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Homunculus (2021)
5/10
Weird manga adaptation about a guy seeing the traumas of others
6 May 2021
Something must have been lost in translation, surely, as most of the characters in this film react in a way that is inconsistent to what people would do in a Western culture. You have a homeless person who acts all high and mighty when someone proposes shifty things for money, a medical student who is so annoying and arrogant yet no one kicks his ass, two women who just submit themselves when faced with minimal physical restraining and all kinds of extreme reactions to simple words uttered randomly by other people. One girl is practically raped as therapy (now you understand where the term comes from), then wound sucking and blood kissing followed.

The story itself combines the concept of homunculus with Jungian psychology, dodgy medical experiments that make no sense and parapsychology, but doesn't go anywhere.

There some interesting things in the plot, though. The idea that one particular trauma, that we probably don't (or won't) even remember defines so much of our persona that just nibbling away at it would unravel a person. They could have gone with that a lot, but instead the film wastes too much on exposition, then hurries over the interesting part, then ends in a convoluted and pointless ending. I understand it's an adaptation from a manga, but there is no rule that forces following it exactly.

Bottom line: a weird concept with some interesting details, but a poor cinematic implementation and I can only assume some bad translation as well.
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Enhanced (II) (2019)
3/10
Innocent mutants hunted by evil government has been done before, but rarely do badly
3 May 2021
I just wanted to say that this film is bad and blame it not only on the tired formulaic plot, the low budget and the obvious lack of care about the quality of the production, but also on the actors. Alanna Bale has a face that ensures she will get roles, even if in things like this, but she isn't a good actress. She could try to become one, but I don't think she wants to go further than the teeny woman that emotes like a spoiled child in shows like Killjoys or Enhanced.

Back to the film, imagine that the reason superhumans exist is one being extracted from a separate dimension, but they don't show how that happened, or how it escaped, just that some time after, it is hunting the mutants for his own purposes and everybody forgot he existed?! There is no chemistry between any of the characters, there are numerous plot holes, the acting is bad, the special effects not worth mentioning. Just avoid this.
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8/10
The bonds we make
2 May 2021
Decades ago, as a child, I read a book about a guy who befriends an octopus, becoming aware of its intelligence and curiosity and then having to live through the drama of his friend dying. My Octopus Teacher is basically the same thing, only it's a documentary. Octopi are marvelous creatures, both in their weird biology and their incredible intelligence. Numerous anecdotes have them use tools, enjoy beauty and create artistic work, be able to personally connect to the people they encounter. That is amazing from a completely non social creature that can rarely live more than a year. In terms of intelligence, no animal or man comes close in that small time span.

But these are just facts. The documentary is a personal account from a guy who by chance became fascinated with such a creature and spent a year diving underwater without a wetsuit or an oxygen tank and studying it, earning its trust and caring about it. You can see, in his narration, how difficult it was to just keep the distance necessary to observe the life of the octopus and not become part of it. There are scenes when the creature jumps on his hand and then explores his chest, cradling to it and accepting warmth and petting. It is that personal approach to the documentary which makes is so powerful.

Bottom line: this is the story of the life of one specimen of Octopus Vulgaris, as narrated and video documented by the film maker. The images are very beautiful and the account personal and lacking the fillers or pointless flourishings of common documentaries. The viewer is drawn into the life of this amazing creature. It's a good film.
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6/10
Good scary movie, not much else
29 April 2021
The premise of the film is creepy and throughout the movie it doesn't lose its scariness. That being said, there is nothing in the movie to make you care about anyone and some of the supernatural mechanics make it even harder for anything to have any real consequence. From what I understand, the difference between the novella and the film is the ending and some extra characters, both superfluous or uninspired, as the scenes generated by the extra characters are quite boring and unnecessary.

