Archive for December, 2019

Wunderkinder – *(*)

Posted: December 27, 2019 in 2011, Drama, Germany, WW2, XX

1941. Hanna Reich is growing up in the Ukraine as the daughter of a German beer brewer. She has no friends and loves to play the violin, so with a little help of her wealthy father she gets private lessons from a teacher who also brings the so called wonder kids to her house. These kids are on the verge of a tour around Russia and maybe even America until the war interrupts their dreams.

While Hitler is waging war in the West, Stalin is controlling power in the east. Hannah and her new found friends are growing up in a relatively safe area, until the Nazis decide to expand their territory towards Russia. First, Hannah’s family is a target for the NKVP (the Sovjet gestapo), but once the Nazis take over it’s the family of the wonder kids that become a target. They are, you’ve guessed it, Jewish.

Though the story is fascinating and probably a good read as a young adult historical novel, the movie isn’t all that good. The storytelling is rushed. Moreover, it’s told as a long flashback, allowing the first scene to spoil the end of the story. Why did they decide to do that?

The acting and more precise, the character depiction, leaves much to be desired for as well.You can’t blame directors for depicting Nazis as one dimensional assholes. But you can blame them for depicting any other character as soulless. Especially the kids who are the main characters.

Best scene: the semi nazi sympathizing mother who pulls off her swastika at the end and bleeds. 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1710625/

Midsommar – (*)

Posted: December 27, 2019 in 1/2, 2019, Fantasy, Horror, USA

Ari Aster keeps getting rave reviews for his movies. Not sure why. Hereditary is the most over-hyped movie of 2018. And this one. Well, it’s better, but still.

Of course, these pictures will never be nominated for a razzie award. They are considered arthouse. And arthouse movies can’t be crap. Only mainstream blockbuster movies can be viciously attacked and ridiculed.

Four American students get invited by a Swedish friend to experience an ancient pagan ritual, held every 90 years, in the north of his home country. The guys study anthropology and one of their girlfriends studies psychology. So far so good. So far, an interesting premise.

However, the movie starts with a focus on the girlfriend, months before the trip. Her sister just committed suicide (and killed her parents in the act) and she’s not getting enough support from her boyfriend (one of the anthropology students). This takes up about 20 minutes and is already boring after ten.

Then the action finally takes places in Sweden (even though it’s filmed in Hungary). The imagery is nice, the costumes as well. It’s an interesting setting. Until the pagan community turns out to be a sekt with strange rituals. And then it’s really downhill from there. Nothing makes sense. There is no horror. There is no tension. There is no humor. There is bad acting. The dialogues are crap. The plot twists aren’t twists at all. The surprise elements are predictable because of the slow scenes leading up to them. It’s terrible.

The whole explanation of the circle of life which ends at 72 is ridiculous if the makers stress that the festival only takes place every 90 years.

Utter crap.

But still (*) for having finished it and because so few movies get that rating.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8772262/

This came on tv this afternoon. Decided to watch a bit of it. Ended up finishing it. Hey, it’s been more than 30 years !

What a silly movie. Those special effects are BAD. And the acting isn’t particularly good either. Neither is the story. In fact, this is really quite terrible.

But it’s nostalgic… And Bill Murray is great being Bill Murray.

However, this did not pass the test of time. I used to LOVE this movie.

Ray Parker Jr’s title track is still cool though. (it was the first 7″ inch single I ever bought).

www.imdb.com/title/tt0087332

 

Mon dieu! My god! Why ????

Watched this sequel with my mom, who really enjoyed the first movie and was interested in what happens next to the catholic French family whose four daughters have each married interculturally.

There’s NO use watching this ‘comedy’ if you haven’t seen the first one. And there is NO use watching this ‘comedy’ if you want to laugh at all.

The set up is kind of okay. Once all four daughters got married, the parents decide to visit the countries of each of their sons-in-laws. Now, this would have been a fun movie maybe. But no, they return after 5 minutes in the movie and learn that each of their kids want to leave France! So, they want to make sure they can convince their kids of staying in their beloved country.

