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Brutal and Bizarre. That's how I like my Bible movies.
To start of, I remember watching the first trailer for Noah and going "Wow, another attempt to get a Passion of the Christ thing going. Playing into the whole bunch of arguments of the War on Religion that people keep saying is a thing. I mean, wow, who would actually want to make something that will be forgotten in a few months. Who would direct such dreck... oh... I'll be there opening night!"
So yeah, to be honest I might be a bit biased. I have seen all of Arronofsky's films to date and the only one I didn't really love was The Fountain. So yes, there is a bit of fanboy warning going here.
I sat down and watched it (not opening night as planned because of economic reasons, but in theater at least) And holy crap! They got away with quite a lot here in a PG13 rated film. Let's just say that this isn't really the cherry-picked happy happy joy joy version of the Noah- story that we are used to seeing in films like this. Nope, this is old school old testament brutality that we get to witness. Noah is a lover of animals yes. But he'll smack your teeth up in your brain-cavity if he needs to. And then there's the people of Cain that is, as another reviewer aptly put it, "a few muscle-cars away from a Road Warrior gang". Let's just say that things get brutal at times.
And also I should mention the visuals. Because it is a strange beast, this. Going by the story it's supposed to be ancient times and all that entails. But there are allusions to the possibility that this isn't quite the case. Giant iron pipes permeate the mining of some mysterious glowing explosion-ore. Heck, Tubla-Cain even sports a welders helmet at one time. And it's all set in this highly stylized world where flat- lands and arid wastelands is mostly all there is until Noah plants a seed from the original Garden of Eden and a whole forest springs up overnight. After the film I read that Arronofsky co-operated with french comic-book artists and made a version of this story in 2011 and I can clearly see the influence from there. And we also get some montages done in a pseudo-stop-motion/timelapsy way that is at once jarring and disjointed but still great to look at. If you suffer from visually induced epilepsy, this might not be the film for you.
The story very much follows what I remember from the bible without hitting you over the head so much about the bible-ness. But it does it in a, I hesitate to say it because I actually have read very little from the guy, but it really feels like something out of an Alan Moore adaptation. Taking the outrageous elements of well known stories but showing it in a world where we see what probably would have happened.
For example, (spoilers ahead!), one of Noah's sons goes out to the Cain- people to find someone to have as wife (he did the maths and concluded that he really wasn't up for banging his mother as the only way to repopulate the earth). But on their way back shegets caught in a bear-trap. Noah finds them as the Cain's are storming forward, water starts falling from the sky so they're kind of on a time- crunch. He grabs his son and leaves the girl. Some part of me goes "Well, OK. He's going to have a change of heart, come back and just in the nick of time save the girl because he's our hero"
Nnnnope. Girl gets trampled to death in no uncertain ways. Now Noah and his son has to live with that decision. And when the drowning actually starts we see Noah and his family sitting there, listening in horror to days of screaming of thousands of terrified voices as humanity is dying out there. Heck, it's even established that the Cain-folk are so big into eating meat that they aren't above catching some of the animals herding towards the ark and ripping its flesh by hand and consuming it raw. It's even implied at one point that one source of meat is human babies. So yes. There's quite some amounts of nightmare-fodder here. He (Noah) is even brought to the point where he finds that he has to kill the newborn babies that are delivered by the girl he took in as his daughter in order to appease the will of the creator.
But while it's brutal as hell at times, it never really strays into the torture-porn ways of something like Passion of the Christ. No, everything here seems at least to be motivated. And while I can possibly see why biblical fundamentalists might see problems with the depictions here. I honestly think that it is probably the best bible-film I have ever seen. And come on, a film that depicts the godless people as baby- eating savages must score at least some points in a bible-thumpers hardened heart. ;)
So, my final words would be that I really recommend it. But be warned. This isn't at all like the slapsticky happy and colorful ways of something like the Noah-story in The Bible: In the Beginning... (1966). And while it didn't exactly convert me from atheism. I could very well watch it like a bizarre form of anachronistic bronze-age fantasy.
Oh, and there are RockBiters in it too. Which was a treat for fans of Neverending Story like myself.
Sadako 3D (2012)
Forget about the original films and you just might enjoy it.
