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Inspired or repulsed
This is most likely a film that will split the audience down the middle: One group will say: "Yes, this is really a problem". The other will say "Prfff! What's the big deal? We're just surfing the web. So what?". Although I surf the web a lot, I mostly belong to group one, and this film is definitely propaganda about how much negative impact the internet has had on the world today not only on entire countries but also on individuals. In some ways it's a documentary version of those disaster movies that show what will happen if all our electricity was cut off, etc. except here the question is: "What would happen if we suddenly didn't have access to the internet?". Many people would simply have nothing to do, at least according to this film, as they are online almost all of their waking hours. Read a book? No, I can read maximum one line (so a website designer said in this film). Or maybe they would finally find something to do if suddenly there was no internet.
The film shows teenagers addicted to pornography, people being kicked out of Harvard for being lazy, people who committed suicide after being bullied online, people who have sex with strangers in order to get their phone back so they can go back online, and companies who do research into how they can make people spend more time on their websites. And, of course, most of these people think there's nothing wrong with what they're doing. For the viewers (or at least me) it was quite easy to spot their problem (for instance: "I play Xbox five hours a day. I was kicked out of Harvard for not handing in my assignments. I don't think those two things are related").
It's definitely not a positive film. Although I have seen the destructive effects the internet has had on my life (along with all its positive effects), this is a propagandistic film and as such not a great pleasure to watch no matter how much I might agree with the message. One major reason for this was simply that it was information overload. There were barely any part in the film where there was nobody talking. Fictional films of course have more scenes with action instead of talking than a documentary, but some air in the narrative here would have done some good. But nevertheless, this was a good, well-made and informative film (although I already knew most of the information they presented). The threat they present is definitely very real but not everybody will enjoy facing this threat or enjoy the way it's presented here.
By the way: If you have problems controlling your internet use, the program called iNet Protector is the solution. You can set how much online time you can have each day and when (for instance only 1 hour access between 5 to 7 pm Monday and Saturday), and it's of course protected by a password (which you should have someone else do, as it's otherwise pointless). It has improved my life. There's also another programme called PC Auto Shutdown that can switch off your computer automatically when you want it to.
La grande bellezza (2013)
A film of great beauty
The analogy presented several times in this film is that Proust wanted to write a book about nothing. That is also what the director of this film has done, and what the main character has done with his own life. This is a film about nothing, but of course still about something the main character Jep. The film is simply just about this character and how he spends his time.
Jep has self-reflection, he's honest, doesn't take things so seriously, and he doesn't try to convince himself that he's something that he's not. Although one of his snobbish, bitter and self-righteous acquaintances annoys him, he doesn't let it bother him too much, and he doesn't say anything about it until she asks him to. He lives a happy, carefree life and is not consumed with worries. Unlike the most of us who "spends the summer making plans for September" as one of the characters say, Jep "looks for the great beauty" by living in the present an enjoying everything beautiful around him paintings, food, birds, churches, trees, the ocean, etc. He finds joy in this moment and not in the future. It is actually quite inspiring to watch. But there is nevertheless something missing. Life basically has two missions: Accomplish your dream (whether through work or through raising a family) and find companionship (whether with a partner or with friends), and while Jep has certainly enjoyed his time in Rome, he hasn't achieved any of those two goals. Sex with someone new is not something beautiful shared with another person for him, but simply an everyday thing that's part of his lifestyle. I found this to be one of the key themes in the film. Jep tries to find "the great beauty" in life but hasn't found the greatest one of them all: love. He has gone through life partying, shagging, smoking and enjoying, but has never found the woman he loves, nor had any children.
All of these characters are trying to find a place where they belong, but none of them are really successful. Most of them want to be accepted by the right crowd or the right woman, but fails in a hierarchy where you can never reach the top. As the movie progresses, more and more people leave Rome as they haven't found the great beauty of love either. One doesn't even want to bring his furniture but just leaves everything behind. Apparently, he hasn't accomplished or accumulated anything there that he would want to remember. So, it's also a critique of modern day Rome and all its citizens' love of being hip. It's elegantly done, and especially the dialogue is beautiful, poetic and well-written.
