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Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)
Spectacular Sci-fi - why all the hatred?
Any movie sequel has the impossible task to expand on what was done well in the original one, without getting too repetitive - and at the same time showing new stuff, but also not too much change in order to stay true to the mood of the original. After reading all the bad reviews I actually was worried I would be in for a big disappointment after seeing the first one in 1996 which I remember like it was yesterday. I am happy to say I was pleasantly surprised - except for character development, Emmerich did everything that was great in the first one better and even more spectacular this time. True, I missed the unlikely but great chemistry between Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum in this sequel, so I can see why some reviewers feel Independence Day Resurgence lacks a bit of soul, but I guess this feeling is mostly due to the fact that people do not like change. Many of the great characters of the first one (Bill Pullman as ex President, Brent Spiner as the 'mad professor', Jeff Goldblum and Judd Hirsch) were back with some new interesting actors, too (Sela Ward, Charlotte Gainsbourg, William Fichtner). And besides insane special effects, Emmerich also always makes sure there are some humorous and light moments, too, and this sequel was no exception.
Many reviewers complained about too much stuff being crammed in this movie. Well, I was entertained for two hours and the movie did not feel rushed to me. Still, I do agree that the first movie made you care more about the characters and what was at stake for the universe if mankind and love would not see the light of day, shown by e.g. the romance of Jeff Goldblum and his ex wife intertwining with the marriage of the characters played by Will Smith's and Vivica Fox. That, with the moment of deepest despair, followed by hope (the virus idea) and sacrifice by a drunk flying his ship into a laser beam followed by one of the most spectacular explosions in any movie, gave a cheering feeling that this sequel did not manage to equal, let alone surpass. I hope 20th Century Fox will give Emmerich more time for character development in the third installment, though, which I hope we will see before an other 20 years pass by!
Still, this was a sequel that also gave us a lot of new interesting stuff to see (I won't go into spoilers) and the movie is well worth the admission ticket. Furthermore, the story line has a lot of similarities to the first one, but also offers interesting opportunities for a third installment, which will probably a sort of Independence Day Goes Interstellar thing - I can't wait! Go and see it in 3D!
The Room (2003)
One of the most entertaining movies I have ever seen
This is aptly called the Citizen Kane of bad movies, so it is one you cannot afford to miss. It has been said that even in the event of the best movie makers in the world coming together to try to make the worst movie of all time, they could still not make this - so, this is an exquisite work of art. To give examples, the acting is horrible, the lightning and the stage look like you are watching a soap opera, the story line is inconsistent, and so on. This movie cost almost a million dollar to make and the director still believes it is a great flick up to this day. The cult following is grateful to him, calling themselves Roomies. I believe it still shows in theaters in the US on a regular basis where these followers flock together, imitating their favorite characters, so eventually the movie will make a profit. I am glad it was made, since such good entertainment is extremely rare, albeit entertainment on the other end of the Gauss curve so to speak.
Bridge of Spies (2015)
'It is a bloody good story' (quoted by Spielberg), but alas not told from the much more urgent present times
I gave this movie an 8 for how it showed simply a good cold war thriller. It had the cold war tension between the US and USSR, played out in the divided Berlin, both East and West. Beautifully filmed as a British costume drama, I also liked how Tom Hanks's character provided some inner tension in how his look on justice for all, even for spies, had consequences for both himself as his family. What is surprising though is that Spielberg confirmed in a BBC interview he had no political message in this one. That is curious to say the least, with all the abundant contemporary parallels like Snowden for Abel in the story, or drones for the U2 back then. His reply was 'it is just a bloody good story'. Sure, but a story that makes America look good, in 2015, a time when he could have made a political thriller that could have given us a much more balanced view of reality we see today, with the US spying on everyone. The result would then have been much more powerful and less preachy. His choice is all the more peculiar, since he did not shy away showing us uncompromising battle scenes in Saving Private Ryan, but perhaps it was also helping us realize that was indeed a deserved accolade for what America has done for the world. Spielberg is, as IMDb says, indeed one of the most influential figures of cinema, and he deserves this for his many film making qualities as also this movie shows us again. I just wish with aging he would also have the guts to be like Shakespeare, to allow the arguable greatness of the US to shine through all the flaws it surely has like any country. But, to stick with Spielberg, if you just go for the story alone, and you don't mind the propaganda of the US being the ultimate example of the Good of the Free World, then this beautifully adapted film is entertaining enough.
