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Stalingrad (1993)
9/10
Ordeal
1 June 2010
On the eastern front of World War II a group of Wehrmacht soldiers, fresh from time off after a successful campaign in Africa eagerly proceed to their next line of duty: the Soviet city of Stalingrad, the site of history's most brutal battle. The film however is not so much about the battle and how the strategy from either side played out, but of the ordeal that these young men had to go through. After being subjected to what the viewer can only presume as much of the Third Reich's propaganda, many are eager to "fight communism" and "uphold western Christian tradition" but stronghold of brainwashing soon collapses like a brick wall of a bombed building.

The production of the film is very impressive with a startlingly convincing display of the giant ruined city. Heaps of rubble, wrecked vehicles, bodies, sewers, and soon a savage winter. Humanizing the Wehrmacht has been a sort of taboo, especially in the US where German soldiers appear on screen all too often just to be shot. Some more films from more daring directors, like Peckinpah's "Cross of Iron" have had the guts to show "the bad guys" as humans caught up in a whirlwind out of their control. And not as the archetype of the "evil army" as the Wehrmacht is often perceived. For instance, there were no SS divisions at this battle, so politically fanatical Nazis are totally absent from this WW2 movie about the German Army... imagine that? To Americans this might come as a surprise. Now don't get all offended, your reading what an American has written.

Secondly, it is not just the dreaded SS that is absent, but also iconography is not shown... or rather it just hasn't been ADDED as in movies like "Enemy at the Gates" have done so and, all too often, to more-than-slightly ridiculous extents. Giant swastikas on evil Nazi trains and imposing red stars on Soviet vehicles and banners... not here. HOWEVER, the Nazi swastika DOES make one key appearance - on the tail fin of a cargo plane, an outbound medical flight, the last plane out of the battleground. Wounded soldiers attempt to board the plane to be deservedly flown to safety, but in the chaos the plane leaves; the swastika leaves. The symbol that these men rallied behind to serve their country abandons them in the one moment when they need something from it. It is not just a scene of "war tragedy," it is outright betrayal. And it came after the most brutal battle in all of history.

Without question one of the best war films of all time. --- 9/10

BsCDb Classification: 13+ -- violence
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Far Cry (2008)
6/10
Action Flick 101
28 December 2009
One tough guy kicking butt and taking out an entire army during one weekend. That sounds like Schwarzenegger in "Commando" or Stallone in the 2nd and 3rd Rambo movies. Or like Til Schweiger in this film. A tough guy, who's good at heart, is forced to fight for his life and probably also for the life of the entire free World, though that last part is only not too subtly implied here. But it all works for the better and adds up to a dumb, yes, but actually enjoyable action movie.

There is a variety of action scenes, some humor, and a German guy who has an inexplicably English name... Jack Carver. Oh well, maybe it's an alias. But in light of the frenetically edited, darkly themed, and super produced Bourne movies among others, this return to basics is pretty enjoyable. The only thing different here than in those crazy 80s action movies is that the bad guys aren't communists or Soviets, but a shadowy government agency and possibly an evil corporation - in other words, the people that we currently most dislike are getting their butts kicked. Not much more to expect and not much more to ask for. --- 6/10

BsCDb Classification: 13+ --- violence
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Seed (2006)
6/10
Brutal and raw
28 December 2009
Violence in the raw would be a good way to describe this movie. The opening disclaimer tells us that some of the initial documentary style footage is supposedly real... it may be, but that's not the point. The point is that it's a very upfront presentation of violence and whoever seems to be doing it, also seems to be enjoying it to a degree. The remainder of the film is to a degree just like that. The shaky camera hovering all about over people's shoulders in longer than usual shot lengths is actually us watching in. Nosing in and out and all about trying to get a peek at how a criminal to be executed is tied to the final chair that he will ever sit in. Or the long, painfully long, shot of a woman getting beaten with her head eventually winding up as a gory stub.

Uwe Boll was never too good with carrying plots, but he sure has ideas and he is getting better at presenting them. There is no real plot here really, but more of a series of disturbing gruesome events. Perhaps surprisingly, the film is not exploitative like a typical slasher movie and the gore is hardly enjoyable. In fact, as far as marketing goes, that effectively makes the film bite its own foot, but it's an interesting decision. Infamous Uwe is developing as filmmaker and with a film like this I am actually kind of eager to see what he has next after this Anti-"slasher film" Film. --- 6/10

BsCDb Classification: 16+ --- violence/gore, brutality
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7/10
A Black Comedy turned Nightmare
21 October 2009
This film is perhaps most famous for its twist about halfway through the story. It is quite a twist on the film's reality, I'd say comparable to the one in "The Matrix" in that absolutely nothing is the same after. Also, like in the aforementioned film, the twist makes sense... but only if looked at from a certain point of view.

