Since "Pulp Fiction" has become such a huge success, the film industry thought it was cool to pen down the name of Tarantino even if he was involved for 5 seconds or less, but this gem is one of the sweet exceptions. It's like the Tarantino-movie Quentin never made as this movie goes down the screen with a very high speed. Clarence (an incredible Christian Slater) is a kind of weirdo who lives in his own dreamworld (he even has Elvis as an imaginary friend) whose life got tumbled up when his colleagues give him a hooker as a present. Clarence first can't believe that Alabama (Patricia Arquette in her best role ever) is the girl of his dreams, she even, likes obscure kung fu-movies but when he finds out that she's a hooker, he decides to show what real love stands for and kills her pimp so they can start a whole new life. The sole thing is that instead of a bag of clothes, Clarence came home with a bag of cocaine. A real cat and mouse play starts with some incredible small roles (Dennis Hopper, James Gandolfini, Samuel L Jackson and an unrecognizable Brad Pitt).
Gaymovies are most of the times a rather boring experience as most of the times the base is just the same : not being accepted. In this movie from director Eloy de la Iglesia (unknown, but so far he made 23 movies) is a bit different but the movie looses everything due to an unbelievable story. "Los novios bulgaros" stands for the new Bulgarians and that are, in Iglesia's eyes, men who come to Spain and in return for illegal papers they play gay whore for some rich men. I can imagine that for most of the Bulgarians this item is quite insulting and Iglesia thought it was even better to add some cliché in it as well by making the Bulgarians criminals who are smuggling radio-active weapons. I dunno if Iglesia wanted to make a James Bondmovie in his dream rather than coming up with some real issues but if it was his goal to touch some modern problems of the current society (refugees who have to sell their body) then he lost it completely here. All by all the film is quite okay to watch but at one point Iglesia tries to defense a minority group by offending the others. From a cinematographic point of view you don't have to seek for surprises as well as is it just a bland job.
Pedro Aldomovar is seen as a real genius and personally I think that one film is better than the other but this movie from 1997 certainly belong to the best the Spanish infant terrible has made. In 1970 a woman bears a child in a bus and it's that boy, Victor (Liberto Rabal), who we are going to follow. Victor is an ordinary guy but due to circumstances his whole life will be twisted up as he's the victim from two policemen who are arguing. Like so many other movies by Aldomovar it would be a real spoiler to reveal things as the magic of the movie is to be found in its surprising storytelling that at first doesn't make that much sense but develops itself into a perfect, surprising story. Aldomovar is becoming the master of telling the little things in life and it's in that we can found so much beauty. Also nice to see Penelope Cruz as special guest star, even if she's in it for about 5 minutes. "Live Flesh" certainly is one of Aldomovar's easier movies as for once he gives all the answer even if you have to wait till the end of the movie. A tip!
Vittorio and Paolo Taviani are surely one of the most important Italian directors ever and just like all the great masters they often have their not so brilliant movies, but "Padre Pardone" certainly belongs to the best they ever made. It's all based on a true story and sometimes people tend to forget that there are places that God forget. In an agricultural area in Sardinia some folks pretend it's better to take care of the sheeps rather than scoring well at school. The young Gavino (Fabrizio Forte) goes to his school but one day he's father comes in the classroom telling him that his schooldays are over and that it is time to take up his duty as shepherd. The brothers Taviani are masters in filming the useless factors of the job as we see a young boy who absolutely has no interest in the job he got by his father, and we see some explicit scenes in where the almighty father beat his children. Schoking that's for sure and if the Gavino grows older we see his hunger to learn something (the poor boy couldn't read) as soon as he must enter the world of the army which is in total contrast with the world of the hills where sheep run. The story itself is rather hard to bear and you often shake your head by disbelief but still the Taviani-brothers are opting for a sober and poetic approach of the problem that it looks like you're viewing some touristic documentary of an area that God forgot. "Padre pardone" is certainly the kind of movie that will have both its lovers and enemies but having said that, you know that "Padre Pardone" belongs to the classic section of the Italian cinema that will never be forgotten.
