Archive for February, 2012

Soul Kitchen – **

Posted: February 29, 2012 in 2009, Comedy, Germany, XX

Zinos is a Greek-German twenty-something who owns a popular, but very basic restaurant in Hamburg. His life changes when his girlfriend leaves for a job in Shanghai, his brother gets released from prison and he helps out an unemployed master chef who transforms his business. Should he follow his girlfriend? Should he sell his restaurant? Should he make his brother manager of the place?  Too many questions, too many problems.

Soul Kitchen is an entertaining big city comedy that won’t leave a lasting impression, but will definitely give you 90 minutes of fun entertainment at home. The humor is pretty universal, so don’t ignore this movie because it’s in German. I was actually a bit disappointed for not seeing more of Hamburg! But then again, the cinematography and the directing in general are very simple. I guess I need to watch the two previous (award-winning) movies of director Fatih Akin to understand why he’s heralded as the future of German cinema.

But again, who cares right? As long as there’s humor in a comedy, what does it matter how it looks like? Zinos is a fun main character and Adam Bousdoukos interprets him well. He’s not your typical comedian, so the humor comes from situations and interactions with other characters. Like a master chef who starts cooking delicatessen food for a crowd that only eats fish and chips. If that brings a smile on your face, you may want to have more smiles and watch this movie. You won’t really laugh that much, but you’ll smile.

Six Feet Under – Season 5 – **

Posted: February 29, 2012 in Drama, TV series, USA, XX

Five years ago, I was hooked on Six Feet Under. But for some reason I never finished season 5. This time around I decided to give it another try and managed to watch it until the end. After episode 3 I remembered why I never finished the season: it’s BORING! And depressing and mega-negative. Every single character just complains a little bit more than the other one. There’s never a moment of joy or laughter. It’s just very dark, with almost no light at the horizon whatsoever. I read somewhere that everyone died at the end and that pushed me to continue. But the finale was as disappointing as all the rest.

The coolest ingredients of the series are still there, but they get covered by tv soap-like sentiment. All the crying! The only difference with bad tv series is that there’s no product placing of Kleenex and that the actors are actually acting great. My favorite part of the show are the deaths in the beginning of each episode. People die in the most peculiar ways. In season 5 people die after a cougar attack (the animal, not a MILF), after having been pushed and landed with the face on a sharp metal stick and been run over by their own car!!!! Also still typical are the dreams and thought that are visualized, but where you sometimes don’t figure out what is real and what is not in the previous seasons, here’s it’s always very clear when someone is dreaming or phantasizing and when not. Apart maybe in the end with Brenda and Billy.

If you’re reading this you’ve probably seen all season of the show. If you haven’t, start watching the first two seasons and then maybe stop. It’s a show about a family of undertakers who have their own demons to deal with and who are surrounded by the most fascinating psychologically fucked up characters you’ll ever get to meet. I guess five years ago I was happy to watch (fictitious) people who were much worse off then me. Now I just felt sorry for them.

Drive – **1/2

Posted: February 27, 2012 in 2011, Action, Crime/Detective, Drama, USA, XX1/2

Contrary to most people who’ve seen Drive, I am neither a fan nor a hater of this peculiar indie crime drama. I can totally understand people feeling ripped off after having seen the trailer and expecting an action packed Hollywood vehicle. Because, well, it’s definitely NOT action packed and doesn’t feel ‘American’ at all (even though it’s set in LA). But it’s like people who go see The Artist and then complain that it was a silent movie! You can also read up on the movie you’re about to see.

I didn’t really read much about Drive. I just saw it on top of many movie lists last december and it stars Ryan Gosling, who’s righteously considered to be the most promising actor of his generation. What more reasons do you need to watch the ‘most impressive cinema experience of 2011’ (according to many journalists around the globe)? Well, sorry, journalists around the globe, you’re all over-exaggerating. Maybe some of you didn’t even see the movie, but feel it’s necessary to tell the world how ‘awesome’ this movie is. I kind of felt the same in the first half of this movie, but as it got violent and gory I just lost the admiration.

