Categories
English Reviews

Review: Desperado (1995)

Desperado (1995)

Directed by: Robert Rodriguez | 100 minutes | action, crime, thriller | Actors: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Steve Buscemi, Quentin Tarantino, Cheech Marin, Joaquim de Almeida, Carlos Gómez, Tito Larreva, Angel Aviles, Danny Trejo, Abraham Verduzco, Carlos Gallardo, Albert Michel Jr., David Alvarado, Angela Lanza

‘Desperado’ is a stylish, explosive action film that is better than the average film in its genre. Why? Not because of the plot, that’s as simple as any other Hollywood action movie. But Rodriguez hides that well. It’s a combination of factors. The cast is very good, Antonio Banderas is in his element as El Mariachi and has found a perfect co-star in the sexy Salma Hayek. The chemistry between the two explodes. It seems that J.Lo also auditioned for this part, knowing the movie wouldn’t have been as good. The passionate love scene in the film makes you almost feel like a voyeur, this is how real it comes across.

Of course the golden hands of Robert Rodriguez are to blame for the success of the film. After the film world was at his feet after making the cult hit ‘El Mariachi’ and selling it to Columbia Pictures, he was awarded seven million dollars by this company to make a remake/sequel (a thousand times as much as the budget of ‘El Mariachi’). Seven million dollars to make an action movie is still peanuts in Hollywood, but Rodriguez knows how to use this money well. Luckily the money didn’t go to his head. He knows how to capture the Mexican atmosphere perfectly, you can almost feel the heat coming towards you. The colors are beautiful and the action scenes are to die for. The best scene is the one on the roof after Carolina’s bookshop-cum-café went up in smoke. El Mariachi passionately kisses Carolina (who is in two different shoes), lets her do the jump first, then jumps from one roof to the other herself (backwards, that is), shoots a few more bad guys in the meantime and then lets out the place below them explode. So beautifully portrayed, this is art with a capital K.

The supporting roles are filled by Steve Buscemi (his role is made for him, which is why his character is named Buscemi), Quentin Tarantino and Cheech Marin. Too bad none of them make it to the end of the film, they are characters we would have liked to see more of. Fortunately, we see Cheech Marin again in the sequel, ‘Once Upon a Time In Mexico’. There is a good chance that Rodriguez will be working with the other actors mentioned in the future, because working with him seems to be a pleasure. In any case, watching his films is a great pleasure!

Categories
English Reviews

Review: I Love You Too (2001)

I Love You Too (2001)

Directed by: Ruud van Hemert | 95 minutes | drama, romance | Actors: Antonie Kamerling, Angela Schijf, Beau van Erven Dorens, Florence Kasumba, Dorothee Capelluto, Anniek Pfeifer

‘I also love you’ fits perfectly into the list of Turkish Fruit spin-offs that have been made in recent decades, such as ‘Sputters’ and ‘Brandende Liefde’. High tempo, lots of polderboy flair (Beau v. ED) and sex without foreplay.

Artists who are enchanted and inspired by women, it is a genre in itself in Dutch film. While love still leads to great deeds with ‘Turkish Delight’, with the followers there are more loose splashes (paint or semen?!). Roland Giphart also has to believe it. Like the work of Jan Wolkers, the story is a seven-course dinner, but it is crammed into a Big Mac box. Antonie Kamerling looks so sad at the beginning of the film, whether he already knows the end of the film. Angela Schijf plays beautifully, but hardly seems to be caught by the camera, as if she is constantly trying to hit the road. We will never know the story behind Reza’s behavior, but we will know how Erik’s friend Fräser (Beau van Erven Dorens) makes French girls moan and how well Erik can rub his holiday girlfriend (Florence Kasumba) with sunscreen.

The shy Erik (or should we say Antonie Kamerling) doesn’t seem to feel very much at home in this story anyway. What am I doing here?, his body language says for an hour and a half, whether it concerns his defloration by the neat Liesbeth (Anniek Pfeifer), the near-rapes of Reza or the advances of his holiday sweetheart. As a result, the romance between Erik and Reza does not come to fruition and the good playing of Angela Schijf and Beau van Erven Dorens (the perfect blaring ball) is also overshadowed. Unfortunate.

