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Todos lo saben (2018)
Everybody will know about this terrific family dynamic
Bardem and Cruz in a complicated Spanish drama? Count me in! While the story offers little conclusion down the road - the portrayal of the family dynamic, character chemistry and the Spanish life in general is very strong! I've yet to see any other film by Asghar Farhadi. But this script must have been written with these actors in mind, or in the very least been in the collaboration with them. It's an interesting choice of him to make a film set in the countryside of Spain. I gotta give him points for making it so accurate. There are details in the dialogue, the humour and just how people behave in general. It's like it's written by someone who's lived his life in that village where the story takes place. So it'll be interesting to read about more about the production later. What I loved most was the authenticity. People seem like real life people. The lines don't seem rehearsed or prepared beforehand. There's a very loose sensation overall. Like if everyone was given freedom to react how they would have in real life. Because as you may suspect, something happens early on that gets the drama going. And I buy every character's reaction to what happens. The interactions between the family members were terrific, especially Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem. Tour de force, man! You know what's going in their heads by their expressions alone. "Loving Pablo" was not the best showcase for the ability of these performers, but I'm glad we got "Everybody Knows" to show they've got this. It's honestly pretty impressive. Also... I'm a big fan. Which helps.
The downside is that the film looses steam at a portion in the second half. It hits a stop and you feel how the pace stretches just enough for it to seem lazy. I was still interested in the story, so I didn't bother so much. But it was easy to tell it was a weak point. Imagine a TV show where they've run out of ideas for a few episodes and then eventually they figure it out. That's sort of how it was. Things quickly pick up and what happens honestly made me nervous in a good way. I felt for this family. Through good times and bad times, we see them at their happiest and saddest. The relationship between the leads didn't need much dialogue. The silences were telling enough. And when it's humorous, it's something delightful to see. Bardem's Paco really seems like a Paco. Funny how I know a Paco from Valladolid who seems like a similar type of guy. Almost as if Bardem took inspiration from him. Like I said, it's very authentic. Camerawork would have been better with less shakiness. They were probably going for that "documentary style", but you get the impression that less effort went into the photography. I know you can do better, guys! The ending left something to be desired. A final resolution felt missing. It's one of those "let the audience decide what happens" movie. That was a bummer, because by that point you've spent time and you need more to the conclusion for you to feel satisfied as a viewer. Things are left unsaid. Maybe that was the point of the whole story? Not sure yet. Either way - Many strong elements, interesting point of view and best of all: How it captures the authenticity. A good movie that kept my genuine interest.
The Girl in the Spider's Web (2018)
Are you Lisbeth Salander the... Action hero?
I'm gonna sound biased, but the truth is that I am. David Fincher come back! I miss his take of "Millennium", which was brilliantly engaging. But we gotta accept the fact that the whole trilogy couldn't be adapted because of the first film not being financially successful enough. The fourth book was also the first in the series to not be written by Stieg Larsson, but instead by David Lagercrantz. Must have been a daunting task following in the footsteps of the world-wide bestsellers. I remember that my dad recognised him in a store once. So he went up to Lagercrantz, said hello and then left him in peace. My dad said he didn't wanna say anything else because he was being criticised and under pressure for taking over the series. That's when I first heard about it - and yes, I was sceptic as well. The trailers had me worried. The direction was gonna be faster, more action oriented and appeal to an even wider audience. I get that, sure. But the brilliance of "Dragon Tattoo" is its investigate dark mystery. Look how the story is told and how the audience is always interested in finding the answers to the questions. Was "Spider's Web" any good? Well... Better than I expected.
Fede Alvarez is not a bad director choice. I underestimated him. He knows how to get the stylish imagery. There's a good eye here since many creative ideas are being used for the shots. It gets points for that. He uses some shaky cam in the intense scenes. Thankfully there's a good balance of steady and hand-held camera use. I've seen Claire Foy getting much work recently. My bets where that she would portray Lisbeth Salander being hysterical or explosive. I was wrong because she lands a solid performance. Subtle when she needs to be, and even showing the emotion that's underneath Lisbeth's tough exterior. Surprisingly she's even funny. Sverrir Gudnason shows a warm interpretation of Mikael Blomkvist. He comes across as a friendly person who's presence lightens the mood. Not a bad take either. I would in all honesty have been ecstatic if Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig had returned. Then again Fede Alvarez felt he wouldn't had done 50% of his job if he took Fincher's cast. I don't really agree, but I understand what he means. The first act of the film was pretty alright. The look, the pacing and the introduction of the story worked. You can tell by the beginning that the style direction will be something else: An action-thriller. Salander has become a vigilante. That's something I feel kind of "Eh.." about. Clearly not the original intention. If you look at it as a James Bond type film, you'll enjoy it quite a lot. Don't go in expecting a moody crime mystery. That's not what you'll get. The story is not as isolated but more expanded involving Nato or Swedish Special Forces and people running after computer programs. Seemed more far-fetched than what it needed to be.
The experience of watching "Spider's Web" was enjoyable. You can have fun with the action and your suspenseful scenes. As a typical action movie, it does the job. The villain in the piece stood out to me. Sylvia Hoeks (who we saw in "Blade Runner 2049") delivers an eerie enemy for Salander. I get the feeling she's not gonna get enough credit for this role since her entire character doesn't fit the "supposed" realistic tone. It's a person straight out of a James Bond movie. And there I go again with that comparison, but it's actually got more in common with that now that I think of it. The villain is acted well - The issue is just that she belongs in another film entirely. I went in afraid of what the film would turn out to be, and it wasn't bad. Although it doesn't capture the greatness of "Dragon Tattoo". Stick to the originals for real grittiness. But if you want a fast thrill-ride, then this is decent. Biggest take away: Nice to see Stockholm depicted this nicely in american production again.
An Interview with God (2018)
More could have been reached with the concept of this conversation
People are going around saying that Morgan Freeman should have played God here, but David Strathairn does a pretty good job. I was impressed by the acting from both of the two leads. Brenton Thwaites clears his name a little performance wise and shows that he's capable of more than what he's been offered in the past. It's a straightforward setup, a guy is gonna interview a man who tells him that he's God. From there on it starts out interesting. There's clever dialogue thrown back and forth. And yes, my attention very clearly on every word said. But as soon as we move away from the interview aspect the story crumbles. It's never as interesting as those interview parts. I know there's effort there, but its approach to tell the mundane story didn't latch on to me.
Lookswise it's nothing that stands out. Simple framing and narrative. But honestly they didn't need to push the execution. The simplicity is good enough when watching two characters have interesting things to say. Speaking of that, the film definitely should have put more focus on the actual conversations. Because that's what held my attention. The stuff that happens in between went with the convoluted "we gotta have these curveballs of drama and mishy-mashy, sugar-coat, sweet turning points". Jeez, it's ok movie. The conversation of what a man and a God can have about life (and whatever else) is your great subject. Use it wisely. To be fair, the Journalists story that you follow isn't bad per say. I's uneventful compared to what this movie could have reached. The third act almost fell apart, which made it end on a very safe note.
So it's an OK little movie. The conversation scenes and performances were good. The rest is merely your usual soap opera. Last thing to say is that it's not that long and decently easy to watch.
First Man (2018)
In space you can't escape to hear an audience member snore. Even if it's a good film
Talk about an inpatient crowd at the cinema. I heard snoring, people moving around, feet stomping on the floor and even saw some walk-outs. The guy on the row in front of me kept re-arranging how he was sitting. He was either unsure whether to put his feet up on the chair infront of him or to tap his fingers constantly as if he was listening to music the entire time. It's annoying to see crowds like this, especially when you get a slower moving dramatic film. Regardless of the distractions, I liked "First Man". A complaint I've seen is that the plot gets un-engaging by the middle act. And I can see what they are talking about, but it didn't bother me. It's a realistic approach. Ryan Gosling as Armstrong will of course be a quieter performance. He's got subtlety. Sadness is seen in his eyes and whenever Armstrong would show more emotion it landed a bigger mark in the story.
