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Valhalla Rising (2009)
In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king
Well, I'm not sure how to put this.
This isn't the movie you would expect. This is a raw and gritty movie, a festival for your eyes, a rare piece of art that dispenses with dialogue, plot and laws of logic for the sake of great cinematography/photography, gripping ambiance and mythology. VALHALLA RISING rendered me speechless. I can't even tell you if it's good - I just want to tell you that it's worth watching. Every minute of it. It is an experience.
We do not learn much of our (anti-)hero: a warrior-slave, Mads Mikkelsen, is freed from captivity and bands with a group of crusaders who intend on heading to the Holy Land, yet end up, well, in their own little hell.
There isn't much more to say to the plot, for it hardly matters - mythology matters here, the grand sceneries matter, and the underlying message matters. It aims at showing us how superfluous the Christian God seems in a world of violence; life as a farce in the face of intangible evil. Will you desert your (Christian) God when the time has come? Here lies its main agenda: in a world of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. He is indeed, he ties us to the elemental powers, and rises above.
A piece of art. Take your time, be patient, and you will enjoy it like no movie before.
Great idea meets poorly executed plot
I really tried to like it. The idea is innovative, the setting is great, the whole universe of DAYBREAKERS is quite appealing. Moviegoes who like vampire settings are guaranteed to like the beginning.
Yet then the plot sets in... and the action sequences. The plot is illogical and weakish, to say the least, and the action poorly done with bad and entirely unnecessary CGI. What started out as a great movie with an innovative story line quickly regresses into something of a direct-to-DVD-production. Ideas go up in flames like its vampires; potential is gloriously wasted. Sure, Ethan Hawke's vampire is meant to be pale and wooden, but even that should require some 'acting'. Willem Dafoe, whose character is the typical redneck, is supposed to be the comic relief, but happens to be more of a superfluous, unfunny cliché. I don't even want to mention the rest of the cast, since I can't remember anyone. Oh yeah, Sam Neill was the villain... and his character was another complete bore.
The problem with all my points: in the middle of the movie, you simply don't care anymore what happens on screen. You gain the confidence that there won't be any more surprises in DAYBREAKERS. Rest assured, there aren't.
... still speechless and completely overwhelmed...
We've been waiting a long time for this to turn up on the big screen... well, here it is, AVATAR, the new blockbuster by James Cameron, having devoured some 300 million dollars... was it worth it?
The Marine veteran Jack Sully, now handicapped, joins a research group on a moon called Pandora. These researchers employ so-called 'Avatars,' genetic reproductions of the Pandora natives, to win the natives' trust. These natives, the Navi, are physically superior beings, blue in color, and catlike in their motions; humans can connect with these clones and control them as if they were their own bodies. Reason for this whole endeavor is, of course, some rare resource that is beneath the natives' tribal home. Having learned to control his Avatar, Sully soon infiltrates the tribe - yet has to struggle with his conscience as he falls in love with a Navi huntress and the Navi highly complex traditions. In order to protect the natives, Scully will have to betray his own race...
Admittedly, Cameron's plot isn't very original: it sounds like a Western at first, where Native Americans fight to protect their lands against the imperialistic settlers, pushing the Frontier westwards. Also, you could easily employ the movie's plot onto the colonial times, where colonists exploited the native tribes of Africa, depriving them of their resources, leaving only barren wasteland behind.
The idea of the Avatar, however, is something that has never before been used so perfect: whereas it naturally offers a lot of potential conflicts and other problematic issues, the tension is rising with every passing minute - will the humans in charge just pull the plug? And although there are scenes which have been on the screen before, it never tires you.
Not a single boring moment in 166 minutes - that's a new record, I reckon. There are no lengths whatsoever - every grand landscape shot is exactly where it is supposed to be, and the movie never attempts to substitute some intrinsic deficit with its excellent computer animations. The CGI is indeed revolutionary; and it is used to compose the movie's essence. Trust me, you have never seen anything like it before. James Cameron has created a fantastic world second to none - he has created a whole new exciting, thrilling universe that you won't want to leave once you've been sucked into it. After the 166 minutes I wouldn't have bothered to watch another two hours.
Let's make this quick: if you are a fan of sci-fi and fantasy flicks, you are COMPELLED to watch this! Several times!
Cameron's Avatar is by far one of the best sci-fi/fantasy movies in years; even the late Star Trek cannot compete with this one... it is just so compelling, so forceful in its aesthetics and tone... it is THE perfect sci-fi/fantasy movie! It was worth to wait this long! Ultimately, I can't think of any other director who could've developed such a visual masterpiece from a mere vision from 15 years ago.
