31.12.16

The End of the World

I'm not going to say that I've been a bad blogger this year. That would be incorrect. A more correct statement would be: I haven't been a blogger at all.

There are many reasons for this. The simple is that I haven't had the time. I run two podcasts, I've produced 23 episodes of Dobbelt Ds Definite DVD Podcast and posted 113 episodes of I Kassen. That takes time.

Also, I've finally managed to start watching TV shows again, to such a degree that it's hurt the final tally of movies I've watched this year - but we'll get back to that when I post my stats.


And thirdly, I haven't had anything to say. Well, to be more precise, nothing that seemed to fit the format of a blog. I haven't had time to research larger articles, and frankly I've grown tired of lists (as I'm sure you have, dear reader) so I've avoided posting any of those. The end result is an embarrassing lack of posts for 2016.

That may not change in 2017. Or maybe it will.

However, I wasn't going to let the year 2016 sneak off into the night, without a final word. I always post something on the last day of the year, so here we are again. I'm nothing if not consistent, except, of course, when I'm not.


I'll leave you with this gentle song, written and performed by John Hawkes in the film Too Late. Such a sweet and gentle moment that will leave you in tears.... the second time you watch the film. I good reminder to us all, not to rush to the next film experience immediately, but to let the good films marinade for a while.

I always say 'every film deserves a second chance' but it's important to remember that that also applies to films you love. Sometimes a second viewing can bring out that extra layer and that added depth you didn't catch the first time. Too Late was one of the films that did that this year. And one of the reasons is this song.

video


Down with Mary, by John Hawkes, lyrics

Go back to sleep
Soon it will be light

She moans
Slides down further

Gotta move your car by 10

'Cause I, lay down with Mary
Again

I close my eyes
And I have a dream

I see her face
And I wonder when

Will I lay down with Mary?
Again

I've got no game, I've got no plan
But I do what I can

And so we bid farewell to 2016 with the hope that this isn't the beginning of the end. Though it kinda feels that way....


8.2.16

Top 20 of 2015

Last year I did a Top 30 for 2014, but to be completely honest 2015 didn't have enough great film experiences to warrant such a list, so we'll have to make due with a Top 20 this year. And here it is:

THE LIST

20. Mea Culpa

Damn this movie looks good! What is it about French action movies? They can take the most trivial stories, which we've seen a thousand times before in American movies, and make them new and fresh. This one concerns an estranged father whose young son becomes the target for some ruthless gangsters, after he witnesses a murder. However, there's so much more at play here than that simple description reveals. Plus, there's something about the actors here that just sells the whole endeavor on a completely different level than similar American movies.


19. Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

Full of energy, and juvenile to a fault, this film wears its derivative nature proudly on its sleeve, next to its 'lighting a fire using cow dung' badge. Don't bother if you want your zombie movie to be all gross and serious, or if you tolerate nothing but absolute Walking Dead grimness. This is a goofy, charming, little flick.


18. American Ultra

No, I'm not quite sure why this movie worked so well for me, by all accounts it shouldn't. Jesse Eisenberg is the stoner who turns out to be a secret agent, and Kristen Stewart is his resourceful girlfriend. I found their partnership, and the crazy adventure they get into, quite irresistible. The action scenes are inventive, and the whole stoner aspect is not quite as trite as I expected. And then there's Connie Britton.


17. Big Hero 6

Admittedly, this film would be nowhere near the Top 20 if it didn't have Baymax, the robot, but it DOES have that, so it's here! A fun, colorful ride! Hilarious, with a few surprisingly rough moments.


16. Antarctica: A Year on the Ice

A documentary about people who live and work year-round in the Antarctic? Hell yes, I'm in! There are some amazing images in this film, but it also captures the feeling of being stuck in a totally inhospitable place. The monotony, the isolation, the cold, the lack of fresh food. In spite of all this it did not dissuade me from my dream of moving there permanently one day. Nice try, though.


15. Birdman

Both self-obsessed and self-deprecating, and constantly on the verge of crawling up its own ass, Birdman is nevertheless an amazing film, both due to the technical aspects and the themes it covers. Although that drum-score can only be described as ear-rape.


14) Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau

Love Story is sad. My Girl will make most grown men shed a tear. The first 10 minutes of Up made everybody cry. But this... This is inhuman. This is the heartbreaking story about that great adaptation of H.G. Wells' The Island of Dr. Moreau that never got made. Any card-carrying film geek will know parts of the story already, but hearing it from the people who were there in the trenches gave the whole fiasco a new dimension.


