126 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
Mother (2017)
Aronofsky is back, and wants to make love to your brain more than ever!
28 December 2017
A couple's (Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem) tranquil existence in their majestic home is tested when uninvited guests started arriving at the door.

It doesn't matter if you liked the trailer or not, "mother!" is so unlike a regular movie that a regular review couldn't do it justice.

In fact, I wouldn't even know how to write one about it. So I don't, and try to jot down my most direct thoughts indeed.

What is "mother!" exactly, you probably ask while watching writer-director Darren Aronofsky's latest. Is it just an artsy (horror) movie? A political movie (some notice and center on its alleged pro-environment, anti-patriarchy or anti-immigrants message, for example)? A spiritual movie (biblical or otherwise)?

Based on the comments by the man himself, which I have read online, I get the feeling that it can be any and all of them, depending on what you are prepared to see.

But first and foremost it sure is artsy, so be prepared for 121 minute chaotic joyride which may look and feel like horror but is more about experience than belonging to a genre, or, indeed, telling clear coherent story.

Aronofsky's works are usually difficult to summarize, and "mother!" continues the tradition.

I happen to think that "mother!" is best understood and appreciated as a story of act of creation, be it in the shape of biblical allegory or human being's spiritual awakening (two versions of the same thing if you ask me).

In social dancing, there's a saying that woman is the picture and the man is the frame. It's probably due to my background as a social dancer, but "mother!" worked for me using that lens exactly.

I saw that act of creation needs both, frame and picture (content). Both are important and can't exist without each other, both are in some ways necessary to tear down the old and bring in the new. And both can be good or bad, depending on our viewpoint.

If, for some reason, you can't quite appreciate "mother!" as spiritual or artsy movie, there's also other angles to consider, at least for movie lovers. Aronofsky's latest echoes of different genres, directors and works.

For example, I was reminded of Alejandro González Iñárritu's "Birdman" and "The Revenant", for how the camera is almost always up close and personal, in your face. Or "Tree of Life" for general feeling and approach to storytelling. Or some southern gothic stuff, even Sofia Coppola's "The Beguiled". Or even Michael Haneke's "Funny Games", for setup and how it begins to evolve.

But beyond all the comparisions one can come up with, it's fresh and original work on its own.

The long last chapter - I will call it the creation section - is especially outlandish and defying easy descriptions, for both what happens on screen and how it's directed. It's so chaotic, always changing and yet majestically orchestrated that I just can't find words. Everything is in motion, everything is shattered. It's cool.

I liked the actors too. Lawrence is in her top form, as somebody living through a personal nightmare, plus camera almost always up close and personal. Bardem stays on the background, he's cool but not among the most interesting players here.

Then there are intriguing turns from Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer, a long-lost American sweetheart from 1980-90's. We also see Domhnall Gleeson, Brian Gleeson, Kristen Wiig...

I like the comment of this one critic that "mother!" is easy to respect and hard to like, but I managed to do both.

It's too difficult to recommend, but do Aronofsky's movie need recommending at all? Based on his earlier works, you already know whether you are intrigued to see it or not.
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Geostorm (2017)
I didn't expect to like it. But in its own class, it is a great B-movie!
28 December 2017
No matter how fine their taste, I believe that anybody can enjoy an occasional B-movie now and then. The opinions differ only on what makes a good one.

The president of the USA, far-reaching conspiracy, the world in danger, a few good (wo)men doing what is right, impending big disaster - if these keywords fit your cup of B, then "Geostorm" may have what it takes to entertain you for 109 minutes and leave a good aftertaste.

When the network of satellites designed to control the global climate starts to attack the planet instead, it's a race against the clock to uncover the real threat before a worldwide geostorm wipes out everything and everyone.

Most of the story actually takes place in space, so considerable part of the visual effects budget has been spent to show us the International Space Station, satellites and the big cold void that we like to call the universe. And after having your fill of "cosmos p*rn", there are big natural disaster scenes to fall back on.

The disasters dominate the promoting materials but are actually in minority, and mostly mercifully short. They look awesome but are not essential to the story and thus tend to even somewhat disrupt the general atmosphere and flow. Especially near finale, which is mercifully short too. Because good entertainment should always know when to end and not stretch over two hours or something.

Starring Gerard Butler - the unsung hero and go-to guy to any self-respecting B- or generic movie - who is joined by a surprisingly large and impressive cast including Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Talitha Eliana Bateman, Adepero Oduye, Ed Harris, Andy Garcia, Alexandra Maria Lara, Daniel Wu, Eugenio Derbez, and Amr Waked.

It's also worth noting that almost all major female characters are written as strong individuals and don't rely on their looks (although they do look good of course).

This approach is something that freshens and updates the general vibe reminiscent of the big dumb 1990's movie that the director and co-writer Dean Devlin became really famous for originally, meaning "Independence Day". Back then, of course, he was just a writer and co-creator with Roland Emmerich, here he debuts as director too.

But cool actors, strong female characters and even big-budget special effects will only get you so far, when the movie is lacking the most essential of elements: heart.

And "Geostorm" has a lot of heart, which is the main reason I liked and enjoyed it so much - in spite of its weak storytelling where things mainly happen because they are ought to, not develop naturally.

It's a minor miracle that despite all the unrealistic-ness and cheesiness of the story - it's a B-movie, after all - the actors are so spot on, full of heart and conviction that you just have to buy all this what's happening on screen.

This is probably thanks to Devlin's brilliance at putting together this kind of big cheesy thing. It was about time he started directing too!

Leading star Gerard Butler, in some movies just a poor man's Aaron Eckhart, is in especially good form, a shining example of how to breathe life into otherwise generic material, and grab us along with the ride.

If you think that spouting all these silly lines and making it feel believable must be easy, as it seems for him, then you should try acting for youself.

In a way, his charismatic work here feels as much an achievement as Matthew McConaughey's in "Interstellar" which is actually not the weirdest association if one was to compare the central themes of the two movies. But if this comparision seems too out-there, there are also parallels with many apocalyptic blockbusters from "Armageddon" to "The Day After Tomorrow".

So... I liked it. "Geostorm" is certainly cheesy, but it does what it does really well. Go catch this!
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About as interesting as building a snowman - the younger the viewer, the more thrilling it is.
28 December 2017
One of the year's worst-reviewed big name project has arrived. It's another Scandinavian murder thriller - to sate the demand the producers hope exists.

Starring Michael Fassbender as famous but alcoholic Oslo cop - sorry, elite squad's lead detective - out to catch an elusive serial killer.

If you like the "Millennium" series, be warned: no strong female characters here. It's all about watching the sweet but curiously expressionless face of Fassender dragging himself through mounds of snow to try and stop the killings.

The critics seem to not like the poor "Snowman" at all: 8/100 at Rotten Tomatoes, 23/100 at Metacritic. Users are comparably cold: 22/100 and 2.3/10, respectively. Don't worry, the movie's not actually that bad. It's just not a gripping one.

The story unfolding on the screen is so pedestrian and lifeless that you have to be a fan of the genre, or Fassbender, to get some joy out of this.

The makers can't hold the suspense even though there are always new murders to fall back on. Actors can make the story watchable but the result fails to ignite. I can't even think of anything interesting to say about this.

The teenagers in the cinema, or the majority of the audience, seemed to like it though. I heard them discussing the most blood-curdling scenes later. It is true that the movie offers some not-PG-friendly blood and violence.

