Saturday, July 23, 2016

Time Lapse (2014)



Since a while ago, I'm trying to stay away from time travel movies considering that I want when I'll have time to write a short story on this subject, and I'd like to keep myself out of much external influence. So, I had some doubts about "Time Lapse", but eventually I gave up. Unfortunate decision, I have to partially rethink again my own subject. What I want to say is that I've watched one of the few cases of approaching the theme that's developing a less used idea (maybe the least used idea): time travel without ... actual time travel. Why would you need time travel when you could send a message in time? You just have to take care that the recipient (maybe you) to get it ...

Another title that comes to my mind now is "Deja Vu" that partially uses the same concept. Unlike "Deja Vu", "Time Lapse" is a small budget indie, where 3 actors carry pretty much all of the movie that's shot mostly in an apartment. Also unlike "Deja Vu", "Time Lapse" holds on the idea - we don't have a Denzel Washington who must personally get into the time machine eventually to "save the day". Because we don't have a time machine. What we have in "Time Lapse" is a gigantic camera, found by three people in a complex apartment just across their own, which camera takes a shot each evening at 20:00 of their living room. But not the current one, the one 24 hours after - a sort of light "Early Edition" to give another reference :) . However, here the 3 guys get somehow to the conclusion that they don't have to change the future, but on the contrary, they must act so that it happens. I think this is one of the drawbacks that generates probably the biggest plot holes. Somehow though, the movie develops like a sort of puzzle, where probably in the end if you take all the pieces and look over them you'll get some explanation ( and also other plot holes :) ). I didn't have time for this + as usual, no spoilers ;)

The idea is nice, but moving a bit onto the cinema part, you can find many issues due to the low budget the production has. Probably the worse are related to the script, where you can notice easily that another pass for cleaning stupid lines would've helped .. but there are others too - production level related and even actors. Overall, not bad but could've been much better ...

Rating: 3 out of 5





Monday, July 18, 2016

"The Windup Girl"


Since a while I'm having trouble writing at the "standard" frequency of one entry/week, fixed as target when I started this blog. But I'm counting ... I have a delay of 6 entries up to now for 2016, which I'm fooling myself that I'll catch back this summer. The problem is that I don't really get to see anymore at least one movie every week, including the one that just ended. However, I've just managed somehow to finish my "travel book" = a novel that I'm reading between long breaks while I'm waiting in airports or when I'm flying, I'm in a train, etc. Let's just say that I noticed at some point that I don't work well while I'm in transit and since the rest of the time I don't have time to read anything else than scientific stuff, I decided that fiction gets total priority for travel time. So, moving back, lucky me ... I don't have a movie for this week, but I have a book: "The Windup Girl" by Paolo Bacigalupi - Hugo & Nebula winner in 2010.

If I remember well, the prizes were a part of the reason why I bought the book. Quite disappointing I would say compared to other Hugo winners, but let's delve a bit into the subject first. The action is set in a future where few countries still have their own natural production of food, the market being dominated by various companies activating in creating artificial species and in gene hacking (including also live beings). The situation is a follow-up of several epidemics propagated through food infestation, which apparently killed lots of the world's population. Not so many in Thailand though, the place where the novel is set, where the Ministry of Environment is a sort of armed force managing the country stability on this matters, and relying on a secret seed bank - point of interest for many foreign enterprises. From here an entire political intrigue gets built up, having on the opposite side the Ministry of Trade, an entry point in the country for various shady deals. Somewhere lost in the middle of all this we have "the windup girl" - Emiko, an artificial being, created to serve as a secretary (made in Japan), a forbidden product on the import market, which somehow ended up from her initial role to being the property of a brothel owner. Initially she's a minor character, but as I think it's written also somewhere on the book cover, she will have a decisive impact in the destiny of the kingdom ...

This happens, however, after many many many chapters, out of the total of 50. Without spoilers, I think it's the novel with the longest intrigue I've ever read. I could say it's spanning up to after half of its length. Maybe I'm exaggerating, but the development of the action up to a key point when "the windup girl" finally advances to being more of a main character, just seemed to serve as construction for what follows. The novel is highly descriptive and very visual, which adds some lengths that sometimes I found a bit exaggerated. Actually, the author's writing style relies on this - you have for quite some time a slow advancing pace after which you get hit with a shock scene, most often an unannounced death a la Game-of-Thrones, to keep you following. Besides the twists that evaporate shortly, the only part that's more consistent is a constant dialogue with a ghost, or you could say it's with the inner self, of a member in the armed forces of the Ministry of Environment, one of the characters that's getting "upgraded" from secondary to main character status until the ending. Which ending leaves open some questions ... but I said I'll withhold from spoilers ...

