sarastro7

IMDb member since December 2003
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Reviews

The Courier
(2019)

Wow, how ignorant the low-raters are!
From the very beginning, although this movie has almost no story, it is exciting and tense, well-written, well-acted, well-directed, suspenseful and with an engaging, happening soundtrack! It may be a low-budget movie set almost entirely in an underground parking compound, but for that reason exactly it is impressive how well-paced the movie is, with never a dull moment. Compared with so many other movies, this is produced by people who know how to direct and write a cool action movie. If I were ever doing a tense action thriller, I would hire these people. They deliver!

What's wrong with those who rate this anywhere under 7/10? Either you don't know movies, or you just assumed it would be bad and didn't stop to think or see for yourselves, or you haven't seen the plethora of terribly made awful movies that studios all over the world are spitting out every day. In any case, if you are an action movie fan and you didn't like this movie, my respect for your taste and judgment is non-existent. Boo-yah!

Supergirl: Suspicious Minds
(2019)
Episode 10, Season 4

No, no, no!
I am a huge fan of this show and Melissa Benoist. I think she is the greatest superhero on the small screen, and a super-inspiration to superhero fans everywhere. I support this show very strongly, incl. its focus on female characters. But, when a story starts to take questionable turns, I have to speak up. This fourth season is the weakest season yet, but I am still rating the episodes something like 7.5 to 8 on average. "Suspicious Minds", however, made a terrible mistake towards the end. Erase Alex's knowledge that Kara (her sister!) is Supergirl?!! That is so completely and utterly abominable that it beggers description! Alex has known all her life that Kara is a Kryptonian with powers, and she may also have known about Superman. It is far, far too complicated and immoral to change her brain enough that she will no longer know that Kara is Supergirl. It is a major, life-altering *violation* of Alex's life! Sure, she'll probably get the knowledge back sometime, but nobody in their right mind would ever consent to having their brain changed in such a fundamental and personal way. It is completely out of character for either Alex or Kara to accept this; Alex would sooner resign from the DEO. This plot twist is so ridiculous and so obviously artificial that it is horrendously bad writing. The stupidest thing that has ever happened on this show. Unacceptable. Argh!

Well. I will keep watching, of course. Things need to get much worse for me to stop watching and start hating, but... damn, this is just too stupid. There's no way a brain can be altered like that - emotions and memories would be too pervasive to ever properly define what was a memory of Kara/Supergirl and what wasn't. This is exactly like in that ridiculous new Keanu Reeves movie, "Replicas", where he specifically deletes his family's memory of their youngest daughter - besides being immoral AF, it's also so neurologically complicated as to be effectively impossible. Suspension of disbelief for something like this is just not an option for anyone who understands science and the complexity of mind.

A Midsummer Night's Dream
(2017)

Couldn't finish it
Sigh. Facepalm. I suppose it was only a question of time until somebody would do a version where the ass is an actual butt (a rump, a set of backside buttocks) instead of a donkey. What a rape of Shakespeare. What an affront to the actors. This is beyond stupid; beyond idiotic; beyond tasteless. Unwatchable.

The first 20-30 minutes of the film was very amateurish, but then it seemed to get better - only to completely self-destruct when the ass appears (about 50 minutes in). Sorry, my desire to watch the rest of the film evaporated right there. Fast-forwarded through the rest in about a minute. Granted, there wasn't many more scenes with the ass, but, now it was ruined. No longer of any interest. I hope the actors got paid well, because this is such a shame for them (except of course Fran Krantz, who undoubtedly shares the writer/director's deficient sense of "humor"). Just... no. Just argh.

Upstart Crow
(2016)

Incredibly bloody awful
I am amazed that anyone finds this show funny. This is a new low for Ben Elton. Just adding "-ington" to every word in every episode and this is supposed to pass for comedy? I just find it mindblowing that he would stoop to this level, that the TV network would accept this drivel and that any audience could possibly enjoy it. It's stupid and vulgar and completely devoid of substance, and all it does is deconstruct and ridicule the greatest artist of all time. It's everything that is wrong with people and the world today. What a bleedin' waste. Just unbelievable.

RSC Live: Antony and Cleopatra
(2017)

Not bad, not great
This review is based on the Blu-ray edition.

I have both good and bad things to say about this production. And while the bad things might take up the most space in this review, that doesn't mean there's more bad than good in this version of this play. It just means that it's often easier to express a critical view, and to put one's finger on particular points.

My default rating of a good theatrical production that does what it's supposed to do - keeps me entertained and impressed - is 8 stars out of 10. If it's pretty good, but causes my mind to wander and perhaps a yawn or two to emerge, it's down to 7. "Antony and Cleopatra" is not a grateful play to stage. It's complex, and easily gets over-long if nothing special is done to keep it interesting.

