Seen: Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, season 1 ★★★★☆

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Super busy, just a quick note: Check out the weird bizarre mystery series Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency  on Netflix. LOOOSELY based on 2 books by Douglas Adams that I really love and that are not so well known. It has this British-esque goofy Dr. Who feel, and most of all: Has the greatest most courageous music in a tv show I have heard in years. Wild, raw choices that work really well, check it out!

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Seen: Minority Report ★★★★☆

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I somehow put this off for ages, maybe because Tom Cruise is such a charming character. But I saw it yesterday, and I like the setting, the general plot (with a strong 4th quarter, too) … I like the way mystery and intrigue is introduced. In general, it reminded me why I love sci fi.

Would love to remove half a star, though. The very end leaves me wanting a clearer resolution, and it feels vaguely “generic” all over the place. You know, the way “12 Monkeys” or “Fight Club” doesn’t. What do I mean? I think some characters just fulfill a role, all that “love interest” / “lost son” stuff feels soo generic, this could be a prequel to “Shutter Island”. I don’t feel a writer “putting something he HAS to say” into these parts of the story. It feels more like “Ok, we need a strong motivation here and here, and some reflection here. Done!” It is a 2 1/2 hour movie. Let the characters say and do things because they want to, or not because it is needed right now by the plot. The main characters literally have no interests, no odd curves or wrinkles. I don’t know why, but basic cold hard facts about tragic characters somehow reduce the impact. Show me a character and say “this one is very very sad”, it doesn’t work. Let me see him/her laugh about something in a weird way, flirt with somebody, try to find a new passion and fail etc. You know, the way suffering characters do. The most unique character, Agatha, stays SADLY underdeveloped. I would have basically given her the rest of the movie, she would have deserved it. The entire movie could have secretly been about her. But it isn’t.

As a movie in general: 5 stars. 1/2 star off because of the missing “soul”, and 1/2 off because I think I have discovered the weakest John Williams score.

Seen: Kick-Ass ★★★★★

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I feel a bit ashamed that all I seem to post is movie reviews lately. I am still too busy for my year in review post, which will take me a few hours to write. But I am not too busy to watch movies while I need to finish writing  jobs or comb my inbox.

Kick-Ass is as awesome as the internet says. I watched it 3 times. 2nd time with audio commentaries on, which were very insightful, 3rd time showing it to somebody else.

1st time around I was not happy with the last third of the movie. The movie, which is about real-life wannabe teenage superheroes, does only focus on Kick-Ass in the 1st half of the movie. They make me feel for the character, something superhero movies usually do not accomplish with me, because how can you really cheer invincible Superman or root for Know-It-All Batman? And they basically take him from the plot. He has only 1 action in the showdown, the 30 minutes before that he is absolutely useless. Even the big “final plan” leading to his only action makes no sense at all. “I do everything, you do nothing and then at the end you do that one thing”. A plan of genius.

Instead they switch over to Hit Girl. I have mixed feelings. In the beginning, I bought the moral system Kick-Ass is placed in, and Hit Girl seemed horribly violent (from that point of view). I thought the movie wanted me to react that way. “Look, she wanted to do good but fell to the Dark Side”. But at the end I realised, they want me to love that violence. So, why do they do that brilliant job of pulling me into the world of Dave/Kick-Ass, feeling for him, and then they suppose I desert him for the super girl who uses brutality that alienates Kick-Ass.

So, 1st time it felt like a deus ex situation. Like “we take it from here, shorty”, and you root for the sympathetic child hero instead of the big FBI bully.  It should have been about Kick-Ass. They sort of gave me that but it felt hollow. My imaginary FBI bully would fight crime for 40 minutes, and at the very end lean down to the child hero and say “But YOU deserve all the credits.” That’s lame, and has a bitter taste.

Director Matthew Vaughn says, he always compared his plots  to Star Wars. Here, Kick-Ass is Luke, Hitgirl is Han Solo. Yea OK, and now imagine Han Solo doing everything after half a movie, Luke not growing at all but just contemplating that he is a failure. NO, it’s the other way around. Han Solo want to quit and has his one last action, shooting the Death Star. Kick-Ass is my hero. In your movie, Kick-Ass is Short Round, and Hitgirl is Indiana Jones. (Or rather, Kick-Ass is Bastian Balthasar Bux and Hitgirl is Atreyu, but in Neverending Story, Bastian at least has universal power at the end). I feel bad when he is pushed aside into the dirt and you deny me the full satisfaction of his rebound from that.