45 Years (2015)
Knock out movie of the year - and hopefully an Oscar for Charlotte Rampling
This is one of those movies you can or have to watch a few times to let it all in and I am not only talking about the knock-out ending. Without giving away spoilers (I am not 100% sure what IMDb defines as spoiler, therefore I tagged it as might contains such), the story is about a couple who is about to have their 45th anniversary in a week - Geoff Mercer, played by Tom Courtenay and Kate Mercer, played by Charlotte Rampling. Suddenly, Geoff receives a letter that the body of his first to be wife has been found in the Alps, perfectly preserved, so we are told. He met Kate not long after this accident, but never really talked about her, if at all. While we watch the days count down to their wedding party, we see Geoff becoming more and more withdrawn. A normal reaction perhaps to cope with his flame of the past, or is he also becoming more distanced from his wife? Kate gets more and more frightened of the thought she might have lived 45 years being second best, but is she right really? After all, it was such a long time ago and such a large part of their lives they have been husband and wife, so what could a flame of the distant past really mean today? The play is so subtle and well done, it might become overlooked as flat or too mundane or 'natural'. But watch it with your full attention, especially the clever dialogue, and you will see an ending in the last seconds that is both a surprise and inevitable, as great endings should be!
Nice to see again
Nice to see this again. As was said with the 1980s version with Francesca Annis and James Warwick, Tommy and Tuppence do not show up a lot in Agatha Christie stories, but whenever they do, they are fun! And how these two were back then, around 1983 and 1984. It still ranks as one of my all time favorite series. But time moves on and it is a nice change to see these stories told again, this time from the perspective of the 1950s. With the Cold War going on there is indeed plenty of room for suspense, or, for these 'romantic detectives'. But I miss the aristocracy in knicker-boxers, and the evil butlers or housemaids, just to just give one cliché example. I just loved the 1980s version from the 1920s, so I could not help comparing this episode with the 'original version'. I know, the prudish kissing that was the norm back then, we no longer see, so Tommy & Tuppence have come of age. The same goes, it seems, for the Oxford English of the upper class, which is no longer stressed so much. And I know too, no one can beat the class of the Goldfinger Bond Girl in the 1983 version playing the opera singer for instance, so I should move on and give this 2015 version a change. Well, I loved it, but in general I would like to see more wit and more fun, I mean Francesca Annis' enthusiasm was just contagious back then, and her Tommy also laughed a lot more - this combined with the crimes to be solved in the background, it made a fun and sometimes even hilarious combination of a true amateur sleuth duo. The tone of this episode so far is a bit too serious. But, it is as always well acted and the BBC/ITV costume drama genre is something no other country can beat and it is always perfect entertainment. I guess I will have to watch Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries to satisfy my melancholy and get in the mood for Tommy & Tuppence going 'Foyle's War' style. I will watch all these episodes though.
Another Woman (1988)
Very similar in atmosphere to My Dinner With Andre
This is a serious drama by Woody Allen, not the usual neurotic romantic comedy genre that he is known of. I loved this movie, although after wards I felt it was familiar to another film I had seen recently. And that is My Dinner With Andre, where the music (Satie) and brown greenish colors create the same atmosphere. But both movies are great and make you think and evaluate life in a different way. This one is about a woman who has recently turned 50. She has rented a room to write a book, but when working, she suddenly overhears patients talking to a psychologist next door through an air vent. After listening to a particular patient played by Mia Farrow, she realizes she has alienated many people from here life because of her coldness. Many chances have passed by, e.g. a child, or real love. After meeting this woman in a restaurant, she overhears the character played by Mia Farrow talking to the psychologist about their meeting, later on. I loved this wonderfully voyeuristic and insightful twist,and this is just another winner of Woody Allen, not in the least since the story is clever, and the drama is acted wonderfully - he always knows how to pick first rate actors. A must see!
Through the Wormhole (2010)
This wonderful show is on a par with, or better than Carl Sagan's Cosmos and I never thought that could happen. I love Through The Wormhole for both the wonderful scope, the neutral way the information and theories etc are given from all kinds of angles and perspectives, and of course for the authoritative and best storytelling voice of our time: Morgan Freeman's. So it is a pleasure to look at, to learn from and to listen to. All possible subjects you might think of in this kind of documentaries are dealt with; God, the beginning of the universe, life, consciousness, Black Holes, String Theory, time, space, And of course extraterrestrial life and wormholes! I highly recommend this series for it is so educational and highly entertaining! Super quality TV, thank you especially Morgan Freeman!
Tim's Vermeer (2013)
TEN STARS - Now this is something I have NEVER seen before!
