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Swinging Denmark in 1970
Despite the "Swedish" in the retitling for the American market, this film is set entirely in Denmark. Birte Tove, one of Denmark's two "first ladies" of mainstream erotic cinema of the 1970s, stars in her first feature as Christa, a miniskirted air hostess who takes men she meets on flights to bed in her Copenhagen apartment (shared with other girls) in a search for Mr Right. The story is filled out by her having split with her husband and father of her child, who isn't too happy about it. We get to see Christa, a petite pretty blonde, in various stages of undress, including nude on the beach (but pubic areas are discretely hidden). Apart from Copenhagen we get to see a bit of the countryside with a fast sports car and Denmark's tourist attractions of the Himmelbjerg "mountain", the white Møns Klint cliffs plus of course a porn shop. It is all fairly tame but presents the zeitgeist of the time quite well.
A Good Year (2006)
Firstly a plea to location scouts - the exterior of London's Swiss Re a.k.a. "Gherkin" building is already a cliché - if you don't want audiences to groan, choose something else to represent the City of London from now on. Author Peter Mayle's love affair with the gorgeous Provence countryside is well known and the best thing about this movie is Ridley Scott's filming of it. As for everything else - the deepest thing that will be experienced in this movie is the dry swimming pool into which Russell Crowe's character falls. For the first 40 minutes or so Scott attempts to compensate for the thin script by slapstick and boorish behaviour on the part of Crowe, but it doesn't succeed. For the rest of the film the attempt is made by putting the two beautiful actresses Marion Cotillard and Abbie Cornish to the fore, but so unconvincingly that it doesn't work either. A film that probably sounded good in theory, but conceived and executed badly.
Out of the Blue (2006)
Well produced drama
It was inevitable that - like the Stan Graham saga of 1941 made into the movie "Bad Blood" - the Aramoana massacre of 1990 would eventually be turned into a feature film. To their credit, the cast and crew of this have done a good job of it and perhaps just as importantly, the script writers have attempted to provide a little insight into why it happened, although the full background is something that people will need to read the two books that were written about it to get. The film starts in the morning of the day it started (the events lasted into the next day) and continues - with only a couple of brief flashbacks on the part of Gray - till a conclusion just after Gray is shot dead by police. It manages to keep fairly true with the actual events (as described in the two books) although there are some departures of varying importance. The film works well as a drama and unlike a Hollywood movie doesn't portray anyone as a superhero, or thickly apply sentimentality. The cinematography is also superb.
The Path to 9/11 (2006)
Spoiled by factual inaccuracies
Distorting historical events to make a movie more entertaining is nothing new for Hollywood and the movie industry everywhere, not just that of the USA. Generally it's something that people can live with: if you want the real facts you can read a reliable book. It is, however, a problem with events in the relatively recent past, particularly when they involve a current omnipresent situation that everyone in the western world is faced with, namely Islamic terrorists. Despite the disclaimers that this is not a documentary and scenes are fictionalised, too many people have an immediate emotional involvement and political concern for this to be acceptable in this case. Even for those who haven't read the 9/11 Commmission report there are a lot of question marks raised in one's mind about what is presented, and there are now admissions on the part of the producers that some things didn't actually happen, in fact some things are the exact opposite of what actually happened. As a movie this isn't too bad, although the jerky hand held footage and quick cut editing is a little too distracting at times. Maybe ABC should have just put it in the vault for 20 years.
Jeden dzien w PRL (2006)
What life was like in those days
It is a basic feature of totalitarian regimes - whether they be of the ideological or religious variety - that they want to quash dissent. So it is no surprise that Poland, along with the other iron curtain countries, had a secret police and a network of informers which maintained surveillance on citizens who dared to criticize the government and the system. But not only that: in a system where all economic production and distribution was controlled by the government, those who broke economic rules - for example, selling a few bras in a shop from an unofficial source - also became "suspects". This film takes a typical day in 1962 and narrates the transcripts of secret police files about what "suspects" did: all so mundane as to be amusing. But the real nature of the "workers' paradise" - shortages of all commodities, shabby consumer goods and decaying infrastructure - is also superbly conveyed with a clever mix of historic film and TV footage with recreations. As well as secret police transcripts, there are also sad private letters narrated. In all it is a highly recommended film for anyone interested in 20th century history.