The story goes from a caper black comedy with a pair of crooks who are on their way to Mexico to escape US law enforcement. They take some hostages and narrowly slip through the border and to a meeting point, a bar with exotic dancers. It seems that their dreams are just about to come true and they'll be sipping margaritas safe from the confines of prison... but then what happens? Our very frightened protagonists find themselves locked in the bar, that is now basically a prison, but it is not run by law enforcement officers, it's worse. It's not even run by the Gestapo... it's worse! No, this place is worse than their worst nightmares and too bad for them that it is real, since it seems everyone has been given an automatic death sentence. The bar is run by vampires who feast on visitors in order to stay alive.

Is the twist odd? Yes, very much so, but with a screenplay by Quentin Tarantino, only some sort of off the wall unconventional twist can be expected. Tarantino himself has a supporting role as the very weird and deranged brother of George Clooney's character. At this point Tarantino was known for crime capers and to an extent this is one too, but it fits into Tarantino's list of movies the way his character is in the film: a total weirdo with a penchant for violence. Also Robert Rodriguez has yet to make something quite like this as well...

Overall, this is an odd and very violent movie that is decidedly not for all tastes, but it's dark wit and sense of humor cannot be denied. See it to get a glimpse of something quite different. --- 7/10

BsCDb Classification: 16+ --- violence/gore
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9/10
Light comedy on the surface, biting satire beneath.
21 August 2009
"Charlie Wilson's War" is a film that has different layers. A viewer with a keen sense for satire will see this instantly in some of the scenes that have caused slight and not so slight outrage. The main of these scenes that I refer to begins with Soviet troops parading through Moscow as a lively anthem plays, it is proud display of Soviet military might that soon cuts to helicopter gunships raking Afghan towns with merciless firepower. The superficial message here is that the Soviet Army is evil. Seeing that this is an American produced film, that explanation seems to fit for many viewers. In fact, the YouTube clips containing this scene contain many comments about this being US propaganda.

Is it?

The film is written by Aaron Sorkin who has made a career out of acclaimed politically themed writing and is directed by Mike Nichols who makes few but always thought out movies, this explanation feels too lazy. Sorkin and Nichols don't seem to be people who would just show senseless killing for purposes of vilification. In taking look at the way this sequence is put together, we can reveal another layer to the film: the satire. The scene is inter-cut with what looks like stock and archive footage of the helicopters and some obviously computer generated helicopters... it seems rather sloppy for such a high budget film with many A-List actors. The first time the Soviet chopper appears firing, its gun looks like a laser blaster from a video game... the missile effects are inconsistent with the stock footage. One quick shot of archive footage shows a chopper firing to the right, then cuts to a a CGI missile coming in from the right as well as a CGI chopper. Another quick shot of documentary footage shows a volley of missiles being fired from a wing pylon, then, in a perspective shot of the movie's footage ONE missile impacts the top of a wall and engulfs the screen in flame... did the pilot just fly into his own missile's fireball? And why was this one so much bigger than the previous or ensuing ones?

The reason being is: the jokes is on us, we the audience. It is all intentionally, and somewhat subtly, ridiculous. There is no doubt that the Red Army committed its share of war-time atrocities in Afghanistan, like any army does in almost an war, but the point is that vilification is senseless. There is more to every story behind every war. The film shows that the typical (and propagandistic in this case) movie archetype of the evil army is shown to be fully ridiculous. In escapist movies it is fine, but in historical films, it is far from it.

The rest of the film is much in the same vein. It gets behind what we are normally shown; a different, but key, layer of war: the funding of it. Strings are pulled and words are carefully chosen behind the curtain, but in front of it a full blown war is waged that today had led to disastrous consequences is waged. This is far from typical for a big-budget film and it was probably why the story structure had the main message and satire hidden behind an easily pleasing layer of light comedy. --- 9/10

BsCDb Classification: 13+ --- profanity, drug use
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War (2007)
7/10
What is it good for? A Saturday night at the movies.
16 August 2009
This starts off as a perfectly routine action flick in the revenge category. Crawford, a dedicated FBI agent loses his partner to an elusive assassin and swears vengeance. When that same assassin reappears years later, under mysterious circumstances, Crawford goes after him, but soon things turn out to be different that what they seem.

It is that last bit that puts this film above your usual by-the-numbers movie of this type. Things get pretty interesting in the second act, with Rogue the assassin using Yojimbo-style tactics against both sides of a war between to huge crime syndicates. Then by the third act things get really interesting with a few twists to top it all off. A twist ending can also be fairly routine, but there are two turns here. The first of these a keen audience will at least feel coming, but the second was really unexpected. It is both strangely frustrating and strangely pleasing for a routine thriller, that you THINK is really just an excuse to get the two action-movie stars in a massive fight, to then offer something a bit more that is very out of routine.

