Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
ListsAn error has ocurred. Please try again
Is it hell, purgatory, or heaven?
This film is absolutely mesmerising.
In many ways, it is also unlike anything else I've ever watched (although elements in its tone are familiar from Jarmusch's other works).
I ticked "contains spoilers" because this is meant to be a thorough review, but what is funny is that there isn't really anything anyone can spoil about this film, except the very fact that nothing major happens in the story.
So, Paterson, who lives in Paterson, wakes up on Monday morning at 6:10 without the need of an alarm clock. He lives with his beautiful wife who just had a dream about having twins. His apartment is a bit crammed but cosy and he has an ugly dog. He walks to work. He drives a bus. Before his shift he starts writing a new poem in his notebook. The poem opens with a mundane emotionless observation, so it could go either way (he could be a terrible poet or not) - as it develops, it turns out to be kinda good. He drives the bus through town, occasionally overhearing people's conversations and vaguely smiling at parts that he finds curious. He's off work, he walks home. He fixes the crooked letterbox. His wife is a bit of a black-and-white-obsessed manic pixie dream girl, but more earthy, more compassionate (is she real? she must be). He takes the dog out for a walk, ties it outside the local bar where he has exactly one drink and a chat with the owner.
Tuesday morning comes and it all starts again. Then Wednesday, Thursday, Friday... Minimal deviations from the routine, just little amusing bits here and there. A new poem every day. A new set of twins (there's so many in this town, are they real? they must be). A new black-and-white creative idea by his wife. A new conversation with the bartender.
Watching Paterson's days go by I caught myself finding this routine satisfying (in an almost obsessive-compulsive way) and wishing nothing will happen to break it. I kept wondering whether the routine was safe from major incidents but, being caught up in its nearly hypnotising rhythm, I mostly kept wondering whether this is real life or not.
Hence the title of this review.
There is no hint in the movie that this is not real life, except for the many coincidences (e.g. the recurrence of twins, the continuous references to the waterfall and to the name Paterson - the town, the bus, the person, the poem) and the almost surreal nature of every interaction the main character has with people he encounters outside the house and in streets that sometimes seem abandoned.
I didn't, myself, come away thinking it may not have been real life, but the question lingered in a more symbolic way: is Paterson happy? Is he trapped or is he liberated?
If I had to pick, I'd say that this life, for Paterson, is heaven:
He is a content man. This is highlighted every time others complain to him about their lives and he has nothing to offer in exchange. Nothing to complain about.
He is free from anger. Even in the (comparatively) worst moment of his week, when he should have been furious with his dog and maybe explode in rage against it, he looks at it and says serenely "I don't like you, Marvin".
He has perspective. I think it all ultimately boils down to this. Paterson knows what is and what isn't worth fussing about. He is fully aware of his bliss and he is not looking for anything bigger or better. A lot of this may be due to -what is only seen as a glimpse of a photograph and never talked about - his military past. His strict routine comes from it and so does the full appreciation of the fact that any daily setbacks/minor incidents are not life-or-death situations.
I think Adam Driver's own military past may have been crucial in him being perfectly cast in this role. He has a kind of rigidity and self-restraint which is not usual for an actor and is exactly the thing he can tap into when portraying Paterson, of Paterson, bus driver and poet.
BoJack Horseman (2014)
10 Things I Love About This Show
Please excuse the tone of this review, which is more of a love-letter rather than a descriptive evaluation, but I believe that "BoJack Horseman" is a high quality, unique, and groundbreaking show. Here's my ten reasons why, having watched up to season 4 at the point of this review:
1. "Slapstick subtext" (not my term - look it up to see the original analysis): What this show does is that it gets the characters to casually drop bits of deep and highly conscious self-psychoanalysis in the most low-key/non-dramatic way. What normally remains in the subtext of a typical drama (e.g. viewers can infer deeper conflicts and emotions from subtle cues in the acting) becomes fully disclosed in the most explicit way and in the most unexpected moment (i.e. no drum-roll, no climax). It's slapstick because it's in-your-face, it's funny because it's unexpected, but it's also highly meaningful.
