Films of 2016

Films of 2016
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Review Most Likely to Die (2015): How good can it be if Perez Hilton remains unharmed? Don't bother. Big waste of your time!

genre: horror, slasher

Not many horror films on Netflix but the poster did make it look like this could be fun. And let me not keep you in suspense. Most Likely to Die is not good by any means. 

It's not totally awful either but that hardly matters. This film is devoid of slasher goodness. It's never suspenseful or thrilling. The kills are unimaginative and not nearly as bloody as they could have been. Half of the kills happen off screen. Which would have been fine had they been preceded by cool and nerve wrecking chase scenes. Or the victims at least were fighting back more than they did. For the most part the actors fail to depict that they are terrified. Speaking of the actors. You won't know most of them except maybe Jake Busey and Perez Hilton. That's right he is in it. Not that I know him well. But he is that gossip guy yes. The one who bitches and insults celebrities when he can. Well, let me return the favour on their behalf. Perez, don't quit your day job. You were easily one of the worst actors in the film and that is a real accomplishment since all of them were terrible. None of them had any clue how to act in a film like this. Back to Perez. Why is he in this movie? Even the so called attempts of comedic relief fall flat. He doesn't bring anything. Least they could have done is kill him off in the most horrible way ever. That would have made sitting through this film all worth it. But no, nothing of the sort. Even Busey's role is nothing more than a glorified cameo and why oh why didn't they use his creepiness. Here is a guy that can play psychopaths very convincingly. Then how come he is hardly in this film and not used to his full potential. Seriously that is just stupid. 

I don't know what they were going for here? But it is obvious that the people making this film have no idea what slashers are about and what makes them so appealing. I would not have mind it one bit had they copied Eighties or Nineties slashers. In fact I secretly was hoping they would do this. Guess I was simply expecting too much. Don't bother with this film it's a big waste of your time. 

If you already have seen a lot of slashers and you are craving for some good ones then I can recommend the movies underneath. BTW pay special attention to the poster of Slaughter High. Doesn't it look familiar to the poster of Most Likely to Die? Too bad it is nothing like that one.

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Review Swiss Army Man (2016): Very weird but strangely beautiful!

genre: comedy, adventure, drama

Swiss Army Man is one of those movies that constantly is making you question the validity of what is being displayed to you. You are never quite sure as it does it best to misdirect you as often as it can until the very end. It even manages to make you feel a whole array of emotions about the characters and the events. For the most part Paul Dano as Hank is very likable and Daniel Radcliffe easily outshines Cast Away's Wilson as Manny the corpse. But you won't be able to shake the feeling that something is very wrong. At times it seems so very obvious and then at other times it doesn't seem to matter that much as the film addresses certain issues as depression and loneliness or more happier subjects like friendship and love. The way it is brought to you is mostly charming. Then sometimes it is utterly gross and downright creepy. Certain things are implied and I can promise you that it will take your mind to places you don't really want to go. However those moments are interchanged of funny and endearing ones that make you appreciate all the weirdness that is going on. Make no mistake. Swiss Army Man is very weird. But it's a kind that I really liked and enjoyed. And this is because of some phenomenal acting on part of Dano and Radcliffe. They have great chemistry together. Naturally the story is a big help as well. Still, it is not entirely smooth sailing since after an hours or so I lost interest a little. That was until a twist instantly enticed me and got me excited again. So much so that I went from moderately critical and skeptic to a true believer. 

Stick with the film until the very last moment and you will be rewarded. Swiss Army Man is one of the most original and creative films that has come out this year and deserves to be watched at least once. Although be aware that you have never seen Daniel Radcliffe like this. Very unlikely that mothers want their daughters to marry him now. 

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Review Retribution a.k.a. El desconocido (2015): Highly unlikely but nonetheless very engaging thriller!

genre: thriller

This film is based on a premise that seems a little far fetched and impractical. However it never feels improbable. Because you very happily want to suspend disbelief and actually get very little time to think about certain flaws or plot holes. Find out why that is.

