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We've seen better
I expected another Gegen die Wand and I got...well, this! It's the kind of story we've seen countless times before, and in many cases better executed. This movie just doesn't add up to other movies about troubled kids going on the wrong path in life. Recent pearls like La Haine or Cidade de Deus are so much better.
The problem I had with this story is that we can predict from the very beginning where it is going to lead us. From the moment we see the good looking, almost angelic kid walking into a police station with blood on his shoes, we know that he'll turn the wrong way by meeting the wrong people. And that's exactly what happens. It doesn't lead us - the viewer - on any new grounds regarding the subject of youth delinquency. The small subplot concerning the mother is strong, but I really felt that they could've heighten it to a higher level. In the end it does deliver as a heart wrenching thriller rather than the society comment it wants to be. The Germans know how to make good cinema, this doesn't belong in there.
Dirty Sexy Money (2007)
Not really dirty or sexy
I consider this to be the third best new show I started to watch last year( with Damages undoubtedly on a first place and Californication on a close second ).
It has all that you want from a prime time soap: intelligent satire, adoring characters, a captivating mystery and ambient settings. I love it how they show that a materialistic lifestyle doesn't lead to happiness. In all their efforts to buy their happiness, these characters find that it is the small things that make a life worth to live. A comforting thought for a ''poor'' guy like myself.
My only criticism is that the title of the show is a bit misleading. If you put the words dirty and sexy in a title, it suggests that the content is...well, dirty and sexy. But this show is actually rather decent compared to a lot of recent shows.
I found the slow-paced and intimate scenes one of the better aspects of the movie. It has a feel of sadness to it that these people live their lives ordinarily while Jews around the world are slaughtered by the Nazis's. Yes, the lighting and camera-work is horrible at times, yes, it doesn't really have a point to it, but it does have a certain beauty in its depiction of human intimacy even at times of horrific events. For me the most unforgivable flaw is the way how they neglect to put any emotional tension in the storyline. Things just happen for no other reason than that it was written in the book. Motives are left unclear and the director fails to put any of the events in a clear context. And then there is the horrific dialogue making people talk to each other as if they are reciting a book. It's so stiff and dry to watch.
This could've been a beautiful movie, but it just isn't.
Yakitate!! Japan (2004)
Innocent feel-good anime
For those of you who think anime is just about giant reptiles raping schoolgirls, think again. There is a totally different side to the Japanese animation. Yakitate! Japan is one of those shows. It is a sweet-natured tale of a young boy with the gift to make delicious bread. His universe is all about creating a Japanese bread that can match with the famous European breads. The show is as wacky as they come and I'm sure that non-Japanese viewers will miss a lot of the jokes. But it is still very nice to watch because of the complete innocent vibe of the show.
In the world of Yakitate! it is not uncommon for people to look like they've just had an orgasm after eating bread. The bread is hallucinating and can give the consumer a wide array of super powers, from time-traveling to swimming like a fish. That weird aspect makes it into one of the least predictable and funny shows I've watched in a while.
The Lakes (1997)
The first season is pure genius; the second is slightly flawed
Let's just say that McGovern has done a great job in creating a story about how a small community can be influenced by a horrifying incident. The first season is brilliant. I loved the withheld ( often sexual) tension between the characters and the way how they appeared as persons you might meet in reality. The second season isn't bad, but it's just too long for its own good. There are too many uninteresting side-tracks about boring characters. Also, I couldn't quite relate to some of them anymore, they felt too much as made up caricatures. Though at some occasions it does reach the level of the first one, as a whole it's very disappointing. They'd better made it into 4 or 5 episodes instead of the 10 it eventually got.
Deja Vu (2006)
One big Deja Vu itself
If I'm completely honest I'd say that this movie itself is one big Deja Vu. We don't see anything that hasn't been done before. Denzel Washington plays another charismatic FBI-agent with the task of saving a girl. He did it before, and he most likely will do it again. But since that is the thing he's damned good at, you won't hear me complain about it.
The storyline of altering time and the consequences appears deeper on the outside than it actually is. In the end it are the nice explosions and action-pumped car chase that steal the show rather than any philosophical side to the subject. All the SF talk is just a way of making it more believable.
I may appear a bit sarcastic, but I'm not. This movie really doesn't do anything wrong by being a well-crafted thriller. You never have the feeling that they elevate any of the subjects to a higher plain nor do you care. Pure fun is good once in a while. And it's never a punishment to watch Denzel Washington act.
