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Familie verpflichtet (2015)
A movie typical for our time and for German cinema these days too
"Familie verpflichtet" is a German movie from 2015 directed by Hanno Olderdissen and for him just like for the writers working on it, it is perhaps their most known career effort, especially if we exclude television series and stick to big screen releases. The title already gives away that family is one of the most important aspects of this film and this includes parents, children as well as partners. This is the story of two men, who really want to marry their significant other, but there are several problems. One of the guys is an Arab, whose family (especially father) knows nothing about his homosexuality. The other finds out that he is about to become a dad from a drunk one-night-stand a while ago. And he is also a Jew, which makes things not exactly easier when it comes to his partner's ethical background. So here we have the epitome of a comedy about mistaken identities, something you get pretty much on a monthly basis here in Germany. Add to that the always relevant topics of gay marriage or homosexuality in general plus conflicts between cultures plus tolerance with regard to pretty much everything.
Sadly, it is as generic as it gets about these subjects. Nothing new is offered in here at all. Even at a runtime of only 85 minutes, the film feels as if he is lacking focus on many occasions and for the most part it just feels as if the writers were trying to include one funny scene after the other (one example: the constantly horny employee trying to have sex with the Arab guy, very embarrassing, that was Lemon Popsicle level) while sacrificing a lot of story-telling for it, which is one of the main reasons why it turned out pretty weak. Of course, this shot at comedy makes the entire film also look a bit of try-hard and desperate and this is especially tragic as it makes fun of topics that deserve way better handling. The cast includes people that German film buffs perhaps have heard of. Kroymann is definitely a known face and I cannot say I mean it in a positive way when i say her inclusion and character fit her range pretty much. Maximilian von Pufendorf is also not unknown here. As a whole, this film is a prime example of all that is wrong with German comedy right now. Yes there may be a good moment here and there, but it's neither enough in terms of quality nor in terms of quantity, even if the lows are admittedly not on a level of a Schweoghöfer film for example. All in all, I have to give "Family Commitments" a thumbs-down. It lacks realism and authenticity to a degree where I would say that it was an incredibly messy watch. Go for something else instead.
Not sure what they were trying to achieve
"Kommissar X - Jagd auf Unbekannt" or "Kiss Kiss... Kill Kill" is a co-production between Germany and some other countries from Europe that resulted in this 90-minute German-language film from 1966, so this film had its 50th anniversary last year already. right now it seems more difficult to find a German-language version than an English dub. The director and one of the writers who adapted the highly prolific Paul Alfred Müller's novel here was Gianfranco Parolini, still alive today, but long retired. This is actually the very first of several Kommissar X films from back then starring Tony Kendall. During that time Germany was mostly known for Edgar Wallace and Winnetou, but these films add another long-running series. Those obviously were linked closely to James Bond with the Fort Know reference in here even , that was a major component in the film Goldfinger from briefly before. But I was never sure what this film we have here was trying to be: an authentic spy movie, or just basically a spoof of one of the biggest film franchises from all times. Maybe a mix of both. And as such, it was not necessarily working. At least not as much as I hoped it would. There are moments that feel as if they could really be taken from a Bond film, like the bantering or these powerful women soldiers, but it just wasn't enough. and honestly, besides that, the comedy (very common back then in German films, also serious ones actually like the two franchises I mentioned) was working even less. A truly underwhelming film as a whole and I genuinely hope they managed to step things up for the sequels. Otherwise, I believe they should not have been made. Watch something else instead.
Nothing innovative to see here
"Lego Star Wars: Revenge of the Brick" is a 5-minute animated short film that is a combination of Lego and Star Wars as the title already tells us. Actually, apparently, this is a short remake (you will recognize the title perhaps) of the most recent Star Wars film before J.J. Abrams took over most recently. So yeah, what is there to say? I personally am neither a huge Stars Wars or Lego fan without despising either, but I do believe that you need to like both in order to appreciate this short film. One probably isn't enough. I myself thought this was fairly uncreative as it brings nothing new to the table in terms of many aspects, including story-telling and soundtrack too. Visually it isn't bad, also in terms of effects, but apart from the very ending I was also not too impressed as it is basically one space battle scene following the next. It's the first Lego Star wars film written by Daniel Lipkowitz and several others should follow, some of them better than this one here. Pretty shocking to see so many directors working on such a brief movie. I give it a thumbs-down overall. Not recommended.
