The Normal Heart (2014)

The Normal Heart
Director: Ryan Murphy
Writer: Larry Kramer
Based on: Larry Kramer‘s play
Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Taylor KitschJim ParsonsMatt Bomer, Julia Roberts, BD Wong, Joe Mantello, Stephen Spinella, Alfred Molina, Denis O’Hare, Corey Stoll
Part of: identities Festival
Seen on: 13.6.2015

Plot:
It’s the early 1980s and Ned (Mark Ruffalo) has had it with the sex-obsession of the gay community who celebrate their fight and their right to (physically) love whomever they want to love. By chance Ned finds out that a new illness is making the rounds among gay men, maybe a kind of cancer. Maybe even something that is sexually transmitted. Ned takes up the fight to raise awareness for it, though his calls for caution in the sex department fall on deaf ears. As the illness keeps spreading, confounding the few doctors who bother to look into an illness that mostly concerns gay men, Ned’s activism becomes more frantic, estranging him even from his co-fighters.

The Normal Heart was pretty much like I expected it to be: grand emotions and forceful pulling on heartstrings, excellent performances and a whole lot of message.

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The Bang Bang Club (2010)

The Bang Bang Club
Director: Steven Silver
Writer: Steven Silver
Based on: Greg Marinovich‘s and João Silva‘s autobiographical book The Bang-Bang Club: Snapshots from a Hidden War
Cast: Ryan Phillippe, Taylor Kitsch, Malin Akerman, Neels Van Jaarsveld, Frank Rautenbach
Seen on 06.03.2015

Plot:
The Bang-Bang Club was a group of photographers in South Africa who chronicled the rebellion against apartheid in the townships. Most notably among them were Kevin Carter (Taylor Kitsch), Greg Marinovich (Ryan Phillippe), Ken Oosterbroek (Frank Rautenbach), and João Silva (Neels Van Jaarsveld). When Greg takes up the job as photographer, he is quickly noticed by the more established photographers, especially Kevin, because of his willingness to take risks, a quality all four of them share and that makes their work extraordinary. As they throw themselves into the documentation of the fights and the violence, they are not entirely unaffected by it though. And the question remains whether documentation alone is enough or whether more action isn’t needed after all.

The Bang Bang Club was okay, but in the end it doesn’t move past its being a movie about a few rather unlikeable white guys being reckless and inconsiderate. And there are too many of those already to be interesting anymore.

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The Grand Seduction (2013)

The Grand Seduction
Director: Don McKellar
Writer: Michael Dowse, Ken Scott
Remake of: La grande séduction
Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Brendan Gleeson, Liane Balaban, Gordon Pinsent

Plot:
Tickle Head is a small village in Newfoundland, in desperate need of jobs and money. They are promised a new factory – but it’s only possible if they have a resident doctor in the village. As fate would have it, there’s Dr. Lewis (Taylor Kitsch) who gets blackmailed into doing a month of work in Tickle Head. That is one month Murray (Brendan Gleeson) and with him the entire village plan on using to make Lewis fall in love with their village – and if that means that everybody learns how to play cricket, everybody learns how to play cricket.

The Grand Seduction was a charming little film that was utterly predictable and brought nothing really new to the table, but executed tried and tested tropes flawlessly. That makes it basically the perfect rainy Sunday afternoon movie.

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Savages (2012)

Savages
Director: Oliver Stone
Writer: Shane Salerno, Don Winslow, Oliver Stone
Based on: Don Winslow’s novel
Cast: Aaron Johnson, Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Salma Hayek, Benicio Del Toro, John Travolta, Emile Hirsch, Shea Whigham

Plot:
Chon (Taylor Kitsch) and Ben (Aaron Johnson) are best friends and successful drug dealers. They live with O (Blake Lively), the girlfriend of them both. They just received an off for a take-over/partnership from Elena (Salma Hayek), a drug baron from Mexico who is struggling a bit in her position of power. When Chon and Ben don’t plan on taking her up on the offer, Elena has her henchman Lado (Benicio Del Toro) kidnap O. And Ben and Chon will do anything to get her back.

Savages is one of the dumbest movies I have ever seen. And I really do mean ever, fully aware that I have seen Troll 2. It squanders a cast that is not that bad on a script written by people who should be forbidden from so much as looking at a pen or keyboard ever again in the future.

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Battleship (2012)

Battleship
Director: Peter Berg
Writer: Erich Hoeber, Jon Hoeber
Based on: the game
Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgard, Liam Neeson, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, Peter MacNicol, Hamish Linklater, Tadanobu Asano

Plot:
Alex (Taylor Kitsch) and his brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgard) are like night and day. Stone is in the navy, responsible and earnest, while Alex is perpetually drunk, chasing women and in trouble. But after a particularly bad incident during which Alex meets Samantha (Brooklyn Decker), he tries to get his life in order and joins the navy as well. A while later Samantha pushes him to ask her father, Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson), for her hand, just as a huge naval war game exercise is about to begin. But then aliens hit the earth right in the middle of the exercise and Alex finds himself not only fighting for his maybe-father-in-law’s recognition, but for the earth itself.

I expected so much of Battleship. I thought it was going to be one of the most entertaining movies of the year. And it does deliver – in everything but the action scenes. But since they comprise most of the film, the whole thing starts to drag a bit.

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John Carter (2012)

John Carter
Director: Andrew Stanton
Writer: Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews, Michael Chabon
Based on: Edgar Rice Burroughs‘s novel A Princess of Mars
Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Willem Dafoe, Mark Strong, Ciarán Hinds, Dominic West, James Purefoy, Bryan Cranston, Thomas Haden Church

Plot:
John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) calls his nephew Edgar Rice Burroughs (Daryl Sabara) to come to him, just before he dies. When Edgar arrives – just a bit too late – he gets John’s diary and starts to read about how John traveled to Mars many years ago with the help of a mysterious amulet. On Mars, he found himself captured by an alien tribe and then caught in a war that threatens the entire planet.

John Carter delivers exactly what you expect it to: brainless but extremely entertaining action with campy performances. Is it great film-making? No. But it’s great entertainment.

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X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

It is time. I have pushed away the review of X-Men Origins: Wolverine long enough.

I have to apologise in advance: Hugh Jackman, I like you. Therefore I’m sorry. Liev Schreiber, you’re hot. Therefore I’m sorry. David Benioff, I loved 25th Hour, Stay and Troy (and I probably would have liked the Kite Runner had I seen it). Therefore I’m sorry. Gavin Hood, I’ve heard great things about Tsotsi. Therefore I’m sorry.

But X-Men Origins: Wolverine sucks great big ass.

Plot:
The movie tells the origin story of Wolverine, starting with his childhood in the 19th century, continuing through several wars until it reaches almost today. Logan aka Wolverine [Hugh Jackman] travels through the history with his brother Victor [Liev Schreiber], most of the time they are soldiers. One day they get recruited by William Stryker [Danny Huston] for a special ops team consisting of a few mutants [Most notably Ryan Reynolds, Will.I.Am and Dominic Monaghan]. While Victor is getting more reckless with every day, Logan can’t handle the unethical violence anymore. So, he parts ways with the rest of the group. But things can’t end like this and they don’t.

The movie has everything in abundance – plot holes, bad CGI, worse CGI fridging, WTF moments, … the only thing it lacks is quality and a little more naked Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber. This is already a contender for worst movie of the year in my book.

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[SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS]

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