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Reviews

Shazam!
(2019)

Mana half-full
Why watch a flick about the one superhero possibly ridiculouser than Superman if you are over 10 years old and not a masochist? I did precisely because I hoped to get the fun parts of the genre, instead of the borefests and would-be-dramas we are sold 90% of the time.

Well, I did get some. This Corpollywood product fits the mold of "not-great with a couple of newish, entertaining scenes that can stick." Here, they are comedy parts.

What went wrong:
  • Main one first: hero and villain with similar powers. This trope is so common and so dull, I figure all has been written, said and yodeled about it already.
  • The teen is all serious, his adult version childish and goofy, often acting like a drag queen or a dolt or a toon or je-ne-sais-quoi. Not the same guy. Not such a big deal, but grating.
  • Gloom. There is colour, there is daylight, but the makers couldn't resist some Iron Age darkness. Wouldn't have cost much to paint the demons bright and the climax under the Sun, for example.
  • Annoying kid. I won't tell which one, but you might feel like shoving his crutch somewhere. Fine, for a film with so many juves, they didn't do bad here.


What went well:
  • The powers testing scenes are the shining ones. Kid-superheroes being kids first.
  • Simplicity. The story is straightforward, the motivations simple, the villain focused (though he would be dull if Mark Strong wasn't such a dependable young man.) In this genre, simplicity is a quality.
  • Adorable kid. I won't tell which one, but the two black girls who played her nailed it.


One last thing: This isn't a movie for 10 years old kids, despite being Shazam. The first 30 minutes are too seriously violent. Oddly.

A Quiet Place
(2018)

Cheap jump scares-ridden pile of boring stupidity with terrible music
If you want a good film with blind monsters attracted to sound, watch Tremors.

Keepers
(2018)

Good old-fashion storytelling
I watched The Vanishing because:
  • It's a period piece
  • I love lighthouses
  • Scotland is gorgeous
  • Lighthouses are even better on an island.
I got all of these, of course, in a classic tale that owes to authors such as Stevenson or Leroux. A pretty good story indeed.

Great cast. Including a very credible Scotsman played by that Greek actor, the one from Sparta.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
(2018)

A 2h episode/prologue with 10 minutes of magical animals.
Bloated, dark, boring, ugly, unimaginative, soulless, unfinished, etc. In short, your typical 21st century Hollowood turkey. That's what you get from corporate bureaucracies staffed with dozens of useless cascading "managers" instead of talented people.

Or maybe, it's just my fault for thinking it would be about Newt and fantastic beasts, whatever gave me that ridiculous idea...

The Domestics
(2018)

For B movie lovers (such as I)
Take the gimmick of Walther Hill's 1979 classic The Warriors, add post-apoc elements from various places, notably a radio station a la Fallout games, use some spaghetti western recipes to pace character scenes and action scenes, have it served by a good cast, and you get a taste of old-school fun cinema.

The script isn't tight around the characters, which limits my rating, but it's an enjoyable throwback, an easy watch with a rewatch value.

Kötü Kedi Serafettin
(2016)

A curio
(I watched the English-voiced version.)

Strange humour. It took me half the movie to start smiling.

Excellent technique though, great scenery, animation and sound.

Main flaws are pacing and continuity issues. The film would benefit from better writing or editing.

Avengers: Infinity War
(2018)

Unfinished Worst
I wan't planning to waste time writing how boring this overfed turkey is, but then, after hours of ugly nonsense, yawning, waiting for the ex machina that had to be the only possible resolution to this bloated mess, they didn't even bother to conclude.

It's a drokkin' episode.

I've been conned. I'll never spend a cent for Marvel ever again. After 20 years of iron age ennui, just when I fought they were finally bringing some silver age fun with Ant Man and Spiderman, they release their worst soulless product ever, and close it with a big middle finger to our faces.

Just let this company die out, you'll do the world a service.

Bilal: A New Breed of Hero
(2015)

Reality Check
Usually I wouldn't bother, but an animation movie that manages to make me give up after 15 minutes tops, that's exceptional indeed.

