• Paddington 2 (2017)

    The first live action and CGI-animated Paddington movie was a triumphant return for the greatest children's book franchise in the world. This second movie even outclasses it and might be the best animated movie ever made.

    The movie tells the story of Paddington discovering an old pop-up-book of London in an antique shop. Paddington wishes to purchase the book to send it to his aunt for her birthday. However, this rare pop-up-book includes hints to a treasure a reckless thief wants to find. He steals the book and vanishes but Paddington, who was close to the scene of the crime and even followed the mysterious thief, gets accused of a crime he didn't commit. Paddington is found guilty and has to get used to life in jail while the Brown family tries to clear his name and find the actual culprit.

    Watching this movie is an almost spiritual trip as the young bear uncovers the biggest flaws and strengths of mankind and makes each and every human being he meets better. 

    It's also incredibly entertaining to see the young bear in prison, escape from it and go on an adventurous train rain. 

    The movie finds a perfect balance between amusing moments such as Paddington washing clothes in prison and serious elements like seeing the young bear facing a court trial. 

    Paddington 2 is an incredibly creative, emotional and life-affirming ride that any human being with a heart and soul should watch. I'm saying this as someone who usually loves to watch quite sinister and tense films and who doesn't appreciate most children's movies. Watching this movie is like becoming a child again, full of ambition, curiosity and innocence. You need to watch this movie and discover or re-discover the amazing Paddington franchise. Rest in peace and thank you, Michael Bond, inventor of Paddington Bear.

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  • Paddington (2014)

    Usually, I'm not a very nostalgic person and I'm certainly not a person who watches Dinsey films as an adult. However, Michael Bond's Paddington has always fascinated me since my early childhood. The idea of an innoent bear from darkest Peru integrating into British society has intrigued me much. The novels have a lot of creativity and soul as they offer beautiful life experiences and valuable morals. Since I have always loved animals, it wasn't a surprise that I was always rooting for the sympathetic young bear.

    In many cases, live-action or CGI animated movies fail to capture the essence of the novels they were inspired by. To my very positive surprise, this is an entirely different thing for this particular movie. The animated bear looks splendid and the actresses and actors around him do a very credible job, making us believe that the young bear is truly around them. Paddington doesn't look out of place in contemporary London and actively interacts with his diversified surroundings.

    The story is nicely crafted as well. It tells us the sad yet hopeful background story of the charming young bear in a concise way. We then explore how the bear finds a new home, new friends and new experiences in London. There are many humorous scenes that put a constant smile upon your face such as Paddington taking a bath in a very chaotic way. Despite creating so much chaos, the young bear changes people around him in a very positive way. On the other side, the movie also has a dramatic side as Paddington is trying to find out more about his origins and comes across a pitiless taxidermist who stuffs exotic animals. The mixture of light-hearted comedy, gripping drama and surprisingly humane life lessons from a young bear is absolutely splendid.

    As someone who isn't nostalgic, I was truly moved by this film and enjoyed it from start to finish. The makers of this movie have managed to recapture the magic of the novels and bring them onto screen. Paddington is a very rewarding experience for younger and older viewers. If you aren't familiar with Paddington at all, you have missed out on something and discovering this fascinating franchise will change your mind about children's literature. In times, when cinemas are flooded with gruesome Battle Royale copies, it's refreshing to go back to such a classic franchise with a pure message. Watching this movie will make you feel like an innocent child again. Bears are the better human beings.

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  • The Shape of Water (2017)

    Here comes the only minor spoiler of my review: Octavia Spencer doesn't talk about chicken in this movie. This is great. Now, let's move on.

    Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water is a modern fairy tale that takes place during the sixties. It tells the story of a mute janitor called Elisa who has good friends in gay artist and neighbor Giles and her black work colleague Zelda but she still feels lonesome because she doesn't have a man in her life. She works at a secret government laboratory and witnesses how a mysterious humanoid amphibian arrives there for scientific purposes. Inexplicably intrigued by the tormented and tortured creature, Elisa forms a close bond with the creature who turns out to be intelligent. However, Colonel Strickland, who has captured the mysterious creature in South America, starts to despise it after it fought its tormentor, biting off two of his fingers. When the government laboratory comes to the conclusion that the creature is useless, they plan to kill it. Before Colonel Strickland can triumphantly execute the order, Elisa decides to save the creature with the help of Giles and Zelda, risking their lives. Soon, three different parties, Elisa and her friends, a group of Soviet secret agents and American military personnel face one another because they all have different plans for the humanoid amphibian.

    The Shape of Water has several intriguing elements. The storytelling is well-paced, finding the right balance between incorporating fantastic elements and bringing back to life the Cold War in the sixties, showing the flaws and strengths of American society back then. The movie deals with homophobia and segregation, without being too moralizing. The settings are carefully chosen, contrasting shiny restaurants, poor apartments and cold bunkers. The visual special effects are stunning, especially all scenes involving water and the humanoid amphibian. The dream-like opening sequence grabs your attention right from the start and is a highlight. The characters are intriguing enough to care about them, as both the diversified cast of protagonists convinces as well as the reckless antagonists. The acting performances go hand in hand with the intriguing characters and Sally Hawkins is particularly convincing as unusual lead actress with a mysterious past. The movie makes many clever references to other films and forms of art because the main character and her neighbor are interested in film and music and living right above an old movie theater. This gives the film an intellectual touch and invites viewers to discover the culture of the fifties and sixties.

    Obviously, the story itself isn't particularly creative, reminding me of a mixture of Beauty and the Beast and Avatar. Many elements of the movie are quite predictable and even foreshadowed in the very first scene of the film. If you plan on watching this fairy tale with your young children, you should rather not because right after the opening sequence, we see the lead actress fully undressed, taking a bath and masturbating. Not that this is any problem since it tells us about both the purity and loneliness of the main character, but it isn't something young children should see. The Shape of Water is a fairy tale for intellectual adults with all its colorful references.

    The Shape of Water is a colorful, creative and entertaining fairy tale. It deserves most of the praise it gets, even though a whopping thirteen Academy Awards nominations are quite a stretch. Enjoy this beautiful film at your local movie theater.

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  • 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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