The Greatest Showman – *(*)

Posted: February 11, 2018 in 2017, Musical, USA, X1/2

Movie choice by mom: an entertaining musical.

Predictable, loud, superficial, incoherent and with a terrible ‘modern’ soundtrack. The album sells well, so there’s an audience for it out there, but de gustibus non est disputandum. Songs to which everyone in the cast seem to lip sync. A cast of ‘freaks’ that don’t look freaky at all. A cast with Hugh Jackman as an unconvincing lead and that buffed guy from Baywatch – Zac Efron – as another box office draw. Sure, it’s all entertaining. But it’s forgotten as soon as you walk out of the theatre.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1485796

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Friends Season 1 – **(*)

Posted: February 6, 2018 in 1994, Comedy, TV series, USA, XX1/2

Several articles in online newspapers made me re-watch Friends. The show is apparently outdated, racist, sexist, homophobic.. .you name it. Well, not sure what this new generation of Friends watchers expect, but this show was made in the nineties and it’s as tame as can be. Sure, there are moments where you think the political correctness of today wouldn’t accept certain jokes that were made back then. But offensive? No! Maybe they are lame. And in the case of Ross and Rachel, they just show what kind of uninteresting people they are. Happy Endings was a more inclusive sitcom about six friends (with one gay and one black character), but it stopped after three seasons. Unfortunately.

For those who watched Friends when it aired in 1994 (me), it’s a fun nostalgic trip to better times, when you’re in college and sit together with your friends every week to watch another episode of those other friends from across the pond. Those were fun moments. “I’ll Be There For You” was a big sing-a-long hit in student bars and at parties. And almost everyone talked about the adventures of the silly six as if they were mutual acquaintances, imitating the some of their famous one-liners.

Season 1 was fun to re-watch. The characters you liked back then are still fun to watch. The characters you couldn’t stand back then are still annoying. Some episodes are classics, others are totally forgettable. But there’s enough humor to keep you watching.  You smile in the beginning, but by the end of the season you laugh. Out loud.

+: Chandler! This guy still cracks me up. Almost every single time. Monica: under-appreciated character. She’s a riot in almost all of her scenes. Janice: OMG!

+/- Joey: surprisingly funnier now than back then – Phoebe: surprisingly less funny now than back then. Susan should have gotten more airtime.

– : Ross is one conservative loser and Rachel is a high-maintenance bitch. All criticism should be focused on how they behave and talk. They deserve each other. Are they racist, sexist, and homophobic? Probably not. But I totally get why people don’t like their behavior. Marcel: totally redundant.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108778/

 

 

 

The Florida Project – ***

Posted: January 31, 2018 in 2017, Dramedy, USA, XXX

Movie afternoon with mom.

Her choice: The Florida Project (beating The Post, Wonder, The Greatest Showman, …), because ‘it doesn’t always have to be about rich Americans’ (her words).

We both loved it.

The setting is great. The run down motel and souvenir shop area near Disney World in Orlando.

The filming is great. The colors! The picture like framework!  The camera just following these characters do their thing.

The acting is refreshing. The director just let his cast walk around and say things and then edited the best parts into a movie. It really looks like all scenes were shot in one take.

But the best of all: the story telling. Nothing is being told. Everything is just shown. You have to just interpret. No explanation. Just scenes and they all make sense. The dialogue doesn’t feel scripted. A lot of story elements are suggested with visuals. Excellent!

Yes, my mom didn’t always get it, asking quite often ‘why is he/she doing that?’, but when talking about it afterwards in the car, she did always find the reason why herself. There are quite a lot of references to American pop culture that get lost if you’ve never been to the place before.

This is people watching supreme! And it’s a good lesson for movie makers like the Dardenne Brothers or Ken Loach: it IS possible to add humor and color to a story about the lesser off in our society. In fact, it makes the movie and the understanding for their misery BETTER.

 

 

The Night Of 24 October 2014: a business student isn’t getting a ride from his best friend to get to a party in Manhattan and decides to ‘loan’ the cab of his father. He doesn’t know how to switch off the ‘available sign’ and a girl gets in the car, expecting to get a ride. It’s a pretty girl and although he’s eager to go to the party, he decides to spend the evening with the girl. The unusual date ends up in her apartment with drugs and sex. But when he wakes up a few hours later, he finds her dead in her bed, stabbed 22 times. In panic, he decides to run, taking away evidence of drugs and the blood covered knife….

The pilot of this 8 episode series is an absolute masterpiece of story and character introduction. It’s so fascinating, you cannot but binge watch the rest. The pilot shows you exactly what the prosecutors will use against the suspect. Every single step is shown. In details. The only part that is a mystery is the time between the start of the sex and waking up finding the girl dead. The suspect can’t remember any details of that time frame and the viewers won’t know what happened either.

