Friday, January 31, 2014

Happy Lunar New Year!

Happy Lunar New Year! This is now the year of the Horse.  Not that I needed an excuse to use more My Little Pony gifs.

As for my goal of watching 40 films from 40 different countries, here is my progress so far:
  1. Germany - Cherry Blossoms (Kirschblüten - Hanami)
  2. The Netherlands - Spoorloos (The Vanishing)
  3. France - Le salaire de le peur (The Wages of Fear)
  4. Australia - Strictly Ballroom
  5. Hungary - Macskafogó (Cat City)
  6. Italy - Nuovo Cinema Paradiso
  7. Czech Republic - Kolja
  8. Belgium - Le gamin au vélo (The Kid with a Bike)
  9. Sweden - Såsom i en spegel (Through a Glass Darkly)
  10. Poland - Dekalog (The Ten Commandments)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dekalog (The Ten Commandments) (1989)

First off, this is not a movie. This is actually a TV miniseries. But it's on the list, so I'll review it.  This is actually a ten-part miniseries that aired in the '80s.  This gives me an idea.  Maybe I will find other interesting miniseries and share them.  I am going to break each part into its own mini-review.  It should be noted that I watched each episode on a different day.  I am giving this an 8/10.  It's getting a higher rating based on the sheer effort it took to make all these stories.

1st story.

Here we see a father and son who are good at computers. The young son has questions about life and death, and wonders about the existence of a soul. The father does not believe in souls, but, of course, that's not good enough. His sister enrolls his son in Bible school behind his back. Then, of course the son does something stupid and ice skates by himself. He falls through the thin ice and dies.  What did we learn? Always have a buddy if you are going ice skating, swimming, or surfing. It's all about safety.

2nd story

This one just seemed to drag on forever.  A woman's husband is supposedly dying in a hospital.  She asks the doctor what his prognosis is because she's pregnant by another man and wants to know if she should get an abortion or not.  The doctor tells her he doesn't know his prognosis yet.  The woman goes ahead and schedules one and calls her lover to tell him she's going to do it.  He doesn't like this idea because without the connection of a baby, he knows she will leave him.  So she sleeps behind her dying husband's back and tries to destroy the evidence.  You know, the father of the baby has a right to his opinion too.  She goes to the doctor and tells him she's scheduled an abortion. The doctor flat out tells her not to do it.  THen, later that night, her husband wakes up and is fine.  His disease looks gone.  He walks to the doctor's office, who doesn't look surprised at all, and tells him that he is going to have a baby and is happy.

3rd story

This was the weakest one I have seen so far. A lonely lady on Christmas gets the married man she sleeps around with to drive her around town under the guise of looking for her husband, while in reality he's living somewhere else.  She lied to avoid being lonely on Christmas and dragged a man away from his wife and kids.  Well it's his own fault for sleeping with her in the first place.

4th story

Here's the fourth episode, which is Honor Thy Father and Mother.  A girl reads a letter from her deceased mother that confesses that the man who has raised her her entire life is not her biological father.  And then she tells him that she has feelings for him!  And she takes her shirt off!  Then it turns out she made the whole thing up, so they burn the real letter and pretend nothing happened! What?! Why do I watch these so late at night?  How am I supposed to go to sleep now? That is straight messed up.

5th story

This story is the director's opinion that the death penalty is wrong.  However, we need to keep serial killers off the street, and I don't want my tax dollars going to feed them, clothe them, give them shelter and free medical care when there are hungry children and homeless people who never did anything wrong.

6th story

This one was tense from beginning to end.  A lonely teenager spies on a thirtysomething year old woman from his apartment window.  He works at a post office and sends fake messages to get her to come to his work.  He even gets another job delivering milk so he has another excuse to see her.  Eventually he admits to her he's been spying and loves her.  At first she is angry but takes advantage of his spying to ask him on a date.  It is obvious that she does not believe in love but has sex purely out of lust.  She invites him to her apartment and taunts him.  He gets so upset that he runs back home.  He cuts his own wrists, but his friend's mother, who he's living with, finds him.  So he goes to the hospital and will be okay.  The woman is very apologetic and never meant for this to happen.  She continually checks the hospital and his work to see if he's been discharged.  So, she does care about him.  Is she starting to believe in love?  Don't worry, he is physically okay.  And yet, the ending is very open.