The impressive cast includes Charlotte Gainsbourg, Chloë Sevigny, Rebecca Ferguson, Jonas Karlsson, J.K. Simmons, Val Kilmer, Toby Jones, David Dencik, James D'Arcy, Jamie Clayton, Michael Yates, Ronan Vibert, Adrian Dunbar. If only they had something interesting to do ... Kilmer at least looks interesting, like he escaped from botox clinic after series of unsuccessful experiments.

Based on a novel by Norwegian crime-writer Jo Nesbø. It is the seventh entry in detective Harry Hole series, and the first one made into a movie.

Director Tomas Alfredson has said that the production of "The Snowman " was rushed. He joined it late and reckons that up to 15% of the screenplay was not filmed. In addition, the location filming in Norway was shortened so that the production could move to London, which compromised story. So now we know.
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The Foreigner (2017)
Jackie Chan is back conquering the West
28 December 2017
A humble businessman (Jackie Chan) seeks justice when his daughter is killed in an act of terrorism. A conflict ensues with a government official (Pierce Brosnan) whose past may hold clues to the killers' identities.

What would you like to see less: yet another spy / government / secret ops action or yet another action movie which has a geriatric leading man because they don't want to retire just because of the old age.

Well, in this case, you get both. But "The Foreigner" has a secret weapon - Jackie Chan. Yes, he's 63 now but Asians age well and he can still kick it, seemingly effortlessly.

It's not mostly just clever editing, body doubles and special effects too, Chan's proud to be able to do the physical stuff himself, just like he has always done.

The amount of ass-kicking has dried out a bit - the first fight only occurs about 45 minutes into the near two hour movie - but you're still gonna have fun watching Chan doing the brawl.

For variety's sake, there's also a hefty amount of explosions, shooting, and political intrigue, because you can't have shady government thriller without it.

Ex-Bond Pierce Brosnan as the nemesis is not bad either although he sounds like a lecturing schoolteacher most of the time, which makes the result feel cheesier than it has to.

But this is still a Jackie Chan movie, so some cheese factor is expected, starting with the fact that most of the events wander somewhere in the nowhereland between believable and ridonculous.

Then again, the dialogue and the motivation of characters stay on the serious side, which compensates for some of leap of faith the viewer has to take to enjoy all this. This is a not often seen kind of action movie where the dialogue sounds actually pretty good too.

Much is happening, too, even considering the 114 minute length which honestly seems too long for this kind of entertainment.

There are political and personal intrigues, a bunch of secondary characters doing something or other, surprises and even a bizarre but cool Rambo style section in the woods.

Oh, and the rumors about Chan showing his acting skills here are true. Despite the importance of kicking ass, this is a rather complex role dealing with irreparable loss, regrets and getting old.

I recall that Arnold Schwarzenegger's latest screen role could be summarized with the very same words, but his performance isn't half this moving, and the movie ("Aftermath", 2017) kind turned out to be a stinker as well. Sorry, Ahnuld!

Ultimately, I rather enjoyed my time with Jackie Chan who does not try to conquer the West anymore and thus rarely appears in our cinemas.

"The Foreigner" will not leave a burning and lasting impression but there's lot to like about it, even if it would benefit from being 20 minutes shorter. There's so much going on that some of it will feel a big half-baked retrospectively. Or maybe there's just too little of Jackie Chan for a Jackie Chan movie.

By the way, the director Martin Campbell was the first to offer us Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 1995 ("Goldeneye"), plus "Casino Royale" which is my favorite 007 movie of all time.

He did the two Zorros with Antonio Banderas as well - not to mention 2010's "Edge of Darkness" which didn't turn out to be much of a comeback for Mel Gibson after all. And then there's "Green Lantern", of which the less said the better...
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Another good reason that Sandler should stick to his usual
28 December 2017
Noah Baumbach, one of America's indie films' most acclaimed auteurs, is back to tell us yet another story of defective family and relationships.

His latest was snapped up by Netflix and boasts an impressive cast including Dustin Hoffman, Adam Sandler, Sigourney Weaver, Adam Driver, Ben Stiller, Emma Thompson.

It's about elderly father and his three adult children still competing for his affection, and the result is typical Baumbach joint, meaning slow tempo, not much happening, a whole lot of talking, and emotionally distant style.

You may not "get" it at all - and feel that there's a curious vacuum of interesting stuff happening - or slowly learn to embrace the world he has created, which usually happens when one watches a Baumbach movie.

Critics seem to love it - indeed, "Meyerowitz" seems to be among his most acclaimed works yet - and I have liked most of Baumbach's movies. But this time, I just couldn't take it.

For most of its 112 minute length, it felt like a limp and soulless exercise in doing something in Baumbach style, not something that he really did.

The story comprises of three chapters, of which the middle one is close to something that could be called intriguing.

The first chapter lasting 30 minutes feels just empty, and the last is so and so, partly interesting, often just pretentious in a bad way (brothers fighting and public speaking). Yes, the movie has its own distinctive atmosphere but it wasn't enough for me this time.

When Larry David started creating "comedies about nothing", and managed to create a whole new modern movement of screen stories not clinging to certain genre, he always found ways to captivate and entertain us. "Meyerowitz" could be called drama about nothing, and it feels just boring.

The movie has brought a lot of acclaim to Adam Sandler in one of the leading roles, proving once again that he's an able enough actor and can do serious stuff if he wants to.

Funny thing is, every time I watch another typical Adam Sandler comedy, I think: he can do this kind of thing forever and still be liked but doesn't he want to do something more original, more serious... something more?

And then again, the only serious movie starring Sandler I really have dug was the first, 2002's "Punch Drunk Love". All the next ones are just... underwhelming. Not bad in any significant way, just not that interesting either. It's not his fault, of course, but still... funny.
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13 Hours (2016)
War is kind of boring
28 December 2017
If you were surprised by the recent news that NBC's "The Office's" pretty boy John Krasinski is gonna be the next Jack Ryan, then you haven't possible seen his against-typecasting projects such as "13 Hours" or, say, "Promised Land".

This one is a modern war movie about American elite soldiers in Libya at its most dangerous times, defending unofficial CIA base from local militants.

Krasinski doesn't kick ass here yet - as Jack Ryan, he has to, surely - but he can shoot bad guys from afar as well as the next guy. Also, tallness and beard help to make a real man out of boyish-looking man, no?

Kidding aside, he looks the part - which is good because this is mostly what the screenplay expects from the stars here. This, and couple of video calls to families, to show their human side.

It's directed by Michael Bay, so you can expect two things: a lot of explosive action and the movie being longer than needed.

At 144 minutes, the never ending war porn does get tiring, especially as the story stays on the shallow side. We don't get to see anything from Libyan side. Maybe the original cut lasting four hours would be deeper and richer content-wise.

So it gets too monotonous for my taste - all shooting and no strong story - but I am not particularly interested in modern war movies, so I may not the best judge of "13 Hours" and its qualities.

But the other critics don't seem to like it much either (50/100 from Rotten Tomatoes, 48/100 from Metacritic), so this does say something. Probably. The site users are kinder: 7.3/10 from IMDb, 82/100 from Rotten Tomatoes, 6.8/10 from Metacritic.

What is surprising, is that Bay managed to pull all this off for paltry 50 million USD budget. These days, he's more used to directing movies three-four times more expensive, due to the man devoting his life for "Transformers" franchise.

By the way, "13 Hours" is based on a true story, and a book that was written about it. Filmed in Malta and Morocco.
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You are not ready for this
28 December 2017
A girl (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) survives a car accident and wakes in a nuclear shelter run by older man (John Goodman) who claims that something major has happened overground and they can only survive by down here.

There's another survivor as well (John Gallagher Jr.), who seems more together mentally, but still agrees with the owner...

