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Niko 2 - lentäjäveljekset (2012)
Not enough weasel
The real charm of the first Niko movie was the weasel character that with irreverent lines made the somewhat soppy story enjoyable. I especially liked the weasel's song and dance routine.
The sequel, unfortunately, as sequels tend to go, reduces on the charm and increases on the cheese.
Still, for parents with children, especially those from a broken home, this is not a despicable movie. The characters are on the most part likable and their motives understandable.
Still, I would advise viewers to watch the first instalment first, before engaging with this one, since it explains much of the needed backstory, including the mesmerising weasel performance.
This film was touted to me as the first one set in Lapland during the often forgotten Lapland War between Finland and Nazi-Germany (1944-1945). This was false marketing for the story is mostly set in Russia and the Lapland War does not start until two-thirds into the film.
The plot aims to be a love story between lovers from opposite sides in the conflict, against all odds, but that angle is obfuscated by side plots and the paper thin story, in which everything is treated with the same greyish brush.
Furthermore, the special effects in the action scenes are mostly not believable. Bombs repeatedly explode literally two meters away from the protagonists who are standing up yet miraculously remain unharmed, while German soldiers, instead of seeking cover, fire at attack planes with pistol calibre small arms.
I assume the film makers wanted to create an artsy, dark film to gloss over the fact that they lacked the budget to depict realistic action and atrocity scenes and they failed in that attempt. There are some good scenes, but on the whole the story feels disjointed, the characters have little chemistry and their actions appear poorly motivated.
It is too bad that a story with potential did not meet with a better execution. For a better film set in the same area and during the same time period, watch Kukushka (2002).
House of the Rising Sun (2011)
Yeah, this was preeetty bad
OK, I knew that one cannot expect too much from a flick that headlines Dave Bautista, but the DVD was cheap and the cover suggested a tag team of him and Danny Trejo. And they had a few decent B-movie stars to back them up. It looked like uncomplicated fun.
Unfortunately, Trejo has no more than a cameo in this movie and plays virtually no role in the action at all. Bautista lacks the acting skills to carry the movie on his own, especially since the role does not exploit his considerable physical assets.
The title also put me on the wrong foot, leading me to think this might be a precursor to Badasses on the Bayou. Nope, a lifeless wronged-cop-gets-retribution flick is what I got. Too bad about my one Euro.
Mitä meistä tuli (2009)
Charm on a shoestring
This film was clearly made by young people who had to make up for a very low budget with a lot of enthusiasm. The result is a bit uneven, but nonetheless charming relationship drama.
Central to the plot is the weird relationship between Jake and Erika, which has somehow been put on hold due to a traumatic event during their childhood. Closure is only obtained during a cathartic class reunion aboard a party ferry where the diverse story lines come together and matters are finally resolved. Uncharacteristically, for a Finnish film, the film makers even manage to squeeze out a happy end for all.
Shoestring production values, overuse of flashbacks and uneven acting performances handicap the film, but overall it is not a bad product and managed to keep me engaged.
L'effet aquatique (2016)
Runs out of air
L'Effet Aquatique is a Franco-Icelandic co-production and it seems the efforts were divided over two teams that delivered work of differing quality. The first half of the film is set in France and develops the relationship between the protagonists in a believable way.
Unfortunately, once the story moves to Iceland, it gradually loses its freshness. The wonderful vistas of Iceland's nature easily outshine the French cityscape, but the interaction between the protagonists falls apart in a failed attempt to bring a sense of magic or predestination into it.
Score 7 on the strength of the first part.
Napapiirin sankarit (2010)
I thought it was good plain fun
In the past years a smattering of films was released that were set in Lapland. Swedish titles like Frostbiten and Babas Bilar (both from 2006) come to mind as well as in Finland Rare Exports and Lapland Odyssey (both from 2010).
All these films are characterised by what may be described as a typically northern, undercooled type of humor. And, typically, they are all set during the dark, snowy Arctic winter.
Lapland Odyssey (Napapiirin sankarit) is more than the others a straightforward comedy. The protagonist is your typical slacker. In an American road movie, he'd be a pothead, but in Lapland alcohol is still the drug of choice. This loser is set the task to, for one time in his life, not disappoint his girlfriend. His fluctuating luck sees him among other things nearly drowned by an all-female underwater rugby team and nearly shot by Russians and after all his tribulations he is left empty-handed standing in front of the house, ready to acknowledge defeat when a deus ex machina arrives...
