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Monthly Archives: February 2009

William Munny (retired gunslinger-hitman, father of two, widower, broke) hears of a job in the town of Little Whiskey. There, two guys have cut up a whores face, and her colleagues have put up a reward for whoever kills the bastards. The desperation leads to temptation, so William and his former travelling fellow Ned (Morgan Freeman) follow The Schofield Kid to Little Whiskey. The town is governed by Sheriff Little Bill (Gene Hackman), who is willing to take any measures against the influx of professional (fantastic: Richard Harris as “English Bob”, rambling about who everybody should be able to shoot a President, but who would not be petrified when facing the assassination of a Royal?!) and less professional killers out for the reward. But William, Ned and the Kid go out hunting, and take the confrontation.

By definition a “later Western”, because when Clint Eastwood is in it as an old guy, you realise soon that the world has moved on and he does not draw that colt as quickly as he used to. As often with the Eastwood-directed movies, the main character (especially when played by the man himself) carry a very strict set of values, acquired over many years of wrong-doing, redemption, falling down and getting up. Same here: this is not personal, it is about the money, but falls under “justifiable” because the crime committed was of such low morale. But reaching the moral high-ground often means that you had to travel so long and far that when arrived, you lost the means to execute your plans. And your enemies. When acquired moral stance confronts formal authority, as here in the stand-off between William/Ned/Kid on the one side, and ruthless but right Sheriff Little Bill, that fight promises to be wicked. The audience does not hesitate to take sides with the murderers, and only realises this – if at all – when wondering whether it is not hypocritical to mourn them when justice catches up with them. This ambivalence, and not so much the play with old men’s inabilities and insufficiency, is it what makes the film interesting beyond comparable efforts. I would not call it the Western to end all Western (as others do), but that is mainly because “Once Upon a Time in The West” has achieved that already, and whatever followed can only fight for runners-up position. But a fascinating play by someone who almost defined the game for many years it is.
And read the reviews by Ebert and Variety.

Walt is in a bad mood, because the world is going to hell and his family is the worst part about it. His wife just died, but the kids unfortunately are still around and nag and want to inherit his Gran Torino 1972 and want to re-allocate him towards some Happy Senior Citizen Dying Shelter. And his neighbours….Koreans or Chinese or some very loud Asian breed, and their kid tries to steal his car, but even for that he is too stupid. When Walt – a bit by accident, but mainly because it fits his morale corset -helps the neighbours’ kids against some mean gang-bangers from the ‘hood, he gets kind of adopted by them, fed and socialised and over time accepts the role. Helping especially the neighbour boy Tao with getting a grip on life, girls, and swearing, he opens up and allows new friends (maybe the first since his barber buddy 20 years ago) to form something like a family with him. When the gangs escalate the battle, he takes sides and is forced to come up with a solution more clever than just shooting holes in other people.

Nobody knows Clint Eastwood better than Clint Eastwood, and all the clichés woven into this movie live that started so handsomely with a poncho and a cigarillo, and now he is still smoking, but while sitting on his porch, watching his lawn grass grow and having eight Budweiser. It is a travesty of all the serious bad-ass and bad-mood gunslingers, and he does even not shy away from making comic moves, such as the shooting of the bad guys with his fingers, as you would remember from copying Clint Eastwood movies when we were all little, to the snarling and grumbling like David Lynch’s “Angriest Dog in the World”. Grrr, get off my lawn!
Never was playing with the cliches of xenophobia, racism, old-age-phobia (I am sure there’s some fancy word for that out there in the IntraWeb, search it, grrr) and asshole families wit mortgage houses and annoying teenage daughters more… playful! But he’s serious, I believe. Showing the interaction between the barber and his customer, a thunderstorm of insults and political in-correctness, is refreshing, because it shows that even in the most ghastly and least liberal of all places, i.e. PC Planet Hollywood, one can still ignore or actively overthrow all these limits to speech and thinking and behaviour. Because by not allowing to speak out a cliché the cliché does not go away, it just grows inside. And apart from that morale: it’s just darn funny!
Eastwood / Walt comes up with the great master plan that serves everybody, teaches those who are still willing to learn valuable lessons, and makes sure that his car will be in mint condition for another 30 years. What else in life?
This is not a subtle film, but one of simple and clear values. Straightforward people’s cinema, and a good laugh. Don’t speak those words at home, ya gook!
Nice Independent Review