BUT Hit Girl is so cute. Actress Chloe Moretz is 11 years, plays all stunts herself, because there are no 11 years old stuntmen (quoting the director). What a brilliant performance. 2nd and 3rd watch I really loved her and was OK with her violence, because I knew then that the movie does not want me to hate the violence. Now, I felt for her. A lot (CUTTTEEEE).

Therefore I still give 5 stars.  What the fuck, why not? I have never seen a movie 3 times in a row before, and brilliant story otherwise, cool references to modern age (Youtube, Myspace), funny, good dialogues, a lot of cool scenes. That’s a super hero movie for 2010.  I NEED a sequel. And I hate sequels.

Music is great! Several composers were worked really hard by the director according the audio commentary. Danny Elfman gave them a cue as a gift. 2 songs by prodigy. And the main theme at the end + DVD menu is totally cool.

Things I learned from the audio commentary:
1. The director supposedly worked for free but kept the Mist Mobile which was done by the Pimp My Ride guys.
2. The girl in the big billboard ad (which you can see about 20 seconds in the first meeting with Big Daddy) is is the director’s wife.
3. Director and Main Actor are british, the latter needed to speak American (good job). The comic author is so totally scottish, what an accent!
4. Lindsy who played the love interest Katie made a scene because she misunderstood the crew. They suggested doggy-style for the sex scene on the trash cans, she somehow understood anal sex and got totally mad. It happens to all of us.
5. I am happy and content as a game composer, when I hear the director saying things like “I feel sorry for the composer, because I made him redo the music for this scene again, and again, many many times  just to get it RIGHT”.  Ouch.

Seen: Shutter Island ★★★★✰

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(uh great I need a serious writing warm-up for a script, so here it goes)

Shutter Island. Hurts. This could have been a 5 star movie for me. But, I don’t know… BITCHING–heavy post ahead, close browser now!

Quick introduction: It’s not really a horror movie, more a mysterious mindfuck. Leonardo is a marshall, investigating the case of an escaped mental patient on an asylum island, 1954. I don’t want to spoil anything (because I got spoiler’d when I checked out the Youtube comments of the trailer, something you should NEVER DO). But I hope it’s not a spoiler if I say there is something to spoil.

OK, maybe we have another case of my pet topic – Expectations – because I had them. The trailer was outstanding, the mood and setting dark and mysterious like the things I like the most (Gabriel Knight, Angel Heart…). It felt relevant to the game “Asylum” we are helping with sound-wise. Can a movie only disappoint me when I expect so much? Maybe.

Yes it’s good. So what do I complain about?

It is not “a work of art”. It could have easily been.

Why? Because when I watched it again, it should have made perfect and complete sense. Like “Fight Club”, one of my all time favs. For me it’s harder to accept an “almost brilliant” movie than a weak one. It seems like they almost avoided all the possibilities, all the little symbolic moments and scenes you could have made.

Watching it twice, I counted 8 little clues I missed the first time around, and my internal love meter went up (not what you think you naughty bastard). But these were all in the first third of the movie. Then, it actually got worse. Knowing the end, it should all have made artistic sense. Like a good Agatha Christie novel (of which I have read 50). “Knowing the murderer”, so to speak, it all should be completely clear, how could I have missed it.Do you know that smile on your face when you see how you were tricked and fooled, the little telltale signs you missed the 1st time? They are there! But almost all at the beginning. Then nothing. Then one or two in your face ones, extremely watered down by obvious misinformation (a no no). A sign of a bad mystery writer.

I don’t want to spoil, but let’s dance around it. Imagine the crime author giving you a perfect alibi for one suspect, presented in a way which is absolutely fool-proof, then later the story tells you the alibi was false. You read the alibi scene again, and it is not presented vaguely, it does not appear in a new light, it is obvious misinformation to make the  riddle harder to solve. For example, there is solid and perfect proof that the suspect must be male and over 30, and the author presents 100 witnesses for that, God steps down and says Aye, and the surprising resolution is: the suspect was a female dog. You read the book again, and it does NOT make sense at all in 10 scenes. It could have been very artfully done, in no scene we said it’s a human, but no, it is shoehorned, there is a man on the cover with an 80ies haircut and a bloody knife. That’s exactly how I feel.

