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Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018)
I didn't really fancy the first Pacific Rim movie that much, but it did have a certain level of artistic flair. Benicio del Toro has the ability to add that to all of his movies. It is very noticeable that he has stepped back in this case and left most of the work to others, only retaining a production credit.
On the surface this movie is not that different from the original. It's still giant robots boxing with japanese-style monsters. But the narrative from the first movie, the voiceover that at least gave you the feeling of a deeper story, the philosophical tidbits... All of that is missing completely. This is something more resembling one of the crappier Transformers-sequels, "here, this is the premise, now everybody fight and destroy things!". There is nothing really wrong with the special effects or the action sequences, but it's just not satisfying. The effects look slightly worse than in the first movie, but overall they are fairly well made. Much of the fighting is set inside a major city, that feels very much like a model. It's not a believable city, and in general the feeling of huge robots and giant scale is somewhat missing. It's more like one of those old Godzilla-movies where a model set with cardboard houses is destroyed, eveything just topples a little too easily. This was something that I felt was very successful in the first movie, there was a real sense of epic fighting going on. It was enforced by really well-made music and sound effects. All of that is much weaker here, even though it feels big-budget it still looks a bit cheap. Making effective action scenes is not easy, and even though they spent the money, they didn't get bang for their buck.
Honestly, I would probably recommend people to pass on this movie. If you liked the first one, this is most likely not going to do it for you. The lacking weight, the lacking flair and storytelling. It's basically more of the same, just that much less well-made.
A jumbled mess
I have sort of enjoyed all the previous installments in the Transformers saga. I'll admit it's part nostalgia for me, but it has also been a nice set of Blockbuster-movies with great special effects, big robots and good action scenes.
I would say the movies have been getting progressively worse throughout the series, I'll also admit that the addition of Mark Wahlberg didn't really help my opinion. But there has been a certain floor as to how crappy the comic relief has been, how jumbled the story was allowed to become, how much suspension of disbelief they allowed when it came to physics and worldly constraints (still allowing of course for the fact that it's a SF-movie).
In this movie though, screen-writing and continuity has been thrown out the window. The story is completely disjointed with no proper time- line and no real coherence. There are some decent concepts and a few funny characters, it's not a boring movie as such although it's at least 30 minutes too long. Without giving any spoilers, all these movies have felt a bit like they are repeating themselves, and this is no exception. I hope that this is the final installment to be honest, this movie series has survived itself.
The Mummy (2017)
Not very entertaining
The title itself, The Mummy, promises a summer blockbuster. This, however, is not at all the same kind of vehicle as the films with Brendan Fraser. Gone is the element of comedy, replaced with a story that takes itself far too seriously.
There is undoubtedly some talent in the making of this movie. Visually it's good, effects are good and action scenes are decent. But the flaws are still the most obvious thing about this movie. Tom Cruise is almost always wooden and mostly playing the same character again and again. Here though, he is a lot worse than usual. It feels like he is on complete autopilot throughout, barely even trying to make an effort.
The real weight pulling this movie down though is the story. I don't know whether it's the victim of an editing disaster, or whether it was written this way. But the movie is a jumbled mess and has serious pacing problems. One would think that a movie with so much violence and special effects should at least be safe from boring you, but I still looked at my watch quite a few times during this movie.
In the end I have to say I prefer the movies with Brendan Fraser, and the lighter take on The Mummy. A movie not taking itself too seriously can often be forgiven for it's shortcomings. This movie has no such excuses.
Kong: Skull Island (2017)
Best monster movie I've seen in a long time
Monster movies are a genre of their own, and common rules don't apply. Plots need to follow certain formulas and the drama is always somewhat predictable. I haven't always been a fan of the genre, not least because there are a lot of big-budget stinkers in the past. This is not one of them.
First of all, breaking the standard plot for a King Kong-movie helps. Another straight remake like the one from Peter Jackson would have been unbearable. Adding a lot of well-known and well-performing actors also help. Of course the movie is packed with special effects, and yet I'm not really bothered by them the way that I often am. Not that they are very life-like or believable, but they are done with a certain flair. Also, the ape itself is just the right amount of human.
When it comes to popcorn-movies, this is the real deal. Running a very reasonable two hours (instead of the insane three hours these movies tend to run), I was never bored. Good entertainment.
