Movies I want on Blu-ray
Movies I want to add to my Blu-ray collection.
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|CloudStrife84's Rating||My Rating|
The Terminator 1984, R)
The Sixth Sense 1999, PG-13)
The horror-thriller masterpiece that put M. Night Shyamalan on the map. Everything about it is of near-perfect quality, including the stunningly good ending, which holds one of the best plot twists I've ever seen in a movie. It's just a shame that Shyamalan's other films aren't as brilliant, because then we'd truly have a reason to jump for joy.
The Green Mile 1999, R)
No film has ever evoked such a strong emotional response out of me as this one has. I mean, I seldom cry from watching a movie to begin with, but this one felt so real that it had had me tear up in a way I never thought possible (and yeah, I'm not ashamed to admit that). While having me truly hate some of its characters, it simultaneously had me love and feel a strong sense of compassion towards others.
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial 1982, PG)
They just don't make movies like this anymore. Spielberg's directing, John Williams music score...there's nothing that even gets close to that perfect combination of talent. But above all, it holds a wonderful story that still touches the heart. One I think everyone should take part of at least once in their lifetime. Because as far as family films go, this one ranks as one of the best ever made. A childhood favourite of mine and the very definition of movie magic.
Dumb and Dumber 1994, PG-13)
Kingpin 1996, PG-13)
Big 1988, PG)
The Abyss 1989, PG-13)
A sci-fi masterpiece that has me glued to my seat everytime I see it. Story-wise it reminds me a lot of Close Encounters of the Third Degree and the first two Alien movies, and the screenplay (as always by James Cameron) is top notch, with characters and dialogue that feels very natural and believable. My only regret is that I never had the chance to see this one in the cinema, as it would have been an incredible experience; especially as the special effects were groundbreaking for its time. And in the end, after almost 3 hours of captivating entertainment, you realise that the movie doesn't just have a great story to tell, but also provides a good message. One that is as true today as it was back then.
Coming to America 1988, R)
Remember the days when Eddie Murphy's movies were actually funny? It seems but a distant memory now, but every once in a while I make a little re-visit to the 80's, just to remind myself of a time when it wasn't all about fat suits and farting at the dinner table. Granted that he plays a multitude of roles in this one too, but at least the jokes are on the money and the make-up extremely convincing. A hilarious fish-out-of-water comedy, that even more than 20 years after its making, is still as side-splitting as ever. This, along with "Beverly Hills Cop", are my hands down favourite Eddie Murphy flicks, that always manages to get a laugh out of me. Not to mention the great supporting cast, which includes a prime-performing Arsenio Hall, the legendary James Earl Jones and a brief, but memorable cameo by Samuel L. Jackson. Maybe not a comedy to everyone's taste, but I for one really love it.
Jackass: Number Two 2006, R)
Planes, Trains and Automobiles 1987, R)
Comical virtuosos John Candy and Steve Martin star in this brilliantly hilarious road movie, about an advertising executive (Martin), who runs into all sorts of obstacles when trying to get home to his family in Chicago. What I love about this film (among a high number of other things), is that it doesn't try too hard to be funny. It just succeeds with that naturally, with its masterfully executed gags and memorable antics. The biggest credit, of course, goes to Candy and Martin, whose wonderful interplay is the heart and soul of the movie. One is an easily-irritated cynic, and the other a high-spirited blabbermouth, which becomes the basis for a great many hilarious moments. Just some of the faces that Steve Martin makes are absolutely priceless. A film where top notch humor is not an exception, but dominates the entire story. There's just so much to enjoy about it, and despite having been around for more than two decades, it never grows old and tired. In fact, it's like a fine bottle of wine that only gets better with time. And hey, that even rhymes! So if you're one of the poor, unfortunate souls who happened to have missed it, well, then I hope this review may spur you to check it out. Because in all sincerity, it deserves nothing less than my warmest recommendation. A laughter-fest of a movie, and my all-time favourite comedy by the legendary John Hughes.
Fast Times At Ridgemont High 1982, R)
Honest, raunchy and hilarious, but more essentially, one of the best high school comedies ever made. I don't think I've ever seen so many great characters in one and the same comedy. The dialogue is superb, the acting spot-on and it's incredibly fun to see actors like Sean Penn, Nicolas Cage and Forest Whitaker at such a young and rebellious age. Not to mention Jennifer Jason Leigh, who really stole my heart in this one. A true 80's classic!
K-PAX 2001, PG-13)
Ghost 1990, R)
This movie has a very special place in my heart. It's moving, suspenseful and arguably one of the greatest love stories ever told. Maybe it's because I'm such a strong believer in life after death that I like it so much, but it's also because it has a lot of heart and soul, and a great deal to say about the dark and greedy nature of mankind. Bittersweet in its ending, but that's how I like it to be, as it's found the perfect balance between melancholy and joy. And that sure can't be said for a lot of movies out there.
Serenity 2005, PG-13)
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids 1989, PG)
Rounders 1998, R)
True Lies 1994, R)
Team America - World Police 2004, R)
Political satire at its best! It's sort of become a tradition now among me and my friends to see this about once a year, as it's one of extremely few films that we all love equally. And given the hilarious dialogue and incredibly catchy songs, maybe it's no wonder. If you ask me, you'd have to be a really boring and humorless prude not to like this movie. Just the fact that it bashes and makes fun of Michael Bay makes into a real winner.
Das Boot (The Boat) 1981, R)
Beavis and Butt-Head Do America 1996, PG-13)
Man, do I miss the 90's! That golden era of comedy when The Simpsons was still funny, sitcoms didn't require recorded laughings and Mike Judge brought us hilarious stuff like this. It's the third time I've seen it, if I remember correctly, and it just keeps getting funnier for every time. Beavis and Butthead, in all their stupidity, are the creation of a true comedic genius. There's so many side-splitting moments in this film that I wouldn't know where to begin. I think my favourites though is when Beavis goes into "Cornholio mode", after taking one too many caffeine pills from an old lady. Or every time they mess with Tom Anderson and his wife. Great voice-acting as well, by a cast that include big names like Bruce Willis and Demi Moore. There's even a cameo by David Letterman as a Mötley Crüe roadie. I mean, how cool is that? Anyway, if you have ever been a fan of these two legendary dopeheads, then this is definitely something you should add to your watchlist. It's raunchy, it's out there, but above all, outrageously funny!
Maverick 1994, PG-13)
City Slickers 1991, PG-13)
Three friends in a mid-life crisis goes on a Wild West adventure together, to re-ignite their lost passions for life. This isn't really a Western movie in the classic sense though, but more like a fish-out-of-water comedy, with influences from said genre. It does have the same feel of one, however, and is one of the most enjoyable films of its kind. Billy Crystal is hilarious with his sarcasm and cynical sense of humor, and together with Daniel Stern and Bruno Kirby they make up a really fun trio. You'll also find Jake Gyllenhaal in a very young role here. Not to mention Jack Palance, who is very memorable as Curly Washburn - an old legendary cowboy who oozes intimidation. If there was ever a contest for most bad-ass cowboy in cinema, it would be a close race between him and Clint Eastwood. Long story short: a highly entertaining movie, and one of my all-time favourite Westerns.
The Mummy Returns 2001, PG-13)
Cutthroat Island 1995, PG-13)
A predecessor to Pirates of the Caribbean that unlike those movies became a big flop in the box-office. The critics showed no mercy back then and yes, it is partially very cheesy and suffers from bad cinematography and directing. But nonetheless it is, suprisingly enough, a very entertaining film without a dull moment. It's easy to see where PotC got its inspiration from :-)
Antz 1998, PG)
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 1989, PG-13)
There's no Christmas that goes by without me watching this at least once. I've seen it so many times now, yet it's still as side-splitting as ever. Not only do we all have something we can relate to in it, but it's also the perfect marriage between slapstick and the more intelligent kind of humor. It's my hands-down favourite "Vacation" movie, and also one of my top 3 beloved Christmas flicks, along with Home Alone 1 & 2. From the cat that gets burned into the rug to the white trash antics of Cousin Eddie, there's so much to love about this film that you'll keep coming back for more. A must-see for the holiday season, whether you're a Chevy Chase fan or not.
Godzilla 1998, PG-13)
Yes, it's a B-movie. And yes, the writing could be better. But like most other Roland Emmerich flicks, it's got enough entertainment value to go around. I can't quite explain it, but I've always had a thing for stories that features giant monsters on a path of mayhem and destruction. Leastways as long as the special effects are good, which is definitely the case here. I can understand why some may dislike this film, or even hate it, but in my eyes, this is an enjoyable guilty pleasure. Kind of comical though that they hired Matthew Broderick to play the main role. Not that he's a bad actor, but he just looks a bit misplaced here - like a pacifist at an NRA meeting or a teletubby at a rock concert. Well, you get the point.
Mafia! 1998, PG-13)
WarGames (War Games) 1983, PG)
Minority Report 2002, PG-13)
Superb sci-fi thriller, with top notch special effects and a brilliant storyline. What's funny though, is that it also includes some absurd dialogue in Swedish, which was hilarious for me who is a Swede myself. Spielberg did the exact same thing with Peter Stormare in Jurassic Park II, so it seems to have become a recurring element with him. But I'm happy that he does, because there's nothing more fun than hearing someone curse in Swedish in a big-budget Hollywood flick. At least when it's done in a believable fashion, like here.
Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle 2004, R)
Bad Santa 2003, R)
Cast Away 2000, PG-13)
Sleepy Hollow 1999, R)
Atmospheric, well-acted and Tim Burton at his best! It also happens to be one of my favourite films by said director, as it not only endures several re-watches, but also has one of the greatest casts ever assembled on screen. Add a wonderful music score to that and you immediately have a highly recommendable movie, that combines horror and fantasy into a perfect blend. So perfect in fact, that I'm begging on my bare knees for Burton to make a sequel, or leastways something along the same lines. Rather that than another "Sweeney Todd".
The Game 1997, R)
Incredibly intriguing story and one of Fincher's best, second only to Fight Club. Even though it feels somewhat slow in the beginning, once things get going, it grabs a tight hold of you and keeps you nailed to your seat until the very end. There's also a lot of cool twists and turns here that plays with your mind as much as it does with Michael Douglas character, but fortunately everything becomes wrapped up in a very nice way by the end, which left me satisfied as all my questions (at least the most essential ones) were answered. Two thumbs up!
The Incredibles 2004, PG)
Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981, PG)
My love for this great classic is truly beyond words! As a kid, it was a moment of magic for me every time Indy in his iconic adventure gear appeared on screen. Whether it was narrowly escaping a giant boulder of death, or opening a can of whoop-ass when faced with some Nazi bad guys, you could always count on him to deliver some first-rate fun. And there couldn't have been anyone better to execute it than artisan story-teller Steven Spielberg. Nor any better music composer than the legendary John Williams, whose instantly recognizable themes are classics in their own right. Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman and John Rhys-Davies - there's not a single performance in here that isn't totally fantastic. So prepare yourself for a helluva good time. Because whenever Indy whips up some action, it's impossible not to stick around and watch.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom 1984, PG)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade 1989, PG-13)
Very rarily does a sequel match the greatness of the original, but with "Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade" it all shines just as brightly. There's nothing I don't love about this stellar adventure gem, that tells us more of Indy's backstory and invites us to some of the key events that made him what he is. In the heart of the film, we also have the strained and intricate relationship between Indiana and his father Henry (played by a wonderful Sean Connery), that adds a bit of family drama to the plot and makes it perhaps the most emotionally powerful in the whole series. That scene towards the end where they rescue each other from certain death, is two incredibly touching moments, that I regard as among the finest in all of Hollywood's long history. The hilarious interplay between Ford and Connery gives it quite a humorous touch as well, with some of the most memorable lines of dialogue ever written for cinema. Nowadays, we'd be lucky to even get one such piece of extraordinary wit. The only thing in this film that can be considered a flaw is the awfully dated blue-screen effects. Easily neglectable, however, as you're having too much fun to be bothered by such trifles. Because in all other regards, this is pure adventurous perfection. A phenomenally entertaining entry, in a trilogy that never withers, but just gets better and more valuable as time trudges on (and yes, I'm saying "trilogy", because I refuse to acknowledge the fourth film as part of the franchise). Simply put, it's Spielberg at his very best and a masterpiece of which qualities I doubt will ever be re-created. Now, if only it could have ended here, with Indy and his friends riding off into the sunset. Then I could have slept really well at night, knowing there would never be any aliens to drop a deuce upon my childhood memories. But alas, the fridge was nuked nevertheless.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull 2008, PG-13)
A welcome return for one of my favorite movie characters of all time. There is so much I'd like to say here, that I'm afraid it would take a whole novel to make room for it all. But instead of doing so, I'm just simply gonna try and summarize the experience in the following three categories: The good: * Great re-use of some of the classic music themes. * Harrison Ford, who despite his age, is still as good of an actor as ever. * Amazing action sequences. Particularily the old school use of action set pieces. * The fact that this movie felt like it was shot in the 80's. Well, if you count out the occational CGI. * Surprisingly good chemistry between Ford and LaBeouf. Contrary to what I had first feared, Shia was actually a great addition to the cast. * Beautiful scenery. The jungle settings were quite breath-taking. The bad: * Redundant use of CGI, hitting a big low in the movie in a very cheesy scene where Mutt (Shia LaBeouf) gets chased by monkeys. What were the directors thinking here? * Too many supporting roles! * A notable lack of magic. Some of it is still there, but just not in the same generous amount as is found in the first three films. * The writing could have been significantly better, especially as David Koepp was behind the screenplay. It's a bad sign when even one of Hollywood's best writers seems to have run out of steam. * Corny sense of humor, which made this movie feel more like a parody of the previous films, rather than a serious attempt to make yet another classic. I may expect cheese from movies like National Treasure, but it surely doesn't belong in an Indy flick. The ugly: * Cate Blanchett's hair cut. Something just didn't feel right about it. * The poorly done blue-screen effects. It took away a lot from the movie's believability. All things considered, I was both pleased and very disappointed at the same time. I mean, considering the fact that Spielberg and Lucas had so much time on their hands to get this right, I can't help but wonder if Spielberg, much like Lucas in recent years, have lost much of his old magic as well. Don't get me wrong though, this was still a highly enjoyable experience, and I had a really good time when watching it in the cinema. It just didn't live up to my expectations and ended up being be my least favourite Indy flick in the quadrilogy. I still hope they bring us a fifth installment though, just as long as they still make Indy the main character, and don't replace him with Shia. It just wouldn't be the same without Ford in the lead. Anyway, if you're in for a fun ride of a movie, with lots of humor, action and a touch of sweet 80's nostalgia, then this is something you definitely shouldn't miss. Because this is, after all, one of the best movies of 2008 so far. Just don't expect to be blown away.
Elizabeth: The Golden Age 2007, PG-13)
Well-written, well-acted and all the while severely underrated by the critics. When first walking into the theatre I was expecting to gravely dislike this movie, as I had read so many negative reviews. However, to my great joy and surprise, it ended up being one of my favourite movies of the year, lulling me into a really comfortable and enchanting medieval atmosphere.
Elizabeth 1998, R)
Inspiring performance by Cate Blanchett, who here plays the lead role of the psychologically tortured queen Elizabeth I, whose stormy life is fascinating indeed to behold on screen. The scenery of this movie was quite breathtaking and it truly felt like stepping back in time. And where costume dramas normally have a tendency to be a bit boring, this one, I felt, brought out the best and most interesting segments of real historic events. In fact, all factors considered, it's one of the most compelling historic dramas I've ever seen. I seriously doubt the follow-up, The Golden Age, will be anywhere near as good, but at least now I'll be able to compare it to the first installment.
What Dreams May Come 1998, PG-13)
Why this movie first sailed me by without notice (or the cinemas in general for that matter) is and will always be a great mystery. But I'm sure glad I found it, because this was one of the best movie experiences I've ever had.
The 40 Year Old Virgin 2005, R)
War of the Worlds 2005, PG-13)
Call me crazy, but I have a hard time understanding why so many people dislike this movie. Granted that Tom Cruise is mentally deranged and ought to be thrown into the looney bin (he even tried recruiting people to his scientology bull**** during the shooting of this film) , but as an actor he does his job exemplary and as is true for the rest of the cast here. Alien invasion stories is obviously nothing new, but Spielberg has brought his own touch to it that to me felt very fresh and inventive. Especially as you follow the turn of events from the perspective of an innocent family. Another strong point - and much of the reason why I love it so - is that it feels genuinely realistic. You truly experience the terror along with its characters - to me also heightened on a personal level as it reminded me a lot of some vivid nightmares I've had. The only part that falls short of greatness is the overly rushed ending, which felt a bit unsatisfying and left me with many questions unanswered. Other than that though, it's an incredibly thrilling sci-fi gem with perfect directing and state-of-the-art special effects. Definitely within the Top 5 among my all-time favourite Spielberg movies.
GoldenEye 1995, PG-13)
Iron Man 2008, PG-13)
Now this is what I call a comic book flick with class! Not only was it very entertaining, but it brought something to this genre that we surely don't get too often as movie-goers: namely something as rare as an intelligent script, with a plot that cares more about developing its characters, than it does about the action. It's so rare in fact, that I'd more likely call this a well-forged drama-thriller, rather than your typical comic book movie.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian 2008, PG)
A significant improvement compared to The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. The action in this one was better and more frequent, with little room to spare for catching your breath. And with a darker and more mature story as its basis, the realm of Narnia have suddenly begun to lean more and more towards how all things fantasy ought to be: brilliant, engaging and visually stunning.
Equilibrium 2002, R)
V for Vendetta 2006, R)
Full Metal Jacket 1987, R)
Pan's Labyrinth 2006, R)
There's something quite magical and captivating about this film. It's dark and brutal, yet equally beautiful and touching. Unique and imaginative, without ever being too surreal for it's own good. Very, if not to say extremely few movies manage to be all those things at once, and keep such a delicate balance. Guillermo has truly set the standard here for non-epic fantasy :-)
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa 2008, PG)
Better than the first one in almost every single aspect! Of all the improvements and brush-ups, however, I must say the most notable ones lies in the writing. Because while the jokes and dialogue of the original fell pretty flat, this one actually made me laugh a few times, and not just thanks to the ever-hilarious penguins. I also liked the story better, as it felt more fleshed out in comparison, and doesn't rely as much on brainless slapstick like the first one did. Overall, I really enjoyed it!
The Last Samurai 2003, R)
Tom Cruise gives one of is best-ever performances in this slow-going, yet beautiful and well-directed action-drama. I've always had an undying fascination for ancient Japan and the samurai culture, so this was definitely my kind of movie. The storyline also reminded me a lot of the mini-series Shogun, which seems to have served as one of its main sources of inspiration. In fact, this is more or less like a full-length film version of said series. Not as great as some make it out to be, but surely a good time at the movies.
300 2007, R)
Hellboy 2004, PG-13)
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Hellboy 2) 2008, PG-13)
About four years ago, I had the great pleasure of meeting Ron Perlman (a.k.a. Hellboy) at a movie convention in Sweden. I distincly recall a small chat I had with him about how much we both we looked forward to Hellboy 2 (this was back when the first movie had just come out, and the second movie was only at the idea stage), and I could tell by the way he talked about it that he's had a lot of fun with his character. And I can see why, because not only is Del Toro a great visionary director, but with Hellboy 2 he has created something quite out of the ordinary. For this is something as rare as a sequel that far exceeds the original, and one that, with its great action, agreeable sense of fun and amazing creature designs, amounted to one of the true highlights of the year. So whatever you do, be sure not to miss it!
The Patriot 2000, R)
Dramatic, heart-rending and action-filled story, set during the time of the American Revolution. Great acting by Gibson as always and solid efforts by the rest of the cast. Maybe not the best I've seen by Roland Emmerich, but probably the most beautifully and skillfully directed of all his film-making accomplishments. The first time I saw this was when it came out on dvd almost a decade ago, and it was as good now on the second watch, as I recall it was back then. So if you haven't seen it yet, you might wanna take a look.
Total Recall 1990, R)
This movie has a little bit of everything: great action, a highly suspenseful plot, some very cool sci-fi elements, a mutant chick with three boobs (don't ask lol), some nice tongue-in-cheek humor and, as you might expect, some hilarious one-liners that only someone like Schwarzenegger knows how to deliver with perfection. Beyond all that, it also happens to be a given favourite of mine in the category of sci-fi flicks. It didn't surprise me at all when I found out it was made by the same guy who gave us Starship Troopers, namely Paul Verhoeven, because it has the same great quality to it, even if some of the effects are pretty dated by now. It looks and feels very 80's, but with the story being as exciting and well-written as it is, I can't say I'm bothered by any of it's superficial flaws. Because in my world, substance always comes before beauty.
Ice Age 2002, PG)
Ice Age 2: The Meltdown 2006, PG)
The Mummy 1999, PG-13)
There's something about Egyptian mythology that I've always loved and found incredibly fascinating. This movie has extracted the best of its myths and legends and turned it into a highly entertaining adventure full of action, humor and good fun. And like with so many other franchises, this first film is undoubtedly the best in the series, even if the second movie is very enjoyable also. As for the third and latest film, well, it was a real stinker to say the least. But that's what happens when you move the mummy out of Egypt, rob us of the lovely Rachel Weisz and replace the director with the guy who made such "masterpieces" as xXx and Stealth. Anyway, after a decade since its release, I'm glad to say that the original still rocks.
Speed 1994, R)
This movie sure didn't get its name for nothing. It's fast-paced and incredibly exciting from start to finish. Easily one of the best action films that the 90's had to offer. Kind of ironic though how one of the finest achievements in the history of the genre, was followed by one of the worst. Because I don't think there has ever been as great of a contrast between a movie and its sequel as there is between this and Speed 2. One is golden, the other worth less than dirt. But that's Hollywood for ya!
The Rock 1996, R)
Great from beginning to end, which is a bit unusual for something with Jerry Bruckheimer's name on it. Everything about it is top notch. Even the music score, which features one of the best soundtracks I've ever heard in an action movie. And you can't go wrong with the ever-brilliant Sean Connery in one of the lead roles. So if you haven't seen it yet, make sure you do, because this is one the most exciting and well-directed action films you'll ever see. Personally, I've watched it like ten times now, and sure wouldn't mind seeing it ten times more. That's how awesome this movie is.
Ocean's Eleven 2001, PG-13)
Stylish, cool and incredibly well-written heist movie. The best thing about this film, however, is without doubt the cast. Here we have big Hollywood names like Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Andy Garcia, Julia Roberts and Matt Damon, all in one and the same movie. If you haven't seen it yet, make sure you do, because it's one of the classiest films you'll ever come across. That much I can promise.
The Silence of the Lambs 1991, R)
Exceptionally good thriller and one of the greatest of its time. The acting is truly phenomenal, particularily by Hopkins, whose performance here is nothing short of legendary. Jodie Foster does a brilliant job as well and they couldn't have picked a better actress for her role. There's no movie quite like it and it's better than it's two sequels by far. A must-see for all the thriller-lovers out there. Just be wary of the fact that it's very graphic (both visually and verbally), so it's certainly not for the faint of heart.
Troy 2004, R)
Groundhog Day 1993, PG)
Picture this: You're stuck in a time loop, waking up every morning at 6 a.m to Sonny & Cher's "I Got You Babe"; forced to re-live the same day in a seemingly endless cycle, with no one in the world to believe what you're going through. Well, that's precisely what happens to TV meteorologist Phil Connors (Bill Murray), who by some unseen magic enters a bizarre metaphysical situation, which ultimately leads him to discovering his true potential as a human being. This may sound like a fantasy film, but it's also profoundly heartwarming romantic comedy, where Murray shines like never before, in a virtuoso performance that really cements his comical genius. Yet, it isn't his film alone. Wonderful supporting actors like Andie McDowell, Chris Elliott and Stephen Tobolowsky, add their talent to the pot, making every little scene a total delight. To say that director Harold Ramis struck gold with this movie, would be the understatement of the century. The philosophy, humor and high concept storyline, is all flawlessly merged in a heavenly medley that you can't help but love and be inspired by. If you get this on Blu-ray or DVD, there are some really fun interviews with Harold Ramis, where he fondly talks of the great impact his movie has made, among various spiritual and religious groups, all across the world. Everyone seems to take away something really meaningful from this film, whether it be in the attitude towards other people, or something beyond our physical reality. Either way, it shares with us some truly valuable lessons, which is what makes it so much more than a piece of stellar entertainment. In my eyes, this is the ultimate marriage between romance, comedy and lighthearted existensialism. A hilariously funny masterpiece, of which quality and worth I think we'll never see again. Because after nearly two decades since its making, "Groundhog Day" still holds the crown for the greatest comedy I've ever seen!
