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I, Tonya (2017)
I, Tonya, Everybody's Favourite Punching Bag
The strength and crushing poignancy of "I, Tonya" is what lies beneath the perceived pedigree and nature of the movie. It is as much a dark comedy and fictionalized biography, as it is something else, something more, much more.
It is the sad and heartbreaking portrait of a deeply flawed and imperfect individual, who got caught in events that went way beyond her and her perceived or actual guilt.
It is the story of a human being screaming for help, in need of love and support, being ignored and overlooked at every stage of her strange, hard and often unforgiving existence. It is the story of a woman that was abused and brutalized while everyone, including the people that could and should have helped her, looked away and pretended it wasn't happening. It is the story of someone who was rejected and stepped on because she didn't fit with our idea of what a sympathetic character should be and look like.
Whatever Tonya Harding achieved in her life came through sheer will and yes, hard work. She also made mistakes, made a mess of things and failed often. What a human being should be allowed to do in life with the ramifications and consequences which come from that.
Ultimately this movie is an indictment of us as a whole, as a society, who turned on her and made her our distraction, a punchline to a sad and pathetic joke, exposing her to an unyielding torrent of cruelty and harshness. We cast the first stone and never looked back. Tonya Harding became everybody's favourite punching bag (pun intended), hung out to dry, transformed into the thing we most hate about ourselves, projected onto this one person.
All of this is wonderfully brought to life by Margot Robbie in a sublime performance, seconded most wonderfully by Alison Janney and Sebastian Stan. A well directed, acted, written and produced movie.
"I Tonya" is not perfect, but it is an eye opener and in these troubled days that is saying something.
Luke Milks A Sea Cow, Super Leia Is Marry Poppins And Snoke Is Only Half A Man
When in 2015 I had the displeasure of watching the bland and unremarkable copy-and-paste Star Wars-like "The Force Awakens", from noted hack and serial plagiarist J J Abrams, I had a hard time imagining how the next instalment in this new, soulless trilogy could be worse.
But Rian Johnson surely took care of that....by delivering something, much, much worse in the fecal cinematic form of " The Last Jedi". One of the worst movies of 2017 and the worst "Star Wars" movie period. "The Last Jedi" is soo bad that it singlehandedly rehabilitates and redeems the Prequel Trilogy!!!!
It is an overly long, sinfully boring, painfully stupid cinematic vomitfest. The humour and attempts at levity are badly timed and cringeworthy. A malnourished story is wrapped in meaningless and idiotic plots and subplots.
The direction is shoddy, the screenplay, if you can call it that, is subpar at best, the score is terribly forgettable and the special effects are average popcorn blockbuster fare.
The cast is either completely wasted, like Andy Serkis, Laura Dern, Benicio Del Toro, Oscar Isaac, Gwendoline Christie, Mark Hamil and worst of all Carrie Fisher...or outright underwhelming and terrible. Of special note in the terrible department is John Boyega, Kelly Marie Tran and Daisy Ridley.
With this latest instalment, my interest in the New Trilogy has pretty much evaporated. I really couldn't care less about Episode IX.
"The Last Jedi" is literally the cinematic turd in the punch bowl.
RIP Carrie Fisher
Pain out of loss, love out of grief...
Amidst the oppressive noise level of heavily formed but largely empty and meaningless clunkers like the two behemoths currently bloating out the screens at multiplexes, "Thor: Ragnarok" and "Justice League" , if you look carefully, you can still find some cinematic gems here and there. Such as "Three Bilboards outside Ebbing, Missouri"
A movie born out of the pain and sorrow brought on by incomprehensible and tragic loss, seething anger at the injustice in this world and the injuries inflicted by life, wounds that never really heal, because they are not physical but exist only in the soul.
The scar-tissue which forms from that can birth something both wonderful and simultaneously terrifying.
The cast is exquisite, the story powerful and poignant and the movie as a whole is an affirmation of what it is to be human and live through it day after day.
The balance of tragedy and humour is brilliant, because they both make sense as fellow travellers. If misery loves company, then this movie also proves that it loves comedy.
Characters you think you have pegged as an overwrought and exaggerated stereotype turn out to be anything but.
Easily one of the best movies of the year.
Do yourselves a favour and forgo the fast- food, zero calories spectacles and give this movie a chance. You may be reminded that movies can have substance and stand for something, especially during these dark days we are traversing.
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
How tedious and boring...please stop!
Saw this movie last night...and boy was it a tedious, overly long watch! This movie felt like having to do overtime at work.
Dennis Villeneuve is a terrific director, loved "Sicario" and "Arrival", but this was a misfire in every possible way.
An uninteresting story, the script is just muddled, highly convenient and disappointingly pedestrian. While the first movie retained, despite notable differences, the spirit and essence of Phillip K. Dick's amazing novel "Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep", "Blade Runner 2049" is at best an outlier, the story having been diluted to nothingness.
Ryan Gosling is completely miscast in the role, as I knew he would, the guy just doesn't cut it. Harrison Ford just looked bored, bored with acting and bored having to revisit these characters he clearly doesn't want to but for the paycheque. Much like he was in "The Force Awakens".The problem is that Ford gets paid to look bored, whereas I have to pay to watch him looking bored. Maybe retirement is in order.
Jared Leto is just awful and does nothing but look menacing or foreboding, the only expressions he seems capable of, either in the movies or music videos he makes. I am not exactly sure how and why this guy continues to be cast in anything these days.
