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Tabula Rasa (2017)
Brilliant psychological thriller
Tabula Rasa is a wonderfully made psychological thriller about a woman having memory problems caught up in the disappearance of a man she does not remember. Step by step, parts of her memory return as she tries to beat the police into finding out whether or not she had anything to do with the disappearance.
Some plot twists may seem a bit predictable -or maybe I have already seen too many movies and series, read too many books where a seemingly unexpected element is added to the story- but the final twist will come as a total surprise,as nothing is what it seems.
"Scorpion", the fictionalisation of unverified rumours about a real life self-declared genius is entertaining. It has its funny moments, it has its exciting moments, although, unless if the makers of this show are willing to sacrifice a character or two, you know up front that no matter how terrible the situation, there will always be a happy ending. But still, it is entertaining.
So, what bothers me about it? Mostly, that it is a bit too cliché. For starters, there's the rather typical setup of almost every episode: there's a problem that our heroes need to solve. Their solution doesn't work and matters get worse. This may be repeated for a few times, until they come up with a solution that works. In doing so, an untrained and physically unfit team will need to deal with situations that would even make trained and physically fit people cringe. They almost systematically will put the character that is afraid of just about anything, into the most dangerous situations. And then there are the "love-you/love-you-not" clichés. How many series do we need to get where lead characters fall in love with each other, deny that to each other, and when one finally takes a step to make the relationship work, something happens to make it go wrong. This may have been romantic the first thousand times a series did this, but now it's really getting boring and it's a shame that Scorpion has fallen for this cliché.
But, as the title of this review says, despite all that, it's entertainment.
An entertaining déjà-vu
When you watch a remake of an existing movie or TV show, you can expect a certain amount of déjà-vu. Indeed, the basic premise of the remake comes from the original. In the case of the 2009 remake of V, that basic premise was that of seemingly friendly aliens who come bearing gifts only to turn out being nasty reptiles with even nastier intentions. I enjoyed the original and, truth be said, I enjoyed the remake as well.
The déjà-vu experience, however, didn't stop with that. Non humans posing as humans? Sleeper agents planted among humans? A non human having to seduce a human only to actually fall into her own trap and fall in love with the human? Non humans obsessed with procreation and interbreeding? Obsessed with metaphysical/religious aspects of humans? Yes, we had all of that before in a TV show, also a remake, that did a much better job: Battlestar Galactica (2007). And I haven't even mentioned the use of drums and a musical score that could have been written by Bear McCreary, be it on one of his less inspired days.
Now, I have to admit that although the V remake does rehash some parts of Battlestar Galactica, it does do so in an attempt at originality. Interspecies breeding is achieved by accident, and the aliens' need of humans for procreational needs is based on harvesting parts of their DNA. But here too, there are some flaws: humans born with and surviving large parts of their DNA missing? Nobody noticing this until the show? Taking DNA samples in a way that tortures the subject? There's only so far that "suspension of disbelief" can go, and the creators of the V remake have gone beyond that.
Joining the ranks
When Firefly first aired on Belgian television, they showed half of the original pilot, and I have to admit that I wasn't convinced.
Many years and even more great IMDb reviews later, I decided to give this show another try. This time, I was treated to the full version of the original pilot, which made a whole lot more sense and which got me hooked. So now, yes, I am joining the ranks of all the people who reviewed Firefly, loved it and regret its very early cancellation. Like them, I would have loved to see the stories, the characters and their relationships evolve. But the powers that were decided this would not be the case.
Perhaps the only consolation that we may get is that we never had to see Inara getting killed off, as seems to have been a planned story arc.
So, what makes Firefly so great? The absence of techno-babble that somewhat ruined a few episodes of another great sci-fi series (yes, I am talking about Star Trek: The Next Generation now), was an important factor for me. The future that was projected is raw and human. So are the characters. Exactly what one would expect of a group of people trying to make a living in all but ideal circumstances.
There are some clichés as well. The warrior woman. The fact that Mal and his group are on the run. The unspoken romances between a few characters. But these don't diminish the show.
All in all, well worth watching.
Penny Dreadful (2014)
They say that you have little time to make a good first impression. With TV shows, that is the first episode. Despite its great cast, the first episode of Penny Dreadful did not do very much for me. Part of the problem was that this show tries to retell stories that have been hashed and rehashed so many times already, that a lot of originality is needed to keep them interesting. Episode 1 didn't do that for me, and didn't seem to go beyond horror-clichés. But perhaps, that was just me, and I have seen too many movies of this genre. So I decided, months after my initial review, to give the show another go, and to not let the clichés bother me. I'm still not swept away (except perhaps by Eva Green), but I admit, the show did look better the second time around. Not the best show around, not the worst either, but nice entertainment and perhaps, one day, they will indeed succeed in startling me.