Let me start with the good things. The most distinctive actors were those playing Cleopatra, Enobarbus, Charmian and Pompey. Josette Simon's animated Cleopatra is to be singled out as the greatest performance. I have heard some critics (even feminist ones) say that they don't like how passion-driven Simon's Cleopatra is, but those critics of course don't understand what this play is essentially about. Cleopatra's character is herself an actor; much of her "passion" is playing pretend, staging herself as a certain persona, and revelling in it. In this sense she is one of the most self-aware characters in Shakespeare. Histrionic, yes, but always with thought, intention and strategy behind it. So, in short, Simon's portrayal of Cleopatra is very true to the character; more so, even, than those of many other actresses, whose performances tend to be more subdued. Animation, movement and changeability, however, are what brings Shakespeare's Cleopatra to life, and Josette Simon has created a very impressive version of her, worthy of the time-honored RSC.

As for the rest of the play, I must confess to being rather less satisfied. Perhaps the biggest problem with this production - something that has dogged the RSC in recent years (with notable exceptions) - was that it was too traditional for comfort. It was so traditional that it got boring. Three hours of a fairly bare stage with actors in fairly accurate period costumes? I nearly nodded off. Something has got to be done to keep a play like this interesting. Make it funnier, crazier, anachronistic; add something a bit modern. Outrageous costumes, for instance. And for God's sake, add some color to the brown wooden stage! Is it so hard to hang up some pretty arrasses or bring on some green trees? Minimalism may be traditional, but it is also devoid of imagination and poeticness (in fairness, they did have a big black Bast statue towards the end, and it was most refreshing!). It does Shakespeare no favors to add nothing physical to the production. Today, the stage itself should also be an actor and should express and communicate something.

But traditionalism is not necessarily a problem in itself. Traditional performances can be very good; they tend to provide a baseline standard for what such a classic should be like on stage. In fact, most theater purists would rather have a traditional performance than one of the more outrageous modern ones, which often cross over into overwrought silliness or nonsense. However, what I felt was lacking in this production was the full quality of the enunciation that we have come to expect from the RSC. I'm sure these actors probably worked as much with their enunciation as members of the RSC usually do, but for whatever reason the actors' palpable fascination with Shakespeare's words was not greatly in evidence here. They didn't taste the words while speaking them, and the beautiful and perfect accents that serve Shakespeare's language so well were less on display here than in many other RSC productions (a fine recent example of how to do it is the RSC 2015 version of "The Merchant of Venice" with Patsy Ferran). I don't know why. Is it the director's fault? Or the artistic director's? Or something else? All I know is it could be better, and it has cost this production a star in my rating. To gain a higher rating, the RSC needs to start thinking out of the box and add some imagination and excitement to the proceedings, whether in the overall directing style or in the acting itself, which should be overflowing with enthusiasm for the language. Try something new. Anything. It's very sure to be an improvement.

Picnic at Hanging Rock
(2018)

The bad reviews are written by amoebas
I was skeptical about this series, since it seems an unnecessary remake of a great film classic, but it in fact surprised me. It was a new adaptation of the novel and not just a poor remake of the old film.

This version was quite faithful to the novel, with room for far more of the details, and it really fit a lot of material into the series in some form or other. The last episode also followed, very nearly, the originally unpublished final chapter that was only published in 1987, after the author's death. On the one hand it maintained the mystery, and on the other hand the TV series added a symbolic element and explanation: that disappearing at Hanging Rock represented freedom; represented escape from a troubled life. When you can see this, it all becomes much more beautiful.

My rating: 8 stars out of 10.

Justice League
(2017)

Not bright enough, not big enough - better than feared, worse than hoped
As a superhero fan since about 1984, and a big-time collector of superhero comics (although - full disclosure - admittedly a Marvel fan primarily), I consider myself to be in a position to judge just how successful this live action Justice League movie is. Had this come out some ten or fifteen years ago, it would have been a pretty awesome JL movie. It would have looked expensive and edgy, and most things about it would have felt fresh. Sadly, it has come out in 2017, as a too little, too late, too rushed and too cheap wanna-be movie, enormously ruined by its association with the absolutely horrible train-wreck that men call "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice". Horrified by the negative reactions to "BvS", JL producers (or suits, more likely) scrambled to change the planned story of this movie, basically cutting it up and throwing away the dark second half (you can check out the leaked original plot in Youtube videos), to replace it with an ill-fitting brighter second half, in which we get a much brighter and "gooder" Superman than we saw in "BvS", courtesy of Joss Whedon's frantic but disappointing attempt to save the movie via damage control. And, while I think that all the changes have probably been for the better considering what we would have gotten from the original Snyder vision, that doesn't stop this movie from feeling choppy and terribly structured, with a plot (and villain) that isn't very interesting and just amounts to a lot of time-wasting. Lots of action and explosions, but very little story or character development.

What chiefly dissatisfies me is that the movie just isn't cosmic enough. Why didn't they pour on the whole Darkseid thing? They should have pulled out all the stops! They are in competition with bloody Marvel Studios, which race onward with one amazing movie after the other while DC is standing still and scratching its behind. They should have gone for bigger and brighter, and poured more money into it, hiring more competent talent, especially regarding the writing. But it's DC. They do stupid things by force of habit (sorry, but they do. Many many people think so).

