Archive for the ‘ film review ’ Category

The Bay (2012)

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Grisly, disgusting film with plenty of shocks and scares and all the other good stuff people go to horror movies to see. It’s extremely tense too, especially at the beginning when all seems quiet and calm as the voice of our sexy female protagonist warns us of the horrors to come. And it’s very well-edited and acted, and plausible in its own silly way, lending all the more to the realism of the events that unfold. Some of it is dumb, sure, but how this movie managed to get swept under the mainstream cinematic rug is beyond me.

Well worth watching, absolutely. You’ll never look at water the same way again, assuming you normally spend long periods of time staring at water, that is.

Watch it!

World War Z (2013)

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Tense, enjoyable action film with plenty of great moments and suspenseful/nail-biting action scenes, though the plot does feel a bit contrived and/or ridiculous at times, especially at the end. And Brad Pitt is way too pretty here to be taken seriously. It’s distracting. At least cut the man’s hair, damn it. What is this, a shampoo commercial?

Still, great film. Not the most intelligent in the world, granted, but it works in its own fun, sort-of mindless way. It’s well shot and directed and decently acted, even from Pitt surprisingly. Just a fun summer movie. Definitely better than average. Strongly recommended.

 

The Bling Ring (2013)

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Disappointing film from Sofia Coppola with little of her usual filmmaking charm and powerful, low-key psychological imagery. This is Coppola trying to be mainstream, I think, and failing because, frankly, she’s not a mainstream director, which is perfectly fine, damn it! Just make your usual weird crap and stop worrying about what mainstream audiences think! You’re one of the best filmmakers ever, dang it, you shouldn’t be lowering yourself to anyone’s standards!

Anyway, it does have its moments, and Emma Watson is pretty good, but the film doesn’t have very much conflict in it until the last 20 minutes or so, and by then, you just don’t care. And the characters here are so stupid and shallow. It’s infuriating. Another title for this could have easily been “Rich Idiots: The Movie.”

Undercooked and not very interesting. A definite disappointment.

 

Quick Reviews: Marie Antoinette (2006), Iron Man 3 (2013), The Living Daylights (1987), The Iceman (2012), The Unknown Woman (2006), Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), Licence to Kill (1989), Man of Steel (2013), This Is the End (2013)

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Marie Antoinette (2006)

Brilliantly funny hipster period piece. Extremely well shot, directed, acted, everything, especially the first two-thirds. Loved it. Sofia Coppola is a female Kubrick in a way; truly the best mainstream female director working today, and one of the best directors to come out in a long, long time. Better than her father, at least, who’s certainly no slouch himself.  The woman has such a strong filmmaking voice, maybe even a born filmmaker. She’s not for everyone, I’m sure, but man, to those who get her, what a treat. Who says women can’t make good films? Not this guy. Not anymore, at least. Strongly recommended.

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Iron Man 3 (2013)

Wacky action film that doesn’t always work. Weird plot, kind of goofy, stupid. Guy Pierce is good, as is James Badge Dale who plays his second banana, and the little kid, and Ben Kingsley of course, despite the SHOCKING BIG REVEAL in the second act. It’s entertaining and has its moments, but I didn’t like it as much as I enjoyed the second one. It’s just silly when you get right down to it, especially compared to the sort of realism the series established in the first two films. And what was with the “fire-breathing” scene? Dumb. Eh.

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The Living Daylights (1987)

Awesome, epic Bond. Romantic and sweeping; really takes the series to a whole new, totally unexpected level. It’s the Lawrence of Arabia of Bond films. Great acting all around too, especially from Timothy Dalton who certainly looks the part. He’s not as good as Roger Moore, but he’s definitely very good in the role. Better than Connery, that’s for sure. And the Bond girl is actually not just the eye candy for once, not totally at least, and the plot is so easy to follow. And what a great ending action set piece! Just a truly great piece of filmmaking, and one of the reasons I’ve fallen in love with this series. Strongly recommended.

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The Iceman (2012)

Decent, very well acted film with a premise that keeps things interesting enough despite the thing’s lack of conflict and plot for almost half its running time. Michael Shannon is brilliant as the sociopathic hit man, as are Ray Liotta and Chris Evans. Just extremely well acted all around. The editing is a bit odd at times though, and could have used some more stationary shots, and the dialogue is kind of clunky here and there, but nothing too terrible. The film is just a simple, solid, straightforward story with no big surprises or revelations or insights of any kind. It could have been deeper, sure, but it works as it is, I guess. Good, but not great. Watch for the acting.

