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the water is shallow
10 June 2018
Sketchy is the first word that comes to my after seeing Del Toro's the Shape of Water; a film of crude story telling, gimmicky characters, and obvious direction. How on earth did this win over the Academy.

This rendition of the beauty and the beast tale, pairs a mute janitor with a captive swamp monster. Bathed in an oversaturated color palette, the movie looks and plays like a comic book where the characters have no free will and are mostly representational, including the bible thumping villain, who (for no needed reason) also makes a perverted sexual move on our protagonist.

Del Toro's decision to make the heroine mute is so that she can learn to communicate with the creature via sign language. If you stop to think about it , you don't need to be speechless in order to communicate with hand gestures. Just imagine all the things that Eliza would say to the creature if she could speak, Maybe she could even make a couple of jokes, which would be a blessing to this rather humourless enterprise. There is a greater feeling that Eliza is made mute. cause she needs to be vulnerable and sympathetic.

The romantic relationship feels rushed and has no shape, in fact the whole movie feels a good half hour shorter than it should be. It's possible that Del Toro came under studio pressure to fit the story into two hours, but as a result, certain important devices like Eliza's strange sexual fetish are barely illuminated.

It is bewildering that a del Toro movie could have a creature as boring as this one. The texture is there, but the character is not. Bland in personality and largely inanimate, his primary function is to be a love interest, in a love story that is hard to relate to. Admirable set decoration is the only highlight of the movie.
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The force awakens and the audience goes Zzzzzz
1 January 2018
J J Abrams (with the blessing of Disney) has manages to reunite the band, but fails to awaken the force. His sence of pacing has the rushed feel of the television world, as if he thought he were making a one hour pilot. He has somehow managed to edit out almost the entire story leaving nothing but action scenes behind. Aquaintances and friendships are made between characters in such absurdly rushed fashion that it makes you yearn for the more zen pace of Lucas' writing.

Kudos for the removal of all the racial stereotypes. There are no Jar Jars or Wattos here, but then again there is little in the way of imagination either. We've seen everything before, all the characters, weapons, costumes, fight scenes. They simply do not stand out in an age that is over saturated with CG characters. The one highlight in the 'animated cast' is the supreme leader Snoke seated at his throne in the shadows. If nothing else he may be the tallest speaking part in the Star Wars universe.

The movie rests very much on the shoulders of two new youths Rei (Daily Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega). Both of them have the kind of Tom Cruise hyperdrive that make them essentially excellent video game characters; Two bodies who can never do a thing wrong regardless of the circumstances. In one scene Rey first demonstrates that she can use the force and pulls off a trick so easily that it insults all the long days that Luke spent training with Yoda. Finn meanwhile gets to wield the Skywalker Lightsaber, long before he has earned the right to even touch it. (This is a crown jewel in the treasury of classic film props for god sake)

What this moment demostrated to me is the that film does not really have much respect for all that is sacred in Star Wars, it merely showcases the pieces. Sure we have Han and Leia back but their so their funtion is mostly plot advancement. They have a short exchange which hints at some inner demons regarding events that took place somewhere between episode 6 and this, a missed chance for a good prologue scene.
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Remember (I) (2015)
Polished and well acted, but with some lumps
27 December 2017
To a certain extent, Remember is arguably Egoyan's best work since Ararat. Sure you can argue that Where the Truth Lies and Chloe were eroticly good B-movies, but they would never be mistaken for 'art'

Remember sees Christopher Plummer as a 90 year old auwshwitz survivor, in a home and losing his facilities. He is told by a nurse (or reahter reminded) that his wife past away a couple months back, and so he sets out on a personal quest that he promised to undertake after she past, to find and kill the SS officer who murdered his family in the camp.

Christopher Plummers damanaged, vulnerable and empathetic performance is something of a gem to find in an Egoyan film. He has always been a director with an eye towards cold and distant qualities in his characters.

The tone is very mellow exept for one sequence where Breaking Bad's Dean Norris comes into the picture and fills the shoes of the late Maury Chakin, as the one sketchy and obnoxoius oaf in the Egoyan oeuve. His performance as the square head county deputy with small man syndrome body languade feels more reminicent of the people in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise. Plummer is strong enough to carry the movie though the minor contrivances, but the finale has a surprise twist that would have been more clever if it wasn't so shoehorned at the last minute.
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Dunkirk (2017)
One of the years best
20 November 2017
Dunkirk is a director's achievement.

