"Curfew", what a great short film. Directed and written by Shawn Christensen, starring Shawn Christensen himself, Fatima Ptacek and Kim Allen. I liked it so much, that I wish it was a normal length film, beautiful, sad and at times funny story. Great directing/writing/acting by Shawn, I loved the atmosphere and the scenery, everything worked!
At the lowest point of his life, Richie gets a call from his estranged sister, asking him to look after his nine-year old niece, Sophia, for a few hours. Sophia wasn’t allowed to see her uncle Richie, because he was a drug addict. Richie desperately wants to bond with her, and also with his sister. You can feel his pain, how hard the battle with addiction must have been, his loneliness over the years with no contact to his family…but then at the end, who knows what one day can change…
"Rebelle" also known as "War Witch" took my breath away. The incredibly intense and realistic story about child soldiers in Africa. Kids who get abducted from home, are forced to kill their parents, and then fight against the government soldiers. This particular story is about Komona a 14-year-old girl, who tells her unborn child growing inside her the story of her life since she has been at war. Everything starts when she gets abducted by the rebel army at the age of 12.
Written and directed by Kim Nguyen, who keeps the camera always close on whats going on, sometimes so close you can’t take it. The film is in French, and plays somewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa. “War Witch” impressed me, it brings attention to the problems of child soldiers, and there aren’t that many movies about them, so I absolutely recommend this to everyone who’s interested in that subject. The actress who plays Komona, Rachel Mwanza, also did a great job and completely convinced me. Nominated for an Oscar “Best Foreign Language Film of the Year”, I hope it wins, it’s definitely one of my favorites.
"Peeping Tom" also known as "Face of Fear" (a movie way ahead of its time), directed by Michael Powell and written by Leo Marks, was released in theaters a month before Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”. Both are about men killing off beautiful women in horrific ways.
While Psycho maintains some suspense over the nature of the killer, Peeping Tom has him front and center, presenting a compelling and conflicting examination of his mind. Starring Karlheinz Böhm as Mark Lewis, a shy, lonely and quiet man with a dark secret, on his off hours, he supplies a local porno shop with cheesecake photos and dabbles in filmmaking, at night he’s killing young women, using a movie camera to film their dying expressions.
"My First Mister" is a funny and original movie starring Leelee Sobieski, who did a great job portraying a girl, that can’t/doesn’t want to fit in, yet her character isn’t the stereotypical rebel either, and Albert Brooks, almost unrecognizable, plays a lovely, odd man, who’s afraid of everything.
Jennifer (Leelee Sobieski) is a total misfit, she’s as wacky as a teenager can be. Goth-ed out with multiple piercings, tattoos, and dyed hair, she listens to strange music, watches vintage TV, eats primarily chocolate, and self injures. But now high school is over and she needs a job. ‘J’ meets middle-aged Randall (played by Albert Brooks) in the haberdashery window. ‘R’ gives her a job, not to mention a real friendship. Neither of them have a life outside of work so they slowly learn to hang out together, and make each other better people. The soundtrack is cool too - it has the great older tunes like Sinatra, along with some Marilyn Manson and then some reggae as well.
A Billy Wilder film, based on Charles R. Jackson’s novel about the desperate life of a chronic alcoholic, followed through a four day drinking bout. Starring Ray Milland, Jane Wyman and Phillip Terry.
Don Birnam, long-time alcoholic, has been “on the wagon” for ten days and seems to be over the worst; but his craving has just become more insidious. Evading a country weekend planned by his brother Wick and girlfriend Helen, he begins a four-day bender. In flashbacks we see past events, all gone wrong because of the bottle. But this bout looks like being his last…one way or the other.
What an ironic title. If theres one movie that will make you depressed, it’s “Happiness”. A movie by Todd Solondz, who is known for making heartbreaking films, such as “Welcome to the Dollhouse” and "Storytelling". This one gets so intense at times I could barely look, it literally took my breath away!
There are 10 different characters (and more) connected to each other, some very weird and some very lonely, but all in all, they try to find happiness. All the actors did a great job, from young to old, but Dylan Baker as the therapist/father/psychopath/pedophile, was the most convincing character for me. Loneliness, rage, sexual repression/obsession, disintegrating marriages, sadly sophisticated children, relationships built upon artifice, this film has it all. Got 134 minutes and a desire to see something darkly different? Watch “Happiness”.
