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A.I. Rising (2018)
8/10
Good old school European Scifi, R-rated for sex, not violence
5 April 2019
When I was a child I was reading Asimov and Van Vogt and Russian Sci-fi and it was all about the human condition when faced with the unexpected. Not about big fights, not about the boy saving the girl, not about superheroes. This film is like that, a Serbian film based on the short story of a Serbian writer from 1980 and played by two actors (and two extras) who are Slovenian and American-Serbian pornstar. Don't worry, it is spoken in English, only slightly accented. The space situation is actually bogus, a trip to Alpha Centauri that doesn't stand to any examination, but the interesting part is the personal dynamic between the two actors.

First of all (that that damn Anglo puritans) Stoya, the girl, is naked almost the entire film (and quite beautiful) and the two leads have sex quite often. It's not frivolous, though, and certainly not pornographic. Second, the story looks deeply into what our motivations as people are and what would we do when alone with a programmable machine that looks like a pornstar and can learn from experience. Yes, sex, of course, but what about after that? What about feelings that develop? I can easily compare this film with Her (which I hated) and I quite liked A.I. Rising. Or maybe it's closer to Zoe. Anyway, the exotic setting is used only as a pretext to examine what makes us tick, and that is what sci-fi is all about.

The acting is good, without being spectacular, the visuals are very artsy, nicely done, but sometimes pointless. The science is nonexistent and technology is used only to advance the plot. There are a lot of holes in said plot, but I advise you to skip them and continue watching, because attention was spent on the important things and the rest is just prop. The pacing is slow, which might annoy some people, but the original material was a short story after all. And yes, the title is horrendous :)

Bottom line: give it a try, especially if you are looking for something else than Hollywood action-fantasy or if you enjoyed old school sci-fi as a kid.
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Shoplifters (2018)
8/10
Unexpectedly good acting and a very thoughtful story, albeit a bit dramatic
29 March 2019
If you want to see a Japanese live action adaptation after some manga, this is not the film for you. This is the kind of movie about poor desperate souls living on the outskirts of society and still being human. It's something that I am accustomed to, as it seems the entire Romanian cinematography can only be about that. It was a bit unexpected for a Japanese film, though, to see an exploration of small time crooks, living outside society, almost a taboo in the little I know about that culture, and them being presented as very human and having beautiful souls.

The plot is really unimportant, as the quality of the film is all about the details: great acting, attention to the little gestures, the subtle emotions and so on. It's an exploration of culture as a whole, not just the Japanese one, so in a way this is a very international film. Yet prepare yourselves for two hours of slow exposition of normal life. The movie is at the same time boring and wonderful and probably it takes one to be in a certain mood to fully appreciate it.

Bottom line: Good acting, even from the very young, and a slow exploration of people's souls while they are living their miserable lives.
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Krystal (2017)
7/10
A charming cast clearly having a lot of fun offsets the relative lameness of the story
24 March 2019
Rosario Dawson looks way better than she has any right to, therefore an 18 year old falls for her, while having to deal with his liberal family, the jealous ex-lover of the woman and her paraplegic son. A lot of weird situations and a lot of humor to them make the case shine. However, the plot is strange, moving from dangerous situations that are described in an almost cartoonish way in order to diminish their darkness, to embarrassingly cliched romantic scenes that are simply ridiculous. It is almost impossible to take anything serious, even the situations which were not meant to be funny.

Bottom line: Nick Robinson is clearly going places and his charm saves the day. All the others, including gorgeous Dawson, do more than required of an actor in this kind of movie, which, I guess, is a testament to Macy's talent as a director. Storywise, though, it's a ridiculous movie and its rating will never go above average. It's a fun film, though.
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Zoe (I) (2018)
7/10
Felt a mediocre attempt to bridge Her and Ex Machina in a lighter, romantic version that would appease audiences
17 March 2019
The film is a character piece, mostly, with very good acting from McGregor, Seydoux and Theo James. The subject, an exploration of identity and relationships in a world where robots will soon look and feel like humans and there are pills that can recreate the feeling of falling in love for the first time. However, the ideas in the film were ridiculously simplistic, both in the technical realm and the emotional one. It felt like a weaker version of Her (if that is even possible) with the operating system replaced by robots. And then the issue is not how humans feel, but how the robots feel. It felt uneven, a botched attempt to capitalize on the success of other AI related films, but without the novelty or the desire to make you think. A movie version of the drug in the film that manipulates your emotions so you feel something romantic for just a few hours.

