Short reviews of these films - below.
Orphan (USA, 2009)
I didn't expect much from this movie when I first heard about it. Somehow a movie with a child as lead actor didn't seem interesting enough, especially as a mystery thriller or a horror. And here I am, joining long list of people that finally saw it and suddenly discovered that Orphan is nothing but surprising. Surprisingly good that is.
It has all the right things to make watching experience very enjoyable and entertaining - clear story, professional production, effortless plot development and editing with all the suspenseful conversations, scares and twists we like to see.
But even if the formula is a used one, the content is quite different and unexpected. Considering myself an expert at revealing right from the start who is the killer and what is the mystery that will be revealed by the end, I have to say that this movie is not as simple and the final revelation took me by surprise. And it's not like the story was misleading, no one in the film is trying to fool you. It's just never occurred to me to think in that direction, and it works in favor of the film, suddenly taking it to a higher level and adding, with just one effect, much deeper meaning.
Satisfying and interesting movie with great acting, no decapitated bodies and no torture, just classic and simple suspense.
The Tournament (UK, 2009)
Every seven years some unsuspected town, somewhere in the world, becomes a battleground for the very unusual tournament, in which bunch of assassins are trying to kill each other and remain the only one alive. All that happens among the innocent population of the town, while group of rich people betting on the winner and following the events through the surveillance video cameras.
This film looks like it was taken straight from 90's B-action genre, and the "people kill each other for the prize" motif is not something new. I still remember Mean Guns with Christopher Lambert and Ice-T. And while The Tournament does provide great action sequences, which are very dynamic and bloody, familiar actors and fluent plot, the dramatic writing of the film is extremely weak.
The writer managed to come up with such banal story lines as assassin that participates in the tournament to avenge his wife (like he couldn't do it in any other way), another assassin that is pure psychopath (Wow! A killer that is a psychopath! How very original), and an alcoholic priest looking for redemption, that got dragged into the mess by accident (very annoying Robert Carlyle in one of his worst roles, weeping and making sad faces the entire film). And every cliche that you can possibly think of is also here - the rich people (all males), that cheer for every kill, are sitting at the table with stocks of money, while beautiful women are walking around and give them drinks and light their cigars, a female assassin, receiving very harsh blows in her head from much larger and muscular men, only to stand up a second later without a scratch or a bruise on her face, to fight back and win. And there are more embarrassing moments in that spirit, including predictable ending.
Nice to watch and not boring, but the story can use more effort.
Monsters vs Aliens (USA, 2009)
Childish and very simple animation, it's hard to find anything complex or imaginative in this movie. Very light on humor and trying too hard to please everyone, so as result the movie is just plain and has nothing distinctive. Maybe the only thing that I can notice is that tall blond girl is not an evil bitch in this one, like usually happens in films, although she does have more fun as a blond.
Max Manus (Norway, 2008)
For patriotic film about Norwegian resistance during WWII, Max Manus is too boring and fails to excite. Being mostly shameless glorification of the certain real people in Norwegian history, the movie has no focus, lacks interesting story and prefers to emphasize such themes as unconditional loyalty and blind idealism for the sake of the country and the Royal House. It is all fragmental episodes with different events, the movie simply jumps all over the place without being suspenseful and thrilling in any way.
Except of good production value, the film really fails to show significant cinematic achievement, that in addition to the simple patriotic embrace. In the end Max Manus is just a pale imitation of much better and way more interesting Soldier of Orange, pre-Hollywood work by Paul Vehoeven.
The Boondock Saints, (Canada/USA, 1999)
Since I watched this long time ago completely wasted and don't really remember anything, in honor of the upcoming sequel I gave this a second shot. While it's all clear to me why this film became such cult phenomena, pretty justified in my opinion, I can't see myself among the admiring crowd.
Yes it's a fine film, yes it has great moments, yes the homosexual themes are more like Freudian slips and unintentionally funny, but it's just not that interesting and too far from me to make me a fan. I appreciate the effort, though.
Next Day Air (USA, 2009)
Without entering too much into how this movie deals with stereotypical representations of black and Hispanic people, which is interesting topic but for some other time maybe, purely from cinematic point of view this movie is just fine.
Not too complex, not very suspenseful and a with more talking than it really needed, but with interesting approach to social problems of certain ethnic population and with cynical view on American dream and capitalism in general.
Always stoned and irresponsible delivery guy accidentally delivers a big package of drugs to the wrong people, event that triggers both funny and deadly consequences for everyone involved.
The movie has light Tarantino feeling to it and in general interesting to watch, although it is really nothing special on any level.
Horsemen (USA, 2009)
As if the Bible is no more than just a source of every terrible prophecy about plagues, mass killings or destruction of human kind, some people prefer to justify their creative incompetence by making such stupid and dumb movies, simply because this religious document has enough connotations and emotional weight to bring extra dimension to any bullshit.
Eventually the connection between the movie and the Biblical references is very slim and unconvincing, as the whole movie is just another pathetic attempt to scare the viewers with extreme violence and cruelty based on absolutely nothing. Behind all that mess lying sentimental moral tale of children/parents relationship, and not even believable or interesting one.
For people that still afraid of the dark or believe in ghosts, because like this movie it's all about silly irrational fear of nothing.
