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Review We Have Always Lived in the Castle (2018): Very infuriating!

genre: mystery, thriller

After I had seen the trailer I was very much intrigued. It was filled with promise and potential. Or it was at least going to be compelling at least. 

Unfortunately I found the whole viewing experience to be completely disappointing. I was expecting a whole lot more darkness and conflict. But instead director Stacie Passon has chosen for the subtle approach. According to wikipedia the film is a true adaptation to the book. Although I am sure that a lot of vital details have been left out that probably were needed to flesh out the characters and events. The acting overall is good and until a certain point I was very invested. But after that I felt that the story wasn't going any where and lost hope that I would be rewarded for my time. When something does happen it is so anti climatic and ludicrously bad that I simply could not believe it that this film had wasted my precious time like this. The conclusion was far from spectacular.

I keep reading in reviews how the film very strongly managed to capture the sense of dread as intended by Shirley Jackson. Excuse me but apart from most of the characters acting strangely and annoyingly nothing in the film was tense, thrilling or creepy. Sure I kept wondering why for example the villagers were so angry or why Merricat was acting the way she did. But even after the reveal at the end it's not clear what she or her sister are about. Or let me rephrase it by saying that I don't give a damn. I felt sympathetic to the sisters and the uncle. But their mostly passive attitude towards the events in the conclusion made me dislike them. Especially since they carry one like nothing has happened. Here I was thinking to be confronted with something hard hitting only to be let down with something generic and pointless.

Even if I was willing to give this film a second chance and assess it more elaborately I don't think there is enough there to warrant this kind of investment. I am aware that this most likely is due to the source material itself. It simply fails to appeal to me. Weirdness and eccentricity doesn't automatically equal darkness or dread. Probably because I am used to it. I have experienced and witnessed far more strange people in my life and believe me they were scarier than anyone in this bloody film. 

Overall this film is completely disappointing and doesn't deliver on anything but bewilderment and rage for making you waste precious time. AVOID AT ALL COSTS! 

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Review The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018): Director Susanna Fogel is out of her league!

genre: comedy, action, espionage

Good god! I don't even know where to begin with this one. But let me start by saying it's not that bad. Still I have some issues with it which I am going to point out to you.

In my mind I made all kinds of twists and turns that would have given this spy comedy a sharp edge. To my dismay none of them were implemented. Of course I wasn't actually involved with this production but perhaps someone would have the idea to actually try to make a spy film a little less predictable. Almost every twist and turn come straight out of previous spy comedy films without ever adding something fresh and creative. And I know that some would defend it that sometimes all they want is an entertaining film and nothing more. But shouldn't a comedy make you laugh instead of crying or worse? This flick wasn't that funny. Only here and there I could muster up a smirk or two. The only real joke that made me laugh out loud was during the credits. Because it was genuinely hilarious.

And what is up with Kate McKinnon. She can be incredibly funny in the SNL sketches. But in movies she just is too much.They even made her character fit how she usually present herself. Including the pro feminism. She tries so hard to be funny and quirky. But only ends up being annoying. Incredibly annoying! To the extent that I simply didn't care any more. Almost every other character were nice or good but Kate, forget about it. Mila is on automatic pilot and gave of the vibe that she didn't give a damn about this film. Perhaps this is the fault of director Susanna Fogel. Not pushing Mila enough to give it her all. Then again it could very well be that she herself wasn't giving it all. Because she also wrote the script. I haven't seen anything in this film that could be considered remarkable or admirable narrative wise. And certainly not when it comes to how the events play out. 

Granted the action is done decently and I thought to myself, had this been a serious spy thriller with more intrigue and spectacle it would have been far more interesting. Why wasn't more effort put in the narrative? And if they had forsaken that then why not go for the laughs? You know what? Susanna Fogel could have done both if only she had more imagination and experience. I can honestly not recommend this film. I would rather suggest Brothers Grimsby or Spy.

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Review Greta (2019), Darkness Visible (2019), Polaroid (2019) and Kahaani 2 (2016).

