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Alki Alki (2015)
The WHO has warned that alcohol related deaths are on the increase. Alki Alki tells the story of a man who is part of this increase. Tobias is German architect and alcoholic. After a dozen scenes of heavy boozing in local bars Tobias is told that he is seriously ill and must stop drinking. He can't. In fact he drinks even more. And that is the story. All of it. Just that. A bloke who is trying to give up drink and can't. Wow! Interesting or what? Ninety per cent of the shots are of Tobias and his on screen alter ego pouring booze down their throats. The alter ego idea does not work. It confuses what little of the story there is. A wife is around. She sells glasses for a living. The glasses you read with, not drink from. She has a nice range of summer frocks and cute legs and there are dream scenes when the missus, Toby and his alter ego are all in bed together. Nothing happens. Toby is too drunk. And there is a scene when he is so drunk a teenage chum of his son urinates on his face. Why? Maybe it's sort of symbolic. You know, society's view of drunks. In any event, the film goes no where. If you like watching men drinking, this is for you. I needed a stiff drink after seeing it.
Der Albaner (2010)
Old wine in old bottles
Some films have new plots. Not many I grant you but there are a few. The Stalker comes to mind. You don't get any clichés in these movies. But most films are old stories that have been told a hundred thousand times and you get nothing but scene after scene that you wished you had never seen the first time round. But here it is again with another actor on another set. The Albanian is a very old tale. Rags to riches. A humble Albanian makes his girlfriend pregnant and has to pay to get married. (The sooner Albania joins the EU the better.) But he is broke. So he goes to Berlin to work for the money. And then it is one old chestnut after another until he returns to his village to hand over the dowry. But too late. The baby has been born and so it is no dice for our handsome hero. And after all that. The hell that is Berlin. A life of crime. Crooked Poles. Sleeping rough. Being beaten half to death. Poor old Arben. And all for nothing. This movie was made in 2007. Before the feel good factor made a come back. What a pity. A final scene with Arben and his bride and baby cutting maize in the spring sun would have been more than welcome.
Umi yori mo mada fukaku (2016)
Hard to find anything to say in favor for this two hour long, badly acted and poorly directed offering. I would like to because I saw it with the director sitting more or less next to me and he spoke for a while before the showing, and seems a nice chap. But his movie was nothing more than a soap opera. The lead had a couple of faces he pulled. Sad. Perplexed. That was his limit as far as acting goes. His old mum played at being an old mum and the ex wife went through the routine of the ex wife, who might or might not still love the hubby. And please don't get fooled like me. This film has nothing to do with a detective. Or an author. That's just the press trying to get you interested because detectives are good box office. The director, to make things worse, has only four shots. Mid shot with actors in the foreground talking to actors behind without looking round. Close ups of inanimate objects. A pan of soup. A cup of tea. Then into a close up of a head about to say something 'important'. And exterior shots where actors stand facing the camera and talk and talk and talk. And there is a lot of talking. But nothing gets said. This movie had the same effect on me being forced to listen to someone talking non stop on their cell phone. I don't buy different countries have their own way of doing things. Outside Hollywood, the rest of the world have a common approach to movie making. This film fails miserably to reach any of the standards set by this common community.
More study needed
There are two kinds of movies. Those where the director tells a story and all you need to do just sit and watch. Batman. La La Land. And so on. And there are adult movies where the audience is expected to do some work filling in the gaps. But even here, there has to be same places clearly indicated for the audience to color in, so to speak. This film is a long overblown self regarding pile of nonsense. Nothing is explained. Nowhere do we learn why the protagonist is a religious nut case, nor why the school he attends and disrupts daily with his gospel quoting madness is allowed to do so unpunished. He comes dressed as an ape when the lesson is about Darwin, whose theory of evolution offends his biblical beliefs. He then takes all his clothes off as a protest in a lesson where a carrot used as an erect penis covered with a condom to illustrate safe sex. Again, there is not a word of admonition. I simply do not believe any Russian school would tolerate such behavior - and I know a fair bit about Russian life. He would be sent to a nut hutch as fast as you can say Putin is Boss. The director, a bearded man with glasses, and he has an agenda. This is that the church is creeping back and will again rot the thinking of the forward looking masses. Well, that is what I got from coloring this miserable movie without a single line to guide me. There is a touching performance from Tiny Tim - not really. A sad lonely potentially gay lad with a short left leg who gets killed by the nutter. Laughable.
