Reviews written by registered user

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334 reviews in total 
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Lion (2016)
An interesting story, well told, 16 July 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie is based on an interesting true story. The strength of this film lies mainly in its "slumdog" portrayal of life in Calcutta for Young Saroo. But what made it also fascinating was the process of him getting so utterly lost as a child and then as an adult reversing the process by using modern technology to find out where he was from exactly. It really could easily have remained a lifelong mystery.

I am a little uneasy with the romanticisation of Indian poverty. I wouldn't enjoy that in any context, so I don't understand why it is practically glorified in some movies relating to India. I simply don't need to see this in movies. I don't go to movies to see extreme poverty. There is nothing of merit in showing it.

His reuniting with his mother was not so moving to me as it was apparently to some of the other reviewers. I found it mawkish. Don't get me wrong. I was indeed moved, especially in the light of his relationship with his birth brother. But it was a little too much. I felt emotionally manipulated.

It's worth about 7.5, but I'm going to round it up.

Funny, smart, entertaining animation film, 5 July 2017

Superheroes are no longer valued in America, so they have to hang up their capes and live their lives full time in their secret identities. Elastigirl and Mr Incredible have got married, are settled down and have super-powered kids. However, this suppressed life is very difficult for all of them. Mr Incredible has a horrible job, a horrible car and has got fat -- the American nightmare.

Fortunately, Mr Incredible is brought back into action. He and his family end up in an evil villain's jungle island lair. The rich evil villain (Syndrome) has a personal grudge against Mr Incredible, has been eliminating former superheroes and is developing a city-crusher weapon. Will this super family same themselves and the city?

Thirteen years after being released, this intelligent, fast-paced animated family film is still quite entertaining for young and old. What I liked in particular about it was the writing and the rich detail in the story. There is a clever reworking of many old, tired themes. This movie was a vibrant remix of Bond movie, domestic sitcom and superhero saga. It all felt creative and fresh. At times it exploded into comedic brilliance (eg Edna Mode; Frozone's wife). The animation is superb, clearly the work of professionals at the top of their field.

Well done to everyone involved. I feel it's worth about 8.5.

Sully (2016)
Quiet movie about Flight 1549 and its pilot, 26 June 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The heart of this movie is the spectacle -- beautifully staged and filmed -- of a passenger airplane landing on a river in the middle of a large city in the winter and all its passengers getting rescued. By anyone's standards, this is remarkable thing and the worthy subject of a 96-minute movie. Realizing this, Eastwood presents a realistic, appropriate and detailed film depiction of the crash. It was fascinating to watch, even though the viewer already knows how it ends.

The rest of the movie is a populist "little guy v. the man" kind of film, with the airline, the investigating committee and the insurers cast in the role of "the man", and the pilot (Tom Hanks) and co-pilot (Aaron Eckhart) in the role of the "little guy". In the end, the heroism is not just in landing the plane, but in being able to face with dignity and confidence the bureaucratic/financial firestorm that comes afterwards .

Hanks and Eastwood also engage in a sort of "portrait of heroism". They show us more about Sully and what kind of man he is. The pilot was just a man doing his job, but he did it well and he survived (in many ways) a life-changing accident that could have destroyed him. Is he a genuine hero? This movie makes that argument. America needs heroes; the movie industry loves making films about heroes. The movie was restrained in its flag-waving, thankfully.

I thought this was a good film, although maybe a little on the pensive side. It's worth about 7.5, but I'll round it up.

Life (2017/I)
Visceral, claustrophobic and dark, 22 June 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film is like Gravity and Alien, but with more of a horror element.

It's a dark, visceral and claustrophobic film that shows you the collision of two worlds. No, not Mars and Earth, but science and the unknown. What happens when scientists come across an alien that is not studiable, not knowable, not interested in playing the game.

It's a first contact story, but one in which everything goes terribly wrong. The nightmare here is not one of misunderstanding or miscommunication (like Arrival) but the sheer inability to co-exist. It's about an unstoppable creature from Mars that kills in terrifying ways. From the start, the awful realization is that the entire human race is in danger.

I'm not going to lie to you: I am not sure I enjoyed this film. I'm a fan of sci-fi, not Cronenburg-style horror. As soon as I realized what kind of a creature this was, I foresaw the entire movie. Too bad the people actually involved in it all didn't foresee it in the same way. They had to go through it all. The alien in this movie will remind you of every filthy thing you fear when walking through a marsh. This alien is definitely the star of the show, a work of creative genius.

