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How many famous people are from your year of birth?
It's interesting how over time, these explanations of where zombies came from changed between (voodoo) magic, evil scientists, demonic curses, nuclear weapons, chemicals and pesticides, aliens, bioweapons, virusses and sicknesses, with the odd case of crashed meteorites or even sheer force of will.
There are also those films who don't supply an explanation at all; i.e. the explanation you get is that people become zombies by getting bitten by zombies (duh) without explaining where the first zombies came from, although these examples are harder to find than you might expect in the zombie genre.
Additions are welcome. I am trying to limit the number of movies with identical explanations and limit it as much as possible to cases that are at least marginally different from other films in some small way.
* Although there are also some very talented & prolific women in this list!
Sometimes you can't even tell them apart because all you know is "There's that guy/woman again!". Quite often, their performance is what makes a film memorable, even though they only appear for like 30 seconds. And some of these people have become quite famous for it by now.
Quite idealistic (post-war) but beautiful work of art
As others have pointed out, this documentary provides a 'peek' into the past of the Netherlands. But as with most peeks in the past, they tend to get idealistic and nostalgic. With this documentary that's very easy, because the whole point of the documentary was to provide an optimistic view on Dutch life; something that was pretty necessary in Western Europe in this post-war era when the economic and social effects of World War II could still be felt all around. As a result, this documentary shows you only the beautiful, the innocent, the pleasant side of life. The most nasty thing you get to see here, is a couple fighting in the park. As long as you're aware of this however, it is a beautifully made work of art. This was also one of the first documentaries (at least in the Netherlands, but maybe even globally) which made extensive use of candid cameras. Pretty much the whole film consists of people being filmed without them being aware of it, or at least without their consent. This is also an interesting element of the film because it is a thing that you could never properly repeat nowadays. Bert Haanstra invented the candid camera as a way to show people in a vulnerable and innocent way. Camera's weren't all around in the public sphere; a lot of people didn't even have a TV yet. Nowadays, people are aware that everywhere, anytime, you could be filmed, especially when something unexpected happens out on the street. So if you were to repeat this experiment, you'd probably get quite different results; in all probability people would act much less vulnerable/natural the moment they notice they are being filmed. This was not the case then, so if only for that reason, this film is a unique document of both life and filmography.
North America (2013)
Tom Selleck's narration has ruined this.
From the first episode I found the narration of this series slightly irritating. Excuse my European point of view, but after watching numerous other nature series (mostly by David Attenborough) I was really disappointed with the level of ignorance and misplaced pseudo-nationalism here. Granted, officially the series is about North America as a continent and not about the USA as a country, but every time the narrator said " 'Murica..." I couldn't help but feel the narrator wanted to convey his pride of the U.S.A. 'Muricans are tough, and so are it's animals -- or something like that. I really felt disgusted how they managed to turn an otherwise beautiful nature series into what felt like right wing propaganda 101. How do you turn footage of a rodent gathering flowers to survive winter into a piece of right-wing propaganda? Watch "North America", and Tom Selleck will show you!
Halfway through the second episode I found myself thinking: seriously, if that guy is going to mention "only the strongest/toughest" one more time, I think I'm gonna break something.
After a quick Google search I found that the series is narrated by Tom Selleck, who in completely unrelated news is a right-wing NRA-member, and I found myself thinking: geee.... why the heck am I not surprised?
Not only do his cheesy one-liners give you an atmosphere of misplaced nationalism that really doesn't belong in a series about a subject so politically neutral as 'wildlife'; it is also filled with blatant lies. "Only the toughest survive." ...? and "Only the strongest deserve the right to call 'Murica HOME." ...? Apparently someone did an excellent job at misunderstanding how nature works, and raping Charles Darwin's "survival of the fittest" at the same time. For those of you who don't know: FYI, that is NOT what "survival of the fittest" means, or in any case not how modern day biologists would explain evolution or the way competition and survival in nature work. Not EVERYTHING in nature is about strength, toughness, physical power, or even absurd notions such as "courage".
