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Review The Expendables(2010): For the concept alone this should be praised even when it's far from a masterpiece!

genre: action, adventure

The Expendables basically is a modern version of The Dirty Dozen but where the team now consists of heroes who once were or still are stars in the action genre. Specifically the old school action where actors were more hands on than nowadays. Wikipedia says: "The film series itself was created to pay homage to the blockbuster action films of the 1980s and 90s and also pays gratitude to the action stars of those decades, as well as more recent stars in action." For that concept alone Stallone deserves praise. Naturally with such ambition you would hope that the action flick would turn out ok. And in my opinion it does more than ok. It's quite good. A classic masterpiece? No, far from it. But it is a title that will satisfy your need for some good old action and violence if you crave that sort of thing.

One thing you will have to understand is that back in the Eighties and Nineties the action genre was huge. Every week an action title would come out. A genre I myself never could get enough of. But then after those two decades another type of action films started to become more popular. Films where the emphasis lies on beautiful effects and grand spectacle. The bigger the better. Often made with CGI since that is what makes everything possible now. Nothing wrong with this if not for the fact that all those old school action films stopped being made. Or with much lesser quality than we were used to. It left a big gap for action fans like me. Say what you want about those old school action films. Most of them still hold up today. And this is not only nostalgia speaking. They were better. Stars like Stallone and Schwarzenegger always made it worth your while. Their characters were interesting and more importantly you cared for them. Of course most of the stories were very simple and basic. But as long as it provided a motivation for the characters it was all you needed. Sometimes you didn't even need story and they managed to build around a whole movie on charisma of the stars alone. Next to that the action in general was top notch and exciting. You could tell a lot of hard work and thought went into producing them. That kind of thing is something you will notice immediately.

Enter Stallone who probably realized that there is a gap he could fill and simply started up this project for which I am very grateful. Does this mean I can't be critical? Of course I can. The story while a little more serious in tone compared to the later parts is very minimal. Characterization also probably should and could have been done better. He should have given each character a little introduction where we get to know about who they are and where they come from and what makes them so special. My guess is that Stallone assumes we already know since we have seen them in action in their own movies. But it could not have hurt for him to remind us of what they are capable of. However he makes that up by the way the team members interact with each other. Also very basic and minimal but enough to make us care for them and know that they are badass. Which BTW Stallone improved on in the later parts since he made them even bigger. The action itself is brutal, violent and fantastic. Is it perfect? No! I am not a fan of quick cuts. And Stallone goes overboard with those a little too much. These stars perform most of their stunts themselves so it wasn't really necessary to use them. But some of them are older and probably a lot slower so he perhaps thought it would be best to cover that up. I do believe that in the later parts the quick cuts are gone. At least as far as I can recall.

So overall The Expendables is far from a masterpiece. But it is the one that brought back old school action in a time it was very much needed. And for that I am very grateful.

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Review King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017): Showed promise the first twenty minutes even when it's insane as hell. But then it dwindles into something indescribable!

genre: action, adventure, fantasy

When I saw the trailer in the cinema I could not believe my eyes. A title I had heard about and actually was looking forward to until I saw what they did with it. Even from the trailer I could see it was going to be a train wreck. But what kind of train wreck? Let me try to answer that for you.

Just within two minutes you will be shown some utter madness in the form of super giant elephants who have pyramids and other types of buildings on their backs with soldiers in them. Whether you like it or not that immediately set the tone of what to expect. While again it got confirmed this wasn't going to be the tale about King Arthur I knew I thought why not give it a chance. And surely I was beginning to enjoy myself where Guy Ritchie infused some Snatch and Lock Stock shenanigans in there. While totally out of place I went with it since it was done in the usually appealing stylish Ritchie is famous for, Then I saw David Beckham making an appearance. I wished I was joking. Of all the celebrities Ritchie could have picked he chose an ex football player who can't act even his life depended on it. Was Vinnie Jones not available? Or what about Eric Cantona? It seems Beckham also was in The Man of U.N.C.L.E. I didn't know they were friends but even then it's a poor decision on part of the director to have him in this movie. This should have been a huge warning. But I ignored it and gave the film another chance. How I regret that decision. Because after that appearance everything in the film went completely wrong. Uneven, long and boring are just three of the words that came to mind. One other word that definitely needs to be added is frustrating. Because like I said I knew going in that this was going to be bad. But how bad is something you can only judge after you have seen it. And the thing is that King Arthur: Legend of the Sword does have some moments that were actually enjoyable. Enough to redeem itself? Well, there lies the problem. These moments come far too late and by that time you either asleep or don't care what is happening anymore. All the time while the film was playing I was fiddling with my phone, doing all kinds of things on it and looking up the screen when it appeared something interesting was going on. Usually I was mistaken.

