Archive for April, 2012

Crazy Stupid Love – *

Posted: April 30, 2012 in 2011, Dramedy, Romance, USA, X

To finish up the four Ryan Gosling movies of 2011, I rented this dramatic comedy in which he plays a womanizer who helps Steve Carell get over a divorce by learning him how to pick up women the way he does. I could have used the expression ‘comical drama’ as well, but that sounds too positive.

The movie starts good though. The fist part is interesting to watch. The whole idea of re-styling a guy so he can finally start dating other women than his high school girlfriend who he was married to for 25 years, is fun! Ryan Gosling actually does a good job showing his comical talent. And Carell is Carell. It’s nice to see the two interact, but unfortunately that part of the movie only lasts 20 minutes. After that it becomes a real boring modern-day romantic tale of a guy who wants his wife back. The longer the movie lasts the more predictable it gets.

There were some good scenes though. Like the fake household help telephone conversation he and his ex-wife have on the phone. But most of the scenes were disappointing. For a while you feel like watching a new Juno or LIttle Miss Sunshine: quirkily funny with an indie rock soundtrack and enough drama to not make it a real comedy. But after a while it just becomes more dramatic and the comical scenes don’t bring laughter. Gosling also suddenly disappears to only return in the end. Strange. The poster sells the movie with all this big names: Julianne Moore, Kevin Bacon, Marisa Tomei. But in the end, just like Ryan Gosling, they only have a few lines.

It’s not a bad movie. It’s just not good. The speech at the end totally killed the sympathy I had for the movie in the beginning.

Blue Valentine – ***1/2

Posted: April 26, 2012 in 2010, Drama, Romance, USA, XXX1/2

FINALLY!!! Wow, finally a movie that I loved.

Was a bit worried putting this in the dvd player. The movie deals about a love marriage gone bad and that’s not exactly a cheerful premise. But this is an awesome movie: great acting, great script, great soundtrack and the coolest end credits!

Ryan Gosling has already impressed me in Drive and The Ides Of March, but he’s even more interesting in this movie. I don’t know what it is with this guy, but he gives a uniqueness to the characters he plays that nobody else can do. I’m still not really sure if he’s a very good actor though as I feel that he’s just lucky with the roles he accepts. Dean, the character he plays here, is again very complex. He’s a bit of a loser, good-hearted, romantic, sweet, crazy, talented, youthful and somewhat naive. And Gosling can show ALL these things by just being Gosling.

Michelle Williams hasn’t really impressed me before. (I still haven’t seen My Week With Marilyn) But she gives a great performance here too. Her character, Cindy, is also a bit complex. Smart, funny, crazy, sexy, disappointed, frustrated, cold, remorseful…. And she’s able to show ALL these things as well. Maybe just by being Williams.

The movie feels a bit like a cross between Revolutionary Road and (500) Days Of Summer. The theme is pretty similar to the first one (two people who once loved each other just don’t match anymore). The narrative style is similar to the latter (jumping from one memory to the other). In that sense it all really isn’t that unique. It’s been done before. But I just loved it more than the two above mentioned movies (which I think are great by the way). It’s very interesting to see present day scenes flow into flashbacks without it being too obvious. Dean is quite the original charmer. It’s very easy to understand why an ambitious girl like Cindy would fall for him. He’s funny, sweet and he’s there when things get tough. But you can also understand why she just had enough of him after all these years. And the fact that they constantly switch between now and then, makes you understand the situation even more.

I couldn’t help reading some comments about people who’ve seen the movie and felt the need to rate it bad. And there are quite a lot. Most of them didn’t like the movie because it unsettled them. I’m sure this movie can hurt certain people. Those who are in similar situations. And those who live in a happy dream world where everything is fine and ends happily ever after. (Sorry, it doesn’t.) However, this movie isn’t cynical. The flashbacks show a couple who are naturally in love with each other and their love is touching without ever getting too emotional. The break up scenes are much more dramatic and often slide into a dangerous tv cry drama zone. But they never do. And I loved the end. It just felt real. Like the entire movie.

