My Favorite Movies
My all-time favourite movies.
|CloudStrife84's Rating||My Rating|
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.
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!
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.
How do you write a worthy review for a movie trilogy that means so much to you, that you keep returning to it year after year for inspiration and joy? The truth is I can't, for no matter how many adjectives of praise I throw at it, it can never do justice to the unparallelled magic found within their frames. Although "The Empire Strikes Back" is my absolute favourite, I have just as much love for "A New Hope" and "Return of the Jedi". Heck, I even like the Ewoks, despite being savage little furballs who nearly made a BBQ out of our heroes. I still remember to this day the first time I saw these amazingly wonderful classics. I was at my grandma's house and found some VHS tapes she had labeled "space adventure". Little did I know that they would contain the greatest adventure of them all. George Lucas' opus is every sci-fi nerd's ultimate fantasy. It wouldn't be fair to accredit him alone though for its spectacular and ever-growing success. If it wasn't for directors and screenwriters Irvin Kershner, Richard Marquand, Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan, along with the wonderful cast and special effect makers, they wouldn't even be half the movies that they are. Now, if only Georgie Boy would have left them alone, I would have been a content and sound-sleeping fan, but I suppose his alterations is something I'm gonna have to learn to live with. In any case, this galaxy far far away will forever remain my favourite destination.
Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope 1977, PG)
Jurassic Park 1993, PG-13)
Words cannot describe how much I love this movie. It was one of the first films I ever saw in the cinema, and I remember until this day how I excited I felt afterwards. Not only does it brilliantly entertain my love and fascination for dinosaurs, but it's such a magical viewing experience, that I can watch it a hundred times over and never lose interest. Here's just a few of the reasons why it's made such a profound imprint on me:
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 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.
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!"
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.
Ghostbusters 1984, PG)
There are a lot of reasons to love the 80's and this is one of them. After seeing it now for the umpteenth time, it's still as ingeniously funny as ever. Some of the special effects may look a little dated compared to what we're spoiled with today, but it doesn't really matter as it's all conceived in such tongue-in-cheek fun. If you for one reason or another haven't seen it yet, make sure you do, because this movie is a total blast and the perfect marriage between sci-fi and high-concept comedy.
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?
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!
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?
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind 1977, PG)
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror (Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens) (Nosferatu the Vampire) 1922, Unrated)
Forebearer of today's vampire fiction in cinema, Nosferatu by F.W. Murnau is a true landmark of a classic, that saw a new type of story brought to the screen, based upon the famous novel Dracula by Irish author Bram Stoker. A horror film deemed so "excessive", that it was actually banned here in Sweden and not made available to the public until half a century later, in 1972. Another 40 years have passed now since then, with vampires evolving (or de-evolving in Twilight's case) to a variety of different manifestations and sub-cultures. Some elegant and sophisticated like Louis de Pointe du Lac in Interview with a Vampire. Others more grotesque and monster-like, such as the adversaries of Blade in the action trilogy with Wesley Snipes. Then, of course, there's the sparkly ones, but let's not tarnish the good memory of this film with examples that have failed to honor its legacy. The wonderful thing about Nosferatu though, is not just the historical significance in defining the vampire genre, but that the story, despite its age, is genuinely thrilling. From the very first moments we meet real estate agent Hutter and his wife, I am captured by the expressive performances, and even more so by the celestial orchestral score, which ranges evocatively between beautiful and inspiring, to macabre and eerily dark. There's an authentic sense of impending terror, as Hutter's impish employer dispatches him to Transylvania to meet up with Count Orlok - a mysterious nobleman who expresses interest in purchasing a new residence in Hutter's home town of Wisbourg. What follows is a series of spine-chilling occurrences, as Count Orlok's true intentions crawl out of the shadows, involving Hutter's innocent wife and an insatiable thirst for blood. Tinted in red, yellow and blue to represent various hours of the day, the imagery takes some getting used to, but is really an element I quite liked as it gave the presentation even more character. I also loved how the grand music score went in perfect harmony with every scene. A mood yet intensified by Max Schreck's iconic performance as Nosferatu, which is destined to endure through the ages. Up until now, the wonders of the silent film period have been a stranger to yours truly, but after last year's love letter The Artist and this spellbinding, ancestral horror tale, it is with equally awestruck eyes and ears, that I now put on my adventure gear and venture deeper into the era's riches. Much like the mythological being in rendition, Nosferatu, down to the very last detail, is an immortal masterpiece, whose 90 year-old rule continues to glimmer as if impervious to the winds of time. Steadfast and unbroken, it is the belief of this critic that it will sit upon the throne at least century more. Or so I wholeheartedly hope. Five out of five blood vials to this gloriously unhallowed grandfather of all things morbid and grim. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mikes-Movie-Reviews/281824101875153?ref=hl
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.
