Thursday, January 28, 2016

Predestination (2014)

I thought Predestination would be Looper (2012) rip-off but I was wrong. It is something totally different even when the premise might remind you of Looper. Predestination is science fiction drama with little action in it. After half hour I had to check the time because it seemed like story is not starting at all. First half hour contain short introduction to concept and then two men are talking in bar. Other one telling his story how he was born as a... Oh spoilers...

I wasn't sure if I should go spoiler free or with spoilers in this review. I chose to go spoiler free since some of you might enjoy this movie and twists are big part of the story.  Movie gives many hints where it is going and you probably guess at half way point where it is going but discovering yourself is part of the fun. Story is quite original because other movies have not dared to go this far. Some have taken two steps into this direction. This one takes six.

That is down fall of this movie. It tries to be too clever. Usually rule is we can accept one extra ordinary thing but not many more. In Predestination first thing is time travelling and second goes into spoilers territory. When you combine both together story goes pretty weird. At times it feels like writer tries to show how stupid science fiction can be and movie gives hints it knows how stupid the story is but it always stays as serious drama.

Even though I talk about downfall I still think Predestination is a good movie. It could have been great. Writing is good. Characters ask questions and later learn answers to their questions or they have to practice what they preach. Things just happen. Movie doesn't underline them. First half hour is bit problematic. It doesn't give any pay off. Rest of the movie explains what first half hour throws at us. First half hour is just build up. After that movie starts to work better.

Predestination is worth checking if you like serious science fiction dramas. Just don't expect anything like Looper. This is more like Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind (2004) and Franklyn (2008).

Monday, January 25, 2016

Angels & Demons (2009)

What happened between The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons? The Da Vinci Code was good movie. Angels & Demons is barely average. Source material must have something to do with the matter. Feels like Angels & Demons tries to do same as The Da Vinci Code but better and more of it. This time it doesn't work.

This time we are in Vatican and Rome. Pope has died. Catholic church is selecting next pope when four top favorite cardinals are kidnapped. This requires Tom Hanks to come to rescue. He is only returning actor but director Ron Howard returns too. Angels & Demons look and feel like The Da Vinci Code but that is not enough.

I liked The Da Vinci Code because it was about solving the mystery. Action and violence was turned down. There was killer monk and graphic results of violence. Angels & Demons boost that. It is not violent action movie. Far from it. This time there is timer running. Whole movie feels like running but they seem to be able to do extra ordinarily many things in time they have.

Story is not as strong as in first movie. It feels like something similar to first one was thrown together and little science was added. The Da Vinci Code was about solving the mystery. Angels & Demons is about trying to figure where kidnapped cardinals are before they are killed. There is more than that but there are too many conveniences to make the story work.

It was hard to pinpoint why The Da Vinci Code worked. It is as hard to pinpoint why Anges & Demons doesn't work. Yes, it got science terribly wrong and I don't agree movie's view of science and religion. This wasn't why I didn't like the movie. I just didn't like it and I can't pinpoint why. Maybe it is combination of several problems..

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (2016)

Music world knows supergroups where band consist members of other bands who want to do music together. Band get together when their other commitments let them get together. Sherlock is closest thing television has to supergroup. Benedict Cumberbatch is one of top male actors at the moment. Martin Freeman starred Hobbit trilogy. Steven Moffat is show runner of Doctor Who. Andrew Scott was in Spectre. These are the ones I know. Probably there are others too.

Getting group like this together is not the easiest task. Which means we only get three episode long seasons every now and then. The Abominable Bride is Sherlock's New Year Special which buys more time for next season. It is not necessary to watch for Sherlock's continuity. Most of it happens in 1890's. It starts reminding us how good Sherlock was and where it ended. Then we go to 1890's.

Making this happen in 1890's was interesting idea but it stripped Sherlock of many things which made show so good first place. Same actors play 1890's versions of their Sherlock characters. It is period piece which meant more serious tone and smaller role for women. Humor and women have bigger role during last half hour which makes that part better than first hour.

