Reviews written by registered user
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The "criminals who become victims" concept has always been popular in horror cinema (Don't Breathe is a recent example I liked), and that might be because it adds an unexpected moral ambiguity which questions our perception regarding "good" and "evil" ones. And, on a more visceral sense, it creates an "instantaneous karma" sensation in which the criminals receive their punishment... even though we would like to see them escape sometimes). From a House on Willow Street follows that formula, but its main problem is that co-screenwriter Alaistar Orr (who is also the director), Jonathan Jordaan (sic) and Catherine Blackman reveal the kidnapped girl's secret too quickly, decreasing the tension and taking us through a prefabricated route which doesn't adequately exploit the "surprise factor". Besides, it's too obvious who the default "hero" (heroine, in this case) will be from the beginning; fortunately, that character is played by Sharni Vinson, whose work in horror cinema during the last 5 years (Bait, You're Next and Patrick: Evil Awakens) has made her become a versatile "scream queen" with an adequate emotional deepness. Vinson's scenic presence and credible reactions keep us moderately entertained despite the questionable narrative decisions and weak coincidences in which her character is involved. I will probably end up forgetting From a House on Willow Street as soon as I finish writing this review, but it didn't bore me, and I can give it a slight recommendation, mainly due to the gore and the presence of an actress whose affinity for the horror genre can rescue mediocre movies, such as... this one. We are still on time to redeem the "scream queen" term, and Vinson is one of the actresses capable of achieving it (other good alternatives: Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Anya Taylor-Joy).
Besides of being one of the most respected contemporary filmmakers, director Ken Loach has also become an important political figure due to the eloquent social commentary from his films, which tend to denounce serious problems in a supposedly progressive country like England. His movies are vehement messages which transcend their geographic setting (generally Newcastle and nearby places) in order to internationally resound due to the universality of the themes... and the unfortunate ubiquity of the problems portrayed. Having said all that... his films (at least the ones I have seen) don't leave me completely satisfied (with the exception of Looking for Eric). Don't misunderstand me; I appreciate Loach's dramatic talent, his solid instinct for the selection of actors and the social conscience dictated by the themes of his filmography. The problem is that his movies are almost always depressing and demoralizing. That is, obviously, what makes them important... simple but deeply human tales about common individuals facing injustices which might seem trivial in the global framework of a nation, but which still have the potential of ruining thousands of anonymous lives every day. They are undoubtedly relevant films... but they are so depressing... Anyway, I, Daniel Blake fits into all those descriptions, displaying the gradual dehumanization of the main character, who just wishes to go back to his work; but a serious heart condition avoids him from doing so (at least for a while), so he goes to the Labor Ministry to transact the economic aid which will allow him to survive while recovering his health. And there's no need to live in England to recognize the wall of requirements, excuses and contradictory instructions found by Blake. Any person from any country will probably have similar stories under his/her own experience. As I said: a transcendent and important film, but at the same time, depressing and difficult to "enjoy".
The first half an hour of The Bye Bye Man woke some optimism on me: the premise is moderately original; and director Stacy Title creates a good atmosphere. Unfortunately, the provocative central mystery of The Bye Bye Man loses coherence as the time goes by, until degenerating into the "haunted house" clichés we know by heart: inexplicable sounds, night explorations through dark halls, sinister shadows, nightmarish visions, etc. But, well, Title at least keeps a fluid rhythm which avoids the film from getting boring. On the negative side, I found it frustrating not to see an exact explanation of who the entity stalking the characters is. I don't know whether the producers had so much faith on the movie that they decided to leave the explanations for an hypothetical sequel; or if it was never planned to reveal the provenance of the ghost/demon/spirit because, after all, it ends up being nothing else than a "mcguffin". Anyway, the point is that the screenplay feels incomplete; however, I don't know whether a detailed "origin story" would have improved the situation. Regarding the cast, Title was able to gather some famous names (Leigh Whannell, Carrie Anne-Moss and Faye Dunaway), but they have a brief screen-time. In the leading roles, we have weak performances from Douglas Smith, Cressida Bonas and Lucien Laviscount, who don't feel credible, and they aren't able to express the friendship which joins their characters. In summary, The Bye Bye Man is a mediocre and not very satisfactory movie; but I didn't feel it like a waste of time. It's just one of those films with a few positive aspects which are suitable to spend a moderately entertaining time which won't have any transcendence into our memory. A phrase which is repeated during the film many times is "don't repeat its name; don't even think about it". No problem; I will have forgotten it as soon as I finish writing this review.
