Reviews

181 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
Elser (2015)
8/10
a convincing portrait of Hitler's assassin
20 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
'Elser' deals with the famous failed attempt on Hitler's life, dated November 8, 1939. Taking place in a Munich beer hall, where the bomb's time setting missed Hitler with a margin of only 13 minutes. A true near-miss in world history.

This well-made German film focuses on the psychology of the assassin, the German Georg Elser. And for this director Oliver Hirschbiegel uses a highly original method: showing flash-backs about Elser's life with high frequency, while at the same time continuity & balance is provided by a female voice, telling Elser's story.

Using this method, Hirschbiegel succeeds to picture Elser's personality convincingly. Making 'Elser' to a film worth watching.
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9/10
connecting Hitler to Europe's present immigration problems
30 November 2015
Warning: Spoilers
First of all, 'Er ist wieder da' (= German for 'Here he is again') stands out for the magnificent performance by Oliver Masucci of the Adolf Hitler-role -- which I think deserves an Oscar.

Carried by this, 'Er ist wieder da' makes a very German, if not European, film. Which, I guess, may be difficult to understand for Americans. In the end its plot focuses on European immigration, and everything that comes with it. Seriously presenting the issue in a neutral and correct way, indicating its big political complications.

But before we get there, the film offers plenty of fun. In particular in its beginning. Hitler wakes up on the same spot where he left in 1945: Berlin city center. And starts exploring the Berlin of 2014 with a full 1945-mindsetting. Thus releasing some great slapstick, which truly made tears of laughter stream down my cheeks.

However, it does not take Hitler long to discover email and internet. He understands its great potential very quickly, and gets on to a new huge career as a television-star.

So far the plot of 'Er ist wieder da'. As I said, a very German- styled film, that gradually goes down on the sensitive issue of connecting Hitler with Europe's present immigration problems. It does so in a credible way, thanks to Masucci's magnificent performance of the Adolf Hitler-role.
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7/10
an impossible servant in 1900
13 November 2015
Warning: Spoilers
'Journal d'une femme de chambre' (= French for 'a room maid's tale') is situated in the French countryside of around 1900. Its story centers on a room maid who is able to put herself morally above the behavior of her master + mistress. Thus making some statement of dignity and independence.

The film does not show much more than what is common knowledge about the lawless position of domestic servants back then. Being fully dependent on the whims and tastes of their masters, often leading to sexual assault in case of young women.

In fact, I think that female lead Lea Seydoux performs an impossible role, by acting a 1900-servant who is not humble and dependent -- showing her prominent personality all the way down. Given this, Seydoux does well without being brilliant.

The same goes for the rest of the film. It provides good entertainment, but does not give you anything to remember.
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Rendez-Vous (2015)
8/10
Dutch horror in France
2 November 2015
Warning: Spoilers
'Rendez-vous' (= French for 'meeting') is based on a novel of Esther Verhoef, one of Holland's top selling thriller-writers in books.

And happily Verhoef's very capable story-telling shows in the film. Telling us a pretty Dutch plot: not very refined or sophisticated, but surely tensely and loaded with human drama. And ending in a very surprising & unexpected way.

Verhoef also connects with a well-known Dutch practice: a Dutch couple that rebuilds an old & badly looking French farmhouse in a guest house. In the Dutch mind an idea like this has a somewhat romantic aura, inspiring quite a number of Holland's citizens to emigrate to France ..... however, as both Holland and France are in the European Union, emigration is hardly a suitable word to express their moving over.

Anyway, 'Rendez-vous' shows a tension that keeps you watching from beginning to end -- provided you are prepared to accept its typical, somewhat edgy & blunt Dutch story. All the way accompanied by a picturing that is good without being brilliant.
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9/10
a intriguing foreigners' view on Amsterdam
29 October 2015
Warning: Spoilers
In 'The Paradise Suite', the Amsterdam region is deliberately pictured through the eyes of foreigners. Taking you to areas of Dutch society you do not visit every day, to say the least.