Categories
English Reviews

Review: Polleke (2003)

Polleke (2003)

Directed by: Ineke Houtman | 97 minutes | family | Actors: Liv Stig, Mamoun Elyounoussi, Daan Schuurmans, Halina Reijn, Frank Lammers, Helmert Woudenberg, Marja Kok, Rosa Boesten, Vanessa Coco Morales, Odin Delver, Chaib Massaoudi, Nuzha Salah, Susan Visser, Veerle Dobbelaere

The film ‘Polleke’ is based on the children’s books of the same name by Guus Kuijer about the eleven-year-old girl Polleke. It is not the first time that director Ineke Houtman draws her inspiration from Kuijer’s books. Two television series about Madelief’s adventures appeared in 1994, after which the best-known book from the Madelief series, ‘Krassen in hettafelblad’, was shown in Dutch cinemas in 1998. In ‘Polleke’, Houtman shows once again that she is capable of balancing drama, humor and tension on the silver screen. Because of this combination and thanks to the most charming acting by debutants Liv Stig (Polleke) and Mamoun Elyounoussi (Mimoen), this film is well worth seeing, even for adults. The story is moving but also light-hearted and has a current topic as its starting point. The film shows how two young, innocent lovers from different cultural backgrounds are confronted with the harsh reality. In a subtle way, the young viewers are introduced to the problems that the differences in culture entail. Heavier scenes are interspersed with a good dose of humor.

Fun roles are reserved for Frank Lammers and Halina Reijn, who respectively play the boring, clumsy, yet strict master Wouter and the chaotic, licentious mother of Polleke in a comical way. Initially, the choice for Daan Schuurmans as Polleke’s father seems remarkable, since with his appearance he would even be too young for a young father. But the way he portrays his character as a drug addict makes up for a lot. The pace of the film is very fast because the main character goes through a lot and because the characters are so different in character. Afterwards it can be concluded that the structure of the story is well put together; the storylines come together and ensure a coherent whole. The film ends well in a way, but leaves it in the middle what the future holds for the characters. Polleke is good for more than an hour and a half of entertainment and can subsequently serve as a basis for a good conversation about cultural differences in urban society.

Categories
English Reviews

Review: El mariachi (1992)

El mariachi (1992)

Directed by: Robert Rodriguez | 79 minutes | action, thriller | Actors: Carlos Gallardo, Consuelo Gomez, Peter Marquardt, Reinol Martinez

El Mariachi is a guitar player who arrives in a small Mexican village in search of work. He walks into a bar, but is not hired. At the same time, a murderer arrives at the village. His name is Azul and he also carries a guitar case, but full of weapons. He wants to kill the local drug lord Moco. When Moco’s henchmen go in search of their boss’s nemesis, they mistake El Mariachi for Azul. El Mariachi is forced to run for his life, without knowing why. He finds his only support in Domino, the owner of a local bar and sweetheart of Moco.

As is known, child prodigy Robert Rodriguez made this film for less than seven thousand dollars. The fact that this is not at the expense of the quality of the film is proof that a large budget does not automatically lead to better films, quite the contrary. Rodriguez used friends and locals as actors, and many actors play different roles. After they are shot dead in one scene, we see them again later, but then with mustache and sunglasses, for example as a driver. This is all very cleverly done and because it’s a fast-paced movie you’ll barely notice it even if it’s pointed out to you (when listening to Rodriguez’s commentary on the DVD).

That the actors have no experience is not a disadvantage. Carlos Gallardo, who plays El Mariachi, actually comes across better because of this, because it seems like he really doesn’t know what hit him. This is also true, because Rodriguez didn’t let any of the actors read the script. ‘El Mariachi’ is exciting and has enough humor. Although the story is a bit simple and the characters are shallow (there are only good guys and bad guys), it is a pleasure to watch. The enthusiasm with which the film was made is evident. You wonder if the end product would have been the same if Rodriguez had known that this film would be watched by millions of people worldwide. After all, his intention was to make three such films, as an exercise, and to release it only on the Spanish-language video market. Therefore, some scenes have not been redone and have some errors in them, such as cameras visible in windows and chronological errors. But despite that ‘El Mariachi’ remains a small masterpiece.

