• 400 Days (2015)

    I'm glad I didn't buy into the numerous negative reviews and purchased this film that seemed to have a very intriguing plot. I must say that I even got much more than I expected. 400 Days convinces with a gloomy and mysterious atmosphere, four distinguished and interesting main characters and a challenging plot that doesn't give you all the answers. The movie actually takes its audience serious and requests multiple viewings and the use of your brain. The number of analyses, questions and theories around the movie on the internet only underlines the film's intellectual touch.

    Why did the movie get so many negative reviews then? Of course, some people might just not like it. The film doesn't have any stunning special effects like so many other science-fiction films. The film didn't have a big budget and the settings aren't much developed. While the actors and actresses are doing a solid job in my book, there isn't a particularly outstanding performance and you obviously won't find any big names involved here.

    However, I suspect that most reviewers rated this movie down because they literally didn't understand it. You can identify those people by reading sentences like ''The movie didn't have a proper ending!'', ''How is it possible that the Moon got destroyed?'' and ''The behavior of the characters doesn't make any sense!''. The movie does have a clear ending that makes you think and that makes sense once you really think about it. The explanation that the Moon got destroyed doesn't have anything to do with what's really going on. And the characters react very emotionally because three of them are receiving drugs and because specific planned events are supposed to trigger their exaggerated reactions. 

    I won't give any more information than this and there might be several similar interpretations of the film but it's important to understand the movie by looking at its whole essence and the things that are said in the beginning instead of taking every statement each character makes literally.

    If you are ready to explore a science-fiction movie with an experimental, intelligent and interpretative plot, you will be surprised by 400 Days. If you are looking for a spectacular science-fiction movie with a big budget and perfectly clear answers, you should better watch another shallow Star Wars or Star Trek sequel or stick to popcorn cinema fur juvenile minds such as Guardians of the Galaxy.

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  • Ghost in the Shell (2017)

    I haven't read the manga yet but as a fan of both dystopian science- fiction stories and Japanese culture, I decided to watch this movie yesterday. It was overall entertaining but on the other side, it offered more of the same if you are familiar with science-fiction scenarios.

    The story is basically a mixture of Blade Runner, Equilibrium and maybe Tokyo Gore Police and therefore highly predictable. A young female cyborg called Mira Killian, who works as a major for an anti- terrorist bureau in a futuristic world, finds out that she wasn't saved but rather kidnapped by her creators. The beautiful soul in her disposable shell is searching for a sense of life. She tries to find out about her true identity while also chasing a mysterious hacker who is manipulating cyborgs and robots across the city to execute members of the company that created Mira Killian. She will have to choose sides in what might be her most personal case.

    While the plot isn't all that convincing, the acting performances are at least of an average quality. Scarlett Johansson isn't as convincing as in Lucy but even an average performance by her is still above average in general and you will also sympathize with her character. Pilou Asbæk had played alongside Johansson in Lucy and he does the same here and this time around he has a bigger role and does a great job as cool special operative with a dry sense of humor. It's also a pleasure to see Kitano Takeshi on the big screen and Japan's most legendary contemporary actor does a great job as rough and resilient Chief Executive Director.

    The movie focuses mostly on its visual special effects and portrays a futuristic city without a soul. One gets to see many quirky cyborgs, complicated machines, colorful screens, elegant vehicles and sophisticated weapons. The film actually looks closer to a video game than to an actual movie. Everything is very artficial and superficial despite being technically and visually stunning. In this case, the shell looks beautiful but there isn't any ghost inside. The movie actually makes you feel hollow at times but I suppose this was intentional and that's why I won't criticize that in this particular case. The different characters soon realize that they are living in a fake paradise. The underlying message of the movie is that too much technology will make humanity regress instead of progress which is an important statement in the early twenty-first century.

    In the end, Ghost in the Shell is an entertaining dystopian science- fiction movie with an important message. It clearly isn't the bets of its kind but it also isn't the worst. Genre fans should be pleased while those who aren't familiar with that kind of movie will surely start to explore this genre further after watching this film that might serve as an appropriate introduction to its genre. Overall, I still wasn't impressed enough to actually check out the manga of the same name.

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  • Life (2017)

    Even though ''Life'' really follows classic science-fiction standards by the numbers, it's a really engaging movie. Yes, the first twenty minutes take the time to introduce the settings and the characters. Obviously, the rest of the movie focuses on the monster that is going to kill the crew members one by one. It's as predictable as it gets when I'm telling you that the atmosphere inside the vessel will be intense, that there will be a few breathtaking scenes taken in space and that some characters will be ready to sacrifice themselves in order to save others. Of course, the famous lead character is the one to survive until the end. And yes, there is going to be an inevitable twist at the very end. On the other side, I must admit that the movie didn't follow all the wrong stereotypes. There are no unnecessary side stories such as emotional conflicts between the characters that act in a rather mature way and we are not exposed to a cheesy love story either which makes the characters more believable.

    Despite some flaws in the predictable story department, this movie in the vein of the classic Alien flicks still deserves to be watched on the big screen. The visual elements in the vessel and in space never fail to impress me but also have a realistic touch to them. Special effects such as body horror elements and explosions in the space station are added in small and efficient doses. The fact that ninety-eight percent of the film take place in space give this movie a refreshingly streamlined approach and since ninety-five percent of it are taking place inside the vessel, the film develops a claustrophobic vibe. This atmosphere is enhanced by a subtle yet gripping soundtrack. The characters feel down to earth and are portrayed accurately by the actors and actresses. They might not deliver the best performances of their careers but manage to give the movie a realistic touch. In the beginning, I was skeptical that the plot seemed to rely on a cast that absolutely needed to be multicultural which feels unnaturally forced in many films but it makes sense in the context of an international space mission.

