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The Golden Compass (2007)
Rushed, but worth watching, if not for Nicole Kidman
I saw the movie several years ago on TV. I couldn't really remember it now, but I did like it, and have wanted to read the book several times ever since. I've been running about a lot nowadays, and I love listening to audiobooks. I have had the audiobooks for quite some time, and this was the perfect opportunity to listen to them, so I did. Once I was done with the first book, a rewatch of the movie was in order.
This movie didn't do well in the box office. Some blame it on the religious theme of the story, others on it not being a very good movie. I quite liked it, though now that I know what they worked from, I can see the problems. For a discussion on the story itself, please read my book review.
The story didn't change much. They did merge a few characters, as it sometimes happens. What was strange was the introduction of the councillors and the Magisterial Emissary. It is remarked in the books that the Magisterium dictates a lot of things, and is half supporting Mrs Coulter, but it is her eagerness for power, which drives the negative events, not the Magisterium, as it appears in the movie. Or so it was my understanding as I read the book. I did wonder why they made it out so, but I couldn't see any justification for it. Maybe more will be revealed int he following books. Another change as opposed to the book was the revelation of Lyra's parents. In the book, Lyra learns about it under very different circumstances, and much sooner. I think they placed it so in the movie, because it had a bigger impact on Lyra that way, but it didn't seem to matter for the story all that much. The third big change was the order of the last couple of events, and especially leaving out the last big event. Lyra coming across the children and the bears is the opposite in the book. The only reason I can see for the change is that in the movie the party at Mrs Coulter's house is left out. It is there that Lyra learns of Lord Asriel's imprisonment among the bears, and that's why after the children she goes there. While in the movie she knows nothing about that turn of events, so she would have no motivation to head that way, and therefore has to just happen on that storyline while heading to her original goal. The fourth big change is that they left out death, that seems to be an important part of the story. From Lyra exploring the catacombs in the beginning, to the end, death is a part of the story. In the movie, it was taken out. Sure, characters die, but not children. We know from the books that the poor boy Lyra finds dies, and yes, I did shed a tear, but that's not clear in the movie. That particular horror is left out, making the tone milder. In a way, the children who die make what is really happening - without giving too much away -, all the worse. That people would do that without a thought, just to keep children from growing up to thinking freely.
The biggest change of all is the milder tone overall that the movie takes. Gone are the references to Christianity. The Magisterium is the big bad, the organisation, while in the book, it was the underlying doctrine, that is the actual problem. I can understand the reason for the change, even though I wasn't pleased by it. The milder tone was also achieved by the ending. Since in the book, Lyra does reach her final end-goal, and in the movie she doesn't. I can especially understand this change, since that still haunts me a bit, and I'm somewhat glad to not have seen it.
The best thing about the movie is really Nicole Kidman. She was picked and persuaded by Philip Pullman himself to play Mrs Coulter. Sure, her hair is blonde, but even the author admitted that he should have described his character as a blonde. Nicole Kidman is perfect for the role. Cold, ruthless, even when trying to care. I'm not a big fan of hers, I think in some things she was terrible. However, I will always see Mrs Coulter as she portrayed her.
The second books was never made into a movie. It can be the problems with the anti-religious tone, or the fact that a lot of people didn't like it. Truth be told, it did feel rushed. All the events were crammed into these 113 minutes, clearly not enough. However, back in 2007 TV shows still didn't have the budget they do now. 2008 did one good thing. TV became more important, as people cut back on going out. Shows became more popular, and therefore more money is poured into them now. This book would have clearly worked better as a TV show. That is what will hopefully happen, as BBC has promised to develop the trilogy as a TV show. I'm sure the books will the in good hands, as BBC adaptations are very high quality, especially in recent years.
Overall, watch this movie. It's pretty good on its own, and if you're unsure about reading the book, it will give you a general idea of it. The CGI is also terrific, and don't forget the real highlight of the movie, Nicole Kidman as Mrs Coulter.
The Shannara Chronicles (2016)
Let me start out by saying that I haven't read the books. So if you're expecting some sort of comparison, not in this review. Though the books have been on my list for about a decade, maybe I'll finally read them.
MTV makes TV shows. It was odd at first, after all, first it was music, then reality shows, and now, TV shows. I was sceptical at first. That is, before I saw Teen Wolf. I kept hearing about it, so one day I decided to give the first season a shot. About 10 hours later, I couldn't stop watching it. Now with The Shannara Chronicles I was hoping for more of the same. Let me tell you, it didn't disappoint. When is the next episode again?
So I'm writing this 3 episodes into the series. Let's start with the visuals. Every good fantasy has to wow us with the visuals, that's sort of a given. It certainly does. One thing I didn't know about the world was that it's actually set on a future Earth. The pictures in the show never make us forget this. Sometimes boldly, like the remains of what I think is the radio astronomy observatory in New Mexico, to a toy in the bottom of a river. There is something poetic about these reminders of us. Then there are the new buildings. The elven palace is just as beautiful as it should be. They sure didn't spare any expense here.
The cast is a mix of relative newcomers and old dogs. While looking at the work of some of the main characters shows that they haven't done too much, they blend in well with the likes of John Rhys- Davies, who plays the king. There is definitely talent there.
The story itself is exciting. Straight from the beginning we are plunged into events that move the story along. No lengthy sitting around wondering about what's going on, but straight into action. I'm someone who likes that sort of thing, so it swept me along right from the first moment. When is the next episode again?
So if you love fantasy, action, magic, this is the show you want to watch. It's probably not going to be the one that tries to resolve the philosophical questions of our age, but who cares! Jump on the horse, and ride along with these characters, because it's shaping up to be one great adventure! Again, next episode MTV?
I sat in to see this movie with mixed feelings. I was pretty bored by the first movie, and I wasn't sure if I would be more entertained by the second. In the end, it was okay.
Unlike the first movie, which had an interesting beginning, boring middle, and more exciting ending, this movie had a steady pace. While I wasn't at the edge of my seat, it was interesting enough to not cause me to start creating dishes for my other blog in my head. However, it wasn't exciting enough to actually make me feel.
In the review of the previous movie I had a few questions. Now let's see if they were answered. - What is the wall for? - We sort of get an answer. - What is the rest of the world like, and why isn't anyone trying to find out? - We sort of get an answer for the first part, but not the second. It still doesn't make sense to me why people just take at face value that the world beyond the wall is terrible. On some of the shots there were clearly forests beyond the wall as well. There are always people in every group that see the horizon and just want to find out what is beyond it. Yet in 200 years apparently no one like that was born there. - Why are there still so many houses with holes in them? Shouldn't they have been repaired by now or torn down? - In this movie we see some new buildings as well. Now that I know it's been 200 years, I'm still wondering why the old ones aren't torn down or repaired? They would be dangerous. Falling debris all over the place! They could build a skyscraper taller than any other building, but not deal with the old ones? Makes no sense! - How long ago was this war thing, and what are the general facts about it? - We only learned that it was 200 years ago. So they think. Maybe not. - What are the Gryffindors, sorry, Dauntless protecting people from? It feels more like they're trying to control the people who like to climb on walls for no apparent reason, and don't know that there are mountains in the world. - Apparently, in this movie their role is to bully the other factions.
The whole factions thing makes even less sense. From the movie it seems like the faction is innate. It has biological implications, because there are machines that can tell what you are. Now how is that possible? Really? Just think about it. There is no concrete biological indicator to a person's core personality. In fact, it's impossible to determine how much of who you are is genetics, and how much is experience. This world is inherently flawed in that way. In other books when there are such cast systems, they are a lot better explained. One way to go about it is like in The Hunger Games, or in real life, India. You are born into a group, and that is where you stay. Another way is interfering with nature. In Brave New World the development even as an embryo is carefully controlled, and when they are born, through conditioning and other methods reinforced. They interfere with nature and nurture to get the desired outcome. In this world, they do neither. Determining a faction based on just the dominant personality trait is very faulty, and makes absolutely zero sense. In fact, it's not feasible.
