Movies I've seen In 2008
A supposedly untraceable web site shows people getting killed "live", and it happens the faster the
more people are watching it on the site. Obviously, the lead agent pursuing the case finds herself in the
hot spot eventually, and just as obviously that'll be a close shave. Apart from that, much more or
less sensible technobabble is bandied around, and one is reminded of the Saw movies.
It's OK entertainment, though.
- Burn After Reading
The latest film by the Coen brothers is once again a weird story culminating in murder, but this time
in a comedic setting. It's a story about catching your dreams while obtaining the money needed to do so
by selling State Department secrets. Needless to say, not everybody is pleased with that, and not
everybody survives. A star-studded cast acts out normal people teetering on the edge, while wringing
a lot of humor out of the performance.
- Columbus Day
After stealing a briefcase of mysterious content in a bloody heist gone wrong, one of the perpetrators
tries to sell it back to the owners without getting killed himself. Sage advice dispensed by a six year
old boy prods him into mending his personal relationship -and the rest of his life- at the same time.
Bad acting, bad dialogues, an incredible and pointless plot - this movie combines it all. Ninety minutes
of my life I'll never get back.
- Shoot 'Em Up
A fast-paced thriller in which one guy (obviously a very special guy) shows how to deal with scores
of bad guys, killing them alone, in groups, and in truckloads. In one memorable scene he even does so
while simultaneously providing a ladyfriend of his with an orgasm. Refreshingly, the film doesn't take
itself all that seriously, and occasionally exaggerates the action to the point of making fun of itself.
- Der Baader Meinhof Komplex (German)
Years ago I wrote about a movie made from a Tom Clancy novel: "The film leaves out those two-thirds
of the book that explain why there's shooting in the other third." That summary would be spot on here. While
the book on which this film is based isn't exactly a novel -more like a serialized presentation of facts-,
for a subject this important to German society, one feels that making an action movie out of it is a wasted
effort. The motivations of the main characters remain largely hidden, and are only hinted at superficially.
Keeping track of all the characters and their importance would be impossible for someone who doesn't have
good knowledge of the history of this terrorist group already. The subject is probably much too complex
to be treated adequately on film.
Many people seem to like the new Pixar flick, but I think it's a far cry from the likes of Ratatouille
and Toy Story. A little robot cleans up the over-littered earth after all humans have decamped for more
hospitable grounds far away, and he falls in love with a visiting robotess who's looking for life left on the planet.
Sure, it's cute, and it's fun to see where mankind might be headed once people are too obese to walk on
their own, but the plot never really engages the viewer, and seems an incoherent whole.
- City Of Angels
Finally I got to see this classic movie set in the still-divided Berlin of the Eighties. Angels roam the
earth, looking for people in need of a mental boost, and while the living never notice them, the angels
are interested and engaged observers. One of them falls in love with a young woman, and decides to become
a human to pursue her. (Somewhat surprisingly, it turns out that he's the one she's been waiting for.)
It's a story full of compassion, even though not everyone can be helped. I loved the pictures of the
Wall-ravaged wastelands of Berlin, now all gone – the city has come very far very fast since then.
- Thank You For Smoking
I laughed so much like I haven't done in quite a while watching a movie. This satiric take on
tobacco lobbying has a great cast, including William H. Macy and Aaron Eckhart, an up-and-coming
favorite of mine, and Eckhart pulls all the stops when presenting the nice face of tobacco to the
public, while also explaining to his little son why what he does is a good thing. Maybe not surprising,
his closest friends are the other Merchants Of Death – lobbyists representing alcocol and firearms,
all of whom are bragging about whose product kills the most people. I suspect the groundwork for this
movie was laid by the Doonesbury comic's figure of Mr. Butts,
but seeing real people do it takes it to a whole different level. Highly recommended.
- The Dark Knight
Although I've seen a couple of the Batman movies (but can hardly recall anything about them apart
from Catwoman :-) this was the first time I actually paid money to do so. While seeing it on the
big screen helps the action scenes, the movie is too long, and too preachy in tone, to be a
memorable experience. The late Heath Ledger makes a good Joker, but I'd be hard pressed to say
if he was any better than Jack Nicholson years ago.