Los Angeles in the 1920s. A mother says good bye to her little son, when she comes home after work he is gone. The police is hesitant and of not much help, but when they find a boy slightly resembling the lost boy’s looks, they bring him back to the mother, who straight out claims that this is not her son. Her resistance is not taken kindly by a police force under pressure from the city government, the public and some activist groups, and they react harshly by putting the mother away into a sanatorium where she meets other women that came there through similar collisions with police authority. During all this, in a parallel investigation, a police officer follows a lead that brings him to uncover a series of abduction and murder.

The thing I first thought about when the film was over was that I just had witnessed some Zodiac’ish things happening here: the story not ending, but continuing over years and years without proper resolution and little hope of ever getting one. The overall story stretches over more than five years, but in contrast to Zodiac, there are interesting and thrilling elements continuing the narrative flow. Both films are based on trues stories, which in Changeling is particularly important to point out, because otherwise one is tempted to accuse the script writer of juggling one or two balls too many. This is the better designed narration, the better script than Zodiac, it holds together better despite the fact that the story is more incredible, more dispersed, and equally unresolved. Whenever such a fragmented story comes along, it is up to the actors to hold it together and keep enthusing the audiences for their cause. Also in this: Changeling is better, Angelina Jolie is brilliantly composed, never hysterical, always on the verge. She is a fighting mother, but never leaves her 20s wife role. John Malkovich (sorry, man, did not recognize you first…) is an energetic pain-in-the-arse, and my very favourite is the very physical, incredulous-looking and yet professionally and ethically acting Inspector who uncovers things that the police rather not had uncovered – being the bravest character in the whole lot, as he has alternatives, and must actively chose each time he encounters them.

There are very few moments where the script could not help but be overtly overt (sorry…), such as when the wrong kid briefly mentions that it all wasn‘t his idea, but it was the police who said he was the other kid. We would have guessed that, especially given the slightly over-evil depiction of the police Captains and Chiefs. The nice thing about the film – speaking plot-wise – is that there is no need to decide on who has done what, as nobody knows. The scenes with the child murderer, the memories of his collaborator, the capture and trial and punishment all add to this: to a big puzzle, but so many missing pieces. It’s brave to do that in a film, and it could have done a bit braver. Very impressive film, though.

Kermode’s Review here

Wittertainment at its most wittertaining, this time from Imagethief on the ever-fascinating topic of governmentally conceived culture:
As the Beijing Municipal People’s Political Consultative Conference announced that they had conceived a big-scale blockbuster flick about the Birth of a Nation (something like that, in any case), the approporiate comment comes in:
“… nothing says, Aaargh! My eyes! like “Conceived by the Beijing Municipal People’s Political Consultative Conference.” This, in a nutshell, is every single thing that’s wrong with Chinese popular culture –especially the film industry– distilled down to it’s purest essence in nine bone chilling words. The BMPPCC should conceive statues. It should conceive statutes. It should conceive worthy initiatives to get healthy meals to schoolchildren and it should conceive improved traffic laws. But it should conceive motion pictures like I should conceive a two-headed goat child.”
Imagethief goes on to suggest that the picture should be helmed by Michael Bay instead of Huang Jianxin and replace a politics whore with a money whore. Bay being the anti-christ, this will not happen, of course, as it would cause religious turmoil. I think the idea of showing ’em how it’s done is pretty good, though, and suggest to ask Trey Parker and Matt Stone to go for the big screen again.