Quick reviews of some titles I have seen recently to give you an idea whether they are worth your time or not.

Greta (2019)

Greta is the kind of thriller you have seen a million times before. However it's a very entertaining one since it has one performance that stands out. Isabelle Huppert (known for Elle) is delightfully weird and creepy. Actually she is quite terrifying. The way she acts and behaves is one of the elements that make Greta a very effective thriller. Next to that the direction by Neil Jordan is tight and the way the story is told will keep you hooked till the end. Unfortunately it's far from perfect and resorts to the most common clichés these thrillers are plagued with. Why do victims in films only hit once instead of two, three or more times?  Or why stalking is not seen as a serious intrusion or crime? In any case, certainly worth your time!

Darkness Visible (2019)

Darkness Visible is a horror mystery that in hindsight feels very Lovecraftian only far more contained with an extra layer of mystique. In this case this layer consists of Indian superstition and customs intertwined with real religious traditions. Only that should be taken with a grain of salt since this fantasy of course. Now I do think that there is a constant sense of dread in the film. However there could have been much more of that. Instead for the most part the focus lies on the mystery which I must admit is very compelling. However it's never truly terrifying. Although the ending might be if you give it some thought. Another one that will be worth your time for sure!

Polaroid (2019)

While the premise is not entirely original it's a creative one with potential. Only I got the feeling that everything in this production was rushed since the film can't wait to expose of what is going on. And usually I appreciate it if they get to the point fast. However in a film like this there also has to be a decent amount of tension and fright next to the gimmick. Unfortunately the terror and dread is not really present. None of the film is truly scary. However there are some decent twists and turns to keep events interesting so I wouldn't write off this film completely. Give it a shot! Pun intended.

Kahaani 2 (2016)

Kahaani 2 is a sequel to the wonderful Kahaani but is not a direct follow up. So some of the actors from the first film are reprising similar roles however they aren't playing the same characters. I must admit this wasn't entirely clear to me until I realized how different our main character Vidya was acting and behaving compared to the character Vidya in the first film. Perhaps writer / director Sujoy Ghosh sought out to be confusing to add more mystery. For me personally it backfired since I think the Vidya from Kahaani is a better character. Still this didn't get in the way from my enjoyable viewing experience. Granted the story told here was not in the slightest on part with the first one. Interesting for sure. But more riddled with darkness and shock than real nerve biting suspense and thrills. There still are some surprises only they simply don't have the same impact as the ones in the original Kahaani. That having said from start to finish Kahaani 2 is an enjoyable viewing experience because Vidya Balan again does a good job of playing a woman not to mess with while maintaining grace, beauty and wits. Sujoy Ghosh first had intended to do a film series of Kahaani featuring Vidya Bagchi  but because of difference this didn't happen. Instead Ghosh opted for a next installment in the Kahaani franchise as a standalone film. In a way this could work as well. And there do seem to be plans for a Kahaani 3. But I do hope that they will come up with a story as strong as the first one since that one rocked big time. 

Overall definitely one that is worth your time.

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Review Brightburn (2019): Wasted potential!

genre: horror

Brightburn basically is about answering the question, "What if Superman was evil?' In theory and the trailer this premise seemed incredibly compelling. Unfortunately the execution of Brightburn is unbelievably weak.

The duration of a mere 90 minutes feel like a two hour film since the pacing is incredibly slow. The flow and coherency of the film also is off. Not once, let me repeat this, not once does Brightburn deliver. The biggest problem is the lack of tension and atmosphere. There is zero buildup nor is there conflict. Brandon pretty much is evil from the start. If he truly tried to be and do good and still was being bullied or mistreated then perhaps the transition so to speak would have been more believable. Imagine all the people in this town turning against Brandon because they fear him. It would have a significant and dramatic impact. Now this simply doesn't happen. He is just evil and very little is done to actually make you care about the victims since not much time is spent on time. Well, perhaps there are a few events that will make you dislike Brandon.

