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Prison Break (2005)
8.6! Really !?!
I don't understand why PRISON BREAK has such a good rating. I admit season one is pretty good. Totally unrealistic but thrilling because it's cliffhanger-based. It can only be if people haven's seen all four seasons. And that two of it's best actors - Peter Stormare and Stacey Keach - left the show early in season two should be seen as a sign.
It just goes downhill from there. Not that season one was beyond realism already, Michael has his massive tattoo done in a few sessions, and later removed in one single sitting!!!) and thanks to FOX there no usage of the F-word in Fox River Prison.
But towards season four it's out of control. The one-dimensional acting of Wentworth Miller, consisting of one facial expression, has totally lost it's conviction, Dominic Purcell just wanders bored from episode to episode, like he can't believe the unrealistic plot himself. Characters die and come to live just like that and both of Michael's parents appear and disappear for no reason. Thank got they don't have sisters.
Let me put it like this: PRISON BREAK is the only TV show that I sold on ebay while I was watching it - my rating went down from 7 to 5 as I was watching season four. Season one is OK, but if you loose track of it after that - don't bother!
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
Honestly? I didn't get it...
TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY is a well shot film with great actors and beautiful art direction. But a story one can follow it has not.
I don't consider myself the slow Joe in the last row, nor is my Girlfriend is that slow Jane but honestly each of us got maybe 25% of the story, half the film made sense when we discussed it later.
Maybe one must read the book first because the approx. 400 pages didn't seem to fit in the 127 minutes of film. There's lots of off-text but that's no real help if the basic motivations are told in hints, half sentences or metaphors. That's not how storytelling works in film.
It's a shame because I really loved Alfredson's LET THE RIGHT ONE IN which is a quiet film where a lot is said between the actual lines. For a cold war spy thriller tough that is not the right way to tell a story.
Robin Hood (2010)
misses the point...
Although Ridley Scott delivers high quality movies these years every once in a while a "yawner" is amongst them ("A good year" anyone?). To give it to you straight: I feel asleep watching "Robin Hood" last night.
Before I nodded off all I remember was this: They try a total new story on the legend, which leaves out all the clichés like the bow and arrow competition in disguise. But hello, this wants to be a summer blockbuster, so some clichés are welcome! It has a multi-million dollar budget so don't Dostojewski me!
But while the story of Robin Hood was successfully extended with a pre story in the 1991 Costner flick, this time everything is out of place. You're wondering when he's finally gonna set up his den in the woods but instead Robin gets "married" to Lady Marion after twenty minute while the sheriff of Nottingham is on the margin.
It tries not to tell the same story again, OK, but it's so out of place that you must start searching for the main villain which kills the excitement. In the end (I woke up again due to the noise of what seemed like the climatic battle) it turns out to be a massive pre-story of how Robin Longstride becomes Robin Hood aiming for a sequel.
But let me tell you they'd rather get a "Kingdom of Heaven"-sequel green-lit than another Robin Hood.
4/10 for the comfortable seats in the theater.
Solid, Entertaining, Reactionary B-Movie
I saw "Taken" last night and must admit it is highly entertaining and recommendable albeit one shouldn't expect much political correctness. It's interesting this movie came out post- Bush because it reminded me a lot about the "glourious" 80's where good was good and bad was bad. In fact the film takes up so many dusty clichés from 80s action flicks that it seems highly inspired by movies like "Missing in Action" or any "Death Wish" ... "Film".
America is the save haven in this film, where everything is alright but former CIA man Mills (Neeson) gets alert when his young daughter wants to travel to Europe, the most dangerous place on earth. If you think by comparing the US with the average mid-European crime rate this must be a joke you're easily wronged by the fact that Mills daughter is kidnapped quicker upon her Paris arrival than the can say "liberté".
After that you're hardly surprised by a Frenchman bringing home a baguette at night and unshaved Albanians always having a beer can and a cigarette handy.
But if you can live with these black and white stereotypes you will see a highly entertaining movie and will also accept that even after all the debates about secret CIA-Prisons it's OK if Mills tortures a bad guy to death.
