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Roald Amundsen på sydpolen (1913)
This movie is said to be the first Norwegian animated movie. There's just a problem; it's not animated! Animation means drawings in motion on the screen. This movie does not have that. So what exactly is it? Using the broadest possible definition of it, I suppose you could call it a documentary. A documentary about a man drawing a chalk drawing of a figure we base on the title of the movie must assume is supposed to be Roald Amundsen on an empty blackboard, using a very rough caricature of Earth (the globe) as his body. The globe has both the North and South pole on it, and there's no distinction made as to which exactly is the focus point in the drawing, so the "on the South Pole" part of the title makes no sense at all. The drawing is not animated - it does not move, so calling this animation is complete nonsense as well. If this was a definition of animation, then any live action movie you've ever watched where someone draws a caricature on a piece of paper, a napkin, a blackboard, in the sand, or whatever, should be characterized as animation too...
If watching amateur artists drawing crude, nonsensical drawings of Norwegian legends on a blackboard sounds like your thing, then by all means seek it out - it's out on Blu-ray in Norway now (along with several other Norwegian animated shorts, most of which far more worthwhile than this). My best advise is to skip it completely. It's not animation, it's not entertaining and it's not the least bit interesting. Quite possibly the worst Norwegian movie I've ever watched. Utter nonsense!
Poignant but boring
This movie has received a lot of praise for its depiction of the secret life of a sex addict. And yes, the movie does raise some good points about the way the world is moving, and many will probably also recognize its theme of leading a secret life of porn addiction and "shame". Many will recognize its theme of the feeling of having your life invaded when a family situation forces you to set your own life aside to help out, and the frustration entailed. Many will recognize its theme of a feeling of meaninglessness and hopelessness, considering suicide as a way out. The themes of the movie are poignant, timely and meaningful. Unfortunately, the execution leaves a LOT to be desired.
The opening scene sets the standard. A full minute (I think) of Brandon (Fassbender) lying in bed with the same expression on his face the whole time. Sure, you understand he's not happy; you could see that after 5 seconds, the next 55 didn't really say any more or less about it. And that's a recurring problem in the movie; a lot of the scenes are drawn out far beyond the point of having expressed its message. Set to the most boring piano-only classical music imaginable it just becomes frustratingly dull, to a point where the boredom of the music and overlong scenes becomes what you reluctantly focus on in the movie, rather than the story. It doesn't help the movie that it has overlong, almost pointless scenes like Carey Mulligan's performance of "New York, New York", which - bar none - is the worst ever public performance of that song (I can't speak for personal shower performances and such, with the performer as the only witness), not to mention the longest. Sure, as far as story goes the scene is important in showing Brandon's emotions and Sissy's secret "talent", but it could have been done a lot better.
Then there's the so called "shock" aspect of the movie; its explicit sex and nudity scenes. I seriously don't get the fuzz. Maybe it's because I'm Norwegian. Seriously; every Norwegian movie released these days, even movies meant for young teenagers, show just as explicit nudity and sex as this movie. OK, I'm exaggerating, but less than you might think. And for a movie about a sex addict, there were really disappointingly few of these scenes as well, and the few there were, were short and disappointing.
At the end of the day, the only one that should feel ashamed about this movie is the director. The story is good. The performances are good. The execution is terrible. This is one of the most boring movies I've watched all year, and it didn't even have the shock value the publicity made it out to have either. Unfortunately, an utter waste of time, and even worse waste of potential and talent.
An exceptional study...
...in boredom! The purpose of a movie is either to entertain or to educate (documentaries primarily). This series of pictures (I hesitate to call it a film) does neither. With the possible exception of those who've lived all their lives under a rock and/or are somehow oblivious about the fact that there are many different cultures and scenic views out there in the big world.
While the photography in this work is breathtaking, with exceptionally sharp and detailed pictures of a wide range of cultures and exotic geographical locations, it doesn't really mend the fact that there is absolutely no point or message to be taken out of it. It's just a moving slideshow of beautiful (and some disturbing - most of us already know that there is a lot of evil in the world too) pictures, accompanied by slow and extremely boring music. There's no narration, no context and no point in it, except to show what we already know (hopefully anyway); it's a big world out there. Everything moves along slowly, and is dulled down further by the slow, repetitive and boring music. As far as boredom in moving pictures goes, this is unparalleled.
If you want to study the world in a more meaningful way, watch some documentaries on National Geographic, or buy a large coffee table book of pictures from the world, and view it with your preferred choice in music playing in the background. The "message" will be the same, but you'll get a more satisfying experience by being able to flip the pages at your preferred speed and listening to music you actually like.
