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War Horse (2011)
Spielberg's Interpretation Of A Children's Book About War
22 July 2019
Well, I'd always avoided WAR HORSE because the premise sounded terrible to me. I expected a sentimental tear-fest about a horse, and I only started watching the film because it was one of the few Spielberg films I hadn't seen (and I generally do love me some Spielberg). As it turned out, the maverick director used the horse and the premise of the children's book the film is based on more as a plot device, almost a "McGuffin" so to speak, to lead the audience through a number of small, very human stories about a period in history contemporary Cinema has neglected a little as of late - the early 20th century and World War I - which happens to be a period I'm interested in quite a bit.

To my surprise I found this film to be a beautiful - in a sad kind of way - portrait of an era, a war and the generation that suffered through it, told through many different perspectives. It may not be the legendary director's most spectacular work (and it IS quite a bit sentimental, this being Spielberg after all, and him doing an adaptation of a children's book at that) - but I connected with these sad little tales (or anecdotes) of war about simple English, German and French people more than I expected. All things considered, I would definitely call it a good film, and the great cast as well as the beautiful cinematography and epic John Williams score alone are enough to make it absolutely worth seeing.
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9/10
A Beautifully Shot Film With A Harrowing Subject Matter
22 July 2019
I had already seen - and loved - Aronofsky's debut film PI (1998), and so I went into this with high expectations. The film managed to exceed them by far; it's a masterpiece that manages that rare feat where the impact of the dead serious subject matter (substance abuse) is enhanced, not subverted, by the director's choice to offer a truly cinematic, stylish and visually exciting experience. A sad, beautiful work of art that features a career-best performance by Ellen Burstyn; an uncompromising - and often shockingly graphic - depiction of a downwards spiral that leaves no viewer unaffected.
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Züri Zoo (2011)
9/10
Delightfully trashy piece of pulp Cinema from Switzerland
7 July 2019
This delightfully trashy piece of pulp Cinema was an unexpected pleasure! I was lucky enough to attend the premiere, and it was obvious the filmmakers put a lot of heart - and skill - into the film. The plot doesn't make a lick of sense, but it isn't really meant to; the film is mostly an homage to seventies pulp Cinema and doesn't take itself seriously for a second. The acting ranges from great to hilariously bad, but the racy soundtrack is fantastic throughout, and at only an hour long 'Züri Zoo' offers perfectly paced entertainment from Switzerland for fans of weird little genre flicks. Seek it out if you can, this little gem is worth it! 9 Stars out of 10
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Amélie (2001)
9/10
Irresistible Mix Of Magical Realism, Comedy And Romantic Love Story
3 April 2019
Jean-Pierre Jeunet had already established himself as a cult filmmaker with a very distinct visual and narrative style after he co-directed the two surreal, darkly funny 'Delicatessen' (1991) and 'La Cité Des Enfants Perdus' (1996) with his buddy Marc Caro, and he had even briefly ventured into Hollywood (to mixed results) with 'Alien Resurrection' (1997) when he hit his stride and found unexpected mainstream success with the amazing 'Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain'.

'Amélie' is a wonder; it's a firework of clever ideas, beautiful cinematography and a love letter to the city of Paris. In my opinion it's not really a mainstream film though, with Jeunet retaining his black humor as well as the surreal elements and distinct color grading from his previous films. But unlike in his two features with Marc Caro and his American movie, there's a warm, beating heart throughout the whole film, and the resulting mix of magical realism, comedy and romantic love story proves just irresistible.

On a pure filmmaking level, 'Amélie' is a masterpiece. The cinematography is gorgeous and consistently inventive, the pacing perfect, the score beautiful and the fantastic cast of actors a joy to watch - especially Audrey Tautou. This is the kind of romantic comedy that even nerds like me can geek out about and without a doubt one of the best films of the first two decades of the new millenium.

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Hero (2002)
9/10
A Masterpiece Of Cinema And A Prime Example Of Visual Storytelling
27 March 2019
Film is - obviously - a visual medium, but if I had to pick one piece of Cinema that exemplifies that like only few other movies do, it would be HERO. The film is all images, all movement, all colors; it's all show - not just tell, and it demonstrates just what the art of visual storytelling encompasses when a maverick director such as Yimou Zhang does it at the peak of his game. Here he paints with celluloid like a master painter would with a brush, and the result is a movie of such breathtaking beauty the audience is often simply left in stunned awe. There are stories within stories in HERO, each with a different narrator and a slightly different perspective, and each storyline has its own color palette until all all the stories merge into one epic, multicolored tale. A masterpiece of Cinema, plain and simple, and one of the most outstanding films of the last 20 years.

P.S. (for new IMDb users): In case you don't know whether to trust this review or not, because you have no idea what my tastes in film are, just click on my username - gogoschka-1 - and you'll see a list what my 50 favorite movies are.
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Lilo & Stitch (2002)
10/10
Disney's Most Underrated Animated Movie
27 March 2019
This is a personal favorite of mine, and I'm actually convinced it's Disney's most underrated animated movie. I guess the main reason I like this film so much is that it features the most sincere depiction of a relationship between siblings in any Disney film. For once, we get real, flawed (and therefore all the more lovable) people - not the usual perfect Disney princesses. But it's also incredibly funny and spectacularly entertaining throughout (not to mention that it has one of the most hilarious intros in any sci-fi film ever). I simply adore this movie, and I'm not ashamed to admit it makes me cry every time I watch it. This and Sanders' and DeBlois' other masterpiece, the first HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, are the cinematic medicine that get me through my darkest days.