Retribution a.k.a. El desconocido (meaning: unknown) starts with introducing us to a banker named Carlos (Luis Tosar) who seems very dedicated to his job and much lesser so to his kids and wife. Nothing seems out of the ordinary other than that the wife clearly has some beef with him especially when on a whim he decides to take his children to school. Wife Marta (Goya Toledo) gives him grief for this since apparently she had asked him before. But he couldn't and therefore was forced to change her plans. Naturally this looks like your typical spouse never listens issue and Carlos thinks nothing of it since he is completely oblivious to the deeper rooted anger within her. How can he if he is so preoccupied with his work. Shortly after driving away Carlos receives an unknown call who tells him that a bomb is placed under his seat and that it will explode if he doesn't transfer a large sum of money quickly. At first he is under the assumption it's a prank call until he gets called again. Now Carlos checks his seat and begins to believe the threat is real. Naturally scared and in full panic since of all the days he has brought his son Marcos (Marco Sanz) and teenage daughter Sara (Paula del Río) with him. Now this may appear like your average B movie thriller plot if it weren't for the performances by two actors in particular. First Luis Tosar. The guy is phenomenal. He basically can play any role he puts his mind to. Even knowing that he has been neglecting family life a little and the fact that he is a banker you can't help but feel sympathy for him. Plus he brings an intensity to his role that makes him very believable. The second is Paula del Rio. At first she plays the typical bratty teen who defies her parents whenever she feels like. Even her little brother is not the hugest fan since he secretly lets their dog lick her cookies. But soon when events kick into high gear she steps up the plate and shows a level of maturity most adults could learn from. Now I am not entirely sure if she is even near the age of the teen she is portraying because she does seem older. Whether she is or not her performance is impressive. Both of their performances draw you in and it is because of them you don't want to let go. It is through them that you experience the real thrills.

Retribution is one of those films the least you know about it the more you enjoy it. It might not be original but it does more than enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. And at the end it does feel like you have been taken on one hell of a ride. A must watch!

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Review The Good Neighbor a.k.a. (2016): Don't judge a book by it's cover. Very good thriller!

genre: thriller

All of the comments given in this poster are true. 

This might be one of the most generic titles ever but let me tell you there is nothing generic about this film. For one thing it stars the always great James Caan.

He is one of those actors that never lets down even if he is in very bad films. A prime example of how it can be done and basically puts actors Al Pacino and Robert De Niro to shame. He shows that as long as you take the role seriously you prevent selling out the profession or the public. Most of the suspense his built around his character and if he wasn't convincing in any way the film would have failed miserably. But James Caan rocks it big time. So what is this film about? The Good Neighbor is about a project embarked by two high school kids Ethan (Logan Miller) and Sean (Keir Gilchrist). This project is the secret surveillance of Harold Grainey (James Caan) in his own home. They have set up several cameras and bugs in his house. It doesn't stop there. They also have fidgeted with several things in the house so that they can make it seem like the house is haunted. Their grand idea is to watch Grainey respond to this. No real motivation is given for why they want to do this and why it has to be Grainey. In bits and pieces it gets revealed and is one of the reasons why the film manages to be compelling. We don't know anything about Grainey. Only what these kids tell us. And if we have to believe them the man is not a particularly nice guy. Even so them taking on this venture without his knowledge or consent is reprehensible. Right from the start I was rooting for Grainey to teach these boys a lesson. Like I said the suspense is built  around his character of how he will respond and act. Especially since these boys take it incredibly far. Not an ounce of respect and dignity on their part except maybe from Sean who seems to have some reservations about the whole project. Ethan on the other hand seems to have no qualms whatsoever and is of the opinion he can't go far enough. Not knowing why he is so obsessed also adds to the tension. Which brings me to the greatest strength of this film. The Good Neighbor leaves you in the dark until the very end. You simply won't know what is happening or will happen until it gets revealed in the end. Even when the trailer makes it seem like it has shown you what is going to be about. Trust me it doesn't. It's one of those endings that will have an impact on you and one that encourages you to not judge a book by it's cover.

The Good Neighbor is easily one of the best thrillers I have seen this year since it does so much with very little. Caan shines and for once the whole found footage angle didn't bother me in the slightest. It actually helped increasing the suspense. So go watch this one!

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Review Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015): Scouts forever!

genre: horror. comedy, action

No, I have never been part of any scouting organizations. But this film kinda points out that they do teach you some good and useful tricks that could be handy in apocalyptic events like a zombie outbreak. I might have missed out. So yes, Scouts forever!

In this film the scouts are Ben (Tye Sheridan), Carter (Logan Miller) and Augie (Joey Morgan). The three of them are the best of friends. However their friendship is put to the test the night Ben and Carter decide to sneak out of camp to pursue possible pussy (Carter's words not mine in case you were wondering) at this secret party they have been invited to. And of all the nights they could have picked misfortune hits them hard since people have changed into zombies out to bite and eat everyone they can get their hands on. Carter's horniness leads both Ben and him to their first encounter with such a zombie in a strip club and if it weren't for Denise (Sarah Durmont) it would have been their last. Denise is an extremely cool and beautiful woman who stays on top of things and is a real heroine. She basically teaches the guys how to keep their heads cool and fight back. BTW I mentioned Carter's horniness. Get used to it since it is a recurring theme and providing the majority of the jokes. Some downright ridiculous and lame and some quite hilarious. These jokes are interchanged with cool and stylish moments where the scouts or Denise deal with the zombies. And while you could argue that this film is lacking in freshness and originality it for the most part is effective and quite fun. I don't know about you but to me watching people slay zombies never gets boring. Especially if it's done by the most unlikely heroes you will ever meet. It's almost endearing how the scouts view themselves as the last line of defense. The film doesn't waste a second with trivial subplots or whatever could stand in the way of the main narrative. Because of this the film moves along in a very fast pace. You actually don't get the chance to think about plot holes or flaws. And that is very good thing. 

