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300: Rise of an Empire

Please switch off and enjoy
Most people hopefully know the storyline is not entirely accurate (but it is based on actual events and actual people). However this movie is all about this delicious comic book style and the epicness of a long lost era.

For us Greeks it also hits a nerve as a (quite idealized) depiction of what we are taught in our schoolbooks about the Persian wars. Watching a movie with the heroes of our history makes us proud and it is a very welcome positive reference to our country especially in the context of the last years.

For all the 1/10 reviewers please relax, it is cinema, the great escape from reality. I'm already looking forward to the next one.

Before Midnight

A worthy sequel, only wish we had less outsiders
I admit I am a huge fan of the Before series. I was eagerly anticipating this movie for many years. Since 2004 to be exact. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have hands down the best chemistry in the history of cinema. I am not exaggerating. Their interaction and mannerisms along with the masterfully crafted dialogues should be obligatory material in acting schools.

So again this time, when they were on screen they managed to perfectly convey the joys, concerns and frustrations of people (and also couples) in their early 40s, just like they did with the early 20s and early 30s in the other two films. Their acting calibre allows them to stay on the fine line between maturity and insecurity.

This leads me to the only issue I have with the film and the reason I gave it a 9. Unlike the previous two installments, a lot of screen time is wasted in conversations with or between third parties. I was simply not interested in what everyone else had to say, this is a movie about Jesse and Celine and how they see life through their own eyes. Thankfully the issue is rectified in the second half, but I still wanted to enjoy our two protagonists a bit more. I could even go as far as saying some parts especially in Patrick's table border to corny and bland, but without using spoilers this may actually be intentional.

A side comment: I may not think her role (or any supporting role for that matter) was key to this particular movie but as a Greek it was a delight to see the beloved Xenia Kalogeropoulou again on screen after so many years of absence. She has aged gracefully. Please check her movies, she is an extremely skilled actress.

Now in terms of the location, as with the rest of the films, it is really secondary. I'm not sure why they chose Greece in the first place, but in any case Southwestern Peloponnese is a great place to visit and actually using the house of Patrick Leigh Fermor is a fitting homage to the great traveller (the host's name being Patrick surely not a coincidence).

As mentioned above, the movie really takes off in the second half, the hotel scene and the very last scene are pure Oscar material (hello Academy, you skipped them twice, it is about time don't you think?). Intense magnetism was emitted from the screen and nobody really wanted this movie to end. I could easily sit a few more hours watching them interact.

Once more, thank you Ethan, Julie and Richard for giving us another amazing film. I know I will be revisiting again and again.

The Iron Lady

Meryl Streep gives credibility to a bad movie
What a missed opportunity.

One of the most controversial figures of 20th century politics, a plethora of great stories from her life and career to be told, a multi-dimensional character to be explored and what do we get? A senile person hallucinating and babbling for more than half the movie. What an injustice to Margaret Thatcher and to the audiences. Both those who love her and those who hate her would leave the cinema outraged that they only caught a glimpse of all that is relevant in Lady Thatcher's life. Not to mention the utter lack of respect for a person who fights with Alzheimer's.

Meryl, we all know you're the best actress alive and you prove it once again, but why you accepted this? This is just a show-off of your skills, no substance at all. Is this all you're about now? How about the cinema?

Logo timis

Menopausal student series (if such a thing is possible)
Of course it is possible when Mirella Papaeconomou writes the script and supervises production. She manages to create a badly crafted, pseudo-intellectual dialogue, which distances the viewer in an instant because of its sheer unbelievability and shallowness. This is usually paired with a slow, painful tempo. And this package is her "expertise" in almost every series she's involved with. I guess it is obvious by now that I try hard to stay away from anything she's ever done, but this series was inflicted on me again as it is repeated ad nauseam on the channel that has its copyright. So I thought I should remind myself why I wanted to stay away in the first place.

I still remember when it was first released (in '96) everybody was saying how late 80s it looked like and how hard it was trying to appeal to the younger audiences, although so obviously written by someone with a superficial contact with the target group. I think sophomoric fits perfectly here as a description. Papaeconomou was trying so hard to mimic what she thought would tick the younger audience boxes, that she didn't bother to check if it really resonates or not. It was already out of date and even if it weren't it was simply badly written.

