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30 for 30: The Two Escobars (2010)
Season 1, Episode 16
A good story
20 September 2010
The title is important to note. This is, much like the recent "King of Kong", a strictly structured and carefully trimmed story, grafted out of real events. It is probably mostly true, but what we see is a heavily controlled emotional piece of filmmaking, designed to tug our heartstrings and send a message. It's a bit more "based on a true story" than a documentary.

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

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

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

All in all, however, this is a very watchable documentary, both for fans and non-fans of "soccer".
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As good as a documentary gets
13 February 2009
King of Kong is a simple enough story, and if you're confused why the matter of who's the best at some obsolete arcade game would make interesting movie material, it's totally understandable.

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

Technically, the storyline is perfectly set up. There's a great buildup, suspense, drama, music, and a good finish. It really works as a feel-good movie, and even if you have no interest in or knowledge of arcade games, you will recognize the age-old story of a man trying to prove himself against the authority. So enjoy the crazy, larger-than-life geekery in the unexpected little gem.
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Poor on many levels.
5 August 2008
Mutant Chronicles shows its true colours from the start; a very basic intro animation and a plot line summed up in one sentence. What follows is more of the same; no-budget animation, poor writing, and many other faults.

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

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

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

So in short, don't watch this movie. It's not good. It's not funny-bad either. It's just an in-betweener, and failed enterprise. Hopefully the director will learn from his mistakes and make a better movie next time.
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In Bruges (2008)
Morality, violence, character acting, what more can you ask for?
5 July 2008
In Bruges was one of those movies you could see becoming great from a distance. The trailer definitely showed promise and the cast and concept seemed good. A while went and I forgot about it, but then it suddenly movie popped up again, so of course I went to see it.

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

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

If you liked Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, or Layer Cake, or any other subtle off-beat dark comedy, then this is definitely for you. Beware of blood and violence at some parts, and heavy themes at others. This is not a movie to take lightly, but give it a chance, it's worth it.
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Street Kings (2008)
Another Ayer movie
7 June 2008
Ayer doesn't disappoint, but doesn't excel; Street Kings is a good movie and little else. Comparisions to his other movies are inevitable.

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

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

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

All in all, Street Kings is a solid 7/10.
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Iron Man (2008)
Finally a decent superhero movie
13 May 2008
Iron Man avoids many of the embarrassing clichés of the previous superhero movies. You know what I mean; the hour of boring explanation why the hero really needs to become more interesting, the pause half-way to ponder Responsibility or Redemption or whatever, the troubled love relations that doesn't make sense. Go away, says this movie, and what's left is entertainment, pure and simple.

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

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

All in all, Iron Man is better than most A-level superhero movies such as the Batman reboot or Spiderman. It is fun, engaging and clever, sometimes relatively original, and very, very likable. Go see it in the cinema while you have time.
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Steamboy (2004)
Strange mix...
27 April 2008
Anyone who has seen Akira or Memories would have doubts about Otomo's ability to create a children's movie. Yes, Steamboy is made for a much younger audience than Akira, but at the same time it uses many of the concepts and visuals from it. When you mix child-friendly entertainment with huge orbs crushing cities, it gets weird.

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

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

I think we all agree that it would have been better if Otomo spent those 20 million dollars on another dark, deep masterpiece, but Steamboy is still worthwhile and an achievement in animation.
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Cynical, no-holds shocker...and more
18 April 2008
I can't rate this movie. On one hand, it's a poor, no-budget gorefest with unnecessary animal cruelty and exploitation. On the other hand, it's haunting, atmospheric and thought trough. One thing is sure; there will never be a movie like this again.

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

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

In the end, the movie does give you a little moral tidbit, which doesn't surprise or irritate. The movie-makers doesn't need to tell their point, we've been shown well enough. Not even Chuck Pahlaniuk can conjure up such distrust and disgust in mankind. For this, Cannibal Holocaust will always be remembered.
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Persepolis (2007)
A life story told in animation
18 March 2008
Plot summary: It really blows living in Iran. Luckily that description is a lot simpler than the image we get in "Persepolis". The movie-makers paint an image of a normal country, just like all others under the influence of the West, and filled with people trying to get along with the oppressive theocracy that still rules there.

