Viewing recap for May

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
I should start by saying that superhero movies are not my favorite, so that’s a factor for this review. In the latest X-Men, there’s suspense and impressive visual effects, but the similarities to other movies was distracting:
Watchmen and the course of history, Terminator when he asks for the guy's clothes, slow-motion bullet time from The Matrix, the robots kind of look like Iron Man, a scene that resembles “these aren't the droids you're looking for” from Star Wars,  And I haven’t even mentioned all the other X-Men movies.
Besides the basic story, the subtext I noticed is how medication can prevent us from unlocking our true selves, as is the case with Professor X, who is able to walk, but his mutant powers are reduced and this affects him psychologically. This theme of a cure is not exactly new, and was seen in X-Men: The Last Stand (2006).
Perhaps the filmmakers figure the characters have already been fleshed out in previous installments. There are so many characters and it moves so swiftly, that it's tough to become emotionally attached to any of them.
The best part was the slow motion “Time In A Bottle” scene with Quicksilver. Jim Croce is having a resurgence, Tarantino also used his music in Django Unchained.
Jennifer Lawrence is cute in that hat, I must say.
Spoiler alert: 
 I do like the message of Days of Future Past, that those who are different shouldn’t hide and be ashamed of who they are
As with Prometheus (2012), the new X-Men points towards future X-Men films to resolve the ending, which may frustrate some viewers. A sequel, X-Men: Apocalypse, is scheduled for release on May 27, 2016.
Favorite quote (spoilers): “You built these weapons to destroy us. Why? Because you are afraid of our gifts, because we are different. Humanity has always feared that which is different. (…) And to my mutant brothers and sisters out there, I say this: No more hiding. No more suffering. You have lived in the shadows in shame and fear for too long. Come out. Join me. Fight together in a brotherhood of our kind. A new tomorrow, that starts today.” (Quote found on tumblr)
Rating 6.5/10

The Trip to Italy (2014)
Watched the 3 hour TV-version on dvd, which is six half hour episodes.
You almost forget they are on a restaurant tour, because the food evaluation takes a backseat to the pop culture conversations, comedy, and symptoms of midlife crisis. Many of the impersonations we have already heard in the first series, but there are new ones too, my favorites are of Bane from The Dark Knight Rises(hell anyone could do that by covering their mouth!), Marlon Brando, and Robert de Niro.
However the more I watch Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon insult each another, the more I wonder why they are even friends at all. Perhaps there’s pleasure in constantly mocking and degrading the other. There were many instances where I got the feeling they disliked one another, but they do share some laughs and good times as well. 
According to Coogan in recent video they get on better when the cameras are off, and the friction is fictionalized, to create tension. You probably have to be there to know if they get along. 
They really just play two grumpy middle-aged men, who are sad their younger days are gone, and who happen to be good at doing impersonations of celebrities.
Episode 5 and episode 6 drag a bit, although the scenery is impressive.  The duo definitely overdid it with “guess the bill”, and the Al Pacino + Roger Moore impersonations, which become tiresome. 
So to sum up, season 2 has its fun moments, especially the first 4 episodes. I would recommend watching the dvds on your computer, as the many references to movies and culture I found myself googling while watching. In fact the references this time around are almost as interesting as the comedy.
There are typical sequel problems, trying to recreate the magic of the original, but not quite as fresh anymore.
If you enjoyed The Trip (2010), the sequel offers more of the same. I certainly enjoyed The Trip To Italy, an entertaining follow-up. The shorter movie edit is probably even better, which was the case in 2010.
Rating 7/10