It's in the way that Nolan stages a handful of brutally suspenseful sequences of peril with an unobtrusive grace that so many directors lack. He allows the camera to linger when others may have cut. He knows that there is no rush to get to the next scene or set up. The characters are stranded on the bleach shores of northern France. They are not going anywhere, so why should we. We can feel their frustration at being a stones throw away from England while the Nazi fighters and u-boat sink every vessel that attempts to get them off the beach.

Nolan has a rare ability to make the audience feel small though his placement of the camera and the depth of his frame. The wide shots are stunning, but without being distracting. That sea and the sky go on forever, which is as beautiful as it is intimidating because certain supporting characters are racing the clock to get to reach that spot on the distant horizon.

There are certain sequences of human drama spread across the film with many be small but they represent what is great. If you are looking for character in Dunkirk you may be disappointed. Similar to films like Gravity, the characters are us. The only distictive individual is Mark Rylance as a veteran sailor taking his boat across the channel to get some of the boys home. He is going on a virtual suicide mission with a casual demeanour that is some kind of extraordinary. It is as if he has convinced himself that if he fears than he fails. He represents what is the movie's strongest theme; the power of ordinary people. The soldiers get home on the private vessels and fishing boats of ordinary Englanders who were willing to heed the call.

The one weakness of the movie is the same as that of Nolans last two films, the sound mix is murky and the dialog often inaudible.
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A day to celebrate (falls a tad short though)
20 November 2017
Not a masterpiece, but definitely a show worth seeing

Word is that zeppelin never formally rehearsed for it, and occasionally it shows. They are not as tight as they could be and some of Pages guitar work is a bit muddled because the levels have not been perfectly balanced, but still most of the hits land. Trampled underfoot and Kashmir would have to be the shows highlights, while stairway to heaven sounds a bit too grungy and Page kind of mails in the solo.

Jason Bonham to his credit summons the muster of his father (and sometimes even more). Even when the other guys are seeming a little on the slow side, Bonham's drumming is able to compensate and keep the drive going. Minus a bit of lung capacity, Robert Plant still maintains all the showmanship he had thirty years earlier (including the microphone lasso), and John Paul Jones has all the grace on the keys and jazzy dexterity on the bass.

Sent from my iPhone
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Lots of eye candy and a massive disregard for human life
20 November 2017
Valerian begins with a great title sequence. It depicts the formation of a galactic alliance through a montage of handshakes with delegates of various alien species, to the tune of Space Oddity.

Writer director Luc Besson has built an extraordinary and vibrant universe that could rival that of George lucas'. The list of adjectives that could describe the production design is endless, as is the time that Besson has invested in it. Unfortunately the movie fails because his two leads are not so invested.

Major Valerian (Dane DeHann) and his new partner Laureline (Cara Delevigne) do not have the chemistry that is really the key to the movie being entertaining. In fact the two of them are just down right depressing. Both of them, when they are not fighting, look like spoiled brats who are too lazy to even be capable of what their obvious stunt doubles do.

Delevigne looks so bitter and murky as if she is angry with the production for not giving her a personal manicurist. DeHann, is a bit more engaged but lacks wit or charisma. The script throws him a bunch of 'would be funny' one liners, which he delivers as if there was an off screen gun pointed at his head.

There are two or three sequences of great spectacle which drag on too long, wasting screen time that could have been on the protagonists. One of them features Rhiannon (as an alien), who steps in for an irrelevant burlesque dance number, which is the kind of excess that dim witted studio heads ask for.

Besson choreographs some epic swirling wide shots to take us in and out of his grand colourful set pieces but his action scenes are strangely boring. Part of the problem is that the plot is just so darned confusing and lousy at giving exposition. The characters may understand the physics and laws of his jungle, but we the audience do not. There is a badly edited chase scene that intercuts between Major Valerian in two parallel dimensions on the same planet.

The movie has grown tedious by the time we get to the climax. Laureline gives Valerian a cringe worthy speech about the power of love just before a climactic shoot out begins and then the story drops its love birds on the path that could lead to an unwanted sequel.
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Mudbound (2017)
About as good as it can be (with such a derivative script)
19 November 2017
Mudbound stands as tall as it can, on its conviction and the quality of the performances, but its feet are sinking into the ground under the weight of too many clichés. The material is too familiar; kindness overwhelming racial tension, disgruntling aftermath of war and family feuding tied to a fallen American dream. It is heavily saturated in themes that are as rich as they are unoriginal, and the script is comprised of recycled lines like "At least I looked 'em in the eye when I killed 'em" and "You're not a big war hero, you're a drunk."