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

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

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

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

So watch this movie and revel in the gorgeous animation, widen your horizon a bit in the story-line, laugh at the moments of humour and feel the lump in your throat in the sad parts.
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Perfect Blue (1997)
Dreadfully cheery Japanese pop idol meets psycho-sexual horror...
11 March 2008 why aren't you getting this movie right now? Perfect Blue is what ninety-nine percent of all "twist" thrillers the last twenty years have failed to become: A scary, fast-paced and ruthless story that actually makes sense at the end without feeling too contrived. Even after what should have been the death blow for "twist" movies in the final scenes of Scary Movie(the original, which actually had a bit of an edge), we see them again and again, but not here.

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

If you found your way to this movie, you are probably as ready as you can get to watch it. If this is your first anime, choose another. If you are queasy or easily frightened, harden up. Fans of Lynch, Hitchcock should be satisfied.
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Screwed in Tallinn (1999 TV Movie)
Perfect mix of tragedy and comedy
12 February 2008
If you have some the least bit of shadenfreude in you, this movie will have you in stitches. The actors, screenwriters and the director should all be praised for their ability to turn something so horribly sad and pathetic as a sex/marriage trip for single men to Estonia to something this insanely funny.

You see the characters created fantastically by the experienced Killing gang and shudder; could this have been me? Will I ever end up like this? This passes quickly as someone says something screamingly funny or so cringe-worthy you can feel your skin crawl.

The plot moves perfectly, set to the wastes of mid-Sweden and the suburbs of Estonia. The characters, the buildup, the tension and the angst leads to an apocalyptic and hysterical finale that you will never forget.

Never, ever see this movie alone, single, dumped or depressed.
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Shower (1999)
Funny, gripping, beautiful, sad, overlooked
2 February 2008
Xizao is a rare little movie. It is simple and undemanding, and at the same time so rewarding in emotion and joy. The story is simple, and the theme of old and new clashing is wonderfully introduced in the first scenes. This theme is the essence of the movie, but it would have fallen flat if it wasn't for the magnificent characters and the actors portraying them.

The aging patriarch, Master Liu, is a relic of China's pre-expansion days. He runs a bath house in an old neighbourhood. Every single scene set in the bath house is a source of jelaousy for us stressed out, unhappy people. Not even hardened cynics can find any flaws in this wonderful setting.

Master Liu's mentally handicapped son Er Ming is the second truly powerful character in the movie, coupled with his modern-life brother. The interactions between these three people, and the various visitors to the bath house, are amazingly detailed and heart-felt, with some scenes packing so much emotion it's beyond almost everything seen in movies.

With its regime-critical message, this movie was not only censored, but also given unreasonably small coverage. It could be a coincidence, but when a movie of this caliber is virtually impossible to find, even on the internet(!), you can't help getting suspicious.

So help free speech and the movie world, buy, rent, copy this wonderful movie, and if you happen to own the DVD, if there even is one, then share share share!
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Pi (1998)
Darren Aronosfky doesn't disappoint
12 January 2008
Pi is an overlooked little masterpiece. Using the tricky subject of mathematics and combining it with heavy black and white footage, drug abuse, Lynchean moodiness and untested actors and still coming out with a great movie is an achievement, especially considering the movie had a budget smaller than the price of a good car.

The actors are all unknowns, unless you regularly watch Aronofsky. The lead is very convincing and a treat to watch as he spirals into the scary world of number-obsessed big fish. His mentor is a lovely albeit stereotypical foreigner, well played by Mark Margolis. Supporting cast varies, as is expected, but on average excellent.

The movie is shot in black and white, with contrast cranked up on max, and it looks surprisingly good. The "effects" look lovely and though simple they are very effective. Some dark scenes are too dark but everything with lights looks gorgeous.

The story is fast-moving and never dull, and there is a lot of well-built tension and awe-inspiring scenes. There are no jump scenes but plenty of scary and powerful moments. Warning, it WILL make you think.

And last but not least, the MUSIC! Pi features a perfect soundtrack, so suited the movie even Tarantino can't brag next to it. When Massive Attack came on, I decided this was indeed an awesome movie. Lots of great(and suitable) techno, electronic and even stranger music. Not a soundtrack worth buying, but man, does it make the movie work.