Marie Antoinette (2006)
Better than I expected
Although this movie tries to go through 19 years in the lives of Louix XVI and Marie Antoinette (from their wedding in 1770 to their departure of Versailles in 1789) in a rather fast pace, I was quite surprised that it does attempt to dismiss at least some of the often repeated image of Marie Antoinette as an empty-headed, frivolous and unfaithful queen. The hostility she met when she first arrived in Versailles and which would culminate in pamphlets accusing her of the most ridiculous things are hinted at, though they could and should have been elaborated a bit more. As with most movies based on some historic event or character, there are bound to be loads of inaccuracies. Two that I did not find mentioned in the "Goofs" section are: - Marie Antoinette was born on November 2nd 1755. Louis XV passed away in May 1774, when Marie Antoinette was 18 and a half, going on 19; yet in the movie, she is congratulated for her 18th birthday after Louis XV's death. - One would expect a sunrise on November 3rd in 1774 to be quite chilly of not very cold; not the type of weather where one would sit in the grass next to a pond to watch a sunrise. But all in all, despite the fast pace and lack of some details, despite the elaboration of the often suggested but never proved affair between Marie Antoinette and count Fersen, this movie did better than I expected. Perhaps the great performances and of course the wonderful surroundings and costumes have helped my appreciation.
Star Trek: The Way to Eden (1969)
Probably Worst Trek ever
Of all the episodes in the original series, there have been some very good; may were good; some were bad; and then there is this one ... Probably the worst Trek ever. Even Captain Janeway did better. At least, better than this episode.
It's not the special effects or the acting that ruin this episode. It's the plot. Hippies in Space? Adam's Apple, or another fruit that did not become him? Mr. Spock "digging" what the space hippies are all about? And don't get me started about the music concert these space hippies give.
If this was an attempt to restore Star Trek's popularity by trying to tie in to the hippie movement of the late 1960s, it utterly failed.
Battlestar Galactica (2004)
Not a black & white show
Although the title, the starting point of the plot and some characters' names are the same, it is best to consider the new BSG as completely different from the original series. Comparing both will only result in liking one over the other, bashing one to promote the other, and I am not going to do that.
I bought the mini-series and season one of the new BSG on DVD not knowing what to expect. I was hooked from the opening scenes on. When I finished watching the last episode of season one -and what a cliffhanger!- I almost immediately ordered season two.
This is not a black & white show where the "good guys" are all good and the "bad guys" are all bad. The humans are human. They have qualities and flaws; good, bad and mixed feelings. Even the Cylons don't appear to be entirely evil, although they do, of course, tend to be somewhat ruthless. But so are some humans in the show.
This is not a family show: the story tends to be "dark" and combines drama, action and (some) sci-fi with some metaphysics. The mix between these four elements is, for all the episodes I have seen, quite good. The sci-fi part is downplayed a lot. Yes, these people live in spaceships that can do FTL jumps, and yes the Cylons are man-made machines, but there aren't any neutrino wave emissions to save the day at the end of each episode and the technobabbel is kept to a minimum. This show centres around a story, not around fictive technology. The metaphysical part is much more than just the search for (the) god(s) and seeing some predictions/visions come true. The show also deals with the questions who we are and what defines life: "Are you alive?" The drama and action complete the stories and keep them interesting. I've never seen an episode without wondering what would happen in the next one.
To top all this, the cast is simply great. Most of the actors are fairly young and relatively new, yet they succeed in portraying their characters with conviction. Kudos to all of them, but especially to James Callis and Grace Park who, in my opinion, have the hardest roles. Why? Well, you'll need to watch the show to find out.
Hudson Hawk (1991)
Entertainment at its best
This movie did not do well at the box office, and I honestly do not understand why. It is a funny movie, pure entertainment at its very best.
At first sight, the story of this movie is fairly simple (as is to be expected from a story that Bruce Willis wrote), straightforward and rather stereotyped. The good thief is pressured by a bad cop to steal one more item. But the setting, which includes the Vatican, is quite unique and the humorous way the story unfolds makes me enjoy this movie every time I see it.
Not the action movie that one has come to expect from Bruce Willis, but one of the funniest movies he ever made.
My Sweet Killer (1999)
Not the worst movie ever, but in the bottom 10
#3 on the list of worst movies I have ever seen, this movie came in a box of 4 DVDs. Now, quite often when you have several movies propped into one box, there's only one good movie among them.