Bottom line: If you ignore the bland characters, the film is quite disturbing. However the choice of the plot to rob them of all agency makes the entire story pointless and the stuff they added to pad the content of the original novella doesn't help at all.
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Skylines (2020)
4/10
Loved the first two movies, hated this one
29 April 2021
I don't really remember the first two movies, but I know I liked them. I rated them both 8 stars. This, though, was so bad for so many reasons that I could barely watch it. Frank Grillo is out of this one, replaced with his daughter, played by Lindsey Morgan. Now she wasn't bad, but she wasn't great either. Add to the roster some known actors like Rhona Mitra, James Cosmo and Alexander Siddig, but only for a few badly acted scenes. Probably the only positive thing in the whole film was Daniel Bernhardt, who has a larger role, even if a cardboard character. At least he did some fight scenes and had some dialogue.

The worst thing is the characters. I couldn't care less about any of them. The most sympathetic character was probably the Matriarch, played by a guy, not confusing at all, and he/she/it is the bad alien boss! And the story was as lazy as the characters, telegraphing every "twist" that one could see coming for miles.

Bottom line: a really boring and pointless film. A shameful stain on the franchise, which is now pretty much defunct.
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Ava (IV) (2020)
4/10
Useless drivel
27 April 2021
If I were a feminist, I would be angry right now. The main character is a female assassin, but in order to make her "work" the writers made her an addict white trash with family issues, with a grandfatherly mentor and with a need to understand what her victims did wrong. They had to make her appear "good" because she was female. When she kills she isn't macho, proud or cool, but just a little girl who seeks approval from her male mentor while feeling guilty about it.

I am not a feminist, but I am still angry, because they used a great cast to make a really dumb film. I never liked Jessica Chastain much, but she is a good actress. Then there are the cast bait-and-switches: John Malkovich, Geena Davis, Joan Chen and Colin Farrell. The other three are old enough, but what the hell happened to you, Colin?! Even random victim Ioan Gruffudd is too good for this movie!

Anyway, the plot of the film is so predictable, so stupid, so formulaic that it adds nothing to what you get from the movie poster. The only good thing about this film is the music from Bear McCreary.

Would it be so bad if the characters doing bad things would not really feel guilty about it, but still be the heroes? Would it be so bad that people making films would actually took pride and care about their work? Nerdrotic said something today that resonated with me: these actors that we worship for their skills, they are rented to say the words written by other people and approved of by big corporations. Why do I keep feeling pain when I see them misused like this?

Bottom line: take a good look at the poster and imagine a film that would fit it and it will be better than this lazy complacent piece of crap!
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Mortal Kombat (2021)
8/10
Better than the first movie, but less fun
24 April 2021
If you are a fan of Mortal Kombat you played the original game and then every version you got your hands on until now and also watched the movies and the TV series and are curious about how this compares. Well, I am happy to say that it is a good Mortal Kombat film, balancing character development and action pretty well. However, it has to adapt to the times, meaning that the characters are inspired from multiple versions of the games and the R rating is there only to show some scenes that are inspired by the 3D fatalities in the games and less about actual emotional violence, subtlety or real violence. Also, I am afraid to say, the acting is not that good in some cases. The plot makes sense, but there are some scenes in it that don't, like people accepting Cole as the leader or him understanding what the hell Hanzo says in Japanese and the bad guys leaving their targets alive for no reason. Compared to the 1997 film, it is much better, but also less entertaining. Gone are the goofy quips of the actors, replaced with a kind of rushed intensity, like all the characters know they are in a movie and work together to hurry it along.

Let's start with the characters. You get Cole Young as the main character, a good fighter, but completely unaware of the Mortal Kombat universe as well as his lineage descending directly from Scorpion. He is a completely new character, not found in the games. You get Sub Zero, he is the big baddie and working for Shang Tsung, and a bit of Scorpion. Then there is Liu Kang, can't avoid him, together with Kung Lao. And finally the (love?) triangle Sonya, Kano and Jax. Then there are the fighters for Shang Tsung: Sub-Zero, Kabal, Mileena, Nitara, Reiko and CGI Reptile and Goro. Characterization-wise, only Cole, Sonya and Kano get anything like a character arc. Jax, Liu Kang and Kung Lao follow, then the other characters getting a random basic backstory and quick demise.