So all in all, Pi is a great late-night movie, can be enjoyed on your own and must be shown in pitch dark. Enjoy this lovely slice of weirdness.
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Memories (1995)
Classic anime
6 January 2008
After seeing Akira it's natural to be curious of what Otomo's produced. This collection of short movies(all more than 20 minutes though) is a fun, action-packed and imaginative reminder why anime is among the best genres, and NOT restricted to kids(or in the case of these shorts, not really for kids at all).

The last short of the three is called Cannon Fodder. It features a very cool style unlike normal anime, some neat "camera" tricks and illusions of 3D, and a heavy but playful mood. It's quirky and good but not great.

The second short is called Stink Bomb, which is a crazy, fast-paced disaster/action story with a healthy dose of black humour. It's very well made, with insanely detailed tanks, helis, airplanes etc, and lots of explosions. The whole thing is funny and bizarre, and easily a classic.

The first of the three shorts, which in my opinion should have been saved to last, is Magnetic Rose. Here the humour of the two others is gone, and we have a very gripping and serious story set in a sci-fi environment. This is more like Otomo's Akira stuff; epic but with great characters. Some scenes are gut-wrenchingly emotional and disturbing. All set to a classic opera score, it is chilling and eerie and grand-scale in a way Hollywood never seems to get right.

If you like to watch the occasional anime, this is a very good choice. Don't know how easy it is to get a hold of, but it seems to be very popular at least in Japan.
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Vanilla Sky (2001)
Extraordinary movie
11 November 2007
Vanilla Sky shows that a remake of a European movie doesn't automatically suck. This is largely because Vanilla Sky is pretty much a scene-by-scene copy of the original Spanish Abre los Ojos. The unique thing is, they do a much better job than the Spanish creators. Abre los Ojos get's credit for their cool idea and for a good movie, but Vanilla Sky takes that material and creates more than a brain-twister; it's simply an amazing movie.

While the original had good actors, Vanilla Sky has better ones. Maybe it's because it's in English, but I think it's more than that. Tom Cruise plays the role of his lifetime, very believable and also likable as David Aames, the man with everything he could ever wish for. If you think Cruise is just a pretty face, just wait and see and the movie will prove you wrong. Penelop Cruz, returning from Abre los Ojos to repeat her role as Sofia, is cute as a button but in no way superficial. Cameron Diaz is simply scary and shows she handles a dramatic role excellently. The rest of the cast is also very good, down to little details.

Direction is nice, with occasional quick cuts but mostly just solid and still interesting. New York always looks good on film and Vanilla Sky is no exception. There is a spectacular scene in the start of the movie that perfectly sets the mood for the movie.

The biggest difference between Abre los Ojos and Vanilla Sky is the soundtrack. While Abre los Ojos had an alright soundtrack, Vanilla Sky's one is simply amazing, well worth buying actually. Every scene has a fresh, interesting and suiting choice of music, many songs so out- there for the scene but still very effective. "Good Vibrations" is a good example of a song that really shouldn't work, but does.

If you're looking for a mystery with some surreal overtones and a very satisfying ending(yes, it all makes sense in the end!), look no further.
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Kiwi! (2006)
The most emotional thing you'll see all day
25 October 2007
This wonderful little animation is the sweetest, cutest and most emotionally engaging little movie you'll see in months.

The animation is simplistic, and works really well. The score, the same.

The cuteness is not overdone, and works just perfectly. Check it out on Youtube and enjoy.

There is really not much to say about it, just watch it and love it.

Almost brings a tear to my cynical eye, which doesn't happen every day!

Check it out today and be a little happier...what more can I say? 10-line rule go to hell, more comments than this ruins it!
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Oldboy (2003)
Complex, challenging masterpiece that puts Hollywood to shame.
20 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
While Hollywood is slowly choking to death on clichés and unrealistic budgets, the movie lovers turn their attention to Asia. Especially interesting is Korea's emerging movie industry. Japan has a long tradition of quality horror and anime and China dominates the epics with state-sponsored spectacles. Which place Korea will take we don't know but if Oldboy is any inclination it would be intelligent, disturbing drama-action movies.

