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Review The Voyeurs (2021): Fifty Shades of Grey meets Rear Window.

genre: mystery, thriller, drama

Fifty Shades of Grey meets Rear Window? Do I even want to watch this film? Don't worry unlike Fifty Shades the sex actually has a purpose. And no, it's not to entice you. But revealing that would spoil the fun. And I wouldn't dare to do that.

The Voyeurs starts out real slow and innocent where a young couple have moved to a new apartment with a good view on the apartment across of them. Like in every adaptation or film based on Rear Window it's apparent something dark is brooding. However in this film it takes much longer for the twists and turns to happen. In hindsight it's actually a brilliant form of misdirection since you are lead to believe that The Voyeurs is more about the characters and their state of minds. Naturally that does play a part. Only not in the way you think. For example it is clear that Pippa (Sydney Sweeney) is missing something in her relationship. While it is easy to blame her boyfriend Thomas (Justice Smith) for having a lack of imagination. She never really expresses to him that she wants to spice up things. I think many women make the same mistake. Sure they try to put on sexy clothes and such. But they never directly state what they want. Sometimes out of fear or shame for being branded a slut or something similar. I think most men would be very willing to experiment but it is something you have to communicate about. You need to be very clear and set up some rules and boundaries in case you get carried away. Instead Pippa chooses to fantasize about Seb. It's not that far fetched to be honest since they do have sex out in their apartment with no curtains to speak of. 

At first Thomas is game and even comes up with a clever way of listening in to Julia and Seb. But very soon he has some moral issues with it since he does realize he is invading their privacy and he just doesn't feel good about it. Pippa however gets obsessed with Julia and Seb. She even feels sympathy for Julia at a certain moment. Now I don't really know if that was sincere or just a ploy to get closer to Seb since there are many moments after it is clear all she wants is Seb. For whatever reason she is hell bent to tell Julia the truth about Seb. By doing so she opens a can of worms where events go from bad to worse. Like I said, it takes a while for events to spin out of control but when they do it is completely enthralling and entertaining. Mind you, you do have to suspend disbelief a little. But that usually is a given with mystery films like these. In this case it will give you some twists and turns you won't see coming.

The Voyeurs is not an erotic thriller. I mean yes, there is sex. But it's never enticing or arousing. I think that is done deliberately. It will become clear at the end. In essence The Voyeurs is very much a mystery film about wickedness and evil in their many forms. A must watch if you ask me!

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Review Malignant (2021): Go in blind and let the film surprise you! (spoiler free)

genre: action, crime, horror

Out of nowhere Malignant appears with very little to no announcement. And if they did it completely escaped me. I kept it that way since I wanted to go in blind and let myself get surprised. Best decision ever since the film does a very good job keeping you guessing and even throw in a few scares here and there.

To be honest I saw the title and didn't think much of it. It looked like those generic B titles that get released before Halloween. Then I saw James Wan was attached to it as a writer, director and producer. That was all I needed to know since Wan does always seem to deliver the juicy horror goodness even when he does have the tendency to go a little overboard sometimes. If you were expecting something like Insidious or The Conjuring then I will have to disappoint you. While Malignant is filled with tension the dread is nowhere near as heavy as in those films. But what it lacks in sheer terror it makes it up with super creative action and surprise. Naturally I won't spoil this for you but let's say you will never be able to predict what is going on. I have seen many thrillers and horror films so that is saying something. Mind you it is expected of you to go with the silliness and obvious fantastical elements. But come on. This is a horror. Those elements is what usually makes these films fun. Especially if it plays around with convention.

Often you will hear people say horror is dead. Those people don't know what they are talking about. Horror is and never will be dead. It's the one genre that can invent itself over and over again and remain entertaining. Because there is a lot to draw from. Besides when done right horror films will always be able to tap into your fears and worries. Malignant does the same thing. But it also builds on what people usually expect and then misdirects you. It's not perfect but good enough to do make you doubt until the reveal. Most of the cast go a good job of taking the film seriously. Except at the opening scene there was a moment where very deliberately one actress hammed up her role. I think that one was brilliant example of misdirection. 

My overall viewing experience was a happy one. Overjoyed. It has been a while I have seen a good contemporary horror flick that is actually creative and fun. 

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Filmography James Wan

Listed here are all the titles James Wan is involved in as a writer, director and producer.

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My thoughts on The Protege (2021), Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021), Tom and Jerry (2021) and Don't Breathe 2 (2021)

Review The Protege (2021)

Maggie Q who already dabbled into Hong Kong cinema (Naked Weapon, Dragon Squad) and starred in a show about a female assassin (Nikita) seems perfect for a John Wick esque film about assassins. And with Michael Keaton in the mix how could you go wrong? Well, apparently a whole lot. First and foremost the action is disappointing. Apart from two short action sequences there is nothing exciting. I kept waiting and waiting for the action to ramp up and make an impact until the credits rolled. Films like these should never be about the story or intrigue. Yet this is what the film focuses on the most. And that would have been fine had it been compelling. But it's a total bore. However the one thing that keeps this film from crashing is Michael Keaton. He shows he potentially can still play Batman and kick ass. So make that happen. Other than that forget about it. There is no John Wick esque action. So what is the point?

