• Gisaengchung / Parasite (2019)

    Parasite is the best movie of the year. This Korean movie won the renowned Palme d'Or of the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. It has been selected as the South Korean entry for Best International Feature Film at the ninety-second Academy Awards.

    This movie combines multiple genres such as comedy, drama, horror, thriller and tragedy. The main theme is the clash between rich and poor in the Republic of Korea. This conflict has been the main topic in other great films such as The Housemaid and The Taste of Money. Parasite however is less cumbersome, melodramatic and moralizing and convinces with wit, depth and creativity instead.

    International audiences might feel slightly confused by this unusual genre mixture at first contact but this is exactly what makes this movie so unique. The story starts in a dramatic way and portrays a poor family who lives in a small semi-basement apartment and struggles to make ends meet. The movie gets more comedic when the son of said family gets the unexpected opportunity to replace a friend as English tutor for the beautiful daughter of a wealthy family. The film turns into a thriller when the four family members gradually infiltrate and even replace the personnel of the wealthy family with ethically questionable procedures. The movie turns into a horror film when the family realizes that the family mansion hides a creepy secret as things gradually spin out of control. The film ends as an almost surreal tragedy that will leave the audience speechless. Parasite is a movie the leaves a lasting impression, offers much food for thought and should animate philosophical discussions. The movie is so detailed, precise and profound that it deserves to be purchased to be watched time and again.

    I'm grateful that I had the opportunity to watch this movie in French in a Canadian cinema and so were the numerous other members of the audience in the packed movie theatre. People are craving for a change and are tired of tame, predictable and repetitive Hollywood superhero prequels, remakes and sequels. There should be more creative, dynamic and entertaining international movies like Parasite in movie theatres all around the world. If you desire to make a statement in favour of cinema as an artistic expression rather than shallow entertainment, do yourself a favour and enjoy this incredible movie on the big screen. This movie has the potential to become a cult classic and deserves all the praise it gets.

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  • War (2019)

    War is an Indian action-thriller about a soldier who has to eliminate his former mentor who has gone rogue and starts assassinating influential targets around the world for mysterious reasons.

    The movie convinces on numerous levels. The story comes around with numerous surprising twists and turns that will keep the spectators on the edge of their seats until the very end. Most of the characters have interesting background stories, convictions and motives which make the two lead characters progressively more profound as the movie unfolds in particular. The action scenes are spectacular and vary from explosive car chases to combats in an old church that has fallen into disrepair. The special effects have been designed with care as the camera work and light techniques are very solid except from one unnecessarily nauseating scene in a conference room. The beautiful locations and settings are very colourful and vary from India over Italy to the Arctic Circle.

    On the negative side, the first half of the movie has a confusing chronological order and constantly switches from past to present and back again when a smoother chronological structure would have been much easier to understand. The movie includes two completely unnecessary dance choreographies that harm the movie's flow, contradict the tense atmosphere and look mildly amusingly amateurish. Some plot elements are a little bit over-the-top and it feels as if the scriptwriters had tried to include ideas for three movies into one single film which make the movie slightly overloaded. Some acting performances are rather wooden such as Vaani Kapoor's who was probably chosen for her role because of her elegant physical appearance but is lacking elementary acting skills.

    Still, War is a very entertaining action-thriller of epic proportions that improves steadily until a gripping finale. Anyone who likes action films, spy flicks or thrillers should give this dynamic movie a try. Fans of the Bourne trilogy, the Fast and the Furious franchise and the xXx films might discover a wonderful hidden gem here.

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  • Zhong Guo Ji Zhang / The Captain (2019)

    The Captain is a Chinese action-drama inspired by real events that occurred less than a year and a half before this film was released. One has to admire how quickly, professionally and precisely the three production companies have written a tight script, elaborated upon fascinating characters, hired excellent actors and actresses, put lots of money into stunning special effects and promoted this stunning movie at home and abroad. It's a shame that I was the only spectator who wasn't Chinese when watching this movie in Canada. People should have an open mind to discover excellent cinema from abroad instead of being fed repetitive Hollywood blockbusters.