But the movie still gets by. It's a smoothly interwoven soap opera about two families the McAllens (white) and the Jackson's (Black) living on the same piece of Mississippi farmland, both with a son who has gone (and come back from) the war. The sons become friends. Together they wallow in self pity, but deep down they have a yearning to be back there, where they feel they belong, where they are seen as heroes, and where colour matters not.

The early scenes in the movie are cut fairly short to accommodate the exposition of an ensemble cast As a result, the opening act feels a bit rushed, but it succeeds in setting up a realized and sympathetic environment.

In so far as the movie has any breakthroughs, it showcases rising star Garrett Hedlund in best acting to date. He sports a Glarke Gable moustache that is so sexy its almost distracting in a film where everyone is covered in dirt. but the mud is the real star of the movie. It brings a reality to an otherwise dreamy landscape of warm sunsets and endless fields of green.
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Ultraman X (2015– )
It's garbage for kids but Ultraman looks better than ever.
14 November 2017
If you were wondering what is the best point of entry into the Ultraman universe, this series probably wouldn't be the first recommendation by fans, but it is still not a bad place to start.

What makes X rise above previous series, in this over milked franchise is the quality of the effects. The fights are better choreographed, and the monsters no longer look like obvious men in costumes. The camera work is more animated and uses angles that give a better illusion of scale, The editing is tighter, the green screening more polished, and the miniature effects more realized. Previous series like Ultraman Max and Mebius, feature the kind of squibed flame bursts and smoke effects that you would see at a kiss concert to recreate laser beam impacts or car explosions. In the end, all that this really achieves is making the show a little less plastic. The truth is, this is terrible television.

But so what? Ultraman has all the same superficial charms as Power Rangers. The target audience is ten year old boys, but the show can still be enjoyed if you are a bit older; Most of it is eye candy. There is a hidden 'cuteness' factor to Ultraman that often gets over looked but is part of the appeal. Deep down we accept that all the monsters, and Ultramen look like oversized versions of the toys we used to love. The Heroes wear matching spiffy leather uniforms that look like they came right out of the box and ready for a cosplay convention. Their armoured vehicles look like Hot Wheels, in all their NASCAR coloured glory., and their laser guns are the kind that every ten year old boy wants to shoot.

Each episode sees large portions of city turned to rubble but the beginning of the next episode always feels like a brand new day. There is never any emotional impact from what preceded or even any sign that previous damage has been done. Ultraman faces off his enemies in the same miniaturized set over and over, with occasional changes in scenery. It's all very much like a day dream, that recurs over and over. Once you've seen one episode, you've seen pretty much all of them.
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The next Murdoch?
13 November 2017
Sporting a short crop of fiery red hair and exceptional, elongated curves, Private eye Frankie Drake look as if she stepped out of an Art Deco fashion Billboard. Frankie, as played by Lauren Lee Smith is the kind of gal I'd want on my arm on a luxury liner, but is she fit to get her hands dirty and be a detective? only on a show like this. Frankie will be a blessing for CBC, but she wouldn't survive a second on Cable TV.

Like Murdoch Mysteries, Frankie is a gorgeous period piece which seems unfortunately content to be light weight. It may be too soon to make any major judgments but compared to William Murdoch, and his refined 'afraid to wrinkle his suit' demeanour, Franke has a bit of Pizzaz. The question is whether she is just too photogenic. There were moments between the first two episode where Smith looks as if she is posing for a candid playboy photographer behind the curtain. Frankie as played by Smith is easily a winning formula, but her charm is potentially counter productive to the shows evolving feminist agenda.

The show benefits from an elegant (and not too intrusive) jazzy score that drops you right into the turn of the century. Sets and Costumes are (not surprisingly) quality work, and Frankie will surely be in competition with Murdoch for those Genie awards. But like Murdoch, Frankie looks destined to hover nervously between comedy and drama and will never have the guts to achieve maximum effect in either, expect for the odd scene or two.
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A bit funnier but mostly the same thing
13 November 2017
"How can you guys be friends? all you do is argue." asks Gomora's sister. For most of the first half, I confess, I was asking myself the very same question. The script is 80% bickering, which makes Guardians paradoxically entertaining and not. The banter is the film's highlight, but its not easy to invest in a family that only ever points out the worst in each other. Rocket has enough material to be an insult comic.

