Archive for May, 2012

Looking at the thousands of dvd’s at my local library I decided to pick two action flicks for a change: Iron Man and its sequel Iron Man 2. I was surprised that the library had them, being commercial blockbusters and all. Not exactly your foreign language award-winning art house fare. While watching The Avengers a few weeks ago, I got interested in the character of Tony Stark. A lot of comic heroes are narcistic and vain and arrogant, but not all of them are womanizers and funny. Tony Stark is all of the above. And Robert Downey Jr has a lot of fun interpreting those characteristics.

I kinda liked Iron Man. It’s a solid action movie with a decent script, awesome visual and sound effects and great humor. Another plus is that it’s a perfect introduction to the character. Other movies based on comic characters assume all too often that you’ve heard of the characters before. (like the above mentioned Avengers for instance). It’s not in the same league as the X-Men movies (with their social and political undertone) or the latest Batman franchise (with its visual and cinematic grandeur), but it’s great fun! The sequel however was disappointing. More impressive action sequences and bigger names on the credits, but without a well scripted story. Most of the movie didn’t make sense at all. There’s a great action scene in the beginning (filmed in Monaco) and the finale is pretty awesome, but in between the movie kind of sucks. The acting of the big names isn’t all that impressive either. Especially Mickey Rourke as the villain appears to be  just an ‘extra’ on the set. I think it should be obligatory to  make the villain as interesting as the hero. Who is this Ivan Vanko? After 2 hours the only thing you know about him is that he’s the son of a Russian scientist, is heavily tattooed and never utters more than five words per sentence. A lot of characters get introduced as well that comic fans will be looking forward to, but you never really get to know who they are. Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L Jackson, Don Cheadle are all in Iron Man 2 , but you never get to learn more about their characters. Too bad really.

But I quite liked this action packed Iron Man evening

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0371746/

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1228705/

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0903747/

Chemistry teacher gets cancer and starts making the purest crystal meth in order to finance the expensive treatment his wife wants him to take. The show has been around for a while, but that plot line never appealed to me, so I never bothered watching. I’m already watching the cancer changing lives show The Big C and the idea of a normal person getting into the criminal world of drugs isn’t new (Weeds, Saving Grace).  There are just too many shows about drugs. Show me a world I haven’t seen before (like the advertising business in the sixties). But since everyone is just raving about this show, I decided to at least watch a few episodes. Luckily Season 1 only has seven.

I don’t particularly care for it. Just a personal matter of taste. It’s well made and I like it’s not all too conventional. One of the main characters is a disabled adolescent for instance and some scenes are pretty unique, like the peeing scene in episode six. The idea of incorporating chemistry theories into a tv show is interesting too. Not quite sure about the script though. Even though it keeps you hooked and there are a lot of twists, it just drags on and on and on in the domestic scenes. I’m sure they are necessary to understand future episodes, but I could do without watching the chemistry teacher and his wife be a boring married couple with issues. I’m also not in the least impressed by acting. Especially the women suck. And the gangsters in this series are the most unbelievable bunch of crooks I’ve seen in a while. Even if this series would have been a comedy show, their over-exageration wouldn’t be funny.

But, again, it’s a personal thing. I’m kind of interested in knowing what season 2 brings though as this first season feels like one big pilot episode for great things to come. Maybe.

Blindness

Posted: May 25, 2012 in 2008, Brasil, Canada, Drama, Japan

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0861689/

Sometimes I should better believe film critics. This IS a bad movie. It’s really one of the worst movies I’ve ever started to watch. Halfway in the movie I started to fastforward, than rewind again and then give up entirely.

Based on a novel by some Portuguese writer, the movie deals about several people becoming blind and getting locked up in a quarantined area as the blindness is contagious. The infected people start to set up their own rules, with the ‘leader’ of ward three acting like a dictator. That’s where I lost any interest I may had. The story is too silly for words.

I tried and failed to finish a movie by Meireilles and with Julianne Moore!

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2053425/

It doesn’t often happen that the Flemish media create a hype around a French movie. But as it stars one of our most promising actors, De Rouille Et D’Os gets much more attention than it would have gotten with an unknown French actor in the lead. Matthias Schoenaerts (who’s already an established actor in Flanders thanks to movies like Loft and tv series like De Smaak Van De Keyzer) is ready for an international career after he starred in the Oscar nominated Bullshead and now gets a lot of buzz for his performance in the new movie of Cannes winner Jacques Audiard (whose last three movies I loved). I jumped on the wave and went to see it tonight, but wasn’t all that impressed.

