Films of 2016

Films of 2016
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Review Pet (2016): Hobbit goes psycho? I guess the events of Middle-earth have caught up on him.

genre: thriller, horror

Pet is a twisted, dark and sick tale featuring Dominic Monaghan as Seth who is socially awkward, timid but seems to be on the breaking point of some sorts. This starts when he meets Holly (Ksenia Solo) someone who went to the same high school as him so he claims. She doesn't recognize him and even after multiple interactions after it is clear she has no interest whatsoever. She as well seems to be on the edge constantly. According to Seth himself he has fallen in love with her and just tries to woo her but fails miserably. Then one night where Seth oversteps boundaries with her she calls out for boyfriend who beats him up a little and he decides to go a different route.

If you have watched the trailer then you will have a pretty good idea what that entails. But what you probably don't know that the real surprises come after what is shown. Just when you think it's becoming predictable you are served some good twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the end. Even when you figured out what is going to happen the film manages to stay fascinating throughout since there is something very appealing to the darkness and evil that is displayed. I would even go so far to call this a romantic tale although a very bizarre one. Although I will leave that one up to you. Monaghan is convincing as a creep but it is Ksenia Solo that surprises as the strong woman. Still I wished they would have gone a little deeper into their characters since most of the horror comes from their interactions and it would have helped if we actually cared about them. It could be argued that while this tale is weird and bizarre it doesn't go far enough. I mean as in that it puts the viewer on edge constantly. This could be due to some pacing issues and not enough nail biting moments occurring. But I can't deny that the ending will be surprising for some. Although if you have been paying attention to the characters and what they are about it is possible to predict that outcome. One thing that one has to take in account though that most of the events are very implausible and very convenient. It's pretty far fetched and quite unrealistic. This is not unusual in these type of thrillers and actually something I embrace wholeheartedly especially if they offer the surprises this film does.

Overall this is an entertaining and twisted thriller that offers surprises not seen in trailer which in this day and age (unfortunately) is very rare. So certainly one I can recommend.

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Review Legends of Tomorrow S02E07: Invasion / Getting back to the bigger event! (perhaps one very minor mild spoiler)

genre: comic book adaptation, super hero, action, adventure, science fiction

The Arrow and The Flash spin-off has come a long way and while it not always has been a smooth ride it has been very entertaining so far. The whole time travel thing seemed like a plot device that would and could be abused a lot and surprisingly the writers managed to contain themselves and restrict it to only using it in bigger events. That being said there are some issues with being able to time travel whenever you feel like and how it's used. Still the show itself addresses these issues and makes it very meta. So how does the Invasion crossover saga conclude? 

It started as an epic and ended as one. Bigger and better comes to mind. Especially concerning the elements that make super hero films and shows great. I will never get tired of people fighting the good fight no matter what. That is an idea or philosophy we should cherish especially in a world that is filled with darkness and evil. Like in previous episodes in this saga this one wraps up certain story lines for characters like Cisco, Stein and Barry Allen. Perhaps a little convenient but done in a way I can live with. I can't stand it when shows introduce soap opera plot points you know will be solved eventually but hold on to it as long as possible. Which often mistakenly is presumed to be exciting drama. And that is not the case. In fact it is one of the reasons why many people have trouble accepting shows like Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow since it refuses to shake off the soap opera elements. But it looks like the writers are tired of that as well and seem to want to move on from those as well. Hopefully they will stick to this. 

This last episode might not feature long and drawn out battles as one would expect but whatever is shown to us is definitely magnificent. Very close to the airport fight scene in Captain America: Civil War. At least emotion and excitement wise. Of course spectacle wise they did what they could do on a TV Show budget. It never felt like they skimped on money or love and dedication and that is one of the main reasons why this crossover has been a success. Oh yes. I can say without a doubt that this is how crossovers should be. And judging from certain developments we will see more of them in future. All I can say is bring it on I am ready.

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Review Arrow S05E08: Invasion / John Oliver gets a glimpse of what could have been! (No spoilers)

genre: comic book adaptation, super hero, action, adventure

This episode of Arrow continues where it left off in The Flash S03E08 and is much more focused on Oliver Queen than The Flash was about Barry Allen / The Flash. We get to see a tale of what could have been bringing back characters and moments from past events in the show. For the most part this was done well and quite emotional because you could relate to what the majority of characters are feeling. Although there were some slip ups that I am sure off were well intended but did not come out as such. Let's say a very poorly done CGI job in this day and age is unacceptable still it was considerate of the producers of this show to have the person I am referring to in this scene. Another character that was quite prominent in the past also only gets a few seconds of screen time and in my opinion he deserved far better. Other than that I think it was a good episode where the crossover events are personalized and where mostly Thea and Oliver get a chance to overcome their grief and regret. 