Categories
English Reviews

Review: Festen (1998)

Festen (1998)

Directed by: Thomas Vinterberg | 105 minutes | drama | Actors: Ulrich Thomsen, Henning Moritzen, Paprika Steen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Birthe Neumann, Trine Dyrholm, Helle Dolleris, Therese Glahn, Klaus Bondam, Bjarne Henriksen, Gbatokai Dakinah, Lasse Lunderskov, Lars Brygmann, Lene Laub Oksen, Linda Laursen

In 1998, the then 29-year-old Vinterberg won the Special Prize of the Jury at the Cannes International Film Festival with ‘Festen’. ‘Festen’ is built according to Dogma 95, a number of rules drawn up by Lars von Trier, Kristian Levring, Soren Kragh Jacobsen and Thomas Vinterberg. These Danish directors made it to the media by presenting Dogma 95 at the film festival just mentioned. Pure filming, without extra sets, without extra lamps and without music, is given the highest priority according to these rules.

This natural camera work can be seen in ‘Festen’. You soon notice the manual way of filming, creating jerky and, it seems, amateurish images. The cinematographer Dodd Mantle used a small digital video camera, which allowed him to slip between the characters and film them from different angles. The aim is to drag the viewer, as a direct spectator, into the situation in which the characters find themselves, which creates a great involvement. In the beginning of the film, many movie viewers will have had to get used to the jerky images, but precisely because of this a tension is generated that has the viewer in its grip from the beginning to the end.

It should be mentioned that ‘Festen’ is especially worth watching without any information about the denouement being known to the viewer in advance. It is precisely through ignorance that it becomes clear that the camera techniques, the course of the story and a handful of fantastic actors have ensured that ‘Festen’ is a penetrating, somewhat shocking, but certainly also moving film that you must see.

Even after a first acquaintance with ‘Festen’, it appears that we are dealing with such a film that continues to fascinate. With his Dogma 95 lines, Vinterberg has proven that a film with a fairly chewed-up subject can be rediscovered, without even having to use the clichéd Hollywood fact.

Categories
English Reviews

Review: Waking Up in Reno (2002)

Waking Up in Reno (2002)

Directed by: Jordan Brady | 91 minutes | comedy, romance | Actors: Natasha Richardson, Charlize Theron, Patrick Swayze, Billy Bob Thornton, Penelope Cruz, Holmes Osborne, Billy O’Sullivan, Galvin Chapman, Cleo King, Brent Briscoe, Mark Fauser

Four famous actors, not all known for their great acting skills, but still… You would expect something more from this comedy. However, the film is so abominably bad that it is an insult to the viewers. You can actually say that there are bad movies and bad movies. And then there’s ‘Waking Up in Reno’. The release of this film has been delayed a number of times in America and ultimately only grossed $260,000. You can’t identify with any of the characters, the choices they make, their actions and reactions to each other are so unusual and unnatural that the film is a real torture despite its short duration.

The two couples both have their problems: Darlene is married to the unsympathetic Lonnie Earl, a car salesman in Little Rock, Arkansas (all four actors have that terrible accent). She misses the romance in marriage and therefore does not want sex anymore. However, Lonnie Earl also has his needs and seeks satisfaction close to home, namely with Darlene’s best friend, Candy, who in turn is married to Lonnie Earl’s extremely stupid-appearing childhood friend, Roy.
They are a bunch of rednecks, or rather trailer trash and what could be better for these people than taking a vacation to Reno, Nevada to attend a Monster Truck Rally?

Candy and Roy have been trying to conceive a child for a while, but they haven’t really succeeded yet. On vacation, Candy and Darlene visit a fortune teller who suggests that Candy might be pregnant. She’s not even due yet, but three tests are bought and done and sure enough, she’s pregnant (the fact that it’s not even medically possible to take a pregnancy test if you’re not yet on time, let’s just go for it ). Great joy, but then Roy hears the results of the test he had just before the holidays, he is infertile. Of course you are not infertile, Candy laughs, how else can I be pregnant? Or… and she looks at Lonnie Earl with a guilty look. It is logical that Darlene realizes it quickly, it is so thick on top of it. The fact that Roy doesn’t get it, but that it even has to be explained to him, is one of the worst moments in the film. Even a child understands this.

The idea of ​​the film, incidentally, originated from the brain of Billy Bob Thornton, who envisioned a modern version of “Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice” (1969). But after Thornton became famous with ‘Sling Blade’ (1996), he ran out of time to write the script and shared his idea with friends Brett Briscoe and Mark Fauser, whom he knew from the TV series ‘Hearts Afire’. It is clear that these two can gain some experience in writing good comedies. And what Penélope Cruz does in this film as a prostitute is also a great mystery. An absolute turn off.