Oldboy has an extremely intelligent and edgy script, which will make you think and question your morals. It would NEVER be picked up in Hollywood. Even the initial concept of being locked up for 15 years without apparent reason would be deemed to strange for the audience. Thankfully, the Korean producers could see the brilliance of the script and give it a shot. It's budget is some $4 million, which is amazingly well used.

Oldboy is very much the child of it's director, Chan-Wook Park, who's name should warrant a lot more fame than it does. The camera-work and pacing is amazing. There are virtually no dull moments. The fighting scenes are used to compliment to movie, not to give a reward after half an hour's boredom.

The lead actors are no less amazing. Min-Sik Choi is a perfect anti-hero. Unlike the Western antiheroes, he even has the looks of an everyman, which makes his transformation so much more spectacular. The lead actress is a bit understates in my opinion, but memorable never the less. The best one is by far Ji-Tae Ju, the charismatic villain. He dominates every scene he's in, a sort of Korean Christian Bale American Psycho.

Music and choreography is great as well. All the details and the grit makes the movie really come alive. At the end, you are in awe, a rare feeling for a movie. The feeling stays with you for days. Occasionally you will think of the movie and shake your head, unbelieving someone could actually pull it off.

So do yourself a favor, watch Oldboy. You will not be disappointed.
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Paprika (2006)
Uplifting, visually achieved movie
11 September 2007
Having myself entertained myself with lucid dreaming for about a year(not so much these days though), and being fond of well-made anime movies, I instantly knew I needed to watch Paprika. I had to wait quite a while after hearing about the movie before I could see it; by chance a film festival aired it in the city I live in.

My expectations were ridiculously high and I expected nothing less than a fully blown mind; maybe even a new understanding of the universe, and why not all-power fullness while we're at it. After seeing the movie, I felt slightly disappointed but I realize that it's purely based on my much too high expectations.

Most of all, the movie is uplifting, optimistic in tone and a great reminder of all that's great about lucid dreaming. I found myself seeing things I knew were typical for the subject, even things I had experienced myself. If you have ever had a good lucid dream, you will get so much more out of this movie. If you're a LD novice, this movie can be a good starting step to get the motivation to start out adventuring in your sleep.

This obviously made me appreciate the movie more, but even if we remove that layer, Paprika is a very good movie. It is technically stunning, with very few of the normal anime time saving tricks. For it's subject it is very light, and the psycho-babble is kept to a bare minimum for the audience who know nothing about the subject.

The storyline moves fast, often leaving to you to figure out what just happened, but never straying so far as to make you lose track. It's a good mix of conventional and "thinking man's movie".

The soundtrack is good but we don't get to hear enough of it. The English dubbing was surprisingly good, with the detective Konogawa(or Kogawa? Might be some translation mishap here) and the geeky but good-hearted boy genius who's name escapes me.

In conclusion, be sure to check this movie out if you want a good anime feature, or if you're interested in LDing in general. Remember, it never hurts to try something new.
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Kuk Dong delivers a poor but amusing Godzilla ripoff.
26 August 2007
I mean...the company is called Kuk Dong. If you speak Swedish, that is quite funny. Otherwise its just random. review.

A giant monsters appears after a space shuttle launch. It goes to crush a model of a Korean city. An annoying kid uses his flashlight to make Yonggary dance. After much pointless destruction, a random scientist dumps a load of toxins on Yonggary and he dies a painful, withering death.

It's standard stuff here, folks, but very quaint and amusing in it's production. It's got some random stuff, like the Korean priest shouting repent in one of the crowd scenes, and the epileptic rave scene. Otherwise it's Godzilla from start to finish, complete with terrible models, a supremely cheesy space sequence, and pointless, unintroduced characters.

Yonggary has got a neat cutting beam that he slices a motorcycle and a jet fighter(straight out of Team America) in half with.

If you want some late night cheese, this is it.
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EuroTrip (2004)
A small classic for us Europeans
27 February 2007
Comedies like this is hard to rate. It's a bad movie, technically, acting-wise and in many other aspects. But it's funny, no denying that. After all, isn't that what comedies are about?

You would think a comedy like this would appeal only to Americans, but you are wrong. I know Germans, Aussies, Swedes and Hollanders who like this movie. I'm sure there are Brits, Italians, Eastern Europeans and Balkans who like it as well. You have to be able to laugh at yourself.

