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The Silence (2019)
A reasonable Netflix time-passer at best
'The Silence' is a disappointing little film, that could have been far more interesting. There are obvious similarities to 'A Quiet Place', which came first as a film, yet 'The Silence' is in turn based on a book that came first (How accurate an adaptation, I'm not sure). So for now, let's just judge 'The Silence' on its own merits.
There seems to be small trend at the moment for apocalyptic movies that rely on a threat involving a specific sense. Ergo 'A Quiet Place' and 'The Silence' go for sound, whilst 'Birdbox' went for sight. I'm happy to say that 'The Silence' is at least an improvement over the predictable and annoying 'Birdbox'. Having said that, it has a few too many flaws of its own.
What is the general plot? A family try to make their way to safety during the start of an apocalyptic disaster involving piranha-like flying monsters, overcoming various obstacles on the way. The family consists of a father and mother, a grandmother, and two children: a young son, and a teenage daughter who is deaf. Disappointingly, the daughter's deafness never really serves much purpose to the plot, other than the family's use of sign language (see 'A Quiet Place' for dealing with both the potential advantages and disadvantages of a deaf character in this situation, far more effectively). Along for the (start of) the ride, is also the father's best friend.
The film starts off well. I enjoyed the fact that it didn't fall into too many predictable character clichés (initially). It was interesting to see that Stanley Tucci's father character had a reliable and trust-worthy best friend who was helping them out. There was no forced conflict between them. Likewise, there were no marital problems to be overcome between Tucci and Miranda Otto, who plays the mother. The children were fairly bland, but also not overly annoying and obnoxious. The shame is that none of the characters were particularly interesting, either.
The film's premise uses a dash of 'Reign of Fire', with underground beasts being released to plague the world. The creatures are rather fun, and the effects are good quality, I have no complaints there. What falls over is the logic. Where, for example, 'Reign of Fire' works, is that it explains how the dragons very quickly multiply upon escape, yet still take a few off-screen years to put the world into its post-apocalyptic state. 'The Silence' expects us to believe that so many of these creatures escaped from a single cave system (however large) and within days are putting America (and with some vague implication the rest of the world? It's not really clear) into full-on end-of-the-world mode. Still, if we accept this conceit, it wouldn't have ruined the movie.
The family are trying to escape to somewhere more isolated and/or defensible, yet in the end are in a position that is no better than if they had stayed safely ensconced in their own home, until they discovered the safe destination of the cold north.
I also can't fail to mention one fun moment, that also undermines the threat of the flying beasts... Stanley Tucci uses a woodchipper, which noisily draws in a host of the creatures, that are promptly crunched into oblivion. Whilst fun, this leaves the viewer feeling that each town would be perfectly safe if they simply set up wood chippers at regular intervals, and before you know it, the monsters would be extinct!
Even then, that wouldn't have written the film off... The final straw is the mind-numbingly idiotic 'psycho religious fanatics' trope, that seems to pervade such stories. This can sometimes work, if handled correctly, but in this case, we're expected to believe that within a couple of days, a fanatical cult has formed in the nearby town, wants to force the family to join them, and is already on the hunt for fertile females to perpetuate the species. This is unequivocally the most facepalm-inducing plot device, and felt like an excuse to draw out the running time because the didn't know what else to do. Society hasn't even completely collapsed at this point, as the internet is occasionally still available, and CNN is occasionally still functional.
Are we to seriously believe that within a couple of days of a disastrous event, where people are still struggling to survive against thousands of killer monsters, that a small fanatical cult has formed and really cares so much about capturing a young girl for breeding? It's the kind of thing that might work if they implied this was at least several years after the disaster, and your imagination can go wild with what may have risen in the aftermath. As it is, it would be as idiotic as telling the story of 'Mad Max: Fury Road', in the time frame of the first 'Mad Max', when society hadn't yet fully collapsed!
