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Dragon (2011)
7/10
Almost great
1 April 2020
Warning: Spoilers
A movie that is mostly gripping from start to finish yet leaves one unsatisfied. This is because there is both great stuff and undermining weak stuff.

It's a genre salad, mixing a Western-style harsh redemption drama, martial arts, some over-the-top evil-cult stuff, super-acupuncture as well as physical powers that are so over-the-top the genre veers into the supernatural myth-fantasy, and a detective story with a super-observant eye and arcane knowledge, Sherlock style. Some of it works, some doesn't, and some of it undermines the other parts.

Most of all however, it is a re-imagining of "A History of Violence" in a historical kung-fu setting with much more over-the-top elements.

The cinematography, location shooting, and texture-rich historical detail are all superb, as is the rousing, unusually rocking soundtrack for such a period pic.

There are only 2-3 action scenes and each is very different. One is a tricky fight scene involving fighting without fighting which has both brilliant Rashomon-style dual angles, as well as a bit of cheating of the audience. The middle fight scene is classic fury and thrilling action with (not too much) wire-work. The last one involves too much supernatural power that undermines the action, leading to a very disappointing deus-ex-machina ending.

Donnie Yen is not an expressive actor to say the least, but here he does some of his best acting work (relatively!). His fury is still way too flat however. Other actors all do better. Some characters arcs like Donnie's and his wife's are done well, the detective's character is a mess however.

As you can gather from the above, it's a very mixed bag. But definitely worth the watch as long as one isn't expecting only a martial-arts movie (almost but not quite enough great action). I think it's one of those movies that one watches and enjoys, but which then becomes very bothersome and doesn't sit well in the mind, what with all the what-ifs and flaws and certain knowledge of how great it could have been with some adjustments. For example, how good it may have been if they had kept it more realistic.

Oh, and I watched the full version (115mins). I would avoid the Weinstein-raped cut version. Those releases are never good.
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Hereditary (2018)
7/10
Almost a masterpiece - frustrating writing/ending
6 November 2019
Warning: Spoilers
This is an impressive horror movie with a lot going for it, but it is plagued by modern-day lazy writing which will frustrate a thinking audience. Lovers of this movie obviously haven't thought everything through as I will demonstrate below. And the slow-pace seemingly turned off a whole bunch of others, even though the superb gradually-building horror is one of its great strengths. The other impressive aspect is the acting, and this is universally acclaimed.

It's about a family plagued by disturbing horror that has made them thoroughly dysfunctional. One death after another, each surrounded by mysterious and strange details, and their lives are constantly made worse by spooky hauntings and strange behavior and events. Suspicions of insanity are conflated with supernatural horror.

The movie uses a heavy horror soundtrack and knows how to get under your skin using a mixture of classic horror and disturbing family drama and behavior. It does not resort to cheap jump-scares. (In fact, the movie could have been good even without the supernatural stuff by simply exploring insanity from trauma).

*major spoilers follow*

The one movie that this can be strongly compared to in terms of ideas and plot is Rosemary's Baby.

The stuff that is clearly thought-out:

Grandmother was obviously the leader of this cult that was trying to invoke Paimon in the bodies of her grandchildren. Presumably she wanted it done to her offspring for some reason, and they had to be young and 'vulnerable'. The previous attempt failed (Charlie) since she was female and they didn't know that this was important, and they had to kill her by invoking magic to undo it. There was also another failed attempt mentioned in the support meeting performed on Annie's brother. The rest of their efforts concentrated on Peter, whom they had to kill so that Paimon could take over his body. They even used and controlled her daughter (Annie) through 'sleepwalking' and possession to get their way, which is why she did all those strange and disturbing things to Peter.

Joan, a cult member, was pure manipulation to get their way through psychological trickery (rather than possession which wasn't working so far). The seance was a distraction just to get her to read the incantation and involve her family and to bring Paimon's spirit into the house by calling Charlie's spirit (which previously hosted Paimon). This worked and escalated the horrors since Paimon was now hanging around the family as a malicious spirit, and it even tried killing Peter in school on its own. So their goal was to kill Peter for Paimon who was only now ready to take him.

And now the stuff that wasn't thought through:

  • If all they needed was Peter to die, then why didn't any of the cult members simply kill him in his sleep or some other way after Annie read the incantation? They had free access to the house obviously as is made clear many times. And it didn't require magic since obviously suicide was enough. And it didn't require him being scared and vulnerable since he obviously was petrified many times beforehand.


  • If Annie had successfully burned Peter while 'sleepwalking' in the past, wouldn't this have deprived them of his body for Paimon? Plus, they hadn't yet released Paimon from Charlie at that time. So none of this sleepwalking stuff makes sense. Unless it was only her insanity added for random shock value.


  • What was the big deal with the book that she tried to burn? It's just stupid pictures. Why did she believe it would help in any way? And why did the father burn down instead of her even though she threw it in the flames? Why did anyone burn at all? Either the book is meaningless in which case her motivation has no logic, or it is meaningful and yet it had no effect except to burn random people. 'Random malicious games by an evil spirit' doesn't explain why she was obsessed with the book to begin with while she was awake.


  • What was the point of having Annie decapitate herself at that point towards the end? She was a useful tool until then and still hadn't achieved her purpose. So one can't even attribute this to 'random evil' from a being that likes decapitating people, since it's against their own interests. I mean they obviously were desperately trying to have her kill Peter until now and he still wasn't dead. In fact, what killed him was his own suicide from the surprise-shock of the three naked cult members after that. Which, once again, seems completely random and this from a cult that otherwise made careful plans. Inconsistencies galore!


  • What's the point of the headless corpses? They were obviously dead since besides being headless, they were also decomposing and not moving. So why would the cult bother bringing them into the house and have them bow down in the final scene? Just more pointless shock tactics for the audience rather than the plot.


In summary: The atmosphere and acting get 9 or even 10. The writing gets 8 or 1 depending on specific aspects of the plot. The problem is that the movie is effectively disturbing and seems like a great horror movie for most of its running time, except that the ending leaves you with unanswerable questions that don't allow the movie to make any sense. It's not just full of random malicious acts, it's also inconsistent with clearly stated motivations. So the frustration trumps the movie. This is a trend with recent horror movies that string together a bunch of creepy or shocking scenes for their own sake without tying them to the plot, or even working out whether they contradict the plot.
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6/10
A mixed bag
9 August 2019
Warning: Spoilers
*spoilers*

This final massive movie in the massive MCU franchise reaches an end to the massive buildup after 22 movies, and is also the continuation/ending of the Infinity War movie. Obviously, the makers of this movie were given carte blanche to do whatever they like to the superheroes, since a few were killed off or forever changed in ways that cannot be recovered. I'll leave the plot to the Plot Summary section and review the good and bad elements of the movie (as opposed to the many overly-emotional reviews and votes here that see only black or white):

Let's start with the time-travel, since most people seem to be having problems with it and it is the major plot point by which they try to fix what Thanos did in Infinity War. In fact, the writers did an interesting job making use of time-travel without it feeling like a cheat. They simply changed the rules of time-travel used in other movies in order to avoid the usual time paradoxes. This may feel like a cheat to some, but, obviously, nobody can claim to know how time travel could work. And if you pay attention, they stick to their own rules consistently, which is good.

Here is the explanation for those that missed it: Timelines can be changed, but when they are changed, they split only for the people involved. I.e. You cannot go back in time and 'fix' the timeline for other people because those people would remain in that alternate timeline that you left behind. You can, however, change the timeline for yourself, and the past/future all proceed in the order by which you experience/d it. You can also change the timeline for the people in the past, but, once again, that would not affect the timeline that you left behind in the future.

So, to make this clearer with examples, there are at least three timelines for the people in this movie: 1. The one we know according to the superheroes where Thanos wiped out 50% of all life. 2. The timeline for Thanos himself (and his friends) that has now been changed when he jumped forward in time. He didn't wipe out 50% in his timeline and he changed his mind and wanted to wipe out ALL of life this time after he saw how ineffective it was in one possible future. 3. The alternate timeline by the people in the past after Thanos jumped forward. Their timeline split and they experienced no Thanos!

