Archive for March, 2014

The Happy Sad – *

Posted: March 30, 2014 in 2013, Dramedy, LGBT themed, romcom, USA, X

Hm.

After six months of dating, Annie wants a break from her boyfriend Stan. She tells him she’s been seeing her friend & colleague Mandy, which isn’t really true, but it’s better than saying she is afraid of a long-lasting future with him.

After six years of dating, Aaron en his boyfriend Marcus decide to try an open relationship, with the only rule that none should fall in love with whoever they bring home for sex.

Guess what. Stan is so upset about his girlfriend’s lesbian affair that he goes online and hooks up with Marcus. Annie tells her friend Mandy about the lie and ends up in bed with her. Stan en Annie get together again. But Mandy feels hurt for being dumped. And Marcus falls in love with Stan, which upsets Aaron.

That’s it really.

It may work on a hipster performance stage in Williamsburg, but it does not work as a movie.

Almost everything feels wrong. The acting, the script, the dialogue, the soundtrack… It’s not badly directed to be honest, but it just doesn’t feel right. It’s hard to diss a low-budget indie flick which was made with a lot of love and creativity, but if it would have been a European movie it could have worked better.

Why do so many moviemakers have such a fear of showing real scenes of real situations between real people. Why does everything have to be so standardized and (badly) scripted. None of the characters here have any substance whatsoever. You can’t empathize with none of them. They are a bunch of superficial losers who need to get their act together.

All this coming from an ever confused forty-year eternal child!

What a disappointment.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2049559

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Her – ***

Posted: March 28, 2014 in 2013, Romance, Science Fiction, USA, XXX

In the not so distant future, an employer of a letter-writing company falls in love with his new artificial intelligence operating system.

Directed and written by the unique Spike Jonze, starring an amazing Joaquin Phoenix (looking like an adult Leonard Hofstadter), a charming Amy Adams and the incredibly sexy voice of Scarlett Johannson, this is one original, confronting romantic futurealistic love story! It’s not a visual spectacle, but the story, dialogue, acting and the soundtrack (Arcade Fire! The Breeders! Karen O) make it a true gem!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1798709

Last Vegas – *

Posted: March 27, 2014 in 2013, Comedy, USA, X

Kevin Kline (born 1947), Michael Douglas (born 1944), Robert De Niro (born 1943) and Morgan Freeman (born 1937) ‘star’ in this humorless comedy about four friends who get together in Las Vegas for a bachelor party.

The idea is cool. And the main storyline isn’t all that bad. But the jokes are lame. They could have been written by Adam Sandler. Sure, there are moments where you have to smile. Especially with the antics of Freeman and at times Kline as well. But Douglas and De Niro just are NOT funny. The former two really act their part. The latter two just seem to be in the movie for the money and don’t seem to enjoy it at all.  I’m sure this movie has its fans. And I’m pretty sure there will be a sequel. But a Hangover for seniors it is not.

But back to the story. Douglas’s character gets married for the first time and invites his friends to Las Vegas. One of them is De Niro’s character, who’s upset that his ‘best friend’ never showed up at the funeral of his wife. They meet a charming singer of about their age (Mary Steenburgen) who indirectly digs up old wounds, but also manages the friends to reconcile. It’s a good story, really. But the producers decided to make it a comedy by adding silly scenes like a bikini contest hosted by the guy from LMFAO who’s stripping off his pants and shakes his swimming trunk in front of De Niro. No wonder that this icon acts like he’s totally embarrassed for ever agreeing to do this movie.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1204975

 

Enough Said – **1/2

Posted: March 26, 2014 in 2013, romcom, USA, XX1/2

While on a river cruise, the choice of movies is limited. Moreover, the selection does not cater for the young, but for an older generation. New this year are Last Vegas and All Is Lost, two movies which I still need to finish. Both films are boring and humorless, which especially is a problem for the first title as it is supposed to be a comedy.

So far I’ve only discovered one gem: Enough Said, a rom com for fifty year olds about a divorced mom who meets a divorced  father and hit it off immediately. The problem: she’s a masseuse and her new client turns out to be the ex of the guy she’s now dating.

Sounds silly and nothing you would even consider watching unless you’re in your fifties and divorced. but it’s definitely worthwhile.  It surprises in its simplicity and realness. The story is very believable. It’s neo-realism. It almost feels like a European movie. Almost.

The interest in this movie got a sinister boost after supporting actor James Gandolfini died from a heart attack three months before its US release. So, it will be known as the ‘last movie’ of ‘Tony Soprano’. However, the real star of this chick flick is Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Her character is well-written and greatly performed. Maybe there wasn’t all that much acting involved and Julia just played herself. But she does a marvelous job. She’s even stealing the show from the great Catherine Keener (who plays the ex).

It’s refreshing to watch a romantic comedy with characters who are mature and rational about starting a new relationship. Sure there’s the insecurity and the butterflies and the flirtation, but it goes with a lot of humor and down-to-earthiness.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2390361

 

 

12 Years A Slave is a fascinating movie about one of the darkest pages of American history. It recounts the story of a free black man from New York State who gets kidnapped and sold as a slave to a plantation owner in Georgia anno 1845. He perseveres in physical torture and emotional horror to finally reunite with this wife and children after twelve years.

The title already tells you how it’s going to end. He will survive! And it’s going to focus on slavery. Next up are 120 minutes of physical torture and emotional horror with a very simple story line.