There are endless debates going on about whether Vermeer is the best or Rembrandt. We cannot dispute taste, but in the end of this documentary (to me at least) the mystery of Vermeer is partly solved, that of Rembrandt remains. Tim himself said it eloquently, that art should not have to be separate from technique. A painting is a document, regardless if it was made with optical help. Seeing Vermeer or Rembrandt in a museum, does that give us the sensation of cheating? No. Tim, an inventor, has the wonderful obsession to recreate a Vermeer with optical techniques that help him to paint details on canvas that would otherwise not be possible to discern. We see the whole process of reconstructing the room Vermeer used to paint, his techniques of mixing paint and all the way to the optics he very likely must have used. The obsession and love for Vermeer that Tim has is contagious and it makes it immediately one of my favorite documentaries in decades. What made me convinced Vermeer must have painted like Tim did, is the comment by an optical specialist made that no humans with super retina's exist. Well, Rembrandt did, but it made me doubt when it came to Vermeer. The thing is, there are no sketches to be found behind Vermeer's paintwork, as infrared research shows. Rembrandt, who actually also has many works of astounding detail in miniature form (paintings of his mother reading the bible for instance), always sketched outlines first, which he often erased and changed, like any drawing is made. Rembrandt probably had a staggering talent plus the obstinacy of Vermeer, while Vermeer might have just had the patience. Tim also discovered while painting his Vermeer that some crooked lines and patterns should have been straight and vice versa. This was probably caused by the fact that Vermeer made the same mistake as he did, while using the optical tools. What tipped the balance in favor of Rembrandt as the still unexplained mystery to me is that Vermeer used very often a similar style and composition, which might shed light on the fact he was more a Tim than a real artist. Rembrandt often changed style, getting more and more impressionistic, or less is more, which is also proof of his artistry and drawing talent.
Vermeer must have used mechanical devices to make his works. This explains his virtually unchanged style, but also the fact that he only made 35 works or so. They must have taken a lot of time! Interestingly enough, through Tim's records we get an indication it might have taken Vermeer three months at least to finish one painting. There is only one 'but' it remains for instance a mystery how Vermeer painted his View of Delft, or the Street Of Delft, both scenes outside his home. I cannot see how mirrors would have done the job of changing clouds.
Of course no one of us were there, but it seems to me Vermeer (despite the stunning quality of this work) had "only" one repertoire he stuck to the beautiful compositions before him, and rendered these scenes in photographic realism. Rembrandt went further than 'just' the view in front of him. He magnified aspects, and left others out, making a picture of reality that we cannot find in the world, but nevertheless recognize real art to me. Just like a movie can be a meaningful slice out of life, but never is life. Like Shakespeare, Rembrandt used dark and light, as a metaphor for our short existence (flash in the darkness, life in the violent universe, you pick your metaphor). He also succeeded in painting mainly ugly people in such a grand way that they, just like in Shakespeare's plays, became just like mankind itself, somehow even more impressive, in all their hubris, flaws and limitations. Vermeer never reaches this level to me. Take Rembrandt's Batseba in the Louvre, her sad and serene expression go so much further in telling a story that is so much more than just the picture. Don't take me wrong, I consider Vermeer the absolute number two on the all-time artist list. Vermeer made time stand still. It is funny to know that probably the paintings you see of him actually really looked like that then. Comparing Rembrandt and Vermeer is like combining Wagner and Vivaldi in music, both skillful and both making great music, but Vermeer like Vivaldi seems to me not able to ever go further than the level of 'light entertainment'. With Vermeer art seems to perfectly imitate life, a stunning accomplishment for someone with only 17th century tools! But Rembrandt painted in superlatives to me. He gave human beings somehow a super reality, which to me is art being bigger than life. Rembrandt had not only skill like Vermeer, but also a vision, which for me raised the bar of what humans can do, how we see life, how in fact the universe reflexes on itself via our best art.
Trying to recapture the magic of old masters, the mystery of "how did they do it" remains. Take for instance the Danae by Rembrandt. When it was destroyed in St Petersburg, even after twelve years of restoring, no one could recapture the golden haze emanating from the original Rembrandt. But although Vermeer painted in light and not in gold and dark, Tim shows actually it can be done. Maybe all this documentary is, is an ode to Vermeer and any great artist that wants to do the impossible. The end result of Tim's painting is more than stunning and it makes us think: if a Vermeer can be made through plain perseverance with the help of mechanical means, would he indeed have cheated? In the end it might not matter, since both the sheer beauty of composition and detail will enchant us forever.
