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Don't look a gift horse in the mouth
There are some people out there that once hooked, could never quite give up on Star Trek. They want more than the latest action packed, special effect laden reinvention for the mentally retarded. Not that the original ones were terribly intelligent, but they had heart.
Here comes a new Star Trek story. True, it is an animation and the quality of the animation is ridiculous. Also, the voice over is done by the same guy, no matter the character. There are no aliens, either, just human models walking around with a happy gayt (and that is NOT a typo).
But the length of the film is 3 hours! The script is very consistent with the Star Trek universe, as well, very similar to the one in Generations. I watched the entire thing and, aside some boring moments, I enjoyed it just like any Star Trek NG series episode. All this must be appreciated.
If it was a computer game, people would have quickly come up with mods to change the voice, upgrade the animation, change the story. But no, instead trolls invade the Internet advising anyone (and I assume that includes Star Trek fans) to not watch a Star Trek film on animation and voice over quality alone. Well, I don't know about you, but I chose to ignore them.
Much deeper than expected. Monkeys got what they wanted.
In the end, the movie was good, unlike the negative hype surrounding it, but I need to explain why. I spent half of the movie lamenting and feeling insulted. You see, the story starts with a terrorist organization killing a lot of the people in the AI field. However, in the end, most of the survivors are working with them. Who would do that? Spend your life for an ideal, see your friends and colleagues die at the hands of psychotic idiots, then join them? It didn't make any sense.
But then it dawned on me. My idea of a scientist is coming from the Golden Age sci-fi, the good brilliant person who wants to change the world for the better, finding solutions, working with others, hailed by the people he helps. But the new scientist in the current media is not the same. They are petty, emotionally immature, envious, limited, ending worlds on pride alone and hated by all good hearted Americans. In the end, the movie just compared the two versions, gave people what they wanted and asked the question "Are you happy now?". As a metaphor for the entire evolution of the sci-fi genre and the message to transcend idiocy, this film deserves a full 10. Go ahead, watch the movie and capture the moment when "humanity" feels more empathy for the uploaded monkey that screamed hysterically than for Johnny Depp's character.
Now, about the acting, Johnny Depp is a great actor, but he was supposed to play most of his role from transparent screens that show only his face. Did you expect captain Jack Sparrow, Edward Scissorhands? For the role he had, he played it to perfection. Perhaps choosing such a good actor for the role was a mistake, but the acting was not the problem.
The props were rather lame, with the military attacking with some artillery guns and a few soldiers. The special effects couldn't have been too expensive either, since they looked like a slightly improved version of Max Headroom. But that was not the problem, either.
I feel that people that were put off by this movie got the message, but didn't understand it. In the end they sided with the monkeys, too, and felt like morons when the movie ended. Try to think of the title and understand that the meaning of transcending relates not only to intelligence, but also to body, soul and heart. Probably there is some mystical pseudo-Christian thing there as well, with the people wanting their god, getting it, then killing it, so that he can transcend, but I would subsume this type of scenario to the greater story here: we are still monkeys and only us can decide to become something more.
The Raid 2: Berandal (2014)
The fighting scenes are sublime, I have to admit, but that is about everything that is good with the film. Since most people watch The Raid movies only for those scenes, I guess this is what you have to know.
I, however, expected at least the semblance of a story, with actors that play characters that make rational choices or are just insane for some reason. In this film, a young cop accepts to go "undercover" in jail, where he spends several years, then becomes the right hand of the son of the man who he wants to trap, only to, at the end, kick everybody's ass.
Why did he abandon his family to follow a long term plan that in the end, after an immense waste of time, he did not follow, no one explains. Why all those people are killing each other and themselves using short knives, baseball bats, metal rods, hammers, pickaxes, when they could just as easily carry guns is a mystery, as well. A sniper rifle would have been nice, or a grenade or two.
I tried very hard not to be racist here, and I don't think I am, but with all the all member movements, loud shouting and exaggerated facial expressions, it felt like I was watching a movie about crazed monkeys killing each other. They all talked about how fast one should rise, the strategy of getting "to the top", but in the end they just talked and walked exactly the same, did the same pathetic things and moved around mechanically in order to fill the gaps in which the indomitable lead character fights everyone and defeats them with their own weapons.
Bottom line: good action scenes, but as I could not understand or condone the motivations of the characters, it all seemed like choreographed ballet, with no story or evoking of emotion to speak about.
Good Italian cinema: Una faccia, una razza
The story is relatively simple, with a bunch of Italian misfit soldiers getting stuck on a remote Greek island and going native with the people who only in theory were their enemies. What sticks to one's mind, though, are the characters, most of them nicely outlined and easy to empathize with. For me, that is the hallmark of a good movie.
There are some tongue-in-cheek moments, with Italians that never get used to the Greek coffee or that want to change their country for the better only to be thwarted by pettiness and greed, but most of the film shows that underneath each soldier there is a human being.
This film was shown to me as a transition from Greek to Italian patronage of my institution and I have to say that I liked it a lot. It isn't a masterpiece, but I would find few reasons to dislike the movie. In retrospect, showing a movie where Italian soldiers get the Greek girls wasn't such a good choice if they wanted to keep the Greek good will in my institution, but certainly the likes of beautiful Vanna Barba playing in the film did not diminish its appeal.
