• Tenet (2020)

    It's simply great to return to the cinema and watch a new movie for the first time in half a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to this, it's not just any movie but the new film by British cult director Christopher Nolan who has just celebrated his fiftieth birthday. As you might expect from his films, Tenet is visually stunning, profoundly philosophical and challengingly intellectual.

    On the positive side, the visual aspects of this science-fiction film are quite impressive. Especially the battle and car chase scenes are memorable and should be experienced at your local cinema and not on a streaming platform. The story comes around with a few surprises and multiple details that might take some time to sink in. Still, the plot never gets too complex or confusing. You need to stay fully focused for two and a half hours but you will get rewarded with a unique movie that walks off the beaten path. While the overall acting performances are overall average, Kenneth Branagh is absolutely stunning as unpredictable antagonist worthy of a classic movie of the James Bond franchise.

    Tenet is however not without a few flaws. While the story is quite intellectual, the emotional component is overall rather underwhelming. The protagonist is sympathetic but nothing more and the side characters are often lacking depth to a point when you stop caring about their fates. Instead of adding complex twists and turns to the story, the director should have developed the film's characters as only the antagonist can fully convince. The acting performances are overall unremarkable with the positive exception of Kenneth Branagh. John David Washington is at times lacking charisma and doesn't quite seem to fit the shoe of a blockbuster protagonist and Robert Pattinson doesn't exploit his full potential either and seems almost disconnected from his role as he seems to portray a careless youngster rather than a clever strategist.

    In the end, Tenet is an intellectually challenging science-fiction drama with stunning sound and visual effects. However, it isn't the masterpiece some people seem to suggest. If you haven't been watching any science-fiction movies recently, then you might be quite impressed but let me tell you that films like Freaks, Upgrade and The Witch are at least as great as and sometimes even better than Tenet.

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  • Freaks (2018)

    Freaks is a fresh contemporary American-Canadian science-fiction drama. The story revolves around a seven-year old girl whose mother died in her early childhood and whose paranoid father overprotects her. As she grows older, she starts questioning her father's restrictive rules as she desires to discover the world outside her home to find a new mother figure and make friends. She ultimately escapes from her home and befriends a mysterious ice cream truck driver. As the girl learns about the strange man's real identity, her own past and her dangerous supernatural capacities, things start dangerously spinning out of control.

    This dynamic movie convinces on numerous levels. The story comes around with a few interesting twists and turns and ends on an intense note. The film impresses with a gloomy atmosphere from start to finish. For a science-fiction movie, Freaks has a surprisingly human vibe that makes the different characters quite attaching. The excellent acting performances increase this connection between the audience and the characters and especially child actress Alexa Kolker does an excellent job and becomes one with her role. The special effects aren't overused and employed very efficiently throughout the film.

    There are very few things to criticize. The movie's opening third has an at times slow pace to introduce the different characters and settings. Bruce Dern plays the grumpy old man he seems to play in every recent movie these days and it would have been great for him to get a more diversified role.

    Still, Freaks is a movie that should appeal both to younger audiences due to the excellent lead character and actress and older audiences due to the serious tone and story of the movie. Even cinephiles who usually dislike science-fiction movies should like Freaks if they are looking for a profound drama with a clever story. It's great to see so many intelligent science-fiction films such as A Quiet Place, The Witch and Vivarium being made these days. This genre can be so much more than aliens, battles and space. If you are looking for a creative contemporary science-fiction movie, look no longer and get started right here with Freaks.

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  • Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2017)

    Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is the sixth and last entry in the live action franchise based upon the famous Japanese video games. To be honest, the plug should have been pulled much earlier. While the first movie has been excellent, the four sequels have been average at best with the second film being the worst. This final movie is also a rather average conclusion and one can only hope that the live action franchise has definitely come to an end now.

    The most exciting element about the predecessor was how it built up to the last scene foreshadowing an intense battle in Washington D.C.. As this movie starts, the battle is however already over. What happened during the battle? What was the fate of Alice's friends and foes? Where did intriguing characters like Ada Wong played by Li Bingbing go? This movie never really answers these questions and the film's start is certainly its weakest point.

    What follows is a good average dystopian science-fiction movie. At least, the franchise comes full circle as Alice has to return to Raccoon City and The Hive were the deadly T-virus outbreak had started in the first movie released fifteen years earlier. The tough protagonist is looking for an antivirus, planning on eliminating the surviving foes from Umbrella Corporation and trying to save a few survivors on her way.

