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Monthly Archives: November 2009

“Now I have to ask a stupid question.” – “Yes, I know.”

It is one of those films that claims to be about one thing, but actually is about something else. It claims to be about LSD and the Internet and the Unabomber, at least the title says so. But it is about everything the author / director finds fascinating when stumbling across during his trip along the US East coast. There are students and mathematicians, there are old mathematical challenges and hippie cybernetics experts. There are old men sitting in their forest cabins and reflecting on the flow of time and science. It comes back to the Unabomber and seeks to insist that there is more to him than just a murderer out of paranoia. The scope is from the technologists developing the ARPANet to the LSD experiments of Leary. The author claims both are part of the same… idea?

Either I cannot follow the complex considerations of the author, or the author’s chosen complexity is wrong in that it misunderstands what the “system” is that is under scrutiny. Admittedly, I believe both is right, with the disclaimer that many of the film’s aspects are more interesting if you happened to have had your share in the 1960s and experienced the drugs, the discussions, the media and the art of the time. The film gets carried away by a childish fascination for a murderer, and the fact that several victims and contemporaries refuse to honour a murderer by offering a sophisticated discussion about him, only encourages Dammbeck more – the fatal consequence is that at the end of the day, he is offering an ode to Ted Kacinsky, instead of positioning just to be one of the elements that were typical for the time.

Oh DaeSu is a really annoying guy, but when he suddenly gets kidnapped and held in a private prison, he is still clueless as to who did this or why. He realises he is in for trouble, because they just will not release him. Only after 15 years, rather suddenly, captivity ends. On his quest for the kidnappers he gets acquainted with a strange group of professional kidnappers, with characters from his past and with a young woman who may or may not be able to help him.
This may the most characteristic film to show why Korean cinema is very interesting and very very strange: extreme violence and emotion, comic fighting. “And there is a scene during which an octopus is definitely harmed during the making of the movie.” Villainous villains and innocent girls, it’s all there to the extreme. And an abundance of guilt! Much more mature than the previous “Mr Vengeance” film, it shows how the director / auteur grows from a rogue creative kid into a mature narrator about the abyss of the human mind. Not always an enjoyable watch, and most certain to have the nails of your next-seat girl dug deep into your arm, but if you are Korean, you will probably enjoy this sweet torture. The turns and twists of the story are not necessarily logical to an outside observer, especially towards the end I needed to repeat to myself that the Asian perception about guilt and punishment is very different from mine. In no definition, however, does the film have a happy ending, and this alone makes it worth seeing. Looking forward to the final part of the “Vengeance” trilogy now…

Katie and Micah are chasing something like a Poltergeist in their house, with the chase starting for Micah as nothing more than a nice video documentary project allowing him to get in the nerves of his girlfriend (and maybe catch some sex on camera if he’s lucky). Turns out the opponent in the house is in a less playful mood.
What is the genre called? “Amateur camera found” category? Or rather just “ghost story” in the term’s most traditional and straightforward meaning. The night vision of the camera and the time coding allow for a handful of pleasantly creepy images. No Blair Witch Horror most of the time, no destruction of the world (what’s that film called again), just people who get more scared every minute. The problem is that it is not really clear why they don’t go away (just because one of the paranormal experts says the ghost would follow them? Come on, grow up!). And especially the Katie character is, in all honesty, terribly played. I think it’s actually less the acting skills of Katie Featherston, but rather the way the part has been developed, I suppose between the director and the actress. That was not convincing incredulity, fright and terror, but mostly slightly annoying and not very credible hysteria.
Not an important contribution to the genre of horror, but a nice enough reminder what the elements of a thoroughly frightening campfire story could be.

