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Hello Ladies: Hello Ladies: The Movie (2014)
Season 2, Episode 0
A must watch for fans of the series
4 February 2018
Hello Ladies (the series) was a show I really enjoyed.

The movie is far less bro-ish/lad-ish, which you will either like or dislike. I really liked the focus on pick up culture in the original series, but also felt the ending of season 1 was sappy for that reason and out of character.

On the other hand, this installment is more balanced, with more likeable characters. What it lacks in dry brutal commentary, it makes up for with a more coherent story. It still has a lot of delightful cringy comedy, but less toe-curlingly bad Gervais-esque humor.

Overall a fun experience, I'd recommend to both fans of the original series and those looking for a romantic comedy.
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The Great Wall (I) (2016)
Entertaining commentary on China and the world - past and present
19 May 2017
For a great many years, the West has been the dominating force in the world, some would say we still are economically and militarily, however the West is no longer culturally dominant. The opposite in fact, much of the world, notably China has rejected the post-modernist Western culture.

And thus we stand in 2017 with China, a dominant economic power, looking to build its own culture and mythos, and just as important, to bring this culture to the rest of the world to influence and persuade "the barbarians" as the West used to do with Hollywood.

That makes for an interesting watch. What does China want to show us, how does China intend to seduce and persuade the westerner? The Great Wall tells us a great deal about that.

The Great Wall has a simple but effective plot. Two Western mercenaries travel to China to trade for black powder, but end up almost getting killed by some beasts. It turns out these beasts, the Tao Tei, are amassing to attack and devour China, the last stand for humanity against the evil hordes and that's where the wall comes into play, built to repel not the Mongols, but the Tao Tei.

The Tao Tei, or Taotie, are a mythical creature from Chinese mythology, a symbol of greed and gluttony. The battle at the wall, becomes a metaphor, the Middle Kingdom, walling itself off, despite its implied superiority, to not succumb to greed and gluttony and want of the world.

Similarly, the Chinese are portrayed to know the power of gunpowder, but to refrain from using it, due to its devastating power. The machinations of propaganda is felt.

The movie does many thing well. It's very pretty, its use of color almost kaleidoscopic in its beauty. It's nice to see something which isn't shades of gray, brown and black, so common in Western cinema. It has some fine battle scenes, worthy of Lord of The Rings (a clear inspiration), though they do drag out.

I found the most interesting parts in the meetings between the mercenaries, Matt Damon's role, vs the very pretty Chinese actress. Here we get to see the Westerner as viewed by the Chinese. They - we - are selfish, individualistic, adrift in a pursuit of fortune, but we're also brave and strong. We do stink though (take multiple showers a day when visiting China).

As the film progresses, the selfish rogue Matt Damon seems to find purpose, trust and sacrifice in the Chinese hierarchy and order. No doubt a clear message intended for western youth: You are adrift a sea of individualism and material want. We offer you order, grounding, hierarchy.

It's well done. I like it. If this is how China intends to deal with the world we are probably going to get along. I believe most of the negative reviews are from Hollywood insiders and fans, many of whom probably do not like the message portrayed to us here. How does it feel when the shoe is on the other foot huh? I give it 7 stars. Entertaining, not great, amusing at times, rarely thrilling. Lacks humor and romance. Maybe next time will be better?
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The Shining (1980)
An absolute masterpiece of horror and thriller
1 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I've never watched a film like The Shining. It is genuinely a piece of art while at the same time being a blockbuster movie. A profound achievement similar to that of 2001.

The name Kubrik was told to me a lot growing up. So much it gave me somewhat of an anti-pathy towards the man, somewhat like how you might have been turned of the Beatles or Michael Jordan's basketball career simply because your parents and elders raved so much about them.

What a mistake! The Shining is incredible. I can't put it using lesser words. It's a multi-layered movie which is enjoyable at each layer, making it truly timeless and versatile. It is at the same time a ghost movie, a psychological thriller of the "mad husband" variety, it's a psychological study of the alcoholic, it is a brooding Citizen Kane esque grand tale of decay of the American dream, it is a visual work of art, a most gripping atmospheric tale.

The basic plot is as follows: Jack Torrance, former school teacher, now struggling writer and alcoholic, takes a job at grand old hotel in the mountains, shut down for the winter, bringing along with him his wife and son. The plan, to get something done on his novel while earning some money in the meantime.

Things to do not go according to plan. There is something in those walls and long hallways of the massive hotel, so expertly shot by Kubrik, that something and the effect it has on Jack and his family is terrifying, gripping, immersive.

I won't go further, the basic story is probably know by most by now.

