Archive for March, 2019

US – **(*)

Posted: March 29, 2019 in 2019, Fantasy, Horror, USA, XX1/2

The horror hype movie of the moment: US. 

Hyped horror movies! They normally turn out to be big disappointments (Hereditary? It?). But you know what? This is actually not a bad movie at all. It’s not scary and it’s slow. But it’s originally weird. A lot doesn’t make sense, but it’s entertaining from start to finish.

The story is simple. Somehow there’s an alternate world of shadows living in abandoned tunnels and empty undergrounds. They’ve been hiding there for decades (or centuries.. who knows), but now they’re ready to come out of their shelters and take over the world. By killing the humans they are identical shadows of.

The focus lies with one family who you can easily relate to. The dorky dad. The bossy mom. The bored teenage daughter. And the imaginative younger son. The director takes his time to introduce them. They are a close family, but each live in their own little world. Once they are confronted with their shadows, who try to break into their summer home and kill them off, the movie gets rolling. And it doesn’t stop.

Plus: there’s a great scary instrumental version of Luniz’s “I Got 5 On It” in one of the scarier scenes. A highlight.

www.imdb.com/title/tt6857112/

 

 

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Studio Tarara – ***

Posted: March 26, 2019 in 2019, Drama, Flanders, TV series, XXX

Rare these days (at least for me): watching a tv series unfold every single week. No binge-watching. Just anticipating the next episode. Eight weeks long.

And it was worth the watch. This was good television. With a lot of flaws, but enough positive moments to balance them out.

The set up is simple. Someone fell to his death at a television studio, where a live sketch show was being recorded. It’s unclear until the very last episode who the actual victim is. But in every episode you learn who is still alive, as a second story line follows a detective who’s writing down the taped interviews of all people involved.

The mystery of who the victim is and how the person died, isn’t all that exciting. As a thriller, the show fails.

The series is about the production of a funny sketch show and the troublesome lives of its creators. The drama and characterization are top-notch. But the sketches aren’t funny! At all. So as a comedy, the show fails as well.

But another storyline focuses on sexual harassment at a television studio and throughout the series this is the main theme. It’s also the one that makes the show fascinating. The acting is really good. Even international audiences may like these performances.

It’s still a very Flemish show though. Not sure if people abroad will get the references. There is an international trailer though… The story is set in 1993 though and the soundtrack is incredible. It’s very interesting to hear the big alternative hits of that year as a soundtrack to a story set at the tv studio of the most commercial television network.

www.imdb.com/title/tt9839222

Somewhere in rural Malawi, an intelligent young kid can’t continue with school because his farming parents can’t afford the fee. They have financial troubles because of a failed harvest and the future isn’t looking bright. People are leaving the village and the government isn’t helping at all. The kid is able to sneak into the school library though and finds a book about creating energy by using wind. It takes a while before he can convince his illiterate dad that his ideas can actually help the farming. But he perseveres.

This is a very interesting story. We need more of these. It’s in the same vibe as A United Kingdom. The African continent has so many great stories to be told. It’s time movie makers take some risks. It’s time to watch these as well. It can’t always be fiction like Black Panther. 

Chiwetel Ejiofor is an underrated actor. He has starred in quite a lot of movies and carries them every time. This is his directorial debut and yes, it’s very formulaic and conventional, but it’s also entertaining and educational. It’s well done. He’s acting in it as well and as mentioned before, he delivers. His emotional scenes look the same in every single movie (that man can cry!), but he’s very believable as the illiterate farmer. The main star of the movie is young Maxwell Simba, a debutant from Kenya, who charms you the entire movie long. He’s extremely well cast. This is based on a true story, which is always tricky. But it all feels very authentic. Especially the fact that they learned the local language to communicate in. Hooray for that.

Worth watching.

www.imdb.com/title/tt7533152/

Umrika – *(*)

Posted: March 24, 2019 in 2015, Drama, India, X1/2

A young Indian country boy sees his big brother leave for America. Later, as a teenager, he becomes the man of the house when his father passes away. His mother still adores the son that left and started a new life in a new country. But he’s not around. With much pride she shares the letters she receives to the other villagers. The letters are very impersonal though and filled with pictures of American life, taken out of a magazine. Something is not right. The young man decides to find his brother, but gets stuck in the next big city where he needs to start working for of a dodgy person. How was his brother ever able to leave ? And is his brother even alive?

Umrika is one of those festival films from India. It’s not a Bollywood blockbuster. It doesn’t have singing and dance sequences. It’s serious stuff. But it doesn’t work. It starts off great and the teenager is played by that guy from Life Of Pi, so the acting is pretty solid. But the story is predictable, boring and not intriguing at all. Not as heart-warming or moving as you’d expect. The director didn’t really do a good job convincing everyone that this is a story worth telling. By the time you learn what happened to the older brother and what effect that will have on the younger one, you may have lost total interest or care. Too bad.

