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Review: The Manor (2021)

The Manor (2021)

Directed by: Axelle Carolyn | minutes | horror | Actors: Barbara Hershey, Fran Bennett, Stacey Travis, Devin Kawaoka, Ciera Payton, Jill Larson, Ashley Platz, Katie A. Keane, Mark Steger, Cissy Wellman, Nicholas Alexander, Jaquita Ta’le

After a stroke, it becomes difficult for Judith to take care of herself any longer and she moves to the Golden Sun Manor nursing home. There she quickly makes new friends, but her roommate is not doing so well. She tells that she is visited at night by a dark creature. Are these nightmares or is there something else more sinister going on in this nursing home? When residents suddenly die in a strange way and Judith also sees the terrifying figure, it seems like the latter… but now that she has been diagnosed with dementia, even her family doesn’t believe Judith anymore.

Like the other films in the second series of ‘Welcome to the Blumhouse’, ‘The Manor’ is a film that combines more traditional horror with a social message. The dark corridors of the ultra-quiet nursing home, where at night you can hear a pin drop and your hair no doubt stand on end as strange and ominous sounds or shapes break through the icy silence, is a fine backdrop for a film of this type. Apart from a few nice scenes, director Axelle Carolyn only partially succeeds in creating the ominous atmosphere that befits this film. The fine nuances that turn a reasonable horror film into a really good horror film are missing. In addition, it is a pity that some scenes are just a bit too dark and the sparse special effects are not exactly what you want.

The acting is quite decent. Barbara Hershey convinces as Judith, a woman who has lost a lot physically after her stroke, but is actually still too clear-headed for the nursing home she ends up in. We see a complex and layered character, with all the fears, desires and memories that belong to a human being of flesh and blood. The supporting cast also does its job properly.

While all sorts of shady dealings are happening in Golden Sun Manor, the true horror lies in losing the freedom and integrity over one’s own body that Judith experiences. She is subject to all kinds of rules and restrictions (no mobile phones, a prohibition to walk through the complex on her own) that she has unknowingly agreed to. The head of the nursing home is a milder version of the dictatorial sister Ratched from ‘One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest’. Especially after Judith is (wrongly) diagnosed with dementia, the place that should actually provide care and love slowly becomes a real prison.

But perhaps the worst nightmare is the total loss of your mental faculties and personality from the softening of the brain, a fate that befell some of Judith’s inmates. ‘The Manor’ shows the effects of this process, whereby once vivid memories, cherished persons and pleasurable activities fade into chimeras, hazy relics of a once dignified existence. Yet the film never becomes a profound drama about weighty themes such as mortality or senility. The themes are explored superficially, but not really deepened.

What’s left is a decent, not too terrifying horror film, laced with drama elements and just interesting enough to keep you interested for most of the running time.

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English Reviews

Review: Respect (2021)

Respect (2021)

Directed by: Liesl Tommy | 146 minutes | biography, drama | Actors: Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Tituss Burgess, Audra McDonald, Marc Maron, Heather Headley, Kimberly Scott, Hailey Kilgore, Saycon Sengbloh, LeRoy McClain, Albert Jones, Skye Dakota Turner, Mary J. Blige

Long before other female artists were labeled ‘Queen’, or started calling themselves that, Aretha Franklin was already ‘The Queen of Soul’. You will recognize her voice among thousands, and you often only need to hear a few notes of her songs to know that it is she who sings. And whatever she sang, she knew how to move you emotionally with her voice. All the singers who came after her, from Whitney Houston to Beyoncé and Adele, are all indebted to Aretha. She understood the art of completely claiming songs that were actually someone else’s. Take her most famous song, ‘Respect’. Otis Redding, not one of the least, wrote the song and released it in 1965. Where that version more or less faded into oblivion, the version that Aretha released two years later made her immortal. In her ‘Respect’ we hear a powerful woman who knows what she wants and deserves what she needs. The fact that Aretha has not always dared to speak out so firmly can be seen in the biographical film that has appeared of her. Of course it is named after the song that definitely put her on the map: ‘Respect’ (2021).

That Aretha (1942-2018) possessed an exceptional talent was already apparent when she was just a little girl and through her father CL Franklin (played in the film by Forest Whitaker), who was a priest at the New Bethel Baptist Church, were asked to sing during church services. CL was a gifted orator who enjoyed some celebrity and was friends with other well-known figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and singers like Sam Cooke, Dinah Washington and Ella Fitzgerald. When we meet little Aretha (Skye Dakota Turner), she can do her trick for all those celebrities as a barely ten-year-old at her father’s party. Her mother Barbara (Audra McDonald) has already left, after many quarrels with CL, who has the necessary flings. In the few moments she has with her mother, who will die young, Aretha learns not only excellent piano playing and singing, but also some wise lessons about the importance of standing up for herself.

But it would be a while before Aretha (played as an adult by Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson) is there. For years she has been bullied by the men around her. By her father, who sets himself up as her manager and determines which music she should sing. By the record executives at Columbia Records, who let her sing jazz standards for years that don’t give her a hit. And by Ted White (Marlon Wayans), the much older charmer she falls in love with but turns out to have loose hands. The most traumatic event of all is shrouded by screenwriter Tracy Scott Wilson and director Liesl Tommy that it raises more questions than it answers: After one of those parties, when little Aretha is already in her bed, an unknown man enters her room. inside and lock the door. Only scenes later do we see her with a big belly. She will have her first child when she is twelve years old; barely three years later, another child would follow. The film seems to want to let these violent events land as gently as possible, but seems to trivialize this trauma for Franklin in this way. While the demons she would later fight with were undoubtedly fueled (at least in part) by memories of what happened to her.

