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Mugabe and the White African (2009)
President Mugabe And The Last Rhodesians
The Big Lie of this documentary, is that Whites are a minority in Zimbabwe; that they own a minority of the land (2%), and that they are therefore 'singled out by Mugabe' because of their race. That 'Mugabe' wants to create a country free of all Whites. This is the Big Lie at the center of this propaganda piece.
The Truth: Ben Freeth and Mike Campbell are die hard Rhodesians. That is what they mean with 'White African' - Rhodesians. And these two Rhodesians are trying to resist the redistribution of their 12,000 hectare estate called Mount Carmel.
This estate, with it's 500 'workers' is repeatedly referred to as a 'farm'. The average EU farm is 90 hectares. The average white commercial farm was 2,500 hectares. Before land reform, which saw the 1% of the population who were classified white under colonialism and UDI, own 47% of the country. That is what land redistribution addressed.
The Campbell and Freeth estate is much bigger than that - 12,000 hectares. Under the Fast Track land reform program, land is redistributed in 50 hectare (A1) and 250 hectare (A2) farms. Many whites have acted like Zimbabweans, not Rhodesians, and have taken a 250 or so (more in low rainfall areas) farm.
This documentary is about the preservation of privilege, not 'human rights'.
Edge of Darkness (2010)
As A Remake It Stands On It's Own
Compared to the usual repetitive dreck you see nowadays, this is actually pretty original, because it was based on a very deep, gritty, 1985 BBC TV miniseries, which starred Bob Peck, Joanne Whalley (now Whalley-Kilmer), and Joe Don Baker.
Having seen the original, which I would like to remember as one of the most televisional experiences in my life, everything about the movie remake is rushed and inauthentic. "Edge Of Darkness" was not just a revenge movie, but a TV series that wove together very different themes - detective procedural, ghost story, environmentalism, spiritualism, nuclear energy, Northern Ireland, Thatcherism). It was just a very rich experience, played by very accomplished actors.
The original boyfriend was played by Tim McInnerney (who was also in the Kate Bush music video for "This Woman's World", and Blackadder).
I had exactly the same feeling when watching Red Dragon after having seen Manhunter in the 1980s/1990s.
But if you want to see this and enjoy it, don't ever see the original first.
The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)
A Long Tradition
This is actually a pretty good movie if you set your expectations low and haven't watched decades of horror movies - or the kiss of death to the horror movie genres - The X-Files and The Ghost Whisperer.
Having said - the villain is really evil, the special effects are very good. Maybe some people need it, but in a horror movie, the Hollywood happy ending seemed out of place and tagged on (literally).
They handle the 'Get Out Now!' moment Eddy Murphy used to joke about in the 1980s pretty pretty well.
What is great is to see Elias Koteas and Virginia Madsen reunited - they collaborated before on the angels and demons horror movie called The Prophecy. If you want to see a classic horror movie - see that one too. And Elias Koteas certainly aged a lot in 16 years - more than Virginia Madsen has. (Maybe some testosterone pills, a hair implant and a few hours at the gym are in order. Really, he used to look great. IMDb has his age at only 49, he looks in his late sixties in this.)
Se7en Without The Algebra
This is a pretty horrible movie, bereft of any kind of creativity or story telling. We just move from gruesome murder to gruesome murder.
What is worse is the subtext. The idea that the world is full of sinister nerds, and that the surveillance society will come to the rescue is reactionary. Also, innocent, curious surfers are 'accomplices' to online crime?
Then there is the acting. The supposedly cute grandmother (I hate cute adults - how patronizing) looks so out of it and demented, I wouldn't let her watch a goldfish, let alone a child. Is that Mary Beth Hurt?
The leading men are less than inspiring. The makers wanted to create a 'modern' thriller by concocting a crime (snuff movies) and connecting them with online websites. The fact that there are still no known snuff movies, and the fact that government officials engaged in entrapment are portrayed as the good guys bothers me.
Badly written, reactionary, stay away.
The Eye (2008)
This is a very good movie, with plenty of chills and a good plot. The problem may be that we have been watching years of The Ghost Whisperer, Medium, the X-Files and The Mothman Prophecies (Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Debra Messing).
The problem with television today is that there are such high standards of writing and production, that it almost makes movies irrelevant.