Categories
English Reviews

Review: The Human Stain (2003)

The Human Stain (2003)

Directed by: Robert Benton | 106 minutes | drama, romance, thriller | Actors: Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman, Ed Harris, Gary Sinise, Wentworth Miller, Jacinda Barrett, Harry J. Lennix, Clark Gregg, Anna Deavere Smith, Lizan Mitchell, Kerry Washington, Phyllis Newman, Margo Martindale, Ron Canada, Mili Avital

The Human Stain is based on a novel by American author Philip Roth. Based on a summary of the book, director Robert Benton has taken the story structure fairly faithfully. We are faced with the resignation of a university professor and that has a deeper background. There is a narrator and there are many flashbacks to this Coleman Silk’s childhood. The young Silk turns out to be a bonkers, and also a talented amateur boxer, who wants to succeed in society at all costs. As the person he is, of course, and not because of the group he belongs to, because despite his white features, he has black parents. In order to become who he wants to be, he even severs family ties.

With this in mind, we look at the old Coleman Silk. That’s difficult. Hopkins bears no resemblance to the charming youngster played by Wentworth Miller. By spreading the flashbacks, the viewer is also presented with only fragments that never become one image; Half way through the movie you don’t know where it’s going. Unfortunately, the promising fact that a retired professor, who spends his life trying to hide the fact that he’s actually black (kinda strange to take Anthony Hopkins for that, but hey), starts a relationship with a millionaire daughter who has lost everything. hanging in the air: the moment the two life stories actually intersect, the story comes to a halt due to a dramatic development and we as viewers have to make do with a kind of retelling by Nathan Zuckerman (Gary Sinise), a friend of Silk who acts as narrator. is somewhat forced in the film. You would like to know more about Faunia’s backgrounds and motives and how that would eventually clash with Coleman’s life story.

What remains is a story in shards and the desire to read the book. Perhaps the biggest problem is the casting of Anthony Hopkins, who is mysteriously silent at key moments in the film and mismatches the image of the young Silk. Emotionally, the old Silk remains a closed book. The focus is therefore on Nicole Kidman, who puts on a top performance as a tormented, cool seductress and doesn’t have to say much to draw attention to herself. There’s also nothing wrong with the chemistry between Kidman and Hopkins. The beautiful camera work and the dark, wintry atmosphere in which the whole thing takes place make the session of more than one and a half hours pleasant, but the whole thing does not all fall into place.

Categories
English Reviews

Review: Phileine Says Sorry (2003)

Phileine Says Sorry (2003)

Directed by: Robert Jan Westdijk | 95 minutes | drama, comedy, romance | Actors: Kim van Kooten, Michiel Huisman, Hadewych Minis, Tara Elders, Kenan Raven, Mads Wittermans, Leona Philippo, Liesbeth Kamerling, Roeland Fernhout, Kurt Rogiers, Daan Schuurmans, Liz Snoyink, Timothy Smith

It can’t get more Dutch, you think when you see this somewhat overhyped film: girl on a bicycle, boy on the back; horny loose-lipped from the Giphart jargon. What do you do to make up with your boyfriend: peace pipes!

Performed by the energetic proto-student Kim van Kooten, this makes the flopping of ‘Phileine says sorry’ impossible in advance. Yet the brutal polder romance also immediately exposes the film’s weakness, which becomes painfully clear in the New York scenes, which take up almost three quarters. Phileine’s traditional Dutch bravado is completely out of place on the other side of the ocean. Like the Dolly Dots and the Flodder family, she doesn’t belong there. The Americans don’t understand the humor. The high tempo and the flashy animations woven through the image give ‘Phileine says Sorry’ its own allure, but the story is lost outside the sympathetic Utrecht setting, as well as the possibility of turning it into a real Dutch student classic; Phileine becomes a caricature in New York.

The romantic reunion of Phileine and Max should actually be the core of the film, but is overwhelmed by the maddening behavior of the jealous Phileine, which means that Max ends up in a small supporting role. It is almost inevitable that the disarmingly beautiful and talented Van Kooten masters this film. Since Monique van de Ven, no Dutch actress has emerged who combines intimacy and brutality so naturally. In that respect ‘Zusje’ (1995) was a better showcase for her arts, and a better film. “What did you think?” someone said as they walked out of the cinema. “Laugh,” was the reply. That is perhaps the best summary. A great success in Dutch cinemas, but Phileine belongs in a student house toilet and not in the Waldorf Astoria.