It doesn't move very fast. Chazelle decides to spend a lot of time with the characters on the ground. They're at a house, conversing calmly and then occasionally you go back to Nasa's space research. So that's the aspect I can see not working so well on repeat viewings. People will probably wanna fast-forward to a training scene with the ships. It's shot on film which I adored. Although I would have preferred to skip the documentary like camerawork. It got shaky in a way that's not my taste. All the pictures in space or in the ships are stellar though. Claire Foy is here too and I remember that she was brilliant in "Unsane". I was hoping to not get distracted and see too many elements of her character from that film. But I ended up being surprised as she delivered a different performance to Gosling. They balance each other out. He keeps the emotions hidden, while she puts them front and center. The stand-out aspect is when she insists that Armstrong has to talk to their sons before he leaves to space. It's a difficult situation which makes you think. What would you say? Anything can go wrong considering it's a mission that's never been done before.
Landing on the Moon was a giant leap for all of mankind, and this story makes you understand the hardships that go into achieving such a goal. It's a drama that tells the story of this man. The Nasa and Moon landing plots are integral, but remember that it's gonna be from the point of view of this character. Not a thrilling ride into space, but a nice film about one guy's journey which left a place in history. Not bad. Loved the opening scene which was riveting and the actual landing sequence makes you hold your breath. The biggest negative is that as soon as there's no sound in space, I only hear the snoring man (from two rows back) louder and clearer. If you wanna sleep, why do would you go to the cinema and disturb others?
A fun character stuck in a generic plot. Not the best, but not the worst
Hey, I didn't expect to be so entertained by "Venom", but I would be lying if I said I wasn't. First thing to say is that the highlight throughout this "symbiote" film is Tom Hardy's performance combined with the fun design and personality of his newfound alien buddy. So Eddie Brock is our main character and our perfect host (as Venom himself would say). At first I was pretty OK with him being this "hip" reporter who rides motorcycles and isn't afraid to ask risky questions. However, there's a decision early on that changes his mentality. And that made a great impact because I found myself siding with him. Eddie quickly becomes a sad character who's trying to survive and make his life better. He's not a typical good guy or a bad guy. He's very nuanced in a way with his own faults and qualities. This made him believable and like a real human who ends up in the middle of some crazy stuff. I get the feeling they let Tom Hardy have lots of freedom to come up with any idea for the portrayal of Eddie. I wouldn't have minded to see a simple drama story instead. It would've been the life of a failed reporter working his through difficult/sad times in life. That could have made a more heartfelt movie, but we gotta have the comic book things here. It's "Venom" after all.
Here's the thing, which I'm sure most people have been saying, but the relationship between Eddie and Venom is the heart of this otherwise thin plot. If it wasn't for them, you'd be watching a super generic action film about evil scientists and what not. I didn't end up caring for what was up with that corporation run by Riz Ahmed. And that guy is a good actor. In the end though he just becomes a cliche with no real personality left. The final action scenes were a mess. A bunch of CGI goo flying from on side to the other in shaky close-ups. Reframe that, guys. You don't have to get so close when the big alien guys are fighting. Use some more wides there, it's fine. Let the choreography do the job. Other than that the cinematography wasn't bad. It's coherent and follows the story nicely. It was just that ending fight that got frustrating and bland. Michelle Williams is always terrific, but underused here. I'm glad she actually signed on though. Her character manages to stand because she has the talent to make a character feel very much alive, and not a walking cardboard cut-out. Jenny Slate made an admirable effort, but again, her potential is quickly wasted. What also bugged me was this reference to Kryptonite. It confuses me because does that mean the DC comics exists within the Marvel world or something? Was it Ruben Fleischer letting the actors improvise? No idea, but a line was enough for me to start overthinking. And why, oh why did we not start with Carnage as the villain? It would have been much stronger. He's pretty much a psychopath and enough for Venom to understand where to draw the line of what's too much for an anti-hero. It's a villain that would be a deadly match and especially since he would strike fear and genuine tension. Riz Ahmed, you're great, but the villain here will easily be forgotten.
I will end with a positive note, and it's that I laughed when I watched this movie. When Eddie starts hearing Venom's voice in his head things get brilliantly interesting. He goes completely insane at a point when he can't understand what's happening to him. I mean, there's another consciousness in your body who starts controlling you all the sudden. You would go crazy. Hardy plays the stress, the exhaustion and the general confusion so well. You wish the rest of the plot was as good as the effort in his performance. A scene I thought was perfect was when he interrupts his ex-love's dinner and proceeds to bathe in water filled with lobsters while eating them and yelling at the voice in his head. Oh, and he's also trying to convince people that a corporation is evil. I laughed quite a bit, it was really good. And you feel bad for Eddie, he's becoming an emotional wreck and it's near impossible to not wish he would get better. So there it is. Venom's character was funny, Tom Hardy's performance lifts the lazy script and you'll be amused by this wicked friendship. You'll be entrained, but you'll also wish the execution was more on par with what this concept deserves. Could've been better, could've been worse. A lot worse...
Something Real (2017)
Completely spontaneous, creative and with the imagination on its side
Hmm... Ok! That was interesting and.. Yeah, something real. A special short film for sure. It was filmed in one day and premiered less than a week after that. Pretty intriguing to see what crazy ideas you can come up with when you make up the story as you go along. Sometimes though, you get nice results. In this case the film turned out to be an experimental exploration of a character's state of mind as he attempts to flee from his problems. But be prepared because this is pretty much the equivalent of a friend explaining dreams while under the influence of some "devil drugs". I think the experimental stuff combined with the wild imagery and insane moments were fun/entertaining. I'm not sure what you're supposed to understand from the plot, but it's seems like visions mixed with real memories. So it keeps your attention.
I'm always supportive of people taking a camera and going out to film their movies, just for the simple reason that they care. Here you see friends being completely spontaneous, creative and with the imagination at their side. And there's an endearing side to that which I appreciate. No matter the budget or weird story-telling. You can tell it's personal and that they really live for filmmaking. I mean, you know you're driven when you go through the effort. Especially when it's strange, experimental.. I don't even know what genre to call this... It's a little interesting yet unique short. Nice to see my friends Daniel Abreu and Roberto Gonzalez working together as well. Two forces meeting and it's as insane as I thought. I could probably have seen 10 more minutes of runtime, since it's curious to see how far they could have taken the concept with more time. As it stands, it's short and sweet. If you're ready for a drug-like dream film, then it's worth checking out when it's available!
Ocean's Eight (2018)
Would have benefited more if it wasn't connected to the "Ocean's" trilogy
Is this plan priceless? Well, it's a guaranteed formula. Here's the thing, I would have enjoyed this movie more if it wasn't connected to the "Ocean's" trilogy. This group of people should have existed in their own continuity and been given their own unique stamp. But now since it is connected, there's just no way to avoid the comparisons to the previous movies. Because you're always winking back at them. It's distracting! Plus, Gary Ross is did a good job imitating the style of Steven Soderbergh. But again; be your own thing, please. You don't need to take the name recognition of "Ocean's". Simply find your own personal style to the heist genre. That would have been more fun. I also need say that I don't love the original trilogy. They're fun though, and you'll get an interesting surprise on occasion. This new entry still has a fun vibe which is captured pretty well. The actual heist on the other hand... Could have been more interesting. I didn't feel like the team was utilised enough. Lots of the characters vanished in the background and then the pace drops drastically. Get ready for some catchy tunes! Because that's what makes the scenes flow better, right? Yeah, it honestly felt like an extra pulse was missing. So they felt the need to add famous songs to cover for the energy it lacked.
