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Birdman = Turdman
I am a native Angelino so I have a great affection for Hollywood. It has given us so many wonderful films. But within the industry there is a fetish for a certain type of film that is either about the industry itself, about acting, or about theater. These films are almost always lauded by critics and Hollywood itself, winning awards and praise. But what they lack is an audience. Because no one but Hollywood likes them. They are unfailingly boring, empty and pointless movies.
Birdman is such a film. Happily I did not waste money actually seeing it but read the script after it won for Best Screenplay. I'd already fingered it for a stinker "Hollywood" film but thought maybe I was wrong. Maybe the script would be mind-blowingly beautiful. Maybe I was missing out.
Although I wanted to stop 2 pages in, I kept going. Halfway through the script I told myself to stop the misery, but still pushed on. I kept hoping it wasn't really going to be this bad all the way through. But no. It was. Pointless boredom to the very last smash-cut to black. It is exactly the kind of movie it looks to be by reading the synopsis... or the first page of the script A Hollywood artsy farsty film minus much art and with extra fart. Bird fart.
So if you are tempted to waste money on this film, I would urge you to read the first 10 pages of the screenplay first. If that excites you, you will like the movie, so drop the script and pick up your wallet. If it doesn't, do yourself a favor and watch an old favorite movie instead.
Game of Thrones (2011)
UnimaginativeTestosterone Pretending To Be Edgy
I confess I did not read the books, and did not even give Game Of Thrones a try until just today when I watched the pilot. The name simply didn't appeal, but after catching positive buzz about it, I wondered if it could possibly be something like my beloved Spartacus series which sadly ended last season.
I could not have been more wrong. The one thing they do have in common is production value. That's sadly where it ends.
Where Spartacus had deliciously gripping plots weaving phenomenally-written characters together into intimate dramas, GOT throws out an endless cast of colorless, simplistic characters hoping something will stick. Worse, the plot is as old and moldy as the characters, (Kings wanting their MTV, yadda yadda yadda). And while Spartacus had more than its share of over-the-top violence and depravity, it all served a purpose and the writers still managed to expose the humanity of each character through it all. In GOT the sex, depravity and greed is gratuitous, shallow and as pointless as the rest of the show, leaving me with a sense that I just watched the unimaginative fantasy of a 9yr old boy with anger issues.
The first five minutes had me thinking maybe this was going to be a good show... but it quickly derailed into boredom and by the halfway point in the pilot I was wondering if I should waste my time watching the second half. I did, but it only confirmed my opinion.
Spartacus always left me feeling exhilarated because of the outstanding writing and characters. In fact the characters and plots were so well written the show could stand on its own with most of the sex and violence edited out, as could happen if it is ever syndicated for network TV. Game Of Thrones, on the other hand, feels like a flat, old, board game. No standout character. No standout plot line. Nothing to pull me in and make me want to see more.
Oppressive Atmosphere Places You in 1970s Iran
Argo creates a tight, oppressive, pressurized atmosphere that stayed with me long after the lights went up. Affleck plays the CIA operative tasked with rescuing 6 Americans in Iran during the hostage crisis of the 70s. His understated performance is pitch perfect. John Goodman and Alan Arkin are great as the Hollywood counterparts that help Affleck pull off his cover story, and surprisingly the movie has some really funny one-liners. Byran Cranston is also phenomenal, as is the rest of the top-notch cast. While pacing slowed in a few places, it didn't take long to pick back up in each case. A nice touch at the end was seeing the photos of the real life hostages and players juxtaposed against the actors who played them.
The movie was a little different than what I was expecting, however. I expected a "nail biting, action thriller" that I assumed -- knowing how the story ends -- would leave me feeling triumphant or at least feeling good. Instead, (and in a way this is to the movie's credit), the atmosphere it created was so oppressive that I was left in a negative mood, even though the film has a positive ending (since it is based on a true story I don't think that's giving anything away). If you equate oppression and pressure with "a thriller" and "action" then I guess you might see it different. In any case there are worse ways to spend ten bucks plus.
It's a solid 7.5 stars for me, but not a movie I would watch twice.
