vostf

IMDb member since November 2000
    Lifetime Total
    500+
    Lifetime Name
    5+
    Lifetime Filmo
    100+
    Lifetime Plot
    10+
    Lifetime Trivia
    10+
    Lifetime Title
    1+
    Top Reviewer
     
    IMDb Member
    20 years

Reviews

Us
(2019)

Get Out was promising but mostly predictable. Us is just a big mashup
I guess Jordan Peele will now be content with mining his ore: rehash of major horror movies with a little conspiracy sprinkled over so that people confuse protracted story with brilliance (Christopher Nolan has mastered this Agatha Christie recipe). M. Night Shyamalan still makes movies that find it hard to extract themselves from the original swamp. Dario Argento failed to leave Giallo behind so he does Giallo and you are sometimes redeemed by a couple of brilliant scenes.

What is brilliant with Us? It's a total rehash, mainly based on Funny Games which I think is the most horrific movie I have watched (1997). Except Us is a stupid reinventing of Funny Games: it is boringly predictable, horror switches to tongue in cheek humor and disjointed storyline.

By the time you reach the end you are happy that the 3 'alternate' female characters do add some tension, but it's too little and you don't care about the heavy resolution. At least Minnie Ripperton adds some beautiful brilliance at the very end.

The Judge
(2014)

Quality in every department, and hitting the mark
I may be overvaluing The Judge today for I have seen so many half-baked movies lately. I try to pick flicks that get a good rating on IMDb (7+), an ok metascore (60+) and most of the time the result is a lame effort hardly worth an average episode from a good TV-series.

Basically The Judge is a winner in all departments. I see some sneer at the basic setup of a made man going back to his childhood little town to confront his past. So what? It is a very fertile starting point if you bring in talent and work. It would not make him justice to say it delivers because this not just a formulaic movie done well, the factored talent give life to a little something extra that changes everything.

Such an harmony is the hardest to attain, putting in line all the elements so that nothing feels out of place. Nobody expects to be lucky (?) enough to watch a masterpiece every other day, but most people would be delighted to go more often to the movies if they could expect that high standard of quality.

(500) Days of Summer
(2009)

Cutie indie, just boring enough not to rise above its ambition
Ah Indies done by brainerds who rever the verbose French New Wave, the intellectual misfits at a loss to communicate with others, especially the other sex. Too bad we are only offered this type of character, acting as a decoy for the screenwriter's psychoanalysis, and thus get a boring train of self-lamentation, more moaning and perennial inability to pull oneself by one's bootstraps.

Bring in a good cast, fine production values (as opposed to erratic camera work and post-modernist settings), spread it all over by cutting back and forth in the timeline and bam, you get a cutesy indie. As usual this might have be an excellent short... provided the main character was beefed up with some self deprecating humor for instance.

Upgrade
(2018)

Fine low budget anticipation
One reviewer described Upgrade as full feature Black Mirror episode. This is quite right, except to get feature length we have here a basic thriller storyline, which IMO is more interesting than the "philosophical focus" in Black Mirror.

As a low budget anticipation movie it is very well done, yet this is one big step away from masterful. Character interactions are robotic even before we get to the subject of upgrading human bodies: this gives the movie an amateurish look that doesn't allow it to rise above the initial low-budget constraint. Also I was not too impressed by the directing skills, the rhythm in the finale. Basically we get the same pedestrian "lemme show you around my concept" from beginning (expectations set low) to end (bringing about closure without ever getting the viewer on the edge of his seat).

To be remade. With juice.

Tully
(2018)

Pointless, quite simply a movie that is never gonna happen
Had I noticed beforehand that the director was Jason Reitman I would have avoided this. By the time the (boring) opening credits displayed his name I was in a forgiving mood, although I sorely remember how bad Young Adult was.

Tully is a big vacuum. The premise is quite flimsy and it never reaches another stage. It seems it would like to be clever, being both strong footed in hard reality and eyeing into fantasy. There is simply no talent in Reitman to make this emerge from the general dullness, numbness of this script.