Killing Zoe (1993)
From badly executed drama to funny gangster comedy
You can completely skip the boring and utterly annoying first hour to go to the second half. The drama in it is really lame. They try to spice it up with controversial topics ( AIDS, hookers ) but in the end that is just to cover up the lack of good ideas to make an innovative action movie. From a bad executed drama it suddenly turns into a nice gangster comedy like Reservoir Dogs. Everything just leads up to the robbing of the bank and the dark humor that goes along with it. Okay, so it's all a bit clichéd, but who cares...? This is not world class cinema, but it is good enough for a boring Saturday eve. Just don't watch it with too many expectations. And don't think that something produced by Tarantino makes it into a new Pulp Fiction, it just doesn't.
Saw III (2006)
A ''television show'' made for the big screen...!
I actually think this third installment is a huge improvement on the second part. In the second part the contraptions were less gruesome and the horror felt more mainstream. Finally they go back to the core of the concept by focusing on the sick and twisted mind games of the Jigsaw. The characters are judging themselves by becoming a part of the serial killers' master-plan.
The movies start to feel like a television show as Prison Break; every ''episode'' gives more insight in the characters and their motives. So, keep them coming. I won't be seeing them on the big screen, but there's a video rental store around the corner.
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Not as good as they want you to think, not as bad as the critics say it is
The movie is in itself not as strong or groundbreaking as the Oscar-nominations and the attention by the press made you believe. The theme of a dysfunctional family going on a road trip to discover each other and themselves, is something that we have seen before in the past. So, it's not like they are threading on uncharted territory with this title. The young girl in the main role - mostly the subject of all the praise - is as cute as she is thoroughly annoying. I enjoyed the characters around her more than I did enjoy her presence. She's not a brilliant actress, but just a kid that plays her role with verve.
It's easy to degrade this heartwarming comedy by comparing it to the legendary status it unrighteously generated. ''They said it was brilliant, but it isn't! So, it's nothing! '' That kind of reasoning seems to be in the mouth of those who didn't like it. But I think it's unfair to the title. While it is not a perfect movie, it still is an amusing comedy with a indie-feel to it that exceeds most of the crap that is supposed to be funny. It has a nice philosophy on how we should accept that life just isn't that form-able as we'd like it to be, and that we should enjoy the things that do come on our path. It's optimistic by being a bit depressing. A refreshing take on all the happy ends that we usually get from American filmmakers.
Another TV-drama with a Shakespearian scope
I'm not really into your average ''Law and Order'' kind of shows, so I was a bit skeptic beforehand. But I was proved otherwise by a thoroughly gripping and scary introduction scene. We see a young lady running from a building, covered in blood. She accidentally stumbles upon two nearby policemen. It lured me into one of the most exciting new shows of last year.
The concept is pretty simple: someone is murdered and it has something to do with a young lawyer working for a respected law-firm. We see flashbacks of how the FBI is trying to crack the case, giving us the opportunity to see the story that led to the horrific climax of the murder. What the hell has happened? How does a promising young lawyer end up in killing someone? Or didn't she? And what is the role of bitchy uber-advocate Patty Hewes and the businessman Frobisher? Every episode gives you a few clues on the mystery, while still keeping you in the dark of what did happen. It reminds me a bit of Lost, though Damages is more down-to-earth and believable.
Glenn Close is playing the strong advocate with an excellent reputation with the verve she had in previous roles. Her protégé is Rose Byrne as a young, naive girl that falls in the hands of a devilish woman without scrupulous. For me the biggest surprise is actually Ted Danson, who plays a very realistic businessmen on the decline due to several law suits on his person. He's the kind of likable bad-guy that we seem to see more and more these days.
The biggest pro for this show is that they keep all the characters human by giving them a soft side. Nobody is either extremely good or bad, they just are humans making stupid choices and having to pay the price for it. Even the at the surface indestructible Patty Hewes is not able to defend herself against her tyrannic son.
Style over substance, it could've been a stronger flick.
I think most of us do have some very negative feelings about our High School years. But for some reason Hollywood tends to glorify this time of our life by either choosing for the happy approach or the nostalgic one. It never seems to be about the loneliness, about how you try to adjust to become member of a group, or about the pain of your first love affairs. I was happy to see that ''Brick'' at least tries to shine its light on the darker themes concerning High School.
The approach in this movie is pretty brilliant: doesn't a high school look in many ways similar to the world of a '30's film noir? The protagonist is a troubled young outcast trying to find out why his girlfriend became estranged from him. It leads him to the dark outskirts of the school grounds, to the expelled druggies, to the arrogant masculine tough-guys, and to the cunning women with a secret. As a real film noir, the story evolves with in every scene a bit more of information about the girls' sad downfall.
