action

Blow * Ted Demme * 2001

George Jung (Johnny Depp) didn’t have the best imaginable youth with his loser-dad, so when he groes up he and his buddy Tuna (Ethan Suplee) move to Callifornia where they are immediately introduced into a youthfull world filled with sun, sex and softdrugs. Pretty quickly the duo starts to sell marijuana and they do pretty well. When they run into a friend from their hometown and find out that the homelands are crying for pot, they start to smuggle marijuana in large quantities and make a lot of money. This is possible with the help of George’s Callifornian girlfriend Barbara (Franka Potente) who is a stewardess.
Then the money gets to George’s head and he makes contacts in Colombia to get larger amounts of marijuana faster. With the help of Derek Foreal (Paul Reubens) who they bought their first pot from, they sell huge amounts very rapidly. Then George gets caught and spends some time in prison. There he hears about cocaine (something new in that time) which he is also able to get in Colombia and he becomes the first to import it to the USA. Also with the help of Foreal George manages to sell 50kg in three weeks time, which brings him under the attention of the biggest Colombian drug-baron. For a while Jung is the only importer of cocaine in the USA and he makes millions of dollars. When he breaks up with Barbara, the Callifornian groups falls apart. Later George meets a new girlfriend called Mirtha (Penélope Cruz) who he marries. Then his business-partners betray him and George is out of business and he even is caught by the police with the help of a former friend.

All this is told in the modern crime-film-manner. The film indeed reminds a bit of “Boogie Nights” and maybe even a film like “Snatch”, “Thursday” or “Sexy Beast”, but it is not as violent and funny as these.
The film is based on “the book by Bruce Pollar” and supposedly “based on a true story”.
All in all quite a nice film, but not brilliant.

Beowulf * Graham Baker * 1999

As the title suggests this film is based on the epic poem “Beowulf”. If I am correct this is the oldest known text in the English language. It is said to be from the 6th century. So, in the 6th century they already wrote sci-fi?! I don’t know “Beowulf” myself (but I know the personage with the same name from “Tristan and Isolde”, a German saga), but I suppose this is a very loose interpretation or everything that isn’t described in the text is filled in by the makers of the film. The film “Beowulf” became one of these sci-fi’s playing in an imaginative past (?), like “Mad Max” or “Highlander”. Christopher Lambert is the mysterious stranger Beowulf who travels to a castle to fight the beast Grendel who kills all the inhabitents. The superhuman Beowulf falls in love with wonderbra Kyra and of course kills the supernatural beast and all ends happily. Alright.

Avalon * Mamoru Oshii * 2001

You know these Japanese are crazy, but this does it! A Japanese film shot in Poland and spoken Polish! I had heard about this film soon when it came to the cinemas and it played in the local film-house (where you go to see the smaller productions) for quite a while. Still it took until I found it cheap on video before I finally saw it.

“With a story like Exitenz or the Matrix” the box says. It is actually quite a lot like Existenz. “Avalon” is a virtual-reality computer war game. The players entirely go up in their game trying to get as good and far as they can. There is a lot of Arthurian mythology in the film, but the game itself is just a shooting war game. Ash (Malgorzata Foremniak) is almost the best player, a good-looking but lonely girl who makes money playing the came and flees from the grim reality of Poland. The players contact eachother to get information to reach a secret level and when Ash reaches it, we no longer know what is reality. The secret game is the real world, or not?

Nice fairly grim atmosphere, nice colour-settings, mediocre story.

Around The World In 80 Days * Frank Coraci * 2004

What do you get when Jackie Chan is involved in a film with an all-English story told ‘in an English manner’? Just try this film if you think you can stand that. The film is of course based on the famous book of Jules Verne, but this book is only the basis of the film. I don’t think Verne has a story of an Asiatic bankrobber who has ‘to kung foo’ his enemies with fast Jackie Chan scenes. Furthermore there is nice Brittish humour and a bit of a Tim Burton sause poored over it. The result is a funny film for the entire family and it surely made my planeflight to bit faster.