Besides these reactionary spillovers "Taken" is fun to watch, with Neeson who might seem miscast in a B-Movie is once again proving that he is still at the height of his career, delivering a solid Steven Seagal variation - including acting skills.
The fact that it was directed and written by French filmmakers with an Irish lead makes this bearable otherwise the pro American message would be too offensive. But so it seems like a solid homage to the action films of the Reagan years with a wink.
If you just had a bad day this film is the right one to cheer you up!
In the sign of the Seventies
If you're expecting another SE7EN from David Fincher you'll be disappointed. ZODIAC is not a conventional thriller, in fact, it never shocks at all. Knowing that the real Zodiac-crimes where never solved and knowing that Fincher would never fictionalize a true story makes it difficult to move towards a climax.
It's actual strength lies in the almost perfect citation of early 70's movie making. This works on three levels: The "outer", meaning the look of the film. The colors are reduced but heavy, the camera-movements are as slow as is the editing.
The "inner"-level - the designs, the cars, the hair-dues, the phones, the clothes - makes you feel, you're watching an episode of "Kojak".
And finally, the "perceptional" level: As a moviegoer of the 21st century you are constantly faced with what it must have felt like to see a film in, let's say 1971. When someone gets killed, it's in a long, torturing shot - no "bullet-time" here folks! It's a blessing for a change.
Of course, when you think of San Francisco and Crime you think of DIRTY HARRY. And he actually appears in ZODIAC. As the film ZODIAC can't be. Because it's heroes - unlike Harry Callahan - go by the book. Interestingly enough that the character "Scorpio" in DIRTY HARRY was influenced by the Zodiac-killings.
The other movie that seems to be heavily influential on ZODIAC is ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN. Because most of the crime solving here also takes place in an editorial office. At a time when there was no internet, no cell phones and even faxes where rare it becomes obvious that the main problem to find the killer is not the evidence but the communication amongst the observers.
That's the center of Fincher's film: To show that in real live police-work is as vulnerable to human mistakes as is an argument amongst married people. And that serial killers are no psycho-geniuses, just every day lunatics.
South Park was right!
It's is hard to watch Mel Gibsons Apocalypto without thinking of the antisemitic comments he made last summer. And if this was a debut film it would be interesting and consequently realistic. But after seeing his portrayal of Jews in "The Passion of Christ" "Gibbos" work has to be handled more carefully.
Here it feels like he wants to show us, that the Maya where a civilization to which the landing of Columbus was the best that could happen to them. They live in crappy huts and have bad teeth. And those are the "good" ones. The other Mayas just search the country for people as human sacrifices.
The other thing I don't get is why Gibson shot his film on video? Is this Dogma now? Or has he had so many tickets from drunk driving that he couldn't afford celluloid? While the hand camera-style is functional in present time films to make them look "closer" (because we all have made videos like that in our life's) a film that takes place more that 500 years ago with a camera aesthetic that look like danish art doesn't really work.
Mel Gibson used to be such a nice and maybe conservative actor, who starred in great films like the Mad Max - trilogy or the Lethal Weapon - series. I don't know what hit him that he's so much into these religious and cultural topics know. Films that work best if you file them with Cannibal Holocaust or Leni Riefenstahl's work.
When South Park had this controversial episode a while ago describing Gibson as a sado-masochist it seemed like a silly joke. After seeing Apocalypto it is not so funny any more...
Land of the Dead (2005)
OK but still disappointing...
It seems to me like too much time has passed since the last film of Romeros ZOMBIE-Series. The story of LAND OF THE DEAD is very interesting but the film doesn't really manage to live up to the expectations that have piled up since 1985. Its beginning is very much in the spirit of it's three predecessors: A next level of a human life surrounded by the dead. People are not hiding or trying to find help, they've arranged with the situation and have even created a society with different social classes.
Up to this point the story is exiting. Because also the dead evolve, they learn and become more "intelligent". The follow the humans like some sins they committed and they can't run away from. This is also a metaphor that - after more than 35 years - is still topical.
