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A promising start, but a little full of itself.
Sense8 starts well, with a compelling story and intriguing characters. It slowly builds up tension as the characters start to understand that they are linked as part of a cluster of 8 people, able to communicate with each other remotely, and slip into the persona of another to use skills unique to one of the 8. It's a very interesting concept. The cinematography is excellent, filmed at 9 location scattered across the globe. That alone makes it worth while watching. However, it is not perfect. I read that Netflix had originally contracted the Wachowskis for 10 episodes, but after filming completed, the Wachowskis told Netflix that they needed to expand the show to 12 eps as they simply had too much content. Unfortunately, in my humble opinion, they would have been much better off sticking to 10 episodes. Some scenes seem to drag on unnecessarily. By the middle eps, the show starts to drag, it borders on becoming tedious. I suspect this show will have a higher than usual abandonment rate. Fortunately, the last 3 episodes really pick up the pace, and it ends well.
The scenes with Lito and Hernando were done in such a way that it made it seem that the Wachowskis were very in-your-face, defying you to state that they were unnecessarily bold, threatening to label you a homophobe if you didn't like them. The problem is that they simply dragged on far too long. No straight couple is given nearly the screen time embracing each other as Lito and Hernando. Yes, I know they are gay, yes, they kiss, yes, they have sex. I get it, why flog it to death? Why show essentially the same scene over and over again? When the couple breaks up (I checked the Contains Spoilers box), why did they carry on with Lito's anguish seemingly without end? Yes, he was emotionally distraught, I get it, stop beating me over the head with it. Those scenes just seemed to drag on forever, like they simply had this footage and used it as filler. More crisp editing certainly would have made for better storytelling.
The show is also quite dark. Many characters contemplate suicide, it seems to me that they hardly represent an alternate (or superior) human species, they are so weak emotionally, evolution would have long ago sentenced them to extinction. The emotional turmoil is almost too much to bear, the show starts off as sci-fi/action/mystery, but quickly devolves into "Steel Magnolias". Had I known it was so depressing in the middle episodes, I probably would not have started it. However, it does pick up the pace, and it does finish well. All in all, a fine start. Looking forward to season 2, and hopeful that the show will concentrate more on the mystery, and less on the tragedy.
Shao Lin si (1982)
Great martial arts movie, some odd plot points
If you can ignore the animal cruelty in the film, and just focus on the martial arts, this is truly an impressive film. Unfortunately, quite a bit of screen time is wasted while Jet Li accidentally kills a dog, and then proceeds to consume it. It is quite an odd scene, with other novices from the Shaolin Temple coming out of the trees to enjoy a good old German Shepherd kabob. There is another scene where a lamb's throat is crushed by a follower of the evil king, and his lackeys run around killing sheep with lances. I understand the setting was long before the existence of PETA, but it was nonetheless surprising (disturbing) to see actual animals butchered on camera.
Nevertheless, the Kung Fu in this movie is spectacular. Jet Li and his co-stars have such incredible command of their movements, it is breathtaking. The action sequences pull no punches, there are no comedic Jackie Chan moments, instead it is all-out war to the finish. In my humble opinion, the fight scenes are some of the best ever filmed.
Boh lei chun (1999)
Worst Jackie Chan film I have ever seen
Jackie Chan has made some good films (Police Force, Rumble in the Bronx, etc.), but most of his most recent work has been sub-par. This film hits a new low. It is incredibly dull, shored up by only 2 decent fight scenes in the entire movie (the second of which was marred by a ridiculous tango sequence midway through). There is little plot to speak of, other than Shu Qi going to Hong Kong because she finds a note in a bottle. The rest is pure rubbish. It is one of those Ernest films where the henchmen all look at each other, grab their faces, and scream at least 20 times in the movie. It was funny when the 3 Stooges did it back in the 40's, but it is no longer even remotely humorous.
Just about the only thing I can say about this horrid film is that the female lead is very attractive, hence the title. Other than that, this picture is a dog. The sparse action scenes have all been done (by Jackie Chan no less) in many other movies, and done considerably better. There is really nothing at all to the "love story", it is so incredibly contrived that it just comes off as a big joke.