The Animatrix * various * 2003

I have had this DVD in my hands several times and I was not the only one doubting whether or not to see this film. I can tell you: I don’t regret I did!

Already a nice surprise was that before I started to watch the films, I quickly jumped through the extras menu and heard that it were the brothers Wachowski themselves who had these films made. No cheap spinoff without consulting the creators of The Matrix trilogy. The brothers Wachowski wanted an animated version of their stories and asked nine prominent Japanese “anime” artists to make a short film. The brothers wrote the stories and came with suggestions, but still left the artists very free to fill in the rest. The result is nine animation films of about 10 minutes each, in different styles and treating different aspects of the world of The Matrix. The first film is an extraordinary realistic part much like the first film. The rest is quite typical Japanese “anime” with a lot of Buddhistic and “Matrixal” symbology. You will get the story of the time before the first film and different aspects of the concept of The Matrix. The extra information is very nice. Also you will get insight into the “Enter The Matrix” computer game, but that is not really my cup of tea.

So, if you like The Matrix, just have a look at this. The atmosphere of the animations is very close to that of the first film and they are done by the best artists and this definately shows. Also if you (like me) normally do not watch “anime”, this “Animatrix” is still a pleasure to watch.

The 51st State * Ronny Yu * 2001

Well another action/crime/comedy in the vein of “Snatch”, “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”, “Traffic” or “Pulp Fiction”. This time by a Tai director who previously made Tai karate action films.

“The 51st State” is about the American chemist and drug producer Elmo McElroy (Samuel L. Jackson) who made the perfect new drug and he wants to sell his formula for a high price to be able to get out of the business. In the USA he literally blows the deal with the corrupt police agent The Lizard (Meat Loaf) and he seeks his salvation in Liverpool, England. There McElroy is picked up by the supercool Felix DeSouza (Robert Carlyle) and his driver. Being chased by DeSouzas ex-girlfriend Dakota (Emily Mortimer) also this deal gets blown and McElroy has to go find a new buyer together with DeSouza.

The film starts with a totally hip combination of fast images and heavy music. There are also more ‘tranquil’ parts in the film and all through there is a cynical kind of humour combining both British (anti-American) and American (anti-British) jokes. A lot of ‘bad language’ is used to make things totally hilarious. Some pretty good jokes, unexpected changes in the story (not too unexpected though) and quite a lot of action make this film pretty nice. Here and there a bit unbelievable and overall not brilliant, but good entertainment.

24 (series 3) * Robert Cochran & Joel Sunrow * 2004

The problem with series that run well is that they keep coming up with sequals, so here we have “day 3” of the 24 series. Of course again 18 hours of tv spread over 24 episodes in total dealing with one day this time from 1 to 1 pm. Also the rest is mostly the same.

For a large part you will know the characters from the previous series. We have of course Jack Bauer and his daughter Kim, president palmer, the people at CTU, etc. This time Bauer tries to stop a virus falling into the wrong hands. Especially the first half of the series are (I think) stuffed with ilogical, inconsistent and especially incredible parts in the story. Of course the threat is personal to Bauer again, he doesn’t play by the book, but it all is a bit too much. Not that it all isn’t entertaining though, but halfway I was of the opinion that this was again downhill from the original idea. Yet, just as before, there is a high speed in the series, the tension is high and you keep wondering what the picture is. Halfway things get better. Still ilogical, inconsistent and incredible elements (in particular to the ‘real time’ concept), but the ‘atmosphere’ of the series becomes superb. However I really didn’t watch the hole series in one sit (usually 3 episodes on one night), I really ‘came into’ the series and its characters. There is one episode in which the general audience gets suicide pills and Jack Bauer had to execute a colleague. Pretty heavy stuff. Other scenes are really high tension. Both things I hadn’t experienced in the previous series, however I can imagine that this isn’t the same for anyone.

In any case. When you have the DVD box and can decide for yourself when to watch it (and not have to be in front of the tv at a specific time for 24 times), these series are good entertainment. I still think series one is the best, of course mostly because of the entirely new concept, series two is good and series three is good too, but just regarding acting and atmosphere, the second half of these series three are by far the best.