Well, to start off, I haven't really seen the first movies since they came out on video here in Sweden. And I kind of avoided the americanized versions while hearing that they were actually sort of decent. I usually put the original one very high up in my mental list of greatest horror- movies but wouldn't say that I'm a rabid fan of the franchise. So when I saw that they made a couple of new ones... in 3D. I actually giggled a bit, agreeing that if there's any franchise that would be screaming out for a 3D re-imagining, it would be the film-series that is famous for a ghostly figure crawling out of TV-sets. So last night I sat down, donned my 3D spectacles and fired up the projector to experience this thing on my fairly new 120 inch screen that fills up a good portion of my viewing- angle...
And afterwards I can say that I really enjoyed it. Honestly, yes. I did. But just like the latest Universal Soldier I think it's best viewed forgetting completely that it was supposed to be a sequel. Why? Simply because they aren't even trying to go for the same creepiness that the predecessors went for. Also. I really think that you shouldn't even bother with it if you don't have a 3D setup at home. This movie knows exactly what it is. And its makers aren't fooling themselves about any pretense. It's a 3D horror flick that relies heavily on the 3D for it's impact. Some would say it's cheap in it's scare but if you're in the mood and right mindset, it succeeds in its simple startles.
Hands, hair, CGI-shattered-glass, they all reach out towards the viewer almost as much as the victims in this simple plot. Again. It's a decent ComingAtYa! flick and doesn't try to be anything else.
Another thing that I noted while viewing is the camera work. I have seen people criticizing it for being very flat and boring. But I would say that it fits and is very... uhm... Japanese? It is a style that reminds me very much of other rather pragmatic movies and series from the country. They let dialogs play out in masters and the scenes with the almost clichéd older policeman reminds me of that kind of really straight-faced almost comical style of shows like Odoru Daisosasen. It also very much reduces the 3D effect to almost 2D at times and I was wondering if this was shot with double cameras or if it was a conversion. It also contrasts wildly to the CominAtYa!-shots with out really feeling too much out of place. But yes. I won't fault people who think it's boring. But for me it was a breath of fresh air to see horror with a steady camera that didn't try to only sell the scares with a camera that is constantly jumping around.
Finally, its plot was an interesting way to move the franchise into a modern world that is quickly forgetting how magnetic tape video was operated. It's quick, filled with simple thrills and when I want the creepy I can always go back to the first films. Try it out but, again, throw out your expectations of what a Ringu-movie is supposed to be.
Fun at the start but lost me halfway through.
First off. I had never really heard of this Carlos guy. But I think I have seen quite a few characters loosely based on his persona. So I started to see trailers promising this epic story about the true events of a terrorist legend spanning decades in Cinemascope. And I was thinking I should watch this. This looks promising. I didn't really expect it to be awesome. But it did look interesting.
But the film didn't open in theaters here. And while it was waiting for a DVD or release I heard that there's two versions of this. Both a 3 hour compilation and a three-part 5+hr miniseries. Now, I am in a mindset that when there's several versions I want to experience the directors cut first. But that doesn't necessarily mean that it's the longer one. Often it is. But there are quite a few cases where Directors have preferred their theatrical cuts and only did longer cuts as Special Editions. Greatest examples here being James Camerons works with Aliens, Terminator 2, and the likes. And here in Sweden too, there's a common practice where the filmmakers have to do longer TV-edits in order to secure extra funding. Most of those times, the Theatrical Cut would be the Directors Cut. Well, in the case of Carlos, it wasn't. The 5hr version is the directors cut. So I tried waiting to see it the way it was intended. It never came. So now. 4 years later. I finally got a copy of the whole thing and over the course of two nights, I plowed through it.
Part One, first night:
Here you get the origin of this multinational antihero as he's starting out as a veteran of revolutionary wars and fights his way into the business of international terrorism for hire. And for me, this was the best part. It shows his talent for this gig. And also how haphazardly the operations can be slapped together. They say that beggars can't be choosers and sometimes you just don't have enough trustworthy or talented coworkers available, so the bar is lowered somewhat to fill up the roles that the operation needs. Again. This first part showed a lot of promise and almost made you root for this womanizing borderline-alcoholic that has no problems bombing civilians to make a point. And it ended with the crew on a bus going to do their biggest gig yet. Quite a cliffhanger.
