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Blue Crush 2

Played out like one long episode of One Tree hill
You've got a bunch of barely out of high school kids living the life out in Africa. A surfer movie, which still tries to put in a bit of crime solving, a bit of a road trip, a bit of a love triangle and a bit of family drama. The acting in many parts was pretty mediocre, only a few highlights in there. Especially one scene where the father argues with the daughter sounds so rehearsed it's just ends up feeling weird. Another one was the in a tryout for a sponsorship contract in which the commentators sounded so bored you wondered if they hadn't been given their dose of Red Bull. The only thing this movie is consistent about is the use of music in almost every scene.

There is no surprise in how the movie plays out, but on the other hand I guess it doesn't really try to be anything other than what it is: a feel good surfer movie. If you're into surfing you'll have loads of scenery to watch, and probably also get quite a bit of inspiration out of the waves. Others may just as well come up with something else to watch.


What was the point?
Simply put, this has got to be one of the weirder films I've seen. Like an American version of a French art film. The film builds absolutely no momentum at all. There is exactly one surprising moment. Surprising because, like with a lot of the film, the action made no sense. Yes, you can argue that the film is about the dialog and I'll admit there is probably some profound insights to be found. But what good does insightful dialog make if you're about to fall asleep constantly. Besides, if you argue that the dialog is at the center, then there are plenty of scenes of graphic nature which do absolutely nothing to further the story in itself. As far as the dialog is concerned, those scenes could just as well have been placed in a coffee shop.

Paul Giamatti's performance, although short, was a small highlight of the movie. Even though it also dragged on, it once again showed why this guy stays on the radar all the time. For those that are only interested in the movie due to Pattison's torso, there is some material for you. His acting though is not that good. Not sure if that's because of the script or because of other reasons.

In short, if you're keen on watching a dialog for 109 minutes, then this might be for you. Don't expect anything but weird, and somewhat pointless action scenes though.

Project X

The moral of the story is just wrong
From a technical point of view this movie is no worse than most other movies that are out there right now. Sure, you won't have a superstar cast, but they do their job OK. There's no real character development, but that doesn't really matter for a movie of this type. It's one of those "authentic" hand held camera movies, which seem to be so popular right now.

The main issue I have with this movie, considering it's probable target audience, is that it sends a quite skewed moral message. The "lead" character gets the girl in the end and the boys become popular despite having cause an entire neighborhood to be destroyed. Sure, the movie mentions that they got charged for various crimes, but it was just a quick mention in the sidelines. You did not get a sense of how much the family at who's house the party was really lost due to the stupidity of their son. Considering that people who most likely will like this movie are at the age where they probably wouldn't mind trying to throw a party like this also, I think the real consequences should have been given more weight. The end result should not have been the boys achieving their original goal in short, which was to become popular.

In terms of humor the movie fails to impress also. It was advertised as the next Superbad, but in my opinion Superbad wipes the floor with this movie.


Your basic vengeance superhero movie
It was better than I expected, I'll give it that. Not since The Blair Witch project have I seen the hand held camera concept been used so well. Often you did have the feeling that the camera was just following along in the hands of one of the guys, which was the point of course. They also had a very good way of introducing a second angle every now and then by having another teen run around with a camera the whole time filming for her blog or showing footage from security cams or news crews. Realistically, in those situations the sound scape changed as well. For instance when showing security camera footage there would be no sound. The film stayed true to it's format by always providing a sound scape as it would have been picked up by the camera currently showing it's image on screen, which definitely added to the "realism" of it all.

In the end though this is your basic high-school-nerd-taking-out-revenge-on-all-that-do- him-wrong movie. Even though I must say to some extent it's provides you with a warm fuzzy feeling to see the bullies get what they deserve, the next turn of events is not very hard to predict at any point. You have the basic stages of super heroism, such as getting to grips with your powers, realizing you can do good/evil, and either straying to the dark side or seeing the light.

Act of Valor

Good fights, everything else well...
Props for very good action. The first extraction mission, once they were on the ground, was a very good marketing campaign for the skills within the SEALs. There was one camera angle which I haven't seen before, but which worked really well in this type of action, and that was the helmet cam, basically giving the viewer a 1st person shooter view of the action. When the soldiers were clearing rooms and the camera waived around corners to check for bad guys it gave the scenes a sense of realism I haven't' seen in other movies, where you're always viewing the action from a 3rd person point of view. The use of hand gestures and shoulder touches to communicate within the team was also something you wouldn't see in your regular Hollywood take, not that often at least, and not done in a way that you can actually believe the "listener" is able to understand the gestures. I also liked the fact that even though there clearly were two main characters in the team, which the camera followed, these two weren't made into some über-Mensch that has to rescue their entire team by going into Rambo mode. Instead it was shown that the leaders had to, and also could count on their team members to do their part of the job.

