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The Martian (2015)
Couldn't believe I was yawning
Maybe it was due to a previous night of drinking, or to the comfortable seats, but I found myself yawning and I'm pretty sure the movie was partly to blame. It laid a nice premise but ended up so convoluted, technical, and dull, you would think it was based on a true story - fiction is usually more interesting. You have some pretty big names trying to make it work (Jeff Daniels), but it just seemed like a struggle to keep things interesting by constantly coming up with a new problem. At least in 'Cast Away' they could focus in on the main character. Here there are many parties to follow: Matt Damon, the NASA people, the crew returning to earth, and - unbelievably - the Chinese. Everybody is trying to grab a little screen time and it's just a big confusing mess, compounded by the length of time involved. They try to go all Disney with the emotional manipulation, but it really doesn't stick. I would rather watch Gravity again over this.
Jurassic World (2015)
Riddled with clichés, zero character development, and nonsensical plots, but what did you expect from a "Summer Blockbuster"?
It's always nice to see Vincent d'Onofrio, but even his high caliber acting skills can't save what amounts to a very nonsensical plot. He plays the military liaison with a vested interest in using velociraptors in the military - you know, to carry out missions in dangerous war zones. It's hard to say it with a straight face, so we're obviously dealing with talented actors.
Usually angry dinosaurs alone are sufficient when it comes to creating suspense, but this would require some decent writing, and seemingly incapable of this task, the writers decided to create a genetic hybrid monster-type dinosaur to try and elicit some emotion (although he is not a great deal scarier than the original T. Rex). I found it really challenging to care about any of the people who are trying to avoid getting eaten - despite the expressions of panic on their faces - and the frantic calls to the nanny.
Some of the expressions of brotherly love between the children was well done, and, in line with the concept of "summer blockbuster" you certainly get your share of big bad beasties. There were also a couple of excellent comedic exchanges with the secondary characters working the control room.
Under the Skin (2013)
Like 5 lines in the whole movie...not worth it
Under the Skin is a weird, moody, sci-fi movie, which owes its interest to a somewhat Lynchian atmosphere mixed with standard plot elements of a creature-feature. It moves at a nice slow speed, but tends to get repetitious and never really develops. If you're not completely baked while watching this you might just find it boring. There is very little sound/music and there is practically zero dialogue. I have a sneaking suspicion that whoever wrote this story (if you can call it a story) basically got the idea from a dream or a nightmare and thought it was enough to turn into a feature. It is concise like a dream, but too sparse to be meaningful.
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
Darker Slice of Life Tribute to Folk Music
"Life is a journey", but if you see anything romantic in that statement, you are not Llewyn Davis. It almost appears like he is on the verge of loving his art, - but without this love he is going nowhere fast. He sings his heart out but is his heart really in it, or is he just trying to scrape a few nickels together; keep on keeping on until he achieves some version of success in the music world?
But I wonder if the desperation portrayed in this movie is merely applying today's negative image of a penniless couch-surfer onto what was a more dynamic, and younger 1960's Greenwich - where musicians sleeping on couches might have been the norm - and might not have been such a bad time (especially if you factor in the marijuana which the movie completely overlooked). In any event, if you're not having fun doing it, maybe you're not in it for the right reasons. The script seemed designed to extract as much emotional punishment out of each scene as possible. Don't worry, this isn't the suffering of child-laborers in Africa. In the end we're supposed to care for an under-appreciated artist - amongst many - trying to make the world a better place, hopefully, like an artist should. Good to acknowledge that. History has lost masterpieces, no doubt. "Without the flower the branch shall die"
Strange situations and strange people materialize in fun Coen brothers fashion, and we have to draw out some important symbolism. Characters emerge but are left - like his past - not fully developed or explained. This one's got a little of the blues in it. You are better off rooting for the cat.