Eden Lake (UK, 2008)
English couple decides to go on romantic weekend to the lake, only to be stalked and terrorized by a bunch of local teenagers.
If the main purpose was to make the viewers uncomfortable to watch this film, than it's a success. The movie is uneasy to follow, the situation, in which the couple find themselves, is both extremely annoying and frustrating.
The problems start when you look for additional elements in this viewing experience, besides uncomfortable squirming in front of the screen. The suspense and the realistic treatment of the attackers are fine, but in some areas the film keeps the viewers on the diet, not really taking it to more extreme levels. For example there is not much of exploitation, like explicit rape or really nasty torture, something you might expect in such film, especially when the lead female is very fine Kelly Reilly in the summer dress, it's just usual sadistic stuff for such genre.
The basic definition of the couple as victims and their personal characteristics take away the ambiguity from this movie, making you only sympathize with them and be angry when things go against them. The feelings are one dimensional, there is no conflict of emotions toward them. I understand the reason for that but somehow it prevents from the movie to be more shocking and thus more enjoyable. It is indeed disturbing film with great ending, but it's just too simple as horror experience. Missed opportunity.
Cape No. 7 (Taiwan, 2008)
It's really nice to see Asian film that is not some horror about ghosts or epic war film about ancient dynasties.
The movie follows number of characters in the small town, as they are trying to form a local music band to open for famous Japanese band that comes to perform in their town. Their dreams and desires, as well as fears and doubts, are shown as they interact with each other and as they live their lives.
This is so called "dramedy" genre, as some bits of a comedy and romance mixed together with drama, showing simple life of common people. The movie starts really good, in its best moments reminding cleverness and brilliance of Robert Altman's films, but as it goes further into the story, the movie just falls apart to become emotional and tearful romantic melodrama, with all the silliness implied by that.
Overall it is really good movie with international appeal worth seeing, it just runs out of gas in the middle and drags itself toward the end only with the help of the strong start.
I Sell the Dead (USA, 2008)
Great idea and very decent execution, troubled only by the visible budget limitations, which harmed the scale of the imagination. Given more money and bigger opportunity, this could have been a truly great flick.
But since this is how things turned out eventually, the film is just another sad example of unfulfilled potential. What a shame.
A grave robber tells the story of his life to a priest, describing strange and horrifying encounters with corpses, that refuse to stay dead.
13 Beloved (Thailand, 2006)
Having the worst day of his life, with big debt and about to lose his job, a man receives mysterious phone call, asking him to participate in the game. He will have to complete 13 different tasks, and as reward he will get very large sum of money. The tasks turn out to be not as easy as he assumed, both mentally and physically, and if he thought he was having a bad day so far, he will be surprised to discover how much worse things can get.
This is very Hollywoodish thriller, and if sometimes it may feel a bit under-developed and amateur, it is just a consequence of low budget, but its intentions are as bombastic and grandiose as of Eagle Eye. No wonder that American remake was already announced, and it really deserves it.
As for the movie itself, it contains number of incredibly gross and unpleasant scenes, with the main protagonist is tormented by his past on the verge of psychological breakdown. The movie is fascinating to watch, but it's not flawless, although forgivable. Great ending here as well.
The Informers (USA, 2009)
Based on collection of short stories by Bret Easton Ellis, the film is a complete mess. The intentions were probably of Oscar material, but nobody expected from this to be so boring. Seriously, the only good thing here is topless Amber Heard walking around, fucking with two guys and a girl (at the same time) and slowly dancing in her underwear. Besides this new wonder of of the world (really, she's amazing), the movie is lame and unexciting nostalgy for the spirit of 80's, probably the only thing Bret Easton Ellis writes about.
Some bullshit stories of rich and famous, about drugs and about not knowing what is right and wrong. And sure I can understand how it's all about boundaries of reality, and how all these people feel trapped and suffocated, about misunderstandings between the generations and how everyone is looking for a way. But why it has to be so fucking boring?
The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (USA, 2009)
I had giant stupid smile on my face the whole time I watched it. It's not like it was filled with jokes and gags that make you burst out in laughter, and it didn't have much of the clever dialogs or punch lines worth quoting, this movie is just rude and vulgar, filled with many cultural references, especially for everything in horror genre, and it's very, very amusing.
The movie is just light and adult fun, wicked and full of energy, and the moment it starts it just never let go till the end, keeping the same level of humor and action. Lots of cursing, sex jokes, animated nudity, cartoonish violence and funny songs. This was extremely entertaining and enjoyable for me, and with so many things happening on the background I will see it again to catch all of the jokes.
Year One (USA, 2009)
Underrated and funny comedy, that actually more intellectual and smart than it appears to be.
Jack Black is great comedian with perfect timing and facial expression, his presence alone corrects the incredible annoyance and irritation caused by appearance of Michael Cera. The film is full of funny dialogs and clever references, using religious myths in comic context. I am surprised there was no protest from some religious group, because the movie is using charming anarchism to openly mock religion.
Of course it is all mixed with less impressive low humor, but even fart and gay jokes can be funny in proper context.
I really enjoyed this film, I see how it will have more haters than fans, but it definitely deserves a chance.