So is it worth watching? Of course! Just don’t expect a Django Unchained or Schindler’s List. Alexander McQueen makes arthouse movies, no blockbusters.

The storyline is predictable and doesn’t tell anything new about slavery. Unless you’ve never learned about it and never cared to watch Roots. But its simplicity allows the director to focus on visual storytelling. There’s no rushed editing, so you get plenty of time to think about what you’re looking at. The best example is the scene where the main character gets hanged. You know he will survive (he’s the one that wrote the book), but it’s still terrifying as the real story is told in the background. That scene alone makes this movie a must.

There are plenty more of these moments, of which only the director is responsible. The story is told by what is shown and not shown, by what is said and not said. It’s quite refreshing. Steve McQueen should have won the Academy Award (especially since Alfonso Cuáron’s visually stunning Gravity only works in a 3D cinema theatre). And he’s not the only one who got snubbed. The performances by Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender are also more impressive than those of McConaughey and Leto. But they got the most important one: best picture of the year.

However, it’s still 120 minutes of physical torture and emotional horror and it’s tough. As a European you wonder how Americans really feel when they watch this. I think it’s time to make a movie about Leopold II’s Congo. Let’s call Steve McQueen to do it.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2024544

As I was watching Dallas Buyers Club I kept thinking how this career change for Matthew McConaughey happened. Was he fed up of playing the lead in romantic comedies? Or didn’t he get cast anymore in the kind of movies that made him big and did the change happen out of necessity?  Whatever reason there might have been, it worked. He jumped on the indie/arthouse wagon and has delivered solid performances ever since. I’ve seen more of his movies in the past year than in the past two decades. It’s still Matthew McConaughey though, unable to speak proper English. His nasal Southern/Texan accent remains annoying and I really hope his next role will be that of a New Englander. If he can pull that off, he really deserves an Oscar.

A few weeks ago, he got his first Academy Award for portraying a homophobic rodeo-rider/electrician who is diagnosed with HIV and decides to smuggle and sell illegal medicine to fellow patients. Apart from losing 40 kilo for the part, he also succeeds in being convincing as a low life trailer trash hustler. This guy feels real. It’s still Matthew McConaughey, but this time he’s a real person. Did he deserve to win? Sure. But in this crazy world of acting competition, there were better performances in his category. He’s not the first to lose weight for a part (remember Christian Bale and even 50 Cent?), but he brings his dying patient amazingly to life!

Another statue was given to Jared Leto, who plays some kind of transvestite/transsexual who helps deliver the drugs to other users. It’s an intriguing character and Leto does it well, but it all feels too premeditated.  As if the producers and Leto sat around the table and discussed how they could get him an Oscar nomination and put him back in the acting market. He left the industry a few years ago to focus on his megalomaniac rock band 30 Seconds To Mars. Hopefully this recognition will make him realize that he should stick with what he’s good at: acting.  He’s very convincing as well.

Both have made this movie quite successful. Their brilliant contribution to this indie blockbuster makes the rest of the cast look dumb. One of them is ‘doctor’ Jennifer Garner who treats HIV patients and is reluctant to use the only approved drug (AZT). She looks like she has no clue what is going on, like she arrived on the set and had 1 minute to prepare her scene. It’s really bad. Then there are all the other stereotypes ranging from homophobic cowboys to effeminate gays to profit eyeing pharmaceutical experts and self-centred doctors. That’s not necessarily bad, but the people who interpret them add nothing extra to their characters.

The story on the other hand is intriguing and may be confronting for a lot of people who didn’t pay attention while it was happening back in the eighties or for those who have no idea how terrifying this virus was when it first claimed victims. I learned more in the special Aids History exhibit at the NY City Museum last year than in this movie, but many will learn about this for the very first time. Aids is still very much a problem in the gay community, but its devastation is now more visible amongst the straight people on the African continent. There is still no cure though. And we are 30 years later.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0790636

Rudy Donatello is an ugly drag queen (sorry Alan Cumming, but you could have made a better effort) whose neighbour is a drug addict and the mother of a child with the Syndrome of Down (an adorable Isaac Leyva). When the neighbour doesn’t return home one night and the kid is left alone, Rudy takes care of him until Family Services is alerted. Luckily for Rudy, he just met a lawyer who’s very keen on raising the kid as well. This story takes place in 1979 however, and gay couples adopting a child is unheard of. So off to the court!

Any Day Now is an lgbt legal drama that aims to raise awareness and acceptance for the call of adoption rights for gay couples. This is a done deal in certain countries, but still causes a lot of stirs in others. In fact, there was huge upheaval in The Netherlands recently when a Turkish child was placed under the custody of two lesbians. Most Dutch didn’t care, but a lot of Turkish immigrants and Dutch of Turkish descent did.

Of course this movie is biased and shows a perfect gay couple that you couldn’t possibly forbid to raising a child. Their intentions are good and it’s noble and brave for them to choose to take care of a mentally challenged child. No doubt about it. But the movie has a bit of a good vs evil feel and that stinks. This movie most likely won’t change the ideas of those people who oppose the idea of gay adoption. Those who already support it will just feel even more frustrated about the injustice still prevalent all over the world.

This feels like a made for television movie, a bit of tearjerker, but the question is whether tv channels will show it in prime time. It’s definitely worth watching. But lgbt movies lately all have a political agenda and aren’t all that entertaining. Alan Cummings’ Marc Almond-like musical intermezzos do not really help either. But, again, it’s worth watching.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2066176