Archive for the ‘2007’ Category

Getting a Netflix account will make up for not traveling far this winter! No need to re-visit Salvador do Bahia if you got movies like Ó Paí, Ó on your tv. Not sure what other ‘world cinema is available on the streaming network, but that’s to find out in the near future.

This movie is very confusing though. It starts of as a musical comedy, but it ends as a drama with a message. The confusing part is what that message is. Throughout the movie you get to see Salvador the way no other travel documentary has shown it. It’s a beautiful and exciting city. A lot of the sights that tourists want to see are shown in this feature. The stories are set in the famous Pelourinho area with its colorful houses and the charming cobblestoned streets. If you’ve been to the place, you want to go back as soon as you see it on screen. However, the reality of the city is harsh and it’s like this whole advertising clip ends with the message: don’t go there!

The first characters to appear on-screen are played by Lazaro Ramos and Emanuelle Araujo, both from Bahia. They immediately have a sexy scene together in which he paints on her naked body after he just showed off dancing to a samba beat. Within ten minutes you’re thinking: wow, a movie about gorgeous Salvador with even more gorgeous Brazilians making out. However, half an hour later or so, twenty more characters are introduced and they all represent a stereotype. An hour into the movie, the list of clichés is so long that you can’t take it anymore. But then drama sets in and there are some strong scenes with social commentary. It’s like the parody becomes a political manifest.

The clichés are confronting though. If someone else makes a movie about Brazil and adds too many clichés, they get burned. If a local makes a movie about Brazil and fills it with even more clichés, they get heralded. A Brazilian friend told me the movie was well perceived and quite important for the local community, but for a Western European this movie feels awkward. Sure, everyone in Brazil or who has visited Brazil can relate to some of those stereotypes. But to see them all in one movie is confronting.

The hypocritical evangelist who worships the bible, but loves the gossip of sexual adventures by others. The white trash drug dealing nut-head, who blurts out racist insults to feel better about himself. The cheating husband of a pregnant wife, who fucks the ‘mandatory’ transgender. The emigrant who lies about her successful life in Europe. The rascal kids who find it amusing to rip off tourists. The promiscuous girl who get another abortion because she always forgets to use a condom. The corrupt police officer who needs to keep an eye on the store of his landlord in order to postpone paying for last month’s rent. And then there’s the candomblé (Bahia’s spiritual religion), acarajé (great street food), the music from Olodum (Salavador’s famous carnaval drum band), flirtatious behavious by all, the shouting when communicating, etc…

It’s an interesting movie to watch. But it’s a tough one to sit through. Most of the acting is terrible. It’s just over the top. Wagner Moura for instance is so ridiculous that it’s not even funny. And he’s a good actor! Lazaro Ramos however is excellent. That one scene where he replies to a racist insult is quite powerful. The story though, that’s another weak point. It’s a collection of stories happening during the days before Carnaval. They do intertwine, but it’s nothing like Crash or Short Cuts where they merge.

Again, it’s not really clear what the director wanted to tell. It’s both a lot and nothing at all.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0895777/

Yawn….

Gave up after an hour and a half (with another hour to go).

What a drag!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0443680

Some series are worthy of binge watching. Others aren’t. Forbrydelsen isn’t. Of course, once you start watching this 20 episode Danish crime series, you do want to know how it will end. But you do want to know it as soon as possible.

However, this is a 20 episode series! 20 episodes of an hour each. 20 hours to find out who killed a 19y old girl. 20 hours to dig into the secrets of the girl’s family. 20 hours to look into the troubled life of the female detective in charge. 20 hours to figure out what the link is between this girl’s death and the mayoral election campaign. 20 hours of interesting and exciting, but often irrelevant plot twists. 20 hours of chasing and clearing the wrong suspects. 20 hours of listening to Danish. 20 hours of watching pretty incompetent police detectives make mistakes over and over again. 20 hours of watching politicians and their staff talk and talk and talk about clearing their names in the campaign. 20 hours of people changing their story all the time. 20 hours of thinking: why the f*** can people not just tell the truth from the start? (really, it would make everything so much easier, especially for the suspects!) 20 hours of trying to be a detective yourself and shouting at the detectives on screen to stop making mistakes! 20 hours of often thinking: this just doesn’t make sense ! (for instance: when – on two occasions – a character asks the identity of the main mayoral rival, who is in the news all the time as the potential new mayor and as a suspect to the murder.  20 hours of hoping for a surprising end. 20 hours not entirely wasted.