Into the Badlands (2015)
A nice-looking mess
I am really ambivalent towards this show. I feel it has a lot of potential, but quite a small portion of it is actually realized. It has high production values with beautiful settings, and well- choreographed fight-scenes. Acting is hit-and-miss with the fairly wooden Daniel Wu in the center of things. Marton Csokas is playfully overplaying his part with a thick accent and flamboyant delivery.
What disappoints me most is that there are glimpses of potential in the world that this show paints. The problem is that it never goes beyond glimpses. Instead of trying to develop a decent story or develop the world and backstory, most of the time is spent chopping people to bits, kicking them in the face or blowing them up. It feels a bit like taking the easy way out, since throwing money into fight-scenes is probably easier than achieving an interesting script.
In the end, I've watched two seasons of this show now. While it's not the best show, it's still entertaining enough to keep me watching. I suppose I still have some hope for a little more story- and character development down the road. If the slows lasts long enough...
I actually enjoyed this somewhat
Superman has to be the most boring of all super heroes. Weighed down by the inherent boring quality of a perfect character. All powerful, all good and all wise he just prances around doing the right thing. I don't think any movie has really been able to complicate Superman to any relevant degree. I don't think that this movie does either, but I still found it a lot more entertaining than any of the other Superman- movies featuring Cavill. To be honest, I can't say that I have enjoyed any Superman-movie as much as most other superhero- movies.
The whole premise for this movie is of course the fight between Batman and Superman. And does it deliver? Fair enough I would say. Batman has turned into some sort of overladen, Iron Man-like cyborg walking around looking very short and stocky. Of course, if you want to fist-fight Superman you will probably need some Hardware. Action- scenes are generally fairly well-executed. Affleck is surprisingly good as Batman, and Cavill as usual does a good job with Superman (it's not his fault that it's a boring character). Jesse Eisenberg seems to enjoy himself as an erratic Lex Luthor.
Aside from a few more or less contrived cameos from the rest of the Super best friends (or Justice League or whatever), heralding more movies, and a bit of a pacing problem at times, this is a good effort. As far as popcorn-movies go, I liked it. Not as much as the latest Captain America, but I think this series has the potential to be a bit more grown-up and raw. At least I hope so.
The Shannara Chronicles (2016)
Skip this one
This seems like a series riding on the success of Game of Thrones. A little science fiction, a little fantasy, sword-fighting and demons. That doesn't have to be a bad thing, I like fantasy novels and there have been very few fantasy series worth mentioning, while science- fiction has had it's fair share of good series.
However, this is a piece of garbage. I haven't read the books, and I think that was slightly redeeming since if I had, I probably would have disliked it even more. The acting is just awful in this series, but it still pales in comparison with the writing and the overall production quality. Trolls look like bikers, gnomes look like pigs with burn-injuries, the main bad-guy looks like a black-metal singer and all the humans and elves look like extras from Twilight or a show on the Disney channel. The show looks and feels cheap with poor production-values. Somewhat like a slightly dressed-up Xena the warrior princess.
Honestly, I think they might as well cancel this show. I can't foresee anything happening that would make a second season more worth your trouble.
The Bastard Executioner (2015)
I see this show as proof of how much the bar has been raised in television over the last ten years. I am sure that this show would have been seen as edgy and cool a decade ago, but today it feels distinctly mediocre.
The Bastad Executioner has a few major flaws which mostly emanate from the writing. First of all, it's difficult to really feel any sympathy for any of the characters, they feel very thin. Even though horrible things happen to them, I can't really be made to care. Also, this show has a staggering amount of very brutal violence. In my experience, violence and sex is often used to distract from poor writing, and this is a good example.
Acting is fair, although the main character has the charisma of a glass of water. With a strong lead, some of the weaknesses might have been alleviated. Stephen Moyer seems to have fun, but mostly the field is quite weak. I don't usually mind Katey Sagal, but she is awful here with her forced eastern accent.
In the end, this show is very forgettable (except perhaps to those sensitive to violence) and honestly you can probably find a dozen shows more worthy of your time right now.
Jupiter Ascending (2015)
I like science-fiction, and by doing that I implicitly accept a certain degree of nonsense in movies. It is seldom that an SF-movie is on the spot throughout, there is usually a level of nonsense that you just have to buy in order to watch it. And usually, I don't mind. But when the degree of nonsense is so large that it blocks out everything else, we have a bit of a problem.
