Category Archives: movie

Deviation (J.K. Amalou, 2012)

Deviation is a story about a young woman who was taken hostage by a dangerous psychopath during a killing spree right after his successful escape from the institution he was in. He has some plan in mind, so he takes her with her car, and they drive towards the destination only he knows about. Over the course of that journey she, naturally, tries to escape, but that only leads to more deaths. The main question, though, is – would he kill her too?

Well, that’s not true, actually. The real question here is – why didn’t he kill her right away? Or on any of the multiple occasions during their trip? The director would probably say that the mind of a psychopath is a dark forest, who knows, maybe flowers can grow there too, but I’m not really buying this.

I mean, it’s possible in theory, but in this particular case I’d say no, because this story is inconsistent psychologically, has some gaps in the logic of the events developments, and also contains ungrounded stretches. At that, the image of the delinquent, Frank, is really good, with those weird onsets he has after the murders, his behaviour in general – Danny Dyer does a brilliant job here. However, that was spoiled by the writer, who went for a not very plausible combination of insanity and cold calculations, which was unfolding against the background of the other part of this duo – Anna Walton playing the kidnapped girl became a generous source of frustration for me as a viewer: her character was constantly missing opportunities for no good reason, or behaving stupidly, but not in a panicky way (like in a getting new car scene), and all in all it seemed like she had to figure out how to behave on her own, without a script at all. In other words, she may not have done a good job here, but I would rather blame the director for it.

Which is implicitly confirmed by the way he executed certain sensitive scenes (ones that we can see up-close), like when Frank murders the guy he know from his past in the middle of the street – they are just rough, crude, amateurish. On the other hand, some other scenes (like Frank killing the fan of his) were pretty great. But overall result is still rather negative than positive. Except, maybe, for the portrayal of the psycho, I would not recommend this film, – there are far better movies to see out there.

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[s] Louchebem (Laprade, Masson, Grard, Girettes, 2012)

Louchebem is a short about a grieving butcher who escapes his memories in a dance when he sees a fly.

It’s more of an artwork, than a movie, and as such it’s pretty well-done – at least, I find the animation quite curious. But, instead of a story there’s a lot of blues, which may be poetic but doesn’t make it interesting to watch. In other words, there is something in this for the eye, but almost nothing – for the mind.

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[s] The Wes Anderson Anthology

In addition to Hotel Chevalier Wes Anderson created several more short films (adjacent to one of his features, as a rule), and also a bunch of commercials. Works from the latter category are all lively, bright, funny and generally elevating; most of them are so short they do not require further description – suffice it to say, it would not be a waste of time if you watch it.

Prada Candy (parts I-III)

Time: ~4m
Released in: 2015
Co-directed by: Roman Coppola
Performed by: Peter Gadiot, Rodolphe Pauly, Léa Seydoux
Entertaining quality4+ out of 5
Art quality:  5 out of 5

IMDB page: link


Stella Atrois

Time: ~1m
Released in: 2010
Written by: Wes Anderson
Entertaining quality5 out of 5
Art quality:  5 out of 5


American Express “My Life, My Card”

Time: ~2m
Released in: 2006
Written by: Wes Anderson
Performed by: Waris Ahluwalia, Wes Anderson, Jason Schwartzman
Entertaining quality5 out of 5
Art quality:  5 out of 5

IMDB page: link


Softbank

Time: <1m
Released in: 2008
Written by: Wes Anderson
Performed by: Brad Pitt
Entertaining quality5 out of 5
Art quality:  4+ out of 5


H&M – Come Together

Probably the most recent Anderson’s commercial that, frankly, is more like a short film than a commercial, and also bears some sort of resemblance with his earlier movie The Darjeeling Limited – at least they are connected through trains. Anyway, Come Together is also themed – it’s about Christmas. Like always, this film is quite fascinating.

Time: ~4m
Released in: 2016
Written by: Wes Anderson
Performed by: Yasmin Kaur Barn, Adrien Brody, Leo Hatton, Garth Jennings
Entertaining quality5 out of 5
Art quality:  5+ out of 5

IMDB page: link


Castello Cavalcanti

Castello Cavalcanti is a short story about a driver whose car broke down during a race, which unfortunate incident happened in the town of Cavalcanti in Italy. The driver finds out that this is the place where his ancestors originated from a long time ago, a place he had never been to before that night.

