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The Kingdom (2007)
Plot is 'out there' a bit, but smart viewers will be rewarded..
I was intrigued by this movie when I caught it on NetFlix a few years ago (sadly, it's no longer available there). An elite FBI team (for some reason) lobbies for, and then is assigned, despite much opposition, to investigate a well-planned terrorist attack on an American compound in the 'Kingdom', presumably Saudi Arabia. Jamie Foxx and Chris Cooper are compelling (I will watch anything with Chris Cooper in it - awesome in supporting roles in 'Horse Whisperer, 'Sea Biscuit' and the Bourne entries, and magnificent in 'Breach'), as are the actors who play the Arab nationals who 'host' the FBI team.
There is much culture clash to be overcome when the FBI team arrives, toting Jennifer Garner as the mandated-by-cliché tough chick. A lot of conflict must be overcome if the team is to get to the bottom of the who and how causes of the attack, including restrictions on where the team may stray in their investigation, plus some conflict with the embittered American nationals who were the object of the attack.
A surprise abduction and attempted rescue climaxes this story, which will have your pulse racing, but, generally, I found the dialogue between Jamie Foxx's team and the Arab liaison staff, plus the growing bond of friendship, most compelling. You will have to put up with an (unnecessary) array of f-bombs, unless you catch a sanitized version of the film. 9/10
The Other Guys (2010)
See 'Another Movie' instead..
Notwithstanding the pleas for higher ratings from our beloved colleagues here at IMDb, I am recommending you pass. I really wanted Will Ferrell, and Mark Wahlberg to be funny, but, the truth is, after less than an hour, I turned it off, not really caring how the story ends, or how the main characters fare (just so readers don't accuse me of 'not giving it a chance').
Hollywood has trouble turning out non-clichéd comedies these days - and this is an iteration of the 'cop-buddy' movie, with silly robberies, hijacks, and idiot violence (sometimes self-inflicted, as in the case of the 2 heroic cops envied by Wahlberg and Ferrell. Ferrell (who plays an accountant type) is a nerdy pencil-pusher married to a drop-dead gorgeous woman (Eve Mendes) -- a hot-tempered Wahlberg has been busted to a desk job after accidentally shooting a celebrity mistaken for a mugger (maybe the only original funny bit in the whole movie). These two yearn for the action of genuine police work in the street, but are ill-matched to work as a team, Wahlberg frequently criticizing everything about Ferrel (including his feminine farts). The two try to resolve their differences, but this regresses back to hostility several times in the film, when the writers realized there wasn't going to be anything else to laugh at.
Lazy writing, a lack of genuinely-original material, and uneven development of character & plot leave you with a sense that the whole thing was conceived over several drinks at a frat party (where proper masculine farting was, no doubt, exhibited en masse).
Switch (to coffee that suspends the logic portion of your brain)
Someone frames our poor little girl from Montreal, and pulls off a tremendous caper by getting her to 'switch' her PQ apartment for a trendy flat in Paris. Paris cops show up and detect a body. Problems begin, including identity theft (ramped up on the Richter scale).
A thrill a moment, and excellent hand-held camera work (shot in 35 days by 2 guys with hand-helds, reportedly) during numerous chase scenes. Sadly, our innocent heroine commits several felonies while fleeing and trying to prove her innocence: if O.J. is in jail for life for storming a trophy convention, while armed, just to retrieve his own property, how much time would our PQ girl get if she had her 'on-the-run' misadventure in the good old USA?
I mean - Harrison Ford escapes custody in the Fugitive, but he is careful to avoid committing other serious crimes while on the run (he even saves a couple of lives) right? Our heroine has to commit so many serious crimes to get through this thing, I was thinking she might have been better to confess to the murder she was framed for, stay in custody, and try contriving an appeal from behind bars!
Cussler will like it better than 'Raise the Titanic'
If you have read the 'Dirk Pitt' novel-series, you always wonder how they would fare as films. Cussler is a brilliant story-teller, linking real-life legends with hero-villain 'save-the-world' action plots. He isn't anxious to cooperate with movie-producers, however, since they typically mess up the script and fill it with CGI and idiot explosions.
