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The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
The Hills Have Two Stars
OK, I thought the first half of the movie was quite good: atmospheric, building up tension, decent acting, and solid production values. Then comes the cannibal/mutant attack, and every sane thought goes out the window.
From the halfway mark, the characters impressively enough have the skill to make the wrong choice at every possible moment. I guess you could let it slip by if it happened once, but when it happens about fifteen times, then there's no way back on track: Someone killed the dog? Better not tell anyone. Creepy people sneaking around the trailer? Let's ditch it and go watch that fire over there. Your sister screaming in the trailer? Let's head out in the opposite direction. Finally got the upper hand on a crazy cannibal mutant that is kicking your ass? Better run off to the bathroom, so he can gather himself again. Got the drop on a mutant who's eating your mother? Run away, and shoot blindly while running. And so on, and so on ...
Also, the makeup on the mutants was definitely sub-par, and kind of takes you out of the movie when it's supposed to scare you. There's plenty of blood, but the constant sharp-object-in-the-head thing does tend to get tiresome after a while. In the end, the movie feels like some R-rated Lassie movie, because let's face it - the damn dog is the real hero of the movie.
The School of Rock (2003)
Jack Black plays a rock musician who's been fired from his band, and needs money to pay the rent for the apartment he shares with an old buddy and the latter's girlfriend. After a slight case of mistaken identity, he end up temping as a teacher for a bunch of fifth graders at some posh school. needless to say, he then goes on to teach the kids to play rock and "stick it to the Man"...
First off, I really hated this film. The School of Rock may not be a lousy film as far as the technical aspects are concerned, it's just that the script and Jack Black are so incredibly awful that it hurts. The script brings nothing new to the screen, it's just the same old clichés you've already seen too many times before. You can predict exactly what's going to happen at any given moment. The characters are are bunch of one dimensional stereotypes without any connection with the real world. Sometimes a script like this will make you shrug your shoulders with indifference, but School of Rock seems so content with being unoriginal that it makes me sad.
Then there's Jack Black - playing... Jack Black, I guess. It's becoming painfully obvious that his talents are limited to screaming and jumping around. Here, he manages to surpass all his previous efforts by doing this ALL the time. I think Black is nearly every frame of this film, and he's constantly staring, glaring, shouting, twitching, and doing all other sorts of funny (read: nauseating) stuff. The character he plays is supposed to be a lovable rouge, who teaches the kids about real life, but all I could see was an obnoxious, egocentric, mooching bastard that cared about nothing except himself.
There is something wrong when the theme of a film is that you should fight against conformity by adopting another set of conformity - not to mention a film where our hero tells the kids who can't sing or play an instrument, that they can be groupies... way to go, Teach. [1/10]
War of the Worlds (2005)
Spielberg botches yet another ending...
The story is really simple - aliens attack earth out of nowhere and without warning. Divorcée Cruise has to take responsibility for his two kids and try and take them to safety, wherever that might be. What follows is both a journey across a devastated and chaotic country, as well as Cruise's realisation that he has to become the the father he never really was.
The first two thirds of War of the Worlds are simply brilliant and, in my opinion, flawless. It's Spielberg at his very best: taught, well paced, technically perfect, funny, exciting, and horrifying all at once. Like Minority Report, this film is definitely on the dark side - not necessarily a big crowd pleasing summer blockbuster. For comparison, Independence Day also dealt with an alien invasion and the destruction of large parts of the worlds's urban areas, but it was always more about effects and spectacle. Cruise is no wise cracking hero (at least not to begin with), just a man who's really in way over his head and trying to survive.
Unfortunately, the film has a last third as well. As soon as Tim Robbins' character steps into the action, the movie starts to lose focus. Instead of keeping up the relentless pace it almost grinds to a screeching halt. It's not completely disastrous (it features my favourite scene in the whole film), but compared to what came before you sort of start looking at the watch. Acting-wise, Robbins is absolutely the film's weak link. He isn't quite as awful as he was in Mystic River, but he certainly isn't good either, which doesn't help the proceedings.
With about twenty minutes to go, the film also falls into the trap of having Cruise become the hero, and the tension is definitely gone. Overall, the last part of the film feels rushed and at times almost sloppy.
The ending also has problems. It's true to the book, but it feels a bit anti-climactic as it more or less just ends. A bit more work than having Morgan Freeman do some voice-over work at the end would have helped. Even more damaging is the fact that the sappy Spielberg suddenly takes over. A lot of Spielberg's films suffer from endings that simply are too long, too sentimental, or too "Hollywood", even if the rest of the film isn't (e.g. Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan, A.I., Catch Me If You Can, Minority Report). I just don't buy the ending to War of the Worlds as it is so diametrically different to what happens before.