"10 Cloverfield Lane" was released in March 2016, and got a wide release, so there's good chance that you have seen it already or heard about it.

For those lucky ones who still have a chance of seeing it fresh, I am not gonna write much.

Watch it and enjoy, because this is a movie lover's delight - original, tightly written and well played thriller that builds suspense and keeps you guessing till the very end.

Most of the story takes place in underground shelter with just three actors yet it never feels like a play. It's a proper movie, and strikingly good one at that.

Freakin' loved it! Would have been a tight one even without...
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Le Redoutable (2017)
A fascinating insight into the mind of one of the most important French directors of all time
28 December 2017
Movies about real historical events and persons from everyday perspective are cool.

This one's about the legendary French director Jean-Luc Godard (played by Louis Garrel) reaching middle-age and marrying a young girl (Stacy Martin). It turns out Goddard, idolized by movie lovers and critcs, turns out to be the immature one in the relationship.

Like any good movie about relationships should, "Le redoutable" has both moments of laughter and soul wrenching drama. But above all, this is a character portrait of a increasingly domineering and unpleasant man.

Writer-director Michel Hazanavicius approaches the study of the character from the deep psychological standpoint. He does not offer some easy and populist way of explaining the reasons behind tormented genius's growing disagreeableness over time.

Just like in real life, there's no one single cause for how one behaves, especially not something external that would be easy to blame and would adequately summarize everything that's going on in human soul (bad influence, broken heart etc).

If the viewer is not willing or able to go that deep, there's still enough going on to justify the time spent. The movie is humorous - especially in the first half - and offers a vivid overview about how destructive immature people can become in loving relationship if they wrestle with power and intimacy issues.

In Godard's character, I found much of myself and what I've had to wrestle with in relationships - and still have to. So watching it was a bit depressing for me, for probably nobody enjoys seeing one's ow faults so clearly from aside (in others).

The second half turns increasingly darker in mood and get exhausting because there's basically only one situation filling the story which gets repeated over and over again. The lack of variety is the reason of me hesitating to give it higher score than 7 out of 10.

The story centers mostly on Godard and young wife, Anne Wiazemsky, and their performances are really good. These are demanding roles because the marital discord doesn't grow from one explosive conflict to another but accumulating stress and tension between two people, expressed mostly in subtle bodily or facial impressions that the camera eagerly catches.

This kind of inner burning based suspense is surely difficult to build on screen, and both stars are really good at it (with the help of the director, of course).

I enjoyed Stacy Martin's performance especially, for in a way, she has fewer resources to build the character than Garrel whose Godard does most of the talking.

Martin gives a beautifully restrained but emotive performance as the ever-suffering wife. She's the emotional backbone of the story and probably the one thing you'll remember the best from the movie.

Based on the memoir of Anne Wiazemsky, who became a novelist and published the book on her life with French cinema genius in 2015. Godard lives on, but she passed away just weeks ago, October 5th this year, succumbing to battle with breast cancer at the age of 70.

Michel Hazanavicius is best known for "The Artist" that got nominated for ten Oscars, and won five, in 2012, including for the best movie and director.
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The Overnight (2015)
Nothing special - no need to stay the night
25 December 2017
Two couples (Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godrèche / Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling from "Orange Is the New Black") make a playdate which grows into something more than sipping wine and watching the children play together.

Found this little indie thing in Netflix, watched it to see Scott and Schwartzman who have a habit of appearing in comedies that I like (in addition to many generic movies but whatever, I like those dudes).

"The Overnight" is not really a drama nor comedy but a tale of relationships: what makes us get together and stay together.

Despite the promising topic and pretty cool promos, It does not really go anywhere. There's no suspense of any kind (surely a killing blow to any movie about relationships) and the approach is too improvisational (a lot of dialogue, mostly just talk-talk-talk without any memorable lines or highlights).

But hey, I saw my dudes and it's over quickly, in 83 minutes.

Exec produced by the Duplass brothers which gives you strong hint about what to expect from the general vibe.

Written and directed by one Patrick Brice, whose only previous movie was horror "Creep". Whatever this means.
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Bonjour Anne (2016)
Such a boring way to remind us that life can still be interesting after reaching middle age
25 December 2017
The wife (Diane Lane) of a successful movie producer (Alec Baldwin) takes a road trip from the south of France to Paris with one of her husband's associates (Arnaud Viard). They eat well, drink good wine, talk and... you know.

Wow, a movie lasting only 92 minutes. Whatever happened to most of the them clockin in at around two hours? Sadly, "Paris Can Wait" - original title "Bonjour Anne" - can be uninspired or boring enough to feel like last two hours. But it's a start. Here's to shorter movies!

Technically, it's so well made and put together that I should give it 10 out of 10. It looks every bit as delicious as in trailers.

There's only one small "but" lurking around... it's near-perfect only for a certain taste which I don't happen to share. And if one is not into that sort of thing, the result can feel so bland and soulless that it bites you in the ass.

It's a perfect movie for a little girl in all of us, regardless the age or gender, taking place in a world where life doesn't have any depth, everything is black and white, and/or.

It's also unapologetically consumerist - meaningful life equals mostly to fine wining and dining and travelling, creativity equals to taking photos while doing it. And it's OK to be a trophy wife if your husband doesn't just work all the time. I could go on and be more specific but I am afraid of boring all my three readers.

All this doesn't surprise much if you consider the background of the debuting writer-director Eleanor Coppola (white American, old, upper upper class - a wife of 54 years of Francis Ford Coppola, by the way).

Well, at least she was satisfied with a short movie of depthless and consumerist kind, unlike her colleagues such as Nancy Meyers or Diane Keaton.

The most interesting thing about "Paris Can Wait" is definitely that Coppola debuted as a feature movie writer and director at the mature age of 80 years (she's done documentaries before). And she's not even record-shattering! The distinction belongs to Japanese Takeo Kimura, who was close to 90.

So... if you liked the trailer, you should maybe try it out for 10 minutes or so. If you can stomach the style and approach, you will probably enjoy the result.

If not, quit while you're ahead. It does feel like a longer movie if you stick around. Recent and in a way similar "Home Again" starring Reese Witherspoon is more fun.

Still, it's good to see Diane Lane still doing movies, and she's wonderful here too. (Viard is enjoyable too.) Only... getting offered mostly this kind of "miss nice guy" roles are exactly why she contemplated quitting acting before. Funny.
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A gay movie for everybody who likes sex
25 December 2017
Tom of Finland has his own autobiographical movie now, done by Finns themselves. Appropriate because he is one of them and spent his whole life living among them. Which was brave, because in his time, being found out as homosexual could meant effectively the end of the life as one knew it, including losing your life. Just like, say, paedophiles or terrorists today.

I am a bit surprised if you don't know the great late artist's name and/or haven't seen any of his work. Like, for example, Walt Disney or Herluf Bidstrup, he surely is one of the greatest artists of modern time, instantly recognizable and unforgettable for its style and soul.

I would say his drawings are like nothing else out there, although I actually don't know much about gay culture and its antics. But this is art at its purest and most powerful. It's unique, it makes you feel something and it talks to you, regardless of your sexual orientation and/or attitude towards homosexuality. Lust is universal.

The story is nothing original, the classic "rags to riches" success story blueprints made popular by Oliver Stone's "Wall Street" (1987) that the other movie makers still eagerly copy.

Which means that you can often guess where it's going and because of that, there's a risk of reaching the saturation point before the end, probably in the last third.

I enjoyed the ride in full, actually, but the risk is real. Maybe it would help that every movie using this formula wouldn't be around two hours long? It's not like it's gonna become magically fresher in long movies after 30 years.