Never Let Me Go (2010)
I'm not into romantic movies, unless there's something else about it. I can take most romantic comedies because of the comedy aspect, but if you'd ask me what kind of category of film I'd be least likely to want to see, 'romantic drama' would be at the very top of the list. So what brought me here? Carey Mulligan... Simple as that. Since I first saw her picture, while promoting An Education, I knew I wanted to see as much of her as I could. An Education was great. Drive and Public Enemies were unfortunately not so good. Haven't gotten around to the others yet, but they'll come. So to be honest; I bought this movie simply because she was in it. That, and the fact that it had a good rating and reviews.
So, I sat down to watch it. Skeptical due to the 'romantic drama' aspect, and I hadn't really read anything at all about it, so I had no idea whatsoever about what lay ahead of me.
Rarely have I been more blown away by a movie. I didn't even know about the sci-fi aspects of the movie before putting it on, but therein lies the true qualities of this gem of a movie. True, realistic, emotional and scientific science fiction, not space adventure, mind you. The kind of fiction that makes you question our humanity and personal views and histories, makes us reflect on what we've experienced in the past and what options we actually have for future experiences, and makes us appreciate our friendships and relationships a little bit more. Real compelling stuff! All strengthened by a fantastic story, that surely has romantic aspects, but not the sickening in-your-face kind of romances that only Hollywood at its worst can produce. This delves more on the fantasies and hopes of the perfect romance, and as such is something anyone can relate to, even those of us who haven't had too much luck in that department in our own lives.
This is a fantastically beautiful and thought-provoking film, brilliantly directed and with superb acting performances throughout. It gets my warmest recommendations! And if you can avoid it; don't read too much about it or watch its trailer. Just watch it, and let it take you on the emotional roller-coaster ride that it is. You won't regret it!
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
A welcome departure from Spielberg's usual style
This is the story of perhaps the biggest American fraudster in history, and the cat-and-mouse chase to catch him. A hunt that in many ways brought Frank Abagnale Jr. (DiCaprio) and FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Hanks) together, since in many ways they were each other's lives at the time, and culminated in a lifelong friendship. Frank Abagnale Jr.'s story is an incredible one. By the time he turned 18, he had successfully played the roles of an airline captain, a doctor and a lawyer, and cashed in false checks for over $2.5 million. This is the film of his story, based on Frank's own accounts of the events. And it is an exceptionally entertaining film. Cocky con artists succeeding pretty much always make for a fun film, and when it's based on the true events of a young and likable man, it gets even more fun. It's amazing what you can get away with a little ingenuity and enormous amounts of nerve. But there's of course a price to pay when your whole life revolves around living a lie.
Catch Me If You Can is actually a rather unusual film to bear Spielberg's name. The usual Spielberg trademarks are mostly absent from this film, without that necessarily being a bad thing. Initially Spielberg didn't intend to direct this film at all; it was Gore Verbinsky who first got the job. But when Leonardi DiCaprio was called back to film more scenes for Gangs of New York, delaying the shoot, Verbinsky had to withdraw. At that time James Gandolfini was lined up for the role of Carl Hanratty. It could've been interesting to see how the film had turned out with them, but looking at the film as it is, it is hard to imagine it being better than the Spielberg/Hanks collaboration it turned out to be, their fifth at the time.
Along with Spielberg's departure from his usual style, there's also John William's soundtrack, which is very different from the pompous soundtracks he's most known for. It's jazzy and beautiful, and fits the 60s setting perfectly. The acting is first rate, from the leads of Leonardo DiCaprio, who started showing at the time that there was more to him than just being a heartthrob, and Tom Hanks, both delivering top notch work, to brilliant supporting parts from actors like Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen. It's a well crafted and playful movie overall, delivering the goods across all lines. It's a highly entertaining movie, that I'm sure will stand the test of time. Recommended!
Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (1920)
A masterful piece of art, unlike anything you've ever seen on film before!
The first time I saw this movie I did not think much of it. Well, I've been wrong before, and was once again proved wrong here. This movie is amazingly good and stunningly beautiful. A work of art as well as a movie! The reason I did not like it the first time has probably more to do with the quality of the image on the VHS tape, than the movie itself. Combined with a musical score that didn't fit the movie at all, it was a rather dismal experience. Later I chose the music myself, and found that old Kraftwerk songs fit quite well to the mood of the film. Over the years we've been blessed with restored presentations of the film, featuring excellent musical scores, and the movie is once again able to shine in its proper context, as it always deserved.
