11 August 2009

Movies - Last Seen

Short reviews for these films are below.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, USA (2009)

After all that was said about this film, after all the reviews and criticism, what bothered me the most in this movie, is not the cheap sex jokes, not silly pot humor, not tasteless vulgarity and rudeness and not the complete emptiness and pointless of the story. No, what really bothered me is how Bay squeezed so much into one film, but really showed nothing at all.
I mean, here you have 200 million dollar film with, seemingly, some of most amazing action scenes and special effects, but it's impossible to get impressed from any of it. Maybe it's the overdose of images or maybe bad editing, but I just couldn't grasp anything concrete and substantial in this movie, something that can get my imagination running. This movie suffers from extreme density and obesity of the images and events, but instead of teasing and delivering them in small amounts to create appetite for more, it chews them and spits right into your face in massive amounts.
As I read in one review, American journalist and film historian Peter Biskind made a figurative comparison between the cinematic methods of Hitchcock and Spielberg to that of Bay. He said, that while Hitchcock and Spielberg are trying to seduce the viewer with gentle flirt, Bay is raping him. After seeing Revenge of the Fallen, and if talking in the same figurative terminology, this movie is not even a real rape, it's a dry hump rape.
The only good thing about this movie I can say is that it was not boring to watch it. John Turturro almost made it look like a real movie, but not for too long, and funny short appearance of the "umpa lumpa" guy was also nice.
The main point of the film is to show destruction of just anything, including world's landmarks, college libraries, cars and robots, that are turning into big piles of metal junk. And this is not as metaphor to, maybe, the destructive nature of humankind, but just because it's fun to watch things crashing and burning. Yipee!


Crank: High Voltage, USA (2009)

From the very beginning of the film, when Chev Chelios is lying on the road after the fall from the skies and some men with shovel are scraping him away, it is very clear than this will be absolutely crazy film. Later his heart is taken from him and replaced by an electronic device, that should be constantly charged, but Chelios snaps out of it, and goes after the people that stole his precious heart. And on the way he is shooting, killing, cursing, insulting, assaulting, breaking, crashing, kicking, fucking, rubbing on, and pissing off pretty much everybody.
The movie is juicy piece of wild and dark humor, making no excuses, no apologies and no considerations of anybody's feelings. Some people might be insulted? Fuck them!
And Fuck you Chelios!


Knowing, USA (2009)

Nic Cage, in one of his worst acting performances, plays some kind of professor, that by weird string of events finds a 50 years old letter filled with numbers, and after short investigation while being drunk, he finds out that the numbers represent all major catastrophic events, with exact day and number of people killed, in the last 50 years. More importantly, there are number of such events that didn't happen yet, and the last one... well, he'll find out later.
The first half is great with number of really exciting scenes. Suspenseful, mysterious, scary, imaginative, although not very original. The random events turn out to have a purpose, shocking and intriguing enough to keep the interest till the end, and in the meantime to hide all the false acting and silly dialogs. But it's all forgivable, because it's the content and the ending that is under the question here.
For some reason I don't like this pseudo-creationism, director Alex Proyas is trying to push in his films, I wasn't very excited from his Dark City either. The idea, that some higher power is watching the people, manipulating and, in a way, controlling them, is not something that appeals to me in fiction. Interpreting religious believes in unusual way is still accepting them. I mean, the title of the film is "Knowing", which is pretty much the next step of "Believing", and this is exactly where he takes it.
He does get points in originality and attempts to imagine what cataclysmic Biblical event will really look like, for example he shows what biblical "and the heavens opened" expression actually means, but his approach is too serious, too preachy, I am not getting any kind of skepticism from this film at all. This is why the ending felt too flat and disappointing to me, but I guess less cynical and more spiritual people than me will like it because of the optimistic message of hope it creates. Not total waste of time, but the content and the message of the movie is the main axis here, much more than acting or special effects, and some people might not like it.


Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, Japan (2008)

Simple animation style with clean colors and exactly drawn lines creates very nostalgic associations while watching this film. Add to this magical story without a drop of cynicism, but with great imagination, and you got beautiful film about childhood and true innocence. This is one of those rare films that successfully awakes in a viewer certain inner sensations that somehow got lost during the process of growing up. This movie is a real time machine, it takes you way back to the times when the world was accepted in completely different way and you had no real worries about anything. Nothing like the colors to stir up old memories, and Miyazaki knows exactly how to do it.


Pontypool, Canada (2008)

Original idea with great ambitions to deconstruct the spoken language by accusing words of beings deadly and dangerous.
Group of people at radio station, broadcasting in small Canadian town, are witnessing strange and mysterious event, that seems like an outbreak of some kind, that turn people into zombie-like creatures. Trying to figure out what is going on, they will reach number of conclusions with venturesome linguistic consequences.

And while the idea is quite interesting and even intellectual, for some level, small budget executions fails to deliver the necessary thrills during most of the film, which looks like a bad theater play instead of a mysterious thriller. In the last thirty minutes things are getting more interesting, but not enough to compensate for the dreadful first hour. For people who like independent films only.


Blood: The Last Vampire, Japan/France (2009)

Based on the highly popular anime, this film about half human half vampire girl hunting vampires mainly for revenge, is pretty average and fails to excite. It contains banal dialogs, boring and badly edited fights, anemic characters with no charisma whatsoever and even lousy special effects.
It appears eventually, that behind all the sword fighting, blood drinking and sad faces lies just another Electra complex - all the girl wants is her father, and she will hate her mother for actually having him, for taking him away. That can explain the sword thing as a phallic symbol, after all it's her father's sword that he passed on to her. And then it becomes even more obvious, when the hate for the mother turns out to be due to the lack of motherly love, and a fear to become like her mother by herself.
I am not sure if all this heavy psychological baggage was intentional, but it was not treated properly anyway, neither it was properly combined with the action and the rest of the plot with all them vampires. The effort is there, but the result is one big yawn.


Battle for Terra, USA (2007)

Peaceful race of aliens, that can float in the air and look like a sperm, are getting bombed and killed by humans, that arrived to their strange planet. And such cruel and immoral behavior is purely due to the survival instinct. You see, people are so greedy that entire Solar System was not enough for them, so they opened a war between themselves, eventually destroying Earth and everything around it. So now they are looking for a new planet, and for some reason they decided to invade Terra, but not before they can create there an oxygen atmosphere, thus killing the aliens as well.
So they fight and bomb and produce oxygen, which is poisonous to aliens, until one person gets to know the aliens closely, and some moral principles are starting to pump in his head, which leads to number of important events and a heroic statue.

Poorly developed and too preachy, but mildly entertaining with some great sci-fi imagination. Worth a look.


Fast & Furious, USA (2009)

Oh yeah, it's high speed bullshit, I don't even know where to begin. I've looked under he hood, and it's a real 10 seconds crap.


Friday the 13th, USA (2009)

Young girls show their tits and Jason shows his big machete. All is as usual at Crystal lake, idiot college kids are getting high, have sex and later get their heads chopped off. The classic slasher is back.
The problem is, that rules of the slasher were already exposed and deconstructed by Scream and Leslie Vernon, so repeating them again like nothing happened, like horror genre never existed before, is dumb and boring. Creativity and self awareness you won't find in the film, the college kids acting like they never saw a horror movie before and even the gore and the slashing are just ok. Only boobs are doing good job.


Coraline, USA (2009)

Another movie based on Neil Gaiman's novel, another girl at adolescence stage with personal problems trying to find her own path, and another journey into the fantasy world to better understand and to accept the real one. Only this time it's a stop motion animation and it certainly adds points to the overall impression.
The film is enjoyable and entertaining with subtle symbolic imagery. It's about young girl, on the verge of womanhood, entering cold and alienated adult world, a world in which she will have to stand on her own in front of the unknown. Or she can run away into the fantasy world and knit a buttons on her face where her eyes should be. Tough choice. But apparently the fantasy world is kind of a fake, so if it's the real world after all, why not teaching her parents a lesson, that will make the real world a little bit better. So there is a lesson and moral for everybody.