In fact, I am going to contradict the title. I believe it is what they wanted to achieve, but what they got was Her bridged with Pinocchio. Ouch! If it weren't for the decent performances of the main actors, this would have failed in a bad and boring way.
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5/10
What if what people said was reality
16 March 2019
This is just one more "Scientist playing God and failing miserably" story. It doesn't matter that the reasons he fails are morally extinct and that the way he handles crisis is to succumb to apparent psychotic strength, because he is a nice scientist that can't do violence. A cliched and ridiculous promise that doesn't really do justice to scientists (or mad scientists for that matter). No person of science would be intimidated by a psycho boss lady and her uber strengthy hench... person. It took three thirds of the movie to reach an obvious conclusions, only to change things as a superfluous twist that no one needed.

Bottom line: a movie in which all people acted for the money, rather than for the idea of the film, resulting in a boring, cliched, pointless plot and a sub mediocre performance.
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9/10
Pushed to watch it, expecting it to be meh, having a lot of fun instead
16 March 2019
I like tongue in cheek humor and this film is filled with it, from the "is he allowed to legally say that?" to doing to death origin stories. But it's more, the character is likable, the animation very nicely integrated (I loved the internal thoughts also appearing as comic book captions) and the pacing and characters nice. There are some things that are simply cliche, like the black family where people have to take sides either to be gang or state employees in the service of the system, but overall it was pretty nice. Doc Ock was uber cool and I think it was a real loss for missing a scene where she (yup, that how you do representation, with kickass characters!) would meet other versions of herself.

Overall, it was one of the best comic book films I've seen, and considering it's animated, that's saying something. I do like the dark side more, though, so lighthearted films rub me a little the wrong way, but since I can't have a Doc Ock series I have to settle :)
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Mirai (2018)
8/10
Above average anime about a little child's mind when he gets a little sister
13 March 2019
The marketing tagline is misleading as is, I suppose, the title. Imagine a biography that starts with the main character as a child stumbling on a rock on the way back from visiting a distant relative and being called The Stumbling or The Relative.

The actual story is about a little boy named Kun coming to grips with the new addition to the family, his little sister (luckily not named Chan). And yes, they name her Mirai, which means future, therefore the spin on Mirai no Mirai, which is in no way the important part of the plot or the key character. First fascinated, then jealous of not being the center of attention in the household, Kun turns to fantasy, in which his dog is a prince, his sister is all grown up and he gets to meet his mother as a child and his great-grandfather as a young man. It's a coming of age film, where the age is quite small.

I found the animation pretty basic, but well done. Kun's character is a little bratty, but true to reality. Mirai or indeed any of the other characters have very little to bring to the story and are quite cardboard. All maybe except the father. It seemed to me the story a father left home to care for a little boy and his infant sister would write, musing on the weird and yet very recognizable behavior of the boy and raising the babbling baby to the rank of unpredictable natural disaster or even antagonist. It's not a wow film, but it does make you connect to early childhood feelings.
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Vox Lux (2018)
6/10
A pretentious failure, saved only by Portman's performance
10 March 2019
The subject is intriguing: an exploration of the current age, focused on artificial fame and mass shootings. When I heard about the basic plot of the film, I thought it would be the counterpart for A Star is Born and therefore I was expecting quite a different story. But no, the occasional emotional moments are blown apart by the unnecessary and overly cerebral narration, the plot goes all over the place, the split in four acts only shows how pretentious the whole thing is while it is basically saying nothing. And the ending? Having to watch Portman sing several pop songs was painful. Not because of her, but because of the awful music.

The thing is, Natalie Portman is fantastic! She portrays her character perfectly. Unfortunately, that's the only good (and short) part of the film. The young actress first gives me great hope, then she's replaced, Willem Dafoe's narrator is superfluous at best and Jude Law was wasted on his role. In the end it just feels like someone tried to do something very deep and intelligent without actually using their brain.
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Aquaman (2018)
5/10
I thought Disney bought Marvel, not DC
6 March 2019
There is no reason that I know for why Aquaman turned into the modern CGI version of The Little Mermaid, liberally mixed with Aladdin and The Lion King. I mean, yeah, Black Panther was mostly Lion King, but it was interesting and fun and the world building was not bad. Aquaman feels cartoonish from the start to the very end. The pointless CGI, Heard's horrible wig, all the fairy tale characters that seek to show us how they are superior to people on the surface who have grown up reading about single dimensional characters like them, the predictability that one can find in children stories only. To be honest, the feeling I have most about this film is outrage. It is condescending and dumb. It's the Hollywood version of Homer telling Bart he's stupid.