While her children are raised in Detroit by Grandma (Kimberly Scott), Aretha builds her singing career. On Ted White’s arm, she manages to tear herself not only from Columbia, but also from her father. Under the wings of record boss Jerry Wexler (nice role by Marc Maron) of Arista Records, she is looking for her own sound. She finds it in an unlikely place: Muscle Shoals in segregated Alabama and with a mainly white belt. Finally she scores the hits she so longed for. But Ted’s irascible temper, constant clashes with her father, her own diva behavior and the battle against her inner demons that increasingly make her reach for the bottle prove that she is not yet where she ultimately wants to be.

Music, the church, activism. These have been the three pillars in the life of Aretha Franklin and together they form the coat rack on which this biopic is hung. ‘Respect’ does not follow Franklin’s entire life, but ends with the live recordings of the gospel concert ‘Amazing Grace’ in 1972. With the return to the place where it all started – the church – the circle is nicely completed, according to Wilson and Tommy. That neat demarcation fits into this rather conventional biographical film. The film neatly ticks off all the highs and lows in Franklin’s life and that’s it; on to the next scene. It’s the same with many characters, who show up for a moment and then disappear again (Mary J. Blige as a bitchy Dinah Washington, you want to see more of that!). As a result, ‘Respect’ remains very superficial. The film does not say a word about Aretha’s motives, and what she feels during those events. That’s a shame, especially for Jennifer Hudson, who sings her heart out and meticulously mimics the mannerisms of Franklin, who chose her personally to portray her.

Franklin’s timeless classics are the main asset of this film. No matter how flawless Hudson sings, nothing beats the real Franklin. That becomes clear at the end of the film, when we are treated to an archive image of The Queen of Soul herself. By then already well over seventy and dressed in a thick fur coat, she sings ‘You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman’ during the Kennedy Center Honors. She does so with such feeling that even Barack and Michelle Obama burst into tears. The film ‘Respect’ can only dream of such an impact. Because although the film looks great and there is little to argue with on Hudson’s performance, unfortunately this clichéd biopic never rises above itself. Something Franklin was a master at!

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English Reviews

Review: Detour (1945)

Detour (1945)

Directed by: Edgar G. Ulmer | 68 minutes | crime, drama | Actors: Tom Neal, Ann Savage, Claudia Drake, Edmund MacDonald, Tim Ryan, Esther Howard, Pat Gleason

‘Detour’ (1945) has been regarded as the ultimate B-movie for decades. Edgar G. Ulmer’s film noir is chock-full of technical flaws, clunky dialogue, and a protagonist pouting his way through the film. The wildest rumors were circulating about the limited number of shooting days; the film was said to have been shot in just a week with a budget of just $20,000. Later, both numbers would be adjusted; Ulmer shot ‘Detour’ in four weeks and had around 100,000 euros at his disposal (which is still modest, by the way). But he wanted a cheap look to further emphasize the desolation of the world in which his wicked characters find themselves – a hallmark of film noir. The life of protagonist Tom Neal, a former amateur boxer who had a modest career as a B actor but never made it to the A-list, was as depraved as that of his character; he was best known for the scandals in his private life. His affair with actress and socialite Barbara Payton, for example, which was widely reported in the American press, in which he hospitalized her new partner – the respectable actor Franchot Tone. He would later go to prison for the murder of his third wife. Nice boy, that Tom Neal…

For both Neal and director Ulmer, who, like colleagues such as Wilder, Zinnemann and Siodmak, fled to the US for the emerging Nazism in Europe and learned the trade from FW Murnau, ‘Detour’ is their best-known work. Also for the female lead actress, Ann Savage, her role in this film would prove iconic. Despite its imperfections, ‘Detour’ is and remains the embodiment of what characterizes a film noir. Neal plays Al Roberts, a moody jazz pianist who is in love with the singer with whom he plays night after night at a New York nightclub (particularly the song “I Can’t Believe You Fell in Love with Me”). He would like to marry this Sue (Claudia Drake), but she is determined to make her dream come true and leaves for Hollywood. Ambitious Al stays stuck in the nightclub, but then decides to follow his sweetheart anyway. Since he has no car and no money, he has no choice but to hitchhike. In Arizona, he is picked up by a man named Haskell (Edmund MacDonald). He tells him about a female hitchhiker who badly beat him up; a woman with claws, he jokes. After Al takes the wheel, Haskell dies of a heart attack. In a panic, Al buries the body and takes over Haskell’s car, clothes, money and identity. He has to, he claims, otherwise the police will think he killed Haskell.