A film directed and written by Clive Barker (based on his novel “The Hellbound Heart”), starring Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Sean Chapman, and Ashley Laurence. Barker has delivered us a real horror story, packed with intensity, both emotionally, as well as physically, also with a great/scary soundtrack. Though the special effects from the 80’s make you smile a little, “Hellraiser” can be pretty revolting, so I don’t recommend this to everyone!
Clive Barker’s feature directing debut graphically depicts the tale of a man and wife who move into an old house and discover a hideous creature - the man’s half-brother, who is also the woman’s former lover - hiding upstairs. Having lost his earthly body to a trio of S&M demons, the Cenobites, he is brought back into existence by a drop of blood on the floor. He soon forces his former mistress to bring him his necessary human sacrifices to complete his body.
A Russian film also known as “My Name Is Ivan” or “Ivan’s Childhood”, beautifully directed by Andrey Tarkovskiy. The movie is about Ivan, a 12 year old boy, played by Nikolay Burlyaev, who works as a spy at the eastern front. He can cross the German lines unnoticed to collect information, while three Soviet officers try to take care of him.
Vladimir Bogomolov wrote “Ivan” which is a fictional story but is based on real facts. It caused a sensation in 1962, no one had seen such a powerful motion picture about war and what it does to the youngest and weakest - the children. It’s a bleak, haunting and horrifying portrait of lost innocence and the childhood that was interrupted the very day the boy’s family was murdered.
A film by Otto Preminger, starring Dana Andrews as police detective, who falls in love with the woman whose murder he’s investigating, Laura, played by gorgeous Gene Tierney.
Detective Mark McPherson investigates the killing of Laura, found dead on her apartment floor before the movie starts. McPherson builds a mental picture of the dead girl from the suspects whom he interviews. He is helped by the striking painting of the late lamented Laura hanging on her apartment wall. But who would have wanted to kill a girl with whom every man she met seemed to fall in love? To make matters worse, McPherson finds himself falling under her spell too. Then one night, halfway through his investigations, something seriously bizarre happens to make him re-think the whole case.
I personally love to watch movies, that I cant figure out immediately, and “Le passager de la pluie” also known as “Rider on the Rain” is one of them, and it’s so different, that some people probably won’t even like it.
The film starts with a beautiful young woman in the South of France, played by Marlène Jobert, who is stalked, then raped by, a mysterious masked assailant. She shoots him dead soon afterwards and dumps his corpse in the sea. Later an American investigator, played by Charles Bronson, turns up, and to her horror he seems to know everything about what she has done. No matter how hard she tries, he’s always one step ahead. Only at the end, we learn what he really wanted from her.
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, based on Mark Peploe’s story, who also wrote the screenplay. Starring Jack Nicholson, as frustrated war correspondent, Maria Schneider, Jenny Runacre, Ian Hendry, Charles Mulvehill and Steven Berkoff.
A journalist (Jack Nicholson) researching a documentary in the Sahara Desert meets a gunrunner who suddenly dies. When the journalist notices that they have a similar appearance, and has not much to do, he assumes the recently deceased’s man identity and accepts the consequences that it brings. Jack gives a remarkable, subdued performance, keep in mind when seeing this film that it is slow, but the payoffs are well worth it (especially the end).
"Casablanca" is a timeless classic, directed by Michael Curtiz. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman became icons after this. A sweet and sad love story of two people, set in unoccupied Africa during the early days of World War II. Amazing cast, memorable dialogs, unforgettable story. (Won 3 Oscars)
In Casablanca, Rick Blaine (Bogart), exiled American and former freedom fighter, runs the most popular nightspot in town. The cynical lone wolf Blaine comes into the possession of two valuable letters of transit. When Nazi Major Strasser arrives in Casablanca, police Captain Renault does what he can to please him, including detaining Czech underground leader Victor Laszlo. Much to Rick’s surprise, Laszlo arrives with his wife Ilsa (Bergman), Rick’s one time love. Rick is very bitter towards Ilsa, who ran out on him in Paris, as he was fleeing the oncoming German occupation, but when he learns she had good reason to, they plan to run off together again using the letters of transit.
