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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Heroes one is safe, indeed

One thing never ceases to amaze me and I doubt it would be much of a surprise to anyone if I said the thing in question is the human ability to swallow enormous amounts of warm bovine fecal matter and ask for more. A perfect example of this are the 'Heroes' TV series which I'd call a huge brainfart if it weren't for the sneaking suspicion that the fart had been accompanied by this specific kind of moisty bubbling sound associated with a sudden rather embarrassing warm feeling. From the very start the unbelievably stupid tagline 'Save the cheerleader. Save the world.' made me cringe and want to reach for my tinfoil hat, but contrary to the pessimistic 'fuck it, how worse could it get' common sense, it got. Much worse. Imagine every single introduced motherfucker wielding some absofuckinglutely unimaginable powers - like this isn't bad enough, we get literally swamped by new characters with new and amazing (however mostly useless) abilities, until we start thinking that the so-called ordinary people are actually a minority. Sooner or later the unsuspecting viewer actually starts rooting for the bad guy and cheers him up for every kill (points go to him for the implied eating of brains, that made him my favorite character), as the huge numbers of annoying superhumans obviously need some thinning (no wonder, as the 'writers' threw in a couple or two everytime they needed the 'plot' to move or thicken).

I can only explain the popularity this show has attained with the D&D effect - every pale and skinny geek is dreaming of being a super-hero the same way as of swinging an imaginary two-handed sword (to compensate for his negligible genitalia) and bulging with imaginary muscles. We even get an example of the geeky character turning into a supposedly powerful warrior (Hiro... get it? nudge-nudge), wearing a katana on his back and a menacing look on his face. The downside is that all the cool superpowers are already taken, so there might not be a good one left for you, but the not so subtle message is that we are all unique, 'United we stand' and if you look around you hard enough, you may still find some useful ability, even if it's sharpening pencils with your asshole - hey, Peter Pitrelli may end up with a sheet of paper and nothing to write with but a pencil stub, so you can help. Thank God, Jah or whoever's in charge that the creators of the show didn't call it 'Geeks United' (maybe only because that would reek of 'X-Men United' and/or could dump a law suit on their heads).

Special effects/CGI - cheap to none. Script - stuuuupiiiid. Dialogue - hell, I can't remember a single line (ugh, except 'Save the cheerleader, save the world', but I wish I didn't). Half the cast walks around like some living dead, delivering unconvincing performances and depicting some utterly unbelievable characters (Peter leading the way, being dumb as a sack of hammers, but good hearted, you know, the whole male nurse stuff), there are a couple of good-looking guys with nice haircuts for the girls to stay tuned (Ali Larter keeping the boys), and that's it. Well, if people are dumb enough to drag this hogwash into Season 4, then maybe they deserve it.
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Bangkok Dangerous ...your sanity is what's endangered

Huh... here comes another 'give-me-my-money-back' experience...
If after 'Ghost Rider' you think you've seen the worst of Cage, you'll be severely disappointed. In 'Bangkok Dangerous' the bad acting performance transfers into a whole new dimension which is no small achievement. 

Nicholas Cage (Joe) looks extremely ridiculous with this 'haircut' and the pale 'Nosferatu-lite' complexion. How ridiculous? Well, if you think you can rely on your imagination, try to burden it with the mental image of something resembling the result of an unsuccessful genetic experiment involving Marilyn Manson and just a hint of recent Michael Jackson, with a leather jacket, a gun, four (needless to say, waiting to be broken) hitman's rules of thumb, and showing all the acting skill of an overfed on spinach crocodile.

Funny, isn't it?

Or at least funny enough to cause fits of uncontrollable giggles for about a minute or two, which should be enough to tell all the story and order some pizza (warning, spoilers ahead - not that I think anything could spoil that experience, but still) - a rent-a-killer goes to Bangkok to kill four people for the local mobster boss, meanwhile hiring an indigenous pickpocketer to serve as a liaison, kills three of the targets, falls in love, screws the love sublot up, and right before killing the fourth victim, in a moment of deep sorrow (caused by the above-mentioned screw up with his beloved one) he discovers his fragile soul and (lo and behold) refuses to pull the trigger. Naturally, the bad guys start hunting him down, kidnap the befriended by then liaison, and are quite predictably extinct to the last person for this mistake. Our hero uses his last bullet to take both his own and the bad boss' lifes. And yes, please, put some anchovy on the pizza, nothing can scare me after 'Bangkok Dangerous'.

A predictable and fragmented plot, which seems as if written by a 12 year old semiliterate half-idiot and directed and edited by his retarded classmates. An unremarkable and sterile dialogue, ruined beyond imagination by horrible acting. The few and short near-bearable action scenes drown in the sea of Boredom. The characters are underdeveloped and unable to cause any emotion (aside from the short fit of hysterical laughter at Joe's first appearance).

In conclusion: 
An extremely annoying movie. Try to avoid it even if you suffer from insomnia.
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