Reviews written by registered user

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111 reviews in total 
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Balkan and Serbia from the worst perspective, 10 July 2016

This movie is another drama that is hard to stomach, even though it opens as a rather light movie about a cheese salesman who comes to the big town, Belgrade. He is befriended by a waiter/bar owner who picks him up and gives him a lift, played by the great Bogdan Diklic. Salesman, played very well by Enver Petrovci, is a rather naive and good-natured man who is divorced and has a daughter. He is therefore a rather lonely guy with not much to lose, something that in the end brings forth a violent and tragic ending. Diklic takes him to the bar which he owns and at first treats him well, introducing him to the local deadbeats who frequent the bar. They include a middle-aged cynical woman and some rather despicable men, including the old timer played by Predrag Lakovic.

Poor cheese salesman is soon made a target of several jokes, including a prank someone plays on him where two hookers act like they are interested in him, but the salesman is embarrassed by it all. He claims he doesn't know them, innocently, while even the bar owner Diklic tells him to "give them one on his tab". Diklic starts to join the harassing of Pantic (Petrovci) and in the end he goes totally berserk, claiming he ordered a lot more than he really did and demands him to pay for it. The gang also eats the entire pot of cheese that Pantic was supposed to sell at the market, leaving him without a way to earn money. In the end, he cannot take it any more and explodes violently.

This is a very dark and cruel film which shows what can happen to an unsuspecting man from the countryside in a big and mean city like Belgrade. The bar is like hell. It is frequented only by low-life losers and perverts, including two aging men who are accompanied by a whore. This movie also shows what peer pressure is and that even people who are not that bad inside can get drawn into bullying an innocent guy. Diklic's character is like a two-faced man. At first he helps Pantic and treats him like a friend and then he completely changes face and starts to treat him badly, like a drunken and unwelcome guest. This is Serbia at its grimmest and meanest. The lesson? Don't accept offers from people you don't know in a big city, unless it is only for a lift. Petrovci's character accepts more than that and in the end has to pay.

The movie is titled after a song which the two men with the prostitute start to sing and as the entire bar joins in, things escalate into a violent finale. It is called "Carrot, you don't grow fine".

This is a review concerning the segment "Sargarepo ti ne rastes lepo".

The fight for England becomes the fight for one boy's soul, 3 June 2016

This movie is full of tragedy, yet also redemption. It is a story about one young boy who ends up in the wrong crowd. It is 1983 and Shaun is a 12-yearold boy whose father was killed a year ago in the Falklands War. Worth noting is the choice of year, as it was a time of major political and social upheaval in Britain. Miner strikes and dissatisfaction with Thatcher's regime. It is this dissatisfaction that also is shown here, albeit from a very extreme perspective of the skinhead leader Combo. Combo is a character full of contradictions, as he is both a racist and nationalist, and at the same time in denouncing the Falklands War as a rubbish Thatcher-invention, he is also talking the language of the common man, the oppressed man. Those who have been hurt by the war the most are people like him, people who had no grudge against Argentina but had to fight in that war, millions of miles away from home. While at the same time many so-called "respectable" and "politically correct" Englishmen and Britons supported that war and many still think it was right to fight it. This shows the yawning gap between the working class and the upper class. Working class is sick of having to take foreigners from third world countries "taking over" their neighbourhoods with their stores and restaurants and "taking their jobs", while the government does nothing and profits from the foreign "injection".

Shaun is a kind of objective figure here, who is never too much on either side, even though he accepts Combo as a sort of father figure or big brother figure. I think even the ones among us who hold some kind of grudge towards the immigrants, especially ones from afar, will feel sickened by the scene where Combo holds a knife against an Indian boy's throat, just because he and his friends played football on "his" court. Even if some of us have had negative experiences with for instance a Pakistani or Indian, watching this makes us pity that Indian boy. I know it made me feel like that and it took away any kind of grudge I might have felt towards their kind. Stephen Graham does a great job as Combo and the young Tom Turgoose also is very effective for a debutante and for his age. This is a film everyone should watch and learn from. It is a young boy's spiritual education, as Shaun finally realizes that his father didn't die fighting for the nationalist, racist England but for a united England. And everyone must accept that their society has changed.