1989 was already a year in where Eddie Murphy wasn't that longer hot and started making movies that soon would be forgotten. Funnily enough, it was also the year in where Murphy directed his first film, but it also would be the first and last experiment. "Harlem nights" wasn't exactly what you can call a success even if it was great to see the two best black comedians together namely Murphy and Richard Pryor. Don't blame it on the actors as they all played their roles like you expected them do, even if you have to face (again) the typical Murphy-laugh. The worst thing from "Harlem nights" are both the scenario and its terrible decors. Everything is set in the roaring twenties and everybody has their profit from the forbidden clubs. Sugar Ray (Pryor) and his adopted son Quickie (Murphy) are gathering easily 10000 dollar per day but of course soon the mob and the corrupt police come around the corner to claim their part of the cookie. Sugar and Quickie aren't guys who give their money for free and have their own plans. You can watch "Harlem Nights" that's for sure, but if you puke from the moment you hear the name Murphy you better avoid as after all this movie is nothing but a lame excuse to see some good jokes.
For a while it looked like adoptions from books by Henry James were the sole territory from James Ivory, but in 1997 director Iain Softly (who later would make his "K-Pax") made his effort. Funnily enough we notice that Softly found his solace in Helena Bonham Carter who appears in almost every Ivory-film but that makes the film only better. Not that I ever tried but books by Henry James appear to be almost unreadable but this movie is just a sober love story. Kate (Carter) is a woman who lives in the high society that is controlled by her aunt Maude (Charlotte Rampling) who has only hard feelings as she has to live the way she chooses, even her forthcoming marriage is planned by her. Kate must marry Lord Mark (Alex Jennings) but in fact her heart beats for the journalist Merton (Linus Roache). Maud's statement is quite clear : if she marries the man she's longing for, she won't get a single penny. Then out of a sudden Millie (Alison Elliot) comes on the stage. This fine looking lady is dying and Kate has an evil plan : coupling Merton with her so they will get a fortune if Millie will die. Everything in this picture is quite fine, the landscapes are mesmerizing but that's the least you expect if the half of the film is set in the wonderful Venice. The sole thing is just that this movie isn't that original as you saw it all before in the movies from Ivory, but apart from that it's quite a nice thing and as usual Carter is breathtaking.
Argentinian top comedy with a deep love for the cinema
Rio Pico is a little town, not far away from Buenos Aires, but nothing really happens over there and the population is in no way ahead of the modern things in the world. When Soledad (Vera Fogwill), a female taxi driver from Buenos Aires, got stuck in the town by a car accident, things are changing. It was never the goal from Soledad to stay in the village but she got embraced by the inhabitants who are asking her to be the presenter of the local film journal which is shown in the local filmtheatre. The filmtheatre is the sole way the people have to escape from reality, even if all film copies are the ones who are rejected by the bigger Argentinian cities. "El viento se llevo lo que" (be translated as "Gone with the wind") is a hilarious top comedy that only got spoiled by the entrance of French actor Edgard Wexley (played by the overrated Jean Rochefort)who is the local film hero. Apart from that is "El viento se llevo lo que" a wonderful piece of world cinema in where director Alejandro Agresti (already a filmmaker in Argentinia since 1978) seeks a satisfying balance between hilarity and the hard truth. A South-American pearl that is recommended to anyone who loves world cinema.
Jacques Audiard is since some time a well respected French director and "Sur mes lèvres" is one of his best known ones. You can divide the movie in two parts namely the first hour at where we see how Carla (Emmanuelle Devos) meets Paul (Vincent Cassel) and then the second hour which is developing itself in a real film noir that apart from some brutal scenes can be best described as an intimate arty film noir. Carla is a secretary at a real estate company who works herself to death. Work is the sole category in where she can prove herself as not only she is hard hearing but she has no luck in love either, if love for her even exists. One day she may recruit an assistant and perhaps it's all a bit unrealistic, the job goes to Paul who is just out of jail and who even hasn't typed one letter in his life. At first it seems the two aren't exactly made for each other, but slowly grows respect and a friendship till Carla gets involved in the world of crime. The biggest problem this movie has is its impossible scenario unless you believe that some jerk out of jail without any intelligence can start working in some company doing administrative work. But that itself is just a minor point as Audiard made a more than decent crime story even if the whole plan could have been better explained, but this isn't exactly your Hollywood movie and it wasn't really Audiard's goal as well. Some journalists claim to give this movie four stars and that is exaggerated but apart from that is "Sur mes lèvres" worth the time.
