Archive for June, 2012

I kinda enjoyed this movie. Charlize Theron is awesome as the evil queen! The visual effects are great. The story got an interesting adaption. The score was efficient. Yeah. Really enjoyed this movie apart from Kristen Stewart as Snow White. Is she really only going to play roles where she has to chose between two guys?

The Descendants – ***1/2

Posted: June 26, 2012 in 2011, Dramedy, USA, XXX1/2

Really enjoyed this movie. George Clooney is great. Shailene Woodley is a revelation! It’s very down to earth. The emotions are honest. The jokes are funny.  The script is quite clever too. At least for such a simple story: woman has boating accident, goes into a coma and will never wake up. Husband learns she was having an affair and needs to deal with his two estranged daughters of 10 and 17. Oh. and he needs to close a deal about selling land to a developer.

I like this guy, Alexander Payne, who directed this modern dramedy. I loved his other movie Sideways too. And he made the underrated Election as well. He has a cool way of telling things. I like the fact that he doesn’t exaggerate and just let things be. Life is already confronting and confusing enough to have to add more drama. I like it how he shows how it rains in Hawaii and how it can be cloudy. I like the fact that he makes viewers figure it out themselves by giving slight hints, not by explaining every single scene. I like the fact that this is a very simple movie about a very common thing and shot, directed, acted and scripted incredibly well.

I’d almost say it’s flawless.

It was the right movie at the right time. It didn’t annoy me one single second! Which is a relief!

The Way – **

Posted: June 18, 2012 in 2010, Drama, USA, XX

Martin Sheen stars in this road movie as an older optometrist who learns that his son has been killed in France. As he flies over to organize the repatriation of the body, he learns that his son had just started walking the pilgrimage trail to Santiago De Compestela. Remembering some of his son’s last words, he impulsively decides to walk the trail himself, carrying along the ashes of his deceased son.

Now, that’s an awesome story! Perfect material for a gripping novel! And a great idea for a visually and emotionally strong movie.

However, in the end, it was just a great idea. The outcome isn’t bad, but isn’t all that exciting either. Martin Sheen is delivering a great performance, but his character is too grumpy and cynical to be likable. Actually, not grumpy and cynical enough to be likable. I’m just imagining Jack Nicholson playing this part and he would have made it fun! There is humor in this movie though, but it’s repetitive and predictable. It’s also pretty obvious what will happen along the way, especially after you’ve seen the trailer which shows almost the entire movie in 3 minutes. As a road movie it also doesn’t make too much use of the beauty of the surroundings. Compared to Into The Wild for instance, where nature plays a huge part of the story, the scenery in this picture seems like a collection of background images. Only at the end do you see the characters really enjoy the beauty of Northern Spain.

Biased – as always – by the current events taking place in my life, I did enjoy this movie a lot. I just finished hiking a whole day in the Middle Rhine Valley and met several people who were hiking for days on end. It made me think about doing the St James Way one day, or any other trekking trail. Why do people do the pilgrimage? And does it help? After having seen this movie, I’m certain that it wouldn’t help me. The reason for that is one of the characters in the movie that I easily related to: Joost from Amsterdam. He’s a friendly, talkative, chubby traveller who starts the trail to lose weight. After 5 minutes you already realize that this guy is never going to lose weight and he’s just living a lie. He’s just there for the adventure. He eats all the local delicacies and stuffs himself with food ‘to have more energy’.  That would be me! He talks to everyone, but can be quite annoying. That could be me too! I’m going to remember Joost more than Tom (the role of Martin Sheen).

The director of this movie is Emilio Estevez (the good son of Martin Sheen). I liked his movie Bobby much more and even though I think this one here has its merits, there just are too many superfluous characters and unnecessary scenesAnd the stereotyping was getting on my nerves after a while. The Dutch guy is smoking weed. The American doesn’t know the difference between Spain and Basque Country. Gypsies are thieves, but have a good heart and know how to sing. Etc…

Still, that Joost guy was funny and real. There’s this one scene in a hotel room that really touched me. Go watch it yourself. It’s an iTunes 99 cent rental!

Polisse – ***

Posted: June 11, 2012 in 2011, Drama, France, XXX

A child protection unit of the Paris police force is being followed by a photographer. It’s not really clear why she’s following the team, but she’s there and they have to deal with her. At first they fear she’s just taking pictures of when the unit is drinking, arguing, partying and laughing. But the longer she stays, the more she becomes part of the group and the more she witnesses the terrible situations this unit has to deal with.