Parenthood 1989, PG)
Parenthood is a wonderfully written family film, directed by the infinitely brilliant Ron Howard. Now, I don't have any kids myself, but I can bet the farm on the hypothesis that there's a lot of parents out there who can relate to the situations in this story. I remember when I was a teenager and watched this with my mom, and she loved it for its honesty and thought it perfectly encapsulated everything it means to be a parent. Not a single a detail has been overlooked, from the teen boy who just discovers the wonders of sex (resulting in a lot of sneaking around with a paper bag full of porn), or the father who raises his 5-year old daughter to be the next Nobel Prize winner. Every type of family and behavior is flawlessly covered. And as if that wasn't enough to wow us, comical genius Steve Martin gives one of his all-time greatest performances, along with the rest of the cast whom are all stellar as well. One thing I didn't notice until now (by my third viewing or so), is that the previously mentioned adolescent is actually played by Joaquin Phoenix. He's so young in this film, that it had previously escaped me. Keanu Reeves is really fun also, with a character that reminded me a lot of his Bill & Ted days (that is to say, before he got all corpse-like and humorless). By far the best movie Ron Howard has ever made, and that's should be saying a lot, considering he's the mastermind behind such cinematic jewels as Cocoon and Frost/Nixon. From the deepest places in my heart, I love this film to bits. It's hilarious, yet dashed with melancholy and pathos. Wacky and out of control, yet always down-to-earth. Simply put: the greatest film I've ever seen about family life, parenting and the beautiful bonds that ties it altogether. I couldn't possibly give it any higher recommendation. It's just one of those movies you have to see!
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 2001, PG-13)
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers 2002, 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.
The Shawshank Redemption 1994, R)
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!
Independence Day 1996, PG-13)
When I first saw this in the cinema, in 1996, I thought it was the best movie ever. Now, thirteen years and a few hundred movies later, I'm not sure I would say the same thing. It's still a near-perfect action/sci-fi flick though, with a wonderful cast, superb music, awesome special effects and a kick-ass story. In fact, it's still one of the twenty best movies I've ever seen, and that's coming from a guy who has seen plenty mind you. It's the kind of movie that'll probably never win the hearts of the critics, but which will keep you highly entertained from beginning to end, leaving you with a big smile on your face as the end credits roll. Yes, this is indeed a true gem of the 90's and a movie I'll never get tired of watching. I simply love it!
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 (The Charter Trip) 1980, Unrated)
Big 1988, PG)
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!
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.
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!
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.
Die Hard 1988, R)
Donnie Darko 2001, R)
Avatar 2009, PG-13)
What a great time to be alive! A time when James Cameron is back on top of his game, and when the magic of special effects and CGI have become as breath-takingly flawless as it is. And breath-taking is truly the word here. Because not only is Avatar a fantastic sci-fi film, but it's taken movies in general to a whole new dimension, far beyond everything we've previously seen. The CGI looks so real that you can almost touch it (especially in 3D), and it's hard to believe that Pandora and its inhabitants were all made in a bunch of computers. That's just how amazing this movie looks.
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.
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.
King Kong 2005, PG-13)
Awesome special effects, brilliant story and one of my favourite adventure movies of all time. This is so much more than a mere monster flick. It's a visual extravaganza that also happens to be really captivating and well-written (which isn't exactly a common thing within the genre). So if this is the Jurassic Park of the 21th century, Peter Jackson must surely be the new Spielberg. Or rather to say, in the same extraordinary league.
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.
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.
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!
