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Review Kidnap (2017): A mother you don't want to mess with!

genre: thriller, drama

Kidnap is an unpretentious on the edge of your seat thriller that does more right than wrong. Is the story a little far fetched and unrealistic? Of course it is. Most Hollywood films are. That doesn't mean it's bad. On the contrary once you know what you are in for all you have to do is let yourself get overwhelmed by the events. Which is easy to do since right from the start we are rooting for on Karla Dyson (Halle Berry). Because on an an emotional level you get where she is coming from and anybody who doesn't understand this isn't human.

It's not a real surprise of what is going to happen to Karla. They showed that in the trailer already. Hell, it's not even a mystery how she reacts to it. Despite knowing, you still will be put on a genuine thrill ride where only a few times you will be asking yourself if some of these events aren't a little convenient. Only you never really get a chance to think or ponder about them too much since like our main character we want things to end well for her no matter what she has to do. I was fully embracing the drive of this mother who besides desperation showed a tenacity you wished all people would have. There were some gripping moments where any other person might not have remained calm or shown restraint. And yet Karla manages to do just that. It's the opposite of what I would have done. So it was very refreshing to see someone act like she did.

May films about kidnappings often only show what happens after people have been kidnapped. This is one of the few films where you get to witness one while it is actually happening. Karla made sure she had her boy in sight all the time. Even when she had to look away she confirmed her son's presence by playing the marco polo game. It was just a matter of seconds she discovered he wasn't there anymore. Not like in most real cases where most caretakers are unaware for a much longer time. I liked how Karla didn't waste a second to make it a pressing issue and was worried beyond belief. You would think most parents would be worried although there are some who would not be. And in most cases they would be right not to worry since there is a high chance that the child could have wandered off it's own. Although I rather want to be worried unnecessarily than not worry and regret it after something bad happens. Kidnap plays around with these emotions and even non parents will be able to relate to this. Besides Hally Berry is completely convincing as the mother on a quest to get her son back.

So this is definitely a must watch if you ask me!

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Review Flash Point a.k.a. Dou fo sin (2007): Easily one of the best movies Donnie Yen has ever made!

genre: martial arts, action, crime

Flash Point is a showcase of Donnie Yen's evolution as a martial artist and filmmaker. By now everyone who is a fan knows that this is the movie where Donnie Yen started to infuse MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) with his fighting style on screen. It makes sense since Yen has studied many different disciplines and seems logical that one day he would combine them. Next to his progression as a fighter it is noticeable that Donnie Yen also has become a better actor. Not that he ever was bad but he tells you a whole lot more with his expressions alone and in a movie like this that is gold.

Naturally a lot of credit should also go to director Wilson Yip who has been on a winning streak together with Donnie Yen since  SPL: Kill Zone a.k.a. Sha po lang (2005). Their collaboration in the Ip Man movies have proven to be very fruitful and successful and I hope they will keep on like this since they are on a roll. But back to Flash Point itself. Instead of giving you a lot of action every five minutes the film has the audacity to make you wait for almost an whole hour for the real fighting to start. However this is a good thing as it's all done to set up the action in the last half hour. Everything you need to know about the characters and their motivation is in this one hour and it makes you care or dislike them so that you don't have to waste precious time in the action scenes. On top of that this approach builds up the anticipation and tension of what is to come (even after having watched it multiple times). Let's just say that the wait is worth it. The fight scenes are immensely well choreographed and where every punch, kick and grapple means something. The battle between Colin Chou and Donnie Yen is amazing and epic which lasts quite a while but even then it is one of those you never want to end. Yes, it's that good.

For a long time Flash Point was hailed to be a prequel to S.P.L. Killzone (Sha po lang). Donnie Yen plays a character named Ma similar to character Ma Kwan in S.P.L. Even dressed the same. Plus the film is set before S.P.L. pre 1997. (Pay attention to the mobile phones. I mean they look ancient.) However Yen denied this and some copyright issues popped up according to wikipedia. So Flash Point should be viewed as an original film which is not that hard to do since apart from Yen starring as hard boiled but compassionate cop named Ma there is no connection to Killzone.

