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Top of the Lake (2013)
Misandrist and Erratic
First of all, what I'm writing relates to series 2 only. I haven't seen series 1 so cannot say if it's any different.
The cast features a great many excellent actresses and actors. So for the life of me, I cannot understand why the performances are so weak or so wooden. Elizabeth Moss seems like she needs someone to give her firmer direction; Nicole Kidman, who I really like, overacts and seems to be on a different wavelength to the others in her scenes.
The characters lost me as they are so psychitzophrenic. Robin can decide if she's a mean, ruthless detective or a meek victim from scene to scene, Mary is much the same and it's really hard to understand what the point of Miranda is. Some of the scenes feel like they've just been thrown in and the whole thing lacks coherence. The characters don't develop much and it takes a long time to not go very far. Spoiler ALERT: there is a scene where Robin is in a huge room but manages to get cornered by a disabled man in an electric wheelchair that has a speed of about half a mile an hour.. Not exactly the car chase from"Bullet".
The last thing that bothered me is that it seemed to portray all the main male characters bar Pike as leches, abusers, cheats or chauvinists. I could live with that if there was a point behind it--even if I didn't enjoy it, but it just seems a cheap way to make Robin and Mary appear sympathetic despite them having few redeeming features.
The Boondock Saints (1999)
So utterly awful it's actually good
This film is awful--but its so awful it's good!!! It belongs in the special Battlefield Earth class of movies for its over-the-top portrayals (the only thing missing was for Smecker to wear pink and listen to ABBA), inane plot devices (mobsters killed by a lead character launching himself off a building while handcuffed to a toilet), jaw-dropping dialogue (see the what happened to my cat scene) and unapologetic aping of other films'directing styles (ex. John Woo slo-mo, Christopher Nolan orbiting camera). This film is truly amazing.
Less is More; More is Less
I have never seen a film like this, one split into two very distinct dichotomous halves.
Acts one and two are good, bordering on excellent. The plot is thoroughly intriguing, suspenseful and well paced, neither painfully slow nor hurriedly fast. I really liked the foundation being laid out both in terms of what and how.
Fanning's character comes across as genuinely vulnerable in a refreshingly original way and it is clear Joanna is a woman with a difficult past. Pearce's character, the reverend, is the polar opposite, giving his character a real sense of menace with a skillfully understated performance.
At the mid-point, I thought 'Wow! This is like "The Crucible" meets "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly." I was thoroughly gripped. And then...
In the second half, all the good work is undone. The story verges on the ridiculous at points as the film tries to explain how the characters had ended up at this point and thrusts us towards a pantomime resolution. There is a sense of overkill about all of this and I began to feel disorientated because of expedient plot and role twists. I am not exaggerating when I say I was speechless as the credits rolled.
I wish I liked this film more, for the sake of all those involved in its making. If anything, the story of the making of this film seems far more dramatic and interesting than the film itself. It's such a shame.
The Program (2015)
Okay, but a missed opportunity.
Understandably, the film had to be about Lance Armstrong from start to finish for commercial reasons, but having watched it I felt the film would have been so much more powerful if it had been completely told from Floyd Landis' perspective as long as the same character- led approach was taken by the director instead of a narrative-led one.
I have some knowledge of the Tour de France in the period depicted as well as the environment of the time, although I'm no expert. Time limitations mean that films have no choice but to leave out key moments, but my enjoyment and appreciation of the film was tarnished by the fact that so much of the context is compromised in favour of a sole focus on the personage of Lance Armstrong.
The film lacks drama due to ignoring the mounting suspicion that followed him throughout his reign and the fact that much of the public already doubted him, not least the French, which he had to face wherever he went. What went into that is much more fascinating than the story given, of a man who found a pharmacist and then hid it.
I also feel that the film fails in its primary goal: giving you an insight into Lance Armstrong. Evidence suggests he was far more single-minded and almost psychopathic than the film allows us to see. Either do a character study on Lance Armstrong or tell a story of his rise and fall. This film tries to do both and succeeds in neither in my view.
The film's worth watching if you're particularly interested in Lance Armstrong. If not, there are many far better movies to explore. This comes across like a made-for-TV drama. It's sad because I really like Lee Pace. I'd far recommend watching "The Armstrong Lie" instead.
Panzram: Decent but Schizophrenic in approach
Summary: a film chronicling the life of Carl Panzram, self-confessed serial killer, rapist and thief from the early 20th century. The content is mostly based on his writings, produced in prison, following encouragement from a sympathetic prison guard who befriends him, Henry Lesser. The film tries to shed light on why Panzram became what he was, placing a lot of attention on the mistreatment he was subject to alongside brief commentary on the crimes he claimed to have committed.
This John Borowski documentary is good; his films are always good. But this is a departure from his previous work in that those were really just tales of the bogeyman, whereas this attempts to be something more: the actual fleshed-out story of the man rather than the persona. For some this will add substance and make watching more rewarding; for others, it places the film in competition with so many 'straight' documentaries and perhaps denies what Borowski seems so good at: namely telling ghoulish stories about some of the most intriguing but despicable men ever to live.
