Rings, American movie (2017)

Almost 20 years ago I saw a Japanese horrormovie called Ringu, more commonly known as The Ring. Up until a certain scene, it was a good horrormovie, with some genuinely frightening moments. But then near the end of the film it suddenly happened: a scene that was so incredibly horrifying, that it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. With an open mouth I kept staring at the television screen, not really comprehending what was happening to me. I actually froze, and was completely terrified at the scene that kept unfolding before me. What up to that point had been a very good and scary film, changed into something that to date gave me the biggest scare that I have ever had in my life while watching a movie. The film went on to become a huge succes, and ofcourse the inevitable American remake also appeared. Starring Naomi Watts, it actually was not a bad movie, but it just lacked the atmosphere of the original Japanese version. A sequel to the American remake was released in 2005, and now 12 years later we have Rings, a movie that was supposed to reboot the saga.

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That was pretty much my expression while watching this film. 

In Rings we meet up with college professor Gabriel, who buys an old VCR. Upon coming home he discovers that there is still a videotape inside it. It turns out to be the cursed tape that has killed so many people in the past. When you watch it, you just have seven more days left to live until you die, unless you make a copy of the tape and have someone else watch it. At college a new student named Holt starts classes, leaving behind his girlfriend Julia who lives off campus. They keep in touch with Skype, but then Holt all of a sudden does not contact her as often anymore, until he stops doing so completely. Julia decides to find out what is going on, and heads to Holt’s college. Soon she discovers that Gabriel has started a bizarre experiment involving the videotape, and Holt is a part of that experiment. In order to save her boyfriend, Julia ends up watching the tape, which results in her having seven days left before she is scheduled to die. Determined to put an end to everything once and for all, she desperately tries to find a way to end the curse. But that is easier said than done, and time is running out….

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Where is Sheldon when you need him? 

The question I asked myself when I first heard about this movie is if there was really anyone waiting for this one. It’s been twelve years after the release of the last American version of the Ring, and that movie was not very well received at the time. So why even make this? I don’t really expect an answer, but I ended up watching it anyway. Sadly though, what could have been a reboot for this if it had been done well, ended up being a waste of a movie. Where the original two movies at least had plenty of scares, we now have a film that tries to copy that, but fails completely. Not once in this movie did I feel a sense of being frightened. There were one or two interesting scenes, but ultimately this was a pretty boring movie.

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Yep, it’s her again…too bad she was nothing to be scared of this time. 

 

Another thing that did not work in this film were it’s characters. They were just very dull, and I honestly could not care less what happened to them. The cast consisted of relatively unknowns, with the exception of Vincent D’Onofrio and Johny Galecki. Though the acting in the movie wasn’t bad, the script itself just did not provide a good enough story to leave a lasting impression for any of the actors involved. So, what remains is a film that has very little in common with the original movie, and should have stayed buried in a well. Honestly there is almost nothing to recommend about this movie. If you really want to have a good scare, go and see the original 1998 Ringu. I promise you that movie is still every bit as powerful after all these years.

I give Rings a 3 out of 10 score.

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Merantau, Indonesian movie (2009)

I was introduced to the martial arts movie genre, by watching old Jackie Chan movies. Really, the guy is amazing, and whether or not you like his movies, I don’t think anyone can dispute his skills. Pretty much every martial arts movie I watched in those early days, had it’s origins in Hong Kong. However as my interest in those movies grew, I slowly began to discover that there were other countries that also made some very high quality martial arts films. Indonesia is one of those countries, and it turned the genre upside down with the phenomenal movies The Raid, and The Raid 2. The star from those two films is a man named Iko Uwais. One of the things I tend to do when I really like something is to find out as much as I can about it, or in this case the actor. To my surprise Netflix had one of Iko’s earlier movies on offer, and it turned out to be a hidden gem.

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Take it to the bridge….

In Merantau, Iko plays the role of the young man Yuda who is an expert in Silat, a form of martial arts. Yuda lives with his mother and his older brother in the peaceful  countryside. One day however Yuda leaves his home to go on his Merantau, which can best be described as a kind of journey to seek out experience and succes. His plan is to teach Silat to the children of Jakarta, and become a better man by doing so. When he arrives in the city, he soon discovers that things are very different from the countryside. What’s more while enjoying a relatively peaceful meal, his wallet gets stolen by a young boy. Yuda gives chase, and manages to catch the would be thief. Not long after the boy’s sister, Astri, appears who is found arguing with her boss Johnny. When Astri is struck in the face by Johnny, Yuda comes to her aid. From this point on things are beginning to go very wrong. A ruthless human trafficker called Ratger, will stop at nothing to get Astri back, and the only one standing in his way is Yuda. But Yuda finds himself outnumbered as Ratger has an enormous amount of henchmen at his disposal, that soon give chase. Will Yuda be able to save Astri, or will his efforts be in vain?