There is no problem with changing timelines. The only problem is that they needed to fix their own (#1) for the rest of the world, and going back in time would not do that. They needed to bring something from the past (the stones) in order fix the present timeline for everyone. The only reason Captain America had to go back to return the stones was so that alternate timeline #3 would not be wiped out without the stones. While he was there, he stayed there, which basically created his own personal alternate timeline that followed #1 with #3. All clear now?

This new method of timelines achieves something important: It doesn't cheat by going back in time and undoing/changing it. It forces them to be creative and to do something in THIS timeline in order to fix the problem. Thus avoiding the typical cheat of time-travel.

Now for the rest:

Killing off Black Widow, Iron Man and Captain America (technically he wasn't killed but he lived his whole life elsewhere so he can't continue here and now in a sequel in this timeline so it's the same thing..): This was actually very good and brave. I wish they had done this sooner, then the superheros would actually feel more vulnerable and human. Iron Man gets a strong ending to his character arc and a touching send-off. Cap also gets strong character development here.

The mixing of so many superheroes in one movie is bad for several reasons. First of all, it's like mixing fifty of your favorite foods together. They work nicely alone, but together, it becomes an overblown mess that doesn't work. Second, not all superheroes are fun for everyone. So mixing foods you do not like together with the good ones, will simply ruin the whole salad. Third, even with three hours, many of them are neglected.

Hulk is ruined. Someone very misguided thought it would be clever to mix Banner and Hulk into one person. Except that the whole fun of Hulk was his uncontrolled fury and his split personality.

Thanos became too powerful in this movie. I agree with this complaint. This is inconsistent with what we saw earlier.

Captain Marvel has got to be the worst character by far in the MCU. Her personality has all the charm of an angry gnat, her obnoxious feminist attitude is toxic, and her super-powers are so badly defined, they can do anything and everything as needed. Unlimited and/or undefined super-powers are boring and are guaranteed to ruin any super-hero movie (which is why I also dislike Superman). Her presence in this movie almost ruins it completely but thankfully they used her as little as possible (probably because they realized how ridiculous her powers are). Most of the stars I removed were because of this character.

They have increasingly made Thor into the point of ridiculousness in a series of movies. And in this movie he has reached a peak of silly uselessness. It is kinda funny though so I don't hate it. But Thor fans will not be pleased.

The final fight is a massive spectacle on one end, but so overblown and full of CGI it makes me yearn for the simpler superhero movies. The inclusion of the whole universe simply isn't as relatable as a local problem in one city. It's just too much. I enjoyed earlier simpler super-hero movies much more than this one.

In summary: A mixed bag. It's good that they finally put an end to this overblown series of movies that have gone out of control. It's not anything close to a classic in my book, but it's difficult to ignore since it concludes the series and it does have lots of fun stuff despite its flaws.
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Game of Thrones: The Iron Throne (2019)
Season 8, Episode 6
7/10
Finale - a sane review
20 May 2019
Warning: Spoilers
A flawed, somewhat well-written, fairly predictable but very interesting and strong ending after the pivotal penultimate episode. The events here flow naturally (mostly) after the previous episode and the primary critical problems are due to that episode, not because of any inherent fatal flaws in this one. It is a mixed bag overall, with many fascinating and strong elements, some flaws, and the big shadow of the fatally-flawed previous episode.

In my (unpopular) opinion, the show can be fixed and made a hundred times more powerful by simply re-writing and re-filming episode five (The Bells) alone. But that's most probably not going to happen. The rest of this season was quite strong despite some flaws and despite the hordes of disappointed 'fans'.

The show broke in the previous episode, not only because of how it killed its own careful building of Daenerys's character, but, in my opinion, because of a general flaw of misanthropy throughout the show where characters were twisted around by the writers to fit a worldview of general fatalistic bestial behaviour, and characters were always destined to failure, death, bad choices or evil, no matter what they did in the past. The writers contradicted years of their own careful character building just in order to arrive at the desired conclusion, in line with their very low opinion of humanity. But I will not repeat what I wrote about the previous episode. My review for that episode is the critical one for the whole show and it both expands and demonstrates my thesis that I summarized in this paragraph in much more detail, whereas this review is merely to organize my thoughts about the finale.

Of course the hordes of 'fans' are continuing to flood this site with ridiculous one star 'reviews' just because the show didn't go as they expected. These people have a very serious problem with separating their own fantasies and illogical expectations from the actual flaws or merits of each episode. The writers and cast of this show must be flabbergasted and heart-broken by their fickle, brainless and whining fan-base, especially after ten years of hard work.

On to the specifics of this episode (spoilers):

  • Daenerys's death by Snow was expected and powerfully heart-breaking. I just wish that the previous episode had been much more subtle and realistic about Daenerys's fatal personality flaws.


  • Drogon's reaction to his mother's death was very strong and well handled as well. Don't forget that Snow is also a Targaryen, heir to the throne, and also rode the dragon, so Drogon's reaction (almost, but not quite burning Snow) is not necessarily illogical. I liked it.


  • The burning of the throne, the symbol and cause of so much evil in Westeros, was a powerful scene.


  • The fact that Grey Worm and the rest of the soldiers of Daenerys's army didn't instantly kill Snow does not make sense however. Nor does it feel right that they should step down and submit to the council so easily after the loss of their leader, especially since they were portrayed in the last episode as going along with Daenerys's brutal policies. These are the biggest flaws in this episode.


  • Tyrion's finding of Jamie and Cersei in the rubble seemed a bit too convenient but the scene was strong nevertheless. The rest of his character development and final new position and outlook in this episode was all very very good.


  • The humorous nod towards democracy as an impractical joke was a nice touch. I admit that the establishment of the council was a more realistic outcome. I liked it.


  • Bran as new king was slightly strange but not unrealistic. He was obviously more objective and suitably less prone to human flaws than the rest (in line with the show's despicable viewpoint of humanity as evil). On the other hand he isn't exactly human anymore so what kind of leader would that make? A mixed bag of a development.


  • Sansa seceding the North didn't seem necessary anymore so it was a little weird, but it made sense for the future.


  • Arya becoming an explorer was very strange. One the one hand she took the lesson from Sandor to heart about not being obsessed with killing and revenge, and it fit with her anti-social character needing a strong and outgoing occupation, but it felt like it came out of nowhere. We didn't see this side of her before.


In summary, a flawed episode, but there is a lot to like here as well. Altogether, this show qualifies as a staggeringly epic, dark and fascinating but flawed 70-hour fantasy movie. As mentioned, the primary problem that broke the show was in the previous episode. I wish there was a way to fix that. But I don't regret watching the whole thing at all and I still think it is a strong show.
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Game of Thrones: The Bells (2019)
Season 8, Episode 5
3/10
George R. R. Martin is a misanthrope
13 May 2019
Warning: Spoilers
I defended the previous two episodes and thought the show was still going very strong despite some flaws. And I still think that most so-called fans here are completely unreasonable and irrational. But this episode broke even me.

My primary problem with the books, Martin, this show AND D&D (the writers of this show) is that they all hate humanity. Not because they kill so many people, or choose to portray so many sadistic horrible characters. But because the show repeatedly refuses to allow even the handful of good characters to stay good for long, or to allow their good side to be anything other than temporary window-dressing, or to even allow the bad characters to hang on to any small crumbs of redemption that they may have found. It not only displays a wide variety of hopelessly and unrealistically evil people, it even wrecks and contradicts years of its own careful character building just to force its own hateful conclusion and outlook on humanity: That people will always eventually turn evil no matter what good things they seem to do or what philosophies they lived by.

I thought that the darkness of the first few seasons was leading up to redemption. That it was a huge story-arc of unrelenting darkness so that the eventual redemption and light will have a much stronger effect. I was wrong.

By now it's obvious that the show is leading up to a message that all powers and religions are wrong, after setting up its 'vision' of a globally evil humanity. I'm guessing, next up, Daenerys will be gotten rid of in some way and Jon Snow will step down and establish the first democracy in Westeros, or something to that effect. Except it's not just the rulers that are bad here, it's almost everyone. There is no getting around the misanthropy here, so it will all ring hollow.

