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Love to Love You, Donna Summer

NinadeLLove to Love You, Donna Summer(2023) 

English I discovered the disco queen, Donna Summer, in the movie Spinning Gold. This extraordinary singer, whose American career was preceded by one in West Germany, has a story that practically wrote itself, requiring only the presentation of all its elements. As a child, she was bullied and bore a scar from barbed wire on her face for life. At the end of the hippie era, she became the face of the German production of the musical Hair and experienced liberating times as one of the few black women in Munich. She married Helmuth Sommer and had her first daughter with him. After their divorce, she entered a golden era with that incredible erotic hit, which in its full version lasted 17 minutes. The rest is just the classic ups and downs: domestic violence, a duet with Barbra Streisand, and a new marriage... If this isn't material for a full-length documentary, then nothing is.

Adagio

EvilPhoEniXAdagio(2023) 

English Is this the same Sollima who did Sicario 2 and is an expert on European gangster movies? The beginning still looked promising, the protagonist is at a disgusting gay party full of drugs and alcohol, where he is tasked with filming a minister, blackmailed by the cops, only he fails to complete the task and goes on the run. And then the whole film staggers in place, offers nothing of interest (no action, no violence, no twists) it doesn't go anywhere story-wise and as a result you are so fed up with the film that you just want it to end. It wasn't fun. 3/10.

The Worst Evil

EvilPhoEniXThe Worst Evil(2023) 

English I just got through the highest rated Korean series of last year (8.3 IMDB) and it's another quality Korean ride full of violence, great actors, a packed story, emotions and twists. Honestly I'm not a fan 12-episode series, too long for my taste, I prefer 8 episodes but when it's a Korean gangster series you can take anything. The story is set in the 90's where we follow the rise of a new drug syndicate, where a disco DJ works his way to the top in a short while by eliminating the competition and becoming the biggest capo in town. Soon, however, an undercover cop infiltrates the gang and undergoes an incredible transformation (the scene where he's covered in blood and slashes his enemies with a machete while being watched by his wife, who thinks he's a decent cop, was insane! Nice example of how violence can change a person). The acting is perfect, both actors are very young, the future of Korean films, so I'm a big fan in that respect. Visually, it's sheer cinematic peak, the cinematography is top notch, the music is amazing, the action is breathtaking. The sequence from episode 9 is like cut from The Night Comes for Us, there's a whole house and absolutely every Korean soaked in blood! Machetes, knives, axes, baseball bats. There was also international drug trade, so both Japanese and Chinese get involved and that made it nicely spiced up. The series doesn't lack decent plot twists and plenty of suspense, with the viewer keeping their fingers crossed the cop doesn't get caught every episode. I was a bit annoyed by the romantic line with the gangster and the policewoman, but it had its merits. I was expecting an action climax in the finale and unfortunately they peaked in episode 9, so in the end only a strong 4 stars, but it's very good. There's a tear at the end and that counts. Fans of Korea, gangsters and violence should definitely not hesitate.85%

Back to Black

MattyBack to Black(2024) 

English Fifty Shades of Grey, but done a bit differently. Director Sam Taylor-Johnson and screenwriter Matt Greenhalgh could have used Amy Winehouse’s story to construct an emotional drama about fame, addiction, voyeurism and the excessive demands placed on how famous women are supposed to behave and look (mainly decently). Instead of that, they decided to take an absolutely dull, mediocre approach to telling a bittersweet fable about a girl unhappily in love, who wants to be a mother (which is her main desire and greatest vulnerability). Only a minimum of space is dedicated to the process of composing and recording music or to any effort to understand the deeper causes of Amy’s predisposition to addiction (no, I really don’t think it was because of a broken heart and the death of her grandmother). It’s as if the film wasn’t made for Amy and her fans. The main point of Back to Black seems to be to clear the name of the two men who opportunistically exploited the singer’s vulnerability and contributed to her tragic demise. Here they behave – at least toward the protagonist – in an exemplary manner with exaggerated concern (for comparison, watch the documentary from 2015). Even if we set aside the ethically questionable retouching of reality and laying blame on the victim and her impulsive behaviour, Back to Black remains a below average film that is unnecessary in every respect (including Marisa Abela’s performance, unfortunately). It gains depth and veracity only once, during the closing credits, which feature Nick Cave’s heartfelt performance of his ballad “Song for Amy”. 40%

