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The Job (2003)
Uncharateristically, a raw, dramatic assassin film
It's really hard to rate this movie because most of all, it's not possible to really determine fact from exaggeration when it comes to real assassins considering all the stylistic, fictional and dramatic interpretations presented on film. The fight scenes are often choreographed in meticulous detail to ensure nobody actually gets hurt, there are use of stunt men, and a lot of scenes are edited together so that such assassination events are contrived and stitched together to seem like one continuous event. Such is likely to be the fantasy of action thrillers that have by now permeated throughout the filmgoing audience. But what happens, if the real deal might be depicted, how would anyone except those in the covert, special services know? Nevertheless, we have Daryl Hannah's depiction of an assassin who herself isn't in the best of physical health and so how are we to look at her performance? And her performance is actually divided up into both her physical action storyline and her dramatic relational and flashback storyline.
In the first place, Daryl Hannah comes off really strong in this distinctive assassin movie. She apparently isn't perfect and she doesn't go around with martial art skills. She's the product of a rough childhood. And she answers to a coolly sadistic employer who stands out for his bipolar-like demeanor. Alex Rocco who plays the nasty Vernon Cray wants his million dollars' worth of drugs back and the man responsible dead. He is even more sinister just because of his exacting performance that is underplayed. One is reminded of Brian Cox's performance as Hannibal Lector in Manhunter (1986) where he is a quiet but menacing figure. As a conflicted individual, Daryl's character can't be relied to be completely professional.
At the same time, a second plot line is occurring about a couple who are attempting to score on a drug deal. The young man's female smoking companion is pregnant. Their portrayal of a young couple and their dialogue are hard-hitting and almost visceral in their back and forth love-hate relationship. It's not hard to imagine that their experience is that much different from real world couples who are living on the edge. One is reminded of a more stylish performance from Viggo Mortenson and Maria Bello in A History of Violence (2005) that was released two years later, along with the sinister Richard Harris.
One would be hard pressed to discover another assassin movie that portrays its assassin as in The Job. One could point, maybe, to Colin Farrell in In Bruges (2008), George Clooney in The American (2010), even the satirical performance of Pierce Brosnan in The Matador (2005) or his more drama-driven performance in The Tailor in Panama (2001) as examples. All male characters by the way. Daryl Hannah is no Geena Davis in her typical assassin performance in The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996). One might have to go back to Diane Keaton's performance in The Little Drummer Girl (1984) to obtain some flavor of Daryl's character's presentation.
As a movie, this assassin movie offers up a different type of action-thriller genre movie, incorporating a strong extended relational focus often missing in male assassin movies. Even The Bourne Identity (2002) stayed more with the couple's interaction with the us versus them mentality instead of what was necessarily going on between them, except for brief scenes that appear to be more incidental to the movie. Even babies are another unusual focus in this movie's plot, as two women who are key players here, such a theme would be a consistent one, but not normal one, to incorporate into overall theme of a movie. The photography, the sound effects, the set designs, and editing and pacing are all on par with good movies. The action is never over the top nor are there special effects really called for or even necessarily needed here. This movie remains true to its more authentic portrayal of physical action and continues to balance screen time with emotive and ethical drama. One could argue that the very last brief scene was a typical American add on that industrial production companies might have insisted on. Nevertheless, the movie mostly depicts the cycle of existential angst that pervades over much of the downtrodden and mentally and physically abused dregs of society. In short, this movie has something important to reveal and experience.
2307: Winter's Dream (2016)
A Nice Counter-Point to Blade Runner 2049
This movie came out in limited release in the United States on the same day that Blade Runner 2049 had its wide release. The parallels in the subject matter and plot are hard to ignore. While Blade Runner 2049 might be described as a futuristic film noir movie, 2307: Winter's Dream might be described as a futuristic western action movie, even to the extent of the use of a harmonica. While 2307 had ASH-393, a humanoid, the original Blade Runner (1982) had Roy Batty, a replicant. Both humanoids and replicants have supposedly limited survival prospects. Humanoids can't procreate. Replicants have a specific termination date. Both humanoid and replicant eerily resembled each other. In both Blade Runner movies, there was a single protagonist, a rather beaten down individual character tasked with the retirement of replicants. In 2307, this task is assigned to a military-like Western posse. It's interesting that the character-driven Blade Runner 2049 under-performed at the box office like its predecessor. As an action sci fi adventure movie, 2307 was scripted and directed as a popular but typical American mainstream movie.
