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Corben D'allasse (another reviewer here) Said it pretty well
But I'll add my 2¢ worth.
First off, no one was rooting more for this show at the outset than I. I'm a sucker for anything about AI, what it means to be human--all those interesting themes and questions. And I have a ton of respect for HBO.
But this show is taking very little story and streeeettttching it way too far. It has become so repetitious. How many times can I watch Delores and her posse ride into either a) a group of hombres who, after a tedious speech, she and Teddy shoot to pieces or b) someplace already littered with bodies that has maybe one survivor gasping for water--whom they then shoot to pieces. Always after a tedious, threatening speech.
And I am so sick of their cryptic pronouncements about what they're going to do next or who has to be punished or what great destiny awaits them or who's not worthy to go. I just wish these characters would GET THE HELL ON WITH IT instead of endlessly riding around the desert, hinting about their grand plan, and then killing a bunch of people.
The only "events" in this story are revelations about the past. And even the big revelations--such as the newsflash that the hosts are being developed to eventually serve as vessels for the consciousnesses of human beings who would like to be immortal. . . well, DUH!
Nothing is propelling this story forward anymore!
But that is the sad effect of video games upon modern film. There's no true suspense. Because it's not about what's going to happen next or what characters will choose to do because all they do is shoot each other (much as in a video game). It's now about uncovering Easter Eggs--which is all stuff buried in the past. This show is now about one third flashback. And flashbacks are a bore!
Then there are the inconsistencies of the robots. Sometimes they seem to have superhuman speed, coordination and strength. And when it's convenient, they're barely up to middle-aged human standards. Sometimes they seem to have free will and can plug themselves into an iPad and change their own programming, and at other times they are absolutely bound by their programming. Bernard is just all over the place. How about establishing some rules for this world and sticking to them?
And then there is the problem of whom to root for. There's no one. Originally, you're rooting for the robots because they're so badly treated. But once they get some control, they become even bigger a**holes than the people who built them.
So now I don't really care about a bunch of characters who aren't doing anything to advance the story anyways.
Approaching the Unknown (2016)
A Half-baked Movie about a Half-baked Mission to Mars
Hard to know where to begin with this one. First, I suppose I'll tackle the mission design, which consists of two separate spacecraft, one containing a lone man and the other a single woman, headed to Mars a couple of weeks apart.
Not sure why this would be. Every mission to Mars on the boards consists of at least six astronauts--per spacecraft. Maybe they thought they couldn't keep their hands off each other if they put them in the same spaceship?
But then, this mission appears to have been conceived by a wanna-be astronaut who thought it would be a good idea to maroon himself in the desert as a motivational exercise to help him engineer some kind of machine that turns rock into water. If he doesn't die of thirst, first.
Second. . . did you know there are mysterious and colorful nebulae floating somewhere between Earth and Mars? Neither did I. But apparently there are--and they look great!
That's not nearly as unbelievable, though, as a space station located three weeks from Earth populated by a couple of moping astronauts. But apparently, our Mars-bound spacecraft has to stop there for "supplies"--an utterly idiotic notion for anyone familiar with physics.
Did the writer/director of this movie do *any* research at all? I don't see how he could have. Scanning even the briefest article on colonizing Mars would have upended the premise of this film.
Look, I'd be willing to forgive all the technical inaccuracies if this movie had a strong story or offered some kind of insight into human behavior, but about two-thirds of the way through it devolves into this rambling. . . I hesitate to call it "philosophical". . . meditation on. . . something. Most of what the protagonist spews out is just oddly random non sequiturs.
There are tips of the hat in this film to The Martian, Silent Running, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The reason this compares so poorly to any of those classics isn't the ultra-low budget of this film; it's the writing.
Good performance by Mark Strong, but he just has so little to work with. At least he eventually gets to Mars. As a viewer, I felt as if I was left on the launch pad.
The Architect (2016)
A strange mix of the familiar and the offbeat
This is a movie with a story that, while far from being a cliché, contains elements we've seen before--the most familiar of which is the ostensibly happy suburban couple whose lives are upended by the intrusion of a stranger who causes the couple to realize that they aren't quite as happy as they thought. In the formula, one of the partners almost always welcomes the interloper, while the other is immediately suspicious. That's the case, here.