Sadly Does Not Meet Expectations
The Hunger Games borrows a little from the myth of the Minotaur, a little from the short story The Lottery, a little from the Truman Show, a little from Schwartznegger's Running Man, a little from Lord of the Flies. The plot originated in the movie Battle Royale (you might say ripped-off) and the future-Gothic costuming is reminiscent of Dune. It's a wonderful Freudian mix if you can relate to it on an emotional level. Unfortunately you can't. The reason is because the kids play along. Instead of being vulgar and defiant for the camera, they enter the twisted battle on horse-drawn carriages, proud of their beautiful custom-made clothing, their designer taking a bow for the masses. Up against insurmountable odds -asked to do despicable things to both strangers and loved ones - you would expect them to be mooning the camera every chance they get - (which is 24/7) but that might make it a PG movie. So instead they deliver a few touching speeches and jump into the arena. Some of the effects are good, and there is some decent suspense, but these elements are spaced out among the slower moving backdrop.
Cocaine Unwrapped (2011)
This documentary explores the negative consequences of the heavy-handed war on drugs - specifically the effects of the war on cocaine. It contrasts the two very different governmental policies of Columbia and Bolivia, explores the devastating consequences of the drug war (recounted by the people who suffer the violence as well as those in office), and paves the way for a new approach. There are first-hand accounts from government officials (spanning the Americas), policymakers, journalists in Juarez, farmers of the coca leaf, a seasoned cop in Baltimore, army/police personnel, social workers, etc. There are a lot of thought-provoking stories, images of the way other cultures live and work, and some beautiful footage of the natural landscapes in South America.
Battle Los Angeles (2011)
Cerebral masterpiece, no. Fun Sci-Fi action, Yes, Yes, Yes!
This is probably a "guy movie", or more specifically a "patriotic-sci-fi- war-guy movie." I had low expectations which is probably why I enjoyed this more than I should have. I thought the acting was great - and so was the action. The storyline was pretty good given the opening scenario.
Some critics have objected to the shaky cam, but it didn't bother me too much. When you're fighting aliens things tend to get a little shaky. I liked all the added touches, many of which were not needed but added to the realism - such as when one of the main characters could be seen checking for a pulse on a random fallen soldier prior to getting on a helicopter. I will probably want to watch this again in a couple of months. Just a good fun ride.
Doragon heddo (2003)
A visual masterpiece
I had some reservations before borrowing this movie from the local library. I wasn't sure whether to expect a low-budget dragon movie or something with really bad set design. I couldn't have been more off. This movie may have some of the most spectacular sets I've ever seen. No details or expense was spared in creating the visually stunning and surreal backdrop. The plot has a nice forward momentum full of action and trepidation. But definitely go for the subtitles instead of the English overdub. Nothing can ruin a movie more than an awful dubbing in that ridiculous English voice with the accent. You have to hand it to the Japanese - they are much better at making these kinds of movies than Hollywood seems to be.
El rey de la montaña (2007)
Interesting premise does not deliver
It doesn't take a huge amount of money to make a really great film. We've seen great low-budget movies develop out of a few simple ideas, a twist or two, and a little bit of solid acting. I'm thinking of movies like "Duel" - or the latter half of "Apocalypto". These suspenseful chase pieces featuring a good guy we can all relate to, caught in a very bad situation, can be thrilling. At first, El Rey de la Montana (english title: King of the Hill) suggests we are in for such a treat. Unfortunately the storyline never really develops to the point where we feel a connection to either the hero(es) or villain(s). There seemed to be some undue secrecy surrounding every character in the movie, preventing the viewer from fully understanding or appreciating the gravity of the situations that they found themselves in. Perhaps this was the point. When we don't know enough to trust others, we can't fully care about others. If this was the point, it was also the movie's biggest flaw.
A Perfect Getaway (2009)
Smart, stylish mystery, thumbs up!
I loved this story. The genre is mystery/thriller, driven by excellent acting (Timothy Olyphant BRINGS IT!) and beautiful scenery. I was lucky enough to watch this without knowing anything about it - and from the title I thought it would be another one of those Hollywood heist movies with the usual suspects robbing diamonds or a bank. I was way off. (It's a mystery/crime movie.) The rating doesn't do it justice, although I can see how some viewers may have felt the ending to be a bit on the commercial side. Great cinematography, stylish acting, suspenseful... - you're in for one awesome getaway! I rated eight stars out of ten but I am really leaning towards eight and a half.