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Out of this one, I've also made separate lists for my very BEST and FAVORITE ones plus two for SWEDISH movies (with fav's) - so check those ones out, too!
Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
An offensively bad ride through the toy store.
In the happy, garish '80s you could get away with a lot in the movies. "Big Trouble in Little China" does indeed all it can to do just that. The result is a tiresome, juvenile joyride through the toy store
minus the joy.
Kurt Russell plays smug truck driver Jack Burton, who makes a stop in San Francisco's Chinatown to visit his friend Wang. Accompanied by Jack, Wang goes to meet his childhood sweetheart at the airport, only to see her get abducted by Chinese gangsters. The hunt for her leads to a gang war, which in turn leads to a showdown in the underworld of Chinese black magic, mythical reincarnation curses and various Kung Fu fights. Oh, did I forget to mention drooling fur monsters in corridors, hovering spy brains with faces and characters named Lo Pan and Egg Shen?
Filmmaker John Carpenter (a hero from my youth!) was at his best doing low-budget horror or thrillers. That made him both interesting, creative, and sometimes a master of creating tension and atmosphere - especially with its own scripts. He is not the writer here, and doing action comedy on a large, noisy scale with various supernatural ingredients thrown into the wok, is just not his thing. With a big monetary budget bag in his hand, he becomes a boisterous nine-year-old running through the toy store, buying one colorful balloon and Chinese firecracker after another only to pop and shoot them off inside the store, while cheering. Continuously. It's sad to see an old hero making a fool of himself like that.
I try to set my mind into harmless, playful entertainment-mode. But this is so cheaply written, deftless, desperate and dumb that I only get dejected and tired. There is no balance, finesse or wow-factor in the action-, chase- or fight scenes. They just keep crashing into one another like an endless set-up of bowling pins. Sometimes the fur-monkey-monster pops up. There is a lot of running, stumbling and yelling in corridors plus a bit of diving in indoor pools. One of the bad guys has the inexplicable ability to inflate himself until he explodes (!). And perhaps most sadly: it's simply not funny, only embarrassingly low-brow. If one wanted to find a mitigating circumstance, one could pull up the Tongue-in-Cheek-excuse or The Huge Campy- card. But for that to work, it takes smartness in the comic material. Here, I laugh once. And that's in a sigh saying: "What IS this mess?!"
Alternately, it's like watching an extended Scooby Doo cartoon on speed (I'm tempted to write Chinese opium but that's more of a downer) with about the same amount of character development. In any case, this is offensively bad. Or maybe it IS made for nine-year-olds watching Scooby Doo? Nope, as it probably has one too many a knife in the head/broken elbow for that target group.
Kurt Russell might be doing a pastiche of his previous tough guys Snake Plissken (Escape from New York) or MacReady (The Thing), but why not have a clear nod to those cult characters, like a black eye patch falling off, or something? His Jack Burton is just a charmless, impotent John Wayne-impersonator in cowboy boots who is not even given good lines. He drives a truck called "The Pork Chop Express" ... while chewing embarrassing clichés over his two-way radio. Kim Cattrall as the woman in distress/ love-interest is squeezed into the story so fast that there isn't a chance to buy the potentially mandatory romance even for a moment. Russell's unexpected final rejection is a bit liberating, though.
Is there anything good to be found? Well, we have very stylish set designs and pretty okay special effects. But what good is that, when we have a terrible script, cacophony-action and characters that I don't give two cents about? There is a nostalgic expression in the world of film: "They don't make 'em like They Used to". Sometimes that fact is very reassuring.
2 out of 10 from ozjeppe.
A spellbinding 80 minutes state of shock
A 30-something man wakes up in agony with blood in his hands and clothes, only to get up and carry on ahead through his day at break-neck speed, ignoring all signs of disaster. A fever-pitch intensity follows that escalates into claustrophobic desperation within a first-person-perspective: what the hell has occurred?! OK, imagine the worst possible personal tragedy occurring the night before to a character like that... well, I give you 2 guesses! In all fairness to filmmaker Jesper Ganslandt, but the scenario of what has happened in this Swedish thriller-drama is to me VERY obvious after 15 minutes.
What is NOT obvious, though, are the surfacing, immediate reactions and actions of a person's mind after such a tragedy. And that turns this into a highly realistic, quite spellbinding state of shock for 80 minutes. The case-solving itself is not relevant, and for that reason, the greatest asset is a terrific and highly credible performance by Olle Sarri in the lead. He dissolves bit by bit in front of us through his 24-hour ordeal, like a modern-day Raskolnikov, but without the philosophical aftermath. So, we have indeed a thriller - but also a psychological drama.