This film is billed as a comedy, and it has several quite funny moments, but nothing that's going to have you rolling in the aisles. It's consistently amusing. The performances are uniformly excellent, the characters are well drawn, it's got a really strong soundtrack, it's well shot, and seems to have been done on a tight budget--a budget kept low thanks, in part, to some seamless and smart visual effects.
The movie has an unusual tone--set right from the start by the animated credit sequence. The odd and arresting soundtrack also contributes to the strange tone. I doubt it will get much of a regular release (I saw it at the Vancouver Film Festival) because of its determinedly indy tone.
SPOILER IN THE NEXT PARAGRAPH: The script has some problems. The situation is just never pushed far enough, and the sense of jeopardy to the protagonists--the distressed couple--never becomes as dire as it should be. I was never really rooting for them, never feared for their marriage. Not because I didn't believe it could disintegrate, but because I just didn't care that much whether it failed or not. And the resolution is very weak. In the end, it seems the Parker Posey character returns to her husband not because she realizes that her marriage is worth saving, but because the architect turns out to be a fraud. Whatever happened to her complaint that her husband was stifling her? Of course, if that was the writer's intent--to point out that the couple's marriage held together only because of a lack of better alternatives--then I suppose the point is made. But it doesn't exactly leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling that a comedy is supposed to.
Operation Avalanche (2016)
An Amazing Feat of Filmmaking
This film starts as a comedy and ends as a thriller, a neat trick if you can pull it off, and these filmmakers pull it off with style! This might just be the most ambitious and audacious low-budget film I've ever seen.
At the VIFF showing where I saw it, someone in the audience at the Q & A asked the director if he was a fan of the 1977 conspiracy thriller Capricorn One. Matt Johnson answered that he was, although he didn't find it a terribly plausible thriller. He did admire it for the aerial chase scenes.
I'm in complete agreement with him. The helicopter/biplane chase scene is one of the best chase scenes of any kind ever filmed, IMHO. But, overall, the story is pretty hard to swallow.
What Operation Avalanche shares with that film are some wonderful plot reversals and a thrilling escalation of the stakes as the movie develops. The scheme at its heart is considerably more plausible than the one in the Peter Hyams film. Plus, the dialogue in Avalanche is way better.
The only thing about Operation Avalanche that I found hard to accept was *why* some of the scenes were being filmed and who was filming them (it's a "found footage" movie) but the story was so well structured that I easily forgave that hiccup. There were also a few anachronistic dialogue slips that gave away that the film was written by a millennial (for example, at one point, a character says "And I'm like. . . " instead of "And then I said. . . ", an idiom that didn't appear until about 15 years ago) but that, I suppose, is one of the hazards of improvised dialogue. Visually, the film is very convincing looking.
The director's stories of how he pulled off filming it right under NASA's nose is the icing on the cake. Hopefully, some of those behind-the-scene stories will find their way onto this movie's eventual release on BluRay or DVD.
What a gem.
A compendium of cop-show clichés
This show has them all. I'll just list my favorites:
1) The cop who's trying to quit smoking. 2) The cop whose character is being unjustly smeared in court by the pit bull lady lawyer. 3) The cop who, at moments of emotional stress, retreats to the nearest public bathroom to splash water on his face and give himself a long, hard look in the mirror. 4) The attractive, much-younger woman who just can't help throwing herself at this dead-eyed lug. 5) And probably my favorite: The cop who can somehow afford the house with the $5 million view of the out-of-focus lights of Los Angeles twinkling below. While he swills scotch and listens to jazz. Played on his vinyl turntable.
And all of that in episode one! If I were to watch the rest of this season I would look forward to him driving through a vegetable stand during a car chase. Or getting shot one week before retirement.
There's some good acting, here. But so far, the tired story is unfolding at a snail's pace.
It's not enough to bring me back.
A good film, just way, way too slow--especially the first hour
This film could have been an eight or a nine. It's well acted, shot and directed. Loved that opening shot. I found that the story events stretched credulity just the right amount for a thriller. And I loved the gimmick of having high school level English the common language of the main characters, who would otherwise be unable to communicate with each other.
The drawback of this hyper-realistic, one-shot filming technique is that everything has to happen in real time--including the getting-to-know-you first hour, which is essential to make the improbable things that Victoria does in the second hour believable. So I understand the dilemma.
