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The Cobbler (2014)
Good, low-key entertainment
If you don't like Adam Sandler films, don't read any reviews because you have no reason to watch The Cobbler.
I would have given this a 7 but the ending was fairly by-the-numbers and in hindsight, the film could have been funnier.
I enjoyed it; Adam Sandler gives a somewhat stripped-back performance (i.e. his voice is less whiny) and it's an interesting idea. The plot is fairly predictable, although it does get a bit rapey part way through. There were a fair few laugh-out-loud moments and Sandler does have a way of projecting his emotions no matter how trite and manipulative they may be.
I think the film's current 5.8 is good because it lowers your expectations thereby increasing your enjoyment of the film and inspiring better reviews than it may otherwise have received.
Jupiter Ascending (2015)
Fantastic or Laughable depending on your mood(/age)
Well I enjoyed it! I read the negative reviews, saw the slightly-under-6 IMDb rating (to date) and almost wrote it off but luckily, I'm a fan of both lead actors (Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis) and I love Sci Fi so I gave it a chance.
First off, the Sci Fi element is fantastic. The new technology, gadgets and aliens are brilliant. One species in particular reminded me of the Scarrans in Farscape. I wish they'd had a bigger presence, in the film but also in the film's fictional society as once again, despite Channing's character explaining how arrogant we are for assuming we're the only sentient beings in this vast universe, it appears that humans, with all our limitations, still managed to become the rulers of the universe.
The effects and chase sequences, especially one extended chase early on, were outstanding.
In terms of dialogue, character development, story progression etc. I'd place the maturity and intellect somewhere along the lines of Divergent (2014), The Hunger Games (2012) and at times, hints of Twilight (2008). This is definitely pure fantasy fodder for young people but like John Carter (2012), there are some genuinely hilarious and insightful moments that pull you back in at times when your post-pubescent brain may be wandering. Bonus: Sean Bean pops up part way through which is always a nice surprise.
I thought there could have been better direction because almost everyone mumbles their lines at one point or multiple and Eddie Redmayne basically whispers all the way through.
Depending on your mood, the reviews you've read (i.e. your expectations), your age and so on, you will either consider this an entertaining bit of fantasy fluff or, you will cringe at the predictability and resume your game of scrabble.
I switched off my brain for a couple of hours and thoroughly enjoyed it so it's 7/10 for me.
The Gambler (2014)
When it's good...
The film definitely has a lot of positives and a lot of thought went into the production value and acting and there's even a message which most films don't bother with these days.
The problem is that although the message is a good one, this is still entertainment and the way it's put across doesn't always work. Here's why:
The title of the film is a red herring (I'll stop there to avoid spoilers). It's infuriating when someone creates problems for themselves when other people would sacrifice a limb to be in their shoes. I actually think the film is quite irresponsible with regards to the gambling. The role of the love interest was extremely bare and something I'd expect from a film ten or twenty years ago.
What raises the film above its flaws however, is that just at the point when you're about to throw things at your TV/laptop because you can "not" believe what this guy is about to do "yet again", we're given some insight into "Jim's" (Wahlberg) frame of mind and for a split second, his actions do make some sense.
The message gets a bit confused after that because his speech made me think that self destruction was the theme and that's something a lot of people can relate to. Although the message was being hammered home in quite a heavy handed way, I thought it was a good theme to explore but then "Frank" (Goodman) gives his little speech and suddenly, the message becomes something else entirely. So which is it? "self destruction" or "f*ck you"? Maybe it's both or maybe they were always one and the same.
The music is excellent, the editing is sharp and Mark Wahlberg is witty as always, although the rebel teacher attitude does wear thin at times. The Gambler felt more like a slow, character driven film than a flashy, action-packed Ocean's Eleven (2001). I'd liken it to a more introspective Rounders (1998).
I didn't like the ending. This has nothing to do with the quality or "fittingness" of the ending as it was shot really well and made sense, just that it was such a "nothing" ending. I had to remind myself that the reason nothing felt resolved was that there was no conflict in the first place. Not really. And you'll understand that once you've seen the film.
