Eurovision 2016!

Music

Hello, my dear readers!

Once a year, the whole of Europe and Australia (and even the US for the first time) turns on their TVs and witnesses one of the most bizarre international events – the Eurovision Song Contest! Eurovision is supposedly a musical contest and yet it has always been extremely political and biased. This year was no exception! Actually, 2016’s show might be the most political Eurovision ever.

To begin with, let’s focus on the bright side and talk about the positive aspects of the event. The 61st edition of the contest was held in Stockholm, Sweden thanks to Måns Zelmerlöw, who won in 2015 with the song Heroes. This wasn’t the first time that Sweden won the contest (it was actually the 6th – previous wins in  1974 (ABBA), 1984, 1991, 1999 and 2012 (Loreen)), so the Scandinavian country was/is an experienced host nation and I think that they did a fabulous job. The event was hosted by Zelmerlöw and the fan-favorite Petra Mede and they actually were pretty funny and worked well together. Of course, there were plenty of awkward and uncomfortable moments, but that’s just part of the Eurovision’s charm.

A few stand-out moments from the hosts and the guests of the show were: the dance/acting performance The Grey People in support of the refugees during the 1st Semi-Final, the dance performance Man v Machine during the 2nd Semi-Final, the satirical, tongue-in-cheek performance by Petra and Mans and the appearance of/interval act by Justin Timberlake during the grand final.

The actual songs were pretty good as well. This was probably the most even playing field I have ever seen in all my 12 years of watching the Eurovision. There was no clear winner before the show or even during the voting.

My favorite songs came from the following countries: Belgium, Hungary, Italy, Israel, Bulgaria, United Kingdom, Sweden, Germany, Australia, Latvia, Austria, and Russia (I feel ashamed to mention that last one). Ukraine was not one of my favorites – the song was not of my style or taste – but I appreciated it and was happy that they won.

I also did not hate my native country’s – Lithuania’s – song. We did pretty well this year, finishing in 9th place. That’s the 2nd best result for my country. This was the first year that I actually was able to vote for my native land as I no longer live there.

Now,  about the politics and the voting. This year, the jury’s and public’s votes were announced separately and this decision made for an even more intense watching experience. Stand out moments from the announcement of the votes:

  1. Australia took and early lead and won the jury’s votes. Everyone was expecting it to win and then Ukraine shockingly dethroned it.
  2. The juries were more biased than their respective nations. The professionals voted for their neighboring countries much more than the public did. I would have expected the public to be more biased, while the juries should have been way more objective.
  3. Ukraine and Russia were the last two countries to receive the public’s votes. Russia was the fan-favorite and could have won but it did not receive enough points. So, Ukraine had the best payback ever for the current political situation in Crimea. It gave Russia some hope and then crushed it completely. When you find out that a)Ukraine’s singer is of Crimean Tatar descent; b)her song was about the deportation of the Crimean Tatars during the 1940s by the Soviet Union and c) the song features Crimean Tatar’s language and cultural vocal styles, this revenge win is even more iconic. Layers upon layers of politics. 
  4. Germany’s jury gave 12 points to Israel. I guess the blame for WW2 is still on Germany’s jury’s minds.
  5. Poland received 7 points from the jury and 200+ points from the viewers. This was probably the biggest divide that the professionals and the public had ever had. I have a theory on why the viewers liked Poland’s performer – he looks like Weird Al Yankovic – internet-famous American parodist and singer.

All in all, I had a lovely time watching this year’s Eurovision. The show had enough pleasant surprises and a few listenable songs. Have you watched the show? Who were your favorites?

My posts on/about 2015‘s Eurovision here and 2014‘s Eurovision here.

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Movie review: Hitman Agent 47

Movie reviews

Hello!

The final spy film of this summer – Hitman Agent 47 – has finally reached movie theaters, so let’s review it.

I have told you numerous times that the two contemporary spy movie franchises that I am a fan of are Mission Impossible and James Bond. I also love when action-spy-thrillers bring something unique to the table, like Kingsman The Secret Service and The Man from U.N.C.L.E did. Sadly, Hitman Agent 47 does not fit into any of these categories. It’s not a classic secret agent flick and not an unusual (in any way) motion picture. It’s just an okay (barely) action movie with a generic plot and questionable execution.

