Archive for July, 2015

De Biker Boys – *(*)

Posted: July 19, 2015 in Comedy, TV series, X1/2

A successful television maker of popular series and quizzes wants to create a highbrow travel program. The media council wants him to make a pilot episode first as his idea does not sound original and intriguing at all.

The result is a fake documentary of a less than talented team trying to make a good pilot.

The first three episodes are hilarious. The mockumentary works incredibly well. Bart De Pauw (in real life a successful television maker of popular series and quizes) has done something similar before. He made a laughing stock of all celebrity reality tv shows by faking his own celebrity reality tv show called Het Geslacht De Pauw). It was the Flemish Curb Your Enthusiasm and many viewers still didn’t get the satire after watching two seasons.

However, this time around, the show drags on and on and becomes a real mess. By episode five it’s no longer original and the script becomes too absurd.

The beginning is great though. Bart De Pauw doesn’t get the co-presenters that he wants and needs to work with two c-celebrities who couldn’t be less highbrow. Ben Segers en Jonas Van Geel play a stupid (for the first) and mean (for the latter) version of themselves. They are really good at it. An important extra is the cheap fixer who does everything wrong, starting by booking a flight to Gerona (Spain) when the show is about three men riding on a Vespa through Italy. The Vespa’s are the cheaper ‘bike’ they could get. Everything that can go wrong, goes wrong. And they all depict themselves as the biggest losers in media.

But then, by episode 4, it goes wrong. Other celebrities are invited to play a fictionalized version of themselves and it takes away the focus of the three comrades. Then by episode 6 it totally bombs. There’s an episode in Scotland and an episode in Iceland and it just doesn’t make sense.

In the beginning of the show Jonas Van Geel jokes about how he just wants to travel at the cost of the tax payer’s money (it is a show for Public Television) and that’s exactly what you feel by the end of the series. It’s no longer funny and it really feels like they just wanted an excuse to travel around in Europe for free.

What a huge disappointment.

Season Four takes place in Islamabad and focuses on re-capturing a presumed killed Taliban terrorist leader. The American Embassy places a big part and so do the Pakistani intelligent forces. The narrative is more straightforward which makes this season the easiest to digest. It’s still fascinating from start to finish, but it does have several predictable moments. There is a kind of repetitiveness occurring and it’s no longer refreshing or new. The acting is – as usual – quite solid, but the characters start to annoy. Especially lead Carrie Mathison, who is such an incredibly selfish, egocentric, crazy, fucked up, irresponsible, overly ambitious, aggressive bitch, that you just want her to die at one point or another. And Saul, her mentor, who’s basically the same but with balls – literally – is an incredible douchebag too. It’s amazing to have a show with so few likable characters be so popular.

The finale makes you want to start watching Season 5 and that’s what matters.

During a visit to Egypt several years ago, a tour guide suggested to watch The Yacoubian Building, a controversial movie based on a bestselling novel about the lives of several inhabitants of a famous art deco building in Cairo. It didn’t really get an international theatrical release, but you can buy the movie on dvd (if you look hard).

It’s clear why this movie was controversial and successful in its native Egypt. It deals about all kinds of tabu matters, from common issues like corruption, poverty and prostitution to lesser discussed topics like abortion, jihadism and homosexuality. Some praise the movie (and initially the book) for raising awareness of these aspects of life. Others find the way they are dealt with old-fashioned and damaging.

Non-Egyptians will need some time to adjust their mindset to this different kind of culture and cinema. The directing is not all that bad really and it’s great PR for Cairo. But the whole movie feels like it could have been made in the forties or so. It only has brighter colors. Be warned: Characters in Egyptian movies like these don’t talk, they SHOUT. Actors in Egyptian movies don’t really care about looking ravishingly good (apart from Hend Sabry, but she’s Tunisian). Nor do they care about acting natural. Once you’ve accepted the differences, you can persevere until the end.