Sure, solving a crime isn’t as easy as what shows like C.S.I. want to make you believe. It takes a while. And cops can fail. Situations can be deceiving. Politics and pressure can play a part. It’s nice to add dept to the story and the characters. It’s nice to show realism. It’s nice to show failure. It makes it all the more believable. The acting is great. That Sofie Gråbøl is phenomenal. But a lot of questions remain unanswered. A lot of plot lines fade away and seem forgotten after a few episodes. Several scenes don’t make sense. And the end is disappointing. If only the series would have been 10 hours. But no. 20 hours. Twenty hours!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0826760/

A divorced couple get together for dinner a few times to discuss the weird behavior of their teenage son. That’s it basically.

There are intriguing scenes of dialogue. Some are repeated from a different camera angle. The technique is quite fascinating. You let two actors improvise and re-do the same scene a few times and then edit everything as if it’s the same scene from a different angle. It’s weird because the dialogue is different, but it’s fascinating.

However, that’s the only good thing about it.

The scenes of the boy acting seclusively weird are tedious. The adult acting is quite impressive, but the story just doesn’t lead to anywhere in particular. It’s all improvisation. Not that there needs to be a concluding end. But a series of intriguing conversations doesn’t make for a good story. Nor a good movie.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1100908

Die Fälscher has been on my dvd shelf and in my travel dvd holder for years (some 50 other movies share the same fate), but for some reason it took me until today to finally watch it. It was worth the wait ! What an excellent movie.

Much has to do with the character of Sally Sorowitsch, a most intriguing Jewish counterfeiter who’s arrested by the Nazis and later placed as head of their own money forging business. His will to survive is enormous and if that includes collaborating with the nazis, than so be it. Soon after he’s been placed in a concentration camp he makes it known what his talents are in order to get a (slightly) better treatment than the others. And it works.

Both Karl Markovics (the actor) and Stefan Ruzowitzky (the director) are to be complimented for depicting a believable anti-hero. In fact, the whole cast and production team should be given kudos. The story is interesting, the characters aren’t one-dimensional, the script is well written, a lot of the background information is told with clever images, both explicit and suggestive…

Yeah, nothing to complain about at all. Apart from the soundtrack maybe and the Monte Carlo scenes in the beginning and at the end, which don’t add anything interesting to the story.

Great watch ! A must.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0813547/

It took a bit longer to finish Season 12 after having re-started watching E.R. Some story lines really suck, several new characters are incredibly annoying (Dr Clemente for instance) and it just often feels like the producers have no idea which direction they want to head with this show. There isn’t one single episode that really captivates. And there are plenty that are just less than mediocre.

It’s not all bad though. It’s quite daring to focus an entire episode on Dr Pratt and Dr Carter working at some refuge camp in Darfur. There seems to be more humor than in the previous season, which is a relief. There are still enough moral dilemmas that are brought to the mainstream’s attention. And the cliffhanger finale is quite shocking.

But most of the stories are boring and futile. And a lot of the acting is superficial and stereotypical. Maybe Season 13 is better again.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108757/episodes?season=12

Set in Hong Kong and Shanghai before and during the Second World War, this daunting espionage thriller by Ang Lee doesn’t get you hooked until you witness a very brutal murder scene. The first half hour just introduces the characters and the setting. Japan has occupied China and at the university of unoccupied Hong Kong there’s a growing awareness of resistance. Enter a group of students who first try to raise awareness by acting in a patriotic theatre play and later decide to take their acting skills further by introducing themselves with fake identities to a powerful Chinese collaborator. The plan is easy: one of the girls in the group has to become the collaborator’s mistress and once she’s alone with him they will strike.