Flash Point is easily one of the best Donnie Yen has ever made. For the fan this is a must own for non fans this is a must watch. It will give you a good idea of what the man is capable of and I am sure he will have much more in store for us.

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Review John Wick: Chapter 2: Non stop Hong Kong type of action not from Hong Kong!

genre: action, crime, gun fu

There was a time you got overwhelmed with all kinds of B action flicks from Hong Kong and Hollywood and you were desperately trying to catch up to them. Simple, brainless films that were fun and nothing else. Every weekend you got your action fix so that you could last a whole week of boredom or stress in school or at work. Now those B action flicks are hardly being made. And the ones that have been produced usually are immensely bad. I am excluding TV Shows since not all of us have time to watch and follow all of those.)

But then Keanu Reeves and Chad Stahelski gave us John Wick to satisfy the action aficionado's needs. How glorious it was. It is therefore not surprising to me that they decided to make a sequel. Everything about John Wick clicked. The characters, the no nonsense plot and the action. It was one of those movies you actually never wanted to end. All you wanted was more of it. And by God that is what you get. More of the marvelous action and ludicrous world where most assassins have to follow certain rules and codes and more blood. Like the original most events are relative and mixed with a big sense of humour while never sacrificing the tension and thrills. It always feels like there is a lot at stake. That is not as easy at they have made it seem so kudos to Chad for accomplishing this. And what a thrill ride! John Wick: Chapter 2 doesn't a waste a single second and immediately starts with the action which rarely lets up so that you and John (Keanu Reeves) get a chance to breathe. The gun fu is very strong in this film. It's pure joy to see John kill his enemies with his guns like they are his fists. Especially since this time around the number of his opponents has increased and they are far more qualified and skilled than in the first John Wick. A little tough for John but a delight for the viewer.

One thing you have to keep in mind that the John Wick films are made for mostly action film aficionados. It's not that big on story or mythology although it has created an interesting world with equally interesting characters to make everything more compelling. That and style. Yes, it is style over substance. Sometimes that is a good thing. A must watch!

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For more gun gu (and heroic bloodshed) titles check this post:

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8 best horror films of 2016

The following list is based on the horror films of 2016 I have seen thus far and it is very possible that I will add or change it in the future. There were quite a few titles that did not meet my requirements. I mean the elements that are the most important for me when it comes to this genre. Like proper buildup of dread, terror and suspense. So do feel free to comment and mention the titles you think belong here. In my opinion the titles I have picked are all worth your while since they at least are fresh enough or offer that horror goodness we crave. Also there is no specific order to the titles I mention. Click on the posters for the full reviews.

* Rupture does a good job of fooling you what it is about and it's absolutely thrilling.

* The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a real chiller since it also makes you think you know what is going to happen and then comes at you from a different angle. 

* The Void doesn't waste time to put some dread into you and was a very pleasant surprise.

* Split is a masterclass of chills, thrills and building a .....(nope you will have to watch the film to fill    in these blanks.)

* Incarnate combines elements from The Cell, Inception and The Exorcist. Do I really need to convince you that it's awesome?

* Ouija: Origin of Evil is a rare case where the sequel is superior to the original (not that I have seen the original but come on that is kinda obvious yes?)

* Don't Knock Twice will feed your hunger for good horror (for at least an hour). 

Train to Busan is proof that it's still possible to make good zombie film that stands out from the trillion mediocre and bad ones.


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Review 300 (2006): A beautiful and solid epic that delivers on action and spectacle.

genre: action, adventure, comic book adaptation, fantasy

A few days ago I bought the blu-ray of 300 and naturally I wanted to revisit the film that was a favourite of mine since I have seen it in the cinema. Well, younger me clearly loved it a whole lot more than older me. Read here what the thoughts of younger me were:

"300" is one of the most beautiful movies I have ever seen! This story based on the graphic novel is simply wonderful. The visuals are stunning. The music is great. The acting is superb. The drama is more than excellent. The action is epic. It is difficult to describe the feeling you get when you see this movie. When you look at the screen you know some things can't happen. But the way it is edited and filmed gives the impression that it is all real. "300" never gets boring! I never wanted this movie to end. It is a movie you can watch over and over again and enjoy every minute of it. This is a movie that should be playing in the theaters all the time. (Are you still here? Go rent or buy the movie already!). 

