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Lost City Raiders (2008)
not bad at all
Saw this little movie two days ago, on cable and in Full HD. Call me crazy, but I liked it. The plot is so common for B-movies: some guys are searching and competing for an ancient artifact. Half of them are the "good guys", the other half are led by a ruthless super-rich man who wants the artifact only for him, ...to rule the whole world, of course. The action is set in the near future, when the level of the planetary ocean raised dramatically. The coast zones ,and not only, are now submerged. The New-Vatican wants the artifact (a scepter from Middle-Ages)hoping, based on old Biblical legends, to lower the level of waters. The bad guy, who lost millions per day with his submerged real estate wants exactly the opposite: to raise the level even more, because he now develops floating communities. He want the whole world to become dependent of his projects, then to lower the level to regain land and sell more, once again, to those who wants to live on solid ground.
As you see, it's a simple plot, used oh so many times before, from Indiana Jones to super-cheap and easy-to-forget other B-movies. Well, in my opinion, this one is able to stay in the upper first half. You won't find Oscar-winning acting here, just enough action to keep you entertained.
The CGI is surprisingly good for a TV movie.The scenes with the half submerged Dresden and Rome are done great. An underwater explosion and, later, CGI flowing water are rendered very realistic. However, the submerged structures are more poorly done.
"Lost City Raiders" is a family-friendly movie, so you can watch it with your kids. Not a lot of talk, talk, talk, the plot is simple to follow, some lines are funny, the acting can be found sometimes a little bit silly, but nothing unbearable. It's 20% comedy, 40% action, 40% adventure. Recommended.
Who knows what's the trademark of almost all of the Asian horror movies? Yes, you're right: a ghost or a spirit shaped as a girl(or a woman) with her long, dark hair over the face. In small doses, at the right moment, usually associated with creepy sounds or eerie score, moving suddenly or with broken movements, those out-of-this-world presences have the power to scare to death the poor characters unfortunate enough to be in their path. Now, ladies and gentlemen, in "Bunshinsaba" you have the longest presence on-screen of the aforementioned long-haired female ghosts in the entire Asian horror history. If you have a better example, please let me know.
Now you think that will make this movie the scariest of them all? Errr...no. "Bunshinsaba" is a horror movie, no doubt about it. But, it's scare factor is average or even low. Despite some (very short) disturbing images, it's hard to be really terrified. No unsupportable tension from "Shutter", no gruesome-deformed faces from "The Ring". The last three-quarters of the film we're dealing with the ghost, who-as usually-seek revenge. The main problem is that we have real difficulties to know who's the real person, who's the real person possessed by the vengeful spirit, who's the real spirit, what's real and what's imagination and who's the reincarnation of the spirit. It's not easy to follow. Once invoked(at the beginning) the spirit move from person to person, determining the subsequent behavior. Some commit suicide by putting a plastic bag over the head, spilling flammable liquid over and set it on fire. Other girl throw herself out of window.
About the standard, mandatory, long-haired girl(notice that I didn't said "ghost"): As I said, you will see a LOT of standard stuff. A face looking down and then slightly starting to rise the sight. Don't expect demoniacal expressions, sudden scares in sync with loud sounds. Once is the real girl-school, next time the ghost, next another girl possessed by the ghost. Hmmm, pretty twisted, maybe a second viewing is necessary.
Otherwise, even the plot is relatively clear, it is also pretty twisted. There's a lot of talk. All the girls are beautiful and in general the cast consist in pleasant-looking people. Unfortunately, if you want to be really scared, this is not the right movie.
Jue ming pai dui (2009)
Two males and three girls receive, each of them, an invitation to a party destined only for rich and successful business people. Once there, they are locked inside the building and someone start to hunt them. One die, two others, badly wounded, are captured and dragged on a stage. There, in front of other guests from the high-society, their stalkers torture them in some gruesome ways. The two (remaining) main characters try to escape this nightmarish location while the bad guys are on their steps.