But the formulaic story and the typical low-key "I am a Finnish movie" look are not what make "Tom of Finland" shine.

But what it lacks in inventive storytelling or visual flashiness, it more than makes up in heart and conviction. It's not just an re-enactment of a famous person's life, you can literally feel the lust that drove him, and men like him, on screen.

This is well conveyed by actors, especially Pekka Strang who seems to be straight in real life but does not shiver back from releasing his inner man-eater in hope for making everything come alive on screen.

This is not a comical role, and he really dives into the role so you can really buy him as the great artist. All this longing, need to break free from social chains, and satisfaction with getting what he wants seem authentic and real when they show on his face on screen.

Watching the gay scene, forced into hiding and later coming out in the open, is interesting as well. Creeping around, always giving out and trying to read subtle signs from other men, and desperation in the danger of being found out. The director has done a great job bringing this alive, as history lesson which is also entertaining to watch.

This is Finland's entry for the Best Foreign Language Film competition at 2018 Academy Awards. I think it's not "serious" enough to have a realistic chance of winning... but who knows. Dome Karukovski is quite a big deal among modern Finnish movie directors, says IMDb.

So... "Tom of Finland": an artist and now a movie even straight people can like! I know I do.

If you want recent similar movie suggestions, check out 2013's "Behind the Candelabra" starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, it's great!

If I have any gay or bi readers, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the movie.
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Sicario (2015)
An interesting take on U.S's war on drugs
25 December 2017
In the lawless border area stretching between the U.S. and Mexico, an idealistic FBI agent (Emily Blunt) is enlisted to aid in the escalating war against drugs.

Also starring, Josh Brolin, Daniel Kaluuya, Benicio Del Toro, Victor Garber, Jon Bernthal.

"Sicario" was the only movie in English directed by Denis Villeneuve that I hadn't seen yet. All five (including "Prisoners", "Enemy", "Arrival", "Blade Runner 2049") have been cult hits and among the most critically acclaimed screen works of given release year.

Villeneuve's movies are emotionally distant, slow-burning, and usually more dependent on mood than sharp storytelling. I am not the fan of his style - it's too slow, rather uneventful, lacks sharp dialogue and character building - but I gotta admit that it always pays off.

I could also say that "Sicario" doesn't really offer any intriguing characters except Del Toro's (good that he's gonna be back for sequel "Soldado") and the best drug war / trafficking stories are just more captivating (especially "The Wire" and "Breaking Bad")...

But it doesn't change the fact that it's a solid thriller, and a cool movie which makes you gradually more and more thankful that you endured the rather slow first half.
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A worthy update to one of the most critically loved sci-fi movies ever
24 December 2017
A young blade runner's (Ryan Gosling) discovery of a long-buried secret leads him to track down older colleague (Harrison Ford), who's been missing for thirty years. In the future, there are people whose job is to find and kill human-like robots, you know, and they are called blade runners.

Also appearing, Jared Leto, Robin Wright, Dave Bautista, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Mackenzie Davis, David Dastmalchian et al.

The original "Blade Runner" (1982) is lauded as one of the best and most important sci-fi movies ever. I have seen it, of course, even more than once, and read the Philip K. Dick's story it's based on, but never see the appeal, honestly. Was quite bored with it, actually.

So why do they like it so much? I am too lazy to research it on the interweb, so I am just gonna take a wild guess and offer that when it came out, it was a long-waited antidote to all the silly sci-fi movies craze that had ruled in the previous five years.

You see, throughout history sci-fi was always a "serious" and artsy cinema genre but then "Star Wars" (1977) came out and made huge amount of people want something different entirely.

So "Blade Runner" was, for sci-fi geeks, a long-awaited return to form, with its moodiness, sombre atmosphere and deep philosophical questions such as what makes us "real" anyway, and is human life more important than artificially created one.

"Blade Runner" flopped in cinemas originally but over the years it has built an admirable cult following. And the fans are surely glad to know that the long-planned sequel is finally here and stays far away from mainstream fare, respecting its "serious" roots and everything.

Yes, the trailers look spectacular and have plenty of rip-roaring action but the new "Blade Runner" is all about returning to the form, easily supassing the original movie in every aspect, at least for yours truly.

Be warned: not only does it last for close to three hours, it's so artsy that you may feel the need to go grab some junk food later. Just to, you know, compensate.

The story is slow, not too eventful, a few action setpieces, not much dialogue - and the existing sounds more like monologue than real natural conversation between persons.

Filled with futuristic landscapes and environments, the movie looks gorgeous but there's a noticeble discord between viewer and characters/events. The experience is cold and disheartening by design, always keeping you at arms length, so to speak.

It does have Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford starring, but the result is far from perfect date movie... unless both are big movie lovers and/or loved the original "Blade Runner".

You may also have trouble with understanding the backstory and certain things about the characters. It is even difficult to say whether everything is meant to feel so ambiguous, asking us to offer our own answers, or the makers have tried to remain as "artsy" as possible. I think it's meant to be that hard to grasp. It's directed by Denis Villeneuve after all ("Prisoners", "Enemy", "Sicario", "Arrival").

To be honest, the movie does not have any good reason to last for close to three hours, but at least it's full of thoughtful and well-crafted material, not filler crap like many "event" movies.

The main topics such as the future of artifical intellect and the value of life, especially human life versus the artificially created one, are intriguing if you are able to open up to the whole experience.

And if you manage to open up already, you may admire how spiritual this bleak and cold futuristic story can be at its core. I dug throught the symbolism evident in the story and found out that it is really about the importance of feelings - this is all you really have to get through life. Just what the spiritual systems have taught us for thousands of years.

There will be many who will feel turned offed by this approach, I am sure. For an expensive 150 million U.S. dollar movie, it sure tries its earnest not to be easily liked and digested.

But it's gorgeous and after a while, you may notice that it really speaks to you. Some may dig the moodiness, or Gosling's face, but there's enough serious content beneath the surface.

For all it's emotional distant-ness and terrifying length, "Blade Runner 2049" is not my cup of tea, but I think it's a noteworthy piece of modern art. Considering the hefty budget, it is also probably the most expensive piece of modern art ever made.

