Robert Rodriguez's loud and action-packed family film about two retired spies and their kids is a fairly forgettable experience. All the flashy and shiny stuff the director keeps throwing on the screen probably just bores most of the viewers. Also, I'm quite sure that kids would rather play spies themselves instead of watching other kids trying to be spies.
So this was the last movie I saw this year. The first one, Roman Polanski's "Death and the Maiden", was better.
The director Wayne Kramer doesn't seem to know exactly what he wants to tell with this movie. Whatever it is, it isn't overly impressive. The story is set in a Las Vegas casino where a character played by wooden William H. Macy works as a "cooler", whose job is to bring bad luck to triumphant customers. I'm not an expert in gambling, but to me that kind of a "job" sounds simply weird. I mean, do these characters actually believe this superstitional stuff? Anyway, Macy's character falls in love with a woman working at the casino but an aggressive boss stands in way of their relationship. The twists of this shallow story are actually so predictable and pointless that I'm not even sure if they can be called twists.
One of the first films I saw this year was "Final Destination 3", which is a really bad and unimaginative horror film. David R. Ellis, who directed the first sequel, returned to direct fourth film but did he learn anything? No, quite the opposite - the plot is about as horribly absurd and ridiculous as in previous films and the special effects are some of the worst I've seen in years. There are 3D and 2D versions of this film, and I ended up watching it in 2D because the 3D version was too challenging to watch.
This is a little different kind of a Christmas film. During World War I German, French and Scottish soldiers lay down their arms and decide to have a peaceful Christmas Eve. During the ceasefire they have fun together and some of them learn important lessons about humanity. But what will happen after Christmas Eve is over?
A surprisingly good sequel considering how bad and dated the first film is. In the plot the main character, a British aristocrat, returns to America to meet a familiar Sioux tribe again and helps them to fight against injustice after finding out that they are in trouble with an another tribe and brutal white traders. Fortunately "Empire Strikes Back" director Irvin Kershner is talented at directing action because the plot or the characters are nothing special. The big battle scene at the end is very impressive.
Passion, suffering, love, corruption and temptation are the themes Marguerite Duras, the screenwriter of "Hiroshima mon amour", explores in her fascinating study. The movie is set in the 1930s, when the end of colonial times were near. Only a few aristocrats are still wandering around inside a French embassy building in Calcutta and the time seem to have stopped for them. A viewer can never be completely sure about the inner feelings of the isolated characters, but this is exactly why the movie is so captivating and hypnotic.
I saw the first film at a theater about seven years ago and it was a quite intense experience back then, though somehow I doubt it would be as impressive anymore. One interesting thing about it for me is also the fact that it was released in Finland exactly on my 18th birthday. Anyway, "The Ring Two" is just another utterly forgettable lackluster sequel where the monster is still as ugly as before and the lead actress is pretty.
Paul Haggis's "Crash" is a depiction of people of different ethnicities living under constant pressure in one of the most corrupt cities in the United States. The film doesn't give direct answers to questions it presents and although the way how the director handles the issues may not be exceptionally original, a socio-political statement is still professionally executed.
A mother of a teenage boy mysteriously disappears and the boy and his father go searching for her. Trails lead to Europe and during a dangerous journey the boy and the father learn to respect each other again. "Target" is an ordinary but action-packed 80s thriller by "Bonnie and Clyde" director Arthur Penn, who sadly passed away a couple of months ago.
A thought-provoking collection of short films revolving around the WTC strikes. All the films are directed by different directors from different countries around the world. Some of them aren't directly related to the terrorist attacks, but they are based on metaphors, like Shohei Imamura's segment, which tells about a Japanese WWII veteran who thinks he is a snake.
Alejandro González Iñárritu's minimalistic short film is the most memorable one. We only see a blank screen and hear real phone calls and emergency messages, occasionally interrupted by flashes of people jumping and falling from the upper levels of the World Trade Center towers.
Ken Loach's segment is also very powerful and shocking work of art. It tells about the U.S. backed military coup which overthrew Salvador Allende, the first democratically elected Marxist president of Chile, and established Augusto Pinochet's brutal military dictatorship. This happened on 11 September 1973 and we see one of the survivors writing a letter about his thoughts on the horrific events.
Steven Seagal as an ex-cia agent who have to beat countless brutal criminals with his martial art skills. Is it just me or has this been done before? A grim action hero also fights with samurai swords, but unfortunately not even the sharpest of the swords is going to make him any more convincing actor.
An English aristocrat is captured by Sioux Indians and forced to pass agonizing tests in order to become a respected member of the tribe. This dated and graceless predecessor of "Dances with Wolves" looks twenty years older than it actually is. In the 70s white actors were still playing Indian roles.
A wealthy Cuban coffee baron searches for a woman via letter and marries an American woman who appears to be more beautiful than the man expected. However, later the woman escapes after emptying the man's bank account and her mysterious past slowly becomes exposed. The movie is based on the novel "Waltz into Darkness" by Cornell Woolrich and it's also a remake of François Truffaut's "Mississippi Mermaid", which isn't a masterpiece either but still way more engaging version than this tedious and awkward melodrama. The love making scenes aren't erotic at all so the film doesn't work even as softcore porn.
John Guillermin is moderately impressive at directing action but characters in his films are usually paper-thin caricatures. That's the problem also with "The Bridge at Remagen" which is a depiction of a crucial battle of World War II. It is respectable that the director tries to tell the story from both the German and Allied perspective, but he doesn't have anything special to say about the subject.
Eli Roth clearly didn't learn anything from "Hostel" because the sequel is just same trash with new characters. The fact that this completely talentless director is actually allowed to make movies is more disturbing than any of his predictable horror films.
A remake of an award-winning Japanese film, which tells about a married man who becomes interested in a curvy dance teacher and secretly starts taking lessons. The soundtrack and the dance scenes are fine but the story doesn't offer anything new. The ending is overly sugary.
A troubled teenage boy learns that he is actually the son of Poseidon and a demigod, but he is also accused of stealing Zeus' mighty lightning bolt. With help from his protector and an other demigod the boy have to prove that he isn't guilty in order to stop a battle between the gods.
This otherwise very conventional fantasy film includes some absurdly fascinating scenes. In one scene two demigods and a goat/human hybrid are visiting a casino in Las Vegas and trying to find an important pearl, but they are drugged by eating lotus flowers and end up having fun while Lady Gaga's "Pokerface" is playing in background. I wouldn't be surprised if this freaky scene was inspired by some of Gaga's stage performances.
Two con men brothers and their associate, a quiet female explosives expert, decide to team up for one final task. Their target, an eccentric and lonely heiress obsessed with weird hobbies, joins the group believing she's going to experience a great adventure while traveling around the world. The story is clearly inspired by the old classic Hollywood adventure comedies, but even the good actors can't save the film because the director repeats the same tricks too many times.
Robert Zemeckis should really think up some better ideas. For example, what about directing a movie that actually looks like a movie? Zemeckis belongs to the same group of technology-obsessed big budget directors as James Cameron, whose best days are also in the past. "Avatar" and "Beowulf" are both so utterly ridiculous, loud and cliched films that it's impossible to take anything about them seriously. It seems that there would be a lot of work for Grendel to do in Hollywood nowadays.
An Indian movie that is based on a true story tells about Phoolan Devi, a woman, who was humiliated countless times but managed to avenge wrongdoers by taking part in a feared bandit group. Finally she became the most feared criminal in India. "Bandit Queen" is the director Shekhar Kapur's gripping and shocking breakthough film, and a powerful statement against sexual violence which is a very big problem especially in conservative rural India.