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Shirley: Visions of Reality (2013)
13 vignettes recreate the paintings of Edward Hopper
Edward Hopper was one of the most influential modern American painters, who took his inspirations from the cinema and literature of his time (1882 to 1967). His pictures reflected contemporary America in spare but very detailed scenes that appeared to be frozen moments in time. His use of light and shadow was evocative; his color palette reduced but intense.
Gustav Deutsch attempts to recreate 13 paintings of Hopper, creating 13 vignettes that highlight life and history in the USA between 1931 and 1963. The story follows the life of Shirley and her thoughts throughout the vignettes. News clips, music and poems - the movie is concerned as much with the inner workings and thoughts of Shirley as in recreating the scenes that encompass the Hopper paintings. This is in the spirit of Edward Hopper, who was very much interested in psychology, which influenced his work. Gustav Deutsch has succeeded in translating Hopper's work into a movie and created a unique work that unfreezes the paintings and gives them life.
The movie moves slowly and you need to approach the vignettes as you would approach a painting - take your time, bath in the colors and lights, soak in the details and let the stories unfold. The red line is elusive in this movie but exists, if you are willing to search for it. This movie is a unique vision that will appeal to those, who like Hopper, the realism movement in art, and movies about art.
Le tout nouveau testament (2015)
Dark Satire about Religion and Life ...
Jaco Van Dormael started his career as circus clown. This has given him a good feel for timing and bringing out the humour in every day life. As is traditional with clowns not everything is nice and jolly - there are also dark moments and sadness. These moments have been present in his past movies, so it comes as no surprise that this movie has some very dark moments, moments were you ask yourself, if you should really laugh at what you see, where you can feel offended. This is where the spoiler comes in form of a warning:
Start Spoiler. If you are offended by someone making fun of topics like child abuse, bestiality, voyeurism and religion avoid this movie. If you think that religion is a hoot and should be ridiculed and can laugh at how bizarre life can get - you will be entertained. End Spoiler.
Some motives in this movie will make the laughter get stuck in your throat. At other times you will just laugh at how ridiculous some of the scenes are. This is where the strength of the movie lies: It takes everything as it is, makes fun of it, but is in general respectful of the life choices of its characters (the exception being where the villain of the movie is concerned). Is this a meaningful movie? Well it is a satire and in the business of poking fun, don't expect too much. The main purpose of a clown show is to entertain not to make you think overly much, the same goes for the movie. The basic message of the movie is one of tolerance and acceptance and is pretty much in plain sight throughout.
The acting is great even in the very silly moments, of which there are plenty. The music is mainly classics but suits the movie well. The settings, costumes and effects work - especially in the bits that are deliberately badly made, it adds to the humour.
So overall, just relax & try to not get offended, laugh along and you will have a good time.
Funny, great acting, shaky camera
Grandma is a witty and funny comedy starring Lily Tomlin and Julia Garner. The performances of even the supporting cast are excellent - everyone is giving their best and the characters are both believable and relatable - even if you don't always agree with their decisions. The characters are well meaning but not always able to express themselves, which is at the source of much of the comedy. Some of the facial expressions are comedy gold.
Despite presenting us a comedy Paul Weitz manages to make a movie that is not shallow at all and touches on many serious topics, like loss and how to deal with it. There are several themes in the movie that might offend some watchers and hence cause the low rating it has received so far:
Warning, spoiler: If you are offended by topics like abortion, death or same sex relationships, don't watch this. End spoiler.
The one thing that was a detractor for me was the shaky camera. Everything in this movie was set up with great care - such a sad thing that there was no money left to buy a support for the camera. The shaking distracts from the otherwise excellent production and acting.
Overall, there were plenty of laughs in a movie that also made me think
A film about art, creativity, entertainment and its reception
Tati's last movie plays in and around a circus performance. You get to see the acts, good and bad, the artists behind the scenes and the audience, from entering the arena to the audience reactions.
Two things strike you:
The artists are always creating and doing things. They are painting, acting, playing, juggling, whether on stage or behind the scenes. They never stop being creative. Tati shortens the creative process and mainly focuses on what is perceived by the artists and the audience/at the intersection. Sometimes, the acts of the artists will clash with each other, sometimes they are complimentary. Some acts are good, some misfire.