2. It digs really deep. This show tackles the most crucial questions about human existence head-on and it unearths the deepest, most difficultly expressed, feelings/hopes and fears of the characters and of the audience.
3. Attention to detail (part I). The creators have paid attention to every little bit of the background of each scene. An obvious rewatchability factor, this element is really impressive. There's hidden jokes and references almost in every frame.
4. Attention to detail (part II): Continuity. It's just really well- planned and well-executed. In each episode you will find links and references to episodes even a season or two back, and you will struggle to find even the smallest continuity error (I don't think I've ever noticed any, despite multiple rewatches). They even add little bits of retcon to rectify implausibilities of older episodes and make the show's universe even more consistent.
5. The acting. It's top-notch, the main actors are totally nailing it and there's an impressive cast of guest/recurring actors who are doing an equally good job (I suspect more and more big names will guest star as the show's popularity keeps increasing).
6. The music. The creators have an excellent taste, each song selection and each original piece is incredibly fitting and meaningful.
7. The humour. (The very fact that I got to point 7 listing this show's strengths before getting to what would be the obvious main quality, is telling within itself). This show is hilarious.
8. The tongue-twisters. People say this show is "very punny" and it does indeed include a lot of word-play, but its signature move is the Dr. Seuss-like rhyming tongue twisters. They just add to the show's uniqueness and they are funny and fun to try and repeat.
9. The anthropomorphic animals. What I thought might be off-putting before I started watching this show (especially since I have a weird fear of horses) is actually incredibly cleverly done and adds a lot both to the characterisation and to the humour. You quickly get over the implausibility of the premise that this world consists of a mix of humans and human-sized/human-like animals when you think that a lot of people that you know - though not everyone, hence the selective animal...isation - actually remind you of animals (right? think of those Benedict Cumberbatch - Otter memes), not just in terms of physicality but also in terms of character/disposition. The added humour comes from the fact that the animal-like characters have real animal properties and reactions mixed in with their otherwise human behaviour.
10. Its take on social issues. No matter where you stand on social issues/ politics (and I happen to stand with the creators on most issues, as far as I can tell) you've got to hand it to the show for throwing in references and making a point about a variety of issues in a low-key, non-patronising way that does not interfere with everything else going on in the plot/humour/character development.
I could go on but I'll stop here. Just go watch this already!
The Good Doctor (2017)
OK for a Hallmark movie
In an era that is being hailed as the golden age of television, it is utterly baffling how this cheesefest made it on so many lists of "most anticipated new series".
The first episode is so basic and uninspired, it will make you cringe. Every single choice, every single detail, from the actors' lines and the way each scene develops, to the music score and the lighting is dull, unoriginal, and forced.
There's literally nothing one could say to spoil the plot of the pilot, because if you've seen the trailer you've seen everything: autistic savant gets hired as a surgeon - the hospital board objects - he saves a kid's life with his superhuman doctor skills - hospital board reconsiders, while the guy who hired him gives an inspirational speech. The latter may well have been written and acted by High School students (when the speech reaches its supposed climax, the music rises and the actor starts shouting, but the content is so dull, the whole scene falls completely flat).
The part I enjoyed the most was when, after a particularly cheesy scene, an advert for cheese popped on the screen. I do hope it was deliberate.
This Is Us (2016)
Half-way between Shonda Rhimes and Jill Soloway
I totally binge-watched this series: started on a Saturday afternoon and was done by Sunday evening. So the first thing to say about it is that it IS binge-worthy and that the overall experience is gratifying. I also cried A LOT.
The Pilot episode is excellent. Perfectly paced, with a great ending, where everything magically falls into place.
The whole first season is well-made. It doesn't have any major ups and downs, so I'd say it's a pretty solid season (18 episodes). Towards the end, one of the story-lines (Randall-William) dominates the plot and it is the one that delivers the season's climax, also coming to a full circle. The other story-lines have some flaws: Kevin and Kate's trajectories have a few too many back-n-forths, as if the writers are not too sure what to do with them, whereas Jack and Rebecca's story is dragged a bit past its natural ending point, clearly because it had to continue for a second season.