Now even with all the craziness going on in Arrow the events in this crossover episode easily tops what they have experienced before. I mean the gang of vigilantes fighting aliens? Even with the occasional meta humans appearing in the show that is something you wouldn't expect that quickly. But it is exactly one of the reasons why I am loving this crossover saga since it embraces the comic book universe a whole lot more and is one of the few times where the audience gets confronted with the bigger DC universe. Like I said in my review of The Flash S05E08, this is the closest we have come to an expanded universe similar to the Marvel Universe. I can't applaud this enough since this is what makes comic book shows so fun. 

It also felt like that the events in this crossover saga will have positive effects for Oliver Queen in particular but that is a guess on my part because obviously I don't know what the writers have in store in future. So definitely a good follow up in this three part crossover.

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Review The Flash S03E08: Invasion / Nothing short of epic! (only very mild spoilers)

genre: action, adventure, super hero, comic book adaptation

Supergirl, The Green Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow and The Flash in one episode. If that doesn't blow your mind nothing will. This is the closest a DC adaptation has come to putting many different heroes of this caliber together successfully. Not even Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice managed to do what this little episode in three parter crossover called Invasion did.

And if that alone wasn't enough they also (very conveniently I must admit) addressed some lingering plot lines from The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. This is nothing short of brilliant since this allows the shows to carry on fresh and get our heroes back on track so that can carry on fighting evil. I wasn't a big fan of the direction The Flash was heading but seeing how it's a newer take on his Flashpoint sage I feel it is something I can embrace now since the writers actually do their best to make it have impact on all of the DC based shows. At least for that ambition alone they earn respect. I was happy to see Ray be The Atom again since say what you want about him he never gave up and that is something I admire greatly. That is what truly makes someone a hero. To stand up and fight even when you have no super powers. I only wished that these writers were allowed to work on the DC movies because they could teach those people a thing or two. It is possible to be dark, brooding and yet uplifting and optimistic. The shows have demonstrated this over and over again and they keep topping themselves. There is such a huge disconnect between the movies and the shows and it makes you wonder if the powers that be have thought it through properly. I know that the ones at Marvel have certain regrets concerning Marvel's Agent of Shields but at least they tried to make the films and the show connect and to be honest I am liking it. I am probably one of the few who was sad to see Agent Carter getting canceled since it was on it's way to be integral to the Marvel Universe had they allowed it to grow. But DC Comics or whoever is in charge from the start have made the mistake to divide the shows and the films and whether they want to admit it or not have missed out on real golden opportunities and pure epicness. Even with the typical CW soap opera style stories and cheesiness the shows do more with the comic book roots than any of the DC films have done. That is almost embarrassing if you ask me.

So if there ever was a time to join the DC universe it's now. Watch and experience bliss!

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Review True Memoirs of an International Assassin (2016): Not bad actually!

genre: action, comedy

To be honest I wasn't expecting that much and even was prepared for it to be very bad. However True Memoirs of an International Assassin might not be original, it does manage to entertain you. Especially if you are willing to overlook the overused clichés that come with the typical fish out of the water plot.

For that the credit has to go to the cast who do their best to make everything digestible. The plot itself might seem lazy but because the actors are willing to make it appear more interesting you won't get annoyed. Ron Rifkin and Andy Garcia might not be in this as much I as would have liked to but with the very little screen time they have they do a lot. Maurice Compte also struck a cord with me. Kelen Coleman looked familiar only I did had to look up where I might have seen her in. Which BTW is The Newsroom. If you didn't remember her from there you will remember her performance in this since she is hilarious. Unfortunately she is also not that much in the film. Still better a shorter memorable role than a longer unforgeable one, right?

