Archive for the ‘Movie Reviews’ Category

The Good German – Minute Movie Review

Mittwoch, Oktober 20th, 2010

Review:

In post-war Berlin to cover the Potsdam conference, American journalist George Clooney is sent on his own heroic journey when his driver is killed and old girlfriend Cate Blanchett re-emerges. Steven Sonderbergh made this film as a thriller that was meant to be an homage to film noir, down to black and white photography and the aspect ratio, but ultimately fails on both counts. Sure, the film is twisty enough for a noir classic, but it lacks the subtle charm of those films, and the story is just not all that interesting by modern standards. It’s an extremely ambitious film with many aspects to recommend it, but ultimately it fails to entertain the viewer.

Random Observations:

The Good German at the IMDb

Cate Blanchett plays a German and as such her German should be flawless, which it almost, but not quite, is. George Clooney’s German, on the other hand, is about as good as you would expect from an American living in Germany.

The film might have been a bit better without the war setting and titular good German. Then again, maybe not.

I was really impressed with how alive the film felt, even though it was completely filmed on Hollywood backlots – just like in the olden days.

Så som i himmelen – Minute Movie Review

Montag, Oktober 18th, 2010

Review:

The Swedish Film As in Heaven follows extremely successful conductor/musician Michael Nygvist after he has a near fatal heart attack and returns to the village of his youth to recuperate. Once there, the film uses every cliché of the usual underdog sports team drama, except that it’s about a choir and slightly more realistic than those films. But even the realism doesn’t change the fact that this is essentially the Swedish version of a Disney movie, what with the sappy uplifting and everything. If you go in for church choir movies, this is probably the best you can find. If you don’t, there are many better Swedish films to explore your love for Scandinavian cinema.

Random Observations:

Så som i himmelen at the IMDb

I really have nothing more to say here.

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints – Minute Movie Review

Freitag, Oktober 15th, 2010

Review:

Throughout this partly autobiographical film, writer-director-lead character Dito Montiel tries very hard to push the boundaries of cinema – with often disastrous results. Through the story of how he abandoned everyone at his Brooklyn home when going to Los Angeles and how he returned when his father was very sick, he tries to present a message that is completely lost in the over-ambitious, often pretentious drivel the film largely resorts to. There is a good story somewhere and a few scenes hint at what could have been possibly in that story about growing up in hard times, but the film is much too clever for its own good to ever reach the heights it aspires too.

Random Observations:

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints at the IMDb

The film is based on the book Montiel wrote about his life, where apparently the title makes some kind of sense. Here, it is just more pretentious drivel.

The cast is headlined by the solid Robert Downey Jr. and includes a for once middling Shia LaBeouf. Considering that he is normally the worst actor of his generation, that is quite an accomplishment.

Considering that Montiel first made his name (and a lot of money) through music, it probably would have been a good idea to explore that theme somewhat more than in a few throwaway lines.

My Own Private Idaho – Minute Movie Review

Mittwoch, Oktober 13th, 2010

Review:

Young male gay prostitutes River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves go on a road trip in this meandering early film by acclaimed director Gus van Sant spanning from Seattle to Portland, Idaho and Rome. Along the way, they learn a lot about themselves and about life, as well as that in the end, you can’t change who you are and that your path is preordained. Or something along those lines. But the plot is not really the focus here, as van Sant experiments with the art form film, often with little success, but with a few truly memorable ideas. Phoenix delivers the best performance in his short career, anchoring a film that otherwise would have been quickly forgotten.

Random Observations:

My Own Private Idaho at the IMDb

Part of the story was inspired by William Shakespeare’s plays Henry IV and Henry V. When the characters go so far as to quote the original dialogue, it becomes a tad annoying.

Also from the experimental department: having the characters appear as cover pictures for gay sex magazines and then let them talk about that for a while. Or telling stories directly to the camera. Or sex scenes consisting of poses for still photograph. Most of these disrupt the flow of the movie even more than the Shakespearean dialogue.

In a world of gay prostitutes and their clients, of course the only truly perverted person is German. Or maybe he isn’t all that perverted and just very, very odd. Also another German trademark.

Death Proof – Minute Movie Review

Montag, Oktober 11th, 2010

Review:

A group of attractive young woman meets the mysterious and creepy Stuntman Mike, whose fetish is deadly car crashes. Naturally, things don’t end well for the girls, but luckily Mike meets some more formidable opponents as his next targets. Quentin Tarantino’s homage to the grindhouse thrillers, cheap exploitation flicks designed to entertained and titillate, is far too sophisticated for its own good. The fake scratches in the picture can not disguise the polished design. Tarantino made an entertaining film – even his worst efforts, such as this one, are that – but it works neither as a homage nor a spoof of a genre that is probably best forgotten. Simply put: a bad script and bad acting do not make a so-bad-it’s-good film, you also need a bad director for that. Undone by his own vanity, Tarantino luckily went on to make the far superior Inglourious Basterds.

Random Observations:

Death Proof at the IMDb

I first saw the film in an open-air cinema back in 2007, the only showing of the original Grindhouse double bill (combined with Robert Rodriguez’ Planet Terror) in Germany. It started to really rain after the first thirty minutes, so I left early. And while the rest of the film is slightly better than the beginning, it’s not any better than I hoped or expected.

When you desperately need bad actors, it’s not such a bold move to cast a stuntwoman (Zoe Bell) in a lead role. Surprisingly, her acting doesn’t really stand out from the crowd.