Enemy of the State 1998, R)
Smart, exciting and fast-paced thriller, starring an impressive ensemble of top-notch actors. Here we have Will Smith, Gene Hackman, Jack Black, Jon Voight, Barry Pepper, Jason Lee, Seth Green and lots of other familiar faces, all in the same movie. On top of that, it's got an incredibly tight and thought-provoking story, that will keep you at the edge of your seat until the very end. In fact, coming to think of it, this is one of the best Will Smith movies I've ever seen, along with Men in Black and Independence Day. At the same time, it kind of makes me wonder though what ever happened to Gene Hackman. He used to be in a lot of films of this kind before suddenly disappearing off the face of the earth. Anyway, if you're in the mood for something that thoroughly entertains while also nurturing the intellect, then this is one film I can highly recommend.
Con Air 1997, R)
Whenever the name Jerry Bruckheimer pops up in the credits, you know you're in for some high quality action. The movies he produce aren't always the most well-written, but there are times, like in this case, where his distinguishable style of action and humor works in harmony with the plot. What really serves as the bulk of this film though, is the great interplay between the actors and their characters. Nicolas Cage may stand in the spotlight as far as the main plotline is concerned, but it's the supporting cast that truly make this movie. They're fun, witty, insane and out of control. So what if they're not entirely believable? I prefer action films that have some fun with the material and doesn't take itself too seriously, so this happens to be right up my alley. That being said, I'd feel like a criminal myself to rate this with any less than four stars. Because this is one of those rare movies that gets better and better for each time I see it.
Ghostbusters 2 1989, PG)
For a sequel to a masterpiece it couldn't possibly live up to, this is quite an underrated bit of fun. Not sure why so many hold it in such low regard, because I think it successfully maintains the spirit of its predecessor.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 2009, PG)
So here it is, the sixth installment in a series of movies that I've grown to really love. I didn't quite know what to expect once I had entered the theatre and the movie started rolling. I mean, some had said it was disappointing, others that it is the best Potter flick to date. And what did I think? Well, unfortunately, I'm one of those who also thought it was a letdown. It's a good film, don't get me wrong, but it was way too flawed for me to love it. First of all, it's definitely the draggiest Potter flick yet. The pacing was annoyingly slow and I often felt the story was just treading water. On top of that, it also lacked a lot of the magic that permeated the previous films. Another thing that sort of bothered me, was the grey/greenish color filter. It made the movie really colorless and dull to the eyes. What saves it though is the acting and special effects, and an emotionally powerful scene by the end. But it took a long way to get there, and wasn't the enjoyable journey that I had hoped. Still one of the best movies of the year though. But as compared to the other installments, this was no doubt my least favourite Harry Potter flick. Too bad, because I was hoping it'd be the other way around.
The Matrix Reloaded 2003, R)
Very talky and draggy in some scenes, but an otherwise highly entertaining sequel. Just like in the first film, the special effects are truly astounding to behold. The highway chase sequence is one of the best action scenes I've ever seen and pretty much the main reason to why I've given this movie such a high rating. Not as brilliant or awesome as the original, but still worthy of a spot in my top 100 movies of all-time list.
The Matrix 1999, R)
Cool, groundbreaking, mind-twisting and simply phenomenal! A landmark science fiction masterpiece, that set a whole new standard for out-of-the-box film-making. Keanu Reeves may be dryer than a stick under the scorching California sun, but I still think he was one of the greatest of all possible casting choices for Neo. The true scene-stealer of the film, however, is the mesmerizingly brilliant Hugo Weaving, as the chilling and calculative Agent Smith. He isn't the typical villain, but an extremely intelligent baddie, whose every utterance is a fascinating piece of his multi-faceted, yet cold-hearted mind. Of course, the real crowd-drawer here though, is the visually spectacular special effects. At the time of release, they made everything that came before it virtually obsolete. While it isn't a perfect creation (no movie truly is), it's still pretty much as close as you can get. A personal favourite of mine, whose mind-blowing concoction of philosophy, martial arts and top-of-the-line SFX, makes it one of the most awesome film experiences ever. Now, the question remains: Will you take the red pill or the blue pill?
The Matrix Revolutions 2003, R)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 2001, PG)
Good and quite magical, but one of my least favourites in the Harry Potter series. I suppose I just prefer the last three installments, in which the plots are darker, more mature and has better action scenes. This first movie is still one of the best fantasy films ever made though and includes a wonderful music score by the legendary John Williams.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 2002, PG)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 2004, PG)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 2005, PG-13)
My absolute favourite of the five Harry Potter movies that have been made thus far. What separates this from the previous films is that the characters and the story have grown much more mature and allows for a darker and more interesting atmosphere. Furthermore, the movie also has a more epic feel, which I suppose we should thank Lord of the Rings movies for, from which it seems to have drawn much of its inspiration. It's too bad Order of the Phoenix wasn't quite as brilliant, but I guess we can't expect them to hit a home run every time.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 2007, PG-13)
One of the best movies of 2007 and certainly the darkest Harry Potter movie yet. It wasn't quite as good as The Goblet of Fire, nor The Prisoner of Azkaban in my opinion, but I did enjoy it more than the first two movies. Nevertheless, OOTP does have some obvious flaws. For one thing, I felt it lacked a lot of the humor and magic of the previous films. Also, it was very talky in some scenes. But these are things that are easily forgiven as this movie has a great cast (with some new and interesting characters), awe-inspiring special effects and the coolest battle sequence I've seen in the HP movies thus far.
Very clichéd, but just as fun and entertaining as the previous installments. The animation and scenery is all top notch as always, and the script surprisingly solid. I can't say I was all that fond of the new character Buck (Simon Pegg needed some better lines), but the old ones remain as charming and endearing as ever. Particularily Sid, who is hilarious in everything he does. If it wasn't for him and his screwball antics, I doubt I'd like this as much as I did. One of the best movies of 2009 so far.
District 9 2009, R)
Just when I thought that the sci-fi genre had run out of originality, along came this film and rekindled my hope again. Taking a plot about aliens stranded on Earth, and shooting it in this realistic, documentary-like way, is nothing less than a stroke of genius. Now, I know Peter Jackson isn't technically the director, but his creative spirit can still be sensed through the celluloid and permeates the film as a whole. Especially as it comes to the special effects, which is some of the best I've ever seen. The aliens, altough 100% CGI, are amazingly life-like and so real you can almost touch them. Never for a moment did I think they looked fake. So an applaudable job by Weta there. Also, unlike most Hollywood productions, the movie got better and better as it went along, leaving me in constant anticipation about what would happen next. A truly captivating story and one of my favourite films of 2009. Highly recommended!
Saw 2004, R)
Not too surprisingly, this first and original film in the series, is still the best one. The sequels are pretty good too, but I just like this one a little better. The turn of events are more interesting and it's got much more suspense and tension. Unlike the follow-ups, it isn't just all about the torture porn and Jigsaws traps, but also manages to evoke a lot of emotion. A real pulse-raiser, and a movie that has already become legendary in the modern era of horror films.
Apocalypto 2006, R)
Well-directed and amazingly unique. This is probably as close to real-life as anyone will ever come in depicting the Mayan people. Wonderful cast and cool action scenes, even though it feels like most of the movie consists of running and chasing. I also found the ending a bit dull and unsatisfying, but other than that a terrific film that is visually beautiful and one of the best movies of 2006.
The Illusionist 2006, PG-13)
Shares some similiarities with The Prestige, altough I find this one to be slightly better. Edward Norton does an awesome job as always and it's also one of few films where Jessica Biel actually gives a good performance, believe it or not. On top of that, the script is very sophisticated and the story incredibly enchanting. Not as great now as I thought it was back in 2006, but still one of the best "magician movies" I've ever seen.
Watchmen 2009, R)
Sex, violence and breathtaking visuals! There was a whole lot to take in with this film, and I couldn't possibly summarize every impression it made on me, but overall I really enjoyed it. The beginning was quite slow and dull, having me fear that I was for in a major disappointment, but it didn't take long before the plot really hooked me in, helped by the film's fantastic special effects and visual elements. And I do mean fantastic in every sense of the word, because this movie was one cool scene after another, and had my jaw drop more than a few times. Another true delight was the cast. All of the actors gave superb performances and left me with nothing to complain about. They brought a class and likeability to their characters the likes of which I haven't seen since The Dark Knight. Above all, however, they possess a wonderful depth, and the more you got to know them, the more fascinating they became. Particularily Rorshach, who stood for a great part of the narration. Silk Spectre II was another favourite of mine, played by the talented and beautiful Malin Åkerman. Now, I've been very positive so far in my review, and you might wonder after all this why I haven't rated it higher than I have. Well, the reason is pretty simple, because it's mainly got to do with the film's duration and pacing. In most cases I don't mind long movies, but this one kind of felt like it would never end, and kept dragging on and on before reaching its climax and final conclusion. There was a good number of scenes they could have left out, but it seems director Zack Snyder wanted to cram in as much as possible, without really giving thought to the flow of the story. In summary: Not quite as brilliant as I had hoped it to be, and very slow at times, but a unique, well-directed and visually arresting experience that I won't soon forget. Make sure to catch it in the theatres while you can, because great eye candy like this sure doesn't come around too often.
Event Horizon 1997, R)
During the 90's, there was one year in particular that came to mean much to the sci-fi genre. At least for me on a personal level. Because it's the year that gave us two of my all-time favourite films in said category; namely Contact and Starship Troopers. But then there was also a third film. One that, although not quite as brilliant and awesome, is just as deserving of mention. I'm speaking, of course, of the movie in question: Event Horizon. With its perfect blend of sci-fi and horror, it offers us an atmosphere and feel that reminds me a lot of the Alien movies. Very cool story as well, made even better by the excellent cast. The only thing I didn't like about it, is that it gets a little weird in places. Jack Noseworthy's acting isn't much to cheer about either. It's so embarrasingly bad that it makes everyone else look like Oscar-winners. But other than that, this is a really good and exciting watch. A definite addition to my Blu-ray collection.
Tommy Boy 1995, PG-13)
Top notch comedy, that altough being very formulaic and clichéd, made me laugh so hard that I almost had trouble breathing sometimes. Farley's manic slap-stick style of humor, combined with David Spade's witty sarcasm, is one of the best things to have ever happened to the world of comedy. It isn't always funny, but when it works, it's nothing short of hilarious. The storyline may be very "north-by-northwest", and the directing somewhat sloppy in places. But other than that, this is a really enjoyable movie that I'm happy to recommend.
Monsters, Inc. 2001, G)
The Simpsons Movie 2007, PG-13)
As someone who basically grew up with The Simpsons as my religion, I've been one of its biggest fans since the very first episode I saw in the early 90's. Unfortunately though, like so many other fans, I've also been grieved by the show's decline from comedy gold to something I almost get angry at due to its lack of fun and cleverness (the show started to fall into the pit of shame after they changed writers about a decade ago). Anyway, after just watching this movie I'm happy to say the creators has somewhat redeemed themselves. The jokes here come at you in super sonic speed and most of them, in contrast to what I feared, are actually quite funny and made me laugh or chuckle almost constantly. On the negative side, it doesn't quite reach its full potential and the second half is a bit draggy (especially in the Alaska scenes). But the movie overall has definitely a lot of the wittyness and wonderful humor that made the show so incredibly hilarious in the past. Actually, it's the best thing I've seen with this yellow family since season 9-10. So here's one fan hoping for a sequel ;-)
Shaolin Soccer 2004, PG-13)
Kung Fu Hustle 2005, R)
Austin Powers in Goldmember 2002, PG-13)
Lethal Weapon 4 1998, R)
There's a lot of things to love about the Lethal Weapon movies: the action, the humor, the heart and wonderful characters. The list goes on. But the best thing about them is that they're so consistently good. I don't think I've ever seen a film franchise, where each and every sequel maintains the magic of the original. But I guess we owe that to the fact that they all have the same director - namely Richard Donner. A man whose contributions to the action-comedy genre is worthy of great praise. Just too bad his magic died when he entered the 21st century.
Lethal Weapon 2 1989, R)
Lethal Weapon 3 1992, R)
Ronin 1998, R)
Good and solid action-thriller. Lots of nice action scenes and rife with suspense. The only real complaint I have regards the pacing. It's a tad uneven and some scenes could easily have been shorted down without damaging the story. Apart from that minor downside, however, this is a very exciting film. Not least with all the great actors found within its cast.
Deep Impact 1998, PG-13)
Basically the same story as Armageddon, and about as entertaining, but without all the cheese and Michael Bay nonsense. The cast is unfortunately pretty bland, except for Elijah Wood and Morgan Freeman, who both brought a lot of quality to the screen. As compared to other disaster flicks, this one is surely one of my favourites.
Hot Tub Time Machine 2010, R)
Robin Hood 2010, PG-13)
My first thought when I saw the trailer for this was "looks good, but I doubt it'll be a new Gladiator". Well, my presumption proved pretty accurate. You can tell it really wants to be as amazing and epic, but it just doesn't quite get there. There's an ingredient missing that I can't really put my finger to. As an action-movie it's great, but it doesn't have the same emotional power that Gladiator does. I know it might be unfair of me to compare the two, but with the same director and leading actor, it's hard not to. Ridley Scott's directing is great as always, and the cast uncritizisable. But I think putting Russel Crowe in the main role, was an unwise choice. Not due to his acting, but because I associate him too much with his character in said masterpiece. This is more of an auto-pilot job for both him and Scott. Don't get me wrong though, it's still a very enjoyable movie, full of fun and adventure. Just not as great as I had hoped and somewhat disappointing.
Inception 2010, PG-13)
Whenever Christopher Nolan comes out with a new movie, you know it's gonna be something out of the ordinary. And with all the hype that's been circulating around this one, I just had to check it out on the big screen. Anyhow, it didn't take long before I realised I was in for something special. The zero gravity scenes alone knocked the wind out of me, and I got that same great kick as when I saw The Dark Knight for the first time (which is saying a lot, considering it's one of my all-time favourite movies). And although I didn't love this one as much, it's still an amazing tour-de-force, worthy of remembrance. The storyline is mind-boggingly intricate, and about as well-written as a script can be. Nolan is one of exceptionally few directors in this world who knows the formula for a perfectly balanced film. Most don't even come close to his genius and brilliance. So if you're gonna see one movie in the cinema this year, be sure it's this one. It's clever, exhilarating and terrific in all aspects. A mesmerizing experience and one of the best films of the last decade. In other words, don't miss it!
Snatch 2001, R)
Guy Ritchie is to gangster movies what Rolls-Royce is to cars. Never does he fail to impress, and always does he offer quality writing. A king of the genre no doubt, and someone who has done a lot of good for the British film industry. Now, before I lose myself in all the praise for said director, I'd like to focus the rest of the review on the movie in question; suitably named Snatch. First of all, you know you're in for something good when names like Brad Pitt and Jason Statham show up in the credits. Their presence adds lustre to some already well-polished dialogue. Great plot as well, that makes the most of the film's running time. Complete with heists, fights, foul language and cool characters. Yes, it's all in there and waiting to be enjoyed. All you need to do is slide in the DVD disc and get your bowl of popcorn...or whatever snack it is you prefer with your British entertainment.
Silent Hill 2006, R)
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time 2010, PG-13)
Movies based on video games are seldom that exciting. In fact, I've only seen one in all my life that I thought deserved four stars or above (Final Fantasy: Advent Children if you're curious to know). So when this came along, I can't say I was holding my breath. What first seemed as a piece of mediocre film-making, however, actually ended up being an exception to the previously mentioned rule. There's a lot of fun and adventure to be found here, and beautiful scenery to boot. It's said that Disney is planning to make another franchise out of this, and I never thought I'd say this, but I'd be glad to see another sequel or two. Well, at least as long as they're as good as this one. The dialogue may be pretty bland and hackneyed, but it's got a lot of entertainment value and likeable actors. So for all its predictability, it still earns a position on my Top 10 Movies of 2010 list.
Rush Hour 1998, PG-13)
Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker are amazingly funny together. Well, maybe not "rolling on the floor with laughter"-funny, but definitely an entertaining on-screen duo. Chan with his ingenious martial arts and Tucker with his eccentric demeanour and gung-ho personality. Sometimes on the brink of annoying, but never too over the top. In any case, you can't call yourself a true Jackie Chan fan if you haven't seen at least one of the three Rush Hour flicks. A trilogy in which this one remains the best installment.
Money Talks 1997, R)
Good action-comedies is a rare thing to come by these days. But during the 90's they came in the plenty, and this is an excellent example of that. Chris Tucker (being as loud-mouthed as he is) isn't always easy on the ears, but he's still a great and really funny actor, and always brings a lot of energy to the screen. The stuff that goes on story-wise may not be very believable, but it is, undeniably, highly entertaining. A perfect pick when you feel like just kicking back and watching something that doesn't require too much thinking.
The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear 1991, PG-13)
Altough I may not like it as much as the first movie, it's definitely a comedy worth returning to. Leslie Nielsen is still the uncrowned king of dead-pan comedy, as he always knows how to make the best of what he has to work with. So if you're in for 90 minutes of good clean fun, then this movie sure makes for a worthy choice.
The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult 1994, PG-13)
About as good as the second Naked Gun movie, except this one includes the questionable addition of Anna Nicole Smith, who couldn't act if her life depended on it. Thankfully, however, Leslie Nielsen is nothing short of great as always.
The Naked Gun - From the Files of Police Squad! 1988, PG-13)
Not Another Teen Movie 2001, R)
Great spoofs, hot girls, awesome soundtrack and a cameo by Mr.T. Yes, this movie has it all! Parodying teen flick classics such as The Breakfast Club, American Pie and 10 Things I hate About You, it's a pure joy to watch for a movie-buff like myself. If you get all the references, then you're in for a 80 minute laugh riot. If not, well, then you might not find it as funny. In my book though, this counts as one of the most underrated comedies ever made. And the musical number by the end gets more priceless for every time. In fact, I still find myself quoting this film on a regular basis. Not for everyone, but personally, I love every second.
Hot Shots! Part Deux 1993, PG-13)
Robin Hood: Men in Tights 1993, PG-13)
Charmingly fun and one of the best parodies of all time, despite the fact that most of the jokes are kind of bad and cheap. What makes up for that though is the big glint in its eye combined with a very likable cast. And it was hilarious to see Patrick Stewart in such an unusual role. Especially as I'm more used to seeing him as the all-too-uptight Jean Luc Picard in Star Trek TNG.
Superman 1978, PG)
Wow, it's been ages since I saw this film. I think last time wasn't even on this side of the millenium. It's still good after all these years, even if I don't love as much now as when I was younger. One thing that will never fade with time though, is the fantastic music theme, composed by no other than the eminent John Williams. The action scenes remain brilliant as well, and are even up to par excitement-wise with today's superhero movies (albeit the special effects obviously have a lower "wow" factor). So when all is said and done, this still keeps its status as a charming and lustrous classic.
The Addams Family 1991, PG-13)
Gothic comedy has never been as fun as it is in this movie. Great gags, wonderful characters and deranged in the best sense of the word. I enjoyed it a lot as a kid, and still do now as an adult. The child acting especially is quite fantastic, and Christina Ricci steals the show as Wednesday Addams. The perfect pick to watch your friends and family on Halloween. That much I can promise.
Addams Family Values 1993, PG-13)
Trainspotting 1996, R)
Danny Boyle's all-time best achievement! When I saw this the first time back in the 90's, I was mostly just grossed out and depressed by it. It simply wasn't my cup of tea. Now that I'm older and wiser, however, I can appreciate it on a whole different level. Sure, it's still quite appaling to look at, what with its volatile settings and gag-inducing moments. And the scene with the baby that crawls in the ceiling is yet as creepy as ever. But it's a story told in a really mesmerizing way, and one that came to define the decade in which it was made. Danny Boyle's directing is right on the money and the dialogue as superb as dialogue can be. It's stylish, raw and loaded with interesting characters. I didn't know who Evan McGregor was in those days, nor most of the other cast members, so it's fun to suddenly recognize a lot of faces that were unknown to me before (like Rome's Kevin McKidd for instance). Perfect tempo, pristine acting and a tremendously enjoyable watch. Just be wary of the fact that it's quite a graphic experience. So if you got a sensitive stomach, you might wanna reconsider. To the rest of you though, I'm happy to give it my highest recommendation. For one thing is for sure here: films of this superior quality, certainly don't come in a bundle.
Superbad 2007, R)
Funnier than I remember. The dialogue, the comedic timing, the high recognition factor - there's more than a few things to enjoy about this movie. It dips a bit in quality in the second half (too much screen-time with Seth Rogen as an unfunny cop), but it's nevertheless one of the best high school comedies of the past decade. Love the writing and the characters. And who can forget the legendary McLovin.
Jackass - The Movie 2002, R)
2012 2009, PG-13)
Precisely what I expected it to be: a highly entertaining, yet crappily written disaster flick. Just like in Emmerich's previous films, the special effects are breath-takingly good. Definitely some of the best I've ever seen. The script, however, is so full of clichés that the film really has no identity at all. Many scenes will make you cringe, and there's such an overload of sappiness and cheese, that it almost bordered on becoming a parody. I mean, I know it's hopeless to look for believability in this type of story, but when the main characters make a close-call plane escape for the third time in a row, it started to get on my nerves. And by the end, you just dont care anymore about who lives and who dies. Even so, I have to say I really enjoyed this film for the most part. Because altough being founded upon a lousy screenplay, it sure delivered on the action. In other words, a good popcorn flick, but nothing that will leave you wiser in the aftermath.
RoboCop 1987, R)
Verhoeven sure has a knack for making great sci-fi actioners. This is a true classic of the genre, that is as entertaining today as it was when I saw it the first time around. Perhaps even more so now, considering how much it excels compared to its contemporary counterparts. A very brutal and gutwrenching film, but that's also part of the reason to what makes it so effective and engaging (I'm still haunted by that scene where Murphy is mercilessly gunned down). It's just a bit weird to see the dad from That 70's Show as a murderous criminal. But he does his role really well and with credibility. As goes for the story, which despite its far-fetched and often parodic nature, I had no problem buying. A well-directed and quite unique movie altogether, that also goes into history as one of the first I ever saw.
The Mighty 1998, PG-13)
Wonderfully written story, about two young bully victims - both outsiders and disabled in their own way - who find a best friend in each other, and together overcome their burdens and tormentors. Kieran Culkin is really funny as the clever and quirky "Freak", and shows that the talent in the family isn't limited to his brother Macaulay. Equally positive comments can be applied to the rest of the cast. Everyone plays their role to perfection and gives it their very best. But what I love most about the film is the way it is told. A great narration - divided into chapters like a book - and with an homage to the classic tale of King Arthur and his knights. A film for the heart, that provides hope, humor and a well-needed message. See it and enjoy an inspirational piece of film-making.