So how to sum up 'The Silence'? It starts with a little potential, turns mediocre, then becomes utterly stupid. The eventual ending, minus the fanatics, is serviceable and at least doesn't fall into the pointless trap of "..and they all died. The end". What we're left with is some reasonable acting and direction, not much tension, a fun premise, and some nice effects. Given those, I'll be generous and give it a 6 out of 10. At the end of the day, though, just watch the vastly superior 'A Quiet Place'.
Alita: Battle Angel (2019)
Forget the glut of bland superhero movies... just watch Alita!
Since Titanic and Avatar, I've stopped expecting Cameron movies to be great, but having seen this on 3D Imax the other day... let's just say he and Robert Rodriguez won me over again! Alita is the best big sci-fi action movie I've seen in a _long_ time. In an age where we're just seeing the same plots recycled again and again with interchangeable, soulless super-heroes, I enjoyed the hell out of this. I'm not saying it was perfect, but I was pleasantly surprised. I could have sat in that cinema for another couple of hours, without any worry of boredom. I can't remember the last time I watched a big effects movie and felt so completely lost in it.
Although I was aware of Battle Angel Alita, I've never been a massive Anime fan and never read or watched the original anime, so I had no preconceptions or expectations going in. Many of the plot themes and ideas may have been done before(**cough** Rollerball - amongst others **cough**), but you can say that about almost any movie. The real question is whether those ideas are packaged in a new engrossing story with interesting characters and the answer, in Alita's case, is a big yes.
Rosa Salazar is brilliant as Alita. The level of emotion she gets through the mo-cap is astonishing, and quite honestly puts many live action stars to shame. The large eyes may stem from honouring her anime origins, but you soon forget them, and only see the character. Not only that, but in the context of the story and her past, they feel quite logical.
There's a hefty dose of Robocop to her story, in a good way, whilst her character has a sincerity and (non-annoying) innocence that all combines to make her a sympathetic hero that you want to see succeed. So from my perspective, I can't recommend Alita enough! This is the kind of blockbuster I hope is successful, because I truly want to watch the sequel.
As with so many big-budget effects movies, I went in hoping for the best, but expecting yet another 'all-flash, no-substance' movie, like so many of the Marvel films. I was happy to be wrong for a change.
I can't wait for the 3D Blu Ray to enjoy this again, and especially watch how it was made. I may even have to see it again at the cinema, before it finishes its run... It's been a while since I could say that about a big blockbuster!
An acceptable time-passer... Most of the time
Where to start? Salvation has a vaguely interesting premise. I'm a sucker for a good pending-doom sci-fi thriller. It's just about entertaining enough to keep you watching whilst doing other things (e.g. On a tablet whilst doing the dishes/cooking/exercising), but it's not quite good enough to spend the time sitting and watching properly.
The 'science' - wow... you can let a lot of stuff go in TV and film, but when communication with a satellite in the far reaches of the solar system is instantaneous, without any explanation how, you know the writers really don't care about even the big details, let alone the small ones.
There are so many major plot points threads that rely on completely ignoring obvious solutions/actions/reactions, that it beggars belief.
Then there are the characters. They're 'okay'(at best) to start with, but by the middle of the second series they've deteriorated into blithering idiots who ignore facts and all have to sleep around and (as mentioned above) ignore obvious character responses just to keep the absurd parts of the plot going.
As usual with these things. America is the only country doing anything, even though the world is doomed.
Why am I still watching? The more I write, the more I wonder why...
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Did I watch a different movie?
Having missed this at the cinema, my other half and I finally got round to buying and watching it (in 3D). Wow... what a mess. I'm glad we didn't pay to see this at the cinema. I'm quite honestly amazed at how many good reviews it's been getting. It's disturbingly close to 'Last Jedi' level bad (but not quite... that would still take some work). There's no real plot to speak of, things just seem to happen 'because', any sense of logic or consistency goes out the window (And that's in comparison to most of the other Marvel movies, which are hardly that great in the logic stakes in the first place!), power levels constantly change to fit a particular scene, rather than match what has been established for characters previously, etc., etc.....
To top it all off, after all the build up, Thanos turns out to be one of the least interesting Marvel villains, with face-palm-inducing 'woke' motivation.