Combo is one unhappy, tormented character. A guy who was obviously scarred early in life and cannot feel anything but anger, or can he? Despite always trying to look as cold and hard as possible, he harbours feelings for Lol, the girlfriend of his friend who then turns away from him because of his racism, after Combo returns from prison. After he gets rebuked by Lol for confessing his feelings for her, he gets more dangerous. He only wants to feel loved and to have a good life, but can't. He hangs out with losers for the most part. One exception is the mild-mannered Milky, the half-Jamaican. This all makes you wonder: is Combo really a racist? Or is it only anger and frustration that make him say and do racist things? This is a very strong character study and one of the few films I have seen to try and deconstruct what lies behind, or inside, an average racist and his mind.

I give this film a 9, because it is a very compelling and important film and a good lesson for any young man who may harbour some kind of animosity towards people of other race. Feeding on hatred and living on hatred will only make you miserable and end in tragedy, as it does for Combo. But one can hope that he is headed towards finding redemption as well, while Shaun found the right way to go.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Poor and unoriginal, 14 March 2016

This movie looks "cool" and "smokin'" as its title says, but the first hint that it's not so good is the fact that non-actress Alicia Keys is one of the main stars. And she simply can't act. She does a terrible job, even though some may think she doesn't, but it's obvious, sometimes painfully obvious, that she can't act and is not a real actress. Like in the scene at the elevator, when she meets the three over the top Neo-Nazi characters. Her response is so lame and she delivers it totally unconvincingly, like she doesn't quite know what to do. And its a major mistake, casting a non-actress in a LEADING role, even in an action flick. Jeremy Piven being there doesn't do enough to save this film from being just another in a long line of unoriginal movies that are clearly a rip off of Guy Ritchie's classics like Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. And one advice to the director: adding those running name titles to introduce each major character doesn't make a movie any better! Why? Because it's already been done, to death. You had it in Faculty, those two aforementioned Ritchie films and many others.

Ryan Reynolds is another reason I hate this movie, because Ryan Reynolds is the most overpaid, overrated and over-you name it in the movie industry. He simply sucks and is annoying. All this movie is made of is shootout scenes and some scenes that aim at being humorous in a rather bizarre way, like the scene with the karate boy. Vladimir Kulich, not a bad actor really, is doomed to be in second and third rate movies it seems...poor guy. And here he doesn't get more than one line even, which is totally unjust, given that he has a cool voice. Really poor and unoriginal flick, I won't even call it a film because it doesn't deserve it. Action scenes are rather well shot and that is the only treat here, along with miss Keys appearing in a short skirt. The cliché of the ending only underlines the fact that this is a turkey. 3 out of 10

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Excellent melodrama, 29 October 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is one of the last movies that came out before the breakup of Yugoslavia and it is a perfect example of the kind of movies that we were best at: tragic melodramas. It is a powerful and riveting story of a woman whose husband is in prison for false testimony and who tries to make ends meet with her teenage daughter at her side. They move in a suburb of Belgrade which is known for its high crime rate and rather poor living conditions. Both mother and daughter are played marvelously by Mirjana Karanovic and Mirjana Jokovic, respectively. Also, the always fun to watch Srdjan Todorovic plays a local thief who is about the same age as Jokovic's character and whom he affectionately calls "Mala", meaning little one. He is ironically the only bright point of her life, even though he leads a very wild and unstable life and in his heels is constantly the local policeman nicknamed Ajkula (Shark) who is played by Ljubisa Samardzic. Srdjan's Misha lives with his good grandmother, who is aware of her grandson's criminal activities but still covers for him when he commits a robbery.

Danilo Lazovic plays a brutal womanizer who manages to seduce Mala's mother and promises to marry her and make life better for her and Mala. But Mala is not convinced by his pleasant facade and seeks company with Misha, much to her mother's chagrin. After Lazovic rapes Mala, everything spirals out of control. Will the belated arrival of her father finally save Mala from falling apart?