What makes The Shining a masterpiece is everything else, the acting for sure by a prime Jack Nicholson, carrying the film with one of the great performances of his career, in this one he is not the sane person in an insane world (One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest), but the insane in a sane world. His co-lead Shelley Duvall is perfect in the role of battered housewife (except she isn't physically battered), a mousy type, who loves her husband and son and finds the strength to persevere in spite of her horror and fear (expertely portrayed). The kid is also very believable and scary.

Cinematography is breathtaking, the vastness and isolation of the hotel, the long empty hallways, the massive hall, ballroom and lobby, empty of life, but full of history and menacing nothing, not unlike both 2001 and Eyes Wide Shut.

They don't make it like this anymore. They don't make em like Kubrik.
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Passengers (I) (2016)
Bait and Switch Rom-Com set in Outer Space
5 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
What a year 2016 was for cinema and particularly fans of Sci-Fi and not for the better! Indeed, Passengers was just the last in line of a list of proclaimed sci-fi films which were nothing of the sort.

You see, Passengers is not a sci-fi film, it is a romantic comedy set on a spaceship. If that doesn't make sense, consider this: does a film about relationships along with some comedy necessarily make a romantic comedy? I think not. Romantic Comedy is a well defined genre along the lines of boy meets girl, love at first sight, boy does stupid, breakup, both suffer, boy does grandstanding, get her back, live happily ever after.

That's Passengers. Literally.

What do you put in a review about a sci-fi film which is really a romantic comedy? I am not sure, do you judge it as a romantic comedy? As a sci-fi? Passengers is not alone in this regard, Hollywood seems to recently believe that genre-bending sci-fi is some great idea. Perhaps they think that they can drop clues to both Mr. and Mrs. in the trailers and get both to go to the cinema instead of just one of them. If so, it doesn't work when you make a trailer which signals sci-fi but is really rom-com. That old salesman tactic is called Bait and Switch and we don't like it.

It looks good. First 10-15 minutes is OK. That's it. Why I gave 4 stars as it is not completely boring. Actually I take it back, I give it 3 stars, because Jennifer Lawrence (who got paid twice co-lead) has a horrible vocal fry and that is just awful, vocal fry is awful, girls better to go with Valley Speak if you want an annoying way of speaking.

In addition the violent attack Jlaw does on Pratt, including punches to the face is just unacceptable. In addition, if you wanted to make a smart movie perhaps let JLaw wake up and be faced with the difficult question Pratt has in this movie. Instead we get boy bad, girl good.

Hollywood seemingly for profit ideas or feminist ideology seems to want to ruin Sci-Fi. Don't let them. Don't watch this movie.
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Lights Out (II) (2016)
Jump scare film ruined by unsympathetic characters
27 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Lights Out is a jump scare horror with a good concept and some well executed jump scares that are legitimately scary. Problem is the entire film premise is shown and told in the first 5 minutes. Then it just goes on in the same way.

That could have worked out anyway, but the problem is the unsympathetic characters. 2016 apparently was the year of the feminist casting. Like Ouija Board 2, this is also a film with 2 women as headliners.

Nothing wrong with that except when you make the younger female cast a shrieking b*tch who speaks with the worst rendition of vocal fry I've ever heard. The tone is set when she kicks her "boyfriend" of 8 months out after sex, even if he wants to stay the night. Apparently she does that every night. Throughout the movie she is condescending, rude and arrogant, but hey, You Go Girl! I am a single woman who don't need no man! Or something.

The other female lead is a crazy woman who takes psychiatric drugs and is treated for juvenile depression. How common are children with depression, outside mistreatment or abuse? Not very, perhaps the script was co-written by the American pediatric psychiatrists association.

2016 will remain in my memory as the year of aggressive, negative feminism in films. The vicious misandrist kind. This movie is a part of that genre.

I wish I could write a better review, but I simply will not contribute my time and money to this particular negative Hollywood fad.
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Arrival (II) (2016)
Clichéd and Neurotic waste of a good premise
20 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Arrival is a film with a great premise, aliens arrive at Earth but how do we communicate with someone entirely different, not only in language, but in the way they are in the world? For this reason, a linguist is brought in and we follow along while she attempts to communicate.

All of this is entertaining and thought provoking.

Then the second half of the film happens and it turns to tripe and neurotic mess in no time.

The film loses sight completely and turns into a garbled mess of clichéd "one world" signaling, supernatural "chosen one foresight", attempts at emotional allegory through confusion and flashbacks/foresight add to the feeling of neuroticism and solipsism.

The protagonist goes from interesting character to narcissist neurotical and along with it the film loses its plot entirely. In fact there is no plot in the second half of the film, just an exercise in melancholia nonsense.

