• Split Second (1992)

    The great Rutger Hauer is known by most people for his outstanding performance in the etremely overrated Blade Runner but there are numerous other and better movies he has played in. Those aren't sophisticated movies that would win Academy Awards but they were unpretentious and thoroughly entertaining films that should be prefered over artsy but boring flicks. Split Second is a perfect example for Rutger Hauer's entertaining charisma and even though its a so-called b-movie made on a shoestring budget, it convinces with tense action scenes, sinister atmosphere and interesting characters.

    The story takes place in the near future as global warming has caused terrible floodings in the city of London. Isn't it ironic that even a cheap b-movie would accurately foresee our current issues with climate change that some aged conservatives still refuse to accept? In this dystopian setting, Rutger Hauer plays Harley Stone, a rough cop who constantly argues with his colleagues, disrespects his superior and got suspended a long time ago. He has become such a bitter man since his former partner got killed by a sadistic serial killer who never got caught. Five years after those grisly events, Harley Stone is still determined to find the murderer and he gets his badge back when he nearly captures the killer in a shady bar. He is however forced to collaborate with intellectual detective Dick Durkin played by Alastair Duncan. The movie also features a young Kim Cattrall who plays Michelle McLaine, the widow of the deceased officer and love interest of Harley Stone. The trio tries to find the serial killer's hideout but quickly realizes that they aren't the hunters but the hunted. Note that the movie also starrs musician Ian Dury in a secondary role, known for hits such as "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick".

    The most memorable element about the movie are the settings. The decaying city of London is flooded and most scenes take place during heavy rainfall and at night. The lead character's apartment is the dirtiest I have ever seen and underlines his negative state of mind. Even crows are living in his flat. The investigations take place in the tunnels of the sewer system that is overcrowded with rats. The smooth camera work and sinister soundtrack amplify the movie's gripping atmosphere cleverly. The characters are truly intriguing as the lead character isn't only trying to solve an old case but to find peace of mind. His intellectual partner becomes more and more like him while the lead character's mental condition slowly improves. The woman who completes the trio also has to deal with guilt and wants to find the murderer to finally leave the past behind. With a concise running time of ninety minutes, Split Second never ever gets boring and entertains from start to finish with the explosive conclusion being a highlight.

    The plot might not be surprising and some special effects look older than the movie actually is but Split Second oozes with atmosphere, convinces with fascinating characters and is entertaining from start to finish. This movie has aged surprisingly well and even has an important ecological message. Our world needs more unpretentious actors like Rutger Hauer and climate activists like Greta Thunberg.

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  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

    Three years ago, Shin Godzilla was the most mature entry in the franchise that surprised with a surprisingly realistic plot, lots of political drama and intriguing characters. But that was a Japanese movie while Godzilla: King of the Monsters is an American film that rather follows the gloomy Godzilla released five years earlier that was overall convincing despite a few lengths. This movie here rather compares to the shallow Kong: Skull Island and offers a brainless but entertaining spectacle.

    To be honest, this new film is rated so positively because the special effects are astonishing, the pace is breathtaking and the monsters look amazing. Godzilla gets defeated on two occasions but always manages to come back stronger than before. The return of King Ghidorah is spectacular and the monster convinces as giant antagonist. Rodan is also featured in a few scenes but far from being the most spectacular monster. Mothra's appearance is somewhat disappointing as the legendary character only appears for a few scenes and fails to impress.

    The story however is insultingly ridiculous. It features many plot holes and the characters are constantly making stupid decisions. One can't expect performances worthy of Academy Awards of course but the characters in this film are particularly irrational, shallow and unlikable. Especially the Russell family is quite annoying. The mother is willing to sacrifice humanity because she can't cope with the loss of her son. Her daughter follows her blindly, constantly risking her own life and those of others around her. The father is arrogant, grumpy and headstrong as he ignores orders and thinks he is cleverer than anyone else. One couldn't care less about such antipathic characters.

    In the end, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the kind of film that invites to switch your brain off and enjoy a colourful, effect-ridden and fast-paced spectacle. This film is great for what it is but might only be memorable for young audiences and those who aren't familiar with the legendary franchise. Some of the old Japanese movies were also quite silly but the original Godzilla: King of the Monsters which was released sixty-five years ago is still more thought-provoking, realistic and dramatic than this high-budget Hollywood flick. Hollywood should leave this Japanese franchise alone and Western cinemas should have the courage to show films like Shin Godzilla in the future.

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  • Upgrade (2018)

    Written and director by Leigh Whannell who was involved in successful horror franchises like Saw and Insidious, Upgrade can be described as a Black Mirror episode with feature film length. This dystopian science-fiction movie convinces with bleak settings, a mysterious plot and a strong lead character. It's one of the greatest dystopian science-fiction movies of the decade.