There are many colorful characters here and all are played well by the actors involved. The music by Goran Bregovic is nice and complements the film's melodramatic feeling. It is a story of tragedy but also revenge and redemption. A story about two women falling prey to a very vicious and promiscuous man but the ending gives hope that they can survive and recover from the damage he has given them, emotional when it comes to the mother and physical and psychological when it comes to the daughter. It is a very dramatic film that will leave you emotionally spent. I give it a 9.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Quest for a better life ends in tragedy, 14 October 2015

I have seen negative reviews of this film which call its social commentary outdated. I don't agree. This story is an all-too familiar and common one to be outdated, along with its social commentary. The quest for a better life, the quest for acknowledgment and social climbing, establishing yourself from common and modest origins as a social "lion". Those things are never easy and can take a piece of one's soul. And this is in part what this film is about.

The hero or protagonist of this film is a young man who was raised in a religious home by his mother, George Eastman, played wonderfully by Montgomery Clift. Clift has always been one of my favorite actors and one of the few who possessed both great talent and great looks, really few. Despite being related to a wealthy family, he is not really treated as one of them, since they don't consider him their equal. He gets away from his mother and his home city Chicago to go to California where his uncle owns a factory. Despite being given a job by him, it's just an entry job and George is forbidden to socialize with any women who work there. He breaks the rules, unfortunately, and starts dating another poor girl, Alice, played by the excellent Shirley Winters. However, he soon finds himself promoted to a higher position in the factory and then meets a beautiful society girl Angela Vickers, played by Elizabeth Taylor at her most appealing. The two click instantly and fall in love and for the first time in his life, George is truly happy. No longer the outsider, he can now enjoy a rich social life with the cream of the crop. However, Alice finds out she is pregnant and threatens to ruin George's newfound idyll with Angela.

Lets note that Taylor's character is called Angela. I think she represents a sort of angel of George's, who wants to lead him to a better life. Alice is her exact opposite, a rather shabby and not too good looking poor girl who has nothing to offer George but her love. And he doesn't want it, for she only reminds him of his poor and difficult past. Angela is the bright future, the ray of sunshine he needs. His place in the sun is therefore by her side. Alice is the darkness and gloom, if he goes back to her he will never be happy again. And here we start to question George's character: does he really love Angela for herself only or also because of her wealth and social status? Well, this is indeed meant to be the moral dilemma here and as such it helps to make the film more compelling and powerful.

The ultimate tragic ending only makes it a film to be taken seriously as a drama, not just a melodrama. Its dramatic strength and the performances of its three stars is what really holds up A Place in the Sun and makes it a worthwhile experience to watch it. Its theme of quest for a better life, love, unwanted ties and ultimately tragedy is something that we can identify ourselves with even today. The message? The higher you climb, the harder you fall, perhaps. But I also like to look at it as just a tragic story of an unlucky man who tried to get himself a place under the sun and failed. It is also what I really like about it. There are no villains here, only victims.

Perils of being a stranger, 9 October 2015

The title of this film expresses how it is to be a stranger. Sometimes it can be scary to be in a strange town or city, where you know nobody. Sometimes a friendly face is not to be trusted. This I believe is the real meaning and theme behind this film. There are many perils with being a stranger in a strange place. The couple played by Rupert Everett and Natasha Richardson are about to discover the worst of them.

This film by Paul Schrader was adapted from a novel written by Ian McEwen and written for the screen by no one else but the great Harold Pinter. It is then no surprise that it's such a powerful experience to watch it. Christopher Walken hadn't had so many famous villain parts before this but after this, it would become a trademark. He plays a deeply disturbed and obviously sexually repressed American from a wealthy family who lives in Venice with his fragile wife, played equally great by Helen Mirren. They are childless and live alone in a great mansion-like house. They try to make their life (read: sex life) more exciting by finding interesting tourists they can bring into their house and their bizarre world filled with troubled fantasies. Everett and Richardson make their choice. They are an unmarried couple who are obviously in love, but their relationship is not without problems. She is divorced and has children while he has never had children and is not sure if he fits in with her idea of a husband. To cut the long story short, they meet the odd couple while looking for a restaurant one night and at first they seem to bond with them, especially the fragile wife who confesses to them that she is sometimes afraid or at least wary of her husband and his sado-masochistic tendencies. They quickly decide this is not a good couple to be friends with and return back to their hotel, where they start making love like never before. But the sick couple will not be denied of their prey and eventually, things will escalate to a disturbing finale.