All in all, for what it is, the movie could not be better in any aspect. Except for maybe giving Leto a bigger role.
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007 for the nerd generation
6 October 2017
A miracle has born! I just saw a mainstream big budget action movie; based on a comic and featuring superheroes (just call them secret agents); lasting 140 minutes – at least 30 more than any movie of its ilk should; and I enjoyed myself and left kind of wanting for more! I honestly couldn't see this happening. the last time I was really into mainstream big budget projects was somewhen circa the beginning of the century. This is the sequel to 2014's new kind of secret agent movie – let's call it James Bond introduced to the YA generation. This time they battle the evil mafiosos who like to urinate on other battle (hence the name "golden ring")... or maybe just some evil-doers or the other. Some of the original cast has returned, including Taron Egerton as the central young hero and Hanna Alström as his girlfriend the Swedish princess, Mark Strong, and Colin Firth, and there are many new famous faces, including Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, Emily Watson, Channing Tatum, and, er, Elton John as himself. Matthew Vaughn has always been a versatile and exemplary director who's noteworthy for bold visual inventiveness and stylishness in his movies, from heavily effect-based, choreographed and edited fights, to minimalist but glamorous look of the world, to outlandish gadgets used to fight evil. OK, I know it's all a team effort, but he's still the guys who pulls it all together, innit? After seeing „The Golden Circle" I believe even more that Vaughn really was unofficially directing Guy Ritchie's first and best two movies for him. This movie is visually wild and crazy like a „Snatch.", if the latter was a mainstream comic book / superhero project. You can have fun just cherishing how everything looks and plays out on the screen. As usual, screenplay is by Vaughn himself and his long-time writing partner Jane Goldman. „The Golden Circle" already starts with a bang, ramps us the pace and holds it, and doesn't end before everybody involved has had their fair share. There are car chases, fights (I am kind of surprises that there's still so many original fights in movies!) and bombastic setpieces involving an unusual lasso, robots, meat mincing machine and more. But you could already expect some crazy things based on the first movie, yeah? It's not a perfect movie. The characters and the plot are not really that interesting in a meaningful way (I know, I know, it's still a mainstream big budget action, it's not supposed to be that interesting). What is worse: all the famous faces joining the cast don't really have anything cool to do, and their roles are rather small, which is surprising, especially considering Berry. One could say it's kind of a lost chance but it's also true that there's so much happening that there's no need for famous faces to add anything, really. Maybe their roles are small-ish for budget reasons. But, then, why add so many of them anyway? Leaving minor niggles like this aside, the „Kingsman" sequel is a kick-ass joyride of a movie which not only looks good and feels good but left me wanting for more. More action, more surprisingly but deliciously weird jokes, more style, more of this secret world which plays something like „MIB" meets 007 meets superhero movies, more enjoyable details such as drug kingpin creating American 1950's nostalgia land in the jungle for home, more outlandish turns of events such as the U.S. president going renegade etc. For a blockbuster, „The Golden Circle" sure does have a lot of personality, both plot- and visual style wise. And for that, I applaud it! I really wish most pure entertainment movies were shorter. But "Kingsman 2" is 140 minutes, I wasn't bored once and left asking for more! Many critics seem disappointed by „The Golden Circle", for example, Rotten's Tomatoes' consensus says the part deux offers more of everything that made its predecessor so much fun, but lacks the original's wild creative spark. I think the real situ is exactly vice versa, and the first part, while good enough, is lacking compared to the sequel.
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Stronger (I) (2017)
What if mass media heroes were common people
6 October 2017
Major movie makers have this annoying habit of trying to turn every success story into wave or genre. If something turns into notable success you can bet your sweet ass that they will try to copy that as long as they can – many years, usually. That's how I've turned away from superhero movies and computer animated features, for example. Even if I loved something initially, I just can't bear to watch the same blueprint again and again and again for 15 or even 30 years. (Then again, there are examples of waves/genres that I still like despite having seen enough of them, raunchy mainstream comedies for example…) „Stronger" belongs to this new wave of creating partly fictional accounts of recent real events which garnered a lot of mass media attention and had an impact on the social conscious of the U.S. It's about Boston marathon bombing in April 2013 and what happened to this one guy (Jake Gyllenhaal) who lost his legs in explosion. The focus is on his family, especially the relations with on-again- off-again girlfriend (Tatiana Maslany). It's actually the second movie about the sad event, following „Patriots Day" released in November 2016 – two months later in Estonian cinemas. Luckily for variety's sake, the two are as different as one could hope… well, excluding the obligatory patriotic/uplifting finale, of course. The former falls into action/thriller/competence porn category and centers on the fervent terrorist hunt after the event. „Stronger" shows that the worst actually comes after the explosion, when survivors have to pick themselves up and continue with their lives. It eschews any action-based approach and ventures boldly into dark relationship drama / character study territory which is great because the leading man Jake Gyllenhaal is good for this type of thing. „Stronger" is promoted as an inspirational movie which doesn't come as a surprise considering the subject of the story and it's importance in modern American history. But its approach to what may be considered as inspirational is refreshingly different from expectations. The story concentrates on how the main character was something of a big baby living under mother's shadow to begin with, and the situ did not turn for the better after the personal tragedy. The family is bunch of (lower) working-class nobodies also, and the makers deserve credit for having been able to build suspense based on just watching their regular life, with drinking, arguing, cumulating stress and all. The girlfriend is the only other major character, and if you wish for more strong female figures in modern movies, you are in for a real treat. Erin is written an ordinary woman by any means but Tatiana Maslany („Orphan Black") plays her into something great and memorable, which compensates well his wounded boyfriend's dark brooding. It's a great performance and one of the things you will probably remember long from this movie. As anticipated, Gyllenhaal's performance is just as good or even better. It's suitable territory for this versatile young actor who never fears to step in the dark side. The moodiness and brooding energy he brings to the role largely defines the whole movie, and how much you like the whole movie probably depends on how well you are able to emphatize with his character and its obvious weakneses and shortcomings. Oscar nominations are a real possibility, especially both for Gyllenhaal and Maslany. I could also see it happening for David Gordon Green the director and John Pollono for adapted screenplay (the story is based on a book written about real events, as said above). If they get lucky, „Stronger" will also snag Oscar noms for best movie, and a number of more technical catgories, including cinematography and make-up. The almost shockingly unattractive and ordinary looks of the main character and his family, is really a thing to savor here. Not to mention Gyllenhaal looking deliciously horrible as a victim, wounds and leg stumps and all. It's safe to assume that most everybody was probably expecting certain amount of glamour from this 'uplifting' movie. After all this long text, I have reached the negative parts which may explain the rather surprisingly low score of 6. I have to say that „Stronger" bears the usual weaknesses of director David Gordon Green's „serious" movies (you probably know better his comedies such as „Pineapple Express"). Green is adept enough at creating atmosphere and intriguing start… but there's always some noticeable limpness to his brand of storytelling which makes losing interest before the end a very real possibility. It's true that „Stronger" has much more dramatic punch than Green's previous known dramas such as „Joe", „Manglehorn", or „Prince Avalanche", but it still manages to lose much of it somewhere during the final chapter. The story is just too long, getting more meandering and self- indulgent toward the end. So… „Stronger" is pretty good for the most part, and certainly deserves praise for daring to be different and doing it well. It's more difficult to predict much box office success because mainstream crowd would find it too uneventful and, probably, depressing. Just the same as Green's other serious movies mentioned above.
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Deeper than your regular oldies but goldies story
6 October 2017
