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Big, Dumb Action Movie, and nothing else
Unstoppable is fundamentally a "railroad procedural." Like a cop show is a police procedural, involved with the way the job works, so is this one. And like a cop show or movie can fudge the accuracy for dramatic effect, it can never be so far off that we look verisimilitude, or the feeling that it's accurate.
That's where this goes all wrong. There is hardly a thing that feels correct during any of the key action sequences or setups. It's a Hollywood action movie, so we forgive the evil corporation, TV news that acts like it's filmed on 70mm, helicopters 10 feet away from all action, sparks and explosions for any reason, and a reasonable number of technical flaws or continuity errors.
But we do not live with failures to understand why the action is happening. Movies like this, which sadly means most action movies in the past few decades, seem to think that being invested in the outcome of the action is about caring for the protagonists. Fine. But they do so (badly, as maudlin as possible) to the exclusion of us caring about the outcome of the action itself.
Spoiler follows, I guess: Near the end, when they finally board the locomotive, there's nothing extraordinary about the vehicle, the road, the people involved, the time or anything. It's totally unclear why it hasn't happened before this. And thus goes the whole film. Hardly any action feels necessary, except as action which is doomed to fail, periodically fatally, to propel the plot of the film.
Which is almost too bad. There's an undercurrent of not awfulness, even from Pine, and even from most of the cartoon-like characters strewn about the film. People here and there tried to make this not terrible. Everyone it seems but those most in charge. Give up and try Runaway Train if you need a movie this bad with locomotives.
Into the Wild (2007)
Self-aware movie about self-absorbed idiot
For anything based (especially closely) on a true story, there is no getting away from the basics of the story. And for this one, there's no getting away from the fact that McCandless made decisions throughout the narrative so bad most 6-year-olds would do better. I have thought this since the original Backpacker article, and do not understand why anyone cares why this particular person got himself killed in the wilderness.
The movie had a chance to do that regardless and I totally gave it a chance. Films can use the medium to express a different perspective even of topics that you disagree with. In that, Penn and his cohorts totally, totally failed me. It's 100% an L.A. version of what the outdoors is about, repeated encountered with what I can only characterize as the idealized version of hippie/dropout culture; really every scene to me was trite. The narration, overly-digital handwriting, and whole structure (everything, all the way through contemporary pop music every 11 minutes to set the timeframe,) completely ruined it for me and not once did I ever get totally absorbed into the story, and think I was watching anything but a TV movie.
Two stars only because it was executed in a fundamentally workman-like manner, and there was no actually painful acting, mismatched footage, overly visible crew or FX, etc. But it was a close call. Bad show.
Great Mix of Action & Drama
As much as I hate to discuss technical or format details, do not watch this with dubbing. The dubbing is so bad that it's a different movie in many ways.
For anyone who thinks something is unlikely, this happened. And this is about as historically accurate as a theatrically-released movie is going to get. I am not sure about the political parts, but it seems to be based on the reports of the terrorist actions and the assault. Footage shown on TVs during the movie is real.
I thought all in all it was very well done (no evidence of low-budget, so no idea what those reviewer's complaints are) combination of action and drama. It's got a rather good pace, with something happening every few minutes. Sometimes it's just political drama, sometimes it's spycraft like stuff, sometimes its preparing for or executing the assault.
8 of 10 for a slightly too-weepy wife. Realistic support system, going to hang out with the other GIGN members, and wives, but I'd like more explanation why she is so incapable of handling what her husband does for a living.
San suk si gin (2009)
Don't see if you like Jacky Chan movies
First, don't see this if you like Jacky Chan movies. Don't even read this review. Just go away. Sure, you might like it, but I think on average you are too likely to love comedy action above all else, and then you give it a bad review.
Think of it instead like Goodfellas. Add a bit more of the pure immigrant story. Trying to make your way from the under-class. Crime because that's all you can do. Changing of the guard in the mob. Getting rank and power because you are reliable, getting screwed because you have some sense of morals, and try to protect your family. There is no absolutely good or evil, at all. People we hate at one moment evolved to that, and even then still act like humans. It's an epic crime family drama in every way and truly well made.
Gore: Except for a few just terrible effects, Is correct for the location and genre. Just as many killings with guns would have seemed less violent due to the way firearms wounds are mostly depicted in movies. Knives and swords offer much more visible wounds, and so on.
DO NOT watch a dubbed version. It's a drama. The dubbing is terrible so it is just not worth it.
The Razor's Edge (1984)
Clunky when not pedestrian
I can't even get to dealing with the supposedly wonderful themes of the movie, because... who cares? It's so oddly edited, as a string of disconnected vignettes. Almost every scene for the bulk of the movie, we see time pass: Establishing theme with some vaguely establishing shot. Something overly interesting happens. The results of that lead to something rather chatty and boring. That segues into something "meaningful." You can tell, because the theme music picks up!!!! Repeat.
Oh, but the cinematography! Is mostly boring, really. Maybe 1-2 minutes of nice photography, but mostly boring as hell. It's mostly filmed like a comedy, with everyone fully- lit, centered when it's their turn to say something or react to someone else.
And that's before I get to the part where Bill Murray spends most of the film looking amused with himself. Only in the last 45 minutes is he even approaching being in the same movie as everyone else, and he still is so inconsistent and a product of 1984 that I cannot believe he has felt anything or believes there is life and death stuff going on.
I gave the whole thing a chance, I really did. Watched it all straight through, and didn't even mock it until the credits rolled. It's just not that good.
Under Siege (1986)
Really not that good
Okay, I haven't seen this in years, but I distinctly remember it, in detail, from when it originally aired on TV.
The premise of terrorists wandering about bombing and rocketing things is perfectly scary, sure. And I guess if you are so inclined, you'd find it prescient of 9/11. In reality, it seemed to be an extreme version of what had happened in the past decade in Europe.
Anyway, I recall it being sorta not that good. I watched for the premise, explosions, and waiting for some law enforcement or military unit to do something useful about it. Instead soldiers hoot and holler about a girl and get blown up for their effort, and so on.
Typical TV-movie fare, really.