The story itself was okay. Really not much to say about it. No great surprises, even though I never read the book. Okay, the plot point of the "message" was not something that can be foreseen, but everything else about it was obvious. Even the ending, though the precise message I wasn't able to determine, I knew it would say something similar. The ending scene left me questioning what they could possible put in the next movie. I guess I'll find out next year. I am a bit curious, but I'm working myself through A Dance with Dragons, and I intent to finish it before reading anything else.
The actors, well, Tris didn't get any better. Not much in the passion, or smiling department. I get that she's supposed to be this tortured heroine, but the only time she seemed to actually show emotions was when she was trying to kill someone with her bare hands, or crying. Though the crying looked so awkward, I kept thinking that they should just make her stop. Four got a little better. We learned some of his story, and he also seemed to be more into Tris than she was into him. Though there were some nicer romantic moments, that almost made the whole movie better.
Overall, it was an okay movie. I didn't hate it, just kept thinking how some parts of the story made no sense, and how some were weird. It's really watchable. The scenes were nicer than the previous movie, and there was also more action. I don't intend to rewatch it ever, but I'm glad that I saw it, because it would bug me after having seen the first movie.
Jupiter Ascending (2015)
This movie reminds me of one of my favourite sci-fi movies of all time, The Fifth Element. Mostly, because when I saw it, I thought it was one of the most gorgeously shot movies I've ever seen. This was the same way. I keep remembering pictures from it, environments that I kind of wanted to melt into, and be in that scene. The space ships were majestic. The dresses that Jupiter wore, I want all of them. They were intricate, beautiful, and sleek. Kym Barrett is a goddess.
The concept of the world I liked. It was intricate, and well- thought-out. The way they meddled with genes and technology gave it a good variety, and also a great range to play with. Without spoiling the story, the Earth origin story was believable, and it gave a good explanation to what we saw.
The story itself was good. There were some humorous moments, like the bureaucracy. There wasn't much of a twist, the "mystery" element was quite obvious after the first about 30 minutes. The action was fast-paced, however, and looked great. The romance aspect was very minor, and a bit forced. It was obviously coming, but it didn't seem to actually play a role in the events, or in how the characters interacted with each other. If they had just been friends, I don't think it would have made much of a difference. Note to film-makers, there doesn't have to be a romantic aspect in every story.
The casting was also good. Mila did a great job as Jupiter. She was as confused about everything as can be expected, but at the end could harden her face and kick some ass. Channing is starting to be a bit overused as the resident muscled love interest. Not that he's not hot, or that he didn't growl appropriately, but I'm starting to feel bad for every other muscular male actor out there. I did feel, however, that his role was rather generic, and repetitive.
So the movie itself didn't blow me away in its complexity, just the pictures did. However, it is a fun sci-fi movie, and I would love to have a sequel, or even just books, because I want to know what happens to Jupiter in the future.
I didn't hear about this movie until it was mentioned in a list of movies never released in the theatres in Hungary that were good. That's where I live, BTW. The concept sounded interesting and unique, so I decided to check it out. I also do have a thing for dystopias.
The movie is about a train that goes around the world, carrying the last members of humanity. In an experiment that we managed to mess up, we managed to freeze the whole world. The train was built to be a self- sustaining economy. I did wonder how that would work.
The first thing that came into my mind was "guns?" That's the first thing you see on the the screen of the train. A man carrying a machine gun. In a way that describes the whole movie. It is very violent. The basic plot is that the people who live in the back, the poor section, try to take over the engine at the front, to control the train, the world, really.
The rich people control the food, punish rebellious poor people, and seem to be generally running a religious rhetoric of the "sacred engine" and Wilford, the holy creator of the engine. An interesting thing is that none of the poor people seem to be buying the religious rhetoric, only the rich ones. The people in the tail section don't even actually do anything, but seem to just breed and consume resources. However, most of the people in the front, the rich don't seem to be doing anything either.
Chris Evans plays Curtis. The leader of the rebellion against the people in the front. The movie is more about his struggle than anything. We often see his face in a close-up.
John Hurt plays Gilliam, who guides Curtis in his adventure.
Yona, played by Ah-sung Ko is a strange girl, who has an especially good hearing.
The characters don't feel close. I couldn't really connect to their struggle, as the emphasis seemed to be more on the violence than anything.
What Wilford said at the end felt rational, while cruel. However, in the situation it would have been the only way to go. The real problem that I saw with the whole thing was that the very existence of humanity in this form didn't have a point. You'd think that humans as a whole are really just worth their existence as long as they develop, create, and make strides to better themselves. The humans on the train are just like the train. Going around and around, not reaching anything, not having any goals other than being there.
The ending was weird. I guess there was supposed to be hope there, but what would have really been the point?
Overall, not an average movie, but I would have liked less fighting, more characterisation. Also, an ending that makes more of a sense. Watchable though, and finding out what the whole train was like kept me going.
Detective Drama with a twist
Reinoryokusha Odagiri Kyoko no Uso (Spiritual Teacher, Kyoko Odagiri) wasn't the drama I first thought it was going to be. I thought it would have a lot of fake psychic stuff, pretending to do magic, and would be kind of annoying. Why I really started to watch was Ishihara Satomi, who I've seen in a few things, and that dress. Oh my, that is so gorgeous, I kind of want it. What I got was a detective series, actually. The cases seem to be supernatural at first glance, but of course they're not. I was happy that it was a detective series, because I'm growing to really love Japanese detective stories. Unlike most Western ones, the difference is that most "culprits" aren't really evil, and not doing things out of malicious intentions. Their motivation is often to help someone, or to save people. Therefore when the resolution comes, it's usually done in a kind way. The mysteries themselves are interesting, but not impossible to solve. I did figure some of them out, but not all of them.
Ishihara Satomi plays the title character, Odagiri Kyoko. She is a fake psychic, but like the cases she investigates, her motivations for doing it aren't evil, or just to make a lot of money. In fact, she kind of hates it, but has to. I loved how Satomi could switch between the two personalities that she had to display. That of the young woman, and the self-assured psychic. Tanihara Shosuke plays Taniguchi Ichirou, a detective trying to find an actual psychic to recruit. She ends up helping Kyoko with her detective work, and I could also feel a spark between them, but sadly this isn't a romance drama. Oshima Yuko is Ibushi Kaoru, Kyoko's manager and cousin. I liked the character, she was kind of cute and ruthless.
Overall, an interesting variation on the detective drama. It is also touching at places, and the ending was great. Well worth watching.
Dracula Untold (2014)
The scenes look beautiful
The ratings on this one are pretty bad, but I thought it looked good, so I wanted to see for myself what this movie was like. I'm kind of on the fence about it, because it wasn't that bad, not even boring.
The story was very predictable, though the precise way of how Vlad became Dracula was something that I haven't seen before. Even though I knew what was going to happen, I wanted to see it. What actually did impress me about the movie was precisely that, the imagery. The colours, or rather the lack of them was great. In the beginning you still have some warm tones, the grass is green, the candle gives a warm yellow light. By the end, everything is grey and muted, just the red of the armour stands out. Among all the darkness the one bright spot is Mirena, the wife. Her beauty is so great, I often just stared at her on the screen, not being able to take my eyes off. Her white dress towards the end with the red lining displays her innocence, and how she is the one pure thing in all the darkness. Her purity comes out of the love of her two men. What I would really like to do is get the movie and make screenshots.
Luke Evans made a pretty good Dracula. They probably had him sunbathing, because his skin was as dark as usually the people in the region are. His eyes were intense and telling. Sarah Gadon made an achingly beautiful Mirena. Frankly, I was quite mesmerised by her. She did feel familiar and I have seen her in a few things, but here they managed to make her very memorable. I also enjoyed Dominic Cooper as Mehmed. He actually looked Turkish.
