Rurouni Kenshin, Japanese movie (2012)

Japanese manga are very popular, and as such there are a lot of those that are being adapted for the big screen. Even Hollywood is trying it’s hand at these, as filming is currently underway on Ghost in the Shell starring Scarlett Johansson. Some of these are very good adaptations, but there also a couple that truly are not worth your time, and are an obvious attempt to lure fans of the original sourcematerial to the cinema. Luckily Rurouni Kenshin is a very enjoyable movie, but having not yet read the manga I don’t know if it truly manages to capture the spirit of the graphic novel.

Rurouni Kenshin takes place in 18th century Japan. The assassin known only as “Battousai” leaves a trail of bodies behind, in service of the Imperial side, during the Bakumatsu war. At the end of the war, he comes to his senses and vows to never kill again.  The swordsman leaves behind his former life, and travels through Japan as the wandering samurai Kenshin. Ten years later he has to confront his past, as someone using his former assassin name, is killing people in Tokyo. Kenshin uncovers a diabolical plot conceived by the druglord Kanryuu Takeda, who wants to distribute a new type of opium across Japan. Haunted by his past, and bound by his oath to never kill again, Kenshin will need all his skills to protect the innocent. But will the sins of his past catch up to him?

This movie is the first installment of a trilogy of movies around the lone samurai Kenshin Himura. It is obviously a big budget movie, judging by the big set pieces and fantastic costumes. The swordfights in this movie are absolutely breathtaking, and especially if you like samurai movies, you will not be disappointed by these. The actors portray the characters in a believable way, and most of the dialogue is very enjoyable. Big action sequences are alternated by a few quiet scenes, but even though the movie is over 2 hours long, I was not bored by it for even one second. All in all this was a very enjoyable samurai/fantasy movie that I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys historical or fantasy type movies.

I give this movie a 9 out of 10 score.

Runaway Train, American Movie (1985)

Almost everyone probably has a list of his or her favorite all time movies. Movies that are so good, that no matter how many times you watch them, they still grip you by the throat each time that you see them. Runaway Train is one of those movies that appears in my list of favorite movies of all time. I think that I have lost count the number of times that I have now watched this fantastic movie.

The movie starts in the Stonehaven prison in Alaska. A convict that has been found so dangerous that the sadistic warden of the prison has welded his celldoors shut for three years, is finally let out of his cell,(but not out of prison) after his appeal comes through. The criminal known as “Manny” Manheim immediately begins to plan his escape. Another criminal, who is convicted of statutory rape, called Buck decides to help Manny escape and eventually joins him in his struggle for freedom. Both men end up in the icy cold Alaskan wilderness, and begin a cold trek to a train station. When they arrive at their destination, they board a train to take them further from the prison. Thinking they are finally safe, the men begin to relax. However, unbeknownst to them, the driver of the train has suffered a heart attack, and the train is slowly beginning to pick up speed. Meanwhile the warden of the prison, the cruel man known as Ranken, sets off in pursuit of the two escaped men. Out of control the train thunders on, with an ever increasingly chance of certain disaster…

This movie is an underrated masterpiece. There are so many things in this movie that are just absolutely incredible, it is hard to name everything. The performances in this movie are fantastic, and both Jon Voight (playing Manny) and Eric Roberts (playing Buck) got an Oscar nomination for their roles. Voight plays one of the best roles of his career as the tough and brutal criminal Manny, who is hellbent on gaining his freedom. The cinematography is also stunning, as the icy cold Alaskan landscape brings forth an ever present sense of doom. And that brings me to the music of Trevor Jones, who composed a score that is in equal parts sad and beautiful, and which also plays a very important part in setting the tone of this movie. Even though this movie is now 31 years old, it is not outdated in any way. I can go on about this gem for hours, but i am not going to do that. All I can say is if you have a chance to see this movie, than grab it. You are definitely in for one hell of a ride, and one that will stick with you for a very long time.

I give this movie a 10 out of 10 score.

Rocky Balboa, American Movie (2006)

Sylvester Stallone has starred in an incredible amount of action movies. There are two characters for which he will always be known however: One of those is Rambo, the other is ofcourse Rocky. He reprised his iconic role in 2015 in the well received spin-off movie Creed, which also gave him an Oscar nomination. Sadly he did not win this, which in my mind was definitely something that he should have won, since it was such a well played part. Before Creed, the last time he played Rocky was in 2006, in the movie Rocky Balboa. The story of the movie is kind of a metaphor for what people at the time were thinking when first hearing about a sixth installment in the franchise. Everyone thought that it would be a very bad movie, and that Stallone was simply to old to play the part. He proved them all wrong though.