    The most interesting element about this film is obviously its antagonist. Instead of introducing us to a big and strong monster in the key of Alien or Predator, this extraterrestrial life form constantly evolves its behavior and shape which adds to the rising tension in the movie. The fact that the monster acts unpredictably yet intelligently and learns very quickly about its survival instincts and tactics makes it a genuinely scary opponent. The monster's capacity to adapt to any threat makes it so respectable while its physical appearance is so unspectacular that it feels quite realistic.

    In the end, apart of the predictable story line and the first twenty minutes which are necessary to introduce the setting but somehow lack intensity, Life is an atmospheric, intelligent and realistic science-fiction-horror movie that will please those who love classic material like the Alien and Predator franchises.

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  • The Happening (2008)

    Shyamalan might be one of the most unstable contemporary directors in terms of quality. There are some of his movies which I disliked completely like ''The Village'' being wrongfully advertised as a horror movie even though it's a slow-paced drama. Other movies are quite overrated like ''The Sixth Sense'' that has its moments but isn't that compelling once you have figured out the predictable twist. Then again, Shyamalan has also directed some films that are close to perfection like the intense ''Split'' with its claustrophobic atmosphere. And then there are some of his movies that I like quite a lot but which are extremely underrated. ''The Happening'' is exactly this kind of movie.

    What I liked about the movie is that it didn't include a twist like most of Shyamalan's other movies and that it doesn't really answer all the questions. Some theories are spread throughout the film and the movie has a strong environmental message but it's never getting too educational or pretentious. The film indirectly criticizes the media that are jumping to conclusions about terrorist attacks and toxic gases which end up influencing some tragic events in the movie. This film offers a lot of food for thought without exaggerating things and lets the viewers think by themselves.

    The acting blends in perfectly. The actors are showing emotions of care and fear but we don't get the usual stereotypes of crying and yelling people like in so many other disaster movies. I liked Mark Wahlberg's performance as goofy but resilient science teacher that perfectly complemented Zooey Deschanel's character which was rather insecure and stressful. The two characters felt charming and realistic with their genuine flaws and strengths where an optimist had to deal with a realist. The side characters weren't particularly compelling but diversified enough to keep the movie entertaining from start to finish. We get introduced to aggressive survivalists, nervous soldiers and paranoid recluses among others.

    I liked the fact that the movie didn't have any lengths. It takes less than five minutes for the introduction and the conclusion and focuses on the body of the movie. Shyamalan takes us on an epic survival journey developing a gloomy and slightly surrealist atmosphere that gives the movie a very unique mood. It neither focuses on special effects nor on a dystopian atmosphere like so many other films of its kind and opts for a mysterious approach instead.

    Overall, the acting, mood and script are compelling because they are creative, entertaining and unique. Most people criticized the movie because their expectations of a spectacular disaster movie with a surprising twist weren't met or simply because they didn't fully understand the movie and tried to interpret the origins and reasons behind the happening. As the movie mentions itself, some things cannot be explained and should just be taken the way they are. If you accept this rule and don't have any specific expectations, ''The Happening'' will surprise you positively. This movie might not be a masterpiece but it clearly is one of the most distinctive disaster films of the new millennium.

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  • Limitless (2011)

    ''Limitless'' is an entertaining science-fiction movie based upon the theory that humans are only using ten percent of their brain and the question what might happen if we were able to access more or all parts of our brain efficiently. Instead of focusing on the scientific and philosophic thoughts behind this concept, ''Limitless'' wastes a lot of potential as it limits itself to being an entertaining action- thriller with a debatable ending and moral.

    The story focuses on the life of Eddie Morra. In the beginning, he seems to be a naive loser who never gets anything done and gets dumped by his girlfriend. When he starts taking a drug offered to him by a shady acquaintance, his life seems to change for the better as Eddie Morra becomes a popular writer, makes a lot of money on the stock market and becomes friends with a group of careless jet- setters. Soon, his addiction to the drug starts having negative impacts on himself and people around him as he gets tracked down by other addicts, competitors and loan sharks. In addition to this, he starts having blackouts and severe pain at times. He even gets involved in a murder case where he can't remember whether he killed the victim or not because of the drug. As he tries to find out more about the nootropic NZT-48, he realizes that a lot of addicts got sick or died of it either because of overdosing it or because they tried to stop taking it.

    At this point, the movie could have taken a more thoughtful approach to elaborate on the horrors of drug addiction and its side effects. Instead, we get to see a lot of chasing passages, conspirative manipulations and murder scenes leading to a morally debatable ending that is explained very weakly. Overall, you get an entertaining, fast-paced and well done action-thriller but the story wastes its scientific potential midway through the movie and lacks inspiration in the second half. 

    From that point of view, I like the very similar ''Lucy'' by Luc Besson much better because it keeps asking philosophic and scientific questions and has a thought-provoking ending. People probably preferred ''Limitless'' because it glorifies the sex, drugs and rock and roll lifestyle and because it's easier to understand. In the end, I can recommend ''Limitless'' if you are looking for an entertaining action-thriller with solid actresses and actors and a stylish production. If you are looking for something which is both entertaining and intellectual, I would rather recommend Luc Besson's ''Lucy''. 

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