starring Jeffrey Wright, Michael Wincott, Gary Oldman, David Bowie, Claire Danes, Dennis Hopper
directed by Julian Schnabel
The film tells, quite simply, the story of Jean-Michel Basquiat, a young, talented graffiti/modern art aritst who became famous by the age of 20 during the 1980s and died of heroin when he was 27.
Albeit triumphing with and celebrating its all star cast, the film is predictable and boring. It offers exactly what you would expect from a biopic about an artist - some visions here, some artwork there, a love story in between - and even more so when you know that this artist was consuming drugs and died because of them.
Someone once said: How can I give a film a low rating when it has such a high class cast? Because a high class cast cannot save the most trivial of screenplays and it is especially painfully apparent that this was Schnabel’s first film. It simply has no drive. There are some intelligent dialogue and interesting situations here and there but you really have to look hard for them, the rest is like a sleeping pill and every character floats through the film like in a daze.
Jeffrey Wright, an undoubtedly beautiful man, plays Basquiat as if bored and unchallenged. I know, he partly had to because the script was asking for it, but he is not a convincing lead for me. He neither manages to dramatically portray Basquiat’s inner conflicts nor give the character enough depth to be interesting. Even actors like Gary Oldman and David Bowie can’t shine. The boring script manages to kill the very last of their appeal. The only highlight of the film in my opinion - because he was the only one showing real emotion and breathing life into some scenes - was the surprisingly gently acting Michael Wincott in the role of an emotional, gay agent. An absolute delight.
But the rest - the two stars are generously given, to be honest. And only for the all star cast. But mostly for Wincott.
aka Single by Contract
starring Kostja Ullmann, Anna Fischer, Frank Ziegler
director Marc Rothemund
There is a phenomenon in the German media that I can’t quite grasp. It’s called “Berliner Göre”, you can loosely translate it to: “Berlin ladette”. It describes a young woman from Berlin, usually a teenager or in her twenties, with a big mouth, rough behavior and the charme of a rude, greasy trucker. Apparently, this is supposed to be charming and attractive. To me, it’s simply repulsive.
Unfortunately, the main female character of this film is the perfect example of the above mentioned specimen. Lila just returned from the US where she spent a year as an exchange student and by chance falls in love with the charming Christopher. She is completely oblivious to the fact that Christopher, or Chriz, is the lead singer of a very popular German band. Hilarity ensues.
The film is mainly targeted at a young audience and I guess this is the only audience it will work for. Because isn’t it the dream of every teenage girl come true? You meet that cute boy from the band you like and whom you have a crush on and he loves you back. Aww. For adults and more realistic people, the film is unrealistic, sugary, shallow and very predictable. I would say it has its moments but they are rare. Anna Fischer in the main role is not a bad actress but all her charme and appeal is killed by the ladette behaviour I mentioned above. Kostja Ullmann in the superficial role of Chriz tries his best but appears bored to unchallenged.
All that remains are some nice, summery shots of Berlin and a fantastic soundtrack. Three stars for the mediocre rest.
trivia Danny is played by Frank Ziegler, the lead singer of the popular German band Panik (formerly: Nevada Tan) and judging by the singing voice of Chriz I’d say Frank was also the one who sang the songs of the film band. But I am mainly speculating here.
Unfortunately, the original title gets completely lost in translation. Literally it means: “groupies don’t stay for breakfast”, which is what Chriz’ manager says to Lila when he discovers her in Chriz’ hotel bed one morning.
starring Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, Peter Facinelli, Ashley Greene, Jackson Rathbone, Billy Burke
director Bill Condon
It is not easy for me to give this film a mediocre rating. Because there were potential and beautiful moments. But they were rare. Especially for someone who actually read the books, the film is, at most moments, disappointing.
It begins with Bella’s “re-birth” as a vampire. How she deals with being a newborn and resisting from drinking the blood of people. And how she meets her newborn daughter. Unfortunately, the events take a dangerous turn when Bella is witnessed by Irina, a vampire, how she plays with Renesmee in a meadow. Irina thinks that the Cullens turned a child into a vampire and immediately heads to the Volturi to report it. A battle seems inevitable.
