Archive for the ‘XXX’ 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

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/

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

 

 

 

The story is incredibly silly. A screwball comedy based on… surprise… a misunderstanding. Fred Astaire’s character falls for Ginger Rogers’ character, who assumes he’s the cheating husband of her best friend!

The movie still works remarkably well. But of course there’s the overacting, including the at times ridiculous facial expressions on the actor’s faces. And weird macho sexism (it’s okay for the husband to cheat as long as he provides), performed by effeminate men (the husband, the butler, the fashion designer… womanizers, really?)

But who cares. Astaire and Rogers dance. Quite a lot. And wonderfully. These two are golden on the dance floor.

Recommended by a colleague who saw it on tv today and posted about it online. And by my 86 year old mom who called me to say how much she loved having watched this again. And there’s two more Ginger/Fred movies scheduled this weekend.

www.imdb.com/title/tt0027125/

1917 – ***

Posted: January 12, 2020 in 2019, UK, USA, War, WW1, XXX

The first hour of this Word War I epic is perfect cinema. Once the story reaches the town of Écoust-Saint-Mein however, it becomes a rather unrealistic survival adventure. It’s still good, but it kind of ruins the great storytelling of the first part. And the end.. well, it’s an end.

This movie gives the impression that it is made in a single shot. And it works. Amazingly. This means the storytelling is great ánd the direction was planned impeccably.

Two soldiers need to get a message across to stop a planned attack. That’s it. But what happens next is CINEMA at its best.

Just go see it. It deserves to win all the awards its nominated for.

www.imdb.com/title/tt8579674/

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:

Grâce A Dieu – ***

Posted: December 12, 2019 in 2018, Drama, France, XXX

Francois Ozon is a remarkable director. He is one of the more versatile directors out there and often excels. His latest movie tackles a pedophile (better formulated: pedosexual) case in the diocese of Lyon. The movie is setup really well. Maybe it’s a spoiler to mention it, even though it has nothing to do with the story, but it’s quite fascinating to watch this drama as a three acts, referring to three main characters who are each introduced in a new act. All of them have one thing in common: they were abused by a priest who joined them during scouts camps. When one of them, now a father of five, realizes that the priest is still working with kids, he wants to confront him. This leads to a complaint, which leads to an investigation, which leads to contacting an other victim, which leads to more complaints, which leads to the founding of an victim organization, which leads to… etc…

It’s very well acted (by every single person in the cast) and incredibly well told. The characterization is excellent. You don’t get everything explained, which leads to a weird tension, but makes sense. Quite a remarkable feat. It’s a difficult topic and even though the actual story isn’t spectacular or complicated, it’s really well told with lots of intimate acting and images in an exceptionally non-judgemental way. Maybe, the best movie of 2019.

www.imdb.com/title/tt8095860

Werk Ohne Autor – ***

Posted: November 19, 2019 in 2018, Drama, Germany, Romance, War, XXX

European critics didn’t like it. The artist whose life it’s based on didn’t like it either. But lots of moviegoers did and somehow the members of the Academy as well, because this German biopic was one of last year’s nominees for best foreign language film.

It’s a great movie though. Just assume it’s fiction and forget about the artist’s complaints. And expect a simple, superficial overview of what Germany has gone through the past couple of decades. Nazism, communism, capitalism… it’s all briefly mentioned, which bothers a lot of critics, but is well done for an audience who may not be too familiar with the details of Germany’s history.

It does rise some questions about art & artists and governments & ideologies who have their own interpretation of art. It’s very topical right now in a region like Flanders, where subsidies for art projects will  be lowered by 60%. A politician claimed that modern art has lost its beauty and the new artists are too focused on individual expressions, a statement which caused even more controversy than the financial cut.

The movie starts with a young kid visiting an exhibition of entartete Kunst. It’s quite ironic to think that the Nazis showed degenerate art to the masses to mock and condemn it. It must have been a great exhibition to visit if you were interested in different art. Later in the movie the kid has become an adult and paints socialist realism in the DDR under the rule of communists who hate the egocentric aspect of Western art as well. A few years later the artist arrives in Dusseldorf having fled across the border and is confronted with modern expressions of art, which ignore the craft of painting and focus on installations and performances.

It’s an easy movie to love (and for critics to hate). It’s filmed in a very conventional way, but there’s nothing wrong with old-fashioned drama. Art doesn’t always have to shock. It can also be just beautiful. And this movie is. The love story is refreshingly simple. The only obstacle in the young couple’s romance is the father of the girl, a conservative opportunist and vile doctor with a dark past.

Watch it.

Unless you don’t like mainstream movies appealing to the masses aged 9 to 99.

www.imdb.com/title/tt5311542

기생충 (Parasite) – ***

Posted: October 24, 2019 in 2019, Comedy, South Korea, XXX

Ha! It takes a bit to get into the different kind of humor, but once you do, it’s fun!

A (‘poor’) family of four manages to find their way into a wealthy family of four working as their english teacher, art therapist, driver and housekeeper. But how long can they keep up this charade?

This movie is wining all kinds of awards, which is quite unique for a comedy. It’s a socially critical comedy. Maybe. If you want to interpret it that way. But it’s really just a crazy, original, absurd comedy with a lot of unexpected twists in the script.

Go see it.

Then go have a garden birthday party …

www.imdb.com/title/tt6751668/

 

 

 

Joker – ***

Posted: October 9, 2019 in 2019, Drama, USA, XXX

Fascinating. From start to finish. Even though they could have cut the end end.

Fascinating how the movie is a blockbuster, when it really is a dark arthouse tale. Fascinating how Joaquin Phoenix is his character. Fascinating how some scenes are shot from the most perfect original angles. Fascinating how daunting the soundtrack is. Fascinating how a quasi perfect movie still leaves you thinking: why is this not a perfect movie?

Still. Go see it.

www.imdb.com/title/tt7286456