For some reason I forgot to write a review for this film after I had watched it. I was under the impression I had. Upon discovering this I decided to watch it yet again. And I am very happy to report that the second viewing remained to be just as fun as the first one. So yes I can recommend this wholeheartedly. Just don't take it seriously. The film never does this so why should you?

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Review Stretch (2014): I was a little disappointed.

genre: crime, comedy, action

Honestly I did not have high expectations at all. Least I hoped for was a few laughs. That I got less than I expected though is disappointing. 

Sure there is a lot happening in this film that is outrageous and bizarre. But is it funny though? I watched this together with Mrs. P. And she thought it was very funny. Usually her sense of humour is similar to mine but I did not feel the same way. So I guess there are elements to this film that could appeal to others more than it did to me. Or perhaps I wasn't in the state of mind to be forgiving or go with the flow as they say? More likely is the fact that the majority of the jokes simply aren't sharp enough. Because trust me if something is genuinely funny I would be the first to laugh loudly. Still I think this is a case where I am handicapped by the fact that I have seen too many damn movies and have seen it done better. It's obvious Stretch tries to jump in on these films where one strange event leads to an even stranger event and that one in turn to another so on and so on. I don't have the time or energy to look up similar films but I think you know what I mean. (Ok, ok one film that comes to mind is Blind Date. Another one After Hours. There, satisfied now?) I fully embraced the concept since sometimes it's nice to get overwhelmed by wackiness. Thing is that this film is not as wacky as it tries to be. It's all pretty average and predictable. Correct me if I am wrong. Isn't surprise the biggest element that makes these movies work in the first place?  BTW Chris Pine is in this one too. I don't know. I like the guy as an actor but there is nothing about him that makes him memorable. The one time he truly made me think otherwise was in Smokin' Aces which is superior to Stretch. So go watch that one immediately.

However I would be doing the film an injustice if I did not mention the things I did like. Patrick Wilson as always is solid and dependable. So far he is one of the few actors who rarely lets down and here it's no different. Jessica Alba's role is not that big but she was extremely likable in this one. They both make this film very watchable. Then there is the Eighties music. Often it did help me warm up to certain scenes. Although I think there were many moments were it felt out of place demonstrating Joe Carnahan's lack of understanding why those Eighties movies he tried copying did work. 

Overall this film is trying to hard to be quirky and bizarre without actually delivering those things. But like I said. I have seen a lot. Especially bad and bizarre films. So it is kinda hard to impress me in that way. It just shows that only showing crazy stuff simply won't do. You need to do more to connect to the viewer and Stretch fails to do this effectively. So this is why this film was disappointing for me. 

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Review Dreamfall: The Longest Journey (XBOX)

genre: adventure, action
year: 2006

Dreamfall is essentially an adventure game like its predecessor. Only for some reason not the usual point and click system we are used to. So it does take a while to learn the controls. For some reason the game designers found it necessary to implement combat. I have no problems with innovations in an old genre like this. But the combat was to say the least very annoying and didn't serve any purpose other than to offer some variation in game play. Compared to the original there are lesser and much easier puzzles. That doesn't mean that there weren't puzzles that were frustrating. But overall the puzzles provided the extra tension to engage you in the story. From the introduction the player is motivated to sit through this story as it offers quite an exciting (but extremely flawed and confusing) story. However Dreamfall:The Longest Journey has one of the most disappointing endings ever. And with that I mean that there is no resolve. It is one depressing sequence after another. The cliffhanger ending(s) has no rewarding element whatsoever. This would not have bothered me much if the story itself would have made more sense and offered at least something positive. Because with this particular ending you are left completely in the dark and a feeling that all you have done in the game has been for nothing. No to mention the fact that you don't find out what happened to the majority of the characters you have encountered. The promised sequel still hasn't been made and ruins the enjoyable experience I had with this game even more. If on can overlook this mess of an ending there are enough strong elements to play the game. But for a much more rewarding experience I would recommend the original Longest Journey.