By shooting a lot of camera shots from the distance, there is a feel of loneliness and desolation to our hero's quest. The soundtrack is sad but melodious, also adding to that feeling of being remote from others.
But I don't think that this movie is as good as it could be. The side-characters are shallow and they never really do anything else than fill their clichéd tasks with some witty dialogue. The complete lack of adults in their world is a nice way to express the falling back on yourself, but it also does make the story unbelievable and far-fetched. And my last criticism is that the story could've been placed in a dozen other situations, more logical to its content. It could've been just another gangster flick with Yakuza or Italian mobsters. The high school approach is more of a visual gimmick than that it delivers any substantial content.
I liked ''Brick'' despite its faults, and I do love to see another movie by its débutant director. :)
Full Metal Alchemist with the appeal of a Hollywood blockbuster
This movie is a direct sequel to the Full Metal Alchemist serial. It gives us an insight in what the open ending to the show meant. It does so by giving the entire franchise a nice twist. Instead of focusing on the fantasy world we started to love during the 51 episodes of the show, this movie is set in ''our'' world. To be precise: in the Germany around 1920, in which the ungraceful treaty of Versailles led to rising militarism and hatred towards ethnic minorities.
Ed - being amnesic about his previous live as a state alchemist - saves a gypsy girl from the Nazis. Her power to see inside his dreams leads to an understanding of why he is pondering about certain things. Why does he have such vivid dreams of another world? And why does he seem to recognize so many people, without knowing who they are? On the other side of the gate, everything is nice and peaceful. But of course this is about to change when Ed and Al find each other again, and they open up the gate to both worlds.
This movie does everything you might expect from it. Almost all the important characters give an acte de presence. The animation is stronger than it ever was. There is more action in it than you'd ever see before. The atmosphere of Europe is nice and ambient. And the charming humor still leads to chuckles from time to time.
The thing is that a movie just doesn't have the same depth as a show with 51 episodes. Especially the big villain just isn't that interesting. Unlike the Homunculi and Scar, her reasons to do what she's doing are a bit far-fetched and generic. I also had mixed feelings towards some of the important characters of the show just being side characters in this movie. They do things to enhance the story forcefully rather than being an active part of the movie as a whole.
Enough with the bitching; I still love the movie for being as adrenaline-driven as your average Hollywood blockbuster. It's worth to see it by every person who calls himself a fan of FMA. You certainly won't be disappointed. And I do hope that the open ending of this specific movie will lead to another installment of the franchise. I'd rather see a new show, but a new movie would be welcome too.
Notes on a Scandal (2006)
Shifting of power in any relationship
I'm in love with Cate Blanchett, and this movie reminds me again of the why. She plays and angelic teacher that starts a relationship with one of her pupils. Her fellow teacher Barbara Covett ( Judi Dench ), the biggest witch in town, finds it out and starts to manipulate her to force a relationship. For me this movie is about how power will always shift between the relationships of people. Of course it's a bit over-the-top in this movie, since most of us won't have relations with much younger or much older people. Bill Nighy is excellent as the charming but still much older husband of Blanchett.
This is an exciting mixture of thriller and drama with an intelligent script and recognizable characters. Most of the times I'm very critical towards movies with Oscar nominations, but with this movie I find it very justifiable. Too bad that the competition that year was very powerful, so it was neglected a bit.
African mythology mixed with modern symbolism
Mythological tale based on an African story. When a village chief dies after a painful illness, his village is shrouded in a thick supernatural mist. It all seems to evaporate when his son accepts a quest to fulfill his destiny as the new chief. But after returning he's murdered by his best friend, because of his jealousy over having the woman he fell in love with. As a punishment the murderer must feel the disgrace of his deed by marrying the pregnant woman.
I like the way how this movie combines the atmosphere and ambiance of African mythology with thought provoking symbols from modern cinema. It's an age old story of almost biblical proportions; Cain and Abel and even Shakespeare's Mac Beth shining through it. The acting is not fantastic, but it is believable enough to pass as authentic.
