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Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Predictable and memorable, simplistic and dreamlike
I figured out the plot twist about half-way into the movie. This doesn't mean that the film was bad, but it was neither a masterpiece, nor a flop. Kubrick's skill as a director of memorable scenes shines through, but so does his inability to create convincing human behavior and interactions. Here are some of the positives and negatives of the film:
- The characters of the doctor and his wife are not well-developed. Their child serves as an inanimate prop during the whole movie, and even disappears during the last scene, as her parents, and the viewer forget she ever existed. The conspiratorial motives of the wife and the personal dilemma and temptations of the doctor are not well written or well-acted. Their behavior seems drugged and dreamlike, even in scenes where they are supposed to be alert.
- The moral of the film is immediately apparent after the first ten minutes. The wife is able to overcome her temptations and remain loyal, whereas the husband is a clueless a-hole who needs to be tested and justly re-educated. As soon as the doctor starts to behave immorally towards his former schoolmate and his wife, we understand that the aim of the movie is to punish and re-educate the antihero. The doctor is frightened to death by his wife's ruse - she has staged the whole thing in order to test him, spark jealousy, and make him fear for her and appreciate her. He does. But he never gets a true understanding of what his wife wanted him to learn in the first place (to understand a woman's temptations, to appreciate her loyalty and feel jealous because of that).
- The movie is too slow, and I usually enjoy slow movies. But the plot could well be fitted into a 40-minute "Twilight Zone"episode, without considerable change in the pace. The dialogue felt choppy, with lots of unnecessary pauses, and this added to the unnatural behavior of the actors. The slow pace was great in the lead-up to the masquerade scene, not so much in the doctor's sleepwalking around the city.
Overall, it's a film that can make you feel smart, but this doesn't mean it's a masterpiece. A 5 out of 10 is a fair average between the overly positive and overly negative reviews on IMDB.
Making robot sci-fi interesting again
It was totally unexpected and refreshing to stumble upon a new sci-fi movie with unique character, and an interesting and gritty atmosphere created with the help of practical effects and good old-fashioned artistic vision. The robots and old technology, obsolete computers and oscilloscopes in the background were absolutely fun to see and this couldn't have been done with CG alone (something many studios are attempting to do on a regular basis now).
The movie could have benefited from a higher budget, and I'm sure the artists' vision could have been more fully realized that way, but I think they really have something to be proud of, and I hope to see more of their work.
The plot is good, could have been a bit deeper and developed a bit further. But it successfully creates an interesting world - one much better than, say, "I,Robot" (the movie). Some of the most sympathetic characters were the robots, which is not do diminish the work of the actual human beings here, but the character design and behavior of the protagonists was really believable. The antagonists, not so much. Contrast that with something like I,Robot and you can see that it's possible to make something far more original on a far tighter budget.
I really wish more movies were made with such passionate vision, instead of the Michael Bay CG roller-coaster rides being churned out each year now, as a tradition. I'm glad new authors are breaking the mold and making sci-fi interesting again.
A great story with amazing characters
"Rainbow" tells the story of seven boys in a harsh reform school in post-WW2 Japan and their attempts to survive, escape and realize their dreams in the outside world. They have to deal with a sadistic guard and an abusive doctor that use their authority to make their lives miserable and destroy every ray of hope that they might have. In the process, their bonds grow stronger and stronger. In the 26 episodes of the anime, the story remains fast-paced and engaging, and by the end, we have a chance to see all the characters develop in interesting ways, and the story reach a powerful, satisfying ending. For me, this was one of those special series that you enjoy so much and remember the characters (and the author) with fondness (similar ones are "Kaiji" and "Akagi"). I strongly recommend it.