So if you are an impressionable mid-teen, this might be just new enough to you to be enjoyable. If not, mid-way you are saying "But what do the ghosts want from Jessica?". Anyway, the scares are pretty good, Jessica Alba is delectable. However, Allessandro Nivola must be the most unsympathetic and uncharismatic leading man in a long time.
Hannibal Rising (2007)
Very Interesting Prequel
Hannibal Rising is a pretty good movie. If I was 15 years old today, meaning I had never seen Manhunter, or even Silence Of The Lambs, Hannibal or Red Dragon, I would say that this is a very decent horror movie come character study.
If I have a few issues with it, they would be the following.
Not enough of Hannibal's personality and his interaction with his sister, which was made the his motivating factor from Hannibal onward, were delved into as deeply as in the book. Hannibal's almost autistic focus on his senses, or his creation of memory palaces was not delved into at all, which is a shame. It needn't have lasted more than a minute, but it would have revealed a lot about the psychology that writer Thomas Harris created.
Then, shooting the movie in England, when every low budget action movie heads straight for Eastern Europe, makes no sense. They could have achieved a much greater sense of authenticity if they had shot in the Baltics, and used Eastern European actors. The English accents of the actors immediately transport you back to the Hammer House Of Horror productions.
Then, there was the mask, which he wasn't outfitted with until his transport in Silence Of The Lambs.
On the plus side, there is the wonderful Gong Li, who has no problem portraying very strong female characters. Lady Murasaki seems as tough and, in her own way, twisted as Hannibal. She has the best line in the movie. When presented with a butcher's head and the police approach, she replies - "Quickly Hannibal, they will call it murder".
Overall, if you are relatively unaware of the great movies that were Manhunter and Silence Of The Lambs, this is a pretty good movie when standing on it's own.
8MM 2 (2005)
This movie has nothing to do with the sanctimonious sleaze-pot, starring Nicholas Cage. At the time, I thought the movie was pretty bad, however, this is infinitely worse.
The actresses are cute, and as an 'erotic thriller', it is passable, but it has nothing to do with the 'Heart Of Darkness' theme that the original 8mm barely pulled off.
Add to that, that this movie is shot somewhere in Eastern Europe (cheap locations, low wages, etc.) and this is bottom of the barrel. Nothing bad about Eastern Europe, which is beautiful and I'm sure there are great people living there too, however, after the slew of Steven Seagal low budgeters, these particular locations are like a red flag for this video fan. Now if they actually involved the location into the storyline, instead of just using them as a backdrop...
The Punisher (2004)
Not The Punisher
As a one time reader of the Punisher: Warzone series and Punisher: Survival, I have to say I started the movie off slightly disappointed.
This punisher, although defined, isn't nearly massive enough for the 'real' Frank Castle. I think this role was made for bodybuilder Mike Matarazzo, who would be absolutely perfect in it. But I digress.
The second problem is that this Frank Castle is not nearly nuts enough. He was crazier than the original Rambo (First Blood), who was pretty unstable himself.
Third, the details were off. In The Punisher, Frank's little nuclear family was killed in Central Park, not at some extended family get together in Puerto Rico.
I also thought that Thomas Jane didn't have the intensity or gravitas for the role. I like Rebecca Romijn Stamos.
The minor characters were put in to supply comic relief. I don't think comic relief was needed, if the directors had taken a darker, more Gothic approach to the story. I would have liked to see more of Frank's mental instability. More Se7en meets Batman.
I thought it was interesting to see Will Patton outside of his bookish, intellectual performance on "The Agency".
Red Eye (2005)
Class, no breeding
Wes Craven is at it again. This is a very by the books 'thriller', which has unfortunately been made obsolete by the TV series "24". Jack Bauer deals with this sort of thing three or four times per episode, while it takes Craven an entire movie to get to the finish. Fortunately, the running time is old-fashioned too, at 85 minutes, instead of the modern standard of two hours.
The leads are both gorgeous, in their own way. However, the writing makes them both insufferable. Cillian Murphy at least has the benefit of being the bad guy, which makes him less obnoxious than our 'heroine', who is such a stuck up sorority girl that I couldn't feel any more empathy with her than any of the female contestants of The Apprentice. If she'd been killed anywhere along the proceedings, I wouldn't have cared less. Oh wait a minute, she isn't an a-hole, she's 'spunky', just like her aunt Henrietta.
