Thursday, December 3, 2009


Every once in a while, Roland Emmerich comes out and blows shit up. And no small shit, either; he just loves to zap lil' old Earth with some spectacular natural (or extraterrestrial) disaster. Ehh... A grudge there, I guess.

Anyway, visually, there is nothing bad to say about his movies. They are beautiful, and the Earth is, time and again, destroyed with an unprecedented grace. The guy gets better at it every time, I swear. Me likes them pretty color pictures, uh-huh !!1 :P~@. 2012 is no exception and looks like a million bucks. Come to think of it, 2012 looks like many millions of bucks undoubtedly spent on all the eye-candy that's so abundant in this movie; the visual effects are just stunning, and it really is worth going to the theater just to watch the gorgeous raging imagery pound the shit out of everything and everyone on a big-ass screen. This in IMAX would be insane, but hell.

The thing is, 2012, like Emmerich's other "wee!-lets-just-nuke-Earth" movies, has a single tiny little bit of a flaw that just spoils it for me, shiny pictures and everything. Movie makers tend to regularly overlook this little detail; for some reason, they think that it's inconsequential and that people who watch the movie don't care about it, really, and that all they want to see is the action, as if said movie makers were just shooting a cheap porn flick for a bunch of non-discriminating jerk-offs.

I'm talking about the plot.

Why, oh why, can't we, just for once, you know, for a change, have a movie that is at least partially credible? I mean, there's only so much of my brain I can suspend for the duration of a movie... I'm not going to bash the blatantly ridiculous neutrino theory, or talk about the giraffe. The neutrino bullshit sounds plausible enough if you don't listen too carefully. That is, at all. In fact, just forget you have any idea what a neutrino is, just trust the guy. He's trying so hard to bullshit you at the beginning, give him a chance.

But even if, for a moment, we shoved physics down the drain and flushed it with the rest of the shit we don't need, like plot and plausibility, why does every movie with a huge natural disaster in it have to be cheesier than a cheesecake cheeseburger? Can't we just kill everybody already? And, please, without a brand new love story sparkling up in the background amidst disaster, without another love story being warmed up by the microwaving neutrinos from the ashes of a relationship long destroyed, and without a bunch of tiny little barely hinted about love stories just effervescing around and about with no point or purpose other than to fill the gaps between CGI effects.

Speaking of effects, people are made mostly of lukewarm water, so instead of going all soft and cuddly over one another at all the important moments that they should have spent working their asses off on surviving, their bodies should have just melted and their heads exploded. Damn, that would rule so hard!!! Melting bodies and exploding heads were notably absent from the movie, unfortunately, along with any plausibility of plot, characters, or their actions.
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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

G.I. Joe - The Tale of Plastic Toys and Sinking Ice

By now it should be obvious to anyone that Hollywood is scraping the bottom of the barrel for ideas. The same plots are being chewed over and over, sequels are abundant (mildly put), remakes are being made a couple of years after the original, all Japanese/Korean/French/insert-any-country-here movies worth seeing are instantly rendered for the English speaking market, comic books are on the verge of exhaustion (heh, they're instant movies - screenplay and storyboard ready, just pour some sugar and stir)... The reasonable question "what have we missed to turn into a soap opera spanning 30 years" sadly got quite an unreasonable answer - toys. Yeah, the Transformers™ until recently only had an animated feature, so there's a lot of ground to break. Gotta love the studios' assumption that we're all just retards who are dying to see their favorite childhood toy in reeeeeal action. The result? PG-13 starts to seem like an overkill, we need PG-3 - not as a precaution against those toddlers sneaking into the theater and watching some PG-7 movie, but as a warning to those of us who have come of age and who are probably stuffing the most money in tickets, effectively encouraging the shit-regurgitating industry to throw at us Transformers and whatnot... "Whatnot" here being (hold still!) the announced "Monopoly" project to be directed by Ridley Scott (sic!) and what will probably serve as the perfect "I told you so!" target for decades, "Naval battle". Although that pales in comparison to the chilling thought that someone may think of making a full feature out of a naughts-and-crosses game. If that happens, however, I want my share of the income!

Anyway, "Naval battle" may end up in some capable hands and actually turn up at least bearable. This isn't the case with "G.I. Joe", which probably is the punishment for some bad thing I must have done in a previous life. To whatever higher power there is - I got it, I repent, you can safely stop now with the torture. Seriously, it was THAT bad. The PG-13 rating is a fucking joke - do not, I repeat, DO NOT take your kids to watch G.I. Joe, unless you don't care about their mental development and health. The "script", for lack of a better word, was ridiculous, nothing, and I mean literary nothing makes any sense - not one single line. The only enjoyable moments were the inevitable reminiscences to "Team America", which caused several outbursts of inappropriate to the gravity of the respective moment homeric laughter on my part. Not that there was anything original, mind you - for example, you could find a scene quite similar to the exoskeleton chasing sequence in the Japanese anime "Vexille". The acting... well, let's put it that way - Marlon Wayans (of all people) put up the best performance, how's that? As to the "Firefox"-inspired scene with the voice commands on that plane - luckily for everyone it wasn't programmed to take commands in Swahili or Sanskrit, Celtic is common knowledge, you know. Facepalm moments are abundant; the sinking ice is just one of them. There are also plenty of opinions that the movie isn't consistent with the mythos, but I couldn't care less about toys and the marketing stories behind them.

Of course, measures had been taken to keep the interest of the already mentioned in previous reviews wet-palm teenage crowd, these including impressive looking breast-plate armor suits (with accent on breast) - if you stare at them long enough, you may even notice other body parts - and tight latex-looking outfits for the girls. Yawn. And that's bad judgment on the part of the movie makers too - if they are grown enough to develop interest in ladies, they have probably also outgrown the action figures. This is actually good news, as they will be spared this and all future profound movies about the fights and struggles of plastic toys.
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Monday, October 5, 2009

Transformers 2: Revenge of the fallen

After watching this, I'm deeply convinced there is only one possible reason why the previous Michael Bay pictures were successful (or at least successfulish, G-d forgive me for coining this word). The way I see it - the amounts of explosives ordered would violate some conventional weapon treaty, so he had to stick at least something else (chase scenes, dialog, whatever) in these never-under-three-hours bloated action flicks. Seriously, the guy's a obviously a pyromaniac and needs to be treated, not encouraged to indulge his passion for all things KABOOM.

Sadly, the Transformers 2 movie somehow slipped under the UN armaments control authorities radar and delivered on-screen the equivalent of what seems like 30 megatons of TNT. There was nothing else in the movie, just explosions, things blowing up, things blowing other things up, detonations, bursts and blasts. That and abundant shots of Megan Fox' bouncing anatomy in slow motion (hey, the movie's PG-13, let's give them teen wankers some jerk off material).

Ok, I got carried away a little (but then again, who wouldn't?), there were also a couple of transformations, but these were impossible to watch without ending motion-sick - too many too colorful parts moving too fast in too many directions, so I had to take my eyes off the screen and breathe deep to avoid adding my own colors to this kaleidoscopic vertigo. Umm, I seem to remember a couple of attempts at humor - not very funny, I mean, the uber-robot got a pair of huge brass cojones and I'm supposed to laugh? The laughs came from other places - like seeing Jordanian territory from the site of the great pyramids at Giza. Now that's what I call good eyesight, last time I saw a map, there was still a Sinai Peninsula in the way (and several smaller obstacles like the city of Cairo and the whole Israel state). Never mind that the three stars in the Orion belt could just as easily point at sun dawn to Libya, depending on the day and the month. Nice to revisit the site of Petra, though, it's been some time since Indiana Jones dropped by.

The Transformers 2 definitely has the best bang-for-the-buck ratio, the downside is you only get bang, nothing else – not even some mindless pop-corn and soda summer fun. Unless you're obsessed with Megan the abovementioned Fox cleavage, but in this case you wouldn't mind some twitching spare parts in the background anyway.
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Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Thin Red Line. Ten years later it still brings tears to my eyes

With 'Crank 2' still on my to-go-and-watch list and with the 'Watchmen' review postponed indefinitely - at least until the moment I go through the comic book to decide whose fault was the abundance of hanging and dangling blue penii - I started worrying I'm running out of targets for my regular exercise in shit slinging. Then it dawned on me that I still haven't fulfilled my long treasured dream - to rip apart the 'Worst Movie I Have Ever Seen' into millions of little pieces, fuck each one piece separately, "make 'em eat our shit, then shit out our shit, then eat their shit which is made up of our shit that we made 'em eat" etc. © 2001 JSBSB, you get the picture. This is the movie whose mere mentioning always inexplicably summons the phrase 'Explosive defecation' in my mind, the most over praised, tedious, boring, pretentious heap of stinking crap ever, period - 'The Thin Red Line'. Did I mention also it was fucking long?