The film depicts a neighborhood of Paris and its inhabitants in their pursuit of happiness,
or simply their daily life. The focal point is a severely ill man who watches the people from
his balcony but can't take part any more, and his sister who helps him cope. There are some
similarities to Short Cuts, although more attention
is given to love and companionship here (as befits the city), sometimes in all its
undignified -but all too human- glory. Imperfect people try to make the best of life in a great city,
or -as the main character summarizes it- "That's Paris – everybody complains, nobody just enjoys living."
- Saw II
and Saw III
More elaborate games and storylines that connect the individual victim's lives together
abound in the sequels. While Jigsaw is still alive, it transpires that he now has an accomplice,
which opens up further possibilities. Often sequels don't live up to the original, but these
are about on the same level; if you liked the first one, you'll like these as well.
I finally got around to seeing this one. The reason was that I bought part 2 on the cheap,
but a friend told me that I really needed to watch part 1 first. It's amazing how many ways there
are to extract blood from the human body. The script is nothing if not inventive, although
"sick" is also an adjective that comes to mind. The movie will keep you on the edge of your seat,
and not everyone who one might reasonably assume would survive, will survive. Plus, the killer is still
on the run at the end, setting the stage for the sequel that I actually wanted to see...
- In Bruges
A couple of hitmen need to hide out for a while and are sent to Bruges. While one enjoys
the sights of the medieval city, the other is looking for less exalted pleasures. Eventually,
things become ... more complicated, involving their boss, a dwarf, a couple of Canadian tourists,
a couple of locals preying on tourists, romance, beer, a weapons dealer, a pregnant landlady
and much else, not least beautiful pictures of the city. In the end, a surprising amount of
humanity is displayed, considering the profession of the protagonists. Not that all of them
survive, mind you. Having seen images of the city for the first time, I've resolved to go
there myself some day, so it's a cinematic ad for
Bruges as well.
It's hard to know what to make of this movie. It's a slapstick comedy that's nonetheless
rated R for showing binge drinking for a full 100 minutes. Trying to describe the plot is like
describing the plot of a porn movie. Some Americans get into a beer drinking contest
with a group of Germans at Oktoberfest, lose big itme, practice for a year, and then come back
for a rematch the next year. I thought I couldn't go wrong spending 5 bucks for a movie
starring Jürgen Prochnow – oh well, at least it provides plenty of cheap laughs.
- CSN&Y / Déjà Vu
In 2006, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young came together for yet another reunion tour, this time
under the motto Freedom of Speech with a decidedly anti-war message. Although the protagonists
are all in their 60s now, their fire, song and guitar playing is still almost what it was 40 years
earlier. Musically, this is somewhere between the Neil Young captured on film in
Year of the Horse and the one in
Heart of Gold. Besides the music, the film also
has interviews with the musicians, reactions of concert-goers (both positive and negative), and
some footage of 60s/70s performances of CSN&Y at the height of the protests against the Vietnam war
and the Kent State killings. The music may not be the best Young's ever written -although some is quite
good- but seeing the audience and media reactions, and hearing the band tell their point of view makes
for a memorable concert/tour movie.
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Although 15 years older, Indy is at his best in this fast-paced fourth episode. Mixing evil Russians,
Area 51, ancient ruins, UFOs and much more, he even gets to survive a nuclear blast, find out he's a dad,
get married, and lives to tell the tale. Cate Blanchett as the evil lady is a bit too stereotypical for this
day and age, but that too fits in with the previous episodes. Lots of laughs, cool action, and lines
borrowed from numerous movies make this a quite enjoyable summer flick.
- KeinOhrHasen (German)
A comedy about relationships between men and women - be they just friendly, or just sexual, or maybe
even -gasp!- romantic. Plenty of plain talk about the facts ensues, as does some soul searching
and a number of false starts and detours, until in the end one of the main characters changes their mind.
Whether or not the relationshippy parts should be taken at face value is a matter of perspective,
but the film offers a very entertaining take on an old subject, while also providing much humor.
- Charlie Wilson's War
The movie depicts the USA's covert response to the Soviet Union's attack on Afghanistan.
Jumpstarted by a lone congressman, the effort becomes a big CIA operation in Pakistan to arm
mujahideens to take on Soviet helicopters and tanks. After the pullout of the Red Army,
both countries are left to deal with the aftermath, creating problems that are still felt today.