Well, at least this movie isn't a total loss. I expected the worst, but there were quite a few things in the movie I liked (and, of course, more things I disliked. Why didn't we see more of Mera?). I particularly liked Cyborg, with his alien tech that kept evolving and producing new super-tech powers for him. That was cool, especially since I felt that he would be one of the toughest characters to make work. Besides the lack of arcs and development, I didn't have problems with the other characters, but I'll emphasize that I really loved Wonder Woman. She was a total inspiration. She succeeded in giving you the feeling that she would absolutely have your back, and truly care about you all the while, whether you were an innocent bystander or a comrade in arms. She embodies all the admirable and feminine qualities of mother, sister, lover and protector, and that is a heck of an achievement. The movie is worth watching for her alone.

I hear that some people really like this movie, as in giving it 8 or 9 stars out of 10. Good for them. For me it was a bit of a hollow experience; something with the potential to be so much more. I rate it 6 stars out of 10, which means slightly above average, compared with other movies of its type. No classic, but conceivably something I'll want to watch again sometime. It's a shame Whedon couldn't do more to save it. Ultimately, I think they should have just redone the whole movie from scratch rather than changing it into a sort of happy zombie version of the original version. Who knows, maybe some form of the original cut will make it onto an eventual disc release. I doubt it will be better, but it will certainly be interesting.

Scorpion: Extinction
(2017)
Episode 1, Season 4

Great to have the show back for another season!
Over its existence so far, "Scorpion" has only managed to become more and more enjoyable for me. Super-smart people with lots of technobabble adventures and strong characters with wildly humorous interactions. This is just a cozy and fun show, always pleasant to relax to. It must be a tremendous amount of fun to write!

The season 4 opener was fully on par with the high standard the show has been maintaining after its uneven first season. A crazy world-threatening plot, and (hilariously!) our team gets almost no resources to work with, so it's business as usual for Team MacGyver! They're in the Arctic, and naturally runs into a luxury hotel for high-level Russian officials - what else?

I think some people dislike the show because they are not quite aware that it's a comedy show - and if you try to take it seriously, well, then you're not really gonna be able to! But I love it. 8 stars out of 10. Great and smart entertainment!

Inhumans
(2017)

Disagree with everyone
There are currently nine user reviews here, all of which give the pilot show a rating of between 1 and 4 stars. I utterly disagree with every one of them. They are all just trying to appear cool and fashionable by playing into the negative buzz and negative expectations that have surrounded the show before its premiere.

It's not a masterful show; there are elements that appear clearly low-budget, but it's nowhere near bad enough to warrant a ridiculously low rating. It's a solid 7, and worth following. It respects the original Inhumans comics very much indeed, and it's great to see such faithful interpretations of those characters (but of course only an actual fan and reader of the comics will properly appreciate this). It's also beautifully shot on Hawaii, with lots of nods to the indigenous populace.

The story is a bit over-simple in its structure (although it does feature some admirable world-building), and the double-episode (which seemed more like 75 minutes than 90) doesn't have any closure of its own by the end. But I really enjoyed the (sort of) mute Black Bolt; the actor does a great job of playing him. Medusa's prehensile hair does seem like it was very hard to get right on this budget, which is probably why they cut it off rather too quickly. I guess prehensile hair is still a very difficult thing to make good-looking, even in this day and age. At least they tried. And it will of course be growing back.

Looking back on this show I actually find that the image I remember most vividly is the close-cropped Medusa; a striking short-haired female in a striking purple outfit in lush, green surroundings. That made an impression. Which is good.

In short, I enjoyed this show and as a superhero fan I consider it unmissable and must-see! Even if it obviously doesn't have the productions values that "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." has. But, if it is successful, it will get more funding in time.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
(2017)

Clearly the least impressive of the MCU movies so far
I'm a huge Marvel fan and comics collector, and I basically love every single MCU movie. All of them have been rated at least 8 stars out of 10 by me (except "The Incredible Hulk", which was a 7 - and so was "Captain America: Civil War", which I had a number of problems with). The first GOTG movie was a visual feast, but it did have a weakness: the story wasn't strong. However, what it lacked in story it made up for in world-building, action and sheer visual spectacle and splendor.

GOTGv2 sadly could not live up to the first movie, and at 4 stars it is, for me, the worst MCU movie yet. The main problem with it was its story: it barely had any. They meet Ego, he turns out to be a bad guy, and they fight him. That's the story. No particular nuances, no significant subplots, nothing much that made any kind of sense. It was this really thin story, and the rest of the movie was held together by gags (of very varying quality), clichés and no tape. Sure, there was a string of brief fan service moments, but that's not enough to make a movie good.

In this movie I wanted to see more characters. I expected a crammed movie, but there were about *one* new character: Mantis, and she had very little to do. They spent too much time on Yondu, for the wrong reasons (not because the story demanded it, but because Rooker is such a respected actor), far too much time on his deadly arrow which got way over-used here (it should have been saved for a really important moment), and although the sibling rivalry between Gamora and Nebula was my favorite part of the movie, Gamora generally had a very tiny role and was almost reduced to a mere love interest.

