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Not an SJW in sight
I wasn't going to write a review. I just thought I'd see what people were writing, but I got drawn in by the many insipid reviews that either dubbed this leftist/SJW or pro immigration.
This show is by no means perfect and I have serious concerns about season 2, but it does not portray the "beforeigners" as an influence that is totally benign. This grows over the season, but it is apparent from the first episode.
The show is at its best when it contrasts the sensibilities of Vikings, 19th century puritanical men and modern people. This provides lots of humor and some insight.
The biggest issues for me were in the portrayals of the Vikings (that mostly feel stereotypical) and some aspects of the story line, but it was that same unfolding story that kept me watching.
There is a lot of potential here and if it manages to keep the story from devolving into a fight between Christianity and Norse gods it could be a fantastic series and it's already well worth watching.
Good Omens (2019)
It's a Good Omen when the book is captured this well
Good Omens is a tongue i cheek biblical end of the world account based on the book of the same title by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.
The story is centered around an angel (Michael Sheen) and a demon (David Tennant) who have lived on earth since creation and who join forces to stop Armageddon.
The series follows the books closely but in order to do so a God narrator (Frances McDormand) has been added. Despite McDormand's great voice I found the narration detracted from the story and would rather have seen another way to hold the scenes together. The casting over all is very good, but the story isn't exactly deep, well, unless you literally believe in the biblical story. There is more Pratchett here than Gaiman. That isn't all bad since Pratchett and Gaiman were/are both solid story tellers it just means this is a simple but fun comedy. I thoroughly enjoyed it and do recommend watching it, I'd just recommend other Gaiman works more, like "American Gods".
If this was "just" a love story then it would be good. Writer/director Akash Sherman portrays two broken people well and both the main actors are up to the task, so this should be a slam dunk, but it isn't.
The science isn't quite right, but it's mostly like Hollywood movies i.e. it has a central premise that is slightly exaggerated and then spins that way too far. For me that part, while not great, is still bearable. The part that makes it pretty intolerable stems from films use of god. It starts well enough: he has a scientist who does not believe in a god and we learn his motivation and his counterpart who has very good reasons to believe in god. It's when the film decides it knows the answers the it falls flat, not because the film takes a side, but because it does so in ridiculous ways. The last ten minutes are a travesty with one ludicrous thing after another. Before the last twist I was heading for 7 out of 10, but in the end 4/10 is generous.
Game of Thrones (2011)
Complete GoT series review
The biggest TV-series ever created has concluded and even if you haven't seen it I'm sure you have heard a lot of comments about it. Most of you who haven't seen it are probably sure it isn't for you, and you may be right, but here is my take on why it's worth watching.
It would be easy to believe that this is a fantasy world like Lord of the Rings, but with more violence and sex, however that is far from the truth. Magic is a very small part of GoT and the world is very much like medieval Europe but taken to extremes. A world where the lords stab each other in the back first chance they get and violence and strength usually rules but the clever and ruthless also thrive.
We follow several powerful families in their struggle for survival and dominance. The three most central families are the Starks, Targarians and Lannisters. When the story begins the Targarians have been ousted from power and the two surviving siblings are barely alive. The Lannisters are in ascendance and on the verge of seizing the crown. House Stark is the only family that seems to value integrity over power.
From start to finish these families are central to the plot and we follow them over many years of struggle. Quite a few die and none remains innocent,, but we get to know them all very well and learn to love and hate them.
The first 5-6 seasons follow the books by George RR Martin fairly closely, but the books aren't completed yet so the final seasons are noticeably not as well put together and with less brilliance in the dialog. Seen as a whole this series is a fantastic achievement. For it's grandeur and scope and for it's ability to twist the plot ever which way. There are many large mysteries that are unfortunately never explained (I hope the books will fix that), but even so the main story arc is well worth the investment in time it takes to watch it.
Assassin's Creed (2016)
Assassinated by the premise
IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN TO MOVIE ONLY READ TO THE ASTERISKS
I've only briefly played the game so I can't tell if my critique is relevant to the games. I do know that the graphics in the film are excellent even though they are not as groundbreaking as games have been because we are used to this level of graphics in movies but the games manage it in open worlds in real time.
The historic environments created are graphically stunning but always shown in action scenes so we never get a chance to revel in the stunning visuals.
The plot however is where it all falls apart. It starts off OK: we meet a man on death row who is saved because his gene line gives him the ability to connect with an important historic figure through a machine. Using the machine he can relive moments of his ancestors life. The scientist behind it want to find an ancient secret his ancestor might be able to reveal.
