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An interesting formula gone to waste
20 October 2011
Another Prequel which tells the story of how young Katie (Chloe Csengery) and her older sister Kristy (Jessica Tyler Brown) coped with strange happenings in the new home they moved into in 1988 with their mum (Lauren Bittner) and her new hubby Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith). You know trouble is brewing once Katie talks about her mysterious invisible friend Toby and the secrets she shares with him. What follows is a wild array of effects which at times are scary, but not because of any build-up of tension but because they're loud, and, quite simply, you can't time them precisely. There are long silences, but they only seem to be there for the sake of filling up some of the plot holes rather than actually creating the same tension of the previous film and especially the first installment in this series. Sometimes predictably, sometimes lifted from its predecessors, but often just very silly, this doesn't work as a horror film. The performances of the two young leads Csengery and Brown are, however, quite remarkably restrained and very effective. If the story is mostly rather off-putting, these girls certainly aren't and they manage to at least keep you slightly interested until the ludicrous finale.
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Body Language (I) (2011)
Can The Netherlands compete with Hollywood? Yes, we can!
6 October 2011
I was, admittedly, very sceptical when I first heard of this film. A Dutch film basically taking on the successful Step Up-franchise is a big challenge, especially as it will take an enormous amount of effort to persuade the sceptics who believe that it doesn't get any better than Step Up. What more can one do than create a film that is full of great music (and I dislike R&B!), loads of dancing with quite an impressive array of brilliant moves and attractive leads? Well, how about making sure that all scenes are wonderfully lit and beautifully shot and editing the film in such a way that you can immediately see that these people really are great dancers, rather than trying to fool the audience with cheap editing tricks? Even the script is better than you would expect. It wastes no time on its strange premise and doesn't try to keep us wondering if this group of misfits is going to succeed. The story lines aren't particularly original, but it's quite refreshing to see a film in which dancing is not presented as a solution to all the problems, but as a means of expressing who you are and what you feel. In the end it's not the victory that counts, but the pains, the hardships, the love and friendship you meet along the way. This isn't highbrow stuff by any means, but dance flicks really don't get any better than this.
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An outstanding reconstruction of how a small man made a great king
19 February 2011
This masterfully crafted and splendidly acted slice of history, reminds a nation ever more forgetful about its Royal Past, how the 2nd son of Prince George V - after being forced to ascend the throne when his brother abdicates to marry a recently-divorced commoner - had to overcome a terrible speech impediment to unite his people against its common enemy at the outbreak of World War II, and in doing so became one of the great symbols of faith and hope during the war. All the secondary roles are impeccably cast, although Timothy Spall's obvious imitation of Winston Churchill does tend to distract you from the real story. But this is Colin Firth's movie all the way, and he gives an unforgettably sensitive, dignified and utterly believable portrayal of a man who has to over come great demons from past and present and comes to realize that he can only do that with the help of the man who was to become his greatest friend: Lionel Logue, played with great wit and an unusual restraint by Geoffrey Rush, who also shines in this fascinating drama. His chemistry with Firth makes Firth shine even more, and that is the sign of a truly great piece of acting. It helps if you know the historic importance of George IV's speeches, but this film will move you with or without that knowledge.
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The Music Box (1932)
Probably the greatest short of the greatest comedy duo in cinema history
14 February 2011
This L&H-short relies solely on a premise. Stan and Ollie have to deliver a piano to a house. To get there, they have to get up an incredibly long staircase before they can even get to the front door. But even when they've reached the house there is no end to the chaos. The greatness of this short lies in it's deliberate pacing and perfect timing. Many jokes you see coming miles ahead, but the timing of the punchline always catches you off-guard and leaves you roaring with laughter. The best gag involves Stan pulling up the piano using a sunscreen, a joke too brilliantly executed to spoil. Watch it, enjoy it, marvel at the legend of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.
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When beautiful, mysterious and innocent Mandy Lane is invited by a couple of kids to an isolated ranch, the kids mysteriously disappear one by one.
30 May 2008
A frustrating experience, because so many elements are just right. Amber Heard is absolutely perfect in the title role, with a well-balanced mix of class, innocence, beauty and a great sense of mystery, which is absolutely essential to this film. You always feel that there's more to her than meets the eye, and so the film does indeed succeed in holding your interest. Darren Genet's cinematography applies many subtle effects to create an atmosphere of wonder and suspense. A feeling which is strengthened by a soundtrack, consisting mostly of melancholic adaptations of sometimes almost unrecognizable classics.

As a psychological thriller this might have made a very effective movie, but unfortunately there is a pointless prologue which explains too much of what we are about to witness. 'Mandy Lane' gives the impression of an intelligent psychological drama, which the production company felt wouldn't be a commercial success, and was therefore turned into a rather mediocre - and minor - gorefest for the yahoo-crowd. This could have been - and probably should have been - one of this year's best films, but it's ruined by extreme violence and a rather silly finale.