What isn't strange, however, is that the movie had a poor office run. People often decide to ignore movies that offer, or try to offer, new elements to their genres. I remind the reader that the second sequel to Pirates of the Carribbean pulled in almost a billion from it's movie theater run despite containing not one ounce of originality. That said, "War" isn't amazing in anyway and it is pretty much geared for guys who like action movies, but the few surprises and pretty good direction from first time feature film director Altwell, make this flick worth checking out. --- 7/10

BsCDb Classification: 13+ --- violence, profanity
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7/10
Army Men go High Tech
16 August 2009
There is something particular about this fairly routine summer blockbuster that makes it more enjoyable than it otherwise would have been. More aptly put it is a lack of something and that is frenetic cutting. This is highlighted during an outrageously destructive chase scene through the streets of Paris when a volley of missiles flies down a street and two of our heroes jump up, flip, and dodge them in an epic camera move that then reveals about ten parked cars behind them that get sent sky high. That one shot is a mixture of many of the things that make action movies great - motion and grace couple with destruction. Realistically speaking that's utterly preposterous, but this movie never tries to be realistic; it's an adaptation of a preposterous cartoon for kids and it is just like that source material. It's a boys' (and also girls') army game rendered in the latest cutting edge of special effects of Hollywood. Brought to the screen by one Stephen Sommers who has made a career out of such things, and while he has yet to give his movies some brains, he is spot on in giving his audiences epic spectacle.

There are changes from the cartoon; the heroes aren't just Americans, but rather the best of the best of the best selected from armed forces from all over the World, which is a nice touch. Also, Hollywood's love of acronyms has made "G.I. Joe" into "G.I.J.O.E." What's it mean? I don't remember, but I think somewhere between a military convoy getting attacked and an underwater military base exploding, by way of the Eiffel Tower falling down and several capital cities being saved from ballistic missile annihilation, they explain it. It doesn't really matter anyway.

What does matter is that this adaptation may be a bit too little of an adaptation than some where thinking, it is more of a re-vamping and the bringing into a new age of the cartoon. The many owners of many of the action figures and vehicles from the massive line of toys back in the day will undoubtedly notice that only a few of those things made it into the movie and those that did were seriously redressed. It would have been perfectly acceptable if they at least homaged the classic things... seriously there is mention of the GI Joe Battle Wagon! Or of the GI Joe General. However, seeing that this is merely "the rise" of Cobra and not "the battle against" Cobra, those things might very well be in line for a sequel, and if they aren't, they should be. --- 7/10

BsCDb Classification: 13+ --- violence
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Alligator (1980)
8/10
Crikey...
7 August 2009
"Alligator" is a fine example of the effectiveness of simplicity. Simple story, no overblown effects or gratuitous gore; but the delivery is right on target. The simplicity of it all, doesn't mean a lack of creativity in the suspense and scares. One scene has two characters looking at in a sewer, as they turn on their light brief flash of something sinister in the background... Much like "Jaws" the titular monster here only appears in full in the final act and despite the fact that we all pretty much know what an alligator looks like, the demon in the shadows idea here works quite well. After all, this isn't your normal everyday alligator.

Also of note is the ruthlessness of the title creature... something missing from many horror films today that succumb to commercial viability in the form of the absurd PG-13 rating. Here, all are fair game and while the death scenes are in a way cheesy with some overly bright red blood... but it is still better than corny computer effects.

All in all, a great creature feature, if not much more. --- 8/10

BsCDb Classification: 13+ --- violence/gore, terror
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6/10
Weak end to a legendary career.
3 August 2009
"The Osterman Weekend" emits the feeling of a last gasp. What was an author's second novel later took this form of a director's last film. Sam Peckinpah was a good choice for directing, with film's like "The Wild Bunch" and "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid" under his belt, Peckinpah wouldn't hesitate to show the grim world of betrayal and manipulation that Robert Ludlum showed through virtually everyone of his books. With spy films like the James Bond franchise being the most popular, this was the lesser seem side of that coin - the side that is less escapist adventure storytelling for boys.

However, the problems that Sam Peckinpah was going through at his last stages have noticeably affected the film. The intricate plot is there, but feels stitched together in parts, though that may very well be due the studio demanding re-editing work. The action is at times sloppy with very little of the mesmerizing details of Peckinpah's previous action sequences; a car crash even contains multiple repeats of the same angle and makes some disastrous continuity. The other action scenes are a notch or two better, but still far from what they could have been.

But, at least the plot and its many deceptions keep you guessing, right to the last shot. --- 6/10

BsCDb Classification: 13+ --- violence, sexual content
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The Rookie (1990)
7/10
Straight-forward formula, above par execution
1 August 2009
Back in 1968 Clint Eastwood did a film called "Coogan's Bluff" where an Arizona cop follows the trail of a criminal to New York City. The movie was practically a prelude to "Dirty Harry" as Clint Eastwood metaphorically took his well known Western tough guy persona into the big city. Two years later he would pick up and immortalize the .44 Magnum. Now, after 5 "Dirty Harry" films Clint Eastwood goes through another film that serves as a metaphorical transition: a tough as nails veteran cop gets partnered with a rookie. The comparisons to Dirty Harry have been made, but they are pretty much inevitable and unavoidable. Though that doesn't really detract from this film.