The cast is elegant. They honestly elevate the material they've been given. Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett and friends are all nice people. I like the idea of what each characters expertise is. Even the group banter is colourful and in the very least makes you smile sometimes. There is a chemistry. But then you can also interpret it as a bunch of Hollywood actresses joking around on set all day. Who are we kidding? The original cast did the same. They even had a bar on set. I'm sure the movie is gonna get a lukewarm reaction from most people. It could have gotten a bigger pass if it was an original story (not capitalising on the success of something else), but I realize that it equals less box-office. My biggest issue is the handling of Danny Ocean. His sister, Debbie, is leading the charge. Which is not bad as an idea. I could have cared if we got a passing of torch sorts of plot. But no, no... I don't know how much you guys care, but I'm gonna spoil one thing to make my point. Danny is killed off screen. No explanation, he is just plain dead. Although Debbie might chuckle at "Oh, I didn't see the body". The problem is also that it has little to no meaning for the plot. Debbie's motivation doesn't lie in the death of her brother. No, she's not seeking justice for the family name. She's getting revenge on the guy who betrayed her. Sure, that makes more sense. Then why do you have to always remind the audience that Danny is dead now? If it really has no relevance other than to forcefully take over the series? To me it felt disrespectful to kill that character, who is iconic to the heist genre, in a means to say "Yeah, get rid of the person who carried this from the beginning". Matt Damon may have gotten his cameo cut, but his character is not as important. George should have been there at the end. A brother and sister reunion, showcasing how important it was for both of them to make their family proud. It's a family of clever criminals after all. Perhaps have them joke about competing over the best heist or something. Most importantly, it would have added an emotional feeling at the end. Show that both characters learn from each other and that making robbery heists is what they love to do. A little humanity, you know. There's gotta be some care in the story.
Anyway, there was my short tandrum. For all the fun moments it had, I just couldn't help that I often got taken out of the movie. Also the annoying/ungrateful decision of killing Danny is not OK. It's right in the middle for me. A good definition of "Sure, I've seen it before. Meh". At least the costume design looked neat.
Breathtaking execution! An action film that already feels timeless
Now that's what I'm talking about! How can a sixth film in a franchise be this phenomenally breathtaking? Well, by not being lazy and committing to the story and especially the filmmaking. If you're making a sequel, you better ensure it deserves to exist. Christopher McQuarrie, Tom Cruise and company outdid themselves now. Honestly! I felt like I was thrown out of a moving vehicle while watching this. I was that floored by some sequences in this. Films can motivate and inspire you, and I haven't felt this hyped because of a new release since... I don't know.. Maybe "Blade Runner 2049" last year. But that was of course a different type of experience. Too much digital green-screen locations annoy me these days, so one of the biggest compliments I can give "Fallout" is that here all the places are beautifully used.. And they are real! Paris, New Zealand and Norway. It's just jaw-dropping to behold. Especially when you get action with real stunt-work and ingenuity at play.
But, look. The movie is not a masterpiece in every aspect. It's riddled with classic movie-isms and aspects of the plot have been seen before. But the execution of all the elements from the previous entries have been perfected to give you a thrillful helicopter chase with engaging character moments. Because remember, this series has been going since '96 (the same year I was born!) - That's crazy. Ethan Hunt has never slowed down, and I like that his character gets a progression. He doesn't just stay the same. No, he's evolved and become nuanced to the point where you can see the endearing side of him; And it's genuine. The happy-go-lucky suave guy we saw in the second film is gone. Remember that? Jeez - that was forced. But even though the character has roughened because of his life threatening struggles, you still see that he cares for his friends around him. Maybe more than ever before. Ving Rhames' Luther Stickell has been a part of this since the beginning too, and I never expected to feel that bad for him considering what he has to go through. Rhames probably gave his best performance here and I'm getting the feeling that Simon Pegg did that too. He's not simply the funny man anymore either. And of course, Rebecca Ferguson helps the team in great ways by giving an intense and impressive performance. The cast members have transformed into an organic part of the whole thing. I can't see any other people playing these characters. What else can I say, I'm just rambling on here. Well, the cinematography is one of the best this year. It's shot on film, and I love how it looks. The framing, the way the lighting is set-up and how the locations are presented are beyond this world. Oh, I can't forget to mention Tom Cruise. The guy's extremely dedicated and I applaud him for the great efforts in making this worthwhile. This would never be the same if he didn't say that each movie has to deliver something exciting and creative. Christopher McQuarrie hasn't directed many movies, but he has to continue. He makes "Fallout" feel like a very traditional movie. The lack of CGI messiness is gonna make it more timeless down the line. This is gonna hold up for years to come. Aspects are classic and done, but I don't mind it. As long as it's good and that you can care for what's going on - then I think you got something that works. It was also nice to see Henry Cavill have fun and play a different character compared to what he usually gets to do. It's gonna help him to not only be seen as Superman for sure.
I've been praising this enough. But I was just so happy to see a summer blockbustery action movie take both story and filmmaking execution seriously. I was looking forward to see it because it seemed like an entertaining time, but it was so much better than I ever thought it'd be. So, yeah. Very traditional, but phenomenal execution of action and it plays out like a film that doesn't treat you as a fool. The last thing I wanna say is that I was shocked to see Preikestolen in Norway be used as a major location. It's up in the mountains and it's beautiful. But I was just there at the same place week ago! And I had absolutely no idea that they filmed there. I was actually thinking that it would make a perfect area for a movie of this caliber, and then I see this and get even more stunned. No wonder there were so many tourists there... But, hey - It was bizarre to say the least. Ethan may have hanged on the edge of the cliff, but me on the other hand... I didn't go that close. Anyway, what in God's name am I babbling on about? If you like classic great spectacle cinema, then "Mission: Impossible - Fallout" is a must-see.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)
What!? I actually felt it was more sincere than the first?
Part of my family is visiting town and they are big Abba fans as it's been a very influencial band for them. Naturally they got curious, it being the premiere and all. They say it's the return of the "feel-good phenomenon". Well, I thought the first film was extremely cheesy with obnoxious moments and excuses to shuffle Abba's songs in an easy box-office draw. The three dads thing was the only part I found entertaining. So I got dragged to see this with a group of people... and I was pleasantly surprised that I liked it better than the first one. It's not saying much, but I felt there was more merit this time around.
While it's still very silly with the plot. The execution, direction and structure of the story feels more creatively thought out. I liked the way the past and present connected with each other. The parallels actually gave meaning to what was going on. Seeing Donna's, let's say "origin story", felt sincere and sweet. I bought her reasons for buying the hotel on the island and the character was overall easy to side with as she began her travels. The cinematography was good as we get to see some nice summery imagery of the ocean. The songs are of course great, but they are honestly worked in better with the plot this time. At the end of the day we still get some shoehorned musical numbers, like one with Cher and Andy Garcia. The song is wonderful, but the scene comes out nowhere and simply feels rushed. Lots of decent characters are wasted or sidelined, especially the three dads. And there's a sudden ending with no real resolution.
I didn't think I would ever write so much about this movie, but there were elements I enjoyed. The obnoxiousness was scaled down and many parts were taken more seriously. Which is what I appreciated. When you are in a musical world it's gonna be hyper realistic and full of conveniance. But it's important to breath it out with real moments too (and less Broshan singing). By the finale the emotion felt more earned than it deserved to be. And that's to do with the parallell story of the mother and the daughter. Which was fleshed out because of the "prequel" story with Lily James doing a humble performance as young Donna. That's not to say that the whole movie is good. No, there are ridiculous scenes and it ultimetely becomes painfully average. It's a calculated crowd-pleaser. But there's an aspect of this sequel that was OK. And it's that they made an effort to take things a tad more serious with some more ideas thrown into the direction. That alone makes it a somewhat enjoyable experience that actually comes across as sweet at parts.
