Posts Tagged ‘2008’

Surveillance – Minute Movie Review

Mittwoch, September 22nd, 2010


Jennifer Lynch’s main accomplishment in life is being born as the daughter of visionary film-maker David Lynch. This film, her second feature, which she also co-wrote, did nothing to change that fact. She tried very hard to borrow from her father and his style is immediately recognizable in this abnormal thriller, even if she tries to give it some of her own flourishes. Two FBI agents come to a small town to investigate a series of gruesome highway killings. The local police is in way over their head and the tales of the witnesses are not entirely trustworthy. So the question is: what happened? And even more importantly: what is going to happen? But despite every attempt, there is nothing truly new, creative or unique here. The story is patently predictable, the violence is superfluous but not entirely unreasonable and the depth of human nature that are pumped have all been seen before. Without anything really standing out, including the performances from some name actors, the film has very little to recommend it. Still, if you are bored and have 90 minutes to spare, you can give it a try.

Random Observations:

Surveillance at the IMDb

Speaking of actorly performances: the film features the severely underused Pell James. Sure, she might not be the most talented American actress under 30, but she is certainly one of the prettier ones…

The film was co-written by Lynch and Kent Harper, who also plays a crucial role.

Redbelt – Minute Movie Review

Montag, Mai 24th, 2010


Chiwetel Ejiofor is a jiu-jitsu master who barely scrapes by with his academy in Los Angeles. He refuses to fight in competitions, citing that rules are against the purity of the fight. Things change, however, when an accident and Hollywood connections promise relief while making his financial troubles worse. The film by David Mamet is an interesting combination of straight-up drama and sports action film. The plot is not the most original nor the most consistent, the dialogue is stilted (written by Mamet, that is to be expected and intentional), and the ending is so over-the-top in it’s justification of the theme that if you stay true to your principles, you will eventually succeed, that it is almost painful. Nevertheless, it’s a good film, mostly due to great actors all around, led by the incredible Ejiofor, whose performance as the wounded warrior is simply breath-taking.

Random Observations:

Redbelt at the IMDb

I don’t know how to pronounce his name, but Chiwetel Ejiofor is one of the best actors working today.

Am I the only one who finds the idea of Tim Allen as an action movie star utterly hilarious? Or rather, am I the only one beside Mamet to do so?

The various fighters in the game were all portrayed by professional fighters in this strange new game called “Mixed Martial Arts”. I don’t know anything about it – nor do I really care – but I think the concept is simply that you can use whatever you can to bring your opponent down. Firearms might be an exception.

Body of Lies – Minute Movie Review

Samstag, Mai 22nd, 2010


In this adaptation of David Ignatius novel, Leonardo DiCaprio stars as the best agent the CIA has in the Middle East. His superior is Russel Crowe, with whom he has nothing in common. While he works with the locals, Crowe personifies American arrogance, conducting his own parallel operations that threaten everything DiCaprio works for. Meanwhile, a new terrorist group has started bombings in Europe and now needs to be stopped, so they do everything they can to do that, with the help of the Jordanian security chief Mark Strong (who is almost as good as usual), while DiCaprio falls in love with an Iranian girl. All this makes for a solid, if unconvincing thriller, that makes the game of international espionage seem almost tedious.

Random Observations:

Body of Lies at the IMDb

What would it take for director Ridley Scott to return to making great films instead of middling ones? Would it be enough if he stopped his collaborations with the most overrated actor of our time, Russel Crowe? Probably not, but it would be a start.

I’m assuming that the budget for this film was quite big, so it’s especially embarrassing to have American Police cars in Amsterdam and Moroccan flags in Jordan. Sure, I wouldn’t shot in the Middle East either, but at least get the set decorations right.

Also: Arabic is not the native language of Iran…

Russel Crowe’s character is exactly how I imagine he is as a person: an arrogant, brash SOB.

Appaloosa – Minute Movie Review

Dienstag, April 27th, 2010


The small town of Appaloosa in the Old West has a problem when evil man Jeremy Irons kills their Marshall. They turn to Ed Harris (who also co-wrote, produced and directed the film) and Viggo Mortensen, gun-men for hire, to enforce the law. This works well, until Harris falls for a woman (Renée Zellweger in an unusually restrained performance that is almost tolerable) – because emotions get you killed. From that point the story meanders a bit, but towards the end it gets back on track, allowing the film to be both a homage to the westerns of old and a more realistic depiction of the times. Strong performances, especially from Mortensen, and a great ending make for a good entry in the genre.

Random Observations:

Appaloosa at the IMDb

The DVD features several cut scenes, including a different opening. While interesting, the one used in the film is much more effective.

The film dispenses with the “fast-draw” gun duels of Hollywood in favour of how those duels really were – only accuracy mattered.

I can’t stress enough how great Viggo Mortensen is in this film. It should also be mentioned, however, how unusual it is for an actor-director to allow a co-star to shine like this. So my hat (Stetson, naturally) off to Ed Harris as well.

There are two sequels to the book the film was based on, but since the film was not commercially successful, a sequel seems unlikely. In any case, the story works better standing alone.

Burn After Reading – Minute Movie Review

Dienstag, April 27th, 2010


After he is fired from the CIA, analyst John Malkovich decides to write his memoirs. Meanwhile, his wife Tilda Swinton is having an affair with George Clooney and decides to divorce him, accidentally causing his computer files to be left in a gym bathroom, where Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt find them and decide to extort money for their return. However, them being idiots, makes the thing a little difficult, and before long, a clusterfuck (to quote J.K. Simmons’ CIA Supervisor) is underway, that is even more complicated than these few sentences can hope to indicate. The Coen Brothers made this film fresh off the success of No Country for Old Men and manage to make a very funny comedy with strong performances all around. Personally, I don’t see the subtext some people claim the film has, but that doesn’t really detract from the film being perfectly watchable.