Very very poor outing for Jackie Chan.
Tom yum goong (2005)
One of the best Martial Arts movies in years.
I just watched the 83 minute version, and it was AMAZING! This film was a great martial arts picture. The DVD I bought was the "Ultimate Edition", so it also came with the much longer (110 min) International version. I can't wait to check that out, and see if any good fight scenes were edited out of the US version. The scene where Tony Jaa is climbing the stairs, and fighting bad guys all the way up, was simply stunning. Best steady cam scene I have ever seen. And it was captured in one continuous 4-minute take, very impressive.
I have been a fan of Martial Arts movies for years, but this one truly stands out. Unfortunately, with the success of the Once Upon a Time in China series of films, most of the martial arts movies emerging from Hong Kong these days are following the same tired formula; heavily wired, invincible good guy performing impossible stunts, and far too many moronic sidekicks having Ernest-type moments. What ever happened to serious fight scenes? Why does there always have to be some bozo grabbing his toes and hopping around while making ridiculous faces? Why does Wong Fei Hung always have to perform incredibly obvious wire stunts instead of at least attempting to keep it realistic? The answer to all of those question is Tony Jaa. All of his fight sequences in this movie were incredible, and none were wire-guided. There were no 3 Stooges moments, instead they kept the tone serious. He was also a vicious fighter; in many movies they go to great lengths to show how bad the bad guys are, but then the hero merely knocks them down. Here, Tony Jaa shows no mercy at all. He breaks more bones than 10 Jet Li movies combined. He drives his opponents mercilessly into statues, breaks them in half, and cripples them. No punches are pulled, this is all out war.
A fabulous Martial Arts film, one of the best I have ever seen.
Tai ji: Zhang San Feng (1993)
Fine wire-guided martial arts flick but horrible filler between the fights.
Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh are both very accomplished Martial Artists. Their talents are on display in this wire-guided action movie. It is important to note that this is a wire-guided movie, because that may not be to all tastes. Chinese Martial Arts movies fall into 3 categories; no wires at all (Bruce Lee movies), partial wires to make the hits seem stronger (many Jackie Chan movies), and full blown wire-guided extravaganzas (Crouching Tiger, House of Flying Daggers, and this movie). Some people find it slightly ridiculous that the fighters are running up trees, making impossible moves, and dealing out punishment which often sends the opponent slithering half a KM away. This movie is full of that, so be warned. Nonetheless, the fight scenes are sometimes incredible, and at other times somewhat ridiculous.
Jet Li takes on an entire army in this movie, armed only with a length of bamboo. Naturally, he does incredibly well. Yet as enjoyable as the action scenes are, they are tied together by the most moronic filler scenes ever conceived. At one point, Jet Li thinks he is a duck and spends the next 20 minutes prancing around impersonating the animal. The "comedic" moments would have been better placed in an Ernest movie, they are that ridiculous. Also, many many people are killed in this movie, yet that doesn't stem the flow of Ernest moments. It would have been much better to take a more serious tone, something along the lines of House of Flying Daggers or Crouching Tiger. The filler is so frustratingly bad, the dialog is so stupid, and the acting so poor, that I could not give this movie a higher rating than a 5 despite the impressive fight sequences.
Le dernier combat (1983)
Every director has to start somewhere....
I am glad that Luc Besson moved on from this Cannes film festival fodder and into more entertaining movies. Although it does take a fair amount of gall to direct a post-apocalyptic film in black and white with absolutely no dialogue, it seemed obvious to me that it was geared for the Film Festival set; things happen incredibly slowly, and there is no explanation for many elements of the film (people can't talk, fish rain from the sky, etc.), but how could there be as there is no dialogue? If you absolutely must see everything Luc Besson has directed, then by all means, see this movie. But if you are looking for a well-made Besson, then search somewhere else. Luc Besson has directed such classics as Nikita, Leon, Subway, and Le Grand Bleu, all of which are infinitely more entertaining and watchable than this post-modernistic French cinema which was likely praised at the time of its release as the future of film. Fortunately, it wasn't, and Besson went on to bigger and better things.
