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48 reviews in total 
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A companion piece for visiting UBL's compound, 9 October 2017

I've lived in the Muslim world for years and in Pakistan for a few months. Now some friends came to stay and the one place they decided they HAD to see was the empty plot of land where once stood Osama Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad. Three hours to go, three hours back, some pictures and a story to tell (the movie says the city is 45 minutes drive from Islamabad, but that was back in 2010 - not now!).

Once we came back we were so involved with the story of the raid that we had to see Zero Dark Thirty (for the 2nd time for me, 1st for them). The killing of UBL is meticulously reconstructed, but only covers the last 30 minutes of the movie. Most of the story involves a CIA semi-fictional agent who by sheer determination and luck convinces the Agency that Bin Laden can be reached, and that they have a good idea of what men is the key to his whereabouts: Ibrahim Sayed, AKA Abu Ahmed Al-Kuwaiti. Information from detainees suggests Sayed is UBL's courier. Our hero figures that, wherever in Central Asia UBL is, the one thing he is sure to have is a courier. Track him, you get the big Kahuna.

The Agency is initially unlucky to believe erroneous intelligence saying Sayed is dead. And then they are lucky to find out he is not dead. With a lot of push from our hero, they allot the resources to find him. It is no easy task. That's my favorite part of the movie. Surveillance technology can find out from where he is calling his family (busy districts in the Punjab), but it is a lot more tricky to follow him in the middle of the crowd to the place where he lives.

After tracking Sayed to a VERY suspicious compound in a city the CIA never expected Bin Laden to be, it is time to decide if this is really UBL's residence. But the mysterious inhabitant never shows his face. I don't think he was hiding from CIA cameras, he just knows he is so recognizable. So the decision is left to the higher-ups, to bomb the place, raid it, or just keep waiting for more definitive intel.

And that is the part where the Director has to make a dramatic decision. Does she show the President and his top aides deliberating? I think putting Obama, Clinton and Biden in the movie would suck all the air out of the room to the detriment of the focus on the field agents. Leon Panneta shows up, but he is not even named. The final act wrote itself, because it is a documentary-like recreation of the raid.

Some reviewers pointed glaring mistakes: the Pakistanis seem to be speaking Arabic instead of Urdu. One part I had to laugh was when a mob stood outside the American Embassy in Islamabad. If you have been there, or anywhere in the diplomatic compound, you know it would never happen.

It is hard to make suspenseful a story that unfolds throughout 10 years and involves meticulous collection of intelligence and a lot of false starts. So the movie may feel like a "boring procedural" for people who are expecting normal Hollywood fare. In order to add a personal touch to the main character, she has a fried killed in a highly implausible scene. Otherwise, Maya just remains a stock character you have to fill in the gaps: lonely woman married to her job, always having to prove herself, obsessed with a task her superiors don't want to give priority.

Some people pointed out to a big lie of the movie: that torture gave crucial information. I'd point out that it is just a half-lie. Yes, nobody gave useful intel for the killing of UBL under torture. However, keeping terror suspects for years under dubious legal status (say with me - Guantanamo!) paid dividends.

No whitewashing, 1 October 2017

A great number of "summaries" of World War II, as well as Hollywood movies like "The Pianist", prefer to omit Stalin's ruthless and calculated decision of letting the Poles fighting for their liberation in Warsaw be mercilessly slaughtered by the SS. I commend this show for telling the obvious: the Red Army did not "run out of steam" in their offensive just outside the Polish capital. They sat and waited for the massacre to be completed so that the Polish Home Army would not be a viable option against a Soviet puppet regime in post-War Poland. The Katyn massacre is also mentioned, just in case Stalin's plans for Poland are not clear enough.

Downer but necessary episode, 12 September 2017

WW2 history buffs (maybe 60% of people watching this series) already know how the centerpiece battle of this episode ends, so it is a bit of an episode to suffer through, even though it is has as much quality as the rest of the series.