Losing Johann Johansson as the composer for the soundtrack was also big mistake. Hans Zimmer is usually a good, reliable, composer but when he misses, he misses big. The score is terrible. It's just noise...heavy, loud noise and when it isn't, it sounds like what would have happened if the soundtrack for "Inception" and Vangelis's original score for"Blade Runner" had a baby.
The use of 3D is also completely useless here and I think, it detracts from the movie and it's visual narrative. The visuals and special effects everybody seems to be applauding, were, I found, lost in an unnecessary murkiness and annoying, orange tinged twilight.
Roger Deakin is one of the best cinematographers ever, and for example there were some shots in "Sicario" which took my breath away, not so in this movie. He missed the mark here. In "Blade Runner 2049", never for a moment did I experience the feeling of awe I did, and still do, when I watched the original, especially the opening scene. (Do a search on Syd Mead and then you will know why the original "Blade Runner" looked and felt the way it did.)
The bit towards the end with Rachel and the use of the character and employment of the technology came off as cheap and an unnecessary add-on. Something like that worked very well in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story", here it doesn't.
It is not an awful movie, or one of those "the worst I've seen" types, but it cannot hold a candle to the original on any account. It is too long, too boring for long stretches and in the end it just left me with a headache as well as mostly indifferent.
I never wanted a sequel for "Blade Runner" and "Blade Runner 2049" proves why.
Valerian And The City Of...Who Cares?
"Valerian And The City Of... Who Cares..." flopped because it was a jumbled mess. Crummy story, terrible script, badly edited and the so called "stunning visuals" were an incoherent cacophony of sights and sounds, that surely looked pretty at times, but added nothing to the movie, except give audiences whiplash and headaches.
But perhaps even worse were the two lead actors cast in the main roles, the people supposed to carry this movie. Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne had zero on-screen chemistry. They are terrible sub-par actors, which isn't saying much given the widespread lack of talent of the upcoming generation of artists, people who think that "trending" and being famous is the same as having talent and ability.
Watching Cara Delevingne trying to act is about as painful as being lobotomized while awake...
Wonder Woman (2017)
Wonder Woman And The Law Of Diminshing Returns
Looking at the reviews and ratings for "Wonder Woman", gives me the sense that critics and audiences got caught in the hype and hubris of what this means and symbolizes versus what the movie actually is.
Because actually watching "Wonder Woman", what I was left with, war a rather mediocre, subpar and overly long movie, which did not escape the underwhelming cookie-cutter mould oftentimes movies of the superhero genre are subject and prisoners to. There was nothing above average about this film and worst of all and even unforgivable it was fairly boring and dour for a significant amount of time.
So where to start with this movie. I could write a whole essay about its flaws and shortcomings. But I won't. Suffices to say that problems abound in editing, pacing, cinematography, special effects, script, casting and so forth. Just to pick on a few examples, throughout the movie there were instances when the CGI was just bad, cheesy and looking completely undercooked and unfinished! Which is something you might forgive a TV series due to obvious budgetary limitations, but not a movie with a $150 million dollars budget! What did they spent the money on...catering? Actually I've seen modestly budgeted TV shows have better CGI than "Wonder Woman" had at times.
And what is with the frequent and repeated use of the slo-mo effects?!?! That special effect was innovative in 1999 when the "The Matrix" came out, by now as a tool of the trade it is played out and tiresome. The slo-mo effects have become Zach Snyder's calling card much like lens flares have become JJ Abram's. It doesn't mean other directors should emulate and copy them. Looking at you Patty Jenkins.
The cast I found rather bland and underwhelming. Edit: Actually I liked Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen in their roles, they looked and sounded the part, but had soo little screen time that they didn't have the opportunity to make a positive and lasting impact on the movie's overall quality.
Which brings me to Gal Gadot. She might look like a version of Wonder Woman, somewhat, but so do many fans in cosplay. I think casting Gal Gadot was more a matter of looks and style versus actual substance and abilities. I found her acting range to be quite limited and her on-screen presence rather stiff. I thought and still do that there are other more accomplished and versatile actresses who could have served the role and character of Wonder Woman better.
It looks like since Nolan's Batman trilogy, DC movie projects have taken an IQ dive...not that Marvel is any better...and that is in large part because Zach Snyder and co., have laid the foundation of what the DCEU looks, feels like and is. And now all subsequent additions to this cinematic and even TV universe are beholden and slaves to that vision.
Personally I would have loved to see what an unshackled Michelle McLaren could have accomplished with a movie like this.
And that is part of the overall problem. As movie audiences and critics, we've come to accept mediocrity in our entertainment (much like in many other aspects of our society), and we have been left with these increasingly higher scale, higher budget movies which deliver less and less. Whenever one even rises a bit above that line of mediocrity, we deem it a resounding success and reward it accordingly. That is the law of diminishing returns.
Logan's...True Grit?! Nope...just another "meh" movie...
Despite all the expectations I had about this movie, I wasn't necessarily looking for a masterpiece. Just a proper send-off to a favourite character of mine and an actor who brought him to life with dedication, passion and appreciation for his fans.
Unfortunately, it turns out "Logan" was not the send-off I wanted for Wolverine and Hugh Jackman. Instead what I found was an overly long, pedestrian and even mediocre movie, which surely had its fair share of high-points, but not enough to make this movie one I loved or even liked.