And then there is the cast. Jason Momoa, who I liked in Atlantis, the Stargate one, because he was supposed to have only one dimension. Amber Heard, who hasn't had a good role in ages and sporting that eye soar of a bad wig, Nicole Kidman and Willem Dafoe getting their paychecks. And Dolph Ludgren? WTF? The main character of this story was Patrick Wilson's, he had the most relevant scenes, he was the only one who actually looked like he gave a damn about his performance. He is the true king of the film!

Bottom line, it was so dumb it was offensive.
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Upgrade (2018)
9/10
The standard to which all sci-fi action movies should be measured against
2 March 2019
The plot is not particularly original, but its execution is. A near future detective story where a guy loses everything and thus has to do go through some extraordinary changes to reclaim his life. But is it his life? The film reaches its conclusion then leaves the viewer asking questions and considering possibilities. It does all it needs to be true sci-fi. The action scenes are also very well done, suggesting both incredible technological speed and power, but remaining visually crisp so even our unevolved human brains can see it happening.

Considering that this is a low budget movie that not many have heard of, it is a crime than so many other "blockbusters" reach cinemas and earn more money. If someone would just invent a machine to thwart marketing, the world would be a better place. Think about a book that you've read or a film you've watched, you loved and it ended and you wanted more and you hoped for a sequel. This would the perfect one to turn into a Netflix series. It does have cliched characters, but only up to a point, then you just feel the need to see where they go and what they do next. Both scientific speculation and monkey brain desires are satisfied by the script and action.

Bottom line: if you like sci-fi, this is a must see. My only complain is that I want so much to see what happens next and a sequel is unlikely. Netflix? Help?
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6/10
A convoluted mess that depends too much on remembering the first movie and not enough on beasts
17 February 2019
For a movie called Fantastic Beasts, there are few of them and not relevant to the plot at all. Instead, a lot of characters fumbling in confusion in order to get to the bottom of Credence's identity. Magic is ubiquitous, but feels more like technology in this film that doesn't feel magic, only CGI. Meanwhile Grindelwald plays the role of a politician in a world of idiots and every other character acts completely different from their actual role.

Why can't women cast anything serious? Men do everything and women are helpless. Why can't Aurors cast anything serious? I mean, they're supposed to be trained for it. Why must a lot of people die before the others consider casting a counter spell? Who can take seriously someone who spouts accusations of persecution from authorities then proceeds on destroying Paris? Who is everybody in this film? Where did they come from? Why should I care? All these are questions that you will find no answer to in this film.

The special effects are great, the actors did a good job, even Depp, who seems to be half asleep most of the time, but the plot is a total mess and has no roots and goes nowhere. My suggestion is, if you want to watch the film, wait until the next one(s) are released and watch them in order, starting with the first Fantastic Beasts, otherwise you will understand nothing.
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8/10
Malek is great, the bio pic recipe is quite formulaic
14 February 2019
Hollywood does biographies like they do their films: they take reality and cut and rearrange and fake it until it makes money. A lot of moments were more dramatic than what really happened or even fictitious, but it all looks good. You get the feel for Freddie's forced confidence, always looking forward, living the day, but at the same time remaining a scared little kid that needs friends and is vulnerable to bad influence. Also the band didn't split on his account alone, they all went and did their own thing once in a while, but always came back. It wouldn't look good on film, though. So while I enjoyed the film, it felt like so many other movies I've seen. The AIDS stuff is also very mixed around.

But Rami Malek was great. At the beginning I was having doubts, I don't think he had gotten used to the false teeth and he looked kind of uncomfortable, but really fast he got into the role so well that him and Freddie mixed up in my mind. I thought it would be off putting because he looked so much like that kid in the Invisible Man video (they didn't get the hair quite right), but he was really good.

So bottom line: great music, great performances, the story a bit bland and formulaic. A solid 8/10.
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6/10
Well acted, but really boring
13 February 2019
It's a recipe film: get some really old actors/singers, formerly famous, and have them act out some story that is quirky and fun, without necessarily being a comedy, but light. And all the actors did a very good job, the atmosphere was just right, but the story and the pacing were really really bland. Neither Sissy Spacek's incredible grace, nor Redford's effortless charisma, nor Casey Affleck's outshining them both could save this film. It's a relaxing watch that leads to no gains whatsoever.
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10/10
A love fueled chase on memory lane
9 February 2019
It is said that as an actor you need to use parts of yourself in your scenes. If you have to cry you need to revert to a moment when you who cried like that, if you feel dread, hope, love you must connect to the part of you that felt that. So, in a way, bits of every actor are sprinkled all over their movies. What if you could take them and collate them all together to recreate that person's life? But it's more than that. When a documentary crew comes to talk to a famous actress in her old age, she recounts her life, driven by the need to reconnect to someone she only met briefly but loved dearly. Her story is shown to us as bits of her life and bit of her movies, all mashing up into a narrative that not only describes her life, but the history of Japan in the second millennium. And in the end, when the connection between actress and interviewer becomes apparent, it all ties together.