To make it even more uncomfortable, Market Garden was the moment when the airborne soldiers, the protagonists of this series, would have decided the war in Europe. But it was not meant to be. Thankfully, this was not the end of Easy Company's adventures.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Something for everyone, 4 July 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

How do you write a story with a message for feminist equality and women empowerment, but your target audience is women who want above all a beautiful princess/prince charming tale, and at the same time tie it all with real history?

The authors cleverly threw something for everyone, not allowing a final decision on "what this series is really about" - or perhaps letting different viewers decide. Throughout the episode, the queens of England and Scotland give thrilling speeches (in particular, some of Elizabeth's moments were quite compelling) about the stupidity of thinking women are unworthy of the highest duties, particularly without men around. In the final exchanges between Mary and John Knox you can always feel in your skin how the writers were burning with Clinton and Trump in their minds.

And the few spectators (like myself) who are interested in the real history are reminded we are watching unfold the union of Scotland and England for the first time, the formation of Great Britain, which lasts to this day.

BUUUUT... in the end this show is a Disney-like romance, and the final scene gives us back prince charming, Francis, who had been gone from the series since his death on season 3, but who is the love affair the mostly female audience most cares about (even though Mary loved other men after him). Since a montage recapitulating their moments is the last thing we see, we can know for sure the writers wanted to give this as a present to the girls who watched the series for the romantic fantasy of a beautiful princess and a gallant prince.

Last not least, there is also a head-scratching, out of the blue and mildly shocking last event involving Catherine and Narcisse. I would not dream to spoil it, nor speculate on why it is there. Just go along with it.

For gremistas!, 9 December 2016

After a disastrous campaign in the 2004 national championship, Gremio - 2 time Brazilian Champion, 2 Time South American Champion, 1983 World Champion, 4-time winner of the Brazil Cup - had to play the 2nd division in 2005. After struggling throughout the 7 months, the team's fate boiled out to the last match, at the Northeastern city of Recife, against a club with a large crowd of supporters, and accustomed to moving up and down the 1st and 2nd division.

What happened was a sports epic. Something stranger than fiction

The documentary is very one-sided. The target audience is Gremio supporters. But boy, do they get what they are looking for. If you are a "gremista", enjoy! If you are not, you should become one during this 70 minutes in order to enjoy this documentary. But it should not be hard. The feeling of triumph is pretty contagious.

Better than it deserved to be, 10 November 2016

What's the best way to bring the tragedy of Ruby Ridge to the screen? A two-part TV mini-series doesn't sound like an exciting prospect. Low- budget, less than stellar leads, a long run-time...

But it turned out much better than you would expect. Laura Dern is a so- so name, but her acting skills are tremendously underrated, and they are what is needed for a powerful and complex personality like Vicky Weaver. And the producers got lucky to get Kirsten Dunst before she became too expensive. As for Randy Quaid, of course he doesn't have a big dramatic range, but he happens to strike the right note as Randy Weaver. And decent character actors play the more one-dimensional characters. How can Joe Don Baker not be right for a buffoon like Gerry Spence?

More importantly, the screenplay gets it right. The siege itself is a paint-by-numbers task for the screenwriters, since the source material gives detailed minute-to-minute description of the events. But the set- up is more of a challenge. You have to induce pity and discomfort towards the Weavers while making them your heroes - and at the same time follow the real story faithfully. Mission accomplished. We spend a good hour with this odd family and are totally involved with the gradual escalation of both their beliefs and of the set of circumstances that let to the tragedy, even though much of the development has to be done through telling of mundane events.

Good historical lesson, yes. But also good drama.

Where's the jump serve?, 22 August 2016

I was born in 1977. I remember very well the times when the 3 protagonists of this documentary, William, Renan and Montanaro (alongside with their teammates Bernard and Xando) were household names and almost national heroes. So it was exciting to recall the age where Brazil began its love affair with volleyball. We as a country felt so close to that national team, perhaps as much as to the football squad. And the effects last to this day - just yesterday Brazil clinched its 3rd gold medal.

