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Made me feel fifteen again
1 July 2013
Warning: Spoilers
As a Star Trek movie, this works as well as when I was fifteen and tried to pick up girls by telling them I thought they looked great. I'm not saying the movie is embarrassingly obvious in trying to flirt with you, but as I watch it, with my brain even semi-alert, scene after scene of "does the director really think I'm that stupid" washes over me.

Luckily I snuck a couple of beers into the theater with me so things got better. The action is great, the leads look cool, the fleeting flash of bare flesh feels fittingly flush with the superficial feel of the flick. Things explode. People run around, and sometimes die. It works, as a hipster version of Michael Bay.

There's something satisfying in being forced to regress to fifteen again, which is why I give this film 8 out of ten. I sincerely enjoyed it, despite the endless parade of "what the hecks" the adult part of my brain was making.

Why do they show levitating machines in the hospital, and then a forklift truck in the bunker? How does someone sneak high explosives into the top security facility... did we ban the TSA in the future? When did London move to the San Francisco bay. Scotty invents a portable device that can beam Khan halfway across the galaxy to the surface of a planet but they can't beam Spock out of a volcano because they have no line of sight? Seriously? And I thought Khan was... browner.

They land in the Dead Zone but the buildings still have lights on. How exactly did so many Klingon ships find them so fast? The Klingon warriors wear heavy armor but don't carry any kind of guns, only swords. Then more Klingons arrive, and they all have guns. Random aliens appear randomly, playing no role except to make me feel this is a Star Trek movie. Uhura's earpiece appears randomly, just like the aliens. Also, how does it stay in her ear, and why is it ten times the size of a prehistoric Bluetooth headset? Seriously, it's HUGE!

The future has no robots? Not even one? First they establish that they can't beam anyone up. They then forget that conversation and again establish that they can't beam anyone up. What mysterious force keeps throwing the Enterprise in all directions whenever its power fails? Kirk dies and Spock cries. Cries? Is this how grown men act? Must keep that in mind for when I grow up. When they fly off into the sunset, zombie Kirk doesn't choose a destination. How does Chekov know where to take them? All the planets in the closing credits look about one yard across.

Yeah, I was traumatized to remember this whole list of bugs in the movie. That makes it something special. A movie this flawed and yet this enjoyable can only mean I was way, way too drunk the whole time.
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Strange, difficult, violent, but ultimately worth watching
1 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This was a strange movie from the moment the lights didn't go out, and the audience had to call the manager. The film then rolled through to the death of a young woman, cut out, and the lights came on. It then restarted from the beginning. A fitting start to a bizarre movie.

The cinematography is perfect, the soundtrack is beautiful. It felt so much like SE Asia, like being there. The acting is so subtle as to almost not be there. Most of the cast sit like porcelain dolls, barely breathing or moving unless it's part of the story.

The story... is not important. Drugs, sex, violence, revenge, it barely matters. If you try to follow the plot you'll find yourself angry and impatient with this movie. It takes us half the film to just figure out who the good and who the bad guys are. And even then, it is ambiguous to the end, which had me swearing in anger, annoying those around me. As the lights came back on I hated this film, and cursed the people who made it, but at the same time, felt profoundly touched in a way that was almost indecent.

Every scene is hard, brutal, brilliant, and cut like a diamond. The lack of expression in most of the characters becomes a form of art, where a single breath starts to tell a whole story.

Go and see this movie because it will make you feel anger, pity, shame, desire, confusion. If you want a simple tale of love and conflict, or explosions and gadgets, forget it. But if you have ever been drunk or in love in the wrong country, caught on the wrong side of a confusing situation, or in fights where you lost badly, you will adore this movie for its insane, beautiful, crazy staging.
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Repo Men (2010)
Disappointing, unpleasant, and some Ole' BS
15 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Repo Men starts with an decent premise, but descends into the cheap and nasty. Jude Law is great as the immoral repo, cutting open innocents for their vitals, but he stumbles when he's asked to play the victim.

He's such an unlikeable character that the movie has to contort itself to keep you following his story with any interest. His wife is shown to be cold and heartless but if she really was, wouldn't she be relishing his work? If she's a saint, would she kick him out over not speaking to his boss?

The movie keeps up this weird inversion of morality. The evil Union stuffs artificial organs into sick people who were going to die anyhow, which is much like any transplant doctor does, and then comes like the bogey man at midnight to cut them up and take back the artiforgs, when the (we assume) impoverished middle class patients can't keep up their payments. OMFG, The Union is the The Bankz! Wow, how profound! Not.

The writer presumably got screwed by his ex-wife and this movie is mostly a fantasy about how she dies in a fire, and he (the writer, or Jude Law as he likes to think of himself) gets to score with the hot singer chick, and murder his ex-colleagues and ex-boss. That's the core of the plot and all the rest is just props and smoke to justify one more knifing.

The gore at the start of the movie has some promise. It's cold, cynical, careful. Perhaps this is going to be an intelligent comment on American Psycho. Maybe his insanity will become a first class citizen in the movie and we'll understand what it takes to slice open strangers at night, and kiss your wife and son by day.

