Iro's Film Diary

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Ah, only a 4. Too bad you didn't skip "probably the worst Tarantino movie".
Yeah, too bad.

Pretty good review of HF8. I was expecting you to either hate or love this, looks like you kinda loved it. Cool you point out some of the flaws, though you skip a bit over it. A fine review, though I don't get how you can call it "solid mystery plotting". I thought all the mystery and whodunit stuff was rather poor. Even for its stupidity though, I did enjoy the dialogue and approach of the whodunit monologue that Jackson did. But the overall mystery of this 3 hour movie was 1-page-weak material. Not enough depth, tension or excitement.

You rightfully praise the technical stuff though; that was an enjoyable aspect of the movie indeed.
I didn't see any major issues with the mystery angle, although that might be because it only takes up so much of the film and doesn't outstay its welcome (especially when the film decides to shift its focus). Even instances in which characters went about dealing with the mystery in the most incompetent way possible (especially in Russell's case) felt strangely appropriate given the circumstances.
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#27 - World of Tomorrow
Don Hertzfeldt, 2015



A little girl is contacted by a woman who claims to be her clone.

Original review found here.




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#28 - Ghosts of Mars
John Carpenter, 2001



On a futuristic Mars, a small squadron of soldiers investigates a remote colony only to find that its populace is largely possessed by evil ghosts.

Though I might consider John Carpenter one of my favourite directors, I won't deny that he's done his fair share of duds, and none of those duds stand out quite so much as Ghosts of Mars. The fact that the opening credits eschew Carpenter's trademark Albertus font for cheap-looking Impact indicates that this is more likely to miss than hit, and it's borne out by the plot coming across as an uninspired pastiche of Carpenter's past glories. The most obvious way to sum up the plot would be "Assault on Precinct 13 in space" as it involves law enforcers and criminals reluctantly joining forces to fight off a mutual foe - in this case, an army of malevolent ghosts who have recently been uncovered beneath the Martian surface. One can easily pick up the various call-backs to previous Carpenter works, whether it's the fact that the main enemy ends up being body-snatching aliens or the presence of an anti-hero who wears a sleeveless black top and camouflage trousers. The problem with Ghosts of Mars is that none of these call-backs (or any other factors) ever coalesce into a satisfactory whole. Even the introduction of potentially interesting ideas (such as the fact that 22nd-century Martian society is driven by matriarchal government and values) never realise that potential. The decision to have Natasha Henstridge's clean-cut (but hetero!) heroine describe the film's events to a mostly-female tribunal is overshadowed by the scene's general redundancy, while the extent of the so-called matriarchy involves a handful of throw-away references to lesbianism in the middle of a film where most of the cast still consists of men anyway (most prominently Jason Statham as Henstridge's relentlessly lecherous squadmate).

Even taken as the simplistic B-movie pastiche that it is, Ghosts of Mars is still an awfully trite and poorly-done mess. It assembles a relatively promising cast but doesn't do much with them - B-movie legend Pam Grier is wasted, as is Ice Cube as a legendary convict in the same vein as Snake Plissken. The film's attempts to build fear and tension do tend to fall flat not just through the admittedly silly appearances of the possessed colonists (with the main villain looking like a Marilyn Manson wannabe), but also the fact that the ghosts' tendency to find new hosts upon being killed renders the heroes' continued attempts to fight and kill the hosts especially pointless and ridiculous (and that's without bringing up one extremely forced action climax). This is reflected in the shoddiness of the general technique - there is a distracting reliance on dissolves rather than cuts, while the schlocky quality of the special effects lacks charm due to the poorly-handled action and questionable character development. There were even instances of what appeared to be re-used footage (to the point where I had to pause the film and rewind it to make sure - even if it wasn't re-used, it shouldn't make me think that it is anyway). Ghosts of Mars is not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination; even the many nods to Carpenter's past films aren't enough to mask the man's apparent inability to provide a decent B-movie. I'd say it's only worthwhile for Carpenter completionists, and even then it's probably the strongest contender for the man's worst film.




