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105 reviews in total 
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3 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
A good story, 20 September 2010

The title is important to note. This is, much like the recent "King of Kong", a strictly structured and carefully trimmed story, grafted out of real events. It is probably mostly true, but what we see is a heavily controlled emotional piece of filmmaking, designed to tug our heartstrings and send a message. It's a bit more "based on a true story" than a documentary.

Still, it's very ambitious and covers a lot of material in an efficient way. As a European, I don't know much about ESPN, but I gather it's a sports channel? If so, it's certainly been brave with this project! Football wonder-child Andres Escobar is not really the main character, but rather the glue that holds the story of Colombia together.

The documentary chronicles the rise of drug barons, the enormous problems the government has with them, and the unfortunate and somewhat perverse infiltration of narco into sport. It's done in an interesting way, keeping focus on the sport when it needs to and on the drugs when it needs to.

All I could have wished for is that the directors could have relaxed a bit in the style section. The shots and music can get a little bit over-dramatic, and some small things become annoying(the reversing of footage when it isn't quite long enough to fit with the pacing, or the mirroring in some interviews). Subtitles seem quite simplistic as well, but I don't speak Spanish, so I can't be sure.

All in all, however, this is a very watchable documentary, both for fans and non-fans of "soccer".

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
As good as a documentary gets, 13 February 2009

King of Kong is a simple enough story, and if you're confused why the matter of who's the best at some obsolete arcade game would make interesting movie material, it's totally understandable.

However, the characters we encounter in the world of arcade games is nothing short of hilarious. The main guy, Steve, is a likable everyman who seems plucked out of some Hollywood family movie. His manners and even looks reminds me of Mike from the cult show MST3K. Pitted against him is the overlord of all things arcade, the absurdly confident and self-centered Billy Mitchell. Holder of several world records he set in the 80's, Mitchell is the perfect bad guy, and he gives the movie a big boost. Funnily enough, he also looks like a less-attractive Tom Cruise.

Technically, the storyline is perfectly set up. There's a great buildup, suspense, drama, music, and a good finish. It really works as a feel-good movie, and even if you have no interest in or knowledge of arcade games, you will recognize the age-old story of a man trying to prove himself against the authority. So enjoy the crazy, larger-than-life geekery in the unexpected little gem.

6 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
Poor on many levels., 5 August 2008

Mutant Chronicles shows its true colours from the start; a very basic intro animation and a plot line summed up in one sentence. What follows is more of the same; no-budget animation, poor writing, and many other faults.

The CG effects are very unrealistic, and not really stylish either(Look at Casshern to see when style can help unrealistic graphics). Some scenes looked like computer game screenshots or bad photoshops. Integration with the live action was alright.

The actors, however, weren't. I don't blame them - their roles were stereotype cutouts. Our grizzled hero says "God-damned it" about a million times, the asians and blacks are fodder and fillers, and there is very, very little back story for any of the characters. As for Star Power, John Malkovich goes on routine and Ron Perlman is clearly not giving the role much attention.

The plot and setting could have worked, but falls short. Everything is pretty much identical to 1920's Britain, with some added steam punk guns and coal-powered space ships(!). The evil corporation thing feels pointless and the whole mutant element is grade A yawn material. A side note: The editing is horrible.

So in short, don't watch this movie. It's not good. It's not funny-bad either. It's just an in-betweener, and failed enterprise. Hopefully the director will learn from his mistakes and make a better movie next time.

In Bruges (2008)
3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Morality, violence, character acting, what more can you ask for?, 5 July 2008

In Bruges was one of those movies you could see becoming great from a distance. The trailer definitely showed promise and the cast and concept seemed good. A while went and I forgot about it, but then it suddenly movie popped up again, so of course I went to see it.

Not really sure what to expect other than Colin Farell, and old guy and Ralph Fiennes interacting in the bizarre location of Bruges, Belgium, the movie was a delightful surprise. There is a good dose of humour, dark and somewhat lighter, and there's more humanity than in all of Hollywood's summer blockbusters combined.

