Mini-Reviews #26

Quite a long time since the last Mini-Review post, and thus a lot of stuff has accumulated, including a lot of rewatches; so let’s get started…

Film

Peter Rabbit
A family-friendly comedy with real people and computer-animated animals; nice watch for a lazy sunday afternoon.
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars
Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Interesting premise and (ideas for a main) character; sadly the film drags on for quite a while and doesn’t know where it’s headed. Also a bit of a downer ending (in a bad way).
★★☆☆☆ 2/5 stars
The Departed [Rewatch]
Watched it again for a second time, after a long time; liked it now more than the first time. Great, but still not a masterpiece.
★★★★ 4/5 stars
The Untouchables [Rewatch]
I probably saw that one before, but I’m not completely sure. Anyways: It’s not that good; actually very little happens that is noteworthy, except for a couple of outstanding scenes (and the time of DeNiro as Capone is negligible, but he makes the best of it).
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars
True Story
Maybe I was simply not in the mood for it, but it felt like a total waste of time. The acting was OK, but everything else: Meh.
☆☆☆☆ 1/5 stars
The Lighthouse
I did expect a complicated piece of art cinema, but it really didn’t get me. I’m certain, if I’d spend (more) time reading or viewing analysis and interpretations about this, it would (maybe) make more sense; but as a standalone movie experience, it was not good. I give the second star only for the acting of Pattison and Dafoe.
★★☆☆☆ 2/5 stars
Hidden Figures
Interesting to see under which circumstances black women had to work at a different time at NASA. But only three stars, because it’s not that new, or different to other movies of that kind, and I fear it was a bit hollywoodized.
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars
Guardians of the Galaxy + Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Took me quite a while to view this, because I had so high hopes for it and didn’t want to ruin those. But no fear, both are great entertainment movies, fun space-opera action-adventures, luckily pretty removed from the rest of the superheros of the rest of the MCU. So, Vol. 1 suffers a bit of the “save the universe” finale, but the journey up to there was much fun. Vol. 2 skips the origin story, of course (the crew is already together) and expands on almost all other fronts.
Vol. 1: ★★★★ 4/5 stars
Vol. 2: ★★★★ 4/5 stars
Miller’s Crossing [Rewatch]
An underrated gem in Coen Bros. collection: Wonderfully photographed, good story, great actors.
★★★★★ 5/5 stars
Emma (2020)
I’m not a Jane Austen fan, but even I catched a few film adaptations here and there and know some basics of some stories; so I wasn’t totally surprised by it – but the trailer sold this one as a much, much more snappy comedy. That means this rating will be a bit unfair: The actors are good, the story is… Jane Austen’esque, I think. But I felt so deceived and even cheated by the trailer; without it, I probably wouldn’t have watched it at all.
★★☆☆☆ 2/5 stars
Rango [Rewatch]
Great animated feature by a visionary director and good cast and crew (if you can, watch the Making of).
★★★★★ 5/5 stars
Top Secret
An early Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker comdedy that I haven’t seen before, despite being a big fan of their other works. I rediscovered it through a re:View episode from RedLetterMedia and really liked it. If you like the humor of Airplane! and The Naked Gun, this will be right up your alley.
★★★★ 4/5 stars
Back To The Future Part I, Part II and Part III [Rewatch]
Of course, the first one wins the freshness award and is a classic, but also the sequels are well worth a (re)watch.
Part 1: ★★★★★ 5/5 stars
Part 2: ★★★★ 4/5 stars
Part 3: ★★★★ 4/5 stars
Late Night
A dramedy of sorts that takes a look behind the scenes of an us-american late night show; much better than I feared, so…
★★★★ 4/5 stars
Kingsman: The Golden Circle
First off, I was not a fan of the first one – and this one is worse; really terrible stuff!
☆☆☆☆ 1/5 stars
X-Men: Dark Phoenix
The good news: Much better than its predecessor (Apocalypse); the bad news: That doesn’t make it a good movie… or exciting, or fun, or otherwise impressive.
★★☆☆☆ 2/5 stars
The Invisible Man
Heard and read much good reviews about this, but was deeply disappointed when I saw it: The first act was interesting, the second act was bad and the last act/finale was absolutely not my cup of tea.
☆☆☆☆ 1/5 stars
Ready Or Not
That was a fun romp. Not too long, focused story and setting, good actors, dark humor, some gore. The only reason it’s not five stars (for what it is: a small action/horror/dark-comedy!): It’s too new, I need to settle it down and maybe watch again later…
★★★★ 4/5 stars
Tremors [Rewatch]
Another classic that I haven’t seen in years. Holds up very good! I had the fear that yet another childhood memory would be destroyed by watching it again, decades later: But not the case. Also a nice little, dirty, humorous horror flick that doesn’t overtstays its welcome (never saw the sequels).
★★★★★ 5/5 stars
Max Payne [Rewatch]
Oh boy, where to start… It was already a bad sign that I only remembered the spectacular action scenes (will get to that) when I took the BD from the shelf.

