The movie is very confusing, jumping about chaotically in space and time with very few clues where you are. It is downright irritating.
The heroine is quite insipid.
The plot makes no sense. Our heroine is yanked out of bed in the middle of the night by military types to try to decrypt an alien language. Why her? She speaks Pakistani. Huh?? She is put in charge, then no one listens to what she says. They don't just disagree, they refuse to let her say anything.
They crack the code in two breakthroughs without explanation. The heroine discovers she can see the future with absolute clarity. Oddly, she had never noticed any such ability before. Seriously?? Everyone but her wants to go to war with the squid people. She prevails, but what she did to change all those minds is a mystery.
For the last bit of the dialogue, they pasted together Hallmark card verses. It is nauseatingly saccharine.
Nothing in the movie makes sense. It is maddening as a mosquito bite.
The plot of this movie is a group of soldiers have to get from A to B. Their way is blocked by various traps: explosions, automatic guns, and I kid you not, mummies they call "mutts".
The characters are mostly one-dimensional soldiers. They justify killing civilians and children. They believe their opponents are so wicked, any atrocity is justified. These are the supposed heroes, but they are disgusting.
I had trouble telling the characters apart. Characters die, but I could not figure out who died. This was further confused by the heroine coming back to life at least three times.
Our soldier heroine has some qualms about killing but does it anyway dispatching her victims with arrows. She has some "mockingjay" superpower, but it was never adequately explained. Perhaps that is clarified in part 1.
The most interesting part of the movie is the sets. The characters traverse the length of a huge futuristic city, blasted by war. I don't know how they created the illusion. It was completely believable and intricate.
Donald Sutherland as the arch-villain President Snow has some incisive fascinating dialogue, delivered perfectly, but he is on screen for only a short time.
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee is also on screen only a short time. His part is quite bland. Using him was a bit of a waste.
There is a lot about how deception, lying and propaganda are integral to war. I took these as allusions to American politics.
Jena Malone as the bald, drug addicted, jittery Johanna Mason deserves special mention. She was so creepy, again only on screen for a short time.
The movie takes place from 1918 to 2003. The actors are shown at all ages in between. I could not for the life of me figure out when they used different actors when makeup, and when CGI magic. In the early part of the movie, Brad Pitt seems to be only about four feet tall and hunched. I don't know how they did it.
The ageing/deageing effects were very subtle and gradual. I could not notice them except by recalling previous reels.
They kept de-aging Pitt through his teens, as a child and as a baby. It was like an electric shock to see Pitt, again, as dazzling as he once was in Thelma and Louise all through some sort of movie magic. He not only deages, he becomes god-like handsome shocking everyone used to his mousey self.
Benjamin Button's accent changes quite dramatically over the movie. I have to presume this was deliberate. He was picking up the accent of whomever he had been hanging out with.
The movie must have been very expensive, since there were sets and cars of every year in the range.
The main action takes place in a poorly lit, sombre home for the dying. There are many funerals and catastrophes. I felt unbearable heartache and nostalgia.
They crash on earth in the far future after humans have abandoned it but all its creatures have evolved to kill humans. Katai needs to trek 100 km to retrieve a rescue beacon. On the way, dozens of monsters stalk and pounce on him. In addition, the weather is extreme. For the first part of the journey, dad can run things remotely. For the second part, the communications gear is destroyed, but that does not slow him down at all. He uses telepathy.
The ending just about made me throw up. The wounded father insists on being lifted vertically so he can salute his son.
In one scene a troop of baboon-like creatures attack. Later we see them chopped in pieces and thrown into a pile. We never find out what super-monster did that. That made the unseen monster even more terrifying.
Oddly, this uninhabited planet was crisscrossed with well-groomed, perfectly-straight paths.
I hate being pounced. I had to stop the film periodically to let the tension drain.
We see flashbacks of young Katai at various ages. He is terminally cute as a baby. The choices of actor are completely convincing that it is just one person.