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Don’t look into his eyes unless you want to be brainwashed. 

This movie is a fine example of a film that I expected absolutely nothing from, but which turned out to be an enormous surprise. I thought this would be a fairly standard action flick, with maybe one or two good fight scenes, but not much more on offer. I was completely wrong. The biggest surprise to me in this film, was the amount of touching moments it contained. Yes, this is an actionmovie, but the story itself, while nothing really unique, contains some genuine heart. This is in part because of the amazing chemistry between the two lead actors. Iko really shows that besides martial arts he can also act and his scenes with Sisca Jessica who plays Astri, are some of the best parts of this film. The villain of this movie is played by Danish actor Mads Koudal, and he does a great job in portraying a pretty psychotic human trafficker.

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She does have a second eye beneath her hair, no worries. 

But ofcourse a martial arts movie stands or falls with it’s fight sequences, and it is also in this department that it truly shines. We have some seriously amazing fight choreagraphy on display here, and it is hard to pick a favorite scene. Iko sometimes seems to be made of rubber the way he manages to twist his body in almost impossible positions. With all the positive things on offer the movie does lose a bit of credibility near the end. There is one scene in an elevator that really goes way over the top, and is completely unbelievable. But that one scene wasn’t enough to spoil the film though. For everyone who is a fan of martial arts movies, and wants to experience something slightly different from what this genre usually has to offer, I recommend seeing this one. It is a high speed train ride that never lets up, but also doesn’t forget to put some heart into the storyline.

I give Merantau a 8 out of 10 score.

 

Robocop, American movie (1987)

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while now, know that I am a massive 80’s fan. And if you are a new reader, welcome, and I guess you now know this too. One of the things I really enjoyed in the 80’s were the enormous amount of iconic science fiction movies that were made. It gave us so many great characters, like for instance The Terminator and Predator , that one would almost forget that we are talking about movies that were made more than 30 years ago. But even so, all of these have withstood the test of time very well, and are still highly enjoyable to watch. Another character that stems from that great era is a cop. And we are not talking about an ordinary cop, we are talking about Robocop, the future of law enforcement.

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What? He’s just getting some gas for his car, nothing to see here. 

Robocop takes place in the near future in the city of Detroit. It is not the Detroid we know today, but a cesspool of a city, ruled by criminals and where cops are pretty much outnumbered. To get a grip on the criminal elements, the mayor of the city has turned to the powerful mega company Omni Consumer Products, or OCP for short. The vice-president of the company, a man named Dick Jones, has just presented his new tool against crime, a robotic droid called ED-209. Unfortunately the first test of this thing is unsuccessful to put it mildly. Meanwhile a new cop has just arrived at Detroid police headquarters, a man named Alex Murphy. After being introduced to his new partner, the feisty Ann Lewis, the two of them hit the streets. Hot on the trail of a group of criminals led by the ruthless Boddicker, they get caught in an ambush, where Murphy is killed. Not long after this horrible event, OCP introduces their new weapon against crime: Robocop. Soon crime in the city takes a hit, as Robocop begins his mission of justice. But Ann sees an uncanny resemblance to her old partner Murphy in the cyborg. And as succesful as Robocop seems to be, there are some things that even he can’t fight…..

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Don’t mean to interrupt, but there is something behind you. 

Robocop is another one of those classic movie characters that I was talking about earlier. Portrayed by actor Peter Weller, he has brought this character to life in a very impressive way. The Robocop suit he wore, was very uncomfortable, and to top things off, the only thing you could see of his face was his mouth. Despite that fact, he still manages to give away a stunning performance, and brings a humanity to his role that most actors can only dream off. The other actor worthy of note is Kurtwood Smith, who most people might know from That 70’s show. Here he plays the role of the evil Clarence Boddicker, a man that you will really grow to hate during this film. And that is all because of the great acting of Smith, as he truly excells in portraying this hated character. Ronny Cox in the role of Dick Jones, and Nancy Allen as Ann Lewis provide great supporting characters. All in all the acting on display only adds to the enjoyment of this movie.