Never Say Never Again (1983)
Much better than most Roger Moore Bond films
Very solid Bond outing, it is unfortunate that some Bond purists revile this entertaining film merely because of the legal hurdles it was forced to jump through in order to get made. Essentially, it is a remake of Thunderball, as the result of the lawsuits stipulated that was the only rights Kevin McClory had to the character. He did change the story significantly enough that you can discern the similarities, but in no way is it like watching Thunderball again.
This Bond is very entertaining. The Bond girls are excellent, the action is non-stop, and best of all, the puns are few, witty, and add to the overall experience as opposed to horribly mangling it as in most of the later Moore films. Whereas the Danjaq production company had Roger Moore portray Bond in a much more Ernest-like manner in the horridly flawed Moonraker, View to a Kill, and other post Live and Let Die films, Never Say Never Again sticks to a much more rugged portrayal of the secret agent. He is tough, ruthless, and unstoppable.
Starting with Spy Who Loved Me, and ending terribly with View to a Kill, Moore's Bond got increasingly effeminate, 3 Stoogish, and ridiculous with each movie. Although Spy remains a pretty solid effort, you can start to see how the producers had decided to stray more into the Home Alone type violence with cars ending up in trees, hit men biting through cable car cables, and action scenes more commonly found in Ernest movies than in Bonds. Puns started to overshadow the action, groaners revealing not the slightest shred of wit (culminating in the wince-inducing Die Another Day). Never Say Never Again fortunately returns to Bond's roots, providing great action sequences without the Bond-as-a-Dandy approach. The result is vastly more entertaining than the shockingly bad Moonraker, or any other 80's Bond picture.
A Sound of Thunder (2005)
A plot hole big enough to drive a Tyrannosaurus through.
I wonder how the scriptwriters failed to miss this blindingly obvious plot hole, but I really do have to point it out. The premise for this movie is the discovery of time travel, and a rather original way to make it lucrative. By sending time tourists back in time to hunt Tyrannosauruses, the company is providing a unique and profitable adventure. However, they constantly remind their patrons not to touch anything, not to stray off the path, and not to influence in any way the past for fear of altering the future.
As explained in the movie, killing a single bee 65 million years ago, could deprive a flower from being pollinated, and hence not provide an animal with food, then a prey from a meal, etc. etc. all the way down the 65 million year old road. Of course, any animal will simply eat the flower next to it if one didn't get pollinated, but that is not the plot hole to which I am referring. This concept of causing vast changes via a very small and insignificant event, is called the Butterfly Effect. And this movie bashes you on the head with that analogy.
In order to dramatically alter the future, one of the characters actually steps on and kills a butterfly (gee, how obvious a Butterfly Effect is that?), thereby changing the past and violently causing the downfall of mankind. That may be a bit of a stretch (to say the least), but there was also the matter of the volcano. The company picked a moment in time where a Tyrannosaurus Rex gets trapped in a tar pit and dies anyway, therefore shooting it first with ice bullets in no way alters its fate and thus avoids any conundrums for the future. Also, they picked a moment 5 minutes before a volcano blows in order to provide a margin of safety, should anything go wrong or get left behind, the volcano will wipe it out anyway. There is even a dramatic scene with the hero returning to the present day in the nick of time, just as the destruction wrought by the volcano arrives to wipe out everything in the past. Do you see the problem here? How in the world could stepping on a single butterfly one minute before it was to be incinerated by a volcano have any impact at all on the future? Even if some butterfly-eating predator was deprived of a meal, the movie demonstrated in intimate detail that the volcano wiped out everything, including the butterfly and anything within 100 miles that was planning on eating it! So a butterfly living one minute less than fate had provided for it is supposed to turn the Earth into a paradise of monkey-lizards? That makes no sense at all! People who see this movie are expected to be pretty loose with the plot, after all they have to accept time travel and all the conundrums that evokes. But I still find it amazing that the single event on which the entire movie is premised, is so fundamentally flawed.