Tapage nocturne (1979)
French lack of connection
There is a guide for those reviewing on this site which rightly asks reviewers to state if their review contains spoilers. Meaning please don't spoil the plot. But this film has no plot. It has minus a plot. It is a series of nothing more than static scenes filmed in gloomy rooms where the leading lady has sex with a number of men. She is sometimes undressed for the event. But all the men bar one attempt the sexual act while still fully dressed. I spent what felt like weeks watching this tedious movie wondering how? I asked my wife. She said it was not possible. I saw this film last night in Turin, where I live. I speak French and Italian. I lived in France long enough to know that French cinema is bloated with self-important phony intellectuals. The French have made great films: Riffi. M. Hulot's Holiday, Rules of the Game. But they have made plenty of turkeys. I preach that the cinema is a place to suspend belief. It helps to know that we are in a kind of dream world. But there are limits. Italians tend to arrive late to the cinema. They seldom walk out. Last night they walked out in droves. I waited to the end to see if there was to be anything that made the film worth making. I should have walked.
Tre punto sei (2003)
I live in Turin, where this film was made. There are some interesting shots of the Mole and orange trams. Many of the locations are familiar and it is nostalgic to me, at any rate, to look again at Turin a decade or so ago. But that's it. There is also a laughable attempt to transplant Miami Vice, The French Connection and every other movie about bent cops and dope barons into a Turin setting but it is so feeble that by even mentioning it give the film a credence undeserved. Cliché after cliché belt along at dizzying speed and thus assisting the director in his manic idea of telling a story by not telling a story. Flashbacks come and go without reference. Locations change without logic. Everyone has a prop. Mainly a cigarette. The bent cop has asthma so he gets an additional prop of a throat spray. I seldom walk out of a movie but in this case my legs couldn't move fast enough. The star of the film was the Citroen DS. I am not sure which model.
300 Worte Deutsch (2013)
300 words too many
Normally I would not waste my time reviewing a movie as bad as this but I feel it my duty to let others know. This film is the very worst of its kind. We all know that what makes one person laugh leaves the next one with a look of bemusement. Freud knew. He wrote at length on the subject. But this is not about the jokes. It is about the premise for them. This movie uses the old and tired formula of national differences - Turks and Germans in this case. The one dimensional characters were clearly thought up first and the ridiculous plot - a group of Turkish women forced to learn 300 words of German in order to stay in Germany - came once the actors had been chosen. It has the feel of something made up as it goes along and the resolution beggars belief. If you think British Carry On films made by a Turk in Cologne, you will get some idea. Carry On Films were not everyone's cup of tea but they were well made for the most part and very much tongue in cheek. The leading romantic make does his best with a duff script. The leading lady would not get a job working for free in any of my movies. Hopeless is not the word. Like I said. Do something else when this is showing in your town. Rent a Carry On.
Spira Mirabilis (2016)
Open your eyes to the world of immortality
There are people who go the cinema and think about everything except what is on the screen. They think of themselves mainly. Where I live, in Torino, they play with their mobile phones. That is when they finally arrive, always late. So it is no surprise that the dimwits who have so far reviewed this movie did not understand it is one of the greatest movies ever made. It can only have been born from moving film. Nothing else. Pure cinema with the finest camera-work and editing you will ever see. I repeat. One of the greatest films ever made. I can understand that two hours watching a film where no one gets shot or Spiderman doesn't rescue a drug addict from the mob might be a tad taxing. But for adults it is another matter.
On the Waterfront (1954)
Perfection never gets closer
This movie has been accepted as a masterpiece. I am not going to argue. I am 76 years old and saw it when I was 14. It gets better with every viewing and I now know the script by heart. The idea it would ever rate less than ten stars plus can only show the ignorance of so many who set themselves up as some kind of critic. Far too many. Fools. There is nothing else to say apart from that Brando and Rod and Lee were at the their peak and the Kazan could be said to have taken Hollywood into a place that had not been before. A fine suggestion of reality in a world of fake people making trashy movies. Lennie's homage to Copeland is another bonus.