13. Pressure

Underwater movies are cool. And I love when filmmakers tell a simple story in a limited, but unique setting. So this story, about four men trapped on the bottom of the sea in a diving bell, with limited air supply, and no way of contacting the surface, did the trick for me. It's kind of like The Abyss, without the action sequences, the nukes and the aliens. And any time a movie reminds me of The Abyss, it's doing something right.


12. Black Sea

U-boats are cool. Underwater movies are cool (see above). Jude Law is cool! So this movie about a harebrained mission to recover lost Nazi gold from the bottom of the Black Sea had me from the beginning. This is such a cool, intense, little flick.


11. Let Us Prey

This sinister thriller came out of nowhere for me and I fell in love with it instantly. It's moody as hell, stylish, and rotten to the core. A simple premise - a cop on her first day in a small police station - combined with a supernatural twist - who IS that guy? And how can he make everybody do those things? - once again demonstrates how it's possible to turn the familiar into the brilliant if you've got the brains and the balls.


10. Inside Out

It's almost pointless to praise Pixar at this point. So I won't. They did it again. But boy, this is more depressing than I thought it was going to be. I'm never leaving my house again. The world is too cruel.


9. Big Game

Who says it's impossible to make an 80's action movie, just because we're no longer in the 80's? Finish filmmaker Jalmari Helander sure did it. He pulled off a Die Hard jr.  And young lead Onni Tommila manages to go toe to toe with BOTH Samuel L. Jackson and Ray Stevenson! I just loved the hell out of the rugged little bastard of a movie.


8. Spring

I found this moody love story, come supernatural tale, completely irresistible. It's just a story about a guy who runs away from his life and meets a girl with a secret in Italy. But what a girl, what a secret, and what a meeting. Few films capture the headrush of falling in love. This one does.


7. Time Lapse

Three young people discover a camera that can take pictures of tomorrow. And it completely takes over their lives. This is a great spin on traditional time travel movies, and it's got more than a few tricks up its sleeve. What it lacks in budget and big showstopping set-pieces it makes up for in cleverness.


6. Whiplash

This falls into the category: Loved it. Not sure I can ever bear to watch it again. Miles Teller gives everything he's got as the dedicated drummer, who runs into the music teacher from hell. J.K. Simmons got all the accolades, but the blood and sweat of this film is the stunning performances from the Miles man.


5. John Wick

The ending is weak, but that doesn't stop John Wick from being an immensely enjoyable, enormously cool return to form for Keanu Reeves. The entire plot description can double as the tagline - "They killed his dog, now he's going to kill them!" - but isn't that the beauty of a good action movie? A simple story and a lot of guns.


4. Spectre

We all loved Skyfall, and we were all worried that it would be impossible to replicate that movie's success, and sure enough Spectre didn't. But it came THIS close. It was the culmination of the Daniel Craig Bond movies, and I almost wish they wouldn't make any more with him, because this is such a perfect note to go out on. It's a gorgeous film, it's full of brilliant set-pieces, and though it stumbles here and there, it's still so much better than we had any right to expect.


3. The Martian

Science. Mars. Space. Survival. That's about all the ingredients you need to make a good film. The most surprising aspect of The Martian is that Ridley Scott managed to get out of his own way and make his first good film since 1989. I love everything about this film: The characters, the story, the designs, the adventure, the potatoes.


2. Mad Max: Fury Road

I'm not sure what the hell happened to George Miller. He hasn't made a film in 30+ years that would suggest he could create this thundering beast. Strike that, he's NEVER made a film that would suggest he could create this thundering beast. Mad Max: Fury Road is the pinnacle of cool, and a near perfect reduction of the Mad Max legacy. It's so far beyond the original movies - which are, frankly, pretty much shite - that I wonder why Mad Max was even a thing, before Fury Road came along.


1) Star Wars: The Force Awakens

He did it. JJ f**king did it. The Force Awakens did exactly what it needed to do. It obliterated the dark ages of the prequels. They are simply gone. They don't exist any more. We can once again be jolly little boys and girls, head over heels in love with a wonderful space adventure. The road has been paved for the next movies to take the story in new directions, but that wouldn't be possible without the new solid foundation this film has laid. The sheer joy I felt watching this movie is something everyone deserves to experience. I can't wait to watch it again.


FINAL THOUGHTS

That's it! All we have left of 2015 is to give out those pesky Oscars, and then we can start to wonder what films will show up on the Top and Bottom lists for 2016. I've got a few candidates already.

Bottom 20 of 2015

In the words of Brendan Frasier in Mummy 3.... Here we go again!

Time for a rundown of the worst movies I saw last year.

THE LIST

20. Taken 3

The first one was flawless, the second one was dreadful, but the third one is something else entirely: It's dull. The story doesn't make any sense, and Liam Neeson doesn't kill anybody anymore. So what the hell is the point?