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#29 - The Great Dictator
Charlie Chaplin, 1940



An anti-Semitic dictator rises to power in a fictional European country at the same time that a clumsy Jewish barber tries to get by in his day-to-day existence.

The Great Dictator threatens to collapse under its own weight quite frequently, especially given its rather-dense-for-an-old-comedy running time of two hours and necessarily blunt message. That's without mentioning how hit-and-miss I generally tend to find Chaplin's antics in terms of pure amusement, but I daresay that The Great Dictator is more hit than miss. Chaplin himself pulls solid double-duty as both the eponymous despot and as his usual "tramp" persona, bouncing off quite the cast of plucky allies and despicable enemies in the process. While his strength still tends to be in the visuals, he also adapts reasonably well to talking pictures as he crafts all sorts of verbal humour. That still doesn't prevent him from creating an impressively humanistic monologue for the finale.




My nan saw that when it was released over here. She worked in a cinema at the start of the war and they were all invited to bring their families to watch this. She loved it and would always bring it up whenever I went on about how terrible Chaplin films are.
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#30 - Kung Fu Panda
Mark Osborne and John Stevenson, 2008



In feudal China, a panda who dreams of being a mighty warrior ends up being hailed as a prophesied "chosen one" and must soon fight against an evil snow leopard.

Kung Fu Panda works off a fairly rote chosen-one narrative where the main character learns of their unlikely destiny and must overcome obstacles such as skeptical allies, a scornful antagonist, and their own self-doubt. I go back and forth on liking Jack Black and his particular brand of clownish exuberance, especially when it's liable to either make or break a film that aims to recreate the sort of kung fu slapstick one associates with legends like Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan (the latter of whom puts in a few lines of dialogue as an elite warrior). While there is the odd moment that shows off how the technical advances offered by computer animation can prove a benefit to the elaborate intensity of martial arts, they don't fare so well when it comes to actually providing chuckles. The DreamWorks films I've seen do tend to come across as either well-crafted but somewhat sterile affairs (such as How to Train Your Dragon) or severely flawed but vaguely amusing ventures (like Shark Tale or Bee Movie). Kung Fu Panda falls into something of a no-man's-land as it has some visible technical craftsmanship but its attempts to generate its own sense of personality tend to fall flat for the most part.




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#31 - Q
Larry Cohen, 1982



A winged serpent with its origins in Aztec legend starts terrorising the citizens of New York City.

I think the monster movie is another sub-genre that I struggle to truly care about; even so, Q seemed like it might have yielded some extra enjoyment thanks to its unconventional take on the sub-genre. For the most part, Q plays out like a low-budget crime thriller that just so happens to have a giant flying serpent in it, featuring notable B-movie faces like David Carradine and Richard Roundtree in a tale that's mainly about Michael Moriarty's small-time crook trying to stay out of trouble with both the cops and the mob after a job goes wrong (leading to him discovering the creature's nest). Hardly the worst angle, but it doesn't pan out into anything too interesting even as it weaves in a tale involving Aztec priests and human sacrifices. There are some decent stop-motion effects that are used to bring the creature to life and the film neither skimps or goes overboard with the violence, but there's still very little to say in favour of Q. It looks like it'd be right at home in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, but even then I'm not sure I'd find said episode particularly entertaining.




Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?
Just finished your in-depth, write up of Hateful 8; damn fine job! Great breakdown of characters, photography, soundtrack and into Tarantino as well.

Glad to hear you like The Great Dictator; that is one that those who care little for Chaplin DO enjoy.

I'm the same way with Black; can definitely do without him though the Kung Fu Panda flicks ARE a fav of mine and I rewatch 1 and 2 quite often.

Great [email protected] reviews, Iro!!



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#32 - The Shawshank Redemption
Frank Darabont, 1994



When a banker is accused of murder and sentenced to life in prison, he must rely on his wits and fellow inmates in order to survive.

