Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Wir töten Stella (2017)
Doesn't work as a movie
The cast is impressive, but the movie feels lifeless. What I enjoyed the most were the passages from the book the script is based on. Marlen Haushofer speaks in a unique, otherworldly voice that doesn't travel well from page to screen: "Of course I could think of the future, but I never do. The future will come regardless, and it will turn us into the people we never wanted to be." There is one great scene though. Stella, dressed in a silver ball gown, walks down a narrow flight of stairs. The walls on either side of the stairs are covered in dark red fabric. You can decode it as a birth canal or as the road to hell. After a few seconds, Stella disappears into the darkness at the bottom of the stairs. The scene has a dream-like quality and captures the spirit of the story in a few seconds. In contrast, almost all the other scenes felt stilted and anemic. Perhaps this is the way the director wanted it, but it didn't work for me.
Hunting season for the mind
This is easily one of the best German movies you will see this season. It's so tightly plotted that I'm wondering how to praise it without giving away too much. What is the housesitter up to? Who is the mysterious upstairs neighbor? Is Nick cheating on Anna? Or is Anna losing her mind? Greg Zglinski leaves you guessing for a long time. Half-way through the movie, several characters, including a talking cat, start dropping hints that were too blunt for my taste, but that's a minor kink in a very sleek script (based on an unfinished draft by Joerg Kalt). Philip Hochmair and Birgit Minichmayr are fabulous as Nick and Anna. They are both seasoned character actors with years of stage experience, and it shows. The camerawork is superb. The movie's trademark visual is the frame - a window, a doorway, a peephole, an actual picture frame. I took this as the director's way of saying that everything we see is someone's version of what's going on, rather than an objective account. If you liked Existenz, Mulholland Drive, Identity, Shutter Island, or Upstream Color, my guess is you will enjoy Animals as well.
Wir sind die Flut (2016)
This movie is so boring I fell asleep twice while watching it. It's only a little over an hour long, but it feels like three hours. I liked some of the shots and most of the actors, but the characters they play are so bloodless I couldn't get myself to care about what happens to them. The story is a hodgepodge of mystery, conspiracy, family drama, and random romance. I recommend this movie if you have trouble sleeping, high blood pressure, or a short temper. It will calm you down no end. Put it on mute to spare yourself the ludicrous dialogue. Sample line: Some people are afraid of the void.
The Art of Flying (2015)
A religious experience
I used to think of myself as of an agnostic. Now that I've seen this film, I'm not so sure. It blew my mind. Is it conceivable that the natural phenomenon captured in this film is the result of cosmic coincidence and random mutations? If it is, we should give chance more credit. Perhaps we should stop building cathedrals and start building monuments to chance. How about a giant roulette wheel in a crater, or a pair of dice the size of the pyramids? In any case, this magnificent film is a religious experience. Make sure you see it on the biggest screen you can find. Compliments to director Jan van Ijken for letting nature speak for itself. A lesser filmmaker would have added clever voice-over or cheesy music.
Hounds of Love (2016)
Disturbing, but well-made
This is a well-made movie, but it's hard to watch. It isn't overly graphic, but the story is so gruesome that I was on the brink of walking out twice. I stayed because I liked the use of slow motion during the establishing shots and the fine performance by Emma Booth as the killer's accomplice. If you have teenage kids, you might still want to steer clear of this one.
Going to the dogs
I liked Bitch because the story unfolds from such a simple premise: When it all gets too much for a mother of four, she takes herself out of the equation. We don't know whether she is making a conscious choice or suffering from a rare disease of the mind. All we know is that her workaholic husband now has to do without her. It doesn't go well, at least not initially. Bitch is not the world's deepest movie, but it's an entertaining lesson about the effort it takes to keep a family together.
Tightly scripted thriller
There are only three characters in this movie, and they are all interesting: a guy with no memory, a shady loner, and a girl on the run. There is no telling who you can trust. We don't know whether these people are who they say they are, or what they are up to. Are they really as clueless as they appear? Are they trying to deceive each other about their identities and their intentions, or is the movie trying to deceive us? You will find yourself on the edge of your seat all the way to the end. It's a twisted mix of thriller and tragedy, with a zest of science fiction thrown in, although even that is open to debate. In any case, this is one lean machine of a movie. The writers give us next to no context and only the vaguest sense of place and time. Everything you see and hear drives the plot. Don't miss it.
