O@tM: Movies I (Unfortunately) Watched

Oh my friends, what a fukn disappointment for us movie lovers the year 2016 is up to now. And there is no sign that the situation is about to get better anytime soon. If not a healing cathartic catastrophe befalls modern hollywood, that wipes out 95% of studio execs, 100% of studio accountants and 120% of screenwriters, I see nothing but a very dark future for the artform of filmmaking.

Has Hollywood collectively forgotten what a powerhouse they are in the industry, how much influence they have? Not even the Chinese with their multimulti spectacles have that big of an impact. At least not in the West. It’s exactly the other way round, the gigantic China and all of Asia is diminished to become nothing but a market. A market for Western blockbusters, sup-par blockbusters. We are expecting them to enjoy our more and more silly and nonsensical movies. A concept that bears its own downfally already right in its intention. If you wanna dominate the market you gotta deliver the goods! We all agree on the intelligence of Asians, so why the fuck are the Hollywoodians trying to sell them shit?

Which brings me to the subject of today’s movie rant:

xmenposter

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3385516/?ref_=nv_sr_1

Since the dawn of civilization, he was worshipped as a God. Apocalypse, the first and most powerful mutant from Marvel’s X-Men universe, amassed the powers of many other mutants, becoming immortal and invincible. Upon awakening after thousands of years, he is disillusioned with the world as he finds it and recruits a team of powerful mutants, including a disheartened Magneto, to cleanse mankind and create a new world order, over which he will reign. As the fate of the Earth hangs in the balance, Raven with the help of Professor X must lead a team of young X-Men to stop their greatest nemesis and save mankind from complete destruction.

IMDb: 7.3

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Thank god for stunning CGI … yaaawn

May I urge you to read the short synopsis above? Confusing, right? WTF, where did that En Sabah Nur (Apocalypse) character came from all of a sudden? What purpose does he serve? What a cheap and not very creative construction to whip up some drama over an finished story arc. To be completely honest, the last two X-Men flicks (First Class and Days of Future Past) were already kinda superfluous and didn’t add much to the story of X-Men apart from explaining the past. Still what they, and the other X-Men movies, had in abundance was always good old human drama. They were always exercises in tolerance and the lack thereof. In power plays, politics, sociology, misuse of powers and demasking humanity as a bunch of apes hardly above the rest of the mammal world. In other words: X-Men movies made us look at and question ourselves.

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How come …

Whatever you thought of the X-Men universe – which is basically exactly our own universe plus mutants – the X-Men movies have always been entertaining and kinda as unstupid as film adaptions of comics go. You could always see there was some thinking involved on part of the screenwriters and producers.

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… that so many mutants have a heavy bias …

Not so in Apocalypse. With this flick our ragtag group of mutants enters the realm of fantasy for fantasy’s sake, as an excuse for WHOA! CGI effects and wildly overproduced but ultimately anaemic action and stunt shots.

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… towards blue?

And once again it shows that Bryan Singer isn’t an action director. He’s indeed a good guy to direct actors and set them up in dialogue scenes but struggles badly when pushing some animated pixels across the screen. It was exactly that stigma that plagued the X-Men movies from the first rendition onwards.

apo9
It’s like way back on the Ponderosa: “Some day, my son, all this will be yours!”

So, with the bad screenplay and wrong direction out of the way, what is left? Actors, yeah. No! Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark from GoT) ain’t a replacement for Famke Janssen as Jean Grey, neither her acting abilities nor her looks come even close. The inevitable Jennifer Lawrence is surely a good actress but ain’t beauytwise and body type a match for Rebecca Romijn as Mystique. Alexandra Shipp was a satisfying young Storm, definately looked the part … but the she didn’t have much to do in the way of acting.

apo7
Halle or Alexandra: The choice is yours

Talking about acting. What is an actor’s director to do with his cast in a brainfree and pretty silent action movie? He gives us a lot of close-ups, of people which look in a certain way. Concerned, shocked, bitchy, triumphant, hurt, bored, determinated … we’ve been shown a lot of these portray shots. As you might imagine, this mostly speechless action spectacle with underwhelming action and totally non-existent drama was rather boring. And as is the fashion with your little movie reviewer lately, she needed two attempts to get through the ordeal of watching this snorefest.