Reign of Fire 2002, PG-13)
Thor 2011, PG-13)
Thunderously good! After so many countless disappointments in the superhero genre, I'm glad there's one whose hammer can be held high and proudly. Electrifying action scenes, nice sense of humor and special effects worthy of a god. These are the pillars that bear the weight of this film and keep it from ever straying into lesser realms. So allow yourself the same pleasure and give this mythological spectacle a watch. For I dare to pledge truthfully that good times await.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 2011, PG-13)
Yarr, me hearties! It's the fourth time around with the one and only Jack Sparrow, altough this time with a slightly different crew beneath the sails. A solid adventure no doubt, even if it "borrows" heavily from other movies. As compared to previous escapades, I would have to say that this unfortunately is the weakest in the series. Still better than most popcorn movies though, and as someone who loves all things pirate-y, I found myself fully enjoyed. So put on that red bandana of yours and set sail to your local video store for a proper good time.
Cocoon 1985, PG-13)
Magical and underrated, this wonderful sci-fi story still gives me goosebumps. I know many don't love it as much as I do, but there's just something about it that has me captivated every time. One thing is the amazing music score, which some of you may note has been re-employed in the trailers for J.J Abrams' Super 8. Another is the cast, who are all very endearing in the characters they portray. Finally, I'd also like to give credit to the special effects team, who really did the best job possible with the technology available at the time. The ending especially is quite spectacular. Not a film for everyone, but in my book it counts as one of the best "alien visitation" films ever made. A delightful, although bittersweet experience, that has truly stood the test of time.
Police Academy 1984, R)
Criminally underrated, and as are the sequels (most of them anyhow). Judging from the low ratings on IMDB, it seems a lot of people dislike the whole Police Academy franchise. I can understand if it's not to everyone's humor, but in my opinion they've received an undeserved amount of bashing. Sure, they may be really stupid and over the top, but aren't parody flicks supposed to be? Now I can't speak for the whole series, as I haven't seen some of the last installments, but I've always enjoyed them for their lighthearted goofiness. There's such a great variety of characters, and all with their own unique and fun personalities. Like Michael Winslow for instance, a.k.a "The Sound Effects Guy". I never get tired of watching his acts. And what teenage boy haven't fantasized about a hot night with Leslie Easterbrook. She may put me in cuffs any day of the week.
Police Academy 2 - Their First Assignment 1985, PG-13)
Police Academy 3 - Back in Training 1986, PG)
Super 8 2011, PG-13)
Super is the word here, and one that can be applied to almost every aspect of this movie. And these days when Spielberg is but a shadow of his former self, I'm glad he's made the wise choice to pass the torch to J.J Abrams. He might never become the master director that Steven was during his golden years, but he sure has gotten close to that level already. In this wonderful tribute to a classic form of story-telling, Abrams' attempts to re-create some of that long lost Hollywood magic. And for the most part he succeeds brilliantly. Giving a lot of room to the characters, instead of just showering us with CGI effects like most films nowadays, made it engaging as well as incredibly entertaining. It's fun, touching and riddled with sweet nostalgia. I bet if I had lived during the 70's, I would have loved it even more. And even though I didn't, I still had a great time watching it. Anyone with a love for sci-fi (or quality films in general) owe it to themselves to go see this. Because believe me when I say that it's worth every cent of the admission fee.
The Big Lebowski 1998, R)
Dark humor at its finest! Jeff Bridges totally owns the film as "The Dude", and Steve Buscemi and John Goodman do superb work as his two best buddies. The phenomenal cast also includes names like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Peter Stormare and Sam Elliot - all bestowed with roles that make the most of their talent. Like all other Cohen movies, it's really one-of-a-kind. It's got its own style and sense of humor, and it's so brilliantly hilarious at times that it had me laughing out loud. The scene at the end where they scatter out the ashes of their deceased friend - not counting in the wind - is one of the funniest moments in the history of comedy.
Shanghai Noon 2000, PG-13)
City Slickers 2 - The Legend of Curly's Gold 1994, PG-13)
Wild Wild West 1999, PG-13)
Liar Liar 1997, PG-13)
Transformers: Dark of the Moon 2011, PG-13)
How do you rate something that is so awesome and so cheesy at the very same time? From a technical and visual standpoint, it's a mind-blowing action-fest. Bay has heeded well to James Cameron's advice and made the coolest 3D feature since Avatar. But while the SFX are virtually flawless, the script and set-up is anything but. The first half contains so many pointless gags and ridiculous scenes, that it's impossible not to cringe at its sheer stupidity. They've also humanized the robots far too much, by giving them personalities and accents that strip away their dignity. The acting as well is way over the top, which is particularly noticed on Shia's exaggerated reactions. I blame it on faulty directing though, as opposed to LaBeouf doing a bad job. And of course, in the end, there's the obligatory U.S. flag waving proudly in the wind. You love your country Mr. Bay, we get it already. No need to shove it down our throats along with outworn speeches of freedom. Despite all the mentioned misfires, however, it still amounts to a fun experience. See it for the jaw-dropping action and just try to ignore everything else. For when all is said and done, it does serve its purpose as a dumb, but enjoyable popcorn flick.
Scary Movie 2000, R)
However difficult it may be to accept, the Scary Movie franchise is about as good as spoof films get nowadays. This one in particular isn't much better than its long row of sequels, but it does have enough fun moments to be considered worthwhile. Just don't expect any laugh-out-loud material, as the humor overall is pretty cheap and stupid.
Scary Movie 2 2001, R)
Scary Movie 3 2003, PG-13)
Scary Movie 4 2006, PG-13)
The Kentucky Fried Movie 1977, R)
Crude, nude and not for the prude! As one of the first satire films ever to have been made, this marks the historic birth of a subgenre, that with time has come to generate a whole ocean's worth of offsprings. Very raunchy and experimental by form, yet for the better part quite funny. Some of the jokes are really top-of-the-line, even if the editing and visuals look awfully dated and low-budget. For when they do hit their target, they do so to side-splitting results. One thing that entertained me in particular was the spoof on Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon. Having recently seen said martial arts flick, just made it all the more hilarious. So if you're into this special flair of comedy, I can definitely recommend you to give it a go. That is, if you're not too easily offended by its raw and unapologetic humor. Because if there's one thing this movie doesn't do, it's holding back its punches.
The Exorcist 1973, R)
Scary beyond words! There's something so deeply disturbing about a 12-year old girl being possessed, that it never loses its fright value. This classic among classics still chills me to the very bone, and has made a permanent imprint on my retina. Never has a horror story felt so real, and so profoundly discomforting as this one has. I know it's just a movie. I know it's all just actors and make-up effects. Yet still it continues to scare the living daylights out of me. And the fact that it's inspired by a true story, doesn't make it any less effective.
10 Things I Hate About You 1999, PG-13)
10 Things I Love About This Film:
Your Highness 2011, R)
Knights, wizards, trolls and fair maidens. All congregated for your amusement in a fabulous comedy-adventure with quite the lustrous cast. Not the best quest ever, as the poster would have us believe, but very entertaining in all its vulgar and boundless sense of humor. Sort of in the same spirit as Men in Tights and Monty Python and the Holy Grail, only not fully as clever or brilliant. My expectations here were not very high, so I was quite astonished by how enjoyable it was. A great many of the jokes fall flat on their faces, but I just loved the overall atmosphere and ye olde medieval chatter. Not to mention the heavenly sight of Natalie Portman in a golden thong. You ought therefore bear in mind that my review is rather biased. For what I deemed a most joyous and rousing occation, others may likely find a few ale kegs short of a satisfying feast.
Dave 1993, PG-13)
There's something quite magical about 1993. Not only do I count it as one of the best years of my life, but it's one that also brought us some of the greatest movies I've ever seen. Personal favourites of mine like Jurassic Park and Groundhog Day. Among all those cinematic triumphs, there was also another, more anonymous story. One that sort of fell in the shadow of previously mentioned titans (and that I hadn't really heard of until recently). I'm referring, of course, to Dave. Now, I could speak volumes of what makes this into such a wonderful viewing experience. But as I'm trying to keep my reviews in digestable portions, let me just say the following: Kevin Kline at his career-best, Sigourney Weaver as a lovely first lady. Funny, romantic, touching and inspiring. And these are just a few of the things that I loved about it. An underrated, heartwarming and flawlessly directed comedy, that starts off great and then gets better for every minute thereafter.
Star Trek II - The Wrath of Khan 1982, PG)
By far the best film with the original crew. Somewhat slow to begin with, but once things get going, it's a non-stop ride of pure excitement. Impressive special effects for their time and it might be interesting to know that this was one of the first motion pictures to ever incorporate CGI. Love the music score and Khan is hands down one of the all-time greatest movie villains - in any category!
Dead Silence 2007, R)
There are two things in this world that creeps the hell out of me: the first being clowns and the second being evil puppets. Terrifyingly enough, this movie has both! Now, I'll be honest here and say that I didn't expect much out of this film. In fact, I was but a word of discouragement away from skipping it altogether. But I'm very pleased that I didn't, because this was so much better than I first gave it credit for. In similiarity to Insidious, it's a very atmospheric production, with spooky, nightmarish settings, enveloped in mist and spine-tingling tension. Although the characters are one-dimensional and pretty brainless in their actions, there's a lot to love about the movie in terms of scare factors and excitement. All-around, the directing is superb, and it feels like one of those old-school horror movies that I used to watch as a kid. Surely not to everyone's taste, but if you like Kwan's other films, then you'll probably enjoy this one as well. And did I mention how seriously creepy it is?
Captain America: The First Avenger 2011, PG-13)
What a great year this has been for the comic book genre. First the mighty entertaining Thor, then the X-traordinary X-Men: First Class, and now this: a brillantly crafted depiction of the pure-hearted Captain America. What I first feared would be tiresome superhero fluff - reeking of the worst kind of patriotic cheese - actually turned out to be a really fun ride. Joe Johnston exhibits talents I never thought he had, but I suppose the real credit here goes to the marvellous cast. Favourite thespians of mine like Hugo Weaving and Tommy Lee Jones (whom both are perfectly cast for their roles by the way), do wonderful work with their characters, and Chris Evans brings a performance so genuine and sympathetic, that's it up there among great icons like Christopher Reeve's Superman. Moreover, we're treated to state-of-the-art special effects, a terrific music score by Alan Silvestri and loads of other creative delights for the senses to take pleasure in. Captain America is a movie that could easily have become a turkey (just look at the 1990 version, and you'll know what I mean), but instead it does just the opposite, and delivers a fun, heartfelt and pulse-pounding story, with a superhero so likeable, that his every triumph feels like a victory of your own. Of course it has its blemishes and things that could have been done better, but they're really too insignificant to be taken into consideration. There's just one thing alone that's really bad about this film: the fact that it makes the wait for The Avengers so much harder to endure. That being said, it's definitely a feature that ought to be caught at the theatres. A smashing, grandiose and supremely directed action-fest, that not only entertains to the fullest extent, but also bears within a rare spirit of heart and true heroism.
Cowboys & Aliens 2011, PG-13)
Saddle up and get ready for action, because this is one exciting ride of a movie that is guaranteed to knock your socks off. For some reason beyond me though, opinions seem to be very diverted about this film. Some have naught but love for it, while others express severe disappointment. Well, I can tell you right now that I'm permanently settled in the "loved it" camp.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes 2011, PG-13)
Superb prequel, that far exceeds its promise. I was a little worried for a while that this would be a soulless CGI-fest, but thanks to a crisply written script and a director with a great eye for details and some real passion for his work, it shaped itself into something far more sophisticated. However entertaining and well-conceived the action may be, the true bulk and strength of this film, is its ability to make us care. We're not just watching a bunch of apes go bananas, we're delving into the very essence of their being. Our prime focus of the story, Caesar the chimpanzee, is an incredibly fascinating character, who gets us emotionally invested into his every action and behavior. I hope Andy Serkis gets the recognition he deserves at the awards shows next year, because I don't think there's a person in the world who could do as an amazing of a job as he has done here. Add also that the special effects are really breath-taking; looking as realistic as to have us fully forget that they were created in a bunch of computers. Rupert Wyatt may have made a film about rampaging primates, but he's certainly not running any monkey business. Because this is the genuine article, the real McCoy, and everything you could ever wish it to be. An action-drama of the highest calibre, that delivers goosebumps in spades and immerses you completely. An extraordinary piece of film-making, which I unquestionably count as one of the greatest highlights of the year. In other words, not to be missed!
First Knight 1995, PG-13)
Starts off mediocerly, but once Sean Connery enters the stage as the fabled King Arthur, the quality level is instantly raised. Richard Gere looks a bit misplaced as the fearless Sir Lancelot, and wouldn't have been my first pick for the role, but he still takes it on to the best of his abilities. As for Julia Ormond, she's quite lovely as Princess Guinevere, altough I would have very much liked to see her put a little more energy into her performance. What speaks for the film in positive terms, however, is the atmosphere and action, along with a highly enchanting music score by the brilliant Jerry Goldsmith. It's so good, in fact, that I've made it a part of my inspirational music library. If there is one thing I could change though, it would be the costumes. They look a little plain and cheap for what is essentially a period piece. Maybe they ran out of money when it came to clothing the actors? Apart from said maladies though, it remains a captivating tale of love, chivalry and sweeping adventure. Easily one of the better renditions of the Arthurian legend.
Demolition Man 1993, R)
Casper 1995, PG)
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen 1989, PG)
The Adventures of Tintin 2011, PG)
Dream duo Jackson and Spielberg brings us a beautifully rendered adventure, filled with humor, action and tons of breath-taking visuals. Reminiscent of Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean, it's a fusion of two matinée genres that I've loved ever since I was a child. I never read much of the Tintin comics, but I've always had a predilection for stories that involve pirates and treasure hunting. As for the voice-cast, they really couldn't have given the jobs to any better actors. Jamie Bell perfectly nails my idea of what Tintin's voice should sound like, while Andy Serkis is as brilliant as ever as the whimsical and eccentric Captain Haddock. And with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as the Thompson twins, you really couldn't ask for more. With this and James Cameron's Avatar, the veil between animation and reality is growing ever thinner. Some shots are so spectacularly executed, that you'll be sitting with your jaw open, marveling at the cinematic wonders unfolding on screen. One thing that delighted me in particular was its fantastic sense of humor. I knew it would good adventure-wise, but I never quite imagined it would be so outrageously funny. And not just in a couple of scenes, but practically every single one. I'm really glad that Spielberg and Jackson paired up for this project, because the latter seems to have brought out Spielberg's joy in film-making again. His magic, his sense of fun and all the great things that I've missed from his classics. As opposed to his recent collaborations with the nowadays-soulless George Lucas, whose bitterness and apparent lack of passion, have only served to poison and obstruct him from greatness. Anyways, as a final note, I might also add that my friends whom I saw it with, all agreed with me unanimously on this being a supremely entertaining film. Usually our tastes are extremely divergent, but this was one of the rare exceptions where we all concurred. I guess it just shows how universally qualitative it truly is. You can be old or young, intelligent or dumb, and still find some gold in this film to take tremendous pleasure in. My only gripe concerns the ending, which was a bit of an anti-climax. But I'm happy nonetheless about the possibility of more Tintin movies coming our way. Because if they're anything like this one, then we have a lot to look forward to in the future.
Re-Animator 1985, R)
Graphic, gory and amazingly entertaining! It's hard to imagine that a zombie movie from the 80's, with such a no-name cast, could be this absorbingly brilliant. It's kind of like a modern-day version of Frankenstein, except much more extreme and bloody. One of the things that makes it so great, besides the fantasic make-up and gore effects, is the excellently written script. Not only is it teeming with smart and interesting dialogue, but it's also quite funny at times with its morbid sense of humor. A surprisingly good horror treat, that I wish I had seen a lot sooner. Not for the faint of heart though, but I guess you already knew that.
Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut 2006, PG)
Just as good as the original, if not better yet. More action, more fun and more interesting villains. Special effects-wise, it's awfully dated, but I didn't really mind that much, as the entertainment level is kept at a constant high. The only part that bugs me a bit is the one where the bad guys fly around in that flat square thingy in space. It just looks so tacky and ridiculous, that you might as well be watching an Ed Wood movie. Or the eye-roll-inducing fact that Lois Lane is the only one who notices the obvious resemblance between Clark Kent and Superman - and it took her a whole movie, plus who knows how many encounters with him, before it finally dawned upon her. Personally, I prefer more realistic superhero films like Christopher Nolan's two masterpieces, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, but this well-made sequel does have it charms as well. One thing that will never get old, is the beautifully orchestrated music by the one-and-only John Williams. Nor Christopher Reeve's iconic performance, which shall always be remembered. Although I doubt anyone will ever nail the role as perfectly as he did, I'm glad though that the saga lives on through other creative film-makers. Next up we have Zack Snyder's Man of Steel to look forward to, which has every potential to be a winner. That is, assuming he doesn't let us down again with another Sucker Punch to our faces. Either way, I'll definitely be getting my ticket.
The Mask 1994, PG-13)
Wacky, looney and amazingly entertaining! This is easily one of Carrey's best movies, and the performance he gives here almost leaves you lost for words. His energy seems completely without limit and he delivers with such perfect comedic timing, that it'd be an insult to call him anything less than a genius. Another plus is Cameron Diaz, who looks more stunning here than any other role I've ever seen her in. Don't expect your intellect to get very stimulated though, because this is more of a live-action cartoon than a regular comedy. Kind of like Who Framed Roger Rabbit, only more high tempo. So if you liked that film, you're gonna love this one.
A.I. Artificial Intelligence 2001, PG-13)
Can a robot be taught to love and be genuinely loved in return? Exploring this very fascinating subject, as well as a number of other philosophical themes, this well-crafted sci-fi yarn has much to offer when it comes to engaging moral debate. Spielberg, who took over the helm for this film after the sudden passing of Stanley Kubrick, knows how to effectively win our attention and pull at our heartstrings. Many have accused this film of being too sentimental, and in some ways I may agree. Overall though, I thought it was a very poignant and thought-provoking experience. Revolving around the fate of a "mecha child" named David (played outstandingly by Haley Joel Osment), it's a story that really gets under the skin, with its rather complex dilemmas and haunting visuals. Is it right to treat an artificial being however we please, simply because it's not human? And where do we draw the line between life and non-life? You'll find it difficult to watch this movie, without pondering at least once about these questions. Pacing-wise, things move very slowly in the first hour or so, but once David is set free into the world, the story gets a lot better and become really exciting and adventurous. Beside Haley, the ensemble also includes talents like Brendan Gleeson and Jude Law. Law especially is really superb as the robotic "Gigolo Joe", who goes on the run after being tied to a murder he did not commit. Phenomenal special effects to boot, which even 10 years after their making, still impresses the eyes. My favourite part of the movie comes with its final 30 min, where we are transported through time to quite an imaginative vision of Earth in the far-distant future. I wish I could say more, but I don't wanna spoil anything for those that haven't seen it yet. What I can divulge though, is that it's a journey well worth taking. Especially if you're a fan of either of its two master storytellers.
Elf 2003, PG)
Will Ferrell has never been funnier than he is in this movie. One of the reasons why is because it stands out a bit from his usual comedy repertoire. His character - a human elf named Buddy who travels to New York in search of his real father - bears a child-like innocence that makes him incredibly likeable. Usually, I consider Ferrell's films to be average at best (some I've even turned off because I thought they were so bad), but this is one of the very few occasions where he has genuinely wowed me. Along with a wonderful supporting cast and John Favreu's spot-on directing, it breaks away from the standard Christmas fare, creating that special magic that goes straight into the heart. I really enjoyed it the first time I saw it, and with a second viewing, it became all the better. Warm, effervescent and brimming with holiday spirit, this is one of my absolute favourites to watch in this time of the year.
The Santa Clause 1994, PG)
Fanboys 2008, PG-13)
This comedy combines two things I love into one heavenly mix. One being road trip movies, and the other a certain space opera by the incomprehensible George Lucas. And if there's one thing I can't enough of (whether it be for tribute, satire or a little bit of both), it's Star Wars-inspired stories. This one in particular lands on the qualitative end of the spectrum, and was an enjoyable watch throughout. Even more so as it includes some fun cameos by actors such as Kevin Smith, William Shatner, Carrie Fisher, Seth Rogen and the legendary Billy Dee Williams. Not to be missed if you're a Star Wars fan!
Mission: Impossible 1996, PG-13)
There are spy thrillers and then there's Mission Impossible. A non-stop cavalcade of action, adrenaline and top notch suspense. With some sure-handed directing by Brian De Palma and a well-merged team of actors with Tom Cruise in the lead, this first entry in the series is undoubtedly one of the best. I haven't seen "Ghost Protocol" yet so I can't make any comparison there, but if it's anything like the original, I know I'll be in for some first-rate entertainment. My only real beef is that the movie demands considerable suspension of disbelief. I recently read in an article though, that the extremely sophisticated methods made famous by the vault scene, were - believe it or not - successfully replicated by some real-life professional thieves. In this case, it was a heist pulled off at a Best Buy store, which may not sound as cool as breaking into the HQ of CIA, but it certainly goes to show that it's all fully plausible. Either way, the explosive turn of events and rip-roaring pacing, makes Ethan Hunt's first mission anything but impossible to watch.
Mission: Impossible III 2006, PG-13)
Lighting the fuse for the third time, we have once again become guests in a world where masked identities and high-tech gadgetry is just business as usual. Briskly paced and stuffed with suspense, the two-hour running time is anything but conspicious. At least in comparison to the inferior "MI2", which often prompted a few looks at the clock. This time around, the cast has received a nice upgrade as well, with the versatile Philip Seymour Hoffman as a malicious and very believable villain. Other additions include the sleek and sexy Maggie Q, a well-performing Laurence Fishburne and the very humorous Simon Pegg. All of whom does spot-on work with their roles, together with established veterans Tom Cruise and Ving Rhames. A lot of compliments can be given to the action as well, where the explosions and gunfire comes in rich and generous supply. It also boasts an advantageous increase in charm and sentiment; so if you're the type of person who enjoys a little humor with the thrills (as well as some tender romantic moments), you won't be left unsatisfied. For some reason though, I only gave this a 3 out of 5 rating when I first saw it back in 2006. Maybe I was having a bad day or something, because on this second viewing, I thought it was just as great as the original. A smart, ambitious and expertly directed crowd-pleaser, that certainly merits its reputation as above-average escapist fare.
Vegas Vacation 1997, PG)
Alien 1979, R)
Whenever I hear the word "timeless" I think of movies like this one. I mean, considering it's still scary, and still looks good after almost 30 years since it premiered, is a true testimony to Ridley Scott's brilliance as a director. It may not be my favourite among the Alien films (the sequel by James Cameron still holds the crown to me), but it's still one of the best movies ever made, in the sci-fi and horror category alike. I think I've seen it about 6-7 times by now, and I'm bound to see it many times more.
Aliens 1986, R)
James Cameron's thrill-a-minute action spectacle is an impeccably executed masterpiece, that not only honors the original, but improves upon it. I have nothing but love for the first film, but in terms of sheer adrenaline, Aliens takes home the trophy on any given day. Epically entertaining throughout, it's the perfect union between sci-fi, action and otherworldly horror. There's just so much awesomeness going on at the same time, that it's hard break down its success to any singular component. Much the same way that Ripley and the "grunts" combine their resources in battle, it's the team effort that gives this film its golden and hard-earned glow. Apart from a first-rate cast who act their heart out at every opportunity, we also have the marvellous set design, outstanding special effects and a script as well-written as to put most sci-fi actioners to shame. It also strikes a blow for female heroines in cinema, with three strong and fearless women (including one brave little girl with some seriously impressive survival skills), who displays more cojones in the face of danger, than all the men in the cast put together. So if you're under the impression that this is a guy movie, think again! It's so unbelievably good, that I seriously doubt they'll ever make a movie quite like it again. They may get close, but there won't be any cigars. For this is the mother of all action movies, that is yet to find its equal. A no-holds-barred pulse-pounder, that serves up an unparallelled buffé of scares, excitement, suspense and cool dialogue. Or as Corporal Ferro would say it: "In the pipe, five by five!"