It is a beautiful film, both visually and stylistically, both story-wise and in its construction. It feels fast paced as the protagonist always chases after her mostly imaginary love. I guess it's something more Eastern than Western, the woman that chases after the man who waits for her. In this day and age it would be viewed as weak rather than romantic, but the film portrays it as the biggest strength there is. She needs to find him to give him the key to the most important thing there is. What is that? Haven't you figured it out yet?
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6/10
WTF did I just watch?
9 February 2019
I looked at all reviews and not one had this title, which I think describes best the movie. I understand it's supposed to be an absurdist movie, but it's just absurd. It's like the entire film was created by splicing together the outlandishly funny ideas of the commercial writer in it. Maybe that's what the story is supposed to be: the flow of images that the two adolescents get to have in their brain as they listen to the bland recording of the ideas. But the result is irredeemably bland, too. Just senseless scene after senseless scene, edited together to have a modicum of sense and look cool, but constructing no meaning.

Probably only people who watch this kind of movies watch this kind of movies. It's like a video Rorschach test. A splash of moving color that will only make sense in the context of a human brain. I gave it a 6 because it's 5+, get it? Knowing what I know now, I wouldn't have watched it.
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7/10
A Chinese replica
9 February 2019
It is ironic that a movie about counterfeiters is itself a replica of an American film. The plot is different, but the idea is basically the same. If you want to be surprised (even though I've seen where it was going since the very start) stop reading reviews now, because some people did not refrain themselves from naming the film I am talking about and then the only pleasure is the rundown of film which, frankly, is too long and bland. You might say it's a character piece, with two very good Chinese actors doing their best in a what is a pretty banal movie. If you are looking for the great visuals of Crouching Tiger or the heavy action in The Corruptor you are going to be disappointed. It's an entertaining film, though, without being anything over average.
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Overlord (2018)
7/10
Like so many Bad Robot movies, it's decent but overhyped
5 February 2019
I really hate the marketing system for these movies. You hear about Overlord from so many different sources, way before you get to see it, then you watch it and can't enjoy it even if it is a decent movie because your expectations are all out of wack. So let me dispel some myths first. If this was a high budget film, it didn't really show. That doesn't mean it feels cheap, it only means that I've seen a lot of films and even TV shows that feature the effects and sets shown in it. So if you go in expecting a special effects extravaganza you're gonna be disappointed. Then it is not a zombie film. It's a Nazi experiment movie and many people instantly associate this with zombies because it is a trope, but no, not a zombie film. Which is good, because the story doesn't feel stale. And then there is the gore factor. I am at the age where I don't really care if there is gore or not and don't get the kick from human body harm. But there wasn't a lot of gore. It was just right. This is not a gore fest.

As for what the movie is, it's a story reminiscent of Dog Soldiers, if anything, with bits of Inglorious Basterds and Castle Wolfenstein sprinkled in. Now Dog Soldiers became a cult classic in its own right and so Overlord might too. If you watch it, you will see actors you know acting well on well done sets, with seamless effects and a classic (and just as simpleminded) good Allies vs evil Nazis story. But that's all it is. It's not the second coming of Christ or anything. Just a decent film amidst a lot of hype.
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7/10
Typical young adult special effects extravaganza
1 February 2019
Two young people fall in love, there is a villain that threatens the entire world, cities run on wheels and consume other cities in spectacular steampunk fashion, everybody is trying their best to pretend this is part of the Star Wars franchise and so on. As long as you suspend your disbelief, the movie can be a lot of fun. It's enjoyable, visually interesting and utterly forgettable afterwards. The only thing that bothered me is that Hugo Weaving wasn't a memorable villain. He is usually more impressive than this.
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Green Book (2018)
8/10
Funny little movie about the friendship between two people in the middle of an ugly world
29 January 2019
The story of an Italian driving a Black man in the 60s, when both peoples were persecuted by the "red blooded Americans", whatever that meant. It seemed a bit off some times, with the elevated black man behaving inexplicably or not knowing or understanding some concepts, but having perfect knowledge of other more complex ones. The completely unbiased Italian-American family was also a bit of a stretch. But the tale is heartwarming and fun, without getting into violence or too much ugliness and the acting is good.
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Departures (2008)
10/10
A very Japanese movie that also translates exceptionally to Western culture. Death is truly universal.
27 January 2019
The movie is based on a personal memoir of "a Budhist mortician", written by Shinmon Aoki, and is very well filmed and acted. The story is about a man who returns to his home town after a failed attempt at a career in the big town and gets a job as a mortician. What is not immediately apparent to non Japanese is that any job involving handling dead people is traditionally seen as unclean and that explains some of the reactions of the people in the film. In the end, helping someone pass through the "gateway" of death is presented as cathartic, noble and spiritual.