We have snobbish 'auteurs' in Europe who make this kind of lame movies about ordinary life, with an ecosystem of artsy critics to lecture us and inform those who see themselves as different, you know, with very accute flair. It's a niche, the pseudo-independent stuff, but overflowing with daddy's boys and other artistically-challenged hacks.

There is no accounting for pretentious tastes.

Atomic Blonde
(2017)

Let comics be comics
What's the idea of recreating for the big screen a stylish comics? Easy answer: there are some who are just looking for good material. A magnificent storyboard is excellent material, period. The rest is lots of dollars burned to create a moving copy and hope it generates lots of profits. Make no mistake, it is that cynical.

So Atomic Blonde watches like a comics without the pleasure of scanning and turning pages. The story rhythm is set by the director and the editor: moving pictures draw real characters, and it takes a fantastic director and a top-notch editor to add a layer of fantasy. Not just a nice DP and set decorator. So if you take a competent director who my be good at shooting commercials or music videos the comics adaptation looks like a comics adaptation and the good actors in it only look like cartoonist characters.

The premise of Atomic Blonde was a good starting point for a dark stylish thriller. Lazily adapting the comics treatment was lame and instead of an edgy flick we get a continuous stream of visual and situation clichés.

The Next Three Days
(2010)

Stretches its premise well beyond boring point
Yet another common man hero who happens to be some clueless (but stubborn) intellectual. Oh yes, self-infatuated writer-director auteurs revel in describing their inner soul, their own shortcomings etc.

More often than not this results in a pathetically indecisive and introverted schmuck of a character. Here this is the 'substance' of a fat hour of exposition. Then the movie gets moving at last, but we're already irritated by this lame character.

To make things worse everything is stretched beyond acceptance. Suspension of disbelief: seriously you can stretch this when you beat some rhythm, certainly not when you overindulge in a character study that slows to a crawl. What is the real focus, the big motivator, the McGuffin or whatever? Certainly too mundane for challenging question. With all the footage gobbled, most of the time we hardly know what really goes on in the hero's mind.

Frankly it's much more satisfying to have a hero who knows pretty soon what he is doing than being asked to believe in the self-aggrandisement towards action of a literary scholar.

Nice views of Pittsburg though.

Angel Has Fallen
(2019)

Dull action movie
1. The hero is a dull civil servant, tired (ala "too old for that s." only without the comic relief) all-around best boy in the universe but with a broken back,

2. the villain is the typical "nemesis in a booth" that was so well executed in Speed (but it was Dennis Hopper and he was not supposed to take on the POTUS),

3. and worst of all, as mentioned in another review, all the other good guys are just crash test dummies (special award to the extra dull special agent fully played by Jada Pincket Smith)

In the end it feels a lot like a MoW (does it still exist in the Netflix era) with some SFX/CGI. I see that Robert Mark Kamen credited here: I should have known better, you pay monkeys, you get bags of peanuts.

Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood
(2019)

Boring, boring, boring. Self-complacent ramblings about nothing
To say that this movie is self-complacent would be a gigantic understatement. As gigantic maybe as Tarantino's memory, overloaded with scores of details that he doesn't care to sort out. So he unloads them in bulk. The result : it's like you go to a promising party but end up cornered most of the night by some drunk guy who absolutely wants to share his opinions about everything.

Right from the start you get vignette after vignette, self-indulgent, overlong spoof sequences that bog down the main narrative. What with all the stuff Tarantino has learnt about movies he can't shorten exposition to clever ellipses ? Once upon a time I thought he was very good with dialogue, but I guess it is no fun to toil and write fine lines (no just snappy one-liners from time to time) when Sony will greenlight anything you want to shoot.

Once upon a time in Hollywood does not have a plot. It is the New Wave auteur in Tarantino who does not think he needs a plot. He has a couple of characters, a dozen anecdotes and the rest is talent. Self-conscious talent, lazy talent, talent isolated in the middle of a creative process. More like naked skills, each trying separately to express its full potential.

