Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cloud Cuckoolander Treatise: Let's Iron Out Some Plot Holes!

Warning: This Cuckoolander Treatise will contain spoilers for Abduction, and a major spoiler for Hanna. Reader discretion is advised, though I really don’t know why you’d take such a warning seriously in relation to a movie that makes no flippin’ sense. (I can see why you’d take it seriously for Hanna, though.)

So those of you who were with me last weekend to review the nonsensical shitfest that was Taylor Lautner’s Abduction will probably remember I lambasted the story for making no sense. Well, I thought to myself, “well, Herr, can you do any better to make this story make sense?”

Well, let’s see, shall we?

I propose a few solutions to make that shitty movie actually make some amount of sense:

1) Ditch a huge part of the reason why Nathan has adoptive parents in the first place.

As I mentioned in my review, the real father of Taylor Lautner’s character was still alive and well during the events of the movie. The reason Nathan was given to adoptive parents, then? It basically whittles down to this: “BOO HOO I CAN’T RAISE A CHILD MY WIFE’S DEATH LEFT ME SO EMOTIONALLY FRAGILE I CAN’T RAISE A CHILD BY MYSELF AND I HAVE NO MORALS THEREFORE I AUTOMATICALLY MAKE AN AWFUL PARENT AND I’M NOT EVEN GONNA TRY TO RAISE THIS KID!” So he was given to some of his friends from the CIA, and stuff evolved from there.

Bullshit, movie. The father just comes across as a whiny little bastard who shouldn’t even be in the CIA, let alone in a higher government job.

Therefore, here is what I propose: I propose you just kill the father off. Completely. Therefore, the fact that Nathan’s parents aren’t actually his parents makes sense. It’s not like you already killed off his mother; one extra victim would actually benefit this movie. Well, that, and it actually makes it more plausible why they would gun after the kid.

Which leads me to suggestion 2…

2) Give the bad guys an actual reason to go after Nathan and Nathan only.

Again, as I said in the review, the Slavic guy is after Nathan for a list that isn’t actually in his possession at the start of the movie. In fact, he doesn’t get the list until after the bad guys gunned for him. You could argue it’s part of a gambit, but you could also… you know… go after the CIA yourselves?

Therefore, here is what I propose to that: have Nathan start the movie with the list somehow. It could be interlaced in a family memento, it could be in a chip inside one of Nathan’s most prized possessions, anything. Anything that makes more sense than getting a list from an apartment that isn’t even in the same state as Nathan’s state of residence.

Speaking of chips, actually…

3) Put the list on a format that actually makes sense in relation to the timeline.

I really doubt they had flip phones in the mid-90’s, which was when the father supposedly got his list. So unless he updated it to a new format every few years (which makes even less sense than before), then there’s no reason it should be on a flip phone.

But assuming that he updated the format, that only opens up another plot hole:

Why didn’t Nathan’s father just give the list directly to the CIA?

Oh, wait, we wouldn’t have a movie that way, that’s why. And you know, it’s bad when your bad guys are chasing your good guys for a reason that opens up a plot hole by default.

My proposition, therefore?

4) Explain why the father didn’t just give the list to the CIA, and thus avoid a case of We Could Have Avoided All This.

You can also completely ditch the list angle, but I’ve got a feeling you don’t want to hear that, so I have to go with everything else. So, you know, give a reason why the father couldn’t just give the list to the CIA. That would go over much better.

That’s all the stuff about the list. Trust me, we’re only halfway done. So let’s get to it.

5) Find a more practical way to kill the mother.

There are more practical ways of killing the mother than just gassing the whole room. Oh yeah, and it also results in less stupid when baby Taylor Lautner picks up a breathing mask, somehow knows what it does, and lives, despite the fact that, you know, he’s still a freaking baby!

6) Find another excuse to involve Nathan in addition to the list.

(Seriously, I just can’t get over the fact that the bad guys are chasing Taylor Lautner for a fucking list that they can get just as easily if they gun for the still-alive father.)