Not having seen the three others yet, I am hoping that this one is not it. The acting isn't bad but that's mainly because there isn't much for the actors to do.
The story is fairly basic: a guy has mental problems, sees a beautiful girl in his dreams that wants him to commit suicide ... and towards the middle of the movie, you find yourself actually hoping that he will, so that he puts you out of his misery. The main character is always looking for pills that can help him sleep. He could watch this movie instead.
If the other movie on the same disk turns out as bad as this one, I'll use it as a frisbee.
Good, but not great
Star Wars III, Revenge of the Sith, the long-awaited grand finale to the prequel of the Star Wars trilogy, is a good movie, but not the best in the series. When it was announced that this movie would be the darkest of the three prequel-movies, I had thought they were referring to the story rather than the actual lighting of the movie.
The transition of the young, gentle and somewhat naive Anakin Skywalker to the evil, ruthless, mass-murdering Darth Vader was not really convincing. It went too fast and too easy. There was almost nothing to the internal conflict that Anakin Skywalker must have felt whilst being drawn to the dark side. There was just a hint of frustration and anger at the end, when he learns that his transition to the dark side has caused just that which he tried to prevent.
There was no feeling, no emotion in this movie. Not in the love between Anakin and Padme, not in Anakin's rage and frustration, not in Obi Wan's disappointment. It was all too clinical and superficial. It did have great high-speed action scenes, but having expected much more from it, I cannot help but feel that the action scenes were there to make up for the lack of an in-depth story.
Two lines to be remembered though (paraphrased, not quoted): Anakin: "If you are not with me, then you are my enemy". Obi Wan: "Only a Sith Lord would think in such black-and-white way".
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
Good, but not as good as Pulp Fiction
Although it is somewhat different from the previous Tarrantino movies, it does have his specific signature.
The action scenes are quite violent and are portrayed with the sense of humor and irony that one expects of Tarrantino. Blood sprays abundantly from chopped of limbs and heads, and the fountain-like sound that makes only adds to the sense of unrealism that makes this type of movie easier to cope with.
The story is told in the typical asynchronous style, jumping back and forth in time. And there is, of course, the camera-shot from a trunk of a car.
But rather than shooting their way all around, this time the hero and the villains go at each other with fists, feet, knives and swords. The martial arts scenes are very impressive, and despite the speed of these scenes, there are still some very funny shots. I particularly enjoyed the scene of a villain screaming while holding his chopped off foot in his hands.
Innovative and funny were the Japanese-animation-style scenes, about the youth and career of O-Ren Ishii.
All in all, I very much enjoyed this movie. It was good, but not as good as Pulp Fiction. But perhaps, that's just because I'm getting used to Tarrantino-movies.
Shi mian mai fu (2004)
A work of art
This is literally a very beautiful movie. The scenery, the sets, the clothes, the people ... everything is colourful and beautiful. The way most of the scenes are shot is simply sublime.
The balance between action and story, between dialogue and silence, between fast-paced scenes and scenes shot in slow-motion, makes this a very well-balanced movie. This is not an action movie, it is not a romantic movie ... it is both. The story itself is a classical one of love and betrayal, set in ancient China, with intrigues within intrigues and deception within deception.
I cannot wait for this movie to come out on DVD!
Worst movie ever!
This movie is #1 in the list of worst movies I have ever seen, with "Lessons for an Assassin" on the #2 spot.
The acting is lousy (sorry, Sandra Bullock, but even your performance was horrible!), the music score could have come from a bad x-rated movie and the story was downright ridiculous. It had this in common with a typical action movie: the dialogues were short and consisted mainly of one-syllable words. But contrary to the average action movie, there was no real action in this one. Boring.
The only reason I continued watching it was in the hopes that at one point, there would be at least one interesting scene in this movie ...
Thumbs down on this one.
Das Jesus Video (2002)
Nice, be it a bit predictable movie
I have seen a 2 hour version of this movie and found it nice and enjoyable entertainment. The story flowed well and was interesting. Having seen perhaps too many movies, the plot was somewhat predictable, but nice, nonetheless.
In common with many action movies, we see the hero being beaten up, shot at, tortured ... and still running around in the end. Had it been me, I probably wouldn't even have survived the main character's first drop. Contrary, however, to many action movies, there was a story and the story did not get lost in the action. Dialogues were more than some stupid grunting and one-liners ... there was an attempt to make this story if not believable, then at least acceptable.
All in all, a nice movie ... It got my attention enough to want to read the book.