Monday, March 18, 2019

IO (2019)

I like science fiction movies with little or no action. Moon and Solaris are high on my favorite movie list. Ex Machina goes to same category. Also one of my favorite movies. All has small cast. Each can build tension without threat of violence. Then there is IO which on paper is similar movie.

IO tells about young scientist woman living on dying Earth. She tries to figure out way to save Earth after almost everyone else has left the planet. Air has become poisonous on lower places. On higher places it is still breathable. After last evacuation flights are announced a man with hot air balloon lands next to her home.

I am not sure what I expected from IO. At the beginning it spend time establishing protagonist. Problems start when she is established and plot should start moving on. There is practically nothing building any tension. Characters spend most of the time literally waiting for something. What they wait changes during the movie but most of the time they are waiting for something without any sense of urgency.

She is not on brink of scientific breakthrough. He seem to have all the time in the world until he decides to go to last evacuation ship. But even then there is no feel of urgency. We learn something new from characters but it doesn't matter. There are couple twists which either were so obvious it is hard to call them twists or felt really weird when thinking what happened earlier.

I wanted to like IO. Couple changes would have made it better and more interesting. Having she being close to find a way to save Earth and him wanting more to be on last evacuation ship would have given them conflicting motivations. Now it is just two people hanging together even when their backs stories gave them a reason to have conflict. Some sort of conflict was written but it wasn't there.

IO is annoying movie because you can see all the potential but they backed down at some point. You can get interesting story from contents of his backpack and his backstory. That story was written there at some point but someone didn't like it. It is not about special effects budget. Just writing and doing everything better with same resources would have made the difference.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Has DCEU as we know it ended?

I saw news where higher up in Warner Bros said they will concentrate on individual movies instead of making deeply interconnected movie universe. I guess there were hints of it with Joker movie which isn't connected to other movies and Shazam which trailer don't look anything like other DCEU movies. They may get back to interconnected movie universe later. It looks like they are keeping which has worked and change everything else.

Wonder Woman and Aquaman will get sequels because audiences have liked them. Suicide Squad will get spin off Birds of Prey with Harley Quinn. Harley Quinn is popular character and it was few of better liked parts of Suicide Squad. And Suicide Squad will have James Gunn's sequel. First Suicide Squad was marketed like DC's Guardians of the Galaxy. Sequel might actually be what we hoped the first be.

Concentrating on individual movies might sound like good idea and what they should have done from the beginning. Marvel Studios did that except they had interconnected world on back of their mind all the time. DCEU concentrated interconnected universe on expense of the individual movies. It is not the only problem movies had. Now they are going to other direction. If they completely forget interconnected universe it might come back to haunt them.

DCEU has lost Superman and Batman. Without them anything built for Justice League is gone. They can cast new actors but it would be really confusing since other characters from earlier movies have same actors continuing. There will be new Batman but it will be hard to connect him with Wonder Woman and Aquaman from earlier movies. There might be two different Jokers if Jared Leto get back to Suicide Squad's Joker. Even more if there is new Joker for young Batman.

Warner's DC movies could get really confusing really fast if they concentrate on individual movies and make them best they can be without thinking interconnectivity. It could be like reading character's best comic book stories without reading anything that happens in between. It could bring good movies but later everything feels like mess. At least for us who care about stories and continuity.

With Zack Snyder gone I have some hope for the future of Warner's DC movies. I have really high hopes with James Gunn's Suicide Squad. Wonder Woman sequel can actually be good movie when it doesn't happen during World War. Film Noir Batman could be really good. There is potential but previous track record haven't been too good.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Miami Connection (1987)

Miami Connection is legendary bad movie. I wanted to see what all the fuzz was about. Movie isn't as exciting as its reputation let you believe. Maybe it was because I watched it alone. With right group it would have worked better.

Movie tells about band named Dragon Sound. They annoy everyone just by existing. Another band hates them because they want to play on same venue. Two band members date which makes girl's brother hate the band. Group of ninjas hate them because they are only thing preventing the group to rule the city. There is no plot. Band just plays on club. Band members go to school and live together. Various groups fight the band. And that is it.

Almost forgot. One band member is looking for his lost father. That is closest thing to a story. Other than that it is escalating fights. It is just the whole world wanting to fight the band and their friends for various reasons.

"Only through the elimination of violence can we achieve world peace". Movie ends with that. Couple minutes before that band members went crazy killing ninjas. If movie wanted to have message of peace it didn't do it well. There are couple lines against violence but band goes to fight other gangs because someone left note on their car's windshield. There isn't much more than band playing and band fighting. At the beginning they back down but in the end they go crazy killing people.

