• Burn After Reading (2008)

    Burn After Reading is a quirky spy parody directed by renowned Coen Brothers and starring a set of outstanding actresses and actors like Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, John Malkovich, George Clooney and Brad Pitt. The confusing story revolves around a retired CIA analyst who is going through a divorce. A disc with information about his finances and memoirs ends up in the hands of two idiotic gym employees who try to blackmail him. Soon, CIA agents, Russian double-agents and private detectives are watching and being watched around the analyst's house when things go berserk.

    The premise of the movie is quite intriguing. The story is original and filled with surprising twists and turns while also criticizing and making fun of American bureaucracy, cinema and society. However, this rather short movie takes too much time to introduce a bloated set of characters. The characters are often quite flat, predictable and stereotypical. Later on, the story develops draggingly and only the final thirty minutes quicken up the pace. The conclusion to the movie feels somewhat aborted and is mostly told and not shown which is a sign for limited filmmaking in my book. The worst thing however is that this parody just isn't funny. I'm not the most serious guy and sure like to laugh from time to time but everything this movie evoked was a tired smile in two or three scenes. There is some creative situation comedy for sure but not one single truly hilarious scene. Since there are few action scenes and only a few small doses of suspense, this movie is only kept alive by its quirky characters and story.

    On the positive side, Burn After Reading has a mostly original script and offers memorable scenes with plenty of strange situation comedy you will remember long after having watched this film. The actresses and actors are also delivering the goods and very convincing as they manage to make the most of their one-dimensional characters. John Malkovich is brilliant as disillusioned analyst, Tilda Swinton convinces as his cold-hearted wife, George Clooney mesmerizes as lying womanizer, Frances McDormand excels in her role as hectic gym employee who makes all the wrong decision and Brad Pitt is quite amusing as dim-witted sportsman who is constantly and stupidly singing and smiling.

    In the end, you can give this film a try if you know and like the aforementioned actresses and actors as well as other movies by the Coen Brothers who certainly have their very own style. If one leaves out the brilliant actresses and actors as well as the situation comedy, one gets a movie with a confusing story line that just isn't funny though. I would recommend this flick if there really isn't anything else on television on a rainy night but it's overall slightly overrated.

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  • Game Night (2018)

    Game Night is an entertaining ride but nothing truly memorable that needs to be revisited. It's an over-the-top comedy movie with a healthy dose of action and suspense. The story revolves around competitive gamers Annie and Max who recently got married and who organize game nights with their friends. After having been out of town for a whole year, Max's brother Brooks attends one of their game nights and offers to organize the next one himself. The couple reluctantly agrees because they feel Brooks simply wants to show off and humiliate his brother but they still want to give him a chance. On the next game night, Brooks announces that he has organized an interactive role-play game and that one of them is going to be kidnapped and that the others have to find that person. The price for the potential winner is a vintage car that Max really wants to get. Some time after, masked intruders get inside Brooks' house, beat him up and kidnap him. However, Annie and Max soon realize that things didn't go as planned and that Brooks was actually kidnapped for real. Along with two other couples and their strange police neighbor, Annie and Max try to save Brooks and uncover the mysteries behind the kidnapping.

    Game Night has several things going for it. First of all, the plot is quite quirky and offers a lot of situation comedy, a solid dose of action and tension and a series of twists in the final third that are often predictable but still well-executed. Secondly, the movie has a great pace, spending only as much time as necessary to introduce all characters and settings before the final hour quickens up the pace and never slows down again. Thirdly, some of the characters have depth and are sympathetic which is the case for Max who has intense competitive struggles with his brother, his smart and tough wife Annie, his dishonest but repentant brother Brooks and the mentally unstable neighbor Gary whose beloved wife recently left him. Finally, some of the situation comedy is truly funny and memorable and especially the dramatic final twenty minutes are perfectly executed.

    On the other side, Game Night also has some weaknesses. First of all, it's at times too exaggerated, for example when three twists building upon one another are revealed in a short period of time. That isn't confusing or funny anymore but simply lazy script writing at that point. Another problem is the fact that while the main characters are interesting, the side characters are extremely shallow. There is a black couple who argues about how the wife has slept with a celebrity. That's literally all you need to know about them and everything they discuss throughout one and a half hours. There is another couple consisting of a good-looking but extremely dumb guy and his more intellectual partner whose only character trait is that she is British. The fact that they don't have any chemistry leads to a few awkward laughs in the beginning but becomes seriously annoying throughout the entire movie. Another element I disliked were the boring and predictable moral lessons in the movie's more serious scenes towards the end. Protect your family, stand by your friends and live an honest life. I almost fell asleep.