Overall, I don't think it was a very bad movie. It wasn't so horrible that I'm going to have nightmares. In a way I found it intriguing in the artistic way it was handled. It's not a big movie, but the story was quite enjoyable, and the action, while at times a bit ridiculous, fun. It had a definite dark feel. Watchable.
Good People (2014)
My Saturday night movies are starting to develop a bad pattern. This was supposed to be an action, crime, thriller. I seem to pick boring movies. Well, the action was mostly at the end, there was a crime, and it didn't thrill me very much.
It starts out as one of those gritty dramas. Or at least tries to. The colours are muted, mostly greys, and we quickly establish that the "good people" are a couple down on their luck. They have money troubles, fertility problems, so you can really feel that these people are just in a hole. Now this is where the predictability starts to happen. Generally bad things don't seem to happen to the good people who are well-off and happy. From then on, it feels like a generic thriller. It has the drugs, the single mum, the ageing cop with a personal beef against the evil guys. It was almost like watching one of those genre comedies, like it should be titled "Thriller Movie".
It's not the cast, really. They were fine. It's the story. Kate Hudson was a good female lead. I don't remember seeing her in any action before, but there was a line; "Guns are for pussies" that she looked really bad-ass saying. She had a good mix of regular woman caught in a bad situation, but kicking butt. James Franco blended in well with the look of the movie. He had the dirty, grey visage that was perfect. I felt he was a bit overshadowed by Kate, but he was a good, supporting husband. Tom Wilkinson was a fine British cop. He was so generic though, it could have been anyone of the many actors who generally play British cops on TV.
Overall, a lacklustre movie, and there really isn't all that much to say about it. You can watch it, if you have low expectations. Or if you really have some time to kill. Or you're doing something, and want some background noise and gunfire doesn't bother you. Otherwise, give this one a miss.
Crap science, lacklustre action, no real characters
I'm pretty late watching this movie, but that's because I didn't want to pay for it. Reason #1, the science is bogus. The whole 10% thing had been refuted a while ago. I remember when it was all the rage, I think it was the late 80s, or early 90s, at least where I am from. I was a kid, and we were talking about it during a break at school with my friends. Not really a topic for 10-year-olds, but I was weird like that. What I can't remember is when I knew it was stupid. We now do know, there is no part of the brain going unused, or not up to its potential. I'm not going to go into details here, let's just say that when I saw the trailer of this movie, I found it weird how they could use something so archaic.
The reason why I did watch it was the reviews. They were pretty good, and promised excitement, good acting. I didn't really get either. The story is quite simplistic. Much of it is taken up by Morgan Freeman narrating. Now I like his voice as much as anyone, but the substance was sometimes face-palm worthy. Also, ooookay, I was waiting for something interesting to happen, and it just never did. Maybe if I had actually believed that whole premise of the movie, but since I know it's bogus, I was mostly rolling my eyes. It's not that I haven't seen fantasy or sci- fi that had unrealistic elements to it. However, this time, it felt more like listening to some Christian apologist speak in one of the debates I so love. Totally baseless, junk science. I just couldn't let myself get lost in a fantasy. Maybe if the story actually had a story. It was so cliché, simplistic and predictable, the credits rolled, and the first thing that came to my mind was: "that was it?" I want to go up to Luc Besson, shake him, and ask him how he could have made something so boring. It reminded my of those sci-fi shorts that were really just introducing a concept, or an idea. However, those are not fit to be made into movies. They're dry. MAybe he was trying to do that? This from the same guy who made one of my favourite sci-fi movies of all time The Fifth Element. I must have seen that one a dozen times. I'll work very hard at forgetting that this mundane thing was also done by him.
I saw praise for Scarlett Johansson. She plays the lead character, Lucy. I guess if you can get points for spending the majority of the film with a completely blank expression, then it's okay. Though for that they could have just used Kristen Stewart. She has that down to an artform. Yeah, I'm being sarcastic, just in case you haven't read any of my reviews for her movies. Morgan Freeman is also on the poster. He narrates. He asks questions. He stands around a lot. He sometimes sits. I don't think he was used to his full potential either. Not that people wouldn't enjoy him reading the telephone book, but really...
So the story is simple, acting is not really required from the actors, so perhaps it has great fight scenes or special effects? No. Okay, there are brief moments when Lucy does something that looks cool. Like make guns fly into air. Would have been a wow moment in the 60s maybe. However, other than some people shooting up a bunch of places without much opposition is about as exciting or visual as this thing gets. I hope they didn't pay someone to come up with those fight scenes.
Overall, I couldn't find any redeeming factor to this movie that would make me actually want to watch it again, or recommend it to anyone. I didn't hate it. Really. Twilight I hated for various reasons. This I was more like shrugging and marking it off the "to be watched" pile. Crap science, lacklustre action, no real characters, ... I just don't see a point to what I watched for 90 minutes. I can't give it more than one star. I tried to give two, but really, there is just nothing good about this, I didn't enjoy anything about it. One star it is.
You'll be happy and hungry after watching this
Chef is a fun movie about food, life, and fatherhood. While I'm giving it only 3 stars, I still liked it a lot. However, it wasn't a great masterpiece, or terribly exciting. My reason for watching it twice is that it gives me a warm feeling every time I watch it.
The movie is a lot of fun. It has a fast talking chef, Carl Casper, who swears a lot, like most chefs I've seen on TV, and that's always great to watch. There are some good jokes, and the cop played by Russell Peters was a memorable comic character. It's also about food, and being a chef. Today the trend in food is good, local ingredients, and an ever changing menu that adapts to the environment. The changing menu allows the chef a creative freedom, and also gives a chance to people to try out new things. In the movie, the opposite of this style is a menu that is always the same, which is portrayed as being stuck in the past. As someone who loves to discover new food, I like the progressive approach as well. The food in the movie looks very good. I read that Jon Favreau, the actor portraying Carl Casper, studied cooking, and worked with Roy Choi to look authentic on screen. It turned out very well. I recommend not watching it on an empty stomach. Chef is also about life and self-discovery. All people come across a time in their lives when they feel that they are in a rut. This is harder on creative people, who may feel uninspired and frustrated. The only thing we can do is to change, when possible. That can be hard, unless we are forced into it, or opportunity comes knocking. However, this movie is trying to show that once we finally make that leap, we will be happier for it. Another theme in the film is fatherhood. Carl is divorced, and tries to spend as much time with his 10-year-old son as possible, but he's busy with his job. It was very nice to see that his ex-wife was supportive, and understanding. A lot of times in film we see bad divorces, but part of the good feeling this movie gives is the great relationship between Carl and his ex. The kid, played by Emjay Anthony, adopts his mother's understanding attitude, though there is a moment when he shows that he isn't perfect after all. It would be great if all divorced families could have the same relationship as they do. I also liked how social media was portrayed. Today, if you have a business, or building a personal brand, social media is very important. In the beginning Carl isn't knowledgeable about it, and while it's part of the hilarity, it also shows that we all have to be careful about what we post online. However, while it warns us of the dangers, it also portrays the power and potential of what a Twitter account can accomplish if used well.
Overall, I recommend this movie for an after-dinner watching as a couple, or as a family. Though there is a lot of swearing, especially in the beginning, so the kids may need to be older. While this isn't mostly about food, foodies will also enjoy it. Check out the Facebook page as well, as they have recipes. Anyone for a Cubano?
The Maze Runner (2014)
Action and mystery, scratching my head
Frankly, I didn't know what to expect when I decided to go to this movie. I have seen that some of the people I follow for book reviews have read it, and it got mixed reviews. However, sometimes even bad books can be made into good movies or TV shows. Recently The 100 comes into mind, which was like this. It probably also occurred to me, because it has similar themes. Teens trying to survive in a world they don't know much of after an apocalypse.