These foreigners, about five of them, all have an own nationality, as well as their own individual story & history. The Amsterdam-places they visit, switch from the 'Concertgebouw' (a world famous venue for classical music) down to the city's equally famous red light district.

This film's building up is pretty special: starting with five entirely different stories, in the course of its running these stories somehow get mixed up. Gradually melting themselves into a more coherent plot. The process truly makes watching 'The Paradise Suite' an intriguing experience.

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Apart from this all, this film's picturing of Amsterdam will endear everyone who know the place. And, oh yes, be prepared for a number of very hard and realistic ugly scenes. Revealing the hard, lonely and difficult life that comes with every big city.
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8/10
tied to the late Sixties
2 October 2015
Warning: Spoilers
For understanding Antionioni's Zabriskie Point', you need insight in the ways of the alternative-thinking American youngsters from the late 19-Sixties. In connection with student-riots at Berkely, their protests were aimed against the behavior of their parent's generation.

Only on this condition you'll be able to appreciate 'Zabriskie Point' to the full. Admiring the excellent capturing of its spirit, supported by its magnificent picturing -- another famous Antonioni- trademark. From these points of view, 'Zabriskie Point' nowadays almost shows as a historical documentary.

For those who were not around at the time, I guess 'Zabriskie Point' turns out somewhat disappointing. This film surely bears all Antonioni high-quality marks, yes, but its plot makes little sense. Might even be considered as dull. Its only moments of good tense are provided in the scene where the boy meets the girl. Involving his low-flying airplane over the car driven by her.
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Flame (1975)
8/10
unusual, unique & good
14 July 2015
Warning: Spoilers
At the time, 'Slade in Flame' did not match the public image of the group: first, this film is serious; second, its bottom line isn't funny at all.

Singer Noddy Holder tells us in his autobiography, that the original idea about this Slade-film was fun indeed. Featuring guitarist Dave Hill being swallowed by a monster, his long hair peeping out the monster's beak. However, Hill did not like this scene and put his foot down.

So 'Slade in Flame' actually was second choice, and shocked the majority of the Slade-fans back in 1974. Alienating them a little from the group, also because this film's songs are not that hilarious as Slade's many previous hits.

In retrospect, Slade must be praised for not making another copy of the Beatles 'A hard day's night'. More than forty years later, 'Slade in Flame' still provides a realistic & coherent picture about daily business around a famous pop group of its days. Still making a good watch, even in spite of its mediocre shooting. In this respect, the unique Slade enriched pop music-history with an unique film.
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8/10
difficult to review a children's film
20 March 2015
My vote 8 is due to the good picturing & acting in 'Lou ! journal infime' (= French for 'Lou, minimal story').

'Lou !' clearly is a children's film, destined for an age of about 9 up to early teenage. Given this, it looks nice enough to me; however, at the age of 62 I cannot judge well if it appeals to children of this age. Even more so, if it appeals to French children of this age -- for Lou ! is undeniably a very French film.

Ludivine Sagnier is known for extremes in choosing her films: let's say she is not afraid to try every possible role under the sun. Although Sagnier's acting in 'Lou !' is good, her new and unexpected role in a film like this adds another extreme. Making it more difficult to give her a stable position in your cinematic appreciations.
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Fantomas (1964)
8/10
the French answer to James Bond - part 1
1 March 2015
One must travel back to the 19-Sixties to appreciate 'Fantomas' to the full.

In those days English James Bond was taking off with his second or third film, creating a hype that is exceptional in film-history right up to this day. According to the customs back then, the French came up with 'Fantomas', providing a counter-weight that made considerable impact. However, in the long run James Bond has lived on while Fantomas is by now clear history.

Watching this film for the first time since 1965 or so, one must conclude that 'Fantomas' makes a comedy, as well as a clever persiflage of the contemporary James Bond (performed by Sean Connery). Shot with the techniques available back then, catching well-acted roles by prominent French actors and actresses of those years.

