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El bar (2017)
Like Quarantine On Steroid
After the first 10 minutes, I thought I was watching a rehash of Quarantine (or its Spanish counterpart, REC), but boy, was I wrong.
Like the two aforementioned movies, El Bar also puts a bunch of random characters in an enclosed space then kills them off one by one. But unlike the other two, the main danger in El Bar doesn't come from external forces, but rather from the characters themselves as they start going insane and turning against one another.
Once that happens, El Bar reveals itself as a really tense and well-written psychological thriller. There's truly never a dull moment with this movie as it keeps reeling you in with new twists and turns that are both bizarre and wicked yet strangely logical. The thrill is then heightened with a amazingly fast-paced style of directing that keeps you at the edge of your seat.
The best thing, however, is that unlike many similar psychological thrillers, El Bar doesn't feel pretentious. It doesn't take itself too seriously and doesn't try to take on more than it can. The director obviously just wants to entertain. Any conclusion, if there was ever any, is up to the viewers. And this movie sure as hell is entertaining.
Ready Player One (2018)
It just feels so... empty
I haven't read the book, so no, this is not one of those the-book-is-better reviews.
I came into this expecting great things, because well, it's Spielberg. And the movie indeed started pretty well. I was awed by the world building and excited for the potential of the story, but all that excitement promptly shattered because I quickly realize that behind the visual epicness, the whole thing is just so empty.
Every character feels like a cliché. And it's not because of their characteristics but because their motivations are so boring and their backstories are poorly presented.
For example, one of the main character has a tragic backstory that is only briefly mentioned with one line of dialogue and then entirely forgotten. Another one went through his own tragic but never expresses any feeling towards it for the rest of the movie.
It's like the backstories are not there to raise our suspense or emotions but only to fill a checklist, so once we're already done with them, they can be safely ignored for the movie to move on with the action scenes.
That of course could still work if the actors were a bit more relatable or charismatic. But sadly, the two leads here are way too awkward and boring to carry the movie without a compelling script.
So by the middle of the second act, I already started asking myself why I should care about any of this and if the villain is really so bad. After all, the actor playing the main villain is the only one doing a good job.
To be fair, Bright actually has a great idea to mix racism and classism with fantasy characters. Such a premise would have made for a really interesting movie, if only it were handled in a subtler way. Instead, it feels like the writers think their audience are morons who need everything dumbed down.
That assessment is especially apparent when you take a look at how they write villainy characters.
There are two sets of villains in this movie: the humans and the elves. The bad humans are racist, greedy, stupid, and like to loudly announce any evil thoughts they have. On the other end of the spectrum, the evil elves have about 3 lines of dialogues in total. Rest of the time they just go around being evil and wreaking havoc. I really don't understand why they would cast such a good actress like Noomi Rapace for such a useless role. Just cast Cara Delevingne or some other eye candies and be done with it.
In other words, so many villains but so few substances.
Worse, there are many plot lines that just become abandoned by the third act. It's obviously another case of movie makers trying to set up for sequels before even finishing the first movie. It reeks of extreme arrogance that they can serve an unfinished product and still think we would beg for more.
Then there's the fantasy world building. This aspect is actually not so bad, since the movie manages to build up a quite elaborate and imaginative world that hints at a dark history with interesting connections.
And like previous David Ayer movies, the action scenes here are rather well-done and enjoyable. Ayer chose a visual style that's neither too 'fantasy' nor too dark. It's not daring, but it works. Will Smith and Joel Edgerton also did a good job with their characters. They have good chemistry and their delivery makes the banters funnier. With that said, Will Smith is still playing his same old character and it gets boring after a while.
In conclusion, Bright is an entertaining action movie, but it has its big share of problems and couldn't live up to the great promises.
Power Rangers (2017)
A Very Pleasant Surprise
Let me start off this review by admitting that I have never been a fan of Power Rangers, despite being a 90s kid. I started watching the show kind of late, and by then I was already old enough to realize that it was very repetitive and predictable. However, I'm actually glad that I am not a fan because it allows me to come into this movie with an open mind and not let nostalgia affects my review.
And the reason I think it's important to keep an open mind is because this movie will not be what you expect it to be. It strays quite far from your typical Power Rangers shows, especially in terms of characterization. In this movie, the whole saving the world thing isn't the central point. Instead, the movie spends most of its run time on the teenagers themselves, exploring their personal lives and their relationships. And it didn't do a half-arsed job at that either. There are actually moments of clarity and connection that feel sincere. In fact, this one movie has more character development than hundreds of episodes of the show combined. And with that, the Power Rangers world suddenly becomes more realistic and interesting without having to go grim and dark to the point of ridiculousness like the new Fanstastic 4 did.
