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Like watching water fall
Water falls from the bright air. At first it's just water, nothing out of ordinary. And Paterson starts out just as an everyday life of an ordinary person, a small drowsy man in a small drowsy town. Things float by smoothly and softly, and you could almost hear the metronome ticking.
But then you start losing yourself and falling into a trance. You start seeing things, and catching thoughts, like flies woken up by the warm spring sun. Thoughts about life, and how different it is for different people, and how our life paths go different ways and how sometimes you lead the way and sometimes you just have to follow. Even if you wanted to catch all of those flies and put them in one big straight line, you'd fail, and they'd fly away uncategorized. Don't try to analyze, just let yourself flow along.
And then the stream gets more rough, unwilling to stay forever on a leash. And you realize that the water of your life, however repeating itself from day to day, is still not the same. That things do happen that may bring major change, like the rivers change their course when their nature's ready for it. And yet again, you might fight the flow or let it carry you on. Both options are feasible, leaving your future path open.
But eventually, even the troubled water calms down. And no matter what shore you found yourself on, you can see the stars reflect on the surface, and trace your way onwards again. Or just sit and contemplate the water fall on its own.
Paterson is really a meditative experience. I wouldn't call it thought-provoking though, since it doesn't give you much ground for analysis. What it does give, however, is a certain calm and an invitation to reflect on your own life and just let yourself perceive through feelings some aspects that you might have been ignoring, incidentally or on purpose, in that busy everyday life of yours. To look at things slightly from above, with no hurry or pressure. What you see from there, and what you do with what you see, is up to you though. But no matter what, the sun still rises every morning and sets every evening. That's the only metronome out there going steady, but at least that one had never let you down. At least so far.
A total chaos
This is the kind of a movie Statham earned bad rep for. And it doesn't even deserve a review, except that writing one might give you a chance to save 106 minutes of your life, a luxury I didn't have. So here goes.
First off, don't be fooled by the mumbo jumbo. This film tries so hard to look smart and slick, but ends up typical Statham stupid. The all so meaningful lines all around feel like a random scramble of big words instead of the pieces of one big puzzle that would fit together towards the end. In fact, there's no big puzzle at all: this film is so devoid of any logic and consistency that 30 minutes in I ultimately gave up trying to even guess what's going on.
But turning off your brains won't help you sit out this one. Chaos is not decent even at its action aspect. A handful of fights and shootouts, also feeling just randomly put in, are all that's gonna be served to you. And served so lazily that the film doesn't even bother trying to explain why all the stupid stuff like an unexpectedly activated loud beeper while a person carrying one lies in an ambush could happen in the first place. In fact, it's even for the better, because when the film actually tries to explain something to create at least a resemblance of some mystery unfolded, it fails so miserably you'd wish you never heard that nonsense at all.
Please, don't repeat my mistake by trusting the "it's not so bad" reviews. I don't know if the authors of those are brain-dead or just trolling. But this is not even a typical Statham movie. This is much worse, a total wreck I hope Statham and Snipes feel ashamed of now. Although, when you participate in a garbagefest like this, I doubt you worry too much about integrity or conscience. After all, such films are made with strictly one purpose in mind: to rob the naive and gullible audience out of some cash. Well, don't be a tool and stay away from this mess of a film, instead, spend your time on something more exciting, like taking a crap or washing dishes. You're welcome!
Rogue One (2016)
Looks solid, but feels uninspired
Not a long time ago, in our very own galaxy, the filmmakers decided to create a prequel to Star Wars: A New Hope. And they really wanted to do it by the book: by putting in a list of recognizable actors, a plethora of characters and locations and tech, old and new, making the story emotional with the force of family bonds and the sense of duty. They even showed us a glimpse of Darth Vader as a cherry on top. Sounds cool, right?
True, on the surface Rogue One looks very grand. But, as we have learned from the case of Death Star, even grand things may have very small flaws that ruin everything. And for Rogue One those flaws are characters and pacing.
Indeed, with so much bound to happen and with only 133 minutes of running time, you must move quick to cram everything into the timeline. But for some reason Rogue One doesn't feel consistent in its density. At times it's painfully slow and almost boring, with people talking and arguing and debating some more. And at other times it flicks through characters and hops planets like a mad rabbit, causing a degree of "what is this place/person again?" frustration even in a prepared SW viewer, while outright alienating the freshmen (although the same freshmen could digest The Force Awakens just fine).
Another stone pulling Rogue One down is the main characters, or rather the actors playing them. I don't mind Felicity Jones or Diego Luna at all, they are fine actors per se. But they are not fit for the action figures. Jones may deliver a sharp punch at times, but mostly she makes that sad puppy face - and you just quit buying into her fighter spirit. Same with Luna: no matter what he does, he looks awfully tired and overwhelmed, dragging our mood down with him.
