Mini-Reviews #30

Another batch of mini-reviews for films and shows/seasons that I’ve watched over the last couple of months…

Film

Inside Out
As usual: Quality work from the Pixar Studios; enjoyed it.
★★★★ 4/5 stars
Boss Level
A version of Groundhog Day as a mid-budget action comedy; it’s OK for what it is, just don’t expect anything even remotely remarkable…
★★☆☆☆ 2/5 stars
Last Action Hero
It’s not Arnold’s finest piece of work, but also not the worst two hours one could spend staring at a screen…
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars
Army of the Dead
Aaand, the curse of Netflix continues: They bury really bad scripts under tons of money. Not worth the time.
☆☆☆☆ 1/5 stars
Brightburn
A nice twist on the Superman saga, but also nothing really new or unexpected (maybe it’s 10-15 years too late). But at least it had a few gory scenes that tip the scales slightly more to the positive side for me. (It also helps if you don’t apply too much logic to some developments of the plot or actions of the characters…)
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars
The Peanut Butter Falcon
A standard feel-good movie; not too bad, not too good. The reviews I read before I saw the movie promised a bit more, but it was mostly just meh
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars
Mobile Suit Gundam I
Mobile Suit Gundam II: Soldiers of Sorrow
Mobile Suit Gundam III: Encounters in Space
Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack
This was weird: I like the japanese culture, but a times it’s really different to western storytelling; this is an anime, about giant robots, and several decades old. And the first three movies are a hodgepodge, mixed from episodes of a longer series – and I haven’t even seen the connecting series that may explain some developments that happend between the third and fourth movie.

Yet, despite all that, I actually liked it enough to watch it (with subtitles, even!), and almost no fast-forwarding (contrary to the Godzilla animes, see below): It was different to what I usually watch and had even very dark, mature themes at the core (which where at least hinted at in many, many scenes, even if they were not dealt with in-depth, sadly).

So, quite a positive surprise! (But, on the other hand: I guess I’m done now with the Gundam universe; either just for now or – or maybe for good; not sure yet: I tried to start a newer, follow-up movie, but even after just watching the trailer, I just couldn’t stand it.
★★★★ 4/5 stars

Godzilla 1: Planet of the Monsters
Godzilla 2: City on the Edge of Battle
Godzilla 3: The Planet Eater
As mentioned before, I’m not the biggest anime fan out there, and the whole Kaiju genre is of no real interest to me either. So, a combination of those two factors should immediately exclude these films from my watchlist. But, as always, there are exceptions to any rule, and since I was just on an anime roll (due the Gundam stuff), and Netflix recommended these Godzilla flicks, I took a peek.

And what can I say: Not really my cup of tea – but it had a few nice ideas and aspects; but sadly not enough to carry three lengthy films. So I did fast-forward through a lot of it (but of course saw enough to follow the story 😉 ).
★★☆☆☆ 2/5 stars

Censor
It only caught my attention due a recommendation by an episode of RedLetterMedia’s Half in the bag. But unlike the recently positively rated Psycho Goreman, this one didn’t do anything for me.

I recognize and appreciate the style of it, but the story itself left me cold. I do understand that its more of a psychogram of a person on a downward spiral than a horror/thriller film, but nevertheless, I didn’t really like it.
★★☆☆☆ 2/5 stars

Nobody
Yet another film that uses a middle-aged actor that isn’t known for action roles and “surprises” the audience by the fact that he, too, has a very particular set of skills.
But unlike the referenced movie, this one is just more of the same formula, with no orginal take.

And beside that, it also can’t decide if it wants to be a gritty, realisic depiction, or a slight superhero tale, or a over-the-top bloody comedy (spoiler: it’s neither, and all of it, at the same time, much to its disadvantage). It’s not boring, while watching, but pretty much forgotten as soon as the credits start to roll.
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars

The Dark Valley (Das finstere Tal)
A rewatch, but my impression and opinion from the last time still hold: An extremly atmospheric slow-burn Western from Austria(!), with great visuals and wonderful music – highly recommended!
★★★★★ 5/5 stars
Raya and the Last Dragon
An entertaining action-adventure from Disney Animation, not great, but you’ll have good time while watching.
★★★★ 4/5 stars
A Hard Day
A not-bad thriller from Korea, with a few dark comedy bits thrown in. I use “not bad” instead of “good” to grade it, because (unfortunately) there are a few plotholes/logic-gaps throughout the movie, which simply didn’t sit well with me (it’s not an audio-visual bombast, where you can say turn off your brain, so that makes it even harder to ignore those slips in the script). And while it was a fun ride for the first half or so, the last act was straining the plausibility quite a bit.
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars
The Tomorrow War
It’s not as bad as I feared, but also far from being good. Despite the budget and effects (or maybe because of the extensive CGI work), it looked rather cheap and downscaled at times. Also, the dialogues, pathetic story points, limited acting capabilities the main protagonist(s) and other usual generic mainstream ingredients don’t help either.
On the positive side, there are some well-orchestrated action sequences, mainly in the second act.
The runtime was also a bit too long (the third act felt also weirdly out-of-place).
★★☆☆☆ 2/5 stars
The Hateful Eight
A rewatch, after several years; still good.
★★★★ 4/5 stars
Luca
Liked it: Nice story and morale, good feelings and (as to be expected from Pixar) great animation. The plot may not be breaking new ground, but it’s an entertaining summer flick.
★★★★ 4/5 stars
Black Widow
It was OK’ish, but nothing special; and because of the circumstance of the protagonist, also not really important. I won’t mention all the issues I had with it (which are very similar to almost any Marvel film), with its tone, pacing, formulaic structure etc. And in this case, surprisingly, even with the action/fight scenes. Too little, too late; I really hoped for more (or rather: something better).
★★☆☆☆ 2/5 stars