As said, the film has its moments and potential. The most beautiful aspects of it were probably the gorgeous, breathtaking shots of the landscape (especially in the opening credits). But I think in the end, what annoyed me, was that the film focused too much on the bigger aspects and besides that, forgot the little, intimate ones. All the personal, important scenes of the film were cut extremely short. I would have wished more scenes that deal with Bella’s transformation and new life, explore it more. There were too few scenes with Renesmee and her parents, but more importantly between Renesmee and Jacob. Many things are hinted it at, touched, but not really focused on. The most horrible thing about this film was, in my opinion, the way Renesmee is portrayed as a baby before Mackenzie Foy finally plays her fully. The effects are dreadful. They morphed Mackenzie’s features onto the face of some baby. But it looks artifical, unnantural and, in the end, simply ridiculous. I could understand that if the film was shot in, let’s say, 1995, but in 2012 the special effects could look way more realistic. I just couldn’t take that seriously. And the problem was that there were some meaningful and dramatic scenes with baby Renesmee.
The Cullens almost are pushed into the background. Alice and Jasper have their moments, but the rest of the family is, at best, tolerated. All is focused on Bella and Edward, and, on Renesmee and sometimes Jacob. I found that disappointing. On the other hand, some remarkable minor characters shine. I fondly remember Rami Malek in the role of the cheerful, lovely Benjamin. Lee Pace has a rough charme as Garrett and, I daresay, plays charmingly against type, for those who know him from “Pushing Daisies”.
What I loved most about the film was the beautiful ending. A very elegant, emotional closing chapter for the series. Accompanied by a gorgeous new version of the song “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri and Steve Kazee.
Bottom Line: “Breaking Dawn Part 2” has its moments, but in a greater picture was disappointing. The ending is quite an experience though, but as the final film of the series, it could have had more dignity. Nice performances by the main couple, and fantastic ones by Mackenzie Foy, Rami Malek and Lee Pace. Three stars.
starring Christopher Plummer, Helen Mirren, James McAvoy, Anne-Marie Duff
director Michael Hoffman
There is a reason why some books and films are less well known. They are simply not good or don’t offer good material.
The problem with “The Last Station” is also that the DVD cover basically lies. It promises you to tell an episode of Tolstoy’s life and as a parallel, there is a beautiful love story between two young people.
It’s not. Believe me, it’s not.
It’s drama, with more drama and hysterical screaming on top of it, some boring talks and sex in between. Or, alternatively, the film offers you a tedious opportunity to watch a person die.
Most of the time when I was watching it, I literally felt like I watched that film with Eddie Murphy they made in “Bowfinger”. Various actors enter the scene and / or come up to Tolstoy and start screaming their lines and you are just left there hanging and baffled.
The film’s other, big problem is that it requires a lot of background knowledge about Tolstoy, his life and specifically the last years before his death. Ideally, you should be Russian and have studied at least (Russian) history and literature to fully understand and, to a certain degree, enjoy the film. This is not how good films are made. You can provide some nessesary information in short form before the film starts, but it should be able to let you in on the rest without leaving you clueless or giving you the feeling like you don’t know enough.
I just couldn’t. After an hour full of drama and people behaving like they are either borderline or schizophrenic, I just had to turn it off. Of course the film has some of the greatest British actors, such as Helen Mirren, Christopher Plummer or James McAvoy. And I can imagine that they had a lot of fun shooting and letting out emotions, craziness and come undone. But for the viewer, it simply is exhausting.
I can’t say anything against the beautiful landscapes, the costumes and setting. And I would like to thank James McAvoy for his quiet, beautiful performance, making him the only sane and bearable character in this film. But the rest? Well, if you need to heighten your stress level, then, I guess, the film is for you. But don’t expect accuracies in Russian culture and history. And if you are a fan of Tolstoy or would like to see more of his work, I recommend “War and Peace” (the Russian adaption).
trivia: Anne-Marie Duff - the young woman who plays Tolstoy’s daughter Sascha - is James McAvoy’s wife in real life.
starring: Christopher Lloyd, Ariel Gade, Kameron Knox
director: Richard Gabai
Although the title of the film comes from the Jack London novel of the same name, it is not an adaption. It’s rather a child-oriented hommage, starring one of the greatest actors of all time, Christopher Lloyd (to most probably known as “Doc” from the “Back to the Future” movies, but his range is much more than that).
