Today’s movie: Une part d’ombre

We had the occasion to assist to the premiere of Une part d’Ombre a Belgian film by Samuel Tilman with Fabrizio Rongione, Natacha Régnier, Baptiste Lalieu, among others. Going there without knowing what to expect, this ended up being a unique and pleasant surprise.

It’s a movie about trust, the social contract that we build upon it which transcends all our relationships and the subjective value that people are willing to give to them. How things left unsaid rot the most obvious friendship and love and the fact that we cannot (most of the time) do a single thing about it. We just got to let it trough, even though the rambling mistrust breaks everything into its wrath and we know for sure than nothing will ever be the same.

It was amazing how after discussing the movie we could all reflect on this. We all had those stories of break up, circle of friends or family exploding because some could not live up to what was that we define as us. But it’s part of the human chore. Apparently many of us suck at relationships. We’ve just got to deal with it and try for ourselves to be among those we’d call human.

Still it may be a bit of our fault. Because there are many of those things that we don’t say either. Because we think wrongly that it would be better to keep our share of shade for the the sake of our beloved ones and the sacred things that lay between us. Maybe many of these situations would be a heck of a lot simpler if we could just at times lay our cards on the table and for others to accept our pledge of honesty.

And that’s the really important message from this movie. That at times, we’ve got to look into others eyes, and say “trust me”, and reciprocally for ourselves to say to them, I accept and trust you, it’s up to you to trust me in that. Because surely without that everything fall, sooner or later, into a bunch of ashes.

Today’s movie: The Last Jedi

Jedi: The Last Star Wars

Star Wars: The Last Jedi by Michael Bay J.J. Abrams Rian Johnson. This movie is nothing but a vapid monumental grotesque joke. Seriously just don’t waste your time, don’t even think about buying the physical release or watching it by any other mean. You’ll just get awfully disappointed or you may also probably like it which is your choice after all. Either way that heavily marketed steamroller is unstoppable. There is no hope for Star Wars, but not only that.

There will be no spoiler ahead, even though you wouldn’t really miss anything.

It is as visually stunning as most other blockbusters nowadays, with humour and subtlety rivaling with Star Wars Holiday Special, like most other blockbusters nowadays. Not to say it is a hopeless dumb piece of garbage. But it certainly is hopeless. Imagine for an instant the archetypal CGIed bad guy, choreographically gesturing as if painfully trying to appear as human as anybody, defiantly looking down on you so you are sure that when he says he’s bad, he really means it. Imagine everything trying too hard to paint the scenery, draw the characters, outline the story. Imagine this is just your basic adventure action movie of the year, with a minor standardized twist. A movie that you must see anyway because you know, Star Wars and Porgs. Well that’s all there is to it.

Or perhaps there is more. A solemn vow not to renew itself. Ignominiously merging all the preceding episodes in one last go. Hammering the idea of making a clean sweep of the past. All that while preparing the path for a more streamlined way of storytelling, that would definitely transfer the franchise from geek and fanboys alike to the public at large.

This is not a fanboy critic, even though I liked the original trilogy so to say. Really I am not complaining that this movie wasn’t faithful or respectful to the original universe, that’s not the point. It is in fact the same story, basically following the same principles, scarily warmed over. A tired franchise repeating itself over and over again.

And this is where it gets so nightmarishly hopeless, in that you shouldn’t expect the following episodes to be any more different than this. Star Wars hasn’t got anything left to say more than a variant of the same thing. Which is easy to understand though, seeing how severely it got bashed last time it really tried to reinvent itself. But now it’s pretty dead, yet there it is, a gargantuan zombie, dead alive and still walking, pushed in the back by the Disney overlord as a carefully crafted marketing behemoth.

It is in that, that those movies are so hideously disrespectful. It’s a voyage in a museum of dead figures, figuratively speaking, all of them as convincing as mounted automatons.
Seeing how Disney is eagerly trying to bring that giant back to life, yet not instilling a single speck of life into it, is disgusting. Although they tried and did so, to a limited extent with Rogue One, a self proclaimed side story. And to be honest they tried to bring back some of that alchemy back into this installment. But clearly that wasn’t enough, and it fell apart like an ill finished Frankenstein’s monster.

Beside, there is another thing that the movie is trying to tell. That there are no real heroes, only wise leaders on various scales who somehow know the absolute right from the wrong. And that in the end, those truth holders are the ones worthy to remember, because they fight knowing that all we have is each other, and no other great cause can surpass that. The sweet tyranny of mutual love and the principle of life. But dare try to go beyond that and it’s just business as usual.

It tries to complete the simplistic manichaean view of the original story and presents this as the triangle formed by the republic, implicitly good, versus despotism, implicitly evil, versus anarchy, implicitly amoral. The intent is honorable and it goes further in developing those ideas than the preceding episode. But the movie itself screams ridicule from start to finish. Each attempt at self-reference to the original trilogy is really painful, but it never stops nor even pauses a little. Instead it comes waves after waves of throat pushed fan service, bad humour and forced acting. All of this summed up as an insincere and unconvincing piece which quickly fell into the realm of boredom.