Schoenaerts delivers, but isn’t extraordinary. Marion Cotillard is – as always – superb. The soundtrack is surprisingly exciting. There are some scenes that are visually quite clever and unique. But, I just didn’t feel the story. A woman gets her legs amputated after an accident in a theme park with a killer whale. A man moves to the south of France with his little kid and makes money being a security guard and a street fighter. They both meet and hang out. Then have sex. Then sort of fall in love. Until something makes the guy leave again. Sounds boring, doesn’t it? Well, it is. I kind of liked the character of Stephanie, who comes to terms with being disabled and somehow embraces the joy this man brings in her new life. But I couldn’t figure out the character of Ali, who’s portrayed in so many different ways that I stopped caring about him at the end. His physique will remind people of the ‘bull’ he played in his breakthrough movie, but this time he’s another animal. I just couldn’t figure out if he was a teddy bear or a grizzly;  a circus or a polar bear. He takes good care of his handicapped friend, but he hits his son. He beats up other guys for money, but goes out sledge-riding in the snow with his kid. Sure, people can be complex. But for some reason I couldn’t empathize with this guy at all. Is that the mistake of Audiard? Or Schoenaerts? Probably not. In the end, well-made movies just might not work for everybody. And this one didn’t for me.

A friend of mine once came back from seeing Elegy at the cinema and said the movie was only made for people who are obsessed with Penelope Cruz’s breasts. And he’s kind of right, they really look very nice and are the only ‘highlight’. But you can see her breasts in other – better – movies, so don’t bother renting this one. Unless you want to see Ben Kingsley’s naked chest as well. But there again, if you’re into him, maybe better rent Gandhi. 

There’s something creepy about seeing Kingsley fall in love with Cruz. Hasn’t this Lolita story been told too many times before? Sure her character is 24 or so and not 16, but still. Old man falls in love with a young woman (his student) and then doesn’t dare to commit to a real relationship with her because of self doubt. BORING!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0974554/

W.E. – **

Posted: May 16, 2012 in 2011, Drama, Historical, Romance, UK, USA, XX
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http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1536048/

You know what, peeps? I liked this movie. I was able to totally ignore the fact that this is Madonna’s directorial debut. Moreover, I liked this movie more than the boring The King’s Speech. Yes, it was too long and yes, the constant switching between the current story of Wally Winthrop’s loveless marriage with the famous story of Wallis Simpson doesn’t really have a clear goal. But, the acting is great and the settings, costumes, camerawork and editing keep it entertaining. Not once in The King’s Speech did I feel like there was a scene that was unique, but in this movie I saw several things that made me realize someone passionate was at work, who wasn’t ‘trying hard to please the critics’ as many reviews mention, but just made the movie she wanted to make. Unlike other people I’m actually excited  to see her direct again. Especially since I can’t stand 80 percent of her last album. Get back behind the camera, bitch!

Oh, in case you don’t know the story of the movie yet: there are two. One focuses on a young woman who got married to a shrink for who she gave up her independence, her work and her dream of having a child. The other focuses on a woman who hung out with the British Prince Edward back in the 1930s. The former Wally is obsessed with the story of Prince Edward giving up everything (his throne, reputation, desire for children…) to be with a twice-married woman who wasn’t a noble, wasn’t British and wasn’t particularly pretty. As there’s an auction taking place at Sotheby’s, selling items from the collection of the scandalous royal couple, she tries to figure out what Wallis Simpson gave up to be live in exile and become the most hated woman in the world.

Yep. Forget Madonna while watching this movie. Avoid reading the Madonna bashing reviews. This really isn’t a bad movie at all. It’s not awesome, but it’s okay. There’s a lot worse movies released out there.

The Avengers – *

Posted: May 15, 2012 in Action, USA, X

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0848228/

Great reviews, box office records, Scarlett Johansson and a Manhattan location: four good enough reasons to see The Avengers on a rainy evening after a hard days work.

If only I had seen Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Captain America, Thor and The Incredible Hulk, than this movie would have made any sense. The action is good and I was never bored, but that’s about it.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1077368/

I’ll be short: I was disappointed. Maybe I shouldn’t have watched the trailer so often (four times). The movie’s funniest scenes and one-liners are already in the preview. I’ve heard someone sued a movie distributor because the trailer of Drive mislead her into believing it would be an action movie. Well, maybe I should sue Warner Bros for making a trailer that suggests 2 hours of gothic joy and quirky laughter! But I won’t. I did laugh and enjoyed myself. Just not for 2 hours.

Luckily, Johnny Depp is funny. Let him work with Tim Burton and his make up team and you get a very fascinating character… at least physically and expressively. He’s Barnabas Collins this time, a vampire who was locked up in a coffin for more than 200 years to return in the year 1972! The mansion he grew up in is now dilapidated and the family business has hit rock bottom. In order to re-establish his power he needs to confront an old enemy: the witch who cursed him two centuries before. Well, we shouldn’t exaggerate as one of the lame jokes go, because ‘it was only 196 years’.

Sounds bizarre? Well, it is. The problem is that normally Tim Burton can make bizarre into something charming. Edward Scissorhands was bizarre, but remains one of my favorite movies of all times. Maybe because that movie was simple. This one here introduces so many characters with each their own story and they never get developed or integrated in the overall script. Some of them were just added to the script for one or two remotely funny scenes. There’s Michelle Pfeiffer as the only sane descendant of the Collins family. You see her be important in the first 20 minutes of the movie and then she almost has no screen time or dialogue anymore. Johnny Lee Miller plays her brother, who has absolutely NO dialogue whatsoever apart from mumbling something annoying. Helen Bonham Carter plays a drunk shrink that lives in the mansion to help Johnny Lee Miller’s son deal with the death of his mother. Etc… Each character has a story, but their introduction is only important to ‘understand’ one or two scenes by the end of the movie. If you don’t develop a story, drop it!

