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The Fall (2013)
Very interesting, but far too neat and romanticised for its own good
I watched all first season five episodes in a row, so this show certainly did something right. A good cast, an interesting setting and a story that's interesting from the start all help.
But - it suffers from being too neat, too trite. The cop vs. the killer, quite a tired concept. And everything is far too neat.
This is a person that's killing people. Plain and simple. Be offended. But they go out of their way to make the killer "complicated". There's nothing wrong with that, people are people. People do bad things. Realising they are multi faceted and that there is no "100% evil" person is an interesting concept.
But they almost take it too far... just making him considerate, liking children, hating abuse, troubled past, troubled childhood (they mention the troubled childhood a lot, just so you know he has issues). He's very hot. Not saying evil people can't be hot, but it's all meant to make the viewers feel conflicted. To admire him, yet be appalled.
Then on the flip side you have the cop... she's complicated too, of course.... she pursues men, that's how 21st century we are here! She wants to lure him in. Because she's that kinda girl. She even painted her nails to get him! "Did she just give her number to a serial killer?" remarks a character, just in case you didn't realise that they're both complicated.... and....
Could she be a clever manipulator too, just like him? Good vs evil... different sides of the same coin?
Yes, they were that obvious.
Then there's the mirroring, the foreshadowing, the characters talking while they show you the "other side" at the same time.
He's there while his children are singing happily, not a care in the world. Do you know who HAS got a care in the world? The woman who was almost murdered. So let's splice these scenes together, because that's clever drama!
There's also the secondary characters, who come and go... setup, but not fleshed out. Because they're season two. Everything feels scheduled to within an inch of its life.
It's an interesting show, good performances... but it just needs to lighten up. Blur the edges. Not making everything answerable and planned. Then it could move from good to great.
Is this a joke?
I love sci-fi! I love BSG, I love seeing 'Six'. I love Star Trek, Star Wars, Farscape, Stargate et al. So I'm forgiving of sci-fi. I'm watching TNG season 1, and trying to find so many high points in it. I'm an optimistic.
Yet I've seen this. Well 30 minutes of it. Trying to be forgiving, as all sci-fi has shaky starts.
I can't! I can't be forgiving. This may be the worst pilot I've ever seen. The writing is horrific. So horrific that I thought there was some clever thing going... a certain language style that I wasn't getting. Lambic pentameter perhaps? Why does everyone talk so strangely?
No, it was just bad.
Every sentence was one of these three things: question, statement, exposition. Listen to every conversation. It was all of these three, heavy on the exposition.
A typical conversation (okay, I improvise!):
1) I am concerned by something. 2) I too am concerned that you are concerned, and I will now look concerned. 1) We have been here 60 years, and we have all partaked in this swimming pool at this location in our 60 years in space. 2) I agree. So now we should be concerned that the sister of the brother of that diplomat lies here dead. 1) I agree. She is dead by a mosquito, despite mosquitoes not being on this ship in 60 years. 2) I agree. I heard that Mr X liked mosquitoes, and was in the Mosquito laboratory of which our ship does not have. 1) I agree. I'm am concerned. Let's go to Mr X - who is the sister of the president of our spaceship that does not have mosquito laboratories - and solve the issue as to why sister of the diplomat is dead. 2) So she you think she was murdered? 1) I cannot say that, bus she is dead through unnatural means! I am concerned. 2) You look concerned! 1) I am concerned. I knew her in flight school. We were friends, but not too much friends. We disliked each other. But liked each other somewhat. So I am indifferent to her.
I can't get over how badly it is written. Maybe it's a joke that will become apparent later. But the characters just go around saying what they think and feel, like androids explaining stream of thought. It's exposition on speed. I'm not getting it. Just terrible.
Cloud Atlas (2012)
An unparalleled triumph
There are few films that leave me with a feeling that will remain with me for a long time, but this has done it.
It is rare to meet a story that speaks so well for the human condition... that asks who we are, what motivates us, and what links us together.
This film will speak to people who like me often sit there and think of different times, the Roman era to name just one example, and think what were the people like? What motivated them? How in all their fears and inadequacies was there someone just like me sat in this same region hundreds of years ago thinking the same thing.
Cloud Atlas takes that, wonderfully, with interleaved stories that stand on their own merits but have common threads.
There are connections between the stories - much like someone could write a book 2000 years ago and now people follow it as if it were unquestionably true - about how things can influence the future. But aside from these small connections they are separate stories. They are not meant to be A + B = C. They are meant to portray commonalities.
