JW-30

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Reviews

Only Lovers Left Alive
(2013)

hollow shells
Wonderful imagery. style and atmosphere in the extreme. great acting. Beauty in many forms: you get a lot for your eyes. Also, depending on your taste in music, there is also a lot for your ears.

For your brain, sadly, not as much.

"Only lovers left alive" is filled with a lot of name-dropping, by word, picture and sometimes sound. Whether you find that fascinating or pretentious depends on your taste.

But what this movie really lacks is a story. The characters are throughout and the dialogue may be scarce, but has some dry humour and snappy lines. That doesn't save it from going nowhere. Glaring plot holes may make you cringe at times. And the pacing looks like Jarmush tried to surpass Kaurismäki in terms of slowness. If so, he won.

So perhaps this movie is best tasted in the state its protagonists enter after relishing an excellent glass of blood: dazed, blissful, and somewhat drugged.

The Counselor
(2013)

Good everything. Bad script.
Actors and production values are of really good quality, you get to see memorable scenes and some good acting as well - but all in all, this movie is less than bland: it drains.

The script about a drug deal gone wrong, a greedy lawyers ruining his otherwise perfect life - that could've been an excellent thriller. But this movie doesn't thrill. It has extreme graphic violence, intense and intimate sex scenes, car chases, well planned and executed murder, luxurious settings - but it doesn't thrill.

It has good and highly paid actors, an excellent director - but the characters don't come to life, they feel like cardboard cutouts.

There is one big fault this movie has, and that's its script. Wordy monologues (and it has half a dozen) don't make a movie bad or boring, if they fit in well. The monologues here don't. Gangsters with philosophical musings can be funny, entertaining, tragic or sometimes even believable - here, it doesn't fit. (The list goes on, I better stop.)

Now, Cormac McCarthy is know to be an excellent author, at age of 80 still writing stories that win awards. Some of his books have been made into great films - after professional scriptwriters adapted them into movie scripts. This is the first script he wrote himself, and maybe he tries to learn scriptwriting now; but I'm afraid it will be a long way. Todays funny-zombie-movies or run-of-the-mill action flicks have better dramaturgy and dialogue than the script of The Counselor. There are different rules for what makes a book work, and what makes a movie work.

Avoid this movie, and watch "No Country for Old Men" instead. It's based on a Cormac McCarthy novel, the Coen brothers adapted it, and it turned out excellent. "The Counselor" - did not.

PS: The Counselor in this movie receives counsel from about everybody, from inmates to Mexican barkeepers, but himself never gives counsel. Was that intended as a joke? Didn't make me laugh.

Der Kameramörder
(2010)

wasted opportunity, wasted time
First off: good production values and acting.

But the script? Everything that made the book memorable, its main plot points, its mental core - is completely missing from the movie. Instead, you get some run-of-the-mill thriller fare. Which is forgettable, a waste of time.

The main point of the book was the interaction of media with murder, that media need and want murder for sensations - and some murderers want media to show their "works", providing them with the incentive to kill in the first place. And some lines of thought starting from that.

Did you find any of this in this movie? Guessed so.

So, 1 for the script, 7 for production and acting, results in 4 overall.

Avoid it, read the book instead.

Det grovmaskiga nätet
(2000)

a long insult to the Swedish police
It can be interesting at times to have a negative personality as your protagonist. Ill-tempered, inconsiderate, incompetent, boring: Van Veeteren is the police investigator assigned to a case of murder.

What does he do? No blood tests, no motives asked (nor found), no collecting facts, no time-line building, not checking for people who might have had a motive or hated the victims, no responsibility taken for his actions - Van Veeteren rather kicks another officer between the legs as a "reprimand" than admitting his own fault.

What does he do instead? He accuses and insults without proof, he forces the grieving spouse again and again to recount sexual details (without any use for the investigation, so probably for his own enjoyment), he wanders around with his sick dog, strains an ankle doing sports, passes judgment without anything to go on, gets other people in deep trouble and eventually killed, and doesn't seem to feel much remorse.

