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A Wasted Opportunity
This film could have been a platform to educate viewers regarding the plight of tigers... And it utterly fails to do so. When the last scene faded out I expected to see some facts on the tiger trade in Asia (which exists to this day in many Asian nations - including South Korea), and the fact that the Amur tiger no longer exists in South Korea, and there was nothing. You see no ultimate turn-around in the main character in his view of tigers, and instead, you see some lame excuse for honor. It really is too bad that there didn't exist paranormal, bullet sponge, godly tigers that could have savored the Mao's fat body and others like him. The only thing this film has to offer the wold is solid cinematography embodied in a grossly missed opportunity that would have been more at home decades ago. Sad.
Miami Vice (2006)
It's not so sunny in this tub of mediocrity
I should have reviewed this film twelve years ago. I've been a Michael Mann fan since Last of the Mohicans; and after seeing The Insider I considered him to be one of the better film makers out there... Until 2004's Collateral.
I was just a kid when Miami Vice was on TV but I have seen some great aspects of the show (that were clearly Mann elements) which were too few and far between. I since still consider Mann one of the best directors out there but feel he needs to find talented writers and focus solely on bringing a good script to life. Since The Insider his films are superbly directed (who else can create atmosphere like Mann?) yet fall short on writing that equals that directing. Due to the writing the movie feels less engaging and often plods along. Forty minutes in the plot has barely begun to unfold. This is NOT Miami Vice. I don't know what it is - FBI Vice? Interpol Vice? What's more, this feels like a modern extended TV episode where Sonny and Tubbs get deputized and are off rivaling James Bond. The script could have been grittier and nuanced without turning two city cops into James Bond's counterparts - complete with homes, boats, aircraft, and cars a city cop could never afford (Mann did get it right in Heat). Any other film and you would be thinking these are some dirty cops. It's not the 80's anymore - you are not instantly cool because you have an Italian car. This film simply falls short in every category with the exception of the directing and most of the acting (sans Jamie Foxx - who's acting 'skill' within the first ten minutes began to annoy me). In the end it is a run-of-the-mill, massively sensationalized, containing zero the emotion Heat and The Insider gave us, very average film.
Pass if you want something believable that can take you somewhere else. Watch if you would enjoy another mindless, out of proportion, James Bond-esque film.
Red Dead Redemption II (2018)
Other developers need to take note with this game
*This is a updated review.*
Initially I had a very hard time adapting to the feel of the game and its controls. I think coming from PC to a PS4 exacerbated this, as well as my lack of love for Sony's controllers. At about twelve hours in I was ready to give up; I was considering returning or selling the PS4 Pro bundle, and I also started browsing other games. And while I do still think the controls can be cumbersome, now at forty hours in, and having punched horses tethered next to mine too many times, by attempting to mount my horse, I've finally been able to simply get over it. At this point when I do play the game I find it difficult to stop. Graphically the game is stunning (aside from character faces). The audio is the real gem for me - sometimes I wish I can go to sleep with my character parked in one of the minor towns... It's among the best I've ever seen in that department. Further, everything has dialogue. I have no issues with the gun play, and again here, the audio puts the cherry on top. Most of the missions are very engaging with the exception of the scripted chases that get a little cliche. I do wish Rockstar would review the missions in their games where you have to sprint after someone requiring you to tap a button fast enough to cause carpal tunnel - it's seriously getting old and it's in no way fun or enjoyable - it's a chore. I still find the bounty/wanted system a bit wonky; at times, while in a new set of clothes and mask et al, when robbing a train I am quickly identified. The bottom line is this game is worth every penny. There are no micro-transactions (yet) which a lot of developers should take note of. The pace of the game is also perfect; with so much on hand that you can do the pace allows you to thoroughly explore the game and its regions... To the point where I find myself not wanting to move to the next chapter quite yet. This and AC Odyssey are the only two games this year that the asking price is actually worth the product. Anyone owning a console should own this game; I came from PC and purchased a PS4 bundle to get my hands on the game with no regrets. Is it perfect? Nothing is. But it's damn close.
In the end the reader will have to take what I am saying here, and many others, with a grain of salt, as many of us aren't even done with the game. Ideally reviews should only be written after completely seeing a movie, listening to a record, or playing a game. Next time I'll take my own advice and I'll update my review should something need to be added or if my rating changes.
The Land of Steady Habits (2018)
The Land of Ben Mendelstrong
I've read enough reviews stating things like 'no one to root for' and that the film is slow. I basically view both types of opinions on this film as coming from those that are the type of audiences that enjoy the endless Marvel/Star Wars drivel; where the action and pace is non-stop and unnatural and where cliche characters are everyone's favorite.
This film has solid natural pacing, and it is slow yet befitting the theme, so those that have an attention span and are in the right mood for such a film should give it a go. The film, as the synopsis says, is about a divorcee (Mendelsohn) that feels lost after the end of his marriage and abandoning his career - as most people would. Married to this sense of aimlessness is poor decisions which ultimately lead to a sort of redemption with those that ultimately matter. Mendelsohn is great as always and the supporting cast is solid. Avoids usual structure of films that many are unfortunately acclimated to that result in a firework worthy crescendo. A film about a man's life that is upside down in this regard isn't an edge of your seat film, complete with heroes and action scenes; some people really need to take the thirty seconds to read a synopsis and think (if possible) for another thirty seconds if that film is up their alley.