So how does Craven fill in the scenery in between? We are treated to some kind of version of American class warfare. Unfortunately, the 'aristocracy' are middle management, sole proprietors (a hit-man) and retirees, while the working class come proletariat is, well... people who still work for a living. Which is odd, because I thought that work was something admirable, not something to be looked down upon. I guess it is work without money that is to be looked down upon. Craven sort of weasels out of that one in the end with the little 'rebellion' by the Goldie Hawn like character. Also, apparently 'Cosmo' as a drink is 'too common', according to Murphy.
How stuck up can the middle class be? Who cares. Apparently class is expressed in fake smiles, shallowness, conceit and being demonstratively stuck up. Obviously, it is nothing like courtesy or consideration. 'My bad'.
However, the movie is tight, and it doesn't get distracted into any unrelated threads, which is why the running time under ninety minutes.
Dumb, Dumber and Schizo
Hostage is not a good movie by any measure.
The writing and plotting are so poor, that for the main character to keep his credibility, everyone around him has to be stupid. His fellow cops are stupid. His captain is stupid and can't do anything right without his instructions. The villains are stupid and don't really know what they want or how to get it. The hostages are stupid - they keep talking to Willis at the top of their irritating voices, even though they are trying to evade the dunce burglars. And daddy Kevin Pollak is literally out of it, having been bludgeoned into a near coma earlier on.
Things don't start off well, when instead of being listed in on the screen, the credits are actually scribbled on all kinds of objects... the 'clues' or credits are literally written on the wall, on cars, and anything else that comes handy.
The movie is like a collage of hostage and Bruce Willis action pics. Willis is a hostage negotiator of questionable skill, who loses a hostage and breaks down, only to slink away to a rural police department (in Edge Of Night, Bruce Willis played a psychiatrist who retreated to a fellow psychiatrist's practice after losing a patient to suicide - sound familiar?). His bumbling co-worker (Marjean Holden, a world away from her gonad kicking starring role in the 1995 movie Ballistic) stumbles upon the burglary in question and gets shot dead, allowing Willis to return to his role as hostage negotiator. He really has no further business there, except of course that he 'cares', because you see, this family could be his family (and of course Rumor Willis is his real life daughter). Then, in a dire turn of scriptwriting... Oh well, you get the picture. His only contact on the inside is the small boy who manages to break free of his duct tape and goes straight for the ventilation system (Bruce Willis in Die Hard). The main weirdo kid burglar dresses like Eric Draven (The Crow) and (gasp) smokes weed. With the main brothers being so dumb, he is the only one who keeps any tension going. The plotting is so dire, that the entire crew could have been out of there with 2 million dollars, except that after a few 'meaningful' minutes together, The Crow had grown attached to Rumor, who although being young and shapely, is still second fiddle to Lindsay Lohan. Robert Knepper actually looks like Michael Wincott, who played the genius burglar in Eddy Murphy's hostage negotiator movie Metro.
I really objected to the Stepin Fetchit mannerisms of the two co-workers of Willis, one cop with a high pitched, wheezy, mumbling voice that I barely trusted not to stumble over his own feet, and an ambulance worker who displays some amazing eyeball acrobatics, which I personally found out of place in an action movie, or this century. What part of the audience in particular is this aimed at?
Willis goes around the first half of the movie with tears in his eyes, and I suspect much of that was because of the quality of the script. Amazing to think that this movie was made in the same year when he co-starred in the hugely superior Sin City, which at least had the benefit actually being based on a comic book. I think that happens a lot - when a movie is based on a book, the script only has to be updated for the screen. Most of the characters are already developed by the author, who also took a lot of time plotting and doing background research. Witness Silence Of The Lambs and Manhunter (Thomas Harris), Blade Runner (Philip K. Dick), etc.
So I think everyone is clear on what they are getting. A Bruce Willis action movie that will not win any Oscars, but might actually pass the time.
Bruce Willis is doing a lot of work, but I think he would be better off not picking a few roles here and there, and returning to much better written and funded movies like the ones he used to star in, in the 1980s.