"Logan", while not a horrible movie, is missing something, that spark, that vitality, which should have lifted this movie above the fray. But that was not the case. Too bad, this movie should and could have been more.
John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
An Unwanted Crapfest...
I am sorry to say but "John Wick Chapter 2" was a complete pile of dung. A mind-numbingly stupid, idiotic movie, an unwanted, not asked for sequel, made purely as a cash-grab...
Whereas the first instalment was an excellently paced, choreographed and directed movie, inhabited by a great kinetic energy, with not an ounce of unwanted cinematic fat, this lazy, special needs cousin is the definition of sequelitis.
Much like those sub-par sequels took all the fun and shine out of "Taken"...same case here.
I really wanted to be entertained, if nothing else, but this turd couldn't deliver even that much. Ugh...
Doctor Strange (2016)
Speaking as a civilian here, (read neither a Marvel or DC fanboy), I have never personally been a fan of the Marvel movies. Sure I enjoyed some a bit here or there, but in terms of their offerings, I always thought Marvel excelled in their TV series rather than their movies. I actually thought that Marvel's collaboration with Netflix is where their strength was, in that shows like "Daredevil", "Jessica Jones" and "Luke Cage" changed what the superhero genre could and should be, and what a fan could and should expect from it.
"Doctor Strange" marks the first time for me, when I was actually looking forward to a Marvel movie. And this time with good reason. I was surely not disappointed and them some! I had a lot of fun watching 'Doctor Strange", which is why you go to movies in the first place. It was a solid movie, well made, great cast, with truly excellent visual effects and action set pieces. So it totally deserves the success it's getting. It is also a very well calibrated movie and at around 115 minutes, its running time is the perfect length. A big round of applause for Benedict Cumberbatch who steals the show (even thought the show is his) and every frame he is in, as well as Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, Benedict Wong and Rachel McAdams.
There are many things that you might forgive and overlook while watching a genre movie, but one of the things that absolutely cannot be forgiven, is if said movie is tedious and boring. At no point did I experience that with "Doctor Strange"!
The Purge: Election Year (2016)
To Purge Or Not To Purge?!
After a pretty effective but fairly muted debut with its first instalment "The Purge" franchise actually took a few very welcome steps forward with the much improved and thoroughly entertaining "Anarchy", a pretty rare feat at any point in time, but especially in today's prequel, sequel, reboot and remake flooded movie scene... That positive change came in large part at the hands of Frank Grillo, a genuine on-screen bad ass if there ever was one!
So I was very much looking forward to the third (and final ?!) instalment of this franchise. But from its opening frames until the closing credits, "Election Year" proved to be a disappointment and a letdown. It is as far as I am concerned the weakest entry in the franchise!
First of all Frank Grillo, who was the heart of the second movie, and a large reason of why "The Purge" franchise improved, is completely misused here and basically relegated to a glorified secondary character. "Election Year", is a messy and underwhelming creation of bad casting, bad acting, bad directing and writing.
Too bad that this franchise stumbled at the end, and offered a most unsatisfying concluding chapter...
Why Jesus gave up on the world....after seeing "Warcraft"...
Well, if you are one of those people who've asked themselves, why has Jesus forsaken the world, and when is he coming back?! Your answers are, because of "Warcraft" and never.
I am not familiar with the game (games?!), so I am not judging them. The movie, while based on the game and perhaps appealing primarily to that fan base, should also try, at least try, to appeal to wider audiences who are perhaps not familiar with it.
Well it doesn't! This movie is unforgivingly boring, the cast is sub par and so is the acting...the directing and the production values are just underwhelming! Besides, seeing Ruth Negga and Dominic Cooper share the screen yet again, I can see why the TV series "Preacher" over on AMC sucks...
"Warcraft" also amounts to visual plagiarism of "The Lord Of The Rings" and "The Hobbit" movies...something it doesn't even try to hide.
I had high hopes, then just hope, then reasonable expectations, that "Warcraft" would deliver the kind of fun, well made, summer popcorn movie entertainment we've been missing. But it doesn't do any of those things. Instead "Warcraft" joins a long line of lame, crummy, lacklustre and failed video game adaptations.
I think that Jesus saw this movie...and suddenly realized he died for nothing, so he said "F **k it!" and then cancelled the Second Coming...
"Warcraft" is basically larping with a $170 million dollars budget!
Where to Invade Next (2015)
Paid Vacations And Free Sex?! Not So Much...
While I thought that the premise of the movie was a solid and interesting one, I also thought that this was the least satisfying and effective movie from Michael Moore. While everyone almost always thinks about "Bowling For Columbine" and "Fahrenheit 911", personally I think that "Sicko" and "Capitalism: A Love Story" are his most relevant, besides "Roger And Me".
The movie takes a rather naïve and dimwitted view of Europe. While many of the ideas, concepts and practices shown in the movie indeed exist in Europe, the continent also has a dark underbelly and many disturbing aspects, which the movie does briefly acknowledge, but by enlarge glosses over. Things that have been seen in the news recently, like xenophobia, an increase or even backslide into authoritarianism, corruption, conflict, strife of all kinds and tribalism...yep even that.
I lived in Germany and my experience there was completely different from that depicted in the movie. While in broad strokes the social safety net, progressive policies and other aspects of Germany are true, the undercurrent of everything the made Germany the country of World War 1 and 2 is still there smouldering beneath the surface and waiting to be reignited.
Basically Germany is great if you are a German. Same goes for Sweden, Denmark and all others. If you are an outsider...well let's just say that all changes.