And there is my main quibble: with a story (and an ending) like this, writer-director Ganslandt also leaves out all surrounding details like backgrounds, bonds, motives, etc. It cries for a social commentary context and an epilogue. I know its enclosed format certainly makes material for tons of discussions, but it leaves me a bit wanting.
All in all, quite impressive and a needful change of pace for the more poetic "Farväl Falkenberg"-filmmaker!
6/10 from Ozjeppe.
The Lost Boys (1987)
Before "Twilight" there was... Cheese-Fest with extra garlic!
80's teen flick crossed with modern day-vampire horror: Two brothers move to Californian coastal town, plagued by vicious, hedonistic vampire pack. Conflicts ensue. In some quarters, this is reported as a cult movie. More straight to the point: this is a vampire story for the VERY noncritical Nickelodeon crowd, that more or less defines the decade in everything, from music soundtrack to fashion, sets and music-video visuals.
Innocuous and nostalgia-inducing, to be sure, but still an obvious-at-every-turn, grand cheese-fest (Feldman's lingo, the beach concert, the obligatory romance... oh, brother!) that actually might work better if viewed as a straight comedy, because turkey laughs are plentiful. Too bad the bits MEANT to be funny, aren't particularly so for anyone over 14, either! Best thing in it is Sutherland, who makes quite an impressive vampire gang leader. So, yes before "Twilight" there was this... Cheese-Fest with extra, extra garlic!
"Death by stereo!!" Oh, you did not just seriously say that, Corey Haim, did you? Corey??
3/10 from Ozjeppe.
Do the Right Thing (1989)
A two-hour bickering fest... albeit staged like a Technicolor musical!
Hyped-up, late 80's account by writer-director Spike Lee on ethnic tensions culminating on a hot summer's day in a Brooklyn neighborhood, NYC.
To me, this is another zeitgeist film that hasn't quite stood the test of time. Definitely made with the best of intentions and some really good performances, but its energy goes into overdrive (and overlength) that turns this into a two-hour increasingly tiresome profane bickering fest where as good as every scene leads to a loud racial bigotry outburst. Told with overblown, huge gestures and (surprisingly) staged and choreographed like a stylized Technicolor musical! I kept urging for a more subdued, nuanced tackle on the indeed always important subject, instead of a growing headache.
4/10 from ozjeppe.
Pather Panchali (1955)
More an exotic rarity than a particularly good movie.
Authentic account of the life of a poor, rural Indian family's life and hardships during a few year's time. Universal in theme but doesn't really get gripping until the final 15 min's during a memorable rain storm. Feels almost like a student project in its utter simplicity, technical limitations and primitive montage storytelling... which at times makes it a bit hard to follow in exactly what's going on (some bits are just frame filling and have no cause-and-effect whatsoever).
I read after watching it that the father is a priest, and that it's supposed to be set in the early 1900's... gee - good to know, because the movie itself certainly doesn't tell me so! But most of the time it's just unclear if we have a main character: The mother? The daughter? No, apparently (again, after reading more about it afterward) it's supposed to be Apu, the son - which is weird since he honestly doesn't get more attention - OR personal character development than anyone else!
I badly want to be more generous (like when you have to be nice about commenting a small kid's poor, ugly doodle drawings) because of its earnestness and alleged historical influence/importance to Indian cinema. But I can't - because it's simply not good enough. It's more an exotic rarity/half-documentary than being a particularly good movie. Do I feel like watching the sequels? Not much.
4/10 from Ozjeppe.
Kalabaliken i Bender (1983)
Swedish adventure-comedy that's neither funny nor exciting - a sad shipwreck of grand proportions!
This Swedish adventure-comedy had nasty long-time rumors of being a turkey that even the audience shunned at the box office. As it finally came my way on TV the other week, I found out the hard way that those rumors unfortunately were true. When I rate movies, I genuinely try to pass rather than fail them. *Sigh*... this time it was impossible, since what can you say about an adventure-comedy that's neither exciting nor funny? Wait - add sub-par technical qualities, abysmal storytelling and editing plus miscasting! Then you have a shipwreck of pretty grand proportions in Swedish cinema history.
The story: In the year 1713, Swedish king Karl XII is hiding in Turkey (how's that for a coincidence on its quality!?) after a disastrous defeat against the Russian army. Having worn out his welcome, the Turkish ruler hatches a plan to throw him out: send a young princess to marry him! However, to thwart the plan and stop the caravan, a handful of Swedish royal schemers appoint the two most unfit, bumbling army buffoons they can find, to escort the princess...