Alien3 1992, R)
Alien Resurrection 1997, R)
Best known to the world for his wonderful gem Amélie, French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet was a rather unlikely helmsman for a project of this nature. I mean, going from flowery and lighthearted comedy to something as dark and gritty as an Alien movie, is quite the artistic leap. Even more surprising, however, is his success in adding a worthy installment to the franchise. I know many consider this the weakest in the quadrilogy - and yes, it does get a little cheesy and over the top at times - but all in all, I think it's a great and underrated installment. Having Ripley resurrected through the magic of cloning, may be a cheap way to return her to the story, but I'd rather see her present in the film, than not at all. Backed up by some really memorable supporting characters - including a half-crazy Ron Perlman and the equally exceptional Brad Dourif - it's quite the wild space ride, filled with excitement, badassery and skin-crawling close encounters. That being established, I don't really care what they critics say. Because this is a highly entertaining sequel that more than meets my requirements for a fun and action-packed evening.
Die Hard 1988, R)
Die Hard 2 1990, R)
Die Hard 3: With a Vengeance 1995, R)
Gets better for every time! A highly underrated sequel that nearly matches all the fun and brilliance of the original. Jeremy Irons makes a great villain and Samuel L. Jackson is perfectly cast as John McClane's sidekick. Lots of twists and turns and non-stop explosive action. Simon says watch this movie! Otherwise you'll be missing one of the coolest, funniest and well-directed popcorn thrillers ever to have graced the realm of cinema.
Live Free or Die Hard 2007, PG-13)
Wow! At first I expected this to be another disappointing sequel of 2007 (yes, I'm looking at you Pirates 3 and Spiderman 3) but was happy to see it was much better than I had anticipated. Sure, the action was very over the top and the script could have used a little polishing, but other than that, Bruce Willis is still as energetic and witty as he was in the first three movies. Initially, I wasn't too happy about the idea of McClane having a nerdy teenager for a sidekick, but Justin Long actually adds a lot of positive things to the movie and the dialogue between him and Bruce works wonderfully. Die Hard 4.0 is simply lots of fun and a highly entertaining popcorn-flick. In other words, John McClane is back in top shape! :-)
X-Men 2000, PG-13)
X2: X-Men United 2003, PG-13)
What would the world be like if it didn't have directors like Bryan Singer? Well, if that question was directed towards me, I'd probably say "a whole lot duller and greyish", and this movie proves why. It's not just the best of all the X-Men movies (a title I seriously doubt the new Wolverine flick will snatch away), but also one of the greatest comic-book films ever made. Not many sequels manage to outshine the original, but this one does by far.
X-Men: The Last Stand 2006, PG-13)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day 1991, R)
Hasta la vista baby! If there's one thing that can be said about creative genius James Cameron, it's that he's one of exceptionally few directors in Hollywood who gives the word "sequel" a good name.
Terminator 3 - Rise of the Machines 2003, R)
Star Trek - First Contact 1996, PG-13)
Toy Story 3 2010, G)
There's so much I wanna write about this film, and my complete and total experience with it, that I'm not quite sure where to begin. But if I'm gonna start somewhere, it would have to be on that magical day back in 1996, when I saw Toy Story for the first time in the cinema. I was 11 years old, and like many other kids at the time, I really had no idea what I was in for. But it did not take long for me to fall in love with it. Not only was the groundbreaking 3D-technology amazing to behold, but it had so much heart and spirit, and was so full of fun, that it left an imprint on me that would last until this very day. A memory so profound that it counts as one of the great highlights in my whole movie-watching history. In the 14 years that have passed since then, I hadn't seen a single film to match it's greatness. That is, apart from Toy Story 2, which I think is just as wonderful. So it was with great joy I received the news that a third one was in the making. I had a feeling it would be great, but never did I imagine that Pixar would be able to maintain the brilliance of the first two. It's as if no time at all has passed in between them. It just shows once again, that altough Dreamworks and other studios have become increasingly better with the years, they still haven't put out anything as magical as the Toy Story movies. This conlusion to the trilogy is incredibly heartwarming and moving, and really spoke to the kid in me. Woody, Buzz, Jessie and all the other characters are just as funny and endearing as I remember them. It's so much more than just a movie: it's a nostalgic revisit to my childhood, and to the feelings of pure joy that could be experienced with a little imagination and pieces of plastic. If Toy Story 3 proves anything, it's that great memories can come from the simplest of pleasures. And, of course, the technical bits are no less amazing. Top notch animation, wrapped with music by Randy Newman and some truly terrific voice acting...well, it just doesn't get much better than that. An altogether wonderful film, that left me touched, enthralled and with a big smile on my face. So with all the forgettable and lazily-made sequels out there, I'm glad there's at least one animation company that still cares about delivering a memorable story. Anyone who is still in touch with their inner child (yours truly included), are bound to feel connected with the core and soul of this film. A fantastic movie from beginning to end and one of the best animated features I've ever seen.
Toy Story 2 1999, G)
Toy Story 1995, G)
Braveheart 1995, R)
Mel Gibson's monumental masterpiece, of which he is both the leading star and the director, is a sweeping and majestic ode to one of history's most beloved heroes, William Wallace. Each and every scene a pure cinematic delight, this is a motion picture for the ages, that just gets better and more dazzling with time. Breathtaking scenery, sensational, Oscar-winning action scenes and one of the most beautifully orchestrated music scores ever produced, merits this grand and stunning epic a very special place in my movie-loving heart. Say what you will about Mel Gibson's sanity and the historical accuracy of the film. For at the end of the day, he knows how to make quality that counts.
The Shawshank Redemption 1994, R)
Starship Troopers 1997, R)
Highly underrated sci-fi adventure, that delivers some of the coolest and most exciting battle sequences ever made for the big screen. Just the fact that I've seen it about ten times by now should speak for how much I love it. What makes it so special and outstanding is that, unlike most other films within the genre, it actually has some genuine intelligence to it. Okay, so it's not Oscar-material script-wise, but it's got such an incredibly cool and exhilarating story, while cleverly satiring political propaganda films (like those produced by the Nazis during WWII). So don't mistake this for just another dumb action movie, because although it may look like one on the surface, this film has lot to say about war and the violence that comes with it. Furthermore, it's got some truly awesome special effects, which still look great and really spectacular by today's refined standards. Be sure to watch it on Blu-ray for the best possible viewing experience. Because as much of a visual treat as this movie is, it truly deserves to be seen in high-definition. An all-around amazing rollercoaster ride, that gets nothing less than my highest recommendation!
Sällskapsresan 2 - Snowroller (Charter Trip 2) 1985, Unrated)
GoodFellas 1990, R)
Masterfully directed crime epic, by one of the world's most ingenious story-tellers, Martin Scorsese. Spanning across several decades, this stellarly crafted biopic invites us to an exclusive sphere of luxury and extreme violence, where everything can and does happen. For me, this is the mob movie of mob movies. All due respect to "The Godfather", but it's got nothing on the sheer excitement and amazing cast of this film. No matter how many times I watch it, I never cease to be mesmerized by the perfectly executed true story. Stylish, insightful, bloody and compelling, it's the work of a true artist, whose every touch and influence, makes for nothing short of pure cinematic magic. A must-see gangster drama and one of my favourite movies of all-time!
Twister 1996, PG-13)
Don't ask me why, but I've always had a real soft spot for these kind of movies. There's just something about the force of nature, and the destruction and mayhem its capable of, that I find wildly fascinating and exciting. Add a really cool story to that, with some great special effects, and it all amounts to being one of my top three favourite disaster flicks. In short, I love it!
Contact 1997, PG)
Final Fantasy VII - Advent Children 2006, PG-13)
As my profile name here on Flixter suggests, I happen to be a huge fan of the game Final Fantasy VII. Therefore, I can't deny that my review and rating of this film is very biased. Anyway, after seeing it now in the director's cut version (or Advent Children: Complete as it's also named), I like it even more than I did previously. This new version, including as much as 30 min extra footage, was a nice treat to be sure (even if the plot remains quite weak compared to that of the original game). A great anime flick in any case though and way better than Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, which isn't even half as good in comparison.
Spaceballs 1987, PG)
Mars Attacks! 1996, PG-13)
American Pie 1999, R)
Best teen comedy I've ever seen! There's just so many things that I love about this movie, that it's hard to know where to begin. Everything is just spot-on, and done with such perfect comedic timing, that it puts all other films in the genre to shame (that including its many sequels). Not to mention all the great characters, like the legendary Stifler. So maybe it's no wonder why I keep coming back for a re-watch. Because this is pure comedy gold, and the movie that set the standard for how teen flicks should be made.
Dante's Peak 1997, PG-13)
One of my favourite disaster movies of the 90's and a true guilty pleasure. I don't quite understand why it's gotten such bad reviews, because it doesn't fail to entertain and has two very respectable actors in the lead, namely Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton. I guess this sub-genre just isn't for everyone, especially as it tends to be short on character development and intelligent writing. Dante's Peak is no exception really, but it has enough excitement and action for me to forgive such shortcomings.
The Muppets 2011, PG)
What's not to love about the Muppets? I had a feeling this would be a fun time at the movies, but I didn't quite anticipate it would be so charmingly brilliant. They took everything I've ever loved about these wonderful characters, placed them in a modern environment, and brought out the best of both worlds. To simply say it's good, would be like saying that Jim Henson was a fairly creative guy. What I can express in words though, is that it's a joyous celebration of life, music and everything inbetween. An upbeat and nostalgic festival of fun, that brings out the inner child in all of us. And the fact that they've been around since the 70's, certainly goes to show that they're anything but an expiring gimmick. Most kid shows from that era are now mere outdated relics, but the Muppets have indubiately proved that they can outlive anything. Seriously, throw a nuclear holocaust at them and you'll still find them doing song numbers in the aftermath. You'd have to be the most cynical person on Earth not to like them. I've seen about every Muppet movie there is to see now, and I can easily say that this is by far the best entry. All due respect to the classics, but this is the one that really won me over. Simple for sure, yet also amazingly clever with its self-aware blend of old, new and something blue (that would be Gonzo). Not to forget all the great wisecracks and play on words (especially by Statler and Waldorf), which has ever been one of my favourite elements within the core of these films. Because with the Muppets, the fun never stops, and whether you're 9 or 99, you'll find that it has something you can enjoy and take to heart. Not just enjoy, but love and cherish for many years to come.
The Artist 2011, PG-13)
What can I say about this wonderful film, that critics and fellow movie-goers haven't already captured in their written acclaim? Well, from a personal standpoint, and as someone who has never before experienced the great wonders of the silent film era, I was both delighted and overwhelmed by how much a movie so muted, can speak in such in tremendous and emotional volumes. From its very first moments, I was absorbed into this black-and-white sensation of a film, and never wanted to leave as it came to a close. Everything has been done so impeccably, so elaborately beautiful in its very essence, that you feel nothing but admiration for the cast and crew behind its making. Director Michel Hazanavicious has succeeded in the near-impossible; bringing back a classic format, that hasn't seen the light of day since 1929. A mesmerizing homage, that not only re-captures the techniques flawlessly, but entertains, moves and sweeps you off into a state of pure awe and inspiration. Yes, The Artist is every bit as amazing as they say. Deserving of all its praise and worthy of all the Oscars that are bound to come in its way. A fantastic, original and incredibly uplifting tour-de-force, that makes everything else in the repertoire look like the work of untalented hacks. A standing ovation and hats off into the air, for this magically brilliant masterpiece, that leaves you as speechless and lost for words as its gifted performers.
Chronicle 2012, PG-13)
When three high school friends discover a mysterious source of power, their lives are suddenly turned upside down, as their newfound abilities make their wildest dreams a reality. At first, everything plays out exactly the way you'd imagine a couple of teenagers would use their powers; as in goofing around with innocent pranks and showing off to the ladies. But like the poster says: it's all fun and games until everybody gets hurt. For as a more darker side begins to emerge along with the discovery of their gifts, their bonds of friendship become ever more strained, leading up to a dire and catastrophic turn of events, where nothing can no longer be controlled and the darkness gets the better of them.
Escape from Alcatraz 1979, PG)
Sharply written and elaborately conceived, Escape from Alcatraz has a well-earned spot among the great classics of its era. A predecessor to films like The Shawshank Redemption (the similiarites between which are quite striking by the way), it blazed an impressive trail for future entrys in the genre. Knee-deep in myth, Alcatraz as a place also holds this amazing allure, which always seems to serve up some fascinating curiosities. Of course, that's not the only thing that makes this movie so brilliantly compelling. There's also the spell-binding performance by Clint Eastwood, in the role of bad-ass convict Frank Morris, as well as a phenomenal set of supporting characters, bringing weight to the story, which is a real killer in every sense. I have seen many of the kind, yet was so fully immersed, that my attention level could be mistaken for a first-time visit to the setting. And when I say fully, I mean hook, line and sinker! For this is nothing short of pure cinematic gold. Highly suspenseful throughout, with a great deal of nerve-shattering and shock value. Definitely not to be missed!
Wrath of the Titans 2012, PG-13)
Clearly an improvement on the first film (if marginally so), Wrath of the Titans is both bigger and better than its inferior predecessor. Not so much in the writing (still very generic I'm afraid), but indubiately in the action. Considerably more epic, the visuals are far more exciting and the 3D quite sublime. As can be imagined, however, the story is where it's really lacking. Commonplace themes of betrayal and godly conflicts, are so trite and hackneyed by now, that it just enters one ear and exits the other. It's one thing if the dialogue had some actual depth, but when the supposed omni-intelligence of its gods can be boiled down to lines like "Let's have some fun!", we as paying audience members are having anything but. All the way through, it felt more like I was playing one of the God of War games, as opposed to watching a movie. The only thing missing was the controller to my PS3. Acting-wise, it's a very mixed bag as well. Sam Worthington, who plays Perseus, our main protagonist, is completely unengaging, phoning in his performance in a very one-note display. What saves the film from utter blandness - apart from the awesome special effects - is the top notch efforts of great character actors like Ralph Fiennes and Bill Nighy. As well as, of course, the constantly brilliant Liam Neeson, who turns in yet another tremendous performance as the Greek God Zeus. Another thing I absolutely loved was the awe-inspiring settings, which at many times felt reminiscent of those in the Lord of The Rings films.. So if you enjoyed Clash of the Titans, you're very likely to be entertained by this follow-up as well. Not a bad sword-and-sandal epic, but if you're looking for something with genuine soul, I'm sad to say you'll walk out of this quite empty-handed.
Titanic 1997, PG-13)
When it first set sail to the theaters in 1997, Titanic was a box-office giant, that broke all prior records and earned an unfathomable 600 million dollars in the U.S alone. For 12 consecutive years it would sit upon this throne, until finally surpassed in 2009 by James Cameron's other mega hit, the epic science fiction wonder, Avatar. Besides the astounding success in the financial department, it's also a technical marvel, with award-winning special effects that still look fantastic by today's exceptional standards. At it's heart we also have the engaging love story, between adventurous charmer Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) and an upper class girl named Rose (Kate Winslet), who against all odds and some extremely precarious situations, break free from the shackles placed upon them (in one scene quite literally), and let their love for each other guide their fates, to whatever uncertain end. Then, of course, there's the historically famous ship, which is like a character in itself with its sheer breath-taking size and majestic interiors. In the hands of any other film-maker, say Roland Emmerich for instance, this would have been a forgettable CGI-fest, with one-dimensional characters and a throw-away plot. But with James Cameron it became something else entirely, as he took the tragic fate of the RMS Titanic, and moulded it into a timeless, beautiful and grand piece of cinema. A triumphant picture, that is one of the most moving and gripping experiences I've ever had as a movie-goer. And even more so when seeing it now in 3D, which turned up the intensity and visual enchantment to even further extents. Simply put, I love this film, and will always regard as one of the greatest stories ever told. A real tear-jerker of a movie, that despite being over 3 hours long, is spellbinding, exciting and pure magic all the way!
Eraser 1996, R)
Ace Ventura - When Nature Calls 1995, PG-13)
The Fifth Element 1997, PG-13)
The Cabin in the Woods 2012, R)
Fresh, innovative and wickedly entertaining, The Cabin in the Woods is one of the most awesome experiences I've ever had at the theatres. Once again certifying Joss Whedon's astounding genius, it raises the bar for the whole horror genre, delivering laughs, thrills and a plot so cleverly designed that it makes everything else in the category look like second-rate garbage. During the first half hour or so, it doesn't seem like anything special: five 20-something friends go on a trip to a remote forest cabin, meet some creepy truck stop guy who speaks of death and impending darkness, or something of the like. Pretty much your average scare fare from the Hollywood assembly line. Or so it seems. Because as the curious youths begin exploring the enigmatic cabin - thus awakening its terrors - we suddenly find ourselves in a deep and ominous situation, where nothing is as it appears and your predictions are thrown completely out the door. I'm gonna stop right there not to give anything away, but let's just say that all hell breaks loose, in a pulse-pounding cavalcade of blood-splattering events, that sets its phaser to "balls-to-the-wall" and keeps it there until the very end. Not since the first season of Lost have I been so absorbed into a fictional place and its arcane oddities. It's like reading a really great mystery novel, that just gets better and better for every page turned and revelations unearthed. I really can't remember the last time I saw a horror-thriller this original and intense - if ever! Everyone in the cast does a pitch-perfect job. Most notably Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connolly, Bradley Whitford and Fran Kranz. The latter of which reminded me a bit of a pot-smoking Shaggy from Scooby Doo. Tremendous kudos also goes to director Drew Goddard, who co-wrote the screenplay with writer-producer Joss Whedon. It's not only brilliant and groundbreaking, but also has a lot of fun with the material. Sometimes a little too much fun as the humor isn't always befitting, but that's about the only flaw this film ever presents. Otherwise it would have been a 5-star achievement. An elaborately written, out-of-the-box fright-fest, that puts a whole new spin to the genre, which for a long time looked to be at a loss for ideas. They sure weren't kidding when they called it the Inception of horror movies. Imagine all your worst nightmares, collected within the frames of a single film. Then add intelligence, adrenaline and an ingeniously unique story concept, and you can't help but love this masterfully crafted entertainment piece. All I can say is: expect the unexpected!
Marvel's The Avengers 2012, PG-13)
Joss Whedon's epic superhero spectacle is everything I could have ever hoped it to be and more! Where most directors would settle for a run-of-the-mill money-maker, Whedon has gone beyond our collective dreams, pouring all his heart, soul and talent into a creation that can only be described as a godly entity of the comic book world. It's to Marvel's great universe what The Dark Knight is to DC's. An all-around stellar achievement, that brings out the best of all its characters, with great humor, warmth and phenomenally directed action. I mean, I knew it would be good, but I wasn't quite ready for this thoroughly mind-blowing experience. Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johanssen and all the rest - there's not a performance in here that isn't absolutely smashing (quite literally in The Hulk's case). And what amazing chemistry between the lot, if not to rank it as utter perfection! The way they work together as a team, poking fun at each other's differences while uniting their various strengths in bona fide comradery, makes not only for grandiose entertainment, but also scenes of pure poignancy, when the common cause leaps into true friendship, involving audacious derring-dos and heart-gripping sacrifice. Action-wise, it's a real powerhouse as well. I have seen some breath-taking battles through the years, but nothing could have prepared me for the awesome showdown of the film's monolithic third act. State-of-the-art visuals, coupled with an incredibly thrilling soundtrack and edge-of-your-seat suspense, leaves you with minimal room to catch your breath and goosebumps so frequent, it feels like the bumps on your skin are gonna stay permanently in that state. Additionally, the film boasts a strikingly cool villain, in the form of the powerful demi-god Loki, played with intensity and malice by a terrific Tom Hiddleston. Easily the best film of the year so far and an extraordinarily stunning crowd-pleaser, that will have you laughing, applauding and overwhelmed with all possible emotions. And that's just to give the sum of it. In the details dwells so much more, and a movie so wealthy in excitement, that you never want it to end. Blockbusters as fantastic as these only come out once every 5 years or so, and it's definitely gonna give Prometheus and The Dark Knight Rises a run for its money. An auteur's vision realized; filled to the brim with fireworks for the eyes and intellect alike. Yet no words can truly it do justice. Like the great arts and wonders of the world, you just have to see and experience it for yourself.
21 Jump Street 2012, R)
Based on the classic TV show that ran in the late 80's, "21 Jump Street" is a striking success of a re-make, that delivers scene after scene of side-splitting fun! If I were to boil it down to its essentials, I'd say there are two prime elements to which its winning formula can be linked:
Battleship 2012, PG-13)
Big-budget special effects: Check! Patriotic cheese: Check! A script full of holes and nonsense, that yet somehow manages to be entertaining? Yup, that's a check on that too! This is a movie designed for all the Transformers fans out there, with all the good and bad that comes with it. A flag-waving love letter to the U.S. Navy, that at times will make you cringe, but for the most part works as servicable fun. You'll probably not be surprised to hear that it's strong points are chiefly found within its technical elements. Top-of-the-line SFX and an excitement-boosting soundtrack (it's a cliché to throw in, but ACDC's "Thunderstruck" just never gets old), elevates the experience in typical Hollywood fashion. But is it worth your hard-earned money? I would say yes, though I can very much sympathize with those who are at a demand for more substance. Question marks are raised throughout, and no matter how much I try to make sense of things, it's impossible to come to any sort of logical conclusion. For example, if the aliens can create force fields around a mile-wide section of water, why not implement the same technology around their own ships as well? Or this really preposterous scene, where a stereotypically nerdy science guy (don't ask me to remember his name) runs into an alien-infested camp, grabs a valuable case, is discovered, but the alien neither makes any decent attempt to stop him, nor chases after him. I mean, what gives? All stupidity aside though, I really enjoyed it on the whole. Very hit-and-miss perhaps, but you can't really expect too much of a movie based on a pen-and-paper game. An eye-popping action spectacle, that keeps itself afloat thanks to an agreeable cast (you can never go wrong with Liam Neeson) and its bombastic, big-scale battles. Rihanna ain't too bad either in her movie screen debut. Not the most developed of roles, but she does the job sufficiently. So to summarize: A solid popcorn flick, that may not offer anything new, but is good while it lasts if you can endure the aforementioned misfires.
The Dictator 2012, R)
Sacha Baron Cohen strikes gold once again, in this outrageously funny comedy, about a North-African dictator who goes on a mission to the U.S, with the agenda to certify that democracy never comes within an inch of his oppressive regime. Things don't go quite according to plan, however, and he suddenly finds himself stripped of his power, title and flamboyant attire to boot. What follows is a hilarious turn of events, where he meets a girl named Zoey (played by a delightful Anna Faris) and tries to make his way back to his ruling position. Based on a novel written by Saddam Hussein, it brilliantly spoofs the sort of insane and eccentric behavior that we've seen not only in Hussein and his sons, but also other infamous dictators like Kim Jong-Il and Idi Amin. Much like in Borat and Brüno it's very vulgar and unapologetic, yet never to the point where it crosses the line (not in my eyes at least). Personally, I love this type of politically incorrect humor, where nothing is holy and everything a target for Cohen's trademark-branded humor missiles. Joke-wise, it isn't always spot-on, and there seems to be a lot of stuff in the trailers that didn't make it into the movie. But I suppose I'll just have to enjoy those when the Blu-ray comes out instead. For in the grand jihad of things, this was a side-splitting fun-fest and the best comedy I've seen all year. A laugh-a-minute parade of hysterically funny antics and perfectly delivered punchlines. You'll either love it or hate it, but to me this was nothing short of comedy gold!
Men in Black III 2012, PG-13)
Phenomenal fun ensues, when Agent J and K suits up for another round against alien scumbags, in this surprisingly brilliant third entry in the MIB universe. Despite reports of production problems - such as the script not even being finished when shooting began - this is Barry Sonnenfeld's best movie since the 1997 original. To say I was flabbergasted, is an understatement.