On the other hand, it still manages to somewhat maintain the cheesy aspect of the original show. The main characters are still teenagers that do dumb teenage things every once in a while, and the giant robots and colorful armors that people love still remain intact, they just don't take center stage until the final third.
Acting wise, I think the cast mostly did a good job. My only complaint is Elizabeth Banks's portrayal doesn't seem as complex and interesting as it should be, given the character's background. But maybe they was saving it for future sequel.
All in all, I like the direction the franchise has taken and I really hope to see its sequels get made.
A Good Story Ruined By Terrible Directing
Guy Ritchie once again proved that he no longer has any interest in making good movies, only mediocre ones that he can use to show off his style.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, like Guy Ritchie's previous movies Sherlock Holmes 2 and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., doesn't feel like a complete movie. Instead, Ritchie's choppy and fast-paced style of editing created something that feels like a teaser, an impressive one visual-wise, but still just a teaser for a better movie. It continuously, throughout its entire run time, teases at a legendary story set in an elaborate world full of magical creatures, only to skips forward the minute something interesting appears on screen.
The clearest evident of this problem is when Arthur goes to a place called The Dark Island to train himself on how to wield his power (sounds familiar, Star Wars fan?). This happens half way through the movie and after all the buildup, you wouldn't be faulted for hoping to finally see something truly epic. Unfortunately, this entire sequence takes less than 10 minutes and the movie spends all that precious time jumping back and forth between the action on the island and two characters talking about how dangerous that island is. What is the point, I must ask. If you want us to know the island can prove a big challenge to Arthur, then just show it to us. Show us all the action and all the danger uninterrupted and we'll see for ourselves. Cutting it short and interjecting it with mindless drivel will only make the whole thing meaningless.
And that was only one example. The movie commits this fault time and time again. It loses focus too quickly and never truly invests in its own content until the final third. It's almost as if Ritchie simply had no confidence in the script or the actors and saw the needs to 'enhance' their performances with his editing magic (again, sounds familiar, Star Wars fan?).
It's really a shame because beneath that atrocious editing, you can almost see a good story waiting to be told and good performances waiting to be witnessed. But I guess we'll never truly know and that thought alone makes the whole thing even more frustrating.
A Rose Reborn (2014)
An advertisement in disguise
A short directed by the famed director Chan-wook Park starring Daniel Wu and Jack Huston? Sounds amazing, right? Sadly, I should have known it was too good to be true.
Except for the nice-looking photography, the short is really bland and weird. It begins all mysteriously as if it was trying to give us some deep philosophical meaning, only to end in a very anticlimactic and unimpressive manner. The two good actors are given very flat characters and do not have any room to show their talents.
My biggest complaint, however, is about the inconsistency of the main character played by Huston. He was very hesitant to see Wu's character at first but somehow after just one very brief meeting, agreed to fly around the world and humiliate himself for the other guy. That is not character development, that is just lazy writing.
I was so baffled that a visionary director like Chan-wook Park could come up with something as boring as this, so I look into it some more and what do you know, it's sponsored by Ermenegildo Zegna, a high-fashion brand. They are heavily featured in the film, not only in the sense that you can see their products everywhere, but they also blatantly base a central plot point around their suits and accessories. Therefore, this film is no more than an expensive advertisement.
Eyeshield 21 (2005)
Hilarious characters, lazy animation
I admit that I had zero knowledge about American football before reading the manga that this series was based on. Yet it intrigued me almost immediately and helped me familiarize myself with the sport. The main factor that allows it to achieve this effect was the likable and hilarious characters. They're all weird, goofy, and funny, yet not annoying like many other manga characters. Seeing them interacting with each other is really cute and heart-warming. I also like how the teams all have fun an distinctive themes that they base their plays around, since it makes every game more memorable. These strong points are mostly retained in the anime, though I feel the Japanese voice-over is too tame for some of the larger-than-life characters (like Hiruma).
However, my main complaint is about the art quality. The original manga has its art done by Yusuke Murata (also known for One Punch Man), a manga artist that I personally think is the best currently, yet this series doesn't really show his brilliance. The characters seem much less expressive than they are in the manga and their movements are limited due to the low frame rate and constant animation recycling. Overall, the art in this anime just feels very lazy, which is especially bad for a series about sports.