In summary, War of the Worlds is very watchable, and for the most part brilliant. The problem is that the weak parts are very weak. Some more work on the script and tighter editing, and this could have been a true classic instead of "just" a very good film. [8/10]
Pretty awful in pink
Speaking of unnecessary sequels... Plot-wise Legally Blonde 2 is basically a copy of the first one, the difference being that law school has been exchanged for Washington, otherwise, the structure of the story, characters, and jokes are almost identical.
There is, of course, a pretty big difference between the two films: the first one was funny, this one is painfully awful. The first film was set in some sort of "real" world, LB2RWB doesn't even pretend to be based in reality. Elle Woods used to be naive and perhaps not always the sharpest tool in the shed, but she wasn't a complete retard like she is in this unfortunate waste of time.
The story is crammed with totally ridiculous stuff: getting a PI to track down Elle's dog's mother so she can invite her to a wedding, a sorority emergency hot-line, Bob Newhart, and gay dogs... I mean, what the...
The movie doesn't have a single funny thing in it, not one. And don't expect me to sit and root for the perky Elle as she goes to congress to teach those stuffy politicians what democracy really is, and what the people really want. In summary, this easily qualifies as one of the most embarrassingly bad films I've seen in a long time. And at 90 minutes, the film manages to feel like it goes on for ever, and ever, and ever... [1/10]
Super? No way!
Supernova is a sci-fi film about an ambulance ship that responds to an SOS from a moon in the middle of nowhere and promptly go there to help. They pick up a survivor and predictably all hell breaks loose.
Supernova feels like a mix of Dead Calm and Event Horizon, except of course that those films were good. Supernova doesn't have one single good scene or moment. It's just a tired rehash of other better films, without anything new or exciting. It's not even bad enough to laugh at.
The characters are completely uninteresting and given no back story. Just by looking at them you can pretty much tell who will live and who wont. Spader and Basset are the heroes (i.e. they will make it), Forster doesn't do anything except die in the first ten minutes (I guess his role got cut down), Tunney is there to show her breasts, Phillips and Cruz are cannon fodder, and Facinelli is the insane villain (here portrayed by being buff and sweaty).
The plot seems to be made up by holes. Actually, trying to make sense of everything that is illogical may be the film's only virtue. Take, for example, the premise of an ambulance ship that doesn't have enough room for it's personnel, let alone any passengers. There are also many things that just end up silly when being on screen - like calling the ship's computer "Sweetie" (that works real well in a tense situation) or having a robot on board, that looks like a mannequin in an old pilot's outfit.
Tryiing to do more intelligent sci-fi films seems to be a tricky thing to pull off (Mission to Mars, Red Planet, and the not-so-intelligent Battlefield Earth all failed). Supernova, with it's nonsensical script and troubled production, is no exception. Shaky, tilted (does anyone think that looks good?) camera work, so-so effects, and cheap looking sets doesn't improve the viewing experience either. To put it short, Supernova is nothing else than a big turkey in space. [1/10]
Sith is an anagram of...
Well, at least it's slightly less awful than the previous two films, but that doesn't make it good. Many seem to think that Sith somehow finally delivers a "real" Star Wars movie - to me it's pretty much just more of the same. The plot sets out to explain the rise of Darth Vader and the evil empire, but the three prequels barely amounts to one film of actual new and/or valuable information.
The emperor's plan for taking over the universe and defeating the Jedi order seems a tad complicated, especially since the build up for the coup has been taking place for many, many years (mostly off screen) only to be carried out more or less by just saying to the senate: "I think it's for the the best that I assume power of your planets." (cue thunderous applauds)...
Anakin's transformation into Vader is also completely wasted. He spends two films going around bitching and moaning, throwing in the odd subtle remark about how "democracy maybe isn't always a good thing". In Sith he changes sides in every new scene, of course there's no doubt as to which way he'll swing so the reason becomes all the more important. Unfortunately, it all comes down to his desire to possibly one day be able to save the life of his not-yet-dead girlfriend. It's just hard for me to see that he would turn into a cold hearted killer just because he's had some visions of his beloved (some actual chemistry between Christensen and Portman would have helped here) Padme, here reduced to retarded crying girl. Sorry, I just don't buy it.
You can defend these films by claiming that they're made for kids, but... the first three films seemed to have worked for kids and adults alike, so why change that? The prequels have been lacking soul. They just keep throwing in stuff and characters from the old films for no other reason than that they were present in those (Anakin built C-3PO, why?). Moreover, it feels like a completely different universe; Jedis can do vertical jumps and drops like they're weightless, R2-D2 could barely roll forward in the earlier films - now he's flying and jumping around - of course, they conveniently erase the robots' memories (read, lazy writing) so maybe he forgot he could do all those films. This may seem like nitpicking, but there are so many lame things like this that I can't help focusing on them instead of the (albeit virtually non-existent) plot.