The strangest side-story is that of Victoria Winters (played by Bella Heathcote). She’s the focus of the first 10 minutes after the opening credits and then kind of disappears from the entire movie to just re-appear in a few short scenes. Again: why spend so much time introducing a character to not follow-up on her story? I’m not a script writing professor, nor have I ever finished a story, but everyone can see there’s something very wrong with this screenplay. Maybe they ran out of time and money, who will tell. I wanted to know more about this girl than just a short flash back of how she was taken away to a psychiatric institution because she talked to an ‘imaginary’ ghost.

Anyways, the movie is based on a tv series. And it should have been made into a tv series again. True Blood for kids! But as already mentioned I did laugh and enjoy the movie for the most part. Tim Burton has again created an eery setting for the story. Not in a big city this time, but in a small fisherman’s village in Maine, the kind I have visited before! The soundtrack is interesting, even though I could have done with the cameo performance of Alice Cooper who performs as ‘himself’. I’m pretty sure most of the kids seeing this movie will not understand the references to his live reputation back then. And Depp is Depp at his best. It’s like he’s paying a tribute to Bela Lugosi in an Ed Wood kind of way. Dark Shadows also has one of the craziest sex scenes ever. But don’t let that be a reason to buy your ticket.

I wasn’t short in the end. But still disappointed.

The Stepford Wives – *

Posted: May 6, 2012 in 2004, Comedy, USA, X

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0327162/

Watched this movie at my parents’ place while they were doing their afternoon nap. It was over before they woke up! The comedy somehow escaped my movie radar as I had never heard of it before. It starts with Nicole Kidman as a tv presenter introducing the new programs of the network she’s working at, during which an ex-candidate of one of her previous shows tries to kill her. There was something bizarre about the scene. The idea intrigued me. This could be a movie criticizing reality tv shows and the exploitation of normal people by the media. However, everything in the initial scene made me realize it was supposed to be a comedy. For some reason I kept on watching the movie (while checking emails and reading the newspaper). Switching off the tv might have woken up my parents. 😉

The movie gets terrible reviews on imdb. Apart from Roger Ebert who gave it ***. I didn’t think it was that bad either. I had no expectations. I had never seen the original movie of which this is a remake. So, to me, it was just a weird comedy with Nicole Kidman, Bette Midler, Matthew Broderick, Christopher Walken and Glen Close obviously having fun on the set. Yes, their acting is bad. But I really don’t think they wanted to give their best performance ever. This is not a serious movie. It’s a mindless comedy.

So in the end it’s not a critical movie about the negative effects of reality tv shows. It’s a science fiction comedy about a village in Connecticut where you have a bunch of unambitious men who turned their ambitious women into household robots so they can feel more manly. I want to see the original version now, which must have been more relevant back in 1975 when men still wanted women to be just doing household chores.

Wat Als – **1/2

Posted: May 2, 2012 in 2011, Comedy, Flanders, TV series, XX1/2

Wat Als is a Flemish sketch show from the guys who brought the world Benidorm Bastards. It’s really just another sketch show, but every joke originated from the question ‘What if …” Actually, to be honest, sometimes you see funny sketches to which they later had to find a ‘what if’ question for. But that doesn’t matter.

80 % of the sketches are really clever and funny. The other 20 are just okay. A lot of them are plain absurd (typical for our humor) and always follow the same pattern: they always show the opposite of what is normally expected. In that sense, the humor gets a bit predictable. It’s never politically incorrect though, which is another kind of humor that Flemish are famous for. Apart from the sketches where they joke with Catholicism. I’m getting so fed up with those jokes, especially since the makers don’t are to joke with the Islam or Judaism. I say: don’t joke with religion at all, or joke with all of them. ‘What if catholics were more fanatic’ was the worst of them all. ‘What if Jesus was a politician’, on the other hand, was one of the best.

I shouldn’t have watched all sketches in one view. As mentioned before the jokes get repetitive. And some actors really start to annoy after a while. Especially Günther Lesage and Roberecht Vaden Thoren (who was great in Hasta La Vista) weren’t funny at all.  They just lacked the talent of actually interpreting different kind of characters. Bruno Vanden Broecke however leads the pack and is great. So are relatively unknown Nico Sturm and Ruth Beeckmans. The latter will never get cast in the role of pretty girl, but she nailed every scene she was in.

Unfortunately there are no clips on youtube and definitely none with English subtitles. I’m sure one day some American or British tv company will buy the rights of these sketches and produce an Anglo saxon version of it. There’s already a Dutch version of the show (but not half as funny). Many of the scenes are very local though, with a lot of references to our culture (in the bakery, the butchery, the soccer field, etc…) and many words of play… But the humor in general is universal.