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Monthly Archives: June 2008

A young girl and her father live on a beautiful island, him studying nature, her hanging out with cute animals and reading adventure books. When the father goes missing with his boat after a storm, Nim – the girl – calls for help from the hero of her favourite books. Turns out this Alex hero is only a whimpish Jodie Foster author in real life, almost too scare to leave her Manhattan apartment. But she does, and they find each other, and all is well.
Spectacularly harmless, the joining of Jodie Foster and 300-star Gerard Butler (who is actually quite enjoyable here as Foster’s alter ego) is aimed at somebody considerably younger than me. For those, there may be joy in flying chamaeleons and fat English tourists with sunburns, but then again, even the most little ones may realise that the script is a bit all over the place, with the whole drama suddenly evaporating when the father just returns without much ado.

The plot is … er … some stone age or something people hunt mammoths, and then … er … some of them get kidnapped and one of them follows them and then there or Kenian warriors and more mammoths, only now they are working on an Egyptianal pyramid. In the end, they kill the Egyptian Prime Minister with a white spear.
The most horrible dialogues, and a narration that sheds light in the fact that at some point in your carreer, you start doing just about anything for money, because at Omar Sharif’s age, there is nothing to lose. The most un-thrilling action sequences involving mammoths and dinosaurs (??? WTF???) and whatever.
When I heard of the film for the forst time a couple of years back, I was wondering why the hell anybody would want to make such a film, and how they would manage to create a decent story in such a setting. Well, yeah…

Andrew Lau is representative of the very strange breed of Hongkong filmmakers who got a certain fame for being rather ruthlessly stylish and brutal in their films, and by influencing European and American directors with their overtly visual style. To me, these guys are notorious for hiding their lack of stringent story-telling behind recurring episodes with leg-cringing brutality, and usually produce rather forgettable merchanidse, not attributable to a specific director, but rather to the genre of “modern HongKong style”.
And “The Flock”? Has an impressive set of well-known actors that you are kind of surprised to see here – but clearly being the result of this HongKong reputation leading to some producers and agents expecting another John Woo phenomenon to be around the corner (the John Woo of Face Off fame, that is, not of the other nonsense he has done in the US). That’s a good bonus to get started, working with an eerily slim and exhausted Richard Gere and a very fragile and slightly dispaced-looking Clare Danes. When you get down to the story, it is confusingly thin, so that you keep wondering what twist is around the corner to make it worth all the fuzz. Nothing, however, is around the corner, apart from more and more “quotes” from high-concept genre films: Seven, Silence of the Lambs in particular, but also – as some IMDB reviewers have pointed out – a general X-Files setting about all of it. The final is really embarassing in it even trying to replicate Brad Pitt’s every movement from the final scene in Seven, but without the high-tension builidup to the scene it just falls flat on the face.
The most interesting question is whether Andrew Lau will get another chance after this first US effort that did, I understand, not just go out without a bang at the box office, but that even very few reviewers cared to pay attention at.

I have hardly ever been expecting a tv show as eagerly as I was expecting the 4th Season of Battlestar Galactica over the last nine or so months (now how is that about being auspicious?). In the last two years, I have been catching up with quite a bit of tv show material that I could never be bothered to watch before, or where the sheer format – the weekly installments putting their cruel dictate upon me – were just not my kind of ball game. Some considerations on this self-surprising development:

I suppose most of my change of attitude is due to the age of DVD boxes and online download platforms. It started, I remember, when I VHS-taped the first season of “24” a couple of years ago (and even before that, I was the occassional “X Files” and of course “Twin Peaks” audience member), but only took really off with the boxed sets of the first season(s) of “Lost”, “Heroes”, and “Battlestar Galactica”. I admit that those four shows have turned me around – I was absolutely amazed at the high quality of tv that is being written and produced on any given day in the wide world of US tv (only very recently did I realise that for some strange reason, all the best US tv premiers on Thursdays and Fridays – and I cannot for the life of me imagine why a broadcaster wants to offer his crown jewels on a Friday night, honestly!).

Outside those BIG FOUR, there is plenty of material with which I could brighten my day any time: the perennial “C.S.I.”, the hard-hitting “Dexter”, very clever “Californication”, eerie “Life” (will you be back, Damon? Pleeease!), terminated “Jericho”, sexy “Entourage”, even the recently re-discovered “South Park” (all episodes online, takes only about a month to watch 12 of them. Seasons, I mean). There will be the day when I will get the complete “Sopranoes” box set, no doubt. And “The Wire” lurking behind the corner, waiting to be discovered.

