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Der Baader Meinhof Komplex (2008)
First of all this is a very important film. Just like the other "Big" film by Eichinger "Der Untergang" it confronts the German audience (and the world should it care) with some aspect of German history that people should know about. In this case the "myth" of the RAF. To everyone who lived through the seventies in Germany it is clear that the influence of the RAF on Germany can hardly be exaggerated. I was a kid but my impression at the time was that both sides were wrong. There was a constant fear of terror coming from the terrorists but also from the state. (People did not get jobs if it was suspected they were "left".) So to make a blockbuster film, even if it does not really explain the motives of the main characters involved, at least gives us some facts. Not everyone is prepared to watch documentaries or read the book by Aust, but everyone should have some thoughts or maybe discussions on the subject.
Okay, but does it succeed as a film? Not entirely. The actors as everyone agrees were excellent, the cinematography as well. You do think you are in the seventies. That in itself is amazing. The action scenes are done splendidly, especially at the beginning the riots during the visit of the Persian Shah which culminated in the shooting of a student which in turn was, at least to some extent, the origin of the rise of terror. Of course the film is episodic and there are too many characters in it, most of them are not introduced in any way and ten years of complex history cannot be told in an altogether satisfying way. But the film succeeds in giving us a sense of what was going on. The producer, Bernd Eichinger has been accused of vanity. Which is a funny thing. Of course, he is vain. He has the duty to be vain as long as he also feels a responsibility to make movies that try to tell something. And the challenge, he feels, is to say it to as many people as possible.
This is a film that I would never have watched normally. A sort-of-remake of Rear Window with teenagers? What a terrible idea! But still, on a long flight with nothing better to do I was curious enough. Expecting to not give it more than 10 minutes I was very pleasantly surprised. It not a great film but very well done and entertaining. I liked the idea to have the the hero of the story to be under house arrest instead of having a broken leg. The love angle was a bit foreseeable, but quite okay. And I loved it how Kale becomes jealous and plays some cool (i.e. freaky to young ears) 70ies music to spoil the party Ashley was given. She understandingly upset comes over and he asks "What is? Don't you like Minnie Riperton?" This is missing in the quote section. To me the highlight of the film.
And I should not forget to mention David Morse. Great actor.
I was quite sure I would like this movie. But I did not. What we get is the story of a sixties girl group based loosely on the career of the Supremes. Excellent. There is only one mayor problem with this. The music just does not work. The Supremes had a couple of wonderful hits and we get nothing of it. What an incredible idea to let someone write some songs and trying to make us believe that these were number 1 hits in the 60s. It is just ridiculous. Hudson who plays the fat girl with the great voice that has to leave, does have a nice voice and even some kind of charisma. What she does not have is even one song that is worth listening. Same for Beyoncé. She is certainly beautiful and her voice is okay. But she is not allowed to sing let's say "Stop in the Name of Love." So compared to say Ray, this is a tremendous let down. There was something like Motown Magic. This has nothing of it at least not as far as the music is concerned. I liked the costumes and the dancing and the nice 70s wallpapers but that is not enough.
Eddie Murphy is allowed for about 30 seconds to put on a straight face. Also he plays a drug addict. That this qualifies for an Oscar nomination is quite unbelievable.
The Holiday (2006)
A new Senta
This one is known in Germany as "Die Liebe kennt keine Ferien" (Love does not know holidays) which even within the glorious tradition of mal-translations of German cinema is a true highlight. Now, Holiday is what is called a Romantic Comedy which basically means there are 2 people a boy and a girl that fall in love and marry at the end (well, they "stay" which each other these days). And in between, if it is any good, some funny things are said and done and we all feel happy. There is not too much wit in it because if there is it is called a screwball comedy and they do not make them any more. Here there are four instead of two. Two woman, who had suffered enough from the male of the species decide to swap houses. Cameron comes to a lovely English cottage and Kate to incredible L.A. This is really done exceptionally well. How they react to their new domicile. Of course a synonym for romantic comedy is predictability. And it does not come as a surprise that both fall in love with the leading men. Which of course, is nice and right. But when you think of it it is sort of sad. Cameron has all this wonderful books with her. And instead of reading them and enjoying a couple of quiet days she has to fall for Jude Law. Anyway. The story is very silly but lovely enough. And if Hugh Grant had played the part of Jude I probably would have really enjoyed it. Law is not really bad but who can care for a man who claims to be drunk and thus has to sleep at his sister's house when it is plain from his behavior that he could not have had more than half a pint? Kate is also okay the subplot with the old writer guy touching. Black totally unbelievable. But Cameron is just brilliant. She saves the movie. And why? Because she looks like Senta Berger (with just a touch of Meg Ryan). I never noticed before. Very nice.
Weird and wonderful and boring
What are the chances of me going to see a film called "Charlie and the Chocolate factory"? I would say maybe 0.5%. I do not care for chocolate and I do not need children's films or fantasies. But the fact that it is a Burton adds 10% and the presence of Depp another 20% and so I ended up watching it. It is a weird film to use Depps favorite word. Which is fine. It is daringly different. Which is fine. I have been a Burton fan since Batman. But unfortunately visual genius does not make a film. The actors were good, the music effective but in the end and I hate to say it, I did not like it. I give the whole creative team any credit but they failed to entertain me. It is a chocolate fantasy with the message that family is even more important. Very nice but also very boring.