Righ before the shows starts, my predictions / expectations:
Best Film / Best Director: Slumdog / Boyle –> yes
Best actor: Rourke –> no, Penn
Actress: Meryl Streep –> no, the chubby one from Titanic took it away
Support Actor: Heathcliff Huxtable … no, what’s his name? Anyway… –> yes, sure
Support Actress: Viola Davis –> no, beautiful Penelope for best performance in worst film of the year (can they hand out Oscars and Razzies at the same event, would be more efficient)
Screenplay Original: In Bruges (best movie of the year, if you want my opinion!) –> no, Milk, sounds a bit boring
Screenplay adapted: Slumdog –> yes
Foreign language: The Class –> no, the Japanese film
Animated: Wall-E –> yes
Cinematography: Slumdog –> yes
Documentary: Man on Wire –> yes
The rest: can’t be bothered…

A black cloud moves over a small town, and when it leaves, all people are unconscious – and many (all?) women are pregnant. The children stemming from this “event” have strange psychic abilities (and silver hair), and it becomes clear that they are not willing to let those normal human beings set limits to their own development. One of the fathers sets out to teach them some lessons in various respects.

Easily the worst film in my Carpenter marathon so far – remarkable (as so many of his films) mostly by the fact that the cast again shows promiment names, if probably most not in their prime. Kirsty Alley, Luke Skywalker and Superman – that’s not bad for a hopeless C-Movie. The telekinetic stare of the kids, the emtpy faces and – honestly – very blunt acting wears you out some ten minutes after the silver-haired generation actors first appear. They just have insufficient skills to be scary, it’s like a Superman movie (that must be Christopher Reeve’s inspiration making me think of this) where he only uses his heat glance. A tad boring, don’t you think? Reeve is actually quite good, but the rest of the cast is rubbish, or at least misguided through a script that has nothing to offer but frequently staring children. Did I write about Carpenter’s humour last time? While subversive in “Ghosts on Mars”, goofbally in “They Live!”, it is nothing but absent here.

Workman Nada comes to town, and the town does not agree with him. He gets a poor job in construction, and needs to live in a camp on a deserted patch in the middle of town. There is a church, and the church is apprently the centre of some resistance against a government and media conspiracy. When fleeing from a raid, Nada stumbles across a set of sunglasses that allow him to actually distinguish the invaders from the humans. He joins the resistance and kicks some alien butt, together with co-worker Frank and Holly, a tv station employee.

Continuation of the John Carpenter marathon – I liked that one when it came out at the time, and watching it again, I see why. Carpenter is extremely aware of the humour he can use in his films, which I believe is tricky in horror / supernatural / alien invasion movies. Carpenter knows something about it, so even in a silly nonsense invasion movie like They Live, there are scenes of hilarious comedy, in particular the effort of the lead buddies to beat the shit out of each other to get to an agreement on whether or not Frank follows Nada on his quest.
The film is incredibly blunt in its message of all our consumption desires and emptiness being part of a giant plot of Earth leaders with Alien leaders… ok, we get it, we shouldn’t, we should rather, er… get in barfights occassionally or kidnap cute girls. Will do, Sir! The lead actor was clearly designed to replace Kurt Russell as Carpenter’s muse, even though that apparently did not work out. But fun watching, a Russell clone with muscles. And you know what is the difference between me and you? These sunglases make me look cool! (ah no, different film).

The definition of the “Rockumentary” genre, the film follows Britain’s Loudest Band on their tour,

Slightly aged, the film is still thoroughly entertaining. Maybe especially after watching “Metallica – Some Kind of Monster” and seeing those badass blokes making fools out of themselves, clearly to promote their next uninspired record promoted with a bit of “almost broke in the process of production” scandal. And all IN FRONT THE CAMERA!! How brave is that? Not too brave, I’d rather see the intentionally funny mock-up of all the heavy metal cliches. Actually, in retrospect I can hardly distinguish the two films, because the same stuff happens in either, with concerts being cancelled, managers sacked, a ridiculous entourage and music that is strangely less hard and heavy than the guys look or behave.
Anything that needs to be said about it is in Roger Ebert’s review, and the real-life version of this currently in the cinemas with “Anvil: The Story of Anvil” – apparently also with a Stonehenge stage decoration in it. Looking forward.