For those who were not around in 1965, I fear that 'Fantomas' has not much to offer. Knowledge about the mid-Sixties is necessary to understand this film to the full.
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Ida (2013)
10/10
a very touchy subject in Polish history
24 February 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Anyone familiar with the complicated history of Eastern Europe during the days of Hitler & Stalin, knows this dark secret: in World War 2 more Polish Jews were murdered by their Polish Roman Catholic compatriots than by the occupation forces of Adolf Hitler.

Shot in black and white, 'Ida' clearly touches on this subject. And does so in a very brave, honest and moving way. In this film, set in 1962, all historical elements are represented: the Roman Catholic church and a Communist aunt. As well as the Roman Catholic farmer & murderer. owning the farm that once belonged to his Jewish victims. And, in the end, the clear victory of Roman Catholicism over Communism.

Add to this 'Ida's magnificent acting & shooting, evoking memories of the great Michelangelo Antonioni from around 1960. It is a long time ago I watched something so excellent as this film.
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7/10
very entertaining on an unusual topic
19 February 2015
Warning: Spoilers
'Verlengd weekend' (= Dutch for 'Prolonged weekend') is an entertaining & typical Flemish film with a pretty unusual theme.

Director Hans Herbots presents us with a combination of taking someone as hostage for reasons of social conflict. Using the money released in this way for helping its victims. Somewhat like Robin Hood did.

This film's credible story entertains you throughout, never gets dull, and provides many unexpected twists and turns.

Another somewhat surprising feature is its main cast of three men (veteran-actor Jan Decleir among them) and one young woman. She nowhere and never gets naked, which says much positive about the quality of 'Verlengd weekend'.

Her name is Veerle Baetens, by the way, an actress who in later years would emerge much more prominent than at the time when 'Verlengd weekend' was shot (2005).
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Plemya (2014)
9/10
'A Clockwork Orange' in a brilliant Ukrainian style
5 February 2015
Warning: Spoilers
In one way Ukrainian 'Plemya' is very remarkable, if not unique.

Being located in an institute for young adult deaf + dumb people, the actors communicate by using hand-language. Director Slabosjpitski obviously decided to make his audience part of this process, and left any subtitles out.

So watching this film, you feel a little deaf + dumb yourself -- unless you speak both Ukrainian and hand-language. I never experienced this brilliant effect in any other film before.

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Apart from the above, 'Plemya' reminds me of Stanley Kubrick's 'A Clockwork Orange' from 1971. A criminal gang with a lot of violence, all registered very plainly & realistic. The more so while 'Plemya' has the characteristic slow pace of an East European movie, taking its time to involve you.

'Plemya' surely is a film that gets under your skin. Its mediocre shooting, the only minor feature, is more than compensated by its excellent acting.
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Lucy (I) (2014)
6/10
science fiction clearly is not Scarlett Johansson's trade
1 January 2015
The idea behind 'Lucy' is interesting enough: what will happen when mankind uses more than the common 10 to 15% of its brain-capacity? For this idea producer Luc Besson researched in the world of science, having the positive effect of it showing all over his movie.

So far so good. However, Besson was less happy in thinking that a subject like this could result in anything more than a common science fiction-film. Not even a prominent lead like Scarlett Johansson is able to lift 'Lucy' from its corresponding flat story.

Which inevitably brings us to the conclusion that Johansson wastes her great acting talent here. Or to be more precise: the more Johansson moves away from mankind's common 10 to 15% capacity, the more her acting vanishes into thin air. It is no surprise that Scarlett Johansson's characteristic down-to-earth performance comes out best in the beginning of this film.
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8/10
icon of 1970-s glamor
21 November 2014
Jon Peters''The eyes of Laura Mars' symbolizes the moods & sty-lings of the 1970-s -- as much as Michelangelo Antonioni's famous 'Blow Up' does for the 1960-s.