Overall, it was enjoyable. It had a witty script and a lot of great acting from actors I really like and the message, for the most part, was interesting.
Faces in the Crowd (2011)
So bad it's good(ish)
This is possibly the first film that has made me understand the definition of "so bad it's good". Despite so many laughable moments, I was compelled to keep watching, if only to ensure I was right about how bad the film was.
I've loved Milla Jovovich since The Fifth Element, she's a really good actress but I'm starting to think she should stick to character acting. When portraying 'real' people, there's something really 'hollow' about it. It's too obvious that she's acting so I never really care about her characters.
The main issue with this film is the script. It was fine for the first ten minutes or so but then the writer obviously got bored and finished the script in about thirty minutes. The dialogue is beyond unrealistic. An example: Anna (Jovovich) meets with a specialist in prosopagnosia (face blindness) whose first response is to literally laugh in Anna's face and tell her she's screwed. Then, in a weird ending to that under-rehearsed scene, this 'specialist' spouts some random whimsical nonsense at Anna's back while the door shuts. Imagine if that were your meeting when speaking to a medical professional! Then there's Anna's two-dimensional boyfriend, Bryce (Michael Shanks), whose sole purpose of existence is to flip a switch from superficial, horrible human being to suddenly having a conscience and remorse for his actions. His response when he finds out Anna doesn't recognise him after all is unbelievable. How would Anna not have known what a douche he was before now? His complete 180 is even more ridiculous. There is never any explanation for his behaviour and he only pops up when the script requires it to keep things moving.
There are many more things wrong with this script but there's no point in dwelling so I'll move on to the predictability of the plot. I knew who the bad guy was the minute he entered the scene (we know it's a man from the beginning, that's not a spoiler). I then had this suspicion confirmed during a scene that was supposed to direct us to someone else. Don't waste time wondering if that's a spoiler. It's not. It is impossible to write any spoilers for this film. Some might say that we were supposed to know who he was whilst Anna didn't. This is not true because if that were the intention, there would have been no need for attempts at redirecting our suspicions. The mystery element was simply badly written.
The directing was also terrible. Anna's character would overreact to the simplest things like when she woke up in hospital and started running around like a mad woman because she didn't recognise anyone. Most people would just tell the doctor what was wrong and assume that they had a brain injury of some sort. Why was she screaming and running into the halls? I understand it makes for a more dramatic and allegedly interesting scene but it was too much. The actors were overdoing the whispering in too many scenes so I lost a lot of the dialogue. That should have been picked up on and at the end of the showdown when the rain machine was switched on, it literally looked like a guy was standing off camera with a shower head; it was that pathetic.
I don't know what the budget for this film was but whoever funded it could surely have been given a variety of job titles? Listing 14 executive producers makes you wonder how none of them picked up on the many problems with the script.
And yet, despite all of this, I kept watching. Perhaps because of the interesting subject matter? Because Jovovich is charismatic? Because I'm a fan of Julian McMahon as well? Because I needed to make absolutely certain that there wasn't some genius plot twist at the end? I'm not entirely sure, but as I didn't turn it off, I've given this a 5. I can't go any higher despite some general 'enjoyment' of the film because clearly no effort went into the storytelling and I wouldn't want to mislead anyone.
Worth a watch if you have time to waste.
Good but a missed opportunity to be great
I enjoyed watching this and I highly recommend it to others. In terms of 'weirdness', I would compare Coherence with Triangle (2009), another fantastic time-bending, paradox-type film. I don't mind low budget films because they often surprise you with interesting concepts and thought-provoking scripts which big budget films lack these days. Take Interstellar (2014) for example; an epic film with a huge budget yet its script doesn't come close to being as engaging as Coherence.