From my perspective, I like the fact that the documentaries are trying to be stimulating on more levels, but I think a trick was missed here because this story should be if anything as much about Henry Lesser as Panzram himself. He gets a decent amount of screen time but if this is intended to be a more human story, Lesser's humanity is a perfect contrast to Panzram's rage and hatefulness, and their friendship is what's truly remarkable about the whole affair and elevates it above others. The fact that Panzram appears very introspective is also an area that is extremely interesting but that too is given only fleeting coverage.
Plusses: thorough, engaging, a worthy story and interesting subject
Minuses: has a bit of an identity crisis in what it wants to be, weak range of contributors (ex. an artist with a morbid fascination for serial killers: see previous criticism),
The Wolfman (2010)
Better than I expected: in the spirit of the b/w originals
The reviews said this was hopeless so I was expecting very little. However, I was pleasantly surprised.
The film stays completely faithful to the spirit and sensibilities of the old Universal pictures and doesn't try to retell the story with modern-day cynicism. This, if anything, makes it seem more exotic.
The film looks great and I actually liked what the make-up artists did with the werewolves, unlike many. My only gripe is that Del Toro does seem uncomfortable in his part. However, Hopkins, who I've sometimes criticised in the past, is really, really good in my view. I enjoyed every second he was on screen.
If the story was less predictable and a little bolder, I'd give this an even higher rating.
Dom zly (2009)
A journey into the black heart of Poland's past
This, like Wojciech Smarzowski's previous outing, is an exploration of the side of Poland that many film makers don't want to show. Neither the plot nor the characters offer any hope that there'll be a happy ending, and it is easy to find yourself feeling suffocated in the cesspool of corruption and self-interest that the film presents.
The story follows the investigation into the murder of a family on a farm in 1978. This is used to highlight the ineptitude and indifference of the local police and the thick coat of corruption which stains everybody involved in the story.As with 'Wesele' ['the Wedding'], the director's previous feature, the story is fictional but is very firmly based on fact.
It is uncompromising, compelling and very well-made, and is suited for those who want something eye-opening and gritty.
Nigdy w zyciu! (2004)
plastic and awful!
Fake! This Bridgette Jones rip off succeeds where I thought no film could: it makes Bridgette Jones 2 seem watchable.
The film features a bunch of characters who I couldn't take an interest in: 2 dimensional stereo-types. A giddy thirty-something woman who has it all except a love life. A la BJ, there's a Mr Perfect, but our heroine is too stupid to see this and does everything she can to drive him away. The fact that he's too stupid to realise it's time to get his coat says a great deal about the principles of this sickly sweet romance.
The plot is predictable to the point of being patronising and the performances are so overdone, it's possible Madonna and Arnie have used the same acting coaches as the leads in this film.
If you like watching Brazilian soap operas, have a lot of Phil Collins albums in your cd collection and are the type of person who spends more money on grooming your poodle than yourself, this film is for you. Otherwise, do yourself a favour and give this film to someone you really hate.
Foyle's War (2002)
Intelligent, original and brave
Foyle's War tackles a great many of perceived truths of World War 2 head on, attempting to show a view of wartime Britain in a new light. These are dealt with against the backdrop of a murder which the considered, but burdened detective is called to.
Michael Kitchen is absolutely superb as Christopher Foyle. He plays him with a subtle mix of determination and humanity; each performance is multi-layered, giving the viewer the opportunity to see something new each time. The support cast is also extremely good, with each character given appropriate depth and screen time.
Overall, this is one to get if you like to watch well-crafted, intelligent drama.
Out for a Kill (2003)
So bad, it's good!
This film has such corny dialog; I was convinced it was written by Segal, himself. Mix this in with Segal's desperation to be perceived as a master of all things (the all-knowing, fortune cookie reciting Professor Burns who also happened to be the greatest art thief in the world before he decided he just wanted to be an acclaimed professor) and the Kung Fu Fantasy fight in the barber's shop and you have a film that'll live in infamy alongside Battlefield Earth and No Escape as must-haves for all Trash Movie collectors.
Steven is well beyond his prime, and no amount of tanning or polo-necks-acting-as-neck-disguiser/supporter can hide it. A visit to the hairdresser also seems in order. However, there is something irrepressible about Steven Segal.
I challenge anyone to watch this movie without laughing! Brilliant!
Like the rest of the new trilogy, Lucas needed to give it to someone else
As a Star Wars fan, I really wanted this to be good. It has its moments, but I still left the cinema feeling underwhelmed.
Amongst the good points are the fact that the film succeeds in answering a lot of the unanswered questions so gives a degree of closure, it looks great and is dark and dramatic.
However, this is all countered by some awful dialogue and a sense that too many convenient points were included to tie up the loose ends. Besides the reason Anakin becomes Vader, the other parts of the story--like the fall of the Republic, Padme's death, the breakdown in the relationship between Obi-Wan and Anakin and the introduction of various episode 4 characters--are rushed and explained by a great number of coincidences.
Furthermore, Hayden Christiansen doesn't work as Anakin/Vader. He's too young, and doesn't have the necessary gravitas to carry off the role. His accent makes him seem no more than a dim surfer-teenager, a kind of moody version of Bill or Ted, and his appearance As Darth VAder after his costume change is mercifully short; those few minutes are awful.
Overall, the film shows what happens when you have someone with a great idea but who can't direct people behind the camera. The film needed someone else to edit the inconsistencies in the script and to give it a better balance. It also needed someone who can draw good performances out of actors. The film is fun, but if it wasn't part of the Star Wars saga, it would sink without a trace.