Archive for the ‘Road Trip’ Category

Chef – *(*)

Posted: March 1, 2015 in 2014, Dramedy, Road Trip, USA, X1/2

Chef is a light comedy by Jon Favreau, known as the director of the successful Iron Man series. It feels like a low budget indie flic, made by a graduating student from a movie making masterclass. But it has some big names in the cast: Robert Downey Jr and Scarlet Johansson. They only play minor parts, but still. They draw the attention and an audience that normally would never bother watching a movie like this.

The main story is about a chef of a popular restaurant who’s confined to making the same menu over and over again. When a notorious food critic gives him bad press, he feels hurt and decides to leave the restaurant in search of new creativity. He leaves LA for Miami, opens up a food truck and drives across the US in the company of a good friend and his son, with whom he has a troubled relationship.

It’s interesting material for a great movie about father/dad issues, the internal struggle to find the balance between creativity and money making and great shots of food making. However, somehow it fails to deliver. The father/dad issue isn’t all that dramatic; the internal struggle is pretty superficial and the shots of food do not make you hungry at all.

 Chef is the kind of movie that you’ve already forgotten about twenty minutes after having finished it. There isn’t anything remarkable about it at all. It does have its merits though as a document about the importance of social media anno 2014. The dispute with the food critic goes viral and the young kid uses Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Vine to promote his father’s food truck. Now how will that look when you re-watch it in 2034?

Jon Favreau probably hates movie critics and just gets back at them by making a movie about food critics.That’s okay. And he has a point. Why should a critic slam a product in which a lot of love and effort was put? But then again, if it’s unremarkable it’s unremarkable.

Being in Lesotho makes one watch movies from Lesotho. Not that there are many, but The Forgotten Kingdom is a recent world movie festival favorite.

It has all the ingredients for making blockbuster movie fans shun away: it’s poetic, symbolic, spoken in a foreign language, with long shots of natural beauty. However, it’s also filmed in a very modern way and has enough humor, violence and romance to attract a larger crowd.

It helps if you actually know the area. There are plenty of references to the culture of the Basotho (the inhabitants of Lesotho – a landlocked mountainous country in Southern Africa). But it may work as a nice introduction as well. It’s quite logical that many tourist centres sell the dvd in their gift shop.

The story deals about a semi thug from Johannesburg who learns that his estranged father has passed away. Both moved from Lesotho to the South African metropolis for a better future, but they landed in a township and the father was pretty absent in the boys’ life. The deceased made all the arrangements for his funeral… in his home country, so his son reluctantly goes back to his native land.

What follows is a physical and emotional journey of a young man still in search of a better future. But it also shows a modern side of today’s Lesotho, where educated women still struggle in a family (father) ruled society and where AIDS claims a lot of victims.

It’s really not as depressing as it sounds and it’s the kind of ’world movie’ made like anything from the West. The main character is escorted by a little kid, who can be interpreted as an inner guiding spirit. That’s a very nice touch to a well made movie (with a debatable end).

Drôle De Felix – ***

Posted: September 19, 2014 in 2000, Dramedy, France, LGBT themed, Road Trip, XXX

It’s hard not to like Felix, the main character of this great road trip movie about a thirty-something, unemployed, HIV-positive gay guy of North African descent. Just re-read the previous sentence. The guy has everything that would make you feel depressed or frustrated, but he greets life in the most positive way. His smile, his charm, his quirky characteristics and his carefree lifestyle is adorable. There are dozens of scenes that will make you smile, not because they are that funny, but because they just show how interesting chance encounters can be.

Not all is great though. Early on in his trip he witnesses two guys about to throw a beaten-up Algerian guy in the river Seine. The incident is referred to throughout the rest of the movie, but in all honesty, it doesn’t add anything to the story. On the contrary, it makes this movie not the classic that it could be. In fact, after three views (two of which happened 13 years ago) it’s pretty clear that the ‘main’ story is the weakest part of the movie. It’s the chance encounters that make this movie so great and Sami Bouajila’s performance. He steals the show in every single scene he’s in and his character is so much more real than any stereotypical gay character of any stereotypical gay-related Hollywood movie, independent releases included.

Shit, the whole movie is on youtube

Three (rich) Indian friends go on a road trip in Spain after one of them got engaged. It’s not a true bachelor trip however. Two of them haven’t really been on speaking terms for a while, but this trip may get them back together and each of them have their own demons to deal with. One is a busy stock broker who misses out on happiness as he puts his career first. The other just learned his natural father is an artist living in Spain. And the engaged one has unexpressed doubts about his upcoming marriage.