A very beautiful film that I recommend watching. The only issue that I could see is with its length, which is a little over two hours.
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6/10
Is it lost in translation?
20 January 2019
I've seen several recent fantasy and sci-fi Russian movies and they all feel like the story is a badly assembled jigsaw. Is it that the Russian story makes sense and somehow they can't translate to English? I think that's unlikely. Viy is a strange combination of Dracula and Sleepy Hollow, with a few English actors to make it mainstream, but the rest, including cinematography, is Russian. Jason Flemyng plays the main character, an English scientist having to deal with Slavic superstition in "uncivilized" Russia (yes, it's not Transilvania, which is in Romania, I would have hoped Russians at least knew that), with Charles Dance in a few irrelevant scenes.

The idea was interesting, the special effects nice, but it felt like something was terribly wrong with the assembly of the scenes and the dialogues. You probably have to watch in Russian (if a version even exists).
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Embers (I) (2015)
7/10
Why the bad reviews?
20 January 2019
People probably expected something very sciency, with special effects, with the big contagion that gets solved by the brilliant scientist, but it is nothing like that. It just describes, in a pretty slow pace, the aftermath of a global contagion that makes everybody amnesic. People that love each other forget the other exists at random moments, smart intellectuals fight all day to remember who they were by reading their own books (man, that should be another movie altogether!), rich people have built bunkers in which they educate their children who, unfortunately, reach adolescence and become stupid, and so on. There is no storyline, no explanation, no closure. Nothing too brutal, nothing too bloody, just people being people without being themselves.

It is not a great movie, it will not be remembered throughout the ages as a classic of direction or acting or storytelling, but it's not bad either. It's a "what if?" scenario played close to the end and well interpreted.
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Bronson (2008)
7/10
Great performance from Hardy, but a minimalistic film about a stupid confused violent man
20 January 2019
Tom Hardy's character is described by violence. He doesn't know what he wants and he seems to only crave violence. Speak to him in a nice and/or intellectual way and he feels threatened and lashes out. The only bit of romance he has is with a girl who uses him as a piece of muscular meat. I don't even think that's taken from Peterson's life. I know a person that is exactly like him, only not even violent, and I think he's mentally challenged. The only reason to praise and watch this movie is Refn's take on it and Hardy's performance, because the subject is nothing at all.
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The Last Movie Star (I) (2017)
10/10
Great farewell
20 January 2019
I vaguely remember Burt Reynolds from the movies I was watching when I was a kid. Never was one for westerns so I remember him from the crazy car movies he did. Still, to see him so damn old was painful. I was expecting one of those "I am old but feisty" kind of movie, a funny contrast between an old person and a very young one, but it was way more than that. I don't dare say it was Reynolds' best role, but it was damn close. He basically played himself, apologized for his mistakes, made his peace and said farewell. And then he died, right then in 2018.

It was a beautiful, emotional film, and it made me cry. Grown man, watching a movie and crying like a baby. It's not even sad, but it's so very nostalgic. A film about time, regret and living with it. I am so very glad to have watched it.
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7/10
Art house movie, much too artsy, saying nothing much
19 January 2019
The whole film is shot in black and white, with Iranian actors who speak Farsi, but it is an American movie shot in California. The vampire is a metaphor, even if it's an actual creature, and the film is not a horror. The cinematography is so painfully artistic that it is almost still. Watched the film at 4x speed and still felt the need to fast forward. What's worse, it has no real plot, it's all atmospheric.

It is clear a lot of soul has been poured into it, but the movie didn't speak to me in any way. I appreciated the effort, though, that's why I rate it average.
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