Monster

EvilPhoEniXMonster(2023) 

English I haven't seen a worse film this year that's for sure, so there's no point in commenting on the film at all, rather I'll comment on the making of it as it might have been. A little girl is unhappy that her father spends his time in a dingy lonely house for a few rupees rather than spend time with her, so she sells his gold watch on the sly so she can at least get a camera with it. With that, she approaches her uncle to see if he'll make a film with it, of course he'd be behind the camera and occasionally add some sound design. He tries to talk her out of it, but the girl has a good argument. The script is only two sentences long and we won't need any dialogue at all, we won't need any make-up artists because we won't have any gore here, we'll give them everything out of frame, we won't need to pay any actors because the main actors will be me, my little brother, my dad and my mum and what will the film be about? My uncle asks... Well, nothing really, I'll be running around our house for 80 minutes hiding from my dad. I'm gonna fulfill my dream that my dad will spend some time playing hide-and-seek. And that's how the indie film Monster was made. Enjoy!!! 10%

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire

KakaGodzilla x Kong: The New Empire(2024) 

English Delightfully deranged madness that you'll forgive most of its ills, like the fact that it doesn't make any sense at all. Skull Island may be far from surpassed in its imaginative visuals and original retro atmosphere, but Godzilla x Kong takes itself far less seriously than previous films in the Godzilla multiverse, so all bad things are forgiven. As an absolute no-brainer, it's easily watchable.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes

D.MooreKingdom of the Planet of the Apes(2024) 

English Yes, it's true that the last third doesn't live up to the two previous ones, although it really tries to, but otherwise it's basically a repeat of the 13 year old surprise from Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which I wasn't expecting much from either. This time, we've finally reached the stage where the apes are playing the lead and humans have taken second fiddle (although it may be different again in the sequel), and it's great. The visual effects work their magic again, the characters are 100% believable, the story is interesting and exploring an alien but familiar world definitely has its charm

The Wild Blade of Strangers

EvilPhoEniXThe Wild Blade of Strangers(2024) 

English I have to say I'm pleasantly surprised with this historical actioner, while it doesn't dazzle story-wise there's another Ming Dynasty, a crown prince, protecting the heir to the throne, etc. This comes up over and over again, but the action is executed brilliantly in my opinion. There are usually two things that bother me about these historical Chinese films, namely the Wu-xia elements and the frequent wirework during fights, thankfully that doesn't happen here. There is in fact my favorite martial arts star Max Zhang (for me he is the successor to Donnie Yen!) and the guy with the sword performs downright martial arts mastery! Great choreography, he does everything with absolute ease and the action scenes are also very polished thanks to the awesome visuals (I even enjoyed the princess/assassin in the white robe). I also praise the finale where the two-meter giant with the dwarf on his back was downright Boss of Dreams and the final duel with the huge MO sword and the bad guy with two swords against him was delicious, I enjoyed that. For me, a decent action flick, which is a bit dragged down by the uninteresting story and the more boring passages outside the action, otherwise I'm satisfied. 75%

Sasquatch Sunset

EvilPhoEniXSasquatch Sunset(2024) 

English A solid oddity and quite surprisingly a perverted film that probably won't appeal to everyone, but you have to appreciate the original premise, but at a price that may not be digestible for everyone. The film has no plot and no dialogue, we follow the Sasquatch family and their daily life through the seasons. It has a comic touch and you can laugh a few times, the perverted undertones are a testament to that (there is sex, collective pissing, genital sniffing, feeding fish guts, a perverted childbirth and even one gore scene with a cougar). I was worried it would be boring but it goes by pretty fast, it's so weird, bizarre but interesting at the same time. I would have liked more survival from the point of view of other animals or a clash with humans. As a Sasquatch experiment though, pretty cool. 60%.