Before seeing „Victoria and Abdul", I was secretly hoping the movie would be about Noisy Nation's lead singer Artur Abdul's triumphant return to stardom, including marrying the newest Mrs Estonia (whose name is Viktoria by the way). Actually, it's a 120 years old true story, about aging Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) withering away on the throne of the British empire, basically just waiting for death. Then she strikes up an unlikely friendship with a young Indian clerk named Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) whose good spiritual influence helps her to find her way again. Also appearing: Adeel Akhtar, Eddie Izzard, Fenella Woolgar, Julian Wadham, Michael Gambon, Olivia Williams, Paul Higgins, Simon Callow, Tim Pigott-Smith. I started the review with a joke that has only a tiny probability to be understood, even if I explained it to you. Had two reasons for this: I find it quite amusing myself (I am my most important audience and critic anyway), and this kind of conceptual joke working on different levels seemed oddly appropriate considering what this movie is really about. By the latter I mean that „Victoria and Abdul" is the easiest type of movie to be overlooked, so one does not „get" it. Look at any promotional material and what do you see? Judi Dench is playing a cranky old queen striking a friendship with lower class citizen (very bad thing at her time) and finding happiness again, right? It's really easy to see only the crowd-pleasing feel- good aspect of the story which screams „royalties… they are just people too". After all, a remarkable number of such-themed movies or series has been released in the last 10-15 years alone. Not to mention "old actors playing old people" movies which is a popular "genre" too. It's also easy to be entertained or bored only by the most straightforward, crowd-pleasing part of the movie, because it works really well too. I watched it in cinema, and other people were often laughing, or wiping tears during the sadder parts. But the story is actually deeper and more varied than that, which was a pleasant surprise considering I didn't even plan to watch „V&A" in the first place, having very little interest in the private lives of British royal family and all. The more hidden part – well, maybe not hidden, but more easily overlooked part – ponders about the main existential themes in the human life. In context of the particular story I'd summarize it as follows: they study what keeps us going in life, and what keeps us going when one has achieved everything one can come up with rationally. It is interesting to see the shadow side of the power – on one hand, it gives you much more personal freedom. On the other hand, however, it creates one new forms of prison, separating from the others and making one addicted to it. It gets increasingly difficult to let go of it even if one doesn't enjoy it any more. It may be lonely „up there" alone but at the same time it frightens to break down the self-built walled garden because you don't see any alternatives either. Come to think of it, it's true about life in general too, not only having power over people. The performances are wonderful. The cast have the skills and a keen eye to play all the above-mentioned themes out in detail, whether just for laughs or philosophical digesting, depending on the viewer. The main attention is, of course, on Judi Dench essentially reprising the role from 20 years earlier („Mrs. Brown") which brought her the very first Oscar nom she had. She never tries to dominate the screen but her great natural and magnetic screen presence can't be denied, of course. Also, there's a fearless dedication to showing all the getting old thing in „gory" details, with flagging skin, curdled mimics, draggy movements and all. I don't know how much of it was just acting, but she really is pretty old, turning 83 in December. It's probably not easy to face your own mortality while acting it out on screen, in any case. Great performance overall, and awards shouldn't be out of question. It is kind of silly, after all, that thespian this legendary has gotten her only Academy Award for trivial role as Queen Elizabeth in „Shakespare in Love", where she has eight minutes of screen time. There's maybe not much mainstream attention left for Ali Fazal as the other lead, but he's actually very good too. The young Indian actor hasn't done many movies yet but he's superbly enjoyable in a role which requires a certain amount of simple mainstream ethnical humor but also sincerity, lightness and soulfulness that you couldn't probably just act without not finding in yourself first. If I can name anything wrong with „Victoria and Abdul", I would probably tone it down a little while showing the reactions of enraged royal family and court members who just can't take seeing lower-class person having so much influence over the the person with the ultimate power. There's enough visual details such as angry faces to make their feelings clear enough – they don't really have to say things like „what the hell is going on here?" all the time. In this aspect the movie can feel a little „overcooked" at times, but luckily it didn't ruin the experience for me. „V&A" is pretty great watch, both as simple entertainment and a little deeper examination of what makes us value life in general. Director Stephen Frears has given us a fair share of noteworthy movies over the 50 years he's been releasing them, including „Dangerous Liaisons", „High Fidelity", „The Queen", and „Philomena" (one of my favorite movies released in 2013, also starring Judi Dench). I say „Victoria and Abdul" is a worthy addition to his legacy.
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Nicholas Hoult gets to show some acting chops
6 October 2017
The glamored-up remix of the life of J.D. Salinger, famously reclusive American author who gave the world „Catcher in the Rye" and, er, other writings. Salinger is played by Nicholas Hoult, one of my favorite young-ish actors who can't quite reach stardom. He's a fine actor, and has lots of screen charm but hasn't found his real breakthrough yet. At least in my opinion. Usually he's used as window dressing in trivial roles, even in serious movies. If you haven't seen Hoult's star making turn in BBC's „Skins" first season – this was ten years ago, mind you –, you probably won't even recognize or care about him. But yes, he's appeared in a string of blockbusters too, such as the three last „X-Men" (as Hank / Beast) and „Jack the Giant Slayer", or „Mad Max: Fury Road". He is often heavily disguised tho. You may also remember him from „About a Boy" (2002) but back then he was only just a boy. „Rebel's" main strength is not its historical accuracy, nor well- balanced story about the great man's life, nor going deep as its hero aspired to, but a fact that the writer-director Danny Strong bets on one strength and goes happily all in on it. The strength is this being a true actors' movie, and they truly deliver. The performances are wonderful and everything else is there to support them. I would argue they have reached drama series quality storytelling, only in shorter form, in 106 minutes. Hoult appears appropriately soulful but mentally fragile, and Kevin Spacey as the only other major character (his mentor / friend) is just as solid as you'd expect from screen veteran of his standing. Every scene Spacey's in is like a masterclass of great movie acting. If this was a project of much higher calibre – instead of premiering in Sundance this January and then disappearing quickly – we would talk about serious Oscar chances. You know how deliciously the man can be. Critics are true that the movie is ultimately pretty shallow and petty, just what Salinger himself would have tried to avoid, but it's pretty and well-acted, and makes some points about being creative and/or famous that every modern person would still benefit from considering. Such as doing something doesn't mean you're all that creative or deserve much praise. Or: true creativity emerges after working through your fears and vanity. Or also: being famous is not for everybody. In 2010's, there's been a new trend to create fictional movies about real people and/or situations. Most are mainstream (i.e, shallow), as is „Rebel in the Rye", but this doesn't reduce its power to entertain in a cheesy way. The result is likable indeed. Writing is a lonely job and "Rebel" has the power to remind us the glamorous side of it too, if only for a second.
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Home Again (2017)
Legally Blonde: the middle-age version
6 October 2017
Welcome to the alternate dimension where everything is much the same as here, but life resembles something straight outta women's glamour magazines, or maybe Vapiano commercial. This is the wonderland where: * everybody and everything is basically nice and good-looking, and conflicts just go way or soon resolve in the nicest way possible; * recently separated jobless mother of two who has just reached middle-age and moved to the other side of the country can live in a really nice comfortable house which she doesn't have to pay for; * she meets true love in the form of a guy 13 years her junior, who's tall, strikingly good-looking, socially adept, creative, confident, kind, ambitious, loves her children, and also has two best friends who can be described much the same way; * people can and will trust each other, and create strong bonds instantly * everybody's just so damn understanding all the time, even children are not bordering on awful like in real-life * and so on. All this goodness is based on the debuting writer-director Hallie Meyers-Shyer, and (more importantly) produced by her mother Nancy Meyers who's also responsible for her fair share of chick crack, including „What Women Want", „Something's Gotta Give", and „It's Complicated". The result will be near-insufferable to many, including the critics – Metacritic gives it 41/100, Rotten Tomatoes 33/100, both offer users' scores in lower 50s. But me, I quite enjoyed it – always had a soft spot for this kind of thing. The authors have created exactly what they were aiming for, and everything is put together very well. What's more important, the actors are enjoyable and feel surprisingly sincere considering the high cheesiness factor of the whole thing. The events and dialogue are not original in any way, of course, but the cast really makes it work, be it the screen veteran club (Reese Witherspoon, Candice Bergen, Michael Sheen, Lake Bell) or the trio of young and fresh hunksters (Nat Wolff, Pico Alexander, Jon Rudnitsky) that even Zoolander would envy for their impossibly good- looking-ness. Together they create an ultimate feel-good atmosphere – a cinematic comfort food that is probably meant for 50+ midder- and upper-class American ladies, but works for little girls of every age and sex, including myself. All the others, who will not „get it", probably have a horrible time of living through all 97 minutes of this. Just remember: let yourself be transported to magic neverland where life really is like in magazines, and all will be fine. „Home Again" is the movie equivalent of something canned milk: one craves it for irresistible one-two punch of sweetness which is always the same and way too sweet for many, but if you stomach this type of thing, it's gonna be delicious. Reese Witherspoon probably realized that it's cool to be serious and versatile actress and all, but despite the good looks she's not actually getting any younger. So she found some time to make another chick flick, a mental successor for her "Legally Blonde" series, and grab younger demographic tightly by the tits until she can. I mean, what else is there for her in her forties and also coming decades – a string of boring old-lady roles? Bah. She wants to have some fun til she can, and you should too!