Director James Gunn's strength is his ability to set up laughs both in dialog and in shot. He has a good eye for framing shots to make the most out of the visual gags. Just when you think the movie is starting to take itself seriously, he throws in another punch.

Perhaps it could be argued then that his weakness is restraint. The action set pieces are a circus of animation and disorienting camera work, and there are far too many colours on the palette (including pink). When everything is dazzling to look at, nothing is. The climax is an especially shaky fiasco, pitting the guardians against Quill's super villain father and his generic super villain plot involving control of the universe. Here we have Kurt Russell playing Kurt Russell, and never knowing how seriously to take himself from line to line.

The script makes it a priority to shed light on Peter Quill, but less for the sake of the character and more for the sake of embedding plot device; Isn't that always the case? It's a shame that Chris Pratt has nothing to bring beyond his face. Even his one liners fall flat, because he takes himself so darned seriously for the camera.

Stan Lee gets his usual funny cameo but more unexpected is a guest appearance by Sylvestor Stallone, who is just in the movie long enough (and not too long) to be good.
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Logan Lucky (2017)
Some laughs to be had, but it's forgettable.
10 November 2017
There are laughs to be had in Logan Lucky, but between those moments it is a bland and low-brow movie.

A recently laid off construction worker and his brother attempt to pull an seemingly impossible heist and rob a NASCAR Race with the help of an explosives mastermind and his no so-mastermind brothers.

There is a Hollywood elitist attitude toward the 'red neck' states that permeates a great deal of the movie. The one development which is particularly annoying is Tatum's daughter who is eager for him to see her in one of those "little miss Carolina" contests. The movie would have us take this for laughs, but in reality, this is a very degrading and depressing institution to put your child in.

The best parts in the movie belong to Daniel Craig. Looking like a bull on the edge of going rampage, he doesn't look like he would have any brains, until he gives a bewildering cue card lecture on how he made a bomb out of candy. this is one of the two funniest scenes in the movie The other involves a hostage taking situation in a prison where the prisoner make highly unreasonable demands in an attempt to distract the warden.

Soderberg's direction is fairly low key. He never builds a great deal of momentum toward the heist, and during those scenes he avoids any opportunity to generate any apprehension. The whole thing goes so perfectly that it could only happen in a comedy.
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Skyfall (2012)
The Sky falls on 007 in this one
10 November 2017
There are three items which make Skyfall worth some credit. First there is the title song. Regardless of whether the lyrics make sense (like all the other bond songs) 'Skyfall' is destined to be a soul classic someday. Second there is Javier Bardem's performance. His bond villain is as deliciously whimsical as he is sinister. Third there is Roger Deakin's cinematography, which compliments all the set pieces with extraordinary light and colour, and subsequent texture.

Aside from this, Skyfall is dismissible. The biggest problem is Daniel Craig who plays James Bond with no love. He seems to interpret 007 as a creation of the cold and seclusive espionage world of John le Carré. That wouldn't explain however the way he just shoots back a shot of thousand dollar scotch as if it were a tequila and lime. What happened to your class Mr. Bond?

Between the action set pieces, Skyfall is rather ponderous and void of wit or charm. The movie brings in a 'would be' bond girl (with the whole package; lips, legs) only to bump her off a couple scenes later in a way it feels like an attack on the bond girl tradition itself.

Skyfall succeeds in dodging most of the gimmicks but fails to capture the highlights of the 007 legacy.
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After Earth (2013)
Lazy and low on imagination (nice scenery though)
10 November 2017
Will and Jaden Smith have crash landed on a hostile planet; the only two survivors on a ship that looks like a set made of plastic and egg cartons. "Everything on this planet is evolved to kill humans", Will says. That planet is Earth, Will has broken both legs and is immobile. It has fallen to Jaden to retrieve a rescue beacon from the rear half of the ship which has broken off and is 100 km away.

