Monday, August 24, 2015

The Gift (2015)

I've noticed lately that the thriller, as genre, tends to get an "endangered species" status looking at the frequency of what's produced. Or at least it's less and less present on the weekly box-office list. I don't remember noticing anything since "Gone Girl" = last Fall. That's why I've seen "The Gift" as a very welcomed "color spot" in the series of action, superhero, comedies = the usual summer entertainment batch.

Long story short: a couple relocates in California where he got a new position in the company with a nice advancement perspective, and she's temporarily picking the role of housewife (+ implicitly gets into a mental recovery period after a pregnancy loss). Everything looks good, except Gordo. Gordo = a former school mate of the husband who apparently wishes to catch up and refresh an old friendship ... a wish which seems a bit one-sided. Where from, why, and where it goes ... see the movie ;)

The film is carried by three actors, doing their job perfectly. Leaving aside that I have a soft spot for Rebecca Hall (re-confirmed after having serious doubts following "Transcendence") I was really surprised to find out that Jason Bateman is not just a semi-average comedy actor. Besides the bad guy role, Joel Edgerton makes here a very promising debut as director + screenwriter. Strictly for this, it reminded me of "Gone Baby Gone", also a thriller that was giving a similar start boost for Ben Affleck as director around 8 years ago. If here it goes as well would be nice to see. The movie has an excellent dosage of drama, tension and violence. It's less and less the case these days when I see a director + the script in this case, who knows exactly where should stop. Most often, either the movie rating limits it too much, or when that's not a problem the shock factor is preferred (which for me at least works probably differently than intended, as for horrors = simply disgust). This movie is R rated, but even so (spoiler) I don't know if I've seen in all more than 5 minutes where we had blood on the screen. Everything is in building the tension, in a way a la Hitchcock ... although the feeling is somehow different. I can't say more ;) again, see the movie ...

Rating: 4+ out of 5

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Largo Winch (2008)

I've seen "Largo Winch" around three weeks ago during a sleepless night, and since then I want to write an entry about it and I don't have time. Finally, I said that a short one would be better than nothing .. So, here we are. It's been quite a while since I had such a nice surprise coming from a comics based movie. However, there are two things to point out here, that make this different from the consistent batch of such stuff we had in the latest years: 1. it's not a super-hero movie 2. it's an European production (as well as the comics).

The story in brief: a magnate, owner of a big corporation, dies by drowning. The surprise of the administration council when getting ready to take over, the deceased has an heir, an adoptive son kept away for a long long time. From here onward we get "the origin story", somehow similar to the first part of any super hero franchise, but with the difference that we're kept in the credible realm of normality (= no superpowered spiders, no devices for heart powering, no SciFi stuff). "The origin story" goes along very well with the current action - being actually part of it, stuff that probably makes the difference between what we have here and the typical made in Hollywood material.

Probably there's more to say. The location setting for instance is flawless, despite the budget which I doubt is very big. There's also a sequel that I heard it's not as good, so I'll probably skip it just to avoid spoiling the impression I got. Which, given what we normally have in the genre, tends to max ... if it wouldn't be for a small problem ... the acting. Couldn't just be perfect :) ...

Rating: 4 out of 5

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Self/less (2015)

When I've found out about the subject of "Self/less" I thought that finally I'll get to see a clever SciFi, on a very particular niche whose potential was almost destroyed by last year's "Transcendence". When I've noticed the directing by Tarsem Singh ("Mirror, Mirror", "The Immortals") I understood why the movie ratings predict again an even worse failure. When, unfortunately, I've watched the trailer I got convinced that the movie doesn't have anything left to offer me. Despite all these ... I said let's give it a try. It wasn't such a bad idea.

"Mind uploading" - that's the subject in two words. Meaning mental transfer. Not only on computer as in the classical definition used in "Transcendence", but from human host to human host. I think the biggest drawback this movie has is the trailer, which gives almost all the story, so it doesn't make much sense to write more about what's going on. I'm convinced that if it would've left a bit more to discover from the story, the reviews would've been different. Especially when you don't have a flawless script ...