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Thanks for flying with X-Airlines

Hey H-wood, if you wanna exploit the vast Asian cinema market, you gotta do better. Much better. I dunno if Asians have better taste in movies than we but I know for sure they are usually a heck more intelligent than we Caucasians are. And they don’t hold the West in high regards and are a hard sell. So if you want to create a huge profit from the Chinese box office, you must produce less bullshit movies, capisce?

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Good mutants and …

CONCLUSION: Pff. :/ Apocalypse is definately the worst of all the X-Men flicks, with maybe the exception of the Wolverine standalones.

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… bad mutants

WATCH IT? Not if you can avoid it.

apo6
She should’ve stayed in less dangerous Westeros

THE EXPERTS:

What movie did this guy watch? Reviews like this happen if you’re high on drugs while watching a movie.

The good old Mark has a much more realistic stance on X-Men: Apocalypse.

_________________________________________________________________

Same or similar happend to me in much too many movies lately. Where did the good old perspective go? Where to disappeared good judgement, proof of concept, thorough planning, risk taking, self-awareness and development?

Seems all these classic characteristics of a good movie have taken a backseat in the last 20 years or so. Before the turn of the century you had to deliver a product of outstanding quality and appeal to be able to call it a blockbuster … and ultimately to earn money with it. Nowadays your movie must just be loud, obnoxiously expensive, abrasive, sexy and fuk the rest.

Two very negative examples of this brainless trend are Captain America: Civil War and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice as of lately. I didn’t have much positive to say about either of them. And neither did my more professional fellow movie reviewers.

Still they were amongst the highest grossing movie franchises of the millenium, real blockbusters if there ever were any. But why? For what reason did these below average flicks became Soooo. Fuking. Huuuge??? No reason, right? These totally forgettable movies only exist in our general conscious due to relentless marketing strategies and hype and … fluff! Yes, it’s all fluffy packaging but no real content. Even the popcorn you were munching throughout the movie was of higher nutritional value.

And now Hollywod is going to make it worse: Ever noticed how little mono- and dialogue scenes we have in new movies? It’s supposedly all in regard of the Asian market, to save money on dubs, repectively making subtitles easier to read for non-English speakers. HOLLYWOODIANS ARE DUMBING DOWN THEIR PRODUCTS DELIBERATELY, FFS!!!

_____________________________________________________________________

BUT, after this little excursion, let’s get back to the business of reviewing movies. And in lieu of what I just described to you and the general lack of good new movies I thought I’d try to give this classic a shot. A real classic, one of the great, cultish Hollywood dramas:

Ben-Hur movie poster

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0052618/?ref_=fn_al_tt_2

Judah Ben-Hur lives as a rich Jewish prince and merchant in Jerusalem at the beginning of the 1st century. Together with the new governor his old friend Messala arrives as commanding officer of the Roman legions. At first they are happy to meet after a long time but their different politic views separate them. During the welcome parade a roof tile falls down from Judah’s house and injures the governor. Although Messala knows they are not guilty, he sends Judah to the galleys and throws his mother and sister into prison. But Judah swears to come back and take revenge.

IMDb: 8.1

Ben-Hur key art
That’s a Jewish prince of the year a.d. zero. At least in the American mind it is. See the stripe where his t-shirt usually ends on his upper arm? LOL! 🙂

And … BOING! … Little Orca gets knocked off her high horse right away. Reluctantly she must admit that not everything was better back in the old days, in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Ok, little explainification: To my shame I must also admit that I’ve never watched the famous, the legendary, the great, the 11 Oscars winning, Ben-Hur (1959). I knew and have seen snippets of the infamous chariot race and the naval battle and I always thought Wow, this Ben-Hur was wayyyy ahead of its time!

