality. Apart of this humorous factor, you really get what you should expect. Take it if you like the actors and their kind of movies or just leave it and don't watch it because this movie won't make you fall in love with the genre. It's a truly entertaining flick but clearly far from being a modern milestone as it copies way too much the elements we already know but on the other side it's this rude simplicity that gives the film a rather classic, honest and sympathetic image.

     

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  • Crying Freeman (1995)

     

    Many critics didn't appreciate this movie. They mentioned the thin plot. They said that the movie contained too many stereotypes. They complained about thin dialogues throughout the movie. They criticized the editing of the action scenes. They said the movie was too slow paced.

    All these critics are partially right. Nevertheless, I truly enjoyed this movie. For a debut movie, Christophe Gans did the best he can with a very low budget.

    Even though a lot of scenes were turned in Canada or in the studios, the movie still has an exotic touch as it is set in Seattle in the United States of America first, later in the beautiful city of Vancouver, Canada and towards the end even in mainland China as well as in different places in Japan.

    Apart of the settings, the corpse paintings are well done, the Asian costumes are well chosen and the fight scenes with or without arms have some kind of aestheticism at some points without being too pretentious.

    The rather unknown actors at that time with the charismatic Mark Dacascos and the solid Julie Condra also did a good effort. Even though the story is not always credible and somewhat predictable, the connection between the two main actors is definitely there. They have known each other on the set of this film and became a couple that actually married and got three children until today. That's why the soft love story is more than just professional acting as it seems and surprisingly authentic.

    The movie is in fact a real life adaption of a famous manga and anime series but in comparison to many similar adaptations, this kind of movie can also easily please to those that don't know the original. I usually dislike the whole manga phenomenon. I think it's overrated and has taken the place of many other and more intriguing cultural aspects of Japan. It's a little bit like sushi as there are so many better Japanese foods than this one. But I happened to adore this movie without caring for its origins. A fan of the original series may analyze this flick from a wholly different point of view.

    This movie is basically a solid action movie with a good dose of suspense, different exotic cultural elements flawed by a few stereotypes, some soft porn moments that never get too far but also some calm and quiet parts with emotional moments that give the characters some depth and development. The balance between fast paced passages and slow moods is well found in my opinion. Fans of intelligent suspense flicks may find this movie too simple. Action fans would like to see more martial arts aspects. But those who like more than just a couple of genres will surely adore this movie as a whole and recognize its diversity.

    The movie won't win a price for exquisite and philosophical dialogues but I prefer the quiet silent and mysterious character of a skilled killer that has fallen in love with his victim to one of those films with endless chatting and pretentiously cool proverbs at each three minutes. I prefer the rude shooting scenes and the rare but well done martial arts moments to car chases without an end, big set explosions or soulless computer effects. This movie is rather grounded and simple. It's easy to watch. But it's sympathetic and still varies to be intriguing enough to watch this flick more than just once.

    Anybody that likes a simple but honest action movie with a romantic side story and some exotic Asian elements in a reasonable running time, should try this film out. Anybody that is waiting for something explosive, innovating or profound should go for a bigger production.

    Normally I would just give this film seven points but it had a certain kind of magic that is hard to describe but that really addicted me. I already feel the need to watch this movie again. I would also like to show it to some of my mates which doesn't happen very often. This flick is a surprising little gem.

     

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