Bottom line: Solid movie, slower pace yet befitting of themes involved, and solid performances. Soundtrack is a dud. Those that did enjoy the movie and are readers should check out the book that preceded it.
The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)
Direct to rent...
Worthless film. This is why this skipped theatrical release. It's almost as if someone just wanted to make a social statement coupled with an inability to write a competent script and came up with a ninety minute, exhaustive film about a space station, crewed by nearly every race on earth, moving to a new dimension. Lots of goofy plot holes that make no sense; risk the planet and reality because people are too lazy to harness the sun for energy, space station moves to new dimension in a different location and yet picks up new characters, Chinese token racial character is the only one speaking Chinese but everyone can understand her. This film actually fits in well with the other garbage hitting the screen since 2017. Oh, and Ava DyVernay, where's the history being made here? Perhaps it is the fact that a sham of a film exploiting the Cloverfield name is so bad, after spending nearly $40 million Paramount realized the trash they had on their hands, and simply washed their hands of it. History in the making.
Game of Thrones: Beyond the Wall (2017)
Utterly lackluster flash for the zombie masses
This is chock-full of spoilers. But, who would be reviewing a review of an episode prior to watching it in the first place? These are my thoughts on this episode, and while the current rating definitely shows me to be in the minority, I am not part of the Borg.
The one and only positive scene in this episode takes place between Tyrion and Daenerys.
Unlike what some have said about them notifying Daenerys; it wasn't overnight, and definitely wasn't days. When they sent a runner to the wall to send a raven he had no idea the goofy peril that befell Jon and his haphazard band. Regardless what a raven's top speed is in the air, she arrives minutes into a clash between 11-12 guys versus thousands of undead surrounding them on ALL sides. And recall, they didn't go there with dragon glass weapons either, despite them mining it for some time prior. This all takes place in the span of expecting and waiting on and receiving an email. It's not as if the dragons were waiting word at the wall, which would have made much more sense for the rapid response. If the numbingly absurd odds aren't enough to make your head hurt then maybe the deliberate, and quite unrealistic, sped-up combat scenes will. Then of course they depart on dragons, but not quick enough to prevent Jon making a fool of himself, for the trip to the wall to board a ship, where likely an aunt and her nephew are overtaken with amorous emotions for one another. All this silliness interspersed with a boring plot line of Little Finger's game in Winterfell makes up one of the most hurried and worst written Thrones episodes yet.
But alas... Martin has yet to even come to a finish in writing the actual book (and the succeeding season's); illustrating that once again HBO have bitten off more than they can chew, only this time by compressing time in an unrealistic fashion seemingly from a void of creativity in their writers. Who else would begin a series that heavily relies on an independent author's pace of work?!? Surely, this will have appealed to all Walking Dead fans with room temp IQ's; it's through and through hurried action lacking respectable writing. I'm sure Martin's written word will remedy much of this nonsense when it finally reaches print.
Bloodline: Part 32 (2017)
A pathetic time filler
If you haven't made it this far into the series yet, you may as well just entirely skip this episode as it contributes nothing, yes zero, to what until midway through this season has been a very good show. Nearly none of what transpires in this episode is reality; I really have no idea why they went this route - did half of their original writers leave or get fired? Basically, if this episode is trying to show how haunted John is over the events of the series it is a simple waste of time; his paranoia and suspicious behavior prior has amply shed light on that. And sure, if you want to write a dream sequence to expand on that go for it, but make it just that - a dream sequence that only needs to comprise minutes, and not an entire hour and episode of it. As others have stated, if they did a lazy job on the finale this entire series may be torpedoed. Just awful - and some should be ashamed of this at Netflix.
Wicked Tuna (2012)
Another cheap reality show exploiting nature
What's to see here? Some guys that are gung-ho about fishing blue fin to extinction? 'In November 2012, 48 countries meeting in Morocco for the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas voted to keep strict fishing limits, saying the species' population is still fragile. The quota will rise only slightly, from 12,900 metric tons a year to 13,500. The decision will be reviewed in 2014.' Dated info - but really, what better way to save a species than to kill enough of them to collectively weigh in at 13,000 metric tons. That is the equivalent of killing 65,000 individuals if they were to weigh on average 400 pounds.
The truth is, nobody knows how many of any specific thing swims, or crawls, in the ocean. There is no manner to accurately arrive at a figure. And here we have yet another show glorifying wanton greed, again, in the troubled oceans.
How and why National Geographic considered this worthwhile, especially from this perspective (exploiting the ocean for money), and for six seasons is beyond me. Six seasons lacking any conscious awakening on behalf of Nat Geo upper management.
Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)
Not "terrifying" and lacks any real plot.
To be up front, I have to admit - I am not, and never was a horror fan. For me an alien abduction movie is far more creepy than any 'horror' film could ever wish to be. Yet, some of the classics are decently entertaining as well as the Emily Rose film from 2005.