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The Unknown Woman (2006)

Disturbing, rape and violence filled film I knew nothing about going into that left me crying and shaking in a corner by the time it was all said and done. The main character is really good here, especially considering what she’s put through. Granted it’s all movie “make-believe,” but man, those must have been quite the hellish scenes to shoot. The story itself is sick and disturbing, yet full of passion and immense, almost overwhelming sadness and longing. And it’s all held together by a strong emotional backbone that helps elevate the thing to a state well above what would otherwise be little more than exploitation.

But man is some of it hard to watch, especially the horrific flashback scenes of…I don’t even know what they were exactly. And that’s what makes the thing so frightening; you don’t know what happened to her exactly, or how she ended up where she did. You just get a few glimpses of it, some pieces of the puzzle, but you’re never told exactly what or why or how. I also really enjoyed the film’s distinct style and pace, and what a great, suspenseful first act. The ending didn’t make a whole lot of sense, what with the whole **SPOILERS** jail aspect, **END SPOILERS** but whatever. Pretty damn good film, but really hard to watch. Recommended, if you have the stomach for it.

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Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Pretty damn good, brainless sequel to a movie I hated. Yes it’s stupid and the plot makes little to no sense, like **SPOILERS** how the hell there wouldn’t be any space ships to provide security around Earth to prevent the kind of thing that happens at the end of the second act of this movie from happening, **END SPOILERS**, but so what? It’s fun and entertaining and well acted, and it has some pretty great moments of action, like the **SPOILERS** warp drive chase sequence where the Enterprise is blown apart and people get sucked into hyperspace. **END SPOILERS** Awesome. And so much running. Everything is frantic and fast paced and flashy, like living in a world run entirely by Apple, and that Benedict Cumberbatch, man, what a villain. Just mindless fun. Not sure why I enjoyed it way more than I did the first, but it was a definite improvement. Recommended.

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Licence to Kill (1989)

Violent, brutal Bond that reminded me a lot of Scarface. It’s very different, but not in a bad way, though it did take a while to get used to. It’s just a lot more grisly and violent and downright gory than most other Bond movies, with lots of mutilations and scenes torture and dismemberment. A sign of the times, I guess. There’s also a lot less sexism here, which I imagine is another sign of the times. And what a great end battle. Pretty good Bond, though very different.

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Man of Steel (2013)

An okay, overwhelmingly chaotic film with a few good moments here and there and some great action, though way, way, WAY too much destruction and death for a PG-13 film, especially at the end. And what was with all the 9/11 imagery? What the hell, Hollywood? Stop using tragic real life imagery to infuse your dumb, otherwise lifeless action movies with a sense of unearned emotional gravitas. It’s manipulative, lazy, and, frankly, a bit immoral. This isn’t a historical piece, folks, it’s just a stupid Superman movie. The guy flies around in a pair of tights, for crying out loud. No need to bring September 11th into it.

The editing too is quite terrible; it’s just too quick, and makes the whole thing feel like a two and a half hour commercial. There’s no sense of pause, no moment for any of the characters, and, in turn, the audience, to breathe. As a result, every scene of this movie feels exactly the same. Everything is shot at you at breakneck speed, faster than a speeding bullet, you could even say, har har. But seriously, there’s no tension, and very little suspense. Terrible, terrible editing. And such a stupid plot.

But it’s not a terrible movie, not completely. Like I said, it has its moments. It’s also very dark, especially at the end when Superman does something to someone you don’t quite expect a benevolent superhero to do. It definitely plays around with the mythology of the character, and I can see why some people would be angry with it, though I thought most of the changes it made were for the better. Still, it’s not a great movie. Not the worst thing in the world, but it certainly could have used a hell of a lot more work, namely with its editing.

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This Is the End (2013)

What the hell did I just watch? Ridiculous and clunky and way too long and self-indulgent. Very little of the film works once it kicks into gear after about minute 20 or so, and what does work makes very little to no sense. The film feels like it was written by a bunch of 12 year olds, and shot on a budget of $500. The cinematography/editing is awful and the mythology the thing tries to establish is spotty at best and highly inaccurate at worst, as much as a comedy about a bunch of celebrities stuck in the middle of the apocalypse can be inaccurate, that is. But, it has its moments. It’s very funny throughout, and some of the acting is pretty damn good, not just from Danny McBride who of course steals every scene he’s in, but also from lead Jay Baruchel who’s actually a pretty damn good actor. Why don’t people put him in more stuff? And the CGI actually doesn’t look half bad for a comedy. Not half bad at all.