I thought it was actually worth watching.
Flight World War II (2015)
Could have been both better and worse
Had I known this was an Asylum product, I would not have given it my time, as I find their disregard for reality (laws of physics anyone?) too chafing. This story had something going for it though. The script writers have cleverly nipped criticism of historical inaccuracies in the bud by revealing that the story largely unfolds in a parallel universe with an alternative history.
The weakness of this flick lies therefore mostly in the rather uneven acting performances of the supporting cast and in some poor story elements aboard the aircraft. Still, it is not a total wreck.
What I do have an issue with are the obviously planted reviews unashamedly praising this film as a masterpiece. There is already too much disinformation on the net as it is.
San Andreas Quake (2015)
OK, it watched this film
I did not know it was an Asylum product, so I must admit I was positively surprised to see a mediocre, rather than outright crappy product. The Asylum takes care not to advertise itself on DVD covers anymore, I tell you! I have not yet seen the ripped off title, San Andreas, so I cannot compare, yet in view of the other, worse than awful, releases by the Asylum, we can count ourselves lucky that this one is not as bad as could have been expected. Yes, the geophysics are wrong, but not as bad as in the original (which got it spectacularly wrong), and the rest was roughly equal, bad but not inexcusably wrong.
So despite my prejudice against against the Asylum, I cannot completely destroy this title.
Dragon Hunter (2009)
Not as bad as THAT
OK, this film was pretty bad in every aspect.
However (You knew there was going to be a but), it is consistently bad, no aspect of bad outdoes the other, which makes for a relatively balanced bad film.
Forty years ago, this might actually have made it to the big screen as a passable fantasy action flick.
Too bad it was made in 2009.
One must hope that the crew who worked on this poor product will have learnt from this experience and will do better next time.
Otherwise this whole exercise in silliness would have been a waste.
Therefore, a well-earned 2 out of 10.
Underbara älskade (2006)
This is a film about guilt and catharsis.
Jonas and his father survive a car accident that kills both the mother and brother of Jonas. He and his father, who was behind the wheel, must find a way to move on. The father decides to move to a natural surrounding in the archipelago to find healing in the midnight sun. Both he and Jonas meet the angel who can redeem them.
The father is memorable in his guilt-ridden grief, but most memorable is Moa Gammel who, in her role as Helena, portrays perhaps by far the most desirable Swedish blonde since Bibi Andersson. It is unreal that it takes Jonas most of the film to succumb.
Whole Lotta Sole (2011)
This film is an attempt to make a British crime comedy for an American audience. It gets off to a promising start (if we disregard the wholly unnecessary exposition explaining why Brendan Fraser's character left the United States). The three main story lines are introduced and succeed in raising interest in the protagonists, but as more and more superfluous side characters are drawn into it, the plot starts to unravel. Yaya Dacosta turns into a cardboard cutout placed in the scenes to present stock reactions in the background. What little chemistry existed between her and Fraser evaporates in the silliness of what are supposed to be plot twists. Fraser and McCann had no spark to begin with. Really, this film is carried between Colm Meaney and Michael Legge.
Passion Play (2010)
An Occurrence at Angel Creek Bridge
This at times charming film features la Fox in her best role to date, even though she still comes across as a living doll at times (What's with all that lip gloss?) Mickey Rourke basically plays Chet Baker in his later years, a gifted and once-handsome trumpet player ravaged by drink and drugs, and this role fits him like a glove.
Needless to say, Bill Murray is brilliant as the psychopath mob boss.
The film contains many symbolic references to the nature of the story, that may cause the plot to be too predictable, unless they pass unnoticed.
Altogether not a bad pastime, but as far as angels go, I would prefer Angel-A.
Super Cyclone (2012)
Another gem from the Asylum (I am ironic here)
One watches productions from the Asylum with certain expectations of cheesiness, poor effects and illogical plots, but one has to say that even with lowered expectations this flick was a definite let-down.
It always annoys me when films are released that are so much worse than they would need to be. Apparently, this movie had as mission to employ as many untalented wannabes as possible. I have rarely seen a story get the physics so spectacularly wrong. Over half the cast does not contribute in any way to the plot, but then neither does the super cyclone in the title.
The special effects in this film are constantly frustrated by the sunny and calm Californian weather. In all outside sequences the sky is persistently blue, foliage barely moves and water has no bigger ripples than you would expect in a backyard pool (while according to the characters a violent super storm is raging).