It’s simplistic patriotic bullshit. Sugarcoated as being tolerant towards other cultures. Irony and Sarcasm just aren’t a French thing. And, just like in the first movie, every jokes is EXPLAINED! How unfunny is that????????

The title says: whatever did we do (again) to God (to deserve this)…. exactly.

The first movie made 150 million euro worldwide. (without a release in the US!)  This one made 70 million or so. Like my mom says: they can continue making movies of this family.

My God! Mon Dieu!

www.imdb.com/title/tt6556670

Thirty years ago a female jogger was left for dead after having been molested in Central Park, New York. During the same night a group of young kids had gathered in the park for some wilding, attacking and mugging random passers-by. The investigating police made a link between the two events and arrested dozens of these kids, interrogating them about the rape. Five kids were left to their own devices at the police station and somehow ended up confessing to crimes they didn’t commit. A mediatized trial followed and even though the kids were minor and there was a lack of evidence, all of them were sentenced to years in prison. Four were minors and got five years detention, starting in a juvenile centre. One was sixteen at the time of the events and went straight to the adult prison system.

Most Europeans, and a whole generation of Northern Americans as well, were unaware of this case until this four part series became one of the main releases on Netflix this year and received critical acclaim.

Unfortunately, by end of the year, so many articles have been written about this production, that it becomes very challenging to watch the series without expectations. Yes, it’s a great series and a must-see. But no, it’s not the best series of the decade. You want this to be a mix between The Wire and The People vs O.J. , but it is not. It’s way too short. It is generating more questions than providing answers. It’s a show that will stick with you days after having watched it. So, that’s good. But it does feel like so much more could have been told.

Episode 1 is tough to watch. The characters are introduced and you immediately find yourself in the same mess they get themselves into. Dozens of kids are arrested, yet there are five of them that are detained longer and coerced into admitting to a crime they didn’t commit. These kids were at the wrong place at the wrong time and didn’t get the support they needed. Easy victims for the interrogating police…. The creators of the series clearly want the viewer to feel empathy for the innocent kids and anger towards the judicial system. It works, but it also annoys. This is where the series is flawed. The kids are sweet and innocent and adorable even. The police, judges and prosecutors are heartless monsters. It’s predictable tv making. This is also where an hour episode just isn’t enough.

Episode 2 is better. However as a court room drama it is not detailed enough. This is very intriguing stuff. We get snippets of the story. We learn that each kid had a different lawyer. We learn that each family of these kids deals differently with the accusations. We learn about the discussions amongst the prosecutors. We get to see some witnesses. All very briefly. This may have been the way the accused kids saw the trial (and it’s their story), but as a viewer you want to learn more. What about the jurors? The judge? This part of the story needs an 8 episode series alone.

The second half of the series is excellent though. In the third episode the show focuses on how the four minors get released from detention and have to struggle all over again. It’s a sad episode, but a very necessary one, because it focuses on how getting out of prison isn’t always a gift and how it’s very hard to rehabilitate in society. Episode 4 focusses entirely on the story of the one kid that was sent to adult prison and it is superb television, mainly because of the tour de force of Jharrel Jerome, who deservedly won an Emmy for his performance.

The acting in this series is top-notch. It makes up for the fragmented storytelling. Whoever did the casting deserves another award. A special shout out to Asante Blackk (playing the kid who is left alone at the police station: the moment you realize this will be a tough watch), Caleel Harris (the kid who is forced to lie by his own dad!), Niecy Nash (the troubled mother of the kid who will suffer the most) and Michael Kenneth Williams (the dad who told his kid to lie and has to suffer the consequences) !

www.imdb.com/title/tt7137906/

This is a good introduction to the case and the series:

Knives Out – **(*)

Posted: December 22, 2019 in 2019, Crime/Detective, USA, XX1/2

This is quite an entertaining, well-scripted, well-edited whodunnit with some great acting performances and a few interesting plot twists. The character depiction is very superficial though, which is disappointing, And the suspense never really kicks in.