The real star of the movie is the scenery. There is so much forest that this could just as easily have been another planet. Making it Earth adds nothing simply because Shyamalan has side stepped the decision to make this a film about environmental impact. Instead After Earth is constructed as a survival story meant to bring out the bond between father and son. At this, After Earth fails. The script is thin to the point of feeling non-existent, and both Jaden and Will fail to sell.

Will Smith, as the 'good soldier / poor father' gives the kind of bloodless, over composed, performance that recalls the cardboard acting style of the original Star Trek. He does not even attempt to find his humanity, but I can't say I blame him. With a script that gives him nothing to work from, why should be bother. The camera spends more time on Jaden, who has even less of a character to work from. He is a disoriented video game character in a game that lacks vision.

On this Earth, the temperature drops five degrees every ten minutes at the end of the day, and there are some neat shots of the green canopy fading to snow white. There is also a nifty but short sequence where Jaden dives off a cliff and into a cat and mouse chase with a Condor. Otherwise, the obstacle course is surprisingly boring. After Earth climaxes with a battle against a big CG creature, which looks like a George Lucas reject.

Shyamanlan fails as a writer and director to craft the elements needed to build tension. There is no feeling of a 'race against the clock', other than Jaden's limited supply of Oxygen tablets nor is there the feeling of terror lurking in the vegetation, recalling the Village and Signs.

James Newton Howard, has done some phenomenal scores but this is not one of them. The sound track has a very empty feeling, and is just as lazy as everything else in this picture.
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Sparrow and Spectacle in another unneeded (but not unwatchable) sequel
9 November 2017
Kudos to Pirates 5 for showing us a younger Jack Sparrow, for bringing back Will Turner, for adding some fresh young blood, and for Captain Salazar's (Bardem's) sizzling screen presence.

As for Jack Sparrow, the franchise has left him behind. Sparrow is a puppet meant to be laughed at as the plot whirls him through various comedic scenario's (including a forced marriage at gun point). Sparrow is no longer a catalyst of the tale, he is a victim in it. As you watch, you get the hunch that Depp is so discontent with the franchise that he is deliberate trying to sabotage it though his performance. He is not even even speaking his lines, he is garbling them.

And yet somehow the movie still gets by. If nothing else, it is an improvement over the inert and imagination-free Pirates 4. The set pieces are far more spectacular but still they are far from compelling. When it comes to the 'circus' aspects of the film, directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg are good with the set up but not the punchline. Frantic editing, and poor lighting render most of the action scenes disoritnenting.

The first and final scenes of the movie are the strongest. They are centred around Will Turner's son who seeks to break his father from the curse of the Dutchman. This is the starting point for the film muddled plot which has a beginning and an end, but no middle.

The character of Henry Turner, and his 'girl to be' Carina, bring a hint of something that was missing in the last film; a sense of character purpose. He seeks to free his father, and she to find the map in the stars from a clue that her father left behind. If only the film has given them a little more time. Other highlights of the film include a flashback to the origins of Sparrows rivalry with Salazar's Barbossa's brimming new beard / hairstyle combo, as well as a cute cameo by an almost unrecognizable Paul McCartney.

And then the film ends on the kind of note that is perfect, and very much needed, The kind that brings resolution to it's characters and does not cry out for another sequel.
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Wonder Woman (2017)
Makes me Wonder
9 November 2017
Looking past the Gal Gadot appeal, Is there anything that Wonder Woman brings to an overcrowded table?

This is the same origin story as everyone else in the Marvel and DC universes. The character has a quest hinging on a romanticized destiny...check, a love interest...check, a nemesis...check, the bad guys have a secret weapon....check. More bewildering is the praise of feminism that has elevated the film to greater acclaim than it deserves. This is nonsense.

The hero is a heroine; that is pretty much it. Gadot has enough conviction to command the screen but she is not a great actress, Fortunately she doesn't need to be. The script doesn't give her much of an inner life. In particular, her romance with Steve Trevor is fairly staged and seldom organic. Her claim to understand the power of human love by the end of the movie is no more earnest than Trump's claim to understanding the problems of America.

Wonder Woman is unusual in its structure. It has an enjoyable middle section bookended by a fairy cheesy first and third act. Diana leaves her home in the over green screened Amazon world and enters WWII Europe with Steve Trevor. The film handles her displacement in the real world with some good humour before allowing her to shine on the front lines of the battle. The action scene are fine, although there are a few too many kicks and punches in slow motion. Watching this effect in 21st century cinema is like watching a sporting gear commercial. The climax is disappointing because it is dull. Diana exchanges gimmicky banner with her nemesis Ares while engaging it a relatively lifeless fireball fight.