Overall a bad film which suffers from "too clever for my own good" syndrome, you wish some studio exec with his mind on the money would have told the director to drop the signaling and focus on story and character development.

It is a great surprise as to how this film has been receiving such a high rating. I attribute it to the same phenomenon which made people rave about Inception, the fear of appearing dumb, if you don't understand that which can't be understood, or The Emperor's New Clothes.

Waste of time and particularly waste of time for Sci-Fi fans.
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A new classic in Zombie films
18 December 2016
I'm a big fan of zombie movies and Train to Busan did not disappoint, and once again leads to me to believe Korean cinema, not Japanese, is still the most creative of Asian films.

Train to Busan takes place almost entirely within a high speed train. We follow a group of passengers, a stockbroker father with his daughter, on the way to see her mom, a team of baseball players, a CEO and a couple where the woman is pregnant. The film has some great characters and we quickly come to care about them, which is critical in such a film. There's a great sense of humor throughout, I laughed most at the husband to the pregnant wife, a macho character of sorts.

The plot premise is simple, a zombie outbreak spreads at blinding speed through Korea, and so does it aboard the train. The challenge: can our heroes survive the train ride to Busan. Much happens underway and no need to spoil it. What makes Train to Busan a great zombie movie is it's part great scares, high tempo, humor. great characters and non-sentimentality. If that sounds like a lot of positive things to say, that is because the movie deserves it. It really is a must see for fans of the genre.

Overall the film reminds me of 28 Days Later, including the fast zombies. Definitely watch it.
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Avatar (2009)
Still excellent 7 years on and without 3D
28 September 2016
Like many others I watched Avatar as a 3d spectacle of sorts and while the 3D was indeed spectacular, I also mostly remembered it as such.

I then watched 7 years on without 3D and was very pleasantly surprised.

In my opinion it is better than any science fiction to come after it, with the exception of perhaps Interstellar.

On second watching I was mostly surprised by the emotional response I got, despite being essentially Dancing with Wolves in space, or perhaps exactly because of it, I was emotionally invested the entire film and rooting for the hero.

It is a beautiful film, also without 3D, amazing CGI, which has also not been topped in 7 years.

It's a damn shame Hollywood doesn't take more chances on original material and instead trots out episode 7 of Marvel or constant remakes.
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Neon Demon - a Winding Refn 'Classic'
22 September 2016
'Pusher' was Nicolai Winding Refn's debut film about drugs, sex and gang violence in Copenhagen and it was an excellent film. Emphasis 'film'. Since then Refn has done Valhalla Rising, Driver, Only God Forgives and now the Neon Demon, neither of which can be strictly classified as film if you think cinema is about plot and character development.

The Neon Demon is a Refn 'classic' and those who have watched his previous films after 'Pusher' should no longer be surprised.

The Neon Demon is supposedly a horror flick about Hollywood vanity and something about being devoured by that industry. Supposedly.

Only God Forgives was Refn's take on Korean gore horror/torture porn. Neon Demon is inspired by runway aesthetics with a hint of satire. Call it 'visual art' if you want and it gets closer than cinema.

Neon Demon is a collection of visuals, music and ambiance, with close to no plot, zero character development and little coherence.

If you watch it without expecting cinema, then it is worth the watch, if you want to watch a movie, then it isn't.

Refn is a visual genius, beautiful sets, color, lighting, but as shallow as the characters he portrays.

Worth the watch - barely - and better than Only God Forgives and, hey, maybe you can at least use the film as a conversation piece.
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Successful new fantasy universe created
16 July 2016
I've never played a Warcraft game, but I do like the Sword and Scorcerer/Fantasy genre, so I watched this not knowing what to expect.

I was entertained, a surprisingly well done film, not so much for its story and arch, which in my opinion gets too long - particularly the battle scenes - but for the great universe that is created. The orcs are really well done and honestly much more interesting and better looking than the orcs of Lord of The Rings and the Hobit, this is what orcs are supposed to be like unlike the animalistic beasts in LOTR.

I'm sure that many critics will find the movie primitive and even childish, but for the movie that it is then it fully delivers a believable (within genre) new take on the fantasy universe.

As stated, I found it too long and too much time spent on battle scenes, not enough on the excellent story telling in the first part.

If the director fixes a few of the flaws and adds more lore, then it could be a really good series in years to come.
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One of a kind warrior epic
16 June 2016
Many great reviews have been written already, for one of the best most in depth check out user: tieman64, currently found on the second page. That review has most of the cinematic knowledge, so I will just touch on my personal opinion on this film as a student of European history, myth and pre-history.