It’s set in the early eighties, so there are some nostalgic references. One particular scene is funny: when a whole Indian crowd watches Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom.

www.imdb.com/title/tt2614722/

 

 

 

After having watched Free Solo, the Oscar-winning documentary about a free climber who goes up El Capitan in less than four hours without ropes, made me rewatch this episode from a popular Flemish tv program, in which the adventurous presenter takes on the challenge to climb El Capitan without previous climbing experience.

Unfortunately there are no English subtitles, so not everyone can watch it. There’s some conversations in French and English as well, but the main language is Flemish (the Dutch spoken in Belgium).

The tv series has varied challenges ranging from very physical (entering a national body building competition) to very silly (creating a chart topping sing along song). Not all episodes are good and in the end, it’s entertaining television, with a lot of things being fixed.

But this is the most fascinating episode. Even when things are fixed (that we don’t get to see), it’s still very impressive.

Somehow, the guy from Free Solo isn’t really relatable. Tom Waes on the other hand  is the total opposite. The drive he has to just succeed in everything is amazing. But he is also super honest about his fears and his frustrations. He swears all the time, sighs constantly, doubts a lot… He has a good sense of humor too. You want him to succeed. You want him to climb El Capitan. No matter in how many days.

The cool thing is that you actually learn something about climbing as well. And not just about techniques, but also about how people sleep, eat and … shit when they’re climbing up a rock wall. Tom also has a sports cam on his head so the views are spectacular.

The team of professional climbers who escort/guide/make it easy for him, is also great.

Somehow this impressed me more than Free Solo. 

www.imdb.com/title/tt6038326

Free Solo – **(*)

Posted: March 20, 2019 in 2018, Documentary, USA, XX1/2

A few hours ago on National Geographic: the 2019 Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo.  The dazzling account of a climber trying to conquer the El Capitan rock in Yosemite without ropes is still playing in some theaters and there you have it on tv already. Netflix has started a weird trend.

The Oscar buzz and the trailer make you want to see this movie. The reviews are stellar as well. El Capitan is a magnificent rock to look at. Climbing it with ropes is already crazy. So, this challenge looks like something you don’t want to miss.

The actual climb is filmed really well. The makers used drones and camera’s with ultra zoom lenses. Some footage is shot by guys hanging on ropes nearby the ‘easiest’ parts. Even on a small screen, the views looking down into the valley are not for those suffering from fear of heights. It must look even more vertiginous on a big screen, but it works at home too. The editing is top-notch. They must have had hours of footage and made a great action sequence of it all.

However, this is only about 20 minutes of the documentary and it’s at the end. Before that you have an hour of typical American documentary making with a lot of blablabla and (at times meaningless) interviews of people concerned (Alex Honnold himself, his climbing buddies, the film crew, his mom, his girlfriend, other free climbers…). At one point his girlfriend stresses that she still doesn’t understand why he wants to do this: risk his life to pursue an idea/dream/obsession. In fact, almost everyone wonders why he wants to do it. Yet, nobody gives an answer. And definitely not the documentary makers. So why even bother trying to find out?

The most interesting parts are where he prepares the climb and explains where the tricky sections are. If you make a documentary about a free climber, focus on the free climbing not on his personal life. At least not if you can’t give answers as to why someone is so foolish/stubborn/suicidal to attempt such a challenge.

It’s good that they mention how many of his predecessors have died in this extreme ‘sport’. Yet at the end, the ‘hero’ of the story encourages young people to do even more extreme things. Hm. Hero is in between brackets, because there is nothing heroic about climbing a rock without gear. More than often you hear about these extreme sports fanatics who always look for the next thrill and then die while pursuing it.

It makes you wonder if they would have shown the documentary if he had fallen to his death.

A few years ago, a Flemish tv personality, who takes on challenges, climbed El Capitan with some professionals. He was a climber virgin, but prepared well. Now that was an exciting tv program! It’s below the trailer, but has no subtitles. Somehow that was more intriguing. Free Solo is worth the watch, but only the last part is really fascinating.

www.imdb.com/title/tt7775622

 

Life Of Crime – *(*)

Posted: March 19, 2019 in 2013, Comedy, Crime/Detective, USA, X1/2

This came on and looked intriguing. Two amateur criminals decide to kidnap the wife of a rich businessman. However, they didn’t prepare the job that well. They had no clue that the rich businessman has an affair with a younger starlet and is filing for a divorce. And they also had no clue that the wife has an affair with her neighbor, who shows up at the moment of the kidnapping.

The first 20 minutes are okay. The movie feels a bit like a Coen-brothers production. It has all the elements of a dark satire. But then somehow things get serious. And the story becomes a mess. The jokes aren’t funny anymore. The end is okay again, but by then, it feels like they had to wrap it up fast. Too bad. It had potential.

www.imdb.com/title/tt1663207