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Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018)
We SHOULD rise up against this kind of movies
Strangely enough, the quality of big blockbuster movies is reaching the point where they have the same level of quality as those of game cinematics. The acting part and the "story" are so forgettable that the CGI is all that remains. And the CGI is stupid. I mean, not bad, just completely dumb. I've seen this done real time in computer games. The creators of this movie bet big money on condescendingly telling their entire audience that they are cretins for watching and, of course, paying for this. The whole movie is stupid, not the CGI, the CGI is slightly more interesting.
And you might think that I am one of those haters, but I am not. I actually loved the actors and how they played. Imagine good actors, waiting and training their entire life to get into the big leagues, and when they get there they have to perform admirably... on a dumb script. I am not going through it, just consider this: the entire premise of the movie is that kaiju blood reacts violently with rare earth minerals. So all you need to do is shoot him with rare earth mineral bullets! It was that bad.
A rather interesting premise, but something off in the presentation
A young Londoner writer finds an interesting set of people on the island of Guernsey who share some personal stories from the time of the German occupation. Somehow they are all linked by the pleasure of reading books, after they were inadvertently forced to create a book club to justify their meetings during the Nazi regime. But after the initial groan "Oh, no, not another war movie", it was clear that the action was happening right after the end of War World II. And it was interesting, in a literary way (especially since I had tried to watch Book Club just before and I gave it up) as well as a personal exploration of complex characters and it was generally well acted.
However, there was always something slightly off: inadvertences, forced scenes, a romantic subplot that actually made no sense or brought any value to the film. So with much regret, I have to blame the director of the movie and a little bit the script. I don't think the lead actress was very good either, but I have to be picky to blame her for the feeling of uncanny valley while watching the film. If it weren't for this, I would have rated it a lot higher.
Book Club (2018)
The movie screams "Formulaic film for dumb audiences" from the very start
It was impossible to watch it for more than 30 minutes, so maybe you should take this review with a grain of salt. After all, there are movies that get better towards the end. But the whole thing starts with one of those upbeat trumpet songs that scream with no inkling of subtlety "now it's time to be amused", four cliched women of over 50 who are in a book club just so that they meet once a week and discuss for about five minutes books that have been done into movies and the rest about their "real problems" like love life and ex husbands. The humor is artificial, the whole Andy Garcia scene in the airplane had be cringing.
In the end, even if I have the utmost respect for the actors in the film, I could not continue watching it. It's crassness and cardboard formulaic characters made that impossible for me.
Die Hard with muscles and Chinese people
Some villain with a foreign accent takes control over a huge building and one lonely hero is the only thing standing between evil and world domination or whatever, while for some stupid reason their family is in there. Sounds familiar? Only difference between Die Hard and Skyscraper is that instead of using Bruce Willis' charm and suicidal tendencies, we get The Rock's "smoldering intensity" and muscles. Oh, and there is a lot of Chinese in there, for pandering purposes. What they completely missed out on is a Christmas theme and release date. Suckers!
Now, the cast was pretty fun. The Rock, Neve Campbell, Chin han, Byron Mann, Hitler, even that cute Chinese psycho hitman. The script was mediocre and completely predictable, though. So it's your choice: want to see a movie just for the action and the predictable thrills and ending? Go for it. You are looking for something intelligent? Look somewhere else.
Deadpool 2 (2018)
The slow death of R
Deadpool 2 is fun. Ryan Reynolds is fun. There are jokes aplenty. There is a lot of nice CGI, too. What the movie lacked was a story. I mean, stuff happens, but not for any particular reason other than comic relief. Yet you have to have something to be relieved from, first. And it's not like the ideas didn't have potential: a hero losing his will to live, a bunch of other superheros from which Domino has the superpower of luck, the origin story of a hero or a supervillain, depending on the choices of the characters in the movie, time travel, Cable, Juggernaut... Yukio? Anyway, none of these ideas get developed after a quick exposition. Domino is pretty cool, but her superpower is just ... too super. Cable was cool, but as a character he is pretty much, just like Juggernaut, another version of the straight face man, just another Colossus.