OK is there anything good?

In general I would say the actors were good. Some kicked off their careers after this, while for some others, although they were pitched as sex symbols, their career didn't really fly. Now unfortunately, they had to utter extremely cringing lines and over-act, but a job is a job so well done for delivering and keeping a straight (or a melodramatic if needed) face with such material.

Then the premise is good and was refreshing. A group of students and their adventures in life is good material, especially in the context that there was no homemade series about students in the Greek mid-nineties and people were longing for a 90210 equivalent. And here's why I'm so annoyed with the quality of the scenario and script, because this could become a landmark due to originality and topicality for a whole generation.

Hands down, the best part of the series is the soundtrack, composed by the great Dimitris Papadimitriou. Although the title music was the most popular song, the real gem is called "To Skaki" ("Chess"), with lyrics from a poem by Manolis Anagnostakis.


Too much for me
I'm not conservative, I'm not a puritan, I'm tolerant and liberal, but I do have some limits and this film surpassed them.

I want to emphasize I do not mean the transsexual theme, which is absolutely fine, after all I did enjoy The Crying Game. I mean the twist in the plot, which I do not want to reveal for those who haven't seen the movie but it did make a very bad impression to me. This was WAY too much and spoiled my movie experience. This was bordering sickness. I can't believe such a sick twist was airbrushed in all the reviews I happened to read about this movie. And for what is worth, I also enjoyed Oldboy.

Anyway, art is art, but be prepared. For me only redeeming aspects if you manage to take the scenario out of the picture is Mina Orfanou's performance and the competent direction.


Haneke meets von Trier
One can certainly claim Dogtooth is disturbing, but I don't think anyone can really claim it is original. These themes have been explored before. Trying to isolate the truly original aspects of the film one is left with few instances of black humor and the gratuitous sex and gore element (aka refuge of the uninspired).

I think the best part of the movie is Lanthimos great "pastel" cinematography and I will also give credit to the actors (all newcomers to the industry) for competent delivery, although I think the script could be stronger.

Overall, not impressed, but this film is still worth seeing.

The Blind Side

This is a dumbed down excuse of a movie. Honestly, I felt a physical assault on my brain cells. Obviously the producers are trying to target the Christian republican rednecks, who ironically, will probably not like it anyway. For the rest of us, it is simply unbearable to watch.

I like Sandra Bullock. No I really do. But it is completely beyond me how she got an Oscar for such an awful movie. Is portraying a stereotypical character with corny lines worthy of an Oscar? Is delivering the clichés we've seen hundreds of times before worthy an Oscar?

I feel sorry for my lost time watching this, although thankfully it was just on the plane, so I didn't pay a cent.


Good CGI, dumb dialogues
In terms of the visual department, Avatar is a pleasure to watch. It is an achievement and it rightfully got the Oscar. This is the only reason - and by all means a sufficient one - to go to the theatre. The overall story is also relatively believable although surely not original. However, given the investment this movie got, the huge potential was only partly realised.

And why? Because at some point they forgot they were making a movie, not a CGI demo. The dialogues are so annoying, childish and empty, it makes sitting through the movie with the sound on a real challenge. I don't want to hear exclamations of 10-year olds if I'm to get interested in the plot. I don't want to be force fed what's going on, I don't want one dimensional characters and so little respect for the intelligence of the audience.

So I have to admit very mixed feelings on recommending this movie. The reality is, you cannot miss Avatar, since it sets today's standard in visual effects. But please, do not have any more expectations than that, or you will be disappointed.


Sweet but with an edge
I loved this film. First it is the amazing performance of Sally Hawkins. She is an absolute delight to watch. Her face and mannerisms after a bad day can cheer you up. In fact she did exactly that to me today. However, we soon understand that Poppy has a relative inability to deal with the darker side of the world. The tramp and the boy at school episodes hint to that.

Also, as in real life, not everyone wants to have happier people than themselves around. They consider this either patronising or immaturity. Enter Scott and Helen respectively.

Now while Helen is the proverbial big sister who has gone further in life and looks at Poppy condescendingly, Scott is a very complex and well written character and perfectly brought to life by Eddie Marsan. The driving lessons scenes are by far the best part of the movie, with the very last one topping it all. This scene brings a revelation to both Poppy and Scott, one that could possibly change their lives forever. It is when their two universes collide.