While I know that this is not the focus of the movie and I don't expect Mr. Moore to explain all that, glossing over those troubling facts and realities diminishes the movie.
From the Blair Witch to The Witch...a hipster crapfest!
Yep folks exactly that! I had heard a great deal about this new, little flick that could, a good vibe and positive word of mouth response and feedback...the darling movie at Sundance...
So naturally, I went in to see it with some interest and some hopeful, albeit modest, expectations. After all this time of the year treats it's movie going audiences to a plethora of toxic cinematic garbage.
Case in point "Deadpool", nothing more than a pedestrian cinematic mediocrity, sits at the top of the crap pile.
So in order to avoid Ryan Reynolds at all costs and his painful mimicking impression at being edgy and original, I went for "The Witch" as somekind of anti-dote...
And instead of anything remotely original, visionary or at least entertaining, I was treated to a overwrought, self-important, self-congratulatory, lazy and underwhelming turd of a movie!
Interesting cast, gorgeous cinematography...the rest...forgettable, disposable and utterly inconsequential.
You know, it is very easy to pick on big budget or genre movies and to bring them down and pounce on them. But indie movies have somehow gotten a pass over the years, because of this fake aura of authenticity they seem to carry whenever they come out of a film festival, like Sundance for example.
Not this time. Nope, not at all. "The Witch" plain sucks...badly...and unfortunately in the process reminds me of "The Blair Witch Project" another fetid piece of putrefaction, which gives me vivid migraines to this very day!
The Big Short (2015)
Keeping Up With The Kardashians...wait what?!
"The Big Short" is what happens when you keep up with the Kardashians instead of the world around you.
"The Big Short" is what happens when you allow greed and stupidity to co-exist and then you go on to praise the fruits of their loom (no not the t-shirt and underwear company)...
"The Big Short" happened because we allowed it to happen. Lost amidst all of the finger pointing, posturing and outrage...we conveniently forgot our own complicity as a people in this whole mess. Our own greed, selfishness and desire for the easy life, the easy way out, paved the path and greased the wheels for all these Wall Street types to do what they did. We, without wanting to know about it, gave them our blessing. And they went ahead and they did what they know to do...make money at all costs.
Sure, financiers (of all types) and regulators, governments etc., etc, etc., deserve a large share of the blame. No doubt.
But the proof is in the pudding, the devil is in the details. With the exception of a few suckers, more like sacrificial lambs, not one of the people responsible for this has ever been punished or went to jail. Worse, we went on to bail them out of the mess they created and on top of that were left to foot the bill and pay the real life cost of the outcome of that mess.
And the cherry on top of this s*it cake? Now, almost 8 years later, after what was dubbed the Great Recession, pretty much the same individuals are back doing what they did then, but on an even larger scale and we are in an even worse position to head off or prevent another crisis like the one in 2008. Or probably much worse and much bigger.
"The Big Short" happens because we shirk our own responsibility.
Oh yeah and the movie is really good too...you should check it out...
The Force Awakens...A New Hope?!
"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but also the clearest expression of mediocrity". Yep someone said that somewhere...can't remember who or where, but they do deserve credit, because in a way it perfectly encompasses the case of Jar Jar Abrams and "Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens" and his overlords at Darth Disney.
Jar Jar Abrams did what was exactly expected of him. Restart the "Star Wars" franchise, now under the Disney banner, and justify their $4 billion dollar purchase of Lucasfilm, without stumbling out of the starting gate. That he achieved.
Let me also say, that I never hated the Prequel Trilogy, and rather enjoyed the movies, imperfect though they were, except Jar Jar Binks (not to be confused with Jar Jar Abrams!)...that guy should be murdered and then cooked into a delicious meal of frog legs or whatever...but I will not be comparing those movies with this one!
Personally, and this makes it clear how subjective all these reviews are, I found "The Force Awakens" to be on OK, decent, alright flick. I was not overwhelmed by it. It is not a masterpiece, but neither was I underwhelmed, I do not hate the movie, despise it or anything of the sort.
Abrams has been an astute and observant student of the George Lucas and Steven Spielberg school of movie-making. Many of his projects, especially the cinematic ones, have been almost love letters to them. And such is the case with "The Force Awakens". It is a tribute from Abrams, as a fan, to the people and times which influenced and pushed him to become a movie maker.
Abrams is a technically adept director, but in his imitation-is-flattery type of movie-making also lies his mediocrity as I was alluding to in the opening line. That lack of a cinematic identity has unfortunately and oftentimes marked him as a director for hire, as in this instance here, with Disney and Abram's involvement with "Star Wars" (and other projects as well).
And therein lies perhaps the greatest weakness in "The Force Awakens", this smattering of mediocrity, it is a movie steeped in nostalgia, at some points so much so, that it feels like less of a new beginning and more like a re-boot or remake of "A New Hope"...or even worse, a carbon copy.
It is very clear that Darth Disney wasn't going to screw around with its newest acquisition slash golden goose, Lucasfilm. As I said, this is a safe movie at the hands of a safe director, who can create carbon copies and perfect replicas of Lucas and Spielberg's movies, but who lacks a vision and style of his own.
One of the things I like most about the movie, were the new casting additions to the franchise. Oscar Isaac, one of my favourite actors, goes without saying, but also John Boyega and Daisy Ridley. To me she is the heart and soul of the movie. It will be interesting to see how her story arc will develop. Plus Daisy Ridley is just lovely. They inject much needed life in this franchise.
