Archive for December, 2015

Eric Kabongo is a West-Flemish/Congolese rapper. Not a successful one. They don’t play his tracks on the radio and they don’t show his videos on tv. Even his latest track from the soundtrack of Black, doesn’t get airplay. But it’s not that bad really. Click here to listen. Luckily there’s Facebook and youtube and flyers and concerts on local festivals and so on. And now a documentary that is shown in a lot of cultural houses (accompanied by a rap workshop given by the man himself).

He raps in French, swears in English and explains stuff in  West-Flemish. Sometimes all in one sequence. It’s cool.

Last year he allowed two young Flemish cineasts to make a documentary about his struggle to a) become a successful artist and b) to feel more comfortable being black in a predominant white society.

Even though the documentary doesn’t bore – Kabongo is quite a character and brutally honest – the end result is not all that rewarding. It’s refreshing to see how the young directors choose to film the story like a low budget indie flic, but it just doesn’t really feel right to provoke reactions just for the benefit of the movie.

Sure, there are a lot of stupid racists out there and sure racism is a common thing if you’re black in a predominantly white small town, but do you really have to go to the fake-posh social event of the year dressed like you are going to a roaring twenties party? Of course people will stare! Of course people will say stuff like ‘I thought carnival was over’. And yes, the likelihood of a drunk guy saying ‘go back to where you came from’ doesn’t come as a surprise. If three gay men would attend that event dressed like they just came back from a leather bar or a Rio samba school full of feathers, they’d also get noticed and they’d also get remarks. But they’d know they are provoking and they’d know how to take an insult. Luckily, the reaction of his friends and his self reflection to what happened at the event, are also shown. However, the whole horse race moment makes the documentary less credible.

Bridge Of Spies – **(*)

Posted: December 29, 2015 in 2015, Cold War, Drama, Spionage, USA, War, XX1/2

Steven Spielberg has settled for making decent movies. His last releases haven’t been bad, but they just haven’t been great either. TinTin, The War Horse, Lincoln: all nice, but did they leave a great impression? no. The same fate awaits Bridge of Spies. It’s a solid drama about the exchange of a Russian spy for two Americans during the cold war. The simplified story is biased (of course) and told from an American perspective (of course), but it’s entertaining enough to spend your money on.

Is is a bad movie? Of course not. It’s just not great.


Timbuktu – ***

Posted: December 28, 2015 in 2014, Drama, France, Mauretania, War, XXX

Nobody expected a Mauritanian movie about the jihadist conquest of a Mali village to win 7 Césars (the French equivalent of the Oscars). After all, it’s a movie in Touareg and Arabic, set in the Sahara dessert and focussing on a topic that may be very relevant, but not exactly attractive.

Of course it’s a hyped movie, but it does live up to its reputation.

It’s a collection of great scenes. Some very poetic, some very cinematographic, some very harsh and all beautifully shot. It does give you an insight in what’s going on in Mali, but it’s still fiction. It’s a collection of impressions and isn’t annoyingly educational or overly opinionated. Of course, the jihadists in the movie are the ‘bad guys’ and the moderate tuaregs and blacks are the ‘good guys’. But that’s to be expected.

No, you want to watch it to be indulged in a different world filmed in a very poetic way. The soccer scene without a football is magical.

Hello, Dolly – *(*)

Posted: December 27, 2015 in 1969, Musical, USA, X1/2

The dance sequences are in general quite entertaining to look at. Some songs pass the test too. (surprise: it’s Hello, Dolly and not Hello, Darling!!!) The set design is lavish and the costumes are very colorful. But those lyrics are dated. And the storyline as well.

Dolly is a 19th century matchmaker who sets up an encounter between a grumpy old man and a younger lady. However, she really wants the man for herself and makes sure the encounter doesn’t go as planned. It’s a mystery why this independent woman (performed by Barbara Streisand – who has zero charm) wants the cynical sexist man (Walter Matthau – who has no charm either), but it’s a standard set up for those times.

But nobody watches this for the storyline or the acting. They just watch it  because they want an evening of old fashioned kitsch.

Stromae Live – ***(*)

Posted: December 24, 2015 in 2015, Belgium, Concert Movie, XXX1/2

Why would you buy the dvd if the artist himself posted his concert for free on youtube?

Because, well, just because.

Stromae is by far the most exciting artist of the moment. His second album Racine Carrée sold almost three million copies all over the world and the accompanying tour had more than 200 stops in not only his native Brussels, but also every major town in France, all the major festivals in Europe, music temples like Madison Square Garden and exotic places like Kigali.

His success is attributed to his uniqueness and professionalism. He brings something new: a mix of world music, dance, pop and chanson. He unites. He combines easy tunes with serious lyrics. He’s poetic, theatrical and honest. He performs! He entertains. He makes you dance and think. At the same time.

The live dvd was released a few days ago and also put online. It’s a great musical experience. The direction makes you feel like you are part of the show. No hectic editing. The images allow you to enjoy the concert as if you’d watch it. No unnecessary switching between he crowd, the artist and the musicians. Just the stage.  The production itself is awesome.The songs, the set design, the costumes, the performance… it’s all top notch.

It helps if you know the songs and if you understand French, but the dvd has English subtitles. Too bad it doesn’t include French subtitles, because it would help people who are learning French (and it would also be great for a Karaoke moment at home). And too bad the dvd doesn’t include a behind the scenes documentary.


Still Alice – **

Posted: December 24, 2015 in 2014, Disease of the week, Drama, USA, XX

Thanks to the great acting by Julianne Moore (who won an Oscar for this part) and the underrated Alec Baldwin and Kirsten Stewart, this melodrama keeps you ‘entertained’ until the end and is worth the watch. If it were made with C-list actors, it most likely would never have had the same buzz. It would have been just another disease of the week television drama.

Moore is Alice, a smart linguistic docent at Columbia University who discovers that she’s having a rare variation of the Alzheimers disease. She tries to delay the total destruction by coming up with techniques to train her memory, just like she would try to teach young children to use a language.

It’s not a bad movie at all. It’s just not a touching movie. Especially if you have experience with Alzheimer patients. It may be good as an introduction for those who know nothing about the disease. But the story never captivates. In particular because it’s way too positive. This is one of the shittiest diseases you can ever have and it’s not pleasant at all. Not for the patient (who, well, forgets about it fast) and definitely not for those around the patient. A movie focussing on the frustration of those around an Alzheimer patient would have been more interesting. Now everyone just seems way too cool about the condition of their loved one.

Watching the tv series after having seen the movie doesn’t really make sense, but it helps in understanding why the feature film is such a success.

There’s only 16 episodes of this comical slapstick sitcom about four friends and colleagues who work as a safety team. They are probably the worst safety expert team in the world and that’s their charm. Their motto is: “discipline, dedication, friendship… but safety first”, which they repeat after every briefing at the beginning of every episode. They are a bunch of losers who never manage to get a contract for a repeat assignment as all of their endeavors fail.

The humor is silly and the storylines are repetitive. But it works. For young children maybe. And adults who after a hard day’s work do not want to think anymore. Its ‘funny’ scenes are vintage slapstick (there’s a lot of falling, tripping, stumbling, breaking, getting physically hurt), but there is also a subtle play of words as well. It’s similar to mockumentaries like The Office, but it has a much bigger Mr. Bean feel.

Every episode is set in another environment which is a good thing and there’s great use of eighties classics (excellent soundtrack!). But it somehow gets annoying to watch people be complete losers.

if you are not Flemish and you want to have an idea: this is the ‘promo clip’ of the Safety First team, a parody of the 80s classic We Are The World