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The Durrells (2016)
Irritating characters make it unwatchable
England. 1930-s. Louisa Durrell is desperately trying to save her family from falling apart. She is a widow with three grown up children none of whom wants to work and help her make the ends meet and her youngest son Gerry has just been expelled from school for being "different". The family's only income is her pension. The only way out of this pitiful situation is to run away from England to the exotic Greek island: it is warm there all year round and everything is so cheap that they will never have to worry about money and food again. So this is what downshifting was like back in the 1930s. From the technical point of view the show is great. It is a big budget production, well acted, brilliantly written and etc. But the biggest problem with the series that made it practically unwatchable for me is the characters. They are absolutely unlovable and very irritating. Louisa Durrell is a heavily drinking woman who borders on the edge of neurotic breakdown and sees herself as failure. It is easy to see why. Her children are self obsessed morons who run around screaming and shouting at one another and constantly abusing and bullying one another. I dropped watching the series after two episodes because I was really tired of this never ending family scandal. Young Gerry Durrell who will grow up to become world famous zoo-keeper (and on whose autobiography the series is based) is portrayed as some sort of autistic child who prefers spending time with animals rather than with people. Actually no wonder he thinks animals are better than people. Only his mother sometimes finds time and good words for him. His two brothers and sister ignore him at best or simply hates him at worst.
Silly story with dumb characters
Dave and Kenny are brothers and robbers. After a failed robbery attempt Kenny goes to prison, he kisses his girlfriend Sylvie good bye, she promises to wait for him but ultimately abandons him and starts dating his brother Dave (without telling Kenny anything, of course). OK, these things do happen. When Kenny is released from prison, Dave and Sylvie decide to keep their relationship secret (just for no reason). Kenny gets suspicious, confronts Sylvie but she still does not want to tell him the truth. Eventually Kenny finds out, goes insane and kills Sylvie. This is it. The end of the story. Why on earth was this movie made? What is the point? No answers. The characters are really dumb and lacking the kind of psychological depth or anything else that might make us sympathize with them, the plot is thin and unconvincing. Tec contribution is solid although the movie was made on a relatively low budget.
Wonderful but sad story
We Can't Live Without Cosmos is a 15-minute long animated film nominated for the Best animated short film Academy Award.
It tells the story of 2 guys, who are life long friends, undergoing training preparing for space mission. 10 minutes into the film it's revealed that only one of them is a "real astronaut" while the other is just his backup / reserve astronaut. When the first guy blasts off into the space, his friend watches him leave while holding in his hand their photo.
After a sudden plot twist the story turns into a drama. The space ship disintegrates and the astronaut is presumed dead. The second guy can not deal with the trauma of losing his best friend and literally goes insane. Eventually he is confined into medical facility from where he mysteriously disappears.
The end of the story looks a little bit cryptic and leaves much to the viewers imagination. Well, I must say that this film is an absolute tear jerker, It is impossible to watch it without breaking into tears. From the technical point of view the animation might seem clumsy of dated but the excellence of the film lies within its plot. The art-house / festival public will be pleased with this short film.
What a mess...
This movie, released in the English speaking world as The Life In A Fishbowl (the original Icelandic title just refers to the street name where all main characters live), was a huge success in Iceland, showered with praise and awards.
However I was deeply disappointed by what I saw. The movie is supposed to be some sort of a puzzle with many plot lines and characters coming together to give us a portrait of the modern Iceland. But it just does not work. The pieces do not fit. Everything is falling apart. First of all, there is a story about Eik a single mother who works at nursery school and moonlights as prostitute. Why is she doing it? Does she want to quit? No answer. Yes, she has a dark secret. By the end of the movie it is revealed that at the age of 6 she was molested by her own grandfather. What on earth does it add to the story? Nothing. This tragic accident does not seem to have affected her life in any way. She is very pleased with her life. She is happy she gets paid for having sex with ugly old men. So, why should we care? Then there is Mori. He is a washed down writer. His daughter died in a drowning accident many years ago. Presently he roams the streets and drinks vodka. At least this guy can evoke some sort of sympathy from the audience. But in the end he sells his big house, gets lots of money and leaves cold Iceland for warm Italy to start a new life. So, why should we care after all? And there is Solvi. He is a businessman who tries to buy a large patch of land to build a hotel. His story is in the movie just for no reason except for we can get a glimpse at the luxury lifestyle some Icelanders enjoy (mansions, big cars, yachts). So, why should we care? All in all The Life In A Fishbowl looks like one of those over clichéd, standard art house dramas you can find in dozens at any European Film Festival.