In this sixth movie we follow Rocky after the love of his life, Adrian, has died. Rocky tries to relive his past by visiting old places he used to frequent, along with his old friend Paulie. His son meanwhile, blames him for casting too big of a shadow, and because of that can’t live the live he truly wants. In the world of boxing, the undefeated champion, Mason “the Line” Dixon has no real challenger. Because of that, the people in general dislike him, thinking he has no right to the title champion. When Rocky expresses his desire to return to the boxing arena, an exhibition fight is organised between the old and the new champion. Everyone doesn’t give a dime for Rocky’s chances. But Rocky will try to prove to everyone that it ain’t over ’til it’s over…..

Rocky has always been about the underdog story. And that is why people probably love these movies. Sylvester Stallone is Rocky, and  again he proves he can definitely act with the portrayal of this beloved character. The big fight in this movie is shot perfectly, and you can’t help having respect for the actor, who at the time of shooting this movie was 60 years of age.  Most people would not have even made an attempt to play a role like this at that age, but not only does Stallone pull it off, he does it convincingly. Ofcourse this movie isn’t perfect, but you can’t help but root for Rocky during his big fight with Dixon. The story tries to convince everyone that no matter how old you are, if you believe in yourself, you can succeed at anything. And you know what? That is true in every sense of the word.

I give this movie a 8 out 10 score.

 

Falling Skies Season 4, American/Canadian tv series (2014)

Falling Skies has sometimes been described as the Walking Dead, only instead of zombies there are aliens. I can understand the comparisons. Both shows feature an Earth where humanity is facing extinction, and society has fallen apart. However I do think that it is not entirely fair to just call it a Walking Dead clone. Falling Skies is also a show about family, and where young children have to fight in a war out of necessity. It has always been the human element that makes this series shine, and season 4 is no different in that respect.

In season 4 the Mason family and most of the main cast become seperated from each other after a devestating new Espheni attack. Tom Mason will have to rely on all his skills to figure out a way to reunite the 2nd Mass and take the fight back to the aliens. The person who is also going to be playing a big role in the war is his own daughter Lexi, but the question on everyone’s mind is: can she be trusted? With the 2nd Mass scattered to the four winds, the war rages on and the stakes have never been higher.

I have heard it said that this fourth season of the show is where Falling Skies is beginning to drag out the story line. I do have to say that in comparison to the three other seasons, this one certainly does feel a little weaker. Some of the episodes are just a little bit less exiting, and the action that was always prominently featured on this show, at times is not as spectacular. However to say that because of that this was a bad season, I have to disagree with that notion. There were still enough good episodes that made it worthwhile. Noah Wyle was especially good this season, and in his role as Tom Mason he had to make a few very tough choices, ones that not everyone might agree with.

The season finale was definitely one of the best episodes of Falling Skies to date, and because of that episode alone, I am glad I stuck around for the ride. Ofcourse it ends with a cliffhanger, and with only one more season to go I am truly wondering how all of the storylines are going to be wrapped up. All in all though I still enjoyed this season enough to be looking forward to the fifth and final season of Falling Skies.

I give the fourth season of Falling Skies an 8 out of 10 score.

Red Machine, American/Canadian movie (2015)

Nearly everybody loves a good monster movie. Ever since Jaws graced the movie theatres way back in the 70’s, there have been numerous movies featuring people being hunted by animals. We have had movies about Orca’s, Crocodiles, Alligators, Snakes, Spiders and Bears. The movie that most springs to mind featuring the latter animal is The Edge, starring Anthony Hopkins. It was a good thriller with a very well trained animal in the form of Bart the Bear. His namesake, ( but not related to the original), Bart the Bear 2 , is featured in the movie i am about to review: Red Machine. (Also known as Into the Grizzly Maze).

It tells the story about the young man Rowan, who returns to his hometown, after he has received a call to find an old friend who has been lost for a while. Arriving in town he is soon reunited with his estranged brother Beckett. Setting out in the neighbouring woods to find his friend, Rowan becomes the target of a rogue grizzly bear. Also in the woods at the time, is Becketts deaf wife, Michelle. When more people become the target of the bear, a local hunters help is called in. A battle and fight for survival begins in the dark forests….

This movie was definitely not bad. It features a pretty impressive cast in the form of James Marsden, Glenn Jones, Thomas Jane, Piper Perabo and Billy Bob Thornton. As such the acting is definitely above par, and this truly elevates the movie to above average. The story ofcourse isn’t the next contender for best script at the next Oscar race, but that is not the reason you watch a movie like this anyway. There are a couple of pretty tense and exiting scenes featuring the bear, and all credit has to go to the animal trainers. Some of the scenes are so realistic that you have to wonder how in the world they did that with a real live animal.

All in all this was a pretty nice little creature feature. It starts of a bit slow, but once it picks up the pace, there really is enough to enjoy to definitely make it worth it. If you like monster movies, chances are good that you will enjoy this one.

