Archive for the ‘USA’ Category

Originally planned to be released just before this year’s cancelled Eurovision festival, the Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams parody gets a new chance on Netflix. It’s a bit of a surprise though. The Eurovision craze only unites Europe for just a few days mid-May and then isn’t really on anyone’s radar for the next 51 weeks. But hey, it’s a weird year, so the summer holidays may start with a weird comedy as well.

The comedy isn’t that weird though. It’s very Eurovision. If it would be a real parody, there would be more sarcasm. Now it’s just a competition making fun of itself. And its fans. And its contestants.

Will Ferrell isn’t all that annoying as an Icelandic artist, whose dream it has been to win the Eurovision songfestival ever since he saw Abba perform Waterloo in 1974. Rachel Adams is his childhood friend who sings in his band and follows his dream because she’s in love with him.

It’s a silly movie. But it somehow works. Especially if you know the contest. There are a lot of references to certain aspects of the show that come back every year. The diss at the UK for never getting any points. The diss at the Russian gay singer who is convinced he is not gay, because he is Russian. The neighboring countries voting for each other. Several ex-performers/winners appear in the movie. The new songs you hear all sound like they could be actual songs from the contest. Even the performances. Honestly, there are a lot of fun references in this movie.

The irony is that Iceland would have won this year’s contest if it would have taken place. So it totally makes sense the story takes place in Iceland. It’s a quirky island with quirky people who are an easy target for a quirky movie.

It’s a very simplistic romantic and musical comedy. Just what we need.

www.imdb.com/title/tt85802

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

 

 

Da 5 Bloods – *

Posted: June 15, 2020 in 2020, Adventure, USA, War, X

Spike Lee isn’t going to want to hear this, but Quentin Tarantino would have made a much stronger movie based on this material.

Four African American Vietnam vets return to the Asian country in search of a case of gold they once found on a mission and which they buried next to the remains of their squad leader, who got shot during the mission.

Sounds interesting. A bit of adventure, mixed with drama and four unusual leads.

But then the movie starts and it’s already a mess from the beginning. None of these main characters is interesting. They once formed a squad, then led separate lives and now get back together to go on a treasure hunt. NO! This has to be a group of buddies who stuck with each other through life and now finally, as the icing of the friendship cake, go on this adventure. One of them, the PTSD case of the group, voted Trump and wears a MAGA cap. He’s the most annoying character of the movie and that’s probably Spike Lee’s aim. He’s also the main character. Yawn. The other three are present, but that’s all they are. They don’t provide comic relief. Nor drama. They are almost obsolete.

Then one of the guy’s son appears to join them. A character so uninteresting that he’s only used for one dramatic scene by the end. Along the way they meet all kinds of people, who are superficially introduced as stereotypes. The unemotional former prostitute and her daughter, the stuck up French businessman accepting to cash the gold when it is found, the anti-American members of a European mine detonating organization, the Vietnamese guide who they can or cannot trust, …. None of them are interesting. Somewhere near the end a snake attacks one of the squad members and gets blown to pieces. Somehow that is the dramatic highlight of the movie.

And a lot of things happen. Which is the only reason why this still gets some rating.

The problem is that it all looks like it was made on a low budget and there was no money for second takes or special effects. It’s also filled with obsolete scenes. Like the one where the foursome gets a visit from a kid that is missing a leg and begs for money. Why is that scene in the movie? To show the dismissive reaction of the MAGA dude? We already know the guy is the douchebag, reinforcing it by this scene is unnecessary. Then as the four walk out of the restaurant the kid throws firecrackers at them. It sounds like they are being attacked. Why is that scene in the movie? It’s not funny. It’s not dramatic. It’s obsolete. And so you have almost half of the movie consisting of unnecessary scenes that aren’t funny or dramatic or make sense.

Clear to say this is a very disappointing movie. Especially since it looked like it could have been such a great movie. It could have been a Stand By Me for grown ups in the Vietnamese jungle. It also could have been a Romancing The Stone kind of comical action adventure. It could even have been a Deer Hunter like drama. It could have even been a mix of all that. And still work.

But it doesn’t. It’s a boring movie without drama, without humor and lots of shoot up action scenes that could well have been featured in Rambo, a movie that gets dissed by some of the characters.

Missed chance.

www.imdb.com/title/tt9777644/

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

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?

 

Marley And Me – *

Posted: June 6, 2020 in 2008, romcom, USA, X

Friends got a dog and named it Marley, because of the movie with Owen Wilson and Jennifer Anniston. 

It was on tonight and I started to watch it. Moreover, I even finished it! A romcom with Jennifer Anniston and Owen Wilson and an obnoxious dog!

I get the appeal of the movie for dog owners and lovers. And I guess the dog isn’t really that obnoxious, just very affectionate and active if you want to use euphemisms. So, I kinda understand why  would call your active and affectionate puppy Marley.

A couple meet, get married and get a dog. They’re not really good at controlling their dog’s behavior and just let him be whoever he wants to be. Then they get kids. The couple start arguing. They move. Twice. Then the dog dies. The end.

It’s not really a bad movie. It’s just pretty bland. As soon as the end credits roll you want to watch something else. In fact, the two commercials following the movie also featured a couple and a dog. And pretty much left me with the same feeling.

www.imdb.com/title/tt0822832

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

Incredibles 2 – *(*)

Posted: May 25, 2020 in 2018, Action, Animation, USA, X1/2

Didn’t like this sequel. Didn’t particularly like the first installment either. Not sure why. The action is over the top. It’s fast paced and a bit too much. The humor isn’t that funny. The dialogues are boring. The social commentary is given by the antagonist. It’s predictable and there are too many non-essential characters. The idea of a superhero family that wants to live a regular life without explaining what they do in their regular life is a bit weird. The idea of superheroes being banned from doing superhero stuff isn’t original. The idea of raising children with (or without) superpowers is boring. Yeah. No. This is an animation movie to skip.

But apparently this was a big box office hit. So what do I know?

www.imdb.com/title/tt3606756/