The premise of Marauders is too stale, and that's worsened by redundant characters, a story with no rhyme or reason and dialogues which consist of tedious arguments with multiple variations of the "F" word, because the characters are laughably tough. I have to clear out the rude language isn't the real problem, but just a symptom of the lack of imagination of the screenplay. Despite so many arguments and violent clashes between the huge egos of the characters, Marauders goes by with an unbearable slowness, revealing obvious "secrets" which don't draw the attention or form a coherent story. What is more, the performances from Christopher Meloni, Bruce Willis, Adrian Grenier and Dave Bautista feel poor and listless. Regarding the women, they are relegated absolutely generic roles; among them: policewoman with a horsetail; sick wife; and blonde reporter. As regards the action scenes, they lack any excitement or emotional context to bring them dramatic relevance. In summary, Marauders is a horrible movie, and an absolute waste of time.
For better or for worse, I.T. combines two archaic recipes from the '90s in order to a cook a dish as rancid as its ingredients. Yes, it was for worse. The "cyber thriller" and the obsessive maniac" were two very formulas which were very popular during the '90s, and they were represented by movies such as The Net, Hackers, Pacific Heights and Single White Female. And, for some reason, the producers of Voltage Pictures thought it was a good idea to resurrect both clichés in a single film, with a tedious and irritating result. The villain is one of those omnipotent hackers controlling everything and instantaneously penetrating any safe system in a matter of seconds; his lair has a dozen of monitors in where his magical operative system practically anticipates his wishes and displays exactly what he's looking for. The only positive thing I can say about this piece of junk is that Pierce Brosnan managed to bring a credible performance despite the horrible screenplay he had to work with. On the opposite, James Frecheville is laughable as the villain, Stefanie Scott is just employed as a pretty face and Anna Friel doesn't have too much to do (or even say) as the mother who keeps herself aside from the situation, until she becomes a hostage during the "exciting" (boring) conclusion. In summary, I.T. doesn't work as a retro tribute, and it doesn't add anything new to the two formulas it destroys; and I wouldn't even recommend it to those people who have never seen any similar films, because there have fortunately been much better things which updated those themes and found fresh and creative twists for this century. For example: the TV series Mr. Robot as regards "cyber thrillers"; and The Gift (2015) for the obsessive maniacs. Both are much better alternatives which achieved what I.T. didn't even make an effort in trying.
Alien and Aliens are two of my favorite films, and I think both are among the best fusions of horror and science fiction ever made. I also liked Alien 3 very much despite having been almost unanimously hated; and even though Alien: Resurrection offered some positive elements, it didn't leave me very satisfied due to its irregular tone. Then, we had the prequel, Prometheus, and I was one of the few persons who enjoyed it as a solid sample of "space horror" with grandiloquence moments which added the exact dose of "serious science fiction". And now, we have Alien: Covenant, which had the good intentions of tying loose ends, conciliating some contradictory points in this mythology and offering the fans what they are expecting. Could it achieve all that? I don't think so, even though I found it moderately entertaining despite its mediocrity. To start with, we have the unbelievable ineptitude from the characters of Alien: Covenant, as well as the sudden behaviour changes required for the story to move forward; for example: Where the hell are the strict "quarantine protocols" mentioned so often in the previous movies? Maybe, Weyland Corporation sub- hired the vessel Covenant with some other aerospace company with more flexible safety directives, but the space travel still seems too dangerous to face such absurd and unnecessary risks. Moreover, Alien: Covenant pretended to continue the story initiated in Prometheus, and I didn't like what was done in that regard either; there undoubtedly was potential in the exploration of "the Engineers", but they are quickly discarded in order to focus on a monotonous sub-plot of the android with "daddy issues" (example: there is a flashback which should have been an entire movie, and not just a 20-second disposable scene). Besides, Alien: Covenant continued the objective of unifying the whole franchise, trying to explain how we go from the year 2089 (the beginning of Prometheus) to the year 2124 (when the original Alien is set), and that's where I found the most important fails of this film. To start with, so much explanation about the xenomorph dilutes the horror it should provoke, and ruins the mystery about its existence, biology and purpose on this universe. What is more, the screenplay deals with too many concepts it can't take advantage of due to a lack of time. If I had to summarize all the previously mentioned problems, I would say the following: Alien: Covenat includes enough material for two or three films, and the forced compression of so many stories into only one movie trivializes moments which should have been epic. On the positive side, Ridley Scott's direction keeps a fluid rhythm which avoid the experience from getting boring, and the special effects, production design and cinematography are very good. As for the monsters... I liked them, but I would have preferred a better defined and less arbitrary biological cycle. The actors do whatever they can with a weak and poorly structured screenplay. The Covenant vessel has 15 members, but most of them are anonymous victims, and only a few of them have some dimension. Katherine Waterston brings a decent performance in her role, but the screenplay doesn't make her character's sudden transformation into Ripley 3.0 (the 2.0 version was Noomi Rapace in Prometheus) credible; Billy Crudup credibly transmits the insecurity his character has; and Danny McBride brings an appropriate gravity as the pilot. So, there was potential in various individual components of Alien: Covenant, but I didn't like the chaotic way in which they were integrated. And even though I'm still interested in watching more installments of this saga, I think Alien: Covenant was a disappointment and a wasted opportunity. Anyway... let's see what the cinematographic and chronological future of this franchise will bring us. And, in the worst of the cases, we always have the alternative of re-reading the old Dark Horse comics.