Prometheus 2012, R)
Prometheus, as the history books will tell us, was a titan in Greek mythology that came bearing great gifts to the human race. It's a fitting allegory, for much like Prometheus, Ridley Scott was once a titan of the cinematic realm, who brought us game-changing masterpieces like Alien and Gladiator. As we all know, however, even giants can fall, and since the turn of the millennium, we've seen very little of the visionary genius that so many of us still admire. Therefore, it was with both considerable fear and anticipation, that I went into this promising return to the genre he helped define. To keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, I won't go much into the details of the story, but what I can say is that - despite some proclamations to the contrary, there's no question that Prometheus is a direct prequel to the original. Besides the stunning cinematography and H.R. Giger's fantastic set designs, however, it hurts me to say that it has very little in common with the 1979 classic. A very bland first half, along with its painfully mundane script and one-dimensional characters, kills - if not to say brutally murders - any potential it had to become another treasured work of art. As much as I wanted to love this film, it failed to live up to the hype and amounts to little more than your average summer blockbuster. Between the dry exchanges of dialogue and chemistry-devoid interactions, however, there are moments of fleeting greatness. Particularily towards the end, where we are reminded of the visionary power that once permeated every piece of celluloid in his old masterfully crafted work. But just as you begin to dream yourself into the magic of the original, it stumbles it way back again into a cesspool of genericness. It's like being handed a very delicious-looking cone of ice cream, but you can only watch on as it melts into a sludgy mess on your shoes. As far as the cast goes, there were only two actors whose characters caught my genuine interest. One being rising star, and Sweden's pride Noomi Rapace, who once again demonstrates what an extraordinary actress she is. Sort of like a modern equivalent of Ellen Ripley, but a little more reserved and mild-mannered in her personality. My other favourite character was the android David, played quite memorably by Michael Fassbender, who - ironic as it may be - adds some well-needed substance to the otherwhise hollow story. Scott has made mistakes in the past, with films like Kingdom of Heaven and Hannibal, but none as gut-wrenchingly disappointing as this. In fact, as of right now, it's my least favourite in the whole franchise. Well, apart from AVP 1 and 2 that is. I don't know what went wrong or why, but it's regrettably evident that Scott has caught the same malady that infected the brain of George Lucas. Had it been any other director who made this, I might have been more forgiving, but there's too many flaws, holes and shortcomings, for me to overlook it as a fan of his. And that it leaves things open for a sequel, doesn't bode too well either. A visually arresting sci-fi epic, but ultimately lacking in gravitas and characters that makes us sympathize. I enjoyed the music, the action, the great atmosphere and elements of horror. But it sadly isn't worth much when the script is such a flat and soulless affair. Because I'm such a huge fan of Scott and the Alien series in general, I stretch myself to give it a 3.5 star rating, which in my book translates as "good, but not great". 3 out of 5 for the first half and 4 out of 5 for the second. In other words, not bad on the whole. I just expected so much more from the man behind two of my all-time favourite movies. For in the end, this is but a shadowy reflection, of a director whose time as master of the genre, has never felt more distant.
Snow White and the Huntsman 2012, PG-13)
Shallow, yet enchanting, Snow White and the Huntsman is an uneven, but overall captivating re-invention of the classic fable. It starts out rather grimly; knee-deep in mud and landscapes drained of life. For many a moments, it looks like we're bound to this gloomy atmosphere, much like Snow White in the castle tower, during her time as prisoner under the evil reign of Queen Ravenna. But as the plot moves forward, making way for new characters and more ravishing settings, it puts a spell on us most delectable; gradually transforming into the adventure it was intended to be. Tempo-wise, it's far from optimal, but I loved its visual flair and striking sense of wonder. All due respect to the Disney version, but I think fantasy is at its best when it bears a dark and ominous tone, and this film had just the right balance of that. Often gritty and foreboding, but also very beautiful and mesmerizing, such as their stay in "Sanctuary" - a far green paradise, inhabited by faeries and all manner of fabulous creatures. As for the acting department, it's unfortunately marked by blunders. Kristen Stewart, who became world-famous through the Twilight craze, evokes no depth to her performance, appearing medicated half the time and employing her usual ideas of "method acting" (which mostly consists of a lot of lip-biting and other facial tics). I wasn't too impressed with Charlize Theron either. At first, she was quite subtle and believable, but then she descends a bit into camp, going over the line with her tempestuous outbursts. Gratefully, however, there are things to make up for said poison in the apple. As mentioned, it's a gorgeously crafted piece of artistry. And while the female leads may falter, Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman was a dependable casting choice, adding humor and vigor to his every moment on screen. Superb casting was done for the dwarves as well, whose delightfully funny interplay - between marvellous actors like Ray Winstone, Nick Frost and Ian McShane - stood for many of the picture's highlights. Take the exquisite special effects into account, and it all amounts to an absorbing concoction of swordplay, magic and alluring visuals. In parts a great escapade, in others somewhat dreary. But still a positive and very entertaining experience, that fills the spirit with grand excitement and your longues of this wonderful air of old school fantasy. For although a modern twist with crème de la crème CGI, it felt more like a sibling to the likes of Time Bandits and Ron Howard's Willow. These and other virtues, made it a more than wortwhile quest to my local cinema.
Ice Age: Continental Drift 2012, PG)
Chilling out with Sid and his buddies is always a frosty treat. You'd think these sub-zero heroes would have run out of gas by now, but if there's anything that Sid the Sloth has proved, it's that as long as he's around, there'll be plenty of gas for everyone!
American Reunion 2012, R)
Hail to the Stifmeister! If someone had told me this would be just as funny as the original, I would have given him the look of doubt and thought "no way!". But it's astonishingly true; American Reunion is virtually as hilarious as its predecessor from -99. It's almost hard to believe it's been that long since we first aquainted ourselves with Jim and his colorful friends. So what have the boys been up to in those last 13 years? Well, quite a lot actually, and we're not just talking recessing hairlines here. Jim is now a dad, Oz a bit of a C-celebrity and reporter for a newscast, and Stifler, well, he's still very much the same, except now he occationally wears a suit and tie to his office job. What immediately becomes clear is 1.) some have aged more well than others, and 2.) the acting talent is still everything between mediocre and outstanding. Jason Biggs and Sean William Scott remain my favourites of the lot though. Not to mention Eugene Levy, who plays Jim's well-meaning, but embarassingly open dad. He keeps getting funnier with each film and delivers his best performance to date. Evidently they're not teens anymore, but as wild and crazy as they get here, it feels like no time has passed at all. So much could have gone wrong with this film, yet they nail every joke and keep the laughs coming throughout. And it wouldn't be an American Pie flick without the traditionally awkward situations, worth a couple of good cringes. But isn't just outrageously fun, it has heart too! All the character arcs are wrapped up with great and fitting closures, leaving you with a nice, warm feeling inside and a smile most satisfied. Even John Cho and Neil Patrick Harris make a short appearance in the film; the former of whom will always be legendary for coining the term "MILF". Nudity, alcohol, off-the-hook partying - it's all in there as it should be! But what separates this from the usual comedy fluff (or some of the other sequels in the franchise for that matter) is that it makes us feel like one in the gang, as opposed to just resorting to gratuitous sex scenes and excessive use of the F-word. Sure, it's really raunchy, but it has brains to go along with it! So if you love this bunch as much as I do, you'll be happy to know it's the best film since numero uno. Greatest of all, Stifler has still got it, delivering the biggest laughs of the movie and sealing his status as the most lovable deuche-bag of all-time! That and other merits makes me eager to come back for another slice of pie! Although preferably a piece that hasn't been anywhere near Jim. Update (2013-08-06): Not as great the second time around (hence a reduction from 4 to 3 1/2 stars). A re-watch made its imperfections all the more conspicuous. Still the best in the series since the original though.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2012, PG-13)
Let me be perfectly frank here: I had my doubts about this one. A reboot only 10 years after the release of the original? It made my spider senses tingle - and not in a good way! As we all know, however, appearances can be deceiving and despite all my fears, qualms and misgivings, this turned out to be a worthy and altogether excellent continuation of Spidey's high-flying adventures.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 2012, R)
Van Helsing, Blade, Dean and Sam Winchester. There's certainly no shortage of vampire hunters in the realm of visualized fiction. I never quite imagined, however, that the Great Emancipator himself would join those merited ranks. A winning concept no doubt, but is the movie as awesome as its title? As we've previously seen in Wanted and the Russian-made Day Watch, director Timur Bekmambetov has an impressive knack for cool and stylish visuals. His particular abilities in that area is showcased here as well, though thankfully without overshadowing the genre-fusing plotline. They could have toned it down a little in the action though. Like so many times before in the ambivalent sphere of popcorn movies, it's in too much of a hurry and rather choppy in the editing. I really enjoyed the neat set pieces, but it often goes into overdrive, misusing the slow-motion technique that we first saw on the big screen with Zack Snyder's 300 (you know, where they slow everything down, speeds it up really fast and then slows it down again). It's getting a little tiresome when employed in such excess. But it's a very fun and pleasant ride, that honors Lincoln's legacy, while entertaining us through and through. An example of that is a rip-roaring train sequence, that involves Abe fighting off a host of vampires, with the train speeding hastily across a wooden bridge, crumbling in flames. It was exceptionally exciting, despite the shortcomings mentioned. Albeit mostly consisting of unknowns, I really liked the cast as well. Leading man Benjamin Walker, who sort of reminded me of a young Liam Neeson, does a terrific job in the title role; instilling the legendary president with dignity and charm, yet chopping off vampire heads with equal effectiveness. Excellence also springs from Mary Elizabeth Winstead, as Lincoln's darling wife, Mary Todd. She is the epitome of beauty and lethality combined. So when all is said and done, the adventures of "Honest Abe" made for a highly enjoyable and captivating hunt. It's just too bad he never caught the scent of Twilight's Edward Cullen. His head on a spike would have earned it an instant 5-star rating!
The Dark Knight Rises 2012, PG-13)
Christopher Nolan's epic conclusion to The Dark Knight saga, is everything we've come to expect from him and a worthy finale to one of the greatest film trilogies ever made. Right off the bat (pun intended), its absorbs us yet again into the chaotically beating heart of Gotham and its citizens. Rather slowly so in the first half, but it still captures your full attention as beautifully as before. Highly anticipated and hyped up beyond belief, there will be the inevitable comparison between this and The Dark Knight. With the predecessor setting the bar so unfathomably high, the question we all ask is how could it possibly top or even match said masterpiece? Well, as I initially suspected, it doesn't. That isn't to say it's full of guano though, for although falling marginally short of perfection, this is nonetheless a grand and awe-inspiring spectacle. A majestically crafted ending, that breaks the long-enduring curse of the disappointing third installment. For where movies like Spider-Man 3 and The Matrix: Revolutions missed the mark, The Dark Knight Rises gives the superhero threequel a good and dignified name. Okay, so we may be one Joker short in the deck, but that's no reason to despair, because Tom Hardy as Badass Bane and Anne Hathaway as The Catwoman, are more than welcome additions to the cast, excelling in their respective roles to supremely satisfying results. Truth be told, I had some worries about Catwoman feeling too cheesy or out-of-place in this more grounded Batman universe. But she actually fits really well into the plot and emits strong and meaningful rapport with our Caped Crusader. And once they roll out the big guns in the awesome third act, you'll have a hard time maintaining your breathing, as sequence after sequence of jaw-dropping action, leaves you thrilled, ecstatic and emotionally stirred. A bat-tastic, full-throttle display of cinematic fireworks, that - best of all - uses a minimum of CGI and focuses on the raw power of old-school artistry and all its talented thespians involved. My hat off to Christopher Nolan, for elevating the superhero genre to such unparalleled heights. May his phenomenal trilogy forever be cherished and serve as a paragon for generations to come. For as the story now comes to a close, it's a bittersweet departure into cinema legend, that makes it sad to see our Dark Knight go. But as I always like to phrase it: better left on a high, than milk the franchise dry!
Forrest Gump 1994, PG-13)
Epic in scope and triumphant in spirit, Forrest Gump is a larger-than-life piece of film-making, that scored home an impressive 6 Oscars in 1995, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor in a Leading Role. It revolves around the eventful and remarkable life of a mentally, and for some time physically challenged man, who looks at the world through very unique and innocent eyes, as he becomes part of some of the key events that shaped America as a nation. Famous historical figures like Elvis, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon and John Lennon, are just some of the people that he encounters on his grand and amazing journey. Director Robert Zemeckis is a magician behind the camera, delivering world-class visual story-telling that truly captures the heart and mind in really spell-binding ways. So much love and passion have gone into its making, and it's one of those rare cinematic miracles, where all parties involved have dedicated themselves fully to create the best experience possible. Ascended by a beautifully orchestrated music score (together with some great classics from the eras it portrays), it hits all the right notes at all the right moments. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll maybe even feel inspired. For there's nothing in this tour-de-force of a film that isn't absolutely stirring. It's been almost 20 years since its release now, yet the special effects still hold and look as fantastic as ever. They way they've integrated Forrest into real historical footage, is incredibly well-done and nearly seamless in its crafting. Some things even look more convincing than the wizardry of modern features. However visually compelling it may be though, it's in the acting where it truly dazzles. Tom Hanks' sensational, award-winning performance, is definitely one of the best, if not the greatest of feat his entire career. I would say it stands between this and his heart-gripping turn as an AIDS victim in Jonathan Demme's Philadelphia. You certainly can't complain about the supporting cast either. Sally Field, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise and Mykelti Williamson, evoke tremendous pathos and sympathy, with their exceptionally written and terrifically acted characters. Michael Conner Humphreys is really wonderful as well, as Forrest in his younger years. Cynics may have issues with how far-fetched the story is, but I don't think it matters much in the larger perspective. I'm more than willing to suspend all disbelief, for such a majestically conceived and viscerally powerful piece of drama. And I'm sure that goes for a lot of us. A movie about love, loss, war and human behavior. About discovering your inner potential and overcoming your limitations, even when everything seems against you and abscent of hope. For within Forrest Gump dwells a ray of pure inspiration, with the message that life is what you make of it. We may not all come to shake hands with the President or amount to champions in ping-pong, but we all possess the power to make the best of what we have. Timeless, magical, moving and uplifting, this movie is a celebration of all that and more!
The Dark Knight 2008, PG-13)
There are times, even though they are few, when Hollywood gets everything right. When a movie blows you away to a degree where you can't help but kneel down and thank the heavens you're alive. This was one of those all-too-rare moments.
Batman Begins 2005, PG-13)
Just saw this for about the fourth time now and it's still as fantastic as ever. Although The Dark Knight has pushed it down to a runner-up position for all-time best Batman feature, it's still a masterpiece of a comic-book film, that I hold in very high regard. My utmost admiration for Christopher Nolan, who took the mythos of the character and made him the coolest, most believable superhero to have ever existed on the big screen. Thanks to his amazing genius, we finally got the Batman movie of our dreams. One that gets everything right and leaves you with an imminent desire to watch it again.
Sällskapsresan (The Charter Trip) 1980, Unrated)
Psycho 1960, R)
Chilling, unforgettable and riddled with skin-crawling tension, Psycho is one of those landmark horror classics that ought to be on everyone's "to watch before I die"-list. An audacious tale, in the sense that it also starrs a female lead of questionable moral nature (Marion Crane, played by the beautiful Janet Leigh). She trades in lies, beds a married man, steals money from her work - yet the performances and amazing writing still allows us to care for her. And when Marion in flight from her crime gets a room at the Bates Motel - owned by creepy sociopath Norman Bates and his overprotective mother - we step into her every experience, leading up to the famous shower scene, where the nail-biting, tightly wound atmosphere, culminates in pure terror and dread thick as blood. A lesson in suspense, by wizard-of-a-director Alfred Hitchcock, who has surely inspired a great many film-makers with this paranoid, shocking and hauntingly well-crafted thriller. Truthfully, I can't believe I waited this long to see it. Because it was every bit as arresting as I've been told for years now. I can't end this review though, without giving mention to the legendary screen presence of Anthony Perkins. His uncanny transformation from seemingly kind-hearted gentleman to homicidal maniac, will have your heart skipping a beat at several points throughout the narrative. Most definitely in the hall of fame next to Christian Bale's Patrick Bateman and Sir Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter. That being said, I'm happy to count myself a member now of its appreciative following. For even 52 years after its making, Psycho yet holds sway as one of the most eerie, compelling and bone-chilling stories ever told through the art of cinema. Truly a must-see, for reasons above and many others unmentioned.
The Breakfast Club 1985, R)
To the soaring, cult-laden tunes of "Don't You Forget About Me" by 80's sensation Simple Minds, this unforgettable classic by the late great John Hughes, gave a voice to an entire generation and yet continues to resonate among teenagers everywhere.
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted 2012, PG)
My favourite animated comedy of the year doesn't spring from the workshop of Pixar, but something as surprising as this latest entry in the Madagascar franchise. Greatest by far in the trilogy, it's a wild and crazy rollercoaster of fun, that literally features a whole circus's worth of endearing, hilarious and colorful new characters. But first, let me give you the low-down of the story: Once again trying to get back to their beloved New York Zoo, Alex the Lion and his furry entourage start out their adventure in glamorous Monte Carlo, where they are supposed to just pick up the mischievous penguins, but accidentally attract some unwanted attention from "Le Animal Control". Narrowingly escaping the clutches of the tenacious Captain Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand), they hitch a ride with a traveling circus train, where they befriend some other animals of European descent, and by luck discover a possibility - if a particularily difficult one - to return to America. Swift as a cheetah from beginning to end, this is a laugh-a-minute adventure that knows how to keep up momentum throughout its entire course. Some may find it in too much of a rush and perhaps a little deja vu, but as wonderfully witty as the gags are, I was all in favor of the more rapid pace. Although a bit on the stereotypical side, I loved the new additions to the cast; my favourites among which include an Italian sea lion named Stefano (delightfully brought to life by Martin Short) and a pack of cute little circus dogs - one of whom is voiced by none other than Vinnie Jones! As for the original gang, I can't help but love the performances of Chris Rock and Sacha Baron Cohen (as Marty the Zebra, respectively Julien the Lemur King). Even Ben Stiller is great as Alex and emits more energy through his vocal cords, than he's ever done in his past ten movies or so put together. Clearly, this off-screen stage is where he truly belongs. Anyway, if you've read up until this point, and still wonder what makes this the best of the three, I can tell you in retrospect that I thought the first movie was so-so, the second a lot of fun and this latest chapter even better. Because where Shrek and Ice Age diminished with every sequel, this series has done just the opposite - bestowing some palpable truth to the phrase "third time's the charm". Stunning in its backdrops and with a big glint in the eye, Madagascar 3 is a snappy, imaginative and consistently entertaining animation feature, that also boasts a terrific soundtrack and music by Hans Zimmer. Your kids will love it and it's got plenty of fun in store for us grown-ups as well. Highly recommended, for a great time at the movies! "Da da dadadada circus! Da da dadadadada afro! Circus afro, circus afro! Polka dot, polka dot, polka dot, afro!"
The Hunger Games 2012, PG-13)
Staged in a bizarre and post-apocalyptic future, where apparently "over-the-top" no longer exists as a concept, The Hunger Games by director Gary Ross, is a fascinating, if somewhat campy spectacle, based upon the popular novel by Suzanne Collins. At the center of the story we find rising star Jennifer Lawrence, whose talents became known to the world with her riveting performance in Winter's Bone. She plays Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year old girl living in the gritty and impoverished 12th district in the nation known as Panem (formerly North America). Ruled by the Capitol, a wealthy, awe-inspiring metropolis that holds hegemony over Panem, the inhabitants of the twelve districts are subjects to their governing power; and thereto also the savage Hunger Games - a battle to the death between teenage boys and girls, whom are forcibly culled into participation, for the sport and entertainment of a televised event. Overseer of the brutal contest is the heartless President Snow, played by revered veteran Donald Sutherland, who is pretty much the only citizen in the Capitol who doesn't look like he's sprung from a Nickelodeon cartoon (oh yes, you'll definitely notice the fashion design in this one). Extravagant hairdos aside though, this is a great and deeply meaningful film that raises some very interesting questions. For as we follow our young heroine, through fear and fire, we invest ourselves in her fate while admiring her heartfelt courage. Not least in her act of compassion in the beginning of the film, where she selflessly takes her sister's place in the merciless arena. From a psychological standpoint, it's very addicting to witness the character developments of the teenage contestants. My only gripe is that I didn't find it fully believable how some of them turned into sociopathic killing machines. I mean, slaying their competitors with such ease, in such cold blood - I might have bought it if it was one or two of them, but a whole group treating the bloodhunt like a casual game of paintball? I wasn't entirely convinced. At any rate, the supporting cast of this film does some applaud-worthy work here. To mention a few stand-outs, there's flamboyant TV host Caesar Flickerman, played by a memorable Stanley Tucci. Also Woody Harrelson is superb, as Katniss's assigned mentor, Haymitch Abernathy, who was the victor of the 50th Hunger Games. Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, her also-competing love interest, did a nice job with his character as well. One could make a valid argument against the dizzying shaky cam and partially slow-going first half, but I was nonetheless completely absorbed, if not to say spellbound by its timeless themes of sacrifice, survival and the power of hope. And I think not having read the novel made the experience all the better. Will Katniss live through the challenge, in triumph over her fears? And if so, will she come out the same person that she was prior to the game? These are but some of many "dying-to-knows" that kept me glued at the edge of my seat. Granted that much followed my predictions, but it was a rousing two hours nevertheless. An ambitious, well-acted and sophisticated sci-fi adventure, that fires away boldly and scores a cinematic bullseye! Because with a world so rich in character and compelling human emotions, this is an extraordinary crowd-pleaser, that in many ways even outdoes its Japanese sibling, Battle Royale. I do hope the inevitable sequel(s) will be equally engrossing. For when all is said and done and you reach for that last piece of popcorn, "The Hunger Games", in all its harrowing splendor, leaves you hungry for so much more!
Total Recall 2012, PG-13)
Where's Schwarzenegger when you need him? His presence is sorely missed in this overall enjoyable, but instantly forgettable re-make. Quite ironic really, as the whole "Rekall" business is all about providing the service of a lasting memory. Len Wiseman, the man behind such films as the mediocre Underworld series and the highly underrated Die Hard 4.0, delivers (as expected) a solid and action-packed white-knuckle ride, with a decent enough cast and jaw-dropping special effects. Although the script is rather pedestrian and leaves a lot to desire, I loved the backdrops and futuristic scenery of the film, which is truly state-of-the-art. Sort of like a high-tech Rio de Janeiro, with its crammed, packed-together-structures and bustling city life. Steeped in Asian influence, I also got a very distinct Blade Runner vibe, with the damp and noir-ish atmosphere. As for the cast, well, Bryan Cranston was pretty much the only actor worth recalling here. Not that Kate Beckinsale's sexy figure wasn't a major boon (I said "boon", not "boner"), but neither her or Colin Farrell go beyond what's least required of them. Not like, say, the original, where there were fun characters all-around, including a mutant leader growing out of a man's stomach. In the comedy area, it tries to be funny at times (with emphasis on "try"), but doesn't quite hit the target. I mean, where's the tongue-in-cheek zingers and pricelessly executed one-liners? At least they left in the three-boobed girl though and made her even hotter. Plus points for that. I think what determines your satisfaction with this film is what kind of attitude you get into the seat with. If you demand it to be as great as the original, you're bound for disappointment. But if you take it for what it is, a big-budget popcorn-muncher from the Hollywood assembly line, you'll definitely get your money's worth of exhilarating chases and rapid-fire bullet exchange. Having said that, I left the theatre contently. Loved the visuals, shrugged at the hollow script. But for what it's worth, it's good, bombastic fun that serves the desired purpose. Even if at the end, it makes you miss the good old days of hand-crafted animatronics and intelligently worded dialogue. Because if this movie was a marriage, I would leave it at its altar of cut-and-dry, uttering in half-sincerity these few immortal words: "Considah dat a deevorce!"