7th story

A 16-year-old has a baby, and her mother raises it as her own.  Now, she is 22 and still just as immature, living at home.  She takes the child and intends on taking her to Canada with her.  The father of the baby shows that he doesn't want to take care of her, so she runs off into the woods.  Her parents find her in a train station, and the child runs to the mother and hugs her.  The girl runs and jumps onto a nearby train, abandoning her child.  Guess she still wasn't mature enough to be a mother after all.

8th story

This story concerns a Polish/English translator who visits a professor to translate her books.  The professor asks her to sit in on one of her classes.  During her class, she tells her students that the welfare of a child is the most important thing.  The translator's bullshit meter goes off and tells a story.  The story is of a Jewish girl who was set to stay with a Catholic couple during WWII for protection.  At the last minute, the couple turns her away because they're afraid of what might happen if they're caught.  The professor realizes that she's talking about her, and she's ashamed of what she did.  They talk afterwards and the professor tells her that she's always thought about her, and realized that children are the most important thing and that she should not have turned her away.  She learned from experience and became a better person because of it.  Meanwhile, the translator held a grudge against her her entire life and gained nothing because of it.

9th story

A man discovers that he can no longer have sex, and encourages his wife to find someone else.  When she does, he spies on them and then runs his damn bike off the road.  What the hell.

10th story

Here is the final story. A man dies with seemingly nothing but a collection of stamps.  His sons find out that the stamps are worth millions, but are told not to sell them, because they are their father's life work, and it would be disrespectful.  Meanwhile the sons get so obsessed with completing the collection that one of them trades a kidney for it.  Then, their stamps are stolen! I think the stamp collectors stole it because they knew the father had a huge collection and who else would know the value of them?  The sons should have kept them in a safe or in a safety deposit box in a bank, not laying around in an empty house.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Såsom i en spegel (Through a Glass Darkly) 1961

This morning my daughter woke me up by spilling cold milk all over my shoulders and chest, then cried that her cup was empty.  I told her, "Don't cry over spilled milk" and she did not find that funny.

Today's film is the 9th foreign film of the year, and it's from Sweden. Today's film is Såsom i en spegel (Through a Glass Darkly).  It is dark and moody and has a constant sense of isolation.  It takes place mostly on an island devoid of modern comforts.  The characters are Karin, her husband, David, her little brother, Minus, and thier dad.

Their dad has just gotten home from a trip, and based on the terrible gifts he gets them, we can tell he's out of touch with his family.  Karin has returned from a stint in a mental hospital, and her condition may be getting worse over time.  Minus has his own issues, especially since he is finding himself not attracted to women.

Even though her family is supportive, Karin is finding her condition getting worse.  She hears voices and has hallucinations.  She believes that their are people in her attic waiting for God in the crack in the wall.  After sexually assaulting her own brother in the abandoned ship nearby, she returns to the attic.  Suddenly, god appears to her and it turns out that it's a giant spider that attacks her.

Part of me wanted to see the giant spider come at her, but that would require special effects that did not exist at the time.  Also, the spider isn't real; it's in her mind.  It wouldn't have the same effect on us if we could see it.  It's only terrifying to her, because her reality is different from ours.  Later, a helicopter picks her up and takes her to the hospital.  She has a lot of issues to work out.  I will give this film a 7/10.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Le gamin au vélo (The Kid with a Bike) (2011)

Today's film is Le gamin au vélo (The Kid with a Bike).  It's my first film from Belgium, and I have to say, I'm not very impressed.  The story appears to be no different than a Lifetime Original Movie.  The story is okay but predictable, but the acting is great.

The kid with a bike is Cyril, who lives in a group home and has not heard from his dad, his only living relative, for a month.  He goes out of his way to find his dad's apartment to see where he could have gone, and also to retrieve his bike, which is his prized possession.  He runs into a hairdresser while doing this, and she finds out where the bike is.  His dad sold it to someone else, and she bought it off him.  The hairdresser, Samantha, goes to the group home to give the bike to Cyril.  He asks her if she could be his foster family for the weekends.  She agrees and everything goes well.

However, he's still determined to find his dad.  Samantha tracks down his address and they find out where he works.  Cyril wants to go at that moment so they head over to the restaurant where he's prepping for lunch.  It is clear that Cyril's father doesn't want him around, even for a visit.  He confesses to Samantha that now that he's the only one left to take care of Cyril, he wants to start over in a new life and that doesn't include Cyril at all.  Cyril has a really hard time taking this and I don't blame him.