When a girl living on a Greek island with her mother is about to get married, she finally seeks to find out who her father is. After stealing her mother’s diary, she narrows down the choice to three guys who all bedded her mother at the time of conception, and she invites them all to the wedding to see what happens and sing some Abba songs with them.

I partly agree with what Dr K says in that there is a certain fun in observing the drama at play: the spectacular moment when it is clear that Pierce Brosnan is about to start singing, and the audience members hold their breath and close their eyes to make the unavoidable go away through neglect, and then he does sing, and it is exactly as bad as one would have imagined. This makes watching the film a very personal experience for people how occasionally engage in Karaoke sessions, because all the cast members can sing exactly as well as yourself or your colleague. As the songs are indeed utterly unbreakable, having this identification experience in a group can be a joyful experience, because you can join in the hooting and shouting and claim to be on par in your skills with some of the world’s most … ex-Bonds. Meryl Streep can actually sing a bit, it turns out, so she is not as much fun, and the humour about her mid-aged girl-friends making the expected English women jokes about drinking and screwing is not too orginal.
It stunned me to see that hey let somebody direct this prestiguous production who does not have any film experience at all. And the lack of movie production skills shows, as the film never develops anything of interest that is beyond the beauty of the songs (if you like them) or the curiousness of the cast and having them sing.
Should be fun to have the sing-along version on a DVD or even in a cinema with plenty of scantily-dressed, drunk English women.

Thanks to The Independent, I am now even more tempted than usual to burn some months / years of my current life by watching things that I missed in the previous one. Gratefully, I have already worked my way through some of these (Entourage, 24, the Stanley Kubrick Movies [well, most of them]), others I am immune against (why anyone would want to watch "Seinfeld"…) and others are on the list of "things to do before the world ends" (read "Ulysses, watch "The Sopranoes" – yes, and "The Wire", of course!). But how to ever get through all these brilliant BBC documentaries without taking a Sabbatical? After retirement maybe? Need to file for early retirement, then. Now!

Some stuff I never heard of before (like "Father Ted" or "Shameless" – highly praised here, but how come I never even heard the titles?)

Noted (Christmas presents, anyone?):
* Bruce Parry – The Tribe
* Park Chan-Wook’s Vengeance Trilogy (of which I have seen "Oldboy")
* Louis Theroux: the Strange & the Dangerous
* David Attenborough’s Life Collection (70 hours? Easy… )
* John Pilger: Documentaries That Changed the World

Currently Working on:
* Michael Palin – Around the World in 80 Days
* Michael palin – From Pole to Pole
* David Lynch  

The list oddly lacks "South Park", but as compensation includes all the BBC Shakespeare recordings, which amounts to the same overall level of adult entertainment. It also mentions that Stanley Kubrick’s favourite film was the German TV show "Heimat", which proves that he was wise and deserves all the praise we have available.

See the whole list here at

I have no idea, of course, what the definition of an independent movie is, but I like to see them honoured. The award list of the Independent Spirit Awards as the probably most important Indy award is hence impressive, and lacks some of the duller moments we will see at the Oscars: Yet – this year’s Oscar nominations shied away from many of the blockbusters, so most of the films can be found at least on the nominee lists of either champagne-sipping event. There is of course one annoying mistake, which is giving a script award to "Vicky, Christina, Barcelona" instead of the National Lobotomy Award, but maybe they just mixed up the envelopes.