The Mini-Skirt Mob (1968)
Cheesy, unintentionally funny
The name of the production company - whose product nowadays regularly features in Incredibly Strange film festivals - alone should be enough warning as to what to expect in this silly, unintentional parody. "The Mini-Skirts" consist of four girl bikers, the brevity of whose skirts is compensated by the length of their eyelashes - plus, it seems, an equal number of chromosome-challenged boyfriends. The plot mostly consists of them "terrorizing", with varying degrees of enthusiasm, the pack leader's ex-boyfriend because he is now on his honeymoon in a caravan with another gal. Much of it naturally is an excuse for shots of the females riding around the wilds of Arizona on their Triumph motorbikes. Hmmm. Wouldn't it be rather cold dressed like that, how long would those hair-do's last? You also get regular glimpses of panties. As Leonard Maltin says in his movie guidebook, those who like the title should like the film.
Carry on Girls (1973)
One of the weakest in the Carry On series
The opening scene of the beach at Fircombe while amusing in itself, unfortunately provides a suitable metaphor for the film - insipid and washed out. It is actually not as corny as most of the others in the Carry On series, but maybe because of that doesn't really deliver much fun. It's a fair bet that the title will appeal to fans of the Benny Hill show but those looking for attractive females in bikinis and miniskirts, while they will see some in this, will probably enjoy some of the other titles in the series, such as "Carry On Abroad" or "Carry On Up the Jungle" more. The emergence of early 1970s feminism is used as a plot device which seems rather self-defeating.
Le grand voyage (2004)
An intercontinental and intercultural road trip
The premise for this movie is simple and so is the script: an elderly Muslim gets his teenage son to drive him in his similarly elderly station wagon from France to the haj in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, so that he can fulfill his holy Muslim obligation before he dies. The father is clearly devoutly religious, but the son is unimpressed; he accepts out of obligation to his father rather than to religion, he'd rather be with his (non-Muslim) girlfriend. The father is stubborn in a lot of things which the son doesn't understand and the petulance between them is the device that maintains the drama, although it is often rather irksome. However, like any good road movie there are oddball characters encountered along the way; for example a woman on a backroad in Croatia who upon being asked for directions to Belgrade simply gets in the backseat and points with her hand uttering one word which they assume to be a place but can't find it on the map. In Bulgaria another man they ask directions of confirms he can speak French but then provides an extensive commentary in Bulgarian. There is also occasional humor - in one country the son tires of eating egg sandwiches and wants meat - they are given a goat, but unfortunately (perhaps fortunately for the viewer) it runs away before the father can perform the Muslim slaughterman ritual. They eventually make it to Mecca - the Muslim equivalent of the Vatican but on a much grander scale. For westerners it is all bizarre but fascinating. The movie isn't sophisticated but is charming in its own way, a kind of National Geographic with soul.
Basic Instinct 2 (2006)
It's no surprise that this movie's script caused some high calibre talent to shun it: there are so many failings and problems that it would take several times the 1,000 word limit on comments to list them all. But here's a little taste: in the opening sequence, under the influence of some drug Sharon Stone's character drives through deserted central London streets (!) at 110 mph (!) at night while masturbating and french kissing her boyfriend in the passenger's seat. After crashing into the Thames, in the nicely lit water she manages to give her boyfriend another kiss before getting out and floating away while boyfriend drowns... and then the police think all that is quite OK under the law. Sharon Stone's quotes in the advertising for the movie here suggested that there would be plenty of erotic action but it doesn't deliver much that satisfies on that count. Where the film does have a modicum of merit is its surreal ambiance throughout and its exploration of the suggestion that some psychiatrists may be as screwed up as some of the people they treat.
Walk the Line (2005)
Worth seeing for the music history
This movie, which covers the period of Cash's childhood in Arkansas up to his public engagement to June Carter in 1968, among other things provides a good presentation of early Rock and Roll/Rockabilly/Country and Western music and its performance: it therefore will be of interest to anyone who follows these genres. The film is marvelously directed and acted with great sets, sound, and period costumes, however, those who like me find the typical music star lifestyle of "groupie" sex, booze, drugs and bad behavior tiresome will probably find much of it tiresome. Cash fans may wonder why his famous song about his dressing only in black is omitted, even if his color choice is commented upon in a few lines of dialog.