There simply is no depth to the events. They happen and you barely will care. I tried playing devil's advocate and root for Brandon. But he is just incredibly boring. He is super serious all the time. Would it really have hurt to give us some depictions of Brandon being sweet and having fun? He also immediately knows how to use his powers. One of the most fun super hero tropes is them finding out what their powers are and how to use them properly. This never happens. He pretty much knows how to use them and it's so tedious.

I really was looking forward to this. I was really hyped about the concept. Think about it. Nobody would be able to do anything. It's an immense scary thought. Brightburn however is never able to depict this notion adequately. Give this a miss, it will be a giant waste of  your time.

Also check:   

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Review Tag (2018), Wildling (2018), Creed II (2018), Alpha (2018), Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018), Crooked House (2017), Girls Trip (2017) and Keeping up with the Joneses (2016).

These quick short reviews are intended to let you know whether they are worth your time or not. More elaborate or in depths reviews will follow when deemed necessary.

Tag (2018)

Tag is a surprisingly cool and endearing comedy based on a true story. It's mainly about friendship experienced through a game of Tag that each of them take immensely serious. It's fun from start to end. So definitely a must watch!

Wildling (2018)

A girl is kept captive by Daddy (Brad Dourif) supposedly to protect her from the bad world outside. But it becomes clear things aren't what they seem and she is on a path of awakening. In essence the film is a coming of age drama with a twist. For the most part compelling with decent acting. However it's very flawed and suffers from a poor narrative. A decent watch if you don't have the highest expectations story or spectacle wise.

Creed II (2018)

I don't know where to start with this one. Creed already revisited the old legend that is Rocky and now Creed II wants to do it yet again by basically remaking Rocky IV. On the one hand it makes sense on the other hand this film completely washes away what was established in the first part. Why? Then I thought of the possibilities in which Ivan Drago could be fleshed out. Like Rocky he is an underdog and there were some moments where you could feel his pain. I had hope that because of this he and Rocky would come together and might even start a friendship. Following the line of the Rocky saga where Apollo Creed also once was seen as the villain. It would be the perfect circle. Unfortunately Sylvester Stallone and co have dropped the ball on this one as most of the events aren't nearly as touching or dramatic as the first one. How many times does Adonis need to prove himself before he is satisfied? How many times does he need to learn the same lesson? 

Don't get me wrong I still liked this but I can't help but feel disappointed because of the laziness concerning the story. So much more could have been done with Drago and his son. And believe it or not Rocky IV is the superior film by far compared to this.

Alpha (2018)

A beautiful tale about a boy and a wolf who need to rely on each other to survive in a prehistoric age (20.000 years ago). I know that this film is being advertised as a historical adventure and I am sure they tried to recreate this prehistoric age as much as possible. However many liberties have been taken to the extent that this tale should more be seen as a fantastic tale. Nevertheless a real fascinating one since it does point out the harshness and cruel life of animals and humans. Most of what you will see is a feast for the eyes even if at times the CGI is done poorly. It doesn't matter much since the simple story remains compelling throughout. A must watch for sure!

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

I wasn't in a real hurry to watch this especially since the new Star Wars certainly is not MY Star Wars. However I was pleasantly surprised as Solo actually had me entertained from start to finish without feeling the need to rip out my hairs out of anger. Granted I am not happy with some of the casting choices and how this part refers to the original franchise. And to be honest, this film doesn't even feel like it's Star Wars. That being said I had fun throughout and managed to get warmed up to every character in the film even Alden. Although I do think that Anthony Ingruber would have been a much better fit. He even had the Harrison Ford mannerisms down. And Lando loving robots? Oh come on! Not too mention that Donald Glover tries too hard to be suave as Billy Dee Williams. It's not something you can mimic. If there ever was a reason to youngify an actor this would be it. Overall worth watching!

Crooked House (2017)

Much better Agatha Christie adaptation than Murder on the Orient Express. But it feels less cinematic and as if there is less at stake. Still the acting overall is excellent and there are just enough twist and turns to keep you guessing. Certainly a must watch for fans of murder mysteries. But definitely deserved better fleshed out characters. 