If you have seen "Hostel" and liked it, you will probably enjoy this one too, at least three scenes have the exact same feeling. There's a lot of blood flowing from the both sides, the baddies and the victims. The movie start slowly and constantly accelerate until the climactic ending. I found some plot holes, the first being right at the beginning. It helps you to get in the mood, but the location has no connection with the rest of the story, at least in my opinion. Visually, I have some mixed impressions. Most of the footage seem to be caught on film, while other sequences looked more like a digital camera recording. There's a certain amount of shaky camera movement during the run/caught/fighting moments, but the rest is OK. The editing is good, allowing the viewer to see what's going on. Some moments are well defined visually, emphasizing the atmosphere (the axe in the final battle), other less (a car chase between a Ferrari 360 Modena and a pick-up truck), some have an unnatural feeling(completely deserted roads at night, a police check in a road tunnel with zero traffic).
So...Not a masterpiece, because it's nearly impossible to make a masterpiece today from this genre. But not a bad or boring movie. More, it has more twists and turns than your average slasher/horror movie, good makeup and some cool death/torture scenes. Bonus, nice Taiwanese girls and a female lead not only beautiful, but also smart. This helped me to care for her, after so many years of horror films where the young victim girls were so stupid.
Mute Witness (1995)
Man, I never laughed so much this year, and it's quite hard to make me laugh. While I expected some Hostel-style movie, the smile came to my face even from the beginning. This film-inside-film start with a female stabbed "victim" messing the whole set until she finally "die". Her overacting drive the director nuts and his funny reaction tell us, the viewers, that Mute Witness is not a typically horror movie.
The main character, the mute American make-up artist Billy Hughes, is played by the beautiful yet talented Russian actress Marina Zudina. Her performance is top-notch; her character can't speak, so the body language and the emotions on her face must compensate.And, oh boy, she did a wonderful job. Her sister (Fay Ripley) is the girlfriend or the fiancée or the wife of the "in-film director" (Evan Richards). They were both very funny most of the time. I won't spoil more, but the scenes following the bathtub moment, with them both, the fake policemen and later the angry neighbor were plain brilliant black comedy.
The plot got twisted near the end, possibly misleading at one particular moment. But don't worry. Such a delicious movie can be viewed in family or with your boy-/girl-/friend.
It let you with tears in the eyes
If we compare the movie industry with an ocean, we have the tendencies to observe only the surface. Driven by the strong Hollywood marketing force, we all saw war movies like Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line, Apocalypse Now or Full Metal Jacket. But underneath the splashy waves grow in silence, from time to time, less known pearls. When you pick one and look carefully at it, you wonder why this pearl lie almost unknown and why it's not already on the crown.
"Stalingrad" is such a gem. Why, it has a bunch of multi-million dollars rated actors? No. It have thousand of extras? No. It have breathtaking, spectacular, shiny computerized visual effects?. Not at all. So, what's so special? Well, in one word, it's pure past reality recreated and transposed to celluloid fifty years later. The tragedy of the most bloody battle in the history is here. Filthy, wounded soldiers, Russian civilians who lost everything during the invasion, burning villages, collapsing buildings, decayed suburbs, gunfires, explosions, tanks in flames, soldiers shot, burned alive, ground by tanks in their pits or shred to pieces - you got all. But the real horror is elsewhere. People are reduced to simple pawns, without the power to change anything. The soldiers we follow in film try to leave the combat zone and they fail. The civilians stay in prostration in the middle of nowhere, only crying for their children killed. Mercyless, the huge grinding machine of war melt together humans, equipment, villages, cities - and ask for more victims and destruction, over and over.
In all this collective insanity a group of German soldiers struggle to survive and to keep at least a minimum level of normality. They do their duty and fight bravely. But, as everyone know, a battle is almost lost when people start to loose confidence and faith. We see how all those people are abandoned, how they plan to desert, how they struggle to catch the very last plane to Berlin (full of wounded), how some very bad injured soldiers were treated as simulants and shot, how they were forced to execute a small group of Russian civilians, including a young boy, how they later discovered a place literally full up to the ceiling of food and drinks - destined only for some "superior" officers, of course. One by one, they drop dead. The end of the movie is one of the most bitter, depressing and touching ending I ever saw, all on the magnificent score of The Munich Philarmonic Orchestra. The war destroyed everything in its path.
This movie is a must-see for everyone. A true movie-lover should have it in his/her collection. The strong anti-war message must be a warning for all of us. Unfortunately, the mankind never learn, nor the politicians. Self-destruction is in our DNA and the human pain seem to last forever. Can we be enough reasonable to stop THE WAR?