Not a simple good v/s evil story
Shiki is a story that gathers pace and becomes more and more interesting as it goes on. I haven't read the novel, but having seen the anime, this wasn't immediately obvious after the first couple of episodes. It's a relatively simple premise at first - vampires trying to take over a small village, protagonists teaming up to stop them. Some of the characters are shallow and stereotypical at first and their behavior is often counter-intuitive. But as the plot and characters start to develop, as the story unfolds, everything changes very quickly for the better. In the end, it's a profound and deeply engaging experience.
To backtrack a little, I was expecting something like "Higurashi no naku koro ni" (When Cicadas Cry), and although Shiki isn't as complex, it keeps your mind moving, and, very importantly, it doesn't become preachy or easily predictable. Without spoiling the story too much, there's a very satisfying moment near the end, which is followed by a graphic turnaround (the hunt in the sewers) that makes you rethink your position completely. Personally, I love this game with the reader/viewer's moral compass - to make them choose a team, to make them cheer, and then to show another side of the story that totally changes their perspective. I don't doubt this was well done in the novel, and I love how it was done in the anime. I would recommend Shiki because it's a surprisingly deep story.
Ike! Inachû takkyû-bu (1995)
Ranking your favorite comedy is like picking a favorite child - different jokes are funny for different reasons, they're all cute and smart in their own way... But sometimes one bulb burns brighter than the rest and you kind of feel like bragging.
Ping Pong Club is about the stupid escapades of a gang of boys and one girl, who are supposedly training to play Ping Pong competitively, yet less than 1% of the show is devoted to Ping Pong. The rest is dirty, crazy nonsense, that's brilliant and juvenile at the same time.
People usually compare this to South Park, perhaps in an effort to market something unknown to Western audiences, but a much closer comparison would be Cromartie High School, which is another brilliant show that you should watch. The very fact that you've stumbled upon this page, and not something more mainstream, means that you're probably rummaging for gems. Well, you may have just found one.
Waiting for 'Superman' (2010)
Don't scapegoat the unions. Just copy from Finland.
Waiting for Superman demonstrates how you can do a decent documentary and ruin it with the wrong conclusion. The unions aren't the big problem in the US education system. Unions are present in Finland, which has free, public education, considered the best in the world, and oddly enough, praised by this documentary. "Waiting for Supermen" rightly shows scenes of poverty, lack of equal opportunity, and yet, makes the strange conclusion that most of the problems stem from the teacher's unions, specifically the issue of teacher's tenure.
There are two protagonists in this picture - the brave "reformers" who fight against the unions, and the brave charter schools, who offer a alternative to the public system. But Finland's education is completely public, egalitarian, almost free (no tuition fee) and costs less per student than America's more privatized system. It is ranked first in the world, so why doesn't the US simply copy the example, instead of looking for scapegoats and preserving the old system? Or why not hire some people from the Finnish ministry of education, to share their experience?
Ima, soko ni iru boku (1999)
Bummer boy Conan
"Now and Then, Here and There" borrows too much from Miyazaki's Future Boy Conan and has too many plot holes to be considered a classic. First, a list of characters copied from Future Boy Conan:
Hamdo = Lepka on steroids. A one-dimensional crazy tyrant without any back-story, Hamdo is simply there to be hated. He commands the evil fortress Heliwood, a.k.a. Industria.
Lala Ru = Lana on horse tranquilizers. Very apathetic and unlikable, Lala Ru behaves like a wise goddess among mortals, except she had the opportunity to destroy Heliwood a thousand times early on, but doesn't do it until the very end, after a lot of people have died.
Shu = Conan with a stick. Take away the spear, the strength and a lot of Conan's character, and you're left with Shuzo Matsutani - a boy with a lot of empty optimism, who doesn't really do much for a main character.
Abelia = Monsley without the depth. Unlike Monsley, she remains one- dimensional to the end and stands by her king without evolving as a character.
