• Gangster Suqad (2013)

    Gangster Squad is the first small highlight of the young year 2013. It's not that this movie has a truly surprising story line or adds anything new to the genre. The movie is in fact based on true events as many movies are these days and the good cops versus evil gangsters story is rather predictable.

    The strength of the movie lies in a well-crafted retro touch reminding the dirty forties of Los Angeles. The decorations, make-ups and settings are above standards and create an intriguing basis of this movie. 

    In addition to this, the film mixes tension filled action scenes with dramatic moments that focus on a certain character development. The actors that convinced me most were Robert Patrick as grizzled old gunslinger with a dry sense of humour and Sean Penn in the role of a choleric and dangerous gangster boss who terrorizes not only a whole city but also his partners and his girlfriend. 

    The movie is entertaining from the beginning to the end and offers a surprisingly brutal but also dramatic showdown. Don't expect a new "Once Upon A Time In America", "Scarface" or "The Godfather" but an entertaining and sometimes rather hard gangster movie with a nostalgic flair and convincing actors.
     

     

     

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  • Red Dawn (2012)

     

     

    "Red Dawn" is a lukewarm remake of a classic with an incredibly stupid story line when North Korean invaders attack the United States of America with the help of the Russians and impose their ideology. A few young men seek refuge in the forests and try to fight the invaders by organizing a guerrilla. In the beginning, they are very unexperienced and a few of them won't survive their brave acts which leads to important tensions within the team but the guerrilla gets better and better and finally decides to attack the main building of the enemies.

    The positive thing about the movie is its short length and the fact that it never gets boring. The dialogues and the acting are a little bit weak but better than I would have expected. The action scenes are a little bit ordinary in the beginning but get better and better towards the explosive and entertaining end. I also liked the fact that the ending was rather surprising and dramatic. It's not your usual happy end and included two rather sad scenes even though the final message happens to be positive and warlike again.

    On the negative side, the story is completely stupid and unreal and the movie's intentions are not a far call from propaganda movies of the Cold War which feels rather inappropriate in modern times of globalization. The American screenwriters still seem to think that their government is the best in the world and that anybody who disagrees such as communists are automatically evil. This kind of movie only supports the propagandistic ideas of the North Korean government who takes the Americans for their worst enemies. While the North Korean government slowly opens for economy, diplomacy and modernization, Americans are still stuck in the past and release this kind of questionable movie. Some people might identify with the closed minded attitude to fight anything and anybody who attacks your country at all costs and that's what creates more and more conflicts but I simply can't agree on that point. As a German I can only say that I'm glad that my own country which I still love and respect a lot got defeated during the Second World War and I wouldn't have defended it if I had been able to chose. It's always a mistake to blindly follow a government and accept anything it asks you to do. American governments have created lots of wars, sometimes with good, sometimes with bad intentions, and it's strange that such a story line comes from this country because they haven't been the victims apart of 9/11 which was a terrible incident but definitely not a year long war as what happened in Korea or Vietnam. When arts and politics mix, the final result is always extremely biased and that's also the case of this movie. I'm surprised that these kinds of stories are still written today and one simply can't ignore this aspect if one watches this film. If there wasn't the political dimension of this movie and if the invaders would have been anonymous, I would have given one more point to the flick but this movie is still only of an average quality.

    In the end, I can only recommend this movie for those who are looking for a patriotic action flick. It's quite entertaining and gets better and better towards the end but the acting and the story are rather bad. Anything who expects a thought out story line or a strong acting shouldn't watch this movie. If you like war movies, you should go for the Korean "Tae Guk Gi" who shows you a very balanced and realistic view of what happened during the Korean War.

     

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  • 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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