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bob the moo

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An effective mini-Black Mirror with great visual effects, 29 March 2017

Like everyone else, I'll just jump in and state that this is like a small version of a Black Mirror story, since this seems to be the touchstone for any sci-fi plot that looks at the impact of technology. The plot here is about AR gaming, which most city/town centers will already show you we have, as school kids and older wander round looking at their phones hunting Pokémon. In this instance the technology is contact lenses that allow the pets you design to exist directly in your perceived vision, not just via your phone's camera.

The film does a good job to keep us in the moment, so we are not rushing ahead thinking about where it is going. We get to see things of interest in the main character; the infomercial style starts well, and leads into more of a reality of isolation that connects well with the modern experience (lying on the sofa alone, swiping around on the screen) but extends it so it is highlighted as an absurdity and a little tragic. This is extended well, and the conclusion to the film has more impact because of how well the film has kept us close to our current reality. The visual effects are also very good – technically impressive, but better for being a supporting role in the film and not the whole show.

A tired genre but delivered with a solid tone and content, for a contained story with some interesting themes for those that want them, 29 March 2017

Oh good another short film set in a post-apocalyptic world which consists of a desert location, some individual buildings, and a young cast who still manage to look like they came off a photoshoot. So far, so very obvious; and mostly it must be said the film doesn't totally shake off the tired genre that it is set in. However, the professionalism of the delivery just about carries it across. It has a good look with a lot of style in there, but not enough to break the feeling of place.

The plot asks you to go along with a lot of conveniences but it mostly engages thanks to some good dialogue which creates a sense of the stakes, and/or makes the viewer interested to see where it is going. The themes of boundaries of sexuality, or rather of strict definitions is there if you want it, but personally I thought that could have linked in more to the similar lack of clarity on the definitions of good/bad within the characters. The film deserves credit for being a solid watch in a mostly tired genre, and although it is not something brilliant, it is solid enough to hold the attention with what it does reasonably well.

Has a suitably absurd tone throughout, 29 March 2017

This film was apparently made by chance – some US filmmakers were in another European country at the time of the inauguration, and drove across to Slovenia to capture the mood in response to having one of their own inside the White House.

The construct is one of upbeat absurdity. The content mixes travelogue, quirky characters, baseless hope, entertaining oddities, and a general tone of absurdity that works very well. It isn't mocking, but it is a film of curious bemusement – which at this point more or less still reflects the view of the Trump presidency. That is wearing thin now perhaps, but certainly in the first days there was a feeling of disbelief and curious detachment – so the film's tone matches that well. How well that tone ages will need time to tell – but certainly it will not be the emotion towards Trump for long.

In the meantime, this is an amusing little curio of a film, and worth a look just for its well-judged tone.

Engaging and attractively packaged and delivered, 29 March 2017

I knew nothing about this film coming into it, other that it being very well considered, and that it has some strong sexual content. This is probably the best way to watch it, as I did not know where the plot was going to start or go. Essentially a con man plans to seduce, marry, and abandon a wealthy unmarried woman – taking her from her uncle and then taking her money. To do this he employs the services of a young pickpocket to work as her handmaiden, and help work the plan from the inside, so to speak.

What the film does with this basic plot is enjoyable and engaging. The narrative is solid, holds the interest without effort, and is very well paced and structured. I wonder would it work as well if I had known the source material, or had more knowledge of the wider plot. As a con, the plot is solidly enjoyable and avoids the silly flamboyance of some films where such a plot would be allowed to turn into a 'caper'. Within the plot are some surprisingly sexual elements, and these sit across the sweet, the sensual, and the dark. There is also a good amount of humor where it matters – in particular in part 1 of the film, this is used well in relation to the main character.

The direction, production values, and general pacing of the film, all work together to give it a beautiful appearance and tone. It is quite sensuous to watch, with such great colors, sets, costumes, and designs. Within this the actors are all strong. Min-hee Kim and Tae- ri Kim in particular are engaging, although the downside of me being into their characters/performances was that it made the heavy nudity in some of their extended scenes feel a bit exploitative in nature. Jung-woo Ha is solid throughout, and Jin-woong Jo is just the right level of monster for the plot to work.

A richly enjoyable film, that sits across so many elements and looks so good that it keeps the plot engaging throughout.

Cleverly original, scathing, and sharp – even if the oddity of it all did make it hard to penetrate, 29 March 2017

I had heard reviews of The Lobster and, while sounding interesting, it also sounded odd enough to delay me in getting round to seeing it. Like many have said, the plot is weird; single people are sent to a hotel and given a period of time to find a match or else they will be turned into the creature of their choosing and released to the wild. Those struggling can add days to their stay by being successful on hunts for those singles who have broken free and live as collective individuals in the woods.