This is where the audience really comes in. Watch the audience reactions. Tati has set the scene from the beginning, showing you the cross section of the typical audience attending, making fun of some signs of the time and contrasting it against ... well, have a look at what is placed in the audience section; Tati leaves some hints as to what he thinks of those attending the show/art parade - critique is mixed with compliments and acceptance. The audience (a nice selection) will become involved in the creation of the art - in fact it appears impossible to separate the artists from the audience at times. The audience reactions are also telling - Tati shows us typical audience behavior from overbearing enjoyment to boredom. The placement of these reactions is very deliberate - there is a lot to pick up on and I suggest to view the movie a few times, focusing on different aspects of it.
Typical for a Tati movie there is some whimsy and the humour sways between slapstick and subtle satire. It is telling that Tati attempts to show a cross section of modern (for the times) and old fashioned especially in the music. In this he embraces both old and new. The film ends in a scene that shows that creativity and art leads to inspiration, where it counts and where it is allowed to grow.
Don't watch this as a circus movie; watch this as an art process and suddenly you will see a plot in the movie that is otherwise very easy to miss. This movie is Tati's final statement about art; it is not his most accessible movie and will probably only appeal to you, if you are willing to watch the movie a few times and spend some time thinking about it in between. So, not recommended for casual viewing.
Czech coming of age/road trip movie
Pusinky aka Dolls is a Czech coming of age/road trip movie following the 3 friends Iska, Karolina and Vendula. School is finished; deadbeat jobs wait for Karolina and Vendula and college with lots of strange people and pressure by the family (no freedom to choose subject etc.) for Iska. Going away to Holland appears as the solution, aiming for the land of opportunity – away from the family, easy living, freedom, drugs, money – a chance to stay together even it is only for a while.
The story sets out as college girl is vegetating in a sports camp – send there by her parents with her little brother (who is actually good at sports) to watch her. Her two friends arrive to rescue her and with all the best intentions of taking her away from there...
So what is new, why should you watch it?
Well, this is a very Czech and European movie, so the mood is can be pretty downbeat and slow moving at times. This makes it believable and gives the actors room to develop the characters and the story room to build up secrets and tensions between the three characters, which make the movie more interesting.
So the acting is excellent and the story has lots to offer, if you are OK with things being sad and taking their time. Oh and the soundtrack fits the movie quite well.
Which brings me to the 'but' – the story is about teenagers with loads of awkwardness, mood jumps and opportunities wasted. This is annoying at times and makes you think: How can they be this stupid? Well they are teenagers this is part of growing up, making mistakes. Still, even realizing this it is not easy to watch some parts of the movie.
Then there is the feeling that the movie has nothing really new to offer – maybe I have just watched too many movies. Maybe I have missed something as I watched the movie with subtitles.
So overall, I enjoyed the acting, most of the story and was annoyed by the teenage characters. Would I watch it once? Yes. Would I watch it again? Probably not. 6 to 7 out of 10.
Who Watches the Watchmen - We Did!
Five friends went to watch the Watchmen - a fan of the original graphic novel from the 80s, 2 recent converts and 2 people, who had never read Alan Moore's work. Let's look at the component score:
The writing and adaptation to the screen is excellent. The story is intriguing. One of our group was slightly puzzled in between because of the many lines of story to follow, but it all came together nicely in the end. We discussed at length whether the movie should have focused on one aspect rather than following pretty much all the different lines laid out in the original work by Alan Moore, but this would have led to a loss of complexity and made the movie shallow. So what viewers will be embarking on is a mix of SF, drama, love story, mystery and superhero story, which has something to offer for many people.
Absolutely stunning. The images were strong and beautiful, the camera work outstanding. The feeling of the 80s was conveyed in excellent detail. Those of us remembering them well, were impressed, deeply.
Here is were the first controversy sets in. While a superhero movie should show its heroes in a larger than life position, one thing that always attracted the readers to Watchmen was that the heroes remained believable and were not too superhuman. This moderation has gone out the window for the movie and the three of our group familiar with the graphic novel felt the action in the movie was over the top.
For a movie with an R16 (New Zealand) rating, this movie was very graphic. Not wanting to give anything away, two of our group had to look away in certain scenes and two more found it too much. One out of five didn't mind. The biggest argument against the level of violence shown is that it does not contribute to the story. A lot of it could have been handled a bit more elegantly off-screen, without taking any impact away. We all (even the person who did not mind) would give this movie a strict R18 rating.