Like, you know, make him a super-secret experiment baby who has enhanced abilities or something. (Funny, when you consider that this is why I originally thought they were gunning for Lautner’s character.) You know, the kind of thing that someone would actually want to get their hands on.

Hey, it worked for Hanna, I’m sure it’ll work just as well here.

7) Keep track of where your movie is, and how long it takes to get there.

Seriously, how the hell did that one dude from The Great Debaters get all the way from Pennsylvania to Virginia with a bunch of fake ID’s in a few hours? I thought making stuff like fake IDs was supposed to take a lot of time, so how does it happen in a few hours? How, movie? How?

8) Have more competent CIA agents, and only slightly less competent Slavic guys.

You mean to tell me that the CIA goes almost the entire running time of the movie without somehow noticing that every single interaction they’ve had with Taylor Lautner’s character over the phone is being tapped by the Slavic guys? Come on, people! The CIA can’t possibly be that stupid!

And lastly…

9) Change the flippin’ title!

Seriously. The title doesn’t relate to the movie at all when you think about it. It really doesn’t.

So yeah, there are a whole bunch of plot suggestions to work with. The one thing I’ll tell you not to do?

10) Do not take out the romance subplot.

Seriously, the romantic subplot of the movie was literally the only thing I enjoyed about it.

And it’s sad when the romantic subplot is the best part of a really twisty action-thriller with complicated plot and all that. It really is.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Here's a little thing I'd like to say to movie screen-writers. We like twisty, complicated plots. We like them in action movies. And we like them as an excuse to watch crazy things happen.

But please, please, for the love of God don't insult our intelligences while doing so.

Seriously, today's movie is a prime example of why you shouldn't treat your audience like a bunch of idiots.

Oh, and for the record, this review WILL contain spoilers. You have been warned about that, and the fact that I really don't care if I give them away for this particular movie. So if you saw this movie and got spoiled, you can't say I didn't warn you about spoilers.

So yeah.


Nathan (Taylor Lautner) is a young man in high school going around doing what he does. However, on a project he does with classmate Karen (Lily Collins), he finds out that his picture just happens to be on a missing person's website. And soon after that, things go downhill, and Nathan is then pursued by both the CIA headed by... Alfred Molina (I can't remember the character's name, nor do I really care), and... some Slavic dude, I don't know.

See? I've forgotten details about the movie already. Not a good sign, people. Let's get this review out of the way before I forget more details.

So, action? Yes, the action here is exciting, we can actually see what the hell is going on... but there isn't as much as there should be. Mindless diversions like this are supposed to be just that: mindless diversions, and we don't really get inclined to care so long as we get action. But there isn't really as much action as you'd hope for in this movie. Instead, it concerns itself with a very twisty plot.

And you know, I wouldn't mind, except for the fact that this movie's plot makes no sense. At all. (Warning: here be spoilers.) Basically, Taylor Lautner's character is being chased around because he has information about stuff that the Slavic guy wants back... except that he doesn't actually start the movie with this information. In fact, he doesn't get this information until after some dudes come into his house, kill the people who are supposedly his parents, and then gets directed to an apartment in which he just so happens to pick up a cell phone that has that information, and just so happens to take it with him. And get this: the missing persons website was a front from the Slavic guy, specifically made to get Nathan so he can get that information. It's a fine plan, until the revelation is made that Nathan's real father is still alive, and extremely well. So why the hell did the bad guys sit and wait for fifteen years for the kid to find the site when they could've just concentrated on finding the father? That makes no sense! There are numerous other plotholes and unexplained plot conveniences peppered around, but when your entire premise makes no sense, you're in trouble.

It doesn't help that nothing is believable about the action or the acting. The guys that attack Nathan's house in the beginning are spending all there time trying to find Nathan, and then trying to kill his "adopted" parents. So when the hell did they find time to stick a time bomb into the oven? That's one thing in a series of missteps in all the action scenes which make the action extremely difficult to believe. And the acting? Forget the acting: the script is so bland (and laughable at a couple of points) that none of the actors can save it. Seriously, you're in trouble when Sigourney Weaver can't save your movie.