Ben-Hur dvd cover
I’m calling bs on that. The chariot races were held in an arena, not in the desert. What is this, Star Wars Pod racers?
 And it was, at least in terms of production. Let’s remember, kids, there was no CGI back then. People had typewriters, which didn’t render graphical effects too well. So they used real stuntmen and real stunthorses for the dangerous business of filmmaking. And dangerous it was indeed. I’ve heard stories about deadly mishaps during the shooting of the chariot race. Litle tidbit of info just for you: Shooting of the chariot race alone took five months! Can you imagine that?
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The not-so-exciting opening “scene” of Ben-Hur

That’s all very exciting, so the movie as a whole must be exciting too, right? Yes, and according to the synopsis it promises drama galore, as played by some of the finest actors and actresses of the time. Pff, some whitewashing must been forgiven since they didn’t have many many famous actors of Palestinian ancestry available in Hollywood.

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No white-washing of characters back in ’59, quite the contrary. Here we see black-washing of an otherwise white actor.

Same problem as with the ethnicity of the actors I had with their age. Jewish princesses or slavegirls who are supposed to be aged between 13 – 15 were played by 30plus actresses. WTF?

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Mr. Wyler had as good time imagining the 30 y/o actress as 15 y/o girl

Anyhoo, downloading Ben-Hur (1959) was no problem, watching it turned out to become Orca’s peril. I barely made it to the one-hour mark of this 3.5 hours gigantomaniac film-epic. No, really. I had to stop the movie. Couldn’t bear that shite anymore.

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The 2009 Blu-Ray version was technically better, dramaturgically not so much

Rarely ever have I seen such cut-out characters, talking in such artificial pretentious sentences of wannabe weight and heft. The hole direction – by William Wyler, the Spielberg of his time, no less – reminded me of amateurish plays of the worst kind. Hardly ever spoke any character anything of consequence. The whole pacing was strangely off-timing, the acting unbelievable and the set-up a row of scenes just like freshly out of a screenplay. Worse, it looked as if they just filmed the rehearsals.

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Of course, this is how Roman officers looked like. Squeeky clean, non-sweaty and with great hair underneath their plastic helmuts

So much for bad acting and stilted dialogues in modern movies. Ben-Hur did all possible mistakes in staging a movie for the silver screen already in 1959. But still I gotta say: They didn’t know better back then. And Ben-Hur was surely really big theatre, so with nowaday’s expertise we should expect movie directors and screenwriters to do soooooooo so so much better. Too bad they don’t.

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This is what happens to recalcitrant Jewboys: They end up as galley slaves

And yes, it was kinda one hour into the movie when I gave up and we didn’t see the first action scene yet. Of course, I love a slow pacing in movies, I love it when directors take their time to tell a story, and I hate senseless jumping back and forth in the timeline but Ben-Hur overdid it with the linearity and slowliness.

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“Zrew him to ze floar!”

I should’ve seen it coming when the movie started with kinda 10 minutes of overture. Just music on a still photo. Just music, no text, no movement. Reason unknown.

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Oh so pretty prancing horses

But who kows, maybe I’ll give it another shot. On another day. But that day ain’t today.

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“Great hair.” “You too, my friend.”

CONCLUSION: What was surely and rightfully a big hit and a legendary instant classic in 1959, didn’t age very well. Apart from the really weighty chariot race, Ben-Hur is artificial almost on a kitschy scale and not nearly as timeless as I hoped for. It appears rather laughable by today’s standards.

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There is something about men in skirts. One just wants to have a peek, no?

WATCH IT? No, why?

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Not at all staged promo shot

THE EXPERTS:

“Campy fun”, “Homoerotic”, “Square-jawed masculinity”. That NYT critic knows his movies. =^.^=

Mark Kermode’s review of the 2016 Ben-Hur with some reminders the earlier renditions:

Explosion in the stupidity factory it is not. It’s more like pffffff.”

 

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