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petr_sfv

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201 reviews in total 
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When Woo remakes Hitchcock, 19 April 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Make no mistake: it takes a director of talent at the peak of his form to make a bad movie as good as this one. As pompous and uproariously stupid as MI2 is, it's compelling, kinetic and stylish - there's more artistry involved in this bombastic flick than it's immediately obvious.

Plot unfolds like Notorious on cocaine - I still have a hard time believing scriptwriter Ben Hecht, who penned the screenplay for Hitchcock's classic, wasn't credited in any shape or form here. For Woo, it's an intriguing starting point to play with his action figures, including Tom Cruise, the world's most popular G.I. Joe, surrounded by a remarkable cast. Luscious visuals with sharp colour palettes, balletic fights and a masterful homage to another auteur like Michael Mann are reasons enough to enjoy MI2.

The Mission Impossible series remains one of the most interesting sagas still unfolding - not for its narrative arc, which is flimsy at best, but for the triumph of gorgeous set pieces, each time with a different master action director at the helm.

7,5/10

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Sit by the river long enough and a good RPG will float by, 6 April 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

An underrated, competent old-school RPG, The River of Time is an interesting choice for genre fans as long as they don't expect the kind of slick narrative, vivid characters and deep choice & consequence seen in the likes of modern series like Dragon Age or the Witcher.

Pleasant graphics, a strong character system, solid combat and a fairly conventional but decent Tolkienesque setting provide enough interest to play it through. There is also a clear attempt to give NPCs a sharper characterization compared to the first game. Overall, The River of Time reminds me of the first Baldur's Gate in terms of mechanics and general feel and, although it doesn't quite reach the heights of Black Isle's masterpiece, it's still a satisfying effort - not the kind of game which inspires superlatives, but one you can find yourself playing late into the night.

7/10

The Party (1968)
We have a saying in India, 6 April 2014
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Is there a more iconic comedic prologue than The Party's, with Hrundi Bakshi (Peter Sellers, priceless), a bumbling actor involuntarily, repeatedly sabotaging some kind of schlocky adventure / period piece first by refusing to die, then by showing his wholly anachronistic watch and finally by blowing up the set while trying to tie his shoelaces? Because if there is, I can't think of one at the moment.

The movie belongs to veteran comedy director Blake Edwards and especially to Sellers, who provides an hilarious turn as Bakshi, a sweet, meek individual so clumsy and inclined to disaster, he is essentially the human version of a tornado. Material is droll, but at times so thin that with a lesser lead it would have collapsed - Sellers being who he is, the mere sight of him staring with awkward alarm at a toilet which refuses to stop flushing provokes laughter.

8,5/10

This is no longer a game for two players, 6 April 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A compelling mid-season climax, The Wolf and The Lion is also the point where the series took flight for me, with sharp, character-driven dialogue and an impending sense of menace looming over Ned Stark (Sean Bean), saddled with the task of unravelling sinister mysteries in the vipers' nest of King's Landing. When his daughter Arya (Maisie Williams) glimpses at a disguised Varys (Conleth Hill) plotting with the same man who interacted with the Targaryens beyond the sea a few episodes ago, we start to genuinely appreciate the scale and scope of the series and the many intrigues going on between the surface, with dark machinations ticking and falling into place like the gears of the superb title sequence.

Both spymaster Varys and social climber Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) begin to take shape as fearsomely skilled players, their verbal skirmish one of the highlights of the episode. Other scenes written for the adaptation are equally successful, such as a bitter heart-to-heart conversation between King Robert (Mark Addy) and Queen Cersei (Lena Headey), providing nuance to a relationship made of mutual loathing, and the confrontation between Ned and Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coaster-Waldau), the latter beginning to show glimpses of humanity under his smug, dangerous facade.

9/10

Inception (2010)
Dickian dreams, 3 April 2014
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Say what you want of Nolan, the new populist demigod of Hollywood: that his movies are overplotted, his themes overstated, his structure wonky. However, you have to give it to Chris: he is generous. Other writers/directors live and die by a single idea or gimmick, but he keeps throwing more and more ambitious stuff at the screen - from this point of view he reminds me of Philip K. Dick, another artist who casually introduced in a few pages more intriguing ideas than many of his colleagues in a whole saga.

Nolan has the same kind of high-concept vitality. Amnesiac protagonist trying to revenge his wife guided by the tattoos on his body and his Polaroid pictures (still his best). A bloody feud between two illusionists in early 20th century London, involving scientist Tesla and his creations.

And, in Inception, con men using a special technology to access people's dreams, navigate through them and steal their secrets. From the tone-perfect James Bond prologue to a veritable hurricane of set pieces, the movie transcends its limits - mostly its clunky, arbitrary rules and the fact the mechanics of the dream world are not exploited as creatively as they could have in action set pieces - and succeeds thanks to its juicy premise and a jaw-dropping cast, with Di Caprio in another of his "tormented young man" turns he has been perfecting since The Departed, always reliable Michael Caine, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy.

Then of course we have gorgeous Marion Cotillard in a sinister turn in what is probably the movie's most poignant, iconic idea - the protagonist, obsessed by his dead wife, tries to recreate her in a distorted, menacing memory in his fragile dream world.

8/10

Wasabi (2001)
Léon Gangnam style, 3 April 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A droll, fairly conventional action/comedy where anti-hero "tough cop who gets results" Hubert (Jean Reno) travels to Japan to investigate the death of an old flame of his and meets the daughter he never knew he had (Hirosue).

Thankfully, the movie is graced with the presence of Reno. With his quiet intelligence, rough charisma and lovably sullen demeanor, he is one of those rare actors who manage to elevate every trifle they star in.