The problem throughout is that sides pitted against each other are both fraught with problems and neither one feels either plausible nor good, so to mask this they muddle the story but in the end it all falls flat.
SPOILERS - Deconstructing the story
The story sets up the religious "Knights Templar" against the "Assassins Creed" and the Templars are bad because they want to end free will using an ancient artifact. If they are using the bible to justify this they are on shaky ground. If I remember correctly the biblical god chooses to kill everybody to get rid of sin rather than removing free will, so apparently the free will thing is rather important to him. It is also interesting how unclear it is how this is going to happen - the Templars have the apple on at least 2 occasions and triumphantly show it to their followers but we never find out how it would work.
The Assassins on the other hand are not "just" an opposing force trying to maintain free will they seem to be a religious sect of zelots that want complete anarchy and violence.
So the plot is both ridiculous and pits evil against evil with no reason in sight. I hope the games have more nuance, because the film has none.
R.E.M. by MTV (2014)
Not automatic for the people
This is a movie for the fans of REM especially but I hope everyone else finds it and through it finds REM.
I guess that shows how biased I am - I am a fan of REM. My introduction to the band was however a bit slow to warm up: Some friends who's taste in music I respected loved REM but the songs I'd heard on the radio were Popsong 89' and Shiny Happy People and I really did not like either song. When I was made to listen to the Green album however it was the beginning of a long musical relationship.
I'm sharing that story as an illustration of the diversity of the band's music and I did feel that that came through in this documentary. By using mostly (or maybe only) existing footage from the entire career of REM one does put together a picture of a very diverse group of creative people that somehow not only survived longer than most bands but also managed to create some of the most enduring pop music throughout that time.
The film doesn't get bogged down in politics or controversies that have existed but fairly portrays them and while these merit a film of their own it probably makes it more generally palatable and I think a film most people can enjoy.
Patient Zero (2012)
Neither good enough or bad enough
There isn't anything new here and it has all been done a lot better before, but it isn't awful and considering the budget I'd call it OK.
They have borrowed a lot from other movies but primarily from Resident Evil (2002), although the limited budget means that it isn't on anything like the same scale.
If you do something that has very much been done before you need to have some twist or gimmick and here there is neither and the end leaves much to be desired as well.
If the ending had had a twist or at least tied it all together then this could have earned a couple of points more, but as it is you should only watch it if - like me - you watch everything with bio-weapons and even then there are very many movies that should be higher on your list like: Outbreak (1995), Contagion (2011) or 28 Days Later (2002) to name just a few that are in a similar genre.
Let Me In (2010)
Neither here nor there - a Swedish view
You'll find many reviews here and on the review page for the original movie "Låt den rätte komma in" that will either complain that this remake is to close to the original or still not quite close enough and in a way both views have a valid point. Here is why:
The original Swedish movie is a contemplative artistic piece that has a lot of references that are not only Swedish but that are typical of both the time period (early 80s) and the location (a working class suburb outside Stockholm). Having grown up in that area and time I can vouch for it's authenticity, but how does that relate to the remake? The director (Matt Reeves) could have done as the UK remake of "Wallander" (as Swedish detective series) and set it in the same location and time or taken the route of UKs "Sherlock" and built a new cultural framework.
Let me in chose not to do either. It retells much of the same story but cuts away a few scenes that are too Swedish which forces it to be more blunt and adds some effects that make if feel more like a horror flick but without adding any real horror.
This doesn't use any Hollywood muscle nor does it retain the original magic.
If you can't stand subtitles then see this and then read the book, but anyone else should see "Låt den rätte komma in" or "Let the right one in". You may not get all the cultural references (I certainly miss some when I watch for example Asian movies) but maybe that could be a good thing?
You Kill Me (2007)
Dark enough but not wacky enough
I enjoy dark comedy and I found myself drawn into the story in the beginning. Ben Kingsley is excellent as a Polish hit-man with an alcohol problem who gets sent to AA. Téa Leoni is equally good as his lover although their chemistry is less than perfect. For the most part the supporting cast do a good job, yet as a whole it is not good. For a dark comedy to be funny something has to happen, but here it's mostly a drama with incredulous characters thrown in together. Perhaps the quality of the acting here detracts from the film because as a drama the story fails and it never really becomes a comedy.
I get the feeling that director John Dahl realized it was to realistic and that's why he tried to get a comedic mood with some wacky music, but it doesn't help.
