Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Funny Games (2007 Remake)

Plot Synopsis: A unsuspecting family's quiet vacation turns into a hellish descent into unimaginable terror as two seemingly friendly youths taunt, interrogate & subject the family to ever increasing sadist "games". Funny, they're not.

Obviously, the first question with this movie is: why remake a perfectly good movie?

Well, if your Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke, and you want to reach as big an audience as possible, then really your only option is to make something that will play well in the American marketplace. After all, it's all about bums on seats! In doing so, you have to pick the best possible material that will be commercially viable. i.e what genre is currently "hot". It would seem that psycho-horror scare-fests are the trend in the U.S at present, so Haneke picked his best Austrian movie to translate into English, 1997's "Funny Games".

Like Gus Van Sant's remake of "Psycho", Haneke's remake of his own movie is a shot-by-shot facsimile of the original version. So, with that in mind, it should be exactly as you remember the original? And yes, it is for the most part. My only niggle was with the 2 bad boys. In the original the humour is different (European sensibilities?),in the U.S version, the younger thug (Peter) is noticeably more annoying. Not in a good sense either! However, that's perhaps entirely forgivable - sometimes words can get misconstrued in translation.

For me, this translation into the american market succeeds because the source material was exceptionally well conceived. This version just makes it available for a wider audience. Sometimes, that's not such a bad thing.

Monday, July 28, 2008


One of the major reason's why i love movies so much is their ability to transport you to a different time and age which takes you far away from your own current reality. It then makes you very appreciative for what you have in your own life.

That said, this documentary isn't just about the hardships of the soviet people. Its an illuminating look at how they lived/worked/survived life in the late 50's/early 60's. And if you think you've seen it all before, then think again. A vast majority of this footage has never been seen in the west before. So it is very informative, to say the least, watching ordinary everyday soviet citizens doing normal everyday things. A lot of the clips are undoubtedly made for propaganda type purposes, but thankfully, for the most part, they aren't overtly political. They're made probably with reasonably sincere intentions to rally the country to be as productive as they could be, to boost morale for their fellow countrymen.

Mercifully, there was one great directorial decision made which, after watching, seems like absolutely the correct thing to do, and that was to resist the temptation to place a voice over.
I am positive after you have seen this, that you'll agree as well. The pictures & people speak volumes. A musical phrase comes to mind, "Its not the notes - its the spaces in-between" that sum up this revealing doco very well.

Highly recommended.


Plot Synopsis: The first part of the legendary Mongol ruler Genghis Khan's life is brought to the big screen from Russian director Sergei Bodrov.

First things first. If you have the opportunity, then go see this masterpiece on the biggest screen possible. I've always been a sucker for an historical epic and the vast majority demand as big a canvas as possible to really appreciate them to their fullest. With the majestic landscapes which are characters in themselves, these movies transport you fully to another time and age. This epic by Russian director Sergei Bodrov is a welcome edition to this particular genre of film-making.

Now that I've got that off my chest, whats the story like?

Well, happily, its not just pretty pictures. It's a great insight into the background of a much discussed figure in history - Genghis Khan. What elevates this film is its approach to its subject. Instead of the usual biographical facts by the numbers, this steps out in a radically different direction by suggesting that Khan was the premier new-age liberal of his day. Listening to his wife's points of view and daring to suggest that Mongol's do things differently were but two ideas that marked him out from the herd. Obviously, in 1oth century Mongolia this kind of thinking was going to put you way offside with those accustomed to traditional beliefs & customs. So, with the usual wife stealing/killing of family members/stealing herds/village razing/legacies of feuds & copious blood-letting, the hero sets off on the only course he knows - Kill all those who don't agree with the new manifesto and change the minds of everyone else.

And what happens next is something we will have to wait for. This is the 1st of a planned trilogy of Khan's life & legacy. I for one, cant wait !!!

Roll on the next one, my seat is definitely booked...

Shadow of the holy book

I think in my next life I will come back as a dictator of some obscure backwater (Turkmenistan) that is oblivious to such minor things like human rights, freedom of speech, general welfare of the country & other details, which really, are just pesky obstacles that can be easily overcome by writing a holy book that is now your country's way forward.
Any problems that come up can be easily rectified by one of the following: Jail 'em, Bribe 'em, shoot 'em... And the piece de'resistence: make anyone who wants to do business with your corrupt regime publish a version of your holy book (the "Ruhnama") in your own native language !!! From there, the doors are flung wide open for your company to rape, pillage & plunder the vast natural resources of this backwater, with nary a second thought to any problems this may cause the local inhabitants. Again, just minor pesky details. A quick phone call to your local friendly corrupt official can sort out all this, without you getting your own hands dirty. Or, you could go one step further, and because you do so much business with said backwater, you now can sort things with ridiculous ease, because you are now in the government in a position of seniority. In fact, you are now number 2. Second only to the top guy, because you've made him so very happy !!!

Now comes the killer punch line.

Its all absolutely true...

No, this can't be happening in this day in this age you say ! Unfortunately its all too real, as uncovered in dogmatic fashion by two very determined people to find out the truth.
Finnish director Arto Halonen & American journalist Kevin Frasier endure endless stonewalling, obstruction, and corporate PR hacks to try to talk to the central characters to ask the very necessary questions that are raised in this unbelievably insightful documentary. 89 calls later, they talk to one solitary C.E.O who incredibly, has a conscience about doing business with an unethical regime. The rest, including some surprising major US companies are more than happy to cough up the pittance for translating the holy book, so they can make a few more squillion for their precious shareholders.