Sure, there are more explosions and laser fights, but it lacks any sense of emotional involvement. Take the bad guys for example: the new films have them dropping in from time to time, but Maul, Dooku, and Grievous are just there - they don't have any back story and they're not very menacing either. They have been reduced to their light sabers - Maul had a double, Dooku's handle was bendable, and Grievous had four. Wow! Now that's some impressive character development... I mean FOUR light sabers! Genius... (sigh).
I dare say that the new films have all been about showing off new visual effects that can make everything bigger and move faster. One of the truly few good things about Sith is that the effects actually look ten times better than they did in the two other prequels. Of course, they still can't hide the fact that the actors are just standing in front of a blank screen trying to interact with stuff that isn't there (like a decent script). The acting is downright bad, with the exception of McDiarmid who's quite good up until the point where he makes up for the restraint he's shown for two and a half films and start screaming and cackling like crazy... It's easy to blame the script or direction, but they don't even seem to care about their performance, which makes me equally uninterested.
Sith actually has the only moment of these three most recent films that had some emotional impact on me. The literal backstabbing of the Jedi isn't exactly handled expertly, but it works. Ultimately, the prequel trilogy has a few possibly interesting themes to deal with, but Lucas seems unable to dig deeper into the mythology of his universe and settles for big booms and bright colours. And honestly, when talk first started about a trilogy of Darth Vader's birth, did you expect him to have a combined screen time of about two minutes? Like the Matrix sequels, episodes 1-3 is best forgotten as they actually manage to tarnish their originals. [2/10]
Love Actually (2003)
I didn't hate Love Actually, but I didn't love it either...
Obviously, Richard Curtis set out to make the ultimate love story film of all time. Love Actually contains no less than nine (I think) different stories intertwined a la Short Cuts. They try to cover virtually every aspect of love there is (however, not a gay one - I guess that wasn't PC enough for a Christmas time feel-good movie).
Equally obvious is that there are way too many stories. The pacing is erratic, some subplots getting a lot of screen time, while others seem to have been forgotten about. Just witness how Laura Linney just disappears towards the end of the film. The end result would have been much better if they had just cut away half of the plots and fleshed out the remaining ones. In my opinion they should have kept the ones with Rickman - Thompson, Firth - Portugese maid, Linney, and (possibly) Keira Knightley.
Too many of the others are simply completely pointless. For example, Marshall's trip to the US to sleep with American women doesn't go anywhere. The only thing it's there for is to show of some "hot" young actresses like Elisha Cuthbert, Shannon Elizabeth, and Denise Richards. Throughout the film, there's also an obsession with showing women in (or preferably out of) their underwear. There's no reason for it, and it just feels really tacky.
The filmmakers don't want to risk that the audience actually has to think for themselves - so at every key moment in the film there's usually a song or a piece of music that lets you know exactly how you're supposed to feel. I know that everybody does it, but here it's just too obvious and clumsy. This can also be said about the choice of setting the film around Christmas time, as if most of these stories weren't sappy enough...
In conclusion, Love Actually is a decent film that could have been much better. Cramming in material enough for three films doesn't make it three times as good as one. There are some really great moments, but they're all to often lost among not so great ones. With a cast as great as this one, it must be tempting to use them as much as possible, but as it is now, most of them are sadly wasted. This is definitely a film where less would have been more. [4/10]
A Man Apart (2003)
A script apart
Strictly by the numbers action piece in the vengeful cop genre. Diesel is an ex-gang thug who now works a cop. After taking down a big crime boss, his wife gets murdered and Diesel goes out looking for whoever did it.
This is one of the things that bothers me. Diesel doesn't really know who's behind the hit (nor does the audience), so what follows is basically watching Diesel going round asking questions, seemingly at random, stumbling upon clues that make little sense. It's like the screenplay wasn't quite finished, so they made up scenes as they went along. The result is long stretches of pointless talking, with random shootouts every now and then.
There's nothing spectacular about anything that happens, or concerning the film's look in general. Moreover, it's hard to sympathize with Diesel's character when he himself doesn't seem to care about the safety of those around him. The films mixes violent action scenes with broad comedy in a way that simply doesn't work.
The story just unfolds without explaining what's going on. The ending, for example, just happens, and doesn't feel like it belongs to the rest of the film at all. Diesel's acting skills come up short, as does most others as well to be fair. Only Timothy Oliphant seems to be having a good time, and he's really the only thing worth watching. [1/10]
Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
The plot isn't really heavy in this one, so I'll keep it real short. Super slick divorce lawyer Clooney meets his match in Catherine Zeta-Jones' gold-digger wife, when their paths cross. A sort of screwball comedy ensues.
Intolerable Cruelty has its moments, no doubt about that. On more than a few occasions it's really funny, Clooney is enjoyable, the supporting characters very fine (especially Thornton), the film look gorgeous, and the music is fantastic. That said, there are also a bunch of problems.