The opening credits of The Shawshank Redemption play out over a scene where the main character (Tim Robbins) is put on trial for committing double homicide. The judge is swift to point out how Robbins' unusually cool-headed demeanour in the face of such serious allegations only serves to incriminate him further in the eyes of the court - after all, only a vicious sociopath would respond so calmly to accusations of murder, right? The whole sequence serves as a pretty good metaphor for The Shawshank Redemption itself - it's got such a sterling reputation that, even after multiple viewings, one just can't help but wonder just what is actually wrong with it. Of course, when I first saw it many years ago I thought it was amazing. Despite its potentially banal premise about life inside a crumbling old prison and one inmate's refusal to let it get the better of him, I found it a consistently engaging film. While Robbins makes for a solid protagonist who projects an appropriately enigmatic aura without managing to prove standoffish, it's Morgan Freeman who provides the film's finest performance in a familiar role as guy-who-can-get-things-for-you inmate. The part also involves Freeman playing up career-defining characteristics such as his earthy demeanour and eloquent narration, which have rarely been used to such strong effect. An assembly line of recognisable character actors fill out some fairly simple roles just fine - of particular note are Bob Gunton and Clancy Brown as the warden and guard captain respectively, to say nothing of James Whitmore's brief but memorable turn as a kind older con.

One thing that readily became apparent to me on my most recent viewing is that The Shawshank Redemption, for all its strengths, isn't a particularly weighty film. It tends to maintain a good pace for the most part, though it is prone to the occasional lull - in a rather ironic example, the entire sub-plot involving Gil Bellows as a rowdy youngster is definitely the biggest drag on the film even as his particular episode ends up being quite relevant to Robbins' own journey. The film's examinations of its themes, whether rendered in lengthy passages of voice-over or through earnest displays of symbolism (and even the occasional joke), aren't the most complex ones either. Gunton's character is a particularly straightforward example as he invokes a rather simplistic juxtaposition of religious fervour with callous corruption, especially when contrasted against Robbins' far less devoted but more pure-of-spirit inmate. At the very least, the film compensates for its thematic simplicity by having the plot keep building on what's come before in a very studied manner that is kept flowing through some judicious editing choices, Roger Deakins' nuanced cinematography, and Freeman's perpetually honeyed words gilding everything nicely. That doesn't stop it from the occasional moment of indulgence, such as the iconic scene where Robbins defies the powers that be by blasting opera music over the prison's loudspeakers. So yeah, The Shawshank Redemption may not be the most genuinely classic film I've ever seen, but it's got the sort of pure cinematic quality that can compensate for all manner of shortcomings (especially when the fundamentally simple story can be uninteresting enough to lead me into considering more potentially radical interpretations of the film's events). If ever there was a film that felt too easy to like, it is this one - fortunately, I don't consider that too much of a hindrance.




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#33 - The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2
Bill Condon, 2012



A family of benevolent vampires and their allies must prepare for a war with an ancient cult of evil vampires.

It's been quite the journey through the Twilight saga, which saw human wallflower Bella (Kristen Stewart) fall for brooding vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson) while also coping with not only the advances of childhood-friend-turned-werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner) but also an impending war between different factions of supernatural beings. As the "Part 2" naturally suggests, this film takes place immediately after the smash-to-black conclusion of Part 1, with Bella finally having become a vampire in order to survive giving birth to her human/vampire daughter Renesmee. Of course, this being the final installment in the series, the plot then decides to kick into high gear by finally having the cult of evil vampires who have only been glimpsed in the past few films finally get their act together and launch an all-out war over the apparent abomination of supernature that is Renesmee, so of course the benevolent Cullen family must rally together as many allies as possible in order to fight off their dangerous foes.