Jupiter Ascending starts feeling like the trailer of a proper movie. Characters are introduced very briefly, talk, cut, talk, cut. Spaceships, a man with boots that can fly, people start shooting at each other. Meanwhile, it's very unclear what is actually going on. I can imagine that this movie made about as much sense at a five-minute pitch as it does watching the whole thing. "There are aliens close by, and they like have these noble houses, and they fight for power, and this cleaning lady is like a princess and, and...". I almost immediately felt that this was "by 12-year old's, for 12-year old's". I can imagine kids having a lot of fun with this, maybe they don't mind the plot being one giant hole.
A lot of the time watching this gives you the tiresome feeling of watching a video-game where you are not at the controls. The likeness to a video-game stops there though, they are usually a lot more well-written and cohesive.
By now I guess you've understood that I didn't enjoy this. Not one bit. Honestly, the Wachowski-siblings need to take a step back and think about what they're doing. They're all over the place, mixing really good movies with trash like this one. Not even the action-scenes are acceptable, and that feels a bit like their backyard. Honestly, spend your time with something else.
I can start out by saying I'm not a fan of graphic novels. It's not that I dislike them, I simply don't read them. I have tried a couple of times, but it has never been my thing. When they get transferred to the big screen though, I find them very appealing. Something about the borderland between realism and unrealism attracts me. Not always of course, but surprisingly often.
As you might have gathered from the above, I haven't read the Watchmen graphic novel. But I still find this movie hugely appealing. I love the different characters and I especially love the feel of the movie. I don't mind calling it poetic, and not a little nostalgic. I have to admit I'm not a fan of Zack Snyder otherwise. 300 put me to sleep with it's endless and tedious slow-motion scenes, Man of Steel violated the Superman-legacy completely. This however, is genuinely good.
Of course, a lot of the kudos has to go to the actors. A bunch of them are doing a bang-up job, not least Billy Crudup who has one of the more difficult roles as Dr. Manhattan.
The movie is not perfect, there is a strange amount of gore which doesn't really fit that well with the movie in general. The plot is slightly unfocused and the ending felt slightly like a "Meh". But the movie is vastly enjoyable throughout, and I would rate this as one of my favorite among adaptations of graphic novels. Sin City for instance is more visually appealing and coherent, but this movie has a lot more interesting characters with more depth. I realize though that for fans of the graphic novel, this might be open to another interpretation completely. I also realize that this will not be for everyone. But I urge anyone to give it a try.
Didn't do it for me
I feel like a grumpy old man these days, realizing that very few movies "do it" for me any more. Skyfall is one of the movies that fail to excite me. While it's certainly competent film-making, it doesn't have that wow-factor and in the end failed to grip my attention properly.
The James Bond-franchise has felt a bit tired and outdated for a long time. While I felt that Casino Royale breathed some new life into it, Quantum of Solace was more or less a dud. This movie seems to pick up on the fact that this sort of movie is more or less an anachronism today, and they play a little with that in the story. The truth though is that I'm not sure Bond has a place in today's film. Especially not since much of what made Bond unique is more or less lost, this movie basically plays like a regular action-movie without any of the real characteristics of a Bond-movie. They have even let go of the gadgetry, and while Javier Bardem is certainly a competent actor, I think he makes a somewhat pale villain. While the Bond-franchise is struggling to get up to date, I feel that it's history is weighing it down.
Disregarding the Bond-factor this is, like I said in the beginning, competent film-making. It looks good, action-scenes are not bad (although not spectacular either). Daniel Craig is his stone-faced self, and Judy Dench is given a lot of space which is never a bad thing. Of course, as is almost standard fare today, the movie is far too long. 30 minutes could easily be cut out without diminishing the movie.
I didn't dislike the movie, it just failed to wow me. I think it has a lot to do with expectations, I want that exciting crazy feeling you got from the older Bond-films where villains where almost magically evil, and they built up entire cities inside mountains with little trains running through them. You just don't get that any more. I miss it, and Bond is a lot less compelling without that magic.
Pacific Rim (2013)
Guillermo del Toro knows his stuff
I'm always somewhat like a kid on Christmas eve when it comes to Guillermo del Toros movies. I don't expect the world or an eye-opening life-changing experience, but I do expect to be entertained. He has a combination of visual flair, and understanding of how you build an effective action scene (and in extension action movie) which makes a potent cocktail.
The plot is pure nonsense, and is rushed by mostly through voice-over right from the start. Seemingly just to get it out of the way. "Bla bla, giant monsters attack and we build robots to meet them in a boxing-match." Honestly, most of the plot is not explained much further in the film than in the trailer. Acting ranges between bland and pretty lame, some of the actors are competent performers, but it's not like they are especially challenged in this movie.