I am a fan of Joe Taslim since I've seen him in Fighter and he did a terrifying Sub-Zero. It was kind of funny to see him defeated by Lewis Tan and Hiroyuki Sanada, though. Josh Lawson absolutely stole the show with his interpretation of sociopathic Kano. I liked Mehcad Brooks as Jax, he really changed his appearance for the role and trained a lot. Goro was ridiculous and also kind of pointless. They wasted a lot of CGI to just kill the character off. As I said, they made a good trade off between story and action, but most of the other characters were short lived, especially the baddies. I was most disappointed with Mileena, which is one of my favourite characters and a really brutal fighter with a huge game history, but in this film she's just a little girl with anger issues. Nitara and Reiko have a few scenes and then dies off. I thought Kabal was real interesting and well played by Daniel Nelson. Sonya was also one of my favourites, especially in the early games, but I can't say I was impressed by Jessica McNamee. Also Raiden... Tadanobu Asano is a decent actor, but he was crap in this.

The more interesting bit of the film for me is that it's clearly a beginning, not an end. Imagine that in the story of this film there actually wasn't any tournament! It all happens before the tournament even starts. So if this is a success, which I certainly hope, they have enough time to get the feedback from fans and adapt for the sequel(s). Personally I think that Mortal Kombat has such a deep lore that it is perfect for a TV series rather than for a bunch of films. Perhaps they will go that way, who knows. Also, the games always grouped the characters in small units: Scorpion and Sub-Zero, Sonya, Jax and Kano, Shao Kahn, Kitana and Mileena, etc. I think a really good MK movie would just take one of these subgroups of characters and expand their story as part of the larger Mortal Kombat universe. Go, MKEU!

Bottom line: great acting job for Sub-Zero and Kano and a bit Kabal, great preparation for Jax, good job on balancing story and action, but the rest could have been better. Two hours is way too little for any comprehensive Mortal Kombat story. Next time either go with a TV series or with episodic films, covering just a few characters.
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9/10
A quintessentially male critique of the world
23 April 2021
Some films appear to be something based on the general plot and turn out to be something completely different when you think about them a little. On the surface, this is the story of a rapist and his telepathic dog roaming the wastelands created by World War IV. On a deeper level it's the exploration of the world, even the one we live in, through a very male lens. It's like Bukowski in science fiction form! I don't want to spoil this with too many details, but I highly recommend it.

I had completely forgotten that Don Johnson starred in this. It's funny to see him so young. The apocalypse seems to have turned the globe sordid. Not violent as much as lecherous, not fights for survival as people finding the most grotesque alternatives to life, not rebuilding civilization as much as creating a caricature of it. And when you think about it a little bit, you realize that this is how the world would look to a guy who just wants to screw, eat and travel the world with his best buddy: absurd, caught in ridiculous rituals and hierarchical power struggles, people going through the motions without any reason or sense.

A must see film that deserves a remake!
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Stowaway (2021)
9/10
Gravity meets The Martian in a true sci-fi film that makes you think
22 April 2021
Stowaway starts with an interesting premise: what if during a long term space mission you would discover an additional passenger? I mean, they cut the resources to the limit, even with astronomical costs (pardon the pun) going to pointless contractors and budgeted pencil pushing, so what would you do?

People rating this down and berating it for not being sci-fi enough don't get what science fiction is. If it were only about the science it would have been a documentary. If it were only about the characters it would have been a normal drama. This actually asks the question "what if?" and makes you think. Go ahead... what would you do? How much effort would you spend trying to find solutions when the obvious one is killing some of the crew? How much would you risk yourself and others? What would you prioritize? Yourself, the crew as a whole, your favourite colleagues, the mental health of everybody as well as the physical one? Sci-fi is not about the answers, it's about the questions.