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 ;-)
The Pianist 2002, R)
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
A Royal Affair 2012, R)
Period dramas, as many of us know, can be a double-edged sword. Although rarely bad, they tend, on occasion, to get lost in their own sense of importance; advocating costume work and talky politics, as opposed to telling a good story. A Royal Affair holds no such shortcomings. In truth, it is the most profoundly moving history piece I've seen in many years. Comparable to grand epics like Braveheart and Amadeus, which, I should emphasize, is not a parallel I draw lightly. Every quivering lip, every lustful gaze. Not a moment rings false in Nikolaj Arcel's harrowing account of a love story so powerful, that it would change the fate of an entire nation. Set in the latter half of the 18th century, it stars Swedish actress Alicia Vikander as Caroline Mathilde, who becomes queen of Denmark, as she moves away from her royal residence in England to marry King Christian VII. But whatever optimism she had for an agreeable life with him, soon dies away as Christians turns out to be an emotionally unstable man-child, with a psychologically unsound Peter Pan syndrome. Not unlike Mozart, only decadent, selfish and with little care for his newly arrived queen. All the while, the cultural movement that would later be known as The Age of Enlightenment is quickly spreading through Europe, now knocking at the door of Denmark as well. However, where Caroline admires the philosophies of free-thinking reformists like Rousseau and Voltaire, the Danish court stands firmly against it, banning all literature associated with those ideas. Sunk in melancholy, with her husband the king growing ever more insane, she accepts the only purpose she has left, as in giving birth to a future regent. But then, just as hope seems lost, everything changes. A German intellectual, Johann Friedrich Struensee, is employed by King Christian as his personal physician. Played to the hilt by an outstanding Mads Mikkelsen, Johann and Queen Caroline find an instant attraction to each other, which flourishes into a full-out love affair, as dangerous as it is passionate. I've seen quite a few period films in my days, but none have left me so stirred as this lavishly crafted masterstroke of a film. Lacing groundbreaking historic events with the forbidden desires of the two kindred spirits, it creates intrigues of such potency that you invest yourself completely. Having lived in Denmark in my younger years, where I also met my first love, made the experience all the more close to home. Filled with warmth, humor, elegance and splendor, A Royal Affair was even more fantastic than I had hoped. The way Johann's and Caroline's affections for each other brought freedom to an entire country is inspiring beyond words. Their sacrifices also remind us how the liberties we enjoy today ought not to be taken for granted. There were, after all, those who paid for it dearly in blood, sweat and tears. Tears are what I came to shed as well, as an effect of its devastating character fates. I won't go into any exact details here, in order to avoid spoilers, but those who have seen it or know their history, will understand what I'm referring to. A majestic, audacious and beautifully acted drama, which bares itself like few other films, with a transcendent depiction of one of history's greatest love stories. Truly a must-see, if only to be swept away by the vulnerable, heart-rending performances of its two leading stars.
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.
Before Sunrise 1995, R)
Two strangers meet on a train. One, a French student named Celine. The other, an American tourist named Jessie, who has been bumming around Europe after a sudden break-up with his girlfriend. Down on his dollar, but not on his luck, as he and Celine immediately hit things off, sending sparks flying invisibly through the air. A moment comes when it appears they're parting ways, until Jessie amasses the courage to ask if she wants to come with him to Vienna. Celine, requiring not many seconds to consider, agrees. Thus begins the first chapter of Richard Linklater's acclaimed trilogy de l'amour. A naturalistic, refreshingly straightforward story, which covers a great emotional odyssey over a short span of time. Dialogue- and character-driven, a kind of day-in-the-life-of romantic saga, except that we happened to walk into one of the most pivotal days of all. One where two souls, worldly in experience, would tie a bond rife with destiny, forever changing them both. Complexity through simplicity, as focus is placed on our love-smitten duo and very little else. The chemistry between Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as Jesse and Celine is unlike anything I can recall from the annals of the genre. Amazing dynamic and breathtakingly impeccable. The dialogues of whom are so convincing, so authentically written, that it's not Hawke or Delpy you're seeing, but two real human beings who have no idea that they're being filmed. Basically, the very antonym to Anakin and Padmé in the Star Wars prequels. Sharing and discussing everything between heaven and Earth - sex, religion, music, their upbringing (and these are but a few of the subjects) - the conversations between Jessie and Celine encompasses more during its 100-minute running time than most directors do in a lifetime's