    While the movie remains entertaining with a surprisingly long running time of one hundred six minutes by the franchise's standards, its outcome is highly predictable. At least, the action scenes are gripping, the atmosphere is sinister and the special effects look sharp. The movie's conclusion finally answers the most important questions but still leaves room for yet another sequel. The fact that the movie had the worst North American box office gross might foreshadow that a potential reboot isn't going to come around too quickly.

    In the end, fans of the franchise will certainly appreciate the film that follows the tradition of its four immediate predecessor. This science-fiction action spectacle is certainly entertaining. Milla Jovovich's dedication to her role deserves much praise as well. However, the only truly imaginative, intense and surprising entry in the franchise was the first film. Even though this sixth and last chapter is a good average movie in the context of the franchise, the time for the live action films to come to an end had been overdue. Let's hope that the series will now rest in peace and that the producers invest their money in something new.

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  • Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)

    Resident Evil: Afterlife is the fourth entry in the live action franchise based upon the Japanese video game series that started in the mid-nineties. The story revolves around the urban legend of a safe haven called Arcadia that seems to be located in Alaska. Former private security operative Alice attacks the headquarters of her former employer in Tokyo before heading for Alaska where she expects to join the group of survivors she had met eighteen months earlier. However, there is no safe haven to be found and Alice even gets attacked by a former companion who seems to have lost her memory and acts erratically. Alice manages to calm her former friend down and they travel south to Los Angeles to find out what happened to the group of survivors and unveil the secret behind the urban legend. The duo meets a group of survivors hiding in a maximum security prison that is surrounded by undead victims of the infamous T-Virus. Alice learns that Arcadia isn't a fixed place but a cargo tanker that is now situated in the port of Los Angeles. She tries to get on board to find out what happened to the survivors but realizes too late that the ship is a trap.

    On the positive side, the new characters Alice encounters in Los Angeles are overall quite diversified, quirky and unique which leads to a few emotional scenes. The locations in and around the abandoned prison are quite haunting. The action scenes are particularly intense and are truly impressive in the film's middle section and ending. The special effects are fluidly crafted and blend in very well. The showdown on the ship is truly gripping but also ends on a cliffhanger leading to the fifth installment.

    On the negative side, the transition between the third film and the fourth movie isn't exactly fluid as there is a gap of twelve months between the third film's last scene and the fourth movie's first scene. Furthermore, there is another gap of six months after the opening sequence. The scenes in Alaska are rather disappointing and basically only consist of a fight between Alice and the lone survivor who attacks her. The story is simplistic and unrealistic, even by the franchise's low standards. Some side characters such as the one played by Norman Yeung are rather exchangeable while former intriguing characters such as the one played by Spencer Locke only have cameo appearances here.

    In the end, Resident Evil: Afterlife is pretty much on the same level as its predecessor. It's a slightly above average science-fiction movie with impressive effects and stunts, a healthy dose of creepy atmosphere and intriguing lead characters while it's suffering from a lack of fluidity, a ridiculous plot and boring side characters. Fans of the live action franchise can watch this film without any regrets but this is neither a good movie to discover the franchise nor a film that will change your mind if you have never managed to get into this particular franchise in the first place. At the end of the day, this movie is solid and entertaining but fails to innovate or leave a lasting impression.

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  • Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)

    Resident Evil: Extinction is the third of six entries in the live action series around former security officer Alice who fights her former employer known as Umbrella Corporation. She joins a group of survivors in Utah who plan on traveling to a safe haven in Alaska that hasn't been affected by the deadly T-Virus. However, the group gets caught in a deadly trap in Nevada and must fight against Umbrella Corporation's powerful administrators, security officers and soldiers.

    The film's biggest flaw is its beginning. While the transition between the first and the second movie was smooth, this movie takes place several months later and only explains rather vaguely what has happened in between. Some important characters of the predecessor have disappeared without any explanations while completely new characters show up without any introductions.

    Among the new characters, a tough but charming female teenager named K-mart played by a charismatic and quirky Spencer Locke steals the show. Another strong element are the dusty, isolated and hot locations that recall the Mad Max franchise. The film's highlight is when mutated crows attack the survivors which recalls animal horror masterpiece The Birds. The final showdown in Las Vegas is also highly entertaining and has a lot of symbolism as it shows how ephemeral this desert city of steel and class actually is.

    The plot is even thinner than in the previous movies and this film obviously ends yet again on a cliffhanger. Thanks to interesting characters, fascinating locations and creative special effects, this third entry in the franchise is however a step in the right direction after the painfully average immediate predecessor. Fans of dystopian science-fiction tales should give this franchise in general and this movie in particular a chance.

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