The hero and his sidekick are losers: how do you build a story around losers ? You need rhythm and some kind of McGuffin (wasn't it all there in Pulp Fiction?), not some vague exploration of the meaning of life. The plot is limited to the draft premise: a has-been TV actor and his stunt double cope with reality in Hollywood around the time of the Manson Family murders. The backdrop of the murders is the only narrative asset. We are teased all along, we even have an extensive reconstitution of life at the Spahn Ranch... all this just to toy around and end with the kind of ultra-violent carnival that Tarantino fans seem to revere. Clearly the challenge of mentioning the sordid Tate-LaBianca murders of August 1969 was not only above Tarantino's mental ability, but grossly using background anecdotes from it as fodder for his inspiration was within his moral scope.

As always I am judging this movie on its merits from a movie enthusiast point of view. But Tarantino is much more than a movie enthusiast. He is a guttonous movie fanatic. He is a guru with followers who let themselves be impressed, just like with Charles Manson. Many more followers than Charles Manson; fortunately Tarantino followers are only trained to see the fun in violence.

On ne meurt que deux fois
(1985)

Audiard's last words would not let the movie take a life of its own
The only way to enjoy the movie is to listen to Audiard's bitter last words. After the death of his elder son François (10 years before he penned this last movie) all his personal work took a sharp turn from the silly burlesque comedies he directed to deep dark psychological murder mysteries.

These murder mysteries are a vehicule for dialog to reminisce the dead, understand who he was, finalize an inventory of the remorse not to have known the intriguing victim better, not to have lived a life closer to his. Apart from this very personal subtext this movie is lamely directed. Minimalistic direction works most of the time for noir film, the problem here is that the dialogue eats up all the story.

So if you are not interested in listening to profoundly dark words by Audiard you will be disappointed to see Michel Serrault embody a sinister character ghostly floating along the lines of the master wordsman.

I am not giving to much away with the last line: Audiard looks back on his life and wonders if he ever was sincere enough or too much of a boasting showman wording his way away from simple things.

The Flight of the Phoenix
(1965)

They no longer make those... fortunately
I was curious to track down The Flight of the Phoenix because I regularly found DVD copies of the 2004 remake (when there seem to be so many copies of a movie I never heard of at the time, it definitely confirms the scathing reviews). What I found was one piece of outdated production which only stands to this day thanks to the adequate performances of its stellar cast. I say adequate because all characters are cut and dried so it takes quite a bit of talent to raise their profile above their boring definition and rank in the plot. I acknowledge I had high expectations based on the premise but the pace at which Aldrich patches his chapters together makes it all mostly boring.

Hollywood was losing it in the 1960s, only pedestrian directors (or directors that where tamed into submission) were put in charge. This movie is a perfect example: it could have been shot 30 years before with a more line-efficient script and edgier directing. And that is why I'd rather watch again The Lost Patrol than this one.

Manbiki kazoku
(2018)

Sensitive direction and a marshmallow storyline
I will not expand here on the delicate direction and sensitive story. I guess plenty of people have been writing and singing about this but, if I may be a tad insensitive, mastering direction and having a nice storyline is not sufficent to make a great movie.

I enjoyed it, as I always enjoy the craft of highly-skilled/gifted directors, but come on, Shoplifters really plays it easy with its sugar-coated storyline. "Subtle" here means a recipe where you bundle 100% golden-heart characters with some potentially darker but not-so-important backstories that audience is allowed to know in the end. The emotional stress stays the same all along, aside from the little girl's situation (which stays pretty generic) there is no one you can really empathize with. Basically, gentle characters are well directed within an empty shell.

In a nushell I enjoyed the craft but kept waiting for another dimension to materialize, and in the end this movie stands light years behind references like de Sica's Bicycle Thief or Kurosawa's Donzoko.

Bastille Day
(2016)

Badly crafted actioneer with a couple of good things in it
Bastille Day, as it was originally titled for release, is so badly crafted it never reaches the status of a real action feature film. On the whole it is hardly worth more than direct-to-video stuff.

Sure action scenes are well done and some plot twists are nice, but the result is just a rushed up series of action scenes and transition/exposition talk scenes. To me it looks like the director is good at shooting music videos or short clips but is totally at a loss with the idea of creating a real rhythm spanning 90 minutes or so.