Mrs. Doubtfire 1993, PG-13)
Having been a child of divorce myself, there were many things I could relate to when I saw this the first time around. Now, after seeing it again more than ten years later, I still love it as much as I did back then. The story is heartfelt and genuine, despite the fact that it isn't very believable in certain aspects. What matters here though, is all the fun, laughter and great entertainment that it manages to provide, mostly thanks to Robin Williams, who really knows how to kick life into these sort of family movies. And finally a word to all the movie cynics out there: if you want realism, go watch a documentary. If you want to be entertained for once, as compared to all the dull and soulless family flicks being produced these days, see Mrs. Doubtfire. For it might just make your day a little brighter.
Tron Legacy 2010, PG)
Visually spectacular and better than I anticipated. The script could definitely have used some reprogramming and is riddled with clichés, but overall I really enjoyed what it had to offer. The visual style and effects, in combination with Daft Punk's goosebump-inducing soundtrack, is a perfect symbiosis merged in the highest level of heaven. I've always loved their music, but here they have truly outdone themselves as artists. The whole movie was like being inside a vivid techno dream, and I can't honestly recall the last time I was so completely immersed into anything. Nevermind the errors in the writing, for this is an exhilarating experience (especially if you see it in 3D), that in my view even exceeds the original. Just a pity there isn't as much candy for the brain as there is for the eyes and ears.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 2011, PG-13)
Spellbinding finale to one of the greatest film series ever made! In this concluding chapter of the Harry Potter saga, we're invited to a showdown of truly epic proportions. Not since The Return of the King has a fantasy film been this grand and exciting.
X-Men: First Class 2011, PG-13)
Stand aside Thor, because you've just been outclassed! However much I enjoyed the adventure of said lightning god, I'm afraid the title for best comic-book flick of 2011 has now been snatched by the X-Men. With a sophistication comparable to the classic Bond films with Sean Connery, this prequel does the impossible and gives the word a whole new positive aura. A stellar script put to its full potential, and cast members of such excellence that every second in their presence is a cinematic gift. Just like "Kick-Ass" was one of my favorite films of the year before, director Matthew Vaughn has now topped my lists with yet another awesome superhero flick. Stylish, exciting and first class indeed!
Star Trek 2009, PG-13)
Stunningly good! When I first heard this movie was in the making, and that J.J. Abrams was the guy helming it, I had a feeling it'd be something beyond the average. The trailer alone gave me goosebumps and the movie, despite all my fears, did live up to the promise. Not only is it an awesome, grand and in many ways fantastic sci-fi film, but it's given Star Trek a new face, and reinvented the whole franchise into something more modern and exhilarating. And it couldn't have come at a better time. Because after the soulless Star Trek: Enterprise series, along with the highly disappointing Insurrection and Nemesis flop, this is just what we fans needed. Many trekkies (at least all the hardcore purist ones) are likely to complain about the changes in design and what not, and that it doesn't stay 100% true to the original series, but personally I couldn't care less. Because what J.J. and his crew has done here, is given Star Trek a good name again. Sure, it may lack some of the philosophical and deep-thinking qualities that the franchise is known for, but it compensates for that by being incredibly exciting and well-directed instead. I for one loved every second of it and can see myself watching it many times over in the not-too-distant future. An amazing movie altogether, that I hope will live long and prosper for a long time to come.
The Expendables 2010, R)
Will it entertain you? Absolutely. Will it rake in any Oscars? Probably not. Is it worth your time and hard-earned money? Well, if you ask me, the answer is a resounding yes. Be aware though that this is a very macho film, aimed primarily towards a male audience. Not that I don't think any women will enjoy it, but it's pretty much as far away from a chick flick as you could possible come. Personally, I was greatly entertained by this film. It almost brings tears to the eyes seeing all these legends reunited on the screen like this. There's even a cameo by Arnold Schwarzenegger, which alone make this movie worth checking out. Like most other action flicks, it isn't without it flaws though. For while it's got star quality in league with the "Ocean's"-movies, the story and dialogue isn't much to get excited about. Most of the time, it's very uneven and the plot is as flat as a pancake. There's so many great actors at disposal here, but they aren't used to their full potential. So after a while, I found myself losing interest in the story, and fell instead into a type of "action-trance"; where my brain took a rest and just gorged itself upon all the gun fire and cool explosions. But I guess that's what you get when you watch a movie made by Mr. John Rambo himself. As in low on substance, but rich on all the elements that we action-junkies live for.
The Expendables 2 2012, R)
Damme this movie is good! A significant improvement upon the first film, which although sufficiently entertaining, wasn't nearly as awesome (nor as explosive) as this spectacular showdown between some of the greatest action legends of our time! If I had gone back, say, 15 years and told my teenage myself that, one day, in the not-too-far-off future, there would be a movie made starring Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Bruce Willis and even Chuck Norris himself, I would have had a hard time believing the fact. But it's wonderfully true: The Expendables 2 is the action flick of my boyhood dreams! A punch-packing event, where director Simon West treats us to the best of the best, as per glorious old-school recipes. And with the "Muscles from Brussels" as the designated villain, you know you're in for a heck of a fight! Of course, a movie like this still comes with its drawbacks, right? Well, if I was so inclined, I could make a valid point of the story being really thin and not offering anything new. But let's be honest here: that's not the real reason we bought a ticket for this film. We did it for the sheer adrenaline value, and for the unprecedented opportunity to see all our favourite veterans of the genre unite their god-like powers in one heavenly colaboración. Sort of like The Avengers on steroids, with medical teams standing readibly by. Yet these boys are anything but too old for some ass-kicking duty; laughing in the face of danger and their less-than-prime hip bones. Whoever said that they're at the twilight of their careers, I dare you to repeat those same words in front of the cool, non-expressive facial features of Chuck f***ing Norris. Because I can solemnly promise you won't live to tell the tale! Sorry Joss Whedon. My Apologies Christopher Nolan. But I'll be Jean-Claude Van Damme'd if this isn't the coolest action-film of the year! A bone-crushing, roundhouse-kicking and hilariously self-referencing piece of popcorn fun, that far outdoes the original and will have you coming back for seconds. All I can say is check it out. Because if there's any film in the theatre worth paying for right now, it's this crème-de-la-crème nostalgia fest. That being said, I really can't wait for the next one, which with any luck, will add Harrison Ford and Clint Eastwood to the fantasy-fulfilling dream team.
Back to the Future 1985, PG)
There's not enough words in the dictionary to truly justify this movie's greatness. It's like asking what Einstein is to science or Leonardo Da Vinci is to art. No matter how well you try to summarize, you're not gonna be able to encompass every facet of their brilliance.
Back to the Future Part II 1989, PG)
Time-traveling has never been as exciting, cool and fun as it is in the Back to the Future movies. Altough this one isn't as amazing as the original, it's still a great sequel that I can watch just as many times. It's just too bad the year 2015 won't be as awesome in real life. No flying cars, no holograms and certainly no hoverboards. But who knows, maybe in another 20 years or so ;-)
Back to the Future Part III 1990, PG)
Spider-Man 2002, PG-13)
Spider-Man has always been one of my favourite superheroes. I suppose it's because he's one of the most human and believable there is, and has such great arsenal of villains and supporting characters around him. Either way, Tobey McGuire sure couldn't have been a better pick for the role, nor Sam Raimi for the director's chair. Because together they create Hollywood magic that knocks the breath out of most of its competitors. Maybe not as brilliant as the second movie, but still one of the best comic book flicks I've ever had the pleasure to lay my eyes upon.
Spider-Man 3 2007, PG-13)
Five years have passed and yet the huge letdown that came with this film, is still felt like a deep stab wound. The first two were so great and then they had to go and ruin it all in such uninspired fashion. Fairly entertaining on the whole, I'll give it that, but the difference in the writing couldn't be more conspicious. So much unnecessary cheese and squandered potential. And as for the ending - annoyingly unoriginal! I so looked forward to seeing Spidey battle it out with his dark nemesis Venom, but due to lack of focus - and sheer common sense - nothing turned out the way we wanted to. Most of all, however, I feel sorry for Sam Raimi, who succumbed under the pressure from powers above. I must admit it was quite enjoyable to see Peter go "evil" though. I just wish they had cut out the corny dance number and cringe-worthy dialogue (along with a ton of other stuff that I'm not even gonna bother to dig into). Because more than anything, this is a scary example of what happens when soulless money-grubbers get too much say in the creative process. We can only pray the same thing doesn't happen to Mark Webb.
Spider-Man 2 2004, PG-13)
My definite favourite among the three Spider-Man flicks. Great plot, cool villain and highly entertaining action scenes. There's a lot more I could say about it, but I think all you need to know is that it's one of best comic book flicks ever made. It's just too bad the third movie didn't keep the same high quality.
Men in Black 1997, PG-13)
Clever, exciting, imaginative and funny, Men in Black is everything you want a sci-fi comedy to be. Yet, those words fail to encompass my total love for this film. Still the best in the trilogy (in my humble view), it has enough wit and action to keep you entertained for decades. Every time I see it, I just wanna take the first best plane to New York and join their ranks for some good ol' alien-busting. But alas, the MIB is but a fictional organization. At any rate, it entertains to stellar degrees, and is also one of the movies that launched Will Smith into international fame (or should I say intergalactic). His hilarious interplay with Agent K - played by a brilliant Tommy Lee Jones - serves up a whole smorgasbord of zesty gags and laugh-out-loud situations. Not to mention all the cool aliens and Rick Baker's fantastic creature design, which is truly the work of a creative artisan. Add to that the wonderfully written, tongue-in-check script, and there's no mystery to why I regard this as one of my all-time favourite comedies. A first-rate classic in every sense, and a must-see for anyone with a taste for quality humor! Because this doesn't just hit it out of the park, it sends the ball flying through space and into galaxies beyond!
Men in Black II 2002, PG-13)
Less-than-excellent sequel, that offers decent entertainment value, but also a whole lot of lameness. I mean, Johnny Knoxville as a two-headed alien? Not the best of ideas there, nor casting for that matter. Thank God for Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones though. They can lift the weakest of scripts to something really worthwhile. Can't wait for the third film, which I hope will land more close to the awesomeness of the original.
Seven (Se7en) 1995, R)
David Fincher's Se7en is a brooding, ominous and phenomenally suspenseful neo noir thriller, which I personally rank as the finest of all his collective works (yes, I even love it more than Fight Club). Atmospheric and rain-drenched, it starrs Morgan Freeman as William Somerset; a soon-to-be-retired detective who pairs up with the young and temperamental David Mills (a superlative Brad Pitt), after being assigned a murder case, which leads them on a staggering hunt for a serial killer, who is claiming victims in accordance with the seven deadly sins. Following the puzzle trail, they are pushed to their psychological limits, as each new homicide presents increasingly disturbing and stomach-churning atrocities. The type of nightmarish imagery, that once it has been seen, cannot be unseen. A haunting segment in particular, which I never seem able to shake off, concerns a "corpse" found on a bed, which then - in a sudden, terrifying twist - turns out to be still alive; giving whole new meaning to the phrase "starved to within an inch of his life". It isn't a very fast-moving story, yet never for a moment dreary or slackened in its intrigues. Carefully and meticulously, it heat things up to a steady boil - resulting in a mood and suspense that reminds me of Hitchcock at his most effective. As much a brilliant character study as it is a heart-racing whodunit piece. For while the seven cardinal sins may be the central theme of the plot, it boasts as least many virtues, in all areas of its making. The screenplay by Andrew Kevin Walker is one of the most intelligent I've ever come across, which in symbiosis with the performances and Richard Francis-Bruce's impeccable editing, amounts to an experience of fine-tuned perfection. Above all else though, I just love the great interactions between the two lead detectives. One cocky, unruly and governed by emotional impulse. The other serving as the voice of reason with his skillfully deductive methods. As the film's antagonist, the mysterious John Doe, we also find a peak-performing Kevin Spacey, in a very chilling and provocative turn, that despite his late appearance in the film, makes an incredibly strong and memorable impression. Then last, but not least, there's Fincher's directing: subtle, magnificent and visually unhinged. Flawlessly executed for its entire 2-hour run; right up until the shocking finale, which offers a gut-wrenching, curveball of a twist and Brad Pitt at his visceral best. An achievement, which in turn, leads me to my personal definition of what constitutes a masterpiece. For in my eyes, the signature of a chef d'oeuvre, is a film you keep coming back to, even though you're well-aware of the outcome and how everything plays out. Where some films are just great the first time around, Se7en is the rare example of a movie that continues to fascinate, despite the mileage on its existence. A thinking man's thriller, whose superior dominance of the genre remains extraordinarily intact. Watch it, feel it, let it break through the barriers of your mind. For whichever way you enter this ingenious magnum opus, I can assure you it'll dig itself in, whether you want it to or not.
Jaws 1975, PG)
Jaws has made its way onto Blu-ray, which naturally prompted a re-visit to this unparalleled classic. The question is, does it still hold up nearly four decades after its release? And is it worth scrapping your DVD for this supposedly "new and improved" edition?
Gladiator 2000, R)
Cinematic perfection! An unforgettable and masterfully directed epic, from the brilliant mind who brought us such timeless classics as "Alien" and "Blade Runner". It's not often I use the word masterpiece for a film, but this spectacular piece of historical action deserves nothing less. The story, of a Roman general named Maximus, who goes from a soldier to a slave to a gladiator champion in the majestic Colosseum, is one of the most moving, impressive and triumphant tales ever told. Roused by the amazing battles and stirred by its emotional power, I always come out of this film with a lingering sense of awe and wonder. I wish I could erase my memory, only to experience it for the first time again. For this is epic story-telling at its finest hour and one of my favourite movies of all-time. If you haven't seen it yet, you have certainly missed something!
Brüno 2009, R)
Sacha Baron Cohen does it again! Altough not the masterpiece that Borat was, this movie was a riot from beginning to end. Some of Brünos antics, like the scene with the wrestling event, are so priceless I can't even find the words for it. And in a world full of political correctness, I'm glad there's at least one comedian and film-maker out there who dares to challenge society's taboos - all in the name of good fun. What I like the most about Sacha's humor though, is that he makes fun of everyone, even minorities he himself is a part of. He isn't just controversial for the sake of it, but also tries to convey how important it is with self-distance. Because in my eyes, putting too much of a leash on what you can and cannot joke about, only serves to undermine the freedom of speech, and the liberties that we should all be able to enjoy. Anyone who feels differently, and gets offended by this film, obviously takes life way too seriously. Anyway, I'm not gonna get too long-winded here. My point is that this is no ordinary movie, but a rarity of a comedy that dares to go all the way, and hits a home-run while doing so. So if you loved Borat, I can promise you're gonna enjoy Brüno as well. Because this is, without the shadow of a doubt, the funniest comedy of 2009.
Cliffhanger 1993, R)
Severely underrated Stallone flick. I had only seen bits and pieces of it before on TV, where it gave me a mediocre impression. But now that I saw it in its full length, I'm really surprised to say it was a great and well-paced actioner. John Lithgow is superb as the film's chief villain, and I bet it was this performance they looked back to, when they cast him as a serial killer in Season 4 of Dexter (which, by the way, is also my favourite season thus far). A non-stop ride of thrills and excitement, which despite some minor defects in the dialogue, climbs all the way to the top with a rousing series of intrigues.
Predator 1987, R)
Predator 2 1990, R)
Predators 2010, R)
Gory, atmospheric and stuffed with great action - everything a Predator movie should be! For while the second sucked more than vacuum and the AVP movies missed the mark, this is a sequel worthy of the name. Not quite as brilliant as the first film (it's just not the same without Schwarzenegger), but it definitely shares the same look and feel. With an exception for the CGI bits (which thankfully have been used scarcely), this could just as well have been made in the late 80's. Even the music is very similar to the original soundtrack; giving off an old-school vibe that took me on a pleasant nostalgia trip. It's just too bad the dialogue wasn't given as much thought. There's a lot of interesting characters, but you never get to know them on the depth, nor time enough to care for them. Had a little more work gone into the screenplay, I might have loved this film, instead of just really liking it. Even so, it's still better than I had hoped and two hours of solid entertainment. Kudos to Nimród Antal, for finally bringing us fans the follow-up we've been waiting for.
Superman Returns 2006, PG-13)
Bryan Singer is a truly outstanding director. Not only did he gift us great comic-book flicks like X-Men 1 and 2, but with this film he also breathed new life into the whole Superman saga. Even though it's draggy at times, especially in some of its romantic scenes, there is a lot to love about this film. Besides having one of the coolest intros ever, it also includes a terrific cast and action scenes that are nothing short of thrilling and well-made. I can't wait to see what awaits us in "The Man of Steel", the sequel that is set for next year.
Jackass 3 2010, R)
Love it or loathe it, this is 100% pure Jackass! I really wish I could have seen this in 3D, but due to my local cinema being run by moronic prudes, I never got the chance to. It's great fun either way though and my absolute favourite movie from last year. It's pretty amazing that - even a decade after their TV debut - they still come up with fresh ideas and hilarious new material. Not the best one in the trilogy (I like "number two" a little bit more), but better than the first film and one of the funniest productions I've ever seen. As a long-time fan, this was a laugh-fest worth the wait. I can only hope they make more before they get too old for the stunts.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels 1999, R)
Guy Ritchie's directorial debut is a verbally explosive crime-caper, with lots of clever and witty dialogue and a top notch cast. Original in style and highly entertaining, there's really no film quite like it. The only one that comes close to it is Snatch - which is another gangster gem by Ritchie, but that doesn't really match the brilliance of this one. So if you haven't seen it yet, I suggest you do so at first opportunity. Because it's so far above the median line that it plays in a whole different league. One of the coolest films you'll ever see and a personal favourite mine that never gets old.
Looper 2012, R)
Time travelling as a plot concept is no easy subject to manoeuvre - neither for the time travelers themselves or the film-maker who has chosen to tackle such an extensively explored science-fiction theme. The slightest little misstep and it can easily lose itself into a jumble of paradoxes, clichés and a whole plethora of plot holes. Fortunately, that is not the case with Looper. In fact, the only inconceivable notion about this film is how such an anonymous director like Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom) bids us to the best thing to have happened to the genre since Schwarzenegger stepped naked out of a bubble to save the world from "Judgment Day". In the lead role we find rising star Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whom by shrewd career choices and his evident gift for acting, has become a sizzling household name and a given heartthrob among the ladies. He plays Joe, a contract killer in the year 2044, who makes a living on eliminating undesirables; sent to him from the mob in an even more distant future. When the job, which is usually carried out by a single blast from a blunderbuss, presents a target in the form his future self, numerous complications arise as the older Joe (a superlative Bruce Willis) has his own conflicting motives - putting a spoke in the wheel for his younger edition. With its stellar cinematography and bravura directing, Looper is indeed an achievement out of the ordinary. To label it in an early stage as mere popcorn fare, is to insult the cerebral value in the complex morality tale that dwells beneath the surface. Driven by an absorbing character focus, it's a gangster drama of the neo noir cut, which moves, enthralls and stirs up a wide spectrum of emotions. Intricate questions regarding self-preservation and moral obligations have seldom been studied in such an exciting and thought-provoking format. Is it justified to claim the life of a child, to prevent the horrors it will commit as an adult? And what responsibility do you have as to the well-being and desires of your future self? The sheer power of these dilemmas lingers deep into the aftermath. Engaging performances from its magnificent supporting cast - involving Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano and Emily Blunt - add further weight to the dialogue, but above all I'm impressed by 5-year-old Pierce Gagnon, whose ability to convey his lines with absolute conviction, leaves me dumbfounded and in utter awe. A prodigy bound for the child actor elite and who is very likely to become the Haley Joel Osment of his time (hopefully without the latter debauchery in alcohol and drugs). Merely a trifle of a weakness makes a mark on the minus side; for I'm not gonna make a secret of the fact that the film, at times, treads a bit of water. Cutting out a good 15 minutes or so - especially in the second half which is more or less spent in one place - wouldn't have hurt. Aside from that minor defect, however, I have nothing negative to remark upon this "wow" experience of a motion picture, which lands among the most rewarding spectacles you can find on the repertoire this fall. The promise from the trailer of a cool and exhilarating ride isn't just paid off in full, but rises far above expectations with its visceral subtlety and existential depths. Powerful, goosebump-inducing and amazingly intelligent, I recommend in the strongest terms that you make Looper a part of your adjacent future. Just the fact that isn't a re-make, reboot or any other tired form of entertainment, makes it a breath of fresh air unlike anything I've seen in years.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 2003, PG-13)
Greatest fantasy film ever made! Even if it isn't full-on perfect, I still regard it as a 4.9 out of 5. I'm a real sucker for the Lord of the Rings and fantasy in general, but this one is very special to me. Kudos to Peter Jackson for making such a triumphant and awe-inspiring adaptation to screen. It really deserves its twelve Oscars. Love every second of it, from start to finish. One of the few full pointers I've ever given a movie, which is saying a lot.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 2001, PG-13)
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers 2002, PG-13)
Pulp Fiction 1994, R)
Supremely cool and stuffed with great dialogue, Pulp Fiction is by far my all-time favourite Tarantino flick. Where most films have one or maybe two scenes worth adding to memory, this is filled to the brim with outrageously fun and instantly quotable moments. From the priceless "Butch-picks-a-weapon-scene" to the iconic dance number by Uma Thurman and John Travolta, not a minute is wasted in this ingeniously constructed attention-grabber. I'm usually of the opinion that Tarantino is somewhat overrated, but this is the one exception that lives up to all the hype and rave reviews. A little draggy here and there, but the great style and originality more than makes up for it. A truly royale piece of film-making, that I'm now incredibly delighted to own on Blu-ray. Because as far as cult fare goes, Pulp Fiction is a classic that can be seen over and over again.
Ted 2012, R)
What a phenomenal year for Seth MacFarlane! First he reaps huge success world-wide with this live-action debut (returning his investment with a 170 million dollar profit in the U.S. alone) and now he's been asked to the great honor of hosting the Oscars next year. The man is clearly on a roll and deservedly so! Epically hilarious and with cameos I only dreamt possible in my wildest dreams, Ted isn't just the funniest movie of the year - it's the single greatest comedy I've seen since Borat in 2006. I mean, just the fact that Patrick "Picard" Stewart has lent his voice as the narrator, how awesome isn't that? If I'm sounding giddy like a little school boy, it's because I practically am. I wish I could let you in on all the details as to why, but in consideration to those who haven't seen it yet, I want to leave the best gags unspoiled. What I can say though, is that if you were ever a fan of Family Guy, you're gonna love this movie! And even if you're not, you'll probably end up enjoying it anyway. A high-concept laugh riot, it starrs Mark Wahlberg as John Bennett, who as a boy was granted a magical wish that made his teddybear spring to life. Immediately becoming best friends, or "thunder buddies" as they say in their own words, they're still thick as thieves well into John's adult years. However, with the novelty long gone of the sensational talking cuddly toy, Ted's pot-smoking, wild living and overall bad influence on John, becomes a little too much for his girlfriend Lori (the gorgeous Mila Kunis), who progressively experiences it as a strain on their relationship. John must make a choice: his girlfriend or his best bud, which sets the premise for this extremely twisted fairly tale, that is part rom-com, part satire and 100% out of control. As can be expected from the mind of MacFarlane, there's a lot of pop culture references and moments of sweet nostalgia. Younger generations (let's call them "Biebers" for the sake of getting my point across) may fail to relate to the shenanigans surrounding the cult classic Flash Gordon, and frankly, I couldn't care less. This is a love letter to those who still remember the wonder years before the Internet, when happiness wasn't the next Iphone or expansion to World of Warcraft, but could come in the shape of something as simple and uncomplicated as a teddy bear. Okay, in this case a perverted and foul-mouthed little furball, but still, the message remains endearing! For if you look past the toilet humor and politically incorrect vulgarities, you'll find that Ted, above all, has lot of heart and soul. More surprising yet, I haven't seen Mark Wahlberg this enthusiastic about anything since his golden days as Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights. Seriously, not a single frown in sight! On the other hand, who wouldn't be begeistered about the idea of getting some make-out time with Mila Kunis. Now there's some motivation to go to work if any. In any case, I absolutely loved this unorthodox and outrageously funny fantasy romp, which appealed as much to the inner kid in me as my older, less innocent self. If MacFarlane wasn't knighted a comedic genius before, he certainly will in regard to this no-holds-barred masterpiece. Because after laughing myself to tears for nearly 2 hours on end, it's with excitement in my veins that I'm looking forward to whatever kind of crazy he'll cook up for us next!
