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Not a Love Song (1997)
Depressing and murky.
"Not A Love Song" is one of those films that bursts with good intentions, but never manages to get any clear message across. Besides, there is not much to like about this film anyway, although the premise is rather strong and the film deals with some tough issues such as racism, apathy and unemployment.
Unfortunately, the story of Bruno, a young man who is desperate to find his place in the world, is told in such an unappealing manner and the film is filled with so many unlikeable characters, that it is really hard to feel any sympathy for any of the characters. Even Bruno, the protagonist, is nothing more than a rude, lazy slob.
The low production values, talky script, mediocre performances en drab black-and-white photography do nothing to enhance the viewing pleasure. "Not A Love Song" tries to be ambitious and provoking, but is eventually buried by its depressing mood and gray looks.
If you'd like to see what German cinema can do for you, try "Bin Ich Schön", by Doris Dörrie, or just re-watch "Lola Rennt". "Not A Love Song" is not a film I would recommend. 2/10
Engine Trouble (2002)
Plan 9 from Belgium.
Very rarely does a film come along that's so bad it's good. Most bad (big budget) films simply are tedious, lame and boring, and no matter how hard you try, they simply can't be enjoyed. I'm not going to name names here, but I'm sure we've all seen our share of big budget crap. The strange thing about (bad) low budget films is, that the film-makers put a lot more enthusiasm into their films and try to make up for the lack of budget. So no matter if the film turns out to be garbage, the audience can still laugh at the enormous amount of bad dialogue, continuity errors and campy performances.
"Engine Trouble" fits right into that mold. It was produced in Belgium for about 25 dollars, and it really shows. But besides from simply being crap, "Engine Trouble" actually manages to be quite entertaining. Not entertaining in a "Back to the Future" kind of way, but more in a "Plan 9 From Outer Space" kind of way. Obviously, dialogue and acting are extremely over the top, the production values are depressingly cheap and the plot has been done a million times before. But somehow this didn't really matter. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this film. As a matter of fact, I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard during a movie, even though the humor was entirely unintentional. I guess it was sheer disbelief that cracked me up. I mean, can a film really be this bad?
So, if like me you are a fan of trash-cinema, Ed Wood and Troma, you certainly are going to enjoy this puppy. Just make sure you don't watch it alone! Ask your buddies to come over, have a few drinks and enjoy. However, if bad movies are not your bag, you might want to stay away. After all, no matter which way you turn it, "Engine Trouble" still is unadulterated crap!
Pelle Svanslös (1981)
Touching and funny, a great film for children.
It's been a while since I last saw this film, as a matter of fact, Pelle Svanslös is one of the first films I saw as a child. The story is about a Pelle, a cat who was born without a proper tail. Of course, Pelle soon becomes the laughing stock of the town, because the other cats think that "he can't be a proper cat if he doesn't even have a proper tail".
Since this is a children's story the film evidently has a moral. Fortunately it isn't overdone, and the message of acceptance and equality is conveyed without having to rely on cheap sentimentality. However, the film is a bit sad at times, mainly because of the abuse Pelle has to take from the other cats. Don't worry though, it all turns out fine in the end.
Still, I cried my our eyes out the first time I saw it. But give me some credit, I was only five years old at the time.
Circus on Ice (1954)
I'll have my circus straight up, please!
The boys from MST3K once again managed to make the unwatchable watchable. Unfortunately, Circus On Ice is just some lame promo for a "new and revolutionary ice-skating show!!!" In other words, enough to make your skin crawl. Only worth checking out if you're into MST3K, otherwise read a book.
FilmNight Special (1999)
The savior of cult!
This is the ultimate show for any movie fan, and I honestly never believed this kind of show would be allowed to air on Flemish tv ever! Director Jan Verheyen pulled it off anyway, simply because he felt that there was a increasing need for a show that was able to please cult- and horror movie fans. He dove into the archives of several tv-stations and selected a wild mix of cult favorites and genre classics. Verheyen himself accompanied every movie with a short and witty introduction.
The movies varied wildly (ranging from schlock such as "Zombi 2" and "Killer Crocodile" to camp favorites such as "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and "Batman - The Movie") but Verheyen also managed to squeeze in a few genuine classics such as "The Exorcist" and "Raging Bull". Of course, there was the occasional double feature (the best one being "The Green Slime"/"Night of the Lepus"), and every season Verheyen did a Halloween Special. Another highlight of the show was the (possibly only ever) screening of the flesh-eating genre classic "Cannibal Holocaust" and for a while Verheyen feared that the show would be taken off the air for showing the film. Fortunately that didn't happen and he was able to produce three series so far. Let's hope they'll let him keep doing it.
But best of all, the show spawned a spin-off show called "Nacht van de Wansmaak" ("Bad Taste-Night"), in which Verheyen took the concept on the road. Again, he rummaged through the archives of the Belgian film museum and surfaced with a collection of weird and so-bad-they're-good clips and movie trailers and even a hilarious full-length Danish monster movie called "Reptilicus". With this show he toured several big Flemish and Dutch cities, much to everyone's delight. Maybe someday Verheyen is going to do another one, and I hope he does, because frankly, the first one knocked me out cold!
Johnny at the Fair (1947)
What can I say ?