Idris Elba is underused, as usual in movies, so he is not able to bring much more life to that stubborn reckless character. The rest of the cast is OK, they also have very little to work on.

Worst of all is the plot. Although some twists revealing part of it are good, in the end it only succeeds in being both nauseous and stupid. Bastille Day graduates here into the Z movie realm: just don't be fooled by the budget and competent cast, producers wanted a quickie and they got what they deserved with this stinking quickie.

Le septième juré
(1962)

Fine premise and fine actors with a wet paint coat of social commentary
I was curious to track down this movie for all the praise it got by IMDb reviewers. Some were so ecstatic as to rank it as a major directorial effort from journeyman Lautner. They were openly lamenting 'too bad he did not keep up with this kind of bravado'.

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is King

I guess these movie buffs must be watching too many bad movies as they compete to review the long tail of IMDb's inventory. This sets their expectations pretty low. Sure 'Le septième juré' has a great cast lead by the magnificent Bernard Blier, although characters are more picturesque than deeply engaging, and its story-line is compelling.

The social commentary does hold it together, but honestly this is really not done masterfully here. Voice-over narration fast turns a nice movie into a verbose hack. All the more so when the voice-over delivers a bitter ironic social commentary. Actually this is very much a literary device: that is why I won't mistake Bernard Blier forceful performance with a directorial tour de force.

I may be forgetting a couple of details but frankly I cannot see where the direction lifts the script and the cast well above their raw potential. Rhythm, suspense, cast interaction (let alone real chemistry): all these rank pretty low here in my scale of expectations.

All in all this is an OK movie, worth watching if you're a fan of Blier (and of Maurice Biraud or Francis Blanche). Don't expect to much and you will be rewarded by the fine performances. Now personally I was much less impressed by Blier here than in Quai des Orfèvres (whose director's ability doesn't call for a lengthy debate) where he has less screen time.

I would rather recommend tracking down Non-coupable (1947) on a similar premise. In this one the work by director Henri Decoin is unmistakably excellent (rather than adequate, at best, in the Le septième juré). There the social commentary is actually blended in the story, not painted over it. And of course on the topic of a juror stepping in for a weak defence you always have the excellent Twelve Angry Men. Le septième juré is nowhere near half as good as any of those 3 movies by Clouzot, Decoin and Lumet, so if this is really the best Lautner could do, no wonder he never came close to acclaimed directors.

O.J.: Made in America
(2016)

A mesmerising telling of OJ Simpson's story, before, during and after the 1995 trial
I couldn't wait to watch this acclaimed documentary since I had only a superficial understanding of what happened during the 1995 trial. At the time of the resounding 'Not guilty' verdict I remember thinking that in America money could buy you out of prison even with overwhelming evidence against you.

Ezra Edelman's documentary brilliantly adds maximum perspective to the original verdict. That OJ Simpson was, at heart, a man from the ghetto who would talk himself out of most situations (even if that meant leaving his buddies behind to save his neck) and as a man who reneged on his roots to enjoy the high life as the equal to other affluent (white) people. This last point is essential since this makes playing the 'race card' during the criminal trial even more outrageous (if that is indeed possible), but it also explains that the man was so obsessed with his image that he became just a big psychotic narcissist: an affable successful man in public and an extremely insecure (jealous and paranoid towards others but in denial about himself) thus prone to bursts of violent rage in his private life.

The documentary also does a great job of describing the history of LAPD abuses against minorities. Simpson's defence posse eventually tried to connect this ugly context with the criminal case. Actually it was enough for the jury (already prejudiced in favour of Simpson) to think there was at least a reasonable doubt that all the evidence pointing at OJ's unmistakable guilt was not reliable. Which is silly because the defence strategy was about describing a litany of hypothetical doubts, not proving any actual weaknesses in the prosecutor's case, and wrap it under the argument that the LAPD has a history of gross misconduct against black people.

