Archive for the ‘Drama’ Category

The Darkest Hour – ***

Posted: June 29, 2020 in 2017, biopic, Political, UK, War, WW2, XXX

Gary Oldman is phenomenal as Winston Churchill!

There you go. That’s the main reason to watch this movie. But it’s also cleverly told and takes you back to the start of a troublesome period in the world of which the end wasn’t in sight at all.

A bit like now really.

During a visit of the excellent Churchill War Rooms in London, you remind yourself to watch this Oscar-winning biopic. But then days, weeks and months go by and you forget about it. Then you watch The Crown and he pops up again and you remind yourself again to watch this movies. But again days, weeks and months go by and you forget about it. But then it passes on tv and you have nothing better to do than to just start watching. Before you know it the movie is over and you regret not having watched it while you still had all the knowledge of the museum visit.

It’s a very accessible movie though for a large crowd. It’s not particularly detailed or overly political. It’s clear and well-brought. It resonates with the audience and it’s more than just the depiction of a weirdly fascinating leader that had more opponents than fans, but still managed to lead the UK through the Second World War.

The direction of the movie is also very good. Some scenes work really well. Even when they are fictitious. Like the scene on the metro.

Watch Season 1 of the Crown first. Then Darkest Hour. Then Dunkirk. In that order. Then visit London to visit the war rooms, take the Eurostar to Lille, the regional train to Dunkirk for a visit of the Operation Dynamo museum. And then go for a city trip to Bruges to just relax. 😉

www.imdb.com/title/tt4555426

The Water Diviner – **(*)

Posted: June 27, 2020 in 2014, Australia, Drama, Turkey, War, WW1, XX

A bit of a flop, this directorial debut of Russell Crowe, but worth the watch.

Crowe also plays the main lead: a father who travels from Australia to Gallipoli to find the bodies of his three sons who got missing in action during the disastrous World War 1 battle.

Crowe is a joy to watch. He may not be the most expressive actor out there, but he embodies the character really well. The man loses his children and his wife, has nothing much left to live for, so decides to go on an unprecedented journey into post WW1 Turkey.

It looks like an old skool romantic war drama from the sixties, which is a good thing. The cinematography is great. A bit over-romantic maybe. Istanbul looks gorgeous in the yellow filter. It’s definitely not a dark, grey and grim movie. There is some action, but it’s not a war action movie. The story takes place after the First World War. There is an awkward romantic touch to it that isn’t necessary, but kinda cute.

Also positive is that the Turks speak Turk amongst themselves. That most speak fluent English to converse with Crowe’s character is a bit unlikely, but we’re only talking about five people here, so maybe, just maybe, these Turks were fluent in English back in 1919. It’s great to see a Turkish view on this Gallipoli battle. They lost a lot of lives as well. It’s not only ANZACS that got killed. The fact that a Turkish army leader helps locate the bodies of deceased soldiers sounds plausible. That he becomes some kind of ally/friend with this Australian farmer is less plausible. But it works. Just like Russell Crowe, Yilmaz Erdogan is a joy to watch.

Maybe, on another night, the inaccuracies would have bothered. The main actress isn’t even Turkish! The Greeks are represented as a bunch of mountain war mongers.  But it was a good movie tonight.

www.imdb.com/title/tt3007512

 

Wild – **

Posted: June 26, 2020 in 2015, Drama, Road Trip, USA, XX

It’s not Into The Wild. 

But that’s an unfair comparison.

I’m just not into this Wild 

whahaha

The story just isn’t compelling. A woman decides to walk the Pacific Crest Trail from the border of Mexico to the border of Canada. She has a few reasons to go find herself and we do get to learn about them, through flashbacks, but still. She’s starting this trail totally unprepared and seems to overcome every obstacle on her way. Yeah right.

