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Tense action/drama
14 March 2019
Chandor and Boal tried to make a movie with characters that live and breath. Like normal people, they make mistakes. Although filmmakers do not succeed all the time, this is a well made and tense movie.

The setup is done with some care and the action is photographed with long takes and a steady hand. We see everything that's going on without getting a headache. A rarity these days.

All in all, this is very well done. Although it sells itself as an action movie: it's a tense, slow burning drama about dedicated men who lost their way.

Recommended in my book.
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Another failed attempt to recapture the magic
31 January 2016
In 1999 Star Wars creator George Lucas finally began to give us his view on the events that led to Star Wars IV, V and VI. The first Star Wars trilogy was, as we all know, a milestone in cinema history and it's not easy to top something like that. He didn't succeed to top the original trilogy and although successful commercially, fans weren't all to impressed with the prequels. The story was flat, the characters annoying and the special effects too clean. It could be that this even led to his decision to sell off his Lucasfilm and all the rights to the Star Wars imperium. Disney picked up those rights. Maybe because they thought they could do better. Well, commercially they were right. But better films? Their first installment isn't that impressive. It's worse than The Phantom Menace.

Let's get one thing straight: even though it picks up 30 years after Star Wars VI, this is not a sequel. This is a remake. J.J. Abrams tries to get back to the feel of the original trilogy. But essentially copies the storyline of Star Wars IV A New Hope. Okay, so that's disappointing. But let's see where this goes. Abrams then proceeds to give us some awkward comic relief scenes, deep friendships within two minutes of meeting each other and some wooden dialogue. The new bad guy is a spoiled brat who has a tendency for tantrums (and commands the largest army in the galaxy?) and a Supreme Leader who is a hologram. Too make a long story short: I wasn't all too impressed. It's just another failed attempt to recapture the magic of the much loved first three films from the seventies and eighties.

Was it all bad? No, off course not. Abrams knows how to direct action and impress with fine special effects. The casting of John Boyega is a courageous move and commercially smart. Too bad that his character comes off as more annoying than brave. Same goes for the character Kylo Ren. That I am not a fan off Adam Driver does not help either. Newcomer Ridley does hit the right tone and impresses as the new lead character. The familiar faces of Han Solo, Princess Leia and Chewbakka appear, but does that help? They don't bring anything new or fresh. Except for one pivotal scene near the end, which to be fair, was very well done.

It's the first installment, maybe it needs to gain momentum. But The Fellowship of the Ring and Star Wars IV were first installments too and they impressed the hell out of people. There are two other films coming in the next years. But this first one just is not all it's hyped up to be.
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Arbitrage (2012)
Gere's best performance in years
20 October 2012
Arbitrage is a wonderful film. It is a slow paced, well written and very well acted piece of cinema. It looks like Gere is choosing his projects with better care. A supporting cast of Sarandon, Roth and others do their work. But it's Gere's show.

Gere plays one those people you read about in the paper. The ones who defraud their company, a pension fund or a bank for hundreds of millions. It's cases where everybody scratches their head: 'How is this possible? Right under everybody's nose?' For me, this film is about loyalty. If you ask me, 'these' people (the Madoff's and such) depend on others not to tell. They are charismatic, charming, sometimes do the right thing and make you believe by not blowing the whistle, you are actually saving other people. When in fact, they are the most egocentric, narcissistic personalities you will ever find.

I won't give away too much of the plot, but Gere's character is such turd in a suit: it's beautiful to see on screen. He keeps telling the people around him not to turn on him, because it's not him that gets hurt. It's other people's jobs, pensions etc. But it's just his own behind he's saving. Writer/director makes us root for him. 'Come on, get away with it' we think. You want him to win. When in fact, he's evil. But he sells it good. Like Gere sells his character. Like the Madoff's of this world sell us.

The thing that stayed with me was that one the main supporting characters comes off as naive when in fact he/she is just wanting what we all want: to tell the truth. But truth doesn't get you very far. That's what we learn from Gere's character. And almost - just almost - we believe him.

I give this film 8 out of 10.
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The Avengers (2012)
Great fun, but let's not exaggerate
4 September 2012
I have been a comic fan since the mid 90's. After a gap of almost 15 years a recently picked up my old hobby. Much has changed since I last read Spider-man, Wolverine and The Punisher. I never have been a fan of Fantastic Four or The Avengers. And after this movie, I won't change my mind about it.

Not that The Avengers is a bad film, it's really not. But it's not all that the hype pretends it is. Whedon makes a very enjoyable popcorn-movie that's true to it's comic book roots. You get a lot of bang for your buck: 6 superheroes in a 2+ hour movie. Whedon keeps all his movies light and with humor. I finally see what he intended with Alien Resurrection. Although I still think it would not have worked. Alien doesn't lend itself for humor. But this material does. And Whedon does it well. The story isn't too complicated. I'm glad all these movies use elements from the golden or silver age of the original comics. The story is a old-school kinda story. Not complicated and with little back story (because all of them had an individual one. Some even two!).

