Archive for the ‘2020’ 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

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/

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

After Life Season 2 – **

Posted: April 30, 2020 in 2020, Drama, TV series, UK, XX

Man, this is depressing.

The first episodes of Ricky Gervais’ serious dramedy about a man losing his wife to cancer and struggling with the loss, were great. They showed a different aspect of the British comedian, but were still filled with excellent humor and social commentary. These six episodes however lack the humor and commentary. Maybe once per episode there’s a hilarious moment, but overal it’s just very sad.

This is not the moment to watch sad tv shows. This is the moment to laugh and escape to absurd fiction. Not to harsh realities of losing people and dealing with grief. However positive the approach to it all may be.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8398600/

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/

Yeh Ballet – **

Posted: March 19, 2020 in 2020, Drama, India, Musical, XX

There’s a debate on why the west love poverty porn from India more than the usual Bollywood fare. The Indians sure don’t understand. And the west may feel uncomfortable afterwards for having enjoyed a movie that focuses on the kids from the slums who succeed in something.

Yeh Ballet tells the story of two kids who take classes in a dance studio and get noticed by an extravagant Israeli-American ballet teacher. He sees potential in them and helps them get a grant to study abroad. But it is a long journey to get there. Both kids come from lesser of families who don’t appreciate their dancing skills and their struggle is pretty much their own.

It’s an okay movie. But it’s not well balanced. The movie feels like a fairy tale, so when you hear it’s based on true events it’s kind of hard to believe. A lot of dramatic elements are just mentioned briefly and it is not well indicated what the timeline of the story is. It’s an Indian movie so there are references to the Islam/Hinduism conflict and it’s clear what the director thinks about that by hearing the muslim kid’s lines. “We all have the same blood.” “Allah gave me the body of a dancer so it’s not haram to continue dancing.” This is interesting stuff, but we only get quotes or remarks. Something dramatic happens to the chubby friend of the muslim kid and even though that’s not the main story, it’s dealt with in a very rushed way. By the way, it seems like chubby people in Indian movies always play the silly/goofy sidekick like back in the Goonies days.. Showing the other family who is struggling they briefly mention the failure of the older brother to succeed in life and how they set all hopes on their dancing son to get to university. But what happened isn’t clear. Do we need to know? Not really, but still. The kid has an ailing sister, but it’s never really clear what her condition is. Do we need to know? Not really, but still. The dance teacher isn’t replying to his emails that he gets sent. Why is he so eccentric? Why did he accept a job in India? Why is he being such a prick to everyone? Do we need to know? Not really, but still.

It all feels very rushed, the story telling. And the dance sequences aren’t that spectacular to be fair.

But the acting of the two kids is good. One is debuting as an actor and as a dancer and he does an excellent job. The other is playing a fictionalized version of himself, which somehow feels less authentic. Yes, his dance performances are great and he can put on the best performing smile possible. But that doesn’t help in all scenes. Yet. Both are debuting actors and do a great job.

A miniseries would have been a better idea.

www.imdb.com/title/tt10230436

 

Modo Avião – *(*)

Posted: March 14, 2020 in 2020, Brasil, Comedy, X1/2

Ana is as smartphone addicted influencer who is working for a fashion company that uses her instagram profile to sell their items. The girl is so obsessed about social media that she’s constantly on her phone and causes many accidents with her car. After one of them is almost fatal, her mother arranges her to go stay with her grandpa in rural mountainous inland Brazil. Where there is no wifi.

The synopsis is okay. The start is kinda fun. Mocking the social media and the fashion world. And when the movie takes you to the beautiful Mantigueira Mountains you want to buy a plane ticket to Sao Paulo, rent a car and drive up to Belo Horizonte via the mountain road. The setting is gorgeous. And Sao Paulo looks fabulous as well. Larissa Manoela is doing a fine job as the main lead and it also features Fica Tudo Bem, the most catchy Brazilian indie pop songs of recent years.

But in the end, it’s a silly romcom that has little to no romance, but a fair amount of gentle humor. It’s for teenagers. Or for those who want to watch something that is so far away from the current news stories that it’s a relief.

www.imdb.com/title/tt10731748/

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

Quite disappointing, this second season. Whereas the first series was refreshing, this pretty much feels like it is too calculated.

Gillian Anderson’s sex therapist character is still great though. When there is an outbreak of chlamydia she is asked to come and be a sex counsellor in school. But that is interfering with the business of her son, who has been given sex advice for money on the school premises as well.

It is an interesting premise and episode 1 totally gets you in the same mood as the previous episodes. But soon something is lacking. Is it the acting? Is it the total absence of humor? Not sure, but the show stops being engaging soon. Not worthy of binge watching at all.

There are a few new characters and we get to learn more about some of the characters that weren’t in the spotlight of series one. But the main ones seem to have lost their charm. Which is sad.

The cliffhanger end doesn’t really make you look forward to what is coming next either. And that is too bad, because, on a positive note, it does prove that you can have a good show with an inclusive cast without constantly referring to the sexual and racial differences between kids. Anyone can be anything. This is one thing in which this show excells.

www.imdb.com/title/tt7767422