I liked the acting, even Anna Kendrick was pretty good. I liked the premise. I liked how they went as far as Hollywood possible to make the story technically accurate. And I loved that it raised questions that the viewer has to answer. And it's clearly a pandemic movie: it literally has only four actors. It's more like a high budget play than a movie. They had to either get more oxygen or get out and risk getting sick :) Jokes aside, I liked how subtle the issue of race was raised (or rather not raised, again left to the latitude of the viewer) and how they didn't go the lazy way of the a-holes who try to murder one another in order to survive. These are highly trained astronauts not your beer bar buddies.

Not everything is perfect, though. I also had that WTF moment when the film ended abruptly. I had to untense myself and get back from the edge of the seat and think about what I've just watched. And it does have slight pacing issues, even though I doubt it could have been cut much shorter.

Bottom line: it's one of the best realistic space sci-fi films I've seen recently.
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Lady Driver (2020)
4/10
Extra star for Casper appearing (ghostlike?) in the film for like 3 seconds after being billed fourth in the cast
21 April 2021
The film is a cliche from start to end, adapted for the modern woman, perhaps. You know the one: she can't lose to a man, she loves herself a macho arrogant man, but only until he utters anything dismissive, she expects everything to be given to her, she does perfectly at anything she tries without effort and in the end she is victorious against the arrogant man doing something he has been training for his whole life.

Now, Grace Van Dien is cute and she has potential to become better, but not by acting in the films she did until now and especially not this one. It was painful to see Sean Patrick Flanery relegated to the role of the old uncle in this crappy film, too.

Bottom line: there is nothing redeeming in this movie. It's predictable from start to end, it has a lazy implausible plot, inconsistent characters, bad acting, boring "sport" scenes and that horrid moral that teaches young people they deserve to be anything they wim being without doing anything for it.
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America 3000 (1986)
6/10
An unrateable film that is too bad and too fun to not enjoy
21 April 2021
At the surface this is a really low budget film that is impossibly politically incorrect nowadays about a post apocalyptic war between men and women. And there's almost nothing under that surface!

One could say that the script is a lot better than the movie, though. The language that has changed hilariously since the big war, the names of the characters, the concept of a gender war where women think they are smart and men believe they are strong and which ends in women almost defeating the men through force and the men outsmarting the women, all of this is proof that Engelbach thought lovingly about the story of the film. There are brilliant scenes sprinkled everywhere in the movie. The implementation... agh, not so good.

The acting is not worth mentioning, except for the performance of Sue Giosa, who did the best over the top acting I've ever seen, with perhaps the exception of the fire guitar guy in the new Mad Max. I mean, her role was pretty silly, but she did great with it.

It's impossible not to laugh and enjoy the film. It's naive, it's fun, it has some parts that are completely pointless but really funny (like Aargh) and while I was watching it the second time after decades since the first time, I still remembered scenes from it that had an impact on me when I was a kid. And I usually forget everything I've ever seen!

The best thing about this film, though, it watching it and imagining how one would remake it in this day and age. The film is misogynistic and sarcastic, sometimes really dumb, sometimes surprisingly deep. I would love to see someone try to adapt it for modern audiences! It would be the most talked about movie ever.
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LX 2048 (2020)
8/10
Smart gut twisting plot with pacing issues that people don't seem to get
19 April 2021
This is a movie that deserves a better than average rating. It's a disturbing film that touches on issues of personal relationships in an increasingly virtual world, identity when anything can be copied, cloned and tinkered with and what our place in the world is. All the science fiction in it is just a pretext or a tool to examine an idea and the whiny, terribly confused and overdramatic main character is not a reflection of the viewer, but of the world itself. I have a feeling that so many people rated the film poorly not because they were too dumb to get it, but because they actually got it and it was too close to home.