The Killer Inside Me (2010)
The life of Deputy Ford (Casey Affleck) is governed by the paradox of inquiry as described by St. Augustine: As long as you don't ask him why he's doing what he's doing, he knows exactly why. He simply does what needs to be done. But as soon you ask for his reasons, he has no clue. Why care? The issue is that what he mainly does is harm. Most of the time, Jessica Alba's character Joyce is at the receiving end of his temper. She kind of likes it initially, but she senses he won't stop at spanking her. Kate Hudson's part has even less perspective. Her modest assignment is to stick around long enough to get killed. Michael Winterbottom tells a savage story, but he tells it in style. He got a lot of boos at the Berlin Film Festival for the graphic violence, but I don't see how he could have told Lou Ford's story in a PG version. Fabulous opening credits by the way.
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
More C.S.Lewis than Lewis Carroll
Your kids may like it, but parents, stay away. While the book this is based on was more than a children's book, very few grown-ups will enjoy the movie. Although it's very colorful and rich in cute details, the story it tells is beyond boring. In Tim Burton's version, Alice is closer to C.S.Lewis' messianic tales than to the wit and subtle sauciness of Lewis Carroll's imagination. Mia Wasikowska, in the title role, is pretty, but entirely lifeless, not to mention her ludicrous accent. Johnny Depp has saved many mediocre movies, but even he can't sail a sinking ship. While he made "Pirates of the Caribbean" worth my while, he couldn't save the "Chocolate Factory", and he won't save "Alice" either. Whatever Tim Burton touches, it comes out sickly sweet. If Lewis Carroll were alive today, and making movies, he'd be directing something like "Resident Evil" instead. It's the story of Alice going under ground, after all. I can't wait for "Afterlife". Can you?
Frozen in motion
Conceptually, "Universalove" is a lot like "Night on Earth", but with only about one tenth the dialog and not much more coherence. Until about half-way through the movie, you don't know what's going on in any of its six episodes, and you don't really care about the characters either. This is mostly due to the fact that the episodes are broken down into tiny segments, each of which only reveals a fraction of the respective story. My favorite is the one about the Brazilian girl who accidentally gets run over by the soap opera star she adores. To console her, he takes her along to the set of the show, where her illusions are promptly shattered. Chances are there's something for everybody in this movie, but don't expect a lasting impression. - Very nice soundtrack, by Austrian outfit Naked Lunch.
Giulias Verschwinden (2009)
Golden girls and golden sneakers
For some reason, I had made up my mind not to enjoy this movie, but I did. Especially the segment about the teenage shoplifter and her brawling parents is so involving they should have a movie of their own. Mr. Suter, if you're reading this, what about a spin-off on what the future holds for Jessica and Vince? The two other main plot lines, about Giulia's 50th and Leonie's 80th birthday, are more subtle, but not nearly as intriguing as the family feud. Sunnyi Melles, however, puts in a radiant guest appearance as a glamorous gate crasher at Giulia's party. She's the real deal. In the golden days of Hollywood, she would have been up there with Jean Harlow.
She cheats, she lies, she leaves her family. You'd have every right to hate Suzanne, yet you don't. The one you hate is her self-righteous husband. It's nothing short of a miracle how Kristin Scott-Thomas and Yvan Attal pull it off. Admittedly, the script makes sure her betrayal brings out the worst in him, but I doubt you would take her side so easily if you read about it in a novel. It rings so true because writer-director Catherine Corsini works with a fine script and a first-rate cast. The way Sam cuts Suzanne off from the family fortune may be stretching the facts of civil law a tad, but it goes to show that there's no equality without economic independence. Despite its strong social message, the movie keeps you on the edge of your seat like a thriller. Take your family.
The Ghost Writer (2010)
Promising setup that amounts to nothing much
Ewan McGregor, as the ghost, and Olivia Williams, as his client's wife, have real chemistry, which makes the time they spend at the beach house exciting and intensive. While he manages to come across as boyish and grown-up, clever and confused at the same time, she is very hot in her own very cool sort of way. Unfortunately, everything else pales by comparison with this half-hour stretch of attraction and adultery: The seen-before thriller plot Polanski himself seems bored with. Pierce Brosnan, whose half-dozen scenes amount to little more than a guest appearance. Even Kim Cattrall, in her first serious screen appearance since "The Devil and Daniel Webster", is little more than (admittedly classy) decoration. Overall, the tedious bits outweigh the thrilling bits, which is why this is only a five out of ten for me despite its obvious production value.
