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16 out of 35 people found the following review useful:
How does writing this bad generate something so popular?, 24 June 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Let's see:

Rickon is set free and Ramsay starts his fun sadistic game #123. I mean, if there's one thing this show needs - it's another display of Ramsay's cruelty. Several "dramatic" near misses - and Rickon keeps running in a 100% straight line? That would be a very Darwinian death.

Jon Snow decides to charge the entire army solo because he's upset? This is one of the best warriors in GoT - and he's trained to keep his cool during battle. But he was baited by Ramsay like he suddenly turned into a moron - and apparently, he's so angry he thinks suicide is the right way to teach Ramsay a lesson.

Ramsay's forces seem quite unconcerned at the sight of a Giant charging them. Then again, since all he does is pick up a few people when he should be breaking the shield wall - I guess there's little cause to be worried. Oh, I forgot, the spears are the one thing he fears - even though it's been established that these giants will ignore just about everything you throw at them until they succumb. Not pointy spears, though, they hurt.

Sansa decides to hide the fact that she's got a very good chance at recruiting a large army that might very well turn everything around. Not only that - but she manages to arrive JUST in the nick of time? No scouts on either side apparently noticed a large cavalry force approaching, either.

Ramsay - which has been established as a very clever man who'll do anything to survive - decides to aim for the exact same spot over and over and over - while Snow blocks every single one with ease. Exactly what did he expect would happen at shot number 4? Aim lower, perhaps?

I could go on, but I hope you see my point.

What happened to modern audiences? Does it really not take anything beyond a stupid spectacle to warrant a 10/10?

Oh well.

Warcraft (2016)
4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Beautiful and entertaining - with a few significant flaws, 29 May 2016

I'm a gamer - and I've played all the Warcraft games. I never particularly cared for the stories in those games, though, so I didn't go into this with much in the way of preconceived notions.

Based on the trailer, I was expecting an underwhelming popcorn B-movie with bad CGI.

I was pleasantly surprised.

First of all, I have to say the CGI is absolutely gorgeous. I've seen a lot of movies, believe me, and this has to be one of the most convincing fantasy films in terms of visuals alone. The Orcs in particular - are amazing.

Anyway, in terms of the heart of the film - the story, characters and the acting - it's sort of a mixture of good and bad.

The story itself is simple but effective - and it makes enough sense to give you a reason to care. That said, it's very high-fantasy stuff - and I'm sure some people will be turned off by the emphasis on extravagant magic and such.

As for the acting, well, it's a mixed bag.

Ironically, the human characters face the most trouble here. Ben Foster as Medivh, for instance, doesn't seem to connect with his role. He looks and sounds as if he's struggling with the material - and as if he regrets being there. Travis Fimmel as Lothar is better, but he also seems to have a hard time just standing still and looking normal. It's as if he's constantly trying to emote something, which makes him over-act on more than one occasion. Paula Patton as Garona goes back and forth between powerful, genuine expression and cringe-worthy melodrama. Surprisingly, I found Ben Schnetzer the best and most convincing actor, playing Khadgar. He was fun and not at all the comic relief I expected him to be.

On the opposite side of the coin, we have the Orcs - and to put it simply, they're ALL great. They look incredible and the actors behind them give them real weight and pathos. Durotan, Gul'dan and Blackhand are particularly convincing and masterfully executed. The whole movie might well be better if it was all about these guys.

Now, for the action. It's amazingly well done. I saw the movie in 3D - and the live actors meshed convincingly with the animated models - and the action sequences were more or less perfect. I didn't detect a single "bad 3D" moment - which is extremely rare. Very exciting stuff, for sure.

Speaking of 3D - something I generally don't care much for, this was an exception. Everything jumped out of the screen at you - and it didn't seem tacked on at all. The spectacle felt appropriately close to you - and the striking background images were just fabulous on a grand scale.

Sadly, it's not all roses from there.

The ending was rushed - and everything wrapped up too quickly - and it didn't quite convince as a plausible series of events towards the end.

There's a pretty serious lack of character development in the beginning of the film. The Orcs invade - and the humans seem strangely laid-back and almost casual in their initial response. Things happen without enough build-up. It's 20 or 30 minutes too short for the scale of what's going on, in my opinion.

Unfortunately, there's also a somewhat unnecessary subplot involving the son of Lothar - and there's a problem with his acting and the age difference seems off. Lothar simply doesn't look or feel like a father to me. To make it worse, events related to father and son are too cliché and needed more impact.

Things like these mean the movie isn't all it could have been.

However, the critics are flat-out unfair - and if you're into fantasy movies and a touching spectacle, you need to go see this in the theater, and for once, you should go with 3D.

I truly hope it will do enough business to warrant a sequel. Duncan Jones did well here, but he can do even better - and I'd love to see full justice done to the material.