Zeta-Jones still has to prove that she's more than a pretty face (she kind of falls short in that aspect as well, if you ask me). Albeit, her role isn't exactly fleshed out, so you can't really blame her. Moreover, the Coens are at their best when they make completely over-the-top films, e.g. the masterpieces Raising Arizona and The Big Lebowski. There are moments of that sort of brilliance in Intolerable Cruelty, but they're hampered by a script that's also pretty dull and predictable (not to mention reminiscent of other films).
You never really doubt how the whole film is going to end, and an attempt at a twist in the story is wasted since it's pretty obvious what's going on. The end result is a wildly uneven film that has got plenty of both "wows" and "mehs". A nice try, but nothing special. [6/10]
Cube Zero (2004)
Cube - again ... again
Those familiar with the two previous Cube films pretty much know what they can expect: a small group of people trapped inside a bunch of booby trapped rooms, paranoia, bad acting... This one is a bit different though. Roughly half of the film takes place outside the cube, where we get to watch the people watching the people inside the cube (or at least five of them).
I guess Cube Zero aspires to explain what the deal with the cube is, but you really don't get to know much more than what was covered in the two first films. Sure, there's sort of an explanation in there, but it feels pretty lame compared to what was suggested in the first film.
Cube Zero looks rather cheap (as did its predecessors), and the fact that it shows more than just a couple of empty rooms only emphasizes this feeling. I also fell pretty confident in saying that there's no risk that any of the actors will win any awards in the foreseeable future. They have brought back the traps from Cube 1, though, (by that I mean that they're almost the same ones, which is a bit of a shame).
I know that many people kind of appreciate this film and its ties with the first one, but I just feel that it's a completely unnecessary contribution to a franchise that wasn't that great to begin with. [1/10]
The magic is gone
The poor family from the first Poltergeist film think they're safe, after having moved and thrown out the TV. Well, they're wrong. Now living with grandma, they soon discover that the nasty ghosts and goblins are back - led by the nasty reverend Kane, who for some reason wants to get his hands on little Carol Anne.
The original is a classic - this one isn't. It's got quick-cash project written all over it. The effects are less than special, the plot leaves a lot to be desired, and it just feels sloppy and uninspired. Poltergeist managed to be funny, scary, dramatic, and overall entertaining - all at once. The sequel is just boring, albeit we do get to see Craig T Nelson acting all coked up for some reason.
The plot is little more than a thinly disguised allegory over the importance of the concept of family (see how the dad feel's inadequate, starts drinking and literally turns into a different person). All talk about how the family must stick together feels strange considering that one of the kids from the first film isn't in this one, and no explanation is given either (yes, I know the actress was killed shortly after the first one - but still...).
There's also a subplot about psychic powers that just doesn't go anywhere. Most of the film is just talk, talk, talk. Occasionally there's a "cheap" jump scare thrown in there, just to keep people awake. But considering the anticlimactic ending, you might as well stay asleep. [1/10]
From the guy who brought you a scene-by-scene remake of Psycho...
High school, kids having a normal day, two other kids shoot up the place, the end. There's the plot - glad we got that out of the way ...
Elephant is a perfect example of how an utterly worthless film can hide behind an important message and get praised for doing so. How is it possible that this film has won so many awards? There's absolutely nothing in here to warrant it.
Most of the film consists of steadicam shots of students walking through corridors - long endless corridors. Occasionally they stop and say something trivial to some other student. Oh, and since this is an "art film" the chronology is out of order and we get to see the same pointless events from different angles. Why? Because that's what makes the film seem like something else than a countdown to a bunch of executions.
If you didn't know that this film was about school shootings, would you still be watching it after the first 30 minutes? Are the lives of John, Elias, Nathan, and everyone else really that interesting? Or are you just waiting for the guns to start blazing.
There are no answers in this film (to be fair, there are no real questions raised either). Does Elephant bring anything new to the discussion regarding school shootings? No. I guess the (sort of) improvised acting and long takes are supposed to add an element of realism to the film. But it just feels fake and forced. Not for a second do I "believe" in any of these kids. They're just as stereotyped as always before.
I don't believe that Van Sant is interested in giving a real depiction of this kind of shootings. Just look at the actual shooters: bullied, slightly less good looking than everybody else, Nazis, gay, gun freaks, playing video games... Talk about taking the easy way out with those characters.
Elephant is the worst kind of pretentious film there is. It knows it's got nothing to say, so it discovers itself as art - that way people can look at it and say: "Oh it's so beautiful and poetic. And such an important message." The only thing Elephant managed to do, was to earn a tied top spot (together with Eyes Wide Shut) on my list of the most boring films ever made. [0/10]
Runaway Jury (2003)
Trial and error
A big trial against a gun manufacturer is coming up, and a jury is being selected. Gene Hackman (the bad guy) heads a team of jury experts, hired by the gun people, while Hoffman (the good guy) has to settle for Jeremy Piven. Thrown into the mix is juror Cusack, who together with Weisz offers both Hackman and Hoffman the chance to win the case for the price of ten million dollars. How? Cusack claims that he can convince the rest of the jury to go either way.