Ryan Gosling is a car mechanic who works as a stuntman on movie sets and as a driver for all kinds of dirty jobs. He’s a reserved and scrupulous guy, seemingly unemotional, but heroic for the few people he cares for and ruthless for anyone who stands in his or their way. He gets befriended with a neighbor, who’s raising a young kid on her own as the father serves a sentence in prison. You can feel the chemistry, but you can sense the caution too.  As the husband returns from prison,things change fast. The ex-criminal soon gets into trouble again, endangering the lives of his son and wife… and consequently drawing the protective and almost obsessive care of Ryan Gosling’s character.

As mentioned before, the movie starts great. The opening scene is definitely one of the best car chases ever. Ryan Gosling thinks while he’s driving. He’s not just getting away as fast as possible crashing dozens of cars. No, he tries to outsmart the cops… The atmosphere is set. It’s dark, slow and there’s almost no dialogue. The cinematography is brilliant. No handheld camera’s, but fixed ones who just show scenes as they happen from one angle only. Joined by a very daunting electronic score that reminds us of early eighties synth days. Gosling doesn’t say much. He just looks and his looks tell everything. To be fair, he does have the same look as he has in Ides of March, but it’s again very efficient. He never smiles, so when he does, you know it’s heartfelt. And when he focuses on someone it’s either because he likes the person or he is going to snap at them.  You can’t get a grip of the driver’s nameless character. He looks so vulnerable and sweet, but there’s a ferocious killer inside.

And that’s where I kind of lost interest. Somewhere halfway in the movie the driver turns into an American Psycho-like killer who’s out on a vengeance. Sure, he doesn’t really intend to kill, but he does. And as he is, others around him do the same. well, it’s the other way around.  After an hour or so the movie turns into a maffia flic with elements of pure horror. I really didn’t need to see a fork being stuck into someone’s eye. It just didn’t add anything to the story. And I really didn’t need to see two people’s head getting exploded and smashed. Wrong!

As the movie came to an end, I was happy it did and it left me totally emotionless. Just like the main character of the movie.  The gore had replaced the fond memories of the visual and audible beauty of the first half. This could have been a great movie, but it isn’t. It’s a unique cinema experience, a mix of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, Sophia Coppola’s Nowhere and Dexter!

Anuvahood – **

Posted: February 24, 2012 in 2011, Comedy, Parody, UK, XX

Last year I went to see New Kids Turbo, a Dutch (action) comedy about some low-lives in the Southern Netherlands. A really bad movie, but one that made me laugh. The same thing applies for this British ‘urban’ comedy from the (not so dangerous) hood! It’s really not a good movie at all, just a series of sketches, but I laughed quite a lot. Even if I didn’t understand half of what they said.

What made me laugh was the over-exaggerated acting of the two main stars of the movie: Adam Deacon and Richie Campbell. The former also directed the movie, which is quite a feat for such a young kid. The latter just is the real star of the movie. I thought he was already a well experienced comedy actor, but apparently this is his first major role: respect!

Adam Deacon is Kenneth, who goes by the name of K to his friends. The rest of the neighborhood still calls him Kenneth though, much to his frustration. He’s a wanna be tough guy, who still sucks his thumb when asleep, is afraid of his 6-year-old sister, gets upset because the local deli doesn’t sell Frutella candy anymore, etc… You get the picture. He hangs out with four nerdy guys who all look very gay in their attempt to look cool. Yet they are a ‘posse’ and just required a new member: Enrico, an Spanish-speaking exchange student who has more swagger than they do. K loses his jobs, learns his parents have financial problems, decides to sell drugs and gets into trouble with Tyrone, the drug dealer of his neighborhood, the role played by Richie Campbell…

Sometimes, while watching these movies and actually laughing with the jokes, I felt 15! I don’t think many adults will actually like this movie at all. This is really made for a very young audience. However, the end gets really violent though, which totally spoils the goofy atmosphere. And that’s my main problem with this movie. As long as it’s goofy, it’s cool. But the excessive use of drugs and the violence at the end just doesn’t make sense. A) Why include those scenes in a movie for kids? and B) There’s no way that the audience will believe that a loser like K will actually dare to confront Tyrone. Or that Tyrone is scary for real! Yeah. That just didn’t make sense at all.