Not much later, he picks up a hitchhiker, a young woman who calls herself Vera (Ann Savage) and who almost immediately slaps him: “Your name is not Haskell at all! What happened to the owner of this car? Where did you leave his body?’. This must be the woman with claws Haskell was talking about, Al knows. Vera doesn’t believe him when he tells what happened, but hopes to make a profit from the fact that the two are condemned to each other. When she reads in the LA paper that Haskell’s wealthy father is dying, she hatches a plan. She knows that father and son haven’t seen each other for at least fifteen years and wants Al to pretend to be Haskell junior and thus reap the inheritance. But while they wait in a hotel room for the old man to die, the mutual tension between spineless Al and the scumbag Vera rises.

‘My favorite sport is being kept prisoner’, says Al. In that one sentence, his whole personality – or lack thereof – is hidden. Al is a wimp, a masochist who almost seems to enjoy Vera’s venomous snarls and snarls. Why doesn’t he just grease it, you wonder. Especially if Vera has made a bottle of hard liquor soldier, there is plenty of opportunity for that. But he stays with her; he doesn’t want to leave at all. It would be hell for anyone else to have to sit in a car or in a hotel room with Vera. There is no kind word from her. The fact that the character ends up high on lists of the most evil film characters (often just below Barbara Stanwyck’s Phyllis Diettrichson from ‘Double Indemnity’ from 1944) is enough in itself. But we have no sympathy for the complaining and jeremy Al either. Moreover, the question is whether the events should be interpreted exactly as Al would have us believe in the voice-over characteristic of film noir. Where he claims that the misery ‘happens’ to him, the deaths can also be interpreted in a completely different way. Who tells us that he isn’t telling his story purely to cover himself and provide an alibi?

Despite B-actors, a meager budget (most noticeable in the clumsy background images during the many scenes in which the characters drive the car) and the sometimes somewhat wooden dialogues, ‘Detour’ is an important film. Ulmer unites his background in German Expressionism, with its exaggerated lighting and striking camera angles, with American film noir with its jazzy soundtrack and themes of guilt, moral corruption, imperfection and human frailties. ‘Detour’ literally embodies all those imperfections. The film is not as stylish as Otto Preminger’s ‘Laura’ (1944), for example, as sizzling as Wilder’s ‘Double Indemnity’ or as compelling as ‘The Maltese Falcon’ (1941). Tom Neal remains far from the level of a Humphrey Bogart, Joseph Cotten or Orson Welles. And Ann Savage lacks the brooding sensuality that, for example, Stanwyck, Lauren Bacall and Gene Tierney do have. 75 years later, ‘Detour’ does not stand as proud as a number of other film noirs. Nevertheless, this is a film that, once you have seen it once, you will not soon forget. If only because of that one, unconventional but unforgettable murder scene.

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English Reviews

Review: La dea fortune (2019)

La dea fortune (2019)

Directed by: Ferzan Özpetek | 114 minutes | drama | Actors: Stefano Accorsi, Jasmine Trinca, Edoardo Leo, Serra Yilmaz, Barbara Alberti, Sara Ciocca, Edoardo Brandi, Pia Lanciotti, Cristina Bugatty, Filippo Nigro, Dora Romano, Barbara Chichiarelli, Loredana Cannata

The work of the Turkish-Italian filmmaker Ferzan Özpetek (1959) is characterized as warm, colorful and lively. His stories are often taken from real life, but his characters do not always fit into preconceived boxes. That often makes them just that little bit more human. Özpetek made his debut in 1997 with ‘Hamam – Il Bagno Turco’, followed by ‘Le fate ignoranti’ (2001), ‘La finestra di fronte’ (2003) and ‘Mine vaganti’ (2010). For his film ‘La dea fortuna’ (2019) he got his inspiration from very close by, after a conversation with his sister-in-law. Özpetek’s brother was seriously ill and would die not long after the conversation. Because the health of his wife is not too good, she asks if Ferzan and his partner want to take care of their children, should something happen to her too. For the screenplay of ‘La dea fortuna’, Özpetek teamed up with Silvia Ranfangni and old acquaintance Gianni Romoli, with whom he collaborated so successfully at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The filmmaker likes to work with trusted actors, so we see Stefano Accorsi (who previously starred in ‘La finestra di fronte’) in one of the lead roles. Regulars Serra Yilmaz and Filippo Nigro can be seen in smaller roles.

When we meet Arturo (Stefano Accorsi) and Alessandro (Edoardo Leo), they ‘host’ a wedding of a befriended couple in their beautiful apartment in Rome’s Nomentano district. In this way we immediately get to know their colorful group of friends, such as the lesbian immigrant Esra (Serra Yilmaz, who shakes up the wisecracks), the transgender Mina (Cristina Bugatti), the curious couple Ginevra and Filippo (Pia Lanciotti and Filippo Nigro). and the African Prissy (Osasere Imafidon). But it also makes it immediately clear that the relationship between Arturo and Alessandro is no longer so stable after about fifteen years, because Alessandro quickly dives into the suitcase with another man in what he thinks unguarded moment. The party is almost over when Annamaria (Jasmine Trinca) drops by with her two children, 11-year-old Martina (Sara Ciocca) and nine-year-old Sandro (Edoardo Brandi). Annamaria is an old friend of the men and she is in town because she has to go to the hospital for an examination. She suffers from ‘vague migraine attacks’ and that needs to be looked into. If Alessandro and Arturo would like to babysit the children. The fathers of Martina and Sandro are no longer in the picture.

