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chaotic and irritating
The movie is underexposed. The sound is muddy. I think they did this deliberately to enhance the mysteriousness of the squid creatures from outer space. But the net result is you can't tell what is going on.
The movie is very confusing, jumping about chaotically in space and time with very few clues where you are. It is downright irritating.
The heroine is quite insipid.
The plot makes no sense. Our heroine is yanked out of bed in the middle of the night by military types to try to decrypt an alien language. Why her? She speaks Pakistani. Huh?? She is put in charge, then no one listens to what she says. They don't just disagree, they refuse to let her say anything.
They crack the code in two breakthroughs without explanation. The heroine discovers she can see the future with absolute clarity. Oddly, she had never noticed any such ability before. Seriously?? Everyone but her wants to go to war with the squid people. She prevails, but what she did to change all those minds is a mystery.
For the last bit of the dialogue, they pasted together Hallmark card verses. It is nauseatingly saccharine.
Nothing in the movie makes sense. It is maddening as a mosquito bite.
The movie is very long and very boring. Just when you think it is over, it tacks on the longest denouement in movie history.
The plot of this movie is a group of soldiers have to get from A to B. Their way is blocked by various traps: explosions, automatic guns, and I kid you not, mummies they call "mutts".
The characters are mostly one-dimensional soldiers. They justify killing civilians and children. They believe their opponents are so wicked, any atrocity is justified. These are the supposed heroes, but they are disgusting.
I had trouble telling the characters apart. Characters die, but I could not figure out who died. This was further confused by the heroine coming back to life at least three times.
Our soldier heroine has some qualms about killing but does it anyway dispatching her victims with arrows. She has some "mockingjay" superpower, but it was never adequately explained. Perhaps that is clarified in part 1.
The most interesting part of the movie is the sets. The characters traverse the length of a huge futuristic city, blasted by war. I don't know how they created the illusion. It was completely believable and intricate.
Donald Sutherland as the arch-villain President Snow has some incisive fascinating dialogue, delivered perfectly, but he is on screen for only a short time.
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee is also on screen only a short time. His part is quite bland. Using him was a bit of a waste.
There is a lot about how deception, lying and propaganda are integral to war. I took these as allusions to American politics.
Jena Malone as the bald, drug addicted, jittery Johanna Mason deserves special mention. She was so creepy, again only on screen for a short time.
Benjamin Button's reverse ageing is mainly an excuse to ponder ageing and death with a little extra distance.
The movie takes place from 1918 to 2003. The actors are shown at all ages in between. I could not for the life of me figure out when they used different actors when makeup, and when CGI magic. In the early part of the movie, Brad Pitt seems to be only about four feet tall and hunched. I don't know how they did it.
The ageing/deageing effects were very subtle and gradual. I could not notice them except by recalling previous reels.
They kept de-aging Pitt through his teens, as a child and as a baby. It was like an electric shock to see Pitt, again, as dazzling as he once was in Thelma and Louise all through some sort of movie magic. He not only deages, he becomes god-like handsome shocking everyone used to his mousey self.
Benjamin Button's accent changes quite dramatically over the movie. I have to presume this was deliberate. He was picking up the accent of whomever he had been hanging out with.
The movie must have been very expensive, since there were sets and cars of every year in the range.
The main action takes place in a poorly lit, sombre home for the dying. There are many funerals and catastrophes. I felt unbearable heartache and nostalgia.
After Earth (2013)
very straightforward plot
This movie is primarily about a young man Katai Raige played by Jaden Smith and his militaristic father Cypher Raige played by Will Smith. Cypher Rage thinks he is everyone's drill sergeant, even his wife. He is a gloomy, taciturn bully. It is an unusual role for Will Smith. He looks more handsome than ever, with all that goofiness gone. Son Katai is quite athletic but surrenders completely to his father's bullying.