Soon Cyril becomes manipulated by a young local drug dealer to help him rob somebody.  Cyril agrees to help him by knocking the victim out with a bat and robbing him.  He goes out against Samantha's wishes and completely ignores everything she's done for him to help someone who doesn't care.  Cyril gets caught and gets punished and has to repay what he stole, and apologizes to the man he hit.  The man's son, who he also hit with a bat, won't accept his apology.  The son chases him down and Cyril climbs a tree to get away from him.  Cyril falls out of the tree and is unconscious for a good while.  The men he hit discuss how to deal with his body when Cyril just up and walks away without a scratch.  The movie just ends right there.  Not only does he take Samantha for granted when she's the only person to take him in, he obeys a greasy drug dealer without question.  He needs to learn how to be grateful because he's an entitled brat.  He feels that he deserves his bike, he can leave her house through a window even though he's not supposed to go out at night, and doesn't respect her at all.  He even got her boyfriend to leave her.

There's nothing inherently bad about this movie at all.  There's just nothing great either, nothing that grabs my attention and leads me to believe that I absolutely have to see this before I die.  I will give this film a 7/10.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Kolja (1996)

Today's film is Kolja (or Kolya in some areas).  It's from the Czech Republic, and is a very sweet film.  It's about a cello player named Franta Louka, who totally looks like Sean Connery. After being let go from the philharmonic orchestra, he does odd jobs, including playing where he can, to make money.  His friend tells him about having a fake marriage so this Russian woman can have Czech papers so she won't be deported.  At first he's totally against it because it's a terrible and also illegal idea.  They don't even speak the same language.  She also has a five year old son, Kolja, and he has no idea how to interact with a child.

Right after she gets her papers, she goes to West Germany and leaves Kolja behind in the care of a relative.  Problem is, she's there to stay.  The relative suffers a stroke and Kolja is brought to Louka's house.  His friend convinces him to let him stay because it would look good for him to take care of his wife's child and the police are now suspicious of their fake marriage.

Despite being a confirmed bachelor, since he beleives that he can't have a musical career with a family, Louka proves to be a caring stepdad.  It's a challenge, mainly because they don't speak the same language.  However, Kolja is a good listener and picks up on the language quickly.  At night, Louka calls his friend, a Russian language teacher, to tell Kolya bedtime stories in his language.

Soon, the Russians leave the area for good, meaning Louka is no longer in danger from police.  Kolja's mom returns to pick him up.  But by this time, Kolja and Louka have bonded and are sad to see each other go.  This film is very sweet and everyone should see it.  I'm giving it an 8/10.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sleeping Beauty (1959)

I'm excited about this animated feature, and my daughter is especially excited! Today's animated feature is Sleeping Beauty.  Sleeping Beauty's name is Aurora, she has blonde hair, and wears a pink dress.  Because of these two reasons, her favorite doll is Aurora and she carried it around with her everywhere without even knowing what movie she was from.  So we watched it and the dragon scared her so badly she had night terrors for two straight weeks.  She recently wanted to watch it again and I'm like "Are you sure?" But she wasn't scared this time and really liked this movie.

If you compare this movie to earlier Disney princess films, Cinderella and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, it's not as good, animation wise or story wise.  However, I liked that it heavily took from the ballet instead of just the fairy tale.  When Aurora is dancing in the forest, her movements are very fluid and ballerina-esque.  The drawing style of the people and their costumes has a medieval feel to invoke the times. The melodies of the songs are also taken directly from the ballet.

In the original story, there are 13 fairies, but in this movie there are only 4: Merriweather, Fauna, Flora, and Maleficent.  The king and queen do not invite Maleficent to their daughter's party because she's evil.  Feeling snubbed, she curses the baby with death - specifically, before her 16th birthday ends she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die.  The three good fairies take the baby into hiding and raise them as their own, without any help from magic.  Does this mean the fairies aren't really needed?  They were gone for 16 entire years and no one even noticed.  And as we learn during their preparations for her birthday party, even after 16 years they haven't mastered life without magic.  If they have no idea how to sew a dress, where did their outfits and Aurora's outfits come from?  Babies and toddlers need lots of clothes because they get dirty.  They couldn't have gone 16 years without learning how to sew or cook.

And why couldn't Maleficent find her?  You expect me to believe she's the most evil fairy with the most powerful magic and she can't even find one girl in her own backyard?  The dragon is cool, yes, everyone I know loves that dragon.  But she gets killed way too easily.

