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Broken Arrow (1950)
To talk of peace is not hard. To live it is very hard.
'Broken Arrow' is a wonderful Western classic starring James Stewart, Jeff Chandler and Debra Paget. This movie can be seen as a romantic story, or a story about moral integrity. Film is based on historical figures, but the events are heavily dramatized - some can say that the film was too naive and overly romanticized, but no one can argue that it is a well made movie. How anyone will perceive it, it will say more about the viewer than about the movie itself.
'Broken Arrow' is one of the first major Westerns since Second World War to delve into Indian lifestyle and portray Indians positively balanced way, although most of the Indians were played by white actors. Movie follows Tom Jeffords (James Stewart), an ex-Union soldier who comes across with wounded Apache boy dying from gunshot wounds. Jeffords nourishes the boy back to health. When the boy's tribesmen appear, hostile at first, they allow Jeffords to leave for the appreciation for his help. Jeffords, tired of war and killings, studies the ways of Apache, and plans to meet the Apache war chief Cochise (Jeff Chandler). The hostility of Cochise towards Jeffords grows into respect and an ex-Army officer becomes the main proxy between Indians and white men in negotiations for peace. Jeffords falls in love with an Indian girl Sonseeahray (Debra Paget), and with very little opposition the two marry. This love story arc might first seem too obvious and sappy, but it is well tied into the main event, and it nicely supports the film message.
'Broken Arrow' might not be the greatest Westerns out there, but it is still fantastic movie with masterful acting and direction, accompanied with magnificent scenery, and what's most important is the film's beautiful message - can't we just all live like brothers. And the question it raises - who are the real savages at the end? Very different movie from that era, but nonetheless a great one.
Litsid: The Whores (2018)
We Live for Stalin's Big Thing
This series tells the story of a small country in the turmoils of WWII through the eyes of the employees of an elite brothel. The premise is quite interesting, and as I like unconventional heroes, I was sold. Plus, the show got plenty oh hype about the extensive research and preparations to capture the essence of that period. And yet, the show doesn't live up to its hype, although with interesting setting and subject matter, the show feels uninspired and unimaginative most of the time. The first couple of episodes were quite dull and boring, with wooden acting and static directing (throughout the show there were moments were camera sat still, and then suddenly started to move, almost like the director got a sudden flash of, oh we got to move the camera or the picture feels static). The characters developed over time and became more lively changing the wooden dolls with real humane characters, but still, only a few characters got some more extra layers added to them, while the rest stayed as talking heads with trivial conversations. The story also developed, but many plot devices and nuances were underused, or not used at all. Most of all, the show failed to create any proper mood or atmosphere. Too many important events weren't shown but told instead by other characters' unpassionate newscaster's manner. I understand that low budget set some restrictions, but that's why the show feels safe (and here I don't mean lack of raunchy scenes considering the placing of the bulk of the story) and uncreative. I guess the creators of the show could have spent more energy on script and atmosphere than historical accuracy of some minor knick-knacks - beauty lies in the details, I know, but sometimes you have to hone those things that are not always visible at first sight.
Not the greatest historical shows in television history, and despite its many flaws, the show still manages to build some mild interest and sympathy. But if you are not very into the political situation of WWII, then it is very easy to move on as the show simply isn't that exciting. There are rumors about the second season, and how the last episode ended, one can expect the continuation of the story. The only hope is that the makers will be more bold with the second season (if they ever decide to make it).
The Predator (2018)
This Franchise Is Officially Exhausted
'The Predator' is an example of what happens when a talented writer/director turns into a hack. The screenplay seems rushed, there is no development in characters, neither in the story. Just bunch of people running around from scene to scene while exchanging cheesy lines. I guess the first two 'Predator' movies used up all the ideas where the franchise could grow because everything that came after the second one where all (although seemingly promising) trivial, and forgettable. Lines, although sometimes seemingly deliberate, were too horrible. Characters were just faces with names attached. What a waste of capable cast.
'The Predator' offers some nice B-movie thrills, and special effects are good, but one is justified to expect much more from a movie with a famous title, talented cast and budget nearly $90 million. 'The Predator' has run out of steam.