To put it another way: I agree that most people in the world are immoral and would behave horribly under the right circumstances. But there is usually some good left, whether it is a handful of genuinely good and heroic people, or conflicted people with good sides that can surprise you. Whereas this show systematically takes it ALL away eventually and doesn't believe in anything. I'll prove this with some examples and show how they can have easily done it differently even with the same story and goals.

(spoilers)

Case in point: Daenerys. I saw what the show was doing for years now. She obviously had a dark, blood-thirsty, overly angry and power-hungry 'dragon' side. It popped up quite a few times. But the show also went out of its way to show her stronger good side as well which won in most cases. And it wasn't only due to advice from her friends; She initiated good acts herself, she fought to free slaves when no one else wanted to, she sacrificed to save her friends and innocents, she locked up the dragons to avoid killing children, etc etc. And she did all these things herself even going against strong advice sometimes! Her interactions with people were (most of the time) basically KIND and she loved life. It's just that she has hot blood and has a ruthless angry side as well.

So I can understand how, several years down, Daenerys could perhaps turn bad and lose her way. But not like this, not so fast, and not so drastically. Losing her friends and advisors and feeling betrayed could very well trigger a mad and angry response from her. But what she did was done deliberately and there was plenty of time to think things through. Daenerys even argued logically only a couple of days before the war during her fit of anger, that her only purpose in allowing innocents to die was to get rid of the tyrant and to thus show mercy on future people. It's one thing to talk about collateral damage to many innocents, quite another to target and kill thousands of children for no reason whatsoever even after they surrendered! She flipped suddenly and for no apparent reason while flying a dragon, and then kept going and going. An extended massacre killing a million people and children lasting an hour (most of the time ignoring her hated main enemy Cersei in the castle) is simply ridiculous and can only come from a depressed misanthrope. It never rings remotely true given what we've seen before from her character.

Compare this to the way I would have written it with only slight but critical changes: Daenerys sees Cersei taunt her one more time with a dangerous threat, goes mad without advisors and friends to hold her back, and kills too many innocents on her rampage to get at Cersei any way possible, AFTER which they desperately surrender and she stops and realizes what she did and feels horrified at her unchecked power trip. This example demonstrates almost the same events, but a completely different narrative that is much more reasonable, consistent and not misanthropic.

And even if you were to argue that Daenerys suddenly snapped for some reason and truly went mad somehow ignoring everything she is during a fit of madness, why would thousands of her soldiers suddenly go on a massacre and kill children? Sure, war makes beasts out of men, and Grey Worm is heart-broken and angry, and I can see many soldiers going somewhat wild during war driven by an angry queen. But almost ALL of them? And ex-slaves killing unarmed civilians and children indiscriminately and on purpose? QED

This attitude towards humanity was seen repeatedly in the first few seasons when the plot was still being copied from the books. During these seasons, not only did they focus mostly on sadistic characters, but most of the rest of them could consistently be relied on to make poor and hateful choices. So I am primarily pointing the finger at George Martin and I have no doubt that this ending is his decision. The sad thing is, they could have delivered the same message, story and ending with more subtlety and come out all the more powerful.

There is still Jon Snow, Sansa and Arya Stark you say? Fiddlesticks! Based on the way this show is going, they will become evil as well. Arya is WELL on her way to becoming a serial killer. Eventually Snow will break as well. Not because it makes sense, but because that's how Martin writes his characters. And even characters like Snow, Brienne and Davos, like Ned Stark, are blindly following rigid principles and bad leaders repeatedly, proving that its a forced system of ethics, not truly good and thinking hearts. They know nothing! Humanity is doomed according to this show, even with a democracy.

Jamie's character arc is yet more evidence for this theme that I am trying to point out. For years they show his very broken, albeit alive-and-kicking good side, and he slowly finds redemption. I didn't expect him to become good overnight. In fact, his fall back into his old dark obsession makes sense. But we see barely any conflict in him and his fall is too absolute, final and hopeless. Given everything I said above, you can see how this falls in line with Martin's absolute and unforgiving misanthropy. Once again, a bit more subtlety in the writing could have changed everything. For example: Jamie sticks to his newfound redemption best he can fighting his dark obsession every day, but during the war sees Cersei is in danger and falls, switches sides temporarily and dies. See what I mean? Similar events but a completely different message. None of this 'I'm hateful and there's nothing you or I can do' nonsense.

There is also the technical problem of Drogon suddenly being way too super efficient and invulnerable, which goes against what happened in the previous episode where he had to fly away to avoid being killed.

This episode still deserves points for the dark and consistent way it handled Varys, for the directing and effects, and for the Tyrion, Arya and Sandor character arcs. But these are overshadowed by the way it butchered its own careful building of Daenerys's character and the general conclusion of misanthropy.

Why bother? Everyone fails in the end and everyone turns out to be evil and everyone dies. End of story. This is not talent or realistic. This is hateful.
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Game of Thrones: The Last of the Starks (2019)
Season 8, Episode 4
8/10
A sane review
6 May 2019
Warning: Spoilers
I defended the previous episode The Long Night. It had a couple of minor flaws but I found it amazingly intense and superb overall. This episode has much more glaring flaws that are difficult to ignore. But, at this stage, sanity has left most 'fans' and reviewers on IMDB. Instead of weighing the pros and cons of this episode, the hordes of undead blue-eyed fans seem to be stricken with a plague of borderline personality disorder, where any flaw means it's all garbage. Where they invent new flaws based on poor logic and weak imagination. And where, when things don't go exactly they way they fantasized, it means the show is worthless. That, and the unbelievably arrogant approach of voting down an episode (even before it was broadcasted) just because the previous one didn't go the way they wanted.

This review will actually weigh the pros and cons based on the writing and not on personal fantasy, and is strictly for the handful of surviving sane watchers, not for the undead hordes of spoiled ex-fans obsessed with their own fantasies and bad reasoning.

(spoilers)

The problematic issues first (because it is a shorter list):

The ambush-battle between Euron and Daenerys's returning army has issues, but CAN be accepted with a bit of thought. Daenerys was feeling over-confident. This wouldn't be the first time that a general lost a battle due to over-confidence. This is a surprise ambush. Daenerys was flying low over the ships as usual, not high up, was feeling confident and happy and not scouting. You can see this in how they filmed her in order to make this point clear. Euron was hidden behind huge jagged rocks (look at Dragonstone again right before the attack from her point of view). The ambush makes sense and COULD work. What is hard to believe is that they managed to fire from behind those rocks without being seen first, but it could be done if they had the finger on the trigger and if Daenerys wasn't actually looking out. So as I said, difficult, but not impossible. A tiny bit of suspension of disbelief and it's fine.

(As to the ability to fly behind them and burn the ships, the scorpions are fully pivotal. So she couldn't have done that without dying. Once again, fans prefer their imagination to actual 'reality' in GoT).

The much bigger problem is the final meeting with Cersei. They seemed to rely on her honor not to kill them or their last dragon. And yet it's Cersei we are talking about, and she killed their friend right in front of them, so killing Tyrion, Daenerys and the dragon would have been well within her character, it would make much more sense, and seemed possible. The only thing I can think of is that the writers assumed they were out of range, except it didn't look that way. If you think about it, they did look out of range of the archers, but not the scorpions, and it's obviously impossible to kill an agile small human with a bulky scorpion from so far away. But she could have killed the bulky huge dragon that was on the ground, as well as Tyrion. In short, this IS a plot-hole.

(As to the ability to 'teleport' between different locations: Just insert a few missing weeks of travel between the scenes and we're fine. Stop whining.)

Now let us compare these flaws with the rest of this fascinating episode:

The growing tension between Jon and Daenerys is marvelously handled. Once again there is a clash between Stark-style honesty, moderation, family and honor, and between the more hot-blooded style of Daenerys as well as Sansa's emotions and traumatized distrust. This clash ripples out amongst Sansa and Arya, each reacting consistently with their characters, as well as with Tyrion and Varys causing a heartbreaking and very understandable split of ideals between them. Daenerys's ambition and fire which we have always seen in previous seasons and which have caused some concern, now are growing to worrisome proportions in very realistic developments. Daenerys hasn't gone bad at all, and is just misguided, due to her hot blood. All of the moments and dialogue between these characters are superb, tense, fascinating, and consistent with their characters. The superb way all of this was handled more than overshadows the previously mentioned flaws.