And the end credits are original. Plus the soundtrack by Grizzly Bear is very efficient. Yep, excellent movie.

The Guard – *

Posted: April 25, 2012 in 2011, Comedy, Crime/Detective, Ireland, X

A few years ago In Bruges surprised audiences around the world. Martin McDonagh delivered a visually interesting pitch dark comedy crime movie with one famous actor (Colin Farrell) and a great side kick (Brendan Gleeson) set in a unique location (Bruges). The same ingredients can be found in The Guard, written and directed by Martin’s brother John Michael. But this time around the movie fails on all levels. I didn’t find the humor funny at all. It wasn’t even dark, let alone pitch dark. The famous actor this time is Don Cheadle who has a very minor role and acts like he wanted to just say his lines and get back to the states as soon as possible. Brendan Gleeson plays the main character this time (and he does it very well – truth be told). But the location can’t rival Bruges at all: a boring coastal village somewhere in Ireland.

The movie got five stars in Empire Magazine!!!!! And received rave reviews all over the (English-speaking) world. But it just didn’t appeal to me at all. On the contrary even. I hate watching movies in which I think I could have done a better job. I’m not an actor, not a producer, not a director, not a script writer. So watching a movie should make me feel in awe of what I see. This movie has two great actors, a great set up and the right atmosphere for a cool independent comedy. But it just doesn’t deliver.

Sometimes I wonder what film students learn in film school. I mean, I haven’t done any film school at all, but I know that constantly swapping between images when you hear two people have a conversation is NOT DONE. It happens several times here. I don’t understand  how someone who sees the final product doesn’t say: this is not working. You can use split screens! You can have the two people sit next to each other so you have them in one screen. You don’t actually need to switch to an image of the character that’s replying. You can have his voice be heard and film the recipients reaction. There are so many ways to make a conversation between two people interesting. That annoyed me a lot in this movie.

Sure it’s a low-budget production. And I don’t care that when people shoot at each other it looks like they rehearsed it once and then improvised in front of the camera, which only recorded one take. Hey, it’s nice to see people die at the first shot for a change. BUT why do you spend so much money on getting Don Cheadle on board to have him do absolutely nothing. He’s not important in the movie. The star of the movie is Brendan Gleeson. They could have just used any other unknown actor for Cheadle’s part. The main reason why I wanted to see the movie was to see the funny collaboration between an unconventional Irish village cop and a clever black FBI officer. Some of these cop buddy movies can be quite fun. But it just doesn’t bring any humor in the movie. Unless you find the simple racist remarks funny. “I thought black people couldn’t ski. Or was it swimming?”. “I didn’t know there were drug dealers that weren’t black”. etc; etc. etc. Boring. Not even politically incorrect funny.

What is it all about? a village cop needs to team up with a FBI agent to intercept a drug transfer that will take place off the Irish shore. Hey, maybe you guys will like it. I didn’t it.

Carnage – ***

Posted: April 23, 2012 in 2011, Comedy, France, Germany, XXX

Now, this was a fun movie. I missed it at the cinema’s, but it was just as good on my iPad this afternoon on the train. The trailer was promising and it delivered! I’ve read mixed reviews about this movie, but I can’t possibly think of a reason why you would NOT like it. The script is good, the dialogue even better and the acting almost perfect. At least for the majority of the 80 minutes. As the conversation got more intense, the acting got more and more over the top and the abrupt end leaves the viewer a bit unsatisfied. But in all in all: great cinema!

Now, the story is really very simple. After an argument one kid lashes out a tree branch at another kid, who breaks a few teeth in the process and gets left with several scars. That’s the first minute of the movie. The other 79  minutes (well, 74, because the end credits take up 5) you get to see two sets of parents trying to talk about what they should do about the incident. Now, this may not sound exciting, but to me it was! It’s clear that this originally is a theatre production, but for me it worked very well as a motion picture. Everything is set in the apartment of the victim’s parents! And there’s only four actors! What more do you need?

