Archive for the ‘2019’ Category

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/

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

 

This Flemish/Dutch crime series is available to watch on Netflix around the globe. Give it a chance. It’s good. Not sure if it’ll appeal to a larger international audience, but it’s well made, well acted and well directed.  The final episode is a bit of a disappointment (a cliffhanger hints at a second season), but in general this is great stuff.

Two cops (one Flemish, one Dutch) have to go undercover at a camping ground to acquaint a notorious drug dealer (in xtc). It’s a tough job, because. the drug dealer distrusts everyone and puts on a great act. He’s the fun loving joker to his superficial neighbors, but a ruthless killer to those who cross him. Never thought about it during the show, but Tony Soprana comes to mind right now. Which is not a good thing, because it doesn’t make the show unique.

What makes it unique is the setting and the many references to Flemish-Dutch culture. Which may get lost to an international crowd. The acting is top notch though. Tom Waes, who plays one of the undercover cops, is a popular tv presenter (with few acting credits to his name) and is surprisingly good. He is very convincing. His undercover partner is played by Anna Drijver, who does a great job in giving her character more than is scripted. The best acting is done by Frank Lammers, the intriguing drug lord, and Elise Schaap as his naive wife. Those are just the four main leads, but all the acting is great.

The story is a typical crime story. There are a few twists, but they are never really surprising. In the end it’s two undercover cops who need to befriend a drug lord and lure him into a drug deal that the police can bust.

But, not in New Jersey or Medellin. Just in the unappealing camping ground setting on the border between Flanders and the Netherlands. Cool trailer though.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt7263154

Confusing at first, but continuously intriguing as the series goes on, this third season of True Detective is a great watch.

Two kids get missing and detectives Hays and West have to figure out what happened when one of the children is found dead. During three different periods in time…  Once in 1980 when the crime happens. Another time in 1990 when a new element re-opens the case. And finally in 2015 when a true crime tv reporter wants to focus on the case by interviewing detective Hays, now in his seventies.

It’s slow and some of the dialogues sound wooden, but overall this is fascinating television. For starters, finally this is a crime story without a major plot twist at the end. It’s cool to actually feel rewarded for thinking along with the detectives. By episode 3 or so you kind of already know what happened and even though some details are missing, it’s great to see that what you are thinking is actually correct. This is great! Because that’s the most annoying thing about detective series: the ridiculous plot twists at the end. The end just makes sense. Which may be boring. But it’s great.

Secondly, the seventy year old detective Hays suffering from Alzheimers is another excellent addition to the story. The disease adds confusion to both the detective and the viewer, but also helps to concentrate on what is a real memory and what is not.

And ultimately, this is also a great depiction of relationships between people who seem to have a strong, yet unconventional bond. The partnership between the two detectives is captivating and the relationship between detective Hays and his wife is even more gripping. The professional and personal tensions between the characters are more exciting than the actual crime.

Maybe that’s the reason why this crime series is so great. The crime itself isn’t the main focus. And that’s what makes it different. And thus, good. However, this only works when the writing is clever and moreover when the acting is phenomenal. And that’s the case. Mahershala Ali is so incredibly good. He should have won awards for this part !!!!! That man is acting gold. Stephen Dorff is also impressive and should also be praised. Carmen Ejogo gives so much mystery to her character that it cannot just be directed. And Michael Graziadel only has two or three scenes, but the one in the bar is method acting perfection.

Yep.

Very much impressed.

ww.imdb.com/title/tt2356777

Camille – **

Posted: February 22, 2020 in 2019, Drama, France, War, XX

Camille is a young journalist who made it her ambition to be a war photographer. She is not that successful until she arrives in the Central African Republic, where a civil war is about the erupt between Muslims and Christians.

With little experience and strange looks from more established journalists she gets attached to some local students who allow her into their world.

When the violence erupts she has her first pictures published, which helps the French intervene in the country’s mess. The muslim Séléka, who – according to this movie – are raiding villages, murdering and raping christians, are stopped by the international presence. But this leads to christian Anti-Balaka gangs who take revenge at the muslim population. It’s confusing if you don’t know much about the civil war and this movie doesn’t do anything to help you understand it better. 

No. The focus is on this young woman. A girl really. But rather than giving some kind of insight on why she chose this path, we just get to observe her as she kinda takes sides with he Anti-Balaka. Just because she got connected to one of their new leaders, who she met as a student on her initial journey. 

The movie reminds you of Ghosts of Cité Soleil, where we also get to see how young European women feel the need to be part of some ‘exotic’ nation’s internal problems. We never get to learn why Camille prefers life in danger than staying at home with her family and friends. The town of Angers must be really boring for someone to want to risk getting killed almost every moment of the day. The movie ends with her saying she feels happier in the war zone. Maybe that’s true. We don’t know. She got killed. So we can only guess. 

It’s an interesting movie. It’s based on true fact, but fictionalized a bit as a lot needs to be assumed. The acting by the main actress is good. Not so much by the many extras. And as mentioned before, we don’t get to learn that much about Central African Republic at all. 