And the winners are:

The Wrestler

Tom McCarthy, “The Visitor”

Synecdoche, New York

In Search of a Midnight Kiss

Woody Allen, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”

Dustin Lance Black, “Milk”

Melissa Leo, “Frozen River”

Mickey Rourke, “The Wrestler”

Penelope Cruz, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”

James Franco, “Milk”

Maryse Alberti, “The Wrester”

Man on Wire

The Class

The story of the French acrobat Phillipe whose dream of walking on a rope between the World Trade Center Towers started when he saw a picture of the (then planned) Twin Towers in a magazine. The film has his comrades in the preparations narrate their tasks and little adventures, culminating in the 45 minutes of walking, lying, waving, saluting that made him the most famous rope walker he is.

A story of vanity, first and foremost, where the underlying (and maybe more interesting) story is not the one about how to sneak into the WTC construction site and get all this equipment in place before the police moves in. It is the story of how somebody can pick out whatever aberrant form of amusement, but heighten this to a level where you can actually wow the world with something as otherwise negligible as walking and jumping on a steel rope. And whatever it is you chose to build your fame upon, you can get all the side effects of fame: arrogance, alienation form friends and family, a certain form of craziness, and a level of self-glorification that is hard to stand for you environment. The film can concentrate on this, because there is little original material to draw on. So the talking heads are at the centre of attention, and their story of how the heist got planned, what the tasks were, and what happened afterwards make more than one of them apparently realise the loss it brought about for them. The funny little gang of before broke up immediately upon success, and this film looks a bit like a memorial to the good old time when planning was more important than doing.
Altogether a slightly overhyped film, but that I write mostly because the core subject matter I do not find too interesting. I was never a big friend of the circus…

A boy is born with all the features of an ancient man, and the father abandons him in panic and disgust. Yet the baby does not die, but grows to become younger and stronger every day. Benjamin, as he is called, leaves behind the retirement home where he had outlived so many, and sees the world, travelling on a tugboat through the war. He meets a British Minister’s wife and finds love for the first time, only to lose her again in the course of both of their life’s turn. Paths cross and diverge, he returns to his old home to find the girl he played with when he was a was old and she was young, it turns out to be the love of his life, and they meet on an important crossing of both their paths. Their life developments being as they are, they need to separate again, however, and re-unite only at the very end, guiding each other out of life.

The short synopsis would have been “Benjamin gets born, lives, and dies, in that order” – as soon as you start mentioning individual elements of his life, it gets extremely anecdotal, as there is no such thing as a coherent drama as a red thread through the film., Just as life, the story of Benjamin Button, his abandonment and re-discovery through his father in a brothel, love list and found, all is sometimes a bit more, a bit less exciting. That kind of life makes good production values, with designs for 8 decades needing to be designed. It lacks the thrill of a film driven by plot. This makes it nice to watch, calm in its narrative pace, but a bit pointless. There are some things that are extremely nice to watch, such as the surreal sea trips on board of the Chelsea. There are some annoying episodes, such as the some of the moments where he is crossing his girlfriend Daisy’s paths. The end of the movie is intended to be touching, but for that it is unfortunately too predictable, lacking any surprise.
There is also a framework narration, a plot about the dying moments of Daisy, allowing her to share Benjamin’s story with her daughter watching the death bed. Why that is necessary is lost on me, maybe there were subsidies for making films covering New Orleans during the Hurricane Katrina.
David Fincher is a director whose work I really appreciate. He is, however, vulnerable when being exposed to mainstream productions, and loses his touch that made Seven, Fight Club or Zodiac to become something special. This film could have been made by many – it is very solid Hollywood produce, without edge, but entertaining just as well. Of Fincher, one would expect something with a bit more teeth.