You can of course feel that Annamaria’s headaches have a very serious cause and that babysitting the children is taking longer and longer. Although it is initially quite uncomfortable for Arturo and Alessandro, a bond with the children soon develops. But their private worries threaten to throw a spanner in the works. Is their relationship strong enough to handle this new situation, with the care of Martina and Sandro? Or have the men grown too far apart after all these years? And why can’t the kids just go to Grandma Elena (Barbara Alberti), a baroness who lives in the imposing Villa Valnaguera in Sicily?

It could happen to you or me all of a sudden; a close friend asks you to take care of their child(ren) when he or she is gone. This starting point makes ‘La dea fortuna’ immediately recognizable. The lives of Arturo and Alessandro are not designed for children at all; they are used to doing what they feel like at that moment and are also too busy with themselves. Their relationship is on the brink of unspoken mutual frustration; Are the art and culture-loving Arturo and the practical and tough plumber Alessandro just too different from each other? Özpetek effectively shows that the arrival of the children forces the men to rethink their own lives and their lives together. Although the confrontations are sometimes fierce, Özpetek keeps it light, without sacrificing impact. Daring to let go is a theme (letting go of a relationship, or in Annamaria’s case, daring to let go of life and your most precious possession, namely your children), but holding on tight is just as much. Little Sandro has found the way to make sure that the one you love stays with you forever: look at that person and then blink as if you were taking a picture. You then store that image in the hard disk of your soul. How did he get that wisdom? From the goddess of prosperity from the title.

Although Özpetek goes a bit too far in his drama towards the end with a ridiculous final act in Sicily and thus loses the focus of what really matters, he restores that with the powerful very last scene. The three protagonists and the two children are convincing from start to finish; It is not for nothing that Trinca was awarded a David Di Donatello for her acting. But Accorsi and Leo also deserved that prize. The rich use of color, the beautiful locations and lively and atmospheric soundtrack complete it. Özpetek finally seems to be back to his old level, with a warm and human film about the breakdown of a relationship and the profit you make when you accept that people change.

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English Reviews

Review: The Killing of Two Lovers (2020)

The Killing of Two Lovers (2020)

Directed by: Robert Machoian | 85 minutes | drama | Actors: Sepideh Moafi, Clayne Crawford, Arri Graham, Chris Coy, Bruce Graham, Ezra Graham, Jonah Graham, Noah Kershisnik, Avery Pizzuto, Barbara Whinnery

Many films revolve around the period in which two lovers meet and then, slowly or completely, fall for each other. But actually it makes for a much more captivating and exciting film if we are allowed to watch how that relationship gradually disintegrates. Is there anything left to fix with the debris or is the bond irretrievably lost? And what if one (or both) party(ies) deep down doesn’t want the relationship to collapse at all, as is the case in ‘The Killing of Two Lovers’ (2020) by filmmaker Robert Machoian. He immediately pulls us firmly into the story, with an intense opening scene in which David (Clayne Crawford) is pointing a gun at a sleeping couple in the early morning. Would he pull the trigger, as the film’s title suggests? A noise on the landing scares him off and David sneaks out through an open window. No one has seen or heard him. Smart opener from Machoian, because we are immediately intrigued. And he didn’t need any fuss for that.

Like ‘The Killing of Two Lovers’ is completely devoid of fuss. Although you could possibly include the choice for the 4:3 image frame, just like the remarkable sounds that are more emphatically present the more David is dependent on himself. Soon, what’s going on unfolds. David and his wife Nikki (Sepideh Moafi), the woman in the bed in the opening scene, have put their relationship on hold. She continued to live in the parental home with their four children, he was forced to move in with his old father. Completely against his will, by the way. David and Nikki have been together since high school and were still young when their oldest child, daughter Jess (Avery Pizzuto) arrived. He dreamed of a musical career – and secretly still does – but it never got off the ground. In fact, after all these years, they still live in the hole in rural Utah where they grew up. The exact frustrations underlying the temporary or permanent separation are not expressed literally, but the fact that Nikki was never able to realize her career ambitions because she had to take care of the children undoubtedly played a role.

Distance from each other is not easy when children are involved. The youngest three children barely get along, but teenager Jess resents her parents for ruining their marriage. But the fact is that David himself does not even understand why he is not allowed to live in his own house and only see the children at agreed times. He only agrees to Nikki’s plan, thinking it’s the only way to keep their family of four kids together. Despite his loyalty, he is impulsive, jealous and terrified of losing his family – an explosive combination in a claustrophobic small town where having a private life seems to be a non-existent concept. The fact that Nikki, who has been forced to release each other completely, has yet another man in her life, is extra fuel to the fire for David. From the outside he keeps himself cool as long as possible, but it has to wait until the time bomb that ticks inside him explodes.

‘The Killing of Two Lovers’ focuses almost entirely on David; in long, silent takes, we follow him driving his truck on his way to odd jobs, to pick up his children for a trip or to drive to his father to take care of him. For most of the film few words are exchanged and the film relies purely on protagonist Crawford; his brooding gaze betrays a sea of ​​emotions and frustrations, despair and impotence. He pretends to the outside world that he thinks it’s all fine, but as viewers we know better. Moreover, it is very clever of Machoian that he opened his film with that particular scene in the bedroom, because this always leaves a hidden tension lurking. That threat is enhanced by the 4:3 image format and the stillness, including the remarkable sound effects. But this is a film for which you have to be in the mood, which you have to give the chance and which you have to sit down for. Because if you only look at it with half an eye, you miss the subtle extra layer of tension and you might even find all those long silences tedious.

