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.

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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.

From Up on Poppy Hill (2011)

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Interesting, emotionally complex little film with kind of a stretched plot that really ought to have focused less on the predictable “save the clubhouse”  story and more on the deep, complicated relationship between the main character and her male friend. Still, it’s a good movie, even great at times, with some rather devastating scenes that are surprisingly quite heartbreaking, especially for a kid’s film. Is this movie a kid’s film? It’s humorous and light and cartoony like a kid’s film, sure, but there’s nothing magical or eccentric or over the top about it. It’s very much grounded in reality, almost to the point where you wonder why they even bothered to make it a cartoon at all when a live action film would have worked just as well, and would have probably been cheaper. Maybe it wouldn’t have looked as nice, but there’s nothing about this film that screams “cartoon!” in the way, say, a Disney or Pixar film might, or even a typical Asian anime.

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The thing is a children’s cartoon drama, plain and simple. I didn’t know such a thing existed, or was even possible, but there you go. It’s actually more dramatic and emotional than most dramas I know of, and, for a children’s film, it sure does deal with some pretty damn complicated emotional issues, stuff I’ve rarely ever seen dealt with anywhere before, children’s film or otherwise. Is this a good thing? Well, for adults, I’d say yes, because, well, wow. The stuff that’s revealed is just so thought-provoking and heart wrenching, and yet the way it unfolds is so honest and emotional that you wonder just who in the hell this film was made for exactly. Certainly not kids, at least not most kids given the complex nature of the relationship the two leads here have. And yet, it’s a cartoon. A serious, restrained cartoon by Western standards, but a cartoon nonetheless. And everyone knows adults don’t usually watch cartoons on the big screen, so, what was the thought pattern that went into making it exactly? Very, very odd.

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Not that I’m complaining; I love experimental type stuff like this, especially when it works, and it does here very much for the most part. I particularly admired how very little BS this film has, how very little “fluff” there is and how very few “tricks” it uses to get its themes across. Nothing is over the top or unnatural, save the whole “clubhouse” subplot which takes up way too much time and has its moments but felt very typical and forced and frankly couldn’t hold a candle to the far, far more interesting main story. Still, I can forgive it. It was trying to appeal to kids, I understand, trying to have its cake and eat it too, as they say. I just wish they hadn’t let it go on and on and on the way they did. But the film has such moments of sadness, like the **SPOILERS** devastating dream sequence that was just about one of the most emotional things I’ve ever seen in a film, or when the male lead finally tells the female lead why he’d been acting so distant toward her over the last few days, and the shocked silence that follows. **END SPOILERS** Just brutal. And so much restraint on the part of the filmmakers, using so little to convey so much. It’s extremely effective.

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Overall, man, this movie, let me tell you. If you’re expecting a nice happy silly fluffy laugh a minute comedy, you’re in for quite the punch to the gut. Rich, three-dimensional characters and emotional complexity galore. The film also raises some pretty deep philosophical questions about the nature of love and relationships and family, most of which may be off-putting to some viewers, at least initially. But that’s what makes the film so effective, this question of romance and family and satisfying deep emotional needs. It’s a tricky subject. Are **SPOILERS** their feelings for one another before the big revelation at the end **END SPOILERS** immoral? I don’t know. It’s a tough question, especially when raised in this context. And that’s what makes the film as good as it is, even genius at times, stupid crappy clubhouse subplot and all. And the voice acting was decent, though Aubrey Plaza? Really? Ugh.

Anyway, worth watching, absolutely, even if it is a bit slow in parts. Not really a kid’s film though. But go see it anyway! The world needs more children’s cartoon dramas!

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

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Decent Bond with a very slow first act that seems to go on forever, but eventually takes a turn for the better once the plot sort of kicks in and the world is thrust into sudden danger yet again, I think. I don’t really remember. The plot escapes me, though I think it had something to do with nuclear weapons and a submarine, I don’t know. It wasn’t entirely preposterous, just somewhat so, which is rare for a Bond film given their tendency to have really ridiculous, over the top plots full of crazy schemes that would never in a million years happen in “real life.” The plot isn’t too zany here, though not too memorable either, I guess. Everything else is okay for the most part.

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Not much to say about this one. Other than the meandering first third, it’s typical Bond. The action set pieces are okay, though the first one with the parachute was somewhat impressive, if a bit tired. And yeah there are plenty of half-naked women all over the place, more so than in most Bond movies come to think of it. There’s even some actual brief nudity here and there, which was somewhat surprising. Bond films have always given the illusion of nudity, but to outright show it like they do here? Wow. Bold. And so much sexual innuendo. Individual moments do feel a bit recycled though, especially near the end with the **SPOILERS** villain’s indoor fortress rail system **END SPOILERS** looking suspiciously like the one Dr. No has at the end of one of the films he’s in. What happened, guys, did you run out of evil villain layer ideas? The romance was a nice touch, though, especially the predictable yet nonetheless creative “twist” in the second act where she **SPOILERS** promises to kill Bond once the mission is over. **END SPOILERS** Made for some nice moments.

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Overall, not a bad Bond. Certainly not the best, just good, barely. The plot was good but the execution is stale at times, though mostly because it feels like a rip off of what other Bond films have done in the past. And the first half hour or so is so slow, ugh. Roger Moore is good at least, though he doesn’t have as much to do despite being the main character. But the romance was interesting, and the ending battle is **SPOILERS** surprisingly quick and brutal. **END SPOILERS** No big epic battle there, strangely enough.