Worth one viewing.

6,5/10

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Never hate your enemies, 23 March 2014
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Much of the blame for The Godfather: Part III not being on par with the previous chapters is usually laid on the shoulders of poor Sofia Coppola, whose scowling, blatantly inadequate performance (her father cast her as a last minute replacement for Winona Ryder, who had abandoned the project) certainly weakens the movie and stands out in a trilogy otherwise enriched by sublime acting.

Still, the original sin of Part III lies in its concept: having Michael Corleone "pay for his sins". Guess what? It had already happened. That particular brand of Pyrrhic villainy had been masterfully explored in the last act of Part II, with Michael, previously all about the family, ordering the murder of his brother, and his wife secretly practicing an abortion rather than having another son by him, an utter display of hatred and distance if ever there was one. The whole point of the conclusion of Part II was Michael emerging triumphant in his power struggle, but utterly alone on his throne, his hands soaked in blood - something which was executed so perfectly, this sequel was essentially born redundant.

This isn't to say Part III is worthless. Pacino brings a world-weary desperation to the part, while Garcia and Wallach convince in significant roles. Robert Duvall is sorely missed as Tom Hagen - his character was originally supposed to play a key role, but was cut because his monetary requests were deemed excessive by the studio. His absence leaves an obvious void, the calm and collected legal consigliere providing balance to the more emotional world of the Corleones.

The last act set in Sicily lacks urgency and focus but, Coppola being who he is, Part III still provides moments of exhilarating cinematic craft, culminating with a superb set-piece in an opera theater and a bitter coda sealing off Michael's saga.

7/10

We solve problems, 12 March 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Opulent graphics and compelling narrative are the strong points of this sword and sorcery RPG, sequel to the remarkable debut by Polish developer CDProjekt RED.

Characters like Roche, Foltest, Iorveth and Letho are sharply defined, the game-world they inhabit suitably ferocious (although exposition is handled somewhat less gracefully this time around). Fixed protagonist Geralt is once again an unflappable fantasy version of the Man with No Name. Choice & consequence moments are sprinkled throughout the game, determining which secondary characters live or bite the dust, and also the path pursued by Geralt - essentially with a common prologue and first act, two mutually exclusive second acts and a common last act with different possible outcomes.

While combat is an improvement over the first game's (action-oriented, with a difficulty spike very early on), gameplay overall isn't - character customization feels streamlined, secondary quests less meaty, a few quick time events vastly annoying, no location as varied as the city of Vizima in the Witcher.

Overall, a flawed but worthy effort, and the Witcher 3 looks interesting already.

7,5/10

Alien (1979)
I admire its purity, 12 March 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Never is the "less is more" mantra more evident than in the horror genre. Give us a fight between a giant muscled humanoid albino and an octopus-like creature and we'll think of the bespectacled special effect guy eating a taco in front of his PC screen as he is laboriously rendering the octopus' slime. Give us a maze of dark corridors where a monster is hiding, and our pulse rate rises. Our minds have been genetically programmed to feel fear; we don't need to be bludgeoned in the head with horrific imagery. Glimpsing something creepy out of the corner of the eye is more than enough.

Alien's closest kinship is not to the exhilarating but vastly different sequel Aliens, and certainly not to clunky, hit-and-miss prequel Prometheus, but to its contemporaries Jaws and The Thing, horror movies as lean and taut as hungry tigers, masterpieces tapping on primordial fears. For Alien, it's predators and rape: the first is self-explanatory, the second a disturbing undertone sprinkled throughout the whole movie, with the creature's attacks portrayed as increasingly sexualized in nature.

The quintessential contained sci-fi/horror, Alien's iconic status is a product of Scott's masterful direction, of the phenomenal visual effects with Giger's still unparalleled reptilian, lovecraftian monster, of a fine cast of character actors and of O'Bannon's script, as vicious, minimalist and menacing as a bear trap ready to snap. The brilliance of the premise - reminiscent of an episode of Van Vogt's "The Voyage of the Space Beagle" - is how it implies a dark universe full of unexplained looming threats, something which is both dangerous and beyond mankind's understanding. Then of course came Prometheus and started putting tags on what was best left merely alluded to.

At the end, Ian Holm's icy, smug Ash says it best: "Perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility. (...) I admire its purity. A survivor... unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality."

10/10

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Only around people, 9 March 2014
10/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It's tempting sometimes for those who write a movie review to treat it as a math test: count the mistakes to see how good it is.

Terrence Malick's sprawling, humanistic The Thin Red Line transcends that. In theory, its flaws are there for all to see. Structurally, it's a mess. It's too long. Pacing in the second half is cumbrous and stammering, the task to squeeze a final cut from all filmed material reportedly herculean. Cameos by celebrities like Clooney or a pencil moustached Travolta in unsubstantial roles feel more a jarring distraction than an asset.

And yet... as John Toll's luscious cinematography drives us through atolls and crystal-clear waters, vines and jungles pierced by sun rays, with crocodiles sinking in swamps and bright red snakes slithering on emerald grass, something unique happens. The Thin Red Line goes beyond a war movie about Guadalcanal and becomes richly textured, engrossing epic. Armies clash, and so do different philosophies. Malick plays with time and memory, quotes Proust, Homer and the Gospel, imbues the movie with a mystical quality. The five major players - Caviezel, Koteas, Penn, Chaplin and Nolte - provide deeply felt performances, while Zimmer crafts an haunting score enriched by Melanesian songs of rare beauty.

Malick's best, and on the short list of cinema's greatest movies, The Thin Red Line is a breathing, pulsating thing, incomplete and flawed and awe-inspiring as life itself can be.


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