Miami Connection is full of wtf moments. I can see why it has the reputation. But in the end it is non-characters walking from one scene to another. It gets pretty boring pretty fast. Most of the insanity isn't interesting enough. This is a bad movie.  You need to have correct frame of mind and probably correct group with you.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Nightflyers (2018)

There is a small obscure tv series called Game of Thrones. You probably haven't heard about it. It is based on Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series by George R.R. Martin. When that got attention of few people it made sense to make tv adaptions of Martin's other work. This is based on Martin's Nightflyers novella.

Series is almost ruined in the beginning. It show scene from later where ship has had incident, one crew member has gone mad and other one kills herself. I watched this unspoiled expecting first contact with aliens science fiction. Beginning set this to be different type of series. Biggest problem was it showed where two characters will end up. After that you wonder how they end up where they end up. That start to happen on later half. Before that showing scene near the end ruined characters arcs. It was shame because one character had interesting backstory and not knowing her fate would have made the series better. Other character isn't as interesting but would have worked better if we weren't shown him going mad at the beginning.

Next problem comes soon after. Ship leaves Earth's orbit but that doesn't go smoothly since someone has sabotaged the ship. One crew member is injured but nothing comes from this. It felt odd for them continuing the mission without doing any check ups when they were still close to Earth. I don't remember there being any urgency. They just left with sabotaged ship. Injuring crew member showed us individual crew members were expendable. This doesn't change later even when someone we know better dies. But that doesn't happen until later. Game of Thrones is famous for killing important characters at any time. This doesn't do that. Important characters die but their deaths lack impact and and the deaths are often foreshadowed earlier. It gives feeling of everyone being expendable.

Series started to work around third episode. By then we know enough of characters and everything stops constantly malfunctioning. Series would have benefited from slower start. Usually this kind of movies and series start introducing characters and then going into the story. This started with story before we knew the characters. This almost made me stop watching. But I continued because I wanted to see what George R.R. Martin's science fiction looks like.

What I can say about that? I watched this in two sessions divided by over night sleep. I found series mostly interesting or I wanted to see where this ends up. I am not sure which and I didn't like the ending which is open ended if not a cliffhanger. There are few issues and cheap story telling devices but mostly I liked the series. Overall this left same feeling is Gene Roddenberry's other series. Creator is better know for other work but this is still interesting without reaching the level of better known work. That said I will probably forget Nightflyers in few days.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Duck, You Sucker! / A Fistful of Dynamite / Giù la testa, lit (1971)

I know this movie better with name A Fistful of Dynamite which is better suitable name than Duck, You Sucker. But it seems that Duck is the better known name. It makes you expect some sort of comedy which this is not when it gets to revolution. Before that and early parts of revolution there is some humor but it gets really serious and dark on second half.

Movie is story of Mexican bandit and Irish explosion expert during Mexican revolution. Movie starts as western comedy. It is the part which doesn't work that well. Later it makes its best to get biggest body count any western has seen. People are executed all the time and at times it gets to industrial levels. Executions are part of the sets. You know which locations are controlled by army when you see executions. Big battle scenes add to the body count. This is surprisingly bloody for movie which starts as comedy.

Duck, You Sucker doesn't reach the level of Dollars Trilogy or Once Upon a Time in West. It has what didn't work so well in those movies without highlights which made the other movies great. It is still entertaining and has few moments worth watching the movie but it is not as much as previous movies.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Godzilla 3: The Planet Eater (2018)

The Planet Eater is third movie in anime Godzilla movie series. After seeing the end credit scene I am not sure if this was trilogy or will there be more movies. Third movie didn't left too much for fourth movie but there was tease for next movie and we saw one monster who hasn't fought Godzilla in this series yet. I will get more into spoiler territory than usually so be warned.

Movie starts where last one ended. There is nothing to get you up to speed. You just have to remember what happened. Like previous movie was memorable enough to justify this. If last movie was about technology this is about suicidal religious cult. Turns out the other alien race travelling with humans worship world devouring monster. Movie tries to make sense of their philosophy. Which is basically world will end one day so we have to summon our world devouring god to finish it quicker.

They don't share this philosophy until they have summoned their god. They get followers promising their god beating Godzilla if humans offer themselves as sacrifices or telling their god have master plan for humans. It wasn't completely clear at which point sacrificing themselves was told to followers. Main story is cult trying to convince Haruo to do something. It is not clear what or what it would do. They could summon their god without Haruo.