The tension is unrelenting with not even a few seconds of comic relief.
Hanson, the spy, is an egotistical, paranoid genius, a sort of Sherlock Holmes type who considers every possibility and notices every detail. Oddly he is fanatical, proselytising Catholic. This made no sense to me. How could someone so involved in logic have been entrapped by the mumbo-jumbo of Catholicism? I gather the real world Hansen was.
The basic plot is will our young clerk avoid giving himself away to the master spy? Time pressure drives much of the plot, without being contrived.
Chris Cooper's Hansen is as memorable and strange as Hannibal Lecter. Ryan Phillippe usually plays bland exceedingly handsome young men. As Eric O'Neill, he is still handsome, but his character has much more depth and interest.
Some of the tech-talk was silly. Some of the computer screens were plagiarised from the Matrix.
They put the spy in charge of a new department two months before his retirement. This should have raised his suspicions. Apparently, it did not. His assistant seems to have nothing to do except drive a car every once in a while. To me, this makes no sense.
Most of the movie takes place in a grim windowless office.
Caleb is his employee, a talented, pleasant, handsome, young nerd.
Ava is Nathan's AI creation.
All the action occurs in Nathan's high-tech, high-security house hidden miles away from anything in the mountains. Nathan uses electronic key cards to lock people into rooms for his amusement.
Supposedly, Caleb's job is to test Ava to see if she could pass a modified Turing test when he would interact with her face to face.
Most of the movie is either awkward flirtatious getting to know you conversations between Caleb and Ava or Nathan being a prick tormenting Caleb. The pace is glacial. The dialogue is quite non-technical and reasonably sophisticated for Hollywood.
One of the themes the movie explores is how do you know when people/robots are lying to you, and when are people/robots just pretending to like you.
As you would expect, Nathan gets his just deserts, but the movie has an unexpectedly gruesome dark and somewhat confusing ending. It is not at all the happy ending I expected. It left me feeling ill.
This movie takes place in the future after some ruinous global war. The powers that be have decided they must chemically suppress most emotion, and keep from everyone any memory of violence, starvation or evil, love, music or emotion. There is no believable explanation for suppressing the positive.
Only two people are permitted to remember the past or to feel positive and negative emotion. They do not submit themselves to physical torture.
It is a very regimented authoritarian society. People are assigned their careers. Babies are assigned to families for care. The death penalty is used for the slightest transgression. It is administered painlessly and compassionately.
In parts of the movie, my corn-o-meter went off the scale. For example when crowds would chant "Jonas" for no apparent reason. There would often be wordless montages to show joy or evil with trite images.
Jonas seemed highly attached to his adopted baby brother, but spends no time with him. That did not ring true for me.
Most of the movie is fairly realistic with a dose of woo. Thoughts can pass from person to person by touching arms. The entire mentality of a city changed from some magic ray triggered because a boy went on a sleigh ride past a tower. This is goofier than a comic book plot.
The movie is done like the Wizard of Oz, mostly in black and white but with touches of colour to suggest emotion.
Our heroine goes for a sort of career counselling where they pull out the stops on CGI. It is quite entertaining and mystifying.
Unfortunately, our heroine chooses the mindless, loutish, tattooed, militaristic, boorish dauntless faction who do nothing but jump on trains, climb buildings, fight and run in packs.
The world is a Republican wet dream where everyone is pitted against each other and the weakest are shamed, deprived and tormented.
After a promising start, the movie degenerates into a sort of boot camp army training film. BORING.
The whole premise of the movie that having more than one sort of skill is weird and dangerous makes no sense as does the rule you may never change factions.
This is a movie for teenagers who fantasise about joining a criminal gang.
Then suddenly the movie turns into National Geographic documentary -- a tour of the universe, including galaxies, the ocean, dinosaurs, caves, microscopic life... Then it goes back to the family.
Brad Pitt plays a critical, sadistic, authoritarian, obsessive Christian, who demands "respect". It is horrible seeing him play such a role. Another son may have drowned. It is not clear.