The problem is that this first hour of chit-chat and bonding is excruciatingly slow. Watching it was like being the only sober person at a drunken frat party. Clearly, a lot of people (and certainly the critics) didn't mind.
Me, I watched it and at about the 30-minute mark I found myself thinking, "And *that's* why we have cuts in movies. So that it doesn't take two-and-a-half hours to tell a 50-minute story."
Inventive, Suspenseful Film spoiled by Baffling Character Behavior
There's a lot to like about Coherence. It has an original premise. It's well acted and the dialogue has a nice naturalistic feel.
Unfortunately, the conflict and paranoid atmosphere felt forced to me. It's all well and good to have one character, Mike, who has a drinking problem and such hostility toward himself that he assumes that his Doppelganger will try to kill him. But why are all the other characters in this film so paranoid and on edge from the beginning? They're a bunch of self-absorbed yuppies, not escaped murderers from a maximum-security prison.
You're at a dinner party, there's a power outage so the lights go out, and then there's a knock at the door so. . . you startle as if they threw a rock through your window? And then grab a baseball bat before answering? This seems odd, especially when two members of your party have just left to go investigate the house up the street with the intention of asking to use the phone. If it were me, I'd just assume that someone was probably coming to my door to ask the very same thing.
And once these characters figure out that reality has fractured and that there are duplicates of themselves from another reality running around--I still don't understand what they're so afraid of. I mean, obviously that would be a freaky and unsettling situation. But once your doppelganger has demonstrated, by leaving exactly the same note that you wrote on your front door, that he behaves exactly as you do, wouldn't you at least be somewhat curious to meet him or her? Most of these characters seemed reasonably intelligent and rational. Why should they be so automatically fearful of these alternative selves--even after they've accidentally spent time with them and found them to be benign.
I think the writer needed a stronger trigger for all the fear and hostility.
And as several commenters here have mentioned, the camera work is bad. I understand that hand-held is used to add energy and tension to a scene, but there's no excuse for things like that interminable opening shot in which no part of the frame is in focus. It's just annoying.
The Last Ship: SOS (2014)
I'm With Devilsgerbil on this one
Another episode spoiled by completely unbelievable moments.
For example, they bring the Jamaican Typhoid Mary aboard the Nathan James without any quarantine or examination at all. Sure, she appears to be immune to the plague, herself, but did anyone ever think that she might still be a carrier of the disease? Apparently not. They just pipe her aboard in the clothes she was wearing when they found her. Not so much as a hot shower--even though she came from a boatload of corpses that have died from the plague.
Give me a break. I can understand fudging naval protocol to some degree to heighten the drama but you have to at least maintain the main antagonist in this story--the plague itself.
The Last Ship: Dead Reckoning (2014)
tasic from Thailand is absolutely right
This show has a great premise, strong, suspenseful story lines and some likable, layered characters. Admittedly, I'm a sucker for apocalyptic plague thrillers.
But after watching the first season, I have to say that almost every episode is sabotaged by one or two moments of complete unbelievability--either in the behavior of the characters or the workings of a naval warship (and I'm no authority on naval procedures, but I can rub two thoughts together).
In addition to the ridiculous moments tasic described (which I also noticed as I was watching the show) there was the moment where the crew of the Nathan James use about ten feet of Reynolds Wrap and a couple of light stands to replicate the radar signature of a ship that must be at least 200 feet long and four stories tall, and another where they try to convince us that a Soviet destroyer doesn't have the capability to detect when another ship floating within view has started or stopped its engines through hydrophones.
In another episode, a small team of commandos is able to infiltrate a Russian warship (who are expecting them to arrive) and sneak through half its length without encountering a single Russian sailor. It was pretty ludicrous.
It's a pity, because these moments just take you out of what could be a very good series and make you say, "Oh, come on. Do you really expect me to believe this?"
The Finest Hours (2016)
The moments of high suspense work, troughs between the waves not so much
The main story worked well. The action scenes and effects were great. I found it quite suspenseful.