Although Princess Aurora is most associated with her pink dress, she doesn't wear it until the very end of the movie.  Most of the time it's blue (because the two fairies fight over what color it should be).  She wears pink in the parks to differentiate herself from Cinderella, who also wears blue.  This way, kids can associate the princess with a certain color dress.  This also explains why Ariel wears a sea-green dress that she never wore in the movie.

Even though Sleeping Beauty is not the best of the princess films, it has the most memorable villain. I will give this film a 6/10.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Raging Bull (1980)

Today's film is Raging Bull.  I did not know it was a true story until I watched it.  I was curious so I did some research.  It turns out that all the fights were pretty accurate.  The parts of the film I really liked were the cinematography and the sound.  The shadows and angles of the black and white film were very effective.  It did give it sort of a nostalgic feel since the movie takes place in the 1940s and 50s.

I did not like any of the characters in this film.  I thought the main three characters: Jake, his brother Joey, and wife Vickie all did exceptional jobs acting.  Joe Pesci as Joey did a great job because I have seen him in lots of films but he was really giving it his all during this one.
It doesn't matter how many fights Jake won, I have no respect for him.  He has a severe anger and jealousy problem and he takes it out on anyone he can.  He also makes out with underage girls and then beats his wife because he thinks she's cheating on him.  In reality he's cheating on her but it's all mixed up in his mind.  He doesn't feel that he's at fault.  Even when he is arrested for endangering an underage girl, he still maintains his innocence.  All he cares about is his weight and he doesn't ever eat anything healthy and hardly works out.  Just watches tv on a cheap antenna set that barely works and then goes out drinking.  Robert Deniro actually put on 60 pounds in order to play the older, fatter Jake.  That is dedication.  Jake is just a fatass wife-beater.

It took her a long time to do it, but Vickie finally left Jake.  I was happy, yet he still bothered her sometimes.  One thing I liked was the make-up jobs of everyone.  Even though it was black and white, the bruises and injuries of the characters looked realistic.  I will give this film a 7/10.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Blonde Cobra (1963)

Time for us to enjoy yet another intriguing short, and this time it's Blonde Cobra.  Well, let's see.  My daughter/co-film critic is blonde, and I love snakes.  They're so cool.  This should be great.

Well nope.  Why do I have to watch all these shorts, they're so weird! Nothing happens in this movie, nothing! Half the time the screen is blank!  If I wanted to hear unfunny nonsense with no pictures I'd listen to the morning radio show!

I could have taken a hot 30 minute shower instead and gotten more out of life.  I fail to see how this is art, and it's definitely not a film.  I will give this film a 1/10. I believe that art is something that time and effort have been put into, and this is not it.  I realize that many foods are more artsy than this film, especially sushi.  So instead of getting upset at this terrible film, please enjoy these pictures of beautiful sushi:

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Vinyl (1965)

Today's film is Vinyl by Andy Warhol, the artist that paints soup cans.  According to my research, he made 70 films (including shorts) in his lifetime.  It is supposedly based on the book A Clockwork Orange but I wouldn't know it if I wasn't told.

About A Clockwork Orange: I tried reading it once, couldn't figure it out, and gave up.  I have seen Stanley Kubrick's version a few times, but let me tell you something.  I hate Stanley Kubrick. He destroyed The Shining, which was a terrifying book, and I will not forgive him for that.

The first four minutes are nothing but James Franco pumping iron while some woman smokes in the background. Then something happens at the top of the screen but I don't know what because no one bothered to move the camera.  James Franco then proceeds to read something off screen for a while and it's obvious this is the first time he has ever read it.

Then, he dances for a while.  Really terrible white guy dancing.  I imagine this is how my dad danced in high school.

This is what I really think: I think that a group of people at a party decided to put on a play, and agreed on A Clockwork Orange because they had to read it in high school but vaguely remember it.  Since it's a small apartment, the other partygoers sit around and drink and smoke but remain in the picture.  Somehow Andy Warhol was there to film it but didn't know how to move the camera.  Then some critics watched it while high and decided to make us watch it to complete a list so we could feel their pain.  I feel like I was trolled. There is no way I can take this "film" seriously.  I will give this film a 2/10.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (1988)

Today's film is Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, also known as simply Cinema Paradiso.  It is a simple and touching film.  It is a film I can recommend for the whole family.