There are several things that bothered me about the plot. First, as I mentioned before, Lala Ru has many opportunities to do exactly what she eventually did in the end - to flood Heliwood and destroy it. However, she only decides to do it after a lot of people have died, and also kills a lot of people in the process. Not only that, she decides to overdo it by so much, that she floods the entire Earth and kills herself in the process. Couldn't she have only flooded half the Earth and remained alive for a while? She probably doesn't care. Another strange element in the story is this whole "time travel" thing. If Heliwood has the power to send people through time, why didn't Hamdo use that feature more often? Why didn't he grab some water from another time to fuel the fortress?
I must admit that the story is still engaging and I don't regret watching all the episodes, but it's still not very original, and the ending is pretty unsatisfying. One original thing the author did is to include a lot more tragedy and despair; and oh yes, some of the main characters get raped and are tormented by thoughts of abortion and suicide. Oh well, I'm sure Conan, I mean Shu, is a lot better at Kendo after the whole ordeal.
Pick a random episode of Archer. Listen to the characters speak. Now look for a pause longer than 2 seconds. You probably won't find one. The cascade of overlapping, artificial and rarely funny phrases gets really annoying after a while and for me personally it's exhausting. Archer is the type of "workplace comedy" that we've seen too many times, only adapted to different settings (lol, spies), so don't look for anything terribly original either. If you're looking for something in a spy/adventure environment, but done well, watch the Venture Brothers - a funny and original show... Archer is just annoying.
The characters don't have any depth to them and all the major plot points come in when someone sleeps with someone else (lol, sex). For now at least, who knows, maybe the show will change. But after season 1, I'm out.
District 9 (2009)
A stretched short film
I had very high expectations for District 9, but sadly it's just one of those films that have a very small story to tell and everything else is filled with special effects and long action scenes. It's a pity, because the story itself had immense potential - aliens stranded on Earth and forced to live in slum-like concentration camps, human ignorance, violence, etc. Sadly, the story never gets more complex than that - pretty much the entire plot line, except the ending, is told in the trailer. The film has so many plot holes, that you eventually get used to not asking questions. I'm disappointed that so little has been done with such a promising story, but well - another opportunity missed by profit-conscious movie studios. I don't think District 9 will be remembered as anything more than a 2 hour CGI fest.
The Take (2004)
The real "Yes We Can"
This documentary is the real "Yes, We Can", only instead of an empty political statement it's a true demonstration of "How You Can" make a real change.
When someone tells you that an enterprise cannot run without a boss and a hierarchy of power, don't believe them. Just let them watch "The Take" (La Toma) and see how it's possible to replace the "hierarchy of power" with a "network of cooperation". At first, I didn't believe it myself, but now I know it's possible. Imagine workers cooperating and taking decisions by voting, effectively managing a successful enterprise. Even if the people are inexperienced at first, even if they disagree sometimes, things can be worked out.
"The Take" simply shows something that Capitalism says cannot exist, something that's supposedly impossible: people cooperating for a common purpose, dividing profits equally, taking decisions democratically and managing the enterprise successfully. No leaders, no power struggles, just cooperation. The incentive is the common success, not just personal gain.
"The Take" is even more topical today in the so-called Global financial crisis, because it poses the question: "what should happen to a failed business? Should it be bailed out by the people only to repeat the same mistakes again? Should it be liquidated and sold for scrap metal, leaving the workers without jobs? Or should everything start anew, but this time as a democratic cooperation between workers?" So next time a business fails and the government decides to take your money to save a corporation, know that you have the right to say "NO, I deserve to be compensated. Your factory will do nicely."
I simply cannot express how inspiring and eye-opening this documentary is, you just have to see it for yourself.
Beautiful animation... Ugly movie
I'll put this as simply and as helpfully as possible for all the people who haven't seen this yet. Do you want to get depressed? If "yes", watch this movie, if "no", don't. That's it. The End of Evangelion is a quick fix of instant despair. I myself am in no particular hurry to start cutting my veins, hence the low score I'm giving this movie. It's ugly, depressing and way too long for the short story it tells.