Foremost: forget Lancelot; forget Galahad; forget Merlin and Guinevere. Well, even forget the Roundtable. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword took a few elements of the medieval legend, and filtered them until obtaining a tale of heroic fantasy which is completely different to any tradition of King Arthur. That will be good or bad, according to every spectator's taste. My experience to the legend of King Arthur is limited to the Disney film The Sword in the Stone and the partial reading of the book The Once and Future King (I tried to read it when I was a kid, but it was too dense for my young age). However, I know enough about the myth in order to wonder why the name of Arthur was used if practically everything was changed, not only the details, but also the tone and intention of the legend. But, well... I have to admit I enjoyed King Arthur: Legend of the Sword pretty much, mainly due to the post-modern sensibility employed by director Guy Ritchie. However, it took me like half an hour to assimilate the exotic combination of anachronisms which might not be swallowed by everyone. From the beginning itself, we realize the unusual road the movie is going to take: through an assembly of music and edition, the childhood and adolescence of Arthur are portrayed in two minutes, efficiently depicting his evolution from an orphan prince to a prosperous criminal, as well as the development of his nature and his ability with swords and martial arts (don't worry... there isn't too much kung fu or "wire work"). I have to repeat it: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is VERY different to any other epic film; it doesn't look like anything I have seen before... nothing to do with the digital epics of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, or the naughty humor of A Knight's Tale, or even less the anemic seriousness of King Arthur. The only movie I could partially compare it to is Sherlock Holmes (also directed by Ritchie), but King Arthur: Legend of the Sword feels more irreverent... more aggressive in its intentional subversion of heroic clichés, and more dynamic in its re- invention of medieval action scenes. Instead of big battles with hundreds of digital extras, we have "guerrilla wars" in the dusty alleys of London (I'm sorry... "Londinium"); instead of bombastic speeches to inspire the troops, we have heists, espionage and long-distance killings. As I previously said: this isn't fantasy like we usually know it. However, I liked it pretty much once I reconfigured my brain to adapt myself to what this film offers. Nevertheless, I suspect that many people will hate this movie, and compare it to... I don't know... The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Van Helsing, or similar pieces of junk which abused the style over the substance. But I personally think King Arthur: Legend of the Sword includes genuine drama, solid performances and a fresh vision of a legend initiated more than a thousand years ago. And, as every legend, it evolves as time goes by. This is the current version; take it or leave it.
High-Rise is basically an adult version of Lord of the Flies. Instead of kids abandoned on an island, we have multiple social strata living into a high-technology (for the standards of the '70s) building in which everything works perfectly. Everything, but human nature, which quickly divides the tenants into hierarchies that degenerate into the exploitation of the "poor" and the exaltation of the "rich". I use quotations marks to divide the "rich" and the "poor" because everyone pays the same rent; so, why do some ones live in the superior luxury floors, while other ones barely survive in the filthy basements? That might sounds like an archaic communist fantasy about war of classes and the uprising of the proletariat... and that's very probable, because High-Rise is based on a novel written by J.G. Ballard, the subversive author of other similarly transgressor books such as Crash, The Drowned World and the anthology The Atrocity Exhibition. For better or for worse, the ideals of High-Rise represent the "progressive" British thought from the '70s, and that justifies the wonderful retro atmosphere achieved by cinematographer Laurie Rose and production designer Mark Tildesley. Unfortunately, the message "the humans are animals ready to return to savagery as soon as the electricity is interrupted" has been repeated too many times... and in more interesting ways. The main problem of High-Rise is that its second half gets repetitive until getting a bit tiring. Director Ben Wheatley and screenwriter Amy Jump rejoice themselves portraying uncountable manifestations of cruelty and barbarism, whether in the shape of grotesque orgies, beatings against the ones aspiring to become revolutionary leaders or the killing of an innocent dog (unfortunately, High-Rise isn't a "pet friendly" film). The message had been left clear since the first half of the movie... but Wheatley and Jump repeat the same ideas over, and over, and over again. High-Rise is a film intended to make us think... but sometimes, it thinks for us, instead of bringing us the tools to draw our own conclusions. On the other hand, it managed to hold my interest, the performances are brilliant, and I also appreciated Clint Mansell's score and the attractive images. Maybe deleting half an hour, High-Rise would have been a potent punch to society's stomach. But with its 120-minute running time, it ends up being as accommodating as the high classes it pretends to denounce.