A Story of Children and Film (2013)
Out on dvd. In the 100 minutes or so it lasts, narrator Mark Cousins does a good job of picking out great scenes and finding visual and thematic connections between both familiar (Kes, 1969; E.T., 1982) and virtually unknown gems of children’s cinema.
As with 2011's The Story of Film: An Odyssey(which I reviewed here),  A Story of Children and Film (2013) you could likewise rewatch, because there's so much to digest.
I had seen a few of them, ET, Moonrise Kingdom, 400 Blows, Big Business, Gasman , Great Expectations, The Red Ballon, The Kid, I Wish, The Mirror, The Night of the Hunter.
Want to see: Los Olvidados by Luis Bunuel, Zero for Conduct, Kes, Forbidden Games, Yaaba, Kauwboy, An Angel at My Table, Beed-o baad‎.
I was surprised Mark Cousins skipped over the films of Dardenne’s and Majid Majidi. And childhood films such as: Beasts of the Southern Wild, Stand By Me, The Goonies, Lord of the Flies, and Salaam Bombay.
Also the whole horror genre is missing, for example: Let The Right One In, Village of the Damned, The Exorcist, The Shining, and The Omen. I guess you can’t have it all.
Rating 8/10

Time of the Wolf (2003)
Apocalyptic drama directed by Michael Haneke. Suspense is maintained by not revealing why there has been a meltdown of law and order.
It’s dramatic and well-acted, but we’ve seen the scenarios before, when violence, injustice, and sexual exploitation occurs. The scene with the boy and the fire is probably among Haneke’s best endings. Lesser known, and not the director’s best. Worth a look, if you are a fan of his work.
Michael Haneke quote: “I wanted to do a film for our superficial society. Those who are doing well who feel comfortable, who watch the end of the world on TV because it’s at a distance, and to give them a taste of what it would be like if it happened to them”
Rating 7/10

Monkey Business (1931)
Marx Brothers comedy. Opening credits are pretty inventive, with the names on the barrel, while it rolls round. They are basically stowaways on a ship.
Famous for the sequence when the brothers all pass themselves off as singer Maurice Chevalier, which probably isn't as funny now, because not everyone knows Chevalier these days. For me, the puppet show scene is the highlight, Harpo sure knows how to pull a funny face!
Groucho Marx has the best dialogue, yet it is implausible he gets away with all that rudeness. Horse Feathers (1932) and Duck Soup (1933) make more sense that they tolerate Groucho’s antics, because in those films he’s in a position of authority. Still, the dialogue and situations are funny.
Favorite quotes: Why not send for the old swine, let his beard come later? I sent for his beard. You did? It’s coming by “hair mail”.
“Sorry I have to go, the captain's waiting to chase me round deck”
Rating 8/10

Horse Feathers (1932)
Marx Brothers comedy. Parody of college life. Harpo is my favorite, even though he doesn’t say a word. The coins he collects, holding up the traffic, eating a banana. It’s so simple, and just fun to watch.
The jokes are a bit one-note, though. You can’t burn a candle at two ends; and then we see it. Cut the cards; and then the pack of cards are chopped by axe. While amusing, the jokes become slightly repetitive.
Favorite quote: Why don’t you bore a hole in yourself and let the sap run out?”
Rating 6/10

Duck Soup (1933)
Rating 8/10
Full review here

Seen anything great this month you want to recommend? Have you watched any of the above films? Agree or disagree? As always, comments are welcome

Kate Bush albums ranked

Sometimes referred to as one of the Queens of British pop. A highly influential singer, and it has become almost standard for individualistic female singer-songwriters to be compared to Kate Bush by the media. In 1979, Bush embarked on her first (and only) tour. Surprisingly the singer is to return in August 2014 for a string of live performances, so what better time than to look back at her discography.
Unafraid to experiment, there’s a sense of mystery about her music and reclusiveness. Music videos, rare interviews, and her songwriting style employing historical or literary references add to her elusive reputation. She had a lot of creative control over the production of her albums, and back then that was all new, so she was a pioneer for female artists. 

Here is my ranking of her ten studio albums:

50 Words for Snow (2011)
Rich in wintery atmosphere, I admire her willingness to try something new. Pleasant enough, with lots of piano, but also quite boring and lacking is variation. I struggled to even finish, and it tested my patience. A slow paced concept album with very long tracks. Not for everyone.