The overall feel of the series, as I said in my title, is a cross between Shonda Rhimes' style (Grey's Anatomy) and Jill Soloway's style (Six Ft Under, Transparent). Maybe there's other family drama series that are more comparable to "This is Us", but since I am not too familiar with other series of the genre, my impression is that it combines features from the aforementioned creators:
- It made me cry in nearly every episode, appealing directly to my emotions. This only ever happens to me with Grey's Anatomy, which has always been my "guilty pleasure". This means that the series is sentimental, not in a bad way (not melodramatic, that is), but it does place more emphasis on emotion rather than intellectual intricacy.
- It shares the dark humor and quirkiness of Six Feet Under and Transparent to some extent, although in a much more family-friendly/watered-down way. It touches upon the popular 'dysfunctional family' theme, although it likes to emphasise how the described families are probably as loving and close-knit as they come.
- It's a little bit on the soapy side, but it is rescued by its humor, originality, and authenticity of emotions, as well as some great performances (I'm not too keen on Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore as Jack and Rebecca, but I like everyone else, especially Sterling K. Brown, Susan Kelechi Watson, and Ron Cephas Jones as Randall, Beth, and William).
One last thing to say about the characters: although they are by no means one-dimensional, it is very interesting how they are all very good people. I assume it is done on purpose and I find it quite interesting how none of the characters are even average on the scale of niceness, they're all just super super nice and really loving and generous, despite everyone of them having to fight their own demons.
I'm looking forward to seeing where this is going next and how the characters are going to develop, despite some reservations that I have going into season #2, especially when it comes to dragged-out story-lines (and maybe slightly forced, e.g. the new Sophie arc, which kinda came out of nowhere).
One of two ways modern comicbook-based movies *should* go
Review by someone who is not a comic book fan.
Deadpool is really funny and it is really meta-. It is not just meta- it is meta-meta; like the titular character says at one point, it doesn't just break the proverbial fourth wall, but a wall within that wall.
Deadpool is also silly and it is fully aware of that silliness. It is written to feel like every choice in the script that remains faithful to comic book hero conventions is a fully conscious and somewhat ironic one.
That said, there's still a decent plot (barring the pretty basic/unremarkable bad guy) and, somehow, we can still feel for the main characters and root for their romance.
Coming back to my review title: I think this is a comic book adaptation done right. It's inventive, non-generic, and non-boring. With such an abundance of blockbuster adaptations nowadays, it's really hard to find one that stands out and doesn't just follow a recipe and the beaten path. It's even harder to find one that will appeal to an audience that likes cinema without being particularly interested in comic books and would like to see something more substantial than a generic action movie. I think the purely comedic and ironic take of Deadpool manages all that. I also think it's the only option to making great comic book adaptations, other than the gritty, dark, and realistic style that works so well in "Logan".
Ruby Sparks (2012)
Somewhat restricted by the rom-com genre
This movie is alright as far as rom-coms go. It's cute, more original that your average rom-com, with some dramatic undertones that give it a bit more substance (though this also means that, for a comedy, it doesn't invest as much as it could on its funny side). The main characters are consistently written and well-acted, the supporting characters are a bit stereotypical but not annoyingly so.
Zoe Kazan plays a "manic pixie dream girl" kind of character, the "dream girl" part being quite literal in this case, since she is supposed to be a character in a writer's mind who magically came to life. Paul Dano plays the writer, a dorky former-child-genius with a dark and controlling side (kinda like the "nice guy" tale who reveals a mean vengeful face when friendzoned by his crush). The story is mostly told from his perspective, going through an emotional journey that starts from disbelief, and goes through excitement, love, but also jealousy and anger.
It is precisely that darker side that I would have liked to explore more, although I understand that this would not technically work within the rom-com convention. I just felt that it would be fitting for this kind of story (with the advantage of meta-fiction/meta-narrative) to break out of the rom-com convention, experimenting with stranger and darker themes, playing more with the moral ambiguity and psychological disturbances of the main character.
Bottom line: nice and easy to watch, but somewhat restricted by staying faithful to its genre.
Less Pride and Prejudice! More Zombies!
Having seen many of the old - and slightly tired - screen adaptations of Jane Austen's book, I had been longing for a looser adaptation that would breathe new life into the story and would reflect a more modern representation of what counts as a strong female protagonist. Although I wasn't expecting a zombie parody to fully satisfy this need, I watched this film expecting a nice blend of comedy-romance-female badassery.
