The Bourne Ultimatum 
I would assume that most people know what these are about… It’s about agents and plots and secrets and cinematic agent work. There’s chases, gun fights, explosions and lots of anonymous locations. There’s people who know what’s going on, people being used and people trying to find out. It’s basically modernized James Bond – the agents work the real world instead of an alternate reality, where everything is glamorous, and the villains are cogs in bigger machines that are probably just maintaining the power of the wealthy elite instead of evil geniuses trying to bring down the whole world with an implausible plot or a super weapon. As such, they are by default better than the Bond films.
Now what to say about this film – it’s a Bourne film. Production values are impeccable. Acting is mostly irrelevant, since you see these for the action. The action is good. Imaginative enough to be entertaining, but not too imaginative to be completely unbelievable. A solid film where you get exactly what you would expect.
- Director: Paul Greengrass
- Watched on: 17th Mar 2018
- Watched at: TV5
Just a couple of notes on the weird publicity that the film gained. Apparently most major studios rejected the films as “too smart”, so Alex Garland ended up going to Netflix with it to get it funded. Yes, it’s smart – I’m tempted to say Inception smart, but it’s smarter than that. It doesn’t explain everything, which is apparently enough to be smart. I guess the all female (some males in some inconsequential roles) played into that appraisal. And a quick note on that too. It’s important to have films like these with female leads. It adds to the value of the film although not to the artistic value of the film, and it does not detract from said artistic value one bit.
There’s a zone and people going in there usually disappear or at least they return different, but it needs to be investigated, so in they go. The Stalker loans are obvious, but that’s not a problem – we don’t have too many films like this and there’s enough differences as well. The weird in the zone manifests in alien mutations of the biosphere. The deeper they go, the weirder it gets. I like this weird. The plot isn’t too strong – the weird claims some of the team and others go crazy, but the remaining people push on ahead to finally encounter something even weirder in the center of it all. It is well told though – the film doesn’t exhaust the weirdness by explaining it, things are revealed slow enough, the pacing works throughout. The very final shots of the film were a bit of a let down in its predictability.
The film doesn’t exactly shine in anything it does, but it does everything well enough and gains bonus points for an attempt at smartness and the all female cast.
- Director: Alex Garland
- Watched on: 19th Mar 2018
- Watched at: Netflix
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three 
I’ve seen the 2009 remake headlined by John Travolta and Denzel Washington, so comparisons are inevitable. This one is realistic, low-key, plausible, while the 2009 iteration is melodramatic, over-the-top, made to entertain. This one is better paced and holds suspense better. There, done. This one wins the comparison by far.
It’s a story of a crew of mostly unlikely criminals hijacking a New York subway car and holding it and the passengers for ransom. This sounds like an implausible setup for a heist film, but the plan is solid and they almost pull it off. What makes the film fly, though, is the slow pacing of the film. The characters are allowed to grow and they become individuals instead of stereotypes that you often see in heist films. New York and it’s people provide some excellent atmosphere as well.
- Director: Joseph Sargent
- Watched on: 29th Mar 2018
- Watched at: Yle Teema
Fading Gigolo 
Now I know it says John Turturro on the tin, but this could easily be directed by Woody Allen. Not surprisingly, those two are the leads of the film. Fioravante (Turturro) is a down on his luck florist, who becomes an escort for the rich women of Manhattan with the support and prodding of his publisher friend Murray (Allen).
Let’s start with the redeeming quality – the film has the Allen humanist touch. It’s just about people, who want to cope and wouldn’t hurt anyone. That’s it.
The rest is tired gags mostly based on old men talking about sexuality, which is supposed to be funny, because old men shouldn’t be open about their feelings or talk about sex frankly. There’s miles and miles of the usual Allen bantering with the familiar New York slur, which is entertaining for a while, but sadly Allen’s dialogue hasn’t been interesting in forever. Obviously the whole premise is ridiculous enough to actually detract from the film. Finally, the decoupage is non-existent – I guess it aims for an almost cinéma vérité quality in not bothering to set up anything interesting anywhere, but the result is just boring to watch.