Monster fight is three snakes biting Godzilla and Godzilla can't touch them and Haruo dreaming with cult leader trying to convince him to do something. It is hard to make that interesting. It would require cult to have convincing arguments but their argument is give up because life is suffering. I liked dialog more than action scenes in previous movies. I have no problem with idea of the final battle mainly happening in characters dream sequences where someone try to convince him to do something. Cult's weak arguments are the problem. They probably have weakest arguments of anyone in this series and they get most time to express their arguments.

When monster fight ends there is still 15 minutes left. Which is where we get to the message of the trilogy. I call it here trilogy because it ends most of the story arcs. Message of this trilogy is technology is bad because monsters rise when society becomes technologically advanced enough. So best option is to live without technology. I think this was hinted earlier movies. This movie says that is the case. This is science fiction series and its message is technology brings literal monsters which evolve more than we can advance.

I know Godzilla's original message was science can cause something unintended. This time it is not nuclear bomb causing monsters. It is society advancing technologically. Not something specific. Just advancing technologically. I wonder where they got the interesting science fiction concepts when something this stupid is at the core of series.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Once Upon a Time in the West / C'era una volta il West (1968)

Once Upon a Time in the West is what you get when you take all the humor from Dollars trilogy. It has really good scenes but beginning where three men wait for a train for ten minutes is bit too much. At least nowadays when tempo of movies have changed faster. But then again it shows how boring waiting can be and it tells something all the time. It can be argued if that something is worth of ten minutes.

Movie lacks Clint Eastwood's charisma. Charles Bronson is not bad but he is bit too one dimensional. Other main characters do better job. Jason Robards is actually really good as Cheyenne. Bronson's character's motivations are bit hard to grasp. Revenge is understandable but every thing else feels it is there to get cool and interesting scenes. Others feel more like real people.

I can understand why some people rate this as best western or even best movie ever made. I would agree with first part if Bronson's character didn't have so many problems. It is like his character is in wrong movie. Rest of the movie tells how railroads change lawless frontier and you have this ultra cool character who leaves himself to be killed knowing he won't be killed because this is his story. I wouldn't have noticed that in lesser movie. But in this almost everything is thought of and everything characters do have meaning.

Now that I have seen four Sergio Leone's biggest westerns there is a question which I liked most. More I think about it I have to say Once Upon a Tine in the West is the best one. I can't find as big issues from Dollar's Trilogy but everything else is so much better in Once Upon a Time in the West that it is my favorite. If some wanted to know my favorite western before this I might have said The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. There might be better ones but I am not that into westerns so Once Upon a Time in the West is my favorite western at the moment. These were the westerns I can name from top of my head.

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly / Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo (1966)

Time for last and most epic entry in Dollars Trilogy. This time it is three men searching for hidden treasure. Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef return but this time clearly different characters than in For a Few Dollars More. Every movie added one more character trying to outsmart others. Each movie have different tone. This time it is western mixed with war movie.

I watched extended version which added 14 minutes of footage to original English version. Movie drags at times but it wasn't caused by added scenes. I checked what was added and every addition made movie better. For example bridge scene was extended. It is one of the best scenes now. Most additions added footage related to ongoing Civil War which happens around. I can understand why it was originally cut away. It showed horrors of war and wasn't that important to main story arch. But it shows how war has nothing heroic in it.

Back to dragging. First two movies had more compact stories. Movie has long slow scenes and story jumps back and forth few times. Everything makes sense but cutting down some excess would have helped. This is the reason why The Good, the Bad and the Ugly doesn't rise above other movies in trilogy. It has more memorable scenes than others but excess drops it to same level as other movies.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of must see movie. It has few of the most memorable western scenes. It doesn't show the time as epic adventure. It is more of story of three men with weird sense of honor trying to make money when there is civil war going on. Even the Good is not that good.

Monday, January 21, 2019

For a Few Dollars More / Per qualche dollaro in più (1965)

I am probably doing the whole Dollars Trilogy and Once Upon a Time in West now that movies are available for a short time. So it is time for second movie in Dollars Trilogy. This time it is story of two bounty hunters after same big bounty. Clint Eastwood could or could not be playing same characters as in A Fistful of Dollars. He is more matured version of the character. Maybe he became bounty hunter between movies.

For a Few Dollars More tuned humor down little bit and replaced it with big tense scenes. Movie has masterful tension building in its countless duels and scenes where duels are teased. We would remember ending duel if next movie in Dollars Trilogy didn't top it. Story stays interesting by not taking most obvious paths. Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef shine in their roles as ultra cool bounty hunters. Gian Maria Volontè almost go over board as almost crazy villain.