But man, what a terrible story, and so poorly directed. Ugh. Felt like I was watching a student film at times. At least we get to see **SPOILERS** stupid James Franco and fat ugly untalented overrated Jonah Hill **END SPOILERS** bite the dust in a series of gruesome and twisted ways, the latter especially. Certainly didn’t see that coming. Not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, but not terrible. Has its moments, but not something I’d recommend going to see immediately. Or ever if you’re not a fan.

Mud (2012)

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Long, slow, somewhat dull film with a wonky, questionable plot that sort of picks up in the second act only to  fall on its face with a rather bizarre ending that seems like something out of another movie. And what terrible dialogue. It feels so written and fake, as though it were lifted straight from the novel I imagine it was taken from. Is this an adaptation? I don’t know. It’s certainly quite a clunky one if it is, and definitely not worthy of all the hype it’s getting. Not by a long shot.

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The film isn’t a complete disaster though; the cinematography is nice, the acting is decent to good, especially from the lead boy who isn’t the greatest actor ever but has a promising future if he keeps at it, and the plot, once it kicks in, is decent to interesting. Nothing spectacular mind you, but tolerable in its own small, insignificant way. Matthew McConaughey is okay here; not his greatest performance, but not his worst either. He’s charming and charismatic, but not as much as he should be. I don’t know how to describe it exactly. It just seems like there’s a block hanging over his performance here, like he’s trying to achieve greatness, or even just emotional believability, but something is holding him back, that something being the director probably considering every other performance in the film suffers from the same problem. The characters don’t seem quite there emotionally, I don’t know. It’s hard to describe. And Reese Witherspoon is in this? Where did she come from?

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Overall, not an awful film, despite my complaints, but not nearly as great as I’d heard it would be. It’s long and drags way too much, especially in the first act, the performances aren’t as good as they should be, the story is kind of stupid, and the ending with the whole **SPOILERS** action scene shootout **END SPOILERS** felt like something out of a completely different movie. And then there’s the ridiculous final scene. So dumb. Yeah okay, I get it, we **SPOILERS** needed a happy ending, **END SPOILERS** okay. But that’s what it’s going to be, really? How did that even happen exactly?

Anyway, okay film, nothing special. Overrated, definitely.

Never Say Never Again (1983)

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What the hell was this? A monstrosity masquerading as a James Bond film, with an ancient looking Sean Connery going to a wellness center at the beginning of the film, or was that a retirement home? What in god’s name were they thinking? A Bond movie that starts off with him being shipped off to a retirement home for being too old? Is this a joke? Not only that, but by sheer coincidence the retirement/wellness home happens to be the same place where the main villain is beginning to hatch his evil plan! Wow, what are the odds? And it only gets worse from there.

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God, I can’t even… This movie was so bad, so bad. I just about gave up once Rowan Atkinson showed up. And then the shark sonar, god, why? WHY?  Just awful and cheap and terrible in almost every respect. And Connery is so old and sleazy looking, and yet all the women just can’t get enough of him. And such a promising story too. How could you screw up something like this, and so badly? I don’t understand it. They didn’t even use the proper 007 title sequence for god’s sake. It was almost painful to keep watching, but I gritted my teeth and hung in there, hoping against hope for something, anything worth hanging on to. But nope. The villain is good, but everything else is a complete disaster.

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It’s almost intentionally terrible. It must have been. A clear punishment to the fans for their clear abandonment of Connery and their loyal devotion to Roger Moore, maybe. Well, consider me disciplined. Traumatized even, from Bond films, forever. It’s so bad. Words don’t do it justice.

Overall, stay away. Stay FAR FAR AWAY. Never Say Never Again indeed. NEVER EVER AGAIN.

 

 

Oblivion (2013)

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Enjoyable Tom Cruise sci-fi action flick with a mostly solid plot and mostly great visuals almost ruined by an ending that seems to completely give up on the whole “logic” element the film had worked so hard up until that point keeping relatively intact. Not sure what happened exactly. An hour and a half in, everything is going fine, then BAM!, logic, right out of the window. Damn it. And it was doing so well. But at least the rest is pretty good, much better than I was expecting, much much better.