Bird Box (2018)
The Happening Done Right
What 'Bird Box' is, is a better-realized version of the infamous M. Night Shyamalan's 'The Happening'. Yet, this movie doesn't quite reach its full potential. An unknown, unseen and unexplained power (these are called monsters in the movie) forces people to commit violent suicides. The visuals are gorgeous and the film has a hauntingly ominous atmosphere. Sandra Bullock is a brutal force and carries the whole movie on her shoulders. The rest of the characters are quite trivial and flat (well, except John Malkovich's Douglas, but that is because of John Malkovich). Still, 'Bird Box' is quite an alright movie, especially if you like atmospheric horror films. And Sandra Bullock's highly dedicated performance is the reason alone to watch this movie. Just drop your suspense of disbelief and lower your logical thinking, and you might enjoy this chilly ride.
More powerful than the fear of death itself is the will to win.
The rivalry between Niki Lauda and James Hunt is one of the most iconic throughout the motor racing history, and in the history of the sports in general. Niki Lauda's comeback is probably the top10 unbelievable and inspirational comebacks of all times. The relationship between Hunt and Lauda was a little bit over-dramatized for the movie, but not too much. In real life, the two drivers were good friends and had immense respect towards each other, and the film, although antagonizing them with each other, manages to show how deeply these two guys respected each other. Chris Hemsworth does a brilliant job as James Hunt and Daniel Brühl is simply phenomenal as Niki Lauda. I think it was unfair that he didn't even get the nomination for the Academy Awards, and this snub might be the biggest embarrassment in the history of Ocars.
'Rush' captures the essence and the period, and the dangers of racing perfectly. Film's fast pace makes the viewer feel excited like watching a real race. The movie jumps right into the story without spending too many extra minutes for introducing the characters. Yet nothing is left unsaid, and the viewers who are not particularly familiar with the history of Formula1 racing will be perfectly informed. The characters and story are set with minimal time, but with maximum intensity, thus leaving more room for the racing on (and off) the track.
Leave it to Ron Howard if you want a historically accurate biographical movie on the epic scale. Racing fan or not, 'Rush' will not leave you untouched with its sleek visual style and inspiring story that races on with 200mph. Racing fan or not, you will like this movie, as it is as much about real people than about the racing.
P.S. The first time I saw the film was in its initial run in 2013. Its impact was still present in 2019 when I watched it the second time. It is interesting how the person's values change over time - in '13 I liked Hunt because of his easygoing rebel attitude, but in'19 I sympathized more with Lauda and his straightforward attitude, concentration and dedication for work.
Man on the Moon (1999)
He Went to the Moon and Never Came Back
I have to say that besides his name and the fact that he was a comedian, I didn't know anything much about Andy Kaufman. One thing that the movie did was raising interest in me about that peculiar artist's life and work (I'm going to do my homework now). On that basis, I can't say how much justice the movie did to Andy Kaufman, but one thing is sure - he probably was the most annoyingly interesting artist out there. And he seemed truly to be out there. By the time 'Man on the Moon' came out, Jim Carrey's serious acting talents weren't that big surprise anymore. And in here he proved again that he's much more capable than being Ace Ventura.
The film itself is quite a classical story about rising to fame, and about artistic integrity. The wide audience has always been the same - demanding the same funny skit over and over again, while the artist has something new to say. And all the producers also want you to do the same - be safe, but funny. I guess the real genius of Andy Kaufman lied about how he handled these situations, rather than his brand of humor.
'Man on the Moon' manages to be warm, intelligent and inspiring all at the same time.
You Were Never Really Here (2017)
Joe also has some specific set of skills.
Joaquin Phoenix boasting a Fidel Castro beard and staring intensely at people or stuff. 'You Were Never Really Here' is kind of movie that you either hate or love. I loved it, and I believe that it raised Lynne Ramsay into my favorite directors category. In recent years I we have seen so many films that are all great (well, at least good, or watchable), but we already know the story. This movie is nothing new in the storywise. But Lynne Ramsay shows us that there are so many visual tricks to tell worn-out tales with the breeze of freshness. I know, many people call this piece artsy-fartsy pretentious crap, but there is something in this movie. And not only Joaquin Phoenix's powerful performance. 'You Were Never Really Here' is very complex way to tell simple, already known story. We are given only glimpses of the background of the story, yet everything is clear what is actually going on. Little bit more attention to the details and nothing is confusing. I also like the way the violence was depicted - brutal, but noting overly explicit (not that I mind gore, but it is nice to see something refreshing every once in a while). The ending (that is almost a twist) is quite clever social commentary, and at the same time it closes the circle of the whole movie's dreamlike atmosphere.