But several sketches were funny though. The sex scene between Tyrone and one his lady friends is hilarious. It’s probably the most insane sex scene I’ve ever seen in a movie including sucking ketchup from a woman’s foot! The humor reminds you a bit of Ali G In Da House and apparently people see it as a London version of Friday, which I will have  a look at one day.

Yeah. When you’re fifteen or want to feel fifteen, watch this. It’s cheap on iTunes (99 cents). That’s the price of a Snicker! And you enjoy it longer. Oh, and I loved the soundtrack.

Nos Jours Heureux – *1/2

Posted: February 23, 2012 in 2006, Comedy, France, X1/2

The makers of last years (and continuing this year)’s French block buster surprise Les Intouchables made a movie once about children and their mentors during a three-week summer camp. I saw the dvd for 7 euro in Paris the other day and bought it, to now try to resell it for 5. Anyone?

It’s a comedy and I laughed, so I guess it’s not a complete waste of money. But it’s just a silly comedy really with extreme clichés and no surprises whatsoever. Actually, it could have been made in the US , apart from the fact that there’s too much sex and too much swearing in this children’s movie. I’m actually not sure that children will like it. I think young adults may appreciate it more, thinking about their days during summer camp either as a child or as a mentor.

Some of the characters are really too silly for word. Do not try to see them as real characters, cause even if they are based on people the authors knew, there’s no way that people overact so outrageously in real life. The nice thing is that the kids aren’t the annoying people in the movie. The mentors are the fuck-ups!  The makers put in a smart ass Belgian kid in it, yet introduce him being from Antwerp (which is a Flemish town!!!!). If I ever get to meet the directors I’ll ask them why. There’s maybe like 100 children in Antwerp speaking that well French.  But assuming he did come from a stuck up French-speaking family living in Antwerp, he was my absolute favorite character!!

In case anyone wants to watch this movie (without subtitles), let me know.

A girl has been missing for more than 40 years. Up until now, nobody has find any trace of her disappearing, yet her uncle (and caretaker) is convinced that she was murdered as he receives a framed flower every single year on the girls birthday from an anonymous person (most likely the murderer). Four hours south of the residence of the uncle is Stockholm, capital of Sweden, where there’s a big stir at the offices of Millennium Magazine. One of their top research journalists just lost a legal case against a millionaire who accused him of having written damaging lies in a recent article. His name is Michael Blomkvist and he accepts the offer to dig into the past of the missing girl (with the promise that the uncle has important information about the millionaire). As he starts to investigate he gets help from a weird computer hacker: a goth chick with a dragon tattoo.

The book on which the movie is based is a worldwide bestseller and part of a trilogy which became successful after the author died. The books are really a hype, so Hollywood had to jump on the wave. Unfortunately for the producers of this movie, most people who wanted to see the cinema version of the story went to see the original Swedish movie which was released a few years ago. At least here in Europe. I only saw it recently though. But you can wonder: was it really that necessary to make an American version? For an American audience yes.

Having seen the original Swedish movie not so long ago, I wasn’t all too impressed with this version. Maybe if I had seen this version first or if there was a gap of several years, it would have felt different. Now, it just feels like an American remake of a not even great European film. What’s entertaining though is to look where director David Fincher changed parts of the story to make them more visually interesting. There’s plenty of differences, both positive and negative. Positive is that they left out several superfluous scenes of the original movie. Negative is that the movie tries to hard to be acceptable in its darkness. It’s a pretty tough movie to watch, but I expected it to be darker and more difficult to watch. It now looks like just another episode of CSI or Law and Order.

Some scenes however that are very crucial for the plausibility of the story were left out or weren’t well-developed. One example: the fact that the uncle receives a framed flower every year is quite important. And even though we get to see the collection of framed flowers, there is just no explanation whatsoever about them, not even at the end. I didn’t think the story was that surprising when I saw the original movie and in this version it also is pretty obvious where it’s leading to. Fincher just added to many details in the movie that give away the story. Why on earth did he zoom in on the handbag camera in one of the important scenes of the movie?