P&P&Z can indeed be credited with some achievements (and even dare-I-say improvements to the original dynamics of the plot): the female characters are also warriors, there is an external motivator to the plot, other than the dull issue of who is going to marry whom, there is action and there is even the potential of well-justified character development and motivation for the two central characters (e.g. there's no much to justify the moodiness of Mr Darcy in the original, other than his minor family troubles, whereas in this one he is a seasoned zombie hunter who has seen and lived through a lot) The problem is that the film (sticking to the P&P&Z book, I presume, which is a parodic exercise) decides to keep whole chunks of P&P intact, retaining the original text and feel, despite the zombie apocalypse that's added into the equation. With that, it feels that we're basically watching two films at once, switching between the two every now and then. The parts that integrate both concepts organically are very few, while at times the mixture between the two elements is done unsuccessfully, resulting in caricature.
I think the film should have taken itself more seriously, despite the ridiculousness of the premise, because it did have potential. If the P&P affiliation had been looser and the zombie apocalypse scenario had worked out as the main story-line, then we could have had a great movie.
I still liked the comedic feel though - Parson Collins (Matt Smith) in particular was great.
A Ghost Story (2017)
Atmospheric but unsatisfying
It may sound weird to call a film with minimal cast, dialogue, plot, and action too ambitious, but I think "A Ghost Story" aims too high and ultimately fails to deliver on its promises.
It's a film I really expected to be good. Using the concept of ghosts as a comment on love, loss, and existence, as well as the brilliant choice of the crudest, most unrealistic, and simultaneously most iconic/symbolic form of the ghost in the sheet, creates a very promising basis.
The first part of the film really worked for me: we see a masterful portrayal of grief from both sides of a couple separated by death, while witnessing the helplessness and loneliness that each of them experiences (with the difference that one of them can and will, eventually, move on). I would have loved it if the subject of the film had remained just that (maybe more appropriate for a short film format), also capitalising on the brief but clever and poetic encounter with the ghost next door.
Since it's not a short film, however, we eventually get more things thrown at us: the rapid passage of time, the various tenants (including a rather forced philosophical monologue by some random guy), time travel to the distant future and back to the distant past. It's clearly trying to make a poignant statement about the meaning(less) of human existence, but it doesn't quite get there. I thought that the last part of the film (especially since Ghost 2.0) was the weakest: the time-loop idea could have had a point if it had helped us explore the couple's dynamics in more depth, but it didn't really have the time to do that and instead it gave us an intentionally unsatisfying ending (i.e. leaving us hanging as an artistic choice).
In all, it's clearly a case of unfulfilled potential - or rather a case of unnecessarily making a great short film idea into a full-length feature.
It gets DARK
Like other reviews say: don't watch if you enjoy your pork-chops and steak because the film wants to turn you vegetarian and it may well succeed!
The interesting thing about this film is that it transitions through different moods and styles: there's cute/cuddly idyllic (reminiscent a bit of My Neighbor Totoro), there's crazy action comedy (weirdly reminiscent of Balkan style like Kusturica's), there's an element of caricature, but then there's also a really dark element which brings home the message about evil corporations (not even attempting to disguise the reference to Monsanto) and unethical treatment of animals. On the one hand this odd mixture of styles is a bit distracting, but on the other it somehow manages to tell a story that's both coherent and compelling.
Before I Fall (2017)
I'm too old for this
First of all let me say I didn't pick this film at random, I really am a sucker for this kind of plot device (i.e. Groundhog Day or more generally the 'change one thing in a chain of events and see how they turn out' premise). The problem is I've seen many good films that have used this in clever ways (Run Lola Run) or even average quality films that have at least managed to keep the suspense going (Butterfly Effect). I've even enjoyed a recent teenagery version of this in game format ("Life is Strange") which I think is the main reason why I thought I'd give this one a go.