Another reference to literature I found was that the main character and some of the other characters remind me of the three main characters in Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray" (the character in this film who wants to stage a play would be Basil Hallward).
The biggest drawback of this film is its length. A film about nothing that lasts almost two-and-a-half hours is simply too long. Had it been 30 or 45 minutes shorter it would have been a more pleasant view. The film starts out as a beautiful feel-good film, but ends up as a sad tragedy with some hope though. It's never too late to make a change.
Gran Torino (2008)
Looked promising but alas!
Like most others, I like Clint Eastwood as both an actor and a director (at least from around the year 2000 onwards). "Million dollar baby" and "Changeling" were two quite lovely films to give just two examples of him as a director. "Gran Torino" definitely had its strong points, and I enjoyed the themes of misplaced racism, and how it sucks the joy out of life, the unsolvable problem with gangs, and the need to get your problems off your chest instead of keeping them inside. I also liked the pale colours of this film (just like in Changeling), which was perfect for this bleak environment. But the problem for me with this film was simply that it wasn't very credible.
The main character Walt (Eastwood himself) used a lot of foul language, but as he did so in almost every sentence and so overtly, it simply ended up becoming a caricature. At one point his son and daughter in law came to Walt's birthday and suggested that he moved into a nursing home. The camera then filmed a close-up of Eastwood, whose mouth opened and turned downwards more and more in a fit of rage. It just seemed like something from a comic book. Eastwood is one of the archetypical tough guys, but here he simply seemed like a parody of himself. Later, Eastwood dropped a glass of alcohol as he was shocked. It just fell to the ground all too late for it to seem like a believable reaction and not one done by an actor in a poor film (it will make sense if you watch the scene). This is of course a minor detail, but it honestly seemed to suggest that there hadn't been paid enough attention to the editing and the artistic effects used in creating a story that would seem real rather than just a story. This surprised me a bit, as I didn't notice anything like this in the two other Eastwood film mentioned above.
One of the other actors, Bee Vang playing Thao, was even worse. He simply didn't give a very good performance. Especially when he was locked into the basement, his hammering on the door simply didn't seem real.
Lastly, I didn't find it believable that Walt warmed to the Hmong people because of the reasons shown in the film. It seemed credible that he would help the neighbouring girl when she was in trouble with a gang on the street, but he still a bit too easily went from banning all Hmong people from his property to accepting the neighbouring girl's dinner invitation with her entire family simply because they had beer and because the girl was "alright" as he said. Nevertheless, this was something that I could easily have overlooked if the rest of the film had been better they are after all trying to tell a story, and there has to be some progress.
With better dialogue, better acting and a slightly better script, this film could have made me feel something real rather than make me cringe which is what it too often did.
Judging from the average rating here on IMDb most people love this film, but I've also seen several people here on IMDb say exactly the same things as I have done in this review (acting, dialogue, etc.), so it seems to be a film that splits the viewers in two camps. I find that if I don't like an otherwise celebrated film it's simply because I didn't become engaged in the story or the characters. But usually I just find films like that mediocre and I can see why other people might like them, and usually I can see that they are well-made and well-acted. Two examples could be Crash or Magnolia. They simply didn't do anything for me. They were well-made, well-acted, and I understand why people like them. But calling them poor films or even poorly made? Certainly not! It's rare that I find an otherwise celebrated film poor, but Gran Torino seems to be a film that people either find excellent or poor. I'm standing on the edge of saying poor (which is 3/10 for me), but due to it's good points I will give it 4/10.
White Collar (2009)
Good show but has headed into the abyss
Although this review doesn't contain spoilers as such, it does outline small parts of the overall plot as well as some of the character traits.