"1864" (2014)
17 out of 32 people found the following review useful:
Looking for a definition of "overblown"? This is it., 1 December 2014

I'm one of those people that don't enjoy overt manipulation - and I prefer a balanced approach when it comes to portraying characters and I need a plausible setup, before I can invest myself in what happens on screen.

I do enjoy experiencing something significant and then being allowed to think for myself, when reflecting upon what I've been exposed to. In this case, it's a TV series that certainly could have been significant, even profound.

Sadly, the only profound thing about it is how blatant it is in its absurd treatment of human beings and supposedly historical events involving these cartoon characters.

The budget is huge for a Danish production, and the good news is that it shows. It's remarkably well-crafted in terms of aesthetics. It looks and sounds fantastic - and you can clearly see where Bornedal excels in that way.

He's an excellent director when it comes to setting up a scene or how to create an emotionally powerful moment, using slow motion and the appropriate music. He's also capable of extracting a lot of raw feeling from his actors. In fact, he must be so good at this, that they forget how to turn it off again, and to behave like plausible people.

As such, the problem is that he doesn't seem to understand the economy of emotions and the impact they can have if handled with less spelling them out, and more letting them build over time without even talking about them.

This was evident in "I am Dina" - and it's even more evident now, considering the change in material, which should have been treated with more subtlety.

You DO NOT evoke a more powerful response through oversaturation. Instead, you evoke fatigue. Real human beings don't emote with such power with every sentence they speak - and we don't actually spout commanding exposition for each moment that passes by.

Sometimes, less really IS more - and you don't have to use a sledgehammer to make pain clear to the audience.

Personally, I don't understand why you'd take on a historically significant event such as this war - if you're not going to treat the people involved with respect. If you're going to talk about something that actually happened, then please start out by understanding something about human nature when depicting the key people involved.

People don't reside in little boxes called "good" and "evil". We're a bit more complex than that.

Monrad being borderline retarded, crawling around naked on the floor - and his "muse" being this completely powermad evil witch hypnotizing him into submission is a bit much, no? As far as I know, there's absolutely nothing in history about Heiberg to suggest she was anything like that. If you want a character to serve your cartoon version of reality - at least use a fictional person.

So, how about taking a deep breath and attempt a bit of slight subtlety next time. It might actually work better. Did we really need to see theater-blood on his hands when war had been declared? Are we THAT incapable of seeing what's going on, Bornedal?

Didrich? Is there a single moment in the series where his eyes aren't flooded with tears of pain - and does he ever cast a look at another person that isn't full of burning jealousy and hatred?

Treating your audience with that kind of hand-holding simply isn't necessary.

The less said about telepathic lover communication and hypnotic veteran soldiers, the better.

As for the actual historical events, I can't speak about them in a very informed way. I simply don't know enough about this war. I can only hope they've researched them a bit more than they've researched real human beings.

But since the people involved clearly aren't being depicted as real people - I have to wonder how much of the events being shown is useful in terms of relaying historical fact.

But then again, this is just entertainment right? It's the American standard of using real history as "inspiration" and that's good enough, right?

Wrong. Not to me, anyway.

If you use a real event this important, please treat it with some respect for the facts.

Otherwise, make something up and be clear about wanting to entertain rather than inform. As in, don't make it about a real war and pretend that the people involved are all caricatures from a fairy tale.

Unfortunately, even as entertainment, this wouldn't work as anything but a farcical display of near-constant extreme human behavior.

If you're a very young person looking to be told how to feel and to be grossly misinformed about human behavior, it's not bad - I guess. It's like a roller-coaster of emotional peaks and valleys if you can turn off your brain.

It's clear that Bornedal is in complete denial-mode after the massive criticism this show has received on a national scale, and I can sympathise with him. But, as harsh as it might seem, there's a really good reason it hasn't been received very well.

If you're an adult looking for something relevant to real life, steer clear.

49 out of 66 people found the following review useful:
Quality crime drama - but nothing earth-shattering., 4 October 2013

Caught the Danish premiere yesterday with a friend - going in without much in the way of expectations.

I'm still in the process of reading the book, which I think is a fine crime/thriller/drama - but not much more than that. Not sure what all the fuss is about - but maybe the latter half of the book will make that clear.

Inevitably, there are significant changes from the source - most notably the protagonist Carl Mørck being significantly younger in the film. But Nikolaj Lie Kaas does a fine job portraying the jaded and highly sarcastic cop despite his age, and he's a reasonable fit for the part.

Fares Fares plays Assad, the upbeat immigrant counterpart to Mørck - and he's the standout in the film, if you ask me. He's a pitch-perfect match for the character in the book, and he manages to give the part warmth, machismo and endearing humor all in one package. Pretty much exactly as I imagined him - and that includes his physical appearance.