Skyfall 2012, PG-13)
Spy legend James Bond, in what has become the longest-running film series in cinema history, celebrates his 50th anniversary with this promising new spectacle, which early buzz has already spoken of as "The best Bond movie in decades". Although I enjoyed it through and through, it regrets me to say that I don't quite agree with said statement. Granted that Adele's Skyfall theme is one of the most divine to have ever entered my ears, and sure, it's fun that Q is back in a younger, more contemporary version (I still miss Desmond Llewelyn though and his arsenal of imaginative gadgets). It's also a proud moment for us Swedes to see our very own Ola Rapace (the husband of Noomi Rapace) exchange knuckle sandwiches with Agent 007 on top of a speeding train. However, there's far between the bursts of adrenaline and even draggy in places. Being the second-longest Bond movie yet, the duration is definitely felt in this one. It's not that I have issues with films that run on for nearly 3 hours (mind you, I saw "The Return of the King" four times in a crowded theatre), but my gripe with Skyfall is that the pacing is very uneven, setting the most rip-roaring scenes in the first 15 minutes of the film, as opposed to saving the best for last. Now, due to certain restrictions placed upon me from the powers above (the press screening I went to had the most elaborate security arrangement I've gone through to date), I'm not in liberty to expose any details concerning the plot. On the other hand, that also means that you won't have to worry about this review containing any spoilers. Not that I was planning to expose any, but you know, accidents are prone to happen. At any rate, this 23rd installment in the franchise is essentially, and above all, an ode to its beloved past. References to previous Bond films stack up pretty high, and the whole legacy really comes full circle when we see Daniel Craig get into the seat of the legendary Aston Martin DB5, which for those that remember, made its first appearance in Goldfinger back in 1964. There are tons of other nods of the kind that I would be happy to list, but I'm going to leave them unsaid for now so that you can discover them on your own. Daniel Craig may remain one of my least favourite Bonds (I currently rank him #4 in the sextet, with Sean Connery at #1), but he's never been less than solid in the role and has really grown into it at this point. As for the rest of the ensemble, there are chiefly three top performances (okay, one is mostly just for her exceptional beauty - and yes, I know you're thinking Judi Dench, but no, it's not her) that stood out for me here. Starting off with Javier Bardem, whom we may best remember for his chilling performance in No Country for Old Men, he once again projects his dark talents upon the main antagonist Raoul Silva, who is indeed one of the most memorable villains in many a Bond flicks. Truly, one of the great fortes of the film. Next up is Dame Judi Dench, who really gets to shine here in another pivotal and dignified turn, if not her best as "M" to date. Last of three, but definitely not least, I was utterly mesmerized by the stunningly gorgeous Bérénice Marlohe, who makes her Hollywood debut with this film, as one of the two lovely Bond girls. She isn't just a pretty face though, but does really well for herself as the exotic femme fatale, Sévérine. Treating us to some of the most bombastic action sequences the series has ever seen, it's a sprawling adventure that spans across many nations. There's a segment in Shanghai that is absolutely breathtaking, elevated even more by Roger Deakin's sumptuous cinematography and Sam Mendes' masterful directing. So although slightly disappointed by the inconsistent tempo, partially dry dialogue and lengthy, action-poor narrative (I think the hype and misleading trailer is to blame), this is nonetheless a classy and well-crafted entry, that I'm sure most fans will admire and enjoy. For when all is said and done, anything that redeems the series from the forgettable mediocrity known as Quantum of Solace is a winner in my book. And after experiencing the nostalgia, sentiments and royally elegant thrills of this film, I conclude with the sincere admittance that this critic was left both shaken and stirred. Update: A good night's sleep really made all the difference, because I thought it was much better on a second viewing. Hence, my previous grade has now been revised from 3.5 to 4 stars, which effectively promotes it to one of my Top 3 Bond films of all-time, next to Goldfinger and GoldenEye.
Argo 2012, R)
To act decisively, making the right call at the right time, is an art form which can mean the difference between life and death. Much in the same way that authenticity in the performances can separate mediocrity from a dynamite movie. Argo, on all levels, is an impressive epitome of the latter. With meticulous attention to detail, it re-recreates the tumultuous period that is revolutionary Iran in the late 70's. An agitated mob, infuriated by recent events involving their former and USA-friendly Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, has breached the American embassy in Teheran and taken the personnel hostage. Six of them manage to escape, but fall into unimaginable peril. Argo is the true story of the CIA-Canadian joint operation whose objective was to get them home to safety. A mission so secret, that it wasn't declassified to the public until 1997, by President Bill Clinton. Odds are grim and alternatives few. Tony Mendez, an exfiltration expert, hatches an idea so daring that it might actually work: to venture to Iran under the cloak of a phony film project (ostensibly entitled Argo) and via false documents smuggle out the Americans as part of the production crew. It's intrepid, adrenaline-ridden and not seldom with your heart in your throat. A situation so charged, that the nerves are strained to their breaking point and the air seem all but squeezed from your lungs. Surely, it's been spiced up a bit in the highly intense suspense segments. It is, despite everything, not a straight-out documentary. Even so, it thoroughly comes off as a legitimate depiction of this in many ways interesting coup de maître. Ben Affleck, now warm in his director's chair, scores his third straight bullseye. That he has furthermore assembled some of Hollywood's crème-de-la-crème (encompassing within the comically supreme John Goodman and Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston) creates more than enough Argo-ments to see and relish this extraordinary political thriller. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mikes-Movie-Reviews/281824101875153?ref=hl
End of Watch 2012, R)
Gang wars, human trafficking, houses on fire. David Ayer's latest cop thriller, which is his third straight feature set in the blood-stained streets of Los Angeles, sure manages to cover a lot of ground. Ayer, who is also the creative force behind the screenplay for Training Day, has clearly made a niche in this part of the world and knows it like the back of his hand. Where his earlier work was merely serviceable, however, End of Watch kicks things up a notch and joins the major league of ghetto-centered crime dramas. Anyone who has seen COPS, will immediately draw parallels to the show, as the film is shot in documentary-like fashion with handheld cameras and first-person perspectives. These are operated by enforcers of the law, as well those on the other side of it. Primarily though, we follow Brian and Mike - two young officers in the LAPD, who is also best friends outside the job and a big part of each other's family lives. Toughened by their daily routines in the rough neighborhoods of L.A, they're fearless, quick on their toes and display a jaunty, if somewhat juvenile rapport in the moments between each mission. Things really start to heat up though, when they unknowingly bust a member of a notoriously dangerous drug cartel - an act which puts them on the radar of some seriously formidable, top-stratum thugs. Their lives at more risk than ever, they must now go handguns against AK-47's, badges against bling, in a raw, explosive and highly engaging conflict between two of LAPD's finest and the scum of organized crime. Intimate in exposition - viscerally as well as technically - the format may be low-budget, but nevertheless dramatically cogent. Although the likelihood of all present parties carrying around video camera seems less than scarce, the outstanding acting (particularily by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña as Brian and Mike) cancels out its few errors. Some may get annoyed by the shaky cam, but I think the use is justified here and adds tremendously to the sense of realism. If anything, 23 consecutive years of COPS ought to be proof enough of its durability. Humorous aspects bestow the story with a certain a "buddy comedy" flavor, which in turn creates breathing room that holds it in good balance. Not that I ever belly-laughed, but it's nice with some comic relief now and then, given the severity of the dramatic bits. Fast-paced and thoroughly engaging, it hits you at point blank range and keeps interest ever high. Having said that, I'm more than excited about Ayer's next project, which will involve the king of all one-liners, the retirement-defying Arnold Schwarzenegger. Because say what you will about the credibility of this film, but it's a top notch cop thriller and one of the best I've seen in years. Well-made and compelling, and just what the genre needed in the war on uniformed banality. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mikes-Movie-Reviews/281824101875153?ref=hl
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 2012, PG-13)
Goosebumps set in once again as we venture back to Peter Jackson's interpretation of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth. Last time in the gravest of days, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. This time a bit more lighter in spirit, as we acquaint ourselves with a band of mettlesome dwarves (thirteen of them to be exact), in an epic tale of bravery that takes place 60 years prior to the original, award-winning trilogy. Familiar paths are tread, yet there's also novelties and innovations in the plenty. Apart from all the fresh new faces in the ensemble, technical advancements such as the hot-off-the-anvil upgrade from 24 to 48 fps is among the most notable and heatedly debated. In truth, as I watched this film abroad and forgot to ask about the particular frame rate, I'm not entirely sure which version I saw, except that it was in 2D. I did observe a certain glossiness to some of the characters' exterior features and the image appeared somewhat sharper. It might just be the power of suggestion, however, so I'll have to get back on that after I've seen the 3D / 48 fps version at my regular theatre. No matter though, because the soul in these films reside in their power to gratify our lust for adventure. That, along with Peter Jackson's grand ability to transfer the magic of Tolkien's words from page to screen and ultimately into our daydreaming hearts. The glory of the dwarven kingdom of Erebor, the celestial beauty of Rivendell - no expense has been spared in the heedful realization of Tolkien's masterwork. Out of the four entries in the franchise so far, The Hobbit is undeniably the most heavily criticized. I'd say most of it is valid enough, albeit rather blown out of proportion into greater shortcomings than they really are. For one thing, I had no issue at all with the 170-minute running time. I hold deep affections for this elaborate fantasy realm, so I'm all for details that - however small or "insignificant" - give further insight to what drives and motivates foes and protagonists alike. The prologue in Erebor is almost like a film in itself, but I thoroughly enjoyed every moment as we get to explore parts of Middle Earth not previously visited. Action set pieces like the spectacular thunder-battle between the epically-sized stone giants inspire awe and excitement in ways that few films ever have. Weta Workshop keeps perfecting their imaginative art, making the impossible possible, stunning us in our seats. Also, the more small-scaled scenes, such as the unforgettable riddle exchange between Bilbo and Gollum, become incredibly rich and alive through the painstaking facial animations done for the infamous schizophrenic cave-dweller. However, mainly with credit of course to another scene-stealing mo-cap performance by the consummate Andy Serkis. Get him his Oscar already, if not his "precious". For good and bad, there's a lot more humor, singing and general merry-making in this one compared to its darker-toned predecessors. Not all of it is well-timed and there are instances where it becomes a little too much; falling dangerously close to "nuking the fridge". All in all though, it's phenomenally entertaining. Much is on repeat and the constantly narrow escapes (with zero casualties and incapacitating injuries on the hero side, mind you) demands suspension of disbelief to the point where you're better off just accepting the fact that realism is in barren quantities. My advice thereof: Let your inner child run the thought factory, while your cynical and world-weary adult self go for a breather in the lobby. Uneven as it yet may be, The Hobbit is a spellbinding experience that welcomes you into a world of fun, where albino orcs and fearsome dragons are but a few of its countless wonders. Supremely enjoyable and visually arresting, it's like returning to the home I ever wished was my own. An epic first chapter in what I'm sure will be another glimmering treasure of a trilogy. Four out of five flaming pine cones and exhilaration far elevated for the derring-dos to come! Update: Just experienced 48 fps for the first time, in my second viewing of this film. I wasn't too keen on it at first, but once my eyes adjusted, I was really blown away by the extraordinary depth and clarity that comes with this new format. It made the experience all the more vivid; finally justifying the extra charge of watching a film in 3D. Granted that some of the filmic qualities are lost, but overall I really like it and would certainly vote in its favor, as the future of the format is settled. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mikes-Movie-Reviews/281824101875153?ref=hl
Gangster Squad 2013, R)
Hold on to your fedora hat, because you're in for quite the ride! Car chases, whizzing bullets and a cast worth their weight in gold. Ruben Fleischer, known for films like Zombieland and 30 Minutes or Less, certainly doesn't go cheap on the thrills, as he confidently makes the leap from easily-digested zombie-slaying to well-attired gangster action set in 1940's Los Angeles. In a city infested with wide-spread corruption it's not an easy thing being upright. A condition which crime king Mickey Cohen (a brilliantly intense Sean Penn) has exploited in full, in his ferocious conquest of the metropolis's key establishments. Wherever money and influence is extractable, there's also Cohen and his goons. A minoritous few, however, have refused to subject themselves. Cop-of-clean-conscience John O'Mara (played by an exceptional Josh Brolin) has joined forces with likeminded colleagues, to rid the city of its filth and with adamancy and determination cut Cohen's halcyon days short. A particularly interesting story to sink into, as it's furthermore based on true events. Some may be of the argument that if you've seen one gangster movie, you've seen them all. True enough, Gangster Squad brings no innovations to the genre. By that same token, clichés stack up in conjunction with the shell casings. But it's oh-so-stylish, cool and neatly packaged. The cinematography, the wardrobe - yes the whole aesthetics of it all breathes class and elegance. Add to that an altogether radiant cast, comprised of substantial names like Nick Nolte, Robert Patrick, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, and you have more than one good reason to take a seat in front of the nearest theatre screen. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mikes-Movie-Reviews/281824101875153?ref=hl
Les Misérables 2012, PG-13)
Grandiose, powerful, epic and altogether magical! Adjectives run short, as I'm in my euphoric condition grasp for words to do justice to what I've just experienced. Far from the first adaptation of Victor Hugo's original novel - which saw its first light in 1862 and has since then generated countless productions in theatre and film alike - but a more sumptuous and definitive version I don't think we'll be seeing in many a radiant moons.
Django Unchained 2012, R)
Don't bring a knife to a gun fight. Bring fancy words and dynamite! That would be the ordinance anyhow of Dr. King Schultz; marvelously played by Christoph Waltz, who recently won a Golden Globe for his silver-tongued efforts as the former-dentist-turned-bounty-hunter, who buys the freedom of a slave named Django (but not before putting a few holes in his captors), trains him in the arts of killing lowlifes for money, upon which they set off together on an epic quest to rescue Django's darling wife from the clutches of a wayward plantation owner. In this most recent escapade by Tarantino, which marks his 12th film in the order (counting in shorts and guest directing), we absorb ourselves into what is decidedly his bloodiest creation yet. Slick and brutal, yet humorous and great fun, it's like a paean and spoof of old spaghetti westerns all at once. For the blood doesn't just ruin the carpets; it sprays across the room like Braindead on crack. Tarantino's association with hyper-violence isn't exactly news though. To the initiated, it's all part of the winning formula. That doesn't keep the press from asking him questions, however, regarding his stance on violence in Hollywood and its connections to real society. Something he's not too keen on answering, as we could recently see in a heated interview held by UK journalist Krishnan Guru-Murthy (now readily available on YouTube for a laugh or two). Personally, I can fully understand his refusal. Film violence, as per definition in its provocative nature, will always rattle a few cages; targeted as a scapegoat by politicians, the media, religious figures and other hypocrites who have nothing better to do than blame violence among youths on films like Tarantino's. And where he previously broke new records in usage of the F-word, it's the N-word this time - in its frequent employment - that has spawned a great deal of controversy. Silly if you ask me, because are we really going to pretend that the word wasn't used back then and in this part of America? I'd say it's worse to avert acknowledgement of it. Now, with that nasty business out of the way, there are accolades to be dispersed among the principal- and supporting cast. Besides aforementioned praise to the fantastic Christoph Waltz, major kudos also goes to Leonardo DiCaprio as the menacing Calvin Candie, a slave master from whose grip Dr. Schultz and Django attempt to liberate his wife Broomhilda. Rotten to his very core (and quite literally in terms of his dental state), you can see why DiCaprio had some reservations about playing this despicably racist character. But he does so exemplary; especially as it's his first truly villainous role. As his right hand man and backscratcher, we also find Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen, an old decrepit house slave who is as crooked as his master. Detestable, yet quite hilarious, he's like something out a Dave Chappelle sketch and one of my favourite characters of the film. Jamie Foxx as Django is superb as well, bringing the right amount of cool for the role, sunshades and everything. He even brought his own horse, Cheetah, as his chaperone for the adventure. Cameo-wise, there are also some interesting appearances here. Such as that by Franco Nero, who played Django in the original Western movie with the same name. Then, of course, there's the trademark turn-up by the director himself. This time, oddly enough, as an Australian hick. Dialogue-heavy, yet phenomenally directed with all its wide shots and quick zooms, "Django Unchained" isn't just a great film, it's Tarantino's best since Pulp Fiction. A high-calibred marriage between brutality and side-splitting humor, it goes to show that he's as comfortable in this saddle as any other he's sat in before. Due to the unnecessary length and some scenes running on a little longer than what I consider wise for the overall tempo, I won't go higher in my rating. But considering that I thought many of his later opuses - such as the unfathomably overrated Kill Bill films - fell short of their acclaim, take this grade as a highly positive one. Rousing, explosive, outstandingly written and performed, this is Tarantino as I know and love him; cementing that he has anything but lost his golden, idiosyncratic touch. And with an eclectic soundtrack that mashes up the best from contemporary artists with old re-polished pearls by Ennio Morricone, it's my pleasure to conclude that we've been joyously gifted with another instantly quotable classic. One that didn't just gain my curiosity, but won my full and undivided attention. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mikes-Movie-Reviews/281824101875153?ref=hl
A Good Day To Die Hard 2013, R)
Yippee-ki-yay! is what I would have said if this sequel wasn't so painfully uninspired. Nota bene, these are the words of someone with an affectionate relationship to the franchise as a whole. But a generic film is a generic film, whichever way you slice it. The action-weathered John McClane goes to Mother Russia this time with the mission to bail out his estranged and seemingly unruly son from a rather precarious situation. Thereupon stems my first beef with this film - his son. If there's anything films like Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ought to have taught us, it's that devil-may-care adventurers of the silver screen, that once started out solo, also operates at their best without the involvement of their offspring. Jai Courtney may fit the bill of his fictitious father looks-wise, but as a sidekick he's little more than an appendix; attached with the sole purpose of confronting McClane Senior with a bit of bromidic family drama. Primarily, however, it's the shortcomings in the writing and directing that devalues the total impression. Where Live Free or Die Hard made an honorable effort towards refreshing the concept, A Good Day to Die Hard knocks it back a step in its natural evolution, from "an analog hero in a digital world" to a setup that saw its expiration date with the end of the 90's. Namely, what John Moore and his team of hacks have done is picked up the 101 dummy guide for "bad guys planning to steal weapons-grade uranium and by said means upset the balance of power"-plot. Pedestrian, if not to say easily afforded. As an old-school actioner, on the other hand, it delivers enough explosions and crazy stunts to be considered worthwhile entertainment. Just leave your brain outside the theatre and maybe, depending on how forgiving you are, you won't have to repeat the classic phrase once immortalized by McClane in the original: "Now I know what a TV dinner feels like". http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mikes-Movie-Reviews/281824101875153?ref=hl
Life of Pi 2012, PG)
Divine on so many levels, my experience with Life of Pi is a lot like eating at my favorite Indian restaurant. First there is the appetizer: a light, but delectable salad to introduce you to what's coming and get the stomach going. Then there is the ambrosial main course, but instead of the usual mixed sizzler of pork and lamb, entailing a side dish of garlic naan bread (mm, my mouth is watering something bad now just writing it), it's a buffet combined of the visual spice of Avatar, the powerful survival themes of Cast Away and the complex human-animal relationships of Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. And yet, the parallels fall short of capturing its entire spirit and essence.