This movie is very action packed. The pacing is good for the most part, however, the ending was a bit abrupt. As if they were shooting, looked at what they had, and realised that they spent too much time on the stuff so far, so they had to finish it already. The story itself isn't typical current YA. Mercifully, no romance! There could be in the future, but not right now. The beginning made me think of Lord of the Flies. While there are moments when it could go that way, it doesn't. Perhaps the makers had enough faith in humanity to think that when a bunch of boys get together, they don't necessarily go for the "kill 'em all" scenario. Even though there are indications that there were more violent days, they could establish peace.
There aren't any movies this one specifically reminds me of. That could just be that other than superhero movies, I rarely watch stories with this level of testosterone. Or it could just be that most of it was really vague, and the answers weren't forthcoming. I could liken it to The Hunger Games. However, while it does happen in an enclosed space, there isn't that sense of Big Brother, since the boys don't know where they are, or why. It is obvious that someone is watching, and that some aspects of the environment are controlled, but not to that extent. The people trapped are also victims of some system, but it's not the overarching sense. I even considered that like in another movie that I saw about a futuristic prison that people escape, only to find out that there is no one else out there, and everything was running on automation all along. This idea was actually reinforced by the look of the maze. It had a lot of rust and decay, more than 3 years of the alleged use of the place would indicate in my opinion. So while some details of the story are similar to some other stories I've seen, they only came into my mind afterwards.
The characters are a bit clichéd, but it could just be that the action was favoured instead of the character building. The action was really good, had my heart pounding at times, so I didn't mind. Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) is the main character. It is his appearance that kick starts the changes in the camp. While this could be a flaw in the story, there are indications that this isn't a coincidence, and after a while that can become obvious. There were also some things about the events surrounding him that left me with questions. I hope they will be answered in the next movies. Though if I know myself, I won't stand it that long, and soon enough you will be seeing book reviews of this series, so watch this space. Thomas is the boy who acts, and isn't content to let the bigger, stronger boys lead him. He becomes a leader himself. Thomas' character takes the adventurous character of Stiles to a new level. He is the kind of guy that sees a mountain, and wants to know what's behind it. He also runs towards danger, so he's a kind of hero. I'm not sure if I actually like him, but I often agree with him. Alby (Aml Ameen) is the leader in the camp. He is a good leader, though one of his decisions is strange, because he seems to usually delegate, but then he doesn't. That part felt a bit out of character, but could be better grounded in the book, or not there at all. Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) is Thomas' ally. They have a regular bromance from the start. It may come from Newt's generally relaxed nature, but they have a connection. In this story the actor's British accent felt weird. Everyone sounded American, and then he opened his mouth. I wonder if that was for the character, or an oversight, or he just had a hard time getting rid of it and they left it like that. In spite of this, I soon forgot about his accent, as he formed a really likable character. Gally (Will Poulter) is the evil guy. He is a bit of a cliché from the very start. The bully. The guy who never agrees with Thomas. The guy you just know will end up doing something horrible. He is also the opposite of Thomas in that if he sees a mountain, he just sees the peaks, and then looks around and feels content with what he has. In a way, like a lot of bullies, he's scared of change, of anything different from what he knows. I almost felt sorry for him.
The ending was kind of a surprise. Though frankly, I didn't know what to expect. In fact, the end brought up more questions than answers. Why I'm sure the series will be on many new reading lists, and sales will increase. People generally aren't that good at waiting for answers.
Overall, an exciting movie, and a baffling one. I kind of hoped to decide just how much I liked it in the course of writing this review. I'm still not sure, thus the 3 stars. I do recommend it though, if not for anything but the exciting action, and the interesting mystery. Don't expect to leave the theatre fully satisfied though. Frustrated would be more like it.
The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014)
A lovely movie that leaves you warm in the heart
The Hundred-Foot Journey is a delightful story about food, love, learning to cope with differences, and accepting other people. It's also about finding what is actually important in life.
The movie feels a bit long, even though two hours in not that long by today's standards. However, a lot of things happen in it. I actually didn't watch the trailer, just knew that it had food in it, and I generally love movie about food. However, while food played an important part in the story, it was more of a vehicle to illustrate culture. The story starts out with an Indian family losing their restaurant, and something more in a riot. They decide to come to Europe, but they want to find some place where there are good ingredients, and start a restaurant there. They come upon a village in France, where they decide to settle down, but on the opposite side of a French restaurant. From then on the story describes how the two cultures get along. I was impressed by the turn of events here, because I really didn't expect to unfold like the way it did. There are some funny parts in the story, as well as some serious parts. The scenes where the food is in the limelight are shot well. No one should see it on an empty stomach. I also have to note that the movie is actually in three languages. English, French, and what I'm assuming is Hindi. I saw it with the whole thing being subtitled in Hungarian, so I'm assuming the foreign parts are usually subtitled when watching in English. It was actually a bit funny, because I didn't need subtitles for the English, some of the French was also okay, but of course the Hindi escaped me. So I would hear something that I didn't understand, and quickly look down to read the translation.
Hassan (Manish Dayal) is the main character, and a likable one. He's not the cliché Indian guy that we often cringe at in movies. He's very open to his surroundings, and is an overall modern person. He's also pretty cute. It's interesting to note that the actor was born in the US, so his accent is learned. Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon) is a lovely person in the story. She's a chef, though I only now realised that the only thing we ever actually see her cook is béchamel. She is beautiful though, and I couldn't stop looking at her. To me, the Indian Papa (Om Puri) stole the show. He was sometimes comical, but also had a deep quality without the cliché philosophical speeches. I'd also like to note here that he is portrayed by a genuine Indian actor. I think Helen Mirren is so often type cast into the role of an iron lady, I don't think I've seen her play anything else. However, she's always a good pick for it.
Overall, a delightful movie that left me warm in the heart. I recommend it for the lovely impression that it left me, and the inspiration to cook something.
The Giver (2014)
Full of clichés, generic YA dystopia
I wasn't very keen on watching this movie, but as is apparent from my previous reviews, I tend to keep an open mind. There were other movies I wasn't very excited about, and I liked them. The reason why I watched this movie? Alex Skarsgard. Yeah, he's beautiful, and I love his voice, so I decided to check this one out. I also saw that a lot of my online book friends loved the book version. Well, let me just say that I hope the book is better.
I can use one word to describe this movie. Simplistic. The book came out in 1993, before the hype of The Hunger Games, and other dystopian YA books, so in a way it's a forerunner of its time. However, while watching the movie it did remind me of a few things I saw or read that were made before 1993, so let's start the dystopian cliché list, that is now so familiar to us all. City surrounded by some sort of a barrier that people can't cross. Two things come to mind, and remember, I haven't seen and read all dystopian novels, so this is just from my small pool of reference. Zamyatin's Us had a wall, the city in Logan's Run was built underground. It is a basic trope in dystopia to limit travel, to cut people off from the outside world in order to control them. Getting rid of older people, celebrate it, and have the people not care that they are gone. This was actually a very basic part of Logan's Run. Breed people, not have a traditional family structure. I'd need to write a list, this is so common. It was basically in every dystopian fiction I come across and was written before 1993. People forget their history, no books. I will have to say Logan's Run again. Lois Lowry must adore the movie. Main character realises there is something wrong, and escapes. Okay, this is a bit of a cheat, because in dystopia the most common plot is that someone tries to rebel against the establishment. It's sort of a requirement. Main character escapes, and best friend comes after them. I hate to say this, but Logan's Run once more. I don't know how it is in the book, I don't suppose that it's a drone. Truth to be told, the friend turns out differently in Logan's Run. Humanity taken away by a drug, people are conditioned to think one way. Brave New World. There is conditioning, though a bit more heavy-duty than here, and you have a drug which there acts more apparently like a drug, but the purpose is the same. To not notice how crazy everything is. Cameras everywhere. Need I write a list here? When they put cameras all over London, people were saying Big Brother is watching. There may have been a couple of more, but I won't bore you. The story was a simplistic mash of a lot of clichés in dystopia. Maybe there is more depth in the book, because so many people loved it. However, if I summarised the movie, it would sound like a lot of dystopias. At least it felt short.