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A western classic with some added Denzel Washington
2 October 2017
Once upon a time, there was this bloody western titled „The Magnificent Seven", released in 1960 and directed by legendary Sergio Leone, which is still considered one of the best movies western genre, it not of all time. It won't probably hit you that hard, if you tried to watch now for the first time, what with it being almost 60 years old and all. So you might as well settle for this remake. This is one of those remakes nobody asked for, but you know it's gonna be somewhat special if it's led by Denzel Washington, one of the greatest movie stars of our time, a man with not often rivalled charisma and on screen presence. It's about seven gunmen protecting a town from ruthless robber baron, simple as that. The story or screenplay are nothing special nor especially deep, but they don't even have to be, because the cast is cool and most of the time is dedicated to blasting off those guns. The direction is competent, able to use the best of western clichés and build constant suspense; dialogue is adequate; the acting is good enough but there's no point of writing about all that extensively. First and foremost, this is about shooting people, or preparing to do it, for 132 minutes. Although the story is shallow, there is some hidden symbolism which may offer some delight for Jung fans. The seven heroes are played by Byung-hun Lee, Chris Pratt, Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, and Vincent D'Onofrio. The robber baron is Peter Sarsgaard. Also appearing, Luke Grimes, Haley Bennett, et al. Most of the cast plays it straight but some (Hawke, D'Onofrio, Sarsgaard) add a little mental instability to their performances, which brings a welcome variety. For a movie directed by Antoine Fuqua, „The Magnificent Seven" is unusually modest and low-key – if you can call a story of massacre that. It never tries to get glamorous and impress us with visual inventiveness, the latter is mostly reserved for shootouts so we wouldn't have to watch men dying in same way over and over again. Then again, the world looks remarkably simple and unglamorous as the true wild west may hav been, Washington, for example, hasn't looked that ordinary on screen for a long time. So, this is a simple story well told. Fine entertainment for action lovers, or those who want to see classic western redone with modern tools and resources.
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War Dogs (2016)
Yet another take on American rags to riches success story formula
2 October 2017
Yet another spin of the greed is good / rags-to-riches American success story formula pioneered by Oliver Stone's 1987 classic „Wall Street", still heavily used by all the others. This is a true story about 20-something guys (Jonah Hill, Miles Teller) exploiting a little- known government initiative that allows small businesses to bid on U.S. Military contracts during the Iraq War. They begin raking in big money but soon get in over their heads. Also starring, Bradley Cooper, Ana de Armas, Kevin Pollak. This type of movies usually depend heavily on the coolness of the leading actors, and Hill + Teller surely is an exciting combo. Hill's work is especially noteworthy, giving the staple comedy actor a chance to create an unusually multifaceted character, a sociopathic narcissistic dude. „War Dogs" also has the typical weakness of this type of movie: underdeveloped final act. After taking their sweet time showing all about the humble beginning and rise to fame and fortune, the later events are shown in a hurry. Stuff happens because it has to happen, not because the story has evolved to this point naturally. Director Todd Phillips is known for moderately funny but not especially inventive mainstream comedies („Road Trip", „Old School", 2004's „Starsky and Hutch", „School for Scoundrels", „The Hangover" trilogy, „Due Date"). This is his first break from the mold, and surely a refreshing step in new direction. Like some of the best screen stories, "War Dogs" is not tied to a particular genre such as comedy or action or drama. It has a bit of everything which has always been one of the most attractive aspects of this type of rags to riches movies. By the way, the poster design is a parody of the iconic poster for mafia classic „Scarface", which is referenced throughout the film; also, Hill was born in 1983 when „Scarface" was released. I don't know if it's really important in some way. It's a solid way to spend nearly two hours, but there's a great number of movies of the same type already. Don't expect to remember it in the morning.
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Mike and Dave Need Some Better Jokes
1 October 2017
A raunchy comedy about hard-partying brothers Mike (Adam Devine, Zac Efron) who start a public campaign to find perfect dates (Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza) for their sister's Hawaiian wedding, so the family would be pleased for once. Supposedly based on a true story. American mainstream comedies have a lot of improvised dialogue and scenes these days which can be great. Also, as in this case, it can bring mediocre results when there's not much content backing all that impro-ing, or the players are not able to get creative enough. In this case, there's enough story for an unpretentious 98 minute entertainment but the dialogue remains generic and performances feel uninspired. Both leading men, Efron and Devine, have done this sort of thing so much that they're always kind of cool. But the leading ladies, Aubrey and Kendrick, don't impress at all. They don't develop much of a flow of their own and settle for copying the guys. Dirty jokes are not that good either, and the blissful massage section which is supposed to be one of the major setpieces, is just painfully unfunny. „Mike and Dave" comes from the writers of „Neighbors" and „Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising" but offers none of the fun and energy of said comedies, not that these were true classics or anything. It certainly doesn't help that at least three of the four leads have done this sort of thing way too much in recent past. It's hard to get excited again when all you're seeing is a case of SSDD.
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Tulip Fever (2017)
Pretty but basic historical love story
13 September 2017
It's a timeless tale of love and betrayal and people doing shitty things to people who are good to them, based on a 1999's novel by Deborah Moggach who also wrote a screenplay for this. Once upon a long time ago in Amsterdam: a married woman (Alicia Vikander) begins a passionate affair with an artist (Dane DeHaan) hired to work for her husband (Christoph Waltz). The lovers gamble on hot market for tulips to get the money for escaping together. Also appearing, Judi Dench, Zach Galifianakis, Jack O'Connell, Holliday Grainger, Tom Hollander, Cara Delevingne and others. This must be one of the more hated movies of 2017 I've come across: Metacritic score 37 out of 100, Rotten Tomatoes's 8 out of 100. It's far from disaster but I can't say it's good either. To start with the positive, the movie looks gorgeous, the mid-17th century Amsterdam feels very lively and booming although we don't see much of it, most events take place inside somewhere. The pictures added here really don't do the movie justice but I didn't find a better selection online. The actors make their best of their material, although the characters are so one-note that only screen veterans in supporting roles (Waltz, Dench, Hollander) manage to give really memorable performances. The young stars (Vikander, DeHaan) do adequate work and they have good enough chemistry to offer some steamy love-making scenes… but you can't really compete with Waltz or Dench in terms of range or sheer presence, can you? Based on acting and how the movie looks, the result would deserve a higher score… but the storytelling really makes a mess of everything. In 107 minutes, there's so many events and relationships and so little willingness to develop them properly that several major plot points or turns fall entirely flat and lose any believability or dramatic impact. All in all, „Tulip Fever" is disappointment. It's certainly watchable if underwhelming… but it could have been good. Still, I like both young stars and look forward to seeing them in other, better realised movies. It's also interesting to note that Vikander is the new Lara Croft in „Tomb Raider'" reboot coming in March. The project has an unlucky history which is actually a fair bit more interesting than the final movie itself. The shoots were originally planned in 2004, with Jude Law and Keira Knightley as leads and John Madden („Shakespeare in Love") as director. However, the production was halted 12 days before the shooting because of changes in tax rules affecting film production in the UK. Dreamworks had already built a massive set of the Amsterdam canals, and planted 12,000 tulips which were dead-headed. The current production was shot in 2014 but the release was postponed for three years due to negative test screenings.