It is told as a huge flashback as the older adult Salvatore "Toto" Di Vita remembers his life in a small town after having been gone for 30 years.  Even after he became a famous filmmakers, he still didn't bother to return home to visit his mother and sister.  He only comes back after learning that Alfredo has died.  We spend the rest of the film learning who Alfredo is and how he changed's Toto's life.

It starts off with Toto as a child.  He is an altar boy in the church, and the priest thinks it's his job to censor out all the films that come to town.  The priest watches films alone in the cinema (called Cinema Paradiso) and every time he sees a kissing scene, he becomes disgusted and rings a bell.  The projectionist now knows where to cut the film so that scene disappears.  Toto runs up to the projection booth and meets the projectionist, Alfredo.  At first, he is annoyed at having a kid there, but eventually he lets him stay after watching him start up the projector and realizing he learned it just by watching.  Over time, Alfredo becomes a father figure to Toto.

One day, the projection booth catches on fire and Toto is the only one who runs up to save him.  He does his best to drag Alfredo down the stairs, but he has significant burn injuries and loses his sight.  Also, the cinema is destroyed.  Luckily, a resident has just won the lottery and uses the funds to build a new cinema, called Nuovo Cinema Paradiso.  Toto is put in charge of running the projector since Alfredo can no longer see.  Toto also becomes interested in making films, and Alfredo encourages his dreams.

As a teenager, Toto falls in love at first sight with Elena.  She likes him, but her family moves away and he never hears from her again.  As an adult, he has had many girlfriends, but no one that he really loves.  I don't believe that.  I don't believe that if you miss an opportunity for love at 17 or 18 it's gone forever.  If that were true nobody would ever get remarried.

Alfredo tells Toto to leave town and to never ever come back.  If he comes back, he'll be trapped in this cage known as small town life and never achieve his dreams.  Alfredo can see greatness in Toto and knows that he has to leave.  He does, and becomes a successful filmmaker.  Toto only comes back to go to Alfredo's funeral and unfortunately has to watch the destruction of the Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, which was abandoned because people don't watch films the way they used to.  There was too much competition from tv and the cinema couldn't keep up.  Alfredo leaves Toto once last gift, a box of film.  As Toto watches it, he realizes that he saved all the kissing scenes that the priest forbade.  It meant a lot to Toto that he went through so much trouble and was still thinking about him even after he was gone.  I will give this film an 9/10.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Macskafogó (Cat City) (1986)

Today's film is an animated feature from Hungary called Macskafogó (Cat City).

In this world, cats and mice live together in large cities.  The main cities are run by mice and the cats are gangsters who rob and kill them.  Even though this is not Earth, it's laid out exactly the same way and each land has the same cultures.  A secret agent is sent to "Pokyo" (mouse version of Tokyo) to bring back plans of a weapon guaranteed to stop the cats.  The evil cats catch wind of this and hire rats to follow him to steal the plans.

It's part dramatic adventure and part comedy.  I have heard that a lot of the comedy is lost in translation.  Most of the jokes are language jokes and puns in Hungarian that will not translate into English.  Puns can't translate from one language to another because of their nature.  Even without the jokes, I still enjoyed watching this.  It reminded me of Rescue Rangers or any other Saturday morning cartoon.  Yes, some of the scenes are more adult but there is nothing explicit.

The rats are remarkably stupid and the agent has an easy time of tricking them.  However, the cats are waiting in Pokyo to take the plans.  There is a side plot of a cop called Billy Bugle who flies to Pokyo to play his trumpet.  His plan crashes in the jungle and he travels through it until he meets some bats.  The bats are Mexican and their wings are ponchos.  There are a lot of stereotypes in this movie but it's supposed to because it's a spoof.  It spoofs action films, adventure films and American films in general, mainly the James Bond series.  I thought it was pretty funny.  I will give it an 8/10.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Strictly Ballroom (1992)

Today's film is Strictly Ballroom and it comes to us from Australia.  It's not hilarious but it does have a certain kind of dry humor to it.  It reminds me of Best in Show, a mockumentary about dog show participants, except instead of a documentary type story, we get a drama.

Strictly Ballroom focuses on the lives of amateur competitive ballroom dancers.  They wear over the top, glamorous costumes, and perform carefully choreographed dances to a roomful of people.  The particular contest we are concerned we is the Pan Pacific Championships and our main character, Scott, has been groomed to win this since he was six years old.  When people like that devote so much time to a passion, they can get super serious about it.  I mean like way too serious.