The actors being reused works but also fails a little too. It perhaps at times tries to draw the narrative together a little too much. And some of the makeup and character choices are questionable (men as women, women as men and Asians that look like Vulcans). And this is the only reason I drop it a point - because it's hard for any film to be 10/10. Occasionally it snaps you out of the movie, but thankfully rarely.
I see some people have rated this 1/10 which to me is offensive. I appreciate that it may not be to everyone's taste; but the effects. The acting. The scope. Something warrants it to be the worst possible rating. But perhaps I'm not surprised. Some people in this world will contribute nothing. This masterpiece of direction, music, acting, special effects and locations by wonderfully talented people is worth the bottom rating of 1/10, but their 5 minute review is their 'contribution' to us. But it's nothing. They will die, and their words will be forgotten.
But some people stand for something. Make a mark, either on some one, or some thing... through standing against inequality, or creating beauty. And they will echo on. This is a story for all those people that have made the life we live today, and all those that will make a mark for years to come. And that is Cloud Atlas.
Total Recall (2012)
A vivid film, probably done a disservice by its Total Recall connection
This is a good movie. Fun, action etc. all as expected. But what it does best is setting a very vivid future of Earth. In this way it does better than the original by keeping the action solely on Terra. We get to see a distinct vision of the future, and if you just pause on any city scene you'll see the extreme care and detail that has gone into make this future Earth real. It was wonderful seeing this world - and I want to see more and I think any sci-fi fan will get a buzz just by being immersed in the movie.
The thing is by being called Total Recall it does itself a disservice. Rather than being a new distinct branch of Dick's story it of course hangs on to the original, with the name and various nods to the original plot.
But the original film is iconic and fun and a huge fan favourite - and a quite different beast. You start comparing two very different films because you have to.
The new film tries to be better, but ultimately is shackled by its past.
It should have been called something else - and it would have done so much better in its own right.
All that said - I enjoyed it. But just see it as its own version, not as a remake, and you'll enjoy it more.
One final word - what was with all the weird lights flashing all over the screen all the time? That was the key distraction.
The Four Year Plan (2011)
Too brief to be very satisfying but it has its moments
I'm not a football fan at all, but watched based upon a number of reviews that said you didn't need to be a fan to watch this.
And I mostly agree with that, but my problem is that it was just too brief and not detailed enough.
What it did well was convey the contempt fans had for the new owners. They invested millions to save the club from bankruptcy and got nothing but grief.
What's interesting is that they weren't just silent investors. They were involved in the management of the club, celebrated with the fans when they won, and they had a lot on the line personally after their investment. Their joy was very clear when they got promoted to the Premier League.
My main issue is that it was largely fire to bosses, employ a new one, do a montage and they're promoted. There's no detail on how that was achieved. Is it just luck, is it the manager? The fact they end the film saying they are losing again and sacked the manager - the very one they were just indicating was the saviour of the team - adds to the feeling it was just luck.
To that end, there should have been more on the business and behind the scenes.
Also it would have been good to better establish who was who, as it felt it wasn't established very clearly at the beginning.
I found parts of it enjoyable... but it needed more detail and more context.
Secret State (2012)
Enjoyable, clichéd, far-fetched, thought provoking
As my summary suggests, this was a bit of a mixed bag.
The show is by no means perfect. It plays to some very old stereotypes in these situations... that everyone is very posh, in it for themselves, that women have to be aggressive and man-like. The moustache-twirling is used to very high degrees.
It of course also takes very broad and simplistic positions on many topics, as it is only a four episode series.
But at its core is an interesting mystery/political thriller, and a good mix of dynamics between government, big business and the banks. Gabriel Byrne is great and distracts from some of the narrative issues well, and delivers West Winglike speeches at times, and supporting actors such as Ruth Negga provide good turns even if their roles are limited.
One review commented that it was made for stupid 14 year olds, which is the classic way of putting down others by saying if you like it you are clearly a stupid child. However, that reviewer takes things far too seriously. Commenting that in a national tragedy a deputy prime minister wouldn't waste his time going to speak to local residents just shows that he was looking for issues within the first five minutes of the show.
If you crave reality, or accuracy to minute detail, then this show isn't for you. It's fiction at the end of the day. Realistic it isn't, but it does give food for thought and is an entertaining mini series.
Seen it ALLLL before
Gah. I really want some juicy new sci-fi. I love sci-fi, and this sounds great on the surface.