What can I say about a 50's promo-film for the Canadian National Exhibition, besides that it's completely unwatchable hadn't it been for the guys of MST3K who guided me through it. It's so bad, you just have to see it for yourself. Just make sure you don't watch it alone. Johnny's trip through the exhibition is so terrifying, you'll certainly need the comfort of a loved who keeps telling you: "It's just a movie, it's just a movie!"
Silly, but fun
Men always dream about a 'perfect' woman, a woman who likes football, drinking beer and sex. In this film, two scientists accidentally clone a beautiful reporter and program her to be the perfect woman. But the clone is more than they bargained for and soon they find out that having sex all day isn't all fun. Things complicate even more when the original woman turns up and the boys have to deal with both women.
Repli-Kate is to some extend a pretty entertaining film. The script may be predictable and the acting an directing are a bit tame, but the film manages to sustain it's charm al through to the end and provides some big laughs. I recommend watching this film with a big audience, best of all on a filmfestival. I'm pretty sure it'll only be half as funny on TV. Check it out, if you like it silly and a bit sexy. 6.5/10
From pretty slick to pretty sick!
"De Alias" is Belgium's first true high-profile exploitation movie. You might not guess it by the looks of the poster, and even the trailer merely suggest a slick thriller, but nothing could be further from the truth. Director Jan Verheyen artfully combines a romantic encounter with some pretty twisted twists.
"De Alias" gets off to a tense start, when a man is being dragged from his isolation-cell in some loony-bin, is being put in a car, smacked in the face and driven off a cliff. The police barely has a clue what might have happened, so the case is quickly closed.
Flash-forward to the city of Ghent, where two girls (newcomer Hilde De Baerdemaker and Veerle Dobbelaere) by accident film the apparent suicide of a beautiful young girl, who jumps naked out of a forth-story window. A little later, the girls are nearly robbed of their camcorder, if it hadn't been for a mysterious stranger (Geert Hunaerts), who beats up the thugs and returns the camera. Eva, one of the girls, is immediately smitten with the hero, and decides to go for a drink with him. But little does she know that the stranger may, or may not have anything to do with the girl's suicide earlier on ...
When reading this, you might think that this looks like the outline for yet another predictable thriller. Wrong! Screenwriters Verheyen, Dirickx and Koeck have made considerable effort to create a twisty, yet believable story, that goes pretty far, without losing it's credibility. The first half of the film moves along smoothly while introducing the characters, raising the tension and revealing the true identity of the mysterious stranger. But it's only in the second half of the film that the plot takes a turn for the worst and the pace really picks up. The viewer is being thrown from one revelation into the next, while the protagonists are dropping like flies. Voyeurism, sex, violence, incest ... you name it, "De Alias" has it all, and still manages to be neither gratuitous nor tasteless. Director Jan Verheyen is obviously very fond of the '70s trash-cinema and enthusiastically recycles those themes into a truly exciting and gripping film. Some films he may or may not be paying direct homage to are "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre", "Psycho" and "Se7en". Just look at one of the final scenes, where the protagonist is invited to a macabre dinner-party, or the scene where the killer's father is reloading his gun, while his terrified victim has to watch him. Truly cinema at it's weirdest.
Despite all these merits, the film does have a couple of flaws, not in the least the terrible performance by Veerle Dobbelaere. She simply isn't up to par. For some reason she doesn't look the part and has difficulty making her character believable. On the other hand, the performances by Hilde De Baerdemaker and especially Geert Hunaerts, are excellent. The direction and photography are exceptionally good (especially for a Flemish film), the music is appropriate and for once the dialogue isn't predictable and idiotic.
In short: like Verheyen's previous film "Team Spirit", "De Alias" is one of those rare Flemish films that succeeds in being different, without forgetting to be good. If you enjoy a weird film, you might like this one. (7.5/10)
Chôdenshi Baioman (1984)
Tacky and weird, but good fun
"Chodenshi Bioman" is one of those tacky Japanese shows that seem to exist mainly to blow things up. And that's it, really. Stuff gets blown up all the time, while Japanese actors run around and scream hysterically while blabbering some nonsense about robots taking over the world. But that adds to the sheer fun of the show. An episode passes with the speed of a bullet, thanks to some flashy (if incoherent) editing, tons of sound effects and, you guessed it, explosions. It's weird, but in a good way, and this show was an obvious inspiration to the better-looking, but ultimately crappier "Power Rangers". That said, Chodenshi Bioman can best be compared to the early Toho-Godzilla movies. Check it out if you can, even though it may be hard to find.
Caine saves the day!
Billy, an ambitious boxing-promoter organizes a world-title bout somewhere in England, and bets everything he has on his son, who he puts up to fight. But exactly on the greatest day of his life, the police start to investigate the death of a fighter who was killed in an unlicensed bout. They suspect Billy may have something to do with it.
Shiner is all in all a good movie, but not a great one. Michael Caine, as always, is excellent as Billy, a man who is almost destroyed by his ambition. Martin Landau is pretty good as well, playing a rivaling American promoter. Although Landau receives top-billing, he is in the movie for only a handful of scenes. Gary Lewis is very good as well, playing the personal trainer of the young boxer. Director Irvin guides the cast with a strong hand and a sense of style, it's just a shame the script isn't more polished. The story simply has too many loose ends, and drastically breaks style about halfway. The first half of the movie is a detailed and often very funny observation of the boxing world, where the second part is a sort of Get Carter revenge-flick. A bit inconsistent, but a good film nevertheless, with a knock-out performance by Michael Caine.