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I liked it more than most of the other reviewers here
I gave it an 8, which is more than it deserves, but I wanted to balance out the low scores a bit. It should settle at about 7 IMO.
The two leads were good, maybe even very good. I haven't seen Dylan McDermott in anything in a long time. He was in some stuff I watched back in the 80s and I never thought much of him. I thought he did well with this role where he had to convey a lot without words.
This is the first thing I've seen Sophie Turner in since GoT. I bought it. She shook off the ghost of Sansa. It can be difficult for actors coming out of really long running roles, especially something as huge as GoT *and* she wasn't known for anything else before that. People get typecast really easily and it's pretty common for actors to take roles that are radical departures from what they're known for. Not always successfully. But I'm glad to say she's showing some acting chops here.
The whole film is pretty sparse, from the scenery to the music to the dialogue. The atmosphere is developed nicely. It's slowly done, with music that's as slow and drawn out as the accents. Lingering shots of the desert surroundings. You can just chill and get drawn into the languid pace of the story.
I didn't see the twist coming till near the end. But I don't think it matters if you do see it coming. It's all well done and still nice to watch.
First off, I agree with the consensus that this isn't as good as the first two.
Alien was sci-fi horror. Ground breaking and much-imitated since. Ridley Scott, say no more.
Aliens was a war film (elite unit dropped behind enemy lines). Nothing we hadn't seen before but brilliantly written, acted, directed. James Cameron, say no more.
Alien³ is a character study, and a damned good one. David Fincher, say what?
This is a stylish debut from Fincher, who had yet to make his name with such classics as Se7en and Fight Club. He had been directing music videos up till this point but clearly had bigger ideas.
The tone of the film *is* pretty dark and despairing but I always liked that too. The claustrophobic atmosphere created by the story and setting, the set design and photography builds to a tense climax. The story itself is quite simple, but for me it's enough. The quality of the acting is all the more prominent for not being obscured by a convoluted story. It also benefits from going back to its roots and only having the one alien on the prowl, as opposed to the hordes in Aliens.
I'm English and one of the things I've always loved about this film is the roll call of English character actors in it ... Charles Dance, Brian Glover, Ralph Brown, Pete Postlethwaite and some others. Charles Dance in particular lends a lot of class to proceedings and I can't imagine anyone else in the role.
I watched this in the cinema on its release and have always had a higher opinion of it than most. I've watched it many times since then and still enjoy it.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
The plot is the main problem - big holes, silly reasons and cheap, cheesy tricks
I'm no fanboy, but I'm not a hater either. I've watched 15 or so of the MCU films and I've loved a few of them (Iron Man, Winter Soldier, Avengers Assemble, Civil War, Ragnarok) and at least enjoyed most of the rest.
The plot really is the problem here. The characters do stupid or out of character things just to move the film forward.
My biggest problem is the scene on Titan where Iron Man, Dr Strange, Spiderman, Star Lord, Drax & Mantis try to take the gauntlet from Thanos. Once Mantis has Thanos' mind subdued there was any number of ways in which they could have won the fight right there. In fact, they *were* winning the fight. They nearly had the gauntlet off (in the slowest, most difficult way possible ... why didn't they hack Thanos' arm off?) Instead, they bicker like children and Starlord slaps Thanos, breaking the mind control allowing Thanos to win and escape. This was so unsatisfying as to spoil the whole film for me.
I totally didn't buy Thanos' love for Gamora. That came out of nowhere and was just a cheesy plot device to elicit an emotional reaction from the audience. It also provided a framework to hang the recovery of the soul stone on, otherwise it would have been as exciting as a UPS delivery.
On the subject of Thanos, his motive for assembling the stones is lame. To snap his fingers and destory half of the beings in existence. For "balance". Wut? Ok, it makes a terrifying objective, but is very shallow.
Another recurring problem was the complete lack of logic in some of the fights. There's a basic problem of combining ordinary humans, albeit highly skilled and trained, with superhumans, be they gods, titans, aliens or whatever. Characters that were utterly outclassed inexplicably lasted more than a few seconds.