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English Reviews

Review: The War (2007)

The War (2007)

Directed by: Ken Burns, Lynn Novick | 880 minutes | war, documentary, history | Starring: Keith David, Tom Hanks, Josh Lucas, Bobby Cannavale, Eli Wallach, Adam Arkin, Carolyn McCormick, Robert Wahlburg, Kevin Conway, Rebecca Holz, Samuel L. Jackson, Daniel Inouye, Quentin Aanenson, John Gray, Paul Fussell, Susumu Satow, Katharine Phillips, Glenn Frazier, Sascha Weinzheimer, Sidney Philips, Sam Hynes, Dwain Luce, Maurice Bell, Olga Ciarlo, Tom Ciarlo, Emma Belle Petcher, Asako Tokuno, Barbara Covington, Ray Leopold, Burnett Miller, Ray Pittman, Joseph Vaghi

Beautifully made 14-part documentary about the American war effort during World War II, which won three Emmys and other awards. After two Oscar-nominated documentary films and his multi-award-winning series ‘The Civil War’ (1990, about the American Civil War, 1861-1865), acclaimed documentary filmmaker Ken Burns turned his sights on the greatest armed conflict in history, simply called ‘The War’. .

The special thing about this series is the perspective: not telling the story of the war from the position of the leaders and their decisions, but letting ordinary people who have experienced the war themselves have their say. And while the names and images of the leaders, Roosevelt, Hitler, Churchill, Stalin, Mussolini and the American generals Eisenhower, Patton and MacArthur, do pass by, ‘The War’ does not offer a standard chronological overview of the strategies, tactics and political decisions. . And where these are mentioned, it’s usually because it represented a fatal error of judgment for many of the soldiers who had to carry out the decisions.

Four towns are featured: Waterbury, Connecticut in the northeast; Mobile, Alabama in the South; Luverne, Minnesota in the Midwest and Sacramento, California in the West. The chosen approach also has its limitations: the war is mainly told from American experiences, which somewhat tempers the global impact of the war. Burns manages to circumvent most handicaps by regularly touching on the state of affairs in other battlegrounds, but the whole thing breathes a nationally oriented look. Understandable, but in that way ‘The War’ does not offer a complete overview of the war and is above all a valuable addition to existing material. For those well versed in World War II, there is still plenty to discover through the personal stories of survivors and the choice of “minor” events, less well known than the major battlegrounds.

Despite all the films, series, books and documentaries that have been made about the Second World War, ‘The War’ proves that there is still something new to add. Character actor Keith David is the narrator and his sonorous voice strikes just the right chord. Other actors, well-known and lesser-known, quote from letters or diaries: Tom Hanks voices Al McIntosh in his editorial commentary from his Luverne newspapers, Josh Lucas articulates the bitter, despairing sentences of Private Eugene Sledge’s diary. Mobile and an excellent Bobby Cannavale incisively read the letters that Private Corado “Babe” Ciarlo wrote to his family. The letters are addressed to his mother, but because she could not read English, Babe asks other members of the family to read to his mother and emphasize that he is doing well and that he does not actually experience any combat actions. His tone is always cheerful and cheerful, which contrasts with David’s voice-over, which tells that Babe actually experienced Ciarlo and his unit in Europe. But the most impressive are the veterans and those left behind themselves: their stories are very much alive, despite the fact that they are now elderly, and are at times funny, poignant and heartbreaking. Their emotions are palpable and sometimes visible, which gives the series an intimate character and an emotional anchor. Without doing the other speakers short, it is mainly the memories of Katherine and Sidney Philips, brother and sister from Mobile; Luverne pilot Quentin Aanenson and POW Glenn Frazier are the most memorable. Special mention is in order for Private Daniel Inouye, a Japanese-American from Hawaii, who not only witnessed Pearl Harbor, but was subsequently imprisoned—like many thousands of others—in an internment camp because of his heritage. Inouye would enlist and win the Medal of Honor in Europe in an action where he lost his right arm. After the war, he became a Democratic Senator and is a master storyteller.

Everything is pulled out to make ‘The War’ as complete as possible: original images, both in black and white and color (the latter especially in segments set in the Pacific), sound effects and photos. Burns often uses a still frame or still frame from a movie in his documentaries, under which he puts sound effects and commentary, while zooming in on a part of the photo: this is called the “Ken Burns effect”. Yet it never feels like a trick, because the effect gives an extra dimension to a certain situation. What is also striking is that horrors are made explicit. Soldiers who succumb psychologically, bodies that have been mutilated and dismembered, the emaciated victims of the Holocaust: it is all fully portrayed.

‘The Making Of’ is certainly also worth checking out, because it paints a nice picture of the difficulties of making this documentary series: for example, it took seven years to film, edit and produce the whole thing. The motivation: Every day a thousand veterans of World War II die and their voices and memories are lost forever. Burns and co-director Lynn Novick talk candidly about the genesis of the series and how difficult it has been to find veterans willing to talk about their wartime experiences. Despite the mentioned limitations in the choice of subject, it can only be said that ‘The War’ is a triumph and absolutely recommended for anyone who wants to learn more about the Second World War.