The effects are well done, although I think on a TV screen (even by today's standards), it's just too chaotic to really follow. I had the same feeling with the horrendous Transformer-films. Although the action in this film isn't half as confusing as those three turds.

All and all: it's a nice blockbuster with steady performances, good action and an old fashioned, humorous story. I could write half a page about it being a little too patriotic and militaristic, but hey, I'm European. I really don't get all the fascination with guns and jets and stuff.
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Real Steel (2011)
Tears on steel
15 February 2012
This movie is a pleasant surprise. This could have easily become a leave-your-brain-at-home dud, but it's actually a warm-hearted Rocky-like tail, sprinkled with The Champ-elements.

This has all the same ingredients as Transformers, but does everything better. The characters are understandable and likable, the humor is actually funny and the boy-robot relation is touching. Jackman and Lily have good chemistry and the special effects are well done.

Not that there aren't flaws: the origin of Atom is not mentioned at all and the robot-fighting is off course against all laws of psychics.

But after all is said and done, you watch the end credits feeling good and the tears shed at the end (everyone cries at the end, sigh) are tears of joy, not of pain or despair like after watching one of Bay's Transformers.

I give it 7 outta 10.
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Warrior (2011)
One of the best of 2011
27 December 2011
Warrior has so many elements which normally press the wrong buttons with me. But when the end credits rolled, I was totally mesmerized. It's one of the best films of the year.

I don't know much about MMA or UFC. But although this film is about fighters and UFC, it's more about family, redemption and coming to terms with a painful past. I applaud the makers for making a film that takes it's time to develop. Characters are humans in this film, not video game characters. This film could have been made/marketed for the 15-19 yr old male-group. But that would have produced a very different and worse film.

All the main actors do excellent work, with the two main actors (Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton) carrying this film from start to finish. Noteworthy are also Nick Nolte and Frank Grillo as Edgerton's trainer.

Director Hood finds the right gritty feel and look for the film, as well as getting the best out of his cast and crew (with 4! editors). The fight scenes are exiting, but especially Hardy's scenes where his caged anger is about to explode are powerful.

One negative thing: Too bad this movie could not do without the (almost obligatory) nod to the uniform and military.

It's a great achievement and this deserved to do better at the box office. I'm afraid that producers with similar ideas will want a film that more is Rocky.

I give it 8 out of 10.
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Somewhat miscast, but fascinating none the less
18 December 2011
The Good Sheperd is a massive accomplishment. It's multi layered script incorporates the rise (and rise) of the US intelligence service after WWII. From the early OSS to today's CIA, it tries to shed light on not only the intelligence-counter intelligence game, but also the men and women behind the covert world. The thing that stayed with me after watching this film is that once you enter this world you never leave. And that may sound cliché, it's still unbelievable to me how much the main character is willing to sacrifice in order to keep doing what he thinks he does best.

The 'old boys' network is what defined the early days of the OSS and although it's not very explicit in this film, the attentive viewer can get the somewhat elitist way of thinking and acting from these agents/spies. The way of thinking is very important I think, because it defined our recent history.

This film is a long time pet-project of DeNiro and I can see why. It has everything in it: suspense, morally challenging, lost love in the 'what if'-category and very good written characters. Top it of with a very good supporting cast and greatness is in it's grasp, but it just falls short of it. I blame the casting of Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie for this.

I like Matt Damon in action films. He has the presence for it. Just look at the Bourne-films. But, like Mark Wahlberg, his range is far too narrow to play complicated characters. A remark made in the excellent TV-series Entourage comes to mind: 'You're a movie star, but that does not mean you're a good actor.' Damon should play into his strengths and keep doing action films. Matt Damon is miscast as the silent, somewhat nerdy main character. Damon never finds the right tone of voice, never the right look and never the right rhythm of his character. I am not a fan of Billy Cudrup, but when the two are in the same frame it's a perfect example of an actor totally in sync with his character and one that is not.

Just like Alexander, Jolie is also totally miscast in a role that does not suit her. Her greatest strength is her vamp-like attraction with a girlish tenderness (or maybe a hidden vulnerability) that is very, very rare in Hollywood. You have to let her play a role that suits her qualities best and the neglected, stay-at-home mom she plays here is totally unbelievable for me. Her emotional scenes become almost laughable when I think the opposite reaction was intended. I think the role of Laura would have suited her more.

Again, I think it's a fantastic film. It's a great accomplishment to make an interesting 2-somewhat hour movie with this much detail and information. The production design, the cinematography, the script and the supporting cast are excellent. For a not so experienced director, DeNiro does a fantastic job because he has made the decision to make the film and not to make 'a Film by Robert DeNiro'. His directing hand is invisible, and this is a hard thing to do when you have all the power. Just take a look at characters in this movie.

I give it 8 out of 10.
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Big, loud and empty
26 October 2011
What else can I say about this, that already hasn't been said? It's big, loud and empty. It's dangerously militaristic and gung ho. Like World Battle: Los Angeles it's a video game with cliché heroism. It's a live action 'I Want You' poster.