But I'm having trouble getting through the first episode as they have taken every obvious plot point, every cliché and there is nothing original.
The child... giving his mother a toy - which you know will make for a poignant moment later. As if you didn't know, the character then talks about how she has a son, and wedding anniversary soon.
The tech-savvy guy who has lots of monitors and will provide the tech assistance. The bad guy, nodding knowingly so you know he's up to something. The good looking local police officer, who will prove to be annoyance/help/love interest.
Just... formulaic on every level. I don't know how this even sees the light of day.
Even the actors are recycled! First Wave, Mutant X, Andromeda... it's like a who's who of sub-standard sci-fi.
The Avengers (2012)
I couldn't even watch all of it
I love Joss Whedon. I love some comic book movies (X-Men, Daredevil, Batman). I like quite a few of the actors in this.
So why on earth did I hate it so much?
For me the style was probably the worst thing. Some movies grab me, and make me watch. This didn't from the outset. It felt like a high budget TV episode. The look felt stark and unrealistic (or actually, too realistic probably). It seems to have been filmed for 3D, because even in 2D you you just get lots of weird camera angles and a strange tone to it.
The story... well, I just found it hard to pay attention for even the most shortest of times. It just was people doing stuff, but no sense of direction, or story, or building menace. In fact the menace looked like a Stargate TV series villain. Or something from a kids' movie.
And the thing is with Stargate, I love the characters. But I don't with this film. They give me no reason to love them. So their actions are thus uninteresting.
It doesn't surprise me, seeing afterwards, that Joss Whedon directed it. And it shows - he's a good writer, but doesn't have a lot of directing experience.
Having said that, what do I know... look at the numbers it's made!
But for me, I couldn't even watch it all the way through. It was completely not captivating.
The Artist (2011)
Nice, but nothing special
If I had to describe this film in one word it's "nice". Charming, warm, enjoyable are three more words.
But it's really nothing special.
My key problem is that there's no twist really to the movie. Otherwise it's a silent movie for silent movie's sake. And sure it's a nice change of pace, and reminds of us of film's rich history, but if you're just largely copying what was before then... what are you bringing to the table other than reviving an old format? At one point the main character has a dream, where he can hear things. And we the viewers hear things too. And this is where I thought the movie was going to really pick up. Almost a Pleasantvillesque slant... I thought it was going to be dealing with how he was self aware that he was silent and would then break into sound. As we hear a laugh for the first time in the film, it really is a magical moment after so much silence. I thought we may go on this journey as he discovers sound, or something to that effect.
But then... it drops that, goes back to telling a story... and nothing new is brought to the table.
It really is a nice movie, somewhat refreshing... but I don't come away feeling I've witnessed a masterpiece or something that will even remain with me for very long.
The Hangover Part II (2011)
An anxious sequel, more drama than comedy
I adored the original Hangover, and while I didn't expect this to be quite as good I didn't expect it to be this bad.
I don't mind the rehashing... with a sequel to that Hangover it has to be a bit tongue in cheek. But this is like a dark twin to the original movie.
The Vegas setup made, despite someone being missing, for a fun, uplifting movie. A sense of "oh I've been there" but with an exaggerated tone. It was all about what a great night they'd had and were trying to piece it together.
The sequel is the opposite, it's a dangerous, anxious movie. They are in a strange lady, and they've lost a 16 year old and his finger is in a bucket. It's a race to find this kid, and work out if he's even alive. There's someone who has unprotected sex with a ladyboy. Someone gets shot. Even the wedding was anxious because of the father-in-law. While I knew they'd find the boy in the end, it still leads to tension while they piece together a bad night (rather than the good night of Vegas).
In terms of humour, it wasn't also very funny. There were nuggets of potential jokes but they didn't feel well executed, which is surprising given it's the same director as last time. Mr Chow is excellent, but underutilised in this movie.
Then it ends with them finding the boy, who's missing a finger and laughs it off. Erm, yes. This guy who is a gifted musician and wants to be a doctor has lost a finger and doesn't care. And Stu isn't running to get an STD test before he marries his wife, which he would do if some random transsexual prostitute ejaculated into him. Maybe I'm taking this too seriously, but it snaps me out of the movie as a 'step too far'. Or maybe the step too far is the desperate inclusion of Mike Tyson at the end.
All in all, I was very disappointed - mostly that it took a fun evening with the lads where while they got up to mischief no harm was done and gave you a feeling of "what an epic night" in Vegas to this dark tale where there's just no enjoyment as to what they got up to the night before.