The acting is ok. In particular Matthew Goode who's playing a bad guy role that reminded me of "Stoker". He's not as good as there, but gets close. There are some other moments to mention, like the irony in "the final showdown" scene, but overall the film suffers badly. Of what I was afraid = Tarsem Singh's directing, who doesn't seem to know clearly if he wants to deliver a Hollywood style action movie, or to infuse more substance into it. Unfortunately, when it seems to catch a bit more on the life philosophy & stuff part, Bamm!, it either hits you with a gun, or a flamethrower, or whatever else. I don't have anything against action in a SciFi that wants also to gain some depth. There are numerous examples, from "Minority Report", up to even "Terminator". Here, however, I felt that the action stuff breaks the story. At least if I didn't know what's coming from the trailer ...

Conclusion: ok idea, major problems in implementing it. It deserves the time spent watching, if you're interested in the theme, and in the end it's decent enough to give some food for thought. However, if you want more as a movie, although the subject differs, try "Source Code" or even "Limitless". In essence, the idea is still "another life". Just the way to get there differs ;) ...

Rating: 3 out of 5

Monday, August 3, 2015

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015)

I would've liked writing a solid "MI vs. Bond" entry, but there's still time until "Spectre", "Skyfall" is long gone, and besides that I don't time to write. In brief "Rogue Nation" convinced me of something that I wasn't sure yet after "Ghost Protocol". Somehow, for me, the U.S. secret agent version beats the British MI6. I can't say exactly why. I guess it's mostly because "Mission Impossible" doesn't take itself as seriously as the "Bond" movies. And since we got to that ...

Probably the best part in "Rogue Nation" is neither the story (which is a bit unpolished anyway), neither the action scenes, nor the "MI" version of a Bond girl (more plausible than actual Bond girls), but the comic relief. Simon Pegg reprises his IT mastermind part, getting here a presence that's almost on par with the main role both as importance in the script, and also as screen time. And that's exactly the element that helps cutting off the rigorous feel you have in a solid spy thriller (a la John le Carre), and as result to admit that we're watching an implausible story that doesn't assume it's more than typical action movie entertainment. Stuff that Bond keeps forgetting ... or otherwise said wants to look more complex than it is. If the MI's stunts would've also been more normal and less SciFi ...

The subject? Better than what's in the trailer. It doesn't make sense to spoil it. Enough. As said, no time to write ;)

Rating: 3+ out of 5

Monday, July 27, 2015

Woman in Black (2012)

I decided to check out the pile of titles I missed in the last couple of years. And since "It Follows" re-opened a bit my appetite for horrors I decided to watch "Woman in Black". Even though this is vacation material = for times with less daily stress, which is not the case. The choice was good ... for the first part ...

The movie is produced by the famous British "Hammer" studio, responsible for many horrors, some of a debatable quality, between the '60s and the '80s (among which we can find the "Dracula" series with Cristopher Lee, or "Frankenstein" with Peter Cushing). Apparently, the brand was brought out from the grave (no pun intended) quite recently after a long hiatus, and "Woman in Black" is among the, let' say "major" titles released after resurrection. The movie adapts a novel which follows the classic path of ghost story + haunted house. A very classic version I could say. We have the typical dark story with the tragic ending resulting in an unrest spirit, who must be put somehow to eternal sleep. More details in the movie.

Why did I say the choice was good - at first. Well .. the standard context is not an issue (at least not for me). Especially given that the movie is really well done in the intro part, and actually for the first half. In particular, the location setting is superb, although the same road connecting the isle of the haunted house seems to have been used also in an older TV version, so they had source for ideas. The problems with the movie start when the main character decides to do some social service work for a small community (not his own) by putting the ghost to rest. Well, from that point onwards ... the action seems to be a bit far fetched. Not excessively, but enough to notice a contrast with the first part. And that leaves a final impression that's neither a light horror to watch for fun like "The Haunting" or "13 Ghosts" or many others, nor does it have a real scare potential as I've experienced long ago in "The Ring" or something more recently in "It Follows". In any case .. the result is much better than, well ... let's say "Sinister" which doesn't deserve getting tire with details.

Rating: 3 out of 5