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Lída Baarová (2016)
I'm not sure why there has been negative reviews of this film. For myself, I thought it was not only quite capably acted but more than that, its shows what happens to those on the "losing side of history."
Did Lida Baarova do anything fundamentally wrong in aligning herself with the Fascist cause in Nazi Germany? What would have happened if she had accepted contracts in the US like actress Marlene Dietrich (an obvious point of comparison)?
How would history have viewed her if Germany had won the second world war? Of course its hypothetical but still though provoking and I think that's why this film is interesting.
The story line follows along well and does touch on some of the worst aspects of Nazism such as the persecution of the Jews if only briefly. Perhaps a little too briefly.
I felt too, there was a little subtle revisionism here. I doubt some of what the German actors and others said in this film would have really taken place in Nazi Germany. At the time, words were as dangerous to a person as actions. Suggesting, for example, Lida would do well to stay away from Joseph Goebbels, would to say the least, be career ending had it gotten back to him.
Moreover, what Fascism represented was not really a new concept in Europe. Totalitarianism in one form or other had a long history in Europe as did mistreatment of minority groups for political gain Viewed from this perspective Baarova's actions can be understood, if not accepted when viewed through modern eyes. It's hard to convey such realities on the screen but its worth mentioning nonetheless.
On the downside some aspects of the story are a little sensationalist and silly like the rather silly love scene between the actress and Goebbels. The Satanic firelight thing was a little ludicrous.
All in all, an interesting and thought provoking proposition, that looks at the history of cinema from a different perspective.
6/10 from me.
The War of the Worlds (2019)
Bore of the Worlds......
I could not believe anyone could make The War of the Worlds boring but then along came the BBC. From the get go this is just awful. A trite, tiresome introduction starts off by politicising the whole thing. And yes once again, more banging on about the Russian's. "Yawn".
Worse still, the first episode is a dreary mash up that jumps between time zones, focuses on politicians (that's always exciting right) vague disaster film style drama and a half baked human interest story. All with nary a camera shy alien in sight.
So how does it stand up to the film with Tom Cruise?. Frankly, the film got it right by minimising the back story and focusing in short order, on the invasion, which of course, is where the action and fun, is to be had. This effort, by contrast, is dull, and long winded, with no clear sense of direction.
Is there any upside here? Well it has a strong cast and decent visuals and convincing special effects, but really that's simply not enough.
As it stands the inherently watchable 2005 film still remains the contemporary standard. This rendition, in my view, is a tedious mess and I wont be watching beyond the first episode. 3/10.
The Terror (2018)
An inspired effort but not of the calibre of season one......
Whilst I had nothing but praise to offer up for the first series, my feelings regarding season two are considerably more mixed.
Certainly, there is a lot of thought and originality, that has gone into the new story line. The reality however, is once the supernatural entity is uncovered a lot of the "scare potential" is dissipated. What's left feels a little like a fairy tale about a spirit stalker like child snatcher. Its more disturbing than frightening but in a rather tiresome, depressing kind of way.
What equally does not work is the revisionist history. Applying modern norms to the behaviour of governments during WWII is unrealistic. There's a real sense that interned Japanese got a raw deal. Yes they probably did until you take a look at the truly vile and detestable way the Japanese Empire treated many of those it imprisoned. By contrast, this really was very moderate and comparatively humane treatment.
The acting is generally of a decent standard with a good cast including familiar faces. The characterisations have some depth too, that helps round things out.
All in all a mixed bag but by no means a poor series. 6/10 from me.
It Chapter Two (2019)
Enjoyed the first chapter film much more.....
The decision to remake the original IT film as a two part proposition offers I would imagine commercial benefits. Of course, it could also provide the opportunity to deliver a longer, more comprehensive experience, in keeping with the rather long book "IT" both films are based upon.
Regrettably, that's not been my experience. Where the first film firmly had its feet on the ground and did an excellent job of capturing the atmosphere and sense of nostalgia of the book, the second chapter fumbles, awkwardly .
Its chief shortcomings is it incessant need to use flash backs to make its point. As if its only by referring back to the first chapter that it can make sense of what follows. It lacks cohesion too and a well defined sense of direction, moving around listlessly and disjointedly.
Suffice to say, after a wonderful first chapter film this follow up is a real disappointment.
5/10 from me.
World on Fire (2019)
As with all revisionist tales a good portion of the truth gets left on the cutting room floor.
World on Fire is no exception. It starts out with noble British youth standing up to the local Fascists. What it fails to mention was Britain and the US's longstanding infatuation with Fascism.