Now, Evangelion the series deteriorated pretty fast over the last few episodes, but nothing can ever prepare you for the tidal wave of misery that's "End of Evangelion". All the characters that were once even remotely cheerful and positive have now been turned into borderline insane freaks wallowing in despair, misery and sin. The awkward philosophy behind the movie doesn't help either. The point is that mankind has so many sins that it's better to scrap everything and accept the loving God who will make it all better (Jesus no doubt, with all the crosses that are being shoved in your face during the movie). What a positive picture, too bad it was all illustrated with the grace of a snuff film.
Japan's suicide rate actually skyrocketed in 1997 after the movie was made, so I wouldn't be surprised if there was a link between the two. One IMDb user stated that after seeing this movie, his life was complete. For God's sake, man, don't do it!
It's really odd that many people actually believe this movie is "deep" or "thought-provoking". There's really nothing thought-provoking about a painfully long spectacle of human downfall and suffering, sprinkled with pseudo-philosophical ramblings on the meaning of life. This is an actual quote from the film: "I still don't know where my happiness lies, I'll still think about why I'm here and whether or not it was good to come back, but that's just stating the obvious over and over. I am myself." Wow, deep. To sum up the actual story, everything basically revolves around the drama and tragedy of the main characters who are suffering from not being loved by anyone (except by God, of course). NERV is being attacked and Shinji has to decide whether he wants to help out or not. Brilliant. 2/10.
Season 1: Diabolus ex Machina
There's a popular term in plot writing, called "Deus ex Machina" (God from the machine), meaning an unrealistic plot device that suddenly makes everything in the story alright and ties up all the loose ends at one fell swoop. If you remember Monty Python's "Life of Brian" where the heroes are suddenly saved by aliens at the last moment, that's a Deus ex Machina, or at least a parody of one. Code Geass S1 is the first time I've seen the exact opposite - a Devil from the machine, a moment when everything goes awry from a single improbable plot twist. I'm talking of course about episode 22. I'm not going to reveal it just yet, but be warned.
Despite its meticulously tangled Death Note-style storyline (which has been deservedly praised), Code Geass deserves some criticism as well. First - for its political unrealism and exaggerations. The goal of these exaggerations was obviously to make a point about revolutions vs. reform from within, and I don't mind the over-exaggerated political entities, Britania, the Chinese Federation and the EU. What I do mind however, are the rushed political circumstances that lead to the plot twist in episode 22.
====(Spoiler starts here:)
- How did the Emperor, the other aristocracy and the army go along with Euphemia's decision to violate Britania's territorial integrity and create a mini-Japan within Area 11? A frivolous decision like that doesn't just pass automatically, and it carries a high risk of being executed as a traitor.
- The borders of New Japan are left unclear. It's unlikely that it was enough to house and feed all the Japanese that want independence. What about the mineral Sekuradite? Does New Japan have access to its own resources? The whole New Japan proposal looked to me a lot like an Indian reserve, or the Gaza strip and West bank, i.e. not a stable or fair solution, but a place for an occupied people to wallow in anger.
- Kururugi's righteousness was protected a bit too much by the writer's pen. The whole idea that you can change a nationalistic empire from within by serving in the army, refusing to kill anyone, and eventually getting cozy with one of the princesses and single-handedly declaring independence for Japan is very far-fetched. That's like a Jew in Nazi Germany rising up in the ranks and reforming the Third Reich. Sorry about the Nazi analogy, but I think it's logical.
- The mother of all plot devices was Lelouch's "accidental" slip of the tongue and the simultaneous "accidental" activation of the Geass that led to princess Euphemia suddenly wanting to kill all Japanese. And all that when Zero was just about ready to sign a peace deal. Awwww. That's simply a kick in the groin for some viewers.
- Finally, there's something annoyingly edifying about the Death-Note-style storyline: (1) deal with the devil, (2) power to influence the world, (3) hiding the power from your close ones, (4), main character becomes a crazy maniac (5) power backfires, (6) all goes to hell. What's the moral? That you shouldn't make deals with the devil because you will fail inevitably? That's a bit too predictable in my opinion.
