Posted by: John | February 16, 2008

We moved!

I’ve been very happy with this blog, but it’s always been blocked in the country I reside in. With the help of proxies I managed to go around that, but it was very slow. Furthermore, I always wanted to improve and customize this site, which was not possible. Now I have my own domain and webhost, so I hope you will keep reading my posts at my new reviews site:

Reviewsarama.com

Posted by: John | January 6, 2008

Gilmore Girls: Season 7

ggdvd7And finally after a few months my wife and I finished this series. I have mixed feelings about this last season.

SPOILERS FOLLOW!!

The first half was just torture for me. I hated Christopher, I thought he was just wrong for Lorelai, whereas I saw Luke as the perfect guy for her. So obviously I was very upset about Chris and Lorelai. I didn’t think they would go that far, but they did and I just gave up hope about Luke, and tried to see the good things in Chris.

However the writers took a U turn and all of a sudden they’re not together anymore. Chris acted as a jerk through that, I knew he was still not mature (just because he’s rich doesn’t make him better) and I knew he would blow it up. I knew they were rushing into it, and that’s why they didn’t work.

On the other hand we got Logan and Rory’s long distance relationship. I have been in a long distance relationship for 5 years, so I know what it feels like and I usually empathize with that situation. However I didn’t feel anything during this relationship, it just didn’t remind me of anything I’ve been through.

Then again I never liked Logan, even when they were all happy I just didn’t feel it. And when his business went down I thought for sure they would break up. Instead they kept going without any excitement at all, until a rushed break up. I always hate it when people propose in public, cornering their partner into an answer. But I was disappointed by the way the writers concluded this relationship. I didn’t see any reason into why Logan would say "all or nothing", and they just split up as if nothing happened. We didn’t even see Rory all broken up about it, not even a tear for what was supposed to be a big love for her.

Luckily Lorelai’s story had a good ending. I knew from the moment she started to talk to Luke that they would get back together, I just didn’t know it would be in the finale!! Luke again comes through with his actions, he might not be good at talking, he just does things for Lorelai.

In this season there was also the scare of Richard’s heart attack. For a split second I thought they would kill him, but then I realized that it would never happen in this series. I still hate Emily so much, I can understand where she’s coming from, it doesn’t mean that she is justified in her behaviour. I give points to the writers for keeping her like that, instead of suddenly redeeming her character.

They tried to make Rory’s life more interesting by introducing new friends, but they didn’t interest me too much. Paris didn’t get too much development either, just keep being Paris.

I also loved to see all those supporting characters from Stars Hollow, they all contributed to making this series special and memorable. Sookie and Jackson didn’t get much to do, as did Zack and Lane, though her pregnancy was a surprise. This must be the series with the most babies: Sookie has 3, Lane has twins, Sherry and Chris had Gigi, Liz had Dula, then April popped up. Ironically the only ones who didn’t have babies where the Gilmore Girls.

A cameo by Dean or Jesse would have been nice, just one scene at the end. But I guess there was too much happening already, plus the actors were busy with their own series.

I liked that even though Luke and Lorelai are together, we don’t really know what happens to them, does Lorelai finally manage to get married? Does Rory succeed at work and find a good boy? It doesn’t matter, I’m just happy to have seen part of their life. And I loved the final shot of the series, recalling the final shot of the credits.

Season Rating: 3 Stars

This series has been very constant throughout all 7 years. I do have a favorite season, but apart from that the quality has been constant. This is not a brilliant or groundbreaking series, but the characters are certainly likable and enjoyable. I am glad that I watched this series, especially with my wife. We had a wonderful time with these people.

Posted by: John | January 6, 2008

I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK

cyborgI’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK (2006): A girl who thinks she is a combat cyborg checks into a mental hospital, where she encounters other psychotics. Eventually, she falls for a man who thinks he can steal people’s souls.

Well, it didn’t take me long to get to the next Park movie. This is his latest effort, and while it is clearly a Park movie, it’s also a departure for him. His previous movies were mainly dramas, with some funny comedic scenes. In this movie things are the opposite.

The premise is just absurd, but this story is about crazy people so it fits. The performances and customs are also over the top, but again it fits. Park also gets to have fun with the cyborg scenes, which are only in Young Goon’s mind.

There are so many interesting characters here, all with peculiar "problems". These problems can almost be seen as powers, so I loved how their powers interacted. In particular how Il-sun with his stealing power managed to steal the guy who walks backwards’s powers.