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
It takes an Ant and a Wasp the cheer you up with an optimistic family story
If you want a friendly little movie to cheer you up, here it is. I can't help but to have a good time with an Ant-Man story. The character is sympathetic and pretty much a lighthearted everyday man who stumbles into excitement. It's designed to delight people with an optimistic, family-type vibe. I've seen some complaints saying that there's a lack of greater or darker stakes/consequences. I don't mind it in this particular series. The weight lies in the family dynamics. And also in the message that being a hero isn't always stopping bad guys, but helping your friends and family. Or I guess by simply saying that being there, showing support, is very important. A message that can also be picked up from films like "The Incredibles" or Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man". The difference would be that the actual action aspect never involves "the end of the world" or any big destruction like that. It's perfect that things lead up to a car chase in the streets with people changing sizes and jumping from vehicle to vehicle. There doesn't need to be a war or countless buildings collapsing. If the human story is there at the heart and the action helps run the story along, then I'm happy. Oh, and I appreciate when the action set-pieces are clever. Which, yeah. You get some of that.
I saw plenty of families in the cinema. So it really marked the impression that people with different ages can all be apart of the adventure together and have a good time with the lighthearted honesty of the characters. Scott Lang is so natural at being a kind man who you wouldn't mind playing Guitar Hero with or just running into shenanigans with. His relationship with the daughter was genuinely touching and again, so natural. It's like it was Paul Rudd's real-life daughter. Michael Peña, Evangelina Lilly and Michael Douglas are all equally charismatic with plenty of screen presence. I was only taken out of the movie at one part, which is the part with my biggest negative. The villain's start spouting a lot of exposition and there's this big explanation to the audience. That should have been evened out more because it came across as lazy. The execution of the resolution was also a bit off. It begs the audience to go along with a certain idea and it's too convenient for the moment. And the editors were rushing to get to another scene without letting a previous one end properly. All of a sudden, we're somewhere else and more exposition is given. Come on, let there be some moment to breath in between there. Lastly I wanna say that Walton Goggins shouldn't be given a throw-away role like that. Wasted potential. Although the new character Jimmy Woo was a great stand-out.
Other than that really, I had fun experience. I wasn't taking it that seriously either, which is not the point. Love the giant ants helping out and I was in awe of how real the father-daughter relationship was between Scott and Cassie Lang. Not the best Summer Blockbuster, but a lot nicer compared to what we've been getting these past years. "Transformers" and "Jurassic World", I'm looking at you. Take notes.
Loving Pablo (2017)
Not bad filmmaking wise, but suffers greatly because of the language decision
In the past decade there's been much coverage of Escobar's life in film and television. If it's "El Patron del Mal", "Narcos", "Paradise Lost" even "Blow" or the recent "American Made". There are plenty of good and interesting adaptations of the real life events which involved Escobar. So the question is if there even was anything else to tell? Well, "Loving Pablo" is based on the book by reporter Virginia Vallejo and it focuses on her relationship with Pablo. It's pretty much told from her perspective and what she had to deal with by knowing the man. Sure, that's another angle to go with. To be honest, I only got curious when I saw which people were involved in the making. Spanish director/writer Fernando León de Aranoa takes the helm. I highly enjoyed his film "Mondays in the Sun", so I know he's a competent filmmaker. And then of course we got Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz as the two main characters. I thought their chemistry and interactions in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" were fantastic. With this in mind there had to be some merit. After watching it I ultimately think that the film is a mixed bag. There things to enjoy, but after all the "Narcos"-shows it does fall in to the "Been there, done it all" realm.
The biggest problem is that it's in the English language. I know that Bardem, who also produced, was actively trying to convince many studios for it to be in Spanish. But none of them were willing to give them the green-light unless it was more international so it could appeal to a wider audience. The film suffered greatly because of that. They could still have spoken English whenever there's interaction with characters from the United States, but a good deal of authenticity is lost. And frankly, it was distracting to me. It's not bad filmmaking wise. León de Aranoa utilizes many long takes where he finds creative camera angles. The build-up of tension is executed well. As soon as the intense man-hunt begins about half way through, then momentum is not lost. I liked that there's a way to understand the motives and human sides of Pablo. Yet in the next scene you are immediately frightened of him again. Bardem's resemblance to Escobar is uncanny. Like Charlize Theron so amazingly did in "Tully", Bardem's physical transformation makes him fade away. That added a great deal for the immersion. When he appears you forget you're watching the actor. But then again, when he starts conversing in English I'm left underwhelmed. Because if it was in it's authentic language, it could have been so, so, so much more affective. Cruz is also fantastic at what she does. Her character changes quite a bit throughout the story. Going from curious and happy to hardened and emotionally unstable. You get that she loved Pablo, but hated Escobar. That is presented clearly.
If you've already seen the shows on Netflix and so on, then you're not missing much. That's sad when you have great talent at hand and a director who has a good flair of how to create unnerving scenes. I wanna highlight the camera work again. Many set-pieces have a good use of blocking, light and inventiveness to make everything look less lazy. It's a movie made by people who know what they're doing filmmaking and performance wise, but it was made under unfortunate circumstances. With one mistake that made the whole project suffer. It's the same story of Escobar again, yet you get to understand him and Vallejo's relation. And more importantly why she loved and hated him at the same time. If you wanna see Escobar's life from that perspective, then check it out for curiosity. I wanna give it merit where merit is due, but I was left disappointed.
Humans and Dinosaurs working together? Will the film, huh, find a way?
Take a shot every time Bryce Dallas Howard does a dramatic head turn, and you'll be walking in circles by the end. They tried to transition into new directions, and the efforts are admired. Ultimately, the "scary" elements don't mesh that well with the action tone they got going. Colin Trevorrow, who directed the last film, wrote the script and produces this time around. The man's got decent ideas and the new director J.A Bayona has a good eye for interesting visuals and tension building. You get neat scenes and shots, but everything as a whole can't escape to not feel serious. It's a mixed bag of "Hey, I liked that little funny moment.", "Wow, those dinos are pretty clever" and "Yeah, now the T-Rex saved them last minute again.. Wonder if that will happen once more in the third act".
I'll say that I enjoyed most of the comedy and that action set piece at the end. If you embrace the ridiculousness of the scenario, you'll have fun. Mostly because the dinosaurs have nice personalities. So I liked that. Chris Pratt is still an action safari man, he survives anything and can fight his way through bad henchmen like it's no big deal. It seemed like they were kind of self- aware of it, so with that in mind it can be seen as a wink to the camera going "Yeah, we know". Whenever he's not training raptors he's a lumberjack man who wants to build a house. That was alright, and I honestly bought the whole raptor training aspect. It was nice to see human and dinosaur working together as a team. The big evil villain, the Indoraptor, he was great. Never have I seen such a sinister dino who even smirks to the joy of killing. Organically, the movie looks and feels like a proper "Jurassic Park" story, only that it takes some of the silliness to a new level. But, if they fully embrace what they were transitioning to, then maybe, the franchise can still find life... or if I rephrase; the film will, huh, find a way.
I'm a little torn on weather I like this more than the fourth one. Maybe. It's generic, yeah, but I'm glad the second half did attempt to change the scenario. I'd be happy to watch a "Jurassic" movie without any human characters. Just have the dinosaurs, like that show "Walking with Dinosaurs". Well, with the preceding film we got Jimmy Fallon, but you know what, here we get Jeff Goldblum back. Even with a limited screen time, the phrase of "more Goldblum the better", still applies. Oh, and Geraldine Chaplin is always a delightful presence. She must be Bayona's favorite actress.
PS: To me it looks like the series can evolve into a "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" type story, only that it's dinosaurs instead of apes. That's at least the vibe I got from it.
Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
No happiness or anger - Just an average feeling in between
"I have a really good feeling about this!" That's the line that Han says in the trailer that's playing in the cinema before the movies. And I remember my friend leaning over to me and saying: "I hate that he says that so much". There's no denying that all of my friends felt that this movie was not needed, me included. But we got it nonetheless and I always wanna give every movie a chance. "Star Wars" has been a very meaningful and inspirational saga for me and my family since ever before I can even remember. When Disney took over I held out hope that the new adventures would give me some joy of revisiting these characters in this world that I love. Unfortunately, I have been feeling more and more let down about the whole situation. I'm not gonna get into it here because there's too much to discuss. And there's already plenty of people who have voiced their displeasure of the mishandling of this property. The fear of us getting a new SW film every year is that the specialness will fade away. That they no longer feel like the events they were and that SW becomes over-saturated. It's been talked to death on other platforms, I know. I'm gonna get to what I thought, since that's why you are reading. Well, I did my best to go in with no expectations. Just to be open with the whole "expect the worst and hope for the best" type thing. And yes, you feel the "Star Warsy"-ness, but I couldn't help but to leave the cinema less happy than you should watching a SW movie. The action set-pieces, the references and the practical effects are appreciated. But the core of the story needed more.
Every beat of what you sort of expect to happen happens. Chewbacca and Han's friendship was what I bought the most. It honestly felt pure and sympathetic. They got that right. Of course, the heist stuff is fun, but the care for the people and story? Other than the fact that you already know some of them based on previous films, you don't feel the importance of why this needed to be told. It becomes an un-eventful film in the series that really adds nothing new to what you already know about our main characters. It's nice to see Lando because you know him, but in the end he is just there in surface-level form. Nothing against Donald Glover, he was a great casting choice. But if this was your introduction to him or Han, then I'm not sure how much you would care. The reason I felt I could care a little was based on knowing who Han or Lando are in the other movies. I will again say that I enjoyed when the sense of urgency kicked in. You know, when a mission or quest is presented and you go: "Yeah, I'm ready. Let's go on an adventure". It's unfortunate that the adventure leads to no special impact. Creature effects and designs felt organic to the world, so that was nice to see. I bought the underground gambling places a lot more here than I did in "The Last Jedi". Here they blended in to the world and didn't distract. Everything looked and felt like it belonged in the SW universe. Although I would be happy if they didn't over-relay on everything that's nostalgia. Some new element would be nice to introduce. But this movie lands in a safe zone where no big leaps of risks are taken. The problem is that it failed to engage me in the actual story.
The movie didn't make me feel happy or angry, it's a feeling in between. It's probably just fine, but you won't remember most if it. An average sci-fi movie that doesn't do much more than to be mildly entertaining. I have nothing against Ron Howard. I feel more bad for him because he had to take over mid-production and fix what he could. I respect the commitment in his effort, but I think I would have done some changes to make sure it got a warmer reaction. How about Alden "Would that it were so simple" / "The rules don't apply to you" Ehrenreich? Well, he's not a bad actor, kids. Leave him alone. The issue is that I just couldn't buy him as Solo. I'm sorry, Alden. You did your best, but you seemed more like another character. There's glimmers towards the end that remind you that it's supposed to be Han, but again, it's surface level. Not to say that I didn't think his character was like-able. No, he has charisma and humanity about him. But it's sad that it's never to the point where he earns the role and you go; "That's Solo!". I'm gonna end the review by saying that I'm conflicted about it. There are fun scenes to enjoy, but the the bigger picture is... kind of ..uninteresting. I hate to say it, and the worst part is that I'm starting to feel ready to let go of the new SW. If "Episode IX" doesn't give me the motivation to see what happens next, then... What's the point?
PS: There's a cameo at the end and it was actually the most unexpected and exciting part of the movie. But it's also a little bit like: "Oh, I'm happy to see you.. But, what.. Why again?"
Deadpool 2 (2018)
Delivers the same laughs as the first + some fun action set-pieces
Well, I laughed and I certainly did not cry. Which probably wasn't the point. The "John Wick" co-director David Leitch takes command of the direction after Tim Miller left. You can tell the action sequences have been geared into a better level with more interesting scenarios and set-pieces. What I love about the humor is how self-aware it is. Deadpool pokes fun and satirizes the X-Men films and the genre as a whole. At times it can go a little too far with them overplaying some jokes or making others really obvious. It's OK to play hard to get, you can hold back at some moments. But I get it, the character is foul-mouthed, unfiltered and loves to let the audience know he's in control of this movie. I know I enjoyed the full speed ahead farce that it was. But I'm gonna have to process weather I like it more than the first one. Some elements for sure, but the bigger picture? Hmm.. Perhaps the freshness was gone, but that doesn't mean it's bad.
New characters were a well welcomed addition. And by that I mean welcomed with big open arms. Domino had lots of sympathy to bring but she was also a great fast thinking fighter. Josh Brolin is perfect for Cable. I liked the brutal intensity that transmitted across the screen whenever he busted through the walls. He made a great serious counterbalance to Ryan Reynolds' jokey, spandex, anti-hero man. It sort of felt like another "Terminator"-like science-fiction movie when it was just a scene featuring Cable. Which reminds me that there are plenty of serious parts as well. By that I mean actual dramatic parts where there are no jokes. Which was a little problematic for me at first because it had been so full of jokes/meta-humor for the entirety of the run-time up until that point. So I wasn't sure how seriously I was to take a certain scene. Since I was sure it was gonna lead up to a joke that would ease out that tension. But, nope! The jokes didn't return until after they were done with the serious bit. A drastic tonal change from "funny/poking fun at movies times" to "dead serious, no joke, drama where the hero cries". So, there you go. My nitpick.
The mid-credit scene is fantastic though, be sure to stick around for that. It's worth it and it only makes me believe that Reynolds was born to play the role even more than before. So that really elevated the entire movie for me. Lots of in-jokes, so I don't know if everyone's gonna get it. It's pretty much a crowd-pleasing movie that doesn't hold back with the references. But only really to those who have seen the other X-Men or Marvel movies. That's a reason why it might not be so funny to everyone. And to be honest I did laugh at plenty of things. Especially at what the X-Force storyline leads up to. Did not expect that... At all! Oh, and also, You know not to bring the kids. It's R-rated for a reason. If the first one didn't do it for you in the joke department and you prefer the more serious work in the comic book film catalogue; Then this will not be so funny to you. Even though I prefer a more emotional and motivational superhero tale, I do appreciate the weird variety of character traits that Deadpool brings to an already crowded genre.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Spectacle and weight, perfectly balanced
A culmination of the first 10 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's kind of insane of far they've gotten. There isn't any major development on previously established characters in this one. But that's OK since we have 18 other movies where you can get to know everything about them. Thanos is the man who's at the core. It's really good because now the villain isn't sidelined at all. Bold chances are taken, which actually makes you feel the important weight that this movie needed to bring. All in order for it to leave a greater impact and resonance compared to what the MCU has done before. It's a theme park ride, but with real care put into it. It's not merely action and special effects for the sake of it. There's a real humanity at the core of this extravaganza.
I'm the guy who doesn't read the Marvel comics. I've become a fan of these characters because of the MCU films. I knew nothing about Iron Man or Thor or Captain America. Now I have gotten to know them throughout the years thanks to this series and I feel a greater appreciation for them. The films haven't been fantastic masterpieces or anything, but they have given you what's necessary: An understanding of the hero. They have also brought some great fun and the adventure that you may want in a movie going experience. However, this time you are given something extra. There is a reward for having gone through 18 films. You can nitpick this because of tonal shifts and focusing on so many story-lines. I honestly think it's very impressive how it was put together in the end. Must have been a nightmare juggling what could have been a complete mess. Thankfully it isn't.
Try to stay away from spoilers since this is definitely "Mic Drop: The Movie". I will say one last thing before ending the review and please stay with me on this one. People say that there's going to be Marvel fatigue because there's been so many superhero movies coming out every year. And with some of them I understand. The Repetitiveness has been felt. But look back at the 50's or 60's when the grand epic super-scope films were based on mythological stories or historical figures or biblical tales. Movies like "Jason and the Argonauts", "Ben-Hur", "The 300 Spartans" etc. Those were often pure spectacle with a huge scale and the masses went to see them because they were events. The plots were adapted from very old stories. Archetypical stories with classic heroes and villains. All of those stories have been adapted by now. So the Marvel films are kind of acting like an equivalent of that for modern times. The superhero stories are from newer sources, but they feature similar archetypes. They have pretty much become replacements of the epic films from back then. The mythological stories are much older than the comic books and are naturally more respected and known. Superhero tales are more recent, but when you break it down to the core, they carry on that legacy. So take it easy with them and enjoy the experience.