'You Were Never Really Here' is basic revenge story that is not your basic revenge story.
The Professor and the Madman (2019)
These Are Just Words
In the era where superheroes and over the top special effects ridden adventure flicks are ruling the cinemas (and TV), it is rare to get to see such a down to earth historical drama that relies on a good script and acting. Mel Gibson and Sean Penn give us performances that overshadow any CGI helicopter flying through the explosions. Works of Natalie Dormer, Eddie Marsan, and Steve Coogan are doing very well themselves, and all the principal cast has good chemistry between them. The directing is quite straightforward and nothing flashy or stylish. One can say, that the direction lacks any style, but the more we have time to focus on the inspiring story and appreciate marvelous acting. It is interesting to learn how superficial were many of the intellectual decision makers even back then. The World has always thrived only thanks to very few (insanely) dedicated people with clear goals. Rest of us has always been tag alongs including those who seemingly are in power to make changes.
A well crafted historical movie that is much more interesting than its original premise might promise. And don't listen to all the professional critics.
The Professor (2018)
That's not bravery, that's apathy.
'The Professor' is nothing original in the art of storytelling general. The tale of a successful intelligent man in midlife crises whose life crumbles into pieces is nothing new and 'The Professor' managed to bring nothing new onto the table. Well, except the warm and wonderful performance of Johnny Depp, the kind we have been waiting a long long time. The story itself is nothing new. The film is nicely paced and most of the side characters are well-developed. But overall, the film is confused about his own identity. It tries to be raunchy and provocative, and it raises some nice points, but then starts to hesitate and pulls back. There lies this movie's (and many other modern comedies) biggest flaw - it wanted to be edgy, but it simply didn't have the guts to go all the way, thus wasting the potential of raunchy, but intelligent comedy. Still, there are plenty of juicy and thoughtful moments and Johnny Depp's performance (one of the best of his in recent years, and probably even his whole career) that is a rollercoaster itself.
A warm human tragedy with darkly comedic undertones and great performances, but unfortunately underdeveloped screenplay throws too much potential out of the window.
Rebel in the Rye (2017)
Not So Rebllious Biopic About Rebellious Author
'Rebel in the Rye' is not an awful movie, it features some creat acting (Nicholas Hoult shines as the reclusive author, and Kevin Spacey and Srah Paulson bring their known quality on the table), and the screenplay is relatively well written with good pacing, but perhaps little too less dramatic edge. The film is following all the known standards and safe traits in modern biographical movies, thus it might not be the most fascinating cinematic pieces out there. Still, the movie shouldn't be dismissed that easily. Besides the wonderful acting jobs, the film manages to offer quite a nice overview from J.D. Salinger's career, what inspired him the most and what made him tick. Overall, the film is not that memorable - nice script, nice directing, good actors, but everything is just somehow too neat. Nothing we haven't already experienced with countless of other biographical movies made in the last ten or so years. In some sense, I can understand the safe approach because of the subject - legendary author whose life was as iconic as his literary output. And I didn't expect to see some controversial themes or lude details of Salinger's private life (when it comes to historical figures, this is least of my interests), but a whole, the movie felt too stale and stencil crafted. Yet, the film manages to show the screenwriter/director's obvious respect towards Salinger and with that, the film is oddly likable.
'Rebel in the Rye' might not be the most interesting piece of visual storytelling, but if you enjoy character-driven movies with great acting, then this one is not the most boring one. Plus, you might learn something new about Salinger, and about writing in general.
To Live and Die in L.A. (1985)
We lucked out, Johnny, we lucked out.
'To Live and Die in L.A.' is often compared with William Friedkin's better known (but not much superior) 'The French Connection'. Compared often by those of course who have ever even heard of TLADILA. And compared they are mostly because both movies contain awesome car chase sequences (the majority prefer the on in 'The Frenc Connection') and morally grey protagonists. Although, I have to say that Gene Hackman's Popeye Doyle is a real Boy Scout compared with William Petersen's agent Chance (I'm not comparing the performances, but the characters).