Consequently Laura Mars' lasting visuals outshine its story by far. Bright and dashing, glittering all around, these visuals strongly remind us of what the 1970-s really were about: sexual freedom unhampered by AIDS (which emerged as late as the 1980-s).

However, I spot a significant difference with 'Blow Up'. Antonioni has his 1960-s visuals brilliantly supported by a half hidden and intriguing story. Unfortunately 'The eyes of Laura Mars' lacks such a refined extra value. Although not bad, this film's story reminds us of a mediocre police series on your television. It may even degrade its visual brilliance.

Apart from its new & newly tolerated sexual freedom, there is not much left to tell about the 1970-s. So maybe Laura Mars' quality-gap between visuals and story may function to symbolize this remarkable era after all.
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8/10
a very nice French bitter-sweet comedy
26 October 2014
'Tristesse club' (= French for 'Sadness club') makes one of these comedies the French excel in. Dealing with a serious subject in a light-hearted way, leaving you with a nice aftertaste. It feels like you just enjoyed a glass of high-quality French wine.

Firmly placed in our present 2014-world, this film's convincing plot is carried on very well by its three leads: Ludivine Sagnier, Vincent Macaigne and in particular Laurent Lafitte. Its shooting is adequate, supporting a story with some surprising twists and turns.

All in all, 'Tristesse club' provides you with a pleasant watch. Makes you feel that you are part of the scene, and leaves you anxious about its ending all the way through.
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Exhibition (2013)
9/10
Take your time and enjoy
11 September 2014
Warning: Spoilers
'Exhibition' provides a credible insight in the marriage of a couple in their fifties. Which may not be too interesting for younger people, but there's no denying that we have a cleverly made & tasteful film on our hands.

A feature that may be contrary to present times: 'Exhibition's rather low pace. Producer Joanna Hogg takes her time to explain the workings of this marriage. Including some small individual secrets of the wife, performed well by Viv Albertine (in her younger days a famous Punk-guitarist).

Being a child of the 1960-s, I cannot escape to compare 'Exhibition' with Michelangelo Antonioni's famous 'Blow-up'. Which goes in particular for the relaxed build-up of a rather meager story, supported by many moody images. As well as by incorporating some architectural beauty.

However, you should do an injustice to 'Exhibition' to regard her as a copy of whatever other film. Joanna Hogg's newest surely has enough quality to stand on its own.
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10/10
greatly linking Marlene Dietrich to Czarist Russia
9 July 2014
First: linking Marlene Dietrich to the somewhat dark, cruel & mysterious atmosphere of 18th century czarist Russia provides a truly great edge to 'The Scarlet Empress'.

Second: in 1934 Dietrich was already in her thirties, which clearly shows off in this film. Even more so, she does not make any attempt to hide her true age. It doesn't matter, though, for I estimate that Dietrich's flawless performance adds at least an extra 20%.

With ingredients like these, 'The Scarlet Empress' cannot fail to turn out greatly. Shot in the best technique's of the 1930s, this truly is a film that will last forever.
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Ken Park (2002)
8/10
Extension of Larry Clark's photo-work
20 June 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I came on 'Ken Park' through a present photo exhibition in Amsterdam, showing the pictures of one of this film's editors: Larry Clark.

Larry Clark (born 1943) made a photo-career by picturing teenagers in every scene of their young lives. In showing this, Clark also includes sex, drugs & rock 'n roll, right up to showing full genitals. His most famous book is 'Teenage Lust', edited in the early 1980-s. Causing quite a stir at the time, for showing teenage life in details one usually keeps silent about.

In spite of Clark's frankness on the subject, he cannot be accused of making porn. Clark pictures his teenagers in the way these teenagers see themselves. Looking through their eyes, his photos radiate eagerness to discover maturity, eagerness to try new things out, eagerness to acquire new experiences. And, above all, eagerness to catch the present without worrying about the future.