Through the writers’ strike, it became clearer to me how difficult it must be to sustain a coherent story line, credible characters and just the right pacing for each of these dramas to work out. The strike messed it all up royally, and nowhere was it as visible as in the case of “Heroes”, where the transition from excellent character drama to completely disoriented and pointless superheroes patchwork took exactly one day – last episode season 1 to first episode season 2. Arbitrarily introduced new characters did not work, storylines got lost, nobody really saw what the actual drama, the McGuffin driving the story, was. You cannot pack a show designed for 23 episodes in just 11 or so. It got random, and while there is the hope that the long hiatus gives the writers and producers the unprecedented chance to write the best and most intelligent and most dramatic season in tv show history, chances are rather that the show will glide into oblivion, having missed the chance to keep up the high quality, and not getting another one. “Lost” had a similar problem, actually, also introduced a new set of characters for the new season, but managed slightly better to keep their profile low, indicating that somebody out there knows what to do with them – only next year instead of this.

Even the shows that are running on very high steam and with constant quality for years – BSG and Lost, maybe – are extremely fragile in that respect. The audience’s urge to come back every week – to watch it or to start the download or to get home and watch the TiVo recording – can evaporate just like that if you push the wrong button once too often. “Lost” almost achieved that when they lost track of their mythology by introducing new characters and killing them off right away within one episode: the two guys who got buried alive in season 3 were not just irrelevant to the show, they were an intruder from the hostile planet of “continuous tv programming”, where a tv show’s story having a beginning, a mid-section and an end is considered blasphemy against the God of profitability. One-off stories allow a show to go on forever – and going on forever is exactly what all those shows I like cannot do without destroying themselves (with maybe the only exception and guilty pleasure of CSI, assuming that Grissom is immortal, and why should he not be?):

“Lost” needs to find a way to either get the people off the island for good – or to keep them there for good. “Heroes” and “24” are odd brothers in that they must find a new apocalyptic threat per season (one that did not really exist in Season 2 of “Heroes”, and a couple too many in the last “24” season), and Battlestar Galactica must lead the colonial fleet to Earth – or get smashed by the Cylon armies to smithereens – which is what I still kind of hope for: a truly heroic ending for that beaten-up garabage truck and its brave crew.

Before BSG had decided to fulfil its mission after season 4 (and praise the Lords of Kobol for this wise decision!), isolated episodes were seeping in by the minute: about Sagritarian sects, rogue doctors, admirals’ wedding anniversaries, trade union nonsense and so forth. I believe the high concentration of these episodes in the second third of season 3 made the decision to terminate the show after one more season unavoidable, unless you can live with the fact of turning a high-quality drama in a rubbish soap opera (as the X-files creators did, of course – learn from history, shape the future…). “Lost” is a bit more hesitant, but 100 episodes will be enough for them, two more seasons to go. The “24” format has reached a point where you cannot just repeat the same pattern, because only so many presidents can get assassinated per tv show. Unless they re-invent themselves after the long long long break, they should consider also going out with a bang (make Jack president, and have him shot when swearing the oath – and then his annoying daughter takes over his job, longing for revenge, and we will never have to watch again. Or we have to watch the loop re-runs of episodes 1 – 7).

As all the shows have been taking breath recently, and only the Battlestar has been revving her engines again, with plenty of waiting time ahead for all the others, I was wondering: what’s coming next? Where is the next “Lost”, the other BSG-like re-invention of Science Fiction drama, where is the proof that there can be decent tv outside those shows? I am a bit concerned, to be honest, that the time of big-scale drama may already be at an end, that shows that are running over a couple of seasons, but hardly ever lose their aim, their target out of their eyes, may be outdated? Or too expensive? Please no… I just got used to them.

After the kids of South Park get exposed to the barbaric humour of the latest Terence & Phillip movie, all hell breaks loose in South Park and they sing some brilliant songs. Kyle’s mother (the “Big old bitch” of the song of the same name, probably the best musical song in 60 years – in good company with 14 others in the film, including the ear worm “what would Brian Boytano do?”) seeks to ban all TP products and perferably Canada, while Saddam Hussein gets involved in an amour fou with Satan. The kids form and sing a Resistance movement and free Terence & Philip before their execution. In vain, however, because their blood is still spilled and Satan may rule the Earth, if Saddam lets him, but Eric shoots some light flashes at Saddam and the White side (or rather: Satan’s red butt) wins.
Some of the most hilarious musical songs, a record in profanity, dead Kelly, gay Satan – this film is indeed the centre of everything the South Park universe stands for. I don’t particularly care for the Satan character or his annoying boyfriend (or for T&P, for that matter), but in the words of immortal Eric Cartman: “Aaawesome!”
Review by an admirer at NYT
Roger Ebert quote of the week: “I laughed. I did not always feel proud of myself while I was laughing, however.” Exactly!
And if you want to know what I have been doing for the last two months: go see all (!) SP episodes online at