Black Widow against any of the Black Order should have only one outcome, very quicly. The Black Order wiped the floor with Scarlet Witch and Vision (who is powered by an Infinity Stone!) yet Black Widow doesn't die against them. Twice. BW is cool and all, but is just an un-augmented, highly skilled human. Sorry, nah. Also, that Black Order dude who wrapped Thor up in metal at the start gets killed cheesily by Iron Man blowing a hole in his spaceship. Nah, not buying that either. Thanos' power was theoretically increasing hand over fist (sorry) with every Infinity Stone he gained, but he won or lost fights throughout the film not based on how powerful he is but by whether or not the plot need a win or loss to move forward. Many other encounters in this logicless vein.
Cheesy deaths. You just know that most of the characters who died will come back. Therefore there is no gravitas to any of it. Cheap tricks.
It *was* visually spectacular and I thought the script was pretty good, where it wasn't labouring under ridiculous plotting. The action scenes were spectacularly good as usual, if wildly illogical at times.
Overall, not as satisfying as I wanted it to be. Like I say, i'm no fanboy but I was ready to love this film.
The Big Short (2015)
A fascinating, exhilirating look at the GFC
I really enjoyed this. It's a great story, and they told it well. I liked the straight to camera stuff, the celebrity expositions of some of the financial details like CDOs were good, the analogies were insightful. I have a little understanding of the subject matter due to reading around the subject since the GFC (I've not read the book though), and I didn't have any trouble following the ins and outs of the story
I don't know if any of the real life characters would object to their portrayals, but I liked all the performances. This story has a bit of an epic sweep to it and many more characters in it than you'd usually find in a film, they did well to bring them to life and differentiate them.
Steve Carrell continues to impress in dramatic roles and there weren't any bad performances. It's paced well, the story moves along briskly. In fact, I could have stood for a bit more time being spent on some of the financial details, but I think that I'm in a minority there ;-)
9/10 I'll watch this again.
Solid action fillum
There is nothing wrong with this film. I thought JS's acting was pretty good. Compares favourably to other action stars' attempts over the years. I really enjoyed seeing Kate Bosworth, Winona Ryder and James Franco playing against type. Franco can be a bit hit and miss, he shines in the right roles, but others he struggles with (Annapolis for example). Definitely a hit here, his bad guy had more nuance than was strictly written into the part. Deserves a bit more than the 6.5 it's got as I write this.
Brutal, visceral, well acted, funny, poignant ... what's not to like.
I understand that this film is Marmite, you either love it or you hate it.
I thought of Machete while watching it, but I like this more. This is a graphic novel compared with Machete's cartooning.
I was surprised by a lot of things here. The quality of the acting, details of the characterisation, unexpected story arcs. Unexpected humour! There was some great situational comedy. The sheer WTF at times made me laugh out loud.
I think you'll know pretty quickly whether you're going to like this. If you're undecided, please wait until you see the scene at Crystal's motel from Keith and Randy's POV. If it hasn't grabbed you by then, it won't.
If you can see it, there's a great film here.
PS I gave it 8 stars, which it might not quite be worth, but it's definitely worth more than the 6.4 it's got as I write this review. F'in Blade Cash-in 2049 has 8.1 and this has twice the heart.
Time Commanders (2003)
Alia iacta est ...
... but it's loaded against the competitors in this game. Four contestants are designated as 2 generals and 2 lieutenants and given an army to command in a computer simulacrum of a historical battle. On the technical side everything is perfect. The computers doing the simulation are running the engine written by The Creative Assembly, which is behind the Total War series of computer games (Shogun, Medieval and Rome). I can only dream about the hardware it must be running on, even 4 years later my quite modern PC doesn't make it look half as good! So far so good.