There is so much footage of people wandering around in bleak landscapes to no purpose. This is one of those arty indulgent films where you are supposed to find meaning in random noise. The rest of it is home movies of children playing -- charming, but hardly significant. Suddenly a third brother appears out of nowhere. Perhaps he was just a neighbour. The movie settles down and becomes more coherent for the last part. It winds up in the surrealistic mode with the entire cast wandering over the mud flats to the sound of a choir. Too silly for words! It is pretentious, ponderous, tedious and boring.
In general, everyone is quite restrained. You have to look in their eyes to figure out what they are thinking. Except for trying to kill his mom's suitor with golf club, the boy is not malicious. There is a strange logic to his actions.
The movie pulls compassion out of you for all the characters, without using any of the trite Hollywood tricks. It is a hard movie to watch.
Julie leBreton is an astounding actress. It is like it is happening for real to her, whatever the situation. She is completely believable.
There is one crazy scene when Laurie's wife drives her car to destroy all his elaborate Christmas decorations, then tries to kill him. Not that much else unexpected happens, except opening a bottle of wine with a preposterously complicated electronic opener.
The video is broken into 10-minute segments, each with opening and closing credits and a recap of the previous segment. This is tedious.
The science is pretty shaky, but at one point went completely off the rails. They decide some stones point up permanently aligned with a star in Ursa Major. Vertical stones in England would never align so far north. Further, no English stones would be permanently aligned anywhere because the earth rotates and revolves around the sun.
In general, the science is utterly embarrassing. It would be too silly even for an Austin Powers movie.
I think the writer went to a math library and grabbed snippets and formulae at random to include in the script. Given that there is so much of this and that it is central to the plot, I think they could have hired a real (or at least student) mathematician to compose some plausible dialogue.
The movie is carried by Matthew, a scientist's ten-year-old son. He is unusually intelligent, curious and spunky. He is a considerably better actor than any of the adults in the movie. The acting, in general, has a stagy feel with lots of contrived exposition.
They show you something strange, then let you sit with it for a long time before giving their explanation. It does a good job that way of building suspense.
The way they build unease is by showing you very ordinary things, but that just should not happen, like a giant stone appearing in a different place. There is almost nothing that would count as a special effect, other than possibly a dissolve.
Despite all the negative things I said about the movie, it was engaging. I cared about the characters. It was creepy. The very last reel was high camp. I expected the villain to play Toccata and Fugue on an organ.
It had two gay characters, just in the mix, mildly comic but not derogatory. There is one male eye-candy character Trey the gardener also appealing to the gay viewer. I like it when gays are present without making a big deal of it.
There is one scene where a Muslim makes a claim that his religion is completely compatible with science. The characters on the show know nothing about Islam, so they just let this nonsense slide.
In the 1300s in Moorish Spain, there was a golden era of Islam. Pretty well all learning and scholarship in Europe was done by Muslims. Islam strongly encouraged science. Then fundamentalism and Quranic literalism swept Islam. Discoveries in science and math stopped. Islam started murdering anyone who did not swallow Creationism and other forms of Quranic literalism and magic thinking. Islam has been a pall over the earth ever since.
The problem with the episode is a bit of scientific incompetence in the writing.
For example, Angela notes that an image file seems way too big, therefore it must contain hidden steganographic data. The whole point of steganography is to be undetectable. The images are the same size with data encoded in tiny variants in colour.
At one point the FBI comes to take away the bones and digital data. All the team need do is make backup copies of the digital data, and the FBI can take away all the files they please without denying them access.
They torment poor Wendell telling him he is fired, even though there are two multi-millionaires on the team who stall to the last minute to rescue him. There is no reason for them to dangle him that way.
Sometimes the FBI makes Temperance leave the room because she does not have clearance. Other times they let her stay. I can hardly imagine a giant bureaucracy like that being inconsistent.
There is a quite gross scene of cats eating the body a handsome Bond-like man. You literally watch them pulling off pieces of flesh and tossing them back.