A little flashback... So ten years ago (give or take) there I was, clutching an invitation to a premiere and finding a way to my seat in the theater. The only thing I knew about 'The Thin Red Line' back then was that it featured literally several hundreds of stars and that it had been hailed as the long awaited come back of some obscure recluse director who had done something supposedly great a couple of centuries ago and then disappeared out of the spotlight. Being still a naive youngster, I immediately compared that to Salinger's voluntary withdrawal from the public attention. From the current perspective, the main reason Terence Malick kept himself away from directing must have been the fact he knew better than anyone else how limited his abilities were. Even a blind squirrel can find a nut every now and then, but making more movies would be pressing his luck. So he kept his past glory and shroud of mysterious charm and the audience kept their sanity until (obviously, some guesswork on my part is involved) some executive asshole decided to lure him out with a large lump of freshly printed in green portraits of assorted POTUSes. Artsy halo in one hand, the wad in the other - the result is quite predictable, artsy shit gets flushed down and twenty years of peaceful (for the rest of the world, that is) existence are over.

So... the movie started. Sort of. Twenty minutes into it I was still waiting for something to happen or some of the big stars to wander into the frame. Another twenty minutes later - still waiting. An hour deep into it I was starting to wonder whether there would be enough time for some events at all with only half an hour left (yeah, right... blessed are the believers). For a movie depicting the events of Battle of Guadalcanal this one was surprisingly uneventful, most of the three hours were spent on a bunch of soldiers walking aimlessly through some jungle. One of them (and to this day I can't tell exactly who) was having some weird flashbacks of kids playing in the water and diving somewhere - no hint where, just someplace else. Another (also unidentified) was writing a letter to his wife/fiancee/whatever in his mind and for some time I hated him with passion because of the molten cheese dripping from the mind-raping pseudo-poetic phrases that I could attribute only to a dog, if it learned some human language. The camera wanders around in random directions, sometimes taking clues from the retarded voice-over (I bet by now you can tell how much I love voice-overs) - like the voice-over going 'Is there a God in Heaven?' and the camera turning up to show us the sky, then the voice-over, faltering, 'How can He bear this on the Earth?', camera obediently turning down. Beuark! But as much as I hated the voice-over and the suffering anonymous emo poetic motherfucker, there was a recurring (recurring - like twenty fucking times) scene that drove me totally berserk - and I mean axe-wielding eyes popping out with red hot rage berserk. The scene in question was of a crocodile (caiman, alligator, whatever fucking reptile) slowly submerging into some murky water. Slowly - much more slowly than, say, speedy objects like the minute hand of a watch. I guess I'm too dumb and I can't appreciate the symbolic meaning the Great Maestro™ put in this, but if its twenty something instances had been cut off, the movie would fall into the short category. And I wish it did, because watching the same caiman or whatever dive for the umpteen fucking time, when you just want to go out and take a leak (three hours, remember), makes even the most peaceful person want to grab that crocodile and beat the director with it to first death (his or the crocodile's).

What about all the stars? Well, it turned out all the big names appeared for mere seconds in some small cameos, most of them appropriately retarded to match the level of the movie - Woody Harrelson threw the pin and kept the grenade (yep, the drill sergeant’s equivalent of urban legends), Nick Nolte gave the dumbest orders of any fictional military, 'Catch 22' included, pseudo pep speech by Travolta and pretty much that's it. 

Later I read somewhere that the original cut had been in the nine hours range... I shiver at the thought how many more times that crocodile would reappear in that version, the fucking animal would have more time on screen than Jack Nicholson in his entire career. If someday that director's cut sees the light of the day (on 48 Blu-ray disks, I bet), I'm buying a set to decorate my privy's walls, its effect on bowel movement can not be understated.
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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mesrine: L'instinct de mort/L'ennemi public n°1. - One man show - guess whose?

Every now and then the French film makers manage to push an impressive and often a remarkably original movie through the thick barrage of low-brow Hollywood pieces of go-se. It is hardly a coincidence that quite a few of those – ‘La haine’, ‘Dobermann’, ‘Les rivières pourpres’, to name but a few - are with the participation of Vincent Cassel, an incredibly talented and versatile actor, equally able to perform in action and in dramatic roles. He is being held in high demand and regularly cast on both sides of the ocean. 

However, the downside of his popularity among movie makers and audience alike is the inevitable starring in trivial pictures as the tedious life story of Jacques Mesrine, a gangster that had been labeled Public Enemy #1 by the French press in the late 60s. That leaves us with the wrong impression that he must had been some criminal mastermind, but as presented in the movie, it’s been quite the opposite – the guy was a small fry who had just been dumb enough to keep too high of a profile with most of his attempts to commit a crime being borderline idiotic and inevitably resulting in full-out shootouts. With a story that is probably already well known to most French and therefore hard to change, the director didn’t have much of a choice and the movie in its turn didn’t have much to offer (although it also didn’t irk me) except for the acting of Monsieur Cassel, who took full advantage of the extended screen time (two full features, almost four hours in total) in a ostentatious show-off of his abilities to transform and act. From that point of view, the movie is probably something he’d like to have under his belt. However for the rest of us this long promo tape doesn't hold enough value to sit through.
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Friday, April 10, 2009

The Spirit ...pointless exercise in self-indulgence

Sometimes, when I bash the consecutive movie, it crosses my mind that there is a constant threat I'll be labeled 'cry-wolf'. True, not all movies are bad or equally bad, for that matter. And it is only natural that the most recent insult feels like the worst, gets all the accumulated bile and that doesn't allow for nuances.

Luckily for me, there are movies so undisputedly bad and so deserving all the punishment one can impose on them, that this thought starts to feel largely irrelevant. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome 'The Spirit', the bastard child of Frank Miller's newly acquired confidence in his directing abilities. I don't know about you, but I intend to hold Robert Rodriguez personally responsible for the ego boost he gave Frank Miller by crediting him as a co-director on 'Sin City'. Next thing you know, the guy takes the courtesy literally, actually believes he's a full-fledged director and (oh, the horrors) starts directing. Wait! Do you hear that? This is what a jet of vomit sounds like.

Don't get me wrong, it's beyond doubt Miller is talented. A lot of the impression made by 'Sin City' was because of his signature black-white-red inking, white blood and negative cutout scenes. 'The Spirit' has this unmistakable made-by-Miller look and every frame is beautiful. The problem is that being a great artist isn't the same as being a great director and when put together these frames don't make a movie. He knows the tools and applies them, he just doesn't know where and why to use them, so he applies them randomly (like inverting to negative cutout used to show the cat walking - whoa, what a highlight) or because he has seen how Rodriguez did.

That alone was not so bad and 'The Spirit' might get away with it, if it wasn't for the unfuckingbelievably bad script and acting. I don't think Samuel L. Jackson has a lower point in his career (I for instance definitely never saw him act worse before), but the other actors too have nothing to be proud of. Every single line they seemed to spew with disgust had 'phoney' all over it. The only performer who wasn't fake or strained like dog balls mid-January was Arthur the cat. The worst of the cast was the lead Gabriel Macht. His long 'Under the bridge'-like effusions addressed to the city achieved only one effect worth mentioning - eye-rolling, but his (and Jackson's) attempts at slapstick comedy were even worse.

Along with all this, the movie is rated PG-13 as opposed to 'Sin City' being R. Now imagine how noir can be a movie that has no violence worth mentioning, blood - once or twice, cartoonish, and no nudity whatsoever. Neither of these makes a good movie, true, but if someone intends to make a movie that is 'dark', 'noir' and whatnot, he shouldn't be that concerned about the teenagers' buck... Now, if you specifically go for that audience, that's a whole different story. A stupid one.
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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Battlestar Galactica - angels and dei ex machina running amok

*** Warning: MAJOR spoilers ahead *** 
Though... not nearly as major and spoiling as the frakk..., no, screw this, FUCKING series finale.

This show is a perfect example of what happens when the writer-to-be is actually more of a salesman. The guy (one Ronald D. Moore) managed to make SciFi channel bite the bait and I have no doubt the treat lacked all the bullshit that started to pile in towards Season 2. However, a good sales pitch is not enough and sooner or later the channel execs want to see something for their money. The free lunch has been eaten and a script must be delivered - now. Hilarity ensues, as the guy has no idea what he's doing and can't write for shit, so he starts writing piecemeal and desperately trying to weave in something that will keep the audience hooked and tangling unimportant plot sublines to a ridiculous degree. Ultimately that results in blatant contradictions that can lead to a brain hemorrhage. Some of these are mercifully left unresolved (probably in the hope that no one will notice) or maybe just forgotten. However, the horrors lie in those addressed, because the bullshitometer scales get forced to tip. 