The only good thing I'll say, is that it manages what most Marvel movies usually manage: the character interaction and banter is fun for the most part, and amusing. Oh, and most of the effects are good (except for Banner pointlessly in the Hulk-buster).
I understand and applaud the desire to try an 'Empire Strikes Back', but there are a few big differences (A story, for one). Empire works so well because our heroes get their posteriors kicked. They struggle tooth and nail to survive, and even when they do get a chance to fight they are soundly defeated. Infinity War falls flat, because the villain and his forces never feel particularly strong, and our heroes get repeated opportunities to defeat Thanos and simply don't take them because it would end the film early.
To be honest, despite its very obvious flaws (and a certain top lip deserving second billing), I actually found Justice League more enjoyable. I genuinely began falling asleep at the end of Inifinity War and closed my eyes, just listening till the end, I was so bored. Such a shame and a wasted opportunity after the build up of so many movies.
Not perfect, but often brilliant
First off, I'll admit that I haven't read the book/s, though I plan to now. So, from the perspective of someone who's not looking for what was and wasn't done correctly in Season 1, I have to say my other half and I found it superb. For a TV show, it's beautifully filmed and well acted. Amybeth McNulty is nothing short of a revelation, most especially for such a young actress.
At it's heart, this is a gradual coming-of-age story, with just the right blend between the drama and the feel-good innocence of childhood adventures and growing up that we can all relate to.
I would rate season 1 as 10/10, so why the 8? This is down to season 2. There are a lot of reviews that have unfairly rated the show extremely low because of their disappointment in season 2, but there's a lot of great stuff in it. However I must admit that it's not quite on the same level and some of the complaints aren't unjustified, even if they're a little over-zealous.
The big complaint from a lot of people, is the amount of contemporary material that's clearly been inserted. Even for someone who's not read the books, it's pretty clear that a lot of the storylines would not have been in a book of the period, or at least not so blatantly. Rather than complaining about the subjects themselves, my issue is with the lack of subtlety in telling them.
Dealing with a few more contemporary issues is one thing, but the writing for season 2 is a little too akin to a sledge hammer in places. The material should have been dealt with in a far more suggestive way. A good rule of writing (and indeed with most creative endeavours) is 'less is more', which seems to have been forgotten. Also, some of the writing relies too heavily on stereotypes. Perhaps part of the problem is trying to cram too many issues in at once. These could have been dealt with in individual seasons, gradually and nuance.
My other biggest gripe is that this story is about Anne, and quite frankly she gets side-lined too often, or simply used as the writers' tool to hammer a message home. Her character and her adventures are what we want to watch, and some of that has been lost in an effort to make the show somewhat preachy.
It may sound like I didn't like season 2, but I did. For the most part it's great, but it also has some issues. As a result I'm dropping my overall score to an 8, but I still highly recommend it, especially season 1.
Little Women (2017)
Not bad... but just not good either
I really wanted to enjoy this, but, well, there's just something lacking straight from the beginning. It's all filmed very nicely, albeit in a modern way, but that doesn't always fit the type of story we're being presented. However, if you want to see how to film a period setting in a modern way that works, just watch 'Anne with an E'.
Perhaps the oddest thing about this version is that despite the added running time provided by a TV mini-series, it manages to feel rushed and incoherent. If I didn't already know the story, I'd be wondering why these characters were doing what they were doing. It's as though they forgot to include the scenes that join events together. In a much shorter running time, the 1994 film manages to feel positively sedate in comparison, and scenes lead naturally from one to the next.
Then there's the casting. There's a lot to like here (Angela Lansbury, Michael Gambon), but the younger cast, through no fault of their own, just don't jump out. Jo, Meg and Beth aren't different enough. It feels as though the casting director had the same look in mind for all three, so you don't get a sense of them being truly different sisters. Then there's Amy. The actress, again through no fault of her own, is far too old at the beginning. She appears to be a similar age to Jo, Meg and Beth, yet is supposed to be the youngest by at least a noticeable margin. As a result, behaviour that should simply feel like that of an occasionally vain and impulsive child becomes immature, petty and unlikeable.