The story feels like every other Grisham film, i.e. big bad corporation against an idealistic struggling lawyer. Of course, since the film is called Runaway Jury, it focuses more on the actual jury than the normal court proceedings. At least that's what it tries to do. The end result is more of a hopeless mix of courtroom drama, jury work, and thriller. Sadly, neither of them work.
There's too much going on, and too many characters and big-name actors trying to share screen time. People appear and then disappear for a great length of the film, while others barely have a speaking part. There's really only one actor who is worth watching - and that's Hackman, who is exactly right for his bad guy role. Fellow veteran Hoffman, however, is just aloof and spaced out.
What really bugs me, though, is the fact that things happen without any explanation or reason. Apparently, there's no hindrance for sequestered jurors to walk in and out of their hotel rooms, leaving messages, and using the phone. Moreover, everything works out a little too perfect for Cusack. Things happen, not because it's logical, but because they have to happen in order to advance the plot - and that's just lazy writing.
The fact that the "heroes" of the film (Cusack and Weisz) aren't sympathetic at all, rather just as bad as everyone else, doesn't help either. And although there are some twists, the ending (which pretty much sucks) should come as no surprise. After all - this is Hollywood, just look at the victim's doe eyed widow and sweet innocent looking kid.
Runaway Jury could have been interesting if it actually had dealt more with the jury. As it is now, they're just part of the scenery, and not what the film is really all about. It's got stars and some tension, but in the end it doesn't make the film very good. This one should definitely have been better. [3/10]
Resident Evil (2002)
A virus that turns people into zombies is released inside a secret research facility. A couple of expert (I'll use the term lightly) soldiers are sent in to retrieve... something... I can't remember what it was, but I'm sure it isn't very important. Along with them are two amnesiacs and some other guy. Once inside, they have a limited time to get out again. Unfortunately, the dead have risen and zombie bashing ensues.
You can't expect too much of a film based on a video game, but all the same - Resident Evil feels pretty sloppy. It has got a low budget feel to it, just witness the sparse settings, dodgy effects, and amateur make up. There isn't much in the way of character development either, so it's not easy to give a damn what happens to them. Also, it's not good when there are numerous plot holes in a film with little plot to begin with.
There is a distinct lack of action as well. It takes close to half the film before any zombies show up, and even then it's just some erratic shooting accompanied by too fast editing and deafening rock music. There's not a lot of gore and blood either, which isn't good considering that it's a zombie film after all.
It's not the worse film ever made - the premise is quite good, but wasted - but it resembles too many other films, and fails to show anything new or even remotely exciting. Milla Jovovich does her best with what little she's given, but she deserved better. Obviously, director and screenwriter Anderson doesn't have what it takes to put together even a half decent video-game film. There are worse films out there, but that doesn't mean that there's any reason to see this one. [1/10]
In the Cut (2003)
In the Nude - A film that both sucks and blows
First off, this is definitely not a thriller. There is a serial killer back-story and a few scenes that are literally drenched in blood, but it's all secondary stuff. Rather, it's an erotic (sleazy more like it) drama. Meg Ryan's sex starved teacher/writer somehow manages to get involved in a case of a gruesome killing, and subsequently involved with the detective (Ruffalo, sporting a really sleazy mustache) investigating the murder. What follows is 90 minutes of watching these two characters (and others) having sex, talking about sex, fantasizing about having sex, and walking around in the nude most of the time.
Let's face it - if it wasn't for the occasional graphic sex scene and Ryan getting her clothes off, nobody would have even known In the Cut existed. It's a slow moving pretentious drama that tries to say something about sex and love, I guess. It's all very vague, and you can never really identify with or care about any of the characters. There are never any explanations given as to why people (especially the killer) act the way they do. The quasi murder mystery also require some pointless characters, whose only purpose is to be potential killers. It's the kind of film where you could have five different endings, each with a different killer - and they would all make as much (or little) sense.
But the main problem is the pretentiousness. Oh, how I hate it. Slow pace, blurry artsy photo, horrible music, and the fact that Ryan's writer, for no apparent reason or advancement of the plot, collects quotations and words she comes across. They also manage to throw in some sub-sub plot about Woolf's To the Lighthouse (another piece of work I didn't like). Of course, it might just be another allusion to sex, considering the phallic construction of a lighthouse - not to mention the illustration of an erect red throbbing... lighthouse on a blackboard early in the film.
Anyway, I thought In the Cut was horribly dull and pointless. It looked like crap and the sloppy writing and acting left me cold. It's not a good sign when the thing I'm most likely to remember of this film is just how awful Meg Ryan's inflated lips looked. [1/10]
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
It's a massacre alright
Completely useless remake (in all fairness, it doesn't really deserve to be called a remake - people might think that the original is just as bad) of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. That film, about a group of kids stranded in the middle of nowhere hunted down by a nut with a skin fetish, has been remade as a film about a bunch of complete morons (more on that later) hunted down by a guy with a chainsaw and his inbred crazy family.