Because the way the narrator 'personifies' animals with human character traits is another thing that started to irritate me more and more. Seriously, couldn't they have found a narrator who could bring a little more scientific neutrality into this? This kind of human projection on a 'tough' animal of your liking, is the kind of propaganda that would put the USSR to shame. The fact that the USA has chosen the bald eagle as it's symbol, does NOT mean that the bald eagle also chose America as it's home because it liked that particular country's "tough guy" image. But that is the kind of bullshit thing that you constantly get the feeling Tom Selleck wants to make you believe.
Newsflash: other countries in the world are ALSO home to supposedly 'tough' animals like mountain goats, eagles, bears, etc. But Tom Selleck wants you to believe that the 'magnificent' continent of North America is the only place where these "champions of nature" live, and so much as makes the claim that North America is the toughest natural environment on earth, which creates the toughest animals anywhere. While I think that claim is highly debatable, most of all I think: what a disgusting thing to turn a nature show into a schoolyard 'toughness' contest.
Instead of using nature to teach people as a species some humbleness, here it is used the opposite way and nature is abused as the supposed background that your imaginary god must have created to illustrate (North American) people's awesomeness? If you think I am exaggerating, watch two episodes of this series and see what you think of the commentary...
The imagery is beautiful, and the things you see are of course value- free; they are factual things that are actually happening in nature, simply captured on film for us to see. But the narrator does a perfect job of showing how a little narration can steer this value-free content into a certain direction. His narration forces you into a stunningly one-dimensional understanding of nature. And that may be the greatest flaw of all in this series that would otherwise be a beautiful and educational show.
So purely based on the stunning footage, I would give this show an 8 out of 10, but because of the way the narration ruins the entire thing, I really can't give it more than a 6. If you really want to learn something while you are looking at stunning imagery (instead of loosing 5 IQ points with every episode), I would recommend watching something from David Attenborough's huge oeuvre.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
No doubt very interesting... but hardly watchable for even an advanced film audience.
I consider myself to be well above average intelligence and well above average film viewing experience, but I seriously struggled to understand more than just the basic plot (well I got that after reading the plot outline beforehand). If you would have asked me directly after the film "Give me a summary of what happened there, and who was who and who did what.", I really would have struggled to come up with a sensible answer.
In the end it reminds me a lot of films directed by George Clooney like Syriana. New characters, semi-connected events, snippets from conservations, new locations and different points in time come racing by so fast that it makes your head spin. In hindsight the details of the plot and how everything is connected become (a bit) clearer, and some things made me go "oh of course, that was connected to this or that". But because of the rate in which these elements pass by and the seemingly haphazard and minimalistic way in which supposedly logical steps in the plot are portrayed, I really couldn't keep up with it while watching the film.
And much like the film Syriana, this film gives you the feeling that the sense of chaos caused by how intricately complicated things tend to be in a geopolitical/economical setting (Syriana) or an espionage/intelligence setting (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy), seems to be exactly the effect that the film is deliberately trying to achieve in it's viewing experience. Well if their intention was to convey a sense of chaos, congratulations, they succeeded masterfully at that. But that really isn't my definition of a film as a worthwhile viewing experience.
Don't get me wrong, the cast was really impressive, the music and the locations were beautiful and the acting excellent. And I'm really not suggesting that every film has to come in bite-size chunks. But if an intelligent person with an advanced film viewing experience (and I wasn't the only one) is struggling to keep up with the plot, there is definitely something wrong with the film as a 'film', i.e. as an overall viewing experience.
Thoughts that come to my mind are:
- Wouldn't it have been possible to convey the message or thought that they were trying to convey, with a film with half the number of characters (maximum) that were in this film now?
- Could we introduce some sort of warning label for films that have as one of their main goals to convey a sense of the chaos and intricateness of the events and relations that form its setting, so next time I will be able to avoid them?
- Or should writers who don't know how to select, compact, trim and condense so to speak, maybe be prevented from trying to make a book into a film?
By the way, one might reason that the film might be a easier to follow after one has read the book (which admittedly I didn't), but I have heard from several people that the book is at least as difficult to understand as the film, and what's more, doesn't guarantee at all that the film will be easier to understand then.
Well shoot me for trampling on the impressive achievement that a lot of people seem to think this film is. But as I said, I judge a film by the end results; a film is a viewing experience, intended for viewers; to be viewed, and I suppose also understood by them to a certain point, although apparently I might be mistaken on that last bit. Anyway that's just my opinion, and in the light of the above I really can't give this film more than a 4 out of 10.
