Sunday, February 22, 2009


Norway 1997

Sent to a Norwegian town to help with a homicide investigation, tenacious detective Jonas Engström (Stellan Skarsgård) and his partner set a trap for the suspect. But the fog-shrouded stakeout goes awry: Engström mistakenly shoots his partner, then covers his tracks -- forgetting that the suspect witnessed the killing. Soon, Engström's guilty conscience and insomnia in the land of the midnight sun lead to a downward spiral into chaos.

How does one wash their own hands of someone else's blood? What if that blood belonged to a dear friend of yours who fell victim to your panicked split second decision? Apparently to the lead actor Stellan Skarsgård's character, Jonas;
Just lie about it and cover it up.
Jonas is a Swedish detective you is assigned to a murder case in Norway of a high school girl.
His reputation of being one of the best detectives creates a tension on the investigation team assigned to help solve the case. Jonas goes without end on not only protecting his integrity and reputation against a mortal mistake but also to solve the murder case jeopardizing innocent lives to find the killer, boring a deep well of guilt and a sense of inhumanity in his subconscious. Amazingly acted and really well shot. The pace of the film holds strong and interesting. Continuity is played forthright to a taut expertise, infallibility. Rich in character and tension is pungent with the cast's chemistry.
Overall intently satisfying finish. Do see.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Nest

France 2002

Samy Naceri, Benoit Magimel, Nadia Fares, Pascal Greggory and Sami Bouajila star as the ruthless members of three warring gangs who end up hiding out in the same warehouse. Although it's gargantuan, the place isn't nearly big enough for all their egos, grudges and baggage. Everyone's jostling for control, and worse, they're all armed with weapons to ensure they wind up at the top of the bloody heap. Who will end up in the seat of power?

I really loved how this film's pace and direction utilized minimal dialog and straight forward construction of storyline by just showing how each group of characters come to intersect in what I'll just call an intense predicament. 3 separate parties of armed people with their own missions mesh together in a bloody showdown. Santi and Nasser are best friends who head a underground crime ring of electronic sales, by picking off company warehouse stock piles of laptops, stereos etc. It's not just small business either. The group of individuals are elite and big time professionals. An elite group of police are transporting a notorious mass murderer/rapist cult leader, until his private army comes to his rescue. The private army is nasty and very intelligent, making for a very difficult obstacle to overcome for the small group of elite police, even with their armored vehicle that they are transporting the cult leader in. Upon the rescue attempt a missile dislodges the armored vehicle killing a police officer and forcing the police group to hide out in the warehouse the professional thieves just so happen to be robbing. At first tensions are infallible between the gang of thieves and police but then are forced to join sides as the private army becomes a threat to both. Face paced. Violent. Straight forward. No prisoners. And a subtle commentary on dedication, sacrifice and true friendship.

Dragon Tiger Gate

Hong Kong 2006

A dispute with his master (Wah Yuen) at Dragon Tiger Gate martial arts school leaves Dragon (Donnie Yen) on his own. But the appearance of the evil Shibumi (Yu Kang) prompts Dragon to reunite with his younger brother and fellow student, Tiger (Nicholas Tse), to battle the ferocious Shibumi. Wilson Yip directed this action-packed adaptation of the smash hit comic book series by Yuk Long Wong.

Despite never being keen on the comic book Dragon Tiger Gate kept my interest through and through. Reasons being; 1. Donnie Yen. The man is amazing and has a distinct prowess that is so well developed stylistically that he appears so much more superior than all even when the main bad guy seems to have the upper hand. The acting is great but the storyline and choice of climactic settings and turnabout could really drive a viewer into a more negative leaning of a partial opinion. Overall, if you do indeed understand that it is based off a comic book and the story is just following the origin then you can really let bygones be bygones and appreciate the ferocity each fighter displays in the brutal over the top fight choreography. Delicious and intense even with the crappy ending.