Also, like its manga, the anime includes a few silly filler episodes that serve no real purpose and I personally think should have been left out.
Enemy at the Gates (2001)
Seeing that 'Enemy at the Gates' features the rarely shown WWII Red Army, I was hoping that it would take a really interesting and thought-provoking look on the war by overcoming the usual Soviet stereotypes and revealing Soviet soldiers and people's beliefs at the time. However, it failed to do any of those things and instead provided us with a cheesy and cliché portrait of war.
Right from the beginning, despite the overwhelming battle scenes, you can already feel that there's something not right: the main characters played by Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, and Joseph Fiennes look too clean and too beautiful compared to their supporting cast and surroundings. Jude Law, in particular, with his perfectly gelled hair and his dreamy blue eyes, looks more like a boy-band member than a soldier. And this image indeed foretells the rest of the movie: it wastes too much time on the cheesy love triangle between the main characters and greatly ruins the tension of the movie. I really wish they could have spent all that time on actually exploring the war and the Red Army, which is instead portrayed in a very cliché and over-the-top way.
Then there is the battle between Jude Law and Ed Harris' characters. Though it does seems gripping at times, mainly because there have not been a lot of movies focusing on snipers, it is ultimately damaged by bad editing and poor characterization. Sequences are usually cut short with details skipped over, making things seem much less dangerous and leaving characters' emotions not fully explored. And Ed Harris' character is just far too bland.
Finally, the biggest problem in my opinion is that characters often seem ridiculously oblivious. For example, there's a scene where Rachel Weisz's character crawls through a vent and finds herself directly above the German base, but somehow, none of the Russians ever decide to use that to their advantages. Or like how the Russians have a spy that has direct contact with Ed Harris's character but only decide to use him after some of their important members have been killed.
In conclusion, 'Enemy at the Gates' never feels like it's really going anywhere, and is a total waste of its interesting settings.
Incoherent and unemotional
The idea overall is very promising: a boy with a clock as the heart must find a way to control his feelings for a girl or his heart might stop. However, the execution is embarrassingly bad.
After the first 10 minutes, which were decent, the movie starts rushing and skipping over details for no reason. First, the boy meets the girl of his dream, with whom he falls in love within seconds. Then the girl disappears, so he decides to attend her school, in which he meets a bunch of bullies, and BAM, years are skipped and he turns into a teenager. By this point, the girl and the boy still haven't had any significant on screen interactions except that one initial meeting, yet she still gives him a gift box for some reason, and somehow that gift turns up in the hands of his bully, and fighting ensues. Just like that, the movie keeps going in a very confusing and messy fashion. Many characters appear without warning only to disappear within minutes, and their emotions and motivations are rarely explored. Moreover, the relationship between the two main characters is so unconvincing that even Disney's films from 1960s can do better.
Nevertheless, the animation is pretty good. Some parts actually look great, both in technology and style, especially the musical sequences. Still, I really don't like the character style used here as it makes the characters quite creepy and emotionless.
I also find the music pretty boring, but that might be a consequence of the English dubbing, which is terrible by the way.
In conclusion, if you're a die-hard animation fan, you might want to check 'Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart' for the visuals. Other than that, I'm afraid this movie has nothing else to offer.
Million Dollar Arm (2014)
Formulaic and pretty boring
'Million Dollar Arm' is a formulaic feel-good sport movie produced by Disney, just like tons of other films that you can see every day on their TV channels.
The movie stars Jon Hamm as JB, a sport agent who comes to India to find new baseball talents to help his struggling career, and in the process, learns to enjoy life. Right from the first 10 minutes, you can already see a big problem with the movie's direction: its inconsistent tone. One moment it is all cheerful and comedic with Indian music in the background, and right in the next, it shifts to Jon Hamm's character angrily punching his driving wheel in the fashion of Brad Pitt in Moneyball. It's like the movie can't even decide whether it wants to be just a fun family film or a more daring and emotional one. And in the end, it became neither. It's not either comedic or exciting enough to be fun, and it's just far too safe to be really emotional. None of the characters, including the lead, ever really stray off-course. Everyone seems nice, understanding and reasonable. Even when there are some kinds of disagreement, JB will always come to his senses and sort things out shortly after.
As the result, it's quite clear after a while that's the movie doesn't really have anything to tell, and has to rely on cheesy drama to keep things going. And even then, instead of focusing on the direct relationship between JB and his Indian players, the movie cops out and uses Brenda, his tenant played by Lake Bell, to represent them and simplify all conflicts even further.
