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Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019)
Recycling old plot devices with good gags from Reynolds
Detective Pikachu is a haphazard collection of various plot devices seen many times in all sort of movies, and without Ryan Reynolds's inspired turn as the voice of Pikachu himself the movie would be almost unbearably bad. Some of the worst CGI in near memory is dumped on the screen in one utterly pointless action scene you'll be hard pressed to unsee. A total mess only for hardcore Pokemon fans and those enjoying Reynolds's comedy in whichever setting.
Best DC so far!
Do I really need to say anything else? The same stuff as always but produced much more professionally.
The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018)
The usual recycling of the female empowerment storyline with Kunis and McKinnon reliably playing the same roles they always do starts with a few good gags early on but gradually falls apart into a complete mess. McKinnon seems to improvise as much as she can to make up for the writers' diminishing interest in their own story which occasionally keeps the audience more invested than it should.
There is a tired attempt at the end to setup a sequel of sorts so anyone spending money to see this should know it might not be over when the credits roll.
Ready Player One (2018)
Very 1980s adventure coated with 2018 effects
In Ready Player One, though having lots of exposition, Steven Spielberg delivers a wonderfully thrilling first third, but soon afterwards fails to keep the pace and lets the story to gradually succumb to over-reliance on characters and plot twists that were common in 1980s but look sorely outdated and tedious in 2018. This as such is largely in purpose as the story wants to be seen as a tribute to pop-culture - for some reason meaning the 1980s' culture only - but it doesn't make boring the audience any less acceptable. The last real highlight is a magnificent scene in the Shining's hotel.
The plot follows characters in the virtual reality and in the real world, jumping back and forth. Action involving the actual people is often poorly staged. Plot rushes from one place to another without much logic. Characters come and go as they please, and it is later difficult to remember what actually happened. The big end fight in the virtual world appears to be staged only because a big end fight needed to be at the end, having no logic, reason or real feeling and bringing nothing new to the long series of purposeless end fights in expensive blockbusters.
Hit and miss, and increasingly a miss towards the end, Ready Player One is still a reliable Spielberg that probably will entertain younger audiences more than those who actually remember the 1980s.
More of the same
The word is out that the very respectable Rian Johnson had put his watermark all over Last Jedi, but on the last line it largely comes across as more of the same Star Wars sausage as the previous installment from JJ Abrams. Whatever your feelings were about it, you'll feel the same about this one.
Expectedly glorious production values and uniformly good acting get bogged down by the script that is an uneven mess jumping all over the place. Ray's scenes with Luke don't go much anywhere but make a far more compelling thing to watch than Resistance's artificial standoff with the utterly incompetent First Order (which also has the disadvantage of the rulebook changing whenever needed) or Finn and Rose's contrived quest to find some random hacker and share a message about animal cruelty. After one central character, first reduced to a ridiculous clown, gets a deliciously laughable sendoff, hopes get briefly elevated there might actually be something at stake here, but then nothing much happens. So many die but nobody gets hurt.
The Last Jedi milks both Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi to such extent that it seems ever ready to toss away any reasonable logic to squeeze in another gorgeous throwaway fan-service variation of what was an integral part of earlier stories but now stands only for some nostalgic shivers or gorgeous cgi. This was already the case in Force Awakens, but if something positive should be said, the well is about dry after this one, and for the final episode they need to come up with something truly original - unless they go back to the beginning, once more, rebooting the copying within their reboot.
Justice League (2017)
DC's slow descend back to camp
An entirely forgettable affair in every sense of the word, Justice League fails to setup any further direction to the DC world-building than a slow descend back to camp where it was after Tim Burton's Batman movies 25 years ago. Nolan's years at helm are certainly far away by now.
The bafflingly conventional, illogical and randomly jumping story doesn't have a single unexpected turn of events and instead treads waters that have been trod many times before and with greater success. The CGI is strangely haphazard, with very little care how it stands out when scenes are edited together. Steppenwolf is an eye-wateringly bad villain, becoming a clumsy scarecrow whose motivations and powers come and go.