Lakposhtha parvaz mikonand (2004)
Simple story with a grand message
This story is very simple. An arrogant boy falls in love with a beautiful girl. But the girl has a very tragic secret, one that leads to a devastating outcome for all people involved. And than there is the older brother with prophetic visions and his handicap due to a landmine. Will he be able to save his sad sister from her downfall? Or is he just as powerless as anyone else? I felt that this is an important story to be told to the western world; one that shows how our interference in Iraq simply can't take away the sad stories of its people. It is about the effect of war on children and how it leads to the loss of innocence. The cast is mainly filled with child actors, and though their acting is as mediocre as you can expect from inexperienced actors, they do feel natural and authentic. It helps that these children ARE the ones who suffered under Saddam and the aftermath of the war on terrorism.
See this movie to understand the pain of these people that you don't see on the news or hear about in the speeches of Bush.
A Life at Stake (1955)
The main-character finds himself in a Hitchcockian situation when he suspects his female boss ( Angela Lansbury ) from wanting to kill him over insurance money. I didn't quite grasp how that works, it seems a bit far-fetched to me...Is he being paranoid? Or is there really a sinister plot to kill him over the dough? And what about the beautiful younger sister and her amazing story? The movie is as mediocre as a thriller can get, filled with illogical twists and weird choices from its characters. Angela Lansbury just doesn't convince as the seductress, but maybe that has to do with her current status as mystery solving-granny Jessica Fletcher. The main-character Keith Andes is decent enough. He's like any fifties ''hero''; a touch cynical, overly masculine and well-behaved.
Amusing, not memorable
The thing with Haven is that it doesn't quite chooses which genre it wants to be. Is it an amusing gangster-flick in the line of Reservoir Dogs or Snatch? Or is it a panoramic view on people's lives like Magnolia or Crash? In both genres it fails to be overly convincing. For a gangster-flick it needs more action; for drama the characters are too superficial and uninteresting.
I still enjoyed the mellow atmosphere of the Cayman-islands, created by the typical soundtrack and the atmospheric shots of turtles, domino playing old folks, water skiing youth, etc. The story unfolds itself on a funny and unpredictable way. The camera-work feels a bit amateuristic with annoying coloring and shaky shots.
Overall, it's a nice movie to watch, though not very memorable.
Abilene Town (1946)
Solid western, nothing more
A righteous sheriff finds himself in the pinch when there is hostility against homesteaders. He urges his fellow villagers to choose sides and to help him end the conflict.
Decent old-school western. Every cliché is there: from the fierce shootouts to the merry can-can dancers; from the stubborn but righteous sheriff to the crooks stirring up things in town. It's not as harsh as we're used to since Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinah and the boundary between right and wrong is pretty clear from the start. But I liked it as a fan of the western. It's not a classic in any way, but still a decent flick to see if you like the genre.
Marie Antoinette (2006)
Sex and the city....renaissance style!
Marie Antoinette was doomed to go into history as a shallow little goat, that had to pay the price for being dumb and ignorant. This movie gives us another perspective. We see a self-aware girl - being restricted by inhumane expectations from her family - that is using her own sexuality to give way to some personal freedoms. By making her into the post-sex and the city heroine from our time, Coppola made this historical figure into a lively and identifiable woman. One that most women can relate to. At the end we see how she is matured enough to make a choice that'd cost her her life, but made her into a respectable person, and certainly not into the goat we all read in our history books she was.
This movie looks visually stunning with the beautiful images of Versailles. Kirsten Dunst is a terrific Marie Antoinette, as the natural looking but still very beautiful actress she is. I adored the scenes in which we see how a naked Dunst is surrounded by gossiping maids, showing how vulnerable this woman was to her environment.
30 Days of Night (2007)
Good vampire flick
This movie reminded me of the recent remake of ''Dawn of the Dead''. Undead creatures are haunting a group of civilians, and they have to fight back with all means accessible. There is one big difference and that is that this flick is set into a small Alaskan town in which it won't be light within 30 days. And as we all know: undead thrive in the darkness. I liked the dark atmosphere and the black humor combined with a thrilling tale of saving yourself against the ultimate evil. I also adored how they gave the vampires a religious way of thinking. It's as if their leader is some cult-figure and the others follow them as mindless goats. Nice metaphor of how some religious people are brought into doing hideous things out of their beliefs.
The only thing is that there are a few clichés too many and the storyline feels a tad bit inadequate at times. It didn't spoil the experience enough to bitch about it, but it's worth to mention it to those who didn't see the flick yet.
National Treasure (2004)
Better than expected
I wanted to hate this movie on forehand, but when I evidently stumbled upon it, I watched it and now I must confess that it was better than expected. It's boyish adventure movie, feeling influenced by both Indiana Jones and The Da Vinci Code. It's action-packed, filled with good jokes and the sets are absolutely stunning. It does feel a bit too political correct at times, how different than the grumpy bastard that my all-time hero Indiana Jones was. Overall, I must say that this is a great flick to watch with your younger brother or son.
