Archive for January, 2016

The Revenant – ***(*)

Posted: January 31, 2016 in 2015, Action, Adventure, USA, Western, XXX1/2

Finally! A movie that fascinates from beginning to end! With great acting, a great photography and a great soundtrack. A movie so cool, you wish it lasted even longer. It’s a slow action adventure western that doesn’t bore one single moment. Better make that a northern, because it takes places somewhere up north in the Rockies.

Sometimes movies, directors and actors win awards because they deserve them. Let it win 12 Oscars! Or at least 8, including best actor (DiCaprio), best supporting actor (Tom Hardy – who is just as good if not better), best director (Iñárittu) and best cinematography (Lubezski). Come to think of it, no, George Miller can win best director. Or a tie!

Just go see it!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1663202

Trash – *(*)

Posted: January 30, 2016 in 2014, Action, Brasil, Crime/Detective, Drama, UK, X1/2

The trailer for Trash looks great. It’s very clear what audience they try to reach: those who loved Slumdog Millionaire, Cidade de Deus and Tropa de Elite. But the end result is disappointing just because the movie makers tried too hard to copy the above mentioned classics.

The story entertains though. The movie is action packed. Two kids who work on a waste mountain find a wallet in the trash. It contains money and some other items. Soon afterwards an investigator visits the slum settlement in search of the wallet. The kids realize that they may have found something important and with the help of a third kid (who’s called ‘rat’ as he lives in the sewers) they decide to play investigator themselves. Who knows what they may find…

The story is good, but there are things that don’t make sense. This could also have been a great movie without the gratuitous violence and without the extra focus on how poor these kids are. There’s a scene where one of the kids is captured and tortured by having a bag put on his head. He needs to take a seat in the back of a car and the driver goes for a joyride, speeding up and braking short. The result is a kid whose head has been bumped hard every single time. This may happen. But why do you need to show it? Would movies with American children characters show the same?

It all feels very exploitive. It’s also very biased, filled with stereotypes and clichés. The American characters are the good guys. The Brazilian characters are either poor or corrupt or in prison. Yes, Brazil may still have third world country issues, but the country is much more than that. There’s nothing wrong with showing reality, but this is exploitation of reality for entertainment. Let Brazilians make movies about Brazil.

Luckily the three kids charm (even though they are all non-professionals) and Rooney Mara is great again.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1921149

Pinx is a nice little festival held over a couple of days at the Sphinx cinema in the centre of Ghent. It shows gay-themed movies from all over the world, most of which will never get a broad cinematic release. It’s great if you live in Ghent or if you combine a movie with a visit to this touristy Flemish town (or with other showings).

One of this year’s Pinx movies comes from Brazil. It ‘stars’ upcoming talent Jesuita Barbosa as a young soldier in the late seventies, when the country was still controlled by a military junta. But it’s more of a showcase for Irandhir Santos, who plays the young boy’s love interest and the leader of a hedonist anarchical theater group.

Santos’ acting is quite powerful. There are some okay moments. And the director was able to create a particular atmosphere that focuses on the sexual and theatrical revolution of Brazil’s seventies. But that’s about the only positive things you can write about this musical drama. It’s not as universal as say, Que Hora Ela Volta, and a lot of the comical or poetic references only work if you understand Portuguese. The theater group is a pot smoking hippie cabaret ensemble who bring nothing fascinating to the stage (apart from that one song about asses maybe). And the relationship between a thirty-something guy with a teenage boy feels weird, even though it looks quite natural on screen.

Judge for yourself. Or not. You won’t miss anything.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2746176/

 

Just before the movie started, a short was presented as well. Dániel tells the story of a young student in psychology who finances his studies by prostituting himself. He meets the new boyfriend of his friend Nori during a dinner. But that encounter ends with a surprise…. It’s the kind of short movie that students at film schools graduate with. If it wasn’t for the Hungarian conversations and the cute main character, nobody would give it any attention.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4288764

 

 

This Brazilian dramedy is predictable, simplistic and tame. But it’s also very universal and comical. It delivers on many fronts. The underlying theme is quite serious, but it’s presented in such a lighthearted way that it feels great. Not all social dramas have to be dead serious! Some can have a happy end and feel good.

The whole movie scores because of the performance of Regina Casé, who would have been a great candidate to represent the latina community at the Oscars. She’s playing Val, a middle aged woman who left the poorer Northeast to work as a maid for a rich family in Sao Paulo. She’s been doing it for quite some years and helped raise the family’s son Fabinho, who considers her as a second mother. She knows her place in the household and doesn’t think about it that much.

But everything changes with the arrival of her adolescent daughter who wants to study at the Sao Paulo university. Val doesn’t have her proper house and so the daughter moves in with the wealthy family, who react differently to the presence of this sassy, confident and intelligent woman.

Both mother and daughter are excellent performers, but it’s especially Regina Casé who steals the show. Director Anna Muylaert also deserves a lot of credit. She tells the story in a visual way (focussing on facial expressions and gestures) and frames the scenes excellently. She also adds social commentary without being too harsh and biased.

If you know a bit about Brazil, you’ll love some of the references, but if you don’t, you’ll enjoy it as well. It’s a very universal film that will appeal to people all over the world. Another proof that Hollywood has become part of world cinema and quality in storytelling and visualization is no longer an exclusive Californian thing.