The film is produced by Prada, and it has some product placement in it, but rest assured, it’s in great taste and not intrusive at all – though still catches the eye. Everything else is pretty much what’s to be expected of Anderson: good story, simple but deep, not to mention all the way consistent; great acting; amazing director’s work (especially all the interactions between the characters); and, of course, the art direction (expressed through visual style of the picture) is absolute.

This is probably the best Wes Anderson short film so far.

Time: ~8m
Released in: 2013
Written by: Wes Anderson
Performed by: Jason Schwartzman, Giada Colagrande, Giorgio Zancolla,  Paolo Coluccio, Silvano Broglia, Francesco Bonaccorso, Michele de Paolo, Igino Angelini, Livia La Terza, Giampolo Pietraforte,  Andrea Troiani, Massimiliano Ubaldi, Francesco Zippel, Riccardo Rango, Niccolo Riso
Entertaining quality5 out of 5
Art quality:  5+ out of 5

IMDB page: link


Cousin Ben Troop Screening with Jason Schwartzman

This is an introductory piece to Moonrise Kingdom; while perfectly done on all levels, it doesn’t seem to have its own value due to lack of actual story. It’s still pretty entertaining.

Time: ~2m
Released in: 2012
Written by: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola
Performed by: Jason Schwartzman, Aidan Foley, L.J. Foley, Liam Foley, Charlie Kilgore, Gabriel Rush, Jake Ryan
Entertaining quality5 out of 5
IMDB page: link

(v. 4.8)
®shoomow, 2017

[s] The Cut (Kirill Ermichev, 2015)

The Cut is a short film that pretends to be a horror. It’s not that bad on a technical level – the light is okay, as well as the sound and the acting, – but story-wise it’s sheer mockery, which, frankly, is a little insulting. The build-up was quite enticing, and so the expectations rose high; however, instead of delivering, the director chose to fail, instead of showing everyone his potency, he demonstrated a limp dick. I bet Ermichev doesn’t even understand what’s wrong with this little movie of his. Anyway, just for form’s sake, you can watch it here:

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Goodnight for Justice (Jason Priestley, 2011)

Goodnight for Justice is a story about a boy named John Justice, whose family got murdered in front of him in a violent criminal attack. He got raised by the wife of the circuit judge who was killed in the same attack, and when grown up, he became a lawman himself. In due time he was installed as a circuit court judge for the Wyoming Territory, and started travelling the west resolving conflicts whenever he can. When he reached a town called Crooked Stick, which is the closest one to the place of his parents’ murder, he found there a person named Dan Reed, who was basically running the place thanks to his wealth, and who may have been involved somehow with the events of John’s painful past.

So, it’s a western, obviously, a very mild one, without any dirt, i.e. not exactly realistic, but one that looks plausible due to the consistency of the story, and of the environment, too. The story, while pretty balanced, isn’t very original – for the most part the film is very much predictable; the finale, however, did have a surprising turn, and that made up for a lot of little imperfections. All in all, it’s a very entertaining and even captivating movie. Perry does an exquisitely good job playing a man with last name Justice who really tries to live up to it.

But it’s still too mellow. There’s too little raw truth of life there, which is why it is quite easy to forget, it doesn’t leave that deep of an impression. When preparing this note, I found out that this film is actually the first part of a trilogy (3rd part was even honored with a wiki article); now then, I have no desire whatsoever to see the other 2 movies – it just doesn’t seem worthwhile. Although, once again, this one was quite entertaining.

But that’s probably not enough.d3232 o;jlkmfkaf h[awo;lihjsd asloocccccccoiajsdfg’; 0i9aslijd;’sinfg likjas[9iejoljn  0oisui  oasuho  woiwefiluhn iluh ef p9oiu hndfiuh poi;ihjnasolfuhn likailouzhxnfgolkilkudhnkl.l,fubg ilukjhn ilku,jhmncgt o;elaiuhjnrltgihnaek,uifhgn xdchynilkuj Not for me, anyway.