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English Reviews

Review: Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

Directed by: Patty Jenkins | 151 minutes | action, adventure | Actors: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Lilly Aspell, Amr Waked, Natasha Rothwell, Ravi Patel, Oliver Cotton, Lucian Perez, Gabriella Wilde, Kelvin Yu, Stuart Milligan, Shane Attwooll

It’s always a shame when a movie disappoints. It indicates that the expectations of the public have not been met. In the case of ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ that is extra sad, because this film also suffered from the corona crisis. This blockbuster was postponed and missed a cinema rotation. Too bad, but on the other hand not annoying for people who want to see this superheroine movie on the silver screen because they can now keep their money in their pocket. This movie isn’t that good…

‘Wonder Woman 1984’ centers on Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman (a charismatic Gal Gadot). This superheroine lives an anonymous life and tries to forget her late love Steve Trevor (an unnecessary role for Chris Pine). When she hears of the Dreamstone – a relic that makes dreams come true – she wishes her great love to come to life. The financially troubled charlatan Maxwell Lord (a grimace Pedro Pascal) also preys on this stone. Meanwhile, shy and nerdy Barbara Ann Minerva (Kristen Wiig) also takes advantage of the magical object and turns into the monstrous Cheetah. However, the Dreamstone has a dangerous side and takes its toll on all users.

Director Patty Jenkins has unfortunately failed to make a worthy successor to ‘Wonder Woman’ from 2017. That is due to a number of factors. The first is the story. ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ tries to be lighter and more comical and Jenkins fails quite a bit. It was decided to set the story in the 1980s. The sole purpose of this is to go wild with perms, shoulder pads and neon colors. Pine is a great example of this, because he is mainly used to walk around dressed in strange clothes. He is the comic relief and has little depth, while his return should be emotional (Wonder Woman’s deepest wish was to get her lost love back).

Also the origin of Cheetah does not deserve a beauty prize. After her wish to be just as strong and confident as Diana Prince, Barbara (Wiig with glasses and ugly leopard leggings) portrayed in a caricatured way is transformed into a tough lady with a stylish outfit without glasses. Jenkins does not get beyond clichés and has very little to say. In the first Wonder Woman solo film, Jenkins touched on the impact of wars and introduced a goddess to humanity’s shortcomings. That resulted in a beautiful, sensitive film that also had a few solid action scenes. The successor is mainly stuffing. The action scenes are far too short and not nearly as memorable as in the first part. The final fight with Cheetah is characterized by swaying camera movements, bad GCI and an unclear setting. The brawl is so dark that it’s hard to follow the fight.

‘Wonder Woman 1984’ lacks a heart. This is clearly a movie that came about because a first part was very successful. This production comes across as a rush job, while that was not the case. A lot of time has been set aside for this film, but it doesn’t show up well. Gadot has to rely mainly on her charisma and warmth and not on her acting. Her charisma makes you love to look at this lady and see her as an empathetic superheroine. However, it is not enough to captivate the full running time – 150 minutes is far too long for a film that has so little to say. What remains is a failed film that never manages to strike the right chord. ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ is not funny, exciting, spectacular or charismatic. With tighter direction, better acting and a more consistent story, this would have been a worthy successor. In its current form, this is a long-winded and superfluous comic strip adaptation.

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English Reviews FilmiTips

Review: Ulysses (1967)

Directed by: Joseph Strick | 119 minutes | drama, comedy | Actors: Barbara Jefford, Milo O’Shea, Maurice Roëves, TP McKenna, Martin Dempsey, Sheila O’Sullivan, Graham Lines, Peter Mayock, Fionnula Flanagan, Anna Manahan, Maureen Toal, Maureen Potter, Chris Curran, Maire Hastings, Eddie Golden

“Ulysses” is a legendary novel by James Joyce from 1922 and is considered one of the greatest books of the 20th century. It is a layered book, full of philosophical musings, symbolism, references and different points of view, and is (therefore) perceived by many readers as practically illegible. In a 2007 election of the least read books ever by the English newspaper The Guardian, Ulysses even finished in third place. For a long time, the book was also considered unfilmable. So director Joseph Strick had no easy task when he decided to bring the novel to the silver screen in 1967. He deserves credit for this attempt alone. It was to be expected that it did not subsequently become an unqualified success.

When there is a lot of complex language, full of double meanings and symbolism, present in a story, the advantage of a book is that the reader can take in everything at his own pace and can contemplate and see his own images. A film has a different form, in which everything reaches the viewer very directly and in addition, catchy, appropriate visual solutions will have to be provided. Unfortunately this happens too little in Joseph Strick’s ‘Ulysses’. In combination with the monologues and thoughts from Joyce’s novel, this ensures that the viewer is hardly really stimulated or fascinated and that a large part of the film comes across as distant and pretentious. When Stephen Dedalus (Maurice Roëves) makes his wanderings in the beginning of the film and he shares his innermost thoughts with the viewer via voice-over – while his face shows no emotion, and nothing actually happens – nothing happens to the viewer . Fortunately, Leopold Bloom’s story is a bit more interesting and lends itself a little more to involvement and emotion.