Part Two and Three, second night:
Well, the plan sort of fell apart and Carlos is set on a downward spiral of lesser successes throughout the later parts. And, unfortunately, the quality of the film kind of followed. It became an increasingly tangled mess of a bloating cast and muddy motivations. I have very little recollection of what happened during the latter 2.5 hours. The only part I remember sticking out was where they repeatedly mention the location of Ulm. That made me giggle as I tried to recollect the full name of Johann Gambolputty. Eventually it ended and I was more exhausted than anything.
Though I will say this. The costumes, the setting and make-up where all terrific. The lead did his damnedest and had no reservations on camera. Technically, the camera-work was a bit too close and shaky at times but mostly well done. Also, the sound was convincing and the music fit for the most part. Where the problem lies is in the script. Which needed shedding quite a few plot-threads. And it makes me curious how much of the fluff was kept for the 3hr cut. It'll probably take me quite a while before I watch that one, as I want to rid myself of this one just to make the judgment fairer.
In conclusion. The whole piece was too bloated for me. Buffs of terrorism history will probably enjoy it more.
It's a great message dulled down by tedium.
I won't try to argue that the message here is unnecessary. We could all use with a bit more "Goodness". But apart from that, there isn't much more done in this production.
In Sweden it got a bit of notoriety since it was released during election and Swedish state TV refused to show it. Resulting in words like "censorship" to be flung about by cultural activists. But actually seeing the result itself I wonder if it's not just that the film isn't quite up to snuff. Yes sure. That same TV was part of the production and one might assume that it was part of the deal to show it. But it just gets tedious and even more aggravating when one of the producers starts to walk around and behaving like a jerk-wad while the movie follows like this is some sort of revolutionary new way of making documentaries. Acting like as if we hadn't even heard of neither Moore or Spurlock and doing a very lazy imitation of recent docu-trends.
No. This is a ten minute short at best. And still could have done with more variation and a sense of showmanship.
Well. I would have liked to be surprised for once.
Well. First off. I'll be honest. I am coming from a slight bias when I talk about this. I will therefore start with saying that the original Verhoeven flick is one of my favoritest movies of all time...
Now, with that said... the original basically had no right being as good as it was. Quite frankly, Orion found themselves with a surprise hit with Terminator. And basically just reached into their pile of scripts for the next one that had robots in it. Verhoeven himself famously refused to even consider directing such dreck and by the way he doesn't even like scifi. The first trailer even had the theme for Terminator as Robo's score wasn't even done yet. So, yes. I know that my particular holy bovine was created just as very much as a simple cash-grab. But dear FSM did they make it awesome.
So it was with some trepidation that I sat down and watched this updated version. But, I had told myself, the director has had a couple of flicks with decent reputation. And even recent reboots like Batman and Dredd had produced entertaining romps. So there is some hope that this won't end up like the recent Total Recall debacle.
Sigh. Sadly no. Just as suspected. There is very little substance here. Very little new thoughts. And especially lacking was the touch of showmanship.
So Robo is self-aware with memories intact from the first awakening. Uhm OK. His wife and son are both there throughout the movie. And he has retained his right hand as human. And he battles both updated ED209's and regular humanoid "drones".. OK all this we see in the trailer. Now surprise me.
No. That's about it. We get little to no characterization from anyone here. Gone are the quirks and loveability and bad-assery of both the good and bad guys. Who is Lewis, the black good cop. What does he do? Uhm... Who is the main baddie, and why should I fear him? Well it depe... oh he's down. Heck, what is supposed to differentiate these 209's from the mass- produced Metal Gear units? Gone is the sense of supreme showmanship. The mastery of buildup and release. Gone is also the satire. Yes Samuel L Jackson is the typical Fox anchor... but there's no flare to any of it. And yes there is action-sequences. But without the mentioned showmanship I struggle to remember anything memoreable about them. And also they are either bloodless or with drones so there is little to no weight in any of the spectacles.
Now I understand that they wanted to do their own thing. A shot by shot remake including the gore is even more pointless. So I'm glad they didn't fall for that temptation. But please. When you want to do your own stuff. At least go all the way with it. And above all, make it memoreable. This is just bland predictability. I know gore isn't necessarily the answer. I love the old Leone westerns and those wouldn't have any problem clearing a PG13 rating... but just do something to stand out... I'll stop my rant now...
Our Universe 3D (2013)
not even close to IMAX-standards.