Part of what became Nazi Germany was borrowed from philosophies and attitudes seen in the US and Britain. The British establishment had a strong relationship with Fascism dating back before WWII. Which helps to explain how Hitler managed to get away with so much for so long before war was finally declared. Which, I personally believe, had more to do with the global power Hitler was amassing, as opposed to any philosophical objections to Nazism.
Beyond this, much of what we see applies a layer of 21st century modernism to times in which that mentality simply did not fit. People living then did not think like people now, anymore than Ancient Romans could be said to be like people living today.
Acting wise, this series is alright and sets are well done as are action scenes but in my opinion so much else is off balance and flawed, its not one I can recommend. 5/10 at best.
The Birdcatcher (2019)
An interesting premise plagued by implausible plot elements...
The Bird catcher is interesting premise plagued by implausible plot elements. A Jewish girl on the run from the Nazi's who looks nothing like a boy. Even with short hair. Arriving in front of a German convoy who at that moment happen to be looking for a Jewish girl. Accepting his/her story of parents killed by allied bombings, without even trying to officially verify the story. A lady pretending to be her grandmother, who is able with little or no knowledge of the ruse the girl has adopted, being convincingly able to "play along".
Its simply asking the viewer to accept too much and as such, its very hard to take this tale seriously. Which is a shame as the acting is solid, as are other elements of the story, the persecution of the Jews in Norway, the possibility of a girl escaping into Norway's wintry countryside and finding refuge, hold up to a decent degree.
In short, its hard to endorse this film much as I would like to. 6/10 from me.
Entertainment or indoctrination?
It would be nice to see entertainment used to do just that, entertain. Regrettably, in the last few years, it seems much of what we see is about indoctrination.
Batwoman is yet another case in question. For me it has a political message about feminism and lesbianism that's been so overcooked its like great great granddad's beef jerky from the Civil War.
Worse still, with the need to push a message the one thing it forgot to do was be engaging, interesting and simply put, enjoyable.
It has action scenes which are competently done but little else here resonates.
In summary, tired, boring, lecturing, trite. Wont be watching!!!! 3/10.
Corny horror fare.......
What to say about Rabid?
Frankly, I found it more comical than anything else.Its premise is pretty weak, not helped by an at times rather corny plot with often silly horror scenes.
On the upside, the acting is fine and does include appearances of well known Canadian actors.
Moderately watchable but by no means frightening or disturbing.
5/10 from me.
Decent film contrived ending.......
The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil is a decent film but the ending feels a little contrived.
On the upside the story is mostly well crafted, with an inexplicable, anti hero buddy team up, that sets up an intersection between cops, the criminal underworld and a serial killer. The overlap between these groups inevitably tie back to the killer, whose actions divide and unify, people seemingly at odds with one another.
On top of this rather clever interplay of plot elements, lies action and crime scenes that are well paced and choreographed, If at times somewhat gruesome and disturbing.
My only real criticism, is the ending which I felt was a little long winded and contrived. I suspect the story went down this path to bring it in line with acceptable mainstream notions of establishment "law and order".
Still, that said, on balance, there's more to like here than not. 7/10 from me.
Rambo: Last Blood (2019)
Fails to recapture the first film in the franchise.....
There's a certain sense of irony, when a Rambo franchise film that calls itself Last Blood tries so very very hard, to recapture the First Blood film.
In my opinion the first film and only the first film, was, in fact, quite good. Driven, as it was, as much by a compelling human interest drama, as much as it was and remains, an action film.
Last Blood tries and fails, to achieve the same ends. Why? To my mind its because the first film had a story that had a certain plausibility about it. You could understand why and how the main character Rambo was led down a path by plausible events, not, in a sense, of his choosing.
By contrast, the latest film feels forced. It tries awkwardly to engineer a similar premise but its full of badly contrived plot elements. So much so,that it fails to gel into the overstated but nonetheless, believable, story found in the first film.
Worse still, the violence is of the brutal, sensationalist variety. Its ugly stuff dragging this sorry film even further away from the original story where Rambo used violence with a certain savage restraint.
Suffice to say, I hope this is the last film in this franchise. They are not improving with age. 4/10 from me.
Il traditore (2019)
The real mafia........
Everyone has, of course, heard of the mafia but what and who these people are, remains hidden behind lurid headlines and sensational films.
The Traitor offers in insight into who these people really are, their motivations, ambitions and the structure of the organisation, headed by a commission.
What becomes clear is how tribal, loosely cohesive at best and brutal this group is. It underscores too how fragile the judicial system in Italy is. Law enforcement and judges intimidated by these groups and politicians potentially collaborating with them. Small wonder they became so powerful.
This film is inherently interesting, made more so by stellar performances, that are simple and honest. There is no pretension here, just an insight into the troubled and tortured life of a man who decided to expose the vicious criminal organisation he once served.