10-year-old Ryann (or Ry) from Boston visits her grandfather Bill Hale (Lloyd) in Montana. No shopping mall, no internet, no tv - the girl is quickly bored. But then, slowly, her grandpa awakes her love for books by reading to her Jack London’s “The Call of the Wild”. Fiction mixes with reality when Ryann finds an injured dog who is half a wolf near her grandfather’s house. Ryann names him Buck, like the protagonist in the novel and wants to keep him. All of a sudden, the local bad appears and claims that the dog is his. A dog slide race has to decide: If Ryann’s dogs with Buck win, she can keep him, if the bad wins, he gets the dog. In the end, as it is with children’s films, everything is resolved nicely.
“Call of the Wild” is nothing more but a sweet children’s movie. Before watching it, I was afraid that I’d see mostly cute kids and dogs and endless dog races, but thank God, we have Christopher Lloyd and a decent script that avoids that. A remarkable performance by the young female protagonist. She starts off as a bit weak, but gets stronger as the film progresses. But the best thing about this film is, as usual, Christopher Lloyd. He plays basically the grandfather of all children’s dreams. He may not have tv and internet, but is modern in other ways. He wears jeans. He is as kind-spirited and good-hearted as you can imagine, very wise and yes, even rarely, can even be stern but it’s only because he cares. He reads to his little grand-daughter, builds a snowman for her and gives her the space she needs. You simply fall for him head over heels and wish you could trade places with Ryann.
The rest of the cast is okay, but blurs to a mass. Albeit, no, I should mention one more cast member, but I won’t tell you names. He has only a few scenes in the film, but remains in your memory and plays an important role towards the end. Watch to find out ;)
The script is good, not brilliant, but suitable for children. Main themes are: Friendship, family, taking care of a dog, the civilisation and the wild and of course the love for books. A good movie for kids and all others will thoroghly enjoy Chris Lloyd’s performance that shines through the film. Three stars.
starring: Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Joely Richardson
director: David Fincher
Why? Can someone please explain to me why, because I don’t get it. Why does Hollywood feel the need to make remakes of successful, iconic European films? Is the American audience that ignorant? I want to doubt that. Or can they only have respect for a film if it has an English speaking all star cast?
I swore to myself, I’d never watch the American remake of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” because the original is legendary and I love it dearly and I consider every effort to “remake” it an insult.
But, there I was, in a hotel room, and I was bored and there was literally nothing on TV except for this film. So I gave it a try. I should regret it bitterly.
The film is nothing more but almost identical shot-to-shot retelling of the original. But, surprisingly enough, it has nothing compared to it. The characters remain strangely cold, uninspired and distant. And albeit the film has some of the best actors in the industry, they come across as bored and one-dimensional.
Mara has nothing on Noomi Rapace. She is just a plain, ugly girl in this film. Rapace, while also made hideous by several stilistic means, still manages to shine through them with personality and captivate with a brittle charme. Nothing of this is left in the American version. You just couldn’t care less about the heroine. It amuses me that some critics say that Mara has supposedly portrayed the troubled character and its depths brilliantly. She absolutely has touched no nerve in me. Also, Daniel Craig is usually a decent actor but he is too jumpy and acts too, well, in lack of better words, American for this role. Again, I need not to point out that Michael Nyqvist had a very unique, strange charme about him in this role that simply cannot be copied. Don’t even get me started on the missing chemistry between the two main characters. It simply isn’t there.
There is absolutely no excuse or justification for the existence of this so-called “film”. There was simply no need to make it. And I certainly couldn’t care less about the soon-to-be remade Parts 2 and 3. I cringe just at the thought of them.
Before people begin to defend this film and explain to me why it is supposedly good, I’d like to ask those people one question: Do you think a European film company would ever feel the need, urgency or arrogance to remake such American films like “Titanic”, “Star Wars” or “The Godfather”? Exactly.
starring Zac Efron, Charlie Tahan, Amanda Crew, Ray Liotta
directed by Burr Steers
Teenager Charlie (Zac Efron) lovingly takes care of his little brother Sam (Charlie Tahan). He promises him to practice baseball with him every day shortly before sunset - shortly before he causes a horrible car crash, in which Sam dies. At Sam’s funeral, Charlie discovers that he can see Sam - and keeps his promise. Every day, shortly before sunset, he goes to a spot in the woods where he practices baseball with the little boy. Around this daily routine, Charlie’s life goes down in ruins: He gives up his scholarship for college, takes care of the local cemetary and shuts off the whole world. Until, suddenly, Tess (Amanda Crew) steps into his life. The more Charlie falls for her, the more he keeps losing contact with Sam. How will he decide?
