Monday, August 22, 2016

A Hard Day (2014)

"A Hard Day" is a Korean production confirming (yet again ...) that if you look today over the Asian cinema you can find movies with a much clever script than the average of the Hollywood mainstream. What we have here is somewhere between a thriller and a dark comedy where the humor is sometimes dry, but for who had previous experience with the Korean cinema should be clear that's something typical. The story starts with a crooked cop from a crooked department who hits a guy on the road at night in an apparently fatal crash, while driving to set up the funeral arrangements for his mother. Meanwhile a nocturnal internal affairs raid takes over his office, and his daughter left in his custody after divorce keeps asking him on the phone for a chocolate cake. Getting back to his most pressing problem, the "apparently fatal" accident doesn't mean the victim will rise from dead - but I'm not gonna tell more ... I just thought that the trailer might make you think that "you know the story" and maybe a hint will help to the answer that "no, you don't".

It's a Korean thriller, so you can expect violence. I think the degree is acceptable compared to others. The series of unfortunate events that keep coming after the main character may seem taking exaggerate turns towards the end, but again ... it's at an acceptable level (and if you think something's a bit over the top, remember that "comedy" is listed among genres). Probably the worst minus I noticed is the ... title. It's completely random considering you can't even tell which "day" was more "hard", but doesn't matter that much ...

Rating: 4 out of 5

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Debt (2010)

"The Debt" is a good thriller ... if you're patient enough to wait for the halfway twist. Until then we have a story partly told in flashback of three Mossad agents tasked somewhere in the 60's with capturing the "surgeon of Birkenau" a Nazi war criminal hiding somewhere in the East Berlin. It's partly in flashback because the story actually starts 30 years after the events at the launch of a book covering the mission success. Inexplicably, one of the three commits suicide just before the book release festivity. Well, inexplicably until halfway in the movie :) ...

I would say something about the actors. More precisely about the casting. I can appreciate hiring a pair of actors for each of the three agents, as what I think it is a better alternative to an aging makeup that often fails, but the way the pairs were chosen is at least strange if not really confusing. You're initially tempted to associate the younger version of an agent to the other one and vice versa. Getting over this, I can't say the movie is exceptional in any aspect. The story, however, is quite well put together, it has that nostalgic/romantic part characteristic to the classic spy thriller genre that's nowadays sort of lost (we didn't have that in Bourne for instance), and the directing (John Madden) stands solid in the British tradition of this kind of movie. I would say that the result, especially considering the slow development, gets close to John le Carre ("Tailor of Panama", "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy", "A Most Wanted Man") .. maybe even better sometimes.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Big Bang (2010)

Time for a short effective entry ... "The Big Bang" is a small movie, but with some big names on the poster. It got a small score with the critics, but it has a big knot of tangled threads resulting in a story that you can at least call catchy. The movie's rated R (= packs enough sex and violence to sell) but that's not the reason. It seems hard for me to coherently mix into a subject for a noir movie: corrupted cops, the Russian mafia, blood diamonds, quantum physics, love stories, natural disasters, philosophy, multiple personalities and an eccentric millionaire, all starting with a classic missing person case = the movie's context setting. More precisely, a private eye (Antonio Banderas) is hired by a former life convict, miraculously freed from jail, to find his mail girlfriend, who apparently doesn't seem to exist. And from this we somehow end up in the middle of a particle acceleator (oh yes, the quantum physics part is quite consistent ... at least quantity wise). Indeed, the movie is not perfect, gets a bit over the top with the "noir" stuff ... from the poster to the camera work (although strictly visual speaking looks ok) + of course the script (although here too we can close an eye for some witty punchlines). Overall I can admire the way this salad served in the first half gets a meaning in the second. And it's not because a hot scene in the middle giving a crash course of particles theory in an 18+ :) It's just a weird chaotic story that strangely works ... or simply a mix of some shallow science into dumb action, just enough to result in a watchable guilty pleasure.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Monday, August 1, 2016

Jason Bourne (2016)

"Jason Bourne" returns as the fifth episode in the series, after "Bourne Legacy" where we had the impression that Bourne is done (that's why it was called "Legacy"). Well, he's back. And as long as you forgot the first three movies this one works. Because otherwise I assume you would need to fill up many continuity holes. So, as a stand alone movie (well, including the references to the past) is a decent spy thriller. In brief, the "self-exiled" Bourne finds out that his own family history and its CIA connections include a bit more than what he knew. So, we end up with a personal vendetta mixed with an inner political intrigue + a consistent reference to lack of privacy in online social media. Of course we're getting a share of exaggerations and shallow scenes, but overall it's fine. Even on the technical side :) (I was complaining about the kinetic camera badly used last time .. well, here we have the counterexample).