Review Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021)

Was there a need for a reboot / sequel to Space Jam? I don't think there was even a need for the original. But it's here. To be honest, it's not that bad. If you aren't too critical you will be able to find enjoyment. Not necessarily by the jokes but perhaps by recognizing all of the WB characters in the background. I do remember laughing a lot harder when watching the original. It was a real joy to see Bugs Bunny and co in action next to Michael Jordan. Actually they clearly were the stars and Jordan just tagged along. In this one it's the other way around. And that is one big mistake since LeBron James barely can act. How can you not make the toons the main attraction? Besides the action itself was a bit bland. The visuals were cool though especially in 4K.

Review Tom and Jerry (2021)

If it wasn't clear by now this film will point out that Chloë Grace Moretz has limited range. She can't do comedy. So why they have cast her to be in this live action Tom and Jerry flick is beyond me. Fortunately Tom and Jerry steal every scene they are in. But let's face it. They aren't the same as they were in the original cartoons. It's understandable. Times have changed, people have become softer and can't take a joke like they used to. So the slapstick won't be as sadistic and offensive but it's entertaining. And I rather would have liked they solely focused on them while the actors would be subject to their terror. Like with Space Jam: A New Legacy the focus lies on the people. Why? They aren't fun. Even Michael Peña fails to be funny. Because for whatever reason they have him play a serious character instead. It doesn't make sense. Anyway watch this for Tom and Jerry. They will make it worth your while.

Review Don't Breathe 2 (2021)

The original was a breath of fresh air that played around with convention and expectations. For whatever reason this sequel decided to change a character so much that he could be considered a good guy and not the super bad guy he is supposed to be. Not going to lie, that required some adjustment. Despite this huge flaw I found myself rooting for The Blind Man and wanted him to prevail at all costs. While the tone and tension is a lot lighter there is enough there to keep events compelling. Besides the thugs in this part truly are evil and committed. You actually have to commend them for not giving up even when they have been inflicted a lot of torture and pain. Definitely a good watch!

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Review Speed (1994): Die Hard on a bus!

genre: die hard clone, action, thriller

For a long time I regarded Speed as one of the best action thrillers made. And after having watched it recently I think it still holds up pretty well. Except I do need to be immensely critical about some elements in the film that can detract from the overall viewing pleasure.

First and foremost the premise of the film is totally ridiculous. It's not realistic in the slightest. You truly need divine intervention for it to be possible for a bus to keep driving fast even if if roads and speedways aren't crowded. The bus also does things that are over the top and impossible. Yet I was willing to suspend disbelief because at least it was creative and original. From start to finish it definitely puts you on the edge for the seat. Except at multiple viewings. Already after a couple of them I can pinpoint two sequences that are pretty problematic. It's the elevator sequence in the beginning and the subway sequence in the finale. Both scenes do work the first time. But after that they become rather tiresome and boring. Because they are actually new predicaments that play out very similar to the whole bus sequence. They don't really add that much other than act as filler. The subway sequence is obviously a case of the film not knowing when to end. A climax after a pretty intense climax simply is not effective especially since you almost everything becomes predictable. Or they should have been bold and let the main villain survive his ordeal so that he could try his terror again in the sequel. Actually that would make more sense than what they came up with instead.

Point Break already had established Keanu Reeves as a believable action hero. In this one he is even a good John McClane type of character. He is just a normal guy who tries his best to deal with the hostage situations but does loses his cool from time to time. And can you blame him? Main villain played by Dennis Hopper certainly makes his life very difficult. But to be honest I found Hopper to be a very weak villain. I mean he certainly played a character who was deranged. Only I never truly found him to be menacing and dangerous. I think it would have been more fun had he truly had a backup plan for every contingency. Like a real cat and mouse play between Jack and Howard Payne. Sandra Bullock also was a good addition as she was the one who kept events relatable and light. She wasn't just a damsel in distress. She did contribute to keeping people alive.

Overall one of the best Die Hard Clones. Certainly a must watch in case you haven't watched this one yet!

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Review Fast & Furious (2009): In hindsight one of the strongest parts in the entire franchise!

gene: action, thriller, racing

For a long time I considered this fourth part the odd duck in the franchise. This was before it went cuckoo in part 5 and every film after. I managed to get a hold of the 4K /UHD version and decided to revisit the film I thought I liked the least.