Event Horizon (1997)
Underrated sci-fi-horror that lacks consistency
Event Horizon is an often disregarded, underrated sci-fi-horror flick that has its sweet and effective moments, yet lacks the depth to be a true masterpiece of the genre.
A rescue mission is sent out into deep space towards Neptune to investigate a distress signal that seems to come from a supposedly lost derelict space craft - the Event Horizon. The experimental ship, which was able to create black holes in order to circumvent time and space, had not returned from its first journey through time and space. Upon entering the ship, however, the crew of the rescue mission quickly learn that the Event Horizon had better not returned...
The first half of the movie is brilliant: we are enjoying very good effects (especially in space, and Neptune), nice acting (by Sam Neill and Laurence Fishburne especially), an engaging setting, and an interesting plot. Added with the few effective scares, all signs are pointing to an instant classic. What I personally found quite compelling was the design of the Event Horizon - the gravity core and all the other obscure dwellings that score with their enigmatic nature.
Yet as soon as things slip out of control on the Event Horizon, the movie turns into a B-movie style horror slasher with a lot of action and few scares. Many critics were especially concerned with this ambivalent second half of Event Horizon; personally, I found it hard to dislike it, because it was entertaining, given that the movie didn't itself too serious. However, I reckon they could've gone deeper into the whole hell-dimension issue, since I found that idea quite engaging.
All things considered, I had a great time watching Event Horizon, and am happy to own the DVD of this rare sci-fi classic. It is, I reckon, the overall mood and tone of the film that will get you.
Star Trek (2009)
Sci-fi action at its best
This movie features sci-fi action at its best! I'm perfectly fine with Trekkies' 'this-ain't-no-longer-our-beloved-Star-Trek'-weeping and wailing, because this is the sci-fi flick we have been waiting for. Does anyone remember the last movie that featured top notch space battles, sweet action scenes, adorable characters, illogical plots, and, to sum it up, more entertainment than you can stomach?
The plot(if it is worth mentioning): some angry Romulan captain, called Nero, ventures through time and space to capture Spock in the past, since he is convinced that the Vulcan ambassador is responsible for the destruction of his home planet. He seeks vengeance - the destruction of Vulcan - and aspires the harsh end of the Federation. Well, as fate wants it, young Kirk and his fellows get in his way, realizing that they're too late, and that the time-line they were supposed to be in has gone to hell - thanks to Nero, the black-hole traveling redneck.
This sounds a lot like the ordinary sci-fi plot, and it surely is, yet it was executed so tremendously excellent, from the CGI, the characters (especially Kirk and young Spock), and the action, as I have mentioned afore. It is, bluntly put, brilliant entertainment that will leave your sci-fi desires satisfied until Cameron's AVATAR makes its way to the big screen in December.
If you haven't done so already, watch STAR TREK!
Entertaining, brainless ride
I must admit that I've had my brain at home while watching this in the theater, just like it's supposed to be. Instead, I enjoyed a ton of popcorn and coke. Well, I left the theater with mixed feelings, though strangely satisfied by all the mayhem.
Viewers will be greatly satisfied with the splendid first two thirds of the movie: the earthquake in California, the volcano, and the quite suspenseful escapes by plane - which are all excellently executed - will deliver perfect entertainment. John Cusack also does quite okay, along with all the other minor characters. You will stare at the screen, whispering 'What the f**k', praising the top notch CGI, attempting to process this gigantic scheme of destruction and mayhem... briefly, the first two thirds of '2012' plainly ROCK. You will love yourself for having decided to watch this!
Yet then... the last third will annoy you, even offend you to a certain extent. You will actually hope that 'The end is nigh'.
The reasons for this are mainly plot holes concerning the mounting of the arches, cliché-ridden drowning scenes, the lack of real suspense, and idiotic decisions by those in fictional charge. It fails to convince. Also, an Emmerich movie HAS to offer the typical dramatic and pompous speeches by those who have been blessed by an epiphany of the true meaning life (the mutinying scientist, for instance, who would nobly sacrifice himself and all else to save the lives of those left on earth). These moments are too cheesy, implausible, too melodramatic and don't really contribute to the whole enterprise. Oddly, they seem to be obligatory to Emmerich's film-making.
Gladly, the first two thirds will offer enough entertainment and satisfaction to ignore the ending. It's worth your money.
'Antichrist': calm yet terrifying.
'Antichrist' is a disturbing and oddly calm ride for the adult mind.
Disturbing due to its frequent scenes of violence and sexuality, which are as explicit as it gets. However, on the other hand, there are these beautiful, calm, surreal and peaceful moments of true art (e.g. the intro), suggesting a harsh contrast to the violence. As a matter of fact, it is them that rather contribute to the disturbing nature of the movie.