Now anti-heroes can be interesting by themselves. Sadly, this one is not - but maybe there is some social tension coming out of it? Nope. His colleagues are painted to be very much like Van Veeteren. Not professional, just incurious prejudiced dullards.

Is the Swedish police really like that, or is this movie intended to be a long, slow, boring insult to them? In either case, I cannot see any reason people would want to watch this. Don't waste your time on it like I did.

I like Swedish landscape, Swedish faces and good actors, and together with some production values these are the redeeming features earning this flick some points. But the story? Terrible.

The Expendables
(2010)

moar!
The upside:

A boys movie, with tough men being friends in a tough way, with lots of explosions, fighting, shooting, knife-throwing and more explosions. Yay! Plus seeing those great action heroes of the 80s and 90s again. I love the idea, and I got what I wanted - in fact, I ask for a second helping! Lots of names for additional cast are on my list... Kurt Russel, JCvD, Wesley Snipes, the Mayor are just the first that spring to mind.

The downside:

Most of the potential was wasted.

Yes, it's about action, not much else - but there is still room for rough sketches of motivations, situations, what is where and why, some basic plot that gives tension to the whole. But if you get just a torrent of action scenes that are blurry quick cuts where it gets hard to determine who is doing what to whom and how, it's not more fun, it's less. And I do want *more*!

The ending scenes and the song over the ending ("the boys are back in town") imply there may be a sequel. I'm looking forward to that, but PLEASE let somebody else do scriptwriting and directing! Stallone as producer and himself, err, Barney Ross - yes please. But to realize the potential, it needs some quality directing and script, which *this* instance did not have.

Even a "mindless action flick" can be well directed. Doesn't John Woo live in the USA now?

Hitman
(2007)

style lacking story
The styling is good, the camera reflects the games atmosphere. Many peculiarities of Agent 47 are there, both to be recognized and in their place. In relation to the female protagonist, 47 is still the one we know (phew!). The casting is adequate, and Olyphant is a good Agent 47. Shooting, fighting, blood, explosions, sinister and scheming baddies with armed henchmen - it's all there.

Yet, something is lacking.

The plot is not complex enough to make the twists interesting, and not simple enough to provide the (mindless but fun) entertainment a action/war B-movie does. The action scenes are good, but at the "quite-good-but-not-perfect" level french movies unfortunately often stop at. The last unarmed fight was edited with those extremely short cuts, which usually indicate the actual action was too bad to be shown unedited. Bit of an anticlimax, that.

It is a hard task to make a movie when the mental picture of the game is the measure against which viewers compare the movie. In this task, "Hit-man" succeeds - but fails in other departments.

I recommend this movie for fans of the Hit-man game series, and people who need to kill time ... with a coin and crossed akimbo pistols.

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
(2005)

In short: great visuals, good sound, so-so direction, bad script and really bad dialogue. Best actor: Yoda.
In my childhood, Star Wars was great. Episode IV through VI, I loved it. And of course I had to see the other Episodes. What a disappointment. The original Episodes dared and were a bit like child's play, like fairy tales in space. This was their charms. On the prequels, there were too much expectations, and Lucas - despite his power and money - didn't dare to frustrate any of them. But if all you get is expected, it gets more or less boring.

OK, the political aspect is good - how a democracy gets destroyed and replaced by a de-facto dictatorship: by creating an external threat, and then claiming you need more power and reduce citizens rights in order to fight that threat. This has worked since Caesar made himself dictator and his name became a title to his successors, and may work in all galaxies, even those far, far away. But it isn't news. At least it shouldn't be if you are a grown-up citizen of a democracy. Thanks, Mr. Lucas, for teaching the children. Oh, and yes: Hate, jealousy and greed lead to the dark side. They always have. Thanks for telling us again.

That was basically the best of content you get; the rest of the script is the very expected but coarsely explained (and acted) transformation of a jedi adept to a sith lord, some blah blah, and lots of fighting.

About the fighting sequences: technically, they are top. But dramatically, they are boring. Dead boring. Lucas never mastered the art of suspension, and it really shows - the faster the swords go, the larger the battles and the faster the cuts are, the less the viewer gets to participate emotionally. And if you don't really care for any of the characters on screen, it's just eye candy and then its over.