If this review makes the blood boil (or worse) of people who loved this film than so be it, but I hope my review will at least serve to warn some other like-minded film viewers before going to see this, just so you know what to expect...
Fun little horror film... not "great" but deeper than it seems.
Okay on a first glance this horror film doesn't offer anything spectacularly new. A woman gets lost in the London subway, and gets chased by a potential attacker. Granted, I have never seen a (horror) movie set in the London subway, but in the end it's not that much different from any other dark environment with tunnels, corridors, unknown areas from a random other horror film. It's a cliché, and so is the fact that it's a semi-helpless woman being chased around. And there are a few other horror semi-clichés in this film that I won't spoil you about. But then again... this stuff is what horror films are about, and all of the elements are just enough different to make this an interesting film to watch just for those elements. Come to think of it, I haven't seen that many British horror films, besides 28 Days/Weeks Later and Shaun of The Dead. And I do like the choice for the London "tubes", especially the fact that I returned just a few days ago from a London city trip with lots of "tube" traveling made my viewing experience especially creepy. So it does offer something new. I also liked seeing Franka Potente; I haven't seen her in a while, and I think I have never seen her in a horror film. I think she did a pretty good job, as did all the other actors by the way.
The thing that is special and that made me decide to write a review for this one is the "relationship" of Franka's character "Kate" with the rest of the characters, or the rest of her 'world'. It seemed to me that the makers of the film were trying to make some interesting points about her, or maybe about society as a whole? And that's in my opinion what makes a good horror film; not just blood and scares, but some stuff to think about. Now you may or not agree with my specific interpretations, but in any case I think this movie can offer some stuff to think about any viewer; regardless of whether you interpret it the same way as I did.
MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD - MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD
The most important, most ironic and also most obvious clue is the fact that "Kate", after surviving the ordeal, ends up looking like a homeless junkie, and is indeed identified as one by a random traveler in the closing scene of the film. A little less obvious one, but at least as important, is when Jimmie the junkie says to Guy the rapist "You're luck she's a soft touch, you know." The third key scene I think is when Kate and George decide that Maggie must be dead, and leave her with predictable outcomes. Seems to me that Kate is a symbol for societies faults. While being the protagonist with whom we sympathize (she also has her "pros", and after all she is a victim), she only cares about her own survival, bribes the homeless guy with 2 x 50 pound to reach her own goals without caring one bit about him or his problems, and leaves Maggie without really checking if she is alive when this course of action suits her best at that moment. So while Kate is a "soft touch" several times in the film, she can be just as cold careless when it suits her. Put on top of that, that at the party she was talking about drug use (although granted we never see her actually use it), and the fact that like a childish little girl she is trying to get to meet the famous George Cloony clad in a dress that reveals as much skin as possible; so what would the film makers be trying to tell us about Kate with all these things put on top of each other? In the end she survives, but the random traveler giving her a coin like she is a junkie, reminds her what she has become or could have been.
END OF SPOILERS - END OF SPOILERS - END OF SPOILERS
On the one hand she is the protagonist that, in the eyes of the viewer deserves to survive. On the other hand, regardless of the injustice seen in the rest of the film, both done *to* the antagonist and *by* the antagonist, she isn't totally free of blame herself in the way that she deals with the world around her. BAM! How's that for your average Friday night horror flock? Not bad I say, not bad at all. In a way, Kate is character with much more "depth" than most horror film characters (pro- or antagonist). In that sense she's an excellent main character and the film is at least as much about her as about what happens in those tunnels.
All of this definitely puts Creep above the majority of (low budget) horror films, and that deserves some credit. A 7 out of 10 is just fair I think.
The Muppets (2011)
The Muppets are back... well sort of
I like the Muppets a lot, but on some points this film didn't quite deliver. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't completely the comeback I had hoped for.
What I liked about it is that a lot of the muppets that we know from the films and series are in it, as opposed to some of the older films which I seem to remember were mainly Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo and Ms. Piggy. Too bad though that the collective Muppets have so little screen time in this film, or in any case a lot less than it could ideally have been. There were several moments where I thought "just show me Muppets for crying out loud!"