And yes, Brad Pitt is the Vanisher and Matt Damon is a redneck and there are probably other cameos of note, and yes, there are a lot of sex jokes and foul mouthed dialogue, but the violence is now more subdued, with less blood, less gore, less pain, less impact. There is no substitute for the sex scene with Morena Baccarin from the first movie and the only nudity that counts is probably Jugernaut's ass. So while the movie starts with swearing at Wolverine for doing a hard R Logan, the rest of the film is mild. Rather than a competition for Logan, Deadpool 2 is more a counterpart for Tucker and Dale vs Evil.
Bottom line: mindless fun. I kind of liked the first one better because there was a better story and way better characterization.
Ironically self referential, but really bad
The first Jurassic Park movie was about the majesty and beauty of dinosaurs, with a little subplot related to human greed and some survival thrills. The next movies were about cloning the first movie, which was quite funny, considering the subject. Now they rebooted it all with Jurassic World movies, which feature human greed stories with some dinosaurs sprinkled in, which feels even funnier, because greed seems to be the only reason these movies exist! And now here comes this movie, called Fallen Kingdom, which makes a mockery of the entire Jurassic concept. Coincidence? I think not! How low can you fall, people?
Órbita 9 (2017)
A rather bland sci-fi, but well done
Twenty minutes in, there is a twist that was kind of obvious. Without spoiling it, it is something that has been done before with various degrees of success, but never caught on. Unfortunately, the movie doesn't move too far from this point on and doesn't bring anything new to the table regarding this particular subgenre. Clara Lago is really beautiful, but there is nothing she could have done to improve on the story. In the end, it feels like a way too long anthology series episode, one idea that has not really taken off as a full movie. The film is well done, the acting is good, my only problem is the simplicity of the plot.
Like a drawn out Outer Limits episode
It's difficult to discuss the subject of this film without spoiling it, even if it becomes kind of obvious from the half of the movie. What you need to know is that it's one of those "twist" movies, that base their entire existence on a plot twist at the end. Meanwhile we are left with a drawn out "family escape" plot with incredibly stupid little girls added for extra danger. Now, I like Michael Pena and I think he was the right actor for this film, however the script had so many holes and pacing issues that he couldn't really do anything with it. The first quarter of the film, for example, is more or less pointless to the rest of it. That is why it felt to me like it was one of those anthology sci-fi series episodes that they turned into a movie.
Bottom line: in order to not spoil the subject or the twist, I am going to just say that it is a mediocre low budget sci-fi movie with a lot of plot issues, but executed rather well.
Fun and funny, but nothing special. Less dark than the original.
I can barely remember the original Jumanji, but what I do revolves mostly about the performance of Robin Williams and the somewhat scary parts of it. In the sequel (well, the sequel is Zathura, but you know what I mean) the focus is on the players and less on the "lost guy in the game" while the dark elements are kept to a minimum. The movie has been updated to 2017, with a girl obsessing over her body and smartphone who has to play the game as Jack Black, but her character felt really artificial and the jokes related to her were the most cringe worthy. The other three characters are more timeless: two opposite sex geeks and a football player (the American sort). Together they must overcome the challenges of the game to end the movie.
Now, the story you know, so the details of the plot is what is important and I thought they were OK, however I must say that the game itself made little sense, with a pointless villain and a "curse" that affected literally no one. The actors did a good job, their chemistry, as noted by some, worked. Yet it seemed like a waste of Rock in this movie while Karen Gillan made more entertaining just by appearing. Overall a fun movie, but never more than what it was intended to be.
I wonder how no one touched on the implications of entering a game then returning into a world that has changed dramatically from what you remembered going in. I mean, just telling Alex to buy stock in Bitcoin would have added a whole new layer to the Jumanji usage :)
Princess Cyd (2017)
Nice intellectual summer movie
A young girl goes to spend the summer with her famous writer aunt. They haven't seen each other for a long time, for reasons unknown, and the entire film is about the interaction between the two women and some locals. There is some lesbian romance involved, discussions about books and sex and a bit of coming of age. The acting is good, the characters complex, the story all about exploring those characters. There is little tension and it's all about women being women. If it weren't for the success of Call My By Your Name I would have liked almost everything about it. However, with that movie in mind, Princess Cyd felt a little bit derivative, although the subject matter is reasonably different.