If you find peoples pain a laughing matter then you'll laugh at You Kill Me. No? Then you'll sit through a pointless but well acted film.
A Swedish Baron Münchhausen
The success this movie has achieved in (my native) Sweden speaks to the state of Swedish cinema right now. The high points are few and far between both here and in Swedish movies in general.
Mostly this movie is being compared to Forrest Gump. I find fault with that comparison in several ways. Like Forrest Gump this movie sets the main character in many pivotal historical moments and has a less than intelligent lead character but that's as far as it goes.
Mostly it's an unsympathetic old man telling tall tales - very much in the vein of Baron Münchhausen. The comedy is slapstick and only occasionally really funny and often cringe-worthy. I found myself wanting to like it because the premise is OK, but in the end I left this movie feeling disappointed.
John Carter (2012)
Baron Münchhausen for a new generation
With equal parts Baron Münchhausen, Flash Gordon and Prince of Persia - this is not a subdued tale. This story of a human who by accident ends up on Mars - a living Mars full of alien beings - is told in the manner of Baron Münchhausen and is equally unbelievable.
Bipedal sentient aliens and other creatures are as beautifully rendered as any you have ever seen. The action typically feels like Prince of Persia fight scenes set on a Star Wars speeder chase. Sure - it's all cheesy and clichéd, but also wonderfully entertaining.
There is nothing here in the way of character development or depth, but the ride is fun even without it. Watch it with the family for entertainment for all age.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Immaturity is not the same as embracing your inner child
I remember seeing a late night show with Pulp Fiction in a movie theater where half the audience was drunk. I was uncomfortable, not so much with the violence, but with the unabashed enjoyment of the audience. I thought I was supposed to have my laugh get stuck in my throat because of said violence. I may have been wrong. Since then glorifying violence has become a staple in Tarantino's films.
Pulp was the last Tarantino movie I actually enjoyed. I watch a lot of films and get many of Tarantino's references, but I rarely find a point to them nowadays. I think he became to enamored with his own movie- making. Today it's more self absorbed than an Andy Kaufman joke.
If you thought Kill Bill was grand then you will probably enjoy this. If a grand budget could turn a Barbara Cartland book (she's a really bad romance novelist) into Jane Austen, then this pulp fiction drivel would have become Kurasawa, but sadly it remains a shriveling mess albeit one in a beautiful wrapper.
Unreal but really fun
Enigma is not for the war buffs who want historical accuracy. Although the historical setting at the headquarters for code breaking during world war 2 is solid enough the characters we meet are fictional.
The main character Thomas Jericho clearly has some connections to Alan Turing, but the differences are equally apparent to those who know the historical accounts, so anyone searching for a story about Turing should look elsewhere.
If you can let go of this there is a good spy story to be had. Kate Winslet, Saffron Burrows and Dougray Scott are all excellent in the leading roles, but the supporting cast is equally good. Jeremy Northam's spy master is one of many highly entertaining portrayals.
The intertwined stories along the way are perhaps more captivating than the main plot, but the ride we are taken on is well worth it.
Extra beautiful and extra dumb
There are films where beauty can be enough to make it work, but this is not one on those. Having said that: without the gorgeous environments I would give this a 2.
So, what's wrong?
The acting? No, it's adequate although it never take center stage.
The story? There it is. The premise is alright but the way it's told is terrible. If you didn't find any plot holes in "2012", then you'll be OK here, but otherwise I'd prepare myself for disappointment. There are so many flaws in the story that it is mind boggling that this got green lighted. The really sad thing is that most of the problems could easily have been fixed.
I don't want my time & money back, because there where some good ideas here, but I'm sad that this isn't the classic it could have been with some more work.
Letters to Juliet (2010)
Old love is better than new love..
..At least in this instance. With a beautiful Italian setting and a cheesy but charming story of a love lost for 50 years the packaging is nearly perfect but still it fails.
The acting is slightly mixed: Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia, Les Miserables) does well and Vanessa Redgrave is mostly charming but Christopher Egan is even more lost than he was in Eragon Egan's failure may be caused by a character that is nearly impossible to portray well, and that is where this story fails: the male characters.
They don't feel real. None of them. In some romances there may be a question if the girl chose the right guy. Not here, because there is no right guy. It isn't so bad that it's painful, but I am left only with a longing to visit some of the gorgeous locations.
It's not black and white
To me the world is very unlike that of reviewer Thomas Chase who views this as a movie promoting crime. I didn't see a movie that promotes anything, but, it is about activism in different online forms. The activists themselves are doing most of the talking and it shows how loosely tied the group called anonymous is.
