Monday, June 22, 2009

Movie: Punisher - War Zone

The comic book series Punisher is a hyper-violent ongoing tale of a man wreaking havoc and hell upon the criminal underworld in retaliation for the wanton death of his family. This movie captures that world, persona, and consequences perfectly. If you know who The Punisher is and find the concept intriguing, see this; if not, don't.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Movie: Shoot 'Em Up

Duh-YAM. Talk about over the top. As Ebert describes Shoot ‘Em Up: “This one goes so far, if you even want to get that far, you have to start half-way there, which means you have to be a connoisseur of the hard-boiled action genre and its serio-comic sub-basement.” Hard-boiled indeed. This is Woo’s Hard Boiled crossed with Children of Men.

Let me clarify that last comment. This movie is actually inspired by a scene from Hard Boiled, where the hero runs around with a newborn while being shot at (that being an enormous understatement). The actor for this movie did practically the same thing – i.e.: run around with a newborn while being shot at (that, also, being an understatement) – not long ago in Children of Men. Now, having identified the two grittiest movies regarding protecting a newborn whilst dodging pallets of high-velocity lead, we get two hours of that premise involving so much lead viewers should be greeted with an FDA health warning during the opening credits. This one goes so far … well, Ebert summed that up.

My rating? Maybe as low as 3/5. Intense visuals (mostly involving firefights), gratuitous copulation (during firefights), and ever-more-over-the-top situations (featuring firefights), you’d think that that many baddies with that much firepower directed at one person that exposed that long would somehow manage to get one little chunk of Pb on target. He, on the other hand, took out more people with carrots. Entertaining to be sure (at least until some needless politicking was injected), but not meaningful or life-enriching. The Matrix at least explored pop psychology.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Movie: I Am Legend

Truly we are entering the golden age of zombie movies. The zombies themselves, meh, but the story of the survivors grows to great, if gory, depths.

In flashbacks we learn how our hero* experienced the traumatic fall of civilization, crashing into a few loners striving against the hordes of remaining zombies**. The story arc here is fine (if a bit flawed), from loss to survival to quest to success to final price paid. The zombies are a little too animated and a little too smart, but the rest of the movie makes that forgivable.

Between this and 28 Days Later, I'm impressed by the depth of the genre, and how major hyper-active cities can be filmed as dead.

* - I'm noticing how some movies have characters worthy of the moniker "hero", while others merely have "protagonists".

** - Zombie movies never use the term "zombie" anymore.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Movie: Hitman

Exactly what older teen boys want to see, and exactly what their mothers don't want them to: violence and sex, both naively under- & over-portrayed at once. Hey, it's based on a video game - go figure.

Our protagonist is the viewer viscerally living thru the bald social misfit formed into the perfect assassin. He takes on one target after another in ... ya know, I don't quite remember and don't quite care. Suffice to say he takes on one target after another, and saves - or doesn't - the girl. Slick, cool, not the slightest consideration of real-world consequences (which, in stark juxtaposition, Munich does to a fault).

Ladies, you don't want to see this. You probably don't want your man seeing this either, but he very well may when given a chance to do so.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Movie: Renaissance

A moderately interesting kidnapping mystery, presented in an incredible new visual style - with the latter overwhelming the former.

The visual style is what Sin City wanted to be but didn't quite achieve: live action in striking black-and-white - and I mean only black and only white, save for a slight use of flat single-tone gray and a tiny dash of color. All action was acquired with computerized motion-capture, down to the minute facial expressive details which The Polar Express, otherwise amazing, was derided for lacking. The captured motions then translated to detailed 3D graphics, in turn flattened to purely black and white. The result is amazing. The result is a live-action cartoon, a slick union of contradictory visual techniques.

The story, sorry to say, isn't as sharply stunning. In no way does the story lack, but neither does it triumph - serving more as a premise for applying the long desired and never achieved imagery.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Movie: London

I picked up this movie because the soundtrack was done by The Crystal Method. The album is good, the movie ... well, it's another movie about losers.

Unable, for no good reason, to declare his love for his girlfriend (name: London) with a simple and unprompted "I love you", they part ways. Learning she is to enjoy a going-away party for her move to the other coast, he crashes the party, hides in the bathroom (sharing dope and engaging in impassioned and meaningless conversations with whoever wanders in), he eventually learns what is meant by "too little too late". Loser.

I'd like to know why some people enjoy such films. I guess they're uplifting for some; I can't imagine what life would see it as such.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Movie: Munich

You MUST see One Day In September first. To understand Munich, you must watch the documentary of the hostage-taking in the Munich Olympics. This movie, being historical fiction, picks up where the documentary must leave off: Israel's covert, and still mostly secret, project to assassinate those responsible for killing the Jewish athletes. Without this background, one may fall into the common error of misunderstanding the process and reality of why & how this project was done. Yes, it's fiction - but sometimes fiction tells us the story of reality we cannot, for want of secrecy, be told. Well done, though not entertaining.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Movie: A Fistful of Dollars

Now that's a western.

An older film, featuring younger rock-solid star Clint Eastwood, of a nobody wandering into the middle of a feud destroying a small nowhere town. With few words, subtle action, and intrigued by the money to be made in the process, our nameless hero destroys both gangs and saves the innocent, asking nothing else in return - even the money is ultimately nothing to him.

I'm usually not big on westerns, but this one works.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Book: On Writing (Stephen King)

In one of the several forwards to this book, the author comments that a book about writing should be short. Indeed, the essence of the book is 29 pages - weighty enough that aspiring writers should read it, often. Another 100 pages or so gives useful insights on applying that core material. The rest of the book, which lists for $8, is autobiography which (A) while interesting would be difficult to publish in its own right, and (B) bulks out the text so you don't feel slighted by $4.

King is indeed a skillful writer, making the reader feel very comfortable (save for copious obscenities) and expresses his advice clearly and usefully. Being successful and talented, his advice is valuable being from one who has lived the reality of the industry, providing subtle suggestions and contradictions which add value far beyond what an academic portrayal of the craft would usually entail.

Thinking of writing? Get this book. The slim portion on "Toolbox" is more than worth the cover price.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Movie: .45


That really just sums it up nicely. The movie is well acted, and the story is strong as stories go, but it's about ... losers, being losers, losing. Meh. Actually took me three days to get through it because I couldn't watch it all in one stretch, but having paid for it and spent enough time watching what I did I just wanted to see which of several possible losing endings the losers would lose by. I want a story where, somehow, I can look up to the protagonist(s); for this, I had to squint to see that low.

Story? He's a jerk, she won't leave, and conspiracies form to, er, extricate one from the other. She could have just walked out, but then the movie would have been about 10 minutes long.