Then comes what appears to be a breakthrough of sorts: the beloved leader dies !. OMG, that's not in the script of how these things go. With a small amount of pensive hope, some refugee's & the directors watch and wait to see just what will happen. Will there be a revolution? Will things change for the better? Who will take the top job?

The more things change, the more they stay the same...

Turns out, beloved leader had some good ideas thinks the new guy !!! And, if it ain't broke, it don't need fixin !!! Result? Depends on your point of view doesn't it ...

So, sadly, no fairy tale ending. But, you kind of knew that. These countries exist in this way because the bottom line is always the bottom line. No matter where in the world you are, if there's a buck to be made, if you don't get in first, someone else won't hesitate - not even for a nano-second. And your shareholder's will be really pissed..

I'd give this 5 stars, but thats probably irrelevant-its just jaw dropping & unmissable

Encounter at the end of the world

Werner Herzog ? No question about it, I am automatically going to see his latest movie regardless of any reviews from overseas because he has such a singular passion for documenting the age-old battle of man vs mother nature.

His take is like no other, in fact its hard to imagine him doing anything like Sir David Attenborough. He frequently ignores what's in front of him to try to see into the minds of those who venture into these challenging, imposing landscapes and ask why the hell they are doing what they do in Antarctica.

Indeed, when Herzog first lands in Antarctica, he isn't interested in McMurdo Base, its the guy driving the over-sized bus who gets grilled about why he's there. And from there, the trip just really takes off on a journey that is in turns exhilarating, fascinating, and quite frankly, just damn unbelievable at times.

Selected highlights (amongst many) would be the people listening to the ice, the gay penguin question, the lost penguin, the greenhouse guy, the lady with the unreal travel stories (travel by sewer pipe...) in fact, the more that I think about it, the more I come to the inescapable conclusion the whole movie is a series of highlights.

You do owe it to yourself, if you have the opportunity, to go and see this on the big screen. It looks absolutely magnificent on such a big canvas. The fact that there is such compelling human interest stories as well, just makes this essential in my book !!!


Having seen this director's previous movies (2003's Kitchen stories & 2005's Factotum) i knew that i would have to see this movie even without knowing a thing about it. Some directors are that consistent, that you know it would take a breathtaking decline in ability to stay away from their latest offerings. Thankfully, Bent Hamer has come up with another charming offbeat little wonder that is extremely enjoyable to watch.

It starts with the lead character, aptly named Odd, who leads us on a series of unique journeys with more idiosyncratic people who float in and out of his orbit. Even though the situations are sometimes familiar, Hamer's take is definitely his own. If you think a scene is "telegraphed" before you get to the punch-line, he twists them around with a offbeat sensibility that seems to be particular to all things Norwegian!

This is unequivocally, a very charming movie that you could show to elderly relatives amongst others. And forget that its subtitled, it is so much fun for us adults. A refreshing addition to the canon of movies that can be called "intelligent comedy"

Don't forget to check out his previous 2 movies - both are highly watchable !!!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

CSNY: Deja vu

My ears are still ringing from Neils trusty "Old Black" GibsonSG !!! Actually, it wasn't too bad in that respect (Wendy woulda killed me if it was just a guitar based gig :) there were only momentary flashes of the electric squalling beast. And when Young squares off against Stephen Stills, i'm in guitar heaven...
Regardless, this is easily one of my favorite movies of this year. It transcends the normally staid concert film genre by subverting it in typical Neil Young fashion by being something much more - its a very serious (but thankfully humorous at times) & intelligent piece of provocative art which attempts to convey a extremely pertinent issue to all Americans who saw the tour. The key issue in question is an old chestnut - the needless waste of human life on something that was entirely avoidable which is the elephant called the Iraq war.

By cleverly including journalist Mike Cerre, they were able to use his experience & influence to gauge the response of the audience attending the gigs. This enabled Young in his directorial mode to include crucially both points of view - pro & anti war. Its just one of the intriguing facets in this tale. Also interviewed are numerous casualties of the current war - both soldiers & probably more compellingly, the wives, partners and kids of these people sent to the front lines. Their testimonies are often very emotional, tender, heartbreaking and very real.

The key reason for CSNY coming together on this tour was to support Neil's rapidly produced album "Living with War". Another pleasant surprise was how the other 3 (CSN) decided that supporting Neil & touring the new album was the right thing to do at that time. There are some poignant moments captured on film which reflect their commitment to this project.

I can recommend this to more than fans of the music, its a great piece of film-making which does the dual job of informing & entertaining you very well.

Needless to say for me, its going in the collection when it gets a DVD release !!!
But, having said that, it is well worth your while to see it on the big screen if you can.

One review down, more to come...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Festival summary

I've been to 11 movies at this years film festival

For me, that's the lowest/worst number ever ! My excuse is that i don't really have good justifiable reasons that i really want to share here, but next year will be different...

But, the stuff i've seen has been good. A quick round-up this time, i will actually write some reviews in the next 2 or 3 days.

  1. Digital panorama
  2. Revue
  3. Funny games (remake)
  4. O'horten
  5. Encounters at the end of the world
  6. The banishment
  7. Up the yangtze
  8. Mongol
  9. Fighter
  10. Shadow of the holy book
  11. CSNY-Deja vu live
Those reviews are coming real soon. Promise.


My Eklektik reviews...

Heya all, this is myspace on the web for my reviews on movies. Initially it will be just that, but as time & motivation permits, i'll probably extend this to reviews of other things that are either an interest-or a passion !!!

I am really Looking forward to getting this thing up & running on a consistent basis i.e updated regularly, so kick me in the proverbial if i'm slacking off...