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"Rambo," "In Bruges," "Cassandra's Dream"



After a nearly 20-year hiatus, Sylvester Stallone put on the bandana and got all solemn again for the fourth installment of the adventures of John Rambo. This review comes to you from somebody who loved the original trilogy, no matter how ridiculous the movies got. Stallone, who inspired me to defend myself from bullies with Rocky when I was 9, was one of my movie heroes.

Rocky came back in decent form for Rocky Balboa, Sly's 2006 effort to prove that one of his '80s movie icons still had legs--so why not give Rambo another shot?

The result is a mixed bag, and a near-miss. Stallone, who also wrote and directed, set the action in Burma, using real-life atrocities as the backdrop for the return of Rambo. Our hero is working as a snake-trapper when missionaries approach him. They're looking for a boat to take them up river so they can spread the word of God. Rambo denies them, mumbling something about Burma being a war zone. However, his mind quickly changes when a hot blonde woman (Julie Benz) appeals to his better nature.

Of course, the missionaries wind up in a world of shit, and Rambo must rescue them in very gory fashion. I mean really, really gory. Stallone set out to show us what a .50-caliber machine gun can do to a human body, and I'm thinking he gets pretty close. On a special-effects level, it's pretty impressive.

Stallone is fun to watch from time to time, and he certainly impresses with his physical performance. The main problem here is the writing: The missionary characters and the mercenaries who accompany Rambo on the rescue mission are all cardboard cutouts. When Rambo goes into carnage mode, it's moderately fun; everything else is a drag.

This was supposed to be the last Rambo adventure, but Stallone is dropping hints that a fifth film might be on the way. While I didn't like this one all that much, the sequel junkie in me actually is happy about the possibility of another chance to see the character.

I liked the movie more watching it at home. Who knows? Maybe a third viewing will get me to a point where I actually enjoy it.

SPECIAL FEATURES: The documentaries on the making of the film are actually very good. There's plenty of stuff about the origin of the film's story and the reasons why it took so long to get the production off the ground. Stallone does a commentary, and it's clear he took this film very seriously ... maybe a little too seriously. His last words on the commentary track hint that, indeed, Rambo will rise again.

In Bruges

(OUT OF 10)

Best picture of the year ... so far. Colin Farrell delivers on all of his promise with a performance so good that you will forgive his past cinematic embarrassments.

Farrell plays Ray, a hapless, insecure hitman brooding after a major slip-up on the job. His boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes), sends him and his partner, Ken (Brendan Gleeson), to Bruges, where they await orders for their next job.

This is truly one of the better directorial debuts of recent years. Martin McDonagh, a successful playwright who also wrote the script, is a master of dialogue and clearly knows how to capture a performance on film. The movie looks great, is constantly funny and is dramatically effective to boot.

It's fun to see Farrell knocking a performance out of the park. His character is a twitchy, fast-talking, wonderful creation. After seeing this, I expect great stuff from this guy in the future. Because the movie came out early in the year, Farrell will be at a disadvantage when it comes to year-end awards. I'll be talking about him for sure.

Oh yeah, Fiennes has never been better or funnier than he is in his portrayal of the deranged Harry. I didn't know he had this brand of demented humor in him. It's a masterful performance, also worthy of Oscar consideration.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Plenty of documentaries, deleted scenes and a great gag reel that serves as a nice indicator of how much fun Farrell must've had making this movie.

Cassandra's Dream


Woody Allen drives me crazy. He gets decent performances out of Ewan McGregor, Colin Farrell and Tom Wilkinson and makes half of a decent movie. But in the end, he's done in by his own pen, as the film comes crashing down in its final act.

McGregor and Farrell play two brothers who get themselves into a whole lot of trouble, and Wilkinson plays the uncle who makes matters a whole lot worse. The plotting is contrived, and the actors are forced to deliver some awful dialogue, yet the movie is fairly interesting--for most of its run. Then Allen, trying to provide a big final twist, ruins his movie in abrupt fashion.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Nothing to speak of.

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