And in all honesty there certainly are a few flaws with this film. But for the most part it's a solid entry. Actually compared to the last two I think this one is superior. So what are the things that are right? Paul Walker and Vin Diesel are paired up again. Their friendship might be a little troubled and strained but that is not uncommon for brothers. It will hardly surprise you they will patch things up. They do have great chemistry which makes it fun. This fourth part is also very ambitious. Instead of dealing with little street races or a plain drug dealer they are now getting involved with taking on a Mexican cartel. That being said there is an event tied to this where Vin Diesel could have shown some range. And for some reason neglects to do so. I know a lot of you say that he has no range is very limited as an actor. This is not entirely true. He is capable of more but he rarely does roles that differ from his established action persona. Go watch Find Me Guilty. He is absolutely brilliant in that film. In any case this is a missed opportunity. Does it matter much in the grand scheme of things? Not really. It's just a plot element to move things forward which in turn is an excuse for some cool racing sequences. They actually made it look like even the main characters could die. The bling bling is gone but the raw racing power is ever present and definitely the main draw. There is even a mystery element woven in. Nothing spectacular but good enough to keep you guessing. Compared to most twists in the franchise this is the most probable and least ridiculous and therefore tolerable.

I also think the pacing is right. It's not super fast but it's never slow either. I was simple able to enjoy the whole film without ever getting bored. Naturally you will have to overlook certain things like Brian now suddenly is a FBI agent. Before he went rogue, he was a simple cop. And he was kinda on the run. Yet gets hired as an agent at the FBI? Surely this is impossible. But it does work for the wonderful dynamics between him and Dom so it's something I was willing to not make a big deal of.

Overall in hindsight I would regard this one of the strongest parts in the franchise. Funny how my view on this has changed significantly. 

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Review The Good, the Bad and the Ugly a.k.a. Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo (1966): One of the greatest movies ever made!

genre: western, classic

Is The Good, the Bad and the ugly a perfect movie? That would mean any classic film ever made is beyond reproach and this is simply impossible. There will always be some flaw or mistake present that could potentially hurt someone's viewing experience. However this is a film where a lot of is done right and makes it a film that is completely enjoyable even after a multitude of viewings. I lost count of how many times I have viewed this and I can tell you that certain scenes and moments in the film will get me every time.

First of all the film is filled with memorable quotes like: 

There are two kinds of people in the world those with guns and those that dig. You dig?
When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk.

         People With Ropes Around Their Necks Don’t Always Hang

These are the kind that will stick with you no matter what. Because they usually follow actions done by the characters that is very representative of who they are. Secondly, the direction of Sergio Leone. To the untrained eye this film might seem to glorify violence. And while you are certainly encouraged to root for the characters and their questionable actions you are also asked to condemn the unnecessary bloodshed. I don't think Leone targets the American Civil War specifically since he doesn't seem to be choosing sides. But it does look like he is talking about war in general and how useless it can be. For me personally when this is the topic discussed it emotes with me the most since it's here where the film is at it's best. You can't really escape it since Leone makes sure you feel the gravity and impact of the message he is trying to convey to you. It's also in these moments when the main characters show their good qualities even if their motives to do so are morally on another level. 

The camera work is outstanding. The way everything is shot and set up in this film is how I imagine the Wild West to have been. The heroes (or rather anti-heroes) are far from super men. Even when they are skilled shooters they still are careful when up against five men or more. I mean naturally it would be fun to see them John Wick their way in and out all the time but let's face it that's hardly realistic. Our heroes very visibly get hurt. When denied water they will dry out. Most of the characters in the film barely bathe or shave most likely because they are on the run or there aren't that many places left to take the time to do so. There is a war going on after all. It's details like that help sell this film and actually make you believe you are in the real Wild West and not Spain.

But this film would be nothing without the phenomenal soundtrack. It's integral, no vital for many dramatic scenes where everything comes together in such a way that you get so invested into the characters and the story like there is no tomorrow. What maybe would have been a good film has turned into an epic masterpiece because it's truly iconic and beautiful.

So yes, this is one of those films cinephiles like me should own in their collection.

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Review The Mule (2018): One of Clint Eastwood's finest films!

genre: crime, drama

The Mule is loosely based on a true story. Regarding a 90 year old mule who smuggled drugs for the Sinaloa cartel. Just proves that real life sometimes can be crazier than fantasy. 

Earl Stone is loved and adored by many including some cartel members. Except his wife and daughter. But they have very good reasons for not liking him. He has let them down over and over again. Earl for some reason always fancied being among friends who adored him than being with his family where he felt like a failure. It's never really shown or explained why he felt like that. And in hindsight is something Clint should have included. I guess he didn't want to detract from the core story which is the drug trafficking plot. Naturally that is the most interesting. How did a 90 year old get involved in the drug business? More importantly, why? Was it just money? In one of the scenes he tells Julio ( Lanon's number one guys) that he should enjoy life more. Live in the moment. To which he replies that perhaps Earl is enjoying life a little too much. Of course like with many things the truth lies in the middle of these views. Julio is a little uptight and serious while Earl doesn't seem to take things that seriously at all. 