Neither of the two films are heavy on plot, but the original was truly disturbing and scary. The new version skips all that in favour of blood, spit, vomit, and sweat. Is it gross? Yes. Is there any point in watching it? Well, that depends how much you're in to bodily fluids.
Then there's the characters. Holy crap, they're retarded. Not like your average stupid teen horror characters - these guys and girls take stupidity to whole new levels. From about five minutes in, alarm bells should be ringing in their heads: "Get out of here! Get out of here!" But sadly, no. They make every possible wrong choice there is to make. As the film progresses you're amazed how each character not only are complete idiots, but they also evolve into even more stupid characters.
"Say, that sheriff that wrapped up the dead girl in plastic and threw her in the trunk (after he fondled her a bit first, of course), well, he must be an honest and decent fellow." RUN! FLEE! But sadly, no. Why run and hide in the forest, or just run for that matter, when you can hide inside a building where every crazed killer within a five mile radius is bound to find you? If your handcuffed friend is fighting with one of the aforementioned killers, would it not be better to scratch his eyes out, kick him, pick up the chainsaw from the floor and dice him, than to slap him on the back? But sadly, no.
I guess some mention should go to the rest of the poor saps that inhabit this demented hell hole. As mentioned earlier, it's a bunch of weird freaks that serves no other purpose than being weird and evil (apart for the kid, who made even less sense than any of the others). What's their motivation? Poor Leatherface has got a skin disease and was bullied as a child. Anyone can see how that would turn them all into cannibalistic weirdos, right? But sadly, no - I don't.
Some people seem to really like the look of the film, with fast editing, gritty pictures, eerie music, and cool lighting effects. Well, the editing is pretty fast I guess, but adding a sepia filter to the film, ripping music (and poor R Lee Ermey) from Seven, and shining a spotlight through some cracks in a wall can hardly be called anything near fantastic. Kudos, though, to the screenwriters who managed to cram in several scenes where it was raining or dripping water for no other reason than to show off Biel's "acting skills".
There is exactly one sensible character in this entire film - and she blows her brains out ten minutes in or so. Now, if only the other cool kids could have done the same (I believe there were five bullets left in the gun - enough for everyone) the pain and misery that calls itself The Texas Chainsaw Massacre could have been over in less than 15 minutes. But sadly, no. [1/10]
I Heart Huckabees (2004)
Existentialism has never been funnier
There are easier things to tackle than the meaning of life. Perhaps that's why director/writer Russell and writer Baena don't really give any answer to the question, but rather try to bring up as many philosophical ideas as possible in 1 hour 45 minutes. Personally, I think philosophy is mostly mumbo-jumbo, and perhaps that's why I was able to not get upset over the validity or importance of the themes dealt with in the film. I just sat back and enjoyed the ride.
The story centres around Schwartzman's character who hires a couple of existential detectives to investigate a man who he has met at three different occasions. Is it just coincidence, or is there some deeper meaning to it? The detectives don't stop there but dig deeper and deeper, and more and more people get involved in the plot. As previously mentioned there aren't many answers given, but the film is simply very funny.
Thankfully, the filmmakers don't seem to have taken the whole philosophy part too seriously (the Wachowskis did, and look how Reloaded and Revolutions turned out...). Instead they aim to entertain rather than to explain.
Listening to the dialogue is like listening to a machine gun - everybody is talking all the time, and you really have to concentrate to keep up. But, again, it's very funny. I Heart Huckabees is also an ensemble piece, and wow, what a cast. Every single actor is just great, and they all seem to be having a good time. The real standout, though, is Mark Wahlberg. Normally, he's more like a zombie, whining his way through every film, but here his unhappy, environmentalist firefighter is the best thing in the whole movie. Whatever they did to him - it worked.
It's a very entertaining movie that makes up for a lack of a real plot with fantastic acting and clever dialogue. In closing, the film is pretty surreal, and feels very much like Wes Anderson's films, i.e. Rushmore, Tenenbaums, and Life Aquatic. So if you find that sort of films as being too weird, then Huckabees probably isn't for you. [8/10]
In this animated ocean adventure SpongeBob SquarePants has to recover king Neptune's stolen crown in order to save his boss, who's been framed for the theft. With him on the perilous journey is his starfish buddy Patrick. To complicate matters, they're also being pursued by a dangerous hit-man.
I guess that most people who choose to see this film do so because they're fans of the show, or parents of kids who are fans of the show. The world of SpongeBob and friends is so surreal that you probably either love it or hate it. I've only seen short bits of the show, but they were bizarre, and entertaining enough to make me want to see it.