Jamie's fall seems surprising at first but is very deep. It does make sense after so many decades of dishonor that he could fall again and turn back to his self-destructive obsession. It's very difficult to just walk away from such a dark obsession. It is a very provocative, dark and thoughtful turn of events consistent with GoT. His interaction with the honorable and broken-hearted Brienne is strong stuff. Jaime may turn back again though. We'll see.

It's wonderful to see Arya and the Hound back together again on a mission. Possibly the best pair this show has produced. Their dialogue is always priceless.

The final few minutes with Cersei and Missandei and Tyrion's last-second desperate attempts to reach Cersei and avoid bloodshed is amazingly tense and pure GoT darkness and brutal honesty. Once again, consistent with everything that came before and written very well.

In summary: Look at the above pros, compare them with the cons. With so many powerful and fascinating scenes, it's obvious that anyone not rating this episode between, say, 6 and 9 is irrational.
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Game of Thrones: The Long Night (2019)
Season 8, Episode 3
10/10
Crazy "fans" vs. actual plot
4 May 2019
Warning: Spoilers
This has the potential to be the most unpopular review because I will be praising the episode and attacking the fans.

I'm reading miles and miles of angry reviews by so-called fans and almost all of the criticisms are so ridiculously self-obsessed that it makes me both amazed by such a crazy phenomenon and sad for this pathetic generation. The problem in a nutshell, in my opinion, is that Game of Thrones is the most epic 70-hour movie ever made, has built an unprecedented buildup over eight years, let their fans wallow in tension for the past two years before the final season, during which these hordes of self-involved fans have accumulated so many fantasies and theories about the show, that anything can only disappoint when it doesn't match expectations. Most fans are actually complaining because the show didn't go the way they wanted! Psychologists and sociologists should have a field day with his one.

Examples of whiny complaints:

  • The most obvious example is "why did Arya kill the Night King, when my favorite character X should obviously have done it" This one speaks for itself. It's not your show! How is this even a criticism?! As to Arya doing it, the show has built up her character with seasons of training and the show has dropped so many hints (her stealth, agility, familiarity with death, special weapons, Melisandre, etc), that I always considered her the prime candidate for the job. How could fans have missed it? So here we have an obvious example of fan-fantasy vs GoT, that has careful plot points and plot buildup on its side written by the actual creators who have a plan. GoT wins easily.


  • As to prophecies and whatnot concerning Jon vs the Night King: Did you miss the fact that it was Jon that collected this army and convinced everyone to fight? How does this make Jon "useless"?! Once again, fans imagined an epic personal battle between Jon and NK, GoT as usual ignored this weak option of fan-service, and decided to go more realistically and interestingly with Arya, and had Jon "only" put it all together and fight NK with his army. GoT wins again.


  • "The Night King was killed too easily/quickly". Once again, fans are imagining an epic personal battle, when the sneaky assassin approach is the only realistic option to win this impossible battle. They even said this in the previous episode but were hoping to use dragon fire. GoT beats down silly fans once again.


  • "Bran was useless". Once again, fans are obviously imagining Bran using some kind of visual super-power to beat the NK to redeem his character arc. Except fans are actually missing the whole character arc and the fact that he DID use a super-power. Bran is about knowledge, and using it to set things right. He used this to come up with the ONLY tactic that could help them win (i.e. lure the NK to a secluded place and kill him thus winning the war without having to uselessly fight millions of undead). Plus he sacrificed himself by offering himself as bait. Once he came up with the plan, all he had to do was sit there and lure the NK while monitoring the fight and NK. Which is exactly what he did. And it is because of his extensive knowledge (AKA super-power) that they won. And yet fans are whining because it wasn't an epic 'Marvel moment'. Think of what he went through and how critical everything was in order to provide the win for this battle and how he finally did deliver. How is that "useless" in any way unless you were expecting a fan spectacle?! GoT wins again.


  • "Lack of lighting": I seriously don't see any problem here. Maybe you guys are using cheap or tiny screens to view this episode. I saw everything that I needed to see. It took place in the middle of the night in the middle of a blizzard. If it were well lit then I would be screaming 'unrealistic lighting'. It had just enough light to see, and plenty of darkness to make it very effectively scary. Whining fans lose again.


  • "Plot armor": OK I admit I expected more people to die as well. But it's not my show. Plus, there are plenty of counter-points that eliminate this as a problem: First of all wights are relatively easy to kill, the problem is only that there are too many and they are persistent. So it is possible to survive for a while as we saw many times before in episodes like Hardhome and Beyond the Wall where they faced even WORSE odds and still survived. Why didn't you complain then? Once again, it's a problem of expectations, not realism! Also, I think many viewers missed what the director was doing in this episode: For about fifteen minutes, it was showing the final two minutes of several characters in parallel (and in slow motion) to show that everything was about to end and everyone was about to die. It's not that 'he was surrounded by wights and five minutes later he was still alive' like some people wrote. Watch it again. It only showed each character's final hopeless minutes, 1-2 minutes before their certain death. And some did die, like Jorah. It was an intense symphony of hopelessness before the sudden redemption by Arya. A powerful moment. But, obviously, it went right over whining fans heads.


  • "Lack of battle tactics": Here I partially agree, except it isn't as bad as the fans say. This is a war unlike any other. It's a single massive swarm of a million undead. It's not a battle with many parts and armies to it. I challenge anyone to come up with an actual effective strategy. The best anyone can come up with is temporary delaying tactics, which is what they did. Could they have come up with better delaying tactics? I guess so. For example I agree that fire over the walls could have helped in addition to the fire trench. But the only real chance was to get the NK away from behind his army. And they said so explicitly. Without this, everyone expected to die.


  • "Useless Dothraki massacre": It has repeatedly been said that Dothraki are only effective in open fields on horses. So what were they supposed to do exactly? Put them behind the walls? Make them wait for the horde to overrun and surround them when they will become useless? Have them attack a million undead from the side during a chaotic battle when everyone will basically be overrun and the Dothraki would be isolated? No, they sent them running to the undead to try to trim off at least some the dead using their trademarked agility and speed and strength, and then maybe hopefully even come back! The fact that they got overrun and massacred so fast is what makes it so scary. So what do fans do: Instead of using their brains to think of what they would do differently, they allow hindsight to take over their brains and complain about an unexpectedly quick and scary massacre, GoT style.


All these are the main points people complained about. Add to this the rest of the episode that contained so many powerfully good elements and moments. I'd go over them but the review is already too long. The heartbreaking death of Jorah, Sandor overcoming fear to save Arya, Theon's powerful redemptive moment, Sansa and Tyrion, Lyanna's fiery heroic moment, etc etc.

All the brainless, self-obsessed, whining pseudo-fans can get lost. There were some minor flaws. But overall, this was a powerful, satisfying, extremely intense and superb episode. I loved it.
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4/10
Good and bad
6 December 2018
Warning: Spoilers
The good:

The first hour promises a superbly crafted and written epic historical movie with dense, intelligent dialog and characters. This hour involves the set-up: An idealistic-minded blacksmith in mourning for his wife and child, finds himself en route to Jerusalem along with a newly discovered father. It's only after this hour that things fall apart.

His traitorous fanatically Christian brother provides the religious catapult for the rest of the movie that involves Holy Land politics, crusades and battles.

The sets and costumes look great (to this historically untrained eye at least). And the couple of battle scenes are epic in scale as only Ridley Scott can create.

The bad:

For starters, Orlando Bloom is passable, but pretty flat as the protagonist. Eva Green is an intense superb actress, but her character is way too modern and liberated for this movie.

As soon as we get to Jerusalem, all of a sudden it becomes a preachy liberal movie with modern idealistic sensibilities, bias, re-interpretation of history and anachronisms galore. There are no really devout Christians, only hypocritical fanatics, Jews are practically nowhere to be seen, and the Arabs are noble, honorable and tolerant people.

There are also some insulting plot developments that try to convince us that Balian the liberal is an idealistic leader. The village he moves into is dry for hundreds of years, and as soon as he arrives they dig and find a well. Evidently, Arabs living in this land had no idea how to dig a well until a European came along. Same goes for his basic and obvious advice to seasoned war veterans about soldiers needing water.