Nineteen years after the original "Shaft" which is often described as the first black copmovie ever, comes a remake. Luckily enough for us we don't have to see the same story twice as the only thing that this movie has in common with the original one is the hard cop Shaft. This time Shaft is played by Samuel L. Jackson, who makes once again a great job. Shaft's policy is to do the just things in balance with justice but that's often only to be done with the language of the fist. Shaft has to cope with two enemies who accidentally are meeting each other and become a common enemy. The big villain here is William Wade (Christian Bale and it looks just like he's reacting his American Psycho-character) who committed a racist murder but due to money and the right connections he can get out of it. Shaft swears that he will catch the villain and that happens two years later when he joins hands with that other bad man Peoples (Jeffrey Wright). "Shaft" isn't exactly the best movie ever made but from a director (John Singleton) who made stuff like "Boyz n the hood" or "2 Fast 2 Furious" we don't expect such things, it's even more a surprising thing that he brings a more than okay film which is only spoiled by its routine. Also nice to see that we see here Richard Roundtree (the original Shaft) teaming up as Shaft's uncle.
In a previous life director Jonathan Glazer made pop videos for the likes of Massive Attack, Blur and Radiohead but his first movie was a shot that could count. Not only could he rely on the best actress the world knows today but the film was also the speak of the year. Some were offended because Nicole Kidman was having a bath with a ten year old boy. Just imagine how narrow minded some people are as the newsflashes you see on telly every day are showing you hundred shocking footages per minute. Having said that, this film deals about reincarnation or something like that as Glaser doesn't give the viewer the manufactured answers as it's up to your imagination as well. Anna (Kidman) is a well fortunate lady who soon will get married to Joseph (Danny Huston) but the whole thing is canceled when out of the blue a young boy (Cameron Bright, who also was seen in "Godsend") claims to be Sean, Anna's husband who died ten years ago. Anna believes the boy and the whole family is upset as the question of pedophilia rises up. Glaser made a sober movie from it, the scenes are filmed like you were peeping at the dinner table and Kidman stars like no one else. Don't believe those who sell this movie for its subject as Glaser made a very touchy film that is once again a bright light in Kidman's already amazing filmography. It was also great to see Lauren Bacall on the screen again.
Recent years the German cinema did surprisingly well with some unexpected successes and this movie "Was nützt die Liebe in Gedanken" tries to profit from this revelation but in no way it can be a contender. This story (based on a true facts) has already been filmed in the 20's and a second one during the 60's, but now director Achim von Borries claims that this is the definite version (what else could he say, anyway?). Everything is set in the twenties which was a good time for Germany as there was no sight from the dark forces that were to come. It was also the days of the rise of psychology and some youngsters (the most famous actor among them is Daniel Brühl who is appearing in almost every German film there is made these days) are building up their "suicide-club". The rules are simple but hard. Love is the only reason to live, love is the only reason to die for and therefore life must end if there's no love to be found and those who have betrayed that love will be taken in death as well. The love is at its most free vision as there is both homosexuality (which was back then immoral) and even incest. Von Borries could have made a very interesting film with this but it looked like it was more a trip into poetry rather than coming up with good cinema. The dialogs are far too bland, the acting sucks and it's filmed with such an uninteresting eye that it sets the viewer asleep. German cinema has found its reincarnation today but this film doesn't belong to that current wave.
