the movie critic is [in].

A few short critiques of movies I’ve finally gotten around to watching recently:

Aeon Flux

Synopsis:  Resistance super-assassin goes up against autocratic government.  Don’t try to figure out the plot too much, just enjoy the visuals.  It’s Equilibrium with Charlize Theron instead of Christian Bale kicking the shit out of people.

Verdict:  It wasn’t as terrible as I expected it to be.  Granted, Charlize Theron in a leather catsuit has enough redeeming power to save just about any movie from the Totally Unwatchable verdict, but there were also other factors that made it a tolerable entertainment to me.  The setting was interesting, the SFX nice, and the fight scenes not bad at all.  (C-)

Dog Soldiers

Synopsis:  A bunch of British soldiers on wargames in the Scottish Highlands discovers the bloody remains of the Special Forces squad that were supposed to be their opponents.  Soon, the things that chopped up the SAS guys come back for more, and the squaddies try to hole up in an old farmhouse until sunrise.  Think Zulu, Night of the Living Dead, and Aliens all blended together, with lots of gunfire, and gore cranked up to Eleven.

Verdict:  Awesome flick, especially for a budget indie horror movie from England.  Probably the most appealing werewolf movie I’ve seen since An American Werewolf in London.  The beasts in this one are costumes instead of atrocious CGI (American Werewolf in Paris, this means you), and the director makes clever use of the costume limitations by employing the Jaws school of monster revelation for a good part of the film, giving us only glimpses and quickly cut scenes at first.  Even under close examination, however, the costume werewolves are a lot more mean, vicious, and scary than any I’ve seen since David Naughton’s version chewed on unlucky Londoners in Piccadilly Station.

Overall, I’ll recommend it as a Must Watch flick for any fan of werewolf flicks.  Any movie where one of the Good Guys takes on a werewolf in a fistfight is already awesome by default.  (A-)

Casino Royale & Quantum of Solace

Synopsis:  It’s Bond.  There are bad guys who threaten the stability and security of the world, and Bond’s job is to go out, fuck them up, and get laid while drinking martinis.  It’s not The Color Purple we’re talking about here.

Verdict:  God help me, I do like the new Bond.  No flim-flam, no laser-firing wristwatches, just a steely-eyed killer who will punch his opponents in the face, stab them in the inner thigh, and hold them down while they bleed out.  The storylines are as always sort of far-fetched, but it’s Bond.  At least there’s a merciful absence of supervillain lairs.  The new Bond carries a suppressed P99, drives a bitchin’ Aston Martin V12, and kills more people before breakfast than all the old Bonds put together killed all day.  (B)

Cloverfield

Synopsis:  500-foot creature stomps the holy hell out of Manhattan.  If that’s not a synopsis for a popcorn flick, I don’t know what is.

Verdict:  Good fun.  I mean, it has a bunch of yuppies in it who all die gruesome deaths at the hands of a monster that makes Godzilla look like a giant, shambling Care Bear.  The SFX are flawless, and the pacing is fast.  The camcorder-perspective thing has been done to death, but it works very well in this format.  (B-)

Cursed

Synopsis:  Werewolf terrorizes, eats L.A. yuppies.

Verdict:  I thought it was a perfectly acceptable comedy, but then it dawned on me that the whole thing may have been intended to be a horror flick.  The CGI is not precisely horrible, but the werewolf design is pretty laughable, and the decision to let the beastie talk and flip people the bird doesn’t help in the Unintentional Yuks department.  Still, it has Christina Ricci in it, who is always just on the fun side of creepy, and a movie where Shannon Elizabeth gets ripped in half can’t be a total write-off.  (C-)

Downfall

Synopsis:  German movie about the final ten days in Hitler’s bunker in Berlin.

Verdict:  Haunting, with a spectacular performance by Bruno Ganz, the actor portraying Crazy Adolf.  Very atmospheric, with much emphasis on the Gotterdammerung mood in Berlin in the final days.  Should be required material for all those Nazi fans setting up their “I’m not saying they were right or anything, but their tanks were cool” kitsch tables at gun shows. (A)

Taken

Synopsis:  Ex-CIA operative’s daughter gets kidnapped by slave traders while on vacation in Paris.  Daddy tells the kidnappers to let her go, or he’ll find and kill them.  They don’t; he does.

Verdict:  Liam Neeson as Ballistic Dad takes out a few dozen deliciously slimy bad guys.  If you can look past the highly improbable coincidences that keep him on the track of his daughter’s kidnappers, it’s jolly good fun.  (B-)

There are more, but that’s all the movie reviews I’ll inflict on you today.  If I had to pick one off that list as a must-watch, it’d be a tie between Dog Soldiers and Downfall.

18 thoughts on “the movie critic is [in].

  1. LL says:

    I thought Liam Neeson was too coldly efficient as a father whose daughter could be SOLD into who knows what. He could have at least shown SOME emotion. I wasn’t impressed at all.

  2. Eseell says:

    The new Bond just doesn’t feel like 007 to me. Without the crazy laser watches and super-villain lairs it’s just another action movie. Also, who cares about a villain who wants to control all the water in Bolivia?