Well, it is dull and predictable, not even trying to be subtle (the moral of the story is literally printed in big bold letters on a poster that the camera zooms on around 10 times throughout the film). The acting is meh, cinematography good but uninspired. I think it is exclusively aimed at a teenage audience that hasn't yet been exposed to better movies of this kind. I also can't imagine who else would like the godawful music score (OK, sorry teens, I admit this may be me getting old).
Bottom line: not suitable for over 25s.
And a note regarding films on Netflix (that we don't hear about anywhere else): they suck more often than not.
The Circle (2017)
Shallow, predictable, and patronising
What a monumental waste of A-class actors!
On paper, this film ticks all the right boxes: topical sci-fi, great actors in fitting roles, plot ingredients that should create great suspense...and yet, it completely fails to deliver at all levels.
I wanted to like this film, so I ignored the first few warning signs: the characters start off a bit one-dimensional, a slightly uninspired representation of Google/Facebook/Amazon-ehm I mean-"The Circle's" headquarters...But then came a couple of scenes that could (no exaggeration) be right out of a CollegeHumor parody video - except they were meant to be serious- and I knew something had gone really wrong with the script and direction.
15-20 minutes into the film everything becomes completely predictable. There isn't a single moment that has you on edge or wondering what's coming next, because everything is as blatant and simplistic as it could be. There's nothing novel about any of the characters or the major plot points. What is worse, the script just can't stop preaching:
"losing all our privacy is bad...mmkay?"
"big corporations shouldn't spy on us all the time...mmkay?"
"sacrificing your personal life in the name of a morally dubious career can have regrettable repercussions...mmkay?"
-NO SH!T movie! Thanks for letting us know, because, you know, we didn't have to write enough 10th grade essays about these things!
Bottom line: I know it's tempting, but don't watch unless you have time to waste. It's not even "so-bad-it's-good" bad, it's just incredibly dull.
Likable teenage fantasy - bad pacing
The main influence of this series isn't Doctor Who but Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There is a long list of similarities, from the high-school grounds being the center of adventures, to the teen angst, and to easy parallels between the two monster-fighting gangs (prime example: the reluctant ally who would hurt the main characters if it wasn't for a brain implant). The show does well to openly acknowledge this influence (mentioning the similarity to Buffy's "Hellmouth" in the very first episode), which is actually part of a very good start: at first, the show doesn't seem to take itself too seriously, throwing in lots of jokes and pop-culture references.
This good start is later spoiled by the very wrong pacing, which makes the show run out of steam and out of ideas remarkably quickly. It's as if the creators decided to condense 22 episodes into 8. The development of the characters and of the dynamics among them skips several steps, there's hardly any bonding, team-building and character-developing episodes, since almost every single episode past episode 3 addresses the main story arc and feels like a finale. The rushed nature of the whole season is so obvious that I can't help but thinking it was for external reasons (budget cuts leading to a much shorter season than originally planned maybe?). In any case, a good opportunity has been missed in this show. It *could* recover if a second season returns to a normal pace, but there are a lot of rushed plot lines that need to be fixed for this to work.
Ethniki Ellados (2015)
"Cool Runnings" in the Greek recession
The central concept is a reminder of the Disney classic "Cool Runnings": five very different people unite in order to form the most unlikely national team - curling being for Greece what bobsledding is for Jamaica.
Niki Aggelidou is a former volleyball teen champion, now a struggling divorced mother of a teenage daughter and a disabled ten-year-old son. After yet another failed job interview and with her practical and financial problems piling up, she decides to change her life and follow a crazy dream: to form the first national curling team in Greece. Niki manages to persuade her reluctant sister Froso, whose life as a talentless hair dresser in a failing marriage has also reached a dead end, to help her in her venture. Together they also recruit Foivi, an actress whose career and fame had been built on her exposure to the media and constant presence on the gossip columns rather than her actual talent.
After some research, the three women find the Greek-Canadian curling champion Christos Melitis and ask him to become their coach. He is not thrilled with the idea, given his past disappointments with how things work in Greece, which have also turned him into a recluse. When he is finally persuaded to help, the four of them recruit the last member of the team, bubbly Cypriot Stallo, who spends her time going to all sorts of talent show auditions.
The newly formed national curling team will have to fight against corrupted entrepreneurs, bureaucracy, the general gloominess of the Greek situation under the economic crisis, as well as to conquer their own fears, inhibitions, and complete lack of experience with the sport.