Sorry, back to the movie, there is a scene which supposedly “really” happened, not imagined, which the movie claims gives away the truth, yes it does, but before and after that moment in the same scene it doesn’t, it claims the opposite.

Again we are at logic, another of my reoccuring rants. For me, there must be a completely solid logical foundation under any adventure or mysterious movie like this one. So why is the 2nd half so weird. It doesn’t feel true knowing the end. Even though in an asylum insanity is obviously a theme, and hallucinations, I am not buying the movie’s resolution completely.

It might be that the novel the movie is based upon is perfect. It might be that the screenplay is perfect, and for the sake of a good shot, smooth cutting or a nice actor performance, the inner harmony and symmetry had to take a step back. Many people think that way. Creative license my arse. Story reigns supreme. Then female nude scenes, then nothing, then the rest of the movie.

What are we left with? A movie which gave me 10 ideas of scenes which would have made it awesome. I need a spoiler button on this damn site to discuss my spoiler-heavy ideas with you. Scenes which could have been read in two ways, like Sixth Sense or Fight Club. It could have been a masterpiece you want to see 10 times. But, I think it is… (swallows) a good movie. Nothing more. AND I CAN’T MAKE THE MOVIE IN MY HEAD because it would be too similar! The chance to make this movie in perfect is gone.

Bashing over? Naaa. MUSIC. What the fuck? This movie has no composer. Being a composer, I can only hate the fact like cashiers hate self serve cash registers. The music editor has simply chosen orchestral pieces by mostly temporary composers and arranged them. It is inconsistent, and sometimes quite out of place. Bohoo. There are some great pieces in there, of course, and it is definitely not you normal heartless horror score, but hey, modern classical music composers, don’t crap where I work, OK? Ohhh god I hate when THEY come over into our country, taking our jobs, stealing our daughters, those filthy modern classical guys.

AHHH stop before I forget it, I can copy this from half of my reviews, stop hurting children! What’s wrong with you? There is horror without threatening babies or killing children, OK? Can’t we please stop that? What the fuck? They ban our video games for nothing, but every movie which is rated R18 thinks it’s a matter of good taste to hit a baby in the face? Can you imagine boxers taking a break to torture little children, because otherwise it’s not violent enough? Did Hitchcock sneak up on you in the cinema to stick scissors into your eye, because otherwise you would not be frightened enough?

I don’t find it funny, interesting or necessary. It’s very important in “Shutter Island”, I understand that, exceptional permissiom granted. But see “1408”. A perfectly cool, dark, creepy movie and then we need to cut to a little girl dying of cancer. Now I am having fun. Fuckers.

I think it’s tasteless. I need to distant myself from the movie in those scenes, as I am a father which is like emotional surgery, and I hence get ripped right out of the suspense of disbelief. There are a few things which are taboo, things I don’t want to be “entertained” with, that is dying children, rape, and doing taxes.

Seen: Book of Eli ★★★★✮

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Wow. Best post-apocalyptic setting I can remember now. Deep, rich, apocalyptic feeling you can cut with a knife. A few “buts” (once again, the female lead role looks too clean and polished just like in e.g. King Arthur), otherwise, I hope the guys behind the quite shallow, robotic, empty-eyed Fallout 3 have watched it with pens ready.

Excellent dialogues (I hardly could forsee anything!). Even though it’s a bad ass action flick, they twist those typical dialogues very well. You know, silly lines like in “Legion”, are taken and twisted, or almost delivered then smashed by a sudden attack. Brilliant.

Religion is a central theme and I think this is one of the few occasions in which I am happy with it. Worship sign of approval. Yes, the message is NOT religion = evil, OK, but still, it’s so dirty and painful, like a monk in a torture chamber, that I can except a positive picture of faith. But, they casually refer to religion possibly being the source of the world’s destruction (true), so all is well.

What I don’t like is that the movie doesn’t peak. There is some revelation, a cool surprise (no spoilers), but no real closure. Feels a bit like Matrix 1, a bit open end, so much unresolved…

Still, I watched parts of it twice, read something about the movie afterwards on the web, and thought about several times afterwards: A big success, a movie that had an effect, and entertained me. Definite GO watch it.

