Season of the Witch

Olga and I spent some time choosing which movie to go see today.  There are a few showing, but none of them sounds even remotely attractive.  After we went through all options, we decided to watch “Season of the Witch“.  At least the trailer was attractive.

The film turned out to be a disappointment.  Whilst it had some good acting and special effects, the story failed it miserably.  It was too shallow and too raw.  There seemed to be no purpose, no connection.   And there were way too many contradictions.  Maybe fifteen or twenty years ago, all that could be easily hidden behind the visual effects.  But not today.

Overall, I’d give it a 3 out of 5.  Don’t bother with the cinema – watch at home.

Fair Game

Went to see “Fair Game” in the cinema.  Unfortunately, it turned out to be a disappointment.  It felt like the filmmakers couldn’t really decide on what kind of movie they are making.  There is a bit of a spy movie, which sucked.  There is a bit of political conspiracy interlinked with a bit of documentary.  That sucked too.  There was a brilliant part of family drama.  But it was only a small fraction of the film without really being linked to the rest of it.

The film is not really fulfilling.  After all that time watching it, I had to ask myself – “what did I really get out of this film?”.  And unfortunately I had to answer – “Nothing”.  It’s not entertaining.  It’s not thought-provoking.  It’s not education.  It’s not emotional.

That’s too bad really.  Because both Naomi Watts and Sean Pean were involved and acting, trying to make this film better.  But there was just no base for their acting.  The storytelling was so bad.  What is even more surprising is that the director of this film – Doug Liman – for sure knows how to make good movies.  He proved that with directing both “Bourne Identity” and “Mr. And Mrs. Smith”.

Overall, I’d give this film a 3 out of 5.  If you really want to see it, don’t waste your money on the cinema.  There is nothing there that you won’t see on a smaller screen, in the comfort of your home.

22 Bullets

I’ve heard a few good things about “22 Bullets” so I put some effort into getting a copy.  The film is also originally in French, so I had to spend some time finding a viewable translation.  I don’t really like dubbed films, so I opted for English sub-titles.  Too bad the ones I got were done via automatic machine translation (I am pretty sure it was Google Translate).  They conveyed the meaning, but had no authentic beauty.

Anyways, back to the movie itself.  For me it was a disappointment. I enjoyed Jean Reno acting, as I almost always do.  But everything else was bad.  The story was very simplistic and very straight forward.  No plot twists there.  The acting of most other characters was mediocre.  And really it was a move with nothing much happening.

On top of that, I have a problem with movies that make idols out of criminals and that promote criminal way of life.  I think we have enough crap in this world already to be asking for more, especially in such a way.  Maybe it was lost in translation, but “22 Bullets” seemed liked that kind of movie.

Overall, a 3 out of 5, mostly for Jean Reno.

Men in Black II

Just a couple of weeks ago I posted a trailer for “Men in Black II” and said that I somehow missed it this movie altogether.  And here I am, holding a copy of “Men in Black II” in my hands.  Not that I was looking for it in particular, but I got it via a concerned reader of this blog.  Thanks Alex.

The film is a sequel to the first part and is very similar in a lot of ways.  It is a light entertainment with a few bits of sci-fi in it.  Both Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are in it.  With quite a few aliens and big guns.

This part however is not as good as the original movie.  It tries to be, but it’s not.  It is entertaining and funny sometimes.  But it’s much weaker in every way – less action, simpler story, etc.  I still enjoyed watching it and it also made want to watch the first film again.

Overall, 3 out of 5.  Watch it if you have nothing else in your queue, but don’t spend any time looking for this movie.  Don’t expect much either, and you’ll probably enjoy it.

Clash of the Titans

Last weekend I watched “Clash of the Titans” with a bunch of friends.  I was insisting on watching it in 2D, since it was widely known that 3D in the film was added in post-production and hence won’t be anything remotely similar to the real 3D, but my arguments weren’t convincing enough and we went to 3D cinema anyway.  Don’t make the same mistake.