So, with that out of the way, let's talk essentials. I'm not a fan of the monsters, they look clumsy and lack elegance. Generally though, this movie is beautiful. del Toro knows how to get the adrenaline flowing with visuals and a suitably high-octane soundtrack. Everyone talks tough, walks tough and acts tough. It doesn't always work, and parts of the story feel tacked-on and just an interruption to the action. But mostly though, the movie delivers when it comes to action and excitement.
I view this as a guilty pleasure. Something that should appeal mostly to 13-year-olds, and not men three times their age. But still, even though I can't say that I feel like seeing it again, it entertained me for most of the duration.
The Lone Ranger (2013)
Why the long film?
I often wonder these days why Hollywood persists in making films that are over two hours long, regardless of the subject or genre. This is a prime example of this problem. An adventure movie needs speed, comedy, action and the drive to keep things interesting despite a usually thin script. This movie is passable as far as adventure movies go, but you could easily trim 45 minutes from it without really removing anything of note.
Acting is OK without being anything special, Johnny Depp is his usual self, lazy and not really interested any more. Armie Hammer is as stiff as the part demands. Tom Wilkinson has the kind of bad-guy role he could excel at in his sleep, Helena Bonham Carter is...well, Helena Bonham Carter. The script is wafer-thin, special-effects and production values are above par. There is not really much left of the original Lone Ranger-stuff, you don't even get the famous theme-music until quite close to the end. But all in all, the movie is fairly enjoyable as long as it lasts, but easily forgotten once it's over.
If they had just trimmed those 45 minutes away, this could have been really enjoyable.
I have now seen the first season and two episodes of the second season, and I'm impressed with this show. Making a TV-series based on Hannibal Lecter feels like a challenge. The character is so closely associated with Anthony Hopkins, and in my opinions, the quality of the franchise has suffered since Silence of the Lambs (in my opinion). I have read a few of the books and I was generally unimpressed. This show on the other hand manages to make something more out of it.
What I like most about this show is how the story progresses with each episode, many times I feel that TV-series are afraid to go places. They tend to stagnate for a few episodes and not really move the general plot forward. In Hannibal there is a distinct wish to develop the characters and the story in each episode, and I'm still interested to see where it takes us.
What I feel less ecstatic about is the level of gore in the show. I don't feel that you would really need this amount of blood and grimy killings, it doesn't add very much to the show and if you are averse to that sort of thing I imagine it could put you off. Also, there is a very dense amount of killing, many episodes feature a large amount of victims. This doesn't feel entirely credible, I don't have the statistics to know the number of serial killers in the US in the last decade. But here they seem to grow on trees.
In general the actors do a fine job. Mikkelsen is a good Lecter, although I wish that he had worked some more on getting rid of his Danish accent. Maybe I'm more bothered by it than most (being from Sweden), but it doesn't entirely fit the character. Otherwise, no complaints.
I would recommend this show to anyone wanting an interesting viewing experience, who is not really looking for casual watching, and who doesn't mind the level of gore or darkness that this show provides. It can be bothersome to watch at times, both visually and psychologically. But then again, that's sort of the point.
True Detective (2014)
After seeing True Detective back when it was released, and mulling over it a bit, I feel somewhat frustrated. There are elements of this show that I absolutely love, and elements that are incredibly frustrating.
One of the things I appreciate most about movies and TV-shows is when they manage to create an atmosphere that grows thick and really reaches out to you, through the screen. True Detective definitely manages this. From the brilliant southern landscapes, to the music and moods, all the way to the actors. It all comes together beautifully. And for more than half the season, the plot and character development manages to keep up.
Then something happens. When it gets really thick, your questions are answered and the conclusion draws near, it's as if the script-writers suddenly stopped and said "Ok, what now? Where do we go from here?". Where indeed... I will of course not write anything about the conclusion of the show, except to say that it didn't live up to the magnificent beginnings. Still, this show was one of my absolute favorites so far this year. Harrelson was great, McConaughey was glorious and the rest of the cast met expectations. It's just as dirty, sweaty and degenerate as you would hope.
This show, although slightly flawed in the department where HBO usually shines (script and plot), I would say that this show really reinforces HBO:s standing as the premier producer of first-rate TV-shows.
