Monday, December 10, 2018

Geostorm (2017)

After knowing reviews I expected Geostorm to be really bad. Well it is not all bad. If you let all stupidity to pass ending is quite exiting. It is not much but it is at least something. There isn't much more good to say. Well it supports international collaboration. That is other good thing but there aren't more good things to say.

Geostorm tells about weather controlling system which is used for destruction by someone. Whole system is insanely powerful for weather controlling system. It might be realistic to have weather controlling system but not one like this movie. It is there to make this disaster movie. There were times when I wished this was hard science fiction but soon I was reminded this is stupid action movie. Detective parts are divided by unrealistic action or special effects shots. There was interesting story below this mess if they toned it down and picked other parts of the story.

Last half hour felt better than anything before because it made mess what was before make more sense. There is scene where daughter is scared that his father won't survive trip to space station. It didn't make any sense at that point. Scene was there so father could promise he will come back. This promise comes important when father is in self-destructing space station. But when father made the promise characters didn't have any indication he would end up in danger. He was going there to fix malfunctions.

Most of story arcs were written same way. They made little sense until you saw what happened later. Other problem is everyone breaking rules all the time. They might resist for a show but end up doing what is needed to move the story forward. And the story isn't important. It is there to make this by the numbers disaster movie. One you forget after seeing it.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Leningrad Cowboys Go America (1989) / Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses (1994)

I haven't reviewed many Finnish movies here. I don't watch that many Finnish movies and most I watch are not meant for foreign markets. Leningrad Cowboys movies are available outside Finland so it makes some sense to write about them here. I had not seen movies for ages but then someone posted something about Leningrad Cowboys to Facebook group. I told there the first movie was Finnish version of Spinal Tap. I had to check if I was correct.

I am not 100% which one was first the band or the movie. Wikipedia say band was founded 1987 and first movie was 1989. Maybe band was extension of Finnish rock band Sleepy Sleepers and band's master minds sold idea of the movie to movie's director Aki Kaurismäki. Leningrad Cowboys perform one Sleepy Sleepers song in first movie. It is the one they play in biker bar which is not Born to be Wild.

Leningrad Cowboys Go America is road movie about bad Siberian band trying to find fame in America. It is what Spinal Tap would have been if it was art movie about soviet band touring in America. Touring might be wrong term. They go there to play shows and play in different places when they go to their first real gig. Band is naive and innocent. They have cunning manager driving them forward. Movie is quite straight forward story of small band in foreign country.

There was five years between movies. In real world Leningrad Cowboys' band members changed. It started as Sleepy Sleepers extension but became more of a all star band. This is why some band members died in movie's world between movies. New members introduced in sequel were new members of real life Leningrad Cowboys.

First movie was straight forward road movie about small rock band. There wasn't too much symbolism. Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses is full of symbolism and references. You need to know the references to get what movie tries to say. At least I think so. I didn't know the references. To me parts of the movie were weird scenes happening one after another.

Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses begins five years after first movie. Band had became successful in Mexico but ruined their lives with tequila. Their old manager has seen vision and started to call himself Moses. He sends surviving band members back home. On their way they meet new band members. In first movie band had unified look. In second movie there is Mexican section and new band members. Both dress differently to each others and first movie's band's look.

Leningrad Cowboys Go America is good movie which charming band. Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses loses some of the charm. Song selection plays big part. Second movie doesn't have same hopeful feeling first has. In first movie they have hope things change for better. In second they are oppressed by religious leader. Band just accepts their fate and gets back home.


Monday, November 26, 2018

The Night Comes for Us (2018)

The Night Comes for Us is freaking awesome if you are in for violent Asian action movie. Not so much if you don't like that sort of stuff. It has about one hour and twenty minutes of action in two hour running time. There is big quality difference between drama parts and action parts. I almost gave up on movie before action really started.

Drama parts' problem is there isn't enough soundtrack to cover whole movie. Movie looks good but it doesn't work when there is no sound. Sometimes silence can be effective. But it is not if used as extensively as in this movie. Some say sounds make more than half of the movie. If you want proof watch The Night Comes for Us. You just feel something is missing and then realize there is no sound.

Story starts when Triad's killer can't kill a little girl. It goes pretty much where you expect it to go. It has interesting characters when they start to fight.  They are not as interesting before the fighting starts. Drama is there to make us feel for the characters and set the tone. Action scenes are where the movie shines. It is not one guy doing action scenes. There are several characters getting long action scenes. All the action is in two forty minutes almost non stop action sequences. It makes contrast between action and drama more obvious.