The only positive thing about 'Million Dollar Arm' is that it has a fairly good cast. Jon Hamm does his best with what little materials the role gives him, while Lake Bell and Pitobash are both surprisingly good in some scenes.
'Million Dollar Arm', like most formulaic Disney sport films, is not bad. It has its moment thanks to the cast, but there's really nothing memorable about it.
Man of Steel (2013)
A flawed but admirable effort
I guess one can say that 'Man of Steel' is quite a controversial piece of work. People who like it praise it as one of the best superhero movies ever, while people who hate it can keep making hundreds of jokes about how ridiculous it is. Personally, I find myself agree and disagree with both sides.
The movie can be separated into two parts, the first is about Clark Kent's origin, and his journey before taking on the cape, and the second is when General Zod attacks and fighting ensues.
The first part is pretty good. It takes the familiar Superman's origin story, and put some twists on it, which not only make it much less boring, but also provide a significantly good insight into Clark Kent's personalities and everyday struggles. The Clark Kent of this movie is not portrayed as the flawless heroic icon that he usually is, but rather as a brave and responsible but very confused and inexperienced young man. That's why he makes plenty of fatal mistakes, which make him a lot more human, likable and easy to relate to, instead of predictable and boring like the old Superman that we're used to. I find that a lot of criticism for the movie comes from people who simply can't understand this side of the character. They seem to expect the perfect hero like usual and can't look past the action to see the man behind it.
Then comes the second part, which is probably not bad if you're a die-hard action fan, but I myself think is quite dull. The action in this part tends to drag out too much at a constantly fast pace that soon becomes very frustrating, especially when the Kryptonians' fighting style here doesn't involve beautiful, eye-catching techniques but usually just flying around at high speed, punching, and throwing stuff at each other.
Other than that, the cast are all good, especially Henry Cavill and Kevin Costner, and the visuals is terrific, as you would expect from a movie by Zack Snyder.
I considered 'Man of Steel' a quite admirable and somewhat successful effort to update Superman. Although it's not perfect, it accomplished what it set out to do: making Superman much more interesting and memorable, and opening up a lot of possibilities for future sequels.
Cat Shit One (2010)
Much better than expected
With that premise and especially that ridiculous title, one would expect this to be some over-the-top satirical comedy, but in fact, it turns out to be a very serious war film. You can just replace the animals in this with humans, and you'll get yourself a typical Hollywood product.
I guess the reason the creators chose to feature animals instead of humans was to make the film less violent and controversial so that viewers can suspend their political views and just see the film for what it is. And it works splendidly. With the fluffy rabbits in place of real soldiers, the film becomes much more memorable and interesting than it would normally have.
I also appreciate that they try to give the main characters some connections and progress within the short runtime, though those are no more than cliché Hollywood stuff.
The animation is good for an independent product. The character models are great with very smooth movement, and the explosion effects are OK. The only real problem I see is that sometimes the characters don't blend well with the backgrounds.
In conclusion, this short is one surprisingly fun and solid film that action lovers should really see for themselves.
Big Hero 6 (2014)
Very entertaining and overall well-made
Honestly, I didn't have very high expectations for 'Big Hero 6', considering that I'm usually not a fan of Marvel's works, but I was gladly proved wrong.
Story wise, 'Big Hero 6' is rather formulaic and not too outstanding, but it's still very entertaining due to the way it balances all aspects. You have everything: drama that's not over the top but still touching, thrilling action, great comedy, and some okay twists. And more importantly, they all mix together perfectly, so you'll never get bored or frustrated, and at the same time, you will feel connected with the characters as they deal with some mature conflicts rarely seen in recent Disney products. A huge part of this accomplishment is thanks to the character Baymax. The guy is amazingly likable, steals every scene he's in, and has great contributions to every part of the movie. When the movie needs drama, he provides the sensitivity and cuteness, when it needs action, he's the coolest, and when it needs comedy, he's the funniest. His voice acting by Scott Adsit is also great as he sounds both emotional and cute, despite the robotic voice effects.
The rest of the characters, however, are hit and miss. Hiro is cool, and I like the way he deals with grief: quite mature and not excessive, though his voice doesn't sound like a 14-year-old. The other two boys in the group are okay because they tend to break away from stereotypes. But the others, including the main villains, are just cliché and forgettable.
