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Almost Human (2013)
2/10
I love indie B-movie horror flicks, but this one was just boring
28 March 2020
I love my fair share of B-movie flicks, and the indie horror scene has a lot of potential, with many young film makers to look out for. I'd be curious to see what this director comes up with next, as there is a lot of potential, but overall, the whole thing is really trite. The one thing he really needs to learn is how to direct his actors, which come across as terribly wooden here. The story is something that we have really seen before, it's thoroughly unoriginal. Also, the whole thing is not as violent as I'd like my B-movie horrors to be. For a lot of the film I was quite bored.
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Avengement (I) (2019)
5/10
Tries so hard to be a Guy Ritchie gangster flick
28 March 2020
I like Scott Adkins, but I'd rather have him without golden teeth. There's some descent action in here, as you'd expect from a Scott Adkins flick. But since they are going for the "pub brawl" style of fighting, you don't get to see all that much in terms of incredible stunts or boxing. And I gotta say, while Adkins is a great fighter and has a lot of charisma and screen presence in his Boyka films, he's not that great of an actor to pull a film like this that largely depends on his storytelling. The relationship between Adkin's character and his brother, is quite underdeveloped, and so I ended up caring very little for what was going on. Fights are great and that, but they need to serve a purpose in a powerful story where you actually care about the people fighting. The whole thing tries to be edgy, and at times it seems to want to be funny, Guy Ritchie gangster flick style, but it ends up being pretty mediocre.
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Tokyo Tribe (2014)
10/10
Deeply musical B-movie epic
28 March 2020
This film displays such great craftsmanship! It looks absolutely gorgeous, with Tokyo being set in brooding lights, and some amazing camerawork and edits. There's a few multi-character tracking shots that must've taken ages to rehearse! And some of the fighting is really well done.

I don't like rap at all, but I really liked it here, as it was something unique, something I have never seen before in a film. At times, nearly every single line in this film is rapped. So if you don't like that, you're going to hate the film. But to me, the music was really what held the whole thing together.

The whole thing has high production values, but it often goes for the look of a B-movie. This is great, fitting with Sion Sono's "guerrilla style", highlighting the fact that you are watching something edgy and underground. There's A LOT of sexual language in there, and the whole thing is at times deliberately exploitative ... and I can see that this would throw many people off. A lot of the exploitative aspects of the film are meant to be tongue-and-cheek, but Tokyo Tribe one is definitely not for viewers who want to see something that is "politically correct".

Altogether, a truly unique vision, something that I have never seen before.
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The Equalizer (2014)
3/10
One of Denzel's worst performances - soul-less and generic
28 March 2020
Everything about this movie is generic: the music, the lights, even the fighting, with some pretty corny cinematography to round things off. I generally really like Denzel Washington as an actor, but he gives such a lackluster performance in this one, and I think he has been miscast, or at least been misdirected by a director who does not seem to have a unique vision at all. Denzel's character's back story is something that we have seen time and time again, but it comes off as unbelievable here. On top of that, the story is so badly structured, with some characters that play a big role early on seemingly forgotten for the rest of the film. Altogether a huge disappointment.
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3/10
Incoherent mess; not scary at all
10 August 2019
What a silly movie! An archaeologist excavates a tomb in Egypt and accidentally unleashes evil, which then follows him and his family all the way back to Manhattan.

The biggest letdown of this movie is the absolutely incoherent script, with a story that just meanders along. The jump scares didn't age well, and some of the special effects are really silly (like, creatures hanging from the ceiling where you can see the wires). There's some Fulci staples, like lots of shots of eyes, and some nice gore, and there's a really cool shot from the perspective of a snake. It has some Lucio Fulci staples (lots of shots of eyes, some nice gore), but it's overall a really bad movie, with no coherent script, and jump scares that didn't age well. Also, the score doesn't hold up to other Fulci and Giallo movies... there's cheesy saxophone tunes and less funk in the music.

All in all, a big disappointment.
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Sicario (2015)
8/10
Masterclass in how to create suspense
20 January 2019
Sicario is a cineast's dream: great plot, spot-on acting, razor-sharp editing, and an absolutely epic score. What I love most about Villeneuve's style is that he allows shots to "breathe", giving the viewer enough time for the beautiful compositions to soak in.