Is it a kid's film? Well, sure. The story is basically about how it's OK to be a kid, but there's also enough stuff to keep older viewers interested as well. Every single character is so slow/moronic/dumb that you can't help loving them. The animation is far from glossy - more like South Park than Toy Story - so perhaps it's best viewed on TV. But, it works.
It's always funnier watching people (or sea creatures) who don't know they're being funny, than those who desperately try to entertain. The film's biggest problems comes in the last third when things start to drag a bit. The inclusion of live action (i.e. real people) feels a bit out of place. It sort of breaks the illusion, but at least we get to see the Hasselhoff...
All in all, nothing spectacular, and the subject matter will probably alienate many unfamiliar viewers, but for those who love the show, I'm sure it's a treat. [5/10]
Demon fighter John Constantine, who literally has been to hell and back, battles it out against various creatures of the night in an effort to "buy" his way into heaven. In Constantine he helps a cop investigate her twin sister's suicide. This puts them in the middle of the battle between good and evil.
It's not easy to say so much about the plot, there isn't that much of it to begin with. Based upon a comic book, it suffers from an overload of exposition regarding characters and events. It never really evolves from being an introduction to a full fledged feature film. Still, I couldn't help liking it anyway.
The film looks great, for starters. It's dark and moody, the settings are pretty much stripped down to the bare necessities, and ...well, I kind of like that. The camera work gives the film an edge that works very well and makes it interesting to watch. Style over substance can be quite disastrous, but here it works just fine.
The acting is OK, I guess. Keanu is very uneven, though. Sometimes he really seems to be struggling, but from time to time, he's actually very good. I found Constantine's character pretty interesting, with a not always likable persona. I definitely wouldn't mind seeing more of him and the world he lives in. Of course, it would be nice if they could focus more on the script now that all the introductions are out of the way. Constantine is no masterpiece, but it's still fun if you're into this sort of thing. [6/10]
Two Weeks Notice (2002)
Grant & Bullock - The Movie
Legal aid lawyer and environmentalist Bullock gets a job working for Grant's Trump-like rich guy, where she can try and help the (poor) community, and he can let her organize his life. Will they fall in love? Well, duh...
As far as rom-coms go, this one has an even thinner plot than normal. It's basically your standard opposites attracts story, and everything that goes with it. It's very predictable, but also pretty funny stuff. I can't exactly say what it was, but the dialogue was sharper and wittier than normal.
An alternate title could have been something like, "Hugh Grant & Sandra Bullock - The Movie". I think that at least one of them is on screen every second of the film, but most of the time it's both. They do their normal characters, but they ooze of chemistry, which helps a lot. Bullock even manages to tone down her normal annoying performance, and is really likable.
If you're going to see this film, you might as well forget about the plot or supporting characters. Two Weeks Notice is just about watching two stars seemingly having a jolly good time on screen, and enjoying it as much yourself. A trifle? Sure, but at least an entertaining one, and that's good enough for me. [6/10]
The Salton Sea (2002)
Don't see The Salton Sea
You know you're in trouble when a film begins with Val Kilmer playing a jazzy tune on a trumpet inside a room that's on fire - complete with slow motion and a voice over. He ponders a bit over who he his, how he got there, and so the fun begins... if you're definition of fun is watching some coked up morons, dirty cops, shootings, pretentious dialogue, Kilmer playing more trumpet, drugs, flashbacks, explosions...
The Salton Sea desperately wants to be more than just another Pulp Fiction rip-off, so it rips off Memento as well, aiming for a more serious noir touch to the story. This, of course, fails as the script's definition of film noir is having Val Kilmer playing the trumpet while pondering over who he really is, and how he got there. Oh, and it's done in slow motion and with a voice over.
There are more quirky and wacky characters in this film, than you could ever wish for (kudos, though, to Mr D'Onofrio in a completely unrecognizable performance). Most of them don't have anything to do with the actual plot, but it fills out time and allows for some hip snorting and hilarious comedy... if you're definition of comedy is watching some coked up morons trying to steal Bob Hope's feces.
The point is that there is no point. What little there is in the way of plot is just an excuse to show off "cool" characters, guns, explosions, and Val Kilmer playing the trumpet. There is a story in there somewhere, but it's so stupid and illogical that it doesn't count. It's all about the surface, and not even that is any good.
Kilmer sleepwalks through the film (and, dare I say it... plays the trumpet), and all the other characters are just cartoons. The Salton Sea is a piece of crap that mistakes quality for pretentiousness, and fails to entertain in any way. [1/10]
Buffalo Soldiers (2001)
An unpleasant mess
Phoenix heads a group of soldiers in West Germany in 1989, who do little else than steal, deal drugs, and try to get rich selling stuff on the black market. Problems arise as no-nonsense Glenn turns up at their base and starts to enforce a stricter regime.