I wish more directors would try to make sci-fi movies this epic and deep, like Ridley Scott does. The story plays in the future but is told in a classic film noir style. “Blade Runner” is well written, and multi-layered, it may require more than one viewing to fully absorb the brilliance of it. No, it’s not effect driven, rather, it is a visually driven story that doesn’t rely on special effects, unlike in today’s Hollywood.
In a cyberpunk vision of the future, man has developed the technology to create replicants, human clones used to serve in the colonies outside Earth but with fixed lifespans. In Los Angeles, 2019, Deckard, played by Harrison Ford, is a Blade Runner, a cop who specialises in terminating replicants. Originally in retirement, he is forced to re-enter the force when six replicants escape from an offworld colony to Earth.
The Addams Family was a funny/quirky TV show from the 60s, almost 30 years later this film came out and was big success (bigger than the show). Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld starring Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd, Jimmy Workman and young Christina Ricci, who started her career with this movie.
The Addams step out of Charles Addams’ cartoons. They live with all of the trappings of the macabre (including a detached hand for a servant) in a big house and are quite wealthy. Added to this mix is a crooked accountant and his loan shark, who try to get money from the Addams, so they slip in the shark’s son into the family as their long lost Uncle Fester. Raul Julia is great as Gomez and the love story between him and his wife are my favorite scenes. Even though it’s a little “dark” the whole family can enjoy Sonnenfeld’s “Addams Family”.
A film from Wolfgang Petersen that everyone can enjoy watching. It’s about Bastian (Barett Oliver) who’s having a hard time getting over his mother’s death and spends most of his time in dreamland. His teachers and father of course want him to get serious. He’s being tormented by school bullies, and one day escapes into a book shop from them, where he meets Carl Conrad Coreander (Thomas Hill), the reclusive owner who piques his curiosity about the book he’s reading, but warns it’s not “safe”. Shortly after he borrows the book, he begins to read it in the school attic where Bastian is drawn into the mythical land of Fantasia, which desperately needs a hero to save it from destruction. (There is also a famous OST by singer Limahl.)
A fantastic film, and a very important one, based on the story of Carl Foreman (who’s screenplay was nominated for an Oscar). Actors and and real veterans portray men/soldiers, who were injured during war. Everyone especially Marlon Brando, who plays Ken and is paralyzed below the waist, gave a superb performance.
I could quote the whole film, there are just so many good moments! They know they will never walk again, but that doesn’t hold them from living their lives. They joke around with the doctors, with the nursers and make fun of each other. Of course there are also the sad and depressing moments, i.e. when they realize they will never have children, or their wives want to get divorced, they stop loving themselves and hate the fact they need help from others. I’d say “The Men” is a classic everyone can watch, even if it’s just to see Marlon Brando (who allegedly lay in a bed in a veterans’ hospital for a month to to prepare for his role as paraplegic) at the beginning of his wonderful career.
A film by the great Cameron Crowe, starring Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr. (who won an Oscar for his performance, and gave one of the funniest speeches of all time), Renée Zellweger - and Jonathan Lipnicki, who plays the adorable kid :) I love this movie for several reasons; one, it doesn’t take it self to serious, two, it’s hilarious and authentic at the same time, three, “You complete me”, the beautiful love story between Jerry and Dorothy, but mostly this film works so well because of the dynamism of Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding Jr.
Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) is a successful sports agent. The biggest clients, the respect, a beautiful fiancée, he has it all. Until one night he questions his purpose. His place in the world, and finally comes to terms with what’s wrong with his career and life. Recording all his thoughts in a mission statement Jerry feels he has a new lease on life. Unfortunately his opinions aren’t met with enthusiasm from his superiors and he gets fired from the agency. Jerry steps out into the sports business armed with only one volatile client (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and the only person with belief in his abilities (Renée Zellweger) with the impossible task of rebuilding what he once had. Along the way he faces the harsh truths which he’d ignored in the past and a host of hardships that he’d never faced before. A rare story produced by the materialistic studios about the dangers of losing oneself for the sake of materialism. An interesting statistic has emerged of late regarding a high number of American businessmen on their deathbeds who begin regretting the direction and purpose of their lives. “Jerry Maguire” offers an alternative, although probably few in his position would find the wisdom to change course.