The characters are simply not exciting, or surprising. They feel like cardboard cut-outs. Jonas is the main protagonist. He is chosen to hold the memories of the past by taking them from the old Keeper of Memories, who becomes the Giver. This is done through some mind sharing, which isn't explained at all in the movie. Now in this world people don't seem to have too much of a personality, and that is sort of the point. He is more enthusiastic about things than the rest of the people even before he stops taking the drugs. Otherwise, I really don't know what to write about him. He's good with a baby. Let's also admit that he could have turned out to be a terrible person off the drugs, as could anyone. However, it's probably because of their simple upbringing, he is more like a small child than a young adult. He looks at everything with an innocence that was partly the point of keeping the memories of the past away from these people. The Giver is your typical old man. Jaded, obviously has a history with the Chief Elder. He's the one who leads Jonas on his journey. Fiona is the love interest. Rather, the cut-out of a love interest. I really don't have much to say about her either, since I learned very little of her other than she's pretty, and has a caring nature.
The thing that I find most unlike the rest of the dystopias is the YA aspect. I can't remember having read or seen anything that had such a young protagonist, but I probably haven't seen everything. It left a lot of questions in my mind. I still don't know how the community came about, what the rest of the world is like, or how the barrier worked, or a lot of other things. I was hoping for some great reveal, but none came. The ending just raised even more questions.
Overall, watchable, but not all that great. It didn't excite me, or make me want to read the book. It just left me baffled how so many people can like the book. I sincerely hope it's a lot better. I can only recommend it if you have 100 minutes to kill, and there's nothing else.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
I enjoyed this movie so much
I've been anticipating this movie for some time. From the previews it looked fun, sci-fi, action, the good stuff. I'm happy to report that it was real sci-fi, had a lot of funny moments, and the action was great.
The story isn't huge. It kinda reminded me of Star Wars with the face on the big screen partly veiled as the big evil guy, then him having an evil front man who does all the actual stuff. Then there was the usual personal tragedy bits, etc. I didn't expect the movie to invent the wheel though. The story itself was entertaining enough to keep me interested until the end. In fact, there was an episode I wasn't expecting, and the whole bit with the escape was really great. However, the "out in space" scene was very awkward and forced. It came out of left field, and felt like a clumsy solution to a problem in the story. I watched it in IMAX, so the 3D came in wonderfully. I enjoyed the different worlds and environments we got to see. By the way, I want to move to Xandar. That place looked gorgeous. The planets were different enough to make me want to explore them all. Okay, except for the one with all the men with makeshift knives. The spaceships looked unique too, and you could feel that there was more behind it. I want to read more of this world now, because it looks rich and exciting.
The characters were interesting. They were a bit unlike the usual heroes that they were a makeshift group. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) obviously has some back story going on that will unfold in future editions. It seems obligatory to make trilogies nowadays, so we may be looking at something like that. Hey, I'll watch two more movies like this one any day! The acting itself was really good, Chris became Peter in a believable way. So much so, that I couldn't remember that I've seen the guy in Bride Wars, when I've watched that movie at least 6 times. It's my go-to movie for "girly, light-hearted fun with cocktails". Gamora (Zoe Saldana) was probably my least favourite one of the lead. She just didn't feel real enough. Sure, we got to know a bit about her backstory and all that, but it was very cliché. I wanted to know more about her connection to the big bad. Not that Zoe did a bad job with her. She seems to be the resident sci-fi girl now. She was really great. I just think the writing let her down. Like she was the female in the boys club who is obviously meant to be the romantic interest to the lead guy. I usually don't bring my feminism into the reviews, but they could have really done better by her. I can't even say that male writers didn't know what to do with a woman, because the movie had a female writer as well. I hope that in the future they'll do better. Rocket and Grot are also reminiscent of Star Wars. They are a lot like R2-D2 and C-3PO. The comic duo that has one that talks a lot, the other hardly ever does, one is crafty, the other one not so much. However, I did like Rocket, and Grot at the end was so cute. It helped that I happen to love that Jackson 5 song myself. Drax (Dave Bautista) I didn't really like. He was the source of some really great humour, but he was annoying sometimes in his idiocy. Though I did love the pattern on his skin. As a huge Doctor Who fan, I also have to mention Nebula (Karen Gillian). She's evil, but I liked her. She also looked pretty cool all blue like that. I thought her character wouldn't have much of a role. She really didn't, but more scenes than I thought she would. Therefore, other fans can relax.
Overall, really great movie. A lot of fun, great sci-fi environments, promising main character. If you love sci-fi, you really have to watch it, even if you're not into superhero movies. This really is more like a sci-fi movie than a superhero movies. I gave it 10 stars, because I want the sequel to come out like... yesterday.
Good retelling with a twist
Besides superhero movies, the latest trend seems to be fairy tale retelling. Maleficent tells the story of Sleeping Beauty from the evil fairy's perspective. Even just reading that, it's obvious that she's not as evil here as she was in the original story. I like these sorts of retellings. The "evil" characters become three dimensional, instead of just the two dimensions that we used to get. Most of the time in real life people have their reasons for doing what they do. Also, sometimes the real villain is not the one you would first pick out to be. Without spoiling too much, I liked her reasons for doing what she did, and I also liked the way they resolved it.
Angelina Jolie was of course great in her role as the title character. She could be great in her fury, and in her soft moments. I didn't expect anything less of her. Elle Fanning I haven't seen in many things before. Looking at her list of appearances, I saw a lot of shows that I watch, but she wasn't memorable to me. In her role as Aurora she takes a bit of a back seat, since this Sleeping Beauty version isn't about Sleeping Beauty, but I liked her as Aurora. She had genuine smiles and laughter in her eyes.
I like how they did the kiss. Without spoiling the story, I'll just have to say that I never liked that in the original story. In most versions of the story the Prince either only sees her once, or never until he kisses her. He doesn't know her very well. He may feel that he loves her, but it doesn't feel deep. Also, romantic love can fade. However, there is one kind of love that once is born, never goes away. That really is true love.
Overall, 8 stars. I'm tempted to give 10, but the reason why I'm not is that on the one hand it's too short. Maybe because it's meant for children, and they figure that without singing that's the only amount of time kids can sit still. I would have also liked to see more story. However, great movie, definitely recommend it to adults as well.
Cross-posted at http://unapologetic-reviews.blogspot.com, where you can find more reviews.
Yama onna kabe onna (2007)
May not be for everyone
I started watching this drama not sure if it would be work, romance or comedy. It's a bit all three of them, but most of it is actually a comedy. The breast jokes would be a bit too much if it wasn't. The story itself revolves around a "Kabe Onna" (Wall Woman). She's a woman with very small breasts. She's the type who is bothered by it, but won't wear extreme push-up bras to compensate. While breasts are a central theme in the story, it's more about what she goes through with work, her love life, her family, and the people with whom she interacts. The story does lack a focus, and most of the time I was wondering where they were going with it. It felt more like a jumble of short stories with the same characters than a coherent thing. There were some other funny moments though, aside from the breast jokes.
This drama starts out a bit offensively, and I did almost stop watching at the beginning. The new employee at the store has exceptionally big breasts, and the female employees can't help but stare and take notice. Though I have to admit, I have been known to check and compare. I'm sure I'm not alone in that. Though not so blatantly. Then the male staff comes around, and things get really offensive. However, it's a comedy, so this shouldn't be taken seriously. Still, it feels awkward at times.
