• Prisoners (2013)

     

    I have seen many good movies from all around the world this year but "Prisoners" seems to be the best North American film of the year so far. It's not so much about the story of the movie that recalls the French Canadian "7 Days" movie by Daniel Grou that was inspired by a Patrick Senécal novel. Both films tell the story of a desperate family father who seeks revenge on a strange suspect for kidnapping (or worse?) his daughter while everything around him is suddenly falling apart. 

    The impressive things about "Prisoners" are others. One must mention the constant dark atmosphere of the movie. This is due to the intensive story that is in fact the worst nightmare for any loving father or mother on earth. This movie is an intense mixture of the drama and thriller genres with a few decently used gore scenes and scary moments that aren't a far call from the horror genre.

    Each character shown in this movie is going through really hard times from the family father, his wife, his son and his best friends over the more and more isolated detective to the suspected kidnapper and a strange copycat kidnapper.

    In addition to this, most of the time in this movie the sky looks very grey, it's raining or actions take place in the middle of almost moonless nights.

    The inoffensive but dark and somewhat uneasy score underlines this depressive film noir approach.

    Not only the French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve who created the intense drama "Incendies" in the past delivers a detailed and intense work. The most outstanding thing is the acting. Hugh Jackman plays the role of his life as a desperate family father who is slowly going insane and ready to do anything to save his daughter. It's hard to portray a character who is going through such an incredible nightmare but Hugh Jackman is always convincing. You can feel his emotions in every word he speaks, in every move he makes and in every breath he takes. This acting performance should be worthy of an Academy Award. Jake Gyllenhaal is just as great and also does his best acting performance. He portrays a visibly nervous detective if you just take a look on his almost hyperactive eye movements. We see a detective who tries to be professional and dedicated to his job but who gets more and more isolated and who starts making more and more mistakes. By the end of the movie, the kidnapping case has also become something almost personal for him as he acts beyond rationality to solve the case. Jake Gyllenhaal's performance is also worthy of an Academy Award. The supporting actors are also doing a fine job. Especially Paul Dano convinces as inscrutable and unpredictable suspect. His aunt portrayed by Melissa Leo gets better and better as the movie progresses.

    The tension of the story gets more and more elevated towards the end. I don't want to reveal any twists but let's say that I didn't see the incredible revelations coming. During the last thirty minutes or so, the movie even got me more on the edge of my seat than it was the case before. These last thirty minutes introduce a whole new dimension to the movie. Some viewers may dislike this new approach but I thought that it added even more intensity to the film.

     


    At the end of the day, this is an atmospheric, intense and extremely well acted film noir that mixes credible drama elements with gripping and sometimes scary crime passages. If you care for any of these genres, you can't get around this movie this year. I hope it will win a couple of Academy Awards next year as I can hardly see any better Hollywood movie these days. I'm convinced this will be considered as a classic or one of the best movies of all times one day.
     

     

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  • Jackie Brown (1997)

     

     

    Quentin Tarantino is a man between genius and madness who has created some of the best movies ever but also a few true Fails in my opinion. "Jackie Brown" is just between both extremes for me and is maybe his most unspectacular film to date.

    On the positive side, this movie is Tarantino's most organic one until now. The characters are more credible than usual, the dialogues aren't all too over the top and the story line is quite easy to follow. The movie includes no special effects, shock moments or unexpected twists and feels surprisingly down to earth for a Quentin Tarantino movie. From that point of view, it's a quite unique movie from him. The acting is authentic and very well done. Pam Grier plays an attractive and intelligent lady in her forties who starts the movie as a victim just to become the one who plays with each other character around her. Samuel L. Jackson does a convincing role as superficial but not dumb gangster. Robert Forster plays a bondsman and smart gentleman with a lot of charisma as well. He's the actor I somehow like the most in this movie. In addition to the movie's authentic mood and the great acting, the soundtrack is as always quite convincing as well and introduces us to many great Afroamerican musicians. I must though admit that I preferred by far the soundtracks of other Tarantino movies such as "Kill Bill" or "Django Unchained" for example.

    On the other side, the movie definitely has its lengths as many Tarantino movies. There are some more or less important endless dialogues that should have been shortened in my opinion. This movie would have just been fine with a running time between ninety and one-hundred-five minutes in my opinion. Apart of that, the story is not only down to earth but also quite unspectacular and there isn't that much going on in two hours and a half. The movie feels a little bit too simple at some points. Apart of the acting, the movie lacks of a true highlight. The killing scenes are really unspectacular and you don't see very much. It's the same thing for one single and quite boring sex scene. The movie is supposed to have a few humorous moments but they really aren't all that memorable. The showdown in the mall also lacks tension. It shows us the same scene from three different views which gets quite redundant. The only truly gripping moments in this movie are the first E encounter between Pam Grier and Samuel L. Jackson in her apartment and the scene when Robert Forster and Samuel L. Jackson go to the Office of the bondsman. 

    In the end, this film could have been a standout movie in Tranatino's career because it's quite different from what he usually does. The film though fails from that point of view and drags on far too long and turns out to be quite unspectacular or even boring at some points. It all feels more like a theatre play where convincing dialogues by solid actors matter but not much more. I have seen far worse but also far better movies and I would only recommend this flick to die hard fans of Quentin Tarantino's works.

     

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  • Argo (2012)

     

    Argo won three Academy Awards, including one for the best movie of the year 2012 and this award was even presented by honourable First Lady Michelle Obama due to the patriotic and political content of the film. On my list, this movie though didn't even make it into my personal top twenty of that year. Let me explain you why.