But what becomes blatantly obvious the minute they start to try and build a back story behind these guys is a) They're not actors and thus they end up overacting a lot of the time; and b) The film clearly wants to avoid at all costs to say anything negative about the SEALs. It really ends up playing just like a lot of first person shooter games, where you have some mysterious overlord that is planning the end of the world and your mission is to catch the guy, but you have to go through a lot of cut-scenes even though all you really want to do is go on another mission and shoot some baddies. I think it was a good move to get real soldiers to do the action, but I almost wish they would have picked real actors to do the actual talking in between.

The final negative thing I have to say about the movie is the use of dramatic orchestral music in almost every scene that wasn't a fight scene. I would have thought that directors by now would have seen plenty of films such as Babel, The Hurt Locker and No Country for Old Men, where silence has been used to great effect, that they wouldn't feel the need to fill every scene with some music.

I'm sure (and I hope) the movie touches those in who's honor it's been made and those who are closer to this sort of life. But for me as an outsider it doesn't do much more than provide some good fire fights.


Never becomes interesting
I got into the show more or less by accident, and because my nature of not wanting to give up on something right away once I've start it, I ended up watching the entire 1st season.

I know plenty have done so already, but I have to compare it to Lost because of one reason, and it's not the time jumping aspect of it: Lost had me hooked from the opening scene all the way through the first 3 seasons. Right away, from that first stare of Jack's eye, his run through the jungle, the mayhem on the beach, I knew it would be an interesting show to watch. With Alcatraz I never got to a point of really caring what will happen. I never got invested in any of the characters. Another review here said that the show would have been much better had it stayed in the 60's all the time, and I have to agree. The scenes from that era are all great. You're immediately questioning the wardens motives along with his lackeys, and the back stories of the criminals promised much more potential than any of the stories for the present day people. And did I mention the warden? Must say, I think Jonny Coyne does an awesome job with his character.

In the present day parts of the show, everything is much more cliché. You have the tough female lead, the not so tough but brilliant side kick, a shady boss, the good mentor with a gray story of his own... And then you have the crime of the week which you can be 100% certain will get solved, already simply because the episode names suggest who's turn it is to be processed. Basically, it all plays out like any other crime drama on TV at that point, except you already know who the bad guy is. I don't think it's the fault of the actors really that the show doesn't take off. They're just not given an interesting back story to develop from. Let's be honest, the good cop trying to understand her past and having to chase the black sheep of the family in order to do so is not exactly ground breaking story telling.

Also, like another review stated, it is somewhat weird how little interest the task force shows in trying to figure out "how and why" the bad guys keep popping up from the past, instead they're always focusing just on catching them and putting them back in their cage. That doesn't feel like a good game plan. It's like always just putting a bucket on the floor when it rains instead of trying to fix the leak in the roof.

The somewhat strong rating of the show here on IMDb would suggest that it could get a second season, and the last episode does leave enough of the plot unsolved for it to be possible. But I doubt I'll be tuning in for another go at this one.

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Confusing, but in a good way?
The trailer got me hooked. Psychology is something that interests me and the trailer seemed to show a movie where you could really study the end result of belonging to a cult and escaping it.

At first I thought it was one of the so called Olsen twins who finally managed to make what looked like a decent movie, which is also why it intrigued me. I've seen some their earlier movies, and they were always bad. So seeing one of them in the trailer for a movie that looked to be very far from the typical teen movie they'd been in before was interesting. But turns out it was their younger sister Elisabeth, who I didn't even know exists. Judging from what I saw in this film, I'm pretty sure she will be able to pull off some pretty demanding parts in the future. I predict she will be around for a while in the feature film business unlike her older sisters, who don't seem to be able to progress beyond the direct to TV/Video market despite having a longer career in the business.

But on to the film. I found it somewhat difficult to follow along, as the flashbacks were basically shot in the same style as the present time, so the only cue you had is that the scenery changed. Could be that this was deliberate by the director in order to create a confused state of mind in the viewer and thus further enhance the feelings that the lead character must be going through. It worked to some extent, but I would have liked a somewhat more clear separation between the past and the present. I was also left wondering what actually made the lead character decide to escape from the cult, what made her realize she was in a sick environment? Some major questions are left unanswered, while some other plot twists felt totally unrelated. They felt like they were added in order to give the movie more of a mainstream Hollywood thriller taste, and as such did not fit in at all in my opinion.