The look of the film is very distinct and refreshingly different from Disney's previous animated features. And the visuals are gorgeous; the backgrounds are painted in beautifully faded watercolors, and the 2-D animation is an example of artists at the peak of their craft. Every scene is jock-full of original ideas and a virtual demonstration of Chris Sanders' and Dean DeBlois' seemingly limitless imagination (the film also features a ton of clever references to sci-fi and monster films). Simply one of the best animated films - and one of the funniest sci-fi comedies - of the last 20 years.

P.S. (for new IMDb users): In case you don't know whether to trust this review or not, because you have no idea what my tastes in film are, just click on my username - gogoschka-1 - and you'll see a list what my 50 favorite movies are.
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9/10
The Gold Standard For A Tonally Faithful Adaptation Of A Beloved Literary Work
27 March 2019
As a true film nerd and genre geek I naturally knew who Peter Jackson was when the news broke he would adapt one of the most beloved fantasy books of all time. I remember how excited I was; somehow, despite the different nature of his often gory - and with the exception of HEAVENLY CREATURES - very funny previous cinematic outings, me and my circle of nerdy film fans never doubted that he would try everything to do the revered fantasy epic justice. It seemed only natural to us that he would bring the same talent, passion and attention to detail to Tolkien's world that he had demonstrated already in his meticulously crafted low budget genre films.

And boy did he deliver. It's hard to understate the impact the first part of the LOTR trilogy had; it instantly became the gold standard for a tonally faithful adaptation of a beloved literary work (an almost impossible feat considering how violently protective we nerdy fans are of our prrrrecioussss favorite works ;-). Along with succeeding at making the millions of fans of the book happy, it managed to elevate the fantasy genre into the ranks of the so called "respected" films and kick off a whole wave of big budget genre fare (as well as New Zealand tourism ;-)

The film is magnificently shot, beautifully scored, perfectly cast and manages an adherence to the source material that's almost uncanny. The grounded, "realistic" approach and insane attention to almost every little detail of Tolkien's worldbuilding result in a cinematic experience that is nearly unmatched in its immersive quality; the film comes as close to an actual trip to Middle Earth as any film fan (and fan of the book) could ever have hoped for. An outstanding achievement.

P.S. (for new IMDb users): In case you don't know whether to trust this review or not, because you have no idea what my tastes in film are, just click on my username - gogoschka-1 - and you'll see a list what my 50 favorite movies are.
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Gladiator (2000)
9/10
A Masterpiece Of Polished Pulp Cinema
27 March 2019
GLADIATOR is a masterpiece of polished pulp Cinema with all the right ingredients: visceral fights and battles; a beautiful, mysterious woman; a villain you love to hate and a hero with a code of honor (and arms like tree trunks); it has all the drama and heartbreaking betrayals and tragic deaths of a Telenovela and as much blood and testosterone as you'd find in a Rambo movie. It's simply glorious, spectacularly entertaining filmmaking - all delivered straight to the gut and without a shred of irony.

And boy is this violent revenge tale and journey to ancient Rome beautiful to look at: every shot is framed like a painting; it's one of those gorgeous looking Ridley Scott films where every landscape becomes as much a protagonist of the film as the actors in it. As for those actors, they are never less than magnetic to watch, and especially Joaquin Phoenix and Russell Crowe stand out; they bring an intensity and all-in approach to their roles that garnered them both Oscar nominations (Crowe won his).

I sometimes hear the argument by certain self-professed film critics that GLADIATOR is too pulpy to really be considered a good film. I couldn't agree less. This is one rousing adventure and one beautiful movie with a fantastic cast - and it knows exactly what it wants, and it achieves it to a degree of perfection. It's about as cinematic an experience as film can offer, and it's as watchable today as it was nearly 20 years ago.

P.S. (for new IMDb users): In case you don't know whether to trust this review or not, because you have no idea what my tastes in film are, just click on my username - gogoschka-1 - and you'll see a list what my 50 favorite movies are.
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The Mist (2007)
8/10
Fantastic Lovecraftian Horror And Hard-Hitting Political Allegory: One Of The Most Faithful King Adaptations To Date
27 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
In the hands of a lesser filmmaker than Frank Darabont and processed through the mind of a typical studio screenwriter (like, for example, Akiva Goldsman), a Hollywood film adaptation of Stephen King's novella THE MIST would undoubtedly have become your run-of-the-mill monster movie: creatures from another dimension devour people trapped in a mall (presumably the monsters pick them off one-by-one, ten-little-Indians style). But the most captivating thing in King's story is not really the plot about the monsters and the "breach" into another dimension (although I love that idea): it's how the human characters react to it and what happens between them.

In staying faithful to the source material, Darabont uses the microcosm consisting of the people trapped in a small town supermarket to explore the dynamics and power shifts that happen very quickly within a society when a powerful outside threat appears. Just like King's excellent novella, the film is a hard hitting allegory for how easily even seemingly civilized countries become susceptible to the messages of demagogues when they are faced with a serious crisis. And it not only manages to perfectly capture the subtext and political undercurrent of the novel, Darabont's film also gives the audience a true sense of the Lovecraftian horror King unleashed on the page. As it is, THE MIST isn't just one of the most faithful King adaptations to date, it's one of the best horror films of the new millennium.