worth of film-making. I also love how spontaneous it all it feels; the two of them casually exploring the enthralling city of Vienna, encountering beggar poets and fortune tellers, all the while with their affections growing, much like our own for the characters. A peerless epitome of the magic that can emerge when you have a beautiful setting, two great leads and fantastic, natural-sounding script. No contrived pretensions. No superfluous subplots. Just a young man and woman, doing what two strangers do when they're educated and intellectual and dying to know more about each other. A glass of wine beneath the stars. Confessions at the pinball machine. Little else is needed when more tumultuous conditions would merely distract from the essence of human attraction. Maybe everything proceeds a little too smoothly though. While the restraint is one of its greatest assets, there aren't any scenes or dramatic spikes to set our emotions truly ablaze. Nothing shocking or profoundly stirring. No big twists or turns. With an exception for the heart-rending denouement, it more or less remains on the same wavelength throughout the entire film. "How monotone", you might think, but it's actually a miniscule price to pay (which is why I only removed half a star) when so unusually sophisticated and believable in its delivery. With a legion of silver-tongued word exchanges, Linklater conquers the realm of on-screen romance with the passion of a true Renaissance poet. It's so easy to fall into formula and other tropes of the romantic drama canon, but by sticking to this minimalistic approach, he has created something far better. Something more faceted and genuinely compelling, worth presenting to extra-terrestrials as "here, this is what we humans define as falling in love". Let's hope they tune into that, rather than Twilight or some abomination starring Ashton Kutcher. Cerebral, life-affirming and wonderfully written, Before Sunrise is what you get when you merge the eloquent philosophies of a Bergman film with the character dynamics of a Woody Allen feature. A masterpiece of a love story, leaving you in a state where you miss the characters as much as they'll tenderly miss each other. Fortunately, however, with two more films, it's no inconsolable "au revoir". Just a momentary parting, and an awestruck, enthusiastic "until later, Linklater!". http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mikes-Movie-Reviews/281824101875153?ref=hl
Before Sunset 2004, R)
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
The Impossible 2012, PG-13)
Chaos and confusion. Tears and tragedy. The lingering sorrow after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which is estimated to have claimed over 230 000 lives and left millions homeless, weighs nearly a decade later still heavy in consciousness. That Sweden, among the international victims, was one of the hardest-hit countries, doesn't tear up the emotional wounds any less. Juan Antonio Bayona, who debuted as a director in 2007 with the Spanish frightener The Orphanage, conveys horrors this time of an altogether different, far more unsettling cut. Very realistically we follow a British family (originally Spaniards, whose personal experiences this film is based upon) composed of married couple Maria and Henry and their three sons, Lucas, Thomas and Simon. What was supposed to be a relaxing Christmas vacation at a holiday resort in Thailand, soon comes to an abrupt and shattering end as, in the course of mere seconds, a roaring leviathan of a tsunami wave turns the paradise into a nightmare. So authentic in its opening sequence that I literally felt cold chills all over my body for a good 15-20 minutes. The family is separated. Shocked and severely injured, Maria (Naomi Watts) and her oldest son Lucas (Tom Holland) wade through waters littered with dead bodies and driftwood. Gripping performances from them both, but stronger yet are the images, where people don't just lose their loved ones, but are literally stripped of their dignity; defenseless and vulnerable before Mother Nature's destructive forces. Some particularly touching moments come into effect when Lucas, on encouragement from his half-dying mother, looks for the other half of their family while helping others reunite with theirs. Among those is a despairing father played by Swedish actor Douglas Johansson, who reminds us once again of the many Swedish victims in the catastrophe. The screenplay has its less impressive and downright clichéd instances. And granted, there are tools employed for dramatic effect. In the grand totality, however, it's nothing that deducts from its powerful whole. Because this is a film that grabs hold of you and squeezes every tear canal dry. That despite the gruesome and unfathomable, leaves us with a beautiful encapsulation of family bonds and compassion, strangers in-between. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mikes-Movie-Reviews/281824101875153?ref=hl
Carrie 1976, R)