Terrible story-telling through terrible animation... what else need I say ? Most third-rate video games do better than that. Very, very and unexpectedly bad. It's sad, really, when an underdog reaches that low.

The King and the Beaver
(2010)

How to build around a throne
From the Gobelins animation school, which regularly gives us short pieces of entertainment, comes this tale of a king doing what kings do best : exploiting labour. I found the pace of this one a bit too fast, too frantic. I would have liked to see the castle a bit more for example, or at least a bit longer.

However, the end got me. First, because it's very funny, and second, because it shows very good story-telling indeed, explaining inconspicuous details while broadening the scope of the tale. Which is a tale with a moral, the old-fashioned way.

43,000 Feet
(2012)

No impact
A man with about 3 minutes to live talks calmly for about 8 minutes.

Need I say more ? There is no emotion, no drama, no humour. According to me, nothing the protagonist says is remotely interesting. Let's just call it a perfect waste of a perfectly good premise. Technically very well done but a bore nonetheless.

Infinity Chamber
(2016)

K. Dick-approved
The story is Dickian in that it intensely blurs the line between the real world and the made up world. All K. Dick readers should watch and enjoy this.

The film is written. Well written. Rod Serling would also have approved. All Twilight Zone fans should watch and enjoy this.

It should equally appeal to the lovers of the prison escape subgenre. Specially to fans of McGoohan's The Prisoner, for its structure and for the fact that the protagonist's brain is his only weapon as well as the reason he is being secretly detained.

The minimalist stages and costumes are sharp and memorable. The dialogue is clear and smart, and I'm pleasantly surprised that it never is geeky, a trap into which many a movie writer falls as soon as computers are involved.

Infinity Chamber doesn't go for originality in its main story line, but is one of the very few that deliver it well. Going for quality, it shows a rare combination of impeccable acting and flawless logic. Originality is found in the details. Particularly enjoyable to me is an unusual romance that the writer cleverly manages to fit in.

Dave Made a Maze
(2017)

Fifty-fifty, maybe less
The gorgeous images deserve that you watch this film.

The dreadful dialogues might ruin the moment for you, however.

Now I'll just develop a bit, so you can skip if it's TLDR : I don't know if the same person conceived the visuals and wrote the text, but the former are wonderful while the latter is unbearable. The maze's sets, effects, even costumes are imaginative and fantastic. They keep the promises that made you curious about watching the film.

The dialogue, on the other hand, is written by a slacker. It's the kind of film where the line you hear the most is "Are you okay ?" surrounded by countless other platitudes and a distinct lack of real emotion. Drivel, simply put. Vapid, out of place, lazy, oafish, and much, much less. That's what makes the story. That's also what makes the viewing an ordeal. Thus I can't be sure about the actors : I have a bud of an opinion, but in their defense they had to work with trash.

Likely, you can't predict if you'll endure the talking, which way it will tip your balance. I'm feeling generous, thanks to the handcraft, and I think Jim Henson would have approved.

What Happened to Monday
(2017)

Recreation with week spots
As science-fiction, this is pretty fine when it comes to technology, worthless when it comes to the story. This is because social and political elements are set as a plot device only, or maybe as an attempt to be Orwellian for the sake of being Orwellian, not as a coherent and clever vision of the future. Why a fascist regime, for example ? (With a parliament, to make it more awkward.) Why the checkpoints ? Why the repression but obviously no sensible measures to actually reduce births ? This world is all half-assed.

The best example is what the state (or is it a private company ? Not even clear) does to the children. Nonsensical, counterproductive in fact. The opposite of Logan's Run simple and clever take on the subject. Anything but what they do would make more sense, like sterilising parents after their first child, or killing them after their second and confiscating the babies. Or right after the first, why not ?