Examples? Be my guests. I don't have to go far to fetch an unresolved one - already in the second episode we have Boomer obeying her Cylon programming and sabotaging the water supply. So no, they are machines and they have no free will. Now compare to the last episodes - we are repeated ad nausea that they make their own choices and therefore are blah-blah masters of their own destiny. The conclusion? They may have or may not have free will, but that depends on the stage and severity of the writer's creative diarrhea. What about Kara 'Starfuck' Thrace unexplained resurrection? And no, I don't take the angel bullshit, because she in turn was seeing ghosts, angels or whatever (her piano-playing father), wasn't she supposed to recognize one of her own kind? Still, I will keep in mind that if an angel turns suddenly into (of all things) a pigeon, I can get rid of it by ousting it with a broomstick, that's good to know. What the fuck was all the music about and how did it end up on Hera's drawings (not even mentioning the bold assumption she managed by some coincidence to make them in scale with the note paper)? 

However bad the unresolved ones are, the resolved are much worse because of the means chosen. Yup, I'm talking about the Earth that was named Earth after Earth because Earth was devastated by a nuclear war so they had to settle on Earth instead. Half of the frayed plot ends were brushed under the carpet with divine intervention. Cancer coming or going, prophecies, temples, relics, cult followings - whatever we can't explain or find a plausible excuse for, gets attributed to a higher power. The whole mystic shit was a horrible hodge-podge of Roman, Greek and Jewish myths, and as it turns out, these civilizations have yet to appear, but hey, who will notice anyway? We are expected to be too busy sobbing during the series finale (which by the way instead of tying the loose ends has more sappy endings than the fucking 'Lord of the Rings'), not asking questions.

Under all the layers of pseudo-mystic shit and action sequences, 'Brainfart Galactica' is essentially a soap opera. It's been one ever since the only source of inspiration (the original script) was exhausted. The introduced resurrection of the cylons provided the writer with the Latest and Greatest in the soap opera techniques, leaving far behind outdated methods (still used in Latin America's TV series) as twin siblings or clones. It's like watching a giant breeding experiment that tries to cover all combinations between male, female, human and cylon. So most of the screentime is taken by cylons resurrecting and trying another match. Of course, the recurring faces of the regular models don't allow for too much recycling, so Ronald D. Moore gets a brilliant idea - why not hold several of the Cylons up his sleeve and use them as trump cards whenever his talentless writing sticks him into a dead end? It's a cheap trick, but it works - it dragged him through four seasons, the respective pay checks and landed him new deals. 

There's something terribly wrong with both an audience, that has its standards set so low as to admire this puddle of goo, and the TV executives, who give it a green light, while shows like 'Deadwood' or 'Firefly' get shelved in spite of being superior in every possible aspect. However, in the future I personally intend to avoid like fire anything written by this Moore person.
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Monday, March 16, 2009

Twilight. Stunning.

You know the paperbacks with cover illustrations showing a muscular man with a chiseled jaw and longish hair who holds a curvy woman and stares in her eyes as if wondering whether to fuck her or strangle her, with gold lettering and only minor variations in characters' names and hair and eyes color? Yep, that's what 'Twilight' is - an over hyped corny romance novel, that served as a basis for a just as over hyped and corny movie. Be warned: possessing a Y-chromosome and/or adult common sense is a counter-indication and overdosing on pink may lead to severe nausea and irreparable brain damage. The whole story is nothing more than the wet dream of a virgin girl who is already feeling the urge to go out and mate with the biggest baddest male out there, but wishes for him to be also nice, gentle, tender and caring. Of course, in real life women quickly learn that the bad boys get too much female attention and tend to fuck everything that has a heartbeat, so they are anything but tender and caring, but that doesn't stop them from dreaming and the author from going unimaginable lengths in order to make the Chosen One acceptable. I'm still having both good laughs and hard time trying to wrap my brain around the ridiculous concept of a family of vegetarian (sic) vampires who gladly accept guests for dinner. I mean, for having a dinner together. Hey, what about the Masquerade? Anyway, we get vampires that don't drink blood, don't die in the sun, reflect in mirrors and go to the local high school. Really. 

And voila - we get our shy 'girl-next-door' cutie and her seemingly impossible (therefore Romantic) True Love™ story, chockfull of contradictions. I almost feel bad for thinking it, but doesn't the guy's bad circulation (or lack thereof) mean that his hands are not going to be the only cold part of him? Reproduction between different species can pose certain challenges as well, says the Cynic. And I'm leaving out unimportant details as my suspicions whether baseballs are designed for supersonic flight or what would they do to a baseball bat. 

We get a large helping of dialogue that is cheesy to the point of being instant mind killer. It took me a lot to recover from the 'What a stupid lamb. - What a sick, masochistic lion' exchange, for example, but my ribs still echo with pain. And I think there should be a ban on voice-overs in anything that is not explicitly Noir. Especially when it's high school grade poetry (hello, Mr. Malick!) or pseudo-philosophic remarks (the observant 'Death is easy. Life is harder' statement was the reason for the first ever sub-orbital vomit launch).

I guess the director (Catherine Hardwicke) was painfully aware of the quality of the screenplay she had to work with, so she tried to alleviate the pain with some beautiful scenery. The leads visually are a welcome break from the regular Barbi and Ken pairs, so typical for the romances, but their acting was uninspired and bleak. As was the movie as a whole. If you want an unorthodox take on vampires, go and rent 'The Wisdom of Crocodiles' and don't waste your time on this... thing.

Oh, I almost forgot - there was a hint the local Indian tribe were really werewolves. Do you still have doubts Stephenie Meyer suffers from graphomania and her books are actually symptoms? 
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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. Sleep inducing and boring.

There were two main reasons I stayed awake through this movie. The first was the realization that this is 100% CynicalReview material and that the creators of this piece of boredom must not get away with it. The second were the huge stripes of duct tape I had to apply to stick my eyelids to the forehead in order to keep them open. It was that bad. And I wouldn't compare it to a Uwe Boll movie because that would be doing Uwe Boll injustice.

I doubt anyone sane would say either of the first two movies in the franchise were some kind of masterpiece, but they were entertaining and spectacular. The third installment however is neither. It is the first attempt of Patrick Tatopoulos at full feature film and it's, in a nutshell, crap - which is a shame, he's got a long and impressive resume, mostly in the areas of creatures design, special effects and make-up, so one would expect from him to know his trade. Contrary to what would make sense, the Underworld prequel is notoriously bad in his areas of experience - lighting, make up, special effects, design. 

Let's start with the lighting. The previous parts had this crisp blue and white moonlight-like look that made their eery imagery so impressive. Obviously, an attempt has been made to achieve the same look here, but it's so overdone here that everything seems as if shot through a thick piece of bluish glass. However, that doesn't hide the cheap props - the whole castle has this unmistakingly styrofoamish appearance with no attention to detail whatsoever. Make-up? Yeah, there was a lot of it, the poor Bill Nighy looked like someone with severe eye infection with the purple smears under his eyes. Special effects? Yup. Scarcely used (probably for financial reasons) and bad CGI. Creatures design? There was a bunch of fellows strolling around in what seemed to me as leftover gorilla costumes from the 70s King Kong with werewolf heads attached.

Still, it takes more than a low budget to make a bad movie. There are plenty of independent and under funded good movies out there. But bad as it may be in Mr. Tatopoulos areas of expertise, the third 'Underworld' a complete disaster in those of his obvious inexpertise. There is a major plot problem with all the movies in the series - they all deal with the confrontation of two fantasy races, vampires and werewolves, both feeding on humans. The main difference lies in their preferences to chew top-down, starting with the neck, or bottom-up, starting accordingly with the ass. Well, I can only speak for myself here, but which one would you think I'd root for? Exactly, I don't give a fuck for either. So the previous movies had to rely on intense and clever action sequences and interesting (well, in comparison to this one) plot to keep the audience interested. The 'Rise of the Lycans' offers neither. The story is so predictable and boring I twisted my jaw yawning - moonlight-sensitive unkempt Romeo and goth-chick Juliet plus a rebellion against an oppressive tyranny. The inconsistencies with the mythos are huge and abundant (vampires using candles is just one example). But the few and short action scenes are where this movie leaves the plane of boredom and really hits bottom. Throughout the whole movie it was apparent that no one on the crew had been initiated in the long lost art of storyboarding - there are no transitions between the frames, angles change randomly, but in the fights this turns into a chaos. That is probably intended to hide the complete lack of choreography and further aggravated during editing. 

No one on the cast seemed to take their job seriously and I can't blame them with a script like that. I admire them for not laughing at their own lines, which vary from pompous to hands down cheesy - I know I would. Bill Nighy, an incredibly good actor, was reduced to sitting on a throne and goggling his contact lenses out. Oh, and he got most of the cheesy lines. Michael Sheen in turn delivered most of the comedy (unintentionally so, I'm afraid) with some ridiculous speeches in the veins of "This is Spartaaaa!". Rhona Mitra was in only as a stand-in for Kate Beckinsale minus the latter's black leather-clad butt and offering nothing to compensate (why the fuck else get a boob job?).