We didn't land on any interesting planets (besides Ego), and the universe was not expanded. Ego says he came into existence alone, but also says he is a Celestial. Sadly, we are not told what Celestials are and how he can be one of them and be a unique and lonely being at the same time. The golden people from The Sovereign were a bunch of one-track a-holes. Why would they want to kill the GOTG when they've just saved the galaxy (them included) from Ego? No, most of what was in this movie just made no sense at all. Such a shame. I also dislike much of the humor, because it is too vulgar. James Gunn clearly has the gutter-mind of a 9-year-old (and yeah, this was also a problem in the first movie. Joss Whedon has some of the blame, as he encouraged Gunn to put more of his own humorous taste in the movies).

So, only 4 stars out of 10. Lots of things to look at, and several funny and touching moments. But, this is the tongue-in-cheek village idiot of the MCU, and I really wish it were more serious. In this sequel we basically just get more low-brow jokes, more guffaws from Drax, more distinctly unheroic sadism from Rocket, etc. We get more of what was popular in the first movie, but less of what actually worked.

Iron Fist
(2017)

Imperfect - though not as bad as some say
Somehow, it's not this show's own fault that it isn't as good as it should be. During the pre-production phase, script problems were reported, and it's hard to conclude anything but that this is exactly what we see in the finished product. When I saw the show for the first time, I liked it quite well. I thought (and still do) that many aspects of it worked all right - but on further analysis I had to admit that it has significant problems. So what exactly is wrong?

Yes, there are problems with the action scenes. They are just not very good, neither in the choreography nor the directing. One wonders why this is not on par with the action scenes in "Daredevil". Did they have a lower budget for "Iron Fist"; did they get somebody comparatively incompetent to do the action work? What the heck happened? I can't rightly say, except of course to grant that Finn Jones just is not much of a martial artist - he was picked for looks and GoT fame, and not for the kind of capabilities this role requires.

I believe I can identify a greater reason why this show does not excel, however. The primary problem with it is that it is done in the same realistic and somewhat gritty style as the previous three Marvel-Netflix shows, and this is quite simply a style that doesn't fit the concept of Iron Fist AT ALL! Iron Fist is a kung fu hero, whose adventures should be pulpy and stylized with color and spectacle and outrageous feats of martial arts - and we don't get any of that here. So the big fail is that the producers decided to continue the show in the same style and atmosphere as the other shows. In other words, the other shows and the overall vision for all these shows is what is to blame for the shortcoming of "Iron Fist". The saga of Danny Rand simply cannot work under these restraints. And what a pity that is!

Having said this, I still think there are cool things about this show. Colleen Wing is great. Tom Pelphrey is a hell of an actor. Madame Gao is cool. But I have to admit that I can't think of that much more to praise the show for. Except that I did and do find it fairly entertaining.

One way they could have made it better was by following the comics more. In the comics, Iron Fist mucks about on the city streets for sixteen or seventeen issues after having left K'un Lun, before he is approached by Jeryn Hogarth about claiming his part of the big corporation that he is heir to. In the show he goes to the big office building as the very first thing he does, and then the whole season is basically spent on this problem of getting back into the company, which is just not all that interesting.

A shame they couldn't make the show work, but I blame the other shows a great deal. They shouldn't have kept "Iron Fist" in the same style as the others. Anyway, if there is a season 2, I hope they are smart enough to make some major changes. Not really holding my breath, though.

Oasis
(2017)

Nah. Seen so many times before.
Of course, this is only the pilot, and I could be wrong. There could be true originality here. But the pilot certainly suggests no such thing. A desert planet? Like in "Screamers", like in "Dune", like in "Riddick", like Tatooine/Jakku? And what's much worse: monsters of the Id? Really? Again? This is one of the single most often-used tropes in sci-fi, from "Forbidden Planet" and "Journey to the Seventh Planet" to "Solaris" and its various knock-offs ("The Sphere"; "Event Horizon"). Some alien intelligence that's messing with our minds. Saves the writer from actually telling a clear story. Nah, no thanks. No offense to the actors, who're doing a good job, but the story... the story just needs to be more. More original, more interesting, more new. This is just more of the same-old, same-old. I am profoundly unimpressed.

I hope I'm wrong, and that the story (if picked up) evolves in novel and unexpected directions.

The Hollow Crown: Henry VI Part 2
(2016)
Episode 2, Season 2

Utterly uninspired; turns beauty to ugliness
Although it's quite ridiculous to rate it a "1", I have to say I largely agree with the previous reviewer. The spirit of Shakespeare's poetry and beauty is completely absent in this sliced-up and cut-down version, which seems to have had no other ambition than to appeal to Game of Thrones fans. The producers are clearly all big fans of graphic throat-cutting, almost to the point of fetishization. There are good scenes here and there, but by the standard that a good adaptation should be a good representation of Shakespeare's story and poetry, this version falls almost as short as it possibly can. There is little love of Shakespeare on display here. This is one of the worst Shakespeare adaptations ever made (and this comes from someone who collects them, and owns virtually every adaptation of a Shakespeare play ever released on disk), despite some of the actors being good (the guy who plays Henry VI, for one). I habitually re-watch my Shakespeare DVDs, but this is one I don't anticipate ever having any desire to see again.