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Trust me when I say that you will grow to hate this man. 

Now I am not going to lie to you here, Robocop is a brutal movie. There is some very graphic violence in this film, a trademark in most of director Paul Verhoeven’s movies. It does work in this film however, even though some people might really frown upon it. The story of the film is full of criticism upon the corporate America of the 80’s. One of the ways this is done is through the showing of a couple of hilarious commercials throughout the movie, and a few television newscasts. So besides this working as a great science fiction action movie, it is also a well thought out story, full of small jabs at the American way of life of the 80’s. The special effects for the movie were state of the art at the time, but do look a bit dated now, especially the stop motion scenes involving the ED-209 droid. But this really is a minor issue, as the movie is still well worth the watch.

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Imagine showing up to work like this. 

Robocop went on to become part of movie history. It spawned two sequels, an animated and live action tv series, and a remake of the original film. Now the remake was not received very well at the time, but I certainly did not think it was a bad film. I might do a review for that one in the near future. The 1987 version however, is still the best one, and a movie that I highly recommend. Besides great performances, it has a meaningful storyline, and some great action sequences. If you are easily offended by gore and ultraviolence though, I think it is best to avoid seeing this movie. Otherwise there might be trouble, to quote a Robocop phrase.

I give Robocop a 9 out of 10 score.

The Precipice game, Chinese movie (2016)

I think everyone has a bucketlist. Or to rephrase, a list of things that you want to do before you die. One of the things on my list is to make a cruise. I don’t even care about the destination, but just to be on board a big ship and enjoy the voyage itself, is just something I would love to do some day. As with most things, it is all a question of finding the correct time for it, but it is not something that’s totally impossible. If I do get to go aboard one day, I hope it will not be the same experience that the people in this movie had. Or honestly the experience that I had while watching this one. But let’s not go full steam ahead yet, but start with the story of the movie first.

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Did you just steal my phone? 

Liu Chenchen is a woman who works in a hospital as a surgeon. Her mother always seems to interfere with her life, especially when it comes to her choice of boyfriends. As is usually the case with things like this, she doesn’t really care about the opinion of her mother. Especially not now, since she is very happy with her current boyfriend Yu Bingchuan. When she meets up with him, after brushing off her mother, he has a big surprise for her. He has won two tickets for a Sky Line Adventure Cruise, and they can even win a big sum of money. Liu doesn’t have to think twice about this, and soon the couple board the enormous ship on which the contest is about to take place. Strangely enough there seem to be only four other passengers besides themselves. Not long after their departure, the game begins. But it is a very different game than what they expected. Soon people begin to die, and Liu has to find a way to stay alive aboard a ship that is filled with deadly traps, and a very sadistic host….

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It’s best not to shed to much light on this movie. 

A movie such as this could really have been pretty interesting. Even though the story isn’t incredible original, if done well it could have provided some mindless horror fun. Observant readers might already have noticed the choice of words I have used and fear the worst. And you would be right. This really wasn’t a very good movie. First off we have the acting. Most of the actors in this film just weren’t very good, but that might also have to do with the incredibly cheesy lines of the script. The only two actors that at least did a passable job were Lin Xinru as Liu Chenchen, and He Rundong as Ye Qing. This last character was the best one from the movie in my opinion. Ye Qing starts off as a bit of a gruff person, but eventually turns into a hero with the heart of gold. The rest of the cast was just truly forgettable, and the way some of them screamed in fear, sounded like a teakettle blowing of some steam. Truly cringeworthy.

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And, action! Now,all of you look in fear…..erm….never mind….

The sets were okay, and some of the traps that were on board the ship reminded me a bit of the ones found in the infamous Saw horror franchise. Despite a few rare occasions, the movie just wasn’t really terrifying at all, something I do expect to find in a horror/thriller movie. However just when I was about to write off the movie as a total loss, a rather interesting twist occurred at the end. It wasn’t enough to save the movie, but it was something I did not expect and as such it at least gave it some points back. All in all though, this film was just not very entertaining. With bad acting, and a pretty lackluster script, this movie had best sink to the bottom of the ocean. A real shame as the movie did have some potential. There are worse movies out there for sure, so it’s not a complete loss, but I can’t really recommend this film though.

I give The Precipice Game a 5 out of 10 score.