In theory the soundtrack should be pretty impressive with contributions from 'Puscifer', 'The Cure', 'Deftones' and many more, often remixed by Danny Lohner and Wes Borland. In reality the songs in the movie are cut and toned down beyond recognition, so no, nothing good in this movie. Get the soundtrack separately and use the movie as a sleeping pill.
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Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Hurt Locker ...unbelieveably absurd

Based on my mixed experience with Kathryn Bigelow's previous movies, ranging from excellent ('Strange Days') to abysmal ('K-19: The Widowmaker'), I didn't know what to expect from her first full length picture in quite some time. After seeing it, I'm beginning to suspect that everything I liked in 'Strange Days' should probably be credited to James Cameron. 

'The Hurt Locker' follows the last several weeks of an EOD (that's Explosive Ordnance Disposal for the non-military) unit rotation in, yes, you guessed that correctly, Iraq. And then the shitstorm starts. Not in Iraq, in the movie. Now we all know that the military have somewhat different idea of what common sense is and that military intelligence is a classic oxymoron, but nevertheless they are not idiots. Even if some are, they have a strict set of SOPs which, no matter how stupid they may seem to a civilian, are literally written in blood. However, every character in the movie seemed determined to act like a complete and utter moron, not only ignoring the normal military procedures, but showing total disregard for common sense and ultimately, for their own life. Examples? Be my guests:

Exhibit A: a bomb disposal robot loses its trailer with some explosives on it. I can't speak for the military, but I guess they would use one of the common sense approaches - get a new trailer, drag the old trailer to safety and fix it, get a new robot, or evacuate the area and shoot on the IED to detonate it. You think? Hell no, the only way to get some explosives to the bomb is to get your retarded ass as close to the bomb as possible and collect your Darwin award immediately. Honestly, if I were the commanding officer of this unit, I'd see to get the so-called bomb expert court-martialed and if the motherfucker somehow got off the hook, to send him to mental care institution and sedate him. Heavily. If not for his own good, then for the good of the innocent bystanders.

Exhibit B: you disarm an IED made from an artillery shell and decide to follow the wire. Upon discovery that the wire branches out in several directions, you either a) follow every branch very-very cautiously and disarm whatever you find at each end, or b) pull the fucking wires as hard as you can in firm belief that the insurgents are total schmucks, bigger retards than you and incompetent bombers, and even if there are secondary detonators, they won't go off? Darwin award number two.

Exhibit C: a car full of explosives is set on fire. By a rifle shot no less, screw the 'Last Action Hero' lessons on how easy cars catch fire when shot at. Never mind the assumption that a two of a three man bomb squad have to secure the area on their own, we already assumed the military are idiots. The real gem here is the so-called bomb expert, who rolls up his sleeves and starts putting out the fire. With the car so full of explosives that 'the suspension is sagging'. Well, fuck me gently with a chainsaw ©'Heathers'. 

And you know what? We're only like twenty minutes into a movie over two hours long, and it doesn't improve later. We get the same bomb squad or members thereof repairing their Humvee (sure, no motor pools in the base), trucking out and detonating shitloads of disarmed IEDs in the desert (yes, they are bomb techs, mechanics AND truckers), in a sniper duel (bomb techs, mechanics, truckers AND snipers), you get the picture... I suppose some of these events bear some hidden and wise meaning or serve some purpose, like showing character development, or symbolizing the loneliness of a Man facing a Bomb, whatever, to me it was just a pointless, erratic sequence of illogical actions that could be attributed only to a severe brain damage, Down syndrome or subconscious death wish. However, after the scene with the techs celebrating with friendly punches in the stomach, I think I'm going to go with the brain damage. How are we supposed to relate to these characters, feel compassion or even identify with them after that is completely beyond me.

Truth be told, there are a couple of good things, mostly the rendition of the explosions, these were done in a remarkably spectacular and convincing way. Small, but pleasant cameo appearances by Guy Pearce, David Morse and Ralf Fiennes (although I have the sneaking suspicion that his scene was there only to show him on screen). However, none of these doesn't make this movie even remotely enjoyable or convincing - you can safely skip it and you won't miss anything except the demise of Ms. Bigelow's once promising career.
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Thursday, February 5, 2009

W. - Half assed stab gone wrong.

Here we go again - a renowned director (undeservedly so in my opinion, but who am I to argue), a brilliant cast and a complete piece of shit as the next installment in Stone's presidential series. Stone is obviously after the cheap publicity that would inevitably come from his choice of such a controversial subject as George W. Bush beyond any doubt is, so I will try to spell his name (Stone's, not W's) right as not to disappoint him. 

The main problem with this lukewarm puddle of piss of a movie is that it is trying to leave us with the impression that it is an unbiased and impartial bio picture. Naturally, this is far from being easy, considering the long and wide trail of stupid if not outright retarded stuff Dubya has left behind, and the several half-hearted personal attacks clearly show that Stone didn't manage to avoid the trap of slipping in his own agenda. The final result is a movie that tries not to (God forbid) irritate anyone, but ironically pisses off with its half-assed position Dubya supporters and haters alike. The former because of the frivolous (yeah, yeah, artistic freedom, whatever) treatment of the facts and several of Dubya's most famous quotes which make him look like a complete idiot (duh, like we had doubts about that after the bold statement that 'I believe men and fish can coexist peacefully'), which definitely defeats the intended impartiality of the movie. The latter because of the guarded attitude which they would no doubt perceive as way too delicate and gentle, if not even whitewashing. 

Another irritating feature is the amateurish psychology - the poor Dubya, tired of being the family's black sheep and fuck up, so desperately craves his paternal authority figure's approval that he goes to his own war to get it right this time. Lame. And worse, cynical, we're talking a war which cost the most conservative numbers estimate at $3 trillion, 2 million of refugees and tens of thousands deaths. We are supposed to feel for him, see, he can't accomplish shit on his own, because he's been born with the proverbial silver spoon and everything is being taken care of by his father. Lame. He'd like nothing better than to run a baseball team. Really? Then why the fuck sit in the White House for eight fucking years? LAAAAAAAAAME!!! He's a good guy really, just not the sharpest knife in the drawer, prone to bad influence, so Rumsfeld, Cheney and Rove steer him wherever they want to. What the fuck? Let's resort to Reductio ad Hitlerum just to further emphasize Stone's ineptitude at delivering a message - see, Herr Adolf must have been a good guy too, blah-blah sensitive soul, being painter and all, it must have been the bad, bad Goebbels, Borman and Goering. Same goes for Uncle Joe and his evil mastermind Beria, right? Now, I wouldn't give a flying fuck if he's an incompetent weak-minded and absent-willed retard, if he weren't Commander-in-Chief of the world's strongest military force, but that makes him far more dangerous than a monkey with a hand grenade. I couldn't help but notice that Stone also very, very carefully avoided raising painful subjects as Katrina, the financial crisis, the whole Patriot Act, and only brushed on torture tactics, without mentioning Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib. Bottom line? Stone's trying to mindfuck the audience is just as delicate and graceful as a sneaking elephant. 

There is a single strong point of the movie though, and this is Josh Brolin. His reincarnation as W. was amazing and incredibly convincing, I almost forgot I'm not watching the actual W., too bad his talent was washed away in the tsunami of bullshit coming from the screen. This movie had its balls crushed because of Stone's patethic attempt to keep it sitting on the fence.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Seven Pounds ...could be good if it weren't that stupid

'Seven Pounds' follows the last days of Tim Thomas (Will Smith), an obviously well paid space engineer, who caused a road accident killing seven, including his wife, by using his cell phone while driving. Ruined by guilty conscience he takes the wise and democratic decision to pay for his sin a pound of flesh (figuratively speaking) for each of the seven lives he took. He assumes the identity of his brother Ben and posing as an IRS agent finds and meets seven people, deemed worthy of his help which takes the form of donating his organs - lung, liver, kidneys, marrow, eyes (?!?!) and heart - and last, but not least, a house (just for the nitpicking, how many pounds does that count for?).

The opening scene spoils it somewhat, as it shows Tim Thomas requesting an ambulance on 911 for his own suicide, so you already know the end of the story, but you still have to spend the next half an hour trying to figure how and why he reached that decision. Don't misunderstand me, these aren't thirty minutes filled with storytelling and explaining our hero's motivation, this is just how much it must have taken Gabriele Muccino to account for part of the budget with several overextended and fragmented scenes that grace us with the evaluation of some of the intended recipients of the graceful donation. The criteria will hardly surprise anyone, if you've been good, you get to live, if you've been naughty - die, motherfucker, die.

The unsuspecting audience is then introduced to the method our hero intends to use for putting his miserable existence to end, namely by the means of jellyfish poison (sic!). Actually that strikes me as quite ingenious, provided it's not imperative to keep his organs fit for transplantation. By the way, the jellyfish apparently turns out to be of some unknown freshwater inhabiting species, unless this specific motel provides sea water on the tap. And no, no matter how logical it might seem after that, there are no low-flying snails and killer bees later in the story. The Animal Planet contribution is restricted to a Great Dane, who turns out to be vegetarian (hardly on his own accord) but still barks like a real dog.