Worth checking out

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3742378/

Sad to say, but this final episode in the Hobbit trilogy sucks. It’s not an episode on its own, it the continuation of the second part. The dwarfs made it to the mountain and now everyone wants to get the treasure that is in it. The dwarves themselves, the dragon that used to live in it, but also the humans from the lake town and the elves. Hey, the orks are on their way as well. So there’s a full on battle and it takes forever. It starts with big battle scenes and ends with one on one fights. Luckily some of the characters die! Finally! But by the time they are death you don’t feel anything If all they do is fight then death is natural. It’s also sad that you just know who will survive because they appear in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. By the time the end credits roll, you’re happy it’s over. What a drag.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2310332/

This second chapter of the Hobbit trilogy is more of the same really. There’s less introduction, so that’s good. And there’s more action. The dwarfs, the hobbit and the wizard are still on their way to the magical mountain and need to cross through dangerous areas, inhabited by strange creatures like a shapeshifting bear, giant spiders, angry elves and ultimately a talking dragon. In the mean time they are chased by an army of angry and ugly looking orks.

It’s fun. But the scenes are so stretched out. It starts to get annoying. And even though this is a fantasy tale, some things just don’t make sense. Like where the hell do the dwarfs get the money from to pay the ferry man? Even if they brought along money, there’s no way that it survived the journey by the time they actually need it. The same goes for the special ring that Bilbo finds. Sure he loses it at one point, but he finds it again! And it’s not like he’s wearing it in a tight pocket or so. And that dragon, amazing as it may be, is stupid. Why does this big and dangerous dragon postpone killing the dwarves and the hobbit? He stops his attack to listen to them!!!!! Dumb reptile.

Anyways. Special effects are awesome. Action is good. You just wish they made one movie out of the story and not a trilogy.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1170358/

Tarzan Escapes is the third installment in the series with Johnny Weissmuller as the ape man. It’s a big disappointment and proof that sequels already lacked originality back in the thirties. Everything kind of looks and feels the same. It’s more of a remake than a sequel. The repetitiveness starts to annoy quite fast. In fact, this movie contains a scene that was already featured in the first installment. Honestly, in Tarzan the Apeman, Tarzan goes away to kill a wildebeest and gets into a fight with a lion. The exact same scene is shown in this movie as well.

The story focuses on family members of Jane who want to bring her back to England. They get escorted by an evil hunter who wants to captivate the legendary man ape and present him to a European crowd as a circus act. The journey is very similar to the one that the ivory hunters made in the first movie. Whites lead the way, blacks carry their bags and fall off cliffs or get eaten by wild animals, moving images of exotic animals are edited into the story and Maureen Sullivan is both dominant and girly as Jane.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0028345

 

Sixty years before the adventures of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, a younger Bilbo Baggins goes on an adventure himself. He’s asked to join a group of renegade dwarfs who need a hobbit to find the secret door to a magical mountain where they used to reign from and which has since been taken by a dragon.

Yes, it’s way too long. And yes it’s no longer original or refreshingly new. But apart from the fact that each scene seems to be stretched as long as possible (- there is repetition of dialogue, there are boring singing sequences and the camera zooms in and zooms out as if it’s a test to see if the zoom works – ), this all is quite entertaining.

Unfortunately, none of main characters die. They go on this dangerous and violent journey and never seem to die. This may be gentle to the younger crowd, but pretty unbelievable for the adults. Where’s the thrilling excitement in watching a battle of which you know most (if not all) will survive?

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0903624

Time for another Warner Classic! This time from 1932!

Honestly, 1932 is 85 years ago and this movie still rocks! It’s adventurous, exciting and funny. It doesn’t take itself serious at all, which is amazing. Because the tongue in cheek humor from back then still works now.

Of course, it’s an old black and white movie and a lot of scenes are shot in front of stills rather than in a natural environment. And yes, some scenes, especially the ones depicting the tribal men, feel very outdated. Only the white characters matter – boo. However, throughout the entire movie there are moments of awe. The fight between Tarzan and the lion is so real, it looks better than any GCI effect from now. Probably because there was an actual fight between a (stunt)man and a lion. And Jane, interpreted by Maureen Sullivan is an excellent heroin. Here you have this very feminine woman who can shoot a riffle, who isn’t scared of being taken by a wild man, who is very confident about her sexual needs. What happened in the next couple of decades? This is feminism avant la lettre! She’s manipulative, seductive, charming, fickle, independent and brave! She’s the absolute star of this movie. And so is Cheetah of course.

There’s been many remakes and even a Disney version. Hey, there’s a new Tarzan movie coming up, but this one is the best!

Now, do yourself a favor: invite a few friends, watch this movie and give your own audio commentary to what is shown. You’ll have a blast! Unless you like everything to be politically correct of course.

The Exorcist – *

Posted: January 26, 2016 in 1973, Horror, Uncategorized, USA, X

Maybe, if you saw this upon its release in 1973, you’d be in awe. It must have been quite original to see a child curse, swear, vomit and spin her head around plenty of times. But it’s 2016 and well, this doesn’t shock or scare anyone anymore. Scariest movie of all time? Scariest movie of 1973 maybe.

It has its merits though. The special effects stood the test of time. The atmosphere is eerie. There’s the unexpected docile scare sequences (a phone rings during a very quiet scene, a familiar face appears when you expect evil, … ) There’s interesting focus on the scientific proof for the behavior of the obsessed child.  But in the end, this movie is never scary, which is kind of the point of a scary movie. The editing is terrible. The story just jumps from some archeologist finding a strange medallion to a psychiatrist priest who abandons his aging mother to an actress whose teenage daughter starts complaining about her bed shaking. There’s just too much going on and it doesn’t make sense. It’s quite ironic that the ‘scariest movie of all time’ starts with muslims chanting ‘alluhah akbar’ and ends like that too. What’s the point of that? The whole northern Irak sequence presented as the root of evil is kind of disturbing. But the rest of the movie isn’t.

Sometimes classic movies lose their importance.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070047