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In a good science fiction movie the science and the fiction are roughly balanced. That produces a plausible story, that is, a story that makes sense. This movie is roughly five percent science and ninety five percent fiction. Thus, this movie makes little sense. Based upon the information provided in the movie, there is no way anyone could survive on Mars. Period. Indeed, the premise of the story is so preposterous that it is almost laughable. So too is the movie's attempts at generating drama. All are predictable and boring. Matt Damon's performance is okay. Jeff Daniels gives the strongest performance. The rest of cast is forgettable. After watching this movie, one comes away with the impression that Mars is just another desert, except without oxygen, and that living in complete isolation can be fun. If you believe that, then you will love this movie. Otherwise, be prepared to watch a long movie about nothing.
Did anyone involved in making this movie really believe that this movie is good? This movie is so shallow that it makes a puddle look like an ocean. The idea of mixing a pompously acting Robert De Niro with a hysterically acting Anne Hathaway is an example of how not generate on-screen chemistry. Not that the acting is bad. It's the story. It's one ongoing cliché. It is a combination of dull, boring, and contrived. It's Father Knows Best meets I Love Lucy, except in this case the characters take themselves seriously. This movie manages to take several important social themes and reduce them to pulp, and even worse, reduce the principal characters to clichés. A bored older retiree with nothing but time and a manic young business woman. C'mon! Not exactly the cutting edge of literary originality. And what is worse, they are not funny characters. The supporting cast is funny, but they are not the principal players. Now the story has potential. The movie actually starts strongly. The De Niro character is introduced and his issues clearly presented. Then the movie tanks, and tanks quickly. A promising start leads to a contrived story and muddled finale. This movie reaffirms the old movie maxim - never judge a movie by its coming attractions.
Why is this not a great movie? The movie plays up the wrong character. It should have played up Connolly instead of Bulger. That Connolly became corrupted is actually what this movie is about. Connolly is a detestable character. At any given moment, there are people in society committing crimes, some relatively minor and others far more serious. That's a given. Their actions have been depicted in so many movies and television shows that it is no longer novel. But an FBI agent becoming corrupted? That's a completely different, and far more dramatic, story. When that happens, the entire country is placed at risk. The FBI is supposed to be the bastion of law, the country's protector against those who pose a threat to public safety, and when that deterrent gets compromised, as happens in this movie well, the social and political implications should be the story. The movie touches on the subject but does not develop it further, instead choosing to showcase Bulger's violence, which is depicted repeatedly and graphically throughout the movie. That the FBI provides cover for an entire criminal syndicate is alluded to but remains undeveloped. Nevertheless, this movie is good. The story is intense. The acting is powerful, and the movie grabs the audience's attention. Johnny Depp does an excellent job portraying a psychopathic killer. The performances of the rest of the cast is equally excellent, especially that of Joel Edgerton as the corrupted FBI agent.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Bobby Fischer is depicted as being moody, pushy, nasty, obstinate, possibly mentally ill. At times he is outright detestable. The problem with the movie, therefore, is that although it seems intent on depicting Fischer as a sympathetic character, one who is being manipulated for political reasons, the exact opposite is achieved. Instead of coming off as a hapless victim, Fischer is depicted as contributing to his own victimization, thus making his character far less sympathetic. Like his handlers, Fischer himself has no use for Communists and lets his feelings be known loudly on that subject. He also has no use for his mother who to him is little more than a Bolshevik whore, hence the basis for Fischer's mouthing off about communism. Thus, he's not cut out to be a Cold Warrior. Patriotism does not figure into Fischer's actions. All he wants is to be left alone so he can prove that he is greatest chess player in the world and make a lot of money. He doesn't need or want the political notoriety which to him is nothing but a distraction. Pay him enough money and he'll play chess anywhere in the world. Of course, Fischer's wishes are ignored and soon chess when played by Bobby Fischer is transformed into a weapon, and the player into a warrior. The question is: how does Fisher handle such pressure? The answer is: not well. One wants to sympathize with him. Even the White House is urging Fisher to play. Nobody really cares about Fischer personally. He's just being used. Yet, he is depicted as being so prissy, self-centered and mean spirited that it is virtually impossible to sympathize with his him or empathize with his plight. In the movie, Fischer is as nasty as his handlers are deceptive. Nothing about him is lovable. Even as a child he is argumentative. As a young child he tells his mother's boyfriend to get out of the house and then scolds his mother for being a communist. Far from being a hapless victim or politically naive, Fischer fully understands what his handlers expect from him, which, not unreasonably, just makes him angrier and more oppositional. Soon, people are questioning Fisher's sanity. After all, how could he possibly believe that the Russians are rigging the matches and tapping his phone? (This at a time when it was standard practice for the KGB to engage in all kinds of covert espionage activities. So Fischer's concerns were not far-fetched.) Not surprisingly, he eventually chucks his career, and then becomes, not surprisingly, a fugitive from US justice over, again not surprisingly, another controversy involving Bobby Fisher and chess. For the rest of his life Fischer is forced to live the life of an expatriate even though he did nothing to warrant such harsh treatment. This effectively ended the career of a world champion chess player whose only "crime" was refusing to let himself become a pawn in the big chess game being played between the US and the USSR. But despite the shoddy way Fischer is treated, still in this movie we're glad to watch him go. It's a relief. After all, according to the movie, Bobby Fischer was nothing but an obnoxious ingrate and a chronic complainer, and who wants to deal with a chronic complainer?