While I admire younger me's enthusiasm, older me is a little more reserved. For one thing 300 does lose strength after several viewings. It is therefore not a movie you can watch over and over again without getting bored. Perhaps it is the fact that we are spoiled even more spectacle wise and that we gotten used to bigger and better. Although I have to say that some of the visuals still hold up and look mesmerizing. Especially in HD. But to be honest it is not exactly the spectacle that I am critical of. For what it offers it's solid to grand. It's more the non action scenes that pop out more than before. Of course it is understandable that the surprise factor of many of those plot related moments is diminished. However I do distinctly remember being more involved and immersed with the main characters and the odds they had to go against. A lot of the dramatic scenes now were lacking intensity and substance. And I think it is because the films misses some memorable dialogue, stronger dynamics and background. Apart from the iconic quotes: 

"This is Sparta!" 

"Tonight we dine in hell."  

"A thousand nations of the Persian empire will descend upon you. Our arrows will blot out the sun! Reply from Stelios: Then we will fight in the shade."

The excellent cast hide the fact they don't have that much to say or to express. Instead of showing us we are told by narrator Dilios (played by David Wenham) what the emotions are and where our sympathies should lie. Highly effective the first few times. But now after having watched the film more times the cracks are beginning to show. Is this is a bad thing? No, I don't think so. Although I had wished that 300 had a little more to offer next to the action and nice visuals. Still if you haven't seen this film yet then you will have a blast since the first time watching is splendid fun. It truly is like a comic book that has come to live.

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Review The Lego Batman Movie (2017): Fun overall although there are some issues!

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

The Lego Batman Movie starts out real good by parodying Christopher Nolan's Batman. Whether you are a fan of Christopher Nolan the jokes are spot on and funny. However then after 15 minutes or so the film loses steam quite a lot. So much so that I was getting worried it would never recover from it.
I even stopped watching it after 50 minutes. But when I got the chance to pick it up again the day after I was all smiles since The Lego Batman Movie does redeem itself.

For most this will be good news. But the more critical people might have issues with the 35 minutes not being on par with the rest of the movie. And to be honest I agree. It's not that those minutes are immensely bad. Although nothing worth wile happens in them that warranted my interest. I don't like it when films waste my time. If there is a point to it then I am very willing to be forgiving. Only in this case it very much seems like that there were just 80 minutes of story, jokes and references that had to be spread out over the entire duration. Too obvious and a little aggravating since most jokes and references come at you in light speed. So fast that most of them are far to easy to miss. Why not give the audience a chance to digest and process all the information? The jokes and references would have had bigger impact and you would not have filler content. All this extensive padding diminishes the viewing pleasure and I wished film makers would refrain from doing so.

Still I also have to compliment the people behind The Lego Batman Movie for making good use of the Warner Brothers property. For obvious reasons I can't divulge too much about what exact property I am talking about but you know once you have seen it. Let's just say that I love it when different worlds and characters of the past, present and future get connected somehow. You know crossovers and all that jazz. Apart from some well known DC characters making appearances others from other WB films show up and it made The Lego Batman Movie awesome. This is what DCEU films also should be doing. Suicide Squad would have been the ideal live action film to showcase all that DC goodness. But perhaps David Ayer felt too good to resort that kind of craziness. Every time when these pretentious directors come in to these projects, they often say how much they are a fan of the comics but then always do their best to ground their movies in realism. That is the exact opposite of what you should be doing. At least director Chris McKay understands this and it is what makes The Lego Batman Movie superior to any other DCEU movie currently.

Do give The Lego Batman Movie the benefit of the doubt since it does offer the fun you are expecting or hoping for provided you can overlook the generic 35 minutes of padding.

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