The acting is just standard. The soundtrack is a bit disappointing. (I loved the fact though that a guy in the movie is wearing a t shirt from Nine Nich Nails, the former industrial band of now film composer Trent Reznor). The visuals are of course a great improvement to the original movie. And it IS entertaining until the finish. But it’s just a superfluous American remake of an already not fascinating Scandinavian crime movie. Maybe I should read the book now…

Chico & Rita – **

Posted: February 20, 2012 in 2010, Animation, Spain, UK, XX

Nominated for an Oscar (in the animation category), but having totally escaped from my radar: Chico & Rita, a romantic animation movie from Spain about two Cuban artists who met in the late forties and got separated by the revolution. I watched it at a friend’s place, who’s Cuban and who had a copy with no subtitles. Luckily it’s a romantic story and it has a lot of music, so I could easily understand what it was all about and also appreciate it.

I don’t really understand why it got nominated though. Sure, it’s hand drawn animation, which in times of stop motion and 3D is quite unique. But the story is so simple and predictable that you wonder what the fuzz is all about. Yes, the soundtrack is amazing. Yes, it’s pretty daring with all the (female) nudity. Yes, the drawings are a nice change. But in the end, it’s just a story about a man and a woman who were meant to be with each other but didn’t because of all kinds of circumstances. And the drawings are really not all that impressive. This should be a passionate movie, but the animation isn’t passionate at all. I know there’s an audience who will disagree (hey, there’s even animation porn), but it just failed to deliver for me.  Both Chico and Rita have vulva looking lips and do strange things with their eyes. Not attractive at all.

But, I hadn’t seen a similar animation movie yet and it really isn’t a bad movie at all. Plus: it gives a great impression of how Havana must have been like before the revolution! And I’ve purchased the soundtrack in the mean time.

The Ides Of March – ***

Posted: February 17, 2012 in 2011, Drama, Political, USA, XXX

Again not sure why most reviewers didn’t like this movie. I loved it. I guess it all depends on how you start watching it. I never saw it as a thriller, so there’s no disappointment in the fact that the movie doesn’t really have much suspense. (the trailer just doesn’t give a good impression of what the movie is about). t saw it as a look into the life of presidential campaigners and I totally believed everything they showed. Clooney is a fine director! And Ryan Gossling is an amazing actor! He’s the hyped star of the moment and I understand why. This guy is phenomenal in this movie. Not sure why there wasn’t an Oscar nomination for this part. Drive and Blue Valentine are now high on the list of movies to see.

So what is it all about? Well, Ryan Gosling plays Stephen Meyers who works for the presidential campaign of Governor Mike Morris (role by George Clooney). He’s good at his job and gets respect from all sides (the governor, his direct campaign boss, the press, his colleagues, the competition, etc…), but doesn’t let anybody look into his soul or thoughts. The viewer however gets to see a different Stephen, one with doubts and worries, but also with extreme ambition and pride. Stephen’s pretty confident attitude gets shattered when he gets the opportunity to switch camps and start working for another presidential candidate. Is it more important to campaign for someone you really share the ideology with or for someone who has more changes to win? He also gets sexually involved with another member of the campaign who unintentionally gives him a very powerful tool to either make or break the presidential campaign.

The greatness of this movie is that you totally sympathize with the main character even though you do not always agree with his thoughts. That can be accredited to the writing, but in this movie it’s all because of the performance of Ryan Gossling. It must be great to play a character that is definitely not one-dimensional. At times he seems very caring, a minute later he seems to have no feelings at all. And it’s all believable. The other actors in the movie are good too, but just don’t get the focus they maybe deserved. Evan Rachel Wood however, is a girl to look out for! She’s going to do great things in cinema! (she’s also very convincing in True Blood as one of the queens)

So. Don’t expect to see a thriller. Don’t even watch the trailer. And just enjoy good acting and a solid script with maybe not that many surprises, but cleverly introduced in the story.