I get asked to help with conventions often, and one time I worked with a convention for model plane enthusiasts.  These people all made their own models, brought them in, showed them off, bought new models, etc.  They were all incredibly proud of their model planes and couldn't wait to make another.  That may seem odd but it's their hobby and they're very much into it and our hobbies probably sound weird to them.  That's what I thought of when I watched this film.  The dancers have everyday jobs, for example, the best dancer retires so he can devote more time to his landscaping business.  It doesn't matter what their job is because during the dance they are a star.  They must feel great during it.

The actual story is below average entertaining and a 1000% predictable.  Scott gets dumped by his partner right before the competition and scrambles to find another.  Enter the pimply awkward girl who can't dance and all of a sudden now she can.  It even has the old "remove glasses from awkward girl and get insta-hottie" rule apply here.  Also all of her skin problems vanish now that she's glasses-free and more fashionable.  Her dad and grandmother are both good dancers and teach Scott how to use the rhythm in his heart and not just rely on his memorized steps.  The whole point is that he doesn't want to only use certain steps in his dance and wants to create his own.  They then proceed to do a very traditional dance.  It ends with everyone including the audience joining them on the floor in a massive group dance.  Nobody wins because it was rigged anyway.  Interestingly, this scene was filmed during an actual dance competition while the dancers were at lunch.  This film was okay but I wouldn't ever watch it again.  I'll give it a 6/10.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Le salaire de la peur (The Wages of Fear) (1953)

Today's film is The Wages of Fear.  It wasn't necessarily what I would call thrilling, but it was definitely tense.  It starts off in a town in South America people of all nationalities gather and basically do nothing.  Our main characters are either from France or Italy.  It makes me wonder how they all got to this town, whether or not they had jobs and lost them, or anything about their past really.

The first part of the film lets us get to know the main characters, the four drivers of the two trucks.  They are all immigrants to this country with no real job, except Luigi who works with concrete.  Learning that he job is contributing to some serious health issues, he agrees to go along as well.  His driving partner is Bimba.  The other truck drivers are Mario, the main guy who arrives as the sole driver and successfully delivers the nitro to the oil field.  His partner is Jo, who appears to be in charge but is really a worrisome guy.

A faroff oil well is on fire, and they need nitro to blow it out.  Why?  Because the explosion will eat up all the oxygen around the oil well, and fire needs oxygen to burn.  A big problem is that nitroglycerin is very sensitive to shock, meaning a bump can set it off in a huge explosion, and over time it becomes more unstable, making it more dangerous.  The oil field near the town has some it can deliver, but doesn't have any safety equipment to go with it.  Question: Why would they even have nitro without safety equipment to transport it?  Wouldn't it make sense to keep some on hand just in case?

The boss hires four men, who they call tramps because they don't have regular jobs, because they are not union nor do they have any family that would expect retribution if they are killed.  Each man knows how dangerous this work is.  Did anyone else notice that one truck had Mario and the other had Luigi?

Some moments are especially tense.  There is a giant boulder blocking the path of the trucks, so Bimba decides to blow it up with a bit of the nitro.  It works, spectacularly, and I worried that the rocks from the hillside might tumble down and hit the trucks.  But they didn't.

Even though we don't see exactly what happens, we see that in the distance there was an explosion.  Somehow traveling while driving through a huge puddle, Luigi and Bimba's truck has exploded and there is literally nothing left of them (except a cigarette holder).  Now the reality of just how dangerous this stuff is really sinks into the other two, who have no choice but to go through the same puddle.  I remembered earlier when Mario was backing up and asked Jo to spot for him.  No matter how many times he yelled to stop, he didn't and nearly knocked him off the cliff.  So I know that it isn't going to end well for Jo.  So when he yells at Mario to stop, again, he can't because he doesn't want to lose momentum and runs straight over Jo.  After freeing the truck from the puddle, Mario loads him onto the truck.  Right before they enter the oilfield, Jo goes into shock and dies.  Mario emerges onto the oilfield and is treated like a hero, and even given double the salary.