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Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson, 2012)

Moonrise Kingdom is a story of 2 kids who clicked. Normal way of falling in love is gradually adjusting to each other, a process, basically, of modifying certain personality traits so that they would correspond to the similar traits in a chosen partner. But sometimes it so happens that no adjustment is needed and everything fits with everything perfectly from the get go. It’s usually referred to as love at first sight. When something like that happens to hopelessly underaged children, one of whom doesn’t have any parents and is very skilled in boy scout stuff, and the other lives in a large family on a secluded island not too far from the boy scout camp, well… Let’s just say, it creates a lot of room for danger, and beauty, and true friendship, and aspiration for improvement, and lots of other wonderful things, – which room is filled by Wes Anderson with amazing gift and taste and sense of style.

The story is simple in its core, the characters are strong, deep, and for the most part really beautiful on many levels. The overall style of the film is quite typical for Anderson, which doesn’t make it any less fascinating: the director seems to be amazingly consistent not only with the appearance, but with the essence of his works as well, and that is pretty unusual. And admirable, of course, – which is starting to become a cliché, interestingly enough.

The point is: this film is absolutely perfect, which is a characteristic it shares with other works by Wes Anderson, every single one of them. Highly recommended.

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[s] Praetoria (Neill Blomkamp, 2017)

Praetoria is a really tiny movie, an introduction to a greater story, basically. That’s what Blomkamp does these days – he tries out the waters with something relatively small, and if it’s a success with the public, there probably would follow a much more significant continuation. What appears to be clear in this particular case, is that it’s about a man who sacrificed his human essence to achieve greatness of some sort. It can be interesting, I guess (even though this short is a down-right teaser, with very little actual story), and the special effects are magnificent, as came to be expected of Oats Studios, so it is definitely worth working on. In the meantime, here’s that short:

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The Family / La famiglia (Ettore Scola, 1987)

La famiglia is a story of an Italian family through generations. It starts off at the beginning of the XX century, when Carlo is born into a large family, and it ends with Carlo as a patriarch of the family, which over the years has changed completely but remained the same. As it happens, in the heart of a happy family there lie engrained conflicts and secrets, biggest of which is Carlo’s relationship with Adriana, his wife’s sister.

This film seems to me like an earnest attempt to lay out the history of the modern times through the prism of a single family’s life; it’s all well thought-out, the continuing relationships within the family are consistent and quite rich, too; of course, technical implementation is nothing to complain about, – it’s fine considering the decade, that is. The only problem: you can’t tell a story this long in an amount of time this small. It just doesn’t work. The characters have extremely hard time consolidating themselves in the viewer’s mind, because not just there’s a lot of them, they also keep changing as the internal time goes by, and quite drastically at that. You actually have to work pretty hard to keep track of what’s going on and who are all these nice people, and it turns out to be impossible, and how can you care about a character if it takes you 10 seconds to recall his or her name – in the middle of the narration?

It’s an ambitious endeavour, which I totally sympathize with, but the for this story to work it needs to be a miniseries or something, with at least 4-5 hours of running time. Feature film format is not suitable in this particular case, and while it is not a drawback as it is, it kind of ruins everything.

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[s] Kapture: Fluke (Neill Blomkamp, 2017)

Kapture: Fluke is yet another short movie by Neill Blomkamp and his OATS Studios; it depicts a firing ground in an episode of a newly developed weaponry testing.

Besides the technical quality, which is superb (that has pretty much become what is expected by default from Oats), it is worth mentioning that the story, albeit very simple and short, is comprehensive enough to create its own mould of reality – one that is realistic and cruel. Presented progress of weaponry seems to be more or less consistent with the science: on the one hand, it’s a stretch of technology, on the other – it doesn’t go very far, i.e. the weapon is pretty cool, but works crudely and leaves quite a lot of room for development. The acting is okay: it works well for the overall result, but it’s not that bright in particular.

All in all, it’s a great film – smart, subtle and strong. A wonderful addition to the cycle, which has already gained more significance than any of Blomkamp’s earlier works.

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The Shadow Line / Smuga cienia (Andrzej Wajda, 1976)

Smuga cienia is a screen adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s novel “The Shadow Line”. It tells a story of a young British navy officer (a Polak by blood) who agreed to assume command of a ship whose captain died suddenly during the trip, and deliver it from Singapore to some distant point of destination. Almost immediately after the departure, the ship got into a dead calm unable to twist out of it for days in a row. First officer, who was opposed to the new appointee at first, believed strongly that it was the dead captain’s spirit trying to extirpate them all entirely with all the calamities. While provisions seem to be sufficient, the reserves of quinine soon run out: the deceased captain sold most of it shortly before his death and replaced it with sand; for the crew, almost all of whom came to be ill with cholera, it was a grave news.