As I expected it, 3D really sucked.  Do you remember those bulky CRT monitors that we used to have with our desktop computers, back when everyone wasn’t a happy laptop owner?  If you do remember them, then you probably remember the horrible experience when such a monitor was configured for a low refresh rate, say 60 Hz.  The images on such a monitor were flickering, there was no sharpness, and your eyes and had would start hurting pretty soon.  That’s very similar to the experience of the pseudo-3D.  Horrible experience in other words.  In fact, it was so horrible that we kept taking glasses on and off constantly.  One could watch this film totally without 3D glasses, but in certain places it was easier to have them on.

So, was pseudo-3D the only thing that spoiled my experience?  Nope. I felt that the movie was very shallow in pretty much every aspect – acting, story, special effects, drama, scale, and so on and so forth.  Just to give you some idea with a little spoiler – there wasn’t much of a clash in this film, and there were no titans.  About 40 seconds of screen time were given to a rather large creature, which many might confuse with a titan.  But when we are in Greek mythology, a word “titan” actually has a very particular meaning.  So, no titans.

And yet another something else that didn’t help my perception of this film was a fresh memory of “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” – another Greek mythology action movie that was released recently.  And as much as I didn’t want to watch “The Lightning Thief” it turned out to be quite a nice flick.  And it happened to be way better than the titans with no titans.

Overall, I’ll give the titans a 3 out of 5.  Skip it and you won’t miss much.  If you really want to see it though, make sure you watch it in 2D – save yourself some money and a headache.

P.S.: I only now realized that I forgot to review “The Lighning Thief”.  I will correct this shortly.



Last weekend we had our first whole family trip to the cinema – Olga, Maxim, and myself.  The choice of the moving picture was simple – “Up“, the only family friendly movie in the cinema right now.  Plus we all love animated films.  Plus I’ve heard quite a few good words about this one.

The animation was excellent, as always from Pixar.  But the story and the characters, I think, needed more work.  There were a few funny scenes, a few quite serious and sad ones.  It wasn’t just for the kids, but for the whole family.

Overall, while enjoyable, the film lacks something.  Either a crazy creature running around and getting into silly situations (even though there was a candidate), or a character with a funny voice (even though there was a candidate), or something completely different.

3 stars.

Public Enemies

Public Enemies

A couple of days ago I went to the cinema to watch “Public Enemies“, also known as “Johnny D”.  I’ve been waiting for this film for a few month now, since the first time I saw its trailer.

Sadly, it turned out to be a disappointment.  There were a few good moments, yes, but overall it was rather empty.  The story wasn’t interesting or engaging.  The characters were many and shallow.  There was practically no drama.  And there was very little of action.  Relations between different characters were also very vague, partially because there is very little dialogue and nothing happens.  So you can’t really make it out who thinks what of who and how they all are getting along.

It was also a disappointment technically.  First of all, I am getting pretty irritated by the shaking camera these days.  It wasn’t fun back in Blair witch times, and it isn’t fun today.  Soft focus and purposeful mistakes which are aimed at creating an old film effect were destructing and annoying.  Also, the choice of sound effects and music was strange at best.  During the rare gun fights, the sound was quite crisp and surrounding.  But during some other scenes it was either too distant or too quiet.   Frequent moments of no music and no dialogue without dramatic pauses felt very much like an amateur cinema.  And on top of that, the film runs for 2 hours 20 minutes.  Way too much.

My overall rating – 3 stars.  There was a lot of potential though.

Fifty Dead Men Walking

Fifty Dead Men Walking

Yesterday I watched “Fifty Dead Men Walking” in the cinema.  As with almost any European movie, there was no promotion of it, no posters, announcements, or trailers.  So I had no idea what was it about when I went to see it.

The film is based on a book, which is based on a real life story of Martin McGartland – a guy who was hired by British police to spy on IRA back in 1980’s.  I haven’t read the book and I don’t know much about Ireland, but that location at that time had a lot of potential for an interesting movie.

However, this movie failed to utilize that potential.  First of all, it was badly executed technically – plenty of reflections, shades, weird lighting, and lots of hand help camera work were quite annoying.   Maybe that’s just me, or maybe that’s what Hollywood movies do to one’s tastes.

While for a real life story is quite impressive, the way it was conveyed in the film was rather slow and sporadic at times.  It was difficult to understand the time frames, as well as some characters in the film seemed to be out of place.