Kate Wynslet and Jodie Foster are great as the two mothers. They both got a Golden Globe nomination for their performance. But I personally liked the men more. John C Reilly, who normally only plays in these stupid dumb ass comedies, is incredible here. And Christopher Waltz is perfect. These are just four people who I could have watched for several more hours! They won a few ensemble cast awards and deservedly. They interact amazingly. Even though you see it’s scripted, it feels like it’s all improvised. As mentioned before, there’s a lot of overacting at the end when all four of them just had a bit too much whiskey. But it didn’t bother me at all. The fact that they basically are annoying characters neither. On the contrary.

I laughed quite a lot. Wasn’t bored at all. And impressed by what I saw. So hey: ***. If not more.

2 Days In New York – 0

Posted: April 21, 2012 in 2011, Belgium, Comedy, France, Germany

Julie Julie Julie. Why do you want to make comedies? You suck at it. Is this really your best attempt to make a funny cross-cultural comedy? It’s boring.There’s absolutely nothing funny in it at all. I didn’t even laugh once. The idea – Afro-American dates French girl who has her family over for a visit – could have been nice. If only it had funny scenes. But really, Julie. This is Adam Sandler humor. It’s not funny!!!!! Why Why Why? And does this movie show you how you see the French? Please…

Chris, I liked you in this movie. You’re the only reason why I finished this piece of crap. And you weren’t even funny. You just acted like WTF all the time, just the way I felt watching this movie. WTF? Yeah, Chris, it was nice to see you NOT be funny for a change. I hope you do it more.

An Education – *1/2

Posted: April 21, 2012 in 2009, Coming Of Age, Drama, Romance, UK, USA, X1/2

After having seen this movie I can only conclude that my favorite fiction writer Nick Hornby isn’t perfect. He wrote the script for this coming of age movie about a 17-year-old who’s smart enough to go to Oxford university but decides to live life by hanging out with an older boyfriend who takes her to concerts, on city trips to Paris and makes her an accomplice of his criminal job.

It sounds like something interesting, but it isn’t really. As the end credits stroll you wonder what the point of it all was. It wasn’t a funny movie, it wasn’t romantic, it didn’t really have a message. Okay, it makes the audience think about what’s more interesting: going to university and graduating with a degree to end up leading a boring life OR take any opportunity you get to experience exciting things. Sorry, you can also GO to the university and experience the fun things either during your studies or afterwards. So it’s pretty sad to tell a story from the perspective that you can’t combine both. But hey, it’s a story about a 17-year-old girl, which I am not. Which Nick Hornby isn’t either. That said. the acting was really good.

I’m still waiting for A Long Way Down to be made into a movie. Didn’t Johnny Depp by the rights for that story?

Couldn’t resist renting this 99 cent rental on iTunes as a memory to the Titanic which sunk a hundred years ago. I’m sure I’ve seen this movie before when I was a kid. The sinking of the Titanic has always left a big impression on me, ever since the discovery of the wreck in 1985. I even liked the James Cameron movie back in 1997 and I’m thinking of seeing it again in 3D now. But before I do that, I wanted to watch what is considered the best movie about the horrible event.

The best? I’m not sure. I think Cameron’s Titanic is much more impressive. But this is a great classic that doesn’t bore at all. The special effects are limited. Hey, the actual sinking is a joke. But I liked how the story was told. Very factual and chronological with a certain critique on the class differences that caused so many less-off people to find their death. I also found it interesting to look at the acting in this movie. Since most characters only have brief moments in the movie, they are more extra’s with a few lines than actors. Some just have to look up and say something in distress, which leads to a lot of amateur overacting! But the main actors do what they have to do. Kenneth More is great as the second lieutenant, but especially Michael Goodliffe as the builder of the ship impresses. Not sure if the characters they portray really acted so calm in reality, but they bring a certain calmness to the movie that keeps you intrigued. You know how it will end, but you stay interested in seeing how the passengers might have reacted. After all, we can only guess.