The story is really well crafted and the characters also. It also helps that all four main actors are really capable in bringing them to life. Music by Angelo Badalamenti is excellent and adds more eeriness and suspense to the already eerie and suspenseful film. This is a character drama which is not for the faint-hearted, especially not the last half hour or so, where things really go bananas. It is a dark and disturbing film about a couple that got lost in a strange city and fell into a trap set by a very sick man. It is a rather unhappy film and just as it seems that things are turning the right way, it again spirals down and comes to a tragic end. It is almost like a Greek tragedy. The lesson? Never trust strangers, especially not smiling ones. The irony is that the villains here are strangers themselves, so the title I think refers to them, not the victims. Their comfort is doing what they do, playing with people.

Dramatic and emotional, 6 October 2015

I enjoyed watching this film mainly for two reasons: the performances of Crudup and Sutherland and the emotional and dramatic strength of it. It's a biopic of one of the greatest wasted talents of the American track athletic history: Steve Prefontaine. Prefontaine nearly won a medal at the 1972 Olympics but was edged out at the last lap and came in fourth instead. It is a movie about promise, disappointment and ultimately loss and tragedy.

Billy Crudup plays Prefontaine very convincingly, so much so that you forget you are watching an actor and not the man himself. This was made in the time when Crudup was just establishing himself as a new force and new star in Hollywood and this role certainly helped him establish himself as that. He is an exciting talent and very capable in expressing the emotions this part requires. Donald Sutherland of course plays his coach and the inventor of Nike shoes, Bill Bowerman. He also gives a great portrayal of the man who was the main mentor and trainer of Prefontaine, almost like a second father to him. Monica Potter plays Prefontaine's love interest and adds a love angle to the film, which makes it complete and more enjoyable to watch.

The beginning and the first half of this film is the most enjoyable part and also contains some humorous scenes, such as the one where Sutherland exposes one of Pre's college stable mates as "well endowed", to the man's embarrassment. Also, we see the rise of Steve's career on national level, which culminates in the race where he beats the legendary Frank Shorter. However, the triumph doesn't last as he takes part in the Munich Olympics and makes a great race, only to run out of gas in the last lap and get overtaken by three men. There is a brief scene afterwards where the winner, Finland's Lasse Viren, gives a brief look of sympathy and acknowledgment to the disappointed Prefontaine and this scene is one of the dramatic high points of the film. It expresses the feeling of competing at this level and how it is to lose and win: sometimes the line is very thin between winners and losers.

The direction is great and kudos to the director Robert Towne for doing such a great job on what was his only third directing job. He is otherwise known mostly as a screenwriter but this movie proved he definitely had something to offer as a director to. In the end, one can only think about how the 1976 Olympics and the history of long distance running would look had Steve not driven so fast that night.

Excellent Manga adaptation, 5 October 2015

This was Christophe Gans' first movie that he directed all by himself and as such a truly satisfying and impressive work. It was a rather unique film of its kind: a French-Canadian adaptation of a Japanese Manga comic. It was also rather unusual for the 90's, since comic-adaptations weren't as common as they are today. This was truly a rather unique and inspiring work.

The cast is not absolutely top notch but Mark Dacascos, Tcheky Karyo, Rae Dawn Chong and Mako are to be seen and all of them deliver. On the Japanese front we have Masaya Kato, who plays an ultra-deadly and vicious Yakuza boss Ryuji Hanada and does it well, and then-still beautiful Yoko Shimada as his wife, the seductive, calculating and just as deadly Lady Hanada. Julie Condra was previously a TV soap actress and this is by far the best movie she has ever starred in. Considering that, she gives a good performance as Dacascos' love interest. Byron Mann, then coming off a featured role in the stinker The Street Fighter, appears as Freeman's somewhat uneasy ally. This is also by far the best project he's ever been in and he does OK in his part.