But Zombies communicating with each other looks as trashy as it sounds which is OK - if it was still 1985. But it doesn't mix with the dialogs in which every sentence spoken tries to find it's place in some autograph book. It looks like Romero has used most of his time since DAY OF THE DEAD on re-writes for the "perfect" sentences which now are overloaded with "philosphical" messages and make "Charmed" look like some Truffaut-Movie.
Compared with Zack Snyder's great DAWN OF THE DEAD remake last year it look like the pupils are about to outbalance the teachers...
The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
Way too much of everything.
Another disappointing sequel although this one had everything to make it as good as the original: the same cast + crew and a producer that could raise any amount of cash they needed.
But I suppose the success of THE MATRIX "ruined" this one. In the first film "they" (the directors and the cast) seemed like the knew that stories about "the one" with tons of cheesy dialog and action that is definitely beyond realism must be told carefully in order to convince or it might easily become crap (behold BATTLEFIELD EARTH).
So they did. Every word about the Matrix was believable every fight stretched the borders of credibility but never broke them. But with the knowledge that now they were doing the sequel to a huge success all this seems forgotten along the way.
Every character - main or sidekick - seems to be aware of the importance of him/herself and its awful to watch them + Lawrence Fishburne has put on some weight. Come on, Larry! For the cash you make here you could at least drop a few pounds. And don't dare to start a drinking game here, where every time Neo says "I feel" or The Orakle says "You already made that choice" you're supposed to take a swig. You'll end up in hospital after this film.
There's a "heart-surgery" at the end that not just breaks medical borders but mostly the rules of believability. And when The Architect tells us that Zion was destroyed 6 times before then why the f**k should we care this time? This most consequent connection with THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS is the continuation of this journey into irrelevance but that is another comment...
The Grey Zone (2001)
Uncomfortable and touching
THE GREY ZONE is a small masterpiece and it is a shame that it didn't get the range it deserved. The reasons why I didn't vote 10/10 are because many story lines - mostly about the different groups of inmates in Auschwitz -, each of which deserves to be told elaborately are not being shown or are told too quickly in the beginning and then lost.
The other reason is the fact that the film is so tragic and realistic that it leaves you with a feeling of helplessness and anger. Understandable considering the subject but still makes it hard to recommend it.
But THE GREY ZONE is brilliant. It tells a story that needed to be told, facts that most people have hopefully heard of (inmates that are forced to help in the Holocaust extermination). But with a consistency I've rarely seen. All those images from SCHINDLERS LIST and THE PIANIST come to mind but this movie goes further and still never, not in one single image, it shows cruelty with sensationalism. The movie jumps from pictures of inmates sitting on lounge chairs in the field to the crematory where corpses are piled ready to be burned one by one. And the film manages to show so many different levels of bestiality and humanity I can't believe viewers are left untouched.
All that is provided by a great cast led by David Arquette (I knew he was cool) and a never disappointing Harvey Keitel. In the end the question remains: What would each one of us do in order to survive one more day. A very unpleasant feeling...
Bisexual but also qualitatively in the middle
If this was Oliver Stones "dream-project" then I guess we were lucky that he was awake when he made his masterpieces like PLATOON or JFK.
The brilliant and innovative camera-work of NATURAL BORN KILLERS seems ages ago when you look at the out-of-focus orgy here (yes, I went to the projectionist and complained). And not just that. There is no doubt that cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto has delivered beautiful pictures in AMORES PERROS or 25TH HOUR but it also makes sense that the cameraman of 21 GRAMMS isn't the right person to do shoot a blockbuster-epic. There are hardly any establishing shots and ever since GLADIATOR someone thinks its good just to shake the camera through battle-scenes so no one sees whats going on.
Along with that, Alexander is like a play with a few characters showing only two of the hero's many battles which would be interesting but then the story is told much to fragmentarily and leaves way too many gaps.
The great plus tough is that Colin Farrel portraits a bisexual hero and despite all the fuss from conservative Greek lawyers it totally works fine and is the rare example of showing a gay character not as either a funny sidekick, a wimp or a problem child but as a strong leading man.
And the film definitely deserves credit for that.