Saturday, June 3, 2017

Half a Year of Cinema

In the past few years, my interest at watching movies has been constantly dropping. However, when I get movie tickets as a present, I aim to use them all. For the last half a year I have had unusually many of them -- I even won one from a scratchy thing on the side of a juice box -- and thus I have been to the movie theater quite a few times lately.

Now that I have finally used all the tickets, I decided to sum the movies up in one post. My old, one to five stars ranking system still applies. I included Rotten Tomatoes' Tomatometer and audience scores too for the hell of it.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (3D) ⭐⭐⭐

[Tomatometer 85% | Audience score 87%]

I have not been particularly excited by the new Star Wars trilogy and this off-shoot prequel to Episode IV -- A New Hope was not an exception. It did not even start with the text roll accompanied by the all-too familiar fanfare. I thought every Star Wars thing started with it! I did find the movie an entertaining-enough scifi adventure, though -- similarly to Episode VII -- The Force Awakens.

When they got to Scarif in Rogue One, I suddenly recalled in Episode IV being mentioned the Death Star plans had been stolen at a great cost. I realized that everyone was going to die and that made me feel all the character building had been for naught.

They made all the deaths so slow and heroic, too -- like blast from the Death Star taking forever to arrive. I think it would have been more effective if the deaths had been quick or not even shown at all in some cases -- to make all the characters feel truly insignificant. That would have been interesting.

I did like how they had written the origins for Rogue Squadron's name, though. I do not know if it had been established in the lore before, but I absolutely love this kind of stuff in prequel stories. Knowing Carrie Fisher had died in December, seeing (young) Princess Leia also gave me the chills.

Chirrut Îmwe's mantra "I am one with the Force and the Force is with me" felt like them really trying to force a meme to the audience. It makes me upset that it was a successful attempt too, for I saw way too many people parroting it on forums when the movie was still relevant.

Unless the movie is called Avatar, I try to avoid 3D. In my opinion the effect is not worth it as a mere after-thought. I think that in Rogue One it did improve the space battles, though. And space in this one looked better than in Episode VII which I also saw in 3D. I am fairly certain an immobile star scenery should not give a 3D effect in reality but it just looked so flat without it in Ep7.

Passengers (2D) ⭐⭐⭐

[31% | 63%]

I found it odd that some considered Chris Pratt's character, Jim Preston, to be a villain in Passengers. That he was a murderer for waking up Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) from hibernation. I wonder if these people have even seen the movie.

Like, what would you do if you were doomed to live the rest of your life alone on a spaceship, a dumb bartender android (Michael Seen) as your only companion (and to whom you should totally not tell your secrets)? That is the moral dilemma the movie presents to you.

The premise alone already tells big part of the film. Things got bit more unpredictable when the chief deck officer, played by Laurence Fishburne, suddenly showed up. I had not realized there would be more actors in the movie.

I found the movie entertaining even if there was not too much to it. Pratt and Lawrence are rather easy to like.

Life ⭐⭐⭐

[68% | 60%]

Scifi and horror are a good combination and I mostly enjoyed my time watching Life. There were two things that bothered me with the movie, however.

Firstly, I found it unbelievable how poor the International Space Station's commander, Katerina Golovkina (Olga Dihovichnaya) was at her job. When the life form turned out to be less than friendly and everyone started panicking and shouting on top of each other, she should have immediately taken control.

Every crew member seemed to be doing their own thing and courses of action got negotiated between people rather than being presented to the commander to decide. I would like to think that even the ISS has a similar rule to ships and planes everywhere -- that the captain is the absolute authority. The quarantine officer, Dr. Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson) did a terrible job as well.

Secondly, when the ending sequence started, I got a hunch there was going to be a standard horror film twist. And I was right. Was a Gravity-like happy ending really too much to ask?

I guess how the ISS lacked an auxiliary communications system was a strange detail too. One thing gets fried and it is farewell to talking to flight command on Earth. I seriously doubt that is the case on the real station.

Ghost in the Shell (2D) ⭐⭐⭐

[45% | 58%]

Ghost in the Shell was pretty much like the animated film from 1995. I found it interesting enough even though I knew the plot. I would say, though, that it was a bit easier to follow, having been made in the USA. Nothing got lost in translation.

At times, the movie maybe underlined its title to the audience a bit too much, as if making it absolutely certain that even the dumbest person got that there was now a ghost in a shell.

Scarlett Johansson was her usual self but maybe fit the role of the Major slightly better than I expected. The soundtrack had some nice synthwave, too.

Logan ⭐⭐

[93% | 91%]

Apart from there being a girl with Wolverine's powers, I knew nothing about Logan before seeing it. I wish I had, though, since I found the movie to be a miserable experience. I could have used my ticket on something else.

Watching the old, fool, and frail Logan and Xavier was truly painful. I feel like I had missed a movie or something, too -- when and why had Wolverine's adamantium started killing him?

I also would not have recognized Hugh Jackman if I had not known it was him in the movie. At least not until he started speaking. That is either a good or bad thing. I am not sure which.

Fast & Furious 8 (The Fate of the Furious) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

[66% | 76%]

I was expecting I would like the newest Fast & Furious movie but it still surprised me. It was extremely funny, both in dialogue and physical humor. The cast had such an amazing synergy that it was just pure joy to follow their banter and doings. And when the team drove their vehicles to block the blast from hitting Dom at the end of the final action sequence despite everything . . . Such an incredible moment.