Rabat – **

Posted: February 17, 2012 in 2011, Dramedy, Netherlands, XX

A young Dutch man of Moroccan descent needs to bring a taxi from The Netherlands to Rabat, Morocco. He tells his friends his father wants him to sell the car there, but everyone (including his friends and the viewer) realizes very early on that he has to bring it as a gift to his future parents-in-law. As he leaves the next day his friends show up and decide to join him, which is the start of an entertaining road movie about three youngsters who just don’t know what to do with their life and may find answers along the way.

It’s difficult to rate this movie bad, because you feel it’s made with heart and has good intentions. It’s just a very low-budget movie, so it feels like they only took one shot of every single scene. The acting looks real, but the dialogue sounds too calculated. If you make a low budget film, let the actors improvise! Personally, I was waiting for them to get into some real adventures along the way not just meeting old men or beautiful girls or stopping for a night out in Barcelona. Yeah, it was all just too ordinary.

Some reviews in Dutch newspaper rave about this movie because it doesn’t really focus on the stereotypes we have of Magreb youngsters. Hm. I disagree. I don’t know why they added the shoplifting incident. It’s not because a woman behind the counter looks suspicious at customers that you have to see it as a challenge to actually steal something without her knowing. There’s actually a second theft in the movie as well. They get stopped at the entrance of a club in Barcelona and by the Spanish Police along the road. Yeah, bouncers and officers are prejudiced, but do we really have to see it again? And it goes on and on. Two of them don’t have a job. Two of them don’t like fags. One of them actually contemplates the arranged marriage. Etc…

But apart from that, you do empathize with them and you wish them to find answers to the questions they have. The end is very predictable, but the road trip goes at a steady speed and finishes in Rabat before you know it. This could have been a great tv series!

I have to admit that I hoped A Separation would disappointed, just because it’s up against the Flemish movie Bullhead for Best Foreign Language movie at the Oscars and will most likely win as well. But, you know, if it does win, it’s well deserved. This is a superb movie!

A couple is about to divorce because the parents don’t agree on what to do in the near future. The husband wants to stay in Iran and take care of his father, who’s an Alzheimer’s patient. The wife wants to leave the country to guarantee a better future for herself and her daughter. When the wife decides to leave the house for a while, the husband needs to find someone to do the household and take care of his father while he is at work. A pregnant lady secretively accepts the job because her husband has debts and is unemployed. He wouldn’t like his wife to take care of the household of another man, but the need for money is imminent.

That’s the set up. The movie starts to really intrigue when the husband arrives home and finds his father all alone attached to the bed and some money missing from a drawer. When the pregnant lady comes back he accuses her of theft and abandoning his father and pushes her out the door with some very serious consequences. You really don’t need to know more of the story. Just start looking now.

I personally loved every single character in this movie. Every single one of them. I also loved all the people in supporting roles and even some extra’s. I totally felt each and every scene. The acting is flawless. At times you don’t even realize you are looking at a movie, but at a real life situation. And even if you don’t really agree with the behavior of some of them, you understand why they behave like they do and you empathize with them. They are no good or bad characters, they are all flawed in their goodness and righteousness and even more in their stubbornness and pride.  That, for me, made the movie! Because it was real. Nothing gets explained by voiceovers. No behavior gets explained by the characters. They just behave and you can be the judge as a viewer.

It’s very easy to assume that a movie from Iran will be a boring art house flick, which only pretentious movie reviewers appreciate. This one however, is totally accessible for an international crowd. Sure, they swear on the Koran instead of the Bible and the women are all wearing head veils, but apart from that this movie could have easily been made in France or Denmark or the UK. I thought of writing Hollywood, but then I thought: no. It looks very Western coming from a country which our media only depicts as repressive of Western lifestyles. I don’t think the ayatollahs went to see it. But I’m sure that will help this movie get the broad audience it deserves. It’s a great movie to start an evening with, resulting in hours of debating the story afterwards.

Excellent cinema. Very  impressed.