Director's Cut (2011)
A self-indulgent and largely unnecessary album of reworkings of her older material. The 2011 version of This Woman’s Work is for me the highlight, the piano is replaced with a beautiful electronic mix, and the vocal is somehow more vulnerable. Lyrics are about regrets. The rest of the album doesn’t do much for me, and in most cases I prefer the originals.
Favorite tracks: This Woman’s Work

The Red Shoes (1993)
An album the singer has expressed regrets about. This was a troubled time for Bush, who had suffered a series of bereavements including the loss of her favoured guitarist, Alan Murphy, and, most painfully, her mother, Hannah, who died shortly after the album's release. Bush's long-term relationship with bassist Del Palmer had also ended, although the pair continued to work together. Surprisingly, despite these setbacks, the album is quite upbeat. 
To me, the material lacks the punch of her 80s work, and the album is somewhat patchy and overlong. Bush would take a 12 year hiatus following the release, perhaps at this time she was burnt out and needed a break. She would revisit several of the tracks for her 2011 album Director’s Cut.
Favorite tracks: And So is Love, Rubberband Girl, Eat The Music,  

Lionheart (1978)
Following the success of her debut album, Kate Bush's record company EMI were eager to get another out. Bush was unhappy with the short length of time she had in which to produce the album. Don't Push Your Foot on the Heartbrake is maybe the most adventurous track with its surprising rock approach.
Favorite tracks: Wow, Don't Push Your Foot on the Heartbrake, Hammer Horror

Aerial (2005)
Following a hiatus during which she became a mother, she returns with a double album which has its own mood. As with 1985's Hounds of Love, the album is divided into two thematically distinct collections.
Rated highly by critics, there are interesting flourishes, the nature sounds are a nice touch. Disc 2 traces the arc of a summer’s day, each song threaded with bird song. There is much to like on Disc 2(Sky Of Honey), and is easily my favorite of the double album. 
Disc 1(A Sea of Honey) was ok, but I found it slightly dull and unmemorable. The song Mrs. Bartolozzi annoyed me with the “washing machine” lyric. On the track ‘Bertie' the singer celebrates her son, and the delicate 'A Coral Room' is a tribute to her late mother. A case where I feel repeat plays will help me warm to the album.
Favorite tracks:
Disc 1: King of the Mountain, How to Be Invisible
Disc 2: Aerial, An Architect's Dream, Somewhere in Between,

Never For Ever (1980)
The first two albums had resulted in a particular sound, with lush orchestral arrangements supporting the live band sound. Never for Ever bridges the gap between 70s Kate and 80s Kate. The range of styles on Never for Ever is much more diverse, featuring synthesizers and drum machines.
According to Bush, the title alluded to conflicting emotions, good and bad, which pass, as she stated: "we must tell our hearts that it is 'never for ever', and be happy that it's like that"
The album cover is an illustration by artist Nick Price, it depict a multitude of animals and monsters emerging from under her skirt. Of the concept, the singer said that it reflects the title, depicting good and bad things that emerge from you.
Favorite tracks: Breathing, Babooshka, Delius (Song of Summer)

The Kick Inside (1978)
Her debut album, released when she was only 19-years-old. While I feel the vocal is a tad samey over the course of the record, it’s also a cohesive set. Her cinematic and literary influences, two qualities considered her trademarks, were especially prominent in "Wuthering Heights", which is by many still considered her best song. Unfortunate that the song has been played to death on the radio, while other great tracks from her discography are rarely aired at all.
The album title hints at child birth, which is most obvious in, Room For The Life and The Kick Inside.
Favorite tracks: Wuthering Heights, The Man with the Child in His Eyes, Moving, Oh To Be In Love 

The Sensual World (1989)
Her biggest-selling album in the US. An autumnal slow burner. An album with some of her best songs. That said, I feel the record is patchy and includes filler tracks of lesser quality.
Both 1989's The Sensual World and 1993’s The Red Shoes featured contributions from Trio Bulgarka, the Bulgarian female vocal trio who sang on several tracks.
The song Deeper Understanding is quite prophetic, written in the pre-internet age, and the reason I started listening to her music in the first place. I read the lyrics are comparable to Spike Jonze's movie Her (2013)
Favorite tracks: Deeper Understanding, The Sensual World, Never Be Mine, This Woman's Work, Love and Anger