TV

Vikings — Season 6
The final season of the saga. The whole show was great (obviously, some seasons and episodes were better than others), so I highly recommend it as a whole. That being said, this last season was a bit underwhelming: The pacing and focus was off at several points, and some topics seemed to be repetitive (invading England, again?) or of no real consequence (the Rus plotline; the new leaders of Kattegat [screenplay writers, seriously: you’re going to open that box of topics in the last few episodes of the final season?!]), with a few character endings that didn’t seem reasonable (not so much the what, but the how).

While I could see how this show could go on and on (new lands to conquer and settle), it’s OK to end it now. After the end of Ragnar’s story, there was a slight spike of (potential) family drama, but that somehow never came quite to fruition, in my opinion, especially the longer the show progressed.

So, keep this one in good memory and then let’s wait and see how the new Netflix show (“Vikings: Valhalla”) will turn out… (To be honest: I don’t have high hopes for it, but maybe it will be a positive surprise.)
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars

Castlevania — Season 4
After the great previous seasons (at least season 2 and 3), this one was a significant letdown for me. After watching circa half of the episodes, I was unsure why it felt so weirdly rushed in one place, while it dragged on at another (nothing really new though: pacing was an constant issue with this show).

Then I read somewhere on the web that is is also the final season; that explains at least the rushed parts. (Maybe it was not yet decided to end the show when the slooow stuff was created?)

This led to an urgency to (half-heartly) finish some storylines, while wasting precious runtime of the already short episodes (both count and runtime) with redundant battles – reminds me somehow of another final-season-debacle

Anyways, those points, plus the battle at the end and the general conclusion of this arc didn’t really fit well with me; two stars for this reason, uhm season.
★★☆☆☆ 2/5 stars

Love, Death & Robots — Season 2
Compared to the first one, this second installment lacked the originality and style-diversity of the first. Of course, since it’s an anthology of distinct stories, it’s hard to judge the season as a whole, but quite a few (of the few: 18 then vs. 8 now) episodes left me behind with a cold feeling and a *meh* shrugh, thinking “that’s it?” at the end of almost every chapter.
★★☆☆☆ 2/5 stars
Homeland — Season 8
The final season, and it was OK, I guess. I’m torn about the show: On the one hand, it had fullfilled its (story) purose already after season 3 (which, at times, was already dragging), and several of the following season could have been as well from a completely different show (also, several of them were really lame).

Additionally, the character of Carrie was really nerve-racking and unbelievable many times during the show’s lifetime; and I also didn’t see any journey or growth after season three.

But, inbetween all the mediocre/bad stuff, there were a few (later) season that weren’t too bad or boring, so I stuck with it – overal: three stars (should have ended much earlier…)
★★★☆☆ 3/5 stars

The Walking Dead — Season 10 (Episode 16-22)
More. Of. The. Same. And it’s getting soapier and soapier by the season. This batch of episodes was also the first one in a long time where I skipped/fast-forwared through a lot of the runtime (“Come one, wandering around the forest for ten minutes… again!?"), even several dialog scenes, because, simply, I didn’t care anymore and also there was no substantial character development to be expected after 10 seasons (and some other ‘changes’ seemed to be forced, just to generate any kind of reaction from the audience). Even Negan’s backstory, at the very end, didn’t really do it for me: too little, too late, too generic).
☆☆☆☆ 1/5 stars
Archer — Season 5
… or Archer: Vice, as this season is titled. Slight changes in the narrative kept it fresh enough for me to continue, while essentially of course not so much has really changed. So, if you liked the previous seasons and the show’s humor: Same, but a tiny bit different. For now that is good enough for me…
★★★★ 4/5 stars
The Good Place — Season 1
I heard a lot of good things over the years about this show, and I do like Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. So, my preliminary verdict after I’ve watched the first season: Yeah, it’s good; not (yet?) particular extraordinary (for a sitcom), but I do like what I see and will continue.
★★★★ 4/5 stars