'To Live and Die inL.A.' is stylish and intense to its core. Beautiful cinematography that turns the city of Los Angeles one of the main characters of the movie accompanied by an awesome soundtrack by Wang Chung. William Petersen acts his soul out to greate adrenaline junky, work-obsessed Secret Service agent on the hunt of the infamous counterfeiter. To be exact - that one particular criminal is agent Chance's obsession, who he needs to capture at any costs. And the costs are getting pretty high. The counterfeiter, Rick Masters, is portrayed by ever great Willem Dafoe with an equal amount of intensity and intelligence. The psychological tension when these two play cat and mouse with each other makes the screen sizzle even more than all those hot and colorful explosions we so often see nowadays.
Criminally unknown and underrated movie. Easely Top10 action thrillers of the 1980s.
Porter Is Back In Town and Not Everyone Welcomes Him
'Payback' oozes with coolness and pure style. It also boasts with one of the best Mel Gibson's performances throughout his career. And he is supported by not much less talented cast - Maria Bello, Gregg Henry, James Coburn, Kris Kristofferson. Them and many other well-known character actors who act the hell out of this simple (but, nicely written and paced) but not that trivial screenplay. Cheesy and near awful oneliners are delivered with such aplomb that they would feel much less in the hands of lesser actors (and directors). The film uses many cliches and (even by that time) worn-out genre tropes. Brian Helgeland (who also penned the screenplay for 'L.A. Confidential') definitely knows how to use the old stuff in some new inventive way.
'Payback' doesn't compare with some of the greatest crime dramas (not even with 'L.A. Confidential'), but one shouldn't confuse it with them. 'Payback' stands as pure genre exploration, and it does it with much style.
The Insider (1999)
I'm running out of heroes, guys like you are in short supply.
'The Insider' is as stylish as it is thought-provoking. Based on real-life events makes the film timeless, but more, the overall message the movie carries beneath its devastating true story makes the film even more poignant today - the era where corporate greed has grown, and manipulation with media is so out of hands that they barely try to hide it anymore. Michael Mann uses magnificently his trademark action film aesthetics to bring this deep humane crime drama on to the screen. Stylish editing, novel camera movements and slow-motion don't draw any attention from the story, but it enhances the fear that the characters are going through. The visual style adds just another layer of intensity to already a suspenseful story and wonderful acting works. Three hours pass quickly and the viewers are kept on the edge of their seats while the story progresses.
Magnificent and thrilling drama. Unfortunately, this sort of true-life dramas on epic proportions is a thing from the past.
I know I'm not one of your favorites.
'Constantine' used to be a heavily underrated action fantasy film, but it gained some more recognition later, and it has obtained somewhat of a cult following. The film was financial success upon its release, but it got compared too much with other otherworldy Keanu Reeves's action flick - 'The Matrix'. To be honest, 'Constantine' is not even comparable with a far superior 'The Matrix'. Still 'Constantine' has very slick production values, stylish action and of course, intriguing premise. Add supercool Keanu Reeves at his stoic best, and a wonderful supporting cast (come on - Peter Stormare as Satan!), and you have your high octane entertaining (and don't forget thought-provoking) supernatural thriller. Not to mention the film's strong anti-smoking message.
Prisoners of the Revenge
'Prisoners' is a classic revenge story disguised as a psychological thriller about justice. Ant this is a very fine disguise. Visually striking (can Denis Villeneuve direct movies any other way) and moody ride. Yet, this is one of those movies where the story itself is overshadowed by the complexities and deeds of the characters. As a viewer, I was more interested in the people and their problems than the actual mystery in the story. Purely storywise 'Prisoners' is not very inventive, although the screenplay is masterfully written, and all the twists are well thought out. Characters and their actions are believable and their reactions relatable (I guess we can never give enough accolades for the superb cast in this one). A nice tense thriller that captures your attention for its full 2 and a half hours running time.