Jamal is famous. He plays in “Who wants to be a Millionaire” and has answered the penultimate question. Before the final one, the chance to truly ascend from the slums where he grew up to become the multi-millionaire everybody in the film seems to be dreaming of, the show takes an overnight break. Show host and police do not believe Jamal just knows all those questions’ answers, so they interrogate him and rough him up to find out how he did it. By telling them the story behind every single answer, he reveals his life’s story, and the story of his eternal love to Latika guiding him through most of his life.

The film is splendid almost despite it’s narrative construct. The alternation between the TV studio situation, the questions and the back story behind Jamal knowing the answers is stretched almost from the very beginning. It needs to be modified each time, and Danny Boyle does that, in order to avoid repetitiveness. There are questions every 5-year-old knows, and there are completely impossible things such as cricket records where only the specific exposure to a specific criminals in a specific moment of time could make him remember the facts, and did. So with a bit of stress on the script seams, Jamal works his way through his painful and sometimes cruel childhood and adolescence, how he mingles with scum and crooks, how he finds (in the rain) and loses the girl of his dreams, and moves the story towards a really beautifully devised showdown involving a man in a TV studio, a phone lifeline, a girl outside a shop window, a phone in a car, and a man with a gun in a bathtub full of money. Jamal has taken all this one for the one reason of getting exposure and making Latika see him and find him, and he achieves that. Many things happen at the same time, but they all revolve around him, the planet’s movement at this point has only the single purpose of making those two people find each other. The editing here is masterful, as is the very humble acting, especially of Dev Patel as Jamal. The way he answers one question with a shrug and an indifferent “well A then” is sublime, as it proves, had there been any doubt, that he does not give a damn about winning that money.
I have not seen so many Danny Boyle films in my life, but between Trainspotting, 28 Days Later and Sunshine, I think it’s fair to judge that his art is to make films cinematically rich, real screen-fillers full of sceneries, people and drama. This very movie-ish movie deserves the appreciation it already got, and more. It does not shy away from the brutalities of life in the Mumbay slums, and neither does it from giving a bit of hope. Beautiful people and music, too!

Thomas Bardo has a real shitty day: he gets kicked out of his shabby apartment because he is behind with the rent. His highly expected job interview falls on the face because he’s not in the registration computer. He gets kicked out of the park where he wants to sleep on a bench by an indifferent policeman. He gets run over by nurse Brandi who is on the phone in her car while being on some drug cocktail. She has a mixed day: her boss tells her she can expect a promotion, but then again she cannot afford to be late because of this stupid accident. And she finds her boyfriend shagging another girl while she is supposed to be on duty. Thomas is trying to wriggle free, Brandi is completely annoyed by him disturbing her day and life. She hopes he will go or fade away, and when he doesn’t, she sets things in motion to make him.

A weird little film this is. The opening title’s “based on a true story” does not mean a thing, because the scriptwriters allow the situation to escalate into any conceivable direction. Brandi’s boyfriend as the super-cool dealer and fixer, who always has a solution or at least some happy-pill, crumbles when being forced to get rid of this thing in the windshield. Stephen Rea’s Thomas is utterly startled by the absurdity of events happening to him, most baffled when Bradi shouts at him “Why are you doing this to me?”. This, together with Gordon’s taste for very realistic injury depiction and lengthy elaboration on the topic of pain and blood-loss makes “Stuck” a pleasant little bastard film for everybody who enjoys a bit of gore and can stand it. Nasty little dogs who start chewing on open bone fractures, lengthy efforts to get the windscreen wiper out from the diaphragm, things that get stuck in the eye … you get the picture. The showdown brings proper catharsis, so surprisingly you can leave the theatre with a happy whistle on your lips – while watching twice before crossing the road.

A ghost train arrives at the Mars main train station, arriving from the mining outskirts with only one passenger: Lieutenant Ballard, cuffed to a bench on the train, tells her story of how their mission to transfer a high-security prisoner went awry, as the station where they were to pick him up was a battlefield, with all the settler turning into hordes of ravaging zombie-like creatures. It turns out they were possessed or infected by some native Mars inhabitant travelling as sand with the wind, seeking to make go away any intruder to the planet.