Visually, 'Big Hero 6' is very stunning, mainly due to the lively San Fransokyo and the impressive effects. Personally, I find some of the action scenes in this to be the most cinematic and thrilling I've ever seen in animation. All of the camera movements, slow-motions, and lighting and explosion effects easily rival the best live-action blockbusters out there. Moreover, the characters' visual designs are also more imaginative than other recent Disney products'. This is especially true for Baymax, who is surprisingly expressive despite the minimalistic looks.
'Big Hero 6' is no masterpiece, and it may not be up to the standards of Pixar's classics or Dreamworks' 'How to Train Your Dragon', but nonetheless, it's still a greatly entertaining and well-made movie. I also love that it still leaves a lot open for the sequels as I now really look forward to them.
Extremely boring and cliché
Despite all the talented people involved, 'Contagion' turned out to be a boring mess.
There is nothing remotely impressive about the plot. The characters are incredibly cliché, boring and flat. You have a few responsible but powerless scientists, some selfish dumb-asses that will mess everything up, a worrying father with an annoying teen-aged child, etc. In other words, all the typical people that you can find in any similar movies. Then they are put into situations ranging from family affairs to political conspiracies, which are all painfully predictable and more cliché than the characters themselves. Even when there are some more intriguing plot lines, they will often be abruptly ended in the most disappointing and anticlimactic manners. Consequently, the whole movie feels like just a long list of possible scenarios, not a meaningful and complete story. Furthermore, it's not even merely entertaining since most of the controversial things are not shown but awkwardly told through dialogues, something you would only expect from cheap TV movies, not from a movie with 5 Oscar winners and a bunch of other A-list stars.
The directing is even more disappointing. I guess the director, Steven Soderbergh, was trying to make this look more realistic, like a documentary, but the result is an awkward-looking film with static and prolonged shots that sometimes feel like a long corporate advertisement.
The acting, on the other hand, is not too bad. Most of the cast deliver, despite being given very little room. The only complain I have regards this aspect is about Jude Law since his performance seems way over the top compared to the rest.
'Contagion' is perhaps somewhat successful at portraying a more realistic image of a world-wide disaster, but that doesn't make it a successful or interesting movie. Instead, it's just really disjointed and pointless, almost feels like a bunch of clichés from many previous disaster movies crammed together.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)
All over the place
First, the positive things: the animation is beautiful with excellent character designs and big improvements in lighting effects. I like the way the young characters now look more mature and bad-ass. The voice acting, just like in the first movie, is great. I especially enjoyed Jay Baruchel and America Ferrera's voices.
Now comes the bad parts. The story is just all over the place. It contains two main plot lines that have little to do with each other, and the movie spends the whole first hour jumping back and forth between them, trying to connect them and establish the plot but still fails to explore any of them thoroughly. Every event happens too fast and too suddenly that viewers just don't have time to truly feel any impacts they have. The characters, especially the new ones, seriously lack real emotions and convincing motivations. Any emotions that they do have, just simply don't last long enough as they usually get interrupted by the terrible pace. As the result, everything feels really forced, vague, and frustrating.
The jokes are also awful. They get repeated a lot and most are either too childish or just lame.
Overall, 'How to Train Your Dragon 2' is not a bad movie. It's actually quite entertaining thanks to the action and the great visuals, but still pretty messy and underwhelming, especially compared to the first one. I read somewhere that the script for this movie is in fact a combination of two planned sequels, so that's probably the reason for its weird plot.
A terrific tale that exceeds normal expectations
'Munich' is not really a movie about Israel vs Palestine, nor it is about right vs wrong, but it is, in fact, a movie about human beings in the conflict between humanity and loyalty.
Steering clear from all stereotypes and expectations, this movie soon shows that it doesn't take any side as it is neither pro-Semitism nor anti-Arabs. The main characters are never seen as heroes, and you will find yourself questioning many choices they make, while their enemies, including the terrorists, are presented with small but amazingly effective details to show their humanity and their struggle, all of which force us to take a step back, and reconsider our prejudices. I especially like the part where one Munich terrorist tells his hostages to calm down and that they will soon get released. Although that doesn't come true as the rescue effort forces them to retaliate, it still shows us that those people are also humans, but were put into the wrong environment and situation, just like the main character himself.
Another great aspect is certainly the characterization. This movie has so many impressive supporting characters, many of which only appear for a few minutes but are still able to leave big impacts on viewers' minds. Characters like Carl (Ciarán Hinds), Ephraim (Geoffrey Rush), Golda Meir (Lynn Cohen), and Papa (Michael Lonsdale) are perfectly cast, and so well-portrayed.