With the possible exception of the first film, the Twilight films tend to be rather poorly-paced affairs that often spend their first half or so following the characters as they meander around the picturesque (if perpetually overcast) Pacific Northwest setting, with only the occasional scene of foreshadowing to hint at each film's extremely sudden action-packed climax. This same structure could also apply to the series' overall arc as it takes three whole films to resolve the main love triangle, not to mention the fact that the plot of the entire fourth film can easily be summed up as "wedding, honeymoon, pregnancy, childbirth". As a result, when Breaking Dawn Part 2 is tasked with providing an epic conclusion to a hit series, it (very, very gradually) shifts focus to exploring a wider array of locations and brings together a series of allies to help fight the good fight. If anything, the ultimate showdown does at least sort of deliver - before it's undercut by one especially bizarre development even by the series' already-high standards for such bizarre developments (look no further than the werewolves' "imprinting"). If nothing else, the series has been a pretty consistent source of entertainment due to the sheer absurdity of its paranormal elements. However, each film is still just as likely to yield boredom as amusement, resulting in one extremely limp conclusion to one of the misguided and badly-structured multi-film franchises in existence.




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#34 - Kung Fu Panda 2
Jennifer Yuh, 2011



In feudal China, a warrior panda and his comrades must do battle with a murderous peacock who has a connection to the panda's mysterious past.

I'm inclined to give this the edge over the original, especially since it does a fairly decent job of covering for the elements that it recycles. This time around, Jack Black's eponymous black-and-white hero is once again struggling to master kung fu, with his attempts to find the serenity needed to improve himself being hampered by his search for answers about his past - specifically what happened to his biological parents. This ties in with the appearance of a royal peacock (Gary Oldman) who has been living in exile due to his genocidal actions; now, he plans to reclaim his former kingdom with gunpowder-based weapons that would render kung fu obsolete with ruthless efficiency. To this end, Black and his team of fellow martial-arts masters must go and save the day...and that's about all the plot that the film needs. What it lacks in original narrative beats, it makes up for in terms of some lush visuals (both in 2D and 3D) and a slightly more thematically interesting tale. It still doesn't provide too much more in the way of either action or comedy than its predecessor either. I'll probably end up seeing the third film at some point, but I can't imagine I'll think too much more of it than I do about its predecessors.




"""" Hulk Smashhhh."""
Again, i enjoyed the Twilight series so i cant agree on your rating, but i can respect your opinion. KuFu Panda sucked tho. Loved the first, but hated the second.
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Welcome to the human race...
Again, i enjoyed the Twilight series so i cant agree on your rating, but i can respect your opinion. KuFu Panda sucked tho. Loved the first, but hated the second.
I sometimes think about abolishing ratings and letting the reviews speak for themselves. I'm still not sure how best to translate my opinion of the Twilight films into concrete numerical ratings, but I'm hard-pressed to offer them anything beyond one or two positives per film. As for the Kung Fu Panda films - yeah, they're not that good but they're at least a tolerable kind of mediocre that yields the occasional good moment. Like I mentioned before, they don't quite reach the same level of skill as the How to Train Your Dragon films (both of which get
from me) but they're still far ahead of DreamWorks' seriously weak efforts like Shark Tale or Shrek the Third. Bee Movie, on the other hand, is in a league of its own (for better or worse).



I sometimes think about abolishing ratings and letting the reviews speak for themselves.
I'm in favor of that.

That's why I don't bother with decimal ratings (
) and simply assign each rating my general overall impession.

I loved it.
Pros outweigh cons.
Boring or pros and cons cancel each other out. Neutral rating.
Cond outweigh pros.
I hated it.
Couldn't finish it/not a movie.



You bumped up the rating for Shawshank, didn't you? But I think I remember you mentioning you might do that.

Anyways, I'll read and rep the review later.



28 days...6 hours...42 minutes...12 seconds
I find the Kung-Fu Panda films to be harmless fun. Could benefit from giving the supporting cast more to do though.
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Suspect's Reviews



Ratings are for quick glances. Created by publications so people didn't have to read.
I can't speak for anybody else, but ratings often determine whether I'm going to bother to read a review.



I can't speak for anybody else, but ratings often determine whether I'm going to bother to read a review.
Same.
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