Hounds of Love (1985)
Her best-selling studio album, and many claim this is her masterpiece. Slant Magazine listed the LP at #10 on its list of "Best Albums of the 1980s". The album reached number one in the UK.
Cited as a peerless fusion of the commercial and creative. The album was produced as two suites - side one being the more pop-friendly "Hounds of Love" and side two being a 7 track concept album called "The Ninth Wave". 
Each musician would play their parts separately, which gives it a slightly futuristic atmosphere.
I didn’t connect with it as deeply as #1 and # 3 on my list. Even so, Hounds of Love is a great album with timeless lyrics and many highlights. 
Favorite tracks: Running Up That Hill, Hounds Of Love, The Big Sky (Meteorological Mix), Cloudbusting, Mother Stands For Comfort, Hello Earth

The Dreaming (1982)
Slant Magazine listed the album at #71 on its list of "Best Albums of the 1980s". The first album Bush produced on her own. Compared to her previous output, you can hardly recognize it’s the same artist. It’s great to see her experiment with her vocal, which is something I sensed she was capable of, and the production on every track is interesting.
An unconventional album, it doesn’t have any chart topping singles. Bush herself has called The Dreaming her "I've gone mad album" and said it wasn't particularly commercial.
The artwork depicts a scene described in the lyrics to the song "Houdini". In the picture shown, Bush is acting as Harry Houdini's wife, holding a key in her mouth, which she is about to pass on to him.
Of all her albums, The Dreaming is my favorite, and the disc from her discography I have played the most this year. Each listen reveals new details, a lot of care and attention has been put into the work.
Favorite tracks: Pretty much everything. Especially, The Dreaming, There Goes a Tenner, Pull Out the Pin, Get Out of My House, Sat in Your Lap 

Have you listened to any of these albums, agree or disagree? Any favorites? For my next music post, I’ll share my top 10 Kate Bush songs.

2014 Blind Spot series: Duck Soup (1933)

My contribution to Ryan McNeil's 2014 blindspot series blogathon, where I watch a film each month that I have never seen before.

I’ve known about the Marx Brothers for ages, but have always put off delving into their work. This month I finally watched three of their films from a dvd box I own: Monkey Business (1931), Horse Feathers (1932), and Duck Soup (1933). Of the three, Monkey Business I thought had the funniest dialogue, which I watched first. Horse Feathers was ok but disappointed me with its repetitive pattern of jokes. Duck Soup won me over for the most part.

Let’s talk about Duck Soup and what I liked about the film. My favorite sequences are when they exchange hats by the lemonade stand, when he can’t stop the music box, and especially the mirror sequence (image below), which has amazing timing, I’m curious how they shot that scene. According to Wikipedia, the concept of the mirror scene did not originate in this film. Charlie Chaplin used it in The Floorwalker (1916) and Max Linder included it in Seven Years Bad Luck (1921).

Directed by Leo McCarey, the story is a political satire set in the fictional state of Freedonia, and about how rich folks sponsor idiots. The rich widow Mrs. Teasdale claims Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) is the most able leader of Freedonia, but she doesn’t base it on facts, and amusingly barely even listens to Firefly’s insulting remarks. I guess you put up with a lot when love is blind, word is she’s attracted to him. She won’t provide much-needed financial backing until Firefly is in charge.

The atmosphere of the film is very staged and contrived, but if you run with that, there are blink and you’ll miss them spurts of witty dialogue, mostly from Groucho. Watch it with subtitles, it’s as fast as a screwball comedy. You've got to work to keep up with him. However he is also a physical comedian, and prone to spontaneous dancing, which is fun to watch.
Besides wise-cracking Groucho, there’s child-like Harpo Marx, for me he’s the funniest, he never speaks, so it’s all body language and pantomime. The story really is just an excuse for the brothers to clown around.

While Duck Soup is praiseworthy, many of the situations I feel are implausible, and would never play out that way in real life, why would ambassador Trentino (Louis Calhern) hire those guys to follow Firefly, and then when they show their stupidity and fail, just let them try once again? Perhaps, as with Mrs. Teasdale, we are laughing at the bone-headed decisions.
To me, the black comedy is similar to Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove, in how minor disagreements could trigger a war. The film also is a running joke on musicals of the era, with the characters unexpectedly bursting into song.