Regarding the people: Even if you were to argue that there was a period where the religions lived together in Jerusalem, it would hardly be the tolerant utopia this movie would have you believe. There would be outbreaks of attacks and intolerance, second-class citizens and treatments, and so on. We know this from thousands of years of history in many countries.

A quick look at the actual historical events in this movie reveals a completely different story than this liberal fantasy movie: Balian initially promised to Saladin never to fight him. Christians had to absolve him of his oath to protect Jerusalem because they decided Christianity is more important than an oath to a non-Christian. Before Saladin took Jerusalem he offered peaceful terms of surrender and they refused. It's only after the siege started that he refused terms. Balian then threatened to kill all Muslims in the city and destroy Muslim holy sites if he didn't offer them quarter. And then they had to pay ransom as part of their surrender, and many of the people were enslaved.

So not only does history blatantly contradict the events in this movie, it depicts very different people, leaders and motivations and the liberalism this movie fantasizes about is nowhere to be seen.

But even as a non-historical fantasy, this movie simply makes no sense. The real fatal problem of this movie is that this movie has agnostics, liberals, atheists and religious people that only pay lip-service to religion, all fighting religious wars with no apparent motivation. Why would a tolerant leader defend a city in a hopeless war against another tolerant leader, if he explicitly states that all he cares about is the people? If that's the case, give up the city and negotiate a peace! In this movie, we have two completely religiously unmotivated but noble and honorable leaders waging battle over a meaningless city without even trying to negotiate before it starts. And then only after they are done dying by the thousands, they simply surrender with the most honorable terms possible when they could have simply done this to begin with. The actual historical version of this story makes a lot more sense in terms of motivations, whereas this fantasy doesn't even begin to make sense.

In summary, the liberal agenda in this movie is so desperate to re-interpret history with its bias, it fails to see that the people and story make no sense as soon as this is done. Therefore it fails both as a history lesson and as a fantasy movie.
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6/10
Iron Man Jr.
29 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
The fact that they rebooted Spider-Man three times in the past 15 years is reason enough to scoff at this latest attempt at making more money off the character. But, although nothing comes close to Raimi's definitive Spider-Man trilogy (yes I liked all three), I was surprised and found this movie somewhat enjoyable and much better than the previous two (The Incredible Spider-Man 1 & 2). Except it has one fatal flaw:

I can see what they were trying to do here by converting Spider-Man into a wide-eyed, enthusiastic, but very inexperienced kid. The exact problem is not that he is a dork that makes mistakes and doesn't know what he is doing yet. This aspect has a certain charm to it. The problem is that the writers neutered his powers and replaced them with Iron Man powers.

Spider-Man is about amazing spider-like physical skills coupled with a spidey-sense and fast reflexes, coupled with a freaky biological ability to spin webs. This movie kills almost all of that: His physical skills are still there except he somehow finds them useless without Iron Man technology, his spidey-sense is nowhere to be seen, and his biological spider-web thing has been thrown out and replaced with ridiculously impossible sci-fi technology from Stark. And then, after they neuter him like this, they replace all of this with more sci-fi Iron-Man-esque magic-suit capabilites, and then have Iron Man bail him out a few times.

I don't understand what they were thinking. Why make a "Spider-Man" movie only to convert him into a silly "Iron Man Jr"?
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7/10
Mixed bag
5 March 2018
A really tough drug-runner with moral limits and a superb head on his shoulders finds himself in big trouble when a deal goes bad. An angry drug-baron, his pregnant wife, and a deep dark jail system all ensure that the dangers and stakes keep rising. As with many other reviewers, I found this a very welcome old-school thriller and action movie, for the most part.

The first part was gripping and superb, mostly because of the tight dialogue and unusual and intelligent characters. The director sure knows how to write a great plot, dialogue and how to direct intense and compact scenes.

As the movie progressed, I started getting a sinking feeling as the movie lost its realism and opted for grindhouse over-the-top violence instead, as well as a super-human undefeatable protagonist. You see, the beginning promised so much more than just another Ricky-Oh inspired exploitation fare, which explains why I was disappointed.

Same thing with the action: The realism of the first part clashed with the increasingly ridiculous but entertaining second half. And I like Ricky-Oh. Ricky-Oh had crazy kung-fu, a consistent exploitative tone, and over-the-top gore all the way through. This one started real, and then the guy slowly became more and more super-human and the violence less realistic. Which is why I think it didn't work for me.

Still, it's definitely worth a watch mainly for its dialogue and characters. Perhaps if you approach this expecting grindhouse exploitation you'll enjoy it more.
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Noah (2014)
1/10
Deeply disappointed in Aronofsky
16 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Hollywood has a bad history of Biblical epics, replacing subtlety, religious introspection and depth with spectacle, special effects, action sequences and superficial 'romance'. On the other hand, this is Aronofsky (and I am a fan of all his movies) so I was hoping for something more.

Right from the start it felt wrong: An attempt to convert the complex story of Noah into a biblical Lord of the Rings. I then thought that instead of expecting it to be the story of Noah, that I could try to just enjoy it as a pure fantasy flick and as a story unrelated to the Bible. But this proved impossible to do, given what I know and how much they used from the original story combined with so many endless annoying distortions and missed opportunities. And even taken as its own story, it suffers from inconsistencies and poor writing.

Indeed, many of my criticisms come from comparing this to the Bible story. But even if you don't believe in it, this is the equivalent of taking a great book that everyone knows and loves, removing all the interesting stuff, replacing it with your own invented modern dramatic elements and thrills, and stuffing it with Hollywood spectacle just to keep people entertained.

Which means they thought the original story wasn't good enough. So why start with the story of Noah in the first place? Obviously, just to exploit its popularity.

Examples:

Let's start with the 'Watchers': There are Nefilim in the Bible, but traditional sources give them a completely different form and story. In the movie they are Transformer-like ex-angel creatures of stone that are confused and emotional, behaving like humans, that 'fell' in order to help humans, and who have lost their way after humans disappointed them. The actual story is about angels seduced by humans and fallen from grace thanks to the corruption of the earth, trying to turn themselves into humans and interacting with the human world and causing distortions and evil. In other words, they were a symptom of the general corruption of creation where even angels fell. Which is scary and interesting in itself and can even easily lend itself to a Hollywood spectacle, so why change it? Plus the change makes no sense: Why would angels 'fall' in order to help humans? In order to fall, first something has to go wrong. Also, they can help from wherever they are! All of which shows what I said earlier: Not only did they change things unnecessarily, they also made illogical changes.

Another case in point: Noah was instructed to build the Ark, a job that would take 120 years. God could have made it spring up by some miracle or save Noah some other much easier way, but there was a point to make by having Noah build it in front of everyone for so long through hard work and dedication (to provoke them and give them a chance to think and see the work and correct their ways). So what does this movie do? It springs up a whole forest instantly through a huge miracle, then has the Watchers build the ark for Noah as quickly as possible, protected and hidden away from civilization, as well as has them protect Noah in a grand battle-massacre spectacle. Kinda missing the whole point aren't we?

Other details:

Noah here is an action-figure who does battle with evil men, killing them without remorse. Once again, Hollywood action over introspection. It's not a question over whether he had to kill due to self-defense in a land without morals, it's about on what the movie chooses to focus.

And yes, once again, there is Hollywood romance and lust by the saviors of the world... In a Biblical movie about the moral deterioration of the world for crying out loud. In fact, they all do various bad things just in order to make them more human for us. And yet the Bible says they were righteous. So I guess righteous means that they were merely ahead of the rest in terms of brownie points? Except (spoiler) Noah turns out to be worse than the rest of the world...

(spoilers) Noah turns out to be a misanthrope Vegan who would like to see all of humanity destroyed just so that 'nature' can be left untouched. This is really beyond offensive. For starters, besides the obvious change from the original story, this means that whereas the rest of the world were murderers, Noah would rather see animals live than a single human. Which makes him worse than the rest of the world. The immediate question is, according to this movie's warped (non)logic, why would he be saved? True, in the end he found his way to show mercy to human babies but this hardly makes him better than the rest - they didn't kill babies either (obviously, otherwise they wouldn't exist).