The Scarf (1951)
First rate writing and acting to lead us up the garden path
Some of the dummies who don't get this movie should take the day off and do something useful. Like get a brain. The guy from Florida who thinks the plot lacks credibility should be stopped from going to the movies. You suspend credibility when you see a movie. That is the whole point. Seriously, pal. Superman can't fly. This is a terrific picture full of interesting dialogue that moves away from the cliché. I ask you, when did you last see a turkey farmer with pistol and cello? I won't do the review because others have done it already. I just want to take a pop at the airheads who post on this site and wish they wouldn't.
Iranian marriage on the rocks
There are some truly great Iranian directors but Ida Panahandeh is not one of them. This is a dreadful movie that rambles on and on in a series of gray predictable clichés that lack either depth or humour. The lead actress has no understanding of her ridiculous character, which does not help as she is on screen most of the time. I was once told that women have no ability to direct. I do not think this is true. But Ida sure has helped to prove it right. The one high spot is the performance by the lead's first husband, who brings to his part a sense of credibility. If you are Iranian and like a slice of Iranian make-believe life on your screen, this might well be the film you are looking for. B feature pap for the rest of us.
Confidences trop intimes (2004)
A little bit taxing
The plot is from farce. Old as the hills. Mistaken identity. It is the stuff of many a great comedy but this film is not funny. It is as dull as only the French can make dull films. Words. Words. And more words. In short, an unhappy married woman looking for her new shrink walks into the tax office next door. Yep. That's the hook. The guy that plays the taxman who is thought to be a shrink has got a couple of expressions. Big eyes, and even bigger eyes. Shocked and surprised eyes. But he doesn't have much else. An old office and hard to believe, not a computer in sight. The leading lady smokes a lot and tells him all her rude secrets. Wow! Light the fuse. Fun! Er... no. This is France. No fun. Just lots of terrible corny clichés like at the end when the dim witted woman flicks her lighter to show the flame of love is still there. I won't go on. This film is garbage and I only give it any stars at all for the idea not embraced.
Verso dove (2014)
A man, mountains and a camera go back down memory hills
The point of making a documentary is to tell a story in images and words that take you on a journey while explaining the reason why. This doc is a complete disaster. It tells the audience nothing. The images are mainly of an elderly man who once climbed Everest with a camera in his bag and then spent his life wandering around Austria taking more movie pictures. In a sense it is a film within a film but like the old chap endlessly plodding through life, it goes nowhere. The old boy's film clips are as dull as his simplistic views on life. He says nature is in harmony. There is no sadness in nature. Lots of that sort of thing. The director loses no chance to use overused tricks of camera work, such as soft focus against hard. Then reversing the focus. Kurt, the mountaineer speaks Italian and German fluently and that is about as interesting as it gets. The problem is there is no story here. Nothing Kurt says or does is remotely interesting. OK. He climbed a large mountain. Not the first and not the last.
A Step in the Right Direction
Forget the film snobs. They can't wait to show off how much they know and stick in all their clever gossip which makes up for an intelligent and balanced view. The worst - if you want to know - is the late Philip French who wrote for the Guardian. A much loved man and an ace know-all. I met him often. Knew everything and knew nothing. The feel of this film is what is important. The step away from the mundane into a fantasy model within a fantasy medium. The stage on screen. OK. It has been done many times but has yet to become a cliché. The acting throughout is first class and the voice over is clear and being English adds to the off beat nature of the movie's mood. I came to this film knowing nothing about it. I am not a professional critic. I just watched and enjoyed.
Tough Going in the Desert
It is true to say all films are a fantasy. They come from someone's imagination. But even fantasy has a kind of rule book. If Mary Poppins drops in from a space ship you start asking questions instead of accepting the unfolding drama. When you start saying halfway through a movie, this is impossible, no one can do that - even if it is a fantasy - then the movie has failed. In this movie, Denis is a French soldier trapped in a desert. He has put his foot on a mine. The only mine in hundreds of miles. If he moves he'll get blown up. He gets shot in the arm. Has no water. And yet he remains upright a day and a night with taking his foot off for a second. He even calls his wife in France on his cell phone and apart form getting some white grease paint to make him look a bit off key, manages to cope quite happily. This movie sets itself up as a slice of realism. That means you have to stick to the rules. Fact. Get a slug in your body, anywhere and you die without immediate medical aid. Soldiers carry morphine to ease the pain. Not Denis. Trapped reminds me of those old Westerns when Tom Mix gets shot. No blood. No pain. Great photography saves a very very silly movie from zero rating. At times I felt almost as trapped as Denis
Noruwei no mori (2010)
Students in Tokyo fall in love in the 60's
This movie is a period movie. Big time. The sixties. Why the sixties? Okay. A guy is looking back because he heard a Beatles song. Please. This is a plot? Ten minutes in and a student kills himself. Then a guy talks about all the women he has had or hasn't had. Then there's some soft lighting and two virgins stop being virgins. And all the time the production designer is finding new ways to remind us that it is the sixties, full of naughty students telling their teachers what to do. This was big in the sixties. I was part of it. So I know. And there is the same sixtie's car in every shot in case you forget. Let us not forget the costume designer running around thrift stores looking for old shirts and finds them. Except they are 70's shirts. Hollywood has millions left over from all those terrible soaps. I switched off after 20 depressing minutes. But if you like soft porn and suicide and sixties coffee tables, pal. This is for you.