19. Idealisten

It's based-on-a-true-story and deals with the clean-up after a plane carrying nuclear bombs crashes near Thule base in Greenland. That's an interesting story on paper. Unfortunately the reality is that one man spend 10 years trying the dig up the truth, and that's quite boring to watch. Top that off with lackluster direction and an inadequate budget, and you've got a dull misfire that means well. Frankly, we don't need another one of those.


18. Big Sky

Yawn. Already reviewed this. I have nothing to add.


17. Momentum

Yes, I admit Olga Kurylenko was the primary reason I rented this. And yes, she's cool, sexy and saucy, but this film sure doesn't share those qualities. It's just plain dumb. One of those completely nonsensical spy stories that feels like it was written by an 11-year-old.


16. Blunt Force Trauma

I held on for as long as I could. I figured, a film this cool, smooth and moody must have something up its sleeve. It must have an extra layer, some sort of reveal, a clever point. Eventually I had to give up and admit that this was just a cheap, empty, pointless piece of nothing with delusions of grandeur in the looks department. Once you get past the undeniably gorgeous facade, including the capable cast, this is more empty than your average Steven Seagal DTV garbage.


15. Terminator Genisys

The problem with the whole Terminator franchise is that no one seems to realize that the second film shouldn't have worked (And then they, like, sent even more Terminators back in time, right? And.... but now this one is good, and erm .... this one is really, like bad, and advanced and stuff...). The only reason we can ignore the stupidity of the core story in the first sequel is the stunning filmmaking abilities of James Cameron. None of the subsequent films or the TV-show had that, and every additional story made less sense than the previous one. If we count every episode of the TV show as a sequel that would make this Terminator 36. No shit it didn't work.


14. The Transporter Refueled

Sure, you could reboot The Transporter, but if you have to do it, do it right. Why would you reboot a franchise with such a clear identity and make it so vanilla? The lead actor looks like an underwear model, and displays about the same acting range, the film ditches the simple beauty of the original premise in favor of a badly written, ill-conceived mess, and don't get me started on the dull car-scenes. If you can't even get the car-scenes right, why bother?


13. Tiger House

A rare case of everything here could have worked, but somehow, thanks to a concentrated and meticulous effort from the filmmakers, the film fails in every aspect. From the simple premise (this is essentially a home invasion story) to the characters, to the situations they encounter along the way. Every decision, from location to the time of day, is wrong.


12. Barely Lethal

I like a silly, predictable teen movie as much as the next guy, who should have outgrown that genre by now and moved on, but even I have my limits. This reeks of direct-to-video lack of effort. It looks and feels so cheap. And how about this trifecta? It makes Samuel L. Jackson uncool, Jessica Alba completely unsexy, and manages to turn Hailee Steinfeld into a sugarcoated Disney star, devoid of charisma. She was freakin' Oscar nominated!


11. Dannys dommedag

I had high hopes for this Danish end of the world, monster movie. I was actually rooting for it. Unfortunately the script doesn't work at all and the budget is far too meager to relay any sense of doomsday or monsters.


10. Submerged

It sounded fun! A group of people trapped in an airtight limo at the bottom of the sea, but how did they get there? And what happened before? Unfortunately the awful soap opera drama and the unbearable lack of direction during the first hour only lead to a laughable finale, which is basically a 20 minute non-stop session of plot twists so ridiculous you wouldn't be surprised if the limo itself turned out to be the clever fiend behind the whole mystery.


9. American Sniper

Naive, clumsy, and simple-minded. Much like half of the US of A. Oh, and how did that dead baby get past quality control?


8. Poltergeist

We all knew it wasn't going to work. We all knew it. Every one knew this film was bound to fail. We could even tell how it was going to fail, before we saw the first glimpse of it. They probably won't get a young actress as good as Heather O'Rourke, the effects will be of the predictably unscary CGI variety, and the story will bring nothing new to the table, thus making the whole exercise even more pointless. And boy were we spot on.


7. Vice

If you're going to rip off Westworld and Blade Runner, at least have the common decency to look like you're having fun. This soulless, boring B-movie seemed liked at was a chore for everyone involved. Imagine how we, the viewers, felt.


6. Need for Speed

This... I mean... I can't even. I guess it's unfair to put this on my 'worst of' list, because I had SO much fun ripping it to shreds on my podcast. Unfortunately that's about all this humorless car crash was good for. Need for Speed? Indeed. One of the rare cases where a bunch of Hollywood writers actually could have used more speed.