Sicario is quite violent and will surely keep you at the edge of your seat, but it also has depth, both in terms of having interesting characters, as well as in terms of the commentary it makes about the politics of drug wars and border control.

All in all, Sicario is a masterpiece.
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4/10
What a drag! Enticing visual can't dispel the boredom
20 January 2019
The first 30 minutes into the movie I was hooked. Great concept, great visuals... but then the whole thing just keeps endlessly repeating. Boredom ensues, followed by frustration.

There's some really nice visual effects here, such as a regular shot that transforms into a fish-eye lens shot (I've never seen this before), and lots of cameras panning through walls, as well as interesting POV tracking shots that feel dreamy. All of this is quite exciting the first time around but when the same thing is repeated again and again, the surprisal quickly wears off. After 2 hours of circling around the same set of ideas, and the same set of visual effects, the movie starts to feel like a one trick pony.

While the visuals were fresh, they also made it next to nigh impossible to develop an emotional connection with the characters. How on earth can you feel with people that you mostly see from bird's eye view, with few close-ups at all? Not being emotionally engaged, the movie made me feel empty.

What could've been ingenious ends up being style over substance and ultimately, just a huge disappointment.
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Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018 TV Movie)
10/10
I was sucked into a world of madness
20 January 2019
Everybody has a different experience with Bandersnatch but to me it was a deeply personal one. I felt being sucked into Stefan's world. When I finished Bandersnatch, it was almost like waking up from a dream, and I felt dizzy and disoriented, but as if something had changed, as if reality had been altered. I've never experienced something like that when watching a film, and it is the interactive nature of Bandersnatch that made this possible. This is a true masterpiece!
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10/10
A bold vision of a new kind of cinema
20 January 2019
Only ever so often does a movie hit the big screen that feels genuinely new, like nothing that has been there before. "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" is such a movie. This is perhaps the most successful fusion of film and comic book to date, made with love to both genres.

Of course, people rave about the movie's style and animation... and yes, "Into the Spider-Verse" is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. However, the amazing look and feel of the movie should not make us forget that Spider-Verse gets everything else right as well. This movie has soul! It's a deeply moving coming-of-age story with pitch-perfect screenplay and some great voice acting.

Let me also point out how bold "Into the Spider-Verse" is: Something as experimental and colorful could've easily failed on so many levels, but the creators stuck with their vision and made no compromises in style or story. This is to be rewarded!

All in all, "Into the Spider-Verse" is absolute masterclass and hands-down one of the best movies of 2018.
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5/10
Would be better as a theatre play
20 January 2019
"The Death of Stalin" is a story of betrayal and treason within the communist party after Stalin's death. There's lots of deadpan dialogue and hilarious situational humor.

My problem with this movie is that it LOOKS exceptionally boring. Yes, I get it: When one has such an impressive cast to boast, it makes sense to highlight the actors' faces, especially in a movie that is focused on the interaction between different people. The movie is extremely dialogue-heavy... which ultimately means that the creators missed out on an opportunity to tell a story with images. I honestly disrespect movies that could've just as well been a stage theatre play. Why not use what the medium of film has to offer?

Besides the genuinely uninteresting cinematography, the whole thing felt contrived, which prevented me from being moved by the movie. Also, since all the characters are equally ridiculous, I didn't have any main protagonist to latch my feelings onto. To some extent I just didn't care what happened to the people in the movie. This lack of a genuine emotional connection could've been repaired by some deep message about communism, or some commentary on the nature of human life in dictatorships-but there was none of that either.

So all in all, I felt that this movie was rather pointless, notwithstanding the amazing acting that is to be applauded.
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Upgrade (2018)
9/10
Refreshing gritty cyberpunk thriller
20 January 2019
As somebody who enjoyed similar movies like "Robocop" and "Ex Machina", I came into this with very high expectations... And I wasn't let down. This may honestly be one of the best action movies of 2018.

"Upgrade" is gritty, violent, and fast-paced. Logan Marshall Green's acting is superb. The fight scenes are visceral and intensely physical. The "robotic" feel of the fights was highlighted by the camera moving lockstep with each punch, which is something that we haven't seen before like this.

The beauty of "Upgrade" however is that it doesn't only work as a high-energy action flick, it's also a great sci-fi movie. The dystopian view of the future is compelling because it is believable. There's some great commentary here on technologies that are just at our doorstep. In this sense, "Upgrade" gets you thinking just like a good "Black Mirror" episode.