All and all, a movie I recommend to people who enjoy complex characters and discussing real human issues.
Good Kids (2016)
Flawed teen summer movie
The movie was reasonably fun. The actors played well, the ideas were interesting, if not original, and besides a glaring lack of tension, it was an OK movie. It's the old idea of kids who decide to party before they each leave for college, but in this case there were "the good kids" which stayed home and virgin in order to study to get to the good colleges, so they have a "summer of yes" in which to do all the things they regretted not doing in high school. Yet they are all well off and ridiculously good looking and people like them so there are no real obstacles to overcome in reaching their goals. So yes, it's a feel good movie, but it's way too easy for them to feel good, so the viewer has little opportunity to empathize.
An interesting cinematic experiment, but with some flaws
Imagine something like Cloverfield, only instead of an alien there is some unknown military force that is killing people without explaining what is going on. The film is one continuous shot, following the characters of Brittany Snow and Dave Bautista around while they try to survive in the middle of a war zone. It was a bit like Crank, too, so if you can think of a movie that mixes up Cloverfield and Crank you would expect brilliance. However, the film has a lot of flaws, starting with the very low budget production values and ending with scenes that are either poorly shot or badly acted. It keeps up the tension reasonably well, so I personally liked it.
It felt like an indie experiment in making a movie, with some interesting ideas and a lot of "the hell with it" attitude towards film making. While I can't recommend people to watch it, I don't regret seeing it.
La belle verte (1996)
When it wasn't boring it was simply insulting
The film starts with the tired idea of the noble savages: far away on their pristine planet, an agrarian society, that lives in harmony with itself and nature and has people with mental powers, decides it is time to send people on Earth, just because they haven't done it in 200 years. It's just that no one wants to go. Earth is stupid and ugly and corrupt. Yet, one of them wants to go, a woman who has heard her mother was actually from Earth. And she comes, teleported by the mental powers of her peers, only to scorn everything, from the polluted air to the dirty water, from the eating of meat to the concept of money. It goes like this until the very end, where the film just ends.
What I found insulting is that, under the guise of well intended ignorance, the alien woman wreaks havoc with everything and everybody around her, from mental rapes to breaking technology, just because "it's bad for us". Yet she and her society prove again and again that they are very capable of doing the very things that they scorn at the beginning. Her sons soon join her, for the single reason of getting beautiful Earth girls. They quickly learn to drive a car and listen to music, then have fun making two football teams in a large match start dancing and kissing each other, or professional concert players do random interpretations of rock music. When they return, they take a rock CD, after explaining how great their "concerts of silence" are.
I managed to see the film through just because I expected it to end with a great reveal, a satire of the satire, to prove that having double standards and being arrogant about your own culture to the point where you can just violate another was the whole joke. Alas, the film took itself seriously to the end. Imagine a vegetarian with the mental power to "disconnect" you, whenever you feel like eating pork. It's like that the entire movie.
The mark of a good thinking film is that it's disliked by a lot of people
The film is a bit underwhelming as effects go. It is mostly about people and their interactions. However, it shines in the areas of story, plot and acting. The sets are great and the messages interspersed throughout what is a genuine political thriller are as important now as they were around the Lebanese civil war in 1980, when the film's action is taking place. John Hamm plays a diplomat who sees his own life suddenly collapse as fast as the fragile peace in Beirut does. Ten years later he must return to negotiate the return of his old friend from a hostage situation. Americans, Israelis, Arabs of all persuasions, they all pull in one direction or another, with Hamm's character the only one interested only in saving his friend.
Bottom line: a very well thought out and well crafted film, with the tension rising and rising until the very end when it all blows up. A glimpse into the birth of the age of terrorism and the forces at play.
Ready Player One (2018)
Does justice to the book
The book is a love letter to the 1980s, filled with references and puns and that nostalgia for the time when "it was all a game". It would have been very difficult to capture it all in a movie, but this film managed to get the gist of it. If there was anything that I didn't quite like was the chemistry between Tye Sheridan and Olivia Cooke, which wasn't. Oh, and the ending... Tuesdays and Thursdays... right.