Lastly, the soundtrack is far too contemporary. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it has to be old-fashioned, but it also has to feel appropriate. For example, there's a scene where the characters are playing in the snow, and the music felt so out of place that I wondered if the composer thought the scene was set in the Caribbean. Then again, it's difficult to compete with 1994's score by Thomas Newman.
Perhaps the score is a perfect example of where they went wrong. In trying so hard to be different and not simply repeat what's been done before, they've managed to lose the atmosphere and spirit of the original story. As a result, despite the impressive production values, I couldn't warm to this version. Let's hope the new version (due in 2019) does a better job...
The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)
So bad it's almost brilliant
This is one of those films that truly defies belief. Don't get me wrong, we've all seen much, much worse, but for a film this badly written to get the production, actors and budget of The Cloverfield Paradox is astounding. "What about Transformers?" you all say. Ahh, but the Transformers movies are positively well thought out in comparison to this mess, not to mention they don't pretend to be anything other than fun eye-candy. This film actually seems to think it's intelligent!
First, let's get the good things out of the way. The Cloverfield Paradox has a range of quality actors, fairly high production values, and some excellent effects work. It's not even badly directed (from a visual perspective) I actually feel sorry for all of the skilled individuals whose hard work is wasted on a script that shouldn't have made it past the receptionist.
Now the bad... oh, the truly bad. The Cloverfield Paradox has a story and script that is so badly written, you can practically feel the script writer screaming "Hey, anybody can wright that scifi crap, can't they? I'm a proper script writer, me! I bet I can do something better than those other silly scifi movies you see!" But they very clearly have NO idea what they're doing. So much so, that the film becomes fun to watch, just to see what random event will happen next. There's no point going into the individual elements. Let's just say the film goes from moment to moment with a complete lack of logic, story or even common sense.
Any stars I give, are purely because of the hard work the set builders, designers and CGI people put in... So to sum up, so bad it almost has to be seen for comedy value, and the wonderfully random moment when a character encourages his disembodied arm to write a message...
Okay, I'm only four episodes in, but a lot of reviews here were based on the first episode, so here goes...
Is it breaking new ground, or hyper gritty and realistic? Not remotely. As a software developer, I KNOW this isn't even remotely realistic (certainly on the computer related stuff). In fact, the pilot goes from the unrealistic to the absurd, but that's not the point. The show is FUN. The characters are lively, quirky, quickly defined. Take for example a show in the same arena (computer geniuses, etc.) like 'Mr Robot'. That lost me after three episodes. It didn't matter how 'realistic' it was, or dark and gritty. The characters were dull and boring, and I just couldn't bring myself to care and continue watching.
Scorpion is silly and fun, in the same way that TV used to be in the 80s. It doesn't take itself too seriously (which many reviewers seem to forget). Don't think about the plots or plausibility too much. Just turn your brain off and have fun!
Fun, but could have been so much more...
This is a tough one to judge. We bought the Blu Ray, having seen the trailer, thinking it would be fun. In that respect, it succeeds.
So what is this Russian answer to The Avengers like? I'll talk about its failings, first. It suffers greatly from Anime syndrome. Some reasonable and fun ideas, fantastic visuals, lots of creativity and passion... But badly structured story and poorly defined characters and script. Anime has a tendency to suffer from info-dump scenes. If it's about a character, you have long and boring monologues that tell you 'deep and meaningful' stuff about a character, but are pointless because nothing has come before, to make you care. Likewise, plot details and explanations are often dumped with excessive detail to make sure you know everything the story's writer imagined. They forget the old and most important rule of story telling. Show don't tell.
Marvel movies often have equally absurd super-hero stories and character backgrounds. Where they succeed, is by introducing those stories and character details through smaller interwoven moments within the overall narrative. Don't give a character a monologue, instead give them amusing asides with another character over a few scenes, and/or a brief flashback when they see something, etc.... Reveal the information, for both plot and character, organically and avoid unnecessary details.