The concept is cleverly constructed so that it is weirdly convincing despite its utter absurdity. Within this the film satirizes relationships, singles – in particular the extremes of those two situations. The push for companionship, with its common ground, and its rituals, and the digs at elements of life such as children distracting from conflict. Perhaps it hit a bit too close to home with its regimented rituals, and awkward neediness. On the other side the extreme version of singlehood is also dug at once we are in the woods. It is not as clever as some would tell you, nor as smart, but it is certainly interesting, darkly funny, and pretty engaging throughout. It doesn't pull it off totally, but I enjoyed it from start to finish – its oddity runs through from the ideas, the performances, down into the specific dialogue. Having such a great cast helps, but the tightness of creative vision throughout is what holds it all together. As odd and slightly unsuccessful as it is, it is still well worth watching.

Credit to it for its efforts and commitment, but it doesn't pull it off, 29 March 2017

I guess I should be target audience for this. I have seen quite a few short films from Daniels, and one in particular that I really liked seemed relevant here. Interesting Ball mocks the self- reflective type of film by being an absurd version of that type of thing, but at the same time I also liked that it managed to have an emotional core and engage in the way that many of those film don't do. This was in my mind watching Swiss Army Man because, try as it may, this film doesn't have the same success even though the approach is the same.

The plot reaches for something of an emotional core in the central relationship, their adventure, and the way they explore life (in so much as Hank knows it) as they try to get home. They do this by making full models of places, and reenacting interactions between Hank and a girl. Worth mentioning at this point that Hank's friend in all this, is Manny, who is a corpse who has the ability to talk, as well as having many other uses such as his farting acting as a jet-ski, or filling his mouth with ball-bearings and using him as a literal pump-action shotgun.

The key thing that stuck with me throughout the film, was how great it was that it exists. It is trying to balance absurd puerile comedy with something of greater profundity, and it is consistent in how it is trying to do it. So the creative vision is strong, and credit to those behind it for supporting it to be a final product. I genuinely was impressed by it for this element, and it is a shame then that it didn't work for me on any other level. It has its moments, but mostly it is not funny at all, and the heart of it really doesn't convince or engage. The comedy is too far into absurdity (but yet not producing laughs) while the attempts at finding a truth to the characters doesn't fly – feeling superficial in its efforts. In the end it doesn't have the grounding within this absurd fantasy to make it moving, nor to how the opposing poles together.

Again, credit to it for its efforts and commitment to the creative vision, but it doesn't work; at best it comes off amusing in a WTF sort of way, but mostly it is frustrating for not being able to pull it off.

Standby (2016)
Effective in the construction, editing, and delivery, 29 March 2017

Occurring entirely within a police car, this is a comedic tale of two beat bobbies and their relationship. The relationship is delivered in scenes of only 3-10 seconds in the most part, and they are edited together in a way that is tight but still effective. On the face of it the story and the film is quite a simple one, but the stress on the delivery is significant. The pressure to make every scene work and do so in such a short time – and for each scene to be part of a whole. It is impressive then that this pulls it off so well.

The film has a great snap to it, mixing moments of humor, annoyance, and emotion, all of which show a changing relationship between the two, but doesn't spend a lot of time doing any one thing. Some of the individual scenes maybe are not as strong as others, but at a few seconds each, it really doesn't matter. Performances are all on- point, and it is a nice touch that the male actor was a mainstay in the ITV show The Bill for so many years. Small, quick, but effective, well worth a look.

S1: Engaging and entertaining, with the strong delivery compensating for the feeling of cynical design in the construction (SPOILERS), 29 March 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I came into this show not knowing much about it, and was pretty impressed by how quickly it lays out its territory and puts the viewer in the genre and time. The show is very convincingly in the 80's – not an 80's that many of us grew up in perhaps, but certainly an 80's as it is recorded within popular films and media of the time. Within this place we also have a narrative that seems to fit at the time, albeit with the additional darkness and standards of modern shows.

It is the delivery of this that is a two-edged sword, but mostly the strengths win-out. The delivery of the story is of a good pace, with well-framed episodes that allow binge-watching, but also serve as nicely contained episodes so one doesn't feel too cheated by a cliffhanger if you don't pile on into it. There are areas which could have been explored more, but mostly I think it got it just right with the pace and length and content. The delivery of the cast also make it; the child actors are good, although at some point you can see that they are part of the genre/period furniture rather than characters themselves. Ryder, Harbour, Wolfhard, Brown, Dyer, and a few others are the hearts of the show, and their performances are great. Generally all the others give good support, however I didn't think Modine was particularly well used or cast in his role.