You know it's going to be hackneyed when the old fisherman who lives on an island and has a long white beard and looks like an actor who would be better off playing Lear than a down at heel, hard working Southern Italian fisherman with health issues gets a lead role. O.K. The plots. Yes. There are more than one. Plot one. Widow needs her son to get a better life away from fisher-folk. Plot two. One day granddad (long white beard) sees a sinking boat of migrants from Africa. For reasons that are not obvious he jumps in the water to rescue a drowning pregnant woman. She is an African. But not really. Just a lot of make up. Then tourists turn up. They have money. Plot three. Widow rents out her house and sleeps in the garage. African lady has baby. Plot four. Grandson is angry. He wants to stay but his mom wants him to have a better life. Like on the poverty stricken mainland. I am Italian, I know. Italy in the south is as bad as it gets. And so is the acting. Plot five. Hard nosed cops take the boat from granddad because he helped the Africans. I hung on for 20 minutes before throwing this rather smelly fish back in the sea.
Lots of froth on the top
Orson Welles once said there are 52 million great actors in Italy, none of them work in films. Cards on the table. I am an Italian. I write movies and act in movies and there are some moments in Italian movies that are like no other. New moments. Acts of inspired imagination. Leone had them by the yard. Fellini the same. I could name a dozen. But this film is nothing more or less than two and a half hours of soft porn and cheap emotions. If you like a lot of simulated copulation and have hours of nothing better to do, then this one is for you. But it is sure as hell not one for me. Time to go and check out Bitter Rice to take the taste out of my mouth.
Le vent de la nuit (1999)
There are films that personify the principle that movies are so called because they move, and it follows that what moves is what is shown. The image moves. Films are about showing. They then get words added and once words come along the moving about bits seem to demand that sense is made of them. Night Wind is essentially a movie in the full sense. We watch people and also listen to them. But since they never say anything interesting we never really get beyond knowing their names. A red Porsche is just as much a star as the actors. A character walks out of shot. We linger. No rush. The car speeds into the night. It goes. We stay. Life is only important at a whim. All movements are either as important or not important at all. Audiences who like conventional films might not like this. Those who understand the maxim, showing, not telling will love it. I marvelled at it.
Stranger on the Run (1967)
Run away from this film
When you see the cast, the director and the writer, the single thought is that this has got to be a great Western. Fonda rarely made a bad film. The director was at times masterful. But Hollywood is an industry. It makes films like Ford makes cars and every now and the you get the motion picture version of the Edsel. The best thing in it is Fonda's wig. Henry never had a lot of hair but what he carries on his head looks like a busby gone wrong, like the picture itself. Dull. Unimaginative. Utterly unbelievable. I am only spending time writing this to suggest that you might want to spend your time watching the same cast in other movies.
The melt down of a nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl Power Plant in 1986 was the worst man made disaster in the history of this planet. Even now, the scale of the damage to human life and a vast area of the Ukraine has not been fully understood. Heavy Water calls itself a film FOR Chernobyl. Not about Chernobyl. That is to say a film that explains what happened, why, who was involved, etc. No. What we get is a chunk of the worst poetry ever written, declaimed by morbid voice overs and and at time - by contrast to the awfulness elsewhere - some truly breathtaking camera work. But that's it. At one point we get told 600,000 children are still infected. We are shown a dozen head shots of them. Then a poem about cows. I guess a proper documentary, one which did some some digging and research wasn't what the director and his outfit had in mind. This is an art tribute. Not a documentary. You get to see a lot of interiors with kiddie's dolls. These shots push the film into goo-land. And also some wonderful footage of the period. But not a lot else. I mark this down as a pointless exercise in self indulgence that puts Heavy Water close to a man made disaster.