So all around? Stay the hell away from Abduction. The acting is stilted, in some cases horrible, and in even more cases laughable, the plot makes no sense, and the action is basically all an excuse for Taylor Lautner to show his stuff as an action hero. Whatever. I want my nine dollars back.

And for the record, I still don't know what the hell the title has to do with the movie, because nobody gets abducted. Ever.


Do NOT see this movie at any cost.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Well... at around this time last year, we actually had an existentialist thriller about some dude living life who has a really dangerous side of him that constantly threatened him. Oh, and he had a lot of ties to crime. So wouldn't you know, they decide to release a movie with similar subject matter this year, at around the same time.

To be honest, though, today's movie couldn't possibly be any more different from the other one.


The driver (Ryan Gosling) (Yes, he remains unnamed throughout the movie, but it really doesn't matter.) is a mysterious man who has no real connections to anything. He does stunt driving, he works at a car shop, and he provides getaway rides by night. He then meets his neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan), but then gets pulled into a huge web of conspiracy surrounding her kinda sorta husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) and a crime boss that throws everything into disarray.

So... let's get started with the details? The details? Well, we have a crime thriller here. Oh, but not just any crime thriller: an existentialist crime thriller, with a rather large cast of characters and a hero who doesn't really say all that much but does a lot. You'd think such a movie would have a tough time getting its tone straight.

And yet, this doesn't happen. Ever. And the movie is all the better for it. And I think it comes down to the lead role.

The whole thing is tied together by an incredible performance from Ryan Gosling. His character says fewer than twenty sentences total throughout the entire running time of the movie, but in a way every single sentence counts. And it works perfectly towards the movie's advantage, as the driver is supposed to be isolated from pretty much everything. However, it's tantamount that we see the driver's expressions, and on this Gosling brings a huge amount of subtlety to the character. And later in the movie, it helps when he gets much more involved than someone who was so isolated from the world before: with any other actor in the role, it would have seemed nonsensical, but with the subtlety that Gosling brings to every interaction with the other characters it makes perfect sense.

And the whole thing comes together from there, but everyone else brings their all to it, too. Director Nicolas Winding Refn brings a visual style to the thing that seems to highlight the film's neo-noir tendencies. All the supporting actors bring their work to the table, and they all have a certain magnetism with Gosling that works to the movie's advantage. And the action is extremely tense. While there isn't a lot of it and what there is tends to be short, what there is extremely exciting.

So... what to say? Drive is one of the best movies of the year, no contest. And the whole thing comes together thanks to Ryan Gosling. Seriously, people. Don't miss out on Drive. You will not regret seeing it.


A must-see picture of the year.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


So... epidemics. What have we gotten about them? Well, we've gotten more than a few scares about various epidemics. SARS, H1N1... We've gotten a lot of them, but they haven't really gotten out of hand.

So we naturally think that the CDC could possibly be overreacting, right? Right?

Yeah, let's just say that today's movie doesn't agree with that sentiment...


A viral epidemic has just broken out all around the world. It has affected millions of lives, and so many other things are occurring around it. The race to stop it, headed by Dr. Ellis Cheever (Lawrence Fishbourne) is hitting a few rough ends, conspiracies suggested by Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) are circulated, a random father (Matt Damon) has to deal with it along with his daughter, and many more people are affected.

And from there, it runs the full gamut of how people would react to this. And I think this comes to show that while the CDC may overreact, at the end of the day maybe it's better that we overreact than underreact to a thing like this. What this movie shows is not pretty. I think this is kept so thanks to the fact that nothing is oversensationalized in this movie, and it gives a deeper sense of reality to the whole thing. Thus, it makes us more involved in everything.

Well... it gets us more involved in what's going on eventually. The biggest problem with the movie is that it takes a little too long to get us emotionally invested in everything that's going on. It underplays a lot of things; almost all of the characters are introduced without any sort of backstory, the fact that there are a lot of them keeps the movie from really zeroing in on any one set of characters, and details about them get filled in as we follow the movie.