George Simmons is a famous and rich comedian and actor, and he is seriously sick. Some form of blood cancer shakes the foundations of his life, and he turns rather arbitrarily to Ira, a young and not too talented comedian, draws him into his life, makes him assistant and trustee. The effort to cope with his disease also leads him to face his former love interest Laura again – and they both realise that this would be the chance of their life to make things right between them.
When reading my own content blurb, I realise it does not represent the film in the slightest. Why is that, I wonder? I think because the script, especially for the first half of the movie, is so brilliant that it manages to merge the genres of “disease drama” and “goofball comedy about comedians”. Both is done very solidly, and the combination could have gone tacky or annoying, but does not. This is a film about a group of professionals who depend on never allowing themselves to grow up, and on fighting with claws against the dominance of normality. That can be sad and hilarious at the same time, and it is (even though not as sad and depressing as that Jerry Seinfeld documentary I watched recently). The ruthlessness of Comedians’ comedy, the desperate hunt for the next joke and the rough competition is at least indicated. The script does so in a pleasantly entertaining manner, does insist on being fun while sharing some insights. Ans so it deserves the right to let sadness and disease seep in and out again. It works well, because Adam Sandler, when used properly, is a fantastic and mature actor. He is natural, cool, funny, vulnerable, virile, and everything a successful, arrogant, dying, desperate and cynical comedian needs to be. Seth Rogen is more like Seth Rogen standard, but that is also quite good, because what I liked about him in “knocked Up” and Superbad, too. He is not hysterical, but just one of these dudes with a loose tongue and sometimes a heart.
The film loses steam about halfway through its more than two hours running time. It seems as of the starting point was more than clear, the brilliance of throwing this character and actor into this kind of situation was evident – but when it came to the “and what happens to them” questions, some of the brains sneaked out of the writers’ room. Still a surprisingly enjoyable movie to me comedy-disliker

Journalist Mikael Blomkvist gets in a tangle with an industrialist, and ends up being framed and jailed. After his release, he receives an offer to help the old head of the Vanger family clear up the unresolved disappearance of his daughter many years ago. He ensures the help of Lisbeth Salander, a hacker and punk and abused loner. Together, they move onto the lonely family island, amidst the snow and cold of Sweden’s countryside.
I am not too much a fan of the new Scandinavian wave of crime literature, but I always was fond of their movies. There is the pleasant desolation and boredom of the wide landscape, there are characters that very often are happy with a lot and isolation and solitude, there is the pleasant sound of boots crunching on snow. Same here: a lot of loners, a lot of boots on snow, and a lot of wide landscape. There is not too much about the story (serial killer?) and there is the problem with a back-story for Lisbeth that seems rather out of place and free of context (I assume that this is important for readers of the voluminous book, and for sustaining her character – taken this as a stand-alone movie, the story of her abuse through those who are supposed to protect her is distracting and unnecessary). Bot both main characters Mikael and Lisbeth are interesting and unconventional enough to make the viewer care, so the side characters including all the villains do not matter so much. An interesting and sometimes thrilling crime story evolves that surely will hold up through a couple of more installments.

A gang of … em, yes, gangsters kidnaps a subway car and threatens to kill the hostages unless 10 Million Dollars are being coughed up by the city of New York.
It was never more simple to summarise a movie, because it is not just simple, it is outright primitive in its premise. That is not necessarily bad, but here it is. There is nothing beyond that basic starting point, there is no single surprise, no plot twist, not hidden meaning (beyond the additional line of income lead gangster John Travolta expects through the stock exchange decline following the new “subway terror attacks”). Of course Denzel Washington as dispatcher is very watchable as ever, also Travolta as bad guy and John Turturro as lead agent, but every single scene looks as if it would have been done like that 35 years ago, when big-scale blockbusters were satisfied when they managed to avoid microphones in the frame and if all stuntmen survived. There is no subtlety, no originality. The only thing slightly original is the title sequence, which again is completely detached in style from the rest of the movie (and looks like a Google Earth advertisement). And Gandolfini as the completely fed up New York mayor is amusing at times. The runaway subway just stops when crossing the stop signal? What?? The gangster just gets shot when facing his adversary? WTF?!? This is really uninspired. And Walter Matthau keeps rotating in his grave…

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