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The film is extremely fun and enjoyable for the most part. The story is interesting and suspenseful, the action scenes are great, and the visuals are beautiful, though a bit over lit at times, making some of the quieter character moments look cheap, like something out of a soap opera. Even the acting is pretty good, especially from the Australian girl Andrea Riseborough who is fantastic and adorable as heck. The one scene where she’s **SPOILERS** killed by the floating robot thing in the second act **END SPOILERS** made me so angry, but then something else happens and it isn’t so bad. And Cruise is good too, fun to watch and stuff, though he’s definitely way too old for these kinds of roles. You had your action hero run, Cruise. It’s over. Focus on dramas now, damn it. I know you have some brilliant performances left in you; doing this action crap all the time certainly isn’t going to bring them about. I know dramas don’t pay as much or grant you nearly as much exposure, but frankly, you don’t need the money, or the attention.

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The ending is where the film really suffers. The whole third act, really, is a complete mess. And I’m not even sure what the hell Morgan Freeman was doing in this other than trying to act cool. But no, the whole **SPOILERS** flying into the spaceship with the bomb thing **END SPOILERS** made absolutely no sense. Like the giant **SPOILERS** super intelligent alien machine thing isn’t going to figure out his plan, or at least be suspicious enough to not let him inside. **END SPOILERS** Come on. Talk about straining credulity. And what the hell was the deal with the **SPOILERS** spaceship flashback that tried to explain how Cruise and Australian girl were captured in the first place. It didn’t make any sense at all. Why were they flying toward it, and with sleeping pods no less? Were they going to take a nap while they were there? **END SPOILERS** No sense whatsoever, which is especially odd considering how careful the film had been until that point to keep its logic consistent. But whatever: if you disregard the last 30 minutes or so it’s not so bad.

Overall, I liked the film, terrible third act and all. It’s fun and enjoyable and suspenseful and engaging and well acted and told, and, frankly, it’s a good science fiction story. It’s not perfect, no, but it’s better than I was expecting, much much better. Just a fun sci-fi action film, above average, save the last 30 minutes. It definitely could have used some trimming here and there too, but yeah, definitely worth watching.

The Edukators (2004)

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Okay film with an interesting concept/theme/overall message wrapped in some pretty terrible dialogue and a relatively predictable, cheesy love triangle that really ought to have been a smaller part of the overall film. Still, the film has its moments, and, as I mentioned before, the initial concept, that is, of a group of young “visionaries” breaking into the homes of rich people to make them feel less comfortable about their wealth, is good, though it’s abandoned much too early in favor of a kind of stupid road trip/cabin stay of sorts that never fully realizes its potential.

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The film just lacks focus, I think. It wants to be this big social commentary piece at first, then shifts to this stupid forbidden romance of sorts, then goes back to being a sort of social commentary piece after **SPOILERS** they kidnap the rich guy and hold him hostage for a little bit, **END SPOILERS** and then takes yet another turn into melodrama with the whole love triangle thing. Is this a romance or a social piece? Make up your mind, damn it.

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It’s also just not very interesting. It’s not boring per se, just not as exciting as its initial premise would lead you to believe. And the dialogue is awful. Maybe the subtitling was bad, I don’t know, but characters spout cheesy, predictable line after cheesy, predictable line throughout, especially at the beginning. Not that the acting helps matters much either, though the lead girl here, Julia Jentsch, is quite the hottie, tomboy vibe and all. The girl is sexy, what can I say?

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Overall, eh. Not a terrible movie; it does have its moments, and the last third or so sure is set in a pretty area. Made me wish I lived in the mountains, actually. And the message, what little of it there is, is interesting and unique and, initially, promising. Unfortunately it’s kind of toothless; the characters here don’t seem to really believe what they preach, despite the intensity of their preaching. They seem more focused on giving angry little speeches and engaging in petty little romances than actively pursuing their cause. Nothing about it feels authentic, or like they genuinely care or believe in what they’re trying to do, and maybe this was intentional, but then how do you explain the ending? It seems less like clever, intentional subtext/social commentary and more like poorly thought out writing to me. But, who knows.

Anyway, nothing special.

 

 

 

Trance (2013)

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Crazy dang movie with a twisty non-linear plot whose madness is only heightened by the patented off the wall Danny Boyle directorial style of crazy cuts, extreme closeups, insane visuals, and neon colored backgrounds that defines all his movies. This is cinematic insanity at its finest, and it’s brilliant for the most part, save a wonky plot that only seems to make less sense as it goes on, some questionable editing/pacing near the middle, and a weird ending I couldn’t make much sense of. But, strangely, I didn’t care. The plot may not be nearly as clever as it aspires to be, but the film is so fun, so well made, so utterly bonkers in every other possible respect that it almost surpasses the need for coherency. Almost. And what great acting all around, especially from James McAvoy who is such a good freaking actor. He has to do so much here, capture so many different moods in such a short amount of time, often within the same scene, and he pulls it all off brilliantly. The man is a powerhouse. I see an Oscar in his future, if he plays his cards right/the stars align.