Modern stories are often afraid of making their heroes inspiring and good people since that isn't 'realistic' and artistic, but this is taking it a bit too far don't you think? This movie actually turns Noah into a despicable evil man.

Also, religiously, the world was created for man. Why on earth would Noah, a religious man, think that a world without humans made sense as long as animals get to live?! Evidently nobody put any thought into this screenplay.

The care for the land by Noah and avoidance from eating animals is correct, except this is no vegetarian paradise: In the bible, right after the flood, in the new world that was created, Noah was given permission to eat animals. The movie conveniently ignores this part of the story just to create some kind of fantasy Vegan/environmentalist character.

God speaks to Noah through dreams or he has to take a drug to see a vision like some Native American. Really? Way to undermine that interesting conversation with God.

Traditionally, Noah was a complex mysterious character whose primary issue was over having the ability to save the rest of the world along with him and not going as far as he could. So what does this movie do? Throws all of this interesting stuff out and turns him into a Vegan fanatic. Talk about a missed opportunity.

Noah fed the animals according to tradition, and had trouble with it, he didn't put them to sleep with some herb magic. Once again, a missed opportunity.

Once in the ark, instead of introspection, we get a thriller subplot invented for the movie while Noah suddenly gets all misanthropic. The empty-headed changes to the story keep increasing by the dozens just to generate more cheap thrills. Imagine that: There is an apocalypse, and survivors have weeks to think about what just happened, but according to this movie, that's not enough.

And so on and on... I am deeply disappointed in you, Darren Aronofsky. You had a chance to change the way Hollywood approaches Biblical movies with a rich complex story about people and humanity, and you chose a superficial, badly-written, fantasy action epic instead.
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9/10
Superb horror-drama
6 February 2018
Definitely the most underrated movie on IMDB in my opinion. Most of the bad reviews and ratings are probably from kids and guys expecting a standard zombie movie involving an apocalypse and lots of gore and action. This is none of those things, and it offers so much more for the discerning horror movie fan.

It is the perfect blend of romance and horror, and deals with a single zombie: A newly married young guy and the hell that his loving wife must endure while trying to stick with her man who is slowly turning into a monster. The horror as well as the drama builds and builds, making this a true horror movie because it involves people you care about.

Everyone delivers a great performance, especially Tracy Coogan in a heartbreaking role, and the writing knows where the proper focus is in this movie. There is even a long, very memorable and disturbing scene of a zombie feeding on people that shows only her reaction and none of the gore, demonstrating the director's vision and superb horror sense. The story is simple, but this is about people, and they all pull it off powerfully.

It gets better every time I watch it.
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Doctor Who: Heaven Sent (2015)
Season 9, Episode 11
4/10
Prime example of DW sloppy writing
16 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I'm a fan of Moffat's work in Coupling and Sherlock, but he doesn't seem to do well with sci-fi and fantasy. I loved his early episodes, made allowances for seasons six and seven and still somewhat enjoyed his management of the show despite some sloppy writing, but it has gotten worse and worse. I think Moffat needs limits to thrive, not a show like Doctor Who.

Regarding this episode: I'm surprised it is rated so highly as it is a prime example of more poorly thought out complexities by Moffat. I wanted to enjoy the episode for its powerful story but it never made a lick of sense even while watching it. The list of inconsistencies is very long:

  • The resetting of the castle: On the one hand even tiny details like his own blood stains, the shovel and the dug-up earth get reset every time, but other random things don't get reset: His messages to himself, his clothes, his skulls, the Azbantium. Why?


  • The Veil monster is so slow why can't he evade it with speed?


  • There is machinery right next to the Azbantium. Can't he rip out a piece and use that instead of his hands? (Or run out of the room as soon as he remembers and before the monster arrives, to get a tool?)


  • If confessions freeze it, even simple ones like how he is afraid to die, why can't he find more to confess besides the Hybrid? He has thousands of years of material to confess!


  • If he keeps coming back and freezing the monster with the same confessions every time, then obviously the same repeated confession works as well to freeze the monster! Simple solution...


  • Why would anyone set up this world to torture him for confessions and then let him confess the same thing over and over for 2 billion years!? Come to think of it, why would they set up a monster to kill him before he even confesses?


  • I'm guessing 2 billion years worth of his skulls is going to make quite a mountain - there isn't going to be any water to dive into. Funny plot-hole, this one.


  • Why aren't 2 billion years worth of identical clones of Time Lord regenerating?! Scary thought but a valid question...


  • If it's so easy to keep a full backup of the Doctor Who in a drive, why doesn't he backup himself and his companions every day? A prime example of a lazy deus-ex-machina that is powerful enough to ruin the whole show...


So as with the whole Capaldi era... Capaldi is superb but wasted on bad writing.
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Coriolanus (2011)
7/10
Above-average Shakespeare with flaws
29 July 2017
First, this is Shakespeare and it uses his original dialogue, so anyone that doesn't appreciate the rich language shouldn't be watching this, never-mind reviewing it. I find it sad that so many negative reviews here revolve around the difficult (wonderful) language. If anything, too much of Shakespeare's writing was cut out in order to make the movie shorter, and some scenes and characters suffer because of it.

Second, it is transported to a modern setting despite the language, in order to demonstrate its universal themes. Sometimes this works quite well (see Richard III with Loncraine/McKellen). Here, the result is a mixed bag. The modern settings with news-rooms, tanks and trucks work very well, but the war-action scenes sometimes feel shoe-horned in just to try to make Shakespeare more thrilling and pander to audiences, and a key plot element that involves the Roman practice of a hero showing the people his physical wounds in order to gain their trust, doesn't work anymore.

The acting is generally good, although the wide range of accents are too distracting, and Azabal chews the scenery and ruins her scenes. The direction is passable.

As mentioned, some scenes suffer from too much cutting of dialogue. I found the key scene involving the turning of the crowd against Coriolanus, too awkwardly staccato. Where the original writing had speeches that sway people's emotions, this has abrupt statements and declarations, and many of the characters lose their dimensions as a result.

But all these can be overlooked and the movie enjoyed despite these flaws. The one flaw I was not able to overcome is Fiennes characterization of Coriolanus. He portrays him as way too contemptuous and angry, a spiteful man beyond sympathy that basically brought the tragedy on himself. Whereas my impression while reading the play was of a socially awkward, hard, but basically honorable and good man led astray by politics and pressure. Including more of Shakespeare's colorful dialogue and soliloquies could have helped.
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Colossal (2016)
6/10
Waste of an excellent idea
16 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Good, unusual and entertaining idea, mixing together dark character drama with comedy, sci-fi, and Kaiju fun in a near-surreal mix. Unfortunately this movie has the same big flaws as Vigalondo's earlier movies: He has good ideas but is horrible with character work. He always sacrifices characters towards his ideas and plots, and they end up chaotic and inhuman. These people make no sense:

"I just killed a million Koreans. Oops. What should I do? I know! I'll get drunk again and show my new friends how cool it is to mass murder."

"I'm going to have a hissy fit and kill a million Koreans just because it makes me feel big and because I want to control a girl. But in between I am going to be super nice to her, support her, give her tons of things for her house and give her a job."

"I love my boyfriend even though he dumped me and wish he would take me bac... hey let's sleep with some random cute guy in the bar and have fun!"

"How should I stop him from killing Koreans? Should I get my friends to hold him down? Demonstrate this phenomenon to the police and have him arrested? Maybe sit with him and convince him not to commit mass-murder? Nah, I'll go to Korea and kill him."

"I had to dump her because she was intolerable when drunk. But now that she is even worse and slept with other people, I want her back."

Etc.

And none of them are even remotely convincing as drunks. Maybe if they actually acted like obliviously self-destructive drunks it would have helped a bit.

Somebody should re-use this idea in a better movie.
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Get Out (I) (2017)
5/10
Vastly overrated
15 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This movie seems to have gone viral and has gotten an inordinate amount of views and praises, and there is indeed a lot to like, especially in its atmosphere, some little horror details, and how it was filmed in old-school style, but in the end it is just another sloppily written brainless modern movie with huge plot holes.

It is also unoriginal and predictable. It is basically a black version of The Stepford Wives with an added twist.