This collision of the two countervailing extremes - the unsettling moments of violence and the awkward quiescence - is the essence of von Trier's horror. Through this surreality of his scenes, which definitely deserve to be called art, oddly unfamiliar emotions are evoked that will haunt you. Thus the graphic scenes are obligatory to his vision of dread - they cannot be expunged. Otherwise, the movie would lose its cunning and its strength. The clash of contrasts invokes a certain kind of mental discomfort, yet not necessarily - and this is the point - an unpleasant one.
The story and its presentation deliver several points that cry for thorough analysis and interpretation; there are indeed various symbols and motives that recur throughout the movie.
In my opinion, the allegations of being a misogynistic movie cannot be sustained. Von Trier's representatives of both genders contribute equally to the resulting catastrophe: arrogance, distance, and the denial of emotions of Willen Dafoe's male character eventually trigger the psychic meltdown of his female counterpart. Reflection and thought turn love into hatred. Significantly, the recurring motives of witchcraft and the malice of nature gain the meaning of catalytic devices through which grief and guilt of Charlotte Gainsbourg's character are being processed. Yet her proving to be incapable of processing her loss, and her having been challenged by depression in the past, grief turns into pain and despair, evoking paranoia, schizophrenia, and, ultimately, the desire to mutilate and kill.
Not an easy movie of art that is worth the effort of viewing it.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
Poorly executed, trivial 'superhero' flick.
An awful movie that lurks in the shadows of the great X-Men and X-Men 2, expecting to attract 13-year-olds with a rather dim story, poor action and, hard to believe, without a climax.
At first glance, the movie features a decent cast (the excellent Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber for instance). Yet once you actually dive into this fourth X-Men-installment, you'll feel like you've been cheated.
That's mainly due to the triviality of the movie: there's simply no reason to watch an indestructible hero beat and kill hordes of villains if story, tension, the hero's one-liners, and the action sequences aren't well executed. Adding the laughable CGI effects and a poorly done love-story, there's not much to enjoy. In a sense, the whole flick is anticlimactic, rendering the whole experience dull and lame.
Having finished screening this movie, you still won't care about anything that was going on on the screen. You'll feel like you've been watching some badly done television action-mystery pilot.
I do understand that this is supposed to be an action movie without complex story lines, or any complex character development. Yet fans of movies and especially of the whole X-Men universe will be utterly disappointed and even offended by this B-movie. This movie belies your high expectations - and you won't see a decent action flick, which is a shame.
District 9 (2009)
A thoroughly disturbing vision presented in an excellent science-fiction movie
Peter Jackson and Neill Blomkamp raise the science-fiction genre to a new level this year.
District 9 has nothing in common with milestones like Alien or The Thing or Dark City; but this necessarily isn't a bad thing. Blomkamp's project is rather a socio-political, ethical approach to the question "what if?", presented in documentary filming style, of which it lets go in the right moment: when the personal story and struggle of the protagonist against his former company (the MNU, which seeks to commercially utilize the Prawns' weaponry) takes over.
District 9 is presented by very fast-paced, fascinating story-telling. It aims at invoking strong emotions like sympathy, empathy, loathing and horror among the audience by showing us scenes of men who act extraordinarily inhuman. These scenes feature, as one can easily imagine, a lot of gore, which is meant to be disturbing. Further, District 9 offers excellent CGI effects that have been nicely implemented into the movie.
In the end, a very realistic - and thus all the more disturbing - scenario is created by Blomkamp and Jackson, peering at the questionable conditions of the real South African slums in the vicinity of Johannesburg.
Poorly done, thus quite uninteresting.
Great - what a poorly done movie. I am a person who adores any kind of literature and loves good movies. The film being an adaptation of a fantasy trilogy that I haven't read, and the movie itself promising an interesting story that just advertises for the old paper medium, I just had to rent it on DVD to give it a shot. I should have rented the books, I assume.
There was no tension present over the whole length of 102 minutes, since the story just drags on an on without ever catching the audience's interest. This is mainly due to its poorly executed characters and uninteresting actors. Biggest disappointment was Andy Serkis, who totally failed giving birth to the story's main villain. Adding to this major flaw, a terrible script that is even outdone by most TV series nowadays helps to oppress any magic that might wanted to be conjured to the screen. Even the CGI effects were badly done - and too rare to be even worth mentioning. Yet concerning the genre of this movie and the possibilities of its source material, some nicely done CGI effects were the least fans could have expected. And, most significantly, since it completely fails to conjure any magic to the screen, CGI might have helped to create at least a visual spectacle - like many other mediocre movies do.
All in all it deserves 2 stars out of 10 for being totally uninteresting and boring, to a point even annoying. And all this though, sadly enough, I do love books and movies...