I watched this film first as a teenager and enjoyed it, mostly for the action sequence and the naked women (this was before easy internet access).

Having rewatched it now as an adult, a whole new world opens up. To decry this movie as 'simple' or 'primitive' is really just a reflection of a closed mind or objection to the morality of the film.

The fact is that Conan is a brilliant warrior epic straight from the tradition of Beowulf and the Illiad. By 'epic' I mean just that, a timeless story of boy becoming a man through overcoming adversity and the quest for glory and honor, which most of us have somewhere inside.

Much can be said about this film to it's credence. The cinematography, the images, the musical score, is really excellent. While it is easy to dismiss this kind of fantasy setting now as cliché, that is only because Conan made this entire genre. In reality, Conan is a beautiful film that is in fact quite realistic in its portrayal of pre-history Europe, Iron-Age Europe, just on the dawn of civilization.

Through Conan's adventures, he encounters Mongol warlords, walled cities and Oriental snake cults. Each presented with great props and settings. No doubt Conan is a visual and musical masterpiece. I'd actually rank it close to some of Bergman's in its natural harsh setting.

Conan is an epic which will resonate deeply in some and repel others. That is so by design. The film is a literal embodiment of some of Jungs archetypes. It's also a rare film in the sense that it would never be made the way it was made today. It takes itself too serious, and therefore is too scary for today's PC Hollywood. There is humor yes, but Conan is not meant as a laughing stock, it is meant quite literally as the triumph of the European man over the barbary of the ancient death cults of the Levant (see Baal, Moloch).

I'll end this review and recommend anyone with a real interest in cinema watch this again as adults. The irony of this film is that while it is derided as primtive, it actually requires historical and philosophical knowledge to even remotely be able to fully appreciate.
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The Martian (2015)
Best commercial made for NASA and space travel made in years
16 January 2016
Let it be said up front, I am a huge fan of science-fiction to the point where I've watched just about every classic and non-classic. Ridley Scott of course is a master of the genre with Blade Runner, Alien and Prometheus. With such an outstanding resume, one expects a lot from a new sci-fi movie from Scott.

About that, The Martian barely seems like sci-fi, the technology shown and the 'modest' scope of the mission, sets this film within the next 20-30 years (my guess). As such it is as film that feels present day and I think that is what Ridley Scott set out to achieve.

It is no secret that space travel and NASA enthusiasm isn't what it used to be. The sci-fi optimism of the 70s and 80s has been almost fully replaced with doom scenarios of zombie apocalypse or broken futures. Ridley Scott has at least done his part with The Martian, to bring back excitement and relevance to the NASA mission. Honestly, no government bureaucrat or PR firm could devise a better advertisement for NASA than this film. The Martian will undoubtedly make clever 12 year olds sit glued to the screen and plant the dream of space travel in their minds. The result we will see in the next decades.

I haven't touched on the actual cinematic experience, which has been reviewed by many others, but it's a great looking film, stunning visuals as always with Scott and it always feels real. Matt Damon brings an A+ performance, most of the time making me forget that this is Jason Bourne or Matt Damon at all and that I suppose is the greatest compliment to an acting performance.

The film is somewhat short on personal drama and development although the cast does an excellent job. There's no romance, no family drama back home, in fact Damon's character doesn't seem to have a family except parents. The actors are well cast in their roles and do not suffer from needless Hollywood 'cool and pretty' standard (like in Promethus) though Kate Mara could never not be stunning, even if she tried.

The film is nerdy in that way. It really is as much about the great and almost supernatural feats of science needed to make something as a Mars mission work. As such it is again a great advocate for STEM fields and undoubtedly will inspire many young boys and girls to go into those.

All in all, this was one of the best and most gripping sci-fi movies made in a long time. Ridley Scott remains the uncontested heavyweight champ of Sci-Fi.
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Only boxing movie to bring tears to this grown man
19 August 2015
I'm not a fan of women's boxing or women in fight sports at all. Yes, I'm that kind of traditionalist as*hole. Then it's an even greater testament to the greatness of Hillary Swank, Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman, that they can make this dinosaur sit glued to the chair in a film about exactly that.

I think the reason this movie succeeds in such a highly charged theme is because it completely refrains from the kind of 'you go girl' feminism that has taken over a lot of films from Hollywood.

There is no ideology, sentimentality or gender politics in this film, only deep and real characters with real emotion and motivation and acting performances to match any in the history of film making. Swank, Clint and Freeman deliver outstanding performances and you can't help but feel and live their experiences.