A very good film, that many people did not give it a chance.

Vasika... kalispera sas

Major nostalgia attack
Have no doubt, this is a silly movie. Bearing the Dalianidis' signature, it was bound to be. So the value of this movie does not lie in either the jokes, the scenario or the failed effort to make a movie that is "in" (by using supposedly cool youth-speak and gestures).

The real value lies behind all of that.

For everybody who grew up in late 70s - early 80s Greece this is a nostalgic extravaganza. It's the background in every scene, the buildings, the cars, the clothes, the radio amateurs (the "pirates"), the "discotheques", the music, the atmosphere and even the all-star, ever-present cast of 80s cult actors like Psaltis, Gardelis, Mihalopoulos, Bostantzoglou, Finou, Pagrati, Pikoula and Aliberti. Also an unforgettable Adamantidis afro look!

So what more really to say? While you as a 30-something know it is silly, you will not leave your eyes from the screen since it offers a direct link to your youth.


Great British story
First of all, a comment on style. Atonement ticks all the boxes in Britishness. You cannot but love the mannerisms, the photography and the dialogue. A classy film only Brits can do.

Then, it's the acting. Although all performances are great, there are two performances that stand above the rest. James McAvoy and Saoirse Ronan. Sometimes characters define the actors, but these two actually redefined their characters. Keira is undoubtedly stunning and lovable and she did indeed great, but she's overshadowed by the sheer quality of the other two. From the other two Brionys, Vanessa Redgrave shows what an excellent actress she is by perfectly mimicking the posture, gestures and talk of little Saoirse, while Romola Garai unfortunately was not such a good fit (and it seems this is mainly a casting error).

Finally, the story is very well told and while the movie may leave a sad taste, it is actually a proof of its strength. This is what good movies do. They have the capability to imprint sentiments to the audience.


Nice film, intentionally ambiguous
One of Michael Haneke's main objectives is to make the viewers break their conventional cinema mold. The whodunit part appears to be the primary focus, but soon it becomes secondary.

The real issue Haneke wants to refer to is France behavior towards Algeria. There is a guilty past buried somewhere in the back of the minds of contemporary French conscience and bringing it back seems to be still uncomfortable.

So the question here is, does the stalker vehicle work? I'd have to say yes, but not fully. It is a good technique, however the high degree of ambiguity does not always pay off.

Nevertheless, the film is enjoyable and helped by good performances from all leads, especially Juliette Binoche who elevates her not well scripted role.

Ladder 49

Cliché glorification of firefighters but still watchable
Okay, this is full of clichés. Nothing original. You know what you're going to see from the beginning. However, Ladder 49 is not a total failure. It is saved by two things. One is the high caliber acting of the two star leads and the other is that the plot actually flows very smoothly, albeit predictable. There are no logical gaps and you are actually being told a story with a beginning, a middle and an end.

Now the bad part. It is rather obvious Ladder 49 is capitalizing on the climate of glorification of the firefighters after 9/11. While everybody obviously has great respect for firefighters, the movie cannot avoid flag waving and similar annoying things. It ends up resembling too much a military life movie. But firefighters are not soldiers. There's no need to portray the equivalent of a military wife who sits waiting at her window or other totally military clichés.

Sometimes in April

Could be better
Sometimes in April is not boring, however it's way far from being introspective and realistic.

Pedantry oozes from every inch of the celluloid. The director hasn't given enough effort to explain the "why". It's only about the "what" and a reduced, possibly one-sided version of the "what" it is.

The film is heavily oriented towards western audiences (it pushes the right "western" buttons). Some things that resonate with the western mentality simply do not register with Rwandan audiences. Some other things that touch on local psyche and actually explain the flow of events in Rwanda are not even explored here.

So can the viewer learn anything about the conflict from this movie? I'm not sure at all. The only safe outcome is that war is bad, but you knew that already.

Trilogia: To livadi pou dakryzei

No no no no
This must be one of the most annoying, arrogant, poser films I've ever seen. What a waste of budget and actors. Angelopoulos has reached new levels of pretentiousness. It is clear there is virtually no plot, even if this part of Greek history is material for great movies. He simply had some supposedly symbolic (actually shambolic) scenes in his mind and he built a whole movie around them. Death is the main theme and is repeated ad nauseam, along with litanies, processions and the like, which should only be a vehicle for the movie but unfortunately it is the movie itself. A totally incoherent result, which can only leave you saying "huh?" or "oh dear" every two minutes.