That set-up isn't bad at all. There's a big-name cast. A renowned director. It's just that... the result is one big incompetent mess! The tone is weirdly off from the start as we're not sure whether it's a plain spoof or an action-adventure á la Indiana Jones with comical touches. Apart from the above mentioned technical inadequacy (the lighting and framing is sometimes terrible!) it's clumsy, clunky and so embarrassingly amateurish and unfunny that it had me feeling sorry for it in the same way you feel sorry for kids who cannot act in an elementary-grade school play. Characters pop in and out, scenes just pile up and have awful, jumpy transitions, while others feel like outright failed takes... but were included anyway!
Lasse Åberg in the sort-of lead is a beloved comedian/actor/filmmaker in his own right. But here he is HORRIBLY miscast/misdirected - acting stiffer than a flagpole, he reads his lines as if they were cake recipes. Gösta Ekman as Karl XII stumbles, farts and has a VERY strange monologue in bed where it's unclear if he's supposed to be drunk or just going insane. The princess bursts into oriental song by the campfire in one of the most uncalled-for musical moments I can recall. And HOW on earth did Genghis Khan end up here - six CENTURIES off the mark?! For Swedes to smirk at momentarily, there are a few in-jokes on crayfish-eating vs. the origin of the "kåldolme" and a scene where Sven Melander translates a foul attempt at selling off the famous, sunken royal Vasa ship, into German.
But at that point, it's too late - like the Vasa, this truly sad ship is already a sunken wreck with broken cargo and a keelhauled crew. A painful, excruciating watch that nobody involved escapes from unscathed. It also manages to shove a final insult in my face: The end credits, which tell us that what we just sat through was the BUILD-UP to the famous turmoil in Bender - not the title event in itself, which occurs afterward! Say whaaat?
2/10 from Ozjeppe.
Away We Go (2009)
Target group: parents & family valuers. To me: mawkish comedy-drama with desperately constructed characters.
Indie-comedy-drama of 35-ish hipster couple having their first baby - but takes a US (plus Montreal) nationwide road trip before finding that idyllic, suitable nest for starting a family. If one likes, this could be labeled 'Director Sam Mendes converting to familydom'.
First off: I'm simply the wrong target group for this. This is for parents foremost, as it embraces traditional family values and child worship, which I personally can't identify with... and that's like trying to sell a sirloin steak to a vegetarian - because it pushes too many wrong buttons in me.
Some chapter bits work fine (like the trip to Phoenix). Otherwise, two main traits sink this. 1: The overall mawkish, saccharine-sweet approach. It serves one sugar bomb dessert after another, even though you're stuffed right after the scene where the two sisters get in the jacuzzi at the bathtub shop... or why not where Chris Messina pours syrup on top of a house built of sugar cubes & pancakes to illustrate a happy family home (yeah, juuust like it would happen in real life)!
2: The desperate need to cram a multitude of quirkiness in the passing character gallery, where not one person feels like they would exist anywhere else than on a script paper. For that reason, the laughter material is spotted minutes in advance. The singer-songwriter soundtrack also adds to the feel of being SO cliché-attached.
It's well-meaning feel-goodness not without its charm, but remains a conservative mannequin on the inside, dressed in an alternative hipster/indie-costume. Score: 4/10 from Ozjeppe.
Mary and Max (2009)
Transports you into a universe of its own where the surprises never stop coming - a small masterpiece!
I've been watching too many mediocre/sub-par flicks lately. Which makes me so happy that once in a blue moon, there's still a movie that is able to just sweep in from nowhere and trigger that soaring feeling inside your chest, making you grateful for being alive to have experienced it. This amazingly detailed clay-animated (á la Wallace & Gromit with a grayish twist!), but QUITE adult fairy tale is one of those: Unhappy 8-year-old Mary in a small Australian town, writes a chance letter in the 1970's to middle-aged obese man, Max in NYC, USA - and so an unlikely pen-pal-correspondence begins... that is nothing but a marvel to share!
The biggest miracle this movie pulls off is to literally transport you into another universe of its own, where the surprises never stop coming. Through the lives and fates of two simply unforgettable characters, it takes a firm, heartfelt stand for The Outsider and dives head-first into dark places where, say Pixar rarely would dare to go (mental afflictions, alcoholism, bullying, family deaths etc). Almost guaranteed to move you to tears, (even a few more might be shed knowing that recently diseased Philip Seymour Hoffman provides the fantastic voice of Max) it also serves up top-notch black humor and is hysterically funny at times.
Yes, I am seriously in love with this wonderful film and can't wait until I get to watch it again. A small masterpiece that collects an equal once-in-a-blue-moon 10/10 score from me!