5. Jupiter Ascending

Laughable on every level, this magical, polished turd of a movie looks good in stills, but you don't have to watch more than a few seconds of it to realize just how incompetent it is. Never mind that the story seems like the work of a retarded, drunk, cross-dressing clown - the film even gets the basics wrong. The heroine is as boring as a toilet plunger, the cartoonish bad guy is so aggressively awful it feels like we're in a SNL sketch, and the hero... well, he's half dog. That's 50% less dog than the movie, though. The Wachowski siblings should just quit while they're behind.


4. Chappie

Rarely have I wanted to punch a fictional computer-animated robot more than I wanted to punch Chappie. The movie itself was a repugnant feast, barely suitable for animal consumption, but on top of that we got the most infuriating character created for a film in 2015. Dreadful, absolutely dreadful.


3. Harbinger Down

No other movie's appearance on this list pains me more than Harbinger Down. I had such high hopes for this. A film paying tribute to classic filmmaking, from the guys who brought us the monsters in Tremors and Aliens. How could this go wrong? Well, the script was shit, the filmmaking was shit, and they had no money. In terms of sheer filmmaking talent, this is by far the worst offender on this list. No other movie comes even close to the incompetence on display here.


2. The Visit (Documentary)

A "documentary" about aliens visiting Earth. Except there's no aliens in it and no visiting of any kind, though at one point a guy walks around in a museum in a hazmat suit, pretending he's boarding a spaceship. This is just a bunch of moronic mumbling. Less close encounters then, more like mental masturbation of the chafing kind. I detest so-called documentaries of this variety. They're a waste of time, none more so than this. And by the way, this is the second appearance on a bottom list for a Michael Madsen non-mentary - his previous effort Into Eternity made it to the 7th spot on the 2011 list.


1. Mænd og høns

If you think a chronic masturbator, having sex with farm animals and dirty, disfigured people are the greatest things in the world, then by all means check out this bag of shit. However, anyone with a sense of decency or half a brain will loathe this dull, disingenuous turd of a movie. But at least it's spectacularly unfunny.


FINAL THOUGHTS

That was rough get to through, but don't worry, next up: The Best of 2015.

Right after these words from our sponsor.

31.1.16

Don’t buy the German Blu-ray of Let Us Prey

Have you seen the awesome, gory and creepy Let Us Prey? If not, you definitely should!

Before that, just a quick word of warning, if you decide to purchase the Blu-ray, so you don't make the same mistake I did....

DO NOT buy the German standard Blu-ray release of Let Us Prey! It's this one:


This - and apparently only this - version of the film has been edited, so you'll miss out on a wonderful scene like this:




Instead, get the proper, unrated, full version of the film on (for example) the US Blu-ray:


That is all, carry on.

16.1.16

Tango Bravo Charlie: Waiting for Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

"To recap: The militants were gaining strength along the border with Afghanistan and staging increasingly bold attacks in the country’s cities. The famed Khyber Pass, linking Pakistan and Afghanistan, was now too dangerous to drive. The country appeared as unmoored and directionless as a headless chicken. And here was Sharif, offering to find me 'a friend'. Thank God the leaders of Pakistan had their priorities straight."


There was something about the trailer for Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016) that immediately piqued my interest. The story about a war zone reporter, a female war zone reporter, played by Tina Fey. That could be good! Then I realized it was based on a book. A non fiction book! I bought the audiobook a second later and I just finished it.

It was fantastic.

The book is called The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and it's written by Kim Barker. The quick description goes: "A true-life Catch-22 set in the deeply dysfunctional countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan, by one of the region’s longest-serving correspondents. "



Of course they play up the broad comedy in the trailer. They play songs from Missy Elliott and Elle King, and focus on the drinking and the partying. They're trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator; we've got to fill those seats come opening weekend.

But I really hope the movie also includes the darker aspects of the book. The many moments of doubt, the horrific war stories, like the time when Kim puts her hand on a railing after an attack on Benazir Bhutto, only to discover that it's coated in human remains.



I also hope the film includes some of the politics and her musings on the different cultures. With clever observations, and a few stories about her personal experiences, Kim Barker illuminates the conflicts and the doomed interference by the international community in a way I personally haven't experienced before. I learned more about the conflict in Afghanistan, and the position of Pakistan in the region, in this book than I did watching the news for past 10 years. The book even illuminated recent events for me, even though it was written years before they took place.



Looking at the trailer there are images that suggest these topics will be covered, but whether they take up as much room as they do in the book remains to be seen. At least they have Tina Fey playing the lead role. This is perfect casting! She's going to nail Kim Barker's dry, self-deprecating humor effortlessly. She's the one element that gives me the most faith in the project.

I hope Whiskey Tango Foxtrot will be a really fun and interesting film, much like the book was, but if it turns out that they didn't get it right in the film, I highly recommend going back to the original source.