And trust me I really wanted to stay compelled and hooked. Believe it or not I actually want to be proven wrong or tricked by film makers. Naturally if in the end they manage to surprise you in the right way. Ritchie doesn't. It takes him far too long to get to the point the audience already was expecting the minute Arthur got his hands on the sword. But no, Ritchie doesn't want us to give a hero who wants to be a hero. He first needs to be convinced that he is the hero we want and deserve. I am telling you this is all Christopher Nolan's fault. He has started the trend of unwilling and reluctant heroes even when they originally were the opposite. Why? Because it's intellectual and edgy. There is nothing wrong with reluctant heroes as a trope since many great action films consists of them. John McClane is a prime example. Despite him not wanting to be there he does what he has to do without hesitation. Charlie Hunnam as Arthur however has no interest at all. Even after having felt the power of this magical and powerful sword he wants nothing to do with it. Come on! Even in this fantasy that doesn't make any sense. Any sane person would use such a sword to his advantage whether it would be for evil or good. Speaking of Charlie. He is quite charming and likable as Arthur. And the way his character is shown from the beginning is a direct contrast to how he is asked to act later in the film. So this definitely is a consequence of poor writing and even poorer direction. Shame on you Guy Ritchie! I haven't even mentioned the inclusion of coloured people which is the very hip thing to do these days even when they weren't supposed to be present in those times. Yes, I am aware that the legend of King Arthur is fiction and fantasy but it was still set in a time that was real and where coloured people weren't predominantly living there and certainly not as knights or noblemen if they were present. Mind you I did not have problems with this inclusion if they simply had chosen the best ones for the roles they were to portray. Djimon Hounsou is always awesome and he isn't in nearly enough movies I would like him to be featured in. And like always he did a very good job as Bedivere. Unfortunately this is Hollywood people. They did not do it out of the goodness of their hearts. This is manipulation 101 to bring in the big crowds to watch their precious movie. Don't believe me? Well, get this. Merlin is not in this film. One of the most iconic and important characters in the Arthurian legend and he is not in it. Sure he gets mentioned. And he briefly appears as a masked man in a flashback without dialogue or anything else worth wile. Apparently he couldn't be bothered to come himself to aid Arthur liberating the nation from all evil. Instead he sends The Mage, who surprise surprise is a woman. Still think this has nothing to do with political correctness and manipulation? Please!

Jude Law for some reason gets a lot of praise for his role as Vortigern. But I don't understand why exactly. He was decent. Still to say that he was a scene stealer? No way! Eric Bana who is in this briefly did more in those few moments than Law in the entire movie. They should have swapped the roles and have Bana play as Vortigern. Why aren't you in more movies Bana? I hope this means you are coming back.

You know had this been just a super bad film with no redeeming qualities then I would have been less angry and frustrated. But now it's an incredible bad and messy film with a few good moments. Which is infinitely worse because that means somewhere underneath there was a good film and they simply didn't care enough to make that happen. Stay clear from this film. Spare yourself the agony. Or if you really feel the compulsion to watch this then watch it when drunk and with friends. At least then you will be able to distract yourself a little in a fun way.

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Review Cockneys vs Zombies (2012): It does what it sets out to do which is to make you laugh and for you to have fun!

genre: comedy, horror, crime, action

Cockneys vs Zombies is yet another horror film dealing with zombies. This came out at a time when the zombie fever was at an all time high. Many good things came out and a lot of and I mean a LOT of bad ones were released. So is Cockneys vs Zombies worth your time?