The character of Merete Lynggaard is played by Sonja Richter - and I'm not sure what to think of her portrayal. It's for certain that she's done a great job with her physical appearance - which changes during the film, to a degree not unlike the well-known extremes like DeNiro in Raging Bull or Christian Bale in The Machinist. Not quite that extreme, but probably the most significant physical change I've seen in Danish acting. That's commendable, of course, but I honestly don't think she's a good fit for Merete as described in the book. It's mentioned several times that she's almost divine and irresistible in her beauty and charm.

I imagined her as having much more presence than Sonja, I have to say. Overall, I'll give her a pass because of the work she put into her body for the film - but I would have chosen someone else for the part.

As for the film itself - it obviously skips a lot of detail, but that's to be expected. I did miss some of the interplay between Mørck and his boss (played by Søren Pilmark) and they didn't do justice to his relationship with Hardy, his crippled-by-gunshot best friend (Troels Lyby).

But beyond those omissions, I found the experience very engaging and quite faithful to the book. The atmosphere is very strong - with great photography and lighting. It has a very suitable Noir feel throughout - and I particularly liked the music, which did a great job of setting the dark tone.

The locations are strong - and I must admit that the police station and its "Afdeling Q" basement looked more or less just like they did in my mind when reading.

The buddy cop partnership of Mørck and Assad is spot on - and has a great combination of humor and subtle mutual respect. The banter between these two guys is definitely the high-point of the film.

I'm not going to spoil anything - so it will suffice to say that the ending is good and extremely tense.

Essentially, it's a great adaption - and I don't think they could have done much better, given the nature of film and the limited run-time.

It probably bears repeating that I'm not a major fan of the book (based on the first half) - and as such, I might not be invested enough to notice all the flaws. So, take that into account when reading this review.

I hope I've been helpful ;)

9 out of 27 people found the following review useful:
Well acted, well written, and well produced - but too extreme., 13 May 2013

I've seen all episodes so far, and I've finally made up my mind about this show.

It's been a bit back and forth for me - and there have been times when I've greatly enjoyed it, which is why I can't be too harsh.

I've read about half of the first book, just because I wanted to see how different it was - and it seems to me the show is quite loyal to the book in the important ways.

Now, I can see the appeal of this show - but I must say I disagree with the universal praise. It's obviously supposed to be a plausible reflection of medieval Europe with some fantasy trappings - but I don't see how it succeeds.

My primary issue is extremity. Every character seems to be an extreme of one sort or another. I'm not saying they don't have nuances or that they're not "grey" - because they are, and that's fine. But their acts and their profile are basically extreme. This goes for ALL the primary characters - and almost all of the secondary characters.

We have the most altruistic honorable people and we have the most excessively cruel sociopaths. They may have nuance and grey areas - but they're delivered through extremities.

It's like the writer or the producers want to make an impression every few minutes. Every time we establish a warrior as the greatest of all time - and we get some excessive act described or demonstrated, another warrior comes along that's just that little bit more extreme. Constantly. How many "best" and "most fierce" warriors do we have again? Bronn, Nedd, Kingslayer, Rob, Robert, Bear, Hound - and on and on and on. They're all superheroes, basically. They all have a well told tale of some superhuman act in the past that hammers into the head of the audience just how bad ass they really are. It's cool the first time - but not the 20th time. It loses its effect and you get diminishing returns.

This goes for all the profile types, including the power-hungry lords and ladies and the schemers. Each more extreme than the last. It goes for the "evil" people as well.

Every time we have a person behave in the most cruel way imaginable - we have another enter the scene and demonstrate why the last satanic individual was almost kind in comparison. Lest the viewer/reader forgets how very harsh this world is.

It's layer upon layer of extremities. It's as if the world has no subtlety and the characters are incapable of not trying their hardest to get noticed at every turn.

To me, that's desperation. It's the desire to bring shock and awe over the desire to write or show real people with real issues. Sure, the conditions are brutal - and people would naturally have to do a lot of questionable or brave things to survive - but not with every beat of their heart.

If you want the greatest impact, what you do is that you pace your big scenes. You hold back and you build tension. You don't have to torture people visibly every other episode. One time is enough - and you don't have to make every character an extreme. Some people have a harmony about them - and they can make a strong impression over time.

All those "cool" scenes of torture, violence, sex and so on would be so much more profound if they didn't happen constantly.

I understand the temptation of a writer who's trying to match a true great like Tolkien. Tolkien was very different - and his was a very romantic and mythological approach. But he understood subtlety and he didn't bring too much attention to his characters at every turn. No, he built tension slowly - and the effect was that much more powerful.