Like Doctor Who's Christmas Special The Abominable Bride was disappointment. Not as big as thought. This time problem was it reminded how much better normal episodes were. Beginning was boring because it showed 1890's version of events we saw in first episode. Episode start to works when Sherlock start to investigate the case. Story would have worked better without Moriarty. When he appears story becomes a mess. Humor and bigger role for women come right after Moriarty which make last half hour better but it would have been better without Moriarty.

I understand why Moriarty was there and what they tried to accomplish with him. Problem was he didn't fit the story which was good enough without him. It felt like Moriarty was added because he is Sherlock's nemesis and they though 1890's version of him was required for this one special occasion the series went to 1890's. The Abominable Bride is watchable. It could have been better if it was what it was marketed as. Now I want next season even more.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Doctor Who: The Husbands of River Song (2015)

The Husbands of River Song was Doctor Who's Christmas special. I am quite late to review this. It wasn't shown during Christmas in Finland and I wanted to review this same week as Sherlock's Christmas special. This was first week I could do that.

River Song is recurring character in Doctor Who. Her gimmick was she and Doctor travel time different ways. First time Doctor met River was last time River met Doctor and so on. I say was because The Husbands of River Song could not handle the concept. Half of the episode was written like this was first time River met Doctor and half like she had met Doctor several times before.

Concept was probably ruined earlier when River was daughter of Amy Pond. The concept wasn't totally forgotten. This episode tried to play with the concept but failed totally. Concept of time travelers meeting each others different order happens too rarely in fiction. This made River Song so clever characters. It is shame how her last appearance failed so hard.

The story was kind of ok but it was secondary to last meeting of River for Doctor. Story wasn't anything special. It just provided Doctor and River something to do. I have almost forgotten what happened. During episode it felt ok. Ending was bit too convenient. If I start to analyze everything I will find many plot holes. I don't want to do it because I hated how they dealt the last time we saw River Song.

We met River Song first time in episodes Silence in Library and Forest of the Dead. That was last time River saw Doctor and she knew it. This was supposed to be first time she met Doctor and she acted like it was the last. She should have had all their relationship ahead of her. Back then Steven Moffat understood the concept. This time he didn't. Did he had someone forcing him to make things make sense back then?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Da Vinci Code (2006)

I continue my pseudo religious theme. This time it is not horror or disaster movie. Catholic church has its own power struggles. Innocent historian is caught in middle of old religious mystery. It is hard for me to estimate the stakes. Revealing the story's truth would not change anything for me to one way or another.

The Da Vinci Code was big event as a book and movie. Book was bestseller and the movie was inevitable. Success of The Da Vinci Code resulted different documentaries of how much of it is based on real events and how much of it is made for the book. I am not trying to estimate that here. If you want to know more of it you should have enough material to check.

When book is adapted to movie there is always something missing.The Da Vinci Code is so well done you don't see missing parts if you don't start to analyze. I don't know if they are explained in book better. There are two thing which felt like something is missing. First is why Tom Hanks trusts Audrey Tautou over Jean Reno's police man. Tautou makes Hanks run from the police in foreign country. It is like Hanks trusts Tautou because she is female lead of the movie.

Jean Reno's story arch has much more missing elements. He begins as police who works for a bishop to some extent. He don't go to Ian McKellen's house when killer monk is there. There are indications he knew killer monk was there and that was reason they waited. When he learns the bishop was not totally honest he believes Tom Hanks was innocent. I felt something was missing. Jean Reno was one of the antagonists. There wasn't time for his character. I would have wanted to know more about him. Not only because I like Jean Reno as actor.

The Da Vinci Code is well done mystery movie. I liked how it kept action minimum. Movie goes on long after what can be considered as last action scene. It is hard to say what worked and what made this good. It is just a good movie.

Monday, January 11, 2016

End of Days (1999)

I started this year with somewhat religious horror theme. When I saw End of Days was available I had no choice but write about it. I am not planning to continue this theme for whole month. I have Doctor Who's and Sherlock's Christmas episodes to review.

End of Day tries to take advantage of the year 2000 end of the world scare. 2000 was supposed to be the year when world ends because we went to new millennium. Scare also resulted one of the all time best tv-series Millennium. Too bad End of Days is not as good.