The life of Wang Chia Chi, who shifts her life in Shanghai from being an normal student to cecoming an assassinating actress, trying to help the resistance movement to eliminate the collaborator Yee.
Ang Lee films are always a bit strange for me: the little Americal bourgeois drama of Ice Storm qualities, the melancholy of Brokeback Mountain, the standard Hollywood ware of the Hulk … there are not too many drawers into which he could fit, maybe the only drawer is the one where “sadness” is written on. I always find his films to be filled with sad nostalgia, memories of a better world or life. And of the difficult decisions that had to be made, the characters reflecting on the what if’s of their decisions. In this case by both the assassin and the emperor, so to say. The seduction game leads to the possibility to kill, but for both sides, and maybe the way to this point where every decision is possible has somehow reversed the ability of the persons to act: she cannot kill him anymore, but now he can. Maybe they now are better suited to face their lives, because pretending to be a killer (she) or pretending not to be one (he) was too strenuous? In the words of the ever-brilliant Roger Ebert: “There is not a frame of the film that is not beautiful, but there may be too many frames.” Review, Variety Review

Donnie Darko learns in a dream or vision that the world will end in 28 days, unless he and the giant rabbit who told him … emmm … do something I do not remember.
There’s the president of the Colonies as his mother and the gay cowboy from Brokeback Mountain as Donnie, and the chubby girl from Charly’s Angels, and the …
There is a book on time travel written by an old woman with white hair and an innovative school teacher who gets sacked, and …
And there is a kiddie lover who gets exposed when Donnie burns down his house, and there is a lot of sewage water in the school headmaster’s office and …
The nice girl gets killed and Donnie takes revenge by shhoting someone in the eye and travels back in time and …

It is really worth to look at the full synopsis again IMDB offers, I could really honestly not figure out anymore what had happened. Now my poor memory is partly responsible, but I also think that the film’s problem may be a script problem: too much stuff happening at the same time, and often just stuff, not too coherent, too many exotic developments creating an early expectation of the unavoidable ending – or at least a possibility of how that ending was created with the help of time travel?
I feel slightly confused, but I believe that the film with its cute starring actor and the nice level of absurdity about it will remain with us for a while, as it seem to touch a nerve of confused teenagers who adhore it as a cult film.

The story of a young boy who discovers his ability to leap though space at will, allowing him a life in style by withdrawing cash directly from the bank vaults (of which he makes generous use) and allowing him to safe people trapped in floods and take them out safely (of which he abstains).
Trouble hits his calm life between breakfast on top of the Gize pyramids and taking a ride on a London double decker, when Samuel L. Jackson sniffs his trace and decides to hunt him down. “Jumpers are the worst.” he sighs, but we never learn the worst among which specific sub-group of society and why anyway. Whichever it is, his intention is to kill them all with a big knife, which is why the Jumper boy is in trouble. And his girlfriend, and his Jumper buddy from Scotland. In the end, it is about jumping away a house, which has never been managed before, so … you guess.
There is a new rule in movies. After we have safely established the “Whenever Ben Kingsley plays the head of a secret organisations: beware!” rule, now here comes the “Whenever Samuel L. Jackson plays in a movie having a supporting role and his hair dyed white, beware!” rule. Or maybe “Any films with Samuel Jackson and Hayden Christiansen and a metal tube electronic gadget: beware!” Some bits of the special effects are quite pleasant to watch, with the possibilities involved in this particular ability rather well developed and not too many holes in the setup of this idea. What exactly the problem is between the Jumpers and the other guys (what are they called again? Centurions??) we do not learn, but it is a very old battle they are fighting, just like those vampires and Blade, you know? The whole drama, however, does not have a point and nothing happens that would be above mediorce in terms of directions, design, editing, camera, or acting. Script is actually way down the bottomless pit of terribleness: “We have his girlfirend, now he must come to us.” Arg! The director did do O.C., this terrible tv show before, so I hope for him that he is on a long-term contract with the networks – this movie I would not include in my job application package!

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