The attempts to wring every last bit of emotion out of the quieter character moments were sometimes forced and made me want to shout at the screen, "So get on with it!"--Like the moment when all the freighter crew are aboard the rescue vessel and Casey Afleck is asking Chris Pine if he knows the way back to shore and Pine's explaining to him, "Well the wind was coming from my left on the way out, so I figure if I keep it to my right I'll be heading back in and if we just look out for some lights. . . " Which seems like a reasonable enough plan. However, in the meantime, some of these men have actually fallen overboard and must be dying of hypothermia but Captain Pine stands there brooding over the helm with the boat's motor idling, discussing his plan instead of JUST GETTING ON WITH IT. You can talk and drive at the same time, right Chris . . ? Same with a lot of scenes with fishermen huddled over coffee mugs telling us how dangerous it is to be out there on the water on a night like this instead of just getting the camera out there and showing it (which eventually the movie does; it just takes its sweet time about it).
SPOILER ALERT: So, was anyone else bothered by the fact that, as the rescued freighter crew climbs, one by one, off the rescue boat and onto the dock that they all (with the exception of Pine) appear to be BONE DRY? I mean, some of these crewmen were actually overboard, floundering in the ocean, just a half an hour earlier. And it's been snowing ever since.
So how did they dry off in an open boat? An open boat that, by the way, appears to have the abilities of a submarine in a few scenes. How does an internal-combustion engine run underwater like that? Without air?
Could've used one of those on the freighter.
A Film in Which the Protagonist has no actual problems
I had little empathy for the heroine of this story because she has almost no obstacles to overcome. Okay, she's got a cranky boss. Fortunately, her sister has saved up enough money to send her to America--where the parish priest has already found accommodation for her. And, where everybody is nice to her. And where a sincere, kind and handsome man courts her and proposes marriage. Oh, and the parish priest pays for her schooling. And she breezes through her exams because she's smart as a whip.
Then, about halfway through the movie, tragedy strikes. But it's an event so sudden and so far away that there's really nothing our heroine can--or is expected to--do anything about it. So while it's sad and unfortunate, it's nothing she can act on.
Phew! For a moment there, I thought our protagonist might actually have to do something besides accept the next kind offer of assistance.
Returning to Ireland, she's courted by considerate, handsome fella #2. But to make matters worse. . . she's offered a high-paying office job--doing the very thing she aced all her exams in! Will the tribulations of this woman never end? For a while, I was afraid she might win the lottery.
The worst thing to happen to her is that she gets seasick and is locked out of the head. SHE HAS TO USE A BUCKET. Oh, the humanity! Someone should have told the screenwriter that this is an insufficient problem to build a drama around.
How Wrong I Was
So I remember watching this series as a child (through the ages of about 10 to 14)--although I have no recollection of this particular episode. I recall clearly that I didn't think much of it at the time. I found the kids cloyingly cute, the score somewhat mawkish and overbearing, and the laugh track intrusive.
I do remember John Byner's hilarious stand-up bit in which he does an impression of Brian Keith, kneading his face at every opportunity as if it were a lump of bread dough. That, and the MAD Magazine satire pretty well sealed the deal for me. I thought it must be a pretty bad show.
I saw a re-run of this episode today, and am a little embarrassed to admit that I was practically moved to tears. Admittedly, the subject of terminal illness in children is a pretty easy way to get me. But I was stunned by the *economy* of the writing. There isn't a wasted word or moment in the whole thing. There isn't a scene that goes a second beyond the instant that its point has been made.
The acting, especially by Keith, was great.
And that ending (really a twist ending) in which French and Uncle Bill think they've pulled the wool over the eyes of the kids (with the most noble of intentions) only to find out that Buffy has figured out exactly what's going on--all without a word of dialogue. It was, as one of the other reviewers here put it, heartbreaking.
There's never a point at which any of the characters says, "The kid is going to die." There are no tender homilies or lectures to the kids explaining to them the essential tragedy of the biological condition. None of the on-the-nose, expository, radio-with-pictures dialogue that burdens the worst TV dramas I see today: "You know, Ashley, all your father and I--who died in a tragic drug overdose when you were a baby--ever wanted was for you to be happy, even though I could never blah blah blah."
Here, it's all communicated through reaction shots and people doing their best to protect each other from the inescapable and awful truth.
La loi du marché (2015)
Like Kafka on Tranquilizers. And Prozac.
I walked out of this film after about forty minutes, so take my comments accordingly.
This film is well directed, acted, and shot. It effectively portrays the hell its very sympathetic protagonist is going through. It's a story worth telling. The actors are superb.