There is no character development at all, nada, zilch. I'm usually complaining about some movies having two-dimensional characters, but oh boy, he managed to create one-dimensional characters. This is irritating for us and degrading for some of the actors. He even managed to make one of my favourite Greek actors, Giorgos Armenis, seem wooden.

And going to the core of Angelopoulos film-making: No we're not idiots. We do not want chewed food. Please someone tell this guy symbolism has to be subtle. Theo do you really underestimate your audience so much or you're simply incompetent? Personally, I think he tried to make a Greek "Underground". No matter how he tries, he can't reach Kusturica.

Only saving grace: Photography, costumes and the music.

Lilja 4-ever

A punch in the face
I was in a speechless state for quite a while after watching Lilja 4-ever. This is one of the most disturbing and depressing films ever made.

Of course the direction of Lukas Moodysson is immaculate and the actors deliver fantastic performances, especially the amazing Oksana Akinshina. This is what makes the movie extremely realistic. But you get so overwhelmed by this realism that it's really difficult to distance yourself and start judging this movie by its solely cinematic qualities.

It is a must-see. Just be prepared. This is no easy ride.

Manos: The Hands of Fate

Has secured its place in cinematic history
It is of no small magnitude to have your work distinguished in a sea of hundreds of thousands of movies.

Hal Warren made what others can only dream of. He made a movie that will be mentioned and even quoted for years and years by cinema fans, a movie that has earned a place in history books. His achievement cannot be understated.

Let me offer my explanation on why so many people love Manos: By watching this film you become part of a psychological experiment in hypnosis.

The countless landscape scenes serve as the passage to the hypnotic state one needs to be to appreciate this movie. It is only after entering this trance you will feel strangely attracted by the incoherence of the plot, the vapidness of the acting, the emptiness of the dialog, the amateurishness of the visual effects and the shallowness of the characters.

And then, the large question mark after the end credits is the snap of the finger.

You wake up, and only then you realize that what you have experienced brilliantly merges into creating, quite simply, the worst movie ever made.


Good photography and that's about it
Manchevski disappointed me with this one. From a guy who has created Before the Rain I was waiting much more. He obviously has talent and it shows with the photography. The Ohrid lake shots are fantastic.

In terms of the plot, Shadows is blatantly plagiarizing Sixth Sense. It is annoyingly similar. The only difference is that there's no twist. We know it all almost from the beginning. Which actually makes it boring. Especially when we get the same shock-effect scene again and again and again.

Now the sex element. Why? We're getting gratuitous sex scenes for no particular reason. Not that I don't like the girls, especially Vesna Stanojevska, but someone should tell our friend Milcho that it has to blend with the plot!

And finally, being from Greece, I have to comment on the "Aegean Macedonians" issue. I couldn't fail to notice some sneaky propaganda attempts in secondary parts of the plot. I mean "exodus" and ...napalm bombs? In ...1913? This is honestly bordering the ridiculous. I could write a whole essay on where these ideas come from (may well be a part of a general nationalistic awakening in our neighbor state), however let me simply mention that the story of "Aegean Macedonians" (a very controversial term by itself) is far more complex than what people are led to believe from this film. I would be grateful if Manchevski left politics and history to people who actually know a thing or two.

Spider-Man 3

Only as a hi-def showcase
Apparently Spiderman 3 is all but a collection of obligatory scenes that appear from nowhere. They must have thought, hey, it worked before, let's squeeze this scene here. And then this, and then the other and look, we've made a "movie" almost 2:30 hours long! Doesn't matter if there's no plot, no coherence and no logic, the producers perception is that the public has the memory skills of a goldfish and will only care for what happened during the last minute.

Maguire and Dunst are absolutely awful. No chemistry, no acting skills. I'm focusing on them simply because the rest of the cast just didn't have enough lines to join the list. This is a crappy movie you should get only on a hi-def format to enjoy the effects. And this is also the only reason it gets a 4.

