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Beautiful film with some flaws in the dialogue
If there ever was a trailer that could not sell his movie right, then it is the one for ''Youth'' by acclaimed director Paolo Sorrentino, who's previous film was the Oscar-winning ''The Great Beauty''. The trailer made it look like a generic feel-good comedy, but it turned out to be a heart-warming, emotional and beautiful film.
The story takes place in a resort hotel in the Alps, where a retired conductor (Michael Caine) and his friend, a film director (Harvey Keitel) who writes the screenplay for his ''Testament'', are on holiday. Both are confronted with their past, future and momentariness.
Both actors have a great supporting cast on their side, everyone with their own burdens: Rachel Weisz plays Caine's daughter who is also his assistant, who feels neglected by her father and, in an great emotional monologue, expresses her feelings towards him. Paul Dano plays a character actor who is only known for a single insignificant role and wants to be recognized as a versatile actor. Jane Fonda plays a Diva who was a regular collaborator with Keitel's character and also has a great dialogue scene with him. Other characters are a retired Maradonaesque football player and a masseuse who touches than talks and many other great characters.
It would seem that all these ''damaged'' characters would give this film an overly sentimental tone, but drama and humor is so well balanced that the shift between comedy (and there is a lot of it) and drama never seems abrupt and doesn't interrupt the pacing of the film.
From the first minute on one will clearly see what Sorrentinos strength as a director is: Extremely beautiful visuals. Whether it is just the landscape or the daily routine of the people within the hotel: Every frame is just beautifully composed and looks astonishing. Rarely can a film with a run time of 2 hours constantly produce one great looking shot after the other. In combination with the great score by David Lang, ''Youth'' creates a unique and relaxing atmosphere that will ensure a great time at the theater.
As great as this movie may sound so far, it unfortunately is not flawless. As funny and great the dialogue is, at times it ruins the film completely with how unsubtle some of the important character moments are. In one scene, Caine and Dano are in a store and a little girl approaches Dano. She tells him that she knows him from a movie. He immediately assumes that she is referring to his robot role, but then she talks about a little known drama and tells him how it affected her life and instantly after her dialogue is finished she runs away with the camera facing Danos reaction so everybody in the audience knows that it was an important scene for his character. Another examples would be ham fisted lines like: ''What awaits me outside?'' -''Youth'' or the scene with the binocular from the trailer. The problem with these scenes is not that they are bad, on the contrary, they are important for the films' themes and characters. The problem is that they feel disconnected from the narrative and do not feel like they fit naturally within the plot.
Flawed, but nevertheless interesting little movie
After his success with ''People on Sunday'', director Robert Siodmak made the first talking picture for UFA in quite a similar fashion. While ''People on Sunday' focuses on the life of four regular citizens of pre-war Germany during a Sunday and shows the love and pleasure of daily life, 'Abschied'' takes a more cynical approach and depicts a day in the life of mostly poor people who live in the same building with main focus on the couple Hella and Peter Winkler.
The main conflict arises when Hella finds out that her boyfriend wants to move out but hasn't told her anything about it. He then tells her that he got a job offer which would pay him enough money for them to be married. After this conflict is resolved, another emerges because of a misunderstanding and so on. This is more ore less how the movie plays out until it leads to a bittersweet ending.
Since this was the first sound film produced by the UFA, they had to experiment and used it at practically every instant they could, whether it was necessary or not. Because of this, the piano player, one of the few characters, felt shoe-horned in and didn't contributed anything to the film. This what the movie lacked in the first place: Developed characters, which is really a shame since the cast is small anyway and the whole film takes place in a confined space (one building) were most characters basically have to interact with each other.
The acting was fine for the most part, except for Aribert Mog, who played the main character Peter. His acting was atrocious in some scenes. Other weird decisions were the camera placement during a dialog between the couple, were the upper body of Peter completely covered Hellas face.
All in all it was a fine little movie with an interesting theme, nut also without it's flaws
Bland movie with an incredible ending
Call me a philistine but, I really don't care about the early movies that primary focus on a star, whether it's Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo or Asta Nielsen. Everybody is raving about their 'marvelous' performances, but a performance alone doesn't make a great movie, especially if the characters are flat and the plot barely existing. The director can spend as much time as he wants to light an actresses face as beautiful as possible,but this time would be better spent on character development or something that makes the movie worth watching.
I'm not saying Josef von Sternberg is a bad director, ''Der blaue Engel'', his first collaboration with Dietrich, was a great movie. The difference between this movie and ''Morocco'' is that it has an interesting plot and Emil Jannings character actually has an arc which develops beautifully and is foreshadowed in early scenes.
But ''Morocco'' isn't without any merits. The kissing-scene must have been shocking for audiences back then and even if you watch this scene today you definitely won't expect this from a movie from this time. Props to Dietrich to be this daring. Another great moment was the scene when Dietrich rushes to visit Gary Cooper in the hospital and the pearl necklace rips, which is a great moment of character building that, unfortunately, is rare in this film.