What the movie is about is a bunch of typical teens going for a little quest through Europe in search of the dream girl. Nothing new here. The misadventures on the way, the xenophobic jokes and stereotypes and odd characters are what you laugh at. Vinnie Jones as a crazy ManU supporter, Rade Serbedzija as a Bratislavian truck driver, and many other not that well- known actors doing silly and memorable roles.

Some scenes work, some don't. Some are really funny, like the robot battle outside the Louvren, and the Italian pervert smoking a post-sex cigarette. Matt Damon turns up somewhat unexpectedly in the USA and sings the catchy "Scotty doesn't know" song.

All in all, this is a great comedy to watch with your friends, and even better in international company.
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Contact (1997)
A classic serious sci-fi
28 January 2007
In 2006, more Americans would vote for a black than an atheist for presidency. Nothing strange in that. In 2006, with the on-going Iraq war and the massive tensions between Western and Islamic values, more Americans would vote for a Muslim than an atheist. Now THAT is alarming.

I'm not making a statement against Muslims here. I'm just shocked that, in spite of the Islamophobia, in spite of the radical fundamentalists in (nuclear?) Iran, in spite of the Muslims holding the no. 1 spot as Villains in movies, news and culture, Americans still think atheists are more untrustworthy.

This is one of Contact's points. Without spoiling anything, it's safe to say that Jodie Foster's character is held back thanks to her (non)-belief. Instead, the good stuff goes to the believer, and in a spot of irony, it's also lost thanks to a believer. When I first saw Contact, I didn't find it very realistic that all the religious people would be more content with choosing a contending religion instead of a neutral part, but the numbers above stumps me.

All politics aside, Contact is a great movie. The first scene sets the scope perfectly and beautifully. Some scenes are very, very tense, thankfully avoiding the Hollywood Happy Music and instead going for a subtle, dramatic and threatening score.

This and Silence of the Lambs will always be the two best Jodie Foster movies. Even though she is a great actress, I can't believe she will ever top this. She is nicely balanced by Matthew McConaughey, who, coincidentally, is a man of faith. Jake Busey plays a truly unsettling character, Joseph, who shows the greatest sides of blind faith. We even get to see some of William Fichtner, which I always consider a bonus in a movie.

The plot is grand, to say the least. Carl Sagan always was a man of visions and even though I have not read the book, I can feel the scope and scale of it is very Sagan. Some people mean that Sagan's strong anti-religious stance in the book is diluted in the movie, which may or may not be true. Personally, I think a movie that wants to open a dialog is worth more than one dismissing the other idea all together.

When all's said and done, Contact is one of the greatest science-fiction movies ever made, in the genre's purest form. People who dislike Star Wars, Star Trek, Alien and the like, should not worry; Contact is thoughtful and more about humanity than anything else. It's rating here at IMDb, an American site, reinforces the aforementioned figures. Had it been the same movie with a pro-religious message, I think this would have been high up in the top 250, and I hope that one day it will be.
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Solid and an interesting start
25 January 2007
Good blend of CGI and journalism type hand-cam stuff. Most of the things we see look realistic, except the aliens themselves, since makeup is still very expensive compared to CGI. Seeing Independence Day style ships hover over Johannesburg was probably the coolest part.

In terms of plot feels very short and a little rushed, but nevertheless shows some promise for Neil as a special effects guy and possibly a director. The movie is an obvious jab at apartheid and the irony in humanity. Various black people who not two decades ago where themselves oppressed react with fear and suspicion towards the aliens.

It's available on the Internet, so you should check it out. It will be interesting to see what Neil can do with larger projects.
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Entertaining martial arts movie
21 January 2007
There really is nothing new to see in Ong-Bak when it comes to acting, directing, plot or any other filmatic aspects. There's some emotion and tension that builds up as the simple plot unravels and the final scenes rounds up the movie nicely. Other than that, what makes Ong-Bak so good is Tony Jaa's honed fighting skills.