- Director: John Turturro
- Watched on: 25th May 2018
- Watched at: Yle Teema
Jurassic World 
I had to go to Wikipedia, to find out, how many Jurassic something films there are by now. This is apparently the 4th and it starts a new Jurassic World trilogy. I didn’t expect anything other than a play-by-the-numbers sequel with everything bigger and badder than before and I was still disappointed.
The film was originally conceived during the shooting of Jurassic Park III, but then entered production hell. Several revisions and 14 years later, the hell was finally over and we got a new film to the franchise. Obviously, it’s not supposed to be an Oscar film, but this is sub par on almost every level. The overall production quality is what you’d expect from a Hollywood film with a budget like this and there’s a couple of nice set pieces featuring dinosaurs, but that’s about it.
There’s a new dino park built on top of the old one now with genetically engineered bigger and badder killer dinosaurs and unsurprisingly they get loose and the human characters attempt to survive and contain or escape the situation. This could be a sufficient premise for an interesting summer blockbuster, but the characters are paper thin and you could not care less about anything happening to them. The only value in the film is in seeing dinosaurs, which is always cool.
- Director: Colin Trevorrow
- Watched on: 26th May 2018
- Watched at: TV5
The Martian 
The film is an adaptation of a novel of the same name by Andy Weir. The premise of the novel was to build a plausible scenario of travel to Mars with currently available technology. The only thing to overcome would be a ton of engineering needed to actually build the things and get them to Mars. As far as I understand, that side of the novel works well – I’ve heard it mentioned that the only implausible thing is the storm that leaves Mark Watney (Matt Damon) stranded alone on the red planet. That brings us nicely to the rest of the novel – Weir needed to device a scenario that made for entertaining reading instead of just describing, how we could reach Mars. I haven’t read the novel, but at least in the film, that side also works.
The realist approach of the novel is carried over into the film – it doesn’t try to use the camera or anything in the setting to build any kind of interesting imagery, instead presenting everything in a very straightforward manner. Obviously, analytical editing is utilized, since that’s what the big audiences are used to, and they don’t see any problems with the departure from reality caused by that style. So you get what you expect – a big budget representation of how a man stranded on Mars might go about surviving there until he can be rescued presented without any surprises.
The plot continues on the unsurprising side of things. The first crisis is quickly overcome and Watney uses his wits to build something that could almost be described as a nice life on Mars. Obviously there are further crisis and further overcoming of those, but they build up and it starts to look bad until a bold rescue mission is enacted and all ends well.
Matt Damon occupies the screen for the majority of the film and since most of the stuff happening on Mars is realistic, it is mostly low-key, and thus he actually needs to carry the film, which he does. He is charming, he is desperate, his increasingly tired and desperate wittiness is amusing and touching.
Altogether, the film delivers what it promises in a perhaps unsurprising, but on all levels highly professional manner.
- Director: Ridley Scott
- Watched on: 25th Aug 2018
- Watched at: Sub
Mad Max: Fury Road 
Holy fuck! This is my second time seeing the film. This time I saw it on our home’s 40″ TV screen, which is very sub-optimal for this specific film (find the biggest screen with the best sound possible, if you haven’t seen this before), and still the only possible reaction after this film is: holy fuck!
Now where do I start? Let’s go with the humanism and feminism. It’s a struggle to survive and in the end that happens by overthrowing the old harsh regime in order to free the masses. That’s the humanism – then the feminism. The titular character, Mad Max (Tom Hardy), is not the star of the film. That role is given to the second titular character, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). The regime that is overthrown is male and the role it assigns to the women is literally as breeding machines meant to bring forth healthy male children, and that’s the women it appreciates the most. When the new female regime is settling in and the previously enslaved masses are freed, Max leaves – it’s a women’s world now. The early parts of the film feature Max heavily, but it doesn’t take long for Furiosa to take over as the baddest ass in the wholly bad-ass film – there’s scene that makes this very much literal.
The plot of the film is that Imperator Furiosa is tired of Immortan Joe’s regime, hijacks the priced breeding machines and escapes towards a fabled green land behind the desert. There’s a bunch of action at 60mph, but the green land is gone. They then decide to go back to free the water reserves from Immortan Joe’s fortress. More action follows and finally a triumphant return. Now obviously that isn’t much of a plot, but wait until you hear about the action.