The human companions are a given in any Muppet production, which is fine if they are funny or entertaining to watch, or if they are merely creating the setting for showing us funny Muppet situations, like would so often happen with the many celebrities that visited the Muppet TV-series. Amy Adams is lovely and at times funny, but I have yet to discover the merits of Jason Segel as an actor. He isn't compelling to watch, he really isn't a great actor and he certainly isn't funny. It were especially (but not exclusively) his parts that felt like a drag. If a Muppet, for instance Kermit or in this case Walter, sings a melancholy song it is funny or lovable, but when humans, especially Segal sings it, it just looks kinda ridiculous and besides it feels like it's wasting precious potential Muppet screen time. Even Jack Black's part wasn't seriously funny or properly exploited for the potential Muppet "magic" that I was hoping for.
The story itself was fine, not more than that, and anyway it only serves as a vehicle for showing as much Muppet craziness as possible... which I think was pretty meager in this film. They managed to squeeze in a lot of the famous Muppets, and even a few good jokes, but to me it felt like they left open a lot of opportunities to squeeze in even more.
All in all I'm happy the Muppets are back, especially if this potentially means we could expect more Muppet films in the future, hopefully even better and funnier than this one. I enjoyed this film, but it certainly wasn't great. It's the first Muppet film in years, but that fact alone really isn't enough to earn it more than a 6 out of 10.
The Prestige (2006)
Nice movie, but the "twist" effect is growing a beard
I liked this movie in that it's a nice story with interesting characters, beautiful imagery and decent actors. But like many other movies in the last years, this movie has a surprising plot twist at the end. In this movie I didn't particularly like it, and probably for two reasons. The first and main one is, the whole "plot twist" thing is getting rather old if you ask me. We've seen so many of these movies lately (The Sixth Sense, The Others, The Village, The Usual Suspects, Memento, The Illusionist, The Score, Unbreakable, etc. etc.) that it doesn't really impress anymore. Oh sure, it's nice to catch the viewers by surprise and say "Ha! You didn't see that coming, did you?" But then again, is it really that hard? In a world where the viewer is *expected* to "suspend his disbelief" and the writer has all the power to either show or not show information, you can make your viewers believe anything. In the beginning, or at least what was the beginning of this "genre" for me (The Sixth Sense, The Usual Suspects), it was still funny and unexpected. You felt tricked and kinda stupid when you learned the truth. But the more of these films you see, the more you realize how easy it is to surprise someone if you have absolute control over what information is or isn't shown. And, the more far-fetched the plot twists seem to get, which is the 2nd reason I wasn't really impressed by the ending of this film. It seems to have become a silly game among film makers much like the game in this film: a match to see who is best able to trick their audience, and who can come up with an even more insane plot twist. In this case it is insane indeed, or rather an insult the viewers intelligence if you want my opinion. Sure, just pull a proverbial bunny out of a hat by the end of the film like "Hey, what about THIS then eh?". Yeah, unexpected indeed, but cheap, really cheap. As someone else commented on this film: the makers seem to have worried more about delivering the best plot twist to date, than about making a good film, and executing the twist properly and credibly. Half way through the film, I was no longer really bothered by the issue that, at the end of the film, the plot twist appeared to offer a solution for. Part of this is because my "suspension of disbelief" had pushed the whole issue to the background. And part of it is because the film just doesn't keep you focused. There's so much other stuff going on that you aren't really sure what to look for. At a certain point I was waiting for unexpected answers when I didn't know what the question was.
Nevertheless, I still gave this film a 7 out of 10, because in itself I thought it was a good story and I enjoyed watching most of it. However I do hope that film makers will invent a new genre and stop doing the plot twist thing because frankly, I think we've all seen how that trick works by now so it isn't really going to work anymore.
Samurai Jack (2001)
Stunning, but a little weaker than the pilot promised.
The visual style of Tartakovsky is of course stunning. Every scene and every shot is like a piece of art. The action is presented like Asian martial arts, the scenes follow each other almost like a dance.
Content-wise however, frankly I must say I found the series a little disappointing. When I watched the pilot episode, it seemed to promise a little more than the rest of the series could offer. I liked the historical setting and the mythological story of the first episode. I also liked the the future setting of the rest of the series. However, my complaint is that the plots of the episodes seem a little trivial. Every episode a new enemy is battle, with little connection between the episodes.