Truly, it is not an exaggeration to state that even I could do better with the budget given.
Fanny och Alexander (1982)
Cinema at its best
This is one of those rare films in which all elements that make good cinema come together perfectly. The script is a true autobiographic culmination of Bergman's writing in that it encompasses in one story all themes he explored in earlier films. The actors, the flower of Swedish Thespians at the time, all excel in their roles. Sven Nyqvist, Bergman's cameraman for most of his career, accomplishes his own crowning achievement with the lighting, colouring, camera angles and exploratory shots in this film. Even the musical score, usually not the strongest element in Bergman's films is impressive.
This film is cinematic art at its best; it has no weak moments. Bergman could not wish for a better testament to his skills as a screen writer and director.
Les années lumière (1981)
Tanner's best work
This film, released at the time under the title Light Years Away, is an intriguing variation on the master-apprentice theme. A restless young man with no ambitions is taken in by a mysterious old man who undertakes to teach him.
As in all apprenticeships, the young man must overcome a number of tests in order to be admitted to the inner sanctum of the Master's wisdom.
At this point the prospective viewer might imagine the story is set in a fairytale world full of magic and mystery, but instead he will find himself facing the bleak Irish countryside that serves as a great counterpoint to the mystery in the plot.
Do not be put off by the relative obscurity of this film, it is a true work of art.
Almighty Thor (2011)
The gods must be dumb
I can forgive a lot in movie-making; a film may have severe flaws but if it is brought with enthusiasm and some creativity it can still win me over. This is not one of those films.
The glaring flaw of the Almighty Thor is the kindergarten level script. There is nothing almighty about Thor here, apart from him being almightily annoying. If it was Homer Simpson, his stupidity might have been funny, but in this pretense-mythical flick it is merely irritating.
Unfortunately, the flick does not have any redeeming qualities to make up for the lack of any story line. The props and costumes look like what you would expect in a hayseed community theatre, the sfx are at a level that was impressive sixty years ago, the acting is cardboard and the score nondescript. Still, Blubberella is worse.
Aliens vs. Avatars (2011)
A palatable evening's entertainment...
...if you consume this flick according to the following instructions: Get a bottle of good wine (I would suggest a claret), some fine cheese (Comté and Bleu d'Auvergne, for instance) and fresh bread (Ciabata, why not). Settle down in a comfy chair, with a glass and a bite and fast forward the movie through the first few minutes to the scene where Victoria De Mare walks topless towards the camera. Her suitably attractive body bears looking at. Pause the film... Enjoy your wine and cheese casting an occasional glance at the paused screen and when the bottle is empty, stop the film. You can now feel that you have been moderately entertained by this film (which is more than you will be able to say about any scene in Blubberella). Trust me, this is the only way to watch this film!
Best Laid Plans (2012)
...as opposed to bittersweet. This British film was advertised on the DVD cover as being in the same vein as Lock, Stock and two Smoking Barrels, or Snatch. As a result I saw it unprepared, which was a good thing. This film is not a crime comedy at all, but a true blue drama. The story is loosely (I would say very loosely) based on Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, featuring a scrawny low-life and a gentle giant who share the same dream. In places it also reminds of Schulberg's The Harder They Fall.
Typically for this buddy movie, it is the smart one of the duo who keeps on dragging doom over the two in his quest for self-destruction. Can he redeem himself before the inevitable sad ending?
The voting scale has no zero
German director Uwe Boll has a reputation for prolifically turning out films that are, shall we say, unsatisfactory. He has worked with reputable actors and sizable budgets, yet all his films fail to convey, if anything, the joy of film making. It saddens me to say that the flick Blubberella epitomizes this total failure.
I have seen many bad movies in my life; some so bad they became good, some bad in a campy way, some just plain crap, but Blubberella is none of that. It is uninspired, clumsy (and not in a quaint way), fake and most of all BORING. Uwe Boll must have had his sense of humor surgically removed to be able to produce such an utterly unfunny comedy.
I can rage against bad films when they have redeeming qualities, or when there was a start of an idea, a good intention. Blubberella is just absolutely nothing.
Morden i Sandhamn (2010)
Predictability takes away suspense
This is a miniseries in three episodes that is based on the novel "I de lugnaste vatten" by the Swedish detective writer Viveca Sten.