The John Carpenter nostalgia marathon continues, and now I venture into unknown territory: I had never before seen the film, and so much more I could now enjoy it, because it has all these guys in it that I surely could not appreciate at the time of its release: Natasha “Species” Henstridge, Jason “I don’t take my shirt of for anybody” Statham, Pam “Jacky Brown” Gier, Clea “Matt’s partner in Heroes” DuVall, and the completely untalented and hilarious Ice Cube as “Desolation” Williams. Zombie-Thingies that all look like cross-breed of Alice Cooper and “It”, decapitations with sharpened discs, heads on sticks, ill-choreographed battle scenes that looked more like attempts at “West Side Horror Story” than Mad Max. And a lot of red dust and futuristic trains and really hard-assed female interrogators (Social System: Matriarchal” says the insert at the beginning). And Jason Statham doing his Jason Statham voice thing, which is enough for an evening of nice SciFi-Horror-Funtertainment.

The unmissable Filmspotting podcast has this nice feature of Top 5 something movies at the end of each podcast. This time, I felt compelled to “counter” their list of “Top 5 Abduction Movies” with my own, as there was at least one unforgiveable ommission. Hope Adam and Matty will survive the criticism.

Their list
1. The Big Lebowski/Fargo/Raising Arizona
2. The Searchers
3. Silence of the Lambs
4. Blue Velvet
5. Oldboy

While these are cool, my number one is non-negotiable:
1. Spoorloss / The Vanishing
If this is not the meanest ending of a film ever (including and considering the recent “The Mist” as competititor, but still!), the I don’t know. The prototypical abduction in many ways: no motive, no remedy, no resolution. Lesson learned: if somebody gets abducted, you better leave it as it is.
2. Raising Arizona
3. Poltergeist
4. Oldboy
5. Silence of the Lambs

Bryan Mills has given up his job as security expert for the sake of being closer to his daughter Kim – despite her living with the divorced mother. When Kim gets on a trip to Europe with a friend, the two girls get abducted by an Albanian human trafficking ring, and Bryan follows on their tracks. Through his professional skills, he soon sets the Parisian underground aflame, driven by his wrath, und even the French police, conspiring with and profiting from the mafia, cannot stop his quest.

Of course this is all nonsense (and the thing with the boat driver, Mr Kermode, is the least of problems): no way anybody can hide away from police, being shot at, being captured, escaping out of captivity, finding just the right Albanian bargain brothel (which should there be only one? The look cheap in the making.). Why was the one girl he finds actually taken to the “house with the party”, but Kim and her friend were abducted from the apartment, even though they already agreed to come over? Why why why oh what the hell! Liam Neeson looks great as some form of Jack Baur on a “this is purely personal” mission. He has a certain credibility in his fighting off housefuls of Albanian bad guys, going in unarmed, coming out last man standing. If you like this completely blunt professionalism that usually either hit men or CIA agents show in movies (or CIA movies working as hit men), then this film is quite pleasant. Moving ahead like a Tsunami, Bryan rolls over the guys who have taken his girl to sell her in some weird human flesh auction, and he is moving in and out of the most guarded locations as if he had the cat-like qualities of a James Bond. He does not have the humour, though, because information is being extracted by way of very hogh voltage through very pointed metal sticks, and if shooting the wife needs to be done to get the attention of the husband, not a second is wasted. The nice thing about this form of revenge movie is that the evilness of the original deed provides advance absolution for anything that is necessary to be done in reaction to it. In this sense, the film (as so many of the Luc Besson productions, now that I think of it) is deeply immoral, but good fun to watch.