Gran Torino (2008)
Grumpy Old Car
'Gran Torino' is probably the best (modern) movie about cars. Yeah, take that you obnoxious and loud 'The Fast and the Furious' franchise. 1972 Ford Gran Torino is one fabulous car that is one of the stars of the movie and also serves as a metaphor for the good old days in Walt Kowalski's (Clint Eastwood) life. 'Gran Torino' is not a genre movie. It is not a crime story or an action film or the revenge tale, and not even proper drama or comedy. It is a simple straightforward movie that just tells the stories of its main characters and doesn't ad any agenda into the mix. Deeply moving film with a simple (but not shallow) story and complex characters.
Have You Ever Met Your Other?
'Counterpart' is quite peculiar TV-series. It is a mixture of very different genres, and when someone should ask me to describe it with few words, I'd say - it is technically superb interdimensional spy thriller with some magnificent acting. As the writing goes, the episodes vary in quality. Although the pilot was magnificent and quite captivating, it seems to me that there were perhaps too many filler episodes just to drag the story longer. This bothered me some, but thanks to the beautiful visual style and dedicated actors it was easy to overlook that (especially as I tend to like slow-burning dramas and thrillers). I can't go without mentioning the superb sound design and editing (probably one of the best in recent television history).
If you don't find any other reason to watch this show (let's say you're not a big sci-fi fan) then at least give the pilot a try just to witness the remarkable talent of J.K. Simmons who simply shines in the dual roles of Howard Silk. Although same man, but from the different worlds. The brilliance of his portrayal of two different versions of the same man lays in the details. It is quite clear who is who, but how subtle is Simmons's acting when the two Howards switches places. Without those subtle details (those nanoseconds long glances and smirks) the whole series would be much more confusing. I also liked how the two different versions of the same man were written, and how it was shown how some minor words can change the whole life. Why one Howard was a gentle and warm-hearted loving husband, while the other Howard was straightforward with a no-nonsense attitude that made him sound almost like a real jerk. Yet, I couldn't decide which version of him I liked more. Although Howard Alpha was very sympathetic and although seemingly clueless, quite adaptive, and thus very likable, I occasionally started to miss Prime Howard's antics while resolving different issues.
The twists and turns of life are beautifully written out to some other major (and even some side) characters. Yet some character arcs that were left fully developed (Ian Shaw) and thus leaving the taste of needless filler to some episodes. And I can't go without mentioning that Ulrich Thomsen was criminally underrated - his character had much more potential than we were shown.
There were some minor plotholes (that can't be discussed without spoiling stuff) and some little inconsistencies, but they weren't that distracting to draw too much attention away from the main plot and fantastic acting.
Visually stunning, well acted, and full of unexpected surprises. 'Counterpart' is definitely your show if you like intelligent sci-fi with (mostly) satisfying conclusions.
Counterpart: Better Angels (2019)
I can't say that 'Better Angels' is a perfect ending for the whole series, but I was satisfied with it. I liked it. For me, it was a fantastic conclusion. And with that, I'm actually glad that they decided not to go into the third season. It probably would have felt forced, as it felt with some episodes in the second season.
Well, anyway, big thanks for the creators who managed to produce such a captivating series with a quite peculiar and original premise.
Don't let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.
'Heat' is probably the most stylish realistic action movies of all times. It has been rare throughout cinematic history to get action film that emphasizes the substance as much as pure style. The film's story is so perfectly balanced that it makes the viewers question their morality. Thanks to the superb performances by two of the greatest actors in film, and their charisma along with their on-screen chemistry, it is easy to sympathize with both of them. You just want to Robert DeNiro's Neil get away as much as you want Al Pacino's Vincent to catch him. And what a fantastic group of actors both leads got on their side. It is simply pleasuring to watch such a rich supporting cast. Everything in 'Heat' is in epic proportions, and so is the length of the movie, but it is so masterfully paced that you almost don't notice how three hours are passing. Magnificent and exciting action sequences alternate with moody and emotional quiet scenes. I have to say that when people talk about 'Heat' they usually forget one of the main stars. And this, of course, is the city of Los Angeles.
Counterpart: You to You (2019)
Upstairs has an urgent message.
Two Emilys meet eye to eye first time and a lot is cleared between them. Howard Prime will ally with Baldwin to stop the Indigo. Howard Alpha gets the chance to return home. Mira and Yanek are captured by Ian Shaw.