Lets see what Rian Johnson and Colin Trevorrow will do. I think and hope, Rian Johnson will do a good job. Less certain about Colin Trevorrow, though I enjoyed "Safety Not Guaranteed" (I really wish we could get Doug Lyman to direct Episode IX "Edge Of Tomorrow" was outstanding).
Next up, is 'Star Wars Rogue One", and though I am not enthused about Gareth Edwards directing, I actually find myself more intrigued about "Rogue One" than "The Force Awakens"
Cìkè Niè Yinniáng (2015)
Poetry In Motion
Literally this is what the movie is...poetry in motion. It is one of the most beautiful movies I've had the pleasure to look at in quite a while.
It looks like a moving, living canvas set to poetry. Each frame seems to have been painstakingly shot and carefully arranged. The movie's beauty is undeniable as is that of its cast.
This is a slow-burn of a movie, which will clearly not be entertained by many. I would guess that for some, if not many people, the subtitles will be a no-no and the lack of action will also play against it.
"The Assassin" is probably best described as an art-house experiment with a genre movie, in this case an experiment with a martial arts movie. Are there undertones of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" here? Yes, as there are of perhaps the myriad movies which followed in the wake of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon". Yet this film is none of those.
The action and the fight scenes are shot deliberately in a vague and almost voyeuristic way. Oftentimes the action is observed from a far, or it takes place off-screen and only the sounds are heard. Whenever a battle does happen before the camera, the sequence is quite brief, with perhaps one more extended scene half-way through it.
Its as if the action is almost an afterthought, and most of the attention is set on the cinematography and camera-work. And that does work against it, in a detrimental way. The characters and the story are negatively affected by that, and the deliberate slow-pace will probably be maddening and frustrating to most people.
Seeing this movie will have to be more akin to visiting an art gallery. If you are game for that, then this is the movie for you. If you want some exquisite and elaborate set action pieces, then you wont find them here. Might as well check out other movies or AMC's newest series, the martial arts inspired show "Into The Badlands".
The pain of not remembering...
"Remember" marks a return to form of sorts for acclaimed director Atom Egoyan, whose last few movies have been mired in a haze of mediocre uncertainty and even irrelevance, something that you would not associate at all with him.
My favourite Atom Egoyan movie will always be "The Sweet Hereafter". "Exotica" was perhaps a signature film, but "The Sweet Hereafter" remains, for me at least, a true marker of this talent and vision.
But "Remember" ranks up there with his other films, assembled into a solid body of work, generally speaking.
"Remember" is a fascinating movie about living with the ghosts of the past, the scores we have not yet settled and the debts we have not yet paid at the end of our lives. Worst, all these unsettling things that we barely remember or not at all.
The movie is anchored by an enthralling and mesmerizing performance courtesy of Christopher Plummer, who in his 80's still shows why he is as good as he is, and that even at that age he is at, he runs circles around most of today's movie stars in terms of acting quality.
This is a small, out of the way, low-budget movie, with a sad but important story to tell. So if you have the time and opportunity to see it I would advise you to do so. One of the best movies this year, and definitely one of the best leading actor performances of the year, at the hands of Christopher Plummer!
Good Bye Daniel Craig...Hello Idris Elba!
"Quantum Solace" is a better movie than "Spectre"... there I said it... and you read it! First, before all the Bond purists and fanboys tear my head off, let me say that I myself am not, nor ever was a Bond fan. I am more particular to one guy... Bourne... Jason Bourne! However after Daniel Craig stepped into Bond's shoes and after what was arguably a solid, well made movie, "Casino Royale" (one of the best Bond movies to date), I couldn't help but take notice, and just as a moviefan in general, I cannot and will not ignore a good movie and not give credit where credit is due, Bond included, fan or not. I have seen the subsequent movies under Craig's tenure as Bond, not on the big screen, except "Skyfall" and this latest instalment, "Spectre", and enjoyed them to various degrees.
Not "Spectre"! I did not go in to this movie with high expectations, as I am not a Bond fan, as I've already said. As such, I did not have a lot ridding on this movie. But after the fun spectacle that was "Skyfall",I did at least expect to be entertained... and that did not happen on this occasion.
I knew something was off right out the gate, with the opening credit sequence which is soo pompous to a degree that it parodies itself, even though the Bond opening credits are meant to be over the top. In this case it did not work. Also, Sam Smith's "Writing's On The Wall" is a generic, self-congratulatory audio mediocrity basically screaming at you and pointing to itself, "See, see, I'm a Bond song!" ugh... too bad because Sam Smith's vocals and reliability as a crooner, paired with the right lyrics and rhythms usual produce a decent pop song. Not this one.
A special mention must go to the soundtrack... as in how bad and annoying it is. The continuous, grinding, grating up-tempo of the soundtrack starts out being a minor annoyance and ends up making you want to get out of your seat and leave the theatre. It is incessant and it feels like it never stops, like you are meant to always expect something jumping at you from the screen... I was exhausted by the end of the movie, in large part because of the soundtrack, it made me feel while watching this movie, that there was never a moment of peace and quiet throughout.
So yes, "Spectre"... is too long...and too boring. It does have some highlights and some bright spots here and there, but I don't want to give anything away except to say that for me if there was a standout scene, it was the opening of the movie which takes place in Mexico City... and then the movie goes downhill from there and flounders all over the place. A mediocre villain, an always reliable but largely interchangeable and forgettable supporting cast (gone is the larger than life on screen presence Dame Judy Dench brought to these movies)and not much else.