Set in a small German town called Altona, a young student, Francis, finds his closest friend, Alan, killed the night after a visit to an amusement park. He becomes suspicious of one of the exhibitors at the carnival, because his attraction, a sleepwalker and seer, had told him that he would only live until nightfall. The night before that the city's mayor had been killed. Francis takes it upon himself to investigate the murders, hoping to save himself and his fiancée, Jane, from the same fate.
The film focuses on our hero and his search for Caligari, Caligari and how he protects himself and his somnambulist, Cesare, from the suspicions of the police, and the police's suspicion of an innocent man.
The story of the film is classic as of today, but in 1920 the movie was quite unique. The most unique feature of the film being that it was the first ever with a surprise ending.
The film can be seen in at least two ways: as a well layered and effective thriller/horror film, or as an advanced piece of art. The sceneries in the film are unlike anything I've ever seen before or after, with Tim Burton's artsy sceneries in some of this more Gothic movies as the closest you'll get, style-wise. The director amazes with his use of shapes and lighting to emphasize the plot and enhance the effectiveness of it. It's a risky endeavor, but he perfectly balances the risks of the sets either becoming too unrealistic and unsettling on the one hand, or of being too much style over substance on the other. But the sets fits the story perfectly, in their own unique way. It's unlike anything you've ever seen anywhere else, but you certainly wouldn't want it looking any different either. It is hard to imagine the film looking different than what we're served here, but they have actually tried making more normal looking remakes of the movie in the 60s. I don't really want to check that one out, though, simply because I love this piece of art too much to have it ruined by a different vision. Would you want to see another artist's take on Mona Lisa? Probably not...
This was Robert Weine's masterpiece, and pretty much his sole claim of fame. All his attempts before and after this film to achieve something similar failed completely.
The actors in the film make good performances. Few of us have probably heard of most of the actors today, but many will probably remember Conrad Veidt (Cesare) from Casablanca or The Thief of Bagdad. This is a German expressionist film, a type of film that emphasize on the gestures of the actors to make its point, rather than sound. This is done in a very good way in this film. Conrad Veidt is particularly good in his part of the somnambulist, with a very artistic and elegant take on the role. Take special notice of the scene where he tries to kill Jane; perfection, worth every penny of the movie alone!
I will not say much more than that about the film, it has to be experienced! All in all, a truly unique and timeless film, as effective today as it was in 1920. A true classic!
The end, too soon
Murder One, season one, was a brilliant piece of television, but probably a bit ahead of its time. Telling one story over 23 episodes it demanded you followed it from the beginning, and didn't miss episodes along the way. While that kind of television has become accepted now, through series like "24", it was new at the time. But it worked, and told a gripping and dramatic story in a stellar way. Central to its success was the brilliant performance by Daniel Benzali as Ted Hoffman, the lead lawyer of the firm.
But some executives obviously felt that he wasn't charismatic enough, and that expanding a story to 23 episodes was too much. So, come season 2, Daniel Benzali was out the door, and in came Anthony LaPaglia. And the stories told were limited to 6-7 episodes a piece. While LaPaglia managed to make his character his own, and the series still worked quite well, ratings dropped, and after 12 episodes they called it quits.
A couple of months went by, and they decided to give it another go, and this mini-series is it. The story is one of the most tantalizing of the whole show, where Wyler (LaPaglia) and associates take on the case of an admitted serial killer, played by Pruitt Taylor Vince. Vince's performance is spot on, making the viewer very uneasy and uncomfortable, yet showing a lot of humanity at the same time. The performance was so good, in fact, that it earned him an Emmy Award.
His story was given 6 episodes, which unfortunately is at least one episode too few. The story is gripping an tantalizing, has brilliant performances along the way, a lot of drama, and always keeps you at the edge of the seat. It is obvious that the creators envisioned a few more episodes to give the story its full potential, but at some point the producers decided to pull the plug for good, resulting in the last episode having to rush the events to give the show some kind of closure. At the end there are still unanswered questions, though, and keeps you wanting for more even more than you did when the show ended mid-season after 12 episodes.
Had this been an 8-part mini-series I'm quite sure it could have been a 10/10, but the rushed conclusion leaves a bit to be desired. It is still a brilliant piece of television, and anyone interested in courtroom dramas and law shows should give both this and the series - especially season one - a chance. I really miss this show!
Last Dance (1996)
This review contains spoilers!