The other episodes are fascinating as well. The student gets arrested, goes to prison, needs to adapt to life behind bars while awaiting his trial. The prosecutors and detectives think they have a solid case, but still have doubts. The defendant’s lawyers try to do their own research and also have their doubts. The family of the student experiences the backlash to what their son’s actions… And it’s all filmed in a very detailed way, showing parts of an investigation that hardly ever get shown.

There are too many subplots and moments that don’t really help the main story line. Some are added for pure fun. The debate at the coroners for instance. Some are just annoying. The lawyer’s continuing search for remedies against his eczema outbursts for instance. Some don’t feel realistic. The drug smuggling scenes in prison.

But in general, this script is very strong and there are plenty more scenes that make you feel you’re living the nightmare yourself. Whether you empathize with the student, his parents, the detective, the prosecutor, the lawyers or the inmates… There’s a lot of empathy for these characters here and that alone is a great feat. Well written and well acted. Feature length movies can’t beat tv series when it comes to that.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2401256/

 

The most hyped movie of the year is a disappointment. It’s a fun ride, but it’s not that all that spectacular. It’s like a rollercoaster that doesn’t really give you the thrills you want. Even though it has its highs and its lows. A rollercoaster ride needs to speed up all the time. When it slows down, it’s to gain power and energy to go up again. That’s not the case here.

The lows:

  • “Kind of Based On True Shit”. Okay, cool tag line. But it’s very basic shit. The story has been told a zillion times before. Small criminals decide to mingle with the big league and things go wrong.
  • The Typography. That movie poster title looks really bad. And it comes back in the movie.
  • The visual references to video games. We get it, they love playing video games, but to make certain scenes in the movie look like part of a video game doesn’t work.
  • The Narration by the main character. Annoying. The North African Antwerp accent is terrible, but it’s especially the monotonous tone in which the story is told.
  • Matteo Simoni. Great actor. Totally miscast.
  • The use of street slang that nobody has ever heard before. It’s going to be a challenge for those countries that dub movies and for those that need subtitles.

Good:

  • The Dutch actors. Werner Kolf and Ali B. Both remarkable as rivaling gang leaders.
  • The end credits. When you’ve seen the movie, you’ll understand.
  • The reverse ‘how drugs got to the drug user’ scene. Could have lasted longer, but good. In fact, the visual experience is entertaining.
  • Some of the one liners and dialogue. Again, especially by the Dutch.
  • The soundtrack. From the EBM to the Dutch pop rap to the Moroccan club track and the instrumental score… it works.
  • Antwerp! This city needs to be in more movies. Maybe in the next James Bond movie. Who knows.
  • The two lawyers. They just have a cameo, but they should get a tv series.

It’s the kind of movie you watch on a cheap long distance bus ride in India, South Africa or Brazil. This is really a BAD action comedy. But shot in a really cool way. Too much trying to be Tarantino and not quite getting to the next level shit.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6438030

Even though the movie has a lot of flaws, especially in its storytelling, you do keep watching until the end. The acting is great. And the direction is good. But it’s the road trip itself that fascinates the most. You hardly ever see movies that take place in rural Brazil. It’s always Rio or Sao Paulo. Or Recife. Or Salvador. But this time around, most scenes are shot outside of the cities.

The story focuses on the search of a father (an excellent Wagner Moura) for his son, who left the house after an argument with both parents and is missing. He apparently bought a horse and took it up north. Along the way, the father – a wealthy doctor – is confronted with himself, the feelings for his family members and the state in which other – less privileged – Brazilians live.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2125425

Bacalaureat – **

Posted: January 27, 2018 in 2016, Drama, Rumania, XX

Part of the Filmfan series at the local cultural center: a Rumanian movie about a hard-working father who’s willing to go corrupt in order to get his daughter the grades she needs to get into an English college.

The father is a surgeon. His wife a librarian. Back in the early nineties they decided to build a future in Rumania and help the country get back on tracks after being ruled by Nicolae Ceausescu. Times were hopeful. But two decades later, the country still hasn’t reached the same level as its fellow countries in the European Union. All they want for their daughter is a better life. Preferably in pre-Brexit England!

Several things go wrong though. The daughter is assaulted a day before an important exam and breaks her arm. She’s dating an uneducated nozem, who doesn’t want her to leave. The doctor has an affair with a younger woman, who might be pregnant from him.   And they live in Rumania, where – according to the storyteller’s view –  honesty is a virtue and corruption is a necessary need.

It’s an intriguing movie. The story doesn’t really lead to any specific catharsis.  You’re just observing and at the end you shrug your shoulders. The story could have been set anywhere though. Okay, maybe not in Luxemburg or Switzerland. But still. Even in those affluent countries, honesty is tested on a regular basis and making bad choices is inherent to all human beings.

It’s well-directed, it’s well acted, but in the end it’s just a good movie. Nothing exceptional.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4936450/