Forgettable romantic comedy (with an ounce of drama)
"Jerry" is an American short film from 2009, so this one will have its 10th anniversary next year. It is the only directorial effort by John Killoran who also wrote the script and the main reason this film is not entirely forgotten is probably the cast. The central character is played by successful recording artist a year before he gave his so far perhaps most known performance in "The Social Network". His love interest (or lets say "one of his love interests") is played by Nora Zehetner and even in the supporting cast you will find a couple names and faces you may have come across on other occasions if you watch enough movies and shows. Anyway, this is basically the story of a man telling us what keeps going wrong in his relationships and one aspect would be the girl saying too quickly that she loves her. Timberlake brings his usual suave approach to the character, but honestly it is not working out in terms of both performances and script. The female character's look at the camera at the end was just one of many really weak moments. Those are more frequent than the one or two moments when it is somewhat funny I would say, so the negative is more frequent in here than the positive and I cannot say the film makes me curious about potential future projects by Killoran. Thumbs-down and I don#t recommend checking it out.
TIE Fighter (2015)
Visually impressive, story-wise underwhelming
"TIE Fighter" is an American 7.5-minute short film from 2015 that managed to get millions and millions of views on Youtube after its release roughly 2 years ago. Writer and director is Paul Johnson and apparently this is his only work so far. The film's popularity is of course mostly due to its (relative loose) connection to the biggest film franchise of all time: Star Wars. You don't get it too often that animated films are made about characters and films that are originally in live action, which of course does not include all the superheroes from comic. But here we have one example of such an attempt. And visually, the film is certainly a success. it looks pretty decent and the effects are truly spectacular. Sadly, this cannot make up for the weaknesses in story-telling and character writing as it feels this one has none of it really. It is basically one spectacular scene following the next and it seems Johnson forgot about the core of it all: namely creating a story that justifies the visual side. Nonetheless, for a first film, it is not a bad achievement overall and certainly something to build a career on if he manages to improve in the coming years. Until then, I give "TIE Fighter" (despite the decent soundtrack) a thumbs-down. Worth seeing only for the biggest fans of science fiction animation.
More fun to listen to than to watch I guess
These 4.5 minutes we have here are the music video for the Cyndi Lauper song "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" directed by Edd Griles, still a very well-known tune today almost 35 years after its release. Lauper was around the age of 30 back then, maybe slightly under, and in this film she basically tries to convince her parents that all she wants is really just to have fun. The second half of the film then is basically a(n outdoor) party with all her friends. So yes this is a really catchy tune without a doubt and it makes up for the lack of depth in the lyrics, which basically nothing but the chorus. At least this chorus is a statement that is still really true today several decades later. The video is really very random though and not memorable at all I must say. Kinda shocked to see this got a great deal of awards attention at the VMAs back then. I think it is enough if you listen to the song without watching the music video. That song was a huge hit back then and I am not surprised. Thanks to the catchy music, I will be generous and give a thumbs-up here.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
A really bold premise and smart execution, but also some major weaknesses
"Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" is an American 110-minute movie from 2010 written and directed by Edgar Wright based on the graphic novels by Bryan Lee O'Malley. This is the story of Scott, a young man who falls in love with a girl, but has to defeat her seven evil exes for them to be together. Fittingly with these mission, you can see the film as divided into 7 levels almost and this is where the video game component comes into play. Not only do the characters frequently look a lot like video game characters, but there are also effects and movements in here that really make it obvious that this film is as much of an interface between movie-making and filmmaking as it gets. And I must say I enjoyed a lot of it. The antagonists were fairly interesting and the ways in which Scott beats them were just as exciting to watch, but it also needs to be said that the film itself when it does not focus on the video game connection has some fairly weak moments. The major mistake here was casting Michael Cera. He proves without a doubt that he is not lead actor material. He may have been tolerable on Arrested Development, but he simply is not bearable in this film we have here and the fact that he is in basically every scene is not helping matters at all. Kieran Culkin is just as bad in my opinion, plus his character added virtually nothing. Wes Anderson regular Jason Schwartzman was better playing what you could call the big end boss.