It's just way too slow. Every scene that I saw (and after 40 minutes, I believe that I had seen a total of about six of them--at least, that's what it felt like)was about three times as long as it had to be. The scene made its point, and then just kept going. And going. And going.
I get it: The protagonist, a good and decent man, is being abused by. . . well, just about everyone. I got it after the first 30 seconds of the first scene. All he can do is take his next punch and keep on keeping on.
The first thing I did when I got home was check the total running time for this film: 91 minutes. In other words, about the minimum acceptable length for a feature. And that's almost always the case with films that move this slowly: The writer (invariably also the director) doesn't have enough ideas or story to sustain a feature. So he just stretches every scene long past the point it should be stretched.
What you end up with is a painfully slow, paper-thin film.
Third Person (2013)
Pretty Good Movie with Two Problems
The first problem is that, at 137 minutes, it's too long. You could easily cut 15 minutes out of this thing.
The second problem is that it comes down to what is becoming one of modern cinema's most dependable clichés. No, it's not the car chase that upsets a vegetable cart or decapitates a fire hydrant. It's not even the motorcycle or welding helmet pulled off to reveal *gasp* it's a woman (usually shaking out her long tresses as if she were in a shampoo commercial).
No, I'm talking about the dead-child character ghost--more specifically, it's the drowned-child character ghost.
If you want a protagonist to really beat himself up, just push his toddler into the pool. Works every time! Yes I know, you only turned your back for a minute and there was the little tyke lying motionless at the bottom your screenplay. The script doctors tried to save him but in the end there was nothing they could do.
This one is at the heart of films as diverse as Gravity, Finding Nemo, Ordinary People, Jacob's Ladder, Children of Men. All great films but. . . couldn't we come up with something else for a character to feel bad about? That dead kid could really use a rest.
Also, the first runner-up in the character-ghost competition also puts in an appearance during this film: father/daughter incest. Writers needing something for their female characters to be tormented over have reached for father/daughter incest ever since Chinatown broke that taboo in nineteen seventy something.
But other than these two clichés turning out to be the main character motivators, it wasn't a bad movie.
Another Reviewer Here said it best:
"The Killing is an innovative thriller trapped inside a bloated self-indulgent work of improvisational theater."
I don't have much to add to this comment except to say that there is actually a pretty good story in here. It's well developed and escalates nicely. The protagonist, well played by Ben Gazarra, is truly an interesting (if not very likable) character.
Unfortunately, the character and story are weighed down by interminable scenes from the tawdry shows-within-a-show that the main character produces in his strip club. These shows are just bizarre and amateurish. A few glimpses of them would have given us all we need to know about Cosmo Vitelli and his world, but instead we're subjected to these scenes over and over, in stultifying detail. It's just. . . boring.
Another reviewer here has complained that Vitelli is wounded in a way that should be fatal, and yet he finishes out the movie as if he doesn't have a care in the world. That reviewer is right. It's just ridiculous and unbelievable.
And then there's the complaint that killing the Chinese Bookie of the title--getting past the dogs and the guards--is way too easy for Vitelli. Also a legitimate knock against the movie.
No one has mentioned that there's also some pretty bad cinematography on display here--scenes in which the camera follows so poorly during closeups that actors' eyes drift out of the frame.
There's an interesting movie in here, but it's so amateurish and self-indulgent in places that that movie is suffocated.
Last Passenger (2013)
More than a train wreck. Just not quite enough more.
The people who made Last Passenger are clearly fans of classic thrillers and have studied the form of their art. The direction, casting and acting are excellent. The look of the film and the level of special effects is impressive, considering the budget. And what a great score! I haven't heard a soundtrack for a thriller this good in decades. IMHO, it's the single best thing about this film.
I liked all the characters. I was not bothered, as some other reviewers were, by the absence of any attempt to explain the bad guy's motives. Do we ever understand the motives of these monsters? The writers made the decision to make him simply a malevolent force, and I have no problem with that. It's sufficient that he does what he does. I was with this film and on board for the ride from the start.
Unfortunately, the script has a common earmark of films written and directed by the same person: The plot just isn't good enough. There are several junctures in the story where a director would have told the writer (had they been two separate people), "You've got to do better than this." Instead, I'm guessing he said to himself, "I'll direct this so well that no one will notice."