acceptable comedy for the "sex and the city"-generation
Back in the sixties Michael Caine played "Alfie" and it was as British as it could be but some decades later, it looks like London lost its mod-image and therefore director Charles Shyer and his crowd decided it was better to film it in New York (even if some of the scenes are filmed in Manchester anyway). Alfie is now played by Jude Law and the critics just said that "Jude Law is Alfie". Well, what do we got here? Alfie is a Brit who immigrated to New York at where he learned the skills to conquer a lady's heart, even if his job is driving a limo. During this comedy you'll see him having relationships with five different women and apart from the sex factor, everything happens with a high and a low. But as soon as one of his "girls" got accidentally pregnant, Alfie is faced with the big question of life : isn't it time to get a real life or in other words, isn't time Mr. Family Man comes around? But what can you do if you're a wanted playboy and all women are screaming for more? Perhaps the elderly woman Liz (Susan Sarandon in her sexiest role ever) can change Alfie's way of life? "Alfie" isn't exactly the kind of movie that will change your life but its hipness and quite good performance from Law makes it a rather enjoyable comedy like we saw too less recently. Sadly enough this film didn't become the success it hoped to be, but acceptable comedies are rather rare these days.
It's a common belief that Edward Norton is at the moment one of the finest actors around, and even if there's no doubt about that, it leaves me puzzled why such a talented guy wastes his time with such a flick! It's even getting worse seeing that Norton also is the director of this bland comedy that balances between the ordinary comedy and the usual trash you can find Ben Stiller in. Just reminds us that Ben Stiller is here as well! Stiller plays a rabbi Jake Schramm while Norton is a catholic priest Brian Finn. Despite religious differences they both share a timeless friendship which get disturbed (since childhood as well) by the appearance of Anna (Jenna Elfmann). Both the rabbit and the priest are in desperate need of finding a woman for the future and they both seek their hope in Anna. Who's winning? What will be the consequences if Schramm's family finds out Anna isn't Jewish at all? You name a cliché and you'll find it here, that along with a very boring movie in where nothing funny ever happens and for the 100th time you're facing the overacting from Stiller. Regarding it all Stiller only was good in "Duplex", "Along came Polly" and "Meet the parents" but for the rest...
Brazilian movies are always a bit better if it comes to world cinema and this movie called "O outro lado do rua" certainly is among these as well. Not far away from Copacobana Beach we see different types of people. You have the poor, the rich and then there are those who are in between and are actually in some sort middle of nowhere. Regina (Fernando Montenegro) is an aged woman who volunteers for the police by telling them everything she witnesses on the street. When one day she sees with a binocular a man killing his wife, she informs the police who are rather fed up by her helping hands. The truth is a bit more cruel than what she thought as the man was only taking care of his wife who was dying from cancer. Out of the blue comes a relationship between the two. "O outro lado do rua" isn't exactly a sort of cinema that'll change your life as it's all a bit too bland but it gives a beautiful insight in what can happen in extreme moments at where no one knows what to do.
The latest festival in Cannes (2005 that is) was opened by the French movie "Lemming" which meant a lot for the French cinema as after all, it was directed by Dominik Moll. Moll has already been described as the French equivalent of Alfred Hitchcock and even if 4 movies are a bit too less to speak of such a comparison, the symptoms are there. Moll's previous masterpiece ("Harry") was already one of the finest pieces of French cinema you'll ever going to see and in "Lemming" Moll just goes on the path that suits him best. We are witnessing a modern couple, Benedicte (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and Alain (Laurent Lucas), who are building their luck. Everything's got pretty disturbed when one day Alain decides to invite his boss (Andre Dussolier). The wife's boss (Charlotte Rampling) seems at first a shameless bitch who is fed up with her husband's flirts but a deeper look, let us see that the woman is more than just a tragic figure. Coincidence or not, but all problems started when the couple found a lemming in their sink. A lemming is a sort of rat which only lives in Scandinavian countries (and we're somewhere in France) whose way of living is determined by its suicidal character. It's business as usual that people start to compare one movie to another but Moll made a great effort which can compete with the best things François Truffaut has done. The viewer is like some peeping tom who sees the high and lows in a marriage and it goes hand in hand with genius acting from both Charlotte Gainsbourg and Laurent Lucas. Now already one of the movies of 2005!