Since buying my first home projector setup back at the start of January 2014 I have been ploughing through IMAX-documentaries both in 2D and 3D. And yes. If you're going to watch IMAX productions at home, you pretty much need as big a screen as your home will allow. Do it right and it truly becomes a breathtaking experience.
OK, why do I bring this up, you might ask? Well. Simply because, if you are like me, an amateur space buff who marvels at these sights and what they suggest. Then this will really make itself feel lacking. I mean, it just isn't up to snuff.
It's not really the fault of the imagery. Or the sound. Both are well adequate. It's more about it's pacing and focus. Mainly its focus, basically. The great IMAX narratives rely heavily of immersing you in the worlds they portray. You feel like an astronaut when watching them repair the Hubble telescope and you marvel at what the strange sights suggest. You feel part of the wilderness. You are part of it.
Our Universe fails miserably at this. Instead of the awe-inspiring stories of planet-formation that I have sort of come to expect, this one feels more like that kid in grade-school that is probably destined to be a great astronomer himself (if he doesn't change his mind through puberty). But hearing him prattle on and on and on about anything and everything without any sense of showmanship, storytelling or narrative timing is just mind-numbing.
And to make matters worse, the things you see and hear about in this production is not in the least bit eye-opening or groundbreaking. This is astronomy 101 for dummies. Probably like the first astronomy session you had in grade-school. About as basic as it gets. While at the same time refusing to stay on one subject until it gets interesting before moving on until it's suddenly just stops.
If you haven't got the singlest clue about the bodies in our universe and you have a 3D home cinema with a giant screen, seek out some IMAX-docus. If you are stuck with smaller screens, then treat yourself to Carl Sagans Cosmos. Because, if I'm honest. Our Universe just doesn't give its subject-matter the respect it has earned.
L'écume des jours (2013)
If you love the word "quirky", then go ahead and love it...
I love strange movies, but apart from Eternal Sunshine, Gondry has been more miss than hit for me. And this is probably the biggest miss for me. The effects in this started out as distracting. Even jarring. "HEY LOOK AT ANOTHER OF THESE WONDERFULLY QUIRKY ANIMATIONS! AREN'T YOU FEELING THE QUIRKY, HAPPY, WONDERFULLNESS YET? HEY, HEY! LOOK AT IT! FEEL HAPPY AND QUIRKY GODDAMMIT!!! And before the ten minute mark, they became tedious.
For almost an hour I sat there wondering why I was supposed to feel anything for these shallow two-dimensional characters. Heck. There wasn't even any particular setbacks for anyone until Chloe started to faint. And by that time I was way beyond even caring.
Well. I should probably add that the version we showed at our local art-house-cinema was the 94 minute version. Maybe the 124 min cut doesn't feel nearly as slapped haphazardly together. Or maybe they cut out 30 min of tedium. I don't know. All I do know is that I barely made it through this one and my interest isn't exactly piqued for a longer sit.
Again, I love movies with strange elements. Making my brain go WTF did someone put in my soft-drink? But for me there needs to be some semblance of timing and storytelling momentum. Not just, Hey I know, let's have five more scenes of them fighting the stop-motion doorbell spider while smiling happy and quirky faces without it adding anything of value to the plot. Why? Because it's quirky! Do we need another reason?
You know. During watching this film I realized I just don't care for "quirky". It does absolutely nothing for me. Adds nothing and becomes a tedious chore to sit through yet another HAPPY HAPPY STRANGE AND Wonderful SET-PIECE. FEEL THE HAPPY GODDAMMIT! No. I do not feel the happy. I instead feel like bitter old fart for not enjoying what is so clearly supposed to be a wonderful moment. And any movie that makes me feel like a bitter old fart gets a low rating from me...
Wow... starting out I didn't realize I could muster up this much of emotion to describe my experience. I should probably stop now. Yes... just stop.
If you love "quirky" and Tatou. Then you'll probably love this. Because there's just a sh**-ton of that. If you don't. Get ready for tedium.
Didn't know I could dislike Lena Ohlin this much
It's a strange feeling, watching Swedish genre movies of this kind. Because, even as a swede myself. It never feels natural. It feels like a pale imitation of something that HBO would slap together for an episode of another CSI knockoff.