Superficially a slow actioner, In Bruges is a morality play, which shows the new-comer director's background in the theater. The interaction between the characters, the amazing twists and turns of the story and the great acting between the three lead men(Brendan Gleeson a surprise to me, his Harry Potter role did not impress but how could it have?) is the main thing to expect from this movie, with a clever and exciting climactic ending to top it off.

If you liked Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, or Layer Cake, or any other subtle off-beat dark comedy, then this is definitely for you. Beware of blood and violence at some parts, and heavy themes at others. This is not a movie to take lightly, but give it a chance, it's worth it.

1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Another Ayer movie, 7 June 2008

Ayer doesn't disappoint, but doesn't excel; Street Kings is a good movie and little else. Comparisions to his other movies are inevitable.

The characters are better overall than in his previous movies, but we sure miss Christian Bale's dark and brooding profile whenever Keanu opens his mouth. The supporting cast feels a lot more real than Reeves, who never the less manages to pull the movie along. Forest Whitaker chews some scenery, and Hugh Laurie is very underused. Common and the Game are more like cameos than real parts.

The music is very nice, a dark brooding electronic/industrial thing that really sets the tone. The camera-work has gotten better and obviously more expensive with vast heli-zooms over the city.

The dialog is more held back and not as over-the-top as Harsh Times, probably because of the two other screenwriters helping out. There is local colour in the language, but it doesn't feel stereotyped or overdone. The plot is nothing special, a little twisty and requiring of attention, which is good. It's not a pure action-movie, it's more dark drama with violence intertwined.

All in all, Street Kings is a solid 7/10.

Iron Man (2008)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Finally a decent superhero movie, 13 May 2008

Iron Man avoids many of the embarrassing clichés of the previous superhero movies. You know what I mean; the hour of boring explanation why the hero really needs to become more interesting, the pause half-way to ponder Responsibility or Redemption or whatever, the troubled love relations that doesn't make sense. Go away, says this movie, and what's left is entertainment, pure and simple.

Although much of Iron Man contains the usual first-movie-in-series introducing and presenting, it is really funny and makes for solid entertainment. Unusual for a superhero movie. This is much thanks to the actors, all of them great but none as amazing as Robert Downey Jr. Still nervously babbling, but now with a touch of insufferable wealth and technical genius, we couldn't ask for a more pleasant performance. How this basically loathsome character can be so likable is all thanks to the writers and Downey Jr.

There isn't an overdose of CGI either. Animatronic models where built and sets where constructed, which looks amazing in many scenes. The Iron Man suit itself looks superb and for once, I found myself thinking "man, that looks real" instead of "man, that looks cool"(or more often "man, that looks fake"). Is Iron Man special or have we finally breached some sort of barrier here? The up-coming Hulk spectacle answers that question nicely: No, CGI still sticks out like a clown penguin. I guess Iron Man got lucky.

All in all, Iron Man is better than most A-level superhero movies such as the Batman reboot or Spiderman. It is fun, engaging and clever, sometimes relatively original, and very, very likable. Go see it in the cinema while you have time.

Steamboy (2004)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Strange mix..., 27 April 2008

Anyone who has seen Akira or Memories would have doubts about Otomo's ability to create a children's movie. Yes, Steamboy is made for a much younger audience than Akira, but at the same time it uses many of the concepts and visuals from it. When you mix child-friendly entertainment with huge orbs crushing cities, it gets weird.

If you can see past this, however, you're in for a treat. Steamboy is the most expensive anime ever made and it shows. The attention to detail, the insane amount of eye-boggling steampunk contraptions, the quality of movement and the smooth combination with CGI makes it very pleasing to watch. The Victorian era gives Otomo lots of space to delve in his mechanical obsession, reminiscent of "Cannon Fodder".

The dub is alright, nothing special(the Japanese one, that is). I suppose in this case watching the English dub would have been more appropriate! Characters are of varying depth, but there isn't a lot of development. Some are there purely for comedic relief, which is OK for a kid's movie.