As you might know, this show is about a conman who escapes from prison, is then caught by the FBI and has to help them solve crimes as part of his plea deal. The main reason to watch this show is the character of Neal Caffrey and Matt Bomer plays him to perfection. He's cool, handsome, charming, witty, clever, confident, ambitious, and well dressed. But he's still flawed 'cause he has problems settling down and finding real connections with people. Especially initially I enjoyed the mismatch between Neal Caffrey and FBI agent Peter Burke. Burke is goofy and pessimistic and says that so and so can't be done, and we just have to do things the hard way, whereas Caffrey shows us that these things are actually possible. Part of the charm of the Caffrey character is his abilities. It's fun to watch him forge signatures, pull a scam or do other tricks and then explain how. At times his tricks, and the episodes' plots, do become a little bit too silly and slapstick-like. Too many characters in these situations are too stupid, and it's a little bit too coincidental that everything works out exactly as planned. So, not everything is credible as the scripts are not always that well-written.
What I also like about this show is the theme of being torn between getting exactly what you want, albeit getting it illegally, and settling into a normal, legal, life. Neal Caffrey has always been a conman, and it is second nature to him to get what he wants by illegal means. When working for the FBI he has to fight this urge, but settling into a legal life also gives peace of mind. He doesn't have to lie and run. He's trying to tell himself that he just wants to escape the trappings of a normal dull life, but does he truly believe this? At least, experience seems to prove him wrong on many accounts.
Although I don't know exactly how TV production works in Hollywood, it is my impression that the network sees if a show is a success and then they grant another season. If that season is also a success, then another season, and so on. Starting out with a script for e.g. 12 episodes that finishes completely after the last episode seems rare. Needless to say (so I'll say it anyway), the latter is the type I generally like the best. So with this let's-see-if-this-season-is-a-success-method, TV shows with an ongoing plot line often turn into perpetual motion machines where they have to come up with more and more bizarre/silly plot twists to keep it going. "Alias" and "Prison Break" are perfect examples of this. "White Collar" is becoming the same. I've watched all four seasons, but the ongoing plot line (which was always the best part of the plot) has gradually become more silly and less important, and the show focuses more on separate cases that needed to be solved in each episode (and, of course, they solve the case every single time). Each season has ended with a big finale, but a few episodes into the next season everything has returned to normal. Then what's the point in continuing this show? It has become a bit like Prison Break season three: "We break out TONIGHT!", end of episode. Then next episode: "Nah, we have to wait until tomorrow". Then at the end of the episode: "We break out TONIGHT!", end of episode. And so on. If this show didn't have an ongoing plot line it would be much less frustrating. The problem is that it promises evolution throughout the series but rarely delivers (or at least does it too slowly). Often throughout all four seasons only a few minutes in the beginning and end of each episode dealt with the ongoing plot line, and it seemed that almost every time there was a big thrilling conflict in the plot or between the characters, this would be dealt with in a few minutes in the next episode, so the show could return to business as usual. Part of the suspense is of course only getting to know the details little by little, but there must be limits to how long you can keep people waiting before they lose interest. In the end, there wasn't much difference between watching an episode from season 1, 2, 3 or 4 of "White Collar".
And honestly, there's no need to watch this show to see the team solve cases. Certain other shows manage to do that with better scripts and more surprises. The criminals get caught a bit too easily in this show, and when they are taken into custody at the end of each episode I often sit there with the felling of "was that really it?". If the upcoming season five has not had some changes to the overall plot, and it's still just Caffrey and Burke solving cases, then this show has become redundant. I also noticed that the amount of viewers have dropped consistently with each new season, so I'm apparently not the only one who has been discouraged with how this show has developed.
Season four ended recently, and season five is scheduled for the autumn of 2013. Season four, of course, ended with a big finale. I will probably watch the first few episodes of season five to see what happens, but I already have my theories and I'm pretty sure that all the problems will have been solved within the first couple of episodes so everything can return to normal (as it did with the ending of season three/beginning of season four). I assume nothing dramatic will happen to the ongoing plot line until the show is cancelled and we can finally see an end to the story.
One of the best in its genre
This review doesn't contain spoilers as such but it does outline the basics of the show.
I'm a subtitler by profession and I have subtitled around 70 episodes of this show. They were all from season 11 onwards, so I can't say anything about the show's earlier episodes.