All in all, this is a must-see for lovers of sci-fi, lovers of action, and lovers of smart gritty thrillers. This movie has it all!
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6/10
Gritty; visceral action with overcomplicated plot
20 January 2019
I had a ton of fun watching this gritty Korean thriller. The fight scenes are reminiscent of "Hardcore Henry", featuring some impressive first person action. The score is quite a banger, with a nice fusion of suspenseful electronic heartbeats and traditional Korean drums.

The only let-down of this movie was the somewhat overcomplicated plot that was told in a lot of flashbacks. There were also pacing issues, as well as a few action scenes that seemed gratuitous. I got the impression some fights were just added to keep the viewer going rather than arising organically from the plot.

Nonetheless, besides said minor issues with story and pacing, this is a fun ride that's well worth watching!
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First Man (2018)
6/10
A giant leap for humanity, but not for cinema
17 November 2018
We all know the story of "First Man"... 1969 moon landing, Neil Armstrong, yada yada. It's an absolutely impressive story-after all, we flew to the freakin' moon! This is a massive feat of science and human accomplishment that truly needs to be celebrated, and what better way to do so with a stellar cast and a director of Whiplash fame!

The movie starts off with a kick-ass nailbiter of a scene that rivals "Gravity" in its suspense. They totally got the 60's clunky technology vibes right with an amazing sound design and visual effects so good that you never question the time you're in. Also, I like the overall idea of focusing on the human story behind all the politics, especially as Claire Foy's performance as Janet Armstrong was very powerful.

That said, I felt surprisingly unmoved by this pic. What did move me was the human accomplishment depicted by the movie, but not so much the movie itself. It's almost as the movie relies too much on the power of the source material. Story-wise, I felt that the movie hat some pacing issues and felt a little slow in the middle, and the final moon landing felt underwhelming.

I think one big issue is Ryan Gosling's emotional deadpan performance. It doesn't matter whether this does or does not reflect Neil Armstrong's real character: If a movie has a protagonist that is unemotional, then chances are that the audience doesn't feel as much either.

Another big issue I had with the movie was the whole backstory relating to the Armstrong's lost daughter and all that. This aspect of "First Man" reminded me quite a bit of "Arrival", and just as in that movie, this tragic backstory was supposed to somehow motivate or drive Neil Armstrong. However, this whole emotional dimension was mostly lost throughout the rest of the movie... and when it did come back, it felt contrived and somewhat cheesy.

All in all, a good movie with some great camerawork and some excellent acting by Claire Foy... however, in the end, this doesn't give justice to the epic scope of this amazing part of human history.
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Fractured (IV) (2016)
8/10
Witty and suspenseful thriller flick
17 November 2018
Fractured follows Rebecca and Michael on their journey to a cottage in the countryside. It all starts out as a romantic weekend trip, but then you know how these kind of movies go...

I was very pleasantly surprised by "Fractured"... and I gotta say that I don't understand why it has such low average ratings. It's quite "pure" in its simple setup and its focus on just two people. The camerawork is great, and so is the acting. Overall, the movie is quite suspenseful, with some true nail-biters.

If you are a gorehound, you may not like this movie as there's relatively little on-screen violence. It's more about the wittiness and the psychology. I'd recommend this to anybody who liked such home invasion movies as "Hush" or "You're next".
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Halloween (I) (2018)
7/10
Atmospheric, nice 80's feel to it
29 October 2018
The new Halloween pays respect to the classics and has a genuine 80's feel to it, but with updated quality in terms of camera work. There's some really nice cinematography here, and the atmosphere is quite thick. The characters are believable, except for one or two where the acting is a little weak. Jamie Lee Curtis is pretty cool throughout the entire movie. I also liked how they re-used the old soundtrack, with updated sound quality and sound effects. The gore factor is quite low for a movie of this type, which I actually appreciated even though I am a self-proclaimed gore lover. All in all, a nice round package.
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Downrange (2017)
6/10
Cuts to the chase, gory, and short-lived
27 October 2018
This one is a fun one. There's nothing particularly special about it, and in all honesty, I appreciate Ryuhei Kitamura's other movies more. That said, it does a lot with the simple setup. The action is mediocre and the cinematography is a little standard. You might also feel that the movie drags at times, but bouts of gore keep you entertained. The finale is quite worth the wait. Also, really cool soundtrack for the credits :)
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3/10
Mediocre monster flick
1 October 2018
This 80's monster flick hasn't so well. There's some nice ridiculousness here (why does every car or boat immediately explode?), including the monsters, which are just actors in seaweed suits. Other than, the movie pretty much copies true classics, such as JAWS and ALIEN. There's some mediocre acting here and the story explores a racist subtheme which feels a bit forced and out of place. All in all quite forgettable.
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3/10
Inconsistent and aimless sci-fi flick
20 April 2018
Just like its predecessor, Beyond Skyline is all about an alien invasion, and it's all about action. This time, there's a bigger budget and some more recognizable actors (Frank Grillo and Iko Uwais of "The Raid" fame). The movie is chockful of cool ideas, and the aliens look decent.