The movie succeeds in making you want to see more of Gadot in the hope that maybe a sequel will have more imagination in the writing. However, that seems unlikely.
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Shin Godzilla (2016)
Godzilla rises again, but summons little awe
9 August 2017
Godzilla is the embodiment of nuclear destruction that can bring a nation to its knees. Everything about the Godzilla story is universal and never personal. Japan's latest resurrection of its immortal icon, inevitably summons all the themes and mythology associated with him, but is it great film making? No.

There is a bit of an acquired taste to this kind of movie. Most noticeably, there are no primary characters, only secondary ones. We have a large handful of bureaucratic, military and scientific individuals that collectively represent Japan and its ideologies. Aside from one peppy diplomat with eyelashes as sharp as her tongue, nobody is all that memorable. From a technical standpoint the writing does have its strengths. The war against Godzilla takes place far less often in the field than it does in the boardrooms of government offices, where rapid fire banter is exchanged about everything from evacuations to international relationships. If you plan to watch this with subs, you'd better be a fast reader. The movie, like all it's characters is a workaholic. It seldom takes any time to stop for a breather or a decent introspective scene until the last ten minutes. It has so much energy that it makes two hours feel like 90 mins.

The biggest problem however is Godzilla himself, he doesn't look so good. We see him first in a sort of 'yet to evolve' state after he crawls out of the sea and starts lumbering downs city streets. He looks like a prize at an akihabara arcade, with comically large parade float eyes. Before long however, he evolves into the form that we are all familiar with. How disappointing it is then that his CGI body is hardly anymore mobile or realistic than the body suits from sixty years ago. Sure he can let out a good roar, breath fire and shoot radiation lasers from his back, but he has neither majesty nor menace. So lifeless is this Godzilla that he barely has any notice to a bombardment of missiles on his head. You can't even make him angry because he has no attitude. These scenes are not particularly compelling, but there are a few nice shots in there, including your traditional long shot of bottle neck traffic from evacuating citizens

With a little help from the international community, a plan to defeat Godzilla is devised. The climactic battle which hinges on this plot point is not only anticlimactic but it borders on cartoon. I won't spoil it, for fear that I will ruin a good laugh for you. In the end, Shin-Godzilla takes itself too seriously to notice its short comings. It feels like a thing of the past.
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The fans deserve better
8 August 2017
Nastu Lucy and the gang assist a young Maiden (eclair) in her quest to find and protect a stone that has the power to awaken the destructive Phoenix. Meanwhile an ill minded young monarch of a nearby kingdom is also after the stone.

It's a generic story that happens to have the fairy tail cast in it. There is also a 12 min short film in the DVD package which acts as a prologue to Eclairs tale. These 'deleted scenes' have moments of insight and intimacy that do more for exlairs individuality than her entire screen time actual feature.

As is often the case with anime features The animation is more fluidity than the show. The biggest problem with the film is that it's rushed. The pace is frustrating several times. For example it ends on a strangely abrupt ill timed note, and then, like most franchise films, the end credits roll over a montage that would have made a far better ending as a whole scene

Even as fan service the film is lacking. There is nothing new in the way of comedy or action. It coughs up most of the greatest hits gags of the show (natsu's bottomless stomach, erzas soft spot for fashion), but the delivery has been better in the show.

Phoenix Priestess feels like a mail in. Low on imagination and vision, and relatively bland on eye candy, it adds nothing to the franchise except a new character who probably deserves a better script.
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Visually intoxicating, dreary in pace.
6 August 2017
A young wall street executive is sent to Switzerland to retrieve his company's CEO from a sanitarium in the Alps for a business matter. The facility looks like a relic from Cold War Germany; the kind of place that still practices water treatment. After a brutal car accident on the mountain road, our young protagonist himself becomes a patient. As he wanders the curious halls and makes small chat with the other inhabitants and the suspicious head doctor Volmer (Jason Issacs), he begins to see the wheels of a medical conspiracy turning within the walls of the sanitarium.