The plot is relatively straightforward - Det. Pulovski goes out to avenge his partner's death and Ackerman is an eager new cop ready to show that he has what it takes to do an often "dirty" job. Pun intended.

As far as Clint Eastwood's body of work is concerned this is one of his more ridiculous and self-indulgent films; in particular the concluding act has some odd excess and the final action scene turns too cold blooded for its own good. However, even as a straightforward and often brainless action movie that is in now way as legendary as Eastwood's other work it is still enjoyable. There are some spectacular stunts - "fasten your seat belt" - and despite Eastwood playing a familiar character he puts enough amusing spin into the film; particularly Raul Julia as the villain - he's so straightforward, yet so oddly original at the same time. Almost like Hans Gruber's brother, or maybe cousin, who went into the car jacking business. --- 7/10

BsCDb Classification: 13+ --- violence, profanity
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Red Dawn (1984)
5/10
Goooood Morning, America!
12 July 2009
"Red Dawn" starts with a few title cards that provide some background to the story that is about to happen. How a terrible wheat harvest one year started unrest in the USSR and the Eastern Bloc, as well as the rise of Communist forces in South America. Why would a film do this? Well to provide some credible backing for the plot, to give it a sense of realism as if it is ripped from current headlines. It is a pretty good effect. We next see Red Army troops parachute down near a school in a nice tranquil part of small town USA start to gun down all-American school kids.

Frankly that's where the film turns from "political thriller" to "nonsense action movie." It also makes one wonder, why did they bother with the "realistic" set up, which was supposedly based on actual military hypothetical scenarios, when for the rest of the movie is one preposterous action scene after another? The entire focus of the movie is how demonic and cruel the Soviets are and how courageous American school kids are. Red Army soldiers are callously gunned down and destroyed in every which way, while each death on the American side is met with sappy drama and grievance. The combat scenes are wholly preposterous and in one scene one of our young heroes actually aims at an approaching gunship with an assault rifle firing from the hip whilst yelling his battle cry. Too bad for him that the gunship is at least one hundred yards away, which, for the pilot isn't very far, but for someone shooting an assault rifle, that's a considerable distance to be blindly spraying bullets and hoping to hit the intended target. Basically, the film attempts to fool its audience with the opening title cards as there is not one hint of realism after the first shot fades in.

"Red Dawn" just plays out as a gun lovers action movie with the unnecessary back drop getting in the way of every scene. John Woo's "Hard Boiled" is also a gun lovers action movie, but it has style, it has it's unique feel and just enough plot to keep it going and most important of all it never attempted to be realistic with any sort of background on crime rates in Hong Kong. It was made to accepted as it progresses. "Red Dawn" has very little action movie creativity and style with the "realistic" attempt at a plausible Cold War plot being nothing more than blunt force mediocrity.

There is also the fact, mainly revealed by hindsight after the USSR's collapse, that by 1984 the Soviet Union was in no shape to conduct such an invasion and, in fact, imported most of its wheat - thus didn't rely on its own harvest - and that makes the whole film genuinely absurd and practically a parody of its own paranoid notions. --- 5/10

BsCDb Classification: 13+ --- violence
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Donkey Punch (2008)
8/10
Decadence and Deception
12 July 2009
The vacation that descends into hell often seems to do so in ways that were unavoidable, like like the unfortunate backpackers in "Hostel" had no real way of knowing the horror that awaits them. It is also a way to garner sympathy for the protagonist, they are not stupid just deceived and therefore a victim. That is not so in "Donkey Punch" where it is the main characters that do almost everything possible to ensure trouble, then one of them actually does and makes the conscious decision to execute perverse sexual act that results in all the things that they all didn't want.

The difference is more subtle than it seems, but it is a key difference... there is "bad place" and the trouble one makes is only through their own stupidity. Then they have to pay for it. While the title may sound sensationalist and exploitative, the film is really not just that; there is graphic sex including the infamous donkey punch show right on screen as well as some very lurid violence. However, the portrayal of it all doesn't focus on this sensationalism, but uses it to show the film's underlying theme of how a web of lies eventually spins out of control leaving no one safe and everyone pitted against everyone else. It is that well developed psychological element that makes "Donkey Punch" more than just worth a watch. The initially happy and charming characters turn really ugly and even downright repulsive by the end. They are not victims of external force, but of their own actions. This then begs the question: were they were like that from the start? --- 8/10

BsCDb Classification: 16+ --- sexual content, violence
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Eagle Eye (2008)
6/10
The Computer Who Knew Too Much
11 July 2009
Here we have one of those "average Joe caught up in something big... really big" style scenarios that Hitchcock excelled at. Jerry Shaw has rather aimlessly wandered through life until he finds an unexplained $700k in his bank account and a truck load of questionable materials in his apartment. The FBI - or whatever government agency, it's not important - naturally doesn't believe him and that all these things didn't "just show up" at his apartment and they intend to keep him locked up in what appears to be a stronghold. Lucky for Jerry Shaw, a mysterious woman calls him and starts giving him very precise directions about what to do and - voila! - he's out of prison after jumping out from the building, after a crane tore through it. Of course he is not hurt and of course the government is after him but his guardian angel helps him stay ahead via telephone.