My main issue with this program is that they set the contestants up to fall. The one criticism from the reprehensibly smug military experts which was made every week (except on the rare occasions that the team doesn't fall into the carefully laid trap) is that no-one took overall command of the four man team. In which case, WHY DID YOU CALL 2 OF THEM GENERALS?? Surely it would have been more appropriate to call them General, Colonel and Lieutenants if you expected one to take overall control. The other common criticism is that the generals tended to micro-manage the action on the battle field rather than giving high level instructions and letting the lieuts decide the details of implementation. In other words, the generals spent too much time dictating tactics at the expense of enforcing an overall strategy. I feel this *is* something the contestants should have figured out for themselves.
It's probably obvious that I have played the Total War games ad nauseam. There are a few things that I learned very quickly from battles which would have stood these people in good stead. First and foremost is the eternal triangle of the battlefield: Cavalry kill archers, archers nail spearmen and spearmen are death to cavalry. There are exceptions, but 9 times out of 10 it plays out that way. I feel that they should have been told this before battles, I was not entertained by the humiliating routs caused quite often by tactical blunders which that maxim teaches against.
All in all, the part of the program I found most interesting was the computer playing out how the battle actually happened and the information given about the character and genius of old military commanders, snippets about how the different troop types, armies, weapons etc. functioned. And it is completely obvious that Aryeh has enormous respect for the Roman army and the way it went about its business, he repeatedly refers to it as a "meat grinder"!
The Core (2003)
Utterly preposterous plot, terrible script slightly redeemed by good performances and occasional humour
People often defend wildly impossible sci-fi by pointing out that the bounds of reality and scientific fact are stretched in most films. Fair enough. But there is a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. Consistency is the key point. Get all your impossibilities out of the way quickly and then don't break the rules that you have set for yourself. The best sci-fi works because it extends or transforms a small amount of modern science and then explores the consequences. It entertains and carries us along because it reveals the details of it's assumptions in a way which makes us think we could have figured it out if we'd had more time, or were cleverer. Inherent in this process is that the revelations make sense within the parameters of the fictional world. That's the right way to do sci-fi.
In "The Core", we have a pretty much perfect exposition of the wrong way to do it. Not much of what happens is connected to anything else, from a scientific point of view. There is just an interleaved sequence of shoddy science and hackneyed plot devices. There is no coherence or consistency to any of it. That's why it's a bad film. That the writing and editing are terrible too just adds to the misery. As I've read elsewhere, it's not a disaster movie, it's just a disaster!
So why the 4 rating? It has a good cast, who play it completely straight. That helps. Hilary Swank adds a touch of class, Delroy Lindo is good, Alfre Woodward is never less than great. Stanley Tucci is a bit over the top, but is funny. The special effects are pretty good, even very good at times. The lava torrent in the geode is great, pity it didn't get more screen time. And finally, there is a little genuine comedy in the mainly dire script.
Overall, it entertained me, and I might pause for a few minutes while channel surfing through it in the future. But not if there are repeats of Scrubs on.
Improper Conduct (1994)
So bad it burst through what I was doing while it was on to scream its awfulness into my awareness
I was playing cricket on my computer. This had been on for about 20-30 minutes in the background. If it had been less execrable I might have been able to ignore it for the full 90, however after a short time I could no longer fail to register that this is one of the worst films I've ever "seen". It beats "The Omega Man" into a cocked hat. It's noteworthy just for that!! Avoid at all costs. If you're reading this wondering whether to watch it or not, I'm sure there is a jar of screws somewhere in your garage which needs sorting into sizes. Or perhaps you would like to beat your head against a wall for 90 minutes. Although that might not feel quite as good when it stops.
Hill Street Blues (1981)
Oh the humanity!
God I love this show. I'm watching the episode "Hearts and Minds" right now, I think it's quite early on in the series.
I'm being reminded of the superb interplay between the characters that drew me to it in the first place, particularly the chemistry between Joyce and Frank (Veronica Hamel and Daniel J Travanti). Surely the hottest couple on TV at the time! The sparkling dialogue between the 2 of them, the arch looks, the professional conflict which embodied their passion for each other, the respect ... just fantastic. All the best dramas rise above the situations in which they place their characters and ultimately depend on the accuracy and consistency with which they reveal the characters of the principals through their interactions. In the whole of Hill Street Blues there is rarely, if ever, a false note, these people are as real to us as our friends IRL.
