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Lars and the Real Girl

About as useful as a deflated sex doll
I give up. There's just so much wrong with this movie that I can't even get properly angry. It just slips back under the skin and rots.

First of all, the movie is not believable while it's still having a serious tone all the time (or at least being very tame compared to what one could joke about a sex toy, an object to masturbate with). The world doesn't work that way at all. After the first few seconds they realize the situation with Lars, no single character thinks - even though the main idea behind the movie states exactly - it's not very normal to date a sex toy.

Secondly, it's sort of unnerving people don't realize at all how potentially destructive it could be that downplaying mental illness and making it a quirk of personality and whatnot. Yes, it's only a movie but it is really depressing to read comments that applaud the movie's way not judging Lars as someone with a real problem. Guess what? Forrest Gump wouldn't been too successful in real world, either.

Thirdly, why is this considered great? I seriously want to punch everyone in the face that liked the movie. It's just incredible.

The movie was well made but generally, it was about as useful as a deflated sex doll. Or even worse, it's like a sex doll with no openings. It simply lacks any real content outside the main idea, good-ish acting and dialogue. It's almost like the authors thought making an adult movie about the subject is that you first write American Pie, remove all the gross-out stuff and don't hire Adam Sandler.

I hate this movie, I hate the people who made it and I hate myself for watching it.

Gran Torino

Not really very good
OK, either the definition of "good" (as in 8.1/10 at the time of writing) has changed or I just didn't get the movie. I really wanted to like it because as a stereotypical guy (as glorified tongue-in-cheek by the movie) I automatically am a big fan of anything Clint Eastwood. Here are my main gripes: Firstly, some material was quite out-of-place, e.g. the visual gag of the old woman out-spitting Eastwood. A movie that has a rape in it, that was just lame. I don't know, maybe that was a artistic way to show the subjective threat felt by Eastwood of the Asian neighbors or whatever. I just thought it wasn't really funny.

Another scene that was in essence awful was the scene where Eastwood's character teaches Thao how to talk manly. The first scene with Eastwood and the barber "conversing" was pretty funny because of the acting (reminds me of older movies in which there's so fast dialogue it's hard to keep up) and it didn't explain anything (even if it was out of place in a pretty dark movie) but the second time it was ruined by step-by-step explanation why they insult each other. It's an old joke guys and girls are different.

Another annoyance of mine was how easily Walt (Eastwood) turned non-racist after 70-some years of grade-A racism. It has to be the fastest conversion since two previous records held by American History X. The character was great otherwise, yet another one of Eastwood being honest and acting old but still bad-ass. Which brings me to another thing: I really expected the final scene be something like what Stallone did in the latest Rambo. Now it was probably realistic etc. but come on, ever heard of blue balls? That reminds me, how did Walt be so certain that his death would be any different than anything else the gang did and managed to intimidate people to be quiet about? I felt one of the themes was frustration and not being able to fix things as they are, but in the end the movie sort of gives in and lets things lay in other people's hands and so the viewer gets frustrated (maybe that was the point, though. In any case I would have preferred something Dirty Harry would have done).

Lastly, Jamie Cullum. OK, I got it the titular Gran Torino was symbolic of Walt's inner self being hidden in his garage etc. etc. but come on, I don't thing anyone needs Mr. Cullum's annoying voice to spell it out.

Overall, there was a lot of good in the movie but there also was a lot of bad, especially when looking closely. I don't know if I would look as closely if it wasn't Mr. Eastwood, probably not. I hate to say it (and probably look like a racist bigot when I say it, but I have no friends anyways so here goes) but maybe the theme of racism plugs a string which makes most people forget anything bad a movie would have. Movies that discuss racism are of course important but they should do more than play that old card.


Could have been a lot worse
I was interested of this movie for two reasons: Liam Neeson as a bad-ass and secondly if the what trailer promised was delivered - ruthless action using the idea "a preferably divorced cop/agent/criminal comes out of retirement for one last job/kill". The movie delivered both.

The action was pleasantly brutal in the vein of the newer Bond films, the classic Rambo style slaughter is done more low-key and maybe a bit believably: Neeson kicked butt mostly by doing karate chops to the throat which I can imagine is sufficiently painful and efficient - no face punching here, except if the said face is used to punch a wall or perhaps a car.