Like A Fistful of Dollars For a Few Dollars More is must watch even if you don't like westerns that much. It is step up in cinematography from A Fistful of Dollars. Ennio Morricone's score is amazing as always. For a Few Dollars More suffers from Sergio Leone making one of the biggest westerns year later with same leads. It is still good as its own but it is easy to see as step between other Dollars Trilogy movies.

Monday, January 14, 2019

A Fistful of Dollars / Per un pugno di dollari (1964)

I don't usually review westerns. Ones I have done have had science fiction angle in them. This one doesn't. It is been 90 years since birth of Sergio Leone, one of the greatest movie directors ever. I am a week and few days late honoring the even. I might do his other movies too since local tv station is celebrating the event and showing his movies.

A Fistful of Dollars is first entry in Dollars Trilogy and big reason why there is genre called spaghetti western. Movie is scored by Ennio Morricone under different name and starred by Clint Eastwood. The names you think about when you think about spaghetti westerns. This movie is big reason why you do that.

Man with No Name comes to town ruled by two rivaling gangs. He plans to make money playing in the middle. Compared to generic westerns A Fistful of Dollars doesn't have good guys. Everyone is more or less for himself. Westerns made outside America benefits that they don't have to upkeep mythical picture of one country's history. They can show more cynical version of time period.

There are couple technologies you don't expect in western. I don't think they weren't available at the time but you don't usually see those in movies which show period as epic time when real men fought honorable with revolvers. A Fistful of Dollars doesn't have honorable men. Man with No Name is not untouchable. There is always sense this could go really badly. For many characters it goes badly.

A Fistful of Dollars is must watch even if you don't like westerns that much. It is cinematic masterpiece. It doesn't rely on western tropes. It brings amazing cinematography, good characters, good soundtrack and clever story to western movies. It is among best westerns as are other two movies of Dollars Trilogy.

I wonder if Dirty Harry's "Do you feel lucky punk" scene was inspired by A Fistful of Dollars. There is a scene where number of bullets in a gun is used as storytelling device.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Are Marvel movies that good after all?

I have watched way too many video essays and reviews of DCEU movies. Many of them compared DCEU movies to MCU movies. General consensus seemed to be Marvel movies are good and DC movies are not. But are Marvel movies that good? Compared to latest DC movie they are.

There are five or six good movies. First and third Avengers movies, last two Captain America movies and Guardians of the Galaxy movies. I am not sure about second Guardians of the Galaxy. I have to watch it again to be sure. Last two Captain America movies are semi Avengers movies with so many visiting characters and moving MCU forward. Individual heroes movies aren't that good.

I might have liked Ant-Man movies more if second movie continued from where first ended but for others I have no reason to watch again. Doctor Strange introduced important character for third Avengers movie but there wasn't much more besides cool visuals. Those movies are mostly there to introduce new characters and fill voids between more important movies.

Why people like these movies more than DCEU's movies or almost every other superhero movie? I think it because of the characters. People like the characters. They like most popular versions of these characters. Only Marvel Studios and Ryan Reynolds seem to understand it is good idea to bring most popular comic book versions to big screen. They don't copy comic book stories or characters completely. They bring the essence of characters to big screen.

When you add this to competent film making you get movies people like. Weird. You give people what they want to see and make it competently and people like it. Movies don't have to be good to be popular. MCU takes changes but they understand to keep heroes essence. Yes. I have seen Iron Man 3. And no, I don't remember reading comics with Mandarin in them. He worked in movie's story. At least if you didn't know the comic book version.

Using less popular versions of characters isn't the only problem DC movies have. It is one of the problems. I can understand why they chose to make DCEU like they did. DC had New 52 thing going on in comics when first DCEU movie was made. It was darker and grittier reboot of DC universe. Nolan's popular Batman trilogy had just ended. It was darker and more realistic. It could feel like good idea to do movie version what is currently on comics and follow tone of latest popular movie trilogy.

Problem is New 52 wasn't most popular version of the characters. In fact many older fans didn't like that version and movies decided to go even further with the darkness. Another problem was latest movie trilogy were Batman movies where darker and more realistic tone works. Next movie was Superman movie which needed brighter and more fantastic tone.

DC has other problems too. Bringing most popular versions of the characters wouldn't fix other problems but I think this is one reason why Marvel Studios are doing so well. Another is they have clear plan where they are going.