Something went out of my life all those years ago when I watched the very last episode and I'm so happy to be reminded of it now. Nearly 20 years after, I find myself being gripped again, against my expectations.
Tingle, tingle, tingle. Even now, this should be required viewing for any aspiring program makers out there.
Hysterical Blindness (2002)
Great performances, difficult message
I rate this highly 'cos of the performances of Thurman and Lewis. They were absolutely outstanding. I take on board the comments about the dodgy accents, music, anachronistic details, but they don't matter to 99% of the people who watch. The characterisations were great! Even if they didn't leave you precisely where intended, they were consistent and you could buy into them.
I really like the comment here to the effect that the film would have some merit if the characters achieved even a hint of self-awareness by the end of the film. This is an important point, and I would agree whole-heartedly if the film had a different title. The title is all that's needed to give this film perspective, to place it specifically and allow it to be what it is without reference to the frame that gives it meaning.
Flawed but truthful and thought provoking
I rate this 9 out of 10. Matthew McConaughey is the minus 1. In time I may assess his performance differently. I like Parker as a character, but it could have been cast better.
There is so much to see and enjoy in this film. Ellie was traumatised by her father's death, he was a loving father, they were very close. An only child, she was deprived from an early age of close human CONTACT. Ellie's obsession with SETI is easily understood.
I love the juxtaposition of science and religion, oops, sorry, SPIRITUALITY in the film, as played out in the characters of Ellie and Joss (Foster and McConaughey). There is always some antagonism throughout the film between the two, sometimes between the principals, sometimes between ancillary characters, but there is sympathy too. Kent (Fichtner) is present when Ellie travels because of "a higher power" McConaughey). When she, the hardened empiricist, has a deeply spiritual experience, he is the only one to accept what she says at face value. But then again, Joss is the reason why she wasn't chosen first. Which leads me to ...
Drumlin (Skerrit) and the religious nutter (Busey) both die. Why, in terms of the morality play subtext, isn't definite, at least not to me, but a first guess would be: Drumlin is too glib, he tells the selection panel "exactly what they want to hear", he is too political. Busey is too narrow minded, he cannot see beyond what he has always known, he refuses to grow, to evolve beyond our current condition, a major theme of the film. Both, in their own distinct ways, are off track.
All through the film the contest between the scientific and the spiritual is played out. It is quite skillful in that it manages to pose questions without giving easy answers, we are left to ponder for ourselves.
And then, on top of everything else, John Hurt as Drummond is a delight :-) "The first rule of government spending: Why have one when you can have two at twice the price?" A bit hammy, perhaps, but very enjoyable.
On a final note, I'd like to say that I've only just watched this film for the third time, having seen it at the cinema the first time, eagerly anticipated. The first two times, I was extremely irritated by it, by McConaughey principally, but also by what I saw at the time to be the lame nature of the tension between science and spirituality. I'm a lot more sympathetic to the spiritual these days, and hence enjoyed Contact a lot more.
I'm not surprised that the story is from a Carl Sagan book, rather than being formulaic Hollywood fare.
With hindsight, a good film
I have only seen this film once, about 20 years ago, when I was in my mid teens. It intrigued me then, but went completely over my head. I could dimly perceive grand themes in it, but couldn't bring them into focus. A few years ago a friend gave me a John Fowles book to read, "The Magus" and this caused me to re-evaluate this film entirely. For me, the story's strength does not lie in anything definite. It's main themes are suggestion and allegory. The creative role of the mind in human perception is very clearly depicted in "The Magus" and this is central to TFLW too. The 2 central characters, in their modern guises are caught up in this, as the audience is expected to be. Perhaps there is no central message to be understood ... maybe a viewer should just be delighted by the parallels which are revealed by telling these 2 stories in this way ...