The boredom of sequels
It's not news that Hollywood has serious writing problems these days. Most of what comes out is tedious rehashes of things we've seen a million times before. Especially this is true of sequels where the previous movies often seem to be a heavy luggage that drags the movie down, rather than a legacy to build on.
I loved the first Pirates of the Caribbean-movie, I still think it's one of the best adventure movies in a very long time. It's got a near-perfect mix of adventure, action and comedy without ever becoming too silly or too violent. Of course it also had great actors to match. The second movie was slightly less entertaining but still good. The third one I remember seeing at the theater, but I can't for the life of me remember anything from it. Probably that's not a very good sign.
This fourth installment has all the elements that made the first movie great. It has the adventurous music, good actors (Depp, Rush, McShane etc.) and a fairly suitable mix between action and comedy. Still, it does nothing to excite me. I just sat there feeling like I had seen it all before, and nothing really came as a surprise. There is just no creativity here, like everyone is just going through the motions. Quite frankly, half-an-hour in I was beginning to get pretty bored. And of course it didn't help that each and every movie these days has to drag on for almost 2,5 hours even though there is script for about 1,5. Is there some hidden premium when you make long movies? Wouldn't it be cheaper to shoot a movie that's 90 minutes instead of 200? Many of the problems I experience with a lot of movies today could be solved by slashing 20-30 minutes from the running-time and adjusting the script accordingly.
In the end watching this is like watching Pirates of the Caribbean for the fourth time. Nothing new, nothing fresh and I found it incredibly hard to care about anything that happened. If you really like all of previous movies I guess you will like this too, since it's more of the same. But honestly, for the rest of us it's not worth the trouble. It's not as bad as the latest Transformers-movie, but seeing both of them in a short space of time I'm about fed up with Hollywood-sequels for a while. I want to see something fresh, and this corpse has been floating for a while.
A complete waste of time
I know that Michael Bay is the king of crap, and in that regard slamming one of his movies for being a jumbled mess is probably pointless. But still, despite myself I enjoyed the first two Transformers-movies. The first more than the second, but the second was alright all things considered. There has always been a mental cramp when it comes to comic-relief and the scripts have always been paper-thin. But something still appealed to me, I guess I could blame my 1980's childhood with a box full of Transformers-toys.
First of all, I said before that the scripts were paper-thin for the previous Transformers-movies. Considering that, this movie seems written on a napkin and then added to and subtracted from in a system of loose papers. Then someone dropped the pile of papers and all the pages got mixed up and nothing was where it was supposed to be... But Michael Bay seemed to say "screw it, we'll just shoot the movie anyway". If I say that this movie makes no sense, I'm being as kind as I could ever be. Most of the time it's just a confused mess of events piled on top of each other. There is no cohesion at all, there is no plausible connection to the story from the first two movies. I understand that the writers were probably struggling here to find a new approach and create something out of nothing story-wise. But they chose the wrong direction. Completely.
Second point, this movie is almost one hour too long. There are so many places where this movie could have been cut, trimmed and polished. It would even have helped with the story because it's such a mess now that you could remove most of it without it really detracting from your understanding.
Third point, this movie wastes a few pretty good actors. And no, I don't mean Gray's Anatomy, but rather John Malkovich and Frances McDormand. I think that for them this was a fire-and-forget movie. Just go in there, do the scenes, forget about it and smile when you see your bank-draft. Because people are not the main thing here, the special effects are. There is no room for characters, proper dialog or building good drama. It seems like Bay sat in his directors chair and said "Oh, these people have been talking for almost a minute, let's have a robot smash through the wall and break something before people fall asleep".
In the end this really is a complete waste of time. Special effects are, just like in the previous movies, very well done indeed. Product placements are very obvious and hugely embarrassing for all involved, especially for the companies that payed to be shown in such a crap movie. I guess if you are twelve years old and have ADD there might be something here for you, but everyone else should just stay away. This is a brainless blockbuster in every wrong way imaginable.
The Adventures of Tintin (2011)
I have loved the Tintin-albums ever since I was little. I remember going to the library, having a few on loan most of the time. They are great stories and also artistically great. There has been some controversy lately about supposedly racist content in the Tintin-albums, but honestly I don't think most people who read the albums see them that way. And also, you have to consider that these are very old cartoons written in another time. Anyway, it was with a mix of fear and anticipation that I went to see this movie.