It shouldn't really matter if you are with this groups actions or not because it's about understanding their motivations and how groups like it can and will impact our shared future; sometimes with government crushing impact and sometimes for a cruel laugh at someones expense.
I came away feeling both uplifted and slightly scared, but whatever you feel it will make you think and to me that is always a good thing.
In Good Company (2004)
Shows corporations in their "new emperor" robes
This is a favorite of mine. All the main characters are great but it's the interplay between Dennis Quaid and Topher Grace that really shines.
Topher is a young ambitious corporate climber steeped in the modern cut-throat business world. Quaid represents the era where customer relations were important. The clash gets more complicated with personal drama & romance but it never looses itself and is poignant both in its' comedy and tragedy.
Scarlett does a decent days work, but Marg Helgenberger is a lot better and shows that she can really act. All the other cast members are good - and Malcolm McDowell does a great cameo.
I highly recommend this to all.
Mad Men (2007)
Beautiful but not Bold
It's amazing how well a glossy surface sells. That's all Mad Men is: gloss. Now gloss is the advertising worlds core, so this show may well be authentic, but it sure isn't deep. All those talking about the depth of the characters leave me baffled.
To me this is a modernized "The Bold and the Beautiful" with better dialogue and costumes, but the same over dramatization of a world I can't bring myself to care about. TBATB was set in the world of fashion - now it's advertising for Mad Men, which is just as profound a setting.
I feel very generous giving it a 4/10 - all the points are for the fine work on the setting. The drama only gets one big snore from the TV couch.
Good - but please do some research
This movie is Bill Maher's attempt to show why religious people should have some doubts about the existence of god.
In Sweden a lack of faith is the norm, so it's not a controversial issue here but in many nations - including USA it stirs up some emotions.
It is a well told film, but it does borrow some of Michael Moore's ways which makes it less truthful than it could have been. My major criticism is Maher's lack of research in some areas and how he sometimes lets the people he intervjues of the hook and at other times pounds on errors in details.
If you are going to criticise something as important to many people as religion you should have done more research than the people who put up museums where men and dinosaurs walk side by side or else it will backfire: how can you claim they are spouting nonsense when you are too? For the non-believers this is an entertaining little film, but if you are a Christian then I doubt this will do anything other than anger you: you've probably heard the arguments before and it's not likely you are as ill-informed as the proponents of religion are in the film.
Fatal Trust (2006)
This is an OK way to spend a little time, but the conclusion really didn't work.
The lead, Kate, is played by Amy Jo Johnson who is best known (to me at least) for her role as Julie on Felicity. Here she plays a young widower with a son that decides to "move back home" after her husband dies in front of a train.
What starts as a drama gradually becomes a murder mystery. The story is very formulaic and predictable but the actors mostly do a decent job. It never really becomes scary because the outcome is so easy to predict, but that would have been OK with me were it not for the conclusion shown after the story is done.
The director, Philippe Gagnon, has some potential but still has a long way to go. The flashbacks used don't add to the story and the romance is not done with any flair. Despite all it's flaws I still thought this was an OK way to spend a sleepless night - just don't go in expecting much.
Fyra år till (2010)
A nice little movie - but not for the homophobic
This is more drama than comedy but it does have it's comic moments. Mostly it's a drama about forbidden love and self discovery set against the backdrop of Swedish politics.
Björn Kjellman is great as the politician who gets lost when his political career is floundering and finds that most of what he thought his life was about is false. If you are uncomfortable with men kissing you may want to give this a pass, but there is no gratuitous nudity or sex.
All in all it was a surprisingly good understated comedy that is a great way to spend 90 minutes.
Oh, Emmerich what were you thinking?
This is a movie I find it hard to write about because there is just so much to attack - and a complete flame isn't fun to read, so I'll try to be balanced - but I may fail:
Personally I can accept the end of earth premise with only a twinge of ire at the unnecessarily improbable reason it happens. That's pretty much all I can accept because the rest is horribly bad. The acting would have been OK if the dialogue had at least been mildly interesting - Woody Harrelson's portrayal being the exception, and at 158 minutes there is way too much of the boring dialogue to be had - they could easily have cut an hour.
The action sequences are completely over the top which is expected in a disaster movie, but here the characters aren't on a cliff's edge the whole time they are for the most part over the edge yet somehow survive.