A black guy and his white girlfriend go to meet her family, and gradually uncover very strange goings on, especially with the very bizarre and creepy behaviour by the black people working for the family.

*spoilers*

First there is the idiotic and obviously ego-driven concept that all white people in this movie worship the black physique enough to want a black body for themselves. I'm sure I don't have to point out how this is untrue and awkwardly egotistical on the part of the film-maker, not to mention the well known statistic that black people have a much higher number of health problems. On top of that, this movie drives the point once again of how badly black people are treated in society, so why on earth would a white person want to become one according to its own logic?

Then there's the head-scratching plot point where they transplanted their grandma and grandpa into black people's bodies, except they turned them into brainwashed slaves. Obviously someone switched plots midway through the movie and didn't think things through...

These aren't just plot holes, they kill the whole backbone of the movie.

Not to mention the happy ending that is in denial. The very next day, obviously he would be arrested for mass murder.

P.S. Those of you blindly repeating the complaint about the cotton and how he managed to get it in his ears... This is actually NOT a plot hole. His hands were tied, but his head and upper body clearly weren't and he even visibly bent down towards the cotton at the end of the scene.
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Sahara (I) (1943)
7/10
One of the best war flicks of the period
21 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Definitely amongst the best war movies of the period and worth a watch. Bogart, his pet tank, and a ragtag team of miscellaneous soldiers from different armies and nationalities try to survive the desert while retreating from the German army, and a find way to make one last stand using water as the most precious resource.

Some of the characters are more three-dimensional than others, Bogart is superb, the fighting is good, the tension and pacing superb. Although this was made during the war and is accused of being a propaganda film thanks to its portrayal of the Italians and Germans according to the attitude of the war at the time, and the fact that it is about a handful of allies against the evil Germans, there is much here to enjoy beyond the propaganda.

*spoilers*

The flaw that I found difficult to get over, however is that I found it impossible to suspend my disbelief that nine soldiers could hold off an army of 500 Germans for 2-3 whole days even though the Germans had artillery. A couple of hours, sure, but days? One determined run by the Germans backed by artillery would have done it. And they even knew it was only a handful of people.

Another flaw, is that they could have come up with a more realistic, practical and less needlessly heroic plan: Send the Germans back on foot with the belief that there is water just like they did in the movie, except they all run off to get reinforcements instead of sending one soldier. I.e. the delay was unnecessary! The Germans would have wasted time walking back and forth without water and the mobile allies could have caught up even if the Germans had already moved on (and without water).

Still an enjoyable movie and worth a watch though.
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7/10
Intelligent spy film, nearly great
16 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
A very good spy thriller despite its age. Its treatment of the Germans, the Allies and the love affair is surprisingly sophisticated with many shades of gray and many interesting characters and an unexpected ending to the love affair. Based on a true story, it tells the tale of an American-born Swedish citizen who is coerced into spying for the allies and who soon adopts the cause for other reasons. The spy-craft, and the many deceptions and tricks are quite believable.

But for some reason I wasn't accepting the movie as the flawless work that it seemed to be, and found it difficult to define why, at first.

For one thing, the constant narration is pretty annoying. They should have just shown the story instead of having him feed us the story.

Holden, as Erickson, seemed a bit flat as a character. But then it struck me: I just couldn't tune in to him as a character because I could not understand his motivations. They portray him as a cold businessman at first, coerced into spying, yet he acts way way beyond someone who has been blackmailed. I could not understand why he not only fully co-operated at first, but even contributed beyond the minimum and never looked for a way out.

As another example of strange behaviour, he could have treated his friend differently after the staged betrayal was performed for the Nazis, and after he proved himself a loyal friend. But he just followed his instructions blindly even though there was no danger. In fact, he could have avoided danger by telling him it was an act, seeing as his friend didn't believe him anyways.

They also used the blackmail trick a bit too often on many characters, and I never understood why they all gave in so easily. I thought of several ways they could have found a way out so why couldn't they try as well?

In short, these behaviour flaws bothered me. But it's definitely worth a watch nevertheless, and it may even impress you as a forgotten classic.
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7/10
Unsatisfying
20 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I really liked Payne's previous movies and this one came very close to being another great, male-character-study, drama and light comedy. It's about a man who finds himself faced with a handful of life-changing crises all at once, all of them connected. His estranged wife is in a coma and may die, he suddenly finds himself forced to develop a relationship with his two difficult daughters, he discovers there has been an affair, and the paradise land he has been entrusted with has to be sold off to commercial interests.

I liked most of it a lot, except for how the plot threads are tied up, most of them fading away or ending on very weak notes. Which means that this movie screams potential and is enjoyable for most of the time, then ends with a whimper.

*big spoilers warning*

His relationship with his daughters is the best thing in the movie, serving also the comedy and heart of the movie, with a quiet and satisfying ending.

But the main plot thread about Matt is highly confused and petty. The reason for not selling the land is obviously not about saving it from commercial development like he pretends, but about getting revenge against the guy for sleeping with his wife so that he won't get the commissions. He makes a big deal about an ideal of keeping the land untainted, which never bothered him before until he found out the commissions would go to this guy. So he screws over a few dozen people just to get revenge on one. Turns out he is both petty and hypocritical. Somehow everyone seems to have missed this.

His roller-coaster emotions about his wife and her affair are good for a while, but end very hollow with an unrealistically loving and forgiving speech after all that he found out about her, especially given his estrangement until then.

Oh, and I found the Hawaiian elevator-music soundtrack annoying.

And the secondary plot threads? Sid is an incredibly insensitive mildly amusing jerk at first, then suddenly stops being a jerk and tells a sob story. Hardly good character development there. Elizabeth's father blames everyone except his daughter and is horrible to everyone, except he cries for his daughter so we are supposed to feel sorry for him. Speer's wife has a good role with a complex ending when she comes to the hospital and her grand gesture turns into a rant. So her character does well. But, like I said, the main plot threads of the land and Matt's search to find the man who turned him into a cuckold both end on a really petty note. What a waste of a good movie.
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5/10
Plot Holes
22 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The good: This old-school courtroom thriller has good casting and acting, and features a fast-moving plot that keeps you on your toes. It also features Marisa Tomei who is as lovely as always.

The screenplay, however, is one of those times when the writers try too hard to be clever beyond their grasp of the plot, and end up shooting themselves in the foot and contradicting themselves..

*spoilers*

The biggest problem is with Roulet's plan. At first he lies so well that he even has McConaughey believing him. And since he is a well known talented lawyer, and now he has him on his side, that should be enough to win. In fact, he could have hired any lawyer with his money and convinced him the same way. Except for some reason this isn't enough and it suddenly turns out that he asked for McConaughey because it would conflict with a previous case where he put an innocent man in jail.

So what is the plan exactly? To have McConaughey afraid of revealing his mistake in public? Nothing would have happened! Everyone made the same mistake including the judge. In fact, he may just be the type of person who would want very much to correct this mistake, thus choosing him as his lawyer as part of his strategy makes no sense.

In addition, if he hadn't hired him, nobody would have made the connection between the two murders in the first place.

And then he goes and kills McConaughey's friend and sets him up for blackmail. Besides this being already two plans too many, once again, why not blackmail any other lawyer that wouldn't have been able to connect the cases in the first place?

And to really finish himself off, he made it personal by killing McConaughey's friend when he could have framed any old murder in the same way. Would you hire a lawyer to defend you from the death penalty after killing his friend? Obviously he can do any of 500 things to sabotage the case, which is exactly what he did.

And then they just couldn't resist adding a completely random twist where the murderer turns out to be someone else for no particular reason, thus undermining plausibility just to keep the twists coming.

There are more plot holes, but this is quite enough for now.

So, again, a case of hacks trying to be clever and biting off way more than they can chew.
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Arrival (II) (2016)
6/10
Ending ruins smart sci-fi movie
27 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Most of this opinion 'review' will contain major spoilers about the ending.

This is the kind of sci-fi I really like: Intelligent, challenging, with an exploration of big themes on humanity via a sci-fi element or a tweak to reality.

The themes are about language changing the way people think, rather than vice-versa, and it's about a very special tool/weapon that aliens bring to humanity. The story is about a language expert brought to try to communicate with the aliens via their very challenging alien form of language.