The film is quite alright: it’s interesting to watch, because the story is quite consistent, and the conflicts it comprises are genuine, but ultimately it’s nothing really special. A rather ordinary work of cinema, where no component can be claimed bad by any standards, but their combination results is something… no, not mediocre, – calm. Notwithstanding some pretty harsh events in the story, the general mood of the film is in the calm territory, and the problem with calm is that it is all too easy to dismiss from memory, as it doesn’t touch upon anything sensitive.

It may be the problem of the literary source, or, more likely, it may be a problem with the direction. Wajda doesn’t seem to be engaged with the story, not really, which sums up to a professional, but relatively indifferent work.

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[s] Sam (Emmanuel Aurengo, Mickael Bonfill and Romain Protet, 2014)

Sam is an animated short about an office worker who gets himself into some sort of science fiction drama when attending an expo about future technology, and is trying to handle the consequences since then.

First thing that arrests attention here is the animation, which is extremely poor in quality and elaboration of details. The story at first seems quite boring; the development with the expo was pretty good, but then it turned out it’s only to justify at least somehow all the subsequent science-fictional bullshit like the gun that restructures the matter. And then there was open finale, i.e. the film was basically suggested as a prologue to a full-length feature story, which was so obviously speculative and groundless, it really pissed me off. It’s not really worth it, but you have the choice anyway:

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[s] Alike (Rafa Cano Méndez, Daniel Martínez Lara, 2015)

Alike is an animated short about the resemblance children and their parents bear on so many levels, with a clear message that everyday routine, however tiresome, must not become the reason to allow indifference into the family relationships, because it would probably destroy it altogether. The characters are schematic, there are almost no individual traits in any of them, everything about them screams “placeholder”. Which, I guess, makes it not a story, but rather a parable – one that strives against didacticism and tries to be entertaining instead. And it sort of is; the animation, notwithstanding the crudeness of people representation, is pretty subtle, which can be seen in small details, plus there is certain humor intrinsic to the narrative – it’s not much, but still. All in all, it’s nothing really special, nor original, but it may briefly elevate your mood, so here goes:

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Seven Days… Seven Nights / Moderato cantabile (Peter Brook, 1960)

Moderato cantabile is a simple story of a wealthy married lady falling in love with one of her husband’s ex-workers. They meet by accident: she was with her son at a piano lesson not far from a caffè when a murder happened there, and so they were attracted by the screaming and the fuss and the police, and he was there too. They hitch on together trying to figure out why the man killed the young woman who was apparently his lover; he gathered rumors on the subject and passed them onto her, they would walk and talk for hours. But soon the story made it seem like he wanted to repeat what happened in the caffè, with her in the victim role.

This is a very subtle story, like any story about emotional relationship, however weird, usually is. It is quite deep; Peter Brook obviously cares great deal about the imperfections of the human nature that lead to complicated, tangled even, stories like this one that are at the same time almost invisible if you don’t know what you’re looking at. There is no action, not in the hollywood sense of the word, instead the strength of the work comes from the sincerity of the director, as well as that of the actors.

Jeanne Moreau is wonderful here; Belmondo is pretty good, but nothing very special. Curiously enough, Belmondo himself considered this film to be boring and pretentious – he liked action movies better. So, if you’re anything like Belmodo, you probably won’t watch this film, but if you enjoy a nice delicate story topped with great acting, you probably should give it a chance.

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The Postman’s White Nights / Belye nochi pochtalona Alekseya Tryapitsyna (Andrey Konchalovskiy, 2014)

Belye nochi pochtalona Alekseya Tryapitsyna is a film with almost no story. It is set on the Russian far east, and basically depicts how people live there. The narration (if you can call it that) is centered around Aleksey Tryapitsyn, a local postman, and his routine – we observe his life day by day, with a lot of nice details and specifics. One morning he gets to deliver a letter to a former class-mate of his – she came back recently with her little son to sell her parent’s house. Considering that they both are alone, and there is a connection between them already, it seemed like something would sparkle there, but it ended up in a fizzle. More importantly, at some point the motor gets stolen from Alexey’s boat, as a result of which he becomes incapable of performing his duties.