Arrow: Bratva
(2017)
Episode 12, Season 5

That's it, I'm done
Green Arrow - in the comics - is one of my all-time favorite characters. One of the most classic and character-defining stories was the one where he accidentally shoots a crook, and is so shocked and regretful that he enters a monastery for a good long time to atone for it.

This show has now become the absolute anti-thesis to everything that is admirable about the character in the comics. The TV Oliver Queen is now a mass-murderer who just kills people left and right, is not above torturing them, and his co-workers are just as far out. This is ridiculous. They are total and complete anti-heroes. This show has eradicated everything remotely heroic about these characters. It's complete and utter trash and this was the last episode I'm watching of this show.

Arrow: What We Leave Behind
(2016)
Episode 9, Season 5

Well! THAT was really terrible.
I love superheroes, but this show has never been above average. There are cool things about it, and yet the plots and developments and storytelling style keep disappointing again and again. This episode we have YET ANOTHER soap opera sequence about people getting furious about secrets that were kept from them for their own protection. This is in practically every episode of every CW show and it is so transparent; such incredibly poor writing. Could we just ONCE, please, have someone react the opposite way, as in "Wow, you only did it to protect me! That means you really love me!" I guess not.

The biggest problem with this show is that it tries to be a Batman show. In the classic comics, Oliver Queen (like most proper superheroes) would never kill anyone. The one time he did it by accident, he was so appalled that he entered a monastery for years to deal with it. In this show, Oliver is just a simple multi-murderer, and in this episode we once again see why that is such an idiotic idea. And on top of getting a lot of innocent people killed, he goes to his reporter friend for comfort sex on the very same night because he feels so sorry for himself. That is COMPLETELY inappropriate. When you're trying to come to terms with being responsible for people having died, you don't seek out pleasure. You wallow in the bad stuff you've done. Otherwise you wouldn't be a decent human being. Which Oliver clearly isn't. It's getting disgusting.

I have more complaints, but these will do for now. It's just so appalling to me to see people gushing over this show with 10-star reviews. Jesus H. Christ, guys. What are you, twelve?

Supergirl: Survivors
(2016)
Episode 4, Season 2

Worst episode of the entire show
I love this show. I love Supergirl/Kara/Melissa and the whole feel of the show. I rate most episodes 9 stars out of 10, and it's competing with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. about being the single best superhero show out there. The first three episodes of season 2 have surprised me by being as strong as the excellent season 1 despite moving to a network that produces far soapier and sappier shows than ABC, and I sure hope the show-runners can keep it up.

Sadly, episode 4 was substandard to me. This whole alien fight club thing just makes absolutely zero sense. Maybe they just used it because there is something like it in the comics, but it doesn't work in the world of the TV show. Why exactly would the super-powered aliens be fighting gladiatorial battles for the entertainment of humans? Why wouldn't the aliens at least be organizing it themselves? The episode offers no convincing explanations.

Megan's true nature was predictable from the moment she explained about her origin - how stupid does Hank have to be to not see that? The show seems to be entering the dreaded soapy territory of the CW network, as also witnessed by the interrupted romantic tension between Alex and Maggie. Would it kill CW to have just one proper process of courtship and dating without having to introduce annoying emotional anxiety that will be prolonged for however long? Stay the hell away from formulaic storytelling in this show, dammit!

The rest of the episode was okay. Mon-El and Win had a fun time and Kara is starting to set aside her cultural prejudice about Daxamites. Now all we need to know is whether Mon-El is a regular guy (and an obvious love interest for Kara now that they flushed the other love interest out of her life) or has some kind of villainous hidden agenda...

7 stars out of 10 this time. I pray it's back to 8 or 9 next time! I hope the show stays strong.

The Hollow Crown: Henry VI Part 1
(2016)
Episode 1, Season 2

I don't like it
From the POV of a Shakespeare purist like myself, this version of Henry VI was profoundly unsatisfying. They have cut out so much material that it would be better if they hadn't made this at all. For one thing, they have cut out most of Joan la Pucelle, but inserted a highly distasteful graphic depiction of her being burned. What is this, Luc Besson's "The Messenger"?

The BBC Collection version of these plays perform them in a humorous way that the text perfectly supports. But here we get only stark, cynical realism. Shakespeare's work and words are the pinnacle of wonder; of poetry. "The Hollow Crown" is devoid of any wonder or poetry. Why use Shakespeare when the producers clearly want something completely different? This is a deconstruction of Shakespeare, and it is, in short, awful. What a waste of great poetry, great actors and budget money. Is it done in the name of accessibility? Do they think that this will make Shakespeare more palatable to ordinary people? Well, if they are right, I despair on behalf of the ordinary people.