It's great fun to watch Tom Hanks' congressman obtain funds in between downing many whiskeys,
while Philip Seymour Hoffman's CIA operative thinks up ways to spend it. Good entertainment.
- Layer Cake
A film where nobody is a good guy –nor anybody pretends to be–, is a welcome deviation
from the usual movie clichés. A drug deal (or several, depending on how you look at it)
goes wrong, and plenty of dealers are after the money and the drugs. Lots of double-dealing and
shifting alliances ensue, as do multiple murders; at times it's confusing who works for or against whom.
Bottom line: too much Daniel Craig, not enough Michael Gambon and Sienna Miller.
- No Country For Old Men
The Coen Brothers' latest flick is a return to the days of Fargo – don't ask, don't tell,
just shoot to kill. Although it's highly entertaining, giving it the Oscar for best film
seems quite a stretch. But do watch it anyway; super-bad guy Javier Bardem makes killing an art,
and sometimes it seems he has more to say than the other, near-mute, Texan characters.
- Smokin' Aces
A one million dollar reward is set on the life of a top mobster turned FBI informant. Predictably,
this attracts various and sundry hit men and women, who proceed to dispatch of each other, police,
bystanders and everyone else in this entertaining action movie. A number of well-known actors give
the good and bad guys and gals some recognizable faces, even as death looms around corner.
PI Nicolas Cage tries to find out whether a snuff video he got hold of is for real or not.
That –of all the porn movie producers of LA– he should find the one that made it is a miracle.
But no real suspense develops; bad guys Peter Stormare and James Gandolfini never give the
impression of operating on the same level as Cage.
- There Will Be Blood
The story of an oil man in the early decades of the last century won Daniel Day Lewis an Oscar
for best actor, and he's certainly remarkable. Starting out as a strongly driven cynic, he gradually
becomes a true misanthrop bordering on madness. It's a man's world he does business in, and he does
whatever he needs to do to get his way, not excluding murder. In the end, it doesn't amount to anything
beyond monetary riches. The film is more of a character study than the story of a business or a society;
it reminded me strongly of James Dean's character in Giant.
- Zou you / In Love We Trust
Hot on the heels of the movie winning the Silber Bear for best script at the Berlinale I was able
to see it on the last day of the festival. The story is certainly remarkable, it boils down
to what parents will do to save their sick child, and the various ways in which this is affected
by China's one child policy. I'm torn about the film itself, though –the acting seemed flat and
unnatural in places– and not sure how much of that is due to it being shown in the original with subtitles.
- Lucky Number Slevin
Bruce Willis as a hit man always works well, and this entertaining gangster movie is no exception.
There are a few nice twists and turns, and in the end both Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley
lose out to the younger generation. It never gets slow (meaning deaths per minute) or boring.
How did I manage to miss this when it first came out?
- Death Proof
Men are bad. But girls rule. Or something like that is the message of this movie. Quentin Tarantino
continues to be innovative but can't come close to Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction.
Casting a nasty Kurt Russell as villain works well, but somehow we've already seen all the themes in
Duel, Thelma and Louise and Vanishing Point. The last one seems apt, though –
what's the point?
The movie seems like Speed and Natural Born Killers blended into one.
A man mustn't stop moving (or at least pumping adrenaline) lest he dies because of some lethal
injection he got that deprives him of his own. Woody Harrelson look-alike Jason Statham keeps the
speed up and manages to negotiate many miles of LA gridlock traffic in a couple of hours. Very impressive.
Too bad he can't survive falling out of a helicopter (he should have read The Da Vinci Code for that),
otherwise he might have told us what the role of the –admittedly cute– girlfriend of his in the movie was.
- The Matrix
Laurence Fishburn and his cool sunglasses without frames can't hide the fact that the plot has more holes
than a Swiss cheese. After a while, even the main characters don't seem to understand what's
going on any more, and are repeatedly asked just to believe in the mission. Fishburn and his remarkably
bland buddy Keanu Reeves are out to save the world that's been taken over by robots. Surely a dose of
paranormal capabilities they possess should be sufficient to do battle with countless robots of superhuman
capabilities? You betcha. The only saving grace was watching the HD version on a big-screen TV –
the amount of detail that's discernible is simply amazing.