Included in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, Duck Soup is by many considered the finest Marx brothers comedy. A film I want to revisit in future, because you can't pick up on all the dialogue in one sitting. 
Favorite quote: “You want to be a public nuisance? Sure, how much does the job pay.” 

Rating 8/10

Agree or disagree? Have you seen Duck Soup or other Marx Brothers comedies? Are you a fan of their style? 

Mini-reviews of 2014 albums (2 of 2)

Album: XSCAPE by Michael Jackson (May 9)

(As good as the studio albums he put out when he was alive? No. There's a reason MJ didn't release these tracks, and that's because the music is inferior to his best work. But as b-sides, it's an interesting listen.)

Favorite tracks: Love Never Felt So Good (feat. Justin Timberlake) (The single, which is so upbeat, and just makes me happy. The video is also all smiles. )

Rating 6 out of 10

Album: Benji by Sun Kil Moon (February 11)

(While it’s quite a morbid affair, about death and sadness, it is interesting how the singer created a family history, by having songs about his relationships to his mother, father, grandma, uncle, aunt, second cousin, neighbors. He documents girlfriends and pop culture he remembers from his youth, and life on the road as a musician. You really do feel you get to know the guy, because he's so candid, and there's no apparent filter in his musings. Sort of like reading his diary entries.
For what it lacks in variation in terms of instrumentation, it makes up for with relatable, vulnerable and heartfelt writing. Boy was it powerful and moving. Not something I’d listen to often though.
The title is a reference to the movie Benji (1974), which he explains in lyrics he saw in theatres.)

Favorite tracks: Ben's My Friend, I Can't Live Without My Mother's Love, Pray for Newtown, I Watched the Film The Song Remains the Same, Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes

Rating 8.5 out of 10

Album: Sun Structures by Temples (February 5)

(An under-appreciated, better-than-average new album. A retro psychedelic sound, which is a throwback to the 1960s. The band aren’t reinventing anything, however it’s beautiful to listen to. A record I can happily play from start to finish.)

Favorite tracks: Shelter Song, The Golden Throne, Mesmerise

Rating 8 out of 10

Album: To be Kind by Swans (May 12)

NME: "To Be Kind' is not easy or pleasant; it will probably repel and confuse as much as it inspires. It’s a Hieronymus Bosch painting come to life, impossible to tear your eyes away from despite the grotesque atrocities it depicts. Because in the modern world, where The Human Centipede and Anal Cunt are a part, however small, of popular culture, this album still has the ability to shock and scare. It’s an insane and challenging, ambitious and exceptional work of art."

(Experimental rock. In terms of ambition I'd give the album a 10/10. Dark, angry and intense, takes you on an epic journey. I'm unfamiliar with the band's output, and it's different to anything I've ever heard before. Takes you out of your comfort zone, that's for sure.
The singer is like a grown man who is as scared as a baby. Perhaps he is remembering ugly moments in his life. The most haunting moment perhaps is on 'Just A Little Boy' when he sings "I need love" which is followed by laughter, that particular track reminds me a little of David Lynch's music.
For me, disc 2 is weaker, although the final track was pretty stirring. I wish he didn't end several of the tracks with thrash-metal. A bit overlong(was disc 2 necessary?), my rating is mainly in acknowledgement of the extraordinary opening 27 minutes of disc 1.)

Favorite tracks: A Little God In My Hands, Screen Shot, Just A Little Boy (For Chester Burnett),

Rating 8 out of 10

Album: I Saved Latin! A Tribute to Wes Anderson by Various Artists (May 13)

(Like one of those free discs you receive with a music magazine. Features 23 contemporary covers of songs from the director's films. Save your money and go with the originals on the official soundtracks. For me, these new covers, while decent, are just not as strong. If you prefer to remember the movies as they are, I'd probably skip this album. The only tracks I quite liked are:
Alone Again or by Sara Lov (Bryan MacLean cover)
Making Time by Generationals (The Creation cover)

Rating 5 out of 10

Album: In Conflict by Owen Pallett (May 27)

Latest studio album from the composer, violinist, and singer-songwriter, who was responsible for the Her soundtrack.
Doesn’t quite achieve greatness, but In Conflict is a pretty solid collection. Especially the opening 3-4 songs impressed me.
“I Am Not Afraid” (A powerful song about such diverse things as giving up smoking, whether to have children, and salvation)
“On A Path” (Possibly my favorite lyric from the album: “You said you’ll never go home, but the truth is you never left it. At the top of the canyon we look down on what can be created”)
“The Riverbed” (Epic is the best way to describe the sound.)