I have to say the resulting movie has given me mixed feelings. It's a very divided experience with the first half feeling more like the albums. It's a puzzle mystery, the slapstick comedy of Thomson and Thompson and in general classic Tintin-fare. The second half contains a lot more action and feels like classic Spielberg-fare more than anything. I have nothing against Spielberg, but I'm not so sure that making Tintin into Indiana Jones is my preferred choice. Since I watched the movie in 3D (the only way to watch the movie with original language here) I found a little extra testing with the many fast and pretty roller-coaster-like action scenes.
Considering that the movie is based on more than one album (three if I remember correctly), it can be a bit strange for those of us who know the stories. But in the end I think that the writing was above expectation. Even though the focus on action sequences in the latter half of the movie was a bit overdone, I think that the movie is very watchable. Tintin looks a bit creepy at times with his pale and waxy complexion, but Haddock is very well done and transports the character from the albums superbly. Although I don't remember him as having such a big nose...
In the end I would have preferred a more toned-down movie with more emphasis on mystery and less on action. But I guess they have to sell their video games and appeal to kids with ADD as well. Considering that there will probably be a bunch of sequels I can always hope for a more subdued experience next time. I guess mostly I'm just happy they didn't ruin it.
I give it 7/10.
Bangkok Dangerous (2008)
A lackluster outing
I remember seeing the original Thai version of Bangkok Dangerous at the Stockholm Film Festival when it came out a few years ago. And I really liked it, i think that the Pang brothers have talent. I was actually surprised to see that they had also directed this remake, because this is one of the worst action movies i have seen this year. And that's saying quite a lot...
The whole premise and storyline follow form 1A, there are no surprises and no inventiveness whatsoever. The story arc can be seen a mile away, which might not be a disaster if the whole thing is well executed. Unfortunately it is not. There are so many problems with this movie that I hardly know where to start. Action scenes are poorly shot and executed, the acting is substandard, the characters are all caricatures and there isn't a single moment of true suspense in the whole movie. And then I haven't even mentioned Nicholas Cage yet.
It seems that Nicholas Cage is stuck somewhere in the late 90's when he had his heyday as a solid action star. Con Air, Face/Off and a couple of other movies made him established in the genre. And I actually liked both the movies and him quite a lot. But it seems that he can't let go of that. In this movie it's painfully obvious how much he has aged in the 10-15 years since. Several times I wanted to scream "act your age!" at him when he tried to perform action moves that would have been appropriate for someone twenty years his junior. This wouldn't have been a great movie even with a more suiting actor, but Cage's lackluster performance and haggard look didn't do Bangkok Dangerous any favors.
Mostly this movie felt to me like one of those films where nobody was really trying. Cage came and went, doing his job without enthusiasm. The other actors feel like a collection of local talent far from able to carry this movie, especially not since Cage failed them. I would definitely recommend anyone to skip this movie and watch the original instead. It might not have been a masterpiece but it was definitely a lot better than this mess. This is just another one of those remakes that doesn't make anyone happy.
Disaster movies is very far from my favorite genre. Ever since i first watched the disaster movies from the 70's as a kid i have had trouble with them. And watching "2012" i can't say that the genre has come a long way since the 70's either. Sure the movie looks better, but beyond that? So, what are the positives here? Well, the movie does have some pretty good special effects. Of course they are over-done and over-used, but that's the way you have to play it with a movie like this one. Also you have some pretty good actors doing their best with the material. I also found the movie quite entertaining until all hell broke loose...
The negatives are, however, easier to point out. Honestly, Roland Emmerich is one of the most uninteresting directors of our time. He seldom makes anything interesting, usually it's just sentimental and clichéd, effect-driven movies. Not my cup of tea to say the least, and to top it off this movie is like regular Emmerich on steroids... The whole world is literally destroyed in this movie, entire cities ground to dust. And in-between the scenes of destruction are moral preachings and sentimental scenes that are quite hard to stomach. The movie follows a well trodden path and a strict formula, and how exciting is that? Not very.
In the end i think this movie shows two things. Firstly that disaster movies are still unbearably boring to watch. Secondly that special effects can be used to do anything today, which ultimately make the effects less special. I remember watching Jurassic Park when it came out. I was completely mesmerized with the special effects, they actually made the dinosaurs come alive! But today, special effects are nothing to be excited about. They are everywhere and a heavy use of CGI is expected in every big-budget movie. And unless there is something behind all the effects; a great story or at least some substance, the effects amount to nothing. They days when i watched movies just because of the special effects are over.