They crash on earth in the far future after humans have abandoned it but all its creatures have evolved to kill humans. Katai needs to trek 100 km to retrieve a rescue beacon. On the way, dozens of monsters stalk and pounce on him. In addition, the weather is extreme. For the first part of the journey, dad can run things remotely. For the second part, the communications gear is destroyed, but that does not slow him down at all. He uses telepathy.
The ending just about made me throw up. The wounded father insists on being lifted vertically so he can salute his son.
In one scene a troop of baboon-like creatures attack. Later we see them chopped in pieces and thrown into a pile. We never find out what super-monster did that. That made the unseen monster even more terrifying.
Oddly, this uninhabited planet was crisscrossed with well-groomed, perfectly-straight paths.
I hate being pounced. I had to stop the film periodically to let the tension drain.
We see flashbacks of young Katai at various ages. He is terminally cute as a baby. The choices of actor are completely convincing that it is just one person.
Breach is a cat and mouse story, about two real people, an American spy who sells secrets to the Russians and his assistant whose job (along with a large team) it is to catch him.
The tension is unrelenting with not even a few seconds of comic relief.
Hanson, the spy, is an egotistical, paranoid genius, a sort of Sherlock Holmes type who considers every possibility and notices every detail. Oddly he is fanatical, proselytising Catholic. This made no sense to me. How could someone so involved in logic have been entrapped by the mumbo-jumbo of Catholicism? I gather the real world Hansen was.
The basic plot is will our young clerk avoid giving himself away to the master spy? Time pressure drives much of the plot, without being contrived.
Chris Cooper's Hansen is as memorable and strange as Hannibal Lecter. Ryan Phillippe usually plays bland exceedingly handsome young men. As Eric O'Neill, he is still handsome, but his character has much more depth and interest.
Some of the tech-talk was silly. Some of the computer screens were plagiarised from the Matrix.
They put the spy in charge of a new department two months before his retirement. This should have raised his suspicions. Apparently, it did not. His assistant seems to have nothing to do except drive a car every once in a while. To me, this makes no sense.
Most of the movie takes place in a grim windowless office.
Ex Machina (2014)
There are three main characters, Nathan who owns the world's largest search engine company. He is an acknowledged a genius. He is obnoxious the way he uses his wealth and fame to bully others and treat them as toys. He uses his search engine to spy on everyone on earth. He is a jerk, in much the same way Steve Jobs was.
Caleb is his employee, a talented, pleasant, handsome, young nerd.
Ava is Nathan's AI creation.
All the action occurs in Nathan's high-tech, high-security house hidden miles away from anything in the mountains. Nathan uses electronic key cards to lock people into rooms for his amusement.
Supposedly, Caleb's job is to test Ava to see if she could pass a modified Turing test when he would interact with her face to face.
Most of the movie is either awkward flirtatious getting to know you conversations between Caleb and Ava or Nathan being a prick tormenting Caleb. The pace is glacial. The dialogue is quite non-technical and reasonably sophisticated for Hollywood.
One of the themes the movie explores is how do you know when people/robots are lying to you, and when are people/robots just pretending to like you.
As you would expect, Nathan gets his just deserts, but the movie has an unexpectedly gruesome dark and somewhat confusing ending. It is not at all the happy ending I expected. It left me feeling ill.
The Giver (2014)
Jeff Bridges plays an atypical role for him -- a mysterious, wise old man. Meryl Streep plays the chief bureaucrat, well intentioned, but icy. Brenton Thwaites plays Jonas a perfectly handsome young man, genetically designed for perfection, somewhat bland who is charged with being the repository of banned memories for the community.
This movie takes place in the future after some ruinous global war. The powers that be have decided they must chemically suppress most emotion, and keep from everyone any memory of violence, starvation or evil, love, music or emotion. There is no believable explanation for suppressing the positive.
Only two people are permitted to remember the past or to feel positive and negative emotion. They do not submit themselves to physical torture.