There was a short torture scene, although it was done by the good guy to the bad guy. Also, I liked how it was clear Neeson wanted his daughter back, period. There was plenty collateral damage and nod towards that a good guy is not exactly good all the time, not all people got what they deserved etc. I don't know how realistic the premise of sex slaves being auctioned was but at least it didn't revolve entirely around that.

I loved how the movie makers had realized 90 minutes is enough. If it is not, your action is not paced fast enough. The ending could have been much better (like, Liam shoots the last bad guy in the head, a scared look from the girl, cue end titles, sort of how French Connection 2 ends), especially how fast the action before that was. Now it was there as if the viewer would have cared about that annoying chick from Lost and her pops.

Some of the dialog was just awful. I don't know what it was but the short monologue by Neeson that was also in the trailer ("I don't know who you are" etc.) didn't work. Maybe he just doesn't have that something in his voice that would make that kind of stuff work. But in the context of the movie it worked well enough, since it's an action movie and of course describes the entire plot (for the trailer). The annoying chick from Lost was sometimes just terrible to watch, especially since she was supposed to be seventeen.

Final line: it's no Frantic (and I can't remember if it even was that good a movie) but worth wasting 90 minutes of your life. A good enough movie, nothing horribly annoying.

The Spreading Ground

Very businesslike authority with little responsibility and only a desire to keep his/her name clean - check. A veteran cop that has bad relationship with his family - check. Mafia guys that while criminals, want to do something good vigilante style - check. A sociopath and loyal mafia guy not hesitant to kill people to make an example - check. Cops' methods being less effective than the mafia guy's brutal yet very effective methods - check. A corrupt cop tying the authority, the criminals and the police together - check.

Slow motion and/or jerky frame rates for showing what the actor's reaction can't - check. A serial killer whose background is explained in far too much detail, esp. using childhood abuse as the reason for everything - check. A child spree killer that is very, very non-menacing - check. Foreshadowing of the veteran cop's moral values not being what the killer deserves in the movie's and the majority of characters' opinion - check. Morally ambiguous and predictable ending thanks to the foreshadowing and the good veteran cop's coming to terms he should submit to the vigilante attitude of the majority of the characters - check.

Recently saw this on TV and decided to endure it because it had Dennis Hopper in it and I could not sleep - check. Realized that was a mistake and should just have stared at the ceiling - check.

Thirteen Days

Great, intense and accurate
I'm a bit partial on this since the Cold War is a favorite subject of mine. However, despite knowing the details and also the obvious fact world didn't end in the 1960s because of a global nuclear conflict, the movie kept a tight grip. It was not boring at all even if it's about politics and talk. In fact, I bet it works as a nice primer on the subject and it might even spark interest if shown to those who mostly learn of the subject from school books.

What I love about this movie is that as far as I know it's very, very accurate (if you don't count some little details seen and that kind of nitpicking). Still, it's as intense as JFK (that I bet most people agree invents a lot of stuff to make it interesting) and has similarly very interesting characters and scenes.

For example, I found it fascinating how the film showed people machinating and filtering facts behind the scenes (something that doesn't really come through when reading about it), this time for the *good* of mankind. A sane person will want to forget about some little aggressions - like bullet holes in a fighter jet - when any justified retaliation or accusation could escalate into millions of people dying in an instant. Maybe that exact thing didn't really happen but it is entirely believable and I thought gives some ideas how the personality and gut instinct of the guys in charge is what makes everything tick - not the official actions and reports.

Now that I mentioned JFK: apart from Costner, the two films have something else in common: using black and white footage mixed with color footage - and I have to say in Thirteen Days it didn't really work. The b/w scenes (that fade in and out of color) add nothing. I think the purpose was to underline significant historical details but considering how accurate the movie is that's overkill. Thus they only managed to annoy me a bit. Still a very minor flaw and the only one.

The acting was top notch, although I have to reiterate that for me, the whole mood, intensity and factual accuracy takes the cake. Overall, very, very good.

P.S. For more "guys in a room and deciding of the fates of millions of people" goodness, check out the made-for-TV movie Conspiracy.


Not disappointed
I just received The Ultimate Collector's Set of all four Rambo movies and here are some of my thoughts of the latest effort from Stallone. Spoilers ahead, that meaning I'm going to reveal details of the gore (the real meat of the movie) - not the plot.