Imagine a world where anything is possible and an epic quest for the keys to the kingdom. Complete it, and you will be the king. Lose and the villain will get to have it all and corrupt it after their own corporate image. A true hero's journey to find friendship, love and everything else. The perfect combination of 80's nostalgia and young adult movie. And directed by Spielberg, probably the only person who could convince all the rights holders to borrow their characters for this film that shows (briefly) King Kong, Jurassic Park, Mechagodzilla, The Iron Giant, Prince Goro, Alien, the Back to the Future DeLorean, Chucky, The Shining, Halo and so many others.
Bottom line: it's not nearly as good as the book, but it does it justice.
Phantom Thread (2017)
You will either like it or hate it
This is obviously a carefully crafted film: from the scenes, the acting, the words, the clothes, the facial and body movements, the music, it is all careful and artistic. That being said, it is terribly descriptive: an obsessive dress maker finds his muse in a strange woman who wants him to be hers alone. There is nothing else, just their play back and forth, and then the film ends. If you are here for the quality of film making, then you will probably like the film. If you want some insight into human psyche, this is a good film to learn from, with actors as dedicated as Lewis, Manville and Krieps. If you are looking for an interesting story that fills you with emotion and teaches you new things, you may be disappointed.
It doesn't help that neither of the characters in this film is even remotely relatable. Lewis' character is the typical obsessive genius that is careless of others and focuses on his work above all else. Yet he is not that much of a genius, just a failed human being with some temporary success and weird fetishes. Manville's character is a stern woman who's only purpose in life seems to care for Lewis to the point of losing herself, to keep things in balance when his histrionics threaten "the house". Krieps' character is plain creepy. If you want something to make you fear women, this is a great start. She is concomitantly lovely and well intentioned and borderline psychotic.
Bottom line: a very technical and artistic study on a rather boring subject and some unrelatable people.
The Post (2017)
A story that needed to be told, in an Oscar bait movie
You know what an Oscar bait is, right? Great director making a movie where legendary actors play usually roles of famous people from the history of the United States in the situations that made them famous. Such a film is The Post. Nothing in it is particularly original, from the camera following people in a room to give the impression of dynamics for a discussion in an office, the direction, the dialogues, the sometimes heavy handed scenes, to the way people acted. However, this doesn't make it a bad movie, only one that is foundationally sound. And whatever you might think about the formula used to tell this story, it is clear that this is a story that needed to be told as soon as possible.
In fact, one might argue that it is a movie four years too late! Imagine the power of the story of the Washington Post publishing a top secret analysis of the Vietnam War that damned three presidencies while the government is trying to sweep it all under a rug and prosecute everybody involved back in 2013, when Snowden was leaking similar documents to that same paper, to astonishingly similar reactions of the government. Read the story of Daniel Ellsberg and his subsequent trial and how that influenced every government whistleblower case since. Yet, while Snowden is in exile, Ellsberg went free for doing the right thing. A disconcerting difference.
It was said that Hank's and Streep's performances were lackluster, but I strongly disagree. Both were playing real characters so were restricted by their historical counterparts, while still showing true subtlety of play. In fact, it would have been wrong to make it about the various actors playing, when the real main character was the story and how freedom of the press is more important than individual or corporate concerns. It shows that history will repeat itself and so we must remain ever vigilant as the governments will always test the resolve of the governed in maintaining control over their own lives.
Bottom line: a remarkable story told in a rather traditional way. If you can get past that, it is a movie that needs to be seen.
The Titan (2018)
Insipid, derivative and unprofessional
I like Sam Worthington, despite him playing in a lot of crappy movies. But he goes to work and does his job well. Tom Wilkinson doesn't need any introduction or comment from me, he is the only titan in the movie. However, all the rest of the attributes of the film, including acting of the others, direction, pacing, story, script, special effects are simply... insipid. It's not that they are bad, although some are, as they are just meaningless. You watch the film and have no idea what it is trying to say. And it's no wonder, as this is directed by a first time director of a full movie, written by the first writer of a full movie in cooperation with his senior, who wrote two more, but more likely acted like a producer only. Now, I am not just being mean here. There are people who explode into art with no prior experience and just blow our minds. Alas, it was not the case here.