Many Korean films I have seen during this decade have been recreations of North American formulas applied to diverse styles; for example, disaster cinema (Ta-weo, a copy of The Towering Inferno); creature features (7 Gwanggu, a pastiche of Alien, Leviathan and DeepStar Six); and zombie cinema (Busanhaeng, a combination of Dawn of the Dead and World War Z -even though I still liked it very much-). That's why I expected something similar from Goksung: an adaptation of the typical cop thriller which Hollywood has been producing in an almost industrial way since mid-20th century. However, Goksung ended up being something very different, fresh and innovative, proudly carrying its Korean identity, and absolutely unpredictable on its shape... but easy to assimilate due to the universality of the themes it handles, as well as the emotional realism from the characters; oh, and it also combines the cop thriller and the horror genres with an extraordinary expertise. The final result is one of my favorite Korean movies. The 156-minute running time is translated into a paused, not not boring in the slightest, narrative, which allows an organic development of characters and the gradual exposition of a fascinating mystery, in which each new detail inspires more questions than answers. Needless to say, I won't reveal the secrets of the big mystery; I will just say that director and screenwriter Na Hong-jin keeps us on a constant doubt through good part of the film, throwing false clues which deliciously confuse our expectations, while resulting logical when the complete puzzle is finally revealed. Hong-jin's direction is deceptively simple, without too much stylistic ornaments, but achieving a perfect harmony between movement, image and symbolism; the production design is so natural that I couldn't notice where the set ends and where the Korean cottage begins; and the actors make an excellent work in their roles, highlighting Kwak Do-won, who makes the main character's evolution completely credible, and the girl Kim Hwan-hee, who faces physical and emotionally difficult scenes with a devastating aplomb. As for the horror... the least the spectator knows, the better; it's horror on human and spiritual levels, portrayed in an artistic way, but so spontaneously that it's easy to get carried away by the screenplay and forget its fictitious nature. In conclusion, Goksung is an amazing experience: a horror film which doesn't look like horror, and a cop thriller in which not a single shot is fired, and nobody says "Go, go, go!". However, the policemen definitely enjoy saying profanity... the only cliché the movie allows itself to employ, and only to remind us that, below their uniforms, they keep being human beings.
Guardians of the Galaxy is one of my favorite films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I have seen it so many times that I have learnt to ignore its small problems of tone and edition; besides, I keep enjoying the irreverent sensibility from director James Gunn (to whom I have admired since he worked as a co-screenwriter of Tromeo & Juliet), as well as the excellent chemistry between the characters (perfectly characterized from the first time they show up on the screen), very much. So, my hope was for the sequel to be even better, solving the small cons of the original movie, while creating more complex humorous and dramatic situations to keep exploiting the personalities of Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Groot and Rocket. On some way, those wishes came true... but unfortunately, new problems came up, making Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 very inferior to the original film and not completely satisfactory. To start with, the screenplay deals with excessive elements and sub-plots which end up affecting the rhythm of the movie. Besides, Guaradians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 dedicates a long initial period in which the pieces are accommodated with a surprising lack of dynamism; for approximately 90 minutes, I felt that the Guardians were acting too passively, waiting for things to happen, instead of making them so. And I didn't like what was done with one of the most bizarre creations from Jack Kirby, reducing it to a generic and predictable character. On the positive side, the actors continue the development of their characters with conviction and enthusiasm, and I liked the addition of a certain band of pirates who offer interesting possibilities for future sequels... unless Thanos ends up interfering (no, Thanos doesn't show up in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2... I'm just speculating about the future of Phase 3). And even though the soundtrack feels occasionally cloying, it solidly complements the tone of the scenes most of the times. The original Guardians of the Galaxy was an anomaly in Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continues that tendency, moving away from super-hero formulas in order to establish its own fantasy style, closer to the "pulp" space opera of Flash Gordon and Starcrash... something I want to take as a justification of some exaggerated scenes which break the already fragile "reality" created by Gunn as a frame of these picturesque anti-heroes (example: the rebellion of the Ravagers, and its eventual consequences). As I previously said, I liked the original film much more, but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 still made me have a good time, and I can give it a moderate recommendation because of that. However, I keep wondering... Where are the Kiss songs?
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