    Let's start with the positive things first. The costumes, decorations and locations of the movie are authentic and seem to be quite close to the actual events that inspired this film. The tension filled scenes in the very beginning of the movie at the embassy and at the very end at the airport are well done as well.

    Now, let's talk about the negative facts. The movie includes too many overlong dialogues that go straight nowhere. Instead of showing the raising pressure inside the Canadian embassy and conflicts between all involved persons, one sees a terribly faceless main actor going around to make publicity for his fake movie and talk to more or less important people of Hollywood nobody cares about. After twenty first great minutes, this movie falls flat and bores until the final fifteen minutes or so. Add to this that the movie has no depth whatsoever. It only explains in a quite short opening sequence what led to the revolutionary events in Iran. The movie never explains further how all of this could happen and what that country would become afterwards. The emotions, fate and suffering of the people aren't portrayed at all by this film. One only sees a bunch of angry citizens that play the bad guys while the American diplomats portray the good guys. This one-sided view is quite shallow and filled with the usual stereotypes but one starts to get used to it by Hollywood by now. Add to this a sometimes more or less audible sound quality and some annoying shaky camera positions even though the overall production is quite decent.

    In the end, the movie is rather disappointing for me. I was really looking forward to discover this flick as the historical events are really intriguing. The idea behind the script had in fact a lot of potential in my opinion. In the end, you won't learn anything new from this movie and it only superficially portrays the events that happened. Half of the movie or so shows us scenes in Hollywood or Washington instead of showing us what happens in the streets of Teheran and the true soul of that revolution. The entire middle part of the movie has important lengths, unnecessary dialogues and lacks of consistency. The actors are exchangeable and fail to touch me. This film is only saved by its promising beginning and its gripping ending. 

     

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  • Blackbird / Deadfall (2012)

    "Blackbird" is a short and entertaining action thriller even though its title is a little bit strange and even though the story is a little bit weak at times. 

    The movie follows two siblings after a casino heist: a brutal bother who eliminates everybody on his way to the Canadian border and a sister who is quite smart but also a lot more emotional. On their way through the North-American wilderness, their ways get separated and they promise to meet each other again at the other side of the border. While the brother raises a bloody body count, the sister meets some sort of prodigal son. She gets into the car of a boxer who has just been released from prison and who accidentally and severely injured his coach during a rough argument a few hours ago. He is know getting away from the city, is under pressure and wants to spend Thanksgiving hidden at the mansion of his family: his father who rejected him and his more emotional mother who wants to see her son again after a long time. He is also about to meet the love of his youth there who has become a cop that is disrespectfully treated by her father who is the chief. While the local police is after the brother sibling and also soon hears from the injured coach, the sister sibling and the boxer start to have feelings for each other when they arrive at the boxer's family house. The brother sibling is though not happy at all with the new situation and is decided to get everybody out of his way to freedom and illegal wealth.

    On the negative side, there are a few weak points in the script. The love story between the boxer and the female sibling is not credibly done at all and feels too forced. In addition to this, all little bit too much drama and a few unnecessary stereotypes are added to the story towards the end when the tough past of the siblings is revealed.

    The movie though convinces with its fast paced story line that leads to a tension filled finish even though the script is not among the most original ones and remembers many similar movies. Another strong point is the rather solid acting by all actors and the fact that the movie portrays two and at some times even three different story lines that all meet each other at the end. The breathless film never gets boring but is maybe a little bit hard to follow in the beginning that introduces a few too many characters. That's why this film might request multiple viewings to grow on the spectators and it's definitely worth your time because this flick has a lot of potential. Let's add that the landscapes that were mostly filmed in Canada are also stunning and add an atmospheric and cold touch to the thriller.

    In the end, this movie is one of the better action thrillers of the year. It features a fast paced story, breathtaking landscapes and a great finish despite some lukewarm elements in the script. I would suggest you to watch this movie with a lot of concentration to be able to follow all the different story lines and get to know who is who among the elevated number of characters.
     

     

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  • Batoru Rowaiaru / Battle Royale (2000)

     

    As I am a big fan of contemporary Eastern Asian cinema, this film was introduced to me as a classic and when it finally saw its North American uncut release, I didn't hesitate to try this film out just to realize that this movie isn't as good as its reputation.

    The general idea of an isolated island that becomes the exotic location of a killing spree is nothing new but the competition factor between the students could have been rather gripping with a few intriguing characters. Sadly, most of the characters happen to be as thin and exchangeable as the simple story line turns out to be. Only the exchange students and the pitiless female student as well as the weird teacher happen to be intriguing enough to carry this film on. The persons that have been chosen as main characters are though not very profound and one isn't really concerned about their fate in the end.

    The movie starts with a lot of tension and explains an interesting short background story. In fact, this flick is filled with a few flashbacks but it would have needed more of this to gain some depth. After a while, the story gets predictable and redundant. One surely gets a few spectacular but also introspective killing scenes but the characters all die quite quickly and in rather similar conditions after the introduction phase. It would have been more interesting to include less characters in this film, to focus on their character development and to invent more diversified killing scenes.

    Another letdown is the end of the movie. It has a little twist that isn't that exciting but what disturbs me the most is that one of the evil characters that is shot to death suddenly gets up again, speaks a few senseless lines and finally dies in peace. In fact, many scenes in this movie feel somewhat exaggerated and surreal and keep this movie from being brutally intense. These moments simply lack of credibility and don't fit with the rest of the movie that desperately tries to appear as realistic as possible.

    Nevertheless, the film is entertaining despite its flaws and it clearly has inspired books and flicks such as "The Hunger Games" recently. For die hard fans of Japanese flicks as I am, this movie is worth out a try but apart of that there are way better contemporary Japanese movies than this one here.

     

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