As good as the documentary is presenting the facts, giving us a fascinating insight into the so-called "Trial of the Century", I felt I lacked something. I mean the 'Non-Guilty' verdict is even more disturbing after this comprehensive review. You just cannot believe that the "race card" just won the case. So I went on the read Vincent Bugliosi analysis of the trial (Outrage, the 5 reasons why OJ Simpson got away with murder) and I was thus able to link the dots: the prosecution fumbled his way through a truckload of sound evidence (plus another mountain of circumstantial evidence). You actually have a hint of this in Made in America: Christopher Darden is presented giving in to the defence tease to have Simpson try the gloves on. But for the most part direct testimony from Marcia Clark weights in on the overall 'Fatality thesis': this case was doomed from the start for the DA's office. It's like bad things happened for the poor prosecuting team (there were 2 dozens attorneys working the case !) but they had no way of preventing it or making up for the lost ground...

I understand it is difficult to line up witnesses to sit in front of the camera and kind of stab them in the back by pointing the finger at them. I understand the focus of the documentary cannot be lost on a deep analysis of the trial yet there lacks one essential commentary at some point between the 5th and 7th hour of the storytelling. More precisely it seems strange that Mark Fuhrman is left alone defending himself for what happened when the prosecutors dumped him like a pestiferous witness in 1995, and with Marcia Clark continuing to blame him 20 years after (despite her dismal work in court she earned millions to write her whining account).

Erased
(2012)

Direct-to-video stuff
I just realized that direct-to-video no longer means much nowadays, but well it used to mean a movie made on the cheap. Actually Erased, aka The Expatriate is pretty well-made technically: camera work, editing and Aaron Eckart are pretty fine. But both titles sound like a cheap movie and the script is cheap indeed. It is all about a boilerplate conspiracy chase with action every other reel and bits of exposition in between. So instead of feeling fast-paced it feels shaky, all the more so as the conspiracy is lame and the daughter character is very weak.

Get Out
(2017)

Works on a basic level but covers too much territory
As an horror/thriller movie it works pretty well. It is very well shot, very well acted but the whole story is made obvious way too soon to keep us scared by the whole setup. Said differently what is really going on is way too technical, mundane in itself to keep the movie at the same level of anguish, horror, fantasy...

I discussed it with a friend and he gave me a very good explanation of the subtext, ie. the social commentary. Most reviewers mistook the premise for a take on Racism 3.0 while it is definitely about the appropriation of Black Culture.

Nobody is racist in this movie, they just overtly envy Blacks. This is just the opposite sin, the materialist stance that views other people as a way to enrich your life without giving something back. This is not ugly racism, this is only class egoism. This would be the same with the same affluent WASPs having a paternalistic behaviour with poor whites (there are movies about this: Rich bored guy goes out to have fun with simple peasants then goes back to his comfortable condo with a year-worth of shrink realization). Only here WASPs have a very specific history of poaching on new frontiers and appropriating Black Culture.

So yes, despite its strengths and original premise Get Out covers too much territory from horror to thriller, fantasy and social commentary. My guess is the social commentary is lost for most... except black people but it made for an eerie backdrop which all the same mesmerized most of the viewers.

The Adjustment Bureau
(2011)

Lovely romance marred by an abysmal premise
How telling! I picked up this movie on VOD yesterday, thinking I had skipped it when it was released and actually I had gone to watch it but had only the faintest recollection.

Obviously the movie was not very good. Worse than that, there was absolutely nothing interesting and new in it. Granted the romance is okay, but it is only the starting point. The whole premise, that Adjustment Bureau is a failure. Basically it is about dead-serious Men in Black, so you've got a pompous metaphysical backdrop that bogs down the entire movie (obviously since it is the premise from Philip K. Dick's short story). This is a similar mistake as the one they made with Dark City: this is not sci-fi enough or fantasy enough.

Seriously who thought there was room for a movie, let alone a good one, about a police force with absolute power on the course of our lives? The moment the hero is told about this the whole story falls flat because it is a goddamn gigantic hole that they would let him know without resetting him the minute after, and even if they thought he was worth the dare it would take sloppiness over sloppiness from the AAA+ uptight Adjustment crew to let a prominent profile slip through its claws. A hero chased by some obscure force, this could make a fine noir movie, but a clear 'Hats-n-Doors' overwhelming organisation??? There simply is no story.