Roy and Jessie are on their way from Beijing to Europe, and because they want the trip to be special, they get on the Transsiberian train. They meet another couple there, a Spanish guy who smuggels drugs in Matjoschkas and his girlfriend. They also meet some people who are working on the fringe between police and drug dealers, eagerly searching either the drugs or the money the Spaniard Carlos had stolen from them. In what’s half an accident, half self-defense after Carlos assaults Jessie, she kills him. Guilt-ridden, she continues the trip, and it turns out that leaving Carlos back creates more problems. The drug lords do not shy away from any means to find him and their money, including re-routing and isolating the train.
I never knew what it is about this train. If you are scared of flying (or of falling into deep waters with sharks in it, which has the same result – you don’t fly), then this is a reason I understand. But just for the fun of it hanging out for weeks in a compartment with strangers in a train that is not exactly luxurious? At least here there is some entertainment in the form of chases, murder, suspicion, torture, and Ben Kingsley who looks as if he is not exactly sure why he has to play the ruthless villain with the funny accent again. But he does, and that’s always good for some creepy moments. But the script is tumbling, it is unclear why people do or do not talk about what’s happening to them, and Americans being flabbergasted by all those things European around them is something that is hard to swallow anyway. I like Woody Harrelson, though, as he manages to appear so ordinary and ignorant and naïve that I would not have been surprised had he started whistling a tune while the train was crashing into another one.
A solid thriller, altogether, with not enough thrill but nice acting.

Randy The Ram Robinson has had his time as professional wrestler, but as with most jobs, life forces you to practice them even after your prime. So here is the old man, still a legend, but already becoming a curiosity, working his way through increasingly pathetic matches against increasingly ruthless and self-destroying opponents. After a match against a man with a stapler gun and some metres of barbed wire, a heart attack cuts The Ram down. His efforts to use this opportunity to re-establish a life with his daughter and with a stripper do not bear the success he envisaged. If he ever knew how to be a social man, he has forgotten it, or the world has ceased to believe in his ability. Being left alone, he turns back into the ring despite the doctors’ advice, because this appears to be the only place where he knows the right moves.

Unavoidable: you have to begin with mentioning the mountain of meat Mickey Rourke has become. Never mind which misguided insights have brought him where he is today and to what he is today, it is the perfect body for this movie. What’s left of a character face, with a hairdo beyond terms of ridicule, a body so re-erected as a muscle momument, countering the laws of nature and age, that he now appears as the freak he needs to be to be credible. If “Rocky Balboa” had not shown these images some time ago, “The Wrestler” would have been decried as a freakshow. Now we are used to it. Only that in Rocky it is the movie character that is the freak – in The Wrestler it is the actor. I would have had a hard time recognizing the man who shagged Lisa Bonet in Angel Heart, but here he is, and he’s got it going with the chicks again. He appears to be the only one who realises that he is a wasted experiences, as his environment does not even treat him badly (with the exception of his supermarket boss, who puts him in a hair net and behind a supermarket deli counter). He can still fight, he can still have the girls, he is embedded in a well-functioning community of fan fests, colleagues and drug dealers.
The Ram and his wrestling buddies roam one of these completely depressing gym worlds, where the centerstage cannot be glamourous and the lime lights cannot be bright enough to make the changing rooms not smell like training shoes died twenty years ago. This may be what makes good sports films: that they show the bluntness, the non-glamourousness, the dirtiness, the repetitiveness of a sport. Show how many disgraceful procedures even those have to undergo who only want to survive in the sport, not to speak of dominate it. There are many depressing and touching moments in the film, but what I found most depressing and touching is the way he must pretend to ignore his age, create a physical appearance (literally from head to foot) that is grotesque, and carry this appearance through real life. Dying hair, tanning body, stretching in front of the trailer.
It is rather frightening to watch this, because it means that whatever we do today, we may be forced to do it 25 years from today in just the same fashion, with the same routines. The slight boredom the film brings along only underlines its own quality – there is not really much happening apart from a life slowly crumbling, it’s like watching a body decompose, only that it’s still twitching. Ageing is, indeed, nothing for cowards.

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