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Review: Girl Walks Into a Bar (2011)

Directed by Sebastian Gutierrez, 2011.

Cue scene. A girl walks into a bar. Of course, since the movie is directed by Sebastián Gutiérrez, it’s Carla Gugino. Having worked with her on six movies to date, Gutiérrez’ seems to have standardized his casting decisions by now. In Girl Walks into a Bar (2011) the director teams up with frequent collaborators like Gugino, Emmanuelle Chriqui, and Robert Forster. Gutiérrez’ is mostly known for directing the (as of yet unfinished) ensemble comedy trilogy that started with Women in Trouble (2009). Much like the anthology style of Women in Trouble and Elektra Luxx (2010), his newest movie follows a group of strangers through interconnecting stories that take place in ten different bars in Los Angeles over the course of one evening.

Gutiérrez is a talker and in Girl Walks into a Bar his monologues and dialogues successfully help to solidify his latest characters. The dialogue tends to give a voice to the sexy underbelly of society which the director seems to love so much. Girl Walks into a Bar takes us through the ‘palaces of sin’ of Los Angeles, where we get to meet a score of wonderful characters like Alexis Bledel as the muse, Chriqui as exotic dancer Teresa, Josh Hartnett as the slick cop Sam and Gil Bellows as Gutiérrez mystery link Emmit. Like in his previous movies everything in Girl Walks into a Bar seems to click together in the end. The director is definitely worth the wild card in any list of recommendations.

Plus a funny production note: Girl Walks into a Bar was one of the first movies produced exclusively for Internet distribution!

Official poster (Credit: Girl Walks Into a Bar)

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Review: Road to Singapore (1940)

Directed by Victor Schertzinger, 1940.

Road to Singapore (1940) is the first in a series of movies starring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour. The movie was followed by six sequels and ended in 1962 with The Road to Hong Kong. The films features Hope and Crosby as two laid-back playboys who try to make it as con-men. Falling in and out of love with beautiful girls in faraway lands, the movies combine the comedy genre with adventure, romance, and musical numbers. What makes the “Road to…” movies great to watch is the natural chemistry between the comic duo of Hope and Crosby. Having performed vaudeville shows together years earlier, the two were born to be cinematic heroes.

In Road to Singapore Hope and Crosby play two sailors running away from their unsatisfactory shore romances. The two friends spend most of the movie in Kaigoon, where they meet dance performer Mima, played by Lamour. While living together, the trio sets up several cons to make some money, but hopelessly fails to do so. Road to Singapore is a movie filled with gags and quips and entertains right up until the end. Though the movie is not the best in the series – partly because it was not written specifically for the new comic duo – but watching it is a natural starting point for digging through all seven movies! The sequels continued to improve on Road to Singapore and Road to Morocco (1942) is often named the best of the series.

Official poster (Credit: Road to Singapore)

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Review: Death of a Superhero (2011)

Directed by Ian Fitzgibbon, 2011.

Superheroes like Iron Man and Batman have dominated many summers with their spectacular action movies. In the last few years, superheroes also proved to be capable of taking on more refined, tragic roles. It seems they can truly achieve greatness when they are taken out of their epic context. In Paper Man (2009), Captain Excellent, the imaginary superhero friend of a washed-up writer, helps his creator to deal with his issues and get a grip on his life. That same year Defendor (2009) proved that even the simplest of minds can amount to great things by showing us a mentally challenged man – a hero in his own mind – with no power other than courage, ready to take on the world’s evils. Now, in Death of a Superhero (2011), the titular hero stands guard for the last defense of a dying 15-year-old boy.

Combining a drama about a boy dying from cancer with animated superheroes was definitely a risk. Whether or not the movie succeeded is a difficult question to answer. The acting in the movie is great, as well as its Ireland-based setting. The fact that most of the actors in the movie are relatively unknown gives the movie an extra sense of realism. The struggle young protagonist Donald goes through is backed up by animated sequences based on the character’s own drawings. They represented his feelings and translate them into concepts of heroism. The connection between the animation and ‘real life’ falls short at a few points, but overall Death of a Superhero is a good attempt at something new.

Official poster (Credit: Death of a Superhero)

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Review: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn (2011-2012)

Directed by Bill Condon, 2011-2012.