Sharon Stone stars as a woman on death row, awaiting her execution, when suddenly a young lawyer decides to give it his all to fight for a stay of execution and retrial. Apparently there was exonerating evidence kept out of her trial, about her own abuse and the fact that she was drugged and drunk when she committed the heinous crime. Sharon Stone gives a brilliant performance, but the movie as a whole feels completely unnecessary, both because Dead Man Walking dealt with the same issues a few months earlier, because the mentioned circumstances doesn't really make her any less guilty or less deserving of the death penalty for having robbed two innocent people of their lives, and ultimately because all the efforts of the young lawyer yields no results, and she's ultimately executed. The latter is, along with Sharon Stone's performance, the best thing about the movie, if you ask me, but it still feels like a 103 minute long movie about nothing. An admitted killer got what she deserved, and those closest to her, and a few others who've taken it upon themselves to care, feel sad about it. Nothing new there. And certainly not enough for another movie about it...
Physical Evidence (1989)
Decent story ruined by the worst acting performance I've ever seen
A suspended cop (Reynolds) gets arrested, suspected for murder. He has no money and settles for a public defender. At the Public Defenders Office a young female lawyer (Russell) fights off a few other lawyers to get the case, hoping a high profile case like this can make her career.
I'm not going to go into the story much more than that, other than to say that the evidence against the cop is mostly circumstantial. As a plot, this could be taken anywhere. Corrupt cops, the defense's feeling of conspiracy against an easy target, suspect lawyers from the district attorney's office; it's all there, and more, and if played out right it could make for a really entertaining trial movie.
But there's a problem in the movie, and her name is Theresa Russell. From the moment she open her mouth she stood out....in the worst possible way. I've seen thousands of movies, but I can seriously never remember seeing a worse acting performance than what she delivers here. EVER! It makes Vampira and Tor Johnson in Plan 9 From Outer Space look like Meryl Streep and James Stewart by comparison! Every time she opens her mouth I shrugged at her amazing ability to make even the easiest line come off completely wrong! There isn't even a hint of credibility about her, and her very presence in the movie - where she's really the main character - ruins everything. Every scene she's in is the worse for it, she is truly the most destructive force I've ever seen in an otherwise decent movie. And she's acting against a string of B- and C- grade actors, most delivering below-par performances, yet they still seem Oscar-worthy next to her.
I'm giving the movie a couple of extra stars for the idea of a story that could've been entertaining if it had a real actress delivering the main female part, and for a couple of decent scenes without her presence, but really; this movie should be avoided at all cost!
El espinazo del diablo (2001)
Beautiful and haunting
Guillermo del Toro is perhaps more known for his English language movies, like Mimic, Blade II, Hellboy and Pacific Rim, but creatively, artistically and qualitatively they don't even begin to compare to his Spanish language movies, this one and Pan's Labyrinth being his masterpieces.
Set against the Spanish civil war, this is a ghost story set in a secluded boy's orphanage, with a dud missile planted in the middle of its courtyard. While it is the ghost story that immediately catches your attention, and is the driving force in the story, the true story of the movie is much more complex, dealing with the difficulties of surviving during the civil war, what it means to be an orphan and the many complexities of human nature. The story is haunting in more than one sense of the word, not to mention touching and heartbreaking. There is too much in the movie open for discovery, to be put into a review. It has to be experienced.
The movie also has a lot more to offer than a great story. Its cinematography is absolutely breathtaking in its beautiful photography and attention to details and historic accuracy. While not quite unparalleled in cinema history, it is certainly one of the most visually stunning movies I've ever laid eyes on.
But what really caught my attention on this watching, my fourth of the movie, was the acting. After a good while I suddenly realized that none of the actors had really caught my attention, neither for good or for bad. All of my attention was focused on the characters they portray. What better testament of a good acting performance is there than that? It is especially impressive considering that 90% of the cast are kids. There are very few movies dealing with such a large cast of kids that are able to reach such a level of quality and consistency in their collective performances. Every single character is perfectly cast, and every actor in the movie plays their character to perfection, without any sort of over or under acting, or traits of a bad performance. Their characters seem human and multi layered, and hauntingly realistic. In lack of another word, it's simply perfect. Del Toro truly shows his ability to extract excellent performances from his cast, and especially from his younger actors. In his later, thematically very much related movie, Pan's Labyrinth, he shows it again in the stunning performance by Ivana Baquero, who through his direction carries the whole movie on her 11 year old shoulders.
If I'm going to critique the movie on anything I'll say that it is a bit on the slow side. While not a big problem - the beautiful photography and exploration of the characters will mostly hold your attention - there are a couple of moments where the scenes seems a tad stretched out. But really, that's nitpicking. Overall this is a masterpiece of a movie,and one that I highly recommend.