The female dialogue Tarantino writes is so annoying that you can’t help but root for bad guy Kurt Russell, who while not cool or scare, at least is not annoying. At least until his inevitable breakdown into a crying baby.

I really should have put spoiler tags on that last paragraph. My bad.

Say Anything… – Minute Movie Review

Freitag, Oktober 8th, 2010

Review:

Lovable loser John Cusack decides to date high school valedictorian Ione Skye. Surprisingly, she actually agrees to this. What follows is a sweet story about first love, combined with some unnecessary dramatic elements and some clever dialogue. Young John Cusack is adorable and his character Lloyd Dobler might be the most sought-after guy in movie history. Written and directed by Cameron Crowe, the film showcases his raw talent for emotionally touching stories, without ever achieving greatness, for it is too mired in mediocrities.

Random Observations:

Say Anything… at the IMDb

Well, will you look at that. This really has been “80s teen comedy week”.

John Cusack’s sister is played by Joan Cusack, his real life sister. Sort of like Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal in Donnie Darko. Only much earlier.

Crowe already displayed his interest in music here. An interest that earlier and later culminated in Almost Famous, the somewhat biographical film about his experiences of working for Rolling Stone as a teenager.

My Bodyguard – Minute Movie Review

Mittwoch, Oktober 6th, 2010

Review:

At his new school, fifteen-year-old Chris Makepeace is bullied, so he decides to hire the one guy everyone is scared of, Adam Baldwin, as his bodyguard. The business relationship soon develops into a friendship as their limits are severely tested. The film doesn’t quite know what to do with the premise. It crams a few too many plot elements into the erratically told story and waivers between serious drama and light-hearted comedy. There is much promise here, but ultimately very little pay-off. Solid performances, especially from Ruth Gordon as Makepeace’s grandmother, make for an entertaining film, but it’s kind of sad to think what it could have been.

Random Observations:

My Bodyguard at the IMDb

I have to admit that I mostly picked up this film to see the début of Adam Baldwin, of firefly fame, who is decidedly not a Baldwin brother.

This appears to be “80s teen movie week”. No idea how this happened. Check in Friday to see whether it continues.

Another film with a very young Joan Cusack. And also a very young Matt Dillon. While instantly recognizable, they sure have changed a lot in thirty years.

Sixteen Candles – Minute Movie Review

Montag, Oktober 4th, 2010

Review:

A day before her sister’s wedding, Molly Ringwald’s entire family forgets her sixteenth birthday. And that is not the only trouble she has: the boy she likes doesn’t even know her and she has to fend of the advances of perennial geek Anthony Michael Hall. In short, not one of her better days, but things are definitely looking up in this classic teen comedy from classic teen comedy writer-director John Hughes, his début feature. He hasn’t quite gotten the grip on teen angst he later demonstrated with The Breakfast Club and the film is not nearly as outrageously funny as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but it’s a solid first effort that is definitely worth seeing if you’ve ever been a teenager and especially if you were a teenager in suburban America in the 1980s.

Random Observations:

Sixteen Candles at the IMDb

Both Hughes regulars were only fifteen when the film was made, actually fitting the age of their characters.

John Cusack has a small role in this film as another geek – not quite the role he’ll be remembered for.

His sister Joan Cusack is also in this film. And a Beth Ringwald – Molly’s older sister. John Hughes definitely made family films…

Dear God, was Long Duk Dong ever offensive. I always thought political correctness had arisen in the early 80s.

Rain Man – Minute Movie Review

Freitag, Oktober 1st, 2010

Review:

Not exactly successful car dealer Tom Cruise isn’t very sad when his father dies. But when he hears that he left all his money to a formerly unknown brother, who is severely autistic, Cruise more or less kidnaps his brother to get at the money. But naturally, things don’t quite work out this way in this classic drama about brothers, life, autism and Dustin Hoffman’s acting abilities. Though not quite as brilliant as I remembered, the film still holds up reasonably well more than twenty years after its release.

Random Observations:

Rain Man at the IMDb

In the farm house scene, where they go to watch “People’s Court”, Beth Grant plays the mother. I honestly did not recognize her. How embarrassing.

Dustin Hoffman won an Oscar for his performance, the starting point for the famous “full retard” speech from the solid comedy Tropic Thunder.

I was inspired to watch this film again by the casino/card-counting scene from The Hangover, that was a clear homage to this film.

It’s funny what you remember from films that you haven’t seen in many years. I completely forgot about Cruise’s girlfriend and I could have sworn that the last scene was different – but the scene in my mind was only alluded to throughout the film. “Dad let’s my drive slow in the driveway. I’m an excellent driver.”

The Hangover – Minute Movie Review

Mittwoch, September 29th, 2010

Review:

Having your bachelor party two days before the wedding in Las Vegas is a bad idea – especially when the groom-to-be is missing. So the three friends try to figure out just what the hell happened in their night of debauchery and hilarity ensues. No, seriously, it actually ensues. Despite nothing in the film actually being particularly funny, the film as a whole is quite hilarious – no idea how they pulled that off. Probably by being better craftspeople than I am.

Random Observations:

The Hangover at the IMDb

Zach Galifianakis, of the unpronounceable name, is probably the funniest ingredient in this very entertaining film. He plays the not-all-there brother-in-law of groom-to-be Justin Bartha.

I wonder: is Bradley Cooper in any way related to Chris Cooper? Probably not, but the new IMDb design doesn’t allow me to painlessly look it up. And it would be very funny if it were the case. So I am just going to pretend that he is Chris’ son.

The comedy here is painted in such broad strokes, that it is sure to appeal to almost everyone.