It took exactly 47 seconds after starting this movie before I got to see the first male character take his shirt of and run around naked in the forest. The tone was set: I obviously just started my ‘epic’ 4-hour Twilight-adventure! Five years after the first Twilight (2008), Bella is still the same overly dependent girl with low self esteem. In Breaking Dawn the character continues to fail to develop a personality or any character traits that make her in any way likable. After 22 minutes, Bella finally laughs for the first time… But this wonderful moment happens after her wedding ceremony with Edward, when the young bride lays eyes on Jacob, the lover she didn’t marry.

The first part of Breaking Dawn feels as if the three-minute opening credits of a regular romantic comedy have been stretched out to last two hours. In the first 45 minutes of the movie we see Bella and Edward getting married (wedding preparations not included!) and having contradictory foreplay. The foreplay somehow destroys their bed and gets Bella pregnant. For the rest of the movie, Bella does what she does best: sit on a couch while shady, sparkly, and clingy men take care of her.

Almost every scene in Breaking Dawn looks as if it was written by the drooling three-year-old son of Marcy and Charlie Runkle. The dialogue, the acting, the pace, even the storyline in general… it’s hard to find redeeming qualities for the Twilight-sequels. The second part of Breaking Dawn introduces an interesting element, though: the fast-growing semi-vampire daughter of Bella and Edward, Renesmee. Renesmee’s introduction into the world of Stephenie Meyer might actually prove to be interesting… But we won’t find out any time soon. In the movie, Renesmee is just used as a plot device to force the series into an epic climax… One that never actually happens, because one bad CGI fight later, director Condon pulls the ‘it was all just a dream’-plot device, and all the characters return home after going through a compilation of previously seen footage.

The thing that Twilight had going for me was that I didn’t know how it would end. OK – I could at least pretend I didn’t know. Harry would defeat Voldemort, the Ring was obviously going to be destroyed, but Twilight had so little plot that the ending could be picked from a series of random cliches.

Breaking Dawn is the last movie in a series about a numb, dependant heroine, her creepy stalker, and a bunch of naked guys running around in the forest. Strangely, the two-parter shows the best the sequels had to offer. Seriously – unless you want to see the story of a 108-year old virgin and a wolf that likes to mate with babies, watch Argo (2012) instead; at least that movie needs no defense. Period.

Official poster (Credit: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn)

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Review: Celeste & Jesse Forever (2012)

Directed by Lee Toland Krieger, 2012.

Celeste & Jesse Forever (2012) is the kind of romantic movie that the big film studios will never make. As with many couples, Celeste and Jesse’s relationship is one that looks like it will last forever… Until you get to the second scene. Then, upon the third scene, you realize what this movie is really about. It’s always refreshing to see a ‘rom-com’ movie that rises above the perverted Hollywood clichés connected to the term. Celeste & Jesse Forever breaks with the classic structure of the romantic comedy and bends its storyline in a different direction; one that is solidified by main actress Rashida Jones’ personal connection to the movie. Even without peaking at the credits, it becomes very obvious that for this film, Jones did her own writing.

What robs Celeste & Jesse Forever of its strength a bit though, is the small amount of screen time given to the character Veronica, Jesse’s Belgian ‘plus one’. While trying to save her audience from the god-awful cliché’d ‘horrible-new-girlfriend-of-the-main-characters’-ex’-plotline, Jones forgets that it might be important to actually get to know something about this new girl to be able to estimate the strength and reality of Jesse’s new relationship. The Facebook scene partially makes up this gap in the storyline though. Eventually, by choosing Celeste & Jesse Forever you’re guaranteed to have a better night than your friends who just decided to stick to Hollywood’s three-act popcorn love.

P.S.: Once you find out who was Jones’ co-writer on this movie after you watch it, you’ll like the film even more.

Official poster (Credit: Celeste & Jesse Forever)

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Review: Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Directed by Stuart Rosenberg, 1967.

After being arrested for cutting the heads off parking meters, Korean War veteran Luke Jackson is sentenced to two years in prison. Luke winds up serving time in a Florida chain gang prison run by a strict warden. What separates Luke from his inmates is his undying persistence. After gaining the respect of his fellow inmates, Luke wins a game of poker by bluffing on a worthless hand of cards. Proving that ‘sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand’, Luke quickly gains the nickname Cool Hand Luke.

The film shows Paul Newman at his best as the slick inmate Luke. Luke’s arrival in the chain gang makes life a little bit more interesting for everyone involved. Never giving in to authority, Luke continuously plans his escape from the prison. No matter how often he succeeds, and no matter how often the guards recapture him, Luke’s new escape plan is already in the works. Cool Hand Luke (1967) is a true classic and combines a good sense of humor with a strong prison break-drama. Cool Hand Luke proves to be one of few men that simply can’t be caught.

