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Review Molly's Game (2017): A pleasant surprise!

genre: drama, crime, thriller

Suddenly there was a lot of fuzz about Molly's game but to me it wasn't entirely clear why that was. It seemed to be a film about poker and I am not really a fan of those types of films. My interest peaked when it was stated that Molly's game was a crime film and that poker is just an element of many.

To be clear, while poker is featured it's only vital to bring the plot forward. You aren't required to know or like the game. Crime is a bigger element but just as poker only essential to to keep things going. The most rewarding element is the relationship between Molly and her father played by Kevin Costner. I am not going into how and why but it's the thread that sticks events together in ways you probably won't even be aware of. However it is asked of you to accept the slow pace and not entirely original plot points. You need to be very patient. But it's not torturous by any means since the acting is incredibly good. Jessica Chastain completely carries the movie and adds complexity to her character in very subtle ways which is very hard to do and quite impressive. Costner like always is top notch. Same could be said about Idris Elba. He too very subtly downplays his role not to take the limelight away from Jessica. That kind of generosity suits an actor of his caliber. Like the title suggests it's all about Molly. And Molly is a character your are going to root for. She has the kind of mentality and drive one can only aspire to have. It is unclear to me why Chastain wasn't nominated for Best actress at the Oscars since she certainly deserved the spot. She would have given Frances McDormand a run for her money if the Oscars would have been just and fair that is. And if no politics were involved. Speaking of politics. What was up with McDomand's request for women to stand up? That made me dislike her. Also it contradicts what Molly stands for. She doesn't want to be helped. She wants to achieve things on her own. Who can't relate to that? 

The least said about this film the better since it will allow you to go on a journey together with Molly which is going to be very rewarding and in my opinion very beautiful. So do check this one out!

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Review Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018): I was surprised to find out that it was real entertaining!

genre: kaiju, science fiction, action, adventure

Pacific Rim: Uprising was met with a lot of hate since original director Guillermo del Toro wasn't at the helm any more although he still is attached as producer. And I am curious how much he was involved. But if I had to guess not that much as some would like to. The tone is different for example. Less dark and threatening. However that is substituted with more twist and turns and thrilling action. Not as grand and epic as in the original but still spectacular. One complaint though that there is not that much monster action. I know what  you are thinking. Isn't that supposed to be the main draw? You are right. It should have been. Still there is plenty of robot action and that is fun also.

There are no real big names apart from John Boyega and Scott Eastwood. Then there are some characters from the original who return even when their roles are a little diminished. That could be an issue if you have problems with the younger cast members. To their credit though they were very adequate and likeable. Most of the film are put on the shoulders of Boyega and he handles it like a champ. He demonstrates what he is capable of when given the space and opportunity. I wished Lucasfilm and DIsney would acknowledge that also. I mean it's ridiculous how he was treated in The Last JediHe easily was one of the main draws in Force Awakens and then to see him being diminished to basically a glorified extra is absurd. People bitch about Jar Jar Binks but even he, a CGI character got more respect from Lucas than Boyega got from Rian Johnson. To make matters worse he is not even allowed to have the screen all for himself. He is forced to share it with a new character who adds absolutely nothing to this film and the Star Wars Universe. (It's really bothersome that he himself thought to defend Lucasfilm and troll fans in order to follow the narrative they spun blaming the fans of the failure of Disney Star Wars.)  Any ways sorry for my little rant there. At least in this film Boyega is a true main character who you will like and root for.

There is not a boring moment in this film. In fact, they rushed through events like there was no tomorrow. It would have been very welcome if they stopped from time to time to spend some time on the characters and background of the events. I mean a little more world building would not have hurt.  

As far as I am concerned this is a good follow up to the original and was surprisingly entertaining. I also expected this to be terrible. And it's not. So those people claiming that this is a terrible movie are far too uptight and demanding. It's a light blockbuster film where monster action is replaced with robot action. Is that enough for the outrage? No, because the film does explain why it's happening and what it's going towards. There's even a hint of a third part. Too ambitious and too confident? Perhaps. But I am all game. Let's hope that they made enough so that the third part is coming. 

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Review Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay (2018): This is how you do it!

genre: animation, comic book adaptation, super hero

Batman: Assault on Arkham was the first animated film to do the Suicide Squad justice and this is the second one that shows how it's done. The live action one that came out two years ago was a travesty. Not only failed it to demonstrate why the Suicide Squad wasn't to be messed with it also put too much focus on Harley Quinn. While she can be very deadly and unpredictable she is more like the goofy side kick and nothing else. And Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay reminds us that of that fact.