This movie is tremendously powerful. How did communities cope with hordes of Germans invading their country? The movie is about people, not political systems. Although the movie provides a romanticized depiction of conditions in the Soviet Union in 1941, it is not peddling a particular party line. Rather, the benign conditions depicted in the movie are a theatrical device employed to intensify the dramatic impact when the Germans arrive. The political aspects of the conflict are toned down to a minimum. To have done otherwise, that is to have framed the story in purely political terms, Nazi versus Communist, would have transformed the movie into a polemic. The movie avoids this pitfall. Rather, it concentrated on the people, their interactions, their sense of community and their courage. Indeed, even the Germans are not depicted in purely stereotypical terms. Thus, the characters do not become caricatures. According to reliable historical sources, under Stalin conditions in the Ukraine were awful, for reasons that need not be discussed here, and many Ukrainians actually welcomed the Germans as liberators. But this movie is not about bashing Stalin, or even bashing the Germans, but rather about people who are forced to deal with life and death situations. In this regard, this movie is brilliant.
A man undergoes a dramatic personality change for reasons known only to the audience. For this story to work, the audience must accept its premise: that there are things going on that can only be accepted as a matter of faith. The existence of spiritual forces beyond the five senses is an idea as old as civilization itself. It is a fundamental basis for religion. As regard to this movies, the intercession of these forces have both comical and serious consequences, comical in how people react to the judge's radically changed character and how the judge himself reacts to his new persona, and serious that the movie conveys the message that even within the nastiest persons there is a kernel of goodness. Paul Muni gives a great performance as Eddie Kagle, gangster turned good guy. Anne Baxter is wonderful has the judge's fiancé who stays loyal to the judge. This movie is worth watching.
This movie is the latest of Hollywood's ongoing program of bashing foreign countries at the expense of Americans who once again are portrayed as hapless victims of mindless rage. This time the offending country is Thailand. (Yes, Thailand.) Why are the Thais, the land of lovely ladies, in such a tizzy? Well, without becoming a spoiler, let's just say that it is for a reason that is far-fetched and leave it at that. Yes, it's only a movie, and yes, there is something known as literary license, but still, they could have come up with a more plausible explanation. But, so what? It's still a good movie. Owen Wilson does a great job, showing his talent as a dramatic actor. True, an entire nation, which has been a staunch ally of the United States since the end of World War Two, is maligned and depicted as an enemy of the United States but such an unlikely scenario provides the background to heighten the story's intensity. Yet, rarely has an entire people been more thoroughly disparaged in a movie than the Thais. After watching this movie, one can reasonably wonder if the Thai people are a bunch of marauders who understand only one thing: violence. The nature of violence and mayhem perpetrated by the Thais in this movie is extreme. Throughout the entire movie mobs of Thai men are shown running amok. They are rampaging all over the place, burning, pillaging, raping, shooting, that is, committing all kind of heinous acts, even using tanks and helicopters as instruments of terror, driven by some vague grudge against a handful of hapless Americans who have no idea what is going on, which in that context makes the behavior of the Thais seem even more bizarre. Why a Hollywood movie would want to target Thailand for such an unsavory depiction is a matter for speculation. However, one thing is for certain: if you are an American thinking about traveling to Thailand, after watching this movie, you may want to think about changing your plans. If that seems far-fetched, watch the movie.
The story is shallow, the characters as two dimensional as a piece of paper, the use of special effects way overdone, yet the movie is good. This is the case because of the presence of Tom Cruise. Working with a script that devoid of even the pretense of intellectuality, he manages to keep this movie watchable. Cruise's performance is uncanny. Although no longer a young man, his personal in the movie is entirely youthful. His delivery of one-liners matches is superb, proving that he is one of the best comic actors in cinema today. And that fits perfectly with this movie because what the movie is slapstick comedy mixed in with some action-adventure stuff to produce a cacophony of action in which the plot becomes irrelevant. The movie is pure action. As a venue for special effects and incredible stunts, this movie delivers, with interest. As for the story itself, that's an entirely different matter.
This is a great movie. It has a great story, wonderful music, and most of all, a tremendous performance by Meryl Streep. She sings, she dances, she is funny and she carries the movie. Streep plays a musician who gave up everything, including the love of her children, to pursue a dream. Her character, Linda, aka Ricki, is heroic and supremely engaging. It is virtually impossible not to like Linda. She is down to earth, unpretentious, true to herself, and a wonderful musician. Although the story follows a certain formula - nice person who wants to reconnect with family - the outcome is far from predictable. But in this movie, the story is not the driving factor. Instead it is Streep's performance. It has to be ranked as among the best in her career. Only an actress with her level of talent could have successfully done her role. This movie is a Meryl Street tour-de-force.
If one is expecting a conventional kind of who-done-it or an updated version of the 1960s television series, then you will be surprised. Henry Cavil gives an incredibly strong performance as Napoleon Solo, in the process revealing an outstanding flare for comedy. He delivers one liner after one liner with a precision comparable to that of the best movie comedians. In addition, the movie has a good story which fits well with the characters. In some respects, the movie is similar to that of an early James Bond movie, which offered straightforward stories intermixed with clever dialog, all driven by the commanding presence of James Bond. Armie Hammer is excellent as Ilya. Fundamentally the movie is a prequel to the Man from Uncle story. Surprising is how Napoleon and Ilya wound up becoming a team and how the "bad guy" is not male but female (and, of course, as beautiful as she is sinister). This movie is entertaining and worth watching.
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