"Ouija" starts out alright; it sets up the stage for events to begin nicely. They convincingly portray 1967 - at least for those of us not alive at the time. However, once things start to happen the film simply bombs. I really cannot comprehend the hype behind this film with praises such as 'creepy' and 'terrifying' heard on YouTube, radio, and elsewhere. The plot of this film is never truly realized - you are clued in to who the entities are, yet even that doesn't add up (one would think an evil spirit would have been an evil person in life). They never provide any real backstory aside from a short conversation and we are never given any closure. It is basically along the lines of "this thing is that" and then some half-***ed attempts at making the audience jump. Sure, the trend these days is for Hollywood to milk everything of its last drop of blood - and this film is left totally unanswered likely so another film can be made. Still, if this is a chapter in an ill-thought money-grab scheme they could have ended the chapter with one loose end - instead the entire thing is frayed. A friend and I actually sat through the credits and were rewarded with an utterly worthless scene of a "loose end" in present time... Which also answered zero questions. So my rating, for lack of any real tangible plot, brings this down to 5/10. When I watch a film I want a story - what I don't want is some loose-knit script with a movie constructed around it. The acting likewise tanks once the "scares" begin.
That brings me to 'the horror' part of this film. The horror here entails a young girl screaming multiple times, whispering into ears in an indiscernible language, standing on the ceiling or walking on walls, and moving quickly. Every single one of these acts is done repeatedly - and perhaps after the second scream it is all yawn-inducing. So, for me, this film's lack of anything scary brings my final score to 2/10. If I see a drama I want drama. If I see an action film I want action. And likewise, if I see a horror film I want to jump. This film fails.
I shouldn't even have to mention I will not watch the next iteration of "Ouija" even if it is free. And mark my words; there will be a $equel (or two or three of them).
Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor meets Sci-Fi channel effects and sensationalism
Before I say anything critical of the film I have to admit; it's about damn time someone has attempted to tell this story. With that said, time to get a little critical.
First, if you are a Cage fan like me, this film does not get Cagey. Nor should it. This is a restrained role with Cage sharing screen time with many characters throughout.
I feel like this film has many components, or parts - some hurt it while others help it. It has the generic feel of Michael Bay's "Pearl Harbor" to introduce the characters and plot; while I didn't care for that film I know many do - yet for me, this hurt. Second, many scenes with sharks are no better than a Sci-Fi Channel-made shark horror TV movie; it is sensationalized and way over-the-top (including the inclusion of great white sharks not even present at the actual event). A better way to have depicted it would have been to focus on the suspense of the sailor's predicament, the emotional impact, and the effects of exposure and dehydration. Obviously, this really hurt the film in my eyes. The last component I see in this film is that it does have elements that remind me of an Eastwood film - a la "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Letters From Iwo Jima"; these reminders are few in number but do strike emotionally deeper - in particular the face-to-face between McVay and Hashimoto.
See, for me, unrealistic shark attacks and run-of-the-mill storytelling don't pique my interest - make me feel something and you win me over. This film scores a 4/10 on that scale and receives another 2 on top for even addressing the fate the USS Indianapolis and her crew - in particular the fate of Rear Admiral McVay.
Would this film have been worthy of seeing in theaters? No. But it definitely is worth a rent or having up your sleeve when other options aren't available.
The force didn't awaken... (no spoilers)
... and it isn't asleep either. I think it's dead.
Now, I understand the masses love this and I wish I did as well, but this is my opinion - those that can't accept the opinions of others... well, they just ought to avoid reading reviews in general.
The entire film felt contrived; one happenstance event followed by the next. Extremely unnatural pacing. Not fond of the casting - no issue with Rey though. I really did not like the writing for this; someone hasn't flown a ship and within seconds is flying like a pro, someone never heard a big foot (Chewbacca) and can understand it and translate... and of course, there is more. I just was unable to fall into the willing suspension of disbelief as due to bad writing it had awful progression - and this isn't touching on the fact that they used the original film as a template and then made some changes around it. Lazy. There is even a scene/character that is almost a complete hack of part of the original The Matrix. Further, none of the characters had any substance - not even stiff Harrison Ford. Lastly, the story of how the bad guys are running the show, after being defeated and fragmented thirty years earlier, is blatantly ignored - but again, this is part of the horribly generic writing.
My money is on that when the dust settles, and people take off the hype and nostalgia rose colored glasses, as happened for the prequels, this film will not be held in high esteem. Disney is going to wring every bit of life from the franchise - it will equal, at minimum, the wanton exploitation of their Marvel IP.
Don't buy the hype... this is very average.
If your girlfriend or wife wants to take a vacation to Italy rent this. This is the perfect movie that illustrates how cities like Rome and Naples are essentially third-world Europe.
Entertainment-wise, this movie is a bit lacking. It barely has any plot. It barely ties anything together, and leaves you, for the majority of its duration, coasting along. It absolutely has nothing on films like 'City of God'. I think this film has garnered more attention than it was probably due.
But then again, if you're bored as I was, it is a very average way to pass some time.