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Django Unchained (2012)
Simply cool, marvellous and just wow
As I hate comments which endlessly rewrite the script, here is my take on the best movie I have seen in years. Always an ardent follower of Tarantino I still gave all the Kill Bill, Grindhouse et al a miss.Inglorious Basterds re-introduced me to the Tarantino I love. And now Django unchained.
Tarantino does it again! Awesome, awesome, awesome, will definitely watch it again this week. Better than IB, razorsharp script - even in the German version this definitely shines through, cuedos to the translators, breathtaking photography, and what could you possibly say about the actors, apart from stellar. Foxx's transition from slave to a proud, cool as f**k free man is nothing short of mesmerizing. Waltz is marvellous, as opposed to his Landa, here we have a killer with charm and a heart of gold, sort of (it's Tarantino), but who really steals the show is de Caprio. He makes Mr. Blonde look like your dream son in law. You have to see it to believe it. Amazing, how Tarantino rips out performances from well established actors that you wouldn't believe they could deliver. The soundtrack is simply great, it suits the scenes in ways you wouldn't believe. Of course the splatter factor reaches heights formerly unseen, and admittedly I couldn't stomach two scenes and hid behind my hand, and you're in for some "ear splatter" too. So, everything you might expect from the master, but with this one he topped himself. Go and watch it. It is cool, eye candy and funny as hell.
The Civil War (1990)
Makes you curious
What a marvellous documentary, which I had the pleasure to watch in German TV afternoon after afternoon due to my vacation leave. Nowadays here at least historical events are presented with historical photos/movie clips which are added to by awfully staged scenes by mediocre actors, mostly even dubbed because these scenes are shot in Rumania or the likes (no offence).
This production here is simply breathtaking. No staged scenes just heartbreaking photographs of all these young people, staring confidently, sometimes a little fright is visible, into a camera. Add to this the letters being read - in German in my case, by marvellous contributors - it makes you feel like being there and rooting for Elisha Rhodes and Mary Chesnut and all their contemporaries.
I as a German never learned f all about the Civil war but was fortunate to have a Dad who was fascinated by all things American, the liberators for a young soldier who was drafted at 18 to do the Russian campaign. Should there ever be a documentary about these boys, I'd proudly present a little tin cigarette case which dad received from a Russian POW, made from a tin plate, the upper side shows a tank and war planes, the other side shows a little peaceful house with birds. All made by use of a fork and as a gift for bread being smuggled in by dad, Breslau it reads.
This drifting towards an other war just goes to tell how many heartbreaking stories have to be told. And the Ken Burns documentary is epic and wonderful by showing the faces of war, the voices of war. Could you imagine photographs of dead soldiers, some unimaginably mutilated in our days? Unimaginable. We today have clean wars, you get the numbers of deads but are spared the pictures. This documentary made me shed so many tears, war is hell (Sherman) and so many stories are still untold. War is hell indeed. And should be shown as such. Where is the documentary about letters, unsufferable pictures and such about nowadays wars? Unbelievable, but the two last centuries dealt with war much more honest than today when we are sold for in these days of internet and all around "information".
The War Room (1993)
Surprising new insight
Everything has been told here, very pointedly, about James Carville and George Stephanopoulos, the dream team - along with Paul Begala - which helped Clinton to win against the odds.
I just rewatched the DVD after years and what really caught me this time was how awkward and downright embarrassing George H. W. Bush came across. Desperate to conceal his "patrecian" upbringing his juvenile verbal nasties were a hoot. In later years Junior was much more believable as a foulmouthed punk.
Which pretty much sums up the ill advised campaign of Senior. Whipping H. W. into a fake frenzy and then present Mary Matalin as a voice of reason was a fatal choice against the Dem's candidate playing the emphatic considerate charm card accompanied by the fiery spinning of Carville and the quiet ruthlessness of boyish Stephanopoulos.