Two very nice cliffhangers, and a couple of smaller problems that need to be resolved. 'You to You' might not be the best episode of the season, but it might have the best cliffhanger with Mira's final haunting words. The episode brought many things together, so the viewers can go and enjoy the conclusive final episode with a clear picture of who is who, and what is what.
All Bets Are In.
'Casino' is probably the last of the real epic mob dramas. Martin Scorsese's stylish tale of power, greed, and deception is based on real-life organized crime associate, Lefty Rosenthal. The screenplay is penned by Scorsese and his collaborator from 'Goodfellas', Nicholas Pileggi. The movie is three hours long, and it might feel like it drags on places, but the writing is perfect. And what fantastic performances by the actors. The main cast (Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, James Woods, Don Rickles, and Sharon Stone in one of her best roles) is supported by magnificent mob movie heavyweights like Vinny Vella and Frank Vincent. Nearly half of the movie is told through narrations that are quite descriptive, so it almost feels like you are watching (listening) visual audiobook. But the narrations are spot on and contains some of the best lines from the movie. Especially the ones from Joe Pesci whose narration is so smooth and calm compared to his hot-tempered character Nicky Santoro.
A pure, classic mob movie in the best Martin Scorsese style.
Counterpart: In from the Cold (2019)
Everyone's on the Run.
Both Howards and both Emilys learn something about themselves and their others. Now they all have to face the consequences. Clare tells Peter about the plans of Mira and Indigo. Baldwin still hasn't vanished out of sight.
'In from the Cold' is a magnificent episode that combines drama and action. Compared with the majority of episodes, this one is quite fast-moving and action-packed, yet it still has plenty of emotional impact as all the main characters have learned their position in the game. This episode also ties some together some knots and thus drawing the picture clearer, but still leaving plenty of opportunities for the story to end.
Counterpart: No Strings Attached (2019)
On the Leash
Howard and Emily Burton make discoveries about the history of the management. Clare Quayle's doubts about the holy cause of the Prime world are growing bigger. Peter Quayle is getting tired of being the pawn.
'No Strings Attached' starts to take the covers off from the extent of the conspiracy. We aren't told yet, but we are given clues about what might happen. Even those who think they are running the game are starting to discover that they are just puppets. A nice episode that leads us closer to the (hopefully exciting) climax.
Counterpart: Twin Cities (2019)
The wall must come down.
By now, we all know about what 'Counterpart' is all about. There are two parallel worlds that started as identical, but somewhere along the way, they started to grow different. We know that the doorway was opened in 1987, and 1996 there was a big flu epidemic that killed millions in the Prime World. Yet we know that the differences started before the epidemic. 'Twin Cities' does a perfect job of explaining the beginnings of the 'Alpha' and 'Prime'. As we are given only the details of a bigger picture in the past fifteen episodes, then now we can see the full picture. 'Twin Cities' might not be the most exciting origins story in TV history, but it is well written, and it somehow came at the right moment in the progress of the second season. The most important - this episode didn't feel forced like it was written for the pilot that would push the ball rolling.
Placing the crossing point into the East-Berlin is quite nice touch, a little allegory of the Wall that I have enjoyed from the beginning of the show.
L.A. Confidential (1997)
Sometimes you have to become corrupt to root out the corruption.
What a meticulously crafted crime drama. 'L.A. Confidential' doesn't only stand the test of time because of its detailed script and direction, magnificent acting or, even because of the wonderful score, but also thanks to the wonderfully created 1950' Los Angeles. Very few period pieces can create such an authentic atmosphere, that you as a viewer can feel like part of that world.
'L.A. Confidential' seems to work on both levels - intelligent crime drama with complex characters, and it is also a stylish action film. The seemingly straightforward story will make many turns along the way, thus playing with the audience, and also with the characters. The characters will change with the story and no-one will stay the same. The line between right and wrong is vague it is hard to distinguish what is bad and what is good.
With a movie boasting with such acting talents, one can only expect supreme performances. And this is the case. Every actor gives out maximum, and it is wonderful to see that there are no scene stealers. Every performance perfectly supports the other.
A timeless classic with timeless performances and classic tale of honor and morale.