The CGI and Tricks
Mostly good, everyone could at least name one glitch and some of the movements looked too artificial. We all thought we had seen better in a few scenes. These were minor and overall the movie is a stunning achievement.
The Music and Sound
Nice 80s score with very memorable hits. One of us though that one of the songs was giving the story away at the time, but that was because he knew the story. Just one issue everyone commented on: The movie is too LOUD. Here and there a quieter moment would have been good.
We were left a bit shell-shocked - assaulted by images and sound, but we were thoroughly entertained. The running time was long but the complex story needed it to unfold. I would not recommend this movie to anyone put off by graphic violence. There are a few sex scenes too, but these are more funny than offensive and no one minded. The movie appears to be aimed at the 15 to 25 year old male bracket, so a few of us felt left out a bit. We are still not sure, if we are going to recommend the movie to our friends - well to some we will, others we are going to warn off.
If you go, you are in for a hell of a ride, enjoy!
La planète blanche (2006)
Beautiful landscape, lacks coherence, but well worth watching
Following the proud tradition of French Dockumentaries like "Travelling Birds" Thierry Piantanida and Thierry Ragobert take us on a journey through the arctic regions.
The images are very beautiful, the scenery breathtaking and seeing the amazing herds of animals pass is something everyone should see, at least once. Overall, a very solid and entertaining look at animal life in the arctic circle.
Minor spoilers follow from here on! Unfortunately the movie lacks coherence. It fails to draw a portrait of the landscape, hopping around wildly and fails to draw a portrait of the arctic animals, making a limited selection but going rather for the images with the most impact than for a fair representation of the species observed. Further the view taken is rather anthropomorphic, putting human traits and characteristics on animals. Admittedly, I am not quite fair to this movie comparing it to the excellent "Travelling Birds", but I was left with the strong feeling that the makers of this documentary attempted to emulate the success of that movie. This and the failure thereof was for me especially noticeable during the scenes with the ice bears. The mother bear was strongly humanized and the drive to include as many spectator drawing pictures as possible quite evident.
Certain scenes like the whale scenes left me with the impression that the film makers ran out of other "impressive" material, so they kind of threw them in...everyone likes whales, right? And this is a nature documentary with some environmental undertones, so we need to have whales, right? Wrong, I would say, these scenes were distracting and ill-fitting with the rest of the film. They were very impressive and beautiful though.
So, finally: I would recommend everyone to see this film once, just for the beauty and impact of the pictures. Ignore the commentary, which is relatively sparse anyway. Do not look for a coherent story or complete picture and don't have too high expectations. Keeping this in mind, you are in for 86 minutes of an entertaining documentary.
Kung fu (2004)
Chinese cinema is evolving
The last few years have seen many excellent Chinese movies ranging from historical dramas, as in The Emperor and the Assassin, to brilliant action movies, Hero, House of Flying Daggers, comedies like Shaolin Soccer, thrillers like infernal affairs and more.
Kung Fu Hustle is the next step of what I consider the growing up of the Chinese Film Industry. Gong Fu is an action film full of some of the finest martial arts you can find. But it does not stop there. Latest cgi and cinematic effects are deployed with ease to make the experience truly magnificent. This part could describe a well made but typical Hollywood action production. But Gong Fu grows beyond that, incorporating very satirical elements that make this movie a treat. If you are a fan of Kung Fu movies or if you are a critic, this film can entice both as it presents a delectable parody of the genre without taking itself too seriously. In so far it accomplishes what Hollywood has lost somewhere along the way, the ability to make a funny and inventive movie that is filled with little thoughtful vignettes to discover while still appealing to a broad public.
There are scenes, which are so overdrawn that they become surreal, moments when you can not believe what is happening on screen. Typical clichés like bad synchronization so common in past Chinese movies are delightfully played upon. In parts of the movie I was even reminded of scenes from Dragonball Z and other anime. But underneath it all Gong Fu does not hide its social critique and puts the finger on several points that might hurt if you think about them.
Overall this is a movie for nearly everyone, providing gags and entertainment, if you just want to relax, and little hints and thoughts to contemplate, if you are of the thoughtful persuasion. In my opinion it is one of this years top movies. Recommended!!!
