• 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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  • Dream House (2011)

     

    Advertised as a horror movie with the charismatic Daniel Craig, the talented Rachel Weisz and the beautiful and charming Naomi Watts, this film sounded highly promising to me but it didn't manage to pass above an average quality. The acting of Daniel Craig is quite convincing but the other two ones sadly don't get enough screen time in this short flick. Let's also add that this movie is not scary at all. What we have here is rather a mix between a predictable psychological thriller and a fluffy drama.

    The movie itself is surely twisted and keeps you watching it until the end. On the other side, it also tries so hard to impress that it gets quickly predictable and redundant. Truly suspenseful or gripping scenes are therefor missing throughout the entire slow paced psychological thriller that lacks of true highlights apart of the acting and maybe the final twenty minutes.

    If this film had been released twenty years ago or so, it would have hit harder but these days the story isn't all that original anymore. Just like this, I could easily mention you more than a handful of easily better and more gripping movies with quite similar so called twisted story lines: Lost Highway (1997), Fight Club (1999), The Sixth Sense (1999), Memento (2000), A Tale Of Two Sisters (2003), Identity (2003), Hide And Seek (2005), Shutter Island (2010) and so on and so forth. The movie makers should seriously invent something different than always the same stories with little variations.

    I would only recommend this film to fans of Daniel Craig and those who really collect and want to watch all movies of this genre. Anybody else should head for any other example I've mentioned above and will get a better and especially more original entertainment.

     

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  • The Bourne Legacy (2012)

     

    As a big fan of the Bourne franchise, I was expecting this movie with mixed feelings. I was afraid this movie would only be a rehash of the solid trilogy and give us more of the same but on a lower level than usual. On the other side, I was looking forward to see a new chapter around the conspiracy legacy as I felt that there were still some things left to say and see after the last film.

    In the end, I got a mix of both positive and negative expectations. Let's start with the bad points. The story in here really is nothing new and quite predictable from the beginning to the end. There are no twists and there isn't as much sweating action and tension as in the first three movies. I would have liked to see some more innovation in this movie with a more profound script. Even though the character of Jason Bourne is mentioned throughout the flick, I would have liked to see a closer connection to this unfinished story line but maybe that's something that may happen in the future as this new film clearly is a start of a new series if there are no unexpected pitfalls. I might also add that the movie had nevertheless a couple of lengths to get kicked off in its first two thirds. Some people say that the new movie ended when it really started to get intense and that the finish happened to be rather abrupt. This is true as I would have liked to see some sort of a more developed epilogue to this film.

    Now, let's point out the positive elements. First of all, the acting of the two main actors is surprisingly good and you really believe these characters. They are maybe not as charismatic as a Franka Potente and a Matt Damon but it's a quite close call. Apart of that, the settings for the new movie are as stunning or even better as in the first three flicks. The chosen locations are the winter world of Alaska, several cities in the United States of America and Manila in the Philippines. I really liked the survival elements of the first third of the movie, the character development that occurred in the second part of the flick and the incredible chasing scenes through the streets and on the rooftops of the city of Manila. Even though the chase was a little bit overlong with around twenty minutes of literally called running time and even though the chase lacked of a true final highlight, I was really impressed by these diverting moments that kept me on the edge of my seat until the end.

    To keep it short, this movie will divide the fans into two camps. Some might find this beginning of a new era useless and not unique enough to survive. Others will be pleasantly surprised to see a movie that features all the trademarks people liked so much about the franchise. This flick won't win any prices for innovation but it's quite entertaining and makes you want more after the fast paced ending. I was critical and still have some negative things to point out but in the end there were much more positive than negative elements in this movie and I'm looking forward for a possible sequel.

    On this level, the Bourne flicks might maybe one day get the same degree of appreciation as the James Bond franchise if Hollywood carries on to write more intriguing screenplays around this phenomenon.

     

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