I always look for things that I can learn about Japan in a series. It's interesting to watch customer service in this drama. I live in a country where most of the time when you go into a store, the sales people try to avoid you, or watch you like a hawk in case you're trying to steal something. They rarely offer to help you. In the drama they speak about representing the department store, and acting accordingly. Well, here they do a very bad job of that. Maybe the sales people in my country should watch this and learn. Another aspect that I always look for in a drama is what sort of serious question it discusses. This drama often brought up the question of marriage or work. In a way that isn't completely relevant in my culture, since most people keep on working after getting married. It's partly cultural, but also financial, since wages are so low most of the time, and there is so little job security, families need two incomes to get by. However, people generally don't focus so much on their work, and don't put in as many hours as is expected in Japan. I've heard that 12- hour workdays are the norm there, and no wonder people have to choose. It also came up a lot that if a woman works, she can't pay that much attention to her husband. I thought this was a bit archaic, though it could be another cultural difference. In Europe, where I live, marriage is considered more of a partnership, and the husband is generally expected to do his share at home, since they are both working. Therefore, it was hard for me to consider the different mind-set.
The people in this drama mostly work at a department store called Marukoshi. The male characters were all a bit strange. Aside from most of them seemingly being obsessed with staring at the Yama Onna, they were often over the top in their behaviour. I'm sure it was because I haven't watched a lot of Japanese comedy, and that seems to be the norm in these. The three main women in the series I really liked. Aoyagi Megumi (Ito Misaki) is the hard-working Kabe Onna. She's the perfectionist I can relate to. Her job takes centre stage in her life, and she only reluctantly lets men in. She wants to move up in her job, dreaming of becoming a store manager some day, and therefore has an internal struggle between the need to find a mate, and her professional desires. She is quite envious of the Yama Onna, but can't help liking her, in spite of everything. Mariya Marie (Fukada Kyoko) is the Yama Onna. She transfers from another store, and provides the starting point of the drama. The Kabe Onna doesn't seem to like her at first, but her sweet and quirky attitude warms everyone towards her. She is also hard working, but instead of wanting to be a manager, she wants to open her own little shop. She also has a strong connection to food, and her large appetite is a source of some of the jokes. Oyama Haruka (Koike Eiko) is sort of an antagonist for most of the drama, but I warmed to her in the end. She clashes with Aoyagi because she is as driven in her profession as she is, while being a Yama Onna herself. They clash because both are trying to be better than the other. Once she takes herself out of the equation, her demeanour towards Aoyagi changes as well.
Overall, interesting drama. I would have liked the story to have more of a focus. Sometimes the events felt random. A bit like real life, actually, but in a story that's not what can be expected. However, I had a good time watching it, even though some moments were cringe-worthy. It's worth giving a shot to, even though it may not be everyone's cup of tea.
Like a mash of a lot of other books
I wasn't sure if I wanted to watch this movie. The book is on my "never read" list, mostly because I heard it has a lot of romance in it with insta-love, which I can't abide. I was afraid that the movie would be like that as well. However, I have had a movie change my mind about reading the book, twice actually. Therefore, I decided to give this one a shot.
I've heard the story compared to The Hunger Games more times than I can remember. Funny thing was that it reminded me of a whole lot of other dystopian novels, and even some non-dystopian ones, but not The Hunger Games. The factions remind me more of the houses in Harry Potter. Especially because the houses seemed to stay with them even after they left them. The difference is that Hufflepuff is divided up into three aspects of the Hufflepuff mentality, which in a way doesn't make sense, but it does if you think in the terms of jobs. The only people we're missing are the Slytherins. The problem with factions and houses is that no one fits only into one category. You may be more like one, you may want to be more like one, but no one can be defined by just one trait. Houses have been criticized because of this, but people eventually leave school, though the house they were in remain as a part of their identity. Factions you can't leave, therefore they are worse.
The world building really doesn't make sense in some ways. I'm not sure if it's better explained in the books, but there are definite holes. So my questions within the first 10 minutes of the movie were:
- What is the wall for? - What is the rest of the world like, and why isn't anyone trying to find out? - Why are there still so many houses with holes in them? Shouldn't they have been repaired by now or torn down? - How long ago was this war thing, and what are the general facts about it? - What are the Gryffindors, sorry, Dauntless protecting people from? It feels more like they're trying to control the people who like to climb on walls for no apparent reason, and don't know that there are mountains in the world. - Later, one thing that I didn't get in the last 40 minutes of the movie was Tris' mother. Was it better explained in the books? The movie made no sense.
The beginning was actually quite good. While the world wasn't established well, the personality and life of Tris was. Then it got boring really fast. The whole training, the drug induced illusions reminded me of Ender's Game. I was equally bored there as well. Good thing that this time I had cooking lunch to occupy the 90% of my mind the movie wasn't engaging. Things only started to pick up an hour and a half into the movie. Some aspects also reminded me of 1984. While the threat from outside wasn't specific, it's not unlike the war in 1984, which I always thought didn't actually exist. Also the whole drug thing, that I won't spoil further.
The ending itself was kind of anti-climatic and annoying. I am half tempted to pick up the second book just to see where they go from here, but I was so bored for most of the movie, the jury is still out on that.
I almost forgot to write about the actors and the characters. That in itself speaks volumes. While Tris was well established, I didn't find her someone I could cheer on. I'm not sure if it was the actress, or just the character. Shailene Woodley I've never seen in a movie before, therefore I would not be able to judge her acting. However, as Tris she just didn't feel much engaged in the whole story. It felt more like she was stumbling from one event to the other. Her smiles felt lukewarm. Kind of like Kristen Stewart, which is not a good thing. However, it could just have been a bad director, or the story itself. I would need to see her in other things as well to see if I like her as an actress. Theo James is hot for sure. If he was my instructor I would have wanted to get into his pants too. But love? I didn't feel the love connection between the characters. I generally don't like mushy romance, but a bit of building up would have been nice. The character of Four didn't feel well-rounded either. He was more like the convenient guy that can be the love interest.
Are the books coming off my "never read" list? Not sure at this point. I may find my curious nature not being able to let go of wanting to know how this thing ends. This is partly why I tend to go for finished series. I hate waiting. The movie itself gets two stars for interesting beginning, boring long middle, kind of picking up ending.
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
A good take on Groundhog's Day
This movie is like a sci-fi Groundhog's Day in many regards. I have been a great fan of the formula. Especially in the 90s, it was sort of required that every TV show has it. Xena, Stargate SG-1, Buffy are some memorable examples. The formula is this: a person gets stuck in a time loop for some reason. The only way he / she can get out of it is by solving why they got into the loop, and changing something about their life. It usually requires learning some new ability as well. A problem that this formula can have is that it becomes boring after a while. I remember that the Xena episode had this problem, because she was doing the same thing too much. Stargate changed this by putting some funny elements into it, like when O'Neil played golf at the Stargate. What this movie did to keep it from boring was the huge learning curve that Cage (Tom Cruise) went through, and his romance with Rita (Emily Blunt).
The story itself is not boring at all. From the trailer we can gather that it's about an alien invasion. We don't get to see the actual aliens for a while at the beginning, and the anticipation is a real adrenalin rush. The loops were done in an interesting way, and even a bit of humour was put into it. The explanation for the loop didn't seem too far fetched. In many regards, Cage is a classic Tom Cruise character. He flies a helicopter. He rides a bike. He has a gun. He wears a uniform. He broads in a pub with a drink. He is the hero. Cage does have character development, because while he starts out as a man concentrating on survival, he becomes someone who knows that sacrifice is the most likely outcome for the good of all. Rita is kick-ass character. I really loved her a lot, and Emily was great at it. I haven't seen her do an action movie before, okay, maybe Looper, but her character was different there. I really thought she stole the show for me.
