• The Dark Tower (2017)

    I'm not familiar with The Dark Tower novel series and I didn't expect much going into this movie with a few friends. To my surprise, The Dark Tower turned out being one of the best movies of the year so far.

    It's never easy to transform one or several novels into one or several movies. Most of those films are extremely long and fans still complain that different characters or plot elements aren't included. Many of those films feel unfinished and often end on cliffhangers, implying that there will be one or several sequels. Many of those movies are only interesting for those familiar with the novels as a lot of information is omitted in the films which are hard to follow for those unfamiliar with the novels.

    The Dark Tower avoids all those mistakes so many movies make. The movie is short and concise with a healthy length around one and a half hours. This film doesn't end on a cliffhanger and tells a coherent story from start to finish. It might be possible that there are going to be other movies involving the main characters of this film but with completely new story lines. The film was easy to understand for anyone thanks to a reduced and clear structure. Instead of including too many characters and a lot of background information, the film focuses on a pitiless villain, a lonesome gun-slinging hero and an innocent child with special capacities.

    The movie managed to be balanced without ever being headless. It's an action movie because of the breathtaking fight scenes involving an incredibly cool Idris Elba and a cold and sinister Matthew McConaughey. It's a fantasy film because of the existence of different worlds and the possibility of travelling between them. It's a thriller because of the ruthless crimes the villain commits. It's a drama because it shows how the gunslinger struggles with his father's death and how the innocent child feels rejected by his family. It's a movie for teenagers because it's easy to identify with the sympathetic young loner but also for adults because the movie is surprisingly brutal and sinister at times.

    Add a constant gloomy atmosphere, a fitting soundtrack, great camera work without too many shaky camera sequences, imaginative visual special effects, interesting side characters such as the teenager's suspicious stepfather or the charming and intelligent seer as well as smart references to other works of Stephen King such as It and The Shining.

    In the end, I couldn't point out a negative element of this movie. The story itself might not be revolutionary and can basically be described as the eternal duel between good and evil but the story was written by Stephen King and not by the makers of this film. From the gripping acting over the diversified genre mixture and concise storytelling to the stunning sound and visual special effects, The Dark Tower convinces on every level. Most importantly, it's absolutely entertaining from start to finish, no matter if you're familiar with the novels or not.

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  • Chasse-Galerie: La légende (2016)

    ''Chasse-Galerie: La légende'' is a French-Canadian movie about one of the nation's most popular folk tales about a group of voyageurs working at a remote timber camp who make a deal with the devil to visit their sweethearts back home on New Year's Eve in a flying canoe.

    This movie uses the most important parts of the legend but adds a few additional elements to tell a more intimate story about a poor lumberjack called Jos Lebel and his secret girlfriend Liza Gilbert who is also desired by the rich notary Romain Boisjoli who does everything to convince the young woman to become his wife while her boyfriend is absent for work. When Jos Lebel finds out that the notary hired people at the timber camp that made the letters to his girlfriend disappear and even tried to harm him, he decides that he must go home to tell his sweetheart the truth and prevent a wedding between the manipulative notary and the naive young woman. Joined by other workers at the camp who want to see their girlfriends and wives after many rough months in the icy woods, they make a pact with the devil and take a flying canoe to their hometown for one fateful night.

    Aside of telling a revamped version of a fascinating tale, this movie convinces with breathtaking settings that bring the charm of the French-Canadian territories in the late nineteenth century to life. The rural hometown, the modernized city of Montreal and the remote camp look very realistic. The costumes, engines and even vocabulary of that time add to the charm of this movie.

    The acting is also quite good. Francis Ducharme convinces as courageous, juvenile and passionate lumberjack just like his counterpart Vincent-Guillaume Otis is spot on as elegant, manipulative and sneaky notary. The most intriguing character is probably a mysterious figure portrayed by François Papineau who turns out to be the antagonist of the story and the devil's advocate. Even though Caroline Dhavernas' limited acting skills meander too quickly between a woman who knows what she wants and a woman who doesn't know anything at all, her performance in this film is clearly the best I have seen so far. 

    In the end, this movie is highly recommendable if you are intrigued by folk tales in general and by French-Canadian culture in particular. ''Chasse-Galerie: La légende'' is entertaining from start to finish, is both atmospheric and relatively realistic and convinces with a solid story line and above average acting.

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  • Hansel & Gretel - Witch Hunters (2013)

    I've recently watched the Korean "Hansel and Gretel" movie which was an incredibly imaginative tale with a haunting atmosphere and stunning kid actors. 

    This Hollywood version rather heads for a public that recently enjoyed movies such as "The Hunger Games", "Snow White And The Huntsman" or the "Twilight" series. This film is addressed to a teenager or young adult public. Younger auditors might find this flick too tough, even though old German fairy tales often head for younger auditors and are generally brutal for education purposes. Older auditors might find the film a little bit lifeless and vapid after all. 

    It features some mild action scenes, several small gore effects, a few witchcraft elements, the usual love story and the predictable good versus evil story. This is nothing new but the movie is quite entertaining without having any lengths and for one of the rare times, the three dimensional technique is well employed in a movie and worth the money you have to spend on it.