Mary Magdalene (2018)
A beautiful looking movie that leaves you feeling more empty than you should
The simple way of explaining this movie is imagine if Terence Malick filmed it, but he attempted to make the feel of it to be like a Tarkovskij film. I had a decent time watching "Mary Magdalene". You can look at the pictures and performances and see the beauty of the story. Yet, I hate to say it: It slows down and becomes un-eventful too many times. The director Garth Evans went the melancholic route were you are supposed to feel like you are wandering the landscapes with Jesus and his apostles. The world is a silent and lonely one, and there's barely much happiness going on. Jesus may spread wisdom, hope and kindness. Although here he keeps that sad stare as if something is troubling him. I think it was supposed to symbolize serenity, but it made him seem more depressed. Every adaptation of the Jesus story presents a different interpretation and here again, they give you a slightly sorrowful looking Joaquin Phoenix. He wasn't bad at all though. Just somewhat distracting at first because I kept thinking of his character in "Inherent Vice". As the movie progressed I got used this version. So it was alright. You can't hate Phoenix any way. He's a nice guy. Rooney Mara is wonderful as Mary. She carries a lot of this movie as its told from her perspective. I enjoyed her interaction with the rest of the apostles as well as her mutual respect and connection to what Jesus wanted to say. She struggles in the difficult world, but maintains that inner warmth that you need when you comfort someone in need.
I think the film is OK. The slow parts drag and there are only so many melancholic stares you can endure before you go: "Come on, guys. I get it". It's supposed to a realistic approach. You hear the sounds of nature and the breeze of the wind as you wander the fields with short grass. All of that is nice. But it's constantly dramatic and quiet. I wanted to see some more kindness and optimism to show us more nuances from the characters. You've seen the Jesus story be told many times and here's another one. It's not bad, but it lacked a special punch of uniqueness. I think "Last Days in the Desert" handled the quiet melancholic version of the tale better. This is not a bad attempt, but more of an underwhelming one. It's beautiful to look at and you have nice people who you follow. But it leaves you feeling more empty than you should. I respect what Mary Magdalene did and I'm happy I got to understand her perspective. But I don't think I ever have to see this entire movie again. Only recommended to loyal fans of the people involved making the film and those who are interested in the different adaptations the Jesus story.
Tomb Raider (2018)
A decent adventure movie
I was thinking of starting my review by saying that the most exciting action was the "Premium Rush" bike scene at the beginning. But, actually.. It's a decent adventure movie. I honestly had no expectations and in the end I thought it wasn't bad. The story of the film follows a lot of standard tropes, but none of it annoyed me. It was simple and pretty straightforward. Just never becoming anything too convoluted or cheesy. It was a pure classical adventure tale. Archetypical would be the right word. So it was fun and also, the action wasn't half bad. You felt some intense tension. Especially since they throw around Lara so much. Be ready for her to get hurt a lot. I felt kind of bad seeing her get so injured and beat up. Because Vikander looks so innocent and kind. But the moment when she goes after the bad guys you see that ferocity in here gaze. And that's when you realize: "Yep, those guys are gonna get hurt". It gets kind of gritty at times as well and I appreciate some of realness in the approach they went for. Obviously you are gonna have the hero moments. But they are built up decently to the point where it's earned. She is also not afraid having to get into brutal fights. Not much of a superhero, but she is a friendly and nice character. Vikander did not skip her homework here. She is very devoted and brings a fierce performance and molds the character to make it her own. I'm giving that dedicated care a thumps up!
It's not without its flaws. You can easily figure where it's gonna go and important moments fly by fast. Here and there you also get that very convenient movie scene, that can only happen in the movies. Those parts get old. They didn't wanna waste time on developing certain characters and story points. I think that about 10 more minutes of development would have benefited. Walton Goggins is a charismatic actor and he took his part seriously. Not a bad job on his part. Daniel Wu was a fun addition as this drunk captain. He fades into the background towards the third act though. I guess that's not a big deal since it's Lara Croft's story after all. Once you get to the tomb you actually spend some proper time being part of the exploration. It's time to go down those dusty stone steps and look at mysterious imagery on the walls. Look out for traps, you know. And that's the stuff we enjoy. There's homages to many classic adventurous stories and I was having a lot of flashbacks to things like "Adventures of Tintin", Peter Jackson's "King Kong", "The Mummy", "On Stranger Tides", "Indy Jones" (of course) and even "AVP". Well, I'm mentioning that last movie because there's an underground temple involved that sort of reminded me of the one from that flick.
Honestly not a bad video game movie. It's perfectly watchable. I had a good time with the action, set-pieces and the expedition to find this mysterious sacred thing. I was afraid of the whole: "You are the only one who can save the world" stuff. That's just too much of a stretch. But, hey! They played it off like "that's just crazy talk". Keeping it simple with fewer characters and smaller story was the right thing to do. The focus becomes more clear. They, of course, set-up a sequel. And if it ends up happening I'll be checking it out. So maybe the best video game movie I've seen? It feels weird saying that, but I wasn't annoyed by it. Check it out! Besides you will feel like taking part of parkour bike racing in the city.
The Outsider (2018)
Mediocre, but somehow enjoyably intriguing
I've seen a lot of negative reactions to this movie, and I can understand the reasoning. The narrative approach goes a usual route and it's not so inventive as a whole. Yet I couldn't help but enjoy the experience somehow. It's easy for me to get drawn into this mysterious crime world in Japan. There are intriguing elements for sure, but nothing too surprising. You won't get an action film which appears to be what many were thinking. Turns out its centered on atmosphere where you follow a vessel-like character. I can see why someone would be bored. Your main character isn't so open and there isn't a sense of urgency. Weirdly enough for me it feels like the slow burn helped me get more immersed into what was going on. At times I felt like I was next to the driver's seat as the car would enter into the dark underground world and its traditions. I can't say the entire movie was interesting. There are some halts were the drama didn't land. Still, for every dull moment you sometimes get an engaging one. The beautiful aesthetics are always stimulatingly great to look at, but they weren't utilized to the fullest.
Jared Leto is subtle and grounded here which is refreshing since he has in recent memory most been known for playing weirdos. There is also this intensity in his eyes which makes him all the more believable as a violent gangster man. I've liked Tadanobu Asano in everything I've seen him in and here he delivers another great performance with many nuances. A shame that he was a little underused. It's weird because I really saw that the movie was mostly mediocre surface stuff, but I was hooked and enjoyed it nonetheless. I would usually not recommend a movie like this. In this case I'll actually say; Give it a chance. Be open and see what you think. I honestly expected worse.
Phantom Thread (2017)
Challenging picture with elegant rewards
Have I ever been interested in sewing or fashion? No. Does romance or costume drama films interested me a lot? Not too often. But this film, "Phantom Thread", got my attention. If you are a cinema fan then the reasons may seem obvious. It's Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis re-teaming just in time for the 10th anniversary of "There Will Be Blood". I watched all of the PTA films in preparation for this one and I've noticed how much of a chameleon he is. All of his films are so different and unique. Although I can recognize the visual look of his pictures. And just mentioning really quickly before I forget: PTA acted as his own cinematographer (uncredited as well). And it looks stupendous. The framing and the blocking of characters is on point! The story was inspired by a special look the director got from his wife's eyes when he had been very sick. To me it's so interesting that the movie was built around that. I never knew where the story would take me next. So because it constantly surprised me, I will not write about any plot details in this review. Suffice it to say, the filmmaking here is the work of masters, yet it comes across as a small personal little movie.