For a limited time, stream the album in its entirety at NPR First Listen

Rating 7.5 out of 10

What do you think? Have you listened to these artists before? Agree or disagree? As always, share your opinions in the comments.

Mini-reviews of 2014 albums (1 of 2)

Album: Luminous by The Horrors (May 5)

(An album I was underwhelmed by on first listen. It took a few spins to get into the music. Holds up to repeat plays I think. Tough to pinpoint what genre the music is, has been described as dreamy synth-goth/pop. I like the production and layers of sound)
Favorite tracks: So Now You Know, I See You, In And Out Of Sight, Chasing Shadows, First Days Of Spring

For a limited time, stream the album in its entirety at Pitchfork

Rating 8 out of 10

Album: I Never Learn by Lykke Li (May 2)

(A melancholy breakup album, so a bit of a downer, though it does have moments of beauty. The vocal has been reverbed so much though, that it at times undermines the emotional impact she is going for)

Gunshot I loved on first listen. The first two tracks I Never Learn and No Rest For The Wicked are the other stand-outs for me)

Rating 7 out of 10

Album: Hot Dreams by Timber Timbre (April 1)

(Has been described as the bands strongest album to date. Atmospheric, brooding sound. To do the album justice, you really have to listen to the whole thing in its entirety. If you're looking for big hits, you'll be disappointed. What you get is a very cohesive set of tracks. Like a companion piece to the 2012 album All Hell by Daughn Gibson.)

Favorite tracks: Hot Dreams, The New Tomorrow, Run from Me

Rating 8 out of 10

Album: Upside Down Mountain by Conor Oberst (May 19)

(Solo album by Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst. Musically pretty samey, but I love the lyrics. Was basically what I expected, his trembling pained vocal is as per usual, and won’t please everyone. As with other singer/songwriter records, it’s wordy, so an album I’d prefer to read the material of while listening. The theme in several tracks is about coming to terms with celebrity. I can admire the songwriting, but I didn't love everything about the album. The cover art is a painting by Oberst's friend Ian Felice entitled The Creation of the Bulls.)

Favorite tracks: Time Forgot, Hundreds of Ways, Common Knowledge
For a limited time, stream the album in its entirety at NPR First Listen

Rating 7 out of 10

Album: White Women by Chromeo (May 12)

(I really wanted to love this electro-funk album, but it just wasn't for me. Instead of catchy the music was annoying and repetitive. "Jealous" is pretty good, but for me, the other tracks just lack that special something.)

Favorite tracks: Jealous (I Ain’t with it), Play The Fool

Rating 4 out of 10

What do you think? Agree or disagree? As always, share your opinions in the comments. In part 2 of 2, I'll review Benji by Sun Kil Moon, Sun Structures by Temples, To Be Kind by Swans, and XSCAPE by Michael Jackson

Top 10 songs by The Cure

A rainy day, so what better thing to do! Very tough to narrow down, since the band have put out so many fantastic tracks. Take this as my personal top 10, not necessarily the most famous tracks:

1. The Funeral Party (from 1981's Faith)
2. Out Of This World (from 2000’s Bloodflowers)
3. Lullaby (From 1989's Disintegration)
4. Plainsong (From 1989's Disintegration)
5. Lovesong (From 1989's Disintegration)
6. The Loudest Sound (From 2000's Bloodflowers)
7. Just Like Heaven (From 1987’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me)
8. The Caterpillar (From 1984’s The Top)
9. Friday I'm in Love (From 1992’s The Wish)
10. The Walk (From 1983’s Japanese Whispers)

Just missed out:

A Strange Day (From 1982’s Pornography)
Fascination Street (From 1989's Disintegration)
Disintegration (From 1989's Disintegration)
The Upstairs Room (From 1983’s Japanese Whispers)
All Cats Are Grey (From 1981's Faith)
A Forest (From 1980's Seventeen Seconds)
A Night Like This (From 1985’s The Head on the Door)
In Between Days (From 1985’s The Head on the Door)
Let's Go To Bed (From 1983’s Japanese Whispers)
If Only Tonight We Could Sleep (From 1987’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me)
Pictures Of You (From 1989's Disintegration)
Push (From 1985’s The Head on the Door)
Lament (From 1983’s Japanese Whispers)
Purple Haze (Jimi Hendrix cover) (From Join the Dots: B-Sides & Rarities, 1978–2001)

Any thoughts on my list? Agree or disagree? Did I miss anything by The Cure you love?

Viewing recap for April

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Rewatch. My favorite film, seen at cinema for the first time in 70 mm. It was great to see it all up there and marvel at all the details.
The second half on the trip to Jupiter is certainly more involving due to the pacing. The beginning is a bit slow to get going. I wish the ape learning to use bones as weapons was handled in just as subtle a way as the ending. During the Dawn of Man sequence, we see a cut to an animal falling down, when the ape is hitting the bones, and that wasn't really necessary. We could think that ourselves without being told. I also felt the soundtrack is a bit pretentious in places, but I still love the music choices, and is still the best film I've ever seen!
Rating 9.8

Run Lola Run (1998)
Rewatch. Still as fresh and exhilarating as when I first saw it. Highly stylized with bits of animation, pulsating soundtrack, and inventive editing.
Director Tom Tykwer takes his bag of visual tricks to the limit. I wouldn't watch it often, but for me among the best contemporary German films.
Rating 8.5

Bullitt (1968)
Rewatch. I love the score in the opening. Famous for Steve McQueen's performance as a renegade cop, and the impressive car chase in the streets of San Francisco.
A pretty good crime drama, but I wouldn't call it a masterpiece.
Rating 7.4

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Rating 8.5
Read full review here

A Touch of Sin (2013)
The animal torture is excruciating to watch, killing a duck, and whipping a horse, but does serve a purpose as a warning not to harm animals. Apart from that, the multiple stories were interesting, about jealousy, corruption, and so.
Of the four stories, the first one is the most memorable. The second one is the least interesting,
about random acts of violence. The third was quite captivating about infidelity, and for some reason
I empathized with the young woman, even though she is breaking up a marriage, however I didn’t
care for the direction that story takes.
The fourth and final part is about a trip a young man goes on.
To me, the film overall warns about greed and abuse of power, the danger of weapons, not loving a
child enough, and how aids spreads through prostitution. These are things we all know already, yet
are important reminders. The final quote is, “do you understand your sin”, and maybe it’s about
how characters are all sinners.
Rating 7.8

Life of Brian (1979)
Rewatch. Famous for the iconic closing scene with the song Always Look on The Bright Side of Life. For me the film wasn't laugh-at-loud funny, a couple of scenes amused me, especially the names of the Romans and the guards not being able to stop laughing at biggus dickus and so on.
According to Rev Richard Burridge, who was interviewed: The film takes the mickey out of organized religion, and the way people follow people blindly. Judea at the time was full of pretend messiahs. “I should know lord, I follow many of them” is one of Cleese’s lines. Opens up for a discussion of why was Jesus different from the Brians and others.
Rating 8.0

The Guard (2011)
The way they talk reminded me of Pulp Fiction, with all the off topic discussions. Criminals talking about philosophy, books, music, and so on. It somehow made the characters more rounded.
The best thing about it is the dialogue (dark humor)
The worst thing about it is the dialogue (lots of profanity)
From the style of the film, you can tell director John Michael McDonagh is the brother of Martin McDonagh-who made In Bruges (2008).
Rating 7.9

