Movies We Watched

Sometimes we watch stuff that we want to talk just a little bit about, not a full review worth. These are those films. If any of the films reviewed are available on Netflix Instant Watch (US or Canada) or HuluPlus (US only), we’ll note that by putting a direct link below the capsule.

The Raid: Redemption

2012 indonesia. Director: Gareth Evans. Starring: Iko Uwais, Ananda George, Ray Sahetapy.

Imagine, if you will, the heart-pounding action of the very best of John Woo. Combine said action with the quickness, brutality, and sheer awe inspiring talents of Tony Jaa. Take, perhaps, Woo’s Hard Boiled, replacing the gunfights with knives, and the cast with several martial artists that may well give the aforementioned Jaa a run for his money. From this, trim the fat (e.g. story), and extend the final forty minutes into a 101-minute orgy of visceral and incredibly well-choreographed violence and bloodshed. That is The Raid: Redemption in a nutshell. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the works of Messrs, Woo and Jaa … well … you’re missing out, and you need to rectify that immediately. No need to even read the rest of this post – get to it.

Red Dawn

1984 USA. Director: John Milius. Starring: Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen, Jennifer Grey, Harry Dean Stanton, Powers Boothe.

If it weren’t for the acting and some really horrible dialogue, this film might still hold pretty well as a history flashback on the American perception of The Soviet Union in the 80’s.

The propaganda never really struck me much as a kid – always just liked watching kids blow shit up real good. But the world that is set-up with the opening credits and then carried on throughout the movie is pretty terrifying and realistic in many ways.

But yeah, the kids are awful awful awful.

Sid and Nancy

1986 UK. Director: Alex Cox. Starring: Gary Oldman, Chloe Webb.

Sid and Nancy is the wholly morbid tale of the love between Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and groupie-turned-girlfriend Nancy Spungen, with a dash of history of the Sex Pistols as a group, and a pinch punk rock in general. Carried by a brilliant performance by Gary Oldman as the titular Sid, this is the film to watch if you are interested in gauging just how much the lead actor’s performance impacts your opinion of a film. With the exception of Oldman – whose performance truly cannot be overstated – the film is a hot mess. Well, the soundtrack is pretty fantastic … but the praise can essentially end there. The direction, editing, and general feel of the film is style over substance, yet the style is fairly far removed from those directors that can get away with flash and grandeur. And Chloe Webb’s Nancy is, pragmatically speaking, terrible – and appallingly so. She may well be as awful as Oldman is superb, and that may take more talent than one would ever suspect. Despite this, I cannot in good faith give Sid and Nancy anything less than a solid average score as Oldman is that magnetic, and that charismatic, and that … everything that you could hope for from a leading man.

The Leopard

1963 Italy. Director: Luchino Visconti. Starring: Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon, Claudia Cardinale.

This is going to be the grandest cop-out that I have ever taken in my time in the Third Row, but The Leopard simply defies well-reasoned analysis. It is, without a shred of doubt in my mind, one of the four or five greatest films that I have ever seen, and the most visually beautiful film that I have had the pleasure of watching on Blu-Ray. Burt Lancaster is masterful, Claudia Cardinale is vivacious and stunning, and … it’s brilliance encapsulated in film.

Red Planet

2000 USA. Director: Antony Hoffman. Starring: Val Kilmer Carrie-Anne Moss Benjamin Bratt Tom Sizemore Simon Baker Terence Stamp.

I liked it about as much as I did the first couple of times I watched it, which was not much.

It’s got some definite highlights and many things to love, but mostly the characters were a little too unbelievable and aggravating for my tastes. It’s hard to gauge exactly what the intent was here. If it was straight-up B-movie ridiculous, then it mostly succeeds, but trying to shoehorn the science and the religion makes me think it’s striving to be more and thusly fails.

Looking at the CGI now, it’s pretty bad. Even semi-static shots of the ship in space looks like the best computer generated imagery had to offer… if it was 1991. However, the robot dog looks pretty great and it had pretty clever/interesting design features.

The one thing I really really like about DePalma’s movie in the same year was the score. That fucking score is TERRIFIC! Not so much here – in fact the electronica thumping crap is downright grating on the senses.

The Lives of Others

2007 Germany. Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. Starring: Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Mühe, Sebastian Koch, Ulrich Tukur, Thomas Thieme.

Perfectly cast, perfectly paced, perfectly set, perfectly intense, perfectly shot, perfect ending. In a nutshell, this is a perfect film.


The Expendables

2010 USA. Director: Sylvester Stallone. Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Jet Li, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke.

Not quite as fun as I remember it being the first time around theatrically. In fact, for the most part, it’s straight-up pretty bad.

I do understand and appreciate the novelty of putting all these guys together; i.e. Steve Austin fighting Randy Couture and Jet Li fighting Dolph Lundgren and watching Sly, Arnold and Bruno all in the same room having a conversation. I did watch all of these cheesy action movies back in the 80s, so I get it. But still, some of it (especially on rewatch) is really hard to sit through.

That said, it’s worth sitting through a lot of the crap (like Rourke going for his second Oscar… brutal!) for the payoff of the last 25 minutes or so. Wall to wall, solid action is pretty damn fun. Though I think this will probably be it for me in terms of rewatching. I do look forward to part 2 (and 3!) however.


2010 USA. Director: Noah Baumbach. Starring: Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig, Rhys Ifans, Jennifer Jason-Leigh.

Roger Greenberg’s life is a one act play: the not-quite Jew, the bundle of neuroses who refuses to be identified with his stint in a mental hospital, who breaks even the Larry David/Woody Allen mold of comedic curmudgeon, as someone not quite of either coastal city, but of both and back, and of course, my favorite, the lone pedestrian in a city of cars. The stage is set for complexity, but it is ultimately in the minutiae of Roger’s strained attempts to belong, the performance of Ben Stiller and the gracelessness of the dialogue that supersede the premise.

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