Most of the things you see on screen are actually there. The cars are there, the explosions, the stunts, the desert and the speed. CGI has been used to improve the backgrounds, recolor things, make the explosions bigger, and for a couple of the more extreme stunts, stitch the scenes together. And it shows in a big way. Everything is gut wrenching and visceral, everything has a feeling of danger to it, that has been missing from many high-octane films since the CGI takeover.
And the action itself – there’s at best dozens of vehicles racing across the desert with people jumping from car to car, explosions, fighting on top of the cars, inside the cockpits, there’s people on top of long poles that swing from side to side strung to cars racing through the desert, and there’s a what can only be described as chaotic noise demon, who is strung in front of a set of speakers that would make any stadium concert envious playing his guitar accompanied by endless pyrotechnics.
Finally, what makes all of this work, is the impossibly smooth editing. The film employs analytical editing – obviously, despite the mad skills evident in pretty much every frame of the film, the skills are not enough to present the events we see with long shots – but it takes that art to an extreme. Despite the endless and mostly non-stop chaos on screen, the film is easy and relaxing to watch due to the extreme rigor employed in framing and editing the shots – every cut in the film strings shots together so that your eyes are already focused on the bit of screen, where the important things happen in the next shot. This is an insane achievement from a film that employs this much chaos and doesn’t do it with CGI. This is an incredible evolution of the analytical editing style. This would’ve been an extremely welcome and simple to achieve evolution in the multitude of CGI action films produced in recent years, but the evolutionary step was taken in this film, where all of the action is live, where you have to design the shot progressions of chaotic live shooting at 60mph for extremely complex action scenes.
I did not think I could be this enthusiastic about an action film ever again, but holy fuck!
- Director: George Miller
- Watched on: 24th Feb 2019
- Watched at: Youtube film rental
Another sci-fi attempting to be smart in a somewhat similar vein to Annihilation. Here the sci-fi is more straightforward and less weird and the smart is less mysterious and more scientific. A story of first contact, where a bunch of alien ships land. The film follows one of the crews (mostly a linguist Louise Adams played by Amy Adams and a theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly played by Jeremy Renner) attempting to communicate or otherwise unravel the mystery presented by the ships. Increasing tensions at other landing sites and with other nations handling the crisis provide a deadline for solving the puzzle peacefully.
The smart sort of flops here. Whereas Annihilation provides the smart through a genuinely alien and weird mystery that doesn’t even pretend to be solvable by our logic with science providing only attempts to guess at the meaning of everything, here Amy and Ian rigorously apply what plays at being valid science to solve a riddle that has a definite answer. This approach falls a bit flat, since the science isn’t applied scientifically and since the answer to the riddle (as pretty much always) is much less interesting than the riddle.
The film bears a resemblance to The Martian as well, as a lot of screen time is dedicated to the solving of a puzzle – The Martian has many puzzles, they are varied and they are approachable (how to cultivate potatoes, how to find drinking water), whereas here there is only one puzzle and it feels distant, since it is not tangible to most viewers. Solving the puzzle is mostly not interesting to watch.
The second problem with the film is the paper thin characters. The film is interested in them only as far as it needs to provide a second layer to the riddle – the flashbacks of Amy that are revealed to be… well, let’s not go there, that’s an actually interesting and surprising revelation.
The third problem is that the film is not cinematic in the least. We have one nice set piece in the alien vessel. Entering that for the first time, seeing the aliens for the first time and seeing their language for the first time, all are interesting moments that are worth seeing. The problem is that otherwise the film mostly consists of staring at computer screens and revisiting the vessel and the aliens. This makes for boring watching.
Despite the problems of the cinematography, the characters and the first mystery, the film is not a failure. The aforementioned second mystery genuinely managed to surprise me and its allusion to certain theories of language is interesting. Denis also manages to build an atmosphere of a calm rush that manages to compensate for much of the otherwise boring middle part of the film. The resulting film is worth seeing, but just barely.
- Director: Denis Villeneuve
- Watched on: 2nd Mar 2019
- Watched at: Netflix