I really can't fault Bay here. He's an advertising man. He is hired to sell. And he does. Everything is sly, shiny and slick. Nice slow mo's, nice legs (courtesy of some new hottie) and great musclecars. Hormones, heroes and guns. Sign up right here. Do your part and earn citizenship. Oh wait, we're not there...just yet.

I fault the viewers who buy a ticket to this. That includes yours truly. Because as long as these things double or triple their budgets, it's still gonna get made. Number 4 is in the making and it's our fault.

An awful film that deserves an awful review: 1 out of 10.
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History repeat
12 August 2011
The Conspiritor uses an event that happened 150 years ago to tell a story which is all too familiar in our time. The backdrop off a shocking, sad event and the following massive public outcry pushes the powers to be to extreme measures, which they stand by because they feel to be forced to do or because they really believe it to be the only right thing.

Robert Redford has been well known for his political views and has displayed them already in the somewhat uneven Lions for Lambs. I like filmmakers who speak out. I can maybe not always agree, but I wholeheartedly admire that in this time of mindless action drivel like Transformers, Drive Angry and The Mechanic there is still hope for without trying to be arrogant: meaningful films. Redford uses the assassination of Lincoln to portray a nation in mourning and sadness. The Civil War was all but over and the policymakers were already planning the next step: the forming of a real Union. The assassination of Lincoln endangered the entire Union. The people wanted revenge and Edwin Stanton (an excellent Kevin Kline) serves it cold. Since her son is nowhere to be found anywhere, he settles for the next thing: his mother Mary Surrat. 'I don't care which one it is, as long as one of them pays the price'. Young Frederick Alken (James McAvoy) has the ungrateful task of defending her.

I don't know much about the Civil War and the period after that, so I can't say how accurate this film is. But what I can say is that it's a masterpiece in creating a period not so distant from our current world. If you replace the assassination of Lincoln with the 9/11-attacks, you have a film that stands firm. It asks relevant questions and holds a mirror right up to our faces. Are seeing clearly? In the sadness and outrage of such a shocking event, do we still see clearly what's going on? Do we still, as a people, have perspective enough to define friend from foe from guilty to innocent? Do our leaders have the capability, strength and courage to make us see or tell us 'no' when we are wrong? Or do policies, political views or elections hold them back and make them just give the public what they want? Mary Surrat, Lincoln, Osama Bin Laden, Afghanistan, Bush, Edward Stanton, Abu Grahib, post Civil War Washington, Guantanomo Bay. History repeats itself over and over again. When will we learn? Guilty or innocent. Is it important? Do we care? I give this film 8 out of 10.
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Source Code (2011)
Finally, story and action are aligned!
25 July 2011
Source Code mixes science-fiction with a love story and questions about morality and ethics. It's not like most movies: this one actually has a story, not just effects. For that matter, the action isn't really on the foreground. It's not your standard blockbuster.

Director Duncan Jones and screenwriter Ben Ripley created not the most original film, but one of the best executed. A fine cast do the rest. Jake Gyllenhaal is dependable as always and especially Michelle Monaghan has the exceptional quality to have chemistry with almost any actor she works with. Believe me, in the role she is playing, it is hard not to come off as annoying or damsel in distress. And she doesn't.

Maybe if you looked real hard, you would find plot holes about alternate realities or universes or time travel in this film. But I didn't want to think too much. The filmmakers has my permission to just go ahead and tell their story.

Source Code will be judged by some as dull or talky. That's the part of the audience who loved T4 or Transformers I-III. Those 'movies' are just action scenes molded together. This has story and action more in sync. This movie is more for the people who like to think and not have their thinking done for them. That's rare these days. Just ask Capt. Stevens, main character in Source Code.
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Trust (I) (2010)
Half seriously good, half Hallmark movie-of-the-week
20 July 2011
David Schwimmer behind the lens of a movie with the synopsis of a movie-of-the-week about internetpredators. Wow, this could go either way I thought. And it did.

The Good: This movie is carried by its young leading star. Liana Liberato is Annie and she makes us feel every emotion she has. Sometimes we just don't get her: her actions or what's she's saying. Then, and this is where the screenplay and direction comes in, there are a few lines of dialog or a well chosen shot and we get what's being said. That symmetry is what makes Trust good.

It's never overly dramatic and definitely does not hold back in depicting the loss of innocence and broken trust within the family or the minds of the family members.

This is B-movie with an A-list cast and the movie works because of the above average actors.

The Less: It's still a little cliché. Dr. Phil would approve this film. The Hallmark-channel feeling is never shed off and although it's bold in depicting it's story: it's also very predictable. There's no grey here, only black and white. This goes also for the characters: the innocent teen, the understanding mother, the work oriented father etc.

Overall: The screenplay mixes good dialog and a dramatic look at teens growing up in the information-age with clichés and predictability. Schwimmer passes his exam as a director, as opposed to a actor turned director. It's not bad and watchable alone for the Tour de Force by Liberato, but don't expect a masterpiece. Because that would be too much credit. I give it a 6 out of 10.
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The Good, The Bad and The Boulevard
1 May 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I was lucky enough to see this film without being trampled by either the studio's marketing machine or the bizz-reviewers. This gave me a chance to experience the film without prejudice. It is a film that has me going in opposite directions at once.