It starts with a man leaving his wife of 10 years and joining the priesthood. He is obsessed with the question of whether it is God or the Devil drawing him to do this. From our perspective, it is neither. It is himself, but why? Is he gay? Is he sick of his wife? Is he just tired of being a potter, and wants to goof off all day with prayers and chanting? We have no clue.
Some of the loose ends:
Why does young Sulien claim he saw Generys alive when he did not? Why does he lie about how he came into possession of her ring? Why does Sulien confess to the murder?
How did Ruald's (the husband's) cross come to be in the grave?
Perhaps if I watched again, it would make more sense. There are medieval motives like ensuring burial on hallowed ground and protecting the reputation of one's family that have almost no pull for us today.
Why did Generys hide valuables in the wheel as she was dying? Should they not be there already?
The religious people have a short-circuited sense of justice. It there is any clue at all that points to the culprit, they want to hang right away. They love hanging, so can't wait to do it.
Whoever did the makeup for Peter "the hedgepig" should get an Oscar. He was covered in boils. He teeth were hideous. He was so repulsive you could barely look at him. It was as though you could smell him through the screen. It was completely believable.
There is a scene where Sulien gets blood on his hands and tries to wipe it off with leaves. This somehow magnifies the horror.
The net effect is boredom. I fell asleep over and over.
The characters are driven by infantile revenge and even more petty motives. They belong to a warrior cast who kill each other for amusement. When someone is killed in this game, they blame the evil killer rather than their participation in the game.
The fights involve hitting and kicking each other. These blows have absolutely no effect on the opponent, even when endlessly repeated.
There one fight scene in a restaurant and one in a tree canopy that shows more imagination. I found it hard to keep track of who was fighting who and why.
There is a bit of comic relief, reminiscent of The Taming of the Shrew between a handsome, good-hearted, desert-dwelling falconer and a pretty young woman who preferred adventure to a stifling life in an arranged marriage.
The majority of the fighters are female. I think at least one of them was over 40 and another over 60. They were fully athletic. I expected the fighting to limit actors to their early 20s.
Others have recommended this movie. They must have a much higher tolerance for repetition than have I.
It is in Chinese, with English subtitles. In one scene, a character is surprised that the "Jade Fox" villain is female. This seems odd because they have been referred to her as "she" in the subtitles. In Chinese, they use the same pronoun for he and she, so that pronoun did not give her gender away.
Elizabeth Taylor is supposed to be playing a teenager. No amount of makeup can disguise the fact she is 30. I pegged her as 40 because of her double chin and rather plump back and thighs that she reveals in a massage scene.
Cleopatra is a spoiled brat, and nobody plays spoiled brats better than Elizabeth Taylor.
I thought it would be all costumes and spectacle, but it has an interesting and involved plot.
The violence in the first part of the movie tends to occur off screen
The most jarring scenes were the dancing girls in either Day-Glo bikinis or pasties looking like they had just stepped out of a Texas stripper bar. The real Egyptians were not shy about breasts. Day-Glo colours abound. I am pretty sure they had not been invented yet.
For pure spectacle, Cleopatra's entrance into Rome is indeed amazing. Each stage of it is replaced by something even more astounding.
What makes this movie work are the crowd scenes. The whole screen is alive with action. There is so much going on, you cannot possibly take it all in. These crowd scenes are so much more impressive than anything you see in modern movies.
One of the odd things, though many of the characters lead entire countries, they never spend any time at all in administration. They make no laws, consult with no committees etc.
One scene I found jarring was when the library at Alexandria burned. Cleopatra expressed distress that a Jewish bible had been destroyed. I found that highly improbable. Compare that with the one-of-a-kind Greek and Roman documents lost.
Cleopatra is such schemer. She is so Machiavellian. She is like Lady Macbeth with her snake-like ambition. You would think anyone on encountering her would run in the other direction. Yet we know from history both Caesar and Mark Anthony were ensnared. In the scenes where she tries to be seductive, I just felt creeped out. Perhaps in 1962 that sort of behaviour was considered sexy. Perhaps she was trying to project insincerity.