That can only be interpreted as utterly overblown and preposterous, but given that this is a big-budget action film that should come a no surprise. The trouble comes when the film doesn't stop it with these amazing escapes and seemingly divine interventions to help the main characters stay one step ahead of their pursuers. So much so that many obvious plot holes appear and each one gapes wider than one that preceded it. How can untrained civilians who don't even handle weapons correctly (a fact to which the film admits) successfully rob an armored car? They were directed there by their supposed all knowing guide, yet for something that can be apprehended much more effectively and without any real risk elsewhere. How can precision aimed missile always hit their target except when the main character is the target? Most perplexing of all - how can a super surveillance computer not notice someone signaling Morse Code right in front of one of it's many electric eyes? For all intents and purposes and for the sake of going along for the ride, these questions can be ignored, but they still indicate sloppiness.

The action scenes are pretty amusing can contain some spectacular roadway wreckage and, plot holes aside, the film does move at a good pace and many of the situations are surprising even if not for the right reasons. Also, as with many thrillers, this one probes some hot button issues relevant in today's world, but ultimately favors spectacle over sense. Action fans will enjoy it just for that, but those who prefer their thrillers like Jason Bourne, steer well clear of this. --- 6/10

BsCDb Classification: PG --- violence, profanity
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Revolver (2005)
8/10
A unique work of film art
11 July 2009
"Revolver" is an initially confusing movie. By the end, it is still somewhat confusing and cryptic, but also fascinating at the same time. Guy Ritchie takes his story-telling style of introducing various characters and then interweaving them in unpredictable patterns that yield unexpected results. "Snatch" was a good example of this. Characters would bump into each another, cause trouble for one another, and the whole violent and blackly humorous collage was finally shown in its entirety at the end. We saw how the pieces fit and how some have been playing off of each other throughout the movie.

"Revolver" is on the surface much like that - a crime caper with various intersecting characters. However, it is also much different in that Ritchie just doesn't interweave their actions, but their minds. Chess is a suitable metaphor here and used in the movie; the physical action is simple, but beneath the surface is a tense battle of wits, nerves, and sly deceptions. For a rough comparison, if David Lynch were to make a crime caper, the story and structure would resemble this film to a large degree. Visually, the film is very creative - blending animations with live action and all sorts of camera angles and colors. Thus, even if the film is hard to follow, it can and should be watched multiple times. There are plenty of subtleties and fine details that can be discovered and reward a second of even third viewing. "Snatch" could be seen understood and enjoyed in one viewing, though repeated viewings are also great for it, this film practically requires them.

And that's a good thing for it is a stimulating and unique film experience that'll leave the curious viewer thinking, but those looking for a quick fix of entertainment will be let down. --- 8/10

BsCDb Classification: 13+ --- violence, profanity
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8/10
Fun and feel good, yet not cheesy.
3 July 2009
A well meaning and good-hearted, but not fully competent, gym owner needs to save his gym from being taken over by an arrogant owner of the neighboring much larger gym. The result is a great underdog story and a hilarious spoof of the sports industry.

There are plenty of slapstick gags, but the story is much more than just non-sequitor gags... notice that the film isn't called "Sports Movie." There is an actual story here and an actual comedic theme here. The humor is more than just exploitative sexual gags or simple vulgar humor. White Goodman is one of the most hilariously absurd and bizarre villains who by himself is a send up of many things - from the cutthroat businessman to to an arch-villain in an action movie. Then there is the game of Dodgeball; most people remember it from elementary school gym classes and seeing is as a nationwide spectacle is... well odd. However, it says a few interesting things about sports fanaticism.

It's a fun, feel good movie done right. --- 8/10

BsCDb Classification: PG -- crude content
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Max Payne (2008)
5/10
Just another video game adaptation... with a slight plus.
26 June 2009
Perhaps it was inexorable that a game which revolutionized gaming, would be made into a movie by a big studio. Everything is all right with that thought, except the last two words: big studio. Though, perhaps ironically, it is due to those very two words that the money needed to make such a movie was put up to begin with. The problem with studios is that they don't really like to break new ground or venture into dark, or even daring, plot territory. Then if they do, it is all too often simplistically sensational with the usual clichés tagging along. "Doom" was a perfect example of this.

"Max Payne" is on one hand a good movie and that is visually. There is lots of interesting detail and the nighttime noir cinematography is actually pretty good AND a very acceptable representation of the game's visuals. However, visually, big studio films are very frequently stunning so that doesn't really make it that much of a surprise, but rather a relief for fans of the game that maybe they got this adaptation down very well.