The stories themselves aren’t all that interesting really. They are all so predictable and never merge, which is actually the point of telling the tale of the inhabitants of one particular building. But it’s fascinating to see life as it happens in Egypt. It’s a 2,5 hour soap and that’s exactly what the producers have made after the theatrical success: a tv series.

The main reason to watch the movie is to see how a unique moment in Egyptian movie history (showing a homosexual character) becomes totally counterproductive. It’s like the gay characters of the Hollywood movies of the fifties. They are all alcoholics and die in the end, gruesomely. Because, hey maybe that’s what they deserve. And that’s exactly what happens here. The gay characters is the editor in chief of a newspaper who throws money at uneducated men, invites them for dinner and a LOT of alcohol to his apartment, then throws himself passively on the bed waiting for the straight acting man to have a go at it.

Yes, it’s controversial and daring, but it’s also so sad and bad that it’s almost funny.

Two detectives get interviewed separately about a case they both worked on in 1995. A similar crime has occurred and digging up details from the past may be helpful for the investigation. The interviews feel more like interrogations. And it’s clear that both subjects have given a twist to the real version of the events taking place back then. Plus nobody really knows what happened seven years later that was so damaging that each went their own way and never spoke again.

You really do not need to know more.

I didn’t and absolutely loved the first seven episodes of this unique detective thriller.  Too bad the final episode kind of ruins the whole experience.

However; the atmosphere is eery and fascinating. The storytelling is clever and intriguing. The characters shown are multilayered. The suspense is minimal, but efficient. There is not too much gore or violence. And the soundtrack is old-fasthionedly fresh. It’s slow with little action, but captivating from start to finish.

If you take out the pseudo philosophical monologues from one of the detective and the totally irrelevant last episode, you have the perfect miniseries.

In a time when Flanders had lost all its importance because of the separation from the rest of the Netherlands, the Dutch went off to trade allover the world and build a strong naval fleet.

Michiel De Ruyter is an important historical character in Dutch history. He kind of united the Dutch when they were at the verge of a civil war between those who supported the Republic of the Seven Provinces and those who supported the royal city holder William III of Holland. The only thing he had to do was defeat the English and later the French as well. At sea! Which he did.

Michiel De Ruyter is for obvious reasons renamed the Admiral. The producers hope the movie will be an international success. But if it failed to score at the Flemish box office, how on earth can it do well abroad?

It’s not a bad move though. And definitely one to watch on a big screen. (it might have gotten an extra * star if I had seen it in a theatre). The battle scenes at sea lack the hollywood drama and effects, but they are efficient nonetheless. The acting is done remarkably well. The historical settings is detailed. It all makes sense.

It’s long and you need to have at least some background about the creation of the Netherlands as we know it now. It’s pretty patriotic though. Which is quite unusual. The Dutch flag covering the screen several times, the ode to the country at the end… It’s all a bit too much.

The English king disses the catholic marshland of the Southern Provinces (what is now the major part of Belgium) and Willem III agrees! But Willem III is kind of the bad guy in this story, even though a controversial biopic on his life would get me more excited than the pretty chronological and tame story of his most successful admiral.

St Vincent – **(*)

Posted: July 2, 2015 in 2014, Dramedy, USA, XX1/2

Reboots aren’t only for action movies like Spiderman, but apparently also for indie flics. This St Vincent is About A Boy set in the US. It works though.

Bill Murray is excellent as the titular character Vincent, a grumpy Vietnam veteran who gave up on a life after his wife was admitted to an expensive palliative care center. He drinks, he gambles, he sees a pregnant prostitute from time to time and doesn’t care about anything at all.

When the teenager son of his new single mom neighbor is locked out of his house, he suggest babysitting the kid for money. And of course, soon, there’s an improbable bond. With its ups and downs.

A lot happens in the movie, which makes it worth the watch. It’s not just about an older man and a younger kid connecting. It’s about a regular man who’s been hit with tragedies and still lives on…

The storytelling and script are great. The acting is good. Even by Naomi Watts who is very convincing as an eastern european prostitute. And Melissa McCarthy shows that she can do more than just be the fat joke.