Mario celebrates his drive home by driving like a total asshole, weaving wildly from side to side.  He loses control of the truck and plunges off a cliff.  This is an excellent lesson to learn from a film: Don't drive like an asshole.  You might get stuck, explode, run over someone, and drive off a cliff.  All these things happened because they weren't driving as carefully as they should have.  I will give this film an 8/10.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Spoorloos (The Vanishing) (1988)

Today's film is Spoorloos (The Vanishing).  This is the first Dutch film I have ever seen.  If this is the best they have to offer, then I am not going to watch any more Dutch films than I absolutely have to.  I usually enjoy psychological thrillers, mind games, and mysteries.  But not this film.  It's dull, overrated and very predictable.

The sociopathic killer, Raymond, does everything a typical sociopathic killer does in every film or tv show featuring them and there are no surprises.  He kills for a reason that makes sense to him, but needs recognition for it.  That's why he meets Rex and all but explains what he did.  The film is like a long dull episode of Criminal Minds or any other law show people watch.  I don't know, I don't own a tv but I have seen a few episodes and I would prefer one of their stories over this.

That's how I felt watching this.  The worst was all this nonsense about fate and destiny.  Raymond tells Rex that he jumped off his balcony and lost two fingers.  Well that's bullshit because he had all ten fingers the entire movie.  Both of them strive to change their destiny by cheating it.  Well that just means your destiny was to cheat! Did they ever think about that?  Raymond's explanation for doing what he did was bonkers.  I am still trying to figure out his reasoning.  His daughter thought of him as a hero for saving someone's life.  So, he has to perform the most evil deed he can think of.  But to him, killing is not the worst thing.  We figure out what his "worst thing" is when he gets pulled over and he reveals that he's claustrophobic.

He even makes Rex drink coffee laced with sleeping pills.  This is the same thing cult leaders like Marshall Applewhite and Jim Jones (the poisoned koolaid people) did to their victims.  There is nothing original about this character or film.  Also this film is very heavy handed on symbolism, especially the golden eggs, which are the dream, the coffins, the two pictures in the eggs at the end, everything.  I'm giving this film a 5/10.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

My Little Pony: Equestria Girls (2013)

Since I've had to watch this movie every night for the past month, today I'm reviewing My Little Pony: Equestria Girls.  It has some pretty good, catchy songs in it, and my daughter has been singing the main one all day (she sings the tune, but no words can come out).  We are both huge fans of the show but I wasn't sure how much I was going to like this.  My daughter absolutely loves this movie.

This sort of film was made specifically for fans of the show.  Without watching it, you wouldn't know how Twilight Sparkle became a princess, why her wings were a bother, who any of the characters were or anything.  The filmmakers assume you already know all this because why else would you go and watch it?  It's also to sell the Equestria Girl dolls, which look like Bratz dolls redone.  I'm not going to buy any because my daughter has too many toys already, and she definitely doesn't need a human version of the same character.

Twilight Sparkle's crown gets stolen by Sunset Shimmer, a former student of Princess Celestia's.  She and the crown go through a mirror to an alternate reality.  Twilight Sparkle is told to go through the mirror, alone, and retrieve her crown before any damage can be done.  Luckily, eternally loyal Spike jumps through the mirror with her.  After they pass, they are surprised to see he has turned into a dog.  But they have no idea what Twilight Sparkle is.  Turns out she is now a human girl, and all of her pony friends are now also humans who attend high school.  They all have the same hairstyles, personalities, and skin colors of the original ponies (yes that includes blue Rainbow Dash and purple Twilight Sparkle).  So this isn't necessarily Earth, just an alternate reality where the former ponies look human-like.

Her crown in this reality is the prize for winning "Princess of the Fall Formal", so instead of asking for it and running back to the mirror, she decides to spend her time trying to win this honor.  Also, we get to see all the main characters (the ones who hold the elements of harmony) but none of them are friends, thanks to Sunset Shimmer's manipulation.  Thanks to Twilight Sparkle, everyone becomes friends again and are super happy.  Also, there are quite a few songs, which get sung at my house all the time now.  And in the car.  And at the grocery store.

Sunset Shimmer eventually does get her hands on the crown, turns into a red demon and announces how she's going to take over Equestria.  But before she can go, Twilight Sparkle all of a sudden is able to use magic again, and basically uses the elements of harmony to blow her up and turn the nearby ground into a crater.  Naturally, Sunset Shimmer isn't hurt at all because of this, but has learned her lesson and genuinely wants to learn how to be a friend.  Of course, because of the super special magic that is friendship.  Since I have to watch this so much and am still not sick of it, I'm giving this a 6/10.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Cherry Blossoms (Kirschblüten - Hanami) (2008)

I'm trying to review films from 40 different countries, and the first one is from Germany.  Today's film is Cherry Blossoms.  It sounded interesting so I wanted to watch it.