I am not a fan of love stories à la Nicholas Sparks. And I am not a big fan of Zac Efron. But this film. Zac completely blew me away in this one, with very emotional, deep and touching acting. The love story between him and Tess may be predictable at times, but thanks to some twists and minimalistic moments, it’s outright beautiful. The twists in general are the film’s greatest strength, prevent it from being predictable and keep the suspense going. And that is all I will tell you about it, because if I tell you more, I will spoil some of the nice surprises this wonderful little gem has in store.
A beautiful touch of the supernatural, a love story that is not dripping with kitsch and gorgeous, absolutely beautiful shots of landscape and light. Very nice performances by all the young protagonists. A wonderful, touching story about life, love, death and second chances. And it’s probably the loveliest, un-Hollywood teenage film, love story and drama from Hollywood I have seen in a long while.
Ray Liotta has a little, but significant appearance.
trivia The film is an adaption of the novel “The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud” (in some countries, this whole title is used for the film) by Ben Sherwood.
starring Tereza Srbova, Anna Skellern, Eoin Macken, Anthony Jabre
director Andrew Hull
Upon hearing the word “siren”, most people today think of the following three things: beautiful women, beautiful singing and Ariel, the little mermaid (who, technically can qualify as a siren, but has too good intentions for that and is, first and foremost, a mermaid). Many people forget what a siren originally was: A monster with a beautiful appearance and voice whose singing enchanted men and lured them into their ruin and, ultimately, death.
This modern horror film takes the original mythology of a siren, transports it into the modern world, unleashes it on young, attractive people and turns it up to 11.
The plot, but you maybe have an idea: Three young people (a girl and two guys, the girl is in a relationship with one of them) are sailing down the coast of an unnamed, mediterranean country. On an island, one of them (the single guy) spots a girl. The trio then makes the fatal mistake to go off board and seek for the girl on the island. The do find her eventually, but with it more than they could imagine.
Already the beginning of the film is spectacular, albeit it has not much to do with the main plot. I will not comment on it further, but, believe me, it is not what it appears to be at the first glance. Then follows what appears to be a bright, sunny film about three friends sailing, enjoying the summer and having a nice trip. The horror comes slowly creeping and even when they spot the girl on the island, it’s not scary yet. The haunting goosebumps unfold in little details and situations the protagonists are thrown into and that simply appear to be … off. In the end, all culminates in a cocktail of erotic, suspense, unsolved conflicts and the supernatural.
All three protagonists are good (especially Anna Skellern’s acting is a joy) but it is Tereza Srbova in the role of the siren, Silka, that you simply cannot take your eyes off. She is not even classically beautiful, but she does have that haunting beauty about her that pulls you in, gets a grip of you and won’t let you go again. Needless to say that her singing is quite an experience. Her acting is very intense, and, at times, appears to be out of this world, which is exactly what this role requires.
What is mostly apparent in this film will entertain people who are into the world of mythological sea creatures: Silka does not even hide that she is a siren, the other protagonists are simply (at least in the beginning) too blind to see it. Also, the filmmakers did their homework on the genre: The name of the young woman reminds (not co-incidentally) of “Silkie” who are sea nymphs in the Icelandic and Irish folklore, living as seals in the water, but shading their skin and becoming human once they step on land.
I simply liked it. The horror coming slowly and tickling. The beautiful folk. The wonderful acting, especially by Tereza Srbova. And the haunting, surreal aspects of the film. Including the ending, which may appear illogical to some people, but considering that logic has been thrown overboard many times previously in the film, it’s absolutely justified. An open mind may be required to genuinely enjoy the film. And, what I also liked about it: Erotic plays a huge role in the film, yet it is never blatant or cheap.
Wonderful, elegant, young and modern horror film and I was pleasantly scared by it. Highly recommendable. But don’t let the DVD cover fool you. Yes, a knife does play an important role in this film, but you won’t see any girls in bikinis. Other than that, you will most likely have a good time.
starring: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, August Diehl
director: Phillip Noyce
Evelyn Salt is a successful CIA-agent and happily married. Just on her two year wedding anniversary, she interrogates a possible Russian defector who informs her (and her colleagues who are listening) that she is a sleeper and her mission is to kill the Russian president who will be in the USA some time later. Suddenly, a hunt begins and Evelyn has to prove that the man is lying. But who is she really?