Well, we did notice. We noticed that the female lead, as appealing as she is, is given nothing to do in the A story except babysit. We noticed that (as one of the other reviewers here put it) the grandmother character's sole function appears to be to die (after some babysitting). The actresses in this film were really given thankless roles (except when they're thanked for babysitting). And yes, we did notice that, in the end, the main character's solution to his problem is simply to jump from the train (moving at about 90 m.p.h). And he lives! Somehow. Because . . he's the protagonist?
Not good enough.
A thriller like this runs on a series of escalating dilemmas and solutions. The dilemmas must be dire (which the filmmakers managed). The solutions have to be a few degrees cleverer than any of us would come up with in the moment. This is especially true in a thriller with a premise we've seen more than a few times. The writers are obligated to come up with at least one solution that is smarter than the solutions presented in all of those other runaway train stories that came before theirs. And they did come up with one such solution--the fire and fire-extinguisher idea of blowing up the deck between train cars so that they can access the coupling. It stretched credulity a little bit, but at least it was clever. And original. Bravo!
Unfortunately, that's followed by the really lame solution of just jumping from the speeding train--which is what was left with the audience as the credits rolled.
It just falls short. Heh. Kind of like a couple of characters at the climax.
Interesting Premise Becomes Muddled About halfway through
So, this starts out interestingly enough: The wayward, troubled veteran brother comes back home for a visit and threatens normal, stable brother's happy marriage. Not wholly original, but interesting. A solid dramatic premise.
As several reviewers here have pointed out, the movie is unnecessarily slow. Actually, it isn't unnecessary. It's slow because a feature has to be a minimum of about 90 minutes, and the screenwriter who--surprise--is also the director, seemed unable to come up with enough story to fill this thing out. So, there are a lot of filler shots of wallpaper, curios, cobwebs and--as someone has already mentioned--characters staring blankly.
I don't know who D. R. Hood (the director/screenwriter) is but, apparently unable to think of any actual story events having to do with the returning brother, she decides about halfway through the film to turn it into a story about the couple's inability to have a baby. She starts a half-baked plot thread about a childhood "friend" of the brothers who has (unknowingly) been cuckolded by his wife and the wayward brother. The cuckold makes a pass at Claire Foy (the supposedly happy, stable bro's wife) which she brushes off.
But then, discovering that her husband (normal brother)is the cause of their inability to conceive, Claire immediately turns to the cuckolded friend for a quick shagging. Up until now, she's rebuffed his advances, but after all, she wants a baby so what the hell. I guess adoption was not an option.
What has this to do with the returning brother, you might ask? Not much. The obvious plot development would be to have *him* be the sperm reservoir whom Claire turns to for a good shagging--at least keeping the baby within the same, general gene pool as her husband. Why drag in this fourth, barely developed character to serve that function? And then give him a major part in the movie's final scene? Meanwhile, returning veteran brother is nowhere to be found. He just disappears from the last five or eight minutes of the film.
Oh, I almost forgot: There were some murky hints that the brothers shared some kind of incestuous, carnal relationship that were never quite clear to me.
Anyway, there was a serviceable premise and some really good acting here. And I like the gradual revelations about the crazy deeds of the loopy, AWOL brother turning out, in fact, to be deeds of the supposedly stable brother. But the story--as slight as it is--is a mess, in my opinion.
This director should probably leave the script writing to someone else next time.
Europa Report (2013)
Points for Originality and ambition
I liked this film's brave ending, the score, the characters, their dialogue, and the generally realistic tone. At times I found the "found footage" aspect to be frustrating, as I wanted to see more of the moon's surface. But I'm sure that was necessary to keep the budget at a reasonable level.
Like many others who have written comments here, I found the time-line scrambling a pointless gimmick. It did nothing to to increase my interest in the story.
Finally (SPOILER ALERT). . .
I found the monster to be somewhat unconvincing. I don't mind that it looked like something from an old Moody Blues album cover, or--as one other reviewer put it--something rejected from the War of the Worlds art department.
What bothered me was its behaviour. Why would an aquatic creature attack (and presumably eat) astronauts walking around on the surface of the ice? Presumably, there being only a vacuum above the ice, there was nothing living on the surface before the spaceship landed--at least, nothing large enough to satisfy this monster's appetite. So I just don't see why its natural tendency would be to break through the ice and grab something walking around up there. If the creature had never acquired prey in this manner before, there just wouldn't be any natural precedent for it.