It is not too long into the movie that those very visuals become to seem like a tease. Director John Moore does some pretty interesting things with them - even though those flying demon things are in the game, the visualization of the drug present throughout the game is pretty interesting. It is odd, but not in a bad way. The problems arise with *hold your breath* the plot. Surprised? They get pretty close to making a good adaptation, include good visuals with some new twists, but they mess up the plot... GAH! It's frustrating. The plot seems like it was written by someone who read a one paragraph summary of the game's plot and then compressed it even further by heavily editing the darker plot points in the game's third act.

They say give credit where credit's due and here there is SOME credit to be given. For one, the action editing isn't "hyperfastinsane" and the shootouts are pretty good for the few of them that there are here - though, very strangely "bullet-time" is only shown in one scene and it is not a very good one at that. But again, the visuals are overall good. Though, in the end this is noir film with too little noir, an action film with too little action, and a conspiracy thriller with an underdeveloped and wholly uninspired plot. --- 5/10

BsCDb Classification: 13+ --- violence
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7/10
Enjoyable yet annoying as well.
21 June 2009
The world famous spy returns yet again in this fast-paced and more cold-blooded than usual fare. Picking up right after "Casino Royale" left, Bond races away from assassins and soon finds himself on the heels of a business man who is most likely not all that he initially seems to be.

The plot here is fairly interesting and it is more believable than many previous Bond entries, it feels less comic bookish, much like "Casino Royale," and one can almost imagine a group like QUANTUM existing. They operate via shadowy business dealings, use doublespeak during public functions and largely hide in plain site... it is quite the enemy organization for Bond to take on; a secret meeting during an opera performance is one of cleverest bad guy moves and, of course, Bond is there to screw it all up in his signature recklessly calculating fashion. Many of the previous Bond villains also were in the vain of QUANTUM, but they lacked a certain edge, or maybe it was the previous films themselves lacked the rough edge of these last two Bond films. They were still largely enjoyable, but this gritty approach Bond sure works well. Bond's dark and very dry humor is also in top form here.

That is not to say that "Quantum of Solace" is without disappointment and it is a rather ironic and heavily irksome disappointment. "Casino Royale" started of with intriguing plot and that new style of gritty action, but then failed to match its initial action scenes for the climax and the love story essentially made a flying bullet of a thriller film hit a brick wall and shatter into nothing. "QoS" stays with its plot and there are many action scenes and each one is different than the last, which makes for a variable of thrills. However, that is also where the irk comes in. "Casino Royale" for the action that it had, was shot and edited very well, but this film, for reasons inexplicable, succumbed to the hyper-editing craze that seems to be dominating big action films today. From the first car chase to a boat chase to a plane chase and finally an exploding hotel and everything in between seems like it was put together by someone on amphetamines. There are plentiful quick cut close-ups that too often result in a blur. With the high budget and obviously awesome set ups for the action scenes, it is real shame that much of that isn't actually shown. Isn't that why people pay money to see a film like this? Slow motion is also heavily under used and would have very much helped those quick-cut close ups and reduce the blur factor.

To conclude, the plot is slight improvement over the previous entry as it remains consistent throughout, the film moves quickly and enjoyably; however, the action style is a downgrade from the previous entry, which, especially in the Miami airport scene, demonstrated what awesome action scenes are all about. --- 7/10

BsCDb Classification: 13+ --- violence
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Creature (1985)
4/10
Too straight-forward for its own good.
19 June 2009
In space, no one can hear you compare this movie to "Alien." Obviously inspired by that very famous and great movie that seems to be mentioned in every sentence that this one is in, but that it not really that much of an issue. "Creature" is simply a genre film, for people who don't like monster movies there is really nothing to recommend here, but for those who do... that's a slightly different story.

However, the film still manages to disappoint. It focuses to much on the cheap sets and not on the plot. Now, a movie like this can't have that much plot, but there are actually several interesting science fiction/horror concepts brought up in the dialog. What's more is that it wouldn't take much money to expand on them and show them. What's even more is that then this film would stand out much more on its own. The titular monster is an alien, er... a creature that isn't just a flesh eater... it "infects" its victims and there is a purpose to this which I won't spoil here. The shame is that this pretty cool idea wasn't developed. The film would have still be relatively straightforward, but there would have been more room for unpredictability and that means... suspense! Which films like this desperately need and even more so when their budgets do not allow for big thrills to keep them going like is seen here.

The DVD also seems to be ripped directly from an old VHS tape and has very poor quality... not something that can be held against the film directly as much as the distributor, but it does affect viewing. The often grainy darkness, and there is lots of darkness here, is annoying and yet another thing that drags this film down from achieving its potential. --- 4/10

BsCDb Classification: 13+ --- violence/gore
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Transporter 3 (2008)
5/10
Out of gas.
30 May 2009
Jason Statham, in the form of Frank Martin, is knocking bad guys around yet again. What is there to say? He's good at it. This movie, however, is not so good and doesn't give the very likable star enough original material to shine and impress. That doesn't mean a good plot, this type of movie doesn't need anything more than just something to move it along. The place where it needs to be original and truly creative is in the action scenes, that's why people will bother to see this movie, after all.