====(Spoiler ends here)
Note: This review was written after watching season 1. Season 2 is much better, far more consistent and deserves kinder words. I'd give it a 9/10. Season 1 - 7/10. Overall - somewhere in the middle.
Rurôni Kenshin: Seisô hen (2001)
This is not Rurouni Kenshin
What happens when a positive story with humor and an optimistic message is retold as a depressing melodrama riddled with pessimism, disease and negativity? A masterpiece? No, of course not. The result is something so absurdly different from the original that there's simply no reason to acknowledge any connection between the two. Just think of Seisohen as something else. A different story with different characters.
We know that Kenshin wants to redeem himself for the blood he spilled during the revolution, but who knows why, in Seisohen he decides to go to China to kill even more people. The impression is given that Kenshin's lust for blood is so strong that he goes sneaking out at night killing people... because he can't escape his cruel destiny of a killer. The whole story behind the Reverse blade sword is lost. The motive of redemption through helping people is lost.
If you've seen the original series, watching Seisohen will probably give you the feeling that all the main characters are on drugs, terminally ill or suicidal. You might ask: "What the hell happened to everyone?" or "Is the Ghost of Christmas future showing me this?" No, you're simply watching a different show. Something as absurd as a melodrama based on "South Park" or a comedy based on "Schindler's list". Just imagine.
The ending of Rurouni Kenshin is Episode 95: "End of Wanderings". That's it. Only watch Seisohen if you haven't seen the original, otherwise you'll be sorry.
An objective 2 stars out of 10 because the plagiarism and melodramatism negate anything achieved by the animation.
Intoxicating and sobering
It's hard to make a unique and emotionally involving story with monsters and swords. It's almost impossible to make fantasy look real, because most of it has a predictable plot line, while life doesn't. But Claymore manages the impossible - it's intoxicating fiction, but at the same time it's even more sobering than real life.
Here's the secret.
Unlike other tales about battle and struggle in which the main character has great potential and strength as his birthright, Claymore is all about strength despite weakness. Even through perseverance, you can't really become the strongest, this is one of life's truths. But you still can aspire. It's what makes Claymore so true to life.
The main characters in Claymore were helpless in their childhood, but despite tremendous suffering they've managed to stand up and move forward.
Claymore will be remembered as an example of great anime, not just for its beautiful animation, but for the way it makes you experience the journey. It even has a great and satisfying ending.
I know it's a tired phrase, but I really envy those who haven't seen it yet.
Funny Games (2007)
A self-test for your emotions
Funny Games U.S. is probably one of the most psychologically engaging films ever made and it really manages to achieve its goal - to erase the emotions of the viewer, to make him numb, to turn an unimaginable act of brutality into an ordinary experience. From a philosophical and psychological viewpoint, the movie is a masterpiece. From the viewpoint of a normal viewer, including myself, it's more of a lesson in self-observation than a real piece of entertainment. I can simply describe it as the author's own exercise in psychology, a source of food for thought, but not a source of viewing pleasure.
If you haven't seen the film yet, my advice is to examine your own mood first: if you're happy and want something entertaining, skip this one. If you want to test your own emotions and morality, watch it. Just don't forget that it's only fiction.
Quality: 9/10; Viewing pleasure: 5:10; Overall: 7:10
Jesus Camp (2006)
Should be categorized "Documentary/Horror"
This is really a horror movie. It's comparable to The Ring and Emily Rose.
I thought we were living in the 21st century. This movie reminds me more of the 16th.
On one hand, this movie is an unforgettable experience, like a dive into darkness. On the other hand, you're left asking yourself - "am I a sadist? I'm watching little kids getting tortured, brainwashed, their lives getting deformed". When you watch this movie, the first thing you want to do is go to IMDb and write a review about it.
If you're in a happy mood right now, don't watch this movie.
