In Bruges

in_bruges.jpg rating-4.0Perhaps the one flaw of In Bruges is that they sold it as a comedy. And, believe you me, this is not a movie for everyone. This is a dark comedy unto the limits of darkness.

If one knows the pedigree of writer/director Martin McDonagh, it all makes sense. Apparently, he has quite the history of bleak, strange, and very dark comedic stage plays. And though critics say this movie is not representative of his best work, there's definitely something here.

Rarely does one see such surreal and deadpan elements in such an overwhelmingly dark or dramatic setting. One really doesn't know what to think or feel about all the movie's events, but the train of strangeness and misfortune has a certain charm to it that will keep the less Pollyanna-ish amongst the viewers interested. Of course, it helps if you don't mind copious gore and vulgarity, either.

McDonagh pulls out all the stops to shock and awe his viewers, all while tying it up prettily with witty reparte. It's only helped by his excellent cast, all playing up to their greatest merits or strangest character traits.

Colin Farrell carries the movie well as the sullen, self-destructive lead and Brendan Gleeson, as always, gives the movie a heart.

I'm only too happy to sit through the strangeness again to see the layers of theatrical comedy and tragedy play out before me. Perhaps you will too, if you have the stomach for it.

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No Country For Old Men

no_country_for_old_men.jpg rating-4.0When one watches "award winners," even "award nominees," there is a certain suspicion that comes with the honor.

I can't say I like the Coen Brothers. In fact, I can say the exact opposite. There movies are often long and boring, I don't care about their technique, I have no interest in their form of writing, and the few times they've made something mildly amusing, it's been destroyed by their overzealous and annoying fans. (No, thank you. The Big Lebowski can burn in hell.)

As for No Country For Old Men, you see a sort of meeting of the minds. By all standards, I don't like the Coen Brothers and I think Cormac McCarthy is a terrible, bland writer. And, yet somehow, the two combine to make an interesting film.

Realistically, it's the stark visuals and good actors that drive this movie. It's not so much that it's a work of genius as a work of competence. They deliver what there is well, though many won't like the movie. I suppose if you're impressed by awards (or easily swayed by them), you might think the film is better than it is.

The story is simple unto a lack of detail. One is only left with a barren character study, desert vistas, and the inside of hotel rooms. The actors manage to give everything an urgency that the bleak flatness of the film actually lacks, but I'm not sure if they make it a good movie.

That seems to be the main problem, if you can call it a problem. It is a well-made and interesting movie, but one can't call it "good" or "enjoyable." You don't sit down to watch No Country For Old Men for fun. It's quiet and sparse (like McCarthy's text, I suppose) and doesn't leave much to rewatch. But it does manage to combine both the writing and visual element into one flowing creature, neither independent of the need for the other to survive. There's something at least artistic about it, even if it's not art to me.

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Definitely, Maybe

definitely_maybe.jpgrating-3.5One must give Ryan Reynolds credit. The man has range. And he's been excellent in everything I've ever seen him in. Not to say that every movie he's been in is great, be he's definnitley been a highlight of every one of them. That someone so funny can also so artfully play drama is... well, truthfully, it's common. Comedians more often than not make the best dramatic actors. There's a greater art in comedy than drama. But he still excels in all fields.

Definitely, Maybe doesn't quite live up to its potential and, though Ryan Reynolds pulls through, one has to miss the sort of comedic promise that a movie like this offers. It's billed as being "from the makers of Notting Hill and Love Actually," though to call that misleading would be kind. I grow weary of the bullshit advertising of producers who worked on one film making another. Who the fuck cares if you were the producer of some amazing film? You didn't write it or direct you. You probably have no creative bone in your body and wouldn't know a good film if it fucked your mom. Stop trying to play up to my love for good movies by claiming them as your own.

Instead, we get a film from the maker of Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason and Practical Magic (a clusterfuck of badness if I've ever seen it), not the type of pedigree one can play up like Love Actually. Oh, if only it had the humor that Richard Curtis manages so easily in his movies, then we'd be on to something. Instead, the movie is somewhat more straightforward and definitely underuses Ryan Reynold's comedic abilities. The same can be said for Elizabeth Banks and Isla Fisher who both give good performances but don't get to shine comedically. Oddly, Rachel Weisz actually feels to be the most fun and freespirited of the movie's women, an odd claim.