But then, 'Munich', unfortunately, still lacks so much to achieve the masterpiece status. Firstly, many scenes, including the ones that are supposed to be thrilling, seem so slow and dragged-out, which make them very anti-climactic. With the runtime of nearly 3 hours, the movie definitely should have been more tightly edited. Secondly, some scenes, such as the death scenes and the sex scene near the beginning, feel very awkward due to bad acting from the extras, and bad camera work. Sometimes I just can't believe I'm watching a movie made by the same man that directed 'Indiana Jones' and 'Saving Private Ryan'. And finally, I'm not really convinced by Eric Bana's performance. The actor is usually effective in other movies, but in this one, he seems quite bland, especially when put next to all those fantastic supporting actors.
Overall, 'Munich' is a very admirable effort by Steven Spielberg. It has so much depth, and it broke away from many traditions. However, it still could have been much better, had he not rushed the production so much.
Das Experiment (2001)
Good thriller but not as interesting as it pretends to be
'The Experiment' is based on the famous Stanford Prison Experiment, in which 24 Stanford students took on the roles of guards and prisoners for a psychological experiment in 1971. And within a period of only 6 days, those students had adapted to their roles so well that the conductors had to shut down the experiment prematurely. The experiment was seen by the conductors as an example for their hypothesis that the personality traits of prisoners and guards are the chief cause of abusive behavior in prison. However, it has since gone through quite a lot of criticism for many things including the ways the conductors influenced test subjects through their instructions, and the fact that students who volunteered for the experiment were mostly aggressive and authoritarian. It's also notable that BBC attempted to replicate this experiment in 2002 but did not get the same result.
So in short, the Stanford Prison Experiment is not really an interesting discovery as it aspired to be, and so is this movie. Compared to the real-life experiment, the movie is even more ridiculous since it eventually ignores the test subjects' salary, one of the driven factors in the original experiment, and more importantly, it fails to mention the experiment's goal, and therefore makes the whole thing rather pointless. As the result, the only thing that the movie has 'proven' is violent people will act violently given the chance, a fact that can be seen in almost all thriller/action movies ever.
The execution, fortunately, is a bit better that the premise. It's actually very suspense and gripping at times, and the characters' progression, at least within the first hour, is quite logical. The acting, however, was much less convincing. I've found myself laughing at some scenes that were supposed to be serious due to the terrible supporting cast. It also contains some very implausible details like how unprepared and understaffed the conductors are, or the relationship between the main character and his 'girlfriend'. I especially question the parts with the girlfriend, because I'm still not sure why the movie makers even felt that they needed to have her in the movie. As far as I can see, all she does is dragging the movie out, and showing some nudity.
In conclusion, 'The Experiment' is a quite entertaining movie with a unique setting, but that's it. There's nothing really groundbreaking, or interesting about it. If that's what you expect, then I recommend watching a documentary on the original experiment instead.
The Secret of NIMH (1982)
An utter disappointment
The Secret of NIMH is usually praised as a classic, a masterpiece, and the best work of Don Bluth. I enjoy The Land Before Time, another movie by him, so naturally I had quite high expectations for this movie. However, it was a big disappointment.
Right from the beginning, the story has shown how silly it is. Somehow, the movie's heroine is willing to risk the safety of her three children, and waste a lot of time doing all kinds of dangerous errands just because 'the air is bad' for her fourth child. Why not just find a warm blanket, wrap him up and run? With all those people around, they could even carry his bed with him on it. That whole deal is clearly just a poor excuse to get the story going.
And then things got worse. Characters just keep appearing out of nowhere with dim intentions and unexplained relations. What is the relationship between the Great Owl and the rats? What is the rats' plan exactly? What does the villain really want? How does NIHM know about their hideout? And what's so special about NIHM if normal mice like Mrs Brisby can do what those rats and mice from NIHM do anyway? Questions after questions about the plot keep popping up but never get answered.
Finally comes the horrible ending which was just a total deus ex machina. The rats, who before that point were just intelligent animals that relied on technology, somehow managed to create magical artifacts, which the heroine was given for some unknown reasons, and then used to save the day. The end. An utterly terrible and lazy excuse of a plot.
The animation, despite being quite good for its time, especially with the special effects, is still not really satisfying for me due to the simple and unimaginative backgrounds. And the sound editing is just terrible compared to Disney movies of the same period.
To sum up, this movie may be good for the 1980s thanks to having a more complex plot than most other animated movies at the time, but judging from today's point of view, it's a very flawed and forgettable product.