Polisse won a price at last year’s Cannes festival and scored well in the French press and at the French box office, but didn’t get the same buzz outside of its native country. Too bad really, because it’s a great movie that needs a bigger audience. Not all is perfect though. I could have done without the predictable love story (between the photographer and one of the cops). And the dance floor scene takes way too long. But all in all, the stories and the acting kept me fascinated for more than 2 hours. And even longer as the surprise end makes sure that the movie won’t get out of your head any time soon.

The movie is set up as a faux-documentary. It’s all scripted, but it feels very real. It reminds you of Entre Les Murs, but adds elements of The Office as well. The Office? Yes. However confronting the stories about child abuse are, it’s told with a lot of humor and with a lot of focus on the interaction between the members of the team and their personal issues. I’m sure some uptight people won’t appreciate some of the humor the team members use to deal with certain cases. But it’s only natural. There’s this scene where a girl comes in explaining how she ended up in a group rape and the cops just burst out in laughter because of the way the girl tells her story. It’s a very uncomfortable scene. You know the cops shouldn’t laugh with (and at) the girl, but you also realize that some of these cops probably need to use laughter to hear stories from naive girls. The fact that young people don’t always realize how their behavior leads to abuse was quite shocking to me. Girls who undress in front of a webcam to get some extra money… 14 year olds telling the cops that it’s the 21st century and fucking and sucking is what 14-year-old kids do nowadays… It makes you silent… The movie shows all kinds of aspects of child protection and abuse and lets the audience judge.

The acting in this movie is great. A lot of ink was spilled on the performance of controversial rapper Joey Starr, who has a history of violence and insulting the police. But it’s like Ice T playing a cop in tv shows. In the end, hating the police and interpreting a police officer seem very compatible. Joey Starr is good, but he’s not the star of the movie. Karin Viard, Marina Fois, Jeremy Elkaim, Frederic Pierrot, Naidra Ayadi, … those should be the names to remember. The only bad acting in the movie is done by the director: Maiwenn Le Besco (as the photographer). She kind of admits it in the bonus interview on the dvd: this time it was touch acting in her own movie because her character in the movie is submissive, whereas her function as director is dominant. Wrong move there.

But watch it. Smile and get shocked at regular intervals. There are a lot of memorable scenes. The one with the kid needing to separate from his mother is still haunting me.

Mad Men – Season 5 – **1/2

Posted: June 11, 2012 in 2012, Drama, USA, XX1/2

Hm. It Happened. Mad Men became boring. Season 5 just finished and there’s nothing left to anticipate. Most questions have been answered and the ones that remain unanswered are of little importance. Will Betty ever get her weight back? Will Don Draper ever cheat on his (new) wife? My favorite tv show has become a stylish soap that just drags on and on and only focuses on personal issues.

All mystery is gone. Don Draper has become the most boring main character ever. He’s faithful and he has nothing to hide! His (new) wife Megan gets a to play a huge part in this season, but she can’t deliver her importance as much as Betty Draper could. Megan is very likable and it suits her that she gives up a copyediting job to invest in her dream of becoming an actress. But she turns out to be a very fragile and moody character, who doesn’t know what she wants and leaves the viewer confused. Is she a smart, positive individual or just a whining & childish housewife? Betty Draper (well, Betty Francis now) is so much more intriguing. She has almost no screen time this season, but when she does she steals the scene! Literally: she has become fat. Too bad we didn’t see more of her and of her relationship with her daughter Sally, who’s quite the character as well. At the office, it’s business as usual. We don’t learn new things about the world of advertising. And the employers also have nothing new to tell. Peggy is Peggy. Pete is Pete. Roger is Roger light. Joan is Joan strong.

And what about the references to the time period of this show? Sure, the fashion and set design have a late sixties/early seventies feel, but the thing that made Mad Man so intriguing was the fact that it showed us how New Yorkers reacted to certain changes or events in society (equal rights movement, Marilyn Monroe’s fame, the Cuban crisis, JFK’s murder, avant-garde artists, etc…). This season they kind of explore the experimental drug movement, the weight watching obsession, etc… but it’s not as fascinating.

Season 5 is over and I’m not sad. Apart from the episode where Joan has to make a tough decision, there wasn’t any moment that I was in awe of the ingenuousness of this show. I just took the great acting for granted. If this season wins another Emmy in the category for best DRAMA, it will still deserve it because, in the end, most scenes have DRAMA written all over them.

