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Woman in Gold (2015)
A superb movie, must see.
The script was just enough-- pure distilled perfection.
Its a nice simple story that you can follow. This is remarkable since there are flashbacks throughout.
The writer, director or cinematographer is a genius or all of them. The old faded picture segue to a moving picture. The flashback characters materialize in the modern cafe. The students in the background of the art museum. Going to the men's room to lose composure. Driving through the yellow traffic light. Judicious gingerly use of profanity. The splitting the goodbye scene with her parents for maximum impact at the end. Conflating present and past in end scene in her house was a genius use of the actors and setups. Her being an amateur before the local court-- him with the Supreme Court.
It was riveting, they wove a thriller into a drama. It showed the banality of evil, taking brothers off the plane. Mirren, what more needs to be said? It was like Amistad, that we have to honor our ancestors.
What an uplifting story, and one you should not miss.
Another Eloi drama-porn fantasy
Stop. Stop the DVD. Stop the stream. Stop the torrent. There is nothing worth watching here other than a waste of acting talent. Instead watch The Shallows. I was lucky enough to have that DVD from the library as well, even though I did not know enough to turn off this crap until after I watched it. Now you know. Spare yourself.
There must be a completely clueless elite that produces, writes, and directs atrocities like this. They have no connection to any human behaviors not involving limos and Dom Perignon. They watch other movies and see them succeed. So they make cargo-cult monstrosities like this, aping things like chases and explosion but without understanding. The characters don't behave in any believable way. The "technical" aspects like soldering a blob on a sim card to make a bomb are laugh-out-loud pathetic. Get any tech adviser from his mom's basement and he can come up with something more believable.
Some specific objections. It takes an hour to learn what the opening scene in Afghanistan had to do with anything. An ambassador that can order extra-judicial killings in her host country. A high-level chosen-child striver security analysis that has to work the counter. You mind as well make her a heroic DMV clerk. Milla making noises when she is chased that alternate between Frank Zappa's "ice pick in the forehead" and the noises women tennis players make when they hit the ball. We all want to have sex with the nice Croatian girl, but she shouldn't make those noises when she is running for her life. Simple labored breathing would be fine, and probably a lot sexier. About five nondescript middle-aged white guys (NM-AWGs) that I could not tell apart even by the end of the movie. I don't know if the director has a crush on this facial type, but maybe he could cast a few redheads and beards and heaven-forbid, black and brown people. A few more gals might help too. Or just eliminate half the characters.
The writer, director, and producer must be some Eloi-class elites that don't know anything about people or things. Maybe they just forgot, we all get old.
A lot might have been saved in the editing bay. Open with the art gallery scene, but the owner friend is a guy. There are more straight people than lesbians, sorry, its simple demographics. Then some work boredom. Then the fantastic restaurant explosion. Lose the Afghanistan scene completely. We know there are sociopaths out there, don't remind us when we go to a movie. Also lose the whole McGuffin gas bomb thing. That means all the high-tech gibberish too. Terrorists are stupid savage people. They would use a fertilizer bomb in some unexpected vehicle to kill everybody. Maybe make it a CNN truck so if it blows up or not, its a win/win. Have her save the crowd from that.
I was so delighted when a NM-AWG wondered where she would go after the bomb and another NM-AWG said "she will follow Embassy protocol." Gosh where they could have gone from there. Milla pulls out a bus locker key, perhaps from her sweet Croatian vagina. At the locker she gets $20,000, a gun, a passport, and a burner phone. She calls in and now all the good guys know she is on their side. The suspense is having her come in, without getting killed. She would have to have some special info, maybe the after-plastic-surgery appearance of the bad guy. But she gets foiled over and over. So she decides to fly to New York and stop the madman herself, despite just being a mild-mannered albeit sexy DMV clerk.
The bones are all there, its just in the arrangement and details that this movie fails so miserably. There was one benefit in watching this dreadful mess. When I did plug in The Shallows, 20 minutes in I got a lump in my throat and jumped up and shouted, "Look everybody, a plot!"
Blood Ties (2013)
My brother the sociopath
People just don't act like this. Perhaps in France where the writer/director is from, you stick with family members who are total losers, living in your little village with the one little well. Here in America, we have much more affiliation with friends and our co-workers than with any jerk relatives, even in 1970. Many families have spread across the country and hardly see each other any more.
When I read the box office section, I misread the 46 thousand domestic gross as 46 million. So I do the highlight>copy>New Tab>Bookmarks>Box Office Mojo>paste>search>click, because Jeff Besos is too inconsiderate to put a link both ways even though he owns both websites. So then I see they spent 25 million and got 2 million back from sales in France. So I guess those European investors that wanted to make a killing in the American market lost almost everything. Sorry, c'est dommage.