It's the details. What you choose to focus on. The storytelling doesn't lie in the script as much it does in visuals. You can have a fantastic script with layered characters and you may not necessarily need to film it in such a detailed way. Because most details are told and therefore you can film that movie in a simpler way: Shooting the story. But here partly why it's so compelling is in the way the story is shown. The story is not told, but shown with visual imagery and the choices in the details that are presented to you on the screen. That's merely one reason why it's so compelling. We are dealing with characters that are strangely particular. I can honestly say that I found myself understanding what was going in their minds. Most of that is also communicated with stares and long silences where your guiding point becomes that look in the character's eye. Vicky Krieps is a like-able presence, and I hope that she gets the recognition she deserves from this as its easy to get overshadowed Day-Lewis. She manages to stand out and bring complex a character to life. I'm fascinated with Daniel Day-Lewis. The fact that he immerses himself that much into his roles even leads to him feeling the same trauma his character will. That's an insane amount of dedication which also leads to the most real performance you can get. So obviously he's good, but so is the rest of the cast and crew too - Which shouldn't be forgotten. The character of Reynolds is as dedicated to his art as the filmmakers are. Sometimes he feels bursts of creative ideas and he can't help but to get into his work and isolate himself. He loves his art and I can understand him as an artist myself. Because there are times when you need that concentration and focus. Those are the moments when you can't get distracted by other stuff. That only leads to your frustration because of you loosing that creative energy.
It's complicated to explain all of this and I could talk about "Phantom Thread" for hours, but I'll get to my final points. It's slow paced and I think that a lot of folks out there may find it tedious or un-engaging. It's strange at places, but to me it was always interesting. I wouldn't have minded the run-time to be longer actually. Today was the Swedish premiere of the film. The wait was sure long for us to get it. The cinema was pretty empty and only a handful of old ladies were in the audience. A shame that not more people showed up. But maybe it's the subject matter that doesn't turn any heads. Because believe me, it's about so much more than just sowing. I implore everyone who admires cinema to check it out and just give it one little chance. It can be challenging, but elegantly rewarding.
Black Panther (2018)
Refreshing hero in a fun, but underwhelming narrative
"Black Panther Down" is the movie directed by Ridley Scott and starring Orlando Bloom for 2 seconds. Alright, I'm just joking. It's been a long day, but I got the chance to check out the new Marvel movie, which I had no real expectations for. The marketing didn't get me hooked and it all sort of felt underwhelming to me. But I wanted to see it since I liked the Black Panther a lot in ''Civil War'' with his "I don't care" attitude. The character did grow with his own little story arc, so when you see him now, he's become a more responsable man. The movie was fine in my eyes. It's your usual Marvel picture when it comes to story and visuals, but at least it's an entertaining flick with enough craziness to keep you locked in for two hours. That's something I feel that the guys at Marvel aren't afraid of anymore; to go all out with the comic book weirdness and sometimes campyness. Now they wanna embrace it. Which has been strongly evident in the last "Thor" movie. That's not to say that there isn't any grittiness, because there is. It's all combined into one here. I'll applaud them for going to new places. But the end result didn't stick out to be more than mainly a fun time with popcorn at the movies.
I would have probably changed the visual style more if I was the one making it. Can they use less green-screen next time, please? It's Africa! I wanna see the savannas and the fantastic nature sights. There's an over-reliance of just resorting to fake digital backgrounds rather than using real locations. The digital gloom over everything lessened the visual appeal for me. But, hey! That's just the look. How's the story? Yeah, it's decent. I liked the grounded stuff mixed with African culture and/or mythology. The Wakandan technology and civilization was jarring to me at first sight. Not even Tony Stark has that level of tech. It was too much of a future city for my taste. Although the question of why the Wakandan tech has never been heard of before is brought in the movie as a major plot point. So I thought it was nice that it was addressed. The characters are fun and everyone brings a nice charisma to the screen. Chadwick Boseman, Lupita NYong'o and Forest Whittaker give their absolute care to the movie. It's no paycheck day for sure. It feels like Martin Freeman basically just hanged around on set. I was happy to see him there though. Because he would see and react to Wakandan culture like we, the audience would. The villains are good, but like in most previous Marvel films; they get sidelined again. Andy Serkis brought a fantastic personality to his mischievous guy, but his screen-time is limited. That was an unwise choice. Michael B. Jordan (AKA Creed) is also very interesting and unique. Not very often these days when you can understand the villain's motive so well. The main group are, like I mentioned, good and all.. But, the biggest problem I have is that the story line goes to all the expected places. It's pretty much like "we've done all of this stuff before". I wasn't surprised by where the plot ended up going because it's usual business and all so going through the familiar beats. It would have been more fun with some different twists. The action is entertaining. You even get a ''Skyfall''-like casino scene, but with some additional slow-mo fighting, of course.
Did I care for the story? Sure. There are neat moments and a fun adventure with good heroes to root for. None of it was captivating enough to raise my enjoyment unfortunately. I could see the emotional things and what they were trying to do. But, I didn't feel it. Black Panther is a superhero I've known almost nothing about. That's the reason I decided to go in as blank as I could. I would have loved to have been surprised, but I got a fun action movie with like-able heroes instead. Ultimately the character is sort of a mix of "The Phantom" and "Batman". I'm a fan of both those two and if you haven't read the Phantom comics, then I would highly recommend them. I wanted to see more of the tone you'd read there. It's grounded, but it feels a little fantastical too. The jungle is dark and mysterious. Filled with many legends and roads to unknown adventures. Well, I think my review has ended up too long, so I'll wrap it up. I'm sure Black Panther can become even better down the line, if there's more focus on delivering something less predictable and maybe more personal. Oh, and delve into the mythology and the mysticism more next time. It did what it had to do; to entertain and make audiences feel familiar with Wakanda. Now my thought is that "Infinity War" better deliver. Show me what 10 years of this Cinematic Universe has been leading up to. Do not play it safe, please. Any way, "Black Panther" was fine. It's a good time, but it should have had more weight.
A fond farewell
E&H Company is a group of filmmaking friends who have released many action films over the years. But the one series that has stood out the most is the "Statsminister" trilogy. It's the story that chronicles around the life of the politician Soeren Rasmussen and his journey to become the Prime Minister of Denmark. "Dirty Politics" is said to be final chapter of the series, but also the final project in E&H's filmography. Even without that in mind, it still felt like the movie was a humble farewell to some old friends.
The thing that makes this story interesting is the conflict between the characters. What does one do to maintain control of a country? Or what do you do if someone abuses power or money? These are just a few of many questions that become the focus point. The realization of the drama will for sure keep your interest. It's about the morals and the things that happen with friends when greed or power-hungriness gets in the way. Since these films take a kind and down-to-earth approach it's difficult to not get (at least) a little invested. The politicians play their games, but Soeren is calm and does what he can to make things fair. However, this time the character is pushed even further to face a serious concern. The ultimate downfall and conclusion of the story is actually pretty unpredictable. All the performers give it their all. Jacob K. Ebbesen is more nuanced than ever before. He ranges from from polite to serious and then to concerned. His character is trapped in a world of corruption and scandal, but still finds a way to remain that humanity which makes him sympathetic. It's pretty heartfelt to see. Lasse Ravn Jakobsen and Nicholas Hansen are regulars as well and they also shine in their portrayal of the fellow politicians. It would not be the same without those supporting characters.
I can forgive the limited resources since I know that's not what's essential here. What is important is the story of the people. I'd say that E&H has improved their visual style over the years. But the one thing that has never gone away is that every work they do is very personal. I wish the E&H group a good luck going forward and hopefully some day in the future - we'll see more work from them again. PS: Look out for some fun cameos in the first act.