Larry Clark's film 'Ken Park' just extends this theme. Maybe he narrows his limits a little: his film shows teenagers from well-to-do families, that are in some way dysfunctional. No poverty & slums in 'Ken Park', only desolation due to unhappy circumstances at home. Circumstances these teenagers are caught in, because they are not strong enough yet to influence them.
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7/10
although terrible, 'Manina' still attracts
29 May 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Watching 'Manina' provides a curious experience.

What we see is a film that should have been buried under a thick layer of dust. Not in the least because it features a female lead whose acting is terrible. And whose (un)clothing may have been shocking in 1952, but passes on unnoticed in our days.

Given this, the fact that 'Manina' still is for sale on DVD in our days, only confirms the stunning & immortal appeal of Brigitte Bardot.

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With this in mind, scrutinizing 'Manina' nevertheless reveal some small charms. A romantic story about a hidden treasure in the Mediterranean Sea, with some robbers around. Bedded in eternal sunshine, its location is set on a lone deserted rock-island -- involving the local lighthouse-keeper's beautiful daughter, who falls in love with our honest treasure-hunter.

Second, 'Manina' introduces the happy marriage between Brigitte Bardot and the Mediterranean Sea. A marriage that features prominently in Brigitte's life, both private and in her films. Four years after 'Manina', this marriage also made an important cornerstone in Brigitte's world-famous Big Breakthrough-film 'Et Dieu crea la femme' (= French for 'And God created woman').

Third, 'Manina' deserves to be mentioned for her many under water-scenes. These are brightened up by some fine music of Jean Yatove, another forgotten name. Back in 1952, Yatove's music was issued on a long play-record, that later on became one of the most hunted-after BB-artifacts. Gearing up prices up to 1.000 English pounds.

Last but not least: our memory of 'Manina' is greatly supported by one of the most famous Bardot-photos ever. Showing her fully naked (which was very daring in 1952), on a sunny Mediterranean beach. Lying on her belly, from her waist down in the low water. Apart from BB's nudity, this photo also makes a great composition: Brigitte's hooked right leg gives it life, while the sea moving against her left thigh makes it move.
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Marina (2013)
8/10
a charming picture of Belgium in the 1950-s
25 April 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Back in 1959, singer Rocco Granata took his Italian song 'Marina' to the top of many charts all over the world. Its catchy tune has become immortal, living up right to our present days.

The charming Belgian film 'Marina' deals with young Rocco's whereabouts, right up to the moment he got famous with his song. It delivers a heartwarming picture of Belgium in the 1950-s, very recognizable for those around at the time.

Even 'Marina's plot adapts to this era, being told in the slightly melodramatic way usual back then. The film only goes astray for not being shot in fifties-black and white.

All in all, 'Marina' provides an enjoyable mix of Italian spirit against a warm Belgian background. Shot with the human touch that has become a trademark for Belgian films.

My last comment is about 'Marina's nude advertising picture: although certainly humorous & original, it does not represent the contents of this enjoyable film.
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L'immortelle (1963)
7/10
second place in Nouvelle Vague
21 April 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Around 1960 French cinema introduced 'Nouvelle Vague' (= French for 'New Wave'). This style of filming, quite revolutionary back then, soon spread abroad. To Italy for instance, where masters as Fellini and Antonioni made their impressive careers with it.

'Nouvelle Vague' is said to be based on the then new realization that sometimes techniques control men, instead of the other way round. The new filming perfectly reflects all nagging uncertainties coming from this new insight.

In 'Nouvelle Vague' we see people doubting themselves and their relations. People seeking for certainty and security in life, which they may find in their surroundings: 'Novelle Vague' often excels in shooting architectural beauty.

'L'immortelle' (= French for 'the Immortal') features all 'Nouvelle Vague'-styling. Set in Instanbul for a change, bringing in some Turkish & oriental culture. Not surprisingly its story is inconclusive, leaving you in doubt about what really happened.