    The acting by the main characters is not that spectacular. Gemma Arterton remains surprisingly faceless while Jeremy Renner who was last involved in "The Bourne Legacy" seems quite out of place and especially a little bit too old for this kind of movie by now. A great job is though delivered by the absolutely charming Famke Janssen who delivers a reserved but efficient acting and who looks very stylish in this film.

    In the end, the good special effects, a few well chosen secondary actors and the fast paced story that never gets boring save this movie and make it watchable for a young but not too young auditory. Anybody who is expecting something more original should absolutely go for the Korean movie.
     

     

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  • Watchmen (2009)

     

    Here comes another superhero movie after all those Supermen, Batmen, Spidermen and so on. Many movie experts simply start getting tired of all these quite similar movies and I only watched this one because somebody told me that this was a standout of its genre. The story is indeed interesting as somebody tries to murder a gang of retired superheroes that all have their dark sides in this atmospheric movie that has some film noir tendencies and a couple of solid ideas.

    This all sounds promising but the movie is simply way too long and has many lengths. The film kicks off very well and especially the narrative parts of Rohrschach, the best character among the superheroes played by the best actor in this film with Jackie Earle Haley, is highly addicting. The movie simply develops too many flashbacks and uninspired side stories that slow down the starting dynamics after a while. Especially the typical Hollywood love story stereotypes bring what could have been a different kind of movie on a more commercial and ordinary flick for the masses. The dialogues are quite cheesy and there are too many of them. The characters are not sympathetic enough to really care about them. If they had all died, I would not have been unsatisfied. In my opinion, there is quite a waste of time and potential in this film.

    The acting is not bad but not outstanding, the action sequences are the same and the story has its ups and downs so that the only solid thing are the special effects but they can't save this movie from mediocrity. Another letdown is the ending of the flick. I've waited for more murders, chasing scenes and the proposal of diversified possibilities to guess who's behind the crimes. In the end, there aren't so many murders and the final solution doesn't come as a big surprise and what happens in the big boom just won't come. The conclusion is not that standard and can be described as courageous as it differs from your usual happy end but I disliked the movie's philosophy and would have expected something more emotional, engaging and surprising.

    In the end, I would only recommend this movie to those who like superhero movies and would like to see a darker side of some heroic characters. Anybody who likes Hollywood cinema and modern special effects will surely adore this movie. Anybody who's expecting something gripping, original or profound should simply avoid this kind of movie.

     

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  • Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

     

    Snow White and the Huntsman is a classic fantasy movie based on the famous German fairy tale "Snow White" by the Brothers Grimm. The movie is loosely bound on the most important elements of that fairy tale but has not the same dark vibe as the original. This adaption rather convinces with many great images and a couple of breathtaking special effects. Especially the more beautiful moments in the fairy world are very well done and may touch your soul. A lot of animals, dwarfs, fairies and trolls appear in the movie and are all very beautiful to watch and created with a lot of inspiring details. The fantastic elements in this movie are not too childish and in fact quite convincing and mix dark with light elements. This movie can be appreciated by children as well as by adults which isn't the case for recent movies such as The Hunger Games or John Carter that approach a younger audience.

    The acting is quite a mixed bag. I really liked the interpretation of the huntsman by a very solid Chris Hemsworth, a charismatic antihero that suffers from the tragic death of his wife and drowns his numerous problems in alcohol. Charlize Theron is as convincing as the evil Queen Ravenna and it's interesting that the movie also portrays her struggles, her tragic faith and the reasons behind her actions. The character is very complex and profound and not simply your usual villain. Ravenna's brother Finn played by Sam Spruell is also another convincing character with multiple facets. Especially the connection between brother and sister are very well portrayed in this feature. From that angle, this movie deserves a lot of positive critics but I disliked the acting of main actress Kristen Stewart as Snow White. She clearly lacks charisma and can't convince next to all these excellent supporting actors. When she becomes the leader of a rebellion or touches the heart of a broken man, she simply isn't convincing. She doesn't have the beauty, the charm and the smartness to fit this role. Her acting was a huge letdown and I would have liked to see someone else portraying that role.

    The story itself is no surprise to anyone that has read the fairy tale and it doesn't come close to the dark and poetic original. One thing that truly bothered me is the ending of that movie that ended with a quite ordinary scene and no true conclusion. One would have liked to know what would happen to the kingdom and its citizens, to the charming fantastic characters and to the slightly romantic relationship between Snow White and the Huntsman or her childhood friend William who clearly is in love with her. With ten or fifteen more minutes, this movie could have been more complete, profound and even give a possibility to a sequel but the screenplay finishes on a most ordinary note.

    In the end, this movie is very beautiful to watch, includes many charming characters and has almost no lengths as it is very entertaining. The main actress, some plot problems and especially the weak ending keep this movie away from being a truly outstanding blockbuster and doesn't do justice to the fantastic German fairy tale. On the other side, it's another solid fantasy movie this year after John Carter and The Hunger Games and this genre seems to live a quite positive survival this year. I think by the end of the year, this movie won't be among the most outstanding adaptations of old fantasy novels but still be a quite good one.

     

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