The movie is not perfect, it's far from it, but holy crap. Hats off to the crew for making me feel like I was watching the original three movies as a kid. Everything in the movie definitely over the top, it's kinda like some old cheese you forgot in the refrigerator in the 80s and now that you found it... Stallone has understood a new Rambo movie in the 00s can only succeed if it took what has happened to movie violence in 20 years and then bringing it back to the 80s and then added an iconic character to the equation.

Back in the days of First Blood Part II or Rambo III (I'm leaving First Blood out of this, since it's a very different movie) when someone gets shot at and dies it's just a body falling down. And maybe a patch of blood on the chest. But in this it's the body exploding in two halves. Heads get pulverized. Also, babies are thrown into a flaming buildings.

In a way, the violence is similarly over the top as in most 80s shoot 'em ups, except it's in great detail and probably much more realistic (or, fits in the current version of realistic cinematic violence). After so many years, John Rambo has become such an iconic character that you don't think Rambo ripping the Adam's apple out a bad guy's throat is unbelievable (I didn't make that one up). It's just natural progression from the no-shirt Rambo in Afghanistan.

The fact is that Rambo can't die, ever. Period. Even if he gets shot at by an army while being basically the only one shooting back (without a shirt on). Here the suspension of disbelief is bargained quite logically: For example, Rambo is able to kill five bad guys that are standing in front of him only because he shots first. While Rambo again has the biggest gun in the end and mows down henchmen by the hundreds, it's because 1.) the huge gun is mounted on a truck, 2.) he is actually seen reloading it and 3.) the gun is well armored so Rambo cheats death in a realistic way instead of movie magic.

What I didn't like was that the movie was maybe a bit uneven in that while it ends with an expected shoot-out, the intensity of the final battle doesn't grow up to explode in a huge bang (taken literally or not). I was expecting something more. Now the most evil guy just tries to run away but collides with Rambo's knife. End of movie.

Another thing that I didn't like was that the gore and violence was obviously CGI most of the time. It just sticks out. Although, when it worked - which was most of the time - it worked well.

The plot was just an excuse to find a place on Earth where there could be a bunch of really evil guys and no rules. What I liked was while you could think Rambo's motivation for fighting one more time was the captured woman missionary, it was actually what she represented. Even without the "Rambo returns home" ending it is clear that there was no romance involved when the woman runs to her husband. I guess adding a love interest was one of the three possible ways to ruin the movie. Also, while you could say the characters were overall very thin, it could be seen that at least they weren't the usual brightly colored stereotypes. This is Rambo's show.

That said, I wasn't disappointed. The excess gore made me feel like secretly watching a very not-for-kids movie as a kid. John Rambo was not a watered-down version of the original character. Did I mention the over the top violence was morbidly entertaining? The movie was an extremely realistically drawn cartoon.

The Man from Earth

I am glad people still have imagination
Originally, I wanted to say this movie probably gained more momentum from the whole Internets torrent thing than from the actual movie. However, after thinking about the movie for a few months (how many movies make you do that?) I am glad I didn't say that in the first place.

I am also very glad people still have imagination. I'm not talking about the people involved in making the movie or the writer of the original story. I mean the people who watched the movie and thought it was good. The movie is basically a series of tracking shots of people talking and talking in one little room, yet I almost remember the movie as a big budget movie with scenes depicting John's life.

Another thing I'd like to point out that John is surprisingly fresh as a character. You get a sense that he's grown past the trendy cynical attitude characters like him usually are. Even the inevitable (or even cliché or naive) connections these kinds of stories have do not feel very forced. You already are in the mode for accepting that kind of stuff when they are revealed.

The whole movie could be an episode of The Twilight Zone (one of the episodes written by Mr. Serling, of course) but it works surprisingly well as a feature-length movie. I guess some of the acting is a bit uneven and some other director would have done something a bit differently but all that just adds to the charm of this movie. I have to say David Lee Smith was very good as John.

In all, the movie is well worth downloading, watching and then buying. It shows a great amount of honesty for the makers to acknowledge the "illegal" downloading as a viable way to promote your product - of course, as long as the product is good. I guess the character of John also could be described as honest - there's this weird aura of honesty around the movie.

Children of Men

Excellent in every sense
Children of Men succeeds in being a believable vision of the future, being a genuinely thrilling action movie and keeping its feet firmly in today's reality. Let's take a closer look.