Snakes and sinners
Kinski is acting as if he hadn't read the script, or as if there was no script to begin with. His character Daniel Shore is the only link between two different plot lines, set in Marocco and Germany respectively. While there are some surface similarities between the two stories, it's hard to figure out what's going on, let alone what the actual sequence of events may be. As a result, the whole movie has a dreamy, semi-conscious quality. While that's probably off-putting for most viewers, I think it's actually an accomplishment. If you consider a certain kind of confusion a valuable experience, you will enjoy this. But if you look for straightforward storytelling, it will probably feel like a waste of time. Although David Lynch obviously plays in a league of his own, "Daniel Shore" reminded me of "Lost Highway" in some respects. It's a very promising first feature. I hope this well won't run dry any time soon.
The Wolfman (2010)
From mansion to madhouse and back again
What's not to like about enigmatic Benicio del Toro, geared up as a 19th century nobleman, going berserk? Hugo Weaving, as hard-headed Scotland Yard detective Frederick Abberline, makes a deserving adversary. Even Anthony Hopkins, as the mother hen, didn't bother me as much as he usually does. The plot itself is very by the book, but it feels smooth and stylish all the way to the (entirely predictable) ending. Costumes and sets are attractions in themselves, but that doesn't come as a surprise if you know that production designer Rick Heinrichs also worked on "The Big Lebowski", "Sleepy Hollow", and "Pirates of the Caribbean". Guest appearance by Geraldine Chaplin as a gypsy witch.
Valentine's Day (2010)
It poses as a dating movie, but it's really a girl power parade. Anne Hathaway is beyond hot, talking dirty as an adult phone entertainer on "Naughty Nymphos". While her character's heart may not be in it, hers obviously is. Then there's hard-bodied Jessica Biel, taking calls while working out. No doubt she could break your heart with her bare hands. I bet her biceps got its own trailer. But the main attraction is Jennifer Garner as Julia, madly in love with a charming surgeon who says he is divorced. Then she finds out about his wife, and goes duly berserk on a heart-shaped pink piñata the size of Texas. By the time she's done swinging her black baseball bat, there's not a whole lot of love left in the room. Charming guest appearances by Julia Roberts as a soldier on leave, and by Emma Roberts as her daughter. Taylor Swift, however, shouldn't quit her day job.
Het echte leven (2008)
The camera doesn't lie
This was the most fun I've had in a movie in a really long time. It's very clever, but it's not in your face about its cleverness at all. Rather, it sort of creeps up on you. It's a movie about a fictitious movie maker, but the (equally fictitious) private lives of the cast and crew quickly get tangled up with the plot. The story revolves around a love triangle riddled with seduction, suspicion, jealousy, and betrayal. The whole thing has an experimental feel to it, yet everything is superbly lit and shot, with a fair amount of hand-held camera-work and lots of stunning close-ups. But you don't have to be a Cahiers Du Cinéma subscriber to see the merits of a brown-eyed blonde beauty in Barbarella boots riding her bicycle around the streets of sunny Amsterdam, with a million dollar smile on her face. Sallie Harmsen, who plays the director's girlfriend Simone, has real star power. She could easily be the next Rebecca Romijn.
10 Sekunden (2008)
Mayday, mayday, the plot got tangled up!
The director clearly couldn't make up his mind whether to please his co-producers and churn out a conventional made-for-TV movie, or whether to impress his film school buddies with a postmodern patchwork of plot lines and perspectives. To make things worse, the script is based on a true story, but it doesn't *tell* that story, and even if you are a close follower of the air traffic control scene, chances are you won't know what's going on. I'll give it 5 of 10 anyway, on the grounds of a single memorable scene: Marie Bäumer's character Franziska has just lost her husband. She's on the phone with her secret long-time lover to arrange a consolatory rendezvous as her mother-in-law walks in. Time itself seems suspended for a split second. She could simply hang up and play the grieving widow. Or maybe not. Suffice it to say Franziska takes a dramatic decision that will define who she is once and for all. Judge for yourself, but that scene made my day.
Up in the Air (2009)
Slightly brighter than the rest
This is a very old school movie, and the world won't stop turning if you don't see it. Then again, many of you would never think of missing it, simply because you're fans of George Clooney. But let me give you three (and a half) reasons to go see it even if you're not.
One. Although you think you see it coming, there is no cheap happy ending.
Two. There is an enchanting guest appearance by Sam Elliott as a veteran airman.
Three. The very last scene, with the clouds rushing by underneath, is truly magical.
Three and a half. Like it or not, Clooney really is a pretty cool cat.