It is a very regimented authoritarian society. People are assigned their careers. Babies are assigned to families for care. The death penalty is used for the slightest transgression. It is administered painlessly and compassionately.
In parts of the movie, my corn-o-meter went off the scale. For example when crowds would chant "Jonas" for no apparent reason. There would often be wordless montages to show joy or evil with trite images.
Jonas seemed highly attached to his adopted baby brother, but spends no time with him. That did not ring true for me.
Most of the movie is fairly realistic with a dose of woo. Thoughts can pass from person to person by touching arms. The entire mentality of a city changed from some magic ray triggered because a boy went on a sleigh ride past a tower. This is goofier than a comic book plot.
The movie is done like the Wizard of Oz, mostly in black and white but with touches of colour to suggest emotion.
All the charm of an army training film
Divergent is about a post-war sci-fi world where everyone is divided into one of five clans/casts called factions. They are called erudite, dauntless (athletic militaristic), abnegation (selfless service and government), amity (happy farmers) and candour. Each teen must choose a clan for life. For no apparent reason, the choice cannot be changed. Oddly, even the erudite faction has no educational or training requirements for admission. If the clan eventually rejects them after hazing, they became factionless, similar to homeless in our society.
Our heroine goes for a sort of career counselling where they pull out the stops on CGI. It is quite entertaining and mystifying.
Unfortunately, our heroine chooses the mindless, loutish, tattooed, militaristic, boorish dauntless faction who do nothing but jump on trains, climb buildings, fight and run in packs.
The world is a Republican wet dream where everyone is pitted against each other and the weakest are shamed, deprived and tormented.
After a promising start, the movie degenerates into a sort of boot camp army training film. BORING.
The whole premise of the movie that having more than one sort of skill is weird and dangerous makes no sense as does the rule you may never change factions.
This is a movie for teenagers who fantasise about joining a criminal gang.
The Tree of Life (2011)
This movie starts out with preaching that goes on and on trying to sell you Hallmark style Christianity. It is nauseating. It is a bit like watching Ned Flanders' home silent movies. Then we discover something terrible has happened to a 1950's couple's son. We never find out just what it was. Now the movie goes into flashback mode. Then there is all manner of incoherent whispering, vaguely religious with choirs in the background.
Then suddenly the movie turns into National Geographic documentary -- a tour of the universe, including galaxies, the ocean, dinosaurs, caves, microscopic life... Then it goes back to the family.
Brad Pitt plays a critical, sadistic, authoritarian, obsessive Christian, who demands "respect". It is horrible seeing him play such a role. Another son may have drowned. It is not clear.
There is so much footage of people wandering around in bleak landscapes to no purpose. This is one of those arty indulgent films where you are supposed to find meaning in random noise. The rest of it is home movies of children playing -- charming, but hardly significant. Suddenly a third brother appears out of nowhere. Perhaps he was just a neighbour. The movie settles down and becomes more coherent for the last part. It winds up in the surrealistic mode with the entire cast wandering over the mud flats to the sound of a choir. Too silly for words! It is pretentious, ponderous, tedious and boring.
Une vie qui commence (2010)
One of the saddest movies you will ever see
I watched this in French with subtitles. It is a story of a happy family with three children. The father, a doctor, gets caught stealing antacids from the pharmacy. He is disbarred. He kills himself with a drug overdose. The family is left with very little money. The oldest boy is very attached to his dad, and acts out in a number of bizarre ways, getting deeper and deeper into trouble. Nobody seems to notice what the problem is. The mom tries extremely hard to hold things together, but things keep falling apart, worse and worse.
In general, everyone is quite restrained. You have to look in their eyes to figure out what they are thinking. Except for trying to kill his mom's suitor with golf club, the boy is not malicious. There is a strange logic to his actions.
The movie pulls compassion out of you for all the characters, without using any of the trite Hollywood tricks. It is a hard movie to watch.
Julie leBreton is an astounding actress. It is like it is happening for real to her, whatever the situation. She is completely believable.