One notable downside is because of the breadth of ambition of this film, covering decades, it can be difficult to follow at times. Making the viewer work to keep up with what happening to who, when and why.
Nonetheless compelling viewing. 7/10 from me.
Red Dawn (1984)
So hilariously bad......its good
If you want an un-self consciously corny and downright hilarious example of pro capitalist, pro US propaganda, it doesn't come any better than Red Dawn.
Yes its awful. Its story line is moronic in the extreme. Its as immature and confused as its lead characters, with a "mash up" take on Communism. Demonstrating just how ignorant the US mainstream media was and indeed, still is, in this respect, based on recent events.
On the upside, its funny as hell. The cheesy one liners, folksy US set pieces and nods to a outback Western tradition that was, in reality, little more than fiction, come thick and fast. "Extra thick" as it happens.
You get to see some well known entertainment faces too when they were little more than fresh faced youths.
Go on, you know you want to.
6/10 from me.
In the Shadow of the Moon (2019)
What does time mean to you?
In the Shadow of the Moon is a film of two parts.
It original. It offers up an intriguing story about time as a circular as opposed to linear proposition. It asks a number of questions not just about time but what value it has to us, as people. It even offered up an ending that even managed to surprise me.
The acting is decent too, with a great cast who really bring the story to life.
Where it falls down somewhat is in some of the more predictable aspects of the story.An obsessed absent father seeking a form of redemption, A descent into poverty and what appears, on the surface, to be a form of madness.
I felt this film could have managed these elements differently and still offered the emotional punchline it delivers in the end.
Still, on balance,there is more to like here than not. In the Shadow of the Moon manages to be original, engaging and its well acted to boot. 7/10 from me.
Doom: Annihilation (2019)
Basic with a B.......
Doom Annihilation is a "basic with a B grade" horror sci fi.
Low budget, basic effects and lean on the story front. In other words this is a no frills flick that has limited appeal. It might be alright for a very slow rainy day but personally, I can think of a long list of things that would come well ahead of watching this again.
The acting is ok but again nothing and no one really stands out. 4/10.
Tantsy nasmert (2017)
Saturday Night Fever meets Hunger Games.....
I did not expect Dance of Death to be just that. I had hoped it was a metaphor for combat but no, its well, dancing and if "your moves don't groove" a big guy who looks like the boss character in a Dungeons and Dragons style game, fries you
Its silly stuff and its shame too, because there is much to like here. The set up is a reasonable one. A post apocalyptic world, filled with plausible characters, decent sets, action and interesting, engaging characters.
If only they had dropped the Saturday Night Fever meets Hunger Games thing this one would have been a winner.
As it stands, maybe one for teens but not sure who else would find this engaging? 5/10.
Shang hai bao lei (2019)
Save us China!
Having seen Shanghai Fortress its hard not to see this rather mediocre film as political.
Its message seem to be China is leading the world and at the same time, its saviour. If this sounds familiar, that's because the US has pushed the same message for years. Times are changing, that's for sure.
So putting aside politics how does this film stand up as entertainment. Certainly the special effects are well done and the pacing is decent. Its does drag a little in the middle but not for too long and that's a good thing.
The romantic interest between the young male lead and older female counterpart, seems a bit overcooked and absurd. As is the rather starchy and militaristic tone of the film, which reduces the key players to caricatures.
In shor,t this one's ok but you might find yourself rolling your eyes from time to time when you consider its rather simplistic overtones. 5/10.
Takaisin pintaan (2016)
The depths of human endurance and courage....
I used to dive but never went cave diving and not without good reason. As this documentary shows, its extremely dangerous sport. You have to be a certain type of very calm person with nerves of steel and certain physical attributes, to pull it off. That said, as the team admit and sadly as this story shows, you may still meet your end.
The focus of this film is the story not the technicalities of diving. That said, when you see how deep these people go and the cave systems they navigate you can but be impressed by their courage and determination. Many of us would find the extreme depths, length of dive and the sense of claustrophobia, overwhelming.
In short, if you like diving this is really pretty addictive viewing. It has a simple style but really this is all that's needed. The story tells itself and shows not just how pursuit of a passion shapes us as people but also how friendships bind people together.
Na granicy (2016)
A little too bleak for its own good....
Its hard to like a film that's essentially too drab and depressing to offer much else. The High Frontier meets this definition with a cold unfriendly landscape and even colder, unfriendlier people.
Its hard to empathise with the main characters or even take much of an interest in this by the numbers thriller. Which, of course, is a second point of failure. This has all been done before and done better at that.
On the upside, the acting is solid, no bad b grade performances here but a better tale would have helped populated with more engaging, likeable, characters you can invest in and root for.