Bad Lieutenant (1992)
A tortured soul's inferno of decadence
Harvey Keitel pulls out all the stops in an audacious, brave performance. Playing a corrupt, heavily multiple substance-abusing cop in NYC, he is one tortured soul, hell-bent in an inferno of decadence, neglect and self-destruction. The case of a nun's rape (in church, no less!)draws him in, though, suggesting a chance of salvation.
Plays and feels like a leftover, heavy and dark Scorsese piece, replete with catholic symbolism of guilt and repentance. Still a strong, effectively gritty experience with one genius stroke that adds an unexpected, looming pitch of suspense: Having Keitel's character following the world series of baseball playing in the background, on which he keeps playing a high-stake money betting battle.
5 out 10 from Ozjeppe.
Repo Men (2010)
Not-bad concept becomes masochistic excuse for gore and violence
Flashy urban sci-fi thriller that tries to emulate "Robocop"s mix of social satire and action: In the future, artificial body organs are big business. A buddy pair of repo men (Law & Whitaker) soon find themselves on opposite ends of this heartless (pun intented!) means of trade.
Sound familiar? Well, what was a 2-minute sketch in Monty Python's "The meaning of life" makes the whole concept here, which in itself spells "unpleasant" with a most jarring mix of tones. Has its bits (and Whitaker always makes for an impression) but more and more, this becomes a masochistic excuse for excessive gore and violence, with sometimes laugh-out-loud preposterous story turns and plot holes big enough to shoot hoops through. And how many times can we swallow a lazy twist that nullifies one third of the film? Give us a break!
4 out of 10 from Ozjeppe.
The Green Mile (1999)
Exceptionally well-made fantasy-drama but turgidly overbaked and overlong.
Director Frank Darabont adapts Stephen King's tale of death row prison guard (Tom Hanks) recalling his days in the 1930s and his life-changing encounter with simple-minded giant prisoner (Michael Clarke-Duncan) accused of child murder... but who also seems to possess a certain supernatural gift of resurrection.
Exceptionally well-made fantasy-drama that tries to tread a fine line between the grimly harrowing - and cute and well-meaning... but is the complete opposite of subtle. Darabont has a penchant for the overbaked and overblown - which this has in spades in its turgid spiritual symbolism and over-the-top bad guys. He also plays out the scenes in what feels like slow motion that cannot by any means warrant 3 hours of running time. Still, most enjoyable with a flamboyant atmosphere and a fine, heartfelt performance from the enormous Clarke-Duncan.
6 out of 10 from me.
Mad Max (1979)
Laughable cheapie revenge B-movie makes "The Road Warrior" look like "The Godfather"!
Australian cult sci-fi-action film that spawned two sequels and launched Mel Gibson's career: Road cop in the near dystopian future goes head-to-head with vicious motorcycle gang that threatens both his town and family. I waited over 30 years to catch this hard-to-find classic. I didn't expect miracles - maybe a bit rough around the edges at worst. But to find it to be a laughable cheapie revenge B-movie that is only made just bearable thanks to a few nifty stunt scenes (and an admittedly memorable finale scene), is honestly quite startling!
It's one stiff competition after another of which ingredient takes the cake: The horrible music (that also manages to drown some of the dialog)? The unbelievably hammy acting and characters? The amateurish editing and continuity? The seemingly random events and story progressions that break so many simple basic dramatic rules, even for an action piece? Barely scraping by to avoid the total turkey mark, this one makes its superior follow-up "The road warrior" look like "The Godfather" in terms of... just about everything. Crikey!
2 out of 10 from Ozjeppe.
Gycklarnas afton (1953)
The emperor CAN be naked... VERY naked indeed!
Silly, boisterous and badly outdated story of a traveling circus in turn-of-the-century southern Sweden and the demise of its owner/ringmaster (Grönberg) as he comes back from a 3-year tour abroad. Intriguing circus setting, very similar to Fellini's "La Strada" but this is not even remotely close to that film's masterful emotional quality and character/story development. Here, it's just so cheaply and sloppily executed that almost nothing works in terms of dialog (the scenes between diva actor Ekman and Andersson are terribly unconvincing), coherence (the final 20 minutes are just embarrassing: messy, loud, melodramatic and annoyingly overacted) and character motivation - particularly from Grönberg's mistress Andersson. Grönberg himself IS memorable and the bit where he visits his wife at the tobacco store, stirs up interest momentarily... but this is easily the crappiest piece of Bergman I've seen so far. Stark, moody cinematography is among its few virtues.