This is a not a bad movie. It entertains me more than something like Layer Cake or Rocknrolla. Why? This movie is filled with style-elements and trademarks from the screenwriter/director that do not scream out loud "Look at me being a hip and smart director"(for example the Spaghetti Western elements at the beginning and the end). The characters seem more real to me. Plus the violence is not glorified or funny. It's harsh and pains you even looking at it. At the end of this film, you just want to go back to your boring job: it is a compliment to the filmmaker.

But is it good? I don't know, because it also has you scratching the back of your head too much. Some of the dialogue is so crypted, you miss the next minutes because your still putting the last scenes together. But at the same time I love that. It doesn't try to be pleasing or find the easy way out. But this does have a dangerous effect: people will stamp your movie as riddled with plot holes, while it just needs a bit attention from the viewer. One of the things that stayed with me was the (latent) homosexual feelings Ray Winston's character seemed to have. It is a real clue as to why he reacts the way he does to Colin Farrel's character. And gives a whole other meaning to the sentence: 'You and I would be great together' while Farrel's character is ready to kill him. I also think the homeless guy is Mitch's father. Think about it: all the signs point to this.

Farrel gives his best performance yet. I always was not very convinced about his acting skills. But his performance here, along with Pride and Glory, shows me he can act. If he wants to. For that matter: everyone involved was very well cast.

At 103 minutes, I think it could have used 15 to 20 more minutes to smooth over the final resolution. The set up is great and takes it's time. The movie really isn't about the love between Farrel and Kneightley, but the attempts of Farrel to break free from his criminal past. And with the excellent setup, the ending seems too rushed and that's too bad. Because not too many movies today have sad endings. And this is one of the few that had me really sad.

I give it 7 out of 10.
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Fair Game (I) (2010)
You're a good agent. But it's over.
10 March 2011
Those were the words of Valerie Plame's superior right before he fired her. It doesn't matter who you are or what you do. If you cross paths with the most powerful people in the world: you get broken in half. It's that simple. Fair Game is my kind of movie: real characters, real people, real events. This movie confirms everything I already knew or suspected, but this is powerful stuff. If you ever felt overwhelmed or helpless: try these guy's shoes for a week in that awful period between 2003 and 2005.

Hollywood is getting out of it's shell after the 2000-2008 period in which the Hawk's reintroduced a period of McCarthyism. Hollywood became a propaganda machine for Bush: 'Support the troops, don't you love America?' I still see the images of the speech at the Oscars Michael Moore gave: "Shame on you Mr. President". The room booed and cheered at the same time, but the front row with every A-list actor you can think of, sat quiet and didn't move. They said nothing. Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame did not stay quiet. It's hard to comprehend that these events didn't happen 50 years ago. They happened less than 10 years ago. The White House created a smokescreen that very few people could see through. Those who did were outnumbered and slaughtered. Thank God for the educational purposes of cinema.

The Green Zone, Body of Lies and such are movies which tried to point out the errors in foreign policies, but Fair Game says it out loud: they wanted a war and the would stop at nothing to get it. Destroy anything or anyone who gets in the way. Most members of that White House got a slap on the wrist and are now giving $100.000 lectures.

Doug Liman has made his best movie yet. He has now made my list of accomplished directors. It's topnotch on a technical level and at a dramatic level. Liman leaves out any information the viewer knows or should be able to piece together for themselves. The script got me from start to finish. So did the actors.

No, there not much wrong with this movie. That's why it pains me that it bombed at the box-office. These kinda movies should be celebrated for their courage. But no, movies like Inception get all the attention. And nobody cares over hundreds of thousands civilians died because of the Iraq-war.
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It diminishes it's excellent predecessor
16 January 2011
I have mentioned before that director Oliver Stone seriously thought about retiring after Natural Born Killers. That movie took so much out of him (and I think the previous JFK did also in the aftermath of that film), that he said: "I don't think I have another one in me". At that time I thought he was crazy. But looking back at what he has made since NBK. Maybe not… Stone's new film has 3 maybe 4 good scenes and all of them were in the trailer. The scenes of the release of Gekko are well done and set up for a nice premise. But it all just falls apart. Or it really never gets going. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps fits perfectly in the new Oliver Stone trend. Before 1994, his films were raw, edgy and a little rebellious. World Trade Center, W. and Wall Street 2 all have the appearance of politically engaging or hard-hitting films. But they are not. Tame would be an understatement. Pleasing would be better. Oliver Stone has lost his will to fight. He's got bills (probably a big house, swimming pool, alimony and stuff). He just wants a job and please the studio and the audience. It almost looks like he doesn't want much hassle with his films after they come out.

Wall Street 2 is such a disappointment I don't know where to start. Maybe the biggest let down was in the smallest amount of celluloid: the cameo of Charlie Sheen as Bud Fox. His character Fox was a character we could relate to. Especially in his scene with his father Martin Sheen. But his cameo was so wrong, so out of place, so not Bud Fox, it diminishes the entire first movie. Bud Fox is now Charlie from Two and a Half Man.