The sad thing is that if the editor or the money men deleted one scene, just one scene, this movie would be 100 times better. That scene was where the bad brother executes and entire family at that restaurant, for reasons unknown. Its awful hard to care about this sociopath jerk after that, and that scene was pretty early in the movie. With the time saved by taking that scene out, they could have put in a scene explaining how the crazy ticked-off ex husband escaped and was in pursuit of the cop brother. That would have made the ending more understandable, if no more sensible.
A few news flashes for French directors. An ex-con that just got out might get mad at his ex-girlfriend when he is drunk and lonely late at night. He will not take a gun into Grand Central Station to execute the girl and her cop boyfriend. Next flash: street hoods in Brooklyn in the 1970s did not carry machine guns. Another flash: Some loser brother does not get out of prison and start killing people, robbing people, and running girls without getting his knees broken by the Italians, and Puerto Rican, and Koreans, and gosh knows how many other established criminal enterprises there were in that neighborhood.
I think the director was insecure in his story and his actors, so he had to spray gratuitous drama wherever he could. This is so sad, since the actors and cinematography and music and editing were all so good. This movie showed me how little can be wrong to make a competent production into a flop.
Just toning everything down would have made this a decent move. Make the bad brother a lovable rogue, not a complete sociopath. No executing his henchmen in the robbery or other absurdities. Cripes, robbers are not murderers, it is just such incoherent characterization. I kinda lost track of all the girls, forgetting who was an ex-wife or a sister, or a lover, or some random broad off the street. Less is more.
And none of this love-you-hate-you-love-you-hate-you brother nonsense. Maybe make the cop brother get involved by busting brothels to make room for his brother's business, and of course, he would be in on the take. Its either that or make it a simple bad guy chased by the good cop with no family relationship, just good vs bad.
Its dripping with drama, but its all cargo-cult drama. The director has never read or studied much less been in real situations in the 1970s. He has dreamed up this confabulated image based on all the other (bad) movies he has watched, so the behaviors and characters in the movie don't ring true. I think of the violence in Goodfellas, and there was the central murder of Billy Batts, and Joe Pesci shooting the kid, and him getting his just rewards in the end. But there was no willy-nilly killing sprees. Mobsters are about money, not violence. The violence happens but as a result of chasing the money. Killing a whole family? They have assets, take the restaurant like in Donnie Brasco, or any other type of hard-butt extortion. Its all about money and killing people does not get you your money back, and attracts way too much attention from law enforcement.
The real pathos about this flick it that it could have been saved if they just cut out the absurd violence, and simplified the plot, and took out a few characters. They could have made back the budget in the editing room. A few re-shoots might have made it a profit-maker. What a sad sad waste.
Downward Dog (2017)
Like friends except nobody's friends
Oh gosh, I have pals that manage millennials, and now I see what they are going through. Its not just the slacker "everybody gets a trophy" snowflakes, its the complete lack of ambitions, goals, or a philosophy. The show does not just show millennial slackers, it is made by millennial slackers, who all must give themselves little trophies no matter how self-indulgent and lame the work is.
How dare ABC preempt Blackish for this? I feel lobotomized.
Whew, they are moving it to Tuesday, to die the death it so deserves. Time for this week's episode of Luther.
Ender's Game (2013)
OK men, we are facing a ruthless adversary with superior technology, intelligence, and numbers. Accordingly, we are going to have you play paintball all day. Don't worry, you get to play video games after that. Its like you never left your mom's basement.
In what absurd universe do they let children lead armies, on purpose? Great life lessons, like kick people when they are down.
Am I the only guy that thinks the black chick is a better actor than Harrison Ford? I like young fiction. I like sci-fi. I hated this.
The only re-shoot save I can see is to have all the other kids be black. Every single one of them. Something about fast twitch muscles. And he is so lame all the other kids take pity on him. So each kid shows him their one special trick or cheat. By learning all of the tricks he becomes better than the other kids and saves the day. Plus you get those Oscar yappers off your back.
Hey, it beats having some white guy play a Maori.
PS: I shipped this before the movie ended. So I should warn no matter how bad you think it is as you watch, it gets worse. Much worse.
PPS: To review the DVD, I would say "Even the trailers are bad."
Bitter Lake (2015)
If you can't make sense of the world, call it art.
It was an IMDb reviewer that commented on the horrible Dungeons and Dragons movie, "This is what happens when your mother owns a production company." Bitter Lake is what happens when you have access to the BBC film library and a lot of stock footage. It reminds me of an Ed Wood movie. I would call this a drive-by documentary.