It's a Greek tragedy which avoids all the Hollywood clichés. It's about knowing your place in the world and embracing your destiny with courage, not running from it. A true masterpiece.
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The Returned (2013)
Thinly disguised HIV/AIDS drama
1 March 2014
Warning: Spoilers
This film is marketed as a clever zombie flick, however it is no such thing, but a thinly disguised HIV/AIDS drama.

It is almost too obvious, from the fact that in this alternative future, the zombie virus first breaks out in 1984, which is of course, pretty much around the time that HIV/AIDS first was discovered.

That's what this movie is about, the emotional and societal impact of being an outcast because of HIV.

The main make character is even quite effeminate and his interaction with a friend also slightly ambiguous.

Does all this matter? Yes and no. Yes, because this isn't a zombie flick as it is marketed as and yes, because no one likes having political statements showed on them, which this film does.

No, because the acting, although from my viewpoint rather annoying characters, is pretty good and the drama works decently at creating suspension.

Still, the feeling I sit back with after watching this is that this is a manipulative film, something a liberal grade school teacher would show their students and then make the same obvious connection as I did.

My 4 out of 10 rating is purely for the good acting and decent suspense.
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Lilyhammer (2012–2014)
Norwegian social satire meets Sopranos
16 January 2013
Lilyhammer, the story of the New York mobster 'Johnny' taking up witness refuge in Lillehammer, Norway, is a great little gem available on Netflix.

The story is simple and gets going fast: New York mafia guy rats out his 'family' to the FBI and is entered into the witness program. Instead of choosing to go somewhere in the US (or somewhere sunny), he goes to Norway after having fond memories of the 94 Winter Olympics. As you can imagine there's quite a clash of cultures between the entrepreneurial and direct American and the quite, socialist and subdued Norwegian culture. Add some romance, crime and friendships and you've got a great little story.

Don't be fooled by the presence of Steven Van Zandt from Sopranos. This is a satire/comedy made by the Norwegian TV channel NRK and aimed at Norwegians. A lot of the show is about the absurdities of a politically correct Norwegian bureaucracy and Norwegian culture in general. The American as an outsider, becomes the character who does and say the things many Norwegians wish they could do or say. Very funny, particularly if you know anything about Scandinavian culture already. Americans and others will be able to enjoy it anyway, since the show has some good performances from the acting cast and clever script. And of course, the gorgeous Norwegian countryside.

If you find yourself entertained and amused at Lilyhammer, check out the mockumentary 'Troll Hunters' also available on Netflix.
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Shame (2011)
Shame - a story of human despair and flight
12 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Shame is a movie about sex addiction or so it would seem. I feel like the people giving this film poor reviews are not able to look past the main character's actions - or rather - they're not able to emphasize with Michael Fassbenders role, the lonely, sad man on a constant quest to numb his mind and forget his past.

Much has been said at the explicit sex scenes. They're not really worse or better than many European films, but may shock the American audience more used to seeing graphic and indulgent violence than nudity. The sex scenes are needed to tell the story like the graphic depictions of drug abuse in Trainspotting.

Addiction is too often dealt with on the basis of its subject whether drugs or in this case sex. But behind the addiction is almost always emotional trauma, from which the addicted person finds escape with his or hers drug of choice.

In Shame, the drug of choice is sex. Michael Fassbender plays a typical New York yuppie who'se life consists of keeping up appearances until he can get his sexual release through internet porn, cam models, bathroom masturbation, prostitutes or women he picks up in bars, on the street or in his work.

A main point of criticism seems to be a lack of plot. That misses the point completely. This is not a feel good fairy tale Hollywood flick, but a snapshot in time of the life of the main character, the films crescendo being his estranged sister showing up unannounced, which hints at the possibility of redemption for both he and his sister, but alas, this remains untold at the end.

The relationship with his sister is the clue to understanding the title of film in my opinion. While the shame referred to in the title seems to be generally accepted as the feeling of shame that the main character feels with his addiction, it's also more than alluded that there's a history, a dark secret between the brother and the sister. When his sister crawls into bed with him, when she barges in on him being nude, presses her naked body against his, it's impossible to ignore the hint at incest or abuse in their common past. It's best described when she tells him over the telephone 'We're not bad people, we just come from a bad place'.

Both are deeply troubled individuals, both seem to try and cope with hurt and trauma, both clearly damaged people. He through addiction to sex, she with repeated suicide attempts. What exactly in the past that makes them feel shame is never told.

In the end, Shame is an excellent and touching film, devoid of external displays of emotion, absent any warmth, but steaming with emotion just under the surface like a pressure cooker waiting to explode.

To not like this film, is to not be willing to put yourself in the shoes of another human being. Watch this film with an open mind and be one experience richer.
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