I really fail to see the point of this film. It doesn't work as a satire, as it doesn't take a stand for anything. It just shows a bunch of guys behaving badly - sure they're in the US army, but so what? It's not like it hasn't been done before with more subtlety and intelligence. It can' be called a black comedy either, since it lacks any humour and is just dark and unpleasant. The most fitting description is some kind of over-the-top drama as experienced while high on dope. Check out Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas for a similar viewing.
But the biggest problem is that Buffalo Soldiers is so unpleasant. There are no heroes, or even sympathetic characters in the entire film. I just hated these guys, and that makes it hard to recommend a film. The story goes everywhere, chopped up into small incoherent pieces. The ending is a real cop-out, like the filmmakers realised they didn't have a clue what the film was about, or how to tie everything up.
The film has got one saving grace though. Ed Harris is simply fantastic in a rather small and underused part as a failed Colonel. He felt real as opposed to the cardboard cartoon characters he has to interact with. His few minutes in the film is the only thing worth seeing it for. [2/10]
The Italian Job (2003)
Nearly pulls it off
After a successful theft of 35 million dollars in gold, Wahlberg's team is betrayed by one of their own, who tries to kill them and take the gold for himself. They must then try and steal the gold back and get revenge.
The Italian Job (haven't seen the original) is a slick, and entertaining action comedy. Of course, it's not so much of a thinking man's movie, but pure popcorn entertainment. Thankfully it's not quite as dumb as most of those films are. There are little things throughout the film that gives a little bit of extra spice.
The cast is good, having fun with their likable, albeit rather clichéd, characters. The biggest dud, however, is Wahlberg who simply can't bring any life or interesting features to the screen. A more charismatic lead would have been better.
At two hours, the film is a bit too long. Especially the middle part that drags on for some time without really getting anywhere. Of course, the main reason for this film being made is the car chases (or blatant product placement). If you're really in to cars doing impossible stuff at high speeds, then you'll probably like it more than me (car chases are one of the most boring things you can put in a film), although these scenes are a bit less annoying than usual.
The film looks great and technically there's not much to complain of. The biggest problem comes towards the end, when all that better-than-average writing is ditched in favour of stupid action and gaping plot holes. This happens in so many films that I'm starting to wonder if there's some secret organization out there, stealing the final reels of big budget films and messing them up on purpose... Anyway, it's a decent film that could have been better, so give it a try if you want. [5/10]
The Life of David Gale (2003)
...bores me to death.
Teacher and death penalty abolitionist David Gale (Spacey) is on death row, convicted of having raped and murdered a fellow abolitionist (Linney). Perky reporter Bitsey Bloom (Winslet) is offered to interview him during his last three days alive. In the process, she starts to investigate the story to see if he has been framed ...
It's quite easy to point out what's wrong with this film. Namely that it's completely pointless. To start of with, what's it about? It's not a film about the death penalty - it would have to actually deal with the topic if that's to work. It's not a drama about David Gale's life either - unless you count various philosophical ramblings and heavy drinking as "the life of David Gale". And it's not a thriller either - note the lack of any kind of suspense or nerve to the proceedings.
The film takes forever to get going, and then it never stops. It's just an endless stream of flashbacks depicting uninteresting/unimportant people and events. There's even supposed to be some kind of "twist" to the story, but it's just predictable and stupid.
The cast is far better than this film deserves. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for their performances. There isn't much in the way of character development, but none of the actors bring any life to the screen. Linney has got nothing to do, Spacey really sucks, and even the otherwise solid Winslet fails to deliver. Of course, it's hard to take a film seriously when one of the main characters is called Bitsey Bloom (sounds more like something out of a 40's screwball comedy than a drama).
The whole film looks boring and flat, the score is horrible, and the plot and characters are a tepid mess of uninspired writing and boring clichés. [2/10]
The Grudge (2004)
Stuck on repeat
Luckily, it's impossible to give away any spoilers about The Grudge since the entire plot is literally spelled out for you before the opening credits. People who get killed in some grisly manner, stay angry and malicious in the afterlife, killing everyone that enters the house where they died. There, end of plot.
Since there's no need for plot development, the film decides to tell the exact same story about 5-6 times, just with different characters, all equally uninteresting. The method to pull this off? Flashbacks! Hooray, my favourite. Of course, there's no explanation for the flashbacks - they just appear in order to show (perhaps 'show' isn't the right word though...) some deaths and make the movie longer than ten minutes.
The scary ghosts consist of a kid that meows, and a blue woman that burps. You don't really see them doing much, just the standard quick glances of shadows, reflections, and feet running by. They pretty much feel like low-rent ghosts.
Low-rent can also be said about the acting, or what little there is of it. The script doesn't seem to allow for much in the way of characterisation, though, so perhaps the actors aren't to blame too much.
On the whole, a rather dull, confusing, non-frightening, rehash of most other Asian horror films that have been successful over the past couple of years. [2/10]