To illustrate my disappointment: the opening sequence with the tale of the clown Frost's wife taking a nude swim in front of a military squad relates to absolutely nothing that follows (and again, ridiculously overacted), so what exactly is the point of including it in the first place? So, Bergman aficionados: the emperor CAN be naked... VERY naked indeed!
2 out of 10 from Ozjeppe.
An unintentional laughing stock of a lost time period... but entertaining being so!
This was a huge hit among teens at my school in 1983 when I was 16. I never got around to see it back then and it's a strangely fascinating feeling watching this hybrid of a teen movie/music video tale trying to come across as serious, today. We learn following 3 male teen buddies after school graduation spelled-out IN CAPITALS how frustrating teen love is, how bad smoking pot is and how low it is to sell out and let your rock band friends down.
The tone works fine for about 20 minutes into it. From then on, the embarrassing scenes just keep-a-coming. Dialog and performances run from workable to simply atrocious. Former legend rock singer Uggla hams his gay club owner up like he was in a bushwhack farce and IS fun but was this seriously director Hildebrand's intention?
The nicest thing I can say (apart from a few nice songs on its soundtrack) is that the blue-eyed ambition of a lost time period has an almost endearing cuteness to it... and its amateurish awkwardness (and cheap production value) IS indeed highly entertaining being so, and keeps off my lower rating. Therefore it's also one of the unintentionally funniest movies I've seen. Several bits had me literally roaring with laughter. I simply MUST end my review by ranking them in laughing-order:
1. The "Nattens dockor" video by the pop group Freestyle. Costume, make-up, lyrics and choreography in this have to be seen to be believed Youtube it! Takes hilarious awfulness to a whole new level as Wahlgren fondles female mannequins' breasts.
2. Wahlgren and Örn slow-dance, run (completely dressed in white!) over summer lawns and skinny-dip in a public pool to the tunes of "I'll find my way home" by Jon & Vangelis. Add the after-sex song duet in bed by the two lovers, and you will NOT a thicker chunk of teenage-love-cheese to cut for the whole decade! The uncensored nudity is refreshing, though and would be unthinkable today (sadly enough).
3. Skröder and his mother Fröling share a reconciling moment on the bedside after he has cut both the dope (just like that!), his long hair... and donned orange 80's pastel pants! The end dialog about having tea and honey toast sounds like something a 9-year old could have written it's THAT bad!
4. Håkansson's end song from the stage as he re-unites with his old band; its moral-lesson-lyrics directed at his friends on the dance floor... pricelessly horrible.
3 out of 10 from Ozjeppe
The Ladykillers (2004)
Yahoo college comedy level of superior original - hopefully the Coen's lowest career point!
Allow me to be blunt (like the film itself): Let's hope this is the Coen Brother's lowest career point. A remake of the suave comedy thriller original from 1955 moves from England to Coen backyard territory: southern Mississippi. Hanks plays an odd, voluble leader of a motley criminal crew that schemes to rob a casino, using an old lady's house as a hideout and posing as classical musicians. When Hanks early on pratfalls out of a tree trying to bring down the old lady's cat, the level of the bar is set at slack-jawed... and sadly doesn't go up from there.
This feels both rushed and surprisingly devoid of any ironic refinement that marked the original - which also ironically IS a Coen trademark! Instead it's packed with blunt stereotypes (just count them, one by one!), cheap slapstick and toilet jokes that could be lifted from any random yahoo college comedy. Another crucial element of the original - which has never felt better, by comparison - was making the old lady sweet and likable. Here, she's obnoxious, loud and bigoted to the point where I almost wanted to see her ditched!
And if the moral of the story is: 16 million $ going to a bible school being a good thing... well, you won't see me going: "Amen" to that statement! Hanks gives a memorable performance, but that's about all that this tiresome misfire can put in its church collection booth.
3 out of 10 from Ozjeppe.
Harry Munter (1969)
Pretentious, messy 1960's zeitgeist muddle of wasted talent.
This is the kind of movie that aggravates me because it's a classical-themed story with potential to engage: Young man/bohemian drifter Harry, living with his parents, gives up his professional talent for engineering, including a chance to move to America, to stay with friends and family he cares about.
Made in the late '60s, it's clearly inspired by French New Vave that many a critic obviously deemed poetic/avant-garde. I call it a pretentious, sloppy muddle because it fails frustratingly through unfocused, jumpy storytelling by popping characters in-and-out that have no emotional connection to its audience (but somehow yet finds time for long, pointless scenes). The ludicrous finale with the little boy poking our hero with a ski pole... plus his "spiritual" - well, poorly disguised Christian dream, had me sarcastically laughing and shaking my head.