Tu viens, tu prends et tu parts. You come, you take and you leave.

This one line in the movie is quite powerful, because it is the truth. It’s said to Camille as a comparison to the French colonizers from not that long ago. It’s amazing how the woman can get the trust of these young people who are her age and live in a total different world. They may be as ambitious and as intelligent and also dream of leaving the place to look for happiness and recognition abroad. But they definitely don’t have the same opportunities. 

Somehow this movie could have been much more. 

www.imdb.com/title/tt9678892

 

 

The northern French city of Roubaix has a great art museum in a former Art Deco swimming pool and there’s a shopping outlet on former textile factory grounds. But apart from that, it’s a hellhole. To use Trump vocabulary.

So, it’s a surprise that a movie gets released set in this unappreciated part of France.

Not watching the trailer, not reading the synopsis and just going for the positive movie title will leave you horrified.

This is not a delightful movie. It’s dark. And depressing. And makes you never want to go to Roubaix at all. The city’s tourism office will not have approved.

No.

The great Roschdy Zem is a police officer in this marginalized town and leads a team that has to go out at night dealing with marginalized town acts of crime and despair. The first half of the movie just shows a series of things that can go wrong at night. Cars being set on fire, girls being raped, thefts, burglaries and arson. The second half of the movie focuses on two women being accused of having murdered their old age neighbor.

It’s a weird movie and the second half would have worked better as a stage play. The dialogues are well written and the acting is okay, but as a movie it totally falls flat.

Roschdy Zem cannot save his movie. But he is impressive. As always.

www.imdb.com/title/tt8359840

Almost the entire cast of The Crown changed for season 3. It takes a while before that kicks in. Olivia Coleman is a great actress, sure, but she isn’t Claire Foy, who excelled as Queen Elisabeth in the first series. Only by the final episode, you have to acknowledge that she does do a fine job. But it’s difficult to be charmed by her from the start. That’s because this season, the focus isn’t on her that much.

The acting is still great though. Helen Bonham Carter is quite exquisite as Princess Margaret and both Josh O’Connor and Erin Doherty do a great job as Prince Charles and Princess Anne.

The storytelling remains admirable. How each episode is scripted is very clever. However, the fiction takes over from the facts. And even though it’s great dramatic storytelling, it loses its credibility because a lot of it just isn’t true.

Even more than in the first twenty episodes, you want to google what is true and what is fictionalized. It’s distracting from watching the show. Did that really happen? Is this historically correct? These constant questions often get answered by a ‘no’.

It’ll be interesting to see season 4 which will have Margaret Tatcher and Princes Diana as main characters. This seventies show was okay, but not that fascinating. Apart from two episodes, which are set in Wales. Those are perfect television hours. Well written, well directed, well acted, well researched. More of that please.

www.imdb.com/title/tt4786824

Booksmart – **

Posted: January 30, 2020 in 2019, Comedy, USA, XX

Hahahaha

This is one weird high school comedy…

Two girls who focused on getting good grades in high school realize that they haven’t really lived during their high school year. Especially when it turns out that others in their class will graduate with equally good scores and have done the party/drugs/sex thing.

So they decide to do all they forgot to do in one evening !

It’s a fun movie with two comical actresses and a setting very different from the American high school movies of the eighties. Jocks like nerds. Gay people are not discriminated. The diversity of society is represented without ever referring to it explicitly. The only thing worth bullying someone for is the inability to party.

Times have changed.

Not sure in the Midwest but definitely in LA, which again represents itself at its weirdiest…

The trailer is NOT representative of the movie. The movie is much better than what the trailer promises. 

ww.imdb.com/title/tt1489887

 

 

Mystify – *(*)

Posted: January 30, 2020 in 2019, Australia, Documentary, Musical, X1/2

INXS were one of the coolest rock bands of the eighties until the nineties happened and U2 took over.

Michael Hutchence was more in the news because of his affairs with Kylie Minogue and Helena Christensen than because of his music. Oh. And there was drugs and stuff. And then he had Paula Yates leave Bob Geldof… oh and yes, it ended up with him hanging himself in a hotel bed room.

This documentary wants to show a different aspect of the rock idol gone roque. Lots of people are interviewed, but they all sound so overly positive about the guy. Even Kylie whose heart he broke into a million pieces.

That is just weird.

www.imdb.com/title/tt5938950

Shia Lebeouf used to be a promising actor, then deliberately chose not to go for a successful career in Hollywood, ended up doing shitty movies and ultimately disappeared from the big screen.

In this indie road movie dramedy however he is excellent. His character is a guilt driven, good hearted, but careless drifter who suddenly gets hooked up with a young down syndrome man. They are an odd couple, but somehow form a bond. One is running away from a petty crime, the other has escaped from a facility to chase a dream: become a show wrestler…

It’s a feel good movie with sad elements that never feel like drama and funny moments that never feel like comedy. The chemistry between both main characters is great and even Dakota Johnson is good. 

A nice secret gem. 

www.imdb.com/title/tt4364194