The movie is based on a biographical book. The journey happened. But this movie makes it seems like it was happy camping. The misadventures are just briefly shown and cause hardly any tension in the story. Somehow you just know it’ll have a happy ending…

The use of flashbacks is irregular and they jump back to different stages of her life before the hike. They are snippets. Memories. Like they may flash through her mind while hiking. That’s realistic. But as a movie it doesn’t really work.

Reese Witherspoon makes the whole movie worth finishing though.

www.imdb.com/title/tt2305051

 

 

Never made it past episode 5 of Breaking Bad. So, it’s remarkable that I finished season one of the prequel series Better Call Saul. Highly recommended by friends and all kinds of ‘best tv series’ articles, this show focuses on Saul Goodman, a scam artist turned lawyer turned runaway.

The season starts with the main character working at a Cinnabon in a shopping mall, visibly scared when he spots someone who may have recognized him. Great start! Why is he scared? Why did he run away? Why is a lawyer working at a fastfood bakery?

You won’t get the answers in the first season. In fact, ten episodes into the story and there are even more unanswered questions. Like why the lawyer is known as Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad, but introduced as James McGill in Better Call Saul. 

The main focus of this first season is an introduction to the crazy world of this intriguing lawyer. We get to learn a bit about his past as a scam artist, his troubled relationship with his brother, his love for a colleague and his constant doubts about doing the right thing. This guy is funny, clever, has a heart of gold, is ambitious… But at the same time relatively clumsy, awkward, lonely and constantly flirting with failure. Luckily, this season also focuses on other characters. We get to learn a bit more about the girlfriend and the brother and Mike Ehrmantraut, a former police officer working as a security agent with a troubled past. He’s as much of a treat as the main lead!

As an introducing season it’s great. It’s slow paced. But that’s a good thing. Sure, the thought of having to wait five more seasons to understand why this person ends up working at a Cinnabon is frustrating. But the characters are intriguing and everything is filmed, written and edited well. You want to watch season 2. It’s binge-worthy. But maybe, the whole crime aspect of the show may ruin it, like it did for Breaking Bad. Do we really want to watch yet another show about drug dealers?

www.imdb.com/title/tt3032476/

Netflix high school comedy dramas. They make them by the dozens. Here’s yet another one. Told from the perspective of an all American teenage girl with Indian roots.

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan is a great lead. You just wish her lines were more sassy and sarcastic. She’s the kind of actress who can play a likable bitch. Now she’s a likable… nerd.

The rest of the cast acts like they’ve never been in front of the camera before. But here again, the characters are annoying and boring and just not intriguing at all, so let’s blame the directing and writing team.

Really. It’s a show about a girl who lost her dad, is stuck with her conservative mother, feels very American, but is forced to connect with her roots, falls for the popular jock, neglects her best (and only) friends and can’t seem to find a balance between trying to popular and being the smartest kid in class.

Yawn.

www.imdb.com/title/tt10062292

Unorthodox – **(*)

Posted: May 29, 2020 in 2019, Drama, Germany, USA, XX1/2

A young woman escapes from the orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg (New York) to start a new life in Berlin. An interesting premise! And a good miniseries (it only has 4 episodes). Definitely worth the watch. But a bit overrated.

The main attraction of the series is the voyeurism into the little known Hasidic world. Already visually fascinating, the community is also socio-culturally intriguing. Maybe not if you’re from Minnesota or Sicily or Peru to name a few places that may have little or no Orthodox Jews. But if you bike around Brooklyn or Antwerp, then you can’t help noticing this group of people and wonder what they are all about. This series kinda gives you an insight into their culture, but it’s told from the perspective of someone who escaped it, so it’s biased. And it’s not like you will fully understand their culture watching this series. But you learn something. Which is good.

The other attraction is the city of Berlin. It’s like the city’s Board of Tourism sponsored this series. The settings are awesome and show the diversity of the capital. Every background is postcard perfect and the atmosphere shown makes you want to book your first post covid 19 city trip to Berlin!

They speak yiddish in the series. What a relief. Remember the Ukrainians speaking British English in Chernobyl ? None of that here. Pure yiddish. GREAT !