Breaking Bad (2008)
Great AMC Drama Surpasses Premium Cable
When straight-laced high school chemistry teacher Walter White is diagnosed with cancer, he turns to cooking meth hoping to sock away some big money for his family before he dies. But the cancer might not get a chance to kill him after all... his new profession might just do it faster.
From frame one... of episode one... of season one... this series will grab you by the soft and hard parts and not let go. You will be drop-jaw-wowed by the production quality, scripts, acting, and execution of this stand-out series.
True artistry and brilliance is transparent in writing and filmography so that what appears to come through is real life in all its gritty, ugly glory. Breaking Bad delivers in a way few series ever have. The casting is superb and virtually every actor is stellar. The twists and turns of the plot are delicious and the ride is as intoxicating, unpredictable and addictive as the killer meth Walter cooks up.
This AMC gem is every bit a premium cable channel production from start to finish. You will swear you're watching HBO or Showtime. If only every show on TV was even half as good! Breaking Bad deserves every industry award and accolade to be had.
Extremely Long & Incredibly Bad
I'd like to start with what I liked about this movie, but the only thing I can think of is that it was nice to see the streets of New York, though Google Earth would have been a more pleasant way to do it.
How can a movie with Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock possibly be bad? They aren't in it, that's how.
Instead the entire movie is focused on a self-centered, know-it-all brat who thinks 9/11 was all about him and only him. This boy is not only annoying, he speaks so precisely and enunciates so well, his voice screams ACTING COACH, which completely removed me from anything he was saying. It was an affect I could not get used to, even though he talks through (and narrates) the entire film.
The script itself was so far-fetched and ridiculous it was impossible to suspend disbelief. No kid would do what this kid did, and no mother would allow it for a billion and one reasons, much less do what this mother did.
This movie tried so hard to tug at your emotions but the only parts that did were the few bits the writer didn't have to make up because they actually happened that day.
Audience members are supposed to watch a drama and say to themselves, "Yeah, life's like that," on some level. Life could not be LESS like this movie. It was simply... Extremely Long And Incredibly Bad.
Another Earth (2011)
Slow Art Film
This is not sci-fi. It is a very slow art film (is that redundant?). The type of film that hangs on a shot while absolutely nothing happens... over and over again... hoping people in the audience find the effect profoundly moving. There was almost no plot, very little dialog, and next to no action.
The main character was supposed to be depressed but instead was portrayed as flat -- so flat she inspired no empathy. Her flat affect was emphasized by the flat still shots that artlessly hung on her, which did nothing to convey the depth of her despair, but made me think about the depth of my own in sitting through this.
The one thing I will say is that I wanted to see how it would end since they brought in this 'other planet' as a plot device and would have to deal with it sooner or later. The last 20 seconds of the film -- the final scene -- was better than the entire rest of the movie put together, but that's not saying a whole lot. But at least on top of everything else it didn't have a bad ending (in my humble opinion).
If this film had avoided the artsy and leaned towards the gritty, it might have had a better shot at entertaining.
Good Action Flick
Many reviewers here have stated that this movie isn't realistic because 'Salt doesn't get bruised enough' or 'no one her size could...' Have these people ever been to an action movie before? NO ACTION MOVIE IS REALISTIC. They are all written to be over-the-top because that's what makes them entertaining. We suspend disbelief to enter the world of the action-hero (or heroine) and we go along for the thrilling ride that is sometimes so over-the-top it's ridiculous! But that's what makes it fun. If action movies were realistic, they would be slow and boring. This movie does not cross the line anymore than any other action movie.
Salt delivers exactly what is promised -- a solid 100 minutes of action. It keeps you watching, it keeps you guessing (even when it turns out you were right in some cases), and it entertains from start to finish. If you like the action movie genre, chances are you will enjoy this movie.
As for the reviewers who criticized the way Russians are portrayed, the action genre plays to comic book-like caricatures. The villains are no more realistic than the heroine! This isn't a documentary!
If you like action movies, give Salt a go. Angelina won't disappoint.