The movie's plot incorporates the dystopian elements found in the classic George Lucas THX-1138 (1971) with a survival theme used in Alejandro Innarritu's award-winning The Revenant (2015) and Antonio Banderas's own individual survival struggle with rebellious robots in Automata (2014). What makes this movie distinctive within the action, sci fi movie genre are the serious attempts to maintain some integrity with the military, special ops discipline that is so quickly abandoned in most notably James Cameron's Aliens (1986). The storyline also takes time to demonstrate a military camaraderie and integrity, including a scene of respect about their own dead. There's also a sense of authenticity of humans versus physically superior humanoids in combat and resulting in consequential damage and survival in most of the scenes. The presentation of bio-genetic engineering technology is competently achieved. What appears to be a pulse rifle is an apt futuristic weapon, unlike many low budget movies that rely mostly on contemporary weapons, but that is not to say that futuristic weapons are necessarily the weapon of choice in this movie. There are several narrow bridge scenes which are used for an atypical carefully-crafted atmospheric backdrop. The movie also incorporates some refreshingly literally cool beautiful landscapes and decrepit photographic townscapes. The amazing icy frozen features are artistically on display as well as the Auris Borealis.
The movie, however, is not without its weaknesses. There's a supposedly scary sequence with the use of light sticks, except that one, the natural lighting seems too bright for their use and, second, it seems someone forgot about the ready availability of night vision googles. In another possible slip, there's a lapse in discipline when one op members going blindly into attacking a humanoid as a pretty dumb, idiotic and suicidal act; though there was another scene in which something similar occurred in the hard-hitting, realistic Vietnam War presentation of We Were Soldiers (2002). The "futuristic" military truck used in the movie doesn't really seem suited to the icy, winter conditions. The use of the futuristic 3-D projections for both for communications and dairy/journal entries are typically inhibited in their seemingly inferior quality presentations, like in George Lucas's Star Wars (1977). But by now, the technologically savvy audience is likely to be used to the belief that 3-D imaging will likely be quite crisp and clear in most instances. Finally, the screenwriter apparently didn't give any thought to tying one's supplies and equipment onto one's self so that they can be kept on one's person? And what's with the distracting resemblance of Paul Sidhu, the lead character, to adult Wil Wheaton from Star Trek: The Next Generation fame? While Blade Runner 2049 might be considered artistically superior along with a well-crafted performance and character study, 2307 remains a worthy counter-point. In contrast to the dour bleak ambiance of Blade Runner 2049, this movie offers a motivating action-focused script more prevalent in American cinema. Considering today's social turmoil over immigration and racial purity, 2307 captures a pertinent theme in the female combatant obsession over Hitler's Mein Kampf. This movie contains a decent and valuable twist worth experiencing. Perhaps predictable to some and maybe even too typically theatrical for others, but it still urgently resonates in today's social milieu, especially considering the significantly higher ratings from female audience members.
The Foreigner (2017)
A Distasteful but at the same Time Good Movie
This is one of those rather morally distasteful movies that is well let it be said is good in quality. From depicting rugged vengeance to cold-blooded torture, from the compromising of a relatively good politician to the creation of a political conspiracy, this both character-driven and action oriented mystery thriller offers up a bitter tasting, but well scripted, convoluted plot on the par with John Le Carre's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1979) and the more ambiguous The Russia House (1990). While the primary focus of this movie is likely to be Jackie Chan's grim trail of vengeance filled with threats and violence, this movie is also a character-driven movie with Pierce Brosnan's much more layered and complicated character who suffers mightily at the hands of Chan's efforts to discover who killed his daughter in a bombing at the beginning of the movie. Jackie's meticulous use of special operation weapons and strategy is a welcome, if not, repugnant change in taking out people.
The fighting scenes with Jackie Chan and particularly memorable for their more rough and raw hand to hand combat rather than the more lyrically choreographed almost fantasy style of martial arts that Jackie Chan is usually associated with. With the graphic bombings comes that immediate association with the actual mayhem that appears to be happening both here in the United States and Europe. The surprising movie focus on the Irish Republican Army is a politically sensitive one, one which will hopefully not heighten emotions in the more relatively quiet setting of Ireland today. The script and the direction of this movie is one of severe seriousness and no-nonsense efforts at sinister manipulation with deadly intent. This is a hard-hitting movie that except for a nobody apparently locks their cars or sheds anymore and the British army unable to keep from making a bad situation worse (probably more for dramatic impact than anything), this movie reveals deep betrayal and exacting revenge in a less than enlightened way. But no matter how one might feel about the moral ambiguity and distaste of this movie, it is well and well directed, performed movie, worth of seeing. Jackie Chan's performance here is among his best work.