I don't think 'l'immortelle' can match productions like Antonioni's 'l'avventura', or Fellini's 'la dolce vita'. However, it makes a good second place -- still providing a good watch.
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8/10
reminds me strongly of Fellini's 'La Dolce Vita'
13 April 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Being 61, I cannot escape to compare the structure of 'La Grande Bellezza' (= Italian for 'the great beauty') with that of another momentous Italian film: Fellini's 'La Dolce Vita' (= 'the sweet life') from 1960.

Both films are set against Rome's nightlife, and both are carried by a single male wandering somewhat aimlessly through life. The aimless character of their journey is accentuated by a random-like switching from one scene to another. Pictures that are always beautiful, never deep, and certainly never & nowhere thoroughly investigated.

Both films are excellent by their capacity to take the viewer by the hand, leading him or her unconditionally to this beautifully pictured setting. And yes, no place on earth is better suited for such a journey than Rome is -- in 1960 as well as now.

As the Vatican is firmly integrated in this town, one cannot escape its prominent influence in films like these. However, one may say that 'La Grande Bellezza' shows itself much softer and less critical towards the Roman Catholic Church than 'La Dolce Vita' does.

I end my comparisons by mentioning the world-famous night-scene from 'La Dolce Vita', showing Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg in the waters of Rome's Trevi-fountain. When Mastroianni died in 1996, the City of Rome covered Trevi in black cloth, and stopped its waters flowing. I am anxious to see if 'La Grande Bellezza' ever will meet a comparable honor.
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8/10
mixing sex with professional sex
26 February 2014
Warning: Spoilers
'Afternoon delight' stands out for two reasons.

First, for the good acting by Kathryn Hahn, carrying it all the way down. Providing color & spirit to a story that does not inspire much by itself.

Second, 'Afternoon Delight' stands out for the scene-cutting used to build up its climax. Or anti-climax. This is done by a convincing switching between a male and a female party, both getting out of control.

On the sidelines we also learn that psychotherapists not always provide a fitting solution -- their God-like aura being made slightly ridiculous.

And another mirror may be that professional sex increasingly manifests itself. Getting out of the shadow, gaining respectability. Producer Jill Soloway leaves it to us to decide if that is desirable.
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10/10
growing to be much more than an excellent film
9 February 2014
Having been in successful circulation for just over a month, it surely looks like 'The Wolf of Wall Street' will grow much bigger than being just an excellent film.

It's about the first years of the 21st century, an era when the financial responsible people behaved themselves utterly irresponsible. Thus causing severe financial damage, that had to be paid for with taxpayer's money. Generating in its turn a severe government cost-cutting, that hit the poor & less-gifted among us in the first place. This rude betrayal of public confidence has sowed considerable mistrust, sharpening appropriate laws considerably. And will complicate honest business for a long time to come.

The financial disaster from 2008 will probably be remembered in 2114, just like we remember us the Wall Street crash of 1929.

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Eisenstein's 'Aleksadr Nevski' (1938) symbolizes Adolf Hitler's threat to Communist Russia. Antonoini's 'Blow Up' (1966) symbolizes the Swinging Sixties in London. I expect that 'the Wolf of Wall street' will in the same way symbolize the financial disaster from 2008.
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Last Vegas (2013)
8/10
when it comes to sex .....
9 February 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Well, in any case 'Last Vegas' revives a few great film-icons from 20-30 years ago. And it's nice that the film provides a suitable platform for them: old men. Making clear that these oldies are not as lifeless as many youngsters tend to think -- nothing new by the way: miss Marple has already convinced us about this for many decades.

A special flavor is added by connecting the old men from 'Last Vegas' with young women & their sexuality. In this the film just repeats what every man over 55 knows: you can please young ladies well, because you know better than a young guy how to treat them properly. However, when it comes to sex you must be cautious: in that case the lady is probably after your money.

All these ingredients make 'Last Vegas' enjoyable-without-being-great. Just another movie that entertains you well.
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