As it stands watchable but unremarkable. 5/10 from me.
Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)
The styling of this film is interesting, offering a perspective on the shallow but at the same time ruthless and cut throat world of high end art. This is blended with what could be described as a horror morality tale, where greed is repaid with bloody interest.
Regrettably, this film is ultimately a buzz kill. Its story feels incomplete, like a half finished work of art. You can see the sketched outline of what its trying to achieve but its never completes the picture.
This is most notable in the story which seems to me at least to be truncated. Perhaps, the original idea would have taken too long? Its a shame the extra time was not taken, as this actually did look like it was going somewhere intriguing. As a result characters inexplicably go from one state of mind and action to another, without any real segue.
The result is a film I 'sort of" liked but at the same time felt dissatisfied with. I has its clever moments but another twenty or so minutes I feel would have made all the difference. 5/10 from me.
Age of the Living Dead (2018)
Great idea poor execution....
If you looked at the script for "Age of the Living Dead" having never seen an episode, you might just be moderately impressed. Its not exactly a new idea but there's enough here that's new and novel to get your attention. I especially liked the international aspect of this story, with global and not just local interests effected by the vampire infestation of roughly two thirds of the USA.
Regrettably the "B" execution leaves much to be desired. The acting ranges from alright to downright wooden. Its not helped by a conspicuously low budget, that even extends to sound effects. I wonder how many times in a week "combat practise with sergeant such and such, can be delayed". This had me chuckling as did the truly comedic vampires, who are a cross between any Hammer Films vamp you care to name and the Count from Sesame Street.
Its such as shame more money was not spent on this series. It's very much a case of wasted potential. The result being a series that's, at best, a marginal watch.
4/10 from me.
Mr Inbetween (2018)
Don't mess with.....
Mr Inbetween brilliantly captures the raw underbelly of Australian society.
The main character Ray is a man of two parts. One is a kind, generous and considerate rough diamond. The other a ruthless monster, who brutalises and kills, with a pragmatic, at times almost jovial, "you had this coming", coldness.
The juxtaposition of conflicting yet at the same time oddly reconciled personality traits, that constitute Ray's complex persona, make for fascinating viewing. Ray slips with relative ease into and out of a world of pedestrian normalcy, into one fuelled by organised crime, violence and sudden death.
It never ceases to amaze me how many quality productions come out of Australia. Mr Inbetween is yet another example. Well acted, intelligently written and ably directed. Great stuff from "down, down under".
8/10 from me.
La Femme Nikita for amateurs.....
Replete with clumsy cliched Soviet caricatures, a bland, unsophisticated story line and uninspired action, Anna is faded facsimile of La Femme Nikita.
Its a shame too, as this film has a decent cast, with a lead who fits the role nicely. Sadly, everything else is so poorly executed, with such a brash lack of refinement, its really hard to say anything positive.
In short, I feel this is a amateurish effort, that somehow feels "rushed" and not surprisingly, suffers badly when it is inevitably compared to the older film, it awkwardly apes.
4/10 from me.
Interview with an idiot......
I'm amazed at some of the positive reviews of this one. Vidar the Vampire sucks and not in a good way.
Its tries far too hard to be clever, ending up being little more than a rather depressing insight into the life of an overlooked foolish individual, trapped by obligation, co-dependency and a lack of self confidence.
Worse still, it takes time before you realise there's little of worth here. Indeed, this flick starts out well enough and even offers up some novelty, before ever so slowly dragging you down the path to a tiresome "dead end" on a shrinks couch.
Carnival Row (2019)
A novel concept weighed down by political baggage....
I really like the idea behind Carnival Row. Its "fairy tales for adults", as opposed to the kind you find at the bottom of the garden premise is fresh enough to actually be quite engaging.
Its helped a lot by imagining a Victorian cyber punk mash up world, replete with the kind of problems we see every day. Regrettably this is also this series shortcoming.
It's not hard or I personally feel, unreasonable, that the viewer might see it as a nod to the kind of pro immigration agenda being pushed by many governments and big business these days. Not to mention the kind of sexual ambiguity many people are not comfortable with or like me don't really care about one way or another. Yet at the same time are simply tired of being lectured about at every turn.
These politicised elements load this series down with baggage it does not need. Its a shame too as there remains much to like here. As it stands I can't give this series a resounding endorsement but I can't write it off entirely either. A 6/10 will have to suffice.
I simply could not watch this. The dialogue was so low brow it would have been better if they had simply started shooting and kept going until the closing credits.
Indeed, from what I did see the action is the only place where this thing shines, if ever so briefly and faintly.
In short I found this one inexplicably bad, even by action flick standards. 3/10 from me.