P.S. (for new IMDb users): In case you don't know whether to trust this review or not, because you have no idea what my tastes in film are, just click on my username - gogoschka-1 - and you'll see a list what my 50 favorite movies are.
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High Fidelity (2000)
9/10
One Of The Best Comedies Of The 21th Century
26 March 2019
Perhaps the ultimate romantic comedy for nerds of any kind. The film features whip-smart, often outrageously funny dialog, fantastic performances - especially by John Cusack - and it serves as a loving homage to nerd culture as well as a clever comment on male life and the male perspective on relationships with women. It's beautifully directed, and there is simply not a single line wasted in the film; it's one of those movies that are instantly destined for cult status, because it seems to resonate with anyone who is deeply immersed in - and passionate about - pop culture (in other words: nerds like me ;-). Certainly one of the best comedies of 21th century and one of my favorite films of the last two decades. 9 Stars out of 10.

P.S. (for new IMDb users): In case you don't know whether to trust this review or not, because you have no idea what my tastes in film are, just click on my username - gogoschka-1 - and you'll see what my 50 favorite movies are.
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Aquaman (2018)
Everything But The Kitchen Sink
26 January 2019
Everything I saw, read and heard about 'Aquaman' before it came out had me convinced it wouldn't be my cup of tea. My impression was that this would be yet another bloated studio tentpole with cheesy dialog, a generic story and artificial looking CGI. However, once it opened, a passionate film fan I respect a lot started spreading so much obviously genuine enthusiasm for the movie that I eventually got over myself and watched it.

I think it was the moment when Nicole Kidman swallowed a goldfish that I started to suspect I might actually enjoy this movie. That suspicion, however, turned out to be wrong, because I didn't just enjoy it: I ended up ADORING it. The weirdest thing: the film DID contain all those elements I had feared - and yet none of that seemed to matter. It just works. It shouldn't, but it somehow does, which is why I've since come to the conclusion that director James Wan is some sort of genius wizard filmmaker. Don't let the generic superhero tropes and cheesy dialog fool you into thinking this was a typical mainstream movie (though I DO suspect those things managed to fool the studio executives into thinking exactly that: which is probably how James Wan got away with it), because in truth, this is the least generic, most bonkers big budget studio flick I've seen in ages. It's the film 'Valerian' wants to be. It's crazy; it's over-the-top; it's beautifully designed with incredible attention to every little detail in every frame; it doesn't take itself seriously for a second, and yet it fully commits to - and loves - its characters and the world they inhabit.

I was awed, literally awed by the design of the Atlantian society and technology; the worldbuilding and visuals are so distinct and original - which caught me completely off guard, because I didn't expect that in a 200 million studio picture for the masses. When the music score went into full synthesizer mode as "Aquabro" and Mera arrive on the collapsed bridge leading to the underwater city, and the screen virtually explodes with the most colorful creatures and underwater vehicles imaginable, I had a stupid grin on my face out of pure joy and adoration for this stunning display of artistic vision (the stupid grin stayed on my face for the remainder of the movie). And the film didn't let up. 'Aquaman' never loses steam; there's no weak third act (at least in my opinion); the wondrous discoveries and beautiful, unexpected designs and creatures keep coming until the very end. Although it has a very different tone, I was actually reminded of watching 'LOTR: The Return of the King' for the first time.

It's true, 'Aquaman' delivers the typical, clichéd, cheesy superhero tropes in spades, but those generic story beats - some of which were probably demanded by the studio - seem to be all surface; they're not what James Wan (or his characters) are really interested in. It almost seems to me that the director only used those tropes as camouflage to sneak in nods to every film of every genre he ever loved and get really creative with the worldbuilding. His biggest accomplishment, however - the film's greatest strength - is something that only few blockbusters ever achieve: he successfully combines a genuine sense of wonder and awe with complete, unabashed fun.

So, to sum up this review: against my expectations, the superhero film I least expected to like managed to do what not a single superhero movie so far had done for me; it filled me with an urge to immediately see it again, because I was so in love with its bonkers, "everything-but-the-kitchen-sink" approach to filmmaking. Naturally, I now hope James Wan will also direct 'Aquaman 2', as I'm sure if given the chance, next time not even the kitchen sink will be safe.

P.S. (for new IMDb users): In case you don't know whether to trust this review or not, because you have no idea what my tastes in film are, just click on my username - gogoschka-1 - and you'll see what my favorite movies are.
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10/10
A Beautiful Tale Of Adventure And Friendship For People Of All Ages
15 August 2018
Warning: this beautifully animated tale is highly addictive! As soon as it's over you'll immediately want to watch it again. I'm a grown man, but somehow this movie managed to ignore all the layers of cynicism and fake toughness we grown-ups tend to build around ourselves to cope with life; it cut right through to the wide-eyed, adventure-loving boy in me, right through to the heart. It's impossible not to fall in love with this movie, with these characters - especially if you love wild animals. This beautiful story of a very unlikely friendship between a boy who's a bit of an outcast and a dragon is just so well done; it's never cheesy, yet full of passion, and there's simply not a dull moment in it.