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The film is just insane. Not sure how else to put it. The plot is insane, the style is insane, the acting from the lead is insane. It’s showy and over the top, which would be extremely annoying had anyone other than Boyle directed it, I imagine. The man is a master of the medium, clearly. Not sure how the hell he does it, how he knows exactly what cuts to use and music to play for maximum effect, but it works, all of it, brilliantly, even during moments where you have no idea what the hell is going on, which come often, especially in the last half or so. He may not always make the right decisions story wise, but visually, the man is a genius. He has a very distinct, instantly noticeable style, which is rare in filmmakers these days. It’s almost 90s Oliver Stone-esque at times, only flashier and even less coherent, if you can believe it. But, again, it works, somehow, magically. The mark of a truly gifted filmmaker.

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The story, yes, is a bit too nutty for its own good. It sort of makes sense if you don’t think about it too much, especially the stuff that happens in the second half when things really get wacky. I think the main issue with it is that it cheats; stuff happens in the second half that clearly wasn’t established in the first, or only works in a ludicrous, no way in hell sense you just wouldn’t get from a movie taking place in the real world. I understand that the structure of the story is supposed to be discombobulated given the main character’s fractured state of mind, but you can only use that tactic so many times to drive your film forward before it starts to ring hollow, especially at the end when the film takes **SPOILERS** a weird turn and decides to no longer follow our lead character, on account of his being dead and all. **END SPOILERS** And yet, it’s still all strange and choppy and difficult to get a handle on, especially that final scene. What the hell was going on there exactly? Who knows.

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Overall, I really liked this film, plot warts and all. It’s fun and suspenseful and extremely well done and entertaining, and really funny throughout. And the film is so dark despite being shot in such a frantic, jovial manner. Very odd contrast, yet it works. The acting is also really good, from McAvoy especially who is just brilliant, but also Vincent Cassel who has one of the most interesting faces I’ve ever seen in an actor. Rosario Dawson is good too, though a bit stiff at times, maybe intentionally, who knows. And man is she sexy here. Good for her, the stuff she does. Very bold. Wasn’t expecting it, but hey, she has nothing to be ashamed of. And some scenes are just great cinematically, like when **SPOILERS** McAvoy is recalling his experience yelling at that woman after she hits him with her car and all those arms are grabbing him and pulling him away from her, or the scene in the car when Dawson’s character is explaining to him what’s really going on and that sad music plays, or the whole final action sequence which is ridiculous and over the top, yes, but so tense and well shot. **END SPOILERS** Great stuff. Loved it.

It’s unconventional and wacky, sure, and the story goes off the rails more times than it ought to, and it doesn’t completely make sense when all is said and done, but it’s still a really good movie with a lot of great stuff to enjoy, from performances to visuals to individual scenes. It’s fun for the whole family, as they say. Just don’t take children to see it. But worth watching, absolutely. Strongly recommended.

The Hunting Party (2007)

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Mostly dumb film with a few decent moments/performances but a story that neglects to take itself as seriously as it should given its subject matter. It’s also rather conventional narratively and feels very “structured” as a result, though the beginning 10 minute montage of sorts was nice. But the inappropriately goofy tone throughout is what really kills it; this is a film about war, for crying out loud, not a cheap made for TV comedy. The direction and writing are the real problems here, I think.

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The thing is just hard to take seriously. There are stakes and they are serious, but it never feels like any of these characters see them as anything more than mild inconveniences, or fodder for a joke or goofy moment. The dialogue is occasionally clunky, or dumb, and the humor, again, feels forced and inappropriate. Even the more “emotional” moments of the film feel fake or otherwise unearned. The whole thing feels cheap and underdeveloped. The idea is good, sure, but the execution is mediocre at best, and an utter disaster at worst.

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Overall, didn’t much care for this film. The beginning is promising and enjoyable, and the performances are good for the most part, especially from Terrence Howard who isn’t given much to do but still manages to pull off being somewhat believable and charismatic. But as a whole, the film is a mess of shifting tones, inappropriate comedy, hum-drum cinematography, and unconvincing moments. A good story, yes, but a lousy execution. Don’t watch.