I can't promise that you won't get bored because for an action comedy this film could have used more jokes and action. But overall speaking I can't deny that it did make me laugh more than I had hoped for and that the action was adequate. One thing I liked is how we are shown how Sam Larson or actually his alter ego Mason Carver (Kevin James) gets into action while Sam is writing about it and how those scenes change when he decides to write the story differently. This occurs throughout the film and thus sometimes the film tricks you whether what you are seeing is true or not. The slow parts are the scenes where Sam Larson has real trouble to wrap his head around the situation he has found himself in. He is very close to whining all the time. Luckily he never goes overboard with this and he remains likable. Of course you will know how the story play out. That pretty much is a given. But that was never the point of this film anyway. No, all this film tries to do is offer you decent entertainment for those lazy or free moments where you just want to be distracted a little. This is why this film being released on Netflix is almost brilliant.

That is all I can say about this film. Nothing special, but not bad and in this day and age that is a plus.

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Review Hell or High Water (2016): Don't bother, this is a lazy and pretentious crime drama with an agenda!

genre: crime, drama, western

When word arrived concerning this movie I was hyped to see this film. Because reviews were raving and praising the hell out of this film. The fact that Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine and Ben Foster were in this were reason enough for me to buy all of it. Now after having seen it I am beginning to question the sanity of those people.

Hell or High Water is supposed to paint a picture of the real America where poor farmers are trying to get by but are being targeted by evil banks and other powers that be. Naturally this appealed to me at first and yet at one point they lost me on the way. Especially at the end I found myself cursing at the screen since the film did turn out to be pointless. All this time I was saying to myself. No, this is worth it. The banter between Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) was hilarious. Ben Foster as Tanner Howard was great as always even if it was a repeat of pretty much all of the roles he has played so far. Surely there will be more? I kept waiting and waiting and then it ended. Wait, this was it? The film never hides it's agenda. And of course I understand the sentiment. But that does not mean I agree with the actions taken by main characters Toby and Tanner Howard. Actually in the end the film blatantly insults you by giving you a twist of sorts that makes you realize you have been taken for a fool. It is clear that the film wants you to root for the brothers Howard and maybe I would have had they no other options. But they did. So no, they won't be getting my sympathy. I normally am not that fond of the police (in general) but in this case I was on their side. The worst of this film is that there is no logic to any of the actions and events. Everything is based on pure sentiment which goes awry the minute you can't relate. Perhaps this film is meant for the people who voted for Trump although by doing so they dug their own graves so again they won't get my sympathy. When it comes to financial matters you need to use your brains and keep a clear mind. You need to make wise decisions and not opt for choices that will come to haunt you. Sherrif Marcus is right in every way but honestly when has Jeff Bridges been wrong?

With all it's pretension and very lazy storytelling director David Mackenzie has created a film, that is slow, dull, occasionally delightful and ultimately a waste of your time. Hell or High Water is devastatingly average so don't bother. 

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Review Ghost in the Shell a.k.a. Kôkaku Kidôtai (1995): Minimal but thought provoking nonetheless!

genre: anime, action, mystery, science fiction

With the upcoming live action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell it was time for me to revisit the original and here are my thoughts.

Ghost in the Shell is one of the few titles I hold in high regard and a big reason for that is the nostalgia factor. It's one of the first adult orientated titles in the genre I have seen that struck a cord with me after I dove into the genre because of classic masterpiece Akira. Another reason is that this is one of the few titles that provoked thought with very minimal means. Not a second is wasted on subplots or whatever could be considered a distraction. Even scenes that might be perceived as filler seem to have a function. One of the high points of this anime is that it allows you to form your own thoughts about the events and the characters. Although the main characters do win our sympathy by the way they act and support each other. While some of the techno and philosophy babble could put people off it is admirable how they keep it basic enough for anyone to follow. But this could also be seen as a flaw. This film never goes deep enough in showing us what the world is like and for example what life is like for a cyborg like Motoko Kusanagi a.k.a.The Major. Or show us how life is for the normal humans. You automatically compare with yourself but seeing how this film takes place in the future that is not entirely a fair comparison. BTW the sequel Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence does show us more of daily life in this future world. As do the anime series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Ghost in the Shell: Arise. We just have to assume that apart from some technological advances the world is pretty much the same place. On the other hand not giving us all the details and facts does allow you to fill in the gaps yourself which could be a good thing if you like to do that. Then again why would you be invested into this world if you are not drawn into it? Luckily though the mystery and action make sure your thoughts don't wander off too much. The action is solid but also is minimal so you are warned if you want to watch this solely for the action. I won't reveal too much about the mystery surrounding The Puppet Master. But I found it fascinating since the thought of someone being able to hack people's essences is a frightening and horrific idea. Just the fact that in this world they are capable of putting people's essences into bodies (shells) is very interesting. Although when it comes to technologies like this I am very skeptical and critical for many reasons which I will keep to myself for now. 