Let me go on with the characters: The successor of Bud Fox is now Jake Moore, a kid who doesn't blink when he gets a 1.5 million dollar bonus. Off course, in the banking industry this is normal. So, it is authentic that Jake doesn't flinch. His girlfriend has an Iphone, does something with a website but other then that they really don't have to work for a living seeing the house they live in. Live really has no challenges left for these two. So maybe that why Jake has such a hard on for his 'Green Project'. But I'm just guessing here. Bud Fox wanted to be filthy rich, he wanted to be a player. Jake Moore doesn't want anything. And we should watch for him for 2 somewhat hours… Josh Brolin, the actor with the single most dangerous look in Hollywood, comes off as such a whiny boy. You do not believe he is the successor of Gordon Gekko. One or two times Shia LaBoeuf's character Jake Moore went head to head with Brolin and I couldn't help but think: "This is so unbelievable. Brolin's character should clock this spoiled brat right on the nose". If anyone can tell me what value or what message I should take from the motorcycle-scene: you can e-mail me.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps misses edge, a believable script and ditto characters. It is a missed opportunity at best, and a total failure if I am really honest. It demises it's classic predecessor, has a weak script where the cutthroat mentality in the banking industry is played out in such a cliché manner. Josh Brolin is grossly underused. Shia LaBoeuf is overplayed, because he's not that great an actor. Not as a serious adult anyway. But that's Stone's fault. Charlie Sheen isn't a great actor, but 20 years ago Stone could direct him in a way that made him believable. That Oliver Stone is no more, as you can see with the awful cameo of Sheen. The problem for this sequel is that it totally diminishes the first film. It takes all the good things from the first film and throws it out. What's left is chewed up, spit out and rehashed. Money never sleeps, but the audience does.
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I thought it was pretty good
16 January 2011
The Last Exorcism isn't innovative or original. But I still liked it. The 'found-footage' genre has had some hit and misses these past years and this film fits right in the hits-section. People who would give this film a bad review tend not to like the genre as a whole I think, because judged purely on it's cinematic merits: it follows all the rules of the 'found-footage' films. And this film executes everything pretty good. It didn't even occur to me until very late in the movie that this movie has a music score. The movie looks like it also had a bigger budget than let's say Open Water or Paranormal Activity.

One other thing I liked is that it follows the Hollywoodformula, but never gets boring or cliché. The actors are pretty good all round, with a special mention of the lead actor who plays the cynical priest who specializes in exorcisms with believability. The effects are pretty good and the script keeps things moving. The ending might put some people off, but I was pretty surprised. At least it's an ending that will have you discuss it after the end-credits with your friends or partner.

So, to conclude: I give this one the thumps up. It's has good actors, a decent script and decent effects. Horrorfans who like Saw and Hostel will probably not like this, as will people who don't like found footage-films. But people who liked Open Water or maybe Quarantine will probably like this one too.
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Dull and dangerously militaristic
22 December 2010
Michael Bay knows his craft. He is one of the best at what he does. But he has become a posterboy for the right-wing moviegoers. I have a problem with his cinematic integrity. His movies are commercials instead of films. Now, Transformers isn't The Great Gatsby. I know that. But Transformers has no story, no soul and has such a dangerous underlying militaristic tone: it presses all the wrong buttons with me.

The movie is aimed at video-gaming 13 to 17 year old boys, with hormones coming out of their ears. Bay sells his movie to these kids with a hot Megan Fox (yes, I agree to that. I am still human), shiny robots and a lot of military showing off. You know, I really don't think the locations in the Middle East and Egypt are coincidence. It conditions young minds that the US can fight battles there. I've read that the DoD wants scripts upfront and can say no to producers when they request hardware for their movies. The producers of movies like Jarhead, Full Metal Jacket etc. got no help. Think they said no to this movie? If the propaganda machine of the DoD thinks it's a good film, what do they think is good about it?

Judging it purely on it's cinematic merits: it has a lot of explosions and pretty good action scenes, even though I couldn't tell what was going on half of the time. That whiny kid from Suburbia looks like a 30 year old playing an 18 year old and Turturro's comedic timing leaves a lot to be desired. The comic relief scenes are sometimes awkward and again: the story is really thin.

I compare this movie and the message in this movie with the prettiest girl in class: She looks fantastic. You can't take your eyes of her. You love her tanned legs, the way her skirt is barely long enough and when she pouts those lips, you just dream away. Just looking at her brings up almost primordial urges inside you. But when you start listening to her and then really looking at her: you will realize she is not that nice, pretty dumb and really a bit dangerous in the way she changes the behavior of the guys around her.
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The Town (2010)
Solid effort, but still flawed
9 December 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I am actually pretty conflicted about Ben Affleck's new feature 'The Town'. I liked his previous effort Gone Baby Gone. Like The Town, that movie was filled with dangerous looking characters, good actors, an interesting script and the steady hand of a director in control. The surprise of Gone Baby Gone is well, without trying to be funny: Gone. We now know that Affleck has the capacity to make Eastwood- or Lumet-like movies. I'm disappointed that Affleck hasn't made the real step to become that topnotch director. A director who works out improbabilities in the script. But to say that The Town is a bad movie would do it no justice. It's actually pretty good. It tries to be in the same category as Heat, but has too many improbabilities to be in that category.