But if you stay with it, Contagion turns out to be an intelligently-made 'what-if' concerning what could happen if an epidemic really broke out. The underplaying of the elements that could lead to sensationalism are ultimately what make the whole movie work, because it just presents the situation as is. From this, there arises a sort of honesty about the whole thing that is ultimately more effective than doting on the more dramatic aspects of everything.


Most definitely worth checking out.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys next time.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Herr Wozzeck Muses: Narrative Subversions

Warning: The following musing will contain MAJOR spoilers for The Debt, in addition to possible spoilers for Colombiana. Reader discretion is advised.

I'm going to take the subject away from filmmaking in general to storytelling in general for this musing, just as a warning. But I think it applies to movies just as well as everything else, given the state of Hollywood that everyone seems to be bemoaning about. ("Oh, where's the originality?" "Ooh, this movie isn't smart!" "Why are all the movies big and dumb these days?")

So where do I begin?

With a Facebook status, oddly enough. While I was heading over to the nearby Panera to write my review for Colombiana in the hours before I reviewed The Debt, I updated my Facebook status over smartphone to mention I had just seen it. About four minutes later, one of my friends had this to say:

"I hope this is not a movie depicting the image of Colombians as murdering ferocious drug-lords. Just saying."

I ended up getting into a conversation with him about stuff, and this was his very next reply to my 'eh, it was half and half' statement:

"And that's probably why I won't see it. I don't like seeing the country where I was born depicted in that way. Colombia is not all drugs and bananas and it sounds to me like this film just promotes that ignorance."

At first, I figured, 'eh, it was implausibly plotted anyway', and sort of left it at that.

But the more I thought about it throughout this week, the more I realized that this was an indicator of another, slightly larger problem with the plot of Colombiana: it was entirely too predictable.

Let's see the basic tenets, shall we? Drug lord comes in, gets some dude to kill the girl's parents (for a reason that's never actually explained), girl runs away to plot revenge, and girl gets revenge. There's something throughout most of the second act where almost the entire operation gets busted because of a few choice mistakes on Cataleya's part, but everywhere else it plays that kind of revenge superheroine thriller straight, with almost no variation at all.

And I realized then that it cheapened the tension a little bit. Yeah, it was there, but I always had the pervading sense that Cataleya was going to get the bad guys no matter what happened. Narrative conventions called for it, and when they were played straight, it almost comes as a given that the bad guy is going to eat it at the end.

It's a problem with this movie, and it pinpoints why some parts of the plot didn't work as well as they should have, I think.

However, I think it also serves to pinpoint one of the things that made The Debt so interesting in its narrative, because that movie also goes through familiar motions.

The Debt is that basic kind of Cold War/Nazi Killer espionage thriller in which a group of people are hunting down a Nazi war criminal. They go about their business, things go wrong on the end of the spies, but ultimately, we're expecting them to get the bad guy.

Except that it takes them 30 years to finally get the bad guy, and the tension is heightened greatly thanks to a few key decisions on the part of the filmmakers. The first decision is that they show the 'bad guy gets killed' ending to the 1960's portion at the beginning of the movie. That bit seems pointless, until we see the exact same sequence later in the movie. However, instead of the bad guy getting shot by Jessica Chastain, he gets away, and the mission is completely FUBAR'd... unless they all lie about it. So lie about it they do.

What that subversion of the plot does is add tension. It sheds new light on everything that occurred in 1997 earlier in the movie, and it makes the plot so much more interesting when it turns out that the Surgeon of Birkenau might have blabbed about it to someone else. Now, we're not so sure about what's going to happen next, and it's because our expectations have been jarred.

I for one think that there is no such thing as originality. As TVTropes is quick to point out with its article on The Tropeless Tale (, if you tried to create a story without using any elements that have been used before, it would be impossible because then you wouldn't have a narrative, or characters, or even a genre. So when we consider that originality is dead, then the next thing to do is to not try to break out with something new, but try to play with narrative conventions in a way that is fresh and bold to viewers.

This is something The Debt does masterfully, while Colombiana decided to play everything more or less straight. The results speak for themselves.