Of course I understand from a marketing perspective that Harley Quinn sells. However even The Joker doesn't think too much of her so why should we? Especially since she is hardly useful. The other members tough are far more dangerous. They are cold blooded, relentless and very skilled assassins. But not psychotic as Harley is. In the introductory scene you get a good demonstration of what the Suicide Squad is really about. Very bloody and gory. This definitely is not one for young kids since Hell to Pay is quite violent. And it makes sense since these squad members don't operate under the same code as Batman has for example. They are villains for a reason. They might not be completely evil and perhaps do have a code of their own they certainly aren't motivated by doing the right thing. The explosive devices controlled by Amanda Waller is the real incentive. The second they don't do as she instructs she will press the button. Still it is made clear that Waller is infinitely more ruthless and evil to the extent that even the assassins are shocked when they are confronted with it. 

Amanda Waller puts the squad on a mission that isn't entirely sanctioned. It's a personal one. Or should I say selfish one since she doesn't give a damn about what happens to others for her sake. There were many times where I truly thought she went overboard. It's one thing to do what it takes to save lives. But to be like this to save your own? 

It's fun to see the several team members work together and do what they are supposed to do. And unlike the live action version this Suicide Squad are actually very competent. Only Deadshot gets briefly sidetracked but it's one of those things that will make you root for him. Hell to Pay doesn't have the most original story but it has enough surprises to make the viewing experience compelling. So definitely a must watch if you are craving for a decent film about the Suicide Squad.

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Reviews Live Action Films DC Universe!

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Reviews animated DC films

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Review Batman Ninja (2018): Phenomenal artwork! Everything else is a mess!

genre: comic book adaptation, super hero, action, crime

Watch the trailer for this animated film and then forget it's existence. 

And that is me being mild. What if I told you that the best bits of Batman Ninja are already in the trailer? I can't tell you how disappointing Batman Ninja is. I never had the illusion that this was going to be super good. But I had hoped that it would have been as crazy and wild as it was presented in the trailer. The very least the action was going to be bonkers and insane. If like me you expect that kind of thing then forget about it. While Batman Ninja is weird it's not weird enough. It's far too tame, conventional and predictable. Once again The Joker and some other familiar villains and heroes are called into action but apart from the usual shenanigans very little noteworthy things happen. I don't know. Having Batman and co transported to feudal Japan should have been far more interesting and somehow I was bored out of my mind. And I love everything ninja, Japan and Batman. So why can't I love this? 

I think I would not have mind the weak or bad story as much if Batman Ninja contained good action. We know Batman and what he is about. Would he really be so different in feudal Japan? No, he would not. Here Batman loses all his toys and wits. To the extent that he doubt his skills. I can tell you with absolute confidence that Batman while far from perfect would never ever doubt himself. In fact most of his skills are based on Ninjutsu. So if anything he should have fit right in. I think that the people involved barely knew the basics. I am wondering if DC even bothered consulting? If they did then somebody made a big mistake. If they didn't then I want to know what they were thinking. Despite the live action films the animated DC films all have been good to excellent. This doesn't even come close to being good. 

The concept and the premise was promising. But the end result is disappointing and boring. How can that be when events take place in feudal Japan? You even have walking palaces for god sake. A gigantic waste of time!

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Review Star Trek: Discovery Season 1: Not entirely my Star Trek but it did sort of got there!

genre: science fiction, adventure, drama

Star Trek: Discovery is a prequel to shows and films that were vastly different in tone and intention. If you are a big Star Trek fan like me you can't help but feel a little alienated at first. However in the end the first season will put you on a journey that is worth it.

Of course it will require a lot of adjustment and suspension of disbelief to get there but during the journey you won't be able to deny that this show does have some merit especially entertainment wise. Some of it's cast and storytelling is exceptional. Now Star Trek always had been about the characters and how they act and react to the new wonders and dangers they are confronted with. So that hasn't changed. However it's much more darker and dramatic. There is still some science and philosophy but it's  nearly not as essential as it used to be. Is that a bad thing? Depends on who you ask. I am an old school fan so I for me it's definitely something I am not happy with. A lot of what Star Trek explored whether it was theological, philosophical or cultural was what made it so great. The food for thought element was profound and to have that diminished is a hard pill to swallow. Although there are story lines where you get some substance to chew on. Unfortunately you will have to contend those moments to be interjected with a lot of action and other ways of excitement. Mind you the choreography of the action is superb and the spectacle is divine. And it's only fair to say that Star Trek: Discovery looks phenomenal. It looks and feels a whole lot better than J. J. Abrams's Star Trek.