I give this movie a 7 out of 10 score.

[REC ] 3 Genesis, Spanish movie (2014)

In 2007 the Spanish horror movie [REC] gave a jolt to the found footage horror genre. The film told the story from a first person perspective, and featured a reporter travelling along with the fire department when they are sent out on what at first appears to be a routine call. Arriving on the scene they find themselves trapped in an apartment building, right in the middle of an outbreak of a deadly virus, which transformed the residents into bloodthirsty monsters. It was cleverly filmed, had a lot of scares, and was just a treat for horrorfans. The sequel, though not as good as the first one, was still a very enjoyable ride, and picked up the story right where the first movie ended. And then came [REC] 3.

In this third installment we are dropped in the middle of a wedding. As in the first two movies, the story is told from a first person perspective, and features shots of the wedding guests and the wedding itself between the lovely couple Koldo and Clara. At least that is how it starts. Later in the evening all hell brakes loose, as guests begin attacking each other, and it becomes apparent the virus has once again claimed new victims. It is then that the movie all of a sudden exchanges the first person perspective with a normal style of film making, breaking with the tradition of the first two parts. Koldo and Clara become seperated from each other, and the movie alternates between them in their quest to find each other. Will the couple be reunited or are they to fall victim to the mindless horde of zombies?

Wow! What an incredible mess this movie was. As much as i enjoyed the first two movies i can’t believe how bad this third part was. Gone are the scares of part 1 and 2, instead turning this one into a kind of dark comedy, albeit a very bad one. The blood and gore is completely over the top, as zombies get sliced and diced in ever more gruesome ways. That would not be a bad thing in itself if the movie was any fun to watch, but unfortunately it is in this department that the movie fails completely. It’s very short run time, 1 hour and 17 minutes, does not improve it either. I expected a lot more from this one, and was very disappointed by it to say the least. Hopefully the fourth part, that supposedly ends the franchise, will at least redeem the series.

I give this movie a 2 out of 10 score.

Bitten Season 1, Canadian tv series (2014)

The Canadian born actress Laura Vandervoort, has achieved a bit of a cult status amongst sci-fi fans. She is perhaps best known for her role as Kara, Supermans niece in the fantastic tv show Smallville. After that she has played in numerous sci-fi and fantasy productions most notably the sadly cancelled V. Bitten is the first show where she is not playing a supporting role, but stars as one of the lead characters.

Laura plays the role of Elena Michaels, a woman who is at first glance a strongwilled, but normal person. Elena has a very dark secret however. She is the first woman who has survived a bite from a werewolf. Elena tries hard to live a normal live, together with her human boyfriend Philip. Eventually though her werewolf past catches up to her. The Pack from which she desperately has tried to stay away, is in dire need of her help. Someone is turning serial killers and other psychopaths into werewolfs, and the local autorities are beginning to investigate her surrogate family. Elena, who was the best tracker of the Pack, is asked to help find the people responsible. It is not long before Elena is drawn back into the Pack and has to face her former ex-boyfriend Clay, himself also a werewolf. Will Elena be able to keep the secrets of her past in balance with her new life? As the bodies start piling up, and events are beginning to hit closer to home, things are becoming increasingly more difficult…

When watching the first few episodes of this show, i did not really feel a connection with it. The characters lacked depth, the special effects were not very convincing, and the frequent nudity just felt like it was put in there to draw an audience. I am glad i stuck with it though, because as the show progresses it definitely becomes better. I loved the increasingly dark atmosphere, and especially the second half of the season, is definitely well worth your time. As the story becomes darker and more secrets of the past are revealed, the show begins to pick up the pace, and the first few episodes are quickly forgotten. The end of this season will definitely leave you hungry for more. This series could best be described as an adult version of Teenwolf, and if you like dark fantasy shows, with convincing performances, this one is for you.

I give the first season of Bitten a 7 out of 10 score.

Predestination, Australian movie (2014)

I love movies and tv shows that involve some aspect of time travel. There are ofcourse the classics, such as Back to the Future or the Terminator, but sometimes you come across a movie that does it in a completely different way. A movie that when the end credits roll, you just know will keep spinning through your mind. Predestination , starring Ethan Hawke, is a movie like that.

Ethan plays the role of a temporal agent who’s job it is to prevent major crimes before they actually happen. He is hunting the terrorist known only by the name the press gave him : “the Fizzle Bomber”. Travelling through time he tries to catch up to this man, before the bomber causes an enormous explosion in New York, that will result in the death of more than ten thousand people….

