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Set the Thames on Fire (2015)
I saw it with half an eye on my work - couldn't bear to watch it.
There's a moment, when an aging magician performs one last trick, which made me pause and almost cry, but otherwise all of the other characters were representatives of a world lost onto itself - the horrifying image of every man for himself, when the *beep* hits the fan.
"As long as Iam alright". "And if I'm more than a little stupid or hope is just as good as an occasional free drink, then at least the monotony of slow death is broken".
It's probably one of the most bleak movies I have seen due to its severe chill of coming death.
its as a dying body with an almost dead heart in it, which only has one more trick it it... The rest is just on auto, because that how humans get through the day, and the ages.
Sorry, people - its a vision, not a failure. This is: "Don't go down this way". Which is way too much message for good art, but effective in all of its bleakness.
But REMARKABLE acting during this death of civilization. Sally Philips, Lily Loveless, Noel Fielding, Sadie Frost, Gerard Mcdermott, who make BIG of few lines. Its like a new generation to me, not being British. Tight fear, real insanity, comic vulgarity as in "everything is a (painful) laugh, when you're on a slow sinking ship".
I give it 8/10. Because its so goddamn painful!
Sorry, I just could not look it straight in the eyes. Thats me. Too much truth.
The Last Templar (2009)
what to do Sundays, when skipping church
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Mira Sorvino was Sandra Bullock, never a sad face below 7/10
Scott Foley was tom hanks/similar, and never really in play
Nice settings, desert, island, plane, Land Rover
serious pace-stopping adult talk to extend the script to 3 hours
unnecessary daughter and brother, who were never in play
foul search by cruel and non-establishment-representing delusional mad scientist for the means to tumble the Christian church
and then BAM, 2hrs 40 minutes in, right in your face the whole shebang turns Christian.
Should have seen it coming. Male lead being catholic and all. But they actually masked it in hints and dibble-dabble half-voiced background story to build the male lead character.
Honestly, it really was a shocker. For someone who goes a long way to avoid movies advocating Christianity over simply putting faith in what ever gets you through life, if was a transgression.
Aside from that, either the script or its direction masks the actual implications of finding a gospel of Jesua from Nazareth. Christians would know what that means, but non-believers, who normally don't give a toss, has to sort of count fingers here, one, two, three... Ah, a gospel by Jesus means that he wasn't the Man. That he didn't die on a cross, or resurrect, thus laying waste to the foundations of the Christian / Catholic Church and making all of it's bloodshed in the name of just another disciple kinda unnecessary... That kind of story. And yes, Vatican priest gets famous last words:" We've put our faith in God for 2000 years, and our belief in the Saviour. We can survive any crazy stunt to discredit us".
But, really, I don't care. I just feel robbed of my time. Mira Sorvino probably had a really good time, looking all the time as if she's having a really good time, powerful lady, her own woman, don't let anybody in, but will turn to God for help, when love strikes. Right - that's the scientific method, when everything else fails.
This movie is made for Sundays. There is not an ounce of relevant tension in it. It should just be gobbled down like forgotten ice-cream melting on the counter.
Or avoided for a diet more honest to its viewers.
Or just labeled correctly: No thoughts necessary, Christian or otherwise, as you will leave as you came in. Un-changed. And we are not talking soul here, okay!
Our Brand Is Crisis (2015)
"When I was young, I admired certain politicians and statesmen. Then I met them "
It seems to me none of the previous 30-something reviews get the project. For it IS a project. It IS a political film.
Sandra Bullock knows HER brand and she uses it well. It is the staff of Bullock magic, with which she sprinkles life into a rather boring topic - and makes a rather non-dramatic, dare I say Almost Realistic", script relevant?
SB and her co-producer, George Clooney - who is also a brand-aware actor, who uses HIS brand well, alternately for earning money and for teaching youngsters about the world - are right on the money with this story of How Politics Are Wrought And The Consequences Of Wanting Power Enough To Risk The Fallout.
Sandra Bullock is the campaign manager, who long ago lost faith in politics as a way to change the world. "When I was young, I admired certain politicians and statesmen. Then I met them "
When opportunity comes begging, she is lured out of a deliberate hiatus by the chance to get even with an old colleague.
