Category: Movies

12 Monkeys (1995)

After the disaster of {moscontentlink:The Running Man}, 12 Monkeys is a welcome contrast. Directed by Terry Gilliam, of Brazil fame, this movie explores the thin boundary between sanity and madness and applies it to one of the most confusing topics of science fiction: time travel.

 James Cole (Bruce Willis) is a "divergent mind," a criminal that gets a chance to save the world after a virus wiped out 90% of mankind. He is to go back to the year 1996, when the virus first spread, to collect samples of the unadulterated virus. He is to bring these samples back, so that scientists can create an antidote, cure, or the like.

As in Brazil, the idea of government as embodied here by the scientists is synonymous with incompetence. A first attempt sends Cole six years too far, to the year 1990, where he meets his psychiatrist, Dr. Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe), and a fellow patient, Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt), as he gets admitted into a mental ward since he is evidently disturbed. 

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The Running Man (1987)

This review is the result of a Netflix crime: I just started my subscription (why has the time to process just trebled?), and this was one of the movies they strongly suggested I watch. Not sure why, but here are my thoughts.

First: in hindsight, the 80es were just as creative as the 70es or 60es, only their innovation was mostly atrociously ugly. Watching The Running Man shouts instantly "1987" at you, what with the women's dress and hairstyle, the cheesy music, the crapola choreography in the dance numbers. 

Second: watching any Arnold Schwarzenegger movie shot after The Terminator always has the damaging side effect of exposing you to "memorable quotes," like the iconic Hasta la vista, baby! In moderation, that's not bad, but the screenwriter, the director, and Arnie himself evidently do not know moderation.

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Casino Royale (2006)

The mannerisms of James Bond have gotten on everyone's nerves. I suppose there was a time when "shaken, not stirred" was first a symbol, then a trademark. But some time around the late Roger Moore movies, when he was old enough that his sex with the "Bond girls" already seemed implausible, Bond seemed as expired as Moore.

Enters Timothy Dalton, enters Pierce Brosnan. No life enters the franchise. 007 movies had become a non-event in the past years: who wants to see a spy movie when there is no Cold War? Can 007 re-invent himself in a world of economic espionage?

Well, of course then came 9/11, and there was a new enemy to be found: terrorism. The partnership between the U.S. and the UK in matters of Cold War continued in the area of terrorism abatement, and there is a new role for a global 007. 

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United 93 (2006)

There's a movie that didn't quite have the success it was designed for. United 93 is a docudrama about the plane that was hijacked, but whose passengers managed to neutralize the terrorists. In the end, the plane crashes on a field in Pennsylvania; despite the tragedy, the heroic effort of the crew and passengers saved possibly thousands of lives.

The problem with 9/11 movies is that the events of that day unfolded in a way that has etched memories for a lifetime. Everyone that has experienced 9/11 has very personal experiences of the horror we all felt, every one of us in our own way. The depth of the emotions that day can evoke in me is beyond my own comprehension.

How can a movie reach that? I think of the day, and an infinite sorrow envelops me – seeing the tragedy unfold, unable to believe anyone would do something as stupid as sending thousands of innocents to their certain death for nothing but ideological reasons. 

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Corpse Bride (2005)

Tim Burton has a gift for surprise. His movies all have a depth that erupts from anything that usually wouldn't make a movie worth watching, somehow emphasizing their value beyond logic. He is, in that respect, not unlike Mozart, whose work has that same flow of the pleasant paired with the eruptive force of genius.

We are in a fairy tale set in Victorian England. Our hero, Victor, is the heir of a fish monger's fortune and is to be married off sight unseen to Victoria, heir to a delapidated aristocratic fortune. As the movie starts, the singing families are going to meet to introduce the two young heroes at the wedding rehearsal. 

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I (HEART) Huckabees (2004)

I am so happy I didn't see this move in the theaters! I ♥ Huckabees is a strange comedy, the same type of slow-moving humor that made The Royal Tenenbaums so memorable.

A string of famous to very-famous actors is embroiled in an "existential investigation" that ends up being about a petty discord and corporate greed. At the same time, the life of a bunch of people is forever changed by the realization they are not living their own lives.

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Pirates of the Caribbean – Dead Man’s Chest (2006)

Swashbuckling Johnny Depp did it again: the latest installment of Pirates of the Caribbean (PotC) is a total success, grossing on its second weekend as much as the next four movies combined. I can hear the sigh of relief out of Burbank: they had bet big time on this sequel, going as far as shooting two of them back-to-back.

As movies go, PotC 1 (The Curse of the Black Pearl) was funnier and more interesting. This one is way too long, way too predictable, and the special effects are too repetitive. Was it worth it? Not really, unless you really don't know what to do with yourself on a hot summer afternoon. Towards the second half of the movie, I started wishing I  had a remote control to zip over the less interesting scenes.

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The Da Vinci Code (2006)

There is this entire new world of movies from star novels that is happening these days. The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and now The Da Vinci Code. What do they have in common? Well, in all cases there was a huge fan base of the novel that needed to be satisfied, and hence the movies are a lot like the books, without the wanton changes that are so typical of movies in the past.

Let's face it: The Da Vinci Code the novel was not great. The plot was wonderful, with the story of the Priory, though, lifted from Holy Blood, Holy Grail, and the rest a bit formulaic. Take that and make it a movie: it had to be gruesome.

And yet, it's a surpringly enjoyable movie. I give it my thumbs up, and I was convinced it was going to be horrible!

1. One item of grief: Mr. Tom Hanks.

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War of the Worlds (2005)

Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise! A revival of the (excellent) Minority Report! That sounds like a reason to go to a theater, doesn’t it?

Well, I didn’t go when I could have, and I am happy I didn’t. The movie is a singular catastrophe, and I wished the director and protagonist had chosen a better screen writer.

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Kingdom of Heaven (2005)

Paradoxically, while I am a huge fan of the history of the Medieval Middle East (in particular, of the Eastern Roman Empire) I didn’t watch "Kingdom of Heaven" in the theaters. Instead, I waited for a sick weekend and rented it from the local store.

Ridley Scott set out to do a relatively accurate depiction of the goings-on during the destruction of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. For those that don’t know, in 1099 the First Crusade marched into Jerusalem and captured the city from the Saracens (Muslims). A hundred years later, the resurgence of Islam that came from the Turkic tribes of Anatolia forced the destruction of the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Just as the notorious internecine warfare between Muslim states enabled the Christians to gain land, their own constant dissonance was their undoing when the Muslims found their unity under Saladin. Indeed, most of the movie tries to deal with this disconnect: a small country on the border of giant empire, and yet its inhabitants are constantly at odds with each other.

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