Actors are an uneven bunch, both as characters and as talents, and fail to generate camaraderie or chemistry. Ezra Miller is so much better as an actor than the rest that he becomes a distraction by reminding us about it constantly. Every time his delivery elevates the poor material, it turns against the movie when the next one who opens his mouth only looks cringe-worthy.
Girls Trip (2017)
Forced friends get drunk again
Targeted at mass consumers of daytime talk shows, Girl Trip wants to maximize its reach by teaming up four different stereotypical women who seem to have nothing in common but are nevertheless assured to be life-long friends. This as such is the usual setup in these female ensemble comedies, and it is also unexpected how the utterly artificial story never feels anything but scripted and staged. It is painful to watch how these clearly useless, middle-aged women force themselves to hide friendship distractions such as separate personalities and to harmonize their behavior and even their outfits by bullying and patronizing each other until after a series of drunken escapades they finally locate that one thing in common they all can agree on: big c***s.
The experienced cast has no trouble making all the needed faces, spreading legs and rolling butts, and sometimes watching these fine actresses have fun together gives a momentary relief from the actual product.
Good kids in a safe and a bit outdated adaptation
The new adaptation of IT has a lavish Spielbergian approach to the proceedings which partly works and partly really doesn't. All child actors are well cast, with their strengths and weaknesses perfectly at display. Their interaction and friendship is handled with ease and good humour and is by far the most enjoyable part of the story.
Less tasteful is how they interact with adults who are distant and authoritative or just as much monsters as the one that is after the kids. The recent Stranger Things, one cast member of which reappears, had this covered much better, with the obvious note that Stranger Things itself is an evolution of King's and Spielberg's earlier works. The school bullies are also ridiculously evil and inhuman which is seldom seen in today's media.
As King's popular novel is much copied, the terrifying events, however carefully produced, come across somewhat outdated. The number of jump scares feels like yet another throwback to old-school horror. Music swells to underline everything that happens on the screen, with no emotion without a score to tell the audience exactly what they should be experiencing right now. That gets intrusive quickly.
What the marketing entirely skips, this is actually the part 1. It covers the first half of the novel only, with the rest coming in the part 2.
American Made (2017)
Cruise and Liman make a great pair again
Always reliable if not exactly visionary, director Doug Liman has another entertaining outing with Tom Cruise, reinventing his charm, swagger and grin as tools for finding easy cash and marital respect when honest work doesn't exactly get one far enough.
Cruise plays a totally reprehensible and despicable character and yet manages to keep everyone invested in the ride that accelerates with every misstep on the way, fully captivating the audience to wait for the extent of the looming train wreck. Cruise is entirely game here, not once trying to make audience feel sorry for his character or thinking that maybe he had a heart of gold, after all.
Worth pointing out is also a stellar turn from a less prolific Domhnall Gleeson whose ambitious CIA operator is equally blind, naive and brilliant, and Gleeson makes his oily presence wonderfully effective.
The Osiris Child gives a strong feeling that at some point during the production the team realised there were no new ideas in the story or in the world-building or in the characters, somewhat deflating their high ambitions and resulting in a choppy ride when quirky editing choices and unchronological order attempt to liven up the seen- that, been-there proceedings.
This doesn't succeed to save much, though, as buying the story depends on buying its monsters that are done with genuine 1980s rubber-suit quality. Maybe the original intention was to give the film a vintage vibe but if that was the case it fails to translate on the screen, leaving the main story driver outright ridiculous and sinking whatever was still afloat.
If something positive needs to be said, Kellan Lutz is trying harder than he has ever tried, and next to the monsters he is the less distracting one.
Rough Night (2017)
Boring and contrived
Compared to the actual product, Rough Night's theatrical trailer was superbly crafted and contained every single amusing part of the movie that is sloppily written and directed without much understanding of comic timing. Even the good jokes fall flat when the director does not seem to have a good grip how to land them.