Heist
(2001)

Some imposing bone with no beef around
The opening Heist and the bigger one are very fine outlines, clearly not very plausible but we are all here because we want to believe what we're showed and told.

But suspension of disbelief only works if the whole movie is tense, with sharp characters, straightforward action (by action I mean a rhythm consistent in making all the parts hold together), basically a make believe game where everything comes together. Just like in a carefully planned Heist. You can't take it for granted that the movie-goer will just be baffled by a couple of goods brought together.

In Heist you are supposed to accept some incongruities, mostly with characters that are very stereotypical. You have some great actors but at some point you can't throw in a couple of weaker characters without endangering the whole balance. Simply put, the movie-goer will start thinking harder while you had created the atmosphere for him to relax and listen to your story. Then things no longer feel urgent and compulsory, you try to second-guess the writer and as a result nothing you are watching really is captivating you.

This was the 3rd and hopefully last movie penned and directed by David "Lazy Me" Mamet for me (the 2 others being House of Games and The Spanish Prisoner). I wanted to see a heist movie with Gene Hackman so I sealed of my prejudices about Mamet... but they just flowed out to tell me I should never have lost another 2 hours with that fraud of a storyteller. Big twists patched all around (and in Heist you have plenty of time to see those coming - or maybe I am Mamet certified level 3?) with utility characters and one dull homely broad in the middle. That is the Mamet trademark. Or recipe if you accept there are bad recipes to fool those with the ultra low expectations of a MOWed brain.

The List of Adrian Messenger
(1963)

Dull mystery fudged with (disguised) cameos aplenty
The title appealed to me and I was expecting a fine spy thriller, alas The List of Adrian Messenger is nothing but an old-fashioned whodunit. It very precisely includes a (repeated) reference to Agatha Christie's Ten Little Ni99ers ('and then there were none...') but the tag-line stated it precisely too: we are dared to guess who is the murderer.

John Huston's directing is adequate for a thriller but when the thriller never materialises you get really bored at this dull mystery. Pairing the gigantic George C. Scott with Marcel Dalio works for about 15 minutes then it's a drag as they say. Whodunnits may work for cheap reading, but they render as flat and dumb movies. The idea here was to add some humour and play with the viewer to dare him to spot the cameos... which is utterly counter-productive (and it is the very reason why Hitchcock, who rejected whodunits, ended up making his cameo very early in his movies).

The worst in my opinion are the deceptive credits who clearly bill Tony Curtis, Robert Mitchum and Frank Sinatra alongside the actors playing the main characters while they barely are disguised cameos. On the whole you expect something big and they only deliver a cheap little mystery. Forget it and (re)watch 'Kind Hearts and Coronets (qv)' which really knows what kind of a story it is telling.

Flashpoint
(1984)

Feels like a TV movie
The quiet lives of a team of Border Patrol officers are very well depicted: they enjoy what they do and life isn't too difficult for our nice civil servants from Texas. But things change and it is tough to make strong decisions when you have settled in with your nice little habits.

Frankly, don't watch Flashpoint if you already know the basis for the premise. So don't watch it because how would you have heard of this HBO TV-movie from 1984 were it not for its premise? BTW the premise is heavily introduced in a dumb prologue and then nothing until it is heavily exposed in the dumb epilogue, so seriously, don't expect too much of it.

It could have been much better if all the chapter in the movie had been better connected. As such it is really difficult to root for the buddies since you have plenty of time to wonder about what they are doing.

The Unknown Known
(2013)

A disgusting individual, disgustingly having it his way throughout
Either Errol Morris underestimated Donald Rumsfeld or he was overly confident about the power of his medium, but the result is far below The Fog of War.

Sure McNamara had had time to mellow and he wouldn't deny mistakes while Rumsfeld won't move an inch, except for the staged emotional bit, so in the Unknown Known we only have politics at its worst: unabashed dissimulation, total rejection of any form of empathy (while it was one of the Eleven Lessons from Robert S. McNamara, Empathize with your Enemy) all wrapped up in the flag and under the pretence that "We, the Best Breed of Politicians, have to make important decisions that are way too complex for you, Little Man, to begin to understand".