That's something Martin could learn from. Yes, yes - the world is harsh and people suffer all the time. But even in the harshest of worlds, we will have the mundane and we will have average people failing or succeeding without going above or below average.

Subtlety did exist in medieval Europe - I'm almost sure of it.

Prometheus (2012/I)
2717 out of 3402 people found the following review useful:
Ridley Scott forgot everything about great movies except for the craft, 31 May 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I'm really sorry, but this a major disappointment.

No, I didn't expect miracles or something close to the original Alien. I've been following Scott for 30 years - and it's clear that he has been on the decline since Gladiator and Black Hawk Down.

I liked a few of his later movies like A Good Year - but most have been rather flat and uninspired.

One thing I've noticed, is that he's gotten increasingly complacent with his own "point of view" in terms of historical facts and how things work in reality. It's like he has a complete disregard for plausible motivations or factual information about how things work.

Case in point - there's a scene in the movie where a certain character has to have an operation performed on her body - and it involves slicing directly through the skin and muscle-tissue of her abdomen. After the procedure, she's simply "stitched together" by metal clips in like 3 seconds - and with a bit of local anesthetic, she continues to move and jump about with some moaning. Ehm, you CAN'T have any kind of normal movement with your muscle tissue completely severed - and there was absolutely no healing involved. Just one of a series of ridiculous events.

The plot is entirely juvenile and cliché stuff with "profound" questions like who created us. For some reason, the beings who created us also want to kill us - and it seems to involve incredibly elaborate genetic engineering that also happened to kill most of them in their remote "lab facility". They're CLEARLY much more powerful than we are - and they could just bomb the hell out of us, or do it in a thousand simpler ways. But no, they seem to want to utilize excessively elaborate and dangerous genetic modification or infestation - that they can't even control.

They also like to record recent events with some kind of holographic recorder device that is unable to render clear images, only some cool ghostly images that I bet Scott loved to play with. But they're quite flexible in how they let you play recordings of their security procedure - so you can access their systems without effort.

Characters are void of personality and growth, they're REALLY stupid - and they like to freak out for no reason, and they like to stay calm and playful when there IS a reason - like when encountering a nasty looking cobra-worm - an alien - for the first time in history.

Among these faceless people - we have some willing to gleefully commit suicide by ramming an alien ship, because they like their captain, and they're required to do so because he "can't fly worth a damn" - despite him being the primary pilot hired by a billionaire to do nothing but fly the ship.

We have a religious scientist who concludes that she's found our creators, based on: "It's what I choose to believe".

Then we have the very same religious scientist look at an alien "head" they brought back - and she notices some strange growth on it. She then spends 2 seconds thinking and concludes that this is obviously some kind of "foreign cells" (impressive deduction, I must say) - and she decides to stimulate the cells with electricity - just to see what happens. No research - no caution - no nothing.

We have people who decide to open the door to their ship, seemingly with no thought process, despite having just faced complete chaos by extremely hostile alien forces - because one of their crew mates seems to be lying in front of the door. This while other crew mates have just been taken over by some kind of alien infestation.

Then we have the boyfriend of said religious scientist (a douche) who decides that the air in an alien environment is safe to breathe because his device tells him it is - and he immediately removes his helmet. A classic Hollywood scientist moment, and clearly there's no need to worry about biological contaminants in a place like that.

This movie is FULL of this kind of utterly implausible behavior and random decisions.

It has a couple of "for effect" gore scenes - but Scott manages to include ZERO tension along with them. As a result, they're mildly disgusting - but they have no lasting effect whatsoever.

The "aliens" that are a part of this movie all look like plastic - because of overly smooth and pale skin. They look like Lovecraft creatures without a much-needed paint-job.

We have a horribly predictable, pointless and wasted twist involving Guy Pearce and a certain other cast member.

We have an android, well-acted by Fassbender, who seems to be fully random in his decisions and motivations. Few actions made sense in any context - not to me anyway.

The music was overwrought and didn't fit with the mood of the film, and it seemed like one theme being repeated endlessly. A surprise, given Scott's usual flair for good music.

I think Lindelof is a complete and total hack - who only got the job because he was the "yes-man" who could match Scott's ego. This is pretty obvious in interviews - where Lindelof always manages to publicly kiss Scott's behind.

1 Star for Fassbender's performance.

1 Star for the amazingly detailed visuals.

1 Star for how the above combine to form the excellent beginning.

Now, it's just a matter of leaning back - musing over a thousand different people coming up with a thousand different explanations - each being the "correct" interpretation of this deep and thought-provoking masterpiece.

Going by the IMDb rating, I can do nothing but stay mesmerized by how efficient it is to rely on the "Emperor's New Clothes" effect and let hype do the rest. Stay real Scott, Lindelof and Hollywood.