Sting

EvilPhoEniXSting(2024) 

English The creators of Wyrmwood have already delivered us the second spider of this year, which is presented in a more light-hearted way and unfortunately doesn't give much trouble to arachnophobics, in this Infested was more aggressive and successful and here they could have tightened up in many things, but for sure Sting won't offend. Once again we have a block of flats, lots of people, and one egg from outer space that turns out to be a spider with an ever-increasing appetite. The little spider was pretty exotic, and the scene where it crawls into a woman and starts messing around in her body was solid, but it was not enough to make it the gore scene of the year, they could have gone three times bigger here. It's more reminiscent of the monster horror B-movies of the 90's, which have a lighter touch and it doesn't totally matter, it's just that the humour doesn't quite work and the kills are rather out of frame, it could do with more intense kills because the atmosphere doesn't really work and the fear of the spider even less so. Watchable and enjoyable, but I won't scratch for a higher rating. Infested was elsewhere. 60%

Shōgun

KakaShōgun(2024) 

English The Japanese version of Game of Thrones. Only instead of seedy pubs, profanity, tons of coitus and chivalrous jousting in an alternative European medieval setting, there's sake at five o'clock, views into the carefully cultivated gardens of Japanese dwellings and pagodas, and everything the viewer touches is more refined and pretty. If The Last Samurai, for example, was 70 per cent Hollywood boilerplate and 30 per cent reverent homage to refined Japanese culture, Shogun is the opposite. We don't see many spectacular action scenes, nor a classic Western narrative with a fierce finale. This Japanese insight into the world of the samurai flows slowly, sensitively, and takes great care to build atmosphere and develop the characters, their thoughts and motivations. Shogun isn't meant to be epic because of how many battles there are, or how fiercely it fights, but because of how powerful a story it conveys and the compelling bond that forms between the main characters. And I enjoyed this idiosyncratic, thought-provoking, moodily coherent, fragile mosaic, supported by fantastic production design and great actors. Despite the tepid pace, I rate it highly, because there are damn few such contributions to cinema. The First Samurai.

Heartbreak High

NinadeLHeartbreak High(1994) 

English An Australian high school drama. Over a few years, they produced 209 episodes, which is incredible by today's standards. The show was a follow-up to the film The Heartbreak Kid, which didn't manage to connect in the Czech Republic. As different classes and groups of kids rotated through, the series depicted a wide range of issues that generally relate to teen life. Although Sydney's suburbs were quite different from our post-revolution reality, the series earned a reputation for realism, especially compared to the glamorous lives of the wealthy youth in Beverly Hills 90210. The multicultural issues were new to us at the time, but everything else was completely understandable because growing up is essentially the same story worldwide. Years later, Netflix continued the series with a new generation in Heartbreak High.

Edward Scissorhands

NinadeLEdward Scissorhands(1990) 

English Edward Scissorhands is the essential meeting of Tim Burton with Danny Elfman, Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, and Vincent Price. The basic story comes from classic Burtonian settings, combining caricatured American suburbs and the gothic dark world from the monster studios of Universal and Hammer. It is kind, loving, gentle, mysterious, and fairy tale-like. Roughly exactly what the dreams of a little boy could be, who once transformed Frankenstein into Frankenweenie. The pop culture influence of Edward is illustrated, among others, by the existence of a comic book Judge Dredd/Edward Scissorhands parody (Garth Ennis, Dermot Power).

Mars Attacks!

NinadeLMars Attacks!(1996) 

English One of those iconic 90s movies by Tim Burton, which I completely missed back in the golden era of VHS tapes and video rental stores. Looking back, it's obviously fun, but it's still just an adaptation of trading cards from the Topps company that never quite stepped out of its shadow. Some ideas and casting choices are indeed genius, but the whole thing drags. The micro stories of Lisa Marie, Danny DeVito, and Sarah Jessica Parker are excellent, but the best of all is the grandma played by the famous Hitchcockian actress Sylvia Sidney.