Random Observations:

Burn After Reading at the IMDb

Brad Pitt is great at playing a moron. It’s good to see him move beyond his good looks once in a while and demonstrate that he can actually act.

Did you know that Frances McDormand is married to Joel Coen? I only recently discovered that and was quite surprised. However, my hopes that Ethan Coen was married to Steve Buscemi were quickly squashed.

Australia – Minute Movie Review

Samstag, April 10th, 2010


In 1939, British aristocrat Nicole Kidman comes to Northern Australia to convince her husband to sell their cattle farm and come back to England. But when she arrives, her husband has died and she alone stands in the way of the cattle king. Naturally, with the help of cattle driver/lover/general good guy Hugh Jackman, she succeeds spectacularly. But since these “epic” movies always need to run at least two and a half hours, a further story surrounding her love for the country, a mixed race Aboriginal magic child, and some war story is tacked on. Before that point, the film is laughably bad. But these inconsistent second story make it cringe-worthily horrible. Director Baz Luhrmann wanted to make a David-Lean-like epic about his native country, but ended up making a supposedly dream-like film that never finds its footing and where not even the actors are sure whether it’s supposed to be this campy.

Random Observations:

Australia at the IMDb

The best thing about the film is David Wenham as the main antagonist. Most people probably only know him as Faramir from The Lord of the Rings movies, so they might be surprised how well he does nasty.

The film is filled with historical inaccuracies, especially surrounding the Japanese invasion, which simply never happened. Yes, Darwin was bombed (but a year later than in the film), but Japanese soldiers never set foot on Australian soil.

I understand that Luhrmann wanted to make a film that showed Aboriginal ways in an honest and respectful manner – a commendable intention. You do not achieve that, however, by showing the Aborigines as a mixture of magical beings and dimwits.

The Hurt Locker – Minute Movie Review

Montag, März 1st, 2010


A US Army bomb squad in Iraq loses its leader and his replacement turns out to be less concerned with rules and safety and more with the adrenalin rush of disarming bombs. The film follows their and especially his story in 2004 Iraq in a combination of action thriller and character study. Both parts are not perfect, but the combination is intriguing, with many suspenseful scenes as well as some interesting insights into the human psyche. Sadly, the film is less of a coherent story and more of a series of anecdotes, thus preventing any real connection with the protagonists and their situation.

Random Observations:

The Hurt Locker at the IMDb

Seventh of the ten Best Picture Oscar nominees I have seen and so far the only one who even remotely deserves that award.

The film has been criticized much both for its lack in realism (apparently, there are numerous mistakes in clothing, equipment and bomb disarming technique) and for it’s stand on the Iraq War (or as I like to call it: Vietnam II). Both criticisms completely miss the point: the depiction of war as hell (at least for most soldiers) is realistic even if they have the wrong guns and the film does not take a stand on the justification of the war at all.

WALL·E – Minute Movie Review

Freitag, Februar 19th, 2010


800 years in the future, the earth is a deserted dump, long abandoned by humans. There remains only a single robot, the titular WALL·E, to clean up the mess. Through his tireless work, he has developed an almost human personality, including a love for Hello, Dolly!, and befriended a cockroach. But things change when an intelligence robot arrives to find plant life on earth. Our hero falls in love with her and follows her to the spaceship where humanity has become fat and lazy. The film, by wonder studio Pixar, is good fun and especially the almost completely silent first act is a prime example of masterpiece storytelling. The last two thirds, however, are fairly run of the mill animated tale fare, albeit beautifully animated. Often decried as one of the best films of 2008, it doesn’t quite measure up to that standard, but is still very good and a joy to watch.

Random Observations:

WALL·E at the IMDb

I really, really enjoyed the part taking place on earth, but once things moved to space, the film became drastically less original and interesting.

Wait, I think I said the exact same thing in slightly more words already in the review part…

EVE, the robot WALL·E falls in love with, was designed by the Apple chief designer responsible for the iPod. The similarities are striking.

I like how Pixar always combines their feature films with a preceding short film. Especially since the short is usually much more entertaining.

Adventskalender 23

Mittwoch, Dezember 23rd, 2009

Klick auf den Link, um das dreiundzwanzigste Türchen zu öffnen. Click the link to open the twenty-third door.

(weiterlesen …)

The Incredible Hulk – Minute Movie Review

Donnerstag, November 19th, 2009


Made only five years after Ang Lee’s Hulk flopped, this reboot tried to please the fans of the comic book about the scientist who turns into a green monster whenever he gets angry. And please the fans it did, which speaks volumes about them. The film starts promising enough with the by now usual superhero movie trope of investigating what it means to be “special” and some nice scenes set in South America, before it becomes an action spectacle that is beyond silly, marred additionally by some of the worst CGI seen in recent mainstream productions. Ang Lee’s Hulk may not have been very good, but compared to this film, it’s a masterpiece.

Random Observations:

The Incredible Hulk at the IMDb

Edward Norton took over from Eric Bana for the lead role. In some scenes, he is wearing glasses. With glasses, he has an absolutely striking resemblance to Gary Oldman. Scary.

Liv Tyler as the love interest is about as miscast as is possible. Her damsel in distress persona is annoying at best, in the supposed to be emotionally jarring scenes of the film it’s beyond bad.

The film is part of Marvel’s attempt to turn all their most popular comic books into money-spinners, if at all possible connected. That means that it alludes to, among other Marvel properties, the infinitely better Iron Man by having a small Robert Downey Jr. cameo. As the linked review will tell you, however, I didn’t really like Iron Man all that much either. But it still is much better than this film.