Where Beyond Skyline fails is how everything's put together. The story is just a huge mess. Lots of otherwise interesting characters simply disappear because the plot rushes to the next random bit. There's a few scenes where important characters loose somebody close to them, but there's no time for grief. The lack of emotional connection with the characters is not the actors' fault, who all have demonstrated their acting prowess in other movies. The directing and the screenwriting are to blame in this case.

I liked that they used some practical effects for the aliens. Stylistically, there's some fun stuff in there, but it's also inconsistent. The movie steals ideas from Alien, Predator and Independence Day, but doesn't mesh these ideas cohesively and the CGI is consistently bad. Finally, with somebody of the caliber of Iko Uwais, you'd at least hope to see some nice martial arts, but the fight scenes are choreographed badly.

All in all, Beyond Skyline is pretty "meh". With Frank Grillo and Iko Uwais on board, I was really hoping for more.
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5/10
Tries to be 80's and is certainly stylish but ultimately pointless
28 October 2017
I'm a huge fan of tacky 80's stuff. Give me the synths, give me the neon lights, the glaring colors. I'm also a huge fan of ridiculous movies that don't take themselves to seriously and that are shockful of over-the-top-action. "Plan B: Scheiss auf Plan A" has both... the 80's vibes and the ridiculous action, but nevertheless I found myself disappointed.

The story is simple: Three friends who are stunt men and their agent accidentally get tangled up in a crime plot surrounding the evil crime lord "Gabriel". In an almost video-game-like manner, the four friends have to fight through four stages to find Gabriel's safe. While they are hunting down Gabriel's treasures, they are also being chased by the police...

There's a lot to like about this movie. First and foremost the fact that this is a great action piece that doesn't come out of the usual mainstream Hollywood circles and that therefore breathes some fresh air into the genre. And then the whole 80's nostalgia and the general style, which is beautifully extravagant.

That said, the plot is far too random, even for a movie that takes obvious inspiration from B movies. A little more coherence would have been necessary. Moreover, while the action is INTERESTING, it is also not compelling—and that's ultimately the movie's downfall since action is what you're really in for with 'Plan B'. Our three stunt men protagonists (all of which are actually stunt men in Hollywood) certainly have a great sense of physicality, but the fight choreographies are a little disingenuous and at times genuinely boring. A lot of straightforward hitting and kicking, but relatively little variety. Also, on the acting front: While our three stunt men are quite likable characters and you do relate to them, the whole energy between the group members seems a little fake and unconvincing. And some of the jokes they make amongst each other are rather dull...

My recommendation is to watch this movies with friends to have a few good laughs over a beer. It's not a must-see, but it's certainly fun and short-lived background entertainment, made with a cool sense of style.
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The Circle (I) (2017)
7/10
Stylish Silicon Valley fairytale about privacy and technology
28 October 2017
Mae starts her new job at the circle, a tech company reminiscent of Google and Apple. Just like many Silicon Valley companies, 'The Circle' sees itself as more than just bringing technology to the people, it tries to change the world, wanting to make it a more open, sharable and accountable place. As Mae gets sucked into the community of 'The Circle', she realizes that she has to give up more and more of her privacy...

The Circle is very much like the TV series Black Mirror, a movie that skillfully asks you to be afraid of the near future, not the distant future. The technology displayed is already there, it's just a matter of how it is used and how power is centralized, who has access to private data and all that—issues that we are already facing today. In that sense, The Circle is timely and the questions it poses are very relevant to us today.