So far the good.

The bad however is the plot in Berlin. It is just messy and unbelievable. After this girl arrives in Berlin with hardly any money and no luggage, she immediately finds the music conservatory and befriends a mixed bunch of artists who invite her to join them for day trip to the lake and an evening dinner at their place. Now, this may be Berlin, but it’s still Germany. NO WAY this can happen. And almost every scene in Berlin doesn’t make sense. She’s never left New York City, has never watched tv or internet, yet arrives in Berlin and walks around like a tourist on a city trip. For the entire journey she kept a gift hidden in her underpants and never opened it. Really? Not in the airport, not on the plane, not in the taxi to the city centre? She has never been adventurous in her life but sneaks into the music conservatory to use it as a shelter to sleep at night. Just nothing of the story in Berlin makes sense. Her clubbing on day 3 of her arrival. Her auditioning for a grant at the conservatory on day 4. At one point her Hasidic husband arrives in Berlin and also ends up being confronted with a different kind of society. He’s escorted by a  Hasidic cousin who is hired as a detective/fixer to trace the runaway woman and who believes the Thora works differently in different countries. A good excuse to go gambling and visit sex workers.

No. No. No.

The best parts are the flashbacks to life in Williamsburg. It’s quite interesting to see how these two characters got together in an arranged marriage and struggle with their traditional duties. If only the series would just have focused on that aspect. Now we get to see beautiful Berlin with boring one-dimensional personalities.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9815454/

The Beguiled – **

Posted: May 28, 2020 in 2017, Drama, USA, XX

Colin Farrell gets stuck in a house with seven women. One of them is Nicole Kidman, another is Kirsten Dunst and a third one is Elle Fanning. The year is 1863 and we’re in Virginia. Wounded Farrell is a yankee and the southern ladies take him in. They want to fix his leg and then let him go. But he’s the first man they have laid eyes on since ages and some do not want him to leave at all. Neither does he.

Sophia Coppola is helming this remake of a Clint Eastwood movie from the seventies. Would be fun to watch the original one and see how different this one is. However, this version isn’t all that exciting . They could have done so much more with the sexual tension. In fact, it’s a pretty boring movie. So the seventies version may well be even more boring.

The good thing is that it’s a relatively short movie (90 min) so it’s over before you start to fall asleep.

www.imdb.com/title/tt5592248

Childhood memories often lead to great cinematic experiences. Most of them are coming of age stories that take place in a not so distant past. Some are quite dramatic if the historical setting was violent or dark. But most of them beam with nostalgia to better days. In Café Derby the setting is the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1985 to Belgium. It’s mentioned several times and causes most of the drama, but it’s just a random fact. More important is the bond between a young girl and her naively ambitious dad.

And that young girl is the director of this movie. So it’s a very personal story and you can feel it. Is it extraordinary? Not at all. But it’s a very good hommage to her dad and how she remembers him at a time when he was still a hero to her. Memories fade and sometimes you just remember the good things. So it’s noteworthy that the hommage is very well balanced. No, her dad wasn’t a hero. Nor was he a bad person. He was just a dad. With ambitions. And flaws.

It’s an easy movie to watch. And it’s well made and well acted. But the story itself isn’t so compelling. It’s just told in a very affectionate way. Like when you’re in the early stages of a relationship and you ask your partner to share a childhood memory of their dad. It doesn’t really matter then what the memory is all about. You just want to hear your partner share you a personal story. And that’s exactly what happens while watching this movie. You don’t know the director, but she tells a personal story and you feel privileged to listen.

www.imdb.com/title/tt3892822/

Back when I turned 15 or so, I got triggered to learning what else was offered in pop culture. I started to listen to more alternative music and I started to go see movies at the arthouse cinema. Some of these movies left a big impression on me. A lot didn’t. But one of them that did, was Do The Right Thing. 

They just showed it on tv and it left an almost exact same impression. Thirty years later. Thirty years older. And having experienced staying in Brooklyn and living in an area with racial tensions.