Burning down the barn
Unassuming little movie about a sad man who has trouble fitting in, no matter where he goes. Leaving a trail of smoking shacks and burning barns, Jomar is headed north on his snow mobile to seek out his son. He doesn't always travel in a straight line, but who said you have to? On the way, he meets his share of strangers, some of them friendly, others not so friendly. But then, Jomar isn't the most easy-going of visitors himself. You might say he is on an educational journey, but the lessons aren't all that clear. Among other things, he finds out about a unique way to get drunk that involves a razor, a patch of sandpaper, and a tampon. He also learns about the ancient art of springtime suicide as practiced by the tribal elders of Troms County. Cheating death more than once in the unforgiving wilderness of Northern Norway, he is finally given back to life. - Nice, eclectic soundtrack with some rare roots tracks.
The Apostle (1997)
Are you ready?
Like all earthly endeavors, "The Apostle" is unfinished and patchy in places. But imperfect as it may be, it's one of the most intriguing movies of its kind. On one level, it's a road movie, but it is also a character study and a rites of passion tale. Sonny Dewey, the Apostle, was born ready, but the beginning of his final run as a missionary has its end written all over it. He is a saint in the body of a sinner, and as a preacher, he is simply too good at what he does for his own good. It's easy to see how this movie was a matter of the heart for writer-director-actor Robert Duvall. The storytelling, the setting, and the camera work all have a timeless quality. But it's Duvall's drastic performance that keep your eyes locked on the screen. The bible may praise those who do not see and still believe. But in the case of this fine movie, seeing is believing.
Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Guy Ritchie thinks he's so cool
If you go see this one, I suggest you arrive early. I found the cobblestone pavement morphed to look like production company logos during the opening credits to be this movie's strongest feature. There are also some nice in-scene flashbacks. When Sherlock Holmes is sharing the results of his investigations, we actually see him snooping around in fast forward, rather than hear him talking about it. At other times, the action flashes forward in slow motion as Sherlock premeditates his martial art moves before he actually strikes in real time. Not that you haven't seen this before. In general, the movie is surprisingly uneventful for all its high-paced action. Both director Guy Ritchie and his leading man Robert Downey are trying hard to portray Sherlock Holmes as a Victorian James Bond, neglecting some of the more sombre facets of the character. Robert Downey and Rachel McAdams do make a handsome enough couple, but there's too much tinsel for their liaison to go anywhere. Jude Law, as Dr. Watson, is his usual ridiculous self.
There's nothing here that you haven't seen ten years ago, and better, in "Matrix" or "Existenz". Add two measures of "Terminator" and one of "Minority Report", and you've got "Surrogates". The plot is all quick fix with no substance. In one scene, cutting off human operators from their surrogates makes them freeze in mid-motion. In another scene, the surrogates keep walking unimpaired even after the connection is severed. This may seem like a minor glitch, but it turns out that this is exactly what the movie is supposed to be all about. Tough luck. The fine cast gets next to no chance to explore the conflict between real life and surrogate life, and seems wasted on the script. The one interesting, if unintentional twist is the fact that human extras are playing robots playing humans.
Mind control isn't what it used to be
This movie doesn't trust its own story. It just heaps images on images and effects on effects. To make things worse, there is not even a consistent visual style. Movies like William Harrison's "Rollerball", Daniel Minahan's "Series 7", Mamoru Oshii's "Avalon", or Kathryn Bigelow's "Strange Days" provide a much more substantial and coherent view of what happens when virtual reality and real-life commercial interests collide. Having said that, there's nothing wrong with Amber Valetta's shapely behind displayed in bikini bottoms, although I think she has more class than the makers of "Gamer" can handle. They have her play a first-person prostitute, renting out her body as a remote-controlled avatar made of flesh and blood. The other reason to go see the movie anyway is Michael Hall's eerie performance of "I've got you under my skin" with a chorus line of cybernetic ghouls dancing along. But that's only 2 minutes out of 95, and I think most people won't find it worth the wait.
They can work it out
There are no surprises in this movie. You get what you pay for: Hugh Grant pulling faces and acting clumsy, Sarah Jessica Parker sleeping in a wonder bra and hating life away from the city, Sam Elliott keeping his cool and throwing horseshoes at the mob. If you liked "The Proposal", "Sweet Home Alabama", or pretty much any recent Hugh Grant movie, this is for you. Cute guest appearance by Kim Shaw in the triple part of the small town doctor's nurse, diner waitress, and deputy fire chief. If you need some assistance to get into the mood, a fine soundtrack including Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, Buddy Holly and Stevie Wonder will help you along.