The series is professionally made. It utilises the idyllic scenery of the Stockholm archipelago to good effect and the cast does as good a job with the script as they can. The main performers, Cedergren and Rapaport, do have some chemistry, even if the former is overdoing the "manly-male-who-suffers-in_silence" thing.
The let-down is in the plot, however. It is a rather cliché story featuring a silent cop who keeps on breaking all the rules of policing and yet never gets suspended. His young side-kick still has to learn that a real cop goes by gut feeling and does not bother with methodical work with such boring stuff as, ehm, evidence? By simple elimination the viewer can soon figure out who is the culprit, if only because the plot does not present enough possible candidates, which is deadly for the suspense. Hence, the story very soon fails to engage.
In Sweden the series was a success nonetheless.
First of all, this is a TV production lasting three hours. It would normally be broadcast in three or more installments, so I won't call it overly long. The film makers have used the time to produce a somewhat complete rendering of the original novel, be it with unfortunate diversions with the intention to make it more palatable to children.
It is these inconsistencies created within the story that undo much of the strength of the tale. The other major flaw of this film is the unbalanced cast. Bob Hoskins delivers an excellent, believable performance as Gepetto, some of the supporting cast do a fine job too. However, their good work is undone by the protagonist. Pinocchio the marionette has more believable expression than Pinocchio the boy, who gives a new meaning to the term "wooden". In addition, the insipid, annoying mannerisms of the "invisible" cricket make one wish that she had been invisible indeed. Mitigating elements, like palatable sound effects and the beauty of the Tuscany landscape cannot save the film from the detrimental effect of the silly changes to the plot and the uneven acting performance of the cast.
Mademoiselle Chambon (2009)
I would have given this film an extra star if it had ended after the scene in the car towards the end. Jean goes home sad but honest to wife and children and that is it. It would have made a wonderfully subtle, bittersweet tale about 'la douleur de l'amour'. Unfortunately, the director turns it into a tragedy of the weakness of man in the last minutes.
The cast does such an excellent job of interpreting perfectly ordinary people that they become believable despite the perfection. Lindon, looks, talks and moves the part of a mason and Kimberlain is fragile and just old enough to be believable as an upper-class spinster. Their interaction mostly with looks and small gestures is at times painful in its subtlety.
The score accompanies the story wonderfully, in short it is quite a good film, but I just was not in the mood for the fall of man.
L'amore di Màrja (2002)
Alienation of an immigrant
If some of the reviews of this film prove anything, it is that Sicilians are apparently easily offended.
The plot is autobiographical, based on the experiences of writer and director Anne-Riitta Ciccone. It is the story of how a girl moves to a small town in Sicily with her Finnish mother and Italian father in the early 1970s. As many immigrants everywhere the world, the Finnish mother finds it hard to be accepted by the local community and it has a profound effect on her life and the lives of her two daughters.
The film lovingly documents the struggle of Marja seen through the eyes of her sometimes rebellious daughter. It is a well-made relationship drama and not a pro-Finland or anti-Sicily pamphlet.
As stated elsewhere, the film Storm Bound is based on a famous Dutch book for young adults called "The Cabin Boys of Bontekoe", which in turn is based on the journal of the historical captain Bontekoe who sailed for the Ducth East-Indies Company. The book dates from the end of the colonial era and breathes its world view, so the Dutch are presented as masters and the natives of Indonesia as subjects. This world view was not suitable for a 21st century film, so the film makers adapted the plot.
Unfortunately, they went totally overboard and dumbed down the story to a flick for small children, in which the only bad guys are grown ups, to be exact the Dutch merchant and his criminal side-kick. The natives are peaceful children of nature (and incidentally are very clearly NOT natives of Sumatra, where that sequence is supposed to play out).
On the plus side, the actor playing Bontekoe does a decent job and the replica Eastindiaman presents an interesting platform for many of the film's scenes.
Jennifer's Body (2009)
If I ever need to be convinced that Megan Fox is NOT hot...
If I ever needed convincing that Megan Fox is NOT a hot actress, this film did the job. Amanda Seyfried owned la Fox (and I don't even fancy blondes)!
As horror films go, this one was pretty predictable and NOT scary. No nudity, no gore, no suspense, this was an exercise in nothinghness.
If there had been any exposition into the why of Jennifer's transformation, or the way to stop the demon,the flick might have been more palatable. As it was, it turned out to fall flat, especially after the true boyfriend kicked the bucket. A total waste of good money, this flick, do'nt make the same mistake.