Sahara was constructed with pride & care by McConaughey, if you listen to the narratives. He's too much of a pretty boy to look like the image of Dirk Pitt in the book, but he is very watchable. Likewise, Zahn does not resemble the linebacker-like Giordino, but the two have good chemistry, and Cruz is quite charming in support. Macy was born to play Sandecker.
I believe this is the first 'Dirk Pitt' production to make it to the big screen since 'Raise the Titanic', which was a futuristic novel, accurately predicting the kinds of underwater reconnaissance tools that came into being decades later and were used to find and photograph the real Titanic. 'Titanic' lacked a credible lead (some guy who never acted again, and no one had heard of him before he made this one - sadly, he was a stiff). Action films need a likable lead - Harrison Ford has made a career of it, and he could have done 'Pitt' in his younger years. McConaughey does fine here - he won't be challenging for an Olivier award on the British stage soon, but he is engaging as Pitt, in Sahara.
I don't get the people who criticize the plot lines of these Cussler stories, thus demonstrating that they never read a 'Pitt' book. There are many more 'Pitt' books ideal for movie scripts, and I hope that Cussler allows us to enjoy them, even if McConaughey isn't his first choice.
Just falls short...
Klondike was much-hyped on Discovery, and looked interesting. As a period-piece, it works on some levels, offering a gritty look at the Gold-rush era in the Yukon. However, the story-telling and logic of the plot is sadly wanting. It's almost as if the scriptwriters didn't want to use any clichés in their dialogue - so, they wrote obscure, pompous phrases that are not clichés - but they don't make any sense either. I wouldn't say that the acting is flawed - Tim Roth is brilliant as a psycho land baron-villain - but the lines they are given just don't explain the plot or what the characters are supposed to be thinking.
We watched 'Alaska-Ultimate Survivor' during which we saw how real-life survival experts dealt with frigid cold, especially after unexpected encounters with icy water. The Director should have watched that series before setting up some of his shots. (Once your core temperature drops, so do you).
There was also some explicit 'skin' scenes, thrown in to further narcotize the viewers who may have been nodding off. Unnecessary. Try writing a realistic script instead, Ridley Scott!
Greedy Lying Bastards (2012)
Greedy Lying tells a story...
It tells a story, but is light on facts, and heavy on viewpoint. It does a good job of showing that the 'anti-climate-change' spokesmen have nothing under the hood - they are being paid to launch a 'reasonable doubt' defence to prop up extant energy and emission policies. The film just doesn't dig into the scientific data that proves climate change is in process - and it doesn't adequately refute the bogus claims of the other side either. It just tells us that the true scientific facts are overwhelming and empirical, and we see plenty of evidence in visuals of the kind of catastrophes that wacky weather can cause.
I thought, for instance, that 'Crude Awakening' was very thorough in detailing the effects of oil-over-dependency. They interviewed experts from all over the world, including highly-placed executives of OPEC nations, and they clearly explained how the current oil consumption is unsustainable. Likewise, 'Inside Job' dragged into the limelight those cringing CEO's and lobbyists who led America to a financial brink while lining their own pockets. I had hoped that D.L.B. would reach the same heights.
I still gave it 8 out of 10, for having the guts to take on those snobby, arrogant quasi-intellectuals who keep saying we are dumb and naïve for believing the world's ecology is in a mess - and we can blame ourselves for it.
The Color of Money (1986)
Great performances by Newman & Cruise.. but a bit 'uneven'
If the performances were so great, why only rate it a 7 out of 10? To begin with, I watched this with my kids back in the 80's and we got hooked on 9-ball right away--we would play in this garage, and I would dominate until one of my younger kids dropped the 9-ball by accident, ending my streak. So, the film has sentimental value to me.
In the clear light of day, however, I re-watched it recently, and recalled what annoyed me the first time: Newman's reactions to Vince seem inconsistent and inexplicable. When Vince (Cruise) does what Newman (Eddie) tells him to do, Eddie is angry - when Vince does the opposite, Eddie gets mad (once, even driving off and leaving him). I didn't get it.