The Book of Eli (2010)
Post-Apocolyptic Bible Thumper Reintroduces Religion
The world is again Mad Maxed, only this time instead of a young, handsome, as-yet-untainted Mel Gibson, we have the formidable Denzel Washington as Eli, wandering the dusty, bleak land. He carries the only surviving bible "west" per an intuitive spiritual whisper. En route he runs into Gary Oldman as the intelligent, power-hungry Carnegie, who is searching for "The Book," which he believes will allow him to control the masses through its powerful words.
Carnegie is a symbol for everything that is wrong with organized religion, while Eli is a symbol of humankind wanting to do what is right. The problem here is, if you need a book to tell you what is right, you are already screwed. And if you don't need the book, then why drag it west. Also, organized religion is probably what led to the world's annihilation to begin with, so wanting to jump start it is nonsensical.
There was one funny scene that involves an old couple that puts a vinyl record on a dilapidated turntable... the record is an old disco single (I won't say the title cause I don't wanna include a spoiler) but the old man kind of sings along and it is quite funny, albeit short-lived.
Gary Oldman is always great, Denzel was good as usual, Jennifer Beals and Mila Kunis were also good. Just did not find the premise compelling or believable, and the ending is even less believable... in more ways than one. I won't say this movie is a waste of time, especially if you are a Denzel fan, but if you don't have a high opinion of organized religion, the premise will not be captivating enough to allow you to suspend disbelief and be entertained. On top of that the story is predictable, as one might expect of the genre.
I Love You Phillip Morris (2009)
Excellent, Mind-Blowing, True Movie
This movie starts out with a title card that says "This really happened." It fades, then is replaced with, "Really, it did." I didn't think much of that at the time except that it was funny. But by the end of this incredible movie, my first thought was "this really couldn't have happened" and that's when I remembered the title cards at the beginning. Because you really WON'T believe it happened. Only when updates on the real-life counterparts were flashed on the screen at the end did it sink in that yes, all this stuff really DID happen. (I obviously did not see the 60 Minutes or 20/20 specials on Steven Russell - I never heard of him prior to seeing this movie.)
If you know the story of Steven Russell and Philip Morris, see this movie. If you don't, see this movie. And do yourself a favor -- if you don't know the story, don't Google it first. Just watch the movie. Google afterward.
Steven Russell is a con man in love, and the ingenuous methods he uses to try to remain close to his lover, Philip Morris, are truly amazing. You will be entertained from the first moment of this movie to the last. You will laugh. Your jaw will drop. You will think, "this really couldn't have happened" at least ten times. Be prepared to totally enjoy yourself for the full 130 minutes.
Steven Russell, my hat's off to you (and also off to Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor who were spot on). A really engrossing story of love, human nature, and creativity at its most manic. What would YOU do for love?
Män som hatar kvinnor (2009)
Worth Seeing, Albeit Overlong
This movie is beautifully filmed and produced, with top notch performances (for the most part). The plot has enough twists to keep you interested and the characters are well defined and believable. It contains some gritty scenes that American movies lack for fear of offending, and these play well in context of the movie.
At 2.5 hours it is way too long, however, and many superfluous scenes could have been cut. It nearly turns into two or three movies by the end, though it's satisfying enough despite suffering from slow pacing throughout much of the second act. The climax of Act II feels like it should be the end of the movie, but alas, the main premise has not yet been answered, so we march into Act III, which is a bit choppy and unpolished, though it does deliver an emotionally satisfying climax, contrasting with the action-filled climax of Act II. The resolution, so long in coming, stretches into multiple plot lines to cover all the bases and tie up loose ends, with a somewhat glaring "hole" that I cannot reveal without including a spoiler; but by this point you just want the movie to end and so don't care so much, as it's been a good-enough ride.
Out of all the movies out there, this one is certainly better than overrated movies like Inception (no villain except Cobb's guilt, no danger because all action takes place in the dream state, and nothing at stake we care about!) and Avatar (dialog to rival the worst B movie ever made - Titanic deserved being #1, this movie doesn't deserve to be in the top 10!). While The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is by no means a perfect movie, it is worth seeing, which is more than I can say for some blockbusters.