I didn't expect differently, so that's OK. What really annoyed me is Lucas' puritan perspective. Don't get me wrong - I don't want to see Padme and Anakin having sex on screen, thank you very much! But the characters are just puppets, not people. Nobody really eats, drinks, sleeps, bleeds; even the dirt looks polished. The places don't look like people ever have to cook, go to the toilet, or sleep for longer than the next cut. And the "love" story looks like a pre-puberty child imitating love stories it has seen with barbie and ken. Suspension of belief is perfectly OK for SciFi, but its different from "unrealistic".

One more nag: the names are just hilarious. I read in an article somewhere, "Mace Windu sounds like something you spray on colicky babies". Exactly, and there are more cases of bad design. Grievous is not scary, just awkward. I could go on for many more lines. Anyways.

The best acting was Yodas (or Frank Oz'?), probably because he got the best role - Ewan McGregor, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson and Nathalie Portman aren't bad, but the script just didn't give them any chance to show it. At least McGregor managed to get his screen presence and some charm across.

Conclusion: If you are a true SW fan, enjoy it. If you want your movies to have suspension or sense, avoid it. I don't really regret having spent the time and money, but others might.

One of Our Own
(1997)

Don't stay awake for this one
Conventional story, but it puts up some speed. A partial cover of "The Presidio (1988)", its a pretty obvious story filmed in a conventional way. The plot points come in rapid succession, it isn't exactly boring - but not original either. A non-thrilling "thriller". It's OK to waste some time before going to bed, but nothing to set your clock for.

Ironside gives a good display of his most annoyed, sleepdeprived and angry faces. If you're into collecting these, this film is for you...

I'm not surprised mine is the first comment, because you have to write at least ten lines, and there is not really much more to say about this movie. The cop buddies have to take a leave in order to continue their investigations, one is grouchy and the other loquacious, and so on. Some parts are surprisingly good, Ironside and Graham know their job, but some of the other cast are, um, not at their best.

Splinter Cell
(2002)

worst movement controls I've ever experienced
I can't write much about this game, except that it has the worst movement controls I have ever experienced in any game. Ever. And I've got several hundred boxes on my shelves here.

I was excited about playing another sneaker, after the Thief series was lacking the third part for a long time, so I thought I give splinter cell a try. The training mission was good and interesting, and quickly brought me into the "I want to play this" mood. The movement controls/logic, however, were so extremely bad I didn't play the game further than the second map - it is the second game ever I threw away. Really.

If you plan to spend money on this game, make sure you can test play it a bit before, so you can decide for yourself whether you get along with the movement controls.

For the Cause
(2000)

remake, anyone?
Some good idea and dialogue don't save the script from being too slow-paced for most moviegoers. That's no problem for me - but it lacks depth to make up for its length.

I appreciate the plot and I *really* appreciate something found almost only in B- and C-Movies - main characters getting killed. Permanently, no comeback. A remake with sufficient budget could result in a good mini-series, but I am afraid they wouldn't dare to have expensive actors only in parts of the movie - and then, it couldn't work.

So, in any case, interesting aspects, and potential that was not realized. If anybody tries a remake - really try to get it right, please, and put some more time in background and character development. You can save on the (cheap) atmospheric pictures. And: Don't count on your audience to know the Warhammer(tm) stories.

Unbreakable
(2000)

empty mystery
This movie has good suspense, but the mystery that slowly builds up is resolved to - nothing. Once the bubble bursts, you are left with the stale feeling you have been betrayed, and wasted your time watching this one. The positive thing about this movie is the open ending.

Seelenwanderung
(1962)

what is a soul good for?
The story itself seems simple - a little parable about what you need a soul for, and what makes you human. Maybe life is easier without guilt and conscience, maybe power and wealth do make happy - but wouldn't you feel something lacking if you had to give up your soul for it?

What makes this worth seeing is the acting, the dry dialogue, and plenty of short scenes. These scenes are very good at giving you an impression of the transitions Bum undergoes, and his rise in wealth, society and power - without many words, just a second or two each.