What follows is a lesson - albeit 101 - in coming back from the dead, when you have forsaken every ideal you once had for vengeance or fame or money or just for doing it, again, and again. Leaving the hamster wheel of old habits and lost self-respect is no easy measure, but like she says to a politician at one point during a TV-debate on the campaign trail: "If you should feel something there, in the heat of the moment, something real, just turn your face to the camera". And when SHE feels something for the first time in years, tentatively she follows her own advice - though not for any other gain than to win back her own self-respect. The power she had traded in for anger, pride, whatever.
I gave it 9/10 - not because of the script, even if it is very, very honed down to basics, and not for the many dramatically correct internal references (the fly in the mask, the mask on the face ), nor for its unusual setting in Bolivia, or for its very true to life representation of the Bolivian willingness to believe and their almost innocent disappointment and anger, when politicians lie to them yet again, or because of the very beautiful depiction of a politician in new-found power, who is uneasy with the consequences of have lied, or for the faith in the project as a whole, speaking on a very understandable level, with Sandra Bulluck being true to Sandra Bullock in every scene (admit it, she brightens every movie she's in!) - but for all of it.
You can watch it again and again, because it's not dangerous, but its message is effective: The cost of power is power. But hope of liberation is offered to all. Do you take it?
The war on people - the magicians other hand!
An excellent script well performed.
When you look at a street in almost any city in the western world today, you see cameras pointing towards the street to automatically and silently film people going about their regular business.
The way to protect yourself from this kind of information gathering is by hiding your face ALWAYS, when you are outside. Which would most likely garner you a more intense surveillance - possibly wiretapping and your house bugged and your friends bugged and you mail read and electronic activities monitored, all the way up to physical intervention, incarceration, "evidence planted", defamation - possibly elimination, if the watchers cant make you.
If you go on the net, there is no mechanism designed to cover your tracks and actions, which cannot be cracked - leaving your thought patterns, your needs, your funding, connections, friends, family etc wide open to blatant scrutiny or simple data gathering. Forget about VPN or Tor or what ever. One slip, and your IP is toast and not just your secrets are out, but everything your have ever shared digitally with anyone over the net.
Why is that? Because ever since 9/11 USA and all other countries (in order to be able to send and receive plane passengers from all over) have treated their citizens and citizens of most other nations as suspects - potential threats to cities, infrastructure, businesses, economic structures and institutions and their national citizens too, if not for humanitarian reasons then from an attempt to prevent widespread fear and out-of-control actions taken by more than gun-ready-and-willing men and women.
What if that lack of control over citizens could go away within a short while? What if USA, always seeking to be the bigger, the stronger, the wisest brother in the world, found a way to do that? What if the war on people was really patricide/matricide from blind greed, last rat gets the bigger loot?!
= = = = = = = = = = = = = SPOILER = = = = = = = = = = = = =
This movie explores well know themes of surveillance and mind control in order to show that mainstream people only used to guns in the media don't realize surveillance and monitoring and pooling private information is really a weapon against a nation's citizens, not a protection from foreigners.
As an intellectual exercise this is kinda easy to both realize and sort of accept, but when you actually understand the implications of controlling powers being able to predict your actions and opinions and choices, it loses its intellectual shine as it verges towards actual loss of freedom - of mobility, speech, purchasing power, schooling, teaching, voting, housing, participating, giving aid and assistance etc.
Population control is becoming an increasingly difficult task, as shown by the recent Sicario (2015), where whole major cities can be besieged by criminal and violent "examples" and all "loyalty" goes to those, who can instill fear, rather than to those who protect.
While "Listening" may skip a bit on the realistic side, when it comes to calculating the consequences of thinking, feeling people falling pray to fascistic measures without relevant opposition - thus over-playing both spread and danger of a technological mind-control scheme - the script still manages to represent the eager greed with which possible control of people's patterns and actions is to be measured. (It IS lucky that everything living by electricity will die from lack of electricity or from magnetism. Making an EMP placed here and there hunky dory, if ever they tried anything similar in reality).
But don't take the movie as a literal statement. Take it as a pointer to the magician's other hand: What is everyone upholding power doing in their free time, that they do not want out in the open? What are they doing during working hours, that they don't want to share? See this film as an argument for full disclosure - as long as it is out of VOLITION. In an atmosphere of distrust, meaning: "You go first..."
Time Trap (2013)
The short end of the technology stick
-------SPOILER ALERT ------
Time Trap is a very humorous short depicts what happens, when you have the short end of the technology-stick: Humanity is wiped out, most likely by a Terminator-like nuclear event, and a bumbling spaceman is stealing resources out of time as if the living past doesn't matter to those living in it.