I am not all that surprised that Affleck made a 4 hour (!) first cut of this movie. Because I think this movie needs that kind of running time to make it's full impact. I had the same feeling with Copland. Because of different reasons Affleck had to trim his movie back to it's 2 hour and somewhat minutes for the studio to give it the go-ahead. The 2 hours left on the cutting-floor have to be character development. It's that simple. We hardly get to know all the interesting characters in this movie (including the 2 other members of the gang). We find out at the very last (well, me at least) that it's his best friends sister who clings to him with her baby. His character MacCrady does the moody-thing just a bit too much, without really explaining. Too bad the studio couldn't compromise. A 3 hour cut could have made this better. But I guess only Cameron and Mann are allowed to make 3 hour movies.

Also, some action taken by it's characters had me scratching the back of my head. The FBI seems to work with tactics from the 1970's. When the ambulance leaves the stadium, it is not riddled with bullets, when there was an intense exchange of fire not long before. But the driver dies in the following crash. Trainstations are not riddled with cops, so a convict can just take the train to freedom? The cops on the street don't have MacCrady's profile and face implanted on their brain, seeing he shot at cops and all? And the biggest one: the girl really falls for him? Really? Like Gone Baby Gone, the ending is too soft, too pleasing and too easy.

But let's not be too negative. Affleck gives his The Town an authentic (as far as I can tell, never been) feeling. The character speak and move like they have lived in Charlestown most of their lives. There isn't a line a dialog that sounds cheesy or out of place. Although I really don't know what the FBI-man meant with the size of bills thing.

The actors are their characters. That's because they are good actors working with good material, but Affleck knows how to get it out of them. The action-scene's are well photographed and not implausible just to make you go 'whhooaaa…'. But with the always excellent Robert Elswitt behind the lens, that's a certainty.

If there's a way to get the studio to sign off on a 4 hour cut on Blu Ray, let me know Ben. Because I would love to see that one. With the version we have now, I still recommend it, but I still feel that bits and pieces are missing.
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Inception (2010)
Hard 2 believe is not intellectually or morally challenging
4 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Don't get me wrong, Christopher Nolan (writer, producer and director of this movie) is a very, very talented filmmaker. He will undoubtedly make that masterpiece for which he will be remembered. But that's just my point: he hasn't made it yet. The Dark Knight wasn't it and Inception certainly isn't it. Inception is a product of a director who has been given carte blanche. His vision has been put on film without someone ever saying: 'Chris, that's not going to work.' For that matter, Inception should have been Nolan's Heaven's Gate. But Inception will probably make Nolan a even bigger star. He better check his totem… I felt compelled to write a review when I found out this movie had a 9.2 rating and a 3rd place overall in the top 250. Let me say: that is ridiculous. To balance the scale, I have rated this movie (a ridiculous) 1. I agree with some posts on the message board of IMDb: complex does not mean intellectual or smart. And for that matter, I don't think this film is very complex. It just asks what most movies do: go with it.

DiCaprio gives a pretty good performance (with leftovers from his role in Shutter Island) as Dobbs, a person who is able the penetrate someone's dream and see or steal his secrets. Recently Dobbs lost his wife and he has not seen his children in a long time. That is because the authorities think he has something to do with his wife's death. Watanabe gives Dobbs a chance to get his life back. He needs to plant an idea (inception) in the mind of a competitor. Like a seed, it will grow. And the inspiration for the idea will seem real.

One of the problems for me with the movie was that the dreamworld felt pretty flat and boring to me. Unlike The Matrix (a inception for this movie), the inhabitants of the other world do not bend the rules of gravity. The laws of physics do apply. That's not a bad decision. But I agree with one reviewer: 'Nolan's dreamworld looks like a mediocre action film from the 90's.' The bad guys walk around like video game characters with an AI set on level Easy. I almost shouted in the theater when Eames went Rambo in the snow scene. I understand the decision. Look at The Cell to see how wrong you can go if you explore the subconscious on film. But still, for me his decision to keep the dreamworld neat and clean is a cop out. Dreams don't look like this. Hopes, fears and experiences mix with (the conception of) the real world and you get a pretty original result sometimes. None of this in Inception. Oh right, the architect is in control. How convenient… The whole dream within a dream concept was a little far-fetched for me. Have you ever had one? Probably not. So why, when you have a pretty basic dreamworld go with a concept this unreal? The real world does influence the dream the character's have. But they feel it and are conscious that it is the real world. That's a missed opportunity. A dream influenced by factor's unknown to the dreamer could have made it much more enjoyable for the audience.