Categories
English Reviews

Review: Y tu mama tambien (2001)

Y tu mama tambien (2001)

Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón | 105 minutes | drama | Actors: Maribel Verdu, Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna, Diana Bracho, Andrés Almeida, Juan Carlos Remolina

‘Y tu mamá también’ (‘And your mother too’) is a bold, fresh Mexican film, driven by the Latin passion we know from the work of Pedro Almodóvar. The lively, spontaneous acting style of the three main characters clashes here and there with the sometimes somewhat forced lyrics that they get put in their mouths, especially when it comes to sex, but the film gets away with it for the reasons mentioned: light-hearted, fresh and energetic.

Yet ‘Y tu mamá también’ deserves more, because it deals with questions that are important for everyone in intimate relationships, presented with the necessary humor and a good portion of sizzling sex. The film also gains the necessary weight as it progresses to remain in the memory.
Because the tragedy is saved for the end and the conversations between the three main characters who carry the film are mainly about the free, unfettered life, the work is light-footed enough to hold the attention of a young audience for an hour and a half. The behavior of Luisa, who likes to experiment, forces Julio and Tenoch – at first sight two superficial breeding stallions – to reflect on their friendship during the journey, with necessary consequences. ‘Y tu mamá también’ also offers a nice insight into the life of modern young people in Mexico, which is mainly known to us as the banana republic. With a critical note here and there about corrupt politicians, but above all with a lot of love for one’s own culture. It is therefore extremely suitable for the art house visitor. With enthusiastic play by Gael Garcia Bernal (‘Amores Perros’) and heartthrob Diego Luna, who got to work in Hollywood after this film, in ‘Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights’ and ‘The Terminal’. Director Alfonso Cuarón broke through with the beautifully shot Dickens film adaptation ‘Great Expectations’ (1998) and completely with ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ (2004).

Categories
English Reviews

Review: Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino | 111 minutes | action, drama, thriller, adventure, crime | Actors: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Lucy Liu, Daryl Hannah, Vivica A. Fox, Michael Madsen, Juli Dreyfus, Chiaki Kuriyama, Sonny Chiba, Chia Hui Liu, Michael Parks, Michael Bowen, Jun Kunimura, Kenji Ohba, Yuki Kazamatsuri

Writer, director and actor Quentin Tarantino became known worldwide in 1992 when his written and directed ‘Reservoir Dogs’ was appreciated by both the public and the press. This great start gave him the financial means to film his other scripts (“Pulp Fiction” and “Jackie Brown”). Other directors also became interested in Tarantino’s work, with the result that ‘True Romance’ (Tony Scott), ‘Natural Born Killers’ (Oliver Stone) and ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ (Robert Rodriguez) were released. ‘Jackie Brown’ was Quentin Tarantino’s last project in 1997. Now we are six years later and expectations are very high for the comeback that all fans have had to wait for so long. That comeback “The 4th Film By Quentin Tarantino” is called ‘Kill Bill: Vol.1’.

Uma Thurman plays the lead actress named “The Bride”. She does have a real name, but it is not mentioned further. In fact, the two times she says her name, a censoring beep is placed over it.

‘Kill Bill: Vol.1’ cannot be compared to previous work by Tarantino. Of course there are the recognizable elements that come back in every film: a lot of action, a lot of violence, a lot of blood and a carefully composed soundtrack, but we expected this. The film is a mishmash of the genres Quentin loves.

The action is extraordinarily beautiful. The choreography is very well put together and the fight scenes are original, beautifully portrayed and at times comical. Sword fighting predominates throughout the film. No special effects were allowed to portray these action-packed scenes, even the blood effects had to be done the old-fashioned way: blood-filled condoms bursting open. Because of this you never get the idea that you are watching a computer game, the disadvantage is that there is an improbable amount of blood.

The spaghetti western and the anime genre are also discussed. This is how the story of O-Ren (Lucy Liu) is told in anime. The switch from one genre to another or from black and white to color goes almost unnoticed. This is mainly because the different elements in the story allow it.

Originally, it was actually made as one movie. A four-hour movie was really too long and there wasn’t a second Quentin Tarantino wanted to take out of the movie. Thus came the proposal to make two volumes: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 (2004). It’s never nice to get a ‘to be continued’ when you’re just getting into the story, but hey, better twice ‘Kill Bill’ than a screwed up ‘Kill Bill’. The film itself is also divided into several chapters. These parts are not chronological and each contain regular flashbacks.

‘Kill Bill’ is an excellent action movie that was well worth the wait.