Edit 15-09-2016
A follow up has finally been made and is called Dreamfall Chapters. It's an episodic adventure like the Telltale adventures and are available on Steam, GOG and the Humble Store. But for more info go to the Red Thread Games site. It is said that this game also will be released on PS4 but so far it has not been released yet.

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Review Compadres (2016): Wannabe buddy cop film that does more wrong than right!

genre: action, crime

When I was in Mexico on holiday this year Compadres was being advertised on television and in cinema very strongly. And I must admit it made me curious. Now I never had any high expectations but I had hope it would be at least funny and charming.

While some parts do have a certain charm most of the film is a train wreck right from the start. Almost everything is done so clumsily and amateurish that you begin to wonder why this film was made in the first place. Omar Chaparo for example lacks everything much needed for a lead. When I saw him in Superfast it briefly looked like there was more to him. But in this film where he is given the opportunity to shine he completely fails to bring to the table that is required. He is supposed to be this though and charming good guy but all I could do was cringe and laugh at his attempts of being bad to the bone. A very curious decision was to have him pair up with Joey Morgan from Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (A movie liked very much BTW). Who and what film is that? Exactly my point. While Joey Morgan definitely is one of the best things in this film he is not what you say a huge name. He has just started his career. If they wanted to appeal to a larger audience by having American actors in it would it not have been prudent to use someone a little more famous? Apart from Eric Roberts and Kevin Pollak who are nothing more than glorified cameo's and add nothing of significance. That makes me so sad because I respect both actors and I can't stand it to see them being a part of poor projects like these. Still you can tell that most actors were trying to make the best of it. Especially Héctor Jiménez (Nacho Libre), José Sefami and Mauricio Barrientos as Porky who was very funny the few times he appeared.  So this leaves director Enrique Begne who has directed three films in total including this one. He clearly was out of his depth since from start to finish the film is a downright mess. It's obvious they were going for a buddy type of movie where two unlikely people get paired up and then become the best of friends. Personally I am a sucker for those films and can be very forgiving. But when it fails to make me laugh or deliver anything worth while like for example some good action scenes then you need to face my wrath. Ok maybe that is a little too harsh but I do believe it is criminal to not make good use of the talent you have. One of the tasks of a good director is to do this. If you don't have a good story or whatever is lacking then bank on the actors because they can make all the difference if given a chance.

So no ladies and gentlemen. I can't in good conscious recommend this to you since it is too lacking in too many fields to make it worth your time.

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Review In the Line of Duty a.k.a. Royal Warriors a.k.a. Wong ga jin si (1986): Relentless action drama!

genre: action, drama, martial arts

The title suggests that In the Line of Duty is the first in the Hong Kong film series but in truth is the follow up to Yes, Madam featuring Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock. Unnecessary confusing. Blame the people who marketed these films back in the day. (I remember having a discussion with a video rental shop owner regarding titles like these since he was trying to convince me some older Jackie Chan films were newly produced films. Me being a huge fan of course knew they weren't. Hence discussion started. How I miss those days of browsing through the videos and engaging into conversations about films.) Not that it matters that much since this is more a sequel in spirit then actually related to the original. So how does this follow up fare?

I guess they thought the original was a little too silly sometimes so they toned down the comedy bits considerably and it is pretty much a serious affair throughout except for some Michael Wong antics. They did not even bother to give his character a name which is so hilarious since at one point they even make fun of his poor acting. You know what, he might not be one of the best actors around but most of the time he does his characters and the story justice and is very functional. Like in here he is supposed to play a lovesick puppy 2 seconds after he meets Michelle Yip (Michelle Yeoh). He basically stalks her constantly which is very creepy if you give it any thought. However his good looks and charm makes him get away with it and believe it or not it even provides one of the most emotional scenes in the film. Not saying that it made a lot of sense but it sure was effectively melodramatic giving the exact context for the action to be more exciting. This film is filled with brutal and relentless action where you never are sure how it is going to end up. While it is not gory by any means it is not afraid to damage stuff and kill off people. Especially in two scenes it will get to you since prior to that time has been taken for you to get to know the characters involved. Very simple plot device but so very effective. Michelle Yeoh is not the only big name in this production. She gets accompanied by Hiroyuki Sanada. A younger Sanada who like Michelle is doing most of them stunts and martial arts scenes themselves. And all of it is very impressive. He and Hong Kong seem like a good fit and makes me wonder why he wasn't in more of them apart from this, Ninja in the Dragon's Den. He did star in The Promise. But that was a Chinese production.

Overall this is one of the best in the film series and one that still rocks today. 

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