The Croods 2013, PG)
The Croods aren't just any kind of family - they're the world's very first. After seeing their neighbors gobbled up by all sorts of behemoths and prehistoric monsters, they're also running the risk of becoming the last. Grug, the patriarchal father, has thereby valid reasons for his overprotective rule - no one gets to leave the safety of the cave that constitutes their home. "New is never a good thing", as he stipulates repeatedly with a decided undertone of fear. Eep, the self-dependent teenage daughter, has grown tired of their eventless existence. She wants to get out and explore. Live, instead of just surviving. A wish that is soon granted (with far more than she bargained for) when the world suddenly seems to be coming to an end and their home is crushed beneath a gigantic rock. What follows is an epic quest in search of a new dwelling; all the while with the earth splitting open, making their journey a most dangerous one. To their help they have Guy, a nomadic boy who guides them on the way, introducing such revolutionary concepts as making a fire and cracking jokes. Commendable about The Croods, however, is that it doesn't try to reinvent the fire. Its crafters have proceeded from traditional and entertaining family dynamics (if yet really wild), upon which they have unpocketed their own creative aces in the shape of staggeringly beautiful backdrops and unique, imaginative creatures. Much of it in league with Avatar, except with a more innovative flair, which makes it a breath of fresh air in the animation genre. Kind of like The Flintstones for a new generation, but far more exciting and accelerated and without any mammoths doing the vacuuming. As with most family adventures of the sort, it also works in a simple, but very heartfelt message about not fearing everything that's new and stands different before the norm. Valuable insights about seeing possibilities instead of risks and letting the wondrous power of ideas, as opposed to the cave dark's status quo, lead the way towards enlightenment. That it also warms and inspires laughter in both young and old, makes it a rock-solid choice for an evening worth gathering the family for. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mikes-Movie-Reviews/281824101875153?ref=hl
This is 40 2012, R)
From 40-year-old virgins to tragicomical mid-life crisises. Judd Apatow's filmography can essentially be boiled down to three basic components: relationships, vulgar awkwardness and generous amounts of sex. As so in this screwball drama-comedy, a spin-off and the "sort-of sequel" to the highly successful Knocked Up from 2007. Anyone who recalls that film will probably recognize Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann, who here reprise their roles as the quarrelsome couple Debbie and Pete. Rudd, who earlier this year represented one half of an embarrassingly unfunny Oscar presentation along with Melissa McCarthy (who moreover has a minor role in this film as an infuriated school mom) can afford such a debacle or two, however, when he is a great as he is here. If there's anything you can hold against the film it's that the story is short of a proper starting point and destination. Middle-age angst is the pronounced main topic, but it feels like we've been thrown willy-nilly into the living room of your averagely dorky, middle class family. That the two daughters in the family (played by Apatow's own children) at times give the impression of reading their lines off a cue card, isn't exactly a plus either. Forty is also the number of minutes that ought to have been left on the cutting room floor. Apatow is remarkable as both a director and screenwriter, but he seems completely foreign to one of the golden principles of writing: "kill your darlings". Ergo, far too long for its own benefit. That I'm still accrediting it with such a high mark has in one part to do with the wonderful chemistry between Rudd and Mann. In another, the spot-on dialogue, which bids for many clamorous laughs, signed a master of true candor. Just take Pete's passionate debate with his teenage daughter Sadie about her favorite TV show Lost versus his appreciation for Mad Men. Pricelessly funny, which can be said for a lot of things in this film. Social awkwardness and celebrity cameos included. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mikes-Movie-Reviews/281824101875153?ref=hl
Some Like It Hot 1959, Unrated)
Blazing into the senses like a hurricane of film-making joy, Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot is the magic that appears when the right cast meets the right script meets the right director at the right time. As if the universe suddenly decided to take Murphy's Law out of the equation, replacing him with his cousin Chaos Theory as a substitute for the job. Only, instead of raining on the parade, said relative happened to be in a phenomenally good mood, aligning all what could be aligned in favor of Wilder's brainchild. Oh yes, this film is quite the little miracle. Brisk and bananas from the get-go, this is a highly energized comedy rush that hits the ground running. Comparable to releasing a couple of gerbils from their cage, who have been drinking excessive amounts of Red Bull all morning and are now dying to make the most of their freedom. Except, they're not gerbils, but two dame-crazy musicians named Joe and Jerry. Kinetically played by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon (the latter of which drew my memory towards Jim Carrey in his prime), their outlandish adventure begins with quite the nasty bit of business, as they become the witnesses of a gangland massacre by notorious mob boss Spats Columbo. A carnage which is actually founded in a real-life incident involving Al Capone and two rivaling criminal gangs in 1929 Chicago. Feeling the heat and not keen on moving to a permanent address six feet under, they grab the only wise option available (read: escape plan) and join up with an all-female band on their way to a gig in Florida. There's just one little catch: the band is expecting two gals and thus they have no choice but to cross-dress as the fictitious broads Josephine and Daphne. An incognito undertaking which sees further complications when they both are smitten by the spellbinding charms of the voluptuously sexy (and self-admittedly not-too-bright) Sugar Kane Kowalczyk, an ukulele player and hot little number played by Marilyn Monroe. And really, who can blame them for braving the risks of becoming diabetic. A classic bombshell if there ever were one. Well arrived in the Sunshine State, troubles heap up to even greater extents, as the hotel where the band is staying is later used as a rendezvous point by Spats and other crime lords. To make matters worse (if not to say more hilarious), Jerry has become subject to the flirty advances of Osgood Fielding III, a love-struck old millionaire, who despite Jerry's best efforts is completely oblivious to his rejections. Even at the very end when Jerry exposes himself as a man, the delightfully hopeless Osgood simply responds by saying "nobody's perfect". You also gotta give credit to a screenplay that produces laughs aplenty, without ever resorting to profanity or the type of vulgar humor that has become the norm on the modern comedy scene (albeit that has its charms too within the right context). Younger generations may find it hard to believe that there even was such a time, but surely we would never have had gems like Tootsie and Mrs. Doubtfire if this film hadn't set the pace. A side-splitting, kooky and wildly entertaining classic, whose long-enduring status as a masterwork of comedy, I can now cheerfully get behind. So spin that bass and let the good times roll, for this movie is a diamond and as we all very well know, diamonds are worth their weight in gold. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mikes-Movie-Reviews/281824101875153?ref=hl
Iron Man 3 2013, PG-13)
There's complexity to this Tin Man, whom we've gotten to know now through two predecessors and his heroic deeds as an Avenger. Here we explore the aftermath of Joss Whedon's epic spectacle, as we return to a psychologically battered Tony Stark, suffering from panic attacks and sleep deprivation after Loki's foul invasion schemes nearly cost him his life. Granted, we knew there was more to him than just an ego and a high-end power suit, but Iron Man 3 delves even deeper into his character, rendering him more sympathetic and vulnerable than ever before. Tony Stark the sarcastic billionaire (genius, playboy, philanthropist etc.) is still very much on duty, but for the first time we truly get to familiarize ourselves with Tony Stark the human. Fragile, full of care and with anything but straw for brains. A sense of freshness and unpredictability ascends the narrative higher yet. Cerebrally written by Drew Pearce and director Shane Black, a great deal of deception and theatrics come into play when the world, yet again, is made unsafe by a new set of cunning villains. Barry Levinson's Wag the Dog is a film that came to mind, but that's about all I can say on the matter, without spoiling things for the rest of you. What should be underscored though is the complementing excellence of Guy Pearce and Ben Kingsley as Aldrich Killian, respective The Mandarin. Two very interesting antagonists, played to the hilt by both actors. Again, my mouth is sealed as to the details of their daedal game plan, but let's just say that they present the most thought-provoking piece of villainy since Heath Ledger's Joker. Spot-on social commentary points on American politics and the war on terror, served to sweeten the pot all the more. Other traits, like its trademark tongue-in-cheek-ness, left me a bit polarized though. I love how it champions levity and humorous self-distance, but the wisecracks aren't always well-timed and as an advocator of the sophisticated "Nolan-approach", my position is that they should have toned things down a little, allowing the drama more impact. For the most part great fun, but also rather hit-and-miss and incongruous in its comedic delivery. Jaw-dropping set pieces, culminating in a spectacular, action-packed finale against quasi-immortal adversaries, make up for that imbalance with honors though. Expertly directed, it brings out the best of the entire ensemble, concluding Iron Man's emotional arc on a genuinely poignant note. A stylishly executed redemption of the series, with a big heart behind the metal to give it a slight edge over the other installments (slight over the original, colossal over the disappointing second film), landing it as the greatest in the trilogy and the most fulfilling cinematic experience of the year so far. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mikes-Movie-Reviews/281824101875153?ref=hl
Star Trek Into Darkness 2013, PG-13)
Nerdgasms abound as the consistently brilliant J.J. Abrams takes his seat again in the captain's chair, thrusting us at maximum warp with this thrilling new chapter to his well-received reboot. Expectations were naturally high, yet I never dared hope that it would be tantamount to its extraordinary predecessor. It is a sequel after all and follow-ups, no matter how virtuous the director, always ring those bells of uncertainty.
World War Z 2013, PG-13)
Prime quality zombie diversions are not exactly commonplace. The subgenre has always been close to my heart, in both action-oriented as well as more comical branchings. Since the halcyons days of George A. Romero, however, the genuine pearls have been few and far between. It's therefore with particular enthusiasm I declare that World War Z has not only survived unscathed from its notorious productions problems, but now made itself a place among the cream of the crop of the cinematic undead. Don't expect much blood and gore in this one though. Like someone's guts in your average The Walking Dead episode, that's been almost completely ripped out to serve its PG-13 rating. More "ka-ching" in the studio pockets that way, but surprisingly not too bothersome, which I mainly accredit the unusually good script. The directing to boot is of proficient nature and thoroughly robust. Brad Pitt supplies the star quality; as anticipated quite terrific in the lead as former United Nations employee Gerry Lane. Not a second is wasted as he is thrown with his family into the center of a pandemic outbreak. As the calm in the eye of the storm, he keeps sense and sanity alike while hordes of fleet-footed zombies pour in and form ant hills of pure hunger and aggression. Panic, chaos and confusion. Not unlike Black Friday at your local Walmart. Pillars of smoke rise high like towers. The sheer scale is staggering when whole cities are lost and Gerry becomes a key figure in the search for a cure. Tight and thrilling from beginning to end. A sort of crossbreed between Outbreak's heart-pounding intensity and Zero Dark Thirty's global hunt for clues. And a proper dose of nerve-wracking horror of course. The gist is that we now know the meaning behind the last letter in the title: It's z for zpectacular! http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mikes-Movie-Reviews/281824101875153?ref=hl
28 Days Later 2003, R)
Road Trip 2000, R)
Eurotrip 2003, R)
The Godfather, Part II 1974, R)
Serpico 1973, R)
Sidney Lumet's compelling David vs. Goliath story, concerning a scrupulous cop pitted against overwhelming corruption within the New York police force, is one rendered more disquieting by the fact that it's all based on a true account. A needle to the balloon of idealism, disenchanting (as if any sound-minded adult would ever think otherwise) the utopian image of a law enforcement exclusively serving society's best interests. Already in the opening, Lumet subtly establishes an emotional bridge between ourselves and the title character, emphasizing the life-threatening reality of being a man of steadfast principle in a world where bribery, misconduct and abuse of criminal suspects leans to rule, rather than exception. Pure of virtue and compassionate in character, Al Pacino is fantastic as our protagonist Frank Serpico. A little more grounded and downplayed compared to his more villainous, anti-hero-esque roles, but it's an aspect of his thespian register that I singularly enjoyed. And evidently, so did the 1974 Academy Award jury, as he was nominated for an Oscar for his extraordinary turn. Penned and adapted to screen from a novel by Peter Maas, there's a wonderful dichotomy to how Serpico as a character is portrayed. A harmonized Yin and Yang, so to say, between the dead-serious business of his job and the more laid-back lifestyle outside it. The contrast couldn't be starker. Amusing also, while the narrative progresses, how his physical appearance transforms from tidy and clean-shaven to something that resembles a cross-breed between hippie-era John Lennon and a pirate from a 1930's matinee film. By no means is it your typical cop drama and I love how it seamlessly shifts between its two opposing poles: one being its property as a quasi-cathartic character study and the other as a straightforward crime thriller that wears its intensions on its sleeve. More than that, it ties all its components together in one unitary, holistic message, which channeled through Pacino's bravura performance, becomes an arresting exposé, empowered by a relatable passion for truth and justice. Meticulously directed, Lumet along with cinematographer Arthur J. Ornitz, are as adroit in capturing the sentiments in Serpico's eyes as they are in the larger shots that pierce deep into the city horizon. Up-close or sweeping; there's no such thing as a cop-out in their mastery of all perspectives. Above all else though, it's the inspiring tale of a morally fibrous man and his struggle to cure a system of its ills, one wayward soul at the time. Parallels to some of Lumet's other films, like the quintessential 12 Angry Men, are easy to draw - in how one person, if determined enough, can make a difference on a larger scale. There's a power and miraculous beauty in this that Lumet has maximized throughout his filmography; exalting his stories to not merely legendary edge-of-your-seat stuff, but as relevant social commentaries and a showcase in what it means to have true and unswayable integrity. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mikes-Movie-Reviews/281824101875153?ref=hl
Scarface 1983, R)
The Godfather 1972, R)
The Way Way Back 2013, PG-13)
Early adolescence is not the most merciful of life's phases. With the hormones comes self-consciousness and with that a tendency to shyness. The Way Way Back orbits around 14-year-old Duncan, a young man with self-esteem issues who suffers, feels the sting of, and eventually triumphs over an emotional rollercoaster of a summer. Introvert and hunched in posture, the self-image isn't improved by his stepdad (Steve Carell) ranking him as a "three" on a scale from 1-10. His mom acts like everything is fine, even when her asshole of a husband is two-timing with another woman. And his older stepsister, well, she cares for little beyond hanging with her friends and filching beer when no one's looking. Part of the salvation comes via a growing interest for Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb) the girl next door at their sea-side summer house. While the adults behave like irresponsible valley girls, they are - ironically - the embodiment of maturity. More vital to the story, Duncan also befriends Owen, a water park manager (played to the hilt by Sam Rockwell) who helps him out of his shell and becomes a father figure of sorts, guiding him right in the winding water slide of life. A wonderfully written, poignant dramedy, with an ensemble worth their weight in gold. Just watching Sam Rockwell fire on all cylinders is entertainment par excellence. Seldom do you also find stories that with such authentic resonance depict social awkwardness. I've been in Duncan's shoes, I identify with his pain. Not spotless in its telling; there are times when it drops momentum. But funny, relatable and quirkily cozy, as befits a bona-fide indie jewel. I look forward to seeing more of this highly promising directing duo. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mikes-Movie-Reviews/281824101875153
The Usual Suspects 1995, R)
Skeletal budget. Classy realization. To conceive that as little as six million dollars went into the making of this film - that's 2% of the production expense of The Dark Knight Rises mind you - is, in one word, flabbergasting. And if that doesn't arch an eyebrow, perhaps the actuality that it was directed by a 30-year-old Bryan Singer (who at the time had but one feature film and one little anonymous short in his luggage) will. Needless to say, it takes the savviest sort of visionary to pull off a tour de force of the kind. A magician even, grinding a coarse piece of coal until it becomes a bright, shiny diamond. Like many promising young film-makers though, it seems he has now tragically gone the George Lucas route. By that I'm referring to $195 000 000 fairy tale flop entitled Jack the Giant Slayer, which - if I'm gonna be mathematical about it - equals to thirty The Usual Suspects. And for what, I ask? A nimiety of CGI that immediately dissolved into the white noise of blandville? Oh yeah, that's money well spent. And such a sad touch of irony. But enough number-crunching for a while. Exciting from the get-go, this neo-noir mystery thriller has rightfully earned its diploma as one of the all-time greats. Boasting a superlative cast, it weaves the highly intricate tale of five peculiar criminals - all of different aptitudes, personalities and walks of life - and how they're tied to a central incident in film, involving a massacre aboard a cargo ship docked at the Port of Los Angeles. Implicated in this is also Keyser Söze, an enigmatic crime lord and character of such fame and legend that he would transcend the film per se and become a pop culture phenomenon of his own. Not bad for a guy who - spoiler alert - doesn't exist. Leaving it naked at that description, however, would be to simplify the narrative. Plot threads are numerous and each character, big or small, has his little story to tell. In the main though, it can be divided into two separate blocks: one, which takes place in the present, fixed on the interrogation of Roger "Verbal" Kint, a crippled con man played by an exceptionally subtle Kevin Spacey. A role which would also land him his very first Oscar. Divulged to us by Verbal through narration and sizable flashbacks, the other story block accounts for the series of events that would ultimately lead up to the incident on the boat. Deals, heists, humorous interplay between the five outlaws - some levity at first, but then progressively darker and complex. A caper requiring great focus, and like so rewards the attentive viewer. I've always loved films that loom large as smarter than yourself: how it makes you ponder, concentrate, put all your brain cells to work. Cerebral and labyrinthian, but not too far over your head. The screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie is exactly that, and the Academy did the respectable thing, handing him an Oscar for his astonishing wordsmanship. Praised be also the thespians for carrying out their lines with such verve. Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Pollack, Pete Postlethwaite and Benicio Del Toro. And yes, even Stephen Baldwin, star of such beloved classics as Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice and The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, is framed within the mugshot of a first-rate screen performer in this film. The power of an outstanding script I suppose, and a director who knows his craft, bringing out the best in all his players. Close to perfection on all accounts - the editing, the cinematography, the rousing music score by John Ottman - it all runs like clockwork. My one and only complaint is that the pacing, between missions, is a little slow and rough around the edges at times. But whenever the action kicks in - whether it be abstract, verbal or in the language of bullets - you can be sure that it does so with world-class suspense. Edgy and thoroughly awesome; a film for true film buffs, who rate intellect above the needlessly bombastic and akin to Se7en, The Sixth Sense and other masterworks of the 90's, are never-not-welcoming to a great final twist. "Who is Keyser Söze? He is supposed to be Turkish. Some say his father was German. Nobody believed he was real. Nobody ever saw him or knew anybody that ever worked directly for him, but to hear Kobayashi tell it, anybody could have worked for Söze. You never knew. That was his power. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. And like that, poof. He's gone." http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mikes-Movie-Reviews/281824101875153?ref=hl
Monsters University 2013, G)
Before they assume their places in the dark recesses of your bedroom, even monsters need some solid education to get somewhere in life. Higher learning ironically employed to scare the same out of unsuspecting kids. But what do you do if you're a green little underdog, shaped like a disco ball and with the physical intimidation of a pear? Who moreover have to compete with bigger, hairier, altogether superior creatures? Speaking as someone who loved the original, the wait for a sequel has been extensive indeed. Twelve years to be exact, but better that the ideas have been allowed to sprout for a while, as opposed to forced into existence like your average Michael Bay dud. As a bonus, we now also have the technical advances, where colors, shapes, resolution and 3D-effects render the monster constellations more palpable than ever. In this prequel by Dan Scanlon, we meet Mike and Sulley in their wild years at the university. Mike is the ostracized bookworm. Sulley the cool jock-type with a well-respected family name. As different as chalk and cheese, which makes the portrayal of how they became inseparable friends - as well as fully fledged frighteners - all the more enjoyable to watch. Naturally, there are a few moral lessons to be conveyed, but it sort of comes with the territory and as long as it holds back on the saccharine (watch The Lorax for an example on how not to do it) I see no reason to whip out any pointers. A lot of monsters for your buck. And even if the film doesn't graduate with straight A's, it certainly holds enough merits to proudly put up a diploma as one of Pixar's better accomplishments. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mikes-Movie-Reviews/281824101875153?ref=hl
Pacific Rim 2013, PG-13)
All due respect to Pixar's college monsters, but if there's anything that attracts my inner 12-year-old to the theatre, it's when a reputably savvy director goes all-in and realizes an action behemoth of a vision. J.J. Abrams did it with Cloverfield, Steven Spielberg with Jurassic Park (again this year with the 3D-glasses on) and now the turn has come to Guillermo Del Toro to enrapture us with his passion project. And he impresses he does with a cherry on top. The seemingly simplistic story, about gargantuan beasts causing havoc the world over as the result of a dimensional rift in the Pacific Ocean, is not as daft as it looks. If you have followed Del Toro's career up until now, you know that half-measures aren't part of his policy. The methodology he applies in building his worlds are creative as well as rich in detail, comparable (without exaggeration) to the enthusiasm of a young George Lucas. Before he turned to the dark side, that is. In the hope-barren conflict against the powerful Kaiju (the collective name for all the monsters) robots, so called Jaegers, have been built of matching size. The scale when these titans clash together in battle entails not a few jaw-dropping moments. Goosebumps on an epic level when a Jaeger picks up a freighter ship and whams a Kaiju right in the kisser. Incredible fights. Incredibly fun. Visually, it bets the farm with grandiose computer effects, albeit none of it mind-numbingly brainless, such as the case with the Transformers films and similar popcorn fare. Like a spoiled little kid on Christmas, you only want more. Nuances in the characters may not be the most fulfilling, but hand on your heart: is that honestly the prime reason we've parked our butts in the theatre? The humanity mediated through the Jaeger pilots, along with the war's effect on society, is yet more than satisfactory when so otherwise finesse-laden. Don't wait around for the Blu-ray release. These are knuckle sandwiches and monster roars that should be seen and experienced on the big screen. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mikes-Movie-Reviews/281824101875153?ref=hl
Close Encounters of the Third Kind 1977, PG)
Kick-Ass 2 2013, R)
With Matthew Vaughn's Kick-Ass, the comic-book genre took a new, stylish expression, both as a tribute to the entertainment form and as a sharp, satirical spin on its established conventions. To moreover get on the nerves of morality enforcers everywhere, it injected so much ultra-violence that it would eventually receive recognition from Tarantino himself. A bloodier, more brutal choice, for those who found Gotham's dark knight a softie and the genre all too cheap on the truly R-rated elements. A couple of years have passed now since then. Chloë Grace Moretz as Mindy Macready still swears like a sailor, even when outside the suit as Hit-Girl and taking to studies as a civilian. She's not the only one who has taken a break from the community service though. Our title hero Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has similarly hung up his outfit indefinitely. This has not, however, in any way, kept inspired superhero-wannabes from multiplying and forming a crime-fighting league. Led by ex-mobster Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey in one of his best roles in years) they have made it their mission to clean up the streets from all manner of scum. And in most cases look badass while doing it. Greater opposition is met when aspiring super-villain The Motherfucker (whose gangster pop, if you recall, saw his end by a bazooka in the first film) sets his plans in motion. Kick-Ass enrolls in the super league (a.k.a. Justice Forever), but has trouble getting Hit-Girl to join, who has her own battles to fight in the hellish corridors of high school. Three separate narrative threads are competing for room here, but instead of kissing and making up, clash in the interweavement and suffer from a certain dissonance. The scene transitions don't feel entirely in balance and the camera work inferior to its more seamless predecessor. In action, performances and the addition of new characters, ass is nonetheless kicked aplenty. If the original was the more technically dexterous, the sequel is certainly the funnier of the two. Not without grabbing hold of your heart, however, through its darker themes of loss, alienation, justice and vengeance. Revenge, that if the film's main villain gets a say, is a dish best served in rivets and latex. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mikes-Movie-Reviews/281824101875153?ref=hl
Children of Men 2006, R)
The Pianist 2002, R)
Dark Skies 2013, PG-13)
Wreck-it Ralph 2012, PG)
Ralph suffers from an identity crisis. For 30 years he has been the villain of the arcade game known as Wreck-It Ralph. But he infers that it's not him, not his true self. Understandable, because who wants to be pigeonholed into a folder? When Fix-It Felix, the game's protagonist, bids to a 30th anniversary party, Ralph is not invited. He's ostracized, the elephant in the room, even though it's his own name that reads in the game title. Dispirited, sitting on the pile of bricks that constitutes his home, an idea springs to his mind of how he can gain the veneration he so desperately desires. By "game-jumping" to Hero's Duty, a shoot-em-up game in the same arcade, he hopes to a win a shiny medal that is bound to be met with his colleagues' admiration. Something, however, goes disastrously wrong, letting loose a digital plague which threatens to obliterate all the games of the arcade. Unless measures are taken, it's "Game Over" for them all. That Rich Moore is holding the joystick here doesn't surprise me at all. The director, who has previously worked on early seasons of The Simpsons and Futurama (back when they were still funny, that is) has conjured up a story that is as explosively fun as the effect of mixing Diet Coke and Mentos. The art direction, the savvy humor - it achieves impressive high scores on all levels. Granted that I've always had a penchant for game-related adventures, but even if you haven't grown up with the likes of Street Fighter and Pac Man, it's a very touching parable about friendship and staying true to yourself. Neither too dark nor too saccharine, even if the little squirt known as Vanellope von Schweetz is about as cute and sassy as an animated girl can get. Retro and contemporary all at once, it's a nostalgic and reference-brimming love letter to both the 8-bit icons of the past and their modern equivalents. That it also scores some major points with its stunning visuals, cements Wreck-It Ralph as not only a creation above the median, but also as the best to have happened to the animation genre since Toy Story 3. Or as Q*bert so articulately put it: "@!#?@!". https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mikes-Movie-Reviews/281824101875153?ref=hl
The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug 2013, PG-13)
Peter Jackson and the famous carrot are back. So is the slapstick though; fat jokes featuring Bombur and lethargic, overlong set pieces. Along with all new flaws and shortcomings that no Tolkien devotee should have to suffer. Out of the frying pan, but into the fire of poor timing, video game vibes and a seriously pissed off dragon. Do not confuse devotee with purist, however. The Hobbit may be my all-time favorite book (and the only one I've read twice actually), but I don't get hung up on petty changes, or even more significant ones as long as it's handled in good taste. Case in point: Tauriel, a new female elf character played by "Lost's" Evangeline Lilly. Great casting choice and quite an interesting, well-rounded addition to the ensemble. Marred though, unfortunately, by a much-too-forced love triangle that adds little of worth. There are improvements, but they're not many. The action is better and more consistent and it's nice to have Legolas kicking ass and taking names again. What's the deal with the new contact lenses though? Is there a point to that I have missed somewhere? Oh well. It was fun to finally see Mikael Persbrandt as Beorn (a big moment for us Swedes), even if his intimidating, bearded presence is just around for a couple of minutes. I suppose they're saving him for the last leg of the journey... quest... thing. The great highlight for me was Smaug. I didn't care for the way he looked in the trailers, but the cinematic representation was a different beast altogether. Awe-inspiring, brilliantly realized and majestically voiced by the-man-you-can't-believe-isn't-a-fancy-egg-dish. O Cumberbatch, the stupendous! A darker, less fluffy second chapter which comes closer in tone to the Lord of the Rings films, but too often feels like a repetition or remake thereof. "Darkness is upon us" this. "We shall have our vengeance" that. If the original trilogy was a person, the Hobbit flicks are like a younger, less talented sibling that desperately wants to be as impactful and admired. There's as much potential here as there are golden coins in Smaug's lair, yet two films into the trilogy it hasn't found a soul to match the beauty and depth of its predecessors. "The Desolation of Feels" would be a harsh, yet reasonably accurate title. Two straight letdowns aside, I still felt positive about the sum of the experience. The sets and scenery look more breathtaking than ever. I saw it in 48 FPS, but didn't get the bothersome "fast-forward" sensation like I did when I saw "An Unexpected Journey". The clarity in the picture was even more astonishing this time, with an exception for the blurry haze that appeared whenever a lot was moving on screen. A score of 4/5 is what the previous chapter received as well. On both accounts for the tremendous entertainment value; not so much the story, which I suppose was doomed from the beginning to fall short of the magic that wrapped itself around The Lord of the Rings films like the finest of silk. The ultimate sign of my immediate relationship to this movie came when I exited the theatre and felt no desire to watch it again. Which is a little sad as I had planned to, but now altered those plans to a second viewing of "Catching Fire" instead. I wanted to love this film, this trilogy. I wanted to cherish it for decades to come and pass it down to future grandchildren like a precious family heirloom. Now, I sense my edge-worn book will be all that they'll inherit. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mikes-Movie-Reviews/281824101875153?ref=hl