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead's character however, the object of desire, is really great and perhaps the most memorable aspect about the entire film. Aubrey Plaza and Ellen Chau add some solid scenes too, even if the latter's character is definitely overdone a bit. Anna Kendrick is one of the finest actresses of her generation, but has simply too little to work with here playing the protagonist's nosy sister. Back to Cera, his presence, line delivery and also the way the character was written makes it incredibly difficult for me to cheer for him get together with Ramona to be honest. I personally also found it really strange how she indeed developed some kind of attraction for him despite being completely out of his league. Then again, looking at all her ex-boyfriends, she clearly had a tendency to go for losers, so this explains it perhaps. And some of them are almost as unlikable as Scott. So Scott Pilgrim is definitely not Cera's typical role as a likable loser as there is absolutely nothing likable about him. You could quote a dozen scenes for that. It's also one reason why I find the ending so highly unrealistic where it is he who picks her and not the other way around. But yeah, it is another universe and that's how things work there. this is not a Planet Earth movie. I know it is a desperate explanation, but lets just leave it like that.
Back to the video game component, occasionally they overdid it in terms of Street Fighter jump and kick moves for example, but apart from that honestly these scenes and gimmicky aspects are the heart and soul of the film. Highly enjoyable for fans of video games as the movie is packed with references to the world of (online) gaming and many of the supporting characters elevate the material by quite a bit. Like these effects I just mentioned, there are also other weak moments, like the device reference towards the end, but it's all no negative deal breakers and it is certainly possible to see the good surrounding all the bad as I believe the good moments are more frequent. However, it is essential that you watch the entire movie exclusively as a fantasy film and do not expect any great romance or relationship comedy. From that perspective it is a failure. I will still be generous and give it a thumbs-up because I remember liking it more the first time I watched it years ago. With a better lead actor, this could have been one of 2010's best, the way it actually turned out it is just one of 2010's better films.
This could have been so much better really
"Quest" is an American English-language movie from 1984 that is based on a story by Ray Bradbury and was directed by Saul Bass (15 years after his Oscar win) and his wife Elaine. Bass is also known for working on several really famous films in smaller positions, but he was also the man in charge occasionally, just like for this award-winning half-hour Sci-Fi film we have here. The cast includes some names that you perhaps came across on other occasions like "Die unendliche Geschichte".', but there are no really big names in here. It is about a human colony living on a distant planet where their lives are cut really short (if you watched Intersteller, you understand the concept) and one boy's desperate struggles to find a way back to the spaceship that brought them there. I think the premise is really interesting I must say, but the execution itself left me relatively unimpressed. it may have a bit to do with SciFi generally not being my favorite genre, but occasionally there are even films from this genre that I like quite a bit. So yeah, this is not one of them and I give it a thumbs-down overall. But still I would love to see Bradbury's story here given a shot again in a new approach in the 21st century.
These Vagabond Shoes (2009)
Not even with ScarJo everyone can be a winner
"These Vagabond Shoes" (which sounds like an old Chaplin silent short film) is an American 12--minute short film from 2009, so this one will have its 10th anniversary two years from now. There's probably two reasons why this film is not entirely forgotten: the first is that the writer and director is Scarlett Johansson, the second is that the lead character is played by Kevin Bacon. I like them both a lot, so I am surely disappointed by how weak this film turned out. And I also like b&w films a lot, which makes it more disappointing even. It is basically about a man traveling through New York to sit on a bench and eat a hot dog. The people he meets on his way are mildly interesting at best and I don't really feel as if they were somewhat representative for the city. So yeah, I wished this would have turned out considerably better, but the way it actually turned out it is nothing where I would say I am curious about future efforts by Johansson as writer and director. The artistic as well as effortlessly simplistic notes that the film is trying to achieve 8also with the title) are not in here at all I must say. Plus it is really difficult for me, if not impossible to give a film a thumbs-up that is under 7 minutes movie and 5 minutes credits. Watch something else instead.