Peaky Blinders (2013)
Second season was such a let down
When I first saw Peaky Blinders, I was so excited. It's a gangster drama series in the spirit of Boardwalk Empire but set in 19th- century England, a setting so rarely shown in movies or TV shows. It showcases the talents of Cillian Murphy (one of my favorite actors), Sam Neill, and especially the impressive Helen McCrory. The show also has very high production quality: good set, good costumes, and fantastic cinematography, all of which helped build up an amazing, immersive feeling for the series. The writing was less impressive at first, since things seemed to be a bit too easy for the main character, Thomas Shelby, but it got significantly better by the end of the season when many things that were set up at the beginning started to get connected.
Then the much anticipated season 2 came, with even more great actors added to the cast (Noah Taylor, Tom Hardy). It seemed like the show could only get better, but it didn't. In fact, it got a lot worse. The 'amazing' Thomas Shelby now got even more unbelievable, while his intellectual rivals in season 1 like Inspector Campbell or Aunt Polly are greatly degraded to weak and pathetic characters. Moreover, Thomas and his family members just kept getting out of all kinds of dangerous situations in the most ridiculous ways. A lot of characters in the show feel like they have run their courses and should have been killed off long ago, but somehow the writers still found ways to keep them alive. This kind of writing not only made the show very predictable and boring, but also resulted in many characters became annoying and ridiculously different from their own selves in season 1. Even the newly added cast couldn't save the show since they have very limited screen time due to the huge amount of characters the show is keeping around. The worst thing is that the show contains some very obvious continuity mistakes. I don't know how that was even possible, considered that it only has one main writer throughout.
In conclusion, with this kind of writing, I won't have much expectation for the future of this show.
The Book of Life (2014)
Beautiful, well-crafted animation
The movie starts with a cliché setting: a bunch of delinquent kids come to a museum and get to hear a story from a mysterious guide. From there, it goes on quite slowly and unimpressively with all the background mythology being introduced through narrating, and the introduction of the three pretty typical main characters. But after these first 10 minutes or so, the magical beautiful world of the movie truly starts to unfold.
Visually, this movie is one of the best recently, not just because of the technology, but because it was able to build a whole world of its own. While Dreamworks and Disney lately have kept making movies after movies with basically the same safe and boring art style, the makers of this one have set out to create a style of their own. It's so bold, so gorgeous, and more importantly, it fits the story perfectly. You can feel the great attention to details given into every character and every frame, making them all so lively, unique, and beautiful.
Another great thing is the characterization. Most supporting characters are memorable and interesting despite having little screen time. This is due in no small part to the unique designs and good voice works. It actually make me want to see a whole series of shorts just to know more about each of them. It reminds me of those great classic video games from LucasArts like the Monkey Island series or Grim Fandango, which were also famous for great characters.
The story overall is your typical love triangle, but the way it fits into the theme, and brings us through different settings with all the great characters make the experience very worthwhile. The humor is silly but quite on point, in terms of both timing and delivering. The songs are also good, though I'm a bit disappointed that they used some covers instead of all-original soundtracks. The only thing I really hate is the parts with those kids at the museum, because it's so distracting and it feels like they're trying to dumb down the movie by having the guide explain things to the viewers.
Overall, this is a very entertaining movie with a good message and beautiful animation. I recommend watching this in 3D and with a big screen if you can to really see all of its greatness.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
Disney's messy attempt to be more mature
The way I see it, this movie was Disney's answer to the successes of Dreamworks and Japanese anime in the beginning of the century. It was heavily action-oriented, has countless deaths (some was even pretty gruesome), and no singing scenes. The animation style was also drastically changed, resulted in something that look a lot more like Dreamworks' than Disney's. Kudos to them for trying, but it seems like they didn't really know what they wanted.
First and foremost, the characters are very cliché, and just not fleshed out enough. Most of them have very little screen time. The movie tries to give them some back-stories but those are all pretty ordinary, and provide nothing to the characters. The worst of them is, sadly, the main character himself. The guy started off as a clumsy and weak nerd, who couldn't even drive a truck, but somehow by the third act, he's already become an awesome fighting leader who bosses professional mercenaries around. There's no real character development. All of their conflicts are quickly solved with a few lines.
The story is even worse. It's predictable and confusing at the same time. By the first look, you'll already know which characters are going to be the villains, and which are going to turn to the main character's side. The movie also pays zero interest in actual science. Atlantis with Asian architecture? Atlanteans speaking modern French and English? Submarine with steam engine? And worst of all, the mythology of the movie is never fully explained and seems to contradict itself a lot.