The cinematography showing the earth and the space station was credible and beautifully done. If you're going to this movie to drool over Reynolds and Gyllenhaal, don't bother. Unsexiest movie ever.

Good performances from everyone, especially Dihovichnaya and Sanada.

It's worth about 7.5, I suppose. If this kind of film appeals to you, go see it. But don't expect a light, feel-good experience. And, um, maybe we really shouldn't explore Mars.

2 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
"Magnificent as she is", 16 June 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I've been thinking a lot about this movie since I saw it. If you had told me a month ago that I would go to (never mind enjoy) a Wonder Woman movie, I would have written you off as bonkers. And yet that's what has happened. I enjoyed this movie, although there were some aspects of it that I didn't buy.

This movie is about female empowerment v. male violence (represented here by the Great War). Diana v. Ares. Much of the fun of the film was her experiencing the modern world (well, the world a century ago) and seeing whether her idealism would crack under the weight of reality.

The main character in this movie was Gal Gadot. She was indeed "magnificent" (as Ludendorff needlessly points out to the viewers), a shining light. Diana was propelled into an extraordinary adventure, and yet handles everything that comes her way. It is an important mission that gives her society, her family and her life meaning. There was a lot to enjoy here, including her formation, her beliefs, her innocence and idealism, her determination, her shock at the modern world. Just awesome.

They did a great job in showing how WW could work as a superhero. I just didn't buy into it before (shield? lasso? bracelets? -- c'mon). But they made it work. Some real cleverness there.

One major theme in this movie is female athleticism. How often do you see that portrayed in a film? It's not just women engaged in, um, ancient Greek martial arts though. (In this regard, it's similar to "The 100".) I really have no idea how they do it, but the result is spectacular. I suppose it's a combination of martial arts, gymnastics, choreography, CGI animation and cinematography. Once it is all combined for the viewer on the screen, the result is exciting and appealing.

These were powerful women, portrayed (as far as I know) in a way never shown on the screen before. It felt new and different, although I suppose it's what we see now in Crossfit competitions and shows like Steve Austin's Broken Skull Ranch. For anyone who hasn't seen these things, I'm sure the depiction in this movie was mind-blowing. Showing this aspect of the movie in a convincing way must have been a huge undertaking on the part of the filmmakers. I think this was successful.

Another important theme in the movie is the Great War. This is a war most of us don't hear about much anymore. We've all seen the historical footage and historical movies attempting to show it to us. I'm not sure the movie was accurate in depicting this war as genocidal and oriented at mass destruction. It wasn't, was it? This bothered me.

The portrayal of the war here was different than one I'm used to. This movie attempts to show it in a way that is relevant to its theme ("Ares must be destroyed") and interesting to modern internet-generation viewers (especially those demanding action). Whether this depiction of the Great War was successful I am less certain, but they get an "A" for effort.

I didn't like the Trevor character. I blame the writing and story here. His job was to be the foil to Diana, and most of it didn't work for me. It didn't help that I'm generally not into Chris Pine. I think Pine was given a very tough role here. There is a lot more I could say about this, but I will refrain.

I didn't buy Capt Trevor's little gang of misfits on the front. Sorry, but I just didn't feel they belonged on the front or in the movie. When they were on, I played on my phone.

Ares was "meh".

This is the thing: I feel that this movie had some tedious aspects and some awesome aspects. Yes, the two themes were dealt with in a camp way -- how else could you deal with it in a Wonder Woman movie? -- but I admired the effort. This movie is worth about 7.5, but I'm rounding it up.

EDIT: On reconsideration, I'm rounding my score down to 7 because of the tedious aspects.

30 out of 52 people found the following review useful:
Visually appealing but there are too many issues, 1 June 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The space ship and the alien world are portrayed beautifully in this movie. In that sense it's a beautiful movie. I wish Ridley would explore this further outside of the Aliens franchise.

The "aliens bursting out of the body" theme -- the hallmark of this franchise, I suppose -- was done well in one spectacular scene. If you enjoy that kind of visceral, Cronenburg-esque horror, you won't be disappointed.

Let me list the obvious problems....

One problem is that the visuals are not that different from Prometheus. This movie is quite similar to Prometheus.

A second problem is that there is no real intellectually interesting premise behind it all. No new story really.