Made for TV in the early sixties of last century, the production is close to its time and the place the story takes place in (most likely Berlin), but not fixed to it. While it is also interesting to see what things and places looked like at that time, the story could easily be transferred through the ages, even back to ancient Rome or Greece.

This is nothing for your average movie-goer, but a fine and thoughtful little story that gives you a bit to think about. I hope it is also entertaining and fun to watch for others, as it was to me.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
(2003)

Good idea, but bad script
The basic idea is good - assemble some fictional turn-of-the-century heroes, and let them once again save the world. It could have turned out interesting, or even great. But it failed to be anything, except hilarious and embarassing. And that's not the fault of the CGI, or the - somewhat inadequately cast - actors. Its primarily because there is *no* script to speak of, let alone dialogue - and because of *bad* direction. Fast cuts don't make interesting action, stylish scenes alone don't make atmosphere.

I could try to list the numerous failures, but I don't think I've got sufficient space here (nor the time for it). This waste of money and time (no brains involved) is an embarassment for everybody involved, and I feel ashamed for Connery to act and even co-produce (as executive producer) in something that makes Plan 9 look intellectual.

If you haven't seen it, avoid it. If you have, try to forget it.

Effects and setting save this from a flat 1, but its a very thin 3 i give this bomb.

Poem - Ich setzte den Fuß in die Luft und sie trug
(2003)

indeed: he put his foot into air, and it bore
A series of poems, from different (famous) authors and about different topics, with no inner connection except they are poems. And pictures NOT to match, but rather to extend - most unexpected, but fitting the poems nevertheless. Weird little scenes; I will not give examples, because it takes away the wonder. Some of these scenes I liked a lot; others were just too strong and distracted from the words. But all in all, it is very good, and I'll go and see it a second time.

Sorry, it is hard to write about german language poetry in english. I should stop here.

Just this: you need an open mind, love of poetry (or of strange things), and time. Then you will enjoy this film. And no, you don't need to know anything beforehand.

Suspect Device
(1995)

Good ideas, cheap implementation
If you ignore the cheesy Corman-level of special effects, direction, and all things related to budget, this turns out to be a good movie. No, really. In the first 30, 40 Minutes you may shake your head in disbelief, how miscast the main character for it role is - but later on, the story gets going, and it all fits. Nice ideas, especially for the genre.

OK, it is still a cheesy, cheap flick, but I am about certain, if it was filmed with expensive actors, effects and direction, there would be about nothing left of what makes it interesting. They simply wouldn't have dared to leave the good parts of the story intact, especially the ending (which I rather like).

It's good for TV; it's an OK rental, it's a no-no for cinema - except for those trash-movie "vote your movies" nights, if you have those where you live. If it's on TV and you don't have anything else to do, watch it.

Within the Rock
(1996)

Cheap, but better
Its cheap. The effects, the actors, everything on low budget. However, the script and direction are is quite good - compared to Michael Bay's Armageddon, which is extremely lame and boring once you leave out all the expensive effects and high-pay actors. Heck, it is even _with_ them, if your mind happens to wake up during the show. In contrast, this movie is original (in parts), it's refreshing low on pathos, and by far less expensive in production. I'd chose it over Armageddon anytime.

The alien sidestory is obvious, and OK. I hope director and writer Mr. Tunicliffe, whose other works are primarily in the special make-up department, will find time to hone his directing and writing abilities. There's potential, but he needs training.

Not bad for his first script and direction! 6/10, especially in comparison with Armageddon

Le pacte des loups
(2001)

good story, bad movie
The script could have made a great movie: with horrific killings in the countryside, two tough men sent to investigate, the court of france and the church drawing strings - you'd get not only sex, crime, politics, but also fights, lovestory and nice scenery in one package.

Sadly, the direction messed up what was good in there. Mr. Gans was left with too much toys to play with, and he wasted too much film minutes with cheap effects and martial arts. I am not against martial arts - quite to the contrary; and I appreciate well-placed effects, even in high dosages.

But everybody and his nephew being capable of spin-kicks, sword-fighting and skilled at shooting? Come on, this is supposed to be medieval France! One or two characters with these proficiencies would have done the film well, supplementing other characters with other proficiencies. Apparently Mr. Gans got over-excited by having an expert martial arts trainer on the set, and was too eager to make a video clip lasting over two hours. Which does not work out.