Special Victims Unit is another procedural crime show about the police solving cases. Here they focus on "special victims", which usually means victims of rape or cases involving children in one way or another. The show is not much different than the five million other shows like it, but it nevertheless does what it does well. If you like shows like this, then this is definitely for you. If not, then don't bother. If you like having details about the police officers' personal lives then this show might not have enough of that. Then the show called The Closer might be a bit better. Nevertheless, I feel there's enough details about the characters to get under their skin but not so much that it becomes tedious.
Unlike many other shows, Special Victims Unit delivers what it promises. It doesn't promise any ongoing plot line, so therefore there are no disappointments with regards to this. It only promises to be a show about solving cases. This is, however, also one of the bad things about the show. With no ongoing plot line it doesn't matter if you watch an episode from season 3, 7 or 13. If the show is not evolving why watch it? I suppose you could say the same about The Simpsons or South Park. There's not much to think about after an episode ends either. As the show is about crime it, of course, also conveys that the world is full of evil and that men are scumbags, which is not an admirable ideology (but to be fair, there have also been episodes about women who falsely accuse men of rape, and women who sexually abuse young boys). So, only watch Special Victims Unit for thrilling entertainment.
Sometimes you watch a TV show or a film with a very intricate plot, but in the end it becomes so complicated and silly that it loses credibility. Special Victims Unit still manages to be credible despite complicated plot lines, simply because it is so well scripted. I want to be a novelist, and I must say that I admire how well-scripted this show is. At times I have been thinking "how did they find that evidence?", or "why would this person admit this?", but overall there are very few plot holes, and my hat goes off to a team of writers that time after time can write something like this.
The show called Prime Suspect was very similar to Special Victims Unit but nevertheless inferior for two very simple reasons: Prime Suspect was too predictable and not very credible. Special Victims Unit is of course predictable too 'cause they always catch the criminals (in only around two or three episodes out of those 70 episodes I've subtitled has the criminal not been convicted), but Prime Suspect was simply too formulaic: Either the culprit was their first suspect, who after some investigation didn't look guilty but then was after all, or it was someone completely random that they found after investigating a lot of leads. The criminals always confess in that show, and not a single episode ended up in court. This of course also happens in Special Victims Unit but not at the same rate as in Prime Suspect where it was in every episode. In Special Victims Unit there are criminals who have been traumatised, criminals who are mentally ill, criminals who are psychos, criminals who are misogynists, people who made a mistake and then tried to cover it up, etc. There's actually also a surprisingly high amount of corrupt cops who commit crimes in this show. Sometimes the first suspect is the culprit. Other times it's their 14th suspect. Sometimes an episode starts with a minor crime and then leads to a whole network of other crimes far from where the episode started. Some episodes end with a confession in the police station, others end in the court room. Others again end with the criminal being caught in the act. Despite being a formulaic show, Special Victims Unit covers a surprisingly wide field. Prime Suspect was also not very credible because the culprits often confessed just because the cops pressured them a tiny bit probably because the writers couldn't come up with something. In Special Victims Unit there is at least a lot more persuasion being done before a confession is being made and usually it seems perfectly likely that the culprit would confess under those circumstances.
There have been episodes with sentimental endings where I, maybe because I'm European, have thought "Yaaaih, America", but these types of endings are fortunately not so common in this show. In for instance the Canadian "Flashpoint", every single episode ended with slow motion images, sentimental pop music and an all too clear message. Luckily, with Special Victims Unit I usually think "I'm glad they caught that scumbag", or "I'm glad this person was acquitted" at the end of each episode.
The last episode of season 13, "Rhodium Nights" leads into the first two episodes of season 14, "Lost reputation" and "Above suspicion". These three episodes are probably the best episodes I've seen of this show. My other favourite episodes: srs 14, ep. 10 (Ep. 282) "Spiraling down" (with Treat Williams as a guest star); srs 13, ep. 10 (ep. 283) "Theatre tricks"; srs 13, ep. 18 (ep. 290) "Valentine's day" (with Chloe Sevigny); srs 14, ep. 13 (ep. 308) "Monster's Legacy (with Mike Tyson)"; and srs 14, ep. 16 (ep. 311) "Funny Valentine".