Is Harry really a talented inventor? Or is he a humanist do-gooder who wastes his gift, because he truly cares for and helps ordinary people instead? There's no way to tell, because I'm not shown or told any of this enough to be convinced. There's so much choppy character interplay that nowhere near underlines its protagonist's increasingly exasperating, dead-pan actions. For that reason, I stop caring - and that's a cardinal sin for any movie (although the airport scenes do hold a bit of dramatic interest).
To me this is bad, nose-in-the-air movie-making that's not even visually compensative enough to excuse its oh-so-apparent zeitgeist artistic ambitions. And is it intentionally filmed at a messy construction site/suburb-to-be to convey any symbolic message? You tell me! I cannot digest that this is seriously considered a classic, top-Swedish movie even today. Hopefully time will catch up and expose it as the dated relic it is!
3 out of 10 from Ozjeppe.
The Hotel New Hampshire (1984)
A truly fascinating train wreck of a movie
Given the people involved here, this is one of the most fascinating screen train wrecks I've ever seen. It's plain obvious that even if you, like myself, haven't read John Irving's novel which this is based on, a TV series must be the only way to adapt this, if anything to fit in its vast content. I have no other explanation for this anarchistically surreal, whirlwind mess of a 110 min' film: The saga of a large family of eccentrics trying to make it in the hotel business both on the American east coast and Vienna - oh, apart from all their sexual shenanigans, encounters of counterpart weirdos and inexplicable hang-ups about circus bears, of course...
From the word go, I'm told not to take anything seriously (sort of like in a Fellini-world), so I don't... which has the effect that when dramatic, supposedly emotionally engaging incidents occur (gang rape, terrorism...) - I still don't! The characters feel randomly thrown into a huge tumble-dryer, spun around, taken out, some discarded, put back, spun around, etc until nobody cares, because although SO much indeed is happening, nothing is invested in them with this sloppy irregularity - not even a laugh.
Too boot, we get poor sound effects (a farting dog? Hilarious... maybe for a 5-year-old!) & editing, fast-motion slapstick á la the old Benny Hill Show and over-acting to match, although Jodie Foster is always watchable. In most aspects, a truly terrible movie. Anyone think you're up for this challenge? You WOULD seriously be better off watching an old Benny Hill episode!
2 out of 10 from Ozjeppe.
The Happening (2008)
The answer to Shyamalan's roller coaster career... keeps blowing in the wind!
Auteur M. Night Shyamalan's latest fantasy thriller borrows a great deal from "Invasion of the body snatchers" and "The stand" as mysterious, spectacular mass suicides spread across the American East coast. An increasingly smaller group of protagonists in Philadelphia flee into the countryside as the enigma points to biological reasons...
The opening hook is really something - and the first 45 minutes are equally tense, with unpredictability and moody visuals its biggest assets. But increasingly dopier (and ditto dialog) situations and character actions slowly drag this down, as the script digs itself into a big hole. The emotional content isn't entirely successful, either - it comes in moments where we don't know the characters yet to care enough (like Leguizamo's goodbye) or later on, when it has already crossed into the turkey farm one too many times.
Shyamalan's career is truly a roller-coaster, as this is one step up from "The lady in the water" but yet one steep step down from all his previous works. I do like the thematic matter, though, that the planet Earth has finally had enough of humans and finding a perfect, sinuous way to dispatch us all. That final message is also ambiguous; is it pro-natalist, or a scenario that spells an ultimatum from nature if we do procreate? The apocalypse answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind... and so does the Shyamalan enigma saga!
5 out of 10 from Ozjeppe
Ormens väg på hälleberget (1986)
Strong story of old-time oppression, sadly mauled by disastrous storytelling and self-parody .
In the 1880's, poverty-struck northern rural Sweden, a widow and her family is tormented by a despicable landholder/merchant who demands that the lease for their house, is to be paid in sexual favors once they can't afford the monetary one.
A very strong, simple basic story of old-time oppression, poverty and evil, is inexplicably mauled by a frustrating editing chopfest-technique (title cards, short take, cut - title cards, short take, cut... etc.) one expects to find only in a butcher shop. It's nearly impossible to connect with any character fully, by this type of storytelling and minimal dialog.