ATTENTION! HERE BE SPOILERS!
The problem with this film is that it sets a certain premise, directs the viewer’s attention into a certain direction and quickly fulfills the viewer’s expectation. To sum it up: Yes, she is a Russian sleeper and this is clear very early on in the film. It might be because I have seen a few agent thrilliers already, it might be because I am familiar with James Bond, but let me put it this way: The fact that she is a sleeper does not come with much surprise. It would have done the film good if she actually a) wasn’t a sleeper or b) didn’t know that she was one. Which, unfortunately, both is the case.
Angelina Jolie’s acting is fantastic as ever and some of the stunts are really spectacular. But, apart from one or two surprises, the plot itself quickly becomes predictable and boring. It is only Liev Schreiber and August Diehl who save it here and there, especially Diehl with the romantic love story between him and Salt.
To sum it up: Don’t expect much, lean back and let Angie entertain you. But if you want really good agent entertainment, I would like to draw your attention to the Mission: Impossible series.
starring: Rachael Stirling, Keeley Hawes, Hugh Bonneville, Jodhi May
director: Geoffrey Sax
Technically, “Tipping the Velvet” is a mini-series. At least that’s what you can read on Wikipedia, IMDb and the likes. But I don’t care. For me it’s one, huge, beautiful film consisting of three very different parts.
It is difficult to sum this film up without spoiling too much, then again if I tell only the basic premise, you might miss reasons for watching this film. I’ll give it a try.
If you are a woman who likes women, you probably are familiar with the plot. “Tipping the Velvet” is one of the lesbian classics and for a good reason. If you are not familiar with the plot, here it is: The story centers around Nan(cy) Astley, a young girl from the little coast town Whitstable in England. The time is Victorian England, Nan is barely 18 years old, inexperienced in every way possible and works as an oyster girl in her father’s restaurant. Things change with a bang when some day, she sees male impersonator Kitty Butler at the local theatre. The women get to know each other, and for the season being, Nan becomes Kitty’s assistant. By the end of the season, Kitty is offered an engagement in London and takes Nan with her. With that, a journey begins for Nan, a journey that will take her to love, loss, the highest and the lowest in a human character and essentially, it is a journey from being a girl to becoming a woman and find herself.
And that is only the tip of the iceberg.
It has little points of criticism - the blantant symbolism for instance - and at times appears cheesy, but overall, “Tipping the Velvet” is a gorgeous film. It is dramatic, at times funny, very erotic and simply beautiful. Being set in Victorian times, it has all you would expect to see from this epoch: Gorgeous dresses, scarlet, antique settings and architecture, down to - bonus points! - the slang of that time.
A great deal of the film’s charme is thanks to its - mainly female - protagonists. Rachael Stirling with her deep voice and delicate features, especially in drag, is simply irresistable and her acting is superb. She convincngly portrays Nan’s development from an unexperienced girl to a self-determined, self-confident woman. There is nothing spectacular about Keeley Hawes (or her performance) in drag, but it helps that she is an exquisitely beautiful woman and one can see how Nan fell for her. Two characters I haven’t mentioned yet - Jodhi May as Florence and Hugh Bonneville as Ralph - are playing a very important role later in the movie. Jodhi May is not what you would call classically beautiful but there is a haunting charme about her that you cannot resist. And Hugh Bonneville … oh God, Hugh Bonneville. The man is such a charmer and wonderful actor that he is always a lot of fun to watch.
Some people criticize that one cannot relate to the characters as they are far from today and of course not everyone can relate to the world of theatre and drag. But I’d have to disagree. It’s the greatest charme of the story that it’s set in Victorian England. But time period and genre aside - the characters in it all go through what every one of us has already gone through and experience things we all can relate to. What it’s like to fall in love and not know if this love is recipocated. What it’s like to be betrayed and lose the one we love to someone else. What it’s like to carefully approach someone we begin to like. And what it’s like to grow up, to become strong and independent, even through losses.
“Tipping the Velvet” is a musically, visually as well as acting-wise delicious experience and all I there’s left to say about it, is: Enjoy!