I like the premise of the story a lot though. Instead of showing the perhaps more typical plot line of a person getting lured into a cult and then how they get out of it with the end credits rolling just after the main character narrowly escapes the burning house, this film focuses on the aftermath. It does this by trying to explore how the brainwashed person might react when getting back into normal society.

Overall, the end result is an interesting film of the kind that I hope we'll see more of in the future.

Answer This!

Unsurprisingly, very predictable from the start to the finish
There are no great twists in this movie and nothing ground breaking. It's not remarkably funny, it's not extremely bad. It just is a very average blend of a growing up movie that tries to be a comedy.

The plot line follows the basic boy is stuck in life, boy meets free spirited girl, boy gets girl, boy gets a wake-up call, yada yada yada storytelling. Very easy to predict once you've been introduced to the main characters. The whole trivia thing is just an excuse to shoot in a bar and in the end is actually a pretty small part of the whole movie. There is one scene where the main character gets very philosophical in class about the concept of questioning what one reads and it's relation to creating something holy, which is actually surprisingly thought provoking (although the setting in which it is presented again is pretty cliché).

If you're into the whole "growing up in college" thing, or if you just want something where no brain power is necessary, then you might have a few enjoyable hours with this one.

Safe House

If you like the Bourne series, you'll probably enjoy this
It doesn't feature memory loss or an über-killer, but other than that I found the action pace and filming style to be very similar to The Bourne Identity & Co. It's pretty much action packed right from the get go and though it presents few surprises in terms of how the plot evolves, at no point did I start thinking about remembering the milk on my way home.

I must say Ryan Reynolds did a very good job in shifting from being the dorky female fantasy you'd be familiar with from his comedies to a more serious, take no BS action character. His role as the rookie is what you'd expect when you're playing against a legend like Denzel Washington, and his character's progression from newbie on a newbie assignment to someone who kicks a bit more ass is pretty much textbook as far as the genre goes. But still, I got the sense that seeing Ryan in similar characters in the future would not be totally wrong.

Denzel's performance was good, but felt perhaps a bit like he didn't need to put in the effort. Like he was doing this while thinking about going fishing on the weekend. But then again, he is a veteran in the film industry and it's definitely not the first time he's playing this type of character.

Overall, an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours if you're looking for something where you don't need to think too much.

A Lonely Place to Die

Wondering when it would end after one hour
The start of this movie and in fact most part of the first hour was one big advertisement for heading to the Scottish highlands to do some hiking. Definitely got me thinking about booking a flight.

But that's about it as far as positive things go for this movie. It wasn't too difficult to figure out which characters are going to see the ending credits and which ones are the proverbial red shirts. The film is riddled with "why would you do that?" moments. Granted, it is a piece of fiction so you have to allow some insanity for the sake of suspense. Sadly, none of the events that clearly were supposed to be shockers managed to actually be shockers. There are so many inconsistencies here it just ridiculous. How about a marksman who first has no problem hitting a guy running away from him at full speed, but then wastes bullet after bullet trying to hit someone slowly climbing a steep slope a mere 50m away.

This movie also suffered from the "multiple endings" syndrome. During the last 15 minutes there were three scenes where I thought OK, now we fade to black and roll credits. And it did fade to black, but only to fade up to another scene again. They made sure to tie up all loose ends in this one. If the first "end" scene would have been the real ending scene, then this movie would have gained a couple of points in my book. Not because it would have saved 10 minutes of my time, but because then the ending would actually have been a bit of a surprise, considering how easy the rest of the plot had been to predict.

The score is for the scenery, the rest was just not up to par unfortunately.

The Last Mountain

Another testament to why money should have nothing to do with politics
This movie was an eye opener for me, but not because I didn't know mountain top removal has a terrible impact on the ecosystem, but because for the first time a documentary managed to give me a better understanding of why people become activists. It's the measure you take to as a peaceful person when all other means fail. One of the most moving moments is when an 11 year old girl goes to the governors office with her uncle to give him a donation for building a new school, away from the massive risk that a coal silo in the back yard of her current school and a waste slug lake(!) further on poses to all of the children. I must say, when a 11 year old has to fight her cause by pulling a publicity stunt because an adult politician is in the pockets of the coal industry, we as adults have failed miserably.

Of course you also get to hear the view of the coal miners for a little bit, but this documentary is clearly biased in that it's against the coal industry. I would have liked to hear more views from the average worker, because their concerns are very real also. They need to get food on the table and the coal industry provides the means to do so. Wind farms might produce more work, but you frankly can't expect a coal worker to become wind mill experts just like that. Inevitably, a lot of the workers would not be retrained and they'd loose their job. The issues and their solutions are never black and white, they're always gray.