Lone Survivor, American Movie (2013)

Choices. In your life you will make quite a few of them. Most of these will be very small. For instance will I take the salad today, or am I going for the hamburger? But there are also choices that will have a lot more impact. A decision that you will look at from every angle in order to see what impact it might have on your life. If you are like me, hopefully those choices how ever hard they might be, will not involve life or death situations. Unfortunately though, there are also people in this world that come face to face with these kind of things on pretty much a daily basis. The movie Lone Survivor deals with the consequences of just such a life or death choice.

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Some people take Call of Duty just way too seriously.

Lone Survivor is based on a true story. A group of American soldiers is tasked with the capture or kill of the high profile Taliban leader Ahmed Shah. This man is responsible for the killing of a number of American soldiers, as well as local villagers that were aiding the American forces. A four man SEAL team including teamleader Michael Murphy is inserted in the region where Ahmed is supposed to reside. When the group is beginning to near their target, an old man and two children accidentally stumble across the soldiers. From this point on the SEALs are faced with a terrible choice: they either let them go and risk discovery, or kill them and make sure the mission can be accomplished. With the group divided on what to do, time is running out and with every second that passes they are in more danger. The ultimate decision lies with Michael, but whatever he finally chooses to do, it will be a choice that will haunt him for the rest of his life.

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The things you find in Christmas trees these days.

The strength of this film is definitely the story. Really, ask yourself the same question, what would you do when faced with a situation like this? Even if you make the choice that might be the morally correct one, it may end up costing you your life, and the lives of your team mates. It is a really terrible dilemma, and one that is presented in terrific way in this film. A movie like this could fall into the trap of becoming a commercial for the American warmachine, but it thankfully avoids doing that. It shows both sides of the conflict, without passing judgement on what is right or wrong. The fact that this movie is based on a true story, makes it only more powerful and realistic.

Lone Survivor
Sometimes you just want to take a break from it all.

The cast that was assembled for this movie does an awesome job. We have Mark Wahlberg, who plays the role of Marcus Luttrell, the soldier that feels the strongest about not killing the old man and children. Wahlberg is no stranger to action roles, and this movie certainly has plenty of action sequences, but he can also act. And that he certainly did in this movie, a role I found to be one of his best to date. Actor Ben Foster, who seems to have a different look for every movie he appears in, portrays the role of Matthew Axelson. Now Matthew has the exact opposite opinion of the situation, that Marcus has. This allows for a couple of great verbal exchanges between the two characters, and those serve as some of the best scenes from the movie. The two other team mates are played by Taylor Kitsch and Emile Hirsch, both of whom also do an excellent job. But it is both Wahlberg and Foster that really carry this movie.

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Okay…now you have made me mad: I’m calling Optimus Prime.

This review would not be complete without the mention of the incredible action sequences that are featured in this movie. There is a gunfight scene that I found to be one of the best that I have ever seen put to film. I kid you not. The stuntwork that is carried out in this movie often had me wondering how on Earth they managed to achieve it without people getting hurt or killed. It is really impressive, and only makes the movie even better than it already is. But it is ultimately the story that makes this film so good. When the endcredits finally roll, it will remain in your mind, and have you thinking about the morality of certain things. Lone Survivor is an excellent movie and one I highly recommend for actionlovers that also enjoy watching a well written storyline.

I give Lone Survivor a 9 out of 10 score.

 

Wonder Woman, American movie (2017)

As a kid I loved comic books, even though I started reading them at a pretty late age. I think it was around the age of 12 or 13 that I was first introduced to the world of superheroes, when I bought a whole stack of those comics for a very low price. Pretty much all of these were from Marvel comics, and needless to say, because of that I am a Marvel fan at heart. Lately though I am also beginning to enjoy the DC universe. I think that unless you have been living on a completely different planet, almost everyone is aware that DC is playing catch up to Marvel when it comes to movies. DC’s latest effort to settle the score is Wonder Woman. The movie has been receiving very positive reviews everywhere, and some even say it is one of the best superhero movies ever made. What did I think of it? Let us first start at the beginning and find out what the film is about, before I share my thoughts on it.

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No, you are not watching season 7 of Game of Thrones.