Maybe if we had characters as vivacious and fierce as Rey and Finn as protagonists, the whole story would feel different. But we have what we have, and despite all the graphic lushness, a number of nostalgia-inducing moments, characters twisted and conflicted inside, and actual space fights, Rogue One feels like one major drag, where everyone does something, but only the bad guys actually believe in their cause. The space fights are overly long and tediously repetitive, the graphic lushness mostly resorts to cold space or desolate deserts, and even the character twists and development, with an unexpected sense of common purpose and a timely remorse for the former wrongdoings, have a whiff of generic movie psychology. Two slightly redeeming points of this film are the blind monk, but even he gets annoying towards the end with his repetitive chanting and inconsistent potency, and the Ben Mendelsohn's character, who is a typical Mendelsohn's not quite good but not entirely evil guy. As a mirror character of Domhnall Gleeson's General Hux from The Force Awakens, he's done a much better job. Too bad it wasn't enough to salvage the whole enterprise.
When The Force Awakens turned out to be a soft reboot instead of being an independent story, I was hoping that maybe it was for the best and that way the filmmakers would be able to expand on the original story and give us additional depth, the chance that was skipped back in the time of the original trilogy. Rogue One is definitely an attempt to fill the blanks and deliver some background. But so far it's more of a miss than a hit. So hopefully it will be a lesson learned for the SW film crew: that spin-offs require as much effort as the main story films. You were inspired enough to bring the Star Wars back to life - now use that inspiration again and put it to good use.
Patriots Day (2016)
Would've been better as a documentary
People are captivated by the extraordinary events. And people love to be entertained. So what could possibly be better than a dramatic story of extraordinary nature. Especially if it's based on real events, shows the heroism of simple people and touches the audience's sensitive patriotic spot.
That's basically a recipe for Patriots Day. Take the case of the Boston Marathon bombing, the largest terrorist attack in the US since 9/11, show it through the eyes of several regular people, first introducing their personal lives and then following them along the course of the main events. And finally, when it's all over, add some first-person moral lessons and conclusions, so that we all realize for sure how important and pivotal that event was for the people and for the world, and feel privy to its changing momentum.
All by itself, it's a pretty good, even noble approach. But there's a tiny little detail that changes everything: that all that must sell somehow, because even the extraordinary stories have to be entertaining. So the otherwise consistent and self-sufficient story is being infused with dramatization, laying it on even thicker where it's already been thick, and creating moments that might not have been there in the first place simply to make the story more of a thriller. A very similar thing happened just recently with Deepwater Horizon.
The result becomes a product with the typical Hollywood spin, but proudly called "based on real events". That it might be, but on the basis of real people's actions, beliefs and lives there has been put enough creative imagination for the film to feel at times fake, at times cheesy and at times way over the top. And we will never know for sure if some or other moments that touched each of us personally happened for real, or they were skillfully injected by the filmmakers to genetically modify the movie and make it more appealing to the audience. Having fallen for this trick before, I refuse to be bought so cheaply again. So I really wish movies such as Patriots Day were made as documentaries. Yes, maybe they wouldn't sell as much, but at least they would be sincere and true. And what if not truth and sincerity do such stories try to uphold?
God and humanity: Scorsese at his deepest
I had quite distorted expectations towards this film. One review I scarcely read called it a "sado-maso flick with priests". And, considering Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield's sleazy mugs, I was almost expecting some perverse variation of 50 Shades of you know what. Well, truth be told, I have never been so wrong in my life.
Silence is a story of two Jesuit priests from Portugal, who go to Christianity-intolerant XVII century Japan to discover the fate of their mentor. That's basically all the story on the surface. Beneath it, though, it's a journey much more profound and mind-provoking. A journey that, depending on how deep you're able to analyze the topic, might make you ponder whether religion is a virus that cares solely about spreading, whether the only thing multiple religions produce is people's suffering, whether your high spiritual beliefs and principles are worth letting people die, whether faith really needs the tangible symbolics, and whether god actually cares about people, or the only thing he cares about is being worshiped properly. And that's just the obvious philosophical and theological concepts Silence reaches for, and if you wanna look harder you might find even more food for thought here.
Seriously, this is not a film you would wanna watch in a movie theater. Besides two and a half hours of its running time, I spent at least another hour for just pausing and debating over what's going on and what do those actions imply with the person next to me, sometimes digressing from the film's context towards the universal concepts of humanity and civilization evolution. And that rich ground for discussion, something way beyond the scope of a mere review, is probably the most impressive of Silence's achievements.