For a 82 minute film Ghost in the Shell does quite a lot. Even when it probably raises more questions than it answers it does give you an ending that satisfies. I am not entirely sure if this will be for everyone though. But if you are hesitating then do watch it for the animation since it is superb. You will completely forget that everything is animated and especially at some violent scenes you will feel why anime is the pefect medium since it enhances the dramatic effect tenfold. Definitely check this out before you watch the live action adaptation because I don't have the confidence that Hollywood will be able to translate this animated film properly. 

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Review Trolls (2016): Flawed for sure but it's charming and entertaining what more do you want?

genre: animation, comedy, musical

For some reason Trolls gets a lot of hate and I don't understand why. If someone like me who is not really fond of musicals can get swept away by this film then so should you. But perhaps this has to do with people being far too cynical or simply can't enjoy the lighter stuff anymore. 

It's obvious that the film isn't ambitious when it comes to storytelling or comedy but that did not prevent me from laughing and having fun with the easy but effective jokes. An example of one of them is an unnamed troll who keeps saying OMG at the most shocking moments. Might not be original or that creative. But it was hilarious nonetheless. Same goes for some of the songs that were used. These songs did feel like they belonged. Especially the Cyndi Lauper song True Colors. It exactly depicted the emotions of the characters and the dire situation the trolls were in. That being said I do think that they might have had too many songs. Especially in the beginning did it feel like overkill compared to the actual dialogue and story that was present. Still I can imagine that someone who loves musicals has less problems with this. And I am sure that the kids will enjoy the songs as well since everything on the screen is very sweet, colourful and full of action. Trolls is gorgeous to look at and doesn't waste a minute with unnecessary plot. Not that it has that much to tell but in this case not a bad thing. On top of that how can one resist these happy trolls? All they wanna do is sing, dance and hug. And believe it or not while the film does it best to avoid darkness it has a few wise lessons even adults could learn from. So to paint this as a lazy cash grab is doing this film a severe injustice. 

Naturally it has not escaped (skeptic and paranoid)  me that perhaps the merchandising is the ultimate end goal. But honestly it is well deserved since this animated film does deliver. If they make troll dummies of that one who says OMG, I am so going to buy it. 

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Review Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2016): I liked it but it was a little underwhelming!

genre: adventure, fantasy, drama, adaptation

First off, I never read the book so I won't be able to compare it to the book and often that is more a blessing than disadvantage since that allows me to judge to film on it's own merit.

So let me put it out there that this without a doubt is one of Tim Burton's best he has made lately. That being said it still is not as good as his masterpieces like Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands and Big Fish. For that Miss Pergrine's Home for Peculiar Children is lacking a little. To me it felt like they rushed through the story and characterization so much that they skipped very essential parts that would have enabled me to relate to the main characters more. They were likable but just barely. There is not much depth to them and other than a few displays of the peculiarities and how that is perceived by the general public there is not much more to it. And yes the comparison to X-Men is very easy to make since there are many similarities. However Miss Pergerine's is much slower and lower on action which doesn't automatically make it worse. On the contrary. But why does it have to take so long for the adventure parts to occur if you are not going deeper into the characters or story anyway? Too much time is wasted on main character Jake (Asa Butterfield) and how he is pivotal for the future of the peculiar children. This promise is never delivered on in a way that I found entirely satisfying. Especially if you find out about one of the elements that is supposed to make him special. I was like, that is what makes him special? Seriously? Still when events finally start happening the film does make up for some of the flaws especially one big action scene towards the finale that stands out because of some surprises and a wonderful dance track.

The performances overall are adequate but the most interesting characters don't get the screen time they deserve. Eva Green (Miss Peregrine) was really excellent and yet she was barely in it. Little peculiar for a character whose name is in the title don't you think? Asa Butterfield is decent I guess but to be honest I found him very boring overall. He did not bring enough to make his character more exciting or interesting. He constantly looked like he did not belong. Even at the end. 

I have no doubt that the intentions were good and that the film is enjoyable but I was expecting more. Mrs. P. for example had less reservations and loved the film as it was. The film will not feel like it's a waste of time but it also never reaches heights that will stun you with amazement. And with a premise of such fantastical elements that should be a requirement. Or am I being too critical?So for once I will leave it to the reader what to make of this.

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