On a hidden and mythical island called Themyscira, we meet up with the young girl Diana. Themyscira is home to a race of beautiful Amazon women warriors, created by the gods of Mount Olympus. Even at a very young age, Diana was always eager to learn how to fight, against the wishes of her mother the queen. Eventually though, her mother has no choice but to accept the fact that her daughter is destined for greatness and allows her to be trained to become a warrior. Years later, Diana has grown up as a fully trained fighter who possesses remarkable skills. One day, while out for a walk on the beach, she witnesses a warplane going down in the ocean. Without hesitation she jumps into the water and manages to rescue the pilot, a young man called Steve Trevor. It is not soon after that Diana learns about a great war that is taking place in the world. Steve describes it as “the war to end all wars”. Diana cannot help but be intrigued, but also because she feels that an ancient enemy of her people is behind this war. She decides to leave the island together with Steve, and offer her assistance. But Diana will soon find out that the world she leaves behind is far different from the one she is about to enter….

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And no this also isn’t the Good, the Bad, and the Wonder Woman.

Even though I try to not let myself be influenced by reviews, either positive or negative, I can’t help but get excited when a movie is generating a positive buzz. Wonder Woman was no exception. That is why I was all the more disappointed by the fact that I definitely expected more from this movie. Don’t get me wrong, this film wasn’t bad at all, and there were enough things in it to enjoy. But for a movie that was made out to be one of the best superhero movies ever made, I think I found myself watching a very different film. There were quite a few moments in the movie, where quite honestly, I was bored. I don’t mind the fact that they were slowly developing characters, in fact I welcome that even. But for a movie that lasts almost two and a half hours, I do expect to be entertained during the entire runtime. And that did not happen.

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No Chris, you are not playing Kirk here, so your manly charms won’t work on women.

Let’s get one thing straight though, the one thing that makes this movie well worth the watch, are actors Chris Pine who plays Steve, and Gal Gadot as Diana aka Wonder Woman. Their on screen chemistry is the true highlight of this film, and works incredibly well. Gal Gadot, already impressed in Batman V Superman, even though she had only a very small part in it. Here though she gets her chance to shine even more, and she truly carries this movie on her shoulders. But Chris Pine also does a great job in his role as the spy who wrestles also with some moral questions. I find Pine to be an actor that continues to improve with every role he portrays, and this movie was no exception. The rest of the supporting cast, that included the likes of Robin Wright and Danny Huston, were good, but had relatively minor roles. As such their characters were not really able to form a lasting impression.

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Yes….it is time to be afraid now.

The greater part of the film took place during World War I and that really was a unique setting for a superhero movie. The story took it’s time to develop however, and that, for me, was it’s greatest weakness. Even though I knew what the filmmakers were trying to achieve, in my opinion they did not succeed completely. In this digital age, you know a movie like this will feature CGI. The special effects in this film were at times stunning, but there were also moments that I found them to be utterly unconvincing. Maybe my expectations for this movie were just too high. As mentioned, it really was not a bad movie, and I still recommend seeing it in theatres. The only advice I can give though is to not expect to see the best superhero film ever made. Because that will cause some bitter disappointment. And not even a true wonder can change that fact.

I give Wonder Woman a 7 out of 10 score.

The Thing, American/Canadian movie (2011)

Now, I can hear you thinking : “The guy has finally lost it, he’s doing reviews now for movies that he has already reviewed before”. I admit, I’m getting older, and my mind may not be what it used to be, but no this is not the same film that I did a post for two weeks ago. No ladies and gentlemen, even though the movie bears the same name as the 1982 original, what he have here is a prequel. I am usually not really a fan of prequels. The thing is (yes here we go again with the puns), as you already know what happens in the film that comes after the prequel, sometimes that robs you of some excitement. That is especially true with characters that might appear in both movies. If someone is alive in the original film, you can’t very well kill him or her off in the prequel. But as always there are certain exceptions and this is definitely one of them.

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This is why I don’t go on blind dates anymore.

It is the year 1982 and in Antarctica a group of Norwegian researchers make a startling discovery. A gigantic alien spacecraft that has been buried for hundreds of years under the ice has been uncovered. As if this wasn’t enough, the sole occupant of the ship is found frozen in a block of ice nearby. One of the Norwegians, Dr. Sander Halvorson calls in the help of the American paleontologist Kate Lloyd, to assist with what is undoubtely the find of the century. When she arrives at the Norwegian base together with a group of Americans, she is stunned by what they have found. Soon however, the amazement turns into sheer horror. It appears that the thing that has been found frozen in the ice, isn’t dead. What’s more, it has escaped, and is now loose in the base able to take on any organic form it absorbs. Kate will have to fight in order to stay alive, but who can she trust…..?