Directed by Robert Altman, based on Michael Tolkin’s novel. A studio executive, played by Tim Robbins, is being blackmailed by a writer whose script he rejected - but which one? This plot is written on a backdrop of sleazy Hollywood deals and several subplots involving the politics of the industry, loaded with Hollywood insider jokes.
I find it one of the best movies ever made about movies. We start with an incredible long “one-shot” showing us all the different characters on the studio lot talking - e.g. about the best long opening shots of all time while Robert Altman skillfully is showing you one. Then we see Tim Robbins in his office with famous film posters around him (who’s titles later always fit in the right situation). Tim is excellent as studio executive, Griffin Mill, the way he talks, thinks or orders water (you’ll get it if you watch it). What I loved about “The Player” is not only the original idea and the hilarious script but also, to find and name all the famous cameos. I’m not gonna give away much, but this film is absolutely worth watching!
Based on Stephen King’s short story “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption”, Frank Darabont wrote the screenplay and directed this film, which at times reminds us (intentionally) of “The Count of Monte Cristo”. What makes this film so brilliant is not only the writing, but the chemistry between Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman (the rest of the cast also did a wonderful job!). King is one of the best writers in the world, his best adaptations are always done by great directors. “The Shining” was brilliantly interpreted by Kubrick and of course “Misery” and “Stand By Me” are both by Rob Reiner. Then Frank Darabont comes onto the scene and makes arguably the best King film ever. (Btw. the movie was nominated for 7 Oscars, but didn’t win one. Forrest Gump was the big winner that year.)
Andy Dufresne, played by Tim Robbins, is a young and successful banker whose life changes drastically when he is convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the alleged murder of his wife and her lover. Set in the 1940’s till the 1960’s, the film shows how Andy, with the help of his friend Red, played by Freeman, lives the prison life - we see the good and bad sides, corruption, injustice, friendship and more, basically a movie about two imprisoned men, who bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency. After the jail director discovers Andy’s talent, he wants him to work for him and take care of his finances. But then Andy finds out, who really killed his wife, and wants to get out of jail (after serving 20 years innocently), so he plans his jailbreak.
A serial killer brutally slays and dismembers several gay men in New York’s S&M and leather districts. The young police officer Steve Burns (Al Pacino) is sent undercover onto the streets as decoy for the murderer. Working almost completely isolated from his department, he has to learn and practice the complex rules and signals of this little society. While barely seeing his girlfriend Nancy anymore, the work starts changing him.
Based on Gerald Walker’s novel, director William Friedkin, in my opinion, adapted the book in a mysterious way. We get to observe the “underground gay scene” in New York City of the 80s, where we are confronted with it’s sexy secretes, it’s danger and crazy fantasy’s. Steve Burns, played by Pacino, takes this case, to find the killer who has gay victims only. This movie definitely deserved its R-rating, we get to see a couple of lavish sex scenes. The homosexuals in this film are, to a man, deviants who all hang out in clubs having anonymous sex with multiple partners in clubs and parks - a few unnecessary cliches. But the film is also about the consequences of homophobia, i.e. social conditions that lead to terrible police brutality, self hate and murder. Pacino did a great job, even though he unfortunately didn’t get to do, what we know he’s capable of. Also he was mad because they cut his acting (some scenes) because of protests.
A movie that is funny, interesting, educational and romantic. “I Phone You” is a German/Chinese production directed by Dan Tang, written by Wolfgang Kohlhaase, and tells us about a young Chinese woman “Ling Ling”, played by Yiyan Jiang, who falls in love with a Chinese man Yu Guanhao, who is living in Germany. After leaving her, Yu gives her a an iPhone, so they can stay in contact. But one day, she decides to travel to Berlin and visit the guy, who actually is married and has children. He wants her to go back to China and tells his German “bodyguard” Marco, played by Florian Lukas, to take care of her. Of course Ling Ling, doesn’t want to leave before meeting Yu, who she thinks is her boyfriend, and runs away from Lucas, to then learn what it means to be lost in a big city like Berlin.