The disappointment with the documentary comes from the title. Of the 26 minutes, only 60 seconds or so are about the jump serve, and we do not get the info we wanted. How did they come up with it? When? How hard was it to develop and perfect the technique? Were coaches involved? If you are going to do a piece about the 1980s generation, just name your documentary "the Silver Generation - how it all started" or something like that, instead of promising something you don't deliver. They could have given just 5 more minutes to the jump serve and use the rest of the run time to reminisce about the 1984 Olympics, and we would be both delighted and informed.

Since the 3 players themselves do not talk much about the jump serve, I strongly suspect that it was initially a documentary with the trio reminiscing about the 1984 Olympics, and only after seeing the footage the producers decided to change the focus. Maybe it was supposed to be a celebration of the 30 years of Brazil's first medal, but was released earlier. So they rushed to get interviews with other people talking vaguely about the jump serve - "oh, yeah, I remember that" and renamed the movie. A bit of a mess in the end.

As it is, the documentary is enjoyable for Brazilians my age or older, but it does not give much for other volleyball fans.

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Absolutely the best episode ever, 30 September 2015

I had stopped watching South Park some years ago after watching the entire 12 or 13 first seasons. I felt the series was relying too much on toilet humor and just became exhausting.

But the other day I decided to download and binge watch the past few seasons. Good stuff alternating with lame stuff, all normal. If you watch one after the other, on average you will be entertained, since the very good ones cancel out the so-so.

But then this episode came and blew my mind. It's the best I've seen, and the IMDb community seems to feel the same way, given the 9.2 rating. I could not stop laughing from beginning to end.

The quotas episode!, 10 September 2015

We've had some wonderful magic stuff this season, but none tonight. It's like they decided to lump all the lame tricks (although presented in an entertaining way) in the same episode.

But there may have been another purpose. To make a "diversity" episode.

When a kid in his early teens opened the show and a woman magician followed, I just thought, OK, these people were selected just because the show is dominated by grown up white males, so there need to be some balance. The next one might just well be an African American, I told myself jokingly. And to my utter astonishment, it was! All the presentations passed and we knew 100% the guys did not get even close to fooling.

The last one was an aging magic legend who long ago created dozens of tricks many people use today, but does not have new stuff to show anymore. So he just gave a good performance of his stuff and got a condescending "FU" prize out of respect, since he did not fool the stars (P&T even knew the movements because of the book he himself wrote!). So three quotas and one homage.

The P&T piece at the end was one of those they show how its done, so it's not about the trick, but about the theatrical presentation. In this case, a statement on their patriotic beliefs.

No thrills, just mild entertainment. Barely rises above the level of fluff. But I like the show's format so much that even the weak episodes are a delight to watch.

20 out of 24 people found the following review useful:
Sorry I doubted you, season 2!, 3 August 2015

After a sluggish 3 and a half episodes, I thought this season would be a big flop. I could relate to Bezzerides and Velcoro, but nothing else - no other characters, no subplot and certainly not the main plot. The only reason I kept watching is because my stepson insisted - hey, it's True Detective, we can't miss it. So I went along.

But since the shootout at the end of episode 4, things really picked up. The plot is becoming tighter and some sense of urgency is coming about. Most importantly, things are finally becoming interesting with Frank. The uninteresting subplots were either abandoned, reached a solution or were at last incorporated to the main plot. Episodes 5-7, plus the set piece in episode 4, made this second season more than worthwhile. If the final episode tops last year's finale (in which the showdown was less exciting then expected), I think season 2 will be almost on par with season 1, lacking the tour de force of Rust Cohle's iconic character, but not being a big letdown in terms of storytelling. Needless to say, episode 7 was the best so far, and an excellent pre-finale buildup. Not many critics agree with me that the series really picked up in the second half, but IMDb users sure do - just look at the marks.

The best way to cut the problems that plagued BOTH seasons is to reduce the number of episodes from 8 to 6 next time. It is not that we have to withstand "filler" episodes, but the fact is that seasons 1 and 2 were plagued with too many uninteresting subplots and characters. A shorter season will tighten up things. But we know it is not going to happen, since a longer season is more profitable, and the fans sure like to see more hours of TD.

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