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Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

They killed off the general way too easily. I was worried he'd seriously hurt Kong, but in the end he didn't manage to do a thing. He ordered his men to do everything for him, and in the end all he'd done was tell them what to do, and hold the detonator, and die. It was disappointing. I'm happy he didn't kill the king, Kong, of course, but at the same time I feel his character slowly wanes with his lack of action - or lack of impact. What did he really accomplish? What was his role? He wasn't the real threat at all. In the end he wasn't more than a thorn in Kong's side, and he outlived even that part so easily... but maybe that was the point. To shove one at our savage side, and to show how insignificant we really are in the face of legends.

Otherwise this was a good movie. I love the fresh take on the old franchise, and the promising end. The way Kong bashes down the helicopters was a real treat to see, too. Unexpected. Surreal. Awesome.

It's a shame about the people, of course, but that part was so well-filmed and animated my expectations for the rest of the movie went sky-high. A shame, because in this case all good things don't last. The CGI looks fake when they close in too much later on, and fuzzy in the fastest scenes. The chemistry between human and animated feels a bit artificial too, like they're not really seeing eye to eye, yet when inanimate-real and animated collide (like those helicopters) it's just fantastic, and Kong's little island utopia/hell is a place full of mystery and history just waiting to be explored.

The whole white-blotch-on-the-map scenario feels ancient and exhilarating, especially in our time - when every rock has been turned, every abyss probed, and all potential elements of magic and myth and unknown explained or done away with... or at least attempted to. The Bermuda Triangle is still pretty fascinating, and it's similar. The closest real life mystery still remaining. It seems like a probable inspiration.

I love the characters. Love the scenery. Love the old bits, pieces and peeps - like the WW2 soldier, played by John C. Reilly. Tom Hiddleston was great. Samuel L. Jackson looked great but did little, and the others... yeah, all were great. Brie Larson looked great, which was clearly her main purpose. It's still that age huh. Even Kong saw the appeal. Love the old stereotypes.

I love it all. And the ending... is that a hint towards the prequel we already had, or even greater things to come?! If it's the latter I'm really looking forward to it. This was a blast.

It's not just the action or the characters: most of all it's the adventure. It's the kind of movie that's clearly not perfect, and clearly won't stand the test of time too well... with regards to effects and what-not, but it has that atmosphere. Of mystery, myth and magic. That's the part I love.

 rated 3/5: not bad

Alien: Covenant (2017)

Alien: Covenant (2017)

None other than the Alien franchise seems to manage the same sense of isolation, desperation, and hopelessness! I guess with so many prequels under his belt Ridley Scott really knows what he's doing by now.

Are there really no happy endings to this alternate universe, though? They keep taking the perfect endings and destroying them, in the most twisted possible way. Oh, spoiler alert. But you probably know the drill by now.

It's not that I wasn't expecting this one, not at the end, but I still expected... or maybe I hoped? ...for something just a little brighter, this time. Each time it's maybe this time. Some day maybe there'll come one movie that actually ends happily, and goes against all possible expectations entirely. When it ends, maybe? Though maybe it just wouldn't be the same movie if it was. Too Hollywood. Too Human. Too unlike the Alien vein.

Despite and maybe also because of the darkness, this was another great movie though. Space movies lately really convey the vastness of space well, and this is no exception. The special effects are great. It all takes place far from Earth, and is a bit of a spin-off on the earlier Prometheus, where a group of colonists just happen to stumble upon a previously unknown planet that shows great promise, go in for a landing and... you can probably sort of figure out what happens next. It's a welcome return to origins, yet not at all old. Great watch.

 rated 4/5: fo shizzle

Cook Up A Storm (2017)

Cook Up A Storm (2017)

They sure make cooking look good in movies like this!

Prepare for an Asian cooking competition that's almost more of a magic show than it is culinary. Spectacular cousine and cooking craft a la extraordinaire. Korean VS Chinese, starring Nicholas Tse and Yong-hwa Jung.

What starts as a rivalry and fight between new and traditional; between the old neighborhood and the expanding city, soon turns into friendship, and a fight against a common foe - final face-off against the God of cookery, played by none other than Anthony Chau-Sang Wong. In the movie he also happens to be the father of the Chinese cook. Big plot batter.

It's all presented in the usual way, if you've seen any of these movies before. Flashy settings, fantastic food and a simple but satisfying story on rivalry and parenting... sort of. Nothing too advanced except for the cooking, which when all is done just makes me want to run down to the kitchen and start chopping onions. Or something. I do love food, and there's no better way to get inspired than with a movie like this.

I like the title too. Witty. They cooked up something good.

 rated 4/5: fo shizzle

Ghost In The Shell (2017)

Ghost In The Shell (2017)

I'd read some pretty negative reviews on this movie before I saw it, so I wasn't expecting much, but I'm happy to say those reviews were way off! Motoko looks just like she should look - minus the thin haircut, and Batou was so buff you wonder if he really was that big in the movie. Special effects? He gets the eyes too.