Reverend Ike used to shout in his sermons, "Throw your money to the wall, that what sticks is for god, that what falls is for the church." Curtis is throwing a lot at the wall, hoping some of it just has to stick. After all, its two hours and sixteen minutes of throwing.
Curtis is a bit of a throwback, espousing turn-of-the-century platitudes (that's 1900, not 2000). He is slathering on the stock footage and art house sensibilities to shroud the basic fact that his analysis is a re-hash of Max Weber: WASP good, Orientals bad. And of course, jolly old England is just peachy, despite being buffoon incompetents. I really loved how he lays the troubles as being due to Roosevelt, when it is Britain's incompetent attempt to seize the remnant of the Ottoman Empire that made a mess of the Middle East, not to mention WWI. I am 38 minutes in, and still no mention of British Petroleum. OK, I will suffer a few more minutes.
Breathtaking specious arguments. "Collapse of Western economies sent leftists to Afghanistan" Oh really? Collapse? I guess he hopes in 100 years no one will remember that there was no real collapse, maybe just a slight economic contraction. "Manufacturing was decimated" Another common lie. Manufacturing has grown in dollar terms for decades. What has fallen is manufacturing employments, since we invented automation.
Curtis cherry-picks events and facts to support his hackneyed thesis. He did remind of things I forgot, like the oil embargo was triggered by an Israeli war. Too bad when Jimmy Carter got America off imported oil, we just didn't tell Saudi Arabia to stuff it and let Israel conquer everything between Libya and Turkey. It would have a saved a lot of blood and treasure for the whole world.
He accuses politicians of oversimplifying the world into good and evil, 20 seconds after he uses the word evil to characteristic those pesky orientals. Pot calling the kettle black.
OK, 1:45 and he claims Afghanistan has taught us all our beliefs and wrong, and now we believe in nothing. Ahhh nihilism, I guess this is a follow on to The Big Lebowski. He also rags on banks, like any good English elitist socialist should. Yawn.
One man's bribery and corruption is another man's economic and social stability. Saddam was corrupt and brutal, but no one can argue that Iraq is worse off today, for both Sunnis and Shias, than it was under his rule. Its like this whole documentary is an apology by someone who understands nothing, for Western societies that are equally clueless. Synecdoche.
A few nuggets but mostly blather-- politicians "gave" the banks power-- ha ha. I learned more reading the comments here than watching the video.
Washington the Warrior (2006)
Great history, terrible video conversion
This DVD taught me a lot about Washington. The "making of" was good too, as it showed deleted scenes such as when Washington marched the three mutineers through the camp before having them shot. The trailer (on YouTube) pointed out that Washington lost more battles then he won.
It was clear that Washington was a social climber, and not beneath talking credit for Yorktown, when it was the French general who convinced Washington to attack Yorktown instead of New York. Still, Washington would lead from the front, under withering fire, so his bravery (or foolhardiness) was obvious. And he did have the humility to accept that the French general was right. So for an ego-driven climber, who married rich and learned to love, I have to admit he was a pretty great man. That he turned over power back to the politicians was a monumental accomplishment.
The amazing thing about Washington is that he would learn from his mistakes, and he was analog in his thinking. Not a pushover and not brutal, he pardoned mutineers when it served the cause, and shot them when that served the cause.
What was horrible about the video was the interlacing artifacts. Everything that moved had comb artifacts, and there would be raster lines on white moving objects as well. The "making of" feature said that the documentary was shot in 720p at 24fps. So to actually add interlace artifacts to the DVD was a monumental bit of incompetence. Thankfully the free VLC video player has a de-interlace option in the "Tools>Preferences>Video" dialog. It takes out the worst of the artifacts, but it would be better if the DVD authoring just mapped the 24p into the 60i of the NTSC format properly. I was playing this out of a laptop connected via HDMI to a 70-inch TV, so the artifacts were really noticeable. If your DVD player de-interlaces automatically, you won't have this problem.
Open Range (2003)
Great solid Western
What a great simple straightforward story, told well. No time-line chopping, just a nice linear story. No tragic hero that dies in the end. Just good guys and bad guys, and a happy ending, the way a Western should be. Can you believe the Hispanic kid was not killed off? What is remarkable is that I like the movie but I dislike Costner. Not as bad as I hate some other actors, but if you watch the bonus feature, he is almost as narcissistic as Tom Cruise in his bonus interview in The Last Samurai. It helps that Costner wears a beard so he is less recognizable to me, and his voice is not too obnoxious.