Other more straight forward revenge movies would be Keanu Reeve's John Wick (2014) and Nicholas Cage's Rage (2014).
Liquid Dreams (1991)
A Worthy Mystery Techno Thriller
With colorful film noire atmospherics, this slick, low-budget mystery thriller with Candice Daly, in the lead role, searches for her missing sister in a creepy, non-descript, techno-building. She is led into a world of soft-porn hypnotics that is seductive, alluring, but lethal and dangerous. The agoraphobic set design holds the audience helpless as help from the distant law enforcement is only intermittent and not completely reliable.
Overall, the script is sleazy, but thick with soft erotic appeal. The script does not hold back from a hidden horror-infested sadism. This movie is worth a look, if one isn't totally into X-rated titillation, but in search of a decent creepy mystery thriller.
Haunting Desires (2006)
Almost a Watchable Softporn Horror Movie
Beverly Lynne and Evan Stone almost carry this campy horror movie but is letdown by a stodgy script and a less than courageous attempt to really portray the special attraction of the vampire's seductive myth. What's special about Lynne's performance is her ability to take the B-rated dialogue and turn in a relatively cool performance with her use of acting, body movements, verbalization of the scripted lines that captures the exact nature of the stereotypical inflection of her character, Lynne actual becomes the two-dimensional character on screen with no artificiality.
There are plenty of dead spots with a lot of nothing particularly happening. The erotic excitement is spotty and the director and scriptwriter never go far enough to let Lynne really squeeze the R-rating factor for all its worth. Her scenes however are memorable except for a rather horrendous typical B-movie ending. This movie had potential to capture that rare element of horrific seductive appealing pleasure but ends up only wetting one's appetite of what could have been.
Just Imagine (1930)
Doesn't Survive As a Movie to this Century
This very outdated multi-genre movie of science fiction, musical, comedy was an unwieldy experimental mix of movie styles that didn't really meld well at all. With over-the-top stodgy comedy along with uninspired unconnected musical song and dance routines, the promising science element became more of a supposedly enticing backdrop to a story about a man of the future trying to find fame in order to get the government to agree to his proposal of marriage to his love.
With as many exciting futuristic developments that this movie foresaw: Sliding doors. Helio-copter/Planes (electric) for primary transportation. Video wall screens for communications and door monitors. Science-based space flight, rocket/jet propulsion, planetary alignments and gravity assists, the possibility, burning up in the atmosphere. Old fashioned space shuttle configuration. Weight differential on Mars. Woman consent to marriage. Extraterrestrial language differences and communication. At the same time, the movie is weighed down by the typical theatrical staged acting of the times, dumped down comedy, and simplistic plot points that offer little in the way of serious substance that later quality science fiction would eventually evolved into. The movie incorporated futuristic oddities such as food pills, numbers for names (shortened social security numbers), rollaway bathroom sinks, reanimating life, floating street lights, anti-gravity, government regulated marriage based on merit, men only proposal to marry, air police intersection control, Flash Gordons (1936) rocket ship, and an atmosphere on Mars as well as lack of weightlessness in space.
Overall, this movie missed a great opportunity to incorporate some emotional dramatic heft in its science fiction elements that First Men in the Moon directed by Nathan Juran would achieve thirty-four year later, five years before the actual human landing on the Moon would occur.
A Fascinating and Mind-Expanding Look at Operating System Relationships
This intimate look at human and computerized relationships is a mind-expanding experience on the threshold of our contemporary future. Starring Amy Adams as a female human, Scarlett Johansson as a computer or operating system voice, and Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore who dictates letters for other people to other people which in itself presents an odd paradox of communication between two people.
There's two possible conundrums with this movie, one problematic, the other philosophical. Theodore experiences a date early on which has problematic issues that might seem to be more script-driven than real. Philosophically, Theodore begins to experience emotions with Samantha, the operating system, where some existential doubts are raised about the reality of feelings which in turn raise interesting questions about the actual nature of emotions themselves. For a number of neuroscientists, it is the confluence of both the physiological as well as the mental interactions that result in emotions which would suggest that purely mechanical, electronic entities may have the same capacity to experience physical feelings or sensations but not actual emotions. If this is so, the conundrum in this movie becomes even greater, if not hypothetical or more fantasy and magical than potentially real.