Rating: 3 out of 5

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Star Trek: Beyond (2016) ... and beyond ST Beyond

There's not much to be said about "Star Trek: Beyond" ... not much of good. Even the poster is bad. There's been quite some time since I've been so disappointed by a Star Trek. Question: What do you do if you need to write a story for a Star Trek and you don't have an idea? Answer: Recycling. What's making this worse than normal is doing it so poorly right after the previous movie where we've seen an original and stylish re-inventing of a classic villain (Khan). What we have in "Beyond" is more or less the original background of Khan (well .. somehow they managed not using it in the previous movie), attached to a different villain in what turns in the end to be a simple shallow revenge story ...

In the intro we have Enterprise crashing in pieces on a far away planet as result of an attack from an apparently unknown race, lead by a guy with typical "evil alien" looks who wants a weapon incidentally present on board of the ship. The context: long ago another Federation ship got wrecked on the same lost planet, that remained lost for a while, sufficiently enough that the captain to develop a mutation extending his life as well as his revenge wish for being forgotten. Spoiler: who's the "evil alien"? ... if it's not obvious, you'll probably get it early when you see the old shipwreck for the first time in the movie. However, there's a bunch of other stuff hard to get. Not because they're not so obvious, but because they don't make any sense ... Starting with why the guy didn't leave the planet, considering he's in command of an entire army capable at least to reach the nearest inhabited outpost (his target in the movie actually) ... And that's only one. Honestly, I'm to lazy to start enumerating others ...

Well .. but in a movie - especially a SciFi - you can overlook some things that you can't explain. The problem is when pretty much everything else sucks. The direction is like a "Fast & Furious ... in space" (no joke, there is the same director as latest F&F actually). The editing and the camera work is horrible, as pretty much everything on the technical part for a ST in the year 2016. Tricky question: what's worse than a poorly used kinetic camera ... Answer: a poorly used kinetic camera in 3D.

Without other comments ...
Rating: 2 out of 5 (objectively ... subjectively: 1.5)

Now, beyond ST Beyond ... If you really like "Star Trek" my recommendation is to stay far from this one. Skip it. Go see Tarzan instead. Or something else. I don't know ...
If you've never watched a "Star Trek" until now, don't ruin your impression with Beyond. Incidentally, in a different context, I've recently written a summary of what's worth seeing out of the "cinema episodes". Any of the following is way beyond Beyond (in the positive direction)...

The old generation - Kirk & co.
  • ST II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) - I think this is old, but probably has the largest hardcore fan base. That's why it happens often to have any sort of references more or less obvious to this movie and key scenes in it. 
  • ST IV: The Voyage Home (1986) - Again, it's old, but it probably has the most funny subject: time travel to take a whale into the future when the species got extinct (no other spoilers); 
  • ST VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) - I've watched this very long ago and I don't remember much besides I liked it the most from what's in the "old generation" series + it's the one which "aged" the best being the most recent. 
The next generation - Picard & co.
  • ST VII: Generations (1994) - Nice for nostalgic people. Makes the transition between the old generations with a meeting between Picard and the old Kirk. Lots of people say this "episode" is not so good, but I think it's acceptable. The villain has a solid build, the movie has a bit of life philosophy, indeed it has some lengths, so not the best but overall works. 
  • ST VIII: First Contact (1996) - Must see. My #1. Borg + time travel + first alien contact for humanity = probably the best story of all.
  • ST X: Nemesis (2002) - Must see. I think it's the most underrated Star Trek. The critics unfairly bashed it. It has one of the best villains, the story's sufficiently original (including a side story) and is also probably the most alert in this series (= doesn't bore).
The new generation - Kirk & co.
  • ST XI: Star Trek (2009) - Must see. A return to the original crew with a very nice time travel story. Maybe a bit cheesy, but within decent limits. My #3.;
  • ST XII: Into Darkness (2013) - Must see. Probably the most "romantic" ST (referring to the current, not about romances) = strong revenge story, a different Khan is back = lots of references to ST II very cleverly inserted and probably the best soundtrack. My #2.