The most interesting thing about this film is that every single actor in this movie is actually not an actor, but an ordinary person playing him- or herself. It sits somewhere quite odd on the documentary-fiction spectrum – I haven’t encountered this particular combination of features before: real-life people (who are not even amateur actors) plus a life-like but still fictional story, which is also very unpronounced. It’s actually quite nice to watch, there’s great scenery there, a lot of meditative moments; it’s pretty soothing all in all.

But as a person who values good story slightly above absolute authenticity, I cannot but feel a little disappointed. I mean, a documentary miniseries Happy People, which is about a different far east region of Russia, has more story in it than this film. All in all, not the best Konchalovskiy’s work.

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Windy City Heat (Bobcat Goldthwait, 2003)

Windy City Heat is a story about a hoax movie of the same name, a large-scale prank, in which only 1 person was being fooled – a guy named Perry Caravello, who suddenly got a chance to star in a huge Hollywood blockbuster. Whole production process was organized around him disguised as a different production process, and even though some parts of the joke were quite crude and would’ve aroused doubt in a smarter person for sure, Perry went through the whole thing from the auditions to the premiere without ever suspecting a thing.

To describe the tone of the movie: it’s like Woody Allen meets Ed Wood and starts making fun of him. As a work of comedy, it’s not as much funny as it is entertaining, although some places were written pretty good.

I was confused by the ending, however. Specifically, by the fact that there is no revelation, it’s almost like the invented reality smoothly merges into the real reality, and a hoax movie becomes a real one, but that would be a pretty weird solution for this story, and without explanation all the more so. (I suspect there may be a piece of movie missing from the copy I saw).

All in all, though, even disregarding possible addition, it’s an okay movie, and probably not more than that. May be nice to watch, but if you miss it, don’t beat yourself up too much, it’s not worth it.

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Medea (Lars von Trier, 1988)

Medea is von Trier’s adaptation of the ancient greek tragedy, based on a Carl Theodor Dreyer’s screenplay. As the story goes, Yason once took Medea in and had 2 sons with her over time. Now king Kreon of Corinth wishes to reward Yason for his achievements by marrying him to his daughter and making him his heir, – but under the condition that Medea will be banished from the city. She, however, does not want to go, and tries pretty hard to make Kreon and Yason change their minds. She realizes soon enough that it’s not going to happen, and so she decides to leave after all, – but would the very special gift she had prepared for the bride be a way of reconciliation or of confrontation, only she knows.

I’m not a big fan of von Trier’s work, I know for a fact that he made some really bad movies, and I watched a couple of things from his early period already, so I was coming into Medea negatively biased. First half of the film only confirmed my suspicion: it was mostly about Medea asking and begging to stay, it was rather uneventful, which results in boring when combined with intentionally poor visual style von Trier chose for this film. Later, however, when the overall design started to show, and the laments gave place to cruelty, I changed my mind.

First of all: yes, the film is pretty uncomfortable to watch, it’s kind of dry and almost lifeless, but the thing is – it’s actually supposed to be like this. This is a greek fucking tragedy, you know. There isn’t supposed to be any christian forgiveness, nor any traces of humanism. My first association with Medea is word “stiff-necked”, for some reason. Of course, we can never know for sure how really was it back then, but von Trier certainly made his version look extremely realistic. Which he obviously aspired for – his every directorial decision was aimed at stiffening, hardening, toughening, and that resulted in almost inedible product, which is powerful nonetheless.

Second, there is nothing in this project that wouldn’t comply with director’s will, including the acting – it doesn’t seem all that much, due to the distortions of perception caused by the visual style of the movie, but they all are pretty great, especially Udo Kier and Kirsten Olesen. The important thing, though, is that every element of the movie works towards the design conceived by the director.

I can’t say that I enjoyed the film very much – but that is not because it’s bad, but because it’s quite special. In other words, it is hardly an entertainment, but it is surely a work of art.
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The Wolf Cabin / Vlci bouda (Vera Chytilová, 1987)

Vlci bouda is a story about a group of students from different schools going to a distant mountain cabin with some teacher for some sort of special class. Once arrived, they find out that instead of 10 there’s 11 of them, which means one must be an intruder (or not). The kids start to notice that the teacher and his helpers behave very weirdly from time to time, and soon the explanation is given: the teacher is not really a teacher, he’s also not really a human, same as his helpers, – they are aliens, representatives of an immortal race that came to settle (or something). Now they want the children to select one from amongst them to be sacrificed, which was the whole reason for the 11-instead-of-10 hoax.