Girls Trip (2017)

A very predictable comedy about friendship but one that offers more than enough laughs to keep you entertained. Some will make you laugh out loud for sure since they are so over the top and ridiculously basic. It's a bit of a shame that the main characters aren't fleshed out more. It was so obvious they had to play certain types instead of real people. Like for example Tifanny Haddish. I know that her role is being considered her breakthrough but I am not entirely sure why that is. Especially if you realize that she basically has been playing the same character over and over again. The over the top one that is so very urban and ghetto. Sure she can be funny. But I will be more impressed if she can play a character that is very different from the usual role she portrays. In hindsight I give Jada Pinkett more credit for being funny. She had the most daring scenes but managed to carry those with finesse and dignity. And I am not a fan of her so that is saying something.

Keeping up with the Joneses (2016)

Decent enough as in that I found it to be entertaining while it lasted. But to say that it made me laugh hard or that it was memorable? Not even close. The cast is good though and probably is the main reason you would want to check this film out.

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Review Pet Sematary (2019): A huge letdown!

genre: horror

Disclaimer: This might contain mild spoilers. I rarely do this. In this case it won't diminish the fun since it already is bad.

Pet Sematary was one of the few films I was looking forward to since I honestly believed they wouldn't be able to screw up the compelling premise. Guess what? I gave them too much credit. 

First of all it takes far too long for this film to get going. Which wasn't a problem for me until after a half hour or so the big tragedy hadn't occurred yet. If this time had been used to create bone chilling tension and suspense then perhaps I would not have any problem with this. Except nothing is done to heighten the atmosphere or creepiness other than a ridiculous side plot too reminiscent of The Grudge to distract you. Somehow this should tie in with the main plot. And yes for a moment I was thinking and pondering how Rachel probably had an early experience with the nasty consequences of using the burial ground. Only not once does the film attempt to actually make this connection and then it hit me. There is no connection. It's just one huge misdirection supposedly to bring you more horror goodness. It truly would have been creepy had the boy and the Japanese lady from The Grudge made an appearance instead of the cat and the sister. I swear they act in the same way as they did. Only without the dread or terror. At this point I realized that directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer were out of their dept.

The real drama still had to happen and when it does it's impact is almost laughable. I mean I appreciate the twist (provided you are familiar with the original film) but sorry to say I hardly felt an emotional connection to the characters since very little time was spent on the relationships between them or what they are about. Of course the event leads to an act everybody can predict but very little is shown or made clear on how devastated the parents are. It would have helped to make their case. If I am not mistaken this did happen in the 1989 adaptation. Point is that Louis already knows that burying a dead creature in the cemetery is a bad idea. Then what made him think this time would be different? The film fails to convince you of his desperation. One could argue that the voices drove him to it. Had these voices actually motivated him to do so then yes that would have made this film incredibly compelling. Because that could have added a psychological dimension to the events. Unfortunately the film doesn't even bother to add this extra layer.

You know what? Had this film been completely about Church the cat and his antics after his death I would have loved Pet Sematary. The contrast of Church as sweet cat and then evil one certainly is one of the most interesting things in the film. And the cat definitely is a better actor than the kids. (But the boy is adorable!)  

Overall the film is a huge letdown since it fails to buildup atmosphere and deliver horror goodness. There isn't a single scary scene in it. So avoid!

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Review Room for Rent (2019), How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019), Fighting with my Family (2019) and many others.

These quick short reviews are intended to let you know whether they are worth your time or not. More elaborate or in depths reviews will follow when deemed necessary.

Room for Rent (2019)

Room for Rent very cleverly plays around with your emotions but like with most thrillers will go into a direction that is quite dark and sinister. Lin Shaye most famous for her role in the Insidious films confronts you with some truths regarding old age, loneliness and other subjects. For the most part a very simple but very effective thriller. 