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom

NinadeLAquaman and the Lost Kingdom(2023) 

English #15 DCEU. The final film of DC Extended Universe is the Aquaman sequel. The film runs smoothly, following the classic concept of a buddy movie, in which the main enemies from the first film become partners under the influence of circumstances, and together they fight against a new enemy. This is something absolutely ideal for a feel-good audience experience. Jason Momoa and Patrick Wilson have charisma to spare, the underwater world is very attractive to look at, and it's nice to perceive all the architectural ideas and fauna and flora. Something like this is always an interesting challenge for filmmakers, after all, the concept of Atlantis has been tempting for processing since ancient times. It must have been a feast for the eyes in the movie theater. Of course, I would have enjoyed more space for Amber Heard, Nicole Kidman, Temuera Morrison and Dolph Lundgren, but considering how long we waited for the film, the final form is more than decent. The first film was devoted to the duo Aquaman/Mera, the second one is about the duo Aquaman/Orm.

Infested

NinadeLInfested(2023) 

English A very weak, generic genre film. A group of young adults are trapped in a spider's web along with the entire residential building due to one single mistake. In the place I watched it, they really tried hard and placed artificial spider webs and spiders, but that's pretty much all that can be remembered positively about it.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes

3DD!3Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes(2024) 

English Apes strong together... With Caesar's passing came the necessary long exposure. The new hero Noah, the new heroine Nova, and of course family and friends. Funny sequences about the foul odors of human females alternate with themes of artificial evolution. Knowledge and technology vs symbiosis with nature is beautifully sketched out and could use more elaboration, but there's no time. Wes Ball is building the fertile ground for a new trilogy and succeeds in presenting an interesting world that I want to know more about. A world that nature has taken back from humans and where the Legend of Caesar takes on a life of its own and is subjected to new interpretations. The apes, as a product of our failure, slowly tread our path, but have the ruins of our triumphs in their sights, which they want for themselves. I wonder where they'll take it. I'm sorry the smart people haven't disappeared. I'm waiting for the astronauts to arrive and visit New York. But this is missing the point.

13 Bombs in Jakarta

EvilPhoEniX13 Bombs in Jakarta(2023) 

English Indonesia also adds its hand this year with a decent adrenaline action flick. Angga Dwimas Sasongko is one of Indonesia's more aspiring filmmakers, but only now has he made a film that I can appreciate above average, even though his Stealing Raden Saleh has had a decent amount of success abroad. Here you can see a very decent budget and it looks like a nice A-list production, the best this country can produce. The story focuses on terrorists who cause chaos in Jakarta when they plant 13 bombs with the threat that one will explode every 8 hours, they want 100 Bitcoins as a ransom. This terrorist attack is the result of a fight against the financial mafia and oligarchs, and is quite interesting and novel. The film has a solid pace, there's always something going on and it moves forward very quickly, the action scenes are decent, it's R-rated and the shootouts have that proper military feel. Midway through the film the pace calms down a bit but the ending kicks in again, there's an unexpected twist and some knife duels as well, so a very pleasant surprise for me. I love fighting terrorists and when a decent budget is added to it, the fun is taken care of. 75%

Flight

EvilPhoEniXFlight(2012) 

English I'm glad I caught up on this one. The combination of Robert Zemeckis and Denzel Washington sounded good and it worked. The opening 30 minutes with the plane crash is a decently intense beast and I liked the aftermath, the investigation and the subsequent trial where the protagonist is tried for alcohol and drugs. I had fun and Denzel was excellent as always. 75%

Godzilla Minus One

KakaGodzilla Minus One(2023) 

English Gareth Edwards wanted to revive this dramatic concept back in 2014, but the mass success of his Godzilla seems to have been broken by Hollywood dictates. Godzilla -1.0 has it a lot easier in this regard, having been made for a few bucks and in a far more Godzilla-friendly environment than the US dream factory. And the result is something the filmmakers have nothing to be ashamed of. Of course it's not the bombastic heavyweight eye-candy spectacle that the West boasts, but it has a wonderfully gripping post-WWII post-apocalyptic atmosphere, a sinister lizard that manages to wring the absolute most out of it, and even if the limit of the production budget is occasionally apparent in some shots, it works brilliantly. However, I couldn't get into the characters at all and the wistful emotional charge completely missed the mark for me. One of the few films that IMHO would have benefited from a black and white version.

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