This is such a delicate, kind little movie (I tried hard not to use ‘sweet’ there). I’m sure that Asian entertainment has dumb blockbusters, sappy, clichéd romances and downright disgustingly bad films as well, but those that find their way here, to our cinemas and televisions, have yet to disappoint. Maybe it’s in the cinematography, maybe because the script writers don’t seem to be afraid about keeping things small. Anyway, Sweet Bean.
The movie is about food, but not just about it. How food is betrayed in Asian cinema is another thing that always tickles my fancy, by the way. Those people care. In this case, it’s about a man in a dorayaki (look them up for enjoyable pictures of food) stand, and an old woman that likes to help out. There’s a small plot line about a teenage girl as well, and in some way they’re all brought together by food.
Under that current develops a much harsher story, but the director manages to keep the balance between sweet and melancholic impressively well. This way, it’s not just something you watch and forget, you take it with you as a gathering of soft musings. And possibly with a craving for dorayaki.
Sweet Bean, Aeon Entertainment 2015
I understand why this is quite award-friendly. I also understand why it didn’t win a lot. With these vague comments out of the way, let’s get to the story.
Lee Israel is an author that writes biographies not a lot of people – and definitely not her agent – care about. Instead of trying to find a job that will make her enough money to take care of her bills and sick cat, Israel digs in and tries to continue with making money from her writing. She’s complimented on completely disappearing behind the person’s voice she writes a biography about so that’s what she does: disappear. With her research and writing skills, she starts a very profitable business of embezzling letters from dead celebrities. With her lack of people skills and restraint … let’s just go with ‘it doesn’t end well for many people involved’.
The entire movie looks and feels a bit grubby, stubborn and unwilling to get out of the rut Lee Israel put it in. Israel herself isn’t a likeable character, but she isn’t exactly unlikable either. That’s probably largely due to neither Melissa McCarthy and the writing worrying about showing her ugliness. This is a sad creature, and her friend/fellow criminal isn’t much better off. Maybe you don’t completely root for them, but the ending will leave you tender.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? Fox Searchlight Pictures 2018
Soms is enige voorkennis heel handig, puur om de verwachtingen (zonder spoilers!) bij te stellen. Ik verwachtte namelijk iets Ocean’s 8-achtig, een heist film zoals die waar de jaren negentig mee vol zat. Het bleek meer een (politiek) drama over ras, ongelijkheid tussen mannen en vrouwen en corruptie.
Gelukkig is er de vrouwelijke cast – met vooral Viola Davis en Elizabeth Debicki – om dat overeind te houden. De eerste is altijd fijn en makkelijk om naar te kijken, de ander houdt een rol overeind die best makkelijk met niet meer dan ‘jankerig’ omschreven kan worden.
De mannen van de vrouwelijke cast zijn criminelen die een inbraak niet overleven. Degene waarvan ze gestolen hebben, willen de buit terug, en dat mogen de vrouwen oplossen. En in plaats van alleen maar een montage van hoe ze zich daarop voorbereiden, dus ook uitstapjes naar ras, emancipatie en corruptie. Dat je het weet.
Het tempo dat je hierdoor mogelijk mist, wordt vergoed met de cinematografie; elke shot is een gestileerd plaatje (dat in het geval van interieurs en make up in verschillende catalogussen terecht kan).
Dus als je stiekem een acteursfilm wilt zien die er stoer uit ziet, zit met Widows helemaal goed.
Widows, Twentieth Century Fox 2018
I don’t really know what this movie wanted to be. Is it about Lisbeth and how trauma makes for dysfunctional people? A hacker thriller? Family saga? Complaint about evil authorities? Because it might have been all of that, but the movie as it was, didn’t even manage to dip below the surface of any of it.
This is my first Lisbeth Salander-experience, so I can’t say how it works in comparison with the books or the other movies. I know a bit about the character, but only saw the flaws people have written about. She’s one-dimensional, and even when emotions are finally shown, it’s the soundtrack and close ups that show the importance of it. And why is she half naked so much?
This time a job of hers goes wrong, making her hunted by authorities and hardened criminals and maybe also by someone from her past as well. Lisbeth only seems to work with men, and except for ‘the American’ they’re all white as well. Will her name be cleared and the criminals get what they deserve? Will we care?
If Sony wanted to use this as an introduction, there should have been more introductions. If they want to James Bond this thing (who cares who plays Lisbeth), they should have trusted the character and not add extra fibs to round her out (and fail).
It’s just not all that, and a bit too long as well.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web, Sony 2018
Batshit crazy, pretty much the entire story and the people involved. But in such a stupidly entertaining way.
Besides that, there’s jealousy-inducing wardrobes involved, Anna Kendrick showing that she can act and that Blake Lively can’t play anything other than the Serena Woodsen – good thing her character isn’t the emotional type.
Super mom Stephanie befriends super cool aloof power woman (whom happens to be a mom as well) Emily. Emily has some weird habits, but look at the house and the outfits and the martinis! And then she goes missing.
During what follows, pretty much everyone is a suspect, red herrings and embellishments are thrown out left and right, and the women are well dressed (and Henry Young’s character as well).
Could all this have been cut down to a brighter Gone Girl? Very probably, but the two hours would have been far too much then. Better to just keep it as a sugar rush roller-coaster.
