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Mike Fright (1934)
"Mike Fright" is a 17.5-minute I've action short film from 1934, so this one is already over 80 years old and when I tell you that it was made by Gus Meins and features some of the most known Rascals, then you know immediately that this is a black-and-white sound film. In this one, the kids from "Our Gang" are at a radio station and cause a bit of mayhem, nothing too serious obviously and eventually they are in charge of the program. Not really many girls, grown-ups or animals in here this time and it is all about the boys and their interactions. And music is a more dominant factor than usual as well. I personally am probably not the greatest Rascals fans, so no surprise this one here I found relatively underwhelming. In general, these short films with the Rascals have not aged too well I must say. Comedy and music are sub-par here, looking at other (short) films from that era, some of them starring really big names. But at least the film has some historic relevance looking at how crucial the medium of radio was back then, in terms of both news coverage and entertainment. But I don't recommend seeing "Mike Fright". Thumbs down.
Der Chinese (2011)
90 minutes would have been the way to go
"Der Chinese" or "The Chinese Man" or "The Chinese" or "The Man from Beijing" is a German television movie / mini-series that consists of two episodes of 90 minutes each. It is one of the more known works by director Peter Keglevic. The screenplay is by father and daughter Breinersdorfer, who adapted a Henning Mankell novel here. It is a small screen movie from 2011, so this one had its 5th anniversary last year. It is basically all about Suzanne von Borsody and I am not sure she is good enough to carry this film for such a massive runtime. Michael Nyqvist, Claudia Michelsen and Jimmy Taenaka have some screen time too and they may be the most known cast members here. I personally like Nyqvist, but sadly the material he was given here was just not good enough for him to truly make a difference. With the exception of the Asian actor in the center of it all, everybody just felt like a vehicle for von Borsody and the fact that she did not receive any awards attention at all says that they should have gone for another actress probably as the character was surely as baity as it gets.
This is the story of a female judge who finds her family murdered by a mysterious Asian male. It clearly is something personal in here. The entire film then is about her getting to the core of the problem and many flashbacks are included that lead us back many centuries and explain the background and motivation behind these murders. Now I think there are some good moments and this one here certainly gets better the longer it goes. The second 1.5 hours were certainly better than the first as honestly the only somewhat memorable aspect of the first 90 minutes is really the ending with the broken glass and it's a nice indicator of the rise in quality about to happen. But still overall, I was disappointed here. I think at 90-100 minutes with focus on the right scenes this could have been a really good outcome, maybe even a ****/***** with a better lead actress. But the path they too was just not right. It's overlong, shoddy in terms of focus and plot on quite a few occasions and there are characters in it that just add nothing to the film except duration, maybe necessary to reach the 3-hour mark (or come close to it as it's actually a couple minutes shorter). So yeah, while there are a handful strong moments, I must say that the negative outweighs the positive and as a consequence I give this film a thumbs-down. Not recommended. Or not enthusiastically at least. Unless you have an interest in a mix of Chinese/American history as this area is one where it somehow taught me something new really, even if there is also no elaboration in depth about the railway workers discrimination, apart from throwing in that it existed. Just one example of how the basics are good for this film, but the details and in-depth elaboration leave a lot to be desired. Watch something else instead.
Naruto ga Hokage ni natta hi (2016)
Did not get me curious about Naruto
"Naruto ga Hokage ni natta hi" is a Japanese 10-minute animated short film that managed to rack up millions and millions of views on Youtube since the day it was released roughly 9 months ago. So this shows us already how popular Naruto still is after all these years. I personally must admit though that anime was never high on my watch-list and judging from this one here, at least in terms of Naruto, apparently I wasn't missing too much. The mix of innocent comedy (and family life) with an upcoming event of utmost importance is not exactly working out. When we see the father lie in bed, we cannot be sure initially if he may be dead and this is a dark dramatic little movie, but instead it is really (also with the way he wakes up) a colorful comedic little movie that never reaches its full potential though. Especially the big ceremony at the very end was not half as good and memorable as it could/should have been. I personally was not inspired by this most recent entry to the Naruto universe to take a deeper look into the series and spin-offs. Also the boy who turns out the central character eventually seemed really unimportant most of the time next to the little girl. I personally give "The Day Naruto Became Hokage" (big spoiler in the title I guess) a thumbs-down. Don't watch.
Arrow: Blood Rush (2013)
They pretty much managed the impossible
"Arrow: Blood Rush" is a six-part mini-series (really short, the entire thing runs for six minutes or so) from 2013, so this one will have its 5th anniversary late next year. The title already gives away that this once again takes you into the universe of the television show "Arrow" and if you wonder what the title of my review means, then let me tell you that i believe it to be a really bad show and with this mini-series they managed to make it even worse. The first two episodes are complete garbage really and the mix of (attempted) comedy and drama that takes itself so seriously really goes wrong completely. Episodes 3-6 are slightly superior, but also never memorable, just on par with the level of the show this is based on pretty much. Haynes and Rickards are actors that also appear many times on the real show, but here they don't leave an impact at all. Oh well, they actually do somehow. Haynes is the epitome of a performance where he plays an important character, but has zero material to work with and you cannot really blame him. Rickards is completely miscast because the comedy in the very first episode rings really false with her here. She is never funny. As a whole, Oliver Queen may want to be a man people want to see, but this is not a movie you wanna see. Even at less than one minute per episode, it's a waste of time.