There is a great scene where Octavian persuades the senate to go to war with Egypt for the silliest reason. The ensuing war is pointless and depressing. The wild excitement at the start of the war contrasts with the sombre actuality.
I normally find battle scenes in movies exceedingly boring. However, here they were interesting, fascinating and original. They were full of terror, sadness and dread.
The language, especially in some of the longer speeches was stilted. I had some trouble understanding it. It was almost Shakespearian.
The musical score has nothing in it that evokes Rome or Egypt. It is like Mantovani soaring strings. It feels out of place.
There is no defence against a charge of witchcraft. If you had an alibi you were nowhere near, that does not count, since your spirit could have done it. If the victim were surrounded by people, who saw nothing, then you did it by making yourself invisible. The victim just announces who did the witchcraft, even when they have no reason to suspect any particular culprit. The victims are never asked how they know X did it. They are never asked to show physical injury.
You just accuse someone. That is all that is required to presume their guilt. The motives for accusing are petty jealousies, petty revenge, sadism, mischief, playfulness... With just a little acting and drama, you can kill off anyone you please. One horrible schemer of a girl accuses a married man's wife, and caps the deal by planting some evidence, hoping she can have her husband for herself.
The young girls at Salem were far from innocent. They were vicious little bitches. They were calculating murderers. They did it primarily for fun. They seemed to get sexual pleasure from watching the hangings.
Refusal to confess association with the devil is proof of guilt and leads to hanging. By "confessing" and implicating others you can get off with a punishment less than death. The villagers are torn between creating false confessions and sticking to the truth. Before calm returns, they have hanged 19 people, a substantial proportion of the village.
Modern day Creationists remind me of this mad logic when they refuse any evidence to counter the validity of the bible or the validity of evolution.
The characters all harbour insane ideas about the bible, witches and Christianity. The books about witchcraft, which are just fiction, are treated as the ultimate authority. Ditto for the bible. The villagers are nearly all evil, vicious, vindictive, suspicious, hateful bastards. It is hard to pay attention to anything else going on in the movie (a reconstruction of Salem village life) but those crazy spiteful beliefs.
The court is no better, seeing the devil behind every tree, deciding ahead of time that everyone even indirectly mentioned is guilty.
It is amazing we managed to grow out of this way of thinking.
Paul Scofield as Judge Thomas Danforth plays a wonderful villain. He so authoritative in his own universe, but completely mad relative to ours. He is so utterly sure of his rightness.
Winona Ryder as Abigail Williams also plays a great villain. She starts out innocently enough, as the jilted lover, but she is willing to kill off all her acquaintances in her mad scheme to get him back. She is infinitely self-centred, a real psychopath.
The whole madness is so stressful, it makes saints of some people and petty monsters of others. It is interesting watching them change.
I was myself once a closeted teenage gay person. The movie got several things right: the furtive glances, the "inadvertent" touches, the awkward silences. It shows the awkwardness of peers pushing you toward girls.
But other things made no sense. In real life, once you realise your partner is equally interested, there is an overwhelming rush of sexual energy. Sieg felt satisfied with a quick peck on the neck and lying next to his beloved without a hint of sexual energy. This was a Bowdlerised gay movie.
In the climax of the movie, a cyclist, Sieg's boyfriend, deliberately blocks the road to a car. This is quite a confrontation, but I could not for the life of me see what motivated the cyclist.
The bulk of the movie is spent watching young athletes exercise. I found this boring.
Sieg is laconic and mostly silent. He is obviously suffering, but he never lets on what he is thinking. You would think there would be at least one scene where he opened up, but there is not.
I hate races in movies. They are necessarily rigged to the last detail to create a false sense of impending loss following by triumph, all in slow mo, with Chariots of Fire-type music. Then the overacted elation. This movie ends so predictably with a fake race.