Sometimes Strick uses fun (and nowadays often used) fast flash forwards – for example, to show what is really going to happen when a woman tells her husband that she will have a visit from a man later that day – and sometimes different lighting or camera angles used to visually complement a vision or thought. Too often, the more intellectual situations and inner “outings” are scooped up dry, making them appear cold and uninteresting. For example, an episode in a circus with dominant women and men walking around like beasts has not taken on a surreal or elevated visual form, making it as if you were in a sober state, in unflattering daylight, watching a bunch of drunk friends also to go along.

‘Ulysses’ is of course a complex book to edit, but intellectuality or abstraction does not necessarily have to produce a dry, unattractive film. There are plenty of intellectual films that stimulate visually and make you think. Think for example of the films of Tarkovsky, Kieslowski, Gilliam, Godard, or Fellini: filmmakers who are very expressive with the form of film, and who amaze the viewer, make them dream and think. Strick opts for a more conventional form, but perhaps should have used the weighty language from the book less often or less literally. Fortunately, when Leopold Bloom’s story, which forms the middle part of the film, takes center stage, things often go well because his (marital) problems and desires are recognizable and actor Milo O’Shea makes Leopold a lively character.

The many voice-overs are not always successful, but interestingly enough, the last, long monologue of the film, that of Molly Bloom (an excellent Barbara Jefford) is one who manages to hold the attention very well. And not only because it is – quite explicitly – about sex, infidelity, and differences between men and women: always popular topics. Jefford really knows how to convince the viewer of her words, and together with her acting in the accompanying images – a kind of collage of her life – this ensures that the viewer hangs on her every word. It is a nice ending to a sadly unbalanced film that wished the different characters could have meant more to the viewer. Because it seems they are quite interesting.

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Review: Two Evil Eyes (1990)

Directed by: George A. Romero, Dario Argento | 120 minutes | horror, thriller | Actors: Adrienne Barbeau, Ramy Zada, Bingo O’Malley, Jeff Howell, EG Marshall, Chuck Aber, Jonathan Adams, Tom Atkins, Mitchell Baseman, Anthony Dileo Jr., Christine Forrest, Larry John Meyers, Jeff Monahan, Fred Moore, Christina Romero, Harvey Keitel, Madeleine Potter, John Amos, Sally Kirkland, Kim Hunter, Holter Graham, Martin Balsam, Julie Benz, Barbara Bryne, Mario Caputo, Lanene Charters, Bill Dalzell, JR Hall, Scott House, James MacDonald, Charles McPherson, Peggy McIntaggart, Ben Tatar, Lou Valenzi, Jeffrey Wild, Ted Worsley

It seems like a match made in heaven, not only bringing horror movie masters Dario Argento and George Romero together for one film project, but also linking their talents to the work of horror author Edgar Allen Poe. Initially the plan was to bring together several great directors from the genre, but it ended up with the Argento-Romero tandem, which provides a varying, but quite successful interpretation of Poe’s ghost stories in their diptych entitled ‘Two Evil Eyes’. .

Romero kicks off with ‘The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar ‘, a film that was originally mainly about the twilight space between life and death and how a man is held here through hypnosis. Romero expands it into half a film noir, in which the wife of this wealthy man, Mr. Valdemar, together with her lover try to get his money by manipulating him and keeping him alive through hypnosis. The film noir aspect is of little interest, although it is always at least interesting to see how far people can go in their greed. But the characters are unsympathetic and do little to make the viewer really care about their dilemmas. Yet the central premise is so creepy that the body’s feelings take over from the mind. Once Mr. Valdemar is in the freezer for dead and he still turns out to be able to talk since his mind is still under hypnosis, it becomes (un) pleasantly oppressive. Not so much because of the prospect of spirits or demons trying to enter the world of the living through his body, but more because of the fact that the man lies there so lifeless, but at the same time talks to his hypnotist (without moving his mouth), and there is the feeling that he could sit up straight at any moment in a classic moment of shock. With bated breath, the viewer awaits this moment when another close-up of his frozen face comes into view. But this moment does not happen, with the result that the viewer no longer knows what to expect. it becomes (un) pleasantly oppressive. Not so much because of the prospect of spirits or demons trying to enter the world of the living through his body, but more because of the fact that the man lies there so lifeless, but at the same time talks to his hypnotist (without moving his mouth), and there is the feeling that he could sit up straight at any moment in a classic moment of shock. With bated breath, the viewer awaits this moment when another close-up of his frozen face comes into view. But this moment does not happen, with the result that the viewer no longer knows what to expect. it becomes (un) pleasantly oppressive. Not so much because of the prospect of spirits or demons trying to enter the world of the living through his body, but more because of the fact that the man lies there so lifeless, but at the same time talks to his hypnotist (without moving his mouth), and there is the feeling that he could sit up straight at any moment in a classic moment of shock. With bated breath, the viewer awaits this moment when another close-up of his frozen face comes into view. But this moment does not happen, with the result that the viewer no longer knows what to expect. but at the same time talks to his hypnotist (without moving his mouth), and there is the feeling that he can sit up any moment in a classic moment of shock. With bated breath, the viewer awaits this moment when another close-up of his frozen face comes into view. But this moment does not happen, with the result that the viewer no longer knows what to expect. but at the same time talks to his hypnotist (without moving his mouth), and there is the feeling that he can sit up any moment in a classic moment of shock. With bated breath, the viewer awaits this moment when another close-up of his frozen face comes into view. But this moment does not happen, with the result that the viewer no longer knows what to expect.