Another really stunning thing is that they used an older Annette Bening instead of some barely-legal fluff babe as the female lead. Bening is at the height of her power as an actress. Small things she did were really expressive, it was a joy to watch. All the talent was great, as was the camera work and editing. Yeah, it moved slowly, but I didn't care, I so enjoyed being transported back there, watching something that seemed based on believable human behavior, not Hollywood action-porn. This was obviously written before the time of first-person-shooter video games and I love it for that.
I still put True Grit as the best Western. After that, I used to put Tombstone. I never liked Unforgiven that much. So this was a great pleasure, as I would slot this in ahead of Tombstone, a solid #2. The voice-over in Tombstone makes it more like you are looking at the period. This movie immerses you in the period. You feel like you are living there back then.
Last week at the library I was cursed by my selection of Child 44, Atonement, and Cowboys and Aliens. Now I knew C&A was a stinker, that is why I took it it out, but the other two were a real disappointment. So this week its this flick, Breach, and the X-men future passed movie. This movie alone was worth the trip to the library, and Breach was darn good as well. I am confident the X-men movie will be another teen fanboy movie that looks more like a first-person shooter than a movie. That's OK, that's what I expect. What was a joy was seeing a Kevin Costner movie I really liked.
As rotten as its subject
I guess probabilities exist that would see me taking out Aliens and Cowboys, Child 44, and this piece of crap from the library on the same day. All three suck, and often in the same way.
This movie is a Mean Girls with level-1 Tarantino, a schedule II Shyamalan, with an Altman tracking shot kicker. The Tarantino is because it jumps around in time, a very 1990s device and pretty bankrupt in this day and age. Worse yet, it plays the exact same scene over, just from a slightly different POV, so it wastes your time while it confused the story-line. Its a Shyamalan since it has a sociopath twist at the end. This allows the writers to hurt you the same way the creeptastic girl in the story hurts everyone around her.
The Altman kicker is the long tracking shot at Dunkirk, in a scene that was irrelevant to the story. Its as if these young directors have to brag at cocktail parties, "Oh I shot a horse chase in the desert (Aliens and Cowboys), or in this case, "Oh I shot a beach scene from WWII." Because the technology of movie-making has advanced so much, the scene does look better, but these self-absorbed directors put it down solely to their genius.
The horror of this movie is that it made money and got acclaim, which will only encourage more of this self-indulgent crap. I guess if your brain is still infantile, and you like pretty colors and distracting sounds, yeah, this film is great for that. If you have moved past a noisy mobile dancing over your crib, to the point where things have to make at least a little sense, this movie is atrocious.
Acting is good, other than direction that has them all seem autistic, as they all pause for 12 seconds rather than respond to whatever manufactured senseless dramatic situation they are faced with. Direction is so inept he changes the actress playing the "star" and also starts referring to her by her last name instead of her first. What point in this crap, symbolism she is changing? Go back to film school, and stay there.
Robin Williams said "Cocaine is God's way of telling you that you make too much money." A deleted scene titled "Walking through the fields" is God's way of telling you that you have too much budget.
The movie is titled Atonement, but that is not what it is about. First off, there is no atonement. The creep girl does not recant until she is 79 years old. Robbie's mother, her parents, everyone she hurt is dead. Cumberbatch is dead, unable to reply to her new accusations. Some atonement. The movie seems to be a love story, until the Shyamalan happens and its all a lie, told by the lying sociopath narcissist girl who ruins everyone's life, including the people that watch this drek.
So just when you think are are watching a move about a young couple, its really about this despicable creepy crap brat. Great, I love to see scheming creep sociopaths, especially ones that maneuver their lies into a big life payoff.
You could toss out all the war scenes and the scenes with Anorexic Girl. Then it would be about Briony. You would have to expand her POV and linearize the story line. Thing is, who would want to watch this creepy little liar? A novelist might think the story is all about the little budding writer, but everyone else sees her as an ancillary little distraction to life. A dork.
There were implausibilities. Like why didn't the police re-trace Robbie's path to prove he couldn't have tried to rape the girl? And prison for attempted rape, pretty much a mild assault? No, hardly. Even if her daddy was Lord Truplewaite of Devon on Hardwicke.
The movie was like a promo reel for the director, showing off his scenes, the hiding from the Boche, the trudging in the field, the hospital scene. I guess that is why I hate this movie so much. The soldiers coming into the hospital moved me to tears, and rather than stick to a coherent logical story, he had to bounce off to his next self-indulgent show-off clip reel.
I agree with another commentator. That there is a privileged class in the world that never had to work at anything and always is guaranteed to have a happy ending. So a happy ending is boring to them, whereas to us its the rarest of occurrences. I am sorry that the Marie Antoinettes of the world like this movie, it shows we are in need of a colony collapse disorder.