X-Men: Apocalypse
(2016)

Could have been great, but ruined by botched ending
Huge fan of the comics here. As X-Men: Apocalypse began, the opening scenes instantly took my breath away. DAMN good!! Apocalypse's subsequent awakening (due to the meddling of Moira MacTaggart!) and search for his four horsemen were also pretty great. I loved seeing Scott Summers and Jean Grey. All the great stuff with Magneto was also nearly perfect. The movie builds up to its climax for a long time, and it's all good (though not quite perfect) - but once the climactic events begin in the second half of the movie, it all goes off track. First Apocalypse sends all the world's nuclear weapons into space - a cool sequence... but, we think he is going to use them; use the raw power they comprise. Instead he just throws them into space, so humanity can't use them. Even though he clearly wants to destroy most of the world. Doesn't make sense; it deflates the inflated audience expectations. Next, in the true climactic fight, nobody's motivations are addressed in the least. Magneto changes his mind, and soon after some of the horsemen do, too, but we don't hear why! We hear no reasoning of any kind! It's a fight in which the good guys practically only win the day because most of the bad guys decide to switch sides for no adequately explained reason! It's as if the movie just suspended its storytelling, gave up on all characterization and just relied on nothing but visual spectacle to wow the audience and carry the climax.

Sadly, it doesn't work. Another of the main things that doesn't work is when Jean Grey "phoenixes out". The flame bird looks great and all, but the whole point of that character is that she is transformed by the change - and she wasn't! Not in any way at all! This was really annoying! I was so excited about what she would become now; whether she would break out as Dark Phoenix or at least just Phoenix, but nothing at all happened except amping up her power level. There was no effect on her character. That is almost as disappointing to me as the last time they botched the Phoenix story, namely in X-Men: The Last Stand, where they just had her standing around and doing nothing. WTF?!

X-Men: Apocalypse had too many characters. Storm and Psylocke in particular got hardly any real development; we didn't hear their motivations and except for Storm at the very end, they didn't get a chance to be heroes. Mystique also had very little to do in this movie. She brought news of Magneto's change, and she brought Nightcrawler with her, but she didn't have much else of consequence to do. Her power level was too low to influence the final battle. They should have done more with her, and shown us what connection she had with Stryker, as per the end scene of the previous movie. A lot of the problems with this movie seem to be caused by having had to make it in a damn hurry. They should have waited a year and spent the time working out a better story.

Still and all, with all the action and cool characters, this is still a damn good-looking and entertaining superhero movie. I still rate it an 8 out of 10, even though it's best in the beginning and just gets weaker from then on. A good thing I haven't mentioned yet is the music. I really thought the music worked very, very well in this movie.

X-Men: First Class (2011) was an astonishingly great movie; 10 out of 10. Days of Future Past (2014) was also fantastic; so many great details and a very cool and complex story: 9 out of 10 stars! Sadly, X-Men: Apocalypse is yet another step down from that level; it's a furious chase movie with a weak plot and villains whose motivations aren't explored in any detail, and some of whom (Magneto!) changes allegiance for no apparent reason. Such a shame! I really expected better from Simon Kinberg after the extraordinarily well-made two previous X-Men movies.

Time Rush
(2016)

Bad acting, but good action and a great twist!
No, this movie isn't going to win any awards, esp. because of its frequently atrocious acting and dialogue, BUT, those things are just placeholders. The real substance is the martial arts scenes and great stunt choreography on the one side, and the pretty astounding sci-fi/time viewing twist on the other. Ambitiously, this movie is trying to be "Memento" by being based around a plot about an experimental drug which simultaneously makes you forget the past and foresee the future! From a sci-fi point of view, it's not bad at all, even if it does seem to me to end with a logically impossible (but illuminating and satisfying) paradox. This is a pretty good and worthwhile movie if you are a fan of both martial arts movies and sci-fi, like I am, so I actually think this movie is impressive - and, of course, underrated.

My rating: 6 stars out of 10. I might have given it 7 if it didn't have so many repeating scenes. But it was nicely put together under the circumstances. And very cool moves by writer/star Dean Alexandru! Sadly for this movie, it is too smart for its usual target audience of action movie fans, who consequently give it a very poor rating. You actually need to have your brain switched on when watching it. Otherwise you're not gonna get it.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
(2016)

Bat-boring, super-disappointing non-delivery
Just as with people who liked the retread that was The Force Awakens, I just cannot comprehend at all that so many fan boys are trying to convince themselves that BvS is a good (or God forbid, great) movie. It is a *terrible* movie, shock-full of absurd shortcomings. You never feel anything at all for any of the characters; the storytelling is completely horrid and unconvincingly self-important. All characters besides the two mains feel like they're only there as brief vignettes; there is zero sense of their being part of an actual, on-going narrative. And I'm saying this as a long-time comic book reader and collector; as a big superhero fan. Here's just a few of the movie's many problems (and yes, there are a few spoilers here):

  • Was Batman's stealing the kryptonite a part of Luthor's plan? It didn't seem to be, yet it played a key part in Luthor's plan to pit Batman against Superman. So, huh? I call that a plot hole.