As entertainment though, the film works pretty good. Contrived but fun. I would give all the credit to the great Noomi Rapace, but several of the scenes are actually quite well shot, with fair bits of tension and suspense. The action becomes overdone, with fight scenes way subpar to others, while the story stops following its own silly rules (sneaking commandos soon replaced with an urban war zone.) However, time flies rather pleasantly.

The rest of the cast is forgettable, particularly Glenn Close who, in addition to looking freakishly out of place as the only old-timer seemingly left in the world, reprises her role from the excellent Girl with all the Gifts, possibly line for line. Here also, she tries to show some humanity. To justify her "hard decisions", hard to someone else of course. Unsuccessfully since her character is utterly insane, on top of being a paragon of unintelligence. A fine actress but a terrible character.

Doctor Who: Extremis
(2017)
Episode 6, Season 10

Timely glitches
I don't want to comment when the level of writing is that bad anymore, but I couldn't resist mentioning one tiny little thing that I didn't find in any other review (I even thought all the useful writers of bad reviews had given up when I saw only praise for the amateurish, dreadful Knock Knock.) So here it is.

The Tardis doesn't translate Italian. A glitch, surely, just in time for a pope who doesn't speak English to show up. A secondary effect of this glitch is that the Italian translator, unlike any other alien in the universe including the Pompadour, has a strong non-English accent.

The glitch is very timely indeed, for when usually the Tardis comes near the Vatican's special library (which is not secret, by the way, only restricted, like a bank's vault,) anyone could read any book, in particular today's McGuffin in its forgotten language.

I'll say no more. I can resist laughing about the stupidity of the rest, in particular the VR BS. If it doesn't slap you right in the face, good for you.

Alien: Covenant
(2017)

Terrific
Do not read spoilers because, for the vast majority of 2 hours, we have no idea where the story might lead us. It is true that towards the end, we see it coming, yet it doesn't remove anything from the thrill. It's probably by design. In fact, I suspect it is more terrifyingly enjoyable this way.

Summary for the reader who won't read further: Original, thrilling, intelligent, breathtaking, fascinating, with tons of awesome.

The first part, in space, is so enjoyable that I start to hope the entire story will stay on that line, that is of course until I remember that I came to see a monsters flick. What happens next has all the elements you would expect, and much new material. Ha ! There's even a real scream queen scene, sending me back to the 70s with a smile for a second.

The only reason that I don't rate higher this great theater moment is the last physical confrontation, which I find subpar to the rest, unoriginal on paper, unclear in execution, not engaging as a result. It's just one scene, but it's supposed to be a climax, so in my eyes it counts for more.

I was starting to think that nobody does SF cinema anymore, what with people paying to watch long toy commercials, predigested pointless brouhahas, adaptations of brain dead TV garbage, etc. So thank you Ridley Scott. And more congratulations for achieving greatness inside a franchise, usually the exemplar of film decay.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
(2016)

Magic Dr Who vs Arcane MiB
Written by Mrs Rowling, an author as successful as she is unimaginative, i.e., tremendously, this film happens in a city where wizards form a society of bureaucrats and Gestapo agents. Despite truly immense powers, they fear the non-magical, inferior race and hide from you mere humans, instead of teaching you and making babies with you. Anyway, I'm not sure how this works but I digress: the point is, the movie is full of Men in Black chasing illegal aliens throughout New York and lackadaisically wiping people's memories.

Here lands an odd but friendly British wizard with awkward manners and a luggage much bigger on the inside. He soon finds a companion and on they go travel-ling through time... no, I'm kidding... through New York, chasing harmless but troublesome creatures. Still, the protagonist is so reminiscent of the Doctor that it could explain why I rather enjoyed most of the film.

I really enjoyed the 4 main characters actually, the good guys; it's all fluff, well played and entertaining running and flirting. For the rest, well, it's not as if the writer plagiarised well known series so as to save her energy for other aspects of her craft: events more predictable than they come, dull villains, loose ends, amateur climax, endless epilogues... At the 2/3rd mark, the Beasts start to outstay their welcome.