Anyway, all that's left to see after that is the decent, so-so convincing and extremely heart-touching love story between Tim 'Stupid Suicide' Thomas and the desperately needing a heart transplant Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson, who gets the applause for her performance). And even though the lifelike love between them tried to pry a tear of compassion even out of me (not a surprise really, being the watery sucker for drama that I am), it doesn't really offer anything new, just the old story of the beautiful doomed love, in which one person must sacrifice him/herself for the other... sob.

It is my deep belief that great romance stories can be told without decorating unnecessary and pointless acts as suicide attempts with glory and heroics. I am also sure that a highly educated person, however depressed he is, can realize that he is a greater asset to society and can contribute more than being dismantled to provide spares and that if he lives, works and is devoted to the cause with all his heart, he can save how many people, 70? 700? 7000...? An engineer is supposed to know what efficiency means. Likewise, the fat-ass overpaid movie moguls are supposed to sit and think what kind of message they are conveying and what kind of images they are promoting.
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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Australia - yuck!

As strange as it may sound coming from me, 'Australia' is a must see - for all the wrong reasons. I caught myself gloating while I watched it, as I couldn't help but think I'm going to rip a three-digit number of new assholes in it. It's literally a masterpiece as I don't think anyone can make a movie this bad accidentally - no, it takes skill, experience and probably a good measure of strong will not to allow anything good to slip in.

The credit for this abomination goes to Baz Luhrmann, the Master of the Kitsch himself, the second most overrated director (Terence Malick being the first), who is also responsible for crimes against humanity such as the neon-ridden insult to Shakespeare 'Romeo + Juliet' and the unbearable 'Moulin Rouge'. This movie should be preserved for the generations to come and shown in cinema schools as the perfect example of celluloid abuse and a showcase of what must not be done under any circumstances. No, really... this is downright the worst movie of the last decade and it deserves a place on a pedestal of fossilized dung in the darkest corners of the Hall of Fame's toilet, and it almost made me feel like apologizing to the makers of all the movies I reviewed before.

Trying to describe what's wrong with it is a painful experience. It's a huge mess of panoramic aerial shots (which explains somewhat its outrageous budget), bad CG special effects, static fugly matte painted sets that rightfully belong in the 50s, all intermixed with the corniest dialog one can imagine, and with thrown in for local color kangaroos, boomerangs, crocodiles and whatnot, sometimes interrupted by Hugh Jackman's hairy chest. The all too evident usage of blue screen doesn't help either - what's so hard about setting your lighting right? This whole pretentious drivel is syruped up with huge enough to cause diabetes measure of the cheesy 'Somewhere over the rainbow', cheesy violins, cheesy voiceover and recurring cheesy close-ups of a half-native kid, most often uttering heartbreakingly 'I sing you to me'. Add to that Nicole Kidman's permafrost face, so expressionless that she must be either overdosing on Botox or suffering from severe brain damage, several shots of native people doing no one knows what, and no, don't edit it (Baz Luhrmann obviously didn't either), just drop it on the floor, pick random scraps of film and glue them together. If it comes under two and a half hours, add more scraps, because if it's not long enough and feeling even longer, your delusion of grandeur may suffer. 

Watch it, by all means... It's a once in a lifetime achievement and in the case some miracle happens and the Hollywood executives start see him as the fraud he is, it will definitely be Luhrmann's last before he gets his tar and feather treat - so don't miss your chance.
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Gran Torino - PC over the top

Sadly, after a long streak of very impressive (if not hands down brilliant) and successful movies, it seems that Clint Eastwood has decided to take the easy way and to destroy in less than two hours all the respect he'd been building patiently for decades. 'Gran Torino' is the unconvincing story of an old man who discovers in his last days that people from other races deserve respect and affection - whoa, what a revelation... can I have some 'Hallelujah'? 

As evidenced by the mediocre 'Crash' not so long ago, a bad movie can still get overhyped and even get a couple of Oscars, if it focuses on racism as a central point. This is a safe way to keep critics at bay, as everyone will tug what they perceive as the PC line for fear of being labeled as a racist. As much as racism is a serious problem that needs addressing, hammering the message with a blunt tool into the heads of the audience seems counter-productive to me. Unfortunately (and it pains me to say it), 'Gran Torino' is definitely such a blunt tool and Clint Eastwood's worst ever. 

Every single character bar none is lacking persuasiveness. The hard-ass (Korea veteran, that's how hard-ass, capisci?) main character, who never managed to connect with his own children and the only one who can love him is his old dog, but pile some exotic food on his porch and watch him mellow - for better softening effect add the cute girl next door and stir. The cute girl in question, the constantly chirping Sue herself with her near-suicidal not knowing when to shut up - one would think that being cornered by several hostile acting guys should constitute a clue. The annoyingly conscious priest with his two phrases who doesn't get intimidated and insulted despite being shooed off like twenty times in ten minutes. Don't even start me on the credibility of secondary characters as the old hmong lady who of all things is chewing tobacco, the greedy grand-daughter and her clumsy attempts at wringing grandpa’s hands, the stereotypical gang members regardless of race and cultural heritage or the absolutely laughable white guy with his baseball cap backwards, rap gestures and 'bro'... 

The story also runs flat often, not offering enough justification for anything. Why would the hmong gang need Tao in the first place? The shaman prophecy was totally unnecessary and had 'phoney' all over it. The only reason behind Kowalski's sickness (deliberately not named, but we can guess) was adding some drama and drawing the line - see, he's terminally ill, so his life doesn't matter much more to him. Oh, and of course, his name is mispronounced in the hospital so that he can see first hand what it's like. There was no reasoning at all behind the rape, it was just thrown in for the drama and to trigger the final events. 

With all due respect to Clint Eastwood, he should have passed on this one... Unless he just wants another Oscar, which he'll probably get - this movie is definitely Oscar material, it treats its audience like retards and spoon-feeds them shit.
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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

RocknRolla - same shit, different wrapping

The new full-length feature of Guy Ritchie serves only to confirm something which was already evident around the time we got hit with 'Revolver' - which by the way I still haven't seen, because it inevitably puts me to sleep in a matter of minutes. The guy (pun not intended) only knows one trick and he is depleted. While 'RocknRolla' isn't bad per se, most likely ticking off the similarities with his previous successful movies will spoil the pleasure for you. Let's break it down: small-time wanna-be gangsters - check... caught between a rock and a hard place - check... the rock being local influential mobster - check... hard place being ruthless big time criminal mastermind - check... Russians, stubbornly refusing to die after being shot with several clips worth of bullets - check... Enough already! Not only that, all Ritchie trademarks are also here - character introduction by narration, sudden changes in frame speed, everything is just as before...

Ok, there are some differences in the details, so instead of the pigs in 'Snatch' we have crayfish, big fucking deal. Doesn't change the fact that I've already seen this movie - three times, counting 'RocknRolla', and the prospect of watching its self-announced sequel brings a waterfall of cold sweat down my ass-crack. Sure, there was a couple of funny moments peppered around, like squeezing the cleverly edited sex scene in three seconds, the whole Handsome Bob subplot, the crazy Russian dudes comparing their scars and their naked drinking sado party with the Russian punk rock, but the next time yours truly will steer clear of any shit Madonna's ex comes up with until someone whose judgment I trust says it's safe and it's not 'Snatch V' or whatever sequential number comes next. That is, provided that certain Russian billionaire whose name ends in 'movich' isn't lacking in the humor department and takes it easy.

To me personally most of the fun came from the thick British accents, that should be saying a lot.
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Monday, January 26, 2009

Burn after reading - not funny at all

Over the years the movies written and directed by Coen brothers have become in a class of their own and credits to the brothers themselves are considered (and rightfully so) a good enough reason to go and see a particular movie. That's especially true after 'No Country for Old Men' so it's only natural the expectations of its successor were high. Here comes the bad part though - 'Burn after reading' is a comedy. Sort of. And while I really like Coen brothers' dark, twisted and scary movies, I still can't get myself to laugh at their supposed-to-be-comedies - blasphemous as it may be, 'The Big Lebowski' included. No, I'm not completely devoid of sense of humor, yes, I perfectly well identify the 'laugh now, motherfucker' moments even without being cued with the fake sitcom laughter, I just don't find them funny.

Even though the history is original, unpredictable and kept my attention, I didn't find any of the characters interesting or compelling enough to immerse completely in the plot. This is by no means the actors fault, they were all flawless in their respective roles. Frances McDormand and John Malkovich in particular were great, I will even omit George Clooney from my Boo-list, seems like the Coens can put him to good use. I still wonder though, why did Brad Pitt take his simpleton role - it's not like he has to prove something, after '12 monkeys' there are no doubts he can act. The problem is that the characters themselves were conceived as caricatures only, soon that becomes quite obvious, and then they don't develop anymore.