I will go quickly over the fact that while Sam Worthington's character does go to another planet and turns blue, the film has a Titan in the title and it's filmed in the Canary Islands, which is funny, but leads to no story connection to Wrath of the Titans or Avatar. The film is just sloppy. There is a line (repeated twice as a science fact) saying nitrogen can be used to make oxygen, the science is ludicrous, the premise is ridiculous, the army and science logistics are off, the people have no chemistry, there are numerous plot holes and the story makes no sense. It tries for a slow and broody mood, but it does nothing else. You literally wait till the end of the film to see something happening, and then it all ends in a whimper. Oh, and while the film is preparing for the trip to Titan, there are literally three CGI scenes of it in the entire feature.
I am sorry, there are just no redeeming qualities in this film. It's not even bad enough to get drunk and laugh your ass off at it. It's just bland and tasteless and a complete waste of time.
A decent and probably a faithful adaptation of the book, but Ah-ga-ssi is way better.
I only watched this because I had watched the 2016 Korean movie The Handmaiden and I was intrigued when I heard it was based on an English book from 2002. I wanted to see how BBC did it. However, while probably faithfully adapting the story in the book, Fingersmith is not a very good movie. It has pacing issues, logic holes and in the end, a whole lot of complications that are pointless. It is well casted, mostly played very well, so I guess the only issues are with production values and the plot, which might be blamed on the book, instead. Hindsight is always perfect, true, but if nothing else, this film shows how great The Handmaiden truly was.
The story is basically a thriller and going through it would spoil it irredeemably, but if you insist on watching Fingersmith, do try Ah-ga-ssi afterward. I thought the real star of the film was Imelda Staunton, who had only a few scenes, but was great in all of them. Both Elaine Cassidy and Sally Hawkins were cute and good in it. I thought Rupert Evans was mostly over the top, while Charles Dance appeared for a few minutes at most. He's always cool.
Tomb Raider (2018)
Such a bad movie!
It's a trap! I tried to enjoy it, you know, as a brainless movie you can just turn off your brain and enjoy the effects and the ridiculous adventures. Only I couldn't! Even with the brain turned off this movie is incredibly bad. People just do random things (with bad CGI! How is that even possible in 2018?!) that need to move not the story, but the next action scene forward. There are at least ten scenes that could have been solved by just applying the one neuron in Lara Croft's brain, but they would have ended in a second, rather than painful minutes of pointless running and battling gravity. You know this film is bad when gravity just loses by forfeit!
Bottom line: the Angelina version was a brilliant work of art compared with this piece of crap.
Mad to Be Normal (2017)
Well acted, slow paced biopic biopsy
The film is about the period in time when psychiatrist Ronald David Laing managed his home as a refuge for mentally ill patients. A firm believer against coercion, he allowed the people living there to express themselves naturally in a safe environment, while he and an assistant would listen and try to help, in the hope that their minds would heal themselves. His theories were very much against the general medical opinion so he has come to blows not only with the medical community, but with his bigoted neighbors who didn't approve of not normal people living around them.
In a way, that state of more or less open conflict with the world is what defines the title of the movie. If normal people behave like that, then you must be mad to want to belong with them. Every actor in this film (and check out the great cast) is acting really well and the mood of the movie, depressing as you might expect, is very well framed. Some people accused it of slow pacing, but if you think about it, you can't do a fast paced movie about mental illness. It is a slow and pain causing condition and the only way to understand it is to go slow.
I personally like David Tennant a lot, but I think he was even better cast. He is perfect as the foul mouthed Scottish hipster doctor battling the world for the sake of the patients in his very care. I liked that the movie didn't try to take a side. It very lightly presented Laing's theories then proceeded to show what they meant in practice: with some the results were great, although they didn't lead to healing so much as to less pain, with others the approach was insufficient, while the level of care he afforded his patients made a catastrophic mess of his personal life. The key to the argument is how can a mentally deficient patient decide what's the best course of action for him and how can anyone else prove their treatment is what the patient needed when it alters the very essence of a person's mind? Who would be the more entitled to make a decision? The patient before a treatment or the patient after it? Not to mention society at large, family and doctors, who also feel entitled to pieces of people's lives.