Watching Rumsfeld having it his way, no less than during his own press conferences where he toyed around with journalists, is a profoundly disgusting and distressing vision. He unflinchingly tell us "Ok, eventually there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Irak, intelligence was flawed, but going after Saddam Hussein has made the world a better place all the same". Intelligence was not just flawed, it was distorted and even fabricated to please the warmongers.

Bad things (like torture) just happens. Even when you are doing a heck of a job. That is Rumsfeld definitive argument and Errol Morris gets stuck in the "beauty of evil rhetorics" like a deer in the headlights. It is distressing to think that someone watching this without knowing all the subtext would think of Rumsfeld as a role model for Statesmen. The only redeeming part is that the documentary succeeds in suggesting how big a SOB Rumsfeld has been during his career, so much so that Reagan picked his rival George HW Bush as his running mate, sparing the World the disaster of having Rumsfeld President in the 80s. Then he had to work for Bush Jr and his former deputy, yet maybe that gave the same general disaster (geopolitical, economical...) as having Rumsfeld officially in the Oval Office.

Executive Action
(1973)

Interesting as a futile exercise
As an exercise in creating a provocative perspective on the Kennedy assassination, Executive Action is successful. Basically it is as if you would take some time to listen to a conspiracy theorist able to lay out his view without too many vague allegations. Above all it is very interesting as a reflection on conspiracies (groupthink and escalating violence).

It is futile because it tries too hard to fill in the blanks so it deliberately stems from a clever thought-provoking mockumentary to a crazy conspiracy movie. If you know little about the facts it holds up pretty well, which is dangerous as far as conspiracy theorists are dangerous with their loose thinking. If you want to challenge it, there is plenty of room, yet that would be futile too.

The main point IMHO is that Executive Action has it all wrong as a movie. A conspiracy movie cannot be told from the perspective of the masterminds. It is usually told from the external perspective of someone who suspects it and uncovers part of it, or it can be told from someone that is only a pawn in the conspiracy. On the contrary if all the conspiracy is laid out as a clear plan with motivations also made heavily clear, where is the mystery? The tension between what we think we know and what we crave to know?

No wonder Executive Action bombed in 1973, failing both as a movie and as an open for discussion account of events from 10 years back.

Ice Station Zebra
(1968)

Cold War Turkey, Drift Production
Gowd, this is close to awful. Sometimes people lament "They don't make them like this anymore" but hopefully they won't make them any longer like Ice Station Zebra! From the start the movie is slow, tepid and it progresses sluggishly to cruise by 3-4 key scenes (tops), none of which deserves a spot in an anthology of movie-making. I had to peel my eyes open and still it took me 2 seatings to complete the ordeal. Even if you could reduce this junk to under 90 minutes it would only be marginally better since the script is so dull, it just drifts away from a 60s TV series episode.

Some smart people must have thought the McGuffin by Alistair MacLean was the story so they didn't care about creating a real movie around it.

The Cabin in the Woods
(2011)

Fine production values, loose horror/spoof/fantasy/gore proceedings
I most probably would have avoided The Cabin in the Woods if I had known earlier the creators were screenwriters on the Lost anything-goes-I-d-sell-my-mother-for-a-twist TV-series. Yet I admit it started out good with the challenge to create something new based on that stale horror flick canvas. The gently spoofy start with a scientific background bent was promising but I realise now that the dual storyline is just a routine screen writing device to stretch a flimsy concept in order to fill up a season or the 90-min feature length.

With all the back and forth between the two story lines you lose the tension and there remains only, on the surface, the curiosity about what it is all about. The climax is a Grand Carnival and it develops over the last third of the movie so either you'll feel that the main storyline is straight and efficient before switching to another movie or you will feel cheated of a real movie with substance while you get a bagful of popular horror culture, clichés and references all laid out as if it was a clever mix.

See all reviews