The bumbling spaceman, in order to find spare parts for his ailing ship, employs his Time Bubble generator to locate a situation, where he can steal a precious rock, a diamond, to use as fuel for his ship. A man on a bench is viewed in several time instances throughout his life, and the spaceman keeps turning back the clock until the day the man on the bench is young and about to propose. Then the spaceman nicks the engagement ring.
In one instance the past is over - in another it is still happening. Which is a very valid point when dealing with time travel as viewed from the future - one that raises the question of "Should I meddle with time?" From the future POW there is no valid reason to assume it matters, as the past has already happened, meaning, in a sense: Anything Goes. But is this really the only valid point?
This is very confusing for someone who is brought up to care about other life: One could then say, that there should be a distinction between time travelers - the one who travels to learn, and the one who only cares for himself.
From a future point of view the first can be seen as merely being the cause of the future he/she travels from, but the other, due to his/her disregard for consequences of their meddling for selfish gain, should be seen as perpetrating crimes against humanity. Crimes against life itself.
The spaceman of the movie obviously only regards the past time as a resource for his own survival. He comes from another planet/galaxy, and really: in how high regard can you place a tiny temporal anomaly - on a planet distant from your own - in context to the whole universe?
But then again, how different is this from us, who empty the Earth of resources on order to survive in the now?
It's quite miraculous how many questions about existence can be raised in less than 8 minutes.
Will there be a sequel, or is everything explained on a DVD commentary track?
Bix the Bug persuades his MIT-buddy to loan him his Tesla device - in order to find a crucial new sound with witch to attract people to his DJ-shows. Bix' old pal and manager is only in it for the money - which becomes obvious from the several times he goes behind Bix' back to sell the Tesla device to bad guys. "You don't know what you have", says the super bad guy, "who owns half of Europa or something..." But as it will soon become obvious... so does no one else.
Bix refuses to sell, now that incorporating the Tesla device into his performances has brought him success with his concerts. The protests of his MIT-friend, that making the sounds from the device public will bring bad people scrambling to (for what ever reason - we are not told), are quietly dealt with by spiking him with some Ecstasy - so "he can live a little, maybe for the first time."
And so it is. The MIT-buddy is happily persuaded to go along with Bix' plans - but some eco- terrorists, whose power pack the Tesla device is using, come to take both away, and Bix is shown an image of his buddy on a phone, dead from a bullet to the head. "This is what will happen if you don't deliver the power pack to us!"
Bix has a vision that his friend is not dead, and discovers the whereabouts of the power pack. He is now fully attuned to the Tesla device and certain that the sounds it is producing are extraterrestrial, and that the receptions through the device are a sequence of some importance.
YaddaYaddaYadda - Bix and his manager buddy drive to the Joshua tree in the desert and text his crowd to come for one last concert. During the concert the power pack is failing, but when Bix directly interfaces with the device, it somehow attains enough power to finish the sequence of received sounds. Which result in a nice light shower in the night sky - much like the final light show from Spielberg's Close Encounters - in the shape of a giant flower.
And that's it.
What was it? Some Ecstasy vision?
But then we see, as we have seen throughout the film - as Bix has explained how he has always felt watched - an image of every human in his or her own existence of observation, in their own consciousness sphere, life bubble or similar explanation. All are like little mirrors of existence (similar to the surveillance layout from the TV-series "Person of Interest"). All are simultaneously co-existing in the same sphere - the Earth. And the camera pulls out to show the whole of the Earth. And pulls further and further back, until we see that the whole of the galaxy consists of the same gatherings of life-spheres.
I was not bored. Just very annoyed with the script. And the actors. The message is fine - but as a postulate is leaves the film hanging: We go through all this, SO that the director can tell us the Universe is teaming with life?!
Some other review called it new-age crap or the like. I wouldn't go as far. I see a scriptwriter and a director striving to bring forth a vision - but if feels awfully like an Ecstasy vision. In the sense: It is a projection of personal need upheld only by this need.
The same with the consciousness bubbles in the movie - on Earth and in the Universe. (Which may also be little spheres of surveillance by some other entity - it is open to interpretation.) You can say they are there. But then what?
That is the problem with the script throughout. Nothing is made to matter. Relations, concepts, fates, threats. I was never involved. I was curious to see if the makers themselves knew where they were going. But I believe I can now safely say that if they did, they kept it to themselves.