Stephen King's Carrie is a bloody and incredibly mesmerizing tale of a socially outcast girl, who is mercilessly victimized by other students at her high school. She is timid, keeps to herself and has strict, religious mother who makes her home life no less of a hell. Driven to her breaking point, she makes the sudden discovery that she is gifted (or cursed, if you will) with the power of telekinesis; allowing her to move and manipulate objects through the will of her mind. An ability that, when driven over her edge, becomes a weapon of such magnitude, that death and destruction is soon to follow in her wake. Brilliantly adapted to screen by Brian De Palma, it's a harrowing account of a regrettably common ritual within the tear-stained walls of high school. Anyone who has ever been a bully victim, will relate to Carrie's anguish and more than likely be forced to re-live those past nightmares. This true-ringing recognition factor, which makes itself known through a palpable knot in the stomach, is probably also one of the chief fortes, to which the film owes its universal success. Naturally, the ongoing supernatural elements help to boost things further, but unlike the CGI-laden frighteners of today, has them intuitively placed in the secondary slot. Instead, De Palma has made the masterful move of centralizing the characters and their respective developments. Sissy Spacek may not be the most attractive girl on the block, but she is perfectly cast in the title role, bringing just the right vulnerability to convince us that she's for real. Other notable performances comes from a pre-fame John Travolta, as bad boy Billy Nolan, the not-too-bright boyfriend of the malicious Chris Hargensen (Nancy Allen), who plays the school's most popular girl and Carrie's main tormenter. Last but certainly not least, there's also the fantastic Betty Buckley, as Carrie's sympathizing gym teacher and sadly, only friend. Graphic, upsetting and very raw in its visual language, it's a no-holds-barred type of horror movie that presents itself very boldly and without compromise. It's extreme, yet never overdone, in that terrific De Palma way, which later would make its distinguishable stamp in hyper-violent classics like Scarface and Carlito's Way. Macabre as it may be though, there's great beauty to the film alike; derived from a spellbinding combination of Pino Donaggio's divine music score and the phenomenal cinematography by Mario Tosi. As one of the trail-blazers in the splatter genre, it's also a film that paved the way for a more twisted flair of horror, where anything goes and pleasingly little is censored. Personally, I'm very much in favor of that particular approach, but whatever your preference, I dare guarantee that it's a movie you won't soon forget. Nor - and I say this with great emphasis - will you ever look at another high school prom in the same way again. For this is the eerie vision of a director who knows the essence of blood like the De Palma of his hand. Truly a must-see for the bonafide horror enthusiast!
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
It's a Wonderful Life 1946, PG)
Joyous, timeless classic! I can't say I've seen many movies from the 1940's, let alone any Christmas ones, but this was a very pleasant viewing experience, in several senses of the word. James Stewart is fantastic and brings a lot of vigor to his performance, but above all it's got a story that can be applied still today. It isn't confined to the values of the era, as it's broadly and universally human in its message. Basic themes like love, loss, greed and empathy, provides it with a wide spectrum of emotions that we can all relate to in some way (which is pretty amazing, considering it's over half a century old). A riveting, jolly and beautifully narrated holiday tale, that will add some extra lustre to your Christmas.
Smultronstället (Wild Strawberries) 1957, Unrated)
"You know so much, and you don't know anything." Master of all things meaningful, oeuvre-crafter Ingmar Bergman is no stranger to philosophy. Where the common director goes for the risklessly safe, Bergman takes the audacious route in a prototype vehicle. Every undertaking a challenge. Every tale a crack at the Herculean questions of life and death. "Who am I and why have I become this way?" are the ones at the heart of Wild Strawberries, a character study of infinite appliance, about an old medical professor named Dr. Isak Borg, who at the winter of his existence reminisce on the choices and events that would eventually arrive at his socially distanced self. Lonely, in part by selection. Cynical and cranky, as the result of incidents made fog-like by the opacity of years gone by. But then it comes to him in a dream: angst-filled, strikingly symbolic imagery, involving a handless clock (as if to say his time is up) a coffin, flying open, revealing his still alive double expressing spiritual unrest (a self-explanatory metaphor) and last, but certainly least on the bizarreness barometer, a man with a face that - in lack of a better description - only a mother could love. To that last bit I say: [insert interpretation here]. But it is disturbing, let me tell you. Catalytic in effect, the dream sequence also has the function of a pivotal epiphany. A knock on the door from the bony knuckles of the Grim Reaper (and perhaps a game of chess later on) which in reality manifests itself as an altered course of action. Instead of, as he had originally planned, taking a plane from his home in Stockholm to Lund where he is expected to receive an honorary degree, Dr. Borg decides to go by car instead, making a few stops along the way in what becomes an external journey as much as a spiritual one. Following along is Marianne, his daughter-in-law played by the drop-dead gorgeous Ingrid Thulin. An actress of such contemporary beauty that you'd