And although it's very funny, this really isn't just an accumulation of gags and one-liners loosely held together by a paper-thin story: this is a great adventure and touching coming-of-age tale where the protagonist has an actual arc; it tells an intelligent and compelling story about people who are not just one-note characters, and they're wonderfully realized through the great voice-work of such actors as Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Gerard Butler and Craig Ferguson. The animation is fantastic, and there's so much playful creative energy at display in the design of the characters - especially in the design of all the different dragon species - that it's simply a joy to watch. 10 stars out of 10.
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Rio Bravo (1959)
My Favorite Classic American Western
15 August 2018
Warning: Spoilers
There are quite a few seminal classic American westerns (such as 'High Noon', 'The Searchers', 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance' or 'Shane' - to name but a few), but 'Rio Bravo' ended up being my favorite among those. It's the quintessential film of the genre, yet although it delivers pretty much all of the classic western tropes in spades, I think the main reason I love it so much is because it's also such a great buddy movie.

Pairing John Wayne's stoic hero sheriff against the self-deprecating wit of Dean Martin's alcoholic deputy was a stroke of genius, as was the casting of a very charming Angie Dickinson in the female lead role and veteran Walter Brennan as grumpy old Stumpy. The constant bickering between all the main characters makes 'Rio Bravo' so much fun, but the humor in the great script and the wonderful performances by the game cast are only half of what makes this movie so great.

The other quality 'Rio Bravo' has which makes it stand out among other greats of the genre is its mood. There's an almost apocalyptic sense of doom permeating the movie throughout, and that constant dread combined with the film's humor - which is often of the gallows' kind - gives it a special kind of atmosphere that other classic American westerns of that era lack. What also adds to that unique tone of the movie is the central piece of music, the hauntingly beautiful Mexican ballad 'El Deguello' which plays an important role in the film.

'Rio Bravo' was the last truly great movie by one of the towering figures from Hollywood's "Golden Age", Howard Hawks (who had previously made such classics as 'Scarface', 'Red River' 'The Big Sleep', 'His Girl Friday', 'To Have And Have Not' and many more). The veteran director seemed to have realized he had made something special too, as he went on to remake 'Rio Bravo' not once but twice during his remaining years. In fact, his two last films were those two remakes ('El Dorado' in '67 and 'Rio Lobo' in '70). Both films featured John Wayne in the lead role, and while they're both solid westerns, they couldn't quite capture the unique charm of the original.

As it is, 'Rio Bravo' remains a highly influential classic (Quentin Tarantino cites it as one his favorite movies) and a masterpiece of the western genre. 10 stars out of 10.

P.S. In case you don't know whether to trust this review or not, just check out the lists below, and you'll see exactly what kinds of films I like:

My 50 favorite films reviewed: IMDb.com/list/mkjOKvqlSBs/

80 Lesser-Known Masterpieces: imdb.com/list/ls070242495/
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The God Particle
14 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Well, maybe I didn't have very high expectations or my inner cynic has taken a holiday, but unlike the bulk of critics and reviewers here I found this to be a perfectly serviceable piece of pulpy sci-fi/horror entertainment. It's no '2001', granted, but it's a very good looking film with nice visual effects - especially considering the budget - with solid performances by a talented cast, and it doesn't bore you for a second. I'm willing to bet most genre geeks like me (by which I mean people who have a soft spot in their heart for any halfway decent looking sci-fi or horror B-movie), would describe this film as fun.

And while admittedly about as scientifically credible as a superhero movie, it's not quite as dumb and far-fetched as many of the most scathing reviewers seem to think it is. What quite a few people apparently didn't get is that 'The Cloverfield Paradox' riffs on the very real hysteria that broke out a couple of years ago when the CERN in Geneva (Switzerland) conducted an experiment to find the Higgs Boson (aka the "God Particle" - which incidentally was also the film's original title.) The CERN scientists hoped to find the God Particle by simulating conditions in the Large Hadron Collider - the most powerful particle accelerator on Earth - that were supposedly similar to those in the immediate aftermath of the Big Bang.

A lot of people worldwide got scared shîtless by that idea, because they thought such a simulation could have unpredictable and possibly catastrophic consequences, and a couple of scientists even tried to stop the experiment by filing a case to the European Human Rights Court. The wildest theories started popping up in the media, like the experiment would cause black holes that would suck up Earth or open doors into other dimensions; heck: even a portal to Hell was considered a possibility, allowing demons to roam the Earth. So of course it was only a matter of time until a genre film would exploit the idea of a particle accelerator accidentally causing a rift into other dimensions and parallel realities across the space-time continuum.

And let's be fair here for a moment: in the history of stupid ideas for movies - especially genre pictures - this certainly isn't the dumbest concept ever to base a sci-fi/horror film on. Also, by putting a Cloverfield spin on it - which, btw, actually is kind of fitting given it offered the chance to explain how the creature from the first film "stranded" on earth - the filmmakers managed to get the film a kind of attention it otherwise certainly wouldn't have had. It was a smart marketing stunt (as was selling the movie to Netflix) and probably crucial to keeping the film cost effective and being able to put as much money as possible into the visual effects (the budget for the whole film was only 25 million, and practically the only P&A costs this film had was the Super Bowl ad).