The Oscars (2015)
I love award shows, but this one here really had too many letdowns
Here we have the 2015 edition of the Oscars (Academy Awards) and the host was Neil Patrick Harris. Usually I am not too fond of him, but I thought he did an okay job and was one of the better (not best) aspects of the show. And what show it was at almost three hours runtime. Lets start with what I liked. I enjoyed the love for Whiplash as it is probably close to being my favorite film of the year. Maybe the best thing about the night because other than Simmons' win, it really wasn't expected. I also liked the love for Birdman somehow, even if it was a bit shocking how it destroyed Boyhood given what happened at the Golden Globes. I don't mind Julianne Moore's win, even if I could have wished for the film to not go under the radar. For example a Kristen Stewart nomination would have been good too. But hey at least Marion Cotillard got in and actually she deserved the win. I am okay with Desplat winning finally, even if I am not a huge fan of his film. Eddie Redmayne makes a nice winner too, even if I am not sure if I preferred him over Keaton. The two short film winners (with focus on phones) were fine too. And the documentary winner is a good one too as it finally tells some truth about the disastrous presidency of Mr. Obama. Travolta and Menzel reuniting was a highlight too. Arquette (who was a lock for the win as well) deserved the win and it's nice that Boyhood won something at least, even if I am not a huge fan of her either generally-speaking and her speech was really painful to listen to, especially at the very end. Also glad about Interstellar getting a win.
Still, sadly the negative was more frequent in terms of winners and performances. Hudson was weak and forgettable and the deceased deserved better. Lady Gaga was ultimately nothing more than try-hard and over-the-top, even if Julie Anndrews tried to convince us otherwise. Same for the Best Song winner performance. I would have preferred the "Begin Again" song to win it, even if that performance was also a failure mostly. Such an amazing song, but such a weak rendition. The Grand Budapest Hotel is not a bad film by any means, but the love was just too much. Then again, at least it did not win Best Screenplay too. "The Imitation Game" is a bearable movie, but the weak competition in its screenplay category made it a ridiculous winner there. Plus the writer's speech and how he has to share his suicide attempt (disguised as an uplifting message) with billions of viewers was downright cringeworthy. Ida was probably the least deserving winner in its category of the new millennium. Good for Poland they finally got one, but it's ridiculous honestly which one takes the prize.
Overall, a ceremony with performances and winners that honestly could have been much much better. Luckily, the big prize goes to a film that somehow deserves it and I have a feeling that Birdman will age fairly well. I personally think I would have preferred Boyhood, but it is okay. By the way Lubezki won his third in a row the year after. It's still a bit heartbreaking to see Deakins lose every time, but oh well, maybe his time will come at some point in the next 10 years. Actually, I'd have been pretty fine with him winning for Sicario, but there was just no way I guess. And then there is the diversity issue that was very prominent that year and shamed the SAG for example in basically honoring every single black nominee, including surprising wins for (non-Oscar nominee) Idris Elba, who I quite love, so I don't mind it. So yeah, I guess with that background, there was just no way Selma would Best Song. Anyway, the people announcing the nominees were really random this time. So many people honestly, who had zero business being there in my opinion because they have zero history with the Academy and yes I am talking about the Chris Pines, Jennifer Anistons, David Oyelewos, Josh Hutchersons, Kevin Harts and Kerry Washingtons. And what was up with Terrence Howard starting to cry over Whiplash? This one certainly deserved a much better presentation. At least Chloe Moretz and Dakota Johnson were nice to look at. Also Benedict Cumberbatch had no business being there that night because his nomination is perhaps the worst of a night. I see no acting talent in him and he is completely incapable of giving quiet subtle performances that leave an impression. Sean Penn looked a bit wasted at the end, but it is okay. He is a great actor, still should have lost to Murray. That's my thoughts. Feel free to agree or disagree with them and post your own review on this (for whatever reason) Emmy-winning event.