Archive for February, 2016

Looking Season 2 – ***

Posted: February 28, 2016 in 2015, Drama, LGBT themed, USA, XXX

The first season of the HBO gay drama series was surprisingly good at being very ordinary. The second season is surprisingly good at being even more ordinary.

Apparently the show didn’t have that many viewers, so they cancelled it, which is sad, because this is great television and as real as American television shows can get. Maybe that’s the reason for its lack of commercial success. The stories are just too common, too normal, too trivial.

Whereas season 1 dealt with the issues of three characters, season 2 focuses on just one of them and the other two become complimentary. Other characters become more important though. Of the three buddies, Patrick is by far the most interesting one. Just because he’s so ordinary, curious but naive, fun but awkward, open for new adventures, but conservative in his risks. He’s your average gay Joe and that’s what makes him so special.

The season ends well. It’s a pretty open finale. Apparently they’ll make a movie to finish the story line, but that seems a bit absurd. They should either make a few more seasons and explore the characters more in depth. Or they shouldn’t film anything anymore. It’s nice to not know what will happen next. Everyone will want a different continuation of the story.

Sicario – **

Posted: February 27, 2016 in 2015, Cop Movie, Drama, USA, XX

“If you can convince the 20% of the American population not to buy drugs, then we wouldn’t have to do this” is an all to common line in movies about the war on drugs.

This time it’s coming from a special force unit leader (Josh Brolin) who addresses a bold and brave FBI-agent after an unorthodox operation near the Mexican border.

The FBI agent is played by Emily Hunt, who is excellent at being confused for about the entire movie. It’s not clear to her (and the audience) why she needs to team up with a former Mexican district attorney turned hitman (a great Javier Bardem).

It’s a negative movie with no humour and no hope, but it has its thrilling moments and the atmosphere is quite suspenseful. The scenes are long and well shot. The direction is great. The soundtrack efficient. The acting top notch. The story not so much.

Indians can make great feel good movies. They are overlong and overdramatic, but they are able to charm in an old fashioned kind of way.

At the centre of this movie is a 6-year old adventurous girl from Pakistan who gets separated from her mother after a hospital visit in Dehli. Since she is mute, she cannot communicate well in the ’foreign’ land and needs the help of others to return to her homeland.

A sincere, but naive and somewhat dumb Hindu muscleman, takes care of the girl and wants to get her back to her parents. He has the support of his love interest, but not of the latter’s father who is furious when he learns the girl is Muslim and Pakistani.

The first part of the movie isn’t all that special, but once our hero gets into Pakistan illegally, the story and journey become a great modern fairytale. He is considered a spy by the authorities and needs to run from them, but he does get help from the locals and from a news reporter.

Of course the acting is more comical than dramatic and yes there are several musical scenes (it’s Bollywood after all), but in the end it’s a great family movie that shows that love should conquer hatred. Not sure why these movies don’t get a wide release in the west.

The Intern – *

Posted: February 27, 2016 in 2015, Dramedy, USA, X

The only reason to watch this chic flick is for the performance of Robert De Niro, who hasn’t been this honestly charming in a long time. He’s really good at just being an average older widower who feels the need to work again and starts a senior internship in a modern e-commerce fashion company. Based in an old printing factory where he used to work for 40 years.

He’s assigned to assist the young boss, played by Anne Hathaway, who at first isn’t all too happy with the man because he is too observant. Of course he becomes her mentor and best friend and helps her in the difficult decisions she has to make as a successful businesswoman with a husband staying home to take care of the house and the child.

Somewhere in the movie De Niro says ’I don’t want to be the feminist here, but you should be proud of being a successful woman’. Somewhere else Hathaway states, after meeting a sexist CEO candidate, that she didn’t like him because he thought the online company was too much of a ’chick site’.

Well, Nancy Meyers, director of his non comical / non dramatic dramedy: this is 100% a chick flick. And that’s a bad thing. Is this how you portray successful business women? There is no way that this character is able to run a business with a staff of 200 the way she does. There is nothing believable about her. A successful business woman doesn’t have to be a bitch, but she needs to be confident and self assured and in control, none if which this Judy character is.

What a drag!

But De Niro is good.

Back in 1982 Sigourney Weaver and Mel Gibson starred in a political drama set in 1965’s Indonesia. She works at the British embassy and he’s a rookie foreign correspondent from Sydney. They meet, fall in love and have an adventurous affair in a poor country on the brink of a civil war.