After the box office calamity and foul after taste of Lone Ranger, I was curious to see what Gore Verbinski's next movie would be. A Cure for Wellness is a horror mystery that is deliciously macabre and exquisite in visual composition. Even though the movie takes itself dead seriously, it could easily be taken as camp. It is entertainment for viewers who get off on goosebumps, on sights like a man being force fed baby eel infested water.

Unfortunately Verbinski repeats one of his mistakes in Lone Ranger, he stretches out the happenings to the point of ill focus. It runs two and a half hours, and could easily have been a half hour shorter (at least). The overly deliberate pacing feels like a device to mask the lack of story. Behind all the spectacular mountain scenery, expressionist lighting, and surrealist dream sequences is a relatively familiar narrative, an individual who becomes a victim of an institution that sees him an an undermining threat. Movies like Shutter Island and In the Mouth of Madness come to mind.

The movie is slow but there are intriguing parts. Our protagonists has a special interest in one patient in particular. Hanna is a fair haired adolescent in a porcelain doll blue dress who looks like she could be a figment of imagination. For a while she seems to be his most reliable friend, but she is also of particular importance to Dr. Volmer. The mystery behind her is unravelled in a fiery climactic half hour that is chaotic and stinks of incest related gimmickry.

Full of characters that are largely representational and one-dimensional, the deliberately wooden style of acting is perhaps forgivable. For the cast, it's just a paycheck. The real star of the show is the cinematography. Certain shots are an absolute gem. Verbinski has a good eye but a poor sense of timing. A cure for Wellness has delights for horror movie goers, but the sluggishness may try your patience.
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Passengers (I) (2016)
A waste in space.
22 July 2017
Set aboard a massive ship on a interplanetary flight, Passengers may seem like a sci-fi movie but it's actually a chick flick; Guy gets girl, guy looses girl, guy gets girl back. Passengers crashes and burns on the contrived devices used to weave these familiar threads together.

In terms of set design the movie is spectacular to behold, and but it's all a waste of space. We are looking at tens of millions of dollars of scenery in which to stage a ten cent romance. Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence do all the things that couples do, share breakfast, go dancing, jogging, and eventually enjoy a fancy dinner dressed to the nines. Aside from one sexy spacewalking sequence, The setting doesn't make these events feel any more remarkable than they would have been on Earth.

As we near the final act, the ship starts to fall apart. Lawrence Fishbourne is shoehorned in as a mere plot device. Scruffy bearded and with a hungover stare, he looks as if he has just come off the street.

Passengers raises some intelligent questions about the human experience, but rather than answer them it chooses to focus on the lobotomized charm of star talent. You can hear this familiar Hollywood tune in your head as the actors goes through the motions of Nicholas Sparks material.
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Honest, but dramatically underwhelming,
22 July 2017
A zodiac of Somali pirates charges after a cargo freighter, while the captain attempts to keep them at bay with his water cannons, but they manage to get close enough to jump on board.

As the movie progresses it becomes increasingly obvious that the scrawny high jackers are in a pickle. Once the US forces engage them, their only bargaining chip is the captain's life. The pirates have their AK-47's but they never seem managing enough to even consider pulling the trigger. The fact that the pirates speak English is a problem for the movie. A hostage taker is far less intimidating when you can communicate with him. Captain Phillips manages to seem very casual as he gives his captors a tour, and even offers them food from his kitchen.

You can't go wrong with Tom Hanks as the virtuous 'good soldier' who represents American model citizenship wherever he goes. Captain Phillips gets by on his performance, but it's not nearly as thrilling a story as most would have you believe.
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Pan (2015)
Pan doesn't fly
17 July 2017
The one liners fall flat, The special effects look as if they were generated on 90's software. Blackbeard and his crew sing 'smells like teen spirit', Garret Hedlund as a young James Hook is more like a young Indiana Jones wannabe and the Injuns look like they hail from somewhere in the Star Wars universe. If you saw a Peter Pan origin story in which all of this was the case, would you recommend it to your friends? Didn't think so. There is no way that Pan wasn't going to flop. Too bland for children and too tacky for everyone else, this largely unmotivated tale doesn't even get off the ground.
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Kim's Convenience (2016– )
Cute show of simple pleasures
17 July 2017
Mr. Kim, a potbellied Korean forty-something, runs a cornerstone in eastern downtown Toronto. He has a loving wife, a peppy daughter (Janet), who is easily annoyed with his every move and a son (Jung) who he no longer speaks to. The show highlights the little ups and downs in the lives of all four Kims, but he owns the show.