Still, this film is not just its story, which is primarily a merit of the book the film is based on. It's the way that story is told. And I don't know what kind of cinema magic Scorsese put in here, but he has managed to do an almost undoable job: make the film clearly speak to you between the lines, conveying the most complex and confusing and even intimidating topics and concepts without saying much out loud. The silence that finally revealed to Rodrigues the voice of God is probably the same silence in which we can hear everything that this film has to say, and more. It may sound silly or trivial, but trust me: it's no small feat to raise topics of such magnitude - and make them obviously relevant to our turbulent world of today where people kill and die in the name of various gods every day - without being cryptic like Umberto Eco or pop and glossy like Dan Brown. My only complaint about Silence is its ending, opting out of the open interpretation and thus losing the precious ambiguity and at the same time the philosophical potential of such, but otherwise what Mr Scorsese did out here is nothing short of divine, whether you believe in god or not.
Cool Hand Luke (1967)
Dumb Move Luke
27 years before The Shawshank Redemption, there was another movie about a person who didn't want to let the prison bend himself and make him give up on his ways. The thing Andy Dufresne and Luke have in common is that they both are gutsy and stubborn fellows. But, unlike Mr Dufresne, Luke doesn't seem to have much wits.
Now, the whole fifty years after the film's been released, it's really hard to tell why it's become such a cult classic. I guess it was once a very relevant representation of the people's dream of a wayward hero. A person men would secretly envy and women would openly worship. But these fifty years had certainly changed our world, just like they have changed us. And if back in 1967 we'd probably have been captivated by the reckless stubbornness of a person put in constraining, albeit still very mild, conditions, and if in 1994 we'd be swept away by an everlasting will of a person who believes that no prison, however harsh, is worth giving up on remaining a human being, then today's hero would probably try to avoid the jail's heat at all.
Having said that, I really don't think that Cool Hand Luke is still able to uphold its former status. It's by no means a bad film. On the contrary, it's a fine piece of cinema. But definitely not thanks to the rebel spirit it was once meant to convey. Just like a 20 year old hotshot people once admired for his daring and bravery, who in fifty years becomes a tiny and quiet white-haired old man kids like to play around, this film is appealing not because it's bold - but because it shows the precious naivety of the old ways, when prison was almost as liberal as the army, while twice as fun, and when people with guns were still soft on the people in chains. Back then, this story could have been about one person's victory over the cold system. But today, it's more like a showcase of one dumb idiot who couldn't simply enjoy the life he was given. Which, considering the modern day hardships, both inside and outside the prison walls, is not heroic but rather plain stupid.
We are not so high anymore
The first Harold & Kumar movie was a truly mind-blasting experience. Ridiculous and insane, it was everything a stoner movie could be, and even more. Weed, boobs, the ups and downs of a true bromance - all served in one big positive blow that kept you smiling - and sometimes even laughing out loud like a crazy horse - till the very end.
The second movie was made four years later, but its plot directly follows the events of the first film. I can see why it seemed the right thing to do - trying to capture the fleeting harmony of two carefree stoners' youth and all. But apparently you can't cheat time. So while the characters hadn't matured a bit, the world certainly had, and the story with it. This time the adventures of our two clumsy stoners aren't even remotely as lighthearted, for our guys have gotten themselves involved in a high-stakes political game reeking with the late Bush era bitterness. But this game is not fun anymore, it's a grim picture of the state of American society as the liberal-minded people saw it after eight years of the Bush administration. Nothing to laugh about indeed.
It felt so... different from the first film, so devoid of everything that made it great, that I couldn't help thinking whether it's the same team that made it. But it actually is the same team, only this time without that precious mojo which the first film was filled with up to the top. Instead, this movie is pumped with a thinly wrapped political message. Which might even reflect the state of affairs at that point - but if I had really wanted politics instead of laughs, I'd have probably just turned on CNN in the first place.
A sick and bizarre hymn of womanly love
A con story gone wild, that's another way to summarize what The Handmaiden is about. In between these two short formulas, there's a story no description would be able to do proper justice. It would defy your expectations and keep you puzzled about what's actually going on and what's to happen next. This ability to surprise is The Handmaiden's most undeniable quality, and that alone makes this film worth watching.
There's, however, a certain "anime" flavor to this story. No, not in the sense that the characters have disproportionately big eyes or hyperbolized emotions. The characters' emotions here are pretty well-explained, but the events that cause them are often contrived beyond any rational explanation. Especially when it comes to people's greed, violence and perversion. As if the film tries to take us aback by flummoxing and mesmerizing us with its explicit and graphic nature, so that we obediently submit ourselves to its cinematographic will.
But while the entourage of this story, taking place in Korea during the Japanese occupation, is indeed captivating and colorful, there's a certain "modern replica" feeling about it. And not just because it is inspired by a book released in 2002 but whose events take place in Victorian Era England. It's the whole concept of womanly love that can be vicious and cruel to conquer all, something that our society found a taste for only recently. This concept has everything in it to haunt our minds and become a true icon of our generation, but with The Handmaiden it felt neither entirely fresh nor entirely genuine. The world already has Blue is the Warmest Color and Gone Girl. If not for them, The Handmaiden might have been groundbreaking. But now, it feels too much like those two stories intermixed, with an octopus added for a graphic effect. To a stimulated bidder, this book could still be sold high. But it still doesn't make up for a difference between an original and an artfully crafted fake.