And that's where "Transporter 3" fails and sinks into the mediocre depths that the two films preceding it enjoyably leaped over. Folks, the action is seriously lacking in this movie... there is not one decent car chase and might I remind you this is a film about a 'transporter' and that is very bad news. The one chase scene there is has no decent stunts or spectacular crashes. The second movie in this series had Frank Martin jumping a car from one building to another... here zip. He does jump onto a train, as evident in the trailer, but it looks better in the trailer. Then the two major fight scenes are essentially overly edited repetitions of one another.

The film is tired and seriously lagging. The attempt at a serious plot is also a bad move which the filmmakers are at fault as is a romantic subplot which the first two films either ignored or minimized... here it is actually a driving force, pardon the pun. --- 5/10

BsCDb classification: 13+ -- violence
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6/10
Definitely for fans if for no one else.
30 May 2009
Frank Castle, who is also the one man vigilante army known as The Punisher, makes a return the screen in this third rendition of the Marvel Comic.

The 2004 version with Thomas Jane in the title role focused on the character and how he came to be; this film focuses on what he has become. In other words it is an apt sequel, but it is not a direct continuation of the aforementioned film. The film takes place in New York and with the back-story that is provided in several brief flashbacks makes this film the technically most faithful adaptation of the source material. Visually it is also very true with the settings given a slightly surreal comic book color and tone; the look of the title character is right from artist Tim Bradstreet's sketch pad; and lastly the violence is, put simply, Hell on Earth. Scores of gruesome deaths and merciless outbursts of savagery are not for those with a weak stomach and provide a visually intense experience. There are also several scenes that amount to some interesting political satire.

However, story-wise is where this film falls short. The point of annoyance is hard to pinpoint, but this 2008 version moves much more unevenly than the 2004 rendition. Maybe it is the rushed characterization of the villain, Jigsaw... or maybe the flaky subplot of The Punisher's remorse for accidentally gunning down an undercover cop in the film's opening shootout scene. Certainly both things could have been worked on and even added to as the 1 hour 40 minutes run time is hardly too much and perhaps even too little for the adaptation of a comic book series that has been running for decades - it feels incomplete.

That said, fans of the source who can fill in the story gaps as well as those who like extreme action movies should like this film since they don't make action movies like this very often. --- 6/10

BsCDb Classification: 16+ -- violence
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6/10
A bloody surprise
27 March 2009
Here is the inevitable sequel to the hit "Hostel." It starts out much in the same vain with a some scenes that offer a fairly ridiculous portrayal of student travel in Europe. There is a party on a train, people sell drugs, thieves lurk, and most of the students are drunk out of their minds. For anyone who has traveled Europe by rail can see that this is an utterly careless portrayal. Next, there is the steady build-up to as unwary victims are captured and we witness some disturbing bloodbath - literally on the "bath" part. However, that is where the excesses of this sequel stop.

What happens next is quite a revelation for fans of more serious horror - the movie starts to become a thing of substance! This is somewhat hinted at in a few earlier scenes, but for the second half of the movie characterizations are seriously amped up, and there are several surprising twists that mark this film as a serious improvement over the first one. A key to noticing this is a cameo by Ruggero Deodato, who directed the highly allegorical horror film "Cannibal Holocaust" back in early 80s. With this in mind, it is easier to pick out clever doublespeak in the dialog and to understand why the tone of this film relies much less on blunt force shock the way that the first film did. The only downer is that all this happens in the second half of the film. Thus, what ends as a pretty good horror film unfortunately starts as trite. But the second half makes this film worth at least one viewing. --- 6/10

BsCDb Classification: 18+ --- brutality, violence/gore
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8/10
Eastwood's transition
10 March 2009
This is a good example of a transition film. Clint Eastwood, known primarily for westerns at this point in his career took a step towards one of his most recognizable characters: Inspector "Dirty" Harry Calahan. "Coogan's Bluff" starts with a wide shot of a desert in the American Southwest. Dust is being kicked up as the protagonist rides... in a jeep! He has a holstered rifle, classic western hat and boots, and lights a cigarette all in the first scene. At thus point the terrain could have been from the 1860s, but then were are shown a modern home and cars and then finally the vast urban expanse of New York City as a helicopter lands on a huge skyscraper. This opening sequence is really nothing more within the film itself, but taken from an outside perspective, it's actually a landmark in Clint Eastwood's career; it foreshadows "Dirty" Harry and signals a waning of the western genre. 1968 was also the year Steve McQueen made the classic "Bullitt," which takes place in San Francisco, which also makes it another prelude to Dirty Harry and the archetype of the tough city cop.

"Coogan's Bluff" is potentially more enjoyable for some in that Walt Coogan is much less violent. Dirty Harry is a very cool character, but the end of even the second movie, he was just good escapism. Walt Coogan is actually convincing as a real character and his trek through New York is comparable, once again, to "Bullitt." The film is more about the driving force of the character to get to the bottom of the problem, which here involves tracking down a criminal who escaped Coogan's custody. Out of his jurisdiction and much to annoyance of a New York inspector Coogan starts to conduct the search by himself. He's a stranger in a strange land, so to speak.