As a movie, The Circle definitely has its flaws, mostly in terms of plot structure and character development. A few characters are deeply underexplored, with some characters being introduced that later on play almost no role. There is a sense that everything will move towards an epic conclusion, but in the end, a lot of threads are simply left hanging, with no satisfactory resolution. Some characters change their opinion rather abruptly, and in particular our main protagonist, Mae, is a bit difficult to read and her motifs are not always clear.

Despite these issues, I found that The Circle was quite enjoyable. As a fan of techno, I loved the beautiful electronic score, and I loved the general sunny "Bay Area" feel to the whole piece. Cinematographically, this is a well done movie all throughout.

All in all, a decent-to-good movie that could have been a masterpiece with a better script... but that is still entertaining nonetheless and will definitely get you thinking about the future of technology, social media and privacy.
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The Prison (2017)
7/10
Great characters, bleak color palette, epic conclusion
27 October 2017
The ex police officer, Yu-gon Song, is incarcerated for a hit-and-run accident. He's now surrounded by convicts who rest assured don't like any police officers hanging out with them. Yu-gon Song soon finds out that everybody in the prison follows the order of the inmate Ik-Ho Jung, who runs the prison from the inside like a crime lord, who is respected even by the prison guards and the warden. In order to survive, Yu-gon Song has to win Ik-Ho Jung's trust.

'The Prison' focuses on the relationship between the two inmates Yu-gon Song and the Ik-Ho Jung. The movie takes its time to develop this relationship, with a relatively slow pace. The pay-off for the slow pace is great though, as you learn more about the rich and complex characters. Ik-Ho Jung in particular was deeply interesting to me, a crime lord who is both cruel and dignified, both meditative and power-hungry. Most of the time he walks around the prison calmly with an emotionless face, but then at times his pent-up anger and viciousness breaks out in a truly visceral fashion.

Everything is set in bleak color palettes, shades of grey and brown. One feels cold and damp watching this movie. The atmosphere is super thick. And just about when I felt that the movie was going to bore me with its drabness, the plot went into a completely different direction from what I originally expected. A few twists towards the end build up towards a truly epic conclusion, one that asks deep questions about crime, loyalty and morality.
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6/10
A quintessentially small-town German splatterfest
17 October 2017
Premutos is Olaf Ittenbach's infamous gorefest that is often compared to Brain Dead because of its final splatter orgy. We follow the story of a German small town boy Matthias who gets hold of the book of the fallen angel Premutos. The book has been passed protected by witches and black magicians over the centuries, with lots of flashbacks set in the Second World War or the Dark Ages. Matthias accidentally unleashes hell on earth and a horde of zombies comes to haunt his family, which defends itself in any means possible, including swords, axes, chainsaws and lots and lots of guns.

Premutos was a lot of of fun, but its gore factor does not quite compare to Brain Dead. The make-up effects Brain Dead are a bit more ingenious and over-the-top. Here, there's just a lot of shooting. Ittenbach definitely nails the head explosion effect, which looks really really good—but unfortunately that's how almost every zombie dies. Compared to Brain Dead, this feels a bit more like a young boy's shoot-em up fantasy.

I loved the "small town" German feel that pervades the movie. There's a lot of intentionally (and unintentionally) funny acting here, as well as some highly stereotypical characters. What I really like about this film, and many other low- budget movies like it, is that you get the feeling that the crew had fun producing the movie.

Premutos is definitely worth a watch for fans of low-budget gore and splatter.
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6/10
Quite enjoyable with some great actors
9 October 2017
This fourth installment of the Class of Nuke Em High series is another schlocky Troma movie that is made for fans of the production company and for fans of B-movies. Just like the other movies from the series, this one is best to be understood as a comedy, with perhaps a little bit of gore (but actually not too much). There's a lot of meta references to other Troma movies, so I recommend watching the Toxic Avenger series and the other Class of Nuke Em High movies first. There's also a lot of funny pop culture references, as well as several nods to current political issues.

In terms of production values, the new digital look I think suits Troma movies. The visuals are very colorful, making you feel like in a campy 90's high school flick. There's a lot of ingenuity in the jokes, but also a lot of slap stick.