Two actors stand out. One is newcomer Tang Wei who plays the seducer and movie superstar Tony Leung Chiu-Wai as the collaborator. Every scene they are in together is mesmerizing and is filled with feelings of Lust and Caution as the title promises. Especially during the daring sex scenes. Movies like these can easily fall subject to stereotyping by focussing on a villain and a good whore. But Ang Lee just makes both very human in their moments together. He did an excellent casting job. Both actors and both characters fascinate until the very end. You’re never quite sure if they enjoy the lust more than the fear of getting caught.

The soundtrack is outstanding, a movie element which often is underrated. It helps create the atmosphere. The cinematography however looks very fake. The recreated Hong Kong and Shanghai from the late thirties and early forties doesn’t come across as realistic. Even though they spend millions on creating the historical set. It looks too much like a movie set.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0808357

 

 

Earth – **1/2

Posted: December 23, 2013 in 2007, Documentary, Nature, UK, XX1/2

For those who have no time to watch the entire BBC Earth nature series, there’s also the feature documentary Earth which scored well at the box office all around the world.

It focuses on our fascinating planet and quickly takes you from the north pole to the south pole (and back) showing nature and animal life in all kinds of different environments.

It’s a great movie of course. It’s all filmed in HD and the scenes that were selected are jawdroppingly beautiful and at times funny as well. (the paradise bird mating preparation is a youtube classic)

It ends with a very finger-pointing message: stop destroying our planet and the creatures that live on it. My personal belief is that we’ve already fucked up a long time ago. They should have warned us during the industrial revolution back in the late 19th century. But they didn’t and now it’s too late. So for the time being: let’s enjoy what’s left and let’s enjoy dvd’s like these.

So why only **1/2? Just focus on the word ‘quickly’ in the second phrase. It’s really just a collection of beautifully shot scenes that are somehow edited together as a journey from north to south.

I prefer watching the tv series.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0393597

Talk To Me – *

Posted: November 3, 2013 in 2007, biopic, Dramedy, USA, X

Talk To Me is a disappointing biopic about a radio dj and tv talk show host from Washington DC, who’s considered to be the first real shock jock.  He got noticed doing an uplifting, tough and funny radio show in a prison and then was offered a morning slot on a local radio station once he got released. The radio station needed someone who could talk the language of the street in order to keep their listeners. And this man, Petey Greene, became an instant (local) celebrity.

The reason why Talk To Me is disappointing is because the dialogue is so boring and the story feels fake. At no point in this movie did I understand why this guy was so popular. I didn’t think he was funny or provocative at all. If that was his main asset, then why isn’t it more present in his biopic? I understand that they want to stress that he was more than a funny man – and they succeed in showing his more serious side in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King -, but it’s a bit weird that this soothing moment is the strongest scene in a movie about an agent provocateur.

Don Cheadle (as the host) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (as his manager) have their moments of excellence, but they often seem to be part of an unfunny Saturday Night Life blaxploitation parody sketch. It all feels very unreal, which is later confirmed as you read more about these two characters and their ‘friendship’. Some key moments – that feel fake – never occurred in reality, which makes the movie even less interesting. 

Sometimes there’s a reason why movies are sold for 1 euro in official dvd outlets.

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0796368

Sunshine – **1/2

Posted: October 30, 2013 in 2007, Science Fiction, UK, USA, XX1/2

My first Blue Ray dvd on a HD tv screen: Sunshine.

Couldn’t have picked a better movie. The sound effects, the image quality, the futuristic atmosphere. Hooray for my new home cinema purchase!

Apart from the last 20 minutes, I really enjoyed this movie. There’s suspense, there’s some realism in all the science fiction, the acting is okay, and the technical features are awesome.

It’s about a mission towards the sun, where some astronauts needs to drop a bomb to save humankind on earth. That’s the premise. Of course, once they actually get past Mercury things don’t go as planned and decisions need to be made. Enter: drama, action, suspense and adventure.

But that end! Boring! Ridiculous!

Maybe better to wear sunglasses while watching the movie.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0448134/