And no, the filmmakers weren't biased in terms of Senior. The infamous "Govenor Taxes and the Ozone man/Halloween" weren't shown. As weren't lots of other gaffes.
So as much as showing a winning campaign the 15 % of the Bush failing campaign on show are just as revealing.
The King's Speech (2010)
As I usually enjoy ye olde British toff flick (cue Another country, Remains of the day, the best of them all) I gave it a go. I still scratch my head at the plethora of awards/nominations this film has been credited with. Firth did a decent job, no more, sometimes moving, sometimes hamming it up cringe-worthily. Strange casting too, if the real Bertie had had his authority, looks and presence he probably would never had had a stammer to begin with. Do unloved bullied children grow up to be like this? Firth never once comes across as an insecure terrified man.
Gary Oldman would have been my choice, he has the maturity by now not to portray the king as a maniac (as you might think) but he would have brought the fragility needed for the part and I am quite sure he can pull off a royal caught in royal trappings. Rush is great, he steals every scene he's in and he has the best lines to work with. Still the script is so predictable (the "break up") and the jokes are so lame he probably was sleepwalking during shooting, yet given the powerhouse this actor is he still played everybody off the park.
Bonham-Carter has the same hair as the real queen and this is where the similarities end. No common spirit whatsoever, the queen according to the books was approachable, a tad mumsy, devoted to her husband and steely in her protectiveness towards him. B-C comes across as a snobby, patronizing wife who pads his arm when the speaking gets tough. Pearce did OK and at least slightly resembled the original. The legendary Claire Bloom came out of retirement for two days, delivered one sentence, took the money and hopefully never looked back. This was not a cameo, this was an insult to a great actress.
The camera was awful, the worst fog and rain scenes I ever witnessed on the big screen, and there was one single original frame in the whole movie, the view from the balcony of Buckingham palace. So this is what THEY see. How funny. Further we are offered spectacular (err) pictures of an interbellum airplane which lands on a field. Otherwise talking heads, and the lame editing didn't contribute either to visualize the king's torment. As for the music, I'll get to that disaster later.
The set decoration of Lionel's work place was great. Westminster Abbey was terrible CGI. The church in The Pillars of the Earth looked better!
All the dreadful stuff was really topped when the king gave The Speech. The sequence was totally undermined by the worst elevator music I have ever come across and when the "director" (shame on you once again, academy)cut away from the struggling Bertie to show us salt of the earth British factory workers, families and BBC staff listening to the speech teary eyed I was ready to puke. They all most probably did listen teary eyed but the way this moment was handled was just awful, the muzak killed any emotion the viewer might have had. Even the worst German TV movie (and they mostly are insufferable) would shy away from this syrupy pathos.
And don't even get me started on Spall's Churchill and that the director" couldn't even bother to cast the little princesses according to type. Going to the core of a historic figure and his torment i. e. taking a risk? No, you get a Richard Curtis sequence of "hilarious" exercises and the ONE scene where you could sense the reasons for it all is handled absolutely uninspired, poor Colin, his best scene and all you get is a throwaway byline.
To sum it up: A kitsch fest which I can only recommend for a Sunday when you absolutely have nothing else to do. Beats window cleaning, I guess.
Bis zum Ellenbogen (2007)
How to handle a stiff during the World Cup
I enjoyed this "little" movie (80 min., no budget worth mentioning) tremendously. I doubt any Anglo-American or any other viewer will ever read this, leave alone see this film. But here you go. Meet cute between stereotypical (yet insecure) yuppie Achim and social security claimer Willi. They end up with Sven in his rented Swiss chalet and who relishes in pampering them no end because of his loneliness. His fiancé drowned a year ago on the Ellenbogen bay of his home island Sylt. Sven is just too kind to be true and hence dies in a freak accident, making the other two bond over fulfilling his last wish, to be buried at Ellenbogen (which he mentioned in a drunken evening, not knowing what was in for him).