Loufa kai parallagi

The best ever Greek film
I know most of you (like me) when you see characterizations like "best ever" move quickly to the next comment, since probably the comment was written by a person who is easy to impress.

But trust me, this is really, honestly, the best Greek movie ever made. It is extremely topical, has fantastic performances (by actors that nowadays are comedy legends) and great direction. It's one of those movies people have seen countless times and know the lines by heart.

One setback is that in order to truly appreciate it you have to be Greek or at least have a very good knowledge of modern Greek history and culture and especially the junta era of 1967-74 and the years immediately preceding it.

The Secret

Some entertainment value, obviously the rest is crap
I give the film a 3 and not its well deserved 1, because it offered me some laugh-out-loud moments with its level of dumbness. In case people haven't noticed, this is not a documentary, this is a 90 minute advertisement, with the names of so-called "experts" flashing on the screen for ages (if it was a documentary everybody knows that names are only shown once and without embossed signatures). No wonder each one of the "gurus" is on the business of "get rich quick" or "succeed in your life" or "find happiness" and the like.

I can only feel sympathy for people who consider elementary school advice like "think positive" a ground-breaking "secret", well kept for centuries. And I find amazing that they are prepared to suspend their brain function in order to believe that you can avoid accidents, bills, diseases or catastrophes just by not thinking about them or that you will get money just by thinking about money. At least they must understand that the only people actually getting money from this advice are the advisers themselves.

Das Leben der Anderen

Important and amazing cinema
The Lives of Others was a special film even before it was made. It is the first introspective movie about East Germany. A long-awaited look into one of the most interesting large scale social experiments of the 20th century, the DDR.

Such a subject gave this movie tremendous potential, which thankfully it explored to the maximum. Yes, the critics are right, it is an amazing movie by all means. Technically, it is extremely well made. The scenario flows perfectly and the accomplished direction immerses the viewer in a dark and claustrophobic atmosphere. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck knows how to tell a story and makes a remarkable debut.

But in order to achieve true brilliance, the film also needed the classy performances first of the late Ulrich Mühe and second of Sebastian Koch. They truly take it off and bring their characters to palpable reality.

This is one of those films you physically feel the shiver of its greatness when the credits roll. Simply must-see.


Amazing movie and an extra treat for us Greeks
What a ride! These were my heroes since childhood and in this film they came to life. The moments I almost got a hard-on from excitement is when I was hearing the true and historically documented sayings deeply embedded in the Greek DNA: "Your shield or on your shield", "Come and get it", "So much the better, we shall fight in the shade", "Go tell the Spartans, passerby, that here, by Spartan law, we lie". I can't believe any Greek remained stiff during these.

My total respect to everyone involved in making this film. Guys, thank you from the depth of my heart. You created an absolute delight for us Greeks and I hope for everyone else. I'm over 30 and I haven't felt like this for years! Excellent costumes, wonderful imagery and very faithful to both the comic and the novel. In fact it's almost identical to the image of Spartans we all carry in our collective subconscious, this is why it resonated with Greeks so much (broke all box office records!).

The Deer Hunter

Walken, De Niro and Streep make this an essential viewing
The Deer Hunter is most of all a character study. This is why it was absolutely necessary to find the right cast. And the right cast it was. Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep and Chris Walken deliver memorable performances and demonstrate their tremendous acting potential.

The film though is not a masterpiece as so many people claim it to be. It takes off due to the performances, for sure, but the script is not that strong. I've found it somewhat incoherent, more of a collection of strong scenes than a flowing story. Also you can't fail to notice the sub-par sound quality and editing.

So don't miss it, you have three Oscar-caliber performances in one movie, but having very high expectations may leave you disappointed..

El laberinto del fauno

Yes classic movies can be made in 2006
Absolutely magical in every sense. Cliché expressions like words don't do justice fit perfectly to this film. Del Toro gives us the perfect marriage of real and surreal, complimented by amazing visual effects and makeup, breathtaking music, seamless flow of the storyline and of course the brilliant performances of all leads, but especially Ivana Baquero as Ofelia and Sergi Lopez as Capitan Vidal.

It doesn't really matter that this masterpiece, Best Picture of 2006 by far didn't get even Best Foreign Movie from the Academy, because awards are not what matters. What matters is the millions of enchanted cinema goers who will always have this piece of gold in their top ten lists.

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