Arrival
(2016)

Clever, emotional, and patience-testing.
Arrival makes me want to read the book on which it's based. The story is very good. It's the classic trope where extra-terrestrials land publicly and first contact is made. You brace yourself for a disaster since army men put themselves in charge as usual (a major reason why, in real life, aliens avoid Earth like the measles.) And where many writers failed to conclude their own take in a fulfilling manner, Arrival delivers the goods with a clever, emotional, yet simple narrative that explains all what we saw and still leaves a lot to our imagination.

The film thus owes most to its story. It does complement it with great visuals, and decent acting. On the other hand, it does suffer from being unnecessarily slow. Your patience will be tested at times, and is required for you to enjoy your candy at the end. As I said, it makes me want to read the source material much more than it calls for a future rewatch.

Jason Bourne
(2016)

Even worse than usual Hollowood incompetence
Amateurish filming, shaky camera work, retarded editing (of course worse during what they call action sequences,) this inexcusable mess looks like an alternation of office and corridor scenes from a banal sitcom, and blurry, epilepsy-triggering fight or chase scenes from any spastic turd (i.e., almost any Hollowood action flick) you can name that was made in the last 20 years.

Migraine-inducing. Unwatchable. Basically, it's just noise.

The writing is on par: Hollowood hasn't created anything new in decades, happy to adapt comics, video games, cheap novels, etc, or to produce unwanted remakes and sequels. Here it's a sequel of some sort, which is probably why it does nothing to introduce its characters. Not only I feel like I'm watching a bad TV series, but apparently I'm also supposed to have watched the previous episodes. Cinema fail 101.

Many of the other staples of Hollowood incompetence are present: they still believe that the CIA can operate freely on any foreign soil (when they don't push the joke to make it the FBI;)they still don't understand how computers and software work; they still show shots of gas pedals during chases... Name your pick for most annoying stupid trope and it's probably there.

Look, I'm just trying to save someone's money here, because this... thing... is so bad it doesn't even deserve a review, only a burial. Wait for the next real JB, the one with the double zero, maybe we'll be more lucky there.

Kiki, el amor se hace
(2016)

Quirks rebooted
It took me quite a while to realise that this is a remake of The Little Death, an Australian film that I had seen just a year or so ago. That's how forgettable the original is. I avoid remakes like the plague, but this one caught me by surprise. I watched it until the end, fairly entertained, whereas the original quickly bored me.

Perhaps this is because The Little Death tried to be edgy and failed, when Kiki feels more natural, relaxed, and cute. Perhaps the Spanish acting is better, but I'm not going to rewatch the original to ascertain.

Anyway, it's still not good enough to recommend warmly, although it's possible that I would have rated it 1 point higher if it was not déjà vu. It didn't make me laugh, but it did make me smile plenty.

Cell
(2016)

Intense start but lazy end
This variation of the zombie apocalypse borrows from films like 28 Weeks Later or Kaufman's Invasion of the Body Snatchers. That is to say, it relies more on psychological tension than on graphic violence (but still contains some graphic violence.) The first act is pretty good, intense, sharp, adopting a fast pace that dispenses us of the genre's clichés. That won't last as it will turn into standard fare. Finally, in the 3rd act, the writer completely drops the ball and doesn't even bother ending his story properly. He just takes the easiest way out and deserves some boos for it.

Bad storytelling is enough to make a movie bad and a rating low. Here however, I balance it with the impressive beginning and the excellent visuals. Also worth mentioning is Samuel L. Jackson who, for the first time in 20 years, portrays a human being instead of his perpetual annoying caricature.

Haoma
(2008)

A superb piece, if graphically imperfect.
This team effort for an ESMA school project might not impress you in the first seconds, because the art certainly lacks the polish of a professional work with an adequate completion time. It is most obvious in aspects like the lighting and shadowing, for example.

Do keep watching however. The design largely makes up for it. The visuals are greatly creative. The soundtrack is superb, all music, no words, gracefully telling the story along the characters' dances. It's a wonderful ballet. This told by someone who fondly dislikes ballets.

