Archive for the ‘XX1/2’ Category

Picked up Modern Family again. Last time I saw a season was in 2014 !

Great guilty pleasure ! For every ‘meh’ moment, there are twice as many ‘haha’ moments.

Season 3 (**1/2)  isn’t as good as season 2, but each episode has enough laughs to make you continue watching. The episode in Disneyland is excellent though. with some hilarious scenes like the one where Dylan, dressed as Little John, tries to win back Haley. Classic! What’s really good about this show is that there is consistency. If you watch them in a row, you notice how some things get picked up again later in the show and references are made to what has happened before. This is not always the case in other sitcoms like Friends or Fresh Prince, in which there are a lot of inconsistencies. Phil and Luke’s relationship is great. Haley is pretty funny this season. Cameron and Mitchel are, well, a bickering couple that still have some great punch lines. Sophia is still great.

Season 4 (**1/2) is a tougher cookie. Not all episodes are great. Some get boring. Some characters get so annoying you just want to give up. But there are great guest acting parts that make it interesting. The stereotypical portrayal of a gay couple and a latino trophy wife is just nerve-racking. How many jokes can you make about a Columbian drugs & poverty escaping woman and camp effeminate gay men? It’s just always the same. Yawn.  However, some of the best scenes of the season feature Cameron/Mitchel and Sophia. (the heritage dinner discussion) And Cameron dressed like a character of Cats up on the tree is a classic. Every episode still makes you laugh at least a few times though.

Season 5 (**1/2) starts off really well, with some of the best episodes of the series. New characters get introduced and some reoccur more than before. It’s really strange how the show is pretty conservative. It’s representing a certain suburban upper middle class that isn’t really representative of real modern families out there. And the stereotypes! Even when they travel to Australia, they are able to only show stereotypes. Yet, Cameron is the football coach. Surprise. Not all episodes are good, but it ends with a great one (the wedding).

Just when you think season 6 (**1/2) isn’t all that exciting or funny anymore, there’s the episode where everyone thinks Haley got married in Vegas. Original and excellent. And the second half of the season has more real good episodes. Some characters seem to have lost their appeal though (Sophia!). And none of the new ones are great, apart from Andy maybe. But others are still awesome. Phil on top. The jokes and comments are quite sarcastic for a sitcom. In then years’ time a new generation will call them homophobic, racist and sexist. Like this generation is offended by some jokes in Friends (Friends!!). A friend who doesn’t know the show asked if it was Married With Children. 2.0. No.  It’s not that politically incorrect.

Three episodes into season 7 and I haven’t laughed yet. What’s wrong?

 

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/

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/

As a massive fan of Jaws, Chief Brody has always been my hero! And so was Roy Scheider of course, who immortalized the part. At one point in my life as a young cinefile I wanted to see all the movies he was in. But most were difficult to digest. Apart from Blue Thunder and The French Connection. 

Marathon Man was another memorable one. It has one of the coolest non-Jaws Roy Scheider scenes, in which he fights and kills an attacker in a Paris hotel room after doing push-ups on the ledge of the bed. And the movie has other classic scenes like the one where Dustin Hofman gets tortured by an ex nazi dentist who drills a hole in his perfectly healthy teeth.

Re-watching this classic seventies suspense thriller as an adult was interesting. Sure, the above mentioned scenes are classics, but what was the movie about again? Ah! When word gets out that his brother is killed in a car accident, a former nazi criminal leaves his hiding place in Uruguay to reclaim items he has hidden in a safe in New York. For years, he could finance his hideout via a network of couriers, but he wants to be sure there is still stuff in the safe. This synopsis isn’t immediately clear as the story is told from the perspective of a student, whose brother is one of the couriers and ends up dead in his apartment. Now, the network assumes he knows more and haunts him.

The movie has quite a lot of odd action scenes that are instant classics, like the opening car chase between an old nazi and an old jew, ending in a deadly accident. It sounds like something from a bad sketch show, but it’s not. The seventies spirit is great. There’s something about that decade that resonates best in movies. The acting is over the top, especially the death scenes. And there are a lot. So that’s a bit of a disappointment. But it’s suspenseful and entertaining.

But come to think of it. Apart from Jaws, Jaws II, The French Connection, Marathon Man, The Sorcerer and All That Jazz most Roy Scheider movies are not worth recommending. It feels sacrilegious to write this, but the man has starred in so many bad movies. Too bad Quentin Tarantino didn’t give him a second career boost in the nineties. He ended up making straight to video C-movies for the last two decades of his career. So sad!

Movies with Roy Scheider I want to re-watch again: Klute (**), The French Connection (****), The Seven-Ups (**1/2), The Sorcerer (**1/2)  

Movies with Roy Scheider that I do not need to rewatch at all: Assignment Munich, Sheila Levine Is Dead And Living In New York (*1/2), Last Embrace (**), All That Jazz (**), Still Of The Night (**), Blue Thunder (**), Tiger Town (**), 2010: The Year We Made Contact, 52 Pick Up, Cohen And Tate, Listen To Me, Night Game, The Fourth War, The Russia House (**), Naked Lunch, Romeo Is Bleeding, Executive Target

Movies with Roy Scheider I’ve never seen and would like to watch one day: The Outside Man, Jacobo Timerman, The Myth Of Fingerprints, RKO 281 

Movies with Roy Scheider I can’t be bothered with: all the rest.

www.imdb.com/title/tt0074860

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

 

Sonny Boy is the nickname of Waldy Nods, the son of a Surinamese student and a much older Dutch woman. So what, right?  Well, Waldy was born in 1929, a time when children from interracial couples were quite unique in The Netherlands.