Music: The three credited composers (headed by Atticus Ross) provided a modern “evolve”-esque , pad-rich sound with an interesting, unexpected theme. Highly processed, very unnatural, and very cool.

Seen: And Justice for All ★★★★✰

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1979 is a long time ago. German dubbed version reads out all on screen text, and that’s about 20 signs with long texts in the (normally silent) main title montage. Weird! I want the English sound track… Grmlg Video On Demand grmslgjsl.

Otherwise: Very cool scenes of every day life (I like those, you know, exactly the stuff you usually cut out nowadays). Slow progress, interesting development of the lawyer story. Big theme of justice, truth and morality, deep characters, excellent unconventional ending.

Sound wise: Let’s forget it. 😉 No, I don’t know about the music, can’t remember now, but the sound design is as weird and sparse as it was before the Star Wars revolution kicked in universally.

Seen: 8mm ★★★✮✰

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Lovefilm.de (yes that Link gives me $$ when you use it to join)  now has Video on Demand, only 150 movies so far, but 5 added to it every day it seems, and only in German. I talked about their DVD rental flatrate (I currently pay 17€ a month and have 2 DVDs of my choice at home, when I send them back I get new ones from my list). So let’s cut the advertising…

I have no time at all, but I managed to squeeze in a quick movie while I was looking for sound effect source material for a project (currently doing the ambient tracks for Dungeons).

8mm is staring Nicolas Cage, which me and my friends call The Mumbler, though his mumbling is lost in the German version. Damn you Video On Demand, I hate dubbed versions!

It’s about murder and snuff porn, so just my thing 😉 No really, the story was much more gripping than I have expected, even though I was working and watching it on the side, my adrenaline went up in the action scenes (which almost never happens, usually I am distant and analytical). Some emotion affected me, even, while other scenes were overplayed I think. Once again that Hollywood thing, try dry understatement with depth and meaning, this will make a brilliant movie, no need for weepy bombast with an army of violins, we have 2010 goddamnit.

Talking of violins, god this must be the most annoying soundtrack of my life. Filmtracks gave it 2 of 5 stars, and that’s flattering. 😉 While it does work in the action scenes, and while it is fresh and new and a weird approach – it is also totally annoying and hate-inducing: The movie is about a hidden crime in the underground illegal porn scene, strictly American, with basically only white people, and half of the music is weird morrocan chanting like a yodeling cat in a grinder. Who gave the go ahead for that? Why are scores rejected all the time, by the biggest composers out there, and somehow this gets green-lighted???? (try it from 1:20, and tell me you like it, I dare you!)

I refrain from talking about the sound, I did not catch the credits and those Video on Demand movies are compressed. No sound rating for those.

Sorry, once again I have to hurry to blurt this out, I am very busy before Xmas blabla…

Seen: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian ★★★★✰

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So I now saw the movie to one of my favorite soundtracks. Expect the review to be seriously biased.

It’s of course a teenager fantasy flick, but as I have learned with Eragon, that doesn’t need to be a bad thing. If you prepare yourself, and are able to connect with your inner teen, they can be quite alright.

I hand out 4 stars because I am overall very happy with the movie. Awesome music, some of those themes turn my knees into butter. Harry Gregson-Williams is my hero 🙂 Great battle scenes (which was a weakness of Eragon I think), special effects massive (the attacking trees really rocked).

It’s long, over 2 hours. So every scene has room to breath. Many moody scenes, which other people would cut. Slow progress. Battles in which you can follow the tactics and enjoy the outcome. It is a bit darker than Narnia 1, and there are only a few unbelievability problems with the script as it was shot (something I watch out for in watered-down-for-children movies).

It’s like a tiny toned-down Lord of the Rings, with a little bit of make-belief and roleplaying. Plus weird talking animals. BUT while they do throw a Disney face once in a while, they take themselves seriously. Not too awful.

20 people working on the sound… It was spotless indeed. Together with my fav recent fantasy score.. can’t go wrong. 5 Stars for audio (and I look the other way regarding the awfully sweet pop song at the end)

Seen: Legion ★★✮✰✰

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Sorry I am in a rush. I had this movie lying here for over a week until I had time to watch it. I am in a the middle of a tight soundtrack job, but I had enough emails to write in the last days that I could watch the movie on the side.