The story takes place during a dinner party across an evening while a comet passes overhead. We get a bit of foreshadowing when "Em" describes some spooky things that happened the last time a comet passed over the Earth so we're given an idea of how interesting things are going to get. This is possibly to avoid people getting bored as for the first 20 minutes or so, we are essentially just watching a regular dinner party that any one of us could have attended. This includes bits of interesting conversations and some nice cut aways and then finally, just as things start to meander, the weirdness begins.
There were only two plot developments that I didn't like (plus the ending). The first one happened fairly early on in the film: I didn't like the justification given for leaving the house. It was never explained, it didn't make sense and was never mentioned again or used later in the film i.e. it was just a throw-away, convenient plot point but it was quite a small development so it didn't affect my enjoyment; it was just a bit lazy. The second would potentially be a spoiler so I have to be vague: The film meandered a bit too much before the next twist kicked in and I would have preferred that it happened much sooner and that everybody came to the same conclusion about what needed to be done. That would have created a much more interesting third act and would have generated larger audience investment in the characters, as we'd be interested in seeing who would make it and who wouldn't. Related to this, I didn't understand why Em ultimately made the decision that she did. What prompted this? I can think of something she could have overheard that would have motivated her (related to being a ballerina), but as it stands, unless I missed something, her decision was quite random and could have put her in a worse situation than before.
Finally, I did not like the ending at all. The film had done a good job up until then of not becoming convoluted but suddenly, events became a bit messy and I did not like the very final scene. I don't understand how it is possible for a film to have a bad ending. Did the story writers not show their work to anyone? I can think of a handful of better endings just off the top of my head. Luckily the ending happens very quickly, so you don't really have time to be annoyed by it or let it ruin the overall experience so although I usually don't recommend films with bad endings, I can still recommend Coherence based on its overall merits.
Those are my main gripes with the film. I thought that with a few tweaks this could have been really great but as the film is extremely enjoyable, I want to end on a positive note: I loved the ideas presented, the originality and the fact that we're watching normal people doing normal things as opposed to perfectly preened and never-ageing film stars. It's always more interesting to watch. I absolutely loved "Mike's" reaction to the situation (that would definitely be me because I've seen far too many films!) and everybody's acting was great. Much like Time Lapse (2014), Coherence gets more and more interesting with every scene which is another bonus.
I think everybody involved should be very proud. I hovered between 6 and 7 because overall, the film easily deserves a 7 but the ending really did let it down. I'd give it 6.7 if I could so I've rounded up to 7/10.
I watched Interstellar after completing my third re-watch of the Farscape series. As soon as talk of wormholes kicked in, I couldn't help but think of John Crichton and I felt sorry for all other Sci Fi films and TV series once Interstellar explained that they'd been depicting wormholes incorrectly all this time! In fairness, wormholes are only theoretical so I say each to their own interpretation.
The film is extremely long. I actually don't mind when an excellent film is very long but I do mind when I spot lots of scenes that could easily have been edited down. One example being: do we need to watch someone climb all the way down a flight of stairs? Especially when they have no more dialogue? I would have expected more characters to have time to be developed but despite the nearly three-hour run time, I have no understanding for why Cooper's son turned out the way he did and there was barely any backstory for the majority of the main characters.
Having said that, there was plenty of time to fully explore the Sci Fi aspects of the film which is what we're all really here for. I remember thinking that Interstellar is what Contact (1997) should have been as opposed to the massive anti-climax that it was. In fact, it's what Gravity (2013) should have been what with all the fuss over it. Contact was a great film but a bit before its time I'm guessing, whereas Gravity felt more like a test run before releasing Interstellar. I'm sure it wasn't, it's just that Gravity was such a bad film; nothing happened! The storyline had been done a thousand times before, only this time it was set in space. And that appalling ending!