What I also don't get is why people expect "hard" science from the kind of pulpy sci-fi/horror movie 'The Cloverfield Paradox' clearly is; there's obviously nobody who knows what would or wouldn't happen if other dimensions and parallel universes existed, let alone how physics would behave if they somehow "crashed" into each other. And of course it's all speculation and characters behaving erratically: that's part of what makes those films FUN. And believe it or not, that's exactly what I had. But don't take my word for it, make up your own mind; chances are, if you're into genre picutures (where solid entries with very decent visual effects are few and far between), you'll experience a similar sensation.

P.S. In case you don't know whether to trust this review or not, just check out the lists below, and you'll see exactly what kinds of films I like:

Favorite films: IMDb.com/list/mkjOKvqlSBs/

Favorite TV-Shows reviewed: imdb.com/list/ls075552387/

Lesser-Known Masterpieces: imdb.com/list/ls070242495/

Favorite Low-Budget and B-Movies: imdb.com/list/ls054808375/
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Zero Days (2016)
9/10
A Fascinating - And Very Disturbing - Insight Into Cyberwarfare
5 June 2018
This was one of the most enlightening documentaries I've seen in recent years; it was also one of the most disturbing films I've seen in a long time. I had no idea how far into the age of cyberwarfare we already are, and how serious the consequences of this kind of conflict already can be. If you're a conspiracy theorist or otherwise prone to paranoia, don't watch this - but if you want to learn some of the darker secrets most government agencies try to shield our fragile little minds from, and if you want to know some hard truths about what's possible and what's already happening in terms of cyberattacks, I highly recommend this excellent documentary. 9 stars out of 10.

Favorite films: IMDb.com/list/mkjOKvqlSBs/

Favorite TV-Shows reviewed: imdb.com/list/ls075552387/

Lesser-Known Masterpieces: imdb.com/list/ls070242495/

Favorite Low-Budget and B-Movies: imdb.com/list/ls054808375/
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Trainspotting (1996)
10/10
One Of THE Defining Movies Of The 90s And A Milestone For British Cinema
4 June 2018
I remember what a raw shock of creative energy this film was when it came out, and I still marvel at what an imaginative way the director found to tell this crazy, immoral tale. The superb cinematography; the amazing cast of young actors (who have all gone on to become hugely successful in film and tv since); the iconic soundtrack: it all just fits together perfectly. 'Trainspotting' is as hilarious as it is deeply disturbing, but most importantly (and unlike many other films concerned with addiction) it's one hell of an entertaining flick and doesn't drag for a second.

We all know drugs are bad. The problem is, they can also be fun - at least at the beginning, which is one of the reasons people are drawn to them. 'Trainspotting' is the first movie I remember watching that actually conveyed that seductive quality of drugs and managed to honestly portray the reckless, hedonistic lifestyle a part of my generation - the so called "Generation X" - fell victim to. It's an amazing achievement, in every regard; not only does it manage to be true to its serious subject matter without resorting to moralizing, it's also masterclass filmmaking and a milestone of British Cinema. 10 stars out of 10.

Favorite films: IMDb.com/list/mkjOKvqlSBs/

Favorite TV-Shows reviewed: imdb.com/list/ls075552387/

Lesser-Known Masterpieces: imdb.com/list/ls070242495/

Favorite Low-Budget and B-Movies: imdb.com/list/ls054808375/
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Lost Highway (1997)
10/10
Dark, Violent, Surreal, Beautiful, Hallucinatory Masterpiece
4 June 2018
Buckle your seat belts: this film is quite the ride. As so often with David Lynch's movies, 'Lost Highway' doesn't bother with a traditional narrative and follows its own, dreamlike (or nightmarish) logic. It is a wild, expressionist work of art, and while it starts on a slow, brooding note, the film soon explodes into a crazy, violent trip that hooks you competely and doesn't let up. My advice to people unfamiliar with Lynch's work is this: just enjoy the experience and let yourself be immersed. While it is fun to analyze Lynch's movies, especially his most surreal ones, they're not mysteries that require resolution in order to be enjoyed.

As for the filmmaking itself, the pacing is fantastic throughout, the cinematography outstanding and the cast of character actors like Bill Pullman, Robert Loggia and Patricia Arquette simply a joy to watch (especially Loggia gets to shine in a wonderfully over-the-top part). Another aspect that should not go unmentioned is the music. The orginal score by Angeolo Badalamenti (who is to Lynch what John Williams is to Spielberg) is hauntgingly beautiful, but equally important is the amazing soundtrack - featuring greats like David Bowie, Lou Reed, Rammstein, Marilyn Manson, Trent Reznor and more - which fits and enhances the images on screen perfectly.

As far as I'm concerned, this is Lynch at his best. 'Lost Highway' is a dark, violent, surreal, beautiful, hallucinatory masterpiece: 10 stars out of 10.

Favorite films: IMDb.com/list/mkjOKvqlSBs/

Favorite TV-Shows reviewed: imdb.com/list/ls075552387/

Lesser-Known Masterpieces: imdb.com/list/ls070242495/

Favorite Low-Budget and B-Movies: imdb.com/list/ls054808375/
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Prometheus (I) (2012)
REVISITING PROMETHEUS
11 March 2018
Warning: Spoilers
It appears many film fans - particularly fans of the ALIEN franchise - dislike PROMETHEUS with a passion, and some of the criticism the film gets is certainly justified. My own issues with PROMETHEUS are mostly script related; several characters seem surprisingly bland or underwritten, which could be due to the many rewrites the script went through, or because some scenes and dialogue that would have been important for the audience to understand the characters' motivations were cut from the final film for time. So PROMETHEUS undoubtedly has its share of problems, but I'm not interested in listing those; there are already whole blogs and even websites dedicated to PROMETHEUS' flaws. Instead, I would like to try to make a case for the things the film does well, because I believe there are some really nice ideas and concepts in PROMETHEUS that deserve to be appreciated. Once you disregard the science aspects (which are presented in such an annoyingly over-simplified way that they appear laughable), and instead approach PROMETHEUS as a sci-fi/mystery/monster movie - which, by the way, is how I view all ALIEN films - with some smarter than average twists, it delivers. Now before you start yelling at me, please hear me out.