Is it a perfect film? No. It feels like a play and all the special effects and futuristic images deepen the feeling rather than dispelling it. But because it is a play, the script is well thought out, the acting is important, the details are important. It's not a coincidence that there is a "Just a fable" poster in the guy's room. Probably the biggest issues with it is that it starts real slow and then ends in a performance piece and just when it's gripping, the last 3 minutes of the film are just bad. Hint for filmmakers: it doesn't matter how smart your film is if the last few minutes suck!

Bottom line: I liked the film. It's something that has many interesting ideas explored in a gut wrenchingly way. The acting is good, the atmosphere is really well done, the script is smart. And that for a movie that is mostly Lithuanian with Romanian VFX. And very timely! The perfect quarantine film.
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Tremors (1990)
10/10
It's a nostalgia rating, but I am watching this film with glee everytime I catch it on TV
17 April 2021
I am rating and commenting on all movies I watch, but this is a bit of a cheat, since I've not watched Tremors in some years. Yet, as cheesy as it is, I watch it with a lot of pleasure every time I catch it on TV and that's saying a lot! I usually never watch a movie twice. So for this reason alone I should rate it 10/10, but there is more. It's the perfect film for its era and has stood the test of time again and again, which is quite amazing for a movie released thirty years ago.

Also out of nostalgia, I watched all the sequels to the film. They're not really worth watching, but the original one is the real deal and having watched a video analysis of it from Critical Drinker I will have to agree with it: the script is pure gold. It never misses a beat, it doesn't add anything superfluous, it doesn't force people to do things out of character just to further the plot and it changes the genre of the scenes based on what was achieved until then - the script adapts to the plot! You get buddy comedy, horror, action and social commentary at exactly the right times and it all feels natural.

Bottom line: if you could bottle movie fun, it would have a Tremors label on it!
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Nobody (I) (2021)
6/10
John Wick without the style
17 April 2021
Now, Bob Odenkirk did a wonderful job as an actor. He made this film bearable, some might even say fun. But other than that it was a pretty stupid movie. I understand the desire of people to entertain violent fantasies, especially in these frustrating times, but the plot of the film makes no sense, Bob's character has no redeeming qualities and there is nothing to be learned from it except what not to do.

For a moment I thought it was going to be a film about an average Joe who takes on a small time thug, because even normal people have resources they chose not to tap into until they are really pushed into it. That would have made a bit more sense and would have empowered the viewer. I miss movies like Falling Down. But no, the premise is stolen almost verbatim from John Wick: amazing killer on hiatus gets pissed off by Russian gangsters. But at least John Wick had his dog killed while grieving, in Nobody it feels like the Russians are actually more in the right. The only reason this guy starts killing people is because he feels the need to, while he and the people he cares about are not killed out of pure luck alone. The takeaway here being that a normal life with a wife and two kids while people keep pushing your buttons and step on your pride (so basically the life of most viewers of this film) is not enough, may even be shameful. Way to cater to your audience!

I felt so bad for Daniel Bernhardt, credited somewhere in "nobody reads this" land as "Bus goon". He was never the greatest actor of all time, but damn, to be relegated to the cannon fodder category...

Bottom line: Cardboard characters, dubious morals, action scenes that feel good just because you were trained from childhood that revenge and machismo is cool and satisfying. Nothing in this film is real in any sense of the word. A shameless John Wick copy paste that skimped on the visual style and the budget.
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JCVD (2008)
8/10
A semi-biographical drama fiction with some real soul in it
15 April 2021
You think Van Damme, you think big explosions, action, round kicks, punches to the nuts and so on. Those would not be movies with character development about the essence of people and how decisions influence their lives and how they feel about it. Well, JCVD is like that. It portrays Van Damme as pretty much himself, trying to put his life back together and having a really bad day. It's a low budget film, it has no fight action one can speak of, but I think it was more cathartic and painful for Jean-Claude to play this film than any of the ones he got punched and kicked around in.