A Simple Favor, Lionsgate 2018
So much fun, so sparkly, so cute, so many beautiful people. What do you mean, you’re going to need more than that to go watch it? Or go read it? The Crazy Rich trilogy got a movie, and most of the first book has been used for this movie.
Anyway, this is a romantic comedy about a woman who discovers that her boyfriend is just about a couple of million times richer than she knew. And she discovers this because he invites her over to his family home.
This story line is literally and figuratively brightened up with a lot of beautiful mansions, houses, cars, outfits and colourful side characters. The majority of the cast is lovely to look at as well.
Is any of it groundbreaking? Possibly how the complete cast has an Asian background, but this movie will satisfy your romcom-need all the same. And if you can’t wait for the sequel: there’s the books.
Crazy Rich Asians, Warner Brothers 2018
In de categorie recente DCEU films keek ik zowel Wonder Woman als Suicide Squad. Omdat de eerste voor mij zo tegenvallend mat was, schrijf ik alleen een blog over deze. In Suicide Squad gebeurt er in ieder geval meer, in meerdere kleuren.
Dat van die kleuren is bijzonder, omdat een groot deel van de DCEU films iets te maken hebben met Zack Snyder, en Zack Snyder heeft het niet zo op kleuren buiten zestig tinten blauw. Bij Suicide Squad is het nog steeds mat, maar wel in enkele primaire kleuren. Misschien omdat het onderwerp deze keer bad guys zijn.
Als tegenhanger van Superman en dergelijke, wilt een gruizige organisatie graag een team met supersterke, bijzondere mensen; gewone wapens doen niets tegen machtige aliens tenslotte. Hiervoor wordt een stel criminelen verzameld, en om zich te laten gedragen, krijgen ze een explosieve chip geïnjecteerd.
Het vermakelijke zit in hoe enkele acteurs hun rollen invullen. Will Smith is altijd makkelijk om naar te kijken, en zo zijn er nog een paar die je er aan herinneren dat je niet te veel op het plot of de speelomgeving hoeft te letten. De rest zit helaas vast in stereotypes of slecht acteerwerk.
De soundtrack is ook wel leuk, en als je de te lange vechtscènes doorzapt (wat is dat toch voor vervelende trend?), ben je net zo snel door de film als je bak popcorn. Allebei hebben hetzelfde niveau van voedzaamheid.
Suicide Squad, Atlas Entertainment 2016
I don’t know if this one is considered a classic, but I watched it over the holidays and at the very least I’d call it a holiday classic. Not just because parts play out during Christmas, but simply because it’s a comfortable movie á la Beethoven, Home Alone and the likes. Also known as movies from the nineties that weren’t so polished that you could see yourself in its reflection.
Now that the humbug part is out of the way; Little Women is based on a book, has been turned into a television and film project before, and is again (this year even). It’s about a family mostly made up out of women, and they go through things, in the nineteenth century.
It’s the characters and actresses (and a young Christian Bale) that make all this so very charming. Yes, a lot of it all looks to be in a different shade of brown or green, and sometimes the decisions made aren’t the sharpest, but gosh darn it, aren’t you rooting for everyone’s happiness soon.
Little Women, Columbia Pictures 1994
Since Maria had decided to die, her cat would have to fend for itself.
I was too late to watch the movie. I think I made the right decision reading the book (first).
No-one in the Soviet is safe from the system, not even those enforcing it. It all starts with the murder of a child. But murder is a crime, and crimes only happen in capitalist societies, so the protagonist has to deny it happening, naming it an accident to make it easier and safer for everyone. Of course that safety doesn’t last long.
How do you prove a crime if every authority wants it not to be one? Main character Leo and his wife quickly discover that it’s a brutal path, the communist society being another player in this detective story. The story itself is fiction, but every insane government rule or fear mongering is bizarre enough to be believed by the rule of truth being stranger than fiction.
For those interested in the Soviet and okay with pretty visual violence imagery, definitely a recommendation.
Child 44, Tom Rob Smith, Simon & Schuster 2008
It is Sunday morning.
I put this book back into the library stands for ..I think three times. I’m still unsure if I liked it, mainly because the protagonist is a bit of a brat. Yes, his life is turning on his axis, but he always manages to make him the center of (other people’s) problems. Maybe I didn’t like it, but I did enjoy it.
Oliver is a bit of a drifter, but likes to think he can influence everything and everyone around him. His parents’ marriage looks a bit in trouble, so he intervenes. His girlfriend is suffering, so he changes his attitude, giving her something to be distracted by. A co-student is bullied and even though he belongs to the pack of bullies, he writes her a pamphlet on how not to be a victim any more. It’s very possibly not out of spite, but he only creates bigger messes – and afterwards doesn’t seem to understand where it went wrong.
Oliver is also very definitely a recognizable teenager. There is a thin line between big ideas, big thoughts and plans and the unsure reality of growing up. And the line is being crossed regularly, which doesn’t help nor provide any answers. Sometimes he’s delusional in a sweet way, sometimes you want to sit him down and scream at him. And sometimes the only thing you can do is laugh.
Submarine, Joe Dunthorne, Hamilton 2008