Overall, a really enjoyable movie. It has some surprises that I didn't see coming, which is pretty unusual. I recommend it not just for sci-fi, but also plain action movie fans. The romance is not too much, barely there actually.
The 100 (2014)
It's not that bad
The reason why I'm writing this review is because I see so many negative ones. True, the first few episodes were odd, and had their problems, but the following episodes cleared things up a lot, and also developed the whole thing. This show didn't start out too well. Some concepts were odd. Like the technological inconsistencies. However, as you learn more about the Ark, it becomes obvious that the resource situation is hard. Make-up. Well, most shows suffer from everyone having make-up, when they shouldn't. It's a TV thing. What is important is the story. What I like about it is how the teens on Earth are still teens. They have their love life and general angst, but they are also trying to be adults. Sometimes it's almost "Lord of the Flies", but then the characters stiffen their spine and make the hard choices. In a way, it's like a study of society and people. Though times sometimes bring out the worst or the best in people. With all the hormones coursing through their young bodies, it's even worse. One thing is for sure with this show. It's not boring.
Ender's Game (2013)
Still not getting the hype
I didn't watch this movie at a theater because I don't want to financially support the author. I'm against his homophobic views. I still didn't pay for it. The reason why I watched it, was because a lot of people love the story. I hated the book, it was very boring. The whole training was repetitive and ridiculous. I was hoping on screen it would be better.
At the beginning they hammered in the whole "we barely survived last time, but for the hero commander" thing too much. The battle game rules weren't explained. It's been a while since I've read it, so I was confused at times. Mercifully, the Battle school part was a lot shorter than it was in the book. That was where I gave up, so I was glad. However, the part after that feels a bit hurried, and it's over before you know it. The story of the movie was fine. It wasn't great, though the ending was a bit moving. What was missing was connecting with the characters. It felt shallow. It occurred to me that maybe it was that no character was on screen very long aside from Ender, and he was a hard character to connect to. However, in The Hunger Games we barely got to know Rue, but I was still crying in the theater. Though I believe this problem was also present in the book, and contributed to my not finishing it. The focus was too much on Ender, whom I couldn't manage to like, because I found him a conceited little snot. The other people were just there for Ender, but more like paper cut-outs, than real people.
The actors were fine. I don't think that the lack of connection was due to their acting. They tried to amp it up with Harrison Ford, and he was okay. Asa Butterfield did a good job of playing the creepy kid, even if I didn't like the character he was playing. Though he had experience in being the weird child, because he played the young Mordred in the TV series Merlin.
The visuals were top notch, though I felt that they were overdoing the space station orbiting Earth picture. Like it cost a lot, so they were milking it for all the seconds they could get out of it. The Battle dome I imagined a bit differently, but this looked much cooler.
Overall, a watchable movie. It still didn't solve me the riddle of why some people are so in love with the book, but that could just be me. I really put aside my bias towards the author while watching. However, I still can't give it more than 5 stars, though I almost gave it 3.
Purachina dêta (2013)
Platina Data is a Japanese thriller / sci-fi / mystery. I mainly watched it because Kazunari Ninomiya was in it, but I also found the premise of the movie interesting. In the movie, Japan is developing a DNA database that has everyone in it. The main goal is to be able to solve crimes more easily. However, already at the beginning we can see that they have taken DNA profiling to the next level. When people closely related to the program die, a surprising series of events start. More would be spoilers.
I found the movie interesting. The story had me glued to the screen. Though frankly, I knew who the killer was halfway through. It's usually the case with me. I probably watch too many crime shows. What did keep me watching was Nino's character, whose story was an integral part of the movie. The cinematography was excellent. Some pictures I was tempted to pause, because it spoke of so much. Silence is always more difficult than dialogue.
The main character is played by Nino. He's a scientist working on the DNA system. I have watched him in other movies, and I always find him very good. He made me forget that it was Nino that I was watching. The other main character is Detective Reiji Asama (Etsushi Toyokawa), who is tasked with figuring out who committed the murder. While being a prolific actor, I actually haven't seen him in anything, but I'm definitely going to hunt some of his work down now.
Overall, this is an exciting movie. It has many twists and turns, and I didn't even see them all coming! Worth checking out, even if you have to read the subtitles.
I, Frankenstein (2014)
Leave Frankenstein, I want the Gargoyles
I really can't remember what I expected from this movie. I'm pretty sure it wasn't what I got though. I checked the trailer again, and I think I wanted a movie that had good visuals, solid action, and some sort of a fantasy-based story line. I sort of got it, but it all fell flat. The background is basically a snippet of Christian mythology. It reminded me how much people forgot about the rich mythical background that Christianity had in the Middle Ages. Back then it had a rich story background, with angels, demons, spirits and the like. I'm not a Christian, but I love good fantasy stories, and myths to me are that. However, the talk about god and things just felt awkward. I live in a country where there are a lot of atheists, and all the god talk made a lot of people snicker in the theater. The gods in Percy Jackson felt more rational. The visuals were well done. Seriously, people turning into gargoyles looked cool. The way demons and gargoyles died was spectacular. The real problem was the story. It would look good on paper, but the execution was just lame. There didn't seem to be an emotional background. I couldn't connect with the characters at a deeper level. The whole story was rushed to make space for the action scenes. I wouldn't mind some mindless action, but I would like to at least care for the main character a bit. Maybe if he died at the end it would have been more interesting.
The actors are okay. Aaron Eckhart was a good, stoic Frankenstein's monster, who was named Adam. Couldn't care much for his plight, though. I did understand that in a way it's about what it means to be human, and that in spite of being so different, he still has good in him, but that was about it. Yvonne Strahovski was playing the romantic interest, but there was 0 chemistry, or any feeling of love between them. Miranda Otto's character, Lenore was an interesting character, but a bit inconsistent. I didn't get the conflict between her and Adam. I mean, they didn't have one, then suddenly they did, and again suddenly, it was all forgiven. It just felt like a really silly plot twist. Maybe it would have made sense if it had more of a build-up, or background, or something, but it didn't make sense the way it was done. A silly little thing that bothered me was that I couldn't remember where I had seen the actress playing Keziah (Caitlin Stacey - looked it up). She played Kenna in Reign, if anyone was also having this problem.
Overall, the movie wasn't really enjoyable. What failed it was the story. While it had all the elements that could be good, it was a let- down. I'm only giving it two stars, because the visuals were good. What I would like to see is to leave Adam out, and just make a movie about the gargoyles.
Cross-posted at http://unapologetic-reviews.blogspot.com
The odds are never in your favor
This is the second instalment in The Hunger Games trilogy. I went to see the movie with a higher level of excitement than I did the previous one, as can be seen from the tone of my review. Partly, it's due to the fact that I've read the books in the time between. I was bothered by the style of writing in the books, which I talked about in detail in the review of the first book. However, the story itself and Katniss' character captured my imagination, and I managed to get passed the style for the most part. The second book was my favourite. It had the most imaginative story line out of the three, and the greatest shocker at the end.
Now onto the movie. My greatest problem with the previous movie was the shaky cam, and the weird close-ups. Luckily, we got a new director for this instalment, and he didn't suffer from this "artistic" compulsion. According to the credits of the next two (yes, Mockingjay looks to be a two-parter, yay) movies, he will stay on. That is great news to me, because I really loved the movie. This year had been full of disappointments. Man of Steel I couldn't even review, I was so saddened by it. City of Bones was watchable, but didn't rock my world. The Colony had a great trailer, I just wish the movie had been even remotely like that. I was almost afraid Catching Fire would follow along the same vein. I'm so glad it didn't! It was probably one of the best movie adaptations that I've seen, and it's probably going to make my top ten all time movie favourites list. It was that good. No more shaky cam! The images were clean and grand. The settings just like I imagined. The clothes and the make-up were wonderful. Visually, it couldn't have been better. The story compared to the book followed it well. Of course, there were some differences, but the book covers a lot of things, and I thought it had the important things. It has been a while since I read the book, but I didn't have a sense of anything major being left out. Maybe there was something about District 13 in there, but I'm not sure, it may have been in the next book. I went to see it with a guy who hasn't read the books, so I used him to test the coherency and how well the story could be understood without that background. According to him and my test questions, the major points went over well. One little bit that was different, is that not everything was through Katniss' eyes. This gave us an interesting glimpse into some of President Snow's actions. I was glad to see those. Tissue warning should have been at the start of the film, because I had tears in my eyes at several points. Just one word, not to spoil anything. Rue.