There are some really cool elements in this eighties semi-classic. It helps when you see this while visiting Indonesia (pleading guilty here). You get to learn ’something’ about the turbulent history of this fascinating country and there are all kind of references to its culture. It starts with a scene in which the famous shadow playing puppet theatre is explained. It refers to the way the then president had to find a balance between the right and the left in his country, between rich and poor and (to a lesser extent) between Muslims and non Muslims. It also refers to the relationship between the main characters who are pushed to meet each other by an odd storyteller/puppet player.

The latter is a small cameraman with a distinct look and way of talking. The character is played by a woman (Linda Hunt, who won an Oscar for the part), but in all fairness, the performance is silly and absurd. The storytelling element adds a little bit to the mystical atmosphere, but it could have easily been done by an Indonesian character.

Weaver and Gibson however are a treat to look at. Their chemistry is excellent! They should make another movie together soon! Another year of living dangerously…

Pitch Perfect – (*)

Posted: February 13, 2016 in 1/2, 2012, Musical, USA

A semi alternative wannabe dj starts college and joins a competitive acapella singing band. She doesn’t represent the typically girly cheerleading image, but neither do the others in the band (one butch black lesbo, one fat Aussie girl, one silent Asian). She kind of likes a singer of the successful acapella boyband (from the same campus), but since he belongs to their ’rivals’ she cannot really date him.

Can someone please tell me what the appeal is of this franchise? The singing is TERRIBLE ! The song arrangements are TERRIBLE ! The acting is TERRIBLE ! This is made for 14-year old girls who have no sense of humour or cinematic art only.

And somehow I managed to finish this crap (during a flight)

Room – **(*)

Posted: February 13, 2016 in 2015, Canada, Drama, XX1/2

A young woman has been held captive by a pervert for a few years already. She lives in a little shed which consists of only one room. In the meantime she has given birth to a baby boy who turns five when the movie starts. The kid has never seen the real world, but doesn’t know any better and looks like a normal kid. His mother however is anxious to escape and hopes her son can help now that he’s grown older. This needs a lot of convincing though because for five years long she kept the real world a secret to her boy and know needs to make him believe there is a better place outside.

This claustrophobic psychological drama works really well for the first half of the movie. But then somehow fails in the second part. It’s not really a spoiler to say that at one point she does manage to escape, but with some consequences. While the mother is in the room with her kid, the actions and conversations make sense. When she is freed it becomes a bit messy. Nevertheless: interesting cinema!

Bahubali: The Beginning -*(*)

Posted: February 12, 2016 in 2015, Adventure, Drama, India, War, X1/2

A nice thing about travelling with companies like Qatar Airways is that they have Bollywood movies! Sure, you can rent them online (iTunes), buy an illegal copy in a Pakistani run night shop or drive to the nearest Bollywood cinema (there aren’t many in ’The West’), but somehow it’s a must to watch one on a plane flying East.

Bahubali is an epic production about an (imaginary) kingdom, which has been run by a tyrant for many years and whose rightful heir to the throne grew up as an orphan in a far away land unaware of his royal blood. The kid (rescued from a river down a majestic waterfall) grows up to be a strong and adventurous man who is keen on climbing the waterfall rock and discover the land above. Of course he manages to do so (guided by a stunning female spirit) and when he is there he joins a rebel group trying to rescue the captivated queen (the boy’s real mother). But just when you think the end credits will roll, another story is told as a flashback, which takes almost as long as the first tale. It is supposed to help you understand why the boy was taken away, but it only confuses more.

It’s all very corny, but it’s fun. It’s filled with clichés (hero wears a moustache of course, strong female character succumbs for the macho man of course), but there are some surprises. Some special effects are great (the battle scenes could come from the Lord Of The Ring-trilogy), others are ridiculous (the hero making it to the top of the waterfall). There is little singing and dancing (in case you find this a turn off), and the romance isn’t all that dramatic.


Steve Jobs – **

Posted: February 12, 2016 in 2015, biopic, Drama, USA, XX

Steve Jobs is an asshole with all kinds of personal issues. He’s a good marketeer and a great designer, but apparently he is not the most talented IT-specialist. Before Apple was the Apple we know now, it was a failing company that couldn’t compete with Microsoft at all. By the end of the movie we see the iconic iMac, which was the beginning of a new successful era. But the two hours preceding it just focus on the failures and the many negative traits of his modern entrepreneur.

So basically, it’s a very negative movie with an antihero who is very unsympathetic. It’s not your typical biography. However, thanks to the great performance of Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs, you do want to watch it until the end. Kate Wynslet is great as his assistant and will most likely win an Oscar for her role, but she’s not being exceptionally great. It’s a great acting piece, but as far as the story is concerned: two thumbs down.

Hollywood tries too hard to make intellectually challenging movies. A movie doesn’t become more intelligent just because the topic has specific terminology. (Think about The Big Short). Who gives a shit about the making of a new operating system or a circuit format?