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The Expendables (2010)
As if the mindless carousel of moronic violence in "Rambo IV" wasn't enough, poor Sly really made a point to show us that if he really wants to make a retarded movie, he's up to it anytime! Definitely, this is one of the most amateurish, boring, irritatingly dumb flicks we ever saw. The scenario is simply an exercise in olygophrenia. An obsolete type of story devoid of any originality and logic, awkwardly knitted together, as if there was no such thing as screen writing, with its rules to learn and apply.
Further, the directing is slow-paced, bumbling, unable at least to communicate in a coherent way the so-called "story". Instead of "characters", we have a bunch of lifeless mannequins, with no identity or personality, mixing together in a ridiculous saraband of gratuitous brutality. As if by accident, most of them are played by some performers whom we remember for really good roles, in some old movies. Among the top-most moronic blunders of this "movie", one could mention the "Stallonian sling" (a childish unworking version of the "Tchekhovian gun"): Mr. Church (Bruce Willis' character) warns Sly at the beginning: "Don't try to take the money and run, because me and my people will find you!" - and this is about all! Not even by accident such an occurrence is brought again to the audience mind - for certain, till the end, Sly forgot that he put it there! (The same as he forgot that it's the same thing that he did to the audience: he got their money and ran away, without delivering anything else but another unprofessional and bad taste piece of trash. And, of course, the title: these is no such thing as "expendable heroes" here (as, for instance, in "Rambo II" or "The Losers"). They are simply idiotically invincible and, as such, sent to slaughter a whole army as if it was made up of faulty puppets.
Intelligent, stylish, good-taste humor!
A really worthy piece of entertainment, honest and true for all ages and all types of (intelligent) audience. It has the sparkle of good-taste parody, full of referential puns that really make it into a panoramic mirror of the James Bond-type of movies in the last decades. Definitely, the best joke is the name of Kitty Galore (inspired by the innocently-obscene Pussy Galore in "Goldfigner") - but the top quality fun abounds all over. It really shows what means cinematic excellence. One should also point out the ridiculous rating it got on this doubtful scale of values that the present flock of mindless voters gregariously endeavors to put up. Not surprising at all, considering the astronomic ratings of some of the sickest pieces of trash one ever saw on screen (including the other one I reviewed today). But, thankfully, real valor and quality will always turn up - no matter the frivolous tastes of all this mindless bunch.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Good for the genre
It's a pleasant surprise, to see that a blockbuster's sequel can be also made in a honorable way. The first "Iron Man" was in itself a pretty good movie in the superhero genre - and the second one stands true to the trend. The conflictual premises of the protagonist are correctly structured, and the general setup, with the political and global background, is way better than in many of the other similar movies.
It's true that the antagonist, played by Mickey Rourke, is somewhat sketchy and short-spanned - but the good news is that the character leads to a valid final confrontation, that also deserves laurels for the smart and resourceful ways of combining all the elements - the hacking angle being the most generous of all. Unfortunately, less can be said about Hammer, an improbable caricature, and about the simplistic satire around the politicians. The target is the right one, but the means to touch it, too cheap.
The photography and the visual effects, of course, are commendable, although the narrative rhythm might be lacking here and there, mainly in the first third of the story - more precisely, up to the Monaco incident, that is masterfully shot. All in all, it delivers, so it would be unfair to demand more. Good thing that the superhero action movie are also able to offer great entertainment - at least, from time to time.
From Paris with Love (2010)
Not bad - but...
As another commenter around here was pointing out, it's indeed a formulaic and enjoyable movie. Not to be taken seriously at all (as the title itself suggests, being a paraphrase of James Bond's "From Russia With Love"), plenty of unlikely action, demented violence and sparkling humor with a strong black touch. The script is precisely and flexibly articulated, starting from a well-known recipe (it mainly reminded me Arthur Hiller's "The In-Laws"), only to spin off onto sundry unexpected paths.
Unfortunately, the best twist (about the fiancée) soon fails into a sugary and melodramatic ending, totally out-of-touch with the expectations that the whole movie set before that. As such, we can be happy with four fifths of it all - a nervous narrative, well told and shot, and mainly another surprising composition of Travolta, an actor that never ceases to amaze us. Definitely, after the parts in "Hairspray" and "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3", this is another improbable character well mastered to be hung at his belt. Nice job, Johnny - what are you saving for us in the future? ;)
A Christmas Carol (2009)
Boring and indigested over-than-perfection
Robert Zemeckis lost his humanity. Led into temptation by the C.G.I., the SFX and all the awesomeness of modern movie-making technology, he is now devoid of all the emotion, freshness, thrills that made the fame and valor of his previous masterpieces, as "Back to the Future" or the unforgettable "Forrest Gump".
The danger was in air already since the tiresome and useless "Beowulf", but now it became plain for all to see.
"A Christmas Carol" is simply too perfect, in all its spectacular redundancy, to be able to express any feeling at all anymore. It's like a genetically modified tomato injected with steroids - huge and spherical and tasteless, with an eau-de-cologne flavor. It's so permanently over-the-top, that it becomes limp and boring.
Well, it's obvious that modern cinema moves on its way towards this key of expression, so the lesson to be gathered by all, out of Zemeckis' artistic passing away, is quite obvious: learn to become MASTERS of the new profession - not its SLAVES!