A lot of folks don't like the new Cretins—which sing(!)—but I didn't mind them too much. The singing is so absolutely nonsensical that it just seemed right for a movie like this, which, after all, tries to be deliberately random.

What really makes "RETURN TO NUKE 'EM HIGH VOLUME 1" stand out within the oeuvre of Troma movies is the excellent cast. The two female leads are very relatable, and the two of them together have some real energy. I also felt that Clay von Carlowitz's deliberately over-the-top performance as Eugene was absolutely hilarious, with a good sense of physicality.

All in all a nice, short-lived, campy session of good-old Troma entertainment.
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9/10
Slow movie, but worth the patience—has to be seen in cinemas
9 October 2017
As a fan of the original, I was skeptical with the new Blade Runner. Although Denis Villeneuve is a very skilled director, Blade Runner does have such cult status, almost sacredness... so people naturally had lots of expectations about this one. I think in the end, the new installment certainly delivers!

The atmosphere is super thick and the movie makers went a lot in the world building direction, using the story to put in a lot of important sci-fi / cyberpunk ideas that should definitely inspire you and that definitely ask some deep questions, just as good sci-fi is supposed to do. The cinematography is indeed stunning, it's a one-in-its kind thing that you won't see in anytime soon. Hyper-stylized, yes, but distracting from the apparent realism of the world, no. As a fan of electronica, the soundtrack stood out to me in particular. It managed to be modern and unique while at the same time staying true to some of the tunes of the original.

Now, a lot of people are complaining about the movie being slow and the story perhaps not living up to the visuals. I see where these folks are coming from as the movie is indeed slow—but that's in part at least because modern audiences are used to rapid plot developments and quick cutting sequences. In fact, let's remind ourselves that the old Blade Runner was really slow as well, and perhaps some things are better not be updated!

If you have the patience, I think you are in for a really emotional ride. Perhaps even more so than the old Blade Runner, this one is filled with sadness. Ryan Gosling does a perfect job at balancing his calmness with this intense feeling of pent-up anger and despair. There's existential dread without an army or a massive fight. The big themes discussed in the movie hit on the theme of identity and one's purpose in life. Each character is struggling with their identity or purpose in some form or another. I admit that I cried at the end of the movie as multiple of the themes and metaphors that were explored throughout the movie converge on what I see as a beautiful conclusion to a truly epic story.

So, expect a slow ride, expect to be sucked into a truly compelling word, and don't miss this one while it's running in the cinema—it's definitely not going to be the same on your average home screen. Go and watch it!
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Zombie (1979)
8/10
Thick atmosphere and haunting zombies
6 October 2017
I was very very pleasantly surprised by this Italian zombie movie, which was one of those 70's/80's European movies that was (illegaly) marked to be a sequel to Dawn of the Dead (it's not).

The plot is simple: A mysterious boat arrives unmanned in Manhattan. Our protagonist is the boat owner's daughter, who teams up with a journalist to find out what happened to her father. Their quest leads them to the Caribbean island "Matul", which the locals purport to be haunted...

ZOMBI 2 is cinematographically quite beautiful and well executed, with the stunning setting of a windy Caribbean island set to catchy synthesizer tunes. The pace of the movie is rather slow compared to modern zombie flicks, but that just adds to the thick atmosphere, which focuses on a sense of oppression and mystery rather than on action and a high body count. There's also some very good gore effects and of course, a very famous underwater scene involving a zombie and a shark. If at all, the movie is known for the shark scene, but finally seeing it for the first time I was impressed by how real everything is, especially given that there were no CGI effects involved!

Die-hard zombie lovers will appreciate the fact that the zombies here are the "classic" voodoo-type zombies that are actually undead, rotting and decaying, with worms coming out their undead eyes etc. The zombies are the slow-moving ones. This means that suspense is created in a similar vein to classics such as NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, with the undead slowly creeping up on you until you're surrounded, rather than fast-paced chase scenes.

All in all, a must-see for zombie lovers---but even if you're not a fan of the genre, this one may be worth a shot given the thick atmosphere and great sound track.

P.S.: It's worth checking the Wikipedia entry on the "Zombi film series" which details the funny and confusing history of how Dawn of the Dead has been treated and spanned illegal sequels in Europe and other parts of the world.
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