Other reviewers have commented on the fantastically bad special effects, but at least one of them provided an explanation. Apparently, the production company decided to screen test the movie prior to putting the finishing touches on the effects. When the abysmally bad response came back, they threw in the towel rather than throw good money after bad, and the effects were never improved upon. Too bad, the dinosaur wasn't that bad, neither was the actual event which projected them back in time. There was a hilarious green-screen on the sidewalk scene which was so poorly done it was incredibly obvious that the actors were walking on a treadmill. A few finishing touches would certainly have improved the whole, but the plot would still have bite marks large enough to fall through. Ha ha.
My Own Private Idaho (1991)
Absolute rubbish posing as art
This film is almost impossible to watch, and will only be praised by either jaded film critics or people feigning artistic understanding. I suspect the only reason this film has any following at all is that it doesn't follow the typical path to tell its story, rather it is a mishmash of disjointed images strung together with "Theatre of the Absurd" dialog. It is incredibly boring, pretentious, and fantastically frustrating. It also throws the whoring homosexual lifestyle of two losers back in your face, daring you to criticize the movie and thus be branded a homophobe. What an incredible waste of time.
I am sure film critics everywhere are raving about this (no doubt) Cannes Film Festival fodder, however that just shows you that existential film making is still only the darling of the festival circuit. It is yet another in a long list of "if you didn't understand my movie, you are a plebeian" pet projects from a director throwing nonsensical moments together and pretending they have meaning. Ho hum, what tripe.
What a bunch of spoiled brats.
I bought this movie at the same time as U2's Rattle and Hum. I had thought they were more or less the same type of "concert-film". Unfortunately, that is not the case. Rattle and Hum is one of the best concert movies I own, but I doubt I will ever watch "Some Kind of Monster" again. It is a documentary on Metallica's creation of their latest album, "St. Anger". And what is very surprising, it shows over and over again how puerile the members of the band are. Lars is nothing more than a baby, constantly whining about things which would only concern kindergarten kids. It is absolutely no surprise that he so vigorously pursued Napster after seeing how he is in "real life", it was completely in line with his character. James Hetfield is not much better, although he would equate to a primary schooler rather than an out-and-out baby. He would pick fights for the smallest slight, and he and Lars would argue like pre-schoolers.
There is not a single complete song heard in the movie despite many concert clips. Every song is cut-off about 30 seconds into it just to show some additional petty little fight the band is once again trying to work out. It is almost like Lars was only willing to give movie-goers a "free sample" of his music rather than the full song. I guess you also need to purchase St. Anger to hear the complete songs. It's the only "album-making-of" movie I have ever seen where you don't even get to listen to the songs! I am a fan of Metallica and have been since the days of "Kill Em All". I am also the opposite of most Metallica fans in that I think the Black Album is a great album. Metallica fans divide themselves along the Black Album / Bob Rock line; purists believe that only albums made before the Black album are any good, mainstream fans believe that ever since the arrival of Bob Rock has the band been any good. Personally, I like all of their music, from "Seek and Destroy", to "For Whom the Bells Toll", to "Master of Puppets". But I have to say that no album works as a whole as well as the Black Album, one of the finest pure rock and roll albums ever released. And if that makes me a Metallica "bandwagon heathen", then so be it. (For that matter, I also couldn't care less if Greedo shot first).
I don't think Metallica should have made this movie. It just made me think they were a bunch of spoiled children. I would have preferred to continue to think of them as rock and roll superstars. I understand perfectly why Jason left the band, it would have driven me insane after 14 years of putting up with all of that garbage. There is a particularly funny scene where Lars is selling some of his art collection "to let others share the artwork" as he states. He then goes on about how it is not about the money, but it is much higher than that. Of course he doesn't donate his newfound riches to an art museum or anything like that, but when he sees some of the paintings selling for millions, he is laughing like a spoiled little rich kid.
All in all, a waste of time. I expected a concert-movie, and instead got a documentary about a bunch of whiny children pretending to be adults.