Thing, The
Go Ripley…..erm Kate.

For the life of me I still don’t understand why this movie got so much negative press at the time of it’s release. Is it as good as the original 1982 film? No it isn’t. The original is a classic and it is hard to reach the same level as a movie that many consider to be one of the best horrorfilms ever made. Does it come close though? I would say: absolutely! One of the things that this film does incredibly well is pay attention to some of the details of the classic movie. Did you ever wonder how the axe that was found by Kurt Russell in the 1982 version got stuck in the wall? This movie gives you an answer to that. As an enormous fan of the original, I loved little details like that.

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Yes……this is definitely disturbing, I could not agree more. 

The characters for this prequel were not as interesting as the ones found in the 1982 movie. That said I absolutely loved the role of Kate played by actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead. If I were to make a comparison, she reminded me a lot of Ellen Ripley from the Alien franchise. Kate is a strong woman, able to keep a clear head in a truly horrifying situation. And what’s more she can really take of herself, which she demonstrates quite often throughout the film. Most of the other characters just did not have enough depth to grow real attached to, despite being played by some well known actors like Joel Edgerton and Ulrich Thomsen. But it was not something that bothered me as there were enough other things to enjoy in this movie.

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It’s really okay to be afraid Kate. 

As for the special effects, they were absolutely amazing. Where the original film did not always show the creature in all it’s horrifying glory, this movie did the exact opposite. Pretty much right from the start, we are shown a few truly terrifying versions of the monster. Lovers of creepy creatures definitely will get their fix in this film. The original only used practical effects, while the prequel also relied on CGI special effects. But these pretty much looked almost the same as the effects in the classic movie, something that I also loved about this film. Last but not least the end of this movie is simply put absolutely perfect, and the first time I saw it, I had goosebumps all over. It was a great homage to the original movie, and as a fan I could not have asked for a better ending.

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Even a good old fashioned autopsy isn’t what it used to be. 

If it has not already become clear, I really loved this film. While not as good as the original, this was a movie that really had respect for it’s source material which in my opinion it definitely showed. Being a huge fan of the original movie (if you haven’t yet read my review for that one you can find it here), I could not have wished for a better film. Yes it had characters that could have been handled a little better maybe, but other than that this movie is great entertainment for horror-and science fiction fans alike. I highly recommend this film to anyone who loves the original and is willing to at least keep an open mind for this one. I guarantee that this movie is a thrill ride from start to finish.

I give The Thing (2011) a 9 out of 10 score.

 

Kids on the slope, Anime tv series (2012)

One of the more fun things that I have experienced lately is doing watch-a-longs for animeseries that are featured on other blogs. It all started with the incredible Your lie in April, that I watched because of the rewatch feature over on Weekend Otaku’s blog. Not only was the series itself worth it, what made it an even better experience was sharing thoughts on each episode with Weekend Otaku and other bloggers. And so it was that I was delighted that another blog that I have always had a high respect for, started a watch-a-long as well. I’m talking about Hazelyn who has an absolutely wonderful blog called Archi Anime. If you are not yet following her, please stop reading, subscribe, and then come back here. Just kidding ofcourse, but trust me when I say that her blog is amazing, has seriously cool features on anime, and some truly unique things you don’t find on other blogs. All very good reasons to subscribe I would say. The watch-a-long she organised was for the delightful animeseries Kids on the slope.

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That is one way of getting someone to shut up. 

Kids on the slope tells the story of Kaoru Nishimi, a student and classical pianist that has never been fully confident in his own abilities. He has moved around quite a lot in his young life and as such has never really fitted in. Having just arrived at a new highschool, he fully expects to have yet another year in which he will experience lonelyness and being bullied. But then he meets the bad boy of the school Sentaro Kawabuchi. The two of them could not be more different, but still an unlikely friendship between the two of them begins to take shape. Even though Kaoru is mainly a classical musician, Sentaro introduces him to the world of jazz music. From this point forward things begin to change in Kaoru’s life. But when he falls in love with the beautiful class president Ritsuko Mukae, who is also a good friend of Sentaro, tensions begin to mount. Will his newly found first real friendship end in disaster?

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Stay way from me or these sticks will hurt you, I’m not kidding around. 