This is a martial arts movie, expecting a fantastic plot or fantastic drama is silly. If you are put off by the idea of watching various guys either getting their ass kicked or kicking the hero's ass spectacularly with a little plot thrown in to tie(a-ha)it all together then this is not the movie for you. Chinese action movies with fancy wires and fantastic colours and poetry instead, maybe? That's the other part Ong-Bak wins a lot on. As cool as it is seeing someone fight over a lake in the air, or slicing a million arrows with their dress, you feel it's not real. Ong-Bak proudly boasts with it's "No wires, no CG, no stunt doubles" policy, and they should. Seeing a man getting a tremendous kick to the throat in slow-mo delivers even more when you know it's not a trick(or as close to not a trick a movie can get you).

After four years of training(for real, that is), Tony Jaa's Ting is ready to take on the world, and he does. The "Muay Korat" fighting style looks exotic and fresh after the overuse of Kung-Fu and the like in American movies. There are some pretty lethal-looking moves that really makes you go "ouch!" The usual obvious plot holes, such as "why does no-one use a gun?" and "why do they attack him one and one?" are avoided as well.

If you like these sorts of movies then Ong-Bak is a fresh breath of air, just as good as any Hong-Kong movie. I kinda wish my home country had any fighting styles worth making a movie of...
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Way over the top
17 January 2007
When you have such a dark, grumbling and stone-faced person as Batman, what should you NOT do? That's right, add wacky, over-the-top goof-ball villains! Tom Lee Jones stars in his second movie featuring him as a psycho and U2 on the soundtrack. He guffaws, he sneers, he sobs, he smiles manically and gives as physical as a performance as his aging body allows.

Pity, then, that he fades completely in every scene Jim Carrey is in, or every scene where we expect him to enter soon, which are all of Lee's scenes. And it's no wonder. Jim Carrey is his usual wacko character, grimacing and silly-walking his way through the movie. While that's usually fun to watch, Joel Schumachers tilting direction makes it all slightly nauseating.

He does have some of the best lines, and there's nothing wrong with his performance. I stress 'his', cause there was plenty of wrong with the others. Chris O'Donnel juts his jaw and strains his face, throwing lines left and right without the slightest fore-thought. Nicole Kidman stands around looking sassy and gets some of the worst lines.

Val Kilmer is totally bland, and were it not for "Heat" I would not be able to recall how he looked. And we covered Tom Lee Jones. There are a few other roles, all of them filled with people busting to top Jim Carreys performance. The only one we can trust is old Michael Gough, the butler.

There are plenty of phony-looking gun fights and explosions, large sets that actually give you the unusual gut feeling that the money could have been used to build that house in Gambia or Etiopia, and more innuendo than you can stand, ranging from the obvious(closeup of the Batbutt with a mysterious zipper) to the slightly more sublime(Alfred calling Robin "Master Dick").

Unless you're a Jim Carrey fan or like camp-noir movies, then there's nothing for you to see here. Move along.
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Pretty much spectacular
15 January 2007
Ghost in the Shell is a cinematic gem of considerable carat. Blending over-the-top action, fantastic imagery, thought-provoking philosophy and suspense is not easy, but it seems Japanese animation is quite good at it. I imagine pitching this would have been hard in the west.

As cool as Ghost in the Shell is with it's many gadgets, gunfights and futuristic settings, it is actually an almost talky(the right amount and level, thankfully) philosophic exploration. Individuality, memory, personality, intelligence and the definition of life are some of the issues the film discusses, without giving a definite verdict on any of them. Not even the supposed villain of the movie is singled out as the source of all evil, which happens all too often in movies.

There is a good amount of action and a complex plot to rush your drifting mind, however. For example, the "weapon design" credit was an early one, and there's a lot of futuristic hardware and technology used on screen. The people of Ghost in the Shell are technophiles, no doubt about it, and some take it to almost absurd levels. Ironically, it's also all the tech that makes them so insecure and thoughtful.

Then, at point, the movie takes time to be just beautiful. The never-named city(we can assume it's Tokyo or neo-Tokyo, it always is) is a contrasted entity, mysterious and great to behold. Scenes with the rain, people in the streets, and a hauntingly beautiful score are probably the best parts of the entire movie.

Keep in mind, that this is probably not the best movie to watch lazily. Although it's action, it's far from van Damme, and you have to make an effort to keep up with the plot and the philosophy. Another tip: Try to watch it subbed. Dubbing takes away a lot of the wonder of unfamiliarity. Oh, and it usually sucks.

A side-note: Try to count the things the Wachovski brothers borrowed for the Matrix!
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