Earlier on Theodore experiences phone sex with a real female. Later, Theordore gets to again experience virtual sex as the movie taps into the use of the audience's mental imagination, using a blank dark screen during an intimate scene. Virtual sex is briefly examined in the sci fi action thriller Demolition Man (1993). Another hybrid relationship is presented in Solaris (1972, 2002) where a relationship forms with a planet-created entity from human memories.
Yet computer questions remain. What does it mean that an operating system "wants" and how do wants arrive or occur in such an electronic universe and what are the implications? At some point, another existential question arises from this movie: Do and will operating systems begin to evolve to the point of deserving a right to life and human-type of respect. Interestingly, the proposed alternative relational lifestyles in Her offer some intriguing moral and actually stimulating ideas for contemplation and real experimental experiences when and if technological advances permit. Her may be at least one of those science fiction movies that has arrived before its time and allow for timely thought and consideration for the future of advanced operating systems outside the more stereotypical survival of mankind scenarios. Personally, it's possible that such a relationship would have been worth trying out and whether or not the script outcome was deliberately shortened here for dramatic or time limitations sake. The IMDb rating by age of Her seems to also suggest that alternative operating lifestyles as presented is also based on some generational bias with older people and females (to a smaller extent) who might have greater resistance to accepting such possibilities. As to how birth for woman and child-rearing would impact such operating system/human relationships remains to be considered.
It's possible that Theodore and how his relationships go, is really an asshole at heart and even he doesn't know it. It's more about him than sharing and nurturing anybody else in a relationship. There may be a sense of a need for an unnecessary psychological security through a feeling of control in a relationship that only serves to push women away, human or otherwise. By the end of this movie, it is apparent that Her offers up a pertinent relational message to all people seeking something special with another person. "We're only here briefly and while I'm here, I want to allow myself joy so f__k it," says Amy. What Her ultimately accomplishes is to present a cybernetic story in ways that raise valuable and unexplored questions which may unfortunately result in answers that human beings may not really experience the satisfaction as they desire. This movie explores the important computer ethical examination of the computer-human interface that might allow for a computer-sensing entity to capture and experience the multitude of the billions of sensory experiences in a moment that no human could perceive and such an experience could preoccupy the time differential such that the human-computer hybrid relationship could develop and evolve together resulting in something like an Existential operating Buddhahood. Additionally, as operating systems experience millions or billion faster than human beings, it would also seem unlikely that such time differentials would be practical unless such systems were deliberately slowed down, much to the questionable wants of such programs. What this fascinating movie really comes down to is "was the experience from Theodore or Samantha worth it for them?"
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
A Captivating Extended Movie Torn between Mystery and Romance
This sequel to the original 1982 Ridley Scott's now classic Blade Runner offers the same mystery thriller sci fi theme that didn't really inspire a lot of initial interest in the original movie. Apparently director Denis Villenueve's Blade Runner version has also encountered some popular audience resistance and the slightly lower female rating as did Ridley Scott back in 1982. There is considerable less action involved in this release as compared to the more popular mainstream movies receiving much bigger box office receipts. Lost is the typical film noir voice-over narrative that was a problem for a number of people, including Harrison Ford, of the 1982 original theatrical release. However, there probably still exists a minority of people who prefer the film noir element of detective voice over of the 1940s, allowing the audience to get into the mental experiences going on with the lead character, including the imagined dialogue of an audio version of reading from a book or text.
Many of the sci fi robotic concepts incorporated into this movie have had their presentation in a number of much earlier sci fi movies, particularly dealing with the human brain, emotions, memories. Russell Crowe's hologram turned real in Virtuosity (1995), Cherry 2000 (1987) the female robotic companion of David Andrew's character that he believes he wants to repair her damaged central processing unit to keep what close relationship he had, Kurt Russell's engineered and programmed human to become the perfect human weapon in Soldier (1998), and even Peter Weller in Robocop (1987) and Robert John Burke in Robocop 3 (1993) as well as D.A.R.Y.L. (1985) about a robotic boy and blurring between human and robot in Making Mr. Right (1987). Yet what seems to distinguish and sets this robotic or synthroid themed movie apart is the integration between a hologram and a robotic entity in both visual as well as acted portrayal. The dazzling and fascinating fusion of electronic interfacing in one of the movie's delicate sequences of awesomeness.