The dialogue is unrealistic. The boys continuously quote poetry and talk in highly abstract ways. It is often witty.
The boys like to sing and reenact movies and plays. These scenes are the most fun.
There are four gay characters one old and three young. The movie treats them sympathetically, even if some of the characters in the movie do not. There is no sex, not even implied.
The tension comes from resisting the phoniness of playing the game of psyching out the examiners
We find out nothing. The movie leaps forward in time about 15 years to meet the son wrestling with these events, living with his sister's brother who makes a living extorting people. We are told his parents were killed in a suicidal car crash.
Then we begin to wonder if the whole terrorism and car crash story were fiction. Which scenes are flashbacks and which fictional dramatisations?
A female character (Arsinee Khanjian) morphs twice into a completely different being. We don't notice at first. It is like the floor dropping out from under you, leaving you dizzy.
The dialogue is quite natural with a Canadian accent.
The late Maury Chaykin has a juicy cameo as a somewhat demented man who imagines he is the tragic victim of an airline bombing that never happened.
The film is made of little clips, shown in random chronological order. I don't see the point of being so deliberately confusing, other than perhaps to reveal a little bit about each incident at a time. It is actually annoying being so deliberately toyed with.
It is a bit like layer upon layer of watercolours. You are never sure you have a hold of the objective truth.
It is heartbreaking watching the poor kid trying deal with his adamant father.
The father comes around almost instantly on seeing Billy dance. This left me reeling.
The movie leaves out all of Billy's formal education and early professional career.
By the end Dad is proud of his son, even if he dances, dances ballet, is gay and belongs to a travesty ballet company. This just seems a little too "happy ever after" at the cost of realism.
I found even Jar Jar Binks amusingly novel. The two male leads are unusually handsome. As we move from planet to planet we are treated to completely different stunning landscapes. The architecture is mind- bending as well.
There all kinds of different transportation devices, for ground, air and space. The screen is so rich, you only have time to take a fraction of the feast in.
In the first half of the movie, there are a few of those boring CGI fights between spacecraft, but most of the action is much more imaginative usually involving falling from great heights.
There are a few anomalies that bothered me. How can they have hover cars but still require drivers? How can they have faster than light communication, but still get reception like a black and white 50s TV? Why are they still using light sabres when the weapon has such a limited range? Why can't they vote electronically remotely?
The female senator role is a bit sappy. They should have given her a more spunky part. I discovered Frank Oz (Cookie Monster, Grover) voices Yoda. Yoda is a general. He no longer utters mysterious epigrams.
Even though Hayden Christensen is one of the most handsome males ever to grace the screen, he is not convincing in his love speech to the senator. She fell for him despite his declarations of love. He was just too wooden.
It explores runaway-revenge, rather deep for a Hollywood movie.
The movie ends with a clever take-off on the Roman Coliseum run by cockroaches. Then the movie becomes utterly boring. There is a scene that goes on for what seems like 5 hours battling CGI monsters with light sabres, then another 5-hour fight with a giant CGI army where our heroes are never hit by a bullet but manage to kill everyone, Then another 5- hour light sabre fight. It looks like the bad guy, Count Dooku, inexplicably got away at the end in order to make another movie.
The main thing to recommend it is females get to participate. The sets are dark and vague as if there were not enough budget to fill in the details.
It is somewhat distressing seeing Luke Skywalker, Hans Solo and Princess Leia looking so old and decrepit.
The craft which have propulsion systems far more advanced than ours use WWII-style weapons hanging below the craft in a bubble with hand targeting without instruments to assist. I guess it makes better theatre, but to me, it just looks silly.
The best scene is a restaurant with creatures from all over the universe. It reminded be of the bar scene in the original.
Hans Solo used "parsecs" as a unit of time instead of distance. That is a gaffe that even a science-literate child would catch.
Even when they finally find Luke Skywalker, you would expect him to do some amazing rescue, but the movie just ends before even says anything.