never guess it was shot in 1957. We also meet Sara, a sassy young woman (in a vibrant turn by Bibi Andersson) and her entourage consisting of two men at different positions regarding the existence of God. There are some fantastic scenes involving these two; starting off as intellectual debate and later escalating to some more testosterone-filled pushing and shoving. After which Sara hilariously responds: "Well, is there a God?" There's a lot of humorous touches like that baked into the strawberry pie, which makes it all the tastier. Sweet as that may be though, the main ingredient is more like lemon; sour at Dr. Isak's musings, about love lost and desires unfulfilled. A character who we get to know inside and out, as memories from his past suddenly becomes clear as day; accounting for his glass-is-half-empty persona, as well as the anima in which we discover a man full of warmth and love. In theme and sentiment, it reminded me a great deal of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol and works beautifully as a companion piece to The Seventh Seal. The soul-searching, the existential reflections - it not only mirrors Bergman's own inner struggles at the time (referred to as his "middle period") but also serves as an insightful clue to the subversive, independent thought patterns that shaped the modern Swedish mindset and made it what it is today. If I'm going to fault the film for anything, it's that shifts in dialogue between poetic and folksy aren't always in concert. For the most part, the screenplay nails it, so it's by no means a major issue, but enough to place it half a star away from a perfect score. Apart from that, however, a deeply mesmerizing meditation on life, death, faith and regret. Riveting performance by Victor Sjöström as Dr. Borg and a magnificent film altogether, which became even more captivating by the fact that I have traveled on some of the same roads as they do in the film (both scenery-wise and spiritually I should say). Yet, to put it all in words, as I have attempted here, is rather futile when it comes to Bergman. There's not a film by him that I have seen so far that haven't submerged me in a flood of ethereal contemplation. Timeless and spellbinding, it's a maelstrom, however, that I'm more than happy to swirl about in. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mikes-Movie-Reviews/281824101875153?ref=hl
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.
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.
Contact 1997, PG)
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom 1984, PG)
The Lost World - Jurassic Park 1997, PG-13)
Doesn't quite live up to the greatness of the original, but still a very good sequel, despite leaving much to desire script-wise. My review is a bit biased though as I'm a big Spielberg fan and happen to love everything that involves dinosaurs. But if you enjoyed the thrills and excitement of the first one, chances are high that you'll like this one as well.
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.
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.
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith 3D 2005, PG-13)
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.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest 2006, PG-13)
American Beauty 1999, R)
1999 was obviously a great year for the movie world. Not only did we get masterpieces like Gladiator and The Matrix, but also the true gem of American Beauty. A movie that can only be described as honest, genuine and the perfect blend of drama and dark humour. Along with that you get a equally perfect cast, with acting that truly is award-deserving. It's no wonder it go so many Oscars.
Saving Private Ryan 1998, R)
When it comes to war movies, this is one of my all-time favourites. Spielberg teamed up with Tom Hanks is a match made in heaven. Particularily in its first 30 min, which are beyond phenomenal. The Omaha Beach scene is as close to perfect directing as you could possibly come. It feels amazingly real and truly transports you back to the events that took place there. Gruesome and adrenaline-pumping action, is intermingled with powerful and heartwrenching performances. The only bad thing I have to say about it, is that it tends to drag on a bit here and there. But it still makes good use of every minute with its superlative acting and writing. And in the end, you don't just feel satisfied by having seen a first-rate action-drama, but also very touched by the characters' comradery and sacrifices. It's what makes this movie stand out from similiar productions. Because when it comes down to the bottomline, this is a WWII film that really knocks it out of the park. Perhaps not as amazing as to be labeled a masterpiece, but certainly not that far from it either. A movie that endures repeated viewings, and just gets better and better for each time I see it.
The Fugitive 1993, PG-13)
Predator 1987, R)
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.
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.
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.
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!
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)
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 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 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.
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.