You'll be mildly entertained while the little one has the time of his life.
The Holiday (2006)
I'm too much male for this flick ;)
I don't consider myself being a macho male, but chick flicks like The Holiday do drive me to the edge of being very annoyed and agitated. Men just weren't born for sugary romance stories, with a sappy Christmas atmosphere. The characters are annoyingly psycho-analyzing each other and themselves all the time - this movie must be written by a female, no man tells openly about his fear for relationships like Jude Law does at one point- and every character flaw is brought upon us as being cute and adorable. And don't forget the extremely adorable twin sisters, the cuddly dog and the nice old man. But I must be fair, I did enjoy this movie to some degree. It's always a treat to see beautiful actors as Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz and Jude Law interact with each other. Jack Black kinda ticked me off. The guy is hilarious, but in this movie he just didn't fit in. Overall, it is a decent RomCom, one that deserves its place amongst Love Actually and Pretty Woman. I'd favor a more darker approach to the subject of love, but I can also understand why a lot of people like this. Everyone has the right to their taste, don't they? :)
Joyeux Noël (2005)
Christmas Classic worth to watch!
For most film lovers a'' Christmas movie '' equals sappy crap with talking snowmen, corny romances and a fat capitalistic midget with a beard. Or the endless adaptations of A Christmas Carol.
'' Joyeux Noel '' has a different angle, more mature in every way possible. It's the reconstruction of a forgotten piece of history in which Scottish, French and German soldiers came together from the trenches to celebrate this Christian feast. Their will to be together as humans overcame their grudges and hateful thinking. This is what Christmas is about: being together, and accepting each other for what you are. The tone of the movie is heartwarming and sentimental. And so it should be! There are enough epic war tales about the negative sides of war and their brutalities. This one is focusing on something beautiful without lacking to be be critical towards the concept of war itself.
Mississippi Burning (1988)
Dafoe and Hackman are an excellent duo
This movie deals with the question if it is okay to use non-ethical methods of working by cops to fight outrageous injustice. Its setting is an American village in which the black population is systematically being abused by white supremacists. A young FBI-agent from New York ( Willem Dafoe ) and his cynical partner ( Gene Hackman ) discover that the racism is broad amongst the population and that even authority figures are involved in it. Every time they find a way to deal with the problem, they stumble upon fear, and therefore unwillingness to cooperate , from the blacks. At a certain point the agents find themselves using pure intimidation and violence to fight back against the injustice.
I like it how the relationship between Dafoe and Hackman is slowly evolving throughout the story. At first there is some unwillingness to work together, but slowly they start to accept each other and their different methods of working. ''Good cop'' Dafoe is the honest one never straying from the law; Hackman is the bad cop who will use intimidation to get to the core of things. Both characters aren't necessarily heroes. They are flawed, emotional beings that stand seemingly powerless against something that is so much bigger than they realize at first. At a certain point both their methods of working mingle together in the sake of solving things.
It's also nice that Hackman's character becomes involved with the case when he's experiencing the brutality of the situation; from a clearly apathetic person he turns into someone who is bend on fighting the injustice.
I find this one of the best movies made about the recent '' Apartheid '' in American history. It is realistic, gritty and has no false sentimentality in it. It tells a brutal tale without creating heroes and villains.
A Little Trip to Heaven (2005)
Excellent film noir
I love the characters that Forest Whitaker usually portrays in his movies: soft einzelgangers who are balancing on the thin line between good and evil. In this flick he's playing an agent for an insurance company who tries to dodge off the claims of their clients. He does a pretty swell job, scrupulous and efficient. But then he stumbles upon a messed up couple who are trying to file a claim over a dead brother. Our protagonist feels that there is something wrong, and he dives in the lives of the two to find any sleaze and dirt. And, as expected , he does find something that can stir things up.
This movie reminded me of ''Fargo'' and '' A simple plan ''. Like in those flicks, ''A little trip...'' deals with the brutalities that people will do to each other out of pure greed. It's also about the cruel way of thinking that a life insurance can make up for the loss of a human life, and how insurance companies like you to believe that. It's a modern film noir with an excellent cast, a beautiful soundtrack and atmospheric sequences in the rain or snow. Maybe the tone is a bit too sad and nihilistic for the big crowd, it definitely deserves more than the meager 6 it's receiving here.