Also, the story does not connect well. The basic concept is good, with several separate story parts, interwoven stories of politics, horror, cults and love, told from only two perspectives. But the way the pieces are put together, it stays lifeless at best, becomes hilarious at worst. I recall the whole audience laughing at a point that was supposed to be impressive.

Next time somebody tries to follow up on Sleepy Hollow, try to get it right, please. This movie could have been so much better, now its only an popcorn movie for teenagers (if they get admission).

An 3 for the movie as a whole; an 7 for script, locations and visuals; evens out at 5.

The Ren & Stimpy Show
(1991)

Awww... where can I get it on DVD, please?
Usually I am more into artsy stuff or stylish action, but this one... Ren & Stimpy really got me. It's gross, and immense fun. Because it ain't square at the least. I despise political correctness, it is for hypocrites - be decent all by yourself, or don't; just be as you are. One of the greatest qualities of Ren & Stimpy is its unrestrained humour, and its weirdness. Both go together; when there are rules, you cannot create truly bizarre stories. Kricfalusi had freedom, and used it well. The show lost a lot when Nickelodeon gave in to the hypocrites. I fondly remember the early R&S, and would not hesitate to show it my more distinguished and intellectual friends - because beneath among all the tastelessness, there are some amazing considerations about human nature, characters, relationships and the weird parts of the world in general. But then, I do like Starship Troopers for its intellectual value in respect to SF mainstream and current right wing politics... certainly not everybodys piece of cake.

Like Ren & Stimpy. Zap into two of the early episodes, and you'll see whether it is funny for you or not. And if you don't like, at least allow others to have their fun.

Die Polizistin
(2000)

Dogma-style, good realistic view - and still fun
The simple hand camera both gives some almost documentary feeling to this film, and also relates to the dogma films.

Did you ever get bored of those hollywood-style cop flicks with brawny guys who get assignments james bond would be envious of? Fed up with the married-living-single cop, the divorced-but-family-man, the personified doughnut and the tough hunter? Ever wondered how the real police work is like?

Well, for germany, this film shows you. Set in the north between west germany and east germany, former DDR, an laid off post office clerk starts her job, fresh from policeschool. She quickly finds her way around the usual customers, and becomes accustomed to life as a policewoman... but this is not much fun.

Other german crime films like Derrick, Der Alte et cetera have dignified officers talking calmly with suspects. These cops here have to deal with the lowest on the social ladder. Good dialogue and realism makes this an interesting view, even more if you know that part of germany a bit.

Cutthroat Island
(1995)

really good pirate action movie
Some complained about lack of depth, realism etc. - well, what do you expect? This is a pirate action movie, and this genre seldom deals with deep relationship troubles or philosophical questions. And that's ok - that's what other movie types are for.

I like this movie. Its a pirate action movie, and a good one at that. Excellent carribean motives, /real/ ships under sail, more sword fights, traps and explosions the real life pirates ever saw, costumes from sketches rather than real life, and exactly the story one expects from this genre. Plus some nice punchlines and minor story twists, and a bit too much slow motion.

Honestly, what do you expect from this genre? This one doesn't pretend to be anything else, and is really good at being that: a pirate action movie.

The Ninth Gate
(1999)

insider jokes
I probably didn't get all of it, but a few things I understood, and I had to keep from laughing out loud. The more you know about bible (esp. Revelation and Apocalypse) and satanism, the more you'll understand. The ending, for one, is a really good turn if you understand what happened. If you don't know about the origins and meanings of the symbols contained in the drawings, too bad...

Since I'm not too religious/mystic/whatever, I caught a glimpse of the joke and spent the rest of the time watching a straight plot with moody pictures and good-looking actors. I really enjoyed the atmosphere; that's something this movie has for all of the audience.

Nice one, but I can't really judge. 7/10, and I'll re-vote as soon as I get someone competent to explain me the details.