In theory everything is in its place, screenplay, acting, directing, no technical mistakes (at least none that I noticed), it just fails its primary purpose - to be funny. I'm sure there will be plenty of people laughing at the streak of bad luck hitting Cox and culminating with his coma, what can be funnier than a coma. Or at the rocking-fucking chair, that must be hilarious - to prepubescent teens, maybe. Besides, who doesn't like axe murders of innocent bystanders or accidental face shots? You get the picture...

While all these events (leading to the so desired but elusive plastic surgery) certainly add up to the grotesque, the comedy value is quite overestimated. One would expect much better from the Coens and seeing as anything from their back catalog is worth far more, I'd recommend forgetting about this movie.

P.S. The next upcoming Coen's feature, 'A serious man', is labeled 'black comedy'. Oh my.
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Pride & Glory - a cast doesn't equal movie

For the recently appearing stories about America's finest the police part is no longer enough. It's imperative for them to have involved moral values and family drama in which the honor of the family and the badge is defended and uphold by generations of valiant cops, and the naughty relatives are enlightened and turned to the good. 

The result of the consecutive attempt is quite predictable - just another good cop (Edward Norton) + bad cop (Colin Farrell) + all entangled in one family + ruined marriage + corruption + murder + whateverclichecomestomind soap opera.

Gavin O'Connor (director and co-writer) doesn't leave anything to the imagination, disclosing in the very beginning (probably deliberately) almost completely the already predictable plot... everything after that is just a stream of boring scenes, worthy of some Venezuelan TV super-production in 600 episodes, leading to just as predictably boring and terribly unconvincing finale.

Edward Norton and Colin Farrell are actually trying their best with their plain characters, set up in a threadbare environment (and their performances are not that impressive), but still it's my firm belief that there is no such actor that couldn't cover at least partly to compensate for the wretched screenplay and the bad directing. Jon Voight succeeds in extracting a bit more from his otherwise ordinary role and definitely deserves admiration for his performance.

To sum it up: save your money, you won't get anything more than an already seen, poorly directed and oversimplified family drama with hints of police blue, unnecessary inflated to just over two hours and totally not deserving actors such as Edward Norton, Colin Farrell and Jon Voight. 
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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Body of Lies - a bad story well told

Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott... at the sight of these names I was expecting at least a little bit more than the ordinary little story of the CIA agent Roger Ferris (DiCaprio), who spots spy satellites with bare eyes in the bright of the day, saves CDs with important intelligence information from the fire with, again, bare hands and destroys with, once again, bare hands terrorist camps. The said CIA agent is sent to capture (or optionally, shoot on sight) the terrorist Al-Saleem (Alon Abutbul), who is responsible for a series of suicide bombings in Europe. Needless to say, our bare-handed hero is fucked badly by his superior Ed Hoffman (Crowe), a fat ass REMF* with the nasty habit of pulling strings from distance, who treats everyone as disposable resource and whose list of virtues doesn't include words like 'patience' or 'trust'. Does that sound familiar (from dozens of movies)? 

Both Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe do their roles with their usual perfection, even though their characters are a bit too easy to forget. Mark Strong makes more impression with his brilliant reincarnation as the just as much stereotypical, well dressed and filled with self-control and politeness head of the Jordanian intelligence service Hani Salaam.

It's true that 'Body of Lies' is well done technically, dynamic (even too much, any distraction and turning may cause you to miss some event and to deprive you of the chance to understand something - which, unfortunately, you should already know by now), but the effort put in avoiding any critics or at least making a statement turns it into no more than a regular post-9/11 war-on-terror propaganda integrated into an oversold spy flick.

Summing the above: Too common. Maybe a good choice for a night you might like to spend with something more modest, 'just like that' and generic with lots of explosions, chases and shooting.
* REMF - Rear Echelon Mother Fucker
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Defiance - almost there

Based (loosely) on a real story, with solid cast, directing and performance, wonderful scenery and lightning, and brilliant camera work, 'Defiance' stands out in the line of pale bleak movies that we are sadly getting more and more used to nowadays. The movie tells with heart and compassion the story of a group of hunted Jews' struggle for survival during the Nazi occupation of Byelorussia in WW2. Although there is some controversy surrounding the Bielski group, including accusations of war crimes against the local population, that doesn't necessarily reduce the value of the film and its message, neither it diminishes the fact they saved hundreds of people. 

I must admit, I was skeptical at first about Daniel Craig, but he managed to show that his success is not a coincidence. I could have done with less of him speaking Russian though; I don't think that was especially necessary as in fact it took some of his credibility away. However, his co-star Liev Schreiber is the one who really stands out delivering powerful and remarkably believable performance. The effort put in costumes, visual modding, weaponry and set building definitely pays out, adding to the credibility of the movie.

The value of the photography can not be overstated, there are sequences shot in absolutely stunning way, and this should be considered one of the movie's strongest points. While this inevitably draws comparisons to the 1985 Byelorussian classic 'Go and see', this movie is significantly more accessible being far from the blood-chilling stupor and hopelessness of the latter.

With all of the above, 'Defiance' is far from perfect. For example, the interleaving of scenes from the wedding and the combat action was unnecessary spoon-feeding show of contrast. But where the movie fails pathetically is at the attempt of its creators to push some of their own political agenda in quite a ham-fisted way - and there goes the spoonful of tar. Yeah, yeah, we all know that the Russians are murderous bastards, evil Commies (and bigots), they drink shitloads of vodka and give random Jews a black eye for no reason, name any 'Enemy at the gates'-style cliche you can think of - and you will find it in this movie. However, regardless of the other crimes attributed to them, they didn't persecute the Jews, so I find the explicit and recurring statement 'They are no better than the Germans' quite inappropriate and distasteful in this particular movie.

If you can shrug off these blatant shortcomings, then 'Defiance' is definitely worth seeing.
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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Transporter 3 - 3 times dumber, 3 times less entertaining

Even though after 'Transporter' and 'Transporter 2' it was eyes-poking obvious I shouldn't expect more than the consecutive stupid-but-fun-to-watch action flick, even these low expectations weren't covered. As a matter of fact, only half of the above is true - 'Transporter 3' is a stupid action flick, but it turned out it wasn't especially fun to watch.

The story doesn't venture far from the already familiar pattern of the prequels - our absofuckinglutely invincible hero Frank Martin is forced by the uber-bad 'special services' provider Johnson to transport Valentina to Odessa. See, Valentina's father is a high-ranked Ukrainian politician who refuses to be bribed (now that's what I call 'one of a kind'), so Johnson has kidnapped her to force him sign a document which allows dumping of toxic wastes (and we're shown exactly how toxic - boo!) on Ukrainian territory. Now, I don't know about you, but I've read longer, richer and more original text messages. Anyway, hard to expect more from such a movie.

Acting... Yeah, yeah... Jason Statham is a constant factor - he is once again one tough motherfucker with a scowl, who doesn't speak much, makes the same striptease scene twice and beats the crap out of everyone. Oh! and outruns his own super-duper-fast Audi with a BMX... Robert Knepper is again handling predictably well the Master Baddie's role (still, I'd like to know who, when and how got the quasi-idea of casting him as a military other than a shabby deserter in DTESS?). But the sugar on top of it all is the first (please God, let it be the last!) role of Natalya Rudakova (talentless, pretty and dumb, spreading around sexappeal and freckles), who doesn't even manage the part of a transported floral decoration, popping extasy like candy and whining for a mercy fuck. She manages, however, to be extremely annoying (even if the freckles and, to a certain degree, her kinky/innocent looks make her in her own way easy on the eye).

The directing - Olivier Megaton (Megaton? MEGATON?!? well, he certainly is modest) dumped a megaton of garbage on my head with its two repeating fighting scenes, the most boring and non-dynamic car chase ever (quite strange for a film which is in its essence an overgrown Audi commercial), and the worst of all, the pathetic attempt for a romantic scene, which was so naive, boring and painfully amateurishly shot, that it made me wonder whether the director's portfolio includes anything more than a home video of the 'Funniest pets' kind.

Considering the raging financial crisis, I highly recommend you to save these money. It's quite possible to run into a washing powder commercial funnier and more entertaining than 'Transporter 3'.
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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Righteous Kill - corpse of a movie

Before getting to see it, I thought that all the bashing this movie has received is mostly due to the fact that everyone expected another 'Heat' and didn't get it. After I saw it, I understood that's not exactly true - it seems like everyone is trashing it because it's a piss-poor excuse for a movie. Let's start with the obvious - it's not another 'Heat'. It lacks the script, the tension, the tempo, the directing, and actually the participation of both Robert De Niro and Al Pacino is the only thing 'Righteous Kill' and 'Heat' have in common. However, this alone isn't a good enough reason to watch it, as it's impossible not to solve the 'mystery' ten miutes into the movie and then the only choice you are left with is to stare into the infinity through the screen for the rest of it. This is the point where the acting becomes annoying, because you can see the actors struggle to keep a secret that's in plain view and stick to a script which no longer makes any sense to anyone.