The downside of the delivery being so on-point is that it feels a little too targeted and cynical in seeking out its audience. The boxes feel ticked at times. From the music to the costumes, to the genre detail, to the performances – it is all so perfectly ET, Goonies, Stephen King, and so on. It is maybe not a fair criticism of the show, but at times I found the construction of it to be so impressive in how on the nose it all is, that it distracted me from the content. Hard to describe but it did feel like it was too precisely manufactured. This didn't win out at all though, just an occasional nag in my mind, although I hope that the success of the first season means it has more confidence to make such genre/period things into a 'bed' on which to grow, rather than its 'all' which it occasionally felt like here.

So a lot of nostalgia and probably too much, but it still makes for an engaging and entertaining season which has a lot of strength in the design and delivery in many key areas.

Rogue One (2016)
The action and nostalgia help cover a weak narrative and under-developed/used characters (SPOILERS), 29 March 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The power of the Star Wars brand is significant to say the least, and it is this that carries this film, although to say it does it alone is to do it a disservice – although it is a prequel to the original trilogy, this is not 'the' prequels in terms of quality. Unlike those films, this one gets the action and impact right. It has been said it has been made for adult, and it has in so much that it is not aimed at children – although those are not the same thing.

The plot dovetails into the original film nicely. There is a lot of nostalgic pleasure to be had seeing the various links to the original film, and there are plenty of direct references as well as 'easter eggs' in there to be had. This is different from the plot being good though, because mostly it isn't great. The action and movement covers for it, but mostly it seems to be a bit contrived in making scenes happen, and it doesn't really produce an organic feel to the end. In terms of tone it does have a good 'war movie' element – and the fact that pretty much everyone in it dies adds to this, but yet it didn't feel as dark as the content suggested.

Partly this is down to the plot not being as compelling or tight as it could have been, but it is also down to the characters not really winning me over. In some cases this is because they feel really undeveloped (Jyn, Andor) or just underused (almost everyone else). The action is great, and has plenty of effects while still managing to stay out of 'cartoonish' territory. The recreation of characters from the original film is also impressive – still ever so slightly 'uncanny valley' but impressive nonetheless. Credit to the sets, costumes, and casting too – it really has the look and feel of the original film; not just in the recreation of the sets, but in smaller things like the abundance of British actors (and in particular the use of generally older British men in the Empire's crews).

I did enjoy Rogue One for what it was, however at the same time I know that the nostalgia, branding, and big budget action did a lot to keep me entertained, even while the writing, characters, and narrative were all short of what they could have been. It is much better than the other prequels, but it is certainly not the Empire equivalent that some claim.

Distracting, with impressive effects; but no more than just an okay film, 29 March 2017

Another Marvel film. It doesn't matter how many well regarded subtitled films I have in my queue, or how much I suspect that any given Marvel movie will have the same strengthens and weaknesses as the others I've seen, I will watch these quite quickly when they are available to watch at home. That includes characters I have never heard of before, such as Ant-Man, and this one. The plot here sees a talented surgeon get in an accident, lose full control of his once talented hands, and seek out some power that may be able to cure him. That power turns out to be much more than this, and soon he is fighting pan dimensional forces to protect Earth from destruction.

There is plenty here that reminds you that you are part of a massive franchise of films, although to be fair Doctor Strange bares that weight pretty well, and mostly it just focuses on what it is doing and not so much on having a lot of connections to these other characters. Watching it as its own film, there is quite a lot to enjoy. The high-profile cast for instance; they bring a lot of quality even if some of them have little to do, and/or caused controversy by their casting. The special effects are probably the big thing though. Not only are they technically impressive (like almost all big blockbusters) but the nature of them is quite pleasing in the way it twists the world around. They are not enough to carry the film, but they do make a mark. Finally, the light humor works well, and helps it not take itself too seriously.

Sadly, outside of the cast and effects, what we have is an origin story for a character I have no reason to be interested in. The effects may be impressive, but they also limit how I could connect to the action. It all plays out with noise and movement, but the familiarity of the content meant I never really got into it. On one hand this is what I come to the marvel films for – so on that front the effects, humor, and noisy action all were present; however, as a total package Strange was only an 'okay' film that could have been much more.

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