Now you're in for a ride with a decomposing body, facing wives (Achim), neighbours (Willi, they stop at his home to change clothes and try to "revamp" the rotting Sven), and last not least they have to carry what's left of Sven through the all out party that was World Cup 2006 in Germany. Note: FIFA had such a claim on anything with the World Cup that an accidental showing of the logo would have cost the filmmakers a trillion more cash than the movie cost all together. Nice. Anyway, they did shoot some original scenes of Germany 2006 and its hilarious.
Well, it goes on and on with the two invontarily buddies until the happy end and it doesn't stop making you gasp. Every obstacle is played to the hilt - marvelous.
Justus von Dohnanyi has a neat directional debut, with some acting friends gladly supplying great cameos. He does a great job in acting Sven until the end too.
Stefan Kurt is very good. As always. But it's my favourite German actor Jan Josef Liefers who's movie this is really. He is just awesome. He puts more meaning into a raised eyebrow than - speaking from a German perspective - hammy Götz George puts into a whole movie. He always gets it right. OK, he had the most thankful role, changing from wannabe yuppie to a "caring friend", but he never overdoes it. "Hollywood" should take note. Given the fact that he played his part in bringing down the wall... Check it up and enjoy this genius actor.
lovely take on my hometown
I love these German movies of the 50's. Especially this one because it was shot in my hometown, exteriors and the lavish sound stages too. Sadly all the studios have been closed down a long time ago. But hey I pass the wonderful balcony of Tereses' almost every day. Back to topic: a nice, even risqué story, Romy Schneider in her first role (stealing every scene from her mother who was a really bad actress). What made me laugh were the Busby Berkeley-like stages where Bill Perry performed contrasted to about 10 rows of enthusiastic extras who looked like sitting in a small schoolhouse audience. And the beauty of the costumes and of Hertha Feiler. Sigh. Wiesbaden was a contender to be the capital of German film-making. Sadly these days are gone.
Ship of Fools (1965)
Wonderful movie, but then nothing is perfect
I really love this movie and will not repeat all the things that fellow posters have already mentioned but then some. Simone Signoret and Oskar Werner broke my heart, especially when she picks up a medical book to read to ill Oskar Werner and cites "Lady Chatterley" instead. Their spontanous embrace after this is one of the most moving love scenes I have ever seen. Vivian the Great does the most of the little stuff she has to do with. A shame that in her latter years she chose to play these wornout types of women (Mrs. Stone f. ex.) whereas she still had so much spunk and sexiness going for her. Her scenes are still a joy to watch, sometimes Scarlett, sometimes Blanche. Michael Dunn, Werner Klemperer, Lee Marvin and Charles Korvin are very good. The young lovers/artists are downright annoying. Whenever I saw them I remembered that French "philosopher" in "Funny Face" and it made me laugh. I don't know the book but their "artistic/sadomaso angst" is 50's, 60's stuff and they didn't add anything to the story. Elisabeth Ashley did a fine job though. Who agrees with me that she looked like a young "Rose from Upstairs-Downstairs"? And now - brace yourself - here comes a German point of view. I saw this with an English DVD (you get Hindi subtitles among others but not German ones)but I believe I understood. I still really had a hard time to figure out who would have spoken German and English and Spanish if it were for real. Funny moment when Heinz Rühmann accused José Ferrer of speaking an odd German accent (Rieder was "Bosnian, but close to the border") in English. Okay. On a more serious note I was really annoyed about the casting of Heinz Rühmann, Nazi pet who gave up his Jewish wife in real life not to get his Nazi mentors cross (I wonder what he thought of Herr Freitag, a part I would have given him). His jolly good shoes delivery of Julius Löwenthal without a second layer was terrible. Did anyone ever believe he was the bearer of the Iron Cross? As far as I know they were awarded to "war heroes". Did he put the enemy to sleep with his stories or wore them out by snoring? Gerd Fröbe, Hans Albers and a lot of other (German) actors would have added more depth to his relentless optimism and delusion. He didn't do anything with this tragic part. I really wonder what 2nd thoughts Stanley Kramer had to give Rühmann the part. José Ferrer was believable as an opportunistic gold digger who would sell for everybody for his own advantage. But that was the stuff most Nazis were made of I guess. Cudos to his German lines and the song, they were impeccable. A let down is the Spanish pimp who stressed they were no Gypsies (who were killed by the Nazis also later on) and the friendship between Spain and Germany. Yet Hitlers pal Franco did only come into power in 1936.