Prometheus – *

Posted: June 10, 2012 in 2012, Science Fiction, USA, X

There are science fiction movies that make sense while watching them. Inception is one. Strange Days is another. It stays science fiction of course, but the way the story is told makes the movie credible. The story of Prometheus however, doesn’t make sense at all and starts to annoy after a while.  Actually it already annoys after 10 minutes. The adventure takes place in 2093! Honestly, it’s 2012 and we’re not even on Mars! How can we possibly believe that in 80 years we’ll travel light years into space! And that’s just one small detail. They leave earth, travel 2 years to ‘destination unknown’ (according to the data on the screen) and in the next scene the space craft computer says: we arrived at our destination. Then a whole crew of 17 wake up and start eating, smoking, drinking, vomiting as if nothing happened. Well, the vomiting actually happens because of the travel. But still. They get off the space craft, walk towards an unknown hollow rock, enter it, find dead bodies and weird substances. All within 12 hours after waking up. You’d think they’d prepare the whole research a bit better having travelled all that way without knowing what to expect. Okay, I’ll stop before someone thinks: ‘what did you expect from a movie like this?’. Well, a) I wanted to be entertained; b) I wanted to be amazed by the visual and special effects; c) I wanted to maybe get scared a bit and d) I wanted to look at Charlize Theron and Idris Elba. I wasn’t entertained, but annoyed. I wished I had opted for the 3D version even though I hate wearing those stupid glasses, because to me the only cool special effects were made for the 3D audience. I was never scared, just because I thought the story was crap and predictable. AND Charlize Theron and Idris Elba SUCKED! Theron is the ice queen leader of the space craft. Elba is the wannabe cooler than hell captain. Their characters are clichés and they have stupid lines. Elba: “Just tell me if you want to fuck. All you have to do is ask.” Theron: “I didn’t leave earth and travel 2 years to have sex with somebody”. Elba: “Are you a robot?” Theron: “My room, in ten minutes”. Really??????????????????????? Do people get paid to write this crap? Nobody in the audience laughed. Not one single person. Joke fail of the year. Luckily for Theron and Elba, all the other actors were worse (apart from Michael Fassbender maybe). Logan Marshall-Green? Who? Terrible. And Noomi Rapace (who was awesome in the Millennium trilogy)? Overacting. Where’s Sigourney Weaver when we need her? Oh, she’s on another planet doing more Avatar stuff.

Hm. Waste of money. But hey, maybe you’ll like it. Who knows. A lot of people seem to enjoy it and I didn’t leave the theatre either. I was kind of intrigued by the ‘search for our makers’, but then totally got turned off by the main character wearing a christian cross. I’m sorry,, but if you’re so christian then stay on earth and don’t do science.

It took me a few years to watch Waltz With Bashir because of its heavy content. There’s always another movie with a somewhat lighter subject matter at hand. Watching an animated documentary about a massacre during the Lebanese war of 1982 just isn’t all that appealing, even though you know it’s one of the most acclaimed movie pictures of recent years. I just finished it however and I’m glad I did. I haven’t seen anything like this before. This is truly a unique masterpiece.

I was personally more impressed by the animation than by the story. In the end it’s a documentary about an Israeli guy who interviews friends from his period as a soldier in the Lebanese War in order to get the facts straight about certain memories he has. I’m not sure I would have finished this movie if it had been made as a regular documentary. But the animation is extraordinary and allows the movie to become more than a historical recount. Waltz With Bashir feels like a graphic novel with moving characters. Most of the backgrounds are stills and the action is slow-paced, but it never bores and some scenes are ingenious. The drawings are spectacular, especially the use of color adds to a grim, but fascinating atmosphere. There’s even room for humor (like the scene where they watch German porn on tv) and fantasy (the several dream sequences). But at other points the animation just shows people being interviewed or others having a conversation at a bar.

On the dvd there’s an interview with the director of the movie, who turns out to be quite a controversial, somewhat arrogant and opinionated guy (who dislikes everything about Schindler’s List for instance).  But I loved listening to him. Even though the real star of this movie is the graphic illustrator David Polonsky, it’s the director who came up with the ideas. The scene that the title is referring to is awesome. It’s incredibly well animated, but in the end the idea came from the director. The movie ends abruptly with a surprise, but it all makes sense in the end. You may have enjoyed the animation, but let it be clear: there is a lot of ugliness in the world.