    The movie tells the story of Grey Trace, a rare mechanic in a futuristic world of self-driving cars who repairs classic cars for rich collectors and entrepreneurs. His wife is quite the opposite and works for an enterprise that develops human-computer augmentations. One day, their self-driving car crashes and the couple gets ambushed by a mysterious group of strangers. Grey Trace gets severely injured while his wife is brutally assassinated. Months later, police investigations are stalled and Grey Trace is confined to a wheelchair, sinks into depression and even attempts to commit suicide. A former client then convinces him to participate in an illegal experiment that enables Grey Trace to walk again with the help of an intelligent implant that has its very own identity. The former mechanic must pretend to be still paralyzed in public while secretly trying to find out who is responsible for the ambush.

    Upgrade convinces on many levels. The film's gloomy atmosphere is established right from the introduction and upheld until the dramatic conclusion. The settings of the futuristic world are quite realistic which only makes them more haunting. The diversified action scenes are skillful, intense and brutal. The resilient lead character is easy to empathize with. The story has a few interesting twists and turns that aren't too hard to predict but still developed quite efficiently. The conclusion truly is the climax of the movie and worth the wait.

    If you like dystopian science-fiction movies, you should definitely watch Upgrade. Leigh Whannell delivers the goods again and shows that his science-fiction stories are as intriguing as his successful horror concepts. Upgrade stimulates your guts, heart and mind and is one of the best genre movies in recent memory along with Ex Machina.

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  • Radius (2017)

    Radius is a gloomy science-fiction drama that convinces with solid acting performances and an intriguing story.

    The Canadian movie tells the story of a man who wakes up after a car accident without remembering what happened to him, who he is or where he belongs. He soon realizes that any living being that comes too close to him dies almost instantly. The man manages to find his house and wants to put the pieces of the puzzle together while local media suspect terrorism behind the strange deaths. Before he can fully understand what happened to him, he is visited by a woman who seems to be the only person who can approach him without dying. Their fates seem to be intertwined and they try to understand what happened to them while local media and police officers try to track them down.

    On the positive side, the film's sinister atmosphere is established with the very first scene and lasts until the shocking conclusion. The story is quite creative and has a few sinister and supernatural turns that make you wonder how you would react under similar circumstances. The two lead characters are profound and their relationship constantly shifts and changes. It's easy to empathize with them at one or another moment in the movie.

    On the negative side, the film's pace is somewhat dragging at times, especially in the first twenty minutes or so before the two lead characters meet on screen for the first time. The side characters can be somewhat annoying as they are often closed-minded, constantly ignore warnings and take many questionable decisions.

    In the end, Radius is a gloomy science-fiction drama that convinces with profound atmosphere, great lead characters and creative twists and turns in the story. Especially the film's radical conclusion is memorable. The movie's strong points pardon for a few lengths and annoying secondary characters. If you like atmospheric science-fiction films with a grounded interpersonal touch, you can't go wrong with Radius. Even though that movie was despised by critics, Radius reminds me positively of Shyamalan's The Happening.

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  • Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

    Alita: Battle Angel is a cyberpunk action film based upon Japanese manga series Gunnm. This movie is the first installment in what is going to be a franchise centered around a sympathetic female cyborg with outstanding fighting skills who protects those who are dear to her in a dystopian world. This first movie tells how Alita is brought back to life by generous scientist Ido who is also secretely a Hunter-Warrior who tracks down criminal cyborgs. Against the will of the scientist, Alita gets inspired by her mentor's secret career and starts her own as the rookie soon impresses colleagues with her determination, empathy and skills. She also falls in love with young dreamer Hugo and befriends the members of his quirky gang. Everything seems to be perfect in Alita's new world but her mysterious past resurfaces in dangerous situations and leads her on an exhausting quest for identity. In addition to this, her admired lover Hugo hides a terrible secret from her. The greatest danger however comes from influential administrators and politicians who soon hire hitmen to uncover Alita's mysterious past and eliminate a respectable opponent that could change a dystopian world for the better.

    Alita: Battle Angel convinces if compared to numerous exchangeable superhero films by Marvel or DC Comics for three specific reasons. First of all, the heroine is dynamic, empathic and positive which makes her very likeable and viewers empathize with her. Secondly, the movie focuses on strong characters and a mysterious plot instead of overusing visual special effects. Thirdly, the film takes its time to develop characters and story carefully, creating a most fascinating, detailed and adventurous universe that leaves the viewers craving for potential sequels in the future.

    The movie also convinces in many technical departments. The visuals are stunningly beautiful, creative and diversified. The sound effects are very efficient and best enjoyed at your local cinema. The soundtrack is balanced, catchy and dynamic. The action sequences are colourful without feeling too exaggerated.

    The movie manages to keep a balance between emotional settings and technically stunning effects. Even though some parts of the plot are predictable and the film doesn't reinvent the genre of superhero movies, it's certainly one of the greatest of its kind and worth the positive hype. Robert Rodriguez has created a memorable film that can nearly compete with his masterpiece Sin City and it's positive that the influence of formulaic director James Cameron has been reduced to scriptwriting in this case. The outstanding performances by underrated lead actress Rosa Salazar and charismatic veteran actor Christoph Waltz must also be pointed out as they are perfect choices for the characters they play. Go watch this stunning movie with your whole family.

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