The Night Comes for Us don't get to level of really good movie. There are two reasons why. First is problem with soundtrack. Second is the last fight scene. Action scenes are master class in action scene story telling. You stay engaged for forty minutes of almost non stop action because action scenes tell the story. But last fight scene is not on level of previous action scenes. It drops story telling almost completely. Action scene before it was movie's best one. It made last look worse.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Jin Roh: The Wolf Brigade (1999)

When I reviewed Ilrang: The Wolf Brigade I expected original anime being better version of the story. It was but difference wasn't so clear as in something like Ghost in the Shell where anime is obviously the better one. With Ghost in the Shell live action didn't ruin experience of anime version if you watched live action first. In these movies it did little bit. Both movies has same story with almost the same beats. If you have change watch Jin Roh before watching Ilrang. Jin Roh is better version and it is better to get twists in that than in Ilrang. You can watch Ilrang afterwards if you want another take of the same story.

I don't want to get too deep into story because it would be spoiling. Movie happens in alternative post second world war Japan where special forces with full helmets and heavy weapons fight against terrorists. Movie goes bit different direction after beginning but anything more would be spoiling.

Jin Roh is better version of the story but Ilrang does some things better. Jin Roh is basic version when Ilrang goes deeper. Sometimes it improves the story. Most times it doesn't. Neither is the perfect version. I might have liked Jin Roh more if I had not seen Ilrang first. Ilrang showed where story could have gone. Jin Roh didn't go there. It had different point of view and story was more contained. In Ilrang little red riding hood felt unnecessary. In Jin Roh it was integral part of the story.

Before the ending I wasn't sure which one I liked more. But after ending I knew Jin Roh was better one. Only big difference between movies was the ending. Premise was different but that didn't matter after story really started. Before the ending it was more of matter of taste. Jin Roh was little bit better but ending made it much better. I wonder why they changed it for Ilrang because this was how the story should have ended.

Jin Roh is among better anime. Not among the best. Movie has protagonist problem. Protagonist should have had internal struggle but many times he acts like reprogrammed robot. That is part of the story but it doesn't work as well as it should. Jin Roh has more of the internal struggle than Ilrang but I wanted more.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Illang: The Wolf Brigade (2018)

Live action versions of Anime movies or series haven't been too successful. Illang: The Wolf Brigade is based on Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade. I haven't seen Jin-Roh so I can't compare this to it. That is the reason if I don't give proper hate to this live action version. Jin-Roh went to my watch list after seeing live action version. So it can't be all bad.

My biggest problem is the premise and about first half hour. I had to take a break after it and come back later.Premise it South Korea and North Korea are planning uniting into one Korea. Much like Germany did. Movie happens in South Korea where some people doesn't want unite with North Korea. They shout it will break families. I am not expert in Korean situation but I thought division of Korea broke the families and united Korea would look much more like South Korea than North Korea. I am not getting deeper into that. It was there to explain why there was special force with inhuman look.

After first half hour we can forget the premise and concentrate on the story. There were moments when I thought giving up but because this wasn't Hollywood movie and I wasn't sure where the story was going I continued. It was worth it. Problem at the beginning is I wasn't sure what is going on. Movie follows some characters and then moves to other characters without giving reason why it does it. It gives reason but stating it is spoiler. Move from one characters to others was bit confusing at first but made more sense when story went on and we got to real main characters.

Movie doesn't stop jumping from one character's point of view to another character's point of view after introducing main characters. It is even used as storytelling device later. Idea was clever but execution wasn't on bar with the idea. Characters are the problem. Characters are either blank slates or introduced as evil. Story tells there are no really good people. People are forced into roles by society and can't be really good because of the world they live in. Or they embrace their role by being evil.

Change of point of view doesn't have impact it should when you jump to evil guys point of view. If he wasn't painted as evil the change would have made it interesting when you didn't know which side you should root for. That was what they wanted but they showed the other guy and his side was evil earlier.

Story needed characters with internal struggles. There is one character with internal struggle but her role is to be the character who shows people can't make real choices in this world. Other characters needed internal struggles to make them more interesting. One other start to have internal struggle at the end but that struggle should have been there from the beginning. Story is build on that internal struggle which doesn't start until the end. They wanted to show the character as emotionless killing machine rather than character with internal struggle.

Illang: The Wolf Brigade is slow movie which doesn't explain too much. You have to figure out what is going on. First half hour is confusing if you don't know anything about the movie before watching it. Story is really good but there was potential to be better. I can understand if Jin-Roh fans doesn't like this movie. Jin-Roh is probably the better version of the story. This version isn't bad. It just lacks character development to be really good and it made mistake of making one side looking evil when it should have shown both sides operating in gray area.