It’s interesting how the movie title refers to the boy, whereas the story basically revolves around his parents and their many struggles.

The movie is based on a best-seller and was quite the hit in Dutch and Surinamese theaters. It didn’t really score anywhere else though, which is weird, because the story is quite universal and not that specific to those two nations.

Sonny’s father arrived in the Netherlands in the late twenties to pursue a degree at the Dutch university. Not an easy goal at the time, as students from Surinam weren’t considered equal. Sonny’s mother left her husband after she caught him cheating with the housemaid and took her four children to a small house in The Hague. In order to get some extra income, she rented out a room to the much younger student and soon they became a couple. Oh! The scandal!

The first half of the movie deals with this interracial struggle in an excellent way. The acting is good and the individual background stories of both characters merge really well. The second half of the story focuses on the occupation of the Nazis in the Second World War and it becomes, well a Second World War movie. This isn’t really a bad thing, because it’s part of the story and it needs to be told. But it’s just less intriguing. You don’t get to see that many movies focusing on interracial relationships. Yet, you do get to see many movies about the nazi occupation.

It’s a well made movie that keeps your attention until the very end, but a miniseries would have been a better choice, considering the abundance of story material. The focus is on the parents of Sonny Boy, but there are a dozen of other characters that are worth a separate storyline. Starting with Sonny Boy himself. It’s not really told from his perspective and you only get to learn what happened to him until the end of the war.

Fascinating stuff, but leaving you with the desire to learn more. Worth the watch.

www.imdb.com/title/tt1138481

 

There are fewer tigers living in the wild than living in captivity. Intriguing stuff for an in-depth documentary series about those owners of big cats, who either operate private zoos or sanctuaries for mistreated animals. And the show starts off well by showing two of them: Joe Exotic, who runs a big cat zoo and Carole Baskin, who runs a sanctuary. They are not really represented as good or evil as both have a different love for the animals, but one thing is clear: they hate each other’s guts. And before you know it, you’re not watching an animal cruelty documentary, but a reality tv crime story with more twists than any far-fetched fiction series out there.

The editing and storytelling are really well done in this series. Each episode ends with a semi-surprising cliffhanger, which makes you want to watch another 45 minutes of this ongoing soap between different characters that have more in common than they want. They are all crooked, lying, marginalized nitwits with an obsession for big cats. And still, in their idiocy, they are intriguing and somehow charming as well.

It’s not a chronological story, which frustrates at the end, but works well for your entertainment as pieces of interviews are cut and edited in such a way that a new story unfolds every minute. It’s really well edited. You have to give them credit for that. And it’s also great that it’s not a good vs bad documentary.

Apart from the main characters there are so many different side characters in this show that you kind of want a spin off series or a sequel.

It’s very bizarre. It’s very American. Some say this is great tv during corona time. But it also makes you think that maybe, humankind deserves this crisis we are in.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt11823076/

Season 2 is fun. Some episodes are excellent. Great comfort tv in corona times. The interaction between Will and Carlton is the best. Geoffrey has good one-liners. Uncle Phil is pretty funny in all his seriousness. Hilary can be hilarious. And the rare moments you see Jazz, he’s great. A lot of new characters are introduced, especially the expanded family of Vivian. But none of them are really great. Neither is Vivian for that matter. Not all episodes are great though. And even though it’s not too outdated, there are way too many early nineties US politics related references.

Four episodes into Season 3 and I’ve only laughed a few times with Hilary and that’s about it. Hm. Should I continue?

Miss Americana – **(*)

Posted: March 14, 2020 in 2020, Music, USA, XX1/2

This is a good music documentary.

It’s entertaining. And Taylor Swift is an interesting pop star.

Sure, it’s calculated. But the documentary was released several months after the release of her album. So, it’s not really a marketing tool.

Yet, you do want to listen to Lover after seeing this documentary and even purchase it. Because, it does have several good tunes (the title track, the new single The Man) and maybe the rest is interesting too.

For Tay Tay fans, this is a must. For Tay Tay hater as well. But most of all, this is for those people who can’t name five songs of Taylor Swift and need to know that she is a big artist. It’s a pretty honest overview of her career with all the non-musical issues that gave her headlines. She’s not as big in Europe as in the States, but this can help people appreciate her a bit more.

www.imdb.com/title/tt11388580

Yuli – **(*)

Posted: February 9, 2020 in 2018, biopic, Cuba, Drama, Spain, UK, XX1/2

Carlos Acosta was the first black dancer ever to perform as Romeo at the Royal Ballet of London.

This shouldn’t be remarkable, but it unfortunately still is. Of course this success has to do with opportunities and luck and fate, but talent is needed nevertheless.

This movie starts with the now older Acosta directing a ballet performance based on his life story… and as he has his dancers rehearse the sequences he reminisces and the movie goes in flashback mode to some pivotal moments in his life.

It is a tricky approach, to shift from modern ballet scenes to storytelling flashbacks. And it is also interesting to see a biopic in which the actual main character is playing himself. But it works really well.

More than a biopic and a ballet movie, the story focuses on the troubled father-son relationship. And it is very honest. The young Cuban boy has no desire to become a ‘faggot’ dancer, but his father pushes him into the ballet school. A reverse Billy Elliott so to speak. Not only his father, but also his Cuban dance teacher constantly have to motivate or command him to continue dancing. Especially after an accident halts his successful career for a bit, he needs their tough encouragement to continue. It is clear that this movie is an hommage to them.

The acting by the father, the teacher and the young Acosta is excellent. The story touches on several Cuban issues as well without being too detailed. It is well filmed. At least the flashback scenes are.

Worth checking out !!!

www.imdb.com/title/tt7666250