V for Vendetta 2006, R)
300 2007, R)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 2004, PG)
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.
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.
GoldenEye 1995, PG-13)
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 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 Lion King 1994, G)
Toy Story 1995, G)
Toy Story 2 1999, G)
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.
Shrek 2001, PG)
Monsters, Inc. 2012, G)
Click 2006, PG-13)
Adam Sandler flicks are usually pretty lame and mediocre, but this one was surprisingly brilliant, and thus, the exception that confirms the rule. The storyline is great and it feels like the writers have really made the most of its initial concept, about a guy who finds a magic remote, with which he can practically control everything in his surroundings. Many of the scenes were downright hilarious and just to see David Hasselhoff get bitchslapped was totally priceless. This is, without doubt, one of the best comedies I've ever seen. I loved it!
Dumb and Dumber 1997, PG-13)
Kingpin 1996, PG-13)
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)
Jackass 3-D 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.
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.
Sällskapsresan 2 - Snowroller (Charter Trip 2) 1985, Unrated)
Home Alone 1990, PG)
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York 1992, 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.
Galaxy Quest 1999, PG)
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.
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.
Mars Attacks! 1996, PG-13)
Spaceballs 1987, PG)
Shaolin Soccer 2004, PG-13)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 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!
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.
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.
Moonrise Kingdom 2012, PG-13)
Stepping into the world of Moonrise Kingdom is like opening a door inside the heart you may have long since forgotten it was there. A portal through the very fabric of time, to those cherished days of innocence when worries were harmoniously scarce and life yet an uncharted mystery. As we follow Sam and Suzy, the two young lovers who leave parents and scouting colleagues behind to pursue their affections in the wilderness, I am endearingly reminded of my own first time when I fell luckily in love (that is to say, before puberty came in and had to complicate it all). I was around Sam's age as well and filled up to my ear lobes with a happiness and sense of excitement unlike anything I've experienced thereafter. In retrospect, it was probably the best years of my life. Prior to this film, I can't say I've ever been a part of Wes Anderson's enthusiastic following. Although I've enjoyed everything I've seen by him so far, I regularily found his oeuvre a tad pretentious and overrated. The prime difference here though, is that isn't all about the showcase of his idiosyncratic visuals. Not that the directing, camera work and quasi-symmetrical layout isn't a key in its grand poetry, but it's the story that wins you over and has you spellbound in your seat. Story AND characters I should say, considering the impressive gallery of stars that he has rounded up for our enjoyment. Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton and Frances McDormand, to mention a few. It does go without saying that they're all brilliant across the board, but I'd also like to accentuate that their roles go with their individual aptitudes like Oreos to a glass of milk. Tailor-made, as it were. Every angle and camera sweep a meticulously conscious decision, Anderson leaves nothing to chance and renders every frame with such devout perfectionism that you can freeze the film at any point and it'll look poster-worthy every time. And if the technical tour-de-force doesn't float your boat, there's always the ravishing debuts of Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward as Sam and Suzy. It's hard to believe that this is their very first film, as they convey their young love with a maturity beyond their years. A quirky, colorful and invigorating coming-of-age yarn, about finding your inner independence and giving the old "up yours" to all the naysayers. Mostly though, apart from the subversion of youth, it's about the wonders that can happen when we unreservedly give some reign to the voices in our heart. These and other qualities make Moonrise Kingdom not only a magical indie gem, but also the greatest film by Anderson that I've seen to date. Four out of five Khaki shorts and a special badge for cinematic splendor! 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
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
Flight 2012, R)
Last time Robert Zemeckis made a live-action movie we were on a deserted island with a bearded Tom Hanks and his makeshift companion, Wilson the Volleyball (whose omitted Academy Award for Best Supporting actor I still find lamentable). Thirteen years have passed since then, during which Zemeckis has mainly spent his time in the animation studio, crafting 3D-animated projects like Beowulf and The Polar Express. To varied results, I should add. The film Cast Away, referred to above, has a few common denominators with this well-maneuvered drama, about an alcoholic pilot shouldered by a magnificent Denzel Washington. A role, which he hilariously enough has told in interviews, emanated from research where he typed in the word "drunk" on YouTube. Just like in aforementioned Robinson Crusoe-derivation, Flight as well opens up with a spectacular action sequence aboard a plummeting aircraft. In addition, they both examine a rudimentary "lost soul" theme, even if it in Tom Hanks' case is more in the palpable sense. Fully as exciting as the crash sequence the rest of the film is not. At least, not as far as the adrenaline levels go. For however it may seem, "Flight" is less about the emergency landing that merits Washington's aviator with hero status, and more about a man in the merciless grip of addiction. This is not to say the film gets any less turbulent, as he in the deeply serious aftermath gets questioned, interrogated and faces life behind bars. Apart from the engrossing acting, where supporting performances by (inter alia) John Goodman, Bruce Greenwood and Don Cheadle maintain "business class" all the way, the power and finely tuned aerodynamics reside in how it insightfully puts us on the stand before Daedal questions of conscience. Which particular path Captain Whitaker chooses to take, becomes a meaningful inner voyage which, despite a few air bumps, sails subtly and with great effect in the pathos-laden troposphere. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mikes-Movie-Reviews/281824101875153?ref=hl
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
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!