    To keep it short, Game Night is an entertaining ride with lots of humor, a solid dose of action and even an appropriate addition of tension. Instead of watching this film at the cinema, you should rent it and watch it with your friends at home. While the movie is great to watch once, it's nothing memorable that needs to be revisited again. There are similar recent party movies like the brilliant Happy Death Day that are much more original. This movie actually is like a party. It's fun while it lasts but the next day you just want to move on.

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  • De père en flic 2 / Father and Guns 2 (2017)

    Eight years ago, the French-Canadian action-comedy movie Father and Guns was a massive blockbuster. While a similar movie like Good Cop, Bad Cop managed to reinvent itself for a stunning sequel, the makers of Father and Guns decided to stick to the exact same formula again. The plot is almost exactly the same as in the first movie: Two police officers, an overambitious father and a troubled son, infiltrate a boot camp to get some information from a collaborator of Montreal's organized crime scene. The main difference between the two movies is that the first film focused on a boot camp for difficult relationships between fathers and sons while the second film portrays a boot camp for couples where the son participates with his girlfriend while his father acts as driver and psychologist.

    Despite its repetitive formula, the movie works surprisingly well and is even a slight improvement over the first film in my opinion. The movie starts with a gripping and sinister opening sequence and then switches to a fast-paced scene with two amazing jokes that immediately get you into the movie. The pace of this second instalment is faster, the humour is more on point and the acting has also improved. Louis-José Houde has improved his wooden and stereotypical acting skills from the first part and his new on-screen partner Karine Vanasse is a much more versatile actress than Caroline Dhavernas in the first film. The movie focuses even more on lead actor Michel Côté than the first film as he incarnates an ambitious police officer, an emotional lover, a quiet driver, a radical psychologist, a sentimental loner and a tough father all at once. This idea pays off because both the character and the actor are very interesting. 

    On the negative side, the side characters and the activities in the boot camp are too similar compared to the first movie. There are some positive exceptions like the hilarious lesbian couple and the discussion about parents in the woods but these parts of the film are overall the least interesting ones. It was a good choice to focus more on what happens in between the boot camp sequences like the hilarious Scandinavian and Thai approaches. The finale was a little bit too predictable but didn't overstay its welcome.

    Despite its obvious and predictable flaws, the second instalment of Father and Guns is a positive surprise and a movie with improved acting performances, vivid action sequences, focused emotional moments, hilarious jokes and a solid dose of tension. The film entertains from start to finish. It might not beat the second instalment of Good Cop, Bad Cop this year but it underlines the fact that this might be the most successful year in French-Canadian cinema in a very long time.

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  • Bon Cop Bad Cop 2 (2017)

    I'm usually not a fan of sequels of any kind. Eleven years ago, the original ''Bon Cop Bad Cop'' portrayed the divergences and similarities between Anglo- and Franco-Canadians perfectly in a movie filled with diversified humour, stunning action sequences and a whole lot of suspense and tension plus some entertaining cultural elements related to ice hockey being Canada's national sport. This movie had a huge impact on my teenage years and is still one of my favourite films of all times. It was clear that a potential sequel couldn't be any better than this.

    And yet, ''Bon Cop Bad Cop 2'' was more than just a positive surprise and is in fact as great as the perfect original movie. The creators managed to achieve this stunning result by developing a balanced mixture of trademarks from the original film and refreshing new elements instead of just copying what had been done eleven years earlier. They kept the talented two main actors Colm Feore and Patrick Huard who have great chemistry on and off the screen, the diversified humour including amusing cultural inspirations, inside jokes for Canadians and raw comedy elements plus a solid dose of action and tension. The movie includes a handful of new elements such as a convincing story line expanding to the United States of America that fits surprisingly well in times of Trump's presidency and the rise of terrorism all around the world, two main characters that have clearly influenced each other both negatively and positively but who have also become more mature and serious in a credible way and an overall more brutal and sinister tone that makes the action sequences even more explosive, the suspenseful elements even more gripping and the humorous parts even more relieving.