Everybody talks about the scene where he breaks the fourth wall and he explains how his life went on and how many regrets he has. It's a powerful scene that elevates the movie a lot. However, there are the smaller scenes with his interactions with people that hit me. Here is a guy who cannot go anywhere without people demanding things from him. He is trying to live his life and he just can't. The scene where the taxi driver admonishes him for not being in the mood to discuss with a fan and give her an autograph was both very real and so disgusting.

Anyway, there are a lot of good things about this film, one of them being Jean-Claude's acting in this Belgian film. There are quite a few bad things, too. The lighting choice was pretty terrible. I am sure there's a message in there, but it made for a hard to watch movie as I was not facing the TV directly. Making the film in French kind of make sense in the context, but it puts part of the audience off. I also don't think the interaction between the main character and the bank robbers was very realistic. They could have worked on that a little bit more.

I think as a fan of autobiographies or at least heartfelt confessionals, this was a good film and probably JCVD's best acting. I can't recommend it for anything else, though.
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Doors (2021)
5/10
Not a film but an anthology of four different shorts set in the same world
8 April 2021
There are four low budget shorts, their quality varying, but the best of them is not good. I kept waiting for something to happen, but then it was either something underwhelming or the story ended abruptly. I liked the way the Doors were designed, especially in the first short. They could have taken that and made it a full feature with a story and it would have been good. Unfortunately other than the design it was all confusing and artsy while saying nothing clear. No closure, no actual action or agency, just "hey, this happened. The end".

What upset me most about this production is that both the Imdb description text and the trailer are failing to present this as a collection of short films. Instead you expect a full on movie with a lot of different storylines that somehow (they must, right?) connect to each other. But they don't! Neither do they reach any conclusion on their own.
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Intersect (2020)
6/10
Overly long, but not a bad idea
8 April 2021
This movie will almost certainly bore you, because it takes two hours to say something that could be said in half that time. Also, I consider it a bit of a minus being set in the Lovecraftian universe, since most of the plot is completely unrelated. It felt a bit like 10 Cloverfield Lane, which had an OK story and then a five minute ending that essentially said "Oh, BTW, this is related to another movie. Just random trivia, carry on!". I guess that labelling it horror is both inaccurate and hurtful to the film. Just adding a few scenes of monstrous darkness to a film doesn't make it a horror.

The ideas explored in the film are not bad, though, and the creator spent a lot of effort to establish all of the characters and tell an intelligent story. This could have easily been an Outer Limits episode and it would have been awesome! As such there is a lot of buildup to an ending that is quite underwhelming. A bit of "it was Agatha all along" kind of vibe. Yet you feel for the characters and understand why they are doing what they are doing.

Bottom line: a decent effort, but ultimately a fail. Could have been good with better editing.
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9/10
What a refreshing documentary!
7 April 2021
I am always interested in information, but most documentaries nowadays imply a narrator, usually some known actor or actress, who emotes in front of the camera while slowly saying boring things. Then you have whole seconds of some interviewee walking randomly on the street or stopping in front of the camera or other time wasting crap like that before you get to what is interesting. And that is if you are lucky and you don't get an outraged activist setting up scenes that would appear controversial while spouting angry and contradictory messages at you.

Not so Power of Grayskull! It is comprised almost exclusively from interviews with the people involved in the creation of He-Man and materials from the production. There is no narrator, no forced perspective, no one opinion shoved down your throat. It was amazingly refreshing. And yes, it is sad that I get so excited just because a documentary is well done and not blatantly sucking, but that's the market today, especially on Netflix.

I am sure the subject of the film is much more exciting for fans of He-Man, comic books in general or for collectors. For me it was interesting to see the history of the character, how it started and so on. Two things raised the level of the film: one is the quote that is being used in the beginning, something along the lines of "We were in the business of making things out of plastic and were completely taken aback when they sprung to life" - not an exact quote. The other one is Frank Langella's reminiscence of his role as Skeletor in Masters of the Universe. With his slightly angry, slightly bored, slightly annoyed calmness he recounted the whole thing in a few phrases that were just hilarious.

