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The Legend of Hercules (2014)
Mythological Hercules performed 12 prodigious feats against monsters, titans and conundrums, yet the makers of this joke of a movie decided that there is nothing better than copy the story line of "Spartacus" (the "Blood and Sand" one, but without the spicy stuff) and turn the greatest hero in Greek mythology into a laughable imitation of a Roman gladiator. There is absolutely nothing worth seeing in the movie, even if the sequence of battle scenes is definitely not the worst in the genre. Poor script, poor vision, banal and predictable. Avoid, unless you are much into watching the same story many times over. And because I have to fill a full new line with comments on that movie that there is little to comment about, here is my last and absolutely useless conclusion: do not watch it.
L'écume des jours (2013)
only for Boris Vian lovers
American know-it-all's who have never read Boris Vian should not even think of commenting the movie. Yes, Vian is an extravagant author, his books do not make too much sense and some people deservedly consider him a snob. But, snob or not, he was a phenomenon of his own and he has his huge following of admirers who see in him a major star in the post-war French, and European, culture. This movie is made with love and respect for Vian's style, panache and craziness: he would have loved it. If you are not a Vian admirer, do not waste your time watching this movie: you would not even come close to it.
Hats off to the designer, Stephane Rozenbaum: one of the most amazing visual concepts ever!
a tribute to dullness
Something is missing in this movie and it is the very gist. Oliver (McGregor) is sad, he is always sad, there is a dog (the best acting part in the movie) that follows him everywhere, and Anna (Melanie Laurent) winks in a charmingly mischievous way throughout the movie, yet she is very sad too. One does not, however, understand whence all that sadness: the guy's father died... at the age of 75+... and he had been gay all his life. Now, one understands a certain feeling of unease and possibly even guilt about one's parents having had to lead a life of pretense, but where is the drama that has to explain so much melancholy? Both were melancholic from the beginning and fact is so much sadness ends up in utter dullness.
Perfect Sense (2011)
a generously subsidized high school project
A disturbingly boring movie on a subject of such uncompromising grandeur one wonders whether the idea came from a fourteen-, or from a fifteen-year old kid. Because first, it is usually at the age of 14/15 that authors try to reveal the ultimate light of truth to humankind (as this project does), and it is again at that age that the longing to feel each other's bodies (the "perfect sense" as we realize at the end of the show after complete sensory darkness obliterates everything else) is most pungent and dismissive of anything else human experience might have brought. Dull musical score, slow motion, redundant scenes, predictable script, banal conclusion: all too well for an art school project, yet making us watching it for the sake of Green and McGregor makes me feel cheated.
The Bang Bang Club (2010)
graphic and yet insipid re-creation of the book
The really successful thing about the movie is that the director apparently (I wasn't there to know how truthfully) managed to reproduce in a convincing, graphic manner the real atmosphere of combat photograph shooting. What Marinovich (and Silva) wrote down as separate accounts of the events, tensions and dangers of taking the most striking and memorable photographs, Silver just develops in well-organized scenes. Greg's crazy visit to the hostel - the step that brought him into the "club" and turned him into a world-renowned photographer - was particularly dramatic and colorful. Otherwise, the movie has not created any story of its own - it just has just patched up the highlights in Marinovich and Silva's book and bound them together within the loose frames of a dull and uninspiring story of the four "bang bang club" photographers meeting, working together and coping with the existential and ethical issues of their vocation. Perhaps Silver did not want to manipulate Marinovich's text; the outcome, however, is rather insipid and people who have just watched the movie and never read the book may very well miss the point.
I guess that I am missing the point but WHAT was exactly funny in this movie? While Borat had an offensive sense of humor, yet there was a lot of humor in the first place. It did offer politically incorrect clichés about various cultural groups but still, it managed to create diverse spontaneously entertaining situations. And I emphasize SPONTANEOUS. There is very little of it in Brueno where everything is clearly staged and manipulated. The two successful "sketches" were the Paula Abdul interview and the baby-casting; I presume all parents should be arrested by now unless everything has been deliberately mixed up in the cutting and they were actually answering different questions (I would not be surprised). All the rest is just a collection of irritating moments. I am not really sure what precise human weakness(es) was/were made fun of??? Perhaps the love for reality shows and the tendency among modern people - from politicians to hunters, to swinger-party aficionados - to appear all-too-willingly on the camera without inquiring beforehand who the host/anchor/reporter/negotiator is. That is actually not funny, it is just an irritating way of making reality shows even more abominable. Who really needs that except for Baron Sascha Cohen himself???