Starting of with the plot. Which is infuriatingly predictable. And if it's one thing a thriller shouldn't force its viewer to do it's to make us sit and patiently wait for the characters to catch up with the obvious conclusions that the viewer has already reached. This makes the few points that the movie does well into forgettable set-pieces. Things will happen that are mildly intriguing. But then a character will do something that just makes you want to slap them. They'll start to whine. Argue about something non-relevant. I swear. For a long time I even forgot that there was a murder in the movie because the story got so bogged down with lazily written marital problems. For most of the film I was simply thinking two things: "Get on with it!" and "Why are we still here?". And even "Naw, it couldn't be that simple? right? oh, it seems like... yup... they really think this was clever?"
And then there's the characters. My summary mentions Lena Ohlin. And yes. She did become my biggest gripe here. Every scene she was on screen I grew to dislike her even more than the last scene. When not picking unnecessary fights with everyone she meets she's being either hysterical or well... a bit less hysterical. I don't think it's the fault of the actress. Because I think no one would be able to save the characters written into the film. Bland. Uninteresting. Two-dimensional cardboard cutouts of personalities. Again. It's like watching a bad imitation of a mediocre American cop-show where the filmmakers think they're doing the next Sixth Sense.
In many ways it reminds me of the recent series called Äkta Människor. It's that feeling that you're watching a product that the makers are so fond of. But has no idea what has already been done in the genre. Or even worse, they figure that the audience (Swedish middle-class) hasn't seen the films they are influenced by.
About the only redeeming aspect here is the cinematography. But even that where mostly drab grey. Dark and bland...
But as it seems to have been fairly well received I might be in the minority here. It had a couple of interesting ideas in execution. But at the same time it's just too bogged down in mediocrity to stand out in any way, shape or form.
Low-budget nostalgic trip for a certain kind of people.
I have trouble voting on this one...
is the acting off? yes. Is the animated parts crude in quality? many times yes. is it charming as hell? YES! This is certainly just one of those movies that shouldn't work. And for most people out there in the world I have trouble imagining that this film would come out as anything but a trippy b-flick. But for the intended audience, especially those that remember Beppe as the legend of Swedish television children's stories, this is pure nostalgia I am sure.
Me then? Well as I'm born in 85 I haven't got that exact connection with the guy, but then again... Most domestic children's movies over here on the telly was reruns from the 70s and 80s anyways so I am one of those last few that watched public service films without being abnormal.
No, the reason for me to pick up this DVD at the local library was more about a dormant homesickness. And for that it gets a big plus, as it is shot in the province of Jämtland. And seeing the landscape just made me feel good.
The plot then. When Beppe is going to put his son Jens to bed for the night, a strange journey begins. An animated fellow, named Dunderklumpen, has kidnapped some brought-to-life puppets and a mysterious treasure chest. Jens and the baby goat takes up the pursuit while daddy Beppe and his friend, the bumblebee with a sweettoth, on their trail.
They meet several weird animated figures and a lot of singing and dancing ensues to fill out the basically thin plot. Everything except some live-action moments are animated by another Swedish legend, Per Åhlin. And among the voice-cast we hear people like Gösta Ekman as En Dum En (a dumb one) and the likes in the Swedish soundtrack.
It's a slow moving and trivial adventure padded out with singing and dancing and wonderful characters in the typical jamska dialect. It's crude, yes... and it has a gap in the audience between age 5 and 20 that won't get it at all even in the native language. But for everyone else, the ones that have the right mindset for it, it's a wonderful adventure for those who get into the whole thing.
I give it an 8 as it isn't for everyone and the execution is sometimes overtly dodgy. But don't let that fool you. Try it out! You might even like it. And come over here and have a visit while your'e at it!
Movie disappoints with stylish cover...
I've been seeing this movie around the local DVD-stores and thought, what the heck... I'll try it.
The cover and DVD-menu promises a slick and stylish crime-triller. What I saw in the actual movie was something completely different.
Only plus was the Valhalla-gang that made me think a little on the tracks of Guy Ritchie. Rest of the movie just felt sloppy and I had trouble even knowing WHY they where shooting at each other... What's Lis' motivation? The major downside was the actual action... horribly mish-mach-cut and often at the point of unwatchable... never seen a action-flick where the action was the tiresome parts...
I have no problem with foreign films, subs I consider as the only thing remotely workable... dubbing is a sin... but if this is the highpoint of Russian action, well... I'll skip it...
My advice? don't spend more than the couple of bucks for renting it...