Thailand 2008

Acclaimed Thai action director Prachya Pinkaew helms this martial arts drama, which follows Zen (JeeJa Yanin), a young autistic woman who discovers that she has the uncanny ability to absorb precision fighting skills just by watching martial arts movies. When her cancer-ridden mother's creditors come calling, Zen attempts to settle the debts by standing up to a hardnosed gang of criminals who have wrongfully swindled money from her family.

Opposed to typical Thai action films, this one stands out even with the homeland of Thailand's signature over the top premise. There is some awesome emotional build in this. I felt tears building in a few parts just because of the sincerity backing the emotions of a dying mother,
her husbands absence, a caring cousin and an autistic child. The fight scenes were hit and miss to be honest. The hits just were not brutal nor did the lead actress Jeeja Yanin have a follow through style that ever remained consistent. To someone who is not as critical, this movie will blow your mind if you can get past the build up let alone appreciate it. The first 35 minutes, I LOVED! There was no action in that 35 minutes either! The fight scenes were brutal merely because some of the surroundings being utilized to just seriously wreck her opponents. As the film goes on, the absurdity ensues on a much higher level, becoming more outrageous in a completely dumbfounding spectacle of very entertaining proportions. It really grows on you for it's progression in pacing intends to.
There is one of the most original ideas of fighting I have ever seen in this where Zen is faced against another fighter with a mental disability, that has to be seen to be believed. Awesome movie.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Wrestler

USA 2008

Mickey Rourke (in a Golden Globe-winning, Oscar-nominated role) stars as retired professional wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson, who returns to the ring and tries to work his way up the circuit for a final shot at defeating his longtime rival. Along the way, he tries to reconnect with his daughter, Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood), while exploring a relationship with a stripper named Cassidy (Marisa Tomei, also nominated for a Golden Globe and Oscar).

Ashamed of his real name "Robin", Randy The Ram is a struggling professional wrestler veteran on the his last leg. Between small gigs on the weekends and his job at a butcher deli, Randy visits a down to earth stripper, Cassidy or Pam rather for which he confides in. Telling her about his past glory, as well as his self realized detriment. Things go from depressing to tragic when The Ram suffers a heart attack after a brutal match. After a bypass procedure Randy is told he can never wrestle again. This film is so well done. I was teary eyed 10 minutes into the movie. An hour into the movie I had an epileptic fit from laughing so hard. Genuinely saddening, heart warming, brilliant dialog, perfectly shot and very straight forward. No gimmicks. The cross referencing of Rourke and Tomei's separate occupations holding similiar resonance to one another, is absolutely minimalist and completely genius.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

USA 2005

Petty thief Harry Lockart (Robert Downey Jr.) gets caught up in a murder investigation in this action-packed comedy. Posing as an actor, Harry heads to Los Angeles for an unlikely audition and finds an authentic acting coach in detective Perry Van Shrike (Val Kilmer). But the bright lights of Hollywood fade when a murder takes place and Harry, Perry and Harry's high school dream girl (Michelle Monaghan) become part of the investigation.

Despite an incredible cast of American talent, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang teetered me with confusion. Not in the sense that I did not understand what was going on, that was relatively easy, but if I was enjoying the movie is what I mean. There are a lot of creatively funny moments throughout the movie. Think "Family Guy Flashback" funny. These alone are enough to make the film entertaining. What threw me off was the editing and the very flashy and over eccentric scripting. Half the time the dialog of each character seems to be trying too hard to be over the top with pop culture analogies and self parodying. The other half of the time the film does cut deep with some intriguing moments that maintain the film's undeniable vigor. The plot falls somewhere between a film industry crime drama and a noir novel inspired conspiracy of "Johnny Come Lately" coming of age comedy... One could gripe about how the pace of the film is wishy washy without continuity, however the climatic end of the film really made up for all the forced eccentricity. The satirical narration of Robert Downey Jr. is great. Definitely worth watching. I hate Michelle Monaghan but she is actually amazing in this which caused me to have a new found respect for her.