I have not actually seen the previous film but I did not feel like I had missed too much. (I should probably check it out at some point, though.) I did not remember the Elena character, but she has apparently been in the series since part 5. She was the only little twist I did not see coming. The rest were predictable.

The movie is called simply Fast & Furious 8 here, and in everywhere except the US too apparently. Even in the UK, which is weird because I reckoned the alternative title existed because of people generally not getting the F8 = Fate pun outside English speaking countries.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (3D) ⭐⭐

[28% | 76%]

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword was as bad as its trailer had made it to look. But I had one ticket left that was to expire in mid-May so this adaptation of King Arthur's legend it had to be. I could have picked Guardians of the Galaxy 2 but I had not liked the first and did not really want to see another one.

Legend of the Sword begins with its weakest part (which is pretty damn weak). You get a line of dialogue, a fast cut, another line, another cut etc. as the movie hurries to the moment when Arthur finally reaches adulthood. And the fast cuts still return at some points as I guess is typical to the director, Guy Ritchie.

I did immensely enjoy his directing in Sherlock Holmes but already its sequel was not on the same level anymore. King Arthur is even worse. It just has nothing to give. It is merely another brown, bathed-in-mud fantasy movie.

Aidan Gillen (Petyr Baelish in Game of Thrones) seemed to enjoy his role as a master archer. Jude Law as Vortigern, Arthur's uncle, in his battle gear also bore an almost uncanny resemblance to King Foltest in The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings.

Alien: Covenant ⭐⭐

[71% | 61%]

Surely Ridley Scott would not repeat the shitshow that Prometheus was? Wrong -- Alien: Covenant was just as bad to my great disappointment, for I had been looking forward to seeing it. Noomi Rapace was the sole thing I liked in Prometheus and in this one her character, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, is simply told to have died.

Covenant's crew -- like Prometheus's -- is a collection of dumbfucks who make the stupidest possible decisions all the time and thus drop like flies when something dangerous shows up. Apart from Dany (Katherine Waterston), they get no character building either because evidently Mr. Scott decided that it would be a good idea to put that on YouTube instead.

I feel like there should have been a warning that you should watch this thing before going to see the movie. Without it one will not know who these people are nor their relationships with each other. Oh, that was this character's wife? Nice to know now that she is already dead. How can anyone care about them like this?

But maybe Scott did not care about them either. They are just something that was needed to get the movie to its focus point which is a classic theme in science fiction -- what is it like to create life. To ponder this dilemma, Michael Fassbender does a double role as the androids Walter and David, the latter returning from Prometheus.

Walter is a newer model whose one big difference to David's programming is not being able to create. David on the other hand is rather obsessed of it. He quotes a sonnet of Byron's and plays Wagner's Das Rheingold -- Entry of the Gods into Valhalla. And thanks to him, the xenomorphs got their final form that is seen in the other Alien films.

I found it puzzling that all of David's actions were in the end written simply off as the doings of a malfunctioning android. At least that is what I got from when Walter corrected David that the sonnet, Ozymandias, he kept quoting was Shelley's, not Byron's.

'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'

Maybe Dr. Shaw did not put the android back together quite right.

I was also really annoyed by the too obvious horror film twist towards the end. But I guess there has to be a third part to a trilogy somehow.

The Handmaiden (아가씨 / Ah-ga-ssi) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

[95% | 92%]

At the end of the first part of this three-part movie, I realized it had the same plot as Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. And indeed, in the end credits it even said The Handmaiden had been inspired by the said novel. The realization hampered my enjoyment as I could then tell how the rest of the film would play out and the twists would not surprise me.

I was not completely certain how everything would unfold, though, as I have not actually read the book, only watched the two-part mini-series adaptation. Or at least most of it -- I am not sure if I have seen the second part till its very end. But I could deduct where things where going from the little hint the movie gave in its second part.

Had I given my score to the movie right afterwards, it would have been two stars. Watching something I had sort of already seen and how challenging at times it was for me to follow the Korean acting -- their mannerisms can be so alien to what I am used to -- I did not feel hugely impressed right after the movie had ended.

But it has kept lingering in my thoughts afterwards. I have come to the conclusion that the movie was much better than I originally thought. I believe that the film adaption was in fact masterfully made and I want to see it again. And unlike most Asian movies (in my experience), it was not slow-paced and tedious -- quite suspenseful instead, really. I think a big part of my final score, four out of five stars, still is due to the source material.

I had read that the film's original score is award-worthy but I forgot about it until there was an extended part without dialogue. At least the composition playing in there was pleasant.

It was interesting how they spoke Korean and Japanese in the film and subtitles were either in white or yellow to mark the difference. I knew if they were speaking Korean or Japanese but I often would not have noticed right away them switching if not for the color-coding.

The Handmaiden also has a rather extensive amount of sex scenes that only get lewder as the film goes on. I feel watching something like that in a theater with a lot of people gets uncomfortable. But as I was sitting on my favorite spot, in the middle of the otherwise empty first row, and thus could not see others, I could most of the time pretend I was there just by myself. However, I did hear at least a couple of somewhat embarrassed-sounding little coughs over the film. 😳

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