Normally, I wouldn't pick at a thread like this, but the movie seemed to be going out of its way to be believable on a scientific level.
Night Gallery: Fright Night (1972)
I'd forgotten how bad this show could be. . .
This episode was little more than an excuse to string together a bunch of creepy moments. Nothing about it makes any sense. It starts with a couple arriving at a house which the husband has freshly inherited from "Cousin Zachariah." From the outside, the house appears pretty modest and modern. Inside, it has plenty of large, creepy haunted-house rooms and an attic which the exterior house couldn't possibly accommodate. The story takes place in the early seventies, but for some reason this house requires the attentions of a cranky caretaker played by Ellen Corby. Her sole purpose in this episode is to offer exposition about. . . how creepy the house is. She cautions the couple not to move or open a trunk in the attic. "Someone" will be coming for it! Well, that "someone" turns out to be the decayed zombie corpse of cousin Zachariah, now wearing a monk's robe. For some reason, he returns every Halloween to get the trunk--even though the trunk appears to be perfectly capable of moving on its own. Why the trunk is to be retrieved, and what is in it, are never revealed. Or even hinted at. All we know is that it can move, open and close on its own, and that all of the husband's efforts to dispose of it result in the trunk returning to its old spot in the attic.
In the meantime, there's some nonsense about the couple being possessed by spirits from the 18th century--none of which has anything to do with the trunk, cousin Zachariah, or his house (which can't be more than 30 years old).
It's as if the writers took every haunted-house cliché they could think of and just shook them up together in a box. Er, trunk. The actors are trying gamely but they have no motivation to say or do anything they actually do in the story. Stuart Whitman begins the episode with what I'm guessing is supposed to be some kind of English accent, but by the end of it he's abandoned that effort completely and is just grunting out his lines.
I tried to use closed captioning to interpret some of the grunts, but it would give a few words of his speech and then just insert (unintelligible) in all the places I couldn't make out.
On the Trail of Genghis Khan (2010)
A Moving and Impressive Journey
Tim Cope's trek is an astonishing accomplishment--especially for a young man who had never ridden a horse before starting. It's both informative and very moving. I started watching it as research for a novel,started making notes, but ended up just letting it play out as I became so caught up in it.
Cope did almost all of the filming himself, which means that he must have covered much of the trail twice--once to go ahead and set up his camera, and then backtracking to ride up to it. That, and backtracking to retrieve his camera after riding away from it.
He lets us in on his best and worst moments of the trip and seems completely unguarded.
My only complaint is that I wish he had had a better camera--or maybe whoever transferred the images to DVD just didn't do that great a job. I know that video formats advance almost weekly but the image quality, by today's standards, seems a bit fuzzy and washed out. Even the frame and titling for the episode menu on the DVD look soft to me. At one point you get a look at his camera in the special features section, and it doesn't exactly look like a high-end model. I assume he was limited by what he could carry and his budget.
Fortunately, Cope is an excellent cinematographer with a fine eye. He composes many beautiful frames and the camera is rock steady for the most part. The sound is also pretty good.
Whatever camera he used, it's astonishing that he managed to keep it working through the whole three years under the extreme temperatures he suffered through. At least, he never talks about any equipment failures.
Clearly, he wanted our attention on the peoples, the animals, and the landscapes he shows to us--and he does a superb job.
Maybe the best travel piece I've ever seen.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
A movie that knows just when to break the rules
The problem I have with romantic comedies is that they are the most formulaic and hidebound of all the genres. If it's a comedy, then by definition it has to have a happy ending. And if it's a romance, the only happy ending is to have the two leads get together. So usually I'm just tapping my toe, waiting for the leads to get through the requisite squirming before the inevitable.
Lately, we've seen a variety of crude gags thrown into the mix, presumably to distract us from this inevitability This movie does a great job of hewing closely enough to the standard romcom formula to keep an audience satisfied, while undercutting it enough to surprise us now and then and prevent us from seeing exactly where it's going at any point. The outcome of the big dance contest is a perfect example.
It's not easy to write a movie that's this particular, this original and yet satisfying. Wonderful performances don't hurt, either.