It seems like the writers just couldn't decide what this movie was. One moment it was all goofy with wacky characters, and the next it was all serious with deaths and explosions everywhere. Then right after those deaths, it turns back to childish slapstick humor like nothing happened. As a result, the movie seriously lacks emotions and motivations.
Had this been an usual children-friendly movie from Disney, I may have led it slides, but as an attempt to be more mature, this movie failed horribly. The only positive thing I can say about it is that it has pretty awesome visual style. If you want to see a mature and action-oriented Disney animated movie, I'd recommend Treasure Planet instead of this.
Du zhan (2012)
Great acting and some nice twists but hurt by censorship
I admit that after reading some great reviews, I went into this movie expecting big things, and that might be why I felt so led down.
This is by no means a bad movie. There are some good twists here and there, accompanied by a gritty and truthful style of directing unseen it most Hollywood products. I mean in what serious Hollywood movie can you see cops pulling over to pee in the middle of the road. The acting by the two lead actors was great. Loius Koo was subtle as the villain, while Honglei Sun saved his boring role with his flexibility. I also like the way some villains were portrayed, showing them as more humane than in most other products from mainland China.
But ultimately, it still doesn't live up to its potential. The cops in this movie, staying true to Chinese propaganda, are all one- dimensional heroes who are always willing to sacrificed for the greater good. There were no internal conflicts, no questions asked, not even some hesitations. They all just quietly do what they're told. In fact, most of them maintained only one facial expression throughout the movie: anger. They were mere puppets used to show the movie's story, not realistic and engaging characters. And of course, the ending with the good triumph over evil can be seen from miles away, despite the director's effort to spice it up.
Considered the strict media censorship in China, this was probably the best the director could do, but it's still a waste of a nice premise. That's why I'm really looking forward to the upcoming South Korean remake.
Person of Interest (2011)
Used to be great but went down the drain after 2 and a half seasons
The first 2 seasons of this show were amazing. It was full of interesting mysteries, had a nice balance between sci-fi and detective thriller. And on top of that, the chemistry between the characters was terrific. Even one-time characters were memorable, and actually made you care for their stories.
But after the death of a main character in season 3, everything started to go downhill. It abandoned any reality it once had by replacing the ordinary mobs and corrupted cops with unbelievable organizations and government conspiracies. Back in the first two seasons, the main villains were well introduced throughout many episodes and flashbacks, and thanks to that, they all seemed realistic and special, but now the new villains are all similar mysterious figures whose purposes I couldn't care less about.
It's even worse when both of the new main characters that they brought onto the show are very 'out-there'. One is a total psychopath, and the other is just the female version of another main character. Now instead of good chemistry between realistic and likable characters, viewers have to subject themselves to identical characters acting all tough with boring one-liners and predictable actions.
Also every small case on the show now seems to serve the main story-line, which means they usually get little attention and are very predictable.
All in all, I give the first two seasons of the show 8/10, but the third season is only a 6.5 at best.
Nice premise, but no substance
I really want to like this show. It has an interesting concept, good casting, and especially a film noir visual style that's different from most other cop shows on TV. The pilot was pretty good too, despise some poor editing, and it built up all the characters pretty nicely.
But then things got bad pretty quick. All the main villains' quirkiness soon feel repetitive and really dull. It gets to the point that you just stop getting surprised by anything they do. And it's especially bad that most of their lines feel very forced and cheesy.
There are also many parts in the story that feel really rushed and dumbed down. For example, most cases just involve Gordon or E.Nygma picking up something from the crime scene that plainly leads them to a suspect who then points them to another suspect, so on and so forth. 9 out of 10 times, there aren't any real twists, nor any logical explanations to the criminals' intents and methods. It seems that since it's Gotham, they expect us to just believe that everyone is as mad as Joker. Even the main storyline isn't much better. Most of the characters, including the Mafia bosses, are just extremely gullible, and act without much logic. Some others are becoming annoying and it seems apparent that even the writers don't know what to do with them anymore.
The only saving point for me, story wise, is the parts with the young Bruce Wayne and Alfred. They're different, and interesting. But then they don't contribute much to the main story, at least not at the moment.
In short, Gotham is a nice idea poorly executed. I really think they should just drop the main story for a while and focus on improving their small cases, turning this into something less ambitious but more coherent, because obviously they don't have the ability to run something at this scale yet.