Public Enemy Returns, South Korea (2008)

Third and totally unnecessary installment in he Public Enemy saga. The first film was excellent due to its great story and violent and non-apologetic approach, marking detective Kang as the new and cool Dirty Harry. But the sequel was boring, sentimental and preaching mess, with some kind of political context about corruption.
Third film is a little better than that, but still thinks it can preach to high-school boys how bad it is to be a gangster. And this is when it is not preaching how hard it is to be a cop and why government should pay cops more.
Suddenly detective Kang doesn't seem cool anymore, more like pathetic middle age bully. Really, please don't make another sequel.


I Love You, Man, USA (2009)

Funny and silly comedy about how hard it is to be a man. Wait, what? No, it's a silly and embarrassing comedy about how complicated male friendship can be. No, no, still not right. Oh, yeah, I got it. It's a dark and cynical comedy about how woman changes the life of the man, tearing apart the bond he has with his buddies, FORCING him into a marriage, MAKING him change his manly habits and as result he GETS OBESE AND LOSES HIS HAIR!!!
Whoa, that's not really... hm-mm. What da fuck is this movie about? Men returning back to their cave instincts... no, men overcoming their fears and anxieties with the help of their women that finally understand what they need... not sure about that, a movie about why man is miserable without a woman, a movie about how homosexuality is acceptable and not a big deal, a movie about how all women want to get married and have kids, a movie promoting conservative family values, a movie that undermines conservative family values, a movie that encourages you to call your dog after dead Egyptian president, that Rush is the best rock band ever, that kids really like Legoland, that golf is fun, that you don't stay in the hand with seven-deuce suited with rainbow flop, that Lou Ferrigno can lock you in a sleeper hold, that Jon Favreau doesn't really give a shit, that Pistol Pete is a cool nickname, that making Jamaican accent is really hard, that tons of guys are licking each other basses, that... ah, fuck it.


Observe and Report, USA (2009)

Fat Ronnie Barnhardt lives with his drunk mother, that sometimes soils herself, works as a head of a mall security and secretly dreams of becoming a real police officer. He also in love with blond and trashy girl from cosmetics department, being a racist toward people he doesn't like, beats up a bunch of teenagers, shoots huge gun and generally being a retard. Ronnie's life is not easy, he has Bipolar disorder, so he is moving between successes and failures, between feelings of happiness and disappointment, when all he really wants is to be a hero, to make a difference.
It is all vulgar and disturbing, but in amusing way. There is, of course, no point to look for realism and logic in this film, this is not what it's all about. It's about dysfunctional people, that try to be normal, in dysfunctional society, that only seems to be normal, because there are pretty fucked up dysfunctional people that don't want to pretend being normal anymore, so the strip naked, put on the raincoat and run through the shopping mall, exposing their genitals to all other normal people around them.



  1. I don't really consider myself as a huge independent movie fan. But i really liked Pontypool. I agree that there were parts that were somewhat slow. Looks like there will be a sequel made called Pontypool Changes http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1449234/
    I guess you don't go and watch transformers for the great acting. It had a lot of nice action scenes...but i wished it had more to it than just a fast paced action movie.

  2. Yeah, I heard about Pontypool sequel. I hope they will do something crazy this time. And it's a good movie, but I personally don't like to watch experimental stuff anymore. It had the potential to be more gory and gruesome - lots of crazy movies were done with similar small budget, but creators chose not too. And maybe it was intentional and I understand why, but I didn't like it. What's up with all the issue of journalistic integrity? What they can put on the air, what they cannot, who cares? The female character of producer - Sydney, was annoying and bad actress, all that intro and radio broadcasting was boring and should be shorter. I see how it is a homage to Orson Welles and his War of the Worlds radio broadcast, but it just didn't work for me.

    Transformers has no pulp at all, no juice, no taste. So two dimensional, flat and dry, like Matzoh. And it's the same writers that wrote great Star Trek. I don't understand how could they write such awful lines and situations.