I think we all agree that it would have been better if Otomo spent those 20 million dollars on another dark, deep masterpiece, but Steamboy is still worthwhile and an achievement in animation.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Cynical, no-holds shocker...and more, 18 April 2008

I can't rate this movie. On one hand, it's a poor, no-budget gorefest with unnecessary animal cruelty and exploitation. On the other hand, it's haunting, atmospheric and thought trough. One thing is sure; there will never be a movie like this again.

Starting out as a camp-fest promise, four youngsters travel into the jungle to shoot a documentary on cannibal tribes. Just when you expect to see the first decapitations, we cut to a middle aged professor, who is dispatched to find out what happened to said four youngsters. The movie stays very serious from now on, and has some very powerful scenes. The sense that it's just a silly movie passes, and you become engorged in the insanity of the green hell.

There are scenes in here I actually skipped bits of, which I've never done in a movie before. It's not the fact that they're inspired in their sadism, because I've seen worse, it's that they're REAL, shot in the same shaky blurred style as news of that age. Our brain, conditioned as it is to accept footage like this as the truth, sees through the sometimes lacking effects and the hammy acting and becomes terrified.

In the end, the movie does give you a little moral tidbit, which doesn't surprise or irritate. The movie-makers doesn't need to tell their point, we've been shown well enough. Not even Chuck Pahlaniuk can conjure up such distrust and disgust in mankind. For this, Cannibal Holocaust will always be remembered.

Persepolis (2007)
4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
A life story told in animation, 18 March 2008

Plot summary: It really blows living in Iran. Luckily that description is a lot simpler than the image we get in "Persepolis". The movie-makers paint an image of a normal country, just like all others under the influence of the West, and filled with people trying to get along with the oppressive theocracy that still rules there.

In the center is Marjane, a young Iranian girl from an intellectual family. As we first meet her, she's a rebellious little kid in a relatively normal society, although controlled by a dictator. Before she's even grown up, life changes as the corruption and the decadence of the Sha is replaced by the harsh misogynist rule of the bearded islamists. We follow Marjane through Iran and Europe as she becomes a woman.

The animation is top-notch, more simplistic than the recent "Renaissance" but with more feeling and expression. Quite possibly, the fact that it's animated helps us past the barrier of physical appearance(no-one looks distinctly "foreign") and quickly makes us accept the people as just that, people.

The story contains a lot of tragedy and sadness, but also a good dose of humour. There are several scenes that will give your propaganda- influenced view of Iran a good kick in the nuts(some kids showing smuggled ABBA records in R.E., for example).

Best of all, Persepolis once and for all established that you can create serious animated movies for grown-ups(as if anime hasn't done that the past 20 years). There is nothing childish about Persepolis, and it'll probably bore the hell out of kids.

So watch this movie and revel in the gorgeous animation, widen your horizon a bit in the story-line, laugh at the moments of humour and feel the lump in your throat in the sad parts.

Dreadfully cheery Japanese pop idol meets psycho-sexual horror..., 11 March 2008
8/10 why aren't you getting this movie right now? Perfect Blue is what ninety-nine percent of all "twist" thrillers the last twenty years have failed to become: A scary, fast-paced and ruthless story that actually makes sense at the end without feeling too contrived. Even after what should have been the death blow for "twist" movies in the final scenes of Scary Movie(the original, which actually had a bit of an edge), we see them again and again, but not here.

Using animation as a medium works well here. Of course, it saves a lot of money for a country where the movie budgets are ridiculously small, but it also adds a lot of tension. What will happen next? Which conventions of Western cinema can I forget about? What the hell is happening? Those questions will leave you confused and frightened right up till the superb end, which you will NOT see coming.

If you found your way to this movie, you are probably as ready as you can get to watch it. If this is your first anime, choose another. If you are queasy or easily frightened, harden up. Fans of Lynch, Hitchcock should be satisfied.

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