Batman Begins (2005)
Joker, please come back
What a sad affair. I was looking forward to this and was bitterly disappointed. Batman Begins should have been as good as the first in the series but to me it is as bad as Batman and Robin, if for totally different reasons. Let me start with the good things. First Batman. Christian Bale is the best Batman yet. He is good looking without looking ridiculous. The acting is adequate and it is a shame that the script did not allow him to make use of his talent. I liked Gordon/Oldman. Mark Boone was okay. And Cillian Murphy as Dr. Crane was brilliant. The others? Caine a caricature, Freeman the same, Neeson is just incredibly bad. In a superhero movie (and I would include the Bond films here) the woman has to be beautiful and she should be charismatic. How anyone could come up with the idea of casting Katie Holmes is a mystery. Gotham was very good, more realistic than Burton's but equally good. When the camera showed us the bad, corrupt and yet beautiful city I really liked the movie. Unfortunately the music spoiled it immediately. Hans Zimmer is just amazing. He is at the same time one of the most successful composers in Hollywood and easily the worst. Every film where he contributed the music is bad (I did not check that but I think I can rely on memory). At best the music is just boring at worst it totally spoils the mood. How he keeps his job and reputation is just beyond me. We learn the origin of Batman. Good idea. But the trip to Asia? Is that not the origin of Dr. Strange? But I could buy that. But what I cannot tolerate is a bad villain. Now I understand that these days the Evil cannot be just evil. It is boring. But there is a world of a difference between a good villain like Joker, Magneto, Doc Ock (and hopefully Dr. Doom) and Ra's Al Ghul/Ducard. I know it is in a good tradition of the Bible but the Evil wanting to destroy because people are bad is just a bit too ridiculous. Finally, the car. Yes, Batman drives in a car. Why? First to make the toy makers happy and second because there is this Hollywood wisdom: If you do not have a story put in a car chase. This is utterly repulsive. If there is someone older than 5 years on this planet who actually enjoys seeing a car jumping from roof to roof I would like to be introduced to him. Chances are he escaped from Arkham.
Beyond the Sea (2004)
Jimmy Lindbergh Award
This one gets the Jimmy Lindbergh Award from me to celebrate the performance of an over-aged actor in a biopic. When James Stewart played Charles Lindbergh he was, of course way too old, (as he was as the Man who shot Liberty Valence by the way) and so is Kevin Spacey here. It is very nice that a man is able to make a dream real. But the result is just ridiculous. I liked the dance numbers and I liked the face of Kate Bosworth but that is not enough to save this. Kevin can sing and he can wear a yellow suit but he just is not convincing. There is no magic in his voice. He does not even come close to show that Darin might have been a match for Sinatra.
The One That Got Away (1957)
Good German in English Film
I was lucky to find a DVD of this film. In my memory the film was excellent and seeing it again after 30 years or so I was not disappointed. As an escape film it works beautifully. Someone tries - and in the end succeeds, as the title suggests - to escape from prison camp. What makes this film special is that it is a German who is portrayed as the hero. As a child it was the first time that I ever saw a war movie with a Good German in it (or at the very least not a bad and/or stupid one). Hardy Krüger was of course brilliant and he later did a similar job in Flight of the Phoenix where he played an arrogant but in the end sympathetic German. And the film does not even make the soldier a secret enemy of the Nazi regime. He is portrayed as a loyal German soldier who sees it as his duty to escape and to continue fighting the allies. For me to see that English film makers where able to make a film like this made me very optimistic. They avoid using clichés. And funny enough, they confirm the cliché about the English, namely that they are fair and good sportsmen, because that's what we have here. A game where the object is to escape from prison. A German wins and this is what we see. Thank you.
The Bubble (1966)
Dancer in the air
I always wanted to see a 3D Movie and I finally made it. It felt very odd wearing the funny glasses, but all in all it was well worth it. Some of the effects were amazing, especially the scene with the dancer. I liked that a lot. At other times the effect was more disturbing, especially at the beginning where there was an empty seat in the plane that seemed to be hanging in the air and looked really out of place. But sitting in row 10 and actually believing that you can touch something because it seems to be just in front of you is really amazing. The film itself was not really bad although there is not much of a plot. I enjoyed the eerie feeling, acting was adequate but I had the impression that some scenes were missing. The pilot disappears and reappears for no apparent reason and in the end the nightmare ends for no apparent reason. But if you do not expect to much from the plot you should be able to enjoy the experience.
Der neunte Tag (2004)
The basic idea of this film is rather interesting. There was a catholic priest from Luxembourg imprisoned in the concentration camp Dachau during the Second Word War. He wrote a diary describing daily camp life. But for 9 days he is allowed to get back to his family for the funeral of his mother. It is known that he is interrogated by the GESTAPO. But he does not tell anything about it in his diary. So the film fills the historic gap with some fiction. We are told the story of a young Nazi official who tries to convince the priest to get his bishop to stop his passive resistance. So far so good. Quite conceivable that this actually happened. But. The whole thing is just not believable. The dialogs are weak, so far as there are dialogs at all. Most of the time Uli Matthes, who is supposedly one of the best German actors, is silent. You just see his face with an expression that you can put anything into. That of course is impressive. But it is not acting. We are told that he is brilliant, but it is never shown. He just has switched uniforms. He recently played Goebbels in the Downfall. What I had expected was some real intellectual argument between the Nazi guy and a catholic intellectual. There is next to nothing of it. Some argument about Judas but it is never clear what this is supposed to proof. There is never a moment of doubt about the outcome of the "intellectual battle". And because of this the film is a failure. Very good music, though and some good scenes of the concentration camp life.