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A little less conversation, a little more...anything
I'm up to Episode 8, and this might be the worst TV series I've ever seen. Basically, it suffers from extremely slow development and lack of a strong story. The main focus seems to be whether the main characters should or should not engage in an extramarital affair. It just takes so long to get there that after watching for hours I couldn't care less whether she has an affair or not. I have a feeling the writers were trying to be exotic by making it a lesbian affair and including a bit of pot use. That might have been an exotic theme 50 years ago; today it's common place and not enough to make a compelling story. I kept waiting for something intriguing to happen. I watched the first few episodes looking for clues to suggest her world is semi-illusion, like in a good David Lynch film, (especially since her coffee shop is called The Rabbit Hole) Unfortunately it turned out to be all too real (so far) as everyone keeps droning on about their emotions and constricted lives. I guess I will hang in there till the end, but hugely disappointed. This is so far beneath the caliber of a Naomi Watts it is actually frustrating seeing such talent wasted on such a poor story.
Familiar Gangster Movie Motifs, with some bizarre elements
The movie centers around a young enforcer, Toro, and his brothers, working for a big- time kingpin. He wants to get out, and go straight, but things won't be so easy. Adding an element of what feels like Shakespeare to the storyline, it turns out the kingpin has an interest in prophecy, and gets his Tarot cards read in the opening scene. What the cards tell him makes him nervous. The young enforcer agrees to one final job - more of a little vandalism operation against a restaurateur who is not using the kingpin's shrimps (No spoilers here, this all happens before the opening credits) Things get a little crazy and lot more violent as the movie progresses. Toro begins to reveal his Jason Bourne fighting skills in moments where it is best to suspend any disbelief, both at his abilities and his choices. Some nice cinematography and action sequences throughout. Things get a little more bizarre than the usual Mafia flick, as the kingpin is into both prophecy and Christian occultism, leading to stuff you want to keep your children far away from.
anticlimactic, tries too hard to be cool
I loved the trailer and really wanted to love this film but in the end I just felt underwhelmed. The storyline seemed to lack suspense and reality. The suspense was stifled, I found, because the writer(s) decided to reveal the fate of an important character near the beginning of the film, so you already know what happened regarding this person and are relying on the 'why'to make meaningful. Everything gets explained, but it is so convoluted an explanation that it isn't entirely satisfying. The other drawback of the film is an all-out attempt to pepper the dialog with artificial, non-stop, street-cred lingo, in an attempt to make the characters seem a lot more intelligent than normal teenagers. These characters exist in the fantasy world of suburban teen organized crime, which is not a terrible premise, considering the writers got a couple of strong black-comedy moments in, but overall probably needed a stronger story to bring it all together.
A Lynchian Dr Faustus - possibly Cronenberg's masterpiece
I can appreciate that a lot of people don't "get" this movie, or find it pretentious or pedantic or just strange. But I'll have a go at what I liked about it. I liked that it walked a very fine balance between reality and dream, incorporating poetry and symbolism. I liked the complexity of the dialog - so complex at times that it seems the intention is not so much to be understood as to give an impression. It felt in places like Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal; it stares at the issue of mortality head-on. It also felt a bit like Fellini's Roma (the long highway scene) I thought the deadpan acting was perfect. And it was suspenseful, in the sense that you really will be kept wondering what will happen next to the main character.
It's a Trial, that's for sure
After being pleasantly surprised by the first Maze Runner I couldn't have been more let down. All the elements that made the first movie unique and interesting are pretty much gone. Instead we get a zombie- apocalypse style chase movie that's similar to, well, hundreds of other zombie-apocalypse chase movies - such as World War Z, Resident Evil, 28 Weeks Later, 30 Days of Night, The Colony, etc. etc. There's been so many of these movies that the genre has actually spawned some decent parodies (I'm thinking Zombieland) It's sad that they're still selling it and it's sad how unoriginal it is considering the first Maze Runner gave us a puzzle with novel sci-fi elements and mysterious antagonists.
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.
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.