No character development at all this time, which is a huge problem.

I don't like this special historical connection the aliens somehow have now with the human race via the Engineers. These Engineers. Who are they again?

"Alien bursts out of body. Alien becomes scary and evil. Woman fights alien." This is the plot of every movie. I'm tired of these aliens.

A third, very annoying problem is that all the crew seem to be paired off with each other. This movie is proof that partnered people should not be in a military unit together, because if this movie is any indication, the minute one's partner is endangered or gets killed the screaming and blubbering and unprofessionalism begins. "Oh my god, my wife might be in trouble, I will risk this huge space ship, and all 2000 colonists, just to save her. She's so important."

My response was: WTF is your wife/husband/partner doing on the ship with you if you're such an emotional mess? At one point, I yelled "stop screaming" aloud at the screen. This is why there are (or should be) rules about this kind of thing. Somehow the edginess of the marines in the first movie has morphed into this. I don't like it.

A fourth problem, perhaps the most annoying problem of all, is that these people seem to have no understanding of the biological dangers of alien planets. I mean, a 10-year-old would know about this from watching cartoons. Why don't they? Why would you get so close to a man who was clearly suffering from some serious alien trauma? Why would you look into an alien pod knowing that the alien planet had somehow infected your mates? How can I rate a movie highly when I was spending much of it rolling my eyes?

A fifth problem is that the David/Walter mix up was so frigging obvious. I saw it immediately. How could the crew not have checked this more carefully? It was just unbelievable that they didn't do this. And how did David learn Walter's codes?

A sixth problem: the movie was confusing. I googled it afterwards to try to sort it out, but I still don't know how the alien got onto the colonist ship after all that effort to keep it out. I suppose David brought it in, but how? In his mouth? And what happened exactly when David brought the ship to this alien world. Where did he get those spores? What were they? Confusing.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Crap, 30 May 2017

I didn't like this movie.

This film has little to no connection to either British history or the Arthurian legend. I wasn't in the mood to put up with yet another fantasy world and idiosyncratic mock interpretation of history (a la Monty Python or Tarantino). The anachronisms and anatopisms disturbed me, especially the accents. Was that a Chinese man in 6th century Britain teaching martial arts?

Does every historical movie now have to be turned into a fantasy action film? It was all just made-up sh*t: a "mage" who controls the animals, the blade has to touch the altar, Vortigern has a freaky evil thing going on, slithery just went on and on.

I disliked the fact that I had to pay close attention to figure out what was going on. The dialogue (consisting essentially of macho bantering) was really annoying. I'm not at all into laddism. Was this movie meant to appeal to 14-year-old British chavs addicted to video-game action and violence? This movie was told from the perspective of...what?...a Cockney footballer? A Geordie thug?

The move was melodramatic, to the point that I groaned audibly when the boy's scream was echoed throughout the city. Everything was momentous and slickly cool and kept at a high pitch. I disliked the artificial slow-mos and fast-forwarding.

It all just seemed very much like LOTR or every other fantasy film you've seen lately. Giant elephants, I mean, c'mon. Action for action's sake, which I hate. This wasn't a movie with character development of the kind that I recognize. I just didn't care about these people. Men bantering with each other is not character development. It's just annoying posturing.

Three of the hottest guys on the planet were in the movie, but it wasn't a sexy movie.

I fell asleep for about 30 minutes in the first half. It just was too confusing. Who the f*ck is Vortigern? Who the f*ck is Uther? None of it was properly explained. Fortunately I awoke just in time to see him pulling out the sword. The fire alarm in the cinema went off about 20 minutes before the ending. I was grateful for the opportunity to escape, and I didn't care about how it ended.

When I look at the list of movies Ritchie has made, I realise I don't like Guy Ritchie movies.

OK, there were a few creative, thought-provoking and interesting visuals and scenes, I'll give Ritchie that. There is enough there to make me think that maybe I didn't really understand or get the director's style. I'm thinking of going back to give it another chance. Maybe my review is unfair. Maybe I just didn't get it.

A puzzle to me: why did I like "The Great Wall", but not this? They are cut from the same cloth.

The Circle (2017/I)
4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
The limits of transparency, 30 May 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie is an exploration of our modern online "black mirror" culture, this time focusing on large corporations (think Google, Apple and Facebook) that are forcing us to publicly live our lives online.