Iztochni piesi (2009)
movie made in the streets of the city
What I particularly liked (and I know friends of mine who did as well) in this movie is that it is not a movie about a person, or a story, but mostly an aesthetic vision of a city... which happens to be my city. The storyline is almost missing: apart from the sad coincidence that one brother took part in the beating of another, there is not much of a narrative thread and the entire movie is just a sequence of impressions of present-day Sofia, including the people living in it. Hristo Hristov became the focus of the film because he represented a particular type of Sofianites (actually he was born in Burgas but that does not make him less of a Sofianite since this is the city where he painted): artists who have received serious formation, have developed their own style, have reached the level of creators of unquestionably valuable works, and yet have found no chance to live on their art and be successful. Hristo was not the first, and will not be the last of generations of creative persons who had to find various exits from the difficult situation the last twenty years placed us all in. He chose drugs and in the real life passed away even before the movie was finished. But his sad story is one of hope, too, since the real-life Hristo, even posthumously, proved that recognition can come (and we are now expecting the long-postponed exhibition of his art), while the movie-character Hristo showed to his younger brother that there is alternative to violence and hatred, and that there is enough beauty around us to save us from despair.
I'm Not There. (2007)
Bob Dylan as Elvis Presley
I will avoid any comments on the cinematography, acting and so on. Let's say I understand nothing of these. I will just share with whoever cares to read what I got from the movie. I got the following: First/ Bob Dylan wanted to be Elvis Presley. He wanted to sing songs in front of many people. He knew very well he could not be exactly Elvis, since his abilities were of completely different kind, yet his ambition was just that: to become famous, sell records and stage shows. And because he was smart, he targeted a particular audience, actually two audiences at the same time: the working-class people who felt abused and needed an outlet of their anger, and the lovers of poetry, of all social stands, who were looking for what Elvis (or the Beatles) could not offer: lyrics rich in content, difficult to be interpreted and offering a lot to the imagination. Second/ Bob Dylan's "treason" of the mid-60s was a normal thing to do for an artist looking for new grounds to explore and new listeners to win. Especially when, in addition to being smart and ambitious, he was concerned - much more than the other pop stars of the day - with his ability to re-create himself and run away from the clutches of critics obsessed with plain and clear-cut categories. "Mr. Jones" who transcends the accusing BBC journalist and is retransfigured in the lovely, imaginary, artistic and politically minded French wife is the real focus of the movie - a matrix that gave shape to the six Dylans. Dylan spent long time running away from the Mr Joneses and because of them he tried to never "be there". Which explains why he was practically absent from a movie dedicated to him - a great choice and one that Dylan himself understandably approved. But Dylan is not there for a more general reason as well. The same conflict between the Elvis who wants fame and success and the true artist who wants freedom of expression is one valid for practically every creator - writer, musician, painter, etc. Thus, this is a movie about any really substantial artist of the last five hundred years with just the records of one Bob Dylan in the background. So if this is what the movie was all about, then I like it a lot.
Goya's Ghosts (2006)
a NO-biography of Goya
Forman and Carriere have chosen an original approach how to make a movie about a great artist and avoid the dullness of biographical sketches. Goya, played by Skarsgard, appears throughout the film, but is actually not part of the narrative line at all. Instead of his life, we see unfold a dramatic story of betrayals and turns of fate. A hideous sequence of personal and political abuse, cruelty, cynicism and shameless egoism builds the non-romantic love affair of an ambitious hypocrite and a young girl who becomes insane as the outcome of her sufferings. Goya supposedly is connected to both of them and becomes the witness of the various stages of the drama. Having in mind the title, it is clear that the two characters are just ghosts created by Goya's imagination to reflect the shattering social and cultural changes the artist lived through, changes that gave flesh to much of his work. For the sake of honesty, Goya's Ghosts cannot compete with Amadeus, even if both pursue a similar goal: to attract the viewer to the world of a great artist through a powerful storyline. In this case, the storyline was not that powerful and even if historical events determine what is happening to the central characters, the image of 18th-19th century Spain lacks dimension.
Der Unhold (1996)
the story of Michael Jackson?
Tournier is among the great French writers of the latter 20th century, maybe the only one living competitive enough for the Nobel prize. The movie is, however, rather unsatisfactory, even if Malcovich does a good job. The reason for the lameness of the production is that the director never dared to explore more fully the darker side of Tiffauges, to make it clear why people were afraid of him, why he could not build friendships and so on. Apparently the producers were afraid that if they made the main character more graphic, this would really turn him into a pedophile and alienate the viewer. Here is the big hitch in putting great books on screen. In cinema characters most often end up gaining the sympathy of viewers. So in view of making the character likable and keeping hope alive that one day he would be able to survive his obsessive manias, the screenwriter and the director deliberately twisted the end. In the movie, Abel turned into a real Christopher carrying the child-Jesus (a Jewish refugee from a concentration camp) as a sign of his Christian redemption, but... in the book Tiffauges does not survive the crossing of the Mazurian swamps: on the contrary, he deliberately drowns, together with the young boy, in a tragic culmination of his unending obsession with young children. This is why the original title of the book is "Le roi des aulnes", the elven-king from Goethe's dark poem. Even if I greatly admired the book, I long suspected Tournier to have been carried too far away in his creative search, up to the point of inventing a kind of mania which does not belong to the list of pathological states. Such non-sexual pedophiles, obsessed with children, but harmless and protective, do they exist? Are there really people who want to protect children from growing up?