The whole cast of Star Trek: Discovery is top notch. Compared to the old shows there are not that many to begin with but that turns out to be a good thing since it allows you to get to know some of them well enough. Especially main character Michael Burnham gets a lot of attention. Sonequa Martin-Green (who you might know from The Walking Dead) gives it her all and makes you want to root for her all the way even when the actions of her character are questionable. She is not perfect. Far from it. And it is refreshing to see that her actions have real serious consequences. What do I think of her connection to Sarek and Spock? They way it's done in the show it's done with respect. However you won't be able to stop thinking how it's possible that in all this time we have never heard of her. And the events in this show only make it weirder since her importance is huge. I am curious how they will address it in the future. Michelle Yeoh and Jason Isaacs have very significant roles in case you were worried they were just thrown in for good measure. Real surprises are Shazad Latif as Ash Tyler and Anthony Rapp as Paul Stamets. They were able to give their characters some depth within the little time they were given. 

Star Trek: Discovery is a very entertaining show full of twist and turns and familiar mythology but presented very differently than before. It's an ideal show to binge-watch especially for casual fans who aren't that familiar with Star Trek. For a lot of fans this show will be seen as a travesty but the ones who are capable of letting go of what they know will be able to find some of the Star Trek they love and adore. Give it a chance. And by that do watch the entire season. Since only then will you get the complete experience.

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Review Death Wish (2018): Bruce Willis actually tried this time!

genre: action, crime, drama

To jump right in you don't have to worry about this being ome of those " I don't give a damn" Bruce Willis movies. This is more like " I still don't give a damn but I am going to give it more effort because I am enjoying myself a little " Bruce Willis movies. This probably is one of the most decent films he has been in recently. 

Also to be clear I am not going to compare this to the original since I want to watch it properly first before I say anything. I owe Charles Bronson that much. Although I do have to add that when this remake was announced I was incredibly sceptical. I like Bruce Willis (when he gives a damn) but he sure isn't Charles Bronson. Honestly I was surprised that they picked Bruce to do this. He just isn't the right type.But I have to say I did warm up to the character he plays although there are some problems with the way Willis is acting. He has his " not give a damn face " on all the time. Even in a very pivotal scene where he tells his brother Frank (Vincent D'Onofrio):" look what they did to my baby ". He couldn't even shed a tear. I mean come one Bruce. Only much later towards the end there is a scene where you get some sense of the agony his character has gone through.

In essence Death Wish is your basic revenge flick where you know how things are going to play out. For some reason they decided to use famous radio personalities of Chicago to fake discuss vigilantism and the repercussions. At first it seemed like they were going somewhere like it did in The Boondock Saints. But apart from them supporting or disapproving the actions of The Grim Reaper (Willis) nothing is done with the commentary. It's just there to make it seem like this is a political film while it's not. Director Eli Roth is more concerned with the action and violence. Especially the violence. Nothing you haven't seen before although in once scene particular it was very graphic. And in hindsight totally unnecessary. Actually it's one of those moments where I felt no sympathy for Bruce's character at all. Far too excessive and too cold blooded. I think one real problem is that there barely is a depiction of the rampant and violent crime in Chicago. If they had given us more examples and by that I mean show and then have Paul Kersey deal with these criminals it would have been more cathartic. Now you kinda have to tap in your own feelings about crime and how it's dealt with. But what if you live in an area where the worst crime is returning your library book too late? Then it becomes real hard to sympathize with Paul. To give some credit to Roth he does try to make you feel for Paul and the situation he is in. On a surface level that is enough. However if you are craving more than just action and violence there is nothing there. That is a real shame if you ask me. Because it would have been nice if the film would have addressed better or real solutions to crime issues. 

I guess Vincent D'Onofrio's character was supposed to act as Paul's conscience. But Roth fails to make good use of him. The little dialogue he has is so basic and pointless. In fact he could have been left out of the film and it wouldn't have changed a single thing. That's just all kinds of wrong. 

If you don't care about politics and you don't need more than your typical vengeance type action you will get more than enough to be satisfied.  