Overall, an average movie for 3 stars.  Perhaps your own opinion of it would be quite different though.  If you want to see this film, try to get it on DVD – it’s a bit painful for the eyes on a big screen.

Crossing Over

Crossing over

Went to see “Crossing Over” in the cinema.  Not that I was particularly waiting for it or anything – it’s just that there isn’t much else too see these days, and a duo of Harrison Ford and Ray Liotta in the same film sounded a tiny bit interesting.

The film turned out to be pretty average.  There was a lot of good acting, but the script and directing just weren’t up to the par.  Multiple main characters, each with his own life, all getting connected to each other the closer the movie went to the end, plus a social problem of immigration being so hot in the USA, these all reminded me of another movie.  It’s surprising how similar this film is to “Crash“.    But comparing it to “Crash” doesn’t do it any good either.

The story lacks depth and detail.  People often behave in weird waves and no explanation is given.  Or, when given, it often is unbelievable.  There were suposed to be a lot of drama, but the story not having enough depth, all drama turns into depressive non-stop crying.  And what’s more disappointing, after bringing up attention to a serious issue, the film fails to make any points at all, or leave any food for thought.

As I said, good acting minus good directing and holes in the story make up for an average film.  Rating – 3 stars, average.

Addendum for those who saw the movie.  Scene in the supermarket with four out five robbers shot.  Do you still wonder what happened?  He got out of bullets.   Scene with the singing of the national anthem – that was a joke from the editors, which was added after the final cut.  Just kidding.  Both times.

Terminator Salvation

Terminator Salvation

There are a few brands in the movie industry, which you just can’t miss.  Whenever a sequel comes out, whether you liked the previous or not, whether you are a fan or not – it all doesn’t matter, you just have to go and see it.  “Terminator” is one of these brands.  The first two films were so good, that even now, decades later, I still have vivid memories of some parts of those movies.  I still sometimes wake up in cold sweat when I see a huge tank turning around on a hill of human skulls.  I still ask myself a question “How do you kill a smart machine, which is made of liquid metal and can blend into any form or shape?”, and I am so glad I know the answer.

And even though I didn’t like the third film of the series, and didn’t expect much of the fourth, knowing that Arnold Schwarzenegger prefers to be a politician these days rather than his usually self, I still had to go and see “Terminator Salvation” in the cinema.

How good was it? A bit.  Nothing special.  It had the humans and machines, it had the time travel, it had some war, it had plenty of special effects.  But it lacked two most important things which Terminator is all about, at least for me – Arnold Schwarzenegger and the huge scale.  Call it ambition if you will.

The movie makers at least agreed with me on the Arny.  I guess they tried to get him in, and they couldn’t, and they couldn’t make a Terminator movie without one, so they ended up rendering an artificial Anry on a computer.  He didn’t come bad or anything, but it’s just not the same.

Regarding the scale, the ambition ,the “WOW! Effect”, they totally blew it.  There was no scale to this movie.  Nothing that we haven’t seen before, nothing surprising, nothing mind or eye blowing.  Same old, same old.

While, McG knows how to make good action movies, and both parts of the “Charlie’s Angels” are here to prove that, I think it’s him to lacks the scale.  Scale is something only a few directors have a feeling for.  Steven Spielberg is one (and he knows war too). Peter Jackson is another (although I don’t know how good he is with machines).  Michael Bay is yet another one (although he is already doing a good job with another robot-related series).  McG? I’m not so sure.

And I’m pretty sure it was the director’s lack of magnitude.  Because the only other possible reason for not having scale in the movie is budget.  And I don’t think budget deficit applies to the Terminator movies.  As I said, this is one of those well recognized brands, so there shouldn’t be any problem finding the money or bringing the profits home.  I might be wrong, of course, but that is my opinion.

So. The summary.  If you haven’t seen it, go and see.  It’s worth it.  If you are deciding between seeing it in the movies and getting the DVD, go see it on the big screen.  It’s just better.  But don’t expect much of it either way.  And maybe then, when you don’t expect much of it, you’ll enjoy it more.  My rating – 3 stars.  Not bad, but average.