    Even though this movie also focuses on Canada's diversified cultures, it might be more accessible internationally because it's easier to relate to the characters and their everyday life problems as well as to the story line involving two countries now. To be honest, this film is much better than any flick mixing elements of action, comedy and thriller cinema that has come out of the United States in the past ten years. More people should watch this movie as well as its brilliant predecessor. I have never liked sequels but now I hope that there is going to be another film of this franchise in the future. This movie makes me proud to live in Canada.

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  • Yoga Hosers (2016)

    From a purely objective point of view, ''Yoga Hosers'' could be seen as one of the worst movies ever made. The story is extremely weak. The movie has several big plot holes. The acting performances are somewhere between average and terrible. The characters are quite one- dimensional. The special effects are extremely cheap. The movie is filled with stupid stereotypes about Canadians and Germans. The German, French Canadian and English Canadian accents are also stereotypical and while a few expressions and pronunciations are employed correctly, they are completely exaggerated and annoyingly repetitive. The movie also rips off other films, characters and even actors. Even the soundtrack seems to have been put together in a very odd way where the main actresses perform famous classics in mostly horrid ways.

    And yet, from my subjective point of view, I adored ''Yoga Hosers'' from start to finish and not only despite but because of its flaws. If you are ready to switch your brain off, have some fun and watch this movie with a few friends, this is an entertaining, light-hearted and surprising party movie. It doesn't have the diversity, intensity and uniqueness of its predecessor ''Tusk'' but it has its very own style and might also have a small but faithful cult following in the years to come.

    The movie literally got me right from the start. I'm a huge fan of metal music and its diverse sub-genres, so when the film opened with a reinterpretation of Anthrax's famous ''I'm the Man'', I got my first positive surprise. The new lyrics for the song aren't very innovative but they are amusing and the idea itself is quite cool.

    The characters in this movie are so stupid, stereotypical and one- dimensional that it's actually funny. From the horny, obsessive and possessive stepmother over the angry, closed-minded and severe physical education teacher to the hysterical, megalomaniac and narcissistic villain, you get a whole series of hilariously entertaining characters. I somehow liked the so-called school hottie who actually looks plain horrible and who pretends to be a gentleman and turns out to be a satanist. His slightly retarded sidekick is another stereotypical character that is so over-the-top that I had to laugh about him all the time.

    Throw in a lot of interesting story ideas and you get a very unusual potpourri. The historic references to Canadian national socialist Adrien Arcand show that the makers of this film are actually familiar with Canadian culture and history. The movie also makes fun of cheap magazines and the obsession of media with stars and starlets in general. The idea to center this story around two bored, cynical and naive female store clerks who are addicted to their cell phones and judge everyone and everything around them is also quite interesting. It's actually interesting to live this story from the point of view of two unsympathetic anti-heroes that symbolize stereotypically everything that might be wrong with the the new millennium's generation. The older generation isn't portrayed in a more favourable way though and is often depicted as conservative, grumpy and prejudiced. The film also lives from its numerous cameo appearances featuring Johnny Depp as weird French Canadian police officer, Justin Long as surprisingly aggressive yoga teacher with weird marketing ideas and slogans and Kevin Smith as the face of an army of miniature monsters made of sausages and sauerkraut.

    This leads us to the incredible story line. A follower of French Canadian national socialist Adrien Arcand, a doctor from Berlin called Adronicus Arcane, purchases some land in Winnipeg, builds a subterranean palace, creates an army of tiny sausage warriors with sauerkraut blood, places himself into cryopreservation and plans to wake up one hundred years later in order to conquer North America. He wakes up three decades too soon after a power shortcut caused by a band performance in the back-store of a convenience store. He decides to send out his sausage warriors to kill people and get their body parts to build an ultimate monster suit for his sausage warriors. Unfortunately for the villain, he is living below the convenience store of two bored female clerks, naive high school students and yoga enthusiasts who will team up with a strange French Canadian police officer to save their country.

    Let's put this simple. If the story sounds like a cool idea to you, you will like this movie like I did. If you thing it's the worst thing you have ever heard, do yourself a favour and avoid this controversial cult flick. If you are somewhere in between, watch this at your own risks. I can't wait to watch the final instalment of the True North trilogy called ''Moose Jaws''.

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