I find it unfair De Niro and Pacino took such a lot of lashing for their performances. I'd even go as far as to say that their acting was as good as ever, but as that couldn't save the movie, the angry mob with forks and torches went after the biggest targets. They were not even cast right - with all the respect I have for them, they are both way over 60 and it shows. Nothing bad with this, but why squeeze them into roles that they played successfully 20 years ago? If they have any fault, it's only in accepting these parts, which may be due to contract obligations - blame the producer for trying to milk the big names out.

The story is as trivial as it could be - a good cop turning vigilante, tsk-tsk. The problem is it lacks substance - there is no justification for his turning (actually there was, I just didn't find it satisfactory), no dialogue worth mentioning, no action scenes, just some people walking around or sitting here or there. Mediocre. Seeing as Jon Avnet is responsible for several of the most tedious movies I can remember, this isn't much of a shock. Do yourself a favour and spend those several bucks on something by Uwe Boll, chances are you will at least get some laughs.
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Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - or several sentences on Viagra

Completely in the spirit of my expectations the probably most anticipated premiere for the winter turned out to be just the next disappointment. I've been always surprised at the abilities of some people to tell short and not especially full of matter stories for extremely long time. If a story encompasses a whole human life, is it absolutely necessary to tell it over the same time span?

After 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' I'm absolutely sure that the redundant accents on the completely uninteresting daily routine of the main character are no longer trademark of the untalented, working with low funding, inexplainably pretentious 'artists', who think that a three hours long scene, depicting a hay chewing cow, is the ultimate form of cinematographic art.

'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' is based on several sentences (including the title) of an otherwise good short story, stuffed with Viagra (yes, it does go on for hours), and turned by Eric Roth into a FrankenForestGump, completely devoid of the humour, the solid content and the wonderful special effects of the original he wrote and Robert Zemeckis directed.

The commonality with the 1921 short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald is quite bleak and unpersuasive and I can't help but wonder why. Even the main concept of a rejuvenating person is twisted (again, why?) - in the short story Benjamin Button (depicted by Brad Pitt) is born physically and mentally developed as an old man (he can speak barely a few hours after being born) and his rejuvenation is also both physical and mental. In the movie he is born with an old man's body, reminding the one of the master jedi Yoda, and with the mental development of a new-born, and only is getting younger. And that's it. If the sight of a rejuvenating Brad Pitt riding a bike is enough to keep you almost for three hours in the theater - this movie is for you. I was expecting (probably for the last time) something more of David Fincher and Co.

To conclude: visually appealing, but annoyingly and groundlessly dragging and overextended. The acceptable acting of Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett is held hostage by the weak screenplay, based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story barely enough to pass as an adaptation. The movie is filled to the brim with horribly pointless and stereotypic dialogue and lacks any hook or at least some attempt for a plausible character development. On top of that there is an irritating nasal overacted voiceover. Instead of watching something that doesn't contain anything you haven't seen before, just read the story again.
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The X-Files: I want to believe (er... not I, it's the name of the movie)

Ok, I've got no one else to blame, I shot myself in the leg with this one. I knew it would suck, I just didn't know how much, I was curious - and wham-bam, the kitten has now 8 lives left. I should have seen it coming as I've never had the patience to watch an entire episode of the TV series, I didn't know there had been a previous feature film and I tend to laugh when someone tries to brainfuck me into believing in supernatural shit, extrafuckingterrestrials (at least of the anal probing type) and intelligent design (yeah, right).

So, in a sudden attack of what now seems to be a subconscious attempt to selfdestruct, the designated entertainment for the night was X-Files, a movie targeted at the audience of tabloids, specializing on headlines like 'My wife is a brain-eating monster from Outer space' or 'Aliens abducted a keg of beer in Iowa'. 

*Long pause* 
*Another long pause* 

I just don't know where to start... Should I start with the plot so ridiculous it's virtually unpredictable? From X-Files, one would expect something beyond our senses and beliefs, like monsters, aliens, or at least some ghosts... Next thing you know - it's our old friends, the Bad Russians™. What the fuck? Didn't we go through that stereotyping during the Cold War, like 20 years ago? Am I watching some Clancy-esque techno-thriller, Red Storm, Red Dawn, whatever? And besides, how hard can it be to find someone speaking proper Russian? Ok, Callum Keith Rennie (thumbs up!) did really well his imitation of Russian accent, but the extras? Then we are supposed to fear for the fate of someone we barely saw in the beginning, how stupid is that? Like that wasn't enough, the Bad Russians™ kidnap another nameless freshly introduced victim - see, now we should be trembling for her life too. 

Maybe I should continue with the unbearably corny mind-stunning lines like 'Maybe God has forgiven him after all' or 'I think maybe the darkness finds you and me', all accompanied by the inevitable sighs, rhetorical looks to the sky and the occasional sob. I almost expected a close-up of a huge green snot bubble hanging from someone's sniffing nose. The lines 'I want to believe' and 'Don't give up' are repeating like in some self-help motivational video, trying to brainwash the audience by the means of droning not-so-subtle subliminal messages. 

Don't even get me started on the supernatural part, which should be the main theme in something like X-Files... Everything we get are hints that maybe some old ex-priest ex-altarboy-fucker has turned part-time psychic and is sensing something somewhere because of a possible mental link of sorts to one of his old victims. Ok, so he helps solving a crime, big deal, never seen *that* before... 

How about acting? Duchovny sucks. As always, bar his Californication part. Anderson? Well, she was too busy wringing hands over the hospital drama and didn't participate much. Xzibit? Yo, check this out - pimp my ride, dude! Amanda Peet could be mistaken for just another scene prop, she hardly ever spoke and definitely steered clear of depicting emotions.

Still, I have to give this movie credit for being even dumber than I could ever imagine (and I refuse to blame my imagination for it). Avoid at all costs, unless you want your intelligence insulted and to put your own imagination to the same test.
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Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Day the Earth Stood Still ...the same day I nearly died of boredom

I just don't get it... I can't believe someone actually shelved the money to produce this ...thing. Did anyone in their right mind see the screenplay or storyboard before saying, 'Go, do it', or someone just thought, 'Why should I care, not my money, I get my salary either way' or even worse, 'Now is my chance to stick it back to the boss, I'll just sneak a couple of papers in the pile for him to sign and by the time they realize what's going on, it'll be far too late'? Or maybe nobody cared in the first place - a couple of renowned names cast, a trailer full of mysterious sounds and showing nothing and the big name of the original were thought sufficient to lure the unsuspecting victims to pay to see this tripe? Now that I think about it, choosing a rookie director makes sense from a cutting-corners point of view - plain and simple, they were after your buck and the trailer was considered enough, the movie itself is just a side effect. 

Let me start with the plot... there are no plot holes, that should be a saving grace, right? Wrong! There are no plot holes because there is no plot to make a hole in - warning, major spoiler ahead - aliens came and shut down the power switch, that's it. Did anyone think (I sure did) 'Boo-hoo, the horrors, it will take the human race what, like 20 minutes to replace the fuses and start again all engines'? Anyway, if the movie were consistent, it would be just plain and boring, but its tempo was chaotic and uneven, and that was further aggravated by scenes that lacked any justification or even common sense. Why did we get introduced to the initial tissue sampling (if that's what it was) back in 1928? It was completely irrelevant to the story and as it turned out later, quite redundant, as shown by the presence of 70-years old aliens later. The whole story looked like something glued together from randomly ripped pages from several classic SF books).

The cast... the cast looked as bored as I felt (but unlike them I had popcorn, I'm sure they wished they had too) and they were all donning pretty much the same desperate "Fuck, I know, I know, not my fault, contract obligations, just let's get done with that, get my check and get the fuck outta here" facial expression - that is, except for the kid, who was thrown in just for the cute factor (or someone was trying to suck up to Will Smith's ass?). Keanu's stiffness was understandable, after all he stated explicitly that being alien it would take some getting used to his body, but Jennifer Connely seemed as a pale shadow of her usual talented self, showing a range of emotions from wide-eyed amazement through wide-eyed disbelief to wide-eyed fear. Ok, maybe some wide-eyed diarrhea-related embarrassment as well. Granted, her eyes are pretty nice.

Visually - lots of bad CGI. Exampli gratia, the textures on that big robot were awful, and the particle-based destruction sequence was just some big chaos - that scene could have been shot in a bathtub of sand with a vacuum cleaner. The blue screen usage was quite obvious in several places because of inconsistent lighting - all in all everything seemed rushed and sloppy.

Long story short: 1. Don't pay to watch it. 2. Don't watch it even if somebody else paid for it. 3. Don't even try to pirate it, that would be a regrettable waste of bandwidth. 4. Friends don't let friends watch it. In particular don't take your girl/boyfriend to watch it, that may be considered an attempt to break up.
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Appaloosa ...1st time writing, 2nd time directing - whaddya expect?