Warning: There are a few unbelievably long scenes. And yet they work.
I wish the writer had finished the movie he started
Don't get me wrong; this movie is very well made. It was well acted, shot and directed. I was never bored.
But I started out watching a movie about a hit man who shoots mob victims sent back in time from the future, and knows that his final victim will be his older self. Interesting idea--even if it's not very plausible. But okay, let's just run with it. That's the movie I saw in the trailers, the one I expected to see.
So, when his future self comes back, present-day self hesitates for a moment and future self gets the drop on him and runs off. Now present-day self must hunt down and kill future self. Also interesting.
But then, it's all about a telekinetic farm kid who will one day rule the world with an iron fist. . . er, brain. . . if he isn't stopped.
Huh. . . ? Where the hell did that come from? I know, I know, it's foreshadowed by showing us that 10% of the population has trivial telekinetic powers. They can make coins float above their hands.
But to me, this film starts one story and then switches in mid-stream to a story stemming from a second, unrelated science fiction premise.
While it was refreshing that the movie didn't just turn into a series of action sequences in which JGL tries to kill BW (which would have been a pretty one-sided conflict, admittedly) I found this shift in emphasis to be far more distracting than Joseph Gordon-Levitt's prosthetic nose. Which I never had a problem with.
Anyway, I appear to be the only one bothered by this so just go ahead and enjoy the movie.
Frankly, I thought the Dreaming Dog watch was a much better invention
First, I would read Fnorful's review. He pretty well hits the nail on the head.
I would add two things: This movie is kind of slow. It tends to hit the same character and story beats repeatedly up until the third act, which is when it really gets going.
But the biggest flaw in this movie, for me, is the goal of the main characters. Their goal is simply to be rich and successful. And they want to do it by inventing . . . something.
Of course, we can all relate to this ambition. Who doesn't want to be rich and successful? The problem for me is, they don't really care how they do it. They just want to invent some piece of crap that people will buy in quantity. They don't particularly care if they're filling a particular need (except their own need to be successful) or making the world a better place or even doing it to win the love and admiration of someone (which happens just as kind of a side effect).
SPOILERS FOLLOW I never would have believed that the world would fall for the talking bottle opener, but apparently it did. I wasn't really with them until they brought out the Homer Simpson version, and suddenly the light bulb went on for me! But that happens about 95 minutes into the movie.
Anyway, to sum up, the movie is beautifully directed, shot, and acted. It has some nice story turns I didn't see coming. I liked the characters. But to push it over the top for me, I would have liked their final invention to be something I could really get behind--something I really *wanted* to see succeed.
I would have liked to have thought, "Okay, all that other stuff they were working on seems like crap. THIS is it." But frankly, I think the dreaming dog watch was a better invention.
Jodaeiye Nader az Simin (2011)
Beautifully Executed Film
This film is beautifully shot, acted and directed. The characters are complex and almost universally decent and sympathetic. It starts quite slowly, piling detail upon detail of the characters' lives onto the story. Eventually I realized what the main conflict was and I was drawn into it.
All that said, in the end I was a bit bewildered as to what point the director/writer was making. He's so careful to be even-handed and fair to all of the characters that I'm not sure where his film finally lands, or what it is saying.
I have strong expectations of a theme emerging in a film like this, but so far, just a few hours after having viewed it, I'm not sure what that theme is--something about the dilemma of lying for good reason, or the difference between the law and justice.
Maybe someone here can help me out.
Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)
Good ride with a very weak finish
This is a pretty good movie: good characters, good performances and an intriguing premise and story. I like the way the subplots parallel the main plot thematically. But for me, outside of some snappy visual effects, it had a very weak ending. It didn't quite make sense to me.
Given revelations just prior to the climax, I was left wondering *why* this guy still wanted to go back in time, what was at stake, or why the insistence on bringing weapons? Was the State of Washington in 2006 particularly dangerous? This film missed many opportunities to crank up the level of suspense, but particularly at the end, which was just too slack-paced and leisurely in addition to not making sense. The cop characters are terrible, kind of moping around the story, waiting for the chance to blurt out a little exposition, but they're hardly a force in the plot.
Also, I wouldn't go to this movie if you're expecting some kind of laugh riot. I found it mildly amusing in many places, but I would classify it as more of a science-fiction/drama.