So, this may promise to series four that are already on tv in the USA……..

24 (series 2) * Robert Cochran & Joel Sunrow * 2002

Another review that required 18 hours of watching. The second series of 24 are again good, but not quite as surprising as the first series. Better this time is that the speed of the events is much higher, but this kind of let to the fact that the logic and fitting-the-concept had to be kept in a little lower degree. This time a nuclear bomb is going to be set off by terrorists in LA and of course Jack Bauer is the one to prevent this. Like I said, the logic and credibility are not always guarenteed and in particular the story of daughter Kim is roundout irritating this time. Still the series are interesting enough to keep the attention for 18 hours. Some unexpected changes and the tenstion is well-done.

Series 3 are already playing in the USA, but it will take some time before I will see them on DVD I guess.

24 (series) * Robert Cochran & Joel Sunrow * 2001

Launced with a lot of publicity, these series. They were supposed to be some of the most thriller and addictive series. I watched the first episode and decided that 24 weeks of having to following one series was a bit too long. But then the thing was released on DVD and stories about people who watched the whole series in one sit start to rise. DVD is of course a lot handier than having to be in front of your TV at set times, so I decided to go for it as well (with a borrowed 6-cd-DVD-box).

The series are said to be filmed in ‘real time’, so one hour is one hour. Therefor you have 24 episodes for one day from 00:00 to 00:00. In fact, one episode is 40 minutes, so the total time is 16 hours. I suppose the other 8 hours are for commercials. Also you get a ‘previously’ before every episode and the same introduction (which you can’t skip by jumping to the next title!).

16 Hours of TV is too much to say much about in detail. The bottom line is that there is a murder attempt on the first black candidate for the American presidency that makes a good chance. A special anti-terrorist division of the government is assigned to protect Palmer, and the main character Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) is in charge of the operation. It proves that the goal of the terrorists is not just to kill Palmer, but also to ruin Bauer’s family. Of course the series had to be kept interesting for 24 episodes and they sure did their utmost to! Every episode is loaded with info, new clues and turns of the plot. A bit too much the makers tried to make you have to guess who is the bad guy, what is going on etc.

All in all a nice series, but very American and not exactly brilliant.

Right now series 2 (“day 2”) is being shown on different channels and apparently also already on DVD. The future will tell if I will see that one too.

300 * Zack Snyder * 2006

Another graphic novel of Frank Miller put to film, but however this brings too easy comparisons with “Sin City”, don’t let yourself be fooled by that. “300” Is not a visual comic, but a film with actors and indeed most of the scenes come out of a computer, but they do (fortunately) look nothing like “Sin City”. “300” Has risen some discussions. Is it just a spectacular semi-historical action film like “Gladiator”? Is it a glorification of violence? Is it the glorification of the ancient warrior ethos? There are even people seeing political layers, where a Western elite fights an invading power. For some reason Iran has chosen to identify itself with a gayish Xerxes that organises orgies and who in fact ‘represents’ the pre-Islamitic religion of Persia, but apparently, when things can be turned to their use, they will complain. In any case, “300” indeed is a glorification of the ancient warrior ethos in my opinion. The king Leonidas is shown in a boyhood and the violent initiation into the world of the soldier is shown (not completely unlike the ancient reality I might add). The Spartans are shown as the elite warrior troop from Greece and only 300 raise against the millions (a minor exaggeration) of Persians that come to invade Greece. The Persians have all kinds of monsters to reach their goal, but the supreme technique of the Spartans make that they withstand almost any attack. The fighthing scenes are shown in a Matrix-like fashion with irritating fast-slow-fast-slow shifts, but spectacular (and bloody) computer graphics and the Spartan übermenschen are shown in all their glory. Politically incorrect? Perhaps. Most people will watch “300” as a spectacular fighting film, some may look for more behind it or connect the film to current tendencies, it is just what you make of it. I don’t know if the makers had a message and actually I don’t care. “300” Is an alright film that is well put together, but in the end, it is just another action film with an original twist. <15/4/07><3>