Lissi und der wilde Kaiser (2007)
Michael Herbig's third comedy is not as impressive as expected
Once upon the time in the Kingdom of Bavaria lived beautiful princess Lissi who enjoyed luxurious, outrageous lifestyle with her handsome husband Franz and his eccentric parents: crazed, wheelchair bound father and dominant mother. They threw wild parties, practiced target shooting, using priceless objects of art as targets, and everyone was happy until one dark night the princess was taken away by a horrible beast. The beast turned out to be The Abominable Snowman and he had his reasons to kidnap beautiful Lissi. "Lissi und der wilde Kaiser" is Michael Herbig's third comedy in a row poking fun at Hollywood blockbusters. The 2001 "Der Shuh des Manitu" spoofed Westerns, was a huge box office hit and was followed in 2004 by "Traumschiff Surprise", which mocked at superheroes stories. "Lissi" is a spoof of period dramas and saccharine soap operas about the rich/bold/beautiful. As it is always the case with Herbig's movies it moves very fast with a new joke being delivered to you every five seconds. The plot develops very quickly and Herbig again manages to tell us the action packed story in just 90 minutes. Alas, there seem to be some problems. Firstly, the story. It is not as amusing and coherent as it used to be in Herbig's previous movies. It also somehow appears to be vague. "Der Shuh des Manitu" was about the buried treasure, in politically incorrect but hilariously funny "Traumschiff Surprise" three gays found themselves on a mission to save the world. But what about "Lissi"? What is it about? The plot seems to have been lost, or rather, buried under the avalanche of jokes and gags, which is not very bad after all but not very good either. Secondly, the characters. Not only did naïve Lissi and dumb Franz fail to get my attention but at some point they started to irritate me. Franz' parents, on the contrary, might have been the real protagonists of the story especially dominatrix style mother who can think only about sex but they have few moments to shine. Unfortunately "Lissi" can not go on a par with Michaels Herbig's two previous movies, but nevertheless it will entertain his fans and will in no way shatter his position as one of the highest paid, most influential, popular and beloved film maker in the history of German cinema. If you like what Herbig makes, watch "Lissi". You will not roll on the floor laughing but a big smile is guaranteed. After having watched "Traumschiff Surprise" I wrote the review titled "Michael Herbig superstar". Well, he still is. But I am sure that his talent can give us more and he can do better movies than "Lissi" is.
The Oblongs... (2001)
Very funny and cynical
Phenomenal success of The Simpsons triggered a wave of animated series centered around a middle class family in distress, pillorying the middle class values. The Oblongs is one of them. As far as the form and the content concerned the show is modeled on The Simpsons (they all are after all): there is a premise story not directly linked to the main plot line, the show combines satire with consideration of important issues (environment, widening gap between the rich and the poor, corruption, etc.), sometimes a famous movies is spoofed and each episode ends with a sort of a "thought of a day" message, like "to be generous is better than to be mean". But it is all done in a rather unobtrusive way, alter all it is entertainment. What makes The Oblongs different is its anger. Yes, the show is very angry, bitter and even aggressive. Actually compared to this show The Simpsons look like The Mickey Mouse Club. The Oblongs is filled with amazing characters: mother who is bald and has to use a wig, father who lost both hands and legs and can move around by long kangaroo-like jumps, three sons two of whom are conjoint twins and a TV obsessed daughter. Oh, why are they so ugly? Personally I think it is a sort of a metaphor. They stand to represent/symbolize the ugliness and distortions our world is full of. And there is a herd of kids next door (they are devastatingly ugly and I dare not give their description). All in all The Oblongs is a very good show. It is funny, cynical and the characters are lovable. Yes, their true beauty lies within and has nothing to do their looks. And this is what the show is about after all: no matter how terribly wrong the things are going, no matter how dirty and distorted our world seems to be, there is always some hope. Sad to say the show did not run very long. It was canceled after 30 episodes but anyway The Oblongs rule!
Less Than Perfect (2002)
Very good sitcom
I caught Less Than Perfect during one of its reruns on Russian TV and was amazed how funny it is. The main character Claudia Casey (Sara Rue) arrives in New York and manages to get a position of a personal assistant to TV news anchor Will Butler (Eric Roberts). The show chronicles Claudia's triumphs and failures as she climbs the career ladder. Her two best friends neurotic Owen (Andy Dick) and pleasantly plump Ramona (Sherri Shepherd) will teach her to survive in this "beware of your office mates" world. Zachary Levi and Andrea Parker portray model-looking Kipp and Lydia- two self-centered, ego-driven office villains who can not wait to see Claudia up and go. There is a lot of talking about relationship, dating, shoes and "how to shut up that guy standing near my cubic and speaking so loudly on the phone". Very funny and all actors are very good. All in all very good sitcom.