A noteworthy homage to adventure cinema
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is in my opinion one of the most misunderstood movies of the year. Admittedly, I would not expect it to appeal to or to be understood by a wide public.
The story plays in a fictitious late 1930s world that is filled with adventure, heroes and villains. Mysterious giant robots threaten the world and hunt a select group of scientist involved in a secret project. The journalist Polly Perkins (played by a convincing Gwyneth Paltrow) and humanities protector Joe 'Sky Captain' Sullivan (played by a larger than live Jude Law) are out to solve the mystery and save the day. At their side are the scientific genius of Dex Dearborn (played by Giovanni Ribisi) and the roguish military commander Capt. Francesca 'Franky' Cook (played by Angelina Jolie).
Kerry Conran has written and directed one of the most unusual films I have seen this year. The list of producers includes Aurelio De Laurentiis and Raffaella De Laurentiis, which should send of alarm bells in the fans of old style adventure and science fiction movies; here is a movie to watch out for. The style of the movie is different, sepia tones are predominant, giving it an atmosphere typical of films seen in the 1920s to 1940s or in comics and graphic novels of the time. The story, set elements, lines dwell on quotes from movies of this period and other classics of the SF and adventure cinema.
The story and dialog reflect the period, the story being very linear and idolized, the dialog restrained and consistent with the period. The movie does not take itself too seriously and points out the limitations of the time; Gwynneth Paltrow's character is taunted for not being able to say "naked". This is very consistent with the behavioral rules of the 1930s. Angelina Jolie brought time and role specific slang along, making her role and performance a real pleasure to watch. The world view is painted in black and white with the characters being larger than life as befitting the theme as well.
Personally this movie meant a lot to me as I saw in it references to some of my favorite movies and movie personalities, like Ray Harryhausen, Laurence Olivier, Orson Wells, Fritz Lang and many more. However, if you are not a purveyor of "old time" movies, classics, this film will be near meaningless to you. It is definitively out of this time and will simply appear flat and only amaze you because of its use of cgi, which is not enough to go by. I recommend this movie to fans and geeks, but if you have no knowledge of movie history, move on, watch the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, "Batman Begins" or "The Incredibles", you will be disappointed with this one. If you admire people like Orson Wells and Ray Harryhausen, love watching "Forbidden Planet" and "King Kong (1933)", grab some pop corn, lean back in your seat and enjoy the ride.
Yet another take on Carrie. It is well made, but this does not distract from the fact that it is entirely superfluous. Make up your own mind though, there are worse time wasters out there.
There are good points about this 2002 version of Carrie. It is quite true to the book and generally solid in terms of the plot and the characters. If you have not seen a version of Carrie yet and have not read the book or prefer a true adaptation, this might be the one for you. It is a very up to date movie. Nice special effects, shaky camera and personalized style, everything everyone else does nowadays.
When Brian DePalma made his version of Carrie it was also quite well situated in its time and style. It is far more stylish and relied more upon the talents of the actors, which were at least were Piper Laurie and Sissy Spacek are concerned fantastic. In my opinion Brian De Palma's film has more soul, is more entertaining. However, De Palma's film was not as true to the book as the film by David Carson. Than again, Stephen King liked the 1976 version quite well. He understood that good books do not automatically make good cinema and need adaptation.
Overall this does not explain why I gave this movie only a 5 out of 10. The reason for this is waste, a waste of resources and a waste of my time. Carrie 2002 does not bring forward anything new. Anything seen in this film you have probably seen before. It is bland and inconsequential. Aren't there any new scripts out there? Was it really necessary that the makers of this movie had to produce yet another remake? And here we hit the point where the 2002 Carrie looses, originality, which is something that Brian De Palma's Carrie still has, even after nearly 30 years. I would call the 2002 version of Carrie uninspiring and uninspired.
My recommendation is: If you like stylish movie and fantastic acting go for Brian De Palma's version of Carrie. If you prefer a true adaptation and like reality TV, this here, the 2002 version of Carrie by David Carson might be the better one for you.
In the end I wish that some of the production costs squandered on this unnecessary remake would have been used to realize something new and original.
Northern Exposure - The German Way - Rabbits aka Karniggels
Who remembers "Northern Exposure" the television series about hapless Dr. Fleischman stranded in Alaska whilst dreaming of the big city? This movie here is the German movie equivalent to this series.