This is a really weird movie: first off, it’s an indie science-fiction story of sociological angle, the same family as Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451, but without a literary source, – quite a rare breed as it is; second – absolute majority of the cast are the children, or teenagers, which always imparts a specific tint on a work, especially if it’s not exactly intended for children to consume; but what stupefies the most is Chytilova’s incredible unintelligibility when it comes to the most important part, the story.

What is it about exactly? Why did the aliens came? How are they immortal? Why only humans are mortal? Why is their procedure is so weird, what did they want to achieve by taking all those children? What’s the deal with them and the snow? In short: what the freaking fuck is going on there?

Multiplied by the fact that there was obviously no budget (so it looks quite mediocre), this  incomprehensibleness pretty much ruins the film – there is nothing in there, neither in the acting department, nor in any other, that would’ve allowed me to recommend it to anybody. I believe, it wasn’t worth the effort.

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Game of Truth / Igra v pravdu (Viktor Shamirov, 2013)

Igra v pravdu is a chamber movie about 3 long-time friends who came together to meet a girl, another friend of theirs, one they haven’t seen in 20 something years, since college. When she arrives, delayed a little, it turns out she’s in a wheelchair – an accident, 5 years ago. Bewildered by the news at first, quite soon they all start to behave like real friends again, and friendship requires candidness. And so commenced the game of truth, in which all that is hidden inevitably comes to the surface, releasing enough energy to change courses of all their lives.

I love chamber movies: the format imparts obvious limitations usually provoking the director to try and break them in one way or another, which sometimes results in really powerful or at least curious works. For such work to happen, however, one thing is needed, and it’s a resourceful and interested director. Shamirov in this particular case is just okay, and that doesn’t seem like enough. The story seems a little trivial – I think it was meant to be subtle, but somewhere along the way something went wrong; besides, it turns out this is actually an adaptation of a modern french play, and while the words are translated quite perfectly (as well as meanings), the director’s ability to manage his actors is compromised. Or it may be actors’ ability to click with the director’s vision – one of the two. But the actors seem quite alright to me.

All in all, a nice film, but barely more than that.

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Yoga Hosers (Kevin Smith, 2016)

Yoga Hosers is a story about 2 teenage girls, both called Colleen, BFFs. They attend personal lessons with a private yoga instructor and deem themselves better than their school yoga class because of it; they play in a tiny band consisting of them 2 and Ichabod, the 35 year old drummer; and they both work in a food store that belongs to Colleen’s father. One beautiful day they find themselves fighting off the invasion of Bratzis, an army of ugly mutants created and maintained by Andronicus Arcane, right hand of the self-proclaimed Canadian Führer Adrian Arcand. Unlike his master, Andronicus managed to survive all those years since WWII, and now is ready to make his move. Well, not exactly, because the clones were supposed to be much more developed, but something went wrong. And also, to help the girls and defeat the evil once and for all, legendary man-hunter Guy LaPointe joins the cause and becomes one of its crucial forces.

The film produces a mixed impression: one the one hand, it’s a professional work of cinema, with great actors and crew, and pretty entertaining at that, but on the other… Let’s just say, it could have been a pretty good movie about how modern teenagers are, if not for a completely insane, ridiculous, terrible storyline about Arcane and the brazis, and all that. Smith’s trying to blend something immiscible, and it looks weird – to me, that is, with my cultural background – I just can’t take this kind of comedy seriously. And I cannot imagine why would anybody blunder his own work by adding a farcical storyline.

There is a curious thing, though. The character of Guy LaPointe played by Johny Depp appeared in a Kevin Smith movie at least once before – in Tusk in 2014, and he had a similar capacity, if my memory serves me well. This, along with the fact that stories of both movies take place in Canada, and both were written by Smith singlehandedly, allows me to conclude that Kevin Smith goes through some kind of Canadian cycle or Canadian period in his creative work.

Another curious thing is that the main roles were played by Kevin Smith’s and Johny Depp’s daughters.

Which, unfortunately, doesn’t make the film any less ludicrous. Not recommended.