Girls' attempts to deal with the body quickly get the feeling of an over-extended SNL sketch but it's still a staggeringly bad decision to undercut that by frequently visiting Paul W. Downs' mind-numbingly boring road trip elsewhere. Towards the end the story becomes increasingly joyless, shovels in a terrible crime subplot and then forces out one of the most fake happy endings in recent memory (and my memory is good).
Kate McKinnon is the only one who has some idea how to liven up the dull undertakings, and Jillian Bell certainly is right when she quips that she might be too much.
What Happened to Monday (2017)
Noomi Rapace pulls this one off the mud
Not thanks to anyone else but her own skills to act against herself, Noomi Rapace single-handedly carries What Happened to Monday from start to finish, in seven roles that each gets a moment to make them alive. She holds the attention when the script and fellow actors don't have much to contribute, and when the surprisingly violent action takes off, she doesn't hold back anything. Half the score goes to her performance alone.
Least memorable are the quickly setup one-child dystopia and the expected thugs and their masters who maintain the uninspired system. Glenn Close does what Glenn Close has done many times, and yet another movie fails to make up its mind is she really evil or profoundly right. It would have made a better movie had they scrapped the poorly drafted political storyline altogether and concentrated on Rapace's low-level survival. Every movie needs not save the mankind.
The Ottoman Lieutenant (2017)
Cheap propaganda disguised as cheap romance
Not this or any year's English Patient, the Ottoman Lieutenant plays out like a quickly written discount romance novel. A headstrong Philadelphian heiress bumps from one adventure to another. There is no denying any of her whims. Handsome men are readily available to compete for her pure heart, but the tall exotic one, of course, is who really makes her blush. Never once is anyone bothered by her not wearing a headscarf in this fantasy version of old Turkey. Ben Kingsley shows up to throw away yet another world-weary supporting role.
Outright revolting is how the movie sleazily attempts to excuse the Armenian genocide by depicting the Armenians as lowlife bandits and traitors that were no doubt asking for what came to them. Standing in for the presumed (but eventually non-existent) American audience, our heiress thinks it is best to stay silent about the mass murders the Turkish government carried out, and it very much seems that is what the movie wants rest of the Americans do as well.
While the movie has all the characteristics of a failed Hollywood production, it is produced by a Turkish company. Production money has been lavish, and the sets, costumes and locations are all top notch, to the extent that one wonders how much the Turkish government was involved.
Liza, a rókatündér (2015)
More style than laughs
While not an entirely wasted opportunity, Liza the Fox-Fairy doesn't generate much laughs, and its half-witted premise is thrown at the audience so carelessly that title character's hardships at the hands of a vengeful Japanese pop star ghost fail to make anyone care too much what happens next.
Most of the runtime is spent on going through all the people that need to die to push Liza over the edge, which understandably gets quite repetitive. Neither the deaths or the characters show any screen writing genius.
The execution itself is well-thought and careful, and the team behind the production seems to have felt all the way they are making a wonderful movie. It always lifts a bad movie when one sees people trying hard, even if they don't really succeed.
The Fate of the Furious (2017)
Almost nothing but bare greed left
At this point, there is almost nothing real left in the Fast and Furious franchise except its readiness to offer the ever increasing number of actors their annual bonus for showing up for a day in front of the green screen and the palpable attraction between Tyrese and Eastwood. Everything else is so artificial, calculated, worn-out and void of any emotion that anyone looking for an actual movie needs to look elsewhere.
Annabelle: Creation (2017)
Conjuring franchise saves itself from itself
Annabelle: Creation is a thoroughly well-executed and thought-out medium budget horror in a creepy house with a creepy doll. It is also a borderline comedy at times, cleverly realising that the doll is not only scary but also rather ridiculous. Moving from scares to laughter and back was done with outstanding precision and taste.