The scene that will stuck most with me and probably with most people who have seen this film is the ending. The buildup when Dietrich stands at the gate and the soldiers are marching into the desert looks fantastic, which is followed by an even better shot of Dietrich walking behind the last dune and the entire frame is filled with the desert and the sound of a storm approaching.
Considering the good scenes, it is a shame that the rest of the film is mediocre at best and could not be saved by the fantastic ending.
Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015)
Surprisingly good and funny, even for adults
Having only seen a few 'Wallace & Gromit' shorts and 'Chicken Run', I didn't have much expectations of 'Shaun the Sheep Movie'. I ended up loving nearly every second of it!
The plot is simple: Shaun wants to escape his monotonous life for a day and played a prank on the farmer, which resulted in the caravan with the farmer inside to roll into the big city. Shaun then has to find him and bring him back to the farm.
The simplicity of the film shouldn't discourage adult audiences. The directors took a great risk because the movie has no real dialogue, so a complicated plot would probably make it boring and hard to follow for children, but because of that 'Shaun the Sheep Movie' exceeds in something where most comedies fail: visual gags and subtle storytelling. What children probably won't notice will be a delight for the grown-ups among the audience and I'm not only talking about the references to 'The Beatles' or movies like 'Cape Fear' and 'The Wolverine'.
It's been a while since I have seen a stop-motion film, but i was surprised at how far stop-motion animation has come. Not only does it look fantastic, but is also incredibly detailed. One has just to look at the clothes the sheep are wearing while they are strolling around the city. Since most animated films outside of Japan are computer animated and especially because it was so well done, this film was a feast for the eye.
Omoide no Mânî (2014)
Great story, but dialogue is heavy-handed and overly emotional
Being the last movie before Studio Ghiblis hiatus, I had big expectations for 'When Marnie was there'. Since the studio has produced nearly exclusively great films so far, 'Marnie' had to compete with giants like 'My Neighbor Totoro', 'Spirited Away' and my personal favorite, 'Princess Mononoke'. Leaving the theater, I was quite disappointed.
'When Marnie was there' follows the 12-year old, depressed girl Anna. She doesn't have any friends and her foster parents are overwhelmed with her, so they sent her to the countryside to visit some relatives. There she meets and befriends the mysterious girl Marnie.
Since 'Marnie' is stylistically similar to 'The Wind Rises', the animators couldn't let their imagination go wild and create amazing fantasy worlds like in 'Spirited Away'. But this isn't really a problem, since 'Marnie' is more grounded and focuses more on the characters and plot and not the world they live in. Despite that, the animators are still able to pull off some great visuals that not only look great, but also serve the plot and characters.
Ironically, this is the major problem with this film. While the plot itself is great and has some interesting themes, the friendship between the two girls is extremely superficial and barely explored. They meet and from one second to the other are best friends for life. To make it even worse, the dialogue is cringe-worthy at times, especially when cliché'd phrases like 'I will love you forever' and ' Always remember me' are used. This wouldn't be a problem, but since the mutual relationship is one major theme and not really developed, this dialogue seems heavy-handed and out of place.
The next wasted opportunity was the ending. The buildup and especially the subtle hints throughout the film were well done, but it was completely ruined after they explained for the 5th time what the ending was about, in case somebody didn't pay attention for the last 10 minutes.
Another minor complained would be the constant falling and tripping of the main character. Miyazaki always used some quirks like these to make his characters more real, but director Hiromasa Yonebayashi went way overboard with this and made Anna look clumsy and barely capable off walking.
What makes this movie disappointing is not that it is a bad movie, but that it had potential to be great, and wasted it.
A hidden gem full of surprises
Looking at the plot synopsis, 'Virgin Mountain' may seem like a typical Kevin James movie: Fusi is a 43 year old, overweight virgin who still lives with his mother, plays with toys and is bullied by his co-workers. His daily life is dominated by routines. Every morning he eats cereals, goes to work, visits his favorite restaurant and calls a radio station to wish for the same song to be played. It is after he breaks his routines that he meets the women he falls in love with.
The big difference to movies like 'Paul Blart: Mall Cop' or 'Zookeeper', is that the humor does not result in 'fat guy falls' or 'fat guy has the intellect of a 12 year old', but rather of Fusis naivety and his incapability of social interactions. A lesser movie would make Fusi look like an unsophisticated low life, but Director Dagur Kári still manages to take his character seriously and creates a beautiful character study about an misunderstood, warm-hearted giant.
The numerous comedic elements are skillfully mixed with dramatic components and Gunnar Jónsson conveys all emotions to the audience with his brilliant portrayal of Fusi without relying on a ham fisted, overly emotional score. On the contrary, the score is subtle and fits the cold, but beautiful cinematography of the film.
Sadly, the movie is not without its flaws. The bullies seem more like 6th graders than grown-up men and there is one particular scene that depicts him slightly to naive, which makes him dumber than he actually is.
Nevertheless, these are just minor flaws and don't really hurt the great experience that this movie is.