So, not a bad film, just nothing special. Worth watching if you’re a completist.

Evil Dead (2013)

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Stupid, gore filled film full of terrible acting/dialogue, an incomprehensible plot, very little to no true tension or scares or passion of any kind, and some of the worst “violence for violence’s sake” moments I’ve ever seen in a “horror” movie, if you can even call it that. Sure, it has all the artificial makings of a horror film: cheap scares, creepy atmosphere, demonic possession, pretty people being offed in increasingly graphic ways, etc etc, but is it a true horror film? I don’t know. Is watching people being mangled and murdered for one and a half hours in an assortment of disgusting supernatural ways horror, especially when said murder and dismemberment is done in such a soulless, uninteresting manner? I’d say no. Gore aside, I’d say this movie is about as much a horror film as Michael Bay’s Transformers is a science fiction film. All the surface elements are there, but god, my eyes, why? Just awful on almost every front.

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The film is soulless, plain and simple. There’s no tension, as I mentioned before, save a little bit at the beginning when you’re wondering when all the mayhem is going to start, but once it does it’s nothing but mediocre gore scene after mediocre gore scene. They’re not even particularly creative or scary or even remotely emotional, thanks to some terrible, clichéd dialogue and some of the most god awful acting I’ve seen in a mainstream film in ages. Do any of these people even know how to act? Isn’t Jane Levy, the sort of lead here, the main character of a television show? Did she somehow forget how to act whenever she showed up on set for this? Or are the filmmakers to blame here? Or is it a mix of both? You just don’t care about these people, because there’s nothing to care about. Main character and her brother aside, there’s almost no character development, and what little there is is stupid and boring. And did I mention it isn’t scary? And no, I don’t count the repeated urge to vomit from something disgusting happening on-screen frightening. And this film had the nerve to tout itself as the most horrifying film you’ll ever see? What!?!? Talk about false advertising.

There are a few jump scenes here and there, sure, and one moment at the end of the first act where **SPOILERS** Levy’s character tells her stupid pretty boy brother who can’t act for squat what she saw in the woods **END SPOILERS** that was somewhat chilling, and, surprisingly, not terribly acted, but everything else is more or less gore for gore’s sake. In fact, it was around the time one of the characters is **SPOILERS** getting stabbed repeatedly in the face with a syringe **END SPOILERS** that I thought to myself, why the hell am I watching this? It’s not entertaining, it’s not interesting, it’s not clever, it’s not scary, it’s not even particularly convincing. Not one of these characters is even remotely sympathetic or acts in a way I would describe as intelligent, rational, or even “not completely moronic.”

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I mean, the **SPOILERS** long-haired 70s hippy model guy obviously hired for his looks sees the warnings scrawled all over the book specifically warning him to NOT READ THE GOD DAMN PASSAGE THAT’S BEEN REPEATEDLY CROSSED OUT aloud, but what does he do, for absolutely no reason whatsoever? Goes OUT OF HIS WAY to trace the book’s forbidden passage on a piece of paper AND READS THE GOD DAMN THING ALOUD. **END SPOILERS** Alone. For no reason whatsoever. And this after **SPOILERS** finding an entire basement full of DEAD CATS HANGING FROM THE CEILING, **END SPOILERS** which by the way is never explained, as most things in this film aren’t. And he did this not as a dare or a bet, mind you, or even as an implied bit of curiosity. Nope. He just went and did it, no motivation, not even much emotion on that pretty, pretty face of his that is surely the main reason he got this role in the first place. Also, who the hell continues to stay in a cabin after finding **SPOILERS** a bunch of dead cats hanging from a ceiling in its basement **END SPOILERS** anyway? What rational person would do that, let alone a whole group? Oh, poorly written morons, right. Just lazy, lazy writing, filmmaking, everything. God. Awful.

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Overall, I didn’t much care for this film, if you hadn’t been able to tell up until this point. There’s so many problems with this thing that I could probably write another couple of pages on of it, like how the plot, despite being dumb and cliché, with a long copied and parodied premise it makes no attempt to spin into anything original at any point, is still needlessly dense and convoluted and completely incomprehensible at times. How does one make a cliché confusing, exactly? How does one make the predictable utterly incomprehensible? Who the hell knows, but this film does it, again and again, and not in a good way. And the ending, ugh. Arguably the only visually interesting scene in the film, but what the hell was going on exactly? Why, what, huh? How? And the scene before that, with the **SPOILERS** makeshift defibrillator. Really? Out of two syringes and a battery? **END SPOILERS** What is this, Macgyver? Did this film suddenly turn into a cartoon? Oh, and the style of this film, so forced and in your face. No subtlety to it whatsoever. Yes, it’s a horror film, we get it. Try putting a little more effort on the script next time, eh?

There’s no redeeming value to this film whatsoever. A few pretty visuals here and there don’t make up for the terrible acting/writing/cinematography/directing/lack of scares. This is not a horror film. It’s just gore for gore’s sake, and it’s not even particularly creative or well done gore. Gore in of itself isn’t scary. Maybe to some it is, but not to me. At least the music was good. But this is one of the worst “horror” films I’ve ever seen. Just generic and soulless and uninspired at almost every level. Avoid.