That depends. If you aren't too demanding and get what it's going for then I can surely recommend it. This film is set out to make you laugh instead of scaring you. Maybe there are a few scares here and there but the zombies pretty much act out like they normally do so no real surprises there. Most likely this film will appeal to your funny bone if you dig this kind of humour. It's more like what would happen if zombies would appear in the East End of London and how the people living there would respond to it. The jokes aren't exactly super witty or clever. But the delivery and timing of those jokes do matter. There are quite some good actors in this little flick and I am more referring to the older actors like Alan Ford, Honor Blackman and Richard Briers. I guess zombies aren't too particular about their meat. But they easily steal the show in every scene they in. The younger actors do their best to match up the experienced actors but often their wit feels forced and unnatural. Especially the supposed tough babe routine done by Michelle Ryan felt a little fake. However I was willing to give it a pass since I do like her. On occasion it does become apparent that director Matthias Hoene was trying to mimic Guy Ritchie's style but he very wisely let that go since he probably realized it wouldn't have worked for him. 

Cockneys vs Zombies won't offer you anything new or creative but overall it is quite enjoyable and entertaining. Especially on those rainy days. 

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Review The Windmill a.k.a. The Windmill Massacre (2016): You will never ever travel in a group again!

genre: horror, slasher

The Windmill is a Dutch horror film where everyone speaks English because the majority of the characters are supposed to be foreigners who either just have come to live and work in The Netherlands or they are there on holiday. At leasts that is what they want you to believe. Because each of those foreigners have their own reasons for being in the low lands. And wouldn't you know it? All of these people somehow magically end up in the same travel group to explore all the beauty Holland has to offer. How could this possibly go wrong?

Director Nick Jongerius seems to be very ambitious because he goes out of his way to create a new monster a la Jason or Freddy Krueger. In hindsight I can appreciate the effort. But in order to make an effective slasher / horror film you do have to follow certain rules of the genre which he fails to do. You need more than building up ferry tales and myths. Those stories certainly are important however if you don't combine them with the basic horror elements then you will have very little. 

The Windmill, ladies and gentlemen, is not creepy nor scary. Not once will you be frightened. Most of the events are incredibly laughable. Unimaginative kills, boring monster and annoying characters to boot. It's been a long time that I was so frustrated by the actions of characters in a horror film. Not once do they use reason or logic. But maybe that can be forgiven since they probably are stressed and scared of being stuck in the middle of nowhere. However this doesn't mean they should not be communicating with each other. Most of them just sit and wait for someone to speak up. And if someone does open their mouth they just complain and moan and don't do anything constructive. I swear when one group member informs them something bad has happened they all stay in their place and choose to believe the news bringer is insane. Because a man claiming to be a doctor said so. A man they don't know and never have seen before. I don't know about you but if I was stuck with a bunch of people who I didn't know I would not trust any of them. Unless my instincts would tell me they are to be trusted. Even then I would make sure that none of them would leave my sight. And these people wander of like they have no care in the world.

I am used to stupid people in these kinds of films. In fact often I am rooting for the killer or monster to slay these people as bloody and gory as possible. It's what adds to the fun factor. Sure there is some blood and some gore. But never to a level where you will get shocked or surprised. It's all so painfully predictable and boring. You really have to bring your A game when it comes to killing people on screen. Be creative, make it funny or real tragic. While there is some tragedy it never hits you in the heart. It's just there to move the film along and no effort has been made to give these characters the meat they needed. Visually the film doesn't look that bad. And even plot wise it's a step up on most of Dutch horror films. Not that it says something since The Netherlands doesn't make that many horror films. But why oh why did you forget to add tension and suspense Jongerius? It's the one element that can redeem all the badness. If you would have put me on the edge of the seat and had put some dread into me I would have applauded your work. Now I am disappointed. 

The Windmill could have been a great slasher. Instead it's a very poor one. It fails to meet the basics of horror 101 and that can never be overlooked or forgiven. To me this film was a huge waste of my time. Well, apart from actor Bart Klever as Abe. He was the only one who showed the right approach. Only it's not enough to make you sit through this entire film. 

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Review Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008): Visually and emotionally astounding!

genre: action, adventure, fantasy, comic book adaptation

Sometimes you come across a title and you can't remember a thing about it. Even when you are supposed to have seen it. Usually this is not a good sign. But if I disliked it so much I surely would have remembered. I am happy to report that the flawed perception or lack of is all my brain's doing. Or not doing, what it should have done in the first place. In my defense I have watched so many movies that you can't expect me to remember all of them.