Tea for Two (1950)
Silly but funny and still watchable.
Doris Day (I mean the character she portrays) is trying to win over her uncle to sponsor a new Broadway show in which she is going to star. Needless to say that her uncle is less than happy about the prospect: he is sure that the show is going to be a failure and he is going to loose all his money. Doris bets him that she can reply "no" to every single one question she is asked within a 24 hour time frame. If she wins, he will have to give her the money she needs. Of course, this bet is followed by a series of funny situations. Some are brilliant, some are silly but still there is a lot to laugh at in this film. For example, when Doris is asked by a police officer "Do you know your name?", she says with dignity "No". Sure, it is not a masterpiece but some will find it very amusing. If there is no better prospect than spending a lonely evening at home, why not to watch Tea For Two. S z Sakall is very funny as uncle Max, Eve Arden who plays the secretary is very good, she's got the best lines in the film and says them in the way which Goldie Hawn would be proud of. Why did not she get the Best Supporting Actress Oscar?
One of my favourites 2 (Michael Herbig Superstar)
A year and a half after its premiere in Germany (T)Ramschiff Surprise finally came out on DVD in Russia. I have waited for this movie to be shown down here since I read the first review on it about a year ago. Yes, it happened at last, two days ago I bought the film and this is what my commentary says: The year is 2304, a long and exhausting war between Earth and Mars is nearly over. The Martians are ready to strike the Eath the final blow than will bring the history of the humankind to its untimely end unless.. Unless we use the time machine, travel 300 years back and prevent the people's first encounter with beings from the space.With human resources on the verge of depleting two gorgeous gays are chosen to fulfil the mission (if the first 10 minutes of the movie do not make you laugh, this is definitely not your movie). The film chronicles the fabulous journey of these innocents through time and space during which everything that can go wrong, goes wrong. (T)Rauschiff Surprise is not another stupid parody, when you sit and count on your fingers: this scene is taken from the Star Wars, and that one is from Shrek, etc. etc. Herbig's movie offers you much more: the plot is complicated, the characters are interesting and the dialogues are witty. Unfortunately Herbig could not refrain from poking fun at himself and the film does have some references to his masterpiece Manitu's shoe- if you have not seen it, you won't be able to appreciate it- Santa Maria makes a short appearance and we have a glimpse of Vinnehuch (I dare say the first and so far the only gay Indian ever shown in a movie). These scenes seem to be out of place and could have been left on the cutting room floor. Anyway, it is the only problem I saw in the film. All in all, to my taste, (T)Raumschiff Surprise is awesome, light hearted, the film has everything to leave its viewers in a good mood and with warm memories that will last for a long time. The cast is brilliant: Michael Herbig is a superstar, to see Christian Tramitz playing gay was such an experience!! Til Schweiger is not known in Russia, I have never seen him before but he is a great actor! Recommended
Lost in Translation (2003)
A cheap art house style fake
Lost in Translation is a film about an ageing actor (Bill Murray) who arrives in Tokyo to star in a couple of commercials. He happens to be staying at the same hotel where a noted American fashion photographer is occupying a room. While the photographer is away at work, his young wife (Scarlett Johansson) explores Japan's capital on her own. She meets the actor and
No,no,no do not expect anything from this movie because nothing really happens. The main characters just aimlessly wander through the streets of Asian megapolis, enjoy Japanese cuisine, share some jokes. What is Lost in Translation about? I wish I knew. Why did Sophia Coppola make it? I wish I understood. The film is plot less, extremely slow moving- do not pop in this movie at 9 pm, you are sure to fall asleep long before the story ends-by the way, I am exaggerating, there is no story there. SPOILERS Nope, there is not story and there is no end. If you think something happens at the end, you are wrong. The film exactly ends where it starts. The actors have nothing to work on, that is why they do not play, they just wander around in silence. The film is very silent, Coppola, who also wrote this movie, gave the characters only some vague lines. "I want to be a writer but I hate what I write"-this is what Scarlet Johansson says after a 30 mn silent scene. As for directing, Coppola did what any good film school graduate would have done. No matter what she planned to make, what we have is a cheap art house style fake.