Bottom line: not a beautiful film, but one that makes you ask questions. It provides no answers of its own, though.
Red Sparrow (2018)
Misleading marketing campaign for a straight up spy movie
The movie was good and I think Jennifer Lawrence did a good job as the titular Red Sparrow. However, it was the way the movie was marketed that soured the deal for me. Just after watching the movie, I rewatched the trailer, which arranges random scenes from the film to give the impression of a professional Russian spy doing extraordinary work of seduction, assassination and intrigue. Carefully placed reviews titled "Is Red Sparrow the Hard R Black Widow?" and similar get the superhero audience interested and the casting of great, but passee names like Jeremy Irons, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker and Ciarán Hinds, all acting for at most five minutes of the film gets the older generation in the theaters. And for what? A straight up normal person caught in spy games and getting through alive story.
So, bottom line: if you like spy movies, it's an acceptable one, but expect two hours and twenty minutes of people blundering through intelligence games that aren't too intelligent in order to push the story to a rather bland ending. An above average movie that I have to penalize for its misleading marketing.
Fahrenheit 451 (2018)
An epic and unintentionally self referential failure.
Another same writer and director bomb, Fahrenheit 451 seems to be more inspired by Equilibrium than the book it's named after. The points made in the book are just alluded to in the movie, while the script seems to be ripped off from any number of B grade dystopian movies. Instead of making the point that knowledge and memory are important for not repeating the mistakes we've made and that fast paced media designed for very short attention spans is a poor substitute for a well told story, it stumbles about until you realize the writer has already succumbed to the disease and is unable to comprehend the book he was supposed to be adapting. There is no explanation as to how this movie was made, validated and then released. I can already see Ramin Bahrani sitting in his house, ripping pages out of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 to roll cigarettes, while watching Equillibrium on his home entertainment system. If it weren't so sad, it would be funny to see how the subject of the book describes so well the reality of the making of this movie.
Every writer's dream in a very real way
Spivak is a tiny ugly man who is constantly humiliated by life. His only ambition, to be a writer, is thwarted by his biggest critic: himself, as he writes and rewrites the same novel, to the cruel delight of the mean people around him. Single on a Valentine's Day, he is suddenly approached by a gorgeous girl who asks him to spend the night with her. This changes his life, to his great chagrin and ultimately delight, transforming him from a hateful frustrated little man into a relaxed and positive success.
I liked the way it was played. I have to say most of the scenes were really painful, as the actors all did very well and you could understand the main character's confusion, fear, shame and pain. The moral of the story has to be that you're doing it to yourself, as a bunch of beautiful rich people attempt again and again to make his life better, while he just fears that he doesn't deserve it.
While Michael Bacall did great as the titular character, I would say that most of the movie was carried by Robert Kazinsky's Chuck, a guy so sickeningly positive that you can't but doubt his good honest intentions. It's a strange movie to see. If Spivak wasn't so monstrously unlovable, the movie would have been more credible and easier to swallow. As such, I can only perceive it as a writer's dream, free of all pretenses. Or maybe that's my inner frustrated little man, unable to accept the possible beauty of the world. You decide, as you watch the film. It provides more questions than answers, and that's the whole point.
Why is Matt Damon playing in these movies?
The second movie in as many days in which Matt Damon plays a guy who moves to an apparently paradisiac new town, loses his wife, then all hell breaks loose. And just as the other one, Downsizing, it's a weak movie with artsy pretenses, but hard to review. Why? Because while the film was boring me, I saw good performances and great sets and great casting and attention to detail. The story itself is weird Cohen brothers stuff, similar to Fargo, but less funny, yet interesting. And the trailer is completely misleading. I don't want to spoil things here, but if you expect a normal nice suburban guy to get medieval on bad guys bottoms, as the trailer suggests, you will get something completely different. I think the worst part of the film was the pacing. It felt discordant.
Bottom line: a nightmarish perspective on 1950's suburbia, where all the seemingly normal people are just waiting to show their inner ugly. The comedy is mainly situational, in very disturbing situations. No one is the hero, there is only one slow descent into madness. And I mean slow.