Why the movie succeeds in portraying the future is that it realizes in a few decades nothing really happens. For an example, the TV sets are all wide screen and flat, cars look a bit futuristic but don't fly, the military still uses normal guns. There are subtle hints at how extrapolating from now to the future can produce funny things, such as an old man who listens to Aphex Twin and other music you wouldn't except older people to like. The key is the subtlety, lesser movies overdo this and make everything more fiction than future.

The action scenes were the most thrilling I have seen in a while. Most movie directors think fast-paced editing is the key to excitement and action, and this movie proves they are and always have been wrong. To be exciting, you need uncertainty. Most movies don't have that, you can count on the first billed actors to live so there isn't much excitement.

In Children of Men, the main action sequences consist of one continuous shot (sometimes faked). There is no MTV editing that only confuses and is usually used to hide how boring the action would be without it. The result is something you can admire for it's technical merit alone, not to mention how much it helps to make the viewer a part of the scene.

Finally, Children of Men creates its starting point by expanding on the idea of sectarian violence, bombings and other things that sadly are so everyday even now that it isn't really in the news anymore. While the premise of no children being born anymore is maybe the most unbelievable thing in the film, it works because the setting otherwise is from our time. And you can somehow expect a hellish situation like that can only bring even more uncertain things.

Children of Men was easily my favorite movie of 2006. It also is one of the best movies I have ever seen.

The Simpsons Movie

A parade of obviousness
No, this wasn't a very funny movie. Let's see how did they manage to mess this up: The style deviates from the TV show even more than the new episodes deviate from the style and spirit of the golden era episodes. For example, the humor was much more "mature" (i.e. childish). The TV show I loved never resorted into cheap stuff like that. That integrity was something I always respected about The Simpsons, even though I do love mature humor as well.

Another example of a dumbed down joke is the President Schwartzenegger character. Why not President Wolfcastle? Not obvious enough? Similarly, many classic characters were wasted. Yet they had to introduce new characters and move the plot outside Springfield. It is also remarkable how they manage to make the absurd cartoon world unbelievable. The glass dome thing wasn't very believable even though I could believe Mr. Burns blocking the sunlight (who was also almost absent in the movie). In hindsight, I think having Burns as the evil character would have worked much better because he is an established character, not just a new face with a celebrity voice.

The plot is a typically convoluted Simpsons plot that tries to mimic the hilarious randomness and unexcepted twists, failing miserably much like most new episodes do by emphasizing the wrong parts. It's not funny when Homer does something really, really stupid. Constantly. It's not interesting if the Simpsons suddenly decide to go to Alaska and do something there. They already went everywhere. Similarly, it's not very interesting to watch Homer and Marge doubt their love for the zillionth time.

It is interesting though, that people even thought a Simpsons movie could be a success quality-wise. The show simply did everything at least once and it was funny. Then it did the same things for the second time (with celebrity guest stars) and wasn't very funny anymore. Then the movie came, wasn't very funny and pretty much did the same things yet again.

The song was also over-hyped, even though the musical number was visually the most interesting thing about the movie.

Metal: A Headbanger's Journey

I don't know for who this was made
Metal is a personal journey of filmmaker Sam Dunn to the roots of heavy metal. While this adds a personal touch, I think it's what makes Metal a less effective documentary.

The film consists of interviews of major heavy metal people, although none of them reveal anything that a metal fan wouldn't already know. Also, I think you already have to know these people to get off of the fact Tom Araya or Dio is being interviewed. Not to mention the people more obscure to the mainstream. Also, I found it a bit funny how the film tries to find maturity in heavy metal, while probably the lengthiest fan interview is of a 14-year-old girl in a studded choker.

Another flaw is that few things are explored in depth. The film is constantly skimming on the subject. The anecdotes from the metal giants reveal more about the essence of heavy metal than the actual processed information. A lot of is skipped, such as the connection between Norwegian black metal and Neo-Nazism - even though an interviewee states the black metalists' view themselves as a selected few and that think certain groups must be eliminated (where have I heard that before?).

Also, since the film tries to educate the viewer, Dunn should have had taken a bit more educational angle. For example, the tritone is mentioned but the viewer probably would get more of it if there actually was an explicit comparison of the demonic notes and the less demonic notes. Now it is just stated that heavy metal traditionally uses a blues scale and Satan's really horrible notes.