Ethniki Ellados is abundant in social messages(unsubtly criticising corruption, discrimination, lack of support from the state, the rise of neo-Nazi groups in multicultural neighborhoods etc) to a degree that could be deemed patronising. At the same time, however, it is full of heartwarming and inspiring moments of well-written and well-acted drama, sprinkled with Giorgos Kapoutzidis' ("Sto Para Pente", "Savvatogennimenes") familiar comedic style.
Ethniki Ellados is a powerful TV series, that bravely tackles a lot of taboo issues of modern Greece and tells a story of hope and perseverance against all obstacles.
Never Let Me Go (2010)
Why don't people love this movie?
I just finished watching this movie for the second time (a couple of months after my first viewing) and I wanted to write a review that does it justice, in reply to all the moderate-to-bad reviews that I've read around the internet.
Just to make it clear, I am not judging it as an adaptation of the book, since I haven't read it, so my review is solely based on what the film has to offer.
First of all, this film is beautiful. The cinematography is almost flawless, the pace is steady and calm and everything ties in splendidly with an excellent music score. In other words, this film is aesthetically rewarding.
As far as the acting is concerned, it surely deserves some praise: Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield are two of the most promising young actors and they do a great job here, and so does Keira Knightley.
Moving to the script, which is what seems to annoy most viewers in one way or another, my take is this:
-"Is this kind of society even possible?" Well, yes it is. Humans are, unfortunately, able of many cruel and twisted ideas which, in their respective time and context, might not even seem outrageous to the society they're part of (see slavery, genocides, Auschwitz) -"Why didn't they try to escape?" When you have an established system that reproduces itself through the years, the people-products of this system do not even realise that escaping is an option. Remember the horror stories they were brought up with (about the children who tried to escape) and just think of how much brain-washing had been done to them concerning their purpose in life. And, to link it to the real world once more, think of how many unfair and cruel societies have existed through the human history (old and recent): did everyone try to escape/change the situation? No - even if some people did try, the majority accepted their fate...out of fear, lack of hope, lack of information/brainwashing etc.
I'm saying all this to support the opinion that neither the premise of the movie nor the characters' choices were implausible, as some critics have claimed. On the contrary, the sentiments and the reactions felt familiar and realistic and that is why they were touching.
Yes, it's true that it is not a heroic story and the characters don't inspire great ideas. It is rather a portrait of the average human life, the life of millions of people who have lived hopeless lives, lives during which nothing astonishing happened except maybe for love, which is by itself important enough to bring value to a person's journey. And, as the heroine says in the end, no matter the reason or even its actual length, everyone's life journey feels short and kind of hopeless, an idea strengthened by the beautiful visual metaphor of the ship that is stranded in the sand.
All that, for me at least, is enough to make a great and pretty poetic film, which does not deserve the many poor reviews that it has been receiving.
Like Twilight, starring Justin Bieber. With annoying music
I usually don't bother writing bad reviews when I don't like a film, but this one gave me mixed feelings.
It is a high-school romance with lots of cliché themes that can usually be found in movies of this kind. It actually reminded me a lot of Twilight, despite the seemingly unrelated topic: girl reluctantly becomes lab partner to weird and secretive boy, there is an attraction between them but there's clearly something very wrong with him, he disappears from the school for days and he never follows the other kids to their parties at a near-water location. We see a lot of school life, small town and the heroes drive around in an old Chevy truck.
The only difference is that he is not a vampire. And he kinda looks like Justin Bieber.
If you're not put off yet by the above description then keep reading; I might actually have something positive to say about the potential of the story. Because it wasn't as lame as Twilight, and although we have seen similar story lines in other films, this was very cleverly given, not revealing the twists and secrets until the last minutes. The tension between the 2 heroes gradually builds up and the romance has a potential and some strong moments.
Too bad this potentially nice storyline was spoiled by teen movie traits. I'm giving 5* for the concept and some descent acting.
Oh, and the music is really annoying: I can't recall being annoyed by the music score of a film before, but this one is so boring and repetitive and it is in every single scene as if the whole movie was an MTV music video. It just won't shut up!