The verdict: I think it's one of the few cases where a screen version has serious chances of being better than the written material. I don't know if there's anything planned, but the novel is relatively recent. That's pretty much all for now, back next time with hopefully a good movie ...

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Lo chiamavano Jeeg Robot (2015)



"Jeeg Robot" is part of a "super-hero" niche of movies that gains ground slow but steady lately, and I can say I like it more than the mainstream = Marvel + DC. To clarify, more stuff we have in this set: "Defendor", "Kick-Ass" (the first) and most probably others that I can't think of right now. Essential traits = the "super-hero" doesn't necessarily have super powers - or these are quite simple (no Ant-Man here), and is often more of an anti-hero until finds "the true call of doing good, saving the world, etc, and the rest" ... if he finds it. That's pretty much what we have here. Enzo Ceccotti doesn't like his life a lot, doesn't have friends, and he gains his daily dose of yogurt as a small crook. One day, being chased by some guys apparently worse than him, after taking a bath with some unknown potentially radioactive waste in the Tiber, he gets to be ... unbreakable and gains some extra strength in arms. Following that, we have some conflicts with the local gangs, a super-villain enters the scene, bombs, romance, drama, and others. The movie's funny, consistent, I'd say even touching here and there. The actors play their parts perfectly. Even the production design is surprisingly good for an indie. Something seems still missing, though ... But that's definitely not the Marvel logo in the intro :) ...

Rating: 4 out of 5





Friday, July 8, 2016

Swiss Army Man (2016)


Given that I don't have much time left to write I'm gonna try (at least for a while) a short and focused, and hopefully more often entries approach. "Swiss Army Man" is the kind of movie that you'd want to like, but somehow it makes its best not to. It's clearly an experiment of the two guys directing and writing, and it should be considered as such. The context is extremely simple: the classic case of the stranded island survivor who sooner or later goes nuts, passing through the "standard" phases: suicidal thoughts, life introspection, finding a "live" partner of survival whichever who might be ... This movie develops the last of these, but unlike "Cast Away" here we don't have a Wilson ball, but an actually human "friend", in the form of a zombified corpse. Actually that's the whole story - the interaction between the two actors: the cast away (Paul Dano) and his partner in "solitude" (Daniel Radcliffe), varying constantly from drama to comic. Where drama with minor exception is quite decent, and the comic with minor exceptions is indecent. I don't really have a problem with the latter, but associating it with the first part turns into a pretty weird result. Towards the end I thought at some point that I'm watching indeed a small jewel of a movie where all the crazy stuff gets some sense based on what the viewer can actually "see" there ... but no, the experiment decides to turn the ending back into a cheap "funny" conclusion where (spoiler) you should lose any doubt about the actual existence of "live" zombies.

Rating: 3 out of 5






Monday, June 27, 2016

Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016)


Yup, I know this is expired. But for late late late night = early morning works, especially since I didn't manage to see "Kung Fu Panda 3" until last week. Bad decision, so I thought it might be a good one to prevent others if there's anybody who has it on his list. After "How to Train Your Dragon 2" this was the second biggest dissappointment coming from DreamWorks. In this episode 3, the panda = Po gets an upgrade from Dragon Warrior to Chi GrandMaster for defeating Kai. I've already said everything, but let's detail a bit ...

Kai is a fearsome ox exiled on the other realm and forgotten ... until somehow finds a way to return among the living. After that Kai starts collecting live spirits into a bunch of green amulets. I didn't get the exact purpose for that, probably a sort of "there can be only one" without swords, just based on some inner energy powered kung fu that absorbs the enemy. Which again it's a bit hard to get how's working, being triggered more or less random during the animated battles (with a timing seemingly more hard to get than a "fatality" in a Mortal Kombat match). What's important is that the process of absorption looks rather non-violent and is also reversible (so .. really, swords and cutting heads wouldn't have worked here). Well, after Kai eviscerates the chi from almost every living creature, he finally finds Po gone for "chi mastering" training to a secret Panda village ("secret" = tourism branding). The final battle follows, and that's it ... you don't want me to "spoil the ending" don't you? (oh yes, we have also a soap-opera involving the two fathers of Po, but let's leave it for now .. maybe there's still somebody who's not yet convinced to give up on this).

Not in a good mood. Guess it shows ...
Rating: 2 out of 5