The Bond girls, or I should say women... well, besides Monica Bellucci who actually seemed appropriate for the movie in her oh so brief appearance, the rest are well, they aren't. Naomi Harris has always been a "meh" for me. And Lea Seydoux, while a good actress, is completely miscast in this movie.
As I said above, the villain is mediocre...(nothing even approaching Javier Bardem's baddie!) yes indeed... as seems to be the curse of many movies these days... movie studios just don't seem to want to be good at portraying bad... In "Spectre", the bad guy, is meant to be this all-powerful and almost omni-present arch- villain to Bond, a barely there, shadowy figure existing in the background twilight only... well, again... it doesn't work! Christoph Waltz, another usually reliable, and good actor, just fades quickly in this movie after he is revealed and becomes a generic cliché.
If you haven't seen any of the previous Bond movies with Daniel Craig, "Casino Royale", "Quantum Of Solace" and "Skyfall", then my advice is to try and see them beforehand, because in "Spectre", characters, events and places from the previous three movies are mentioned at various points, and if you don't know what they mean, you won't get an explanation. "Spectre" is NOT really a standalone movie. Point being, that everything that has happened in the previous three movies, and everything that has befallen James Bond, has had one continuous thread, one leading to this one organization which is behind everything, that organization being Spectre...
So yes, the movie is too long, all over the place and just feels flat and not that exciting, which is what Bond movies usually trade on to be successful. If I had to classify Daniel Craig's Bond movies they would come out like this: 1. "Casino Royale", 2. "Skyfall", 3. "Quantum Of Solace", 4. "Spectre".
The main problem is also Daniel Craig himself. While usually competent in his delivery,unfortunately in this movie, more than in the other three before, it feels like he is just phoning his performance in.
In a recent interview Craig said something to the effect that "he would rather slash his wrists" than act in another Bond movie, pretty much signalling that he is kind of done with the franchise... or as the Sam Smith song would say, "Writing's On The Wall"... and it is time for Craig to bow out and exit! "Spectre" is not exactly the best way to end things for him as Bond... but better this than another, potentially worse, instalment down the road! On that note, yeah, we need a change...so please bring in Idris Elba!!!! I'll settle for Tom Hardy... but no Damian Lewis...
6 out of 10
The United Nations Wachowski Style...
Just finished watching "Sense8" and I have to say that while at first I wasn't sure about the concept, idea and storyline of this show, it really grew on me. I really dig the characters, the locations and the different set-ups, plots etc. I also love the background stories of all these characters and how they end-up interacting with each other. I like the fact that while it uses sci-fi as its background, it also has a message or messages to impart to its audience and it pulls no punches or apologizes for that, or the fact that this is a show, as mentioned, for grown-ups and adults.
I find that "Sense8" really speaks to the here and now, to the urgency in our world, to the craziness, the convolution, uncertainty and complexity of it, such as it is in the 21st century, now almost two decades in, and that in spite of all the changes, the sometimes overwhelming odds stacked up against us, it is by discovering that we have more in common than apart, that we can make it through together.
And in these times of banality and mediocrity, that is not an easy feat to achieve. I hope there is a second season, I am looking forward to it, and I will be watching!
"Dope" is a funny and thought provoking coming-of-age story which upends and plays around with tropes, stereotypes and ideas taken up by and touched upon in such notable movies as "Boyz-In-Tha-Hood", "Juice", "Above The Rim", "Menace II Society" and even "Friday".
It boasts interesting characters, a good cast, solid direction and a great soundtrack. It is culturally relevant and has some in-your-face questions and statements to ask of its audiences.
However the movie falters in that, while I mentioned at the outset that "Dope" takes head-on and challenges some of the stereotypes and biases prevalent in our culture today, it unfortunately also chooses to solve its dilemma and main plot point in a fairly stereotypical, predictable and formulaic way, which I did not expect from this movie, whose entire premise is quite different and fresh.
Nonetheless it is still an enjoyable, smart and worthwhile movie to see, especially during yet another summer season dominated by large franchise, sequel, prequel and reboot movies.
Ted 2 (2015)
A Million Ways To Donate Sperm....The Sequel
"Ted 2" is the completely unnecessary and unwanted sequel to "Ted", a much funnier and better movie than its sequel.
Don't get me wrong, there are still plenty of laughs to be had in this movie. It is not a complete letdown, I just think that it really didn't need to be made as the previous one pretty much ended up on the right note and there was no need to re-visit the character.
McFarlane's writing and gags still work, skills honed during the long-running life-cycle of the still funny and biting satire that continues to be "Family Guy". McFarlane's love for show tunes and old school Hollywood musical extravaganzas also continues to be present which is a mixed blessing.
So while the movie is not a complete throwaway, it is first of all too long, like an unnecessarily expanded "Family Guy" episode. The movie is all over the place, trying to be a parody, a gag-gross-out comedy and at the same time, a serious courtroom drama.
"Ted 2" lingers and meanders, especially during it's "serious" portions which could have easily been cut out, since the movie's plot is pretty much redundant and is only there to service all the jokes and gags.
And just a word of caution to McFarlane, in his quest to be edgy and show that "yes, I went there" type of humour, some of it falls flat at times and ends up feeling and sounding just mean-spirited, and even offensive, which is not a problem of comedy, but it is a problem of comedic timing and lazy writing.