Interstellar gets so many things right. It doesn't shy away from the meaty Sci Fi stuff that people like me want to see. We actually get to see the wormhole, black hole, dimensions and planets. There's an intense atmosphere generated throughout the entire film and I was constantly in full hyper-alert mode for extended periods of time. I loved the backstory of why people on Earth were suffering because they kept it simple and believable. Occasionally, a ridiculous plot twist or explanation would trigger my 'as if' reflex but later, it would be explained so that it was no longer daft, for example; they would make an assumption which would later prove to have been wrong which, although providing immediate relief for the part of you that's still screaming 'what?!' at the screen, doesn't change the fact that you just spent half an hour or so silently seething about the stupidity of the plot.
I enjoyed so much of this film but I do have to take a moment to acknowledge the poor casting. It's a pure Hollywood vehicle of course and one of only a handful of genuinely incredible films that have been released in the past few years so of course everyone and their best pal is going to want a piece of it. They slowly introduce new characters so it's never too much of a shock to the system when a familiar face appears but one or two were just badly miscast. Matt Damon for example, has this weird thing where at first, he is Matt Damon; same look, same voice and same mannerisms, but then something will happen and he'll end up acting everyone off the screen with his ability to make you empathise even when you shouldn't. His role here is no different. My reaction to his appearance started out as 'well, this film's ruined' and ended with 'only he could have pulled that off'.
It has to be said: Matthew McConaughey needs to calm down. There are some signature mannerisms that he's taken to and it all comes across as quite egotistical. I think he accomplished something in his career that few ever have or could but I reckon a lot of his success was down to his humility and great personality which translated to people wanting to help him but the more aloof and serious he acts (literally), the more this puts me off him as an actor. No disrespect intended, but McConaughey has never changed his accent (as far as I'm aware), has never done any character acting and has essentially been playing the same character in every film for years. It seems that he's worked out that talking really slowly and keeping a serious scowl on his face for two to three hours, makes people take his performance more seriously and mistake that for 'great acting'. I would rather he went back to having an approachable demeanour and worked on his ability to transform himself than take the lazy route of just being super serious all the time. It gets old. Also, the fake tan was out of control and actually quite distracting.
Once you've watched Interstellar, you'll be Googling things like "gravitational time dilation" and wondering when you will next have a spare three hours to watch the film again. Flaws and all.
The Interview (2014)
Did you enjoy Your Highness?
The best way to decide if you'll enjoy The Interview is to consider if you found Your Highness (2011) funny and if you like the pairing of James Franco and Seth Rogan e.g. in Pineapple Express (2008).
The Interview isn't as good as either of those two films (or as funny) but I'll say this: when The Interview is funny, it is wake-up-your-neighbours-with-your-cackling funny. The opening scene with Eminem was beyond hilarious which is probably because Eminem does straight-face humour really well.
There's not really any intelligence here at all, the film is definitely aimed at young teenagers, but keep in mind that it's probably a good way to get them interested about things that are going on in the world.
The only criticism I have for the Franco/Rogan duo is that they need to work on making their scripts consistently funny throughout. It's not enough to have a handful of hilarious scenes; there has to be more.
I've given this 7/10 because once again, they've managed to pack in some random fantastic special effects and I did genuinely keep my neighbours up with my laughing, especially because I kept rewinding some parts but it's not consistent so you might want to have your phone handy for some Googling when things quieten down.
La isla mínima (2014)
Highly engaging murder mystery
In the vain of True Detective (2014) but with the intensity (and pretentiousness) dialled down a couple of notches. This was compulsive, engaging and entertaining throughout.
I watched with the original Spanish audio and Spanish subtitles so I can't really comment on the quality of the script because my level of understanding was at about 70-80%.
The pacing was even, there weren't any unnecessarily drawn out scenes and everybody behaved in a realistic manner. The acting from the leads was superb but some of the supporting cast were quite wooden and most of the photographs used in the film were extremely posed. Those are minor critiques though; the only thing that really irks me is that no matter how well these films are made, and no matter how sensitively the subject matter is broached, they always feel a little gratuitous, hence why they usually lose one or two points from me. I watched The Treatment (2014) a while ago and both of these films currently have roughly the same IMDb score. Clearly then, ratings are hugely affected by the emotional impact of dealing with sexual abuse and murder. La Isla Mínima was, in my opinion, markedly better than The Treatment and I hope its rating increases to reflect this.