Well. Apocalyptic and religious and dark and horror – seems like my movie. But it isn’t.

The religious thing is on the backseat, front row is reserved for Zombie-like fight scenes. After a very broad stroke epic beginning with lines that could rival the stupidity of Arnold in End Of Days, we are suddenly at a truck stop in the desert, where we will stay until 15 mins before the end. Until that point, if you would just rewatch Night of the Living Dead and add a few feathers to it, you basically have the same experience.

We hear about each character’s uninteresting background, and there is death, and blood. I thought we get interesting in the end when we finally change the location, but to stay spoiler free: No we don’t.

I don’t know, I need to feel the massive awe of the supernatural in such a movie. You have to put some layers in it, the feel of epic things going on in the background. But every line that could help deliver such a feeling is copied from a cowboy movie. If you have a plain simple two liner, don’t make a 10 seconds break in the middle. I could have written the 2nd line on a blackboard and shown it to the actor just in time for him to completely unimpress me with its foreseeability. “You wanted to live like them”. Half an hour later: “Now you’ll die like them.” I want to take the actor and hit the screenwriter on the head with him.

Nothing else is handed to me to impress me with the massiveness of the occasion, angels coming to earth and shit. We could cut about 5 minutes of the movie, and we would have a perfectly standard bible-free zombie movie. The only biblical feeling in this movie is the psalm quote in the beginning and half a fight scene with Gabriel. Hmph.

Ah yeah and cut out the crap with babies and children in danger. I think it’s as off-limits as rape. Not amusing at all I think, but that’s just my opinion. I am getting soft.

Music composed by John Frizzell, solid horror job, with all the epic horror oomph you might desire.

12 people working on sound design. Also, good work.

Seen: Eragon ★★★★✰

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Eragon is a book written by a 15 year-old boy. OK, that is romantic and gets my instant standing ovation. Hell what did I do when I was that age?? Ah yes I remember. Girls.

Let’s get past the title. I have three theories.

1) In the dictionary under Dragon he found Dragon Herb, which is Tarragon in English, and Estragon in German or French. =>Eragon?

2) Or he just slipped on his keyboard when typing Dragon.

3) Or he tried to transcribe the name “Aragorn” from his Lord of the Rings tape and got it a bit wrong.

So coming from D&D2, and with the expectations I had, I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a well and careful produced, fat, somewhat straight and cheesy fantasy flik for teens. And it’s awesome! I had goose bumps despite myself about 4 times, that is magic.

Bright visuals, convincing effects, great sound, well-produced classic fantasy soundtrack… There really made an effort here. IMDB says 100 million budget, well spent!

Critical reception quite awful, again: If you expect a new and convincing twist on the genre, forget it. The book got the same mixed reception, it’s written by a boy for god’s sake. AND I don’t care if the movie totally rapes the book, too long didn’t read… YES I admit I usually HATE that, and if I had KNOWN the book beforehand I would certainly have hated the movie. Damn. 🙂

If you do not know the book and expect a totally stupid trash teen movie, you will be surprised. As a “cinematic piece of art” it is too shallow, too straight, but perfectly polished, no wonder with Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound, but does that deserve 5 of 10 (IMDB)? Amazon 2 stars? Audience expectations, ah my pet subject…

Out of protest I give 4 of 5. And I regret almost nothing.

By the way, I have recently talked about Dungeons & Dragons 1. This one also stars Jeremy Irons, but suddenly unsucky. He is of course another generic character here, Obiwan-esque, but he felt real to me.

Music: Very well done by Patrick Doyle. Not “masterpiece” to me, but it would be with 2 or 3 killer themes, like e.g. “Prince Caspian”, “Dragonheart”, “Braveheart” etc. Still, a lot of feeling for what is needed for each situation, for a LIGHT family fantasy setting. I can learn A LOT from that (except the credits pop, brrrr).

Sound: Wow, everything is big and bright. The dragon sounds are absolut top. No wonder that this movie is #1 movie yet where dragons play a major role. Only exception: The battles. Thin, empty, flat. Almost no battle ambience. Possibly a design choice, only in CUT TO: moments do we hear awesome swordplay. Otherwise it sounds like you are searching for your fav fork in your kitchen drawer. Checking out the commentary later to see that.

16 Sound guys, including 1 for just the dragon’s voice.