Movie revolves around devil wanting to impregnate one certain woman. This would cause end of the world. Catholic sect want to prevent this by killing the woman. Arnold's character widowed alcoholic cop is thrown into the mix. He ends up trying to keep woman alive and not pregnant.

It is hard to pinpoint why End of Days doesn't work as good as sum of its parts. Some effects are terribly dated but that is not the issue. More I think about it I feel Arnold was miscast in this movie. He wasn't in his most muscular shape but he was still quite muscular for his role. His character was probably changed to better suit him. This made movie weird mix of horror and action.

Aliens and Predator have shown us horror and action can be mixed but End of Days doesn't mix them same way. Arnold's character was written to be alcoholic human wreck. In movie he turns out to be one man killing machine. This change tone of the movie too much during action scenes. Arnold doesn't have one liners but half of the time he is action hero and other half what the character was originally.

Probably all blame is not on Arnold who does quite good job in his role. I just can't stop thinking what would someone like Bruce Willis have done in this role. End of Days is not a bad movie. There is nothing bad in it. It has ingredients to be much better movie. Now it is only a average movie.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Deliver Us from Evil (2014) and Horsemen (2008)

I will review both movies in same post because it is impossible to write a post without totally spoiling either movie. Movies have some similarities and if best of both movies are combined we would have one great movie. Both movies tell about detectives who have escaped to their work. They don't spend enough time with their families. They get cases which make them realize this.

Deliver Us from Evil is "based on real events" supernatural movie where supernatural events are not only unrealistic things. Hero's partner fights bad guys with knifes. I am pretty sure in real life police don't feel like fighting fair when their life is in danger. They also take priest almost everywhere they go.

Deliver Us from Evil's case is about demonic possessions and exorcisms. Cinematography and sound design work really well. They give movie creepy atmosphere. Sets and acting worked also. Issues come from the story. There is lot of build up. Then there is one scene which feels much too long. After too long scene everything resolves. This leaves lot of plot holes open. It feels like movie ends at half way point of the story.

Horsemen is heavily influenced by Seven (1995) but it doesn't feel like copy. This story could have been spiritual sequel to Seven. It has enough of original story to feel own thing. Movie start with similar kind of serial killer but when story opens we see it is different kind of story. There are clever twists. It is hard to tell what was so great without spoiling the movie and taking away the effect of the twists.

There was nothing really bad. Everything else was just too average. If you took story from Horsemen and everything else from Deliver Us from Evil You could have great movie. Something similar to Seven. Now you have too average movies which are average for different reasons.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Left Behind (2014)

I don't usually review religious movies. I don't find subject interesting. Left Behind is different case. It is rapture movie. Millions of missing people make this some short of science fiction and apocalyptic movie. Harold Camping introduced concept of rapture to main stream when he gave away the date for the end of the world. Some Christians believe god will take all Christian to heaven just before end of the world.

Left Behind tells abut those left behind after the rapture. Movie follows airplane captain played by Nicolas Cage and his daughter. Cage is on flight to London and daughter on mall when rapture happens. Peoples just disappear and no-one knows what is going on.

For movie made by people who believe in rapture this gives quite bad picture of them and good picture of people who don't. Everyone think people who talk about rapture are crazy until rapture. After rapture they regret not listening. Movie's message is "We are right and you will regret not listening".

World should be survival of the fittest chaos after the rapture. But movie show people acting rationally to overcome disappearance of millions of people. Movie shows one robbery and one shot robber but everyone else acts rationally. World would probably return to normal order next day after disasters and accidents caused by disappearance of millions of people are dealt with.

Movie tells this beginning of the apocalypse but shows how people rationally over come this even. To underline how Harold Camping was crazy by setting the date movie ends with text how no-one knows the date. Movie tries to convince us everything else in the concept is not crazy.

Overall Left Behind is quite competently made low budget apocalyptic movie after the rapture happens. Before rapture believers are asked reasonable questions and people talk about religion and god. After the rapture religious talk is only about regret of not believing the Christians which is easier to endure and there is much less of it.

Should you check this? It depends on how much you like low budget apocalyptic movies and how well you can endure religious content. Without religious content this is quite competent low budget apocalyptic movie.