Mila Kunis, McFarlane's long-time collaborator and I would guess muse, is nowhere to be seen in this one, and while Amanda Seyfried is a decent actress most of the time, she is just doesn't add much in this instance. Her chemistry with Mark Whalberg, whose part has been reduced to that of second fiddle to Ted, flatlines at the outset and is nowhere near what Whalberg had with Kunis. There is a more plausible connection between Ted and Tammy-Lynn, his former girlfriend now wife, played by a most welcome returning Jessica Barth.
In so far as the cameos in this movie, some are funny and some wholly unnecessary. At times it feels like McFarlane is showing off..."Hey! Look! I know all these people and I can get them into my movie!"...
Seth McFarlane is undoubtedly a talented individual, actually multi-talented and somewhat of a Renaissance man. And "Ted" was a worthwhile debut for him as a "comedic" director. But in his almost manic and often frenzied mad-dash to convey his creativity to the rest of us, McFarlane can end up all-over-the-place as evidenced in "A Million Ways To Die In The West" and now "Ted 2".
I think Set McFarlane would benefit from a creative circle around him, people who can talk him down and when needed rein him in and teach him that sometimes more is not always better.
Not CSI or Law&Order or one of their 100 spin-offs...phew...praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!
Part Dirty Harry, part Phillip Marlow and part Sherlock Holmes, veteran LAPD detective Harry Bosch is a walking contradiction of emotions, feelings, intellect, brain and brawn, a mostly analog man living in a digital world. He is the creation of Michael Connelly as part of a long running series of noir crime novels.
"Bosch" as a series and as a character is a very welcome presence on in the increasingly crowded TV landscape, though technically this would not qualify as a television show since it is produced and "streamed" by Amazon Inc., Amazon together with Eric Overmeyer and Michael Connelly himself, have got a winner on their hands here. Especially for Amazon Inc. which is still getting its feet wet when it comes to creating and distributing original content directly to viewers over the Internet, thus eschewing the traditional broadcast model. While Netflix is at the head of the pack for now, Amazon, DirecTV, Hulu and others are catching up.
But no matter how you get your viewing run at "Bosch", on your smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop or TV, binge watching or one episode at the time, one thing remains, quality is quality. As such the series unfolds like a visual approximation of a novel, for example the episodes are called chapters.
Together with a fantastic array of programs from the likes of HBO, Showtime, Starz, FX, AMC and the aforementioned Netflix, Amazon's "Bosch" is yet another fine addition to shall we say, the "small screen".
Titus Welliver delivers a fine and powerful yet understated and slow-burning performance as the title character and series lead, as does the rest of the cast, including Jamie Hector, Anne Wersching, Lance Reddick and Amy Aquino.
"Bosch" wisely combines the characteristics of the police procedural, the personal drama, the mystery of solving crimes, the intrigue of politics and behind the scenes machinations, in a smart and balanced way, not allowing any of those aspects to overwhelm the series or diminish the characters, plot or story. It blessedly echoes some of the great shows like "Homicide: Life On The Streets", "The Wire", "The Shield" and "Damages", "The Killing" (plus the classic, first five seasons of "Law & Order", plus I guess we could add to that the first season of "True Detective" there).
After years of having the landscape saturated and watered down by the likes of "CSI" and all its spin-offs, "Law&Order" and all its spin-offs, "NCIS" and all its spin-offs, as well as dull and predictable fare like, "Bones", "Criminal Minds", "Hawaii 5-O" and "Blue Bloods", "Bosch" is a welcome change of pace and respite from the ho-hum, underwhelming drumbeat of those mainstream TV network shows.
While not perfect, it is a solid and enjoyable show overall. I am looking forward to next season and the return of Detective Bosch!
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Sidekick Max and the Victoria Secret Models!
"Mad Max Fury Road" was a complete letdown and a complete crap fest of a movie. I thought this was going to be the highlight of the summer movie season, a movie season drowning in mediocre superhero flicks and resurrected dino-crap...yes I'm looking at you "Age Of Ultron" and "Jurasic World".
I was soo looking forward to Miller's newest take on the Mad Max franchise. It is not even close to the first two movies and even weaker and worse than "Beyond Thunderdome". A crummy and unnecessary 3D conversion, badly edited, terrible script, idiotic plot and meaningless storyline...and just an incoherent cacophony of sights and sounds desperately grasping at some kind of nostalgic replay..which doesn't succeed in the least.
The original trilogy is miles ahead (pun intended). People are just soo underwhelmed by the yoke of Marvel continuously spewing their mindless drivel, that they are trying desperately to latch on to any movie that seems, or pretends to be different. But "Fury Road" is not different from its spandex clad cinematic brethren.
The relentless nature and frenetic pacing are meant to convey the wild and crazy imagination of George Miller. But if Miller was a visionary, as all the promo captions loudly proclaim, that was in the past, 30 years ago. Now the most vision he has is what brand of adult diapers he will choose to buy...because this movie has nothing "visionary" about it! It is just pretentious hogwash, supported by audience members and critics who desperately need to convince themselves that this movie is the Second Coming! Anyone who thinks or says different....is to be shunned and exiled to the Wasteland...only in the case of "Fury Road" that was Namibia and not the actual Australian Outback.