Maybe it's just not my cup of tea. Like Nolan's former projects The Prestige and The Dark Knight: I don't get all the hoopla. Yes, these movies (like Inception) are well made. They are original, have refreshing ideas, are technically good and have decent scripts. But they are not the best of the decade. And this one really is not a 9.2. I'd say a 5.5. Barely...
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W. (I) (2008)
Reduntant and therefore disappointing
3 February 2009
I used to be an Oliver Stone fan. But after Natural Born Killers I read in an interview that he had doubts about continuing his directing career. "I don't think I have another good movie in me".

Well, I still think that he does, but W. isn't it. The reason I like and watch Oliver Stone films is that he has a strong opinion about a subject. One that isn't mainstream, but expresses it in such a way, that he wins his audience and therefore can change popular opinion. The best examples for this are Platoon and JFK.

Oliver Stone makes a decision with this film which I do not like. The life and times of George W. Bush offer enough subject matter to make a powerful, semi-documentary film with hard hitting political and religious views that would sturr up popular belief. But instead of going for the jugular, Stone takes W. on his knee, pats him gently on the head and says: "I know, son. I get it." The film has all the elements that make W. the infamous guy that he is: the invention of axes-of-evil, God is on the side of good (The US of A), W.'s history of failed business, tale-chasing and alcohol abuse. Add the wheeling and dealing by the Bush-dynasty and you would think it's dynamite stuff.

But it's not. The script is superficial. Tame at best. Stone is not good at satire and this film shows us why. Anyone who reads the Sundaypaper and watches the nine-o-clock news could have written this movie. It has the character motivation of a soap-opera. The father-son relationship for me was totally unbelievable. I expected a true depiction, with close source material. But it has become an imagined portrait by the screenwriter. Another thing that disappointed me was the lack of insight into the kitchen of the (right-wing) Bush-Administration, more over: the infiltration of the Hawks in the White House.

This film doesn't add anything new or reveal any new insights. The movie is based on research done by outsiders. I knew every detail of this movie because I am up to current events. I don't want a summation and lovable depiction of a man who is responsible for eight very defining years of US foreign policy. I wanted new insights, make me doubt my own beliefs and discuss this with friends and on message boards. The end result has me shrugging my shoulders and saying: Eehh..., so what?
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The Happening (2008)
If it's intentional, it's still a bad film
15 July 2008
I'm a Shyamalan fan. He's not afraid to take chances. And he believes in himself and his story. Most of the time, that helps. Gems like Unbreakable en The Village would never have seen the light of day if someone other than Shyamalan came up with it. His direction always makes sure his story gets the maximum effect. I like his screenplays because they always consist of two things: originality and well written characters. His new feature has neither. It's that simple. As a Shyamalan fan, I felt this disappointment a little with Lady in the Water. But now, it's twice in a row.

In a nutshell: Beginning in Central Park NYC, people are effected what is first believed to be a neurotoxine causing people to behave irrational, even to the point of suicide. But then the survivors start to uncover signs that it's not terrorists, but nature itself spreading this virus: yes, it's nature against men. And nature is winning.

I thought Wahlberg was a very poor choice. His range as an actor is far too narrow to play in any production that needs a little nuance. In other words: he shouldn't be in anything else than a movie about cops or (ex-)marines. Also the rest of the cast is surprisingly aloof. This includes Zooey Deschanel, who looks like she's a live-action version of a Manga character. Can those eyes be any wider?

The way the information is brought to the viewer is simple. There is a hinge of a critical message about massmedia, how we get our information and how we as a society are depended on TV, mobiles phones etc. to get in touch with each other. But it's nothing major. Because there really isn't much to tell. The first 15 minutes are the most interesting. Although the very first scene with the two women on a bench in the park (in hindsight) is telling. I really had my doubts about everything: the acting, the actions taken by the characters, the total mood and feel of the film. Once it goes into the 2nd act, the movie becomes more and more (non intentional) laughable and silly.

After seeing this I read that Shyamalan intended this to be an expensive B-movie, in the tradition of Romero etc. If that's the case, then my original rating of 5 (outta 10) should be a 3. Because nowhere in the movie does this become apparent. If you want a good homage, take a look at Zach Snyder's Dawn of the Dead (although that's really a remake.) I don't like a these talented filmmakers who want to take $100 million budgets, to make movies who look like they've been made for $10.000. But at least someone like Tarantino or Rodriquez adds originality and a real love for the genre.

The Happening is really bad as a serious film. As an homage it's boring and without heart. Take your pick. But you will be disappointed either way.
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The Kingdom (2007)
Good, but could have been better
17 December 2007
With the opening credits and the first act, I thought "this could go somewhere". But after the closing credits I thought: "Too bad they didn't have the balls to really say something".

Yes, it would be difficult for the investigators to conduct their research. Especially for a woman. But Arabs are portrayed as incompetent, religious-fanatic dummies. Who don't know forensics or logic. And Uncle Sam is patient, smart and gung ho (up to the FBI director himself).

Where is the selfcritism? There is one line ('yes, I know America is not perfect') in the whole movie which resembles something of a critical opinion about the U.S. itself. The rest: Arab-bashing. That's cool, but don't get mad if some of them call you hypocritical.