If you want chills down your spine, by all means, watch it!
12 oz. Mouse (2005)
The authors must think they've really created something, but any person with at least half a brain would disagree.
This show would be original if there weren't any other senseless, badly drawn cartoons. The author's goal was probably to make the most senseless, worst drawn cartoon ever. So instead of 1 star out of 10, I'll put two stars, just to show that the authors have failed even at being worst of the worst. This show is just mediocre garbage.
People who watch this cartoon and say they "simply love it", are just begging for attention and trying to demonstrate how out-of-the-box they are. Whatever.
To sum it up, it's just a waste of time.
Chavez: Inside the Coup (2003)
The new standard for competence about Venezuela
Ten out of ten stars is no exaggeration. This documentary provides the viewers with unique footage about the 2003 coup in Venezuela. This great film is now the minimum knowledge requirement if you want to express a competent opinion about Venezuela or Hugo Chavez.
The dramatic, electrified atmosphere, the unique footage will allow you to experience a true historic moment. You'll feel like you're in the middle of the situation.
The film will help you gain unique insight in the happenings of 2003 and will help you hear a side you will rarely hear on TV. It's something you shouldn't miss.
An epic end
Watching this gave me one of the best movie experiences of my life. I sincerely hope more of you get the opportunity to see this masterpiece. It was so good that probably all my praise won't to do justice to this wonderful film. I take my hat off to anyone who has anything to do with the creation of this fantastic saga. Farscape signified a new era in Sci-fi TV, and I will always remember "Peacekeeper wars" as probably the best finish to any series.
If you still haven't had the chance to see the final chapter of Farscape, I can only say two things to you - have fun and prepare for the best!
Kung fu (2004)
Surpasses Shaolin Soccer
I saw this film yesterday and I figured I should write a review before all the enthusiasm has faded away. But then again, I could write the review in a year, or in five years - i'd still love it by then. Gong Fu is just a comedy classic. When I first saw Shaolin Soccer, I was sure this was Chinese humor at its best, but now all that glory goes to Gong Fu. It deserves a place in my top 3-4 comedies list next to Monty Python's Life of Brian, Holy Grail and Shaolin Soccer. The CG is brilliant, the acting is great, the humor is superb, there's just nothing bad I can say about Gong Fu. If you miss it, your eyes will shrivel up.
I watched it as a dare
Home Alone 4 is certainly one of the worst films I have ever seen. Actually, I saw it as a dare with a friend - he promised to see another bad movie, while I was left with HA4. This movie is so terrible, it will either:
- Turn you into a child hater, because this kid is so obnoxious, you'll very soon want to get inside the TV and smack him.
- Or turn you into a psychic and you'll be able to see things before they happen, because the script is so predictable.
If you're ready to see exactly what I mean, see my compilation of the worst moments in Home Alone 4 here:
The acting is horrible, the script is terrible, all the money for this movie could have gone to charity, it's just one of the worst movies ever.
The Ring Two (2005)
(6 out of 10?) It's as good as the first one
It's a shame how blind people can be when they judge a sequel - they say it's nothing new, nothing original, but it just shows how little they saw in the first movie to begin with. If someone says there's nothing new in The Ring Two, it means he just saw Samara Morgan's scary posture and nothing more in "The Ring", because that's the only thing the two films have in common. The truth is, The Ring Two is one of the most original sequels ever, and it offers a whole new, and most importantly, an unexpected story to the viewer. Certainly not what he'd expect if he'd seen the Japanese sequels (Ring 0, Rasen, Spiral, etc.), which were all incredible flops. The Ring Two is simply
As good as the first one...
and certainly no flop. It's about all that can be said. This movie is about as good as The Ring and (sorry), better than Ringu. The Ring Two is certainly not as innovative as the first one, but then, does it need to be? It's simply a good movie that deserves to be seen, no matter what you've heard about it. Well, it's true that this film includes one of the worst movie lines ever said, but, oh well... Just see it.