Of course, Abigail Breslin is also good and manages to add to the trend of child actors that are both intelligent, funny, and so very not annoying.

Overall, the plot is decent though not quite up to what one would hope for, perhaps the real flaw of this movie... Its high expectations may have diminished it to some degree. But the movie feels good and doesn't strain to reach the overly happy treacle ending, instead going for a satisfying one. The ending is still happy, but there's a great deal more logic to it than romantic comedies are generally given.

All in all, it's a good story and may actually suit its male viewers better than its female, harkening back to our youthful exuberence and missed opportunities. I think we all wish it'd end as happily as this, even if we'd  hope for more humor.

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The Protector

the_protector.jpgrating-3.5Well, I'd seen Ong-Bak and was suitably amused and I'd heard mixed reviews of this film, but I wanted to see it anyway. When the first chance arose, I watched it On Demand...

Oh, boy. As soon as it started, I knew it was chopped to shit. The editing was sloppy and it seemed like it veered wildly from action scene to action scene with no plot for the first 20 minutes. Well, right I was... The US edit differs from the original by nearly half an hour, so I have to say "Thank you, American distributors" for fucking up another film. At least it's readily available on DVD, which I hope makes for a better viewing experience.

This is not to say the movie's bad... By any standard, this movie is an impressive bit of acrobatic martial arts work, putting the likes of Jackie Chan and Jet Li back in their place. Tony Jaa really is a very impressive fighter and one must be amazed by his tricks, dedication, and the method by which this film was made. There are staggeringly long shots of precise fighting, going for nearly 5 minutes without a cut as Jaa is chased by a steadi-cam. It's amazing work, really, and it all builds to a climax that really had me amazed, happy, and ready to watch the movie again.

That it is violent, there's no doubt. If you don't like the sound of snapping bones, stay away from this fucker. Because it's nice and brutal, just like daddy likes it. Those Thai badasses know how to do it and deliver really bare-bones and tough fighting. It's not always the cleanest-looking movie, but you'll be intrigued by the art put into the choreography if nothing else.

And where Ong-Bak often failed, slowed down, or grew dull, The Protector holds up and manages to stay a step ahead of your interest being lost (much easier when you're missing 25 minutes of plot). This may not be the brightest film you ever watch, but, damn it, if it isn't fun. Better than a day at the circus, at any rate.

It's got everything you could want: giants, violently snapping bones, and baby elephants being body-slammed. What more could you ask for?

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Bloodrayne 2: Deliverance

bloodrayne2.jpgrating-2.5This movie was destined to be bad. It's pedigree was awful. It's written by two nobodies and directed by perennial fuck-up Uwe Boll, so it's pretty much doomed from the get-go. And, yet, it's actually not too bad.

Yes, you read that right, Uwe Boll made a movie that's not dreadful. In fact, as a director, this is probably his best film and, by a damn sight, better than Bloodrayne. I know that's not saying too much, if anything, but, really, the movie was actually tolerable. If Boll was a young, first-time director, I might think he actually had some promise.

Now, this is not to say that the movie isn't absolutely full of flaws. Oh, how it has flaws. The dialogue is often pathetically awful and the plot iself can best be described as "fucktarded", but the actors themselves are pretty damned good, a trait that's a bit surprising coming from a Boll film.

Natassia Malthe doesn't look the part and was a bit flat at the beginning, but she quickly surpasses Kristanna Loken in the Rayne arena. But the real charm of the movie comes in the acting of the supporting cast, though they're often wasted and, in the end, spent as fodder after being drained of their comic relief value.

The plot and the villains are a waste and you wonder how the hell this movie keeps dragging along, particularly through brain-numbing bits and fight scenes that make no logical sense, but you suffer through the bad parts, because there's some promise there.

Yes, that promise never pays off and there's more plotholes than you can shake a stick at, but it's probably the most realistic attempt at making an entertaining film that Boll has ever made, much less on the shoestring budget holding this film together.

So, in that arena, it gets kudos. The rest of it is still pretty bad, though it doesn't even rank in the league of Bloodrayne or Alone In The Dark.

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