It's not a bad film. It has it's heart in the right place and technically its sound and exciting. But the story walks a very safe road. For me, it could (or should) have been more Syriana and less Bourne Ultimatum.
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Harsh Times (2005)
Daring and true
13 March 2007
Like Way of the Gun, this is a film from a screenwriter who has the chance to direct his own movie, because the last movie he penned was a huge hit. And he chooses his own style and makes the movie HE wants. Not what he thinks the audience wants or what will make money at the box office. Just for that, he gets my respect.

Now the film itself: it's a very humane story that won't be for everyones taste. Ayer intertwines his story of a veteran damaged by war with the way of life in South L.A. But it's a fresh approach. A similair story set in Montana would have been less interesting I think. But the message is a true one. With thousands of men and women fighting in Iraq today, with newspaper headlines like 'Nightmare at Walter Reeds Army Medical Center': This is an important film. Like Dead Presidents, this film examines how violence of war can be spilled on the streets back home. The best scene for me in this film was the scene where Bale is interviewed by the high brass and (presumably) a CIA-operative who wants him doing the 'good job' in Colombia. In that room sits a man who is damaged, but not yet beyond repair. But the powers that be want him to do the dirty work that needs to be done. The tragedy of it all: we (yes, WE as a society) need people like Bale's character. And we are outraged when our leaders sent young people to war. We are outraged when they are not taken care off. We should be outraged by the fact that we still need people doing 'the good job' for us. Because it's not us who pay the price.
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The Guardian (I) (2006)
Respect for the sacrifice vs. respect for the movie-going public
6 March 2007
With these kinda films, I'm always torn between two thoughts: I want to judge the film on it's own merits. But I also want to respect the men and woman (in uniform) the film portrays. It's like George W. Bush telling me to respect the men and women fighting terror: I don't agree with his policy, but the men and woman he sends abroad fighting terror deserve and do earn my respect. So my conclusion: the men and women of the Coast Guard deserve a film like this, but the movie-going public deserved a better film.

The Guardian doesn't separate itself by anything other than a cool movie poster. The script is corny (and borrows heavily from films like An Officer and a Gentleman), the production is pretty bland and the special effect are not that good. And then there is the acting: Costner walks around like he hasn't been inspired by a role in years and Kutcher... he should stay doing pranks: because the kid CAN NOT ACT.

Overall is this is like many other "homage to the uniform" films (like We Were Soldiers, Ladder 49 etc.): the people portrayed deserve our respect, but we deserve, as paying film fans, a better film.
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The Departed (2006)
Great names, but a great film....?
19 February 2007
The Departed starts of very promising, but along the way the film loses momentum and credibility. It's a great Hong Kong flick. Why? Because you know it's a comic book, it's not real life. Like the old film noirs from the 40's and 50's: you know you are not looking at real life, but at one dimensional cardboards. And thats great fun!

But it's not a great Hollywood flick. Because it tries to add realism to a not so realistic story. The dialogue is very good, but the actions taken by it's characters (who are one dimensional) are a mysteries. If you present it real, you have to explain. If you present it as entertainment, you don't have too. That the main weakness of The Departed for me. Also, it's not a Scorcese picture. It's a bland film, that could have been made by almost any TV director. The actors are great and work with some fantastic dialogue, although Matt Damon and Mark Walhberg really can't act and should stay doing action films. The crew delivers top notch work, but for me: it still doesn't work.

It feels to convulted and I have the feeling that (even though the film runs at 2 1/2 hours) most character motivation was left on the cutting room floor.
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Don't kill the messenger
14 February 2007
Children of men is warning. It's an opinion from someone who is fed up with the state of the world and extrapolates his vision of today's world to a not too distant future.

The world today exists only out of sound bites and religious arrogance: The evil-doers, democracy, freedom, natural resources on and on and on.... Off course everyone knows God is on their side. They are right, everyone else is wrong. If THEY won't listen...lets bomb them.

But what if God decides to leave mankind altogether? That means everyone is wrong. What then? That's the main point of CoM. Mankind loses it's ability to procreate. This means ALL of mankind will be gone...within the next 70 to 80 years. Anarchy rules the world with the exception of Great Britain. The rest of the world is in chaos. Asylumseekers (white and black alike) try to get into Britain, only to be handled as third class citizens. Terrorists and activists say they are there to fight for the rights of illegals, but a closer look reveals they only care about themselves. CoM is not perfect, so is its script, but it tries to find a balance between art and entertainment. In a world filled with brain dead films like Click, My Super Ex Girlfriend or National Treasure, this film is a diamond. And the courage of its makers should be cherished.

Many people do not or will not like this film. That means they don't like today's world. They should be shocked when a coffeeshop is bombed - killing everyone inside, they should cringe when an activist is shot and dies. They should not like it when a supposed asylum seeker is yanked of a bus and blindfolded by armed men. But this is the world today. Why is it that we are shocked by a film (fiction) and are unaffected by news footage (real world)? To say that this filmmaker glorifies violence for entertainment, is to truly expose yourself as ignorant. Close your eyes, count to ten, change the channel and everything will be fine. Sorry, it won't. Open your eyes and take action. That's what Children of Men does.
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