This is Herr Wozzeck Muses. I'll see you guys next time.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

"The Debt"

Hey, guys, and welcome back to part two of today's double feature!

So to round off this double feature, what are we going to do? Why, go for a revenge thriller. This one has a much more political base, though, so it will be quite different from what we had.

So let's get on with it!

The Debt

Rachel Singer (Helen Mirren/Jessica Chastain) was a Mossad agent who was sent with agents Stefan (Tom Wilkinson/Marton Csokas) and David (Ciarán Hinds/Sam Worthington) to capture and bring in Dieter Vogel, the infamous Surgeon of Birkenau (Jesper Christensen). The job went successfully, and the three went on with their lives. However, almost thirty years later it seems the case may not be as closed as they thought...

...and honestly, that's as far as I can go without spoiling something. Let's just say that there's a plot twist, and that it's a rather good plot twist to boot. And that everything that follows after it makes this one of the best thrillers I've seen since I started this blog.

Does it have a few issues? Yes: the movie drags a little bit once we reach the third act, and it drags quite painfully then too. Some of the action scenes also could have been shot a hair more clearly.

But honestly? Everything else about it clicks into place so well it's difficult to mind those things. The acting is absolutely stellar, including a surprisingly good turn from Sam Worthington. (In terms of the acting, though, Jessica Chastain and Jesper Christensen pretty much steal the movie from everyone else.) The entire part in 1965 is intense, and it does a remarkable job of staying intense, which is a very difficult thing for a thriller to pull off. There isn't much action, either, which also works in its favor because it allows us time to concentrate on the plot.

I... really don't have much else to say without spoiling this movie. But seriously? You all should check out The Debt. It's one of the most intense thrillers I've ever seen, and you're doing yourself a disservice if you don't at least check it out.


Most definitely worth checking out.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews, signing out on tonight's double feature. I'll see you guys next time.


Hey, guys, it's me. Sorry about neglecting you for so long. I've been out of the country and then been away from the nearest theater. So naturally, I missed the tail end of the summer movie season.

Fortunately, to make it up to you guys, I've got a double feature lined up for today! So what's this double feature about?

Covert Revenge Ops

In which people do things without trying to get caught by other people. Looooong story.

So first on the list... we get revenge carried out by a single woman, on a more personal level. Let's get to today's movie...


Cataleya (Zoe Saldana) is an American immigrant from Colombia, where her father and mother were killed by Marco (Jordi Mollá), a mafioso under the employment of drug lord Don Luis. She thus grows up, hell-bent on getting revenge on the ones who killed her family. And she does it while working as a hitman by day.

And each death is carried out in a very covert style.

So let's talk this movie: Zoe Saldana makes an incredible action heroine. Cataleya can come across as unlikeable at times, but Saldana makes sure we're rooted in her motives. Even through her more morally questionable moments, we're with Cataleya pretty much all the way, as Saldana manages to infuse her character with some kind of emotional gravity that a lesser actress would not have found. There are a few moments that shatter the suspension of disbelief, but it honestly has more to do with some of the more ludicrous stuntwork than it does with anything in Saldana's acting. So a large part of it works because of her. It also mostly works thanks to the action sequences, which are rather intense, particularly around the time the third act rolls around.

However, it does suffer from a few very glaring flaws. For one, it is fueled by a rather implausible plot that does have you questioning multiple things at various times. Sometimes, it even makes you question how skilled Cataleya really is, which is unfortunate. The movie's pacing is also fairly uneven, and it's also quite clunky in a few places. So unfortunately, the rather uneven nature of the plot drags the movie down quite a bit.

But don't let that stop you from seeing Colombiana, because otherwise it's a great showcase of why Zoe Saldana makes a great action heroine. Apart from the myriad plot issues, it does have some very good action, and it works as a vehicle for Saldana. That really sums up this review in a nutshell.


If you want to go see it, go see it. If you don't want to, don't.

This is Herr Wozzeck Reviews. I'll see you guys in a few hours with a review of The Debt.