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)

The third part in the franchise definitely is an incredibly beautiful film to look at. And yes also backs that up with many feel good and touching moments you would expect. However the pacing is uneven as it drags in parts and also lacks the wit and comedy the previous films contained. The story just wasn't interesting and didn't even tie in that well with the earlier films. Overall still enjoyable but a step down from the first two.

Fighting with my Family (2019)

I am  a real sucker for feelgood films. However they do have to bring you on a journey you can relate to. This one seems like it has the necessary elements but just the bare minimum with very little effort. It's fun to see someone overcome hardships after they have struggled. Yet here the struggle is mostly absent. Or not explored that elaborately. Florence Pugh and Jack Lowden tried their hardest to work with what they had been given. And that definitely is why you would want to keep watching. But everything else feels so forced and fake. Even if you are into WWE and such I doubt that this film actually has a lot to offer. It's even low on laughs. Most of them are reserved for The Rock who produced this and thought the story about this family was worth making into a film. I beg to differ. Don't get me wrong. I liked the ending. But not how they got there. 

What Men Want (2019)

You guessed it. This is the opposite of What Women Want (the one with Mel Gibson). Only this time it's Taraji P. Henson who is able to hear what men think. It certainly provides enough laughs but like many films today drags too much because of it's duration and not having the substance to make up for it. I liked it but I can understand that this is not for everyone.

Peppermint (2018)

One I avoided since it felt like it was going to be a lesser Death Wish or Taken with a female character instead of Bruce Willis or Liam Neeson. However I was pleasantly surprised that Jennifer Garner managed to outclass both Bruce and Liam in an enjoyable action / revenge flick that is far superior to the crap they have been in lately. A must watch!

Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)

It has it's moments but feels like it is trying to hard to relate to current trends on social media and the people who use these social media. Apart from that it repeats the same old themes of animated films without providing the wit or jokes. A bit of a letdown. 

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

Groundbreaking? Funny? Say What? This comedy or should I say romcom is very low on laughs and seems to focus more on drama than similar films in the genre. I honestly don't understand the praise this film has been getting. Here I was expecting to be dazzled by clever jokes and social commentary and all I got was cliché after cliché that wasn't even explained that well. Most of the arguments of why a certain woman wasn't wife material was never explored to the fullest. I get it. If you are filthy rich then maybe you have a very good reason to fear gold diggers and low lives. But to then not even take the time to get to know what a person is about or ask your son why he wants to marry this woman is preposterous. Sure some will claim that these cultural differences exist and are real. Then again how many people are actually as rich as the rich family portrayed in this film? Crazy Rich Asians is a missed opportunity to show the real issues when it comes to love and marriage in certain Asian countries. It could and should have gone far deeper and definitely needed more laughs to make a real impression. In short: Don't believe the hype! 

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Quick short reviews The Prodigy (2019), The Professor and the Madman (2019), Glass (2019), Overlord (2018), Mortal Engines (2018), Bad Times at the El Royale (2018), A Simple Favour (2018) and The Possession of Hannah Grace (2018)

These quick short reviews are intended to let you know whether they are worth your time or not. More elaborate or in depths reviews will follow when deemed necessary.

The Prodigy (2019)

Easily one of the best in this list since it's creative and delivers on the horror goodness. The Prodigy very cleverly misdirects you by giving you the impression it's a certain kind of subgenre while it's another type entirely. It's very effective when it comes to suspense and dread. The few jump scares definitely are used properly and have exactly the impact they need. One I can recommend!

The Professor and the Madman (2019)

This film has all the ambiance and atmosphere of a horror film but is actually a beautiful tale about friendship and forgiveness. But make no mistake, the film has more than enough gruesome and horrific moments to shock you. The story is elevated by the grounded performances of Mel Gibson and Sean Penn.

Glass (2019)

This might not be the spectacle I was hoping it would be. It still delivers on the performances and the thrills. The twists and turns in the last part of the franchise might be a little weak compared to the previous films. However I was fully enthralled and entertained. A decent conclusion to the franchise if you ask me.  