Now for the characters and the actors. Jennifer Lawrence carried the story on her back. She was truly brilliant here. Her face showed Katniss' emotions perfectly. The part got somewhat harder here, I think. As I wrote in my book reviews, after the events in the first instalment, Katniss clearly suffers from PTSD. It was apparent often on her face how she could barely keep it together, and how she lost it sometimes. I could feel Jennifer being Katniss. She did show her comical side in THE elevator scene, which I won't spoil. Her face there though, priceless. I think we all needed that little laugh in the grimness of the story. Josh Hutcherson seemed to have come into his role of Peeta. In the previous movie I wasn't completely convinced, but he won me over. The rest of the cast had matured into their roles as well. I guess that's the benefit of playing in a series. Though next to Jennifer, they all felt as minor characters. I confess, I had mostly just eyes for her. I'll check out the other people when I rewatch the movie.
I have to write a little side note here. I was watching the movie in English, with Hungarian subtitles. Now I had no need of subtitling, but they were sometimes hard to ignore, and I read them. I facepalmed a lot. When I saw how they translated "May the odds be ever in your favor", I had a little rant at the screen. It was completely wrong. Sometimes half of the sentences were missing. Overall, it was a poor job, whoever did it. So all you people out there who don't have to see that abomination, be ever so glad. Why was that phrase so important to translate right? Because it's a mockery. The odds never were, and never will be in their favor, for anyone in the Districts. It depicts their relationship to the Capitol in one, simple sentence. They have no chance, no choices, they are just slaves to the Capitol. The people in charge feeding them that line are trying to give them a false promise of chance, but that can be ripped from them at any moment. Some people on the internet wrote that it means "Good luck". They were wrong. It doesn't. It means, you have a chance to make your life and that of your District better, we are giving that to you. That is the promise of the Games. What is given, however, can be taken away just as easily. That is what people realise, when they change "ever", to "never".
Overall, this is a great movie. Others may not agree with me, but I was totally pumped by the end. I won't tell you what signs I was making towards the screen, intending them for Snow, when the end approached. I recommend the film for everyone, really.
The Hunger Games (2012)
Entrance to a promising trilogy
Okay, just got back from The Hunger Games. I rather liked the movie. I'm not going to talk about the actors. No one made glaring mistakes and I haven't read the books, so can't compare. I'm going to discuss the movie style a bit, then the story itself.
The handling of the camera and the general cinematography aspect was rather "fashionable". The shaking during the action and the lots of close-ups are all the rage nowadays. The shaking was a bit overdone. Especially in the beginning. Luckily a bit later it calmed down, because it sometimes makes me nauseous. The close-ups were good, just the right amount at the right moments. Especially because it wasn't 3D. You can't do so many close-ups in 3D nor shake the camera, because the mind can't keep up.
The story was good. I knew to expect a dystopia. As a genre they are usually defined as portraying the worst of all possible worlds. They are also usually critiques of the present society. I could see that very well. I have to constantly change the channel from the various idiotic reality shows that are mostly just porn and a bunch of people pretending so that they can be the most popular. Of course, in The Hunger Games it's their lives at stake. In dystopias, that is usually the case.
Katniss is the archetypal protagonist of dystopias. She's the kind of person who is playing along to survive under awful and impossible circumstances. She is generally a good person, someone who doesn't subscribe to the popular culture. However, the fate of these people is to have their lives changed in a way that they can no longer sit idly by and have to go against the establishment. We could already see that towards the end of the movie and I'm assuming in the following two that is going to be the theme. The only thing I'm wondering about is whether the author followed the genre to the end. The sad thing about dystopias is that the protagonist inevitably fails. The odds are just too great against them. I'm curious to see the story to the end.
All-in-all, I did enjoy the movie from an intellectual standpoint. I do have to admit that I like dystopias as a whole, so that was my bias.
Slightly worse than the book
I went to this movie after reading mixed reviews about it. Though there were mixed reviews about the books as well, and those I liked. Okay, the first three. I haven't read on, as I felt it should have ended there. Moving on... When I watch a movie that is based on a book, I don't try to compare it to the book too much. They are two different mediums, and something that may work in a book, doesn't work in a movie. What is important is for the movie to give back the main story line of the book, the feel of the book, and to stand on its own, so that people who don't read the books understand it as well.
The story line I had a problem with. Partly, because I read the book over a year ago, and I don't remember much of it. I'm pretty sure the end was different, but that I understand because of the time. They did commit a major sin though. They revealed a very important plot point, in fact, I think more than one, that doesn't get revealed until the next book. They did stick to it mostly, but still... The feel was great. Seriously, I came out of the theater pumped up, and that is always a good thing. I saw the world as if I was still in the movie. That may not be that good. It can stand on its own for the most part. There were some things that I knew from the book, that was a bit problematic in the movie. For example, the people living at the Institute. Who they were wasn't explained well. I would have liked them to be properly introduced. Maybe it was a time issue, or a flow issue, but really, how long would it take to say "Hi, I'm Isabelle, this is Alec, my brother." or something to that effect. We basically don't know anything about anyone, just Carly. All the back stories that they may have is missing. It's implied, but I only caught snippets. That was a negative. The rest of the plot is explained well, can be understood without the book.
The look of the movie was great. The Institute I loved, the demons looked properly hideous, the fight scenes were reasonably exciting. The soundtrack was also really good. I generally don't pay much attention to the music, but that was a huge plus in this one. I especially liked one fight scene music, so I'm definitely getting the soundtrack.
Now on to the cast. I must say, pretty good. Lily Collins I first noticed in Mirror, Mirror, where I thought how better she was at being Snow White than Kristen Stewart. She was a very believable Carly too. I look forward to seeing her in more movies, I think she'll be great. Jamie Campbell Bower was properly hot and dark as Jace. I didn't have a clear picture of Jace in my head, but it would have been something like him. I was very glad when he was cast, I always thought he was wasted as the young Grindelwald. Kevin Zegers as Alec was a bit of a let-down. I just imagined Alec as a lot more imposing figure somehow. A bit like a darker, more muscular Jace. It was especially a let-down, because I always liked Alec. Some people say Godfrey Gao didn't fit the bill of Magnus. I actually imagined him to be uglier somehow. It was a bit of a pleasant surprise, because I found Godfrey very cute. Therefore, although he didn't fit my Magnus either, I'd rather have him. Aidan Turner I didn't recognize at first, although I watched Being Human. I knew I had seen him somewhere, but because of all the hair, he was playing Luke, it was hard. He didn't have a major role in the movie, I hope he'll get more story next time. I always thought Luke was a good character. Casting Jared Harris as Hodge is a bit of a give-away. I won't say more. Spoilers.
Overall, it was a good movie. Watchable. I may even re-watch it in a few months on a bored Sunday. People can take their boyfriends or girlfriends to it as well, and they will probably have a good time too. I do wish it was less show, more story, but the fight scenes were pretty cool. If someone likes the story, they should read the book though. If someone read the book, try to leave your outrage over the little things behind, and just immerse yourself in the sights. That is why this gets 5 stars. Slightly worse than the book.
Cross-posted at http://unapologetic-reviews.blogspot.com