Still, visually it's one of the most stunning animated series I have seen.
Disturbing, but hardly watchable
Syriana paints a disturbing picture about what happens behind the scenes of the oil industry, on a geo-political level. At least, I guess it does. Because frankly, as a film I find it hardly watchable. New characters pop up every minute, and they hardly (if at all) get introduced. It's all so confusing you can hardly keep track of what's happening. I watched this film with 3 University schooled people who have a fair knowledge of international politics, and above-average experience in watching 'intelligent' and 'non-Hollywood' films. But neither of us could really say he understood the entire story and who was who. If it was the goal of the film to portray the story with all it's characters as cloudy and confusing as these geo-political processes tend to be, then it would be a good film in an arty pretentious kinda way, but I doubt that's the case. Maybe it's described in the film script who's who, and then maybe it would be a good idea to offer that film script accompanying the film next time. Because, I suppose Syriana wasn't supposed to be solely an essay on the oil industry and international politics. Maybe a book would have been a more suitable medium for that. I just assume Syriana was also supposed to be a watchable film, and on that level I really can't give it more than a 6 out of 10, and I think I'm being very forgiving.
Efter brylluppet (2006)
Incredible acting, incredible story.
As may be expected of Susanne Bier, and as may be expected of Scandinavian films in general if you ask me, this film is really great. The acting is so good it's hard to call it acting. Mads Mikkelsen (Jacob) puts up a terrific performance with acting that is as credible as it is subtle. Not the over-the-top stuff that we are familiar with from Hollywood, but acting that actually makes you think "yes, this is how real flesh and blood people would react". I was also pleasantly surprised by Sidse Babett Knudsen (Helene). She has a lot of scenes with little or no dialog, but the way she tells everything with subtle face expression is simply mind blowing. And let's not forget Rolf Lassgård (Jörgen) and Stine Fisher Christensen (Anne), who both remind us what real flesh and blood emotions look like in a way that really hits you in the face.
Anyway, I'm a fan of Scandinavian films for reasons mentioned above, and I'm almost ashamed to say that in that light this film was really nothing new, and luckily so: just more of the same wonderful stuff! What really stuck with me about this film however is the story. It is so ...human in all aspects. I won't reveal any spoilers, but as the story unfolds, it just gets so much more complex than you expect at first. In the first 15 minutes, I expected the movie was mainly going to be about the struggle between Jörgen and Jacob. The struggle between these two "stereotypes" really... one being the cool business man who solves everything with money, and the other being the idealistic but clumsy social worker. I was pleasantly surprised however that it got even better after that. What I mainly like about the movie, is that it doesn't offer any simple solutions. In the end, there are no perfect happy endings that solve every puzzle; the main characters have to make decisions, but it's not all black and white like we see in a lot of other movies. People have to do things they might not have done initially, but in the end, there may be upsides as well. You know... that sounds an awful lot like real life, and that's a good thing for a film if you ask me.
The Merchant of Venice (2004)
A beautiful piece of art, but somewhat for Shakespeare die-hards.
First of all I'd like to say I thought this movie was a wonderful piece of art. Beautiful images, beautiful music and good actors.
However I do feel that the use of "Shakespearean English" in a movie is somewhat problematic. I'm sure you can get used to it with it's extremely long sentences, strange grammar (at least for modern standards) and at times extra-terrestrial word order, but for someone who hasn't read a Lot of Shakespeare's work, it was quite exhausting at times to keep up with the dialogue and understand what they're exactly saying. Especially since the dialogue density is quite high throughout the movie (and in my opinion, much too high for a movie).
Film is a modern medium and I think the makers should have kept that in mind a little bit more. Everything has to be squeezed in around 2 hours, so hey, you need to trim down certain things a bit. When you're watching a movie you need a little space to breathe every now and then, a few seconds to think about things. When you're reading a book you can take that time yourself, whereas a movie needs to have that space built in. I don't know, maybe making a movie and keeping up all the characteristics and virtues of Shakespearean dialogue are just two things that don't mix that well. And... oh well, maybe just keeping the dialogue density just a little lower would have done the trick altogether. But right now I feel like I've been running a mile or two, while all I wanted was to watch a piece of art.
Still, as I said, it was a beautiful piece of art, so a grade 7 out of 10 is justified.