Actors: Wooden, stiff (I know that Mark Wahlberg is not the greatest actor, but here it borders on a parody of a moody cop).
Story: What plot? That’s a joke.
Action: Remember when I wrote ‘spectacular action scenes’ above? Definitely a case of “romanticizing the past”. There are one, maybe two, hints of what could have been a cool action set piece – but it’s not.

What’s more interesting is the Making of on the disc: It’s not the usual PR marketing promo and cheers stuff, but contains a lot of surprisingly sobering and disillusioning statements from cast and crew members about the film industry in general.
☆☆☆☆ 1/5 stars

Hollow Man [Rewatch]
Another case of “I only dimly remember it, but wasn’t it with that cool scene…". Yes, it was – and much more.

It’s yet another of those supposedly-not-so-good movies of Paul Verhoeven, but I really like all of them (admittedly, I haven’t seen his whole Œuvre, but from 1985’s Flesh & Blood until this movie from 2000, he didn’t fail me big in any case). Also, the special effects hold up really well, even after twenty years.

The only negative aspect (but not worth a reduction of stars): Parts of the finale are a bit off: What do you need to kill him? He’s invisible, not invincible, for crying out loud!
★★★★★ 5/5 stars

Extraction
Surprisingly entertaining. I didn’t even wanted to watch it: Neither the premise was my cup of tea, nor the fact that it was probably yet another half-baked Netflix production (once bitten, twice shy). But for some reason, I clicked play and was very well entertained: Dark, gritty, dirty non-stop action, in a setting that wasn’t used so much in the past. I really liked it.
★★★★ 4/5 stars
American Mary [Rewatch]
I’m not the biggest horror film fan of the world, but this here was on my watchlist because it stars “Ginger” as the main actress, and I wanted to check out what she did afterwards (although this movie is also already some years old).

Anyways, while watching it, I recalled a lot of scenes, so I guess I must have watched it before – and it obviously didn’t leave a big impression with me. By the end, I knew why: It’s really just a bad low budget horror B-movie; the plot makes some weird jumps (as if parts are missing), characterization is a foreign word here, and the whole premise is, well, weird (but what else do you expect from such a movie).

So, anyway, I give it two stars, one of it just for having Ms. Isabelle in it 😉
★★☆☆☆ 2/5 stars

In Bruges [Rewatch]
A mix of dark comedy and melancholic crime drama, set in a “farytale fucking town” (his words, not mine); liked it much the first time, years ago (with german dubs), as well a now again (in the englisch original). Too sad that none of the few other movies of writer/director Martin McDonagh brought me the same joy. (I know, everyone really admires “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” – but I don’t. And “7 Psychos” was also mostly crap in my opinion.)
★★★★★ 5/5 stars
Sunshine [Rewatch]
I remember that I was mesmerized by the visuals of space and sun, that the plot was OK, the characters and plot were fine enough too, but that the end/final act really really didn’t fit in. And that’s about the same judgement I make now after a second viewing years later. The end didn’t turn me off as much as it did the first time, since I recalled the core of it. But it was worse this time in a different manner: It was much more low key than I remembered. On the one hand, that fits better, but still doesn’t make it a good final act. So, it’s a solid SciFi movie.
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars
Mission: Impossible 1 [Rewatch]
Since I really liked the last couple of films of that franchise (admittedly, mostly for the action, and not the stories), I bought the 6-film box set on BluRay Discs and I’m slowly rewatching them again.

This first one (from 1996) is pretty low key, compared to the M:I spectacle nowadays, but I liked it. It tries to be more of a action spy thriller, and mostly succeeds in it. The plot is OK, but – as it is with every following part, too – seems unnecessarily convoluted (but hey: Hollywood and spies).