I like the talent involved, but better luck next time
An unfortunate letdown. It pains me to say this because this had the potential to be very good. "Kings" is a story centered around the LA riots which occurred in the early 90's. It's told through the perspective of a family who find themselves in the middle of the intense event. There was set-up for great drama, but the end result is an uneven mess with little to no pay-off. This movie had the most abrupt and out of nowhere endings that I've seen all year. Early on we seem to be promised an emotional and riveting finale. And we never get that finale. It just sort of ends before the third act is taking shape. The first half of the film suffers a lot. I didn't form much of an attachment with the characters. The editing switches too quickly between people with little moments to breath and for you to get to know them. Besides, almost every scene during the first half consists of people yelling and talking over each other constantly. The pace is unfocused. You can only take so much loud shouting before your only wish is for people to calm down and be quiet for just a second. The silent or calmer scenes are precious because there are so few of them. Halle Berry gives a good performance and so does Daniel Craig. They are both like-able as their bonding slowly progresses throughout the story. If they only picked a better project to be apart of though. It was a waste of their talents. Lamar Johnson who plays Berry's son gets a lot screen-time, and he was really good playing a grounded and sympathetic character. There's much heavy lifting for him to do as he wants to make sense out of the situation and find some peaceful solution to many problems. I was on-board with his story-line until he, of course, disappears towards the end. The development of the character pretty much stopped just as it was about to get the most interesting. Tonally it's all pretty realistic with documentary like montage sequences. Well, except for one abstract dream scene involving Berry and Craig that confused half the audience. It was supposed to be "romantic", but it's like nothing else in the entire movie. The scene comes off as more comedic than anything because of how cheesy the presentation is. It was kind of embarrassing as well, which made me feel bad for the actors.
The actual riot scenes weren't bad. It's the journey up to that point that's difficult to tolerate. If only they didn't let every dialogue scene be people yelling, shouting or screaming. The pulse can't be that high all the time. There needs to be some breathing. I like the actors and the director is respected, but they can't save the movie. We get some sprinkled decent moments, but there's just not enough of them. Oh, I'll give it a point for being shot on film. No complaints on cinematography. Don't rush out to see this one once it comes out. Catch it on VOD or something and be sure to not have the volume too high. Trust me, it's gonna get loud. My other summary of the film is: I like you guys, but better luck next time.
Justice League (2017)
Getting rid of past mistakes and embracing a lighter tone
DC is cleaning up its past mistakes. This is the filmmakers going away from the gritty modern style established in "Man of Steel" and going back to the classic light feel reminiscent of Rich Donner's "Superman" from '78. If you thought "Batman v Superman" was disappointing, then have no fear. Joss Whedon is here to make things more.. hopeful.. Yeah, that would be word. Hopeful, lighthearted and more like the old classic superhero stories. All the bad decisions made in previous movies are now starting to get undone. And that's really good. They should have started out this way, but at least they now know what the right direction is. We owe a lot to "Wonder Woman" for that. Too bad the studio told them to not go over two hours with the run-time. Because that's what ultimately hurt the movie the most. There's a strange rushed feeling throughout it. Lots of new characters are introduced within a short time and before you notice you are already watching the final fight. That's the real issue here. It brushes over things quickly and you don't get much out of it. It's entertaining, but there's no weight or a good enough connection to what's going on. Everything is just decent. But, hey! This is the Justice League! It should be more than just fine... Right? Well, this is what we got. And it could have been way worse. You can watch it and not be too bothered.
I liked the characters. They are all performed well. Flash is the one that I think could have been a little stronger. This is an interpretation of him being awkward and an outcast. He had his moments of being somewhat too weird, but I did laugh at most of it. Aquaman didn't get enough time, but I'm fine with the direction they went with. It was fun to see the League interact. At times I forgot about the actors and just saw the comic book heroes instead. And that's a good sign. Still, this movie is messing with me with conflicting thoughts. I liked the characters and many visuals, but the story and overall pacing is rushing instead of being effective. I didn't feel the important impacts of major scenes. I wish I did. By the way, Hans Zimmer is out and Danny Elfman comes back to the genre as a composer. He re-uses his own "Batman" theme from the '89 film as well as using John Williams classic "Superman" score. It's always nice to hear these themes, but it's really distracting. It would have been better with some new original music. The action is fine, but it doesn't get that exciting. It's just watchable with little impact. The best fight is actually the one during the beginning bank heist scene. It never got that good again. In the end I'll say that it isn't bad. It's a decent popcorn movie that for once would have benefited having a longer run-time. Just so that we could feel the importance of the Justice League forming for the first time. The good news are that the future of the DCEU might be in good hands now. We'll see, but I hope so.
Brad's Status (2017)
This movie's status is wonderfully heartfelt
Oh, man. It's been a while since I saw a movie getting complicated feelings and relations so right. Some of the things that are brought up here are extremely true and honest. To tell you the truth, it moved me quite a bit. The simplicity of it is almost genius. We follow Brad as he helps his son find a college. He questions what he will leave behind and what his connection with his old friends has truly become over the years. The film takes a very down to earth approach, with us reaching into the mindset of the main character. I enjoy Ben Stiller in comedies, but he is excellent in drama roles like these. It's a sympathetic character with good intentions, but he also has his problems. Mainly his fear of being forgotten because he didn't dare to take risks. Stiller plays it all so authentically real. Mike White's writing is on point. It's a shame that he doesn't direct more often because he has some potential. The cinematography by Xavier Grobet beautifully captures the mood of the early autumn with a wonderful use of colors.
I love it when I see a film with some hopefulness. But what hit me the most was the question of your life choices. Everyone has surely had a moment when you feel like you didn't make it, but other people who are close to you did. The thought of you growing envious of someone who is close to you can be horrifying. How do you deal with that and how honest can we really get with our friends? The fact that this movie presented this subject in such a real way was very heartfelt to me. It's not a perfect film, but I found a great connection with the story. I commend it for not being an Oscar bait, but just a small crisp diamond that I will look forward to revisit again. Highly recommended!
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Thor reinventing himself with the backdrop of an 80's synth
Thor must stop Ragnarök! It's back again: The Marvel machine. Pumping out more and more movies for you. This movie is what you expect. It's a fun, enjoyable party. It's difficult to hate it, because you realize the movie itself isn't taking things that seriously. This time around they are more self-aware than usual. I liked that addition. It's true that we are so many movies in and you question when it will get tiresome. But to my surprise they shape-shifted the franchise again and got out on top. I never expected that I would like a third "Thor" film as much as I did. It's unexpected, but I'm so glad they took some chances by not making the same movie again. If you've had a stressful week or just a bad day, then you will not have a good time watching something that's too dramatic. That's when something like "Ragnarok" steps in. It's a nice refresher. Forget your problems for an hour and follow Thor while he jumps around with 80s synth music. The first act is basically a classic "Thor" sequel. But things pick up as soon as our hero lands on Sakaar, and the film enters an edgy science fiction zone. It's funny, full of great jokes. It's distracting at first because its obvious how much the humor has been turned up compared to some previous chapters. I easily started enjoying it though. Everyone had fun making this movie and that fun feeling transcends to me as well.
Cate Blanchett's Hela is one of those scenery chewing villains. It's classic, but whenever we cut back to her it does feel like an entirely different film. Like with "Homecoming", I enjoyed the character interaction scenes more than the action. The final battle feels like an easy training match. It's like we are on autopilot, but then again we get some neat visual elements. Every supporting character is great for this story. The Hulk, Loki, Grandmaster, Valkyrie.. They are all like-able. Jeff Goldblum is playing himself and its fantastic for what it is. Also, the director of the movie plays one of the best new characters. There really isn't much that I can add to the things that everyone else already is saying. It would sound that I'm just repeating every other review for this film. The truth is that "Ragnarok" is a very laid-back watch with some retro feels sprinkled in just the right scenes. Know this though; It doesn't strive to become emotionally engaging or inspirational in any way. It won't hit you in the feels as they say. But it's a funny space party where every friend is included and appreciated.