There are quite many visually breathtaking scenes and the fighting scenes are well choreographed and well shot. The music and atmosphere are great. Even though Gans would perhaps outdo himself with his next project, Brotherhood of the Wolves, this was his first gem and a work to be taken seriously. In the heap of other mostly uninspired martial arts films with an Asian theme, this one clearly stood out as powerful and original in its time. There is both action, romance and sex scenes as well as an interesting plot to enjoy in here. As well as the performances of Dacascos, Karyo, Shimada and also Condra, who add depth to this film. I give it a clear 9.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Wonderful movie, 30 June 2015

This is one of Sydney Lumet's few melodramatic movies, without a socio-political edge. And it's also one of his best and most emotional ones. He succeeds in capturing our attention fully with this tale of love, sacrifice and quest for redemption.

River Phoenix got his (sadly) only Oscar nomination for his part of the elder son of parents who were once political activists (played by the equally wonderful Judd Hirsch and Christine Lahti) who are now constantly on the run from the law after taking part in a political bombing. They are forced to change their identity and even appearance to an extent, quite often, so that the FBI wouldn't pick up their trail. Phoenix's Danny Pope is a classical pianist prodigy who is unable to really build on that talent because of his family's unstable life. To make matters more complicated, he falls for the daughter of a rich man called Lorna (played by the capable Martha Plimpton) and she returns his affections. In the meanwhile, his mother tries to convince her rather wealthy parents to take Danny into their safe and stable home and give him an opportunity to become a concert pianist.

It is a very emotional and melodramatic movie, but without Lumet at the helm, I think it would likely dissolve into just another sappy and boring love movie and the dramatic content would be neglected or pushed in the background where it would do no good. This way, both Hirsch and Lahti and Phoenix get their shining moments. Had the parents and their plight been pushed in the background as so often happens in teenager love-themed movies, then this movie wouldn't be as good. This way, it's a clear gem and an unforgettable movie for the sentimental souls among us. Even the less-sentimental will find something to enjoy here and be inspired by Danny's struggle to find happiness and his parents' struggle to provide this happiness for him and their other son. 9/10

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Almost makes the cut, 2 June 2015

This disturbing drama-thriller is almost like a sequel to "Daisy Diamond", the Danish shocker from 2007. They both have Noomi Rapace in the leading role and she carries most of the film. She again plays an unstable single mother, but this time of a grown boy, not a baby girl. And the setting is kinda the same, the desolate and tall block apartment complex and the empty lane which she is constantly shown walking. They are meant to symbolize her own loneliness and alienation. And this is a hint to what ultimately is revealed as a great surprise in the end.

This is a typical Scandinavian/North European picture which focuses on the plight of single mothers who have been victims of their husbands' rage and physical abuse. Anna (Rapace) moves in to a new place, the big apartment block, after she and her little son have been victimized by her husband. She feels alone and a little afraid in their apartment. She at first makes her son sleep in the same bed as her, but as he soon gets tired of it, she buys a baby call device and puts it next to his bed so she can sleep assured nothing will happen to him without her hearing it. One night she hears loud screams that sound like they are coming from a boy. She rushes to his son's room but founds him sound asleep and nobody is there. She then goes to the trade center nearby where she got the device and talks with the salesman about it. He tells her that her own baby call must have picked up the signal from another baby call that is somewhere near her. This only makes her more anxious to find out whose baby call that may be and which child that makes such hair-raising noise in the middle of night. In the meantime, the salesman (played by Kristofer Joner), a single man who is just as lonely as she, develops an affection for her and tries to get closer to her. But it gets even worse for Anna as she has problems sleeping and finds herself waking up at the oddest places and starts to hallucinate of a place which doesn't exist.

The acting is very good by the two main actors, Rapace and Joner, who are both very believable and effective in their roles. Joner looks his part and Rapace looks her part. There is very little satisfaction to find in this film except for the suspense and dramatic performances. And the way it ends doesn't do much to amend that. In other words, it is a very dark, haunting and bleak picture which is meant to capture life at its cruelest. Almost the whole movie is like one big constant nightmare and there are a few elements of Polanski's apartment trilogy there obviously. The mother-child vs evil father or evil male entity which persecutes them is a familiar motif in such films. And as such the movie doesn't really break any new ground. It is just a passable dark drama, something along the lines of Dark Water, but there is nothing supernatural about it. I give it a 6. 6+

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