I’m not a big fan of the masks, they often function as a deus ex machina solution or simply as an unearned surprise, but I guess one cannot get rid of them totally and keep the name of the franchchise…

So, all in all, good entertainment.
★★★★ 4/5 stars

Mission: Impossible 2 [Rewatch]
Also, a very long time since I saw this one for the first (and until now, only) time. Over the years, I came to the understanding that this would be the odd one out in the series, the John Woo action masterpiece, that would have a totally different tone, and that then the next one, M:I-3, would be a dissapointment.

Without having re-watched the third one yet, I reckon: One reason why part 3 was not as successful as expected may have a lot to do with the failure of this second part!

Boy, oh boy, what a pile of crap. Slooow first half, replaying a key sequence from part one (“hey audience, remember that cool set piece from the last one? Let’s do it again!"), over the top (but on the other hand: not over the top enough to be really cool) action, and so on.

Now, I’m not a big John Woo fan, but I have seen a few movies and know some of his style and trademarks – and they do show up here, but don’t really fit in and border on self parody.

Also, a really clever plot was never the forte of the M:I franchise, but luckily one is normally distracted from those flaws by the fast pace and great action pieces – not this time.

On the positive side, I did like the first twenty minutes or so (before it got unbearingly boring and slow until near the final act), but that’s all.

So, I’m now very curious how the next one, M:I-3, will fare. As said, from what I remember and heard over the years, that should have been the black sheep of the series, but after rewatching M:I-2, I bet that it will be redeemed in my eyes.
☆☆☆☆ 1/5 stars

TV

House of Cards — Season 6
So, this show was already running on an almost empty tank when Francis reached his goal already at the end of season 2. It was kept alive for me for a while since I wanted to know how the most powerful politician on earth could hide some of his past crimes. But, being the most powerful politician on earth, this turned out as being not so interesting (let’s call it “the Superman dilemma”).

And now, after some more of those mediocre seasons, the show had the problem that the main actor was a persona non grata and was written out of the show. They tried to fill the void and tie loose ends, but failed utterly.

If you want to watch this shown (and as mentioned, the first two seasons are indeed good), just stop after season 5; it will then be open ended, but that would be still better than this disappointment.
☆☆☆☆ 1/5 stars

Archer — Season 1 and 2
So far, so good. I like the humor. Nice, short funny snacks. There are currently 11 seasons of this, and from what I read, the more recent ones use some ‘twists’ to keep it fresh – which I can totally understand (Let’s wait and see if I will also like it…), since I’m only in the middle of season 3 while writing this and already feel a bit like it’s treading water. I’ve watched the episodes from season 1 and 2 in a pretty quick succession, but since a while, the energy has left me. But for now/for these seasons: Fun.
★★★★ 4/5 stars
Space Force — Season 1
Liked it. The characters, the actors, the story. Not a Laugh Out Loud sitcom, but very funny in its own way. Recommended!
★★★★ 4/5 stars
Community — Season 1-6
I like sitcoms, but I was never a big follower of it. Nowadays, I also simply lack the time and I don’t watch normal TV often enough to catch a show or episode here and there (like one did back then, after coming home from school).

Luckily, Netflix has some interesting offerings: I discovered “Brooklyn 99” that way, and I put “That ’70s Show” on my watchlist (dimly remember having seen some of it, and liked it). But Community will now join the ranks of my personal Sitcom Hall of Fame™, next to the equally wonderful (but in a different way) Scrubs.

Just a wild, wild experience; highly recommended!

(I’ve also read a bit about how the show evolved, and that some fans consider season(s) X and Y as better or worse etc. I don’t subscribe to that: Of course, things change over the course of six seasons, but at the end, all of it was very good.)
★★★★★ 5/5 stars

Dead To Me — Season 2
Interesting; not the “best show”, also dragging a bit at times, but still quite watchable.
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars
Borgen — Season 1-3
Years ago, I watched the first season (though not completely, I think) on arte and liked it. Now I re-discovered it again on Netflix and watched the whole series (?). And the first season is still very good: A glimpse behind the scenes of a government, on a smaller, intimate scale. The remaining two seasons are still OK, but my interest waned around the last third of season 2. Season 3 has again some fresh ideas (relatively spoken; it’s still a show about european politicians), but didn’t really long for more.
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars
The Umbrella Academy — Season 2
Hm. Don’t know, really. Didn’t like the first round too much and this second season didn’t improve on anything that I’d consider remarkable. As it stands now, I will probably still watch a third season, just out of curiosity due to the cliffhanger of this one, but it will not be high on my list.
★★☆☆☆ 2/5 stars