Movies I've seen in 2012
- Ice Age: Continental Drift
Another transatlantic flight, another chance to catch up on movies, and I've always liked the Ice Age films.
The plot is a bit uninspired, though - Scrat brings about a breaking-up of the icy world, resulting in the group being
separated, and some of them falling into the hands of pirates. Needless to say, it all turns out well, and this time it's
the tiger's turn to find a mate. Despite her having Jennifer Lopez' voice, the whole of it falls a bit flat.
- Nothing to Declare
Another one of those charming French movies with no big-name actors that show ordinary people having to adapt to
extraordinary circumstances brought upon them by life. This one is about the disappearance of the French/Belgian border
stations following the Schengen agreement. Suddenly, former enemies (of a sort) have to work together and hard-won
prejudices are in need of being revisited. Fans of movies like Welcome to the Sticks and Seducing Doctor Lewis
will like this one as well.
- Quantum of Solace
This feels like a sequel to Casino Royale, where an international conspiracy was thrown in to bring Bond's
personal revenge rampage in line with a clandestine service operation's narrative. I'm not sure I like the "you can travel
from anywhere to anywhere within a matter of hours, even in the desert where there's no airport close by" running theme,
nor the constant involvement and presence of M. (That's nothing against Judi Dench, just that earlier Bond incarnations
didn't need as much support and handholding from Central Services.)
- Casino Royale
After ignoring new James Bond movies for a couple of decades, I finally decided to catch up with modern times.
It's a somewhat less high tech approach (no Q!), but otherwise he's still the same hero dodging automated weapons fire
and performing mind-bending feats of physical agility and strength. I liked it, and now Quantum of Solace is next on the list.
The movie tells the story of George Jung who made Colombian cocaine popular all over the USA.
Starting out with Marijuana, through some ups and downs (also involving prison spells) he gets into business with the Medellin
cartel, but is ultimately betrayed by his own partners, and today -as an old man- is still in prison. The movie is a reminder
of the late Sixties to the early Eighties, and tells an interesting story that is generally overlooked relative to Cannabis.
Thanks to transatlantic inflight entertainment, I get to see a recent blockbuster. Sort of a prequel to the Alien
movies, it shows how the alien beings come into existence on a remote planet. As in the first Alien -but not later ones-
it constantly changes shape and size, making for nice creature effects.
I've been wanting to see this one for ever since I first read about it twenty years ago or so. Three men visit the Zone,
an off-limits area where something has happened, although nobody knows for sure what that was. They're very different characters,
with different agendas, and change in various ways as they get close into the Zone. Their discussions straddle the high and the low,
and each of them projects something different into it that fits his own view of the world. An interesting one to watch, but
difficult to concentrate through at 163 minutes.
- The Fearless Vampire Killers
Barely 45 years after its release I got to see this funny take on all vampire movies that came before it, starring
Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate. Not only are the vampire hunters rather hapless and confused, but ultimately unsuccessful
as the beautiful victim they thought they had rescued turns out to be a vampire already, despite the application of copius amounts of garlic.
- Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul
A documentary about the music scene in Istanbul shows very different styles and bands, as well as the people behind them,
in a series of interviews and performances. The narrator is a German musician, and readily involves himself with the bands,
although the music is rather different from what his own band plays. It's an interesting and entertaining film, which also
talks a bit about the city, its geography and people.
- Schoolgirl Apocalypse
Horror films are not normally my favorite genre, but special circumstances compelled me to see this one at the Japan
Filmfestival in Hamburg; at its European premiere with the director in attendance, no less. The story of men falling
under the influence of a non-human being and becoming aggressive towards women can be interpreted in various ways,
including as a metaphor of the role of men and women in Japanese society. I'm not sure what to compare it to,
but it's certainly on a different intellectual level than Scream-type movies.
Compared to Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility this story seems rather straightforward.
Fine performances by the leading characters can't make up for the fact that the feelings and motivations of them
are never probed deeply, and that their change of heart is apparently nothing but the resurgence of deeply suppressed
or long-forgotten feelings.
It's supposed to be an honest look at the Neapolitan Mafia, also known as Camorrha. Quite a difference from what
you may remember from the Godfather. A kind of rundown, homegrown affair, mainly in cocaine trafficking and local
business extortion, but much more deadly. Kind of a nobody-gets-away-clean situation.
- Mr. & Mrs. Smith
While an amusing idea, the premise of Mr and Mrs superhero fighter married to one another gets rather too incredible
to be set in what otherwise looks like our current times. Lots of action underneath the bored suburban marriage,
and -of course!- the couple lives to fight another day after battling what seems like entire agencies full of adversaries.
- The Firm
I'm quite behind in seeing this one, but I like a good suspense story, so I try to catch up. The young, naive, "good" lawyer
ends up in the law firm that represents the Chicago Outfit and little else. Since the FBI is after the firm -and trying to
turn him into an informer-, pretty soon he's getting pressured from multiple sides, yet miraculously comes out alive (not
everybody does). Not without having become the "bad" lawyer first, though, and having secured substantial money for himself.
Nobody gets away clean - that's how I like films.
The follow-up to the earlier smash hit Keinohrhasen this one doesn't live up to first installment -which sequel does?-
but it's still OK entertainment. Now in a "happy" -for some degree of "happy"- relationship, the protagonists are thrown off
course by earlier significant others of theirs that show up unexpectedly along with all the episodes of jealousy you might
expect. Of course they get back together in the end. Of course there's plenty of hilarity, high-brow and low-brow. And of
course numerous well-known German actors take bit parts, making the result -even if not the plot- enjoyable.
- Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
I'm a big fan of the 1979 BBC mini series starring Alec Guinness that first put this book to film, but at 5 hours
-vs. 2 hours for this film- it's a rather different approach. Here it's a grey world full of grey men, somewhat
reminiscent of Brazil. The book and mini-series are rather intricate in their treatment of the clandestine world,
but here explanations and motivations get rather short shrift. It's still a decent film on its own, but too much is left
out to compare favorably to the mini series.
- The Ides of March
A very timely movie about the primary election season in the US. A bunch of colorful wheeler-dealers managing the last two
active presidential campaigns is in high gear ahead of the Ohio primary, and everybody -from the candidates down to the
libertine intern- is after the killer attack on the opposition. The title alludes as much to treachery as to actual dying.
Very enjoyable (provided the viewer has some knowledge of the primary process, otherwise quite a bit of it won't make sense).
A down-and-out writer gets his act together and acts like he's on something while he's on some kind of new wonder drug
that lets the brain operate at 100%. There's a lot of dying going on of a) people using this drug, and b) people who want
to get their hands on it. You have to wonder what makes Robert de Niro want to be part of a film like this. Forgettable.
- Deep Blue Sea
It's not a new release (from 1999), but I figured if I liked Jaws, why not this one? Genetically altered sharks
(to be bigger and more intelligent) lay waste to the ocean laboratory where they're normally kept. A hurricane, scientists
with no scruples, frollicking teenagers, and lots of victims are also involved, but no real storyline. An entertaining
120 minutes, but nothing to remember.