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How Strange To Be Named Federico / Che strano chiamarsi Federico (Ettore Scola, 2013)

Che strano chiamarsi Federico is Ettore Scola’s tribute to his life-long friend and colleague Federico Fellini. It’s a semi-documentary, semi-dramatic memoir of their relationship, and includes some pieces of Fellini’s life that came to happen in direct connection with their friendship.

The film is poetic, ingenious and beautiful. It tells about Fellini with great respect and admiration, and at the same time not in denial of his certain character traits. Which are always forgiven, for he created so many wonderful things.

The narration is very well-balanced; the director alternates various techniques so that none of them can become a nuisance, and moves from one to another with amazing gracefulness at that. The acting – (and there was quite a lot of acting) – is in complete tune with the Scola’s design, not too bright, but perfect within the framework of the concept. All in all, an exceptionally harmonious story, honest and sincere, and light, and funny, and sad, all in one. In other words: highly recommended for all the cinema fans, as well as for everybody else.

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Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve, 2017)

Blade Runner 2049 is the sequel to the 1982 cult movie of almost the same name, which in its turn was a screen adaptation of the Philip K. Dick‘s novell Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Some thirty years after the events of the original film, a replicant blade-runner named K discovers that there once was a female replicant capable of giving birth, – a fact that may have huge implications on the future of the society, which is exactly why the management tasked K with covering the situation as best as possible. That, of course, included getting rid of whoever was born back then. K tries to complete the task, but his personality crisis, as well as new knowledge he acquires in the course of getting things done, lead to him doubting his means and his goals.

Apart from the length of the film, I can’t find anything to say in its blame. I do think that first half of the movie contained scenes that can be cut down a little bit without any harm to the overall result.

But, against the background of rock-solid screenplay and astounding execution, this duration thing fades, becomes insignificant. Probably, even becomes a plus, as even those scenes that allowed for being shortened are quite amazing to feel through and to look at.

The script is strong: on the one hand, it bears definite kinship to the original movie, and doesn’t betray the novell, too; on the other, it’s quite original on its own, has a number of surpising turns, and is pretty subtle. The resulting combination is quite impressive. Especially when considered in connection with the implementation. Which is mind-boggling, frankly. In every aspect, but most of all – the acting and the special effects. The direction is highly interesting in a sense that Denis Villeneuve succeeded in inventing several special-effects-related visual solutions with amazing potential, – not to mention, of course, the fact that he brought this whole thing together.

This is a powerful and beautiful picture, a real work of art that is highly entertaining, too. Definitely worth its time, – and more.

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Spectre (Sam Mendes, 2015)

Spectre is one of the movies of the James Bond series with Daniel Craig as 007. As the story goes, an old acquaintance of Bond catches his eye, and soon an ominous organization of the world scale starts to emerge behind his back. Then there are shoot-outs, chases and fights, curious devices, smoking hot women, insanely fast cars, – quite a lot of action, really, all packaged into a relatively sane, even though completely predictable Bond story.

So, on the one hand I can see that Mendes approached the 007 saga with respect and admiration, which means he did his best directing this film. The story is not stupid (well, by spy movies standards), carefully balanced and extremely well executed on all levels. As an entertainment it’s top-notch.

On the other, there’s 2 things. First: the film is soul and body the bond series (which has become a sub-genre by now, I suppose), and through that it’s flawed, because the further the more these films become a thing in itself, not to mention the same story pattern every time. Second: this is completely irrational, but I cannot perceive Craig as a British man, no matter what I do. He just doesn’t fit, he seems like a placeholder, to which its real content never arrives. It’s a matter of taste, I think, – that’s what I think.

All in all, it’s a nice one-time entertainment, especially enjoyable on a large screen, but hardly more than that.

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It (Andy Muschietti, 2017)

It by Andreas Muschietti is a brand new screen version of the Stephen King’s novel of the same name. It tells about an embodiment of pure evil in the form of a clown terrorizing an american city, and a bunch of school kids who decided to bid defiance to it.

This film is heavily dependent on the literary source: in comparison with the King’s book the screenplay went through a number of changes, and those changes determined the quality of the outcome 100%. First, the adult storyline was removed completely – better say, it was separated, in order, probably, to secure a plot for a sequel (which was already announced), – either way, the better part of it is absent, and whatever pieces have survived they are diluted in the general narrative, and even though they weren’t assimilated properly and can be easily observed, this vanishes by the side of some other writers’ decisions.