We are supposed to view Eddie as the mentor here, but, frequently, the roles reverse. For example, when Eddie decides to play a competitive game against a stranger (a young Forest Whittaker), he finds he is the victim of a clever con-artist -- he throws a hissy-fit, but Vince's reaction is the correct one: "Forget it - we'll get this guy next time." Eddie won't listen. Who is the impetuous protegé now?
There are some great pool sequences, however, and a glorious scene where Vince - armed with a totebox containing a world-class cue - encounters the Hall #1 player, who asks: "What have you got there?" "Doom", replies Vince with a big smile. Wish I had the game to say that.
So, if can tolerate characters that react unevenly to situations, and aren't always likable, you might enjoy this unique film featuring Paul Newman's only Oscar-winning role (he shoulda won for Cool Hand Luke).
Eve of Destruction (2013)
Try any British suspense drama instead
This presentation was a mess from beginning to end (thank goodness I had the PVR to fast-forward the commercials). Parts and characters are not re-connected, suspense is supposed to come from the fact the none of the characters (parents or teens) can communicate properly, and the action frequently grinds to a halt to allow people to express their otherwise suppressed feelings for one another. Along with all this, the plot line as expressed in the guides (and at IMDb) is INCORRECT. It is stated 'when two scientists attempt to discover unlimited energy, their experiment is hijacked and sabotaged by eco-terrorists. The result is a dark energy black hole that could destroy the planet. ..' ** Spoiler ** The experiment is NOT hijacked by Eco-terrorists - their role in the experiment mishap is very limited, but they do fashion some minor sabotage at a power sub-station. The threat to the planet is caused by some very stupid scientists, and some extremely lax supervision by the local authorities, when an energy firm starts tampering with some powerful forces that have already gone wrong elsewhere.
No sustained action, crummy dialogue, inexplicable ineptness and decision-making by supposedly smart people make this 2-parter a prime candidate for a pass. Try any Brit suspense series instead for none of the above.
2012 (minutes, maybe?)
Yes, it's a tad long - but it isn't really 2012 minutes - it just seems like it. John Cusack still gives an excellent performance as a family man trying to rescue his estranged loved ones (excluding the dork who has taken up with his wife) from a coming world cataclysmic event. The problem with these FX is that they go over the top: same as Twister, or the conclusion of Armageddon, where debris and rocks are swirling over the heads of our heroes, or smashing into their equipment but they escape--equipment intact--without a scratch. We can only suspend our belief so much. Here, in the early going, Cusack drives a car through a decaying city, miraculously evading destruction while buses, trucks, and buildings are crushed like paper dolls. (Give me a break).
The other problem is that these 'modern' directors/screenplay writers have forgotten the basic tenets of cinematography: 1) a scene must develop character or advance the plot, or you discard it (invented by Disney) 2) preferably, do both at once. In 2012, the action stops with resounding CLUNK while we stop to discuss Cusack's marital problems or his relationship with his kids. HEY DIRECTOR: WE ALREADY KNOW THE WIFE GAVE UP ON HIM TOO QUICKLY, HER NEW BOYFRIEND'S A DORK, AND THAT CUSACK LOVES HIS FAMILY - HE IS RISKING HIS LIFE TO SAVE THEM ALL. so, shaddup and get on with the story, will ya? I wouldn't pay to see this film. If you can catch it on TV, and fast-forward the commercials, give it a try - once should be plenty.
Without Motive (2000)
Suspenseful Brit murder-mystery mini-series
We were delighted to catch the British series 'Without Motive' on AcornTV. It runs for 12 episodes, more or less in 2 parts (1-6 and 7-12). Ross Kemp, a talented actor, plays the main character Jack Mowbray, a police detective (and family man) tasked to a team out to catch a cold-blooded killer who appears to have attacked several young women. The team runs into problems (not the least of which is: too many chiefs) and finally gets their man by Episode 6. Episode 7-12 deal with the aftermath of the court case, including mishandling (or suppression) of evidence, and apparent copy-cat killings. The shows are very suspenseful and are as much about the lives of the characters, as they are about the solving of the crime. Highly-recommended viewing, but I certainly wouldn't want to wait a week between episodes: so stream it from Acorn, or try to find the DVD set. We were hooked from the beginning.