Kids on the slope is a beautiful and heartwarming anime, that I highly enjoyed. It is the story that really drives this series, and themes like friendship, love and music all blend together in a terrific cocktail. I’m not even a big fan of jazz music, but you can’t help but get excited when Kaoru and Sentaro play together. It has resulted in a few great scenes that for these alone make the series well worth the watch. But it are themes like friendship and lonelyness that are really handled incredibly well in this show. Even though there are some pretty dark moments in this anime, these are always alternated with some great feel good scenes. The animation style and setting for the series was quite unique. It was almost dreamlike, and at times even felt a bit like watching a very old but also highly modern animeseries. One only has to look at some of the screenshots that I have provided to see what I mean.

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I love watermelon as well, but this seems like overkill.

The characters of this series are kind of a mixed bunch. Kaoru, the main character, is someone you will have a love/hate relationship with. There are certain actions that he takes that will have you fuming with rage, and at other times you can’t help but feel sympathy for him. The kindhearted Ritsuko is definitely not without her flaws, but she is very important to the story. Sentaro however is the one that I liked the most. Pretty much every scene he appears in was fantastic. His at times very angry attitude, hides a truly kindhearted soul, that cares deeply for his friends. All in all it was wonderful to see the relationship develop between these three characters.

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Piano vs drums, not sure if that is such a good idea. 

This anime certainly won’t be for everyone. For one thing certain episodes did feel kind of slow, and there are a few moments in this series that were a bit confusing. But these events were definitely not enough to spoil the overall appeal of this one. The way the story is eventually wrapped up, is one of the best endings for an animeseries that I have seen to date. I really had a great time watching this rather unique anime and highly recommend it to anyone who loves a great feelgood story. Last but not least I want to thank Hazelyn for bringing Kids on the slope to everyone’s attention and organising this great watch-a-long.

I give Kids on the slope a 8 out of 10 score.

 

Manchester by the Sea, American movie (2017)

My hometown, and where I so far have lived my entire life, is by no means very large. It can’t be considered small either, but it’s kind of in between. This certainly means that although I sometimes come across people I might know or have at least seen a few times, I don’t know everyone that lives here. Which is just as well I guess. Consider living in a very small village were everybody knows you. I for one would not like that at all. Everybody has his or her secrets or things they might not want to become public knowledge. But what if something happened in your past that everyone in your town would know about? Something so horrible that it pretty much influenced your entire life? I think it would simply be impossible to remain in that place. This is one of the things that Casey Affleck’s character has to deal with in the heartbreaking movie Manchester by the Sea.

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Why did you win the Oscar and not me huh? Tell me…..

Lee Chandler works as a janitor and handyman, a job that can not exactly be called glamorous, but at least it pays the bills. Lee is good at his job, but he can’t be considered a real people’s person. He lives a pretty solitary life in a basement, and doesn’t really get along with anyone. One day, Lee gets word that his brother Joe has  had a heartattack. Lee rushes to the hospital, but unfortunately he arrives too late, as his brother has died. Joe had a son Patrick, a boy that Lee was very close with in the past. Patrick has now grown up and is a typical teenager. To Lee’s surprise and shock Joe has written in his will that he wants him to become Patrick’s guardian. This means for Lee to return to the town he grew up in, Manchester by the Sea, Massachusetts. But there is a reason why Lee left that town. Because something very traumatic happened in his past, something so shocking that to date he is still affected by it. Will Lee be able to confront his past and in doing so take care of Patrick, or will the sins of his past drive him over the edge?

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I can tell you now kid, that Oscar is mine, not yours. 

Manchester by the sea is a movie that is driven by two things: solid and decent acting and a heartbreaking story. Casey Affleck plays the role of Lee Chandler, a role which gave him his first Oscar and rightfully so. Affleck plays a character that is so human and wrapped up with guilt, that you can’t help but feel sorry for him. A movie such as this, depends on a performance by the actor, and Casey delivers one that can only be called astounding. But the role of Patrick, played by Lucas Hedges, is also one that definitely falls into that category. The onscreen chemistry between him and Casey, is also one of the reasons why this movie works so well. The rest of the cast, most notably Kyle Chandler who plays Joe, and Michelle Williams who plays Lee’s ex-wife also deliver powerhouse acting. Both Lucas Hedges and Michelle Williams received an Oscar nomination for their roles, but they sadly did not win.

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Are you talking to us? 