Hitman Agent 47 is the 2nd time that Fox is trying to launch a Hitman film franchise based on a successful series of video games. Their first try was in 2007 with actor Timothy Olyphant in the titular role. That film earned its budget back quite easily and actually quadrupled it. However, the studio was unsuccessful in making a sequel, so they decided to make a reboot instead. Interestingly, they kept the same screenwriter – Skip Woods – despite his quite terrible track record (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, A Good Day To Die Hard and Sabotage). I haven’t seen the original Hitman (and I don’t plan to watch it), but I can say one thing for sure – they should have picked a different screenwriter.

Writing

This movie literally consists of two types of scenes: exposition and action. And neither of them are executed properly (more on the action scenes in the Directing part of the review). Exposition is rushed and there are a number of scenes where nothing happens and a few character just sit and explain their backstory or the next move. However, we don’t need any explanation, since the plot is very predictable. The dialogues are also quite cringe-worthy. Lastly, characters’ intentions and backstories are missing from the film. I enjoy when movies keep some secrets and don’t over-explain everything, but when the audience knows nothing about the characters, it consequently does not care for them at all. Also, the twist of mixing the film’s hero with a villain should have worked, because it’s an interesting idea, but this movie only succeeded in mentioning the aforementioned idea and never really going anywhere with it.

Directing

Hitman Agent 47 is directed by Aleksander Bach and it’s his directorial debut. Some of his action scenes work well, but others look like they came from a video game and that’s not a compliment. There is way too much slow motion and way too much of quick/rapid cutting between scenes. I also don’t see why this movie needed to be rated R, because all that blood, which was splattered everywhere, didn’t add anything to the film. If this film was rated PG-13, maybe it would have earned a bit more and wouldn’t have been a total box office flop.

Shoot-out scenes were okay, but I was more impressed with the hand-to-hand combat scenes. However, the CGI was absolutely terrible. Again, it looked like a video game and I have seen video game’s graphics which are more realistic than this film’s effects.

Acting

Rupert Friend as Agent 47. Rupert was quite good as an emotional and cold-blooded assassin. Sadly, since he had no emotions, I, as a viewer, didn’t have any feelings towards him either. Also, the film never revealed who was he working for. Maybe you were supposed to know that from the game? 

Hannah Ware as Katia was the most interesting character to me. I only wish that they would have explained her physical and psychological enhancement more, but then the movie would have turned into a science fiction film and not a mindless action shoot out. This film really would have fared better, if the people, working behind the camera, would just have injected some intellect and smartness into it.

Zachary Quinto as John Smith. The most original name ever, right? Even though it’s just a nickname, they still could have come up with something better. Quinto’s involvement in this film was actually the thing that attracted me to this movie and the thing that ended up disappointing me the most. Also, it was weird seeing him with a quiff.

Ciarán Hinds as Dr. Litvenko was also an underdeveloped character. Litvenko was supposed to be the main reason for the film’s plot to happen, but he was just another unnecessary character in a film that didn’t need to be made. Also, during the movie, I was rocking my brain, because I couldn’t remember, where I have seen this actor before, and only when I checked his IMDb page, I’ve realized that he portrayed Mance Rayder on Game of Thrones and played Julius Caesar in HBO’s Rome. Loved him in both of these projects, hated in this film.

Thomas Kretschmann as Le Clerq brought some diversity nationality wise. He is a German actor, who has starred in a few Hollywood movies as well as in a variety of German films. He is probably best known to English-speaking audiences for his most role of Baron von Strucker in MCU. He was good in the role of Le Clerq – a millionaire with bad intentions. The problem is – his role wasn’t good. Make what you will out of that.

All in all, Hitman Agent 47 was a poor action film with an uneven and predictable plot, boring characters and terrible visual effects. It had a few good moments, but these got lost in the overall terribleness of the film. I have lost all faith in movies inspired by video games going forward, but we will get a plethora of them in the next few years. Gaming community takes up a huge part of the Internet, so I don’t blame the studios for trying to turn the obsession of the masses into a profit. Personally, Need for Speed (review) is still my favorite film based on a video game. The review of the other this summer’s film inspired by a video game (a bunch of them, actually) is here – Pixels review.

Rate: 2/5

Trailer: Hitman Agent 47 trailer

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Movie review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

Movie reviews

Hi!

