Brief Film Reviews Galore

The Final Destination. Seemed like a hastily thrown together film made to cash in on the recent boom in the 3D films market, where the entire purpose was to throw stuff at the camera. I saw it on a normal TV and didn’t get to enjoy the effects of having stuff thrown at me in 3D. I haven’t seen any of the other films in the series, and I’m curious how they compare to this, and if there’s anything that ties them together. The plot here was basically how a person saved himself and others from dying, but that they were supposed to have died so they’re getting killed off anyway – by a mysterious force which seemed fond of setting up Heath Robinson contraptions. A pretty bad film.

Hancock. It felt like a bad 90s film geared towards the eight to thirteen year olds. (And the internet has revealed unto me that the script was actually first finished in 1996, but had since then been passed around and been rewritten numerous time until it became this movie, released in 2008.) Nothing seemed to mesh,  there were too many tired clichés, and they unsuccessfully tried to make it somewhat edgy and clever. It’s not exciting, it’s not funny, and the film’s sudden attempt at creating antagonists for the protagonist is laughable. I could go on about individual scenes, but I won’t. But while it wasn’t good, it was at least moderately entertaining.

Wings of Honneamise. Like too many other anime films I’ve seen (like Origin, Wonderful Days, Palme Of Tree – and I would argue also Akira and Ghost In The Shell 1 and 2), it’s nice to look at but doesn’t offer much in the way of good characters and an engaging, coherent plot. This one also had some noticeable bad and clunky background music, which ruined a few scenes which would have otherwise been half-decent.

Niko & The Way To The Stars. I have mixed feelings about this one. The first 45 minutes or so were pretty much forgettable cookie-cutter CGI for kids, but the last 30 minutes had some moments of brilliance, finally starting to show some originality, warmth, and a real identity. But I felt it was too little too late and it didn’t make up for what had come before, and overall the film failed to come together as a cohesive experience.

Some viewers have complained about the “morals” of the film, claiming that it isn’t very Christmassy and doesn’t promote wholesome values, as the plot sort of revolves around one of Santa’s reindeers having had a one-night stand. I felt the topic was handled tastefully and subtly, and that it reflected real life slightly better than some Christmas specials have done. What’s wrong with one-night stands? They were both two consenting adults, after all.

Machete. Good, but it runs out of steam a bit too quickly, making the last 15 – 20 minutes or so more tedious than they should have been. It also should have been overall more over the top and funny, and it didn’t reach the heights of Robert Rodriguez’s previous film, Planet Terror.

Something that helped somewhat sour the experience of seeing the film was the awful seats we had at the cinema (we should’ve gotten the tickets earlier), and the fact that a young couple behind me kept kicking my seat. I was tempted to turn around and tell them what’s what, but I generally want to avoid awkward confrontations when I can. (I am tempted to get get my revenge by writing a song about them, tentatively titled “Bad People”, and making a reference to the specific place, date, and time the of the movie showing, in case they somehow were to hear it. Perhaps a bit petty, I’ll admit, but arguably a better way to get back at someone than getting confrontational or violent.)

Knight And Day. My brother insisted I watch this allegedly aware tongue-in-cheek Hollywood action-romp with him. When my brother insists I watch something, I’m always weary; he’s the one who insisted I watch Tomme Tønner and Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen as well, both of which were pretty bad. (Especially the latter, which was so bad it was offensive, a feat few films manage.) Expecting the worst, I went in… and was moderately entertained. It’s nothing spectacular, nothing offensive, nothing innovative. A decent film to watch when you’re under the weather and just want some easy run-of-the-mill entertainment. With a wittier and smarter script, less well-known actors and a smaller budget, this could have been good. Finding yourself stalked by someone who’s either a secret agent or delusional, and finding yourself forced along on some bizarre caper, isn’t a half bad premise.

Antique. The Korean live-action film adaption of the Japanese manga Antique Bakery. The manga has also spawned a live-action TV series and an anime series. I’ve seen the anime, but I have seen neither the live-action TV series nor read the original manga. The film seemed to have almost all of the sub-plots I remembered from the anime series (few of which really go anywhere), and it felt like they tried cramming too much into the film, which contributed to a rushed and disjointed feeling throughout. For some reason I had a hard time following the subtitles – perhaps due to the brisk pace at which the film moves, or maybe due to bad subtitles or dialogue – but as I was already familiar with most of the events I was able to grasp most of what was going on. To me the film felt utterly redundant, but perhaps it would be more interesting for someone who’d not already gone through one of the incarnations of the story already.

Hachi. Based on a touching, well-known real life story which could be sufficiently re-told in a paragraph or two. I went in with high expectations, but found the film to be nothing more than sentimental drivel held together by clichés. It does succeed at tugging at one’s heart strings from time to time, but that’s mostly because of how touching the real life story is, plus the emotive music, rather than being due to good cinematic storytelling. One problem with the film is that the (human) protagonist is too successful and in-your-face “likable”, has too perfect a life, and doesn’t seem to have much of a personality, like he’d be right at home in a Ikea catalog, which actually makes it hard to feel for him or his family. I also would have preferred if they’d have retold the actual story, in Japan at that time period, rather than Americanizing and modernizing it. This film just feels cheap, lazy, and formulaic, but I guess it’s nice seeing the Akita Inu dog breed getting some love.

Coraline. Not quite as good as Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox in my opinion, which was the other big-budget stop-motion animation film of 2009, but pretty decent all the same! The music was by Bruno Coulais, who also did the music for The Secret Of Kells, so no wonder it seemed to me to have a similar feel. Bonus points for featuring an original catchy song by They Might Be Giants, but it both seemed very out of of place and fitting at the same time; out of place because there aren’t any other songs and the voice changes from John Hodgman to John Linnell, but fitting because it’s so darn well animated and goes with the (initially) whimsical nature of the world. It’s a very pretty film as well, though the “frame rate” does occasionally drop during some scenes.

Glory To The Filmmaker! Apparently the second film of Takeshi Kitano’s surrealist semi-autobiographical trilogy. Interesting and with some funny scenes, but not very coherent, and eventually it starts to grow dull. It could have easily been good, as the concept sounds like it has great potential for some great comedy – a hapless film director in search of a commercial hit, while suffering failure after failure as he tries out different genres – but instead it’s merely decent.

Departures. To quote the IMDb summary: “A newly unemployed cellist takes a job preparing the dead for funerals.” A great feel-good drama, definitely worth watching. Beautiful, funny, and sad, and it all comes together well. Made me want to know more about Japanese funerals, and interesting to compare it with what I’d seen of New Orleans funerals in the TV-series Treme. You know a film (or TV-series) is doing something right when it makes you want to learn more about something.  Oh, and it won the Oscar in 2008 for best foreign language film.

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