That also brings to his relationship with Young Goon. The scene towards the end where he tries to repair her is the highlight of the movie for me, I was touched by what he was doing for her.

This is a lighthearted movie that did not blow me away like some other Park works, but it is still a peculiar and unconventional story. I can see why Park wanted to change pace a little bit. I am glad that he’s trying new things.

Rating: 3 Stars

Posted by: John | January 5, 2008

J.S.A.: Joint Security Area

83mJ.S.A.: Joint Security Area (2000): In the DMZ separating North and South Korea, two North Korean soldiers have been killed, supposedly by one South Korean soldier.

After watching the Vengeance Trilogy by Park I have been a fan of him. So I have now tracked down his earlier movie JSA. This is a great story about the two Koreas, that takes an unexpected turn.

At first this film presents itself as a mystery, complete with an investigator, his assistant, the suspects and even their different versions of the story, ala Rashomon.

This was interesting to me, but certainly not groundbreaking. However around halfway through the truth about these characters relationship is revealed, and the story changes from a mystery to a character drama.

The friendship struck between these 4 characters feels real, and even though I am not aware of the detail political situation in Korea, it is not necessary to understand these people.

This is a drama, but as all Park movies there is plenty of comedy as well. They are not laugh out loud jokes, but they are amusing/funny scenes of interaction between the leads. They all help making the characters real.

Towards the end the real events are finally revealed, and they are devastating because we are now attached to these characters and we like them. Not to mention the final scene, also heartbreaking.

Another great movie by Park, can’t wait to see what else he has in store for us.

Rating: 4 Stars

Posted by: John | January 5, 2008

No Country for Old Men

10mNo Country for Old Men (2007): Violence and mayhem ensue after a hunter stumbles upon some dead bodies, a stash of heroin and more than $2 million in cash near the Rio Grande.

My expectations for this movie were very high, and they were met. This is a very simple story, the plot is not at all complicated and there are not many dialogs. But what’s great about it are the visuals, the tension and the great acting.

The movie opens with Javier Bardem as Chigurh. Everybody’s singing praises for him and with reason. This is a very scary performance, everything about him gives me the creeps. His haircut, his voice, the dialog, his expression, his movements, his weapons. I love the two weapons he uses, and the way his mind works is just scary.

But he is only half of the story, the other half is Josh Brolin. He also gives a great performance, making us root for him in trying to escape Chigurh. He gives the impression of being bright, but also out of his league.

The technical side of this film is perfect. I loved the scene in the dark, where it is possible to see in the distance the second car and people around it. Then the chase scene is just beautifully shot, culminating with the swimming dog.

There are so many other scenes that grab you by the throat and never let go until the end. Most of them involve Chigurh. Him chasing Moss through the streets. The sheriff entering the hotel room at the end, etc…

There are also many supporting characters that give great performances themselves. Tommy Lee Jones, Woody Harrelson, Kelly McDonald…

This is just an enjoyable movie, each scene can be appreciated by themselves. The plot is simple, so repeated viewing will not be ruined by knowing the plot at all. This is a film that needs to be experienced.

Rating: 4 Stars

Posted by: John | January 4, 2008

Brothers

10677415_detBrothers (2007): I haven’t watched a Hong Kong movie since Infernal Affairs, so I wanted to check one out. Unfortunately I made a poor choice.

This is a very typical mob movie in Hong Kong, with rival gangs and the police in the middle. It even resembles the classic mob movie Godfather with the two opposing brothers.

Unfortunately the plot has so many holes that I don’t even know where to begin. For instance, why is the woman accompanying the little brother in Thailand? Is she supposed to be his body guard? I know he was supposed to lure 9 out of HK, but Ghostie should have been closer, instead of risking the death of both bro and the woman.

One big problem is if his intension was always to have his little brother take the company and make it legitimate, why did he make him do all those killings, as if he were preparing him to be the new boss?

Just because he has cancer doesn’t mean that he is now likable, you need more than that to make a rounded character. And I so hated the little brother. He was so annoying from the start, so naive. But even after those killings he still didn’t learn.

This is a forgettable mob movie, too generic and with big holes in the script.

Rating: 2 Stars

Posted by: John | January 1, 2008

2007 Stats

In 2006 I reviewed 91 movies plus 17 TV shows. So my goal for 2007 was to review more than 100 movies. I can say that I trumped that goal. Here are the stats for 2007:

Movies: 146
TV shows: 34

I must say that having 35 days off work in March/April really helped me achieve 146 movies, so I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to top that. That being said I was hoping to have a round number of 150, which is why I watched so many movies in December.