Today’s movie: Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner, without Vangelis, without Harrison Ford, without that much subtlety, but for a twist. It was cool for sure, yet we didn’t go anywhere near the Tannhäuser Gate. But here to comfort you is Edward James Olmos making a paper-sheep, just in case you didn’t know what you were into.

Those kind of self references are numerous, so far to border on gratuitous fanservice. Still the movie is beautiful, and definitely trying to tell us something, but never gives us the opportunity to position ourselves in regard to its message.

Today’s movie: Valérian AND Laureline

Simple and efficient.
If Luc Besson only had the occasion to do one single movie in its entire life, that would probably be it. That’s the consecration of the fifth element. Now go ahead in your Limouzingue fly me from Rubanis to Syrte the magnificient, we’ll stop by Point Central and we’ll head for the stars, or a world without star, par l’Espace.

We are but simple travelers who seek the enchanter who lives beyond these woods.

Now if you think that’s a rip off of Mass Effect, you are wrong! Stop playing video games and go read your classics. Now if you think you are going to see an adventure of Valérian and Laureline, you are wrong! It’s heavily inspired but it’s nothing like it, and it’s something in its own right. Valérian is not that clumpsy hero of the equinox, a brave knight despite himself. Laureline is gratuitously aggressive (so much that it gets kind of scary). The Shingouz are not as dubious as they ought to be. The grumpy transmuter is not grumpy at all (they don’t even come from Bluxte, but they sure are rare), and except for the apparence they are closer to telepathic Spiglics than anything else. And for god sake, in this movie Point Central is the ISS!

M. Bison little known brother, he’s the one who made it in the family.

It’s very close to the Ambassador of the Shadows (despite the title), but there are numerous nodes to some of the other albums in the series. The movie is still Valérian and Laureline (also despite the title) their is an unspoken balance about it that is very hard to find nowadays, they are acting as a team, they are each other’s sidekicks, and they are each other’s heroes and that’s incredibly refreshing.

It’s also very simple. You shouldn’t expect the need to turn your brain on for two hours. But I’m not sure you should expect anything else. Would it have been more faithful, it wouldn’t have been enough. Would it have been less faithful, it wouldn’t have been worth the name. And this movie tries hard to do just that by placing itself right in the middle. So in the end it’s a pleasant and visually stunning space adventure among the riches of cosmos.

Today’s movie: Doctor Strange

“I like red cape.”

Doctor Strange by Scott Derrickson. It was cool, a no brainer for an easy evening! Although not exactly what we initially planned to see but you’ll probably know more about that in our next installment. Now if I had the power to refill beer indefinitely, I’d totally over abuse that! Beside that I’d also point out that the GFX were particularly nice. It reminded me of some other cool things.

Today’s movie: Ex Machina

<INSERT APPROPRIATE QUOTE HERE>

This movie by Alex Garland was on my watchlist since quite some time. Bring together AI, consciousness, existentialism, deal with the singularity and stuff and you got me talking. There are so many ways that such a movie can go wrong. But that’s not a problem here. The narrative is well thought, and it gets to the point. The movie is also honest with itself. But that’s about just that. In the end there is nothing new to learn, no door opened on further reflection and this is what bugged us.

Spoiler alert! Warning! Spoiler ahead!

I guess there are several possible readings. But if you think it revolved around a robot passing the Turing test, my two cents are that you are probably wrong. Instead the whole purpose wasn’t a test of Ava’s ability to fake human behavior and consciousness as she could probably pass this test with ease (as did her preceding iterations), but whether an average human (Caleb) was still capable of seeing her as just a machine or at least not human. And obviously that test has failed.

My other guess is that Nathan, beside being a total drunk twat hypocritical misogynistic asshole, is actually on our side. This guy is genuinely scared by the consequences that a singularity just round the corner will have on humanity (beyond all ethical concerns). So his purpose was not to create the first human-like AI, but to get one step ahead and limit the damage. He wanted to draw the blurry line that would separate machines from humanity so that he could let those machines exist (which he sees as inevitable), but at the same time ensure that humanity thrives and stays true to itself.

Now being a smart guy, Nathan was capable of this assumption. Also forcing himself to make this distinction had a very negative impact on his personality (probably turning him into the boozer and asshole that he is). But he was truly aware of that which is why he designed Ava with such apparent robotic features and why he needed an external human factor (Caleb) to continue his tests.

OK so after some more explanations by Alex Garland that’s probably not what he meant at all. Instead it really is just a test of how smart she is and will she escape. But I tend to disagree, but that’s just my opinion.

Today’s movie: The Wind Rises

風立ちぬ

The Wind Rises by Hayao Miyazaki. Almost saw this movie in 2013 when I lived for some time in Tokyo. We planned to see it at the cinema but for some reason we didn’t (there was so much to do back then). Finally didn’t got to see it until today.

All that we’d ever aspire from life, yet it’s nothing but a dream.