Everybody Else (aka Alle Anderen) (2009)
German drama. Looks at a relationship between a couple on holiday told in a realistic way, with the audience as a fly on the wall in the room. The story depicts their daily life and little discussions and disagreements. I enjoyed just listening to the conversations, because it wasn't dumbed down but a film made for adults. Won't appeal to everyone, though.
Deals with stuff like: how much should you tell your partner, where do you draw the line in terms of honesty, how well do you know them, are you the right one for them without changing your ways, how to deal with neighbours, doing something your partner wants such as going to the disco when you're not in the mood. How far should you go with criticizing your partner? Does show the complexities of a relationship quite well, although thematically it's a bit scatterbrained.
The abrupt ending is frustrating, and there are many unresolved loose ends. Perhaps the director wants us to imagine how the story will continue. Perhaps the title is a clue to the main theme?
Rating 7.6

The Baader Meinhof Complex (2008)
German drama. Knew nothing about the real life story. You can admire the cause the group are fighting for, but the methods they use are increasingly brutal, so the line between justice and criminality becomes blurred.
Rating 7.5

Kill Your Darlings (2013)
The title, I see it both as sacrificing certain things in your real life to concentrate on art, and editing out stuff in the creative writing. Probably the latter is the real meaning of the phrase.
Intriguing at first, but the story about the beat generation poets Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs doesn’t maintain my interest. The characters were having more fun than I was. Has a few inspired moments, but is not a great movie.
Favorite quote, from opening: “Some things, once you’ve loved them, become yours forever. And if you try to let them go, they only circle back, and return to you. They become part of who you are, or they destroy you.”
Rating 6.5

Jules and Jim (1962)
French drama directed by Fran├žois Truffaut. About two best male friends, and Catharine, who are all indecisive in what relationships they want. The opening 15 min is full of energy and charm, and was my favorite part of the movie. The dialogue is quite fast-paced. The story did seem to lack character development, as I got the point after 30 minutes, and the rest was just repeating itself.
The film has been described as "a plea for free and passionate love, the impossible quest for harmonious love"
Favorite quote: "I don't want to be understood!"
Rating 7.3

Shallow Grave (1994)
Danny Boyle's directorial debut. Could be labelled a neo noir.
Well-written dialogue. Seldom has a round of interviews looking for a new flat mate been so entertaining to watch.
It isn't perfect, the three friends are a bit too quick assessing the body as dead, before even checking the pulse. Also, there are numerous hints about the bad guys, so it's a bit predictable once the baddies show up. Despite these minor flaws, I was entertained.
Another oddity is how the friends naively shout about the crimes in the flat, it isn't relevant in the film, but I was wondering if the neighbors could have heard their loud voices?
Goes in a very gruesome direction, so not for everyone. You have been warned!
The story questions if you can be happy, if it's obtained in an immoral way.
Rating 7.8

Pusher (1996)
Rewatch. Low budget debut from Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn. Like watching PT Anderson’s The Master, the characters are mostly unlikeable, yet I can’t look away. A lot of vile and desperate behavior, yet very powerful.
The dogme 95 movement is famous for its handheld cameras and so on, but Pusher was actually one of the earliest examples of that style of filmmaking.
Rating 7.7

Pusher 2 (2004)
The Ferrari scene is pretty cool, if somewhat contrived. Focuses on Tonny (Mads Mikkelsen) who was a supporting character in the first film. A fine central performance by Mikkelsen, his character attempts to gain respect from his crime boss father, while also learning about being a dad.
Like the original, we are in the seedy underworld of Copenhagen. The filmmaking is pretty much the same style.
Rating 7.5

Pusher 3 (2005)
Less tension at first, but it does slowly build. Another supporting character from the first movie, Milo (Zlatko Buric) takes the lead role. More bloody than the other two films. The trilogy as a whole, I feel each film is of roughly the same quality.
Rating 7.5

Fear X (2003)
Held my interest with the atmosphere and central performance by John Turturro. You can tell Nicolas Winding Refn put a lot of love into each frame, and it really is a pity this was a flop, because there is a lot to like. Granted it doesn't all add up at the end, but I was captivated.
If I had to name a movie people hate, that I enjoyed, this is high on the list. Visually it reminded me of the director's other films, with lots of red in the background. That said, there's hardly any violence, so it's an atypical outing from Nicolas Winding Refn.
Rating 7.6

Seen anything great this month you want to recommend? Have you watched any of the above films? Agree or disagree? As always, comments are welcome


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