Canadian, but still cheesy American
In my job I have subtitled 24 episodes of this show, and I can say that this series is really not much different than so many other shows: Cops chase criminals. Cops catch criminals every time! Here it's a S.W.A.T. team/S.R.U. team (it's Canadian), but they have just replaced the usual detectives with a different division. The acting is decent, and the scripts are decent, but that's really all it is. This is really not much different than crime films/series from the last 80 years - except that the pace is faster. It's all glorification of the police and what they can do (and all their new high tech gadgets). Crime never pays is still the lesson. While we are on the subject of lessons, the show always want to draw out a lesson at the end. I'm perfectly fine with that I mean, entertainment is nice, but what's the point in watching something if it doesn't stir something in us and makes us think about certain things? The way "Flashpoint" does it is simply too cheesy. Right after the cops rush in and catch the criminal, save the hostage or whatever (and they practically always talk the perpetrator out of killing anybody), the images switch to slow-motion, and "Dawson Creek" music comes in with acoustic guitars, piano, and very, very, very meaningful lyrics. If I'm not mistaken, the segment with songs and slow-motion pictures has featured in every single one of the 24 episodes I have subtitled (fans of the show even have a name for it, "the montage"), so it's simply becoming cheesy and predictable. It's almost like watching a soap opera. The main characters, of course, also always learn something from their cases about their own lives. If you want to watch predictable crime shows, there are many others much better than this one (for instance "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" or "The closer").
This show uses that trick of showing scenes that occurs three quarters into the story as a teaser/prelude to catch the viewer's attention. Afterwards, they rewind to the beginning. Honestly, in some programmes/films this is done when there's no good beginning to the story. I believe this trick has been used in every single one of the 24 episodes of "Flashpoint" that I have subtitled, so it does seem like this show lacks good beginnings. The show lasts 42 minutes, and the opening credits and title section usually starts after 7 to 14 minutes. That's quite a lot of action they have to put in to make sure the viewer doesn't switch the channel. This is, of course, also a symptom of our day and age. When people have eight different Youtube tabs open in their internet browser at the same time, we lose interest so quickly, so we have to have something hyper stimulating constantly. This is what "Flashpoint" has to work with.
One thing to notice: Hugh Dillon who plays Ed Lane wants to be the new, even tougher, Bruce Willis (especially after Willis shaved his head). His stare (which he has 70 % of the time) is the same, but meaner, and his way of talking (meaning giving out orders, etc.) is the same but meaner. It became a bit comical in the end to see this 110 % tough guy.
Mad Dogs (2011)
Best British series in a looooong time!
My headline is a bit of an overstatement, as I don't watch much British television, but through my work as a subtitler I've subtitled quite a few British series. Usually, I find that British shows pale compared to the best American series. When it does work, I simply find American pop culture a lot more exciting. British shows most often seem a bit dull, slow, old-fashioned and depressing compared to the American equivalents. Therefore, it was a joy to find something like "Mad dogs". I subtitled both seasons (each containing only four episodes each), and I'm hoping I will get the next season too if there's a third season at some point. The show is actually exciting, thrilling and well-made. Only once or maybe twice did I find a few light plot holes or something that didn't make so much sense. The acting is good, the characters believable, and the script is great. Someone else here on IMDb said the show was funny too. I might have laughed a few times, but then I also laughed at one scene in "Schindler's list" (the scene where Schindler hires secretaries) and I wouldn't say that's a funny film. "Mad Dogs" achieves what it set out to do, which was to create a thrilling character-based series about dilemmas that we all might face under the right circumstances a little bit like a modern noir taking place in glaring sunlight.
From here onwards, this is an update to my original review, which I wrote after having watched season 1 and 2. I then gave the show 8 out of 10. After having finished watching the entire show I was filled with a feeling of having watched one of the greatest TV shows ever! There has been some debate about how the show ended, however, but I will leave that up to the viewers and the users here on IMDb to delve into. I've grown accustomed to having to watch never-ending perpetual motion machines from Hollywood, where every episode is a single episode (usually about a police officer solving a case) with little connection to the ongoing plot line, which is dragged out forever and ever, until it's all either so watered down that you don't bother watching it anymore, or they cancel the show and you get no proper ending (or a very poor ending to a show that started out great). "Alias", "Prison Break" and "White Collar" are prime examples of this. You can't watch one single episode of "Mad Dogs" and get any meaning from it. There are no 'single episode' plot lines, only an ongoing plot line and all the seasons are different, as the story keeps unravelling. They had most likely written an entire season before starting filming it (or maybe the entire show from start to finish), which is what made it so great: A story, not a money-making machine. Thank you :-)
What a lame show!