This movie is supposedly rated R/14A, but I never got that feeling all throughout the movie. There is more violence, gore and mature themes in a single episode of "The Walking Dead" or "Game Of Thrones"! And also more quality.
When Tom Hardy (an excellent actor) as Max, turns out to be second fiddle to Charlize Theron's (an over-hyped and overrated actress if I ever saw one) Imperatora Furiosa, the movie takes a sharp dive. When they parade the Victoria Secret models, aka the wives of the villain whose name is...whatever...because he is irrelevant, as the raison d'etre of the movie...then it becomes bad. When the resolution of the movie is to return from where they started out, after being chased for almost the entire movie in the opposite direction, then "Fury Road" crashes, burns...and finally becomes...crap!
The original Mad Max trilogy, well at least the first two movies, were a big-punk-rock-counterculture middle finger to mainstream society and the socio-political and economic environment of the late 70's and early 80's.
The current incarnation is but a pale shadow! "Mad Max Fury Road" is a conformist, corporate driven, empty spectacle pretending to be something it is not...original and visionary. It is a by-the-numbers, test-audience dictated exercise in mediocrity.
Boy this will be a looooong summer at the movies...and not in a good way!
The Hunting Ground (2015)
Hype About Hype? No!
"The Hunting Ground" is an important documentary, dealing with the disturbing and pressing issue of rape on college and university campuses throughout the United States.
It is perhaps one of the most important documentaries in recent times.
A lot of people have seen the news stories, heard from some of the victims and the accused and are somewhat familiar with this issue.
Yet "The Hunting Ground" takes all those statistics and oftentimes "faceless accusers", and makes it all-personal, raw and real, by putting faces and names to all those who have been victims and are survivors of rape and sexual assault/harassment. You get to see the cost for everyone of these people who have lived through this harrowing experience, as well as the continuing aftermath and all the implications that go along.
However, recently, because of the unfortunate incident with the Rolling Stone article and the unproven allegations in that particular case, a huge backlash has ensued against not only this movie, but also actual victims of rape, sexual abuse and harassment.
Are there false claims? Yes, as there are in any other number of criminal categories and offences! However, as it was proved again and again, the number of false rape claims is minuscule when comparing to the number of actual claims brought forward by actual victims.
Now, a myriad of right-wing mouthpieces, deniers, pundits, bloggers and "men's rights" warriors, are pouncing and using the Rolling Stone example as proof positive that rape on college and university campuses is a massive hoax being perpetrated by liberals, bleeding hearts, do-gooders and of course the perennial villains of this whole "debacle"...feminists, who apparently are the new evil incarnate in the 21st century, and the greatest threat to male identity and primacy in society at large.
In fact these deniers insist that this is a massive public smear campaign against men, specifically all the good ol'boy networks of fraternities and athletic organizations.
The venom, vitriol and poisonous bile spewed by these rape, sexual abuse and assault deniers is painful, sad, depressing and it really lives a bitter after-taste of frustration and disbelief.
Not only are victims traumatized by the savage nature of the crime perpetrated against them, then victimized again by a system that was supposedly designed to support and help them, no...they get to be insulted, threatened and harassed once more by people who have never been exposed to or have any idea how devastating of a crime rape can be, as the movie makes it clear, for women, but also for men.
Yet fame, money, popularity and connections, always come into play when these victims seek justice and redress for what they were forced to endure and live through.
Should false claims and cases of this type of crime be dismissed and even prosecuted? Of course. No one being falsely accused should have to be punished or go to jail for a crime he or she did not commit. Innocent until proved guilty must hold for everybody.
But to dismiss all cases of rape on campus out of hand is dangerous, ignorant and terribly narrow-minded.
The naysayers seem to revel in proving that this entire issue is a sham. I would advise against being too gleeful, lest you or someone you know is ever affected by the blight of sexual violence.
Watch the movie, try to be unbiased and make up your own mind as to what is what!
Ask yourself...especially men, what if one of the victims was your mother, sister or girlfriend? What would you do and how would you react?
Relatos salvajes (2014)
Anger And Frustration
"Relatos Salvajes" or "Wild Tales" is an anthology movie, consisting of six short tales, produced by Pedro Almodovar.
One of the tales has, due to to the news involving airplanes we have seen over the past year, taken on quite a different meaning. Especially the tragedy involving Germanwings Flight 9525 and pilot Andreas Lubitz. I don't want to give away too much, suffices to say, that the impact of the story is felt quite vividly given what I have just mentioned.
These tales touch on topics such as anger, frustration, revenge and feeling under pressure in our mad- dash, non-stop 21st century lives. Always connected, always on, always moving, and the resulting alienation, fragmentation and uncertainty which results out of all that.
We feel it every day, in ourselves, in those around us, the places we live in, the uneasiness in our souls, minds and bodies...the feeling that we are no longer in control of our own being, or our destiny...only perpetual tourists relegated to a dystopian conveyor belt composed of regretful pasts, crumbling presents and a myriad of possible shaky futures.
These tales encompass all of that in some form or other. Thoughts and emotions we are likely to dismiss and not dwell on in our daily lives and routines. Let's be honest, who amongst us wants to think about anger and frustration...when they are our most likely companions during the mundane process of going about to and fro', aka living? But anger and frustration, and yes even revenge, are part of our personalities, and of us as human beings.
Without darkness there is no light. In the same manner, we would probably be incomplete humans without anger, frustration and revenge being part of us.
It is about time we acknowledge them. This movie does just that...in a wonderful way!