    The plot for Quantam of Solace just wasn’t the “world hangs in the balance” sort of completely implausible fun that I like in Bond. Craig is certainly an awesome Bond, though; it’s not his fault the screenwriting sucks.

  3. RevolverRob says:

    The “new” Bond is stunningly good, in that Craig and the writers of the new films are channeling the real, Ian Fleming, Bond. In the original series of books, before Gardner (and the movies) ran off the deep end with crazy gadgets, Bond was a ruthless, ice cold, killing machine.

    Craig does an incredible job in the movies of being the original Bond. A man who will use/abuse anyone on his way to do his job. If that means sleeping with beautiful women or strangling a guy with a choke hold at the bottom of the stairs, so be it.

    I love the new Bond films, they are much more sinister and more deep (in terms of character, plot will never be their strong point) than any of the previous films. Don’t get me wrong, I loved submarine cars and laser watches, but at the end of the day, watching Craig center punch someone with a 9mm Walther is just as good.

    -Rob

  4. emdfl says:

    Yeah, the new Bond is the closest to the Ian Fleming Bond since the first two Connery movies.

    Fleming was writing about agents from the beginings of the cold war and was himself coming off dealing with the various Soviet secret services. His book Bond was an assassin who liked doing what he was doing.

  5. Chris says:

    Toss me in the “pro Craig” pile. Best Bond ever IMO. The scene where he stuck the guy in the femoral artery and held him down while he bled out was intense.

    BTW, I just watched Defiance and thought he did a good job in that as well.

  6. BryanP says:

    I’ll have to add Dog Soldiers to the “watch it” list. Thanks.

  7. rfortier1796 says:

    Dog Soldiers all the way. Used to play airsoft in me younger days, and at the time it was pretty small in the US. Therefore, I belonged to a ton of UK forums for discussion. Everyone kept saying you just MUST watch Dog Soldiers.

    Finally caught it on Sci Fi, have watched it ever since. Hell, I even earned brownie points with the girl’s dad because I knew it when he was watching it. Tons of great action, classic quasi B horror movie tricks done well, and plenty of dry British humor. Two very enthusiastic thumbs up.

    Bollocks? What’s that mean?
    The mutt’s nuts. The dog’s balls. Very. Not. Good.

    Spoon?
    Uh, there is no Spoon…

  8. The Other Jay says:

    Aeon Flux was only Charlize-able. I devoutly hoped that – once the wall went down – velociraptors would emerge from the woods and lay waste to the populace.

    The New Bond is very good. It has a “barely controlled juggernaut” feel that hits a slightly more believable note when viewed against the provided backstory.

    Dog Soldiers is awesome. A gory, funny use of 2 hours.

    Cloverfield was awful. The only thing that would have made it watchable would have been to have the monster kill the writers, producers, and director onscreen.

    Liam Neeson was better in Taken than I anticipated. As you noted, there were waaaay too many coincidences to be plausible (along the lines of winning Lotto three drawings in a row), but it sort of worked.

    Haven’t seen Cursed or Downfall yet.

  9. SemperGumby says:

    Great reviews, I agree with your take on all that I’ve seen.

    I REALLY like the new Bonds though I agree that the plots are thin but much more believable. That is why Craig is so much better because he is much more realistic, raw and believable as a killer for the crown than any of the other Bond flicks, Connery included.

  10. Don Gwinn says:

    Is downfall the movie that all the “Hitler finds out Michael Jackson is dead” and “Hitler finds out he’s lost the British elections” videos on Youtube came from? I keep thinking I’d like to see the real movie, but I didn’t know what it was.

    UPDATE:
    Yes, that’s it! Thanks.

  11. Rob K says:

    Aeon Flux is more enjoyable if you followed the original animated segments on MTV’s Liquid Television back in “the day”.

  12. Brandon says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed Downfall. I wish I spoke German so I wouldn’t have had to bother with the subtitles, but I wouldn’t prefer that it were done in English; it would’ve lost something, then.

    The movie also left me with the fervent wish that Magda Goebbels is roasting in a particularly unpleasant level of hell. I hated her so utterly that I don’t know that I could watch that actress in another film and be sympathetic to her character.

  13. kneil says:

    I’ll have to watch Dog Soldiers just to find out where they get ammo. I can’t see the British Army (or any other) issuing live ammo for a force-on-force war game, and it can’t be that easy to find anywhere in the UK…

    • Marko says:

      It’s explained in the movie. I won’t spoil it for you, but there’s a good reason why the SF guys have live ammo in their guns.

      Nice detail: at the beginning of the movie, all the regular Army squaddies have L-85 rifles with proper blank-firing adapters screwed into the muzzle ends.

  14. mac says:

    Dog Soldiers was good, as was Cursed (mostly). For werwolf time, watch Blood Moon, Skinwalkers, and Ginger Snaps (1-3).

  15. perlhaqr says:

    Dog Soldiers, Taken, added to Netflix queue!

  16. MarkHB says:

    I thought Cursed was hilarious. I assumed it was meant to be….

  17. T.Stahl says:

    After watching excerpts from Downfall at youtube, I was reminded of Patton and George C. Scott’s Performance.
    But I guess Bruno Ganz bet him.
    I’ll have to include that DVD in my next amazon order.

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