And most of all, you'll be treated to a terrific story. The cycles of life and love might feel a little too accelerated to some of you - it's a very short film after all - but it's truly epic in scope and emotion.

Jungle Jail
(2008)

Unconvincing Convicts
One of the many ESMA school projects available to all viewers on the Web, Jungle Jail is one of the weakest ones. The team of four students (no idea what Stepaschka - mentioned by IMDb - stands for, as it is not in the actual credits) didn't include a talented writer, unfortunately.

The story is not told in an engaging manner. It fails to create any connection or emotion; no empathy; not even laughs when it tries to be funny. There might be a twist at the end, but if any it lacks clarity and again fails at humour. And actually, besides the bad delivery, the plot is not solid enough to begin with: a convict is being bullied by everyone, yet when the opportunity arises he becomes the worst of them.

The art is average, which isn't so surprising considering that the makers are beginners in their profession, but it doesn't help that the visuals aren't even remotely creative. I'm left with the feeling that these kids might be more suited for a technical career in video games.

Moonwalkers
(2015)

Groovy violence
Did the NSA secretly pay a Frenchman to direct a British movie as a cover up about the CIA paying a German to direct a British movie for a 1969 cover up that only an American would still believe today, in an attempt to discredit the agency-coined conspiracy theories devised by the KGB, CID, DFS, RCMPSS, SDECE, MI6, BND, Supo and a few dozens more out of sheer jealousy for a world-class lie ?

Ron Perlman, whom I have enjoyed since he fell off a tree in 1981, made this film watchable until the end for me, despite the fact that it was not at all what I expected, and not as good. I've got the strange feeling that the hippies and the others come from two different movies, the former from a light spoof of the 60s, the latter from a classic British gangster romp.

I guess it's what the makers were aiming at, but it doesn't mean it works. For starters, the light comedy isn't funny. I early realised that the film couldn't be great. As soon as a turd was shown. That's one of the best signs right there. Strangely, there were no fart jokes after that. They were replaced with decapitations. The serious scenes are a tad gory indeed, if stylish. Not funny either, even for a lover of black humour such as I. Unless I missed some sort of dead black pan humour.

I almost forgot: I would have given 1 more point for the quality of the detail in scenes of this period piece, but I have to take it back for all its hairless hippies and shaved armpits. Back then, people had not yet been brainwashed by deodorant corporations and by the Californian porn industry into amputating their cooling system.

Mech: Human Trials
(2014)

Voice over and over and over...
Despite a classic and interesting plot, this film succumbs to mediocrity. That's because of the way it tells its story.

It all begins with an action scene that reasonably impresses, enough to make us stay for more. Then, immediately, it shift gears, downwards. The narrator starts narrating, and from now on everything will be exposition by voice over. Not peachy.

My rating would be 5, as in forgettable, if not for the additional sin of repeating a scene, complete and identical. Just in case we had forgotten it, in a 5 minutes long film. That rhetorical device was terribly ill-inspired, and could cause nothing but extra disappointment.

A7-058
(2013)

Can't wait for A7-059. Just kidding...
How do you review a 5 minutes short film in which nothing happens ? In 10+ lines, which is much longer than the thingy's script ? At least it is impossible to spoil. It goes like this: Pretty girl wakes up, pretty girl goes back to bed. Next !.

She doesn't need a bathroom break or a glass of water, which is just as well since there is no such thing around. We have a nice white room, futuristic looking, with a black futuristic bed in the middle, a black futuristic window looking into space, and a not-so-futuristic looking white touchscreen on a wall. This room is 80% empty, which is a waste of space for a stasis chamber if you ask me. There's also a design door leading to a corridor, but Sleeping Beauty won't open it to check outside. Maybe because she is barefoot, whoever put her there having forgotten to provide slippers.

Anyway, this movie is pointless. And in case you are not bored enough, you'll be treated to a series of mundane factories and power plants photos, with a measure of digital data corruption for added artsy value.

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