Also, because of the limited and claustrophobic setting, the endlessly repetitive dark and murky misery almost becomes a parody of poor rural folk suffering & drudgery in itself: By the umpteenth time bad guy Skarsgård enters the log cabin and wheezes: "It's time to talk about the lease", I'm actually laughing in the midst of deep tragedy - and THAT is a huge problem for any filmmaker. And do we have to read the book to find out what the fudge exactly happens in the (is it metaphorical?) end? Against this, the memorable performances by Ekblad, Skarsgård and Brynolfsson fight as fruitlessly as their characters against a perpetual winter. Sadly, supposedly a top filmmaker's worst movie.
My tip: for better depictions of my countrymen's gripping fates from this time period, check out Jan Troell's "The emigrants"!
3 out 10 from Ozjeppe.
The Social Network (2010)
High-profile, but overly hyped entertainment that might date quickly over time (maybe like Facebook itself?).
Internet site Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in Jessie Eisenberg's lanky shape is not a very sympathetic figure: a fast-babbling and socially awkward misfit who was dumped by his girlfriend, and whose embryo of FB started out as a good looking girls-ranking site as a pure act of revenge the same night as the break-up. Progressively, his character traits extend to a reckless million dollar entrepreneur of an unparalleled success concept of social media. Director David Finchers & scriptwriter Aaron Sorkins interpretation jumps between the legal process in the present (where his former college friends intend to sue the crap out of him, mainly for stealing the idea) and the skyrocketing rise of the Internet phenomenon in the past.
A solid, high-profile piece of entertainment, with ear-bouncing dialog and fine performances... but it never takes off, dramatically nor emotionally to the heights that a first class movie must do. That visionary director Fincher is behind the helm is a bit hard to understand since the story is albeit highly paced unremarkably carried out and ultimately feels surprisingly flat and inadequate at this level of aim and talent involved (one visual 'wow' moment, though, is a rowing contest montage).
Maybe this is the catch: it's most likely mainly made with the focus on the Facebook phenomenon being THE Zeitgeist No. 1 thing right now, and for that reason, opportunity must be seized before it fades. Zuckerberg's story might be interesting enough to film - in the long run - but his tale isn't over yet by far, and this chapter might just have been made too soon? Because to me, this movie is good but does definitely not have the whiz or character fate interest to warrant all the hype and high praise surrounding it. It wouldn't surprise me if it will date quickly over time (as FB itself might be?). Trent Reznors cool soundtrack is an asset, though!
6 out of 10 from Ozjeppe
Modern fandom complexities & character studies, set in the Old West... have seldom looked so poetic!
The title says it all. This is the more unheard of "legends" of the man who both idolized and shot the infamous outlaw Jesse James. I'd be reluctant to call it a Western, because foremost, we get a male character study flexing many muscles and nuances, that seems to just happen to be set in the old west. Yes, there is gun-play but that's not what made the filmmakers get this ambitious drama off the ground, for sure. The modern complexity of idol fandom and fame coveting, (which is unnervingly reminiscent of such famous cases as the John Lennon & Ronald Reagan shootings) plus the film's psychological character interplay very much discloses this fact.
Told most elaborately and poetically, writer/director Australian Dominik has made sure it almost never gets too boring, though, as every scene is as artistically shot as a wall painting. The West has seldom looked both so rugged, flamboyant and beautiful as here, as those snow scenes will stay long on my retina! And if that doesn't do the trick, pitch-perfect performances are plenty to enjoy, with Affleck delivering a haunting and unforgettable portrait of Ford.
A note to the ones watching this who are having trouble with languid pace and atmosphere: stick with it, because those final 20 minutes is a masterful showcase of more trimmed, riveting storytelling underlining the story's double tragedy. Biggest flaw which holds back my higher rating: It IS overlong by at least half an hour and an already fine movie would have been great, if cut down.
7 out of 10 from Ozjeppe
Fanny och Alexander (1982)
Sumptuous production of some of Bergman's favorite themes - but far too disjointed - and where the hell is Fanny?!
This is Ingmar Bergman's semi-autobiographical Life and Times of wealthy theater family Ekdahl in 1907 Uppsala, mainly told from the eyes of young Alexander as his mother is widowed, remarries a harsh bishop, and moves into his church estate with both the children. A fairly gripping saga, gorgeously photographed and sumptuously produced, with marvelous performances from Malmsjö and Wållgren... but mostly a more artistic gem to admirably behold rather than be moved by and involved in. Considered a masterpiece by many, not by me. Why?