The effect where something first happens with thundering sound and action, followed by a deafening silence in anticipation of potential further threats, is somewhat overused, but excellent actors and overall professional production let this kind of small issues pass without much distraction.
As a prequel to the previous movie which was also a prequel, the story is eventually tied to the previous Annabelle vehicle, which felt not only unnecessary but quite clunky and rushed. Stay put for a brief after-credit scene for more Conjuringverse things to come.
Nolan returns to form
Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk is brutal but surprisingly bloodless - the most blood on screen is probably when a character has an accidental fall in the stairs. It is also a total return to form for a director whose previous two outings were meandering, bloated messes.
The movie follows three groups of people and their different timelines that are of uneven length. This causes some momentary confusion when things cut back and forth too often. But I guess this is not anything that a second viewing wouldn't fix.
We get almost no background for the characters. Many don't even have a name and are limited to few lines of dialog. They are kept on screen for a time and then they are gone. Their stories start from random positions in their lives. Some go on living, some die useless, some die useful deaths. This may distance some of the audience from their fates to the degree that they become meaningless, but it certainly works better for Nolan than his sappy attempt to make sense of human emotions in Interstellar. Melodrama is not Nolan's thing. Tom Hardy gets to wear a mask for almost all of his screen time, just as in Nolan's last Batman.
Zimmer's score is present literally throughout the movie. Thankfully he keeps himself perfectly in line with what is unfolding on the screen. The score still rings in your ears for a long time afterwards.
Katherine Hepburn v Venice
Thin story in a marvelous setting, this little movie about a repressed spinster out of her depth certainly is one of Hollywood's formulaic travelogues about Europe, but the charm of the bygone tourist era of 1950s adds an interesting angle that wasn't available to the viewers of the time.
David Lean throws Venice at Katherine Hepburn in all its history, colors and splendor. If someone finds her performance somewhat overstated, she hardly had any choice to avoid letting the movie drift away from her and melt into a tourist commercial. Forced to act against an entire city, she holds her own well. It takes a while before Hepburn's lonely figure and Venice find a common note. She dreams of love and company but wherever you go, there you are. By the time Rossano Brazzi's smooth but not sleazy suitor appears, he feels more like a manifestation of Venice than a real person, part of the city unable to exist outside the lagoon.
47 Meters Down (2017)
Simplified to the bone
This claustrophobic shark horror is strictly simplified to what its title says and offers very little else. So unless you are into a movie what happens when you are 47 meters down and surrounded by sharks, then skip this title.
Baring the story to the situational minimum has the downside that we don't learn much of the trapped two sisters. One is an outgoing blonde and one is a careful brunette. The other has done some diving before and the other had a boyfriend who dumped her - that is pretty much all we get. Both have good bodies and nice faces, and audience gets a lot of angles.
Once underwater, the focus is divided between the sisters who turn out to be largely interchangeable. This weakens the story as apart from a sour twist towards the end there is not much happening that wouldn't have worked with just one girl down there. Another recent "damsel with a shark" story The Shallows shows how much more effective that could have been.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Comic book Spiderman makes a comeback
This thoroughly entertaining new take on the long-loved Marvel hero unexpectedly succeeds without taking itself too seriously nor turning the story into a silly gag- fest.
As the title character, Tom Holland naturally needs to carry the film, and he does it with all the youthful energy and charm he can possibly through at the camera, not leaving a stone unturned to sell the role. It is a bit of a stretch to have him play a 15-year-old, but the only time it took me out of the movie was when he literally claimed he's 15 years old. Should have cut that one out.
This incarnation of Spiderman is tonally as meta as Deadpool, although not as outrageous and violent. A hugely popular duo among comic book crowd, these two feel instantly such a perfect fit on screen that there could well be a joint Deadpool/Spiderman outing in the pipeline. Well, at least as soon as Peter becomes -hmm- "legal".