Bottom line: you barely notice that the film is a humanist film, one that is antiwar and anti-government bull and for the human nature of all of us. I liked that it was that subtle, but still powerful. I recommend it.
Reasonable action thriller
I can't believe people saying this film was silly and unbelievable. Have you seen the other movies Liam Neeson did lately? :) Anyway, the story of an air marshal who has to fight against unknown mastermind criminals that are on the plane with him, manipulating people and devices to reach their goals is not as far fetched as decried by many commenters. As any blockbuster movie it does require suspension of disbelief.
Liam Neeson plays OK. It is probably a movie fashioned in order for him to star in it, so no problems there. A lot of other actors that we can recognize, mostly from TV, as supporting roles and Julianne Moore in the first role in ages in which she is not completely obnoxious. Yes, there are plot holes. Especially since the quantum of knowledge of the terrorist party was immense in order to pull everything off. But one can overlook them. The tension is maintained well, but it could have been an order of magnitude more just by pressing in the social element. Instead we has Neeson be the primadona for the entire film.
Overall, a decent action thriller, with more thriller than action, which feels good to me.
Veronica Mars (2014)
Small town private investigator fun
I have not watched the Veronica Mars series, so I can't make the comparison. I know the gist of it, though. Veronica was a teenage private eye in a fictional town that looked suspiciously like a suburb of Los Angeles. There were a lot of connections with the people there and the film brings back a lot of the actors from the series.
Now, about the movie. It wasn't that bad. The kind of ScoobyDoobish intrigue was a little bit annoying, but overall it made sense. Veronica Mars returns to her hometown, even if she just landed a great job in New York, in order to help a friend accused of murder. I am not spoiling anything if I am saying she solves the case. The ending also lends to a sequel.
My conclusion: average film, probably better suited for fans of the series.
Great idea for a movie. Violentus interruptus.
I had just seen 3 Days to Kill and I said I would just watch another action film. I have expected something like it, or like Taken or some other typical revenge emotional catharsis thing. Tokarev is not that, though. It is filled with action, but the moral of the story is completely different, it is about actions having consequences, real ones, for everything that is done.
I understand why some reviewers didn't like it. They had expected something else and, filled with anticipation of the righteous release of anger and violence, were let down by the ending. Like having to stop right before sexual release. But that is the value and power of the film. Do watch it. It is deeper than one might think.
3 Days to Kill (2014)
True Lies, by Luc Besson
As long as you don't expect too much of this film, it might be entertaining. The construction of the film is its big strength, but also its biggest weakness, as it combines violence on the streets of Paris with romantic shenanigans from Kevin Costner and child problems from Hailee Steinfeld, all in the name of goddess Amber Heard. Terminal diseases and miracle cures - compliments from the CIA - notwithstanding, it is difficult to swallow any two of the themes above taken together.
That doesn't mean it wasn't entertaining. Kevin Costner plays a good role, he basically carries the film all by himself. In a way it is a modern remake of True Lies, with generous bits of Taken sprinkled in it. Seeing Amber Heard in all kind of kinky outfits didn't hurt either.
Overall, I had fun watching both hours of the film, but, again, don't expect too much.
Rising Tide (2011)
Not that bad.
Remember that this is a truly independent film, made by people who just wanted to make a film for the sake of it. It has a different feel from other movies that you have seen and if you expect the same Starbuck coffee, but for free, then you will indeed be disappointed. However if you are in the mood, you can watch it and try to get into the feel of it.
Ten people are stuck on a temporary island, isolated from the world by the rising tide. They first enjoy themselves and then, one by one, they start disappearing. The slow building of the characters in the group and the pace of the film might let some people down, but the tension is constantly rising. The ending has a problem, for sure, though. It would have been a lot creepier if they didn't introduce the completely useless final explanation.
Bottom line: certainly a good attempt, without being a masterpiece, but certainly not deserving the one star treatment. Slow pace. You either get into it or you don't. There are some people that want horror in 5 minute YouTube bits. They are called trailers and if really this is what you are looking for, stop watching full length movies altogether.
Jodorowsky's Dune (2013)
It makes me wanna make a movie
I cannot say if I liked the documentary or not. It shows the lifelong obsession of a guy to make a specific adaptation from Frank Herbert's Dune, how he did 99% of the work only to be turned down by the money people in Hollywood. Brilliant, uncompromising, ahead of his time, Jodorowsky is being interviewed now, when he is an 80 year old man, bitter from the failure of the film. I think this is what bothered me most. People described him as this brilliant charismatic man, but I only saw the self-important old man that ruined his son's life to turn him into the perfect lead actor for his film.
Other than that, the information contained in it alone makes the film worth watching. It gives you direct connection to the creational process: how to write the story, how to find the people that can draw it on paper, how to woo the actors, how not to present a movie to accountants and so on.
As a Herbert fan, especially Dune, I didn't like very much how Jodorowsky wanted to change the story, but imagine a project having the likes of Dali, Giger, Orson Welles, Mick Jagger and others. He didn't like Lynch's version of Dune either, which I think was great - compared to most other Lynch movies that I dislike. It was painful to realize that, if I would have been the Hollywood producer, I would have turned down the movie as well, probably. Yet at the end I could not not admire the man and his passion for movie making.
A movie definitely worth watching, but I still don't know if I liked it or not.