It's the story of Trudi and Rudi, who not only have rhyming names but are married.  Rudi is a boring man who works at a waste management facility and lives for a routine.  The film opens up with doctors telling Trudi that her husband has a terminal illness without telling him.  They discover the illness by a scan but it never gives the reason why he went for the scan in the first place.  Also, the doctors never contact him and tell him the diagnosis or explain anything.  So, Trudi keeps the illness a secret from her own husband and demands to go visit the kids, the beach, and Japan, which she also inexplicably loves.

I don't know anything about ethics, but shouldn't doctors have to tell a patient a diagnosis?  Especially if he is a fully grown adult capable of making his own decisions?  At one point he does say that if he knew he were about to die, he'd still go to work and still come home, but I think that just means he's happy with his life.  Some people aren't travelers or adventure-seekers, he seems genuinely content with his simple life even though it seems dull to us.

The visiting scenes are exactly like Tokyo Story which I totally watched part of before I fell asleep.  But the real story starts after this part.  Trudi unexpectedly dies during the visit and Rudi is left alone and depressed.  She never fulfilled her lifelong dream of visiting Mount Fuji in Japan.  This reminded me of Up, where Ellie dies before she achieved her travel dreams.  I've had a dream since I was 17 to backpack across Iceland and I still haven't gone.  Movies like these are depressing because I want the characters to achieve their personal dreams but their life gets in the way.  The surprising part is one of their children moved to Tokyo and they could have visited him at any point in time.  That's why you shouldn't keep putting things off because now it's too late for her.

Rudi decides to fly to Tokyo to visit his son and see Mount Fuji.  Also, Trudi was very interested in Butoh dancing, an artistic style of dance that invokes organic forms and shadows.  For example, Ballet is beautiful but there's nothing natural about spinning around on your tippy toes.  Butoh is complicated to explain and there is no real explanation for it.  It's artistic expression at its best.  Rudi meets Yu, a Butoh dancer who uses a phone as a prop.  She explains that is how she communicates with her deceased mother, through the phone, and through Butoh.  He learns more about this dance-art-thing from Yu and eventually travels to Mount Fuji to fulfill his wife's dream.  And still, this entire time Nobody has told him that he is going to die because of a fatal illness.

This brings us to the point of the title.  Rudi goes to Tokyo during the blooming of the cherry trees.  The cherry blossom signifies impermanence, they stay for a bit, then go away.  Same way with our lives.  Rudi went out of his way to make up for what Trudi didn't get to accomplish because she sacrificed for everyone else.  It also lets us know that it's okay to take a little time for ourselves and work towards accomplishing our dreams.  I will give this film a 7/10.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Hangover (2009)

Happy New Year everyone! I thought this would be the perfect movie after the world's biggest annual party. The Hangover is the kind of movie I can watch over and over while drinking and it will always be hilarious.  Right now I'm having some apple ale.  It's an ale with a distinct taste of apple.  What a time to be alive.

The Hangover is about four guys who drive up to Las Vegas for a bachelor party.  When they wake up, they have no recollection of last night, and worse, the groom is missing!  Why is there a baby in the closet?  Whose baby is it?  How did a tiger get in the bathroom?  What's up with Mike Tyson?  All these questions will be answered and more.

I enjoy all the randomness that seems to spout out of Zach Galifianakis's mouth.  Such as "It's not a purse, it's a satchel. Indiana Jones wears one." and "It's not illegal, it's just frowned upon, like masturbating on an airplane."  The only person more dedicated to comedy in this film is Ken Jeong.  He bursts butt-ass naked out of a trunk and starts wailing at the (now three) friends with a tire iron.  He wasn't even supposed to be naked! He just did it!

Some scenes are subtle nods to other movies.  For example, they stay in the same suite as the characters in Rain Man do, while Alan finds a book on how to win at blackjack and suddenly becomes a math whiz. Then you have scenes like the one above where a tiger wakes up in the back of their car.

Let's do a comparative list.  In their car, they had a baby, then a tiger, then a naked man with a tire iron.  In my car all I have is a car seat, toys, golf clubs, rainclothes, and a bocce set. Clearly these men are leading more exciting lives.

I have not seen either sequel of this movie.  But with this movie being so silly, how can the others surpass it?  Be even sillier?  I will give this film a 7/10.