To be fair, most of the book made its way into the script. So much, in fact, they had to squeeze the episodes extremely tight together and lose all the transitions (and most of the motivation along the way). Seriously: it’s like they are not retelling a consistent story, but rushing through a check-list. This kind of tempo is devastating for the atmosphere. Which, by the way, is really poor here due to, among other things, the change of epoch from the 1950s to 1989 and screenplay’s writers’ failure to enrich the story with as much cultural marks as King did for the original era.

Pennywise is somewhat scary, but at the same time he’s too much like an ordinary hollywood monster – a mix of the Alien with old Pennywise, maybe something else, – and he’s very down-to-earth and devoid of any mystery, save, of course, the mystery of his origin, but that turns out to be not as curious as the fact that he talks and apparently likes to gab away.

The kids are alright, but thanks to aforementioned directorial decisions none of them had a chance to flaunt whatever talents they have. Also, their selection is terrible: it was so clearly intended politically correct, it feels embarrassing now; and all the children are glamorous versions of what King wrote – one of them may be fat, one of them may be a geek, but no one among them is unpleasant.

All in all, it was a grave disappointment. The script is weak. The direction is conditional. Most importantly, it’s not scary. Purely a money-making enterprise. This book deserves so much better (a 10-part miniseries at least). Not recommended.

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The Voice of the Moon / La voce della luna (Federico Fellini, 1990)

La voce della luna, the last work of Federico Fellini, is a story about Ivo who was recently released from the mental institution and is now wandering through Emilia-Romagna countryside introducing himself as an inspector of wells, and Gonnella, his almost constant companion, a former prefect, together with whom they walk through a variety of characters, images and phenomena, investigating things happening around them.

Without wiki’s libretto I would’ve been unable to put into words those dribs and drabs of coherence the film itself can provide. Basically, it’s a never-ending patchwork of reminiscences and images that begrudgingly form a semblance of a narrative, so that in the end the viewer would have some idea what was going on, but no clear understanding. I am aware that Fellini used this kind of approach before, including when doing the pictures he is most famous for, like 8 1/2, but in this film, I believe, he managed to present the purest form of it. Which may be an achievement, but it also makes viewer’s work to perceive the movie correctly significantly harder, and, like it or not, that influences the entertaining quality of the work.

However, pretty much every single scene taken on itself is ruthlessly bright and alluring. If the picture composed out of these pieces is a little foggy in places, and some sections may be positioned under an imperfect angle, I feel like all of this is allowed by the director, that these things are the part of the big plan. And that makes the drawbacks (but are they?) really excusable.

All in all, it’s a truly beautiful movie, a little ambiguous here and there, but that only adds to the charm of a real artwork. Probably not the best Fellini’s work, but definitely an interesting one.

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The Taming of the Shrew (Franco Zeffirelli, 1967)

The Taming of the Shrew is Franco Zeffirelli’s screen version of the Shakespearean play. As the story goes, a wonderful young lady, whose hand is the apple of discord between several claimants, can not be married before her elder sister Katharina is (in accordance with their father’s will), and that’s where the problem lies, because there is a reason why Katharina remains unclaimed notwithstanding her lovely appearance, – and that is her terrible temper. Luckily, one of the conspirators runs into an acquaintance of his, Petruchio, a guy out-of-town, who agrees to marry Katharina for her dowry. Having removed her out of their way, the conspirators can finally decide who of them is the lucky winner. And while the competition goes on, Petruchio struggles with the challenge of his own trying to tame the unbridled girl.

A beautiful film, truly, in everything except the message, – which comes from Shakespeare, obviously, so the director doesn’t have a lot of freedom in that department. The things Zeffirelli as the director has some actual power over are brilliant, all to a man: the casting is a truly felicitous one; the actors all seem like they are actually living those lives – even the smallest of the characters seem to have depth and significance because of the detalization and the tranquility with which that character is being played. The setting and the costumes look really cool – don’t know about authenticity per se, but what I saw looked primordially Shakespearean to me.

All in all, the film is unique in how solid, consistent, and vivacious, and harmonious it is – all at the same time. I happen not to agree with the main idea expressed by Katharina in her speech in the finale, and that sours a little bit the joy the execution as a whole gave me, but other than that it’s an amazing work of cinema,

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