Visual quality is what you expect it to be for a documentary that collects it's material from several sources. Sometimes it's great, sometimes it's very grainy. The graphics were nice, but sometimes changed a bit too quick for me to be able to read everything.

One point deduction comes from the sound. I didn't like that music was played in the background when people were telling their opinions. As a person who doesn't speak English natively, some of the accents are hard enough to understand without music added to the mixture.

Overall though the message is an important one and I hope this film is able to provide another platform for it to be heard.

Margin Call

Surprisingly slow for a thriller
I realize this movie is supposed to depict the real build up to the financial crisis of 2008, but somehow it failed to be both a mockumentary or a real thriller in my eyes. At no point was I at the edge of my seat so to speak, wondering what will happen next. The film in my opinion also failed to properly explain why there actually was a problem in the company, other than basically saying that they had made risky investments which might collapse the company. But what was it in the formula that the risk management guys had discovered errors in, which caused such an alarm? The characters just point at some screens which we never properly see, just saying "look at this" and "oh my god". What was it that they saw on those screens? The film left me with a feeling of there being unfinished business, things which should have been cleared or better explained within the scope of the film.

With such an A-star cast I could not miss the movie, and I can't really complain about their performances. They probably did the best with what they had been given. The large number of A-stars might actually have been part of why the film never properly took off, since everybody needed to get their screen time. I wish Stanley Tucci would have gotten more screen time than the empty offices in the middle of the night though. His was the only character in which I felt invested and although we do get to see what happens to him in a way, I still feel there could have been more to his story. Kevin Spacey did a fine job of being a boss torn between what the right choices are when the choices all are more or less bad ones. Demi Moore's was a character which I felt was somewhat unnecessary. Her faith did not move me in any way and that's probably because she didn't get enough screen time for me to really be interested in what happens to her. Like I said, probably in the end the movie had too many important characters to allow any one of them to properly become really important to me as the viewer.

Watch the film to get a glimpse of corporate management structures, their behavior and how they might react in a crisis, but don't watch it expecting to get a good explanation of why all of a sudden loads of banks needed bail outs in 2008.

The Book of Eli

Great cinematography and sound
The story itself, when it all boils down to it, is fairly straight forward. There is the bad guy who wants something that the good guy can provide. The inevitable showdown is also not very hard to predict. I do however like the biblical theme of the movie, which however might be what turns some people off.

You can always trust Denzel to pull off a solid performance, although it wasn't anything spectacular either. I did like how his character was a "I'll only tell you once" -type of guy. Mr. Oldman does a very good job as well as the main villain. The person I was positively surprised about was Mila Kunis. Before seeing this movie, I still had here in the "That 70's show" B-level comedy actor category, but this movie I think showed that she has the talent to pull off more serious roles as well.

What keeps pulling me back to this movie however are the visuals aided by a very dynamic sound scape. The movie is quiet when it needs to be, ambient sounds are almost absent at times. It plays a soundtrack that I feel really supports the massive scale of the hero's quest only when it does not interfere with other events on screen. In other words, you won't hear a fight scene backed up by a big band. Instead you'd only hear the wind over the desert and the sounds of the actual fight. This is one of the few movies where I've felt that the ambient sound and the visuals supported each other well. I also liked the somewhat cold, colorless but contrast rich cinematography, which further helped illustrate that it is a cruel world in which the people try to survive.

The Bang Bang Club

Raises good points about the ethics of photography
What I liked most about this movie is how well it presents the internal conflict that must go on inside war correspondents (unless they're completely emotionally detached).

On one hand, war photographers do an important job in showing outsiders what's going on in a conflict. On the other hand, is it really OK for someone to take pictures of another person getting burned to death in the hopes that one of those pictures is going to land them their dream job? The film does not try to push a correct answer down your throat. It does not try to justify the actions of any characters by making them local heroes later in the film (although it almost goes down that road at one point). Instead, it leaves the viewers to decide for themselves whether or not the actions of the characters are OK.

The one thing I would have liked being left out and for which I pulled points for was the romantic story line between one of the photographers and the picture editor of the magazine he ends up working for. You could spot that story line the second the two characters in question meet for the first time. It gave the film a pinch of typical Hollywood taste and it took away a bit of focus from the actual issue at hand. On the other hand, the film managed to not make this romantic connection the main focus at any point. It just happened and then it tagged along for the rest of the film, which I guess is why it bothered me so much. Why not just leave it out completely?

A lot of the imagery in this movie is horrible to watch, so it's definitely not for people with a weak stomach. But it's still worth watching, simply because it tells the story from a side that you usually don't get to see a conflict from and because it raises some very interesting questions about ethics.

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