It's a slick, snazzy movie with good production values, a good script and decent acting. Emma Watson's skills and amiability are on full display here.

At The Circle, "transparency" is pushed as a public good, even though it really serves corporate purposes. We see in this film how far it can go.

This movie is like "Nerve". "Nerve" looked at online anonymity, sensation-seeking and desensitisation; this movie looks at the slippery slope between "transparency" and totalitarianism.

The Circle is ultimately a creepy place where the employees are forced to live their lives online in a way that comes across eventually as malevolent and overly intrusive.

Our heroine is apparently one of the few who are not using the internet for romantic or sexual purposes. She seems to have no tension between her online (non-existent?) sex life and her online public life. No wonder Tom Hanks loves her.

Of course, the rest of us do have that problem. There is a good deal of tension between our online sex lives (which we want to keep private) and our online public lives (which we are willing to share). If the good people at The Circle are going to make everything completely transparent with the assistance of millions of cheap mini-cameras, it's going to have to deal with the fact that 90% of the internet is being used to get off.

This is the creepy horror of the internet for many of us: Facebook and Google are going to blithely reveal our dick/boob pics, our sexts, our sex vids, our porn preferences, our kinks and our f*ck dates to our families and employers.

This movie presents that issue in a single but hugely important scene. The line is briefly crossed. But it is not her sex life that ends up being made public. It is her parents. OMG, America is horrified. People are having sex!! What's hypocritical about this scene is that it avoids the main issue, and deflects it into an issue about respecting your parents' privacy.

This online tension between anonymity and transparency is a huge topic. But this movie does not do it justice, in my view.

And of course there is also the problem -- which the movie deals with in detail -- that some people simply don't want to be online all the time. Some of us don't want their lives to be transparent. What do we do with them? I think this movie addresses a huge anxiety of the selfie generation. They need anonymity; but they are also afraid of not being watched. It's admittedly a very strange situation. How did our society end up like this?

I think this movie is worth 7.5, but I'm going to round it down because I don't like how it dealt with sex.

Nerve (2016)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Snappy exploration of the black mirror, 29 May 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Imagine a not-too-unrealistic online game where the players are encouraged, motivated and lightly coerced by an anonymous gamemaster to do stunts IRL, which are then broadcast to and rated by the anonymous viewers. The stunts become increasingly more dangerous until it becomes obvious that the viewers are insatiable for sensation, and the whole thing is out of control.

This is a fast-paced, engaging movie that I found to be thoroughly enjoyable to watch. The visuals and music are appealing. Emma Roberts and Dave Franco were competent and worked well together.

It was one of the first movies I've seen to actively explore where our new online culture is taking us. In that sense, it's not that different than a "Black Mirror" episode. Is there any role in our brave new world for trust, privacy, decency, altruism, etc.?

There are a few plot holes, but it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the film for what it was. It's worth about 7.5, but I'm rounding it up.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Good movie telling the story of the Rivonia Trial, 21 May 2017

This historical movie tells the story of the Rivonia Trial, which was conducted in Pretoria in 1963 and 1964. This is the trial in which Nelson Mandela (amongst others) was sentenced to life imprisonment for sabotage.

The story focuses on the lead counsel for the defendants, Bram Fischer. Fischer's story is an interesting one. He had himself been a member of the Communist party and had played a role in the planning of the sabotage. The defendants saw their actions as political resistance.

We meet Bram Fischer's family and friends. We witness the actions and dialogue of the various personalities in the anti-apartheid movement at this time. All the whites involved -- defendants, their counsel and their prosecutors -- were mostly Jewish. We also see the Afrikaner security forces of the apartheid state, doing their utmost to bring to justice a group they regarded with hatred. We see the details of the trial.

The director did a great job in recreating this particular time and place. I had the feeling that we were being shown a realistic film about life in South Africa at that time. The dialogue is mostly in Afrikaans but with some English. I suppose this easily bilingualism reflects the reality in South Africa. The use of Afrikaans certainly made the movie extraordinarily realistic.

I thought that perhaps the portrayal of the Afrikaner security and justice system was not painted with a light enough touch. They seemed unrelentingly evil. However, I saw this movie with an egte boer, and he did not find it offensive or inaccurate.

The story is interesting and well told in this film. At the end, the film became quite moving. I left the movie with the impression that Bram Fischer was an extraordinary and heroic Afrikaner. I recommend this movie especially if you're interested in learning more about South Africa during this period.

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