  • How did Luthor learn Superman's secret identity? This wasn't explained.


  • How did Batman find Martha Kent in the undisclosed location? Not explained.


  • So many story elements were just included as throw-aways, incl. the big thing at the end. That's completely meaningless. And speaking of the final fight, Superman should not have been able to carry that spear. He was vulnerable to it; there were two other major characters who could have carried it without being affected by it; it's more logical that one of them would have done it. Only, if they had, we wouldn't have gotten that nonsensical shock-value throw-away ending.


Almost nothing worked in this movie. Mindless action, no characterization, ridiculous pacing, overwrought stylism with no substance. Who the hell likes this sort of stuff? I liked about two things about this movie. I liked the early sequence with the flash- back to Metropolis being destroyed by Zod's people in the first movie; it was visually spectacular in a way that worked. The other thing I liked was Luthor's overall character arc. He pits the two mains against each other (thus providing a proper explanation for why they fight, which really needed one!) and he's aware of the more cosmic implications of what's going on, unlike the other characters. However, I didn't particularly like Jesse Eisenberg's portrayal of him. I don't have anything against Eisenberg (I loved him in The Social Network), but the way he played Luthor as some kind of insecure, twitchy psycho just seemed stilted and artificial to me. Neither he nor any of the other characters, except Wonder Woman, felt anywhere near real or relatable. The romance between Clark and Lois also fell flat; we are introduced to it in the beginning of the movie, but apart from two kisses along the way, there is no feeling whatsoever in the course of the movie that these two are in a relationship. All the characters just feel dead.

It's a shame. I was hoping to like this movie. I wasn't overly fond of Man of Steel, but I didn't hate it, either; I rated it a 7 out of 10. BvS is much worse and can garner only a 2. This DC Murderverse movie is just incredibly terrible. I never thought we would get a movie compared with which Man of Steel looks like a wholesome, competent, better story, but that is what we have gotten. Most people will agree with this appraisal in the fullness of time, no doubt.

The 100: Thirteen
(2016)
Episode 7, Season 3

Wow
Wow - a few days after airing, this episode alone has 48 user comments! Many of them 1-star reviews because of anger about Lexa's death. Yes, Lexa was an amazing character. And yes, when she was shot I also went, "Puh-lease! You can't do that!". BUT, what all the fan-girls don't seem to get at all is that her death was *necessary to the plot development*. It needed to happen in order to reveal all the stuff about the AI and which role it has been playing ever since the end of the world. And this was a major revelation that I immediately found to be worth it. The big sci-fi idea trumped the beloved character.

From being very silly in the first season, this show has grown to become pretty damn awesome and pretty damn unpredictable. I salute the show-runners for their courage and integrity. This is one of the best episodes yet.

I love the show for the resolve that the characters have. And the speed with which the plot evolves. This is a world filled with hard choices, and these characters grow with the tasks and make those choices. This is very different from the extremely boring and wishy-washy way in which characters behave in most "realistic" TV shows. On top of this the plot is slowly beginning to explain the premise of the show, giving us a lot of the background material that was omitted in the first season.

This is a heck of an exciting sci-fi show and it's just getting better and better. Every fan of good sci-fi should support it.

Lucifer: Manly Whatnots
(2016)
Episode 4, Season 1

Crashed and burned in four episodes...
I completely agree with the two previous reviewers. This show started out as something that could be exciting; something that might have had an edge - but it quickly turned into predictable, toothless, phoned-in fare. What is the point of having the Devil as the main character when he has changed into a normal nice person? There is none. No edge, nothing provocative - the only thing left is a lot of sexist sexual innuendo, and that has already gotten old.

Not wasting any more time one this show. Going back to re-watching Constantine.

My ratings of Lucifer: Ep. 1: 7/10 Ep. 2: 6/10 Ep. 3: 6/10 Ep. 4: 4/10

National Theatre Live: Hamlet
(2015)

A good 'Hamlet', but not a great one
I just returned from the NTLive "Hamlet" production starring Benedict Cumberbatch. It was an enjoyable experience that I can recommend to any Shakespeare fan. But while it was good, it was not great. Speeches were rearranged, certain words were "updated", and the production was generally too shouty and melodramatic to convey the proper poetry and pensiveness of Shakespeare's text.

There were some good ideas and also some less good ideas, and as a whole the impression was not as professional and tight as are the productions that the Royal Shakespeare Company presides over. The actors made several small mistakes here and there, and it was not always clear whether a changed word was intentional or just misspeaking. Some words were intentionally changed; "yeoman service" had become "faithful service" and "as for my means, I shall husband them" had become "as for my men, I shall marshal them". There were maybe a dozen instances like this (oh yes, I remember one more: when Hamlet talks to his mother, and Shakespeare writes "I the matter will reword, which madness would gambol from", Cumberbatch says "I the matter will repeat, which madness would fly from" - decidedly less literary!), and it doesn't make sense to me to make such minor changes. After all, it's not like there are great numbers of audiences who will suddenly understand the play much better based on about a dozen changed words in a furiously paced three-hour production. To my mind, it's better to retain Shakespeare's words (the text cannot be improved upon, and it's a fool's errand to try), and make audiences wonder about them and perhaps want to look them up, rather than to try with such half-hearted efforts to "help" people understand it more immediately.