David Lynch always used to be one of my favorite directors even if most of his movies leaves me puzzled. Perhaps "The elephant man" is his most easy one as after all Lynch only tells you a heartbreaking story. The elephant man is in fact John Merrick (John Hurt), a man who has been trampled by elephants and due to this, he is totally deformed. In the Victorian London he's a freak who's been used at carnivals for people to have a look at. One day Doctor Frederick Treves sees the man and decides to take care of him. John Merrick got a room in the local hospital but soon we'll see that the doctor invites all types of persons from the high society who want to see the freak, even if they all can cover it up like some tea-parties. Anyway, it looks like John Merrick got a sort of life in where he seeks the little pleasures of life. The real tragic is that there is a sort of battle going on who owns the freak, is it the freak show-owner or the doctor? What Lynch is showing us is to see who actually the freak is : the poor creature or the crowd who are so curious that they forgot there is actually a human being behind the tragic body? One of the more accessible films by Lunch for sure that got the full support from the public who were falling for this tragic story.
Julien Temple always is a bit l'enfant terrible of British cinema. Not because he made such great movies as after all he largely will be remembered as the man from popvideos (David Bowie, Janet Jackson), the overblown musical that is Absolute Beginners or the dreadful Earth Girls Are Easy but BBC Films gave him the opportunity to shoot Pandaemonium which tells the story about the poet Coleridge and his famous poem Kubla Khan. Whether it is historical true or not is beyond my knowledge but this movie tells the story about some genius poet who lived in the time of the great Lord Byron and whose talents were exploited by his friend who served him opium. At these days opium was the coke and we see how a talented poet with a wish for the family life turns into a total wreck. All by all Temple can control himself (just at the end credits he once again looses himself completely into nonsense) and tells the story in a rather modern way without too many details that can spoil the fun for those who are unaware of the British neoromantism. But mind you, "Pandaemonium" has its weak moments, perhaps a bit too many to be good, but still worth watching.
John Badham doesn't need no words of introduction in the actiongenre and with this remake of Luc Besson's "La femme Nikita", he kind of put Bridget Fonda on the list of topactresses...something that is rather of no importance these days as Bridget is nothing but a 90's icon. I always have my doubts about remakes and with this one I also had one thing in mind : was it really needed?, I mean scenes like the one in the kitchen from the restaurant are absolutely identical and so without any use but still "Point of no return" (aka "The assassin") is a nice actionmovie. The story is a bit silly as we see how Maggie is condemned to death but gets a second change if she's willing to work for the government by killing people. Okay even James Bond sounds more realistic but still Badham and Fonda makes it all supportable though and especially watch Harvey Keitel as The Cleaner, a role he would repeat a decade later in Pulp Fiction.
Before Orson Welles made movies he was a director in theatres and this is the story of the musical he directed ('Cradle will rock') in the 30's. There's a big crisis, a big unemployment and the rise of Mussolini and Hitler are felt and of course there is the beginning of the McCarthism as everything that is art is the subject of investigation if there is any red message included. Robbins directs the silliness of it all, some musical for children about beavers is stamped as communist for example. Everything is under control but it doesn't withdrawn Welles to make a musical in where there is a link to communism and the unions. Robbins gives us lot of different stories that clash at the end and it's somewhere unbelievable that for such an intelligent (but failed at advance) movie he could have such a great cast, they all play perfect with Bill Murray performing the best thing I have ever seen from him (you can't think that this man once did stupid stuff like the Ghostbusters). It's definitely not an easy movie and you have to love a lot political history to enjoy it completely but Robbins made a superb movie that perhaps drifts away a bit from reality but gives a perfect example from what ideology can do with art, destroying it.
