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Monthly Archives: May 2008

Weapons producer Tony Stark gets hijacked in Afghanistan, and develops scruples about his trade as well as an armed and armoured suit while in captivity. This is not taken up kindly by his business companion, who also wants a flying suit (and not such a “conservative one”) and Stark out of the way. Stark discovers he wants to be a hero, and now he can.
As predicted, the girls are in love with Robert Downey Jr., and who wouldn’t? It is exactly the cool bad-ass bastard that gets all the upscale journalist chicks with Brown degrees and who cannot be mean enough to them and still makes them addicted. Perfect choice for a superhero who is not super, but just very smart, tech-savvy and in command of next to unlimited riches. In the company of The Dude and the girl from Shakespeare in Love and Hook, this superhero film fortunately has very little superhero about it and does not need it really. The characters are strong, the locations awesome, the suit very kinetically real-feeling and the damage done during the fights loud and painful to man and material. And Downey does not even mumble as much as usual. Well done!

Part 1: National Treasure
Ben Gates is Nichoals Cages is the son of John Voight, and like a scaled-down version of Doctor Indy he is being chased around the world by the quest after a giant treasure, hidden by Freemasions and Templers and all the usual suspects of hiding things and conspiring about it. Digging up a ship in the Arctic ice, stealing the American decleration of indepedence, wearing coloured glasses and other stuff that I don’t remember 24 hours after I watched it happen.

With the producers in the background, an admirable cast and plenty of money to spend on location shooting, there is a film that shouts “rollercoaster”, and that’s what it tries to do. A bit of physical action, a bit of heist, a bit of high tech mission impossible, a bit of this stuff and of that, and admittedly this potpurri stays entertaining and most of the time well-paced throughout two hours of running around. It is very hard to remember what exactly they did, but the feeling of a well-choreographed Indy-rip-off and the realisation that well, maybe sometime it needs to be admitted that this is what Nicholas Cage is bet at. The German model playing his girl is actually not bad, too, and comes across quite refreshing – surely she will attract hordes of new students to study the ancient arts of whatever she was a scientist in.

Part 2: National Treasure, Book of Secrets
Ben Gates has to wash clear the name of his ancestor, who was supposed to be a war hero, but now comes under suspicion of having been a part in Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. This leads him to a new trasure hunt, this time it is some Maya city of Gold he needs to find, and the quest takes him through the Queen’s and the US president’s desks, the latter desk’s owner’s kidnapping as well as to a book with all the secrets you ever wanted to know about. Area 51, anyone?

The cast is quite likeable, actually. Same as first time, plus Ed Harris and the Queen and the nice woman with the cute nose from Jericho. They are doing the expected things, but why is it that whenever directors like to Wow their audiences, they have to include car chase scenes in their movies. Adventure films do not need car chases, they need pygmae canibals and poisoned darts stuck into the heroes’ hearts. Anyway: the tourism boards of London, Washington and wherever Mount Rushmore is have kindly contributed to this breath- and slightly brainless hunt. Unfortunately the script is predictable on a painful level (yes, the water dams will break, yes, the Ferrari will be crashed etc. etc.), and there is basically no humour.

The summary from the double feature: the films (both directed by John Turtletaub) are expensive follow-ups to Romancing the Stone, not in the same league of the original, lacking the charme and humour of Indiana Jones’ Goofy Adventures. Entertaining, of course, but only a serious alternative when it’s raining outside and the there is no new “Lost” or “Battlestar Galactica” episode around.

During the shooting of a mummy horror C movie, a crew of film students is being confronted with the world falling apart around them: dead bodies stand up again, the world turns into a zombie madhouse, and they have to find some refuge with their trailer. They do, at last, take cover in one of the crew members’ huge mansion, where they take their last stand.

George Romero is some kind of routine zombie provider, and you have to gove him that the quality of this provision never drops below a certain standard. As zombies in a zombie movie are not the key point anymore, he takes the chance of showing how societies evolve when being struck by apocaplypse’s horsemen. How military abuses the vulnerability of the non-armed, how the previously underpriviledged use the ruthlessness they were forced to develop in order to get in charge of supplies and hence civilisation. How people deal with the fact that their beloved ones are “slow mutants” – eager to eat flesh.

None of this is new, but . . . no “but”, unfortunately, this time it is actually a problem that pre-existing patterns are being recycled without really adding anything substantial. The shaky camera, or the obsession of the guy who holds the camera to the last moment, is very much last year, and what does it add, anyway? Media criticism? Voyeur-Bashing? More authenticity? The threats or benefits of ubiquitous computing? No, not anymore, if ever. There is one funny aspect, at least, which is that the Mummy turns into a Zombie, kind of mind-boggling, when you are geekish enough to analyse the implications while being sufficiently drunk.
Diary of the Dead is the Diary of a film-maker who cannot escape his clichee at the moment, but who will need to re-invent himself in order to remain interesting for audiences.

Nice opportunity to come back to an old favourite – when did you last visit the Fangoria website to read a review? Do now!
Salon.com Review
Jim Emerson’s review

An elephant stumbles across a speck of dust in which apparently a whole world is hidden. He goes at great lengths in order to protect the speck and the world from being boiled by a nasty kangaroo sceptic.

I think it is difficult to assess what this film means to an American audience who grew up with Dr Seuss books and knows the story with nostalgic intensity. If you see it without that history, the story appears to be incredibly thin, the characters all pretty non-edgy and the – in terms of the way it has been produced for the screen – the animation very very not interesting, none of the characters particularly original, cute, nasty or any adjective. I hope this works for the little ones. For the slightly elderly there is a short sequence reminiscent of Japanese manga comic books and films (without context, though), and a short reference to Apocaplypse Now, and that’s about it. Uninspired and way too family friendly in the word’s worst connotation.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0451079/
Salon.com review: http://www.salon.com/ent/movies/review/2008/03/14/horton/index.html?CP=IMD

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