So hopefully this is the last cry of the shallow, special-effects laden Hollywood-movie. Now they have destroyed the entire world with millions of pixels and huge detail, so we have seen basically everything. Now they have to wow us with something else. And even as i write this i know it's not what's going to happen. Crap like this will be released next year too.
But i won't watch it.
30 Days of Night (2007)
A good idea wasted
I don't even know why i watch vampire-movies any more. The genre has become a marsh-land of mediocrity. But i guess i liked the premise of this movie. Living in the north myself i can relate to long and dark winters, and how this would actually benefit the vampire (if he or she can stand the cold that comes with it).
My main problem with this movie is undoubtedly the fact that they wasted the whole premise completely. First of all they have no idea how winters in the north work. Here it's: one day there is regular sunlight, daylight for hours. The Next day it's complete blackness that goes on for thirty days. Doesn't that strike people as odd. They would have had almost no sunlight at all for a long time before it turns into complete darkness. Well, whatever. That's a minor point, even if it does make the plot a lot more nonsensical.
A larger part of the problem is that they haven't done anything fun with the darkness. There is no skulking vampires, no regular town getting picked off one by one while life tries to go on. Rather this is a sudden slaughter and then humans skulking around. Without revealing too much i have to say that i would have preferred the other way around. After all the vampires come there to have a steady food supply over the winter while being able to walk around 24 hours a day. Basically that's not what happens.
So, i liked the premise but not the execution. What of the other qualities of the movie? Special effects? Actors. Well, the effects are decent enough for the most part although it's nothing you haven't seen about a million times already. Vampires are pale with bad teeth, walking around wheezing and growling for no reason. The heroes are Mr goody two-shoes (Josh Hartnett) and a motley crew of not too interesting townsfolk. And of course there is the always-present ex-wife/girlfriend with a pretty face.
Honestly, this movie bored me. There is a lot more finesse required for the vampire genre to do it for me. And if not finesse then maybe a sense of humor or good action scenes. What we have here is basically a long wait for something to happen. And when it finally does, it's less than exciting. I actually found myself preferring the Blade-movies to this one. At least there something happens and the vampires are menacing in an entertaining way. This is mostly just a good idea completely wasted. I rate this 3/10.
Very poor writing
Sidney Lumet is a name that i recognize instantly. So, a classic director. But then i start to wonder which of his movies i've seen. When i look here at IMDb i find that most of what i've seen and liked was made in the 1960's or 1970's. And after seeing this movie it certainly seems that Lumet has lost some of his touch. Although the writing department is perhaps even more to blame for this mess.
First off i called the movie a mess in the paragraph above. I can start here by saying that it's not half as bad as most other movies that i call a mess. This movie is just too messy for it's own good. There is one thing they just like too much, and that is to skip back and forth in time. It seems every time a scene in this movie starts to become interesting they freeze the frame and suddenly we jump three days back, or forward, in time. I can tell you that this didn't work for me. It's very seldom that this actually works, and it demands good writing. And good writing is seriously lacking here.
Bad scripts usually have a few things in common. First of all, a story that doesn't get you interested (check!), characters that are caricatures or paper-thin (check!), dialog that doesn't work (check! saying the f-word a thousand times is not a substitute for good dialog). And then of course we have the chopped-up time-line. Mostly though that is a symptom of bad writing rather than a major problem in itself. If the rest of the movie had been engaging, interesting and tight i could have accepted it.
Philip Seymour-Hoffman is a great actor. His character also has some potential although he never gets to realize it. Ethan Hawke is not an awful actor, but i still have serious dislike for him. And he (as usual) looks fifteen years old and completely lost. Albert Finney has perhaps the most thankless part of all, having a very emotional character that doesn't really get to develop at all.
I have complained a lot in this review, and for the most part i think it's well deserved. This is just not good workmanship. The movie is confused, poorly written and has characters that for the most part deserve a bullet in the face and are hard to sympathize with (Albert Finney's father is an exception). Mostly though this is a very bland movie which is also overly long. It could easily have been fifteen minutes shorter without detracting anything from the story or experience. This might work as light entertainment, although there are literally dozens of thrillers i would recommend over this one.
I wasn't really that interested in the movie Beowulf, but i when i got a chance to see it on DVD i thought i might as well. And honestly it was a bewildering experience.