Bottom line: if you know who He-Man is or you are interested in a fascinating story of a character being organically created or you just want to see a documentary that is well done, this is the thing for you!
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Archive (2020)
6/10
A stylistic mix of Ex Machina and Moon that yet provides none of the qualities in either
6 April 2021
The film might have been a decent one if it weren't for the ending. I don't want to spoil anything, but basically in the end nothing happens. There is no closure, no reason for what has happened already, it just ends abruptly on a note that is part of a different song. The location is great, the style is very reminiscent of Moon (for which the director worked as a concept artist) and the play on building your own girlfriend in a remote location feels like taken from Ex Machina. But Moon was an extraordinary performance piece and an innovation at the time while Ex Machina tackled (realistically) real issues of artificial intelligence. It's not like Theo James played badly, it's that his character is bland and sometimes inconsistent in behavior and emotions.

Bottom line: movies written and directed by the same guy are either amazing or they flop. This one is a flop, unfortunately. Great visuals, but no story whatsoever.
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7/10
It didn't suck
6 April 2021
I liked the movie as an adult to which the interactive stories format is a novelty, but the kind of horror story sanitized for children vibe really threw me off. There are four kids that are walking cliches who perkily describe themselves as the last kids on Earth after a magical void turned everybody to monsters and zombies. They have fun, they drive a car around monsters or fight them, they die sometimes, but they are always commercial-like happy. It's creepy as hell!

I liked the badge system that kind of lets you know when you finished a particular branch, but there is no way to see how many badges you got or there are still to get, which makes it kind of pointless. I liked the fast-forward system that stops at a decision, but I also disliked that they show an entire scene before letting you choose, so for three choices you have to see the pre-choice scene three times. I liked how they combined the animation scenes in the different flows, although some were a bit off, like failing to get an item, but following with a scene where a kid puts something in the trunk.

Bottom line: a good effort, much more fun than Bandersnatch and more entertaining than Carmen Sandiego. It's still not working as it should, though, as it is hard to feel you are in a story from the moment one reaches the end and has to select from the latest choices backwards, otherwise they lose the choice tree.
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8/10
Chinese productions getting better all the time
6 April 2021
If you think about it, Chinese folklore has millennia of content, refined for centuries, to inspire movie makers. All they need is some computer graphics, decent acting and some experience and they are set to build fantastical worlds that the Western World hasn't even dreamed of. This film is part of a sort of thematic series, with another Yinyang Master movie from 2020 having absolutely no connection to this one, but set in the same world of Chinese mythology. And it was good!

Now, the scenes were not really polished, the actors and their dialogues not to the standards that we've come to expect from Hollywood productions, but that's as much a good thing as a bad thing. The CGI was a bit clumsy only with the "Red Devil" character and maybe the final fight, the rest being pretty spot on. But what I liked more was the story, which had complex characters, hero journeys, a big baddie and tons of fun fights that kind of made sense.

Bottom line: this is one of the most entertaining and accessible Chinese films I've seen in a long time and, what's best, it felt natural, not an attempt to clone a particular Western genre. It felt authentic as well as interesting. Keep up the good work, guys!
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Love and Monsters (I) (2020)
7/10
Zombieland meets Daybreak, but without the comedy
5 April 2021
Nice and inexperienced guy in a world of insectoid monsters decides to go look for his girlfriend who he hasn't seen for seven years. Everybody tells him it's an insane idea, but he does it anyway. And instead of dying in the first 5 minutes and the movie ending, he actually gets to the girl and in the process discovers himself and the strength within. Who would have expected that?

It's a typical hero journey, the effects are not overused, but good quality when they are. It doesn't do much in terms of story, just a guy lucky to survive in a world that is not as monstrous as everybody thought. Perhaps if it were more monstrous then the movie would have been rated R or labeled "horror" and people like my wife would had automatically dismissed it, so win win, I guess.