Die xue jiang nu
(1990)

El Mariachi with Chinese people
You will immediately notice: this story is "El Mariachi". Every detail is there, even many dialogue lines. The strange thing is, this film is listed as produced in 1990. El Mariachi is listed as produced in 1992.

Now everybody should know that Reservoir Dogs was a shameless copy of City on Fire, see "Who Do You Think You're Fooling? (1994)". But this one being the original and El Mariachi the copy? I don't think so. I rather guess this is the remake and should be dated to about 1994.

It certainly hasn't got the style and verve of El Mariachi, but still is fun to watch. If you like Hongkong-Style action playing in Mexico with a definitely chinese touch to it, this one is OK. 6/10

Niemand außer mir
(1996)

real teenager life.
This film is almost a documentary. It shows some random episodes in the life of a bunch of german teenagers. The actors are at the age they are playing (15-20), and many scenes look a bit improvised, which gives an authentic touch. Technically, it is OK, no unSteadycam "amateur" look, though. The characters meet, hang around, talk about life, friends, dreams, beliefs. They flirt, run away, get angry, soothe; they try to find out who they are and who they want to be. This is no posh kid romance. Nor is it a Musical, although there are two or three scenes where people sing. This is just about teenagers. It looks like the author was not much older than his characters, but talented enough to capture many interesting moments and dialogues.

If you are interested in the life of ordinary german teenagers in the nineties, this is a good film. If you are not, don't see it.

Army of Darkness
(1992)

How to make a cult movie
Many movies have been touted as cult movies and dissappeared as quick as their hype. This one shows how a real cult movie is made.

First: don't take yourself too serious. Even, no, especially with comedies. Little is more awful than an comedy that seriously tries to be fun. This movie is fun not only because of the script, the screamingly funny one-liners and the excellent goofball macho acting by Bruce Campbell, but because you can feel the fun the whole team must have had during making this one.

Second: take a handful of excellent, but under-rated actors. According to the motto "lots to win, little to lose" they give much more intense performance than actors with a reputation.

Third: money is not that important. Freedom is. The Effects look sometimes cheesy, but they are fun nevertheless. What elsewhere would have been a blooper adds to the fun here. And the more freedom the production crew gets, the more creativity and details they put into the film. Of course, this very nice and fun movie could have been the box office hit, but forgotten afterwards - the rules of what cannot be done and what has to happen for a hollywood production are also the rules of how to make boring movies. If Producer, Author and the crew don't care much for those rules, you get movies like Dark Star, El Mariachi and this one.

Third: Stay in peoples minds. After you've seen it many times, you still should enjoy it the next time. It doesn't matter how you get this done; make it so people keep remembering the movie. AoD manages with its humour and some pictures you can't get out of your head.

So this is a cult movie. A cult movie cannot by definition be everybodys piece of cake, so you may find it boring. But else, believe me, you find yourself quickly not only liking, but loving it. And that's the last point: polarize.

Everything else has been said. Have fun. (And I am not closing with a quote! :)

Starship Troopers
(1997)

Three layers of fun inside
On first sight, it's just a simple brainless action flick with nice effects and (some breathtaking) animations.

Brainless is the keyword to the second layer of fun here: try and find all the quotes and side blows to almost every movie or series with the slightest hint of fascism, from Soaps to ST Voyager. Starship Troopers takes those quotes and blows them up to a bizarre format, making a carpet of bubbles of the well-known clichés.

Bubbles and soap are the keys to the third layer of fun: have a look at the actors, their filmography, and the screamingly funny way the characters develop, or rather, don't. Apart from Michael Ironside, who - nicely fitting the role - probably understood very well what was going on, most of the actors seem like they actually live it. Starting with the soaps they are used to, they go so plain with the story you'll have a hard time telling whether it is genius or stupidity which allows them to act this naturally.

I think this is an incredibly funny movie. And it certainly has its artistical and political message which, like with most of Verhoevens works, often isn't seen because it is concealed by the warping mirror Verhoeven wants us to look into.

It's about media, manipulation, and how war changes people at large. It's about fascism and racism and not lifting the index but the middle finger here. It's about its audience and it's poking fun right at you. Have fun.

Now which of both depicted species were the mindless insects?

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