It is not to say Metal is entirely without any credit. It gives some general insight to the genre and has the correct people talking about it. The only real mistakes are that it tries to take a too big bite and that it's trying to sell freezers to Inuits.

THX 1138

The best movie Lucas did
THX 1138 is easily the most mature, thought-provoking and best-acted of Lucas' movies. It is essentially the antithesis of his later work.

It is interesting how Lucas dares to leave some things in the dark, many features of the dystopian city are never explicitly explained. This is daring in the sense how Lucas pretty much ruined the magic in the Star Wars saga by explaining too much. It's like he forgot the viewers have their own imagination after making a few good movies.

The whole bleakness of the film is surprising for Lucas. Everything is under control of authority and what motivates authority is staying on budget. If a criminal gets away because catching him inflates the budget too much, then so be it. The authority never gets a face, which to me is quite creepy considering that's how it is with large corporations. Faceless authority by money, that has many minds trying to stay on budget but no conscience, only rationality (business sense). I guess Lucas was a hippie sticking it to the man before... well you know what.

To the younger (or, rather less-informed) audience might be surprised when comparing the similarities between THX 1138 and newer movies, video games and let's just admit - clichés. And, it is obvious how THX owes a lot to Huxley and Orwell. I'd still say the visual details of your normal sterile, emotionless Orwellian future come from here.

The director's cut of course tampers with a very good movie in the best Lucas style. Luckily, it's not as blatant as with Star Wars, mostly effects were enhanced although the new cut does change the narration slightly. It's a shame considering the original still works very well.

The Bridge

The polar opposite of Faces of Death
The Bridge is probably the only mature film about suicide I have seen. It is also in a sense a very beautiful film.

The thing that I think ticks people off is that there is no clear message of "don't do it". Most of the interviewed people are at peace with the fact their friends, relatives, sons are dead. They are content of the fact the people who jumped, jumped. And that even if they could have been stopped that time, they would probably have done that some other time.

The controversial footage of people jumping off the bridge simply punctuates the whole point of the film: people jump off the bridge. All the time. People die all the time. It would be naive to think you somehow could or even should stop all that.

In all, this is very recommended viewing for everyone; it's not too graphic, the subject is something you shouldn't avoid and it's very well made. It avoids all pathos often associated with a documentary film that is about a more adult subject.

The King of Kong

Many have praised this documentary and I agree it's an interesting watch. It's a look into people who are determined to do one simple thing better than others. Very refreshing after all the self serving pathos that is usually passed as a documentary film.

The King of Kong is mainly about a guy who once got a high score in Donkey Kong (or "donk" as it's known on the streets) and another guy who challenges him with a new high score. The holder of the record, Billy Mitchell, is depicted as a bad character and the contender, Steve Wiebe is the good guy. There seems to be a bias against the less viewer accessible people, be it intentional or not. While Mitchell is an elusive character by nature, the camera mostly following Wiebe makes him look even more suspicious.

The whole culture of retro gaming (playing video games considered obsolete by those who feed all the money to the industry, i.e. kids) is slightly introduced, mainly by using characters such as a video game referee, a geriatric lady playing Q*Bert and so on. The film doesn't explain everything about the featured games to the audience - which is a big plus considering the audience mostly consists of video game fans who have done their homework and of those viewers who are interested about the inner workings of the people playing the games.

My only real complaint about the film is how a lot of well-known tunes were used in the soundtrack. While they were mostly period pieces (i.e. from the golden (neon pink) 1980s), the film would have benefited from music that wasn't already worn out. Even The Eye of the Tiger makes an appearance, the film being a sports film of sorts. Maybe they should have contacted some of the people making their own versions of classic video game music.

I found funny about the film were some of the reviews. Apparently aiming for a better score in a video game is ridiculous and in sports it's not ridiculous at all. Even when they have to check the gender of an athlete. Or, that the reviewer didn't find video games interesting enough as the subject - even though as I hope to have explained well enough: it's not about the games.

We Were Soldiers

A war movie in the wrong way
How to make a good war movie? It's easy: get the facts right and and get the battle scenes right. This movie fails with the facts and then some.

The battle scenes look great with some obvious Vietnam stuff like napalm and period details like white phosphorus and so on. Though, a very unrealistic cliché is that the higher ranked the character, the more upright he walks and fights even under heavy fire.