There is really not much negative to say about this delightful Spiderman reboot. Those worrying to see yet another uncle Ben death scene need to rest assured he's not even mentioned in the movie. Even the traditional Marvel shortcoming, a convincing villain, works this time around, thanks to the quietly menacing but not heartless or rootless performance by Micheal Keaton, getting yet another chance to fly on the screen.
The one thing to complain about is that I was a bit unimpressed by the score. It didn't feel in tune with the movie, often rushing to underline emotions when no underlining was needed.
A hodgepodge of talent wasted in such pointless ways that one can only marvel what pitch got the money to make this unfunny, overly long, boring manifest against GMO foods. Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal are totally unhinged which might be funny for small kids but this is not a kids' movie as it resorts to brutal violence several times.
Things are not made any better by the titular pig's teenage patron who (for unclear reasons) is played by a one-note Korean child actor with such monotonic obsession that her friendship with the pig only looks worrying.
If something positive is to be said about this misfire then it is that the pig is well animated and integrates with its surroundings seamlessly, but its design has no personality and cannot sustain sufficient feelings to care about its fate.
Sweet Charity (1969)
Long and mostly forgettable
Shirley MacLaine tries very hard to keep this overly long chapter of love-seeking alive but somehow doesn't reach a productive synergy with Bob Fosse whose creativity seems to oddly slip whenever he has to concentrate on her quirky performance. She has no chemistry with John McMartin either, and their on-screen characters are so totally unsuitable for each other that watching their attempt at relationship unravel for the sake of their mere mutual unsuitability is not very interesting.
The few masterful dance numbers are among the most spectacular ever seen on the screen, but they come during the first half an hour after which there's still two hours to sit through, with every scene and most later musical numbers having the feeling that cutting a third off might have made them all better.
The Mummy (2017)
Suicide Squad as a Mission Impossible movie
As he's getting older, Tom Cruise is increasingly able to elevate even terrible material. The latest Mummy reboot doesn't have much going on except Cruise's dedicated head-on Ethan Hunt-esque performance and ability to land even bad jokes as well as they can possibly land. It's just that he has no chemistry with Annabelle Wallis, who has the ability of stalling any scene to a complete halt, and there isn't much tension between him and the Mummy lady Sofia Boutella either. As the story wants us to believe that there is some sort of a triangle drama going on and everything depends on its outcome, the premise fails to get off the ground and so does the movie.
The multitude of screenwriters have produced a string of entertaining scenes during the first half of the movie, but as the story gets ever more high-flying without much wind under its wings, these scenes become too disjointed and stop making sense far before the end which is so similar and equally poorly written as the Suicide Squad's finale that it is not easy to believe also this director wanted to get burnt in the same fire. The confused ending implies that later on we'll be served with some movie having something to do with this one but it isn't necessarily Mummy 2. Or maybe it is.
Captain Fantastic (2016)
Almost what you expect it to be
Captain Fantastic is decently executed, and Viggo Mortensen does a fine job in the title role. The plot goes exactly where you thought it would go, offering the conflicts and doubts and laughs and awkward situations that would be expected to arise from its premise. Each scene is slightly spiced up and peppered with more insightful details so that they won't feel utterly predictable.
Towards the end the movie falters and gets a bit lost in the poorly grounded feel-good territory that intends to offer something for everyone, especially to those in the audience who don't want the Captain and his team to be reminders about any real alternatives to the life as we know it. The final scene comes across almost as a betrayal of everything that came before it, pulling the carpet under its message and making it easier to forget.
Wonder Woman (2017)
DCU finally goes full Marvel
Giving up any attempt to further foster what remains of Nolan's brooding Batman movies, DCU finally goes the Marvel way and throws a colourful, lightweight party with not much logic and a silly boss fight at the end. Gal Gadot is so effective and charismatic in the title role, that one soon finds it impossible to feel bad about any plot holes or jumpy transitions.
Nothing too unexpected happens, and anyone liking the Marvel movies will have nothing but good things to say about this new DCU entry. If they keep this course, Marvel might finally have some real troubles heading its way.