The idea of ​​someone who is physically dead but with his mind trapped in an in-between world is disturbing, partly because of what this man perceives and how he feels in this state or in this location.

Because of the hairstyles, costumes and setting, the film feels a bit like a product from the eighties. The acting is also old-fashioned unspectacular and the whole comes across as an episode of the series ‘Tales from the Crypt’ or the ‘Twilight Zone’. Some scenes are reminiscent of zombie moments from Romero’s classic “Dead” films, but the film does not really bear a recognizable stamp of the director. ‘The Facts in the Case of Mr Valdemar’ is not an exceptional, but acceptable film by one of the greatest names in (horror) film history.

After having colleague Romero give his interpretation of ‘The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar ‘, a story about a seemingly deceased rich man who still wanders with his mind between life and death, it’s the turn of giallo expert Dario Argento to shine his light on a possibly undead cat in’ The Black Cat ‘. The tone is set right in the first few minutes by showing a naked lady, split in half with a shuttle, who is being investigated by Detective Legrand (John Amos), who is joined in this morbid massacre by photographer Roderick Usher, played by a like always very competent Harvey Keitel. Usher is fascinated by these gruesome massacres and records them all from different angles,

He needs a sip of alcohol every now and then to process his experiences. Only his wife is less happy about this, especially when one evening he is struggling hard at the kitchen table while his wife is in sack and ashes because of her accidentally missing black cat; a beast Usher hated. She thinks hubby is behind it, and when he lashes out at her and even hits her, her suspicions seem confirmed.

It is the beginning of increasingly mysterious and macabre events, with a recurring element, the black cat from the title, which is regarded as dead. There is even a medieval fantasy sequence in the film and there are occasional references to witches and hell (south of heaven), themes that are not uncommon in Argento’s work.

‘The Black Cat’ has a bit of everything: a bit of psychology, a bit of drama, horror, fantasy. And a good whiff of Hitchcock in it, because of the tricks Keitel devises to cover up his crimes, the way he is chased, and not least because of the ‘Psycho’ -like music. This last element is very prominent, and a bit flashy, but still contributes to the atmosphere. Poe’s ‘The Black Cat’ is very well designed by Argento, who has an eye for many facets and makes the basic story, which could have remained something very meaningless, more interesting.
This duo presentation by Romero and Argento has not become the absolute blast that you can expect based on the talent involved, but it is certainly a collection that is worthwhile. Both for fans of the directors and of the horror genre.

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Review: Trucks – Stephen King’s Trucks (1997)

Director: Chris Thomson | 95 minutes | drama, horror, thriller, science fiction | Actors: Timothy Busfield, Brenda Bakke, Aidan Devine, Roman Podhora, Jay Brazeau, Brendan Fletcher, Amy Stewart, Victor Cowie, Sharon Bajer, Jonathan Barrett, Rick Skene, Don Granberry, Barbara Lee Edwards, Gene Pyrz, Kirk Harper

Many of Stephen King’s nail-biting stories have been filmed for many years. There are a number of very good screen adaptations (‘The Shining’, ‘The Shawshank Redemption’, ‘Misery’), but most of it does not exceed the level of the average B horror film. The story Trucks is a short story and was already filmed in 1986 with the title ‘Maximum Overdrive’ starring eighties star Emilio Estevez and directed by Stephen King himself. That film was not really a masterpiece, so this story was made into a film again in 1997 especially for television. The original title of the story has been retained. The story is typical of Stephen King: the struggle of the humble man against an almighty dark evil.

The whole thing doesn’t even take place in Maine, Stephen King’s home state, for a change, but in a desert hamlet in Nevada. Near this hamlet is the infamous Area 51. This area really exists and there is a secret American airbase. This base has often been cited by UFO followers in the past as a location where the US government would hide intelligent alien beings. An ideal place for evil spirits. In this hamlet we meet a number of people who are all there for a specific reason, be it as a tourist, whether in transit or simply at work. As befits a good standard film, this is a mixed group consisting of an old hippie, two teenagers, a couple from the city, a beautiful woman, some local farmers and a hero.

‘Maximum Overdrive’ wasn’t the best film, but this ‘Trucks’ is really bad. The big question is why director Chris Thomson dared to make such a bad remake. If you make a remake of a bad movie, there is really only credit to be gained, you would think: not so, it could be worse. The acting is terribly bad, the action scenes are not to be seen and at no time is it exciting or fearful and at no time do you empathize with the group of people. The trucks are also not really terrifying and that is a shame because that something like this can work very scary, Steven Spielberg has proven with ‘Duel’ or just think of the opening scene of ‘Jeepers Creepers’. None of that, ‘Trucks’ comes across as pretty stupid, with the low point being the scene in which a radio-controlled truck attacks the postman. This is Stephen King’s ‘Close Encounter of the Machine Kind’ screams the cover of ‘Trucks’, an absurd comparison of course. Well, the story may not be that dynamic for a really good film version, but ‘Trucks’ is surely a low point in Stephen King film adaptations. The master would be ashamed.