Played with love by Paul Sun Hyung Lee. Mr. Kim is a curious animal: Smart but awkward, inquisitive but stubborn, most of the humour in the show comes out of a cute shtick of his; he speaks intelligently in broken English. In the punchline of a scene, he walks through the front door to find his wife dancing with an old beau, With a very deliberate look of disapproval on his face, he asks ... "Could someone please tell to me what it is I am seeing!?."

Mrs. Kim, played by Jean Yoon is also cute. She is the kind of mother who will run your forgotten scarf to school for you, even if you are a rebellious adoclecent. She is whimsically anxious about things that never cross her husband's mind. Her fears about Janet not finding a boyfriend (preferably an eventual husband.) is one of the show's less original jokes. The hidden gem of the show is Jung's female boss, who so clearly has a thing for him. This is the TV debut of Nicole Power, who brings a funny but credible balance of pizazz and awkwardness.

One season in, the series is young but it has much growing to do. It gets by on its whim and quirky dialog.
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Clichéd mail-in of a sequel. Smulders is the highlight.
17 July 2017
An irony of mediocre movies like Jack Reacher is that they lead you to have low expectations of sequels, allowing the positive elements to stand out.

Never Go Back is just as far from greatness as its predecessor, but it moves a little better. Director Edward Zwick (who is clearly in this for the money) streamlines the movie almost to a fault. An over edited movie can make the world seem like a very small place.

Kudos to Cruise for wiping most of the smugness off his face, but compared to the young blooded Cobbie Smulders, he feels like a sour old crone. Never Go Back is more entertaining when the camera is on her. She is not a big woman but she is a force to be reckoned with. At one point she threatens to grab a superior officer by the hair and b***h slap the s**t out of him. Her sincerity is so comanding that it almost makes you understand why such cheesy lines make it into scripts. Half of the script in fact is comprised of this kind of dialog; "I want names numbers, phone records, favourite flavours of ice cream"

The action scenes are largely derivative of similar set piece from past movies, especially the old' punch out in the musty boiler room, or the chase scene through a carnival crowd. The material pairs up Reacher with a daughter character: the generic rebel child he never knew he had until he was told. She is a device used more for plot advancement than for emotional impact. There is a goodbye scene at the end which would have been stronger had it been in any other (better) movie.

The single biggest problem is that Never Go Back exercises almost every cliché of the genre; from the people who are corrupt to the custody escape by means of a guards uniform. At least we have the delights of Smulders to offer some relief.
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A joyless bug hunt
16 July 2017
The Blue Butterfly is about a stage four cancer child who teams up with a famed naturalist to find the elusive eponymous species of butterfly which the kid dreams of seeing before its too late. True story though it may be the execution is not impressive. Plot developments hinge on a few corny and amateurish contrivances, the dialog is weak, and the punchline is a massive letdown.

Kudos to William Hurt for a relatively refined and unshowy performance, but at the same time his unrelenting blandness does the movie no favours. The scenery is the highlight, especially one scene in particular which includes strange hallucinations of the local indigenous peoples.

The movie throws a lame cheat into the ending. You can't spend an hour plus searching for something and then virtually pull it out of your pocket and expect the audience to accept that. There is a good story cocooned in this movie but it never morphs into anything that can take flight.
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Moby Dick (2011– )
A half dead whale of a tale
16 July 2017
This low budget production of Moby Dick stars William hurt as William hurt and Ethan Hawke as Ethan hawke, treating Ahab and Starbuck as anything but literary iconography. There are some half decent early scenes showcasing Ahab as a husband before setting off on the ill fated Pequod. The ship looks like a kid brother vessel to the massive version in John Huston's film with thirteen sails.

Ahab wins over his crew promising a Spanish gold piece to whoever raises him Moby Dick. He plays this scene with an ill advised sense of good humour before leading his men in a tacky chant of "moby dick" as if they were Atlanta Braves fans doing the chop.

As for a Moby Dick himself, I almost don't even remember him being in the movie. There are no memorable shots or screen appearances of the great White Whale. The movie even sidesteps the iconic sequence where Ahab leaps on the whale's back and takes harpoon to him. It is entirely possible that this was written out to avoid the expense of such a shot.

This Moby Dick goes down with the Pequod.
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