Perhaps it is done to death and maybe it doesn't really mash with the drug plot much I myself loved that we got to see Earl redeem himself as husband and as a father. He might not have been there in the past he was there now. Better later than never. And I agree with this notion. So many people make mistakes in their lives but rarely own up to them or at least attempt to do right by the people they wronged. Most entertaining of course is the smuggling and how relatively easy it seemed for Earl. Most would get nervous or feel guilty. Not Earl. While he certainly understands the gravity of what he is doing like with many things he doesn't get bogged down by what's right or not. If you think about it Earl is a horrible person. Yet can you can't help but feel to root for him all the way.

I think The Mule certainly could have gone deeper into exploring the dynamics between Earl and his family. And perhaps also give us more on the cartel and their use of mules like Earl. Still in a way I was glad that The Mule didn't end up being a gritty and shocking affair. In the end it's quite a beautiful film.

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Review In the Line of Fire (1993): Very rewatchable for a thriller!

genre: action, crime, drama, thriller

Clint Eastwood is a real master in bringing you relatable heroes. They are far from politically correct however they do have their heart in the right place. Unfortunately as time progresses heroes like him hardly exist anymore. 

It's one of the main reasons why this action thriller is so good. Sure there is enough intrigue to keep events moving along but the real draw is Clint's character who is past his prime and actually should have been retired long ago. He is ridden with guilt since he failed to protect JFK. Now if you believe the surrounding conspiracy he would have never been able to catch the bullet for him. Still let's not get into that. It's heavily implied that because Frank Horrigan can't let go of the past that he is incapable of moving forward. He is basically all about the job and everything else is just a side activity. He does seem to be passionate about music. And still likes the ladies. I also liked how Frank even when being completely self-centred tried to coach Al (Dylan McDermott) although a little too late. I do think they should have done a lot more with this character in relation to Frank. For me that would have made the film more compelling on multiple viewings. So he isn't completely dead inside. And secretly he is still waiting for the chance to redeem himself. 

Enter John Malkovich as Mitch Leary. He is an interesting villain as he tries to make things a bit personal between him and Frank. Now if you watch this for the first time this is something that will make sense later. But on multiple viewings it's an element that is a little flawed and feels very forced. I don't think it's actually necessary for them to have a connection. Actually if Mitch Leary would have been less vocal they would have a harder time finding him and preventing his criminal acts. As good as Clint and John are it is asked of you to suspend disbelief a lot. I mean both look like characters who could die of a heart attack any second. A secret agent as old and unfit as Frank in protection detail? Highly unlikely. Still it's Clint. He makes it work and you will have a jolly good time if you let him do his magic.

Despite the improbability In the Line of Fire is a blast from start to finish. And something I forgot to mention is the fact that the musical score is done by Ennio Morricone. You will recognize it very quickly since it contains a hint of the score he composed for The Untouchables. It mashes real well with the tension and thrills. A must watch for sure!

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Review The Thing (1982): A John Carpenter classic!

genre: horror, mystery, science fiction, lovecraftian

By now I must have seen this film like ten times now and it still is strong as the first time I watched it. 

One of the reasons for this is the great buildup of tension and atmosphere. Even if you know what is coming because the way the events are setup you still will feel a certain anxiety concerning the characters. In large part it does help that everything takes part in a very seclude area. The group of people (scientists and other personnel are completely cut off from the real world. Nauls (played by T.K. Carter even jokes about how there could have been a nuclear attack and they are the sole survivors. Even if he doesn't believe it himself it very well could be true. However in my opinion they are in far more danger as they are exposed to something that is an attack on their sanity and humanity. I am aware that after all these years one should already be aware of what is transpiring in this film. Still you could be one of the people who has never seen this film so I will refrain myself from spoilers. But a very important element of the constant tension in the film is the paranoia factor. At one point none of the characters can trust each other. Even if you already know what is going to happen you can't help but feel that these people don't deserve the horrors they are forced to face. But just like the characters you will be suspicious of anyone who act strange or irrationally. 

Next to the psychological terror there is the body horror (a la lovecraft). After all these years it's still surprisingly effective. A prime example of practical effects being superior to CGI especially when viewed in 4K. I was very much horrified by how real everything looked. It's almost sad to realize that the effects in this film are infinitely superior to the ones used in most contemporary films. In any case The Thing is a film I can certainly recommend. Forget the existence of the so called prequel. That one doesn't even come close to what this classic achieves!

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