But no such luck, there is no examination of our Hero's character except to note that he was bullied at school by his now best friend (oh, writer, you tell us so much about yourself), and was a soldier. Oh boy, that's so convenient. My friend Kevin was also a soldier, a real one, but does not go around knifing people. At least not that I know.

By the finale of this movie we're into Robocop II body counts, apparently aiming for the maximum kills and blood splatter. The bad guys massacre the innocents, and Jude Law slices, stabs, saws, and hammers the bad guys.

There's no surprise, no glory, no emotion, just graphic violence. C'mon, hacksaw? Seriously? A hacksaw is supposed to slice open throats like a katana? Why not use a piece of stale cheese?

Of course the heroic duo (Jude and Sonia Braga, who he picked up along the way with as much emotion as a tin can seducing a lawn mower) were supposed to destroy the evil empire and save humanity. But in a last minute plot failure, they decided that wasn't going to happen, so instead all their friends and people who help them get killed in the most pointless and bloody way possible, while they blow up one processing room (presumably one of thousands), and then escape to South America to retire on a beach, like a pair of train robbers.

It's not just sad. It's embarrassing. Forest Whittaker aids and abets this massacre of a movie, and the three excellent actors find themselves rolling in muck, praying for the end and hoping not too many people see this film. I won't call it a career ender, but it is really one of the worst films I've seen in a long time, all the more so because it takes itself so seriously, and has such a promising start.

Perhaps the best way to watch this is as a comedy. But even then, the jokes are not really funny, and the twisting self-centered morality of the main arc leaves me wondering what tormented mind made this movie, and how much their therapy is going to cost them.

What this movie should have been... sigh. The premise is great, the actors superb, the camera work and music acceptable. We see a loving family, the ex-soldier husband forced to work as repo man to pay the bills, tormented by the faces of those he kills, but keeping his family together by any means possible. His son, his wife, the bills, the knife and the paycheck, a painful but somehow complete circle.

And then, the tragedy, his wife and son terribly hurt in a car crash, and his choice, the worst moment in his life, when he has to sign on the dotted line and allow The Union to fill them with artiforgs, or lose them forever.

And suddenly he can't pay, the amounts are too large, and then it comes, the Proposition. Become head of unit, and get a pay rise, or else his lovely wife and son will be ripped open at midnight, and their hearts and lungs repossessed.

And so he accepts, and takes the position, and then makes a terrible discovery. The Union is deliberately spreading disease, making people sick, so they have to buy artiforgs. He contacts his old army buddy Forrest Whitaker, and with his help they crack the security on the Union mainframe and open the file on his family.

It was a setup! They set-up the accident! He was resisting promotion and they forced him!

Now he's mad, and makes a plan to destroy The Union for once and for all. Forrest's girlfriend, Sonja Braga, helps. They infiltrate The Union HQ, in an elaborate ruse involving a container full of repossessed parts that actually holds the three heroes, and then they plant explosives around the Union's data center, and leave just as it all blows up.

Add enough cardboard characters to kill and chop up that the youth segment is happy, and we have a story that is satisfactory, if not a work of art.
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Bitch Slap (2009)
Modest, unpretentious, and very likable
1 August 2010
Bitchslap is a young unpretentious movie, no big names, no big budget. It has a story to tell, which involves six lovely breasts, and it tells its story with tightly focused exuberance, excitement, and a certain sense of wonder. There's none of that old Hollywood cynicism, no gratuitous manipulation of the viewer, no wandering, no missteps.

We're promised three lovely ladies who alternately fondle or beat the daylight out of each other and every passing male, and we get that. In loving slow motion, with dramatic explosions, bullets, and music, gallons of water, blood, and gasoline, and dialog that takes cinematic intellectualism out into the back yard and beats it to a pulp with a heavy shovel.

You can watch any movie on many levels. Don't go into this one expecting a complex plot, deep characterization, or philosophical questions. It's a cartoon based around breasts that does not demean women. This by itself should satisfy many of us. However, it is an intellectual movie in some ways, especially in its treatment of gender.

The tight focus and almost perfect presentation makes me think the team behind this really enjoyed making the movie and will give us more of the same, probably more sophisticated and ambitious, in the future.
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Shoot 'Em Up (2007)
It's a remake, silly
19 October 2007
"Hey, Joe, we got the OK to remake that Brit piece, Children of Men." "Pow! So what's the treatment?" "We gotta chop out that political crap and the anti-estab stuff." "Yeah" "And remove the strong bitch, leave the pregnant one and a baby." "How about some tit?" "Foreign tit? Maybe that one from Matrix. She was hot." "Make her a whore, she can show some..." "Whore who just lost her baby...haha" "That's good, that's good" "We cut the car chases and the sloppy ending" "Too so-fist-i-cated, all that drama" "Stretch the shooting scene from first to last frame" "Replace the soldiers with... corrupt Feds and arms dealers" "The hero should be like the best shot ever" "But, vegetarian, that's so today, right?" "Yeah, carrots. And lots of guns. Best part, you know what?" "Uh-hu?" "We got Clive Owen to do it..."
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