Love Among the Ruins (1975)
A true delight
I saw this on German TV in the seventies and was on a quest to see it again, buy the VHS, buy the DVD... Olivier shouting about the "crumbling ruin, on the threshold of senility, the son they are to have by the name of PRATT..." has never left me. Now after about 30 years I purchased a DVD on e..y and watching it it was like meeting an old friend. What a wonderful film. Katherine Hepburn in one of her best performances, just a little short of the one in "African Queen" and Laurence Olivier... He is something else. I so like his acting, he allows you to acknowledge the technique he uses. There were glimpses of the scheming Andrew Wyke, but also the love lost stares of Maxim de Winter. And of course his final speech in court - that was funny yet very Shakespearean, you might well compare his delivery to the one in Henry V. What a powerhouse this man was. And nowadays they try to sell us the likes of Tom Cruise and Colin Farrell (no offence) as being great actors. "Hangs head in sadness, watches LatR immediately again."
Brilliant, shame no subtitles on DVD
It's a real shame for an Emmy winning production that the lavish German DVD box does not have English subtitles. But for anyone interested in the story of the Mann family this is a must. The casting is sublime down to bit parts (Katharina Thalbach as Therese Giehse and the very tasty Torben Liebrecht as Klaus's lover Tomski are impressive) we see the best actors German film has to offer with Sebastian Koch (Klaus Mann) and Sophie Rois (Erika Mann) standing out. A little letdown is that Armin Mueller-Stahl is very subdued and passive, mumbling his words whereas Thomas Mann was a mercurial, often aggressive person with a very expressive way of talking. But lookwise he's got it and he has his magic moments. As his wife Katia Monica Bleibtreu does a great job, but is denied the esprit Katia had. She is only shown as a dedicated wife but she influenced Mann's work a great deal with her wicked wit and observation. But these flaws aside the mixture of movie and documentary scenes is mesmerizing. Elisabeth Mann, Thomas's last surviving child at the time of filming is a gift as a chaperone through the complex story of her family's life. Heinrich Breloer really was lucky to catch all the people interviewed as by now most of them have gone, the vivacious Klaus Pringsheim jr, Thomas' devoted secretary Hilde Kahn among others. Sadly Elisabeth has died by now also. The sensitive way Breloer digs deep when they both visit places of the Mann story (Klaus's grave!) without being intrusive and her long moments of silence and then again her hearty giggle about her family's ways when you don't expect it are great moments. The documentary "Unterwegs zur Familie Mann" which features more prolonged interviews with all involved but also short glimpses of the movie is more than complementary, you should even watch it first. Again, a shame that this DVD was not made for international viewing.
Doesn't catch the magic
This film was often being positively compared (at least in Germany) with "Sommermärchen" (WC 2006)which was a soapy sentimental report on the German team. In this minute it is shown on Arte and I am totally disappointed. Football is about strategy and strength. All you get here is close ups of a disgruntled Zizou, you never have the chance to see him directing the game but he comes across as a headless chicken. It would have been more interesting if the filmmakers had attached a Zidane-cam on his head. And what were these totally idiotic 3 minutes of bomb attacks and turds blowing themselves up near Hamburg? If you fancy Zidanes facial features and are into heavy breathing (apparently dubbed)thrown in then you'll have a wonderful hour and a half. For me it's not.