Amazing.

This movie starts off as a comical and badly acted series of everyday scenes. But gets really dramatic by the end. It’s a great build-up. Some scenes are such classics that you remember them instantly, even though you haven’t seen them for 30 years! It’s a clever thing to tell a story with several individual characters on a very small surface: a particular block of houses in Bedford Stuyvesant. The storytelling is excellent and the way it’s filmed is unique. The constant use of Public Enemy’s ‘Fight The Power’ and the constant yelling from almost all of the characters create a tension that you know will explode. But yet, it’s a very colorful and bright movie with lots of comic relief.

Sadly enough, the movie is still up to date. A remake would maybe look different and nobody walks around with ghetto blasters anymore, which is -well – almost like a character on its own in this movie. Not sure how they would replace that. But still, the idea of gentrification still happens. The racial tensions are still there. Maybe Spike Lee should make a new Netflix series about it, like he did with She Gotta Have it. Or maybe not.

Anyways, if you’ve never seen the movie: watch it! It’s not perfect, but it’s a classic.

www.imdb.com/title/tt0097216

 

 

 

They showed the prestigious HBO series about the Chernobyl disaster on national tv last week. In the midst of the corona crisis lockdown.

It’s that show that you want to see, because so much has been written about it. And watching it now gives you extra thrills. While the covid-19 pandemic confronts us daily with a possible apocalyptic disaster and conspiracy theories, it’s interesting to see how a similar threat was dealt with 30+ years ago.

In 1986 an explosion at a nuclear plant near Kiev (Ukraine) threatened to devastate an entire area and possibly affect the entire European continent. But the catastrophe was contained and somehow forgotten quite soon. Yes, there are still memes going around that make fun of the effects of exposure to radioactivity (one that says ‘I went to Chernobyl and all I got was this lousy t-shirt’ and shows a t-shirt with several armholes). And yes, adventure travel reporters like to visit the area to see how dangerous it still is to walk around in the area. But apart from that, nobody really thinks about it that much.

Until now.

Sure, it’s an interesting series. It focuses on the actual diaster and tries to explain what really happened, but it also focuses on the efforts of getting it contained and the treatment of those who got exposed to the radio-activity. However, the series also wants to expose the cover-up of the Russian authorities. Which most likely happened, no doubt, but it gets annoying after a while. This soon feels like a fictionalized anti-Russian Cold War propaganda show from the eighties. With an underlying tone that a similar disaster in the West won’t happen and would have been dealt with differently. It’s an obvious angle, but it just feels biased. And the main reason for that is simple: the entire cast speaks British English! British English! Mineworkers, locals, doctors, scientists, state officials, Gorbatsjov! They all speak like they live in the UK! This happend in the Ukraine! The show shows Belarus and Russia. Yet, you don’t hear Russian or any other slavic language.

How is this possible? How is this believable? Apparently they didn’t want the actors to speak with Russian accents (thank God, that would have been even worse). but choosing British actors over Russian actors just is a crappy decision. It’s already annoying when Tom Cruise plays Graf von Stauffenberg in Valkyrie and doesn’t speak German.Or Willem Dafoe playing Van Gogh and not speaking any French or Dutch. Why are so many people incapable of reading subtitles? Why is it so difficult to find actors who at least speak the language of the characters they portray?

That aspect of the show is very distracting. By episode 4 you are still watching British actors interpret what people from the former USSR were experiencing. You’re still not feeling these characters at all. Apparently they are making a Russian series about the show, which will also be biased and which will focus on the patriotic heroism of the mine workers and others who stopped the diaster from spreading around Europe. It’ll also be propaganda, but at least it will feel more natural when they speak the original language!

Aaaaarrghhhhhh!

That said. Interesting stuff though. A bit slow, quite technical and too depressing, but intriguing. Yet, fictionalized and thus overrated. (check: https://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/chernobyl/)

www.imdb.com/title/tt7366338