Now when you read this short synopsis you expect a big action flick with a lot of big fights and special effects, right? Well, let me tell you that this movie is completely different from what you would expect. For one thing it is pretty slow. The first act will cause some people to maybe switch it off, because nothing really happens, besides someone telling a story. Trust me when i say that if you would, you would be missing out on an absolutely amazing movie. I cannot tell more about the story itself without giving away spoilers, so that is not what i am going to do. There is a reason the first act is slow, and you will discover that reason as the rest of the movie unfolds.

The script of this movie, based on a short story of Robert A. Heinlein dating back to 1959, is incredibly clever. It will guarantee to keep your mind occupied throughout the unfolding story, and like i said after you finish it. Ethan Hawke, who is always a solid actor plays a very good role as the determined temporal agent. Credits also have to go to actress Sarah Snook, who plays an even better role than Ethan himself.

This is definitely not your average movie. It contains little to no action, but what it does do is give you one of the best time travel stories that i have seen to date. Give it time (pun intended) and the movie will definitely reward you for it.

I give this movie an 8 out of 10 score.

Black Sails Season 2, American tv series (2015)

Black Sails is a tv series about Pirates. To describe it like this would definitely be selling it short. Because Black Sails is so much more. It is about men seeking revenge, justice, redemption, but above all it is a show about characters. This series produced by Michael Bay can best be compared to Vikings, as both shows share a bit of a similar vibe. The first season of Black Sails was good, but also contained some episodes where i felt they were just dragging out the storyline. The second season though, has none of those. It is a vast improvement over the first season, and the incredible season finale could almost have been a big blockbuster movie.

The second season starts off right where season 1 ended. Captain Flint is still trying to get to the gold of the Spanish vessel Urca. However there is much mistrust amongst his men and they doubt his ability to lead. In fact the only ally he seems to have left is mr. Silver. The season interestingly explores a lot of the background of Flints character, and we get to find out exactly what drove him to become the man he is today. We are also introduced to a couple of new characters this season of which the most noteworthy is captain Ned Lowe. To call Lowe evil is an understatement. He is nothing short of a monster, who brings along a lot of new troubles to the island of Nassau.

Anne Bonny and her relationship with Jack Rackham will also be put to the test, and this storyline is also one of the more interesting ones that are explored this season. Everything in this season is bigger, and you truly get the sense that we are transported back in time to the early 18th century. The battles that are fought both on the ground and at sea, are so good that you wonder how it is possible that they did this with a tv-budget. Everything, from the incredible sets, the impressive ships, and the wonderfull costumes, just feels right.

I absolutely loved this season of Black Sails. As i said the first season even though i liked it, felt a bit underdeveloped at times. But in this one, the writers just did everything right. I loved watching  most of the characters getting a proper background story, and it is because of this, that you definitely get more invested in them. This is especially true with captain Flint, and as this season ends, it will be very interesting to see where his journey will take him next. All roads are open, or should i say, all sealanes are open….

I give this 2nd season of Black Sails a 9 out of 10 score.

Pound of Flesh, Canadian Movie (2015)

Jean Claude van Damme used to be a high profile action movie star, and about as highly rated as Stallone and Schwarzenegger. He has made a lot classic action movies such as Bloodsport, Kickboxer and Hard Target. Unfortunately his stardom has dwindled in the past years, and you now almost exclusively find him in B-movies. Which is a real shame, because most of these, even though made on a shoestring budget are still entertaining, especially for the action flick lovers amongst us.

In Pound of Flesh he plays the role of Deacon Lyle a Kidnap and Rescue expert. Deacon finds himself waking up naked in a hotel room bathtub, in icecold water. It is not long before he dicovers that he has become the victim of a bunch of organ traffickers, who have stolen his kidney. The kidney was to be used for a transplant for the daughter of his estranged brother. Now Deacon has to travel through the dark streets and corners of Manila in order to find back his kidney before it’s too late. He gets help from one of his old contacts and his brother. Working with his brother presents it’s own set of problems though, as he is the complete opposite of Deacon. The trail begins with a mysterious woman whom Deacon remembers was with him in the hotel room, just before his kidney was taken from him. Time is running out however, and the ruthless people behind the theft will stop at nothing to prevent Deacon from getting what he wants.

Pound of Flesh is a pretty decent action movie. The script will not win any oscars, but it at least tries to do something different than your usual run and gun flicks. Actionwise there are some interesting fight scenes involving Van Damme in which he proves, even though he is getting old, he can still pull off some moves. The green screen effects in this movie are where it loses points though. Some of the carscene effects are downright silly, and could definitely have been avoided when shooting from another camera angle. The acting is okay enough for a B-movie, and it is nice to see veteran actor Aki Aleong reunited with Van Damme. If you like action movies in general, and don’t mind watching a B-movie from time to time, you can’t really go wrong with this one.

I give this movie a 7 out of 10 score.

Michels Book/Boardgame/Movie review Blog

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