Robert Zemeckis is in my opinion a fairly competent director, although not the most exciting one. Somehow it seems he's made it his "thing" to make special-effects heavy movies that even have effects where none are needed. I remember watching the (quite good) "What Lies Beneath", not realizing that almost every scene had been full of CGI. So it seems that Zemeckis gets a high from CGI (it rhymes!) and of course to each his own... But Beowulf really suffers from this. Maybe it's just me, but i can't see the point of this movie being animated like it is. You take good actors, nice-looking actors, and animate them to look like plastic versions of themselves. The effect is somewhat reminiscent of a slightly more realistic Shrek. Why would they do this? The CGI is so good today that they could just record the movie in front of a green-screen and add whatever they want, why animate the characters? This is my main problem with this movie, especially since the CGI doesn't look very good. The animations are stiff and objects seem to lack weight and substance in a way that was more common in CGI a couple of years ago.
I can't say that this movie "did it" for me aside from the CGI either. The story has been seen many times before and it's not really spectacular any more. I wouldn't go as far as to say it's uninteresting, but it does lack something to make it truly interesting. A definite upside to the movie is the actors. There are many recognizable voices (and faces, although they look plastic-wrapped) and many of them do a fine job with the material. I have always liked Ray Winstone and he doesn't disappoint here either. Most of the supporting cast were good, and Angelina Jolie was awful as usual. I honestly don't see what she has going for her except her looks. She re-uses the Russian accent from "Alexander" and puts in another pathetic performance. It's impressive to get so far while being so lousy in most of what you do.
Anyway, to sum things up i guess this could have been an interesting movie save for a few major flaws. We have a story that's a bit bland, characters that are hard to care about and a visual style that is severely lacking. On the upside we have mostly good actors, a good orchestral score and fair entertainment as long as it lasts. The next time around i hope they go for a more natural look, skip the CGI and work harder on the script. Unfortunately, this movie is mediocre.
Battlestar Galactica (2004)
Not very good
I like Sci-fi and always have. I can remember how much i loved the old Star Wars-movies when i was little and growing up reading loads and loads of SF-books. And i still do, although my tastes are maybe a bit different now. But still, i always loved science-fiction.
The TV-series exploring that genre are seldom good. I can say that right away. While some of them have something special (like my much beloved Babylon 5), most of them lack both in funds and bright ideas. A show like Star Wars have never really done it for me, there is just not enough happening. I guess i have always been drawn to the more action-oriented series. And so of course i had to check out the new Battlestar Galactica series.
And what did i think? Well, at first i didn't know what to think. I can't say that i ever loved it, but then again i did watch three whole seasons before i suddenly decided that i was finished with it. The show is plagued by many of the problems that exist in most SF-series. It has weak special effects, rather silly props (people driving hum-vees, using today's weapons etc.) and a bunch of actors that are not up to standard. Some of them are quite good though, although too much of the supporting cast is lousy. The story and script is not that bad really, although it sometimes feels a bit simplistic.
In general Battlestar Galactica doesn't suck. It's a definite champion over crap like the Stargate-franchise and many other shows in that style. But still, it doesn't really do it for me. I watched three seasons in short order (on DVD and the last episodes on TV), but there is nothing really that makes me want to watch the fourth season. No reason to keep at it. So i'll stop, and i'm not even sure it was fun while it lasted. Right now it just feels like some gray mist where i can't even really remember what the show was about. I guess though that if i put up with three seasons of it, it can't have been all bad. Just not very good.
We Own the Night (2007)
I had heard a lot of people talking about "We Own the Night". Most people were very positive, saying that it's really good. Despite that it took a long time for me to finally coming around to watching the DVD.
Hype is always a dangerous thing. Some movies seemed to be all hyped up for very little reason. Of course, sometimes movies live up to the hype and are just as good as the rumor says. "We Own the Night" though is not one of those. There are a few strong points here, but overall this is not a great movie. The plot feels thin, characters feel a bit hollow and in general i think it lacks something that really makes me care about what happens.
Strong points are mainly a nice set of actors. Wahlberg has never been one of my favorites, although lately he's improving and this movie is no exception. Joaquin Phoenix is solid as always, and Robert Duvall always adds a bit of class. Some of the supporting cast have one big problem though, and that is a very stereotyped bunch of characters for them to work with. The Russian mobsters are almost caricatures, and so are many of the cops.
Another strong point is the visual style. The movie looks nice with a good atmospheric 1980's feeling to it. And in the end that is a good metaphor for the movie. On the surface it has decent actors, a nice look to it and a fairly decent story. But the depth is missing. This is not a bad movie, but to me it was easily forgotten.