La libertad (2001)
no cuts needed
People make movies for different reasons. Most make movies to make money. Like a box of candy, the movie world has something for almost everyone. Freedom is a film for audiences who are able to join the director's artistic trip and not start carping because no one gets shot in ten minutes or strips off and has sex. Alonso said once his movies are more like paintings. Paintings don't contain moving images and a lot of Alonso's scenes are quite static. He wants us to look and be patient and to think, and to let our senses take time to enjoy the action. Freedom is a day in the life of a woodsman. A young man who lives in solitude. We see him chop down trees. Skin them. Defecate. Sell his logs. Call his family. Drink a Fanta. Kill and eat an armadillo. Another day in a wood. That's it. The director said about Freedom that the film is not about a man cutting down trees. It is about the audience watching him. Brilliant. Alonso is both highly original and quite unique. Only Piu shares the Oscars for this kind of movie.
A Most Violent Year (2014)
Oil tanker theft steals the story
When you read the press release for this movie, the stuff that tells you what you are going to see, or in this case, not going to see, you will imagine The Most Violent Year is a gripping tale full of old fashion action. It is not. It is over two hours of a plodding leaden cliché packed zero drama that had me sleeping soundly until the hero and his wife hit a something on the road in their car. The crash woke me and I spent another hour watching the scaled down hero in his camel coat being a GOOD MAN while the bad guys and hard as nails cops take him for a ride. The hero has two expressions. Honest and very honest. His wife has one. Tears that say she is a strong woman. Like when she bumps-off the animal that got run down. The story is basic. Someone is knocking off the hero's oil. He is losing money fast. He can't pay his bills. And he has just bought a mansion to go with his camel coat. Hey! Time to call in the heaters. But no. He is HONEST. Even though his old lady has gun, he will not give into the law of jungle. In the closing scene he tells the cop that life is just a series of small steps. Getting there is not the point. It is making the right choices for each step. I wish I'd known that before. I would have stepped well away from The Most Violent Year. Oh, and there is a head-case that that does the current pea-brain movie industry standard with a gun and his brains.
Nothing Coming Up Rosey
The director and writer of Raja is the son of French film icon Jane Birkin. OK. The plot. Fred is loaded and lives alone in a house with two old cooks in Morocco. That is all we know about him. No friends. No family. Nothing. One day he gives a bunch of local girls a job in his garden. They all have been problem girls. Raja was a hooker because she was an orphan. Her brother is her pimp. Fred gets hot for Raja who does not get hot for Fred. Raja has a boyfriend. Raja does not speak French, which is unusual for young Moroccans. I have been. I know. And Fred speaks zero Moroccan, which is also unusual. From the state of the garden Fred has been there quite a while. That's it. Fred, by the way, does not know Raja was a hooker when he gets hot for her. This happens later. So the great day comes. His lust is satisfied and while both talk to each other in languages the other does not understand, it all goes horribly wrong. Pascal Greggory does his best to give credibility to Fred and I give him full marks for effort. But Fred is not credible. Nor is the story. I have seldom seen a film as pointless. I wonder what Jane Birkin thinks?
The Salt of the Earth (2014)
don't say 'smile' please
This is a documentary about a photographer who has spent his working life traveling and taking pictures of people and places. Anyone can take a photo. Everyone does. You press a button and there it is. It takes no skill. Not like painting a picture or playing the organ. What makes one picture different from another in the content. Wim's subject, Sebastiao Salgado was born in Brazil. He went to Paris as a young man, grew a long beard and became famous by taking pictures of gold miners. His stock in trade is human misery. Pictures of the sick and dying. Dead children in coffins. Dead women. Starving women. His camera clicks and the images are saved. And his takes pictures of animals and trees. Not in his local park. But of place you will never see, or got to, or want to go to. That's his thing. Why audiences gasp. The exotic. It never fails. I found this documentary fawning in the extreme to a man who has made a living off the dead of the earth. Forget the salt. As he talks without emotion of the pitiful sights he has flown out to photo I felt angry and sick at heart. Wim, please. Get back to the real world of imagination.