There’s a new BBC series about the event as well, which I haven’t seen. But now’s the time to do so. I may just go to the movies and see Kate and Leo again.

Boy Culture – **

Posted: April 15, 2012 in 2006, Dramedy, LGBT themed, romcom, USA, XX

The trailer isn’t promising, but as it was a 99 cent rental on iTunes, I decided to at least start looking at it. Well, surprise surprise, I really liked this one. It had my attention for the 80 minutes it lasted, even though I didn’t care for the end that much.

One of the reason that it kept my attention was the fact that it was narrated directly to me (as the viewer). It’s one thing to have a voice over, it’s better to have the narrator talk to you like you’re listening to a private tale (with images), interacting with what you may think or feel while listening and watching. I’ve seen movies where that tactic doesn’t work at all, but here, it was perfect. During the narration you see flash backs in which the narrator does all the voices. Which makes total sense. That’s how you tell a story! You imitate the voices of the people who you are talking about.

The narrator is a male escort, called X in the movie, who is totally ok being a prostitute. It’s not like someone or something pushed him into the oldest profession of the world, even though some traumatic (though very common) experience in his youth made him believe having sex for money is just less of a trouble than falling in love with someone who may just dump you the next day. I like people who think like that. Put the ration before the heart. Of course, that’s an ideal situation, as we all know that in reality the heart does take over some times. Such is the case in this movie too.

Derek Magyar, who plays X, does a good job. He’s great at pretending to be emotionless. You can actually see him pretend, which makes the character sympathetic. It could also be bad acting, but I didn’t see it that way. I personally liked his character a lot, a prostitute with a certain moral!  Is what he does worse than what the majority of the (gay) people do in the weekends? Spending hundreds on dollars on expensive jeans, exclusive perfume, high-end drinks, long taxi rides only to have sex with a guy once and then start all over again the next weekend. Yeah. I recently had a conversation with a (female) friend who said she never pays for drinks when she goes out and makes sure the date will pay for her dinner if he wants to end up in her bed. “So, you’re a prostitute”, I replied. End of the friendship.

But this movie isn’t so much about prostitution as much as it is about confusion. X is perfectly okay being an escort. He’s just afraid that a partner would disapprove of his job. He’s too afraid to getting really hurt, so he focuses on his job and avoids having sex with other people than his clients. One of them is Gregory, who only pays him to open up emotionally. Those reverse shrink moments make the most interesting plot line. The other plot line is less interesting because it isn’t scripted and acted well. It focuses on X’s relationship with his roommate Andrew, who clearly is boyfriend potential and who has shown interest in him as well but who doesn’t want to be in a relationship with a hooker.

Okay, that sounds very cheesy and boring. But I’ve seen enough heavy drama on the screen lately. So this was a welcome change. I actually wasn’t annoyed at all by the portrayal of gay people in this feature movie. There is of course a stereotypical flamboyant character, but he’s only in the story to counter balance the quieter protagonist. It’s the other roommate,  a runaway kid who starts exploring the gay scene, being the easy slut that a lot of gay people seem to have been at one time in their life. But as an antagonist the portrayal worked. And he wasn’t too camp. There’s a lot of right-on remarks about the difficult (sad?) life of single gays in a big city.

Just too bad that the soundtrack of the movie is terrible. X had my sympathy until he goes on a road trip and puts on an incredibly bad gay disco house track and then actually explains why he likes it. From there the movie went downhill sliding in unbelievable scenes and a predictable ending. It still had my attention until the end, but it faded.

Having just seen Winter’s Bone, I decided to go see The Hunger Games as well. It stars the same actress and it keeps on attracting more and more viewers, so it couldn’t be all that bad, right? The synopsis didn’t appeal to me at all and I don’t really belong to the target audience according to some media. But even though the story is sick (24 kids get dumped into a monitored wilderness and only one can survive) and it really is a movie for teenage girls, I actually quite liked it overall. It’s well scripted with enough interesting (yet predictable) turning points in the plot to keep the story moving. Jennifer Lawrence is able to carry the whole movie (the other actors are just mediocre). And fortunately there is no gore or cheap sentiment.