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Suicide Squad (2016)
Makes you wish that everybody died so there'd be no sequels or spinoffs
13 September 2017
I find most superhero movies too generic and soulless to enjoy them but „Suicide Squad" gives this description a whole new meaning. Not a single f*** was given during watching this meaningless action adventure which gives us a bunch of DC Comics's superheroes incarcerated for their crimes who save the world to get some years off. By the way, for once, the general response to the superhero movie has been similar to mine, suggesting to not waste your time. They battle some superhuman force which looks as mysterious and grand as something straight outta some children's movie. Even most of the superheroes themselves are neither cool nor interesting in any way. Except, maybe, Deadshot (Will Smith) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), who also have the most lines, including all the best ones. Also appearing, Viola Davis diving straight for the paycheck this time, Jared Leto as Joker (original but toothless rendition of this great character), Joel Kinnaman, Jay Hernandez, Karen Fukuhara et al. Almost everything feels devoid of creativity or fun in this movie. Where did they spend the huge 175 million dollar budget? The result doesn't even look pretty or have gripping action scenes. Avoid! And maybe avoid the inevitable sequel(s) too, because they surely are coming. For all the hate „Squad" has gathered from critics and superhero afficionados and the regular moviegoers, it still managed to bring 745 million U.S. dollars from cinemas. How is it even possible? I can't believe this was written and directed by David Ayer, the man who gave us „Harsh Times", „End of Watch", and „Fury" (also wrote „Training Day" and „Dark Blue"). None of the good qualities he usually seems to possess are evident here. Let's hope his upcoming Netflix fantasy action „Bright" also starring Will Smith is much much better! Watched an extended cut which adds 11 minutes for total of 134. Now want the two hours of my life back.
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It's made of clichés but the result is pretty damn good!
13 September 2017
Boy (Dylan O'Brien) sees her fiancé killed in terrorist attack and vows bloody revenge. He becomes a CIA counterterrorism agent, training under the seasoned pro (Michael Keaton) whose past suddenly returns to haunt him. Also starring: Yousef 'Joe' Sweid, Sanaa Lathan, David Suchet, Taylor Kitsch, Shiva Negar. Along „Renegades", this is one of the good recent actioneers that has a risk of not finding an audience it deserves. Probably because everybody thinks that yeah, trailer ain't bad, but we've seen enough stuff like this. But wide release is actually around the corner yet, so let's hope for the best. „American Assassin" may have a very typical action thriller trailer, and it's true that the story is made of clichés mostly, but the result is actually very enjoyable. The action is bloody and satisfying, the actors are good and charming, and the characters are just interesting enough to make you care. Almost all of the spy or secret agent action movies I've seen do the mistake of being pretty watchable for the most part but ruining the end: * introducing too many surprise twists to explain the events (= lazy storytelling), * taking itself too seriously (= becoming increasingly dull or heavy- handed), * or favoring often seen tired (how many times have you seen a final shootout on the roof of the building while it's raining, for example?). „American Assassin" never drops the baton, or pacing for that matter, which makes it fresher than most of its ilk. Also, the movie wins greatly by having three cool but not that widely known male actors in leads, one of them older and two younger. Let's examine them one by one, shall we? Kitsch is surely one of the greatest American action stars still unrecognized by the wider audience. He's got the muscle, the looks, the charm – what's not to like? If only his part was bigger. This is the only sad thought I had when the movie ended. You remember Kitsch from „Friday Night Lights" series, HBO's „True Detective" season 2, „John Carter" (as John Carter), „Battleship", Oliver Stone's „Savages", and „The Lone Survivor". Still can't quite recall the face? Told you so. One of the unregonignized greats. Dylan O'Brien in the lead is a star of long-running „Teen Wolf" series and also appears in „The Maze Runner" trilogy. It's good to see him starring in a movie now, and he looks fit to kick ass too! I totally bought him as a young hero. And last but not the least, let's bow down to Michael Keaton, one of the more charismatic movie stars of 1980's and 1990's who's probably not that well-known anymore. But he has lost none of the charm. This measured performance of ruthless counterterrorism veteran is probably the most memorable thing in the movie overall. Maybe it's time for Keaton revival? He's appeared in quite good projects lately – „Birdman", „Spotlight", „The Founder". Playing Vulture in newest „Spider-Man" did not probably hurt either, at least not his bank account. All in all, this movie is one of the rare positive examples where tired and overused clichés find a new life thanks to committed movie makers – CIA, terrorists, trained to kill, nuclear threat, plutonium and all the other blah blah blah is not interesting just by itself anymore. The young hero of „American Assassin" is actually the central character of so far 15 popular political thriller novels, so with any future commercial success, we may have witnessed a birth of a new action man who is interesting enough to compete with Jason Bourne, Jack Ryan, or the others. Director Michael Cuesta is also known for 2011's „Roadie" and 2014's „Kill the Messenger", look them up, both are interesting. So what if the movie is not exactly original? It's watchable and fresh, and the explosive ending is a joy to witness!
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The Square (2017)
Situational comedy about polarities (yes, it's artsy)
10 September 2017
Most of you may know the Swedish screenwriter-director Ruben Östlund thanks to his previous project, 2014's „Turist" – „Force Majeure" internationally –, an acclaimed psychological drama about man not being „man enough" when his family's lives are endangered by an avalanche in ski resort. Östlund continues exploring "Turist's" major theme further here: comfort zones and what happens when we dare or are forced to leave them. Comfort zones govern our lives – we create them for personal use and on every level of human society – but in order to reach new grounds, we need to leave them. And if the zones end or vanish for some reason, the life as we have known it can break down quite easily. „Turist" is about one specific situation, „The Square" explores the theme connected to art world, although art can be seen as metaphor for man's creative or spiritual side, which to me seemed even more suitable. The central character is an director of a museum (played by Claes Bang), a nice guy who gets into trouble both in private life and professionally. It plays out like a situational comedy about polarities, in art, our life and modern man in general. Through different scenes and events we get to witness and contemplate about how modern man wants everything to be "simple" – black or white, either/or – but there are always two sides to everything, and you can't really have the one without the other. For example, We want the art to mean something and touch us deeply, but don't like to invest ourselves and open up for it; we want to express ourselves freely but can't necessarily tolerate others also doing this; we want power but we don't like responsibilities, etc etc. Yes, the approach is rather artsy but the movie is still pretty mainstream friendly, thanks to all the "comedy". Actors do wonderful job illustrating all these polarities on screen. This long 142 minute movie follows and examines the characters closely and relies on nuanceful performances quite heavily. The main problem is the directing style which sometimes seems to slow down just because, not that a situation couldn't be done any faster. There are scenes where camera finds it target and just stays with it almost to the point of dozing off, just because it can. I think Östlund has tried to prove a point – we want fast results, not to invest ourselves – but I also think he has overused it here. Movies nowadays are usually not that slow anymore, and it wears you down getting accustomed to this slowness. But it's still an intriguing and quite powerful movie about what life and art mean, or can mean. For its common ground, but also for its dark humor, expressiveness and inventiveness, „The Square" is like a dark companion piece for Jodorowski's joyous „Poesía sin fin" which also hit our cinemas recently. I can't say I understood the meaning of the major setpiece of performance artist „attacking" a fancy gala party, but I loved it (the poster shows him too). He's like an uncanny mix of Bruce Lee and monkey man! That's what art is supposed to be all about, I guess: taking us out of our comfort zones and making us feel something even without understanding it well. By the way, although most of the dialogue is in Swedish, some is in English and some major supporting characters are played by people we know from American entertainment, such as Dominic West („The Wire", „The Affair") and Elisabeth Moss („Mad Men").
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