It's not a great movie, but it's good fun, so if you need something light, give it a try.
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The Dig (2021)
8/10
Beautifully shot, well acted and based on real events, but...
4 April 2021
The film is based on John Preston's novel with the same name and covers the story of the discovery of an anglo-saxon ship used as a burial site, possibly for king Rædwald of East Anglia. Fiennes nails it again with his understated yet very thorough acting (Suffolk people even credited him for his accent), Carrie Mulligan was great, but let's face it: it's an attempt to make digging in the dirt for two years dramatic and interesting. The movie is full of metaphor and in a way it tries to be also an archeological artifact, a snapshot of British life before the beginning of the war. You have your low class people working away from their family, the dutiful wives, the drama of having to hide your sexuality, the large inherited lands that rich people had, the beginnings of the age of technology, the excitement and fear for the future with the war coming and so on.

So, it was a clearly well done film, good production value, great acting, historical storyline. It wasn't meant to entertain in the classical sense of the word, so do not expect that and you will enjoy it. Not everything was good, though. Lily James' character felt like a side story that could have easily been abandoned or expanded, for example. As it was, it felt plastered on. Also the technical aspects of the dig were kind of in the same boat (pardon the pun): they felt both too much and not enough. I guess it is difficult to make archeology fascinating.

Bottom line: good film, have to be in the mood for this kind of take.
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Yes, God, Yes (2019)
8/10
The Miseducation of Natalia Dyer
1 April 2021
If you watched The Miseducation of Cameron Post, this film is almost identical, only much more about hypocrisy and no lesbianism. The Kirkos christian retreat depicted in the film actually exists, only it's called Kairos, and the story in the movie seems to be rooted at least partially in an actual experience. I was really expecting this to have been a book adaptation, just like Cameron Post, but it wasn't.

Now the film is pretty good. I don't think they could have found a better lead than Natalia Dyer, of Stranger Things fame, as she seems to be the kind of girl that got forward in life by furrowing her brows and looking innocent. I mean, there is a scene when she claims to be 21 to get a drink in a bar and no one believes her, which I found hilarious as she's 24 in the film. Basically the whole premise of the movie is that most people are hypocritical, expecting from others what they themselves don't do. It's a whole film of people being phony, spreading lies, using terms they don't understand and then the actual "climax" is not the last scene, which was kind of pointless really, it was the bar scene, where the bar owner and the Christian schoolgirl exchange ridiculous Catholic reasons why they thought they're going to hell.

Bottom line: a film that is direct in depiction, but subtle in character emotions and development. Perfect casting choice for the lead and most acting was very good. Overall, a better than average film. I liked it better than The Miseducation of Cameron Post, to which it resembles way too much.
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Moon Zero Two (1969)
8/10
You have to rate it relative to the films at the time
31 March 2021
I expected to watch this 1969 sci-fi and laugh at the outdated concepts and bad acting, with just a little hope that it would be a hidden gem that no one talks about. And guess what? Gem!

It's not a perfect film, but for its era it is great, even scientifically and economically accurate, to a degree. As many American science fiction films at the time, the script is basically a Western set in the future, but with so many details that felt real that I personally enjoyed the hell out of it: the greedy corporation that stops all space exploration to just the Moon in order to exploit the hell out of it, the psychotic businessman who would burn the world to make a profit and steps on the little people to get ahead, asteroid mining, the heroic male that has moral strength and just enough cynicism to keep him afloat in a bleak soulless world and who could resist beautiful Catherine Schell? And the ironic animation from the start that explains how the world has arrived to the point when the story is going on is hilarious: the US and USSR astronauts are battling for who plants the flag to the Moon and meanwhile the European nations under the U. N. build a city there.

Bottom line: probably if you go in with too many expectations you are bound to be disappointed, but for '69 this is a very entertaining and surprisingly smart film. The perfect combination of intellectual ideas and space Western pulp.
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