I read that the movie referred to dark teenage fables like the Twilight trilogy or the Japanese horror classic Battle Royale, but I failed to see the comparison. It’s not the most original story, but I had not quite seen anything like this before. What I really appreciated was the fact that the movie does make you think, which is rare for a blockbuster movie for kids. I saw it as a critique against all these reality tv shows we see, where tv producers push the contestants to say and do things they would normally never do. I think there are more similarities to The Truman Show really.

Even though the story is set in an undefined future, it did look quite similar to the world we live in today. Actually the future as it is shown, looks like the future shown in movies of the nineties. I had to think of The Fifth Element when I saw the colourful but quirky costumes and hairdos of the well-off. The poor (of whom 24 children are selected) look like they live in the late 1800s. Very strange contrast. But that didn’t bother me that much. I actually taught the idea was quite believable, until the tv show manipulators started to created monsters. It’s one thing to create fire, storms, rain, etc… It’s another thing to create monsters out of nothing. Sorry. That’s when I lost some interest and where the movie lost half a star in my rating.

I thought it was interesting to have watched Winter’s Bone just before seeing this. Cause that movie almost feels like a prequel. A young girl stuck with a little sister (and brother) in a poor area out to beat the environment around her… Yeah, pretty similar. 😉

Winter’s Bone – **1/2

Posted: April 11, 2012 in 2010, Drama, USA, XX1/2

Jennifer Lawrence is a rising star, especially now that The Hunger Games is such a phenomenal success. But a few years ago she kind of blew everyone away in a small independent movie that did receive a lot of awards, but wasn’t really shown in many theaters. I totally missed it at the cinema’s. Last week I mixed up Frozen River with this movie, which felt strange though. So I had to watch it before I’d forget. And I’m glad I did.

I just wished I had rented it with subtitles. The movie takes place in some remote town somewhere in the midwest I guess and the characters either speak with a heavy accent or they just mumble. Very difficult for a non-native English speaker. But I wouldn’t be surprised if many native speakers had issues with it as well. I think I missed out on a lot of dialogue and certain details. That was a bummer.

This is the story of a girl who learns that her father didn’t show up for a court hearing. If he doesn’t show up by a certain date, the girl, her mother and her little brother and sister will be evicted from the house they live in. Can you understand how I mixed up Frozen River with this one? She promises the police officers that she will find her father, but the more she starts looking, the more she realizes that her father may just be dead, murdered even. But that is also something she needs to prove to be able to keep the house.

It sounds like a detective thriller of some kind, but it is more of a social drama set in one of the poorest environments of the USA. (again, very similar to Frozen River). I think two of those movies are okay for now. I need to see some superficial Hollywood dream world now. The town seems filled with crooks, almost like the towns looked like in the mid 19th Century. In that sense you could call this movie a western almost. The girl is poor, I mean really poor. So poor she goes out to hunt squirrels and teaches her little brother to skin one and take out the intestines. But she’s also very brave. At age 17 she manages the household. She’s smart, not un-goodlooking, knows how to cook and shoot a riffle and isn’t afraid of anybody. If the movie would have been set in Beverly Hills or even New York, it would be very far-fetched to have a young girl be so mature for her age. But with the setting of this movie it’s totally believable what this girl achieves.

Part of that is the acting of  Jennifer Lawrence of course. She is really phenomenal in this movie. But many other characters are performed well, like the one of John Hawkes who plays the brother of the runaway father. It’s the kind of actor you’ve seen before in other movies, but who always plays the loser or freak of some kind. Here he plays a different character, both helpful and mean. Quite interesting. The story is really grim though and a lot of scenes are set at night-time in the dark. It’s not an uplifting movie and there are some moments where you feel like shit watching them. But all in all, it’s a very remarkable movie experience.

Try and watch it (with subtitles). It’s slow, but it keeps you glued to the screen.