It’s a shame that this movie did not get a widespread release. It’s a great tale of three friends coming of adult age with the right balance of adventure, humor, drama and dance. After all, it is made in Bollywood. However, the only dance routine is a welcome surprise as it mixes the typical Bollywood dance routines with flamenco! The movie is filled with pleasant surprises. The acting is great. India’s superhero star Hrithik Roshan shows he does have talent (apart from flexing his muscles), Farhan Aktar has that Gene Kelly-charm that just makes him loved by everyone and Abhay Deol makes this perfectly cast trio complete. There are also great parts for independent women! Katrina Kaif plays a diving instructor who knows exactly how to deal with the three boys. Two of the most famous Spanish festivals play an important part: the tomato throwing festival and the bull running event. And the whole movie is one big commercial for Indians to visit Spain: Barcelona, Ronda, Seville, Pamplona, the Costa Brava… It’s a perfect promo movie for the country. The humor is simple, but clever. The story just makes sense. It feels real.

Too bad it’s so long and the Hindi poetry and play of words get lost in translation.

Great surprise!

This production sino-francais (Chinese-French production) tells the story of a spoilt city kid going on a road trip with her estranged grandfather to his native rural village. Carried along the journey: an eighteen year old caged singing bird, hence the title meaning the bird walker in English. (but shown at festivals as The Nightingale)

It’s a pleasant road movie, but only captivates because of the great images of Beijing and rural China. If this were shot in France with an arrogant Parisian kid going to a village in the Auvergne, it would never have gotten a theatrical release. It wouldn’t even attract viewers on television. But maybe the Chinese would watch it. Different cultures always intrigue more.

The two main actors are great to watch, even though the kid’s character is extremely annoying for the first half hour of the movie. There are some beautiful shots and the filmed road trip (leaving the ultramodern metropolis to the charming rural villages) makes you want to book a trip to China and backpack around on your own. Some references to the globalisation of data and technology (iPhone, Skype, Wii) make the movie accessible for the audiences in the West and also conjure up some laughs.  However, in the end, the morally packed story and the distant dialogue are painfully simple and predictable. And the caged bird is just dragged along for a metaphorical moment at the end of the movie, explained by the little kid herself.

Exit Marrakech – **

Posted: January 25, 2014 in 2013, Drama, Germany, Road Trip, XX

A conceited, smart, but troubled kid needs to start his summer holidays in Marrakech with his father who is there to stage a play during a cultural festival. Their relationship is strained as the divorced father is hardly ever-present in the adolescent’s life and the only reason for the invitation is for the boy to meet his six-year-old half-sister who starts asking about her big brother. Time to run away from all the pressure and so, after a few days, the young man disappears into the Moroccan mountains and the father goes out looking for him.

There’s nothing really bad about this father/son tale. But it is quickly forgotten. The setting is a blessing and reason enough for watching this exotic road movie. The performances of the main actors are good, but their characters are tedious and despicable. You just want them to get killed in the desert. The story also focuses too much on these two protagonists, when the interesting people (the Moroccan characters) seem to disappear from the story as if they were just part of the scenery. Whatever happened to the prostitute or the gay theatre workers? For a moment it feels like you will learn about the Marrakech underground scene of sex, drugs and rock’ n roll. Instead you learn about a father who comes to realise he has neglected his son and a son who realises he should stop acting like a prick towards his dad. YAWN.

On The Road – *

Posted: February 19, 2013 in 2012, Drama, LGBT themed, Road Trip, USA, X

Back in 1999, when I moved to San Francisco, I started reading On The Road by Jack Kerouac, who I always mentioned in my city tours when we drove along Columbus Avenue, pointing out the little bookstore that has been popular since Kerouac and his beatniks made it famous.

I never finished the book.

Walter Salles turned the book into a movie now and I almost didn’t finish it either. What a lot of drug and alcohol infested crap!

It’s kind of fascinating though what the young main characters experience while on the road, through the US and Mexico. But I couldn’t relate to any of it at all and it starts to really bore after a while. The movie is too long and none of the many characters that get introduced really grab your attention. Not even Dean Moriarty, who probably was a fictional idol in the fifties for just doing whatever the fuck he wanted to do.