The first thing I would like to talk about - also because it's the aspect I love the most about PROMETHEUS - is how the ancient Greek saga about the creation and evolution of humankind is woven into the story. I've often wondered why so many people who dislike the film claim to do so on the grounds of it not giving any answers, when it so clearly does: they may not be spelled out in detail, but in broad strokes, they are (nearly) all there in the title. In Greek mythology, Prometheus was the titan who created (or "engineered") mankind. But he did much more than that; he became mankind's greatest benefactor and protector; he visited his creation again and again and helped the humans evolve by bringing them knowledge (which he did against the will of the gods) - and he ultimately even stole the secret of fire from the gods and gave it to humankind, which is the moment in their mythology/history that the ancient Greeks saw as the dawn of civilization.

In the ancient tale, Zeus was so enraged by Prometheus' betrayal - and mankind's greatest gain in knowledge - that he subsequently wanted to wipe Prometheus' creation from the face of the earth. His elaborate plan on how to achieve that goal involved sending a certain box to the humans - the infamous Pandora's Box - which, once opened, would unleash hell upon humankind. In the film PROMETHEUS it is implied that the creation of humankind is something the "engineers" (aka the gods) also regret - most likely because in a similar story beat as in the Prometheus saga, the engineer "monks" we witness at the beginning of the film help mankind attain too much knowledge (which, as our species' shockingly violent history proves, we humans ultimately always end up using to build weapons to murder one another in ever greater numbers). So consequently, for reasons Zeus would probably understand, the engineers end up declaring humankind as a failed experiment that needs to be terminated: and what better way to do that than with bio-weapons sent to Earth that function like little "Pandora's boxes"?

Another strong similarity between PROMETHEUS' engineers and the ancient Greek gods - in addition to the fact that the engineers obviously look very much like Greek statues of Greek gods - is that both are portrayed as being just as flawed as the humans. The gods in Greek mythology have all the character traits of ordinary people: they fight, they lust, they hate - and they make mistakes. What I absolutely loved in PROMETHEUS (because I found it darkly funny too) is that the engineers ultimately are no better than we are. They create bio-weapons they don't really know how to control: and they eff up big time before they get to destroy the humans, and they get wiped out by their own weapons. Their technology may be very advanced, but they haven't exactly reached a state of wisdom and transcendence, and the big question doctors Shaw and Holloway want to ask them will not get a satisfying answer for that very reason. This is something the android David instantly understands (which is another smart idea in the film), because he was created by humankind, and HE certainly never got a satisfying answer from us why HE was created, which is something he remarks upon to Holloway.

And David is also very aware that the humans don't treat him, their creation, as their equal; they are either condescending towards him or treat him with contempt: so why should the engineers feel and behave any different towards the humans? And knowing his human creators doesn't seem to have inspired a lot of respect for them in David, and he clearly isn't in awe of them - on the contrary; David actually sees himself as the superior being. This is hinted at when Holloway insensitively remarks: "They're making you guys pretty close (to humans), huh?" to which David responds with an icy smile: "Not too close, I hope." And yet, because David was created in the image of the humans (just like the humans were created in the image of the gods aka "the engineers"), he is so very much like them. David may lack human empathy and a conscience, but we learn early in the film that he is every bit as curious in his own way as Shaw and Holloway are. Only where Shaw is naive, he is reckless; like a child exploring the world around him, he wants to know how everything functions, but his quest for knowledge is not hindered by ethics or a strong moral compass. So it shouldn't surprise us that in the next darkly ironic twist, David, very much like the humans who created him and the engineers who created the humans, conducts his own little experiment. He too wants to create something new "just because he can".

And in the last (and perhaps meanest) twist of the film, we learn how right David was in his assessment of the engineers' probable mindset regarding humankind, when the last surviving engineer is revealed to have nothing but contempt for the "things" his kind has created. Instead of giving them answers, he just swipes them away like bothersome flies. So, upon closer inspection, the film is actually almost beat for beat a retelling (or darkly funny modern continuation) of the Prometheus saga, - as well as a clever exploration of the dynamics between creator and creation - and in that regard the film works surprisingly well.