Overlord (2018)

A film I was really looking forward to but ultimately was let down by since it simple doesn't offer what was promised. All I hoped for was tense and thrilling nazi zombie goodness. Instead you get well choreographed action and very little terror. The film easily could have been a masterpiece had they dared to go over the top when needed. Unfortunately Overlord plays it too safe and politically correct which directly impacts the entertainment value.

Mortal Engines (2018)

A lot of spectacle that lacks heart and soul. I really tried hard to like this but I simply could not get into the events that are displayed on the screen. I didn't care much for the events nor the characters. Except one. Shrike is an incredibly compelling character but treated as a glorified extra who easily could have been left out. The story itself is boring since not a lot of effort is put in the characters and the world building. You get very little to no background on the world making it hard to be invested. I would give this a miss!

Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

I thought overall this film was quite compelling at times. But it had too many moments where I lost interest because I was taken out of it since the suspense comes and goes. The characters aren't as interesting or surprising as the film makers want you to believe. The acting is top notch though and is one of the main reasons why you still feel you have to keep watching.

A Simple Favor (2018) 

A Simple Favor can be an interesting watch because of the twists and turns. That is if you are willing to suspend disbelief and let yourself get completely charmed by Anna Kendrick or Blake Lively. Don't expect something new or creative though. Most entertaining are the dynamics between Kendrick and the other actors. 

The Possession of Hannah Grace (2018)

Not going to lie. I didn't really expect too much from this. And while the film is quite predictable it did entertain me. There are some effective scares and good buildup of tension and atmosphere. But compared to The Autopsy of Jane Doe  it's not even close in case you were hoping it was going to be similar. Shay Mitchell as the lead is really selling the terror and sometimes that is all you need. 

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My thoughts on Thesis on a Homicide a.k.a. Tesis sobre un homicidio (2013) and Wild Tales a.k.a. Relatos salvajes (2014)

Thesis on a Homicide is made by the same people responsible for the excellent El secreto de sus ojos a.k.a. The Secret in their Eyes (2009). So naturally I was interested to watch this. Unfortunately the experience was far less satisfying. Actually not satisfying at all.

Let's start with the good. The acting is top notch. The actors make events more compelling than they actually are. The atmosphere also helps you draw into the mystery. Then what is the problem you might ask? There is a lot of promise and build up but no pay off. The ending is left open leaving it up to the viewer to decide what happened. I am not fond of open endings. But I can appreciate them if the film has given you enough to chew on after you watched the film. In this case there is very little to sink your teeth in. The pivotal and most essential elements have been left out so you can't really connect the dots unless you go pixel hunting in a second viewing. I know that main character Roberto points out that details are everything. But then these details should pop up or be mentioned or addressed once. The most important aren't so it will leave you puzzled and confused. I understand that the story is based on a book and I do have an idea what they were going for. But they have failed to convey those details in the film. 

But even if you look past this flaw another issue arises. The motivation. There is none. Apparently this is also something you have to figure out yourself. I don't mind books or films forcing me to work my brain to get that satisfying conclusion. However you still will have to give me the tools to get there. You can't expect me to leave out the dots to make the connection in the first place.

This makes Thesis on a Homicide a very frustrating affair since up until it's ending it's pretty solid. But to then be let down to this extent is aggravating.

Wild Tales is an anthology film consisting of 6 twisty and dark shorts. In essence it's a black comedy where the weird and macabre side of humans is explored. For the most part this is an entertaining affair. Although towards the end certain stories do drag a little much and don't really offer a strong conclusion like the ones in the beginning. 

This anthology certainly is twisted and entertaining. But if you were hoping for real surprises than this might let you down. Compared to The Twilight Zone or Tales of the Unexpected for example, Wild Tales is hardly creative. As crazy and chaotic as some stories are played out none of it came close to being shocking and powerful. Probably because they went for the laughs which detracted from the darkness.

That being said the performances are excellent and most of the pacing is fast. So overall you will be fully entertained. Certainly one I can recommend!

Also check:

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