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Avoid at all costs if you revere Swanson and/or Valentino
30 July 2007
Being a genuine film buff, I couldn't miss out on this one when it was shown on television. It is quite easy to see why the creators of this fluff wanted to bury this incredibly ludicrous film. The biggest stars of their time also seem to realize that they have somehow been forced to make something of what has to be one of the most awful screenplays to ever make it to the big screen. Swanson is on holiday when she nearly drowns and is rescued by... Valentino! Later on she is climbing mountains somewhere in The Alps and nearly dies. But who just happens to be there (again) to save her in the nick of time (again)? Yes, it's Valentino. And when Swanson has dinner in one of the numerous Parisian restaurants, disaster strikes again when she inadvertently drops her handkerchief! Guess who (once again) just happens to be in the same restaurant at the exact same time to (once again) play the romantic hero by retrieving Swansons handkerchief? It would have been more credible had Rudolph The Rednosed Reindeer been there to liven things up, because the creators of this film apparently despised their audience so much, that they believed we might actually fall for this ridiculous story. One the fans could have (and, for my part, SHOULD have) done without. Still, strangely fascinating to see these two together...
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300 (2006)
300: the number of times you will think of no sitting this one out
23 March 2007
This is as close as you can get to 'pretty awful'. There is virtually no script and the dialogue is simply laughable, with lines like: 'they look thirsty'(which makes absolutely no sense at all) followed by the "immortal" lines:'Let's give them something to drink'. All in all, a very superficial script, bad dialogue and a lot of bloodspilling, mostly show with what I like to refer to as 'more frames than usual', causing virtually everything to be displayed in slow-motion, making the movie extremely slow, and, if you ask me, an awful bore. The voice-over explains everything we see, simply because someone apparently felt that the actors weren't capable of portraying the emotions properly. Moreover, there are no characters at all to care about, so this is no more than a meager attempt to treat us at visuals - accompanied by very loud, and cliché-ridden music - which are extremely repetitive and hardly - if at all - worth taking too much time out of you life, when you really could be doing something useful. This will definitely work better if you play it fast-forward, then you won't have to hear the obnoxious dialogue. Mind you, some female nipples are flashed prominently here and there, but that's the only thing that prevents this from being the absolute bomb...
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Opname (1979)
Patients in a hospital try to cope with their illness and the way it affects the people they love.
2 April 2006
This a truly hard hitting drama, written and acted by the finest Dutch actors of their generation, who together formed 'Werkteater', which was set up to break away from the suffocating world of Traditional Theater. The acting is absolutely superb and there are many scenes that will resonate in your mind for years to come. Admiraal's mental breakdown as he desperately tries to leave the hospital to be at his daughter's wedding, spawns what is probably the most haunting line in the history of cinema, one which proofs that this troupe of writers and actors truly understood the deepest sense of human nature. Truly an emotional masterpiece, this may well be the finest film ever produced in The Netherlands. Mind you, competition is stiff!
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Brilliantly executed, but sickening so-called documentary, explaining why the Jews must be exterminated
26 July 2005
It is simply impossible to grade this film, because one has to look at it from two different points of view. In terms of content it is simply disgusting, filled with pure lies which are portrayed as scientific truths and are represented here as the perfect excuse to exterminate all the Jews from this Earth. It really made my skin crawl. On the other hand, it is a truly powerful piece of propaganda and one can understand how the German people - who could hardly escape this movie when going to the cinema - would condone the extermination of the Jews. This film just stacks up lie after lie, but in such a conniving, documentary-like fashion, that one nearly begins to think that among all these lies, there has to be some truth. And only those who REALLY know Jewish culture - and very few non-Jews do - will be able to refute all the 'evidence'. Now if you forget about content and purely look at the build-up of this documentary, one has to say that is a brilliantly executed piece of propaganda that is a warning to everyone who relies on their own media to tell them the truth. State-controlled television only tells you what they want you to know, and it can fill you with lies. The use of color, the use of so-called stock-footage, the use of ghetto-Jews - who were forced to or tricked into taking part in this movie, the build-up of evidence, culminating in the truly atrocious and sickening footage of cattle being slaughtered 'in the Jewish tradition'. These are the images that remain with you long after the movie has finished. And after this, we hear Hitlers famous speech, in which he first talks about 'die Vernichtung des Judischen Rasse in Europa'! Probably the most powerful propaganda-film ever made, extremely well-made but it is a bunch of lies. My grade is based simply on the technical credits of this 'documentary', not on its content. There is no rating low enough for that one...
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