I really wish I could find something nice to say about this movie, honestly, I do. The cast includes several actors whose work over the years I've admired and respected, and while not being the lowest career point for either of them (Jeremy Irons still has to beat his 'Dragons and Dungeons' lo-score), I don't think any of them should be especially proud of their participation in this, shall we say, disappointing feature. This is especially true for Renee Zellweger whose character is remarkably unconvincing and for Ed Harris who should get a restriction order to prevent him from getting behind the camera.

Of course, the Western genre is quite depleted by definition, you either stick to the cliches or it's not a Western at all, but there is still room for some originality and creativity, as proven by '3:10 to Yuma', 'Unforgiven' or even the not-exactly-western 'There will be blood'. However, 'Appaloosa' doesn't even come close to being original and creative, regardless of the efforts of its all-stars dream cast, the occasional humour lines and the wonderful scenery. The plot jerks at uneven steps (what the hell was the scene with the Indians supposed to mean and why did it take like half an hour?), often grinding to halt, and the Allison French character is completely ridiculous with the sexist portrayal of her immediate and unconditional attraction to the Alpha male in the pack. The story is straightforward, which is not necessarily a bad thing for a Western, the plot twist doesn't come as much of a surprise and all in all it would be a good, solid mainstream movie if it managed to somehow capture the attention of the audience and make them care about the characters instead of just looking at their watches and secretly wishing to finally see the lone rider disappear into the sunset (whoa, what a surprise - he did!).

Seems like the writers' strike from last year has some deeper going consequences - recently there's been an influx of badly written movies and one can only speculate this is a result of trying to introduce first time writers instead of the experienced ones. All the more too sad seeing a promising movie like 'Appaloosa' flopping mostly thanks to this tendency and wasting performances by actors such as Timothy Spall, Viggo Mortensen and Lance Henriksen, whom I was glad to see return in the spotlight.
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Max Payne ...or two fingers my friends

Max Payne holds the distinction of being the one and only video game-based feature film that manages to be dumber than the original. Ok, I'll confess - I'm one of the avid fan boys of the game who didn't like the movie, so that alone makes me a walking talking clichee hater, but hey, it's a fucking shooter video game (even a good shooter is still nothing more than a shooter), and yet some inept first-time wanna-be writer (how the fuck did he get the deal landed in the first place?) somehow managed to screw up a script that was supposed to be a milk run - after all, the makers of "Resident Evil" or "Doom" had far less to work with (you could fit the plot of "Doom" and "Doom 2" combined on the back of a matchbox) and delivered more. I know it's an adaptation and I wouldn't mind a change in the plot (the game tempo would be inappropriate in a movie anyway and repeating the game word by word would earn shitloads of bashing for being unoriginal and boring for everyone familiar with the game, I thought - little did I know), but the plot wasn't so much changed as downright crippled. Mindlessly, as it turned out, because for instance the whole Nicole Horne character was rendered unnecessary, yet she appeared for absolutely no reason and left a plot line unresolved (hmmm... I can smell a rat here, they probably intend to make a sequel - Max has unfinished business). The frivolous chopping of the script also made a key character out of Jack Lupino (mostly because all others except BB were left out - Punchinello and his trio, Vinnie Gognitti, Alfred Woden, the Finito brothers, Boris Dime, Rico Muerte, Vladimir, Frankie 'The bat' Niagara), while in the game he is not much more than a henchman (albeit an important one), and he took way too much of the spotlight compared to his importance (all the more disappointing he just got shot after so much tension building up around him).

The hallmarks of the game (and what made it stand out and compelling) are mostly retained, however in such an inconsistent way it's irritating. We only get a voiceover in the beginning - once, while there are plenty of silent scenes that could use it to emphasize the Noir feeling of the original. Sadly, all the references ('I did like Chow Yun Fat', 'The password is John Woo', the scene with the mobsters disarming the bomb, 'Rico Muerte was a regular Keizer Soze' and so on) must have fallen victim to the above mentioned so-called writer (and I wouldn't hold it against him if he had come up with some new ones - which he didn't). The typical Noir-esque overblown phrases ('The final gunshot was an exclamation mark', 'Outside, the city was a cruel monster') were also notably absent and that didn't improve the overall feeling. Bullet time - check, once, in the shotgun scene. Hello, anybody home? Max Payne is supposedly an action hero, a cop with amazing shooting skills - then why not make the motherfucker shoot someone in a spectacular way? Humour - I didn't notice any, correct me if I'm wrong (a good part of it was coming from Vladimir anyway - "I'm gonna make you an offeRRR you cannot RRRefuse - hahah, I always wanted to say that!", "CleaRRR as vodka!").

I must admit though, visually they nailed it - everything was top notch, from Lupino's tattoos down to the Aesir building, and even the CGI demons didn't irritate the shit out of me. The actors were cast pretty well (Marky Mark will get his usual bashing no matter what he does, but he did ok, considering how little he had to work with) and acted all right - even if they didn't, the bad script would overshadow that. Both the overall sound and the soundtrack were good (as much I liked the original piano theme, maybe it wouldn't fit), but that alone didn't compensate for the lack of plot and action.

In conclusion: it just falls short. Of anything, Doom the movie included. The moral? Get a real fucking writer and send this one to make a screenplay adaptation of Lode Runner. Or Pacman.
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Metallica - Death Magnetic ...or how the mighty have fallen - again

Even though I'm not especially fond of anything that good old Metallica rolled out post '91, I've tried for quite some time to keep an open mind and restrain myself from jumping on the "bash them sellouts" bandwagon (well, except for the occasions when I poked ruthless fun on some of my friends who are also devoted fans - mea culpa, but how can one resist the temptation?). So I gave a spin to all the 'Load'/'Reload'/'S&M' efforts, found them lacking in originality, shrugged and went on to more interesting bands. I felt like we achieved some mutually beneficial deal - they recorded whatever they liked, I didn't give a shit and everyone was happy. This state of uneasy truce was broken unilaterally - first with the border clashes around Napster (as much as piracy is a controversial subject, trying to root it out by brute force approach will only create more back-lash... actually it lead to the advent of torrents and the legal swamp surrounding them - now beat this, RIAA), then by the monstrosity labeled 'St. Banger' - my guess is, after Lars and his snare. Needless to say, that last lump of shit did it (to this day I still haven't managed to listen to the whole CD in one go), so I gave them all the twenty fingers I could scramble and declared a full out "take no prisoners" war.

With all of the above it's quite natural I held my expectations for 'Death Magnetic' under the freezing point, but I must admit I was secretly hoping to be proven wrong, that there might be still some flare and skill left and that they might be able to redeem themselves. Well, without further ado - I managed to listen to it in one go. That alone makes it better than 'St. Banger', but then again, what isn't? And sadly these are the warmest words I can come up with, the fucking piece of shit should be named 'Shit Pathetic'. What really pisses me off is that there are many great ideas and riffs spread out around the album, sometimes several in the same song ('All nightmare long' held some promise), but apparently no one took the time to polish and link them into a well thought out and fully developed song - no, they're just mindlessly glued together with no effort put into transition. We're just getting guitar harmonics in thirds (oh yeah, that worked so well in the 80's, why not now), boring long and slow 'drama queen' parts ('Unforgiven 3' - or maybe 4, I lost track in this particular soap-opera episode count ), occasional out-of-the-blue blast beats (wake up, motherfucker, and see how heavy we are) and the overall impression is that they try oh so hard to make another '...And justice for all'. Often changes in tempo and dynamics are randomly and pointlessly thrown in, adding to the chaos which seems to dominate the record as a whole, the only thing consistent being the lack of ideas - 'The day that never comes' seems as the best example with its emphasis put on the "culmination" (selection of the worst riffs in the CD) towards the end of the song, but 'Cyanide' is plenty chaotic as well. The production (although better this time) also sounds quite strange, vocals are sinking in the muddy background noise from the over-compressed guitars, the drums are stiff and muffled (well, that's still better than ringing as garbage cans) and the bass is missing again. Exactly what did Rick Rubin get paid for? It's a crime to have one of the best bass players in the hard'n'heavy world and to strangle him this way - although I can easily imagine Trujillo shrugging and saying "Yeah, man, but it pays the rent". James seems at the lowest of his vocal abilities (leaving aside the prepubescent squeals on 'Kill'em all') which were never that great to begin with, but that's ok as there are no lyrics worth mentioning to listen to anyway (or you will grow a disgust towards them from constant ad nausea repeating of the same chorus). Kirk is his usual talentless self, but the fanboy squad will be happy there are solos at all - like that would make the songs bearable.

Verdict: sucks balls. While immensely better than anything labeled Metallica for over 10 years, this record is still boredom incarnate. I wish they hired Pepper Keenan (of Corrosion of Conformity/Down fame) when they had a chance, but I guess they recognized him as better singer/songwriter/lyricist than anyone of them. So I don't know about you, but I'm done with giving this band second, third and so on chances. Next time I try to listen to them, they better hire back Fleming Rasmussen.
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