Calatoria lui Gruber (2008)
Obsolete, boring, and falsifying history
First and foremost, one thing should be clear: although an Ally to Germany during World War Two, Romania kept an all-over friendly and protecting stance towards Jewish people. The only over-nationalist excesses belonged to the unavoidable antisemitic extremists, to be found (unfortunately) in virtually any European (and not only) country. As such, the Romanian citizens and authorities generally cared to our Jewish co-nationals, and did their best to protect them against any abuses. The isolated cases of persecution and murder were by no means enough to label us as antisemitic or accomplices to the Nazi genocide (or, rather, "holocaust", as it's politically correct to call it lately).
Still, to certain international circles, such a stance isn't by far good enough, and in the last 10-20 years, they endeavored to culpabilise Romania of an illusory holocaust-participation. It's this political strategy that governs the present cinematographic attempt.
In June, 1941, in Iasi, the German army rounded and deported a number of Jews, following their acts of antifascist resistance and sabotage. The real numbers seem to be somewhere between 500 and 2000. Close to 100 were executed in the police prefecture yard, while others were loaded into trains to be deported, as such many more dying of thirst and suffocation, until Romanian authorities intervened to set them free. This was the infamous "Iasi Pogrome".
Radu Gabrea's movie turns history upside down, throwing ALL THE GUILT in the Romanians' task, and shamelessly exonerating the Germans of any crime. Fortunately, this piece of treason and manipulation won't be long lived, because the production is slow-paced, lagging and very awkward. Except Claudiu Bleontz, excellent as usual, plus Marcel Iures and Razvan Vasilescu (in two cameos), very good too, all the others play woodenly and false. It's over-long and boring - same as the communist historic movies of the Eighties.
R.I.P. "Gruber's Travel", and keep in mind: Romanians have always been a kind and tolerant people, and trying to turn them into genocide criminals is a serious offense, that should be brought to court and severely punished by the law!
A chaotic sort of Matrix spin-off
The subject is offering - but the way of making it true, sorely lacking...! The main flaw is the lack of consistency of ALL characters - these two guys don't know that you need CREDIBLE FLESHY HUMANS to make a story engaging? Then, the script is over-messy, way too dense for most of the audience, crowding together much too many plots, facts and details, right from the beginning, to allow a normal breathing for the narrative - and, when we come at last to make some sense out of it, it simply falls flat: another plot to conquer the world by manipulating politicians and dignitaries - this time, via web games! It's simply too little, for such a laborious effort.
Further, all the storyline (and the way of shooting it) is so packed with action, tension and gory show-off (plus the legitimate special effects), that it keeps from start to end "right under the ceiling" - and the effects is disappointingly anticlimactic: the Sandman comes to your eyelids around the 15th minute into the show, and will never leave again till the end! What I liked the most was the staff guy who calmly utters "Oops", when the villain buys it. That detail really had a touch of style.
In the Electric Mist (2009)
A multiple pastiche
First and foremost, although I sympathize with the Confederates' drama, I can't but laugh at this awkward attempt to cross-breed a criminal whodunit with a nostalgic fantasy. The "Confederate dead" scenes are totally out-of-place, falling into the ludicrous - and the final purported "twist" (the photo trick) is definitely a "Shining" pastiche.
But this isn't the only lack of originality. Tommy Lee Jones' character is obviously inspired (or, rather, UN-inspired) by "No Country For Old Men" - while, of course, the whole setup reminds us in the unhappiest way of "In the Heat of Night". And, fatally, the detective plot tries to imitate Agatha Christie's ways to build-up a mystery, with such a precision that we guess the murderer the first moment we see him - he's literally TOO NICE, and appears RIGHT at the moment where the respectable Lady Agatha used to plant their own, among so many red herrings.
However, the movie does have a certain style, and it's pleasant to watch - at least, till the next really good detective story.
Mona, l'étoile sans nom (1966)
A forgotten classic
One of the most sensitive and stylish Romanian lyrical classics, proving that Romanian and French cultures are closely kindred. Henri Colpi really grokked the spirit of Mihail Sebastian's famous play, sensibly expressing the quest for the absolute of the idealistic astronomy professor mired in a barren small town.
Marina Vlady is indeed the perfect "Mona" ("the nameless star"), and Claude Rich portrays with empathy and refinement the sentimental Miroiu. But, of course, the cake is stolen by Grigore Vasiliu Birlic, peerless in another of his masterful performances. A movie to be seen with a tender smile and a tear in your eye's corner.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
A Gratuitous but Well Done Moviework
Gripping, superbly done - but with a close to nil stake... The script is disorganized, linear, messy, fragmented (ATTENTION! Not in the GOOD sense! It's a well-known thing that Tarantino couldn't care the less of the rules, and usually this dislodged structure works ("Pulp Fiction" does remain a masterpiece), but here, unfortunately, it serves no purpose, except a useless piece of acrobatics with history.
However, what remains is the masterful direction and shooting - and, of course, the genius acting of Christoph Waltz, an incredible revelation! His way of pronouncing around the words is so savory, that I still enjoy repeating with relish some of his lines - my favorite being: "J'ai oublié de commander la crèèème..." Absolutely splendid!