Michel Vaillant (2003)
far above the line
Usually I don't post comments here because I'm lazy :) but I do when I'm impressed positively OR negatively. OK, now let's start.
First of all, I must admit to be a little too subjective regarding this movie, because I love motor-sports. I saw Michel Vaillant just one hour ago at TV and here is my verdict:
TOP NOTCH: -the visual style, absolutely stunning, is the first thing what hit your eyes. Luc Besson did again a great job. For those who aren't see the film yet, just imagine that the BBC's Top Gear crew did all the shots. -strong, saturated colors, a feast for the eye -unusual angles: rear or front bumper, the tribunes shot vertically, etc. -short, but memorable scenes: a butterfly flapping the wings and taking off from the hood as the engine is started, a brake disc heated within a second to red, the two prototype race cars appearing suddenly from the behind of an old Citroen 2CV (ha ha, brilliant), the race truck (team Vaillant) rushing into the lake, rising a big water curtain and scaring two fishermen in a boat. -a lot of in-race shots, a must-see for every race fan. Also, because of so much action on the screen, the film has an essential quality: it's not boring.
FLOPS: -unbelievable storyboard facts: the father kidnapped by Ruth Wong, a frustrated chick, and destined to death if his son, Michel, dare to win the race. The same Michel, forced to race for the competing Leader team (c'mon...). Julie Wood hitting several times her car against the opponent, until the two ended with the cars in flames (at 250-300 km/h this is not a proof of minimal intelligence). More, she's not an aggressive person and in race you're focused on your job, not to smash your competitor car. Whatever... -cheesy, melodramatic sequences:Michel bearing Julie in his arms from the crash point to the pits. No one helped him? -overacting: sorry to say, but Lisa Barbuscia (who play the Ruth Wong's character) appeared to be artificial and fake.
Overall, a very good movie, worth not only a rental, but also to buy the DVD. Money well spent, great fun delivered. Good job, Frenchies!
some expectations, huge disappointment
This movie is another proof that we, Europeans, can't find a middle way in cinematography: masterpieces are mixed together with big chunks of pure crap. Like "Rottweiler". An interesting story is massacred by stupid acting, idiotic storyboard and more idiotic lines. The main character has serious mental problems: he see and talk to his fellow dead former inmate and to his (former?) girlfriend. The little girl is, on the other hand, annoying and obviously, has nothing in common with acting. The three easterners in the cave (smugglers, bandits ?)just laugh like retarded morons every two sentences. And finally, the camp boss had the most idiotic lines you can heard in the entire world cinema history.
Almost 30 years ago, another Spanish director made a little gem, a movie almost similar to this one (minus the sci-fi flavor): "El Perro". Go watch it, if you have the occasion. And then compare it with this awful movie. And you'll find that tens of years later and a new century doesn't mean necessarily what we call "progress". At least in the seventh art.
Just two stars, one for the slaughtered story (RIP), another one for the music and the sound effects, who saves this film from being a totally submerged wreck. And one thumb down.
waste of time
I've heard a lot about this movie before, so finally I decided to see myself if it's so shocking and disturbing as everybody says. Bad decision! In my life I saw hundreds maybe thousands another movies, but this one surely is in my top ten "most awful movies of all times". An interesting plot is massacred by the filmmakers in any possible way. The story is not believable, the acting is more than bad. Long, uncut shots, the perfect recipe for perfect boredom. And that horrible quality of voice dubbing...who unfortunately has become a trademark for the Italian cinema, at least for the oldest flicks. This dubbing effectively ruined all trace of credibility. The viewer stare at something who's totally fake and artificial. The fame of this movie comes, mainly, from some few scenes of victims forced to eat feces. That's, to be honest, not something to see everyday, not even on screen. But this aspect is far to save Salo from being such a wreck. The old blonde lady helped the director to reach the desired movie lenght in time not by some decent acting, but by telling idiotic and mindless tales, to "turn on" the depraved high society. If you want to see a real exploitation film, you better give a try to August Underground's Mordum. That's extreme, sick and depraved. And at least they don't pretend they made a "cinematic masterpiece"...