Another reason this film was more satisfying than others in its genre is that the police behave in a realistic manner - granted this is part of the commentary on the culture in this part of the world and what police have to resort to in order to protect their own people, but it still felt satisfying from a plot perspective and as an audience member. The final confrontation was horrific and yet entirely necessary. The film needed it and this was also entirely in keeping with the characters and the message of the film. Obviously, each will take away their own views but for me, the 'very' end made me question my earlier conviction that the final confrontation was 'justified': isn't that what everyone says to justify their actions?
If you enjoy films in this genre then it's an obvious choice 8/10.
Fack ju Göhte (2013)
Hilarious and fast paced
This film has some of the most conflicting reviews I've ever read! Comedies will always polarise opinions but this one seems to have gone to the extreme, although in fairness, there are only around 11 reviews at the time of writing mine so perhaps if more people contributed their opinions, we would get a better indication of the overall success of the film.
First, I'll discuss the story and how engaging it is: I really liked the leads and the supporting characters were interesting. It's a fairly predictable plot so I knew what to expect but I always like it when character development and changes in people are done subtly and believably. No one suddenly makes any huge leaps to become a better person and in fact, people don't do a complete 180 and suddenly change every aspect of their personalities which adds to the realism.
This is a very fast-paced, slapstick-style film which injects enough sarcasm and biting one-liners that the 'silly humour' aspect of the direction is easily overlooked. It helps that the editing is superb; no joke is ever drawn out and the film moves frantically from one scene to the next. I would say that the style of the film is similar to that of Clueless (1995) in that people use over-the-top facial expressions and crazy 'goofball' things happen like setting booby traps but the script is extremely witty so it complements the action really well.
I imagine that Fack ju Göhte would have been entertaining enough as a straightforward film without any humour however, it is a comedy and in terms of 'how' funny the film is, it would have been useful to me if reviewers had provided some examples of comedies they found funny so that I could compare. Here are a few comedies or films I found funny:
American Pie, Horrible Bosses, Step Brothers (get past the first ten or fifteen minutes and this one is genius), The Other Guys, 21 Jump Street, Hot Tub Time Machine, Someone Marry Barry, Pineapple Express, Ted, Bad Words, everything Jim Carrey...
Films with humour I like:
Back to the Future(s), Groundhog Day, The Truman Show, Borat, Meet the Fockers, Juno, The Guard (2011) - The Guard is a must-watch!
So those are some examples of films I found funny. That's not to say I found every joke hilarious but these are films I'd recommend to someone who was looking for a funny film to watch.
At this point, I will highlight that I watched the original German film with German subtitles. I'm not sure how successful comedies are when translated into other languages so it's worth noting this.
In my opinion, the fact that Fack ju Göhte is one of the most successful German films in years, speaks for itself. I really enjoyed the story and it had me laughing out loud every five or ten minutes.
Der Krieger und die Kaiserin (2000)
Entrancing and unique story
I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I'm not entirely sure that I can explain why but essentially, I think the reason is that the film makers managed to do something different with the plot, music and overall production quality, and transformed what may have otherwise been an ordinary script and film, into something unique and interesting.
If you watch while checking messages on your phone then you won't get the full experience of being completely sucked into the story whether or not you fully understand why.
I've been a fan of Franka Potente since watching Lola Rennt (epic film) and she completely transforms herself here. She and Benno Fürmann have fantastic on-screen chemistry and every scene is engaging and many of them provide an unexpected, yet highly subtle, twist.
I don't want to talk about the plot because it's better to just watch. Nothing extraordinary happened and yet, I feel like I've watched a rare, genuinely interesting and unique creation. Even the ending, which I won't discuss at length, was weird but fitting and completely different to anything I've seen.
I don't really have any criticisms, nothing to speak of anyway.
It's an easy recommendation.