Presence is perfection
When people are afraid of themselves, and feel insufficient and un-whole, worshiping provides solace and meaning. But there is no preaching a better world in sight in "Antiviral". Here we have a society so close to the reality of United States of A that only a tiny shift in the use of cloning and a solid retreat of celebs into impenetrable ivory tower industries - with all media peddling simply nothing but presence, forget talent, presence is perfection - just a tiny shift could make it viable: Lets say... the total loss of faith in politicians and clerics and the road is all paved to real deification of humans. Tiny shift. Something familiar, yet unapproachable to believe in...
Brandon Cronenberg, David Croneberg's son, has taken his father's fixations on the limits of the body and humans inhabiting them to a higher level. Antiviral is a very slick film, in the best meaning of the word, worth every point on the 10-scale. The setting, the casting, the apparent loose ends, the makeup, the music, oh, the MUSIC, which is not music, but sounds vibrating and humming and clicking and whispering, to make a sinister cathedral of the body and succeeding, the future tech, the acting, the whole performance of the idea is simply credible!
Antiviral is an absolutely brilliant story of diverting sight from god to find divinity in human made icons. Anyone famous cannot be wrong, even their diseases are attractive and communion can be found at corner shops, where pieces of human muscle tissue grown in vats from cell samples can be purchased and eaten as beef. And fully licensed clinics, where diseases rendered uncommunicative for a high price can be entered into the blood stream of those wishing communion with their deities. Where some would call it a summons back to the fold, I see it as Christianity (rightly) being pushed to the corner to stand there gawking at this lewd display of body eroticism dripping of blood and bile and boils and festering wounds and sores suffered with by those seeking sanctuary in worship.
To Brandon Cronenberg here is no difference between institutionalized religion and tattoos, car collecting, used underwear of famous women, Nazi memorabilia, obsolete technology and design etc. - anything that brings solace can be worshiped and communicated through presence (=doing).
Malcolm McDowell delights in yet a sinister part, but to rival his best, as he for once is sinister only from ignorance and need; an educated doctor, who is caught up in the worship of celebrity, to matter-of-factly state that he neither understands the technique of copyright protecting viruses nor the ramifications of participating in the worship of celebrity, and nor does he try to; he just worships.
Our lead, brilliantly played by Caleb Landry Jones, has the most clarity of everyone around him. It doesn't come easy to him: All during the story he is infecting himself with the diseases that his company is peddling - searching for something that eludes him, with such a single-mindedness that it makes him willing to go to any length.
While infected with the worshiped icon's latest contracted disease, he comes to understand life's worthlessness, should he lose his house of worship, his body of worship. While everyone else are thinking small, mercantile thoughts, on the brink of dying he cooks up the most brilliant of ideas, which will allow him to come the closest to his deity that any living human can and will.
Camille redouble (2012)
Camille Redouble does mostly everything right.
The thing that makes this '2nd chance'-time travel plot a really good story is the lead's resistance to repeating the past - in this I cheered her on and wished for the best, because she tries so very hard to avoid the bad things from her adult life and focuses on making the good things happen, most importantly her pregnancy. Watching her come to terms with the things, she realizes she cannot change - most of all her own feelings - is watching an immature adult finally take on adulthood.
That she is also never overly smart, ie. exploiting her superior knowledge of events or experience of life lived, makes her presence in her past one of watching consciousness and self confidence at play. One can imagine oneself being utterly certain about events, as if one had lived them before - and willing to pay the price of certainty.
I don't care about the (surprisingly few) little inconsistencies in the plot - all that matters is the lead being true to her heart. And I was genuinely relieved (if not surprised) that she lets go of trying to fight her heart and starts listening to it, rather than hiding in a bottle.
This message runs through the movie, even to the quoting of the 12 step confirmation: "... and the wisdom to know the difference." It is not moralizing, but there appears to be a need to bring it across. If you come away with only the conclusion that there is no love at the bottom of a bottle, you have probably made the director happy.
Apart from this I really enjoyed the director-lead in her roles - she shone, when she played 16, and looked her real age, when she let the energy evaporate, and then managed to merge the two in the final scenes. Good energy manifestation!
In the tradition of French movies, it is with more than a touch of poetry and focus on genuine human emotions, here the touch of lips as the deciding factor and holder of all important memories, that the movie concludes. French movies remember the body and don't focus overly on sex. Very important in Western and specifically European culture, with the present battle raging between explicitness and sensuality: Remember that the body remembers everything, and that we ARE our bodies!
BTW: I DO wonder if the bicycle crash was an accident, but boy, that looked like something you don't walk away from unscathed!