Well, I caught the 188 min' version, and many bits - although enjoyable on their own, such as Kulle's monologues and erotic shenanigans - seem to be from completely different films altogether in tone, patched up to a big quilt with unfitting seams, in contrasting the children's ghastly torment of their stepfather (Alexander's head-to-head battles of will with him IS a highlight), with the unrelated, more easy-going content from the family's head estate. The relatives fates from the first act are unresolved and completely detached from the remaining main story: Emilie, her failed re-marriage and the children's struggle. They all honestly don't evoke terribly much emotional sympathy because we don't really get to know them; for example, Alexander misses his dead father and hates his stepfather... and that's basically all. And we also really have no other sign of the family's togetherness than their spoken confirmations, which contribute to this film's most disjointed, highly inconsistent feel with quite a few leaps in the storyline. Perhaps the TV-series version is more cohesive?
Bergman's love for the theater is of course ubiquitous, both in establishing the family's relation to it, as well as much of the overly theatrical acting/line delivery, heavily metaphysical & religious symbolism and solemn theme presentation (with a nod to August Strindberg at the end). That style blend is of course a matter of preference, and I'm not a huge fan of it, presented this way (NOTE: this is my third Bergman altogether). And one major question truly arises: where the hell is Fanny in this movie? A character with her name in the title, has no impact on anything whatsoever in a story spanning 3 hours... how can that be?
6 out of 10 from Ozjeppe
Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Most of the way an exhilarating, visually blinding rags-to-riches tale!
In contemporary Mumbai, teenage telemarketing company clerk Jamal gets a shot at winning the jackpot on the famous TV quiz show "Who wants to be a millionaire"... and after suspicions of how a poor, uneducated slumdog like him can get so far, he is arrested, accused of cheating.
Oscar-winning, widely praised urban rags-to-riches story gets a tremendous boost from the ingenious, dream-like (yet not too unrealistic) idea of connecting Jamal's ability to know the answers with crucial details of his hard childhood as an orphan, beggar and petty thief. Most of the time an exhilarating movie, filled with both harrowing and joyful scenes of impoverished street children's conditions.
Told like a blindingly visual tornado, swirlingly paced, edited and photographed, in the similar style - and in bits, theme - of "City of God". It could have used more of that latter film's jagged edge, though, as the overall impact is marred by slightly sugary and conventional finale and the one-dimensionality of surrounding characters: The bad guys are extremely bad, and the role of Latika is unfortunately diminished into a flat love interest without a personality of her own. Still extremely sympathetic and an interesting comparison to "Salaam Bombay".
7 out of 10 from Ozjeppe
The Stunt Man (1980)
Lights, Camera, FRANTIC! A truly dizzying movie-buff experience.
Lights, camera, FRANTIC! I saw this for the first time in a theater in 1981, so it was certainly time for a re-visit: A fugitive (and Vietnam vet, á la the 1980's formula character trait picks) from the law, stumbles upon a movie shoot and inadvertently kills its stunt man. The ruthlessly manic director agrees to shield him from the police - ONLY if he agrees to step in as the stunt man's replacement to finish the film! For any movie buff, this set-up is enough to make you drool and rub your hands together in delight.
An absolute one-of-a-kind mix of sarcastic satire, dizzying action plus one of the best movie-within-a-movie gimmicks ever: An overblown WW1 war/romance epic! Top production of course, energetically unpredictable story twists and a lively soundtrack that is SO unforgettable, that I could hum its two main themes in my head even before I put the disc in... almost 30 years later! Also formidably cast, with an indelible performance of a lifetime from O'Toole. The downside though, when there is so much brain in a film like this, is the lack of heart (and subtlety) among the cold-blooded and hard-skinned cynicism, as I really don't feel much for its characters - memorable as they may be - afterward.
7 out of 10 from Ozjeppe
Drag Me to Hell (2009)
Raimi empties his whole bag of horror tricks... but the ghost train rides way over the top!
Career-hungry bank loan officer Lohman refuses a loan to a creepy old gypsy woman. Very soon, she is tormented by a demonic curse that refuses to be meddled with. Entertaining, colorful and genre-simply set up, as writer-director Raimi empties his whole bag of clichéd and CGI-enhanced horror tricks (demon séances, mudwater-filled graves, crawling insects - sometimes with a twist, and sometimes not) for the sake of a good ghost train ride.
But with the high quota of not exactly subtle character byplay and equally over-the-top, almost slapstick shock material, it's hard to judge when to laugh or gasp (especially the scenes with the gypsy woman's teeth...). What worked for "Poltergeist" and "An American werewolf in London", doesn't quite work here due to lack of that deftness. I do personally prefer horror flicks that are meant to scare straight first and foremost, rather than tickle your funny-bone for better impact, ever since "Scream" crossed that boundary once too often for my liking.
And for any experienced moviegoer who has seen just a couple of shockers up the same alley, can't that final outcome be seen coming a mile away, really?
5 out of 10 from Ozjeppe