The film may be a bit slow by today's action standards, but this is more of an "investigation cop movie" more akin to a Sherlock Holmes story: mystery throughout and a climatic set piece at the end; here in the form of a terrific motorcycle chase. "Coogan's Bluff" came out in 1968 and was overshadowed by "Bullitt" with it's spectacular chase scene and Clint Eastwood's much bigger action hit of that year, "Where Eagles Dare," but this film is essential for Clint fans if they haven't seen it. --- 8/10

BsCDb Classification: PG --- violence
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The International (I) (2009)
9/10
A bit of that Anti-Formula Formula
28 February 2009
The International provides a breath of fresh air to fans of thrillers. It is a thriller film that rarely comes out of a big studio these days. It is a film more in style of Hitchcock with the mystery being the film's guiding force rather than frenetically stitched together action scenes. The Bourne Trilogy touched base on this type of thing, but still resorted to a largely conventional plot. While being an enjoyable and smarter-than-usual series of action movies they were nowhere near as intricate than their source material, which really dove into some seriously dark territory plot-wise with things that big budget thriller films almost never dare to touch.

This film does just that type of thing. It presents, as the villain, an institution that is pervasive in the world and most peoples lives. We deal with it almost everyday and we need to as it holds one of the things that we need everyday - money. From an observer viewpoint on this type of relationship it is easy to see which side has great power over the other and like all power, this one can also be abused. Perhaps this plot can turn people off since they refuse to believe that something that they trust with literally everything they've got, could be so untrustworthy. Or perhaps they've never seen or heard about such a thing before so therefore it can't be true. Either way, it is self-imposed mental limitation which will doom someone to eventually liking only one type of movie and/or story. Movies and stories, at their core, are presenting new ideas and patterns and The International doesn't do that with spectacular action scenes, but with it's fresh plot.

Crooks usually rob banks, but who gets robbed if the bank is the crook? That is the film's central question and the answer provided is also a bit more complex than could be expected. The path the answer doesn't always move at a breakneck pace nor are many of the answers provided fully satisfactory.

In addition to the winding plot the film features a spectacular shootout that results in a world class art museum getting trashed. It's a bit of the old action movie formula that almost never gets old, but overall the movie is an Anti-Formula to the every Hollywood Action Movie Formula. --- 9/10

BsCDb Classification: 13+ --- violence
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The Dead Pool (1988)
8/10
Suitable finish to a classic character
25 February 2009
Clint Eastwood wraps up his run as what is arguably his single most famous character (or maybe that The Man with No Name) in this entertaining thriller. This fifth entry in the Dirty Harry series also has the most interesting plot - on a popular horror film director's set a list of people, whom the players of a certain bizarre game expect to die, known as the "dead pool" starts to become too much of a reality as some of the mentioned people begin to die. Of course, soon enough a copy of the list surfaces with Harry's name on it.

For a what is a straight-forward thriller formula this film packs enough memorable moments to be enjoyed by more than just Dirty Harry fans. Jim Carrey appears, in a very early role, as a crazy rock star. Harry finds out that he might have met his match in terms of partners. Harry of for once actually hunted by a bad guy giving the film slightly more suspense than previous entries. Finally there is a crazy car chase where Harry and his partner are attempting to evade a remote control car. Meaning, yes, the hard as nails Detective Harry Callahan is flooring it to get away from a toy, but you see the toy has a bomb so it is not that Harry is getting soft all of a sudden.

Also there is the interesting notion here of a film becoming a bit "too real" as people on the Dead Pool actually start to die and the list is found on a film set. It was only a few years after this that Clint Eastwood put down his .44 Magnum and badass persona for good to a more realistic set of films that continue to this day. Clint might have become a bit more real, but he was still great when he was being slightly ridiculous. --- 8/10

BsCDb Classification: 13+ --- violence
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4/10
Not all that special
17 February 2009
This has to be one of the most pointless movies to ever make it onto cinema screens. Whether that's a good or bad thing will ultimately be up to the viewer, but there is a good chance for big disappointment.

The plot and the acting, and pretty much everything about this movie puts it on par with direct-to-video action movies. The only thing better are the the special effects, mainly comprising of juicy slow motion explosions, including a hilariously exploding hotel room. Now there is nothing inherently wrong with B-grade action movies, they can be entertaining in their own way, but the thing is when they are viewed they are picked up to be watched, you know what you're getting. The ultimate undoing of this film is that it was not released as a B-movie, but a big studio action film and that's where it is going to disappoint. With all that money you'd think that they'd produce something a few notches better than this.

There are a few pluses here: the many explosions, James Woods in a decent crazy villain role, and a shower scene with the two attractive stars, but still - something's missing. Maybe the film could have been a bit shorter and thus brisker. Or maybe a more satisfying final confrontation between hero and villain. Or maybe even both. --- 4/10

BsCDb Classification: 13+ --- violence, sexual content
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