Reviews written by registered user

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106 reviews in total 
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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Would've been better as a documentary, 20 March 2017

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?

Silence (2016/I)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
God and humanity: Scorsese at his deepest, 17 March 2017

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.

Dumb Move Luke, 15 March 2017

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, 13 March 2017

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, 11 March 2017

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.

5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Star Trek: Middle Age Crisis, 9 March 2017

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.

So sexist it hurts, 7 March 2017

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.

Sometimes wars just don't make sense, 5 March 2017

Let's admit it, we're a rather conflict-loving and aggressive species, willing to spill the blood of our own about any kind of disagreement, however ridiculous. Yet sometimes the matters dividing us yield to the matters uniting.

Apparently, that was the case on the Christmas Eve of 1914 somewhere along the front lines of the World War I. Only several months into the course of war, still not entirely broken with its horrors and each other's monstrosity, with the first chemical weapon attacks still to come, people could still view that war as a giant game their nations decided to play, without investing their personal hatred into it. Consider all that, the likelihood of cultural tastes and of religious background, and the Christmas spirit itself - and you would realize that the true events behind the story of Joyeux Noel are much more likely than it would seem at first.

This film does avoid the sharp edges here and there, making the story of fraternization among the enemy troops almost inevitable. The officers conveniently know each other's language and have personal motives for softening up towards the enemy, the common soldiers have snacks and booze to exchange, there's even a cat that loves to cross the front line and that is beloved on the both sides.

But don't let yourself be fooled by this seeming easiness. This is still war, and at no time you might expect people to just drop their weapons and start dancing and singing and hippie loving each other. Even in the most peaceful moments there's some unspoken tension, and there are still people who take things personally and for whom the war has already taken its toll. And that shaky balance between the humanity of you as a person and the duty imposed on you as a soldier is something that Joyeux Noel conveys beautifully.

Yet while you are watching this film, you can't help coming back to the same thought over and over again. If there were no orders from above, would those people actually fight each other? Do the common soldiers feel the need to do it, the need to destroy and to kill? And it makes you realize how different the world was a century ago, when Europe was still mostly monarchical and deeply connected from within, with the Kaiser and the Russian Emperor cousins, with no ever-reaching propaganda we have today. That was still the time when the ideological differences might be a major concern somewhere in the higher cabinets, but for the regular people the only major difference was the language - the rest was the same. That implicit unity was destroyed in the flames of two world wars, and then painfully rebuilt. So Europe's been lucky to become the place where wars don't make sense anymore. And that sentiment, "there's no reason to make war on someone who's exactly like you", is probably the most universally understood anti-military recipe our civilization ever created. And at times when war is such a profitable business for some, it's the films like Joyeux Noel that help us not to fall for the agenda of bloodthirstiness again.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Too technical, too messy, and arguably too glorified, 2 March 2017

Here we go again, Deepwater Horizon is a film that claims to be based on true events. Indeed, there was an oil rig by such name that made a huge mess in the Gulf of Mexico. The question is, how close this film stays true to what really happened there on April 20, 2010.

Because if we judge this film by its cinematographic merit only, then it could easily be described with a concise formula: a catastrophe flick, brutal but generic. The typical build-up, with lots of banter, friendly and not so much, and a ton of techie jargon you'll hardly understand even if you could pause every now and then and look up every word. And then the typical climax, when the hell breaks loose and everyone gets their chance to reveal themselves and to be either @ssholes or heroes. And the typical finale, grim but happy, with the survivors hugging their wives and kids and exchanging those meaningful looks.

If that was the first disaster movie I had seen, well, I'd probably feel absolutely satisfied. Because the disaster part of Deepwater Horizon, finally devoid of the mumbo jumbo talks and turned into a big quest of survival in a burning hell above water, is definitely gripping enough, thanks to the solid performance of Mark Wahlberg and Kurt Russell, and the impressive visuals. However, I've seen such films before, both dramatic and ridiculous, so I'm bound to wonder whether Deepwater Horizon is able to bring something new onto the table.

Unfortunately, the answer is no. Last year we've seen another catastrophe film based on a real story, Sully. Well, it was not a typical catastrophe indeed, more like a catastrophe turned miracle. Still, it was a demonstration of a different approach to telling the stories of such events. And while Sully was definitely less dynamic and much more political, it was at least original. And that is the quality Deepwater Horizon isn't really able to boast.

If only we could only know how much of this film is fiction and how much is based on reality indeed. Because if the filmmakers had shot Deepwater Horizon strictly in accordance with the real events, then all that purely American heroism and even the techie talks would've felt... different. That way we'd actually be able to assess the scale of stupidity and greed of the people who let that disaster happen, and the scale of heroism and sacrifice of those who were doing their best to avert that disaster, and, when the worst finally happened, were risking their lives to save those of their fellow men. That would've been a true feat deserving every praise possible. But I know Hollywood. And, while I'd like to believe that some of the exemplary behavior shown in this movie did take place that day, I'm more inclined to think that Deepwater Horizon is just a rough outline of the true story, and all those inspiring and noble actions done by Wahlberg and Co are there just for the show.

Jackie (2016/V)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Not so curious case of one gigantic ego, 1 March 2017

Good cinema is not bound to entertain, that's the popcorn movies' lot. Good cinema is, however, bound to fascinate. And not necessarily in a pleasing way. Well, Jackie is definitely not an entertaining movie. But is it at least fascinating? That depends on what you personally expect from the films you watch.

If you expect to experience some strong emotions towards the film characters then Jackie will be the right thing for you. Because the one emotion it is definitely capable of drawing is the mix of disgust and bitter pity for the protagonist. Whether or not the film's portrayal of Jacqueline Kennedy is accurate is not for us to judge, and it's not even important because the only Jackie we have a chance to know is the media icon carved in stone of history. What's important, however, is that such icon, no matter how glamorous, is beyond ugly due to the obsession with her own self. Over and over again, this film makes that painfully obvious. If that was the goal then it's been brilliantly achieved.

But if you expect a true drama, a story that touches you and keeps you enthralled, this film is probably not the right place to look at. That's the paradox of Jackie, because, despite the profound historical depth of the tragedy of JFK's life and death, this film is about something else. John Kennedy is merely a stage for the main performer, the white swan of the White House. But that star is so busy with trying to impress the world and live up to the image of the First Lady of the greatest president who ever lived, that she fails to notice how false those claims are and how stale she is in that never-ending search of her own perfection.

It could've been different. It could've been better if we could see multiple Jackies, one for the public eyes and one more genuine and for the closest ones only. But maybe there never was a genuine Jacqueline Kennedy, and her whole life, day after day, from the morning till the night, was one huge play called "The First Lady". If that's true then the film's fault is that it chose an obviously boring person to tell us about. And if it's not so, and there was actually some versatility in that woman, then the film's fault is in a complete failure to grasp it.

Either way, we're left with 100 minutes of a painfully slow showcase of one person's endless ego, wrapped in multiple layers of fake self-loathing and real self-adoration. And, of course, the masturbation to the past and its greatness. Because, if the present was shot down half-fledged, without anything to show for itself, but you already have gotten your hopes so high and your pride even higher, it's the past that your only hope for indulgence lies in. And while we know that the life of the true Jacqueline Kennedy was far from over when that glorious play of hers ended, and that she'd have many more years of glamorous life ahead, there's never a hint at that in this movie. Never a hint at a mere hope for a change. And that inherent staleness, no matter how chic and pompous, is the film's true and only taste. Stale and still, like the air in a crypt the past is buried in, the past we might want to honor but don't really want to recall.

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