But no matter how good the performances by the actors are, if the movie has a bad script it fails. But it is also in this department that the movie shines. The story unfolds in the present, but also in the past through a number of flashbacks, that slowly bring to light what has happened to Lee Chandler. When that reveal finally comes you will definitely be shocked by it, I guarantee you that. The movie went on to also win the Oscar for best original screenplay which does not really come as a surprise. What we have here is a drama that relies heavily on dialogue and acting skills. It delivers a powerful story with solid performances and it is a movie that I highly recommend seeing. If you like your movies filled with explosions and carchases I would advise to stay away from it. But if you are someone who also likes to see movies that bring out the best in terms of story and acting, than this one is for you.

I give Manchester by the Sea a 9 out of 10 score.

Train to Busan, Korean movie (2016)

I guess pretty much everyone that loves movies knows that there are certain genres that have so many films in them, that it is hard to find something that stands out or is original. Take superheroes for instance. While the Marvel movies are still highly entertaining, I have to admit that the formula for these films is starting to get a little bit predictable. Supposedly the new Wonderwoman movie is a fresh wind (Yes I know this is a DC movie) and tries to do things in a different way. I will see that for myself in the coming weekend, when I will finally be able to see it in the theatre. Another moviegenre that has become highly saturated is the zombiefilm. But just when you think that you have seen everything, there comes a film that is so incredibly good, that you start to believe that luckily there is still originality left. And I am not talking about a Hollywood movie either. No, I am talking about a zombiemovie made in Korea, a country nor really known for making these kind of films. So all aboard? Then lets get started with the review shall we?

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Has nobody ever told these people that walking on the train tracks is dangerous? 

Seok-woo is a fund manager that takes his work very seriously. He is divorced and is taking care of his young daughter Soo-an. Because of his work though, he at times neglects his daughter, and for instance forgot about her singing recital. Soo-an’s birthday is coming up soon, and she wants him to take her to Busan to see her mother. At first Seok-woo declines, but feeling guilty about missing her recital, he eventually changes his mind and decides to take her anyway. Soon they board the train that is going to take the two of them to Busan. But when a strange woman enters the train at the last possible second, things take a horrible turn for the worse. The woman is infected with something that has turned her into a bloodthirsty zombie. Soon other people on the train become infected, and not before long everything slow starts to go straight to hell. For Seok-woo and his daughter Soo-an, the ride becomes a struggle for survival. Together with a few other passengers they are in for the fight of their lives…..

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Baseball practice these days is serious business. 

To say that this is just another horrormovie would be a grave injustice. Because this movie is so much more. One of the best things in this movie are it’s characters. Seok-woo played by Gong Yoo is a character who is not without it’s flaws, but that is what is making him so human. The role of his daughter, played by child actress Kim Su-an is the one that impressed me the most. For a child so young to be able to conjure up this much emotion and act so believable is a feat that few actors are able to achieve. She pulls it off though and then some. But the rest of the cast is equally good, most notably Jung Yu-mi who plays a pregnant wife, and Ma Dong-seok who plays her husband. Each and every character in this film has his or her own story, and that is why you really care about what happens to them, something that is very crucial in a movie such as this.

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I think there might be a sales event at the shopping mall, probably the reason why everybody is in a rush. 

This movie doesn’t waste any time in cranking up the tension. Right from the start the film is a rollercoaster ride, that doesn’t let up for one second. Action and horror lovers alike will get their fill, as there are plenty of scenes that will satisfy fans of both these genres. This being a zombie movie there is ofcourse some blood, but it doesn’t get incredibly gory like for instance in The Walking Dead. This movie is more about creating a tense and creepy atmosphere than spilling buckets of blood. But the main reason this movie works so well is the underlying story. It really shows what some people become if something like this were to happen for real. Some of them become brave, others cowards and still others just plain and simple very evil. And that’s what made this movie such a fascinating watch.

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Yep….getting out of there seems like a very good idea. 

As most of you that have been following my blog for a while now know, I am an enormous lover of Asian cinema, especially Korean films. Having seen quite a few of them I can honestly say that this movie is the best Korean movie that I have seen to date. With terrific and at times heartbreaking acting, a great story and equally fantastic action scenes and special effects, this movie is one you can’t afford to miss. If you love The Walking Dead, horror and action movies I highly recommend checking this movie out. Especially if you want to see a different kind of zombiefilm. It may not be the best zombiemovie ever made, but it comes pretty darn close.

I give Train to Busan a 10 out of 10 score.