On a side note, there's another story element in the film that is worth mentioning (although it will probably only be appreciated by film geeks and sci-fi nerds such as myself), because it's one that's virtually identical to a very important part of the narrative in another sci-fi film by Ridley Scott. In PROMETHEUS, Peter Weyland's life-span is nearing its end, and so he's travelling through space in a desperate attempt to find his creator and ask him for more life. Sound familiar? Of course it does: in Ridley Scott's BLADE RUNNER (1982), a group of androids (in the film they are called "replicants") who are used as slaves off-world, manage to escape to Earth. They're led by Roy Batty (played by Rutger Hauer) whose life is about to end. By design, the life-span of replicants is limited to only a couple of years, so Roy Batty is desperate to find his creator, Eldon Tyrell, to ask him for more life. Now in PROMETHEUS, Ridley Scott and Damon Lindelof cleverly reverse the situation and put the human character in the unfortunate position the replicants from BLADE RUNNER find themselves in. And it's not just any human character who has to share the fate of the androids from the earlier film: Weyland is a creator of artificial life much in the same way Eldon Tyrell is in BLADE RUNNER: he is his exact counterpart in the ALIEN franchise. That story element seems to be a clear nod to Scott's cyberpunk classic, which is another little detail I liked in the film.

So, to conclude my musings in defense of this often derided film: the way I see it, PROMETHEUS' biggest mistake (apart from the uneven character work in the script) is pretending to be straight "hard" sci-fi, which it clearly isn't. What it is, though, is a beautiful looking sci-fi/mystery movie which plays with some very clever concepts, but remembers a little late in the story that it also wants to be a monster movie. And while it may be a flawed film, it's full of interesting ideas and certainly more original than 95% of the sci-fi/mystery/monster films that came out over the last 25 years - plus on a purely visual level, it's a feast. As far as I'm concerned, it deserves another look.

P.S. For those who are interested, this review was a much abbreviated version of an in-depth look at the film (which also provides answers to its most prominent questions), and you can find the full piece here: reelhounds.com/prometheus-revisited

More reviews and lists:

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The Pacific (2010)
Left Me Devastated
11 February 2018
I'm guessing most of us watched 'The Pacific' for at least one of the following 3 reasons:

1. We have an interest in history, particularly in WW2.

2. We are fans of movies and television shows (well, the good ones anyway)

3. We had seen - and loved - the previous Hanks/Spielberg co-production 'Band Of Brothers' and expected a mini-series on the same level.

Now from reading some of the reviews here I gather that third reason was the most important one for many viewers - and it's also why 'The Pacific' apparently left quite a few people disappointed. As for me, I wasn't disappointed - I was devastated.

I'm a lucky man; I've never had to suffer through a war. But I had relatives who did, and though they're all long gone now, I'll never forget their stories. War is the most extreme and outrageous experience humans can possibly endure, but there are many different aspects and layers to it, because a war is not a single experience: it's all the experiences of all the individuals who have to suffer through it, and no single film or TV show can cover all of them. 'Band Of Brothers' focused on certain aspects of a war, and it chose a narrative that helped emphasize what the core theme of the series was: the brotherhood of war. It was about people who retain their humanity and form the closest of bonds under the worst, most horrific circumstances.

That inherently human element in 'BoB' was also why we could identify so well with the protagonists, and why we were - and still are - so deeply touched by what they had to go through. It's an outstandingly well made series, and I can't imagine how those experiences by those soldiers could have been portrayed better. Which is why 'The Pacific' doesn't even try. Instead, it goes almost in the opposite direction by choosing to focus on the sheer insanity of war: the relentless horror and despair of people losing their humanity and their struggle to regain it. Of course, just like 'BoB' it's also about the heroic sacrifices of those brave soldiers, but if there is a core theme in 'The Pacific' it's that of trauma: the trauma of having your humanity stripped from you and your personality shattered; the trauma of witnessing the complete disintegration of everything you thought you were and knowing you'll never be whole again.

What we see in 'The Pacific' is Hell, plain and simple. It's scores and scores of anonymous, young Japanese soldiers running senselessly into machine gun fire, wave after wave, until the piles of their bodies are so high they block the sight for the machine gun; it's American soldiers barely older than kids in despair or completely numb from the sheer amount of random death around them; it's vibrant young men turning into barely alive husks whose only remaining focus is to survive - which means they have to kill other barely alive young men who will stop at nothing to kill them in turn; it's kids killing other kids like rats by any means at their disposal: guns, knives, flame-throwers or with their bare hands; it's people living among the rotting corpses of their dead comrades and enemies and completely losing any regard for human life. And the few moments where we witness how those kids get a brief taste of how precious and beautiful life could be make their fate all the more heartbreaking.

Over large stretches, 'The Pacific' is devastating and depressing to watch, and though I found it never less than compelling, it's actually easy to see why many viewers who had hoped for a similarly engaging experience as in 'BoB' were left disappointed. But this is a different story about different people who fought in a different theater of the war and who went through different experiences, and once you stop comparing it to the story of the men in Easy Company from 'BoB', you'll find that, while different, in terms of sheer quality 'The Pacific' is every bit as good and as much of an outstanding achievement as its more popular predecessor.

The realism, the performances, the music and the production values in the series are superb (this was a 200 million production after all), and the attention to historic detail is simply staggering. As for me, witnessing what these men went through left me devastated; yet I am grateful I've watched 'The Pacifc': because in its relentless depiction of the horrors of war it honors the sacrifice these brave young soldiers made in the hope future generations wouldn't have to do the same. I originally rated this series 9 stars out of 10, but upon a recent rewatch and with more knowledge of the war in the Pacific theater, it's clear that this is a 10/10. Outstanding.