Adding to the calamity is the fact that the internal logic is deeply flawed. There are systems that we have been told are gone forever that suddenly work just to create another emotional scene - of which there are plenty, but none that works. Cusack's character is hailed as a hero for nearly killing everybody. They try the emotional President speech but Danny Glover doesn't pull it off due to both the writing & acting.
If you still feel like an over the top disaster action film after this outpouring then go rent "the day after tomorrow" by the same director which is a superior film in every way.
Misses it's reason for being
All that can be said about the gorgeous effects in LOTR has already been mentioned: it's a pinnacle of film technology and shows that everything is now possible to portray (with enough funding).
Yet I left first the Cinema & then the extended DVD version feeling cheated out of the emotions I had felt from the books.
Jackson's 2nd film leaves too much to tell in the third, yet he still squanders time on strange scenes that were not in the book instead of focusing on the journey for the Hobbits.
For me the books have their flaws: (1) The prose is unnecessarily flowery and expansive (2) the characters are about as black or white as the world is according to George W Bush, no nuance there but it was a product of WW2 so it's not hard to see why.
To me the central theme is that of a journey, not only to Mordor & back but a mental journey for characters. Frodo grows beyond the confines of the Shire. Sam the boy finds the 'man' within him. Merry & Pippin the pranksters become powerful and can easily overthrow the somewhat diminished Saruman.
We still get Frodo's & to an extent Sam's story, but Merry & Pippin are left out. I can take (with a touch of rancor) turning dwarfs into comic characters & that there is not enough room for everything, but for me the central 4 Hobbits needed more of their story told.
This movie is still a 7 or 8 and a must see, and although I am very aware that wishing more from this simple fairly tale probably doesn't reflect well on my life, still I feel it could have been much more and I can't help yearning for that missing bit.
Not Bruce Wills worst effort ever (but a close second)
Yes this will turn into a bit of a rant because I can't stand this stinker. But Bruce has actually lent his name to even worse dung in the past with 'Hudson Hawk', but there at least it's possible to laugh at the sheer horror of it all, but Armageddon is so offensive in it's stereotypes that I can't stand to watch.
It's been said in other reviews that this is a movie for Independence Day fans and I agree as long as they are prepared for even worse stereotypes and no characters that are lovable. ID has Will Smith & Jeff Goldblum in nice quirky roles with some humanity, but Armageddon has no character depth at all and the 'humour' never gets above the potty level.
If either Billy Bob Thornton, Steve Buscemi or Peter Stormare are proud of this then I would be astonished. I even expect better from Michael Bay: the director of such junk as Pearl Harbour & Bad Boys. Why? Well he has done the flawed but OK 'The Island' & the stereotypical but entertaining 'The Rock'.
Many modern action flicks are flawed in their portrayals of countries & cultures but stereotypes about Germans & South Africans aside 'Die Hard' & 'Lethal Weapon (2)' still manage to outweigh this with their charm, wit & pace. Armageddon does not.
For apocalypse movies see: 'Deep Impact' or even the better than it's rated 'Twister'. If you want action you can pretty much chose anything & it will be better - why not revisit 'The Rock' by Michael Bay. Comedy: Even a Greek tragedy has more humor than this so you can pick anything & it will be better.
I've rated about 250 movies on IMDb and my average score is 6.6. This is the only movie I've given a 1 (no I haven't rated 'Hudson Hawk' yet). When I give a score below 3 it has to be a truly bad movie - and this is just about the worst I've seen. If you are like me watch all sci-fi, then by all means live through it, but otherwise avoid it at all cost.
Quantum of Solace (2008)
The truth is somewhere in the middle - as usual
I only give this film a 3 for it's very poor central premise, but let's try a little more nuanced portrayal of 'Quantum'. Both Craig's films are much closer to Ian Flemming's Bond than any previous attempt - no I'm not saying that is a guarantee of quality, but one thing does follow: the 2 dimensional Bond of yore is gone. Personally I'm OK with a more fleshed out character when he is played by someone as deft at portrayals as Daniel Craig. I do miss the gadgets that were never part of Flemming's Bond either, but I can live without them.
Flemming's bad guys were not typically on the scale of the movie villains and that could have been all right. An organization with the motives we see would be a great nuisance to governments and Bond could have been sent to do something that could never be official (if I remember correctly he has a similar task in the book 'You Only Live Twice'). That this type of operation should be such an all powerful one is however totally inconceivable and gives the whole affair a shimmer of the ridiculous.
Summing up: you can't have it both ways either it's the new/old Bond or the movie Bond - here we get a strange combination that doesn't satisfy.