Pretty solid idea, but the film loses itself in unrealistic plot developments
"Zugvögel - ... einmal nach Inari" or "Trains'n'Roses" or "Train Birds" is a German movie from 1998, so it will have its 20th anniversary next year. The writer and director is Peter Lichtefeld and it is probably by far the man's most known work. I do believe that the film has certainly its strengths in terms of the screenplay, but the best moments are not as memorable as the weakest moments unfortunately. Until the point where the boss gets killed right after the protagonist was in his office it is still somewhat believable, but honestly this is enough for the entire film. Then we have a cop who stops doing his job basically only to make friends and get closer to our hero and the ending with the truck route feels really false sadly. I know there is an emotional note to it, but it was Weber's big big dream to win this competition and then he sacrifices it for the sake of it. And he knew it all, even if it's just 3 minutes or so eventually looking at the smile on his lips. Quite a pity these moments sunk an otherwise solid film with decent performances. Król was one of Germany's biggest stars at that point and while he did not get the nomination this time with the German Film Awards, Lohmeyer (in his 30s) playing the cop did and he took home the prize too, one of the biggest awards of his career. It is a relatively short film at 80 minutes only, but that's not a problem at all. I think for the first half it was a pretty decent watch, but the turns they took in the second half just disappointed me to an extent where I could not recommend this movie and I don't think you should check it out. Thumbs down. There are many films that combine German characters in a bit of a culture clash with other countries, Asia pretty frequently for Doris Dörrie for example, and here we have the defining Finnish/German film perhaps. Quite a pity. Finland deserves better than this overall.
El amigo alemán (2012)
Nothing memorable in here
"El amigo alemán" or "Der deutsche Freund" or "The German Friend" is a co-production between Argentina and Germany from 2012, so this one has its 5th anniversary this year. It is a mix of Spanish and German language and this also becomes visible in the cast. German film buffs like myself will certainly have heard of the names Sadler and Riemelt, while Spanish movie lovers will probably recognize Celeste Cid. As for the story, this is another film about Nazi Germany, well partially. The roots of the characters are there, but the time depicted in here is already a decade later (when they were kids) and even much later when they are grown-ups. It is basically about the connection / love story between Riemelt's and Cid's character from start to finish during these 100 minutes. Unfortunately, in my opinion this film never really makes a difference in terms of either the romance or the political component that makes it really stand out of the gray mass of films that deal with a similar political background, even if admittedly not too many of them are set in Argentina. Then again, this one isn't really either as the grown-up part plays in Germany again and the new political climate with left wing terrorism in the 1970s plays a major part as well. maybe this film just tried to be too much for a film of slightly over 90 minutes, but still I must say there was not one moment, one character or one performance that stood out here. I give it a thumbs-down and I cannot say I am too sad that Argentinian/German writer and director Jeanine Meerapfel has not yet made a new movie since the five years when this came out. The film bubbles along in a mostly forgettable way and even if it is not a failure, it is still a missed opportunity. I suggest you watch something else instead.
Anthropophagous 2000 (1999)
No originality, no quality, no guilty pleasure, just garbage
"Anthropophagous 2000" is a German movie from 1999, so two more years and this one will have its 20th anniversary here. If you read the name of director Andreas Schnaas, you already know what you are in for with this one, even if he isn't the writer this time. This is a mix of horror and thriller about a killer who takes out the good guys one by one or at least tries to. Admittedly, you need to say about Schnaas' effort that he maybe isn't the worst component here. The actors were abysmal at times with their line delivery. There is a certain kind of approach to the word "amateur filmmaker" that makes some people appreciate it, but being called as such is certainly no achievement, especially if you have been in film already for a decade or longer as was Schnaas when he made this one. And after all, "amateurish" is not exactly a description you wanna go for as it's an entirely negative association. Now about this film here, this is a tribute by Schnaas for the death of another filmmaker, Joe D'Amato from Italy and I don't know how bad or good the original "Anthropophagous" was, but honestly it may have been good that D'Amato did not live to see this really horrible film we have here. It really sucked in all departments. Anything positive I can say? That it only runs for 75 minutes and this already includes credits. Oh yeah and that Asian redhead chick early on was pretty nice. Obviously not enough to make up for all the flaws. Stay far far away from this one.