Today’s movie: Rogue One

“We have hope. Rebellions are built on hope! ” – Jyn Erso

Now that’s a Star Wars I like to see!
Without hesitation the best Star Wars movie of the last decade (as of Jan. 2017). That’s not a hard feat though I must admit. But it brought far more to the cinematic universe of Star Wars than the last “Episode”. Not in the holes it fills, but more in the quality of the story, movie and its overall originality.

Now I can hear some of you screaming in the back, that’s not part of the main nonalogy (nonalogy? nonology? ennealogy?), it’s a standalone movie, it’s not really Star Wars. Well, tell you what, I don’t care. Disney decided to go non-canon anyway, so for me it’s just another movie in the alternate Star Wars universe.

Now that’s probably a targeting strategy for all of us who thought that Force Awakens was more of a disgrace than Ep. I, II, III. But it worked, I liked it, and now I want to see the next episodes. You got me Mickey Mouse!

Mike Mitchell‘s Mickey Mouse – $$$

The opinions were not undivided, but I liked it. There is something to this movie that is more human and makes it more plausible compared to the others in the series. It’s about small things. Like the stains and dust on spaceship windows, hyper-space light reflections during hyper-drive, the actual need of hyper-drive, the actual need of space travel, the reality of occupation by the Empire. In the end it made the movie much more believable to me.

But one of the things that I really liked was the way Jyn Erso character was developed throughout the movie. You could grasp her complicated views on the Rebellion and the Empire. You could feel her fears and doubts, you could see her think, understand her own awareness of the events and her place among them. She appeared as human as you can be. So it was really natural for me to attach to her character. And all that contributed to my realization that, in the end, she displayed real courage. See, you love people for what they really are, their inner self. And the movie tried to emphasize just that, what she really is.

It also presented the more hazy face of the Rebellion and the Empire by displaying both factions as more organic entities with their own internal political struggles, conflicting ambitions and ideals. This resulted in a story that had a bit more to offer by detaching itself slightly from the manichaean vision of the episodes.

It was also beautiful and thrilling. The pace was really good, and it contributed a lot to the intensity of the movie, especially in the latter parts. In the end all that contributed to a story that was most of the time really enjoyable.

Now that’s not to say that the movie was without flaws.

First, the most obvious, resurrecting dead actors with completely CGIed characters, just forget about it, seriously! It does not work yet, like not at all. Peter Cushing looks like some kind of evil puppet that suddenly became self aware but still has a really hard time figuring out what it is to behave, move and talk like an human being. Carrie Fisher was fine, but only for the fact that you see her for a couple of seconds.

“USE-THE-FORCE-LUKE”
A robotized version of Sir Alec Guinness plays Obi-Wan Kenobi in a future Star Wars installment.
– Robby the Robot portrait by Iain Claridge

The movie tries hard not to fall into the SixFlags camera shooting syndrome (where some scene look more like they were filmed from a rollercoaster than anything else) or the far too common InYourFace syndrome trying to abuse the sensational. Sure some scenes will make you cringe a little, but it’s still not as bad as The Hobbit for instance.

There are the obligatory two cents jokes and somewhat not-always-that-subtle cameos. But there are some who apparently think that you cannot make a movie without those nowadays. While I’m OK with nods to older episodes as long as they do not show up too frequently to feel like distractions, putting a stupid not funny at all joke at the end of a 30 seconds action scene can ruin not only the scene, but also the characters and butcher the story credibility.

Lastly I think that the movie really has one big flaw, it’s its non-homogeneous way of handling the characters. Like I said Jyn Erso character is well developed and this really adds to her credibility. Others like Cassian Andor or Cpt. Obvious (K-2SO) are also fine, and the latter makes a nice and funny support character.

On the other hand some characters were developed on a completely different dimension. I think in particular of Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus. They did not add that much to the plot, they got some of the worst and almost all clunky lines, and I couldn’t help but to see them as a dead weight couple that somehow found himself playing in the wrong movie.

I may seem a bit harsh but I really think you shouldn’t add characters just for the sake of it. Even so with the laudable intention of completing the story by the addition of new components. The story that the movie tries to convey must act as a coherent whole. And in this case it could have been much better articulated over fewer characters.

That being said I’m now eagerly waiting for the next episodes. With a bit of apprehension though considering Rian Johnson (Ep. VIII) and Colin Trevorrow (Ep. IX) filmography. Looper left me a bit unimpressed and that habit of throwing successful TV series directors or writers (even when that was only for a handful of episodes) in charge of tent poles movies never turned out well for me. And don’t even get me started on Jurassic World. But in the end only time will tell!

Today’s movie: Personal Shopper

Lewis ?

At last, a nice movie on the fringe of supernatural!

Personal Shopper by Olivier Assayas, not your classical ghost movie. It is sometimes difficult to see where the movie is going, but it reveals itself fully in the end. Also if you thought you knew Kristen Stewart, think again! She delivers a great performance which really adds to the mood of the movie.