Welcome to one of the last big movie reviews this summer – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014).

The 2014 TMNT movie is a reboot of a long running franchise. The world was first acquainted with 4 turtles –Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael and Donatello – as a comic book characters. As time went by, beloved character transferred from paper to small screen and eventually to big screen.

I have never been a huge TMNT fan, I mean, I watched a couple of episodes of animation series when I was a kid but I never really followed their whole story. So, because of that, I wasn’t upset with the changes because everything was kind of unknown to me.

I wasn’t expecting this movie to be as good as it was. The film was really funny (elevator scene!), the story was interesting but easy to follow and on top of that we got some really cool action scenes.

Megan Fox was also surprisingly good. She has a lot more experience now, so I am interested to see what she will be able to do in the future. However, the villain of the movie was blank; I wished they would have worked more on him.

The motion capture was great although the voice work – not so much. To my mind, the movement of the lips and the sounds these lips were making seemed a little bit fake in some scenes.

I loved that the movie portrayed a nice family relationship between Splinter and the turtles as well as encouraged team work.

Between all four turtles, Donatello is my favorite because he is super smart, intelligent techno-genius.

One last point: I loved that the movie was only around one and a half hour long because I am getting really tired of these 2 hours+ blockbusters.

Rate 3.5/5

Trailer: TMNT 2014 trailer

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Movie review: Guardians of the Galaxy

Movie reviews

Hi!

As you may know, I am a huge Marvel fan. I read Marvel comics, watch Marvel TV shows and one shots, can’t wait for Netflix series but most importantly I love Marvel Cinematic Universe’s movies (However, I also watched old Marvel movies like Daredevil and Blade). So, I was beyond excited to finally see Guardians of the Galaxy – the funniest, wittiest and quirkiest Marvel movie to date.

Guardians is the 10th installment in MCU. Short reminder of the MCU lineup: Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor 1, Captain America 1, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Captain America 2, Guardians, Avengers 2, Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, Captain America 3

Summary:  After stealing a mysterious orb in the far reaches of outer space, Peter Quill, a half human/half alien is now the main target of a manhunt led by the villain known as Ronan the Accuser. To help fight Ronan and his team and save the galaxy from his power, Quill creates a team known as the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ to save the world.

– Written by James Hake

I loved everything about this movie starting with the characters and ending with the soundtrack. It actually might be my favorite Marvel movie to date. My favorite character, of course, was Rocket Raccoon but Chris Pratt’s Star Lord was also a great leading man. Groot was so adorable, especially at the end when he was dancing. Zoe Saldana as Gamora was also amazing; I enjoyed her fight with Nebula. The only character that I wish they have worked more on was Drax. The villain (Ronan) was okay, he is not the next Loki, but pretty good. I wish we would have seen more Thanos but I guess they are saving him for Phase 3.

The storyline was also really cool, I like the fact that we got back to Infinity gems/stones storyline like in Thor 2, Avengers. If you want to know more about these gems I suggest you read Thanos Quest comic books by Jim Starlim, Ron Lim, John Beatty, and Tom Vincent. The whole story is super short (2 issues) but it gives you more information on what these gems can do and why Thanos is doing what he is doing.

Finally, we have to mention the soundtrack of this film – it was superb. You wanted to dance all the time. I went to this film on an opening night and the cinema was full of die hard Marvel fans and all of us were singing Hooked on a Feeling when it came up on screen.

Comedy was wonderful as well. I laughed more than I would laugh in a comedy movie. I also give huge props to Marvel for going in this easier, lighter, funnier direction. Another Marvel movie we got this year – Captain America 2 –was completely different, dark, moody, and serious. And this one was like a breath of fresh year after such a dark period of Hydra infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D.

About 50 people from 300 stayed through the end credits and we were rewarded and finally got to see the character we have been waiting for a long time. I liked the post credit scene but I am not sure if it was just an Eater egg for fans or if they actually are going to do it. I wish they would have showed that Avengers 2 comic con trailer after this movie.

The next film in Marvel phase is Avengers Age of Ultron . Sadly, Guardians won’t be in it but don’t be sad – a sequel has already been announced and is scheduled to be released on July 28, 2017 as a part of Phase 3. Director James Gunn will return so the tone of the movie will be the same.

Trailer: Guardians of the Galaxy trailer

Rate: 5/5

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