Official poster (Credit: Cool Hand Luke)

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Review: Mojave Phone Booth (2006)

Directed by John Putch, 2006.

Perhaps the desert isn’t the loneliest place in the world after all. In the 1960s, the American telephone company placed a phone booth in the middle of the Mojave desert, 13 kilometers from the nearest town to facilitate those who worked at the volcanic cinder cone mines. In 1997, two years after the Internet had been commercialized, the phone booth became an online phenomenon. After an underground magazine published one man’s journey to the phone, several websites listing the phone’s number were created. People called the phone to see who would answer. Others would camp out by the phone, waiting for it to ring.

In the middle of nowhere, the Mojave Phone Booth served as a spiritual conduct for those who were lost, and those who wanted to be found. It offered a connection. A landline. A voice to listen to, or a person to talk with. The phone booth connected strangers in a way no other booth could. Although the phone was taken down in 2000, its spirit remained, remembering everyone that whenever you cry out for help, there might just be someone out there to answer your call… Mojave Phone Booth (2006) is a fictional recollection of what life on the desert side of the booth might have been like. It’s a sweet movie about the call of everyday life, and which moments we decide to record in our memories.

Official poster (Credit: Mojave Phone Booth)

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Review: The Informers (2008)

Directed by Gregor Jordan, 2008.

Some movies make you feel that the end of the world wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all. The Informers (2008) is one of those movies. Similar to other dystopian films such as It’s all about love (2003) and Twelve (2010), it will leave you with a cold chill and the depressing feeling that along the way, you lost something important. That we all did.

We live in a world where Westerners are embracing the Facebook mentality a little bit more every day; people “like” each other every once in a while but don’t actually stop to say ‘hello’ anymore. Arrogance and loud voices rule over the Megan Fox-worshipping crowds; religions, ideas, and dreams are slammed into the ground and laughed at; agreements and promises no longer hold meaning…

Set in the eighties, The Informers shows the dark side of an age that we now stereotype as an age of bright colors, disco, and camp. One can only hope this movie will help audiences to realize that their own age isn’t exactly following the stereotype of the wondrous age of the digibyte, the memes, and the never-ending networks either. The truth can be a most depressing thing.

Official poster (Credit: Diabolik)

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Review: The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)

Directed by Joel Coen, 1994.

Sometimes you truly have to believe that every idea counts, no matter how small it is. In The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) mailroom clerk Norville Barnes hopes to one day strike it rich by exploiting his one brilliant invention. When Barnes’ boss Waring Hudsucker takes a suicidal dive into the streets of New York City, the old man’s stock shares are to be sold to the public. Sidney J. Mussburger of the board of directors however plans to temporarily depress the stock price of Hudsucker Industries and buy the shares himself. To accomplish this, he only needs to replace Hudsucker with a truly incompetent president… enter Norville.

Both the visual and narrative motifs in the film concern the shape of a circle. The great Hudsucker Clock, the idea of Karma, Mussburger’s watch, and several other elements in the movie remind us of the circular patterns of life. Barnes is set up to be the company president who will destroy Hudsucker Industries, but things turn out a little bit different than expected… Because whoever would have thought that drawing a circle on a piece of paper could be the start of an invention that is loved and cherished all around the world?

Official poster (Credit: The Hudsucker Proxy)

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Review: Perfect Sense (2011)

Directed by David Mackenzie, 2011.

Perfect Sense (2011); the story of a chef and a scientist. When an epidemic robs the world’s population of their sense of smell, chef Michael tries to cope with the situation by adding extra appeal to his restaurants’ palette of tastes. Meanwhile, scientist Susan is failing to find out what caused the outbreak. Before she, or anyone else, finds out how to restore their sense of smell, the epidemic strikes again and takes away their sensory perception of tastes.

Perfect Sense has a perfect build-up and offers a very surrealistic, dreamlike movie experience. The film appeals to the senses and explores what might happen if we lost our sensory perceptions. How do the deaf or the blind cope with life on a daily basis? How can a meal still be considered ‘good’ if we cannot smell it, or taste it? And how long would it take for society to get back on its feet? Perfect Sense is a beautiful and romantic exploration of our own senses.

Official poster (Credit: Perfect Sense)

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