Child 44 (2015)
This movie was fractally inept, from the smallest detail to the biggest concept. The script and director must think its an accomplishment to keep the audience confused. No, confusion is the natural human condition. What is rare is clarity. I despised this movie from the beginning, when it was obvious that they used the Law and Order: Criminal Intent opening. This is where you string as many completely unrelated vignettes together because you are too incompetent to tell a story. Lets torture the audience, like some teen-tease. I remember checking the progress bar at 18 minutes, thinking that at least the movie had begun. I was wrong, it was more like three movies.
While USSR was no paradise in 1953, I have to believe the portrait painted by the book author of total repression represented his homosexual orientation. Yeah, USSR was probably pretty repressive if you were gay. That is wrong and bad, but don't portray every aspect of society as that repressive to everyone from farmers to MGB officers. As the Russian commentator noted here, even by 1953 the USSR was getting less totalitarian. Stalin died in 1953.
The movie was like a dramatization of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood but mixed in with portraits of Waco, Ruby Ridge, the McCarthy hearings, and the Mi Lai massacre. Its as if the movie cherry-picked every horror and excess of the USSR and then painted it as everyday life.
Confusion. Boy oh boy will you be confused. There is a reviewers here that thinks Gary Oldman was the father that adopted Tom Hardy. Another does not think the assassinated farmers were hiding the political prisoner. I have never watched a movie where the editing was so inept that I would be expecting the resolution of some vignette, and pop, I was in a completely different place with different characters maybe at a different place in the timeline. This may have been because the self-indulgent director shot a 4-hour movie and the editor had to smoosh it into a still-too-long 2 hours and 17 minutes.
And the director delights in confusion. Hey, lets have the big mano-a-mano climax be mud wrestling where we can't tell anybody apart. And lets use a lot of Jason Bourne shaky-cam so it is really impossible to know what is going on. Its just the feelings we convey, to show all the characters are confused too. Watch the director commentary of Amadeus where Milos Forman agonizes if his opening scene is clear enough for the audience to know what is going on.
In addition to the incompetent editing and script and direction, the fake accents do grate a little. Otherwise the actors were A-list, as you would expect. That fakeness was not helped by wild implausibility. Even in 1953 USSR, heck, especially in 1953 USSR, does anyone really think a mid-level MGB officer can shoot a subordinate in the back, in his office no-less? I know the book author hated the USSR, but do we really believe that the law enforcement apparatus would suppress murders because its the hallmark of an "imperfect society? Read the Wikipedia entry on Andrei Chikatilo, the real serial killer this movie appropriates. The Russians had 15 prosecutors and 29 detectives on the case. The investigation did implicate innocent people, but that happens in the US every single day. The investigation also solved 1000 unrelated crimes, including rapes and murders. Sure, you could say that was in 1985 USSR, but its not like the 1950s could have been that much different in the attitude towards crime.
Another major implausibility is the relationship to the wife. She loves you, she hates you, she cons you, she betrays you, she stands by you. Its like being married to the Magic 8-Ball. You never know what's going to turn up. Sorry, not based on any reality I have ever seen. Sneaky snarky scumbags stay that way. Oh, and back to confusion, how about when Hardy shows up at some parent's apartment. I thought they were her parents, since, ta da, he was an orphan. But no, the Amazing Kreskin tapped us on the forehead and with no warning or foreshadowing, we are expected to know they are his adoptive parents.
The main conflict here is really office politics. Spy agencies are full of passive-aggressives. they don't go around shooting each other or defenseless Kulaks at the drop of a hat.
Sadly there is no way to fix this mess. Its what economists call a dead-weight loss. You could give the book to the Russians that made Stalingrad (1990), and even they could not coax a good believable story out of this.
OK, who can resist? First, when writing about a mass murderer and serial killer, lets make the main conflict being with him (or her if you want an Oscar). Sure keep it in 1953 USSR, but factually show the hope for the future and changes as Stalin dies. Rather than some goofy spy agency fallen angel, lets have it be a prosecutor, like actually happened in real-life. Lets have Hardy be glad that the totalitarian state is in decline, but the only way he gets closer to solving the crime is by going all Andy Sipowicz NYPD Blue on the suspects. This will let us wonder why humans always resort to violence and repression to get what we really really want.
A nice art-house film disguised as a police procedural. The society gets less repressive as the hero gets more repressive. The crazy killer goes down, so how do we really feel about that? Easy 85 million domestic gross, with great foreign box office. There will always be the action figures and product placements to make this a real home run. People that read the book will be appalled, but there are so few of them, it really does not matter.