Ender's Game (2013)
Good acting, good special effects (albeit stolen from Independence Day and Starship Troopers) and in all, a science fiction movie I have not seen before. There are interesting themes, on the ethics of preparing kids for battle, and on whether a beautiful victory in war exists at all. What I did not like was the theme we got straight away: once you know or understand your enemy, you love him. That came back in the movie many times, when Ender had to fight his way to the top. But he was fighting humans, not bugs. And even then, yeah right, to take a cliché example, I don't think people in concentration camps would concur on loving the Nazis by understanding they did all that horrible stuff because they loved Goethe and Beethoven and just wanted to force their German culture on the world (as Thomas Mann 'explained' the reason for World War 2). There are always plenty of reasons and explanations to understand some wrong philosophy some population uses as a justification for taking over the world, but it never makes it right. Same for these bugs, they were overpopulated on their own planet, like us, and invaded our earth like we mistreat our own planet, but because they are essentially like us, we would understand and love each other? That is the same crap as Matrix 2, saying the synthesis between man and machine was not so bad after all. The reality is, if something like this would happen, you could never be sure if the bugs would not try again after a century or so (the Germans did after World War 1, to finish my cliché). Nevertheless, in the end Ender felt sorry for these poor bugs and, for some reason, was allowed by his superiors (o no, it was conveniently added in the last seconds he became admiral and could do whatever he wanted) to find a new home for the last alive queen to breed. So at least we can expect a sequel, when that queen decides to take over our planet once again after some years. And, by the way, how did those ants build spaceships?
Young James Herriot (2011)
I loved the old series and this new one, too
A score of 6 is all The Young Herriot gets? This was surely not that bad at all! I own and have seen all the classic 1970's James Herriot episodes, and comparing them to this series like the first reviewer seems to me like comparing two different eras; it is not the point. But each may have their opinion so I will give my view. I love the old episodes of course, and no new series can top them, but all I can say is I love the Young Herriot, too. I found this new series a good idea as a 'prequel' to the series from the 1970's, and I hope there will be more to come. I can't believe it seems that the BBC so far decided to ax the series, just when things started to take off. I wish we could find out more about what is in store for young Herriot, his student friends, his landlady and life in general at the campus. So far it has been nothing but sheer fun; not only the classic trial and error animal curing stuff we are used to from Christopher Timothy in the 70's but this time the rather shy but determined and stubborn young James is surrounded by the lovely couple and his student friends Whirly Tyson and Rob McAloon. Whirley, played by Amy Manson, is a sort of Amelia Earhart archetype of the independent but still feminine woman, fighting for respect in what was and probably still is a male dominated world. This gives not only many an interesting sideplot on historical issues then relevant, but it also causes her a lot of trouble. Not in the least because of her attitude against a professor who is anti-women.Her partner is the character Rob McAloon, played by Ben Lloyd Huges. He is just great and yet another of many wonderful young actors that keep on showing what British charm is all about. I really hope the BBC will see a lot more of these two since honestly I love them more than the role of James Herriot itself. The previous reviewer thought of them as flat and irrelevant, distracting from Herriot. But I think they are needed since the Young Herriot alone would, when true to his character, have been too serious and timid. Both Whirly and Rob are a sort of Tommy and Tuppence partner in crime couple we knew from Agatha Christie. They make this series just both classy and FUN! Acting and costumes etc were fine, of course, that is what BBC does best, and in all, I found it REALLY entertaining. I do not see why the first reviewer (although I found the review funny) complained about stereotypes. After all, the original James Herriot was also light entertainment full of stereotypes. Indeed this series is no different. For instance there is the similarity with the landlady now and the old lady who owned the dog Tricky Woo in the 70s. Or remember how Sigfried and Tristan were just poles (one responsible, the other just forever drinking and playing, just as Rob and Whirly now). I saw once an interview where Robert Hardy as an actor even got tired sometimes of always having to play the person who lost his temper. So character development has never been a strong point nor an issue in the Herriot series. It nevertheless did not stop the fun, that lied in simply the entertainment value and the atmosphere of the country life in the old days. That is done really well once again. It just makes me wish to become a vet in the pre war days in rural England! In the end, it is about Herriot and the Young Herriot is also here a person who wants to be a vet in heart and soul so I am sure if there will be more seasons, we will get to know and like him just as we did with Christopher Timothy. Just as then, it will take time, so only 3 episodes is too early to judge. I think the Young Herriot has a lot going for it, for instance it does a better job in showing us some issues of the times where the original did not. True, it must be said, The Young Herriot is light entertainment but if your aim is not hoping to find gold nuggets like the all-time knock-out series Brideshead Revisited or so, but just to relax on a Sunday it still shows again that the BBC is the best when it comes to drama. So once again, BBC, please continue this series!