The dialogue contains some hilarious gems that I think are only now put in a script. Before that, they existed only as clichés. Imagine hearing "tell my wife I love her" from the mouth of a dying soldier, just after you thought this movie could be more cliché only if they did that.

I guess by now it is well-known this movie doesn't really make the facts right. The battle is something off Green Beret. While it's probably quite banal having a Vietnam movie in which US doesn't exactly prevail by now, it's another thing to claim the opposite. You can still have your altruism and the other few good aspects of the human nature in a war even if you don't win.

I find it surprising people approve of movies like this out of the respect they have war veterans (of their own side). It's one thing to respect and to let movies like this change the facts - and in this case, just not be that good at all. I'd think that would be insulting to the veterans.

Saving Private Ryan

Technically awesome, the rest... almost there
An interesting feature of Steven Spielberg, probably the most reliable hit maker outside the Michael Bay realm of idiocy, is that he often seems very clumsy with things that are the furthest away from the technical aspect of his films. There's often a quality of naiveté that simply would make the film more interesting and adult if it just was cut.

Saving Private Ryan has one such annoyance. And that is a rather common one; claiming a war as one side's story. In Private Ryan, this would be the bookend scenes which serve no purpose to the story, but to cram the supposed message down the viewer's throat. Every country has had its wars, it is insulting to millions to claim the story of human suffering in war is exclusive to one person, one side or one war. Also, Schindler's List has similar scenes that begin and end the film, although they are not as bad.

While everything in Private Ryan is technically as good as it will ever get, the story and the characters seem out of place. The only properly fleshed out characters are Hank's mysterious captain and Davies' inexperienced clerk that obviously serves as the characters most people can relate to. The rest of the characters aren't that memorable if you think of them as personalities, not ranks. And, Tom Sizemore plays a sergeant here, the believability coming from the fact he's played the same role about a zillion times. There are a few interesting cameos with Ted Danson and Dennis Farina.

The story, while a typical "road movie with soldiers" at least is not as standard as a retelling of a battle, is nowhere near Apocalypse Now or other movies treating soldiers as passers by. It's near to a typical Hollywood version of a war mission and something you could imagine John Wayne doing. This obviously was the purpose, making an old fashioned war movie, but it clashes with the realistic battle scenes.

The battle scenes. They simultaneously make battle look like something horrible, something you want to be a part of and actually instantly create a bunch of clichés. Details such as the exaggerated sound of a M1 carbine running out of ammo (a very common detail if you watch a WW2 movie made after this OR even better - play a WW2 video game), the scene in which someone is talking and suddenly is hit to the head, the scene in which the viewer (situated in the middle of the fighting) can't hear anything because of shell shock. Whoa.

Interestingly, this movie proves the quote: you can't make an anti-war movie and not make war look even more sexy in the end.

I'm not saying Saving Private Ryan is a bad movie. I'm just saying a lot of its flaws are glossed over thanks to the execution and respect to war veterans (who I of course respect as well, not depending of the side). Essentially, a similar film with better characters, similar technical awesomeness and fact instead of fairytale is the miniseries Band of Brothers, another project from Hanks and Spielberg.

Mystery Science Theater 3000

This is why you know that useless stuff about movies
There's really no point of writing a general introduction to MST3K: everyone potentially interested has either watched MST3K, fallen in love or has just read a review and is "circulating the tape (torrent)" right now. Reviewing the show as a whole is questionable, too.

It is interesting why this format hasn't been copied yet, maybe it is the fact it requires both a viewer and a writer who are full of useless info; it really is the money shot of trivia. In that way, MST3K is challenging to the viewer, something that a successful show almost never is.

Also what is interesting is that the early shows (up to something like 1994) had the slogan "keep circulating the tapes" which of course referred to the fact the fans swapped video tapes of episodes. Why this is interesting is that it's an early example of the movement of freely obtaining (i.e. downloading) music and movies - it isn't necessarily harmful to the money making thing. A Man From Earth also first was unknown, then circulated as "a tape" and then became popular. I guess they eventually make lots of money, too.

Shoot 'Em Up

Finally saw this hyped and praised movie. Boy, was I disappointed. People really should watch a movie made before 2003 or simply raise the bar a little.

Shoot 'Em Up probably tries to be a western Hong Kong "heroic bloodshed". As much as I hate to sound like thousands of Woo-fan boy bromides: You really should rent Hard Boiled or The Killer instead. Though, Shoot 'Em Up does share something with those movies: the sometimes embarrassing humor and dialogue.