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
Kon Tiki 2013, PG-13)
What would the world be without strongly determined adventurers like Thor Heyerdahl? The Norwegian, whose theory of a kinship between the peoples of South America and Polynesia, would take form of a 101 day-long voyage across the mighty Pacific Ocean. On a raft made of balsa wood no less. All to prove his hypothesis. Ambitions are grand, with Heyerdahl as well as the film-makers, whose portrayal of his epic derring-do would result in the most expensive Norwegian picture to date. And it certainly shows, because there's not a frame that doesn't impress with its lavishly high production values. Obstinate and uncompromising, it's difficult not to admire how Heyerdahl, despite a subject for ridicule and failing support, holds his optimism all the way through. Of course, a journey of this nature, where our main character and five other men share a small space together over an unpredictable ocean, is a hotbed for drama. Sumptuous as well as small-scale such, with tensions between the men, bloodthirsty sharks and the odd tempest or two. In the association's most positive sense, my thoughts gravitated towards Jaws and Ang Lee's Life of Pi. Perhaps not fully as magical as these two films, but common denominators like well-developed characters and eye-catching special effects probably give the Norwegians reason enough to be proud of this nearly seamless tour-de-force. Like many Swedish action films, however, it suffers a tad from the "Hollywood-wannabe"-syndrome. Mainly in the introduction, so it's nothing that gnaws in the long run, but it should be mentioned that it - particularly in the English-speaking parts - has its marginally pretentious moments. A little more wind in the sails wouldn't have hurt either, as the suspense is intermittently broken by a slow-going lull. That the year is 1947 becomes very evident in the film's attribute as a character study. Each and every individual with their distinctive personality, whereof some have been strongly affected by the foregoing war. In triumph and adversity, we touch upon their souls, with Heyerdahl as the glue who enthusiastically keeps them together. His theory may now have been disproved by the help of modern genetics, but that it's a life achievement worthy of the history books - as well as a film escapade deserving of its international kudos - remain as true as the ocean is blue. 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
Side Effects 2013, R)
Said to be Soderbergh's last ever film, this post-modern Hitchcockian thriller would certainly conclude his oeuvre on a high and impressive note. Starting off really slow and almost repellently unremarkable, I first wondered if it was going to be another overrated sleeping pill. Just as I was about to lose my patience, however, it rapidly shifted gear, escalating into a devastating turn of events and a superbly intriguing mystery yarn you feel compelled to see unraveled. Besides the top notch acting (with Rooney Mara and Jude Law really playing things to the hilt), figuring out this puzzle box to Thomas Newman's enhancing music score is a stimulant that will really make your day. It's only side effect: an apparent risk of melancholy as this could very well be where the Soderbergh train makes its final stop. My prescription: check it out. Because I don't need to be on any medication to say that this is my personal favorite film by him since the suave and classy Ocean's Eleven. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mikes-Movie-Reviews/281824101875153
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)
The Skin I Live In 2011, R)
The Idiots (Idioterne) (Dogma 95) 1998, R)
The Godfather 1972, R)
The Godfather, Part II 1974, R)
Scarface 1983, 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
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
Lilo & Stitch 2002, 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
The Departed 2006, R)
The Blair Witch Project 1999, R)
Children of Men 2006, 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