Martin Campbell is the kind of director who should know better, he made "Goldeneye" so why he ever gave us crap like "The mask of Zorro" or this pathetic "No escape" is beyond me. The problem is that this movie doesn't take their viewers in a serious way. They all let us believe that we are a sort of dummies and with a stupid SF=scenario we are put in some future in where prisons are privatised. As soon as Ray Liotta is taken as prisoner they realise that they won't be able to handle this ex-mariner and drop him in the woods at where he is delivered to the brute Outsiders, a sort of primitive tribe that can only be found in movies at where Kevin Costner is Robin Hood. Luckily enough Liotta found a new peaceful breed who try to build up some new society in where elements like love and peace still have their place. Are you still following? I guess not, but it is Lawrence's fault, not mine... The worst thing is that it sounds like some episode from The Ewoks (Star Wars-spin off, remember?) and that this sort of s*** has been filmed with a big budget. Straight to video of course and it is a real waste that a top actor like Ray Liotta is exploited for such crap.
Henry King is one of the first directors Hollywood had and "The Bravados" certainly is one of those classic westerns which you can often see on some Saturdayafternoons. The receipt is quite classic as Jim Douglas (Gregory Peck) comes to a town to see four men being hanged. The viewer has to wait about 30 minutes to see what Douglas really has in mind and we soon find out he's the good guy. Couldn't have be anything else as this was shot long before Sergio Leone made bad cowboys heroes but King gives us what we're after, namely an oldfashioned western in where we see cowboys being shot.
The role from Peck is like we know him best, cool and cold and the cowlady who hangs around his lips is this time Joan Collins. Sadly enough for me the fun was spoilt during the last 30 minutes as King wanted to give us some preach with a Christianity-feeling and in my book that doesn't go along with cowboys who shoot but all by all quite okay though.
It was rather rare to see Ridley Scott (perhaps eternally remembered for "Blade Runner") making a comedy but this one really made it...being Nicholas Cage and Sam Rockwell playing a perfect duo. They're not really bandits but they are "matchstick men" which isn't that far away from what real salesmen do...selling air. All goes well till one day Nicholas Cage is set up with his teenagedaughter who wants to be part of the game as well. This comedy was refreshing and a real relief from all the usual comedys*** we usually have to watch and the three characters played splendid, not that I expected anything else from Cage but let me say that Alison Lohman has it all in her to become the next big actress. Absolutely a must see.
Alan Parker always used to be one of the greatest directors ever and since the last years he seemed to have miss the plot a bit (remember "Evita") but "The life of David Gale" put him back. Not that this movie is his best one (you should see Midnight Express and Birdy instead) but it's an intelligent movie that once again asks the question if the use of death penalty is moral or not. Nothing new of course as some years before Clint Eastwood made a bit the same thing with "True Crime" but thanks to a great script (as usual Parker leaves some things open to the mind of the viewer) and a superb cast from both Kevin Spacey (has he made a bad movie ever?) and Titanic-star Kate Winslet make this a good movie.
Strange how one of the biggest things in Hollywood, namely the musical, has vanished the last decades as the recent years we only saw "Dancer in the dark" and "Chicago" making it big and of course this superb masterpiece from Baz Luhmann. Baz does something strange, he brings us back in the early 1900 namely in the decadent Paris at where we are invited to the strangest parties at Le Moulin Rouge. This is a musical that's never been done before, as even if we are hundred years back we hear modern popsongs (Bowie, Madonna, Nirvana) performed in a pure Broadwaystyle and it works splendid. It tells us the impossible story of a poor novelist who has to win a dancer Nicole Kidman who is destinated to sell her body, and for the sake of the Moulin Rouge she must marry the evil duke who put all his money in the cabaret. The cinematographic stills are amazing, so are the costumes and decors as this is indeed like you're in the middle of some decadent show. One of the most inspiring movies I recently saw and again an amazing Kidman.
Martial arts for intelligent people, that's perhaps the movie in a nutshell. Knowing the hype (and seeing it has been ranked high) I absolutely have to see this Chinese masterpiece but there are some points though that need to be said. Of course this movie is a superb masterpiece of both costumes, landscapes, visual arts and martial arts but it has been done before, just think of Bertolucci's "The last emperor" but people need their hypes now and then so saying this is a masterpiece is both true and false. The story itself can be reduced to a simple fairy tale but that's the attraction behind it as well as Ang Lee tried to give a sort of social view of the ancient China. A very wonderful movie but it'd be wrong to say this is the only martial arts-movie that is worth seeing as that's what critics want us to believe.