As for TV shows, I didn’t think I’d watched more than usual, but I guess I did.

Oh well, we’ll see this year if I can top these numbers.

Posted by: John | January 1, 2008

Lucky You

10mLucky You (2007): A hotshot poker player tries to win a tournament in Vegas, but is fighting a losing battle with his personal problems.

This movie was a very bad way to start off the year. One of the problems is that it’s about poker, which I have no interested in whatsoever. I can’t play poker, so I don’t really get it when they’re playing.

However I have liked poker games in movies, if filmed well the tension and suspense built up is worth watching. In this movie there is none of that. The little tension from Huck struggling to get the entrance fee to the tournament is completely shattered when in the end he gets it so easily that it’s not even shown!

However that not even my major problem. My problem is the romance between Huck and Billie. I do not see why she would fall for a guy that does not have a job and only plays poker for a living, that steals from her in order to play, and has no goals in life!

I also don’t see why he would fall for her, she has nothing special about her and they don’t even have anything in common. This is the worst relationship I’ve seen depicted on screen.

Not even Robert Duvall could save this horrible film. I must say I didn’t hate this, it wasn’t offensive, it just didn’t make any sense and was boring to me.

Rating: 2 Stars

Posted by: John | December 31, 2007

Best in 2007

This year I decided to do my own Top Ten of the Year, which is not too difficult, since I have them all on record in this very blog.

So, these are the best movies that I watched in 2007, that are less than 5 years old:

1) Once: this is the most recent one, so I might change my mind in a few months. But I just enjoyed this little movie so much, I’ve been obsessing about it and the soundtrack. A great simple story about struggling musicians in Dublin.

2) Zodiac: Fincher back in top form, not only great visuals, but they help to tell a great moody/scary story.

3) The Prestige: technically released in 2006, but I only got to watch it this year. One of those great twist stories. Also interesting magic tricks and performances.

4) Pan’s Labyrinth: drama, magic, horror, a great fairy tale for adults. One of my favorite movie endings.

5) The Namesake: I love movies that span a lifetime, this is one of the best ones and it also presents a struggling foreign family (Indian) in America.

6) The Man From Earth: best indy of the year (though Once is also indy). It’s so indy nobody heard of it. Great sci-fi story without any effects, literally filmed like a play. The story of a man who lived 10000 years.

7) Stardust: a great surprise for me, great story, amazing and funny characters, just a fun time.

8) The Fountain: Daren Aronofsky always tries to give us something to think about, it doesn’t work for everybody, but it works for me.

9) Death Proof: Tarantino never disappoints. A great entertaining movie with great action scenes.

10) Sunshine: Another surprise for me. Best spaceship movie in years. The end changes things, but I still liked it.

Although the majority of movies I watched were at least decent, there were a few that I really didn’t like:

- Transformers: already said enough about this.
- Planet Terror: really didn’t get any fun from it.
- A Good Year: such a disappointing movie by two greats, Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe.
- Spider-Man 3: biggest disappointment after two previous great movies.

Posted by: John | December 31, 2007

The Lives of Others

10mThe Lives of Others (2006): In 1984 East Berlin, an agent of the secret police, conducting surveillance on a writer and his lover, finds himself becoming increasingly absorbed by their lives.

This movie won the Oscar for foreign movie, beating out Pan’s Labyrinth, so I definitely wanted to check it out. I still prefer Pan’s, but this is a solid movie.

Wiesler was very scary at the beginning, a trained interrogator and spy. I was actually fascinated by what he teaches his class.

Once he crosses paths with Dreyman and Christa he changes fundamentally. I am not sure exactly why, and that’s my biggest problem with this movie. I think I am supposed to think that art and these artists’ passion for each other changed him.

However I didn’t see much of the art itself, we just see a few parts of the play, certainly not enough to appreciate it. As for the two lovers, I can see that he might have been touched by them and wanted to help them any way he could, but at his own life’s expense?

This love story is heartbreaking, living in an oppressed regime is very difficult, especially when you’re an artist and want to express your opinions. There is the conflict between surviving and love.

This film worked both on the emotional/love story level, and on the thriller level. The way the Stasi spies on these artists, and they way they interrogate them is interesting.

Definitely a good movie, but for me it was a little overrated.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

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