The above, is Guardians worst failing. Things suddenly happen without build up. Characters tell someone their tragic story in a monologue that makes you want to scream "get on with it!", but by that point you don't care. It tells you nothing about the character other than some history. You don't FEEL it.
Now on to the good points. The filming (from a visual standpoint, at least) is excellent. The effects are 99% there, to being top tier Hollywood (and certainly on a par with most). The action is well done and fun. What makes all of this all the more impressive, is when you realise it was done on the equivalent of $5 million dollars. The effects work and production quality is, honestly, simply jaw dropping for that amount. You're talking about a film that looks very close to the quality of a Hollywood blockbuster, on the equivalent of something approaching one fortieth of the budget.
For all its failings, though, I'd love to see the creators learn from their mistakes, and keep producing stuff that could challenge Hollywood in quality. I also can't finish without saying, whatever you think of the film, it's all worth it for the sight of a bear with a mini-gun!!! :-D
After watching Tokarev, I had to read a few reviews. What you quickly realise, is that most of the 'hate' comes from viewers discovering this isn't the film they were expecting. It's something very different. I'm not going to say it was brilliant, but this film is well made, with some pretty good actors (albeit not always at their best).
This isn't another 'Taken', as many seemed to expect. It plays with your expectations by setting up that kind of story, then turning it into a revenge thriller, which in turn is yet another opportunity to mess with your expectations. What you finally realise, with these morally dubious characters, is that actions have consequences. Violence begets violence. This is a morality play, a tragedy in the Greek tradition (I'm not saying it's of the same quality).
This isn't another gangster movie that glorifies the cool lifestyle. Some reviewers also questioned why Danny Glover's character is there. He's the voice of reason. The voice of conscience. Nicolas Cage's character has become a 'good' person, attempting to redeem himself from his bad ways, but when something terrible occurs, this puts him to the test. Can he still be good, without the original reason he had (his daughter)? He doesn't have to return to his old ways, but his core is rotten, despite his attempts, and he cannot resist the fall. Glover's police officer is there, each step of the way, offering him the opportunity to pull back, but he can't.
Rachel Nichols is very good, in a role that could have easily been disposable. She's somewhere in between. Someone who feels they could do terrible things in the name of vengeance/justice, but becomes the final victim of the fallout from Cage's violent past.
So essentially, perhaps not a great film, but it's different and goes against expectations by using clichés for it's setups but not its ultimate resolution (in this type of story, anyway). As someone else said, it's probably a solid 6, but I'll give it a 7 to offset some of the negativity.
La La Land (2016)
Honestly, despite the critics I wasn't blown away. I can see why the critics loved it so much, though. It's a heavy handed love-letter to Hollywood musicals and Hollywood history and life. It feels like a film made for L.A. critics rather than the audience. If you take away the musical and directorial elements, the love story is so clichéd (yes, even the 'bittersweet' ending has become a cliché nowadays, when you want to be seen as being different and going against the 'Hollywood ending' and 'embracing gritty, real life')
The worst bit wasn't the ending, however. That could be forgiven. the worst bit was the contrived "Oh, yes, he's too busy with work to see her one-woman play, which spells the end " That was the low point of the movie for me. It was a cringe-worthy plot contrivance that's been done a million times, and usually not in so heavy handed a way. Damien Chazelle seems capable of writing the 'happier' bits well enough, because he can fall back on his love of cheerful/colourful musicals, but the more dramatic elements felt like he relied on the stereotypes and heavy handed symbolism. Oooh, their relationship fails in 'The Fall'? Just when they've had an argument, the smoke alarm goes off, because he's forgotten the meal cooking in the oven, that comes out all burnt and over- done?
The songs also feel a little forced, but it makes sense when you watch the making-of, and realise that the music was written first, and other people were brought in to quite literally force lyrics into the music, rather than both being created at the same time. This is a flimsy, cliché-ridden story written to join dance routines and music together.