Favorite films: IMDb.com/list/mkjOKvqlSBs/

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9/10
Wildly Imaginative Surreal Masterwork That Pushes The Limits Of Storytelling
11 February 2018
Charlie Kaufman (script) and Spike Jonze (director) burst on the scene together with their collaboration on this crazy masterpiece. 'Being John Malkovich' pushes the limits of storytelling; this wildly imaginative film shows that even the most surreal storyline can still be made entertaining if a filmmaker doesn't care about conventions and knows just what the medium is capable of. Perhaps the most original release in a year that had several very original releases ('Fight Club' and 'The Matrix' were both also released in '99), the film's playful creative energy had an effect on screenwriters, directors, actors and producers that can hardly be overstated. There had simply never been anything like it - and one only has to look at a contemporary TV show like 'Legion' to see what a mark this film left. Groundbreaking and simply inspired. 9 stars out of 10.

Favorite films: IMDb.com/list/mkjOKvqlSBs/

Lesser-Known Masterpieces: imdb.com/list/ls070242495/
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Blade Runner (1982)
A Milestone Of Science Fiction And A Cyberpunk Masterpiece
11 February 2018
A feast for the eyes. Dark and uncompromising. With a haunting musical score by Vangelis that adds a hypnotic quality to those breathtaking megacity landscapes of future Los Angeles. Ridley Scott's adaptation of Philip K. Dick's post-apocalyptic bounty hunter story 'Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep' is a visionary work of art; it's a dystopian masterpiece and I'd personally call it as much a milestone of science fiction as Kubrick's '2001' (and be advised to watch the version known as the "final cut" if you want to catch 'Blade Runner' as it was intended by its director).

It's hard to overstate how influential the film was; it invented the sci-fi subgenre now known as "cyberpunk", and it was also the first "film noir" in a sci-fi setting. And although it looks so distractingly gorgeous that even today there are people who still dismiss it as superficial and mere "eye candy", it is a philosphically deep film that ponders existential questions about the nature of being human. Its slow, brooding quality will perhaps leave some modern audiences who are used to a different pace and more action underwhelmed - but make no mistake: this is a groundbreaking masterwork of its genre and a timeles classic. 10 stars out of 10.

Favorite films: IMDb.com/list/mkjOKvqlSBs/

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The Godfather (1972)
10/10
For Me, This Is The Definitive Film
11 February 2018
This isn't just a beautifully crafted gangster film. Or an outstanding family portrait, for that matter. An amazing period piece. A character study. A lesson in filmmaking and an inspiration to generations of actors, directors, screenwriters and producers. For me, this is more: this is the definitive film. 10 stars out of 10.

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Lord of War (2005)
10/10
Just An Incredibly Well Made Film
11 February 2018
Apart from the very serious topic, this is just an incredibly well made film. There are many scenes in this movie which stay with you long after the credits have rolled, the darkly funny ones as well as the truly horrific ones, and to me this is something only the best movies ever achieve. Intelligent and stylish: this is one of very few so called "films with a message" that I can watch again and again, because it's so cleverly constructed and so beautifully shot and acted. A personal favorite, 10 stars out of 10.

Favorite films: IMDb.com/list/mkjOKvqlSBs/

Lesser-Known Masterpieces: imdb.com/list/ls070242495/
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Alien (1979)
10/10
A Timeless Science Fiction Masterpiece
11 February 2018
'Alien' is one of those special films that have aged very, very well. Even now, after nearly 40 years, everything about it just feels fresh. The restrained, natural performances by the fantastic cast; the outstanding production design; the beautiful, ominous score by Jerry Goldsmith; the realistic, "lived-in" look of space-freighter Nostromo's interior: it actually feels less dated than many science fiction films that were made much later, which is quite an astonishing feat. Even the (what now must be considered) "retro" technology inside the ship doesn't necessarily have to be viewed as anachronistic in the face of our obvious recent advancements, because it's the most simple technological equipment that is usually robust enough to survive the longest under harsh conditions (like the extreme temperatures in space).

I feel it's especially hard for science fiction films to stand the test of time - which is kind of inherent to the genre I suppose - and 'Alien' simply remains an outstanding achievement in that regard. It's a testament to the talent of everyone involved, but especially to the vision of director Ridley Scott. The film was crafted with so much love for every little detail, and the designs by Moebius, Chris Foss - and in particular the Lovecraftian horrors unleashed by Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger - are among the best and most iconic in any science fiction film. This isn't just an outstanding, timeless piece of entertainment: it's a work of art. 10 Stars out of 10.

Favorite films: IMDb.com/list/mkjOKvqlSBs/

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10/10
A Cinematic Masterpiece - And Also The Most Entertaining Western Of All Time
11 February 2018
I'll keep this brief: This is simply one of the most entertaining and best looking westerns ever. Director Sergio Leone's unique use of the camera - long, uninterrupted shots in wide angle alternating with extreme close-ups - and Ennio Morricone's unique, wildly inventive soundtrack are blended to perfection. The career-making performances by Eli Wallach (hilarious), Lee Van Cleef (chilling) and Clint Eastwood (cool) are nothing short of iconic, and the film's finale is so good it will send shivers of cinematic joy down your spine. It's a movie of epic proportions; it's funny and violent, but underneath it all there is a strong anti-war message. It's a cinematic masterpiece and one of the most influential movies of all time. Oh, and it's also tons of fun, and you should see it on the biggest screen possible. 10 stars out of 10.

Favorite films: IMDb.com/list/mkjOKvqlSBs/

Lesser-Known Masterpieces: imdb.com/list/ls070242495/
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