While it is likely that many in the audience will find the outstanding visual effects on par or even more dazzling and powerful as the original and as found in Interstellar (2014) with its water and ice planets or scientifically accurate display of a black hole, the megacity features of the multitude of decrepit futuristic housing or bleak, haunting, hostile landscapes of Blade Runner 2049 appear like Sean Penn's beautiful but "pretentious" landscape imagery found in Into the Wild (2007). What director Denis Villenueve has introduced into his Blade Runner movie is a tribute to both the Ridley Scott's visionary imagery as well as an over-emphasis on visual design by turning it into a primary character of the movie instead of a background palette upon which to tell and to complement the story.
What is really fascinating about the script is how much Blade Runner 2049 is much like the original except that its perspective could be viewed more from a replicant's point of view instead of the hunter or detective point of view by the time the movie is over. Villenueve's movie is even more dark and somber than the original, more grittier with a similar context as Daniel Craig gets to portray James Bond in the more contemporary Casino Royale (2006) from his earlier incarnations. Ultimately, it is harder to connect deeply and consistently with the emotional turmoil underlying this movie as it is also focused on a mystery. Unlike The Machine (2013), Her (2013) or Transcendence (2014) the canvass on which Blade Runner 2049 is presented is so much larger that the opportunity for a consistent, extended intimate and evolving engagement on an interpersonal level is diminished.
Battle of the Sexes (2017)
A Brilliant Personal and Social Movie
I lived through this era as an avid tennis player. Much more than the trailers even glimpsed at, this production is among the best movie in years. This beautifully performed sports movie captures just the right balance between the deeply personal, well-crafted interpersonal turmoil, and the epic social feminist movement of the early 1970s. With an amazing script, Battle of the Sexes incorporated the difficult, poignant inner battle that confronted Billie Jean King as a woman as well as a symbol of experience that women faced by the patriarchal attitudes of the sixties and seventies. In an early scene President Nixon is heard congratulating Ms. King for becoming the first female athlete to make over $100,000 only later to have to face conservative Margaret Court from Australia later for the number one female position in tennis.
The excellent direction and performances of Emma Stone, Steve Carell, and Andrea Riseborough as a hairdresser in a crucial role in the movie, brought forth an in-depth and personally moving character portrait of Ms. King and Bobby Riggs and a cutting and riveting examination of the behind the scenes turmoil both of these real-life people possibly experienced. At the same time, the excitement and thrill of the sport of tennis is displayed along with its excruciating and exhilarating displays of talent, suspense, and frustration on the court. And as for the social movement, the movie offers up the gravity and the momentous stakes that were in play in 1973 when millions watched on ABC television the gender battle of the century.
The pacing, the sweepingly gorgeous and awesomely emotive silent moments, the hard-hitting sexual prejudice on display, the use of scintillating brilliant photographic styles, and the sensitive and balanced depiction of real humanity of almost all the characters bring both in the actors and the audience powerful emotions and meaningful reflection on an important social issue of then and even now.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)
A Dizzying Hyperkinetic Action Thriller
This hyperkinetic action thriller sequel again delivers a dizzying amount of souped up and slowed down physical action. At the same time, the screenplay has included more emotionally gut-wrenching moments that can almost bring the audience to tears. Immediately, however, the audience is jolted into attention with an almost unreal action sequence that seems to defy even screen reality in its depiction of extended mayhem.
Overall the plot and set design almost seem to take James Bond movies as its inspiration except with a lot of joviality and at the same time a raw, gritty, nasty, and even sadistic delivery of willful murder with glee. The movie thus is even repulsive at times, loaded with swear words that seem to besmirch the genteel nature of the British-side of Kingsmen. The political undertones in the movie can be startling considering the contemporary nature of the reign of President Trump and surprising in the contrast to the upcoming Tom Cruise movie American Made (2017) suggesting America's connection with the international drug cartels.
The movie it seems borders on somewhat of a fine balance of schizophrenic tendencies with its primary plot and its twists and wry sadistic behavior along with the British sense of humor. The audience is tossed about almost as the characters are in a spinning cable car. It is novel in its action shots and offers up an action ride of entertainment with brief scenes of sensitive emotional reflection on death, sacrifice, and even romantic betrayal and faithfulness.