At first her methods look really sloppy and dumb, as she assumes that pointing to herself with a name card will communicate anything concrete and unambiguous, and that aliens have names. But it improves greatly after that.

The majority of the movie is very interesting and well done, including the cinematography, sound and effects. It's the ending that ruins everything.

She discovers that their weapon is really the gift of their language, which constructs sentences and concepts instantly without regard for the sequence of events. Thus, by really learning and practicing this language, the human mind gets re-wired and can actually rise above time and see the future. They give this to humanity in a way that will bring them together and cooperate, because they saw a future where the humans will help them in return. And then they leave with their mission accomplished.

Which is all very well and interesting, except that what do you think the military and governments that were all ready to kill each other throughout this movie, will do with the super-weapon of seeing the future? And what would the military do with people who can or have developed this ability?

Which is why the whole ending stinks and reeks of bleeding-heart, simplistic, childish naivete.

A belligerent Chinese general changes his mind just because she told him his wife's dying words, when obviously the only thing he would have assumed would be that someone bugged the room he was in. And even if he believed that she did it because she saw the future, his first priority would be to kill such a dangerous threat!

The movie hints that perhaps she is the only one that developed this ability because of her gift with languages and she used it for the good of mankind. Which is impossible to believe. As if the governments wouldn't put thousands of people on it to try to acquire the gift and use it for themselves. And even if they didn't succeed, obviously they wouldn't let her go free, and rival governments would want to kidnap or kill her. But no, this movie wants you to believe that suddenly humanity became peaceful just because someone can see the future. What an unfortunately silly ending.
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+1 (2013)
7/10
Underrated and superb sci-fi
28 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Don't think that this is just another silly teenage sci-fi/horror flick. The writing and ideas are original and interesting, and the movie leaves you thinking.

It does start with typical teenage nonsense, including a young couple that reach a crisis and are about to break up, and a debauched party that includes tons of sex, nudity, alcohol, strippers, flaming tennis balls, and Nyotaimori (naked sushi). But even this party has a purpose in the overall plot.

A meteor hits, and strange things start to happen. To explain further requires spoilers.

*spoilers*

Doppelgangers start to appear, seemingly slowly catching up in time in a weird time-loop. Are they aliens taking over the world? Evil ghosts? They seem to act just like the originals and even repeat everything the originals did. And this is even scarier to most of these insecure youngsters who see them as aliens, or as copies of themselves that will take over whatever lives they had, or as threats to their individuality, or, worse of all, as a mirror on how lame they look, especially when they see themselves doing the same silly things they did 10 minutes ago.

Which explains why most react violently, and which also provides for a priceless ending reaction sequence.

But one secure girl that hates the rest of her peers has the opposite, slightly disquieting reaction to her copy. And finally, one guy manages to exploit the phenomenon in a very dark way to ensure that reality goes his way...

There is also fun to be had in the tightly-plotted time-loop and overlapping of events and reactions from the various copies.

Altogether, an underrated sci-fi movie that does what it should: explore humanity through a bizarre idea. Definitely worth watching despite the low rating.
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Timecrimes (2007)
6/10
Not as clever as it seems
28 April 2016
I love many time-travel movies, and this one seems very clever and tightly plotted at first, especially while you are watching it and figuring out how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together very nicely. But there is one big problem that others have already pointed out:

The things that he does mostly make no sense, and most of the movie is spent having him repeat these things that make no sense the next time he goes around the time loop, just so that the events in the first time happen the way he remembers them. And that's not clever.

I can do this easily by making up a simple example: Joe is sitting in his living room and sees a dead bird thrown through his window, he goes out to investigate, falls into a time-machine into the past, then when he sees himself in the living room, he kills a bird and throws it through the window so that he will go out to investigate. The End.

Not very satisfying is it?

There are elements that make this movie entertaining, especially the dark way that he solves the final problem and the fact that there are three versions of himself running around trying to make or stop things from happening, but otherwise, it's just an extended version of my story.
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Repeaters (2010)
5/10
Not developed enough
28 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This movie tries to take the 'Groundhog Day' idea into darker territory, with three recovering drug-addicts in rehab getting to live a bad day over and over again, until, presumably, they get something right.

Besides the dark edge, this movie also promises interesting developments by having three friends go through it together in different ways. At first, and after the confusion, they have wild fun with it and even hold up a liquor store. But then two of them start introspecting when they have to deal with their families and a suicidal jumper. The third, however, seeing the endless hate his father has for him, decides to give up and give in to the dark side of his insecurities, and turns to a nihilistic life of brutal crime, since there are no consequences to his actions anyways.

So it starts becoming interesting, and in a sense, they become god-like beings that can get away with anything, except that the more conscience-laden duo now also have a 'super-villain' on their hands to deal with, while the regular world suffers the consequences.

But then it stops being interesting, fizzles out, and just ends.

Their attempts at stopping him never become creative (for example, they don't even bother finding out who starts their day first by a few seconds, thus giving that person a slight edge). Their time-loop and personal dramas are solved with only a couple of lazy pop-psychology revelations and confessions. The development of the bad guy is way too fast and extreme - it could have worked if they had to repeat a hundred times or so, but to turn into a suicidal-rapist-murderer within 3-4 days is a bit much. And their 'thoughtful' introspection about consequences for their actions ends abruptly when one guy says: 'I need it to mean something'. Way to go, Schopenhauer.

And so on. It just doesn't develop its ideas in any way. And then there's the ending where the bad guy gets to repeat himself, while the rest move on. If you think about it, since none of them see any meaning in their lives and its only about whether they get caught or feel bad for their family, the ending means that the bad guy gets to live it up without consequences, and the good guys have to live with their consequences and bad decisions. So even the faux-moral ending is a product of muddled and lazy thinking. Lazy movie-making does not produce great movies.
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Kick-Ass (2010)
5/10
What's wrong?
26 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
(This will be food for thought for people that watched it, and not a proper review)

I really want to enjoy this movie more, and, in some scenes, the movie actually is great, but it just doesn't work as a whole. Like most people, I thought 'Hit-Girl' stole the movie and found her character great fun... at first.

Ebert felt the problem is that this character of an ultra-violent 11 year old girl, trained by her revenge-obsessed dad, that kills dozens of men without blinking an eye, is immoral and sad. Sure, this is true, but only if her character was presented as something to take seriously. And that's exactly what this movie did, unintentionally. Because it made her way too cool, because Chloe was simply too good at making her charming and real, and most of all, because her relationship with her dad and her climactic battle, took an all-too-serious turn.

See, you can't go for campy fun, then demand that the audience invest their emotions in a character that is supposed to be a parody, or an over-the-top fun cartoon character. Imagine if Wile E. Coyote was suddenly shown to be a desperate dad trying to bring home food to his dying daughter. What would that do to the Road Runner cartoons? Those cartoons feature ultra-violence and kids watch them all the time, but they don't feel objectionable (at least to some people), because of the point I'm trying to make.

Another way of saying this, is what other people said: This movie is too inconsistent in tone. Hit-Girl and her dad are a kick-ass fun duo, but then they are suddenly involved in a very dramatic, painful and sad death scene. The movie starts with a teenager who hopelessly wants to be a super-hero and fails realistically, but then shifts to an unrealistic 11-year-old super-fighter. All these approaches conflict with each other, which is why it doesn't work, and which is why I think Ebert was disturbed by a character that was supposed to be silly fun.

Also, both the characters and the events keep veering from realistic to cartoonish. One minute the guy is stabbed by simple street thugs and having sloppy street-brawls realistically, the next, his steel implants after a near-fatal accident make him stronger instead of weaker, and he is flying new untested gadgets in seconds and having elaborate stick-fights. Is this movie about nerds that want to be super heroes, or about nerds that get their wish fulfilled in some kind of alternate fun reality? Either one of these ideas would work, but not both! Make up your minds!

And then there's her swearing: I'm not against swearing in movies, but when the writers make her character swear for no reason whatsoever just because she is an 11 year old girl, and when, if you think about it, it wouldn't make sense that her dad would condone or encourage such swearing, it turns the movie into juvenile trash written by writers who would rather insert a juvenile joke into the movie than focus on what they are trying to achieve.
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