    There are numerous elements that make The Captain an excellent action-drama. The script is overall tight and gets to the point while still introducing the lead characters at the beginning and showing a brief aftermath at the end. The movie however mostly focuses on the turbulent flight as crew and passengers have to deal with broken windshields, depressurization, communication issues, turbulence related to bad weather, speed issues and weight problems.

    The characters in this movie are interesting because they are based upon real people. Especially the caring, diplomatic and professional head flight attendant and the cold-blooded, determined and resilient pilot stand out as gripping lead characters. The movie however also includes numerous intriguing side characters in form of diversified passengers who add some drama, humour and inspiration at appropriate moments.

    The acting performances are equally convincing. Yuan Quan convinces in her calm, composed and empathic role as authentic flight attendant. Zhang Hanyu delivers the goods as cool, dry and quiet pilot. The actors and actresses become one with their roles and play them with stunning authenticity.

    The special effects of this movie are fully convincing and among the highest contemporary standard. The scenes of the breaking windshield and the gloomy thunderstorm are particularly breathtaking yet sufficiently realistic to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. The supernatural dream sequences involving the pilot's daughter are a nice addition to spice things up.

    The movie has been produced by three companies who have not only invested financial resources but staff-related professionalism and technological know-how. Veteran director Andrew Lau managed to find the perfect balance between an intense action film and a tearjerking drama. Being myself afraid of flying and heights, the movie mirrored such fears very efficiently and realistically.

    There are only two minor elements that keep the movie from being perfect. First of all, The Captain is yet another Chinese movie that includes Communist propaganda as it's mentioned that the heroic pilot and the most heroic staff members are of course members of the Chinese Communist Party and its symbols and flags can be found throughout the movie which doesn't add anything to the film but makes it look rather shallow at times. Secondly, the coda slightly overstays its welcome as ten compact minutes would have been sufficient to conclude the movie instead of showing events one year after the main story to stretch the film's length.

    Still, anyone who likes action blockbusters or emotional dramas should watch The Captain. This movie convinces with stunning special effects, precise script, fascinating characters and excellent actors and actresses. I would definitely watch this movie again and recommend it to all my friends.

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  • I Am a Hero (2015)

    ''I Am a Hero'' is a Japanese survival action movie based upon a manga series. Most Japanese movies seem to be based upon manga series these days and zombie films have also saturated the market over the past decade. Those are also the main issues I have with this movie. It doesn't add anything new to the formula and most certainly can't compete with recent genre highlights like the Korean films ''Train to Busan'' as well as ''Rampant''. Still, genre fans should appreciate this movie and can give this a try.

    The story revolves around thirty-five year old manga artist assistant Suzuki Hideo whose life has become quite depressing. Once an aspiring newcomer, he fails to publish his own stories and works with three other guys in an extremely small room for a selfish boss who gives him impossible deadlines and has an extramarital relationship with the only female assistant. Suzuki Hideo lives in a small, messy and dark apartment with an increasingly unhappy girlfriend. When he fails to publish his most recent story, his girlfriend decides to break up with him and kicks him out of their apartment. Suzuki Hideo now lives in a small park nearby or sleeps at his workplace. This introduction to the movie is quirky, melancholic and amusing at the same time.

    While Suzuki Hideo's life is slowly falling apart, strange events are occuring around him. A news report mentions that a human being has bitten a dog who has then gone crazy. Increased military activity can be observed in the city. Things really turn sour when Suzuki Hideo's girlfriend mysteriously transforms and assaults him. The protagonist escapes in shock and realizes that zombies are roaming the streets and attacking the living. He manages to escape with a female student named Hayakari Hiromi. These scenes are among the most intense in the movie and find the right balance between gory horror elements and slapstick situation comedy.