Other than that, it's fun enough and a bit different (if only stylistically). I'll admit I did love some of the filming, and was very impressed by some of the direction. After watching the making-of, and seeing the passion and enthusiasm that went into it, and how someone got to make their dream project, I really wanted to like the movie more. In fact, I actually admire the Hollywood producers who wanted to back something that was a passion- project, rather than something designed purely with the box-office in mind. Unfortunately it all ends up a bit mediocre, unless you're a critic who wants to praise it simply for being a love-letter to the superior Hollywood musicals that inspired it. This is for musical lovers, what Jupiter Ascending is for action movie lovers. Great visuals and design, some amazing direction, some good actors get roped in, and... That's about it. You come away neither disappointed nor elated.
A fitting conclusion, but fire the editor!
I'm not going to defend the RE movies. You either enjoy them or you don't. They're silly, OTT fun, and personally I get a kick out of them.
Story-wise The Final Chapter isn't bad at all. It kicks in and becomes more interesting in its second half, and is a reasonable conclusion to the series. Sure, the movie isn't going to win any awards for the story, but it's action adventure fun!
Having said that, somebody, Paul especially, should have chucked out the editor and started from scratch. Paul's previous films have been some of the best 3D films going (Musketeers especially stands out), and he can create great action scenes (Soldier, for example, is an underrated classic). The Final Chapter, however, has been edited to the point of death. The 3D is rendered pointless due to the hyper-quick editing used here. It's so pointless, that even as a fan of 3D movies, I'm only getting the 2D version for home (and I own the previous two in 3D). Even the 2D version is going to be annoying enough in the action scenes, and I have little doubt I'll end up only watching The Final Chapter to finish off things when I have the occasional RE marathon. Not because there's anything wrong with the story or acting. Just the damn editing!
Please, please, Paul, for the sake of the fans who enjoy the RE movies, do a special edition edit for Blu Ray release! The footage is obviously there, it's just been butchered in the editing room! Re-edit the film, so that we can actually tell what's going on in the action scenes. I bet you'll have a lot of happy fans who wanted to enjoy the film at the cinema, but will at least be able to enjoy it in the comforts of home!
The Lobster (2015)
Truly odd, but oddly fascinating
Having watched The Lobster (oddly enough, following Batman Vs Superman... what a complete difference!), I can honestly say I found it a strangely compelling and enjoyable film. Don't get me wrong, it's truly odd and unusual, and won't be for everyone, but if you like quirky and strange films every bit as much as your blockbusters, you may find this quite enjoyable. Every few minutes, you will find yourself thinking "What the...?!" but in a good way.
I've read some of the one star reviews, and whilst I can't argue with a lot of what they say (it's trite, shallow, emperor's new clothes, etc.), I also think they're missing the point. If you want to look for some deep commentary that satirises modern relationships and gender politics, this is not it. If you look for that, and believe that's what the film is about, then you *will* find it shallow, and an "Emperor's new clothes" experience (If that's what the creators intended, then yes, they missed the mark).
As far as I'm concerned, this isn't a film with any message; this is a dream that has been brought to life with actors. The logic and reality of this world makes no sense, until you place it in the context of a dream, and then everything makes sense, in the same way the strange and unusual does in your own dreams. I don't mean that as an excuse, where anything can be allowed "because it's a dream", but because the logic, script and reality of the film fit perfectly with how a dream works.
What The Lobster ultimately ends up being, is a truly unusual little romance. My one complaint would be the finale. It fails in the way that I think many horror films fail. Horror movie creators all-too-often think that because they're making a horror film, they have to have the protagonist/s almost win, then something bad happens in the very last moments and they lose, which is as clichéd, tired and predictable an ending as a horror movie can have. Likewise, 'art house' films like this, all-too-often have ambiguous ends, that want to 'leave it to the viewer' to decide what happens. Sometimes that can seem forced, just because they want to avoid a 'hollywood', but then they can end up being as predictable and clichéd (in their own right) as the ending they were trying to avoid.
The Lobster falls into that trap, at the very final moment, but is otherwise a very different film experience that can be enjoyed in its own context. Having said that, I can completely understand where people are coming from who do not enjoy it. You'll just have to decide for yourself.