So what did I think of Hellboy II: The Golden Army? To be honest I was completely surprised how much I liked it. A lot of what this film was offering clicked with me. The very comedic and lighter approach to most events worked well with some of the more darker and serious moments. But it never went so far that the darkness would turn you off. I think a lot of movies these days go too dark because they find that it's edgy and therefore better. I don't agree with that at all. A good filmmaker should strike a balance unless the source material truly is only dark. I haven't read the Hellboy comic books so I can't say anything sensible about that. But from what I gathered on the almighty internet is that the Hellboycomic books are funny. Guillermo del Toro clearly knows his stuff and he has done his best to bring the comic book world to life. As far as I can tell without any knowledge of the comic books I think he has succeeded. I was fully embracing the fantastic and how creatures like Hellboy and Abe Sapien could wander about in it like they belong. Even if you like me forgot who they were and what they were about you would get back into swing within the first scenes of the film when they appear. Best of all is that right from that point you are going to like them just because of the comedic antics that occur in those introductory scenes.

What you do have to understand is that this isn't your typical good versus evil type of film. While you do have good fighting evil there are moments where you are made to question the distinction. Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) is not your average villain. He does questionable things but he is motivated by a sense of honour and wanting to protect his clan of Bethmoora elves. Another theme that is being discussed is a universal one. What or who is most important to you? Do you let yourself be defined by what you do and have done? Or are the persons you surround yourself with who matter the most? Hellboy is confronted with this life question when asked by his girlfriend Liz Sherman (Selma Blair). This might not sound that epic or enthralling but to me it was something I could relate to wholeheartedly and therefore was something I could immerse myself fully. Don't get me wrong I want my spectacle and beautiful eye candy on top of these moral questions but it's nice to have it as an extra thing to ponder on.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army offers immensely beautiful eye candy and spectacle. It has more than enough action but might not always feel as epic as it could have or should have been. The Golden Army sequence was immensely exciting and cool but was far too short for my taste.  They easily could have prolonged it and then I think even the biggest haters would have been more accepting. Then again these are the kinds of movies that speak to a certain audience. They are hardly appealing to everyman.

As for me I really dug the film and I can see myself watching this from time and time again. If you haven't seen this one yet then I can surely recommend this to you!

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Review Backtrack (2015): Dabbles in familiar territory but does it so well that it will be worth it!

genre: horror, thriller, mystery

Adrien Brody is of one of those good actors that somehow now only gets to star in average independent and B movies that are far from memorable or even worth your time. So naturally you will think twice to watch another film of his. Fear not, Backtrack is not one of them.

Backtrack may seem familiar because it might have borrowed from some older horror films. One in particular but I won't reveal which one since that could be considered a spoiler. Although it plays around with the concept so that it does feel fresh and creative. The mystery is the main focus still Backtrack doesn't pull any punches when it comes to scares. Mind you they are used very sparingly but when they occur they are very effective. Probably because director Michael Petroni understands that less is more. And that building tension and suspense is more important. He takes his time to tell you the story and what mystery needs to be told. Sometimes he even misdirects to make you doubt of what is going on. I know, doesn't sound highly original or fresh but if it's done so well is that really an issue? To me it's not and is one of the reasons why I love to watch these kinds of movies. I want to be misdirected and surprised. I want to be deeply enthralled into the mystery and then to be dazzled at the end with something I did not see coming. Well, Backtrack does a lot of this for the most part except for dazzling at the end. It's something you would expect. Yet it is endearing so no complaints from me. One minor issue I have to address is where everything is situated. The film never clearly mention what country Adrien resides in. At one point you realize it has to be Australia. I mean if the majority of the actors that are Australian isn't an indication the locations certain will convince you. That and some of the accents used. However Adrien Brody's character Peter Bower doesn't have an accent at least not clearly enough to make a distinction. It could be that they wanted to be vague on the locale since they want the audience to believe it's all situated in America. One of the questions asked in a dialogue between Peter and a patient of his is about the president of the United States. If everyone is supposed to be Australian why would they care about that? It's of very little consequence really but I felt the need to mention it. And what is up with Sam Neill? Doesn't seem like he is aging much. Need to find out what his secret is.

Backtrack is definitely worth your time as it hooks you into it's mystery and even manages to scare you a couple of times. It might not be epic or grand but what it lacks in spectacle it makes up with heart.

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