The plot's based on the original, animated counterpart, and though all details aren't the same it is a close fit. I'm happy they brought in Takeshi Kitano as the chief, he's a legend, and all other characters are spot on in their roles. The special effects are great. The invisibility cloak and glitches in particular, and they even managed an introduction almost as beautiful as the original.

That the Chief (Beat) is the only one speaking Japanese, and that Scarlett Johansson can't pronounce her name correctly - nor whomever played Hideo, are minor details. Everything else feels spot on, from the creepy Geisha robots to the Spider Tank in the final scenes. Bits and pieces of the dialog bug me, but they redeem that with inspiring quotes like: When we see our uniqueness as a virtue, only then will we find peace..

It's essentially a journey of Motoko finding herself, all the while chasing a shadowy criminal, but the bigger question here is: is technology good for us? What does it mean to be human? It doesn't delve as deeply as it could into these things, but I feel it hits a sweet spot between real mine fuel and mindfulness. The action's good. The setting's gritty. The characters look familiar. It's just right. It's GITS. Sequels? I hope!

 rated 4/5: fo shizzle

Bodyguards: Secret Lives From The Watchtower (2016)

Bodyguards: Secret Lives From The Watchtower (2016)

Here's a documentary about bodyguards.

Mikey Arana, Shamir Bolivar, Scooter Braun, Apartheid, Nelson Mandela, a training camp for bodyguards, female bodyguards, 50 Cent, Justin Bieber, party people and powerhouses. It's basically a series of interviews with different bodyguards, from different backgrounds, guarding different people, and glimpses into the lives of the ones they guard/guarded, and other parts of their past.

It's interesting all the way, even if nothing spectacular happens, and it has a commercial tone that is at least during the first phase of the movie a bit annoying. It tells the tales well though, from a bodyguard perspective, and weaves between them so all stories end around the end of the movie.

I guess I was a bit disappointed to see that bodyguards aren't so different from normal people, albeit maybe kinder, and tougher, of course. They're only human, yet somehow they chose the roles of being bullet catchers for some stranger. What a twist of fate!

The truest moment in the movie feels like Anton Kalaydjian's little epilogue about the number one sacrifice in the business: time. Of spending time living someone else's life. Celebrating their birthdays. Celebrating their Christmases. Being a part of their family, but never creating your own. He was the guy who started his career protecting 50 Cent too, and took a few shots while he was at it. Tough guy, but that part's straight from the heart.

Kim Coates plays the role of narrator, and does it well, even if the narration sometimes oversells itself. It was an inspiring, eye-opening, and yet not that revealing glimpse into the lives of those that live for others. A good documentary on an area of expertise that sometimes seems almost like an area of myth. You get to see who these people really are, and hear their stories. I was hoping for more, but maybe that's all you really need.

 rated 3/5: not bad

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

What a work of art this was! Amazing. Once again.

I'm not sure it lives up to the first one entirely though. There was something special about that one - and it wasn't only because it was new. The action choreography felt polished in a way this one didn't, and the characters were always introduced in such a perfect way. The dialog wasn't heavy, but each word was chosen well, and they spoke words you remembered. Not that I can recall any of them right now, but it was the kind of script that really told the story, with both visuals and words. Every word as important and heavy with significance.

This one starts similarly, and I love the way Peter Stormare re-introduces John Wick! I love that they managed to fit in another famous Swedish actor in that first part too, and though I thought he might have a bigger role I'm happy for the cameo. Nice little introduction, and twist, and that pretty much presents the style, and character, of the movie that follows. All doesn't go according to plan, but he just rolls with it. He's that kind of guy.

After the vendetta of the prequel is done with a new character is introduced. Santino (Riccardo Scamarcio) knocks on John's door and hands him a marker - one that can't be refused, but John says he is done. So Santino blows up his house, and the pictures of his past burn up with it...

Suddenly John is back in the game, a reassigned hitman, and we're taken into the world of the higher table and the criminal underground, of which there's such an air of power and mystery. The atmosphere is like a blend between Underworld, Wanted, Constantine and The Matrix - and Laurence Fishburne has a role to play this time as well. Happy to see him again.

Also happy to see Common! He plays one of the villains - though it's a strange movie in that even hitmen with a vengeance treat each other with respect and courtesy. Like killing is OK. Some things however, are not OK, and once John has fulfilled the terms of the marker, he sets out on his personal quest of vengeance again - this time with a new target. Ruby Rose is another notable adversary btw. Great performance.

Claudia Gerini too, and Ian McShane is still a favorite. There's just something about that look.

The fights are intense. The shooting. The choreography. It looks painful. Most importantly it looks stylish. They fight through both common and uncommon sceneries; both run-down and pompous. They fall down stairs and climb to higher standing, and in the end the one thing that makes this movie (and the last) so special is that artistry! They're not just creative, but beautifully orchestrated fights. Violence with class, and an added layer of art and ambiguity that makes the movie almost seem culturally enriching to watch. I hope this doesn't make anyone actually find a beauty in real violence, but it's perfect for the movie world. The hitman dimension.

I just love the world they create, how cold yet colorful it is, and judging by the ending we'll be entering it again soon! I'm looking forward to it already.

You can find my review for the first movie here.

 rated 4/5: fo shizzle

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