Powerful statement on homeless life
"Valerie" is a German German-language film from 2006, so this one had its 10th anniversary last year. The director is Birgit Möller and she is also one of many writers working on this one. Möller is a prolific cinematographer and this film here is her only work as the woman in charge behind the camera and of the script. or I should maybe say "only full feature work". At 80 minutes only (and this includes credits already), it is a pretty short movie, but that's not a problem at all as it is a nicely focused and essential little piece. I would not say that it is an actors' movie, even if everybody in the cast including lead actress Agata Buzek and the two "big" names Striesow and Ünel does a fine job.The heart and soul is the plot thought and the story of a young woman struggling with her profession and she may turn into a homeless person as a consequence. This shows us pretty much that people without shelter can be found in every profession really and in every line of work. And for women, it is especially depressing as they are frequently reduced to their physicality as a consequence and they may end up doing things they don't want to, even if the (alleged) prostitution scene is handled by Möller very tastefully. This also shows that this is not a movie that wants to shock people and tries desperately to do so. Instead it feels like an authentic character study from start to finish and I never had the feeling I was watching actors. Of course I am not really knowledgeable enough to say if it is really accurate that she is not getting any modeling jobs, especially with her looks, but this is also not what the film is about. It is all the consequences that arise from it and also maybe about the (big) fractured ego of the protagonist. I enjoyed the watch overall. This is certainly a film that is underseen and one of the better German movies (maybe even best) from 2006 for sure. See it if you can.
Heroes Reborn: Dark Matters (2015)
Only for the biggest fans of HR
"Heroes Reborn: Dark Matters" is a 6-part mini series from 2015 and the title already gives away that this is of course a little spin-off to the series "Heroes Reborn" and that one is actually based on the series "Heroes", so it is a bit of a never-ending story apparently. As for this one here, I found it really mediocre eventually. There is a touch of supernatural elements and the heroes here are not really liked by everybody, so as always when minorities are discriminated against (or believe they are discriminated against), drastic events are the consequence. Terrorism is one of these and it is a crucial part in the second half of this brief series. It is also the story of a guy trying to prove his sister (one of these "heroes") is actually not a criminal. The episode range from 5 minutes to 11.5 minutes and the entire thing is roughly 43 minutes long, so you can easily watch it in one sitting. I would only recommend it though to the biggest fans of "Heroes Reborn". The good thing here is that characters from the latter are also in the center of this one here and they did not include random other actors or characters as protagonists as it is often the case in these mini-series. But the acting and script are rarely above mediocre level and I have to give it a thumbs-down. Not recommended.
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Solid movie, decent plot, but maybe a bit on the overrated side
"Beauty and the Beast" is an American animated movie from 1991, so this one had its 25th anniversary last year. One of the main reasons why it is still known today is because it was the first animated movie that managed to get in for Best Picture at the Oscars. This is still something that does not happen too frequently today and now we have usually many more than five nominees. Of course, it also won Best Score and Song and really dominated the latter category that year. It is a relatively short film, easily stays under 90 minutes without credits, which makes it especially surprising not that there are two directors, but that there are no less than seven(!) screenplay writers. But it is not a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth. The story may not be that great, but it's okay as the script did not get an Oscar nominations. It is a bit predictable eventually, but the dialogues and solid love to detail make it a good plot overall nonetheless. The actors working in here are all relatively unknown, at least there are no huge stars in here. To me the most known name is also a personal favorite, my birthday buddy Jerry Orbach (L&O).
The voice cast is nonetheless maybe the main reason why this film became such a classic to many. I would say it makes an even bigger impact than the music. The inclusion of the Beast's servants is also a nice one as it does offer some solid comedic value despite the terrible fates of these characters as they are pretty much still loyal to their master. There is one scene in particular when we hear one character say something like the Beast isn't that bad after all and this also makes clear that he is far from the main antagonist, although this already became kinda obvious early on with the introduction by the narrator that he was just a vain fool back in his human days, but not necessary evil. Maybe the enchantress' spell was also a bit too much to be honest. Quite an interesting character actually, I wonder what happened to her in the many years since she met the Beast. Now about Belle, she did not come off as as magical and desirable as I remember her, but she was still pretty adorable. Also the layers added about her weird personality for example were pretty solid and turned her into more than the usual Disney princess. Actually, she wasn't a princess at all by any means. One of my favorites still and that yellow dress is just magic. Sadly, the music did not do as much as I hoped it would. The ballroom scene I somehow thought would be better looking at how many people really love it. It's not that it was bad by any means, but just not as good as I hoped it would be. The songs some were okay, some were pretty forgettable. I liked the very first song a lot. I think it was "Belle" and it was a nice introduction to the central human character. I think I'd have preferred this one winning an Oscar over the actual winner. The third nominated song was relatively forgettable and there were at least 2 better songs in here than "Be Our Guest", such as the villains' song about Gaston. I found his little aide kinda funny also with the subtly joking criticism he brings up talking to Gaston. As a whole, there good definitely outweighs the bad here, but to me this is not a classic as to some others. I still prefer the likes of Arielle ("Little Mermaid") for example. I still think this one here is on par with most of the better animated films from today, which is of course quite a decent achievement seeing how this is over a quarter of a century old.