What a lame show!
My headline really sums it up. Granted, I really, really don't like reality show (who does?), but this is one of the worst ever.
Every single person is this show is despicable. It's all about flashing off and being seen "because I'm a princess" or "because I'm so buff" or whatever. Well, I suppose "The Grind" on MTV started that trend many years ago, but I had hoped that would have been put to rest. Here, they even made it into a reality show about the people running this party place. How much fun do you seriously think it would be to watch a reality show about bartenders with silicone boobs amidst buff tan guys who are just there to get drunk? This has, oddly, being going on for several seasons now. I only watched episode 15 (mid-season 2), but that was more than enough.
One character needs special attention: The girl Julia is looking at guys all the time, but admits she might be a little bit picky when it comes to finding someone. No, really? "I once dumped a guy, because I didn't like how his hair ended on his ankles. He had hairy legs, but not hairy feet, and then the hair just stopped instead of phasing out". Great gal! Then she continues later: "This guy bumped into me, and I was like totally smitten right away. He stole my heart". Then he asked for her telephone number. "No way. I'm a good girl. I don't just give out my number". Yaih! Good work, honey. If you never give anyone a chance maybe that's why you're 31, single, miserable and complaining about why you can never find a guy.
The episode I watched (I had to subtitle it at my job, so at least I was paid to watch it) featured some guy named Barry who was trying to recruit bartenders here for his own club. What an arrogant and rude bastard. I was actually happy when they kicked him out. The only times I felt entertained was when I was laughing at how despicable these people were. Seriously, though. This is really crap TV with no content at its worst. Maybe it's fun to watch for teenage guys who like to look at silicone inflated bimbos, but that's about it.
Prime Suspect (2011)
Very average crime show.
I'm a subtitler by profession, and I subtitled 12 episodes of this show, so I spent quite a lot of time with each episode. This show has what you would expect of a Hollywood show: Decent acting, good production and okay scripts. The problem is that it's no different than a million other crime shows: A murder has been committed. The cops come in, investigate and find the killer.
Every episode has two options: Either the prime suspect, who they find quite quickly, did it, or he/she didn't do it, and then it was someone random who they find at the very end of the episode. Most other crime shows are like that too, but "Prime Suspect" is simply not very thrilling or very surprising. The criminals usually give up very quickly probably simply because the script writers couldn't come up with any convincing methods for making them confess. As is the norm nowadays, the show also features some details about the main character's personal life.
If you want to watch investigations of police cases, then "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" is much better scripted and has more intricate plot turns. If you want to watch shows like that with details about the main characters' personal lives, then "The closer" is much better. Both are a lot more believable. Yes, they are just as predictable (they always catch the bad guys), but none of the criminals give up just because the cops say "we know you did it" or whatever. The scripts for those two shows are simply better and it's actually quite impressive that a show like "Special Victims Unit" still has good scripts, as it has been running for 13 years now.
Beer for My Horses (2008)
Lame script, terrible acting
I subtitled this film (I'm a subtitler by profession), so I spent quite a lot of time with this film. I would have given this film 2 out of 10 if it hadn't been so incredibly poorly made. It wasn't until half-way through the film that the actual story started to kick in. The first half was just very silly small anecdotes and leading up to the real story. The script was poor - nothing seemed believable, there were no thrills and no interesting points, and I didn't laugh a single time. The acting was terrible as well. The only people who made decent appearances were Tom Skerritt and Willie Nelson. Although they are not high-profiled actors, they were still way too good for this film. It didn't really surprise me when I read here on IMDb that the two main actors had actually written the screenplay - it really did seem like a home-made film. I was surprised anybody would finance something like this.