    The middle part of the movie is really tiresome. Suzuki Hideo and Hayakari Hiromi get to know each other and try to reach Mount Fuji where the virus apparently doesn't spread due to high altitude. The film is losing a lot of pace here and the relationship between the two protagonists remains unclear. They seem to care for each other but no motives are ever elaborated upon.

    The second half of the film takes place in a shopping outlet just below Mount Fuji. This place is infested with zombies but the two protagonists are saved by a group of survivors. However, they soon understand that those survivors aren't less dangerous than the zombies and end up being caught in a grim rivalry between two leaders. Hayakari Hiromi starts suffering from a mysterious illness, conspiracies slowly decrease the group's ailing team spirit and the ordinary Suzuki Hideo needs to become a hero to save those he cares about. This last part of the movie takes some time to develop but unfolds quite intensely until a rather vapid conclusion that leaves numerous questions unanswered.

    To keep it short, the movie starts on a promising note and manages to introduce the two lead characters dynamically. The action scenes in this movie make the second half thoroughly entertaining. However, the middle section is plodding, eventless and at times even directionless. The slow conclusion leaves room for a sequel as many questions remain unanswered.

    Please note that I Am a Hero isn't a horror movie. There are some gore effects indeed and the villains are zombies but this film isn't even remotely scary and can easily be watched by younger teenagers. This is a survival movie that focuses mostly on brutal action scenes. Melancholic drama elements and occasional slapstick situation comedy add some entertainment and make for a quite diverse mixture.

    If you like survival films or the original manga series, you are going to appreciate the good but not groundbreaking I Am a Hero. If you are looking for a scarier zombie movie, you should really watch Train to Busan that deserves all the attention and praise it has received. If you want to look for a more profound Japanese survival drama with some comedic elements, you should watch the overlooked Survival Family. In the end, I Am a Hero offers some vivid entertainment for sure but fails to leave a deeper impression.

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  • Terra Formars (2016)

    Terra Formars is a heavily underrated live action version of a famous Japanese manga and anime series directed by legendary Miike Takashi (''Audition'') and starring famous actresses and actors such as Ito Hideaki (''Sukiyaki Western Django''), Kato Masaya (''Godzilla''), Takei Emi (''Ruroni Kenshin''), Kikuchi Rinko (''Babel'') and Fukushima Rila (''The Wolverine''). The movie plays in the twenty-sixth century when mankind attempts to colonize Mars with the use of moss and cockroaches. A group of criminals is sent on a seemingly routine mission to exterminate the cockroaches and verify whether the planet can now be colonized. Upon arrival, the fifteen astronauts realize that the cockroaches have evolved very quickly and become intelligent humanoids attempting to defend their turf no matter what. An intense fight for survival begins for everyone involved.

    There are numerous things to be praised about this movie. First of all, the expert director does an excellent job and really cared about every single detail in this film. The potent cast delivers the goods with diversified performances. The settings, make-up and costumes are very rich, detailed and colourful. The movie is entertaining from start to finish and avoids an unnecessaily long introduction or an overlong conclusion. The film's rapid flow is spiced up with many interesting flashbacks giving essential background information about the most important characters. The action scenes are visually stunning, relentless and diverse. The plot comes around with a few twists and turns. The fact that it's impossible to predict who is going to die or survive in the movie should keep the audience on the edge of its seat. The unique details about the different insects given throughout the movie are very instructive but also add to the story.

    The movie isn't without a few flaws. The special effects look a little bit old-fashioned and stiff at times and especially the titular monsters look rather cute than dangerous. The acting performances are overall great but at times stiff and emotionless as the characters rarely seem to care when people around them die. The story obviously focuses much more on fiction than on science, so you should be aware to watch a movie that attempts to entertain rather than inspire.

    In the end, Terra Formars is much better than its reputation and offers colourful, diversified and fast-paced science-fiction entertainment that should appeal not only to fans of the anime and manga series but for anyone who likes spectacular kaiju movies such as ''Godzilla''. Don't hesitate to watch this movie and evaluate it fairly to give a potential sequel a chance.

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