What went wrong? The characters are cliché: Giamatti is the post-Sopranos (or rather post-Grosse Point Blank) mafia hit-man, Owen's character is the mysterious modern cowboy whose character relies on the fact the viewer has seen Sin City (he plays a similar character here, Sin City is a movie based on a comic book and Shoot 'Em Up shares that feature), Bellucci is the standard hooker with a heart of gold. While this is an action movie and weak characterization is the hallmark of a no-brainer, this movie upright insults the viewer. It's not like all the great action movies only had good action.

At this point, you probably think I'll say something redeeming about the action. Alas, I won't. The action is either boring (I think everyone has seen someone being shot on the screen by now, it's not like you can do it endlessly without starting to, like, repeat yourself), cheap (i.e. no long shots, no amazing choreography) or the worst: glossed over. There are way too many edits, it's hard to keep track of what is happening during the action. A good action movie should make your heart race, not cause a seizure.

Let me get back to Sin City. That was an enjoyable movie. It also was stylish and, well, mostly black. Shoot 'Em Up is just mostly black or at least dark greyish blue. See, that's what makes a movie "edgy". Also, a good way to make a movie "edgy" are these really cool and cynical one-liners. Really, if you never respected those guys responsible of all of the great quips like "He's dead tired" etc., watch this one. Sheesh.

Also, the movie tries to be even more edgy with some tastelessness that serves no purpose. And isn't that tasteless, considering Google Image Search and a few unfortunate typos should have ruined the collective innocence by now. Or, maybe the movie was trying to be funny. Please don't try to be funny, movie.

The bottom line is that the movie is exactly what is wrong with these kind of movies in the year 2007. Why three well respected actors got in this mess?

Born American

Worth slowing down while passing this car wreck
A "first movie" for a director is often quite interesting to watch. Sometimes the movie is excellent, sometimes full of film student stuff and pretentious tricks and usually tries too hard with too little. Born American is of the third variety.

The story follows three guys who are vacationing in Finland and cross over the border to the Soviet Union. Guess if the Soviets are depicted as interesting characters or something else (hint: this movie was made in the 1980s)? Anyway, things start exploding (often with the same sound effect). Also the Russians prove to be evil etc. Which is sort of interesting considering there was some tendency to self-censoring in Finland towards these kinds of things.

The plot is actually quite ridiculous because it goes way over the top at one point. It really feels like they had made the movie up to that point and they noticed they have way more money left so they added more things - or bought some of that new crack-cocaine. Some twists really made me laugh out loud in their outlandishness or how cliché they were.

Actually, if this movie starred Chuck Norris, for whom it originally was planned, it would be quite well known after that Chuck Norris revival fad. Now it's just a curiosity for anyone interested. As a Finn, I'm ashamed of this movie by Renny Harlin (he DID make a few good movies, though. I still like you, Renny). Ashamed and also proud, few countries have something unifying like this that people all around the world can laugh at.

The bottom line: DIY MST3K.

Eastern Promises

Subtle yet brutal
David Cronenberg is usually remembered for his bizarre, if not perverse works. His previous work, A History Of Violence, veered off the course towards more mainstream action/thriller even though it shared the same dreamy not-quite-right quality in the atmosphere. Eastern Promises continues further down that path, approaching very close to normality.

The whole cast is excellent, although I have to say Watts is the usual naive character she seems to always play. But she does that quite well. Mortensen's work has been praised and I have to say it is good. The genius of his role is not in the dialogue but in the stuff in between.

Eastern Promises is a violent movie and in a good way. By that I mean if a character dies violently, it's not glossed over. The gore is not achieved by increasing the amount of blood but by showing every bit of detail. The action is a little more realistic than in A History Of Violence; Mortensen - a mafia handyman (i.e. driver, hit-man, body disposer) - is not an immortal killing machine here.

The movie uses its 100 minutes efficiently, gradually building until the climax. A lot of writers would have thought "it's not a straight-up action movie, so let's add another 15 minutes or so". I think the ending was not as effective as the preceding movie and felt like it was rushed. I guess it is also quite predictable for anyone who's seen more than a few crime movies. But that deducts very little from the rest, as a whole this is a very good movie. Not overrated at all.

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