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Review Il cartaio a.k.a. The Card Player (2004): An Argento light but entertaining nonetheless!

genre: giallo, mystery, thriller

The Card Player is Argento where the style and ingenious camera tricks are stripped. Hence Argento light. Does that automatically make it a bad film? No, not at all. It's a decent thriller for the most part although somewhat flawed.

I have noticed a pattern upon watching Argento's films again for review purposes. That in his later films he seems to be less concerned about motives and explanations of why his killers are doing what they do. And therefore probably also doesn't feel the need to give you that many clues or hints that could lead you to finding out who these killers are. No matter how fantastic. And in a giallo film those elements are part of what makes them fun. Strip them away and you have a more convention crime thriller than something that also could pass up as a straight up horror film. This probably is the reason why a lot of Argento fans were disappointed. However I don't mind change that much as long as it is effective. In this case it is. The Card Player is a very serious affair with more than enough red herrings to chew on. The premise or gimmick I should say was pretty creative. A killer challenges the police to play video poker. They have to win three times and he will let his victim go unharmed. But each time they lose he will amputate a body part. If they lose overall the victim will be killed. These video poker scenes are quite intense since you do want the victims to come out alive and unharmed. On top of that you have the police bickering amongst themselves as they are a bit clueless how to deal with this threat. 

Enter Anna Mari (Stefania Rocca) and John Brennan played by Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones). Both police officers who do have an idea and also are very determined to get the killer. You basically follow them and soon it becomes clear that the killer is a little obsessed with Anna. Why her? Does she know him? Most of the fun to be had is how they investigate and how they interact with each other. Nothing to spectacular mind you. But Liam is extremely likeable even when is supposed to play an asshole. And he has some good chemistry with Stefania.  

The killer is only interesting because of the premise. The motive for the murders is very weak and boring. Real shame that they didn't add more depth or traits to the character. Even the interaction at the end felt a little underwhelming. Unless that is what Argento wanted to point out. Sometimes murderers are just losers and not the brilliants minds they claim to be. 

The mystery elements might not be the strongest but they are effective enough. The Card Player is a very decent thriller and certainly not the worst Dario Argento has made. So give it a chance!

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Review 4 mosche di velluto grigio a.k.a. Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971) :Early Argento arguably gives us one of the best giallo's ever made!

genre: giallo. mystery, thriller

Four Flies on Grey Velvet doesn't waste a single second dropping you into the mystery. Right from the start strange things are happening and you will be asking yourself what's going on? And why? You will get the answers but I can guarantee you that you will never guess what the motive is.

Because it's pretty out there. However within the universe of this film it does make sense since it gives you enough clues that lead to that motive although as good giallo's do you will be bombarded with red herrings and misdirection like there is no tomorrow. For the most part Four Flies on Grey Velvet is a serious affair but there are some characters featured that do make this seem more like a comedy. The inclusion of Bud Spencer is one them. He is the last person I would expect in a giallo since he is mostly known for his comedic action films. I loved those films. Actually Bud Spencer was a child hero of mine. So to see him appear in something serious like this surprised me. While is role is tongue in cheek he does give his role some credibility because he is a good friend to Roberto played by Michael Brandon. BTW Michael Brandon is another actor I was a fan of in my youth. He starred as Dempsey in Dempsey and Makepeace which was one hell of a crime show. This was his fourth role and clearly very young but you wouldn't be able to tell since he is very believable as much as the writing allows it. You can tell that he too was a little confused about the comedy elements but as good professionals do rolled with it. Especially concerning private eye Gianni Arrosio played by Jean-Pierre Marielle. Gianni is flamboyantly gay and according to himself incredibly incompetent. But he assures Roberto that the odds are in his favour and that he will be able to solve the case for him. It's at this point you really start to wonder what Dario Argento was going for. Still as weird as it sounds it does keep you hooked. 

This doesn't mean that it's a non stop thrill ride. As many films made in that decade it has some pacing issues. It can be rather slow at times. So you do have to be a little patient. However the conclusion is incredibly rewarding. Now some say that this conclusion is far fetched. Like I said it's pretty out there but within the universe of this film more plausible than you think. According to Roger Ebert it's a total fantasy. I disagree with that notion. There have been enough examples of people doing to most evil and despicable things for the most ludicrous reasons. If anything real life motives can be more mind boggling than the ones given in films. The inclusion of a fantastic element which is present doesn't discount anything that happen in this film. It's merely used as a tool to move the plot forward. 

This early Argento is easily one of the best films he has made. It oozes with great style, good camera work and giallo goodness. A must watch for sure!

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