A young policemen's (played by a brilliant Bernd-Michael Lade) dreams of the big city are squandered when he finds himself stranded in the flatlands of rural northern Germany, where live is boring, the weather is miserable and prospects of evening entertainment are non-existing. Similar to Dr. Fleischman, young Köpper has to grow up and learn to deal with his situation and his surroundings. Throw in dry northern German humor, a few murdered cows and the typical German attitude towards police and you arrive at one of the best German movies of its time.
If you have lived in northern Germany and have experienced the monotony of the landscape and the way of live up there, you will find this movie a real treat; if not, you can still get a good one and a half hours of entertainment out of it. I am waiting for the release of Karniggels on DVD, but considering that northern Germany is not one of the most favorite places and hardly anyone has heard of this film, I am not holding my breath.
A film about revenge and more
More or less summarizing what others have written and giving my own two cents. Minor ***SPOILERS*** therein.
If there ever was a movie about revenge, this is it. Forget about Kill Bill, which was partially released the same year. Kill Bill is a celebration of Tarantino's knowledge of martial arts and bullet ballet movies. It only depicts one form of revenge, which is extremely cold and over drawn. I liked Tarantino's two-part film, but I could never take it serious. This film here, Oldboy, on the other hand uses the complete spectra of revenge available and treats the subject presented and the characters with a lot of seriousness and therefore I can take this movie serious in turn.
A man gets locked away for 15 years for no apparent reason. What will he do after his release? Any resemblance of his former life is gone, only one thing keeps him going, revenge. This is where he story really starts and we will leave it at that. You will just have to watch the movie.
However, from the point of release on we get introduced and intimate with all sorts and forms of revenge, it is impossible not to get personally involved in this movie. Every cinematic style and tool is used to perfection to achieve this, to confront the viewer with the reality of living and breathing retaliation. The acting is admirable and believable; the main actors play their emotions well. Their motivations make sense and the red line and story pans out in a way, which makes the movie scarily realistic.
This brings me to the scary part of the movie. There are certain movies that I personally find quite fearsome as they provoke thoughts and considerations that can cost you a sleepless night. Oldboy is one of those movies, quite disturbing. The thoughts provoked haunted me for several days and revealing the consequences I arrived at, might spoil the watching and thinking fun (you are not watching the usual, keep the brain switched on during the movie!), so I leave everyone to come up with their own thoughts.
Overall Oldboy achieves something interesting, it combines the action and pace of your typical Hollywood blockbuster with the thoughtfulness of a European art house movie, which is why I can recommend this movie to nearly everyone. You will enjoy it, be entertained or at least have a lot to talk about. If you are squeamish you might consider watching some other movie, as this one here will disturb you without using some of the overly graphic imagery that other movies depict. However the violence used is quite realistic in terms of its application and effects, which might also disturb you slightly.
8.5 out of 10
Comparable movies and how I rate them: Payback 7.5 Kill Bill 8 Point Blank 7.5 Amadeus 8.5 Count of Monte Cristo 7
Le peuple migrateur (2001)
Rare treat, a real documentary without judgement
Travelling Birds screened at the Wellington Film Festival last year. I have heard a lot about this movie and its production before, but what really struck me as outstanding was the handling and style of this film. For the most parts the movie is beautiful and will fill viewers with awe about the grandeur and beauty of nature. You will learn facts about birds and our planet that are simply astounding.
But the movie does not stop with pretty pictures it shows the viewer all aspects of the lives of the travelling birds. It depicts clearly the problems and dangers that face us, and the birds.
At this point many documentaries commit the fallacy of playing judge and jury and ranting about the evil in mankind, not so this movie. It keeps calm and reserved and just keeps to the facts. Comments are held minimalistic as during the rest of the movie and are simply used to deliver facts, not accusations.
Therefore I think that many documentary filmmakers should take this film as an example. Too often we are confronted with films that want to transfer messages with a sledgehammer and try to force their point of view onto the viewer. This only generates antipathy and counter-reactions and prevents any chance of communication. This documentary takes a different approach and will in my opinion have a larger impact on the environmental conscience of people than many others. It certainly has converted me to seeing birds from a completely new perspective of respect and admiration.
My rating 10 out of 10. Recommended viewing for people of all ages.