A rich publisher is found dead in his study. It looks like suicide, at least that is what the police have concluded. But a private detective is hired to exclude foul play. He wants to hear the version of events by everyone who was present the night before the death/murder.

The set up is great, but somehow it doesn’t make sense that a few characters, who were present, are not heard by the police/detective at all.

But, still, it’s really good. Not really predictable, but the end doesn’t come as a surprise either.

www.imdb.com/title/tt8946378

Jumanji: The Next Level – *(*)

Posted: December 22, 2019 in 2019, Adventure, Fantasy, USA, X1/2

Lame action. Lame jokes. Lame acting.

Apart from The Rock and Danny Glover maybe, who kind of make this still worth watching.

This may appeal to very young kids, who will love the action and the slapstick and the weird avatar swaps. But if you’re not a kid, this is a really dull.

www.imdb.com/title/tt7975244

It’s not a great movie. It’s entertaining. A lot of things happen. But it’s not a great episode. The story just isn’t captivating. Lots of things don’t make sense. And by episode three of this new trilogy you should at least have one new character to empathize with. But you don’t. Rey isn’t particularly interesting. Kylo Ren neither. Yet both should be having every single member in the audience grasp for air whenever they meet on screen. But they don’t. Finn has a very small part. Rose doesn’t even have five lines in this one. Poe is annoying. Then there’s all these cameo’s of actors who passed away a while ago or characters who were killed off in previous episodes and return. Yawn.

Oh well. It’s over now.

www.imdb.com/name/nm4511652

The Two Popes – **(*)

Posted: December 20, 2019 in 2019, biopic, Dramedy, USA, XX1/2

What a surprise! This dialogue movie between two popes is actually really entertaining. The use of gentle humor is a great way of making it accessible and the flashbacks of current Pope Francis’ life are interesting. The use of real footage now and then add to the precision of the storytelling (even though – just like with The Crown – the actual conversations between the protagonists are only known to those who had them). It all starts off with an intriguing look into the mysterious conclave. Very well edited. Short, but explanatory with detailed images. Then you meet the two popes, who are very different in almost everything. Yet somehow this turns into a buddy movie and by the end you kind of get emotional when you see the real popes hug.

The movie focuses much more on Pope Francis, which is a bit odd when the title says ‘two popes’. Pope Ratzinger has a much smaller part and that’s a bit sad. His past is also worth investigating. But there are no flashbacks to when he was a teenager under Nazi regime. We do get a lot of information about the Argentinean Junta and the controversial behavior of Jorge Bergoglio, the then head of the Jesuit order.

Also disappointing is Anthony Hopkin’s accent. He’s speaking British English with an Anthony Hopkins accent, when he’s playing a Bavarian character! Surely, he could have tried to sound a bit more authentic. Jonathan Pryce on the other hand speaks English like an international Argentinean would and he even speaks Spanish!

Good movie!

www.imdb.com/title/tt8404614/

As entertaining as the first time around, but still flawed.

With Episode IX coming up, this is a must-see. Because, hey, what the hell was episode VIII all about again?

It’s remarkable though how so little of the story lingers. A New Hope this is not.

Basically, Rey finds Luke on a desolate island and tries to convince him to come back. She also has a weird connection with Kylo Ren. Love? Yin Yang? The Force? Finn is trying to find a guy who can hack into the First Order fleet that is attacking the rebels. Poe is trying to get the rebel fleet away. Oh, Prinses Leia is still leading the rebels even though she hovers in space for a bit. There’s tons of new creatures (furry pinguin like chickens that interfere with Chewbacca, crystal foxes that disappear in rocks, huge race camels with weird spouts) and characters that come and go without ever really being introduced (and performed by big names like Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro).

Oh well. Let’s see what episode IX brings.

www.imdb.com/title/tt2527336/