One of the best things about the production was the role of the Danish tin soldier that Hamlet took on to demonstrate his madness. He dressed up, played the drum and ensconced himself in a toy castle, which I thought was a great way to bring out his "antic disposition".

But overall, Cumberbatch's acting seemed rather too hot-headed and raving to put across any particularly memorable or sensitive portrayal of the title character. The climactic duel scene was also a bit messy and strange, landing this production on 7 stars out of 10 in my estimation.

An Invisible Sign
(2010)

Good movie
I am compelled to review this movie because it is very underrated and has a lot of negative reviews. I don't understand the negativity at all. If you have any interest in math, for instance, this is a good movie for that alone. I didn't see anything bad about the acting, directing or dialog. Perfectly fine and engaging feel-good movie about troubled people and how they deal. No doubt a good adaptation of the book (which I haven't read).

Several people express confusion at why Alba's character is thrown out of her home by her mom because her father got sick. This is not directly explained in the movie, but I think it is extremely clear: it's because her mom wants her daughter to have a life of her own. Not to be tied down taking care of the sick dad. I don't really see anything very strange about that.

The movie is adorable and emotionally effective most of the time. Where I do start to get a slight problem with this movie is towards the end. The whole ax thing got over-dramatic, the reinstatement after the firing was not explained (although I suspect it probably was in the book - clearly it had something to do with the hotshot lawyer mom of one of the pupils), and the guy's comment about being her "bathroom monitor" was a very strange reaction, clearly only supposed to create artificial tension until he changed his mind seconds later. Add to this that the ending was perhaps a tiny bit too syrupy. But somehow it makes sense; most of the elements do combine to make a well-rounded whole.

I enjoyed the movie and I continue to be shocked by how off-putting some people found it. I guess a lot of the negative reviewers are just aping other negative reviewers in order to seem like they are cool. Memo: People who ape other people's opinions are never cool.

Fantastic Four
(2015)

Not much of a Fantastic Four movie...
I am a long-time comics reader and collector with a great love for the Fantastic Four. The negative buzz that the production of this movie has suffered through for the last year did have me worried, but I was not a hater; I went into this movie prepared to like it if it were good.

Sadly, it was a big disappointment. Deeply deficient on the story level as well as the character level. Some of the problems:

  • Sue isn't even on the team that goes exploring in the other dimension; she has been replaced by Victor Von Doom. She just gets hit by an energy backlash as the others return, and in this back-handed "ad hoc" way receives her powers. They could at least have addressed in a few lines of dialogue WHY Sue wasn't going to be one of the "astronauts". Instead it's just a boys' club. Also, Sue and Reed never get together; there is no hint of a romance between them, aside from a single line of innuendo from Reed at one of their early encounters.


  • Ben isn't a pilot. He's not even from Yancy Street. He's not part of the team, but is only called in to participate in the experiment because he is Reed's old friend.


  • Johnny is hardly in the movie for the first twenty minutes or so, and never gets much development of his own. Is he a mechanic? What can he do, besides weld? He doesn't get any real or memorable character moments. Neither do the others, for that matter.


  • Reed reads like a one-trick-pony who has no other project than the dimension machine. What else do they do at the Baxter Building? Or at "Central City" at the end. Reed is supposed to be smart; supposed to be Mr. Fantastic - he is the core of the team, and any story involving him should be intelligent. This script very much isn't.


There is little meaningful interaction, chemistry or bonding between the characters, and the very end of the story (when the military just gives them what they demand for no reason) doesn't make any sense. The movie as a whole is dark and humorless and almost as unlike the FF comic as it is possible to be.

One of the greatest "huh?!" moments is when Sue helps the military find Reed. Sue is opposed to being a super-soldier for the military, but still she apparently accepts that they've turned both Ben and Johnny into super-soldiers, and uncritically helps the military find Reed - when in fact she should be angry about everything they've done. Bunch of nonsense. They're probably trying to show the team's early days, before they understand what's going on, but instead the screenwriters are exposing the characters as dupes who are easily manipulated. This script is a disaster.

The main actors, in and of themselves, are not bad. But, for one thing, they are too old. Late twenties, early thirties, for characters who are largely supposed to be high schoolers. It's another thing that sadly doesn't work at all. Also, the way they behave towards each other: They act like moody teens, nonchalant, not looking at each other when they speak to each other, not relating anywhere near naturally to each other. This, frankly, is perhaps what I find most toe-cringing about the movie.

In retrospect, this movie actually does look like a half-hearted effort to just put something out there, no matter what, without doing anything remotely artistic to it. I'm sorry to speak so negatively about a lot of people's presumably hard work, but this really turned into a bad movie. I don't know exactly who's to blame, but I hope they learn a lesson from this and won't repeat these mistakes again later.

What a shame, and what a dud.

3 stars out of 10.

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