Star Trek Beyond (2016)
Star Trek: Middle Age Crisis
The ages-long rule says that whatever the case, the captain is the last man to abandon his ship. So when in the very opening of Star Trek Beyond we find out that James T. Kirk grew tired of the burden of his father's legacy pressing on his shoulders and wants to give up the conn for good, it's not the most promising start. As it turns out, Captain Kirk is far from the only person out here whose mind is occupied with the heavy thoughts of existential nature: this time the whole film feels like a reflection on one's duty, destiny and purpose. Pretty symbolic, considering that just recently we've lost two actors playing prominent Star Trek characters...
Still, on the surface, there's nothing wrong with the mission of Enterprise this time. The ship and its crew still boldly go where no one's ever gone before. However, it seems that, by following the trend of exploring the deep space of character psychology, the film loses focus on the mission itself. The potentially catastrophic decisions are made with a childly easiness and without proper preparations, the captain decides to put the whole ship at risk because of some stranger's words. And the further we go, the sloppier it gets.
My first guess is that, in the vastness of space, the filmmakers simply ran out of ideas. Star Trek used to be the (mostly lighthearted and optimistic) adventure kind of space movies, but since Into Darkness we've witnessed the arrival of Guardians of the Galaxy, the epitome of unseriousness, so I guess the writers didn't want the franchises to feel too similar, especially since they both have Zoe Saldana as a major character. So when the old screenwriters quit and Simon Pegg was summoned to make up for it, apparently he had to bite on more than he was able to chew.
So, at the end of the day, Star Trek Beyond feels really half-processed. No true consistency, no impressive adversaries, a total McGuffin as the main threat, a lot of undercooked secondary characters and a plot spread so thinly across so many small details that it feels all over the place. Even the references to the old school, the trademark that made GotG cute and standing out, feel forced and ridiculous here. So, after the gripping intensity of the previous installments, Star Trek Beyond feels painfully slow, overloaded with non-necessities and, at times, plain dull. This is definitely not the legacy that the franchise deserves, so I really hope they do it justice the next time, or don't do anything at all.
Love in the Afternoon (1957)
So sexist it hurts
The cinema language is indeed a product of its times. And, just like some things weather out thousands of years barely changing and some flex and bend every now and then, so do the aspects of how movies tell their stories. The stories that remain clear and true through the decades we call classic, while some once-actual films look as if the only place they belong to today is some dusty shelf in a museum. And Love in the Afternoon seems like the latter type, no matter how I had wished it to be otherwise.
I'll be honest, I quit watching this film halfway through - because of its total ugliness. No, not because it was black-and-white and with a "mere" stereo - the technical aspects hardly bothered me. It's the language the film used that was absolutely unbearable. The language of telling the love stories.
Can't say it's totally this film's fault. I've seen other films from that era, for instance, My Fair Lady also featuring Audrey Hepburn. And all the films of that time are ugly when it comes to the portrayal of the interaction of two sexes. Women are always dumb as a door knob, easily falling for the most ridiculously rude men, while men are either ridiculously rude and abusive (and proud of it of course) or ridiculously weak and thoughtless. Either way, a man is always the boss while a woman is always to follow and to adapt.
Yet at least My Fair Lady had a certain competition between the gender archetypes, with the woman not brilliant but at least streetwise and boisterous, and with the man conceited but also ridiculed for that. That allowed for a much more realistic composition, resulting in the story that stands relevant till the days of now. On the other hand, Love in the Afternoon looks like a classic 50's flick where women still have no right to have brains or dream of anything but some guy. What makes it even worse is that here Hepburn is just 28 and her heroine seemingly even younger, but the film postulates as her love idol a totally narcissist jackass pushing 60, and that jackass being Gary Cooper doesn't help a bit. The man is, by the film's own decree, utterly no good, yet he seems to skim all the cream off the life and what it can offer, women included.
I have no idea if that abhorrent premise is to be reversed in the second act of the film. If it is, well, maybe my rating should go one or two points up. However, from what I've seen, it seemed that the only direction this film could go is to legitimize that no-good person yet again. Which might even have some outer gloss, Audrey Hepburn being cute and all, but an absolute absence of any balance between the gender roles and a total predictability of the characters turn Love in the Afternoon from a romantic flick it once was into a travesty and a caricature of the topic. Maybe this is how the guys and girls were supposed to act back then, but nowadays the only way one can view this film is as an educational material on who NOT to be and how NOT to behave. Both in the afternoon and in any other time of day.